National Socialism: Doctrine of Rancour

In 1937, Dutch critic and essayist Menno ter Braak wrote what today stands as one of the most scathingly perceptive indict­ments of the Nazi movement. Written for and published by the anti-fascist ‘Com­mittee of Vigilance’, 'National Socialism as a Doctrine of Rancour' expressed his urgent concern for the growing popular­ity of National Socialism.

Menno ter Braak
Original title
Het nationaal-socialisme als rancuneleer

Three years later, when the Nazi’s invaded the Netherlands, Ter Braak would take his own life. The pamphlet went on to become his most famous work. Using Nietzsche’s theory of history as a lens, Ter Braak identified ressentiment as the inevitable consequence of idealising equality in democratic societies and, as such, the fountainhead of Nazi populism.

According to Ter Braak, humans are never equal in terms of biology and sociology. He goes on to argue that in the democratising process, where equality as an ideal collides with reality people increasingly experience inequality as an injustice, leading them to hate and to envy.

Rather than simply choosing one ideology over others, Ter Braak viewed National Socialism as the fulfilment and perversion of both democracy and socialism, and thereby the pure embodiment of the rancour inherent within the two, and within our culture as a whole. rancour must be recognised for what it is, as well as where it stems from. And yet, can equality exist without rancour?

In a world in which populist leaders are once again marketing themselves as guardians of democracy, in which political parties are playing to feelings of hatred and anger, the startling parallels and continuing relevance of Ter Braak’s lucidly human diagnosis make this essential reading for anyone looking to understand today’s political climate. It also presents a word of warning.

In the wake of its renewed importance for thinkers and the public debate, re­nowned publisher Van Oorschot has reissued a new edition.

Menno ter Braak stands as one of the most perceptive, anti-authoritarian Dutch intellectuals of the 20th century. Even when there were political risks involved, he stood up for European humanistic values.


Hitler’s rise changed everything for Ter Braak, who’d beenan eternal student until then. After 1933, he developed into a politician without a party, one who investigated and rejected the great ideologies.

Historisch Nieuwsblad
Menno ter Braak
Menno ter Braak (1902-1940) was a Dutch critic whose shrewd intellect and challenging of preciousness in art earned him the title of the ‘conscience of Dutch literature’.
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