In his 1947 essay ‘Nietzsche’s Philosophy in the Light of Contemporary Events’, Thomas Mann evaluates in the following way Friedrich Nietzsche’s attitude to the worker:

It does not testify of enmity against the workers, it testifies to the contrary when he [Nietzsche] says: ‘The workers should learn to feel like soldiers: a fee, a salary but no payment. They should one day live like the bourgeoisie at present; but above them, distinguishing itself by its lack of needs, the higher caste, poorer and simpler, but in possession of the power.’footnote1

Mann initially claims that ‘the socialist touch in his vision of the post-bourgeois life is as strong as the one that can be termed fascist’footnote2 and that ‘his idea of culture has here and there a strongly socialist, in any case no longer a bourgeois, colouring.’footnote3 Further on, however, he stresses the unbridgeable distance that ultimately separates Nietzsche from socialism:

His philosophy is just as meticulously organized a system as Schopenhauer’s philosophy, developed out of a single, all-embracing basic idea. But this underlying idea is certainly radical, aesthetic art, through which alone his outlook and thought must stand in irreconcilable opposition to all socialism. There are, finally, only two dispositions and inner postures: the aesthetic and the moralistic, and socialism is a strictly moralistic world-view. Nietzsche, in comparison, is the most complete and incurable aesthete the intellectual world knows . . .footnote4

Thus, Mann perceives Nietzsche as opposing not the working class as such, but ‘merely’ its commonly accepted political manifestation—socialism. According to Mann’s analysis, Nietzsche promotes a social and ethical vision genuinely committed to the goals of the working class and in affinity with its tastes and sensitivities,footnote5 while disagreeing with the official, conventional politics. This divergence has to do with the motives operating in each case: socialism is engaged with the working class because of moral considerations, whereas Nietzsche’s home-grown socialism is founded upon aesthetic impulses. Before examining the validity of such a conception, it is necessary to put the discussion into its context.