Socialist Transformation

Socialism and nationalism intertwined: observations on the national-bolshevist character of revolutionary German youth, by writer Fritz Weth

The short essay below was translated from a 1922 book called Die Neue Front, a collection of articles which had all originally been published in the intellectual periodical Das Gewissen (‘Conscience’). The Gewissen served as the official theoretical journal for the Juni-Klub, a conservative-revolutionary-oriented literary group founded in 1919 by publisher Heinrich von Gleichen-Rußwurm, writer Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, and nationalist politician Eduard Stadtler. The Juni-Klub represented a slightly more moderate segment of the conservative- and national-revolutionary movements active in interwar Germany. Its proponents (the ‘Jungkonservativen‘) were less hostile to the overall concept of conservatism, were more overtly intellectual, and tended to be more amenable to the representatives of German heavy industry and big business, even as they pondered over the potential merits of a non-Marxist alternative to capitalism. The club was intellectually open and avowedly non-partisan, and as a result it attracted an eclectic variety of members and interested hangers-on from across the country’s political spectrum: Heinrich Brüning, Franz Oppenheimer, Ernst Troeltsch, Franz von Papen, Friedrich Naumann, Hans Blüher, Hans Grimm, August Winnig, Hjalmar Schacht, Wichard von Moellendorf, and a young Otto Strasser, among many others. One of these members was the lone “worker” of the group: Fritz Weth, a former communist. Very little is actually known about Weth, beyond that he lived in Berlin, gave his profession as “illustrator,” and had at one point apparently been active in the KPD or USPD. Between 1920 and 1923 Weth wrote around 40 articles for the Gewissen, most of which dealt with the labor movement or with questions of socialism, all with an underlying advocacy of a national-bolshevist political line (alliance with Soviet Russia; conservative cooperation with socialists and trade-unionists; creation of a nationalist, socialist New Germany) which must have been rather thrilling to the journal’s more middle-class, conservative readers. The article below is a prime example of this, employing Weth’s observations of the changes brought about by the German Revolution in his attempt to stress to his readers that there was an implicitly shared, revolutionary worldview held between those on the Left and those on the Right.

Socialist Transformation
Fritz Weth
hamsic

We are living in the midst of spiritual and economic decomposition. Traditional notions have fallen into decline or into transition. The guardians and the advocates of tradition, the elders among us, can establish no rapport with the era in which they are living through. They do not even understand the young in their own ranks, because these youth are resolutely prepared to sacrifice surviving traditions and to assimilate the valuable content of other traditions of German renewal. That is the process of dissolution occurring on the Right.

The Right’s experiential world nonetheless provides its younger generation with a deeper insight into the limits of revolutionary development than that possessed by the future-obsessed youth on the Left. The Left, too, has its own reinforced conservatism, exactly like that on the Right. One of its largest parties has committed itself to formal democracy, and is thus inevitably hindering the creation of that synthesis which matters most in Germany today and which only the revolutionaries of the Right and Left can produce together. The revolutionary Left has taken up the fight against the spirit of “leaving things be,” against the spirit of the SPD.1 Yet their own doctrinal rigidity makes it difficult for them to be victorious in this struggle. Nevertheless, concentrated within their ranks is everything in the proletariat which is young, strong, and inspired to build, and which reaches out beyond the dogmatism of their leaders towards the community of the nation. This elementary will found its first expression within the fellowship of those multiple foreign- and domestic-policy goals which the revolutionaries of the Right share with those of the Left. Each found the other in the front against Western economic imperialism, formalism, and degeneracy, and there they inconspicuously clasped hands. Continue reading

National Socialism or Bolshevism?

An early example of national-bolshevist ideological writing by Joseph Goebbels

The writing and speeches of Joseph Goebbels – especially those produced during the ‘Years of Struggle’, before the National Socialist German Workers’ Party attained political power – are particularly instructive in demonstrating the kinds of radicalism which could exist within the Party. Goebbels was always a radical; as a young man he had found an attraction in the unlikely works of August Bebel and Walter Rathenau, and his direct experiences with poverty had sharpened his sense of social justice. Initially drawn to communism, Goebbels’s inability to embrace the internationalist aspects of Marxist ideology led him first to the völkisch movement and then, in early 1925, into the newly reconstituted NSDAP. From the beginning Goebbels represented the more revolutionary side of National Socialism: bitterly opposed to the bourgeois world and its values, proud of his shabby poverty, and aggressively vocal in his belief that it was the socialism in National Socialism which took precedence above all else. His radicalism first led him into an alliance with Gregor Strasser and then, after several years of struggle and disillusionment, into a bitter opposition to the man who had once been his mentor. Even as an enemy of the Strasser brothers Goebbels was still a radical, with much of his effort as Gauleiter of Berlin-Brandenburg in the late ’20s and early ’30s spent attempting to win over the Berlin workers with fiery attacks on capitalism, the bourgeoisie, and the “false socialism” of the Marxists and the Bolshevists. Goebbels’s earliest writings are perhaps some of his most interesting, because in this period his appreciation for communism was still fresh and his ideology was in many respects more National Bolshevist than National Socialist in orientation. The article below, written not long after Goebbels had spoken before a joint meeting of Communists and National Socialists in late 1925, is strong evidence of his views in this early period of activism, when he was most vocal in avowing class-struggle and proletarian liberation as among the chief goals of the National Socialist movement. Addressed to his “friend from the Left” (i.e. the Communist he had debated at the previous meeting), this article was originally published in the October 1925 edition of Gregor Strasser’s Nationalsozialistische Briefe, a left-oriented NS journal of which Goebbels was editor at the time.

National Socialism or Bolshevism?
Joseph Goebbels
NS_Swastika

First published in the Nationalsozialistische Briefe, no. 2, 15th October 1925.

My friend from the Left!

Not as captatio benevolentiae,1 but straight out and without reservations, I confess that I liked you, you are a fine fellow! Yesterday evening I could have carried on debating with you for hours before the thousands of transfixed listeners, because I had the feeling that the fundamental question of our commonalities and our differences was being raised within the forum of the German workers, whom this question ultimately concerns. And it is with the same feeling that I am writing out these lines to you.

You have clearly recognized what is at stake. We have agreed on the causes. No honest, thinking person today would wish to deny the legitimacy of the workers’ movements. It is only a question of the method and the formulation of their final goal. Grown out of need and misery, they stand before us today as living witnesses to our disunity and impotence, to the deficiency of our national spirit of sacrifice and our will for the future. We no longer need to discuss whether the demand of the German employee for social compensation is justified, just as we do not need to discuss whether or not the disenfranchised fourth estate2 should live or must live.

National or international in path and goal, that is the question. We both are fighting honestly and resolutely for freedom and only for freedom; as our ultimate accomplishment we both desire peace and community – you that of the world, I that of the Volk. That this accomplishment cannot be attained within this system is entirely clear and evident to both of us. To talk of quiescence today is to make the graveyard one’s home; to be peaceful in this state is pacifism and cowardice. You and I, we both know that a state, a system that is inwardly thoroughly mendacious, is meant to be overthrown; that for the new state one therefore has to fight and make sacrifices. In this respect yesterday we both could have been saying the exact same things about the bourgeois cowards of black-red-gold Social-Democracy. Thus far we have been in agreement. Continue reading

The Röhm Scandal

Leaked correspondence between Ernst Röhm and völkisch homosexual writer Dr. Karl-Günter Heimsoth

In late 1928, shortly before he left Europe for South America in order to take up a post as a military instructor in the Bolivian army, NSDAP politician Ernst Röhm began a correspondence with völkisch physician and writer Dr. Karl-Günter Heimsoth. Heimsoth, who had initiated contact after reading Röhm’s recently-published memoirs, did not just share Röhm’s politics; he was also, like Röhm, a homosexual, and an open and ideological one. The letters the two men wrote one another were later to cause considerable difficulty for the NSDAP after Röhm returned to Germany in 1931 to assume the role of SA Chief of Staff. Röhm’s return brought with it a proliferation of rumors and innuendo about his sexuality, with the Social-Democratic (SPD) press in particular proving especially dogged in their attempts to whip up a political scandal out of Röhm’s private liaisons. In 1931 the Berlin police, looking for material with which to charge Röhm, raided Heimsoth’s lawyer’s office and confiscated three letters Röhm had written to his friend. These were promptly leaked to the SPD, who in March 1932 – only days before the Presidential election – began disseminating the letters in pamphlet form to influential public figures. The man responsible for this act was Helmut Klotz, an ex-National Socialist (and a fairly high-ranking one; Klotz had even taken part in Hitler’s 1923 putsch) who had converted to reformist-Marxism and become a committed antifascist sometime in the late 1920s. Röhm did what he could legally to try and go after Klotz by pursuing the man through the courts, but his efforts proved fruitless. Unlike some of the previous “exposés” the SPD had published about him, the letters Klotz was printing were demonstrably real – Röhm never denied that they were (and even openly admitted their veracity to others in the NSDAP), a fact repeatedly noted by the courts, who after several failed appeals by Röhm ultimately decreed that it was within the public interest for Klotz to inform Germany about Röhm’s personal habits. By September 1932 Klotz was thus publishing and selling the ‘Röhm letters’ under the title Der Fall Röhm, and the damage had been done – Hitler had publicly defended Röhm in the scandal which the affair had whipped up, but Röhm now had many passionate, bitter enemies within the NSDAP who were dedicated to his downfall. A translation of the three letters from Klotz’s pamphlet is provided below; they offer a remarkable (perhaps even humanizing) insight into the private life of a very unique and still very controversial public figure.

Röhm’s First Letter
December, 1928

Munich, Herzogstraße 4/3.
03.12.28.

Dear Dr. Heimsoth!1

My heartiest greetings! You understand me completely! Naturally, with the paragraph on morality, I am above all attacking §175.2 But do you mean that it is not expressed clearly enough? I had a more detailed explanation of the subject in the first draft; but I changed it to the current version on the advice of friends, who assure me that this kind of writing is more effective.

You are doing me an injustice, I believe, with the accusation that I shy away from “compulsory beliefs”3 regarding marriage.

I am engaged in the fiercest conflict with Herr Alfred Rosenberg, that clownish moral athlete. His articles are also above all directed at my corner; because I make no secret of my disposition. From this you may gather that even National Socialist circles have had to get used to this criminal peculiarity of mine. Incidentally, I also work with Herr Radszuweit,4 and am of course a member of his association.

I would very much like to meet Blüher.5

I am of course extremely interested in your book, for which I would like to express my warmest thanks, as well as for your dear words. Thus far I have only been able to read a little of it; but frankly: it is a bit too difficult for me. Can’t you blasted doctors write German, why must you always use academic foreign words which a mere mortal cannot understand! Continue reading

Germany on the Precipice

For those who prefer the printed page…

To all those who prefer the printed page, Black Front Press are producing a published collection of some of my translated articles: Germany on the Precipice: Left Alternatives to Fascism, 1904-1949.

The book collects a good chunk of many of the works which I’ve translated and posted since the blog’s inception. I won’t be removing any of the included articles from the blog – they’ll still be available here in electronic format for anyone who wants to read them. But there is a charm to physical media which digital content lacks, in my opinion, so for anybody who enjoys the blog and who prefers the weight of a book in their hands, the Black Front Press website will have more details:

BY the first half of the twentieth century, many European countries had entered a state of turmoil and few had become as dangerous and unpredictable as Germany. As the old Empire began to falter and the nation gradually fell into the clutches of the Weimar Republic, a dark shadow began to cast its length across the entire continent and once the nationalists had started to form alliances with the ruling class more drastic solutions were called for at home. These rare essays, pamphlets and manifestos feature a variety of leading Strasserites, communists, National Bolsheviks, socialists, feminists and various other anti-capitalist elements who took a defiant stand against the rise of totalitarianism and the increasing threat it posed to the German people…

Continue reading