Visions of National Socialist Democracy, Part I: Jung

Rudolf Jung’s 1922 vision of a future representative, National Socialist council-state

Over the next few weeks ARPLAN will be publishing a number of articles exploring the often difficult concept of democracy’s place within National Socialist ideology. On the face of it one might think that there is no place for democracy in National Socialism; today the Hitlerian regime and its guiding philosophy are typically presented as the archetypal antithesis of democratic values. What complicates this perception are the thoughts and words of the National Socialists themselves – on the one hand they cursed democracy, while on the other they claimed to be bringing a true, Germanic democracy to the German people. The National Socialist interpretation of democracy, like the Soviet, was characterized by a difference of interpretation – for them democracy lay not with parliaments and parties, but with more traditional forms of popular rule drawn from the Germanic past. When activists set out to write their blueprints for a possible future National Socialist state, they rarely spoke of dictatorship – and more often spoke of voting, and elections, and representative government, all shorn of the trappings of bourgeois Western parliamentarism. These visions of ‘National Socialist democracy’ are what ARPLAN will be exploring in the coming weeks. Our first vision is excerpted from Rudolf Jung’s 1922 (2nd ed.) book Der nationale Sozialismus, the earliest work of National Socialist political philosophy, which describes a future NS-state built on a kind of ‘council-nationalism.’ The text below was translated by myself from two separate chapters of Jung’s work, ‘Parliament or Council?’ (Parlament oder Räte?) and ‘The German Peoples’ State’ (Der deutsche Volkstaat). The first chapter is abridged for purposes of brevity, the second included in full.    

Parliament or Council?

…How was it in 1918? Absolutism – it was said at that time – must disappear, democracy should take its place. The very fact that one could not find a German word to describe what was desired indicated that the goal was quite unclear and hazy. In essence, only the autocracy of individuals, which was severely restricted by constitutional institutions, was replaced (and sometimes only apparently so) by the much more ruthless rule by large parties. The scepters rolled into the dust; the money bag took their place, replacing the dynastic power struggles between houses – which now and then had to be reconciled with the welfare of the state – with the much more ruthless rule of large parties. The urge to feed at the trough brings about the most impossible alliances between parties, each of which does not trust the other, each seeking advantage over the other. It does not matter if the state whose leadership is entrusted to them disintegrates, so long as the party’s fortunes prosper…

…All sorts of means are employed to try and heal this [parliamentary] malignancy, such as impossible party alliances here, unity parties there. But it is incurable. Rather, the system must be changed from the ground up. Today’s parliamentarism, with its one-chamber system, urgently requires a supplement by the old German system of representation by estate, which is more representative of the nature of our people. Of course, it will not be able to look like it once did, because the estates are partly transformed, partly completely lost. For example, no one today would be able to explain the term Bürgertum [‘bourgeoisie’] correctly. But there are occupational groups that can give us a suitable foundation for a system of estate representation whose modern form of expression is the council system – by which however we do not mean the Russian caricature [i.e. the Soviet], the concept of a council dictatorship being untenable, as is any dictatorship, i.e. tyranny. But the concept of the council itself is good, and it will be realized in the most multifarious forms in state, intellectual, and economic life! One must only beware here of one-sidedness and overestimation. There is no panacea; every illness requires different remedies. Manifold is life, and colorful and manifold are therefore also its edicts.  Continue reading