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 Councils?
How were things in 1918? Absolutism – it was declared at the time – must disappear, democracy should take its place. The very fact that no one could find a German word to describe what was desired indicated that the goal was quite unclear and hazy. In essence, the autocracy of the individual, which had been severely limited by constitutional institutions, was simply replaced by the far more ruthless rule of the major parties. And even then, sometimes only ostensibly. The sceptres rolled into the dust, the moneybag took their place; in lieu of dynastic power struggles, which still here and there had to be reconciled with the public welfare, the naked selfishness of the parties appeared. The urge to feed at the trough has brought about the most untenable alliances between parties, in which each has no faith in the other, in which each seeks advantage over the other. It does not matter to them whether the state whose leadership they have been entrusted with falls apart as a result, so long as the party’s fortunes prosper…
…Every method is pursued in the attempt to alleviate this malady, from unity parties here to untenable party alliances there. But it is incurable. The system instead must be transformed completely. Today’s parliamentarism, with its unicameral structure, requires urgent supplementation by the old German system of representation via the estates, a system which is far better suited to the nature of our Volk. Of course, this system will not appear as it did in former times, because the old estates have either partly changed or have vanished completely. Nobody today, for example, would be able to sufficiently exemplify the concept of Bürgertum. But there are occupational groups which can provide us with a suitable basis for estatist representation, a representation whose modern form of expression is the council system – by which, however, we do not intend to mean the Russian caricature, because the concept of a council dictatorship is as untenable as any dictatorship, i.e., tyranny. But the council concept [Rätegedanke] itself is good, and it will be realized in the most diverse range of forms within political, intellectual, and economic life! But here, too, one needs to be on guard against one-sidedness and overestimation. There are no panaceas; every illness requires different remedies. Life is manifold, and colorful and manifold are therefore also its manifestations.
Thus we do not believe that the council system alone is able to heal the damage done to the suffering body of Volk and state. But it is incontestably capable of renewing some of life’s manifestations, namely those within the economic sphere. Every occupation consolidates its members. The members as a collective then exert influence through their representatives upon the enterprise in which they are employed, as well as upon all enterprises as a whole, i.e., upon the entire economic life of the state and Volk – that is, upon the national economy!
By no means would this render political parties unnecessary. They would, however, be freed from a great deal of trivial odds and ends, and would thereby be able to turn to greater tasks, more cultural and statesmanlike; they would be better able to commit themselves to actual philosophies; and thus they would also disappoint less. Complaints about the exclusion of this or that profession, which today are all too justified, would fall away. Only then would our Volk learn to think politically. Free and unrestrained, liberated from all bonds and impurities, the great old perspectives would then step forth as champions: cosmopolitanism (internationalism, world-citizenship) on the one hand, folkdom (nationalism) on the other. They have been competing against each other for centuries. Ever since the Roman Church first stretched its arm over German lands, the völkisch development of our state and economic life began to be stripped away. Roman Law and capitalism are only the natural and necessary consequences of a pre-existing root-cause, which is the de-Germanization of our national life [Volkslebens].
The council concept has been invoked in order that we might pick up once again where the thread of our development broke off centuries before. It should absolutely be enshrined in the constitution of the German state. This requirement is included within our Guiding Principles. “Creation of second parliamentary chambers on the basis of occupational representation,” they say. Accordingly, parliament would therefore consist of one chamber, into which the political parties send their representatives, and a second, into which the occupational associations send theirs.
In his work For a House of Estates, Dr. Paul Schrekker has sketched out a plan for just such a chamber which we shall now briefly consider. In his conception, elections should be decided upon the basis of a simple majority (i.e., without proportional representation) according to a system of occupational stratification. The entire state territory should comprise only one constituency, and those who do not work themselves, such as shareholders, should be excluded from the electoral process.
The decision as to which of the two chambers of parliament is to play the greater role in state life can easily be left to future developments. The German is instinctively drawn towards occupational representation even in the formation of political parties. This is most apparent in the Sudetenland. There, for example, there is a party of the rural folk (the Farmers’ League), a National Socialist Workers’ Party, and, as of more recent times, a Small Traders’ Party. These are decidedly more natural entities than the “people’s” parties, which ultimately do not actually represent the entire people, but only certain groups. One should never wish to seem more than one really is. The simple fact that the occupational parties empirically possess fewer sources of friction with one another than do the so-called people’s parties should give us pause for thought to some extent. This can be explained by the fact that the people’s parties are centralist, i.e., that in their innermost being they are essentially non-German entities. (The National Socialist Workers’ Party is not a purely occupational party, but nor is it a people’s party in the sense of the term as it is misused so often today.)
Naturally, the overall structure of all the representative bodies must be implemented from the ground up. Alongside the chambers, we need a government which counsels and governs in coordination with them. German lands should be led and administered, but not ruled! The leadership concept [Führergedanke], which once found its expression within our German kingship before (blinded by false glory) it degenerated into Roman imperial rule, shall rise again!
It is in this context that we shall now discuss that question which is today debated with so much clamor and so little understanding: “Free State (republic) or Monarchy?” The Germanic states and the old German Kingdom were by their nature republics more than they were monarchies. Even the medieval German Kaiserreich in its early days could still be described as an aristocratic republic: the prince-electors chose (elected) the head of state from among the nobility. It was only later, as the Roman-centralist concept of rulership [Herrschaftsgedanke] became more and more entrenched, eventually culminating in the absolute principality, that the form of state which is today called “monarchy” first appeared. If one chooses to describe a true People’s State with a royal leadership as a monarchy, then that is all right by us; it could just as well be called a republic. It is not the name which matters, but the content. We conceive the crown to be a symbol; but we reject, however, the concepts of rulership and divine right. The Führer may well be called King, that is immaterial; what is essential is that he takes his position by the grace of the Volk! …
The German People’s State
The historically significant constitutional declaration delivered by the party to the Vienna Landhaus on 21st October, 1918, concluded with the words: “Long live free, social Pan-Germany!” (See “Documents of National Socialism”). This free, social Pan-Germany is the German People’s State of the future, a future which will be all the closer the sooner that our Volk are able to liberate themselves from the barrage of international-pacifist rhetoric and from every foreign – predominantly Jewish – influence to which they are presently subject, and to find their way back to the German spirit. We hope that we have marked out the path towards this future clearly enough. Its route leads through intellectual, spiritual, and economic-social renewal, as well as through physical improvement. It is the same path which Prussia-Germany successfully trod after the defeat at Jena. Whether the path is stonier or thornier today does not matter, if only one has the firm will to walk it! To awaken and to consistently shape this will is but one of the tasks of National Socialism.
In the previous chapter we spoke of the German People’s State and of its function. German Law, whose most essential features we attempted to outline there, must form its foundation. How, then, should its structure be designed?
In view of the foregoing, one thing is immediately clear to us: A German People’s State cannot be established upon the principles of Western democracy; those principles are merely lies and deceit for the benefit of Jewish Mammonism, which uses them to dominate and exploit nations. German democracy – if we wish to continue to use that expression – cannot mean parliamentary rule. But rule by the people [Volksherrschaft], which is what the word democracy means, in turn also cannot be taken seriously as a concept, because to wish to rule over oneself is an absurdity. We will therefore more accurately redefine the term to mean ‘service to the totality’, i.e., ‘service for the benefit of the Volk’. Just as Frederick the Great – and he truly was great, inasmuch as he also understood the difficult art of renunciation – openly aspired to be the first servant of the state, so do we all wish to be nothing more than servants of the Volk, whose welfare is dear to our hearts.
There must be leaders [Führer], and there must be those who are led. Of course, those who like to imagine themselves as Führer are in reality far from really being one, for leaders cannot appoint themselves, nor can they be appointed; instead, their election only confirms the fact of their existence. The right Führer is born. Something indefinable emanates from him, wins him people’s hearts, provides him with the trust of the masses; they feel the divine spark that glows within him. That inner fire, which drives him relentlessly forward – unconcerned about his own personal well-being – also transfers into them. They follow because they must follow!
The concept of leadership [Führergedanke] – as opposed to the concept of rulership, which in general is based only upon the crudest use of force (see Soviet Russia) – should now reassert itself once more within the German People’s State! Whether this Führer is to be called a “People’s King” or a “President” (could he not use the German title “Herzog”?) is basically irrelevant; the only important thing is that he is a personality who places all of his energy into the service of the people’s welfare, and that his only aspiration is to be the servant of his Volk.
Yet the Führer cannot do everything alone, even if he were a personality of the most outstanding influence a hundred times over. He needs advisors, i.e., a government as well as a representative assembly. Commensurate with our explanations in the previous chapters, and in light of the miserable failures of the “parliamentary system” within German lands, the fact that this cannot be the form of parliamentarism which has become so commonplace today, that it cannot be derived from relationships between political parties, should not require any additional justification. The absolute parliamentary rule of today is a necessary transition; parliamentarism, which was once so terribly overrated and which has absolutely nothing to do with German democracy, will simply have to remedy itself. Admittedly this will involve sacrifices, but since when have such sacrifices not been needed in order to achieve forward progress?
What, then, should take parliamentarism’s place? Within the chapter “Parliament or Councils” we have already emphasized the need for the existence of two chambers, one political and one economic, and there expressed the view that – in accordance with the disposition of our Volk – occupational representation would presumably soon begin to play the greater role. One chamber would be based upon political parties, the other upon occupational associations (trade-unions, cooperatives). In any event, this arrangement would already constitute a significant improvement, in that it would alleviate many sources of friction and would awaken within us the awareness that we are members of a collective totality, one with which we are inextricably bound, for better or for worse. In view of the foregoing, it is thus quite clear that only Germans may sit in a German parliament, and that those of foreign origin are thereby excluded. This fact alone would help eliminate a large part of that mutual incitement which has become so commonplace today.
Our fellow-thinker from Munich, Dr. Tafel, makes much more far-reaching proposals. (Dr. Paul Tafel: The New Germany: A Council-State upon a National Foundation. Deutscher Volksverlag, Munich.) Since for us the party was never an end in itself, but merely a means to an end, and since National Socialism is not at all a party in the sense of winning votes for seats in parliament, we can safely make his views our own – even though, sooner or later, the political parties of today may perish.
For the German Volk (by which he means only those of German blood) Tafel wants to establish two different structures: One occupational, and one political. Both start at the lowest level, the Ort. If the occupational structure at its highest level represents the unity of the Reich as an economic entity, then the political structure in turn takes into account its different tribal characteristics. As an economic power the German Reich would thus be a single entity, while politically it would be a federal state – and one founded not upon the federal states of today (which are the end result of some rather unhappy accidents throughout our history) but upon the natural basis of our Volk, the tribes. A pleasant idea for sure!
The occupational structure begins in the municipality. Every working German member of a trade group (agriculture, transportation, public education, etc.), regardless of whether they are an employer or an employee, bands together in “Local Associations” and directly elects their executive committee, the “Local Council,” by means of the secret ballot. Each Local Council appoints from among its members one or more representatives for the “District Council,” who in turn have a seat in the “Gau Council.” The “Provincial Council” arises out of the “Gau Council,” and finally from the Provincial Councils emerges the “Supreme Council” of the trade groups.
At the apex of the occupational pyramid is the “Reich Economic Chamber” [Reichswirtschaftskammer]. Within it, each trade group is represented by one vote.
In order that the Economic Chamber does not degenerate and seize all power for itself, and because we are ultimately not just producers and consumers but also citizens, family men, and civilized beings whose needs are spiritual as well as economic – in short, because the state is not merely a department store (as that nomadic race from the Orient, who dominate us today through Walter Rathenau and allies, would have us believe) – it is essential that a “Political Chamber” or “Peoples’ Chamber” exist alongside it as a similarly arranged institution. According to Tafel, however, political parties should not send representatives to this Chamber in line with the current practice; instead it also needs to be built from the ground up. The “Primary Electoral Division” [Urwählergemeinde] is the nucleus of this political structure. It encompasses every resident of an urban district or rural community, regardless of age or sex, provided that they are of German ancestry and that they pay some form of tax, no matter how small, to the state or to the municipality.
Above the Primary Electoral Divisions are the “District Councils,” to which the Divisions send their emissaries; above these are the “Regional Councils” (province, territory); and finally, at their peak, there is the “Reich People’s Chamber” [Reichsvolkskammer].
Alongside these two chambers, which are not intended to be parliaments, i.e., places of rhetoric, but places of work, there is also the government. It should not merely be the executive organ of the collective will of both chambers, but should also be their colleague and their guide. This would be most evident in the drafting of laws. Today the government is typically called upon by parliament to submit a draft law on a particular issue. Under Tafel’s system, precisely the opposite would be the case: instead the government requests a report from one or both chambers, produces a final draft, and then submits it to the head of state for approval. The Volk thus actually make their own laws, something which is almost never the case in parliamentary democracy.
In order from the outset to prevent a thirst for power from emerging within the representative bodies, the head of state would be entitled to a right of rejection against all decisions made by the chambers. In order to also stave off any potential abuses of leadership here, in the sense of hegemonic power aspirations, a limitation of this right through use of the “plebiscite” (referendum) would be essential – namely, via public opinion polls or a popular vote on proposed legislation. In view of the foregoing, what the head of state is to be called is probably rather unimportant, for the state we have just outlined is a republic, i.e., a People’s State in the old Germanic sense, even if a “King” is at its head. This could not, of course, be a King chosen by “divine right,” but only by the “grace of the Volk,” elected through a popular vote. It is not the individual bearing it, but the crown itself which is the symbol of the future German Reich, a Reich unified in all of its diversity.
And now, a few words about the purpose and scope of activity of the economic and political structures. The trade group for the entire national territory would by its very nature be a self-governing body, whose purpose would be to elevate the production and distribution of goods to the highest possibly level. It is to be in equal measure a charitable association, cooperative society, trade guild (fraternity), and cartel. Its subdivisions would likewise be allocated certain specific tasks – the regulation of professional training, working facilities, and the like. The bottom-most group, the local chapter, is of particular importance. It is to primarily serve an educational purpose. In its regular meetings it would bear the responsibility of keeping its members informed about the state of their own and foreign economies, about all improvements and so on, and it would also be responsible for awakening and maintaining its members’ awareness of their shared, common bonds. Certainly, it is true that there would be conflicts at first; soon, however, a sense of cohesion would prevail.
The Primary Electoral Division would also primarily be responsible for educational work. Of course, its work would be of a political and, above all, cultural nature.
Tafel’s German council-state seems to us a very pleasant idea. Were today’s German Reich built upon these principles, it would soon begin to exert an irresistible attraction upon all outposts. Of course, this would require a change in the current system of fawning servility towards everything foreign, and above all, the elimination of Jewish influence – an absolute imperative in the new German Reich.