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.
We therefore do not believe that the council system alone is called upon to heal the damage done to the sick body politic and to the body of the Volk. It is indispensable, however, to restore a part of life’s expressions, namely the economic one. Every profession subsumes its members together collectively. The totality then through its representatives exerts influence on the business in which it is employed and on the sum of all enterprises, thus on the entire economic life of the state and people, that is, the national economy.
The political parties would by no means be made unnecessary. However, they would be freed from a great deal of trivial odds and ends, be able to turn to larger issues, cultural ones; politicians could turn into statesmen, commit themselves to worldviews, and therefore disappoint less. The complaints about disregarding this or that profession, which today are all too justified, would fall away. Only then would our people learn to think politically. Free and unrestrained, unhindered by all fetters and shackles, the old great ideas would then take the stage as champions: cosmopolitanism (internationalism) on the one hand, folk-wisdom (nationalism) on the other. For centuries already they have been measuring each other up. Since the Roman church first stretched its arm over German land, the völkisch development of our state and economic life began to be stripped away. Roman law and capitalism are only natural effects of the already existing root cause of the de-Germanization of our national life [Volkslebens].
The council concept has been called up to connect us back to the thread of development where it broke off centuries ago. In the German state it should necessarily become utilized via the constitution. This requirement is embodied in our guiding principles. “Creation of second chambers on the basis of occupational representation,” it says. Accordingly, the parliament consists 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 Schreffer designed a plan for such a chamber which we will briefly discuss. Its elections should be based on a code which takes into account occupational stratification, on the basis of a simple majority (i.e. without proportional representation). The entire national territory should only form one constituency, and those who do not work themselves, such as shareholders, shall be excluded from the electoral act.
The decision as to which of the two chambers of parliament should in future play the bigger role in state life – let us leave that to future developments. The German also instinctively is drawn to professional representation in the formation of parties. We can see this most clearly in the Sudetenlands. There are for example a party of the country-folk (the Farmers League), a National Socialist Workers Party, and more recently a Business Party. They are decidedly more natural entities than the “people’s parties”, which ultimately do not represent the entire people, but only certain groups. One should never want to seem more than one really is. One fact – namely that the more-or-less occupational parties experience less friction with one another than the so-called people’s parties – is explained by the fact that the people’s parties are centralistic, i.e. in their inner-most being they are non-German entities. (The National Socialist Workers Party is not a purely occupational party, but is also not a people’s party in the sense of the word so misused today.)
Naturally, the overall structure in all representative bodies must be implemented from the ground up. Alongside the chambers, we need a government that advises and governs in communion with them. German lands should be guided and governed, but not ruled! The Führer-concept, which found its expression in our German kingship before – blinded by false glory – it degenerated into a Roman imperium, shall arise again!
In this context we shall attend to the question which is discussed nowadays with so much clamor and so little understanding: “Free State” (republic) or “Monarchy”? The Germanic states and the old German kingdom were by their very nature republics rather than monarchies. Even the medieval German Empire in its initial period was still referred to as an aristocratic republic: the electors voted for (elected) the head of state from the nobility. It was not until later, when the Roman-centralist concept of rulership [Herrschaftsgedanke] prevailed more and more and reached its conclusion in unrestrained principality that the form of state that is today called monarchy appeared. If one wants to designate a true peoples’ state as one with a royal monarch at its peak, then that should work for us; it could just as well be called a republic. Not the name, but the content matters. We can conceive the crown to be its symbol; but we reject the concepts of rulership and divine grace. The Führer may well be called king; that is unimportant. On the other hand, it is essential that he takes his position by the grace of the people! …
The German Peoples’ State
The historically significant constitutional declaration delivered by the Party at the Vienna country-house on 1st 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 Peoples’ State of the future, and will come all the closer the faster our people are able to free themselves from the flood of international-pacifist slogans and all the foreign, predominately Jewish, influences that it is currently subjected to, and find their way back to the German spirit. We hope to have marked the path to this future clearly enough. It is a route of spiritual, mental, and economic-social renewal, as well as of physical training. It is the same path that Prussian-Germany took with success after the defeat at Jena. Whether the path is stony or thorny does not matter, if only one has the firm will to travel it! To awaken and unify this will is one of the tasks of national Socialism.
In the previous section we spoke of the German Peoples’ State and its responsibilities. German law, whose main features we also attempted to describe, must form its basis. What now should be its structure?
One thing is clear to us: a German Peoples’ State cannot be built on the principles of Western democracy; those principles are only a lie and a deception for the benefit of Jewish Mammonism, which dominates and exploits the people through them. A German democracy – if we want to continue using that term – cannot mean rule via parliament. Volksherrschaft [‘rule by the people’, or ‘popular government’], which is synonymous for democracy, again cannot really exist, because it is an absurdity to want to govern oneself. We will therefore redefine the term to mean ‘service to the collective’, i.e. ‘service for the benefit of the Volk’. Just as Frederick the Great – and he truly was a great one, because he also understood the difficult art of renunciation [of worldly luxuries] – aspired to be the first servant of the state, so do we all want to be nothing but servants of our Volk, whose welfare is dearest to our hearts.
There must be Leader [Führer] and led. Of course, the appearance of the one who believes himself Führer may not be far off, for leaders cannot appoint themselves, they cannot be appointed, and their election only confirms the fact of their existence. The right leader is born. Something indefinable emanates from him, wins his heart, rewards him with the confidence of the masses; they feel the divine spark that glows within him. That inner fire, which drives him forwards relentlessly – unheeding to his personal well-being – also transfers over to them. They follow because they have to follow.
The role of Führer – and not the concept of rulership, which is usually based only on the most brutal measures of violence (see Soviet Russia) – should now come into effect once more in the German Peoples’ State! Whether this leader is called ‘the Peoples’ King’ [Volkskönig] or ‘President’ (could he not use the German title ‘Herzog’?) is really immaterial; the only important thing is that he is a personality, and that he puts all his power in the service of the peoples’ welfare, striving only to be a servant of his Volk. Hereditary monarchy, of course, seems to have been finally rendered obsolete.
But the Führer alone is not enough, even if he were a hundred times over a personality of the most outstanding influence. He needs advisers, i.e. a government as well as a parliament. That this is not to be the form of parliamentarism that has become commonplace today, and that leadership cannot be taken from the Führer by the party-system, does not, in accordance with the comments in the previous section and the miserable failures of the “parliamentary system” in German lands, require any further justification. The unrestricted parliamentary rule of today is a necessary transition; parliamentarism, which was so overrated in former times, and which has nothing whatsoever to do with German democracy, has to be finished off. Of course, there will be a cost to that sacrifice, but when did sacrifices not have to be made in order to move forwards?
What should replace parliamentarism? In the chapter “Parliament or Councils” we have already pointed out the necessity for the existence of two chambers, one political and one economic, of which – in accordance with the temperament of our Volk – occupational representation would likely soon play a greater role. One chamber would be constituted on political parties, the other on occupational associations (trade unions, cooperatives). At any rate, this would already be a source of progress in that it would diminish many areas of friction and awaken the consciousness within us to be members of a totality which binds us all together in times of both prosperity and deprivation. That in a German parliament only Germans could sit, therefore excluding those of foreign descent, has already been made clear. Such a circumstance would eliminate a large part of today’s habitual, reciprocal hateful invective.
To the same end our fellow-thinker from Munich, Dr. Tafel, makes several further suggestions.* Since to 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 parliamentary seats, we can quietly adopt his views – even if, sooner or later, the political parties of today may perish. (*Dr. Paul Tafel: “The New Germany, a Council-State on a National Foundation”. Munich: Deutscher Volksverlag.)
For the German people (which he understands as only those of German blood) Tafel wants two structures established: one economic, and one political. Both go from the lowest level, the site [dem Orte, an old Germanic word for ‘abode’, ‘dwelling’, or ‘village’]. If the occupational structure at its highest level represents the unity of the Reich as an economic body, so the political one takes into account the Reich’s tribal characteristics. The German Reich would therefore be a unified economic powerhouse, politically a federal state – and not based on the present federal states (which in our history have not infrequently been the source of misfortune) but on the natural foundation of our people, the tribes. A good thought for sure!
The occupational structure begins in the community. All working Germans of a trade group (agriculture, transport, public education, etc.), whether employer or employee, band together in “Local Associations” [Ortsverbänden] and vote in direct elections via secret ballot for their committee, the “Local Council” [Ortsrat]. Each Local Council appoints from its membership one or more representatives for the District Council, which in turn has a seat in the Gau Council. The various Gau Councils are represented in each State Council, and finally the State Councils form the Supreme Council of the trade groups.
At the peak of the occupational pyramid is the Reich Economic Chamber. Each trade group is represented with one vote in it.
So that the Economic Chamber does not degenerate and seize all power for itself; and because after all we are not just producers and consumers but also citizens, fathers, and people of culture who have spiritual as well as economic needs; and because the state is not merely a department store, as the nomadic people from the Orient (who today dominate us through Walter Rathenau and comrades) would have us believe; so in addition to the Economic Chamber it is necessary to establish a similarly-organized institution as a “political” or “Peoples’ Chamber” [Volkskammer].
According to Tafel, however, the political parties are not to send their representatives to the political institutions in the manner of today’s custom, but instead these institutions are built from the ground up. The “Primary Electoral Community” [Urwählergemeinde] is the nucleus of the political structure. It includes all residents of a municipal district or rural community [Landgemeinde], irrespective of age and sex, provided that they are of German descent and pay taxes, no matter how small the amount, to the state or community.
Representatives from the Primary Electoral Community make up a “District Council,” above this is the “County Council” (province, region), and finally there is the “Reich Peoples’ Chamber”.
Alongside these two chambers, which are not parliaments, i.e. sites of rhetoric, but are intended instead as sites of work, the government comes into things. The government should not merely be the executive organ of the collective will of the chambers, but its colleague and leader. This is most evident in the composition of laws. Today the government is usually called upon by the Peoples’ Assembly to submit a bill on a certain question. Under Tafel’s system, the opposite would be the case: the government requests a report from one or both chambers, a final draft is produced by them, and then it is submitted to the Head of State for approval. The people thus actually make their own laws, which is almost never the case in parliamentary democracy.
The Head of State would, in order to prevent a lust for power from developing in the peoples’ representatives from the outset, be entitled to deny any decisions made by the chambers. Again, as there is no desire for this leadership to be abused in pursuit of a lust for power, it is required that this right can also be limited through the use of a plebiscite or referendum. As to what the Head of State is to be called, it does not really matter; however, although the type of state that has been sketched out here is to be a republic, a ‘Peoples’ State’ [Volksstaat] in the old Germanic sense, a King is to be at its head. Of course, it cannot be a King by “God’s grace” but one by “popular grace”, chosen by referendum. It is not the person bearing it but the crown itself which is the symbol of the unity and diversity of the future German Reich.
And now some details about the purpose and scope of the economic and political structure. The trade group for the entire national territory would by its nature be a self-governing body with the purpose of bringing the production and distribution of goods to the highest attainable level. It is equally a welfare-association, a cooperative society, a guild (corporation), a cartel. Their subdivisions would also have specific assigned tasks – regulation of professional training, employment opportunities, and so on. The lowest group, the Local Association, is of especial importance. Primarily it serves an educational purpose. In its regular meetings it has the task of informing its members about the state of their own and foreign economies, to clarify all improvements and the like, and to awaken and maintain awareness of the bonds of shared, common identity. Certainly, at first, there would be conflicts – but soon the feeling of connectedness between groups and individuals would prevail.
The Primary Electoral Community would also mainly concern itself with educational work. Its work would of course be political and, above all, cultural. Tafel’s German council-state seems a very blessed idea. If today’s German Reich were built on these principles, it would soon begin to exert an irresistible attraction to all outposts [of the German people]. This, of course, presupposes a change in the present system of servile obsequiousness to everything foreign and, above all, the elimination of Jewish influence, which is the sovereign demand of the new German Reich.