The Manifesto of the Black Front

The 1931 ‘action program’ adopted by Otto Strasser’s ‘Fighting Community of Revolutionary National Socialists’ for its Black Front project

On 2nd October, 1931, followers of Otto Strasser gathered at Castle Lauenstein in Upper Franconia for the 2nd Reich Congress of the Kampfgemeinschaft Revolutionärer Nationalsozialisten (Fighting Community of Revolutionary National Socialists, KGRNS). The KGRNS was a young movement, yet had already gone through a period of tumultuous upheaval; Strasser’s dabbling in the 1930 SA revolt (the ‘Stennes-putsch’) and his subsequent machinations with Freikorps leader Kapitän Hermann Ehrhardt had created chaos within his organization, resulting in a number of humiliating splits which had bled away many of his more radical followers. The 2nd Reich Congress was thus something of a regrouping, an attempt to formalize the KGRNS’s tactical position in the wake of ideological confusion and to set a clear course for the future. One outcome of the Congress was the official declaration of the ‘Black Front’ concept, with associated manifesto. The Black Front was intended to be a political coalition, an umbrella organization (naturally led by the KGRNS) of the various national-revolutionary movements in Germany who shared a common sense of identity and mission in their anti-capitalist, anti-parliamentarian, anti-communist, and anti-Hitlerian ideals. Delegates from the UNSKD, the Wehrwolfbund, the Bund Oberland, and the Bundische Reichschaft, as well as representatives from literary journals Die Tat and Widerstand, all signed up to the Black Front concept – in theory. In reality, most cooperation under the Black Front name never went much further than the writing of newspaper articles or the occasional joint meeting. Over time the KGRNS ended up appropriating the Black Front name for itself, although the basic essence of the original Manifesto, reproduced below, remained as a core ideological guideline for the organization. 

The Manifesto of the Black Front

The action program of the

“Fighting Community of Revolutionary National Socialists”

proclaimed at the 2nd Reich Congress at Castle Lauenstein,

2nd – 4th October, 1931.

Through tremendous crises the system of liberalism dies.

The liberal economic system, capitalism, is no longer able to safeguard the food, clothing, and habitation of the German people, as evidenced by the terrible suffering of the broad masses, the unemployment of the proletariat, and the destruction of the peasantry.

The liberal social and political order, the bourgeois class state, and parliamentary democracy, can no longer fulfill that organic union and uniform deployment of the strength of the German people which removes internal instability and increases external performance to the highest possible extent, by which alone the attainment and assertion of national liberty is possible.

The liberal rationalist and materialist conception of culture has torn from the life of German man the inner focus on life’s true meaning and has instead given birth to that restlessness, senselessness, and mood of despair which inevitably leads every community to self-destruction.

*

The basic law of the capitalist economic order is the “sanctity of private property”; the basic tenet of capitalist economic policy is the integration of the international world economy, crowned by the single gold standard. So long as these pillars of the capitalist economic system stand, so long will there be no change in Germany’s current plight!

The essence of today’s class system and of parliamentary democracy is that of the people’s artificial stratification based on the power of money, creating a selective system in which profession and vocation are in conflict with each other in 97 out of a hundred cases. This unnatural stratification creates ever-increasing tensions within the organism of the people, who are forced to focus all their energy externally, thus ensuring the inevitability of the condition of the nation’s bondage. Continue reading

Father Coughlin and the Power of Money

Reverend Charles E. Coughlin’s 1934 lecture on money, credit, and the corrupting power of the banks

The following is a transcript of a lecture first delivered by Reverend Charles E. Coughlin on December 30th, 1934, titled ‘Money is No Mystery.’ Coughlin in many ways was a pioneering figure in American history – one of the first true mass media figures, he laid the foundations for modern talk radio and demonstrated the enormous power of mass broadcast media. Father Coughlin’s radio program, operated out of his parish in Michigan, was at its height listened to by roughly 22% of the American population – possibly the largest audience any single figure has ever had in all history. Coughlin also headed a political movement, founded in 1934, named the National Union of Social Justice; through the NUSJ, his radio program, and his journal Social Justice, Coughlin propagated a massively popular, populist set of ideas consisting of a mixture of isolationism, American nationalism, anti-capitalism, anti-communism, and Christian values. Much of Coughlin’s appeal came from his often vicious critique of the American capitalist system, such critiques proving especially popular during the midst of the Depression and the controversial policies being pursued by President Franklin Roosevelt. Coughlin saw in American capitalism, and particularly in its banking structure and treatment of money, many of the root causes of modern society’s ills. The lecture below is a typical example of Coughlin’s denunciation of the destructive financial system of the United States.

I

Since the year 1929 America has been in a state of transition. Slowly but certainly with every other civilized nation we have been passing from the age of modern capitalism into a new era of communism, of Fascism, of socialism or of Hitlerism. We, in America, have one choice, namely, to follow the course of one of these or else to construct a new system founded upon social justice. Still, withal, those who prospered most and produced least under the old system are battling fiercely to maintain their privileges and their functions of legislation.

Certainly, during this coming year and the years immediately following, we will witness the total dissolution of modern capitalism. It is advisedly that I use the adjective “modern,” because capitalism, as we knew it in the past twenty or thirty years, differed almost substantially from the capitalism which was originally conceived. Today it is more renowned for its vices than for its virtues.

Those who are fighting so relentlessly to preserve its poverty-breeding corpse refuse to face the pressing problem of squaring production with distribution. They are those who, during the coming years, will continue to oppose the restoration to Congress of its right to coin and regulate the value of money. They still believe that all wealth should be identified with gold: That is the basic thought behind the gold standard. They still believe that the debts of the farmer, of the merchant, of the municipality, of the state which were incurred through the operation of an insane credit inflation, of manufactured bookkeeping money, should be paid back to them in honest currency which does not exist.

They still labor under the delusion that the factory worker is so ignorant that he is willing to starve or, at least, recede to a lower standard of living, despite the plenitude of capital wealth which surrounds him – factories, fields, mines, forests – all of which are idle, because the banker controls the coinage of money and issues it on the same basis as he did before we underwent an unreal, psychological revaluation of our gold.

They still believe that the American people will become accustomed to bread lines, to forced idleness and to cut wages. Continue reading

Walter Ulbricht and the Nazi-Soviet Line

German Communist Walter Ulbricht’s 1940 article defending the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact

The untitled article below is a relic from one of the most remarkable periods in Bolshevik history. First published in February 1940 in Die Welt, the Comintern’s German-language journal distributed to communists-in-exile, the article made its appearance during that period when the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was still in full effect, when the Third Reich and the USSR were still involved in active military collaboration.  Its author was Walter Ulbricht, the later leader of communist East Germany and First Secretary of its ruling Socialist Unity Party from 1950 until 1973. Ulbricht had been a member of the Communist Party of Germany’s Central Committee since 1923, and was before 1933 a major communist organizer in the Berlin-Brandenburg area, as well as a member of both the Saxon Landtag and the Reichstag. At the time of writing Ulbricht, like many other German communists, was in exile in the USSR and disseminating propaganda to the German-speaking diaspora on behalf of the Soviet state; in this case the propaganda was directed towards those quaverers who still had qualms about German-Soviet collaboration. Ulbricht’s article presents the Second World War not as a war for liberty against tyrannical imperialism, but instead as a great anti-socialist war by reactionary-capitalist powers against the growing strength of the Soviet Union. In the vision Ulbricht paints, the German-Soviet alliance is a reflection of the German government’s growing recognition of the power and vitality of the Soviet nation and its socialism, and of the growing influence which the German working masses are increasingly having over their government. While never going so far as to praise National Socialism or to whitewash some of the German government’s actions, Ulbricht nonetheless presents it as a nation wanting peace – a peace which is continually denied to both it and the USSR by the plutocratic powers of the West, including England, the “most reactionary force in the world.” This most remarkable position soon became infamous among the non-Stalinist left, and still presents some of the clearest Bolshevik justification for the ‘Nazi-Soviet Pact.’

The Neue Vorwärts [‘New Forwards’], organ of the former Central Committee of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, has published an article by Dr Hilferding, entitled ‘The Purpose of the War,’ in which the author comes to the conclusion that one must unreservedly wish to see the victory of France and England. [Note: Rudolf Hilferding was an Austrian-born Jew, former German Finance Minister, and one of the leading theoreticians of the German Social-Democratic Party -Bogumil]

Hilferding maintains that the war is being waged by the governments of England and France for the ideals of liberty and not for capitalist class interests. The bourgeois press of Britain and France expresses itself somewhat more precisely regarding the purpose of the war. The press which represents the views of the City of London has in the last few weeks openly declared that by means of the war ‘freedom’ is to be gained to carve up Germany and use it as a war-instrument against the Soviet Union. By unreservedly desiring the victory of Britain and France, Hilferding also endorses this war aim. This war policy of the Social-Democratic leaders is not only directed against the interests of the German people, but is contrary to the will of millions of working men and women in Britain and France. How many declarations and demonstrations of workers against the imperialist war have been reported in the last few months? M. Blum complains that many workers refuse to read his paper any more. [‘M. Blum’ likely refers to ‘Monsieur Blum’, i.e. Léon Blum, former socialist Prime Minister of France and editor of the newspaper Le Populaire -Bogumil]

The special task of the Neue Vorwärts now obviously consists in concealing the war aims of British imperialism with a false picture of alleged ‘freedom and democracy’. On the other hand, the German workers rightly ask, would it not be more in place if the British and French governments, in order to prove that their words are seriously meant, gave complete freedom to the peoples of India, Africa and Egypt? When the middle-class papers declare in one article that England is fighting for freedom, and report in another article in the same paper the arrest of fighters for freedom, the muzzling of the workers’ press, the establishment of concentration camps and special laws against the workers, then the German workers have the proof before their eyes that the ruling class in England is carrying on the war against the working class, and that, if Germany were conquered, the German working class would be treated in the same way. The German workers know the big business men of England and the two hundred families of France, and are aware what an English victory would mean to them. The revolutionary workers and progressive forces in Germany who, at the cost of great sacrifices, are fighting against the terror and against reaction, do not wish to exchange the present regime for a regime of national and social oppression by British imperialism and German big capitalists who are subservient to Britain, but are fighting against all enslavement of the working people, for a Germany in which the working people really rule. Continue reading

Visions of National Socialist Democracy, Part II: Feder

Gottfried Feder’s 1919 vision of a highly democratic, corporatist National Socialism with a grass-roots electoral system

The article below was first published by Gottfried Feder under the title ‘The Social State’ on May 24th, 1919, in Dietrich Eckart’s newspaper Auf gut Deutsch. Its characterization as a National Socialist text could possibly be regarded as a stretch, considering it was published roughly two or three months before Feder first officially joined the German Workers’ Party (DAP). However, one should not forget that Feder’s pamphlet ‘Manifesto for the Abolition of Slavery to Interest’, which swiftly became (and remains) a core document of National Socialist economic doctrine, was written before the DAP even existed; was first published when the DAP was still in its infancy; and was originally pitched in prototypical form by Feder to the Marxist government of Kurt Eisner. ‘The Social State’ in fact is in many respects highly representative of early, pre-Hitler National Socialism, bearing more similarity to the National Socialism of Rudolf Jung and the Austrian-Sudeten-Polish DNSAP than to the more militant, authoritarian form of the ideology which developed under Hitler’s influence. ‘The Social State’ calls for a nationalist, anticapitalist state in which political representation is effected through a corporative rather than parliamentary system, a system remarkable in how democratic it is – Feder not only implicitly assumes that women will have the right to vote, but children too, the grass-roots electoral system he describes potentially involving every member of society in the election process. Although this system was obviously not adopted by the NSDAP as a potential model, ‘The Social State’ is still a fascinating demonstration that National Socialism and dictatorship were not necessarily synonymous concepts in the eyes of the movement’s Party-comrades.     

THE SOCIAL STATE

Gottfried Feder

The old form of government has  broken down. What shall take its place? This is the most important problem of the future: Weimar’s democratic-parliamentary monster, lifeless as it is, now that its illusionary policies have completely collapsed, seems to have reached the end of its days. The peace conditions of the Entente are the horrible alarm bell which has dispelled Socialist dreams and illusions. Where is Mr. Scheidemann’s peace with understanding? Where is Mr. Erzberger’s economic peace – guaranteed to be ready in half an hour? Where is the League of Nations, where is Mr. Eisner’s world revolution? Where is the workers’ state in which production is doubled; where is the higher morality – where is any reconstruction at all to be seen?

Weighed and found wanting – that is already the judgement of its own people, of its own contemporaries. Over and over again history will curse the German revolutionaries who betrayed their people, who in their shortsighted megalomania first robbed a brave people of belief in and desire for victory and then with the cowardly bravery of the assassin stabbed the army in the back during its most difficult days, in order to seize the power which they cannot use. For it is one thing to fell a swaying giant from behindto uproot a dynasty which has already lost touch with the people, or to revolutionize a civil service which has lost its vital connection with the life of the people. It is quite a different thing to display revolutionary power when the task is to inspire the mortally wounded people with new vitality and to prepare a new and vigorous political organism. Continue reading