National Socialists Before Hitler, Part III: The Iglau Programme

“Strict völkisch thinking goes together with the immediate economic demands of labor” – The 1913 ‘Iglau Programme’ of the Austrian German Workers’ Party


Throughout its earliest years the National Socialist movement remained largely a nationalist offshoot of social-democracy, with the German Workers’ Party’s (DAP) membership drawn almost entirely from the working-classes and its focus heavily centered on the demands and interests of the nationalist labor movement. ‘National Socialism’ existed as a concept but not yet as a coherent, completely separate ideology; those who used the term frequently intended it simply to denote a different tactical line, a new direction in which they were steering the existing socialist movement and which the social-democrats would eventually be won over to. What acted as the catalyst for National Socialism’s development into a genuinely distinct ideological worldview was the introduction of universal male suffrage in 1907, which prompted an influx of Slavs into the Austrian Reichsrat and Bohemian Landtag and, subsequently, a rush of spooked ethnic-German white-collar employees and civil servants into the DAP. Among these more ‘bourgeois’ recruits were two intellectuals who joined in 1910 – Dr. Walter Riehl and Engineer Rudolf Jung. The theoretical influence of Riehl and Jung on the movement was considerable, with both quickly establishing themselves as senior figures within the party and both trying to push it in a more radical direction. Their first major move in this regard was their drafting of a new programme, which was debated and then ratified at a party congress at Iglau in September 1913. This ‘Iglau Programme’ was a modest first step, being largely just a revision of the earlier Trautenau Programme (the economic demands of the two, for example, are almost identical apart from the new demand for a universal property tax), but the new programme’s much more overtly völkisch content, its explicit anti-Semitism (absent from the 1904 programme), and its demand for a redrawing of Austrian borders along ethnic lines, were all portents of the new direction in which ideologists like Jung and Riehl were guiding the evolving National Socialist worldview. The Iglau Programme’s more overtly völkisch perspective was significant, laying the groundwork for transitioning National Socialism further away from its social-democratic roots and towards a much broader, more distinctive philosophy encompassing ‘productive Germans’ of all classes, not just proletarians. The complete Iglau Programme is reproduced below, translated by myself from two separate sources; note that the preamble was written by Riehl, while Jung was responsible for drafting the rest of the programme. 

Party Principles
of the
German Workers’ Party in Austria
Decided at the Reich Party Convention in Iglau,
7-8 September, 1913  



The modern labor movement originated in England. The faceless exploitation of the workers by emergent capitalism at the beginning of the 19th century led to bloody riots, which brought the workers no practical results. It was French and German scholars and researchers, without exception all members of the wealthy classes, who revised the age-old ideas of communism and socialism and created those principles which Lassalle later utilized when founding the first workers’ association in Germany. Karl Marx first created that doctrinal system of international socialism to which the German social-democrats still cling to today, at least in principle, while the socialists of almost all nations [Völker] have long since rediscovered the path to a healthy völkisch ethos, at least in practice. The teachings of the social-democratic party-saint Marx are today for the most part dismissed as obsolete, but his work maintains great influence over the independent, political miscellany of all the working masses.

His teachings on internationalism were and are unsuitable and of immeasurable harm for the German spirit [Deutschtum] of Central Europe. The working-class has a special interest in the position of power, in the maintenance and expansion of the living-space [Lebensraumes] of its own Volk. Today it is not the whims of princes that leads to conflicts between peoples, but economic competition. Especially in the most developed countries there has arisen a demand for labor; foreign workers of lesser culture have often squeezed out the old established inhabitants. This phenomenon has impacted the German nation, with its central location, with full force above all.

Social Democracy in Austria is a child of the German Reich, and its international principles were supposed to pass the acid test here. Instead its theoretical structure collapsed completely under the blows of reality. Only the poor comrades of “German tongue” cling to it with maladjusted loyalty – to their own cost. They, who used their contributions to make Social Democracy great, have in many areas been driven from their workplaces by their warmly-received Slavic comrades. German employers hired the cheaper Slavic workers; the red organization, however, failed in its duty-bound protection of its old German party veterans. This began, at last, to stir healthy instincts of self-preservation in the heads of the German workers. Inspired by the great German-national bourgeois movement of the nineties in German-Austria,1 they founded völkisch workers’ and journeymen’s associations in various cities. They recognized the disastrousness of the international doctrines for their own Volk and the dishonesty of a Social Democracy directed by Jews and in close union with transnational big business. In the same vein they took a stance against the Black International’s2 attempt to found a clerical labor party.

But our new sympathizers, who have chiefly come from the Social Democrats, soon wanted a program that would affirm their economic demands. In this new program, strict völkisch thinking goes together with the immediate economic demands of labor in the Trautenau program of 1904.


Party Principles

The German Workers’ Party seeks the uplift and liberation of the German working-classes from their present economic, political, and spiritual oppression. It begins from the conviction that only within the natural limits of his folkdom [Volkstums] can the worker achieve full value for his labor and intellectual abilities in respect to the other classes of the cultural community.

We reject multiethnic (international) organization because it weighs down the advanced workers by those of lower standing, and must completely prevent any real progress for the German working class in Austria.

The German Workers’ Party takes the view that an improvement in economic and social conditions can only be achieved through the coordination of professional associations; that purposeful, creative reform work can overcome today’s unsustainable societal conditions and safeguard the advancement of the working class in society.

The German Workers’ Party is no narrow class party; it represents the interests of all honest, productive labor in general, yet considers itself primarily as the representative of the demands of the German labor force and strives for the elimination of all injustices and the bringing about of fairer conditions in public life.

We are a liberal, völkisch party that combats with absolute severity all reactionary ambitions, all medieval, ecclesiastical, and capitalist privileges, and every racially-foreign influence [fremdvölkischen Einfluß] – but above all do we combat the overwhelming influence of the Jewish spirit in all areas of public life.

The influence of work and skill in state and society is our goal – the economic and political unity of the working German Volk the German Workers’ Party’s means to achieving this end.


The fulfillment of the spiritual tasks of our state is made impossible by the nationalist struggles which time and again arise out of the antiquated division of the Crown Lands.3 We therefore call for the dissolution of the existing Crown Lands and the creation of new self-governing regions, whose borders should be determined based upon ethnic settlement [völkischen Siedlungen].

Therefore, we demand:

  1. Reorganization of the relationship with Hungary, in the spirit of a just distribution of burdens and the securement of national and ethnic rights for our German-Hungarian folk-comrades under Magyar rule.
  2. Until the provision of ethnic independence, the complete provincial bifurcation of Bohemia as the most urgent and undeferrable measure of völkisch justice; repeal of the advantages conferred upon the provinces Galicia, Bukovina, and Dalmatia at the expense of the western Crown Lands.
  3. Legal declaration of the German tongue as the state language in Austria; the German language is therefore the exclusive language of the army, representative bodies, and public offices! Only Germans to hold public office in German-speaking areas.


In the field of government, the German Workers’ Party demands the free development of the peoples’ nature [Volkswesen]:

  1. Timely expansion of voting rights in province and municipality; abolition of the House of Lords.
  2. Thoroughgoing expansion of state autonomy.
  3. Rights to free association and free assembly; rights for freedom of speech and freedom of the press; abolition of impersonal criminal proceedings; deregulation of the ‘flying document-trade’ (colportage).4
  4. Protection against any interference in the exercise of national rights, namely against the utilization of wage conditions and terms of employment to restrict personal rights of self-determination.
  5. Basic Laws [Staatsgrundgesetze] may not be amended via decree; §14 of the Basic Law is to be abolished.5
  6. Individual ministers are to be selected from the Reichsrat and held liable, under severe penalty, for the upkeep of the constitution and for the just enforcement of the law.
  7. Pursuant to general conscription, the restructuring of the army into a Peoples’ Army [Volksheer], wherein anyone capable can rise to the highest positions; reduction in the active term of service; restrictions on the decommissioning of the more capable officers; public hearings for court-martials.


The economic policy of the state has to tailor itself to the needs of the great masses of the Volk. Above all, the drafting of labor legislation is a pressing need.

In the economic and sociopolitical spheres, the following should be primarily be striven for:

  1. Creation of a common customs territory with the German Reich.
  2. Transfer of capitalist large-scale enterprises, in which private property is injurious to the common good, into the possession of the Reich or municipality, particularly nationalization of the mining industry and the railways.
  3. Reorganization of the entire tax system; abolition of all indirect taxes and introduction of a progressive income tax; fixation of a tax-free living wage [Existenzminimums]; scheduling of higher taxation rates for rentier incomes, and lower rates for earned incomes; refinement of the inheritance tax; raising of the stock-exchange tax; introduction of luxury taxes and taxation on all as-yet-untaxed property; strict penalties for tax evasion.
  4. Complete and unrestricted freedom of association; legal recognition of labor unions; full freedom of coalition for agricultural laborers;6 protection against any infringement on the political beliefs and trade union membership of individual workers from terrorism by dissident fellow-workers and their associations.7
  5. Creation of Chambers of Labor for the promotion of the economic interests of the working-classes.
  6. Fixation of minimum wage rates for each occupation and region; enactment of statutory legislation with which public authorities and self-governing bodies can prevent the enlistment of racially-foreign workers to pressure wages.
  7. Establishment of a public employment office [Arbeitsnachweises] through the repeal of the private employment agencies [Arbeitsvermittlung].
  8. Placement of home-work [Heimarbeit] under sanitary and commercial oversight, with the end-goal being its eventual abolition.
  9. Legal regulation of working-hours on the basis of the eight-hour-day, with shorter working-hours set for hazardous industries; national labor protection legislation.
  10. A ban on nightwork in all industries, where not unfeasible due to technical reasons; a complete ban on nightwork for women and young workers.
  11. General implementation of a 36-hour weekly rest period; free Saturday afternoons for female workers and the legal establishment of statutory leave entitlements for all employees in the sense of the Commercial Clerks Act.
  12. Prohibition on female labor in health-hazardous enterprises and in mining; introduction of maternity leave [Wöchnerinnenschutz]; total prohibition of gainful employment for children under 14 years of age and the establishment of a shorter working-period for young workers.
  13. Establishment of qualification certificates [Befähigungsnachweisen] as a requirement for highly-qualified work; stricter legal provisions covering accident prevention and the condition of workshops.
  14. Development of the Labor Inspectorate [Gewerbeaufsicht] and expansion of the scope of powers of its supervisors (inspectors). Employment of factory-supervision auxiliaries drawn from the working-classes. Appointment of female supervisors for companies with female labor. Maintenance of labor statistics.
  15. Establishment of industrial courts [Gewerbegerichten] in all major industrial locations; the industrial courts to be structured as arbitration agencies for all labor and wage disputes.
  16. Improvement of the Workers’ Housing Act; creation of a Homestead Law and introduction of a Housing Authority; systematic facilitation of the Land Law; abolition of profiteering in land and foodstuffs.
  17. Uniform reorganization of the entire labor insurance system; expansion of health and accident insurance; introduction of general old-age and invalid’s insurance; benefits for widows and orphans; insurance against unemployment through supporting such efforts of the free unions, and furthermore through structuring this class of insurance within workers’ insurance.
  18. Establishment of a Ministry of Social Policy, to which the entire social insurance sector is to be assigned. Moreover, we demand the nationalization of the entire insurance industry.


The German Workers’ Party demands in the cultural field:

  1. Compete separation of church and state.
  2. Improvement of the legal and political status of women and further development of the Marriage Law.8
  3. Redevelopment of the school system according to the modern Volksgeist;9 complete separation of school and church; complimentary learning materials and public education; regulation of further education and technical education, particularly through their transfer to daylight hours and weekdays. For teachers, an income in accordance with their education and responsibilities; free election of teachers’ representatives to all school board bodies.
  4. Simplification of the administration of justice; free legal representation; compensation for those wrongly arrested and convicted; nationalization of the medical profession; enactment of a drunkenness law, measures against the abuses and influence of alcohol capital [Alkoholkapitals]; promotion of the construction of alcohol-free dining-houses.


Translator’s Notes

1. A reference to the Pan-German movement, led at the time by George Ritter von Schönerer. The Pan-Germans had provided some of the impetus for the growth of the nationalist workers’ associations and trade-unions in Austria-Hungary, since the völkisch workers as a whole tended to be highly sympathetic to Pan-German ideology. Attempts to forge organizational links between the national labor movement and the Pan-German parties were largely unsuccessful, however – the former in particular tended to be suspicious of the bourgeois orientation of the latter. The lack of real will or ability from Pan-German politicians to successfully rally and inspire the workers is what led in part to the original founding of the German Workers’ Party, intended as a working-class political-nationalist alternative to middle-class Pan-Germanism.

2. The concept of there being three ‘Internationals’ appears occasionally in völkisch and National Socialist ideological writing. The ‘Red International’ referred to Marxism; the ‘Gold International’ to international capitalism; and the ‘Black International’ to Catholicism (black in Germany and Austria was a color traditionally associated with the clerical parties). This interpretation was also projected onto the black-red-gold flag of the 1848 revolution. For much of its history, particularly in Austria, this flag had been regarded as a symbol of pan-German nationalism (Rudolf Jung in the first edition of his Der nationale Sozialismus even talks approvingly of National Socialists marching under “black-red-gold stormbanners”). The adoption of the black-red-gold by the Weimar Republic, however, saw the colors become tainted in nationalist eyes, and it became a common enough charge that the colors of the flag in fact represented the Three Internationals who had taken control over Germany after its humiliating defeat in the Great War.

3. A ‘Crown Land’ (in German ‘Kronland’) was the name given in Austria-Hungary to the hereditary lands which made up the constituent parts of Cisleithania, the Austrian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Kronländer each sent representatives to the Austrian Reichsrat (Imperial Council), had their own elected or quasi-elected Landtag, and were managed by a governor (Statthalter) who acted with the authority of the Emperor. Hungary and Croatia-Slavonia ceased to be considered Kronländer after 1867, instead constituting the semi-autonomous area of Transleithania which had its own bicameral Diet. The complicated history of Austria-Hungary, the borders of the Kronländer being determined by old feudal aristocracies, and the destabilizing effects of modern economic migration, were all responsible for the development of a cosmopolitan ethnic diaspora even within the Austrian lands of the Empire – hence the DAP’s call for a rearrangement of Crown Land borders along more ethnically homogeneous lines.

4. ‘Colportage’ were cheap, mass-produced books, leaflets, and tracts distributed widely by itinerant traders (‘colporteurs’) throughout the European and American countryside in the 18th and 19th centuries. In a period of growing literacy they were an important source of information and news for rural populations. In Austria, colportage went through fluctuating periods of bans, censorship, and heavy regulation by the state, which was concerned about their being used in the spread of potentially seditious or inflammatory political ideas.

5. ‘Basic Laws’ (occasionally translated ‘Foundational Laws’) were the series of laws enacted by the Austrian Imperial Council [Reichsrat] in December 1867; these laws served as the country’s first modern, functioning constitution (the ‘December Constitution’). There were six sets of constitutional ‘Basic Laws’ [Staatsgrundgesetze] outlining the limits and powers of the state in various areas: the general rights of citizens and nationalities, the functions of the Supreme Court [Reichsgericht], the powers of the executive, etc. “§14 of the Basic Law” is a reference to the infamous Paragraph Fourteen of the first part of the December Constitution, the ‘Law Amending the Basic Law of the Reichsvertretung of 26th February 1861’, which made amendments to the old February Constitution of 1861. Paragraph Fourteen of this Law was notorious in that it granted the Emperor and his ministers full executive power in the absence of parliament, including those moments when the Reichsrat was simply not in session. §14 was essentially a loophole by which the government could bypass parliament, nullify Austria’s nascent constitutionalism, and issue emergency decrees which eroded the liberal freedoms provided in other areas of the December Constitution.

6. Freedom of coalition (in German ‘Koalitionsfreiheit‘) is a form of freedom of association specifically concerning labor organization, namely the freedom to establish, join, and gather in labor unions for the purposes of industrial activism.

7. The “terrorism” of “dissident fellow-workers” mentioned here is a reference to the sometimes-violent tactics employed by some sections of the Marxist ‘free’ unions. Violence against workers who refused to join a particular union or to participate in strikes or other industrial actions was not uncommon, nor was violence against workers who joined or promoted the wrong union (Catholic, liberal, nationalist) or political cause. The terrorism of the ‘red’ unions in Germany was a significant enough issue that it was the subject of a number of Reichstag debates over the period of November 1895, and the issue remained effectively unresolved well past the Great War – Anton Drexler described being ‘terrorized’ for his aversion to social-democracy in his 1919 pamphlet My Political Awakening, and the inter-war period is replete with stories of National Socialists who were threatened or attacked by their ‘red’ workmates after joining the Party, SA, or NSBO. Austria was not at all immune to such union turmoil. In fact, the Empire’s unique demographic conditions made it particularly prone to such problems, as its fractured unions were divided not just by ideology but also along ethnic lines, leading to an additional causal factor for inter-worker suspicion and violence.

8. The Marriage Law of 1868 was regarded as a liberal reform, in that it caused a suspension of the 1855 Concordat with the Catholic Church which had seen canon law supersede the Austrian civil code in certain areas, including that of marriage. While the 1868 Marriage Law returned the Austrian civil code to its place of prominence by replacing canon law and returning marriage to the sole jurisdiction of the state, it nonetheless still had a strong Catholic influence – the Law was denomination-bound to Catholicism, with civil marriage regarded as a secondary (or ‘non-default’) option for couples seeking legal union. The DAP’s desire to reform the Marriage Law was, based on its anti-Catholic tendencies, likely oriented towards ending this religious influence in the state in favor of the promotion of civil marriage, something that finally occurred after the Anschluß of 1938 when the National Socialist government in Berlin took power over Austria.

9. ‘Volksgeist‘ is a völkisch term, translating roughly as ‘national spirit‘ and also occasionally translated as ‘racial spirit‘ or ‘spirit of the people‘.


Preamble translated from Andrew G. Whiteside’s Nationaler Sozialismus in Österreich vor 1918, VIERTELJAHRSHEFTE FÜR ZEITGESCHICHTE (QUARTERLY JOURNAL FOR CONTEMPORARY HISTORY), VOL. 9 (1961), ISSUE 4; Programme translated from Klaus Berchtold’s Österreichische Parteiprogramme 1868-1966 (1967), R. Oldenbourg München

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