National Socialists Before Hitler, Part IV: The German National Socialist Workers’ Party (DNSAP)

A new name, a new programme: the 1918 ‘Vienna Programme’ of the German National Socialist Workers’ Party (DNSAP) of Austria & the Sudetenland


Less than a year after the German Workers’ Party (DAP) of Austria-Hungary adopted its new political programme, the Empire declared war on Serbia. The Great War was soon to follow, and with it came a tumultuous series of events, culminating in the defeat of the Central Powers and the dissolution of the Empire. A new era for Austria and for Europe also saw a new era for the DAP – on 5 May, 1918, DAP members met at a Vienna Reichsparteitag to adopt a new name and a new programme. The new name was the ‘German National Socialist Workers’ Party’ (DNSAP). The new programme (drafted by Rudolf Jung) was more explicitly revolutionary, now that fear of Imperial state repression had dissipated and Anschluss with Germany finally appeared possible (a hope soon dashed on the rocks of the Treaty of Saint-Germain). Union with Germany, mass nationalization, and a Peoples’ Bank to break the reigns of “the Jewish-commercial spirit” were all key features, even if the DNSAP still ambivalently committed itself to reformism. For many members the formalization of ‘National Socialism’ in both name and ideology was a long time coming. ‘National Socialist Party’, ‘German Socialist Party’, and ‘German Social Party’ had all been proposed as alternative names when the DAP was first founded in 1903. There had been intermittent appeals to change the name since then, especially as ‘National Socialist’ became a common appellation for members, with the debate beginning again in 1916 in earnest in the pages of DAP-paper Freien Volksstime. On the one hand, some party-comrades were concerned that the DAP name was unappealing to potential recruits among the farmers, civil servants, and the petit-bourgeoisie, that it did not sufficiently represent the party’s actual worldview. On the other hand, the party had been founded as a workers’ party and the name was seen as a mark of respect to a class much hard-done-by. The compromise solution, ‘German National Socialist Workers’ Party’, was the suggestion of senior Bohemian party-comrade Hans Krebs. Within months of the Vienna Programme’s adoption there would be three DNSAPs, the party broken into a trio of independent national organizations by the ceding of former Austrian territories Eastern Silesia and the Sudetenland to the new states of Poland and Czeochoslovakia. 

Fundamental Party Principles
of the
German National Socialist Workers’ Party
Concluded at the last joint Party Congress for the Sudetenland and the Alpine States, Vienna, 5th May 1918


a) General Statement

The German National Socialist Workers’ Party seeks the uplift and liberation of the German working-classes from economic, political, and spiritual oppression and their full equality in all areas of völkisch and state life.

It professes itself unreservedely to the cultural community and the community of fate [Schicksalsgemeinschaft] of the entire German Volk, and is convinced that only within the natural limits of his folkdom [Volkstums] can the worker achieve full value for his labor and intelligence.

It therefore rejects organization on a supranational [allvölkischer] basis as unnatural. An improvement in economic and social conditions is attainable only through the cooperation of all workers on the soil of their own people. Not subversion and class struggle, but purposeful, creative reform work alone can overcome today’s social conditions. Private property in itself is not malign, insofar as it arises from one’s own honest labor, serves labor, and is limited in size so as not to damage the common good. We reject, however, all forms of unearned income, such as ground rents and interest, as well as usurious profits extorted from the misery of one’s fellow man. Against them we stridently advocate the value of productive labor.

The private economy can never be wholly or violently abolished, yet all forms of social property should exist alongside it and be increasingly expanded. We advocate unconditionally for the transfer of all capitalist large-scale enterprises, which constitute private monopolies, into the possession of the state, province (völkisch self-governing bodies), or municipality.

In the purposeful conversion of all other enterprises into cooperative property through steadily increasing the profit-sharing of all those who work in them, both physically and intellectually, we see the guiding principles for future progress.

The German National Socialist Workers’ Party is no narrow class party; it represents the interests of all honest, productive labor in general. It is a liberal [freiheitliche] and strictly völkisch party and hence combats all reactionary tendencies, all ecclesiastical, noble, and capitalist privileges, and every racially-foreign influence – but above all does it combat the Jewish-commercial spirit overwhelming 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 means to this end.

b) Constitutional and Völkisch Demands

  1. Consolidation of the entire area of German settlement in Europe into a democratic, social German Reich. Vigorous protection of all our Volk who are inhabiting areas ruled by foreign peoples.
  2. Legal declaration of the German language as the state language of the entire German Reich.

c) Liberal Demands

The German National Socialist Workers’ Party demands the free development of our peoples’ nature [Volkswesen] through:

  1. Equal and universal suffrage in provinces and municipalities after their prior völkisch safeguarding; creation of second parliamentary chambers on the basis of occupational representation.
  2. Thorough-going expansion of self-government.
  3. Laws for free association and free assembly; laws for freedom of speech and freedom of the press; the abolition of impersonal criminal proceedings; deregulation of the ‘flying document-trade’ (colportage).
  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 to self-determination.
  5. Suppression of all party-rule [Parteiherrschaft], in particular through the introduction of plebiscites (referendums) for all far-reaching laws in Reich, state, and province; creation of a peoples’ army [Volksheer].

d) Economic and Social Demands

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

  1. Transfer of all capitalist large-scale enterprises, in which private management is injurious to the common good, into the possession of the state, province (völkisch self-governing bodies), and municipality. Consideration shall be given to in particular to: the entire transportation system, natural resources, water power, insurance companies, and the advertising industry. Profit-sharing among all employees in state, provincial, and municipal enterprises.
  2. Reorganization of the entire taxation system with the aim of promoting labor, rendering unearned incomes and profiteering in land, trade, and stock-market impossible above all. Abolition of unjust indirect taxes and introduction of a heavily graduated income tax. Scheduling of the highest possible taxation rates for rentier income, and the lowest conceivable rates for earned income. High taxation of all fallow land; introduction of capital gains taxes; increase in inheritance tax and stock-market tax; introduction of luxury taxes and taxation of all hitherto tax-free property. Calculation of taxation rates according to number of children.
  3. Elimination of the reign of Jewish banks over economic life; creation of national Peoples’ Banks [nationaler Volksbanken] with democratic administration.

e) Demands for the Workforce

  1. Full and unrestricted freedom of association, including for agricultural laborers; legal recognition of workers’ unions; protection against any infringement on dissenting political beliefs and trade union membership by terrorists; legal protection of elected office-leaders and shop stewards.
  2. Establishment of Chambers of Labor for the promotion of economic issues.
  3. Fixation of minimum wage rates and salaries for each occupation and municipality through consensus with the trade unions. Introduction of a cost-of-living supplement [Teuerungszuschlägen] and family allowance. Adoption of legal regulations according to which public authorities and municipal self-governing bodies can prevent the engagement of racially-foreign workers.
  4. Establishment of an ethnically-segregated [völkisch abgegrenzten] public employment office through the repeal of the private employment agencies.
  5. Placement of home-work [Heimarbeit] under hygienic and commercial oversight.
  6. Definitive regulation of working-hours on the basis of the eight-hour day as the maximum working time, with the establishment of shorter working-hours for hazardous industries; Reich-wide workers’ legislation.
  7. A ban on nightwork in all industries, insofar as this is not unfeasible due to technical reasons. A complete ban on nightwork for women and young workers.
  8. General implementation of a 36-hour weekly rest period; free Saturday afternoons and the legal establishment of statutory leave entitlements for all employees.
  9. Prohibition on female labor in health-hazardous enterprises and in mining; introduction of maternity leave; total prohibition of gainful employment for children under 14 years of age and the establishment of a shorter working-period for young workers.
  10. Introduction of qualification certificates as a requirement for highly-qualified work; stricter legal provisions covering accident prevention and the condition of factory workshops.
  11. Development of the Labor Inspectorate1 and expansion of the scope of powers of its supervisors (inspectors). Engagement of factory-supervision auxiliaries drawn from the working-classes. Appointment of female supervisors for companies with female labor. Maintenance of labor statistics.
  12. Establishment of industrial courts in all major industrial locations.
  13. Improvement of the Workers’ Housing Act, establishment of a Peoples’ Homestead [Volks-Heimstätten] Act, and introduction of a Housing Authority; scheduled expansion of the housing laws and restructuring of the Land Law in line with the demands for land reform. Abolition of profiteering in land and foodstuffs. Uniform reorganization of the entire labor insurance system; expansion of health and accident insurance; introduction of general old-age and disability insurance; benefits for widows and orphans; introduction of children’s insurance within the health insurance framework. Insurance against unemployment through supporting all the free unions’ efforts towards it, and through structuring this branch of insurance within workers’ insurance.

f) Demands for the Trades

Promotion of the trades through legal support for cooperative businesses. Expansion and broadening of technical instruction (especially in the decorative arts [Kunstgewerbe] and specialized trades fields) and the cooperative system; expansion of cooperative purchasing and sales opportunities; elimination of bureaucratic impediments in the registration and operation of a business; prohibition of all peddling2 and every kind of clandestine black-marketeering.

g) Demands for Agriculture

Increasing the production of agricultural goods through the expansion of peasant cooperatives. Promotion of the agricultural education and training systems. Expropriation of large estates and entails for the purpose of establishing small- and medium-sized peasant farmsteads. A prohibition on the buying-up of land for luxury purposes (hunting and the like). Establishment of the state’s right of first refusal on every sale of property and land [Grund und Boden]. Nationalization of property-selling [Grundbesitzverkaufes].

h) The Party’s Demands for the Cultural Field

  1. The moral renewal of our Volk; development of their religious life in the German spirit; elimination of the Church’s influence over state and economic life.
  2. Legal and political equality for women and further advancement of the Marriage Law.
  3. Restructuring of the school system in the spirit of the Einheitsschule;3 complimentary learning materials and education; revision of further education and technical education (particularly by moving them to daylight hours and excluding Sundays); special promotion of education in the decorative arts. Improvement of the general educational level of the entire population through appropriate measures (adult education centres [Volkschulen] and folkic lectures, films and plays). The teaching profession is to be supported to the greatest possible extent, teachers paid according to their education and responsibilities, and the election of school boards not to be interfered with.
  4. Simplification of the administration of justice [Rechtspflege]; compensation for those wrongly arrested and convicted. A legislative crackdown on alcoholism; promotion of the construction of alcohol-free dining-houses.


Translator’s Notes

1.  ‘Labor Inspectorates’ [Gewerbeaufsichten] were introduced in the German Reich in the late 1800s, although in Austria there had been organizations with similar functions since the time of Empress Maria Theresa. Labor Inspectorates still exist in Central Europe; they were and are responsible for monitoring businesses and worksites to ensure they comply with occupational health and safety protection regulations.

2. ‘Peddling’ [Hausierhandels] was (and still is) a form of itinerant selling in which goods produced by another were hawked door-to-door, business-to-business, or at fairs or other public events. Although peddlers could be valuable in terms of bringing goods from the cities to the countryside, door-to-door hawking (then as now) was viewed as an annoyance and the peddling trade was associated with petty criminality and dishonest business practices. Those working in organized trades (craftsmen, artisans, guildsmen) particularly disliked peddlers; peddlers operated in a legal grey area, or sometimes completely illegally, outside of the laws and strictures of the guilds and trade associations. Peddlers were also seen as dishonestly profiting off the honest toil of others, since they sold goods not produced by themselves, and often at inflated margins.  As with money-lending, the peddling industry was primarily dominated by Jews, which contributed to the view (shared by the DNSAP) that the Jews were a ‘mercantile race’ – as opposed to the Germans, whose flourishing trades industry was presented as evidence that they were by contrast a race of workers and producers.

3. ‘Einheitsschule’ literally translates as ‘unity-school’, although its meaning in English is roughly analogous to that of ‘comprehensive school’. The Einheitsschule concept was developed by Prussian liberal reformer Werner von Humboldt and his colleague Johann Wilhelm Süvern in the early 1800s. Both men were guided by liberal principles of academic freedom, believing that education should be free of ideological conditioning, based on up-to-date research and science, and focused on developing an individual’s capacity for making decisions or reaching conclusions based on logic and reason. Their proposed Einheitsschule system, which was not officially adopted in Germany until after WWII (and which still has not been fully implemented in Austria), aimed to align every school in the country around the same model of general education. Such unity-schools would strive to build ‘well-rounded individuals’ rather than specialists; would be deliberately structured to provide equal learning opportunities regardless of class, faith, or estate; and would cover an expansive curriculum intended to provide all young Germans with a cursory level of knowledge in every major field of human endeavour – including such subjects as foreign languages, drawing, German, mathematics, geography, agriculture, singing, calligraphy, natural history, etc. The Einheitsschule ideal was essentially humanist in nature and seen as a progressive antidote to the Austrian school system, which in 1918 was still influenced by the Church and structured in such a way that class background played a large role in determining whether or not one eventually attended one of the country’s gymnasia (secondary schools providing a pre-university education).


Translated from Alois Ciller’s Mediterranean Fascism, 1919-1945 (1940), Walker & Co.

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