The Socialists Leave the NSDAP!

Otto Strasser’s July 4, 1930 announcement of his critical break with Hitler and his resignation from the NSDAP

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On 4 July 1930 a startling headline greeted readers of the Berlin daily Der Nationale Sozialist: “The Socialists Leave the NSDAP!” The article, written by prominent Party-radical Dr. Otto Strasser and co-signed by his most loyal activist allies, outlined in detail their collective dissatisfaction with the development of NSDAP’s tactics & ideology and the reasoning behind their noisy resignation from the Party. Their conflict had been brewing almost from Strasser’s first entry into the Party in 1925. A former Social-Democrat, Otto was a maverick from the start, being a key player in the 1926 attempt to introduce a new party programme and to put limitations on Hitler’s authority, as well as an open, bitter critic of the Party’s abandonment of its ‘urban line’ strategy after the failure to win over proletarian voters in the 1928 elections. His publication of another proposed radical programme (‘The 14 Theses of the German Revolution’) on the eve of the Reichsparteitag in late July 1929 was viewed as further provocation, as were the numerous subsequent critical articles he wrote directed against Hitler or the Party’s electoral strategy. The straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was far more prosaic – Otto’s decision in March 1930 to publish a new Berlin paper, Der Nationale Sozialist, directly against Hitler’s orders and in open competition with Goebbels’s Berlin tabloid Der Angriff. An infuriated Goebbels demanded Hitler intercede, and this was the beginning of the end. After a failed attempt at rapprochement by Hitler at the Hotel Sanssouci, the Führer’s official order finally went out on June 30 demanding the remaining rebels’ expulsion. Otto hoped that his published riposte, the translated article below, would inspire all those dissatisfied with the Party to join he and his followers in their exodus from the NSDAP. He was to be sorely disappointed. About 5000 NSDAP members at maximum followed Otto into the political wilderness, the most significant recruits being several contingents of Hitler Youth and some of the more radical local organizers. No prominent Gauleiter or SA-leader threw in his lot with the rebels and even Gregor turned his back on his brother (the two would not speak again until 1933). Otto’s own Kampfzeit, his ‘years of struggle’, had now officially begun.

The Socialists Leave the NSDAP!
Dr. Otto Strasser

First published in Der Nationale Sozialist, July 4, 1930

Readers, party-comrades, friends! For months we have been following the development of the NSDAP with deep concern, and with growing apprehension have been forced to note how, more and more frequently and in ever more critical matters, the Party has violated the Idea1 of National Socialism.

On numerous issues of foreign policy, domestic policy and, above all, economic policy, the Party adopted a position that became increasingly difficult to reconcile with the 25 Points which we viewed as the exclusive programme of the Party; more difficult still was the impression of the Party’s increasing bourgeoisification, of a precedence for tactical considerations over principles, and the alarming observation of a rapidly advancing bossification2 of the Party-apparatus, which thus became more and more an end in itself for the movement and set its own interests higher than the programmatic demands of the Idea.

We conceived and still conceive of National Socialism as a consciously anti-imperialist movement, whose nationalism restricts itself to the preservation and safeguarding of the life and growth of the German nation without any tendencies towards domination over other peoples and countries. For us, therefore, the rejection of the interventionist war prosecuted against Russia by international capitalism and by Western imperialism was and is a natural demand, ensuing as much from our Idea as from the necessities of a German foreign policy. We felt therefore that the attitude of the Party-leadership, which was becoming ever more open to interventionist war, was contradictory to the Idea and detrimental to the requirements of a German foreign policy.

For us, sympathy with the struggle of the Indian people for their freedom from English rule and from capitalist exploitation was and is a necessity, arising just as much from the fact that any weakening of the Versailles Powers is advantageous for a German policy of liberation as from our instinctive approval for any struggle which oppressed peoples [Völker] direct against exploitative usurpers. For it is a necessary consequence of our nationalist Idea that the right of fulfillment of a völkisch character which we claim for ourselves is also the due of all other peoples and nations, whereby the liberalistic concept of the “blessings of culture” is unknown to us. – We felt therefore that the policy of the Party-leadership, who adopted a position of open support for British imperialism against India’s liberation struggle, was as contradictory to the tangible interests of Germany as to the ideological presuppositions of National Socialism.

We conceived of and still conceive of National Socialism in its entire nature as a Greater German movement whose domestic mission is not least the creation of a völkisch Greater Germany, a movement rejecting those individual states which have arisen on dynastic, religious, or arbitrary grounds (Napoleon’s interventions!) and through which that unified integration of national forces essential for the liberation and self-assertion of Germany cannot be realized.3 – We therefore felt the ever more overt stance by the Party-leadership in favor of the system of individual states, whose salvation and expansion of power was virtually proclaimed as a duty of National Socialism, to be equally as hostile to the interests of the nation as it was hostile to the concept of Greater German unification.

We conceived and still conceive of National Socialism as a republican movement in which there is as little room for hereditary monarchy as there is for any other privilege not based upon achievement for the nation. We saw in it and still see in it a revolutionary movement which makes just as clean a break with an authoritarian state based on false foundations as it does with formal democracy, seeing in its state objective an organic corporate state [Ständestaat] of Germanic democracy. – We therefore perceived the republican-monarchist ambiguity [Halbdunkel] deliberately maintained by the Party-leadership as a burden, the excessive veneration for the fascist authoritarian state as it emerged ever more strongly on the part of the official Party authorities as an absolute danger for the movement and as a sin against the Idea.

Above all, we maintained and indeed still maintain that National Socialism is the great antithesis of international capitalism; that it makes real the idea of socialism, defiled by Marxism, as the social economy of a nation acting for the benefit of that nation; that it breaks apart that system of rule by money over labor which has inevitably prevented the development of the völkisch soul and the formation of a true Volksgemeinschaft.

For us, socialism means an economy based on the real needs of the nation, the participation of the totality of producers4 in the ownership, management, and profits of the entire economy of this nation, i.e. thus breaking the ownership monopoly of the contemporary capitalist system and, above all, breaking the management monopoly which is today tied to tenure. We therefore felt that, in contrast to the 25 Points, the increasingly muddled formulation of our socialist will and the multiple mitigations made to the programme’s socialist demands (e.g. to Point 17)5 were an offense against the spirit and programme of National Socialism, when for years we have vigorously emphasized its socialist demands.

Accordingly, we perceived and still perceive National Socialism to be just as hostile to the capitalist bourgeoisie as to international Marxism and see its task as the overcoming of both, on the basis that in Marxism the inherently correct socialist sentiment is bound up with the false doctrine of the liberal mechanism6 and with internationalism, while among the bourgeoisie the inherently correct nationalist sentiment is bound up with the false doctrine of liberal rationalism and capitalism – and both true and essential forces in this unholy alliance can as a result bear no fruit either for nation or for history. In our opposition to Marxism and the bourgeoisie, consequently, we did not and still do not perceive any essential difference, since the liberalism working within both makes them equally our enemy. We therefore felt the leadership’s increasingly one-sided rallying-cry [Kampfparole] “Against Marxism” to be a half-measure, and increasingly we were filled with the apprehension that behind it lay a sympathy for the bourgeoisie, who advocate for their own interests under the same slogan and with whom we had and have nothing in common.

These fundamental apprehensions were reinforced, underscored, and highlighted through our misgivings over the tactical paths which the leadership of the NSDAP has pursued.

It has always filled us with regret and uneasiness that, while Adolf Hitler frequently spoke to the leading circles of businessmen and capitalists about the aims and means of National Socialism, he never took the opportunity to do the same with leading circles of workers and peasants. The resulting impression we received, that National Socialism was closer to those former circles, thus felt to us like a severe burden, all the more so as we had to tell ourselves that the sincerity of our socialist will precludes any accommodation with those circles for whom the preservation of their capitalist rights was and is always more important than the achievement of national goals if that achievement presupposes socialism.

For the same reason we witnessed with growing concern the close association of the leadership with Hugenberg and the German National Peoples’ Party, and to some extent also with the Stahlhelm and the so-called Patriots [Vaterländischen], because all these developments – even if, as in the referendum, they could be tactically viable on a case-by-case basis – seemed appropriate only for giving a false impression of our character.7

As a fundamental theorem of the revolutionary character of National Socialism we firmly stood for and still stand for the rejection of any form of political compromise or coalition, since every coalition always serves only to maintain the existing system as a system of national bondage and capitalist exploitation. It appears to us that, in accordance with National Socialism and in accordance with its mission: carrying out the German Revolution is simply impossible under the slogan “Into the State”,8 which we fought against with the Stahlhelm only two years before with all the force of our revolutionary will.

The decision of the Party-leadership to form a coalition government with the bourgeois parties in Thuringia has therefore shaken us the most in our belief that the nature and mission of National Socialism as we conceive them, and as they were doubtlessly expressed within the programme and in the Party’s past agitation, can still be sustained. Our protestations at the time were left unanswered by the leadership. Thus the NSDAP was in the same position as the SPD after 1918 when it decided to join forces with the enemies of its economic-political will and thus inevitably betrayed its political goals. With grim consequences the same betrayal of principles took place within the NSDAP, as is evident in its approval for the poll tax, the increases in rents, etc., in Thuringia.

The objection that the danger of state persecution makes such sacrifices of conviction necessary is not only incorrect – as the prohibition in Bavaria and Prussia9 shows – but, above all, undermines the courage and character of the movement, since with this cowardly argument every treachery can be justified. While for us all tactics derive from principles, the Party-leadership has for “tactical” reasons abandoned more and more frequently the principles of National Socialism on ever more pivotal issues.

Hand in hand with the bourgeoisification of the movement went a bureaucratization [Verbonzung, i.e.bossification’] of the Party which assumed almost frightening forms. The behavior and attitude not only of the so-called senior SA-leaders, but increasingly also of the Party’s political functionaries, developed in a manner that was as inconsistent with the internal laws of a revolutionary movement as it was with the demands of a clean character. – The direct and indirect material dependence of almost all functionaries on the Party and its Führer, which over the course of time had become almost universal, gave rise to that atmosphere of Byzantine indignity which made the representation of any independent opinion impossible, and which had to lead to that ideational and material corruption which every Party-comrade witnessed with increasing bitterness without their being able to do anything to remedy the Party’s structural situation. The copious mistakes made in the settlement of personal disputes within the Party have here their deepest underlying cause.

We have observed this development within the Party’s fundamental, tactical, and organisational areas with growing concern, and we have been seen as its primary, most profound and unrelenting decriers and opponents at every hour over the past years. The five volumes of the Nationalsozialistische Brief10 bear witness to this, as does the rhetorical and personal attitude that we have taken despite the pressure and enticement from above. At no time have we for opportunistic reasons considered changing our stance, and often enough we were faced with the question of whether, in light of the Party-leadership’s particularly serious violations against the essence of National Socialism, we should not speak out against it publicly.

If we have not done so until now, therefore, it is because the Party-leadership has openly renounced the 25 Points, and because we hoped that the revolutionary spirit alive within the masses of the SA and above all within the youth would prevail over the creeping bourgeois mentality of a bureaucratized [verbonzten, i.e. ‘bossified’] leadership.

This hope of ours has now been rendered impossible by an act of will on the part of the Party-leadership.

In Adolf Hitler’s letter of June 30, the Berlin Gauleiter of the NSDAP was called upon to enact a “ruthless purge” of the Party of all “salon Bolsheviks”.11

In conjunction with this demand, expulsion was threatened or ordered against Party-comrades known for being social-revolutionary.

Thus was the NSDAP’s dissociation from the goals and demands of the German Revolution and from the socialist points of the programme openly declared by the Party-leadership.

As upright, unyielding confessors [Bekenner] of National Socialism, as fervent fighters for the German Revolution, we reject any distortion of the revolutionary character, socialist will, and nationalist principles of National Socialism, and will henceforth remain outside of the ministerial NSDAP what we have always been:

Revolutionary National Socialists.

Otto Strasser

[Bruno Ernst] Buchrucker,
Kurt Brandt,
Neukölln Section.

Herbert Blank,
Rudolf Manske,
Neukölln Section.

Paul Brinkmann,
Lehnitz Local-Group.

E. Mossakowsky,
Editor of the N.S. Pressekonferenz

Bernhard Eger,
Friedenau Section.

Alfred Raeschke,
Neukölln Section-Leader.
Paul Gallus,
Lichterfelde-Lankwitz Section.

Rudolf Raeschke,
Neukölln Section.

E. Gaudek,
Brieselang Local-Group.

Friedrich Reich,
Street-Cell Leader, Friedenau Section.
[Alfred] Grieksch-Franke,
Potsdam Local-Group.

Richard Schapke,
Former Hitler-Youth leader, Gau Mecklenburg-Lübeck.

Friedrich Herrmann,
Sektion Wilmersdorf.

Ewald Stephan,
Brieselang Local-Group.

Albert Jacubeit,
Street-Cell Leader, Friedenau Section.

Karl Vogt,
Britz Section.

Kaumm,
Neukölln Section.

Horst Wauer,
Friedenau Section.

Willem Korn,
Leader of the NS Führer-schools, Brandenburg.

Wettering,
Alfred Wildies,
Neukölln Section.

Günther Kubier,
Gau Brandenburg.

G. Zawacki,
Pankow Section.

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Translator’s Notes

1.  ‘The Idea’: In early 1930 one of Otto Strasser’s core supporters within the Party, Herbert Blank, published an article titled Treue und Untreue (‘Loyalty and Disloyalty’). In the article Blank argued that within National Socialist philosophy the concept of the ‘Idea’ was supreme, that it transcended the concepts of ‘Leader’ and ‘Party’ and was not necessarily inseparable from them. The concept of the ‘Idea’ was a central component of Strasserism, providing the theoretical legitimacy behind Otto’s independent actions which went against Hitler’s will (Führerprinzip) or which breached internal party discipline. Blank’s theories (among other topics) formed some of the substance of the famous private debate which occurred between Strasser and Hitler at the Hotel Sanssouci in Berlin on May 21-22, 1930. Hitler’s contention was that Leader and Idea were inseparable, that the Leader was the physical embodiment of the Idea, that going against one meant going against the other, and that this was a core feature of National Socialist ideology. Strasser’s view by contrast was essentially democratic (individuals have the right to judge the Leader as to how well he reflects and advocates for the Idea), while Hitler’s was essentially authoritarian (discipline and hierarchical order are essential for stability in all fields – individuals questioning their natural Leader would lead to dissolution and ruin).

2. ‘Bossification’ is a rough translation of the German word ‘Verbonzung’ . ‘Bureaucratization’ was also considered, although that choice loses some of the contextual meaning behind the word. In German the word ‘Bonze’ has a meaning roughly analogous to ‘big shot’ or ‘fat cat’, implying a person in a position of privilege and power (a ‘boss’) who abuses their authority to their own selfish advantage. It is a pejorative term popularized by the Social-Democrats and the trade unionists in the 19th century; they employed it in particular against members of their own movement who attained high positions in state, party, or union and were subsequently regarded as becoming self-interested and bourgeois. The term was used in similar fashion by the National Socialists, who mocked Germany’s Social-Democratic politicians as corrupt, bourgeois Bonzen who had sold out the workers. Like the Social-Democrats the National Socialists also deployed the term against their own Party hierarchy; this was particularly the case in the SA. The distaste of many National Socialists with the ‘Verbonzung’ of the Party was often played upon in the propaganda of left-NS groups like Strasser’s, as well as in some Communist publications.

3. A reference to the debate on German federalism. The Weimar Republic had inherited the pre-1918 federal structure of Imperial Germany and for the most part left the structure of the various Länder (individual German states or provinces) intact. Due to the nature of how these states had emerged through history, they tended to lack geographic and demographic proportion and had widely-differing populations and levels of power and influence. There was thus an ongoing debate on redrawing Germany’s federal boundaries; point 25 of the NSDAP Programme indicated the Party held a unitarist position (“We demand the formation of a strong central power in the Reich”), a stance which Hitler also supports in Mein Kampf. Despite this, the Party’s stance on the issue at times could still be very inconsistent (usually for tactical reasons), which is likely what Strasser is referring to here.

4. The word used here in German is ‘Schaffenden’. ‘Schaffenden’ encompasses the meaning of both ‘producers’ and ‘creators’ in English, and is typically translated as one or the other of those words. The term was used fairly commonly by National Socialist writers as a means of describing those whose labor, business, or industry contributed to the Volk and to the nation without exploitation or negative social consequences. It derives from the distinction in National Socialist economic theory between ‘schaffendes’ (productive) and ‘raffendes’ (rapacious) capital.

5. Point 17 of the NSDAP Programme is a demand for land reform, with one of the stated aims being the expropriation of private land without compensation for purposes of public use. On 13 April, 1928, Hitler somewhat notoriously revised this point of the programme (despite previously declaring the programme ‘inviolable’ in the wake of the 1926 Bamberg Conference) to clarify the Party’s position. From that point on copies of the programme usually included the following addendum: “Because of the mendacious interpretations on the part of our opponents of Point 17 of the programme of the NSDAP, the following explanation is necessary: Since the NSDAP defends private property, it is self-evident that the text ‘expropriation without compensation’ merely refers to the creation of possible legal means of confiscation, when necessary, of land acquired illegally or not managed in the public interest. This is, therefore, aimed primarily against Jewish companies which speculate in land.” This amendment was the source of much bitterness for more radical members of the Party who had been hoping for mass land nationalization or collectivization.

6. ‘Liberal mechanism’ (‘liberalen Mechanismus’) – Probably a reference to representative parliament and the division of powers, which together constitute the ‘mechanism’ of the liberal state. When Otto mentions Marxism’s liberal qualities he is referring to Social-Democracy rather than Bolshevism.

7. A reference to the 1929 ‘Referendum Against the Enslavement of the German People’, in which various nationalist groups united to promote a national referendum in favor of their ‘Freedom Law’ against the proposed Young Plan and Germany’s post-WWI reparations payments. The referendum was primarily organized by Alfred Hugenberg, leader of the conservative-nationalist German National Peoples’ Party. All major nationalist and conservative groups were invited to participate, including the Stahlhelm, the Pan-German League, the agricultural Landbund, and the United Patriotic Associations of Germany (‘Vereinigte Vaterländische Verbände Deutschlands’, aka ‘Patriots’ or ‘Fatherlanders’, a loose coalition of nationalist paramilitaries), among others. Hitler’s open cooperation with bourgeois conservatives was deeply controversial among the more radical members of the NSDAP. Goebbels noted in his diary how uncomfortable it made him seeing Hitler and the arch-reactionary Hugenberg standing together in conversation.

8. In October 1926 the leadership of the Stahlhelm veterans’ paramilitary suppressed their radical revolutionary faction and, working with Freikorps leader Hermann Ehrhardt, announced a new policy under the slogan “Into the State” (“Hinein in den Staat”). The new direction stemmed from a growing feeling within the Stahlhelm leadership that revolutionary overthrow of the Weimar system was no longer a viable strategy, that the best course was to try and achieve control of the state by working legally from within through constitutional means. The ‘Into the State’ strategy was obviously unpopular with many members and resulted in an expansion of recruitment efforts by the NSDAP, whose commitment to revolution at the time subsequently won over numerous Stahlhelm converts to the SA.

9. The NSDAP and SA were banned on multiple occasions at both a Reich and a state level, with several full bans, uniform bans, or speaking bans in both Prussia and Bavaria at various times. Strasser is most likely referring to the Verbotzeit period of November 1923 to February 1925, when in the wake of the Bürgerbräukeller Putsch the NSDAP was banned throughout Germany.

10. ‘Nationalsozialistische Brief’ (aka ‘NS-Brief’) – generally translated as ‘National Socialist Letters’ or ‘National Socialist Correspondence’, the NS-Briefe was founded by Gregor Strasser in 1925 as the official journal of the Working-Group of North- and West-German Gauleiters. Published by the Kampfverlag publishing house, the paper was associated with Party radicals and served as an intellectual journal for the discussion of programmatic issues.

11. ‘Salon Bolsheviks’ (‘Salon-Bolschewisten’) was a favorite insult of Hitler’s, leveled at intellectuals fond of writing about or discussing revolution in their ‘salons’ (drawing-rooms) without doing anything concrete as activists. The letter Otto mentions was written to Goebbels (the Gauleiter of Berlin at the time) and effectively announced the expulsion of Otto and his followers from the Party; it was published in Goebbels’s paper Der Angriff on June 3, the day before Otto’s reply (this article) appeared in Der Nationale Sozialist. An extract of Hitler’s letter appears in Joachim Fest’s biography of Hitler: “For months as responsible leader of the National Socialist Party I have been watching attempts to introduce strife, confusion, and insubordination into the ranks of the movement. Under the mask of desiring to fight for socialism a policy has been advocated which corresponds totally to the policy of our Jewish-liberal-Marxist opponents… As long as I am leading the National Socialist Party, it will not become a debating club for rootless scribblers or unruly salon Bolsheviks. It will remain what it is today: a disciplined organization which was not created for the doctrinaire games of political boy scouts, but for the fight for a future Germany in which the concepts of class will have been smashed.”

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Translated from Reinhard Kühnl’s Der deutsche Faschismus in Quellen und Dokumenten (2000), PapyRossa Verlag.

 

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