“We National Socialists are socialists, real, national, German socialists!” A 1925 article by Gregor Strasser on the meaning of Fatherland and National Socialism
The following article by Gregor Strasser was first published on 4 September, 1925, roughly six months after the NSDAP’s refounding following Hitler’s release from Landsberg Prison. I am not sure in what publication it first appeared. Possibly it was in the Nationalsozialistische Briefe, of which Gregor was chief editor for several years and which was founded at roughly the same time this article was originally printed. Regardless of which platform the article first appeared in, it was considered significant enough to be reprinted in subsequent collections of Gregor’s writings – it shows up both in his 1928 booklet, Freiheit und Brot (‘Freedom and Bread’), and in his ‘collected works’ from 1932, Kampf um Deutschland (‘Struggle for Germany’). It is fairly typical of Gregor’s early writing in that it is heavy on sentiment and emotion but light on actual, concrete policy propositions. This was a deficiency which Gregor was apparently aware of and sought to address later on in his career, as in the early ’30s he began working quite closely with economic experts, business figures, and state officials in an attempt to develop workable programs for resolving the unemployment and housing crises (see his famous ‘Work and Bread!’ speech for one example of this). Despite its propagandist tone the article still makes for an interesting read from a number of angles. It is overtly anti-capitalist, espouses a commitment to radical economic restructuring and to concepts of social justice (the ‘community of bread’), and additionally includes a brief recollection from the author’s time as a junior officer in WWI. Like many in the national-revolutionary camp Gregor makes it clear – both in this piece and many others – that his experiences in the Great War are what led him to an awareness of the plight of the German worker, and are what turned him from an ordinary German nationalist into a National Socialist, the belief system of which he attempts to convey within this article.
“What does ‘Fatherland’ mean?”
With the Dawes Plan, the intention of Jewish-influenced, American-English capital to use Germany’s national economy as a gigantic profit-extraction operation, to transform German industry into a colossal workshop for Wall Street capital, and to make an industrious Volk of 60 million people into an enormous army of defenseless wage-slaves, will be fully realized within the next few years.
In light of this development we must now and forever set our goals clearly, unambiguously, and openly.
Only in this way will our ideas gain an attractive power with respect to the yearning of a deceived, betrayed Volk.
We National Socialists are socialists, real, national, German socialists! We reject the vulgarization of this concept, the watering-down of the word from “socialism” into “social” – a word which, like no other, has become a hypocritical smokescreen behind which the all-too-visible inadequacy of the capitalist economic system is concealed, or which is, at best, the totally inadequate consolation for the kinds of honest men who believe that they can cure the festering wounds on the body of the economy and the Volk by placing a compassionate sticking-plaster over them. No, we are socialists, and we do not shy away from taking upon ourselves the stigma of this word, a word which Marxism has so terribly distorted.
What does this mean: National Socialist? And why does it apply to us?
We believe that a nation is a community of fate! A community of fate is a community of need! But a community of need is also a community of bread!1
The National Movement2 now acknowledges alongside us the community of fate and community of need – but they come to a sudden, dead halt at the suggestion that these also signify a community of bread. ‘Community of bread’ – this means that land and soil, natural resources and natural forces, are the property of the entire Volk, of the entire nation! That is also the spirit behind the misleading Marxist expression, “ownership of the means of production.” But with the community of bread not one class, not even the working-class, is the owner, but the nation as a whole!
After centuries of the capitalist economic system (which like everything had its function and its purpose in its time, and whose merits are not diminished by the recognition that its era is over and that this system must be replaced by another) and after centuries of purely commercial economic thinking, today’s common sense has become so unbalanced that it often seems inconceivable or at least impracticable to actually want to consider the idea of the national ownership of land and of the means of production – but a single glance at history would demonstrate that such thinking was once dominant, that for hundreds of years our land was cultivated in the form of entails, while guild production cooperatives felt like another form of enfeoffment. This only goes to show that the notion of such an economic order is by no means the figment of a fanciful ideology.
But what made us socialists in the first place is, of course, not the thought of former economic forms, but the recognition of a deep, inner justice and a compelling, outer necessity! 85 per cent of our Volk are workers and salaried employees! And these 85 per cent of our Volk are excluded from ownership of the German soil which they are supposed to defend, are excluded from enjoying the material goods of the nation to which their own labor gives life and value!
These 85 per cent of the German nation have no connection with the maternal earth, with the national means of production; for them the nation is not a community of bread, and that is why they are skeptical or mockingly dismissive if one desires to make it clear to them that they are a part of this nation, a part of this community of fate and community of need! What we want is nothing other than to integrate these 85 per cent into the organism of the nation, to show them manifestly and to make it materially clear to them that the weal and woe of this nation is their own weal and woe, for they themselves are fully-entitled members of this collective whole!
That is revolution, economic revolution! Certainly! And we want this economic revolution, just as Freiherr vom Stein once wanted and carried out an economic revolution in order to fight for the national liberation of his Volk!3 After all, what was the great emancipation of the peasantry other than a tremendous economic revolution, a revolution which was portrayed by the feudal lords of the time as “Bolshevistic” and “subversive to the state” just as much as our National Socialist demands of today are by concerned capitalist circles! – Only through this economic revolution of peasant emancipation, only through the incorporation of the newly-created estate-system [Ständesystems] into the organism of the state, only through the tremendous forces which were thereby released, only through all this did the Prussia of 1806 become the Prussia of 1812 and the Germany of 1870 – and it is our deepest belief that only through the liberation of the fourth estate,4 through the integration of German workerdom into the organism of the German nation, that the Germany of 1918 becomes a free Germany in the near future and a Greater Germany in the more distant future!
One more word about our relationship with Marxist socialism! We are not only separated from Jewish-born and Jewish-led Marxism by our fervent national attitude, but are differentiated from it by something even deeper: rejection of the materialist worldview! We, for whom personality is everything, we hate the homogenizing mass delusion of Marxist ideology from the depths of our soul! – Socialism is not the rule of the masses, the leveling of performance and wages, rather socialism is instead that deeply Prussian-German “service to the whole” out of recognition that each individual is a part, a deeply-connected part, of this whole! The hate-filled envy of legitimately-acquired property is as alien to we National Socialists as is hollow contrarianism against leadership – but this property must not consist of plundered national assets, and this leadership must not consist of profit-driven rule over the economic life and death of the worker!
And here is the breaking point for all the objections against National Socialism! Does anyone seriously believe that a capable General Director would be even a jot less capable if the shares of the company he heads were owned by the German state, the local community, and the workforce, instead of being owned by a domestic or foreign Jewish bank? – And why should the peasant work any less competently on land which belongs to he and his children and his grandchildren as an entail, if he knows that in the event of his family’s dying out this land will not go to some real estate firm but to his home district, to the nation?! And is it an injustice to require a lease fee from the yields of his soil, that soil which is the property of the entire nation and is defended by the entire nation, but which was entrusted to him by the nation to cultivate for the duration of his life and the lives of all his male progeny, and which provides he and his family with their livelihoods?5
This is what I call the happy marriage between man’s personal egotism, whose legitimacy and motivating power we consciously affirm, and the safeguarding of the interests of the general public, which arises as a natural right out of the nation’s experience as a community of fate-need-bread!
It was a profound experience for me when one of my gunners said to me during a course of patriotic instruction out in the field: “‘What does Fatherland mean?’ This is the land which belongs to my father and will one day belong to me; which gives me the opportunity to work and which feeds me, in the same way in which I have spent the past three years defending this land. But neither my father nor I ever owned a piece of land of our own, and all our will to work has never yet protected us from being destitute [brotlos] for weeks or months at a time, and from having to spend our entire lives in perpetual worry over whether we will still have work the next day. I really can’t understand why I should sacrifice my health and maybe my life for such a country.”
These words from a humble gunner get to the core of the so-called anti-national attitude of the working-class, get to the core of German misery, and at the same time speak to the only possibility which leads to salvation! – It is a fallacy, a fallacy for the sake of which Germany lost the War, a fallacy for whose sake all national work must remain unsuccessful, it is a fallacy to believe that a Volk of 60 million people belonging to the rational 20th century could be induced to make the unending sacrifices demanded by a national liberation struggle simply through the exhilaration of honor, patriotism, and national pride alone – if at the same time this nation does not become a unified and consistently tolerant, consistently just, and consistently blessed whole; if the state of this nation is not the embodiment of the will of the Volk; if the economy of this nation is not the embodiment of social justice.
Words remain words, no matter how fervently they come from a national heart – they have to arouse emotions in order to prove their worth; emotions remain emotions, no matter how honest and great the impassioned power within them is – they have to arouse action in order to prove effective! The national sentiment which we invoke must inspire the liberation of the German workforce! Then, only then, will our Volk be strong enough to take upon themselves the sacrifice of the struggle for national liberation.
1. The terms here in order: Community of fate – Schicksalsgemeinschaft; community of need – Notgemeinschaft; community of bread – Brotgemeinschaft. These were slogans employed fairly commonly by the National Socialist movement, although they also saw some use within the propaganda of other political organizations, such as the Communist Party. A ‘community of fate’ implies a community of people whose ties are based on their shared, common destiny. A ‘community of need’ implies a people brought together by their common experience of suffering (the 1918 defeat and revolution, Germany’s dismemberment following WWI, inflation, Depression, etc. etc.). A ‘community of bread’ is as Gregor explains it in the article – a socialistic concept implying that a people are bound together by their collective ownership of resources and their intrinsic need to provide care and support for one another.
2. The ‘National Movement’ is the broader nationalist movement within Germany, a variety of parties, paramilitaries, and pressure groups loosely united by their broadly similar goals (tearing up the Versailles Treaty, restoring lost German territories, ending the Weimar system, rearmament) despite the fact they subscribed to different ideologies and tactical methods. The National Socialists liked to distinguish themselves from other groups within the National Movement (the Stahlhelm, DNVP, DVFP, Pan-Germans, Bund Wiking, etc.) by asserting that the others were reactionaries, ossified and backwards-looking, while they themselves were (as Strasser portrays the NSDAP here) dynamic, forwards-looking, and open to revolutionary solutions to dire social problems.
3. Freiherr vom Stein (b.1757 – d.1831) was a Prussian politician responsible for a number of key political reforms, including the abolition of serfdom, placing limitations on aristocratic powers, and paving the way for more representative local self-government through proto-corporatist reforms. Stein became a figure of reverence for subsequent generations of liberals, conservatives, and nationalists; it is not uncommon to see his name approvingly referenced within National Socialist writing.
4. The fourth estate – i.e. the working-class. The “fourth estate” was a common euphemism for German workers within National Socialist propaganda and theoretical writing. It deliberately evoked the feudal idea of the ‘estates’ of the realm as well as contemporary notions of corporatism – the German word for ‘estates’, Stände, is the same as that used in German for ‘corporations’ in the fascist/syndicalist sense. The other three traditional estates were the nobility, clergy, and middle-classes (Bürger).
5. This entire paragraph references National Socialist economic ideology, something previously hinted at with the mention of ‘entails’ and ‘enfeoffment’ in paragraph eight. It was fairly orthodox within the movement to agitate for large firms, trusts, industries, and department stores to be taken into some form of collective national ownership, with management and/or profits divided in some fashion between the state, workforce, and local community (see points 13, 14, and 16 of the NSDAP 25-Point Programme). The popular NS solution to the issue of land reform, although not explicitly spelled out within the Party programme (and not fully shared by the Party’s more ‘bourgeois’ members), involved a reversion to feudal structures – mass nationalization of land, with plots ‘leased’ out to peasant farmers for a small fee as hereditary ‘entails’ which could not be sold but only passed down to their children, so long as the land continued to be used responsibly. The programme of the German Socialist Party, which was absorbed by the NSDAP in 1922, provides a slightly more detailed example of the NS attitude to land reform.