“To eradicate a rapacious capitalism – Possedism!” The economic ideology of Fritz Kloppe’s national-revolutionary paramilitary league, the Wehrwolf
The ‘Wehrwolf – League of German Men and Front-Fighters’ was probably one of the most distinctive of the various paramilitary groups active within Weimar Germany’s national-revolutionary camp. Founded by teacher and Freikorps veteran Fritz Kloppe in May 1923 as an adjunct of the Stahlhelm’s youth league, the Wehrwolf soon broke away from the overly “bourgeois” Stahlhelm and fast developed its own unique nationalist style and subculture: field-grey uniforms, black-white-red armbands, black flags emblazoned with silver symbols (a ‘W’; a death’s head; a Wolfsangel rune), and a reasonably extensive organizational apparatus. The group also established its own radical ideology, calling for a revolutionary overthrow of the Weimar system and its replacement by an “aristocratic” Greater German Third Reich free of traditional class distinctions and capitalist exploitation. Complementing this political vision was the group’s economic ideal of ‘Possedism’ (from the Latin Possedere, ‘to possess’), first introduced by Kloppe in 1931. Possedism at its core revolved around a reorganization of property relations: Kloppe argued that in capitalism the concentration of property in private hands caused unbridled egoism and a selfish disregard for the Volk, yet under Marxism the concentration of property in state hands led to an unhealthy social levelling and a neutering of people’s drive and ambition. Kloppe’s solution was mass nationalization of all land and property into state hands, with the state apportioning it out for private ‘possession’ as widely as possible so that practically every German would own an inheritable stake in land or business. This ‘Possedist’ system, Kloppe argued, when coupled with autarchy, corporatist elements, and state control over foreign trade, would naturally create the perfect balance between egoism and egalitarianism, and the perfect alternative to socialism and capitalism. The two texts translated below constitute two of the earliest instances of Kloppe outlining his Possedist ideal: a short speech from the Wehrwolf’s 1931 Whitsunday celebrations, and a piece comprised of extracts from Kloppe’s pamphlet Der Possedismus (see the translator’s notes below for further information). Both of these were translated from a reprint of Kloppe’s 1938 retrospective on the Wehrwolf, Kamerad, weißt du noch? (i.e. Comrade, Do You Remember?), a book which probably deserves an article in its own right, since its publication led to Kloppe (who in 1933 had agreed to merge the Wehrwolf into the SA) being arrested and questioned by the Gestapo on suspicion of seditious activity.
The Economic Theory of Fritz Kloppe and his
‘Wehrwolf League of German Men and Front-Fighters’
Speech on “Possedism” at the Bonn am Rhein Whitsunday Celebrations, 23rd – 25th May, 1931:
First published in Der Wehrwolf, 1st June, 1931.
We Wehrwolf are not only revolutionaries with respect to purely social conditions. We are primarily also revolutionaries in the fields of culture and the economy. It is absolutely futile to attempt to create a New Germany simply by setting new men at the head of the nation. Nor is it of any significance if a new form of state is simply forced upon the German Volk. We must give the nation itself a new substance!
This new, revolutionary will of ours is reflected economically within a new order of possession, one which we have called “Possedism” in order to give it the sharpest differentiation from others. For a century we have seen how capitalism has been economically undermining our Volk by turning them into wage-slaves, into proletarians, into an uprooted people to whom the concepts of the Volk and the community-of-blood1 have become something alien. The exploitation of productive people by capitalism was recognized very early on. A countermovement against it emerged just as quickly. The enslaved masses sought for a way out in Marxism, through which they hoped to be liberated from the fetters of international High Finance.
By rights, an ashen-gray horror should fill those people who have had to witness again and again that Marxism is indeed a reaction against capitalism, but a reaction which can nevermore bring freedom because it is on the wrong path. But the fighters for the proletariat are already too inured by their decades of slavery to recognize that they are on the wrong track. They are far too disconnected from nature to have the strength to muster up anything more than an impotent uprising. The asphalt has sucked out their marrow.
Marxism is thus incapable of liberating our Volk from the clutches of international High Finance. We Wehrwolf are now going to the public with a new economic system which should fulfill this purpose. We have deemed it essential that the economy should be guided by the following two principles: Firstly, the economy must meet the condition of satisfying the nation’s demand for goods. Secondly, its structure must be determined so that every capable person is afforded the fullest opportunity for advancement, which can only be achieved through an intensive selection.
Furthermore, we are striving to the greatest possible extent towards the ideal goal of autarchy, which we shall achieve via a monopoly on foreign trade in combination with a currency detached from gold; thus may we liberate ourselves from international High Finance, which today dominates both the world market and the economy. Only then are we afforded an economic basis for the liberation of the German Volk.
Extracts from Fritz Kloppe’s Pamphlet, “Der Possedismus”:2
Against Capitalism and Marxism.
Against Reaction and Liberalism.
The Slogan for the Outline of a New German Economic Order.
Wehrwolfverlag, Halle, 1931.
From the text:
The capitalist order provides the individual with absolute and unconditional right of disposal over his property. It does not question where and how he earned possession of it; instead the capitalistically-oriented state protects all proprietorship, whether it be achieved through fraud or productive labor, through profiteering or painstaking frugality. Moreover, it leaves the property owner with the right to do whatever he pleases with his assets, regardless of whether he utilizes them for the benefit of the Volk or not. Yes, it must even tolerate it when the capitalists’ money is turned against its own interests, even though its legislation and institutions are what made it possible for capitalists to accumulate their capital in the first place.
Even the possessory title is sufficient enough to secure the “capitalist” with unlimited power of disposal. That numerous people who are themselves capitalistically-oriented no longer have great trust in this “order” is apparent from the demand, articulated by many different circles, that the state must possess supervisory oversight over the economy. This demand, however, remains illusory so long as the capitalist outlook constitutes the general foundation of the political system.
Whether I consider a product to be cheap or expensive depends very much upon my own income. Thus, if the income and the possessed property of the entire Volk increases, high prices to a buyer will appear far more reasonable than lower prices presently do at the current starvation wages. Furthermore, we also consider a certain mixture of large and small enterprises to be altogether preferable.
Supporting the argument against the monopolistic implementation of large-scale enterprises in all areas, which may indeed bring immediate material benefits but which cannot be culturally advantageous for the Volk as a whole, there is also the fact that by this means the motive power of egoism, which is the strongest force in human life, would be neutralized. It is clear that a civil servant on fixed remuneration or an employee in a state enterprise need not have any concern about the economic return on state finances, etc., so long as he is not in a managerial position of responsibility. No matter what happens he will consistently receive his salary. If, on the other hand, a capable mind possesses any sort of enterprise, he will strive to advance it, especially in material terms, and as a result his zeal and his drive will raise production, will bring more work, and will benefit the Volk. Egoism is only detrimental if, as in the liberal and capitalist system, it exercises uncontrollable effects and transforms into pure selfishness. It is perfectly sound when employed in the right form within the economy, and there it brings about the labour force’s highest development.
The recognition of the capable person within a company is dependent upon the managing authorities, on the foremen, the supervisors, the master workmen, the department heads, etc. Recognizing the aptitude of a worker subordinate to such men and reporting it up the chain threatens those presently established in a higher position with the potential loss of their own post. Or the worker himself must also be concerned that another truly capable individual could be promoted over him, and thus prevent his own advancement. And since we are forever human, the implementation of theories is always conditioned by human failings. Hitherto, reality has almost always demonstrated the following: As soon as a younger, more ambitious, and more capable person seems dangerous to the position of someone above him, his accomplishments are diminished or else reasons are found in order to now publicize his shortcomings. Anyone can observe this for themselves, not only in large-scale companies but also within every organization above a certain size. It does not seem possible to switch off this naturally-conditioned instinct for self-preservation.
Marxism claims to strive for the equality of all people. And yet everyone acquainted with it can easily determine that this is an absurdity, that the words “equality for all people” can be classified as nothing more than a phrase suitable only for wreaking conceptual confusion. On the other hand, it is correct that all people are equally entitled. We affirm this equality of rights, and say that the state and the economy must provide the competent, the qualified, and the gifted among equal men with the necessary opportunity for advancement, something guaranteed to them neither today nor in the past.
In other words, we want not a struggle of an occupational strata, one that is exploited or is under threat by High Finance, against another, but instead a joint uprising by all peasants, workers, and soldiers – the last of which being a reference to all those people from other professional classes who regard the struggle against the enemies of the German Volk as their most important purpose in life.
The Volk in its totality, the Nation, is to have proprietary right over all possession. As proprietor, the Nation consequently can exercise the right of intervention at any time and, indeed, against anyone.3
With the reorganization of the state, which will be described in further detail in another work,4 special Economic Chambers are to be established for each province or region. These shall be composed of elected representatives from the various professional groups in each territory. They are to be the supreme supervisory authority for the aggregated property of the Nation within the relevant region (province, state). Since all professional classes [Berufsstände] are represented within the Economic Chamber, none of them need fear that they will be cheated or neglected by the state’s civil service bureaucracy. They are accountable solely to the members of their own profession.
The Economic Chamber will also take the inherited property, businesses, etc., of minor children into its stewardship, until it can be demonstrated when they are of legal age whether or not they have the inclination and the necessary qualifications to hold the same profession. A compulsory administration can also be arranged if, as is not uncommon, family assets are being squandered by an undeserving father and the children are in danger of being deprived of their inheritance through no fault of their own. Possedism would therefore also mean strong protection for the German family.
It will be easy enough for the Economic Chambers to carry out this control of the economy and to establish the requisite balance. They will also be in the position, via the appropriate granting of credit, to make it possible for possessors to continue working, and even to persevere, during those periods of hardship which come about through no fault of their own.
When allocating vacant possession, the Economic Chambers will engage the most capable workers, those who have furnished evidence of their suitability and who are adequately trained. Unlike in the capitalist system, a person does not need money in order to be enfeoffed. He simply assumes possession and, to begin with, occupies the position of administrator. He is also not required to immediately pay a set fixed interest rate, something which might make it difficult or even impossible for him to advance successfully in the first few years. Of course, he is also still required to cede something to the general public in return – such as, for example, through having a certain percentage of the net income from the property handed over to him for administration flow on to the Economic Chamber. In the first year this amount can easily be set lower. It is then stipulated that, after a number of years have passed and the requisite sum has been paid off, the person concerned will move from the position of “administrator” to that of “possessor”, and will have thus acquired an inheritable possession for himself and for his family.
Even if the Economic Chambers and the state are to grant loans – something which cannot be avoided, especially when a new possession is taken on – these are only ever to be offered as redeemable loans, whose installments are imposed upon the debtor as repayments without the charging of any usurious interest.
The Economic Chamber of a province (or territory, or Gau) itself has the main bank of the region’s economic area under itself as a state enterprise, thus controlling funding etc. The Chamber establishes bank branches in all the larger towns so that monetary transactions shall remain the same as they do at present; merely the usage of money for purposes of exploitation is rendered impossible.
The position of employees and workers in those still-remaining pure business concerns will then have to be regulated anew. Consequently, we expect a reorganization of stock corporation law in such a fashion that about a third of all shares in a company must be placed into the hands of the state, with another third being transferred into the possession of its workforce. The size of individual holdings, as well as the method of transfer, will be governed by special implementationary regulations. Whether the dividends from the shares possessed by the workforce are to be distributed, the proceeds employed for social welfare measures, or the funds otherwise invested (there are many possibilities), is a secondary issue.
The purpose of this requirement is that it eliminates the possibility of German enterprises being bought or sold for speculative purposes. Nobody is able to acquire the absolute majority of a joint-stock company by buying up blocks of shares against the workforce and the state.
As for the department stores, there is a straightforward method for preventing the undesirable expansion of such businesses. We do indeed wish to permit the capable merchant to expand his business and, through his diligence and efficiency, to ultimately turn his little shop into a large emporium – but only within certain limits. Department stores are in most cases only harmful because they combine goods from every industry, and can thus offset losses in one group from profits in another. Thanks to this they are able, when it so suits them, to undercut independent businessmen in a particular trade. The losses which they incur through such underselling are defrayed via the goods from other departments whose prices at present they have no need to reduce. Department stores thus can, when so managed, bring one branch of the economy after another to a standstill.
The law which is to preclude this: Every open store may only stock products from one branch of the economy. Which goods belong to which particular industry is still to be further defined. So in one department store, for example, there may only be fabrics and ready-made garments, in another only toys, in a third only chinaware, etc. etc. The proprietor of a department store for clothing, for instance, could never run a butcher’s shop or the like at the same time.
When it comes to remuneration for work performed, we operate under a completely different perspective than that of the present capitalist system. We are also opposed to the Marxist outlook, as the example of every previously socialized enterprise has demonstrated that the capitalist method has been adopted within them, too: in terms of remuneration, they first specify what the superiors should receive and then gradate the figure on downwards. By contrast, we take the view that the cultural minimum subsistence level [Existenzminimum] must first be conferred upon every productive person in the form of a minimum wage, which is thereupon scaled upwards. It is then simple enough to calculate how many funds there still are for the senior officials and employees.
Furthermore, we also demand that every productive German be granted the opportunity to be able to live to an advanced age, and to be able to live without worry in the event of illness or accident. This is to be achieved through transferring a certain minimum percentage of every individual’s income into a pension fund administered by the Economic Chamber. When a person enters a particular age bracket, is afflicted by an incapacity to work, etc., they are then to be paid a permanent, comfortable pension out of the pension fund until the end of their life. This compulsory pension scheme is binding upon all Germans without exception. A minimum rate is to be set for contributions as well as for the pensions to be granted. But so that those who are capable of earning more in their busy lives can also procure for themselves a better “retirement”, the basic class of interest can be upgraded to a second tier, third tier, fourth tier, etc., each of which, of course, requires higher contributions. Everyone is free to decide which class he wishes to be included into. The higher the class he selects, the higher the contribution he has to pay, but all the greater is his pension entitlement at any one time.
The present, legitimately-acquired pension rights of civil servants will therefore be taken on without further ado. In the future, their waiting pay5 and retirement pensions will be integrated into the overall framework without any difficulty.
Through the tax for the pension funds (national insurance), a substantial amount of money shall continuously flow into the state; the state is not allowed to have complete disposition over this, for that would afford it enormous economic power.
The fourth source of income for the Economic Chambers stems from the state’s monopoly over foreign trade.
In addition, we also demand state autarchy, i.e. the restoration of the economic independence and self-sufficiency of the German Volk. We therefore desire a state of affairs in which the German Volk will, in essence, produce themselves all the goods which they require to live, and that they shall become as independent as possible in their procurement of commodities from abroad.
We will not be able to make our country free again if we do not foster the economic revolutions necessary to disengage this country of ours from the rule of International High Finance and to transfer the economy back to the productive German estates.
1. “Community of blood” – in German, “Blutsgemeinschaft.” A Blutsgemeinschaft is very similar both phonetically and conceptually to the ideal of a “Volksgemeinschaft” (“people’s community” or “folk-community”), and was a popular concept within Wehrwolf literature. The difference between a Blutsgemeinschaft and a Volksgemeinschaft arises from the fact that a Blutsgemeinschaft is very specifically racial, since it directly invokes the ‘blood’ as the spiritual and cultural substance binding a community and their identity tightly together. A Volksgemeinschaft, by comparison, is centered upon the ‘Volk’, and the ‘Volk’ do not necessarily have to be defined by racial (blood) ties. The term Volksgemeinschaft was used by the National Socialists and other nationalist groups (including the Wehrwolf), but it is not by definition a völkisch concept, and used to occasionally appear within social-democratic and other left-wing writings. The Wehrwolf’s frequent invocation of the term Blutsgemeinschaft was their way of indicating to audiences that they were an especially radical völkisch organization.
2. The book which this text was translated from (Kamerad, weißt du noch?, i.e. “Comrade, Do You Remember?”) was published in 1938 and intended as a retrospective for former Wehrwolf members, containing countless speeches, articles, artworks, etc. from the group’s various publications between 1923-1933. The Wehrwolf, like most political movements in Weimar Germany, had owned their own publishing house (the Wehrwolfverlag) and had used it to disseminate their own propaganda pamphlets outlining their specific political ideology. This particular text was originally published in pamphlet form under the title Der Possedismus: Gegen Kapitalismus und marxistische Sozialismus; Gegen Reaktion und Liberalismus; Die neue deutsche Wirtschaftsordnung (“Possedism: Against Capitalism and Marxist Socialism; Against Reaction and Liberalism; the New German Economic Order”). I have not yet been able to find a copy of this pamphlet, but I know that it was 40 pages in length, so the version reproduced in Kamerad, weißt du noch? and translated here is obviously not a complete reproduction of the original publication in full. Considering the somewhat disjointed nature of the text here (it seems to rather abruptly veer from one topic to another between each paragraph), I suspect that Kloppe chose a selection of ‘typical’ paragraphs from the pamphlet for reproduction within Kamerad, weißt du noch?, rather than a single, contiguous body of text. As such, it should not be treated as a ‘complete’ overview of Kloppe’s Possedism, but instead as a cursory introduction to some of its key ideas.
3. In other words, the Nation (i.e. the state, representing the Volk) is to have the right to manage all German property and to control its use as ‘possessions’. The ‘right of intervention’ (Eingriffsrecht) ensures the state the ability to intervene in how property (as ‘possession’) is being managed at any time, giving the state the full right to confiscate property from those deemed to be misusing it. This was actually not an uncommon proposition among national-revolutionary groups, including the National Socialists. The German Socialist Party had called for land to be managed in a similar fashion, and Goebbels in The Nazi-Sozi (1931) opined that: “Everything that nature has given the people: land, rivers, mountains, forests, the natural resources both above and below the ground, the air — all this in principle belongs to the people as a whole. If anyone owns these, he is in effect the trustee of the people’s property, and must consider himself accountable to the State and the nation. If he manages the possessions entrusted to him poorly or in a manner detrimental to the good of the whole, then the State has the right to terminate his ownership and to give his possessions back to the people as a whole.”
4. In 1932 the Wehrwolfverlag would publish a pamphlet which would outline the Wehrwolf’s ideal state structure, as Kloppe promised here: Der aristokratische Einheitstaat (“The Aristocratic Unity-State”). I do not possess a copy of this, but Kamerad, weißt du noch? does include some extracts which I will translate and place on ARPLAN at some point. Essentially the Wehrwolf wanted a redrawing of the boundaries of the Reichsländer along ‘tribal’ lines, with a stronger central state authority; a resettlement of the population to give Germans closer ties to the countryside; a powerful Reichsführer supported by corporatist structures; a ban on political parties of any kind; and a distinctively Germanic state, free of influences from East and West, which would foster the development of a new aristocracy of “blood and achievement” drawn from all social classes.
5. Waiting pay – in German, Wartegeld. ‘Waiting pay’ was a form of remuneration paid to people in government employ (mainly military officers and civil servants) who had to be retired early or temporarily due to conditions beyond their control. The amount of waiting pay they received was based on their previous salary and paid proportionately, but could in some circumstances be anything from 80-100% of their original wage. Civil servants in Germany tended to have additional privileges like waiting pay (including in terms of retirement pay etc.) because of their special role as ostensibly colorless, loyal, unquestioningly obedient servants of state policy.