The original 1919 political programme of the bourgeois-nationalist German National Peoples’ Party, or DNVP
The emphasis of this blog tends to be on reproducing material from political movements which fall into one of two categories: nationalist movements which have embraced elements of socialism, and socialist movements which have embraced elements of nationalism. As a nationalist movement which was avowedly anti-socialist (as well as pro-monarchist and expressive of a conservative/bourgeois/traditionalist ethos), the German National People’s Party (Deutschnationale Volkspartei, DNVP) might seem at first to be a little outside ARPLAN’s purview. The interesting thing about the DNVP, however – and the reason why I am providing a translation of its original 1919 programme – is that there is a little more to the organization than might first meet the eye. When originally founded in late November, 1918, the DNVP was an amalgam of several older Imperial-era movements: Conservatives, Free-Conservatives, right-wing National Liberals, segments of the völkisch and Pan-German movements, and the Christian-Socials. The Christian-Social wing of the DNVP in particular provided the impetus for some of the party’s little-known attempts at engaging with German labor, helping bring elements of the Christian trade unions into the DNVP’s orbit and pushing the organization towards a line that, if it could not be socialist, was at the very least an attempt towards being ‘social’ (Christian-Social labor leader Franz Behrens set the tone in his speech to the very first German-National congress in July, 1919, declaring: “Whoever believes in free enterprise must also believe in trade unions for workers, and must also recognize the right to unionize and the right to strike”). Elements of this ‘left’-wing DNVP influence can be discerned in parts of the original German-National programme (its advocacy of equal rights for women; material support for working mothers; collective bargaining on the part of workers, etc.) and in some of the party’s later actions, such as its founding of a mass labor organization in 1921, the German-National Workers’ League (Deutschnationaler Arbeiterbund). The DNVP ultimately represented an alternative approach towards nationalist engagement with labor, a more cautious and ‘pro-employer’ approach which, when contrasted with that of National Socialism, helps emphasize quite how radical (and how sincerely anticapitalist) the NSDAP actually was by comparison. Both parties were well aware of this difference; the new programme the DNVP finally adopted in 1932, Alfred Hugenberg’s ‘Freedom Programme’, was an explicit attempt at contrasting the DNVP’s “social-nationalism’ with the “Marxism” of the NSDAP.
Programme of the
German National Peoples’ Party
I. The Life of Nation and State
The liberation of Germany. The liberation of the German Volk from foreign domination is the precondition for their national rebirth. We therefore strive for a revision of the Treaty of Versailles, for the restoration of German unity, and for the reacquisition of the colonies essential to our economic development.
Borderland-Germans and Germans living abroad.1 We feel inseparably linked to our German folk-comrades living beyond the borders which have been imposed upon us. The defense of Germandom in the lost and occupied territories and the defense of Germans living abroad are essential duties in national politics. A tightly-knit Volksgemeinschaft binds us with all Germans living abroad, in particular with the German-Austrians for whose right of self-determination we pledge our support.
Foreign policy. We demand a strong and steady foreign policy defined exclusively from a German point-of-view, a dignified, firm, and skillful representation of German interests and the utilization of our economic power in service of Germany’s foreign policy goals. The foreign service is to be staffed solely on the basis of ability, educational background, and dependable German convictions, and to be kept free from considerations of internal party politics.
Monarchy. The monarchical form of state corresponds to the uniqueness and to the historical development of Germany. Standing above the parties, the monarchy offers the safest guarantee for the unity of the Volk, the defense of minorities, the continuity of state affairs, and the incorruptibility of public administration. The individual German states should enjoy a free choice over their forms of government; for the Reich we strive for a renewal of the German Empire as established by the Hohenzollerns.
Essence of the Reich. A firmly-unified German Reich is the most important foundation for German greatness. For the sake of imperial unity [Reichseinheit] the independence of the individual states is to be protected, and their legitimate, individual tribal characteristics are to be preserved. The interests of Germany as a whole require an unpartitioned Prussia, with no diminishment of its holdings and its rights; in the reconstruction of the Reich we cannot do without its state-building power.
Popular representation. On the basis of the constitutional development of our political conditions, we advocate the organic idea of the state. That form of popular representation which stems from general, equal, direct, and secret elections by both sexes is entitled to a significant involvement in legislation and in effective supervision over politics and administration. Alongside parliament, we demand a representative structure for economic and intellectual work which is organized according to profession.
Administration and judicature. The strong state required by our Volk needs, particularly given the current parliamentary form of government, a powerful executive authority and a firmly-established, orderly administrative structure. This includes a professional civil service free of party influences, and the preservation of its tried and tested professional ethos. Judicial independence is to be maintained. Justice and administration are to be administered solely according to objective considerations. Administration is to be simplified and to be conducted in the social spirit; in place of the wastage of public moneys which has been widespread since the Revolution, a strict economy must be reintroduced. The traditional self-government of municipalities and municipal associations is to be preserved.
Civil service. Civil service law is to be recast in keeping with the times. Civil servant committees and chambers2 should be involved in the regulation of their conditions of employment. We demand for all civil servants the guarantee of permanent appointments and complete freedom in the exercise of their rights as citizens. Teachers and municipal officials should be made the equals of state civil servants in respect to legal and economic conditions. For promotion within the civil service, not only scholastic background but also knowledge and ability should be decisive. In order to maintain the civil service’s reliability, dutifulness, and incorruptibility, its economic security is to be secured by means of a system of remuneration which corresponds to its social position and which parallels the present cost of living. Any restructuring of salaries must also have a corresponding impact upon the income of surviving dependents and on those who are pension-holders or on waiting pay,3 people whose entire legal situation is in urgent need of reorganization.
Wehrmacht. We strive for a universal, equal, national military service, and want to keep alive the memory of everything which our Volk have owed to our popular armies and their leaders, in both war and peace, in terms of our advancement in international affairs and educational values. The defense of our native coasts and of the political and economic position of the Reich call for the revival of the German navy. Welfare for war-invalids and for the surviving dependents of war dead, for the legal and economic security of active and discharged military personnel, for pensioners and their dependents, is a bounden duty of Reich and Volk.
Equal rights for women. The German woman is indispensable as the guardian of the moral and religious foundations of our family-life and our folk-life. She is entitled to equal participation in public life. The rights of women, as the individuals responsible for the upbringing of future generations and for the nurturing of professional and family life, must be expanded. Those irreplaceable values which are created through the labor of housewives and mothers are to be afforded with social and economic recognition.
Folkdom. Only a strong German folkdom which consciously preserves its nature and its essence, and which keeps itself free from foreign influences, can provide the reliable foundation for a strong German state. That is why we fight against every corrosive, un-German spirit, whether it stems from Jewish or from other circles. We are emphatically opposed to the prevalence of Judaism in government and in public life, which has emerged ever more ominously since the Revolution. The inflow of foreigners across our borders is to be prohibited.
National health. We will support all measures which serve the rebuilding of our national strength and the cultivation of our national health. We are committed to the improvement of our nutritional conditions, to the protection of mothers and children, and to the struggle against infant mortality, tuberculosis, and venereal diseases, all of which are sapping away at the vitality of the Volk. We demand the issuance of a Doctor’s Ordinance;4 the legal regulation of care for the insane; an expansion of the apothecary system; a modern law on midwifery;5 and improved training for, as well as better protection of, all medical personnel and caregivers. The broad masses of the Volk are to be educated on the dangers of a declining birth rate; where legislative matters are concerned, families with many children are to receive special consideration on principle.
II. Spiritual Life
Religion. Through the deepening of Christian consciousness we expect the moral rebirth of our Volk, something which is a fundamental requirement for their political resurgence. Religion is a national issue. The purity of the family, the development of the youth, the reconciliation of social antagonisms, the health of the state, all depend upon the dynamic absorption of Christian-religious forces. A people without religion lacks moral stability, and is thus deprived of its power of resistance against the worries and privations of the time. We are fighting for the purity of German spiritual life, for a stronger emphasis on moral values in economics and politics. We are fighting against filth and trash in both print and images, against the spirit of self-indulgence and effort-free acquisition, against dishonesty and corruptibility.
Equality of all denominations. Religious communities and their institutions, as well as every genuine religious creed, all have the right to respect, consideration, and protection by the state, provided that they do not contravene the laws of the state. The equalization of the free churches6 and the independent Christian communities with those religious associations already considered corporations under public law is to be established.
Ecclesiastical freedom. In the separation of the church from the state,7 state services based upon contracts, special legal titles, and other justly-earned rights of the church and its servants are to be preserved. Every effort to undermine the freedom of the churches to organize independently and to administer their internal affairs is to be resolutely resisted. State funding is to be provided for pastoral care in the military, hospitals, and prisons.
Education. Education should lead to the spiritual unity of the nation. To a much greater extent than in the past, we must shape will and character so that they reflect a conscious German identity [Deutschtum] and a spirited state ethos. The strongest foundation for the molding of will and character are a spirited, truly Christian religious instruction, and a historical education which is filled with patriotic spirit, something which can only be effective when schools bear the stamp of a unified worldview. For this reason the parochial school is fundamentally preferable to the non-denominational school. For educational work to be successful, complete freedom of conscience is a prerequisite for teachers and for other educators.
School system. It remains the inalienable right of parents to determine the type of school to which they wish to send their children. For that reason the free development of private schools must also be ensured. For education in the first years of schooling a common primary school is to be established. The other types of school are to be based on this, formed through a practical approach to transition and advancement into an internally unified, comprehensive school system. In this sense we advocate for the Einheitsschule.8 Arrangements are to be made so that the benefits of opportunities for advancement – including those provided by continuing education and the technical school system – are bestowed upon not only the larger cities, but also on the countryside and the smaller cities. This restructuring of our school system must not be allowed to lead to a vulgarization of our education system, to a degradation of teaching goals, or to the abandonment of the uniqueness of our schools of higher learning.
Teacher training, school supervision. All teachers should receive their general education at one of the institutes of higher learning. In the education of the coming generation, women will participate as equal members of the Volksgemeinschaft. State supervision of the schools is a matter for experts.
Institutions of higher learning. The unique, historically-established position of German universities and institutes of higher learning, particularly their unrestricted freedom to teach, is to be preserved. The right to self-administration on the part of lecturers and students is to be maintained on the basis of well-established academic freedom. Educational targets and admission requirements should not be lowered. Students with German nationality or of German descent have first right of access to educational facilities. Volksschulen9 should commit themselves heart and soul to deepening and enriching the German way and the German nature.
Youth welfare. To a greater extent than hitherto, we want to be certain that in our youth a physical tempering, a moral invigoration, and a German and civic ethos are all being cultivated. That is why the welfare of the youth must be promoted far more than in the past and every possible freedom afforded to a wholesome youth movement.
Art. True art grows in the soil of a vibrant folkdom. A Volk sees itself in its art, and through its art becomes conscious of its true nature. Art should be accessible to every segment of the population, and should be a fruitful influence upon the education of the nation.
III. Economic Life
Economic order. Every viable national economy is founded upon private ownership and economic self-sufficiency. The entrepreneurial spirit and the commercial acumen of the individual are the basis of our economic work. We demand that they keep within the boundaries of the common good, and we will defend them against every form of overt and covert communism. State-ownership and other forms of public-sector-economics are only to be set in place in circumstances where they are essential for the common good, and where they offer undeniable economic advantages over private enterprise. Voluntary professional and cooperative associations are to be encouraged within economic life.
Abolition of the state-controlled economy. In order to restore the strength of the German Volk to a new creative enthusiasm and to renew honesty within trade and commerce, we desire the rapid, complete dismantling of the state-controlled economy and the immediate dissolution of the War Corporations10 and of those organizations taking their place. Those segments of the population whose quality of life is threatened by the emerging price increases – particularly retirees, who are no longer employable, and those people living off of small pensions – are to be assisted through public measures. Usury and racketeering are to be ruthlessly combated. Wherever the need arises for state intervention in the economy, it is to be exercised by economic stakeholders.
Settlement. As far as is possible, economic measures are to be employed to discourage German emigration; returning emigrants are to be supported. We demand a fundamental amelioration of the housing shortage; the planned establishment of homesteads, particularly for veterans; a not-for-profit land policy; and a comprehensive settlement of the countryside, which will create new farmland and new opportunities for workers to establish their own businesses, and for which purpose the large estates of the state, municipality, and private sector are to be made available, to a reasonable extent, in exchange for compensation.
Economic reconstruction. Raising production is the basic criterion for the reconstruction of our economic life. The industry upon which all our fates depend is agriculture. Its challenge is to meet all of Germany’s food needs from its own resources. Only the free farmer on a free plot can accomplish this. To do this he must be able to obtain the necessary equipment and resources, and must be protected from any interference which contravenes the essence of agriculture. The other major pillars supporting our economy are industry and handicrafts. It is a matter of vital importance for the general public that they regain their old opportunities for activity through the supply of raw materials and through the development of suitable sales markets. Alongside the free farmers and the free tradesmen there is to be a free German commerce, which is to have its rights reinstated. The former position which we held in the world-market must be reopened to self-productive labor and to the proven expertise of the German businessman and technician. Professional education – to whose superiority every branch of our economy owed its prosperity before the War – will continue to be carefully cultivated. All national labor should, by its very nature, be protected and promoted through governance and legislation. This includes the reconstruction of the German merchant marine.
Middle-class. We regard the retention and proliferation of the self-employed middle-class in agriculture, commerce, and industry to be one of the most effective means for bridging social differences, because it ensures that the lower strata’s opportunities for advancement towards economic independence remain open, thereby facilitating a healthy stratification of the population. We will fundamentally oppose any transfer of mid-sized businesses into state or municipal ownership; we reject the state’s discrimination against them to the benefit of community cooperatives.
Workers and white-collar employees. We demand that the state safeguard its most precious asset, the living labor-power of its members, and that it defend them against exploitation and ruthless misuse through the means of socially-protective legislation. Modern employment and labor codes for all wage-earning and salaried workers, in particular for agricultural laborers and domestic staff, are to be established. Home-based work should also be included in this legislation, in order that such work can develop on a sound footing. The implementation of collective labor agreements is to be secured. We demand adequate representation for employees and workers, regardless of gender, within state-recognized professional associations. We strive to ensure that workers and white-collar employees are afforded a share in the profits of their company, where the nature of the business permits it. Equitable participation by employees and workers in socially-operated enterprises is to be facilitated by law. Works council legislation is to be designed in such a fashion that it serves economic peace and fosters production. Employers’ associations and workers’ organizations must, as the Central Working Group11 attempts to do, work together in an understanding manner. We reject the Marxist concept of class struggle as the destroyer of every culture.
Free professions. We wish to aid intellectual workers and members of the free professions – who, through inflation, are exposed to the dangers of proletarianization – in their difficult struggle for existence. We decry the nationalization of these professional categories because it would divest them of the best possible basis for their productive activity.
Working women. Working women are to be provided with staunch support in economic, medical, and moral terms; a woman with the same educational background and equivalent qualifications to a man is entitled to receive the same wages. For the married female worker, the twofold objective is to alleviate both her professional and her domestic labor.
Taxation. Germany’s financial situation makes it essential that every source of income in Reich, state, and municipality be drawn from to the maximum extent permissible, in accordance with a uniform plan and with the greatest possible consideration for established rights. When increasing taxes on property and income, productivity and family circumstances must be extensively considered. In addition to direct and indirect taxes, net yields from Reich, state, and municipal enterprises must be made possible through the appropriate regulation of their operating conditions, and these funds must be placed at the disposal of public funding needs. Fiscal policy should give fair consideration to those engaged in gainful employment and, in strictly assessing accumulated assets and high incomes, should not make the creation of business assets (indispensable for the prosperity of the national economy) an impossible venture. A sound financial policy is not possible without a continuous balancing of income and expenditure. Our economic exhaustion is inevitable if public spending is not curtailed.
1. “Borderland-Germans” (Grenzlanddeutschen) were those Germans living in the ‘borderland’ areas cut off from the Fatherland by the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles – Sudeten Germans, Silesian Germans, Memellanders, etc. “Germans living abroad” (Auslandsdeutschen) is a term encompassing the entire German diaspora, including those Germans in the new Austrian Republic.
2. “Civil servant committees and chambers“ – in German, “Beamtenausschüsse und Beamtenkammern.” The idea of establishing new forms of democratic representation was a popular one during the 1918-19 revolutionary period, as was the concept of reorganizing the civil service’s relationship to the state. Civil servant committees and chambers were envisioned as a means of establishing representative-consultative bodies among the middle and lower levels of the state administration; civil servants would elect members to these bodies and would thus be collectively involved in deciding on salary and work conditions. For the DNVP this proposal can be seen as evidence for their acceptance of a limited form of corporatism in government, something their programme spells out a little more explicitly in the subsequent section ‘Popular representation’; this and similar demands were likely influenced by the DNVP’s Christian-Social faction. Interestingly, Social-Democrats and others on the Left who were invested in the idea of a ‘council-state’ were also enthusiastic advocates for “Beamtenausschüsse und Beamtenkammern.”
3. “Waiting pay” – in German, “Wartegeld.” Waiting pay was paid to people in government employ (military officers and civil servants) who had to be retired early or temporarily due to conditions beyond their control. Waiting pay was based upon their previous salary and paid proportionately, but could in some circumstances be anything from 80-100% of their usual employment salary.
4. “Doctor’s Ordinance” – in German, “Ärzteordnung.” Proposed national legislation regulating and organizing Germany’s system of public health. At the time the medical profession was still largely covered by the strictures of the Trade Ordinance, and did not have a specific legislative framework governing the medical profession itself. An Ärzteordnung was not introduced until 1935, when the National Socialist Party was in power.
5. As with the Ärzteordnung, a “modern law on midwifery” was not introduced until the National Socialists were in power and they promulgated the 1938 Reichshebammengesetz (Reich Midwifery Act). This Act went further than just regulating and standardizing the profession – it also spelled out that women not only had an explicit legal right to the presence of a midwife at birth, but that a midwife legally had to be present during the birth of a child, an action which elevated the status of midwives within Germany alongside that of doctors and nurses. One of the chief architects of this Act was midwife Nanna Conti, head of the Third Reich’s ‘Professional Midwives Association’ (her title was Reichshebammenführerin, ‘Female Führer of the Reich’s Midwives’). Conti had originally been a member of the DNVP, joining the German-Nationals very early on in 1918.
6. The “free churches” (“Freikirchen“) were those Protestant denominations which fell outside the bounds of the predominant Evangelical Church. Baptists, Mennonites, Methodists, the Salvation Army, etc., were all considered “free churches.”
7. The new constitution of the Weimar Republic was ratified in early August, 1919, with Article 137 of the constitution establishing general separation of church and state for the first time in German history. This demand by the DNVP should be read within this context; as a religiously-inclined, Lutheran-oriented party, DNVP members would have had strong concerns about how the separation of church and state was to be implemented, and how far it might be taken in a Republic founded as a result of Social-Democratic revolution.
8. “Einheitsschule” literally translates as ‘unity-school’, although its meaning in English is roughly analogous to that of ‘comprehensive school’. The concept of the Einheitsschule was originally developed by Prussian liberal reformer Werner von Humboldt and his colleague Johann Wilhelm Süvern in the early 1800s. Their proposed Einheitsschule system was inspired by liberal principles of academic freedom, and was focused on uniting every school in the country around the same model of progressive, general education guided by an established national curriculum. Unity-schools were intended to provide all young Germans with a cursory, well-rounded education in every major field of human endeavor (foreign languages, drawing, German, mathematics, geography, agriculture, singing, calligraphy, natural history, etc.), and their proposed structure would have provided a simpler method for the transition and advancement of pupils as they progressed through their education (Germany’s school system to this day is still notoriously rather complex).
9. “Volksschulen” is sometimes translated into English as “Folk High Schools” or “Folk Schools”; essentially Volksschulen are general education centres for adults. The concept of the Volksschule originated with Danish pastor N.F.S. Grundtvig, who first proposed the concept in the mid-1800s as a means of providing those who did not have access to a conventional education (particularly peasants and the industrial working-class) with an opportunity to fill in the gaps in their knowledge. Volksschulen later became very popular in Europe, particularly in Nordic countries. They are mentioned here because, for the first time in German history, Article 148 of the Weimar Constitution enshrined state establishment and promotion of Volksschulen by law.
10. “War corporations” – in German, “Kriegsgesellschaften.” These were organizations established at the beginning of WWI under the guidance of Jewish-German industrialist Walter Rathenau, head of the War Raw Materials Department, and engineer Wichard von Moellendorf, Rathenau’s economic and ideological advisor. The War Corporations brought representatives from private industry and the state together to jointly plan the distribution of raw materials and food rations, with the state helping to mediate between the competing claims of different companies and helping to balance the wartime needs of military contractors, essential industries, and smaller, non-essential firms. The War Corporations covered multiple different branches of the economy and were explicitly run as non-profit-generating enterprises; they proved so effective that Moellendorf (a political conservative) began to advocate for them as the basis of a post-War corporatist economy, a vision which attracted some within the Social-Democratic leadership. Moellendorf’s negotiations with Social-Democratic authorities over the War Corporations were leaked to the press in 1919, and the topic of Planwirtschaft (“economic planning” or “planned economy”) subsequently became a topic of heated public debate. Judging by its programme, the DNVP – which as a ‘bourgeois’ party put great emphasis upon private property and private enterprise – apparently did not share the enthusiasm for the Kriegsgesellschaften which Moellendorf and some others within the National Movement exhibited.
11. The Central Working Group (Zentralarbeitsgemeinschaft) was an institution founded in 1918 in an effort to forge peace and cooperation between workers and employers in the immediate aftermath of the Revolution. The Zentralarbeitsgemeinschaft was made up of leading members of the trade unions and the employers’ associations, with its main focus being the fostering of economic harmony through establishing consensus between the two groups on topics such as labor rights, working conditions, etc. Despite some notable successes and considerable state support, the Zentralarbeitsgemeinschaft eventually disbanded in 1924 as a consequence of bitter disputes over the 8-hour workday and the aftermath of France’s occupation of the Ruhr.
This DNVP document from 1919 has aspects of political thought that are more in line with conditions in the Second Reich than those in Weimar Germany. Whoever wrote the document had intended it to represent the broad factional interests that existed among its ranks. It is discernible throughout the text itself, given the DNVP’s history of appealing to the authority of the House of Hohenzollern and them demanding the return of former German colonies under the context of a concurring demand for revising the Versailles Treaty. I also believe that its insistence on the German states existing as distinct regional identities united around Prussia to be a continuation of Second Reich internal policies. Compared to the Third Reich and post-1945 West Germany and East Germany, it looks like the Second Reich inherited the “Kleinstaaterei” of the First Reich and the regionalist outlook espoused by the DNVP pretty much confirmed it.
At the same time, other passages exist to maintain that the party will operate within the legal boundaries set aside by the Weimar Republic. Keys areas of interest include the party’s positions on the civil services, the German educational system, the adherence to Parliamentarianism (and all of the flaws associated with that form of governance) and its reluctance toward any overt support for Pan-Germanism (like an Anschluss with Austria or the inclusion of Sudetenland as part of Germany proper). The privatization of state-owned enterprises and the refusal to nationalize the “free professions” had to have been intended to appeal to the party’s National Liberal faction.
Perhaps the most out of place positions within the DNVP document, far more than its allusion to the Kleinstaaterei of the First Reich and the Pan-Germanism and social policies of the Third Reich, concern fiscal policy. Its insistence on fiscal discipline and the belief in a balanced budget are both appeals to old Prussian fiscal policies that were practiced by Prussia after the Napoleonic Wars. I have no idea if you or anyone else reading the comment sections are aware of that. The Prussians emerged from the Napoleonic Wars as an “industrial backwater” (as one researcher had once put it) with an unbalanced fiscal budget and deficits yielding in increases for Prussia’s national debt.
If those historical conditions from 19th century Prussia resemble the contemporary rhetoric of American “Fiscal Conservatism” (or in the DNVP’s case, 20th century Weimar Germany), let it be known that the Prussian responses are as American as the Federalist Party of Alexander Hamilton. Below are the links to a 1966 research paper about Prussian Political Economy and a recent December 2020 interview with Christian Parenti, an American Marxist much like his father Michael Parenti.
The Political Economy of Public Finance and the Industrialization of Prussia, 1815-1866: (https://www.jstor.org/stable/2115904).
What We Still Get Wrong About Alexander Hamilton: (https://bostonreview.net/class-inequality-politics/christian-parenti-michael-busch-what-we-still-get-wrong-about-alexander).
Ironically, I should note that Parenti (both father and son) are also beyond the purview of the ARPLAN Blog due to their own avowedly anti-Nationalist stances which is the polar opposite of the DNVP’s anti-Socialist stances. And yet the experience I have had reading after “Radical Hamilton: Economic Lessons from a Misunderstood Founder” was identical to how I felt upon reading this DNVP document.
Fascinating, isn’t it?