The foundation, position, and theses of the Group of Social-Revolutionary Nationalists, by Karl Otto Paetel and Heinz Gollong
At a public meeting in Berlin in July, 1929, nationalist journalist Karl Otto Paetel called upon the attendees – activists from a number of of disparate radical groups – to put aside differences of Left and Right and to commit themselves to forming a united “anti-capitalist youth front.” The organization which resulted from this appeal was the ‘Young Front Working-Circle’ (Arbeitsring Junge Front), a loose grouping of young firebrands from a variety of different political associations whose chief concern was the establishment of a rapprochement and ideological synthesis between Germany’s ‘Far-Left’ and ‘Far-Right’. Although ostensibly a cross-party pressure group, most of the Arbeitsring’s leading activists shared a common background in the German Youth Movement, particularly nationalist-leaning Bündische youth groups like the Adler und Falken, Deutsche Freischar, Artamanen, etc. Initially focused on trying to act as the intellectual bridge between the NSDAP and KPD, the Arbeitsring‘s members eventually came to the conclusion that their time would be better spent in formal political organization of their own. To that end they organized a conference over May 28-31, 1930, in which representatives from 20 minor national-revolutionary associations came together to found an umbrella organization which would, as they put it, “serve as a political community of ideas” for advancing “Nation and Socialism” and “the People’s Council-State.” This organization was christened the ‘Group of Social-Revolutionary Nationalists’ (GSRN). Much of the GSRN’s leadership (including Paetel) were at that time on the staff of national-revolutionary journal Die Kommenden, and the journal’s June 26, 1930 edition (no.26, vol.5) was used by them as a vehicle to announce their founding and to propagate the GSRN’s outlook and position on a variety of different subjects. Later that year the articles from this issue were compiled and republished under the title Sozialrevolutionärer Nationalismus (‘Social-Revolutionary Nationalism’); this booklet would effectively serve as the group’s programme until the eventual publication of the National Bolshevist Manifesto in 1933. The two articles below are a sample of some of this booklet’s content. The first is by Heinz Gollong (representing the Eidgenossen, a division of Werner Laß’s völkisch youth group Freischar Schill), and was the lead article of the Kommenden issue described above. The second translation consists of the ‘Theses’ of the GSRN, as agreed upon by its members. Those interested in the development of Paetel’s ideas should compare it with the 1929 draft programme he tried to disseminate in the NSDAP, and with the chapter ‘The Face of National Communism’ in his later National Bolshevist Manifesto; the GSRN’s Theses seem to constitute a mid-point between the two.
Foundation and Position
The following statements are excerpts from a lecture which Heinz Gollong delivered at the consolidation of the “Group of Social-Revolutionary Nationalists.”
The circle which has come together in the “Group of Social-Revolutionary Nationalists” is, in some respects, more typical than it might first appear. In every era there have been a small number of thinkers who rushed along bold new paths, ahead of their time; who remained misunderstood; who faced ridicule and violent opposition; and who were eventually able to witness how the mass of humanity later put their ideas to use with that natural, take-it-for-granted “mentality” which is so characteristic of those masses. We have experienced how we, who originated from countless different camps – camps classified along the lines of categories established by our elders – initially drew together instinctively, perhaps out of a shared feeling of being cast out from a world in which the language being spoken to us is disconcerting, in which the spirit ruling over us is alien. We have seen how out-of-touch the views of these eternal elders seem, how superficially they have approached everything, and how little they have been able to disengage themselves from their own egos in their reading of events. And, last but not least, after these experiences an awareness grew within us that we were the bearers of a very young worldview,2 and that we must fight for this “new ideal” (which made itself ineffably clear to us when we grappled with contemporary issues and thereby discovered how idiosyncratically we perceive the causes behind world events, as well as the interrelationships between them) so long as young life continues to burn within us.
We do not know how we first met. Sometimes it seems as though there were something in the air ensuring that those of us in the same country who all belong in a single front together would somehow end up finding one another. If we sought to derive validation for our struggle solely from the fact that we are people who have shattered all traditional biases, and who have been excluded almost completely from the organizations of today’s Germany, then this would arguably be only half of the story. Rather, it is our belief in the correctness of our attitude which provides us with the strength to move on from the “resentment” which has hitherto prevailed among us and to instead transition towards a particular form of organization. I see in this the most immediate task: to now investigate whether a political vision is capable of being formed from our being.
In approaching this clarification there are a few essential things which we must emphasize; while they may appear self-evident to many, it still seems necessary to establish them in view of the relentless methods of struggle employed by certain political interest groups.
We do not claim to be the originators of every idea which makes up the foundations of the theses that we are to establish. We do not claim to be the sole tenants of these political principles, for we believe that many young people in Germany feel the same way despite their not yet having made contact with us. Where circles have formed which have found the same expression for their thoughts as we have, they will join with us and will discover that we possess a sufficient degree of mental agility so as not to be offended by an alternate formulation of related content. These brief words contain moral demands upon political thinkers and fighters which certainly possess an allure of novelty and peculiarity for those institutions which dominate the situation today. We can therefore sincerely present ourselves to the public, because in our circle the freedom of ideas is dominant and we have no “interests” to represent.
There are things in life which immediately take on a different cast as soon as their positions relative to one another have changed. This is equally true of political ideas. We make no boast that it is our task to be able to counter liberalism with equal values, nor that it is our task to vanquish pacifism; instead we marshal the youngest of political ideas, which we employ in a fashion that is certainly novel in its configuration, for it brings into vital association with one another separate standpoints which the elders regarded as fire and water (a belief due to which they all failed): namely, nationalism and socialism.
Granted, the wording of this synthesis is not entirely new, but has been used quite earnestly within the struggle of the parties as a promotional tool of considerable value.3 Who would claim, however, that those who employ these terms for advertising purposes have actually made a serious effort to wrest from them their meaning and form? I believe that, in view of the abundant evidence for this, nothing further needs to be said about it. Instead, our work can begin without any further time being wasted dwelling on critiques of those entities who purport to champion an ideal, but in practice just have their snouts in the trough.
In the meantime, we are in the fortunate position of being able to learn from the mistakes of the elders. From their inflexibility (among many other things) we have thus drawn the lesson to be cautious of dogmatism and of sloganeering. This means that we refuse to make use of such means, and that we will be careful not to overvalue them, nor to trust them.
Of course, this does not hinder opponents of every stripe from assailing us with their weapons. Before we reached the point of formal organization, we took advantage of the opportunities for journalistic debate made available to us in various publications and, contrary to expectations, attracted enough interest to allow us to draw some conclusions from them. Wherever we originally came from, we all emphasized – in addition to our resolute national consciousness, and alongside our unconditional avowal of militancy – our consistent pursuit of socialism directly into the economic sphere, with this perspective originating from the fact that the capitalist intellectual world puts economic considerations above all else in life, and that this is therefore why we struggle to liberate the forces of blood and spirit from the fetters of this materialistic greed for profit. We as “Volk and Nation” declare that we do not want rulings of state in the areas of foreign, domestic, social, or cultural-political affairs to lie with the economic cliques on whose support it nowadays depends, even if this situation is rather prudently not made readily apparent to the public. We demand that the economy become an “instrument” of the state for the purpose of satisfying the living standards of the Volk, whereas at present the state is an “instrument” of the economy for the purpose of satisfying private profit motives.
As our opponents were aware that we had long since ceased to believe in any ethical or related grounds for their existence, and as they therefore saw themselves being in no position to be able to mislead us, they instead attempted in general to portray us as horrible, nauseating beasts, in order to instinctively draw their devout little sheep into opposition against us: They have dubbed us “National Bolshevists,”4 knowing precisely what a horrifying impression the word “Bolshevism” still evokes in Germany today. Those on the other side speculated that all who were presently in contact with us would now reject and condemn us like lepers. How frightfully the rallying-cry “Bolshevism” affects these peaceful German souls is shown, among other things, by the fact that the capitalists, for reasons of competition, occasionally among themselves point to the threatening specter of “Bolshevism” in the hope of thereby making their partners more obliging. Hence why Dr. Solmssen,5 board member of the Deutsche Bank and the Disconto-Gesellschaft, proclaimed in a March 1930 speech in Zurich that it was in the interests of the world economy to come to an understanding over shared fields of interest, to show consideration for one another, and to allow no national chauvinism to arise, for standing behind the next war would be – Bolshevism! These words are just as effective as the slogan of “National Bolshevism” which has been disseminated against us, a slogan with which the entire bourgeois press has worked in the past few months and which in some cases was not entirely lacking in humor – such as, for example, the national housewives’ paper which indignantly sniped against such lines of thought as ours because, as it explained… it could never possibly agree with the standardized clothing which is the end result of “Bolshevism.” (!!)
Organizations which have become aware of their own inner disintegration tend to inundate every movement which appears injurious to them with fearful ranting. We must therefore not misinterpret the assault which we have experienced at the hands of the bourgeois press by allowing it to lead us into self-delusion.
An honest self-assessment of the means at our disposal will be more conducive to our struggle than an over-estimation of our influence. Where the lines are drawn cannot be the object of our scrutiny at present. We have to leave it to the individual to determine how far our impact reaches and to what extent we will have an opportunity to contribute to political decisions. I have faith that none of us will allow themselves to be carried away by a (often psychologically understandable) craving for personal recognition, such that they advance positions which – in view of the limited means of power which lie behind them – do not lack a certain degree of banality. “Political” methods of that sort – the insipidness of the Youth Movement, through which the opposite (i.e. a reduction in worth) to what was intended is always achieved – need to have been overcome by now. Let us rely on determination and objectivity until the final problem has been worked through: – In this way we will see more clearly and judge things more coolly; will better support the people in our community; and, last but not least, will be able to more easily gain the requisite distance from slogans and catchphrases, to which many possess an understandable inclination due to a lack of specialized education. –
It is unsurprising if proletarian-socialist circles distrust the earnestness of our socialist will, considering the abuse which is being carried out under this term today. Socialism is often utilized for party-political ends, anywhere where the recruitment of the masses might appear successful with its help. Those of us who came from the “Left” know how unjustified this mistrust is. Those of us who were formerly on the “Right” are, in actual fact, proletarianized to an equal extent, although by saying this I by no means wish to whitewash the proletarianization of the German Volk. It is unnecessary for us to renounce with sacred oaths the Reaction which the left-wing parties can still smell on us, or to furnish for them a “letter of credentials.” We are socialist – we have become revolutionary for the sake of nation-building, and we demand confidence in our honesty! Along with you former “Leftists” it is our goal today to seek expression, upon a common foundation and with a common position, for the political principles which can be born from our essence and from our worldview [Weltgefühl] alone!
– Heinz Gollong
The Theses of the
Group of Social-Revolutionary Nationalists
As a group, we summarize our demands as follows:
We recognize the necessity of the German Revolution.
It is the spiritual transformation which determines the face of our time, economically, politically, and culturally.
We affirm our commitment to the Nation.
As the fateful expression of völkisch community, it is for us the ultimate political value.
We affirm our commitment to the Volk
as an ethnically-distinct cultural community, in contrast to Western civilization, which is destructive to the population.
We affirm our commitment to Socialism,
which, after breaking the capitalist order, binds Volk and Nation together in an organic economic structure.
The fulfilment of our goals is the
Greater German People’s Council-State
as the manifestation of the self-government of the productive Volk.
Instruments of economic activity are to be converted into the common property of the Nation, and fundamental ownership of land and soil by the Nation to be declared.
From this follows: Nationalization of all large- and medium-sized enterprises; immediate, extensive settlement of the East; remission for small, private holdings as Reich Entails [Reichserblehen]; the replacement of Roman private law by German common law.
The current state of affairs demands:
- ruthless struggle against all foreign-policy enslavement-treaties, from Versailles to Young,
- struggle against the Weimar system, which has sanctioned external servitude,
- a policy of alliance with the Soviet Union,
- supporting revolutionary movements in order to create a united front of all oppressed classes and nations.
The present state of affairs necessitates the most severe execution of the class-struggle of the oppressed against all who maintain the private-capitalist dogma of the sanctity of property. That is the only way to the German Volksgemeinschaft.
To safeguard the revolution against seizure by International Capital and against counter-revolutionary endeavors, the Revolutionary People’s Army shall take the place of the present mercenary army.
The Group of Social-Revolutionary Nationalists.
1. “Comrades!” – In the original German, “Kameraden und Genossen!” German has two separate words for ‘comrade,’ the use of which is context-dependent. Genosse has strong trade-unionist or labor connotations, and was (and still is) the word used for ‘comrade’ by Social-Democrats, Communists, and others on the Left. Kamerad by contrast is a martial term, and was commonly used by German soldiers as a way to refer to their brothers-in-arms. Kamerad during the Weimar era especially was adopted by paramilitarists, Freikorps members, and patriotic groups as a nationalist alternative to Genosse. Because the Group of Social-Revolutionary Nationalists was explicitly trying to appeal to both left- and right-wingers, the use of both both Genosse and Kamerad is very deliberate. Unfortunately, I don’t believe there is a really effective way to properly render both terms into English (possibly “Brothers and Comrades!” might work), hence why I settled for the single English term.
2. “Worldview” – The German word used in the original text is Weltgefühl (literally “world-feeling”), a term which doesn’t have a really suitable English translation. Somebody’s Weltgefühl constitutes their sense or feeling for the trajectory of their relationship with the world around them, their awareness of how they live and exist in the world and relate to it as a connected part of its larger whole. It was a popular term in early 20th century philosophical and artistic writing in Germany, and occasionally crops up in the more intellectual völkisch texts.
4. As this sentence suggests, the term “National Bolshevik” was actually a pejorative in German politics, used to allege that a person or group’s purported nationalist politics were actually a front for covert Bolshevism (or, conversely, that their purported socialist politics were actually a front for covert Fascism). The GSRN, and the various micro-groups which constituted its membership, were the first to willingly adopt the term and to use it to self-describe themselves in a positive sense, although they appear to have preferred to be called Nationalkommunisten.
5. Georg Solmssen (b.1869 – d.1957) was a German-Jewish banker and businessman. His birth-name was “Salomonsohn,” which he changed after converting to Protestantism in 1900. At the time of this article’s publication (1930), Solmssen was on the board of the Deutsche Bank, a position granted him after his own banking concern (the Disconto-Gesellschaft) had merged with the Deutsche Bank in 1929. Solmssen fled Germany in 1934 and lived in Switzerland until the end of the War.