“Free from fruitless parliamentarism and the exploitation of labour!” The 1923 provisional programme of the German Völkisch Freedom Party (DVFP)
In the notes appended to the previous article on this blog – a historical overview of the German Völkisch Freedom Party (Deutschvölkische Freiheitspartei, DVFP) by academic Stefanie Schrader – I pointed out that the DVFP, Germany’s predominant völkisch party throughout much of the 1920s, never really had an “official” political programme. The party did produce a programme circa January 1923 which was briefly disseminated to the public, but this programme was only considered a “preliminary version” and was never formally ratified by the leadership as a definitive statement of party principles. The reason behind this decision lies with the DVFP’s innate hostility to “parliamentarism” in all its forms, an attitude which it had inherited from the pre-War völkisch movement and which was not entirely uncommon within other nationalist organizations. Political programmes were associated with political parties, and political parties were the offspring of hated parliamentarism; it was controversial enough within the völkisch movement (and even within the party itself) that the DVFP had constituted itself as a registered political party and was running in elections, so the leadership’s rejection of a formal programme can thus be viewed as something of a sop to those in the völkisch camp who were uncomfortable with the accoutrements of democratic participation. Considering the DVFP instead chose to communicate its principles to the public via “Guidelines” and “Statements,” however, the content of which was scarcely much different to its unofficial draft programme (which I have translated below), the entire dispute seems like much hand-wringing over nothing to me – although it does demonstrate the mindset under which the Deutschvölkische operated, and the ways in which they tried to reconcile their hatred of parliamentary democracy with their own participation in the Weimar system. Particularly interesting is how similar the draft DVFP programme appears to that of the National Socialists, although by comparison the Völkisch programme does come across as somewhat vaguer, as less clearly-defined. The DVFP had its own National Socialist/Bolshevist wing at this stage, centered around prominent social-radical members like Count Ernst zu Reventlow and Franz Stöhr; their abandonment of the party for the NSDAP in 1927 precipitated the DVFP’s strong conservative wing making their presence much more overt, and simultaneously helped lead to a significant decline in the German Völkisch Freedom Party’s overall public influence and support.
German Völkisch Freedom Party!
German men and women! German youth!
The spiritual, political, and economic misery of the German Volk is mounting. Moral depravity and a lack of patriotism are spreading at an appalling rate. Inflation is rising unbearably. Folk-comrades will have to die of starvation, German children will be forced to waste away, unless we ourselves are able to raise the money required to satisfy the insatiable greed of our enemies.1
This is the consequence of politics in an era which Fichte2 a century ago had already termed the Age of Complete Sinfulness, an age which seeks its fulfillment in us today. This is the consequence of politics ever since Bismarck’s dismissal. This is the consequence of the 9th of November, 1918. This is the impact of the Jewish spirit and of its Marxism, which have bankrupted the entire world. This is the consequence of an undignified Policy of Fulfillment, a policy through which we are being bled to death, through which we shall become a nation of slaves, and which has earned us only contempt and abuse from abroad. Whosoever adopts a servile disposition shall eventually himself end up a servant.
Salvation, however, is impossible so long as the situation remains as it is today! On the contrary: We would have to continue our hopeless downhill slide! While hardship grows; while we are treated so unfairly, as no negro-state is even treated; while German women are fair game for the black French;3 while all of this goes on, all the political parties tear one another apart in petty, obscene struggles and quarrels over the issues of the day and in disputes over ministerial posts! Every form of generosity and will to action is paralyzed. With speeches they give the pretense of being able to make us whole.
The German Volk have finally had enough!
Without the party-theoreticians being able or willing to see it amidst their petty quarrelling, a popular movement has emerged among the German Volk under the pressure of need, a movement which arose out of rage at being exploited by foreign races and from the revulsion caused by the squabbling of the parties, a movement which is growing like an avalanche:
The Völkisch Movement!
The völkisch movement knows no party barriers, knows no differences of class and estate; it seeks to gather together everyone who is willing to finally clear away this run-down party-economy, in order to at last attain genuine social reconciliation and freedom at home.
Millions of Germans have long recognized or felt that a downtrodden Volk can never, as the existing parties believe, be uplifted solely by economic methods. No! Against this mammonistic and materialistic worldview, which is ultimately responsible for our collapse, we consciously set our own idealistic worldview; the worldview of the young generation, the worldview of German youth, the worldview of the front-line veterans who, in facing death in their experience of war, in the true spirit of the Front and in a movement of the most innermost, deepest religion, have moved beyond the spirit of caste and the snobbery of status to find the Volksgemeinschaft. We need to undergo a völkisch and moral renewal, and with it the German Volk shall emerge stronger and purer from the blazing furnace of this present misery.
Only under these conditions can economic methods have any lasting value!
It has been widely assumed that our struggle applies only to the Jews. No! Our struggle is greater! The higher aims for which we struggle are positive, are völkisch! We intend to build upon the work of Fichte and Freiherr vom Stein!4 To do this, however, we must and will also break the rule of international Jewry, as well as the resistance of all internally-contaminated circles, and, last but not least, of those who lead the Volk astray by claiming to be völkisch, when in reality they are not!
The foundation of any restoration is the will to freedom, the will to power. With ruthless honesty we must extend the hand of mutual assistance to one another, regardless of differences, in order to attain the social Volksgemeinschaft! Everything petty, everything personal, must at last disappear. In spite of the resoluteness of our fundamental rejection of the party system, under today’s parliamentary constitution we can only fight and win if we organize ourselves along party lines. As things stand, we cannot afford to renounce this weapon.
The German future stands or falls with our victory!
(Preliminary version, to be definitively settled at the spring party conference, 1923.)
- Free from the dictate of Versailles!
- Free from fruitless parliamentarism!
- Free from the domination of the Jews and from stock-market capitalism!
- Free from the exploitation of labor!
- Free from Marxism and Bolshevism, from class struggle and caste spirit!
- Recovery through völkisch-moral renewal, as the precondition for economic restoration.
- Recovery through our own power. No treacherous, ignoble hoping for mercy from the enemy or from the “Golden International!”5
- Recovery through reconciliation in a true Volksgemeinschaft of all classes [Stände] and all professions.
- Recovery through the strengthening of national pride, the heroic spirit, and the will to freedom.
Therefore We Demand:
- A strong-willed government of order.
- Rejection of the Policy of Fulfillment6 with the firm will to face all of the consequences.
- Ruthless struggle against war guilt lies, land theft, and cultural outrages committed in the occupied territories.
- General compulsory military service as the privilege of ethnic Germans (those not eligible for military service, and those not subject to military service, to pay a military tax).
- The development of German Law and its liberation from alien influences.
- The cultivation of patriotic history and a deepening of the general understanding of Germanic culture.
- Legal protection against the public abuse of German folkdom and its traditions.
- The protection of Christianity, with respect for freedom of conscience. A German school and education for German youth!
- Recognition of the complete equality of all productive workers of brain and fist, with the fiercest struggle against class conceit.
- Protection for workers against workplace terror and wage-slavery. Struggle against all the excesses of big business.
- Development of a healthy settlement policy and the improvement of agricultural production.
- Expulsion of all racially alien peoples who have immigrated or who have been naturalized since 1st August, 1914, as well as the protection of all German universities from foreign infiltration.
- Laws for the maintenance of clan and family. Jews to be placed under special legislation for foreigners; German land and soil may not be acquired by Jews and agricultural property may not be leased by them.
- Revision of stock-exchange and financial legislation; a prohibition on the accumulation of unproductive and purely speculative capital. Legal measures against the hegemony of the big banks. Regulation of the monetary-system and credit-system, with particular consideration for the cooperative concept.
- Confiscation of profits gained through usury. Introduction of severe punishments, up to the death penalty, for profiteers, usurers, and other common exploiters of our Volk, irrespective of religious affiliation or race. Creation and preservation of an independent middle-class and healthy civil service. Traders to be protected against suppression and unfair competition from department stores. Preferential assignment of public tenders and works to the crafts and trades.
- Unification of the enclosed areas of German settlement into a single Greater Germany.
Long live the new völkisch Germany, the Germany of the future!
Close the ranks, join the “German Völkisch Freedom Party,” fight against all petty disputes, recruit and found local groups down to the last German village, join forces with those abroad.
Our Way is Struggle! Our Will is Freedom! Long live Freedom!
1. Under the strictures of the Versailles Peace Treaty, Germany was not just stripped of its overseas colonies and significant segments of its territory, it was also required to render payment to the Entente powers (through both currency and exports) totaling somewhere in the vicinity of 120 billion US dollars.
2. Johann Gottlieb Fichte (b.1762 – d.1814) was a German idealist philosopher who played an influential role in popularizing the concept of German nationalism. Fichte was very popular in völkisch circles, and the National Socialists in particular saw him as an early progenitor. Rohan Butler’s The Roots of National Socialism provides a clear idea as to why: “In Der geschlossene Handelsstaat, then, Fichte argued in favour of total national autarky, a planned economy, quota systems, concealed inflation, a blocked currency, state barter agreements, artificial production of substitute materials, intensive armament, living-space, forcible unresisted occupation of territory, complete economic co-ordination of such territory, transfer of populations, and cultivated nationalism. The words are different: Lebensraum and Gleichschaltung do not appear; it is as yet not ersatz but stellvertretend, not Einmarschierung but Occupationszug. But the ideas are the same. This embryonic German socialism is national-socialism.”
3. Towards the end of the Great War, the French began drawing upon its overseas colonies in its search for more manpower which could be deployed against the German armies. African soldiers (particularly Senegalese) were transported to Europe for this purpose; they continued to be stationed in the Rhineland after the War, which according to the Treaty of Versailles was to remain under Entente occupation (by France, Belgium, and Luxembourg) until 1934. The utilization of African troops as an occupation force was perceived as a deliberate humiliation by many Germans, not just those with völkisch inclinations, and was played upon quite extensively in nationalist propaganda.
4. Alongside Fichte, Baron vom Stein (b.1757 – d.1851) was another major influence upon the philosophical direction of the volkisch and National Socialist movements. A Prussian statesman and reformer, beginning in the early 1800s Stein initiated a major reform program throughout Prussia which included the introduction of limited representative self-government on a municipal level.
5. “The Golden International” – i.e. international capitalism, international finance, global plutocracy.
6. The “Policy of Fulfillment” (Erfüllungspolitik) was a policy advocating Germany do its best to fulfill the demands of the Treaty of Versailles, and to meet all its debts as well as it was able. It was believed that this would build trust, demonstrate the unfairness of the Treaty’s terms, and so put Germany on a better footing to renegotiate its post-War obligations. The Erfüllungspolitik was primarily advocated by liberal (center-right and center-left) politicians; it was very unpopular with most socialists and nationalists.
The preceding post before this one provided insight into the DVFP itself and its affiliated movement. Stefanie Schrader, from what I can tell, provided a fair analysis of the Völkisch movement and the DVFP for what they were. Even so, I refrained from posting too soon yesterday because I somehow intuited that there was going to be a follow up to that post. I turned out to be proven correct when I found this new post earlier today.
Coupled with some of your own comments at the end of the last post and everything here, I had been left with the impression that the Völkisch movement was a byproduct of specific historical patterns between the 18th and 19th centuries. We can tell that they represented a Populist undercurrent within the German-speaking world based on their motives and their unwillingness to provide coherent, consistent visions of a non-Liberal Capitalist Germany. The Populist tendencies are reflected in the manner in which they presented their opposition toward Secularism, Liberal Capitalism, Socialism (both Marxist and non-Marxist); abhorrence of the depopulation of the countryside and the industrialization of cities; disgust of widespread dependency on Kapital and Parliamentary Democracy; the rekindling of old Sectarian and continental rivalries; and the misguided desire to understand Life in organically abstract, terms.
It is precisely because that they were a Populist undercurrent that I have trouble believing they had far more in common with National Socialism, as some people are inclined to believe. Those who subscribe to this position are people who adhere to the notion that NS was not inherently Socialistic and offered the opportunity of returning to some romanticized vision of the past. From there, they referred to it as “fascism” (no relation to Italian Fascism or the Marxist definition of Liberal Capitalism in decay), perpetuating it as a smear like an Internet meme.
If you recall, my skepticism towards this perception of NS is predicated on the significance of the “Socialism” in National Socialism. Between your comments and Schrader’s analysis, I remain adamant about NS emerging as an entirely different political current from the broader Socialist and Communist movements of Marx and Engels’ day. It sought to reorient Pan-Germanism toward a Socialistic direction, similar to what Pan-Arabism would later attempt in the Middle East.
If we have concluded that NS is not directly related to the Völkisch movement, what else can we discern from the Völkisch movement and the DVFP? I can tell that the general patterns behind the Völkisch movement are not necessary German since their behavioral traits and psychology are a similar mindset comparable to contemporary Populism in this century. It is only when we try to understand the Völkisch movement from its original historical context that it became impossible to draw any meaningful parallels to the Populist fervor that we saw unfurl in 2010s.
The Völkisch movement, as a Populist undercurrent, was reacting to the changing conditions in the German-speaking world between the 19th and early 20th centuries. They lamented the depopulation of the countryside for the industrialization of the cities, a factor which influenced their inclinations toward a return to nature and their favoring of a vitalist, organicist Weltanschauung. Their resentment toward Kapital and Parliamentarianism are both indicative of why people abandoned their rural communities and why nobody in the Reichstag had any solutions. It also accounts for why the DVFP lacked a formal party program, did everything to cause disruptions (without playing along like the NSDAP or overthrowing like the Spartacists had tried), and especially why the NSDAP deliberately ignored them as they gained more political power.
Where I find the Völkisch movement and DVFP as having similarities with today’s Populist movements around the world are their astounding lack of realistic proposals and a coherent political-economic vision. In both cases, we find a lot of disgruntled people who feel “left behind” and “socially alienated” and neither the Liberal Capitalists nor Conservatives and Social Democrats appeal to them. They find their futures to be so bleak that the nostalgic longing for a romanticized past is what keeps them going. And they are willing to align with anyone that appeals to them and their ideals, even if said ‘anyone’ happens to be demagogue who will say anything to earn their votes in an upcoming election.
As for the lack of political-economic proposals and a coherent vision, I can point to various contemporary examples as parallels to the Völkisch movement and DVFP. The key characteristic is their shared tendency to perceive the world in abstract terms as a Cartesian Subject, to view everything as being nothing more than the sum of their parts. Never did I encounter either the Völkisch movement or today’s Populist movements as demonstrating the willingness to perceive the world as a Totality (in the Socialistic sense) that is far greater than the sum of their parts. For the sake of brevity, allow me to provide an American example.
There are “Left-Wing Populists” who will agitate for the adoption of Scandinavian-style Social Democracy. They want all the social benefits of paid healthcare, education, maternity leave and workers’ codetermination without realizing that the so-called ‘Nordic Model’ was sustained by Crude Oil and Petroleum exports under the trade policies of centralized governments. They also fail to account for the Federal budgetary and trading deficits that render an Americanized Nordic Model impractical by Federal Socialist standards. When asked where they will find the Kapital to finance such endeavors, their options were Taxation, Debt Monetization, Quantitative Easing and Budget Cuts.
Conversely, there are “Right-Wing Populists” who will agitate for the adoption of Asian-style Economic Nationalism. They want the social benefits of low taxes, export-driven trade policies and less dependency on social welfare without realizing that a centralized government made those policies a reality throughout Asia. They also fail to account that the Federal budgetary and trading deficits of an import-driven economy are too impractical by Federal Socialist standards. When asked where they will find the Kapital to finance such endeavors, their options were also Taxation, Debt Monetization, Quantitative Easing and Budget Cuts.
Going by those American examples and what I know about the DVFP and the Völkisch movement, I am not surprised as to why the DVFP later waned and ceased to exist entirely. Every Populist surge eventually dissipates as quickly as it had appeared because there was no formal consensus, let alone a vision, on political-economic policies. Although makes sense for me to arrive at this conclusion, it remains to be seen whether there are other historical parallels to today’s political-economic climate.
I agree with this, but I don’t think it’s accurate at all to state that National Socialism had no direct relationship to the völkisch movement. The National Socialists had a complex attitude towards völkisch organizations in both past and present, because they rejected their tactical methods and their conservative social positioning, but they still openly acknowledged that the basic NS Weltanschauung rested on völkisch foundations, even if there were other influences (primarily Social-Democracy and the Kathedersozialisten). Organized Pan-Germanism in both Germany and Austria (i.e. the Alldeutscher Verband) was heavily tied to völkisch ideology, and the Schönerian Pan-Germans were acknowledged by National Socialists as a direct inspiration. In the final chapter of Jung’s Der nationale Sozialismus, for example, he explains why the movement called itself ‘National Socialist’ and states that the word ‘National’ is essentially just a politically expedient synonym for ‘völkisch’:
The oldest National Socialist item I own (a 1909 pamphlet by DAP union activist Ferdinand Ertl) states on the cover that it deals with the “question of the political and trade-unionist organization of the deutschvölkischen workers and employees.” Hitler in Mein Kampf talked about constructing the “völkisch state.” There’s loads of other examples of prominent usage of the term. The fact that the NSDAP (or a significant segment of the party) was actually willing to closely ally themselves with the DVFP in 1924, and then to try and organize a total merger of both parties, also suggests a confluence of worldviews in some major areas, even if the whole process eventually fell through.
I think the issue is more that the DVFP wasn’t National Socialist, or wasn’t entirely National Socialist – it just had a National Socialist wing (around Reventlow et al.), because as a broad front völkisch party it was trying to incorporate the entire breadth of a very diverse and vaguely-defined movement into its party-structure, and NS at the beginning of the 20th century had emerged as one segment of that diverse movement. When its NS wing left the party in 1927, the DVFP continued on without it (albeit crippled).
But because the DVFP did have that wing for a while, there was lots of interesting overlap. I’ve seen at least two articles in DVFP newspapers which urge readers to acquire Feder’s The German State on a National and Socialist Foundation in order to familiarize themselves with the DVFP’s basic worldview. Or there’s this caricature of “Soviet Jew Karl Radek” from a DVFP paper in the early ’20s, which urges: “Folk-comrades, fight with us for völkisch-socialism in the German Völkisch Freedom Movement.” I agree with you that the DVFP wasn’t a true National Socialist party (it was too rooted in the past, too lacking in dynamism, too lacking in radicalism, too oriented towards the bourgeois middle-class, too reluctant to pursue working-class support, too scared of pursuing really radical economic reforms, etc.). But it had far more in common with the NSDAP than it did any other major party.
I probably should clarify by what I meant about my skepticism toward the Völkisch movement. My original comment was written on short notice and I did not have enough time this week to go back and make sure my logic was coherent and consistent enough as usual. Since I somehow forget to include two whole paragraphs where I stated National Socialism did have historical ties to the Völkisch movement and yet disagreed on certain points, I must apologize for not pointing that out to you sooner. I rewrote my original comment at least twice until I finally settled with the one that I had sent you earlier this week.
Anyway, I am aware that the “Nationalism” in National Socialism does have Völkisch influences. The evidence you presented supports this conclusion, and it is also discernible in NS advocacy of Pan-Germanism. And it is true that NS and the Völkischen upheld a Völkisch worldview.
Furthermore, we both agreed there is enough historical evidence to argue that there is also an historical connection between the “Socialist” half of National Socialism and the broader Socialist and Communist movements in the German-speaking world since the days of Marx and Engels.
Where I had the most trouble (and why I chose to omit two paragraphs) is the idea that this “Nationalism” in NS was directly influenced by the Völkisch movement since NS deviates from it by adopting a different interpretation of the same Völkisch ideology. Yes, I do agree that NS retained its Völkisch characteristics, but the real difference here is a matter of how NS interprets it. The National Socialists sought to apply a Socialistic interpretation of Völkisch ideology, which ran counter to the interpretation of the Völkisch movement. There were too many striking differences in interpretation by the broader Völkisch movement that the only way the DVFP and the NSDAP could be briefly aligned was because of the DVFP’s pro-NS wing. Only then can there be some form of alignment.
We can argue that the same phenomenon is occurring within the “Socialism” in NS as well. Just as we cannot claim that NS has no Völkisch influences (which we both know is illogical, since the historical record is adamant about NS being Völkisch), we also cannot claim that NS has Marxist influences because its interpretation of Socialism deviates heavily from conventional Marxist Theory.
In retrospect, the Völkisch movement did not support a Socialistic interpretation of their ideology, just as the Socialist and Communist movements refused to support a Nationalistic interpretation of Socialism. It is tenable to conclude that National Socialism is its own ideology rather than simply being a derivative of either or both. We are dealing with an ideology that tried to take two vastly distinct ideologies and tried to create an entirely new ideology with its own philosophical and theoretical basis.
Those were the conclusions from the two paragraphs which I had forgotten to include in my original comment. Again, if I had more time this week, I would have included them.
All good 🙂 Very interesting topic either way. I’ll put some more DVFP material up at some point, it’s an interesting exercise comparing it against National Socialist writing.
PS: Revisiting this particular ARPLAN post, I thought I should address that the post itself proved helpful in understanding the significance behind the “Nationalism” in National Socialism within my own research. I spent the past several days reinterpreting my perceptions of NS as “Völkisch Socialism” or more accurately “Pan-Germanic Socialism.” The latter best describes it in the English language, since the spiritual, cultural, ontological and traditionalist traits behind the term ‘Völkisch’ are always lost in any translation of it. Even so, there was a great deal of difference when it came to comparing and contrasting the various instances outside the German-speaking world where there are signs of a coalescence between Nationalism and Socialism within a nation-state.
Political scientists are aware of the possibility that Socialism can coexist with and even develop Nationalistic characteristics. It can arise under Marxist interpretations of Socialism, as evidenced in the cases of the Soviet Union, PRC and DPRK, but not as much as in non-Marxist Socialisms. The real problem arises when political scientists must investigate why such tendencies tend to occur despite there being no direct ideological connection to NS.
Take the ideological division between the CPC of Mainland China and the Kuomintang of Taiwan for instance. We know that the CPC has been adopting an increasingly Nationalistic orientation to their interpretation of Socialism, which I have written off as an emerging example of National Bolshevism since the Nationalistic tendencies are manifesting within the framework of Marxism-Leninism. What is not well-known or perhaps not well-understood is that the Kuomintang, a century earlier, also tried implementing a “Chinese Socialism.” The Chinese statesman Sun Yat-sen was known for his conceptualization of the Kuomintang’s “Three Principles,” Mínzú (Nationalism), Mínquán (Democracy), and Mínshēng (Social Welfare/Chinese Socialism). The third Principle was never fully elaborated by Sun because he passed away before he had the chance to specify its true meaning. Even today, there is still this division over whether the third Principle meant “Chinese Socialism” or “Social Welfare.” The Kuomintang since Chiang Kai-Shek have interpreted it as Social Welfare whereas those sympathetic to the CPC interpreted it as “Chinese Socialism.”
There is a familiar trend that can be discerned from the Chinese example, which I am convinced is applicable to the Pan-Germanist one discussed here. Part of it has to do with whether the Nationalistic and Socialistic tendencies are capable of coexisting in mutual harmony as an Hegelian synthesis rather than being in absolute opposition to each other. That was the crux of our original discussions on the DVFP. However, another part has to do with whether true Nationalism should be promoting Social Welfare or Socialism. Those who chose Socialism over Social Welfare bear a much closer resemblance to the general ideas surrounding NS and are less likely to tolerate any subversion of Nationalists by Liberal Capitalism. Put another way, it has always been the question of whether Socialism will contribute to the flourishing of the nation-state as a Totality by offering an entirely different political-economic paradigm that is practical enough to negate the need for the Social Welfare programs of Liberal Capitalism.
The point I am trying to make here, Bogumil, is that our earlier conclusions about NS relying on a delicate balance of Nationalism and Socialism has another justification that we did not consider at first. On the one hand, we have the Nationalistic tendency devoting itself to the promotion of the culture, tradition, social customs and norms, and ancestral heritage of the nation-state. And on the other, we have the Socialistic tendency being committed to their expression and realization through actual Socialization. The result is a higher sense of awareness of the Self and their surroundings as being part of a Totality that is far greater than the sum of its parts. When in practice, it is tenable for us to argue that this balance of Nationalism and Socialism is pivotal in providing an actual political-economic alternative to Liberal Capitalism.
The implications here are worthy of further analysis that should be investigated on my Blog. People need to know about why Nationalism and Socialism tend to naturally coalesce, independent of whether NS commands any political-economic power or not. It does not necessarily have to veer into discussions of NS because, if my conclusions here are anything to go by, they are applicable to any nation-states practicing or have practiced some actual form of Socialism.