A 1926 defense of women’s role in political life, by Austrian National Socialist activist Rita Marholz
On 25 November 1920, in a speech before the Czechoslovakian parliament, German National Socialist Workers’ Party (Deutsche Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei, DNSAP) deputy Rudolf Jung declared, in response to an accusation of sexist conduct from a political opponent: “I would therefore like to explicitly state here that it was in no way my intention, as is evident from the full meaning of my speech, to insult women in general or any of the women here, or to suggest that I do not consider them to be equal. On the contrary. The turn of phrase which I chose was intended to give credit to the lady who spoke before me, not so much as a woman, but as an orator…. This should be self-evident to anyone who knows my party’s position on the question of women.” The “party position” Jung was referring to was section (h)2. of the DNSAP programme, which explicitly demanded “legal and political equality for women and further advancement of the Marriage Law.” This position set the DNSAP somewhat apart from its younger ‘brother-party’ (the NSDAP) across the border in Munich, whose programme offered no real stance on women’s issues beyond a mention of health care for mothers, and whose political culture was more overtly militant, masculine, and ‘conservative’ in nature; although the official position of the NSDAP on women was somewhat more complex than it is often given credit for, it was undeniably less progressive in regards to the ‘Frauenfrage’ (‘woman question’) than the older National Socialist parties in Austria and the Sudetenland. The original German Workers’ Party in Austria (Deutschen Arbeiterpartei in Österreich, DAPÖ), out of which the DNSAP had been reorganized following the end of the First World War, had featured women activists among its ranks from its first beginnings in 1904, and the DNSAP regularly ran women members as candidates in elections after the introduction of women’s suffrage in 1918, with a number even going on to win and to represent the party in municipal and provincial councils. This aspect of the DNSAP’s organizational culture was one of several challenged by the ascent of Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP in the early 1920s, particularly after the older National Socialist parties in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland officially acknowledged Hitler as the supreme Führer of the NS movement in 1922 and subsequently came under increasing pressure to accept political directives issued from the more ‘rightist’ Hitler-party in Munich. The article translated below, written by activist Rita Marholz in 1926 and published in the Deutsche Arbeiter-Presse (the central party-organ of the Austrian DNSAP), presents a favorable perspective on the idea of women as National Socialist political activists. Marholz’s article can be seen as a defense of the more ‘traditional’ National Socialist perspective towards women – characterized by support for female equality and for women’s untrammeled participation in political life – in the face of the challenge posed by rising conservative elements among the movement. It is notable also for its ‘pro-worker’ language, such as its positive references to “proletarians” and to Social-Democratic politicians, a not uncommon characteristic of DNSAP publications.
Woman as National Socialist
By Rita Marholz
First published 2 October, 19261 in DNSAP newspaper
Deutsche Arbeiter-Presse vol. 18, no.36
Women in political life! It sounds new, and yet it really isn’t. Only the historically illiterate or disinterested person who reads nothing and who never thinks holds the view that such a thing in our day would be an innovation. Even if women were not always in the foreground of political events, they have nonetheless often had considerable direct and indirect influence upon leading minds in politics, upon statesmen, kings, and high-ranking military officials. From the Greek Aspasia and the Byzantine Empresses, to the great English Queen and the Russian Tsarinas; from the mighty Marquise Pompadour and the Prussian Queen who went to plead with the Corsican conqueror for the oppressed Fatherland, to the national and municipal councilwomen of today; the one and the same path leads to the same exact goal: the exercise of political power, political influence, and political ambition. Yet motives were just as varied as methods and fields of activity. Elizabeth of England reigned as a true regent, borne along in all constitutional decisions by the spirit of her father, Henry VIII – i.e. by an audaciously masculine spirit – while the scepter of Catherine de’ Medici was guided by cruelty and bloodlust, especially towards her principal enemies, the Huguenots. Maria Theresa governed, which means she established reforms, waged wars with her royal neighbor, and involved herself in all of the important affairs of state alongside her chancellor and councillors. The Tsarina forged alliances; Queen Louise stood at the head of the German war party, wishing to see Prussia’s freedom secured by defending it with the sword. The refined but scheming spirit of the Pompadour wove the threads of French politics, though not for the benefit of the Bourbons and the French Volk, and it remains open to discussion how great her indirect share in the ensuing atrocities of the Revolution may have been, for as the mistress of the royal libertine she dominated him in the most unfavorable manner, both personally and politically; moreover, she squandered a great deal of money on her external people. Countess Dubarry, the “best friend” of Louis XV, unfortunately arrived too late… By contrast, the influence of the noble hetaira2 Aspasia on that renowned statesman of ancient Greece, Pericles, was the most advantageous imaginable. Thaïs, the lover of Alexander of Macedonia, appears to have influenced him in a heroic fashion. Antiquity recognizes both these female figures as heroines of the spirit, appropriate to the greatness of the ancient world. All of these women, as with men, practiced politics from different perspectives, dependent upon the circumstances necessitated by their country at the time. But for many, personal vanity and the pursuit of power played the greatest part in the influence which they enjoyed in political life, particularly when it came to imposing their opinions upon an influential statesman or king. Whether consort or courtesan – feminine beauty and devilry triumphed in particular cases, often enough to the ruin of a nation, a royal family, an individual man, etc. Empress Eugenie of France and Carlota of Mexico constitute striking world-historical examples of what one should not do in politics, in order not to invoke catastrophes of monstrous proportions. – A thirst for power and excessive ambition, these evil mainsprings of their actions led to a bitter end, including for themselves.
Women, mostly aristocrats and famous mistresses, thus traditionally served the politics of a thankfully vanquished feudal period under their own initiative, pursuing more or less self-serving, personal ends. True, women of yesteryear did furnish evidence that they also knew how to die for a great idea, for a conviction: like Charlotte Corday and Madame Roland during the period of the Reign of Terror, who both calmly made their way to the scaffold; like Leonore Prohaska, who during the Wars of Liberation stood and fell as a regimental drummer in the Prussian army; along with many others. But women in the past rarely worked in service of a political entity, of a specific party ideal, for social demands, or for a solution to the labor question. The struggle for the intellectual liberation of their fellow women3 also seems to have caused them scant concern. The time was not yet ripe for that. Today things no longer really depend upon what influence a beautiful and clever noblewoman exercises in affairs of state upon a more or less feebleminded prince, which ministers she bullies, and so on; we also do not require any grandes dames who “make policy” in their salons, who help shape contemporary history after their own fashion – because we no longer wish to accept feudal states anymore. Today the workers’ state4 predominates, workers’ representatives have to lead discussion, and the women among the Volk have to sit in the men’s Council5 and advocate for the rights of the people, above all for those of women. Only those who have gazed into the depths of the lower strata can unlock the same heights, can help to cultivate the soil for its future development.
Within the political party-organization, the modern woman has a field of action which is fundamentally different from the “activity” of her predecessors in the imperial period. Mass misery and economic decline allocate her a field of work in parliament and in the community which extends to the entire folkdom, and which necessitates the entire individual. And here the woman always has a place within a party group, no matter which tendencies dwell within it and irrespective of the prophecies of doom emanating from sundry slow-witted, out-of-date philistines, for whom the old routine has always been a better fit than the acquisition of new spiritual values.
It is clear that not every female has the capacity for organizational activity in matters of politics, but neither does every man. (Just look at our National Councilors!) At any rate, women within the bosom of a party are definitely of value as members by dint of their more strongly pronounced sense of family, their conscientiousness, and their devotion to duty. If woman finds the support for her natural need for love and affection within the circle of the family, so does she often constitute such herself within her chosen party, being much more “party-loyal” than men because, by virtue of her greater altruism and willingness to make sacrifices for party ideals, she prefers to push her own interests into the background. Men, particularly professional politicians, are usually significantly lacking in this actually essential idealism, and many outspoken egoists do not even consider genuinely thinking about the welfare of the people, but instead deem it most important to guide things to wherever the best material advantage beckons; “the rest” should scramble for everything else. Such demagogy has not yet taken ahold of women so generally.
The woman as political organizer should, as mentioned, come from the Volk itself, should be a proletarian, for these recognize best what the worker needs; she represents the interests of proletarian women more thoroughly than anyone, because through her own experience she understands the suffering and the joys – however small – of the same. That is just the way things are. It is difficult for us to imagine a world without artists, scholars, and thinkers – but what would things be like if nobody wished any more to be a farmer, industrial laborer, or civil servant? The most important pillars of a state structure are thus these three categories of producer, and hence the foremost social demand is the inclusion of the working-class, the civil service, and the peasantry within parliamentary representative bodies, within the association of a party, etc. These are hard times, imbued with the republican spirit, so questions of higher cultural assets, the ideal values of mankind, are only of secondary consideration. The social question continues to be the focal point of all political considerations; this is why women must also learn to think objectively and contemporarily, why they have to study political economy, and why instead of reading Courths-Mahler and Bettauer’s Weekly,6 it would be better for them to peruse the leading articles of the party papers, above all of the völkisch newspapers, in order to acquire an overview of the awakened national uprising, to gain an insight into what the “freedom movement” is all about. A political revolution must not remain a closed book to women; the proletarian woman has demonstrated a better understanding of this than the bourgeois, which is why as a rule she is a loyal party member. Strenuous daily work and family troubles rarely prevent her from opening up the newspaper and informing herself about all of the events occurring both within and outside of her party membership. Or she attends evening meetings; in short, she takes an interest in the fate not only of her male and female class-comrades,7 but of all peoples [Völker]. If she works in the factories herself, not as a human machine but as a thinking individual, then she is by no means denied political advancement, something fully evident in the figure of Julie Rauscha,8 who went from a munitions worker to an elected representative within her party without any demagogy, purely through personal commitment and positive work. And that was a woman from the lowest classes – a prole [eine Proletin]! She never graduated from a secondary school for girls, and never studied at university.
And what of bourgeois woman? In spite of the economic depression, she still lives in quite “reasonably good circumstances” and does not “necessarily” concern herself intensively with domestic policy and foreign policy, nor does she necessarily end up engaging as an active member within a party body, ready to shoulder anything possible in the interests of the common good or to fight for something which she does not need herself. Bourgeois minds are still frequently haunted by the notion that only the oppressed who are compelled to lead the struggle against capitalism, the professional politician, and the journalist, have to bother themselves with those things which affect the well-fed bourgeois so very little. And just as bourgeois man often enough lives in complete political ignorance – not to mention stupidity – he likewise does not expect any better from the women around him. Calmly he allows her to go to 5 o’clock tea, to attend gossip sessions, to extensively groom her fingernails. If such ladies do join a political party, then they at most wish to make themselves important, to parade their personas, while they are otherwise indifferent. Where is these people’s modernity?
The worker knows better how to educate his wife. After all, while there may also be women from the bourgeoisie who are suitable for organizations and trade-unions, and for the relevant work of such, very few are – for a variety of reasons – predestined for this. Additional observations: The spinster of yore, that ludicrous figure, has happily been swept away by a new era; the unedifying figure of the “bluestocking” has also disappeared; and the housewife, whose circle of interests do not extend beyond her preserving jars, also finds herself more or less on the verge of extinction – in return we have been afforded the provocative appearance of old and young fashionistas, who make the public uneasy with their Parisian-style tutus and painted lips, and whose intellectual disposition nobody understands. They likely never read the economics section of their newspapers, though they certainly do read the social scandals and love affairs with the greatest attention. One does not get an impression of absurdity from them, but rather of narrow-mindedness and superficiality. These are also not suited for political activity. One can safely say that for this variant of feminine beings the genuinely bourgeois-reactionary, essentially prosaic view that woman is most alluring when she is walking about made-up and powdered, consistently well-dressed, still holds true. As though one had nothing else to worry about today! But worries these clothes-horses do not have, so it is therefore quite a good thing if they stay away from an area which in any case they not understand.
It is indeed true: With today’s economic hardships, the issue in the main revolves around the matter of how workers, producers, can ultimately be raised to their feet again; a workers’ party in particular has the duty above all of bringing enlightenment to the worker in every respect – but does this mean that those who are better-situated, who have no direct experience of the misery of our times, must stand aside? Does not the more affluent woman also have the responsibility of joining the fight, she who has many hours to spare and sufficient material resources at her disposal? It must always be the ‘Volk’!9 The field of political activity lies open to all women if they understand how to surmount outdated, vulgar prejudices; this naturally also includes those who contribute their talent and their love for the cause. It is in the interests of their own sex and of its intellectual progress to expand their social influence, to get as close as possible to political events. Where superior intellect and logic do not suffice, they will certainly be aided by their innate sense of compassion and kindness, two characteristics which undoubtedly place them ahead of their male counterparts. From this perspective, any woman who keeps pace with the times can be active in a political party – the proletarian as much as the university professor, the married woman as much as the bachelorette. What the philistine says and thinks about the battle of wills is immaterial. The most essential thing is the further development of the state, the defeat of advancing materialism, and the salvation of intellectual and manual workers from the dreadful impoverishment of the post-War period. Woman must also play her part in this, so that one day it can be said of her that she is indispensable in political life, not that she has “no place in politics.” She should give cause for evidence to be raised against this latter assertion. She can do this best through positive participation in the public sphere as a loyal, upright party-comrade, as an active, supportive woman and campaigner [Kämpferin].
1. 1926 was a year of particular internal turmoil for the National Socialist movement in Austria, with the background of these events being important to understanding the full context behind this article. At the 4th “Inter-State Representatives’ Congress of the National Socialists of Greater Germany” in Vienna in 1922, delegates from the National Socialist parties of Austria, Poland, and Czechoslovakia had formally recognized the leadership of Adolf Hitler over the National Socialist movement, an open acknowledgement of the fact that the NSDAP (the youngest of the various National Socialist parties) had grown rapidly over the short period of its existence into the largest and most dynamic party and that this was largely the result of Hitler’s political talents. Hitler’s ascendancy precipitated a split within the Austrian party the following year, when Hitler and the NSDAP delegates placed pressure on the Austrian DNSAP at the 5th “Inter-State Congress” in Salzburg to abandon its plans to compete in the upcoming national elections in favour of the NSDAP’s preferred approach of waging violent revolution. Dr. Walter Riehl, chairman of the Austrian DNSAP, was strongly opposed to this decision (“Bavarian tactics of an extra-parliamentary struggle are not applicable to Austria”) and resigned his party chairmanship in protest; he was expelled from the party not long after, and took his followers with him to found a small, competing group. His replacement as party chairman was Karl Schulz, a skilled workman in the postal industry with an extensive trade-union background, but Schulz was ironically even more left-leaning than Riehl had been, and after the failure of Hitler’s Bürgerbräukeller Putsch Schulz re-committed the Austrian party to its earlier focus on parliamentarism and labor activism.
Schulz’s leadership decisions proved unpopular with the younger, more radical members of the Austrian party, particularly those organized in the Vaterländische Schutzbund (the Austrian equivalent of the SA), and they became increasingly vocal in their criticisms of the party bureaucracy. Contributing to this growing instability were the party’s various financial problems, particularly accusations of maladministration and improper behavior surrounding the Deutsche Arbeiter-Presse. By 4 May, 1926 issues came to a head, and the more radical-revolutionary faction left the DNSAP to found their own group: the “National Socialist German Workers’ Association – Hitler-Movement” (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterverein – Hitlerbewegung, NSDAV-HB). Both the DNSAP and the NSDAV-HB claimed to be loyal followers of Adolf Hitler, but the latter of the two groups was far more deferential in nature, completely subordinating itself to Hitler’s leadership decisions and abandoning the DNSAP’s approach of trying to negotiate with Hitler as equals; it was this group which (unsurprisingly) Hitler came to favour as the “legitimate” representative of National Socialism in Austria. Following the split, the staff of the Deutsche Arbeiter-Presse decided to remain loyal to the Schulz faction, maintaining the paper’s role as the official newspaper of the Austrian DNSAP. Marholz’s article was thus published during a period of a major rupture within the Austrian National Socialist movement, and can be seen as a restatement of the pre-Hitlerian National Socialist perspective towards the “woman question” in the wake of this event. The fact that her article appeared in October 1926 in a special edition of the paper devoted to ideological issues (“The Tasks of the National Revolution”) is probably significant – this was the same month in which the DNSAP would later hold a party convention focused on redefining its political principles in the wake of the split.
3. “Fellow women” – The word used in the original German is “Geschlechtsgenossinnen.” A direct translation of the term would be something like “female gender-comrades,” or “counterparts/allies of the same (female) sex.”
4. The use of the phrase “workers’ state” (“der Arbeiterstaat”) here is interesting. Universal male suffrage was introduced in Austria in 1907, and women were granted the vote in 1918. The Austrian National Socialists would have seen the capacity of workers (both white-collar and blue-collar) to directly participate in government via elected representatives as evidence for the fact that the concept of the “workers’ state” was ascendant – at least in principle, if not entirely in fact. This attitude was partly attributable to the influence of National Socialism’s ideological roots: the movement had originally evolved out of a confluence of Austria’s social-democratic, radical-democratic, and Pan-German (i.e. Schönerian) movements. Partly also it could be traced to more recent developments in National Socialist theory, which reaffirmed National Socialism as a class movement and defined the class concept in terms of productive workers (whether manual or intellectual) vs. exploiters, as per the following resolution passed at a Czechoslovakian DNSAP conference in Troppau in 1920:
In economic life there are only two major groups, which stand in opposition to one another – the one, which performs productive work; and the other, which receives unearned income. The German National Socialist Party declares, “that it commits itself to the class standpoint of productive labor.” It is, therefore, a class party. In its view, however, the concept of “class” does not encompass some narrowly-defined occupational category, such as physical and intellectual workers alone; instead “workers” are, according to its conception, all those who live from the earnings of their own honest – intellectual or physical – labor, in other words, the entire mass of the economically vulnerable among our Volk.
5. “Men’s Council” – In German, “Männerrat.” A slightly derogatory reference to the two houses of the Austrian parliament (the Nationalrat and Bundesrat, National Council and Federal Council), as well as to the fact that women had only recently gained the right to vote and to run for elected office (in 1918).
6. Hedwig Courths-Mahler (b.1867 – d.1950) was a widely-read and very prolific author of popular romance novels, the Danielle Steele or Nora Roberts of her era (at least in German-language markets). “Bettauer’s Weekly” (“Bettauers Wochenschrift”) was a popular liberal newspaper committed to the promotion of ultra-progressive social causes (abortion and divorce reform, the decriminalization of homosexuality, sexual libertinism, etc.) and to publishing titillating ‘erotic’ material; it had a direct precursor in the 1924 publication “He and She: Weekly Magazine for Lifestyle and Eroticism” (“Er und Sie: Wochenschrift für Lebenskultur und Erotik”), which had been targeted under obscenity laws before being closed down. Both publications were founded by Hugo Bettauer (b.1872 – d.1925), a highly controversial Jewish-Austrian author and journalist most famous today for his 1922 novel “The City Without Jews” (“Die Stadt ohne Juden”), the plot of which involves the Jews being forced from Vienna by the government and the city going into rapid decline as a result. Bettauer was assassinated in 1925 by Otto Rothstock (b.1904 – d.1990), a young unemployed dental assistant and former National Socialist. Rothstock was defended at subsequent trials by Walter Riehl, who in addition to being the ex-chairman of the DNSAP was a practicing lawyer. Riehl managed to get Rothstock acquitted of the murder by reason of insanity, with Rothstock’s punishment consisting of commitment to a psychiatric facility; he was released after 18 months.
8. Julie Rauscha (b.1878 – d.1926) was a politician for Austria’s Social-Democratic Workers’ Party (Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei, SDAP). A former factory worker who helped manufacture munitions during the First World War, Rauscha first ran for office in 1918, and was elected to the Constituent National Assembly (the precursor to the National Council) in 1919. Although the Austrian, Polish, and Czechoslovakian (Sudeten) National Socialists were as averse to theoretical Marxism as were the members of the Bavarian NSDAP, National Socialism’s roots in the trade-union movement and its adherents’ continued involvement in labor activism resulted in sympathetic attitudes towards the reformist wing of Social-Democracy, attitudes which are occasionally evident in their writings and public statements. In 1908, for example, Walter Riehl had expressed a hope that the revisionist elements within Social-Democracy would lead to its evolution “into a mighty National Socialist Party that will succeed, by attracting non-proletarian classes, in realizing our common ideals,” and as late as 1926 the DNSAP in Czechoslovakia was exhorting the ethnic-German Social-Democrats there to “come to their senses” and to join the DNSAP in a common political front.
9. “It must always be the ‘Volk’!” – The suggestion here seems to be that, in spite of the reservations expressed earlier in the article about bourgeois women, the Volk as a whole (regardless of class or background) must still be incorporated into party-life and activism wherever possible, for the Volk as a whole were the focus of that activism.