Gregor Strasser’s ‘Thoughts About the Tasks of the Future’

Gregor Strasser’s article of June 15, 1926, outlining his thoughts on culture, socialism, and the state

Hochbahn_unterm_Hakenkreuz

My original plan for the remainder of this month was to continue with the ‘Visions of National Socialist Democracy’ series, as well as to post a historical excerpt about the revolutionary peasant movement of Weimar Germany – the  Landvolkbewegung. Unfortunately, however, life has got in the way; between personal commitments and completing the Paetel translation, I’m not sure I’ll have the time for that content until June. Rather than leave the site dead for the remaining two weeks or so while I finish work on the National Bolshevist Manifesto, I decided instead to post something that I already had lying around – the following article by Gregor Strasser, first published in 1926. Thoughts About the Tasks of the Future may not be new to some people, as bits and pieces of it have been floating around parts of the internet for a while, although usually in an unsatisfactory form (one website I saw hosted a good chunk of the essay, though had bizarrely replaced every instance of the word ‘socialism’ with ‘corporatism’). It is most famous for the “We are socialists, we are enemies, mortal enemies, of the present capitalist economic system” quote, which frequently appears online in center-right/boomer memes, usually misattributed to Hitler, and almost always employed as a rhetorical weapon to ‘prove’ that the liberal left are equivalent to National Socialists. The article is a lot more than that quote, obviously – written by Strasser on his sickbed (he had been in a serious car accident in early March, making him bedridden for months) not long after the failure at Bamberg, it was intended to serve as a comprehensive statement of his personal beliefs. Some of the opinions or policies Strasser supports in this article would shift by the early ’30s, but for the most part it remains a valuable insight into his general worldview – both his anti-materialist sentiments and his Prussian-inspired view of man’s relationship with the state would, for instance, essentially remain unchanged until his death.  

Lying on a sickbed for a few weeks and months does have its good side. So much that in the trivialities of everyday life does not get a hearing now has the chance to rise slowly from the unconscious to the conscious mind where it is tested and is winged by imagination, so that it acquires form and gains life. In general, people often make the mistake of assuming that practical action – the incessant preoccupation with daily necessities – is not founded in the mind. They therefore like to set up an invidious comparison between the thinker and the doer! It is true that the currents of the mind and the soul do not become conscious when one is resolutely grappling with the tasks of the day and trying, by freshly setting to work, to solve all questions in a practical way!

So it is comfort ever now and then to have the leisure to look beyond the tasks of the day and of the near future and to plumb the depths of the questions toward whose solution we are resolutely dedicating our life’s work. When would this be better than during the many lonely hours of the sickbed, when the hands of the clock seem to stand still and the night never to end – until it becomes finally, finally morning again! This new dawn, the fact that again and again dawn comes, is the deep consolation, is the blessed certainty which makes the night of the present bearable for us – and even if the hours, years, never seem to end – the dawn does come, my friends, and the sun comes, the light!

Such thoughts of the lonely nights, thoughts about the National Socialist tasks of the future – I will briefly survey them here – such thoughts have surely occurred to most of our friends in similar hours and in a similar way – thoughts which at the moment are not yet the subject of our work, but whose undercurrents are flowing, whose blood runs through our work.

I. The Spirit of the Economy

We are Socialists, we are enemies, mortal enemies of the present capitalist economic system with its exploitation of the economically weak, with its injustice in wages, with its immoral evaluation of individuals according to wealth and money instead of responsibility and achievement, and we are determined under all circumstances to abolish this system! And with my inclination to practical action it seems obvious to me that we have to put a better, more just, more moral system in its place, one which, as it were, has arms and legs and better arms and legs than the present one!

Continue reading

The Verona Manifesto of the Salò Republic

The 18-point programme of the Fascist Republican Party, drafted by Benito Mussolini and Nicola Bombacci in November 1943 for use in the new Italian Social Republic

The story of the Italian Social Republic – more frequently referred to as the Salò Republic after the location of its seat of government – is fairly well-known, being the product of Mussolini’s dismissal from office, arrest, and eventual rescue by German commandos.  Formally established in northern Italy on September 23rd, 1943, the Salò Republic is commonly regarded as a puppet regime, and this cannot be denied – SS men were a constant presence around the Republic’s leaders, and SS General Karl Wolff remarked later in life: “I did not give him [Mussolini] orders… but in practice he could not decide anything against my will and my advice.” Yet despite this, or perhaps because of it, Mussolini still brimmed with inspiration. He had grown increasingly embittered towards the aristocracy and bourgeoisie as the War progressed; the misfortune of his dismissal by the King acted as a copestone to these feelings. He saw in the new regime an opportunity of returning fascism and Italy to its national-syndicalist roots, and expressed these sentiments in prodigious numbers of essays and articles, as well as in the ‘Verona Manifesto’ reproduced below. The Manifesto was the founding document of the new regime’s ruling Fascist Republican Party; co-drafted with Nicola Bombacci (who had been thrown out of the Italian Communist Party in 1927) the Manifesto is somewhat reminiscent of fascism’s earliest programmes, with its republicanism and heavy focus on workers’ issues. Although the Verona Manifesto contains promises of profit sharing, housing rights, and the extension of syndicalism into every sector of the economy, it (and the Salò Republic overall) is perhaps not as radical as its reputation suggests. Its advocacy of “the abolition of the internal capitalist system” is not accompanied by any substantial measures to that effect, and it explicitly leaves private property and private enterprise intact, although subject to state interference. Nonetheless, it is at the very least an interesting historical document, and one has to wonder how much more thoroughly Mussolini’s renewed radical tendencies might have been actualized without the interference of the requirements of the occupying German war machine.

The Verona Manifesto of the
Italian Social Republic
(November 14th, 1943)

In its first national report, the Fascist Republican Party:

Lifts its thoughts to those who have sacrificed their lives for republican Fascism on the battlefronts, in the piazzas of the cities and villages, in the limestone pits of Istria and Dalmatia, and who should be added to the ranks of the martyrs of our Revolution, and to the phalanx of all those men who have died for Italy. 

It regards continuation of the war alongside Germany and Japan until final victory, and the speedy reconstruction of our Armed Forces which will serve alongside the valorous soldiers of the Führer, as goals that tower above everything else in importance and urgency.

It takes note of the decrees instituting the Extraordinary Tribunals, whereby party members will carry out their unbending determination to administer exemplary justice; and, inspired by Mussolini’s stimulus and accomplishments, it enunciates the following programmatic directives for Party actions: 

WITH RESPECT TO DOMESTIC CONSTITUTIONAL MATTERS

1. A Constituent Assembly must be convened. As the sovereign power of popular origin, it shall declare an end to the Monarchy, solemnly condemn the traitorous and fugitive last King, proclaim the Social Republic, and appoint its Head. Continue reading

A National Bolshevist Vision

The opening chapter of Karl Otto Paetel’s 1933 ‘National Bolshevist Manifesto’

Over the past month I have been working on a translation of Karl Otto Paetel’s National Bolshevist Manifesto of January 1933. Reproduced below is the short opening chapter of Paetel’s document, ‘Vision’, in which the author poetically describes his dream of a National Bolshevik revolution. In Paetel’s vision, Greater Germany is declared socialist; land and property are nationalized; and the revolutionary forces of German nationalism and socialism – communists, National Socialists, Stahlhelm, and the revolutionary peasants (Landvolk) – band together to march towards the Rhine, jubilantly preparing to exact retribution on the Western powers for reducing Germany to the status of a colony through the Treaty of Versailles. Paetel’s origins lay in the Bündische Jugend (specifically the youth group Deutsche Freischar) before his move to radical politics saw him found the Group of Social-Revolutionary Nationalists (GSRN), and he was one of the few political figures in Germany at the time who willingly embraced the term ‘National Bolshevik’, which was typically used as a kind of pejorative (which he acknowledges in his Manifesto: “So we take up that dirty phrase, ‘National Bolsheviks!'”). The Manifesto was intended to rally nationalists and socialists in common cause for the March 1933 elections; Paetel previously had intimated plans to organize a National Communist Party. Its publication date of 30th January, 1933 – the day Hitler became Chancellor – was a kind of portent of doom for Paetel’s efforts. The GSRN was banned in the aftermath of the Reichstag fire, and in 1935 Paetel was forced to flee his country. 

Vision

The red flag flutters over Cologne Cathedral.

Revolution over Germany. – –

Radiogram from Berlin:

“To the German people!

Land and soil belong to the nation.

The means of production are socialized.

Elections to the Council Congress are announced.

The verdicts of the People’s Court on all the enemies of the Socialist Fatherland, all those responsible for the old regime, are enforced.

The Treaty of Versailles is considered torn to pieces.

Greater Germany is socialist!

The imperialist bandit-states are approaching. The Rhine is to be held under all circumstances, the counter-attack is to be initiated!” Continue reading

Visions of National Socialist Democracy, Part III: Hitler

Adolf Hitler’s statements on representative government in a future National Socialist state

Nobody would describe Adolf Hitler as a ‘democrat.’ Like most National Socialists, Hitler was contemptuous of parliamentarism and the ‘majority principle’, but he took things a step or two further. Before Hitler, the National Socialist movement in Central Europe was, despite its ideological opposition to liberal-democracy, largely democratic. The various National Socialist parties were organized on the basis of internal democracy, with elected leaders and policies decided through majority vote, and they were all committed to a policy of reformism – working to achieve a National Socialist state via piecemeal reform through the machinery of parliament. Hitler’s accession to the leadership of the trans-national NS movement ushered in radical changes in this area, gradually eroding internal party democracy in favor of Führerprinzip and leading, for a time, to a strictly anti-parliamentary, anti-democratic tactical line. Hitler, with his veneration of strict discipline and strong, centralized leadership, was undoubtedly on the more authoritarian end of the National Socialist political spectrum. Nonetheless, elements of democratic idealism still appear within his speeches and writings. Reproduced below are a number of extracts from several sources which demonstrate that Hitler, despite his authoritarian inclinations, still saw a place for parliaments and voting in a future National Socialist state.    

Mein Kampf

Hitler’s Mein Kampf provides us with one of the only comprehensive descriptions of his personal view of a future National Socialist state structure. It clearly represents a more ‘dictatorial’ vision of National Socialism than those of Jung or Feder, in that under its provisions elected representatives would have no  voting powers but would instead serve solely in an advisory capacity to the national Führer. What makes these excerpts especially interesting are their corporatist aspects – clearly at this early date (Mein Kampf was published in 1925) Hitler was still influenced by the strong corporatist inclinations within the National Socialist movement. Later he was to largely abandon corporatist ideas, making the system described in the following two chapter extracts somewhat obsolete. Nonetheless, the text below is revealing in how it demonstrates Hitler’s beliefs on the ideal balance between authoritarian and democratic tendencies in politics, beliefs which would remain largely unchanged throughout his life. –Bogumil  

Vol. II, Ch. 4: Personality and the Conception of the Völkisch State

…The best state constitution and state form is that which, with the most unquestioned certainty, raises the best minds in the national community to leading position and leading influence.

But, as in economic life, the able men cannot be appointed from above, but must struggle through for themselves, and just as here the endless schooling, ranging from the smallest business to the largest enterprise, occurs spontaneously, with life alone giving the examinations, obviously political minds cannot be ‘discovered.’ Extraordinary geniuses permit of no consideration for normal mankind.

From the smallest community cell to the highest leadership of the entire Reich, the state must have the personality principle anchored in its organisation.

There must be no majority decisions, but only responsible persons, and the word ‘council’ must be restored to its original meaning. Surely every man will have advisers by his side, but the decision will be made by one man.

The principle which made the Prussian army in its time into the most wonderful instrument of the German people must some day, in a transferred sense, become the principle of the construction of our whole state conception: authority of every leader downward and responsibility upward. Continue reading