Capitalist Power and German Socialism

The völkisch-radical German Socialist Party on capitalism, right-wingers, and the power of money

The German Socialist Party (Deutschsozialistische Partei, DSP) is largely forgotten now, but for a brief period in history it was the pre-eminent National Socialist party within the German Republic. The party’s guiding light was Düsseldorf engineer Alfred Brunner, a Thule Society member with a determination to found a völkisch-socialist movement which could rescue Germany from its post-War mire. In December 1918 Brunner’s draft programme outline for such a movement was published. Völkisch activists consequently heeded Brunner’s call and began founding their own independent German Socialist working-groups and party cells, and by 1919 there were German Socialist organizations in Düsseldorf, Kiel, Frankfurt, Dresden, Nuremberg, and Munich. Although ideologically extremely similar to the NSDAP (something recognized by both groups), the DSP’s organizational beginnings made it a very different party from the outset. Because of the way it had been founded, the DSP early on had a much broader base than the NSDAP, which did not establish a chapter outside Munich until April 1920. By contrast, by the time the DSP held its first official convention to bring all the independent German Socialist groups under one national organization (also in April 1920), there numbered about 35 German Socialist local chapters across Germany with a combined total of around 2,000 members. Although this appeared impressive in comparison to the NSDAP, the DSP did not actually have the resources to manage a national party and many of the local groups were heavily under-resourced, resulting in gradual stagnation and inactivity. This hindered the DSP’s central tactical focus on electioneering and parliamentary work; unlike the still-revolutionary NSDAP, the DSP sought a “legal” dismantling of the existing system through “reformist-evolutionary” methods. A side-effect of this parliamentary orientation was that the DSP put far more emphasis on issuing programmatic resolutions and debating policy proposals than it did on active organization and propaganda. Although this approach ultimately proved ineffective and harmed the party’s dynamism, it did result in the publication of a number of distinctive theoretical documents, such as the short leaflet translated below. This leaflet, titled “Capitalist Power” (Kapitalistische Macht), is undated, but if I had to guess I would say that it was probably released in 1920 for the June Reichstag election (the DSP received a mere ~7,000 votes nationwide, or 0.03%). It is an interesting little document, with its anti-capitalist rhetoric and its strong attacks on the “right,” and helps to illustrate why DSP members considered themselves the “left-wing” of the völkisch movement.

Capitalist Power
An undated flyer from the German Socialist Party

In our publications we often discuss the power of capitalism – which we understand above all to mean the overriding predominance of loan-capitalism – as against working capital,1 which we German Socialists acknowledge, in a controlled and restricted form, within an economy built upon a purely German foundation.

But that even this form of capital, under today’s conditions, holds a power which detracts from Rightness and Truth, is shown by the modern parties of the right who, on the basis of an intrinsically and thoroughly capitalist programme, are able to bind hundreds of thousands of people to themselves, people who are suffering as a result of capitalism and the capital of today.

And that they can do this is purely because both these parties2 possess enough money to enable the press and their public speakers to socially disguise their programmes and to strike an anti-Semitic tone, a tone which becomes all the livelier the closer they draw to the elections.

In doing so, these parties do not possess a single, fundamental, sweeping demand which would bring about an alleviation of the social situation and a liberation from the pressure of capitalism! Continue reading

The Programme of the German National Peoples’ Party (DNVP)

The original 1919 political programme of the bourgeois-nationalist German National Peoples’ Party, or DNVP

The emphasis of this blog tends to be on reproducing material from political movements which fall into one of two categories: nationalist movements which have embraced elements of socialism, and socialist movements which have embraced elements of nationalism. As a nationalist movement which was avowedly anti-socialist (as well as pro-monarchist and expressive of a conservative/bourgeois/traditionalist ethos), the German National People’s Party (Deutschnationale Volkspartei, DNVP) might seem at first to be a little outside ARPLAN’s purview. The interesting thing about the DNVP, however – and the reason why I am providing a translation of its original 1919 programme – is that there is a little more to the organization than might first meet the eye. When originally founded in late November, 1918, the DNVP was an amalgam of several older Imperial-era movements: Conservatives, Free-Conservatives, right-wing National Liberals, segments of the völkisch and Pan-German movements, and the Christian-Socials. The Christian-Social wing of the DNVP in particular provided the impetus for some of the party’s little-known attempts at engaging with German labor, helping bring elements of the Christian trade unions into the DNVP’s orbit and pushing the organization towards a line that, if it could not be socialist, was at the very least an attempt towards being ‘social’ (Christian-Social labor leader Franz Behrens set the tone in his speech to the very first German-National congress in July, 1919, declaring: “Whoever believes in free enterprise must also believe in trade unions for workers, and must also recognize the right to unionize and the right to strike”). Elements of this ‘left’-wing DNVP influence can be discerned in parts of the original German-National programme (its advocacy of equal rights for women; material support for working mothers; collective bargaining on the part of workers, etc.) and in some of the party’s later actions, such as its founding of a mass labor organization in 1921, the German-National Workers’ League (Deutschnationaler Arbeiterbund). The DNVP ultimately represented an alternative approach towards nationalist engagement with labor, a more cautious and ‘pro-employer’ approach which, when contrasted with that of National Socialism, helps emphasize quite how radical (and how sincerely anticapitalist) the NSDAP actually was by comparison. Both parties were well aware of this difference; the new programme the DNVP finally adopted in 1932, Alfred Hugenberg’s ‘Freedom Programme’, was an explicit attempt at contrasting the DNVP’s “social-nationalism’ with the “Marxism” of the NSDAP.   

Programme of the
German National Peoples’ Party

DNVP_symbol

I. The Life of Nation and State

The liberation of Germany. The liberation of the German Volk from foreign domination is the precondition for their national rebirth. We therefore strive for a revision of the Treaty of Versailles, for the restoration of German unity, and for the reacquisition of the colonies essential to our economic development.

Borderland-Germans and Germans living abroad.1 We feel inseparably linked to our German folk-comrades living beyond the borders which have been imposed upon us. The defense of Germandom in the lost and occupied territories and the defense of Germans living abroad are  essential duties in national politics. A tightly-knit Volksgemeinschaft binds us with all Germans living abroad, in particular with the German-Austrians for whose right of self-determination we pledge our support.

Foreign policy. We demand a strong and steady foreign policy defined exclusively from a German point-of-view, a dignified, firm, and skillful representation of German interests and the utilization of our economic power in service of Germany’s foreign policy goals. The foreign service is to be staffed solely on the basis of ability, educational background, and dependable German convictions, and to be kept free from considerations of internal party politics.

Monarchy. The monarchical form of state corresponds to the uniqueness and to the historical development of Germany. Standing above the parties, the monarchy offers the safest guarantee for the unity of the Volk, the defense of minorities, the continuity of state affairs, and the incorruptibility of public administration. The individual German states should enjoy a free choice over their forms of government; for the Reich we strive for a renewal of the German Empire as established by the Hohenzollerns. Continue reading

Socialist Transformation

Socialism and nationalism intertwined: observations on the national-bolshevist character of revolutionary German youth, by writer Fritz Weth

The short essay below was translated from a 1922 book called Die Neue Front, a collection of articles which had all originally been published in the intellectual periodical Das Gewissen (‘Conscience’). The Gewissen served as the official theoretical journal for the Juni-Klub, a conservative-revolutionary-oriented literary group founded in 1919 by publisher Heinrich von Gleichen-Rußwurm, writer Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, and nationalist politician Eduard Stadtler. The Juni-Klub represented a slightly more moderate segment of the conservative- and national-revolutionary movements active in interwar Germany. Its proponents (the ‘Jungkonservativen‘) were less hostile to the overall concept of conservatism, were more overtly intellectual, and tended to be more amenable to the representatives of German heavy industry and big business, even as they pondered over the potential merits of a non-Marxist alternative to capitalism. The club was intellectually open and avowedly non-partisan, and as a result it attracted an eclectic variety of members and interested hangers-on from across the country’s political spectrum: Heinrich Brüning, Franz Oppenheimer, Ernst Troeltsch, Franz von Papen, Friedrich Naumann, Hans Blüher, Hans Grimm, August Winnig, Hjalmar Schacht, Wichard von Moellendorf, and a young Otto Strasser, among many others. One of these members was the lone “worker” of the group: Fritz Weth, a former communist. Very little is actually known about Weth, beyond that he lived in Berlin, gave his profession as “illustrator,” and had at one point apparently been active in the KPD or USPD. Between 1920 and 1923 Weth wrote around 40 articles for the Gewissen, most of which dealt with the labor movement or with questions of socialism, all with an underlying advocacy of a national-bolshevist political line (alliance with Soviet Russia; conservative cooperation with socialists and trade-unionists; creation of a nationalist, socialist New Germany) which must have been rather thrilling to the journal’s more middle-class, conservative readers. The article below is a prime example of this, employing Weth’s observations of the changes brought about by the German Revolution in his attempt to stress to his readers that there was an implicitly shared, revolutionary worldview held between those on the Left and those on the Right.

Socialist Transformation
Fritz Weth
hamsic

We are living in the midst of spiritual and economic decomposition. Traditional notions have fallen into decline or into transition. The guardians and the advocates of tradition, the elders among us, can establish no rapport with the era in which they are living through. They do not even understand the young in their own ranks, because these youth are resolutely prepared to sacrifice surviving traditions and to assimilate the valuable content of other traditions of German renewal. That is the process of dissolution occurring on the Right.

The Right’s experiential world nonetheless provides its younger generation with a deeper insight into the limits of revolutionary development than that possessed by the future-obsessed youth on the Left. The Left, too, has its own reinforced conservatism, exactly like that on the Right. One of its largest parties has committed itself to formal democracy, and is thus inevitably hindering the creation of that synthesis which matters most in Germany today and which only the revolutionaries of the Right and Left can produce together. The revolutionary Left has taken up the fight against the spirit of “leaving things be,” against the spirit of the SPD.1 Yet their own doctrinal rigidity makes it difficult for them to be victorious in this struggle. Nevertheless, concentrated within their ranks is everything in the proletariat which is young, strong, and inspired to build, and which reaches out beyond the dogmatism of their leaders towards the community of the nation. This elementary will found its first expression within the fellowship of those multiple foreign- and domestic-policy goals which the revolutionaries of the Right share with those of the Left. Each found the other in the front against Western economic imperialism, formalism, and degeneracy, and there they inconspicuously clasped hands. Continue reading

National Socialism or Bolshevism?

An early example of national-bolshevist ideological writing by Joseph Goebbels

The writing and speeches of Joseph Goebbels – especially those produced during the ‘Years of Struggle’, before the National Socialist German Workers’ Party attained political power – are particularly instructive in demonstrating the kinds of radicalism which could exist within the Party. Goebbels was always a radical; as a young man he had found an attraction in the unlikely works of August Bebel and Walter Rathenau, and his direct experiences with poverty had sharpened his sense of social justice. Initially drawn to communism, Goebbels’s inability to embrace the internationalist aspects of Marxist ideology led him first to the völkisch movement and then, in early 1925, into the newly reconstituted NSDAP. From the beginning Goebbels represented the more revolutionary side of National Socialism: bitterly opposed to the bourgeois world and its values, proud of his shabby poverty, and aggressively vocal in his belief that it was the socialism in National Socialism which took precedence above all else. His radicalism first led him into an alliance with Gregor Strasser and then, after several years of struggle and disillusionment, into a bitter opposition to the man who had once been his mentor. Even as an enemy of the Strasser brothers Goebbels was still a radical, with much of his effort as Gauleiter of Berlin-Brandenburg in the late ’20s and early ’30s spent attempting to win over the Berlin workers with fiery attacks on capitalism, the bourgeoisie, and the “false socialism” of the Marxists and the Bolshevists. Goebbels’s earliest writings are perhaps some of his most interesting, because in this period his appreciation for communism was still fresh and his ideology was in many respects more National Bolshevist than National Socialist in orientation. The article below, written not long after Goebbels had spoken before a joint meeting of Communists and National Socialists in late 1925, is strong evidence of his views in this early period of activism, when he was most vocal in avowing class-struggle and proletarian liberation as among the chief goals of the National Socialist movement. Addressed to his “friend from the Left” (i.e. the Communist he had debated at the previous meeting), this article was originally published in the October 1925 edition of Gregor Strasser’s Nationalsozialistische Briefe, a left-oriented NS journal of which Goebbels was editor at the time.

National Socialism or Bolshevism?
Joseph Goebbels
NS_Swastika

First published in the Nationalsozialistische Briefe, no. 2, 15th October 1925.

My friend from the Left!

Not as captatio benevolentiae,1 but straight out and without reservations, I confess that I liked you, you are a fine fellow! Yesterday evening I could have carried on debating with you for hours before the thousands of transfixed listeners, because I had the feeling that the fundamental question of our commonalities and our differences was being raised within the forum of the German workers, whom this question ultimately concerns. And it is with the same feeling that I am writing out these lines to you.

You have clearly recognized what is at stake. We have agreed on the causes. No honest, thinking person today would wish to deny the legitimacy of the workers’ movements. It is only a question of the method and the formulation of their final goal. Grown out of need and misery, they stand before us today as living witnesses to our disunity and impotence, to the deficiency of our national spirit of sacrifice and our will for the future. We no longer need to discuss whether the demand of the German employee for social compensation is justified, just as we do not need to discuss whether or not the disenfranchised fourth estate2 should live or must live.

National or international in path and goal, that is the question. We both are fighting honestly and resolutely for freedom and only for freedom; as our ultimate accomplishment we both desire peace and community – you that of the world, I that of the Volk. That this accomplishment cannot be attained within this system is entirely clear and evident to both of us. To talk of quiescence today is to make the graveyard one’s home; to be peaceful in this state is pacifism and cowardice. You and I, we both know that a state, a system that is inwardly thoroughly mendacious, is meant to be overthrown; that for the new state one therefore has to fight and make sacrifices. In this respect yesterday we both could have been saying the exact same things about the bourgeois cowards of black-red-gold Social-Democracy. Thus far we have been in agreement. Continue reading