German Communism under the Nazi-Soviet Pact

The official political line of the Communist Party of Germany during the period of Soviet-German diplomatic ‘friendship’

Probably nothing has caused more chaos and confusion within the international communist movement than the ‘Pact of Non-Aggression and Friendship’ concluded between Hitlerite Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939. Communist parties which had spent over a decade denouncing fascism as the most dangerous form of capitalism were suddenly faced with the complex, unenviable task of trying to explain how an act of Realpolitik accorded with Marxist-Leninist theory. Probably those most strongly affected were the remaining members of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), many of whom had gone underground or had fled into exile after 1933 and whose leader, Ernst Thälmann, was still languishing in a German prison cell. At least one German Communist was so dismayed by Stalin’s “betrayal” that he committed suicide after hearing the news. Others conversely allowed themselves the optimistic hope that, if the ‘Friendship Pact’ persisted, persecution against communists in Germany would decrease and the KPD might even one day be fully legalized within the Third Reich. The remnant KPD leadership, now largely situated in Moscow, was faced with the unenviable task of trying to rally these bewildered elements and of presenting them with a coherent political line which made sense of everything. The platform they eventually produced, translated below, is a fairly remarkable document. Always careful never to praise or to apologize for the Hitler regime, the new political programme nonetheless recasts National Socialist Germany as a state which has at least made some steps towards progressive improvement, with the Reich’s signing of the Soviet-German Friendship Pact presented as the principle evidence for this claim. German Communists, moreover, are charged with doing everything they can to encourage the further development of progressive conditions in Germany, from organizing a united “fighting front” with National Socialist and Social-Democratic workers against their common enemies (bourgeois-conservatives, English and French imperialism), to infiltrating the NSDAP’s various mass organizations and directing them towards a more pro-Soviet orientation. By January 1940 this platform had received official approved from both the Comintern executive and from Stalin (who was supplied with a  translated copy by Georgi Dimitrov), and was utilized as an ideological guideline for speeches and articles produced by KPD members throughout the lifespan of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, such as this 1940 essay by Walter Ulbricht

Political Platform of the Communist Party of Germany
Drafted by the German Commission of the
Executive Committee of the Communist International,
30th December 1939

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I. The Tactical Orientation of the Party in the Present Situation.

The tactical orientation of the Communist Party of Germany in the present situation must be directed towards the development of a broad popular movement and towards the creation of a popular front of the working masses – including the National Socialist workers – in order to defend the interests and rights of the masses of the people, in order to consolidate and deepen friendship with the Soviet Union, and in order to end the imperialist war in the interests of the Volk. Only in this way can the interests of the working-class and the national freedom and independence of the German Volk be ensured, which are presently being put to the sword by the aggressive war plan of the bloc of English and French imperialists. Their plan is aimed at breaking Germany away from its Pact of Friendship with the Soviet Union, subjugating the German Volk, imposing outrageous burdens upon them, robbing them of their national independence, converting Germany into an English vassal-state, and driving the German Volk into war against the Soviet Union.

This tactical orientation requires the Communist Party’s policy to be completely independent in order to safeguard the interests of the working Volk; it does not mean supporting the war on the side of German imperialism, and under no circumstances does it mean toning down the struggle against the repressive policy of the present regime in Germany.

When it comes to this orientation, the Party must be aware of the regrouping of political forces and the shifting mood of the German masses, both of which are taking place in the context of the war by reason of the conclusion of the Soviet-German Friendship Pact. In opposition to the front of the ruling regime, which concluded the Pact of Friendship with the Soviet Union – albeit without guaranteeing a consistent friendship with the Soviet Union – a second front is beginning to emerge from parts of the German bourgeoisie (Thyssen,1 etc.) and from parts of the Catholic and Social-Democratic leaderships, a front which is directed against the Pact and against friendship with the Soviet Union, and which has placed itself in the service of the English-French war bloc against the German Volk and against the Soviet Union. It is to be expected that with the longer duration of the war, in conjunction with the increasing difficulties in the country, there will be a growing tendency within the German bourgeoisie to implement a break with the Soviet Union, to capitulate before the English-French war bloc, and to ready itself for war against the Soviet Union. Continue reading

Merry Christmas for 2020!

And a Happy New Year from ARPLAN

This year’s Christmas article is a little longer than usual. Normally for Christmas I will post some seasonal verse, or a few holiday-related extracts from various National Socialist sources – in other words, something light and easily-read, in keeping with the relaxed demeanor people like to adopt this time of year (myself included). This year, however, I felt it better to post a full-length article for the holiday (although still not a particularly long one), a means of trying to make up for the slight sparseness in content which has occurred recently as a consequence of my heavy focus on the Rudolf Jung translation. I did not translate the following article myself, but rather transcribed it Rabinbach’s and Gilman’s Third Reich Sourcebook, a mammoth collection of writings related to National Socialism, in particular to its 1933-45 period. The article is a 1937 piece by NSDAP functionary Hannes Kremer, and originally appeared in the journal Die neue Gemeinschaft (“The New Community”), a Party publication specifically directed towards the ideological examination of Germany’s cultural events, holiday celebrations, and leisure activities. Kremer’s article discusses the best way for the NSDAP to approach the politicization of “inherited” holiday traditions like Christmas; he also offers a critique of some of the ham-fisted means other National Socialists have employed in trying to ‘Nazify’ German holidays, such as shoehorning Nordic ritual or overt NS propaganda tropes into traditional Christmas ceremonies. Particularly interesting is that Kremer never once mentions Christ directly in his writing, and even seems to exhibit an opposition to those “religious fanatics” who would prefer keeping Christmas’s focus on Christian ideals rather than politics. For many of those in the Party, what mattered most about Christmas was not Christ or His message, but the ‘Germanness’ of the national traditions which had grown up around the holiday, and how shared participation in them could foster a sense of  togetherness, acceptance, and belonging across the dividing lines of class, estate, and denomination. 

New Meanings for “Inherited” Customs?
By Hannes Kremer

First published in Die neue Gemeinschaft, vol. 3, 1937.

In our efforts to deepen National Socialist forms of behavior in the area of rituals and ceremonies, we have two main tasks. On the one hand, we must create new customs to accommodate new ideas, and on the other hand, it is necessary to adjust those customs that have grown out of the people to the “new community of the Germans,” which means giving these inherited customs a new content consistent with the people’s community [Volksgemeinschaft].

That is clear when we look at the annual calendar. First, there are the political holidays that regularly remind the people of the political achievements of the National Socialist movement during its battle for the Third Reich, along with its great idealistic motives. (30 January, 1 May, 9 November. Themes: battle, work, sacrifice).

Here it is a question of creating new customs to suit the new political worldview governing the daily organization of our Volk today, customs that will also enable later generations to be reminded of those forces of instinct, emotion, and spirit that have been recognised as so critical in our struggle for existence and for the security of the people’s community (to cite just a few of those forces: courage, bravery, affirmation of life, awareness of duty). Continue reading

The National Socialist Conception of Freedom

National Socialist theoretician Rudolf Jung explains the concept of freedom and its place within National Socialist ideology

National Socialism, like Marxism, has its own conception of freedom, one separate from the individualist ideal central to liberal-democracy. In some respects there are similarities between the two movements and their perceptions of freedom; certainly members of the NSDAP would have agreed with Marx and Engels that, “Only in the community… is personal freedom possible.” Fundamentally, though, each interpretation was built on different ideological ground. For Marxists, freedom is determined by material economic conditions; those without the money or resources to live a safe, comfortable, fulfilling life are not genuinely free, regardless of which individual rights they might have on paper. For National Socialists, conversely, freedom is ultimately determined by race as well as material circumstance; each racial group has different cultural values, a different outlook on the world, and hence a different conception of the form of freedom appropriate to them as a united people. Freedom and a Volk’s capacity for defending themselves are intrinsically bound together: only by finding the style of freedom best suited to them as a people would a race thus be in the best position to fight and defend themselves as a people. Individualism was the form most suited to the English, with their mercantile, “piratical” spirit. Anarchy was most suited to the chaotic, tumultuous French. And for the Germans, with their supposedly natural inclination towards collectivism? A marriage of the spirit of Prussia in the north with the spirit of the “Baiuvarii” in the south: duty and order, the totality before the individual, but shorn of unthinking submission and centralistic authoritarianism, tempered by a respect for freedom of conscience. At least this is how National Socialist writer and politician Rudolf Jung explained it in his book National Socialism: Its Foundations, Development, and Goals, the earliest major programmatic work of National Socialist theory. Whether or not Jung’s description of National Socialist freedom matches the conditions which later developed in the Third Reich is up for debate, particularly as Hitler arguably represented a more authoritarian strand of NS ideology. The translated excerpt below consists of almost the entire chapter from Jung’s book which covers the subject; the only part I have cut is the introductory paragraph, an excerpt from the DNSAP programme which can be already be read in its entirety here. This translation is of the 1922 2nd edition of Jung’s book, which I have been working on for the past five or six months. The complete translation is probably still a few months away from being finished, but it will be posted on the blog when I am done.

The National Socialist Conception of Freedom
From the chapter ‘The Concept of Freedom and Defensive Readiness’, in
Rudolf Jung’s “National Socialism,” 1922 (2nd ed.)

“Freedom, that which I love, that which fills my heart,”1 sang the poet, thereby telling us that freedom is something which cannot be explained rationally, but is something which must be felt. Now, because freedom is a matter of emotion, it will be different for every Volk. English, French, Germans, Czechs, etc., all feel differently, and therefore all also interpret the concept of freedom differently. There are even different gradations within the individual races. Let us take the Germans, for example. Does the supposedly revolutionary communist – who is certainly imbued with the conviction that he is a thoroughly free-thinking person, standing far above the arch-reactionary bourgeoisie – truly have a feeling for freedom when he, as is so often the case in the German Reich, runs to the representatives of the Entente in order to sabotage his differently-minded countrymen? Or when, for the same reason, he calls upon the help of the Czech authorities, who are thoroughly imbued with the police spirit and are, moreover, capitalist? Is not the exact same question relevant in regards to those bourgeois elements who, in their anxiety over their property, appeal to alien peoples to protect them? And what about press censorship, the prohibition on the publication of newspapers, as well as the forcible integration of people into organizations?

In light of all the things which have happened to the German Volk since the days of the Revolution, after all the lamentable manifestations of servility and indignity, all the errors of an overstretched centralism, one might well doubt the very existence of a feeling of freedom. However, we need to keep in mind that every great upheaval – and such is indeed what we are presently in the middle of – is full of confusion and atrocities, and that brutal people, who tend to be the most involved in these phenomena, are generally cowards within the depths of their souls and are therefore not free at all, but are instead merely of a servile disposition. Only the courageous are truly free. Alien to them is the pitiful fear of death which makes cowardly people tremble, and hence makes them servile. That is why courage and the feeling of freedom, and therefore also one’s readiness to defend themselves,2 belong together. One is inconceivable without the other. But defensive readiness – if that is to serve as our touchstone – must be voluntary and not coerced, because courage cannot be forced. Continue reading

The Electoral Programme of the Old Social-Democratic Party

The national-revolutionary programme of the Old Social-Democratic Party of Germany, drafted by Ernst Niekisch and August Winnig

In the most recent article on this blog I presented an overview of the Old Social-Democratic Party of Germany (ASPD) by historian Benjamin Lapp, a party which began as a patriotic splinter-group of the Saxon Social-Democrats and which evolved, under the influence of intellectuals Ernst Niekisch and August Winnig, into a proletarian-nationalist organization with strong national-revolutionary impulses. As a complement to that article I have now also  translated the political programme which the ASPD took to Germany’s 1928 federal elections, the second of three separate programmes which the ASPD produced altogether in its history. The first of these three programmes, a statement of the ASPD’s general principles which it disseminated on its founding in 1926, I have unfortunately not been able to acquire. My understanding is that it oriented the party relatively closely to the positions of the old Majority Social-Democrats and the Kriegssozialisten: right-leaning and patriotic, yet still “moderate” in its nationalism when compared to the NSDAP, DVFP, or DNVP. The second programme which the party produced is that translated below, and was drafted by Ernst Niekisch and August Winnig in early April 1928, two years after they had joined the Old Social-Democratic Party and become its guiding ideological lights. The new programme was intended to reflect the political direction which the ASPD had moved in since it had come under their influence, with its precepts more clearly spelling out the ASPD’s proletarian-nationalist ethos and its own idiosyncratic perspective on socialism and the state, a perspective which unashamedly drew more from Lassalle and Rodbertus than it did from Marx and Bebel. More than that, the new programme was intended to be the springboard for greater things, prepared as part of the ASPD’s operation to expand its branches outside of Saxony and to compete as a national party in the Reichstag elections in May. The ASPD’s abysmal performance in these elections (it achieved only 0.21% of the vote) spelled an end to its foray into national-revolutionary politics. The Old Social-Democratic Party’s radical-nationalist orientation, already very controversial among swathes of the party’s membership (it had cost the ASPD the support of both the textile unions and the Reichsbanner), was abandoned, and Niekisch and Winnig subsequently left the party. As a consequence the ASPD’s third programme appeared towards the end of 1928, being both an expansion and a revision of the second programme: it is structured similarly, and is longer, but significantly has had much of the more overtly nationalistic language excised, and is unmistakably closer to “conventional” Social-Democracy in both conviction and tone than the Niekisch-Winnig programme reproduced below. 

The Old Social-Democratic Party of Germany
1928 Electoral Programme
Drafted by Ernst Niekisch and August Winnig

I.
Service to the Volk and to the State.

The Old Social-Democratic Party of Germany is a party of the productive population. It is rooted in the outlook that the productive Volk can only attain internal and external freedom, dignity, and vital historical significance through faithful service to the Volk and to the state.

The ASPD’s attitude to the state consequently lies beyond all tactical considerations of expediency; it serves the state out of principle and conviction, and is ready to submit itself unconditionally to the imperative of state necessity. It is an expression of that momentous shift which is presently taking place within the German working-class, whose content is to lead from the state-negating position of the past to a standpoint of unconditional state-affirmation.

II.
The ASPD is a Socialist Party.

The health of the German national body [Volkskörpers] can only be maintained under the present state of affairs if the German economic- and social-order is structured according to the principle of the economic management of all limited available commodities. The free play of forces is tolerable in a richly endowed economy; where there is an abundance of goods and capital, unchecked competitive struggle does not constitute a danger. But where poverty prevails, there a regulative and preventative hand is required. This necessitates an interlinking of economy and society, which together make up the social content of the state; through them it becomes organizationally evident that the welfare of the collective is the paramount consideration pervading the whole. As the ASPD strives for an economic- and social-order which is systematically managed and structured for the good of the totality, it is a socialist party. Its socialist attitude is the complement to and the evidence for its state ethos; its stance is one of a highly-developed sense of social and national responsibility.

Continue reading