National Socialists Before Hitler, Part V: The German Socialist Party

“Our demands are more radical than those of the Bolshevists” – The 1918 programme outline of Alfred Brunner’s German Socialist Party

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As has been established so far in this series, the party which Hitler joined in September 1919 was not the first National Socialist party ever founded. It was not even the first National Socialist party on the soil of the German Reich. That honor instead goes to the German Socialist Party (Deutschsozialistische Partei, DSP), the brainchild of Düsseldorf engineer Alfred Brunner. Brunner, born 1871, had been in contact with the Austro-Hungarian National Socialists since the early days of 1904. Distraught by the consequences of Germany’s surrender and revolution, he finally decided to found his own völkisch-socialist party, and for this purpose drafted on 1 December 1918 the programme which I have translated below. Brunner’s programme outlined the foundations for a new German Socialist Party, one drawing influence from the land-reform ideals of Adolf Damaschke as well as from the philosophy of the National Socialists across the border. Brunner’s central emphasis in fact was on mass land nationalization, viewing this revolutionary socio-economic reform as the basis for eliminating capitalist power and for negating the ‘Jewish influence’ which he saw behind every social ill. Such was Brunner’s focus on social issues that he in fact considered himself “far-left”, as “more radical than the Bolshevists”, the guarantor of an idealistic, biologically-constituted “socialism of the deed” opposed to the Jewish, materialistic “pseudo-socialism” of the Marxists. Brunner was supported in his endeavors by the Germanic Order, a branch of the Thule Society who presented his programme at their 1918 Christmas conference, published it in their journal Allgemeine Ordens-Nachrichten, and provided both funding and a party newspaper (the Münchner Beobachter). The DSP was thus linked from the very beginning to the German Workers’ Party (DAP) of Drexler and Hitler, another group which owed its origins to Thule Society funding and support. For a time however the DSP was in fact the far more successful of the two parties. While the (NS)DAP initially struggled to expand outside Munich, the DSP by mid-1920 had 35 local groups throughout the country and close to 2000 members, including a strong base in Germany’s north where for many years the Hitler-Drexler party was unable to gain a foothold. What undid the DSP in the end was its decentralized organizational structure, combined with its culture of internal party democracy; lacking the dynamism and internal authority of the Hitler-Drexler party, the DSP soon lost ground to its rival and in 1922 finally disbanded and absorbed its resources and membership into the NSDAP.

Outline for the Founding of a
German Socialist Party
on a Jew-free and Capital-free Foundation
Drafted by Engineer Alfred Brunner on 1 December, 1918
Presented at the 1918 Christmas conference of the Germanic Order

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To the German Volk!

World war, revolution, and turmoil lie behind us! We have waded through misery, blood and humiliation, and yet everything has remained the same; yes, things even threaten to be worse than they were before. Merely the form of government and the men in charge have changed, while capitalism and Jewry will rear their heads higher than ever under democracy. As before, you, the German Volk, will be leeched dry, plundered and condemned to toil and worry. How did it come to this, and shall it remain this way forever? The cause of this failure lies in the fact that the struggle against these two powers has hitherto been conducted separately. Yet both are intimately connected.

Social-democracy only engages in a mock-fight against capitalism, for its leaders are Jews and capitalists!

Yet the Jew-experts1 struggle in vain against Jewry because they stand firmly on the ground of the capitalist state order, so both they and social-democracy are bound to fail.

The change required to finally establish real freedom for the German Volk is to form a German Socialist Party.

German-Völkisch and Socialist

Lassalle, the founder of German social-democracy, must as a Jew have known his racial-comrades [Rassegenossen] well when he said: “A popular movement has to keep its distance from capitalists and Jews where they appear as directors and leaders, and instead pursue its own aims.”

The new socialist party accepts German-born men only. It stands naturally on the ground of political transformation; democracy will not in the main be questioned, however, the party does not want a Western-style democracy with a Jewish-plutocratic apex, but a free Peoples’ State [Volksstaat] in which capitalism and Jewry are overcome. Continue reading

East Germany Welcomes the ‘Little Nazis’

Walter Ulbricht’s article of 28 February, 1948, announcing the end of denazification and the formal integration of former National Socialists into East German society

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“Long Live the SED, the Great Friend of Little Nazis!” This quote, a 1946 slogan coined by a former National Socialist out of enthusiasm for the Socialist Unity Party’s (SED) approach to denazification, is a testament to the curious way in which the German communists meted out punishment to their former enemies. The Allied powers had agreed upon the need for denazification at Yalta, and the process was initially carried out quite radically within the Soviet zone of occupation through wide-ranging internments, deportations, and the forcible expropriation of land & industry for purposes of nationalization and collectivization. Despite such measures, however, the denazification process in the Eastern sector was actually less extensive and marked by far less retribution than one might expect. The need for post-War reconstruction in war-ravaged Germany was so drastic that some segments of the SED leadership were eager to simply get the process over with and to begin integrating former Party-members back into society, so badly were former Nazis’ skills and expertise needed by the authorities. The decision to start allowing NS-Parteigenossen to play a role in building the new Germany had been made as early as June 1946, based on the caveat that participation would be limited only to politically re-educated ‘inactive’ (or ‘little’) Nazis – those low- or mid-ranking members who had demonstrably joined the Party more out of pragmatism or fear than conviction. Under the direction of the Soviet authorities the Eastern zone’s denazification process was officially declared ended in February 1948, with the article transcribed below (written by Walter Ulbricht, at that time Deputy Joint Chairman of the SED) serving as the communists’ formal announcement of the end of denazification and the restoration of equal rights to former NSDAP members. Ulbricht’s claim that the Eastern zone’s National Socialists had now embraced “democratic socialism” and had become “honest participants in reconstruction” was a signal to these ‘little Nazis’ that the regime was ready to integrate them back into the social fold, so long as they worked hard and buried their prior convictions. Many eagerly complied, flocking to the new party (the National Democratic Party of Germany) which was specifically set up under Soviet approval to nominally represent their interests in regional electoral bodies.

On Disbanding the Denazification Commissions
Walter Ulbricht

First published in Neues Deutschland, February 28, 1948

We welcome the order by the Chief of Staff of the Soviet Military Government, Marshal Sokolowski, to disband the Denazification Commissions in the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany. The content of the order is an agreement with the recommendations of the Socialist Unity Party (SED) and the bloc of anti-fascist democratic parties. At its last meeting of the party executive, the SED states that following the establishment of the basic structures of the democratic system and at the beginning of the reconstruction period, the Denazification Commissions should conclude their activities, and the work of the sequestration commissions should now come to an end as well.

The disbanding of the Denazification Commissions in the Soviet Occupation Zone is possible because the purge of the administration has been completed, because the factories of the war criminals with or without Nazi Party membership and the banks have been turned over to the people, and because the property of the large landowners, who were among the major forces of militarism, have been transferred to the peasants. In this way the supporters of fascism have been stripped of their powerful economic positions.

In contrast to certain “politicians” in West Germany, we believe it was not the working people and the middle class who were the supporters of fascism; rather it was the corporate and bank bosses and the large landowners who brought the fascists to power in order to better exploit and repress their own people and other peoples. Therefore the fascist criminals were punished and expropriated in the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany, in agreement with the anti-fascist and democratic parties, the unions, and other people’s organizations. The ordinary Nazi Party members were not called before the Denazification Commissions, however. On 21 February 1947, a year ago, the Chairman of the SED, Wilhelm Pieck, had already declared:

The majority of those, “who were taken in by the Nazi swindle and became members of the Nazi Party… belong to the working population… Of course their behavior must be judged by a different standard than that of the war criminals or the Nazi activists.” Continue reading

The Socialists Leave the NSDAP!

Otto Strasser’s July 4, 1930 announcement of his critical break with Hitler and his resignation from the NSDAP

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On 4 July 1930 a startling headline greeted readers of the Berlin daily Der Nationale Sozialist: “The Socialists Leave the NSDAP!” The article, written by prominent Party-radical Dr. Otto Strasser and co-signed by his most loyal activist allies, outlined in detail their collective dissatisfaction with the development of NSDAP’s tactics & ideology and the reasoning behind their noisy resignation from the Party. Their conflict had been brewing almost from Strasser’s first entry into the Party in 1925. A former Social-Democrat, Otto was a maverick from the start, being a key player in the 1926 attempt to introduce a new party programme and to put limitations on Hitler’s authority, as well as an open, bitter critic of the Party’s abandonment of its ‘urban line’ strategy after the failure to win over proletarian voters in the 1928 elections. His publication of another proposed radical programme (‘The 14 Theses of the German Revolution’) on the eve of the Reichsparteitag in late July 1929 was viewed as further provocation, as were the numerous subsequent critical articles he wrote directed against Hitler or the Party’s electoral strategy. The straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was far more prosaic – Otto’s decision in March 1930 to publish a new Berlin paper, Der Nationale Sozialist, directly against Hitler’s orders and in open competition with Goebbels’s Berlin tabloid Der Angriff. An infuriated Goebbels demanded Hitler intercede, and this was the beginning of the end. After a failed attempt at rapprochement by Hitler at the Hotel Sanssouci, the Führer’s official order finally went out on June 30 demanding the remaining rebels’ expulsion. Otto hoped that his published riposte, the translated article below, would inspire all those dissatisfied with the Party to join he and his followers in their exodus from the NSDAP. He was to be sorely disappointed. About 5000 NSDAP members at maximum followed Otto into the political wilderness, the most significant recruits being several contingents of Hitler Youth and some of the more radical local organizers. No prominent Gauleiter or SA-leader threw in his lot with the rebels and even Gregor turned his back on his brother (the two would not speak again until 1933). Otto’s own Kampfzeit, his ‘years of struggle’, had now officially begun.

The Socialists Leave the NSDAP!
Dr. Otto Strasser

First published in Der Nationale Sozialist, July 4, 1930

Readers, party-comrades, friends! For months we have been following the development of the NSDAP with deep concern, and with growing apprehension have been forced to note how, more and more frequently and in ever more critical matters, the Party has violated the Idea1 of National Socialism.

On numerous issues of foreign policy, domestic policy and, above all, economic policy, the Party adopted a position that became increasingly difficult to reconcile with the 25 Points which we viewed as the exclusive programme of the Party; more difficult still was the impression of the Party’s increasing bourgeoisification, of a precedence for tactical considerations over principles, and the alarming observation of a rapidly advancing bossification2 of the Party-apparatus, which thus became more and more an end in itself for the movement and set its own interests higher than the programmatic demands of the Idea.

We conceived and still conceive of National Socialism as a consciously anti-imperialist movement, whose nationalism restricts itself to the preservation and safeguarding of the life and growth of the German nation without any tendencies towards domination over other peoples and countries. For us, therefore, the rejection of the interventionist war prosecuted against Russia by international capitalism and by Western imperialism was and is a natural demand, ensuing as much from our Idea as from the necessities of a German foreign policy. We felt therefore that the attitude of the Party-leadership, which was becoming ever more open to interventionist war, was contradictory to the Idea and detrimental to the requirements of a German foreign policy. Continue reading

National Socialists Before Hitler, Part IV: The German National Socialist Workers’ Party (DNSAP)

A new name, a new programme: the 1918 ‘Vienna Programme’ of the German National Socialist Workers’ Party (DNSAP) of Austria & the Sudetenland

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Less than a year after the German Workers’ Party (DAP) of Austria-Hungary adopted its new political programme, the Empire declared war on Serbia. The Great War was soon to follow, and with it came a tumultuous series of events, culminating in the defeat of the Central Powers and the dissolution of the Empire. A new era for Austria and for Europe also saw a new era for the DAP – on 5 May, 1918, DAP members met at a Vienna Reichsparteitag to adopt a new name and a new programme. The new name was the ‘German National Socialist Workers’ Party’ (DNSAP). The new programme (drafted by Rudolf Jung) was more explicitly revolutionary, now that fear of Imperial state repression had dissipated and Anschluss with Germany finally appeared possible (a hope soon dashed on the rocks of the Treaty of Saint-Germain). Union with Germany, mass nationalization, and a Peoples’ Bank to break the reigns of “the Jewish-commercial spirit” were all key features, even if the DNSAP still ambivalently committed itself to reformism. For many members the formalization of ‘National Socialism’ in both name and ideology was a long time coming. ‘National Socialist Party’, ‘German Socialist Party’, and ‘German Social Party’ had all been proposed as alternative names when the DAP was first founded in 1903. There had been intermittent appeals to change the name since then, especially as ‘National Socialist’ became a common appellation for members, with the debate beginning again in 1916 in earnest in the pages of DAP-paper Freien Volksstime. On the one hand, some party-comrades were concerned that the DAP name was unappealing to potential recruits among the farmers, civil servants, and the petit-bourgeoisie, that it did not sufficiently represent the party’s actual worldview. On the other hand, the party had been founded as a workers’ party and the name was seen as a mark of respect to a class much hard-done-by. The compromise solution, ‘German National Socialist Workers’ Party’, was the suggestion of senior Bohemian party-comrade Hans Krebs. Within months of the Vienna Programme’s adoption there would be three DNSAPs, the party broken into a trio of independent national organizations by the ceding of former Austrian territories Eastern Silesia and the Sudetenland to the new states of Poland and Czeochoslovakia. 

Fundamental Party Principles
of the
German National Socialist Workers’ Party
Concluded at the last joint Party Congress for the Sudetenland and the Alpine States, Vienna, 5th May 1918

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a) General Statement

The German National Socialist Workers’ Party seeks the uplift and liberation of the German working-classes from economic, political, and spiritual oppression and their full equality in all areas of völkisch and state life.

It professes itself unreservedely to the cultural community and the community of fate [Schicksalsgemeinschaft] of the entire German Volk, and is convinced that only within the natural limits of his folkdom [Volkstums] can the worker achieve full value for his labor and intelligence.

It therefore rejects organization on a supranational [allvölkischer] basis as unnatural. An improvement in economic and social conditions is attainable only through the cooperation of all workers on the soil of their own people. Not subversion and class struggle, but purposeful, creative reform work alone can overcome today’s social conditions. Private property in itself is not malign, insofar as it arises from one’s own honest labor, serves labor, and is limited in size so as not to damage the common good. We reject, however, all forms of unearned income, such as ground rents and interest, as well as usurious profits extorted from the misery of one’s fellow man. Against them we stridently advocate the value of productive labor.

The private economy can never be wholly or violently abolished, yet all forms of social property should exist alongside it and be increasingly expanded. We advocate unconditionally for the transfer of all capitalist large-scale enterprises, which constitute private monopolies, into the possession of the state, province (völkisch self-governing bodies), or municipality. Continue reading