Woman in the National Socialist State

NSDAP activist Dr. Sofia Rabe’s 1932 pamphlet on German women and their rights and responsibilities under National Socialism

A common criticism levelled against National Socialism during the interwar years was that the NS movement’s outlook on women tended to be somewhat backward, and therefore potentially harmful to its political success. A frequent enough accusation was that National Socialism was intent on transforming women into “breeding machines,” docile house-slaves whose sole purpose in life would be to deferentially serve their husbands while pumping out an ever-growing flock of Aryan children. In light of some of the attitudes expressed by male party members at times, this charge is perhaps somewhat understandable; a 1926 letter-writer to the Völkischer Beobachter, for example, once argued that, “It is further asserted that man wants to reduce women to a ‘breeding machine’…. Nature has given this role in its wisdom and for the good of humanity to women… It is therefore the absolute duty to her race of every normal woman to give birth to seven, but at least six, children…” Yet this particular perspective did not really reflect the reality of movement life for most National Socialists. In Austria and the Sudetenland, women National Socialists had been actively involved in party and electoral work since before the War, and the 1918 Vienna Programme had explicitly advocated “legal and political equality for women.” Even in Germany proper, where movement culture tended to be somewhat more conservative and much more overtly militant and masculine, women were actively involved in street politics: handing out leaflets, pasting up posters, attending rallies, providing first aid, hiding weapons, acting as SA ‘scouts’. The NSDAP was a broad church on many issues, including the topic of women’s rights, and while the polar extremes were represented by the radical “NS feminists” on one side and retrograde advocates of “breeding machines” on the other, the majority within the party tended towards the view that women deserved some level of agency as individuals, even if motherhood was still undeniably accepted as being their primary, intrinsic duty towards their Volk. Clarifying the party’s stance on this subject became especially important in the early 1930s, when electoral victory seemed much more attainable; women constituted a hugely important voting bloc, and tended on the whole to lean towards conservative and nationalist parties. The pamphlet translated below, written by NS-Frauenschaft member Dr. Sofia Rabe and produced by the NSDAP’s central publishing house, is an example of some of the intellectual work the party directed at women in this period. It constitutes an attempt by the author to combat negative perceptions of the National Socialist stance on women and to set against it a view of women’s emancipation in which women are to be emancipated from the workforce, not from men – while still ultimately retaining their right to independent work and education under National Socialism, if that is where their strengths lead them.  

Woman in the National Socialist State
Dr. Sofia Rabe, 1932

NS_Swastika

All other parties have repeatedly reproached female National Socialists [Nationalsozialistinnen] for failing to take a clear stance on the role which they would have to fulfill within the NSDAP: that they would simply become slaves to an ideology which is rooted in blind faith in a leader. These issues have been raised again and yet again, along with the assertion that the influx of women into National Socialism is based solely upon complete ignorance of the fate which would befall them within the Third Reich.

These allegations are expansive in number, though not in relevance nor in factual knowledge. Our opponents have written entire books about the position of women in National Socialism, all of which culminate in a single sentence: National Socialism wishes to degrade women into breeding machines, so that women in National Socialism will only have a biological function to fulfill.

At the same time, Adolf Hitler and [Alfred] Rosenberg have been quoted – in sentences taken completely out of context – and those quotations twisted and turned as needed and desired.

We women National Socialists have only one response to this: For us there is no Frauenfrage1 along such lines, we know of only one goal: to serve our Volk and to aid in the great struggle for the liberation of Germany, and in so doing to integrate ourselves into the whole of the Volk as its welfare demands.

On one side we see that old (not in years) generation who like to regard everything today as being good and right; whose ideal exhausts itself in working for its own sake; who allow themselves in their inadequacy to be set upon the wrong path.

Opposite them we see the young generation who stand today within the ranks of the NSDAP. For them the misery of women is a part of that great misery of the German Volk, and can only be solved in conjunction with it. Continue reading

A ‘National’ Social-Democracy?

A 1931 article on socialism, nationalism, and the nation, by German Social-Democrat Hermann Heller

The tumultuous interwar years in Weimar Germany were characterized by a number of unusual political trends which sought to syncretize competing ideas from both the Left and Right. National Socialism and the Conservative Revolution were the most obvious examples of this ideological synthesis, but there were manifestations of it even on the more democratic end of the political spectrum (the Jungdeutscher Orden) and also among the Communists. The Social-Democrats, despite their internationalism, were also not immune to this phenomenon; the Social-Democratic Party (SPD) too had its own small nationalist current, part of the broader reformist wing of the movement, whose members were particularly active contributors to the ‘revisionist’ journal Sozialistische Monatshefte, as well as to Die Arbeit, the official theoretical publication of the largest trade-union federation. Beginning in January 1930 these ‘neorevisionists’ also began publishing their own monthly: the Neue Blätter für den Sozialismus, which put out articles with such titles as “We and the Young Nationalists” or “The Presence and Significance of Conservative Tendencies in Social-Democracy.” This neorevisionist faction had not sprung up out of nowhere – many of its members had previously been active in the Hofgeismarkreis and the Berliner Kreis, small intellectual circles which had emerged within the SPD youth movement around the time of the 1923 Ruhr crisis, and which had sought then (somewhat controversially) to intellectually ground German Social-Democracy upon a foundation of ‘Nation’ and ‘Volk’ rather than class. Despite these unifying nationalist tendencies, the neorevisionists were in general a diverse and eclectic group, ranging from right-leaning reformists, to religious socialists, to market-socialists, to radicals whose political ideals were only vaguely distinguishable from those of Otto Strasser or Hans Zehrer. Many, curiously, were also actively involved in the leadership of the Iron Front, and most became committed activists in the antifascist resistance after 1933 (although not all – at least one, Walter Pahl, became a supporter of National Socialism, while another, Fritz Borinski, ended up in the orbit of the Black Front). One of the most prominent neorevisionist thinkers was Jewish-German jurist Hermann Heller, who today tends to be more known for his constitutional scholarship than for his socialist theorizing. Heller’s 1925 work Sozialismus und Nation (re-released in a revised edition in 1931) was held in very high regard among neorevisionists, and is probably the most detailed outline of their general, collective worldview. The short article by Heller below, which references this work, is a classic example of this style of Social-Democratic writing, dealing as it does with German socialism’s difficulties in engaging with nationalist sentiment, while also presenting Social-Democracy as the only political force truly capable of safeguarding the German nation.  

National Socialism1
Hermann Heller

First published in Neue Blätter für den Sozialismus, vol. 2, no. 4, April 1931.

Ever since the 30 Years’ War, the national destiny of the German Volk has been consistently and decisively determined by the political incompetence of its bourgeoisie. Even the state-building power of nationalism, as shaped within the bourgeois revolutions, has been incapably utilized by bourgeois politics. Since the failed revolution of 1848, the political idea of a comprehensive national cultural community has been transformed into the narrow and repressed national conception of a Treitschke.2 As recently as 1902, for example, the widely-disseminated work “Was ist national?” by Professor Kirchhoff3 was claiming that one would never be able to commit to including the German-Austrians as part of the modern German nation – the same German nation to which, meanwhile, the Prussian Poles admittedly belonged.

How meagre the sense of national responsibility of the Wilhelmine state’s ruling classes was, was demonstrated most clearly when they organized themselves after the revolution into the “German National” People’s Party, and thus made into a party name what should have been, or what should have become, an appellation for the entire Volk.

As the bourgeoisie muddled up the nation with the Prussian-German state, worshipping it with Hegel as the realization of the moral idea, as God on Earth, so did Marx-Engels now fight against this bourgeoisie with a lopsided, narrow, and repressed conception of state and nation. For them the state was always only the realization of an immoral idea, namely the necessary evil of the class state, which was to vanish with the end of class rule; just as, according to their truly Mancunian perspective, national separations and differences were destined to gradually come to an end with the development of the bourgeoisie, with free trade, the world market, and the uniformity of industrial production. Continue reading

Why the German Workers’ Party? What Does it Want?

The first propaganda pamphlet of the (National Socialist) German Workers’ Party, written by Anton Drexler in February 1920

General poverty was the main condition under which the Munich-based German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, DAP) operated during its early months of existence. When Hitler first joined the DAP he was shocked to find (as he related in Mein Kampf) that the party had “nothing, no programme, no leaflet, no printed matter at all, no membership cards, not even a miserable rubber stamp, only obvious good faith and good intentions.” The organization’s entire treasury amounted to barely more than a small handful of marks, with the sum total of these funds kept by members within a cigar box. That the party managed to expand its membership throughout the second half of 1919 and to acquire some actual resources was largely the result of Hitler’s own drive and organization, particularly the pressure he placed upon the DAP’s leaders to undertake the risk of holding public meetings at which the party could raise funds by charging entrance fees. So successful was Hitler’s choice of strategy that, in late December 1919, the German Workers’ Party was able to afford to rent its first party office, a back room in the Sterneckerbräu tavern. Furthermore, the DAP was finally able to look towards diversifying its propaganda strategy by putting out printed material, something which had previously been beyond its means in light of the high cost of paper in Germany’s unstable, rationing-afflicted, post-War economy. February 1920 thus saw not only the appearance of the German Workers’ Party’s new party programme, but also the printing and distribution of its first-ever propaganda document, translated below. This four-page pamphlet was authored by Anton Drexler, then First Chairman of the party, and focused on outlining to readers the miserable conditions under which the new German Republic was supposedly laboring, with the blame for these afflictions laid by the author firmly at the feet of both the ‘false socialism’ of the Marxists and the financial rule of global (“Jewish”) capitalism. Naturally enough Drexler’s document depicts the National Socialist German Workers’ Party as being (in contrast to the Social-Democrats) the way back to prosperity, the only real guarantor of an “honest and true socialism” capable of genuinely saving the working-class and of restoring German greatness. As the first-ever propaganda work published by the DAP/NSDAP the document bears some notable historical significance, even if the style of its writing and presentation is a little prosaic in comparison with the more sophisticated material put out by the National Socialists in later years. Drexler’s authorship of the pamphlet is also somewhat curious in light of the fact that Hitler was the party’s Werbeobmann (propaganda chief) at this point. Possibly it was felt that the honor of producing such a publication should be reserved for the party’s original founder and current leader, even if Drexler’s talent for writing tended to be more workmanlike than gifted overall.  

Why Did the German Workers’ Party Have to Come About?
What Does it Want?
Anton Drexler, February 1920

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The German Volk have suffered terribly as a consequence of World War, revolution, and fratricidal conflict. Those men who, after the storms of November, grandstanded under the finest promises as being the only people capable of saving Germany, have now governed us to death. All ties of order, justice, and custom have been broken. The freedom which was promised to us manifests itself instead in an unprecedented proliferation of common criminality, such as privileged usurers and the exploiters of our people [Volksausbeuter]. The old order collapsed – and now destruction grins, while no new life blossoms among the ruins! It must be stated clearly: “It was not a change of systems that occurred in the late autumn days of 1918, but rather the old system’s coronation. Before the German Revolution, the capitalist constitution ruled behind the scenes; with the Revolution it replaced every objectionable person with its cronies, and continued to misrule us until, through hardship, hunger, and misery, we became the willing slaves of world capitalism – whose representatives are also situated within Germany.”

1.35% foreign races = a 79% share in government.
98.67% ethnic Germans1 = a 21% share in the government of their own native land.
These numbers say it all!

German industrial- and working-capital amounted to twelve billion [Marks]. Whereas loan- and stock-market-capital totaled 250 billion.

But only working-capital was combated, which – in the form of tools, machines, ships, and every kind of manufacturing equipment – was the working Volk’s meal ticket.

Loan-capital, on the other hand, which weighs down upon our own land and soil, upon our buildings, houses, and tenements, was not only not combated – it was actually promoted. The representatives and agents of capitalism set themselves at the head of the combat troops which they themselves had organized against capitalism, and they steered the struggle against the working-capital which stood in their way. The working Volk are bound up with working-capital for better or for worse, and this capital must – while preventing any exploitation of the labor force – be protected. Continue reading

Social-Fascism

“Social Democracy objectively represents the moderate wing of Fascism.” British Communist R. Palme Dutt’s theoretical explanation of the Stalinist concept of “Social-Fascism”

The theory of ‘Social-Fascism’, which held that Social-Democracy was Fascism’s “handmaiden” and its “moderate wing,” was first formalized within the international Marxist-Leninist movement over a number of Comintern meetings throughout 1928-1929. The idea that Social-Democracy and Fascism were ideologically intertwined was not a new one at the time; Zinoviev as early as 1922 had remarked at the Fourth Comintern Congress that: “Not by chance is Mussolini, a renegade from the Second International, a sometime Social-Democrat, now at the head of the counter-revolutionary movement in Italy; not by chance are such as Ebert and Noske at the head of the government in Germany.” Similar observations had been made over the years by other leading Communists, including Clara Zetkin, Leon Trotsky, Earl Browder, and Josef Stalin. Yet it was not until the Comintern introduced the concept of the ‘Third Period’ at the tail-end of the 1920s – i.e., the notion that global capitalism had entered a period of economic collapse and impending revolution – that the complementary theory of Social-Fascism was also officially adopted and began to directly shape Communist tactics and propaganda. The claim that Social-Democrats were working in concert with the bourgeoisie to stymie the nigh-inevitable proletarian revolution and to build a reactionary fascist state was not always popular or well-understood among Communism’s grass-roots supporters, particularly as it seemed to often translate (as was most notably the case in Germany) into Communist parties directing the bulk of their hostile energies against fellow workers in the ‘reformist’ parties, rather than against actual outright ‘Fascists’. One of the more notable attempts to allay some of this confusion and to give the idea of Social-Fascism a more complete theoretical foundation occurred in the 1934 book Fascism and Social Revolution, by Rajani Palme Dutt. In his book Dutt, a British-Indian Communist and one of Stalinism’s more erudite English-language theoreticians, outlined in detail some of the Marxist-Leninist analyses of Fascism with which many have already become familiar: that it is “a means of capitalist class rule in conditions of extreme decay,” that it is “the organisation of the entire capitalist state upon the basis of permanent civil war,” and so on. A significant segment of Dutt’s book is also given over to examining the relationship between Social-Democracy and Fascism, and it is the chapter dealing with this topic which has been excerpted below. What makes Dutt’s analysis on this topic particularly compelling is that it does not just focus on painting Social-Democracy as a capitalist tool for manipulating workers into the service of the bourgeoisie. Instead, Dutt goes into some detail examining the alleged shared ideological roots between Social-Democracy and Fascism, intimating that the two do have some form of common intellectual lineage, particularly through Social-Democracy’s alleged “abandonment” of Marxism and internationalism during the Great War. While Dutt (like most Marxists) is reluctant to ascribe any serious, pre-War theoretical foundations to Fascism, his admission that there is nonetheless an actual, direct relationship between Socialism and Fascism is still particularly noteworthy, especially given how reluctant many on the Left today seem to be when it comes to acknowledging the uncomfortable fact that Fascism and National Socialism actually began as evolutions (or heresies) of Marxist doctrine.  

Social Democracy and Fascism
From R. Palme Dutt’s Fascism and Social Revolution (1934)

It is evident from the previous survey of the historical development of Fascism in Italy, Germany, and Austria that the role of Social Democracy is of decisive importance in the development to Fascism. The understanding of these two closely-related phenomena of the post-war period, of modern Social Democracy and of Fascism, is of key importance for the whole understanding of post-war capitalist politics. The whole question, however, is ringed round with controversy, and requires very careful further analysis, if the real issues of Fascism, and the conditions of the growth of Fascism are to be understood.

It should be explained that the term “Social Democracy” is here used only to cover the post-war phenomenon, the post-1914 Social Democratic Parties which subsequently united to form the post-war Second International or “Labour and Socialist International” in 1923. Although the tendencies of opportunist parliamentary corruption and absorption into the capitalist State were already strong and growing before the war throughout the imperialist epoch, even while the nominal programme of international revolutionary Marxism remained, and were increasingly fought by the revolutionary wing within these parties since the beginning of the twentieth century, it was only the decisive test of the imperialist war in 1914 that brought these tendencies to their full working out and openly revealed these parties as having passed over to capitalism. The direct passing over in this way since 1914 of large organisations of the working-class movement in all the imperialist countries, and especially of the parliamentary and trade union leadership, to open unity with capitalism and with the capitalist State, is a big historical fact; and the subsequent evolution of these parties since the war has played a large role, in the early years in the defeating of the working-class revolution, and in the subsequent years in the growth of Fascism.

This latter role was already showing itself in very marked preliminary forms in those secondary states where White dictatorships were established, in Hungary, Finland, Bulgaria, etc. In the period of the reconstruction and partial stabilisation of capitalism with the aid of Social Democracy, and still more since the development of the world economic crisis and the shattering of the basis of capitalist reconstruction, this character has become increasingly marked throughout Social Democracy. A process of “fascisation” in a whole variety of forms and stages, as well as of playing directly into the hands of Fascism, can be traced. Continue reading