Gottfried Feder’s 1919 vision of a highly democratic, corporatist National Socialism with a grass-roots electoral system
The article below was first published by Gottfried Feder under the title ‘The Social State’ on May 24th, 1919, in Dietrich Eckart’s newspaper Auf gut Deutsch. Its characterization as a National Socialist text could possibly be regarded as a stretch, considering it was published roughly two or three months before Feder first officially joined the German Workers’ Party (DAP). However, one should not forget that Feder’s pamphlet ‘Manifesto for the Abolition of Slavery to Interest’, which swiftly became (and remains) a core document of National Socialist economic doctrine, was written before the DAP even existed; was first published when the DAP was still in its infancy; and was originally pitched in prototypical form by Feder to the Marxist government of Kurt Eisner. ‘The Social State’ in fact is in many respects highly representative of early, pre-Hitler National Socialism, bearing more similarity to the National Socialism of Rudolf Jung and the Austrian-Sudeten-Polish DNSAP than to the more militant, authoritarian form of the ideology which developed under Hitler’s influence. ‘The Social State’ calls for a nationalist, anticapitalist state in which political representation is effected through a corporative rather than parliamentary system, a system remarkable in how democratic it is – Feder not only implicitly assumes that women will have the right to vote, but children too, the grass-roots electoral system he describes potentially involving every member of society in the election process. Although this system was obviously not adopted by the NSDAP as a potential model, ‘The Social State’ is still a fascinating demonstration that National Socialism and dictatorship were not necessarily synonymous concepts in the eyes of the movement’s Party-comrades.
THE SOCIAL STATE
The old form of government has broken down. What shall take its place? This is the most important problem of the future: Weimar’s democratic-parliamentary monster, lifeless as it is, now that its illusionary policies have completely collapsed, seems to have reached the end of its days. The peace conditions of the Entente are the horrible alarm bell which has dispelled Socialist dreams and illusions. Where is Mr. Scheidemann’s peace with understanding? Where is Mr. Erzberger’s economic peace – guaranteed to be ready in half an hour? Where is the League of Nations, where is Mr. Eisner’s world revolution? Where is the workers’ state in which production is doubled; where is the higher morality – where is any reconstruction at all to be seen?
Weighed and found wanting – that is already the judgement of its own people, of its own contemporaries. Over and over again history will curse the German revolutionaries who betrayed their people, who in their shortsighted megalomania first robbed a brave people of belief in and desire for victory and then with the cowardly bravery of the assassin stabbed the army in the back during its most difficult days, in order to seize the power which they cannot use. For it is one thing to fell a swaying giant from behind, to uproot a dynasty which has already lost touch with the people, or to revolutionize a civil service which has lost its vital connection with the life of the people. It is quite a different thing to display revolutionary power when the task is to inspire the mortally wounded people with new vitality and to prepare a new and vigorous political organism. Continue reading