Gregor Strasser’s ‘Thoughts About the Tasks of the Future’

Gregor Strasser’s article of June 15, 1926, outlining his thoughts on culture, socialism, and the state

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My original plan for the remainder of this month was to continue with the ‘Visions of National Socialist Democracy’ series, as well as to post a historical excerpt about the revolutionary peasant movement of Weimar Germany – the  Landvolkbewegung. Unfortunately, however, life has got in the way; between personal commitments and completing the Paetel translation, I’m not sure I’ll have the time for that content until June. Rather than leave the site dead for the remaining two weeks or so while I finish work on the National Bolshevist Manifesto, I decided instead to post something that I already had lying around – the following article by Gregor Strasser, first published in 1926. Thoughts About the Tasks of the Future may not be new to some people, as bits and pieces of it have been floating around parts of the internet for a while, although usually in an unsatisfactory form (one website I saw hosted a good chunk of the essay, though had bizarrely replaced every instance of the word ‘socialism’ with ‘corporatism’). It is most famous for the “We are socialists, we are enemies, mortal enemies, of the present capitalist economic system” quote, which frequently appears online in center-right/boomer memes, usually misattributed to Hitler, and almost always employed as a rhetorical weapon to ‘prove’ that the liberal left are equivalent to National Socialists. The article is a lot more than that quote, obviously – written by Strasser on his sickbed (he had been in a serious car accident in early March, making him bedridden for months) not long after the failure at Bamberg, it was intended to serve as a comprehensive statement of his personal beliefs. Some of the opinions or policies Strasser supports in this article would shift by the early ’30s, but for the most part it remains a valuable insight into his general worldview – both his anti-materialist sentiments and his Prussian-inspired view of man’s relationship with the state would, for instance, essentially remain unchanged until his death.  

Lying on a sickbed for a few weeks and months does have its good side. So much that in the trivialities of everyday life does not get a hearing now has the chance to rise slowly from the unconscious to the conscious mind where it is tested and is winged by imagination, so that it acquires form and gains life. In general, people often make the mistake of assuming that practical action – the incessant preoccupation with daily necessities – is not founded in the mind. They therefore like to set up an invidious comparison between the thinker and the doer! It is true that the currents of the mind and the soul do not become conscious when one is resolutely grappling with the tasks of the day and trying, by freshly setting to work, to solve all questions in a practical way!

So it is comfort ever now and then to have the leisure to look beyond the tasks of the day and of the near future and to plumb the depths of the questions toward whose solution we are resolutely dedicating our life’s work. When would this be better than during the many lonely hours of the sickbed, when the hands of the clock seem to stand still and the night never to end – until it becomes finally, finally morning again! This new dawn, the fact that again and again dawn comes, is the deep consolation, is the blessed certainty which makes the night of the present bearable for us – and even if the hours, years, never seem to end – the dawn does come, my friends, and the sun comes, the light!

Such thoughts of the lonely nights, thoughts about the National Socialist tasks of the future – I will briefly survey them here – such thoughts have surely occurred to most of our friends in similar hours and in a similar way – thoughts which at the moment are not yet the subject of our work, but whose undercurrents are flowing, whose blood runs through our work.

I. The Spirit of the Economy

We are Socialists, we are enemies, mortal enemies of the present capitalist economic system with its exploitation of the economically weak, with its injustice in wages, with its immoral evaluation of individuals according to wealth and money instead of responsibility and achievement, and we are determined under all circumstances to abolish this system! And with my inclination to practical action it seems obvious to me that we have to put a better, more just, more moral system in its place, one which, as it were, has arms and legs and better arms and legs than the present one!

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The ‘Strasser Program’

Too moderate, too democratic, too Marxist? The 1926 NSDAP draft program proposed (and rejected) as a replacement to the ’25 Points’

On January 5th, 1926, a meeting was convened in Hanover between members of the ‘National Socialist Working Group’, an association of prominent National Socialists from the north and west of Germany, including such figures as Goebbels, Ley, Pfeffer von Salomon, and Gregor & Otto Strasser. What united these National Socialists was their belief in National Socialism as an anticapitalist force, and their concern that the NSDAP was drifting in the wrong direction. At Hanover the group circulated a document which it was hoped would help address these issues: a new draft for a Party program that would replace the ‘outdated’ 25 Points of 1920, would more explicitly spell out the Party’s anticapitalist principles, and would more clearly describe the structure of the future NS-state. It was also felt that binding Hitler to a more concrete program would set stricter boundaries on his role as Führer. The draft program was primarily written by Gregor Strasser, based on the ideas of the Working Group, with some revisions to the text by Otto and Goebbels. It was contentious even within the Working Group, where it was criticized for being too ‘mild’ and lacking völkisch spirit, and its existence created some small turmoil within the Party. Hitler, seeing a threat to his authority, called a meeting at Bamberg on February 14th, 1926, where the draft program was soundly rejected; the 25 Points declared ‘inviolable’; and the foundations of Führerprinzip more firmly entrenched. The full text of the draft ‘Strasser program’ is reproduced below, translated by myself from the German ‘Quarterly Journal for Contemporary History’. 

National Socialism

Draft design of a comprehensive program of National Socialism

I. Introduction

(A nation is a community of fate, need, and bread!)

a.)  In brief the disorder of conditions:

  • in foreign policy
  • in domestic policy
  • in economic policy

b.)  Characterization of National Socialism as a wholly new, comprehensive view of political economy (synthesis of a politically creative nationalism and of a socialism which guarantees the support and development of the individual).  

c.)  Prerequisite for carrying out this mighty project is the national dictatorship. Fateful and causal connection between the economic emancipation of German employees and the political emancipation of the German people.

II. Foreign Policy

a.)  Borders of 1914, including colonies, and the unification of all German Central Europe in a Greater Germanic Reich (including Austria, the Sudetenland, and South Tyrol).

b.)  Tariff union with Switzerland, Hungary, Denmark, Holland, and Luxembourg.

c.)  Colonial empire in central Africa (former German colonies, the Congo, Portuguese colonies, portions of French colonies).

d.)  United States of Europe as a European league of nations with a uniform system of measurement and currency. Preparation for a tariff union with France and the other European states; otherwise, reciprocal most favored nation status.

III. Domestic Policy

A. Reich

1. Levels of office:

a.)  Reichspresident with a seven-year term (first Reichspresident the dictator), with    broad powers, comparable to the American President. His specific functions:

    • designation of the presidents of the individual regions,
    • appointment of ministers,
    • contracting of treaties, declaring of war and peace in cooperation with the ministry.

b.)  Reichsministry: led by the Reichschancellor, who heads the individual ministries and is responsible to the Reichspresident and, to a certain extent, to the Reich Chamber of Corporations.  (In the case of a two votes of no confidence, which must be a period of at least one year apart, the Cabinet must resign; likewise individual Ministers).   Continue reading

Work and Bread!

Presented by Gregor Strasser as a speech to the German Reichstag, May 10, 1932.
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Gregor Strasser, who joined the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) sometime between 1921 and 1922, was one of the most significant, talented members of the Party. Considered second only to Hitler, he had a string of accomplishments to his name: he became SA Leader for Lower Bavaria in March 1923; Gauleiter of Lower Bavaria in March 1925; Reichspropagandaleitung [national Propaganda Leader] in September 1926; and Reichsorganisationsleiter [national Organisation Leader] in January 1928. Strasser additionally became a member of the Bavarian Landtag in April 1924, and was elected to the Reichstag as representative for Westphalia North in December 1924 (a seat he held until stepping down in March 1933).  Strasser was in addition one of the NSDAP’s most important spokesmen on economic issues, working closely with Dr. Otto Wagener, chairman of the NSDAP’s Economic Policy Department, and with Walther Funk, member of the Party’s Reich Economic Council. It was in this context that the following speech was made on May 10, 1932. Although never officially endorsed by Hitler, it was republished and distributed by the Party in article and pamphlet form and became the basis for the ‘Emergency Economic Programme’ propagated by the NSDAP as its statement of economic principles prior to the Reichstag elections of July 1932. The ‘Work and Bread!’ speech is regarded as perhaps Strasser’s most important – in it he clearly sets forth a vision of National Socialist anticapitalism, advocating autarchy, a full-employment program, and heavy government intervention in the economy. The speech received some acclamation at the time, generating interest from trade union leaders and being publicly praised by Chancellor Brüning. 

Emergency Decrees are the Only Recourse of the Present System!

The last time I spoke here in October 1930 I settled our accounts with the System, and on the basis of our electoral victory of September 1930 I announced the basic domestic and foreign policy principles of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Since that time nothing has changed, nothing at all. The only new thing we have experienced since that time is the weapon of emergency decrees, which on the one hand reveal emergency and on the other hand decree emergency. But otherwise no new and above all no redeeming idea has emerged from the whole political development since that time. I see the reason for this in the fact that Germany’s ruling men have limited themselves to concentrating their entire political effort on the suppression and the exclusion from power of the national and social forces present in National Socialism; also in the fact that the government, like the debates in the German Reichstag on the few days in which it met, has always recognised but a single theme: the fight against us, and no longer a fight for the interests of the German people.

The entire energy of the government during the last election campaign, the whole manner of its propaganda with all its resources for influencing the people, was devoted to slandering us before the whole people and before the world. No mention was made of what the government had achieved itself in the interim.

The Reich Chancellor’s recent statement that a National Socialist takeover of the government would automatically entail chaos, inflation, and civil war is from the political standpoint the more dangerous because here in the Reichstag there is surely no one who doubts that the solution to the great German problems can never be attempted or found against our opposition or without our help.

The Rise of National Socialism

Despite the unprecedented resistance of all the people involved in the Brüning system and of all the men in government, the elections of recent times have brought about the incessant and irresistible rise of the movement. I think it is time for German officialdom to take off its party-shaded glasses and take a close look at where this rise comes from. Continue reading