Visions of National Socialist Democracy, Part I: Jung

Rudolf Jung’s 1922 vision of a future representative, National Socialist council-state

Over the next few weeks ARPLAN will be publishing a number of articles exploring the often difficult concept of democracy’s place within National Socialist ideology. On the face of it one might think that there is no place for democracy in National Socialism; today the Hitlerian regime and its guiding philosophy are typically presented as the archetypal antithesis of democratic values. What complicates this perception are the thoughts and words of the National Socialists themselves – on the one hand they cursed democracy, while on the other they claimed to be bringing a true, Germanic democracy to the German people. The National Socialist interpretation of democracy, like the Soviet, was characterized by a difference of interpretation – for them democracy lay not with parliaments and parties, but with more traditional forms of popular rule drawn from the Germanic past. When activists set out to write their blueprints for a possible future National Socialist state, they rarely spoke of dictatorship – and more often spoke of voting, and elections, and representative government, all shorn of the trappings of bourgeois Western parliamentarism. These visions of ‘National Socialist democracy’ are what ARPLAN will be exploring in the coming weeks. Our first vision is excerpted from Rudolf Jung’s 1922 (2nd ed.) book Der nationale Sozialismus, the earliest work of National Socialist political philosophy, which describes a future NS-state built on a kind of ‘council-nationalism.’ The text below was translated by myself from two separate chapters of Jung’s work, ‘Parliament or Council?’ (Parlament oder Räte?) and ‘The German Peoples’ State’ (Der deutsche Volkstaat). The first chapter is abridged for purposes of brevity, the second included in full.    

Parliament or Councils?

How were things in 1918? Absolutism – it was declared at the time – must disappear, democracy should take its place. The very fact that no one could find a German word to describe what was desired indicated that the goal was quite unclear and hazy. In essence, the autocracy of the individual, which had been severely limited by constitutional institutions, was simply replaced by the far more ruthless rule of the major parties. And even then, sometimes only ostensibly. The sceptres rolled into the dust, the moneybag took their place; in lieu of dynastic power struggles, which still here and there had to be reconciled with the public welfare, the naked selfishness of the parties appeared. The urge to feed at the trough has brought about the most untenable alliances between parties, in which each has no faith in the other, in which each seeks advantage over the other. It does not matter to them whether the state whose leadership they have been entrusted with falls apart as a result, so long as the party’s fortunes prosper…

…Every method is pursued in the attempt to alleviate this malady, from unity parties here to untenable party alliances there. But it is incurable. The system instead must be transformed completely. Today’s parliamentarism, with its unicameral structure, requires urgent supplementation by the old German system of representation via the estates, a system which is far better suited to the nature of our Volk. Of course, this system will not appear as it did in former times, because the old estates have either partly changed or have vanished completely. Nobody today, for example, would be able to sufficiently exemplify the concept of Bürgertum. But there are occupational groups which can provide us with a suitable basis for estatist representation, a representation whose modern form of expression is the council system – by which, however, we do not intend to mean the Russian caricature, because the concept of a council dictatorship is as untenable as any dictatorship, i.e., tyranny. But the council concept [Rätegedanke] itself is good, and it will be realized in the most diverse range of forms within political, intellectual, and economic life! But here, too, one needs to be on guard against one-sidedness and overestimation. There are no panaceas; every illness requires different remedies. Life is manifold, and colorful and manifold are therefore also its manifestations.  Continue reading

Profile: Rudolf Jung

The ‘Karl Marx’ of German National Socialism

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Early Years

Rudolf Jung  was born on 16 April 1882 in Plass, a small town on the Střela River in the heart of Bohemia. Jung’s childhood was spent in Iglau, a city in the neighboring region of Moravia. As well as being a garrison for the local military, Iglau was a ‘speech island’, an enclave for ethnic Germans in the Czech lands of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The significant number of Sudeten Germans in the area engendered an atmosphere of racial tension; since the 1880s there had been competition and conflict between Czech and German workers in the town, an atmosphere which would shape Jung’s perceptions as a child and have a significant impact on the development of his views as an adult.

As an adolescent Jung was sent to Vienna to study at its Technical High School. His natural intelligence ensured him a place at university and eventually, in 1906, a doctorate in mechanical engineering which opened further doors to employment as a railway engineer. It was presumably around this period that Jung’s political activism began. Austria’s state railways were heavily unionized, with the unions divided along racial lines – Czech and German workers not only competed for jobs, but also competed over which languages should be used in signage & paperwork, which provincial administrations would manage which sections of track, how many Czechs could be employed on German-majority territory (and vice versa), etc. Austria-Hungary had a large number of nationalist trade unions divided along ethnic lines, and as a result of these disputes the largest and strongest were those of the railwaymen. Jung was thrown right into the middle of this ferment.

The conditions in the railways did nothing but reinforce the views Jung had been forming since his childhood in Iglau: that Czech immigration was being used to undercut German labor with cheap wages and force Germans to emigrate from their native lands in search of better working conditions. It is likely also that Jung’s social views were further shaped by the ‘proletarian’ culture of the heavily unionized environment and the many working-class railway employees who he encountered. In any event, Jung soon became involved in union politics to such an extent that it impacted on his employment, with his activism on behalf of the railway workers earning him a punitive transfer by his employer from Vienna back to Bohemia. Ironically, this punishment just moved Jung out of one hotbed of social-nationalist agitation and right into another.  Continue reading