Every Man a King

“Limit fortunes and spread the wealth.” Extracts from the 1933 autobiography of populist Louisiana maverick politician Huey P. Long

Unlike some of the more obscure figures covered on this blog, Huey Long does not require much of an introduction. Despite his short career in the US Senate, Long is one of the few congressional politicians from his era who still has a level of international name recognition, even if his modern reputation is not always universally positive. Governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932, then Senator for the state from 1932 until his assassination in 1935, Long in his day was hailed by some as a progressive hero and reviled by others as a demagogic, incipient fascist. The occasional comparisons one sees made today between Long and Donald Trump are accurate enough on one level, in that both have been widely and fervently compared to Mussolini and Hitler, while at the same time being praised (not always by different people) for their populist stances and for their alleged understanding for the needs of the ‘little man’. There are also significant differences between the two, of course. Unlike Trump, Long was a career politician without much direct experience in private enterprise. His style and his outlook were also far removed from New York, being heavily shaped by Louisiana’s faction-driven political culture, which was tangled up in a complex web of class enmities, nepotism, machine politics, and regional hostilities. Long furthermore was a self-identified man of the Left, something which Trump has never been, even during the latter’s brief, now long-past flirtations with the Democratic Party. All of these various factors help provide some context for Long’s political worldview, which was heavily centered around the interventionist power of the state – Long was one of the few mainstream (i.e. non-Communist) figures in US politics to publicly criticize President Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation for not going far enough, and his 1934 Share Our Wealth program was notorious for its stated ambition of using legislative authority to radically redistribute the wealth of American society. The text below, an excerpt of three chapters from Long’s 1933 autobiography Every Man a King, provides an overview of Long’s political outlook and of some of the practical proposals which he made to alleviate the suffering caused by the Great Depression. These chapters constitute an effective summation of the aims of the ‘Long Plan’, the series of bills introduced in 1932-33 (all rejected) which would later serve as the ideological springboard for Long’s famous Share Our Wealth movement. 

The Effort to Spread the Wealth Among the Masses

I had come to the United States Senate with only one project in mind, which was that by every means of action and persuasion I might do something to spread the wealth of the land among all of the people.1

I foresaw the depression in 1929. In letters reproduced in this volume, I had predicted all of the consequences many years before they occurred.

The wealth of the land was being tied up in the hands of a very few men. The people were not buying because they had nothing with which to buy. The big business interests were not selling, because there was nobody they could sell to.

One per cent of the people could not eat any more than any other one per cent; they could not live in any more houses than any other one per cent. So, in 1929, when the fortune-holders of America grew powerful enough that one per cent of the people owned nearly everything, ninety-nine per cent of the people owned practically nothing, not even enough to pay their debts, a collapse was at hand.

God Almighty had warned against this condition. Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster, Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan and every religious teacher known to this earth had declaimed against it. So it was no new matter, as it was termed, when I propounded the line of thought with the first crash of 1929, that the eventful day had arrived when accumulation at the top by the few had produced a stagnation by which the vast multitude of the people were impoverished at the bottom. Continue reading

Rudolf Jung’s “National Socialism”

The “Das Kapital” of National Socialism… kind of

Slightly over a year ago, I began work on translation of Rudolf Jung’s 1922 work National Socialism: Its Foundations, Development, and Goals, the first book which sought to offer a full, systematic exposition of the entire breadth of the National Socialist ideological worldview. I can now announce that the translation is complete – it can be downloaded directly from WordPress using this link: Jung – National Socialism – Its Foundations, Development, and Goals (2nd ed., 1922)

Alternatively, I’ve also uploaded a copy for access via the Internet Archive.

One of the first articles I ever posted on this blog was a profile of Jung, so I won’t go into too much detail about his personal background here. People who are interested in knowing more about Jung’s life can read that article, or they can read the introduction I included within the translation. The book itself is significant for a number of reasons. Primarily this is because, as mentioned, it constituted the first genuine attempt by a member of the National Socialist movement to actually set out the theoretical aspects of National Socialist doctrine on any kind of comprehensive, intellectual level. Articles or pamphlets had been written on NS ideology in the past, but nothing of the range or scope (or length) of Jung’s book. Jung’s ambition was to be the ‘Karl Marx’ of National Socialism, and his stated hope to those who knew him was that his book would serve as the movement’s Das Kapital. Some historians tend to be fairly dismissive of this aspiration, claiming that Jung’s book is intellectually shallow in comparison with Marx’s works. While it’s true that Jung’s book isn’t on the same level as Kapital (for one thing, Kapital comprises three pretty dense volumes of critique and theory – National Socialism is a pamphlet by comparison), I don’t think the dismissive attitude affected by some writers is really warranted. There are interesting historical arguments in National Socialism, some thought-provoking analyses of capitalist economics and property relations (a good chunk of the book is focused on outlining the bases of NS economic theory, particularly issues relating to land ownership), and Jung’s book is (at least in my opinion) far more readable than Marx’s. The intellectual foundations of Jung’s work are solid enough for their purpose, even if they don’t have quite the grandeur that the author may have hoped for or intended. In any event, now that the book is available in English, readers will be able to make such assessments for themselves. Continue reading

Aufbruch: Winning the Nationalists for Communism

“Nationalists! Break through to us!” Articles from ‘Aufbruch’, a National Bolshevist propaganda journal produced by the Communist Party of Germany

Between 23 September to 4 October 1930, three young officers of the German Reichswehr stood trial in a Leipzig court, charged with plotting to commit high treason. The three Lieutenants – Richard Scheringer, Hanns Ludin, and Hans Wendt – had for several months been spreading national-revolutionary propaganda among the officer corps of the 5th Artillery Regiment in Ulm, encouraging them “not to fire on a national uprising of the people” should it occur, but instead to actively side with the revolutionary nationalists, to “join the revolt and become the nucleus of a people’s army of the future.” The ‘Ulm Reichswehr Trial’ of these young officers became a notorious event in Weimar history (Hitler was famously called as a witness), but even more notorious was its aftermath. On 27 February 1931, almost five months into an 18 month sentence, Richard Scheringer publicly announced that he had forsaken radical-nationalism and decided to convert to Communism, and a statement to this effect was read out in the Reichstag on 18 March by a member of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). The Communists saw Scheringer’s conversion as a major propaganda victory, and quickly hurried to incorporate his name and image into their “National and Social” propaganda line, a strategy directed at winning over disaffected nationalists for Marxism-Leninism through Communist appropriation of nationalist discourse and aesthetics. To that end, in July 1931 a new propaganda journal was launched: Aufbruch: Kampfblatt im Sinne des Leutnant a.D. Scheringer (“Awakening: A Combat-Journal in the Spirit of Lieutenant a.D. Scheringer”). Aufbruch directly targeted itself towards members of the NSDAP, SA, Stahlhelm, Wehrwolf, and other nationalist organizations, utilizing Scheringer’s name along with National Bolshevist language in an attempt to build common ground between nationalist and Marxist revolutionaries. Aufbruch articles might cover military developments in the Soviet Red Army, revolutionary strategy in China, the concept of the “Nation” in socialist theory, or the inadequate social-revolutionary credentials of nationalist leaders – all topics intended to attract a radical-nationalist audience and to make them sympathetic to the arguments of German Communism. The two articles below are translated from the first edition of Aufbruch, and give an idea of its flavor: the first (untitled) lead article is effectively a statement of the journal’s purpose, while the second (“The Break with Yesterday”) is an account by an anonymous supposed ex-NSDAP member explaining why he and others like him decided to break with the NSDAP in favor of the KPD.

Untitled Lead Article from
Aufbruch

“A Combat-Journal in the Spirit of Lieutenant a.D.
1 Scheringer”
From Aufbruch vol. 1, no. 1, July 1931

LENIN:
“If the cause of the Volk is made the cause of the Nation,
then the cause of the Nation becomes the cause of the Volk!”
2

Folk-comrades!

In this historic hour, we turn to you former officers and leaders in the nationalist associations:

The misery of our Volk is growing tremendously. More and more are the masses being forced into impoverishment by the capitalist system. Hundreds of thousands of peasants separated from their homes and farms; millions dulled through having to eke out a meager existence; millions of workers and employees without work and bread; hundreds and thousands of academics and intellectuals no longer with any opportunity to earn a living.

The capitalist ruling powers are trying to keep the machinery of state running through brutal cuts to wages and salaries; by reducing care for the sick and disabled; by cutting civil servant salaries and war victim benefits; by throttling unemployment benefits; by perpetually introducing new taxes and new methods of coercion. The tribute burdens are passed on completely to the working strata among the Volk. Freedom of expression is stifled through ruthless terror, and every protest by the masses is suppressed with fascist methods.

Meanwhile, international finance capital is preparing for a war of intervention against the Soviet Union, in order to reintegrate back into the capitalist system an economic territory which is flourishing as a result of socialism’s realization. In their own countries the exploiters have done everything possible to incite the German Volk against the East in service of the predatory capital of world finance. In this way they hope to escape their present difficulties once again, and to create an outlet for the growing anger of the masses. If this criminal plan is fulfilled, then all hope for the national and social liberation of the German Volk will be destroyed for a long time to come, because our freedom can only be secured in tandem with the first free workers’ and peasants’ state on Earth, the Soviet Union! The opposite route leads us to a new enslavement, to the perpetuation of capitalist servitude indefinitely. Continue reading

The Nationality-Programme of Austrian Social-Democracy

The nationality-programme of the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party of Austria: a socialist solution to the ‘national question’?

Upon its founding in Hainfeld in 1889, the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party of Austria (Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Österreichs, SDAPÖ) was faced with challenges which, outside of Russia, were largely unique within the context of European socialist politics. Austria-Hungary was a sprawling multinational land empire, a dual monarchy governing a cosmopolitan blend of different races which had become increasingly dispersed as a by-product of capitalist development and growing industrialization. As a consequence, from the very beginning the SDAPÖ found itself not only dealing with material class issues, but also with the competing demands of different national ethnic groups, and the party soon discovered that abstract appeals to “internationalism” were often not enough to attenuate the ethnic disquiet felt by many workers – whether Germans faced with the threat of “cheap Czech labor” migrating from other parts of the Empire, or non-German minorities who felt discriminated against by the state (and even by the party and the unions). The ‘national question’ proved so divisive for the SDAPÖ that in 1897 it split into six separate (but still theoretically united) Social-Democratic parties, one for each of the major ethnic groups represented within the Austrian state. In 1899, at a Social-Democratic conference in Brünn, the SDAPÖ made an attempt to grapple with the issue directly by drafting a “nationality-programme,” a proposed outline for a future socialist state which the party believed would eliminate national conflicts among the workers while still preserving Austria as a unified, independent entity. The Brünn proposal (a “democratic state federation of nationalities”), and much of the theory which developed out of it in the following years, would subsequently become one of the defining characteristics of “Austromarxism,” that unique form of Social-Democracy which developed within Austria as a consequence of the country’s particular political idiosyncrasies. In order to explore the nationality-programme and some of the critical reactions to it from the broader socialist movement, I have reproduced a number of documents below. The first is a brief account from a historical work providing some background and context to the programme. The second is the translated text of the nationality-programme itself, taken from an SDAPÖ publication. The final three pieces are extracts, critiques of the programme from three different sources: one from Otto Bauer, representing an internal critique (the Austromarxist view); one from Joseph Stalin, representing the Bolshevist perspective; and one from Alois Ciller, representing the National Socialist outlook. Each of these three men had some connection to the Austrian proposal, whether through background or expertise, and each had his own independent interpretation of the programme’s efficacy and its potential impact upon socialist theory and socialist activism.

Nationalism Among the Workers:
The Historical Context Behind the Social-Democratic Nationality-Programme
From historian Andrew G. Whiteside’s “Austrian National Socialism Before 1918” (1962)

Andrew G. Whiteside’s book constitutes an exploration of the conditions which gave rise to the German-völkisch National Socialist movement, whose origins lay within Austria-Hungary (particularly the Sudetenland) and which was already an established, active political force there before Hitler joined the Bavarian German Workers’ Party in 1919. The short extract below, taken from the chapter “Nationalism Among the Workers,” provides some of the historical context surrounding the drafting of the Brünn nationality-programme. It briefly outlines the impact which inter-ethnic worker conflicts had upon the SDAPÖ; the difficulties Social-Democratic leaders experienced in trying to reconcile Austrian conditions with the theory of internationalism; how these conditions helped give rise to the idea of a federation of nationalities; and, finally, how in the end the party’s strategy could still not prevent a complete splitting of the SDAPÖ along racial lines. – Bogumil

The Austrian Social-Democratic Party during these years [the 1890s to early 1900s] was beset by difficulties that did not exist for Socialists in most of the other countries of Europe. Its basic doctrine of proletarian solidarity and the irrelevance of nationality was refuted by the division between Czech and German workers. As a liberating force it had to admit a man’s right to be educated and to do his work in his native tongue. At the same time many of its leaders – Adler, Kautsky, Pernerstorfer, Renner, Bauer, Seliger, Ellenbogen, and others – were firmly convinced that the international labor movement should be directed by men with German brains and character. Like Marx and Engels they distrusted Slavs. Friedrich Stampfer, a spokesman for the betont deutsch1 wing of Austrian Social-Democracy, writing in the Leipziger Volkszeitung, actually opposed political democracy because it would mean handing over the country to Slavs and clericals. Viktor Adler, complaining to Liebknecht about the spread of nationality madness, declared that it was based chiefly on envy, misunderstanding, and irrationality. Otto Bauer, defending the Viennese German leadership, said that the success of the Socialist movement required empire-wide international unions with unified finances, administration, and policy; the Czechs, by stubbornly insisting on autonomy, were failing to show the “the necessary discipline of the minority” and were sabotaging the whole labor movement. Bauer was in the dilemma of all dedicated Austrian Socialists, torn between his belief in the special role of the Germans in advancing Socialism and his sympathy with the Czechs’ desire for national equality. Continue reading