The Christian Socialist Ahlen Program

“The capitalist economic system has failed…” The 1947 ‘Ahlen Program’ of the center-right Christian Democratic Union

CDU_GemeinwirtschaftThe collapse of the ‘Hitler-regime’ and Germany’s total defeat over the course of the War led many Germans to seek a clean break with the past. The ‘fresh start’ which they longed for was not just conceptualized in terms of a rejection of National Socialism and militarism, but also in terms of a desire to cast aside the capitalist economic system, to use the opportunity offered by the need to rebuild a shattered nation to construct a new economic system which would be eminently fairer and less prone to cronyism and abuse. This sentiment was not just confined to those on the Left; the conservative movement (particularly those formerly associated with the Catholic Zentrum) had a long history of Christian Socialism in their ranks, and these ideas came to the fore once more during the harsh winters and troubled economic times which immediately followed the end of the War. The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) had been founded in June 1945 as a catch-all movement for moderate conservatives and Christians of all denominations, and Christian Socialism became particularly popular among CDU members within the British Zone of occupation, an area which encompassed the Ruhr Valley, Germany’s industrial heartland. On 3 February, 1947, CDU members within the British Zone formalized the party’s commitment to Christian Socialist principles (while diplomatically choosing to avoid direct use of the term) by adopting the famous ‘Ahlen Program’, translated below. The Ahlen Program, which openly calls for the socialization of certain industries, the democratization of workplaces, and the forced break-up of companies above a certain size, was largely the work of local CDU leaders Johannes Albers and Konrad Adenauer. Adenauer would turn out to be more economically conservative than other members of the North-Rhine Westphalia branch, which explains why he later took both the CDU and Germany (as Chancellor) in a direction which ended up casting aside many of the more radical socialist ideals set out in this early founding document. 

The Ahlen Program
CDU Zone Committee for the British Zone, Ahlen / Westphalia,
3rd February 1947CDU

The CDU Zone Committee for the British Occupation Zone issued the following programmatic declaration at its conference of 1-3 February, 1947, in Ahlen:

The capitalist economic system has failed to do justice to the vital state and social interests of the German people. After the terrible political, economic, and social collapse which resulted from criminal power politics, only a new order built from the ground up can follow.

The content and goal of this new social and economic order can no longer be the capitalist pursuit of profit and power, but instead must be only the welfare of our people. A cooperative economic order should provide the German people with an economic and social constitution which accords with the rights and dignity of man, which serves the spiritual and material development of our people, and which secures peace both at home and abroad.

In recognition of this, the CDU party program of March 1946 sets forth the following principles:

The Goal of All Economic Activity is to Satisfy the Needs of the People

The economy has to serve the development of the creative forces of the people and the community. The starting-point for all economic activity is the recognition of the individual. Personal freedom in the economic sphere is closely linked to freedom in the political sphere. The shaping and management of the economy must not deprive the individual of his freedom. Therefore, it is necessary to: Continue reading

Father Coughlin and the Power of Money

Reverend Charles E. Coughlin’s 1934 lecture on money, credit, and the corrupting power of the banks

The following is a transcript of a lecture first delivered by Reverend Charles E. Coughlin on December 30th, 1934, titled ‘Money is No Mystery.’ Coughlin in many ways was a pioneering figure in American history – one of the first true mass media figures, he laid the foundations for modern talk radio and demonstrated the enormous power of mass broadcast media. Father Coughlin’s radio program, operated out of his parish in Michigan, was at its height listened to by roughly 22% of the American population – possibly the largest audience any single figure has ever had in all history. Coughlin also headed a political movement, founded in 1934, named the National Union of Social Justice; through the NUSJ, his radio program, and his journal Social Justice, Coughlin propagated a massively popular, populist set of ideas consisting of a mixture of isolationism, American nationalism, anti-capitalism, anti-communism, and Christian values. Much of Coughlin’s appeal came from his often vicious critique of the American capitalist system, such critiques proving especially popular during the midst of the Depression and the controversial policies being pursued by President Franklin Roosevelt. Coughlin saw in American capitalism, and particularly in its banking structure and treatment of money, many of the root causes of modern society’s ills. The lecture below is a typical example of Coughlin’s denunciation of the destructive financial system of the United States.

I

Since the year 1929 America has been in a state of transition. Slowly but certainly with every other civilized nation we have been passing from the age of modern capitalism into a new era of communism, of Fascism, of socialism or of Hitlerism. We, in America, have one choice, namely, to follow the course of one of these or else to construct a new system founded upon social justice. Still, withal, those who prospered most and produced least under the old system are battling fiercely to maintain their privileges and their functions of legislation.

Certainly, during this coming year and the years immediately following, we will witness the total dissolution of modern capitalism. It is advisedly that I use the adjective “modern,” because capitalism, as we knew it in the past twenty or thirty years, differed almost substantially from the capitalism which was originally conceived. Today it is more renowned for its vices than for its virtues.

Those who are fighting so relentlessly to preserve its poverty-breeding corpse refuse to face the pressing problem of squaring production with distribution. They are those who, during the coming years, will continue to oppose the restoration to Congress of its right to coin and regulate the value of money. They still believe that all wealth should be identified with gold: That is the basic thought behind the gold standard. They still believe that the debts of the farmer, of the merchant, of the municipality, of the state which were incurred through the operation of an insane credit inflation, of manufactured bookkeeping money, should be paid back to them in honest currency which does not exist.

They still labor under the delusion that the factory worker is so ignorant that he is willing to starve or, at least, recede to a lower standard of living, despite the plenitude of capital wealth which surrounds him – factories, fields, mines, forests – all of which are idle, because the banker controls the coinage of money and issues it on the same basis as he did before we underwent an unreal, psychological revaluation of our gold.

They still believe that the American people will become accustomed to bread lines, to forced idleness and to cut wages. Continue reading