The National and Social Liberation of the German People

Nationalist, Socialist, Bolshevist: the Communist Party of Germany’s ‘national-communist’ political programme of August 1930

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“Very many Nazi voters expected national liberation through their party, which it can never deliver. We must stress the national question more strongly than before in our agitation and propaganda and show that the KPD is the only party waging the struggle for Germany’s national liberation from the tribute burdens of the Young Plan.” So ran an article in a Ruhr newspaper of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD)  in October 1932. The sentiment it expressed was not rare or unusual within the KPD. It was, in fact, perfectly orthodox, at least in that period of the German party’s history. The KPD had been dabbling, on and off, with nationalist rhetoric since the early ’20s. In 1930 the Communist Party once again resolved to change tack and steer a more nationalist course, one more systematized and serious than the earlier ‘Schlageter line’ and heralded by the publication on August 24 of a new party programme which the KPD would take to the upcoming election: ‘The Programmatic Statement for the National and Social Liberation of the German People’. This programme, translated in full below, was intended to allay many of the concerns which had recently begun to subsume the party over the NSDAP’s rising membership and influence. The Communists’ refusal to support the NSDAP-organized 1929 referendum against the Young Plan had proven particularly contentious, creating the impression among many workers that the KPD supported the Plan, or at least was not serious in its fight against the hated ‘Versailles system’. The new programme was intended to prove to those workers going over to the ‘fascists’ that only the KPD could actually offer what National Socialism promised: the tearing-up of the Versailles Treaty and Young Plan; restoration of Germany’s lost territories; prosperity for middle-class, peasants, and workers alike; victory over French and Polish imperialism; the restoration of national dignity. Although never descending into outright chauvinism or Greater German power fantasies, the programme’s rhetoric is undoubtedly nationalistic in flavor, which is certainly how it was perceived. It served its purpose in convincing many socially-conscious nationalists that the KPD had their  nation’s best interests in mind, resulting in defections – a number of them quite high-profile from the SA, NSDAP, and other nationalist organizations.   

Communist Party of Germany (KPD):
Programmatic Statement for the National and Social Liberation
of the German People

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The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany approves, on the proposal of comrade Ernst Thälmann,1 the following proclamation for the national and social liberation of the German people. This declaration, which is addressed to all workers throughout Germany, has a programmatic significance that goes far beyond the scope of day-to-day politics. It constitutes a historical document that points the way for the entire working German people and illustrates for the first time the critical guidelines for the government policy of the coming German Soviet power.

While Social Democracy wants to sustain and perpetuate the existent state of misery, while the Hitler-party with deceitful phrases heralds a nebulous “Third Reich” that in reality would look even worse than the present wretchedness, we communists say clearly what we want. We conceal nothing. We make no promises that we will not unequivocally keep. Every laborer, every female worker, every young proletarian [Jungprolet], every office worker, every member of the cities’ indigent middle-classes, every working peasant in the country, every honest productive person in Germany, should with full clarity be convinced of our goal. The only way to the national liberation of the broad masses [Volksmassen] is a Soviet Germany.

For the present elections we call upon every working person in city and country to decide for a Soviet Germany by voting for List 4, for the list of the Communist Party. Continue reading

The National Bolshevist Manifesto

Karl Otto Paetel’s 1933 manifesto detailing the tactics and worldview of German ‘National Communism’

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Several months ago I posted a translation of the opening chapter of Karl Otto Paetel’s 1933 National Bolshevist Manifesto, which swiftly became one of the most popular things on the site.  At the time I indicated that I was in the process of translating the entire document. After several months of work, the translation of Karl Otto Paetel’s National Bolshevist Manifesto is now complete to a degree which I feel satisfied with. It can be downloaded directly from WordPress using the link below:

Paetel – The National Bolshevist Manifesto (1933)

Or it can be downloaded from the Internet Archive, where I also uploaded a copy.

If you experience any complications or difficulties downloading from either source, please leave a comment or send me an email through the ‘Scuttlebutt’ tab to let me know. As for distribution of the document, I have no problem if people want to host or share it elsewhere online themselves – I don’t expect people to ask my permission first. Once something is on the internet it tends to take on a life of its own, anyway.

Who was Paetel?

Karl Otto Paetel was born into a solidly middle-class Berlin-Charlottenberg family on November 23, 1906. The son of a bookseller, Paetel developed literary and intellectual interests early, and like most youth of his generation his thinking and outlook was deeply affected by the experience of the Great War and Germany’s subsequent post-War travails. The flourishing German Youth Movement, too, had a strong impact on his development – it was Paetel’s involvement in various youth groups that helped reinforce his nationalist sentiments, as well as his appreciation for the comradeship that came with activity within the framework of a tight-knit organization united around a common cause.

In 1928 Paetel enrolled at Friedrich-Wilhelm University in Berlin, studying philosophy and history with the intention of becoming a schoolteacher. Paetel’s studies were brought to an end only five semesters later as a result of his early forays into political activism. Defying a ban on demonstrations, a mass of students descended on the French Embassy in protest against the Treaty of Versailles, Paetel among them. To his shock he soon found himself slung in the back of a police vehicle, stuffed inbetween a Communist youth on one side and a National Socialist doctoral student on the other. The consequence of Paetel’s arrest once the University was alerted was the loss of his scholarship and his subsequent expulsion. With a sudden excess of free time on his hands, Paetel threw himself into journalism, writing articles for a variety of publications. He was particularly attracted to political subjects.

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A National Bolshevist Vision

The opening chapter of Karl Otto Paetel’s 1933 ‘National Bolshevist Manifesto’

Over the past month I have been working on a translation of Karl Otto Paetel’s National Bolshevist Manifesto of January 1933. Reproduced below is the short opening chapter of Paetel’s document, ‘Vision’, in which the author poetically describes his dream of a National Bolshevik revolution. In Paetel’s vision, Greater Germany is declared socialist; land and property are nationalized; and the revolutionary forces of German nationalism and socialism – communists, National Socialists, Stahlhelm, and the revolutionary peasants (Landvolk) – band together to march towards the Rhine, jubilantly preparing to exact retribution on the Western powers for reducing Germany to the status of a colony through the Treaty of Versailles. Paetel’s origins lay in the Bündische Jugend (specifically the youth group Deutsche Freischar) before his move to radical politics saw him found the Group of Social-Revolutionary Nationalists (GSRN), and he was one of the few political figures in Germany at the time who willingly embraced the term ‘National Bolshevik’, which was typically used as a kind of pejorative (which he acknowledges in his Manifesto: “So we take up that dirty phrase, ‘National Bolsheviks!'”). The Manifesto was intended to rally nationalists and socialists in common cause for the March 1933 elections; Paetel previously had intimated plans to organize a National Communist Party. Its publication date of 30th January, 1933 – the day Hitler became Chancellor – was a kind of portent of doom for Paetel’s efforts. The GSRN was banned in the aftermath of the Reichstag fire, and in 1935 Paetel was forced to flee his country. 

Vision

The red flag flutters over Cologne Cathedral.

Revolution over Germany. – –

Radiogram from Berlin:

“To the German people!

Land and soil belong to the nation.

The means of production are socialized.

Elections to the Council Congress are announced.

The verdicts of the People’s Court on all the enemies of the Socialist Fatherland, all those responsible for the old regime, are enforced.

The Treaty of Versailles is considered torn to pieces.

Greater Germany is socialist!

The imperialist bandit-states are approaching. The Rhine is to be held under all circumstances, the counter-attack is to be initiated!” Continue reading

Wanderers into the Void

The German Communist Party, National Bolshevism, and the ‘Schlageter line’

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“Hands off the Ruhr!”

The Occupation of the Ruhr

On January 11th, 1923, massed ranks of French and Belgian troops marched through the demilitarized Rhineland into the Ruhr Valley. “We are fetching coal,” announced the French Prime Minister Poincaré, and that, at least on the surface, provided the official justification for the aggressive occupation of the Ruhr. Germany had repeatedly defaulted on the reparations payments demanded of it by the Treaty of Versailles; France was due 200,000 metres of telegraph poles and several million Gold Marks worth of coal; and so 70,000 foreign soldiers trooped into Germany’s industrial heartland.

The German people, however, suspected that more cynical motives were driving the Gallic engineers and administrators who were now, under military protection, seizing German resources for forcible export to the West. Poincaré’s loathing for the German nation was infamous, as were French territorial ambitions on the Rhineland; in the eyes of many Germans the true purpose of the Franco-Belgian action was not to “fetch coal” but to permanently cripple and dismember the wounded body of the German nation.

Ironically, the attempt by France and Belgium to weaken the nascent German Republic instead created a united front of resistance through stoking the fires of German nationalism. There is no more effective means of inflaming a wave of patriotism than a foreign invasion, particularly in a nation already suffering from the humiliating wounds of surrender, war debt, political instability, and mounting hyperinflation. The immediate consequence of the occupation was the rallying together of those segments of German society which, up until the noise of French and Belgian boots tramping along Rhenish roads reached their ears, had been at one another’s throats.

Centre-right Reichschancellor Wilhelm Cuno declared his support for a campaign of local passive resistance. German industrialists refused to deliver demanded consignments of coal. Social-Democrats organized strikes and demonstrations. Unions joined with employers’ associations to raise funds for workers engaged in industrial actions. And the radical nationalists – Freikorps veterans, völkisch activists, and patriotic Verbänden, often supported clandestinely by the army – engaged in acts of violent reprisal, retaliating against massacres, arrests, and house searches conducted by French occupation forces with their own acts of sabotage, assassination, and terrorism. Continue reading