Joseph Goebbels’s article on the German Revolution, the “most bloodless in world history” – i.e. the 1933 National Socialist seizure of power
An accusation commonly leveled against National Socialism (particularly by those on the Left, both during the inter-War era and today) is that it was a “reactionary” movement and ideology. Some of the critiques made in this regard – i.e that it sought a restoration of the Hohenzollerns – are rather silly. Others – such as it being in favor of the financial status quo, rather than being truly anti-capitalist – require a more nuanced examination and produce less clear-cut answers. Whatever the reality, the National Socialists in Germany certainly regarded themselves as a revolutionary movement and took this claim seriously. Hitler in 1923 had created dissension early on within the inter-state National Socialist movement through his insistence on armed revolution as the only legitimate means of achieving power. Even after he dropped this position following the failure of his subsequent Beer Hall Putsch, a revolutionary idealism remained within the NSDAP and increasingly came to dominate the older National Socialist parties across the border. Hitler’s newfound commitment to legality after 1923 was tactical, not ideological, borne partly from necessity and partly from a desire to build up popular support. Violence as an option was still maintained quietly in reserve, as he made clear in Mein Kampf: “…we will not shun illegal means if the oppressor also applies them.” Either way, legal or illegal, the result of the Party’s tactics was still also intended to be the same: the complete, revolutionary transformation of German society. In Hitler’s famous September 1930 speech at the ‘Ulm Reichswehr Trial’, he claimed that the NSDAP’s aim was the “spiritual revolutionizing of the German Volk” in order that the German people might “construct a completely new state” upon the Party’s attaining power. Very similar sentiments are expressed by Goebbels in a short June 1933 essay from the Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte, translated below. He paints Hitler’s ascension to the Chancellorship and the formation of the ‘National Government’ as part of a revolutionary process – the culmination of years of struggle producing “the most bloodless [revolution] in world history” (a popular Nazi claim) and, consequently, a new state driven by a revolutionary Idea which will “conquer all areas of public life in order to integrate them with and subordinate them to its spirit.” Goebbels’s article was published in the same edition of the NS-Monatshefte as this piece on the German Revolution by Röhm. The two complement each other, although Röhm’s is in some ways even more explicitly radical.
The German Revolution Joseph Goebbels, Reichsminister
for Public Enlightement and Propaganda
First published in Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte, vol. 4, no. 39, June 1933
The conditions of that world-historical January night,1 whose course of events seized the entirety of a suffering, tormented Volk down to their utmost depths and filled them with new faith and new hope, did not come about by coincidence. Within and behind them lies the great, dynamic principle of a political movement whose countenance bears revolutionary features. A movement which – like all truly creative forces in history – is gradually outgrowing the confinement of the smallest of anonymous beginnings, is rising to the daunting tasks which it seeks to fulfill, and, refined through hard years of persecution and the terror of its opponents, is organically, inexorably, and irrevocably interposing its influence in the great matters of public life. At the end of its path, the breadth and impact of which is determined by the revolutionary drive of its adherents, lies that time when it now seizes the heavy responsibility of state authorities, the time of new powers and new men who provide the structure of the political system with that form which corresponds to its own internal legitimacy.
Revolutions are spiritual acts. They take place initially within people themselves, and then within the manifestations of art, politics, and economy. The upheaval which we can witness today first occurred within the spirit of this movement. Out of its new stylistic sensibility, its creative power, grew the legitimacy of the German Revolution. With its victory it matured to the state principle. Continue reading →
Cambridge economist C.W. Guillebaud’s 1939 analysis of the essential features of Hitlerian economic ideology
Objective analysis of National Socialism is virtually impossible nowadays. The enduring hangover of the War, the popular use of ‘Nazi’ as a pejorative divorced from its original ideological meaning, the adoption of Hitler’s image and ideas as an easy shorthand for Ultimate Evil – these have all combined to ensure that peoples’ responses to the subject are inherently emotive, and that academics who do attempt a dispassionate assessment risk suffering the potentially career-ending accusation of “sympathy”. This is not a new phenomenon; a contemporary Canadian review of the 1939 book The Economic Recovery of Germany noted that its author, Cambridge University economics lecturer C.W. Guillebaud, had recently been accused by another reviewer of being an apologist for German policies over his book’s tone of unbiased critique. But the accusation did not spell doom for Guillebaud’s public image, as it would do now. In the same year as his book’s publication Guillebaud became a government advisor on economics issues, beginning a distinguished career in the public service which included many years on the Council of the Royal Economic Society and a seat on numerous industrial dispute tribunals and wage arbitration committees, where he came to develop a reputation as a pro-labour maverick. Guillebaud’s interest in industrial relations is probably what prompted his study of the economic system in Hitler’s Germany, rather than any covert sympathy for ‘Nazism’; his other works suggest a strong interest in social policy and modern forms of industrial arbitration, both areas in which NS Germany was experimenting with new, progressive models. The chapter from Guillebaud’s book which I have excerpted below is typical of his fair, balanced approach. It describes in detail the basic features of the economic system in Germany at the time, outlining its core ideological principles as well as its strengths and weaknesses, and does so in a manner which is remarkably impartial in comparison with writing on the same subject produced by authors today. The excerpted chapter is one of the best and most concise descriptions of Hitlerian economic policy during the 1933-39 period I have come across, and the fact the author does not feel the need to browbeat the reader with the Germans’ moral shortcomings every other sentence is remarkably refreshing.
Some Basic Features of the National Socialist Economic System Chapter V of ‘The Economic Recovery of Germany’
by C.W. Guillebaud
This chapter is an attempt to sum up in a few words what would appear to be the salient characteristics of the German economic system as it took shape during the years 1933 to March 1938.
State Control Over Investment, the Money Market, the Rate of Interest, and the Foreign Exchanges
By the establishment of a rigid and highly effective control over the foreign exchanges the German economy has in a large measure, though by no means completely, been rendered independent of fluctuations in the outside world. Under these conditions external changes could alter the total volume of Germany’s foreign trade, but could not cause wide divergences to occur between the value of imports and exports taken as a whole.
Down to the end of 1937 it was in fact possible to preserve a favourable balance of trade and to redeem a considerable part of the foreign debt whose existence has been, and still is, so great a handicap to Germany’s freedom of movement in her commercial relations with foreign countries. As a further result of foreign exchange control the internal monetary and price structure has been divorced from world price movements and from the influence of gold. The export of capital also can be effectively held in check.1
Inside Germany the monetary system has been based on the general principle that the effective volume of money and credit in circulation should keep pace with the growth of production and the output of goods and services. Continue reading →
“We fought for the German worker!” Stormtrooper Kurt Massmann recounts a meeting-hall battle between Brownshirts and Communists
The following short account, ‘Saalschlacht‘ (‘Meeting Hall Brawl’), was first published in the 1934 book Kampf: Lebensdokumente deutscher Jugend von 1914-1934, a collection of reminiscences from members of various nationalist, youth, and paramilitary movements. The translation below was not made by myself, but comes from George L. Mosse’s book Nazi Culture. The original author of the document was Kurt Massmann; as an economics student in Hamburg and Rostock, Massmann had joined the SA and NSDAP in 1929-30 and became particularly active as a leader in the National Socialist Student League. After 1933 he worked as freelance journalist and writer for a number of different publications and contributed to books relating to Party history and ideology. He died fighting in the Battle of Berlin in 1945. Elements of Massmann’s account below might strike some readers as being difficult to swallow, although the author does present his story as factual. While it’s entirely likely Massmann is exaggerating or romanticizing certain aspects, situations such as the author describes really weren’t that uncommon. Pitched meeting-hall battles where chairs, glasses, and bottles were employed as weapons were a feature of political life, especially in the early ’30s. The literature is also full of accounts of former Communists joining the SA (and vice versa), including those who had previously had quite a good time beating up the ‘enemies’ who later became their comrades-in-arms. As historian Peter Merkl has remarked: “For the young in particular, changing from the Red Front to the brown shirt appears to have been no more unusual or consequential than change of juvenile gang membership…” The anti-capitalist aspects of the NSDAP’s ideology, along with its emphasis to certain demographics of its status as a “Workers’ Party”, contributed to the blurring of the lines between the two movements which made such membership transfers possible – as did the Communist Party’s own enthusiastic attempts to play up its militancy and nationalist credentials.
A Meeting-Hall Brawl Kurt Massmann
Once we held a meeting in a workers’ suburb. The meeting had been called by us National Socialist students.
It was a very small meeting hall. One SA troop sufficed to guard the gathering. Around nine-thirty another SA troop was expected to show up at the close of the meeting in order to protect the participants from possible attack.
At eight o’clock the giant Schirmer, who was to speak that night, rolled up his shirt sleeves and with a friendly smile spat into his hands, which were as big as an average-sized trunk. He had been in Russia for three years and was familiar with the whole swindle there. Upon his return to Germany he became a National Socialist with all heart and soul, one of those who cause shivers to go through the hearts of the timid bourgeois, anxious over the dangerous “Socialism” rampant among the National Socialists! A splendid fellow! A man to whom one could entrust all one’s money and who would sooner kick the bucket from hunger before he would take a penny of it.
It is said that one day he was introduced to the Führer. The tall, uncouth lad, who otherwise was never at a loss for words, just stood there, swallowed hard, wiped his eyes with his fore-paw, and finally stammered: “Well, Adolf Hitler…” and exuberantly shook his hand. Then he came to his senses, blushed fiery red – oh, holy miracle! – pulled himself to his full height, saluted, and marched off with a smart about-face. Continue reading →
Red Front, Brown Front: Karl Otto Paetel’s 1930 article on revolutionary political fronts and the NSDAP’s approach to a potential communist uprising
The essay “Clear Fronts!” was written by social-nationalist intellectual Karl Otto Paetel in that brief 1929-30 period when he was organizer of the ‘Young Front Working Circle’, an informal pressure group whose guiding ideal was the promotion of stronger ties and closer cooperation between radical groups on the far-left and far-right. The bulk of the Young Front’s propaganda efforts were focused on the NSDAP, a party which Paetel and his associates viewed at the time as the most promising vehicle for the achievement of a revolution that would be both socialist and nationalist. While Paetel was never a member of the NSDAP, he nonetheless fostered close ties with it in this period – many of his friends were members of the Party’s radical Berlin-Brandenburg branch, and both the Young Front and its successor organization (the ‘Group of Social-Revolutionary Nationalists’, founded in May 1930) drew much of their membership from disaffected members of the NSDAP’s Strasser faction. Paetel’s relationship with the National Socialists was strong enough that he was a frequent contributor to Party publications despite his lack of membership, primarily to those published by the Strasser-owned Kampfverlag publishing house. The article reproduced below is a good example of this, as its original publication was in the Nationalsozialistiche Briefe, a Kampfverlag theoretical journal. While not technically an official Party publication (the Kampfverlag and its output were kept formally independent in order to distance their association with Hitler) the NS-Briefe was, alongside the official Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte, the primary intellectual publication of the German National Socialist movement, and was fairly widely read by nationalist radicals. Paetel’s article calls on these readers not to “misrepresent” the Red ‘front’ and to recognize that the System, rather than the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), is the real enemy of the German Revolution. The author’s criticisms of the KPD and his apparent faith in the NSDAP were not to last. By the end of the year, disillusioned by the NSDAP’s ‘bourgeois’ drift and enthused by the KPD’s apparent ‘nationalist’ course, Paetel would switch his allegiance to the KPD and begin advocating a position more in line with that later expressed in his National Bolshevist Manifesto.
Clear Fronts! By Karl Otto Paetel
First published in the Nationalsozialistische Briefe, vol. 18, 15 March 1930
Political coalitions or settlements can be the product of rational consideration or tactical measures, but they can also be provided by the political situation itself. Opinions on other political forces only have real value for a movement, one which somehow knows itself to be an exponent of a fundamental spiritual philosophy that is the feature of its time (for only in such movements can one think of being compelled to politics), if they are to a certain degree already in the air and represent the essential concretization of its ideal knowledge.
German Socialism is today faced with two such determinations. Domestically, it is faced with the issue: How should it conduct itself if one day the KPD’s subversive activity, which is ever more clearly being carried out in accordance with Moscow’s directives, attempts to foment “unrest” somewhere as the basis for a proletarian revolution, and the guardians1 of Weimar call out for youth and guns to fight for “peace and order”, to face down “Bolshevism”, and thus to once again pull the chestnuts out of the fire under the black-white-red flags of the Weimar and Versailles dictatorship.
One should be adamantly clear about one thing: If social-revolutionary nationalism and its exponent to the masses, the NSDAP, follows these slogans, then it will have failed in its historical mission of reintegrating the displaced proles into the shared German destiny by ruthlessly implementing a socialist-corporatist system, based on the German nature, via the conflict of the class struggle of labor against international and anti-national capital. A false start in domestic policy in such a situation – an example being compliance under any circumstances with “peace-and-order” slogans – would instead imprint the mark of Cain once and for all upon German Socialists, marking them as the willing or gullible shield-bearers of that finance-capital which dominates the current system even in the judgement of the Democrat Haas,2 and forever blocking that access to the productive proletariat which socialism demands. Continue reading →