National Socialists Before Hitler, Part I: The Original German Workers’ Party

The 1904 ‘Trautenau Programme’ of the Austrian German Workers’ Party, the founding party of German National Socialism

DAP_Founders

The perception that Adolf Hitler ‘created’ National Socialism is not uncommon today, and cannot entirely be blamed on the overly-simplistic, pop-historical forms of mass-entertainment which have played such a large role in shaping public perceptions on ‘Nazism’. Hitler, after all, did much to encourage the view himself that ‘Leader’ and ‘Idea’ were bound together as one and the same, interrelated and inseparable. In reality, however, the movement Hitler joined in September 1919 had in fact already been in existence since before the First World War, founded in November 1903 in Aussig, an industrial and trading town in northern Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Its founders all came directly from the labor movement: the majority were members of the nationalist ethnic-German trade unions, deeply concerned about competition with Czech labor, and the rest disgruntled social-democrats who had grown disillusioned with the internationalism of the ‘red’ workers’ movement and sought instead to build a new German Socialism on a national basis. The German Workers’ Party (DAP) they all founded laid out its party programme, written by nationalist-unionist Alois Ciller, at its first party conference in Trautenau in August 1904. That programme was an eclectic mixture of ideas, heavily pro-labor in a way that would be reminiscent of reformist social-democracy were it not for the smattering of völkisch language and the occasional liberal political demand included within the text. This curious ideology, promulgated by the DAP as it began establishing a strong unionist wing and spreading its influence to lower-middle-class artisans and traders, soon became informally known within the party as ‘National Socialism’. By the time the DAP officially changed its name to the ‘German National Socialist Workers Party’ (DNSAP) in May 1918, the völkisch content of its demands had widened in scope, and concern about the Jews – interestingly absent from this first party document – had more thoroughly filtered into the movement’s active political consciousness. The full text of the 1904 Trautenau Programme is included below, translated by myself from Alois Ciller’s history of the Sudeten and Austrian ‘German Socialist’ movements. 

Party Programme
of the
German Workers’ Party in Austria
Concluded at Trautenau, 15th August 1904

The German Workers’ Party seeks the uplift and liberation of the German working-classes from their present condition of economic, political, and cultural oppression. It begins from the conviction that only within the natural limits of his folkdom [Volkstums] can the worker achieve full value for his labor and intelligence in respect to the other classes of the cultural community.

We reject international organization because it weighs down the advanced workers by those of lower standing, and must completely prevent any real progress for the German working class in Austria.

The German Workers’ Party affirms the position that an improvement in economic and social conditions is only attainable through organization via professional associations [berufsgenossenschaftliche], that purposeful, positive reform work can overcome today’s unsustainable societal conditions and safeguard the social advancement of the working-class.

We do not constitute a narrow class party. The German Workers’ Party represents the interests of all honest, productive labor in general, and strives for the complete elimination of all disparities and the bringing about of fairer conditions in all areas of public life.

We are a liberal [freiheitliche] national party which combats with absolute severity all reactionary ambitions, all feudal, clerical and capitalist privileges, as well as all racially-foreign [fremdvölkischen] influences.

The advancement of work and skill [Wissen] in state and society is our goal – and the economic and political organization of the working German Volk is the German Workers’ Party’s means to this end. Continue reading

The Führer Protects the Law

The Führer as source of “supreme justice” in the German Reich: Carl Schmitt’s essay of 1st August, 1934

Schmitt

Legal-political philosopher Carl Schmitt is often described as the “crown jurist of the Third Reich” by modern commentators, an appellation supposedly first coined by  the German-American scholar of totalitarianism, Waldemar Gurian. Schmitt’s actual relationship with the Reich is contentious – there are plenty today who claim that his support for the National Socialist regime was opportunistic, that there is evidence he attempted to defend and support the Weimar constitution during its long period of gradual breakdown. Others counter these claims by pointing directly to works such as Schmitt’s Dictatorship, or to his Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy, arguing that they demonstrate an implicit fascist sympathy through their critique of the fundamentals of liberal parliamentarism and their advocacy for authoritarian forms of governance as an essential tool in statecraft. Whatever the reality behind Schmitt’s complex philosophical ideas, it is indisputable that he was part of the Conservative-Revolutionary intellectual milieu and that he fell behind the National Socialist regime after Hitler’s accession to the Chancellorship in 1933. Schmitt spent the early years of the new Reich attempting to provide its governance with a solid juridical-philosophical foundation, something he was assisted in by the prominent appointments he attained within the new regime including leading positions within the Prussian State Council, the Academy of German Law, and the National Socialist Lawyers’ League. The article below is a prime example of Schmitt’s writings from this period. Published in the prestigious legal journal Deutsche Juristen-Zeitung less than a month after the final death-spasms of the Night of the Long Knives and Hitler’s speech justifying the purge, “The Führer Protects the Law” sees Schmitt putting forth a legal justification for the extra-judicial killings of Röhm, Schleicher, Gregor Strasser, and numerous other real, potential, or imagined opponents of the regime. It is a juridical argument for Führerprinzip, positing the Führer’s legal role as that of both supreme judge and the supreme source of the Volk’s collective sense of justice; as such it makes for an inestimable contribution to fascist theory. 

The Führer Protects the Law
On Adolf Hitler’s Reichstag Address of 13th July, 1934
By
State Attorney, Prof. Dr. Carl Schmitt, Berlin

I.

At the German Jurists’ Annual Convention, held in Leipzig on October 3rd 1933, the Führer spoke about state and law. He elaborated the distinction between substantial law, which is not divorced from morality and justice, and the empty legality of false neutrality. He also delineated the inner contradictions of the Weimar system, which destroyed itself through this neutral legality and thereby handed itself over to its enemies. To this he added the sentence: “This must be a warning for us.”

In his speech to the Reichstag, delivered on July 13th 1934, which was addressed to the entire German Volk, the Führer invoked yet another historical lesson. The powerful German Reich founded by Bismarck collapsed during the world war because it lacked the strength “to activate statutes pertaining to war” in the decisive moment. The civil bureaucracy, devoid of all political instincts and paralyzed by the logic of the liberal constitutional state, could not muster the courage to treat mutineers and enemies of the state properly under the law. Anyone today who were to read the report on the public plenary session held October 9th 1917, in volume 310 of the Reichstag-Drucksachen [official record], will be appalled, and will understand the Führer’s warning. The Reichs-government reported that the ringleaders of the mutinying sailors were negotiating with members of the Reichstag affiliated with the Independent Socialist Party.

The German Reichstag answered with loud indignation that one cannot curtail a party’s constitutional right to campaign in the army, and that there was no conclusive evidence for high treason in this case. Well, only one year later the Independent Socialists threw this conclusive evidence in our face. The German Volk withstood an onslaught by the entire world with unprecedented bravery and with tremendous sacrifice for four years. But its political leadership woefully failed in the fight against the poisoning of the German Volk and the undermining of German law and its sense of honor. Still to this day we are atoning for the paralyses and hesitations of the German government during the world war.

All moral outrage over the disgrace of such a collapse accumulated in Adolf Hitler and became in him the thriving force of a political act [Tat]. The experiences and warnings of the history of this German calamity live on in him. Most people fear the severity of such warnings and prefer to escape into an evasive and compensatory superficiality. But the Führer takes seriously [macht Ernst] the teachings of German history. This endows him with the right and power to found a new state and order. Continue reading

Visions of National Socialist Democracy, Part IV: Joyce

William Joyce’s 1937 critique of British parliamentarism, and his suggested replacement: a representative National Socialist guild system

Joyce

This fourth part in the ‘Visions of National Socialist Democracy’ series constitutes a slight diversion away from German National Socialism and towards the NS of the British Isles – specifically towards the ideas of William Joyce, the British fascist who later became notorious under the sobriquet ‘Lord Haw Haw’. The piece below is an excerpt (slightly truncated for purposes of brevity) from the second chapter of Joyce’s 1937 pamphlet National Socialism Now, the primary ideological treatise for the National Socialist League which Joyce set up that same year after leaving Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. The contents of the document makes both its differences and its similarities with German National Socialism clear. The same basic ideological worldview is there, with its contempt for the plutocratic elements of liberal parliamentarism and the party system, but the solutions Joyce proposes have their own particularly British idiosyncrasies: Joyce’s inspiration for an alternative, illiberal form of representative government derives from the ideas of the earlier guild socialists, who themselves had drawn upon the form and content of the English guild system of the Middle Ages. While there is a distinctly British flavor to Joyce’s prescriptions, the resemblance of his ideas to the ‘council National Socialism’ proposed by early German National Socialists like Rudolf Jung is telling. Grappling with the problem of representation within an authoritarian system, and looking to earlier, pre-capitalist models for inspiration to resolve that problem, was an exercise which all fascists and National Socialists eventually seemed to find unavoidable. 

While the political system remains unaltered, it will be impossible to change radically the economic situation. First, the existing order of Parliamentary incumbents is too closely linked to High Finance to desire revolutionary change; so much is even true of the Labour Party, which has expelled more than one valuable member for having dared to expect Socialism within his own lifetime.

Secondly, this democratic Party System is not intended to be an instrument of fundamental change; on the contrary, it is obviously intended to keep things as they are.

The Leader of the Opposition is paid £2,000 a year to prevent the Government from doing what it pretends to think right. So much for the moral sincerity of the politicians. Even the Sermon on the Mount does not require us to pay our enemies. The answer may be: “But there is no enmity in the House of Commons.”

This answer may be taken as true; but it does not explain why the best of friends should pretend to engage in Homeric struggle and Hibernian vituperation in order to win elections.

From beginning to end, the keynote of the whole performance is callous hypocrisy. The sham fights of Westminster are meant to make the people think that somebody is caring for their interests; otherwise there might be hell to pay; it is more economical to pay the Leader of the Opposition…

…It is now clear that the National Socialist has no apology to make for his decision to end the Parliamentary farce. Constitutionally, and in perfect loyalty to the Crown as the symbol of Britain’s continuous majesty, the National Socialist proposes to make such changes in the system of Government as are necessary to produce the required changes in our system of living. Continue reading

Gregor Strasser’s ‘Thoughts About the Tasks of the Future’

Gregor Strasser’s article of June 15, 1926, outlining his thoughts on culture, socialism, and the state

Hochbahn_unterm_Hakenkreuz

My original plan for the remainder of this month was to continue with the ‘Visions of National Socialist Democracy’ series, as well as to post a historical excerpt about the revolutionary peasant movement of Weimar Germany – the  Landvolkbewegung. Unfortunately, however, life has got in the way; between personal commitments and completing the Paetel translation, I’m not sure I’ll have the time for that content until June. Rather than leave the site dead for the remaining two weeks or so while I finish work on the National Bolshevist Manifesto, I decided instead to post something that I already had lying around – the following article by Gregor Strasser, first published in 1926. Thoughts About the Tasks of the Future may not be new to some people, as bits and pieces of it have been floating around parts of the internet for a while, although usually in an unsatisfactory form (one website I saw hosted a good chunk of the essay, though had bizarrely replaced every instance of the word ‘socialism’ with ‘corporatism’). It is most famous for the “We are socialists, we are enemies, mortal enemies, of the present capitalist economic system” quote, which frequently appears online in center-right/boomer memes, usually misattributed to Hitler, and almost always employed as a rhetorical weapon to ‘prove’ that the liberal left are equivalent to National Socialists. The article is a lot more than that quote, obviously – written by Strasser on his sickbed (he had been in a serious car accident in early March, making him bedridden for months) not long after the failure at Bamberg, it was intended to serve as a comprehensive statement of his personal beliefs. Some of the opinions or policies Strasser supports in this article would shift by the early ’30s, but for the most part it remains a valuable insight into his general worldview – both his anti-materialist sentiments and his Prussian-inspired view of man’s relationship with the state would, for instance, essentially remain unchanged until his death.  

Lying on a sickbed for a few weeks and months does have its good side. So much that in the trivialities of everyday life does not get a hearing now has the chance to rise slowly from the unconscious to the conscious mind where it is tested and is winged by imagination, so that it acquires form and gains life. In general, people often make the mistake of assuming that practical action – the incessant preoccupation with daily necessities – is not founded in the mind. They therefore like to set up an invidious comparison between the thinker and the doer! It is true that the currents of the mind and the soul do not become conscious when one is resolutely grappling with the tasks of the day and trying, by freshly setting to work, to solve all questions in a practical way!

So it is comfort ever now and then to have the leisure to look beyond the tasks of the day and of the near future and to plumb the depths of the questions toward whose solution we are resolutely dedicating our life’s work. When would this be better than during the many lonely hours of the sickbed, when the hands of the clock seem to stand still and the night never to end – until it becomes finally, finally morning again! This new dawn, the fact that again and again dawn comes, is the deep consolation, is the blessed certainty which makes the night of the present bearable for us – and even if the hours, years, never seem to end – the dawn does come, my friends, and the sun comes, the light!

Such thoughts of the lonely nights, thoughts about the National Socialist tasks of the future – I will briefly survey them here – such thoughts have surely occurred to most of our friends in similar hours and in a similar way – thoughts which at the moment are not yet the subject of our work, but whose undercurrents are flowing, whose blood runs through our work.

I. The Spirit of the Economy

We are Socialists, we are enemies, mortal enemies of the present capitalist economic system with its exploitation of the economically weak, with its injustice in wages, with its immoral evaluation of individuals according to wealth and money instead of responsibility and achievement, and we are determined under all circumstances to abolish this system! And with my inclination to practical action it seems obvious to me that we have to put a better, more just, more moral system in its place, one which, as it were, has arms and legs and better arms and legs than the present one!

Continue reading