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

Goebbels on the German Revolution

Joseph Goebbels’s article on the German Revolution, the “most bloodless in world history” – i.e. the 1933 National Socialist seizure of power

mjolnir_posterAn 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

NS_Swastika

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

Otto Rühle on “Red Fascism”

Radical German communist Otto Rühle’s 1939 essay on the shared characteristics between Bolshevism and Fascism

The following article first appeared anonymously in the September 1939 edition of American communist journal Living Marxism. Its author, Otto Rühle, was living in Mexico at the time, having fled there by way of Czechoslovakia during the early ’30s to escape the rise of National Socialism (Rühle’s wife, Alice Rühle-Gerstel, was Jewish). Rühle had good reason for his writing to be published anonymously – factionalism was as much a feature of left-wing politics then as it is now, and Rühle was concerned that his reputation as a vociferous critic of Stalinism and the Soviet Union would lead communists to boycott the publication. Rühle had plenty of experience in this regard. In 1916 he had been expelled from the Social-Democratic Party over his opposition to the party’s position on the War, and in April 1920 he had left the nascent Communist Party of Germany in frustration at the growing Leninist authoritarianism within its leadership, tactics, and organizational structure. Rühle’s active involvement in revolutionary Marxist politics made him a first-hand witness to the growing stranglehold which the Russian Bolsheviks were beginning to assert over the international communist movement, and as fascism begin to rise in Europe and particularly within Germany he began to see parallels between the authoritarianism he had experienced on the Left and that developing on the Right. Authoritarianism, deference to supreme leadership, ruthless militancy, iron discipline, rigid centralism, thoughtless conformity, party before people – in Rühle’s eyes these were as much features of Leninism as they were of fascism, and he believed it indisputable that the state form of the Soviet Union had served as a direct template for those in Germany and Italy. The conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939 was confirmation for Rühle that his assessment of Bolshevism as a form of “red fascism” was correct, and the essay below appeared a month later in direct response.

The Struggle Against Fascism Begins with the
Struggle Against Bolshevism

by Otto Rühle

council_communism

I.

Russia must be placed first among the new totalitarian states. It was the first to adopt the new state principle. It went furthest in its application. It was the first to establish a constitutional dictatorship, together with the political and administrative terror system which goes with it. Adopting all the features of the total state, it thus became the model for those other countries which were forced to do away with the democratic state system and to change to dictatorial rule. Russia was the example for fascism.

No accident is here involved, nor a bad joke of history. The duplication of systems here is not apparent but real. Everything points to the fact that we have to deal here with expressions and consequences of identical principles applied to different levels of historical and political development. Whether party “communists” like it or not, the fact remains that the state order and rule in Russia are indistinguishable from those in Italy and Germany. Essentially they are alike. One may speak of a red, black, or brown “soviet state”, as well as of red, black or brown fascism. Though certain ideological differences exist between these countries, ideology is never of primary importance. Ideologies, furthermore, are changeable and such changes do not necessarily reflect the character and the functions of the state apparatus. Furthermore, the fact that private property still exists in Germany and Italy is only a modification of secondary importance. The abolition of private property alone does not guarantee socialism. Private property within capitalism also can be abolished. What actually determines a socialist society is, besides the doing away with private property in the means of production, the control of the workers over the products of their labour and the end of the wage system. Both of these achievements are unfulfilled in Russia, as well as in Italy and Germany. Though some may assume that Russia is one step nearer to socialism than the other countries, it does not follow that its “soviet state” has helped the international proletariat come in any way nearer to its class struggle goals. On the contrary, because Russia calls itself a socialist state, it misleads and deludes the workers of the world. The thinking worker knows what fascism is and fights it, but as regards Russia, he is only too often inclined to accept the myth of its socialistic nature. This delusion hinders a complete and determined break with fascism, because it hinders the principle struggle against the reasons, preconditions, and circumstances which in Russia, as in Germany and Italy, have led to an identical state and governmental system. Thus the Russian myth turns into an ideological weapon of counter-revolution. Continue reading

Basic Features of the National Socialist Economic System

Cambridge economist C.W. Guillebaud’s 1939 analysis of the essential features of Hitlerian economic ideology

NSDAP - Hitler-BewegungObjective 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

Reichsadler

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