National Socialists Against Capitalism

“Down with the slavery of capitalism!” Articles by Gregor Strasser, Rudolf Jung, Otto Strasser, Joseph Goebbels, and Alfred Krebs on the “malignant, materialist spirit of capitalism”

The question of National Socialism’s exact relationship with socialism is a contentious one. It is also a longstanding one. In 1911, Austrian Social-Democrat Julius Deutsch was already asserting that the “deutschsozial” ideology professed by the Austro-Hungarian German Workers’ Party was merely a propagandistic smokescreen covering strikebreaking, embezzlement, and clandestine funding from “the dirtiest, most exploitative” employers. Deutsch’s arguments are still commonplace today, in one form or another – the assertion that any socialistic elements in National Socialism (right down to the name) were simply part of a premeditated rhetorical trick used to fool gullible workers into serving reactionary interests has changed little over the past century, with actions such as the NSDAP’s treatment of Germany’s unions in 1933 or its privatization of certain industries put forward as evidence for National Socialism’s underlying capitalist nature. By contrast, there are others who like to claim as close a relationship between Marxism and ‘Nazism’ as possible, alleging that the latter grew directly out of the former and that the two share the same basic ideological precepts – usually these allegations come from conservatives, presented as part of an attempt to tar the modern Left with the brush of Hitler and the Holocaust. The position of many National Socialists themselves was that their movement comprised a legitimate (indeed the most legitimate) branch of Germany’s historical socialist tradition, representing the most vital aspect of the broader ‘national wing’ of German socialism. NS theoretician Rudolf Jung makes this argument directly in his ideological work Der nationale Sozialismus when he observes that, “Marxists constantly maintain that there is only one form of socialism, the Marxist, and that everything else is mere fraud and deception… [but] socialism has always existed, both before Marxism and alongside it… [Marxists] represent only one of socialism’s orientations, the avowedly Jewish one.” National Socialism’s origins in the Austrian labor movement, its professed commitment to far-reaching economic reform (profit-sharing, land reform, nationalization of trusts, greater economic equality), its hostility towards the traditional Right, and its seemingly earnest efforts to appeal to the German worker were all taken at face value by many within the movement, viewed as evidence that they were affiliated with a revolutionary ideal which stood against the capitalist system and which sought to establish in its place a new form of truly German Socialism. The five articles translated below comprise a general cross-section of views from representatives of the ‘left wing’ of the National Socialist movement, with each article representing an attempt by its author to address the issue of capitalism from a National Socialist perspective: to describe its deficiencies, identify its driving forces, and to present the National Socialist economic worldview as an authentic and distinct alternative. Theoretical argumentation of this type was not at all uncommon within National Socialist propaganda and publications, which placed a great deal of emphasis on trying to outline a coherent anticapitalist economic doctrine. Whether or not such formulations are convincing ultimately depends upon one’s own personal beliefs and biases, but there is little doubt that the sentiments expressed here were taken very seriously by many within the NSDAP, who professed to be fighting for a Germany which was to be equally as socialist as it was nationalist.

The Slave-Market of Capitalism
By Gregor Strasser
First published 23 August, 1926

NS_Swastika

This article was translated from the 2nd edition of Gregor Strasser’s book Kampf um Deutschland (1932), a collection of speeches and essays by Strasser which he felt best demonstrated “the directness and the uncompromising nature of our struggle.” Strasser gives no indication in his book where this article originally appeared, but considering its intended audience (workers) and its largely polemical style, a likely answer would be his newspaper Der nationale Sozialist or one of its regional editions, which were intended for a more ‘general’ readership than were some of the NSDAP’s theoretical publications. It represents probably the most overtly propagandistic of the five articles included here, luridly describing the symptoms of capitalism without offering much in-depth analysis. – Bogumil

“Long live freedom! Long live Germany! Long live the accomplishments of the Revolution!” Are you familiar with these cries, German worker? Do you not recognize them from your newspapers, which – particularly in these days of so-called “constitutional celebration”1 – print them in the largest type, in order that they might rouse you and rally you like the sound of fanfare?

Yes indeed, in the comfortable chambers of the Jewish gentlemen editors, in the large rooms of your trade-union bigwigs – there is the environment right for dispensing such slogans, there is it so easy to speak of democracy and freedom, and there are the accomplishments of the Revolution demonstrated so vividly by the occupants.

Yet I wish to show you another picture, a picture which most of you already know, which you are aware of through shameful experience, which you know from fearful apprehension: the objective evidence of unemployment! – There they stand in their hundreds and thousands, German women and men in wretched, tattered garments, pale, haggard, hungry, torpid, hateful, tormented; they stand in winding queues, hour after hour, only to hear the bleak answer “No” from across a cold counter before taking delivery of a paltry handout, too little to live on and too much to starve on. There they stand, members of every age group, of every profession, in every stage of physical and mental distress, and want for nothing but work, nothing but a meagre income in order to be able to buy bread for themselves and for their children at home, want for nothing but employment in order to be able to rid themselves of the ghastly soul- and body-crushing hardship of months and years of forced inactivity – ah, they are so tired, so deathly tired, so weary and worn down to the bone, that they no longer even think at all of finding a high wage, a comfortable occupation; they no longer even think of themselves as human beings, as whole, complete human beings who have an inalienable right to live and to let their children live, to have happiness and sunshine and to bestow happiness and sunshine upon their children; instead they want for nothing but work, nothing but meagre earnings and to finally attain employment again – something which they cannot find! This is a slave-market a thousand times worse than those markets of antiquity, of barbarism, for there every slave found work, every slave had bread and clothing and lodging for himself and for his family, he was an object of value for his master – but here he can keel over without anyone giving a damn for him, here his family can starve and live in holes in the ground – and all of this in the name of freedom, all of this in the name of democracy, all of this under the flag of the accomplishments of the Revolution!! Continue reading

The Fundamentals of National Socialist Economic Policy

Gottfried Feder’s 1932 outline of the fundamental principles and proposals of National Socialist economic policy

The article by Gottfried Feder translated below first appeared in the 1932 edition of the Nationalsozialistisches Jahrbuch, a collection of ideological and organizational resources published annually for members of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Feder at the time of writing was chairman of the NSDAP’s Reich Economic Council (Reichswirtschaftsrat, RWR), a body established in 1931 to ostensibly act as the Party’s “supreme organ for all fundamental questions of National Socialist economic policy,” and his article provides a general outline of the foundational ideological principles which Feder believed should guide the development of the NSDAP’s proposed economic reforms. Following its massive success in the 1930 national election the NSDAP had become increasingly focused on the task of developing practical policy solutions to the problems facing the German economy; party organizations like the RWR, and articles like Feder’s, were part and parcel of this attempt at making National Socialist economic remedies more accessible to German voters and more realizable to the country’s financial experts. Despite the prominence of the NS Jahrbuch and the lofty-sounding description of the RWR’s role, it should be noted that Feder’s position as the party’s economic authority in this period was not as authoritative as one might first assume. From 1930 onwards Feder found himself in direct competition with figures like Otto Wagener, head of the NSDAP’s Economic Policy Department (Wirtschaftspolitische Abteilung, WPA), who maintained a much closer working relationship with Hitler and who had been far more competent at building up a base of influential supporters within the ranks of the party. Feder’s prior status as the “Ideologist of the Movement” had been largely honorific, a propagandistic title conferred upon him by the party press in recognition of his role in the early development of the NSDAP and its programme, and even as chair of the RWR he struggled to maintain a level of influence within the party bureaucracy commensurate with that of some of his rivals (by 1934, in fact, he ended up completely sidelined from the leadership and from policy-making altogether). Feder’s views in this article thus provide a fairly succinct overview of a very prominent perspective on National Socialist economic principles, but it is not necessarily a completely definitive perspective. Not everyone within the movement would have agreed with Feder’s positions on private property or corporatist organization, for example, particularly those within the more ‘revolutionary’-minded factions of the National Socialist Party.

The Fundamentals of National Socialist Economic Policy
Gottfried Feder
First printed in the National Socialist Yearbook for 1932.

NS_Swastika

1. The Purpose and Spirit of the Economy

The national economy in its totality has the purpose above all of adequately providing for the three basic necessities of all folk-comrades in terms of food, housing, and clothing, and beyond that of satisfying every need of a cultural and civilizational nature in accordance with the state of technology and the income conditions of the time. The economy as a whole is a serving limb in the overall organism of the Volk; in the best sense it is of service to the Volk for the greatness and the welfare of the nation.

A nation’s economy is not an end in itself, it is not there to enrich individual business leaders at the expense of their officials, employees, and workers, and even less is it there to serve as an object of exploitation for international High Finance.

2. Form of Economy

There are three possible directions for an economy:

1. A free economy without any fetters (capitalist-liberal).

2. A tethered, bound, planned economy (Marxist-collectivist).

3. A corporatively-structured, genuinely national economy (universalist-National Socialist1).

The completely unfettered capitalist economic form leads to ever sharper disparities between rich and poor; it produces methods of exploitation which culminate in the depersonalization and degeneration of the entire economy; and it unleashes prolonged economic struggles which the state itself, impotent and passive, has to sit back and observe. The tethered, bound, and planned Marxist economic form, the socialization of the means of production, leads to the elimination of the most powerful economic factor, the productive personality. Under such a system, economic fruitfulness atrophies and declines. Continue reading

Capitalist Power and German Socialism

The völkisch-radical German Socialist Party on capitalism, right-wingers, and the power of money

The German Socialist Party (Deutschsozialistische Partei, DSP) is largely forgotten now, but for a brief period in history it was the pre-eminent National Socialist party within the German Republic. The party’s guiding light was Düsseldorf engineer Alfred Brunner, a Thule Society member with a determination to found a völkisch-socialist movement which could rescue Germany from its post-War mire. In December 1918 Brunner’s draft programme outline for such a movement was published. Völkisch activists consequently heeded Brunner’s call and began founding their own independent German Socialist working-groups and party cells, and by 1919 there were German Socialist organizations in Düsseldorf, Kiel, Frankfurt, Dresden, Nuremberg, and Munich. Although ideologically extremely similar to the NSDAP (something recognized by both groups), the DSP’s organizational beginnings made it a very different party from the outset. Because of the way it had been founded, the DSP early on had a much broader base than the NSDAP, which did not establish a chapter outside Munich until April 1920. By contrast, by the time the DSP held its first official convention to bring all the independent German Socialist groups under one national organization (also in April 1920), there numbered about 35 German Socialist local chapters across Germany with a combined total of around 2,000 members. Although this appeared impressive in comparison to the NSDAP, the DSP did not actually have the resources to manage a national party and many of the local groups were heavily under-resourced, resulting in gradual stagnation and inactivity. This hindered the DSP’s central tactical focus on electioneering and parliamentary work; unlike the still-revolutionary NSDAP, the DSP sought a “legal” dismantling of the existing system through “reformist-evolutionary” methods. A side-effect of this parliamentary orientation was that the DSP put far more emphasis on issuing programmatic resolutions and debating policy proposals than it did on active organization and propaganda. Although this approach ultimately proved ineffective and harmed the party’s dynamism, it did result in the publication of a number of distinctive theoretical documents, such as the short leaflet translated below. This leaflet, titled “Capitalist Power” (Kapitalistische Macht), is undated, but if I had to guess I would say that it was probably released in 1920 for the June Reichstag election (the DSP received a mere ~7,000 votes nationwide, or 0.03%). It is an interesting little document, with its anti-capitalist rhetoric and its strong attacks on the “right,” and helps to illustrate why DSP members considered themselves the “left-wing” of the völkisch movement.

Capitalist Power
An undated flyer from the German Socialist Party

In our publications we often discuss the power of capitalism – which we understand above all to mean the overriding predominance of loan-capitalism – as against working capital,1 which we German Socialists acknowledge, in a controlled and restricted form, within an economy built upon a purely German foundation.

But that even this form of capital, under today’s conditions, holds a power which detracts from Rightness and Truth, is shown by the modern parties of the right who, on the basis of an intrinsically and thoroughly capitalist programme, are able to bind hundreds of thousands of people to themselves, people who are suffering as a result of capitalism and the capital of today.

And that they can do this is purely because both these parties2 possess enough money to enable the press and their public speakers to socially disguise their programmes and to strike an anti-Semitic tone, a tone which becomes all the livelier the closer they draw to the elections.

In doing so, these parties do not possess a single, fundamental, sweeping demand which would bring about an alleviation of the social situation and a liberation from the pressure of capitalism! Continue reading

Mussolini on the Corporate State

Benito Mussolini’s resolution and speech of 13-14 November, 1933, outlining the shortcomings of capitalism and presenting the corporatist alternative

The_DuceDespite the Corporate State being the centerpiece of fascist economic ideology, its implementation in Italy occurred gradually, in piecemeal fashion over more than a decade. Mussolini’s primary concern upon attaining the Prime Ministership in 1922 was, much like Hitler’s over a decade later, the maintenance of economic and political stability. He had little time or inclination for radical economic or political experimentation during his early years in power, and until 1925 the government maintained a policy of minimal state intervention that some historians have classified as “laissez-faire”. The murder of Matteotti in late 1924 and the regime’s subsequent embrace of dictatorship and totalitarianism led to a change in emphasis, a shift towards making real the corporatist promises of fascist theory & propaganda in a fashion that was measured and would not alarm industry or the “productive bourgeoisie”. The Palazzo Vidoni Pact of 1925 and ‘Rocco’s Law’ of 1926 helped cement the official status of the various workers’ and employers’ syndicates, while the Legge Sindacale of the same period formally established the Corporate State in principle, if not in actual fact. Further impetus towards corporatism was provided through the promulgation of the 1927 Labour Charter (which, while not legally binding, set out the principles by which the government aimed to establish equal relations between workers, management, and state) and the creation in 1930 of the National Council of Corporations, intended as a consultative body representing the voices of both labor and producer. It wasn’t until the 1933-34 period, however, that the Corporate State became solid reality rather than a series of inspiring articles and decrees. The resolution and speech given by Mussolini to the National Council of Corporations in November 1933, transcribed in full below, finally provided Italian lawmakers with an official definition of the envisioned corporations and their actual functions (as well as an interesting critique of capitalism from the Duce). The machinery of the Corporate State was at last set in motion the following year, when the ‘Act of February 5th 1934 (N.163)’ legally established the 22 Corporations which henceforth were intended to direct every sector of Italy’s economic life.

ON THE CORPORATE STATE
Resolution and Speech by Benito Mussolini before the
National Council of Corporations,
November 13-14, 1933

fasci_crossed

Resolution on the Definition and Attribution of Corporations
November 13, 1933

This resolution drafted by the Head of the Italian Government and read by him on November 13th 1933, before the Assembly of the National Council of Corporations, on the eve of his great speech:

The National Council of Corporations:

  • define Corporations as the instrument which, under the aegis of the State, carries out the complete organic and unitarian regulation of production with a view to the expansion of the wealth, political power, and well-being of the Italian people;
  • declare that the number of Corporations to be formed for the main branches of production should, on principle, be adequate to meet the real needs of national economy;
  • establish that the general staff of each Corporation shall include representatives of State administration, of the Fascist Party, of capital, of labour, and of experts;
  • assign to the Corporations as their specific tasks: conciliation, consultations (compulsory on problems of major importance), and the promulgation, through the National Council of Corporations, of laws regulating the economic activities of the country;
  • leave to the Grand Council of Fascism the decision on the further developments, of a constitutional and political order, which should result from the effective formation and practical working of the Corporations.

fasci_crossed

Speech on the Corporate State to the National Council of Corporations
November 14, 1933

The applause with which the reading of my resolution was received yesterday evening, made me wonder this morning whether it was worth while to make a speech in order to illustrate the document which had gone straight to your intelligence, had interpreted your own convictions, and had appealed to your revolutionary spirit. Continue reading