The Nationality-Programme of Austrian Social-Democracy

The nationality-programme of the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party of Austria: a socialist solution to the ‘national question’?

Upon its founding in Hainfeld in 1889, the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party of Austria (Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Österreichs, SDAPÖ) was faced with challenges which, outside of Russia, were largely unique within the context of European socialist politics. Austria-Hungary was a sprawling multinational land empire, a dual monarchy governing a cosmopolitan blend of different races which had become increasingly dispersed as a by-product of capitalist development and growing industrialization. As a consequence, from the very beginning the SDAPÖ found itself not only dealing with material class issues, but also with the competing demands of different national ethnic groups, and the party soon discovered that abstract appeals to “internationalism” were often not enough to attenuate the ethnic disquiet felt by many workers – whether Germans faced with the threat of “cheap Czech labor” migrating from other parts of the Empire, or non-German minorities who felt discriminated against by the state (and even by the party and the unions). The ‘national question’ proved so divisive for the SDAPÖ that in 1897 it split into six separate (but still theoretically united) Social-Democratic parties, one for each of the major ethnic groups represented within the Austrian state. In 1899, at a Social-Democratic conference in Brünn, the SDAPÖ made an attempt to grapple with the issue directly by drafting a “nationality-programme,” a proposed outline for a future socialist state which the party believed would eliminate national conflicts among the workers while still preserving Austria as a unified, independent entity. The Brünn proposal (a “democratic state federation of nationalities”), and much of the theory which developed out of it in the following years, would subsequently become one of the defining characteristics of “Austromarxism,” that unique form of Social-Democracy which developed within Austria as a consequence of the country’s particular political idiosyncrasies. In order to explore the nationality-programme and some of the critical reactions to it from the broader socialist movement, I have reproduced a number of documents below. The first is a brief account from a historical work providing some background and context to the programme. The second is the translated text of the nationality-programme itself, taken from an SDAPÖ publication. The final three pieces are extracts, critiques of the programme from three different sources: one from Otto Bauer, representing an internal critique (the Austromarxist view); one from Joseph Stalin, representing the Bolshevist perspective; and one from Alois Ciller, representing the National Socialist outlook. Each of these three men had some connection to the Austrian proposal, whether through background or expertise, and each had his own independent interpretation of the programme’s efficacy and its potential impact upon socialist theory and socialist activism.

Nationalism Among the Workers:
The Historical Context Behind the Social-Democratic Nationality-Programme
From historian Andrew G. Whiteside’s “Austrian National Socialism Before 1918” (1962)

Andrew G. Whiteside’s book constitutes an exploration of the conditions which gave rise to the German-völkisch National Socialist movement, whose origins lay within Austria-Hungary (particularly the Sudetenland) and which was already an established, active political force there before Hitler joined the Bavarian German Workers’ Party in 1919. The short extract below, taken from the chapter “Nationalism Among the Workers,” provides some of the historical context surrounding the drafting of the Brünn nationality-programme. It briefly outlines the impact which inter-ethnic worker conflicts had upon the SDAPÖ; the difficulties Social-Democratic leaders experienced in trying to reconcile Austrian conditions with the theory of internationalism; how these conditions helped give rise to the idea of a federation of nationalities; and, finally, how in the end the party’s strategy could still not prevent a complete splitting of the SDAPÖ along racial lines. – Bogumil

The Austrian Social-Democratic Party during these years [the 1890s to early 1900s] was beset by difficulties that did not exist for Socialists in most of the other countries of Europe. Its basic doctrine of proletarian solidarity and the irrelevance of nationality was refuted by the division between Czech and German workers. As a liberating force it had to admit a man’s right to be educated and to do his work in his native tongue. At the same time many of its leaders – Adler, Kautsky, Pernerstorfer, Renner, Bauer, Seliger, Ellenbogen, and others – were firmly convinced that the international labor movement should be directed by men with German brains and character. Like Marx and Engels they distrusted Slavs. Friedrich Stampfer, a spokesman for the betont deutsch1 wing of Austrian Social-Democracy, writing in the Leipziger Volkszeitung, actually opposed political democracy because it would mean handing over the country to Slavs and clericals. Viktor Adler, complaining to Liebknecht about the spread of nationality madness, declared that it was based chiefly on envy, misunderstanding, and irrationality. Otto Bauer, defending the Viennese German leadership, said that the success of the Socialist movement required empire-wide international unions with unified finances, administration, and policy; the Czechs, by stubbornly insisting on autonomy, were failing to show the “the necessary discipline of the minority” and were sabotaging the whole labor movement. Bauer was in the dilemma of all dedicated Austrian Socialists, torn between his belief in the special role of the Germans in advancing Socialism and his sympathy with the Czechs’ desire for national equality. Continue reading

The National Socialist Conception of Freedom

National Socialist theoretician Rudolf Jung explains the concept of freedom and its place within National Socialist ideology

National Socialism, like Marxism, has its own conception of freedom, one separate from the individualist ideal central to liberal-democracy. In some respects there are similarities between the two movements and their perceptions of freedom; certainly members of the NSDAP would have agreed with Marx and Engels that, “Only in the community… is personal freedom possible.” Fundamentally, though, each interpretation was built on different ideological ground. For Marxists, freedom is determined by material economic conditions; those without the money or resources to live a safe, comfortable, fulfilling life are not genuinely free, regardless of which individual rights they might have on paper. For National Socialists, conversely, freedom is ultimately determined by race as well as material circumstance; each racial group has different cultural values, a different outlook on the world, and hence a different conception of the form of freedom appropriate to them as a united people. Freedom and a Volk’s capacity for defending themselves are intrinsically bound together: only by finding the style of freedom best suited to them as a people would a race thus be in the best position to fight and defend themselves as a people. Individualism was the form most suited to the English, with their mercantile, “piratical” spirit. Anarchy was most suited to the chaotic, tumultuous French. And for the Germans, with their supposedly natural inclination towards collectivism? A marriage of the spirit of Prussia in the north with the spirit of the “Baiuvarii” in the south: duty and order, the totality before the individual, but shorn of unthinking submission and centralistic authoritarianism, tempered by a respect for freedom of conscience. At least this is how National Socialist writer and politician Rudolf Jung explained it in his book National Socialism: Its Foundations, Development, and Goals, the earliest major programmatic work of National Socialist theory. Whether or not Jung’s description of National Socialist freedom matches the conditions which later developed in the Third Reich is up for debate, particularly as Hitler arguably represented a more authoritarian strand of NS ideology. The translated excerpt below consists of almost the entire chapter from Jung’s book which covers the subject; the only part I have cut is the introductory paragraph, an excerpt from the DNSAP programme which can be already be read in its entirety here. This translation is of the 1922 2nd edition of Jung’s book, which I have been working on for the past five or six months. The complete translation is probably still a few months away from being finished, but it will be posted on the blog when I am done.

The National Socialist Conception of Freedom
From the chapter ‘The Concept of Freedom and Defensive Readiness’, in
Rudolf Jung’s “National Socialism,” 1922 (2nd ed.)

“Freedom, that which I love, that which fills my heart,”1 sang the poet, thereby telling us that freedom is something which cannot be explained rationally, but is something which must be felt. Now, because freedom is a matter of emotion, it will be different for every Volk. English, French, Germans, Czechs, etc., all feel differently, and therefore all also interpret the concept of freedom differently. There are even different gradations within the individual races. Let us take the Germans, for example. Does the supposedly revolutionary communist – who is certainly imbued with the conviction that he is a thoroughly free-thinking person, standing far above the arch-reactionary bourgeoisie – truly have a feeling for freedom when he, as is so often the case in the German Reich, runs to the representatives of the Entente in order to sabotage his differently-minded countrymen? Or when, for the same reason, he calls upon the help of the Czech authorities, who are thoroughly imbued with the police spirit and are, moreover, capitalist? Is not the exact same question relevant in regards to those bourgeois elements who, in their anxiety over their property, appeal to alien peoples to protect them? And what about press censorship, the prohibition on the publication of newspapers, as well as the forcible integration of people into organizations?

In light of all the things which have happened to the German Volk since the days of the Revolution, after all the lamentable manifestations of servility and indignity, all the errors of an overstretched centralism, one might well doubt the very existence of a feeling of freedom. However, we need to keep in mind that every great upheaval – and such is indeed what we are presently in the middle of – is full of confusion and atrocities, and that brutal people, who tend to be the most involved in these phenomena, are generally cowards within the depths of their souls and are therefore not free at all, but are instead merely of a servile disposition. Only the courageous are truly free. Alien to them is the pitiful fear of death which makes cowardly people tremble, and hence makes them servile. That is why courage and the feeling of freedom, and therefore also one’s readiness to defend themselves,2 belong together. One is inconceivable without the other. But defensive readiness – if that is to serve as our touchstone – must be voluntary and not coerced, because courage cannot be forced. Continue reading

National Socialists Before Hitler, Part IV: The German National Socialist Workers’ Party (DNSAP)

A new name, a new programme: the 1918 ‘Vienna Programme’ of the German National Socialist Workers’ Party (DNSAP) of Austria & the Sudetenland

DNSAP_Poster

Less than a year after the German Workers’ Party (DAP) of Austria-Hungary adopted its new political programme, the Empire declared war on Serbia. The Great War was soon to follow, and with it came a tumultuous series of events, culminating in the defeat of the Central Powers and the dissolution of the Empire. A new era for Austria and for Europe also saw a new era for the DAP – on 5 May, 1918, DAP members met at a Vienna Reichsparteitag to adopt a new name and a new programme. The new name was the ‘German National Socialist Workers’ Party’ (DNSAP). The new programme (drafted by Rudolf Jung) was more explicitly revolutionary, now that fear of Imperial state repression had dissipated and Anschluss with Germany finally appeared possible (a hope soon dashed on the rocks of the Treaty of Saint-Germain). Union with Germany, mass nationalization, and a Peoples’ Bank to break the reigns of “the Jewish-commercial spirit” were all key features, even if the DNSAP still ambivalently committed itself to reformism. For many members the formalization of ‘National Socialism’ in both name and ideology was a long time coming. ‘National Socialist Party’, ‘German Socialist Party’, and ‘German Social Party’ had all been proposed as alternative names when the DAP was first founded in 1903. There had been intermittent appeals to change the name since then, especially as ‘National Socialist’ became a common appellation for members, with the debate beginning again in 1916 in earnest in the pages of DAP-paper Freien Volksstime. On the one hand, some party-comrades were concerned that the DAP name was unappealing to potential recruits among the farmers, civil servants, and the petit-bourgeoisie, that it did not sufficiently represent the party’s actual worldview. On the other hand, the party had been founded as a workers’ party and the name was seen as a mark of respect to a class much hard-done-by. The compromise solution, ‘German National Socialist Workers’ Party’, was the suggestion of senior Bohemian party-comrade Hans Krebs. Within months of the Vienna Programme’s adoption there would be three DNSAPs, the party broken into a trio of independent national organizations by the ceding of former Austrian territories Eastern Silesia and the Sudetenland to the new states of Poland and Czeochoslovakia. 

Fundamental Party Principles
of the
German National Socialist Workers’ Party
Concluded at the last joint Party Congress for the Sudetenland and the Alpine States, Vienna, 5th May 1918

Symbol_DNSAP

a) General Statement

The German National Socialist Workers’ Party seeks the uplift and liberation of the German working-classes from economic, political, and spiritual oppression and their full equality in all areas of völkisch and state life.

It professes itself unreservedely to the cultural community and the community of fate [Schicksalsgemeinschaft] of the entire German Volk, and is convinced that only within the natural limits of his folkdom [Volkstums] can the worker achieve full value for his labor and intelligence.

It therefore rejects organization on a supranational [allvölkischer] basis as unnatural. An improvement in economic and social conditions is attainable only through the cooperation of all workers on the soil of their own people. Not subversion and class struggle, but purposeful, creative reform work alone can overcome today’s social conditions. Private property in itself is not malign, insofar as it arises from one’s own honest labor, serves labor, and is limited in size so as not to damage the common good. We reject, however, all forms of unearned income, such as ground rents and interest, as well as usurious profits extorted from the misery of one’s fellow man. Against them we stridently advocate the value of productive labor.

The private economy can never be wholly or violently abolished, yet all forms of social property should exist alongside it and be increasingly expanded. We advocate unconditionally for the transfer of all capitalist large-scale enterprises, which constitute private monopolies, into the possession of the state, province (völkisch self-governing bodies), or municipality. Continue reading

National Socialists Before Hitler, Part III: The Iglau Programme

“Strict völkisch thinking goes together with the immediate economic demands of labor” – The 1913 ‘Iglau Programme’ of the Austrian German Workers’ Party

DNSAP_Postcart

Throughout its earliest years the National Socialist movement remained largely a nationalist offshoot of social-democracy, with the German Workers’ Party’s (DAP) membership drawn almost entirely from the working-classes and its focus heavily centered on the demands and interests of the nationalist labor movement. ‘National Socialism’ existed as a concept but not yet as a coherent, completely separate ideology; those who used the term frequently intended it simply to denote a different tactical line, a new direction in which they were steering the existing socialist movement and which the social-democrats would eventually be won over to. What acted as the catalyst for National Socialism’s development into a genuinely distinct ideological worldview was the introduction of universal male suffrage in 1907, which prompted an influx of Slavs into the Austrian Reichsrat and Bohemian Landtag and, subsequently, a rush of spooked ethnic-German white-collar employees and civil servants into the DAP. Among these more ‘bourgeois’ recruits were two intellectuals who joined in 1910 – Dr. Walter Riehl and Engineer Rudolf Jung. The theoretical influence of Riehl and Jung on the movement was considerable, with both quickly establishing themselves as senior figures within the party and both trying to push it in a more radical direction. Their first major move in this regard was their drafting of a new programme, which was debated and then ratified at a party congress at Iglau in September 1913. This ‘Iglau Programme’ was a modest first step, being largely just a revision of the earlier Trautenau Programme (the economic demands of the two, for example, are almost identical apart from the new demand for a universal property tax), but the new programme’s much more overtly völkisch content, its explicit anti-Semitism (absent from the 1904 programme), and its demand for a redrawing of Austrian borders along ethnic lines, were all portents of the new direction in which ideologists like Jung and Riehl were guiding the evolving National Socialist worldview. The Iglau Programme’s more overtly völkisch perspective was significant, laying the groundwork for transitioning National Socialism further away from its social-democratic roots and towards a much broader, more distinctive philosophy encompassing ‘productive Germans’ of all classes, not just proletarians. The complete Iglau Programme is reproduced below, translated by myself from two separate sources; note that the preamble was written by Riehl, while Jung was responsible for drafting the rest of the programme. 

Party Principles
of the
German Workers’ Party in Austria
Decided at the Reich Party Convention in Iglau,
7-8 September, 1913  

Symbol_DNSAP

Preamble

The modern labor movement originated in England. The faceless exploitation of the workers by emergent capitalism at the beginning of the 19th century led to bloody riots, which brought the workers no practical results. It was French and German scholars and researchers, without exception all members of the wealthy classes, who revised the age-old ideas of communism and socialism and created those principles which Lassalle later utilized when founding the first workers’ association in Germany. Karl Marx first created that doctrinal system of international socialism to which the German social-democrats still cling to today, at least in principle, while the socialists of almost all nations [Völker] have long since rediscovered the path to a healthy völkisch ethos, at least in practice. The teachings of the social-democratic party-saint Marx are today for the most part dismissed as obsolete, but his work maintains great influence over the independent, political miscellany of all the working masses.

His teachings on internationalism were and are unsuitable and of immeasurable harm for the German spirit [Deutschtum] of Central Europe. The working-class has a special interest in the position of power, in the maintenance and expansion of the living-space [Lebensraumes] of its own Volk. Today it is not the whims of princes that leads to conflicts between peoples, but economic competition. Especially in the most developed countries there has arisen a demand for labor; foreign workers of lesser culture have often squeezed out the old established inhabitants. This phenomenon has impacted the German nation, with its central location, with full force above all.

Social Democracy in Austria is a child of the German Reich, and its international principles were supposed to pass the acid test here. Instead its theoretical structure collapsed completely under the blows of reality. Only the poor comrades of “German tongue” cling to it with maladjusted loyalty – to their own cost. They, who used their contributions to make Social Democracy great, have in many areas been driven from their workplaces by their warmly-received Slavic comrades. German employers hired the cheaper Slavic workers; the red organization, however, failed in its duty-bound protection of its old German party veterans. This began, at last, to stir healthy instincts of self-preservation in the heads of the German workers. Inspired by the great German-national bourgeois movement of the nineties in German-Austria,1 they founded völkisch workers’ and journeymen’s associations in various cities. They recognized the disastrousness of the international doctrines for their own Volk and the dishonesty of a Social Democracy directed by Jews and in close union with transnational big business. In the same vein they took a stance against the Black International’s2 attempt to found a clerical labor party. Continue reading