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  

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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

National Socialists Before Hitler, Part II: The National Labor Movement

Documents from the early period of the original German Workers’ Party and the national labor movement in Austria-Hungary

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German National Socialism was born out of the labor movement. By the late 1800s, racial tension within the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire had created major divisions within the trade unions. Increasing competition between Czech and German workers, especially in industrial and border areas like Bohemia, combined with the Empire’s hollow sense of national-identity and aggressive clashes over cultural and language competition to foster a serious split within both the unions and the social-democratic movement. Nationalism took hold among both Czech and German laborers, leading to violent brawls and riots. The nascent Social-Democratic Workers’ Party in its 1897 conference fractured over the ‘national question’, breaking into six separate sections based on race. And workers of all ethnicities, dissatisfied with the internationalist ideology of the most prominent unions, began forming their own nationalist ‘protective-associations’ in response. These associations were not at first official unions for bargaining over wages or working conditions, merely pressure groups intended to provide collective aid to members against ‘foreign’ competition – but by the time of the German Workers’ Party’s (DAP’s) founding in 1903, several had evolved into unions proper and the others were growing in strength. This ‘national labor movement’ was in fact why the German Workers’ Party was founded in the first place. All the DAP’s leading members were active within the German nationalist associations, and their original intent was that the Party should serve as the political arm of the German national labor movement, taking the demands of the völkisch workers into parliament. The DAP in its early years thus placed a heavy emphasis on uniting the various independent nationalist unions and associations into a consolidated force, providing them with the common vision and organizational tactics necessary to make both political and industrial activism more effective – a process aided greatly by the unifying ideology of National Socialism as it developed within the Party. The documents below, translated from DAP co-founder Hans Knirsch’s history of Austrian & Sudeten National Socialism, provide an intriguing window into this early period of National Socialism’s history, demonstrating how intrinsic were issues of labor, work, reform, and socialism to the early evolution of National Socialist philosophy. 

The First Common Conference of the
Völkisch Trade-Union Movement,
Leitmeritz, April 29th, 1906  

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Although the DAP’s founders were all leading members of the ethnic-German unions and protective-associations, and although the Party was expressly founded to give the nationalist workers a political voice, the links between the DAP and the national labor movement were not concrete at first. Wariness of political (as opposed to industrial) activism was common among the völkisch workers; the Imperial government had in the past proven perfectly willing to persecute unionists who dabbled in party politics, and previous attempts to ally the nationalist unions with Georg Ritter von Schönerer’s Pan-German Association and Karl Wolff’s Free Pan-German Party had led to disillusionment and a suspicion of parliamentary politicians as bourgeois opportunists seeking to exploit the workers in pursuit of purely middle-class interests. As a consequence, the DAP’s major goal after its founding was to unite the fractious, highly-independent nationalist labor organizations and to convince them of the need to take a more organized, cooperative stance with each other and with the DAP. 

To this end on April 29th, 1906, the Party organized the first common conference of all nationalist workers’  associations, held in Leitmeritz, Bohemia. Represented were delegates from the various ethnic-German bakers’, miners’, builders’, assistant-metalworkers’, and woodworkers’ associations, among others. The conference’s purpose was to convince these groups of the necessity to reconstitute themselves as formal trade-unions; to establish guiding principles for the national labor movement; and to set out binding statutes for future collaborative work. The event was considered a success by its attendees, and although the organizers found it necessary to maintain that the conference was not formally affiliated with any one political party, the links forged at Leitmeritz between the unions and the DAP grew strong enough over the following years that, by 1909, the unions had officially recognized the Party as their “greatest ally” and official political representative. Reproduced below are two short documents from this conference: a brief extract from Alois Ciller’s report on the German trade-unions’ goals and tasks (Ciller was another DAP co-founder and the author of the Party’s original programme), along with the four guiding principles unanimously adopted by the conference delegates. –Bogumil

Goals and Tasks of the German Trade-Unions (Extract)

The German trade-union has the task of winning rights and recognition for the German working-class within its own Volk. To this end the international principle proves itself, particularly in the Austrian peoples’ state, utterly unsuitable and detrimental. Where the economic struggle involves making common cause [with non-Germans] this is self-evident from the outset. The cultural work of German workers in associations with Slovaks, Croats, Poles, etc. is in all circumstances an absurdity. We wish for the working-class of every nation to create better conditions through their own resources. We have to think of ourselves and our duty. That duty consists of tireless German trade-union work. Continue reading

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

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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

Guidelines of the German Workers’ Party

Anton Drexler’s original party program, first published in ‘Auf gut deutsch’ on January 5, 1919

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The Guidelines of the German Workers’ Party was the original political program of the German Workers’ Party (DAP). Along with Anton Drexler’s pamphlet Mein politisches Erwache (‘My Political Awakening’) it served as the main literary statement of the Party’s aims and worldview until the adoption of the ‘Twenty-Five Point Program’ on February 24 1920, when the Party rechristened itself as the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. The exact authorship of the Guidelines is unknown, although it was almost certainly written by Drexler; whether or not Karl Harrer (the co-founder of the DAP) was also involved is unclear. What is certain is that the Guidelines were first announced on January 5 1919, and published in Dietrich Eckart’s völkisch newspaper Auf gut deutsch on the same day. In terms of content the Guidelines are briefer and less detailed than the later NSDAP program, being far more a general statement of worldview than an actual outline of specific political goals. Nonetheless, the Guidelines’ National Socialist content is obvious – völkisch nationalism, anti-Marxism, opposition to Jewish influence, and a concern with social reform. The clear emphasis on workers’ issues and on corporatist appeals (“work cooperatives”) should be noted, being typical elements of early pre-Hitlerian National Socialism. 

What is the German Workers’ Party?

The DAP is a socialist organization, composed of all folk comrades [‘Volksgenossen’] engaged in mental or physical work. It may only be guided by German leaders who put aside selfish goals and allow national needs to be the highest concern of the program.

What does the German Workers’ Party offer the worker?

The DAP seeks the ennoblement of the German worker. Skilled resident workers have the right to be considered members of the middle class. A sharp distinction between workers and proletarians should be made. An international agreement with the trade unions of other countries must stabilize wages, making it impossible for the working-class of a particular country to engage in sharp bargaining. In the future the competitive position of an individual country shall be determined not by the lowest wages but by the diligence and efficiency of its workers. In this way the causes of friction among the various countries will be avoided. Big business provides food and employment and is therefore to be protected, as long as it does not relentlessly exploit the worker making it impossible for him to lead a worthwhile life. The DAP believes that the socialization of German economic life signals the collapse of the German economy. By controllingsocialized businesses our enemies would be in the best possible position to collect efficiently the war indemnities which have been imposed on us, and to do so at the expense of the workers. Therefore the German worker should have not socialization but profit sharing. Profit sharing can be made possible by founding work cooperatives in the cities, and in the country, farm cooperatives among the agricultural workers, to protect land and soil.

Who is the DAP fighting against?

The DAP is fighting with all its strength against usury and the forcing up of prices. Against all those who create no values, who make high profits without any mental or physical work. We fight against the drones in the state; these are mostly Jews; they live a good life, they reap where they have not sown. They control and rule us with their money. For these drones Germany and her entire people were just objects of speculation; their party slogans are much the same. Talk, no action. The DAP honors the principle: he who will not work shall not eat. We fight for justice, true freedom, and happiness. No dictatorship of the proletariat! Equal justice for all. No rule of bayonets. Everyone shall feel himself to be a free German. There is no happiness in phrases and empty speeches at meetings, demonstrations, and elections. Our striving is toward the free happiness of good work, the full pot, and prospering children. Continue reading