Why the German Workers’ Party? What Does it Want?

The first propaganda pamphlet of the (National Socialist) German Workers’ Party, written by Anton Drexler in February 1920

General poverty was the main condition under which the Munich-based German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, DAP) operated during its early months of existence. When Hitler first joined the DAP he was shocked to find (as he related in Mein Kampf) that the party had “nothing, no programme, no leaflet, no printed matter at all, no membership cards, not even a miserable rubber stamp, only obvious good faith and good intentions.” The organization’s entire treasury amounted to barely more than a small handful of marks, with the sum total of these funds kept by members within a cigar box. That the party managed to expand its membership throughout the second half of 1919 and to acquire some actual resources was largely the result of Hitler’s own drive and organization, particularly the pressure he placed upon the DAP’s leaders to undertake the risk of holding public meetings at which the party could raise funds by charging entrance fees. So successful was Hitler’s choice of strategy that, in late December 1919, the German Workers’ Party was able to afford to rent its first party office, a back room in the Sterneckerbräu tavern. Furthermore, the DAP was finally able to look towards diversifying its propaganda strategy by putting out printed material, something which had previously been beyond its means in light of the high cost of paper in Germany’s unstable, rationing-afflicted, post-War economy. February 1920 thus saw not only the appearance of the German Workers’ Party’s new party programme, but also the printing and distribution of its first-ever propaganda document, translated below. This four-page pamphlet was authored by Anton Drexler, then First Chairman of the party, and focused on outlining to readers the miserable conditions under which the new German Republic was supposedly laboring, with the blame for these afflictions laid by the author firmly at the feet of both the ‘false socialism’ of the Marxists and the financial rule of global (“Jewish”) capitalism. Naturally enough Drexler’s document depicts the National Socialist German Workers’ Party as being (in contrast to the Social-Democrats) the way back to prosperity, the only real guarantor of an “honest and true socialism” capable of genuinely saving the working-class and of restoring German greatness. As the first-ever propaganda work published by the DAP/NSDAP the document bears some notable historical significance, even if the style of its writing and presentation is a little prosaic in comparison with the more sophisticated material put out by the National Socialists in later years. Drexler’s authorship of the pamphlet is also somewhat curious in light of the fact that Hitler was the party’s Werbeobmann (propaganda chief) at this point. Possibly it was felt that the honor of producing such a publication should be reserved for the party’s original founder and current leader, even if Drexler’s talent for writing tended to be more workmanlike than gifted overall.  

Why Did the German Workers’ Party Have to Come About?
What Does it Want?
Anton Drexler, February 1920

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The German Volk have suffered terribly as a consequence of World War, revolution, and fratricidal conflict. Those men who, after the storms of November, grandstanded under the finest promises as being the only people capable of saving Germany, have now governed us to death. All ties of order, justice, and custom have been broken. The freedom which was promised to us manifests itself instead in an unprecedented proliferation of common criminality, such as privileged usurers and the exploiters of our people [Volksausbeuter]. The old order collapsed – and now destruction grins, while no new life blossoms among the ruins! It must be stated clearly: “It was not a change of systems that occurred in the late autumn days of 1918, but rather the old system’s coronation. Before the German Revolution, the capitalist constitution ruled behind the scenes; with the Revolution it replaced every objectionable person with its cronies, and continued to misrule us until, through hardship, hunger, and misery, we became the willing slaves of world capitalism – whose representatives are also situated within Germany.”

1.35% foreign races = a 79% share in government.
98.67% ethnic Germans1 = a 21% share in the government of their own native land.
These numbers say it all!

German industrial- and working-capital amounted to twelve billion [Marks]. Whereas loan- and stock-market-capital totaled 250 billion.

But only working-capital was combated, which – in the form of tools, machines, ships, and every kind of manufacturing equipment – was the working Volk’s meal ticket.

Loan-capital, on the other hand, which weighs down upon our own land and soil, upon our buildings, houses, and tenements, was not only not combated – it was actually promoted. The representatives and agents of capitalism set themselves at the head of the combat troops which they themselves had organized against capitalism, and they steered the struggle against the working-capital which stood in their way. The working Volk are bound up with working-capital for better or for worse, and this capital must – while preventing any exploitation of the labor force – be protected. Continue reading

National Socialists Before Hitler, Part VI: Drexler’s Political Awakening

“From the journal of a German Socialist worker”: selected chapters from Anton Drexler’s 1919 political testament

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In the autumn of 1918 Karl Harrer, a sports journalist for the right-leaning newspaper Münchner-Augsburger Abendzeitung, was charged by the Thule Society with forming a völkisch ‘Thule Workers’ Ring’ among the proletariat – part of a wider plan to win workers for nationalism and undermine the socialist forces then dominant within Bavarian politics. Attending a public meeting at Munich’s Wagner Hall on 2 October, Harrer was struck by a speech given by a laborer named Anton Drexler (then-head of the Munich branch of the Free Workers’ Committee for a Just Peace) calling upon bourgeois and workers to “unite!” Although Drexler’s speech was greeted with hostility by the crowd, Harrer saw in it opportunity; he approached Drexler with the offer to assist in forming a ‘Political Workers’ Circle’ to help spread their shared ideas among Drexler’s laborer contacts. Drexler, who had attempted in vain to do this himself in the past (both as a prior, dissatisfied Fatherland Party member, and via his own Free Committee), was intrigued by the offer, and so the Political Workers’ Circle was formed. By 5 January 1919 the Circle had evolved into the German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, DAP), an independent political organization with its own written Guidelines as its conceptual basis. To help propagandize for the new Party and to provide greater intellectual weight to its fairly sparse and unsatisfactory Guidelines, Drexler published a political pamphlet sometime between May and September 1919. Drexler’s My Political Awakening: From the Journal of a German Socialist Worker is, like Hitler’s later Mein Kampf, a mixture of personal biography and ideological worldview, providing an introduction both to Drexler as a person and to the substance of his National Socialist philosophy. Several selected chapters of Drexler’s brochure are provided below as an example, translated by myself from an original 1920 2nd edition. Although this series is called ‘National Socialists Before Hitler’, and Hitler joined the DAP on 19 October 1919, the content of the 1920 edition does still technically qualify as being “before Hitler”. Unlike the later 1923 3rd edition, which was substantially rewritten, the 2nd edition’s text is identical to that of the 1919 original, apart from the addition of a second foreword and the rather telling removal of Drexler’s original dedication to Harrer as “the founder of the German Workers’ Party”. The pamphlet’s strong focus on workers’ issues and on the inadequacies of mainstream (Marxist) socialism are very typical of early National Socialist writing, as is Drexler’s positioning of himself as a dissident voice within the broader socialist workers’ movement. 

My Political Awakening:
From the Journal of a German Socialist Worker
(Selected Chapters)
Written in 1919 by Railway Toolmaker Anton Drexler,
Founder & 2nd Chairman of the German Workers’ Party (Bavaria)

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Foreword to the First Edition

I must begin by saying that the ideas I have laid down here are purely political as well as trade-unionist in nature, and that with this document I am not presenting myself to the public as a fellow combatant in the World War; I was busy instead with my battleground on the home front. Many a workmate has told me, “it’s a pity about me that I’m in the wrong place, that I could accomplish a lot more in the circle of the socialist working-class.” Sometimes a feeling comes over me as though these people were right, as if I really have to incorporate my socialist mindset entirely into Social-Democracy. And only with severe internal struggles have I remained loyal to my National Socialism,1 for which I am now grateful to Fate. To portray the storms that surged around me on my lonesome island in the midst of the workers’ sea, to communicate the experiences that I have been able to gain in political matters to the working-classes and to every productive worker – that is the purpose of this document. No excuses should be made to my colleagues, I haven’t the slightest reason to make them, but I want to make it understandable to them that my political opinion, which is so isolated among workers, has arisen only from concern over the existence of the German worker.

Neither pettiness, nor ambition, nor the idealism of the money-purse have brought me to my political position. As a “neutral” standing outside the fence of the political parties – that is, without having previously absorbed a party catechism myself – I have studied domestic political life and activity, and not without also dedicating my primary focus to matters of foreign-policy.

Allowing themselves to be enveloped in the ‘internationalism’ of the workers’ leaders and pacifists of enemy countries – this myopia on the part of  the German workers’ leaders and other party men in their assessment of enemy war aims has led Germany and the German working class to where it is today.

As the only Munich worker who was not deceived by the intentions of England and America and who therefore publicly advocated for the attainment of a ‘just peace’, I not only have the right but also feel I have the obligation within myself to apprise the public of my experiences and impressions since my ‘political awakening’, all the more so as I also became acquainted with the ‘secret powers’ that made it possible for our governments, as well as many party leaders to – for the most part unconsciously – work directly for the interests of our destroyers. 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

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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

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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

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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