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 V: The German Socialist Party

“Our demands are more radical than those of the Bolshevists” – The 1918 programme outline of Alfred Brunner’s German Socialist Party

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As has been established so far in this series, the party which Hitler joined in September 1919 was not the first National Socialist party ever founded. It was not even the first National Socialist party on the soil of the German Reich. That honor instead goes to the German Socialist Party (Deutschsozialistische Partei, DSP), the brainchild of Düsseldorf engineer Alfred Brunner. Brunner, born 1871, had been in contact with the Austro-Hungarian National Socialists since the early days of 1904. Distraught by the consequences of Germany’s surrender and revolution, he finally decided to found his own völkisch-socialist party, and for this purpose drafted on 1 December 1918 the programme which I have translated below. Brunner’s programme outlined the foundations for a new German Socialist Party, one drawing influence from the land-reform ideals of Adolf Damaschke as well as from the philosophy of the National Socialists across the border. Brunner’s central emphasis in fact was on mass land nationalization, viewing this revolutionary socio-economic reform as the basis for eliminating capitalist power and for negating the ‘Jewish influence’ which he saw behind every social ill. Such was Brunner’s focus on social issues that he in fact considered himself “far-left”, as “more radical than the Bolshevists”, the guarantor of an idealistic, biologically-constituted “socialism of the deed” opposed to the Jewish, materialistic “pseudo-socialism” of the Marxists. Brunner was supported in his endeavors by the Germanic Order, a branch of the Thule Society who presented his programme at their 1918 Christmas conference, published it in their journal Allgemeine Ordens-Nachrichten, and provided both funding and a party newspaper (the Münchner Beobachter). The DSP was thus linked from the very beginning to the German Workers’ Party (DAP) of Drexler and Hitler, another group which owed its origins to Thule Society funding and support. For a time however the DSP was in fact the far more successful of the two parties. While the (NS)DAP initially struggled to expand outside Munich, the DSP by mid-1920 had 35 local groups throughout the country and close to 2000 members, including a strong base in Germany’s north where for many years the Hitler-Drexler party was unable to gain a foothold. What undid the DSP in the end was its decentralized organizational structure, combined with its culture of internal party democracy; lacking the dynamism and internal authority of the Hitler-Drexler party, the DSP soon lost ground to its rival and in 1922 finally disbanded and absorbed its resources and membership into the NSDAP.

Outline for the Founding of a
German Socialist Party
on a Jew-free and Capital-free Foundation
Drafted by Engineer Alfred Brunner on 1 December, 1918
Presented at the 1918 Christmas conference of the Germanic Order

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To the German Volk!

World war, revolution, and turmoil lie behind us! We have waded through misery, blood and humiliation, and yet everything has remained the same; yes, things even threaten to be worse than they were before. Merely the form of government and the men in charge have changed, while capitalism and Jewry will rear their heads higher than ever under democracy. As before, you, the German Volk, will be leeched dry, plundered and condemned to toil and worry. How did it come to this, and shall it remain this way forever? The cause of this failure lies in the fact that the struggle against these two powers has hitherto been conducted separately. Yet both are intimately connected.

Social-democracy only engages in a mock-fight against capitalism, for its leaders are Jews and capitalists!

Yet the Jew-experts1 struggle in vain against Jewry because they stand firmly on the ground of the capitalist state order, so both they and social-democracy are bound to fail.

The change required to finally establish real freedom for the German Volk is to form a German Socialist Party.

German-Völkisch and Socialist

Lassalle, the founder of German social-democracy, must as a Jew have known his racial-comrades [Rassegenossen] well when he said: “A popular movement has to keep its distance from capitalists and Jews where they appear as directors and leaders, and instead pursue its own aims.”

The new socialist party accepts German-born men only. It stands naturally on the ground of political transformation; democracy will not in the main be questioned, however, the party does not want a Western-style democracy with a Jewish-plutocratic apex, but a free Peoples’ State [Volksstaat] in which capitalism and Jewry are overcome. Continue reading