Paetel on the NSDAP and Red Revolution

Red Front, Brown Front: Karl Otto Paetel’s 1930 article on revolutionary political fronts and the NSDAP’s approach to a potential communist uprising

Three_AmigosThe essay “Clear Fronts!” was written by social-nationalist intellectual Karl Otto Paetel in that brief 1929-30 period when he was organizer of  the ‘Young Front Working Circle’, an informal pressure group whose guiding ideal was the promotion of stronger ties and closer cooperation between radical groups on the far-left and far-right. The bulk of the Young Front’s propaganda efforts were focused on the NSDAP, a party which Paetel and his associates viewed at the time as the most promising vehicle for the achievement of a revolution that would be both socialist and nationalist. While Paetel was never a member of the NSDAP, he nonetheless fostered close ties with it in this period – many of his friends were members of the Party’s radical Berlin-Brandenburg branch, and both the Young Front and its successor organization (the ‘Group of Social-Revolutionary Nationalists’, founded in May 1930) drew much of their membership from disaffected members of the NSDAP’s Strasser faction. Paetel’s relationship with the National Socialists was strong enough that he was a frequent contributor to Party publications despite his lack of membership, primarily to those published by the Strasser-owned Kampfverlag publishing house. The article reproduced below is a good example of this, as its original publication was in the Nationalsozialistiche Briefe, a Kampfverlag theoretical journal. While not technically an official Party publication (the Kampfverlag and its output were kept formally independent in order to distance their association with Hitler) the NS-Briefe was, alongside the official Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte, the primary intellectual publication of the German National Socialist movement, and was fairly widely read by nationalist radicals. Paetel’s article calls on these readers not to “misrepresent” the Red ‘front’ and to recognize that the System, rather than the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), is the real enemy of the German Revolution. The author’s criticisms of the KPD and his apparent faith in the NSDAP were not to last. By the end of the year, disillusioned by the NSDAP’s ‘bourgeois’ drift and enthused by the KPD’s apparent ‘nationalist’ course, Paetel would switch his allegiance to the KPD and begin advocating a position more in line with that later expressed in his National Bolshevist Manifesto. 

Clear Fronts!
By Karl Otto PaetelSymbol

First published in the Nationalsozialistische Briefe, vol. 18, 15 March 1930

Political coalitions or settlements can be the product of rational consideration or tactical measures, but they can also be provided by the political situation itself. Opinions on other political forces only have real value for a movement, one which somehow knows itself to be an exponent of a fundamental spiritual philosophy that is the feature of its time (for only in such movements can one think of being compelled to politics), if they are to a certain degree already in the air and represent the essential concretization of its ideal knowledge.

German Socialism is today faced with two such determinations. Domestically, it is faced with the issue: How should it conduct itself if one day the KPD’s subversive activity, which is ever more clearly being carried out in accordance with Moscow’s directives, attempts to foment “unrest” somewhere as the basis for a proletarian revolution, and the guardians1 of Weimar call out for youth and guns to fight for “peace and order”, to face down “Bolshevism”, and thus to once again pull the chestnuts out of the fire under the black-white-red flags of the Weimar and Versailles dictatorship.

One should be adamantly clear about one thing: If social-revolutionary nationalism and its exponent to the masses, the NSDAP, follows these slogans, then it will have failed in its historical mission of reintegrating the displaced proles into the shared German destiny by ruthlessly implementing a socialist-corporatist system, based on the German nature, via the conflict of the class struggle of labor against international and anti-national capital. A false start in domestic policy in such a situation – an example being compliance under any circumstances with “peace-and-order” slogans – would instead imprint the mark of Cain once and for all upon German Socialists, marking them as the willing or gullible shield-bearers of that finance-capital which dominates the current system even in the judgement of the Democrat Haas,2 and forever blocking that access to the productive proletariat which socialism demands. Continue reading

Paetel and the Programme of the Social-Revolutionary Left of the NSDAP

A revised, social-revolutionary draft programme for the NSDAP, written by Karl Otto Paetel and supporters in late 19292401 - Copy

Karl Otto Paetel is most well-known today for his 1933 National Bolshevist Manifesto. The Manifesto was written in a period when Paetel was a leader of the ‘Group of Social-Revolutionary Nationalists’ (GSRN), an organization which, inspired by the Communist Party of Germay’s (KPD) 1930 ‘national-communist’ programme and its nationalist-oriented propaganda journals like Aufbruch, centered much of its activism on encouraging nationalists to forge links with the revolutionary Left. The GSRN’s heavily pro-communist orientation in part stemmed from earlier, unsuccessful attempts by Paetel to reform the National Socialist movement. Before the GSRN was founded on Ascension Day, 1930, Paetel was involved in an informal grouping called the ‘Young Front Working Circle’. While still focused on promoting cooperation between left and right, the Young Front at the time regarded the NSDAP as being the key source for potential social-revolutionary change, directing most of its energies towards supporting the ‘left-wing’ opposition within the NSDAP and encouraging internal Party debate over its policies and direction. It was for this purpose that Paetel and other Young Front members wrote the short draft programme reproduced below. A revised version of the NSDAP’s original 25-Points (a number of the items are almost word-for-word identical), the Young Front’s draft programme is more explicitly social-revolutionary, including demands for mass nationalization, land expropriation, and a German-Soviet alliance. The programme was first distributed clandestinely at the August 1929 Nuremberg Party Congress before its formal publication in nationalist journal Das  Junge Volk on October 1st. The document, inevitably, had little real impact – in May 1926, in the wake of the Bamberg Conference, Hitler had already officially declared the 25-Points “unalterable”, and the Young Front’s programme made no headway in encouraging debate among the leadership. It did generate interest among some of the Party’s grass-roots, however, leading to stronger links with members of the NSDAP, many of whom would later go on to form the core of the GSRN. 

Social-Revolutionary Nationalism:
A Proposal for the Revision of the Programme of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP)

First published in Das Junge Volk, XI, 1st October 1929.

The NSDAP is a nationalist party. Its goal is the free German nation.

The NSDAP is a socialist party. It knows that the free German nation can arise only through the liberation of the working masses of Germany from all forms of exploitation and oppression.

The NSDAP is a workers’ party.  It professes itself to the class-struggle of the productive against parasites of all races and creeds.

The NSDAP therefore demands:

1. The integration of all Germans, on the basis of peoples’ rights to self-determination, into a Greater German Reich;

2. Equal status for the German Volk with other nations; the annulment of all the treaties, obligations, and debts of the prior capitalist government;

3. That only he who is a folk-comrade should be a citizen, – folk-comrades can only be those of German blood. Jews, Slavs, Latins [Welsche] can therefore not be German citizens; non-citizens to be classed as guests and placed under legislation governing foreigners;

4. That the right to determine the leadership and laws of the state may be conceded only to citizens; therefore, the NSDAP demands that every public office of whatever kind, whether in Reich, state, or municipality, may be occupied by citizens alone;

5. Elimination of the corrupting parliamentary state of affairs; realization of the self-government of the working Volk on the basis of enterprises, with the dismissal and destruction of the organizational apparatus of all parties; the organizational form of self-government is the Peoples’ Council-State [Volks-Rätestaat]; the council structure is organized from the bottom up through indirect elections from the council formations; Continue reading

The National and Social Liberation of the German People

Nationalist, Socialist, Bolshevist: the Communist Party of Germany’s ‘national-communist’ political programme of August 1930

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“Very many Nazi voters expected national liberation through their party, which it can never deliver. We must stress the national question more strongly than before in our agitation and propaganda and show that the KPD is the only party waging the struggle for Germany’s national liberation from the tribute burdens of the Young Plan.” So ran an article in a Ruhr newspaper of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD)  in October 1932. The sentiment it expressed was not rare or unusual within the KPD. It was, in fact, perfectly orthodox, at least in that period of the German party’s history. The KPD had been dabbling, on and off, with nationalist rhetoric since the early ’20s. In 1930 the Communist Party once again resolved to change tack and steer a more nationalist course, one more systematized and serious than the earlier ‘Schlageter line’ and heralded by the publication on August 24 of a new party programme which the KPD would take to the upcoming election: ‘The Programmatic Statement for the National and Social Liberation of the German People’. This programme, translated in full below, was intended to allay many of the concerns which had recently begun to subsume the party over the NSDAP’s rising membership and influence. The Communists’ refusal to support the NSDAP-organized 1929 referendum against the Young Plan had proven particularly contentious, creating the impression among many workers that the KPD supported the Plan, or at least was not serious in its fight against the hated ‘Versailles system’. The new programme was intended to prove to those workers going over to the ‘fascists’ that only the KPD could actually offer what National Socialism promised: the tearing-up of the Versailles Treaty and Young Plan; restoration of Germany’s lost territories; prosperity for middle-class, peasants, and workers alike; victory over French and Polish imperialism; the restoration of national dignity. Although never descending into outright chauvinism or Greater German power fantasies, the programme’s rhetoric is undoubtedly nationalistic in flavor, which is certainly how it was perceived. It served its purpose in convincing many socially-conscious nationalists that the KPD had their  nation’s best interests in mind, resulting in defections – a number of them quite high-profile from the SA, NSDAP, and other nationalist organizations.   

Communist Party of Germany (KPD):
Programmatic Statement for the National and Social Liberation
of the German People

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The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany approves, on the proposal of comrade Ernst Thälmann,1 the following proclamation for the national and social liberation of the German people. This declaration, which is addressed to all workers throughout Germany, has a programmatic significance that goes far beyond the scope of day-to-day politics. It constitutes a historical document that points the way for the entire working German people and illustrates for the first time the critical guidelines for the government policy of the coming German Soviet power.

While Social Democracy wants to sustain and perpetuate the existent state of misery, while the Hitler-party with deceitful phrases heralds a nebulous “Third Reich” that in reality would look even worse than the present wretchedness, we communists say clearly what we want. We conceal nothing. We make no promises that we will not unequivocally keep. Every laborer, every female worker, every young proletarian [Jungprolet], every office worker, every member of the cities’ indigent middle-classes, every working peasant in the country, every honest productive person in Germany, should with full clarity be convinced of our goal. The only way to the national liberation of the broad masses [Volksmassen] is a Soviet Germany.

For the present elections we call upon every working person in city and country to decide for a Soviet Germany by voting for List 4, for the list of the Communist Party. Continue reading

The National Bolshevist Manifesto

Karl Otto Paetel’s 1933 manifesto detailing the tactics and worldview of German ‘National Communism’

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Several months ago I posted a translation of the opening chapter of Karl Otto Paetel’s 1933 National Bolshevist Manifesto, which swiftly became one of the most popular things on the site.  At the time I indicated that I was in the process of translating the entire document. After several months of work, the translation of Karl Otto Paetel’s National Bolshevist Manifesto is now complete to a degree which I feel satisfied with. It can be downloaded directly from WordPress using the link below:

Paetel – The National Bolshevist Manifesto (1933)

Or it can be downloaded from the Internet Archive, where I also uploaded a copy.

If you experience any complications or difficulties downloading from either source, please leave a comment or send me an email through the ‘Scuttlebutt’ tab to let me know. As for distribution of the document, I have no problem if people want to host or share it elsewhere online themselves – I don’t expect people to ask my permission first. Once something is on the internet it tends to take on a life of its own, anyway.

Who was Paetel?

Karl Otto Paetel was born into a solidly middle-class Berlin-Charlottenberg family on November 23, 1906. The son of a bookseller, Paetel developed literary and intellectual interests early, and like most youth of his generation his thinking and outlook was deeply affected by the experience of the Great War and Germany’s subsequent post-War travails. The flourishing German Youth Movement, too, had a strong impact on his development – it was Paetel’s involvement in various youth groups that helped reinforce his nationalist sentiments, as well as his appreciation for the comradeship that came with activity within the framework of a tight-knit organization united around a common cause.

In 1928 Paetel enrolled at Friedrich-Wilhelm University in Berlin, studying philosophy and history with the intention of becoming a schoolteacher. Paetel’s studies were brought to an end only five semesters later as a result of his early forays into political activism. Defying a ban on demonstrations, a mass of students descended on the French Embassy in protest against the Treaty of Versailles, Paetel among them. To his shock he soon found himself slung in the back of a police vehicle, stuffed inbetween a Communist youth on one side and a National Socialist doctoral student on the other. The consequence of Paetel’s arrest once the University was alerted was the loss of his scholarship and his subsequent expulsion. With a sudden excess of free time on his hands, Paetel threw himself into journalism, writing articles for a variety of publications. He was particularly attracted to political subjects.

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