Possedism and the Wehrwolf

“To eradicate a rapacious capitalism – Possedism!” The economic ideology of Fritz Kloppe’s national-revolutionary paramilitary league, the Wehrwolf

The ‘Wehrwolf – League of German Men and Front-Fighters’ was probably one of the most distinctive of the various paramilitary groups active within Weimar Germany’s national-revolutionary camp. Founded by teacher and Freikorps veteran Fritz Kloppe in May 1923 as an adjunct of the Stahlhelm’s youth league, the Wehrwolf soon broke away from the overly “bourgeois” Stahlhelm and fast developed its own unique nationalist style and subculture: field-grey uniforms, black-white-red armbands, black flags emblazoned with silver symbols (a ‘W’; a death’s head; a Wolfsangel rune), and a reasonably extensive organizational apparatus. The group also established its own radical ideology, calling for a revolutionary overthrow of the Weimar system and its replacement by an “aristocratic” Greater German Third Reich free of traditional class distinctions and capitalist exploitation. Complementing this political vision was the group’s economic ideal of ‘Possedism’ (from the Latin Possedere, ‘to possess’), first introduced by Kloppe in 1931. Possedism at its core revolved around a reorganization of property relations: Kloppe argued that in capitalism the concentration of property in private hands caused unbridled egoism and a selfish disregard for the Volk, yet under Marxism the concentration of property in state hands led to an unhealthy social levelling and a neutering of people’s drive and ambition. Kloppe’s solution was mass nationalization of all land and property into state hands, with the state apportioning it out for private ‘possession’ as widely as possible so that practically every German would own an inheritable stake in land or business. This ‘Possedist’ system, Kloppe argued, when coupled with autarchy, corporatist elements, and state control over foreign trade, would naturally create the perfect balance between egoism and egalitarianism, and the perfect alternative to socialism and capitalism. The two texts translated below constitute two of the earliest instances of Kloppe outlining his Possedist ideal: a short speech from the Wehrwolf’s 1931 Whitsunday celebrations, and a piece comprised of extracts from Kloppe’s pamphlet Der Possedismus (see the translator’s notes below for further information). Both of these were translated from a reprint of Kloppe’s 1938 retrospective on the Wehrwolf, Kamerad, weißt du noch? (i.e. Comrade, Do You Remember?), a book which probably deserves an article in its own right, since its publication led to Kloppe (who in 1933 had agreed to merge the Wehrwolf into the SA) being arrested and questioned by the Gestapo on suspicion of seditious activity. 

On “Possedism”
The Economic Theory of Fritz Kloppe and his
‘Wehrwolf League of German Men and Front-Fighters’

Speech on “Possedism” at the Bonn am Rhein Whitsunday Celebrations, 23rd – 25th May, 1931:

First published in Der Wehrwolf, 1st June, 1931.

We Wehrwolf are not only revolutionaries with respect to purely social conditions. We are primarily also revolutionaries in the fields of culture and the economy. It is absolutely futile to attempt to create a New Germany simply by setting new men at the head of the nation. Nor is it of any significance if a new form of state is simply forced upon the German Volk. We must give the nation itself a new substance!

This new, revolutionary will of ours is reflected economically within a new order of possession, one which we have called “Possedism” in order to give it the sharpest differentiation from others. For a century we have seen how capitalism has been economically undermining our Volk by turning them into wage-slaves, into proletarians, into an uprooted people to whom the concepts of the Volk and the community-of-blood1 have become something alien. The exploitation of productive people by capitalism was recognized very early on. A countermovement against it emerged just as quickly. The enslaved masses sought for a way out in Marxism, through which they hoped to be liberated from the fetters of international High Finance.

By rights, an ashen-gray horror should fill those people who have had to witness again and again that Marxism is indeed a reaction against capitalism, but a reaction which can nevermore bring freedom because it is on the wrong path. But the fighters for the proletariat are already too inured by their decades of slavery to recognize that they are on the wrong track. They are far too disconnected from nature to have the strength to muster up anything more than an impotent uprising. The asphalt has sucked out their marrow. Continue reading

Nation and Working-Class

Only proletarian revolution opens the way to nationhood: an early national-bolshevist pamphlet by Hamburg radicals Heinrich Laufenberg & Fritz Wolffheim

Berlin_Rally_1918“National Bolshevism” has always been a fairly amorphous term. This is even more so the case today, where its relegation to meme status seems to have reduced it to a kind of aesthetic joke. Even in Germany, where the concept first originated, its meaning was never entirely fixed, never applied to one consistent worldview. Originally coined to describe the ideas of Jewish-German conservative-nationalist Paul Eltzbacher, who saw a Soviet system as Germany’s only means of national salvation following its defeat in WWI (Eltzbacher subsequently became a communist), the term was later used to describe several minor heretical movements on both the Left and the Right, deviations from Germany’s mainstream Marxist or nationalist currents which embraced certain elements of their respective enemies’ ideological worldviews. The earliest of these groups was the Hamburg branch of the Communist Workers’ Party of Germany (KAPD), organized by prominent local radicals Fritz Wolffheim and Heinrich Laufenberg after their expulsion from the Communist Party over their anti-parliamentary, pro-syndicalist tendencies. Wolffheim and Laufenberg took the Hamburg KAPD in a national-communist direction, violently attacking social-democrats for betraying Germany and its proletariat through the Treaty of Versailles, and advocating instead of a civil war against the bourgeoisie a temporary alliance with them against the Western Powers as a precursor to the defeat and absorption of the middle-classes and the creation of a pan-German proletarian republic. Laufenberg and Wolffheim drew on German history and the example of the French Revolution to support their views; the 1920 pamphlet Nation und Arbeiterklasse, translated below, is a typical example. It is a curious mixture of radical left-wing Marxism and aggrieved nationalist sentiment, surveying the question of German nationhood from the perspective that Germany’s history of feudalism and imperialism left its bourgeois state and class underdeveloped, necessitating working with elements of the bourgeoisie so the broken Weimar system could be overthrown and a true German nation and state established in its place. Because the full text of the pamphlet is rather long, I have also made it available for download as a PDF via the Internet Archive for those who prefer that format. 

Nation and Working-Class
Heinrich Laufenberg & Fritz Wolffheim
July, 1920

hamsic

I.

Communism is the doctrine of the class struggle of the proletariat within capitalist society. Its goal is the destruction of the capitalist world-system and its replacement by the Commune of the world-economy.

Its struggle and mission are international. The very existence of the bourgeoisie and proletariat is determined by the capitalist mode of production. The struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat moves through nations, tearing them apart with the antagonisms between the classes in enemy camps. But as both classes can only exist so long as capitalist society lasts, at the end of their struggle class-antagonisms in every country will be abolished by the victorious proletariat. By smashing the capitalist form of economy and eradicating the capitalist class-society and wage system, the proletariat abolishes the bourgeoisie and, at the same time, itself as a non-propertied class. In doing so, it deprives class-divisions within nations of their foundations. Communist society sets all working members of a people [Volk] alongside one another, free and equal. It arises out of the socialized labor of a classless people, and comes to completion through the federalist integration of the economy of the classless peoples in the World Commune.

The revolutionary struggle of the proletariat, mobilized within the embrace of the bourgeois nations, picks up the revolutionary tendencies extant when it first begins. Where bourgeois society is itself still struggling with feudal forces over the “political structure”, the proletariat fights in the foremost battle-lines of the bourgeoisie as the most energetic stratum driving the Revolution forward. After the bourgeoisie triumphs over the feudal world, the proletariat intervenes in the revolutionary struggles which unleash the emerging, reinvigorated groups of the bourgeois class to participate in the power of the state, and while also supporting the bourgeois wings of the revolution in these upheavals, it at the same time campaigns for the implementation of its own class goals in order to broaden its own revolutionary basis of struggle against the entire bourgeois class. It is precisely the course of the bourgeois revolutions which furnishes visible evidence that the bourgeois struggle for emancipation is unfurling the problems of humanity’s liberation, but that it is necessary to overcome bourgeois society itself in order to resolve these problems. All of these problems therefore fall automatically within the ambit of proletarian struggle. The most important of them, in which all others intersect as a focal point, is the organization of the nation. For the political manifestation of bourgeois society is the bourgeois state, which attempts to organize the nation as its given basis. And as this organization has had so little success at resolving all the other problems of humanity posed by bourgeois society, but the proletariat must, in order to carry out its own emancipation, conquer and shatter the bourgeois state, then in this case too it is forced to take up the unsolved problem at precisely the point where the Bourgeois Revolution left it. Continue reading

The Battle of Neumünster

“The flag is our symbol! We will not surrender it!” Three accounts of the infamous Landvolk farmers’ riot in Neumünster, August 1, 1929

Bauernfahne

The Landvolk movement (Landvolkbewegung, or ‘Rural Peoples’ Movement’) has become somewhat obscure today, but during the late 1920s and early ’30s it had an incredible influence over radicals on both the Right and the Left in Germany. Peasant farmers in Schleswig-Holstein, fed up with the terrible economic situation and the policies of establishment Social-Democratic or liberal politicians, began organizing collectively to fight back – a previous article on this blog, from Ernst von Salomon’s memoir Der Fragebogen, describes their often terroristic methods in some detail.  One of the most notorious events connected with the Landvolk, aside from their penchant for bomb-planting, was the infamous ‘Battle of Neumünster’ which took place on 1 August, 1929, in the town of that name. Prominent Landvolk spokesman Wilhelm Hamkens had been jailed on 1 July for inciting tax-strikes among his fellow peasants. Upon hearing that Hamkens was to be transferred for release to the town of Neumünster on 1 August, thousands of revolutionary peasants decided to converge on the town for a peaceful march and rally to welcome him back to freedom. The result was chaos. It was at the Neumünster march that the Landvolk peasants opted to fly their own flag for the first time – a black flag (representing both nationalism and German mourning), bedecked with a white plough (for their livelihood) and a red sword (indicating their fighting spirit), the three colors thus completing those of the old Empire. The police’s decision to try to confiscate the flag created havoc: battles in the streets, fingers and noses being hacked from bodies, farmers beating police with heavy ash walking-sticks. The three accounts excerpted below describe the Neumünster battle in quite vivid detail, clearly demonstrating how unstable the Weimar Republic was becoming as state authority withered and as a revolutionary spirit seized even those classes of society usually associated with stolid traditionalism. The first is a historical account from Alexander Otto-Morris’s excellent academic study of the Landvolk, while the other two constitute fictionalized retellings: one from nationalist writer Ernst von Salomon’s novel about the revolutionary peasants, the other from a well-known novel by Hans Fallada, who was a journalist in Neumünster at the time of the riot. 

Rebellion in the Province:
The Landvolkbewegung and the Rise of National Socialism
in Schleswig-Holstein (2013)
by Alexander Otto-Morris

Alexander Otto-Morris’s book Rebellion in the Province is, so far as I am aware, the most authoritative history of the Landvolk available in English. It is an excellently-written academic work which manages to be an easy, gripping read as well as deeply informative and thoroughly referenced. I have excised Otto-Morris’s numbered references to make the text more readable in a casual blog setting, but they indicate that he constructed his account from an exhaustive reading of police and governmental reports about the incident, as well as from contemporary newspaper articles. The excerpt below is taken from Chapter Six of Rebellion, which covers the movement at its peak over the course of 1929, before it descended into outright terrorism. – Bogumil

The plans for a rally in Neumünster became public after the Schleswig-Holsteinische Volkszeitung printed a letter written by Hamkens from prison to Johannes Kühl, requesting that a crowd meet him on August 1 [after being released]… Alarmed at this news, the provincial authorities took steps to avoid another disturbance. First, they arranged for Hamkens to be secretly moved to Flensburg as a precautionary measure. Then, on the day before his release, representatives of the Regierungspräsident travelled to Neumünster to meet with the town’s mayor, Lindemann, and police commander, Chief Inspector Bracker, seeking to prevent the anticipated demonstration. As the town’s police administrator, it was Mayor Lindemann who had the power to enforce the prohibition of open rallies and even of indoor meetings if they were deemed to pose a danger to the public peace, safety and order. In answer to the Regierungspräsident’s representatives’ pleas, however, Lindemann declared that he viewed a Landvolk rally as harmless and explained that rallies of the communists and the Republican-friendly paramilitary corps, the Reichsbanner, were always peaceful. Despite warnings that the Landvolkbewegung was more dangerous than the communists, especially because it was a movement without organisation, definite membership or leaders, Lindemann was unmoved. He could see no reason why the rally should be banned and was adamant that such events should be left to run their course.

Doubting that Neumünster’s police force, a chief inspector and 27 officers, were sufficient to maintain order, the provincial government representatives pressed Bracker and Lindemann to accept the assistance of a riot police contingent. In fact, so great was their concern, they even offered to put a further unit on call in Kiel. Bracker, however, was of the opinion that a riot contingent presence would simply be a provocation. Continue reading