Gregor Strasser’s ‘Thoughts About the Tasks of the Future’

Gregor Strasser’s article of June 15, 1926, outlining his thoughts on culture, socialism, and the state

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My original plan for the remainder of this month was to continue with the ‘Visions of National Socialist Democracy’ series, as well as to post a historical excerpt about the revolutionary peasant movement of Weimar Germany – the  Landvolkbewegung. Unfortunately, however, life has got in the way; between personal commitments and completing the Paetel translation, I’m not sure I’ll have the time for that content until June. Rather than leave the site dead for the remaining two weeks or so while I finish work on the National Bolshevist Manifesto, I decided instead to post something that I already had lying around – the following article by Gregor Strasser, first published in 1926. Thoughts About the Tasks of the Future may not be new to some people, as bits and pieces of it have been floating around parts of the internet for a while, although usually in an unsatisfactory form (one website I saw hosted a good chunk of the essay, though had bizarrely replaced every instance of the word ‘socialism’ with ‘corporatism’). It is most famous for the “We are socialists, we are enemies, mortal enemies, of the present capitalist economic system” quote, which frequently appears online in center-right/boomer memes, usually misattributed to Hitler, and almost always employed as a rhetorical weapon to ‘prove’ that the liberal left are equivalent to National Socialists. The article is a lot more than that quote, obviously – written by Strasser on his sickbed (he had been in a serious car accident in early March, making him bedridden for months) not long after the failure at Bamberg, it was intended to serve as a comprehensive statement of his personal beliefs. Some of the opinions or policies Strasser supports in this article would shift by the early ’30s, but for the most part it remains a valuable insight into his general worldview – both his anti-materialist sentiments and his Prussian-inspired view of man’s relationship with the state would, for instance, essentially remain unchanged until his death.  

Lying on a sickbed for a few weeks and months does have its good side. So much that in the trivialities of everyday life does not get a hearing now has the chance to rise slowly from the unconscious to the conscious mind where it is tested and is winged by imagination, so that it acquires form and gains life. In general, people often make the mistake of assuming that practical action – the incessant preoccupation with daily necessities – is not founded in the mind. They therefore like to set up an invidious comparison between the thinker and the doer! It is true that the currents of the mind and the soul do not become conscious when one is resolutely grappling with the tasks of the day and trying, by freshly setting to work, to solve all questions in a practical way!

So it is comfort ever now and then to have the leisure to look beyond the tasks of the day and of the near future and to plumb the depths of the questions toward whose solution we are resolutely dedicating our life’s work. When would this be better than during the many lonely hours of the sickbed, when the hands of the clock seem to stand still and the night never to end – until it becomes finally, finally morning again! This new dawn, the fact that again and again dawn comes, is the deep consolation, is the blessed certainty which makes the night of the present bearable for us – and even if the hours, years, never seem to end – the dawn does come, my friends, and the sun comes, the light!

Such thoughts of the lonely nights, thoughts about the National Socialist tasks of the future – I will briefly survey them here – such thoughts have surely occurred to most of our friends in similar hours and in a similar way – thoughts which at the moment are not yet the subject of our work, but whose undercurrents are flowing, whose blood runs through our work.

I. The Spirit of the Economy

We are Socialists, we are enemies, mortal enemies of the present capitalist economic system with its exploitation of the economically weak, with its injustice in wages, with its immoral evaluation of individuals according to wealth and money instead of responsibility and achievement, and we are determined under all circumstances to abolish this system! And with my inclination to practical action it seems obvious to me that we have to put a better, more just, more moral system in its place, one which, as it were, has arms and legs and better arms and legs than the present one!

Continue reading

The Little ABC of National Socialists

Joseph Goebbels’s best-selling 1925 primer on National Socialist doctrine

‘The Little ABC of National Socialists’ (Das Kleine ABC des Nationalsozialisten) – one of the most popular documents outlining the tenets of National Socialist philosophy – was written and published by Joseph Goebbels in late 1925, not more than a year after “the little Doktor” first became politically active in the national-socialist movement. Goebbels at the time of publication was not the leading figure he would later become. At this point in his life he was a mostly penniless agitator, a demagogue-in-training, an organizer in the Gau North-Rhineland who was just starting to make his name in the wider Party outside of the city of Elberfeld. ‘The Little ABC’ was one of the many factors which played a part in Goebbels’s later notoriety. The pamphlet was immensely successful; the first edition of 10,000 copies sold out rapidly, leading to praise from Hitler, and more than 75,000 had been printed and distributed by 1927. By the time Hitler was appointed Reichschancellor in 1933 it was one of the most widely-read pieces of National Socialist literature. This is in large measure due to its style of writing – a pithy question-and-answer format, with simple, straightforward language intended to make National Socialist doctrine easily accessible to young people and workers. Winning proletarians to the cause was always a central focus of Dr. Goebbels, and even the title of the work attests to that fact – it deliberately calls to mind Bukharin & Preobrazhensky’s ‘ABC of Communism’. The translation of the ‘Little ABC’ below was made by myself personally; as far as I can tell no English translation is otherwise generally available.  

THE LITTLE ABC OF NATIONAL SOCIALISTS

Dr. Joseph Goebbels

For the downtrodden!

Against the exploiter!

The Common Good Comes Before Self-Interest!

What is the first commandment of every National Socialist?

Love Germany above all and love your folk-comrades [Volksgenossen] like yourself!

What is the aim of the National Socialist freedom-concept?

The people’s community [Volksgemeinschaft] of all honest, productive Germans!

What is the substance of this people’s community?

Freedom and bread for every German folk-comrade!

Who is our German folk-comrade?

Any honest productive German, so long as he is of German blood, German customs, and German culture, and speaks the German language!

Through what principle do we National Socialists want to do away with today’s economic struggle of all against all?

Common interest before self-interest!

Why National Socialist German Workers Party?

Can and should a workers’ party still be national today?

It not only can and should, it must be national today. The cause of the people is the cause of the nation, and vice versa; the might and welfare of the state are the might and welfare of the people, and thus the might and welfare of every individual!

Isn’t there a conflict between the national and social concepts?

No, on the contrary! The truly national man thinks socialist, and the true socialist is nationalist!

When am I a nationally-minded person?

I am a nationally-minded person when I have the will, and use all my power, to make my people and my Fatherland free, healthy, and strong!

When do I think as a socialist?

I think as a socialist when I recognize that the natural rights of the oppressed portion of my folk-comrades, the rights to liberty and bread, are rights that must be fought for and preserved, they are not gifts that are given freely or even imposed!

What is the difference between ‘social’ and ‘socialist’?

The phrase ‘social’ wants to grant the oppressed segments of the people the imperfect rights of fear and cowardice, grace and mercy; ‘socialism’ gives them their full right to justice and state imperative!

Why ‘Workers Party’?

Because every honest, productive German who belongs to us already, or who shall belong to us yet, is a German worker, whether of brain or fist; because the will to creative work is a fundamental feature in German man; because work does not dishonor man but honors and ennobles! Continue reading

Monthly Fragebogen: The National Socialist political breakthrough

While visiting friends in the Wurtemburg countryside, nationalist writer Ernst von Salomon is treated to a grass-roots view of the NSDAP’s 1930 electoral triumph

In this month’s excerpt from his post-WWII best-seller Der Fragebogen, conservative-revolutionary writer Ernst von Salomon recounts his experience in Wurtemberg of the infamous German Reichstag elections of September 1930. In the previous elections of 1928 the National Socialists had won a mere 12 seats; the sudden explosive growth of the NSDAP to 107 seats a mere two years later was a triumphal shock for both the Party and for Germany, representing the dramatic political changes which had beset the country over such a short expanse of time, particularly since the onset of the Great Depression in October 1929. von Salomon’s description of the peasant regions of Swabia provide a lively account of this transformed German countryside in this period: a countryside which “was, beyond any question of doubt, National-Socialist”; a countryside where elderly women, Church-goers, and peasant girls had already begun using the ‘Hitler-greeting’ in recognition of their shared adoption of völkisch-socialist values. The political landslide of 1930, in von Salomon’s account, is thus unsurprising, a reflection of the successful permeation and normalization of National Socialist ideology into day-to-day German life at the local level.

It was during the summer of 1930, when Berlin was first beginning to feel the effects of what happened on October 23rd, 1929, that I went for a few weeks to Calw, a small, South German town in Wurtemberg, to visit the painter Rudolf Schlichter. I had read thoroughly the works of Hermann Hesse, who was also born in Calw, and the exactness of his descriptions allowed me to recognise many details of the place with great delight. The most fortunate province of Germany, solid, hard-working, industrious, middle-class Wurtemberg, was reflected in the good city of Calw as in a convex glass. The little district capital, situated in the smiling valley of the Nagold, struck me as a very picture of comely arrangement. A little industry, a certain amount of wood trade, all happily mingled together and backed by an industrious farming community, a solid Catholic minority living side by side with a quantity of Protestant sects, good roads and railways to the most delightful parts of the Black Forest and the Swabian Alps, to Pforzheim in Baden and the provincial capital, Stuttgart, all this combined to give the district capital its own specific character. If anywhere, then surely here the economic and social life drew its sustenance from a soil that would be fruitful to all seed save only that which aspired aggressively to drastic change. Here every man could, with energy and care, look after his own affairs. And when, in the evenings, the local dignitaries sat over a good, neighbourly bottle of wine, these worthies did not allow political differences of opinion to interfere with personal friendships, while their mutual interdependence in matters of trade and their frequent blood relationships both served as strong deterrents to fanaticism of any sort.

On the market place was a first-class delicatessen shop, which saw to it that the products of distant lands as well as those of an active home industry found their way into the kitchens of the Calw households. Its proprietor was to be seen at all times, enveloped in a spotlessly white coat, standing among his sacks of raisins and his prettily coloured boxes of dried fruit. In his spotlessly clean shop his ruddy, healthy face radiated confidence and politeness, while his pleasant smile promised all comers that here they could expect good, reliable service. I praised his shop heartily, and he said, in his strong Wurtemberg accent:

“You know, I worked like a black to get this business going…” and he said: “You know, I still need another ten thousand marks to get out of debt…” Continue reading

The ‘Strasser Program’

Too moderate, too democratic, too Marxist? The 1926 NSDAP draft program proposed (and rejected) as a replacement to the ’25 Points’

On January 5th, 1926, a meeting was convened in Hanover between members of the ‘National Socialist Working Group’, an association of prominent National Socialists from the north and west of Germany, including such figures as Goebbels, Ley, Pfeffer von Salomon, and Gregor & Otto Strasser. What united these National Socialists was their belief in National Socialism as an anticapitalist force, and their concern that the NSDAP was drifting in the wrong direction. At Hanover the group circulated a document which it was hoped would help address these issues: a new draft for a Party program that would replace the ‘outdated’ 25 Points of 1920, would more explicitly spell out the Party’s anticapitalist principles, and would more clearly describe the structure of the future NS-state. It was also felt that binding Hitler to a more concrete program would set stricter boundaries on his role as Führer. The draft program was primarily written by Gregor Strasser, based on the ideas of the Working Group, with some revisions to the text by Otto and Goebbels. It was contentious even within the Working Group, where it was criticized for being too ‘mild’ and lacking völkisch spirit, and its existence created some small turmoil within the Party. Hitler, seeing a threat to his authority, called a meeting at Bamberg on February 14th, 1926, where the draft program was soundly rejected; the 25 Points declared ‘inviolable’; and the foundations of Führerprinzip more firmly entrenched. The full text of the draft ‘Strasser program’ is reproduced below, translated by myself from the German ‘Quarterly Journal for Contemporary History’. 

National Socialism

Draft design of a comprehensive program of National Socialism

I. Introduction

(A nation is a community of fate, need, and bread!)

a.)  In brief the disorder of conditions:

  • in foreign policy
  • in domestic policy
  • in economic policy

b.)  Characterization of National Socialism as a wholly new, comprehensive view of political economy (synthesis of a politically creative nationalism and of a socialism which guarantees the support and development of the individual).  

c.)  Prerequisite for carrying out this mighty project is the national dictatorship. Fateful and causal connection between the economic emancipation of German employees and the political emancipation of the German people.

II. Foreign Policy

a.)  Borders of 1914, including colonies, and the unification of all German Central Europe in a Greater Germanic Reich (including Austria, the Sudetenland, and South Tyrol).

b.)  Tariff union with Switzerland, Hungary, Denmark, Holland, and Luxembourg.

c.)  Colonial empire in central Africa (former German colonies, the Congo, Portuguese colonies, portions of French colonies).

d.)  United States of Europe as a European league of nations with a uniform system of measurement and currency. Preparation for a tariff union with France and the other European states; otherwise, reciprocal most favored nation status.

III. Domestic Policy

A. Reich

1. Levels of office:

a.)  Reichspresident with a seven-year term (first Reichspresident the dictator), with    broad powers, comparable to the American President. His specific functions:

    • designation of the presidents of the individual regions,
    • appointment of ministers,
    • contracting of treaties, declaring of war and peace in cooperation with the ministry.

b.)  Reichsministry: led by the Reichschancellor, who heads the individual ministries and is responsible to the Reichspresident and, to a certain extent, to the Reich Chamber of Corporations.  (In the case of a two votes of no confidence, which must be a period of at least one year apart, the Cabinet must resign; likewise individual Ministers).   Continue reading