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

A National Bolshevist Vision

The opening chapter of Karl Otto Paetel’s 1933 ‘National Bolshevist Manifesto’

Over the past month I have been working on a translation of Karl Otto Paetel’s National Bolshevist Manifesto of January 1933. Reproduced below is the short opening chapter of Paetel’s document, ‘Vision’, in which the author poetically describes his dream of a National Bolshevik revolution. In Paetel’s vision, Greater Germany is declared socialist; land and property are nationalized; and the revolutionary forces of German nationalism and socialism – communists, National Socialists, Stahlhelm, and the revolutionary peasants (Landvolk) – band together to march towards the Rhine, jubilantly preparing to exact retribution on the Western powers for reducing Germany to the status of a colony through the Treaty of Versailles. Paetel’s origins lay in the Bündische Jugend (specifically the youth group Deutsche Freischar) before his move to radical politics saw him found the Group of Social-Revolutionary Nationalists (GSRN), and he was one of the few political figures in Germany at the time who willingly embraced the term ‘National Bolshevik’, which was typically used as a kind of pejorative (which he acknowledges in his Manifesto: “So we take up that dirty phrase, ‘National Bolsheviks!'”). The Manifesto was intended to rally nationalists and socialists in common cause for the March 1933 elections; Paetel previously had intimated plans to organize a National Communist Party. Its publication date of 30th January, 1933 – the day Hitler became Chancellor – was a kind of portent of doom for Paetel’s efforts. The GSRN was banned in the aftermath of the Reichstag fire, and in 1935 Paetel was forced to flee his country. 

Vision

The red flag flutters over Cologne Cathedral.

Revolution over Germany. – –

Radiogram from Berlin:

“To the German people!

Land and soil belong to the nation.

The means of production are socialized.

Elections to the Council Congress are announced.

The verdicts of the People’s Court on all the enemies of the Socialist Fatherland, all those responsible for the old regime, are enforced.

The Treaty of Versailles is considered torn to pieces.

Greater Germany is socialist!

The imperialist bandit-states are approaching. The Rhine is to be held under all circumstances, the counter-attack is to be initiated!” Continue reading