National Socialists Against Capitalism

“Down with the slavery of capitalism!” Articles by Gregor Strasser, Rudolf Jung, Otto Strasser, Joseph Goebbels, and Alfred Krebs on the “malignant, materialist spirit of capitalism”

The question of National Socialism’s exact relationship with socialism is a contentious one. It is also a longstanding one. In 1911, Austrian Social-Democrat Julius Deutsch was already asserting that the “deutschsozial” ideology professed by the Austro-Hungarian German Workers’ Party was merely a propagandistic smokescreen covering strikebreaking, embezzlement, and clandestine funding from “the dirtiest, most exploitative” employers. Deutsch’s arguments are still commonplace today, in one form or another – the assertion that any socialistic elements in National Socialism (right down to the name) were simply part of a premeditated rhetorical trick used to fool gullible workers into serving reactionary interests has changed little over the past century, with actions such as the NSDAP’s treatment of Germany’s unions in 1933 or its privatization of certain industries put forward as evidence for National Socialism’s underlying capitalist nature. By contrast, there are others who like to claim as close a relationship between Marxism and ‘Nazism’ as possible, alleging that the latter grew directly out of the former and that the two share the same basic ideological precepts – usually these allegations come from conservatives, presented as part of an attempt to tar the modern Left with the brush of Hitler and the Holocaust. The position of many National Socialists themselves was that their movement comprised a legitimate (indeed the most legitimate) branch of Germany’s historical socialist tradition, representing the most vital aspect of the broader ‘national wing’ of German socialism. NS theoretician Rudolf Jung makes this argument directly in his ideological work Der nationale Sozialismus when he observes that, “Marxists constantly maintain that there is only one form of socialism, the Marxist, and that everything else is mere fraud and deception… [but] socialism has always existed, both before Marxism and alongside it… [Marxists] represent only one of socialism’s orientations, the avowedly Jewish one.” National Socialism’s origins in the Austrian labor movement, its professed commitment to far-reaching economic reform (profit-sharing, land reform, nationalization of trusts, greater economic equality), its hostility towards the traditional Right, and its seemingly earnest efforts to appeal to the German worker were all taken at face value by many within the movement, viewed as evidence that they were affiliated with a revolutionary ideal which stood against the capitalist system and which sought to establish in its place a new form of truly German Socialism. The five articles translated below comprise a general cross-section of views from representatives of the ‘left wing’ of the National Socialist movement, with each article representing an attempt by its author to address the issue of capitalism from a National Socialist perspective: to describe its deficiencies, identify its driving forces, and to present the National Socialist economic worldview as an authentic and distinct alternative. Theoretical argumentation of this type was not at all uncommon within National Socialist propaganda and publications, which placed a great deal of emphasis on trying to outline a coherent anticapitalist economic doctrine. Whether or not such formulations are convincing ultimately depends upon one’s own personal beliefs and biases, but there is little doubt that the sentiments expressed here were taken very seriously by many within the NSDAP, who professed to be fighting for a Germany which was to be equally as socialist as it was nationalist.

The Slave-Market of Capitalism
By Gregor Strasser
First published 23 August, 1926

NS_Swastika

This article was translated from the 2nd edition of Gregor Strasser’s book Kampf um Deutschland (1932), a collection of speeches and essays by Strasser which he felt best demonstrated “the directness and the uncompromising nature of our struggle.” Strasser gives no indication in his book where this article originally appeared, but considering its intended audience (workers) and its largely polemical style, a likely answer would be his newspaper Der nationale Sozialist or one of its regional editions, which were intended for a more ‘general’ readership than were some of the NSDAP’s theoretical publications. It represents probably the most overtly propagandistic of the five articles included here, luridly describing the symptoms of capitalism without offering much in-depth analysis. – Bogumil

“Long live freedom! Long live Germany! Long live the accomplishments of the Revolution!” Are you familiar with these cries, German worker? Do you not recognize them from your newspapers, which – particularly in these days of so-called “constitutional celebration”1 – print them in the largest type, in order that they might rouse you and rally you like the sound of fanfare?

Yes indeed, in the comfortable chambers of the Jewish gentlemen editors, in the large rooms of your trade-union bigwigs – there is the environment right for dispensing such slogans, there is it so easy to speak of democracy and freedom, and there are the accomplishments of the Revolution demonstrated so vividly by the occupants.

Yet I wish to show you another picture, a picture which most of you already know, which you are aware of through shameful experience, which you know from fearful apprehension: the objective evidence of unemployment! – There they stand in their hundreds and thousands, German women and men in wretched, tattered garments, pale, haggard, hungry, torpid, hateful, tormented; they stand in winding queues, hour after hour, only to hear the bleak answer “No” from across a cold counter before taking delivery of a paltry handout, too little to live on and too much to starve on. There they stand, members of every age group, of every profession, in every stage of physical and mental distress, and want for nothing but work, nothing but a meagre income in order to be able to buy bread for themselves and for their children at home, want for nothing but employment in order to be able to rid themselves of the ghastly soul- and body-crushing hardship of months and years of forced inactivity – ah, they are so tired, so deathly tired, so weary and worn down to the bone, that they no longer even think at all of finding a high wage, a comfortable occupation; they no longer even think of themselves as human beings, as whole, complete human beings who have an inalienable right to live and to let their children live, to have happiness and sunshine and to bestow happiness and sunshine upon their children; instead they want for nothing but work, nothing but meagre earnings and to finally attain employment again – something which they cannot find! This is a slave-market a thousand times worse than those markets of antiquity, of barbarism, for there every slave found work, every slave had bread and clothing and lodging for himself and for his family, he was an object of value for his master – but here he can keel over without anyone giving a damn for him, here his family can starve and live in holes in the ground – and all of this in the name of freedom, all of this in the name of democracy, all of this under the flag of the accomplishments of the Revolution!! Continue reading

Hitler’s Betrayal – Are We Still a Workers’ Party?

Black propaganda from the Communist Party of Germany, aimed at winning over disillusioned members of the SA

The explosive growth in popularity of National Socialism throughout Germany in 1930 proved particularly challenging for German Communism, which found itself suddenly competing with a highly-organized, well-disciplined opponent whose espoused “social-radicalism” seemed to have a troubling level of appeal even among certain segments of the urban proletariat. A key component in the Comintern’s solution to the rising challenge of National Socialism was its ‘Programmatic Statement for the National and Social Liberation of the German People’, first published in national Communist Party (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, KPD) daily Die Rote Fahn on August 24, 1930, and deliberately intended to steal some of the NSDAP’s thunder by appropriating nationalist language and sentiment for the cause of Marxism-Leninism. Translated into practical party work, the new ‘National and Social’ policy line was primarily employed by Communists in the field of propaganda, particularly through organizations and publications intended to appeal to nationalists by focusing on certain attractive commonalities (i.e. a shared culture of militarism, or a hatred of the Young Plan) which could then be gradually redefined to participants in the framework of a Stalinist ideological worldview. Another favored KPD tactic during this period involved the use of demoralizing ‘black propaganda’, particularly what historian Timothy Brown calls ‘Zersetzungsschriften’ – ‘decomposition tracts’. These were leaflets, flyers, and newsletters written and produced by Communist propagandists but intended to give the impression that they were actually authored by an ‘opposition movement’ of disgruntled and disillusioned National Socialists within the NSDAP. Usually Communist Zersetzung were targeted at the Sturmabteilung (SA, Stormtroopers), which had the largest share of the NSDAP’s proletarian membership and hence, for the KPD, the greatest revolutionary potential. Zersetzung were full of complaints from supposedly ‘real’ Stormtroopers pointing out ideological hypocrisy within the party, alleging financial or racial impropriety on the part of local or national leaders, and encouraging a more sympathetic view of the ‘Reds’ and their ideas. The translated document below, a four-page newsletter titled Nation und Revolution, is an example of an SA-targeted Communist Zersetzungsschrift. Although undated and unnumbered, it was probably produced in mid-1931 and seems to have been distributed in the Stuttgart area. It covers most of the themes common to this kind of propaganda writing, condensing core arguments from the 1930 ‘National and Social’ programme and combining them with grumbling allegations about SA “Bonzen” (bigwigs) and the NSDAP’s inability to truly live up to the promises of its anticapitalist economic ideology.

Nation and Revolution
An anonymous SA propaganda newsletter,
clandestinely produced by the Communist Party of Germany

Hitler’s Betrayal of Nationalism!

Part II:1 The South Tyrolean Question and Hitler’s despicable renunciation of the Germans in South Tyrol are common knowledge. One would be correct in pointing out that the same policy of renunciation to which the Germans in South Tyrol are falling victim today could be invoked tomorrow against the Germans in Alsace, Upper Silesia, Czechoslovakia, etc.2 And in point of fact, Hitler has commenced one retreat after another along these lines. In his August 1930 letter to the French politician Gustave Hervé3 he wrote:

“I can assure you most emphatically, the movement which I represent has no intention of extending a helping hand to any course of action that appears only too likely to prevent the necessary balance of power from being established in Europe, thereby jeopardizing a much-needed peace among European nations! … The legally-binding character of private debts, regardless of the reason for which they were accrued, is always unequivocally clear… It (Germany) fulfills, and will also in future earnestly and faithfully fulfill, its private commercial debt obligations to the world.”

Hitler is openly stating here that he has absolutely no intention of doing anything at all about amending Germany’s monumental private debts to the Versailles powers. How could it be otherwise, when he is so keen upon the discourse of private ownership? The utter impracticality of national liberation without a preceding or concurrent socialist revolution is demonstrated here in Hitler’s shiftless babbling.

And what of Hitler’s fight against the “November Democracy’s policy of fulfillment,” which constitutes the be-all and end-all of National Socialist propaganda in its entirety? How would he behave in practice, if he were serious about this fight? In addition to refusing to make any reparations payments, he would then primarily need to ensure via his representatives in the state and municipal governments that the raising of funds for reparations would be made impossible, i.e. through the systematic sabotage of government measures; calls for a tax strike; struggling for improved wages, salaries, and bread; and ensuring all property goes to the German Volk in accordance with the maxim: “Bread first, then reparations!” Continue reading

Why the German Workers’ Party? What Does it Want?

The first propaganda pamphlet of the (National Socialist) German Workers’ Party, written by Anton Drexler in February 1920

General poverty was the main condition under which the Munich-based German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, DAP) operated during its early months of existence. When Hitler first joined the DAP he was shocked to find (as he related in Mein Kampf) that the party had “nothing, no programme, no leaflet, no printed matter at all, no membership cards, not even a miserable rubber stamp, only obvious good faith and good intentions.” The organization’s entire treasury amounted to barely more than a small handful of marks, with the sum total of these funds kept by members within a cigar box. That the party managed to expand its membership throughout the second half of 1919 and to acquire some actual resources was largely the result of Hitler’s own drive and organization, particularly the pressure he placed upon the DAP’s leaders to undertake the risk of holding public meetings at which the party could raise funds by charging entrance fees. So successful was Hitler’s choice of strategy that, in late December 1919, the German Workers’ Party was able to afford to rent its first party office, a back room in the Sterneckerbräu tavern. Furthermore, the DAP was finally able to look towards diversifying its propaganda strategy by putting out printed material, something which had previously been beyond its means in light of the high cost of paper in Germany’s unstable, rationing-afflicted, post-War economy. February 1920 thus saw not only the appearance of the German Workers’ Party’s new party programme, but also the printing and distribution of its first-ever propaganda document, translated below. This four-page pamphlet was authored by Anton Drexler, then First Chairman of the party, and focused on outlining to readers the miserable conditions under which the new German Republic was supposedly laboring, with the blame for these afflictions laid by the author firmly at the feet of both the ‘false socialism’ of the Marxists and the financial rule of global (“Jewish”) capitalism. Naturally enough Drexler’s document depicts the National Socialist German Workers’ Party as being (in contrast to the Social-Democrats) the way back to prosperity, the only real guarantor of an “honest and true socialism” capable of genuinely saving the working-class and of restoring German greatness. As the first-ever propaganda work published by the DAP/NSDAP the document bears some notable historical significance, even if the style of its writing and presentation is a little prosaic in comparison with the more sophisticated material put out by the National Socialists in later years. Drexler’s authorship of the pamphlet is also somewhat curious in light of the fact that Hitler was the party’s Werbeobmann (propaganda chief) at this point. Possibly it was felt that the honor of producing such a publication should be reserved for the party’s original founder and current leader, even if Drexler’s talent for writing tended to be more workmanlike than gifted overall.  

Why Did the German Workers’ Party Have to Come About?
What Does it Want?
Anton Drexler, February 1920

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The German Volk have suffered terribly as a consequence of World War, revolution, and fratricidal conflict. Those men who, after the storms of November, grandstanded under the finest promises as being the only people capable of saving Germany, have now governed us to death. All ties of order, justice, and custom have been broken. The freedom which was promised to us manifests itself instead in an unprecedented proliferation of common criminality, such as privileged usurers and the exploiters of our people [Volksausbeuter]. The old order collapsed – and now destruction grins, while no new life blossoms among the ruins! It must be stated clearly: “It was not a change of systems that occurred in the late autumn days of 1918, but rather the old system’s coronation. Before the German Revolution, the capitalist constitution ruled behind the scenes; with the Revolution it replaced every objectionable person with its cronies, and continued to misrule us until, through hardship, hunger, and misery, we became the willing slaves of world capitalism – whose representatives are also situated within Germany.”

1.35% foreign races = a 79% share in government.
98.67% ethnic Germans1 = a 21% share in the government of their own native land.
These numbers say it all!

German industrial- and working-capital amounted to twelve billion [Marks]. Whereas loan- and stock-market-capital totaled 250 billion.

But only working-capital was combated, which – in the form of tools, machines, ships, and every kind of manufacturing equipment – was the working Volk’s meal ticket.

Loan-capital, on the other hand, which weighs down upon our own land and soil, upon our buildings, houses, and tenements, was not only not combated – it was actually promoted. The representatives and agents of capitalism set themselves at the head of the combat troops which they themselves had organized against capitalism, and they steered the struggle against the working-capital which stood in their way. The working Volk are bound up with working-capital for better or for worse, and this capital must – while preventing any exploitation of the labor force – be protected. Continue reading

Aufbruch: Winning the Nationalists for Communism

“Nationalists! Break through to us!” Articles from ‘Aufbruch’, a National Bolshevist propaganda journal produced by the Communist Party of Germany

Between 23 September to 4 October 1930, three young officers of the German Reichswehr stood trial in a Leipzig court, charged with plotting to commit high treason. The three Lieutenants – Richard Scheringer, Hanns Ludin, and Hans Wendt – had for several months been spreading national-revolutionary propaganda among the officer corps of the 5th Artillery Regiment in Ulm, encouraging them “not to fire on a national uprising of the people” should it occur, but instead to actively side with the revolutionary nationalists, to “join the revolt and become the nucleus of a people’s army of the future.” The ‘Ulm Reichswehr Trial’ of these young officers became a notorious event in Weimar history (Hitler was famously called as a witness), but even more notorious was its aftermath. On 27 February 1931, almost five months into an 18 month sentence, Richard Scheringer publicly announced that he had forsaken radical-nationalism and decided to convert to Communism, and a statement to this effect was read out in the Reichstag on 18 March by a member of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). The Communists saw Scheringer’s conversion as a major propaganda victory, and quickly hurried to incorporate his name and image into their “National and Social” propaganda line, a strategy directed at winning over disaffected nationalists for Marxism-Leninism through Communist appropriation of nationalist discourse and aesthetics. To that end, in July 1931 a new propaganda journal was launched: Aufbruch: Kampfblatt im Sinne des Leutnant a.D. Scheringer (“Awakening: A Combat-Journal in the Spirit of Lieutenant a.D. Scheringer”). Aufbruch directly targeted itself towards members of the NSDAP, SA, Stahlhelm, Wehrwolf, and other nationalist organizations, utilizing Scheringer’s name along with National Bolshevist language in an attempt to build common ground between nationalist and Marxist revolutionaries. Aufbruch articles might cover military developments in the Soviet Red Army, revolutionary strategy in China, the concept of the “Nation” in socialist theory, or the inadequate social-revolutionary credentials of nationalist leaders – all topics intended to attract a radical-nationalist audience and to make them sympathetic to the arguments of German Communism. The two articles below are translated from the first edition of Aufbruch, and give an idea of its flavor: the first (untitled) lead article is effectively a statement of the journal’s purpose, while the second (“The Break with Yesterday”) is an account by an anonymous supposed ex-NSDAP member explaining why he and others like him decided to break with the NSDAP in favor of the KPD.

Untitled Lead Article from
Aufbruch

“A Combat-Journal in the Spirit of Lieutenant a.D.
1 Scheringer”
From Aufbruch vol. 1, no. 1, July 1931

LENIN:
“If the cause of the Volk is made the cause of the Nation,
then the cause of the Nation becomes the cause of the Volk!”
2

Folk-comrades!

In this historic hour, we turn to you former officers and leaders in the nationalist associations:

The misery of our Volk is growing tremendously. More and more are the masses being forced into impoverishment by the capitalist system. Hundreds of thousands of peasants separated from their homes and farms; millions dulled through having to eke out a meager existence; millions of workers and employees without work and bread; hundreds and thousands of academics and intellectuals no longer with any opportunity to earn a living.

The capitalist ruling powers are trying to keep the machinery of state running through brutal cuts to wages and salaries; by reducing care for the sick and disabled; by cutting civil servant salaries and war victim benefits; by throttling unemployment benefits; by perpetually introducing new taxes and new methods of coercion. The tribute burdens are passed on completely to the working strata among the Volk. Freedom of expression is stifled through ruthless terror, and every protest by the masses is suppressed with fascist methods.

Meanwhile, international finance capital is preparing for a war of intervention against the Soviet Union, in order to reintegrate back into the capitalist system an economic territory which is flourishing as a result of socialism’s realization. In their own countries the exploiters have done everything possible to incite the German Volk against the East in service of the predatory capital of world finance. In this way they hope to escape their present difficulties once again, and to create an outlet for the growing anger of the masses. If this criminal plan is fulfilled, then all hope for the national and social liberation of the German Volk will be destroyed for a long time to come, because our freedom can only be secured in tandem with the first free workers’ and peasants’ state on Earth, the Soviet Union! The opposite route leads us to a new enslavement, to the perpetuation of capitalist servitude indefinitely. Continue reading