Visions of National Socialist Democracy, Part V: Strasser

Otto Strasser’s blueprint for a German Socialist ‘authoritarian democracy’

Otto_Strasser1939

The excerpt below comprises the entirety of Part Three, Chapter Three of Otto Strasser’s 1940 book Germany Tomorrow, and is  probably one of the most detailed descriptions for how a National Socialist state system would function in practice.  Germany Tomorrow is itself an expanded, English-language translation of Strasser’s earlier work Aufbau des Deutschen Sozialismus (‘Construction of German Socialism’), originally published in 1931 about a year after Otto left the NSDAP. Part Three of Germany Tomorrow, ‘The New Order’, is a mostly-complete translation of the 1936 2nd edition of Strasser’s original Aufbau, while Parts One and Two (dealing with the Hitler government, prospects for revolution, and the potential post-War situation) were new material supposedly written expressly for the book and for its English-language audience. There are some differences between the two German editions of Aufbau and its later English adaptation (most notably in its discussion of the ‘Jewish question’), but on the whole Part Three of Germany Tomorrow seems to me an accurate translation of the 1936 edition of Aufbau, hence my reproduction of it here. The type of state Strasser describes (an ‘authoritarian democracy’ which mixes both council-nationalist and corporatist concepts) is interesting, although perhaps a little unwieldy with its federalist system and its three levels of government. Some of the council features it describes are reminiscent of Rudolf Jung’s original work on National Socialist ideology, although unlike with William Joyce this is less likely to be simple coincidence. Jung kept up a correspondence with both Strasser brothers throughout their careers, so some level of influence should not be surprising – although apparently Jung’s ideological worldview generally lined up more with Gregor’s than with that of Gregor’s radical “ink-slinging kid brother”.  

THE GERMAN SOCIALIST STATE

I. MATTERS OF PRINCIPLE

In accordance with the organic conception that all institutions must be judged by the extent to which they favour organic life, we regard the State, not as something that stands above the community at large, but as nothing else than the organizational form of the people, the form that will ensure the fullest possible development of the organism known as the ‘German people’. The State is not an end in itself, but something whose aim is (or should be) so to deal with the organism of the ‘people’ (or ‘Nation’) that it may most effectively utilize all the energies that will enable the community to maintain itself as against other communities in the world.

It follows from this that the State is always determined by the peculiarities of the people. No people can take over intact the State-forms of another. When the form of the State is adapted to the peculiarities of the people of one country, our organic outlook makes it plain that this form of State cannot be perfectly adapted to the peculiarities of any other people. If, for instance, fascism is the form of State best suited to the Italian people (and the fact that the Italian people tolerates it makes this probable), then fascism cannot be the form of State best suited to the German people. The same considerations apply to the bolshevik form of State which prevails in Russia, which cannot possibly be the best form of State for the German people.

The State must originate out of the nature of the people; it should arrange the people’s life, and reduce internal friction to a minimum, for then the outwardly directed energies will grow more powerful. The athlete who trains for some great achievement, who makes his nerves and muscles cooperate without friction, and who by the regular practice of graduated exercises also cultivates the mental powers of self-confidence and will-to-victory, is the model of an organism in prime condition. A team trained for success in some particular sport, such as football, is a community whose chances of victory depend on the same presupposition – the reducing of internal friction to a minimum, in order to secure the maximum output of well-directed energy.

The conception of the State as the best possible organization of the people involves the rejection on principle of the demigod role which all dictators and would-be dictators ascribe to the State, and implies the frank avowal of the ‘people’s State’. The organic connexion between people and State which underlies the latter notion imposes upon the conservative revolutionary as a necessary deduction that the forms of the State must adapt themselves to the internal and external transformation of the people, of the popular consciousness, of the popular degree of maturity. It also follows as a matter of principle that those forms of the State are ‘good’, i.e. suitable, which are favourable to the bodily and mental health and development of the organism that is the people; even as those forms of the State are ‘bad’, i.e. unsuitable, that are unfavourable and inhibitive in these respects.

For the people is the content, the living, the organic; the State is the form, the dead, the organizational. Continue reading

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 Manifesto of the Black Front

The 1931 ‘action program’ adopted by Otto Strasser’s ‘Fighting Community of Revolutionary National Socialists’ for its Black Front project

On 2nd October, 1931, followers of Otto Strasser gathered at Castle Lauenstein in Upper Franconia for the 2nd Reich Congress of the Kampfgemeinschaft Revolutionärer Nationalsozialisten (Fighting Community of Revolutionary National Socialists, KGRNS). The KGRNS was a young movement, yet had already gone through a period of tumultuous upheaval; Strasser’s dabbling in the SA revolt of March 1931 (the ‘Stennes-putsch’) and his subsequent machinations with Freikorps leader Kapitän Hermann Ehrhardt had created chaos within his organization, resulting in a number of humiliating splits which had bled away many of his more radical followers. The 2nd Reich Congress was thus something of a regrouping, an attempt to formalize the KGRNS’s tactical position in the wake of ideological confusion and to set a clear course for the future. One outcome of the Congress was the official declaration of the ‘Black Front’ concept, with associated manifesto. The Black Front was intended to be a political coalition, an umbrella organization (naturally led by the KGRNS) of the various national-revolutionary movements in Germany who shared a common sense of identity and mission in their anti-capitalist, anti-parliamentarian, anti-communist, and anti-Hitlerian ideals. Delegates from the UNSKD, the Wehrwolfbund, the Bund Oberland, and the Bundische Reichschaft, as well as representatives from literary journals Die Tat and Widerstand, all signed up to the Black Front concept – in theory. In reality, most cooperation under the Black Front name never went much further than the writing of newspaper articles or the occasional joint meeting. Over time the KGRNS ended up appropriating the Black Front name for itself, although the basic essence of the original Manifesto, reproduced below, remained as a core ideological guideline for the organization. 

The Manifesto of the Black Front

The action program of the

“Fighting Community of Revolutionary National Socialists”

proclaimed at the 2nd Reich Congress at Castle Lauenstein,

2nd – 4th October, 1931.

Through tremendous crises the system of liberalism dies.

The liberal economic system, capitalism, is no longer able to safeguard the food, clothing, and habitation of the German people, as evidenced by the terrible suffering of the broad masses, the unemployment of the proletariat, and the destruction of the peasantry.

The liberal social and political order, the bourgeois class state, and parliamentary democracy, can no longer fulfill that organic union and uniform deployment of the strength of the German people which removes internal instability and increases external performance to the highest possible extent, by which alone the attainment and assertion of national liberty is possible.

The liberal rationalist and materialist conception of culture has torn from the life of German man the inner focus on life’s true meaning and has instead given birth to that restlessness, senselessness, and mood of despair which inevitably leads every community to self-destruction.

*

The basic law of the capitalist economic order is the “sanctity of private property”; the basic tenet of capitalist economic policy is the integration of the international world economy, crowned by the single gold standard. So long as these pillars of the capitalist economic system stand, so long will there be no change in Germany’s current plight!

The essence of today’s class system and of parliamentary democracy is that of the people’s artificial stratification based on the power of money, creating a selective system in which profession and vocation are in conflict with each other in 97 out of a hundred cases. This unnatural stratification creates ever-increasing tensions within the organism of the people, who are forced to focus all their energy externally, thus ensuring the inevitability of the condition of the nation’s bondage. 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