woensdag 1 februari 2012

The leftwing of National-Socialism Part 1

History of an organisation: the two-fold founding of the NSDAP

Early conflicts within the NSDAP

The conflicts based on the interpretation of National-Socialism date back from before 1925 and started during the early days of the party. Mainly the Sudeten Germans and Austrian National-Socialists were the ones who put the emphasis on the character as a true workers party, with which they emphasized the socialist character of the movement. During these days there certainly was an important discussion about the transferring of the means of production to the working class and they supported the necessity of non-politicized trade unions as representatives of the workers interests. With the Kapp-Putch of 1920 the leftwing of the NSDAP clearly distanced themselves from the reactionary "Junkertum" and the monarchists. In the struggle for power between Adolf Hitler and Anton Drexler, in 1921, the political positions of the left wing against landlordism played a major role. Hitler from the start aimed his worldview more on the racial doctrine and rejected the social and economic revolution propagated by the leftwing. He first wanted to create a unified nation before a start could be made with social reforms.

The Janus face of National-Socialism appeared as soon as in 1923. On the party congress in Munich (in January 1923) Hitler took a firm position to benefit the private property of entrepreneurs, while in Northern Germany an alliance was formed by the anti socialist and the union hostile Deutschvölkische Freiheitspartei (DVFP). Very swiftly resistance arose against this from local NSDAP groups in Lower Saxony. On the other hand the NSDAP took part in a major strike of brewers in Bavaria in 1923, where they took a principal stand for these justifiable economic strikes. They presented themselves as the class party of the working people and supported the völkische unions and combat organisations while emphasizing the plans for nationalisation and strongly opposing scabs actions.

The attitude of the NSDAP on parliamentary issues was also controversial. After they wanted to broaden their own organisational basis with the purpose to use parliaments as a platform for agitation, Hitler soon changed this direction and oriented himself along the lines of the KPD: extra-parliamentary mass movement and the revolutionary minority. The way to parliaments should only take place if a real possibility presented itself that allowed to take over total control. The prohibition of the party after the November Uprising was later used by Rosenberg, who through a merger with the DVFP started the parliamentarisation of the movement. The State power had to be conquered by using its political institutions. Hitler stated this political course in his publication Mein Kampf in the summer of 1925. Otto Strasser had argued earlier in 1924 for a dual strategy. Namely a formation of National-Socialists and Deutschvölkischen, who would use parliaments while winning the working class within the main industrial centres of the Reich. With this position he followed the same course as his brother Gregor, who despite his revolutionary orientation was one of the driving forces behind the alliance with the DVFP.

The directorate of North German organisations

As a protest against the merger with Deutschvölkischen (which was considered as a reactionary party of the bourgeois class) and against the parliamentary process of the movement the North German directorate was formed in June 1924. This group held noisy attacks on the parliamentarism, the excesses of capitalism and its bourgeoisie and denounced the dilution of National-Socialism by half-hearted compromises. The Directorate included local groups from Westphalia, Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Bremen and Lower Saxony. In early 1925 contacts were established with the Ruhr and central Germany (Mansfeld coal basin). And so it had formed itself as an independent NSDAP which operated completely independent from the arguing fractions of the disintegrated Movement. They soon changed their name to Nationalsozialistische Arbeitsgemeinschaft. With the reestablishment of the old NSDAP (February 1925) it was eventually disbanded, but the start of the future Arbeitsgemeinschaft North West (AGNW) was hereby established.

Typical for this directorate was their scepticism about the Führer prinzip (leader idea) and their dislike of the personality cult surrounding Hitler. They however recognized the leadership of Hitler without reservations even though the Munich camarilla (Feder, Esser, Streicher and the South German Völkische wing) and the personality cult were strictly rejected. Initially they also rejected the ideas of the "centralist" Gregor Strasser, however contacts soon intensified which most certainly was reinforced by the closely inter-related socio-revolutionary aspirations and common enmity against the gang in Munich.

The Elberfeld group

In Elberfeld, the centre of the National-Socialists and Deutschvölkischen in the Ruhr area, another group of malcontents formed itself around Karl Kaufmann, Helmuth Elbrecher and Joseph Goebbels. The latter was driven by anti-bourgeois impulses and as a chief editor of the magazine "Völkische Freiheit" he became a spokesman for the leftist hard-liners in the West. Goebbels clearly saw the deadly threat for the people and the State that came from liberal capitalism and private ownership over the means of production. He demanded the suppression of predatory capitalism, sought a collectivist social model and agitated against the dictatorship of capitalism. Goebbels felt that Europe was the stage for the all-decisive battle between liberalism and socialism. National Socialism was to unequivocally speak out for the socialist revolution rather than only for social reform. To his opinion, National-Socialism was not rightwing but part of the leftist political camp. In January 1925 he went through such a radicalization, that he found himself on the basis of the class struggle and the Leninist concept - the revolutionary upheaval as the work of a small minority of toughened professional revolutionaries, the avant-garde -. This course had already led to internal conflicts during the autumn of 1924, which ended with the resignation of Goebbels as head editor of the VF. Just as with the directorate this was also connected with the liberation of Hitler (from his detention in Landsberg) and the hope for a soon to come break with Deutschvölkischen. However there was also some scepticism towards Hitler, especially because of his ambiguous attitude towards the reactionaries.

The two-fold founding of the NSDAP

On February 16, 1925, Hitler made it clear that he intended to re-establish the NSDAP without the participation of the Deutschvölkischen. His course concerning parliament remained unclear, but his main goals were the destruction of Marxism and the spread of anti-Semitism. As soon as the following day an agreement was made with Gregor Strasser. For the second time he joined the NSDAP, but this time as an employee and not as a follower. Hitler gave him the full authority over the party’s North German fraction. On February 22, 1925 the inaugural meeting of the NSDAP took place in Hamm (Westf.), even before the official re-establishment of the NSDAP in Southern Germany. Strasser, who from the beginning was popular, made the Northern Germans accept Hitler’s claims for power and made them loyally participate in the renewed party - this in opposition of local rivals such as Adalbert Volcke. On February 26, 1925, in the "Völkische Beobachter'' Hitler stated the importance of the pluralism within the party.

"Thus, my task will precisely be to meet the most diverse temperaments, abilities and characteristics, and give them that amount of space in which they - all working in tandem - can develop for the benefit of the general interest."

With this two wings within the NSDAP crystallized themselves:

1 - The Völkischer movement of the Reich that was founded in Southern Germany

2 - The in North and West Germany concentrated leftist National-Socialists.

The spiritual leaders of this last wing derived mostly from the "Konservative Revolution" (Niekisch, Jünger, Solomon) instead of the classical leftist scene. But these spiritual activators had little to do with the actual daily politics of National Socialist Left, which focused on strengthening the nation through social justice and redistribution of incomes. The leftwing within the NSDAP must not be seen as "socialist" in the classical Marxist sense, but nevertheless they had strong socialist demands and in this context they reacted significantly more radical than the usual social-populism of the traditional NS movement. Their idea of socialism could be seen as somewhere between full nationalization and social entrepreneurship on the one hand and a share in the profits and participation by workers in companies on the other. Unlike her predecessors in the early NSDAP (until 1923) this leftwing of the party orientated itself more on concrete social-economical developments while formulating their ideas substantially more clearly. For the strength and dynamics of National-Socialism, the social-revolutionary positions were of an enormous significance. To put it drastically: the leftist National-Socialists supplied the ammunition, with which the rise of National-Socialism into a mass movement was possible.

However the two-fold foundation of the NSDAP proceeded differently than Hitler had intended. Instead of a centralized and tightly from Munich runned unit, more or less independent NSDAP groups appeared outside of Bavaria – from so called grassroots initiative. Gau and local groups were more tied to his person than to the weak central governmental guidance in Munich. Precisely the new local leaders, who now flowed into the North German NSDAP, had a different view on Hitler. They did not worship Hitler as a god nor as the creator of National-Socialism. They regarded themselves as much the creators as Hitler was, because after all they very intensively participated in the construction of the movement and its further development on ideological matters. Since Hitler remained silent in most of the particular questions on practical, everyday politics, they were forced to develop their own political work. This resulted in a high political consciousness, which led them to form their own answers on programmatic issues. This did not end with the organizational dissolution of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Nord-West (AGNW). Munich had to take account for these local leaders, because they formed an indispensable link between the central and the grassroots, this made them of immense significance for the party. The decentralized structure of the early re-founded NSDAP was destined to ensure that Hitler’s supremacy as an undisputed leader would be undermined, as it soon proved to be.

Bourgeoisie or working class

The National-Socialist leftwing regarded the NSDAP as the workers party for main- and manual workers and increasingly urged the formation of National-Socialist trade unions. The party leadership however continued to postpone on this issue; they first had to find a suitable leader and sufficient financial resources. Dr. Goebbels even went a step further: The NSDAP had to be transformed into a party based on the class struggle, in terms of propaganda while simultaneously the focus should be on the working class. He furthermore claimed that companies should be extensively socialized.

Gregor Strasser also took a stand for a semi-socialist organization of agriculture and a collectivist economic system. The editorial office of the "Volkischer Beobachter" however tended to a more moderate kind of shares capitalism (instead of a total socialization) and a type of share in profits for the workers. Hitler's speeches at the Hamburg National Club (industrialists) and the industrialists in the Ruhrarea showed that he had already campaigned to win the support of the bourgeois elite. At these speeches Hitler claimed that as long as he led the NSDAP, there could under no circumstance be socialization or a workers' share in the profits. The leftwing of the NSDAP also opposed the fetishism of legality (adherence to legality at any price) and the participation in the elections, although the Strasser brothers in this matter had a similar pragmatic course as Hitler. This is why the course of tactical participation in parliamentarism prevailed. A lot of conflict was also caused by the leftwing aspirations to form an alliance with Soviet Russia, which led to the first openly fought controversy with Alfred Rosenberg.

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