zaterdag 19 mei 2012

Querfront: A historical consideration

There is a lot of discussion about the term "Querfront". This discussion was inter alia started because the autonomous part of the movement appeared on demonstrations wearing Palestine scarfs, anticapitalist slogans and Ché Guevara shirts. From that time on the term is arbitrarily used. The attempts to take over certain revolutionary symbolism, style, language and clothing by autonomous activists of different political shades, often leads to uncertainty and doubt within the movement. Some people have problems to indicate these new "sub-cultural expressions" concerning theory and terminology. In this context it is often referred to as an alleged "Querfront strategy" of militant opposition against the system or "National Bolshevist" theorists.

It’s doubtful if the term "Querfront" indeed is suitable to accurately describe the current process of the increasingly fading boundaries between the "left" and the "right". First of all the term originates from a specific historical context that doesn't fit the current relationships. Second of all it suggests an inner coherence both in content and concept, which in this way doesn’t exist in the present nor in the past. 

The term "Querfront" - resp. "Querfront strategy" - arose for the first time during the political-ideological debate in the Weimar republic. This was at the beginning of the '30's against the background of the authoritarian “Präsidial regimes” (reactionary minority cabinets installed by the Reich president with the help of an emergency law – the Notstandgesetze). None of the Reich chancellors that ruled between March 1930 and January 1933 (Heinrich Brüning, Franz von Papen and Kurt von Schleicher) could count on a parliamentary majority or a broad social basis. Although many fractions - from the National-Conservatives till deep in the bourgeois camp - cheered the incalculable erosion of parliamentary institutions, these groups didn’t posses any consistent political concepts or strategies. In particular the extremely reactionary Junker-friendly course of Chancellor Von Papen was not capable of uniting the National-Conservative spectrum. Therefore the "cabinet of Barons" (the reactionary emergency cabinet Von Papen) shipwrecked within 5 months in November 1932 (the legendary BVG-strike gave it the last push).    

Therefore the successor of Von Papen as chancellor - Reichswehr general Kurt von Schleicher - found it very important to have a broad social and political support for his presidential regime. In this situation the idea of a "Quer" grew, lying transversely to the ideological dividing line of the traditional political parties. An alliance that consisted from the Reichswehr, Unions and the leftwing of the NSDAP. For a short period of time this alliance became a serious political option. Although the different ideas and expectations of the several propagandists in the "Querfront" concept lay considerably apart.  

On a theoretic-ideological level the "Querfront" was largely developed by the representatives of the National-Revolutionary TAT-circle and formulated in numerous publications such as the "TAT" and the “Tägliche Rundschau”. Through the reign of Von Schleicher the authors hoped to achieve the definite abolishment of the Weimar republic and the realization of an authoritarian State based on the popular will. 

The political positions of Von Schleicher indeed seemed to match many of the points from the TAT-circle. Already since the First World War the general had promoted the ideas that key industries had to be subjected to severe control of the State, that war profits should be highly taxed and that price stabilizations with certain forms of government coercion should be realized. Also as the Reich chancellor he stood for an emphatic defence of State interests against industry and considered to move towards partial nationalizations.    

But on the contrary to the TAT-circle, Von Schleicher’s ideas were not meant to create a new form of State and to bring about a form of National Socialism. The thinking and acting of the Reich chancellor was formed by pragmatic military categories. The most important thing for Von Schleicher was the creation of a social mass base for his presidential regime (which on the long term would have looked like a Bonapartist military dictatorship).   

Indeed in the autumn of 1932 more and more voices within the Allgemeine Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund (ADGB) as well as inside the leftwing of the NSDAP did no longer exclude the participation in a possible "Querfront". Since the early '30's there had already been National-Corporatist tendencies inside the ADGB, while at the same time the internal debate within the union about the rapidly growing National Socialist movement was forthcoming.

In addition inside the ADGB associated separate unions - regarding the dramatic rise in unemployment - the call for a job creation program of the State became louder and louder. This led to significant conflicts with the SPD leadership. The traditionally tight bond between the labour movement and the Social-Democracy was so seriously weakened that in May 1932 Gregor Strasser - fraction chairman of the NSDAP in the Reichstag and embodiment of the anticapitalist leftwing within the Party -  unfolded an economic urgency program during a remarkable speech in the Reichstag. This was in many aspects very similar to the job creation program of the unions.           

During the summer and autumn of 1932 several exploratory talks took place between the ADGB leadership and the Reichsgoverment to chart all options for the realization of a "government with all popular powers". Meanwhile Gregor Strasser had official meetings with Von Schleicher as well as representatives of the (Social-Democratic) Reich banner. He was in direct contact with the leadership of the ADGB. Till these day on it is unclear if there also were any negotiations about the formation of a possible "Querfront" between Von Schleicher, union leaders and National Socialists economists. Since the end of August 1932 the formation of a cabinet consisting of Von Schleicher, Strasser and Leipart (ADGB-chairman) became a serious political opportunity. However when Von Schleicher was appointed Reich chancellor the concept of a "Querfront" was already overtaken by the events. Within the NSDAP Strasser couldn’t get enough support for his concept. On the 8th of December he drew his conclusions and resigned as chairman. He also resigned from all of his other functions within the Party.          

The labour movement also pulled out of taking such an unambiguous position to benefit Von Schleicher's presidential regime. Partially because of the immense pressure the SPD leadership exercised on the ADGB leadership. The ambivalent attitude against the National Socialist movement remained. The Von Schleicher cabinet, at that moment completely isolated, didn’t last for more than two months. On the 30th of January Adolph Hitler was appointed as Reich chancellor. First in a coalition cabinet with German Nationals, with Von Papen as vice-chancellor. Three months later on the 1st of May 1933 the ADGB supported the call out of the National Socialist regime for the "Tag der nationalen Arbeit" (day of national work) and marched alongside the National forces. They were convinced that in the new Germany the labour movement would become an organic part of the whole. The following day the ADGB seized to exist and was totally integrated in the newly formed Deutsche Arbeitsfront (DAF). This meant the ultimate consequence of National-Corporatism.

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