Godwin’s Law states that at some point any debate or discussion on the internet will eventually degenerate into one or other of the two sides accusing their opponent of being a Nazi. Unfortunately, sometimes the accusations of totalitarianism and Fascism are accurate. Like most administrations, the Nazi regime had to deal with the problem of unemployment. This was tackled through a programme of public works. They also sought to combat it through a series of laws regulating the movement and providing for the compulsory conscription of labour and its direction by the state.
Amongst its other provisions, the Law for the Regulation of Work Allocation of 15th May 1934 prevented rural workers from migrating to big cities with high unemployment. It also made it difficult for farmworkers to take up other forms of employment. On 26th February 1935 a further law was passed, the Law for Meeting Labour Requirements in Agriculture. This allowed the authorities to interfere in working conditions, and return to agricultural work employees and labours, who had left it for other jobs. The work book was also reintroduced. This was a compulsory record of an employee’s or worker’s employment history. This had been abolished in the second third of the 19th century due to freedom of movement within the Wilhelmian reich. It was reintroduced in order to allow the Nazi regime to control and allocate labour.
The Nazis had set up a voluntary work scheme, the Reichsarbeitsdienst, (Reich Labour Service) or RAD. This had originally served to support the young unemployed. On the 26th June 1935, this was made compulsory for the unemployed. Those, who had been unemployed since 1924 had to perform a year’s service in it. Men between 19 and 25 years old served in it for six months. It became a new state organisation linking the Nazi school system with preparatory training for military service and the state’s direction of the labour supply.
Now workfare is, in theory, still voluntary. You are free to turn it down, but if you do, you’ll lose your benefits. As grotesque as Cameron is, he isn’t a Nazi. Nevertheless the Conservative’s workfare policy is similar to that of the Reichsarbeitsienst in its authoritarianism and the way an ostensibly voluntary system is supported through considerable state coercion.
Martin Broszat, The Hitler State: the Foundation and Development of the Internal Structure of the Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1981), pp. 154-5.
‘Labour Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst – RAD)’ and ‘Unemployment’, in James Taylor and Warren Shaw, A Dictionary of the Third Reich (London: Grafton 1988), pp. 213, and 262-3.