Posts Tagged ‘DNVP’

Hugenberg’s View of Rule by Elites – Shared by Boris and the British Tories?

July 21, 2021

Alfred Hugenberg was a German press baron and the First Party Chairman of the DNVP – the German Nationalist People’s Party – a right-wing party during the Weimar Republic. In 1928 he wrote

I believe in government by the elect few, not by the elected… I believe in leaders, not in speakers. Words are enemies of action… I believe in a government by strong men who have the willpower and strength to carry through their decisions.

In J.W. Hiden, The Weimar Republic (Harlow: Longman 1974) 44

This rejection of popular democracy in favour of rule by the privileged elite sounds like it could easily come from Boris Johnson, David Cameron and the other Tory toffs who have taken up 10 Downing Street, presiding over cabinets of obscenely wealthy millionaires. Or even by Keir Starmer.

The Weimar republic eventually collapsed, descending into rule by presidential decree until it was finally overthrown by the Nazis in 1933. Which makes you wonder how long real, effective democracy in Britain will last, now that the Tories are ushering in successively repressive legislation to limit the right to demonstrate, curb the power of the courts and press, and remove fixed term elections.

Workfare Before the Nazis

February 17, 2014

Reichsarbeitsdienst

Members of the Reichsarbeitsdienst, the Nazi compulsory ‘voluntary’ work organisation used to end unemployment.

I’ve already blogged on the strong similarities between the Coalition’s workfare and the Reichsarbeitsdienst established by the Nazis. This, like workfare, was a form of voluntary work, which had been made compulsory and extended in order to combat the massive unemployment resulting from the Great Crash of 1929. By January 1932, the year before the Nazi Machtergreifung, unemployment in Germany had reached 6,042,000.

Franz von Papen, the German Chancellor, had also attempted to lower unemployment by encouraging the German industrialists to take on more workers. Those that did so were rewarded with tax vouchers, and allowed to cut wages by up to 50 per cent. The trade unions naturally denounced this as stimulating the economy ‘at the expense of the workers’. His predecessor, Bruning, had similarly tried to create more jobs, but had suffered from the hostility of the country’s leading industrialists, to whom von Papen’s grant of tax breaks and wage cuts were intended to make the policy more acceptable.

Von Papen was an aristocrat from Westphalia. Although he was formally a member of the Catholic Centre party, he was no democrat and led a government in which members of the aristocracy were so predominant that it was mocked as ‘the baron’s cabinet’. When Papen led the coup against the Prussian government, he was described as a member of the DNVP, the Conservative Deutsche National Volkspartei. The Prussian government was led by three of the main democratic parties, the Socialist SPD, the Roman Catholic Centre Party and the DDP, one of the German Liberal parties. They were brought down by a referendum organised by the DNVP, the Nazis and the paramilitary Stahlhelm. Before this, Papen, and his predecessor, Bruning, had seen the exclusion from power of first the SPD and then the Catholic Centre Party, until only the parties of the Right remained.

This is another point of similarity to contemporary Britain. The Coalition is similarly aristocratic, with Cameron, Clegg and Osborne all true, blue-blooded, Eton-educated members of the aristocracy. They have similarly come to power in a right-wing coalition that has been brought to power through an international financial crisis. They have also tried, albeit ostensibly, to solve the problem of unemployment through a series of measures including cut wages, and indeed, no wages at all, for the unemployed compulsorily placed in the Work Programme.

Those measures were harsh and unjust then, just as they are harsh and unjust now. Workfare, like its Nazi and Weimar predecessors, should be rejected and genuine measures to generate jobs and give workers a living wage, need to be introduced instead.