Posts Tagged ‘DVP’

A Lesson from Weimar Germany: Gustav Stresemann, Company Directors as Politicians and the State Funding of Political Parties

August 5, 2013

While the Conservatives have attacked the Labour Party for its links to the trade unions, they themselves have profound links to big business and have consistently acted in the interests of the corporations that fund them and of which many of their MPs are directors. My brother, Mike, Another Angry Voice , Street Democracy, and numerous other bloggers have noted that the Conservative MPs, like Ian Duncan Smith, proposing the dismantlement of the welfare state and the NHS have connections to companies seeking to profit from this. Their spin doctor, Lynton Crosbie, is in the pay of the tobacco companies, hence Cameron’s decision not to pass laws requiring the sale of cigarettes in plain white packaging. See http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/cameron-corrupt-corporate-whore-according-to-meacher/, https://beastrabban.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/the-discreet-charm-of-lord-coe/, http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/lies-lobbying-lynton-and-a-last-insult-before-the-long-summer-break/, http://streetdemocracy.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/social-services-for-vulnerable-children-in-england-to-be-privatised/, http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/lazy-lord-coe-and-tory-nhs-reforms.html, http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/lynton-crosby-conflicts-of-interest-tory.html, http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/tory-donations-peerages-contracts.html, for example. Going further back in time, Private Eye in the latter Thatcher administration and Major era printed the number of Tory MPs with connections to the alcohol industry, when those administrations introduced 24-hour drinking and rebuffed calls for greater legislation regarding its sale and advertisement.Recently there have also been called for state funding for political parties, following the fall in their funding as they have lost members. These issues are, however, very definitely not unique to early twenty-first century Britain. Concerns over the politicians’ connections to industry and suggestions that this should be replaced by state funding were first raised nearly ninety years ago by the German statesman, Gustav Stresemann.

Stresemann was the leader of the Deutsche Volkspartei, DVP, or ‘German People’s Party’.This was the successor to the National Liberals of pre-WWI Germany. Anti-socialist with the slogan ‘From red chains make yourselves free/ Only the German People’s Party’, it was the party of business and academia. Its party councils attracted leading businessmen, and industrialists such as Stinnes, Vogler and Kalle served as DVP deputies in the Reichstag. In 1930 ten of the Party’s deputies in the Reichstag between them were directors of 77 companies. This troubled Stresemann, who wished the party to develop a more genuinely Liberal, disinterested approach to politics. In 1928 he and his colleague, Julius Curtius, received complaints from other members of the party when the joined the cabinet of the new Reichschancellor, Hermann Muller, a member of the SPD, the German socialist party. Stresemann countered that the 23 members of the parliamentary party were connected with big business, and did not have the courage ‘to take a position contrary to that of the big employers’ groups and industrial associations’. Stresemann began to consider that the only way to prevent such undue industrial influence in the Party should be by limiting the donations from industry and establishing a system of state funding for the parties. Unfortunately, the catastrophic economic collapse of 1929 and the foreign policy crises of the late 20s and 30s prevented him from doing anything about this. Nevertheless, it is significant that he recognised this as a problem, and suggested that state funding should be used to oppose it.

Most people in Britain probably feel that politicians are already paid too much and too well rewarded, and their parties too corrupt, malicious or incompetent to deserve state funding. It is important to note that in all the calls for the state funding of political parties, no-one has called for limiting political donations. Instead state funding is seen as solution to a general lack of funds. I feel that the next there are calls for political parties to be subsidised by the state, it should be accompanied by legislation limiting the amount they can receive from industry, as suggested by Stresemann. Only then can we expect anything like a parliament free from such commercial interests.

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