Posts Tagged ‘‘Nazism 1919-1945’’

Noakes and Pridham on the Middle Class Precursors of Nazism

March 13, 2019

As well as discussing and documenting the history of Nazism, Jeremy Noakes and Geoffrey Pridham in their book Nazism 1919-1945: 1: The Rise to Power 1919-1934 (Exeter: University of Exeter 1983) also discuss the precursors of the Nazis from the late 19th century to the time of the First World War.

They state that radical nationalism first arose amongst the German middle class, who resented their political exclusion by the aristocracy and who felt that the dominance of the aristocracy had weakened Germany through alienating the German working class. This radical right was organized outside parliament in Leagues, such as the Pan-Germans. These middle class radicals rejected the liberal attitudes of patriotism, tolerance and humanity of their fathers, especially when it came to ‘enemies of the Reich’. Noakes and Pridham write

This ‘new Right’ – like its French counterpart – developed outside the political parties in pressure group-type organisations known as ‘leagues’ – the Pan-German League, the Navy League, etc. Its ideology reflected the ideas and political aspirations of the middle-class generation which had grown up in the immediate aftermath of German unification and came to maturity in the 1890s and 1900s. These men had discarded the remnants of the enlightened 1848 Liberalism of their fathers and grandfathers. According to Heinrich Class, who became chairman of the Pan-German League, three ideals had characterized the liberalism of his father’s generation: ‘patriotism, tolerance, humanity’. However, ‘we youngsters had moved on: we were nationalist pure and simple. We wanted nothing to do with tolerance if it sheltered the enemies of the Volk and the state. Humanity in the sense of that liberal idea we spurned, for our Volk was bound to come off worse.’ For men like Class the fortunes of the new German state had acquired paramount importance: their own self-esteem came to be bound up with the prestige of the new Reich.

The populist flavour of this new nationalism derived from their sense of exclusion from the traditional Prusso-German establishment. As successful businessmen, professionals and bureaucrats who had benefited from the rapid economic development following unification, they resented the patronizing attitudes of the traditional elites who tended to regard them as parvenus. Moreover, they felt that the elitist nature of the political establishment weakened Germany by alienating the masses, encouraging the growth of class spirit and dividing the nation. In their view, this fragmentation of the nation was also encouraged by the existing political system of parliamentary and party government. This, it was felt, simply reinforced the divisions between Germans and led to the sacrifice of national interests for the benefit of sectional advantage. They rejected the idea central to liberal democracy that the national interest could only emerge out of the free interplay of differing interests and groups. Instead, they proclaimed a mythical concept of the Volk – an equivalent to the pays reel of pre-1914 French nationalism – as the real source of legitimacy and claimed that current political institutions (the Reichstag, parties etc.) were distorting the true expression of national will. In their view, the key to uniting the nation was the indoctrination of an ideology of extreme nationalism: above all, the goal of imperial expansion would rally and united the nation. (pp.4-5).

They also state that these volkisch nationalists believed that Germany was under threat by the ‘golden international’ of high finance and western liberalism, controlled by the Jews, the ‘black international’ of Roman Catholicism and the ‘red international’ of socialism. Thus there was a foreign threat behind their domestic opponents the left Liberals, Catholic Centre Party and the Social Democrats, and so considered these parties guilty of treason. (p.5). The radical right became increasingly influential in the years before the outbreak of the First World War as a reaction to the rise of the German socialist party, the Social Democrats, which became the largest single party in the Reichstag in the 1912 election. The government appeared too willing to compromise with the moderate left, and so the traditional German Conservatives began to join forces with the radicals. (p.5).

They state, however, that it was during the War that this new Right really gained influence through demands for a victorious peace’ that would give Germany foreign colonies and stave off further demands for increasing democracy in Germany. This saw new political parties founded by the industrialists to obtain this goal. They write

It was, however, during the course of the First World War that this new Right seized the initiative. The main focus of their efforts was a campaign to commit the Government to a so-called Siegfrieden in which Germany would use her expected victory to demand large-scale territorial annexations in both East and West in the form of overseas colonies. This was regarded as vital not simply in order to re-establish Germany as a world power, but also as a means of diverting pressure for democratic reform at home. As the pressure for a compromise peace and for constitutional reform increased after 1916, the Right responded with even more vigorous agitation. The main emphasis of this campaign was on trying to reach a mass audience. On 24 September 1917, in a direct response to the Reichstag peace Resolution of 17 July, a new party was founded – the Fatherland Party. Financed by heavy industry, and organized by the Pan-German League and similar bodies, its aim was to mobilise mass support for a Siegfrieden and to resist moves towards parliamentary democracy. The party soon acquired over a million members, mainly among the middle class.

The Pan-Germans were, however, particularly anxious to reach the working class. Already, in the summer of 1917, a ‘Free Committee for a German Workers’ Peace’ had been established in Bremen by the leader of a ‘yellow’ i.e. pro-employer workers’ association in the Krupp dockyards, which carried out imperialist propaganda supported by the army authorities. Among its 290,000 members was a skilled worker in the railway workshops in Munich named Anton Drexler, who established a Munich branch of the organization on 7 March 1918 and who soon was to become a co-founder of the Nazi party. (pp.5-6, my emphasis).

They go on to say that this party was originally very limited, with only forty members, and so the Pan-Germans were forced to try more effective propaganda themes, such as outright anti-Semitism. (p.6).

It’s thus very clear from this that Nazism definitely was not a genuinely socialist party. It has its origins in the radical, anti-parliamentary nationalism of the late 19th and early 20th century middle class. Its immediate parent organization was a fake worker’s movement set up by Germany industry and supported by the army. This contradicts the allegation by modern Conservatives, like the Republicans in America and the Tories over here, that the Nazis were a socialist party.

However, the ‘Free Committee for a Workers’ Peace’ does sound like something founded by the Tories, when they were declaring themselves to be the true party for working people two years ago. Or the creation of Tony Blair, when he was still in charge of the Labour party, and determined to reject any real socialism and ignore the wishes of genuine Labour members and supporters in order to gain funding from industry and votes from the middle classes, who would otherwise vote Tory. And who very definitely supported imperialist wars, although they were camouflaged behind rhetoric about freeing Iraq and giving its people democracy.

Adolf Hitler on the Capitalist Nature of Nazism

January 21, 2019

According to a piece on Zelo Street, Raheem Kassam, one of the leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign and another fixture of the Libertarian extreme right, has been on Twitter arguing with James Melville arguing about the nature of nationalism, imperialism, Fascism, Nazism and Conservativism. Kassam had been complaining about left-wingers mass-reporting his tweets to the company to get his account closed down. Melville was entirely and rightly unsympathetic, stating that Kassam had tried to get his own followers to pile onto Melville’s twitter stream, and thus force him off twitter. It’s a strategy called ‘dog-piling’. He commented that Kassam was reaping what he’d himself sown. He also upset Kassam by criticizing a photo Kassam had put up showing Winston Churchill in a yellow vest, asking Kassam if he knew that Churchill fought against right-wing extremism. The annoyed Kassam responded

”Lol now this guy who had a meltdown yesterday is going through my feed picking out tweets he thinks he can argue with. Churchill defeated imperialistic (opposite of nationalist) National Socialism (opposite of right wing) which wanted a united Europe under Germany (EU)” and

“Fascism is an ideology. Conservatism is a philosophy. There’s your first problem in attempting to link the two. Fascism concerned itself with a corporate-state nexus (like socialism, and indeed our current pro-EU system does). Your understanding of philosophy is poor”.

Which as Zelo Street noted, shows that Kassam knows nothing about history and doesn’t know the difference between Fascism, socialism and corporativism.

Both Nazism and Italian Fascism had socialist elements, but they very quickly allied themselves with the nationalist, capitalist extreme right and served their interests against genuine socialism, trade unions and organized labour. I’ve written several pieces about the capitalist nature of Nazi Germany, and how the Nazi regime promoted private industry and privatization over state-owned enterprises. Hitler did define himself as a socialist, and a strong proportion of the Nazi party did take the socialist elements in the Nazi programme of 1925 seriously. But Hitler made his opposition to the socialization of German industry and his support for capitalism very clear in a debate with Otto Strasser, one of the leaders of the Nazi left. There’s an account of the debate between the two in Nazism 1919-1945: Vol 1 The Rise to Power 1919-1934, A Documentary Reader, edited by J. Noakes and G. Pridham (Exeter: University of Exeter 1983), pp. 66-7. Hitler makes his attitude towards the nationalization of German industry clear on page 67.

‘Let us assume, Herr Hitler, that you came into power tomorrow. What would you do about Krupp’s? Would you leave it alone or not?’
‘Of course I should leave it alone’, cried Hitler. ‘Do you think me so crazy as to want to ruin Germany’s great industry?’
‘If you wish to preserve the capitalist regime, Herr Hitler, you have no right to talk of Socialism. For our supporters are Socialists, and your programme demands the socialization of private enterprise.’
‘That word “socialism” is the trouble, said Hitler. He shrugged his shoulders, appeared to reflect for a moment and then went on:
‘I have never said that all enterprises should be socialized. On the contrary, I have maintained that we might socialize enterprises prejudicial to the interests of the nation. Unless they were so guilty, I should consider it a crime to destroy essential elements of our economic life. Take Italian Fascism. Our National Socialist state, like the Fascist state, will safeguard both employers’ and workers’ interests while reserving the right of arbitration in case of dispute.’
Hitler, exasperated by my answers, continued: ‘there is only one economic system, and that is responsibility and authority on the part of directors and executives. I ask Herr Amann to be responsible to me for the work of his subordinates and to exercise authority over them. Herr Amann asks his office manager to be responsible for his typists and to exercise his authority over them; and so on to the lowest rung of the ladder. That is how it has been for thousands of years, and that is how it will always be.’
‘Yes, Herr Hitler, the administrative structure will be the same whether capitalist or socialist. But the spirit of labour depends on the regime under which it lives. If it was possible a few years ago for a handful of men not appreciably different from the average to throw a quarter of a million Ruhr workers on the streets, if this was legal and in conformity with the morality of our economic system, then it is not the men but the system that is criminal.’
‘But that-‘ Hitler replied, looking at his watch and showing signs of acute impatience ‘that is no reason for granting the workers a share in the profits of the enterprises that employ them, and more particularly for giving them the right to be consulted. A strong state will see that production is carried on in the national interest, and, if these interests are contravened, can proceed to expropriate the enterprise concerned and takeover its administration.’

Hitler thus made it very clear that he was strongly opposed to nationalization, except for failing companies, and did not want the workers to receive a share in the profits of the firms for which they worked, nor to be consulted about its management. And when the Nazis seized power, they destroyed the trade unions and sent their leaders and activists to the camps, along with socialists, anarchists and other political dissidents. Hitler didn’t believe in laissez-faire free trade – under Nazism industry was controlled by a state planning apparatus like that of Soviet Union – but industry remained by and large very definitely in private hands.

As for the Strasser brothers, Otto and Gregor, who were two of the leaders of the Nazi ‘left’, Hitler had one of them murder in the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ along with the rest of the SA and the other fled to South America. Which shows how bitterly he despised those who took the ‘socialist’ parts of his programme seriously.

Whatever Hitler himself may have said about ‘socialism’, he was no kind of socialist at all.