Revolution vs. Reaction: Social-Nationalism & the Strasser Brothers
THE doctrine of Social Nationalism was chiefly propagated by Otto and Gregor Strasser, two brothers who joined the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (NSDAP) during the 1920’s. This organization eventually came to be led by Adolf Hitler, who, in his selfish lust for ultimate power came to betray the very ideals of Social Nationalism that had been promoted by the NSDAP from the very beginning. To many so-called ‘nationalists,’ criticism of Hitler is viewed as heresy. But nobody can ignore the plain and simple fact that Hitler totally refused to condemn German Capitalists and the Right-wing Establishment, even allowing the Party to receive funding from wealthy Jewish financiers in Wall Street. The evidence for this claim can be found in Anthony Sutton’s excellent Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler.
The Strasser Brothers, who were both extremely active in the NSDAP before the party came to power in 1933, were regularly engaged in a war of ideology with Hitler, a man who refused to advocate the decentralization of State power or offer the normal working people of Germany a stake in both agriculture and industry. Hitler had actually rejected Otto Strasser’s The Structure of German Socialism in 1925, preferring instead to stick with Gottfried Feder’s 25 Points, considered by many Party members to be outdated. Even without Strasser’s radical ideas for a new direction beyond both the Left and Right of the political spectrum, the 25 Points were still incompatible with Hitler’s reactionary allegiance to his Capitalist financiers and many of these basic tenets of National Socialist policy were betrayed. Anyone taking the trouble to examine Point 11 of this manifesto, for example, will discover a forthright condemnation of unearned income. However, after Hitler’s ascension to power, usury continued to infect the German banking system and no effort was made to prevent wealthy bankers from charging the German people huge interest on their loans. Indeed, Hitler placed all financial power in the hands of Hjalmar Schact, a freemason with connections in Wall Street. Gregor Strasser, however, had this to say about Capitalism:
“The Capitalist system with its exploitation of those who are economically weak, with its robbery of the workers’ labour power, with its unethical way of appraising human beings by the number of things and the amount of money he possesses, instead of by their internal value and their achievements, must be replaced by a new and just economic system, in a word by German Socialism.”
Moving on to Points 13 and 14, the statement of Party principles called for the destruction of the Capitalist system and its replacement by family businesses and workers’ co-operatives. Once again, Hitler had no time for such economic justice and these two articles of policy were soon forgotten. Otto Strasser, on the other hand, explained that: “The alternative to the bankrupt alien “solutions” of Communism and Capitalism, the idea which we present is the political representation of parties, trades and professions based on our ancient Guild system.”
Otto Strasser, who was once described as “a dauntless man of compelling sincerity and charm” by the English anti-Capitalist, A.K. Chesterton, then went on to propose a three-point programme for industry and the workers:
There will come into being, in contradistinction to the extant “class” of Capitalist, an “estate” of managers, which, regardless of wealth or origin, will constitute a functional aristocracy that, thanks to the very methods of its selection, may be said to be made up of “captains of industry” or “commissioned officers of economic life.” The dispossessed “class of proletarians” will vanish, its place being taken by an “estate” of fully privileged workers, directly and indirectly participating in and therefore interested in their “workshop”. They will no longer be objects of the economy, but its subjects. The relations between State and economic life will be radically altered. The State will not be the “night-watchman and policeman” of Capitalism, nor will it be a dictator whose bureaucracy cracks the whip that drives the workers to the bench and spurs them to their tasks; but it will be a trustee of the consumers, and as such it will have much influence, but only within and beside the self-determination of the working producers, namely of the management and the staff of workers (consisting in appropriate proportions of clerical and other intellectual workers, on the one hand, and manual operatives, on the other).
But in spite of the common-sense ideas of Strasserism the list of contradictions continues, as a result of the fact that Hitler meekly refused to condemn the Right, gaining control of the NSDAP and eventually leading Germany into an imperialist onslaught against the rest of Europe, suppressing non-German culture and tradition in his fanatical drive towards a “Greater Germany”. Point 16 promised the destruction of chain stores and supermarkets, and claimed to support small businesses. The reality, on the other hand, was far different as Hitler once again defended the monopolists. Whilst Strasserite storm troopers picketed the large stores and urged people to support the small traders, Hitler put an instant stop to all such anti-Capitalist activity. Indeed, one large chain store was funding the Southern Branch of the NSDAP itself and Hitler did not want to alienate his financial backers.
In Point 17, it was explained that there would be an end to the rule of the big landowners, and that there would be a resettlement of the expanded peasantry. During the 1920’s, over 20% of Germany was owned by fewer than 19,000 people and the peasants were looking to the NSDAP to provide a brighter future in the face of their ever-worsening predicament. Unfortunately, they were to receive little assistance from Hitler. Although Agricultural Minister Walter Darre appeared to do much to safeguard the role of the peasantry, there was no attempt to redistribute the land. Even when Darre passed the Hereditary Peasant Holdings Act, the draft itself was provided by his deputy, Ferdinand Fried – the secret leader of Otto Strasser’s Black Front. So what answer did Strasserism provide to combat the unholy alliance of Capitalists, landowners and Hitlerites? Otto Strasser provided a truly just argument to the complexities of agriculture in his Structure for German Socialism:
The object of agriculture is to make sure that the community will be fed. The land available for the use of the community is owned exclusively by the nation, for it was not by any individual but by the community at large that the land was acquired, by battle or by colonization on the part of the community, and by the community it has been defended against enemies. The community as owner puts the land at the disposal of the nation in the form of “entails” to those able and willing to use them for husbandry and stock-raising. This will be undertaken by self-governing corporations of local peasant-councils. The size of the farms will be limited in accordance with the local qualities of the land: the maximum being determined by the principle that no one may hold in “entail” more land than he is able to farm unaided; and the minimum being determined by the principle that the landowner must have enough land to provide, not only food for self and family, but a superfluity by the disposal of which he will be able to obtain clothing and shelter for his family. The maximum limitation will result in freeing large quantities of land for settlement by peasants, particularly in Eastern Germany. This peasant settlement is all the more necessary because the existence of an abundance of peasants thus settled on their own farms furnishes the best guarantee for the maintenance of public health and public energy.The landholder who thus receives a farm for “entail” will pledge himself to manage this farm for the best advantage of the community and to use his utmost endeavours to make sure that the land shall be farmed to supply the food of the community. He will therefore have to pay a land tax, a tithe rent, to the community. This will be payable in kind, the amount being fixed in accordance with the area and quality of the land. No other taxes will be payable by the peasant. Should the holder of an “entail” die, the farm will pass to a son able and willing to carry it on. If there are no male children available, the “entail” will revert to the community, and will be allotted by the local peasant-council. In the event of bad farming, an “entail” will also revert to the community, the decision upon this matter resting with the local self-governing body (peasant-council) in agreement with the state (represented by the circle president). The introduction of “entail” into German agriculture will be in such manifest conformity with German tradition and with the right and necessary ideas of peasant possessor-ship, that neither psychological nor material difficulties are likely to ensue.
The sad motive behind Hitler’s blatant refusal to listen to Otto and Gregor Strasser, was power. Whilst Hitler saw power as the objective, the group of people who were gathered around these visionary brothers – commonly known as the Strasser-Circle – saw power merely as the means to implement their Social Nationalist programme. Once again, the common people paid the price for the selfishness of a reactionary. In 1930, things finally came to a head and Otto Strasser began to clash with Hitler on a regular basis. His newspaper, the Arbeitsblatt, which was based in Berlin and which served as the Party’s official northern publication, became a constant irritant to Hitler. Finally, in April of the same year, trade unions in Saxony declared a general strike and Otto Strasser announced his total support for the German workers. Meanwhile, the powerful industrialists themselves put pressure on Hitler to condemn the views of Strasser and bring the strike to a halt. Hitler called Otto Strasser to a private meeting at his hotel the following day, where he attempted to bring him into line by ordering him to submit to his authority. During a heated debate, Hitler accused him of promoting “bombastic nonsense” by placing emphasis on the Ideal rather than the Leader. Strasser was right, of course, but Hitler was only interested in personal power and chose to put himself before the economic freedom of the German people. Otto Strasser went on to rightly accuse Hitler of trying to:
“…strangle the social revolution for the sake of legality and your new collaboration with the bourgeois parties of the Right.”
Hitler angrily denied this and tried to condone what modern Capitalists today like to call “free enterprise”. He also went on to endorse the Capitalist philosophy that “might is right” and only “the strong survive”, whilst the weakest must inevitably “go to the wall”: “The Capitalists have worked their way to the top through their capacity, and on the basis of this selection, which again only proves their right race, they have a right to lead.”
This statement alone is testimony to Hitler’s allegiance to Capitalism and Big Business, and reveals the unbridgeable gulf that exists between reaction and revolution. Hitler, after failing to come up with any real argument against the genuinely Socialist principles of Otto Strasser, eventually wrote to Goebbels and instructed him to drive Strasser and his supporters from the Party. Otto Strasser remained true to his beliefs and, as a result, was expelled from the NSDAP soon afterwards, setting up a group known as the Union of Revolutionary National Socialists – the forerunner of the Black Front. Otto Strasser was finally interned by the SIS-OSS and became a broken-hearted exile in Canada, where he was forced to live as a non-person until 1955. He eventually managed to return to his beloved Germany, but only after some very determined campaigning by the English journalist Douglas Reed. Meanwhile, despite the fact that Gregor Strasser had bowed to Hitler’s authority and remained in the party in the hope that the Fuhrer would realize the error of his ways, he was brutally murdered in the Prinz Albrechtstrasse prison during a Hitlerite purge in June 1934, now known as the infamous Night of the Long Knives. Even Hitler was forced to admit some years later, that Gregor Strasser’s murder had been “a mistake”.
Before this article is brought to a conclusion, it must be pointed out that Strasserism is totally incompatible with Marxism and the alleged “Socialism” of the Left. Here are a few excerpts from Otto Strasser’s polemic comparison of the two ideologies:
How German Socialism differs from Marxism: The personal initiative of the responsible managers is preserved, but it is incorporated into the needs of the community. Within the systematically planned management of the whole national economy by the State (organically safeguarded by the equal third of influence which the State has in every industrial enterprise) the wholesome rivalry of the individual enterprises is maintained. The treatment of State and economic enterprise, that is to say of official and industrial manager, on an equal footing is avoided; so is the arbitrary power of the State which deprives the worker of his rights. Everyone engaged in an enterprise is, by virtue of his being part-possessor as a citizen, one of the immediate and influential possessors of his enterprise, his “workshop”, and can exert this possessive right in full measure on the supervisory council of the concern. The form of the factory fellowship, founded upon the legal idea of the fief, and given life by the great self-governing body of the workers’ and employees’ councils, on the one hand, the industrial and trades’ councils, on the other, constitutes the new economic system of German Socialism, which is equally remote from Western Capitalism and Eastern Bolshevism, and nevertheless complies with the requirements of large scale industry.
On a final note, I hope that this short essay on Strasserism has persuaded some of the more misguided supporters of the Hitler regime that genuine Socialism has yet to achieve a practical breakthrough and progress from the purely theoretical stage. It is futile for any Nationalist to look back to Nazi Germany as a worthy example of what is best for our English nation, or even for Europe as a whole. Without completely rejecting the Rightwing Capitalists, revolutionaries will continue to be betrayed over and over again. Indeed, with Nazism on the rise once again in the wake of German reunification, it is hoped that the German people will remember the mistakes of the past. One thing must be made clear. Those of us who stand against pseudo-nationalism have the determination to stick to our guns and will never be under the control of the Capitalist Right. Likewise, neither will we betray our revolutionary principles.