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A Swede in Germany

Nazis IXe: The 25-point plan (Leftist economic policy)

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(Please see Nazis IXa for context.)

The following continues the strong Leftist or far Leftist drift of item 11. For reasons of time, I have not paid great attention to how “Brechung der Zinsknechtschaft” plays in with these items; however, chances are that a closer study would give additional clues—and even an awareness of it points to a higher degree of Leftism than might be clear from the individual items when viewed more “textually”.* This portion of the 25-point plan is certainly one influenced by Gottfried Feder (the author of “Brechung der Zinsknechtschaft”).

*But I will remain with my original, somewhat textual interpretation: I wrote most of the below before researching item 11, and I cannot justify the time to do further research and a rewrite. Besides, a somewhat textual interpretation (and reliance on the reader to use his head) is consistent with the treatment of e.g. the influence of item 4 on other items.

12. Im Hinblick auf die ungeheuren Opfer an Gut und Blut, die jeder Krieg vom Volke fordert, muß die persönliche Bereicherung durch den Krieg als Verbrechen am Volke bezeichnet werden. Wir fordern daher restlose Einziehung aller Kriegsgewinne.

(In consideration of the monstrous sacrifice of life and property that each war demands of the people, personal enrichment due to a war must be regarded as a crime against the nation. Therefore, we demand ruthless confiscation of all war profits.)

Superficially, this seems like a fairly neutral opinion on the Left–Right scale. However, closer inspection brings us to the question of why someone earned money off the war. Consider e.g. a smuggling operation built for the purpose of bringing goods from non-participating country A to the war-plagued and underlying-rationing country B. Even if the smuggler sells them on the black-market, he might still benefit many of the war victims, maybe even to the point of saving a few lives, and be good even for the government of country B. This is perfectly fair from e.g. a Libertarian point of view (excepting those who hold a “breaking the law is unethical” opinion). Remove the profits and he will no longer make those runs, leaving the customers worse off than before. Did someone earn money from obeying his governments request (or non-negotiable demand) to turn a car factory into a tank factory?* How would punishing him be fair? Who would be more likely to want to confiscate his profits, the average Conservative or the average Social-Democrat? (In contrast, stealing army supplies and selling them for personal profit will usually be unacceptable, as would, Nazis take heed!, stealing art in a conquered country.)

*The more so, when he earns less money than he did before, because profit margins on cars were better. Ditto when the car market has collapsed due to a war that the government started.

(A hidden Jewish angle is conceivable, but this would be hard to reconcile with the actual formulation. If in doubt, many non-Jews who had enriched themselves would have great reason to oppose the Nazis, for fear of being included, which would have made the formulation unwise unless they actually were included. In fact, something like that might have happened with item 17, as will be clear later on.)

In this unnuanced phrasing, at least, the demand is Leftist. (The lack of nuance, per se, is arguably also an indication of being Leftist, if a weaker one.)

From another perspective: How does this play out with an eye at future military action?* Are suppliers of tanks, ammunition, food, whatnot supposed to deliver at cost, with no profit? Who would even remain a peacetime producer of strictly military goods (e.g. tanks; but not e.g. food) under such circumstances?** This might simple be a point that the authors had not thought through, but it might also be an indication of a Leftist idea: that a later rearmament and war would be handled by a state-run command economy. (Which was to some degree the case, when we look at what did happen.)

*I am uncertain to what degree military action was planned at this stage of the NSDAP, but it certainly became relevant very quickly, once the NSDAP took power, and at least Hitler was on the topic long before that. It might be argued that calls for colonies and Lebensraum (as in item 3) would be hard to implement without military action.

**Peacetime earnings from military goods might be acceptable according to this item, but war would pose an enormous risk, and a switch from tanks to cars seems like a good idea.

13. Wir fordern die Verstaatlichung aller (bisher) bereits vergesellschafteten (Trust) Betriebe.

(We demand nationalization of all businesses which have been up to the present formed into companies (trusts).)

Here there are major issues of interpretation and I might have to perform more research before making a more definite statement. Notably, “vergesellschafte[te]n” could be taken to imply nationalization to begin with (“let us nationalize all nationalized companies”). Another reading might involve the forming of a society,* in the sense of a joint enterprise of some kind (note e.g. the French SA or Société Anonyme, and the usually non-profit “society of/for something-or-other” in the Anglosphere). One possible reading goes in the direction that most businesses not run by a single person, a family, or similar should be nationalized. The addition of “Trust”/“trusts” might point to a nationalization of companies that have formed a trust as a meta-Vergesellschaftung or, so to speak, a society of societies.** (The inconsistent use of “Trust”/“trusts” when comparing original and translation is not helpful.)

*An approximately etymologically literal, but idiomatically dubious, translation of “[zu] vergesellschaften” would be “[to] associate”. A similarly approximate translation, which often is idiomatically correct, of “[die] Gesellschaft” is “[the] society”.

**The main era of truly industry-dominating single “concerns”, e.g. IG Farben, was yet to come, but not that far off and many steps had already been taken by the industry.

(Looking at what actually happened is not very helpful, as the Nazis did not engage in Soviet style nationalization/collectivization/whatnot, but did demand that the industry work for the benefit of the Nazis/Nazi-Germany/whatnot to a degree that reduced the difference. Moreover, Jews and other unwanteds were treated with different rules.)

Either way, demands for widespread nationalization are very common on the Left and very rare on the non-Left. In as far as demands for nationalization appear at all on the non-Left, I suspect that they are more likely to refer to very specific areas or special cases. For instance, some on the non-Left might be in favour of keeping various central services or utilities, e.g. telephony, under state control, or believe that some particularly misbehaving company* must be cleaned up by the state.

*I have, indeed, occasionally had impulsive thoughts in this direction after a particularly negative customer experience. However, as I know that the state tends to do more harm than good, the feeling rarely lasts more than a moment.

14. Wir fordern die Gewinnbeteiligung an Großbetrieben*.

(We demand that the profits from wholesale trade* shall be shared out.)

*Dubious translation of “Großbetrieben”. Literally, it means “large enterprises” and I see no restriction to specifically trade (wholesale or otherwise). The use of “Big Business” is tempting and might catch a lot of the spirit, but would (a) be anachronistic, (b) likely overstate the size of the enterprises involved.

Again, highly Leftist.

Unfortunately, it is not made clear how the sharing would take place or to whom, nor for what reason, which limits my judgment more in detail. (For instance, a “The evil Capitalist pigs have exploited the poor innocent workers. We must take their undeserved profits and return them to the deserving workers!” would point even further Left, while a “We will lower wages in return for a mandatory bonus based on company profits.” would be less so.)

15. Wir fordern einen großzügigen* Ausbau der Alters-Versorgung.

(We demand an expansion on a large scale* of old age welfare.)

*I would have used “generous” rather than “large scale”, and will go with this word below.

Broadly speaking, Leftist.

Vagueness is caused by a lack of details. For instance, if the implication is “state-run welfare” the item might be highly Leftist. The degree of Leftism might also depend on whether the intended scheme is based on own payments for own pension (less likely to be Leftist) or on own payments for the pensions of the current set of retirees, while the own pension will be payed by the following generations (more likely to be Leftist).

Some reservation must also be made for whether generous-by-the-standards-of-1920 would be considered generous today. I do not rule out that many on the non-Left might be on-board, even within a state-run scheme, with what was generous back then, without automatically supporting what is generous today.

16. Wir fordern die Schaffung eines gesunden Mittelstandes* und seiner Erhaltung, sofortige Kommunalisierung der Groß-Warenhäuser und ihre Vermietung zu billigen** Preisen an kleine Gewerbetreibende, schärfste Berücksichtigung aller kleinen Gewerbetreibenden bei Lieferung an den Staat, die Länder oder Gemeinden.

(We demand the creation of a healthy middle class* and its conservation, immediate communalization of the great warehouses and their being leased at low cost** to small firms, the utmost consideration of all small firms in contracts with the State, county or municipality.)

*In current German use, at least, “Mittelstand” does not so much mean “middle class” as “the mid-sized businesses”. It appears, however, that this is a recent development, and that the translation, to my surprise, is correct. (A good example of the traps that a hundred-year-old text can contain. Also see the next footnote.)

**The word “billig[en]” has over time drifted to imply “low cost [price]”, as used in the translation; but has historically implied something more like “fair” or “approvable”/“acceptable” (“with an approvable/acceptable bang-for-the-buck ratio”). Cf. “etwas zu billigen”–“to approve of something”. If this was still the case in 1920, the intent is more “fair cost” than “low cost”, which (a) might allow for medium or even high costs, (b) opens the door for great arbitrariness. (One might joke that “fair is in the eye of the beholder”.)

This passage is hard to classify (and not trivial to understand); however, communalization is definitely Leftist, and the drift of the rest seems most likely to be Leftist.

The apparent prioritisation of the middle class (especially, noting Marxism and its disdain for the bourgeoisie) must likely be seen in light of the Nazi belief that the then-current middle class was degenerate (or decadent, to keep with the Marxists) and more a burden than an asset to society. It is not a matter of favoring the existing middle class, but of replacing it with a newer and healthier one. This is an attitude that is hard to classify on a Left–Right spectrum and where I might need to do more research. However, a more stereotypically Leftist position might involve abolishing the middle (and upper) class altogether.

17. Wir fordern eine unseren nationalen Bedürfnissen angepaßte Bodenreform, Schaffung eines Gesetzes zur unentgeltlichen Enteignung von Boden für gemeinnützige Zwecke. Abschaffung des Bodenzinses und Verhinderung jeder Bodenspekulation.

(We demand a land reform suitable to our needs, provision of a law for the free expropriation of land for the purposes of public utility, abolition of taxes on land and prevention of all speculation in land.)

(Also note a 1930 comment on this item by Hitler appended to the 25-point plan. To keep the structure intact, I will only include and discuss it later. The gist, however, is that item 17 has been misinterpreted and was only really directed at Jewish speculators. I am sceptical to how honest that claim is.)

Free* expropriation is a strongly Leftist position. The same might apply to speculation bans, although this might vary depending on how speculation is defined.**

*The original “unentgeltlichen” implies “without payment [recompense/cost/whatnot]”.

**In a more restrictive sense, it might be compatible with many non-Leftist positions; in a wider sense, it could be quite far Left.

The issue of land reform is hard to judge without more detail, as land reform has often made great sense, e.g. to exchange land between owners to create larger contiguous blocks of land, which allow for more effective farming and other use. Such reform is irrelevant to the Left–Right spectrum. In contrast, a “confiscate the land of all farmers and create collective or state-run farms” would be quite far Left.

The removal of taxes sounds highly non-Left, and seems incongruous with the rest of the item, but might depend on who owns the land at the time.


Written by michaeleriksson

May 19, 2022 at 10:34 pm

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