Old Social Democratic Party of Germany

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The Old Social Democratic Party of Germany (German: Alte Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands), known as the Old Social Democratic Party of Saxony (German: Alte Sozialdemokratische Partei Sachsens) until 1927, was a political party in Germany.[1] The party was a splinter group of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in Saxony, and had nationalistic tendencies.[2] Whilst the party failed to become a mass party, it played a significant role in regional politics in Saxony during the latter half of the 1920s.[3] A leader of the party, Max Heldt, served as Minister-President of Saxony 1926-1929.[4] Wilhelm Buck was the chairman of the party.[5]

Background to the split[edit]

Between 1924 and 1926 Saxony had been ruled by a coalition of SPD and two liberal parties. The coalition government became unpopular amongst the SPD ranks, and the grassroots of the party revolted against the government participation. The leftist sector of the Saxony SPD preferred a 'Red' coalition of the SPD and the Communist Party of Germany. The SPD conference in Saxony in 1924 had called for the cooperation with the regional government to be terminated, but a significant number of deputies in the Landtag disobeyed the decision. From November 1924, expulsions of the dissident deputies started. In response, the expelled Landtag regional deputies formed a party of their own, the 'Old Social Democratic Party'. The Old Social Democratic Party issued a press release in April 1926, stating the programmatic goals of the party. The party was formally constituted on June 6, 1926.[4][6][7] The dispute between the leftwing of SPD and the rightist parliamentarian wing (which formed the 'Old Social Democratic Party') in Saxony was labelled the Sachsenkonflikt.[4]

In the summer of 1926 all members of the Old Social Democratic Party were purged from the SPD mass organizations, such as the Socialist Workers Youth.[4]

The party started a newspaper of their own, Der Volkstaat.[8]

Drift towards nationalism[edit]

The 'Old Social Democratic Party' expressed a shift in ideological discourse, downplaying class struggle for bourgeois ideas of citizenship.[6] Soon after the foundation of the party, it began redefining itself, from viewing itself as the moderate wing of the German Social Democracy to a 'proletarian nationalist' ideological position (in contrast to the 'internationalist' and 'anti-state' SPD).[9][10] The Volkstaat editor Ernst Niekisch (later a prominent National Bolshevik), whose influence within the party grew, was the architect of this process.[4][9]

Niekisch's national revolutionary line was supported by Heldt, but others in the party leadership (Wilhelm Buck and Karl Bethke) opposed it.[4]

The party was labelled as 'social fascist' by the communist press.[11] Possibly, this was the first time this term was used in communist discourse.[4]

The party was joined by August Winning (former Over-President of East Prussia), who had been expelled from the SPD for involvement in the Kapp Putsch. Through the recruitment of Winning, the party hoped to expand its influence to other parts of Germany.[4]

1926 election[edit]

Ahead of the October 1926 Saxony Landtag election, the party received a significant support amongst trade unionists in eastern Saxony (Dresden-Bautzen), which had been the stronghold of the SPD rightwing before the split.[4] The party got 4.2% of the votes in Saxony, and won four seats in the assembly. The party continued to form part of the coalition government until the elections of 1929.[7]

In the fall of 1927 the paramilitary organization Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold expelled all members belonging to the Old Social Democratic Party, accusing the party of seeking alliances with fascists.[4] At this stage the party began distancing itself from its bourgeois coalition partners, criticizing them from a nationalist angle. It began seeking cooperation with nationalist groups, such as the Stahlhelm and Junge Deutsche Orden. The National Socialist newspaper Völkischer Beobachter began writing positively about the positions of the Old Social Democratic Party. However, Völkischer Beobachter expressed concerns regarding the name of the party (which sought to identify with the Marxist roots of the SPD) and the position of the Old Social Democratic Party towards the Jewish population (which the National Socialists found too vague).[4][10]

1928, 1929 and 1930 elections[edit]

The new, 'national revolutionary' profile proved to be a non-starter for the electoral work of the party.[10] For example, Niekisch's national revolutionary line had alienated the trade unionists in the textile industry, whom initially had supported the party. With their departure from the party, it lost whatever influence in the labour movement it once had.[4] The party got 65,573 votes in the 1928 Reichtag election, but no seats.[2] 35,000 of the votes had come from Saxony. After the election a new party programme was adopted, without any of the 'national revolutionary' references.[10]

After the 1929 Landtag election in Saxony, the NSDAP demanded that the party (and the German Democratic Party) be excluded from the government. Wilhelm Bünger complied with this demand and left the Old Social Democratic Party out of the governing coalition. However, this decision was soon reverted and the Old Social Democratic Party politician Georg Elsner was reinstated as Minister of Employment and Welfare.[12]

The party failed to win any seat in the 1930 Saxony Landtag election.[4]

Disbanding[edit]

The party disintegrated in the early 1930s. The radical nationalists of the party joined the NSDAP. The remains of the party, people from the party who had not fully renounced Marxism, merged back into the SPD in July 1932.[4][13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lau, Matthias. Pressepolitik als Chance: staatliche Öffentlichkeitsarbeit in den Ländern der Weimarer Republik. Stuttgart: Steiner, 2003. p. 414
  2. ^ a b Labour and Socialist International. Kongress-Protokolle der Sozialistischen Arbeiter-Internationale - B. 3.1 Brüssel 1928. Glashütten im Taunus: D. Auvermann, 1974. p. IV. 41
  3. ^ Lapp, Benjamin. Revolution from the Right: Politics, Class, and the Rise of Nazism in Saxony, 1919 - 1933. Boston: Humanities Press, 1997. p. 118
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Lapp, Benjamin. A 'National' Socialism: The Old Socialist Party of Saxony, 1926-32, in Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Apr., 1995), pp. 291-309
  5. ^ Keppeler-Schrimpf, Helga. "Bildung ist nur möglich auf der Grundlage des Volkstums.": eine Untersuchung zu Richard Seyferts volkstümlicher Bildungstheorie als volkschuleigene Bildungskonzeption. Münster: LIT, 2005. p. 383
  6. ^ a b Lapp, Benjamin. Revolution from the Right: Politics, Class, and the Rise of Nazism in Saxony, 1919 - 1933. Boston: Humanities Press, 1997. pp. 111-112
  7. ^ a b Barclay, David E., and Eric D. Weitz. Between Reform and Revolution: German Socialism and Communism from 1840 to 1990. New York: Berghahn, 2002. p. 303
  8. ^ Lapp, Benjamin. Revolution from the Right: Politics, Class, and the Rise of Nazism in Saxony, 1919 - 1933. Boston: Humanities Press, 1997. p. 119
  9. ^ a b Lapp, Benjamin. Revolution from the Right: Politics, Class, and the Rise of Nazism in Saxony, 1919 - 1933. Boston: Humanities Press, 1997. p. 120
  10. ^ a b c d Lapp, Benjamin. Revolution from the Right: Politics, Class, and the Rise of Nazism in Saxony, 1919 - 1933. Boston: Humanities Press, 1997. pp. 124-125
  11. ^ Lönne, Karl-Egon. Il fascismo come provocazione: "Rote Fahne" e "Vorwärts" a confronto con il fascismo italiano tra il 1920 e il 1933. Napoli: Guida Editori, 1985. p. 143
  12. ^ Szejnmann, Claus-Christian W. Nazism in Central Germany: The Brownshirts in 'red' Saxony. Monographs in German history, v. 4. New York: Berghahn Books, 1999. pp. 18-19
  13. ^ Szejnmann, Claus-Christian W. Nazism in Central Germany: The Brownshirts in 'red' Saxony. Monographs in German history, v. 4. New York: Berghahn Books, 1999. p. 120