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Chapter 14 explores the reverberations of Hugenberg’s election and the realignment of political forces that it set in motion. It begins with a discussion of the situation in the DVP, where Stresemann found himself forced on the defensive by the increased assertiveness of the industrial interests on the party’s right bring and where the Stahlhelm’s “hate declaration” against the Weimar Republic led to a rupture of its relationship with the DVP. The chapter then switches to the Center, where an effort to block Stegerwald’s election to the party chairmanship led to the installation of prelate Ludwig Kaas as the new party chairman in a development widely interpreted as a swing to the right on the part of the Center. It also focuses on Hugenberg’s efforts to consolidate power over the DNVP party organization and to curtail the autonomy of the DNVP Reichstag delegation under Westarp. Hugenberg’s determination to transform the DNVP into an instrument of his own political agenda not only placed a strain on his relations with the leaders of the German agricultural community but triggered a bitter conflict with the DNVP’s Reich Catholic Committee over the Concordat the Prussian government had signed with the Vatican.
Chapter 18 discusses the fateful elections of 14 September 1930 from the perspective of the German Right and the various factions on the Right that were vying for power. It focuses first of all on the efforts of the young conservatives who reorganized themselves into the Conservative People’s Party in the hopes of uniting those who had left the DNVP into a single political front. But these efforts, which enjoyed strong support from Paul Reusch and the German industrial establishment, evoked little interest from the leaders of the CNBLP and CSVD, both of whom were determined not to compromise the uniqueness of their own political appeal by entering into close ties with other political parties. In the meantime, Hugenberg and the DNVP leadership tried to organize their campaign around the mantra of anti-Marxism but misread, as did most of the other parties in the middle and moderate Right, the threat that National Socialism posed to their party’s electoral prospects. As a result, the Nazis were able to capitalize upon the disunity of the non-Nazi Right to score a victory of epic proportions that gave the NSDAP fourteen percent of the popular vote and 107 Reichstag mandates.
Chapter 15 covers the period from the fall of 1928 to the summer of 1929 with particular emphasis on the resurgence of the radical Right and the quest for right-wing unity culminating in the campaign against the Young Plan. What this reveals is a heated conflict between the DNVP and Stahlhelm for the leadership of the “national opposition” that was resolved only when the latter agreed to postpone its plans for a referendum to revise the Weimar Constitution so that Hugenberg could proceed with his own plans for a referendum against the Young Plan. But Hugenberg’s efforts to unify the German Right behind his crusade against the Young Plan ran into strong opposition from right-wing moderates who denounced a provision in the so-called “Freedom Law” that threatened government officials, including Hindenburg, who were responsible for negotiating the plan with imprisonment. Hugenberg’s refusal to drop the imprisonment paragraph reflected his determination to retain the support of Hitler and the NSDAP at the risk of alienating the RLB and more moderate elements in the referendum alliance. In the final analysis, the campaign against the Young Plan did not strengthen right-wing unity but only revealed how elusive that unity was.
Chapter 13 examines the period from the campaign for the May 1928 Reichstag elections to Alfred Hugenberg’s election as DNVP party chairman in October 1928. The DNVP went down to stunning defeat in the May elections that stemmed in large part from the success of middle-class and agrarian splinter parties to cannibalize the Nationalist electorate. The defeat was followed by a bitter internal crisis in which Westarp found himself such heavy attack from Hugenberg that he resigned his seat as DNVP party chairman. This was followed by a bitter fight for the DNVP party chairmanship that found Hugenberg’s opponents so badly organized that they were unable to block his election as Westarp’s successor in October 1928. Hugenberg’s election to the DNVP chairmanship represented a critical turning point in the history of the Weimar Republic and signaled the complete collapse of Stresemann’s efforts to stabilize Germany’s republican system of government from the Right.
Chapter 10 deals with the resurgence of nationalism on Germany’s patriotic Right in the second half of the 1920s. In many respects, this can be seen as a reaction against the increasingly prominent role that organized interests had played in Germany’s economic and political stabilization in the aftermath of Hitler’s ill-fated Beer Hall putsch. This chapter examines efforts on the part of the Ring Circle to foster a greater sense of unity within the ranks of the German Right as well as developments in the Stahlhelm, its increasing alienation from the Young German Order, and renewed activism on the part of the VVVD. All of this draws to a climax in the struggle against the Locarno Pact that Stresemann negotiated with the French, British, and Belgian governments in the spring and summer of 1925. At the epicenter of this struggle is the DNVP, which as a member of Chapter 11 covers the period from the DNVP’s resignation from the first Luther cabinet in October 1925 to its reentry into the fourth Marx cabinet in January 1927. In particular, this chapter examines the deteriorating situation in the German countryside and increased pressure from organized agriculture for the DNVP to rejoin the national government in order to protect the domestic market against agricultural imports from abroad. Industry, too, had become frustrated with the DNVP’s absence in the national government and intensified its pressure on the party for a reassessment of its coalition strategy. But the patriotic Right – and particularly the Stahlhelm, which had fallen more and more under the influence of Theodor Duesterberg and the militantly anti-Weimar elements on its right wing – strongly resisted any move that might presage the DNVP’s return to the government. Shocked by the impressive showing of middle-class splinter parties in the Saxon state elections in late October 1926, the DNVP responded to overtures from the DVP and Center to explore the possibility of reorganizing the government in January and entered into negotiations that ended with its entry into the fourth Marx cabinet in January 1927.
Chapter 9 analyzes Germany’s conservative intelligentsia as it has developed by the middle of the 1920s and the various institutions it has established in pursuit of a young conservative political agenda. Most of the individuals discussed in this chapter – Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, Oswald Spengler, Heinz Brauweiler, Heinrich von Gleichen, and Wilhelm Stapel among others – define themselves as “conservative revolutionaries” who do not to wish to return to the way things were before World War I but who espouse an apocalyptic view of the political and envision a revolutionary transformation of the world in which they live through direct political action. Some like Martin Spahn and Eduard Stadtler are connected to the DNVP, but for the most part they are politically unaffiliated and in most cases opposed to the German party system as it has developed since the founding of the Second Empire. But they are united in a pedagogic mission to educate the younger generation and to instill in it the values and virtues they believe necessary for Germany’s national rebirth.
Chapter 3 focuses on the history of the DNVP from the elections to the Weimar National Assembly to the Reichstag elections of June 1920. It deals in particular with the way in which the DNVP established itself as a party of “national opposition” at the National Assembly with particular attention to its positions on the Weimar Constitution and the Versailles Peace Treaty. It also examines the success with which hard-line conservatives around Count Westarp were able to assert themselves in the deliberations over the party program and in pushing back against efforts of the young conservatives around Ulrich von Hassell to shape the DNVP into a progressive conservative party free from the follies of the past. The chapter ends with the Kapp putsch in March 1920, the adoption of the party program a month later, and the Reichstag elections of June 1920 in which the DNVP improves upon its performance at the polls in the elections to the National Assembly.
The epilogue examines the implications of right-wing disunity upon the course of German political development from 1930 to 1933. The progressive disintegration of the DNVP from 1924 to 1930 left the non-Nazi German Right deeply divided and incapable of holding the more radical elements on the German Right that found a home in the NSDAP in check. This was a fact of German political life that became increasingly clear in the period from the September 1930 elections through the end of the Weimar Republic. The disunity and impotence of the traditional German Right left conservative strategists like Westarp, Schleicher, and Reusch with no alternative but to embrace the “taming strategy” as the best way of addressing Nazism and the threat that it posed to the status of Germany’s conservative elites. But the very success of this strategy presupposed the existence of a force capable of holding the NSDAP in check and in subjecting the Nazis to its own political agenda. The absence of such a force doomed the “taming strategy” to failure and greatly facilitated the Nazi seizure of power in 1932–33.
Chapter 8 examines the efforts of Stresemann to stabilize Germany’s republican system by coopting the support of influential special interest organizations like the National Federation of German Industry (RDI) and the National Rural League (RLB) in the hope that they can influence the DNVP to adopt a more responsible posture toward the existing system of government. The fact that the DNVP improved upon its performance in the May 1924 Reichstag elections in a new round of voting in December means that the DNVP can no longer be ignored as a potential coalition partner. The DNVP’s subsequent entry into the first Luther cabinet in January 1925 is to be seen as part of a larger stabilization strategy that also includes the election of retired war hero Paul von Hindenburg as Reich president in April 1925 and changes in the leadership of the RDI and RLB that reflect an increased willingness to work within the framework of the existing system of government.
The introduction states the premise that an essential precondition for the smooth transition from authoritarian to democratic government was the existence of a strong, resilient party on the Right that was committed to pursuing its objectives within the framework of the new democratic system and then asks why a party like the Conservative Party in Great Britain never succeeded in establishing itself as a durable political force in pre-Nazi Germany. It then focuses on the disunity of the German Right as a defining feature of the German party system and as it evolved in the late Second Empire and Weimar Republic. After a brief discussion of the milieu thesis as a theoretical point of departure for the study of the German Right, the essay then examines conservatism and its relationship to the German Right, the history of right-wing parties and organizations in the late Second Empire, and the role of antisemitism in the self-definition of those who identified themselves with the Right.
Chapter 6 deals with the crisis year of 1923 and examines the German Right’s response to the hyperinflation of 1922–23, the Franco-Belgian occupation of the Ruhr, the increasingly palpable fear of Bolshevism, and threat of Bavaria’s secession from the Reich. After a discussion of the DNVP’s relationship to the Cuno government that assumed office in November 1922, the chapter takes a particularly close look at its opposition to the Stresemann cabinet that assumed power at the height of the crisis in August 1923. Following the termination of passive resistance in the Ruhr, many DNVP leaders began to embrace the idea of a “national dictatorship” under the tutelage of the army commander-in-chief Hans von Seeckt as the only way out of the crisis in which Germany found itself. But movement in this direction was cut short not only by Seeckt’s ambivalence but more importantly by Hitler’s abortive “Beer Hall Putsch” in Munich. As the Stresemann government moved to consolidate its position in the aftermath of the putsch, any chance of replacing the Weimar Republic with a more authoritarian system of government had vanished.
Chapter 2 examines the infrastructure of the German Right with particular attention on the integration of industry, agriculture, Christian labor, and the different sectors of the German middle class into the organizational structure of the DNVP. It also deals with the way in which industry, agriculture, Christian labor, and the German middle classes organized themselves in order to represent their special interests within the framework of Germany’s new republican order. The high degree of interest articulation that this involved, however, subjected the DNVP to centrifugal pressures that were sometimes difficult contain and that posed a threat to the party’s unity and political effectiveness. Still, the DNVP was remarkably successful in anchoring itself in Germany’s conservative milieu since its founding a year and a half earlier and was well on its way to developing into a socially heterogeneous conservative Sammelpartei. Interest articulation that this involved, however, subjected the DNVP to centrifugal pressures that were sometimes difficult contain and that posed a threat to the party’s unity and political effectiveness. Still, the DNVP was remarkably successful in anchoring itself in Germany’s conservative milieu in the short period since its founding and was well on its way to developing into a socially heterogeneous conservative Sammelpartei.
Chapter 7 examines the DNVP’s reaction to the stabilization of Germany’s republican system under the auspices of a new government formed by the Center Party’s Wilhelm Marx in January 1924. In the campaign for the May 1924 Reichstag elections, the DNVP not only did its best to dissociate itself from the anti-social consequences of stabilization, but moved racism and antisemitism to the forefront of its campaign in an attempt to preempt attacks from the racists that had bolted the party in 1922. The result was a stunning victory at the polls that made its delegation the largest in the Reichstag. But with success comes responsibility, and the DNVP was suddenly faced with the task of voting for the Dawes Plan, a plan that in the campaign it had denounced as a “second Versailles.” In the decisive vote in August 1924, the Nationalist delegation to the Reichstag split right down the middle in a dramatic turn of events that only highlighted how deeply divided the DNVP was as it faced the prospect of governmental responsibility.
Chapter 12 examines the DNVP’s record as a member of the Marx’s coalition government from its initial successes from the passage of the Work Hours Law and the Unemployment Insurance Act in the spring and summer of 1927 through its failure to develop an adequate legislative response to the increasingly desperate situation in which the German farmer found himself to its awkward embrace of The Law for the Protection of the Republic in May 1927. The DNVP’s situation in the Marx cabinet was further complicated by a virtual mutiny in the Stahlhelm against collaboration with the existing system of government and a revolt in the countryside spearheaded by regional RLB affiliates RLB that were no longer satisfied with the DNVP’s defense of agriculture’s economic welfare. Increasingly desperate to salvage something of its second experiment in governmental participation, the DNVP staked everything on the passage of a Reich School Law that encountered such strong opposition from the DVP that not only was the bill rejected but the governmental coalition collapsed.
Chapter 16 explores the tensions within the DNVP that culminated in the secession of twelve moderates from the DNVP Reichstag delegation in December 1929. It begins with an examination of Christian-Social dissent in the DNVP and moves from there to a discussion of Hugenberg’s efforts to unify a badly divided party behind the mantra of anti-Marxism at the annual party congress in Kassel in late November. These efforts were to little avail, and in the vote on the controversial imprisonment paragraph of the so-called “Freedom Law” twenty-three DNVP deputies either voted No or were absent for the vote. In the aftermath twelve DNVP deputies left the party. While the young conservatives around Treviranus struggled desperately to preserve a modicum of unity among the secessionists, they were foiled both by the CNBLP’s determination to effect a realignment of the German party system along vocational and corporatists lines and by the decision of the Christian-Socials to launch a new party of their own. In the meantime, Hugenberg continued to enjoy strong support at the local and regional levels of the DNVP party organization and experienced little difficulty in retaining control of the party.
Chapter 11 covers the period from the DNVP’s resignation from the first Luther cabinet in October 1925 to its reentry into the national government in January 1927. In particular, this chapter examines the deteriorating situation in the German countryside and increased pressure from organized agriculture for the DNVP to rejoin the national government in order to protect the domestic market against agricultural imports from abroad. Industry, too, had become frustrated with the DNVP’s absence in the national government and intensified its pressure on the party for a reassessment of its coalition strategy. But the patriotic Right – and particularly the Stahlhelm, which had fallen more and more under the influence of Theodor Duesterberg and the militantly anti-Weimar elements on its right wing – strongly resisted any move that might presage the DNVP’s return to the government. Shocked by the impressive showing of middle-class splinter parties in the Saxon state elections in late October 1926, the DNVP responded to overtures from the DVP and Center to explore the possibility of reorganizing the government and entered into negotiations that ended with its entry into the fourth Marx cabinet in January 1927.