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Demokratie_ Date: Thursday, June 21, 2007 [Ed. Note: the original review can accessed via the H-German discussion logs at < http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=h-german&month=0705&we ek=b&msg=2YaX/rwnlPu4DAypgj8V4w&user=&pw= >] The price of unambiguity A response to Eric Kurlander's review of _Nationaler Sozialismus und Soziale Demokratie_ A critical review of one's book should not be particularly surprising or disappointing for an academic author. Scholarly work relies first and foremost on arguments and counter-arguments. A wholesale rejection, however, such as the one offered by Eric Kurlander in his review of my _Nationaler Sozialismus und Soziale Demokratie_, is a different story, especially if this rejection seems to cloud rather than illuminate the basic arguments of the study under review. My book does not discuss who is responsible for the collapse of Weimar democracy, but rather investigates the relationship between liberal and illiberal currents in German ideology. In his own book, _The Price of Exclusion_, Kurlander deals with the same problem. Although his study seems to me to be in many ways compatible with mine, his review reveals a fundamental disagreement: Whereas Kurlander insists on separating these liberal and illiberal currents, I consider affinities and transitions between them as a key for understanding the collapse of liberalism and democracy in 1933. Intentions and conclusions of _Nationaler Sozialismus und Soziale Demokratie_ My study's starting point is a strange phenomenon in the history of German Social Democracy. During the Weimar Republic, a group of socialist intellectuals and politicians that I call the _Junge Rechte_ endorsed nationalist and authoritarian ideas and tried to reformulate socialist ideology on these premises, creating what they called a _nationaler Sozialismus_. They condoned and even approved of radical nationalist tendencies, especially among the younger generation, some of whom supported the Nazis. At the same time, these socialists urged their party to act more decisively against Nazism. After the NSDAP assumed power, many members of the Junge Rechte either formed or joined existing resistance organizations. Many of them paid for this with years of imprisonment in concentration camps, and some of them even lost their lives. The aim of my book is to explain how such a strange combination could occur and what it meant for the relationship between liberal democracy and fascism. To do so, I examined the ideological and organizational roots of this group, and I analyzed their political ideology and practice. I argue that these roots can be traced back to ideological and philosophical debates both within and outside the social democratic movement from the late nineteenth century. Influenced by ethical and religious socialism but also by the radical Right's so-called _Conservative Revolution_, the Junge Rechte developed a specific ideology. The core of this ideology was a synthesis of nationalism and socialism by which they responded to what they considered to be the failure of liberal, materialist and internationalist versions of socialism. In their view, the most obvious manifestation of this failure was the rise of Fascism and Nazism. However, they viewed Nazism as part of an inevitable and even welcome process--the abandonment of liberalism and rationalism. The Junge Rechte thought that Nazism raised the right questions but gave the wrong answers. Only a nationalist form of socialism could provide the appropriate answers. Such a nationalist socialism would throw off its materialist baggage to open itself to nationalist and authoritarian tendencies, while refusing to renounce democracy and socialism altogether. My study thus finds a fundamental ambiguity within the Junge Rechte that illustrates the ambiguity of liberal democracy in general. Far from being Nazis themselves, the Junge Rechte was nonetheless part of the process that allowed Nazism to assume power. This process was not confined to the radical, openly anti-democratic forces of the Right and the Left but penetrated much deeper into German society. The Junge Rechte calls into question any strict dichotomy between democratic and anti-democratic forces in the Weimar Republic. As part of the Social Democratic movement that resolutely defended the Weimar Republic against National Socialism, the group at the same time contributed to the decline of liberal democracy. Precisely because the Junge Rechte's ideology was so ambiguous, it was an element of the intellectual crisis that brought Nazism to power. Kurlander's critique For Kurlander, this all amounts to a reprise of the infamous _social fascism_ thesis. He claims that my book portrays the Junge Rechte as being "similarly obsessed with völkisch nationalism and eastward expansion" as the NSDAP. In exploring the ideological roots of the Junge Rechte, he argues, I carelessly identify the thought of such figures as Eduard Bernstein, Herman Cohen and Paul Tillich with radical nationalism and irrationalism. Furthermore, according to Kurlander, my analysis of the group's ideology and political practice does not prove that it developed a position distinct from the mainstream SPD and considerably more open to the ideas of the radical Right. Kurlander concludes: "It seems that the few concessions to national Socialism made by the Junge Rechte represented a pragmatic turn to the liberal democratic Center, not an ideological leap to the radical Right." This conclusion indeed points to the core of our academic disagreement. While the reader will have to reach his or her own conclusions, I will try to give a few examples which I think disprove Kurlander's thesis. However, Kurlander couples this academic debate with a profoundly misleading characterization of my book, for which he provides little, if any, evidence in his review. In claiming that the book adds "a new wrinkle to the social fascist paradigm", he alleges that I would blame Social Democracy for enabling fascism "not only in its hostility to the communist Left but in its ideological commitment to the radical Right." Nowhere in my book can such an accusation be found. While I do not elaborate at all on the SPD's position towards the communists, I identify its reluctance to make ideological concessions to the radical Right as a feature that positively distinguishes it from the Junge Rechte. Furthermore, Kurlander claims that I consider the Junge Rechte to be "proto-Nazis" and that I accuse them of "collusion" with the NSDAP. Such terms cannot be found in the book. Even a superficial reading should reveal that I in fact argue against such primitive understandings of ideological relations. Rather than identification or collusion, I am interested in affinities and transitions between the two sides. Similarly, Kurlander alleges that the book suggests Eduard Bernstein, Herman Cohen and Paul Tillich provided the "basis for National Socialism". This, again, is not the case. Instead, I try to trace the twisted paths along which aspects of their thought were incorporated into a concept of nationalist socialism that reflected a highly ambivalent relationship to Nazism. Twisted paths of intellectual history While my book never constructs any direct relationship between Bernstein, Cohen or even Tillich (who belonged to the Junge Rechte) and Nazism, it indeed argues that the Junge Rechte's affinity to nationalist and authoritarian ideas can only be understood by analyzing their position within the intellectual history of socialism. Some of the foundations of this affinity can already be found in Bernstein, the Marburg neo-Kantians (I refer much more to Paul Natorp than to Herman Cohen in this respect) and the religious and ethical socialists. Bernstein, for example, is analyzed as part of a development that shaped German socialism's attitude towards the nation from the 1880s to 1914. Though they were not anti-national, as state authorities alleged, _orthodox_ socialist leaders like August Bebel or Wilhelm Liebknecht (or, for that matter, Friedrich Engels) viewed the national question with regard to its role in social revolution. In the course of the working class' social and political integration, this purely instrumental approach towards the nation was gradually replaced by what I call an _Integrationsnationalismus_ that considered national integration and identification as logical consequences of this process. Bernstein's revisionist theory provided the intellectual background for this shift. _Integrationsnationalismus_ could develop into a moderate nationalism (or patriotism, if we prefer), as it did in mainstream Social Democracy, including Bernstein himself.  However, it could also develop into a more radical nationalism. We find this second development in significant factions of prewar Social Democracy, gathered around Eduard David, who led the SPD Reichstag faction in 1914, or Paul Lensch and Konrad Haenisch, who set up a group called _Kriegssozialisten_. Although these two modes of nationalism need to be distinguished--and I very clearly distinguish them in my study--I maintain that they are related in rejecting the materialist concept of socialism and replacing the aim of social revolution with participation in the nation state. Even if moderate or liberal nationalism, as promoted by Bernstein, mainstream Social Democracy or the left-liberal bourgeoisie, is different from radical nationalism, it is not the opposite. It therefore was not only a matter of economic pragmatism that Eduard Bernstein supported German colonialism or defended Gustav Noske's infamous speech to the Reichstag, in which Noske stated "daß es unsere verdammte Pflicht und Schuldigkeit ist, dafür zu sorgen, daß das deutsche Volk nicht etwa von irgend einem anderen Volk an die Wand gedrückt wird."  I argue that the Junge Rechte's ideology drew on these currents of radical nationalism within prewar Social Democracy and owed relevant parts of their theoretical basis to Eduard Bernstein's revisionism. A similarly twisted, but nevertheless traceable path leads from the Marburg school of neo-Kantian philosophy to the Junge Rechte. Bernstein himself already drew on neo-Kantian thought as a non-materialist basis for his socialist ideas. Herman Cohen and Paul Natorp developed neo-Kantianism into a highly sophisticated philosophical system that leaned politically towards a moderate socialism. This system, however, suffered from the same basic problem that Hegel had detected in Kant's philosophy: it required a source of ethical truth that could not be provided by the system itself. Cohen's solution to this problem was the state, not the existing state of the Kaiserreich but an ideal and just state yet to be established. This solution indicated a kind of Hegelian transformation of the neo-Kantian position. It was Paul Natorp who continued on this path during and after the First World War, replacing Cohen's ideal state with the German nation. The Junge Rechte did not draw from Cohen, who died in April 1918, but from Natorp, to whom they had direct contact through the youth movement. It would be careless to ignore the ties linking Natorp's nationalism to the neo-Kantian school. I could continue with other intellectual sources of the Junge Rechte, all of which were significantly transformed through the very process of reception, as is always the case. The fact that these intellectual sources were part of emancipatory currents in German society does not necessarily mean that they produced only emancipatory ideas. Paul Tillich, who was both a theoretical inspiration for and a leading activist within the Junge Rechte, provides a particularly striking example of this dialectic. One only has to read his _Die Sozialistische Entscheidung_, published in January 1933. It contains a sophisticated critique of totalitarian tendencies of its time, and at the same time sanctions such tendencies. A careful reading of my study will quickly reveal that I do not intend to denounce these thinkers as proto-Nazis, as Kurlander implies, but rather try to understand how their thought could become part of an intellectual and political catastrophe. The ambivalence of the Junge Rechte Regarding the Junge Rechte itself, Kurlander claims that their ideology and politics did not indicate "Nazi proclivities" but were more or less identical to those of bourgeois and socialist republicans. He seems resistant to the possibility of positions that were neither liberal or socialist republican nor Nazi. In my study, I try to locate the Junge Rechte in relation to the Social Democratic mainstream and the Conservative Revolution, which were in fact the two ideological frameworks to which the group referred. In doing so, we indeed encounter significant differences to the SPD mainstream. For example, their critique of a class-based concept of socialism did not argue with the changing composition of society and the political or strategic necessities deriving from such changes. Rather, they criticized this concept for being rooted in particularistic and materialist liberal thought. Instead of a class, the _Volk_ was supposed to be the subject of history. Class struggle should be replaced by the struggle of the _Volk_ for liberation. This concept of socialism was clearly indebted to authors of the Conservative Revolution, such as Hans Freyer or Hans Zehrer. Similarly, the Junge Rechte's interventions in the debate on constitutional theory were not only about strengthening the executive in order to ameliorate the exhausting struggles among interest groups that were paralyzing parliament, as Kurlander asserts. Herman Heller, for instance, opposed positivists like Hans Kelsen and other proponents of the Weimar constitution, making affirmative reference to Carl Schmitt and Hans Freyer. The Junge Rechte agreed with these authors of the radical Right that the positivist idea of the state belonged to the declining liberal era and that it had to be replaced by an authoritarian one. Strengthening the executive was designed not merely to make Weimar democracy work more properly but to change it into another type of democracy. Similar tendencies can be found in other aspects of the Junge Rechte's ideology, such as Paul Tillich's religious socialism. His thinking increasingly incorporated elements of _Lebensphilosophie_, leading him to openly welcome radical nationalist groups of the Right. "Klassenlose Gesellschaft," he wrote in _Die sozialistische Entscheidung_ (1933) "bedeutet also nicht Gesellschaft ohne Macht des Ursprungs. Auch in der Gesellschaft, die der Sozialismus schaffen will, wirken der Boden, das Blut, die Gruppe. Auch in ihr gelten Traditionen und allgemeine, jedem verständliche Symbole. Auch in ihr wirken Glaube und Hingabe. Eben diese Kräfte sind es, die gegenwärtig der Klassenherrschaft widerstehen, im Proletariat wie bei den revolutionären Ursprungsgruppen, und durch die allein die klassenlose Gesellschaft verwirklicht werden kann." None of this, however, made the Junge Rechte a part of the radical Right, let alone of Nazism. Kurlander's imputation of such a position to me misrepresents my argument. Instead, I make it clear that the Junge Rechte almost always stopped short before following the radical Right on their way into abandoning democracy altogether. Kurlander notes this, but considers it only a qualification of an overarching argument for identity between the Junge Rechte and the radical Right. In fact, I draw attention to precisely the ambivalence of affinity to nationalist and authoritarian tendencies on the one side and anchoring in socialist and liberal traditions on the other that characterized the Junge Rechte. Their commitment to such traditions prevented the Junge Rechte from leaving Social Democracy and joining the enemies of the Republic, but their inclination toward ideologies of the Right prevented them from developing important insights regarding social conditions and tendencies into a politics that might have helped to stop Nazism. In the Junge Rechte's support for majority instead of proportional voting, for instance, we can see with Kurlander a completely harmless attempt to preserve democracy only if we ignore its illiberal ideological premises. The same holds true for the Junge Rechte's call to reform the SPD's organization along the lines of fascist parties. In doing so, they surely aimed at a more effective defence against the Nazis, but they advocated abandoning liberal concepts of organization for more principled reasons as well. "In der Uniformierung der politischen Bewegung, die der Faschismus erfunden hat," Theodor Haubach claimed to see the "Abkehr von dem eudämonistisch-rationalen Lebensideal der Vorkriegszeit ..., die wahrhaftig nicht nur Eigentum der Reaktion ist, sondern für Bourgeois und Prolet gleichermaßen einen neuen Ausblick auf Leben und Menschenwelt entwickelt."  Conclusion: The dialectics of liberalism and illiberalism The position of the Junge Rechte was replete with this kind of ambivalence. If we relate their political practice to their ideology, and if we place this ideology into the framework of German intellectual history, socialist and otherwise, it becomes clear that the group neither represented the socialist mainstream in Weimar Germany nor defected to Nazism. They did, however, share several basic assumptions about the destiny of modern civilization with the radical Right. The Junge Rechte thus provides an illuminating example of how illiberal and antidemocratic ideas affected even the stronghold of republicanism in Weimar Germany, namely Social Democracy. This suggests that the lethal attack on liberalism and democracy did not come only from the outside but had firm roots on the inside. From this perspective, drawing a clear borderline between universalist and völkisch conceptions of national identity, as Kurlander does in both his review and his book, appears highly questionable. If we insist on such a dichotomy, we will neither be able to distinguish what Kurlander aptly calls _völkisch liberalism_ from Nazi ideology, nor will be able to recognize transitions between völkisch and universalist liberalism (as in the case of Gustav Stresemann). More importantly, this dichotomous view gives no answer to the question of how the predominantly universalist liberalism of the nineteenth century could ever develop such a strong völkisch current. Kurlander's insistence on this dichotomy not only imposes serious limitations on his otherwise excellent study, but it also leads him to expect an unambiguity from my study of the Junge Rechte that history rarely provides. This is deeply unfortunate, as his own findings underscore the very dialectics of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century intellectual constellation that I highlight in my study. Stefan Vogt University of Amsterdam . Hermann Heller, Nationaler Sozialismus, in: Neue Blätter für den Sozialismus 2 (1931), pp. 154-156. . I will here use the term Nazism instead of National Socialism, in order to distinguish it from the Junge Rechte's national socialism. In German, I use the terms _Nationalsozialismus_ und _Nationaler Sozialismus_. Kurlander seems not always to be aware of this distinction in my terminology. . All quotations are, if not otherwise noted, from Kurlander's review of my book: Eric Kurlander, Social Fascism Revisited: A _Sonderweg_ of the Left? Published by H-German in May 2007. . Nationaler Sozialismus und Soziale Demokratie, pp. 258, 320, 355. . Nationaler Sozialismus und Soziale Demokratie, p. 32. . Verhandlungen des Deutschen Reichstages, vol. 228 (1907), p. 1098C. For Bernstein's defense of Noske cf. Eduard Bernstein, Patriotismus, Militarismus und Sozialdemokratie, in: Sozialistische Monatshefte 13 (1907), pp. 434-440. . Paul Natorp, Deutscher Weltberuf. 2 vols., Jena 1918. . Paul Tillich, Die sozialistische Entscheidung, Potsdam 1933, p. 161. . Theodor Haubach, Die militante Partei, in: Neue Blätter für den Sozialismus 2 (1931), p. 210.