Archive for April, 2013

Mina Graur: Rudolf Rocker debates Otto Strasser

In 1930 the FAUD [the anarcho-syndicalist Free Workers’ Union of Germany] accepted an invitation from Otto Strasser, an activist in the National Socialist Party [e.g., the Nazi party], to a series of debates. It was an interesting challenge for the syndicalists, and Fritz Kater suggested that Rocker should represent their camp. (fn90) Otto Strasser belonged to a faction within the National Socialist Party that differed in many respects from Hitler’s mainstream. Indeed, Strasser’s disagreements with Hitler led to his expulsion from the party in June 1930. After his expulsion, he founded the “Revolutionary National Socialists” organization, later known as the “Black Front.” (fn91) The debate was conducted, therefore, just before Strasser was driven out of the Nazi party.

Three meetings were arranged, each dedicated to a different topic. At the first, Rocker debated Strasser on the issue of nationalism and race, and the role they play in the shaping of history. Rocker claimed that since nationality is not known to be an inherited trait, it follows that the idea of nationality is enforced on men by their surroundings. (fn92) The second session was dedicated to the meaning of socialism. Since Strasser could not attend the meeting due to illness, his place was taken by Dr. Herbert Blank. Blank argued that the historical importance of the National Socialist Party was that it had discovered the true foundations of socialism, since what passed until then as socialism was only the Marxist interpretation. Rocker ridiculed the argument, pointing to the obvious fact that the Nazis had probably never heard of libertarian socialism and its many thinkers, who were in no way connected to Marx and his followers, and who rejected Marxism altogether. At the third debate, Rocker was replaced by Erich Mühsam at the request of Strasser, who felt threatened by Rocker’s rhetorical tactics. Rocker, however, was asked to deliver the closing remarks. Although both camps knew that the differences between them were too wide to be bridged over, and that no side was going to win new converts, the series of debates constituted an interesting experience. The debates were the only time that the anarchists aired their opinions freely in front of a Nazi audience. After the National Socialists came to power, the anarchist movement was extinguished, its members exiled, imprisoned, or sent to concentration camps.

footnotes:

90. Rocker dated the event at around 1928 or later. According to the articles in Fanal reporting the event, it occurred in 1930.
91. Allan Bullock, Hitler, A Study in Tyranny (New York: Harper, 1964), pp. 156-158.
92. Rocker, Revolutsie un Regresie, Vol. 2, p. 29. The issue is elaborated upon in Nationalism and Culture.

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from Mina Graur, An Anarchist “Rabbi”: The Life and Teachings of Rudolf Rocker (New York: St. Martins Press / Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1997), pp. 174-75.

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