Leader of the National Labour Front
The great importance of social policy to the working population of Germany cannot be properly appreciated without some knowledge of the changes that have come over the country’s economic structure during the last fifty years or so. In the ‘eighties of the past century, that structure was relatively balanced; but since then the process of industrialisation has made enormous headway. Large parts of the population are now concentrated in the big towns and in the industrial districts, whilst – on the other hand – extensive agricultural regions are but sparsely populated.
The percentage of persons engaged in agricultural pursuits went down from 42 in 1882 to 21 in 1933. During the same period, the percentage of persons employed in industry, including handicrafts, rose from 36.9 to 38.8, and that of persons engaged in commerce and traffic, from 9.6 to 16.9. In 1882, about 14,700,000 persons were absorbed by industry, as compared with some 25,300,000 in 1933. The number of persons engaged in commerce and traffic rose from 3,800,000 in 1882 to 10,400,000 in 1925 and to about 11,000,000 in 1933, nearly three times as much as in 1882. This great structural transformation was accompanied by internal migration on a considerable scale, with the result that, for instance, the density of the population in such industrial areas as the State of Saxony and the Prussian provinces of the Rhineland and Westphalia is now 346.8, 318.3 and 249.3 per square kilometre respectively, whilst it is as low as 38 and 43 respectively in such agricultural areas as Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Grenzmark Posen- Westpreussen.
Another factor that has materially affected the position is the increased concentration in industry, commerce and traffic. Whilst the percentage of persons operating a business of their own decreased from 46 to 19 during the past fifty years, that of workers and other kinds of employees increased from 55 to 76. The workers soon discovered that, as individuals, they were unable to obtain a proper share in fixing the conditions of labour, and therefore created their own organisations – an example followed shortly afterwards by the employers. Under the influence of the “class” principle, these organisations gradually developed into mutually antagonistic forces; and in many instances, they regarded it as their principal task to fight one another. It is quite true that the Government, especially after the close of the War, became conscious of its duty to intervene in all serious labour disputes; but it continued to adhere to the Liberalistic dogma that the conditions of labour must be fixed – generally speaking – by the interested parties themselves. However, neither the organisations of the workers nor those of the employers proved capable of accomplishing this task in a satisfactory manner, so that strikes and lock outs followed upon one another in rapid succession. The social tension thus resulting was bound to develop into a grave internal crisis at some moment or other.
Germany found herself in the midst of such a crisis when Herr Hitler took over the Government of the country. Labour disputes had become a chronic feature. The Government’s arbitration boards were either too weak or too much under the influence of the politicians to bring order into the growing chaos. The trades unions that were swayed by Marxist teaching did not want social peace. They calculated that their chances of acquiring political power would improve with the growing dissatisfaction of the workers.
One of the first necessities with which the Hitler Government found itself faced was that of dissolving the organisations that kept alive the antagonism between employers and employees. They were replaced by the German Labour Front – a body comprising employers as well as employees. At the same time, preparations were made for the creation of an entirely new system of social order based on the following National Socialist principles: the solidarity of all persons working for their living; the idea of leadership; the recognition of the factory, etc., as a bond of union, and the ethical conceptions of honour and loyalty. All this preliminary work crystallised in the passing of the Act governing the regulation of national labour (January 20th, 1934).
THE NATIONAL LABOUR LAW
That Act has been correctly described as the Magna Charta of Germany’s social policy. The National Socialist principle of the solidarity of all persons working for their living finds its chief expression in its application to the individual works or factories. They are the nuclei of all social and economic life. The object aimed at is clearly set forth in Article 1 of the Act, according to which employers and employees are required “to collaborate with one another in order to promote the objects for which the undertaking has been founded and for the common benefit of the people and the State.” The same principle of solidarity is given expression in Article 2, where it says that the employer – described as the “leader” of the undertaking – is required to promote the welfare of the employees, whilst the latter are asked to show that spirit of loyalty towards the employer which is founded upon their joint interest in the undertaking.
On the basis of this mutual loyalty it became then possible to extend the National Socialist principle of leadership to the economic and social sphere, more particularly so because the employees are protected from any misuse of the powers thus conferred upon the employer by the Government-appointed trustees of labour. These latter are the Government’s representatives in the domain of labour. Their principal task is to preserve social and economic peace. They have to supervise the confidential councils (see below) and to settle any disputes that may arise. If it is found impossible to elect the members of the confidential councils in the ordinary way, the trustee of labour may make use of his power to appoint them himself. Such members as prove unsuitable for their task, either because of incapacity or on personal grounds, can be removed from the councils at his behest. He is entitled – either at the request of the confidential council or at his own initiative – to modify the works’ regulations or to draw up such regulations himself and to issue them with binding force if, contrary to the provisions of the law, no regulations have been drawn up by those required to do so or if the existing regulations fail to comply with the legal requirements. He is empowered in certain cases to issue wages regulations (to take the place of the wages agreements customary until 1933), and the works regulations have then to be adjusted to them. He is also authorised to issue guiding lines governing individual employment agreements, to which the works leader is required to adhere. Finally, he acts as prosecutor in connection with cases brought before the courts of social honour, and has to be consulted before any works are shut down and before any large numbers of workers are given notice. In special instances, additional functions can be transferred to him by the Minister of Labour or the Minister of National Economy. The trustee can only carry out his numerous tasks on condition that he maintains close contact with all those who are engaged in economic pursuits. The law has therefore empowered him to make use of experts who are specially sworn in and who have to promise” that they will exercise their functions to the best of their ability and knowledge, that they will not unduly promote the interests of any one party, and that they will devote themselves exclusively to the welfare of the community.”
Another instrument of which the trustees make use in the interests of the maintenance of social peace is the so-called confidential council already referred to. Confidential councils have to be set up in all works where more than twenty persons are employed. The members are elected by the employees. It is their special duty “to deepen the confidence that must exist in the works community.” The chief difference between them and the works councils created under the provisions of the Act of 1920 is that they are intended to remove the antagonism between employers and employees consciously fostered by the Act just referred to, in which it was provided that the works councils had “to represent the special interests of the employees as opposed to those of the employers.” Thus, the representative body of the employees is no longer an organ of class warfare, but one serving the interests of the community. Seeing that all members of the confidential councils must belong to the German Labour Front, it is evident that a close connection exists between the two organisations.
Although the new Act explicitly states that each undertaking has to settle its own affairs itself, it does not follow that there is a complete absence of regulations applicable to all of them in a general way. Thus, for instance, the wages regulations issued by the trustees of labour are of a compulsory character. Since May 1st, 1934, some 2,100 sets of such regulations have been issued – a circumstance which proves that the National Socialist Government is well aware of the dangers that might result from too individual a system of labour conditions during the period of transition.
It is in conformity with the spirit pervading Germany’s new social legislation that additional protection is now accorded to employees against unjust dismissals. Every employee who has been connected with an undertaking for not less than one year is entitled to appeal to the Labour Courts if, in his opinion, the notice of dismissal sent to him is unjust and is not prompted by the necessities of the undertaking.
If the court orders the employer to withdraw the notice and if he refuses to do so, he is required to pay compensation to the employee concerned. Normally, the sum thus payable must not exceed one-half of the income earned by the employee during the year immediately preceding his dismissal. If, however, “it is obvious that the dismissal is due to the high-handed action of the employer, that the reasons given for it are of a trivial nature, or that the power vested in the employer has been grossly abused,” the court may order the employer to pay compensation equal to the amount earned by the employee during the whole year. Whenever it is intended to dismiss a large number of employees, the trustees of labour are entitled to postpone the date at which the notices become effective by a period up to two months.
It follows from the foregoing brief outline of Germany’s new labour legislation that there can be no question of “the creation of a new kind of white slavery,” as had been asserted by hostile critics abroad during the first few years after Herr Hitler’s assumption of government. The truth, indeed, is that the liberty promised to the German workers by the preceding regimes but never really granted has now become a reality. The worker has been made a partner of the works community on a footing of equality. He has received increased protection from dismissal, and his social honour is safeguarded by a special code which has no equal anywhere. The stigma of proletarianism has been removed from him. It is self-evident, of course, that there can be no fruitful collaboration between the employer and his employees unless all are animated by the National Socialist spirit of solidarity. To cultivate that spirit, is the special task allotted to the German Labour Front. The tribunals of social honour see to it that decency, comradeship and loyalty are more than mere words when applied to the private intercourse between all members of the works. Anyone whose actions conflict with the essence of the spirit of solidarity or with the duties incumbent upon him as part of the works community, has to face severe penalties, such as his removal from the undertaking at which he was employed or his disqualification for the office of a works’ leader or for membership of the confidential council, all of which are equivalent to his elimination from the social sphere. Such penalties have already been inflicted in a number of instances and have been given full publicity.
THE GERMAN LABOUR FRONT
The legal foundation upon which the German Labour Front rests is a decree issued by Herr Hitler under date of October 24th, 1934. In Article 2 it is stated that the establishment of nation-wide solidarity of all persons engaged in economic activities is to be its chief purpose. In other words, the German Labour Front (G.L.F) is required to make the conviction prevail in all undertakings that – in the economic as well as in the political sphere – success depends upon the closest possible collaboration of all. Another object for which it has been founded is to maintain industrial peace, and to do so in co-operation with the trustees of labour. In order to achieve this object, the works’ leaders must have a profound understanding of the just demands of the employees and vice versa. To this end, a special agreement was concluded in March, 1935, between Dr. Schacht, the Minister of National Economy, and Dr. Ley, the head of the G.L.F., for the creation of social self administering bodies, viz., the local labour committees, the regional councils of labour and economy, the National Council of Labour, and the National Economic Council. Their function is to attend to economic and social questions transcending the scope of the individual undertakings and to give due prominence to the spirit of solidarity in solving them.
The G.L.F. is organised in a twofold way-first, in conformity with the organisation of the National Socialist party, and second, in conformity with that of the country’s national economy. On the occasion of the Nuremberg party rally (September 1936), Dr. Ley gave a detailed account of the practical work already done by the G.L.F. He showed that, among other matters, some 38,000 homesteads had already been created by that organisation, whilst an additional 65,000 were in course of erection and an additional 80,000 were contemplated. Not less than 234,000,000 reichsmarks was paid by way of benefits in the course of three years; and 2,500,000 persons attended the educational courses that were held in more than 400 training centres. More than 1,000,000 youths and young girls have so far taken part in the national vocational contests.
Special mention should be made of a sub-organisation of the G.L.F.-styled “Strength through Joy”-which is mainly concerned with holiday and leisure-time arrangements. Thanks to this branch of the G.L.F., Germany’s social policy has been extended to the cultural sphere.
The great popularity of the arrangements made by the ” Strength through Joy” organisation is proved by the large number of participants in them. The section for travelling and hiking is perhaps the most popular one, its membership having trebled in the course of the past three years. Its pleasure cruises to foreign countries have attracted great attention, both at home and abroad. They have enabled German workers to visit Norway, Finland, Great Britain, Lisbon, Madeira, the Azores and the Baltic countries; and even though personal contact with the inhabitants of those parts has necessarily been but brief and cursory, it has been sufficiently effective in showing up the preposterousness of many an anti¬German prejudice.
Equally valuable results have been attained by the tours within Germany. Whatever regional antagonisms may still have divided Germans, they have been dispelled by numerous opportunities thus afforded for obtaining a better knowledge of one another. Ethically and morally too, division into North and South has vanished. In 1934, the number of persons taking part in these travelling and hiking arrangements amounted to some 2,000,000; but by the end of 1936, it had gone up to more than 6,000,000, whilst several more millions will be added during the current year. The ultimate object is to enable 14,000,000 persons of small means to benefit from these arrangements every year. The cost is so low that 16 reichsmarks will pay for one week’s seaside holiday this year.
Other sections of the” Strength through Joy” organisation deal with sporting, artistic and educational matters, all of which tend to promote the spirit of national solidarity. On the occasion of the third annual meeting (November 27th, 1936), the management was in the proud position to announce that 52,700,000 persons had attended the 142,000 entertainments organised by the entertainment section during the preceding couple of years. During the first eleven months of 1936, the number of persons attending the stage performances of the theatres co-operating with the organisation amounted to 4,850,000.
Nearly 17,000,000 persons attended the variety entertainments arranged for the evening hours. Millions of German citizens have thus been enabled to derive pleasure and enjoyment on a scale which would have been unattainable by them without the aid of the organisation. Foreign critics have often pointed out the relatively low level of the wages paid in Germany and have commented on the fact that there has been no appreciable rise in that level notwithstanding the enhanced activity in the economic field during the past three years. They forget, however, that the real purchasing power of the masses has considerably increased, as the German workers are now in a position to benefit from the manifold facilities offered by the G.L.F. and its affiliated organisations.
Another special section is that attending to the æsthetic aspects of work. Its activities extend to the provision of up-to-date swimming baths, washing – and dressing – rooms, canteens, green spaces, etc., in connection with factories and other undertakings, to the improvement of the dwelling accommodation on river-craft, to the creation of model villages, and to the elimination of everything that detracts from the outward appearance of the workers’ homesteads. More than 500,000,000 reichsmarks has already been spent on these objects at the instance of that section and with its collaboration. As regards their pleasant appearance, the access to them of light and air, and their tasteful design, the German factory buildings are second to none.
A few remarks must be added on the subject of sports. The” Strength through Joy” organisation has taken a remarkable interest in furthering them. Even when it is remembered that physical education is one of the main planks of the reconstruction programme of modern Germany, the fact that 6,000,000 persons took part last year in the sporting arrangements made by that organisation is an achievement of no mean significance. The number of sports instructors went up from 1,300 at the end of 1935 to 2,800 a twelvemonth later. The report presented to the annual meeting held on November 27th, 1936, rightly speaks of a cultural achievement and contains the following passage:
Three years ago we began to arouse and mobilise the intellectual and ethical capabilities inherent in the German workman by enabling him to realise the beauty and grandeur of life in nature, art and the company of those of his fellows who share his own views. In doing so, we have broken with a social convention that had been valid for decades and have removed the antagonism between work and culture.
The report shows that the objects aimed at have already been attained to a considerable extent.
REORGANISATION OF PUBLIC WELFARE WORK
The scope of this article does not allow us to give an account of all the branches of social policy. We therefore limit ourselves to a description of those especially characteristic of the attitude of the Third Reich towards these matters, and now turn to the National Socialist achievements in connection with public welfare work, the most important of which is the Winter Relief Scheme – an organisation well known abroad. It is conceived as a comprehensive effort on the part of the whole German people. Within its framework, the various organisations of the National Socialist party, the independent private associations, the Roman Catholic “Caritas,” the Home Mission, the Protestant Church, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and others, harmoniously collaborate with one another. Even very small religious groups, such as the Adventists, are represented among them. For reasons of convenience the Jewish organisations have alone been left outside the scheme; but this does not mean that the charity work carried on for the benefit of necessitous Jews is in any way inferior to that carried on for the rest of the population. Any allegations of a contrary nature that are made by anti-German writers are pure inventions.
During the winter months of 1933-4, some 17,000,000 persons were looked after by the Scheme. Thanks to the improved economic conditions and the decrease in the number of unemployed, the figure went down to 13,800,000 in 1934-5, and to 12,900,000 in 1935-6. Among the beneficiaries were 69,336 foreigners. Although the number of persons looked after has gone down year after year, the aggregate amount collected has continually gone up, as may be seen from the following figures: 1933-4 – 350,000,000 reichsmarks; 1934-5 ¬ 360,500,000 reichsmarks; 1935-6 – 372,000,000 reichsmarks. Hence, individual benefits could be correspondingly increased. A comparison with the results achieved by the Winter Relief Schemes of 1931-2 and 1932-3 -when the total collections amounted to 97,000,000 reichsmarks and 91,000,000 reichsmarks respectively – clearly shows the great change that came over the attitude of the German people in this respect since the taking-over of the Government by Herr Hitler. Not less than 52,903,070 (metric) hundredweight of coal were distributed in 1933-4, or nearly fifty times as much as in 1931-2.
The methods adopted under the scheme present a good deal of variety. Once a month, every household, etc., limits its principal meal to a so-called” one-dish dinner,” the money thus saved being passed on to the organisers of the scheme. Additional funds are obtained by street collections on the part of members of the party organisations, the various vocational groups, etc., and people are also asked to subscribe fixed amounts at regular or irregular intervals. The Fuhrer’s motto: “No one shall go hungry, and no one shall feel cold,” guides the activities conducted under the scheme. The circle of beneficiaries includes persons out of work or doing part-time work only, those receiving assistance from the public welfare authorities, those in receipt of small annuities, etc., so that the surprise sometimes expressed by foreign critics at the alleged disproportion between the small number of unemployed and the large number of persons benefiting from the Winter Relief Scheme is easily explained.
The cost incurred under the Scheme works out at 1.7 per cent. of the total value of the collections, this low percentage being due to the large number of unpaid collectors, of whom there were 1,234,000 in the winter months of 1935-6.
Next in importance to the Winter Relief Scheme is the “Mother and Child” organisation. Its object is to improve the racial biological standards of family health. The methods adopted to that end are threefold: First, assistance is given to healthy families in economic distress (money, deliveries in kind, opportunities for work, facilities in connection with dwelling accommodation); secondly, assistance is given to mothers and children just before and after the birth of the latter by sending them to suitable recreation homes; thirdly, numerous kindergartens are provided in the towns and in the country. The funds required for these measures are mainly derived from the contributions paid by the members of the National Socialist Welfare Organisation – the leading organisation of its kind in modern Germany, with a staff of 21,935 helpers in 1936. Some 1,098,000 children below school age were looked after in the kindergartens. More than 3,000,000 persons made use in 1935 of the facilities for advice placed at their disposal. Economic assistance was given, in 1935, to 1,180,000 families comprising 4,760,000 persons. The total sum of money spent on economic relief up to September 1936 amounted to 38,600,000 reichsmarks.
It should be noted that the various schemes here described are of a voluntary character, that they are financed by the people, and that they are supplementary to the enormous achievements of the National Socialist State in respect of social insurance, war veterans’ relief, national relief, publicly financed charitable institutions, and labour exchange, most of which – as has been said before – have to be left outside the scope of the present account.
HOMESTEADS FOR WORKERS
There is room, however, for some remarks on two publicly conducted activities, viz., the homestead scheme, and the work done by the labour exchanges.
Everybody who has travelled through Germany in recent years must have noted the numerous pleasant-looking dwelling houses (and colonies of them) on the outskirts of large towns, each of them surrounded by a small garden. These homesteads are financed with the aid of the Government. Their present number is about 140,000; but an additional 60,000 or 70,000 will be built in the course of the present year, so that there will soon be some 200,000 in all parts of the country. Even this, however, only marks the beginnings of a far larger scheme, as it is intended to raise their number to several millions within the next few years. National Socialists are firm believers in the “back-to-the-land” movement and hold that something must be done to stop the excessive congregation of human material in towns and industrial districts. Besides, the homestead scheme is of considerable economic value. On an average, 400 reichsmarks’ worth of supplementary foodstuffs is produced by each homestead per annum.
At its inception, the scheme was intended to be mainly a charitable measure. This was expressly stated in President Hindenburg’s decree issued October 6th, 1931, relative to “surburban homesteads.”
Preference was to be given to big towns and industrial districts where unemployment was particularly severe. The National Socialist Government has abandoned that conception. The homesteads now created are chiefly intended for persons in full employment, and preference is given to small and medium-sized municipalities and to country areas. The object aimed at is to assist in creating a working population more or less permanently settled on the land occupied by it and enjoying a fair measure of economic security. Although on principle every German citizen possessed of small means only is entitled to benefit from the scheme, provided that he is honest, healthy and nationally and politically dependable, it has become more and more customary in recent years to confine the scheme to workmen. Last autumn, for example, the public funds provided for its working were exclusively assigned to the erection of workmen’s homesteads.
Private funds are being increasingly used to finance the scheme. At first, practically the whole cost of each homestead was covered by loans obtained from the Government. To-day, however, the funds required are largely raised in the private capital market. From 15 to 20 per cent. of the cost has to be found by the worker himself. Public funds are now only granted to finance the “peaks” of the invested money. As a rule, no loans exceeding 1,500 reichsmarks are granted per homestead, although in exceptional instances an additional 300 reichsmarks and a Government guarantee of second mortgages are also obtainable. The size of each homestead together with the ground it occupies must be large enough to include 1,000 square metres of usable land.
Not every German worker is either able or willing to acquire a homestead of his own. Moreover, there is still considerable lack of dwelling accommodation in the towns, notwithstanding the increased building activity since 1933. It has therefore become necessary to use public funds for the erection of workmen’s flats as well. The money thus made available helps to finance buildings of this kind, the flats being let to workmen at reasonable rents. The” barracks” type is avoided, most of the buildings concerned being relatively small and only rising to the height of a few storeys. Since the early part of 1935, about 100,000 such “people’s dwellings” have been provided.
The distribution of labour in modern Germany is regulated by the Government in a systematic manner. The “totalitarian” principle, which governs all the activities of the Third Reich, has thus impressed its stamp upon this domain also.
The public authority dealing with these matters is the Government Board for Labour Exchanges and Unemployment Insurance. Its name sufficiently indicates its twofold purpose. By the collaboration of all the competent bodies it has become possible to reduce the number of unemployed from 6,014,000 in January 1933 to about 1,100,000 in August 1936. Seeing that at most 50 per cent. of the latter can be regarded as still employable, it follows that mass unemployment has ceased to exist in Germany.
One of the aims in view – in so far as the distribution of labour is concerned – is the application to it of the National Socialist views on population policy and vocational policy. This means that, as a first necessity, the influx of workmen from the rural districts to the industrial centres must be reversed, and, in addition, that preferential treatment must be accorded to older workmen and to married men with children. The first-named purpose is achieved by an Act passed May 15th, 1934 by which the President of the Board referred to above is empowered to rule that his consent must be obtained before non-local workmen and other employees are permitted to look for employment in districts where unemployment is high. The prohibitions thus enforced in regard to Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, and the Saar have achieved the desired object. In Berlin, for example, unemployment was reduced by two-thirds within a couple of years. It was therefore possible to cancel some of these prohibitions (viz., those affecting Bremen, the Saar, and, to some extent, Berlin) by a decree which became effective in December 1936.
A decree issued May 11th, 1934, prohibited the admission of agricultural labourers to certain industries, to the post office and railway services, etc. By the decree issued on February 26th, 1935, the President of the Board was further empowered to withdraw agricultural labourers from non-agricultural vocations and thus enable them to return to their original occupations.
Further assistance to agriculture was provided by the arrangements enabling young men and women volunteers to place their services at the disposal of farmers for periods of six months or more. On an average, some 100,000 young persons volunteered to do so during the period 1933-5. They are given free board and lodging by their employers, and also receive a monetary remuneration out of the funds controlled by the Board. Many of them have continued to stay with the farmers after the expiration of their original term of six months. Now that this measure has served its purpose well, the relevant decrees issued by the President of the Board have also been withdrawn, effective December 1st, 1936.
Other regulations concern the exchange of younger for older employees. It had been found that the decline of unemployment since Herr Hitler took up office mainly benefited the younger unemployed (between the ages of 18 and 25). In that category, unemployment decreased by two-thirds, whilst the decrease was only half as much in the age group from 40 to 60. Such a development conflicts with the principles of National Socialist family policy. By a decree issued August 10th; 1934, the President of the Board was accordingly authorised to make arrangements for the interchange of younger and older employees. This measure affected some 130,000 employees during the period October 1934 to October 1935. It was also provided that the consent of the competent local Labour Exchange had to be obtained before persons below 25 were given employment. That interchange has now come to an end, and – in view of the progressive shortage of labour – the consent just referred to is hardly ever refused.
Another measure intended to facilitate the most suitable distribution of the available labour is the introduction of the so-called “employment book.” This was made compulsory by the Act passed February 26th, 1935 The book contains exact particulars regarding the owner’s age, whether married or unmarried, his vocational training, his qualifications for employment, and similar matters. By now, some 20,600,000 workers and other employees have been supplied with such books.
It will be gathered from the foregoing account that the distribution of labour in Germany is not subject to hard and fast rules, but is governed by the conditions that prevail at the time concerned. Restrictions in connection with the search for work, etc., are only imposed in so far as the primary interests of the State and those of the body economic make it necessary.
This remark also applies to the rules governing the distribution of labour under the Four-Year Plan as drawn up towards the close of 1936 by General Göring, Herr Hitler’s commissioner responsible for the working of the plan. Owing to the decrease of unemployment, the number of available trained workers has progressively declined, more especially in such key industries as the building trade and the iron and non-ferrous metals industry. The number of unemployed bricklayers went down from 162,000 in 1933 to 8,000 in 1936, and that of unemployed locksmiths and engine-fitters from 262,000 to 31,000. There was a risk that serious inconvenience might arise in those two industries if nothing was done to improve the position; and as the conditions in other industries tended to change in the same manner, it was considered wise to make timely arrangements for a supply of trained apprentices before it was too late. Accordingly, General Göring decided to introduce a series of measures which were announced on November 7th, 1936. The first of them deals with the two key industries just referred to. On the strength of the reports received by the President of the Board for Labour Exchanges from works employing ten or more persons, he is authorised to demand that the works concerned shall add to the number of their apprentices. It may be assumed that he will but rarely avail himself of this authority, because the reports already received show that employers have spontaneously complied to a far-reaching extent with their duties in connection with the training of apprentices. Here, too, the initiative of the Government commissioner is therefore of a subsidiary nature only. In exceptional cases – i.e., when the works are unable, for special reasons, to increase the number of apprentices – they may be asked to pay a sum of money by way of compensation. At present, these rules are only applicable to the two key industries named; but it may be taken for granted that they will be applied to other industries as well if the need for doing so should arise.
The second and third of the measures introduced by the commissioner for the Four-Year Plan are intended to ensure that there is always a sufficient supply of workers in the metal-working industry and in the building trade. Whenever it is desired to employ ten or more additional metal workers, the consent of the Labour Exchange must first be obtained, which will only be given after carefully considering the primary interests of the State and the body economic. Moreover, it has been provided that trained workers employed in work not really suitable for them in view of their past training may be transferred by the Labour Exchanges – if necessary, without formal notice – to other work for which their skill and knowledge makes them more suitable. A further rule serving the same purpose-i.e., that of making more rational use of the available labour – makes it compulsory to inform the authorities beforehand of any large piece of work which it is intended to take in hand. Lastly, there is a rule by which preference is to be given to older workers when vacancies have to be filled up. That rule is in the nature of an appeal to the works’ leaders, reminding them of their moral duty in this respect. If they fail to respond to it, compulsion will be used by the Government.
There can be no doubt that the Four-Year Plan makes additional demands upon the workers. It is an important aim of Germany’s economic policy to maintain the existing equilibrium of wages and prices; and for that reason, no wage increases are possible. General Göring, however, acting as the Führer’s Commissioner for the Four-Year Plan, has issued a decree dated December 3rd, 1937, which provides that payment in full is to be made for the following public holidays: New Year’s Day, Easter Monday, Whit-Monday, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day, although, of course, no work is done on these days.
Germany’s social policy is thus a healthy combination of freedom and compulsion. No other policy would enable the country’s predominantly industrial population to preserve its continued existence on the relatively limited space within which it is confined. Beyond that, the new social order pays due regard to such specifically German character traits as a sense of honour, loyalty, comradeship, fairness, collaboration, and a pronounced love of nature. All these characteristics were temporarily submerged owing to the soulless mechanisation typical of some aspects of modern civilisation. No correct appreciation of Germany’s new social order would be complete if it confined itself to a study of the institutional innovations. The spirit that has created the new forms and that finds its expression in them is far more important than these can ever be.
There is probably no country – except Russia – in which international Marxism has done more serious damage than in Germany. The German people have a natural liking for abstract speculation – a circumstance which made it easy for the spokesmen of the various Internationals to poison the minds of nearly one-half of the German population by their anti-national propaganda. In the end, a widespread conviction had grown up that the national interests were the special prerogative of the capitalists and that the workers’ only hope of salvation was the world revolution.
To-day we find it difficult to realise the depth of the antagonisms that divided the German nation prior to 1933. In some other countries there is undoubtedly a greater cleavage, at least outwardly, between the various social groups than exists in Germany; but in our country things had gone so far that, although the vital needs and the life habits of all its inhabitants are very much the same, the various sections were unable to understand one another, as the political views they held were so fundamentally different. They were, indeed, quite ready to fly at each other’s throats and looked upon one another as enemies rather than as fellow-citizens. The tension between the workers and the middle classes, and between the different vocational groups had become so great that civil war – always latent – threatened to break out openly at any moment. Since then, however, a complete transformation has taken place. The workmen, the handicraftsmen, the farmers, the average citizens – none of them resemble their former selves. Naturally, there are still a few who cannot or will not detach themselves from the past, but their existence is made negligible by the fact that the broad masses of the people have changed their political outlook within a remarkably brief space of time.
Consider, for instance, the workman. Accompany me on a stroll through the factories of the country, and you will discover that the spirit that prevails in them has changed.
Germany has been re-born. The Leader told us on the occasion of one of the party rallies – and he has often repeated it – that he regards this fundamental transformation as the most wonderful achievement of our time. Where there was hopelessness and despair, there is now faith, a joyful outlook on life, and renewed hope. Formerly, there was mutual enmity, jealousy, envy, and hatred, but to-day everybody tries to make himself useful to his fellows, to be their loyal comrade, and to render them some small service whenever he can.
I have always stated in my numerous speeches and addresses that it would be wrong to assert that all our troubles had vanished, and that everybody could now look at things through rose-coloured spectacles. The truth is that our troubles are still great and that they will remain so. The sacrifices demanded of each individual are perhaps greater than before; and the work many of us are expected to perform is certainly much more difficult now than in the past. We have not reached that state of supreme bliss that may result from the absence of all worries, anxieties, and oppressive burdens. And yet, people have taken a new delight in life, in mutual collaboration, and in everything that makes a nation what it is.
Formerly, every citizen who was a little better off than his neighbour, or earned more than he, or exceeded him in skill and efficiency, was treated with spiteful jealousy. Certain quarters made it their business to exploit that antagonism for the furtherance of their political ends, and the vitiated atmosphere thus created, was like a blight affecting the whole nation. That does not mean that optimism, hopefulness and a sound faith in the future had completely died out. But these characteristics were confined to individuals, and when the latter came together in mass meetings or created a political party, their place was immediately taken by discontent, strife, and a lack of mutual trust.
Now, however, that disunited people has been given a new leadership. Critics may fail to understand what I mean by this and may ask: “Were there no leaders in the past?” There have certainly been States, and political, social, and economic regimes since the dawn of history; but true leadership is something absolutely new and unique. This nation has passed through every form of political organisation. It has had its emperors, kings, princely rulers, and republics. It has tried all kinds of economic organisations. Vocations, class divisions and class distinctions have come and gone. But a genuine leadership has never existed during the past two thousand years; and the individual citizen has never felt that there is someone at the head of affairs who takes a personal interest in him, that his own troubles are also the troubles of his leaders, and that people occupying responsible positions look after him.
Those who make a total claim to the soul of a people must not content themselves with advocating their principles, but must also possess a gift for organisation. It is not sufficient that everybody is theoretically convinced of the truth of those principles. The point that really matters is that the idea proclaimed must continue to remain a living force and must be translated into actual practice. For this reason, National Socialism has created an organisation that is truly all-comprehensive. Foreigners may find it strange that almost all Germans belong to some organisation or other and that a good many of them wear a uniform or are known by some designation of their status. This, however, is not so strange as it looks. The object of that great organisation is to make every German realise that he is personally called upon to do his share in the governance of the country within the sphere allotted to him, and that he is not merely governed from above. National Socialism does not wish to rely for support upon a small number of ruling elements, but desires to be always representative of the will of the whole nation. That means that the National Socialist movement must maintain the closest possible contact with the people and that the capacity for doing so – without which the work achieved could not have been accomplished – must not be lost. A leader who loses contact with the people is sure to lose very soon the qualifications for leadership. No other movement has been better able than National Socialism to speak the language of the people. Its teaching is therefore immediately understood and all the measures initiated by it become effective forthwith without the necessity for prolonged deliberations as a preliminary to action.
The National Socialist Government has dissolved the trades-unions and the federations of employers. It will oppose anyone and anything tending to divide the people into groups. Every factory and every undertaking constitutes a unit, and nothing must be done to interfere with its unity. Works’ leaders and employees must decide for themselves, as far as this is possible, how matters are to be arranged. They must find their way to one another, must look upon themselves as an inseparable community, and must cultivate the spirit of comradeship. Their destinies are in their own hands. We have told them: We cannot and we do not interfere with you. Those who assert the contrary want to deceive you. All we can do is to teach you how to master your destiny. We can supply you with the weapons which you need in your struggle. But do not forget that no one can relieve you of that struggle.
No one can dissociate himself from that community or defy it or cowardly hold himself aloof. Every man and every woman, old and young, employer and employed, are governed by the same destiny if they are jointly working in the same undertaking. Their own destiny and that of the undertaking are identical.
Whenever the undertaking is prosperous, they are prosperous also; and whenever it has to face adversity, they have to do so too. They are members of a living community.
It would be completely wrong to imagine that it would be contrary to National Socialist principles to engage in economic activities in a private capacity. It is a fashion with some people to cry out against materialism and materialists. But without material things, there can be no life. We therefore do not despise them. Sometimes there have been moralists who advocated the separate identity of body, soul and mind; but such a view is untenable. If we take away the body, neither a soul nor a mind will be left. If we take away the soul, all that is left is a cold and unemotional creature; and if we take away the mind, the result will be a poor, miserable idiot. The three things belong together. We shall and must retain command of all material things; and we shall and must wrestle with materialism day after day lest it should acquire command over us. Providence has given us reasoning powers and a creative mind, which enables us to mould the material things as we like, to make new inventions, and to ponder over them. But we always need material things when we wish to give practical shape to the new ideas our brain has conceived.
There is therefore nothing disagreeable in our concern with material things. What would be the good of all our Socialist projects if there were no persons capable of calculating, organising and doing business?
Members of another school of thought desire to persuade us that business and idealism mutually exclude each other and are mutually contradictory. That allegation, too, is not correct. I maintain that the very opposite is true. A real idealist anxious to render a genuine service to mankind must have both feet on solid ground. If he has not, he becomes a visionary and a dreamer, and all his idealism becomes worthless and futile. No one derives any benefit from his ideals and ideas. But it is also true that no economic undertaking can prosper unless it is planned and managed and organised in a genuinely idealistic spirit. In every other case, sham prosperity is the best that can be hoped for.
Thus, business and idealism are not contradictions, but rather supplement one another. No idealism can be of any use if it lacks a material foundation.
Our paramount duty is of an educational nature, and our ultimate aim is to establish true national solidarity. Socialism is neither a gift nor a message. It is not a lifeless object manifesting itself in dead paragraphs. Socialism is justice. The workmen in the new Germany know that they do not belong to the great mass of those who, despite the heavy and burdensome work they do, are merely able to earn a scanty livelihood, whilst a small number of more privileged persons can indulge in all the pleasures of life. They know that their welfare is being constantly looked after, that this world and all the things it has to offer exist for their benefit also, and that they are not mere outsiders to all that. It was certainly no easy task to convert convinced Communists and Social Democrats into wholehearted supporters of the principle of national solidarity. Fine words alone were no use – they had to be supplemented by deeds. Those who had an uncompromising faith in their ability to convince the German workmen of the justice of the claims made by the Leader won the day after a hard struggle. We now know that the people are behind their Leader like one man. It is therefore possible to entrust them with tasks that demand sacrifices and retrenchment. The Four-Year Plan is such a task, and its fulfilment is assured because of the nation’s confidence in its Leader. The great work to be achieved under the plan will prepare the road for the German people’s new prosperity. True Socialism always endeavours to create new values, so that the nation can spend more money and can buy more commodities. The peaceful struggle for safeguarding the material independence of the German people and the supply of a sufficiency of raw materials will be brought to a successful issue.
This conviction is almost unanimously shared by Germany’s workers. They realise that Herr Hitler is fighting their own battle and that he – who has sprung from their own ranks – is indeed their Leader. They know that he concerns himself by day and night with the cares of every German. They have therefore put their trust in him and support his efforts for the maintenance of social peace within Germany just as keenly as they support those for the maintenance of external peace throughout the world. The Leader’s foreign policy aims at international peace, and his home policy has established social justice. For that reason, Germany is now spared the strikes and the unrest so prevalent in some other countries.
Herr Hitler, as the true Leader of his fellow countrymen, gives effect to the will expressed by them, just as they, in their turn, have willingly and loyally acknowledged his leadership. Thus, there is perfect concord between the Leader and the nation.