RADICAL PEASANT MOVEMENT IN THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC
The peasant estate in Germany started developing its own ideology much earlier than in other European countries, i.e. at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was a consequence of the strong feeling of distinctiveness from other social groups. The consciousness of its autonomy was primarily shaped by the constantly growing threat from the landowners’ group (junkers). The peasants began to clearly emphasize their presence in the political life along with the proclamation of the Weimar Republic. The first peasants’ association — the “Bauernverein” — was established in Schleswig-Holstein as soon as the spring of 1919. In the beginning the “Bauerverein” maintained close contacts with liberal groups, like the “Deutsche Demokratische Partei” and the “Deutsche Volkspartei.” Nevertheless, under no circumstances may the association be considered as representing the liberal viewpoint. The maintaining of contacts with DVP was motivated by tactical reasons and was supposed to permit the “Bauerverein” to become politically independent from conservatives. The representatives of the “Bauerverein” unequivocally rejected the model of atomistic society which was developed by a liberal thought, clearly favoring the theory which regarded society as an organic whole, consisting of estates which were naturally distinctive and mutually cooperative throughout centuries. Another attempt to free the peasant estate from the domination of powerful landowners was an establishment — in 1920 — of an organization called the “Reichslandbund.” It was an ultraconservative party with doctrinal affinity to the Nationalists in the East, and in central Germany — where political climate was more moderate — to the “Volkspartei.” In January 1928, in Schleswig-Holstein, peasants created radical organization called the “Landvolk.” The prevailing political mood in Schleswig-Holstein made peasants from other lands exhibit in mass their displeasure with the social and economic circumstances in the country. In southern Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia, and also in Austrian Tyrol, local organizational cells of the “Landvolk” soon began to emerge. Both NSDAP and KPD perceived the peasants’ movement as a potential source of electorate and started the attempts to gain its support. The disappointment with traditional political parties made peasants view the National Socialist party — contrary to the Communists — as the group the cooperation with which created an actual opportunity to fulfill their postulates. The National Socialist party, conscious of the peasants’ interest in their organization, established within its structure, in 1930, the Department for Agrarian Matters (Abteilung für Landwirtschaftsfragen) and, due to propaganda reasons, started cooperating closely with “Reichslandbund.” The Communists’ attempts to gain the peasants’ support failed. Ultimately, the peasants’ movement was absorbed by the National Socialist party and completely lost its autonomy.