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frequently from small communities under ¬ve thousand and less often from
cities of over one hundred thousand, and they were more youthful than their
In the past, the harsh anti-Marxist stance of the Nazis, the tendency of
both the Nazis™ vanquished socialist rivals then and academic analysts since to
privilege class as an explanatory factor, the higher visibility of the middle-class
component of Nazi members and voters in comparison to its working-class
element, and the propensity to dismiss Nazi rhetoric on topics other than race
and war as merely calculated, opportunistic, and without substance, have all
contributed to the portrayal of the Nazis as the vehicle of middle- and lower-
middle-class mobilization and triumph over a working-class challenge in a
class war.28 In place of the privileged position that class had in the historical
explanation of National Socialism, however, other factors have now also been
increasingly taken into consideration. Recent research has revealed the extent
of the working-class component (or a diverse “lower class” to use the less
ideologically and emotionally freighted terminology of Detlef Muhlenberger),29
leading to a recharacterization of the Nazis as a Volkspartei “ a heterogeneous

mass movement broadly representative of German society and held together
by something other than class panic and class interest.

Jurgen Falter, “War die NSDAP die erste deutsche Volkspartei?” Nationalsozialismus und Mod-

ernisierung, eds. Michael Prinz and Rainer Zittelman (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchge-
sellschaft, 1994), 32“3; Jurgen Falter, “The National Socialist Mobilization of New Voters:
1928“1933,” in The Formation of the Nazi Constituency, 1919“1933, ed. Thomas Childers
(Totowa, NJ: Barnes and Noble, 1986), 217“19. Conan Fischer, The Rise of the Nazis, 2nd ed.
(Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press and Palgrave, 2002), 100, 121.
Falter, “War die NSDAP die erste Deutsche Volkspartei,” 33“4, 38, 41“2, 44. Fischer, The Rise

of the Nazis, 108“9, 118“19, 122.
Jurgen Falter, “The Young Membership of the NSDAP between 1925 and 1933,” in The

Rise of National Socialism and the Working Classes in Weimar Germany ed. Conan Fischer
(Providence, RI and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 1996), 81“8.
The classic example of this approach on the microhistorical level is William Sheridan Allen,

The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town, 1930“1935 (Chicago:
Quadrangle, 1965; rev. ed., New York: F. Watts, 1984).
Detlef Muhlberger, Hitler™s Followers: Studies in the Sociology of the Nazi Movement (London

and New York: Routledge, 1991).
The many contributions of Jurgen Falter, such as “War die NSDAP die erste Deutsche

Frameworks for Social Engineering 239

The Nazis were anti-Marxist, antiliberal, antidemocratic, anti-Semitic, and
to a lesser extent, anticapitalist and anti-“reactionary.” And they expertly and
sensitively tailored special appeals to different constituencies and regions. But
what, in broad and sweeping terms, were they for that provided the “glue” to
attract and hold together their heterogeneous membership and voters? What, in
short, allowed so many different Germans to identify with one political move-
ment in a society previously characterized by intense political fragmentation
and the impenetrable walls of distinct social milieus? The ideal of Volksgemein-
schaft was key in this regard.31 Its tremendously evocative power, suf¬cient to
bind the Nazi movement and the German people together, must be understood
in the context of two drastically contrasting experiences in recent German
The ¬rst was the popular memory of euphoric unity in August 1914 jux-
taposed with the prewar political, social, and confessional tensions. The divi-
sions of the Kaiserreich seemingly had been overcome in a moment of mythic
transcendence. In the not so distant past, according to this popular memory,
Germans had been united in their self-sacri¬ce, unquestioning loyalty, disci-
pline, toughness, and martial valor. This had allowed them to conquer a vast
East European empire and carried them to the brink of victory in the west as
well.32 The second contrasting popular memory was one of sudden defeat, rev-
olution, hyperin¬‚ation, and economic collapse. National humiliation, political
gridlock, economic vulnerability, and vast unemployment, moral and cultural
decadence, societal breakdown, and the looming threat of Bolshevism consti-
tuted the new German condition, which could only be remedied by a return to
the mythic unity of August 1914.
Central to the Nazi message was its self-representation as the vehicle of
a restored Volksgemeinschaft.33 This was not a ¬g leaf of opportunistic and
insincere electoral rhetoric to cover the naked assertion of class interest, but
an integral element of Nazi ideology. For Hitler and National Socialism (and
in ideology it is dif¬cult to separate the two), race was the de¬ning element
of reality and the driving force of history. The culture of the collective and
the behavior of the individual were both merely re¬‚ections and epiphenomena
of a racial and biological foundation. Hence class, as well as other bonds
of af¬liation and identity, and, above all, political parties based on economic
interest were viewed as forms of “false consciousness” that threatened to divide

For other recent studies that emphasize the centrality of Volksgemeinschaft, see Fritzsche, Ger-

mans into Nazis; Claude-Christian W. Szejnmann, Nazism in Central Germany: The Brown-
shirts in ˜Red™ Saxony (New York: Berghahn Books, 1999); and Fischer, The Rise of the Nazis.
Jeffrey Verhey, The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth and Mobilization in Germany (Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 2000).
The Nazis were considerably more successful than their rivals in appropriating the “political

topos” of Volksgemeinschaft. Michael Wildt, “˜Volksgemeinschaft™ als politischer Topos in
der Weimarer Republik,” in NS“Gewaltschaft: Beitrage zur historischen Forschung und juris-
tisichen Aufarbeitung, eds. Alfred Gottwaldt, Norbert Kampe, and Peter Klein (Berlin: Edition
Hentrich, 2005), 23“39.
Christopher R. Browning and Lewis H. Siegelbaum

racial comrades and unite racial rivals in a manner inherently inimical to the
well-being of the racial collective or Volksgemeinschaft and contrary to the law
of nature.
The Nazi attack on the “party system” was as vituperative as its attack
on Marxism. But in the latter regard it is important to note that in their self-
understanding, the Nazis could “hate the sin” (Marxism) and still “love the
sinner” (the misled German workers). They did not understand their victory as
the triumph of the middle class over the working class, but rather as a victory
for the unity of the German people over the divisive “party system” and divisive
“Marxism.” The Nazi triumph was seen as a victory not in class warfare but
over class warfare. This was a victory, so understood, that many Germans of
all walks of life longed for and identi¬ed with. And they considered their giving
up past political loyalties and throwing in their lot with the Nazis, placing the
common good above self-interest, to be an act of “idealism.”
Such a conception of Nazi “idealism” and the wide resonance of the Volks-
gemeinschaft seem also to account for why the unremitting Nazi assertion
of male supremacy and opposition to women™s emancipation had no severe
electoral repercussions, and its female vote only slightly trailed its male vote.
Bourgeois women™s organizations in particular had increasingly identi¬ed with
opposition to Weimar parliamentary democracy and the SPD and espoused vir-
ulent nationalism. Such groups had long given up advocating general women™s
issues while accepting women™s “natural roles,” especially for restoring tradi-
tional family values in the face of Weimar™s alleged “degeneracy.” They were
particularly vulnerable to equating their own idealized vision of Volksgemein-
schaft with that of the Nazis.34

class matters; race matters
The class animus to Soviet politics and ascribed social identities reached its
zenith during the “socialist offensive” of the late 1920s and early 1930s. The
main targets in this offensive were kulaks, NEPmen (the “new bourgeoisie”
engendered by the legal revival of trade and small-scale private entrepreneur-
ship under the New Economic Policy), and artisans who hired labor, as well as
remnants of other “class-alien elements” who were to be purged from Soviet
institutions. Here attention will focus mainly on dekulakization, the most mas-
sive of the operations and, since the opening of the archives, the one that is
best documented.
Dekulakization was an extremely blunt instrument that was used to promote
collectivization. The bluntness was inscribed into the guidelines contained in a
Politburo resolution of January 30, 1930, that included “orientational” num-
bers (in thousands) of families from each region to be sent to “concentration
camps” and deported to remote parts of the country. “The numbers in each

Frevert, Women in German History, 198“99, 203“4, 207“16; Reagin, A German Women™s

Movement, 221“57.
Frameworks for Social Engineering 241

of the three categories of liquidated kulak farms,” read the resolution, “must
be strictly differentiated by district, depending on the actual number of kulak
farms, so long as the general number of liquidated farms in all districts con-
stitutes on average approximately three to ¬ve percent.” So, the OGPU (the
political police), which was mandated to carry out these instructions, was to
pay attention to the “actual number of kulak farms,” but at the same time
ensure that an “average” of between 3 and 5 percent was reached, all the while
preventing expropriations from spreading to “any part of seredniak farms.”35
The contradictory messages contained in this one sentence are quite staggering.
The identi¬cation of kulaks in each village undergoing collectivization was
the job of commissions of rural soviets in which representatives from raion
executive committees, party organizations, poor peasants, and the OGPU par-
ticipated. The commissions typically relied on lists of disenfranchised persons
kept by local electoral of¬ces. But often this was only a starting point. It
appears that almost anyone was fair game for inventory taking and con¬sca-
tion “ relatives (sometimes distant) of identi¬ed kulaks, those who had taken
advantage of opportunities presented by the Stolypin reforms for separating
from village communes or been on the wrong side during the civil war, Red
Army veterans who returned to their native villages, temporarily prosperous
families, village troublemakers, outsiders such as schoolteachers, and so on.36
This explosive combination of the party™s quota-driven agenda and the working
out of personal antipathies virtually guaranteed the “distortions,” “excesses,”
and “outrages” that appeared routinely in reports from the provinces, were
famously condemned by Stalin in March 1930, but persisted thereafter.37 At
the same time, a portent of what was to come later in the decade was the con¬‚a-
tion of (particularly Polish and German) ethnic and class categories which led
to the Stalin era™s “¬rst instance of ethnic deportation” in the western border
Like its urban equivalent, the bourgeoisie, kulak became an all-purpose term
of abuse and denunciation. Collectivized peasants learned to use it without
much dif¬culty to oust chairmen and other of¬cials who abused them, or as a
weapon against those with whom they were feuding. Schoolchildren, inspired
by the cult of Pavlik Morozov, did the same even in urban areas. Of¬cials

V. Danilov et al., eds., Tragediia sovetskoi derevni, Kollektivizatsiia i raskulachivanie: Doku-

menty i materialy v 5 tomakh, 1927“1939, vol. 2 (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2000), 127.
Fitzpatrick, Stalin™s Peasants, 54“9; A. K. Sokolov, ed., Golos naroda: Pis™ma i otkliki riadovykh

sovetskikh grazhdan o sobytiiakh 1918“1932 gg. (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 1998), 289“96. By
the same token, petitions from collective farmers in the mid-1930s to have their civil rights
restored suggest that it was possible to avoid dekulakization even if one did appear on a list
of the disenfranchised. See T. I. Slavko, Kulatskaia ssylka na Urale, 1930“1936 (Moscow:
Mosgorarkhiv, 1995), 24“5, 37“8.
Stalin™s article, “Dizzy with Success,” appeared in Pravda on March 1, 1930. For reports of

excesses, see Andrea Graziosi, “Collectivisation, R´ voltes paysannes et politiques gouverne-
mentales a travers les rapports du GPU d™Ukraine de f´ vrier“mars 1930,” Cahiers du Monde
russe 35, no. 3 (1994): 437“632; Tragediia sovetskoi derevni, 322“34, 333“4, 545“8.
Martin, Af¬rmative Action Empire, 322.
Christopher R. Browning and Lewis H. Siegelbaum

used it as a symbol of criminality and hostility to socialism. It also assumed
adjectival form, as in the case of a report by an NKVD sergeant from Rostov
oblast that characterized the persecution of a kolkhoz woman by a brigade
leader as a “kulak-type assault.”39
One might imagine that the mirror image of the kulak was the collective
farmer (kolkhoznik), but most often one ¬nds that term used in a neutral sense.
Perhaps this was because in ideological terms collective farms constituted an
intermediary form of property between individual ownership (represented by
edinolichniki, who as late as 1936 still comprised between 10 and 15 percent of
all peasant households) and fully socialized “ that is, state “ property. Indeed,
the attention that peasants lavished on their household plots at the expense
of collective farm duties mocked this ideological formulation. The fact that
collective farmers often were represented iconographically by women “ who
paradoxically bore the main burden of labor on household plots “ suggests
not only the perpetuation of the folkloric connection with fecundity, but also,
perhaps, the party™s lingering dif¬culty in imagining their male counterparts as
fully ¬‚edged members of the socialist community.40
It was the proletarian who stood at the opposite end of the ideological
spectrum from the kulak and the bourgeois. As already noted, this always
was more of an ideological term for the Bolsheviks than one with sociological
content. But one of the characteristic features of the culturally revolution-
ary period of the First Five-Year Plan was the extraordinary extent to which
young Communist activists in the professions adopted the proletarian mantle
to distinguish themselves from and launch attacks against their “bourgeois”
elders.41 Hence, irrespective of their own class backgrounds, militant writ-
ers and critics joined the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP);
similarly inclined musicians established the Russian Association of Proletarian
Musicians (RAPM) while architects formed the All-Union Association of Pro-
letarian Architects (VOPRA); artists in Ukraine established the All-Ukrainian
Association of Proletarian Artists (VUAPKh); and the Association of Revolu-
tionary Workers of Cinematography (ARRK) promoted “proletarian cinema”
in its journal Cinema and Life, which was renamed Proletarian Cinema in
January 1931.
The heyday of identi¬cation with the proletariat was accompanied by
changes in dress, personal appearance, and forms of entertainment. Oxford

Lewis H. Siegelbaum and Andrei Sokolov, Stalinism as a Way of Life: A Narrative in Documents

(New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), 317“18, 325, 378; Fitzpatrick, Stalin™s Peasants,
Matt F. Oja, From Krestianka to Udarnitsa: Rural Women and the Vydvizhenie Campaign,


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