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Friedrich Naumann, "What Does Christian-Social Mean?" (1894)

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We doubt very much that Social Democracy as a party has sufficient capacity to develop to embrace this anti-capitalism. It is too strongly tied down by its past to do so. But here lies the task of the Christian-socials. Here the voice of the Gospel is working with us. What Jesus said about mammon comes alive. Here help comes especially from that great teacher: necessity. It is merely a question of finding the right formula for this anti-mammon sentiment. We feel that it is in the following formulation: "We recognize the concentration of enterprises as necessary, but we reject the concentration of capital." Like all brief pronouncements, this sentence is open to misinterpretation; one might say: capital is in essence nothing other than fields, houses, mines, factories: how do you want to concentrate business without simultaneously concentrating capital? But this objection is only correct as long as one equates capital and the means of production a priori. We use the word capital in the sense of the legal claim to a part of the production; we understand by capital the paper reflection of real things, the mortgages, mortgage bonds, stocks, promissory notes, and the like, in short, the privilege of enjoying some kind of interest. Capital concentration means Rothschild, Bleichröder, and their ilk. Now, since concentration is simultaneously business concentration only where it is in the hands of great entrepreneurs (Krupp, Stumm), but is not linked with business concentration wherever it is produced by ground rent (mortgage interest, rent), the struggle against the private exploitation of ground rent is in our eyes the next and best way for the practical anti-capitalism of the Christian-socials. Without dreaming about general "natural rights" to land, we have common ground here with the proposals of the land reformers. What sets us apart from the conservatives and the anti-Semites is our support for further business concentration; what sets us apart from the social democrats and the bourgeois liberals is our rejection of the concentration of capital. [ . . . ]

The two phrases “organization of the people” and “anti-capitalism” provide an unending source of work. The kind of Christian-social movement we have in mind will not construct plans in thin air, nor will it put forth a few demands that can be achieved in ten years. That is entirely the wrong approach: one puts forth a number of soft demands which already have, or will soon have, the approval of all sensible people at the top and the bottom, and then one is surprised when these self-evident matters – like a little workers' protection or a drop of tax reform – do not excite people. Nobody leaps into the fire for small goals. The chief danger of the Christian-socials is to be small and narrow and cautious. Our slogan must become: practical and broad.

Source: Friedrich Naumann, “Was heißt Christlich-Sozial?“ ["What Does Christian-Social Mean?"]. Heft 1 and 2, Leipzig 1894 and 1896.

Original German text reprinted in Ernst Schraepler, ed., Quellen zur Geschichte der sozialen Frage in Deutschland. 1871 bis zur Gegenwart [Sources on the History of the Social Question in Germany. 1871 to the Present]. 3rd revised edition. Göttingen and Zurich, 1996. pp. 84-89.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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