View Full Version : Movement Development and Organizational Networks: The Role of Single Members in the NSDAP 1925-30

Friday, May 5th, 2006, 07:56 AM
Helmut K. Anheier (https://forums.skadi.net/attachment.php?attachmentid=113008&stc=1&d=1491271652)

This chapter examines a critical aspect in the sociological analysis of social and political movements: the role that activists play in the initial organizational development and consolidation of those movements.

Specifically, it looks at the impact and characteristics of movement entrepreneurs in the National Socialist Party in Germany (NSDAP) between its reestablishment in 1925 and its first major electoral breakthrough in September 1930.

The results point up the crucial importance of these movement entrepreneurs during the party’s early development as an organization. The analysis shows that activists embedded in the organizational networks of the right wing nationalist milieu were also those most likely to establish local party organizations. In the aggregate, their activities created the wider organizational infrastructure that the movement needed for its rapid expansion of membership after 1930.

As we shall see, the early Nazi activists were not isolated individuals; rather, they were typically part of an extended organizational network of the nationalist-militarist right wing of German politics and society. This fragmented and highly politicized ‘movement industry’ was largely a product of the crisis-fraught postwar years when militias of disbanded and regrouped army units (Freikorps) challenged the legitimacy of the new political order. By the early 1920s, however, the Freikorps and related associations had grown more isolated from the emerging democratic political system. Nonetheless, they continued to influence the national-militarist right wing of Germany’s political spectrum and formed what Linz (1978) identified as the ‘disloyal opposition’ that plagued the Weimar Republic throughout its troubled existence.

While the Nazi movement may have been more marginal to mainstream national politics during the mid to late 1920s than at any other time during the Weimar Republic, the activists of the Nazi movement at local levels certainly were not. Throughout the period, Nazi activists continued to establish local party chapters and build networks between Party organizations and mainstream civil society. As we shall see, for these movement entrepreneurs the key to mobilization was the combination of three factors: their strong embeddedness in the networks of the Republic’s disloyal opposition; a blanket rejection of the political mainstream (the ‘System’ in Nazi terminology); and their ‘normal’, basically middle-class, profile (at least in a statistical sense).