The economic and political doctrines of German occultist Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), the founder of Anthroposophy, are often referred to as ‘social threefolding’ or ‘the threefold commonwealth’. Many of Steiner’s admirers view his social teachings as a promising part of an alternative economic vision, one that can lead us away from both the ravages of untrammeled capitalism and the travesty of state-commanded Stalinist economies such as the former Soviet Union. What enthusiasts of social threefolding often do not realize is that Steiner’s economic and political doctrines developed in a specific historical context and carried a very different social significance in their time, one which in many ways aligned anthroposophical thinking with several varieties of right-wing thought that were current in early twentieth-century German culture. The following analysis will examine some of these lesser known affiliations, in order to contribute toward a more historically informed assessment of Steiner’s model of the threefold commonwealth.
The origins of ‘social threefolding’ lie in Steiner’s response to the First World War. Particularly during the early years of the conflict, Steiner was a fervent supporter of the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary), blaming the war on the English, French, and Russians and insisting that Germany and Austria were merely defending themselves against the evil machinations of their enemies. Steiner simultaneously offered a spiritual and supernatural interpretation of the war’s causes.1 Anthroposophists believed that the war would bring Germany the stature it deserved: world predominance in spiritual culture. 2 But the First World War did not conclude with the German victory its advocates expected, and the far-reaching social changes that swept Germany and Austria in the wake of the lost war spurred a re-assessment of anthroposophist priorities. This led to the emergence of Waldorf schools, biodynamic agriculture, and the distinctive anthroposophical approach to economics and politics that Steiner called ‘social threefolding’. Anthroposophist disillusionment at the outcome of the war centered on the notion that the unblemished German spirit had been failed by an inadequate array of societal institutions which needed to be revitalized through spiritual and national regeneration. 3
After the German defeat in November 1918, Steiner and his followers insisted that Germany was not responsible for the war. This claim became a central component of anthroposophy’s public profile during the Weimar era. 4 In some versions, the anthroposophist emphasis on German innocence was coupled with conspiracy theories about longstanding Western plans to destroy and dismantle the German and Austrian empires. Steiner himself declared already in 1914 that “this war is a conspiracy against German spiritual life.” 5 Some anthroposophists, with Steiner’s active support, included Freemasons and Jews within this ostensible anti-German conspiracy. 6 The principal anthroposophist argument was that the German people and the German spirit bore no responsibility for the war. 7 While the claim that Germany bore no war guilt has been decisively controverted by subsequent historiography on World War One, it was common enough in Germany at the time, not least as a reaction against the Versailles treaty. 8 Steiner’s invective against the treaty, as well as his polemics against Woodrow Wilson, the League of Nations, the English, French, Russians, and Americans, represent an esoteric version of resentments that were widespread among nationalist oriented circles in Germany and Austria in the interwar period. 9
Steiner’s stance toward the war and its aftermath was based in large measure on his vision of Mitteleuropa or central Europe, a term which in anthroposophist usage generally referred to those lands in which German cultural and spiritual life was seen as rightfully predominant, with the German-speaking territories of Austria, Switzerland and Germany at their core. 10 From this perspective, the post-war interference of the Western powers in what should have been Germany’s proper sphere of influence appeared as an affront to the spiritual mission of Mitteleuropa as a whole. Wilson’s doctrine of national self-determination, according to the anthroposophist viewpoint, was “opposed to the divinely ordered course of evolution.” 11 Steiner’s teachings were part of a broader German discourse of Mitteleuropa built around the assumption or aim of German hegemony on much of the continent, whether cast in political, economic, or cultural terms. 12 This concept, in Steiner’s worldview, was in turn closely related to the anthroposophical notion of Volksseelen or “national souls,” often referred to as “folk souls” in English-language anthroposophist publications. Steiner taught that each Volk or people has its own collective soul and guiding spirit to oversee the process of racial and ethnic evolution. The task of the national soul is to help steer each people toward its true spiritual mission. 13 The mission of the German people, in Steiner’s eyes, had been wrongly thwarted by the outcome of the war and the post-war order imposed by the victorious Western powers.
Steiner’s movement thus shared several of the chief preoccupations of the nationalist right in post-World War One Germany: war guilt, Germany’s honor, the fate of the eastern territories, the Allied occupation in the west, the status of the German people within Europe and its mission in the world. In some cases, anthroposophist views on these topics were expressed in racial or ethnic terms. 14 This thematic overlap between anthroposophy and right-wing and nationalist themes was an important factor in the anthroposophist movement’s complex relationship to the multifaceted cultural and political stream known as the völkisch milieu. 15 This contentious relationship provided the intellectual context for the emergence and unfolding of the theory of ‘social threefolding’ that Steiner began developing in 1917.
Steiner’s own term for this theory was “Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus,” the threefold structuring of the social organism, a formulation that highlights the organicist conception of society underlying the doctrine. 16 The theory of ‘social threefolding’ holds that society consists of three autonomous branches, the economic sphere, the political sphere, and the spiritual or cultural sphere. According to Steiner, the three realms are to be kept separate from one another, and each is subject to a different overarching principle: equality in the political realm, fraternity in the economic realm, and liberty in the cultural realm. Of these three, the cultural or spiritual sphere is paramount, and encompasses many of the activities and functions more commonly associated with the political sphere. 17 One crucial aspect of the ‘threefold social order’ is that neither the economic realm nor the cultural realm is to be organized democratically; democratic forms and procedures are permissible only in the somewhat attenuated political realm. Even within the political sphere, Steiner’s attitude toward democracy was often firmly negative; in October 1917, for instance, he ridiculed “democratic institutions” as mere tools of the “powers of darkness” who are always “pulling the strings” from behind the scenes. 18
The doctrines of ‘social threefolding’ inspired a short-lived anthroposophist social movement between 1919 and 1922. 19 But the path from theory to practice took several noteworthy turns. The rise and fall of the threefolding movement reveals significant features of the social beliefs, hopes, and anxieties underlying Steiner’s spiritual teachings. The earliest efforts to propagate a threefolding program came from mid-1917 to mid-1918, when German and Austrian forces controlled large swathes of territory in Eastern Europe. During this period of German hegemony on the Eastern front, Steiner addressed his initial threefolding proposals to a range of German and Austrian aristocrats and political and military leaders. His July 1917 memoranda to the Austrian emperor, the first formulation of Steiner’s threefolding theory, explicitly assume maintaining and even augmenting these territorial gains. 20 Anthroposophist efforts to persuade the Austrian Kaiser failed, and in January 1918 Steiner turned his hopes toward Prince Maximilian of Baden, who nine months later became the last Chancellor of Imperial Germany. 21 In a personal meeting with Prince Max, Steiner outlined his ‘threefolding’ ideas and presented them as anchored in his teachings on ‘national souls’; Steiner additionally sent the Prince a copy of his book on ‘national souls’. 22 These efforts to convince German leaders of the wisdom of social threefolding also failed.
When the unforeseen outcome of the war dashed anthroposophist hopes for realizing the threefold model, and widespread social and economic unrest thoroughly unsettled Germany and Austria, Steiner’s attention shifted to portraying social threefolding as an alternative to the various proposals for collectivization and socialization that abounded in the early stages of the fledgling Weimar democracy. Positioning his own proposals as a ‘third way’ between capitalism and Communism, Steiner devoted much of 1919 to promoting social threefolding to industrialists and business leaders as well as to proletarian audiences in the newly formed workers councils. 23 Even while courting mass support from workers, Steiner rejected democratization of the factories, and maintained that the economy was not to be run by the “hand-workers,” but rather by “the spiritual workers, who direct production.” 24 At the same time, the social threefolding movement claimed to represent the harmonization of workers’ interests and owners’ interests. 25 This approach yielded a contradictory catalogue of measures under the threefolding banner, with denunciations of “Anglo-American capital” vying for attention alongside condemnations of “socialist illusions,” while Steiner’s ideas were presented as “the path to the salvation of the German people.” 26 The resulting mélange of proposals resembled in some respects the variety of organicist and corporatist economic and political models current at the time. 27 What anthroposophists envisioned under the rubric of social threefolding ranged from vague utopias of an organic national community to straightforward calls for a völkisch state as a bulwark against the Western imposition of democracy. 28
The social threefolding movement reached perhaps its highest degree of public notoriety in the course of the acrimonious controversy over Upper Silesia in 1921. As part of the post-war settlement ordained by the Versailles treaty, the Allies organized a plebiscite in the ethnically mixed province to determine whether it should belong to Germany or Poland. 29 Steiner rejected this procedure as an illegitimate interference of foreign powers in the affairs of Mitteleuropa. Instead of a plebiscite, Steiner and his followers proposed applying the principles of threefolding, with their separation of economic from cultural and political functions, to Upper Silesia. This seemingly quixotic notion was one of many proposals floated in advance of the plebiscite, competing with separatist efforts, claims for provincial autonomy, and intensive nationalist propaganda on both German and Polish sides. 30 In January 1921 Steiner wrote a “Call to save Upper Silesia” on behalf of the League for Social Threefolding. 31 The text declared that the province should provisionally remain unaffiliated with either Germany or Poland, in the interest of “true German convictions,” until more auspicious conditions obtained. As Steiner later explained, the aim was “to establish Upper Silesia as an integral territory that is inwardly united with the German spiritual essence.” 32
This proposal initially received a somewhat sympathetic hearing among German communities in Silesia, while reactions from Polish Silesians were generally hostile. 33 In private sessions with threefolding activists in January 1921, Steiner emphasized that the very idea of a Polish state was “impossible” and “an illusion.” 34 Anthroposophist Karl Heyer argued that “the threefold solution to the Upper Silesian problem is better suited than any other to protecting Germany’s true interests in economic terms as well as in national terms and in state-political terms.” 35 In the weeks before the plebiscite, the League for Social Threefolding declared that social threefolding was the only way “for Germany to escape from being strangled by the West, and to regain Germany’s historical prestige.” 36 Anthroposophist viewpoints on Upper Silesia replicated longstanding German assumptions about cultural superiority and national identity.
The threefolding campaign in Upper Silesia nonetheless sparked bitter criticism from other Germans. Two weeks before the plebiscite, a harsh denunciation of the threefolding effort appeared in the Frankfurter Zeitung, accusing anthroposophists of betraying Germany and spreading “Polish propaganda,” charges which were subsequently aired in other parts of the press. 37 This response may have been due in part to a misunderstanding (critics of threefolding seem to have assumed, erroneously, that anthroposophists were urging abstention from the plebiscite), as well as to the fact that any proposals that smacked of autonomy were viewed by many Germans as treason. 38 Steiner’s caustic comments about the political condition of Prussia may also have played a role. The result was that anthroposophists were branded as insufficiently committed to German national integrity. 39
Such perceptions of the anthroposophist stance in the Upper Silesian conflict were wide of the mark. While protesting vociferously against the plebiscite as such, Steiner and his followers argued in favor of voting for Germany if the plebiscite occurred. 40 After the press attacks appeared, the League for Social Threefolding published an announcement in the Frankfurter Zeitung stating explicitly that their position was to vote for Germany in the upcoming plebiscite. In the days surrounding the plebiscite itself, the editors of the threefolding newspaper declared: “Now that the vote is taking place, the League for Social Threefolding needless to say takes the view that for every German there can be no other position than to vote for Germany.” 41 Two weeks later, the paper’s editors explained that their stance all along had been to vote for Germany: “In light of the fact of the plebiscite, the League for Social Threefolding firmly adopted the position of voting for Germany when possible, and the leadership of the League answered categorically every time it was asked that every person eligible to vote in the plebiscite was of course duty-bound to vote, and had to vote for Germany.” 42 Steiner himself endorsed this stance and continued to maintain it after the plebiscite was completed. 43
When the accusation of betraying Germany first surfaced in 1921, leading anthroposophists retorted that critics of threefolding efforts in Upper Silesia were simply tools of the West promoting the anti-German spirit of the Versailles treaty. 44 After the League of Nations partitioned the province in the wake of the plebiscite, the threefolding movement fiercely attacked the partition agreement and lamented the loss of German territory to the Poles. 45 In the words of Ernst Uehli: “Instead of threefolding, which would have meant saving Upper Silesia for Germany, the opposite is now taking place.” 46 Several figures who went on to become prominent anthroposophists fought in German paramilitary units in the Upper Silesian conflict as well. 47 From Steiner’s perspective, the unfortunate outcome of the Upper Silesian campaign meant that the German mission had once again been obstructed. The Upper Silesia episode confirmed Steiner’s disdain for the League of Nations, which he had opposed from the beginning, and strengthened his sense that Germany was trapped between the soulless West and the collectivist East. 48
If this is what social threefolding looked like in practice, what of the theory itself? Many of those interested in Steiner’s economic and political teachings find various elements of the theory inspirational, disregarding the historical form they actually took in Steiner’s day. 49 In this respect, admirers of anthroposophical economic thought may be comparable to latter-day fans of other would-be economic reformers such as Henry George in the United States, C.H. Douglas in Britain, or Silvio Gesell in Germany. Anthroposophists themselves have pointed out the affinities between Steiner’s work and the ‘social credit’ movement initiated by Douglas. 50 What they neglect to mention is that Douglas based his economic theories on the antisemitic forgery ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’. 51 In addition to such unpleasant company, social threefolding also displays significant parallels with the phenomenon of “producerism” that is perceptively analyzed in the excellent study by Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America (New York: Guilford, 2000).
While easily finding affinities with conspiracist, antisemitic, and right-wing worldviews, Steiner’s threefold commonwealth model frequently denounced grass-roots alternative economic approaches, whether in the form of economic democracy, non-statist socialism, councilist tendencies, worker self-management, or other radical efforts to counter capitalism. Many early anthroposophists viewed such efforts as dangerous versions of ‘materialism’ that threatened the spiritual emphasis of social threefolding. 52 Steiner’s own stance was often ambivalent and at times simply contradictory; many of his voluminous writings on economic subjects are vague, disjointed and occasionally opaque. His positions also shifted multiple times, and in some instances he told proletarian audiences one thing while telling owners and managers the opposite. Despite this built-in incoherence, it is possible to discern a more or less consistent standpoint in Steiner’s economic vision. In many ways, that vision represents a spiritual defense of capitalism, private property, market mechanisms, and elite control of production.
Steiner insisted that overcoming capitalism was simply impossible and would mean abolishing social life as such; for him, “capitalism is a necessary component of modern life.” 53 Rather than replacing capitalist institutions with more humane ones, Steiner favored a combination of private ownership and social conscience, in which individual capitalists and small groups of especially “talented” executives would manage private capital as a trust for the ostensible good of the whole community. These precepts bear comparison with several of the nebulous economic doctrines of classical fascism and its ideology of the Volksgemeinschaft or people’s community. As mentioned earlier, a central tenet of social threefolding is that the economic sphere must never be organized or managed democratically. In Steiner’s words: “For god’s sake, no democracy in the economic realm!” 54 Steiner thus railed against socialism (not just its Marxist variants) and rejected the socialization of property (not just nationalization). Within a full-fledged threefold commonwealth, Steiner foresaw a spiritual meritocracy in which the “most capable” would be given control over economic resources, and he vehemently rejected the notion of tempering this arrangement through community oversight.
Anthroposophist Walter Kugler describes Steiner’s position thus: “Each entrepreneur, that is each individual who wants to make use of his talents to satisfy the needs of others, will obtain capital for as long as he is able to make productive use of his talents.” (Kugler, Rudolf Steiner und die Anthroposophie, Cologne 1978, 165) Steiner himself wrote: “The entire ownership of capital must be arranged so that the especially talented individual or the especially talented group of individuals comes to possess capital in a way which arises solely from their own personal initiative.” (ibid.) Steiner derided the idea of “transferring the means of production from private ownership into communal property,” as well as of socializing “the management of concentrated masses of capital,” and insisted that “the management of the means of production must be left in the hands of the individual.” (Steiner in ibid. 199-200) Steiner was insistent on this point: “No-one can be allowed to return to economic forms in which the individual is tied to or limited by the community. We must strive instead for the very opposite.” (ibid. 201) In his fundamental work The Threefold Commonwealth from 1919, he forcefully dismissed “communal property” and “common ownership” several times over.
Steiner repeatedly rejected the notion that the exploitation of labor arises “from the economic order of capitalism”; for him the problem “lies not in capitalism, but in the misuse of spiritual talents.” 55 In Steiner’s view, “Individuals should gain advantage for themselves in the totally free struggle of competition.” 56 “Private property,” for Steiner, “is an outcome of the social creativeness which is associated with individual human ability.” 57 Shared ownership, in contrast, is an obstruction to this all-important creative unfolding of individual talent: “The individual cannot make his abilities effective in business, if he is tied down in his work and decisions to the will of the community.” 58 In Steiner’s utopia, “The spiritual organization will rest on a healthy basis of individual initiative, exercised in free competition amongst the private individuals suited to spiritual work.” 59 Within this framework, “the spiritual life should be set free, and given control of the employment of capital,” indeed an “absolutely free use of capital.” 60
When Steiner’s economic ideas were put into practice in 1919 and 1920 by the Threefold Commonwealth League in southwestern Germany, he made it very clear that he opposed democratic organization of the workplace. Anthroposophist Hans Kühn writes: “Democratization of the factories was something he [Steiner] opposed on principle. The manager had to be able to make his own arrangements without interference.” 61 In these respects, Steiner’s model amounts to an ‘enlightened’ variety of private property and hierarchical management under the benevolent control of a spiritual aristocracy. These teachings are perhaps best understood not as an alternative to established economic systems, but as a kinder, gentler version of current institutions, a form of capitalism with a human face. In combination with anthroposophical theories about race and ethnicity, and the complex historical relationship between anthroposophy and the politics of the far right, Steiner’s vision of a threefold commonwealth merits increased critical scrutiny from those seeking genuine transformation of the existing social, political, and economic order.
1. See among others Rudolf Steiner, Die geistigen Hintergründe des Ersten Weltkrieges (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1974), a collection of his wartime lectures in Germany, and Roman Boos, ed., Rudolf Steiner während des Weltkrieges (Dornach: Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, 1933). Important context is available in Ulrich Linse, “‘Universale Bruderschaft’ oder nationaler Rassenkrieg – die deutschen Theosophen im Ersten Weltkrieg” in Heinz-Gerhard Haupt and Dieter Langewiesche, eds., Nation und Religion in der deutschen Geschichte (Frankfurt 2001), 602-45, and Herman de Tollenaere, The Politics of Divine Wisdom: Theosophy and Labour, National, and Women’s Movements in Indonesia and South Asia, 1875-1947 (Nijmegen 1996), 156-60.
2. See the declaration of “Absichten und Ziele” on the first page of the premier issue of the anthroposophist journal Das Reich, April 1916; cf. Friedrich Lienhard, Deutschlands europäische Sendung (Stuttgart: Greiner & Pfeiffer, 1915); Karl Heise, “Der Krieg und seine Folgen” Zentralblatt für Okkultismus, November 1914, 213-16; Heise, “Kriegs-Visionen” Zentralblatt für Okkultismus, August 1917, 72-76.
3. For a detailed analysis see Helmut Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland: Theosophische Weltanschauung und gesellschaftliche Praxis 1884–1945 (Göttingen 2007), 1250-86.
4. See e.g. Steiner, Gedanken während der Zeit des Krieges (Berlin: Philosophisch-Anthroposopher Verlag, 1915); Steiner, Zeitgeschichtliche Betrachtungen (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1978); Steiner, Aus schicksaltragender Zeit (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Nachlaßverwaltung, 1959).
5. Steiner, Die geistigen Hintergründe des Ersten Weltkrieges, 27. For further instances of Steiner’s conspiracist interpretation of the war see Rudolf Steiner, Secret Brotherhoods and the Mystery of the Human Double (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004). According to Steiner, occultist secret societies in the Entente countries had planned the war decades ahead of time; see Steiner, Zeitgeschichtliche Betrachtungen, 22, and cf. Rudolf Steiner, Aufsätze über die Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus und zur Zeitlage (Dornach 1961), 321. For context see Matthew Stibbe, German Anglophobia and the Great War, 1914-1918 (Cambridge University Press, 2001).
6. Examples include Karl Heise, Ludwig Polzer-Hoditz, and Wilhelm von Heydebrand.
7. Anthroposophists continue to insist that Germany bore no responsibility for the First World War; see e.g. Jürgen von Grone, “Rudolf Steiners Handeln im Dienste Mitteleuropas” Die Drei April 1969, 80-90; Thomas Meyer, “Moltke, Steiner – und welche deutsche ‘Schuld’?” Der Europäer, May 2001, 9-10.
8. See Ulrich Heinemann, Die verdrängte Niederlage: Politische Öffentlichkeit und Kriegsschuldfrage in der Weimarer Republik (Göttingen 1983). For overviews of current scholarship on the origins of the war see Annika Mombauer, The Origins of the First World War: Controversies and Consensus (New York 2002); Mark Hewitson, Germany and the Causes of the First World War (Oxford 2004); Roger Chickering, Imperial Germany and the Great War, 1914-1918 (Cambridge University Press, 2004); Annika Mombauer, “The First World War: Inevitable, Avoidable, Improbable or Desirable? Recent Interpretations on War Guilt and the War’s Origins” German History 25 (2007), 78-95.
9. On the responses of German intellectuals to the war see Wolfgang Mommsen, ed., Kultur und Krieg: Die Rolle der Intellektuellen, Künstler und Schriftsteller im Ersten Weltkrieg (Munich 1996); Suzanne Marchand, “Kultur and the World War” in Marchand, Down from Olympus: Archaeology and Philhellenism in Germany, 1750-1970 (Princeton University Press, 1996), 228-62; Helmut Fries, Die grosse Katharsis: Der Erste Weltkrieg in der Sicht deutscher Dichter und Gelehrter (Konstanz 1995); Kurt Flasch, Die geistige Mobilmachung: Die deutschen Intellektuellen und der Erste Weltkrieg (Berlin 2000). On German tendencies to view the war in spiritual and cultural terms see Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age (Boston 1989), 90-94.
10. See e.g. Steiner, Aus dem mitteleuropäischen Geistesleben (Dornach 1962); Steiner, Mitteleuropa zwischen Ost und West (Dornach 1982); Steiner, Nordische und mitteleuropäische Geistimpulse (Dornach 1982); Steiner, Die Forderungen der Gegenwart an Mitteleuropa (Dornach 1951); Steiner, Wesen und Bedeutung Mitteleuropas und die europäischen Volksgeister (Dornach 1980); Friedrich Rittelmeyer, “Deutschlands Erneuerung” Christentum und Gegenwart January 1920, 15-16; Wilhelm von Heydebrand, “Osten, Westen, und die Dreigliederung” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus no. 34 (1920); Hans Helling, “Soll Deutschland sich amerikanisieren lassen?” Der Pfad September 1927; Hermann Heisler, Krieg oder Frieden (Stuttgart 1929); Klaus Petersen, Rudolf Steiner und der mitteleuropäische Kulturauftrag (Berlin 1961); Renate Riemeck, Mitteleuropa: Bilanz eines Jahrhunderts (Freiburg: Verlag Die Kommenden, 1965).
11. Rudolf Steiner, From Symptom to Reality in Modern History (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1976), 12.
12. For background see Henry Meyer, Mitteleuropa in German thought and action 1815-1945 (The Hague 1955); Jörg Brechtefeld, Mitteleuropa and German Politics: 1848 to the Present (New York 1996); Lonnie Johnson, Central Europe (Oxford University Press, 2002), 165-70; Jürgen Elvert, Mitteleuropa! Deutsche Pläne zur europäischen Neuordnung (1918 – 1945) (Stuttgart 1999); Richard Plaschka, ed., Mitteleuropa-Konzeptionen in der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts (Vienna 1995); Peter Theiner: “‘Mitteleuropa’-Pläne im Wilhelminischen Deutschland” in Helmut Berding, ed., Wirtschaftliche und politische Integration in Europa im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Göttingen 1984), 128-48; Wolfgang Mommsen, “Die Mitteleuropaidee und die Mitteleuropapläne im Deutschen Reich” in Mommsen, Der Erste Weltkrieg. Anfang vom Ende des bürgerlichen Zeitalters (Frankfurt 2004), 94-117. On the connotations of the Mitteleuropa idea in the context of World War One, see Chickering, Imperial Germany and the Great War, 86-87; Fritz Fischer, Weltmacht oder Niedergang: Deutschland im ersten Weltkrieg (Frankfurt 1965), 14-19, 45-49, 70-73; and David Blackbourn, The Long Nineteenth Century: A History of Germany, 1780-1918 (Oxford 1998), 362-63.
13. See Rudolf Steiner, The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls in Relation to Teutonic Mythology (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005); Steiner, The Destinies of Individuals and of Nations (London 1986); Steiner, Die Seelen der Völker geisteswissenschaftlich betrachtet (Dornach 1929); Karl Heyer, “Vom Wesen der Völker und ihren Kulturmissionen: Der deutsche Geist” in Heyer, Menschheitsfragen der Gegenwart im Lichte anthroposophischer Welterkenntnis (Basel 1927), 71-95; Hans Erhard Lauer, Die Volksseelen Europas: Grundzüge einer Völkerpsychologie auf geisteswissenschaftlischer Basis (Vienna 1937); Karl Heyer, Wer ist der deutsche Volksgeist? und andere Beiträge zur Geschichte (Basel 1990); Herbert Hahn, Vom Genius Europas: Skizze einer anthroposophischen Völkerpsychologie (Stuttgart 1964); Gerard Klockenbring, Auf der Suche nach dem deutschen Volksgeist (Stuttgart 1989).
14. For overviews of Steiner’s racial and ethnic doctrines see Helmut Zander, “Anthroposophische Rassentheorie: Der Geist auf dem Weg durch die Rassengeschichte” in Stefanie von Schnurbein and Justus Ulbricht, eds., Völkische Religion und Krisen der Moderne (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2001), 292-341, and Peter Staudenmaier, “Race and Redemption: Racial and Ethnic Evolution in Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 11 (2008), 4-36.
15. For background on the völkisch movement see George Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich (New York 1964); Roderick Stackelberg, Idealism Debased: From völkisch Ideology to National Socialism (Kent State University Press, 1981); Uwe Puschner, Die völkische Bewegung im wilhelminischen Kaiserreich: Sprache, Rasse, Religion (Darmstadt 2001); and Uwe Puschner, Walter Schmitz, and Justus Ulbricht, eds., Handbuch zur ‘Völkischen Bewegung’ 1871-1918 (Munich 1996). For an anthroposophist perspective see Lorenzo Ravagli, Unter Hammer und Hakenkreuz: Der völkisch-nationalsozialistische Kampf gegen die Anthroposophie (Stuttgart 2004).
16. His primary text on the subject is Rudolf Steiner, Die Kernpunkte der sozialen Frage in den Lebensnotwendigkeiten der Gegenwart und Zukunft (Stuttgart 1919); original authorized English translation: Rudolf Steiner, The Three-fold Commonwealth (London 1922). See also Rudolf Steiner, In Ausführung der Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus (Stuttgart: Der Kommende Tag Verlag, 1920), and Steiner, Aufsätze über die Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, available in abridged translation as Rudolf Steiner, The Renewal of the Social Organism (Spring Valley: Anthroposophic Press, 1985).
17. A detailed examination and critique of ‘social threefolding’ is available in Ilas Körner-Wellershaus, Sozialer Heilsweg Anthroposophie: Eine Studie zur Geschichte der sozialen Dreigliederung Rudolf Steiners unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der anthroposophischen Geisteswissenschaft (Alfter 1993); see also Helmut Zander’s thorough analysis in Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland, 1286-1356.
18. Rudolf Steiner, The Fall of the Spirits of Darkness (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), 223; see also Steiner, Vom Einheitsstaat zum dreigliedrigen sozialen Organismus (Dornach 1983), and Steiner, Heilfaktoren für den sozialen Organismus (Dornach 1969). On the anti-democratic aspects of Steiner’s conception of politics see Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland, 1314-21 and 1695-96.
19. For anthroposophist accounts see Albert Schmelzer, Die Dreigliederungsbewegung 1919 (Stuttgart 1991); Hans Kühn, Dreigliederungs-Zeit: Rudolf Steiners Kampf für die Gesellschaftsordnung der Zukunft (Dornach 1978); Joachim Luttermann, Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus: Grundlinien der Rechts- und Soziallehre Rudolf Steiners (http://stabikat.sbb.spk-berlin.de/CHARSET=ISO-8859-1/DB=1/IMPLAND=Y/LNG=DU/LRSET=1/SET=1/SID=325eb299-0/SRT=YOP/TTL=1/MAT=/NOMAT=T/CLK?IKT=1008&TRM=%3C&cvtourl%3EFrankfurt 1990). An English-language introduction from a contemporary of Steiner can be found in the book by anthroposophist Ernst Boldt, From Luther to Steiner (London 1923).
20. Steiner’s memoranda were circulated among senior officials in the Austrian government through an influential adviser to Kaiser Karl of Austria; the adviser’s brother was a leading anthroposophist. The 1917 memoranda are reprinted in Steiner, Aufsätze über die Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, 329-75, and Boos, ed., Rudolf Steiner während des Weltkrieges, 60-90; they denounce “Western” ideals of self-determination and democracy as the hegemony of the “Anglo-American race.” For a perceptive analysis see Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland, 1275-84. By early 1918, Steiner cast ‘social threefolding’ as the path to salvation from both “Anglo-Americanism” and Bolshevism. His overall stance remained consistent: “If one national civilization spreads more readily, and has greater spiritual fertility than another, then it is quite right that it should spread.” (Steiner, The Threefold Commonwealth, 183) In light of Steiner’s attacks on “Wilsonism,” it is important to recall that the original version of ‘social threefolding’ developed out of this particular historical situation, in which Germany and their Austrian allies had not only conquered vast portions of the East, but also seemed poised to win the war overall; American troops had yet to arrive on the continent, and Entente forces had suffered a series of significant defeats. The eastern territories were the primary bone of contention between advocates of Wilsonian self-determination and Steiner’s threefolding alternative. Shattered anthroposophist hopes of a new European order under German auspices go a long way toward accounting for the bitter tone of Steiner’s remarks regarding Wilson, and ‘Western’ democracy in general, once Germany had lost the war.
21. Max von Baden was a leading proponent of German “ethical imperialism” as a counter to Western democracy; see “Der ethische Imperialismus” in Prinz Max von Baden, Erinnerungen und Dokumente (Stuttgart 1928), 249-59.
22. Steiner, The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls in Relation to Teutonic Mythology. Steiner himself thus emphasized that his threefolding ideas depended on the ethnic-racial scheme propounded in this book.
23. See e.g. Steiner, Die soziale Grundforderung unserer Zeit (Dornach 1990); Steiner, Neugestaltung des sozialen Organismus (Dornach 1963); Steiner, Betriebsräte und Sozialisierung (Dornach 1989). In December 1918, anthroposophist Roman Boos declared that threefolding would save Germany from its two gravest threats: “from without, the armies of the Allies, and from within, the workers in revolt”: Nachrichten der Rudolf Steiner Nachlaßverwaltung 22 (1968), 17.
24. Steiner, Threefold Commonwealth, xxxii; cf. Hans Erhard Lauer, Ein Leben im Frühlicht des Geistes: Erinnerungen und Gedanken eines Schülers Rudolf Steiners (Freiburg 1977), 35.
25. See e.g. Steiner, Soziale Zukunft (Dornach 1977); Steiner, Der innere Aspekt des sozialen Rätsels (Dornach 1972); Ludwig Polzer-Hoditz, Politische Betrachtungen auf Grundlage der Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus (Stuttgart 1920); Ernst Uehli, Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus (Stuttgart 1920); Moritz Bartsch, Der dreigliedrige soziale Organismus: Eine Einführung (Breslau 1921); Roman Boos, Die Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus und der Staat (Stuttgart 1921).
26. See Steiner’s December 1919 essay “Der Weg zur Rettung des deutschen Volkes” in Steiner, Aufsätze über die Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, 113-16; in English as “The Way to Save the German Nation” in Steiner, The Renewal of the Social Organism, 149-51. On occasion Steiner portrayed capital itself – as distinct from domination by foreign capital – as “the spiritual element within economic life.” Rudolf Steiner, Wie wirkt man für den Impuls der Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus? (Dornach 1986), 66.
27. For an anthroposophical perspective see Folkert Wilken, Grundwahrheiten einer organischen Wirtschaft (Zurich 1934). For background see Ralph Bowen, German Theories of the Corporative State (New York 1947), particularly 13-19 in on the notion of society as an organism; cf. Kurt Sontheimer, Antidemokratisches Denken in der Weimarer Republik (Munich 1978), 199-201.
28. See e.g. Wilhelm Blume, “Vom organischen Aufbau der Volksgemeinschaft,” and Siegfried Dorfner, “Deutschlands Wiederaufrichtung,” in Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus no. 46 (1920). In a pamphlet published in December 1918, at the downfall of the Wilhelmine empire and the birth of the Weimar republic, anthroposophist E. A. Karl Stockmeyer called for erecting a “völkischen Staat,” an ethno-nationalist state, in Germany rather than submitting to “the democracy imposed on us by the West.” (Stockmeyer, Vom deutschen Volksstaat und von der deutschen Erziehung, Mannheim 1918, 14) In his July 1917 memoranda, Steiner characterized Western forms of democracy as “Anglo-American domination” over Mitteleuropa; see Steiner, Aufsätze über die Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, 358. See also Roman Boos, “Deutchlands Platz an der Sonne” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, no. 4 (1919), which calls on German industrialists and workers to form a united front against “American capital”; Ernst Uehli, “Die deutsche Weltmission” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, no. 15 (1919); Uehli, “Zur Mobilisierung des deutschen Geistes” Das Reich April 1919, 7-10; Richard Seebohm, “Dreigliederung des sozialen Lebens” Die Tat February 1921, 832-39.
29. For context see F. Gregory Campbell, “The Struggle for Upper Silesia, 1919-1922” Journal of Modern History 42 (1970), 361-85; T. Hunt Tooley, National Identity and Weimar Germany: Upper Silesia and the Eastern Border, 1918 – 1922 (University of Nebraska Press, 1997); Ralph Schattkowsky, Deutschland und Polen von 1918/19 bis 1925: Deutsch-polnische Beziehungen zwischen Versailles und Locarno (Frankfurt 1994), 48-94; Kai Struve, ed., Oberschlesien nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg: Studien zum nationalen Konflikt und seiner Erinnerung (Marburg 2003).
30. Cf. Waldemar Grosch, Deutsche und polnische Propaganda während der Volksabstimmung in Oberschlesien 1919 – 1921 (Dortmund 2002); Günther Doose, Die separatistische Bewegung in Oberschlesien nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg (Wiesbaden 1987); T. Hunt Tooley, “German Political Violence and the Border Plebiscite in Upper Silesia, 1919-1921” Central European History 21 (1988), 56-98; Tooley, “The Polish-German Ethnic Dispute and the 1921 Upper Silesian Plebiscite” Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism 24 (1997), 13-20.
31. Steiner, “Aufruf zur Rettung Oberschlesiens” in Steiner, Aufsätze über die Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, 461-66.
32. Rudolf Steiner, Die Anthroposophie und ihre Gegner (Dornach 2003), 328. For an anthroposophist account see Walter Kugler, “Polnisch oder Deutsch? Oberschlesien, ein Schulbeispiel für die Notwendigkeit der Dreigliederung” Beiträge zur Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe 93 (1986), 1-13.
33. See the press reports reproduced in Beiträge zur Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe 93 (1986), 20-32. There was evidently little anthroposophist presence in Upper Silesia itself; the threefolding campaign was largely waged from Breslau, in Lower Silesia. In addition, virtually none of the Silesian anthroposophists or threefolding advocates appears to have known Polish; according to anthroposophist Moritz Bartsch, one of the primary figures in the anthroposophist campaign in Upper Silesia, threefolding proponents had neither printed materials in Polish nor Polish speakers (ibid. 18). They perceived opposition primarily from Polish residents of the province, not from German residents; see the testimony from Bartsch, Hans Kühn and others in ibid., 14-17. Anthroposophist statements on Upper Silesia were consistently condescending toward the Polish population, as well as toward Polish political aspirations, even before the threefolding campaign got underway; see e.g. Ernst Umlauff, “Oberschlesien” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 10 (September 1920), 2-3, and Rudolf von Koschützki, “Zur oberschlesischen Frage” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 11 (September 1920), 3-4.
34. Steiner, Wie wirkt man für den Impuls der Dreigliederung, 213. According to Steiner, Poland ought to remain divided as it had been for the previous several centuries; he considered the Polish people, except where it was Germanized, to consist of a feudal aristocracy and an uncivilized peasantry. In his view: “It is not possible to reconstruct any kind of Poland, to create a Polish state. […] You can build it up, but it will always collapse again. In reality there will never be a Poland for any longer period of time, because it cannot exist, because at the decisive moment Poland must be divided, so that the Poles can develop their talents. Hence this Poland will never exist, and to speak of Poland today is an illusion.” (212-13; cf. 245). “You see, precisely by studying the Polish essence, one can very accurately observe just how impossible it would be for a territory in such an exposed location [i.e. Upper Silesia] to vote in favor of simply entering the Polish element.” (202)
35. Karl Heyer, “Der Weg zur Lösung der oberschlesischen Frage” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 31 (January 1921), 3-4. Ernst Uehli, “Ereignisse der Woche,” ibid., 2, declares that it is simply “obvious” that Germany must retain Upper Silesia’s economic resources: “in order to survive economically, Germany needs Upper Silesian coal”; Uehli further insists that “this demand cannot be achieved through plebiscite” but only through social threefolding. Upper Silesia represented a crucially important industrial area and was part of Prussia before the plebiscite.
36. Bund für Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, “Die Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus und die oberschlesische Frage” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 36 (March 8, 1921), 4. The statement goes on to explain: “In the current situation, the Upper Silesian economy with its raw materials that are essential to the German economy can only be saved for German economic life if they are separated from political factors and made autonomous.”
37. See Beiträge zur Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe 93 (1986), 38-39.
38. See Waldemar Grosch, “Deutsche und polnische Propaganda in der Zeit der Aufstände und des Plebiszits” in Struve, ed., Oberschlesien nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg, 63-95; Schattkowsky, Deutschland und Polen, 66-69 and 85-94; Tooley, National Identity and Weimar Germany, 57-62.
39. In an odd reversal, latter-day anthroposophists often make similar claims about the anthroposophist stance in the Upper Silesia struggle as those advanced by nationalist critics of anthroposophy at the time, insisting that Steiner’s posture was neutral, anti-nationalist, and a principled repudiation of ethnic politics; indeed his rejection of Wilsonian self-determination is frequently adduced as evidence of such a position. See e.g. Jens Heisterkamp, ed., Die Jahrhundertillusion: Wilsons Selbstbestimmungsrecht der Völker, Steiners Kritik und die Frage der nationalen Minderheiten heute (Frankfurt: Info3, 2002).
40. Steiner first raised this possibility as a sort of compromise at the beginning of January 1921 in his discussions with Silesian threefolding activists; some elements within the threefolding movement evidently reasoned that a victory for Germany in the plebiscite would allow anthroposophist efforts in the province to continue, while a victory for Poland would spell the end of such endeavors. Cf. Steiner, Wie wirkt man für den Impuls der Dreigliederung, 231-32; Kugler, “Polnisch oder Deutsch?”, 12-13. The editors of Steiner’s complete works observe: “Silesian friends of Rudolf Steiner’s threefolding idea had tried to advocate social threefolding to a broad audience as a solution to the problem, in order to save Upper Silesia from the disastrous consequences of the plebiscite they had been forced into in 1921, but with the additional recommendation that in case the plebiscite occurred, the only possible vote was a vote for Germany.” Steiner, Die Verantwortung des Menschen für die Weltentwickelung (Dornach 1989), 337.
41. “Zusatz der Schriftleitung” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 38 (dated March 22, 1921), 3; the plebiscite actually took place on March 20, 1921.
42. “Dreigliederung und Oberschlesien” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 40 (April 5, 1921), 3. Looking back on the Upper Silesia campaign a decade later, Karl Heyer wrote categorically that in the 1921 plebiscite “for the German there could be no other position than to vote in favor of Germany” (Heyer, Wie man gegen Rudolf Steiner kämpft, Stuttgart 1932, 84). In January 1921, some anthroposophists viewed German nationalist groups in Upper Silesia, particularly the Verband heimattreuer Oberschlesier, as potential sympathizers of threefolding; see Steiner, Wie wirkt man für den Impuls der Dreigliederung, 251. Tooley, National Identity and Weimar Germany, describes the Verband heimattreuer Oberschlesier as “the organization most closely related in the public mind with the German cause” (157) and says they “specialized in atrocity propaganda” against the Poles (158) and formed “the first paramilitary groups” (185). Tooley reports that mainstream pro-German organizations in Upper Silesia “often clashed with the nationalist VHO, which tended to emphasize rather than smooth over the ethnic conflict.” (160) According to Tooley, the VHO was “the most visible and most blatantly anti-Polish plebiscite group” (189).
43. In May 1921, for example, Steiner angrily denied “that anthroposophy had shown its un-German and un-national aspect in its stance on the Upper Silesian question. Everybody who asked us for advice in that situation was told that whoever stands in our ranks should vote for Germany if the plebiscite comes. We never said anything different.” (Steiner, Die Anthroposophie und ihre Gegner, 328; cf. 555-56) In February 1923 anthroposophist Hans Büchenbacher reported: “During the struggles around the plebiscite in Upper Silesia, many anthroposophist public speakers in Germany presented threefolding as the peaceful solution and the only healthy solution to the problem, whereupon accusations of treason appeared in the press. Our speakers were able to rebuff these accusations. After all, they could simply point to the fact that if it came to a plebiscite, the threefolding advocates would of course vote for Germany, and that Dr. Steiner himself said this clearly.” Rudolf Steiner, Das Schicksalsjahr 1923 in der Geschichte der Anthroposophischen Gesellschaft (Dornach 1991), 389.
44. Roman Boos, “Wer verrät das Deutschtum?” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 38 (March 22, 1921), 2-3. See also Friedrich Engelmann, Ist die Dreigliederung undeutsch? (Stuttgart 1921). Engelmann declares that social threefolding comes directly from “the German national soul” and that “only Germany” can bring social threefolding to fruition, “for the salvation of the whole world” (11).
45. In addition to emphasizing the spiritual differences between Slavs and Germans and propounding the German mission of bringing true enlightenment to Eastern Europe, the 1921 reporting on Upper Silesia in anthroposophist publications constantly ridiculed Polish claims in the territory and condemned German politicians for failing to take a hard line in the negotiations over the province. Examples include Ernst Boldt, Rudolf Steiner: Ein Kämpfer gegen seine Zeit (Munich 1921), 187-88, and Jürgen von Grone, “Mitteleuropäische Realpolitik” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, August 13, 1921, 2-3. Anthroposophists also railed against “Polish terror” in Upper Silesia; see e.g. Ernst Uehli, “Ereignisse der Woche” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus April 5, 1921, 1.
46. Ernst Uehli, “Ereignisse der Woche” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus June 7, 1921, 2. In Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus November 3, 1921, Uehli complains: “A crucially significant part of German industry and raw materials is being given politically to bankrupt Poland.” He claims that the “Western powers” imposed partition merely to create for themselves a “mighty economic position” in Poland. Such grievances are incompatible with historical research on the subject. Campbell, for example, writes that the provisions of the League of Nations partition plan “would allow the area to survive at least temporarily as an economic unit. Economic matters and minority disputes were to be handled by an ‘Upper Silesian Mixed Commission,’ to be composed equally of Germans and Poles as well as a neutral member. On the basis of population and territory, the boundary that was suggested by the League was as fair as any that had yet been proposed.” (Campbell, “The Struggle for Upper Silesia,” 384) Anthroposophists involved in the Upper Silesian campaign, however, assumed a natural German right to the province, and even long after partition were still bemoaning the absorption of part of the territory by Poland; see e.g., Kühn, Dreigliederungs-Zeit, 125-27, and Ernst von Hippel, Oberschlesien (Königsberg 1931); von Hippel characterizes Poland as “an Asiatic despotism,” denounces the French, English, Versailles, Wilson, and the League of Nations, and deplores the fact that German populations are now forced to live under Polish rule.
47. One prominent example is Max Karl Schwarz, who became one of the most active figures in the German biodynamic movement, particularly during the Nazi era; he was a commander of one of the German paramilitary Freikorps outfits that played a violent role in Upper Silesia.
48. For Steiner’s rejection of the League of Nations see e.g. Rudolf Steiner, “Der Weg in den Wirren der Gegenwart” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus vol. 2 no. 20 (October 1920). On Mitteleuropa caught between East and West see e.g. Steiner, Bewußtseins-Notwendigkeiten für Gegenwart und Zukunft (Dornach 1967), which warns that the “German essence” is being “alienated” by “Americanism” on the one side and “Russiandom” on the other (408); according to Steiner, “fear of the spiritual is the characteristic element of Americanism” (405), while the threat from “the East” is “socialism” (407). See also Steiner, Die geistigen Hintergründe des Ersten Weltkrieges, 42-44; Steiner, Die Tempellegende und die Goldene Legende, 255-56; Steiner, Gegensätze in der Menschheitsentwickelung, 147-66.
49. For a recent example see Guido Giacomo Preparata, “Perishable Money in a Threefold Commonwealth: Rudolf Steiner and the Social Economics of an Anarchist Utopia” Review of Radical Political Economics 38 (2006), 619-48; Preparata is a fan of Silvio Gesell and C. H. Douglas as well.
50. For an early instance of anthroposophist enthusiasm for Douglas see Owen Barfield, “The Relation between the Economics of C.H. Douglas and those of Rudolf Steiner” Anthroposophy: A Quarterly Review of Spiritual Science, vol. 8 no. 3 (1933), 272-85. Barfield describes Douglas as “one of the few English writers who have quoted from The Threefold Commonwealth in their works. He has addressed a Group of the [Anthroposophical] Society at the London Headquarters. Moreover, several members of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain have been personally interested in Social Credit for many years.” (272) Barfield continues: “What is capital? For answer one cannot do better than turn to the work of Major Douglas.” (275) Barfield depicts Douglas’s Social Credit scheme as the prime expression of Steiner’s general views on threefolding. The extensive overlap between anthroposophy and Social Credit is confirmed by the literature on Douglas’s movement; see e.g. John Finlay, Social Credit: The English Origins (McGill-Queens University Press 1972), 185, 232, 244. For Douglas’s approving view of Steiner’s threefolding principles see e.g. “The Control of Policy in Industry: Notes of a Lecture by Major C. H.
Douglas” The New Age vol. XXVII no. 6 (June 10, 1920), 85.
51. This is readily discernible from Douglas’s work itself. Part II of Douglas’s book Social Credit identifies the Protocols as a foundation stone of his argument, and that text was far from the bluntest statement of his position; interested readers would do well to peruse the endless stream of antisemitic invective that Douglas wrote for internal consumption within the Social Credit movement. There is an extensive literature on the Social Credit movement. C.B. Macpherson’s classic study Democracy in Alberta: Social Credit and the Party System (University of Toronto Press 1962) discusses Douglas’s antisemitism and his reliance on the Protocols at length (182-86), and makes very clear that Douglas’s antisemitic conspiracy theories were the basis of the entire Social Credit edifice; in Douglas’s mind, “the plot was a relentless Judaic conspiracy against Christian civilization” (183), and Douglas insisted “that the whole social credit movement be committed to the exposure of the plotters” (185). Macpherson observes: “There was some unwillingness within the movement to accept the theory of the Jewish world plot, but Douglas insisted that it was an integral part of social creditism.” (184) Another study points out: “Douglas social credit combined a conspiracy-based understanding of history with anti-Semitism [. . .] He believed a Jewish financial conspiracy was orchestrating world events ranging from the First World War to the Great Depression. The primary source of his ideas was The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” (Bob Hesketh, Major Douglas and Alberta Social Credit, University of Toronto Press 1997, 5) As Hesketh notes, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were “the single most important influence” on Douglas’s Social Credit theories (17). Another study reports: “Douglas’s economic and political doctrines were wholly dependent on an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.” (Janine Stingel, Social Discredit, McGill-Queen’s University Press 2000, 13) For a recent critical analysis of Douglas’s ideas see Derek Wall, “Social Credit: The Ecosocialism of Fools” Capitalism Nature Socialism 14 (2003). On the German context see Matthew Lange, Antisemitic Elements in the Critique of Capitalism in German Culture, 1850-1933 (Oxford: Lang, 2007).
52. Examples include the July 1919 special issue of Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, addressed to the workers’ councils, which condemns socialist tendencies; Oskar Hermann, “Wirtschaftsdemokratie: Ein Zerrbild der Dreigliederung” Anthroposophie March 30, 1930, 98-100; and the two-page supplement to issue no. 10 of Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus, dated September 5, 1919, which is devoted to distinguishing social threefolding from councilist tendencies; it declares threefolding to be “the mission of the German people.”
53. Steiner, Westliche und östliche Weltgegensätzlichkeiten (Dornach 1981), 302. Steiner’s followers have sometimes extended this analysis into a veritable celebration of capitalism under threefolding auspices; see e.g. Folkert Wilken, Das Kapital (1976), and Wilken, The Liberation of Capital (1982). Equally telling examples can be found in Roman Boos’ musings on social threefolding as “cooperative capitalism” and on “capital as an instrument of freedom” in the Swiss anthroposophist journal Gegenwart, March 1942.
54. Steiner, Vom Einheitsstaat zum dreigliedrigen sozialen Organismus, 165.
55. Steiner, Der innere Aspekt des sozialen Rätsels (Dornach 1972), 82. Cf. “Der Ausverkauf Deutschlands” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus no. 28 (January 1920).
56. Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte (Dornach 1966), 285.
57. Steiner, The Threefold Commonwealth, 126.
58. Steiner, Rudolf Steiner: Essential Readings, ed. Richard Seddon (Wellingborough 1988), 106. Steiner continues: “Really practical thought, therefore, will not look to find the cure for social ills in a reshaping of economic life that would substitute communal for private management of the means of production. The endeavor should rather be to forestall the ills that can arise through management by individual initiative and personal worth, without impairing this management itself.” (ibid.)
59. Steiner, The Threefold Commonwealth, 158.
60. Ibid., 117 and 126. Similar pronouncements can be found in many other publications by Steiner; see e.g. Steiner, Soziale Zukunft (Dornach 1977), 165-66. These ideas are repeated throughout the threefolding literature; see among numerous other examples Emil Leinhas, “Kapitalverwaltung im dreigliedrigen sozialen Organismus” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus February 1920.
61. Kühn, Dreigliederungszeit, 52.