National liberalism

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National liberalism , also known as right- wing liberalism , describes a political stance that arose in the 19th century in the pursuit of individual freedom ( liberalism ) and national sovereignty ( nationalism ). In contrast to social liberalism , national liberalism formed the more conservative wing of the liberal milieu . It gained political importance, especially in Germany , because the other European states with larger liberal parties had already completed their nation-building , while the German question remained open well into the 20th century .

Political positions

The liberal positions of national liberalism primarily rely on values ​​such as tradition , individual rights and extensive freedoms . Typical further liberal views are free market support , capitalism , democracy , secularism and equality .

The nationalist positions of national liberalism are fundamentally committed to the formation of a sovereign nation state . The nationalism of national liberalism is referred to as "civic nationalism with a cultural focus" or as cultural nationalism in which the nation is defined by a common culture. It is an intermediate position between ethnic and civic nationalism . In doing so, emphasis is placed on national identity , linguistic homogeneity and cultural affiliation and, in general, on values , and not on ethnic affiliation , descent or external characteristics such as racism . The membership in the civic nation will be open to anyone who shares these values and the culture assimilated to guarantee these values.

According to the concept of national liberalism, individuals need a national identity in order to lead an autonomous life in the sense of self-determination , and democracies need a national identity in order to function properly. National liberalism has a classic liberal state model to protect the self-determination of the citizen .




Election results of liberal parties in the German Empire 1871–1912

The political origin of German national liberalism goes back to the consequences of the French Revolution . In France, citizens developed a sense of togetherness that was independent of their denomination, class and social affiliation. Their national identity was based on popular sovereignty , that is, political self-determination of the state people. The French no longer felt themselves to be passive subjects of a kingdom, but rather as responsible citizens of a nation that promised them freedom and equality. In the German states, too, these ideals created an inseparable connection between the currents of liberalism and nationalism.

At the same time, however, the German population was also aware of the aggressive and imperial form of French nationalism, which was intensifying, especially under Napoleon. The various burdens, such as billeting of soldiers and contributions , made the French occupation of German countries appear as "foreign rule". In the so-called Wars of Liberation , hopes finally sprang up that the people would receive a free, unified German nation-state in return for their armed conflict against Napoleon. However, these liberal expectations were dashed during the Congress of Vienna , which with the German Confederation merely created a loose association of individual German states. The German Confederation lacked a common jurisdiction, administration, legislation and army organization.

At the same time, the demand for civil rights dominated the political debate. The civil rights, which were influenced by the French Revolution and introduced in some German states at the beginning of the 19th century, were curtailed in the years between 1819 and 1830 by the Carlsbad resolutions and other restorative measures.

The demands for civil rights and a German nation-state were advocated in parallel by opposition politicians throughout Germany and united in the fight against the anti-liberal princes of the German states. Early highlights of this political trend were, for example, the Wartburg Festival in 1817 , organized by fraternities , and the Hambach Festival in 1832. At the same time, enthusiasm for national movements in other countries was expressed in Polish fanatics and philhellenism .

From the German Revolution of 1848/1849

In the course of the revolution of 1848/1849 , the bourgeois-liberal forces, together with the radical democratic movement in the Frankfurt National Assembly, set about implementing the two demands, but ultimately failed because of the simultaneous implementation of a German nation-state to be defined and civil liberties, especially Prussian Resistance. At the same time, Prussia pursued a more conservative variant of the German nation-state with the Erfurt Union . Leading representatives of the right-wing liberal casino group met at the end of June 1849 in the Gotha post-parliament to discuss the proposed Union constitution. A majority was in favor of giving the nation state a chance, despite concerns. These Gothaers then formed the station party in the Erfurt Union Parliament in 1850 . The failure of the union also meant a considerable loss of reputation for the liberals.

After Prussia in 1866 in the Austro-Prussian War , the hegemony had won over Germany, was founded in 1867 in the North German Confederation , the National Liberal Party . This split from the Progressive Party saw the constitutional conflict as ended and wanted to work with Otto von Bismarck . In the Reichstag of the North German Confederation and then the Empire, Bismarck and the National Liberals found real compromises in domestic and judicial policy that considerably modernized and unified Germany. This period lasted about a decade, until the break of 1878, when Bismarck ushered in a conservative turn by introducing protectionist measures such as protective tariff policy, which is sometimes referred to as the " inner empire ". When asked how far Bismarck could be accommodated, parts of the National Liberals split off from the parliamentary group. Since 1890 the National Liberals lost votes; they achieved around 13 to 15% in the subsequent Reichstag elections and were no longer the dominant party.

After the collapse of the German Empire in 1918, the majority of the National Liberals under Gustav Stresemann and the right wing of the former Progressive People's Party united to form the German People's Party (DVP) in December 1918 . The short-lived National Liberal Reich Party was formed in 1924 against Stresemann's pro-republican course . With the end of the DVP in 1933, however, the party-building power of national liberalism was drained.

After the Second World War

Within the FDP there were partly conservative , partly reactionary national liberal efforts up until the 1950s , which were particularly strong in individual regional associations. She voted in the Bundestag against the denazification process introduced by the CDU and SPD at the end of 1950 . At her federal party conference in Munich in 1951 she demanded the release of all “so-called war criminals ” and welcomed the establishment of the Association of German Soldiers made up of former Wehrmacht and SS members in order to promote the integration of nationalist forces into democracy. The Naumann affair (1953), named after Werner Naumann , marks the attempt by old National Socialists to infiltrate the party, which had many right-wing conservative and nationalist members in Hesse , North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony . After the British occupation authorities arrested seven prominent representatives of the Naumann district , the FDP federal executive set up an investigative commission chaired by Thomas Dehler , which particularly reprimanded the situation in the North Rhine-Westphalian FDP. In the years that followed, the right wing lost its strength and the extreme right increasingly sought out fields of activity outside the FDP. Since the mid-1960s, under Walter Scheel and Hans-Dietrich Genscher , the FDP has defined itself as a party of the center or, with the Freiburg theses, as a left-wing liberal party. The majority of the remaining National Liberals left the party between 1969 and 1972 in protest against the New Ostpolitik and founded the short-lived small party National Liberal Action (NLA).

Later, too, there were repeated attempts to revive the national liberal tradition in the FDP, for example Alexander von Stahl founded the Liberal Society together with Hermann Oxfort in 1979 , which set itself the goal of right-wing liberal renewal. With Achim Rohde and Heiner Kappel he founded the Liberal Offensive in the FDP in 1995 . In 2009 a Stresemann Club was launched as a national and right-wing liberal network within the FDP, but it no longer exists. Former chairman Sven Tritschler has since joined the AfD. Various media and political observers attest individual FDP politicians to this day as national liberal or right-wing liberal views. To this day there are national liberal currents in the FDP.

After the Second World War, former politicians of the national liberal DVP joined the CDU or took part in its founding, for example Hanns Jess and Otto Boelitz .

The alternative for Germany , founded in 2013 , which positions itself programmatically to the right of the CDU / CSU and FDP and was also able to retain former FDP voters, was also characterized by some observers as "national liberal". Since the liberal wing around Bernd Lucke split off in 2015, however, the party has tended more towards national conservatism and right-wing populism . The Republicans party was also occasionally classified as right-wing liberal or national-liberal, but today it is classified more as right-wing populism.


Unlike in Germany, only sparse liberal parties developed in Imperial Austria; only the German Liberal Party was able to establish itself as a national liberal force in the middle of the 19th century. The ongoing struggle against Catholicism and the Slavic population groups, as well as the founder crash, led to the decline of the party, which eventually split into several German-freedom and German-national parties and groups. In the first republic , liberalism only played a marginal phenomenon and was wiped out between the Christian-Social and Social-Democratic blocs.

At the moment the FPÖ describes itself as a national liberal party in the tradition of the third camp ; However, the majority of science classifies it as right-wing populist .

Prominent representatives

Leading representatives of national liberalism were, among others, Hans Victor von Unruh , Karl Twesten , Ludwig Bamberger , Rudolf von Bennigsen , Eduard Lasker , Johannes von Miquel , Arthur Johnson Hobrecht , Friedrich Hammacher in the 19th century as well as Ernst Bassermann , Robert Friedberg , Gustav Stresemann , Otto Hugo , Ernst Scholz , Eduard Dingeldey , Franz Blücher , Hermann Schäfer , Max Becker , August-Martin Euler , Erich Mende , Knut von Kühlmann-Stumm , Hermann Oxfort and Alexander von Stahl or even Rudolf Augstein in the 20th century as well as Holger Zastrow and Thomas Kemmerich in the 21st century.


  • Constantin Frantz : The Religion of National Liberalism. Reprint. Scientia, Aalen 1970, ISBN 978-3-511-00501-6 .
  • Gerhard Gitzler: National liberalism in its epoch. Rudolf von Bennigsen. Commemorative publication on the occasion of the establishment of the Rudolf von Bennigsen Foundation. Nomos, Baden-Baden 1981, ISBN 978-3-789-00735-4 .
  • Marc-Wilhelm Kohfink: For freedom and fatherland. A social science study of liberal nationalism in Germany from 1890 to 1933. Hartung-Gorre, Konstanz 2002, ISBN 978-3-89649-759-8 .
  • Yael Tamir: Liberal Nationalism. Princeton University Press, Princeton 1993, ISBN 978-0-691-00174-6 .

Individual evidence

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  2. Wolfgang J. Mommsen : Freedom and Unity. Liberalism and the National Question. In: Friedrich Naumann Foundation (Ed.): Freedom and Unity. Liberalism and the German question. COMDOK, Sankt Augustin 1989, pp. 15-43.
  3. ^ Gerd Schneider, Christiane Toyka-Seid: Liberalism | bpb. Retrieved April 22, 2020 .
  4. ^ Nationalism and Liberalism. May 23, 2017, accessed April 22, 2020 .
  5. GHDI - Document. Retrieved April 22, 2020 .
  6. ^ Civic Nationalism & Ethnic Nationalism. Retrieved April 22, 2020 .
  7. Prof. Dr. Dirk Sauerland: Definition: classical liberalism. Retrieved April 22, 2020 .
  8. Thomas Nipperdey : German History 1800–1866: Citizens' World and Strong State. Beck, Munich 1983, pp. 300-302.
  9. Thomas Nipperdey : German History 1800–1866: Citizens' World and Strong State. Beck, Munich 1983, p. 303.
  10. Wolfgang J. Mommsen : 1848 - The unwanted revolution: The revolutionary movements in Europe 1830-1849. Fischer, Berlin 2000, p. 31.
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  18. ^ Ralf Dahrendorf : Rudolf Augstein. The National Liberal. In: ders .: Liberals and others. Portraits. DVA, Stuttgart 1994, pp. 292-294.
  19. Holger Zastrow: Populism? "This is nonsense" , Die Zeit, accessed on March 4, 2020
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