Rudolf Hilferding

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Rudolf Hilferding
Rudolf Hilferding (1923)

Rudolf Hilferding (born August 10, 1877 in Vienna , † February 11, 1941 in Paris ) was an Austro-German politician and publicist. As a Marxist theorist and economist , he was Reich Minister of Finance twice in the Weimar Republic . With the major work Das Finanzkapital , he founded the later theory of state monopoly capitalism . From 1904 to 1925 he was editor of the Marx studies with Max Adler .


Hilferding was the child of the Jewish businessman Emil Hilferding and his wife Anna nee. Left . In 1904 he married Margarete Hönigsberg , an Austrian teacher , doctor , social democrat , women's rights activist and individual psychologist . The marriage ended in divorce in 1922. In 1923 Hilferding married the doctor Rose Lanyi , the divorced wife of the biologist Curt Thesing .

From 1896 to 1901 Hilferding studied medicine at the University of Vienna . In addition, he dealt with economics and finance . During his studies he made contact with the Social Democratic Party and joined the Social Democratic Student Association. After completing his doctorate in 1901, Hilferding first practiced as a doctor, in 1906 he switched to lecturing in economics at the newly founded party school of the SPD in Berlin, but left the following year after threats from the Prussian police's deportation and worked as a political editor from 1907 to 1915 and later editor of the SPD central organ Forward .

From 1915 to 1918 he was a field doctor in the medical services of the Austro-Hungarian armed forces . Hilferding was from 1917 a member of the left-wing USPD and from 1918 to 1923 editor-in-chief of the USPD central organ Freedom , which competed with the forward . Kurt Tucholsky later said polemically that Hilferding had made the paper as harmless as if he were a representative of the Reich Association for Combating Social Democracy .

Rudolf Hilferding in conversation with Otto Braun (right) and Paul Löbe (left), photo from 1930

Hilferding subsequently became involved in reuniting the USPD with the SPD, which was carried out in 1922.

In the Stresemann I cabinet (the first cabinet of the grand coalition) he was Reich Minister of Finance from August 13 to October 6, 1923 . From 1920 to 1925 he was a member of the Provisional Reich Economic Council . From May 1924 to 1933 he was a member of the Reichstag for the SPD . From 1923 to 1933 he was a member of the Senate of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society .
In the Cabinet Müller II (June 28, 1928 until March 27, 1930), the second grand coalition of the Weimar Republic, Hilferding was again Minister of Finance. In this so-called "cabinet of personalities" (under Reich Chancellor Hermann Müller (SPD)) Hilferding also disappointed the expectations of his own party (according to Hagen Schulze he was considered a "notorious lazy person") and lost his office after the New York stock market crash at the end of December 1929, because he wanted to take out
cash loans for the Reich past the Reichsbank .

In July 1933 expatriated , he first went to Zurich ; from 1938 he lived in France . He worked for the exiled board of the SPD ( SoPaDe ) without being a member. In 1934 he wrote the Prague Manifesto , with which the party's executive in exile, under pressure from the inner-party opposition groups, called Revolutionary Socialists in Germany and “ New Begins ” for a revolutionary overthrow of the Nazi regime .

After the German occupation of France , Hilferding was arrested by French authorities in Marseille and extradited to the Gestapo on February 9, 1941 . Two days later he died under unexplained circumstances in the Paris Gestapo prison after being severely tortured on the way there .

His former wife Margarete Hilferding was deported to Theresienstadt in 1942 and murdered in Treblinka that same year ; his son Karl , who had converted to Catholicism, died on December 2, 1942 in a satellite camp of Auschwitz . Peter Hilferding, Karl's younger brother, survived the Nazi era in exile in New Zealand. Rose Hilferding was separated from Rudolf Hilferding in 1940 in exile in Paris and fled to the USA in May 1941 , where she died in 1959.


In his best-known work Das Finanzkapital (1910), Hilferding points out that the formation of cartels , concentration in the form of group formation and the organization of the financial markets lead to an increasing monopoly of capital in which smaller companies and banks are permanently swallowed up. Finance capital, and with it the big banks that finance big businesses, play a central role in the process of capital concentration. You can use the share capital to control business behavior. A kind of planned capitalism comes about. This means that the anarchic-capitalist economic development of free competition is abolished and develops over time into the economic order of organized capitalism, a thesis that only receives full attention after Hilferding's finance capital. Originally, Hilferding assumed that if the development continued, there could ultimately only be one group that controls the entire economic life. This would not happen in reality, but at the stage of the highest monopoly the revolution will socialize the remaining corporations. Hilferding later came to the idea that the democratic state would be able to intervene in the process of "organizing", "socializing" and "planning" a capitalist economy. In the bureaucratized economy outlined, employees and social actors could also be involved in decisions through democratization. Organized capitalism prepares the ground for a democratically organized and controlled economy. Socialism could be achieved democratically through economic democracy.


Finance Capital , 1923

Because of his origins, Hilferding is an important representative of so-called Austromarxism . In the mid-1920s, after the reunification of the SPD and USPD, he was seen as the “leading theoretical head of the party” (SPD). Friedrich Stampfer described Hilferding as a master in the art of adapting Marxist teachings to practical needs.

His main theoretical work The Finance Capital of 1910 and the theory of organized capitalism based on it was the basis for the social democratic development towards reformism and democratic socialism .

As a participant in the secret conference of the Friedrich List Society in September 1931 on the possibilities and consequences of a credit expansion , he blocked the Lautenbach plan - because, according to Hilferding, essentially the capitalist crisis can only be remedied by "self-healing".

Book collection

The Hilferding book collection is now in the USB Cologne . Years after his wife's flight from Europe, his books returned to Germany and were handed over to the former central politician and Imperial Chancellor Heinrich Brüning .


Memorial plaques on the Reichstag


  • War capitalism. In: Arbeiter-Zeitung . , Vienna 1915.
  • Böhm-Bawerks Critique of Marx. In: Marx Studies. Sheets on the theory and politics of scientific socialism. Volume 1, Vienna 1904, pp. 1–61 (Reprint: Auvermann, Glashütten 1971) (PDF, 1.5 MB).
  • The finance capital. In: Marx Studies. Sheets on the theory and politics of scientific socialism. Volume 3, Vienna 1910, pp. V-477 (Reprint: Auvermann, Glashütten 1971).
  • Organized Capitalism. Lectures and discussions from the 1927 Social Democratic Party Congress in Kiel. sn, Kiel 1927.


  • Rainer Behring: Option for the West. Rudolf Hilferding, Curt Geyer and the anti-totalitarian consensus . In: Mike Schmeitzner (Ed.): Criticism of totalitarianism from the left. German Discourses in the 20th Century. (Writings of the Hannah Arendt Institute for Totalitarian Research, Vol. 34.) Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-525-36910-4 , pp. 135-160.
  • Rainer Behring: From Marxist theorist to political thinker. Rudolf Hilferding's concept of "organized capitalism" and the Anglo-Saxon democracies. In: Detlef Lehnert (Ed.): Social Democracy and Capitalism. The Weimar Republic in comparison. (Historical Democracy Research , Vol. 16.) Metropol Verlag, Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-86331-489-7 , pp. 115-148.
  • Rudolf Hilferding . In: Werner Blumenberg : Fighters for Freedom . Nachf. JHW Dietz, Berlin / Hanover 1959, DNB 450506118 , pp. 141-147.
  • Wilfried GottschalchHilferding, Rudolf. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 9, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1972, ISBN 3-428-00190-7 , p. 137 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971).
  • Günter Krause: Notes on Rudolf Hilferding for historical reasons: 100 years "On the history of the theory of value". In: Yearbook for research on the history of the labor movement . Issue I / 2003.
  • Jerry Coakley: Hilferding's Finance Capital. In: Capital and Class , Volume 17, pp. 134-141.
  • Jerry Coakley: Hilferding, Rudolf. In: Philip Arestis , Malcolm C. Sawyer: A Biographical Dictionary of Dissenting Economists. Eldgar, Cheltenham 2000, ISBN 1-85898-560-9 , pp. 290-298.
  • Wilfried Gottschalch : Structural changes in society and political action in the teaching of Rudolf Hilferding. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1962 (= Sociological Treatises. 3), DNB 451626974 .
  • Jan Greitens: Finance Capital and Financial Systems, "The Finance Capital" by Rudolf Hilferding. 2nd, revised edition. Metropolis, Marburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-7316-1316-9 .
  • MC Howard, J. King: Rudolf Hilferding. In: WJ Samuels (Ed.): European Economists of the Early 20th Century. Volume II. Eldgar, Cheltenham 2003, ISBN 1-85898-810-1 , pp. 119-135.
  • J. Milios : Rudolf Hilferding. In: Encyclopedia of International Economics. Volume 2. Routledge, London 2001, ISBN 0-415-24351-3 , pp. 676-679.
  • Guenther Sandleben: Political Economy and State. On the criticism of the theory of finance capital. VSA, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-89965-030-1 .
  • William Smaldone: Rudolf Hilferding. The Tragedy of a German Social Democrat. Northern Illinois University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-87580-236-2 .
  • William Smaldone: Rudolf Hilferding. Dietz, Bonn 2000, ISBN 3-8012-4113-0 .
  • F. Peter Wagner: Rudolf Hilferding: Theory and Politics of Democratic Socialism. Atlantic Highlands Humanities Press, New Jersey 1996.
  • Jonas Zoninsein: Monopoly Capital Theory: Hilferding and Twentieth-Century Capitalism. Greenwood Press, New York 1990, ISBN 0-313-27402-9 .
  • Jonas Zoninsein: Rudolf Hilferding's theory of finance capitalism and todays world financial markets. In: P. Koslowski (Ed.): The Theory of Capitalism in the German Economic Tradition. Springer, Berlin / Heidelberg 2000, ISBN 3-540-66674-5 , pp. 275-304.
  • Martin Schumacher (Hrsg.): MdR The Reichstag members of the Weimar Republic in the time of National Socialism. Political persecution, emigration and expatriation, 1933–1945. A biographical documentation . 3rd, considerably expanded and revised edition. Droste, Düsseldorf 1994, ISBN 3-7700-5183-1 . via Rudolf Hilferding as MdR
  • Eberhard Fromm : From pediatrician to Reich finance minister . In: Berlin monthly magazine ( Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein ) . Issue 8, 1997, ISSN  0944-5560 , p. 65-71 ( - biography).
  • Heinz-Gerhard Haupt : Rudolf Hilferding. In: Hans-Ulrich Wehler : German historians . Vol. 8, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1982, ISBN 3-525-33467-2 , pp. 56-77.

Web links

Commons : Rudolf Hilferding  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Rose Hilferding , at Archive of Social Democracy .
  2. ^ Kaspar Hauser: Certificates. In: The world stage . March 3, 1925, p. 329.
  3. Boris Schilmar: The European discourse in exile in Germany from 1933 to 1945. Oldenbourg, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-486-56829-9 , appendix p. 365.
  4. see also the list of members of the Reichstag (2nd electoral term) .
  5. ^ Ernst Rudolf Huber : German Constitutional History since 1789. Volume 7, Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1984, ISBN 3-17-008378-3 , p. 706.
  6. February 1941 - Social democrats turned over to Germany. In: Biography. Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt Foundation , archived from the original on February 7, 2012 ; accessed on August 15, 2013 .
  7. Michael Krätke: Rudolf Hilferding and Organized Capitalism . In: Spw - magazine for socialist politics and economy . No. 199 , 2013, ISSN  0170-4613 , p. 56–60 ( Download [PDF; 126 kB ; accessed on March 5, 2020]). Available under the archive - edition: spw 199 .
  8. ^ Peter Engelhard: Die Ökonomen der SPD , transcipt Verlag, Bielefeld 2010, ISBN 978-3-8376-1531-9 .
  9. Knut Borchardt , Hans Otto Schötz (ed.): Economic policy in the crisis. The (secret) conference of the Friedrich List Society in September 1931 on the possibilities and consequences of credit expansion. Nomos Verlag, Baden-Baden 1991, ISBN 3-7890-2116-4 , p. 280.
  10. Heinrich August Winkler , Elisabeth Müller-Luckner (Ed.): The German State Crisis 1930–1933. Oldenbourg, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-486-55943-5 , p. 120: "Only Hilferding and Lansburgh expected everything from self-healing."