- (Wirtschaftspartei, WP)founded in September 1920 by Hermann Drewitz, a Berlin* baker, it was formally known from 1925 as the National Party of the German Middle Class (Reichspartei des deutschen Mittel-standes). A union of narrow, often-contradictory, middle-class interests, the WP blended artisans, property owners, small and middle-level businessmen, pen-sioners, professionals, and bureaucrats whose commonality was resentment over the inflation-related erosion of their economic and social status. Gaining support almost exclusively from the cities, the WP benefitted by defections from the DDP, the DNVP, the DVP, and the Center Party*; but it ultimately failed to harmonize disparate interests.A contradiction existed between those groups central to the WP: the artisans, harboring a corporatist mentality, demanded protection against the "excesses of free competition," while property owners generally called for a restoration of classical laissez-faire economics. The disparity was inherent in the very word Mittelstand,* which means "middle estate." Comprised of preindustrial farm-ers,* artisans, and small traders, the alte Mittelstand was a medieval vestige. Although this meaning retained its champions in the Weimar era—for example, Arthur Moeller* van den Bruck and Oswald Spengler*—it was opposed by a modern "middle-class" concept favoring a liberal and rational approach to eco-nomic issues.The WP was hardly more than an important splinter group that served first to undermine the bourgeoisie's political unity and then to enhance NSDAP in-filtration among disgruntled middle-class voters. Because its support reflected the extent to which a current issue served its special interests, the WP's Reichs-tag* members often found themselves in coalition with the DNVP, the Nazis, and the KPD. The WP entered governing coalitions in Saxony* and Thuringia* and received 400,000 votes in the 1928 Reichstag elections, increasing its man-date from eleven to twenty-three seats. Its best-known member, Johann Bredt* (a founding member of the DNVP), served as Heinrich Brüning's* first Justice Minister (March-December 1930). Although the Party's name was changed in 1925 on Bredt's recommendation, most people continued to call it the Wirt-schaftspartei. The July 1932 Reichstag elections, which witnessed a collapse of the political middle, shrank the Party's faction to two; an 89 percent loss of support underscored its inability to wield political power during the economic crisis. Small businessmen and numerous others, either damaged or frightened by the depression,* heard the siren call of the NSDAP and deserted the WP en masse.REFERENCES:Eyck, History of the Weimar Republic, vol. 2; Larry Jones, German Lib-eralism; Lebovics, Social Conservatism.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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