German Trade-Union Federation

(Deutsche Gewerkschafts-bund, DGB)
   On 20 November 1918 Gustav Hartmann, a founder of the DDP and leader of the nonsocialist Hirsch-Duncker Federation of German Labor As-sociations (Verband der deutschen Gewerkvereine), and Adam Stegerwald,* chairman of the League of Christian Trade Unions (Gesamtverband der christ-lichen Gewerkschaften Deutschlands) and a high-ranking member of the Center Party,* united to form the German Democratic Trade-Union Federation (Deutsch-demokratischer Gewerkschaftsbund, DDGB). Driven by fear of com-prehensive socialization, the DDGB created a complex system of alliances (Querverbindung) that roughly resembled the concurrent development of the Central Working Association.* A Spitzenverband for all nonsocialist unions, the federation aspired to amalgamate liberal and Christian unions in association with bureaucrats and clerical employees. Initially numbering about 1.5 million mem-bers, the DDGB selected Stegerwald as its chairman.
   In its initial program the DDGB cooperated with the SPD by supporting parliamentary democracy, the subdivision of rural estates, the nationalization of mineral wealth, and state control of syndicates. But within a year, as the chimera of socialization evaporated, the Hirsch-Duncker unions withdrew from the DDGB, the word "democratic" was dropped from its title, and the organization began underscoring its Christian foundations. Thereafter the DGB comprised three basic associations: the League of Industrial Unions, the German National Union of Commercial Employees (DHV), and the League of Civil Servants' Unions.
   Until the late 1920s Stegerwald hoped that the DGB might prove a spring-board to a broad, antisocialist, interconfessional party that synthesized demo-cratic values with militant nationalism. But the aim compromised his reputation with conservative Center Party colleagues who deemed a Catholic-based party more important than a Christian labor movement. Stegerwald's problems were not confined, moreover, to conservative Catholics.* His credibility with the DGB's blue-collar workers was damaged by his conflicts with Matthias Erzber-ger,* spokesman for the Center's left wing. Erzberger's flirtation with the SPD placed him among Stegerwald's most notable political enemies; to Stegerwald's chagrin, the League of Industrial Unions hailed Erzberger a martyr when he was murdered in 1921. Simultaneously, the DHV, with 285,000 members in 1922, had its strength in Protestant* regions. The ideology of the DHV (and to some degree that of the civil servants' unions) was unlike that of the industrial unions; not only antisocialist, the DHV was nationalistic and anti-Semitic. Stegerwald, who resigned in 1929 (Heinrich Imbusch led the DGB until 1933), discovered that preventing friction between the democratic Catholic and nationalistic Prot-estant unions was impossible. Controversy over the treatment of public-sector strikes, considered illegal by all middle-class parties, was especially ruinous to union harmony. By the end of the 1920s, the DGB's principal associations were providing financial support for political factions ranging from the DDP to the NSDAP. Although the DGB survived until its dissolution by the NSDAP in May 1933, even retaining a membership of 1.3 million in 1931, its power of action was steadily eroded by internal discord.
   REFERENCES:Dill, "Christian Trade Unions"; Ellen Evans, "Adam Stegerwald"; Larry Jones, "Between the Fronts"; Patch, Christian Trade Unions.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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