The free peasantry : agrarian protest in the Bavarian Palatinate, 1893-1933
This is a study of a German peasant pressure group of the 1920s. It is intended as a contribution to the debate about the role of the agrarian interest in the development of modern German politics. Its geographical scope is primarily the Bavarian Palatinate, but attention is also given to broader areas of the Rhineland and Bavaria. It is hoped too that light is cast upon issues common to large parts of Germany. The Free Peasantry (Freie Bauernschaft) developed a new concept of peasant trade unionism, which it hoped would assert peasant interests against those of industrial labour. Taking hold in small-farm areas of western and southern Germany, it lasted only from its foundation on the Lower Rhine in 1919 to its dissolution in the Saar territory in 1934, and for the even shorter period of 1920-29 in the Palatinate itself. In the Palatinate, however, it had a huge impact, launching agricultural delivery strikes against the postwar controlled economy and in 1923 providing the leader of most successful of the Rhenish separatist Putsche. The thesis places the Free Peasantry in the context of agrarian organisation and protest from the foundation of the Agrarian League (Bund der Landwirte) to the first year of National Socialist rule. These years saw the growth and then the disintegration of the freely organised peasant interest. Emphasis is placed on the agricultural economy, particularly during the inflation and the depression, and the central question posed is how the peasantry tried to find a satisfactory representation of its interests during these years of economic turmoil. The main sources were official papers in the Bavarian and Rhineland archives, the newspapers of the peasant associations, and the author's interview with the former chairman of the Free Peasantry.