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Bavarian Farmers’ Union






During the agricultural crisis of the 1870s, it was not the peasants who took the initiative in Germany but the Prussian landowners, who already had a strong position in the state. Through their organization, the Bund der Landwirte, they demanded, in order to protect agriculture – mainly their own – grain tariffs, fight against parliamentarism, workers, Jews and Poles, and a war against Russia. The grain tariffs, together with the improved economy after 1896, led to better conditions for ordinary farmers as well, and the majority of these supported the landowners’ reactionary programs.

Except in Bavaria. There, since 1848, the small Catholic peasants had fought landowners, Prussian militarism, and the atheism of the upper class on an egalitarian basis. They continued to do so in the 1870s. They were moderately interested in customs and instead demanded countryside railways, reduced military costs and broadened democracy.

Their organization Bauernbund was quite unstructured. Unlike the farmers in Denmark they did not organize their own cooperation but let that matter be run by the upper middle class. Bauernbund was a purely political organization. This made it subject to violent fluctuations – it had peaks in activity after 1910 and again shortly after the war when it created the Bavarian Council Republic together with the labor movement.
When the world market collapsed again for the peasants in 1929, the Bauernbund made an attempt to unite the German peasants on the basis of interest politics. They failed because countryside politicians in all states other than Bavaria were more interested in pursuing conservative party politics for the protection of ”property” than in protecting the interests of the farmers. The group that succeeded was instead the Nazis who took over the Bund der Landwirte’s program. But on the other hand, Nazis received no support in Bavaria, whose peasants remained anti-Nazi until the end.

Robert Moeller (ed): Peasants and lords in modern Germany, Allen & Unwin 1986



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