by Andreas Peglau
CP mass organisations
Through the creation of mass organisations, the KPD attempted from 1924 onwards to reach broader sections of the population and at the same time to draw them away from the SPD. With this aim in mind, for example, the Kampfgemeinschaft der Arbeitersänger, the Arbeitermandolinisten or the Verband Proletarischer Freidenker Deutschlands came into being. This was not always accompanied by large membership numbers, which was often concealed by „corporate memberships“: other associations joined as members – which made the membership numbers skyrocket on paper. Nevertheless, these organisations as a whole had an impressive following. The Freidenker (Freethinkers) had 170,000 members in 1932, the Rote Frontkämpferbund between 100,000 and 250,000, and the Rote Hilfe Deutschlands had an estimated 530,000 members in 1933. The Internationale Arbeiterhilfe (IAH, International Workers‘ Aid) had „in March 1931 602 associations and organisations with 1,225,000 members“. However, even the IAH only had a few tens of thousands of individual members, i.e. „natural persons“.
These mass organisations saw themselves as „non-party“ insofar as they meant they represented the interests of the entire working class. The proportion of communists was in fact often rather small. The IAH, for example, was made up of twelve per cent KPD members, eight per cent SPD members – but 80 per cent non-party members. The leadership of these organisations, however, was basically in the hands of KPD functionaries.
The Arbeitsgemeinschaft sozialpolitischer Organisationen (ARSO, Working Group of Socio-political Organisations), which must have been responsible for more than a million members, was created in 1927/28 as a „coordinating body for socio-political activities in the KPD’s sphere of influence“ – i.e., especially those of the mass organisations. In 1929, the Interessengemeinschaft für Arbeiterkultur (IFA, Interest Group for Workers‘ Culture) was formed along the same lines (and as a counter-draft to both the Social Democratic Sozialistischer Kulturbund and the National Socialist Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur).
Alongside various other organisations, it also included the Marxist Workers‘ School MASCH.
The first founding of an UA
On the initiative of ARSO, the first Einheitsverband für proletarische Sexualreform und Mutterschutz (Unified Association for Proletarian Sexual Reform and Maternity Protection, UA) was founded in Düsseldorf on 2 May 1931. Its aim was to replace the „previous fragmentation of the sexual reform movement“ with a „mass movement under unified, revolutionary leadership“. Or, as Reich formulated it in his memoirs as his own objective: the diverse German sexual organisations were to be „fused into a unified sexual-political association by joining the Communist Party […]“.
The Düsseldorf UA was therefore only a first step on the way to what was actually intended. Perhaps this is also why it was given a leadership described as „provisional“ when it was founded. It is clear by information from the police surveillance that Reich was not a member of this body. In terms of content, however, the founding conference was dominated by him. The May/June 1931 issue of the UA-journal Die Warte wrote: the meeting was opened
„by a large-scale paper by comrade Dr. Reich, the well-known Viennese sex counsellor, who pointed out the connection between the sexual distress of our time and the capitalist system and showed the paths to go by the sexual-political movement.“
The detailed Warte summary of Reich’s speech – it took up more than half of the congress coverage on page 6 – shows that he repeated in essential parts his sexual-political theses and demands, which he had already compiled on behalf of the World League for Sexual Reform. According to the Warte, his speech was followed by „strong applause from the delegates“).
That in the further course Reich’s platform, which had already been described in the Warte issue from April as the basis of a programme of action, was discussed and accepted is also confirmed by the Warte’s congress report:
„The Congress welcomes […] the revolutionary politicisation of the sexual question. […] The Congress welcomes the platform of action presented as a basis for discussion for the creation of a programme of the united proletarian sexual reform movement.“
Other points from the „resolution“ adopted at the Düsseldorf meeting are also likely to refer to Reich’s demands in this platform: „Against the capitalist suppression of sexual life, against sexual stultification, […] for sexual housing hygiene, for hygienic-sexual education of the youth“ (ibid.).
In the ARSO journal Proletarische Sozialpolitik of June 1931, under the headline „Sexual Associations, to the Front!“, the UA founding was praised and it was made clear that it was valued above all as a nucleus for the next, greater goal, the all-German unification – under communist leadership – of all proletarian sexual associations: „The Reichsverband will come into being […], it must become a powerful weapon of the proletariat in the struggle against cultural and social reaction.“
Acceptance for Wilhelm Reich
Already in the Warte of May/June 1931, invitations had been issued for another „Unity Congress for the Lower Rhine District“ to be held in Barmen on 14 June 1931. Apparently, Reich’s concept was again to serve as the basis for the content: On 9 June 1931, the IFA distributed a „draft for our work in the sexual organisations“ written by Reich, in which he had tailored his platform to the needs of a „German Reich Association for Proletarian Sexual Politics“ – i.e. the targeted all-German unification. For the „draft“ Reich had both shortened and supplemented the World League platform, made it more concrete and in some formulations also tightened it up. For example, it now also said: „Sexual repression […] supports the family and marriage order, which requires the atrophy of sexuality for its existence“, it makes „the children and youths in bondage to the parents and in this way later the adults in bondage to state authority and capital, by creating authoritarian fear in the oppressed“. Here also a far more detailed list of demands was given:
„Abolition of all coercive regulations concerning marriage and separation, […] abolition of every legal and further distinction between legitimate and illegitimate, abolition of all regulations concerning adultery, concubinage, etc…, […] elimination of prostitution by fighting against its causes: unemployment, double sexual standard and chastity ideology; […] eradication of venereal diseases by mass education, mass prophylaxis and mainly sexual-economic regulation of the relationship of the sexes, […] prevention of neuroses and sexual disorders by appropriate sexual-care education; […] training of doctors, educators and welfare workers in all questions of sexual being, from contraception to sexual psychology, […] abolition of all regulations and penalties concerning sexual intercourse between blood relatives, […] protection of children and young people against seduction and rape by adults, […] complete politicisation of the sexual question, […] deletion […] of the homosexual paragraph, […] abolition of all laws criminalising sexual instruction. „.
That the responsible people in the KPD and the UAs were behind Reich and his platform at this time is also proven by the following. In order to popularise the idea of the planned German-wide union and the already existing Düsseldorf UA, in June 1931 the KP-affiliated Verlag für Arbeiterkultur produced the brochure Liebe verboten (Love Forbidden) in an initial print run of 100,000 (!), which was sold out after only four weeks, and distributed it at a price of 10 pfennigs.
This booklet contained longer passages that were either written by Reich or at least highly influenced by him: In the section „What is the will of nature?“ quite sexual-economic arguments are made on the sex drive, in „The Soviet Union has solved the sexual problem“ typical Reich evaluations appear. In addition, there was an abridged version of essential demands from Reich’s World League platform such as: „abolition of all bourgeois-capitalist regulations on marriage“ and of all „punishments for sexual aberrations“, „social education“ of children, „[r]estless sexual education of youth“ and „thorough training“ of all doctors in sexology and sex psychology.
The extent to which Reich was already accepted was further indicated by the fact that the last pages of the pamphlet advertised his book Geschlechtsreife, Enthaltsamkeit, Ehemoral, „zu beziehen durch (available from): Verlag für Arbeiterkultur“. This means that this publishing house had already taken over sales and advertising tasks for this publication by Reich.
Later editions of Liebe verboten were also advertised and publicised. For example, the December 1931 edition of Warte contained the request: „Ensure mass distribution of the pamphlet ‚Liebe verboten'“; in further editions it was also mentioned as recommended literature. On 23 December 1931, the IFA Reichsfraktion wrote to all German district fractions and KPD district leaderships pointing out the importance of the brochure. Even a lightimage strip was finally produced of Liebe verboten, which – it was still stated in the Warte in December 1932 – „every proletarian, sexual-political organisation must show“.
Reich’s positive reception is also illustrated by the fact that the IFA Reichsleitung (all-German governance) invited people to discuss his „draft“ on 17 June 1931 in their central rooms in Münzstraße in Berlin-Mitte. Even after that, Reich’s draft was not off the table: IFA and ARSO leadership met on 17.7.1931 to discuss this „sexual-political platform“.
Reich was also directly involved in IFA work: an IFA report not written before September 1931 named him as one of two editors of the required „speaker material“ on „Marriage, Family“. In the Freidenkermaterial „Kampagnenplan und Richtlinien für die Arbeit in den sexualpolitischen Organisationen“ (Campaign plan and guidelines for work in sexual-political organisations), written not before July 1931, reference is made to literature essential for these goals. Reich is represented with his wiriting Sexualerregung und Sexualbefriedigung as well as Geschlechtsreife, Enthaltsamkeit, Ehemoral. Once again, Liebe verboten is also listed. These writings were all available from the Verlag für Arbeiterkultur.
Reich also founded and ran several Berlin „workers‘ sex clinics“, which would probably be called counselling centres today. They were repeatedly reported on in the Warte. For the first time, the November 1931 issue stated:
„The Unity Committee for Proletarian Sexual Reform opened three sex counselling centres, run by trained doctors, in Berlin in October […]. North: Tuesday, 6-8 p.m., Müllerstrasse 143a, 1 staircase. East: Tuesday, 6-7.30 p.m., Kadiner Strasse 17. (Local ‚Welt am Abend‘.) Centre: 6-8 p.m., Kronprinzenufer 23, ground floor left.“
In March 1932, two other addresses were given – in addition to Müllerstraße: „Lichtenberg, Friedrich-Karl-Straße 23, Fridays, 7-9 o’clock“ and „Mitte, Friedrichstraße 121, 3 stairs on the right, Wednesdays from 5-7 o’clock“.
The psychoanalyst Edith Jacobssohn was also involved in the counselling work. The doctor and sexual reformer Hans Lehfeldt reported in 1932: „The counselling centres of the Einheitsverband (UA) in Berlin, which were founded by Dr Reich, have made the psychoanalytical treatment of sexual conflicts their special task“. Here, as in Vienna, other, especially „left-wing“ psychoanalysts may have participated.
A report from the IAH counselling centre in Wedding in 1931 shows how different Reich’s approach was from the usual sexual counselling carried out by the CP mass organisations. There it is described that the women come back from counselling „with a joyful, happy expression on their faces“, among other things „because now they no longer need to refuse their husband their ‚marital duty‘ and thus drive them into the arms of other women“. Kristine von Soden (1988, p. 118) comments: „The institution of marriage as the only place of sexual realisation is unwaveringly adhered to, and the sexual availability of women is taken for granted.“
The „Reichsleitung“ and the further UAs
From the beginning of the UA’s work, Reich had a considerable influence on the direction of its work and his concepts had an impact beyond the boundaries of the association.
But what was the role of the „Reichsleitung“ (all-German leadership), which Reich repeatedly mentions in connection with the UA and to which he also belonged?
According to Reich, this body consisted of six people, all of them communists. There was first himself as „sexual-political leader“ and two other doctors (Leo Friedländer and Henriette „Reni“ Begun). In addition, according to Reich, there were the IFA chairmen Rudolf Schneider and Fritz Bischoff as „organisational and political“ leaders, who were also called „Reichsleiter““ (all-German leaders) several times in the Warte. Even the umbrella organisation ARSO was represented at a high level: by its head, the former member of the Central Committee of the KPD and long-time Reichstag member Johannes Schröter. The conspicuous concentration of higher functionaries also proves the importance the CP attached to this body and its area of responsibility.
However, the statutes of the Düsseldorf UA do not provide for such a supra-regional leadership body. Nor is it to be equated with a newly elected association board that would have replaced the provisional management: the association was managed from Düsseldorf throughout its existence. Nine months after the founding of the association, on 15 February 1932, the well-informed police noted: „The association is led by Mrs. Luise Dornemann, Düsseldorf, Immermannstraße 24. She, the treasurer Alfred Manisch, Düsseldorf, Nordstraße 73, and the secretary Otto Illinger, Düsseldorf, Immermannstraße 24, form the executive committee“. At the same time, this covered all the essential management positions named in the statute – without naming a member of the „Reichsleitung“.
But what was this „Reichsleitung“ then?
First of all, it is important to note that it did not remain with the Düsseldorf PA. Possibly because the all-German sexual reform organisation was a long time coming, other associations were founded in other regions with identical titles. For example, a separate „Unified Association for Proletarian Sexual Reform and Maternity Protection“ was founded for the Ruhr region with headquarters in Essen, Friedrich-Ebert-Straße 69. Its statutes were not completely identical with those of the Düsseldorf UA. The most serious difference in content was that no reference was made to Reich’s „action programme“. Other UAs with their own leaderships were founded, at least in Saxony and in the Halle-Merseburg, Middle Rhine and Berlin regions. However, these different UAs obviously saw themselves as a cooperating unit whose regional associations were also reported on in the Warte. I will therefore refer to this unit also as the total UA in the following.
The very existence of these formally independent associations, and even more so the aspired even larger merger, required a coordinating body. And such a body did exist. It appears again and again in various documents as well as in the Warte, as the „Preparatory Unity Committee for the unity of all sexual-political organisations“. And that, so I mean, is exactly what the „Reichsleitung“ was.
This is also evidenced by a statement (Warte No. 6 1932, p. 14) which defends „comrades Bischoff and Schneider“ against slander. It is signed „Preparatory Unity Committee, Reich Leadership“. And in Warte No. 7/1932, p. 13, there is even talk of Fritz Bischoff as „Reichsleiter of the Preparatory Unity Committee“.
Moreover, „Reichsleitung“ was a common term, for example, the „IFA Reichsleitung“ was also mentioned. The medical leadership or committee members named by Wilhelm Reich, including himself, seem to have been the professional team of experts who were to advise and support the political leaders. Perhaps, in addition, the entire group stood ready to take over the leadership of the overarching unified organisation that was yet to be created.
However, the committee members were already appearing in public and participating in the work of the total UA. The Warte also records appearances by Reich at meetings. Thus in December 1931 one could read under the heading „Sexualnot und ihr Ausweg“ (Sexual distress and its way out):
„Dr. Reich, Berlin, spoke on this topic at four events in the Lower Rhine district. The speaker knew how to deal clearly and simply with all the questions which weigh on the majority of people and which are never voiced as a result of today’s sex education, and to loosen the inhibitions of his listeners.“
Reich reports that he travelled several times to the original UA founding region around Düsseldorf; he and other comrades-in-arms also travelled to „Oranienburg, Jüterbog, Dresden, Frankfurt, Steglitz, Stettin, etc.“ on behalf of the total UA. From the November 1931 issue at the latest, the „Reichsleitung“ also acted as editor of the Warte, in which Reich continued to publish articles.
The Warte also mentioned the committee’s contact address several times: „(Room 162) Berlin C2, Burgstraße 28 V“. In the 19th century, the Berlin Stock Exchange and the headquarters of the Deutsche Bank were located in this house, opposite Berlin’s Museum Island on the river Spree. From 1941 to 1943, the „Judenreferat“ of the Berlin State Police Headquarters of the Gestapo and a so-called „protective prison“ were housed there.
Bahnen, Peter (1986): »Massenpsychologie des Faschismus«. Entstehungs- und Wirkungsgeschichte der politischen Psychologie Wilhelm Reichs, Magisterarbeit (unveröffentlicht)
Bahnen, Peter (1988): Wilhelm Reich – gegen den Strich gesehen, in Pro Familia Magazin 6/1988, S.5-8.
Rackelmann, Marc (1992): Der Konflikt des ›Reichsverbandes für proletarische Sexualpolitik‹ (Sexpol) mit der KPD Anfang der 30er Jahre, (unveröff. Diplomarbeit) FU Berlin.
Rackelmann, Marc (1993): Wilhelm Reich und der Einheitsverband für proletarische Sexualreform und Mutterschutz. Was war die Sexpol?, Emotion. Beiträge zum Werk von Wilhelm Reich, Nr. 11, Berlin: Volker Knapp-Diederichs-Publikationen, S. 56-93.
Reich, Wilhelm (1995) : Menschen im Staat, Frankfurt/M.: Stroemfeld/Nexus.
Soden, Kristine von (1988): Die Sexualberatungsstellen in der Weimarer Republik 1919-1933, Berlin: Edition Hentrich.
Sparing, Frank (1995): Der Düsseldorfer „Einheitsverband für proletarische Sexualreform und Mutterschutz“, in Augenblick Nr. 6/9, S.15-17.
 Abridged and translated excerpt from „Unpolitische Wissenschaft? Wilhelm Reich und die Psychoanalyse im Nationalsozialismus,“, 2017, pp. 108-126. There you also find all sources used here.
Please cite as: Peglau, Andreas (2023): The Unified Associations for Proletarian Sexual Reform and Maternity Protection and Wilhelm Reich’s real role in the German „Sexpol“(https://andreas-peglau-psychoanalyse.de/the-unified-associations-for-proletarian-sexual-reform-and-maternity-protection-and-wilhelm-reichs-real-role-in-the-german-sexpol/)
Please note: My English skills are not very good. Therefore, I first translated the text with DeepL and then corrected it. I expect that there are still translation errors – and ask those who discover such errors to send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org
 At least the name „Einheitsverband für proletarische Sexualreform“ was also included and correctly classified in Reich’s 1934 glossary to the offprint of Was ist Klassenbewusstsein? The complete name of the UA was only rediscovered by Peter Bahnen in 1986 (Bahnen 1986, p. 95f.). In 1988, Kristine von Soden also referred several times to this association, which she named correctly, even referring back to a personal conversation with Luise Dornemann (see below in the article) – without establishing a connection between the association and Wilhelm Reich (see von Soden 1988, pp. 135, 141, 155, 176f.).
 Even during the confiscation of the Düsseldorf PA’s property by the Nazi state on 26 May 1933, the minutes of the meeting listed „Richard Beck, Düsseldorf, Bahnstraße 70“ as the head of the association, with the addition „currently in the Börgermoor concentration camp“. More on Richard Beck in von Soden 1988, p. 155; Sparing 1995.
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