Tarnow, Fritz

Tarnow, Fritz
   trade-union* leader; championed economic democracy (Wirtschaftsdemokratie) as a bridge from capitalism to socialism. Born to a cabinetmaker in the Westphalian village of Rehme, he apprenticed as a carpenter and joined the woodworkers' union in 1900. Settling in Berlin* in 1903, he studied at the trade-union school and was soon prominent in his union's central committee. During 1908-1909 he polished his ideology at the SPD's party school.
   A veteran of World War I, Tarnow entered the executive of the General German Trade-Union Federation (ADGB) in 1920—an office he retained until 1933—and succeeded Theodor Leipart* as president of the woodworkers' union. Appointed to the Reichswirtschaftsrat (Reich Economic Council), he champi-oned efforts to maintain wage values during the inflation.* Evolving a sharp analytical skill, Tarnow bolstered the SPD's right wing, opposed Marxism as a hollow ideology, and promoted the idea that the working class could prosper under capitalism if it was granted equality with management in leadership of the industrial sector. By 1928 he espoused "economic democracy," a notion attributed to Rudolf Hilferding* and Fritz Naphtali that substituted "organized capitalism" for Marxism.
   Tarnow preferred labor-management consensus to government involvement when addressing economic issues, but, respecting a union demand that the ADGB be better represented in the SPD, he held a Reichstag* mandate during 1928-1933. The depression* dimmed his optimism. Opposed by 1931 to Hein-rich Briining's* deflationary economic policies, he cosponsored with Wladimir Woytinski and Fritz Baade a works-creation measure aimed at employing a million jobless men on public works projects. This so-called WTB Plan, while backed by the ADGB, was censured by Marxist purists, obtained only lukewarm support from the SPD, and strained the uneasy SPD-union relationship during 1932. Tarnow advised cooperation with Gregor Strasser* in August 1932 and was among the few labor leaders to support the chancellorship of Kurt von Schleicher.*
   On 2 May 1933 Tarnow was arrested. Soon released, he fled to Copenhagen. In April 1940, when Germany occupied Denmark, he escaped to Sweden. After he returned to Germany in 1946, he led the Frankfurt-based trade-union council.
   REFERENCES:David Abraham, Collapse of the Weimar Republic; Benz and Graml, Bio-graphisches Lexikon; Braunthal, Socialist Labor and Politics; Feldman, Great Disorder.

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

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