The Role of Society in the Audits of Co-operatives - A Linguistic Study

Irmeli Helin PhD, BSc (Econ.)

University of Helsinki
Translation Studies Programme (AKO)
1. Introduction

Some 200 years ago, the modern co-operative movement was started in England and France. During the 19th century, its ideology spread across Europe and overseas. Nowadays, this movement is well known all over the world. Since the very beginning the movement has adopted principles and values that are still accepted and emphasized by co-operatives in different countries and societies. The same seven principles have recently been repeated - in a slightly modernized wording - in the Statement on the Co-operative Identity of ICA during the centennial in Manchester in 1995. This paper discusses the relationship between the German co-operatives and the Nazi German legislation from the terminological point of view. In my PhD thesis I have analysed texts published by German co-operatives from the 1850s, to find out whether the drastic changes in the German society during the history of German co-operatives can be traced in co-operative writings and publications. Here I want to apply my quantitative findings (Helin 1998) to the co-operative laws that were altered during the Nazi regime in Germany in the 1930s.

1.1 Principles of German co-operatives

One of the most important principles in the co-operative movement is political and religious neutrality. This was also strictly followed by the German co-operatives from the very beginning. Even if German consumer co-operatives were supported and led by the national labour party and trade unions, they were living their own life in the German society until 1933. However, after having formed the government the Nazis either suppressed the activity of consumer co-operatives as "red" or transformed them according to views of their own, since they were considered necessary for the food supply of the people. Leadership positions in middle-class co-operatives, which continued to exist, were occupied by officials of the party.

The participation of a totalitarian party in co-operatives is manifest in the texts of the 1930s, as well as in the documents of the Soviet occupation area after World War II.

1.2 Language and ideology

The relationship between language and ideology is a delicate but fascinating area of linguistic studies. In this paper, German legislation concerning the auditing of co-operatives is investigated in order to point out features showing the role of a totalitarian society in the management and supervision of nominally non-political commercial institutions. Texts were selected from the Third Reich and compared with further legislative texts written before this period (1889 and 1928) and after the reunion of Germany (1994).

The standard ideology in a society or community is always present in its language. The ideology encourages prescription in language, dedicated to the principle that there must be only one correct way of using a linguistic item. An ideology promotes uniformity at the cost of variety. However, if forms of prescription are too narrow the may become diseases or malfunctions of the ideology. (Milroy & Milroy 1985.)

On the other hand, according to critical discourse analysis (CDA), background meanings are both inside and outside a text. Furthermore, history and syntax affect meaning, for ideology has a double face and its contents are inscribed in social practice. (Hodge and Kress 1993:181ff.)

2. Ideological terms and features in co-operative texts

Ideologies are political, scientific or philosophical systems of ideas or thinking which, using especially linguistic means, serve the particular goals. The goals can be political influence in society, or even a revolution, but they may also be a tacit influence advancing peacefully in a given society. A scientific ideology may lead to a new paradigm. (Helin 1995:14.)

The standard ideology encourages prescription in language, which could be described as manipulation through terms and language. This kind of prescription is dedicated to the principle that there must be one, and only one, correct way to use a linguistic item. (Milroy & Milroy 1985:52.)

Here we search not only for implicit features to reveal the background existence of a totalitarian society, but also for explicit terms showing the relationship between the rulers and the co-operative institution. Such terms include government officers who appoint the auditors and who are given the right to control the whole system of auditing.

Totalitarianism is considered a hyperonymous concept to fascism, communism and marxism (Fairclough 1989:84). In Germany, the Nazi totalitarian revolution was quickly realized by prohibiting the activity of other political parties than the NSDAP, suppressing trade unions and issuing and changing an enormous number of laws. By summer 1933, i.e. in a couple of months, all political power was already controlled by Nazis. (Helin 1995:61.) In a totalitarian society, the analysis of political or economic language for special purposes (LSP) is unavoidably faced with the problem of the existence of ideological terms in general. This problem produces a need to determine how ideologies function in expressions and words chosen for a particular text. After an extensive general analysis of texts published by the German co-operative movement during societal crises of different historical periods, their effect was mapped out using special terms and instances of special language as markers (Helin 1998). In this paper, Nazi legislative texts are analysed in the same way, using the results obtained.

Ideology, especially a totalitarian ideology, is most effective when its workings are least visible. If a violation occurs against the common sense previously prevailing in society, the hidden ideology becomes visible and ceases to function properly in the way politicians or other ideological powers intend. Invisibility is achieved when ideologies are brought to discourse as background assumptions, which lead the producers of a text to "textualize" the world in a particular way, and, this in turn forces the reader to understand the text in a particular way (see also Fairclough 1989).

In my PhD research on co-operative LSP from different historical periods I found implicit textual features revealing an ideological background variable inside or outside the institution itself. In each analysis, similar texts from two historical periods were compared quantitatively to confirm the existence of any textual features which showed a radical change in the surrounding society (1914 and 1918; 1931 and 1933; Bavaria 1919 and GDR 1948, Nazi Germany 1934 and GDR 1985; GDR 1989 and 1990).

Several common features were found to implicate an ideologically undermined meaning: (i) Political terms appearing in previously unpolitical and neutral language for special purposes; (ii) Repetition of manipulative terms; (iii) Diachronic references; (iv) Previous or present enemy implicitly referred to in the text; and (v) Terminologically defined purposefulness. In other texts of the corpus these features were missing.

If a text includes points (ii) to (v), it is defined as an ideological text. The ideology can be institutional or political, but the increased quantities imply a change in the society outside the institution, co-operatives in this case. To specify the change as totalitarian, political terms suddenly appear in previously neutral text. So the existence of (i) qualifies the ideological text as political and totalitarian. This can be further confirmed by comparing the results with findings of other texts, originating from different societal circumstances.

To further confirm the results of my research I decided to take the German co-operative laws from different periods of history and concentrate on their references to auditing. Laws concerning the various economies of a democratic society do not contain political items. Therefore it is interesting to see that all the above aspects could be found in the Nazi legislative texts of 1936 and 1941 and, additionally, there were more detailed legal stipulations about the audits of co-operatives than previously or afterwards.

Fairclough (1989:88) points out that ideological struggle pre-eminently takes place both in and over language. It takes place over language, because language itself is a stake in social struggle.

According to Frawley (1992:2), implicational meaning must be contextualized, working from the expression in relation to perceived intentions and circumstances. Nevertheless, the problem of older texts raises the question of the relation of the reader to the writer. Does the reader interpret the text from a contemporary point of view? Or in general, how can the intention of the text producer be found in older texts? Can an ideological term go undetected until it becomes a part of diachronic linguistics? These questions should be answered by the reseachers themselves when analysing a text from a totalitarian period, such as Nazi Germany.

Now to the features found in the analysis of co-operative texts, as adapted to the stipulations concerning the audits of co-operatives in Nazi Germany compared to laws before and after the totalitarian period.

2.1 Political terms appearing in previously unpolitical language for special purposes

The most striking evidence of a totalitarian society is the appearance of political terms in the texts of a hitherto neutral institution, such as co-operatives, with their own special ideology and activity hierarchies. The role of the rulers, the Reich, 'state' (meaning the Nazi regime) is expressed in the law itself, to give these rulers the sole right of appointing auditors and auditing companies, hence to control the whole co-operative institution. Examples:

(1) Reichswirtschaftsminister

[finance minister of the State] (1936, 1941);

(2) Reichsminister

[government minister of the State];

(3) Reichsminister der Justiz

[justice minister of the State];

(4) Reichsregierung

[government of the State] (1941).

Contrary to these examples the earlier and later legislative texts include only stipulations about court procedures in appointing auditors. In all the other examples the government is explicitely excluded from the auditing of co-operatives. The term Reich, 1889, was used for the new German Empire. Even then, the Reichskanzler, 'Chancellor of the Reich/State' was only allowed to issue general directions. The term Land was used by Nazis as synonymous to Reich, but now has again the old meaning of 'department' or 'region' in Germany (compare states in the USA):

(5) ß 59 F¸r Genossenschaften, welche einem Revisionsverbande nicht angehˆren, wird der Revisor durch das Gericht bestellt.

[If a co-operative is not a member of an auditing association, the auditor is to be appointed at the court.];

(6) ß 62 Der Reichskanzler ist erm‰chtigt, allgemeine Anweisungen zu erlassen, nach welchen die Revisionsberichte anzufertigen sind.

[the Chancellor of the Reich/State is empowered to issue general directions concerning the issuance of auditing reports] (1889);

(7) Unabh‰ngigkeit der genossenschaftlichen Entwicklung von staatlichen Einfl¸ssen

[independence of the co-operative development from governmental influence] (1928);

(8) ...nicht der Beurteilung der Staatsaufsicht

[not to be stipulated by governmental control];

(9) Das Pr¸fungsrecht wird dem Verband durch die zust‰ndige oberste Landesbehˆrde verliehen.

[the auditing rights are granted to the association by the supreme regional authorities] (1994).

2.2 Repetition of manipulative terms

In manipulative texts, ideologically transparent terms are used repeatedly as individual words or in several different collocations. As parts of ideological constituents they ensure the correct interpretation by the hearer or reader. Again, the most used term is Reich:

(10) Reichswirtschaftsminister [finance minister of the State] 1936: 8 instances in 5 paragraphs; 1941: 2 instances in 1 paragraph; Reichsminister [government minister of the Reich] 1941: 5 instances in 3 paragraphs; Reichsregierung [government of the Reich] 1941: 2 instances in 2 paragraphs;

(11) deutsch

[German] 1936: 4 instances in 2 paragraphs.

This type of textual manipulation was not found in texts other than those published during the Nazi Regime.

2.3 Diachronic references

Diachronic references are manipulatively used to show the superiority of the new ideology to the previous government. In addition to political purposes they are adopted to emphasize development or changes in the institutional, in this case the co-operative ideology. Textually this is particularly explicit if we compare co-operative texts from just after the fall of the Iron Curtain and those of a few years later. Items of this kind were also found only in the texts of Nazi Germany. The examples selected imply that the society before the Nazi revolution had a poor economy and deficient social structure (12), and that the middle class and its welfare had been neglected (13):

(12) Zur Vorbereitung des organischen Aufbaues der deutschen Wirtschaft

[in preparation for the organic building of the German economy] (1936);

(13) den Mittelstand... im weitestmˆglichen Ma_ zu fˆrdern

[to promote the middle class... to the greatest extent possible] (1941).

2.4 Previous or present enemy implicitly referred to in the text

In propagandistic texts, the real or assumed opponent or enemy is explicitly named, whereas manipulative texts usually give implicit references to create the 'correct' associations in the minds of hearers and readers. An opponent is needed by a totalitarian ideology to turn the attention of the hearer away from the actual manipulation by the writer into the intended direction. Since the auditing companies were often managed by Jews, the stipulations to prevent them from working were fuzzy (14) and arbitrary (15):

(14) Wenn er die an die Verleihung gekn¸pften Auflagen nicht erf¸llt

[when it [the auditing company] does not fulfil the conditions attached to the rendering of the right to audit];

(15) wenn er nicht mehr die Gew‰hr f¸r die Erf¸llung... bietet

[when it [auditing company] can no longer provide a guarantee for the fulfilment...] (1941)

Examples (14) and (15) were found under the heading of the chapter:

T. die Reichsregierung kann das Pr¸fungsrecht dem Pr¸fungsverband entziehen:

[the government of the State can withdraw the auditing rights from the auditing association:]

Thus the context explicitly gives the government the right to interpret the stipulations according to its own political ideology, and to eliminate institutions and individuals not conforming to the government's expectations or ideas. Any opponent of the rulers, Jewish or not, could under these circumstances become the textually implied enemy. Corresponding examples were not found in other texts used for this paper, which confirms the hypothesis that this aspect is a further sign of a totalitarian ideology in the background.

2.5 Terminologically defined purposefulness

In totalitarianism, a common ideological purpose is used as a central tool to direct the attention of receivers in a relevant way. Idealistic terms and views are supposed to have a positive and fascinating effect on readers. The common feature in totalitarian texts is the absence of negations and negative expressions, which was confirmed by the quantitative analysis in my dissertation. The Nazis would emphasize the education and schooling of children and young people (16) to build up a new society without opposition. The purposefulness of the whole society is expressed explicitly through terms of duty (18 and 19) and the rights of the rulers to control all levels of economic activities (17).

(16) Heranbildung eines charakterlich und beruflich geeigneten genossenschaftlichen Nachwuchses

[the raising of a new generation of co-operators, suitable by character and calling] (1936);

(17) ...¸bertr‰gt der Gesetzgeber die Pr¸fung... dem zust‰ndigen Pr¸fungsverband

[the legislator grants the auditing rights... to the appropriate auditing association];

(18) Duldungspflicht

[duty to submit (to the auditing)];

(19) sie durch Auflagen zur Erf¸llung ihrer Aufgaben anzuhalten

[to oblige them to fulfil their duties] (1941).

Contrary to these examples and instead of the duty to submit, the latest co-operative law of 1994 has Auskunftsrecht des Vorstands [right of the board to get information] where the law of the Nazi Regime had Aufkl‰rungspflicht [(the board's) obligation to provide all information on the co-operative]. Before 1934 the auditor was himself responsible for the audit, even if the auditing association had the right to appoint the auditor. In the Third Reich the new co-operative law made the auditing associations responsible for the audit and the membership of co-operatives in an auditing association obligatory (obligation of membership). Nowadays the co-operatives can freely choose the association amongst those authorised by the local, not by the Federal government. (M‰ndle 1992:525.)

3. Manipulation of terms

In a totalitarian society, an illusion is created that the ideology can both specify and expand the meaning of a term. A totalitarian society provides lexical units as terms with meaning components which correspond to specific concepts of the ideology concerned. The formal expression of these components structuring the meaning of terms must be formulated as precisely as possible (as a concrete term), whereas concepts themselves must include aspects which are as extended and relevant as possible in the receivers' everyday life (towards abstract meanings). (Raud 1992.)

The use of the polysemous term Pr‰sident [president] as an intermediate concept between the terminology of politics and economics provides an illustration of the manipulation of terms in the law of 1936:

(20) (1) Der Vorstand besteht aus dem Pr‰sidenten, dem Anwalt und dessen Stellvertreter.

[The board consists of the president, the attorney and his deputy.]

(21) ß 11. (1) Der Pr‰sident wird von dem Reichswirtschaftsminister bestellt und abberufen.

[The president is appointed by the Finance Minister of the State].

Thus, the president was legally given the political right to integrate co-operatives into the totalitarian system, and, as the head of a commercial institution, he was directly responsible to a government member, which would be highly unusual in a democracy.

4. Terms and language of ideology

As already mentioned, Frawley (1992:2) emphasizes the contextualization of implicational meaning, working from the expression in relation to perceived intentions and circumstances. In the case of legislative texts concerning auditing we could consider the repetition of deutsch and Reichs- to comply with these conditions. Even if their basic semantic meaning does not include propagandistic features, the pragmatic use of this type of utterance added certain ideological connotations to them, which persist to the present time.

A totalitarian ideology is most effective when its working is least visible. Explicitly ideological (propagandistic) and manipulating expressions may uncover the real goals of politicians and other ideological powers. At the beginning of the revolution straightforwardness is used to inspire supporters of the ideology. After the revolution, more subtle wordings are needed to manipulate the opposition and the large majority of passive people to accept the new rulers. For this purpose positive terms, euphemisms and purposefulness are needed. If the new rulers succeed in maintaining their power, political terms disappear from neutral texts (GDR) but the quantity of euphemisms and positive expressions increases. Thus readers and listeners are assured of the superiority of the ideology and prevented from seeing its weaknesses and faults. Positive terms and expressions in the Nazi audit laws are e.g. Vorbereitung des organischen Aufbaues (12) and Heranbildung eines Nachwuchses (16) or den Mittelstand... im weitestmˆglichen Ma_ zu fˆrdern... (13).

These examples were already mentioned in other connections but here they represent the implicit expressions of the ideology of the rulers (producers of the legislative text). Together with euphemisms for possibly controversial or unpopular ideas, ideological features can be hidden in a text by using terms with fuzzy meanings to be interpreted according to the purposes of the rulers.

6. Conclusions

These examples were taken from my extensive corpus of publications of the German co-operative movement issued during its history of about 150 years. When analysing the texts quantitatively for my PhD thesis, I had already detected common implicit features for ideological texts in this LSP material. In an attempt to confirm these findings, I chose the audit laws for German co-operatives and especially those issued by the Nazi Regime.

If a totalitarian ideology is to rule a nation, it must reach even the smallest aspect of everyday life, and use language and its power and possibilities to create a rich soil for the new ideas to grow and flourish. The language of laws is a good weapon, and it was well used from the very beginning of Nazi Germany. All the features previously shown by my analysis to be typical of ideological texts were found in the co-operative laws of this period of German history, whereas they are totally missing in the older and younger texts they were compared with.

This suggests that the features found in my quantitative analysis of the LSP of the German co-operative movement also exist in other LSPs as well. They may therefore be used as tools to identify an ideological text.


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