Alain de Benoist’s Preface to “Hitler: A German Fate” and Other National Bolshevik Writings – Continued

Faced with “Eternal Rome,” the old Prussian appeared more than ever as the counter-image, the counter-myth par excellence. Thomas Mann, Oswald Spengler, Arthur Moeller Van den Bruck and many others, had already celebrated the Prussian example, founded on the spirit of service, discipline and abnegation, even as the antithesis of the individualist, hedonistic, and liberal spirit of the bourgeois West. Niekisch, for himself, finally saw in the Prussian a model halfway between the Spartan spirit and Bolshevism. “The line of Prussian destiny,” he wrote, “is in a negative relation to the German bourgeoisie’s conception of the world: the more the bourgeois universe dries up and withers, the more the Prussian lives and flourishes.” In an article published in Widerstand in April 1928, Friedrich Hielscher, intimate friend of Jünger, also declared that the “non-Westerness of the German nature” rested on a “Prussian attitude,” on a Prussianism in the style of Frederick the Great. Some months later, Niekisch, who since 1924, claimed himself a “Prussian German, disciplined, and barbarous,” invited Germany to retrench, as Prussia did formerly, in the shelter of “high walls” and “impassable trenches,” returning to its natural center of gravity: the space situated on either side of two ancient limits, the region covering North of the Main and East of the Elbe, which is sometimes called the “North German space”, sometimes “Ostelbien” (country to the East of the Elbe), or more simply, Prussia.

Yet, in this epoch, Niekisch stayed well within the consideration in a classical nationalist lens. In his articles of 1929, his critique of the West and his advocacy in favor of the Prussian ethic led him to violently reject modernity. His model man could then be a sort of Prussian Cincinnatus. He thus proclaimed that the “peasant property” is the “foundation of national life” and the peasant an “element of the conservation of the state.” “The earth is not a means,” he wrote, “the man-object relation is not without soul. … The peasant is intimately bound to the soil, he belongs to it no more than it belongs to him … Man lives with the earth, which transmits to him the spirit of his ancestors.” With the same spirit, he denounced unchecked urbanization, the way of life of the townsman, the technology “devouring men”, as aspects of the Western way of life. He stated tersely: “At the end of urbanization, of industrialization, of liberalization, of embourgeoisement, of the Europeanization of Germany, there is Versailles.” The “orientation towards the East” was then concluded as a “return to barbarity and peasant primitiveness.” He meant for Germany to rediscover its proper being in repudiating all the useless luxuries, by establishing an economy reduced to the strict level of elementary real needs (Bedarfwirtschaft), by adopting an ethic that was founded on the “will to austerity.” Niekisch also criticized discretionary property (unbeschränkt) and affirmed that it was fiefdom (Lehenseigentum) that responded best to the German life style. This orientation, which sometimes seemed to recapitulate certain völkisch themes, culminated in the “Program of German Resistance” published by Niekisch in April 1930, which extolled de-industrialization, the return to the earth, autarky, the adoption of a Spartan way of life, and the fusion of Germanic world and the Slavic world.

The decisive turn took place during this same year of 1930. In Entscheidung (Berlin 1930), Niekisch exhorted his compatriots to develop in themselves the “courage of the abyss” (Mut zum Abgrund). The Germans must recognize that Bolshevism, different from the bourgeois parties, is an “elementary movement” (a term directly borrowed from Jünger’s vocabulary) and that the class struggle, which finds its origin in materialist thinking, therefore bourgeoisie, determines the energies that can be put in the service of the nation. “It is thus,” wrote Niekisch, “that it is the attitude that one adopts regarding the communist movement that will decide the measure in which one counts for the future of Germany. He who behaves like a chirping woman belongs to Europe …. His true country is France, to the left of the Rhine. He has maladies that we cannot cure by inoculation like Malaria. Our enslavement is a malady of this sort. There needs to be a decision.” At the same moment, he declared in Widerstand: “The world cannot turn without things being shattered. It feels in this turn of the world, that Germany will receive the grace to restart from zero.” Then, “Germany can only reconquer its freedom by favoring Russo-Asiatic power against Europe.” The objective? To realize a grand Germanic-Slavic bloc, moved by the spirit of the Prussian ethic and extending “from Flessingue to Vladivostok.”

At the same time, Niekisch was convinced that Prussian history must be reinterpreted as the result of a mixture of Germanic and Slavic culture, and inversely, that Soviet Russia was finally a daughter of the Prussian spirit: “Such was the sense of the Bolshevik Revolution: Russian in peril of death took recourse to the idea of Potsdam, it took it to the extreme, almost to excess, and created that absolute state of warriors which submitted daily life to military discipline, that the citizen knew to endure hunger when he must face it, that all his life was charged with the explosion of a will to resistance.” He even would say: “Bolshevism, it’s Luther in Russia.” About communism, he also wrote in Entscheidung: “In its harshness, there is something of the severity of the camp, there is more Prussian rigor there, than is known or even felt by the bourgeois Prussian.” Bolshevik Russia was thus “serving the idea of Potsdam.” And Germany, which “sold its creation to Russia” could only “recover it by passing through Moscow.”

In 1928, Niekisch then declared that Germany should align with no one. “Bismarck,” he recalled, “said one day how much Russia treats brutally that states the depend exclusively on it. We should tack with precaution between the East and the West and see far.” Three years later, then his evolution directed him to radicalize his positions, he then assured “by no means would Germany Bolshevize, Russify, or Asiaticize; but it is necessary that it orients itself towards the Eastern type.” It is evidently difficult to know if these reservations are pure, or solely aiming to reach agreement. In all fashion, as always with Niekisch, it was “realism” that commanded. In his “Program of German Resistance,” Niekisch explains the new reasons for not condemning the Soviet experience: “Russia is not individualist, it is not liberal. It places politics over the economy. It is not parliamentary, not democratic, and not “civilized.” Bolshevism refused humanism and “civilized” values.” Consequently, “if Washington is today the center of capitalist world, Moscow is its polar opposite.” In 1931, Niekisch repeated that “to be Bolshevik, signifies, after the nature of things, to have inflicted a defeat on the West.” “Russia,” he added, “is not a paradise, as the communist worker wants to believe it; it is a camp against the West. The social rank there depends on the fashion in which you pay with your person, as a worker or as a soldier; there wealth carries dishonor. That is what frightens the bourgeois. But that is a model for the German resistance.” And in concluding, “The position of resistance is not per-se communism or anti-communism, but capable of communism if another issue does not exist.”

Then there was no alternative: it was necessary to be “capable of communism.” Bolshevism is the antithesis of liberalism and the West, which are the true enemies of Germany. It is more Russian than Marxist, and maybe even more Prussian than Russian. At worst, it is a necessary evil, in the fashion of leveling the terrain to prepare for what is to come. The 15th of August 1931, Niekisch wrote to his friend Joseph Drexel: “The Communist Party prepares a step of necessary chaos. We think of that which is going to follow, when it sees an end. We can only rule and mint the elementary force if we are in solidarity.” And returning to the same idea in his articles: “The German essence will finish by being strong enough to transform even the communist principle into an instrument of Germany’s future grandeur.”

At this stage, Niekisch then appeared to have totally rallied to National-Bolshevism. Contrary to other currents in this movement, he did not, however, use the term himself, and to qualify his positions, spoke rather, occasionally, of “German Bolshevism.” In fact, as Uwe Sauermann wrote it, the expression of “Prussian Bolshevism”, suggested by Erich Müller around 1932, would be without doubt the most appropriate to evoke this period, actually quite short, in the evolution of Niekisch, who affirmed it in 1930, culminating in 1931, and already beginning to finish by the end of 1932. Niekisch at that moment was incontestably Bolshevik. But he gave the term a particular significance: to be Bolshevik, for him, is to refuse, to the highest point, the orientation towards the West.


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