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

Although in 1931-1932, other National-Bolshevik groups, like those of Karl Otto Paetel or the Vorkämpfer group, which openly rallied to the idea of class struggle, then had the tendency to find Niekisch too lukewarm, whose virulence demonstrated that the latter had otherwise alienated certain sympathies in the young conservatives, and even national revolutionaries. In January 1930, August Winnig separated from Widerstand, after having published a cautionary note against National-Bolshevism. Franz Schauwecker and Alfred Baeumler equally ceased to collaborate with the magazine. Niekisch, in addition, was frequently attacked by movements like Stahlhelm or Jungdo, who professed an innate anticommunism and refused any global condemnation of the West, and by a rightist faction of the Youth Movement, who favored rather a “third front.”

Revelatory in this respect was the polemic that, in 1931, opposed Niekisch by Wilhelm Stapel, co-editor of the new conservative magazine Deutsches Volkstum. This magazine, however, was not fundamentally hostile to him. It sometimes even published texts by him and his other co-editor, Albrecht Eric Günther, in which one could read the articles in Widerstand, which followed closely in 1919-1920 the experience of “Hamburg National Communism.” In 1931, listing Entscheidung, the book published by Niekisch in the proceeding year, Stapel was nonetheless very worried about the emergence of a “German National Communism.” The book, he affirmed, belonged to the category of “either-or books,” that is to say, it merely, in Manichean fashion, addresses two brutal alternatives, as if there did not exist a third solution: “All of the German social universe, for example, is divided for Niekisch into “peasants” or “bourgeoisie.” The peasant is all that is pleasing to him (and pleasing to me), the bourgeois all that is displeasing to him (and displeasing to me). But this dichotomy is purely arbitrary. Reality is not like that.” Accused of multiplying the oppositions between “phantoms,” Niekisch also saw himself accused of “Romantic” Prussianism and opposition to the idea of Empire (Reichsgedanke). To conclude, Stapel declared that if the ideas of Niekisch were to be realized politically, it would simply be “the end of the German people.” Niekisch would respond to him in Widerstand in July 1931.

With the National Socialists, the clash was more brutal. It would also be more determinant. Niekisch was, in effect, without contest, the one man in the Conservative Revolution who denounced, from very early on and with the most vigor, the Hitlerist movement. Around 1927, he accused Nazism of engaging itself in an dead end and only being motivated by “resentment” against the Jews and the November Revolution. Two years later, he systematized his critique in a new article dedicated to Hitlerism. This would culminate in the celebrated booklet published in 1932: Hitler – ein Deutsches Verhängis.

The opposition between Hitler and Niekisch evidently first holds from the rigorously opposed judgments that they both had on the Soviet Revolution and the nature of Bolshevism. Not only did the NSDAP profess a fanatical anticommunism, but it inherited the Russophobia of Paul Lagarde, and in a very general fashion, the racial anti-Slavism then common in the Völkisch milieu – it only envisioned Ostorientierung in the expansionist and imperialist sense. For the National-Socialists, was neither “national,” and even less “Prussian,” since it was essentially internationalist and “Jewish.” Niekisch drew the conclusion that the “socialism” which Hitler claimed was a pure facade and that his irreducible anticommunism betrayed, despite all that he could say, his affinities with the Western, liberal, bourgeois universe. From 1929, this critique reinforced the theme of German protest against the “Roman” world. While in 1926, Niekisch then attributed Italian Fascism the merit of sharing “The intellectual structure of Bolshevism: autocracy, hatred of liberalism, use of force,” three years later, far from opposing the “modernist” ideology of Fascism to the “archaic” National-Socialism, as certain authors of the Conservative Revolution did, it is, on the contrary, primarily because the fascist movement was “Roman” and “Occidental” that he pronounced a condemnation of Hitler without appeal. In the same epoch, Ernst Jünger also affirmed: “Indubitably, Fascism is nothing other than the late form of liberalism … a brutal shorthand of the liberal regime.” Niekisch therefore takes as his rival, not the name of liberal democracy, but on the contrary, the detested liberal and bourgeois universe. From there the arguments successively cascade. Niekisch recognized that at its beginning Hitlerism could have embodied the German protest against the Diktat of Versailles, but around 1923, he added that Hitler betrayed his mission and succumbed to the Roman and Catholic solicitations to which his Austrian origins predestined him: “He who is Nazi will soon be Catholic!” Hitler’s ideology, which made “race” the universal explicative factor and the “Jew” the scapegoat par excellence, was not German, but Bavarian, “Southern,” and reactionary. Like a Roman potentate, Hitler maintained around his personality an “oriental” cult, and, to do this, appealed to the masses, whom he basely flattered. He was the opposite of the Prussian homo politicus, inspired by Protestantism and Frederick the Great. His “Third Reich,” then, was less a political project than a “religious hope.” Not only was Hitler not a true revolutionary anti-capitalist, his “socialism” only being a lure to use radicalized petit-bourgeois, but in searching for the good grace of Italy, England, and France – that Niekisch denounced under the name of “Brito-Germania,” the Anglophilia of the “Hitler-Hess line” – it placed him “on the terrain of Versailles,” which showed that he had taken the role of “the gendarme of the West” by launching a “crusade” against Bolshevism. And Niekisch risked this prophecy: If Germany misguidedly gives itself to Hitler, it will surely go towards disaster. “It will remain an exhausted people … without hope, and the order of Versailles will only be stronger than ever.”

Beginning in 1932, Niekisch made a new appeal to “the protesting Germans against fascism.” “The cohorts of Hitler,” he wrote, “find themselves on German soil as Southern European occupying troops!” To Goebbels, who he wanted to convince, he retorted one day, “You pretend to be National-Socialists, but is there anything national in your movement? Your salute is Roman, your flag equally so, the color of the uniforms of your troops makes one think of a Balkan occupation arm, your military parades of Catholic high masses! No, the German nation is another thing, it was not born in the fever of Bavarian beer halls! It was born in the protest against Rome, with the clear breeze of Protestantism and of the Prussian spirit.” Shortly after, Niekisch presented his proofs in his pamphlet, Hitler – ein Deutsches Verhängis, to Ernst Jünger, who had returned to visit Berlin in the company of Carl Schmitt and Arnolt Bronnen. The text completes his premonition of a final catastrophe in the East. Jünger would say: “Niekisch gave me the effect of a man in the middle of making a leap; I could not dissuade him from publishing the book.” Illustrated with the striking drawings of A. Paul Weber, the pamphlet attained a circulation of 40,000 readers in that year. The NSDAP struck back by launching a press campaign against Niekisch. At that date, Widerstand was already regularly cited in the monthly press review (Pressebericht) of the Reichsführer SS as one of the “principal adversarial organs” (Hauptorgane der Gegner).

Around 1930, explained Sebastian Haffner, “Hitler and Niekisch were antipodal to each other, the two being the most irreconcilable you could find in Germany. The only thing they had in common, was their declared hate for the Weimar Republic, their firm will to make it fall such that it would fall in every manner and to be the heir of the deceased. For the rest, their programs were opposed to each other, point by point: Hitler would want vengeance on the “criminals of November;” Niekisch would want the triumph of the November Revolution; Hitler would want a Fascist counter-revolution, Niekisch would want a socialist revolution; Hitler, the anti-bolshevik crusade and the colonization of Russia with the tacit complicity of the West, Niekisch, the alliance with Bolshevik Russia against the West. Hitler throught in the terms of “race” and “space,” Niekisch in terms of “class” and “state.” Hitler would want to win the crowds so he could lead them to capitalist and imperialist politics, Niekisch would want to win the crowds so he could lead them to Prussian socialism and ascetic politics.” Jünger would declare on his part: “Niekisch was then in a bit of a situation where we find the Greens today. He was quite on the right path, and if I could express myself thus, he would have been capable of influencing the evolution towards the left: and that would have gained him a stronger consensus, particularly in the East. Compared to him, Hitler did cheap work, and that bought him this monstrous popularity.”

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