In the Spring of 1932, on the occasion of the presidential elections, Niekisch tried to submit his candidacy, with the double title of the National-Revolutionary movement and of the Landvolkbewegung, whose leader, Claus Heim, of the Peasant revolt in Schleswig-Holstein, found himself imprisoned then. But, the other National-Bolshevik groups had already taken a position in favor of Thaelmann (the communist candidate), Claus Heim, who had already given his accord, reversed his support and the project failed. Some months later, Niekisch participated, beside twenty academics and researchers, in a voyage to the Soviet Union organized, from August 23rd to September 14th, by the Working Group for the Study of the Soviet Russian Planned Economy (Arplan). This group created on the margins of the activities of Vörkampfer by the economist Friedrich Lenz, for the First Secretary Arvid Harnack, who served in the same Freikorps as Friedrich Hielscher and who was to later become famous within the celebrated “Red Orchestra” espionage network. The Arplan delegation was received in Moscow, Leningrad, and Kharkov. Niekisch, whose sojourn would be cut sort by illness, encountered Karl Radek on this occasion. On his return, he published in Widerstand a resounding article, in which he gave tribute to the Soviet plan, as a means to surmount and instrumentalize modernity, affirming that the Russian people had adopted an attitude “heroism singular in the world,” forming a veritable “army of labor” and that “nothing would be easier than to transform it into a revolutionary army.” The Russians, added Niekisch, had even managed to dominate technology. It was not inevitable that it would “devour man” and that confronted Niekisch with an idea, which he had advanced a year earlier, that “collectivization is the form of social existence that the organic will must don if it wants to affirm itself in the face of the murderous effects of technology.” In this positive revaluation of technology, one notes the new influence of Jünger, who published Der Arbeiter in the course of the same year.
Like many of his compatriots, Niekisch was completely overtaken by the National-Socialist rise to power. In the first issue of Widerstand in January 1933, Hitler was then described as “the man without talent” (Talentlose) par excellence. In February, Niekisch published in his journal an article entitled: “The Epoch of Class Struggle.” There he declared: “Never has there been in Germany a cabinet so reactionary as that which we have now … Does the event of January 30th represent a national revolution or not? … Hitler is chancellor: that is for him without a doubt a personal success. He is the chancellor of a bourgeois reactionary cabinet: that is certainly not a success for nationalism.”
But the hour of repression was already at hand. The first organization forbidden by the new regime, on February 4th 1933, was the Black Front of Otto Strasser. On the night of 8th to 9th March, Niekisch was arrested with his wife by a group of SA, then released a few days later. His apartment was searched. Moreover, in March, the weekly Entscheidung was banned, after publishing 23 issues. Widerstand, in contrast, continued its publication for some time. In January 1934, the magazine adopted a new symbol on the first page, drawn by A. Paul Weber: on a black colored background, an eagle, in its claws a sword and a sickle, its chest bearing a hammer. At the end of July 1933, it published articles by the philosopher Hugo Fischer. Yet, in August 1933, it was still a question among official milieus regarding a ban on Widerstand, which was finally pronounced on the 20th of December 1934. Niekisch would then accuse one of this former collaborators, the philosopher Alfred Baeumler, of having played a role in this ban.
Sebastian Haffner said that Niekisch “would spend four years in the Third Reich during which he was the last known and openly declared enemy of Hitler.” Pressured by his friends to leave Germany – Jünger, notably, advised him to seek refuge in Switzerland – Niekisch chose to make an “interior emigration.” Between 1933 and 1937, he would continue to write and tentatively constitute in secret his “Resistance Movement”, which henceforth merited this name more than ever. Though under constant surveillance by the police, he also made a number of trips abroad, thanks to the support of some patrons like Alfred Töpfer. Previously, he had almost never left Germany, now he traveled widely to Switzerland, Holland, France, Belgium, England, Scandinavia. In the summer of 1935 he even sojourned to Italy, where he met emigres … and Mussolini.
In 1933, Niekisch worked on a project for a book which was titled, Deutsche Mobilmachung, echoing Jünger’s essay on “total mobilization.” There he repeated his critiques of National-Socialism and described Lenin as the all time heir of Luther, of Frederick II, of Fichte, of Hegel, of Nietzsche, and of Marx! The manuscript, sent to Joseph Drexel, would be seized by the Gestapo. But it was mainly in his two essays of 1934, Die Dritte imperiale Figur and Im Dickicht der Pakte, published in the following year, that begins a new turn, a turn then stillborn by the political conjuncture and the following events.
Distributed as Privatdruck, in a confidential fashion, Die Dritte imperiale Figur, a mythic work and virtually untraceable, is perhaps the most important of Niekisch’s books, at the same time the draft of an unfulfilled vision. Niekisch no longer reasoned in terms of immediate politics. Like Jünger, and without a doubt under his influence, he reformulated his ideas in an idealist language which gave the notion of Figur, Figure, (Gestalt in Jünger’s terms), a fundamental role. The history of Europe, according to him, is before all the history of confrontation between grand Figures, each having a ratio, that is to say a spirit involved in a particular metapolitical project. The two great Figures of the past are the “Eternal Roman,” supporting the Western political project, at the same time Catholicism and Fascism, and the “Eternal Jew,” whose ratio was strictly economic and embodied in global liberalism. Faced with these two enemy Figures, both issuing from the Mediterranean and Roman space, Niekisch no longer believed in the “provincial” Figures of the Soldier, Peasant, the Germane, which he had previously praised and who risked being manipulated by the dominant Western ratio. He wish to greet the advent of another emblematic Figure, the Third Imperial Figure, that of the Worker, master of the “technical space,” who must establish on a global scale a new order, at the same time organic and technical, socialist, and proletarian. The technical ratio was then called to supplant the economic and metaphysical ratio. The Worker, “the New Barbarian,” engendered by the “new force” of the “Russo-Asiatic element” would liquidate the West, and its reign would permit the establishment of an Empire extending upon a world totally rid of bourgeois values, and at the same time it would correspond, Niekisch remaining in the Hegelian tradition, to the reign of the Spirit.
The kinship of the Third Imperial Figure and of Jünger’s Worker was obvious. They were not totally dependent on each other. For Niekisch, the old socialist, the collective worker is closer than the individual worker, in the strict sense, it is a less abstract Figure, resulting in the metamorphosis of the proletariat itself, redefined in an idealist manner. The Worker was also the embodiment of the “Bolshevik.” In 1935, Niekisch would then say he placed Jünger “between Spengler and Marx.” But the most important consequence of this new vision was the abandoning of the all reference to nationalism. Jünger, who, at that time, had already begun to distance himself from politics (in 1932-1933 he only published three articles in Widerstand), lead the way in this domain. Around 1929, Jünger would write: “The word nationalism is a flag, very useful to clearly fix the original combat position of a generation during the chaotic years of transition; it is by no means, as is believed by many of our friends and also our enemies, the expression of a superior value; it designates a condition, but it is not our goal.” For Niekisch, the reference to the nation would become problematic since he would call for the formation of a Germano-Slavic “great space” – from Flessingue to Vladivostok! – and would multiply his acerbic criticism against Southern Germany and the “Bavarian miasma.” Contrary to other National-Bolshevik groups, who continued to see the nation as the absolute and final value for them, Niekisch, in the the Die Dritte imperiale Figur then perceived the nation-state as a bourgeois creation from the epoch of the French Revolution. “When the bourgeoisie celebrate the cult of the nation,” he wrote, “they secretly sacrifice to the their true idol, the god Mammon.” The nation was then no longer an unsurpassable reference. The state itself was no longer an absolute, but a simple means for the accession of the Figure. Niekisch rallied to the idea of imperial idea that he had condemned some years earlier, but he gave to it a somewhat planetary resonance. The unification of the “Russo-German great space” was only a prelude to the “ultimate empire” (Endimperium) that would extend across the entire earth. “If the nation is overtaken in the long term,” observed Louis Dupeux, “it is for reasons that hold neither for the economy, nor for any universalism, but to accomplish the accession of the Figure to the imperial rank.”
Niekisch also used the notion of empire to criticize anew Hitlerian racism: “No empire is a community of blood: it’s a community of faith and more generally a community of spirit.” He defended himself from falling into antisemitism. The Figure of the “Eternal Jew,” he said, belonged to the past. “To engage in antisemitism, it’s to revolve around the Jew.” Dignity required he challenge Nazi antisemitism, which was a “bourgeois German” antisemitism. Niekisch also gets to the Völkische and the “romantics,” who wanted to return to the past (“that is not the way back to the roots”) and he would propose that they “flee to countryside.” He finally renewed his attacks on National-Socialism, which he continued to consider as a bourgeois movement, even exclusively bourgeois, which he compared with insistence to Bonapartism: “Caesarist Democracy of the masses should become a major coup for the capitalist bourgeoisie.”
Im Dickicht der Pakte develops this critique with the angle of foreign policy. Niekisch contested that the world was divided into three camps: the communist camp, the capitalist camp, and the fascist camp. There were only two camp, he said, from the fact of “Hitlerian betrayal.” Germany found itself once again attached to the Western camp. It was the reason for which, he added, the game of the democracies consisted of dragging Hitler into a “thicket of pacts.” Niekisch then reproached the Third Reich for legitimizing the bourgeois order by making a defense of private property, and for the first time, “not wanting to go beyond the national state” and rejecting “imperial ambition.” But this book, for the first time also, put equally into doubt the revolutionary capability of Russia. Russia’s admission to the League of Nations in effect scandalized Niekisch, who spoke of a “voyage to Canossa” and demanded if the USSR, “by renouncing its savage mission of global revolution,” wouldn’t become one a day “a Western European power with State capitalism.”