Away from Rome, Towards Moscow – Part II
Today, it appears Germany’s vital signs are waning. Certainly, one can speak of their economic dominance, but it is clear that Germany’s wealth comes at the cost of national suicide. It has traded independence for cash. It has traded the freedom of the East for slavery to the Western marketplace. The siren call of easy money has accomplished the occupation and assimilation of Germany by the West to a far greater extent than Versailles ever did.
In the wake of collapse of the Wilhelmine Reich, German nationalists again started looking east. One of the first nationalist events that hearkened towards Russia, and specifically the Soviet Union, was the Hamburg National Communist experiment. In the wake of abdication of the Kaiser, a Communist uprising broke out in Germany. In Hamburg, its leaders, Fritz Wolffheim and Heinrich Laufenberg, merged this socialist struggle with nationalism. They held that Germany was a “proletarian nation” oppressed by the forces of the West, and that the working people risked total pauperization at the hands of the victorious forces of Anglo-Saxon capitalism. He also sought to rally the lower middle classes, who had more in common with the working classes, to their cause. To achieve the liberation of Germany, they proposed the formation of a “Popular Wehrmacht” that would fight alongside the Soviet Red Army to free Germany. However, their nationalist turn was dismissed by Lenin and Radek, the Social Democrats, and the Communist Spartakists. The Hamburg rising ended in defeat as their councils were overtaken by more moderate members who promptly surrendered to the forces that were sent in to crush the revolt.
Outside of this incidence of “National Communism,” other forces in the German nationalist milieu merged nationalism, socialism, and an orientation towards the East. A broad movement broadly defined as “Conservative Revolutionary” emerged. One of its leading figures was the German translator of Dostoevsky, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck. He saw both Germany and Russia as young nations, in contrast to the old powers of Latin or Anglo-Saxon Europe. While he was critical of Marxism, he stated that “every people has its own socialism.” He admitted that Marxist socialism in Russia had led to not to an international socialism, but rather a new national form of socialism, stating:
Every people has its own socialism.
The Russians have demonstrated it. The Russian socialism of the Revolution gave birth to the new militarism of the Soviets. Those same millions who broke off the War because they wanted peace and only peace, allowed themselves to be formed into a new red army. There came a moment when the only factories in the country that were still at work were the munition factories. The Russian bowed his head in patient acceptance of the severe militarism of a new autocracy. He had shaken off the bureaucrats and police of the Tsar’s autocracy which smacked of St. Petersburg and the West, and which had come to seem foreign and hostile. But he welcomed the autocracy of socialism; he had asked for it; he accepted it, Bolshevism is Russian, and could be nothing else. (Germany’s Third Empire [London: Arktos, 2012], p. 67)
Moeller van den Bruck wanted to create a uniquely German form of socialism: proletarian, but rejecting materialism, and emphasizing the Prussian virtues of order and military discipline. He explicitly rejected reactionary ideas, calling for an alignment with the East, and warned, tellingly, that reactionaries would try to use Germans as a tool of the West against Bolshevik Russia, noting:
By a sudden volte face the next idea of our reactionary was that we should serve as the mercenaries of the Entente against Bolshevist Russia. But war with Russia would have meant civil war in Germany, and how can a people win its freedom with civil war raging in the rear? The reactionary was too gravely out of touch with the facts to realize that our sole hope lay in uniting all the peoples of the east against the west; the socialist peoples against the liberal peoples, continental Europe against negrified France. (Germany’s Third Empire, pp. 168-169)
The concept of Germany as an Eastern state in eternal protest against the West found a Russian echo decades earlier in the work of Dostoevsky, who was a great influence on Moeller van den Bruck. In his Writer’s Diary, Dostoevsky wrote a passage called “The German World Problem. Germany—A Protesting Country.” Here he characterizes the eternal essence of Germany as a protest against the Roman West, a characterization that was not lost on van den Bruck. He wrote:
The most characteristic, most fundamental trait of this great, proud, and distinct people, from the very first moment of their appearance on the historical scene, has been that they have never wanted to unite, in terms of their mission and their principles, with the extreme western European world, meaning with all the heirs of the ancient Roman idea. They protested against this world for the whole two thousand years, and although they did not manage to express (and have never yet expressed) their “word,” their strictly formulated ideal to take the place of the ancient Roman idea, it seems that they were always inwardly convinced that they had the capacity to express this new word and to have humanity follow in their wake. (A Writer’s Diary, Vol. 2 [Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1994])
This mutual understanding between Russian and German thought would find an even more extreme manifestation in the work of Ernst Niekisch, considered the founding father of German National Bolshevism, which emerged from the “National Revolutionary” milieu and has been characterized as the paroxysmal form of the “Conservative Revolution.” Niekisch went so far as to say that Russian Bolshevism, with its cult of martial austerity, was the reflection of Prussian Protestant virtues, remarking in a commentary on Ernst Jünger’s The Worker:
The most modern rationality, secularization, and technicality of life are consequences of Protestantism, and no one dreams of contesting its paternity, even if Protestantism would very well like to disavow its offspring by hypocritically turning its back. Rome has always known it and Rome has always said it. Ultimately, Bolshevism, it’s Luther in Russia.
Recognizing the Prussian martial cult in Russian war Communism, he enthused in his seminal work, “The Law of Potsdam”:
Paradoxically, the spirit of Potsdam still remains fertile, when it has already died on German soil. That is what inspired the Bolshevik Revolution. In the extreme fear of death, Russia seized the idea of Potsdam, intensified it to its final limit, nearly to excess, and created this absolute military state that instils the discipline of the barracks in its everyday life, and whose citizens know how to endure famine when it must do battle, and in all its manifestations of life displays a bellicose ardor. That which Walter Flex said in his “Oath on the Prussian Flag” seems like an anticipation of Bolshevism in the imagination: “He who takes the oath to the Prussian flag renounces all that is his.”
We have become more French than the French themselves. Russia became more Prussian than us. Even Herder’s idea of nationalism has more greatly stimulated the Slavic peoples, and the idea of Potsdam marks Russia more profoundly than Germany.
In the measure where Russian Bolshevism was “Marxist,” it was a Prussified Marxism. It could be, more easily than Marxism, a denatured Hegelianism, containing a multitude of elements foreign to the Prussian spirit. Wanting to be a measure of war, it changed in the course of its first years into a “war communism.”
In 1932, Niekisch, along with fellow National Revolutionaries Ernst Jünger, Friedrich Hielscher, and Arvid Harnack, the latter later of Red Orchestra fame, traveled to the Soviet Union as part of ARPLAN, the Association for the Study of the Russian Planned Economy. He would remark that the Soviet Union, while theoretically Marxist, more completely embodied the vision offered in Jünger’s book, The Worker, which envisioned a society based upon total technological mobilization and rejection of all liberal norms, proclaiming the dominance of a new type of man hardened to pain, and ready to be sacrificed for a great technological scheme. He thus stated:
We can trace the parallels of the same type between the view that Jünger holds of his epoch and Russian reality. No part of the Figure of the Worker was imposed in a more definitive fashion than in Bolshevik Russia. Nowhere else does the character of work encompass existence more sensibly, no part of the Figure of the Worker is a more determinant element than total mobilization. The theses of Jünger are sometimes perceived like conceptual abstractions, as philosophical transfigurations of the world and Russian reality. But in fact, they are nothing like that at all. Jünger only maintains a living interior relation with the irresistible tendency of the world towards technology, which has already overthrown the structures of Russia and readies itself to transform other peoples equally. If we try to retrace the routes imprinted by this global tendency and give an exact general description, we are always astonished to state that concrete realizations and specifics of the Bolshevik space prove Jünger right. He is not a Bolshevik, but he testifies despite himself how much Bolshevik Russia is in accord with the dominant tendency of the world.
Niekisch eventually came to advocate for a Russian-German alliance against the powers of Versailles, with Germany adopting its own form of nationalist class struggle against the capitalists who were beholden to the victors of the First World War. He imagined a Russian-Germanic great space extending from Vlissingen to Vladivostok, and based on a Prussian socialism of the most austere type.
Another figure of the Conservative Revolution who also recognized the importance of Russian-German geopolitical collaboration was Karl Haushofer, a former artillery officer who developed a “Geopolitics of Continental Ideas.” He came to envision a continental bloc stretching from Germany to Japan, and encompassing the USSR. His geopolitics rested on a contrast between land and sea: the civilizations of the land, Germany and Russia, versus the liberal capitalist powers dominated by the sea power of Britain and the United States. Together, Russia and Germany would encompass all they needed to ensure their autonomy and military strength in the face of the global control of the sea lanes exerted by Britain and the United States.
Ideas of a Russian-German alliance were not merely the musings of avant-garde intellectuals. They took on a definite reality within the German military after the Treaty of Rapallo in 1920. During the era of the Weimar Republic, the German ambassador to the USSR from 1922 until 1928, Count Brockdorff-Rantzau, favored a strategy of rapprochement with Russia to prevent the Versailles powers from holding Germany entirely hostage. The Treaty of Rapallo proceeded under his watch, though he was temperamentally a conservative who opposed the more radical plans offered by the head of the Reichswehr, Hans von Seeckt, who wanted to conclude a joint military alliance with the USSR. Germany began to lend industrial aid to the USSR after its defeat in the Soviet-Polish war, which served as a pretext for the establishment of German military industries upon Soviet territory. By 1923, there was a Junkers aircraft manufacturing plant in Russia that was constructing aircraft that were expressly forbidden by the Versailles treaty. The German government then established a “Society for Promoting Industrial Enterprises” (known by its German abbreviation, GEFU), headed by retired General von Borries, for aiding the development of German military industry in Russia. GEFU helped to establish a poison gas factory in Trotsk and facilitated the transport of materials to factories in Russia.
However, the collaboration extended beyond mere industrial relations. German troops were also secretly trained in Russia during this period. In the Soviet Union, German pilots were able to train with the latest models of aircraft, which they were otherwise forbidden to possess, and testing ranges for new artillery pieces were established, while German officers tested out new tactics that they were developing. Ironically, it was thanks to the collaboration between Weimar Germany and the USSR that Germany was able to retain a modern military until Hitler’s abrogation of the limitations imposed by Versailles during the Third Reich. The architect of this collaboration was Hans von Seeckt, who advocated an alliance with Russia against Poland and opposed attempts by anti-Communist crusaders to antagonize Russia. It was a lesson lost on the new regime that would take power in 1933.
The Nazi accession to power represented a fundamental turn away from the East. Hitler’s popularity was bolstered by encouraging anti-Bolshevik, anti-Russian, and often anti-Slavic fears among those who worried that their properties would be seized in a socialist revolution. An alignment towards the East was expressly ruled out by the Nazi leadership long before they came to power, when the faction of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) that was under Hitler’s leadership absolutely ruled out an alliance with Russia in 1926, over the protests of the National Revolutionary-leaning Strasser brothers, who led the other branch of the Party, as well as the Party’s regional leadership in Prussia, who believed that it should be left open as a possibility. Nevertheless, Hitler rose to power as an anti-Soviet candidate.
There was a faint glimmer of hope for a change of course with the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which was influenced by the geopolitics of Karl Haushofer, who had an influence on the fringes of the NSDAP. Regardless, this short-lived opportunity was squandered and the fate of Germany was sealed when it invaded the USSR and attempted to brutally subjugate its peoples, which provoked a horrible and fatal retribution. The first and most vocal protests against Hitlerism came from Ernst Niekisch, who published his book, Hitler: A German Fate, in 1932, the year before the Nazis came to power. After having seen potential in the movement during the 1920s, he now saw the Nazis as being firmly in the camp of the West, serving as foot soldiers of Rome and being led by an Austrian Catholic to occupy Germany once again. By encouraging the anti-Bolshevik crusade, Hitler was in fact acting as the “gendarme of the West,” doing the dirty work of the Versailles powers by taking on Russia and abandoning any chance for a unified Soviet-German front. Nieksich organized covert networks of resistance to the Nazis until his arrest in 1937, and subsequent imprisonment and torture (which left him blind) in a concentration camp to which he was sentenced until the defeat of the Third Reich in 1945.
Niekisch’s resistance was not the only effort to emerge from the eastward-looking nationalist camp. His associate Karl Otto Paetel, who was the director of the group “Socialist Nation,” also organized resistance networks, distributing anti-Hitler tracts across Germany. He was eventually stripped of his German citizenship and ended up living in exile in the United States. Some nationalists even went so far as to join the German Communist Party (KPD), such as Beppo Römer, who had earlier been a commander in the paramilitary Freikorps Oberland and who joined the KPD in 1930. He was executed by the Nazis for partaking in a plot to assassinate Hitler in 1934. Others covertly collaborated with the Soviets, such as Harro Schulze-Boysen, a young Luftwaffe officer who had rallied to the National Revolutionary cause and who advocated both the end of capitalism and Versailles; and Arvid Harnack, who had joined Niekisch on the ARPLAN expedition to Russia, and who had directed the nationalist periodical Vorkampfer with Friedrich Lenz. They were part of the celebrated “Red Orchestra” spy network, as it was called by the Nazis. They would be executed after being exposed in 1942. And last, but not least, the leaders of the July 20 assassination attempt against Hitler, Claus von Stauffenberg and his associates in the Kreisau Circle, likewise emerged from the Conservative Revolutionary milieu, having been influenced by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck. These men, patriots above all, sacrificed much, and often everything, to stop the betrayal of the Prussian geopolitical tradition at Hitler’s hands.
In the ruins of post-war Germany, the Prussian tradition once again found an Eastern echo. In the German Democratic Republic (DDR), a certain Communist interpretation of Prussian virtues emerged. The DDR exalted the German Peasants’ Revolt, characterizing it as a class struggle, just as Engels had. Florian Geyer was held as one of the most cherished heroes of the DDR. And one of the early political figures of the DDR was Anton Ackermann, a KPD ideologue who had formulated a nationalist interpretation of Communism in 1930 under the title, “Program for the National and Social Liberation of the German People,” opposing both Versailles and capitalism. He was a close ally of Niekisch within the leadership of the DDR until Party disputes diminished his standing in 1953-54. Niekisch had also found himself at home there in the early years of the DDR, until the brutal suppression of the uprising of June 1953 shattered Niekisch’s faith in the leadership of the DDR, whereupon he moved to West Germany, while still remaining intransigently opposed to its political system. In the East German military, the Nationale Volksarmee (NVA), many Wehrmacht officers found a new vocation. The core of their leadership emerged from the “National Committee for a Free Germany,” a Soviet-sponsored anti-Nazi grouping which included Wehrmacht officers who had been captured in the war. They adopted the flag of the Wilhelmine Reich, and their program invoked the Napoleonic collaboration between Russia and Prussia. In the first year of its existence, 27% of the NVA’s officer corps were Wehrmacht veterans. In the parades and uniforms of the NVA, the old Prussian tradition continued to shine until 1990. The austere militarism of Prussia was firmly oriented towards the East once again.
With the fall of Communism, it could be said that the last vestiges of Prussia died. Reunified Germany placed itself firmly within the camp of the West, embracing NATO and the EU. And yet the embers of a free and Eastern-looking Germany still burn. When Russia annexed Crimea, against the wishes of the West, there were Germans observing the referendum, affirming it as a true expression of the people’s will in the face of NATO lies. Germans from both the so-called Left and Right participated, including several members of Die Linke (The Left), which emerged from the ruling Socialist Unity Party of the DDR, and Manuel Ochsenreiter, editor of the German nationalist-oriented magazine “Zuerst!“, which likewise has a very pro-Russian perspective. More generally speaking, one can find pro-Russian political figures from across the German political spectrum. In addition to certain members of the aforementioned Die Linke, on the Right there is the pro-Russian and anti-EU National Democratic Party (NPD) and the more popular Euroskeptic party, Alternative for Germany (AfD). It should be noted that the base of what is often maligned as “extreme” German nationalism is in the former Eastern bloc, in cities such as Leipzig and Dresden. Across the board, critics of the NATO and EU domination of Germany look to Russia as a friend and an ally in national liberation as the Prussians once did during their darkest hours.
Today, it appears Germany’s vital signs are waning. Certainly, one can speak of their economic dominance. But it is a domination within the framework of globalism and aided by the EU as it squeezes the last pennies from the poorer southern European nations. Furthermore, Germany has promulgated the most intransigently pro-open borders policy within the EU. It is clear that Germany’s wealth comes at the cost of national suicide. It has traded independence for cash. In doing so, it has traded the freedom of the East for slavery to the Western marketplace. No amount of economic prosperity can compensate for the loss of the distinct essence of a people – a sense of being oneself.
The siren call of easy money has accomplished the occupation and assimilation of Germany by the West to a far greater extent than Versailles ever did. The West had learned from its mistakes. It offered Germany the poisoned chalice of friendship to mask their subjugation. Instead of the indemnities of Versailles, the Western sector of Germany received the Marshall Plan while the Americans occupied it. Thus, the fetters of the global dollar were fastened with Germany’s eager acquiescence. The sacrifices of the centuries, from Arminius, to Fredrick Barbarossa, to Florian Geyer, to vom Stein, to Bismarck, and to the Conservative Revolutionaries and the heroic resistance against Hitler, will have been in vain if Germany forsakes its heritage of struggle against the West. Germany today stands at a crossroads, with thousands of foreigners settling there with the full blessing of its thoroughly Western leader, all the while remaining under NATO occupation. Time and time again, Germany has pulled itself back from the brink of ruination with a turn towards the East. Today’s historical moment is another such opportunity. The choice between East and West has never been starker. To the East, we have national sacrifice and the defense of the historical mission of Germany; to the West, a comfortable decline into oblivion.