1988, Neo-Nationalism and the “Neue Rechte” in West Germany from 1946 to 1988, Robert Steuckers, Vouloir, West Germany
◘ A critical reading of : Margret FEIT, Die “Neue Rechte” in der Bundesrepublik : Organisation – Ideologie – Strategie, Campus, Frankfurt a.M., 1987, 242 p.
To place the German “New Right” under the magnifying glass is not an easy thing; firstly because term was neither used nor claimed by the men and groups that journalists arbitrarily pigeonholed under this label. Actually, the term “Neue Rechte” is a creation of journalists, a lazy verbal convenience that designates attempts at ideological and practical innovation which occurred in the “nationalist” camp in West Germany. Recently, Margret Feit tried to investigate this rarefied world and released a book, a dense 244 pages abounding with useful information, but, alas, also incongruous commentary and erroneous simplifications.
The reason for these derailments is simple: M. Feit is a professional anti-fascist militant, one of these Don Quixotes who, forty years after the spectacular collapse of Hitler’s Reich, spends their time harassing increasingly antiquated phantoms. But the variant of her Don Quixotism diverges a bit from that of her Francophone colleagues in the vein of Article 31 (Paris) or Celsius (Brussels); who get completely befuddled, fabricating incredible plots where we see, for example, the Belgian Justice Minister Jean Gol, liberal and Israeli, plan the emergence of a gigantic paramilitary network with the former leader of the movement Jeune Europe, Jean Thiriart, and a representative of Zaire’s president, Mobutu Sese Seko in the backroom of a Brussels restaurant! M. Feit doesn’t take the joke that far.
Why Read This Book
If the “who’s who” of Article 31, Celsius, their Flemish buddy who rages in Morgen and the no less unerring Maurice Sarfatti, alias Serge Dumont, scribbler at Vif / L’Express, whose colleagues privately scoff at him, politely saying, “he’s still a big adolescent…”, all sink into charming fantasy, the incurable childishness from son to father of the Golden Sixties, M. Feit accomplishes a more serious task; she’s from the masochist variant, which (poorly) stalks its own phantoms but also collects authentic documents in order to denounce, what she believes to be, a veritable network, infested with wickedness and ready leap upon poor democracy like the wolf does to the tender little lamb in the fables. But Dame Feit is an archivist, she cites her sources and that’s why her book is noteworthy, even if it doesn’t contain an index and the outline of its chapters, which intends to be an analysis of the intellectual content of the “Neue Rechte”, is purely and simply taken from the useful and well written book published in 1975 from the pen of Günter Bartsch (1).
It’s worth more than a note if we rid ourselves of her fantasies, which return to every paragraph at a full gallop, in order to be constantly repelled by the terrible energy displayed by M. Feit’s quasi-neurotic desire to acquire a shred of scientific respectability. Let us therefore consider that this book has a certain value, which remains hidden behind an undergrowth of fantasies, and one must know how to read it with the dexterity of a professional pathfinder.
The Nationalist Camp Before the Advent of the “Neue Rechte”
In 1946, the DReP (Deutsche Rechts-Partei ; German Right Party) appeared, a fusion of the DKoP (Deutsche Konservative Partei) and the DAP (Deutsche Aufbau-Partei ; German Reconstruction Party), two groups formed in 1945. The DReP, lead by Fritz Dorls and Fritz Rößler, was too heterogeneous to endure; the conservative wing separated from the socialist wing which, with two party leaders, formed the SRP (Sozialistische Reichs-Partei) in 1949. In October 1952, the government banned this party, under the pressure of the allies, who were disturbed because it demonstrated a certain dynamism (1951: 11% of the vote in Basse-Saxe and 16 seats). The party was opposed to the pro-Western policy of Adenauer, fighting for a unified neutral Germany and seriously competing with the “left” thanks to its audacious social program. M. Feit doesn’t utter a word about this resolutely non-right-wing engagement … The ban forced its militants to change their symbols and modify their style of propaganda. The DRP (Deutsche Reichs-Partei) would take over from it, again registering a certain success in Basse-Saxe (8.1%, more than the liberals from the FDP). However economic recovery played in favor of the confessional parties and the SPD.
From Statist Nationalism to Plebiscitary Nationalism and “Basisdemokratisch”
Following the failure and ban of the SRP and the stagnation of the DRP, nationalist milieus turned upon themselves. The most audacious rejected all forms of pro-Occidentalism and chose neutralism or a German form of Gaullism. But the criticisms essentially focused on the relics of Bismarckian statism passed on by the “old nationalist” leaders of the SRP and DRP. The organizational nucleus of this hostile revision to centralizing statism was the DG (Deutsche Gemeinschaft ; German Community) of August Haußleiter, who came from the Bavarian CSU. This DG was nationalist, neutralist and anti-liberal, in the sense intended by the principal protagonists of the Weimar era “konservative Revolution.” This group aspired to legitimize the state on the basis of popular will, the generator of popular harmony and conviviality, not on the power of the party that won the elections. From the start, with such a program declared for the 2 German republics and Austria, the militants of the DG took the side of colonized peoples fighting to acquire independence (Nasserist Egypt, the Algerian FLN, etc) as these fights were aligned with the German will to gain self-determination.
In May 1965, while the remnants of the DRP reassembled with a new formation, the NPD (National-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands), founded in November 1964, the DG, with the DFP (Deutsche Freiheits-Partei ; German Freedom Party) and the VDNV (Vereinigung Deutsche National-Versammlung ; Association for A German-National Rally), evolved into the AUD (Aktionsgemeinschaft Unabhängiger Deutsche ; Action Community of German Independents). A divide arose immediately: the old, statist nationalists found themselves in the NPD, while the left wing of the nationalists, with its principal intellectuals, found themselves in the AUS.
From the AUD to the Opening to Left Wing Movements and Ecologism
We note that the VDNV counted Wolf Schenke, founder of a “third way” concept and a partisan of neutrality, and the historian Wolfgang Venohr (cf. Orientations n°3), in its ranks. The AUD, faithful to its populist and organic will and its refusal of the old statist and quasi-fascist formulas, opened itself to the leftist APO (Außerparlamentarische Opposition ; Extra-parliamentary Opposition) and made a number of pacifist and neo-democratic (whose objective is the erection of a democracy beyond parties and traditional ideological family) arguments. The negotiations with the APO would fail (although many leaders of the APO and the SDS, its student organization, would find themselves in the neo-nationalist camp in the 1980s) and the militants of the AUD would establish ecological circles, in the name of an organic ideology, a very romantic and Germanic tradition: the protection of Life (Lebensschutz). Many of its militants would create, with the most left wing elements, the famous “Green Party” that we know today.
The Strasserists: “Third Way,” European Solidarism
The Strasserists, grouped around Otto Strasser, constituted a supplementary component of neo-nationalism after 1945. After the collapse of the Third Reich, Otto Strasser, then in Canadian exile, sent Rundbriefe für Deutschlands Erneuerung (Circulars for German Renewal) to his sympathizers in mass quantities. These circulars mentioned German unification on the basis of a “European third way,” centered around a solidarism that dismissed both Western liberal capitalism and Soviet style socialism. This solidarism would abolish class distinction, by forming a new leading elite. German unity, as seen by Strasser, implied armed neutralism, the future military nucleus of an independent Europe that should become an equal, if not superior, political power to the USA and USSR. This Europe would ally with the Third World, as Third World countries would furnish raw materials to the “European Federation” during its gestation.
In order to support and spread this program, the West German Strasserists founded the DSU (Deutsche Soziale Union) in 1954. Many national-revolutionary militants made their first commitments there, notably Henning Eichberg between 1956 and 1959. In 1961, he passed to the VDNV of Venohr and Schenke (cf. supra). This passage implied an abandonment of the neo-Strasserists’ statism and centralism and an adherence to populist democracy, which the AUD championed.
Worker’s Self Management and the Nationalism of Liberation
In this same movement, the “Vötokalisten” grouped around E. Kliese appeared. This political circle elaborated an new theory of worker’s self-management, derived from the principles of “German socialism” (cf. Orientations n°7 and Trasgressioni n°4), the only true revision of Marxism in this century. This theory of worker’s self-management formed the nucleus of the social doctrine of the UAP (Unabhängige Arbeiter Partei), another group created at the start of the 1960s which desired to be “the combat group for a libertarian and democratic socialism of the German nation.” Vötokalisten and the militants of UAP laid claim to Ferdinand Lassalle, founder of German social democracy and admirer of Bismarck’s work. Here the French reader will note how close social democracy is to the different variants of German neo-nationalism.
This German socialism, with Lassallian connotations, opposed the NPD, judged to be excessively right wing, as much as the communists and the SPD, judged to be traitors to the socialist ideal. An important personality appeared in this movement: Wolfgang Strauss, former militant from the East German Liberal Party (LDPD) and former convict in Vorkuta. Strauss was the advocate of a popular socialism and a nationalism of liberation, whose model was derived from the Ukrainian resistance, Russian solidarism, and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, among others. In this view, nationalism is conceived as the emotional yeast that gives rise to a socialism close to the people, resolutely anti-imperialist, hostile to large scale entities, ethno-pluralist.
The Decline of the NPD
Despite a few initial successes in the Länder elections, the NPD never surpassed the score of 4.3% (in 1969) for the federal vote. The party was divided between idealists and opportunists, while the movement for democratic, neo-socialist and proto-ecological nationalism attracted more intellectuals and students. This sociological stratification effectively lead to the principal ideological innovations of German neo-nationalism on the eve of the agitations of 68. If one is interested in this constant germination rather than fixed structures, an analysis of the student organizations that were created on the margins of the NPD (and often in direct opposition to it) will be very useful.
Many initiatives happened in quick succession in the academic world. Among them, the BNS (Bund Nationaler Studenten ; National Student’s League) in 1956, on the impetus of Peter Dehoust, currently the director of the magazine Nation Europa (Coburg). Dehoust and his companions wanted to base the political combat of the nationalists on an engagement in the domain of culture from every angle, which, in the German political language, calls for the start of a new Kulturkampf. The disciplines favored by this “Kulturkampf” were of course history and biopolitics. The BNS assuredly constituted a well conceived organizational model, but its ideological message was, in many aspects, more conservative than the program and the intentions of the DG, which later became the AUD.
The organizations that took over in the 1960s, between the development of the NPD and the agitation of 67-68, were more faithful to revolutionary populism and quite hostile to the last strains of statism. In October 1964, Sven Thomas Frank, Bodo Blum and Fred Mohlau founded the IDJ (Initiative der Jugend ; Youth Initiative) in Berlin, which in 1968, would merge with a few other militant organizations to form the APM (Außerparlamentarische Mitarbeit ; Extra-Parliamentary Cooperation); this new initiative was clearly modeled on the leftist APO (Außerparlamentarische Opposition). The APM aimed to bring together, with the nationalists, those who didn’t renounce the idea of German reunification, and who hadn’t stopped considering Berlin to be the sole capital of all Germany.
Rudi Dutschke and Bernd Rabehl Slide Towards A Form of Nationalism
Günther Bartsch relevantly underlines, contrary to M. Feit, that, despite the initial divide caused by the national question, all the student groups, leftists as well as nationalists, slid towards a new, militant nationalism of protest. Bartsch recalls that the 2 leftist leaders in Berlin in 68, Rudi Dutschke and Bernd Rabehl, didn’t raise the stale equation: “nationalism = fascism” at all. On the contrary, quite early on, Rabehl insisted that nationalist motivations had played a first rank role in the French, Russian, Yugoslav, and Chinese Revolutions in many theoretical texts.
According to Rabehl, nationalism dialectically receives a progressive utility; it catalyzes the process of history and provokes the acceleration of class conflicts, from which socialist revolutions unfold. National ideology can give a unifying discourse to the different components of the working class. Rabehl continues, on the global scale, a German neo-nationalism, carried by the working class, can undermine the American-Soviet condominium, the embodiment of reaction and stagnation in the 20th century, just like the “Metternich system,” arising from the Congress of Vienna, was at the start of the 19th.
Dutschke, with all his charisma, supported this slide initiated by his comrade Rabehl. He even went further: he wrote that in the 20th century Germany had experienced 3 forms of revolutionary worker’s socialism: the socialist SPD, the communist KPD, and … Hitler’s NSDAP (which he nevertheless criticized for certain compromises and diplomatic orientations). This (very) partial rehabilitation of the historic role of the NSDAP shows that Manichean anti-fascism, which rages today, no longer dominated the discourse among the serious leftist theorists of the 1960s. Margret Feit evidently doesn’t utter a word about this slide towards nationalism and dogmatically avoids looking into the theoretical value of this common argument of the “New Left” and the “New Right.” Bartsch notes that the militants of the left and the young nationalists had a good number of shared ideas, notably:
- The refusal of the establishment
- Criticism of consumer society
- Hostility to media manipulations
- The refusal of hyper-specialization
- An anti-technocratic attitude with ecological connotations
- Anti-capitalism and the will to form a new socialism
- The myth of the revivifying youth
- An anti-bourgeois attitude where Marxism and Nietzscheanism closely mingle
- The will to question absolutely everything
Why didn’t nationalists and leftists march together against the system, if their positions were so close? Bartsch thinks it’s because nationalists still conveyed the images and references of the past in an overly stereotypical manner, while the left wielded “critical theory” with a remarkable dexterity and benefited from the resounding impact of Marcuse’s book, The One-Dimensional Man, [cf. The critical analysis of M. Haar, L’Homme unidimensionnel, Hatier/Profil d’une œuvre, 1975]. The gap between their “styles” was still insurmountable.
“Junges Forum” and “Junge Kritik” : a laboratory of ideas in Hamburg
The magazine Junges Forum, founded in 1964 in Hamburg, envisioned “laying the theoretical bases of a new thought” from the outset. The will that guided this intention, was motivated by the desire leave the strictly political ghetto, where it saw total stagnation regarding the recruitment of new militants, and suggest a new message to depoliticized citizens, capable of gaining their interest and rousing them from their torpor. Those who were named by M. Feit as the “head thinkers” of the “ Neue Rechte” published articles and manifestos in the columns of Junges Forum. Among them: Wolfgang Strauss, Lothar Penz, Hans Amhoff, Henning Eichberg and Fritz Joß. The themes addressed concerned: intellectual renewal, the search for a more satisfactory form of democracy, the elaboration of an organic socialism, German reunification, European unity, outlining an international order based on organic principles, ecology, regionalism, solidarism, etc.
In 1972, the editorial committee of the magazine published a 36 point manifesto, whose stated objective was to propose the basis for a popular and organic socialism, capable of constituting a coherent alternative to the dominant liberal and Marxist ideologies (the text, without notes, is reproduced in full in the appendix to Bartsch’s book). This manifesto exercised a relatively modest influence among us, notable in certain circles close to the Volksunie, among Flemish solidarists, regionalists, some neo-socialists and solidarists in Brussels, notably in the youth magazine Vecteurs (1981) which only published a single issue, where an adapted translation of the program of Junges Forum was reproduced, by Christian Lepetit, militant of the quasi-Maoist AIB (Anti-Imperialistische Bond ; Anti-Imperialist League). Robert Steuckers spread this message into the orbit of the magazine Pour une renaissance européenne, the organ of GRECE-Bruxelles, directed by Georges Hupin.
European Nationalism, The New Economic Order, Philosophy and Policy
In parallel with the magazine, a collection of paperback books appeared, under the title Junge Kritik. More than notebooks of Junges Forum, the treatises bound into the 3 volumes of Junge Kritik constituted the essential basis for a total revolution of nationalist thought at the dawn of the 1970s (the publication of the first 3 booklets extended from 1970 to 1973). Margret Feit, evidently not interested in the evolution of the ideas, prefers to fabricate a puzzle from real or imaginary connections to underpin her latest conspiracy theory.
Objectivity obliges us to directly refer to the texts. In Volume 1 (Nationalismus Heute; Nationalism Today), the young leaders Hartwig Singer (pseudonym of Henning Eichberg), Gert Waldmann and Michael Meinrad argued for a Europeanization of nationalism, and, consequently, for a liberation of our entire continent from American and Soviet tutelage. The revised nationalism would be progressive thenceforth because it would imply the liberation of our peoples from economic and political oppression, operating at two speeds (Western and Soviet), as the “dutschkistes” in Berlin had envisioned, not the conservation of dead structures (as the old liberal/ Marxist historiography suggests).
In the second volume of Junge Kritik, entitled Leistungsgemeinschaft (community of service), Meinrad, Joß and Bronner developed the economic program of neo-nationalism: solidarity of the working classes of all nations, ownership of means of production by all who worked, drastic limitation of capitalist concentrations of wealth. Hartwig Singer, for his part, published a Manifest Neue Rationalität (Manifesto for a new rationality), where the parallel with the efforts of Alain de Benoist at the same time is glaringly obvious. Singer and Benoist, in effect, wanted to launch an offensive against the essentialism of the dominant ideologies of the era, through the interpretation of Anglo-Saxon empiricism given by Français Louis Rougier. However, Singer also added the lessons of Marx, for whom all ideology conceals interests, and Max Weber, theorist of the process of rationalization in the West, to this empiricist and Rougierian message. Singer, writing in a German context totally more revolutionary than the Franco-Parisian context, struck by an overly literary anti-Marxism, dared to mobilize Marx, the hard realist, against the abstract and false Marx of the neo-moralists. Which allowed him to correct Rougier’s apolitical stance that lead to a socially respectable conservatism incapable of smashing the practical incoherence of the ambient liberalism of the West.
Neo-Nationalism is “Progressive”
In the third volume, which was entitled Europäischer Nationalismus ist Fortschritt (European Nationalism is Progress!), Meinrad, Waldmann, and Joß reiterated and completed their theses, while Singer, in his contribution (“Logischer Empirismus”), accentuated the conceptual modernism of Junge Kritik; the proximity of its approach to Alain de Benoist’s in Nouvelle École from 1972-1973 appeared even more evident in the text Manifest Neue Rationalität. Singer not only cited Nouvelle École abundantly but encouraged his comrades to read Monod, Russell, Rougier, and Heisenberg, 4 authors studied by Nouvelle École. Singer added that, from this four way reading, it is possible to deduce a new type of socialism (Monod and Russell), neo-nationalism (Heisenberg), and a new “European consciousness” (Rougier). In effect, Rougier had demonstrated that the European spirit was the only spirit open to progress, capable of innovation and adaptation. European rationality, according to Rougier, Benoist, and Singer, largely transcended contemplative oriental ideas that the hippy vogue had injected into public opinion, in the wake of 68 and the protest against the American war in Vietnam. Neo-nationalism henceforth appeared progressive, open to modern sciences, just like it appeared progressive in the eyes of Dutschke and Rabehl because its energy could break the oppression represented by a macro-political alienation: the alienation established at Yalta.
This German-French philosophical pairing didn’t endure: a few years later, Éléments, the organ of GRECE and Alain de Benoist, attacked the ecological movement, which the Germans felt directly committed to. In the scheme of national defense, the French supported a national nuclear arms program, an approach that the Germans didn’t care about. It was only in 1982, when A. de Benoist decided completely in favor of German neutralism, that the respective positions of the Germans and the French joined together once again.
The Flemish Contribution
In Flanders, where Junges Forum had its most subscribers outside of Germany, the solidarism and regionalism of the Hamburg magazine had roused much interest, so much that a good number of Flemish (meta)political writers contributed to the effort of Junges Forum. We cite, in no particular order: Jos Vinks (Le nationalisme flamand, 1977 ; Le pacifisme du mouvement flamand, 1981; La langue afrikaans, 1987), Roeland Raes (Le régionalisme en Europe, 1979), Willy Cobbaut (L’alternative solidariste, 1981), Frans de Hoon (Approche positive de l’anarchisme, 1982), Piet Tommissen (Le concept de “métapolitique” chez Alain de Benoist, 1984), Robert Steuckers (Henri De Man, 1986). On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Belgian independence, in 1980, Jos Vinks, Edwin Truyens, Johan van Herreweghe and Pieter Moerman explained the historical roots and situation of the linguistic quarrel in Belgium, from the Flemish point of view. The French contribution was limited to a text by Alain de Benoist defining the “Nouvelle Droite” and an essay by Jacques Marlaud on the Gramscian theory of meta-politics and its practical application by the “Nouvelle Droite” in 1984.
One imagines what would have been a fusion of “dutschkisme”, neo-Europeanism, and Gramscian praxis in Europe – that’s what a few Francophone high school students in Brussels, grouped around Christian Lepetit and Éric Delaan, hoped for, before academic scattering and military service separated them … The furtive misadventure of Lepetit and Delaan deserves attention as it shows that neo-socialist and regionalist neo-nationalism, prefigured by the Germans, had the ability to seduce boys who militated in the Maoist anti-imperialist movement, then in full collapse, beyond Germany’s borders.
The National-Revolutionary “Basis Groups”
In parallel with the Junges Forum enterprise, which continues today and will celebrate 24 years in 1988, the German neo-nationalist movement constituted “basis groups” (Basisgruppen). The term came from the vocabulary of leftist protest. The student organizations of the left spilled over from the universities and invaded the high schools and factories. The emergence of the “basis groups” signified that, henceforth, there existed a national-revolutionary presence in all layers of society. This diversification implied a decentralization and relative autonomy of local groups who should be ready to intervene very quickly at any moment in their city, their high school, their factory, without needing to refer to a central body.
Agitation in Bochum
The strategy of the “basis group” demonstrated itself in the most spectacular fashion at the University of the Ruhr in Bochum. A group of neo-nationalist activists militated effectively there and founded a journal, the Ruhr-Studenten-Anzeiger. Around this militant newspaper, a Republikanischer Studentenbund (RSB ; League of Republican Students) organized in 1968, which aimed to become a counterweight to the leftist SDS. Conflict would soon follow: the militants of the RSB criticized the SDS for organizing pointless strikes in order to consolidate their power over the student masses. In the course of a blockade organized by the leftists, the RSB took the university of Bochum by storm and proclaimed, in a populist-Marxist language, their hostility to the “exploiters” and “bonzes” of the SDS, having become stakeholders in the new establishment, where leftists had henceforth been accorded a place. The proclamations of the RSB, drafted by Singer, were stuffed with citations from Lenin, Marx, and Mao. Singer also referred to the rhetoric of the German workers in Berlin against Ulbricht’s communist functionaries, during the June 1953 uprising. The revolting RSB students insulted the East German functionaries of the SED, calling them marionettes of the Soviets, “monkeys in glasses,” “fat cats,” and “paper-pushing reactionaries.” This appropriation of the Marxist vocabulary and style of Berlin Uprising of 1953 irritated the leftists as, ipso facto, they had lost the monopoly on militant shock-language and foresaw a possible intrusion of national-revolutionaries into their own milieus, with the evident risk of poaching and counter-attraction.
The scuffles of 1968 and the nationalists’ adoption of a language drawn from Marxist ideology, though surprising the SDS, hardly had an echo beyond the Ruhr and it was confronted with a conspiracy of silence. The RSB and the Ruhr-Studenten-Anzeiger disappeared, which didn’t necessarily entail the total disappearance of left-wing nationalist agitation in Bochum. Thus, at the start of the 1970s, the nationalists participated in left wing demonstrations against property speculation and rent increases and they appropriated the slogan of Trotskyite groups: “The division of Germany is the division of the German proletariat!” In itself, the adventure of the RBS is significant for the further evolution of German neo-nationalism (which M. Feit erroneously calls “Neue Rechte”), it marked its definitive transition to the left, its exit from the quasi-rightist microcosm in which it was encrusted, due to the existence of the NPD. The historical weakness and sterility of “rightism” were proclaimed there and the emphasis was resolutely placed on socialism, critical reasoning, militant atheism, and futurism.
Munich and Bielefeld
After Bochum, other “basis groups” were established and each developed its own originality. Thus in Munich, Wolfgang Strauss formed a committee of young workers, high school students, and students, whose objective was to give them militant culture based on literature and political science. Strauss named his group Club Symonenko, from the name of a Ukrainian poet, Wasyl Symonenko, who died in 1963, after enduring Soviet repression. This committee demanded the liberation of the Ukrainian historian Valentin Moro, organized soirees with the exiled Polish writer Zygmunt Jablonski and held rallies on June 17th, in memory of the Berlin Workers’ Uprising of 1953, distributed bilingual tracts in favor the IRA and founded a James Connolly “labor circle”, in honor of the militant union leader and Irish nationalist, who drew his arguments from Celtic mythology. Its German references were the poet Georg Büchner, founder of the Society for the Rights of Man in the 19th century, and the Romantic poet Theodor Körner, who fought with the Lützow Free Corps (referenced in the music of Weber) in order to drive the Bonapartist oppressor and his pillaging troops out of Germany. Strauss succeeded in laying the basis for an original political culture on the eve of the 1970s, drawing from the corpus of popular and libertarian Slavic and Celtic nationalist thought, and reawakening the enthusiasm of young Germans for their nationalist, libertarian, anarchist, and radically anti-bourgeois poets at the start of the 19th century. This corpus would be upheld as such in the columns of the magazine Wir Selbst, at the start of the 80s.
If in Sarre and North Rhine-Westphalia, the “basis groups” ended up choosing subservience to the NPD – which never stopped being problematic and causing grave ideological conflicts – in Bielefeld, the NJ-Stadtverband group (Urban Group of Nationalist Youth), close to the Berliners of the APM, managed to organize a modern agitation, with records of protest songs composed by Singer, and printed 4,500 copies of a paper, Wendepunkt! Never before seen! The editorial strategy was to gather a maximum of texts and dispatches, coming directly from the militants, and align them in the columns of the paper; other “basis groups” followed the same strategy, which allowed them to form a solid cadre, thanks to a good division of labor and a concentrated mass of militant dispatches. Militancy thus become lively and profitable.
Five Types of Action
Meinrad thought coordination between groups should extend to the national scale, and eliminate the right wing and outmoded NPD. Groups should number from 15 to 20 local activists self-financed from relatively high contributions, and regularly conduct 5 types of action, as Bartsch explains:
1 – Commemorations, notably of June 17th 1953 and August 13th 1961, the date the Berlin Wall was erected.
2 – Ecological actions: The group Junges Forum in Hamburg excelled there. It organized Bürgerinitiativen (Citizen’s Initiatives) against the construction of a highway in the middle of the city. In this perspective, nationalism meant protecting the natural integrity of the popular biotope.
3 – Social actions: They were essentially directed against property speculation, rent increases, and increases in the price of public transport. These actions also aimed to expose the irrationality of the functioning of the machinery of the state, which pretended to be a perfect democracy.
4 – Solidarity actions: they aimed to support Eastern European nationalist protests, as during the 1970s the West German neo-nationalist activists thought that German unity could only be realized through a major upheaval in Eastern Europe.
5 – Resistance actions: especially rowdy protests against the visit of East German personalities to the West in the framework of Wily Brandt’s Ostpolitik.
Towards Unity: The NRAO (Nationalrevolutionäre Aufbauorganisation)
The ensemble of “basis groups” didn’t form a party, structured in a rigid manner, but a dynamic movement that ceaselessly integrated new information and facts. Its non-rigidity and diversity set a contemporary tone and prevented all stagnation, any collapse into itself or into a fixed corpus of thought. Politics doesn’t only come into play during elections, or in furtive moments, but it constantly extends into and pervades daily life. Better: it is ingrained into the consciousness due to constant agitation, which means that each militant takes to heart the task of personally disciplining himself every day though reading newspapers and books, especially those written by his adversaries, which challenge his essential and untaught cultural references, in order to better understand the ideological divides that are articulated in the country.
In order to amplify the actions of these “basis groups” implanted in German cities and universities, many of figureheads of this neo-nationalist (or national-revolutionary) movement decided to create a “coordination organization” in March 1974, which took the name NRAO or Nationalrevolutionäre Aufbauorganisation (Organization for National-Revolutionary Development). Many meetings would be necessary to establish a common strategy. During the first, which took place on March 2nd and 3rd 1974 at Würzburg, three orators laid the bases for renewal: Alexander Epstein (alias Sven Thomas Frank), Lothar Penz and Hans Amhoff.
Epstein’s speech revealed, among other things, a willingness to fight “the enemies on the inside,” refusing ersatz Western European patriotism (integration into the European Community sold as a panacea by Adenauer’s friends), and to play the Chinese card against the two superpowers in international politics. In this manner, Epstein integrated the Maoist theory of “three worlds” into the national-revolutionary doctrinal corpus. Moreover, he proposed that the national-revolutionary movement was the only authentically national movement, because the East German SED and the West German DKP had sold out to the USSR, while the bourgeois parties, the SPD, FDP, and the CDU/ CSU were the guarantors of the American presence, despite the left wing of the SPD, favorable to a conciliatory Ostpolitik. In this scheme, the NPD placed itself to the right of the Bavarian CSU through its incurable rightism. Only the little Berlin Maoist microcosm, publisher of the prestigious magazine Befreiung, found favor with Epstein, who thus became the advocate of tacit and courteous cooperation between the Maoists and the national-revolutionaries.
Epstein, like Penz and Amhoff, thought that the strategy to follow couldn’t be clandestine or illegal in any way; as the national-revolutionaries were the only ones to claim the reunification of the country in a coherent fashion, their program conformed to the watchword inscribed in the preamble to the democratic constitution of West Germany, the watchword that asked the citizens to mobilize all their efforts to restore freedom and unity to Germany. Consequently, during this meeting in Würzburg, Penz articulated his “biohumanist” social vision and Amhoff explained his revised definition of modern national liberation, essentially anti-imperialist.
The Creation of “Sache des Volkes”
The geographic dispersion of groups, the different styles of work that each one had, and some ideological divergences ensured that no centralism could coordinate the diversity proper to the national-revolutionary movement. On August 31st 1974, Epstein (S.T. Frank), Waldmann and Amhoff gathered a thousand national-revolutionary militants for new projects: to engage in ecological protest because the massacre of the countryside is the work of a rootless capitalism without a fatherland; outline a solidarist, rooted, popular socialism, in the style of the socialism adopted by the oppressed peoples of the third world; construct workers’ self-management in the Yugoslav style, etc. The movement Sache des Volkes (SdV; Cause of the People), which emerged from this meeting, intended to be a part of a diffuse global moment which fought against capitalism and Soviet state socialism everywhere in the world.
Hartwig would flesh out this double refusal, to which the French national-revolutionary militants also adhered (notably those in Lutte du Peuple and the Provençal militants of the CDPU), as well as the Italian and Belgians of Jeune Europe and its various incarnations. In the speech he sent to the congress of Sache de Volkes, which would be read to them, he reminded them it was elementary to refuse Moscow like Washington, but he also explained that it was necessary to take new facts into account: the principal enemy was no longer local, nationally based, capitalism but multinational capitalism which made US and Red Army its police throughout the world. Singer then designated a more precise, unique enemy: multinational capital, of which the classical imperialisms established at Yalta were only instruments. In this view, the policy of detente only aimed open markets in the East for Western multinational capitalism.
SdV expressed itself from 1978 to 1988 in the magazine Neue Zeit, which continues to be published in Berlin, while a series of pamphlets punctuated the militant life of the movement like Laser(Düsseldorf), Ideologie und Strategie, Rebell et Der Nationalrevolutionär in Vienna; the latter is still published under the direction of Helmut Müller.
Solidaristische Volksbewegung (SVB)
While the youngest element of the national-revolutionary movement modeled their offensive strategy on the left’s, the Hamburg militants, gathered around the magazine Junges Forum and the figure of Lothar Penz, opted for a “solidarism” more positive than the critical, offensive, and revolutionary discourse of SdV. From this practical disagreement, a parallel movement was born, the Solidaristische Volksbewegung (Solidarist Folk Movement), whose press organ would be SOL. In 1980, the SVB became the BDS (Bund Deutscher Solidaristen ; League of German Solidarists), after having directed the ecological GLU (Grüne Liste Umweltschutz ; Green List for the Protection of the Environment). In January 1981, SOL merged with Neue Zeit, which became ipso facto the collective organ of SdV and BDS.
“Wir Selbst” and the NRKA
At the start of the 80s the two groups lost their monopoly on the national-revolutionary press, due to the appearance of two new factors: the creation of the prestigious magazine Wir Selbst (Colbenz) by Siegfried Bublies, and the emergence of a new coordinating network, the NKRA (National-revolutionärer Koordinationsausschuß ; National Revolutionary Coordination Committee), supported by the magazine Aufbruch. Created in Düsseldorf in the wake of the magazine Laser, previously controlled by SdV, from the start, the NKRA wanted to break with Neue Zeit in order to address social questions in a more “progressive” perspective and further accentuate the national-revolutionary movement’s anti-capitalist critique.
This evolution arose from the fact that the new members of the Düsseldorf cell no longer came exclusively from the classical post-war neo-nationalist network, but often from Marxist-Leninism. These new elements intended to remain faithful to the “quintuple revolution” advocated by SdV in the manifesto in 1974. The quintuple revolution should operate on national, social, ecological, democratic, and cultural levels. The critique launched by the militants of the NKRA was the creation of the “second generation” of national-revolutionaries, whose recent militancy prevented them from falling back into the “errors” of right wing paleo-nationalism.
New phrases and concepts appeared, notably those of an autogestionary “democracy of councils” (Rätedemokratie) and a “disconnection” in the style of Albania and North Korea. There were also new figures who directed the circles and magazines of this “second generation”: H.J. Ackermann, S. Fadinger, P. Bahn, Armin Krebs (not to be confused with the Frenchman Pierre Krebs, who founded the magazine Elemente, the twin sister of GRECE’s magazine, Éléments).
At the end of 1979, the young nationalist activist Siegfried Bublies founded the magazine Wir Selbst (We Ourselves; the German translation of the Irish Gaelic Sinn Fein) where, very soon, the influence of Henning Eichberg (Hartwig Singer) would make itself felt. He would take up the pen again to demand, from the viewpoint of revolutionary restoration shared by the Greens, “basis democracy” (Basisdemokratie), cultural revolution, the establishment of a decentralized economic order, socialism with a human face (based on the theses of the Czech economist of “Prague Spring”, Ota Sik), an approach to life in accordance with ecology, and ethno-pluralism, the cornerstone of the anthropological vision of German neo-nationalism. Moreover, Bublies found a formulation that succinctly explained the meaning of its fight: Für nationale Identität und internationale Solidarität, that is to say for national identity and international solidarity. Thus Bublies sought to preserve the identities of all peoples and unite all those who fought for the preservation of their essence across the world, beyond ideological, racial, or religious divides.
“Wir Selbst” : A Forum Noted For German Political Debates
But political-philosophical essays remained in the minority in the magazine, which rapidly became a forum for all who sought to address the German question, never resolved, in a new manner. Wir Selbst thus opened its columns to personalities who never belonged to the nationalist movement in the strict sense: the urbanist and ecologist Konrad Buchwald, the historian Helmut Diwald, the former high ranking East German official Wolfgang Seiffert, the television producer Wolfgang Venohr (formerly of the VDNV), the journalist Sebastian Haffner (an anti-Hitler emigre to New York during the war who returned to nationalism in the 1980s), the artist-provocateur Joseph Beuys (formerly of the AUD), professor Schweißfurth (influential member of the SPD), etc. More recently, the generals Löser and Kießling (cf. Vouloir n°30) addressed the problems of territorial defense and the reorganization of the armed forces in a democratic and populist perspective in the columns of Wir Selbst.
Bublies’ magazine, whose style and presentation were generally high quality, thus succeeded in positioning itself as a forum where men from various perspectives could freely debate. The year 1987 saw a slackening in the pace of publication, due to the fact that the magazine sought to give itself a definitive tone, which would be neither the activist militancy of SdV or a pale copy of Marxist militancy. As for the NRKA, it first evolved in to the NRKB ( NR-Koordinationsbüro; National-Revolutionary Coordination Bureau), before calling itself more simply, Politische Offensive. It is certain that the militants of the “second generation” of national-revolutionaries were torn between, on one hand a fidelity to the heritage of SdV, and on the other, a will to burn all bridges with the anti-Marxist “rightism” of national-revolutionaries in 1968. It seems that the “national-Marxists,” behind Stefan Fadinger, wanted to separate the “second generation” from traditional national-revolutionaries, grouped behind Markus Bauer, editor of Aufbruch. Other figures like Peter Bahn, Karlheinz Pröhuber and Werner Olles, preferred to remain neutral in this internal debate and expressed themselves in Wir Selbst.
The NR Movement Between Surfers and Militants
Twenty years after 68, militancy experienced a low tide across Europe, Guy Hocquenghem said that “Mao suits” were being recycled in Paris; Lévy and Glücksmann quickly denied their former commitments, etc. In Germany, the Marxist left experienced a real crisis, just like the national-revolutionaries. All the hyper-politicized movements had to face increasing de-politicization and the hemorrhaging of militants. Protest, the will to construct alternatives gave way to sunbathing and surfing, barricades gave way to the seductions of “sea, sex, and sun,” at least until the day where the stock market crash could no longer be avoided or stopped.
The national-revolutionaries and the Sixty-Eighter Marxists exploited a universe of values that, whether we want it to or no, remains immortal, even if that seems like a disturbing assumption today. That’s why global perspectives, which restore the guiding principles of a movement, are useful: they prepare the way for the next offensive which will inevitably happen.
The books of Günter Bartsch and M. Feit allow us to grasp the evolution of German neo-nationalism since 1945. They also allow us to identify the broad philosophical options of this political movement; which we’ll cite, in no particular order: a theory of scientific and Eurocentric knowledge (at least in the initial phase which valued European rationality and science, supplemented by logical empiricism and the works of Rougier, Monod and Heisenberg; the French and Germans shared the same concerns at this moment), biohumanism oscillating between organic / vitalist anthropology and biological materialism, ethno-pluralism, national and rooted socialism (the Irish model of James Connolly and Slavic populism), national liberation, and the idea of a European space.
A Heterogeneity that Margret Feit Doesn’t Want To Notice
The label “Neue Rechte” gives the impression that the German movements qualified as such by M. Feit are the twin brothers of the French “Nouvelle Droite.” Yet the serious researcher willnotice the heterogeneity of these two worlds very quickly, despite evident overlaps, overlaps one could also notice between Dutschke and Eichberg (alias Singer) or GRECE and the socialist CERES of Chevènement. The German pseudo-“Neue Rechte” appeared in a more militant situation, less metapolitical, and drew from different intellectual domains than those Benoist and his friends in France utilized. If we must find a direct and clear influence from GRECE in Germany, it’s found with Pierre Krebs, director of Elemente, with Armin Mohler who revealed the existence of the French “Nouvelle Droite” to the readership of Criticon, or in the scattered translations of French neo-rightist texts.
In the doctrinal scheme, the Germans were not very insistent about egalitarianism, the warhorse of the French “Nouvelle Droite”; only Lothar Penz, the theorist of national-revolutionary biohumanist solidarism, included a few thoughts on biological hierarchies in his vision of man and the city. Consequently, the impact of aesthetic, Hellenic, even Celtic paganism was quite reduced in Germany, thought many of the national-revolutionary activists were adherents of the “unitarism” of Sigrid Hunke, whose book The True Religion of Europe, was translated in France by éditions Le Labyrinthe in 1985, under Alain de Benoist’s auspices.
If Bartsch had objectively limited his investigation of the national-revolutionary movement and demonstrated his desire to avoid any obfuscation, M. Feit mixes types and includes organizations or magazine belonging to the classical nationalist right, like Mut, Bernhard Wintzek’s magazine, or the monthly Nation Europa of Peter Dehoust, in her analysis of the “Neue Rechte” (an improper term for the least). She presses this obfuscation even further by including the conservative Bavarian magazine Criticon of Caspar von Schrenk-Notzing, close to the Bavarian CSU in certain respects, in what she believes to be a conspiracy. Reading these various magazines reveals that the selected themes and philosophical choices made by each were different, despite intersections quite evidently due to literary, philosophical, or political current events. Every magazine possesses its originality and doesn’t want to lose it.
The Brief Venture of the ANR
The confusion between the national-revolutionary movement and the classical nationalist right maintained by M. Feit arises the partial observation of a phenomenon from 1972. In January of that year, dissidence arose within the Bavarian NPD, inspired by a certain Dr. Pöhlmann. He asked for a few meetings with Singer, while not endorsing his anti-Americanism at all. From this dissidence an activist grouping, the ANR (Aktion Neue Rechte ; Action for a New Right) emerged, which rallied youth discontent with the NPD, criticizing their party for being too politically and socially conservative. The venture would last until November 1973 when the ANR split into many groups:
1 – The national conservatives, who would form the AJR (Aktion Junge Rechte ; Action for a Young Right)
2 – The “Hitlermaniacs” (who came, in part, from wacky fans in brown and black uniforms, with leather and studs, who were sometimes heard chanting slogans, especially in Dixmunde and the shady restaurants of big cities, and who, in certain cases, proclaimed a ridiculous homosexuality where “Aryan” and juvenile bodies were erected as objects of veneration)
3 – Those who returned to the cradle, the NPD
4 – Those who evolved towards national-revolutionary ideology
The presence of a few compromising idiots in the ANR, perpetually drunk and quickly expelled, allowed the drawing room moralists to infer “Nazism” from a school of thought that ultimately conveyed an ideology of synthesis, exercising a real seduction on the free spirits of the militant left. The phrase “Neue Rechte” is thus erroneously applied to the national-revolutionary sphere. M. Feit’s tactic is crude: the part is taken for the whole. The fringe of the ANR that evolved towards revolutionary nationalism ended up giving its name to all contemporaneous nationalist movements, even left-wing ones. The objective of this obfuscation is evident: associate the brawlers in boots (who can attract media attention) with the modernist intellectuals, so they cannot influence the broad and free minds of the dutschkiste and para-dutschkiste left, or bind together the analyses of GRECE and CERES into a useful ideological bloc in France.
One evidently notices, in light of these facts, the tactical error committed by certain leaders of GRECE in accepting and claiming the “Nouvelle Droite” label that the provocateur journalists of the Parisian left bourgeoisie accorded them. The M. Feit’s diversion operation found itself reinforced: the pseudo-“Neue Rechte” is crudely obfuscated with the “Nouvelle Droite” although they are quite different movements.
Impacts in Flanders and Wallonie
In Flanders, Pol Van Caeneghem and Christian Dutoit’s attempt at synthesis, notably with the group Arbeid and the magazines Meervoud and De Wesp, unfortunately turned into sterile leftism, just like the brilliant syntheses of Mark Cels-Decorte and Freddy Seghers (close to Wir Selbst for a time) within the Volksunie and the VUJOs (Cf. volumes of propaganda entitled Integraal Federalisme — 1976 — and Integraal Federalisme 2 — 1980). While in Wallonie, Jeune Europe – whose leader Jean Thiriart had outlined an excellent project of alliances with the non-aligned states of the Third World, with China and Black American militants – remained the prisoner of rigid Latin political thought unsuited to inspire revivifying dynamism, its embryonic and dissident union USCE (Union des Syndicats Communautaires Européens), under the leadership of Jean Van den Broeck, Claude Lenoir and Pierre Verhas, opted for a regionalist organization of our continent and officially distanced itself from “everything right-wing.”
USCE firstly published Syndicats Européens and then L’Europe Combat, which would be published until 1978. This experience was the only serious national-revolutionary attempt in Wallonie after the failure of Jeune Europe, when Thiriart failed to spread his anti-Americanism to his right wing audience, which hastened to betray him. Today, a sympathetic synthesis is emerging on the left, close to the ecologist ideology, in the columns of the magazine Wallons-nous.
From “Jeune Europe” to Nothingness
An incarnation of Jeune Europe which evolved towards a useless philo-Sovietism, the PCN of the Charleroi native Luc Michel, unfortunately emerged from the most bizarre extreme-right and neo-nazi groupuscules, it didn’t manage to take off politically (and for good reason!) and its editorial enterprise, very instructive for specialists and historians (Cf. Vouloir n°32/34), stagnated because it didn’t address problems that directly interest a militant audience. The magazine Conscience Européenne, which recently devoted several issues to the economic war between the USA and Europe and the illusion of detente, suffered from dissension in 1984, which lead to the establishment of Volonté Européenne and Cercle Copernic, directed by Roland Pirard, a somewhat bizarre individual who frequently changes pseudonyms (Bertrand Thomé, Roland Van Hertendaele, Roland Brabant, etc.) and naively dreams of founding a neo-Teutonic “order of chivalry!” If Luc Michel performs useful documentary work and furnishes very interesting analyses, despite his cliched language, the dissident Pirard sinks into complete caricature, reinforced by appallingly neglected editorial standards and confoundingly mediocre analyses, where Hitermaniac outbreaks occasionally re-surge, crossbred with a neo-Stalinism and pro-Khomeinism so ponderous that Soviet cliches seem hyper-lyrical in comparison. So there’s no hope for the rebirth of the dynamism of Jeune Europe and its French heir, the CIPRE of Yannick Sauveur and Henri Castelferrus, in Brussels or Wallonie.
In conclusion we can say that the German national-revolutionary movement constituted a synthesis that situated itself at the crux of leftism and nationalism and that it still harbors much potential for sincere militants, those who truly care about social life. Moreover, when one observes the synthesis realized by Cels-Decorte and Seghers within the Volksunieentre from 1975 et 1981, we see that a comparable synthesis is still possible in our countries, apart from any marginal position. We have to reflect on it.
Article published under the pseudonym “René Lauwers”, in: Vouloir n°45/46, 1988.
◘ Supplementary Bibliography:
- Günter Bartsch, Revolution von rechts ? Ideologie und Organisation der Neuen Rechten, Herder-bücherei, Freiburg i.B., 1975.
- Karl-Heinz Pröhuber, Die nationalirevolutionäre Bewegung in Westdeutschland, Verlag deutsch-europäischer Studien, Hamburg, 1980.
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