What is National-Bolshevism in Germany 1920-30's

What is National-Bolshevism in Germany 1920-30's

Not too large-scale (10 thousands of militants), but the active movement of the National Bolsheviks left stories Weimar Germany significant footprint. German National Bolsheviks saw the ideal union of the USSR and Germany, the dictatorship of the proletariat and the army, the Soviets - in opposition to the "liberalism and degeneration of the Anglo-Saxon world."

The Interpreter's Blog continues the story of left-wing nationalism — potentially one of the most promising political movements in Russia. Its origins lie in Germany. The previous article dealt with the classic version of left-wing nationalism, in the same text - its more exotic version, national-Bolshevism.


In 1919, dozens of voluntary armed corps appeared in the country - “freikor”. They were headed by Rem, Himmler, Goering, G. Strasser, but also the future communist leaders: B. Remer, L. Rennes, H. Plaas, Bodo Uze. In addition to the frykors, the traditional for Germany “youth unions” and “Felkish” (popular) organizations with nationalistic coloring have multiplied. They all became a breeding ground for the emergence of both Nazi and national-Bolshevik associations.

National Bolshevik leaders emerged from the intellectual elite. Ernst Nikish, Karl Otto Petel, Werner Lass were publicists; Paul Elzbacher, Hans von Henting, Friedrich Lenz - university professors; Bodo Uze, Beppo Remer, Hartmut Plaas - by the military; Karl Treger, Kryufgan represented by officials and lawyers.

The source material for the emergence of national Bolshevism was the powerful course of the “conservative revolutionaries”: the “young conservatives” (van den Bruck, O. Spengler) and the “neo-conservatives” (Ernst Jünger, von Zalomon, Friedrich Hilscher), as well as the “national revolutionary movement. " All these forces extended their hatred to the civilization of the West, which they associated with liberalism, humanism and democracy.


(Ernst Nikish)


Spengler, and later Goebbels described socialism as a Prussian heritage, and Marxism as a “Jewish trap” for distracting the proletariat from its duty towards the nation. The national revolutionaries attributed this to Trotsky, but not to Lenin and Stalin (in the middle of the 20s, they tried to organize an attempt on Lev Trotsky in the USSR). These people appreciated the Soviet experience of the first five years and the centralization of economic management. In 1931, E. Junger wrote in his essay "Total Mobilization": "For the first time, the Soviet five-year plans showed the world the opportunity to unite all the efforts of a great power, directing them into a single channel." Popular was the idea of ​​economic autarky, vividly set forth in the book “The End of Capital” by Ferdinand Freed - a member of the circle around the national revolutionary magazine Di Tat (1931). The chief editor of the journal, A. Kukhof, wrote: “The only means of changing the prevailing social and political state of Germany is the violence of the masses — the path of Lenin, and not the path of the Socialist International.”

National revolutionaries put forward the idea of ​​“proletarian nationalism”, in the Russian-Prussian tradition dividing peoples into oppressed and dominant - “young” and “old”. The first were Germans, Russians and other peoples of the “East” (!). They are "viable" and have a "will to fight." The national revolutionary groups welcomed the founding conference "League against Imperialism" held in 1927 in Berlin, inspired by the Comintern.

Nationalists and van den Broek, who wrote in 1923: “We are a people in bonds. The close space in which we are trapped is fraught with danger, the scale of which is unpredictable. Such is the threat that we present, and should we not translate this threat into our policy? ” Similar views of the “moderate” conservatives were in complete agreement with Hitler’s military-political actions in Europe, which many of them subsequently disowned.

It is not by chance that many participants in the national revolutionary movement eventually joined the Nazis (A. Winnig, G. - G. Tekhov, F. Schaubekker). Others, having passed through the fascination with national socialism, stood up in the “aristocratic” opposition to him (E.Junger, von Zalomon, G.Erhardt). They joined the communists A. Bronnen, A. Kukhof. A quarter of the leaders and publicists of the “neo-conservatives” / (Ikish, V.Laas, Petel, H.Plaas, Hans Ebeling) went over to the national Bolsheviks - making up three-quarters of the participants in the new movement. The rest of the National Bolsheviks came from the communist camp.


(The Soviet magazine Pepper on its cover shows the friendship between the Soviet and German proletariat)


Moving to the left, the national revolutionaries declared that achieving national liberation can only be achieved before reaching the social, and that only the German working class can do it. These people called liberalism "the moral ailment of the peoples" and considered the USSR an ally in the struggle against the Entente. Their heroes were Frederick II, Hegel, Clausewitz and Bismarck.

The views of the revolutionary nationalists largely coincided with the programs of the Russian émigré movements — the Smenovekha members, and especially the Eurasians. After the separation from the national revolutionaries, the national Bolsheviks added to the list of esteemed names of Lenin, Stalin, and some of Marx. They condemned fascism and Nazism, "reborn" after 1930, promoted the class struggle, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the System of Soviets and the Red Army instead of the Reichswehr.


The basic postulate of national Bolshevism was not inferior in sharp definiteness to the favorite formulations of the Hitler party. He emphasized the world-historical role of the oppressed (revolutionary) nation in the struggle to build totalitarian nationalism for the sake of Germany’s future national greatness. National-Bolsheviks called for combining Bolshevism with Prussianism, establishing a "dictatorship of labor" (workers and military), nationalizing the main means of production; relying on autarky, introduce a planned economy; create a strong militaristic state under the control of the Fuehrer and the party elite. Despite a number of coincidences with the NSDAP program, all this was far from the central idea of ​​“Mein Kampf” - the eradication of Bolshevism and the subordination of the eastern territories.

To understand national-Bolshevism, it is necessary to note the presence in the Reichswehr of a strong group advocating Soviet-German cooperation. She was inspired by the Commander-in-Chief of the Reichswehr, General Hans von Sect, and his active supporters were War Minister Otto Gessler and de facto Chief of the General Staff Otto Hasse. During the Polish-Soviet War, Sect maintained contact with the Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Soviet Republic, Trotsky, considering it possible to eliminate the Versailles system in alliance with the Red Army. The shock for the West was the signing of the Rappel Treaty in April 1922, which resumed full diplomatic relations between Germany and Russia. This was a confirmation of the Russophile Prussian-German tradition. “Völkischer Beobachter”, on the contrary, wrote about the “Rappel crime of Rathenau”, as “a personal union of the international Jewish financial oligarchy with international Jewish Bolshevism”. After 1923, closed military contacts between the two countries began. One of the military leaders, General Blomberg, was delighted with Voroshilov’s "For maintaining close military relations with the Reichswehr".


(The head of the Reichswehr von Sekt - propagandist of friendship between the USSR and Germany and the creation of a confederation of them)


Von Sect expounded ideas for the rapprochement of Germany with the Soviet Union before 1933. Before the beginning of the war with the USSR, pro-Soviet propaganda was conducted by generals and theorists of the Reichswehr — Falkenheim, G. Vettsel, von Metch, Kabish, Baron von Freytag-Loringhofen.

The pioneer of national-Bolshevism was Professor, Doctor of Law, Rector of the Berlin Higher School of Commerce Paul Eltsbacher (1868-1928), deputy of the Reichstag from the German National Popular Party (NNNP). His article in “Der Tag” 2 of April 1919 of the year was the first presentation of the ideas of national-Bolshevism: the combination of Bolshevism and Prussia, the Soviet system in Germany, an alliance with Soviet Russia and Hungary to repel the Entente. According to Elzbacher, Russia and Germany were to protect China, India and the whole East from the aggression of the West and establish a new world order. He endorsed the "merciless punishment of lazy and undisciplined workers by Lenin." Elzbacher expected from such a turn of events the preservation of old cultures, destroyed by the "superficial civilization of England and America." “Bolshevism does not mean the death of our culture, but its salvation,” the professor summarized.

The article received a wide response. Otto Gotch, one of the leaders of the NNNP, a prominent historian and expert on the East, also spoke in favor of close cooperation with Soviet Russia. Member of the Center’s Party, Minister of Posts I.Gisberts, declared that in order to crush the Versailles system, it was necessary to immediately invite Soviet troops to Germany. The organ of the Union of Rows "Deutsche Tagestsaytung" (May 1919 of the year) appeared the article "National Bolshevism", which introduced the term into a political turn in Germany. In the same year, P.Eltsbacher published a brochure “Bolshevism and the German Future” and left NNNP after the party condemned its publication. Later, he became close to the KKE, and in 1923, he joined the International Working Aid inspired by the Comintern.

In 1919, a brochure was published by the professor of criminology, the officer of the First World War and the anti-Versailles activist Hans von Henting (1887-1970) “Introduction to the German Revolution”. Two years later, Henting published The German Manifesto, the most vivid statement of the ideas of national Bolshevism of that time. In 1922, von Henting established contact with the leader of the national wing of the Communists, Heinrich Brandler, and became a military adviser in the CNG apparatus. Through his brother diplomat, Henting maintained contact with the Reichswehr and prepared the “Red Hundreds” in Thuringia for future actions.


Organizationally, the ideas of national Bolshevism were attempted by a group of former radicals, and later communists, led by Heinrich Laufenberg and Fritz Wolfheim. During the First World War, the historian of the labor movement Laufenberg and his young assistant, Wolfheim, who had managed to visit the United States and go through a struggle school in the anarcho-syndicalist organization Industrial Workers of the World, headed the left wing of the Hamburg SPD organization. After the 1918 revolution, Laufenberg led the Hamburg Council of Workers, Soldiers and Sailors for some time. Together with Wolfheim, he participated in the organization of the KPD, and after its split, he moved to the Communist Workers Party of Germany (KAPP) together with 40% of the members of the KKE. They called on the German workers for a popular war to create a Communist Soviet Republic. These individuals referred to the “patriotic forces” as nationalist layers of the bourgeoisie, including the most “reactionary”.

In April, 1920, Laufenberg and Wolfsheim, at the request of the Comintern, were already expelled from the KAPD. Three months later, they, together with the former editor of the KPG “Di Rote Fahne” F. Wendel, founded the “Union of Communists” (UK), which adopted the economic program in the spirit of the “socialized economy” of the famous left economist Silvio Geisel, which was already held in the Bavarian Soviet Republic. Gradually, part of the Left Nazis (R. Cap) and the National Bolsheviks (KO Petel) joined the SK.

At the same time (in 1920), both former communists in Hamburg initiated the creation of the Free Association for the Study of German Communism (CAC) from officers of the colonial units of General Lettov-Forbek, under the guidance of well-known writers of the Gunther brothers. Among the supporters of SAS were large figures - Muller van den Broek, government adviser Sevin, one of the leaders of the left-Nazi movement in the Weimar Republic Ernst zu Reventlov. SAS was joined by a number of persons with academic background and many former officers, most of the younger generation. In August 1920, a member of the CAC Counselor of Justice F. Kryufgans, issued a widely resonant pamphlet Communism as a German national necessity. Four years later, the Gunther brothers and two publishers founded the Nationalist Club with the German Front magazine in Hamburg, and from the end of 20's published the Young Team magazine, close to national Bolshevism.


In 1920-21, national-Bolshevik ideas spread among the Bavarian communists. There, under the influence of von Khenting, they were promoted in the KPG newspaper by the secretary of the party cell O. Thomas and the deputy of the parliament of Otta Graf. They entered into cooperation with the extremely "reactionary" Oberland, headed by captains Remer, and for this they were expelled from the party as "opportunists." But the contacts of the communists with the frikorovtsy continued, for example, during the battles in Silesia in 1921 year.

The first peak of the influence of the national-Bolshevik ideas was manifested during the occupation of the Ruhr by the French-Belgian forces in 1923, accompanied by unemployment, famine and anarchy. The communists occupied the most important posts in the factory and control committees, forming about 900 proletarian hundreds (up to 20 thousands in Saxony alone). They adopted a policy of cooperation with the German nationalists, which was declared by the leader of the KKE and the leading ideologist of the Comintern, Karl Radek, entitled Schlageter’s Course.

At an extended meeting of the Comintern in 1923, in a speech dedicated to the memory of one of the iconic Nazi heroes - Albert Leo Schlageter, killed by the French, Radek called on the fascists in alliance with the Communists to fight the "Antantian capital." “We must not hush up the fate of this martyr of German nationalism,” Radek said. “His name says a lot to the German people, Schlageter, a courageous soldier of the counter-revolution, deserves that we, the soldiers of the revolution, courageously and honestly appreciate him. If the circles of the German fascists, who want to honestly serve the German people, do not understand the meaning of Schlageter’s fate, Schlageter perished for nothing. Who do the German nationalists want to fight against? Against the capital of the Entente, or against the Russian people? Who do they want to team up with? With Russian workers and peasants to jointly overthrow the yoke of the Entente capital, or with the capital of the Entente to enslave the German and Russian peoples? If the patriotic groups of Germany do not dare to make the business of the majority of the people their own business and thus create a front against the Antantian and German capital, then the way of Schlageter was a road to nowhere. ” In conclusion, Radek criticized the Social Democrats' deathly calm, arguing that the active forces of the counter-revolution had now passed to the fascists.


(Karl Radek)


Inexperienced in the sophisticated policy of the Comintern to the German nationalists, this speech seemed like the revelation of a visionary communist. The Jewish origin of Radek was forgotten, at other times it was a symbol of the eternal adaptation of these persons for the left Nazis. But M. Schöbner-Richter wrote in “Völkischer Beobachter” about “the blindness of significant husbands of Germany who do not want to notice threatening the Bolshevization of Germany”. Earlier, Hitler declared that 40% of the German people was in Marxist positions, and this is the most active part of it, and in September 1923 of the year he said that the will of the Communists sent from Moscow was harder than that of depressed bourgeois like Stresemann.

At this time, the possibility of cooperation with the KKE was discussed by Tsu Reventlov and other national revolutionaries, and “Di Rote Fahne” printed their speeches. The NSDAP and the KPD spoke at each other’s meetings. Oscar Körner, one of the leaders of the Nazi Party of the “struggle period”, the second party chairman in 1921-22 (the first was Hitler), declared at the party meeting that the National Socialists want to unite all Germans and talked about communion with the Communists in order to put an end to “ predation of the experienced wolves of the exchange ". At the invitation of the Stuttgart organization of the NSDAP, an activist of the KKE, G. Remele, spoke at its meeting. Radek was greeted by Klara Zetkin, and the leader of the left faction in the KPD, Ruth Fischer, wrote: “Whoever calls for the struggle against Jewish capital, he already participates in the class struggle, even if he himself does not know about it”. In turn, the Nazis and the “Felkishe” called for the struggle against the Jews in the KPD, promising in return their support.

In 1923, brochures appeared: “Swastika and Soviet star. The combat path of the communists and fascists ”and“ Discussion between Karl Radek, Paul Freulich, E.-G. tsu Reventlov and M. van den Broek ”(the first two are the leaders of the CNG). Communists and nationalists of all stripes fought hand in hand against the French in the Ruhr. In East Prussia, a former officer, a communist E. Wollenberg, actively collaborated with the frigore "Orgesh".


But at the end of 1923, the line on the folding of the alliance with the nationalists began to prevail in the leadership of the KKE. They were declared "servants of big capital, rather than petty bourgeois revolting against capital," as Froelich, Remmele and other supporters of cooperation believed. Here, anti-Semitism played an insurmountable role for the national revolutionaries and the Nazis. Despite a fivefold change in the leadership of the KKE in Weimar Germany, in each of them Jews constituted a huge percentage, actually dominating, but remaining in the background. The leading roles were played by: a Jew Rosa Luxemburg under German Karl Liebknecht, then a single Jew Paul Levy, a Jew A. Thalheimer under German Heinrich Brandler, a Jew Arkady Maslov under German Ruth Fischer, Jews H. Noiman, and then V. Hrish with German Ernst Telman. Instructors, representatives and employees of the Comintern in Germany were not exceptions: Radek, Jacob Reich - “Comrade Thomas”, Augustus Goralsky - “Kleine”, Bella Kuhn, Mikhail Grolman, Boris Idelson and others. The indefinite border between right-wing liberals and conservatives could then be determined by whether they explain the peculiarities of the Russian revolution by the predominant participation of the Jews in its leadership, or find other explanations.

At the start of the 20s, the number of nationalist organizations increased dramatically due to the transformation of many fricorers into civil “unions”. Some left it, acquiring a pronounced national-Bolshevik character. One of the largest unions that made this evolution, “Bund Oberland” originated from the “Battle Union”, founded in 1919 year to fight against the leftists in Bavaria, members of the famous “Thule Society”, which included the founders and first functionaries of the Nazi Party - Anton Drexler, Dietrich Eckart, Gottfried Feder, Karl Harrer, Rudolf Hess, Max Amann. The following year, several tens of thousands of Oberland fighters fought against the Red Army of the Ruhr, and in March 1921 fought Poles in Upper Silesia. They actively participated in the “Kapp putsch”, entering together with the Hering SAs and the Removski Union of the Imperial Military Flag in the Workers' Commonwealth of Domestic Military Unions.


The Oberland was founded by officers of the Remer brothers. One of them - Joseph Remer (“Beppo”) became the military leader of the organization. The official head of the Oberland was a major government official Knauf, but in August 1922, Roemer drove him out for "cooperation with the bourgeoisie." The future chairman of the Beer Putsch, later Gruppenführer SS Friedrich Weber (1892-1955), who was also soon removed by Beppo Remer, became the new chairman. After the coup, there were actually two Oberland - Remmer and Weber. In the summer of 1926, J. Remer was arrested while meeting with Brown, one of the leaders of the illegal KPG military-political apparatus and the Soviet intelligence officer. There was a crisis in the Oberland. Some of its members headed by Osterreicher moved to the Nazi Party, the Beppo group after some time settled in the KKE.

At this time, the left line was trying to hold part of the leading functionaries of the NSDAP, and not only for tactical reasons. Colonel Max Bower, Hitler’s comrade in his notes about traveling to the “Red King’s Country”, wrote that his opinion about the USSR and the party leaders changed after meeting a lot of people, which corresponded to his conservative and militaristic principles. In 1926, the head of the Nazi faction in the Reichstag and the future Minister of the Interior of Germany, Wilhelm Frick, made a proposal to expropriate the property of "banking and exchange princes and other parasites of the people."


This year, Oberland Weber adopted van den Bruck’s national revolutionary program and created a parallel union called the Third Reich Partnership, chaired by National Bolshevik Ernst Nikisch, who has since personified this trend as a whole. Nikish in his newspaper "Wiedershtadt" attacked the National Socialists, seeing in them the hostile force of Romanization on German soil, dulling the bitter struggle against Versailles. He condemned urbanization, bourgeois decadence, and a capitalist monetary economy. Criticism of Bolshevism, according to Nikish, meant the rejection of the Russian-Asian way of life, in which lay the only hope for her "evacuation from the pennies of English prostitution."

The ideas of national Bolshevism were widely spread in the peasant movement of the Weimar Republic. Acts of violence and terror spread in this environment after many of its leaders (Bodo Uze, von Zalomon, H. Plaas - former officers and frikorovtsy) joined the CPG, passing through nationalist alliances and the NSDAP.

The beginning of the 30-s again sharply revived the national-Bolshevik movement, as the global economic crisis had the most severe effect on Germany. The centers of national Bolshevism are small circles of activists. If in 20-s they gathered around like-minded national-revolutionary publications (“Di Tat”, “Komenden”, “Formarch”), now they have their own: “Umstürz” by Werner Lassa, “Gegner” by H. Schulz -Boyzen, "Socialist Natson" by Karl-Otto Petel, "Vorkampfer" by Hans Ebeling ... All in all these circles were up to 10 thousand people. For comparison: the number of military nationalist unions at the end of the 20-s ranged from 6-15 thousand (Viking, Bund Tannenberg, Werewolf) to 70 thousand members (Mladogermansky Order). “Steel Helmet” then numbered several hundred thousand people, and the militarized organization of the KKE “Union of Red Front-line Soldiers” - 76 thousand.

The comparatively small number of national-Bolshevik organizations of the beginning of the 30-s was compensated for by their great activity and a significant number of associations close in orientation. Among others, they were joined by the “German Socialist Combat Movement” by Gotthard Schild, the Mladoprusky Union of Jupp Hoven, and the German Socialist Workers' and Peasants Union by Karl Baade.


Each national-Bolshevik organization had features. "Wiederstandt" E.Nikish spoke mainly on foreign policy issues, advocating for the German-Slavic bloc "from Vladivostok to Flessingen"; Forkempfer put emphasis on a planned economy, Umstürz propagandized aristocratic socialism (Lenin’s work What is to Do) was very popular here, Socialistically Nsion combined nationalism with the ideas of class struggle, dictatorship of the proletariat and Soviets; “Gegner” inspired hatred towards the West, calling on German youth to revolutionize in alliance with the proletariat. All the leaders of these groups, with the exception of Nikish, were from the ultraconservative camp.

Away from this five of the actually national-Bolshevik groups there was a similar in tactical actions "Workers circle" Aufbruch "(" Breakthrough "). It was headed by former leaders of the Oberland - officers Beppo Remer, K. Dibich, G. Gizeke and E. Muller, writers Bodo Uze and Ludwig Rennes, former Strassers of R. Corne and V. Reem. This organization, operating in Berlin and the fifteen German lands, consisted of 300 activists. It was completely controlled by the KPD and was engaged in enticing the commanding personnel for its combat groups while creating the strike fist in the struggle for power.

The emergence of this group was associated with another Comintern propaganda campaign - the so-called "Scheringer course" (a former officer of Freikor) to engage in the KPD with the antiversal slogans of the middle strata, including the "revolutionary proletarian" elements from the Nazi milieu. Lieutenant Richard Scheringer, who was sentenced to imprisonment for national-socialist disintegration of the Reichswehr troops in 1930, realized that "the policy of force towards the Western powers is possible only with the preliminary destruction of liberalism, pacifism and Western decadence." The Sheringer Course, conceived as a large-scale enterprise, was conducted from August 1930-th to October 1932, and brought significant rewards. Under his influence in the KPD, many national-Bolsheviks, former Freikorites and Nazis, leaders of the national peasant (Landfolkbevegung) and youth movement (Eberhard Koebel, Herbert Bohov, Hans Kents, etc.) passed over. As a result, the KKE sharply increased the number and votes in the elections.


With the advent of Adolf Hitler to power, the national-Bolshevik movement in Germany was quickly eliminated. Its participants emigrated (Ebeling, Petel), were repressed (hundreds of Nikish supporters in 1937), or were killed during illegal work, like D. Sher. Ernst Nikish Magazine "Wiedershtand" was closed in 1934 year, and after five years he was sentenced to a long prison term.

After 1933, a significant part of the National Bolsheviks proved to be in the sphere of espionage in favor of the USSR. Here H. Schulze-Boyzen and Harnack distinguished themselves - the leaders of the "Red Chapel", executed after its exposure. Harnack headed the Community for the Study of Soviet Planned Economy, inspired by the ideas of Professor F. Lenz, and Chief Lieutenant Schulze-Boysen published the national revolutionary magazine Gegner before 1933, criticizing the “inertia of the West” and “American alienation.” Worked for Soviet intelligence: the former editor of "Di Tat" Adam Kukhoff (1887-1943), Beppo Remer with his Ooopers; G. Bokhov, G. Ebeling, Dr. Karl Hymzot (pseudonym in Soviet intelligence - "Dr. Hitler"). The influence of the national-Bolshevik ideas was experienced by the leading conspirators against Hitler, the Stauffenberg brothers (the former “conservative revolutionaries”).


At the beginning of 1933, Nikish, Petel, and others tried to push a single electoral list to the Reichstag headed by the leader of the terrorist peasants Klaus Heim. Petel published the National Bolshevik Manifesto. But it was too late. Toward the close of the day, E.Nikish published the book Hitler - Evil German Rock (1932). The movement has completed the practical part of its history. According to the researcher A.Severa, the national-Bolsheviks lacked “originality, fearlessness and activity” to master the power. But these qualities, like many others, are inherent only to genuinely popular leaders, whose ideology fully coincides with the mood of the masses. History eliminates all those who adhere to intermediate positions, trying to put into practice incompatible beliefs.
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