Right or Left? Right and Left!

“The way of the future involves bringing together the man of the Right with the man of the Left” – a brief 1932 article by conservative-revolutionary intellectual Hans Zehrer

Left_Right_Left_RightHans Zehrer is somewhat of an obscure figure today, at least in comparison with like-minded members of the German national-revolutionary movement such as Ernst Niekisch and Karl Otto Paetel, both of whom have managed to acquire a greater degree of modern celebrity in certain online circles. This is perhaps unfair to Zehrer, who was undoubtedly more widely-known than both during the crucial 1928-1933 period in Germany; certainly he was more influential. Born in 1899, Zehrer fought in the Great War and, after having participated in the 1920 Kapp Putsch, settled down to a fairly respectable life of political journalism. What made Zehrer’s name was his taking over the editorship of foundering national journal Die Tat (‘The Deed’) in October 1929. Die Tat swiftly grew under Zehrer’s stewardship to be the most widely-read political journal in the country, outselling its nearest left-wing competitor by tens of thousands of copies. The key factor in Die Tat’s success was its unique political position. Zehrer and his circle of contributors published detailed critiques of capitalism, advocating its replacement by a mercantilist system of mass nationalization, stringent autarchy, and exclusionary tariff barriers. They rejected not only the concept of parties, but the entire Left-Right divide altogether, arguing instead for a ‘Third Front’ alliance between all militant forces from far-left to far-right. They were also elitists, rejecting the NSDAP for its plebeian roots and its ‘mass party’ character, desiring instead a “revolution from above” led by the army and the President. The high point for Zehrer probably came during the short-lived government of ‘social general’ Kurt von Schleicher, where Zehrer became the Schleicher regime’s ideological ‘man behind the throne’ and Die Tat served as a kind of unofficial journal of state policy. The short article below, taken from a 1932 edition of Die Tat, is a fairly typical example of Zehrer’s position on the ‘Left-Right’ issue, invoking as it does the unifying Volksgemeinschaft ideal as well as stressing the belief that in reality only superficial qualities separate “the man of the Right” from the “man of the Left”.

Right or Left?
Hans ZehrerTAT_logo

First published in Die Tat, vol. 23, no.7, 1932

We ask of ourselves that question which is imposed upon us by today’s era and which appears to be of decisive importance to it: Right or Left? We have guided these absolutely time-bound and, to a later age, surely incomprehensible antitheses back to their authentic intellectual and historical foundations. In the process they have steadily dissipated, been drawn further and further inwards, and in this way we have suddenly arrived at a position which offers us the prospect of something that we only truly experienced for a short period in August 1914, but which otherwise does not belong among those values that today’s System can offer us: a Volksgemeinschaft, a unified nation!1 And from this position we are able to answer that question which the era has posed to us: Right and Left! Only a style of thinking which has affirmed the synthesis between the two, and which has carried it out, is responsive to those problems which the future will present to us, and over which the current era is presently in despair.

A man today, provided he is an active, vital person, is either Right or Left. The commonality of conservative man – who by his nature, traditions, blood, and character could never recognize the current System – with the new men of the Left, whom the current System has chewed up and spat out, is greater, and both are much closer, than they realize. The way of the future involves bringing together this man of the Right with the man of the Left, and vice versa, in order to create out of both a new Volksgemeinschaft under the mythos of a new nation. Continue reading

Papen’s Marburg Speech

The infamous June 1934 ‘Marburg speech’ of Franz von Papen and Edgar Jung: a national-conservative critique of the excesses  of National Socialism

Papen_Hitler_Blomberg_12March1933

Early 1934 was an extremely difficult time for the conservatives and bourgeois-nationalists in Germany who, only a year before, had been convinced that the ‘National Revolution’ and the emerging Third Reich were as much theirs as they were the National Socialists’. Under the process of Gleichschaltung the new government had been gradually dissolving or absorbing independent nationalist groups into the NSDAP. At the same time there appeared to be an escalating breakdown in order, with Party radicals growing increasingly disruptive and violent, often turning their frustration at the slow pace of reform upon the perceived forces of ‘Reaktion‘. In the midst of the chaos and the rumors of an impending ‘Second Revolution’ a group of Catholic conservative intellectuals, working within the offices of Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen, began plotting ways for bourgeois-nationalists to take back the state, hoping to steer it away from ideological radicalism and towards a more traditionalist authoritarianism centered on Christian spiritual renewal. The result of their handiwork was what became known as the ‘Marburg speech’, translated in full below. Written chiefly by conservative-revolutionary intellectual Edgar Jung, one of Papen’s consultants and speechwriters, the speech was anti-democratic while still being carefully disparaging of the NS regime, critiquing its violence, its militarization of public life, its monopoly on political power, its ‘coordination’ of the independent judiciary and the press, and in particular its hostile policies towards Christianity. The conspirators cleverly pushed this speech on Vice-Chancellor Papen at the last minute, while he was still on the train to deliver an address before the University League at Marburg. When an alarmed Papen read the speech and protested that it might “cost him his head” he was informed that he had no choice but to give it, since hundreds of copies had already been provided to the domestic and foreign press. Papen conceded, and rather bravely read the speech verbatim despite his misgivings. The conspirators’ hope was that this action would galvanize the nationalist, Catholic, and conservative forces within Germany into opposition behind Papen. The result instead was the final consolidation of the Hitler regime. Goebbels used every effort possible to suppress dissemination of the speech domestically, while Papen was forced to apologize and to resign from the cabinet. Hitler and Göring, now utterly convinced of the need to sweep away their remaining enemies, began setting the course for the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ not two weeks later. Papen survived the resulting ‘Blood Purge’ by the skin of his teeth with a brief period of arrest. Others would not be so lucky, with most of the conspirators ending up incarcerated or, like Edgar Jung, shot.  

Speech by Vice-Chancellor von Papen
before the University League
Marburg, 17 June, 1934

Kreuz_und_Adler

On 21 February 1933, in the turbulent days when National Socialism first stepped forward to govern the German Reich, I spoke to the Berlin student body in an attempt to explain the significance of this new epoch [Zeitenwende]. I spoke, as I pointed out at the time, in a location dedicated to the exploration of truth and intellectual freedom. I do not want to confess myself an adherent to the liberal conceptions of truth and freedom. Ultimate truth lies with God alone, and the quest for it derives its ultimate meaning only from this starting-point. Today, where I am privileged once again – in this medieval jewel, this city of Saint Elisabeth – to stand on academic soil, I add to the remarks I made at that time that even though the ideal of objective truth may be undisputed, we do not want to renounce the most elementary foundation of human civilization, the duty to subjective truth, to honesty, that is demanded of us Germans. This place of scholarship, therefore, appears to me particularly suited to giving a truthful account before the German people. Because the voices that demand that I adopt a principled position on German current affairs and on German conditions are becoming ever more numerous and more urgent. It is said that by removing the Weimar Prussian regime1 and by amalgamating the National Movement I have taken on such a pivotal role in German affairs that it is my duty to monitor these developments more keenly than most other Germans. I have no intention of evading this duty. On the contrary – my inner commitment to Adolf Hitler and his work is so great, and so attached am I with my very lifeblood to the German renewal currently being carried out, that from the point-of-view of both man and statesman it would be a mortal sin not to say what must be said during this crucial stage of the German Revolution.

The events of the last year and a half have gripped the entire German Volk and stirred them deeply. That we have found our way back from the vale of sorrow, hopelessness, hatred, and division and returned to the community of the German Nation once more seems almost like a dream. The tremendous tensions which we have experienced since those August days of 1914 have been broken; from them the German soul has emerged once again, before which the glorious and yet so painful history of our Volk passes in review, from the sagas of the German heroes to the trenches of Verdun and, yes, even to the street-fights of our day.

The unknown soldier of the World War, who conquered the hearts of his countrymen [Volksgenossen, lit. ‘folk-comrades’] with contagious energy and unshakeable faith, has set this soul free. With his Field Marshal he has set himself at the head of the nation in order to turn a new page in the book of German fate and to restore spiritual unity. We have experienced this unity of spirit in the exhilaration of a thousand rallies, in the flags and festivities of a nation which has rediscovered itself. But now, as enthusiasm is leveling out and as the hard work in this process comes to the fore, it becomes apparent that a reform process of such historical proportions also produces slag [Schlacken] from which the nation must cleanse itself. Slag of this kind exists in all areas of our life, in the material and the spiritual. Foreign countries, who view us with resentment, point their fingers at this slag and construe it as evidence of a serious process of dissolution. One should not be ready to celebrate too early, because only once we have mustered the energy to free ourselves from this slag will we immediately be best able to prove how internally strong we are and how resolute we are in not letting the path of the German Revolution be tarnished. We know that the rumors and the whispering must be drawn back out of the darkness into which they have fled. Continue reading

Revolution from the Right

An excerpt from Hans Freyer’s 1931 booklet ‘Revolution from the Right’

Hans_Freyer

Born in Leipzig in 1887, Hans Freyer earned his doctorate in Sociology at the University of Leipzig in 1911, becoming something now rarely seen in today’s modern world – a right-wing sociologist. Freyer’s inclinations were towards conservatism, nationalism, and traditionalism, his philosophical ideals arguing for a historical worldview in which hierarchy, elitism, the leader-state, and collectivism were the inevitable highest stage of man’s social development. Freyer’s work in German academia proved influential – his ideas inspired not only sections of the romantic, nationalist-inclined Jugendbewegung (youth movement), but also the growing circle of writers and philosophers extolling the  revolutionary ‘new nationalism’ of the time – the Conservative Revolutionaries.

Freyer’s pamphlet Revolution von Rechts, a brief extract of which is reproduced below, in fact came to be one of the most important and influential contributions to the cause of the Conservative Revolutionaries. In Revolution Freyer describes the concept of the “revolution of the right”, a new revolutionary dialectic in which the Volk as a whole – rather than the bourgeoisie or the proletariat – would, under direction from an elite, sweep away the old order and build a new Total State which would harmonize technology with society and end the primacy of commercial interests over politics. Interestingly, despite the overlap of his ideas with those of the NSDAP, Hans Freyer was never a card-carrying National Socialist, although at the time Revolution was written he was not unsympathetic. Freyer in fact saw the growing influence and strength of the NSDAP and hoped with Revolution to direct it, to provide the movement with clarity about its historical purpose and to guide it away from being co-opted either by “the masses” (like many in conservative intellectual circles, Freyer regarded the NSDAP as too vulgarly violent, too populist, too plebeian) or by the bourgeois reactionaries of the “old right” (monarchists, industrialists, the petite bourgeoisie, etc.). Such elitist purism is typical of the members of the Conservative Revolutionary intellectual tradition. 

A new front is taking shape on the battlefields of bourgeois society: the revolution from the right. With the magnetic force inherent in a watchword of the future before it is pronounced, it draws from all camps the hardest, the most alert, the most contemporary of people into its ranks. It is still gathering its forces, but it will strike. Its movement is still a mere assembly of minds, without consciousness, without symbols, without leadership. But overnight the front will be established. It will undermine the old parties, their stagnated programs and their antiquated ideologies. It will successfully dispute not the reality of the tangled class contradictions of a society become everywhere petit-bourgeois but the arrogance of the claim that they can be politically productive. It will clear away the remnants of the nineteenth century where they persist and free the way for the history of the twentieth.

Those who think in the day-before-yesterday terms of bourgeoisie and proletariat, of class struggle and economic peace, of progress and reaction, who see nothing in the world but problems of distribution and insurance premiums for the have-nots, nothing but opposing interests and a state that mediates among them, they naturally fail to see that since yesterday there has been a regrouping of goals and forces underway. They confuse the revolution from the right with all sorts of honest but harmless troublemakers and eccentrics from the old world: with nationalist romantics, with counterrevolutionary activism, with an idealistically embellished juste milieu, or with the splendid notion of a state above the parties. They think that fascism is being imitated here, bottled Action Française in Germany, or a Soviet Germany, made enticing to romantics too through the assistance of certain reminiscences from German legal history. That which unites us with these is that, despite their confusions, they themselves have a troubled conscience. In the end they sense merely that something incomprehensible is drumming on their blinders from outside. In this, insofar as they are involved, they have hit upon the truth. Continue reading