Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Niekisch, Where we stand

Unser Standort was first published in Widerstand in August 1926. The text is from the period in Ernst Niekisch’ life which Uwe Sauermann labels “proletarian nationalism”. Although Spöknippet considers Niekisch one of the finest thinkers of the twentieth century that is to a large degree based on his later works, foremost Die dritte imperial Figur from 1935.

A warning against Widerstand has been directed at the workers – and how may we have expected anything else? – suggesting that it fosters “nationalistic obscurantism” in the consciousness of the working class with the aim of winning that class over to the socially reactionary aims of the bourgeoisie. Reference has been made to certain terminological similarities as if they offered proof of such assertions; we have made use, it was said, of some expressions that one also hears from social reactionaries. Such terminological similarities might in fact be present; it cannot be helped that such persons also speak of vital national necessities for whom it is more a matter of the pocketbook than a serious consideration of these necessities. Naturally we presume that those who have “identified” these terminological similarities seek intentionally to misunderstand us. For it truly does not take much to grasp the essential tendencies that inform our position. We are wholly rooted in the vital feelings and sentiments of the working people of Germany; their needs and their instincts are our own. We do not want to lead them astray, do not want to betray them; we are flesh of their flesh, blood of their blood; our thoughts, feelings, and aspirations issue exclusively from the ground of their being and the current circumstances of their fate. What moved us most profoundly was this: that the burden of the tributes to which Germany has been subjected weigh most heavily on the working people; that it is the living conditions of precisely the German worker which have been called into question by the collapse of German status in the world. Here the challenges of the German nation coincide with the law if self-preservation of the working class. That to be sure can be truly understood only by those who are more than mere literary figures. So many such literary sorts are busy insinuating to workers what they are supposed to think that they have already diverted workers from many a good course of action.

We speak justifiably of the proletarian situation of Germany: the nation is oppressed and dependent; it slaves for others and lives hand-to-mouth. That signifies the historical moment in which the worker, the personification of the proletarian situation as such, has a national mission to fulfill: he turns against the ultimate causes if his social oppression, the victorious states of the Treaty of Versailles, he also rises up against the chains by which the nation is shackled. Is it not strange that social democracy, which has vainly set itself the goal of “liberating the working class,” continually conceals from the worker the social effects of the policy of acceding to the treaty demands? He is not supposed to know of them. How is this to be explained? Social democracy is vaguely aware that the moment the working class becomes conscious of the equivalence between its social struggle for liberation and the national struggle for liberation, it will become such an element, vehement, and vitally progressive force that no petty little party secretary will be capable of controlling it and no rootlessliteray type of interpreting it. Therefore it is silent on the question of the nation’s task! Therefore if resistance to the yoke of social oppressionmust necessarily take on a national coloration, better that there be no resistance at all, better that the workers patiently resigns themselves to the social yoke. We will have no part in lulling the workers to sleep – that is what characterizes us. This, however, does not convict us of sin against the worker’s livelihood. It is his freedom that we want, even if Mr. [Aristide] Briand and Mr. [Austen] Chaimberlain turn up their noses. To us, contrary to many social-democratic writers, the freedom of the German worker is more important than the welfare of Briand and Chaimberlain. To chase after their welfare – that is truly not the substance of socialism.

That is why we are far from being national socialists in the usual sense of the term. What distinguishes us above all from the latter is this: they are, similar to social democracy, driven almost exclusively by the point of view of domestic politics. They think to much of “hanging the criminals of November”; their intentions are too much dominated by hate, revenge, retaliation. Those are not the means by which one pulls a people together in a struggle for liberation. We are less destructive and negative. We affirm everything that increases the political power of the German people; we are concerned soley with the question of how it can be raised to the highest level. Those who want to hang the “November criminals” partout, will afterward probably have to let the French go free; they will scarcely have sufficient force in reserve to inflict upon the latter the justice they deserve.

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