ERNST NIEKISCH (1889 – 1967)
A Exemplar of the Revolution
A leader of the National Bolsheviks in Weimar Germany who spent eight years in Nazi prisons for his Resistance activities, Ernst Niekisch was born on 23 May 1889 in Trebnitz.
A school teacher by training, Niekisch grew up in Bavaria, joining the Bavarian Social Democrats in 1917 and editing their party newspaper. Actively involved in the Bavarian revolution of 1918 – 19 (he was Chairman of the Worker’s and soldiers’ Council in Munich), Niekisch was sentenced in June 1919 to two – and – a – half years’ detention in a fortress for his role in the ‘Soviet’ experiment.
Between 1922 and 1926, Niekisch returned to the SPD – he was Secretary of the German Textile Workers’ Association in Berlin – but he fundamentally rejected its Marxist internationalism and its weak stand against the Versailles Treaty.
In 1926 he became a member of the Altsozialisten (Old Socialists) Party and editor – in – Chief of its newspaper in Dresden. He was also editor and publisher of the journal ‘Widerstand’ (Resistance) which strongly opposed Stresemann’s pro – western foreign policy.
An anti – western national revolutionary, who believed in German – Russian co-operation and was convinced that the spirit of Potsdam was incarnated in the Soviet Union, Niekisch was the ideological leader of ‘National Bolshevism’ in the Weimar Republic. His attempted synthesis of extreme nationalism – directed against the Versailles Treaty, French influences and zionist ‘domination’ – with revolutionary socialism – had some impact on the Nazi Left, including the young Goebbels, Gregor Strasser, Ernst Rohm and also on non – Nazi nationalists like the writer Ernst Junger.
However, no rapprochement was possible with the German Communist Party, which was too ideologically rigid and bound by Marxist – Leninist ‘internationalism’ to attract Niekisch and his followers. The National Bolsheviks remained a small sectarian group which had no further raison d’etre in Nazi Germany.
A resistor all his life, Niekisch soon found himself at odds with the Nazi Third Reich and tried to organise opposition circles in the big cities like Berlin, Munich, Nuremberg and Leipzig, without much success. Arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in 1937 for these conspiratorial activities, he was sentenced to life imprisonment by the ‘People’s Court’ on 10 January 1939.
Niekisch spent the rest of the war in Nazi prisons and was fortunate to survive the experience, troubled as he was by a severe illness and virtually an invalid. He became a Marxist in the post – war years and in his ‘Das Reich der Niederen Damonen’ (1953), reflecting on the Third Reich, he emphasised the failure of the German middle classes and their lack of moral resistance. “Hitler saw that there was simply no crime that could draw upon him the detestation of the German Burgertum…. The bourgeois had the government which they deserved.”
Disillusioned by the crushing of the East Berlin workers’ revolt in 1953, Niekisch gave up his membership of the ruling SED Party and settled in West Berlin, where he died on 23 May 1967.
Continuing in the National Revolutionary tradition of mlitant opposition to the forces of reaction is the new info-page WIDERSTAND named for Comrade Niekisch. Show support!