- Völkisch movement
The völkisch movement is the German interpretation of the populist movement, with a romantic focus on
folkloreand the "organic". The term "völkisch", meaning " ethnic", derives from the German word " Volk" (cognate with the English "folk"), corresponding to "people", with connotations in German of "people-powered," "folksy," and "folkloric". The defining idea the "völkisch movement" revolved around was the "Volkstum" (lit. "folkdom", probably more precise in meaning would be "folklore" and "ethnicity"), not to confuse with the Volkssturm. "Populist", or "popular", in this context would be "volkstümlich".
The "völkisch" "movement' was not a unified movement but "a cauldron of beliefs, fears and hopes that found expression in various movements and were often articulated in an emotional tone," Petteri Pietikainen observed in tracing "völkisch" influences on
Carl Gustav Jung. [Petteri Pietikainen, "The Volk and Its Unconscious: Jung, Hauer and the 'German Revolution'" "Journal of Contemporary History" 35.4 (October 2000: 523-539) p. 524] The völkisch movement was "arguably the largest group" in the Conservative Revolutionary movementin Germany.Hans Jürgen Lutzhöft (1971):Der Nordische Gedanke in Deutschland 1920-1940. de icon Stuttgart. Ernst Klett Verlag, p. 19.] However, like "conservative-revolutionary" and "fascist", "völkisch" is an iridescent term. In a narrow definition it can used to designate only groups that consider human beings essentially preformed by blood.
Origins in the 19th century
The "völkisch" movement had its origins in
Romantic nationalism, as it was expressed by early Romantics such as Johann Gottlieb Fichtein his "Addresses to the German Nation" published during the Napoleonic Wars, from 1808 onwards, especially the eighth address, “What is a "Volk," in the higher sense of the term, and what is love of the fatherland?," where he answered his question of what could warrant the noble individual's striving "and his belief in the eternity and the immortality of his work," by replying that it could only be that "particular spiritual nature of the human environment out of which he himself, with all of his thought and action... has arisen, namely the people from which he is descended and among which he has been formed and grown into that which he is" [http://trans-int.blogspot.com/2005/04/ummah-and-das-volk-on-islamist-and.html] .
The movement combined sentimental patriotic interest in
German folklore, local historyand a "back-to-the-land" anti-urban populism with many parallels in the writings of William Morris. "In part this ideology was a revolt against modernity," A. J. Nicholls remarked. [In reviewing George L. Mosse, "the crisis in German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich" in "The English Historical Review" 82 No. 325 (October 1967), p 860. Mosse was characterised as "the foremost historian of "völkisch" ideology" by Petteri Pietikainen 2000:524 note 6.] The dream was for a self-sufficient life lived with a mystical relation to the land; it was a reaction to the cultural alienation of the Industrial revolutionand the "progressive" liberalism of the later nineteenth century and its urbane materialist banality. Similar feelings were expressed in the US during the 1930s by the writers grouped as the Southern Agrarians.
In addition the "völkisch" movement, as it evolved, sometimes combined the arcane and esoteric aspects of folkloric
occultismalongside "racial adoration" and, in some circles, a type of anti-Semitismlinked to ethnic nationalism. The ideas of "völkisch" movements also included anti-communist, anti-immigration, anti-capitalist and anti-Parliamentarian principles. the "völkisch" ideas of "national community" ("Volksgemeinschaft") came more and more to exclude Jews.
Before and after World War I
A number of the "völkisch"-populist movements that had developed during the late 19th century in the
German Empire, under the impress of National Romanticism, were reorganized along propagandistic lines after the German defeat in World War I, as the word "the people" ("Volk") became increasingly politicized as a flag for new forms of ethnic nationalism.
Yet at the same time, "Volk" was also used by the international socialist parties in the German lands as a synonym for the
proletariat. The "Völkisch" movement was a force as well in Austria. [Austrian manifestations were surveyed by Rudolf G. Ardelt, "Zwischen Demoktratie und Faschismus: Deutschnationales Gedankengut in Österreich, 1919-1930" (Vienna and Salzburg) 1972, not translated into English.] Indeed the leftist political press popularized folk-culture, such as folk music, black-letter calligraphy, runes, and medieval myths and legends, much in the same way that the American left popularized folk-singing, ballads, and organic farming in the 1960s.
From the left, elements of the folk-culture spread to the parties of the middle-classes. [George L. Mosse, "The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich" (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson) 1966 sees this in the context of a broader revolt against modernity, contrasting healthy rural life with the debased materialism of city culture.] But whereas "Volk" could mean "proletariat" among the left, it meant more particularly "race" among the center and right. Although the primary interest of the Germanic mystical movement was the revival of native pagan traditions and customs (often set in the context of a quasi-
Theosophicalesotericism), a marked preoccupation with purity of race came to motivate its more politically oriented offshoots such as the Germanenorden. This latter was a secret society (founded at Berlin in 1912) which required its candidates to prove that they had no "non-Aryan" bloodlines and required from each a promise to maintain purity of his stock in marriage. Local groups of the sect met to celebrate the summer solstice, an important neopagan festivity in "völkisch" circles and later in Nazi Germany, and more regularly to read the Eddasas well as some of the German mystics [http://www.intelinet.org/swastika/swasti01.htm#anchor36373] . This branch of the "völkisch" movement quickly developed a hyper-nationalist sentiment and allied itself with anti-semitism, then rising throughout the Western world.
George Mosse [Mosse 1966 examined "völkisch" literature] identified some of the more "respectable" and centrist channels through which these sensibilities flowed: school texts that transmitted a Romantic view of a "pure" Germanic past, the nature-oriented
German Youth Movement, and novels with an ideally ruthless "völkisch" hero, such as Hermann Löns' "Der Wehrwolf" (1910).
Another "völkisch" movement of the same time was the "
Not all folkloric societies with connections to
Romantic nationalismwere located in Germany. The community of Monte Verità('Mount Truth') which emerged in 1900 at Ascona, Switzerland, is described by the Swiss art critic Harald Szeemann as "the southernmost outpost of a far-reaching Nordic lifestyle-reform, that is, alternative movement". [Heidi Paris and Peter Gente (1982). "Monte Verita: A Mountain for Minorities". Translated by Hedwig Pachter, "Semiotext, the German Issue" IV(2):1.] It embraced a mix of anarchism, libertarian communismand various forms of artistic bohemianismand neopaganism.
Connection with Nazism
The "völkisch" ideologies were influential in the development of
Nazism. Indeed, Joseph Goebbelspublicly asserted in the 1927 Nuremberg rallythat if the populist ("völkisch") movement had understood power and how to bring thousands out in the streets, it would have gained political power on 9 November 1918 (failed Communist revolution, end of the German monarchy) [http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/rpt27c1.htm] . Adolf Hitlerwrote in " Mein Kampf" ("My Struggle"): "the basic ideas of the National-Socialist movement are populist ("völkisch") and the populist ("völkisch") ideas are National-Socialist." Nazi racial pseudo-science was couched in "Völkish" terms, as when Eugen Fischerstepped into the vacuum, as other scholars withdrew from the University of Berlin in 1933, and delivered his inaugural address as Nazi rector, "The Conception of the "Völkisch state in the view of biology" (29 July 1933). [Noted by Franz Weidenreich in "Science" New Series, 104No. 2704 (October 1946:399).]
This connection can be overstated, however. According to
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarkean imaginative mythology has grown up around the supposed influence within the Nazi Partyof a "völkisch" group, the "Thule-Gesellschaft" ( Thule Society), which was founded on August 17, 1918by Rudolf von Sebottendorff. Its original name was "Studiengruppe für Germanisches Altertum" (Study Group for Germanic Antiquity), but it soon started to disseminate anti-republican and anti-Semitic propaganda. In January 1919 the Thule Society was instrumental in the foundation of the " Deutsche Arbeiter-Partei" (German Workers' Party, or DAP) which later became the NSDAP (Nazi Party). Furthermore the "Münchener Beobachter" ("Munich Observer"), owned by Sebottendorff, was the press organ of another small nationalist party and later became the " Völkischer Beobachter" ("People's Observer").
On the other hand it can be noted that
Karl Harrer, the Thule member most directly involved in the creation of the DAP in 1919, was sidelined at the end of the year when Hitler drafted regulations against conspiratorial circles, and the Thule Society was dissolved a few years later (Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 150, 221). It had no members from the top echelons of the party and Nazi officials were forbidden any involvement in secret societies. Adolf Hitler was never a member, while Rudolf Hessand Alfred Rosenbergwere only visiting guests of the Thule Society in the early years before they came to prominence in the Nazi movement (Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 149, 201). However, the "völkisch" circles did hand down one significant legacy: Friedrich Krohn, a Thule member, designed the original version of the Nazi swastikain 1919.
*Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas. 1985. "The Occult Roots of Nazism: The Ariosophists of Austria and Germany 1890-1935". Wellingborough, England: Aquarian Press. ISBN 0-85030-402-4. (1992. "The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology". New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-3060-4)
*Kurlander, E. 2002. "The Rise of Völkisch-Nationalism and the Decline of German Liberalism: A Comparison of Liberal Political Cultures in Schleswig-Holstein and Silesia 1912–1924", "European Review of History" 9(1): 23-36. [http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/carfax/cerh/2002/00000009/00000001/art00002 Abstract]
*Mosse, George L. 1964. "The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins Of The Third Reich". New York: Grosset & Dunlap.
*Stern, Fritz. 1961, 1963. "The Politics Of Cultural Despair: A Study In The Rise Of The Germanic Ideology". Berkeley: University of California Press.
Anarchism and nationalism
Guido von List
* [http://trans-int.blogspot.com/2005/04/ummah-and-das-volk-on-islamist-and.html John Rosenthal, "The Ummah and das Volk: on the Islamist and "Völkisch" Ideologies"]
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