ANNA BRAMWELL'S BIOGRAPHY OF WALTHER DARRÉ, REVIEWED BY STEVE BRADY
THE POLITICAL PLATFORM of radical nationalism did not spring full-grown from the brain of any one individual or group. It traces its roots back to the ideas of many people in many countries over many years. It is the contribution of one of these key individuals to our thinking today which is revealed by Dr. Anna Bramwell, Junior Research Fellow in History at Trinity College, Oxford, in her admirably researched and incisively written Blood and Soil: Walther Darré and Hitler's Green Party, published by the Kensal Press.
Taking a historical, rather than hysterical, approach, refreshing in any author discussing anything remotely connected with Hitler's Third Reich, Dr. Bramwell reveals a Darré who was much more than a rather obscure Nazi Minister and whose ideas live on today not only in the 'ruralist' thinking of radical nationalists but also in the ideas of the 'Green' movement so strong in Germany at present.
An Argentinian-born war hero and trained agronomist, whose competence in his own field even the rabidly hostile William Shirer admits, Darré joined the NSDAP in 1930. He won over to Hitler the crucial rural vote he needed to win power, was rewarded with the Agriculture Ministry and the post of National Farmers' Leader, but gradually became disillusioned with what he saw as the betrayal of essential racial nationalist principles by the Nazis, and was gradually pushed into the background and away from any real power.
Dr. Bramwell's work ably demonstrates the essential unsoundness, cynicism and corruption of much of the rest of the Nazi leadership.
It is clear that it was not only the Strassers and the socialist aspects of their programme Hitler and Co. betrayed. They also sold out Darré and the ruralist, racialist, planks of their platform.
Dr. Bramwell reveals a Darré who was in many ways an example to many of his modern racial nationalist successors. On Race itself he is wholly sound, totally dedicated to the survival, and the advancement of the White race.
But it is his vision of a decentralised, rural-based society of free yeomen farmers, a vision remarkably evocative of the America envisaged, but alas never realised, by US Founding Father Thomas Jefferson (another of our unsung ideological progenitors), that Walther Darré's real contribution to nationalist thought lies.
Darré saw urbanisation as a threat to the Race: "One thinks of the large towns, where the dark-skinned student, the Coloured artists, the Jazz trumpeter, the Chinese sailor, the fruit merchant from Central America, etc., feel perfectly at home, and can often leave behind an eternal souvenir".
Instead, Darré saw the heart of the nation as lying in the Bauer ― a word often translated, as here by Dr. Bramwell who in fact demonstrates that she knows better, as "peasant" but which lacks the English word's connotations of inferiority and subservience and would probably be better rendered as "yeoman" or simply "farmer".
To Darré, farmers were not irrelevant rustic yokels, but members of "a homogeneous racial group of Nordic antecedents, who formed the cultural and racial core of the German nation. . . the most productive, the most resourceful, the most innovative group of the nation".
To embody his ruralist vision Darré borrowed from the ex-Social Democrat August Winning the evocative slogan "Blood and Soil", which, though much distorted by later hostile propaganda, to its supporters meant "the link between those who held and farmed the land and whose generations of blood, sweat and tears had made the soil part of their being, and their being integral to the soil. It meant to them the unwritten history of Europe, a history unconnected with trade, the banditry of the aristocracy, and the infinite duplicity of Church and monarchy. It was the antithesis of the mercantile spirit . . . Certainly it was not a means of romanticising rural life".
Nor was it, as some modern self-styled 'ruralists' seem to imagine, an excuse for reactionary 'Muck and Mysticism' or religious obscurantism. Dr. Bramwell herself observes that "the phrase seems to have acquired more mystical overtones for today's racial nationalists than it had for the German nationalists of the 1920's".
She argues that Darré's ruralism was founded not in mysticism but in a concrete scientific belief in objective reality, holding, with modern sociobiologists, and ethnologists such as Konrad Lorenz, "the belief that mankind was part of the natural order, and subject to all the physical laws that emerge from a study of animals", rather than in some way unique.
Dr. Bramwell argues ― rightly, I think ― that such "nature-based thinking" is inherently radical. As she puts it:
"Nature teaches that there is a truthful, real world, which can, though with difficulty, be seized, grasped and verified. It exists objectively. Why is this apparently obvious attitude a radical one? Because conservative thought is either indifferent to this sort of realism ― preferring criteria of social usefulness ― or else translates reality to a metaphysical plane where it poses no threat to social stability. Socialists and communists believe in structures and, once in power, in stability. At heart, they do not want to rock the boat, they want to get in it. But the man who goes to nature for his beliefs is rejecting these compromises. He may be of an un-analytical cast of mind, but he knows how to say no. He is inherently suspicious and bloody-minded . . . He prefers kin to caste. He cannot, I think, be described as Utopian or mystical, just because he does not conform."
Darré admired Darwin, T.H. Huxley and the great German evolutionary biologist Ernst Haeckel, who invented the word "ecology". He encouraged the development of technology when-and-wherever it could serve the ruralist vision, as with tractors powered by methane gas derived from silage.
Dr. Bramwell is clearly right to draw a distinction between this progressive forward-looking ruralism and the essentially regressive, technophobic 'back-to-the-caves' attitude of many modern Greens.
The distinction also should, I think, be drawn between Darré’s ruralism, which sought "to break free of the shackles of a burdensome and oppressive past" and backward-looking pseudo-ruralism with its "reappraisal of feudalism" and its constant harking back to a medieval world which, in reality, subtly blended the political morality of Al Capone's underworld, the intellectual freedom of Stalin's Russia and the popular living standards of the most backward corner of today's India or Ethiopia, whose memorial is as much the Inquisitor's stake as the Gothic cathedral.
Darré's ruralism went further than mere anti-urbanism and pro-naturism. He harked back to an older Germanic tradition than the "Jawohl mein Fuhrer!" Prussian robotism of his Nazi associates, a tradition of freedom.
He believed that "the essence of the peasant nature is to be anti-state", and that "the need for a strong State" is alien to the Nordic tradition of individual freedom. As Dr. Bramwell puts it, in office his "attempt to create a corporatist-cum-syndicalist structure, the Reichsnaehrstand, contradicted the spirit of the centralised National Socialist state".
He felt that Otto Strasser was right to stress "Germanic self-determination" rather than "the Fascist satrapy" and that his brother Gregor had "the right ideas, very clever". It need hardly, therefore, be added that Darré totally rejected Capitalism.
He also rejected the imperialism which so fatally flawed the Nazi Party. He felt that any Greater Germany should consist only of German land, and "would be a failure without some common ties of blood". When Hitler began the wholly unjustified seizure of other White nations' land, with the annexation of Czech Bohemia and Moravia, Darré wrote in his diary that Germany was making "the mistake England made when she acquired an empire which destroyed her as a nation".
He condemned as folly the suicidal onslaught on Russia, and indeed the whole concept of lebensraum: a ruralised Germany could feed herself from her own lands, he felt ― and indeed his agricultural policies went 81% of the way to proving it in five years. It was largely Darré’s doing that the German people did not starve in the Second World War as they did in the First.
For Darré was no idle theorist. In his early years in office Darré was able to begin to implement some of his ideas. He lifted the burden of debt from German farmers, reducing interest rates to a maximum of 2% on farm loans and confirming farmers in their ancient odal right of hereditary ownership of their lands, free from the threat of seizure for debt, foreclosure or even sale to pay back loans.
Darré’s National Yeoman's City at Goslar became an international centre of the ruralist movement. His model scientific organic farm was triumphantly successful. His new forests, carefully planted with a mixture of evergreen and deciduous trees, and natures reserves are among the few monuments of the Third Reich to survive. As Dr. Bramwell says: "Feder and Strasser did not see their ideas carried into effect. Darré did. That alone would be significant in the world of revolutionaries".
But Darré’s ideas were not to be very far carried into effect: Hitler had no intention, it soon became apparent, of allowing the thoroughgoing ruralisation of Germany. The rot began in 1933, when after Darré stopped further seizures of German farms for debt by banks, it was decreed from on high that farms already seized would not, after all, be returned to their rightful owners.
It became ever more apparent to Darré that Hitler and Co. had no intention of breaking with the Old Order in Germany: they just wanted to take it over themselves. Darré was appalled when at the International Dairy Conference in August 1937, Goering ― whose resemblance to one of the pigs in Orwell's Animal Farm was not only moral ― said "No country can withdraw today from the World Economic system. No country can ever say again: we decline the world economy and we are going to live and produce for ourselves alone" ― though this was exactly what the NSDAP always had said! International Finance had clearly triumphed.
Darré complained in vain that increasing arms production was drawing young people away from the land and that they were being replaced by cheap Polish labour rather than, if they must go, ethnic Germans from abroad. By April 1939, a gloomy Darré was complaining of "a brutal, heavy economic imperialism" in Germany, and had been deprived of much of his remaining power in favour of his deputy, Hitler sycophant Herbert Backe.
By 1942, Darré, no longer a Minister but merely a figurehead of his "National Farmers' Estate", concluded that "Hitler has betrayed Blood and Soil". But after the war Darré, unlike many a Hitlerite, did not betray his erstwhile comrades, refusing to testify against them, and serving five and a half years in jail.
At his own 1948 trial on silly charges relating to events he had mostly neither art nor part in ― where they happened at all ― Darré defended his views so forthrightly as to win the grudging admiration of his judges. Freed in 1950, he died in 1953, aged only 58.
The Hitlerism with which Darré broke was, as Dr. Bramwell ably demonstrates, not just ideologically corrupt but, but 1940, a confused muddle of contradictory edicts issued by miscellaneous rival factions. Surviving Fiihrer-worshippers should read Dr. Bramwell’s expose of the chaos which was the "resettlement of occupied Poland" and then ask themselves whether, when they say "Hitler was Right", they mean what Hitler said he would do, what Hitler actually did do, what Hitler then said he had done, or what Hitler's enemies subsequently said he did? For all these are evidently clearly different things!
The great scheme to win lebensraum in the East to feed Germany ended in farce, with food being exported from Germany to Poland and the Ukraine, who inhabitants thus ate better than the Germans did ― as Darré said would happen.
And it destroyed the last semblance of Nazi racial nationalism. "This imperial drive" as Dr. Bramwell incisively observes "entailed a fully fascist 'from above' power structure, with an essentially non-racialist, but elitist, social base which crossed racial and national boundaries in search of ability ... Certainly the SS elite eventually became pan-European, losing even its national as well as its racial character. This subordination of racial theory to political practice was characteristic of the Third Reich".
On the other hand, Darré ― the last man of principle , perhaps, at the top of the NSDAP, "almost alone amongst Nazi leaders realised and protested against the racial implications of importing foreign agricultural labourers whilst German peasants were recruited for death on the Russian front".
Walther Darré was not corrupted by power, unlike so many of his colleagues, perhaps because he never had all that much but also, undoubtedly, because he had a clearer ideological vision, a fully thought-out dream of a New Germany, than they did. As Dr. Bramwell puts it: "Hitler found Dane a useful theorist and organiser for a period of crisis, but when he kept faith with his vision he was, like many other revolutionary ideologues, discarded".
Yet Darré’s legacy is, in many ways, more worthy than that of his discarders. As Dr. Bramwell puts it: "Certainly it is time the contribution of Dane and his followers made to twentieth century ecological thought was recognised; it is at least arguable that without him the ecological movement would have perished in his time and place".
Every racial nationalist should read Anna Bramwell's crucial work. Not just to discover another of our intellectual forbears, but to learn from him. Not just from where Darré was right, but from where he was wrong. For, correct as they were in theory, in practice Darré ― like the Strasser brothers and Gottfried Feder ― completely failed to prevent the betrayal of the Revolution, the supplanting of the visionaries by the tyrants and the bureaucrats. This must not happen again, or all our efforts will be in vain.
This time, we must ensure that our Revolution is led not by a few "Leaders", who will become corrupted by power, but by many politically educated members. Centralised power, a thing he abhorred, destroyed Darré's vision because he tolerated it in his party. We must not make the same mistake. Thus, and only thus, will Darré’s ruralist dream one day become a reality.