The Review of Politics

Research Article

Towards a Fourth Reich? The History of National Bolshevism in Germany

Klemens von Klemperer

National Bolshevism represents a chapter in German-Russian relations since the First World War. As a policy advocating an Eastern orientation for Germany it is a most puzzling and at this day a very acute phenomenon. To those educated to observe the spectrum of political opinions in terms of Right and Left, with the extreme Right at the opposite end from the extreme Left, National Bolshevism seems a paradox. It suggests the meeting of extremes. More concretely the term stands for a rapprochement between German nationalism and Russian Communism. The story of National Bolshevism is the story of two “strange bedfellows.”

In the effort to comprehend this upsetting pattern it might be recalled that modern psychology has in many ways succeeded in breaking down our traditional thinking about human relations. Love, for example, has lost its meaning apart from hate, which has become its alter ego. We might be tempted to translate this finding into political terms, and National Bolshevism would appear as an example of a political love-hate relationship. It might also be suggested that the further we get from the origins and die more insight we gain into die workings of die two twentieth century extremes — Fascism and Communism — the more we are struck by dieir affinities. We grant diat Fascism is nodiing more dian “doctrineless dynamism,” whereas Communism goes back to die solid doctrinaire structure of Marxism. And even through European history since 1917 often threatened to lead up to an ultimate conflict between Fascism and Communism, die “transmutation” through which Marxism has gone in modern Russia has brought it ironically close to Fascism. It has become increasingly evident that die fight between die two was a mere sham battle.