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The working nation holds every commanding height of the economy firmly under its control.

Karl Otto Paetel
Origins

While, inevitably, forerunners will exist in a number of historical movements, the first known uses of the term ‘National Bolshevik’ can be traced to the years after World War I when Communist leader Karl Radek described dissident members of the workers movement, who believed the class struggle in Germany was tied to the defence of national freedom, as National Bolsheviks.  In April 1919, the term was used by the German press to describe lawyer Paul Eltzbacher who called for post Versailles Germany to adopt a Bolshevik system and form a political alliance with Soviet Russia.

On the revolutionary left, Heinrich Laufenberg and Fritz Wolffheim agitated within the German Communist Party (KPD) for a German approach to the class struggle beginning with a rejection of the Versailles settlement which they saw as an imperial project designed to subjugate Germany. During the mid twenties the left Social Democrat Ernst Niekisch used his journal ‘Widerstand’ (Resistance) to develop the idea of a class based revolutionary nationalism militantly opposed to western liberalism.

Among Bolshevik sympathisers drawn from the nationalist tradition, Karl Otto Paetel called upon social revolutionaries in the National Socialist movement to reject the reactionary anti communism of the NSDAP and embrace, as the central organising principle of the nation, a council based system designed to eliminate class preference. His alternative ‘National Bolshevist Manifesto’ was published on the day Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany.

During the Russian civil war, members of the White Russian community, notably Nikolai Ustryalov, were drawn into alliance with Red Bolshevism in a common commitment to the cause of national survival.  While he saw it as the short term saviour of the Russian nation, the politically conservative Ustryalov believed that, ultimately,  Bolshevism would abandon class struggle in favour of traditional notions of Russian patriotism. A faction within Russia’s former ‘National Bolshevik Party’, influenced by the Russian expansionism of philosopher, Alexander Dugin, are sometimes referred to as ‘NazBols‘ though this ‘meme’ is rejected by NatBols who point to the roots of National Bolshevism in German anti fascism. 

Where its activity is redirected towards the social needs of the people rather than the empowerment of ruling elites, National Bolsheviks see the nation as a liberator, with national consciousness integral to the defence of the workers state against imperialism. They believe the primary obstacle to the ability of nations to build just, peaceful societies is the influence over political life of the international banking system. 

Misunderstandings

Misrepresented in the West and misunderstood in the East, National Bolshevism is neither ‘backward’ nor ‘despotic’ nor is it ‘fascism’.  While ‘correlating’ left movements with fascism or Nazism is a strategy common among apologists for western hegemony, National Bolshevism is not a ‘merger’ of communism and fascism. Unlike the Duginist Russian ‘nazbol’ which seeks to ‘absorb’ communism, NatBol is a class based revolutionary movement which, historically, sought to draw radicals within nationalist parties and movements away from fascist and racist narratives

For some on the Marxist left, NatBol is a reactionary seduction, undermining workers consciousness of the international and interconnected nature of class struggle. For it’s advocates, however, it is the expansionist nature of Capital itself which is producing a merger of social with national struggles, a global cause which they believe the workers movement must not abandon to fascists. In its strident opposition to corporate power, few ideas out there today can claim to be more authentically anti fascist than NatBol.

Photo by Vincent M.A. Janssen on Pexels.com
The Revolutionary Idea

While, in its advocacy of national awareness, the ideas of National Bolshevism were embraced by the Soviet Union as it organised against the threat from Nazi Germany, National Bolshevism is yet to establish a national community or be realised truly in any political setting. Described by Peter Wilberg as ‘monetary nationalism’ springing from the economic analysis of Marx, a National Bolshevik system would fund nationalised public services with interest free money managed by National People’s Banks. With national liberation as its ruling principle, National Bolshevism rejects all forms of cultural, political and financial imperialism.

It is for these reasons National Bolshevism (NatBol) is set apart from the racial, supremacist ‘nationalism’ of the right and the ‘identity politics’ of the ‘internationalist’ left, both of which are tied historically to the aggressive instincts of international finance and subordinated ideologically to its aims.  In its recognition of the debt slavery of nations as the next and ultimate stage in the development of capitalism, National Bolshevism is the ONLY truly revolutionary idea. 

Image by Annabel_P from Pixabay

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