Conservative revolutionary movement

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The German conservative revolutionary movement (German: Konservative Revolution, lit. 'Conservative Revolution') was a German national conservative movement, prominent in the years following World War I. The German conservative revolutionary school of thought advocated a nationalism that was specifically German, or Prussian in particular. Like other right-wing movements in the same period, they sought to put a stop to the rising tide of liberalism and communism.


The revolutionaries based their ideas on organic rather than materialistic thinking, on quality instead of quantity, and on Volksgemeinschaft ("ethnic community") rather than class conflict and "mob rule". These writers produced a profusion of radical nationalistic literature that consisted of war diaries, combat fictional works, political journalism, manifestos and philosophical treatises outlining their ideas for the transformation of German cultural and political life. Outraged by liberalism and egalitarianism and rejecting the commercial culture of industrial and urban civilization, they advocated the destruction of the liberal order—by revolutionary means if necessary—in order to make way for the establishment of a new order, founded on conservative principles. The movement had a wide influence among many of Germany’s most gifted youth, universities and middle classes.

The term "German conservative revolution" predates World War I, but writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal and political theorist Edgar Julius Jung were instrumental in making this term an established concept of the Weimar period. Thomas Mann used the term to describe Friedrich Nietzsche, whose philosophy greatly influenced many of the thinkers associated with the movement.[1]

Initially, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck was the dominant figure of the conservative revolution in the Weimar Republic.[2] Rejecting traditional conservatism, he proposed a new state, a "Third Reich" which would unite all classes under authoritarian rule[3] based on a combination of the nationalism of the right and the socialism of the left.[4] Jung promoted a fascist version of conservative revolution from the 1920s to the 1930s, which like fascism spoke of nations as being singular organic entities; attacked individualism while promoting militarism and war; promoted "total mobilization" of human and industrial resources; and promoting the productive power of modernity, similar to the futurism espoused by Italian Fascism.[5] While Carl Schmitt promoted antisemitic views, he claimed that he held no fondness towards the Nazism of Adolf Hitler which he considered to be too vulgar.[6] Hermann Rauschning was typical of the conservative revolutionaries.[7] For Rauschning, a conservative revolution "meant the prewar monarchic-Christian revolt against modernity that made a devil’s pact with Hitler during the Weimar period".[8]

The conservative revolutionaries, many of whom were born in the last decade of the 19th century, were all basically formed by their experiences of the World War I.[citation needed] The war and the German Revolution was for them a clean break from the past, which left them greatly disillusioned.[citation needed] First, the experience of the horrors of trench warfare, the filth, the hunger, the negation of heroism to a man’s effort to stay alive on the battlefield and the random death led to many recognizing that there was no meaning to this war, or to life itself.[citation needed] They also had to contend with the Dolchstoßlegende ("stab-in-the-back legend") of the end of the war.[citation needed] Second, in this Kriegserlebnis ("war experience") they sought to re-establish the Frontgemeinschaft (the "frontline camaraderie") that defined their existence on the warfront.[citation needed] They felt that they were "like a puppet which has to dance for the demonic entertainment of evil spirits".[citation needed] Some were attracted to nihilist ideas.[citation needed] In their Froschperspektive writings, they sought to give their experience meaning.[citation needed]

The conservative revolutionaries held an ambivalent view of the Nazis.[9] After 1933, some of the proponents of the conservative revolutionary movement were persecuted by the Nazis, most notably by the SS of Heinrich Himmler, who wanted to prevent reactionaries from opposing or deviating from Hitler's regime in this early time. Jung would lose his life in the Night of the Long Knives and this would for many conservative revolutionaries end the alliance between them and the Nazis.[10] Rauschning came "to the bitter conclusion that the Nazi regime represented anything other than the longed-for German revolution" and his position was "generally typically of the majority" of conservative revolutionaries.[11]

Some conservative revolutionary movement members went into anonymity, some arranged themselves within the new regime and became Nazi Party members. Rauschning defected to the West and wrote against the Nazi regime. Others, like Claus von Stauffenberg, remained inside the Reichswehr and later Wehrmacht to silently conspire in the 20 July plot of 1944. Historian Fritz Stern stated that it was "a tribute to the genuine spiritual quality of the conservative revolution that the reality of the Third Reich aroused many of them to opposition, sometimes silent, often open and costly".[12] However, Stern concluded:

But, we must ask, could there have been any other "Third Reich"? Can one abjure reason, glorify force, prophesy the age of the imperial dictator, can one condemn all existing institutions, without preparing the triumph of irresponsibility? The Germanic critics did all that, thereby demonstrating the terrible dangers of the politics of cultural despair.[2]

Notable members

See also


  1. ^ Thomas Mann: Große kommentierte Frankfurter Ausgabe, Frankfurt, 2002, Vol. 15, p. 341.
  2. ^ a b Stern, Fritz Richard, The politics of cultural despair: a study in the rise of the Germanic ideology, University of California Press, reprint edition (1974), p. 298
  3. ^ Burleigh, Michael, The Third Reich: a new history, Pan MacMillan (2001), p. 75
  4. ^ Redles, David Nazi End Times; The Third Reich as a Millennial Reich in Kinane, Karolyn & Ryan, Michael A. (eds), End of days: essays on the apocalypse from antiquity to modernity, McFarland and Co (2009), p. 176
  5. ^ Griffen, Roger (ed). 1995. "The Legal Basis of the Total State" - by Carl Schmitt. Fascism. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 109.
  6. ^ Griffen, Roger (ed). 1995. "The Legal Basis of the Total State" - by Carl Schmitt. Fascism. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 108.
  7. ^ Stern, Fritz Richard, The politics of cultural despair: a study in the rise of the Germanic ideology, University of California Press, reprint edition (1974), note to p. 297
  8. ^ Neaman, Elliot Yale, A dubious past: Ernst Jünger and the politics of literature after Nazism, University of California Press (1999), p. 71
  9. ^ Bullivant, Keith, The Conservative Revolution in Phelan, Anthony (ed.), The Weimar dilemma: intellectuals in the Weimar Republic, Manchester University Press (1985), p. 66
  10. ^ Bullivant, Keith, The Conservative Revolution in Phelan, Anthony (ed.), The Weimar dilemma: intellectuals in the Weimar Republic, Manchester University Press (1985), p. 66
  11. ^ Bullivant, Keith, The Conservative Revolution in Phelan, Anthony (ed.), The Weimar dilemma: intellectuals in the Weimar Republic, Manchester University Press (1985), p. 66
  12. ^ Stern, Fritz Richard, The politics of cultural despair: a study in the rise of the Germanic ideology, University of California Press, reprint edition (1974), p. 296


  • Travers, Martin (2001). Critics of Modernity: The Literature of the Conservative Revolution in Germany, 1890-1933. Peter Lang Publishing. ISBN 0-8204-4927-X.
  • Herf, Jeffrey (2002). Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture, and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich (reprint ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-33833-6.
  • Stern, Fritz (1974). The Politics of Cultural Despair: A Study in the Rise of the Germanic Ideology (New ed.). University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-02626-8.
  • Woods, Roger (1996). The Conservative Revolution in the Weimar Republic. St. Martin's Press. p. 29. ISBN 0-333-65014-X.

Further reading

  • Dakin, Edwin F. Today and Destiny: Vital Excepts from the Decline of the West of Oswald Spengler. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962.
  • "Arthur Moeller van den Bruck: Une 'Question a la Destinee Allemande.'" Nouvelle Ecole No. 35 (January 1980), pp. 40–73.
  • De Benoist, Alain. "Julius Evola, réactionnaire radical et métaphysicien engagé. Analyse critique de la pensée politique de Julius Evola," Nouvelle Ecole, No. 53–54 (2003), pp. 147–69.
  • Dugin, Alexander. "Conservatism and Postmodernity", in The Fourth Political Theory. London: Arktos, 2012.
  • Fischer, Klaus P. History and Prophecy: Oswald Spengler and the Decline of the West. New York: P. Lang, 1989.
  • Gottfried, Paul. Carl Schmitt: Politics and Theory. Westport and New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.
  • Gottfried, Paul. “Hugo von Hofmannsthal and the Interwar European Right.” Modern Age, Vol. 49, No. 4 (Fall 2007), pp. 508–19.
  • Haag, John J. Othmar Spann and the Politics of "Totality": Corporatism in Theory and Practice. Ph.D. Thesis, Rice University, 1969.
  • Hansen, H.T. "Julius Evola’s Political Endeavors". In: Evola, Julius. Men Among the Ruins: Postwar Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2002.
  • Hughes, H. Stuart. Oswald Spengler: A Critical Estimate. New York: Scribner's, 1962.
  • Jacob, Alexander. Europa: German Conservative Foreign Policy 1870-1940. Lanham, MD, USA: University Press of America, 2002.
  • Jones, Larry Eugene & Retallack, James (eds.). Between Reform, Reaction, and Resistance. Studies in the History of German Conservatism from 1789 to 1945. Providence, Oxford: Berg., 1993.
  • Jones, Larry Eugene. "Edgar Julius Jung: The Conservative Revolution in Theory and Practice." Conference Group for Central European History of the American Historical Association, vol. 21, Issue 02 (1988), pp. 142–174.
  • Jung, Edgar Julius. The Rule of the Inferiour, 2 Vols. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1995.
  • Kaes, Anton, Martin Jay, & Edward Dimendberg (eds.). The Weimar Republic Sourcebook. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.
  • Kaltenbrunner, Gerd-Klaus. Europa: Seine geistigen Quellen in Portraits aus zwei Jahrtausenden, Vol. 1. Heroldsberg: Christiania-Verlag, 1981.
  • Lauryssens, Stan. The Man Who Invented the Third Reich: The Life and Times of Arthur Moeller Van Den Bruck. Sutton Publishing, NY, 2003.
  • Maass, Sebastian. Die andere deutsche Revolution: Edgar Julius Jung und die metaphysischen Grundlagen der Konservativen Revolution. Kiel: Regin Verlag, 2009.
  • Messner, Johannes. Social Ethics: Natural Law in the Western World. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1965.
  • Moeller van den Bruck, Arthur. Germany's Third Empire. London: Arktos Media, 2012.
  • Mohler, Armin. Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918–1932. Stuttgart: Friedrich Vorwerk Verlag, 1950.
  • Muller, Jerry Z. The Other God that Failed: Hans Freyer and the Deradicalization of German Conservatism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.
  • Struve, Walter. Elites Against Democracy; Leadership Ideals in Bourgeois Political Thought in Germany, 1890-1933. Princeton: Princeton University, 1973.
  • Sunic, Tomislav. Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right, Third Edition. London: Arktos, 2010.
  • Szaz, Zoltan Michael. "The Ideological Precursors of National Socialism." The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Dec., 1963), pp. 924–945.
  • Von Klemperer, Klemens. Germany's New Conservatism: Its History And Dilemma In The Twentieth Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968.

External links

  • "Germany and the Conservative Revolution" by Edgar Julius Jung (English text)
  • "The Neo-Conservative Reich of Edgar Julius Jung" by Alexander Jacob
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