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Rudolf Bahro: Volkisch Spirituality

Excerpt from
Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience
by Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier
1995, AK Press
ISBN 1-873176 73 2

pp 48-50

Rudolf Bahro: Volkisch Spirituality

If fascists are using ecological themes to update their racial and nationalist aims, other thinkers are developing an ecological spiritualism along New Age lines that bears no small resemblance to the völkisch Germanic spirituality of the 1920s. Indeed, “a great part of the literature about close-to-nature spirituality that the alternative scene is reading is permeated with reactionary, völkisch, or even National Socialist content,” writes Ditfurth. “We find neofascist and ultra-right positions not only in the various political and even ecological groups, but also … in neopagan, esoteric and occult circles.”44

Perhaps the most prominent figure in this connection is Rudolf Bahro. Many German ‘new social movement’ circles previously accepted Bahro as a social theorist contributing to a ‘socialism with a human face’ and continue to regard him as part of the independent left; leftist periodicals publish uncritical interviews with him. In the Anglo-American world, too, many ecological radicals still consider Bahro as representing something ‘leftist.’ Yet Bahro no longer considers himself a leftist; indeed, he is a vehement critic of the left 45 and of “comrades without fatherland.”46 In fact, as antifascist researcher Roger Niedenführ argues, since the mid-1980s Bahro has been contributing to the development of a “spiritual fascism” that has the effect of “rehabilitating National Socialism,” openly calling for reclaiming the “positive” side of the Nazi movement. Not only does Bahro appeal to a mystical Germanist spirituality like the völkisch ideologues of the 1920s, he even sees the need for a “Green Adolf” who will lead Germans out of their own “folk-depths” and into ecological “salvation.

Bahro originally became well known as the author of The Alternative in Eastern Europe, which he wrote during the 1970s while he was a dissident Marxist and party member in the former East Germany. In 1977, the ruling Communist government sentenced him to prison; in 1979, he was deported. Once arrived in what was then West Germany, Bahro became involved with the nascent German Greens, affirming that “red and green go well together.”48 In the early 1980s peace movement, he alarmed many by enunciating nationalistic arguments against the deployment of Pershing missiles. 49 He began to speak less in political terms and more in religious terms, asking that “the emphasis [be] shifted from politics and the question of power towards the cultural level … to the prophetic level. … Our aim has to be the ‘reconstruction of God.’ ” 50 He became a vocal ‘fundamentalist’ critic of the realo wing of the Greens (those who became generally committed to exercising parliamentary power) and ultimately left the party in 1985. In a parting speech in Hamburg, he said there were structural similarities between the Greens and the Nazi movement that the Greens were not taking advantage of but should; then he gave his ‘fundamentalist’ alternative: “the other republic that we want will be an association of communities of life-communities in which God and Goddess are at the center.”51

Bahro thereafter moved increasingly toward the New Age esoteric milieu. His major concern remained “the ecological crisis,” whose “deep structures” must be investigated, but he now thinks ecology “has nothing to do with left and right.”52 Today Bahro is one of the leading spokespeople and theorists of New Age ideas in the Federal Republic. “The most important thing,” he rambles,

is that . . . [people] take the path “back” and align themselves with the Great Equilibrium, in the harmony between the human order and the Tao of life. I think the “esoteric”-political theme of “king and queen of the world” is basically the question of how men and women are to comprehend and interact with each other in a spiritually comprehensive way. Whoever does not bring themselves to cooperate with the world government [Weltregierung] will get their due.53

In 1989, Bahro cofounded a combination educational center and commune near Trier, the Lernwerkstatt (an “ecological academy for one world”), whose purpose is to synthesize spirituality and politics, “to come to a new personal and social orientation.” It presents lectures, cultural events, and weekend workshops on various New Age themes, including deep ecology, ecofeminism, Zen Buddhism, holistic nutrition, Sufism, and the like — as well as German identity.54 His 1987 book Logik der Rettung marked an overt embrace of authoritarian theological concepts that shocked many former admirers.55

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