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Blood and Soil as Official Doctrine

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

pp 17–20

Blood and Soil as Offi­cial Doc­trine

“The uni­ty of blood and soil must be restored,” pro­claimed Richard Walther Dar­ré in 1930.37 This infa­mous phrase denot­ed a qua­si-mys­ti­cal con­nec­tion between ‘blood’ (the race or Volk) and ‘soil’ (the land and the nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment) spe­cif­ic to Ger­man­ic peo­ples and absent, for exam­ple, among Celts and Slavs. For the enthu­si­asts of Blut und Boden, the Jews espe­cial­ly were a root­less, wan­der­ing peo­ple, inca­pable of any true rela­tion­ship with the land. Ger­man blood, in oth­er words, engen­dered an exclu­sive claim to the sacred Ger­man soil. While the term “blood and soil” had been cir­cu­lat­ing in volkisch cir­cles since at least the Wil­helmine era, it was Dar­ré who first pop­u­lar­ized it as a slo­gan and then enshrined it as a guid­ing prin­ci­ple of Nazi thought. Hark­ing back to Arndt and Riehl, he envi­sioned a thor­ough­go­ing rural­iza­tion of Ger­many and Europe, pred­i­cat­ed on a revi­tal­ized yeo­man peas­antry, in order to ensure racial health and eco­log­i­cal sus­tain­abil­i­ty.

Dar­ré was one of the par­ty’s chief “race the­o­rists” and was also instru­men­tal in gal­va­niz­ing peas­ant sup­port for the Nazis dur­ing the crit­i­cal peri­od of the ear­ly 1930s. From 1933 until 1942 he held the posts of Reich Peas­ant Leader and Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture. This was no minor fief­dom; the agri­cul­ture min­istry had the fourth largest bud­get of all the myr­i­ad Nazi min­istries even well into the war.38 From this posi­tion Dar­ré was able to lend vital sup­port to var­i­ous eco­log­i­cal­ly ori­ent­ed ini­tia­tives. He played an essen­tial part in uni­fy­ing the neb­u­lous pro­to-envi­ron­men­tal­ist ten­den­cies in Nation­al Social­ism:

It was Dar­ré who gave the ill-defined anti-civ­i­liza­tion, anti-lib­er­al, anti-mod­ern and latent anti-urban sen­ti­ments of the Nazi elite a foun­da­tion in the agrar­i­an mys­tique. And it seems as if Dar­ré had an immense influ­ence on the ide­ol­o­gy of Nation­al Social­ism, as if he was able to artic­u­late sig­nif­i­cant­ly more clear­ly than before the val­ues sys­tem of an agrar­i­an soci­ety con­tained in Nazi ide­ol­o­gy and — above all — to legit­i­mate this agrar­i­an mod­el and give Nazi pol­i­cy a goal that was clear­ly ori­ent­ed toward a far-reach­ing reagrarianization.39

This goal was not only quite con­so­nant with impe­ri­al­ist expan­sion in the name of Leben­sraum, it was in fact one of its pri­ma­ry jus­ti­fi­ca­tions, even moti­va­tions. In lan­guage replete with the biol­o­gis­tic metaphors of organi­cism, Dar­ré declared: “The con­cept of Blood and Soil gives us the moral right to take back as much land in the East as is nec­es­sary to estab­lish a har­mo­ny between the body of our Volk and the geopo­lit­i­cal space.“40

Aside from pro­vid­ing green cam­ou­flage for the col­o­niza­tion of East­ern Europe, Dar­ré worked to install envi­ron­men­tal­ly sen­si­tive prin­ci­ples as the very basis of the Third Reich’s agri­cul­tur­al pol­i­cy. Even in its most pro­duc­tivist phas­es, these pre­cepts remained emblem­at­ic of Nazi doc­trine. When the “Bat­tle for Pro­duc­tion” (a scheme to boost the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of the agri­cul­tur­al sec­tor) was pro­claimed at the sec­ond Reich Farm­ers Con­gress in 1934, the very first point in the pro­gram read “Keep the soil healthy!” But Dar­ré’s most impor­tant inno­va­tion was the intro­duc­tion on a large scale of organ­ic farm­ing meth­ods, sig­nif­i­cant­ly labeled “lebens­ge­set­zliche Land­bauweise,” or farm­ing accord­ing to the laws of life. The term points up yet again the nat­ur­al order ide­ol­o­gy which under­lies so much reac­tionary eco­log­i­cal thought. The impe­tus for these unprece­dent­ed mea­sures came from Rudolf Stein­er’s anthro­pos­o­phy and its tech­niques of bio­dy­nam­ic cultivation.41

The cam­paign to insti­tu­tion­al­ize organ­ic farm­ing encom­passed tens of thou­sands of small­hold­ings and estates across Ger­many. It met with con­sid­er­able resis­tance from oth­er mem­bers of the Nazi hier­ar­chy, above all Backe and Gor­ing. But Dar­ré, with the help of Hess and oth­ers, was able to sus­tain the pol­i­cy until his forced res­ig­na­tion in 1942 (an event which had lit­tle to do with his envi­ron­men­tal­ist lean­ings). And these efforts in no sense rep­re­sent­ed mere­ly Dar­ré’s per­son­al predilec­tions; as the stan­dard his­to­ry of Ger­man agri­cul­tur­al pol­i­cy points out, Hitler and Himm­ler “were in com­plete sym­pa­thy with these ideas.“42 Still, it was large­ly Dar­ré’s influ­ence in the Nazi appa­ra­tus which yield­ed, in prac­tice, a lev­el of gov­ern­ment sup­port for eco­log­i­cal­ly sound farm­ing meth­ods and land use plan­ning unmatched by any state before or since.

For these rea­sons Dar­ré has some­times been regard­ed as a fore­run­ner of the con­tem­po­rary Green move­ment. His biog­ra­ph­er, in fact, once referred to him as the “father of the Greens.“43 Her book Blood and Soil, undoubt­ed­ly the best sin­gle source on Dar­ré in either Ger­man or Eng­lish, con­sis­tent­ly down­plays the vir­u­lent­ly fas­cist ele­ments in his think­ing, por­tray­ing him instead as a mis­guid­ed agrar­i­an rad­i­cal. This grave error in judge­ment indi­cates the pow­er­ful­ly dis­ori­ent­ing pull of an ‘eco­log­i­cal’ aura. Dar­ré’s pub­lished writ­ings alone, dat­ing back to the ear­ly twen­ties, are enough to indict him as a rabid­ly racist and jin­go­ist ide­o­logue par­tic­u­lar­ly prone to a vul­gar and hate­ful anti­semitism (he spoke of Jews, reveal­ing­ly, as “weeds”). His decade-long tenure as a loy­al ser­vant and, more­over, archi­tect of the Nazi state demon­strates his ded­i­ca­tion to Hitler’s deranged cause. One account even claims that it was Dar­ré who con­vinced Hitler and Himm­ler of the neces­si­ty of exter­mi­nat­ing the Jews and Slavs.44 The eco­log­i­cal aspects of his thought can­not, in sum, be sep­a­rat­ed from their thor­ough­ly Nazi frame­work. Far from embody­ing the ‘redeem­ing’ facets of Nation­al Social­ism, Dar­ré rep­re­sents the bale­ful specter of eco­fas­cism in pow­er.


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