Rudolph Bahro is dead.
The man is dead but his ideas live on. Few outside Germany will recognise his name, and of those who do there will be few who understand the influence he has on the lives of people around the world today. We'll look briefly at some of his ideas below, thanks to Janet Biehl's excellent essay. Due to the lateness of the hour we'll ave to keep our comments here at a minimum. but let's cover the basics for now and return in detail later.
Bahro is in line with Plato's concept of the Philosopher Kings. Later on we'll excerpt from The Republic the relevant quotations to show exactly what this means to you and me as people who live in a state of infantalization and neo-feudalism. Basically, the idea is that there are different grades of people, the lowest, meaning me, probably you, are lead; followed up the hierarchy by bronze people; then silver people; and at the top of the pyramid, the Golden Philosopher Kings who take upon themselves the troubles of deep knowledge, which they keep from mere lead people like me in order not to trouble us with things beyond our understanding. And since we can't understand these things of great importance, like how to live our own lives according to the will we have, given that we're so stupid we'd do things badly and interfere with the Great Ones, they just keep us ignorant and happy while they suffer on our behalves. We are not worthy. Therefore, the Philosopher Kings do what they must for our own good. But, in the world as it is, we do take matters of our own lives into our own hands. And that, according to Bahro and his like, means that we are ruining the very Earth itself as well as our miserable selves. We are also unruly and not nice to have around, so he suggests that we be tended to the degree we need so we don't go around harming the nature of Nature even further. He wants us to be happy, yes, but that's not as important as maintaining the harmony of Nature. To do that we must be reined in from our destructive pursuits, and the philosopher kings, to do their jobs rightly, should look to the Nazis for guidance in the ways of the future. They got it almost right, if you weren't aware of this (!) and we should re-examine their agenda, take the good things from it, and raise up not the Brown/Nazi Adolph Hitler of old but the sensitive New Age "Green Adolph" as our Philosopher King.
We'll leave it at that for now and let you take a look at what the Green Nazis want. Our only further point is that when you read the following you might like to keep in mind that we are facing Islamic jihad with a smile on our collective faces because we have adopted the idea that our leaders are akin to the philospher kings, that we are guilty of bad deeds in raping Mother Nature, that the Palestinians and the freedom fighters of wherever are better than we. It's our postion here that until we strip these idiocies and lay them bare for the world to see as they are we will continue to live at the mercy of our philosopher king Left dhimmi fascist rulers. When we see ecologism as an irrationalism opposed to Modernity, then we might also see the jihadis as violent, primitive bastards who are hardly different from people like Rudolph Bahro. Jihadis/Ecofascists: Same people-- with or without Ph.D's.
Rudolf Bahro:Völkisch 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 left45 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
Bahro also holds a professorship at Humboldt University in Berlin, where he conducts a seminar whose sessions are usually filled to overflowing. At Humboldt, he holds a chair in 'social ecology,' and he refers to his 'science' by this name, but Bahro's work is not to be confused with the social ecology conceived and developed by Murray Bookchin. Although the two theorists agree that class contradictions are not the exclusive social contradiction, Bookchin regards hierarchy as basic, while emphasizing the importance of class interests. Bahro, by contrast, points to "tribal consciousness" as rooted "more deeply than class consciousness," even in the spiritually "deepest layers" of a people. "The national question is an objective reality," Bahro says, that is on a much "deeper basis than the class question." 56
Moreover, whereas Bookchin's consistently internationalist social ecology affirms reason and naturalism and repeatedly criticizes ecomysticism and ecotheology, Bahro's version of 'social ecology' is overwhelmingly spiritualistic. Indeed, in late 1990, when Bookchin spoke at the Humboldt seminar at Bahro's invitation, Bahro told Bookchin that his (Bahro's) own 'social ecology' was actually an attempt to synthesize Bookchin's social ecology with deep ecology. 57 Politics must be based on spiritualistic values today, in Bahro's view, because "without a return to the spiritual source," politics "will not be worthy of that name." 58 Not only are those who see spirituality and politics as opposites fundamentally wrong, he argues, but our global ecological problems are in fact a material reflection of the inner spiritual "sickness" that separates them. It is a religious "politics of consciousness" -- that is, the implanting of spiritualistic ideas -- that can arrest the global ecological crisis and prepare people for the new political order. 59
Bahro's spiritualistic approach has a distinctly ethno-cultural dimension. He speaks of peoples as if they had unique spiritual 'essences' that are indissoluble, that cannot be destroyed over time. 60 He is particularly concerned with the 'German essence' (deutsche Wesenheit) and its various manifestations on the material plane. 61 In approaching the ecological crisis, the German 'essence' demands the incorporation of spiritualism, particularly the mystical tradition initiated by Meister Eckhart, whom "we Germans should read." 62 Bahro favorably contrasts this "German legacy"63 with socialism and the Enlightenment.
It appears not to alarm Bahro, as antifascist researcher Peter Kratz points out, that his mystical Germanism closely resembles the mystical Germanism of the völkisch movement. 64 Bahro, in fact, consciously associates himself with the völkisch movement -- he says he wants an "awakening in the Volk"65 -- and with the 1920s Conservative Revolution against the Enlightenment generally. 66 Indeed, Bahro is critical of the Greens, among other things, because they did "not attend to this völkisch moment." 67 Kratz warns that this gives Bahro's approach "the same potential for political catastrophe that the völkisch movement had, even though this would please Bahro as little as it would have pleased the originators of the völkisch movement." 68
'Essences' like the 'German essence' cannot remain in the spiritual plane; they must be manifested in concrete reality -- that is, in politics, history, and society. In Bahro's prospectus (and in stark contrast to Bookchin's anarchist libertarian municipalism), these manifestations will not take the form of democratic institutions, since "to say that we will create grassroots democracy now, among these wolves, is nonsense." 69 Bahro criticizes the "bean-counting voting" process of democracy and prefers a spiritual consensus process for decision making. 70 Although he is currently receiving state support from Saxony for an eco-communal demonstration project (thanks largely to his friend and visiting lecturer at Humboldt, Saxon prime minister Kurt Biedenkopf), Bahro also rejects the state: "Society's rule of law," he asserts, "may no longer be based on the state or on any other existing forces that are even less legitimate." 71
Despite his antistatist assertions, which may make him appear attractively anti-authoritarian, like many 'New' Rightists Bahro expressly believes that the ecological crisis is resolvable only through authoritarian means. He calls for a spiritually based and hierarchically elitist "salvation government" (Rettungsregierung) or a "god-state" (Gottesstaat)72 that will be run by a "new political authority at the highest level": a "prince of the ecological turn." 73 The "prince," which apparently may be a collective entity, will constitute a spiritual elite, an oligarchy responsible only to God. As a "voice of the divine," 74 this guru elite will dictate the law of God and nature, in order to convert the present society to the "order according to nature"75 that Bahro sees as desirable. People should not "be afraid" of the advent of this "prince," says Bahro, since "a bit of 'ecodictatorship' is needed" to handle our problems today. 76 Besides, "it is a matter of absolute indifference whether [this prince] is a man or a woman," he assures us, "it is a question of structure. That is the German moment in this Green movement." 77 But today it is important to develop a broad spiritual consciousness in the general population, for "without a spiritual determination, there will be no new redemptive institutionalization" -- that is, no "prince." 78 It is presumably cheering that "in spite of all bad experiences . . . the strongest political-psychological dispositions of our people" make "the Germans more responsive than other peoples to charismatic leadership." 79
Liberating the 'Brown Parts'
Since the mid-1980s, Bahro has been remarkably open about proclaiming his embrace of the spiritual content of fascism for the 'salvation' of nature and humanity. In The Logic of Salvation, he asks, "Is there really no thought more reprehensible than a new 1933?" -- that is, Hitler's rise to state power. "But that is precisely what can save us! The ecology and peace movement is the first popular German movement since the Nazi movement. It must co-redeem [miterlösen] Hitler." 80 Indeed, "the Nazi movement [was] among other things an early reading of the ecology movement." 81 Germans are to look for "the positive that may lie buried in the Nazi movement" and reclaim it, he says, "because if we do not, we will remain cut off from our roots, the roots from which will grow that which will save us." 82 Today one must "liberate" the "brown parts" in the German character. 83 The fact is, says Bahro, that today "there is a call in the depths of the Volk for a Green Adolf." 84
When Bahro's critics reproach him for this assertion, Bahro responds that no, he does not mean Adolf Hitler. That his leftist critics think he means Adolf Hitler shows that the left "responds only with fear, instead of comprehending that a Green Adolf would be an entirely different Adolf from the one we know about." 85 Yet as Kratz points out, Bahro himself is evasive about what this 'Green Adolf' actually would be: perhaps a personified Führer, perhaps a spiritual elite, or perhaps some inner self-recognition that within each of us there is supposedly a 'Green Adolf,' to whom we must subordinate ourselves voluntarily through spiritual insight. This evasiveness is itself a matter of concern. Kratz believes that Bahro really means a personified Führer; for one thing, Bahro invokes the 'sleeping emperor' myth, 86 the nationalistic notion that the Emperor Barbarossa is sleeping in the Kyffhäuser Mountain and will one day come back as the Führer and rescue Germany from dire straits87 -- an idea that is also one of the foundations of the Nazi Führer principle.
For Bahro, this Führer will clearly be a spiritualistic leader. In a foreword to a book by his colleague Jochen Kirchhoff, he argued that National Socialism had had the right spiritual aims: it sought to manifest the 'German essence' on the material plane. It went wrong in the execution -- for one thing, it was very violent. But even this was understandable since, arising as it did in the 1920s, it was the task of National Socialism to make the first real spiritual revolt against the overwhelming materialism of the age. Thus, the materialistic thinking of the Weimar era, against which National Socialism rebelled, was the real cause of the Nazis' material "vehemence"-- that is, mass murder. 88
The materialistic thinking of Weimar modernity that the Nazis were so correct to oppose, says Bahro, is also today the immediate cause of the ecological crisis. Only the spiritualization of consciousness, Bahro believes, can prevail over biosphere-destroying materialism. Hence Germans today have no alternative but to invoke the spiritually "deep forces" from the Nazi movement -- in order to "be present with our whole potential." 89
But it must be a strictly spiritual endeavor: undertaking concrete political resistance on the material plane is, for Bahro, itself an integral component of materialistic secularism, an expression of negative spirituality. Those who engage in politics on the material plane today, he says, in fact politically resemble -- Nazis! True, the Nazis had to struggle in the twenties, but at least they had the right spiritual ideas. But "revolt (under the conditions of our imperial situation) is fascistic. That is to say, it redeems [rettet] nothing." 90 Bahro's religious dispensation thus does not synthesize spirituality and politics at all, as critic Niedenführ points out; on the contrary, it simply eliminates political action. 91
Repelled by these ideas, critics have denounced The Logic of Salvation as fascistic or 'fascistoid' -- potentially fascist. Bahro responds that such "faint-hearted antifascism" has "refused" to "look for the strength that lay beneath the brown movement." 92 Precisely because the left rejects the insights of spirituality, it can never see the necessity of völkisch-authoritarian structures and therefore can never give material form to the 'German essence,' he believes. Bahro replied further in his next book, Rückkehr:
It can be instructive that there was a strong wing of the Nazis that wanted to be socially and culturally revolutionary. This wing was not consolidated, and the Hitler movement went on to serve a regenerated German capitalism. . . . We can no longer allow fascism to be a taboo subject.
It should be noted that fascism has hardly been a 'taboo subject' in the Federal Republic -- on the contrary, it has been much discussed. What has been rightly rejected -- and hardly merely 'taboo,' since a taboo begs to be broken -- is sympathy for the Nazis. Bahro continues:
I can't rule out the possibility that at the end of the 1920s I wouldn't have gone with the Nazis. And it's very important that we be prepared to ask such a question. As for what would have happened later, I don't know. There were people in the Nazi movement who gave it up before 1933; there were people who saw the light with the Röhm affair; some went into the resistance; others were executed. But we're not supposed to imagine what we ourselves would have done. And I was ready and am ready to go into such questions. I think that if we are serious about forming a popular movement and overcoming the ecological crisis, and if we are really to address what comes out of the depths, we will have to have a lot to do with what it was that found expression then and that is seeking another, better expression this time. That can go well only if there is a great deal of consciousness about whatever unhappy mechanisms lie in all of us, the resentment reactions, mere rebellion instead of revolution. 93
Posing as a courageous inquiry into the breaking of taboos, such practices do nothing more than give people permission to envision themselves as Nazis -- a horrifying dispensation in any era, but particularly in one when present-day Nazis routinely attack foreigners in German towns and cities and when fascist parties are having electoral victories.
Some of Bahro's associates add to the strong suspicion that his 'Green Adolf' refers to a new Führer. One of his fellow teachers at the Lernwerkstatt, for example, is Rainer Langhans, a former anarchistic 'wild man' of the 1960s German student organization SDS who writes today that "spirituality in Germany is named Hitler. And only when you have gone a little bit further can you go beyond it. Until then, however, you must reclaim the inheritance . . . not in the sense of this fine exclusionary antifascism but in the sense of further developing what Hitler tried to do." And: "This dumb Enlightenment, which builds up dams against so-called 'outbreaks of the irrational,' is actually merely laughable as an antifascist syndrome." And: "We have to be, so to speak, the better fascists." 94 Another of Bahro's fellow teachers at the Lernwerkstatt is Jochen Kirchhoff, who writes that "National Socialism was a botched attempt at healing the world . . . and to ground politics in the spiritual." 95
Here is a rebuttal to Biehl's essay with the parts missing from above:
Janet Biehl is in serious trouble if critics like the one below is any indication. In the interests of fairness, originally at least, we puled this rebuttal to Biehl's work on Bahro. As it turns out this piece following is beyond any parody we might have put up of an eco-goof. Biehl is in danger of dying from laughter if this is the best the ecofascists can do. It's not really worth reading unless for the sake of fairness and for a laugh.
The late deep-green German ecophilosopher and activist Rudolf Bahro (1935-1997) has been accused by some social ecology supporters - for example Janet Biehl, Peter Staudenmaier and others, without real foundation, of being an ecofascist and Nazi sympathizer and a contributor to "spiritual fascism". Yet Bahro was a daring original thinker, who came into conflict with all orthodoxies in thought - particularly left and green orthodoxies. The language he used and metaphors as shown in his writings, display his considerable knowledge of European culture. But one would have to say that he took poetic license with his imagery - for example, the call for a "Green Adolf". He saw this as perhaps necessary, to display the complexity of his ideas and to shake mass society from its slumbers! But this helped to fuel attacks on him. Bahro was interested in concretely building a mass social movement and, politically incorrect as it may be, sought to see if there was anything to learn from the rise of Nazism: "How a millenary movement can be led, or can lead itself, and with what organs: THAT is the question."
(Bahro, Avoiding Social & Ecological Disaster, p.278)
This concern does not make him a fascist, particularly when one considers overall what he did with his life, his demonstrated deep sentiment for the Earth, and his various theoretical contributions. Bahro was also open-minded enough to invite Murray Bookchin and others with diverse views (for example the eco-feminist Maria Mies), to speak in his class at Humboldt University in East Berlin!
Following is Janet Biehl's account of Bahro's last meeting with Murray Bookchin:
But whatever happened at that lecture, Murray Bookchin's appearance at the seminar on November 21, 1990, did not go over well with the host. Bahro had asked Bookchin to address such questions as "Is the alternative to ecological destruction freedom from domination or an 'ecological' dictatorship?" Bookchin replied that "an 'ecological' dictatorship would not be ecological -- it would finally finish off the planet altogether. It would be the glorification, the hypostasization, of social control, of manipulation, the objectification of human beings, the denial of human freedom and selfconsciousness, in the name of ecological problems. . . . An 'ecological' dictatorship is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron."
When Bookchin had finished his presentation, the following exchange took place:
Bahro: You put such a spotlight on the positive side of human nature -- cooperation and so on -- that if that were true, it's improbable that again and again we would have fallen back into egotism and competition. You see human nature predominantly as positive. But more often than not, it has worked out for the worse rather than for the better. Most often the institutions that the human species has created have had hierarchy and domination. The fact that they did so must have a foundation in human nature. . . .
When you talk about rationality, Geist, the fully developed capacity of being human, you are confronting this side least -- the "dark side." Because that is what gives us the capacity to dominate, this Geist, our rationality. You don't want to confront that as fundamental. . . .
Bookchin: I don't ignore the "dark side" of humanity . . . But if the "dark side" exists everywhere, then why has it been necessary for the "dark side" to express itself in institutions of the most barbarous kind? Why did there have to be coercion? Why does that "dark side" always have to be institutionalized through force, through superstition, through fear, through threat, and through ideologies of the most barbarous nature? . . . There's no question that there is a"dark side" to human history. . . . But it's very hard to find the biological reasons for that "dark side." Because that "dark side" has always operated through the institutions of a minority who relied on force and depended on propaganda and superstition, and on the worst things that the human mind can develop, to suppress the millions and millions.
Bahro: But does it have natural foundations?
Bookchin: It emerges from a social foundation. . . . If the "dark side" is natural, why is it that in all the great revolutions that we know of, people have broken out with a generosity of spirit that is incredible? They have been willing to trust, to care, to feel the pain even of their masters -- when their masters tried to oppress them, owing to their own insecurities. . . . In warrior societies, to make the adolescent transformation into a warrior, you have to inflict pain upon him. You have to spoil him, to make him a sufferer in order to make him part of the community of warriors. . . . I don't see the "dark side" of human nature, but of social nature. 97
After Bookchin gave his lecture, Bahro told Bookchin that he would not invite him to speak again.
Bahro, himself a person from the left, came to understand the role of left opportunists in undermining and diluting any deeper ecological understanding in Green organizations, in the name of paying excessive attention to social issues. They often called themselves "eco-socialists", but never understood the defining role of ecology and what this means for a new radical politics. For many leftists, ecology was just an "add-on", so there was no transformation of world view and consciousness was not changed. This is what happened in the German Green Party and Bahro combatted it. It therefore becomes important for those who see themselves as defending this left opportunism to try to undermine Rudolf Bahro, the most fundamental philosopher of the fundamentalists. By 1985 Bahro had resigned from the Green Party saying that the members did not want out of the industrial system. Whatever Bahro's later wayward path, the ecofascist charge needs to be placed in such a context.
Bahro did become muddled and esoteric in his thinking after 1984-5. This is shown, for example, by the esoteric/Christian passages to be found in Bahro's last book published in English, Avoiding Social & Ecological Disaster: The Politics of World Transformation, and also by his involvement with the bankrupt Indian Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Yet Bahro saw the necessity for a spiritual and eco-psychological transformation within society, something which social ecology does not support, to avoid social and ecological disaster. Bahro, like Gandhi, believed it necessary to look inward, to find the spiritual strength to break with industrial society. This needed path is not invalidated by spiritual excess or losing one's way on the path.
As additional support for opposing the slander that Bahro was an ecofascist, I would advance the viewpoint of Saral Sarkar. He was born in India, but has lived in Germany since 1982. Sarkar was a radical political associate of Bahro (they were both considered "fundamentalists" within the German Greens) and fought alongside of him for the same causes. (Saral is also a friend who visited me in November/December of 1999 in Nova Scotia, Canada.) Although Sarkar writes with a subdued biocentric perspective, I would not consider him yet an advocate of deep ecology. But he does know Bahro's work and the German context. Sarkar left the Green Party one year after Bahro. Sarkar and his German wife Maria Mies do not consider Bahro an ecofascist, although they both distanced themselves from Bahro's later work. Sarkar has written extensively on the German Greens. (See the two-volume Green-Alternative Politics in West Germany, published by the United Nations University Press, and his most recent book Eco-socialism oreco-capitalism? A critical analysis of humanity's fundamental choices, by Zed Books.)
In a December 1995 letter, Bahro had declared that he was in agreement "with the essential points" of the philosophy of left biocentrism.
It might be a sign if my personal pettiness that I post this. But really, these people are so stupid I couldn't resist letting them show themserlves to be stupid. These, recall, are the idiots who want to be philospher kings. they hate you? They protest and pander to Muslims? Do we care? these people are laughable. Who cares what they write? Well, they do.
We'll run more of this essay next post. Please feel free to comment.