Monday, August 06, 2007

Welf Herfurth: Against the Reductio Ad Hitlerum

by Tim Johnstone

1. His life

Francis Parker Yockey wrote, of his book Imperium, that the ideas in it were not original; but, in his defence, he declared that 'The craze for originality is a manifestation of decadence'. Certainly, Welf Herfurth is not an original: he is a standard-issue, 21st century German nationalist. But, outside of Germany, German nationalist ideas are little-known, or they are distorted by the mainstream liberal media. Which is why Welf and his ideas appear, especially to Australians, so different and so compelling.

So who is Welf Herfurth? He is a German political activist, and businessman, who lives in Australia and who was born in West Germany in the 1960s. He is an interesting example of how the 'nationalist gene' skips one generation. Both of his grandfathers served in elite divisions of the Wehrmacht in the Second World War, and one of them was a member of the Sturmabteilung, who was expelled from the SA for marrying a German woman 'without permission'. His family suffered horribly, like millions of Germans, at the hands of the Allied victors after the war.

One would expect, then, that Welf's parents would be nationalist as well. But they are typical of the current generation of German 'baby-boomers': liberal democrat and fanatically anti-nationalist, praying to the god of money. The Germans of Welf's parents' generation are conditioned to react to German National Socialism, anti-Semitism, racialism, with disgust and horror (and, in my experience, the Australians of my parents' generation are as well). The 'baby-boomers' in the West experienced a lot of brainwashing in the sixties and seventies; and part of the anti-nationalism of the German boomers is a revolt against one's parents, who were acquiescent at the time Hitler and his associates were busy gassing all those Jews and turning them into bars of soap, etc.

Welf became politically active as a young man. He spent some years in Iran with his family, when the revolution against the Shah broke out in 1979. He witnessed firsthand how oppressive governments can be overthrown and how America is running internal policies of foreign countries, and, by doing so, how they try to establish the empire of the USA. Afterwards Welf did, and has continued to do, a great deal of travelling around the world - something which has enhanced his appreciation and respect for people of other races and cultures. It annoys Welf that so many nationalists think their country is the best and superior when they have never travelled.

Unfortunately, his life of activism, and his uncompromising nationalism, took its toll on his professional life: he lost three jobs in Germany because of his ideas, and eventually left for Australia in the 1980s. Once he arrived, he made contact with Dr James Saleam, then of National Action, and joined, of all parties, the Australian Democrats - a left-liberal party, which, at the time, was an alternative party, and made it to the position of State Executive. The question is, why the Australian Democrats? The answer is that Welf was interested in the same social issues as the Democrats, and that the Democrats were the only genuine third party at the time.

Welf went on to join the Far Right populist party, One Nation, in the late 1990s, and became the vice-president for the state of New South Wales, directly under David Oldfield. Later, he founded the Sydney Forum, an annual conference for peoples of all political persuasions, with Dr Saleam. The Forum was born out of Inverell Forum, and was intended to break the barriers to left-right thinking, attract people of different political camps, and unite them on the issues that concern them.

Like a good many nationalists, Welf became disillusioned with One Nation, which self-destructed after its losses at the federal election of 1998 - in which it won a million votes, but not one seat. Welf felt, around this time, that he had taken party-political activism to the limit, and that it had so far gotten him nowhere. He now believed that the people who had become involved in One Nation were only interested in positions of money, power, succeeding in the rat race. He began to look around for an alternative. He had long been interested in the ideas of Third Positionism and National Anarchism, and now began to apply them to his own activism, as we shall see below.

2. His politics

Welf is aged in his forties, but he has the appearance of someone who is ten years younger, as people who know him will attest. I think that Welf is, politically speaking, young as well. He has always seemed, to me, to be on the cutting edge of nationalist politics. I think that this is due to his remaining in contact with nationalist political movements in Germany, groups which have been forced to reinvent themselves constantly, and innovate, in the face of unrelenting political pressure. Welf himself likes to think outside of the square. He feels that his own thinking is different from that of many other nationalists, who tend to be racialist or anti-Semitic out of scape-goating - blaming others for their own failures.

A party like the NPD takes the 'long view' of nationalism. It has worked slowly to build up its political base, not going for a quick (but short-lived) electoral victory like the Front National or the British National Party. (Welf has little time for the far-right populist parties, and one of his favourite slogans is, 'a movement, not a party'). This makes the Germans different from the nationalist norm today.

Another pronounced difference is that the German nationalist scene, or certain sections of it (the NPD, the Free Nationalist/Free Comradeship/Autonomous Nationalist groups) are not Far Right in the conventional sense, and aim at taking politics beyond Left and Right. For that reason, the German nationalists will give someone like Hugo Chavez, for instance, a measure of support. Which is why Welf is fond of reading biographies on Mao, Che Guevera and even Pol Pot. Like the German nationalists, Welf regards Guevera as something of a nationalist icon, and bought ten copies of Jon Lee Anderson's biography of Guevera and sent them to nationalists around Australia. Reading the book changed their views on Guevera, certainly. Which is one of Welf's goals: to change people's political thinking, get them to think outside of what he calls 'the political cage'.

Welf could be said to be an importer of modern German nationalist ideas, and European ideas, to the Australian scene. He is always counselling Australian nationalist activists to use German organisational techniques, and try to emulate some of the German propaganda (e.g., their use of left-wing slogans and symbolism, for example). For most of his time here in Australia, it is fair to say that his advice has fallen on deaf ears. It is only now that some activists are beginning to apply some of the 'German' methods and experiencing some success. In contrast to some other nationalists, Welf likes to step back from nationalism and consider what is wrong with it and how to fix it.

I think the breakthrough for Welf, politically, came with the founding of the New Right Australia blog and the accompanying website. He always been interested in the ideas of Alain de Benoist and the Nouvelle Droite (and has met de Benoist). Troy Southgate, someone Welf greatly admires, held a New Right conference in London in 2005. This encouraged Welf to set up an informal organisation, based roughly on the same principles as the Nouvelle Droit, in Australia - not a political party, but an intellectual and cultural movement. He launched two New Right Australia/New Zealand websites, and they have attracted attention from a good many nationalists around Australia, and even around the world. I think the reason for this success is the regular updating of content, and the quality of that content - deeply intellectual essays by Welf himself and other writers. The writing at New Right is intellectual, and at the same time, concerned with the day to day realities of nationalist political activism. It is that, combined with the freshness of its views, which makes New Right Australia/New Zealand unique. And it is through the medium of a popular, regularly-updated website that Welf has managed to get his ideas out (as well as through face to face contact, and speeches at nationalist conferences).

3. Herfurthism?

Many people come up to Welf at nationalist conferences and ask, somewhat naively, if they can 'join' New Right. Welf will reply no, it's not a party. That impresses them, and gives them food for thought.

Welf is not against political parties per se. He believes in what the Germans call the 'three pillars strategy'. That is, nationalists must undertake a struggle to win control of the streets, win over the intellectuals, and win seats in the parliaments. In order to win the control of the streets, nationalists must have a constant, visible presence in the community, making themselves known through demonstrations, propaganda (such as pamphlets, posters, and the like) but also through community work and community activism. To a certain extent this entails social work - the 'soup kitchen strategy'. Welf points to the success of Hamas and Hezbollah in winning over large sections of the Palestinian and Lebanese people respectively. Hezbollah, for instance, is a religious group, a guerilla army (which fended off the Israeli invasion of south Lebanon in 2006), an Islamic charity (responsible for, among other things, rebuilding bombed homes and providing food and support) and a political party. Welf very much approves of the tactics of the communist and fascist activists who, in Europe in the 1920s and the early 1930s, attempted to 'totalise' ordinary life - that is, build up parallel societies of all-fascist or all-communist schools, youth groups, hiking groups, trade unions, sports groups and the like. He is definitely an advocate of what Carl Schmitt called 'quantitative politics'. To Welf, most political parties are only interested in power of the party, not the people - the people are left behind and taken for granted by the party bureaucrats.

The point, I think, of the 'soup kitchen strategy' is threefold: firstly, it shows that nationalism is a social and a communitarian movement, addressing the neglected sectors of society; secondly, it works as propaganda, showing the public that, in contrast to the negative media image, nationalists are not so bad after all; third, it cements the hold of nationalism in the community. As stated before, Hamas and Hezbollah have succeeded in gaining support through such methods - and they are gaining more support than the other respective Palestinian and Lebanese parties, who have restricted their activism to campaigning in elections. Having said that, the 'soup kitchen strategy' goes beyond mere charity work: it can include participation in the SES (the Australian State Emergency Service, the Red Cross, the local fire brigade...

And it is this emphasis on community activism which merges with another part of the 'Herfurth doctrine'. Welf, so long as I have known him, has always believed in the importance of networking and face to face contacts. He is prepared to talk, and have associations with, any nationalist who has an open mind. He, for instance, maintains a relationship with the skinheads of Blood and Honour. Skinheads are not an always well-regarded section of the nationalist movement, but Welf shrugs off any criticism. One of Welf's rules of thumb is not to believe in what the media says about certain groups, and to keep an open mind. He is always prepared to attend the meeting of the Australian Greens, or Resistance (an Australian communist group), or the conservative Sydney Institute, or even any mainstream liberal democratic party.

As well as that, Welf thinks that face-to-face contact is necessary for creating a positive impression. The Internet has proven to be a boon to nationalism, but at the same time, it has the tendency to breed isolation, and with it, rumour-mongering. This is one of the reasons why many nationalists in Australia cannot maintain a working relationship and undertake mass activism: they have not met one another in person and tend to believe negative rumours about x activist spread on the Internet. It is face-to-face contact, in Welf's view, which removes the barriers of distrust and isolation, and dispels negative rumours. Which is one of the reasons why he recommends the German 'Freie Nationalist' organisational techniques. He understands that the Internet, combined with rumours and gossip, can lead to others developing a false perception of himself - which is why he thinks personal contact with him will help change that false perception.

Another part of Welf's world view is what I consider to be left-wing radicalism. This may be surprising to a few, even in nationalism, who are used to viewing nationalism in the West as being 'Extreme Right' or 'Far Right'. (And, indeed, the liberal democratic politicians, media and academia classify nationalism as such). Without a doubt, there are many conservatives, politically on the Right, in the nationalist movement - particularly in the populist parties. But I would call the NPD a left-wing party, and Mahler, for one, has no problems in reconciling the ideals of the NPD and modern German nationalism with those of the radical German student movement of the late 1960s (and the Red Army Faction). And it is a radical left-wing view which informs Welf's thinking - in its opposition to capitalism, globalisation, American imperialism, consumer culture, liberal democracy and liberal individualism. Welf has a fondness for anarchist-type slogans ('Smash the system') and, as noted before, takes great inspiration from the heroes of the conventional extreme Left. He thinks that the Left has succeeded in convincing the public that it, the Left, has a monopoly on certain issues (like the environment); the political system works on polarising people and splitting them into separate groups (in the way that the US media, for instance, classifies everyone as either 'liberal' or 'conservative').

There is more to Leftism, and socialism, than a few anti-capitalist slogans - but an attempt to reach a definition of 'leftism' and 'socialism' would be beyond the scope of this article. But part of the problem with seeing the likes of the NPD and the Freie Nationalisten as being on the Left, politically, is that communism, in the 20th century, successfully hijacked the term, and manage to convince a good part of the world that anything non-Marxist and non-communist is not truly 'left-wing' at all. (And that includes socialist movements with a large working-class following: for instance, Fabian socialism). Liberal socialist parties like the British Labour Party, or the Australian Labor Party, are not left-wing, in the Marxist view. Juan Peron, Huey Long, Gamal Nasser, are not left-wing, and not socialist, because they were not communist (and Peron and Nasser actively persecuted communists in their respective countries). As for Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, they were reactionary tools of capitalism - men who used socialist-sounding slogans and ideas to lure people away from the one true socialism, Marxism.

Communism's rigid adherence to the Marxist dogmas, and its refusal to accept the existence of alternative forms of leftism and socialism, was one of the reasons for its success in the 20th century. But in the 21st century, it has been left floundering. Its inability to adapt to changing social conditions - indeed, Marxism is a theory that the future development of humanity has been worked out in a few books written 150 years ago - has meant that non-Marxist socialists like Hugo Chavez and Subcomandante Marcos have taken centre stage. (Chavez calls his project 'Socialism for the 21st century'). A big hole exists in the West, left by the implosion of Marxism and the decline of mainstream social democracy, which can be filled by nationalism. The German nationalists, and Welf, understand this perfectly, and attempt to persuade other nationalists that phenomena such as immigration are due to globalisation and neoliberalism. The modern Left is often too slow to change its thinking when it comes to these issues, because they have degenerated into personality cults (the cult of Marx, Lenin, Mao, Castro, whoever) and cannot think beyond the labels they apply to all and sundry.

Welf often laments that nationalists, in Australia at least, fail to grasp how causes championed by communists, anarchists, mainstream liberals and social democrats, can be exploited by nationalism. He recently told me of a nationalist conference where David Hicks was denounced as a traitor and an Islamist, whereas he would have liked to have undertaken activism on behalf of Hicks. The same US military tribunals used to 'prosecute' Hicks were used to 'prosecute' German soldiers at Nuremberg (especially in the second set of Nuremberg trials). Many nationalists, however, fail to see the connection. (It is not that Welf believes in what Hicks believes in; merely that he feels the politicians have sacrificed Hicks in order to further their own political interests).

Finally, Welf is one of the most tolerant nationalists I have come across. He has travelled widely, having gone to over fifty countries, and respects all ethnic groups - in their own lands. He thinks that most nationalist propaganda today is too negative, aiming at demeaning other races and spreading 'hate' (his word), instead of trying to make a case for all the good things nationalism can do for one's community.

4. In conclusion

Welf has a great dislike of what he calls 'labels'. Because he is German, and a nationalist, he is often called (even by other nationalists in Australia) a 'Neo-Nazi'. Welf is, of course, a German patriot, and naturally is an enthusiastic supporter of Germany's cause in the Second World War (and every other war before that). He has a few mild criticisms of German National Socialism, but in the main supports it as one phase in the development of German nationalism. He is baffled by the phenomenon of 'Nutzism' - that is, Americans and other non-Germans who claim to be "National Socialist" and who dress in home-made Sturmbabteilung and Schutz Staffel uniforms, and has even encountered a few in Australia. To Welf, the term 'Neo-Nazi' refers to these people, and no other. So he is somewhat irritated when people apply the label to him. (Certain opponents of nationalism apply the term to everyone, regardless of their beliefs. I always find it amusing when someone, inappropriately, applies the term 'Neo-Nazi' to myself or one of my nationalist friends. Welf, however, does not).

Germany, these days, cannot be patriotic, because the entire world - and the German establishment itself - focuses on one tiny portion of Germany history (the period from 1933 to 1945). Sixty years on, Hollywood and the Western mass media are still waging war on Germany (where would Hollywood be without German National Socialism?). In this regard, Welf found a new book called 'The Hitler Club', by Gary Gumpl and Richard Kleinig (describing the wartime persecution of German-Australians by the Australian government) relevant:

The Australian authorities and press were happy to peddle the fallacy which Leo Strauss (the German-born Jewish philosopher and ethicist who had studied under Martin Heidegger and is regarded as one of the intellectual pillars of the American Neoconservative movement) in 1950 called the reductio ad Hitlerum. It was also facetiously called the argumentum ad Nazium. This fallacy, said Strauss, took the form that, if Hitler or the Nazi Party supported a policy or course of action, then such policy or action must necessarily be evil. Becker was unwittingly and inextricably caught up in its clutches. ('The Hitler Club', p. 389).

I value Welf for the great energy and devotion that he brings to his struggle - a struggle which, in part, I identify with, and hundreds of thousands of European nationalists identify with. Welf is someone who gets things done; he is also someone possessed of a fanatical sense of loyalty to his people. If we had thousands more men like Welf, working as political activists, the national revolution, not only in Germany, but all across the West, would be soon at hand. And that, despite the fearful prognostications of Jews, communists and liberals, would be a good thing and not a bad thing. It is through Welf that I have come to know the decency of the German people, and German nationalism, and, by extension, nationalists in the West. Others, through Welf, will come to know it too.