Revolution from the Periphery:
The Lessons of Nueva Germania
The concept of “Revolution from the Periphery” is an important contribution to Traditionalist thought as once proud centers of culture sink ever further into decadence. The system of control deployed against whites is strengthening its grip, and “the Collapse” is still a dream. If anything, anarcho-tyranny is becoming more widespread, and the forces pushing radical egalitarianism are removing the velvet glove to reveal the mailed fist beneath.
In response, a motley collection of anarcho-primitivists, white separatists, Christian congregations, radical libertarians, heathen tribes, and national anarchists are forming homesteads and settlements off the grid and outside the system.
The best way to Revolt Against the Modern World may to withdraw from it, although National Anarchism is honored more in theory than in execution. In practice, the most relevant examples that come to mind are not explicit Radical Traditionalists grimly waiting out the Kali Yuga but implicitly white and explicitly Christian communities like the Amish. Once liberated from the shackles of capitalism, consumerism, and multiculturalism, a new empire worthy of Aryans would surely spring from the fertile earth. The concept of a prosperous and pure Aryan homestead safely removed from our enemies and their schemes has become a staple of white nationalist literature, with thriving whites only colonies in the wilderness (or in space) appearing in Alex Kurtagić’s Mister, Ward Kendall’s Hold Back This Day, and even Harold Covington’s The Hill of the Ravens.
Unfortunately, if pro-white activism tells us anything, it’s that life in the real world doesn’t always fit with theory. Even with intelligent and dedicated leadership, separatist societies can fall apart with startling speed and a grim harvest of failure. We can learn some of the reasons why from the story of Nueva Germania, the Aryan colony in Paraguay founded by Elisabeth Nietzsche. The colony’s rise, fall, and legacy provide important lessons for the white pioneers of today.
Ben Macintyre’s Forgotten Fatherland: The Search for Elisabeth Nietzsche (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1992) snarkily chronicles the story of Elisabeth Nietzsche and her model society. The book cover is predictably festooned with swastikas, and we are treated to tiresome discourses on the evils of bigotry and racism and lurid visions of Nazi cults rising in the wilderness of Latin America. Bizarrely, Macintyre muses:
What is left of my hair is fair, my eyes are blue, and I speak an Indo-European language. That is about as Aryan as I get. But . . . the people of New Germany might not be too choosy any more about who did or didn’t pass the Caucasian test. The more I thought about it, the more likely it seemed that I would be captured by this lost tribe of Aryans and kept chained up for the rest of my days to be used for breeding, a captive pump for the genetic pool. At dusk, jungle Brunhilds, perfect Teutons in every way with bright-blue eyes, would emerge from the forest to the clearing where I lay strapped naked to a trestle table; one by one they would line up . . . It was too horrible to think about. (pp. 11–12)
If Macintyre is not Jewish, he might as well be.
Nonetheless, he has a fascinating story to tell. The colony of Nueva Germania was the creation of Elisabeth Nietzsche and her husband Bernhard Förster. Förster was a veteran of the Franco-Prussian War, a recipient of the Iron Cross, and an activist against Jewish power in Bismarck’s Germany. The two met through the circle surrounding Richard Wagner at Bayreuth, then at the height of his power and influence. In 1880, Wagner called for a program of German colonization in Latin America in the pamphlet Religion and Art. Förster took the idea and ran with it, and while he did not enjoy the confidence of the Meister personally, he was enthusiastically championed by the larger Wagnerian movement and its mouthpiece, the Bayreuther Blätter.
However, at the same time Förster and Elisabeth were creating their romantic and political partnership, Friedrich Nietzsche condemned Wagner in Human, All Too Human and had formed a close friendship with the Jewish psychologist Paul Rée. Friedrich’s personal and philosophical condemnation of anti-Semitism and his contempt for respectable Christianity created a serious conflict with his sister. He never supported the colonization project because of its anti-Semitism, although at times he took a strange pride in its ambitious goals. Even though he despised Elisabeth’s husband, Friedrich wrote his sister, “If Dr. Förster’s project succeeds, then I will be happy on your behalf and as far as I can, I will ignore the fact that it is the triumph of a movement which I reject. If it fails, I shall rejoice in the death of an anti-Semitic project” (p. 128).
The colony was to be a model of true German culture. Germany itself had become, in Förster’s words, a “stepfatherland” where Jewish influence had perverted the Germanic spirit beyond all recognition. In Latin America, free from Jewish influence, Germans would be able to own their own land and live in a community dedicated to vegetarianism, Christianity, and German patriotism.
The colony itself began with 14 families who arrived at the capital city of Asunción on March 15, 1886. Months later, Förster secured 40,000 acres in return for a minimal down payment. Of course, there was a catch – 140 families had to be settled on the property within two years, or they would lose the land. The result was that Förster never really had possession of the land and had placed himself in the position of a speculator, trying to sell something that he didn’t really own.
In response, Förster looked for salvation from outside investors, and many were forthcoming (though not Elisabeth’s brother). Elisabeth pushed for her husband to build on a grand scale and the result was “Försterhof,” a grand colonial mansion that would house the first couple of the colony. Elisabeth envisioned a grand household staff (including indigenous Paraguayans) and a series of German mini-plantations, each separated by at least a mile in order to encourage solitude. Förster meanwhile would ride around the colony on a white horse, demanding others dismount when he passed (p. 131). There were plans for a ship (the Hermann) to ferry colonists from the river to the colony and even a railway.
Unfortunately, all of these grand designs ran into harsh geographic realities. “Försterhof” was not the first of many colonial estates, but the only completed house. There were no roads and it was difficult to dig wells for fresh water. The land was not suitable for the kind of farming the Germans anticipated, and the Germans found themselves copying Paraguayan habits (like the siesta) in order to cope with the tropical climate. Although many of the German farmers (mostly from Saxony) had lost their land in the Second Reich, conditions were so terrible that several families actually quit and went home. Macintyre writes, “In the first two years, 40 families made the trip to Nueva Germania. Of these, a quarter had quit by July 1888, leaving 70 of the 100 town plots unsold” (p. 133). The Germans and the Paraguayans were also (predictably) feuding, as the Europeans found the indigenous inhabitants “lazy and disrespectful.” As a result, rather than building the colony, Förster had to spend most of his time away from his grand house and his wife, desperately searching for investors.
The reputation of the colony was sustained by propaganda published in Europe. However, in 1888 one Julius Klingbeil (a tailor from Antwerp) and his wife arrived in the colony and found it a nightmare. He was disgusted by Elisabeth’s imperious behavior and found Förster all but broken. More importantly, life for the colonists was desperate. Though vegetarianism was one of the pillars of Nueva Germania, the Försters ate meat. An official colony store (owned by Förster) charged high prices for milk and cheese. Rather than fertile and prosperous farms, the tailor found a harsh climate which made even leaving the colony difficult for much of the year.
As a result of all of this, Klingbeil left and wrote a book denouncing the colony. Elisabeth responded with fury and defended Nueva Germania in the Wagnerian publications open to her. A war of words erupted in Europe while the colony stagnated. Meanwhile, Förster had turned to alcoholism and barricaded himself in a hotel away from the colony and his wife. On June 3, 1888 Bernhard Förster died, officially of “nerves” (as claimed by Elisabeth) but most likely of suicide by poison (p. 143).
The colony was bought out in 1890 by an international corporation which included an Italian, a Spaniard, an Englishman, and a Dane (as well as two Germans). Fundraising efforts continued to fail. Elisabeth returned to Europe to take care of her brother, who had succumbed to insanity. She returned two years later to find the colony on the brink of collapse, though there were promises of a parson (with salary paid for by the Imperial High Prussian Synod) and a distillery (although temperance was another of Elisabeth’s principles).
In actuality, the colony was a complete disaster, and the population was hostile to its first lady. Elisabeth left Paraguay in 1893, never to return. Many of the other colonists would follow her, some back to Germany, others to more hospitable locales throughout Latin America. Less than 75 colonists remained by the turn of the century. Macintyre notes that the Paraguayans called them “gente perdita,” or “lost people.”
Nueva Germania received a new lease on life thanks to the discovery of a colonist named Fritz Neumann. The Germans, like all those in Paraguay, had become addicted to a kind of tea called yerba mate. Neumann discovered a way to produce large quantities of yerba using a mixture of acid and charcoal, and became the first yerba plantation owner. Thus, like with Jamestown and tobacco, Nueva Germania was seemingly saved because the colonists had discovered how to produce a profitable narcotic. Alas, by the 1920s the secret had spread and competitors were copying the tactic to mass produce yerba. The colony still lacked essential transportation and communications and lost the market.
While the colony struggled, Elisabeth Nietzsche thrived. Macintyre devotes the bulk of the book to recounting how Elisabeth was responsible for creating her brother’s reputation and caring for him (some might even say “displaying him”) during his last years of insanity. Macintyre makes the now conventional charge that Elisabeth Nietzsche deliberately distorted her brother’s philosophy into a kind of proto-National Socialism. Her own nationalist sympathies made her a powerful symbol for the rising Nazi Party, and Hitler paid her numerous personal visits.
Elisabeth Nietzsche became a passionate National Socialist, and her name added prestige and philosophical justification for the Third Reich. In return, Elisabeth was able to use her connections to acquire government help for the struggling colony – which the patriotic colonists (who had come to think of the Germany they had never seen as a kind of paradise) proudly refused. Macintyre delights in recounting shadowy tales of Latin American Nazis following the catastrophe of 1945, but whatever diaspora was established did little for Nueva Germania – the gente perdita struggled along, in dwindling numbers.
When Macintyre finally finds the settlement, it is all but in ruins. Försterhof had long since been disassembled. Macintyre calculates that seven or eight of the original fourteen families were still there. The book is surprisingly reticent about the colony today, perhaps because there is not much left. Though there is a pastor who predictably credits the survival of the colony to “God,” Macintyre concludes that they are what their ancestors had been, “nineteenth-century German peasants, even poorer now than . . . their ancestors.” The idealism had mostly fled – there was an emphasis on eating vegetables, but no one could remember why. Nonetheless, the pastor noted that the old Germans “held tight to a belief that they were, in some way they couldn’t describe, not just different, but chosen, holier. A querulous little vein of anger sometimes ran through their voices when they talked of their dark-skinned neighbors” (p. 219).
Macintyre gloats that there are few “pure Germans” left. Those that remain are showing signs of inbreeding because of the limited population. Some of the younger ones prefer to speak the indigenous language of Guaraní, which is more prevalent in Paraguay than Spanish. Macintyre hails the future of those Germans who have begun to breed with the Paraguayans, creating a new breed with brown skin and blue eyes. He concludes with a half-breed shrugging off the question of what race he most feels like. “I have forgotten,” he says laughing.
Macintyre would have us believe that the way to avoid such failures is not to try. After all, he says, it is Ressentiment to try to define yourself in opposition to others. Perhaps that is true, perhaps it is not. However, the image he creates of Paraguayan society is that of a world where life is nothing more than existence. The mestizos and their Guaraní language may be hardy, but a country filled with indigenous Indians lazily sailing down the rivers, showing off their knowledge of a Madonna song from the 1980s, and wiling the time away with yerba mate until deathhardly suggests building the rope between Man and Superman. The rudimentary level of civilization suggests nothing so much than the Traditionalist idea of a degraded humanity, going through the motions with barely remembered knowledge from a lost Golden Age.
If anything, the very nature of Macintyre’s quest tells us something. Looking for the occasional el rubio with blue eyes amidst the jungles of Paraguay suggests that even anti-racists know there is something extraordinary about Aryan man. After all, no one goes on a mysterious quest to find out what happened to some brown people.
Still, it must be admitted that Nueva Germania failed. Some Germans survived, but they are fighting a losing battle against the jungle, and the younger ones have more in common with the Paraguayans surrounding them then the idealized Fatherland of Elisabeth Nietzsche’s dreams. Macintyre notes that throughout Paraguayan history, “White men quickly forgot to be different, lapped by a gentle tide of brown genes” (p. 29).
This is perhaps one of the constants of all white history, as Indo-European conquerors and explorers eventually fade into the colored masses they once ruled, forgetting themselves and dissolving into nothingness, with the occasional legend, myth, or light eyed descendant to speak the interest of the curious. Thus, the survival of one limited community is linked to the question facing the entire white race – how do we avoid being driven into nothingness? How do we avoid forgetting?
Nueva Germania had several advantages going into it. First, it had dedicated leadership in the person of Bernhard Förster and Elisabeth Nietzsche. Second, it had financial assistance and moral support from outside the community, at least at the beginning. Third, it had a solid base of hardy folk to start the colony, farmers from Saxony who were used to hard work and difficult conditions. Finally, it had a solid ideological fixation, an idea of being “chosen” which has, at least in some sense, lasted until the present day and is only now fading.
While these were important, they were not enough to overcome the larger problems which any colony or tribe faces. The triumph of mass society and bureaucratization has come about not because it creates a higher caliber of person (quite the opposite) but because it allows the average person to run on autopilot. Given a society at a certain stage of development, anyone can get a job or rely on an official system of social support, partake of various harmless entertainments, move some money around, and call it a life. The main difficulty a National Anarchist group, a heathen tribe, or an Aryan colony faces is essentially the same – how to ensure that the physical and financial survival of the group can be taken for granted so the ideological mission can be fulfilled.
A new society faces an extremely small margin of error and a great deal of reliance on personal relationships. In mass society, personal conflicts are annoying but not fatal – you can always get a different job, or ignore someone, or appeal to financial interests to overcome dislike. In a tribe, a personal conflict, a romantic attachment, or a breakup can rip the entire group apart. In Nueva Germania, Förster’s arrogant behavior and Elisabeth Nietzsche’s need to dominate whatever scene she was in antagonized many of the colonists, leading to Klingbeil’s public denunciation. Elisabeth of course interpreted the attack in personal terms and struck back. The result was a dispute that diminished everyone involved. Tribes and communities must create a way to handle the inevitable personal disputes that won’t put the public reputation or social peace of the group at risk. It’s not simply a matter of “finding the right people,” as the very type of people interested in a pioneering enterprise will be proud, headstrong, and socially competitive.
Racially, of course, Nueva Germania’s attempt to exploit Paraguayan labor ended in disaster. Whites and Paraguayans predictably fought, with each contemptuous of the other’s culture. More importantly however, the surrounding culture of the Paraguayans contaminated the cultural integrity of the settlement. Racial diversity is never a strength, and white supremacy is a dangerous intoxicant which leads to either conflict or (worse) eventual universalism and weakness.
Finally, and most importantly, financial realities tend to drive most human behavior. Money will always be the great limiting factor in any enterprise. Försterhof may have been a grand creation, but it was economically unsustainable and led to resentment from the other colonists. It’s not surprising it is a pigsty (literally) today.
However fervent the ideological zeal, individual people are going to put their family’s economic survival before any grand schemes. Thus, even Elisabeth Nietzsche compromised her economic principles when it came to the distillery and the yerba plantations and, like her husband, was reduced to begging for aid. Rather than a peaceful society of independent yeoman farmers, Nueva Germania was a company store with a desperate owner fleecing his settlers in order to pay off his creditors.
We can draw three overall lessons from this experience for any Traditionalist pioneers looking to build a new world.
1. Financial Sustainability
The first and most important is to pursue financial sustainability.It’s horrifying to suggest that the best way to transcend bourgeois materialism is to prioritize materialism, but there it is. Ultimately, the colony became driven by financial considerations even to point of growing narcotics. This happened because the colony’s leaders did not pay enough attention to geography and climate to ensure that German peasants could grow the kinds of crops they were used to. Rather than a group of people working together to build a new society, the ideological fixation of the colony became one more burden in an already difficult situation.
Similarly, national anarchists or heathen tribes today often consist of groups of friends or ideological comrades who have jobs or commitments in the “regular” world and are trying to maintain the group “on the side.” The result is that paying dues, participating in group labor or political actions, or simply fulfilling social obligations becomes increasingly difficult for people whose chief concern is making ends meet. It is far easier for a group of activists to deal with Left-wing oppression, state harassment, or even physical violence than it is to try to pay the bills and start a revolution in the meantime – you can’t save the world if you can’t pay the rent.
Therefore, the first consideration for any group whether they are operating in an urban context or a rural environment should be to determine how membership in the group becomes an economic asset. This can include members receiving a share of money earned by the group through various activities, sharing skills or labor within the group to reduce the cost of living for everyone, or even pooling money for insurance or disaster relief. Instead of simply assuming that correct ideology or force of will carry the day, leaders have to implement structures that make life easier for their members. Membership in a tribe or group should make life more sustainable, not harder.
This doesn’t mean that you should try to bribe people to join with money. It means that the group should offer real assets to members beyond gestures of solidarity and fellowship. Nueva Germania should have been planned as a way for German peasants to own their own land, provide for themselves, and be part of a larger community, not just as an ideological experiment. Revolutionaries, above all, must be practical. People can’t eat words.
2. Economic Surpluses
Secondly, the goal should be to take more from the system than you give to it.This has two elements.
First, a group should not be afraid of asking for donations, gifts, or material contributions from “bourgeois” society. While Nueva Germania succeeded on this front initially, the donations later dried up. The colony tended to prosper when nationalists saw the colony as a successful symbol of true German culture that they wanted to be a part of, even if they couldn’t actually live there.
Many people who are trapped in the workaday world want to see something better. Occupy Wall Street brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from people who couldn’t go out and live on the street. Another world is possible, but it is going to take some of the surplus wealth of this one to create it. Given outside donations targeted at infrastructure like communications and transportation instead of propaganda and consumption, Nueva Germania may have prospered. Ironically, it made the biggest impact in German politics when it was seen as a success – a successful model at the periphery can shake the very core of the system.
The second aspect of creating an economic surplus means constantly seeking to produce everything that is consumed – and making a profit on it besides. Obviously, being a Radical Traditionalist means limiting pointless expenses like expensive clothes or video games, but simple vices like tobacco or alcohol are the most dangerous. Rare is the white nationalist group where members contribute more a month in dues than they spend on beer, cigarettes, fast food, or even pot. How many would-be white nationalist revolutionaries have thrown their lives away by spending their paychecks at the pub or getting into a bar fight and having the book thrown at them because they are “racist”?
While some groups like the Amish get around this by simply banning certain activities, there are alternatives. Instead of banning drinking, it is very realistic to commit to brewing your own beer or mead, and even selling it to people outside the group. Products such as soap, spices, and baked goods can also be produced from within and serve as an income stream. The model to follow would be the Amish or even the Trappist monks, who sustain their operations by selling their exquisitely crafted products to the larger society without compromising themselves. The Amish may not like us “English” and our horseless carriages but they’ll take our cash.
As Alex Kurtagić has noted, the Alternative Right can serve a real niche by avoiding competition with mass society and instead producing quality goods marked by disciplined craftsmanship. Again, the goal is to create an alternative way of life, and that means actually moving towards living it, not just talking about it. The eventual goal is a situation where all money stays within the community, but outside resources continue to flow in. This may never happen, but should always be the mission.
3. Conflict Resolution
Finally, a group has to be able to overcome personality conflicts while salvaging honor.This is perhaps the most difficult. It’s all very well to suggest avoiding infighting, overlooking slights, and keeping a sense of proportion. White advocates could use a bit more humility. That said, the fact remains that no matter how much goodwill exists personal conflicts are simply inevitable. Again, the “bourgeois” world provides both a positive example and a warning. On the positive side, we encounter (and usually overcome) conflicts that would rip a tribal group apart, even if it is just because we don’t want to lose a job or cause a scene. On the negative side, bourgeois society is litigious and over-regulated, sometimes literally making a federal case out of a private comment, or forcing us to swallow an insult to our honor.
A natural aristocracy will arise in any tribal group, and even the most elaborate written rules will not prepare for any conflict. Modern society is in many ways the replacement of an honor-based society by a “rights”-based society, where universalistic and egalitarian abstractions (backed by almost unlimited state power) have replaced social taboos and ethical codes of behavior. To rebuild an honor-based society that works, a new community or tribe has to create powerful incentives for members not to leave the group over petty personal reasons, create face-saving measures to satisfy honor, and ensure communal life continues even if a powerful leader leaves.
With Nueva Germania, no one really had a stake in the success of the colony besides the creditors. It was therefore easy for people to simply flee for Chile or Argentina when things became difficult. While Elisabeth Nietzsche and Förster had their supporters, others were annoyed by their imperiousness and outraged by their economic stranglehold on food supplies. The image of Elisabeth Nietzsche entertaining guests in a fashionable house filled with expensive furniture (paid for by debt) while her fellow colonists starved is not attractive.
In contrast, groups like the Amish emphasize downplaying personal wealth and prize collective work to build the community. When a member of the community violates taboos, he is shunned, not sued. If he feels he must leave, he can do so, but he leaves the personal relationships, economic assets, and cultural foundation behind him. Each member of the community is expected to fulfill basic responsibilities but is offered something in return. The tie that binds is deeper than simple ideology.
A Radical Traditionalist community should practice a kind of Herrenvolk democracy, with all full members that actively contribute to the community having a voice in its governance and a stake in its success. This contribution is dependent on fulfilling certain minimum responsibilities, including financial contributions, labor, or standards of behavior.
A mechanism should be in place to gently correct wayward members and try to bring them back into the fold, with material and spiritual help for those who need it. Finally, for the inevitable personal disputes, basic standards should be codified in writing and upheld by some kind of collective body but only if the disputing parties cannot resolve their disagreement through mediation.
More important than whatever form the resolution takes is a mechanism for each side to save honor and for the community to come together afterwards. An example I’ve seen for men is a ritualized combat where each would-be alpha male trades blows but avoids injury, whereupon the conflict is held to be resolved and both sides shake hands and move on. Many of us can probably think of certain legal situations we’ve been involved in that would be far more elegantly resolved by a safely regulated combat or a straightforward transfer of goods rather than an interminable lawsuit. Gossip and rumors are more difficult to combat but that is the challenge of leadership – overcoming these disputes without ripping the community apart. Ensuring everyone has a stake and no one is living off the labor of another goes a long way towards preventing these situations before they start.
What I have not mentioned is ideology.Obviously that is important and essential – the very reason to start such a community. By itself, it can go a long way. However, all groups already have this and white advocates in particular have no lack of talented intellectuals and developed theories. Ideology is enough to create a group and motivate leaders to sacrifice on its behalf. Ultimately though, it is the more mundane considerations of economy, practicality, and sustainability that will determine if an alternate society can survive. We know a better world is possible – we have to actually prove it in the real world before we can ask others to join us.
Nueva Germania didn’t fail because its leadership or people were stupid or lazy. It didn’t fail because its ideas were wrong or because miscegenation is simply the way of Paraguay, as Macintyre would have us believe. The survival of Mennonite communities within Paraguay (which he himself points out) shows this isn’t necessarily true. Nueva Germania failed because it was built upon an unsustainable model, demanding more and more out of people instead of making things easier. The fact that people endured out of pride is a testament to their character, but something more than pride is needed if such experiments are to work on a large scale.
Radical Traditionalists who want to live it and not just talk about it have to confront the reality that it’s not just about being better people. It’s about building an entire alternative system, one that people want to join, not feel like they have to join. Left-wing oppression, government harassment, social pressure, and even physical violence are nothing compared to the money crunch. Groups can survive frontal attack or furious public opposition but they cannot survive the death by a thousand cuts of the never ending struggle to make ends meet. Every hour spent working within the enemy system or dollar given to our corporate enemies represents theft from the folk community. Yelling at people about it won’t do any good. It’s up to us to build a social model that allows people to transition out of this system into a better one. It’s up to those of us still working in the corporate word to facilitate that transition with donations and support for our vanguard activists.
All white people, not just the beleaguered colonists of Nueva Germania, are the gente perdita. We are strangers in our own lands. We need more idealism, more experimentation, and more revolts against the modern world. Yet these noble efforts must be rooted in reality. The transition from theory to practice is difficult and there will be many failures along the way. But as even Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in reluctant admiration of his sister’s efforts, “[to] rather die than leave [a] project in the lurch . . . that is Nietzschean!” (p. 125).
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