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jeudi, 07 février 2013

Dostoevsky on Modern Conservatism

Dostoevsky on Modern Conservatism

Against the Spirit of the Age

Ex: http://www.alternativeright.com/

On the advice of a friend, I have revised and updated a short 2009 essay on Fyodor Dostoevsky and modern conservatism. Translation is mine.

At first glance the U.S. Presidential Inauguration might seem another empty media spectacle. After all, the Commander-in-Chief is anointed by the infallible People, but he attains power ultimately to carry out the interests of globalist oligarchs. Yet the inauguration ceremony also serves as an affirmation of America’s true religion, liberalism. In his 2013 inaugural address, Barack Obama articulated quite clearly that “We, the People” shall lead humanity’s progress toward ever greater liberty and equality.

“Conservative” opposition to leftist political programs and figures, no matter its seeming intensity, is simply a matter of partisanship and policy choices. Republicans, constitutionalists and libertarians all share the same vision of the United States that Obama outlined:

We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names.  What makes us exceptional -- what makes us American -- is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’

Not a nation in any traditional sense, America is a social experiment, a self-willed construct proclaimed to embody the destiny of all mankind. The United States is a triumphant herald of modernity, and modernity is the spiritual impoverishment of being. Blood, faith and heritage are to be abolished by liberty, i.e. the vicissitudes of market forces. The fanciful notion of “unalienable rights” simultaneously disintegrates society while strengthening elite control. In his own second inaugural speech of 2005, Republican George W. Bush saw the drive toward global democracy as “a fire in the minds of men” lighting a path toward a New Order of the Ages.


The man who first spoke of this fire burning through civilization was none other than the brilliant 19th-century Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky in his work The Possessed. In typical fashion, Bush had warped Dostoevsky’s image, holding the noxious revolutionary flame aloft as a liberating force. Never would the man from St. Petersburg have supported this obvious contagion; the forces of subversion must be utterly routed at every level of national life.

Fyodor Dostoevsky has rightly been called a prophet of the modern age. With a depth of vision unrivalled, he saw that cultural, political, and economic disorder have their main source in a crisis of the spirit. Dostoevsky then foresaw how man’s rebellion against the Transcendent would progressively accelerate into full-blown anarchy. This idea became a central theme of The Possessed, his great counter-revolutionary novel. Within the book particular attention was drawn to the spiritual corruption of the ruling class, the so-called conservative elements of society.

Dostoevsky wrote about Russia, but he was also deeply sensitive to the West’s descent into secularism. By the 19th century “enlightened” European man had hurtled headlong into apostasy, abandoning Christ for the worship of self; his first act of regicide was the murder of God within his heart. Without sacral authority, power was said to derive from the perfect will of “We, The People,” guided by moneyed manipulators and their technocrats. Parties like the GOP and the Tories have done nothing to arrest the decline of our societies because they ultimately share the same radical, anti-traditional principles of the Left. For evidence, look no further than Britain’s rapid transformation into a crime-ridden, multicultural surveillance state, where the ruling Conservatives advance homosexual “marriage” as a matter of moral legitimacy.

The ideals of modernity, manifested in progress, equality, democracy, total individual autonomy, etc. form a counterfeit religion. So long as the self-proclaimed Right holds fast to any of these fantasies, opposition to liberalism is meaningless and purely cosmetic. Rhetorical nods to cultural consolidation, i.e. “family values,” are articulated within the corrosive framework of Enlightenment rights ideology, and only for the purpose of grabbing votes. Does anyone truly contemplate that Republicans will attempt anything meaningful against institutionalized infanticide? Lest we forget, over 50 million unborn children have been slaughtered in the United States since abortion was made legal by the Supreme Court in 1973. It is now a point of pride that American men and women fight for these storied liberties from the Hindu Kush to the Maghreb.

With the traditional West devastated and hierarchy inverted, there is precious little to conserve besides one’s faith and lineage, the necessities for survival and resurgence. But modern conservatives reject the divine-human and heartfelt essence of culture, thereby serving as the liberal order’s most ardent defenders. How easy it is to cheer the next war, demographic dissolution or crass popular amusements, all acts in the founding of a Garden of Earthly Delights, what Dostoevsky imagined as a glorified anthill. The conservative movement knows what’s really important: generous contributions from the financial and defense industries to maintain policies of corporate centralization and overseas empire.

The mainstream Right has led the West to systemic cultural collapse in full collusion with the slightly more radical Left. Dostoevsky's The Possessed reveals the spiritual and intellectual dimensions of this long process and the malevolent spirit behind it. A conversation between the story’s provincial governor, Von Lembke, and the nihilist revolutionary Peter Verkhovensky nicely encapsulates the mentality and path of conservatism in the modern era.

“We have responsibilities, and as a result we also serve the common cause as you do. We are only holding back what you loosen and what without us would scatter in various directions.

We’re not your enemies; hardly so. We’re saying to you: go forward, make progress, even shatter, that is, everything that is subject to alteration; but when needed, we will keep you within the necessary boundaries and save you from yourselves, because without us you would only send Russia into upheaval, depriving her of a proper appearance, and our duty is to look after proper appearances.

Understand that you and I are mutually necessary to each other. In England Tories and Whigs also need each other. Now then, we’re Tories, and you’re Whigs…”

“Well, however you like it,” murmured Peter Stepanovich. “Nevertheless you are paving the way for us and preparing our success.”

Strip away the concern for proper appearances, and it becomes clear that modern conservatism is the handmaiden of revolutionary nihilism.


Mark Hackard

Mark Hackard

Mark Hackard has a a BA in Russian from Georgetown University and an MA in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies from Stanford University.

vendredi, 18 janvier 2013

Konstantin Nikolajewitsch Leontjew

Konstantin Nikolajewitsch Leontjew,

„Kassandra des Zarentums” I:

Biographie eines russischen Reaktionärs

von David Beetschen

Ex: http://www.blauenarzisse.de/

Leontjew.jpgDer russische Schriftsteller, Religionsphilosoph und Aristokrat Konstantin Nikolajewitsch Leontjew galt vielen seiner Zeitgenossen als schwärzester Reaktionär. Und anders als sein kolumbianisches Pendant Nicolás Gómez Dávila sah Leontjew die Welt, abwechselnd als Arzt, Diplomat, Philosoph und Mönch. Das Leben dieses Reaktionärs war, im Vergleich zu dem von Dávila also extrem spannend. Und eine Gestalt wie die seine kann auch Leitfaden für das eigene Leben sein.

Die letzte seiner „9 Thesen“ lautet: „Der Zweck des menschlichen Lebens ist nicht Fortschritt, d.h. eine Vergrößerung des Wohlergehens der Masse und des individuellen Glücks der Person, sondern die geistige Vervollkommnung zur Verwirklichung des Reiches Gottes.“
Seine reaktionäre Gestalt ist es wohl auch, die, trotz der strengen Orthodoxie des Russen, das Bindeglied zwischen ihm und dem kolumbianischen Philosophen und Reaktionär Dávila darstellt. Dávila zeigte sich sehr fasziniert von Leontjew. Mit ihm teilt er auch noch einige andere philosophische Eigenheiten, die an späterer Stelle noch erwähnt werden sollen.

Geburt eines Adligen

Leontjew kam am 13. Januar 1831 als siebtes und letztes Kind der Familie Leontjew auf dem Landsitz Kudinowo südlich von Moskau zur Welt. Deren Landeigentum ging jedoch wegen des aufkommenden Kapitalismus und der Abschaffung der Leibeigenschaft langsam ein. Diese beiden historischen Umstände führten dazu, dass die Familie in den Bankrott getrieben wurde.

Sein Vater, ein eher wenig gebildeter Mann, der früh den Dienst quittierte, damit er sich um das Gut kümmern konnte, und seine Mutter, die Tochter eines Generals, die in einem Institut für adlige Mädchen ihre Ausbildung genoss, erzogen den Jungen. Die Mutter wirkte jedoch stärker auf ihn ein, weil sie ihn bis zu seinem zehnten Lebensjahr zu Hause ausbildete. 1841 trat Leontjew ins Gymnasium in Smolensk ein, das er bis zum Herbst des Jahres 1843 besuchte. Im selben Jahr wechselte er ins Kadettenkorps des Adelsregiments. Durch eine Krankheit musste er jedoch die Militärlaufbahn aufgeben und wechselte anschließend wieder auf ein normales Gymnasium in Kaluga. Dieses schloss er 1849 ab und immatrikulierte sich darauffolgend, ohne Aufnahmeprüfung, im Herbst an der Universität in Jaroslaw, wo er ein Medizinstudium aufnahm. Im Winter desselben Jahres zog es Leontjew jedoch an die Universität von Moskau. Dort setzte er sein Studium fort.

Als Arzt im Krimkrieg

Wegen des Russisch-​Türkischen Krieges in der Krim und dem dort herrschenden Ärztemangel bot die Regierung allen Medizinstudenten, die bereits im achten Semester waren, an, sie beim sofortigen Übertritt auf den Kriegsschauplatz zum Arzt zu ernennen. Außerdem wollte der Staat ihnen dort das doppelte Gehalt zahlen. Am 1. August des Jahres 1854 erhielt Leontjew den Posten eines Assistenzarztes im Kriegslazarett in der Festung Jenikale im nordwestlichen Teil des ukrainischen Kertsch.

Als der Krieg 1856 mit der russischen Niederlage endete, verbrachte Leontjew zunächst eine unbeschwerte Zeit auf der Krim, bis der russische Staat ihn im August des Jahres 1857 aus dem Kriegsdienst entließ.

Erste Versuche in der Schriftstellerei, Arbeit als Übersetzer aus dem Deutschen

Im Frühling 1858 wurde er bei der Familie des Barons Dimitrij von Rosen Hausarzt, blieb dort aber nur bis Ende 1860, weil er zu einem seiner Brüder nach St. Petersburg ging. Dort widmete er sich der berufsmäßigen Schriftstellerei, welche ihm jedoch keine sicheren Einnahmen einbrachte. Aus diesem Grund übersetzte er Artikel aus der deutschen Sprache und unterrichtete als Lehrer, damit er sich mit liquiden Mitteln versehen konnte.

Heirat und diplomatisches Leben am Rande zum Orient

1861 heiratete er im Herbst die aus einfachen Verhältnissen stammende Halbgriechin Julia Politof. Nach einem neunmonatigen Dienst als Kanzleibeamter im Asiatischen Departement des Ministeriums des Äußeren, wurde er im Herbst 1863 als Sekretär und Dolmetscher ins russische Konsulat auf der Insel Kreta beordert. Dort lernte er das orientalische Leben und dessen Kultur schätzen. 1867 beförderte der Staat Leontjew sogar zum Vize-​Konsul der Donauprovinzen.

1868 war ein weiteres einschneidendes Jahr für ihn, denn er wurde Konsul in Saloniki und es gab erste Anzeichen dafür, dass seine Frau an einer Geisteskrankheit litt. In diese Zeit fällt auch Leontjews Abwendung vom Liberalismus hin zum religiösen Konservatismus.

Rettung durch die Gottgebärerin

1871 besuchte er den Mönchsberg Athos, weil er dies geschworen hatte, als er an einer sehr schweren Krankheit litt. Damals rief er die Gottgebärerin an und versprach ihr diesen Besuch im Falle seiner Genesung. Er bat dann auf dem Athos um die Mönchsweihe, welche ihm jedoch die Mönche aufgrund vermuteter Unreife verweigerten. Ab 1873 lebte Leontjew in Konstantinopel, kehrte jedoch im Frühling 1874 bereits wieder nach Moskau zurück und ging ins Kloster Optina Pustyn bei Koselsk.

Leontjews erstes Treffen mit dem wesentlich jüngeren Wladimir Solowjew, einem bekannten Philosophen und Befürworter der Vereinigung der wahren Kirchen, der Orthodoxie und der Katholizität, fand im Jahre 1878 statt, aus dem eine fruchtbare Freundschaft entstand, die beide positiv prägte.

Zensorposten, Mönchsweihe und Tod eines Reaktionärs

Aus Warschau erhielt er 1879 eine Einladung von Fürst Golitzin, der ihn darum bat nach Warschau zu kommen, um ihm dort bei der Arbeit an der Zeitschrift Warschawskji Westnik zu helfen. Bald musste sie aber wegen finanzieller Problemen eingestellt werden. Leontjew selbst hatte ebenfalls große finanzielle Probleme, was ihn dazu nötigte einen Regierungsposten als Zensor anzunehmen, welchen er von 1880 bis 1887, dem Jahr seiner Pensionierung, bekleidete. Am 23. August 1891 war es dann trotzdem soweit für ihn und man gewährte ihm die Teilnahme an der geheimen Mönchsweihe in Optina Pustyn.

Er akzeptierte den Rat eines für ihn zum geistigen Führer und manchmal auch Geldgeber gewordenen Starez Amworsijs, der ihm sagte, dass er in das Dreifaltigkeitskloster von Sergijew Possad bei Moskau gehen solle. Hier verbrachte er dann noch seine letzten Tage, denn er starb bereits am 12. November 1891 im Alter von 60 Jahren an einer Lungenentzündung. Seine körperlichen Überreste wurden auf dem Klosterfriedhof in einer Mönchskutte beigesetzt.

Konstantin Nikolajewitsch Leontjew,

„Kassandra des Zarentums” II:

Der „ästhetische Amoralist”

leont418Z1EGE6JL.jpgWenn Konstantin Nikolajewitsch Leontjew schreibt, schlagen Bomben ein, die Schläfer wachrütteln und das Hässliche als Ziel haben: „O verhasste Gleichheit, o gemeine Gleichmacherei! O dreimal verfluchter Fortschritt! O furchtbarer, mit Blut getränkter, doch malerischer Berg der Weltgeschichte! Vom Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts an liegst du in den Wehen einer neuen Entbindung, aber aus deinem gequälten Schosse kriecht eine Maus hervor.“ Er war wohl einer der wenigen, neben Peter Ernst von Lasaulx oder Carl Friedrich Vollgraff, die im 19. Jahrhundert eine eigene pessimistische Geschichtsphilosophie entwarfen.

Der kolumbianische Katholik und Reaktionär Nicolás Gómez Dávila war im Besitz der russischen Originalausgabe Leontjews, konnte sie aber, gegen seine Gewohnheit Schriften im Original zu lesen, nicht verstehen, da er der russischen Sprache nicht mächtig war. Er kannte Leontjews Theorien jedoch aus Übersetzungen. Dávila veröffentlichte über Leontjews Werken folgenden Spruch Petrarcas, der Homer nicht in der Originalsprache lesen konnte: „Ich freue mich an dem blossen Anblick des Buches, drücke es oft an mein Herz und seufze: du grosser Mann, wie begierig hätte ich dir zugehört!“

Vom liberalen Demokraten zum „schwärzesten Reaktionär“

Leontjew war geprägt von der orthodoxen Christlichkeit: „Dem Christentum müssen wir helfen, selbst auf Kosten unserer geliebten Ästhetik, aus transzendentem Egoismus, aus Furcht vor dem jenseitigen Gericht, zur Erlösung unserer eigenen Seelen. Dem Fortschritt aber müssen wir uns, wo nur möglich, widersetzen; denn er ist ebenso für das Christentum wie für die Ästhetik schädlich.“ Dies erkannte er jedoch erst nachdem er einen Wandel gemacht hatte, vom liberalen Demokraten zum „schwärzesten Reaktionär“. Selbst zwei der größten literarischen Geister seiner Zeit, Tolstoj und Dostojewski, kritisierte er und warf ihnen vor, dass sie ein philanthropisches „Rosenwasser-​Christentum“ predigen, das mehr Häresie als wahrer Glaube sei.

Ein orthodoxer Anhänger des Papstes

Leontjew wurde von seinem Freund Solowjew davon überzeugt, dass es überaus wichtig sei, dass sich die katholische und die orthodoxe Kirche wieder verbinden. Im Gegensatz zu Solowjew hatte Leontjew jedoch nie seinen Glauben gewechselt und blieb orthodox, trotz solcher Aussagen: „Ich verheimliche Ihnen meine Schwäche nicht, die päpstliche Unfehlbarkeit gefällt mir persönlich enorm. Der Starez der Starzen!“ In der Ostkirche werden die mönchisch lebenden Lehrer und spirituellen Begleiter der Novizen und Laien Starzen genannt. „Wäre ich in Rom gewesen, hätte ich nicht gezögert, nicht nur die Hand Leos XIII., sondern auch seinen Fuss zu küssen. Der römische Katholizismus gefällt meinem aufrichtigen despotischen Geschmack wie auch meiner Zuneigung zum geistlichen Gehorsam, und wegen vieler anderer Gründe zieht er mein Herz und meine Vernunft an“, jubelte Leontjew.

Die Theorie der sekundären vermischenden Vereinfachung

Leontjew könnte als ein „Spengler vor Spengler“ gelten, denn es bestehen einige Ähnlichkeiten zwischen beiden Geschichtsphilosophien. Zum Beispiel bemisst Spengler die Existenzdauer einer Kultur auf circa 1000 Jahre, Leontjew dagegen die eines Staatsgebildes auf die gleiche Zeit. Die Gedankengänge des russischen Reaktionärs beruhen auf seinen, von der studierten medizinischen Wissenschaft geschulten, Ansichten der Pathologie und Embryologie. Diese Ansichten übertrug er sogar auf nicht-​organische Körper, beispielsweise ganze Planeten. Seine Geschichtsphilosophie gliedert die Entwicklung in drei Stadien, hier direkt mit dem Beispiel eines Planeten:

- die primäre Einfachheit, solange er sich in Gestalt von gasartiger oder feuerflüssiger Masse befindet

- ein mittleres Stadium der Kompliziertheit, wenn er zu einem feuerflüssigen Kern mit fester Kruste geworden ist, auf der sich Wasser und trockenes Land scheiden und Pflanzen und Lebewesen gedeihen

- die sekundäre vermischte Einfachheit, wenn er sich in eine kalte, leere Stoffmasse verwandelt hat, die fortfährt, um die Sonne zu kreisen

Diese Theorie übertrug er auf die Menschheitsgeschichte, wobei er aber zwischen einer Kultur, ihrem Volk und ihrem Staat unterschied:

- Die Kultur an sich lebe länger als das Volk, das sie hervorgebracht habe, insbesondere der unzerstörbare geistige Keim. Er gehe in andere Völker über, die aus dem Untergang einer Kultur entstanden seien.

- Die Völker würden eine geraume Zeit als ethnographische Masse bestehen. Seiner Meinung nach würden Völker existieren, bevor sie in die Arena der Geschichte eintreten und noch sehr lange zwischen anderen Völkern bleiben, nachdem ihre staatliche Form zerstört wurde.

- Am kürzesten existiere die Staatsform eines Volkes, die die äußere Umhüllung und das innere Gewebe dieser ethnographischen Masse bilde. Die Staatsform werde nicht auf einmal geschaffen, sondern enthülle sich erst im Verlauf des mittleren Stadiums der wachsenden Komplexität.

Dies kann nur ein grober Abriss seiner Geschichtsphilosophie sein, deren Analyse wohl einen ganzen Band füllen könnte ? insbesondere mit Querverweisen zu anderen Personen. Es ist jedoch anzunehmen, dass er diese Theorie unbeeinflusst aufgestellt hatte und wohl auch wegen seiner Unbekanntheit niemanden damit beeinflusste.

Nichtgleichberechtigung als Grundlage von Kulturen

Nach Leontjew könne man in allen Staatswesen qualitativ verschieden soziale Elemente erkennen. Außerdem verrate dies, dass die Trennung der Bürger in nichtgleichberechtigte Gruppen der natürliche Zustand des Menschen sei. Aus seiner oben beschriebenen Theorie leitete er ab, dass die Kulturschöpfung erst in der zweiten Phase der Verkomplizierung eintrete. Diese gehe von einem Stand aus, der privilegiert sei und über mehr Kraft verfüge als die anderen. Der Niedergang dieses Standes, bei der sekundären vereinfachenden Vermischung, führe ebenfalls zum Absinken des Wertes einer Kultur. Der Staat sei wie ein Baum, der zu seiner maximalen Größe heranwächst, Blüten und Früchte trage sowie einer inneren Idee unterliege, die in ihm despotisch herrscht.

Leontjew erkannte durch seine Theorie, dass man bis zur mittleren Epoche Fortschrittler sein müsse, ab der mittleren jedoch zum Konservativismus übergehen sollte. Die Progressiven würden in dieser Zeit nur zerstörerisch wirken. In der letzten Epoche jedoch triumphieren die Progressiven. Aber die Reaktionäre seien mit ihrer Meinung im Recht, dass man den sozialen Organismus stärken und heilen sollte. Leontjew warnte vor einem bloßen Festhalten an der Vergangenheit: „Jetzt bloß konservativ sein, wäre nicht der Mühe wert. Man kann die Vergangenheit lieben, aber man darf nicht daran glauben, dass sie auch nur in ähnlicher Form wieder aufleben wird.“ Da sich der Lauf der Geschichte nicht aufhalten lasse, bleibe nur übrig, an den „Fortschritt“ zu glauben. Jedoch solle diesem mit Pessimismus, nicht mit Optimismus begegnet werden, weil er lediglich eine Umformung der Bürden des menschlichen Leidens hervorbringe.

Leontjew prophezeite den Bolschewisten als „den Typ eines unschädlichen, fleißigen, jedoch gottlosen Durchschnittsmenschen“

Leontjew sagte eine „entsetzliche föderative Arbeiterrepublik“, die nach dem Zusammenbruch Russlands aus dessen Trümmern erstehen würde, voraus. Dazu meinte er: „Zur Stunde erscheinen die Kommunisten (und vielleicht die Sozialisten) als extreme, schrankenlose Liberale (die vor Rebellion und Verbrechen nicht zurückschrecken).

Sie verdienen hingerichtet zu werden.“ Das Ziel dieser Revolution sei jedoch nicht die Schreckensherrschaft, sondern die allgemeine Vermischung, die „den Typ eines unschädlichen, fleißigen, jedoch gottlosen Durchschnittsmenschen“ hervorbringen werde. Er wusste, dass eine vollkommene Anarchie, die die Revolution zuerst gebäre, niemals von Dauer sein könne. Eine volle Gleichheit der Rechte, des Besitzes etc. sei von Natur aus unmöglich. Vielmehr führe dieser Irrglauben dazu, dass die Praxis des Sozialismus diesen umwandeln werde und eine neue Ordnung erschaffe, inklusive einer neuen „Ungleichheit“.

Dahingehend würden die Kommunisten unbewusst an der reaktionären Neuordnung der Geschichte arbeiten, worin ihr indirekter Nutzen bestehe. Jedoch bestehe darin eben nur ihr Nutzen, nicht der Verdienst. Denn weil das neue Haus vielleicht schöner werden würde, heiße das noch lange nicht, dass es rechtmäßig sei, wenn der unvorsichtige Bewohner oder der Brandstifter es anzünden würden.

Ästhetischer Amoralismus

Ihr müsst verstehen, es kommt nicht darauf an, dass man durch väterliche Fürsorge das Böse beseitige, sondern dass man ihm die gesammelte Kraft des Guten gegenüberstellte“, schrieb er. Gewisse Menschen schockiert Leontjew trotzdem, wenn er behauptet, dass man das Böse in der Gesellschaft brauche, das Leid der Menschen, die Sklaverei, die Armut und den Hunger. Er differenzierte das Leiden: in das von Rechtsverletzung, Schlaffheit und schmutziger Bestechung erzeugte sowie jenes Leiden einer höheren Art, das auf Grund leidenschaftlicher, menschlicher Triebe geschehe. Er begründete aber diese Ansichten damit, dass es nur Gutes geben könne, also Barmherzigkeit, Opferbereitschaft und Nächstenliebe, wenn das Böse vorhanden sei, gegen das sich die christlichen Tugenden wenden könnten.

Erst das Leid rufe den Heroismus wach. Aber in einem utilitaristisch-​bourgeoisen Zeitalter, wo man das Leid aus der Gesellschaft verschwinden lasse, gehe alles in die sekundäre vereinfachende Vermischung über und werde so zu einem Klumpen aus Menschenfleisch ohne Differenzierung. Leontjew empfand den Triumph des spießbürgerlichen Ideals als Verspottung der menschlichen Geschichte. Wie Dávila verband er die Ästhetik mit der Ethik und beschrieb das Hässliche, der undifferenzierte Planetenklumpen, als das Böse und das Schöne, die Differenzierung und Buntheit des Lebens, mit allen Übeln und Schrecknissen, als das Gute. Damit erfasste der russische Reaktionär die Welt in ihrer ganzen Komplexität ? ohne Scheuklappen und Augenwischerei.

lundi, 03 décembre 2012

T. E. Hulme: The First Conservative of the Twentieth Century

T. E. Hulme: The First Conservative of the Twentieth Century

Ex: http://www.imaginativeconservative.org/

[significantly modified and expanded from a previous post at STORMFIELDS]

History should never have forgotten T.E. Hulme, and we would do well to remember him and what he wrote. Indeed, the German shell that took his life in the early autumn of 1917 might have changed a considerable part of the twentieth century by removing Hulme from it. Our whole “Time of Troubles” as Kirk defined it, might have been attenuated by the presence, personality, and witness of this man.

Eliot, certainly one of the greatest of twentieth-century men, understood the importance of Hulme in 1924. Eliot saw him as the new man—the twentieth-century man. In April 1924, he wrote: “When Hulme was killed in Flanders in 1917 . . . he was known to a few people as a brilliant talker, a brilliant amateur of metaphysics, and the author of two or three of the most beautiful short poems in the language. In this volume [the posthumous Speculations, edited by Herbert Read] he appears as the forerunner of a new attitude of mind, which should be the twentieth-century mind, if the twentieth century is to have a mind of its own.”

Hulme is, Eliot continued, “classical, reactionary, and revolutionary; he is the antipodes of the eclectic, tolerant, and democratic mind of the end of the last century . . . . A new classical age will be reached when the dogma. . . of the critic is so modified by contact with creative writing, and when the creative writers are so permeated by the new dogma, that a state of equilibrium is reached. For what is meant by a classical moment in literature is surely a moment of stasis, when the creative impulse finds a form which satisfies the best intellect of the time, a moment when a type is produced.”

Eliot continued to praise Hulme in his private letters. In one, he stated bluntly to Allen Tate, “Hulme has influenced me enormously.” In another, Eliot claimed Hulme to be “the most remarkable theologian of my generation.”

Historian Christopher Dawson believed that Hulme, almost alone in his generation, understood the dangers of progressivism: “The essentially transitory character of the humanist culture has been obscured by the dominance of the belief in Progress and by the shallow and dogmatic optimism which characterized nineteenth-century Liberalism. It was only an exceptionally original mind, like that of the late T.E. Hulme, that could free itself from the influence of Liberal dogma and recognize the sign of the times—the passing of the ideals that had dominated European civilization for four centuries, and the dawn of a new order.”

In hindsight, the praise of such magnitude from both Eliot and Dawson should give any twenty-first century conservative pause. Who was this man who profoundly shaped the thought of two of the most recognized conservatives of the last century. Unfortunately, the name of “Hulme” no longer rolls off the tongue when we think or our lineage. We might think: Godkin, Babbitt, More, Nock, Eliot, Dawson, Kirk . . . . But, rarely does a conservative mention the name of Hulme.

Yet, at one time, few would have questioned his shaping of a movement.

In 1948, the Jesuit periodical, America, proclaimed Hulme as the model—mostly in thought, if not in person—for a literary revival. The English poet offered a “charter,” as the author put it, of Catholic arts and literature.

A writer in the New York Times in 1960 summed up Hulme’s influence nicely: “T.E. Hulme had modified the consciousness of his age in such a way that by 1939 his name had become part of a myth.”

It is a myth that we—those of us writing and reading the Imaginative Conservative, Ignatius Insight Scoop, Front Porch Republic, Pileus, etc.—would do well to revive.

Hulme, from all accounts, possessed a rather powerful personality, able to form communities of thought and art around himself. As just mentioned, he might well serve as a model for our own conservatism as we think about rebuilding what two decades have torn apart in terms of our coherence as an intellectual movement and what centuries have deconstructed in terms of culture and the rise of Leviathan and Demos.

If Hulme is remembered, he’s best remembered as a poet of influence. Most credit Hulme with founding Imagist poetry.

Imagism, as our own John Willson has argued, connected the horizon and the sky, the vertical and horizontal, time and eternity.

F.S. Flint, a companion of Hulme’s, remembered the creation of the Imagist movement in 1908, in the May 1, 1915, issue of THE EGOIST:

“SOMEWHERE in the gloom of the year 1908, Mr. T. E. Hulme, now in the trenches of Ypres, but excited then by the propinquity, at a half-a-crown dance, of the other sex (if, as Remy de Gounnont avers, the passage from the aesthetic to the sexual emotion. . . the reverse is surely also true), proposed to a companion that they should found a Poets' Club. The thing was done, there and then. The Club began to dine; and its members to read their verses. At the end of the year they published a small plaquette of them, called For Christmas MDCCCCVIII.”

Hulme’s poem “Autumn” appeared.

“A touch of cold in the Autumn night—
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.”

While this poem doesn’t strike me as anything profound in terms of its theme (though, maybe I’ve not spent enough time with it), I can readily see its influence on the work of Eliot. Could Eliot have produced The Wasteland, The Hollow Men, or the Four Quartets without the influence of Hulme and the school of poetry he founded? The Four Quartets is arguably the greatest work of art of the twentieth century. If for no other reason, I’m truly thankful Hulme contributed what he did simply in offering this new form of poetry.

Like Eliot, Hulme adopted and accepted modernist forms of art while rejecting the meaning and essence of modernity. In one of his most powerful essays, defining the nature of humanism, properly understood, Hulme argued that all scholarship and art must begin with the premise (fact) of original sin. “What is important, is what nobody seems to realise--the dogmas like that of Original Sin, which are the closest expression of the categories of the religious attitude. That man is in no sense perfect but a wretched creature who can yet apprehend perfection.”

Rousseauvian/enlightenment thinking had moved society away from understanding this fundamental truth of the human person. As Hulme saw it, Rousseauvianism is a “heresy, a mistaken adoption of false conceptions.” By focusing on feelings and individual desires and blind lusts (and glorifying them) it attempts to allow man to become a God—and, as a result, “creates a bastard conception of Personality.”

The human person only overcomes his depravity though heroic virtue, Hulme argued: “From the pessimistic conception of man comes naturally the heroic task requiring heroic qualities. . . virtues which are not likely to flourish on the soil of a rational and skeptical ethic. This regeneration can, on the contrary, only be brought about and only be maintained by actions springing from an ethic which from the narrow rationalist standpoint is irrational being not relative, but absolute.”

When Hulme received a commission in the British Army during the Great War, he embraced what he had preached, and he gave his life as a patriot of western civilization.
Even in the trenches, before his death, Hulme continued to shape his contemporaries. “In all this [group of poets] Hulme was ringleader. He insisted too on absolutely accurate presentation and no verbiage; and he and F. W. Tancred, a poet too little known, perhaps because his production is precious and small, used to spend hours each day in the search for the right phrase. Tancred does it still; while Hulme reads German philosophy in the trenches, waiting for the general advance.” [EGOIST, May 1, 1915]

Critically, Hulme published a series of war notes from France. In one, he attempted to explain to the liberals that their version of history rested on dubious assumptions.

“Similarly our Liberal friends may be reminded that the lines now making a map of Europe are the result in every instance of local circumstances governable by men; and as they were determined by men they can be changed by men. Europe, in short, is a creation, not a blind evolutionary product; and nothing connected with its mental features is any more fixed than the present relations, as expressed in the trench-lines, between the Allies and the enemy.

Another prevalent Liberal assumption, hostile to a proper appreciation of the significance of the war, is that progress is both inevitable and of necessity in one direction. That change, like the girl in the play, may of itself or by the intention of those who bring it about, take the wrong turning seems never to enter the heads of some of our most popular doctrinaires. All that is not Liberal in Europe or elsewhere is in their opinion not even fundamentally anti-Liberal or other-than-Liberal,—it is merely an arrested development of an evolution which in any case must needs be Liberal in the end, or a reaction against, but still upon the line of Liberalism. This, I need not say after stating it, is not only an error, but a particularly insular error. In the first place, evolution in our sense of the word—that is, evolution towards democracy—is not only not inevitable, but it is the most precarious, difficult and exigent task political man has ever conceived. And, in the second place, far from it being the predestined path of every nation and race, only one or two nations have attempted to pursue it, while the rest deliberately and even, we might say, intelligently, pursue another path altogether as if that were progress, and are thus sincerely hostile to our own.” [Quoted from Karen Csengeri, ed., THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF T.E. HULME (1994), 333]

If only Hulme’s mind—per Eliot’s wishful thinking in 1924—had become the “twentieth-century mind.” We might very well have avoided a “progressive” world immersed in ideological terror on one side and in flabby citizens demanding unearned health care and subsidies for big businesses (so-called stimulus packages) on the other.


vendredi, 09 novembre 2012

Nicolás Gómez Dávila: Aphorisms and the Modern World

Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Aphorisms and the Modern World

Nicolás Gómez Dávila
 "I distrust every idea that doesn't seem obsolete and grotesque to my contemporaries."

The reactionary does not extol what the next dawn must bring, nor is he terrified by the last shadows of the night. His dwelling rises up in that luminous space where the essential accosts him with its immortal presence. The reactionary escapes the slavery of history because he pursues in the human wilderness the trace of divine footsteps. Man and his deeds are, for the reactionary, a servile and mortal flesh that breathes gusts from beyond the mountains. To be reactionary is to champion causes that do not turn up on the notice board of history, causes where losing does not matter. To be reactionary is to know that we only discover what we think we invent; it is to admit that our imagination does not create, but only lays bares smooth bodies. To be reactionary is not to espouse settled cases, nor to plead for determined conclusions, but rather to submit our will to the necessity that does not constrain, to surrender our freedom to the exigency that does not compel; it is to find sleeping certainties that guide us to the edge of ancient pools. The reactionary is not a nostalgic dreamer of a cancelled past, but rather a hunter of sacred shades upon the eternal hills.

The Authentic Reactionary, Nicolás Gómez Dávila


Nicolás Gómez Dávila (don Colacho) was born 18 May 1913 in Cajicá, Colombia, into an affluent family. He was a prolific writer and important political thinker who is considered to be one of the most intransigent political theoreticians of the twentieth century. It was not until a few years prior to his death in 1994 that his writing began to gain popularity due the translation of some works into German. At the tender age of six his family relocated to Europe, where they resided for the next seventeen years. During his time in Europe, Gómez Dávila contracted a persistent illness which confined him to his bed for long periods, and as a result of this he had to be educated by private tutors with whom he studied Latin, Greek and developed a fondness for classical literature.

When Gómez Dávila turned twenty-three he moved back to Colombia, residing in Bogotá, where he met and married Emilia Nieto Ramos. Here, with his wife and children Gómez Dávila is reported to have led a life of leisure. Assisting his father briefly in the management of a carpet factory, he spent little time in the office, instead preferring to spend his time at the Jockey Club, where he played polo until incurring an injury (Gómez Dávila was thrown from his horse whilst trying to light a cigar.) Following this, he spent more time reading literature. By the end of his life, he had accumulated a library of approximately 30,000 books, many of which were in foreign languages. In addition to the French, English, Latin and Greek he learnt during childhood, Gómez Dávila could also read German, Italian, Portuguese, and was even reportedly learning Danish prior to his death in order to be able to read Søren Kierkegaard in the original language.

Gómez Dávila was also an eminent figure in Colombian society. He assisted Mario Laserna Pinzón found the University of the Andes in 1948 and his advice was often sought by politicians. In 1958 he declined the offer of a position as an adviser to President Alberto Llera after the downfall of the military government in Colombia, and in 1974 he turned down the chance to become the Colombian ambassador at the Court of St. James. Gómez Dávila had resolved early on during his work as a writer that an involvement in politics would be detrimental to his literary career and thus had decided to politely abstain from all political involvement, despite these tempting and prestigious offers.

During his lifetime, Gómez Dávila was a modest man and made few attempts to make his writings widely known. His first two publications were available only to his family and friends in private editions. Only by way of German (and later Italian as well as French and Polish) translations beginning in the late eighties did Gómez Dávila's ideas begin to disperse. Initially his works were more popular in Germany than in Colombia, and a number of prominent German authors such as Ernst Jünger (who in an unpublished letter defined Gómez Dávila's writing as: "A mine for lovers of conservatism"), Martin Mosebach, and Botho Strauß expressed their admiration for Gómez Dávila’s works. His most translated and final work, El Reaccionario Auténtico (The Authentic Reactionary) was published after his death in the Revista de la Universidad de Antioquia.

Gómez Dávila has many unique features that occur within his works, but perhaps the most famous literary feature he is famed for is the aphorism, which remains prominent throughout his writing. Not only is the aphorism used as an aesthetic tool, it is also a purposely deployed technique selected by Gómez Dávila as his method of choice, which he referred to as escolios (or glosses). This technique was used extensively in the five volumes of Escolios a un texto implícito (1977; 1986; 1992).

By definition, an aphorism is an original thought, spoken or written in a concise and memorable form; the term aphorism literally means a distinction or definition, coming from the Greek ἀφορισμός (aphorismós). In traditional literature, the aphorism is used as a mnemonic technique to relate wisdom and is found in works such as the Sutra literature of India, The Golden Verses of Pythagoras, Hesiod's Works and Days, the Delphic Maxims, and Epictetus' Handbook. In more recent times, the aphorism has been used heavily by philosophers such as Nietzsche and Cioran, both of whom share a number of ideas and perspectives with Gómez Dávila. Nietzsche himself used aphorisms heavily and even went so far as to describe why aphorisms are used – naturally in the form of an aphorism itself – “He who writes in blood and aphorisms does not want to be read, he wants to be learned by heart.” In regards to Gómez Dávila this is certainly the case, for he himself stated that aphorisms are like seeds containing the promise of “infinite consequences.” Thus, with a short but highly memorable sentence, an idea is planted in the mind of the reader, an idea that hopefully sprouts action, and with it consequences. Similarly in Notas, he stated that the only two “tolerable” ways to write were a long, leisurely style, and a short, elliptical style - since he did not think himself capable of the long, leisurely style, he opted for aphorisms. As indicated above however, Gómez Dávila’s use of the aphorism is not merely a stylistic reference; these short but effective phrases are part of his ‘reactionary’ tactic, which he hurls like bombs into readers minds – where they either detonate or take root, sprouting into the ‘consequences’ their author hoped for. In his own words, he describes his use of aphorisms:

[to] write the second way is to grab the item in its most abstract form, when he is born, or when he dies leaving a pure schema. The idea here is a cross burning, a light bulb. Endless consequences of it will come, not yet but [a] germ, and promise themselves enclosed. Whoever writes well but not touching the surface of the idea, [there] a diamond lasts. The ideas and plays extend the air space. Their relationships are secret, [their] roots hidden. The thought that unites and leads is not revealed in their work, but their fruits [are] unleashed on archipelagos that crop alone in an unknown sea.1

According to Gómez Dávila, in the modern era the reactionary cannot hope to formulate arguments that will convince his opponent, because he does not share any assumptions with his opponent. Moreover, even if the reactionary could argue from certain shared assumptions, modern man’s dogmatism prevents him from listening to different opinions and ideas. Faced with this situation, the reactionary should instead write aphorisms to illicit a response rather than engaging in direct debate. Gómez Dávila compares his aphorisms to shots fired by a guerrilla from behind a thicket on any idea that dares advance along the road. Thus, the reactionary will not convince his opponent, but he may convert him.2 Furthermore, the aphorisms themselves are not written in isolation – when placed together in their context they are equally as informative as any normally composed text could hope to be.

Another function that Gómez Dávila’s aphorisms served was, as their Spanish title (Escolios a un Texto Implícito) suggests, as notes on books he had read. The Spanish word escolio comes from the Greek σχόλιον (scholion). This word is used to describe the annotations made by ancient and medieval scribes and students in the margins of their texts. Many of these aphorisms may therefore be allusions to other works. They constitute the briefest of summaries of books he read and conclusions he had drawn from these works or judgments on these texts.3

Gómez Dávila was a truly devout Christian, and his strand of religious thought is deeply entwined with his ideas on politics, democracy and society as a whole. This is a central concept in understanding Gómez Dávila’s work. However, not all of his thoughts resonated with other religious thinkers of his era, for he realised that his contemporaries were incapable of revitalising either Christianity or Catholicism and thus were not able to ensure the survival of the church in the modern era. Not only did this aggravate some of his fellow Catholics, they also were wary of Gómez Dávila due to his appreciation of authors such as such as Nietzsche and Heidegger, who are not usually regarded as being affable to Christianity.

In regards to the way religion is combined with his political thought, Gómez Dávila, interprets democracy as “less a political fact than a metaphysical perversion” and is a harsh critic of ideology. He defines democracy as “an anthropotheist religion,” which he believes is a methodology that seeks to elevate the common man to a plane above God – which he believes to be a dangerous and unprecedented level of religious anthropocentricism. Though this may sound odd at first, Gómez Dávila is by no means the only author who has claimed that democracy incorporates a religious element into it, and even some contemporary political scientists have asserted that democracy functions as a political religion. Gómez Dávila interpreted the vital sign of democracy being a political religion as the modern state’s hostility to traditional religions, which he believed was because a true religious authority was capable of challenging a government – thus the power of religion has to be curbed in order for the government to have full, unmediated control of the people – and as a consequence of this a democracy had to replace religion by adopting ‘quasi-religious’ elements. It is this light, that contrary to public opinion, Gómez Dávila does not see democracy as a promise of liberation; on the contrary to him democracy represents a loss of freedom. Since democracy has achieved hegemony, spiritual and cultural matters have become secondary to politics, and today when a citizen is branded as a ‘heretic’ is not because of his rejection of a religion, but because they dare to question the controlling political regime. In this regard, Gómez Dávila questions democracy, but he should be regarded as a critic and not an opponent, for as mentioned earlier Gómez Dávila had no interest in a political agenda. To Gómez Dávila, democracy was a political religion that encouraged the exaltation of the cult of individualism to a dangerous status, which set an individual on an undeserved plateau above God and eroded genuine metaphysical belief but replaced it with nothing substantial. However he was not a blind devotee or fundamentalist either, for Gómez Dávila was also a powerful critic of the Church as well as democracy.


Another feature at play within Gómez Dávila’s writing is that he believes equality to be a social construct of modernity – whilst equality levels the playing field for some individuals, for others it hobbles them. Effectively, it creates a mythical average citizen who does not in actuality exist, raising one individual to an elevated position and demoting another. Rather than recognising individual qualities and merits, it removes all hierarchies – not only the negative hierarchies, but also the positive ones. All variation is lost and replaced by the ‘myth of the average’ – and if Gómez Dávila’s interpretation of democracy as a political religion is correct, it then denounces religion and evaluates the mythical ‘average citizen’ to a theoretical level of freedom wherein the ‘average citizen’ is a substitute for the very pinnacle of the religious hierarchy – God. Thus, Gómez Dávila criticises democracy because it seeks to replace the sacred with the average and mundane man. And because democracy replaces religion, it is for this reason that criticism of democracy is the taboo of the West, and the modern equivalent to heresy. Thus, the modern ideologies such as liberalism, democracy, and socialism, were the main targets of Gómez Dávila's criticism, because the world influenced by these ideologies appeared to him decadent and corrupt.

In order to critique ideas, Gómez Dávila created the figure of the ‘reactionary’ as his unmistakable literary mask which he developed into a distinctive type of thinking about the modern world as such. This is explained in The Authentic Reactionary, which refers to one of his most well-known works, El reaccionario auténtico, originally published in Revista Universidad de Antioquia 240 (April-June 1995), 16–19. By adopting this label, Gómez Dávila is defining himself as one who sits in opposition. This is not simply a matter of placing Gómez Dávila into a neat political pigeonhole for clearly defined and organised policies – because he turned down prestigious political positions, and certainly didn’t intend to advocate any political platforms in his literary work. The reactionary is for him not at all a political activist who wants to restore old conditions, but rather a “passenger who suffers a shipwreck with dignity”; the reactionary is “that fool, who possesses the vanity to judge history, and the immorality to come to terms with it.”4 He did not mean to identify himself exclusively with a narrow political position. In several aphorisms, he acknowledged that there is no possibility of reversing the course of history. Rather, the reactionary’s task is to be the guardian of heritages, even the heritage of revolutionaries. This certainly does not mean that Gómez Dávila made his peace with democracy; all it means is that he also did not allow himself to be deluded by promises of the restoration of the old order.5 As we see below;

The existence of the authentic reactionary is usually a scandal to the progressive. His presence causes a vague discomfort. In the face of the reactionary attitude the progressive experiences a slight scorn, accompanied by surprise and restlessness. In order to soothe his apprehensions, the progressive is in the habit of interpreting this unseasonable and shocking attitude as a guise for self-interest or as a symptom of stupidity; but only the journalist, the politician, and the fool are not secretly flustered before the tenacity with which the loftiest intelligences of the West, for the past one hundred fifty years, amass objections against the modern world.6

In this regard Gómez Dávila does not seek to eliminate the concept we know of as ‘modernity’, which he sees as an impossible task. Instead he provides a criticism of modernity, disputing that is natural and that it leads to a false conception of progress. The illusionary doctrine of progress, to Gómez Dávila’s way of thinking is a myth which has been deployed to help enslave workers to capitalism and industrial society, by effectively manipulating the population to believe that they helping to make the world a better place, when effectively the real event that is taking place is that they only serving to make capitalism and consumerism more efficient. The illusion of progress acts as a placebo effect to make the citizens feel better about themselves in a world where god and religion has long since perished, replaced by blind faith in the power of the state. “In order to heal the patient, which it wounded in the 19th century, industrial society had to numb his mind [to pain] in the 20th century.”7

By defending cultural and spiritual heritage, however, Gómez Dávila is not advocating a return to the past – rather be is strategically deploying this as a method to cut ties with the present and create a different future, for in his own words: "To innovate without breaking a tradition we must free ourselves from our immediate predecessors linking us to our remote predecessors".8 Gómez Dávila believes that "The modern world resulted from the confluence of three independent causal series: population growth, democratic propaganda, [and] the industrial revolution" (Successive Scholia, 161). This in turn led to further developments and propaganda which effectively restructured traditional belief and "replaced the myth of a bygone golden age of a future with the plastic age" (Scholia II, 88) leading us to a world where consumerism eventually will replace both religion and politics - "The Gospels and the Communist Manifesto pale, the future is in the hands of Coca-Cola and pornography" (Successive Scholia, 181).

Therefore Gómez Dávila’s stance, dispersed through an assortment of brief aphorisms, becomes much more perceptible to the casual reader in light of The Authentic Reactionary, which for English readers (who as yet are not able to read all of his writing in translation) becomes a pivotal key in understanding Gómez Dávila’s work. The reactionary does not act in isolation from history and modernity, rather he seeks to challenge what he perceives as a false doctrine of progress and looks back in retrospect not to recreate the ancient past, but rather to generate ideas which link modernity to tradition, in order to create real progress by offering an alternative to the current regime of mass consumerism, capitalism and other destructive political ideologies. It is incorrect to locate Gómez Dávila in any existing political paradigm, because there is simply nothing which matches his core ideas…and as such he is correctly identified as what he labelled himself – a ‘reactionary’. His reactionary stance comes close to touching on the topics at the core of writers such as Guénon and Evola, but in regard to linking spiritual and cultural decline to political origins, he actually goes further beyond their ideas to suggest that as an inevitable side product of consumerism, destroying belief in a higher power or God would benefit capitalism and help corporations control the people by encouraging self-indulgent attitudes. Thus politics replaces spirituality, and the citizen replaces god with disguised worship of the state, who in turn rewards them with consumerism. The authentic reactionary is someone who is aware of problems like this in society and provides an intellectual critique of the system whilst remaining aloof from it:

History for the reactionary is a tatter, torn from man’s freedom, fluttering in the breath of destiny. The reactionary cannot be silent because his liberty is not merely a sanctuary where man escapes from deadening routine and takes refuge in order to be his own master. In the free act the reactionary does not just take possession of his essence. Liberty is not an abstract possibility of choosing among known goods, but rather the concrete condition in which we are granted the possession of new goods. Freedom is not a momentary judgment between conflicting instincts, but rather the summit from which man contemplates the ascent of new stars among the luminous dust of the starry sky. Liberty places man among prohibitions that are not physical and imperatives that are not vital. The free moment dispels the unreal brightness of the day, in order that the motionless universe that slides its fleeting lights over the shuddering of our flesh might rise up on the horizon of the soul.9

The soul of Nicolás Gómez Dávila, the authentic reactionary, departed from his flesh in his beloved library on the eve of his 81st birthday, on May 17, 1994. Though achieving fame in Colombia, where his works are well read today, Gómez Dávila remains largely unread in the Occident. Whilst his writing achieved some popularity in Germany, much of it remains untranslated for English readers, which prevents his writing from reaching a wider audience. Hopefully a new generation of authors will appear to pick up the challenge of translating Gómez Dávila’s writing and help him achieve the recognition he deserves as a thinker and philosopher.

Main Works

Escolios a Un Texto Implicito: Obra Completa. Nicolas Gomez Davila, Franco Volpi.

July 2006.Villegas Editores.

Notas I, Mexico 1954 (new edition Bogotá 2003).

Textos I, Bogotá 1959 (new edition Bogotá 2002).

Sucesivos escolios a un texto implícito, Santafé de Bogotá 1992 (new edition Barcelona 2002).

Escolios a un texto implícito. Selección, Bogotá 2001.

El reaccionario auténtico, in Revista de la Universidad de Antioquia, Nr. 240 (April–June 1995), p. 16-19.

De iure, in Revista del Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Senora del Rosario 81. Jg., Nr. 542 (April–June 1988), p. 67-85.

Nuevos escolios a un texto implícito, 2 volumes, Bogotá 1986.

Escolios a un texto implícito, 2 volumes, Bogotá 1977.



1 Volpi, F., An Angel Captive in Time

2  Why aphorisms?

3   Why aphorisms?

4    The Last Reactionary

5 What is a reactionary?

6 Gómez Dávila, N.,The Authentic Reactionary

7 Ibid.

8 Duke, O. T., Nicolás Gómez Dávila: Passion of Anachronism, in Cultural and Bibliographical Bulletin . Issue 40. Volume XXXII, 1997

9 Gómez Dávila, N.,The Authentic Reactionary

Gwendolyn Taunton

Gwendolyn Taunton

Gwendolyn Taunton was the recipient of the Ashton Wylie Award for Literary Excellence in 2009 for her work with Primordial Traditions. Her most recent work is Mimir - Journal of North European Traditions.

dimanche, 14 octobre 2012

Derek Turner Interviewed by Craig Bodeker

Derek Turner Interviewed by Craig Bodeker


mardi, 25 septembre 2012

Aux sources du parti conservateur


Aux sources du parti conservateur

Ex: http://www.insolent.fr/

120919Comme dans bien d'autres pays, la droite en Angleterre a été amenée, plusieurs fois dans son Histoire, à devoir renaître de ses cendres. Particularité de la vie politique d'outre Manche, depuis le XVIIIe siècle ce fut le même parti, les "tories" étant devenus officiellement "parti conservateur", qui sut opérer en son sein le renouvellement nécessaire.

Cette droite avait su se maintenir face aux "whigs", organisateurs de la Glorieuse Révolution de 1688, puis de l'arrivée de la dynastie de Hanovre en 1714. Elle avait su faire face à ces adversaires "de gauche", qui dominèrent le parlement et le gouvernement tout au long du XVIIIe siècle. Et elle les a aujourd'hui encore surclassés.

Agréablement traduit, et réédité par les peines et soins des Éditions du Trident, le roman de Disraëli "Coningsby" nous en livre le secret.

Le rejet des horreurs de ce que nous appelons jacobinisme a toujours joué, à cet égard, le rôle central.

Cependant on doit mesurer d'abord, que les forces qui, en Grande Bretagne se sont opposées à la Révolution française, ne venaient pas toutes du conservatisme "officiel" et "historique".

Deux exemples l'illustrent. Leurs noms sont relativement connus, de ce côté-ci de la Manche, leur histoire l'est un peu moins.

Ainsi Edmund Burke (1729-1797) avait-il pris conscience, dès les journées d'octobre 1789, de la nature inacceptable de ce qui s'installait à Paris. Dans ses "Réflexions sur la révolution de France", publiées en 1790 (1)⇓ il dénonce avec lucidité la logique implacable des événements.

Or, il avait siégé aux Communes depuis 1765 en tant que "whig". Il avait soutenu les "insurgents" américains, etc. Il ne rompra officiellement avec son parti, dont il refuse les subsides, qu'en juin 1791. Dès lors, ce "vieux-whig" sera considéré plus tard comme le doctrinaire par excellence du conservatisme.

De même William Pitt "le Jeune", est présenté aujourd'hui, jusque sur le site officiel du 10 Downing Street, sous l'étiquette "tory". Mais celui qu'en France nous l'appelons "le second Pitt" était lui-même le fils d'un chef de gouvernement whig, William Pitt dit "l'Ancien". À son tour il devint Premier ministre sous le règne de George III, de 1782 à 1801, puis de 1804 à 1806. La mémoire républicaine l'exècre comme l'ennemi par excellence. La propagande des hommes de la Terreur désignait tous ses adversaires comme agents de "Pitt et Cobourg". (2)⇓

En fait il n'entra dans le conflit que contraint et forcé. Au départ, au cours des années 1780, cet adepte d'Adam Smith (3)⇓ poursuivait le but d'assainir les finances et de développer l'économie du pays. Quand il rompit avec la France révolutionnaire, le cabinet de Londres pensait que le conflit serait rapidement liquidé. On n'imaginait pas qu'il durerait plus de 20 ans.

Ainsi Pitt fut contraint à la guerre à partir de 1793 et la mena jusqu'à sa mort. Une partie de l'opinion anglaise, et particulièrement les "whigs" avaient applaudi aux événements de 1789. Mais c'est au lendemain de la mort du Roi que l'ensemble de l'opinion comprit que les accords resteraient impossibles avec les forces barbares qui s'étaient emparées du royaume des Lys. Dès le 24 janvier 1793, l'ambassadeur officieux (4)⇓ de la République est expulsé.

Voici donc un adversaire irréductible (5)⇓ de la Révolution française : doit-on le considérer comme un conservateur ? Le terme peut paraître encore prématuré. Et Jacques Chastenet souligne même que jamais au cours de sa carrière William Pitt ne s'est déclaré "tory". (6)⇓

Après 1815 les forces de droite s'étaient agrégées autour du vainqueur militaire de Napoléon (7)⇓ à Waterloo, Arthur de Wellesley devenu duc de Wellington. Son nom rassembleur tient lieu de programme. (8)⇓

Or, à partir des années 1830 tout change. Wellington ne reviendra plus, que d'une manière très brève, qui se traduira par un échec. Car quand, laminés en 1832 les tories tentent en 1834 un nouveau "manifeste" [Disraëli qualifie celui-ci de "Manifeste sans principes"], ils vont certes réapparaître techniquement, du seul fait de l'incompétence des whigs. Robert Peel pourra former un gouvernement minoritaire avec l'appui du roi. Mais la "Nouvelle Génération", [c'est le thème de "Coningsby"] cette "Jeune Angleterre" dont Disraëli et son ami Georges Smythe apparaîtront alors comme les figures de proue, considère, et le programme de 1834, et Robert Peele, lui-même comme dénués de principes et voués à l'échec.

Voici comment il les décrit :

"Cet homme politique éminent [Robert Peel] s’était malheureusement identifié, au début de sa carrière, avec un groupe qui, s’affublant du nom de tory, poursuivait une politique sans principes ou dont les principes s’opposaient radicalement à ceux qui guidèrent toujours les grands chefs de cet illustre et historique mouvement. Les principaux membres de cette confédération officielle ne se distinguaient par aucune des qualités propres à un homme d’État, par aucun des dons divins qui gouvernent les assemblées et mènent les conseils. Ils ne possédaient ni les qualités de l’orateur, ni les pensées profondes, ni l’aptitude aux trouvailles heureuses, ni la pénétration et la sagacité de l’esprit. Leurs vues politiques étaient pauvres et limitées. Toute leur énergie, ils la consacraient à s’efforcer d’acquérir une connaissance des affaires étrangères qui demeura pourtant inexacte et confuse ; ils étaient aussi mal documentés sur l’état réel de leur propre pays que les sauvages le sont sur la probabilité d’une éclipse." (9)⇓

[Il s'agit de la droite anglaise d'alors, qu'alliez-vous croire ?]

Jusque-là les deux partis dominants avaient représenté des factions parlementaires, elles-mêmes issues des forces sociales qui contrôlaient les sièges, en particulier ceux des "bourgs pourris. Au total 300 000 électeurs désignaient le parlement. Les Lords dominaient les Communes. Sans évoluer immédiatement vers le suffrage universel la réforme avait supprimé les circonscriptions fictives. Multipliant par trois le nombre des votants, elle allait permettre aux représentants des villes de submerger les défenseurs traditionnels de la propriété foncière et de la campagne anglaise.

Ceux-ci allient donc devoir combattre sous de nouvelles couleurs, en s'alliant avec de nouvelles forces. On peut dire qu'en grande partie Disraëli les ré-inventa. Exprimant ses idées dans des romans, ce vrai fondateur de la droite anglaise conte cette aventure dans ce "Coningsby".

Beaucoup de traits de cette société peuvent paraître désuets. On les découvre dès lors avec une pointe de nostalgie. Mais, une fois dégagé de cet aspect pittoresque et charmant, tout le reste s'en révèle furieusement actuel. Nous laissons à nos lecteurs le soin de le découvrir.

JG Malliarakis

  1. Traduites en France ses "Réflexions sur la révolution de France" sont disponibles en collection Pluriel.
  2. Cobourg : il s'agissait du prince Frédéric de Saxe-Cobourg-Saalfeld (1737-1815), général au service du Saint-Empire.
  3. Écrite dans les années 1760, son "Enquête sur la nature et les causes de la Richesse des nations" fut publiée en Angleterre en 1776.
  4. Le roi ne voulait pas reconnaître le régime institué à Paris par le coup de force républicain de septembre 1792. Mais les dirigeants révolutionnaires n'étaient en guerre, au départ, qu'avec l'Empire, "le roi de Bohème et de Hongrie". À Londres se trouvait un ambassadeur, assez maladroit, le jeune François-Bernard de Chauvelin (1766-1832) qui venait d'être nommé par le gouvernement de Louis XVI.
  5. Il la combattra en effet jusqu'à sa mort en 1806. La Paix d'Amiens de 1802 ne fut qu'un intermède (mal négocié) sous le gouvernement Addington (1801-1804) quand Pitt, partisan du droit de vote des catholiques irlandais fut contraint de donner sa démission au roi George III.
  6. cf. Jacques Chastenet "William Pitt" Fayard 1942. On lira avec plaisir de cet auteur oublié mais de qualité son "Wellington" et son "Siècle de Victoria".
  7. Le vrai vainqueur politique de Napoléon avait été lord Castlereagh, ministre des Affaires étrangères, organisateur et financier de la sixième coalition, puis personnage central du congrès de Vienne de 1814-1815.
  8. À la gloire militaire près, le parallèle avec le gaullisme ne manque pas de pertinence. "Le Duc"... "Le Général"...
  9. cf. "Coningsby ou la Nouvelle Génération" page 89. Les lecteurs de L'Insolent peuvent se le procurer, en le commandant
    - directement sur le site des Éditions du Trident
    - ou par correspondance en adressant un chèque de 29 euros aux Éditions du Trident 39 rue du Cherche Midi 75006 Paris
    - votre libraire peut le commander par fax au 01 47 63 32 04. - téléphone :06 72 87 31 59- courriel  : ed.trident @ europelibre.com

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lundi, 09 juillet 2012

Augustin Cochin on the French Revolution


From Salon to Guillotine
Augustin Cochin on the French Revolution

By F. Roger Devlin

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

Augustin Cochin
Organizing the Revolution: Selections From Augustin Cochin [2]
Translated by Nancy Derr Polin with a Preface by Claude Polin
Rockford, Ill.: Chronicles Press, 2007

The Rockford Institute’s publication of Organizing the Revolution marks the first appearance in our language of an historian whose insights apply not only to the French Revolution but to much of modern politics as well.

Augustin Cochin (1876–1916) was born into a family that had distinguished itself for three generations in the antiliberal “Social Catholicism” movement. He studied at the Ecole des Chartes and began to specialize in the study of the Revolution in 1903. Drafted in 1914 and wounded four times, he continued his researches during periods of convalescence. But he always requested to be returned to the front, where he was killed on July 8, 1916 at the age of thirty-nine.

Cochin was a philosophical historian in an era peculiarly unable to appreciate that rare talent. He was trained in the supposedly “scientific” methods of research formalized in his day under the influence of positivism, and was in fact an irreproachably patient and thorough investigator of primary archives. Yet he never succumbed to the prevailing notion that facts and documents would tell their own story in the absence of a human historian’s empathy and imagination. He always bore in mind that the goal of historical research was a distinctive type of understanding.

Both his archival and his interpretive labors were dedicated to elucidating the development of Jacobinism, in which he (rightly) saw the central, defining feature of the French Revolution. François Furet wrote: “his approach to the problem of Jacobinism is so original that it has been either not understood or buried, or both.”[1]

Most of his work appeared only posthumously. His one finished book is a detailed study of the first phase of the Revolution as it played out in Brittany: it was published in 1925 by his collaborator Charles Charpentier. He had also prepared (with Charpentier) a complete collection of the decrees of the revolutionary government (August 23, 1793–July 27, 1794). His mother arranged for the publication of two volumes of theoretical writings: The Philosophical Societies and Modern Democracy (1921), a collection of lectures and articles; and The Revolution and Free Thought (1924), an unfinished work of interpretation. These met with reviews ranging from the hostile to the uncomprehending to the dismissive.

“Revisionist” historian François Furet led a revival of interest in Cochin during the late 1970s, making him the subject of a long and appreciative chapter in his important study Interpreting the French Revolution and putting him on a par with Tocqueville. Cochin’s two volumes of theoretical writings were reprinted shortly thereafter by Copernic, a French publisher associated with GRECE and the “nouvelle droit.”

The book under review consists of selections in English from these volumes. The editor and translator may be said to have succeeded in their announced aim: “to present his unfinished writings in a clear and coherent form.”

Between the death of the pioneering antirevolutionary historian Hippolyte Taine in 1893 and the rise of “revisionism” in the 1960s, study of the French Revolution was dominated by a series of Jacobin sympathizers: Aulard, Mathiez, Lefevre, Soboul. During the years Cochin was producing his work, much public attention was directed to polemical exchanges between Aulard, a devotee of Danton, and his former student Mathiez, who had become a disciple of Robespierre. Both men remained largely oblivious to the vast ocean of assumptions they shared.

Cochin published a critique of Aulard and his methods in 1909; an abridged version of this piece is included in the volume under review. Aulard’s principal theme was that the revolutionary government had been driven to act as it did by circumstance:

This argument [writes Cochin] tends to prove that the ideas and sentiments of the men of ’93 had nothing abnormal in themselves, and if their deeds shock us it is because we forget their perils, the circumstances; [and that] any man with common sense and a heart would have acted as they did in their place. Aulard allows this apology to include even the very last acts of the Terror. Thus we see that the Prussian invasion caused the massacre of the priests of the Abbey, the victories of la Rochejacquelein [in the Vendée uprising] caused the Girondins to be guillotined, [etc.]. In short, to read Aulard, the Revolutionary government appears a mere makeshift rudder in a storm, “a wartime expedient.” (p. 49)

Aulard had been strongly influenced by positivism, and believed that the most accurate historiography would result from staying as close as possible to documents of the period; he is said to have conducted more extensive archival research than any previous historian of the Revolution. But Cochin questioned whether such a return to the sources would necessarily produce truer history:

Mr. Aulard’s sources—minutes of meetings, official reports, newspapers, patriotic pamphlets—are written by patriots [i.e., revolutionaries], and mostly for the public. He was to find the argument of defense highlighted throughout these documents. In his hands he had a ready-made history of the Revolution, presenting—beside each of the acts of “the people,” from the September massacres to the law of Prairial—a ready-made explanation. And it is this history he has written. (p. 65)

aaaaacochinmeccannicca.gifIn fact, says Cochin, justification in terms of “public safety” or “self- defense” is an intrinsic characteristic of democratic governance, and quite independent of circumstance:

When the acts of a popular power attain a certain degree of arbitrariness and become oppressive, they are always presented as acts of self-defense and public safety. Public safety is the necessary fiction in democracy, as divine right is under an authoritarian regime. [The argument for defense] appeared with democracy itself. As early as July 28, 1789 [i.e., two weeks after the storming of the Bastille] one of the leaders of the party of freedom proposed to establish a search committee, later called “general safety,” that would be able to violate the privacy of letters and lock people up without hearing their defense. (pp. 62–63)

(Americans of the “War on Terror” era, take note.)

But in fact, says Cochin, the appeal to defense is nearly everywhere a post facto rationalization rather than a real motive:

Why were the priests persecuted at Auch? Because they were plotting, claims the “public voice.” Why were they not persecuted in Chartes? Because they behaved well there.

How often can we not turn this argument around?

Why did the people in Auch (the Jacobins, who controlled publicity) say the priests were plotting? Because the people (the Jacobins) were persecuting them. Why did no one say so in Chartes? Because they were left alone there.

In 1794 put a true Jacobin in Caen, and a moderate in Arras, and you could be sure by the next day that the aristocracy of Caen, peaceable up till then, would have “raised their haughty heads,” and in Arras they would go home. (p. 67)

In other words, Aulard’s “objective” method of staying close to contemporary documents does not scrape off a superfluous layer of interpretation and put us directly in touch with raw fact—it merely takes the self-understanding of the revolutionaries at face value, surely the most naïve style of interpretation imaginable. Cochin concludes his critique of Aulard with a backhanded compliment, calling him “a master of Jacobin orthodoxy. With him we are sure we have the ‘patriotic’ version. And for this reason his work will no doubt remain useful and consulted” (p. 74). Cochin could not have foreseen that the reading public would be subjected to another half century of the same thing, fitted out with ever more “original documentary research” and flavored with ever increasing doses of Marxism.

But rather than attending further to these methodological squabbles, let us consider how Cochin can help us understand the French Revolution and the “progressive” politics it continues to inspire.

It has always been easy for critics to rehearse the Revolution’s atrocities: the prison massacres, the suppression of the Vendée, the Law of Suspects, noyades and guillotines. The greatest atrocities of the 1790s from a strictly humanitarian point of view, however, occurred in Poland, and some of these were actually counter-revolutionary reprisals. The perennial fascination of the French Revolution lies not so much in the extent of its cruelties and injustices, which the Caligulas and Genghis Khans of history may occasionally have equaled, but in the sense that revolutionary tyranny was something different in kind, something uncanny and unprecedented. Tocqueville wrote of

something special about the sickness of the French Revolution which I sense without being able to describe. My spirit flags from the effort to gain a clear picture of this object and to find the means of describing it fairly. Independently of everything that is comprehensible in the French Revolution there is something that remains inexplicable.

Part of the weird quality of the Revolution was that it claimed, unlike Genghis and his ilk, to be massacring in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity. But a deeper mystery which has fascinated even its enemies is the contrast between its vast size and force and the negligible ability of its apparent “leaders” to unleash or control it: the men do not measure up to the events. For Joseph de Maistre the explanation could only be the direct working of Divine Providence; none but the Almighty could have brought about so great a cataclysm by means of such contemptible characters. For Augustin Barruel it was proof of a vast, hidden conspiracy (his ideas have a good claim to constitute the world’s original “conspiracy theory”). Taine invoked a “Jacobin psychology” compounded of abstraction, fanaticism, and opportunism.

Cochin found all these notions of his antirevolutionary predecessors unsatisfying. Though Catholic by religion and family background, he quite properly never appeals to Divine Providence in his scholarly work to explain events (p. 71). He also saw that the revolutionaries were too fanatical and disciplined to be mere conspirators bent on plunder (pp. 56–58; 121–122; 154). Nor is an appeal to the psychology of the individual Jacobin useful as an explanation of the Revolution: this psychology is itself precisely what the historian must try to explain (pp. 60–61).

Cochin viewed Jacobinism not primarily as an ideology but as a form of society with its own inherent rules and constraints independent of the desires and intentions of its members. This central intuition—the importance of attending to the social formation in which revolutionary ideology and practice were elaborated as much as to ideology, events, or leaders themselves—distinguishes his work from all previous writing on the Revolution and was the guiding principle of his archival research. He even saw himself as a sociologist, and had an interest in Durkheim unusual for someone of his Catholic traditionalist background.

The term he employs for the type of association he is interested in is société de pensée, literally “thought-society,” but commonly translated “philosophical society.” He defines it as “an association founded without any other object than to elicit through discussion, to set by vote, to spread by correspondence—in a word, merely to express—the common opinion of its members. It is the organ of [public] opinion reduced to its function as an organ” (p. 139).

It is no trivial circumstance when such societies proliferate through the length and breadth of a large kingdom. Speaking generally, men are either born into associations (e.g., families, villages, nations) or form them in order to accomplish practical ends (e.g., trade unions, schools, armies). Why were associations of mere opinion thriving so luxuriously in France on the eve of the Revolution? Cochin does not really attempt to explain the origin of the phenomenon he analyzes, but a brief historical review may at least clarify for my readers the setting in which these unusual societies emerged.

About the middle of the seventeenth century, during the minority of Louis XIV, the French nobility staged a clumsy and disorganized revolt in an attempt to reverse the long decline of their political fortunes. At one point, the ten year old King had to flee for his life. When he came of age, Louis put a high priority upon ensuring that such a thing could never happen again. The means he chose was to buy the nobility off. They were relieved of the obligations traditionally connected with their ancestral estates and encouraged to reside in Versailles under his watchful eye; yet they retained full exemption from the ruinous taxation that he inflicted upon the rest of the kingdom. This succeeded in heading off further revolt, but also established a permanent, sizeable class of persons with a great deal of wealth, no social function, and nothing much to do with themselves.

The salon became the central institution of French life. Men and women of leisure met for gossip, dalliance, witty badinage, personal (not political) intrigue, and discussion of the latest books and plays and the events of the day. Refinement of taste and the social graces reached an unusual pitch. It was this cultivated leisure class which provided both setting and audience for the literary works of the grand siècle.

The common social currency of the age was talk: outside Jewish yeshivas, the world had probably never beheld a society with a higher ratio of talk to action. A small deed, such as Montgolfier’s ascent in a hot air balloon, could provide matter for three years of self-contented chatter in the salons.

Versailles was the epicenter of this world; Paris imitated Versailles; larger provincial cities imitated Paris. Eventually there was no town left in the realm without persons ambitious of imitating the manners of the Court and devoted to cultivating and discussing whatever had passed out of fashion in the capital two years earlier. Families of the rising middle class, as soon as they had means to enjoy a bit of leisure, aspired to become a part of salon society.

Toward the middle of the eighteenth century a shift in both subject matter and tone came over this world of elegant discourse. The traditional saloniste gave way to the philosophe, an armchair statesman who, despite his lack of real responsibilities, focused on public affairs and took himself and his talk with extreme seriousness. In Cochin’s words: “mockery replaced gaiety, and politics pleasure; the game became a career, the festivity a ceremony, the clique the Republic of Letters” (p. 38). Excluding men of leisure from participation in public life, as Louis XIV and his successors had done, failed to extinguish ambition from their hearts. Perhaps in part by way of compensation, the philosophes gradually

created an ideal republic alongside and in the image of the real one, with its own constitution, its magistrates, its common people, its honors and its battles. There they studied the same problems—political, economic, etc.—and there they discussed agriculture, art, ethics, law, etc. There they debated the issues of the day and judged the officeholders. In short, this little State was the exact image of the larger one with only one difference—it was not real. Its citizens had neither direct interest nor responsible involvement in the affairs they discussed. Their decrees were only wishes, their battles conversations, their studies games. It was the city of thought. That was its essential characteristic, the one both initiates and outsiders forgot first, because it went without saying. (pp. 123–24)

Part of the point of a philosophical society was this very seclusion from reality. Men from various walks of life—clergymen, officers, bankers—could forget their daily concerns and normal social identities to converse as equals in an imaginary world of “free thought”: free, that is, from attachments, obligations, responsibilities, and any possibility of failure.

In the years leading up to the Revolution, countless such organizations vied for followers and influence: Amis Réunis, Philalèthes, Chevaliers Bienfaisants, Amis de la Verité, several species of Freemasons, academies, literary and patriotic societies, schools, cultural associations and even agricultural societies—all barely dissimulating the same utopian political spirit (“philosophy”) behind official pretenses of knowledge, charity, or pleasure. They “were all more or less connected to one another and associated with those in Paris. Constant debates, elections, delegations, correspondence, and intrigue took place in their midst, and a veritable public life developed through them” (p. 124).

Because of the speculative character of the whole enterprise, the philosophes’ ideas could not be verified through action. Consequently, the societies developed criteria of their own, independent of the standards of validity that applied in the world outside:

Whereas in the real world the arbiter of any notion is practical testing and its goal what it actually achieves, in this world the arbiter is the opinion of others and its aim their approval. That is real which others see, that true which they say, that good of which they approve. Thus the natural order is reversed: opinion here is the cause and not, as in real life, the effect. (p. 39)

Many matters of deepest concern to ordinary men naturally got left out of discussion: “You know how difficult it is in mere conversation to mention faith or feeling,” remarks Cochin (p. 40; cf. p. 145). The long chains of reasoning at once complex and systematic which mark genuine philosophy—and are produced by the stubborn and usually solitary labors of exceptional men—also have no chance of success in a society of philosophes (p. 143). Instead, a premium gets placed on what can be easily expressed and communicated, which produces a lowest-common-denominator effect (p. 141).

aaaacochin socpense.jpg

The philosophes made a virtue of viewing the world surrounding them objectively and disinterestedly. Cochin finds an important clue to this mentality in a stock character of eighteenth-century literature: the “ingenuous man.” Montesquieu invented him as a vehicle for satire in the Persian Letters: an emissary from the King of Persia sending witty letters home describing the queer customs of Frenchmen. The idea caught on and eventually became a new ideal for every enlightened mind to aspire to. Cochin calls it “philosophical savagery”:

Imagine an eighteenth-century Frenchman who possesses all the material attainments of the civilization of his time—cultivation, education, knowledge, and taste—but without any of the real well-springs, the instincts and beliefs that have created and breathed life into all this, that have given their reason for these customs and their use for these resources. Drop him into this world of which he possesses everything except the essential, the spirit, and he will see and know everything but understand nothing. Everything shocks him. Everything appears illogical and ridiculous to him. It is even by this incomprehension that intelligence is measured among savages. (p. 43; cf. p. 148)

In other words, the eighteenth-century philosophes were the original “deracinated intellectuals.” They rejected as “superstitions” and “prejudices” the core beliefs and practices of the surrounding society, the end result of a long process of refining and testing by men through countless generations of practical endeavor. In effect, they created in France what a contributor to this journal has termed a “culture of critique”—an intellectual milieu marked by hostility to the life of the nation in which its participants were living. (It would be difficult, however, to argue a significant sociobiological basis in the French version.)

This gradual withdrawal from the real world is what historians refer to as the development of the Enlightenment. Cochin calls it an “automatic purging” or “fermentation.” It is not a rational progression like the stages in an argument, however much the philosophes may have spoken of their devotion to “Reason”; it is a mechanical process which consists of “eliminating the real world in the mind instead of reducing the unintelligible in the object” (p. 42). Each stage produces a more rarified doctrine and human type, just as each elevation on a mountain slope produces its own kind of vegetation. The end result is the world’s original “herd of independent minds,” a phenomenon which would have horrified even men such as Montesquieu and Voltaire who had characterized the first societies.

It is interesting to note that, like our own multiculturalists, many of the philosophes attempted to compensate for their estrangement from the living traditions of French civilization by a fascination with foreign laws and customs. Cochin aptly compares civilization to a living plant which slowly grows “in the bedrock of experience under the rays of faith,” and likens this sort of philosophe to a child mindlessly plucking the blossoms from every plant he comes across in order to decorate his own sandbox (pp. 43–44).

Accompanying the natural “fermentation” of enlightened doctrine, a process of selection also occurs in the membership of the societies. Certain men are simply more suited to the sort of empty talking that goes on there:

young men because of their age; men of law, letters or discourse because of their profession; the skeptics because of their convictions; the vain because of their temperament; the superficial because of their [poor] education. These people take to it and profit by it, for it leads to a career that the world here below does not offer them, a world in which their deficiencies become strengths. On the other hand, true, sincere minds with a penchant for the concrete, for efficacy rather than opinion, find themselves disoriented and gradually drift away. (pp. 40–41)

In a word, the glib drive out the wise.

The societies gradually acquired an openly partisan character: whoever agreed with their views, however stupid, was considered “enlightened.” By 1776, d’Alembert acknowledged this frankly, writing to Frederick the Great: “We are doing what we can to fill the vacant positions in the Académie française in the manner of the banquet of the master of the household in the Gospel: with the crippled and lame men of literature” (p. 35). Mediocrities such as Mably, Helvétius, d’Holbach, Condorcet, and Raynal, whose works Cochin calls “deserts of insipid prose” were accounted ornaments of their age. The philosophical societies functioned like hired clappers making a success of a bad play (p. 46).

On the other hand, all who did not belong to the “philosophical” party were subjected to a “dry terror”:

Prior to the bloody Terror of ’93, in the Republic of Letters there was, from 1765 to 1780, a dry terror of which the Encyclopedia was the Committee of Public Safety and d’Alembert was the Robespierre. It mowed down reputations as the other chopped off heads: its guillotine was defamation, “infamy” as it was then called: The term, originating with Voltaire [écrasez l’infâme!], was used in the provincial societies with legal precision. “To brand with infamy” was a well-defined operation consisting of investigation, discussion, judgment, and finally execution, which meant the public sentence of “contempt.” (p. 36; cf. p. 123)

Having said something of the thought and behavioral tendencies of the philosophes, let us turn to the manner in which their societies were constituted—which, as we have noted, Cochin considered the essential point. We shall find that they possess in effect two constitutions. One is the original and ostensible arrangement, which our author characterizes as “the democratic principle itself, in its principle and purity” (p. 137). But another pattern of governance gradually takes shape within them, hidden from most of the members themselves. This second, unacknowledged constitution is what allows the societies to operate effectively, even as it contradicts the original “democratic” ideal.

The ostensible form of the philosophical society is direct democracy. All members are free and equal; no one is forced to yield to anyone else; no one speaks on behalf of anyone else; everyone’s will is accomplished. Rousseau developed the principles of such a society in his Social Contract. He was less concerned with the glaringly obvious practical difficulties of such an arrangement than with the question of legitimacy. He did not ask: “How could perfect democracy function and endure in the real word?” but rather: “What must a society whose aim is the common good do to be founded lawfully?”

Accordingly, Rousseau spoke dismissively of the representative institutions of Britain, so admired by Montesquieu and Voltaire. The British, he said, are free only when casting their ballots; during the entire time between elections there are as enslaved as the subjects of the Great Turk. Sovereignty by its very nature cannot be delegated, he declared; the People, to whom it rightfully belongs, must exercise it both directly and continuously. From this notion of a free and egalitarian society acting in concert emerges a new conception of law not as a fixed principle but as the general will of the members at a given moment.

Rousseau explicitly states that the general will does not mean the will of the majority as determined by vote; voting he speaks of slightingly as an “empirical means.” The general will must be unanimous. If the merely “empirical” wills of men are in conflict, then the general will—their “true” will—must lie hidden somewhere. Where is it to be found? Who will determine what it is, and how?

At this critical point in the argument, where explicitness and clarity are most indispensable, Rousseau turns coy and vague: the general will is “in conformity with principles”; it “only exists virtually in the conscience or imagination of ‘free men,’ ‘patriots.’” Cochin calls this “the idea of a legitimate people—very similar to that of a legitimate prince. For the regime’s doctrinaires, the people is an ideal being” (p. 158).

There is a strand of thought about the French Revolution that might be called the “Ideas-Have-Consequences School.” It casts Rousseau in the role of a mastermind who elaborated all the ideas that less important men such as Robespierre merely carried out. Such is not Cochin’s position. In his view, the analogies between the speculations of the Social Contract and Revolutionary practice arise not from one having caused or inspired the other, but from both being based upon the philosophical societies.

Rousseau’s model, in other words, was neither Rome nor Sparta nor Geneva nor any phantom of his own “idyllic imagination”—he was describing, in a somewhat idealized form, the philosophical societies of his day. He treated these recent and unusual social formations as the archetype of all legitimate human association (cf. pp. 127, 155). As such a description—but not as a blueprint for the Terror—the Social Contract may be profitably read by students of the Revolution.

Indeed, if we look closely at the nature and purpose of a philosophical society, some of Rousseau’s most extravagant assertions become intelligible and even plausible. Consider unanimity, for example. The society is, let us recall, “an association founded to elicit through discussion [and] set by vote the common opinion of its members.” In other words, rather than coming together because they agree upon anything, the philosophes come together precisely in order to reach agreement, to resolve upon some common opinion. The society values union itself more highly than any objective principle of union. Hence, they might reasonably think of themselves as an organization free of disagreement.

Due to its unreal character, furthermore, a philosophical society is not torn by conflicts of interest. It demands no sacrifice—nor even effort—from its members. So they can all afford to be entirely “public spirited.” Corruption—the misuse of a public trust for private ends—is a constant danger in any real polity. But since the society’s speculations are not of this world, each philosophe is an “Incorruptible”:

One takes no personal interest in theory. So long as there is an ideal to define rather than a task to accomplish, personal interest, selfishness, is out of the question. [This accounts for] the democrats’ surprising faith in the virtue of mankind. Any philosophical society is a society of virtuous, generous people subordinating political motives to the general good. We have turned our back on the real world. But ignoring the world does not mean conquering it. (p. 155)

(This pattern of thinking explains why leftists even today are wont to contrast their own “idealism” with the “selfish” activities of businessmen guided by the profit motive.)

We have already mentioned that the more glib or assiduous attendees of a philosophical society naturally begin exercising an informal ascendancy over other members: in the course of time, this evolves into a standing but unacknowledged system of oligarchic governance:

Out of one hundred registered members, fewer than five are active, and these are the masters of the society. [This group] is composed of the most enthusiastic and least scrupulous members. They are the ones who choose the new members, appoint the board of directors, make the motions, guide the voting. Every time the society meets, these people have met in the morning, contacted their friends, established their plan, given their orders, stirred up the unenthusiastic, brought pressure to bear upon the reticent. They have subdued the board, removed the troublemakers, set the agenda and the date. Of course, discussion is free, but the risk in this freedom minimal and the “sovereign’s” opposition little to be feared. The “general will” is free—like a locomotive on its tracks. (pp. 172–73)

 Cochin draws here upon James Bryce’s American Commonwealth and Moisey Ostrogorski’s Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties. Bryce and Ostrogorski studied the workings of Anglo-American political machines such as New York’s Tammany Hall and Joseph Chamberlain’s Birmingham Caucus. Cochin considered such organizations (plausibly, from what I can tell) to be authentic descendants of the French philosophical and revolutionary societies. He thought it possible, with due circumspection, to apply insights gained from studying these later political machines to previously misunderstand aspects of the Revolution.

One book with which Cochin seems unfortunately not to have been familiar is Robert Michels’ Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy, published in French translation only in 1914. But he anticipated rather fully Michels’ “iron law of oligarchy,” writing, for example, that “every egalitarian society fatally finds itself, after a certain amount of time, in the hands of a few men; this is just the way things are” (p. 174). Cochin was working independently toward conclusions notably similar to those of Michels and Gaetano Mosca, the pioneering Italian political sociologists whom James Burnham called “the Machiavellians.” The significance of his work extends far beyond that of its immediate subject, the French Revolution.

The essential operation of a democratic political machine consists of just two steps, continually repeated: the preliminary decision and the establishment of conformity.

First, the ringleaders at the center decide upon some measure. They prompt the next innermost circles, whose members pass the message along until it reaches the machine’s operatives in the outermost local societies made up of poorly informed people. All this takes place unofficially and in secrecy (p. 179).

Then the local operatives ingenuously “make a motion” in their societies, which is really the ringleaders’ proposal without a word changed. The motion passes—principally through the passivity (Cochin writes “inertia”) of the average member. The local society’s resolution, which is now binding upon all its members, is with great fanfare transmitted back towards the center.

The central society is deluged with identical “resolutions” from dozens of local societies simultaneously. It hastens to endorse and ratify these as “the will of the nation.” The original measure now becomes binding upon everyone, though the majority of members have no idea what has taken place. Although really a kind of political ventriloquism by the ringleaders, the public opinion thus orchestrated “reveals a continuity, cohesion and vigor that stuns the enemies of Jacobinism” (p. 180).

In his study of the beginnings of the Revolution in Brittany, Cochin found sudden reversals of popular opinion which the likes of Monsieur Aulard would have taken at face value, but which become intelligible once viewed in the light of the democratic mechanism:

On All Saints’ Day, 1789, a pamphlet naïvely declared that not a single inhabitant imagined doing away with the privileged orders and obtaining individual suffrage, but by Christmas hundreds of the common people’s petitions were clamoring for individual suffrage or death. What was the origin of this sudden discovery that people had been living in shame and slavery for the past thousand years? Why was there this imperious, immediate need for a reform which could not wait a minute longer?

Such abrupt reversals are sufficient in themselves to detect the operation of a machine. (p. 179)

The basic democratic two-step is supplemented with a bevy of techniques for confusing the mass of voters, discouraging them from organizing opposition, and increasing their passivity and pliability: these techniques include constant voting about everything—trivial as well as important; voting late at night, by surprise, or in multiple polling places; extending the suffrage to everyone: foreigners, women, criminals; and voting by acclamation to submerge independent voices (pp. 182–83). If all else fails, troublemakers can be purged from the society by ballot:

This regime is partial to people with all sorts of defects, failures, malcontents, the dregs of humanity, anyone who cares for nothing and finds his place nowhere. There must not be religious people among the voters, for faith makes one conscious and independent. [The ideal citizen lacks] any feeling that might oppose the machine’s suggestions; hence also the preference for foreigners, the haste in naturalizing them. (pp. 186–87)

(I bite my lip not to get lost in the contemporary applications.)

The extraordinary point of Cochin’s account is that none of these basic techniques were pioneered by the revolutionaries themselves; they had all been developed in the philosophical societies before the Revolution began. The Freemasons, for example, had a term for their style of internal governance: the “Royal Art.” “Study the social crisis from which the Grand Lodge [of Paris Freemasons] was born between 1773 and 1780,” says Cochin, “and you will find the whole mechanism of a Revolutionary purge” (p. 61).

Secrecy is essential to the functioning of this system; the ordinary members remain “free,” meaning they do not consciously obey any authority, but order and unity are maintained by a combination of secret manipulation and passivity. Cochin relates “with what energy the Grand Lodge refused to register its Bulletin with the National Library” (p. 176). And, of course, the Freemasons and similar organizations made great ado over refusing to divulge the precise nature of their activities to outsiders, with initiates binding themselves by terrifying oaths to guard the sacred trust committed to them. Much of these societies’ appeal lay precisely in the natural pleasure men feel at being “in” on a secret of any sort.

In order to clarify Cochin’s ideas, it might be useful to contrast them at this point with those of the Abbé Barruel, especially as they have been confounded by superficial or dishonest leftist commentators (“No need to read that reactionary Cochin! He only rehashes Barruel’s conspiracy thesis”).

Father Barruel was a French Jesuit living in exile in London when he published his Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism in 1797. He inferred from the notorious secretiveness of the Freemasons and similar groups that they must have been plotting for many years the horrors revealed to common sight after 1789—conspiring to abolish monarchy, religion, social hierarchy, and property in order to hold sway over the ruins of Christendom.

Cochin was undoubtedly thinking of Barruel and his followers when he laments that

thus far, in the lives of these societies, people have only sought the melodrama—rites, mystery, disguises, plots—which means they have strayed into a labyrinth of obscure anecdotes, to the detriment of the true history, which is very clear. Indeed the interest in the phenomenon in question is not in the Masonic bric-a-brac, but in the fact that in the bosom of the nation the Masons instituted a small state governed by its own rules. (p. 137)

For our author, let us recall, a société de pensée such as the Masonic order has inherent constraints independent of the desires or intentions of the members. Secrecy—of the ringleaders in relation to the common members, and of the membership to outsiders—is one of these necessary aspects of its functioning, not a way of concealing criminal intentions. In other words, the Masons were not consciously “plotting” the Terror of ’93 years in advance; the Terror was, however, an unintended but natural outcome of the attempt to apply a version of the Mason’s “Royal Art” to the government of an entire nation.

Moreover, writes Cochin, the peculiar fanaticism and force of the Revolution cannot be explained by a conspiracy theory. Authors like Barruel would reduce the Revolution to “a vast looting operation”:

But how can this enthusiasm, this profusion of noble words, these bursts of generosity or fits of rage be only lies and play-acting? Could the Revolutionary party be reduced to an enormous plot in which each person would only be thinking [and] acting for himself while accepting an iron discipline? Personal interest has neither such perseverance nor such abnegation. Throughout history there have been schemers and egoists, but there have only been revolutionaries for the past one hundred fifty years. (pp. 121–22)

And finally, let us note, Cochin included academic and literary Societies, cultural associations, and schools as sociétés de pensée. Many of these organizations did not even make the outward fuss over secrecy and initiation that the Masons did.


By his own admission, Cochin has nothing to tell us about the causes of the Revolution’s outbreak:

I am not saying that in the movement of 1789 there were not real causes—[e.g.,] a bad fiscal regime that exacted very little, but in the most irritating and unfair manner—I am just saying these real causes are not my subject. Moreover, though they may have contributed to the Revolution of 1789, they did not contribute to the Revolutions of August 10 [1792, abolition of the monarchy] or May 31 [1793, purge of the Girondins]. (p. 125)

With these words, he turns his back upon the entire Marxist “class struggle” approach to understanding the Revolution, which was the fundamental presupposition of much twentieth-century research.

The true beginning of the Revolution on Cochin’s account was the announcement in August 1788 that the Estates General would be convoked for May 1789, for this was the occasion when the men of the societies first sprang into action to direct a real political undertaking. With his collaborator in archival work, Charpentier, he conducted extensive research into this early stage of the Revolution in Brittany and Burgundy, trying to explain not why it took place but how it developed. This material is omitted from the present volume of translations; I shall cite instead from Furet’s summary and discussion in Interpreting the French Revolution:

In Burgundy in the autumn of 1788, political activity was exclusively engineered by a small group of men in Dijon who drafted a “patriotic” platform calling for the doubling of the Third Estate, voting by head, and the exclusion of ennobled commoners and seigneurial dues collectors from the assemblies of the Third Estate. Their next step was the systematic takeover of the town’s corporate bodies. First came the avocats’ corporation where the group’s cronies were most numerous; then the example of that group was used to win over other wavering or apathetic groups: the lower echelons of the magistrature, the physicians, the trade guilds. Finally the town hall capitulated, thanks to one of the aldermen and pressure from a group of “zealous citizens.” In the end, the platform appeared as the freely expressed will of the Third Estate of Dijon. Promoted by the usurped authority of the Dijon town council, it then reached the other towns of the province.[2]

. . . where the same comedy was acted out, only with less trouble since the platform now apparently enjoyed the endorsement of the provincial capital. Cochin calls this the “snowballing method” (p. 84).

An opposition did form in early December: a group of nineteen noblemen which grew to fifty. But the remarkable fact is that the opponents of the egalitarian platform made no use of the traditional institutions or assemblies of the nobility; these were simply forgotten or viewed as irrelevant. Instead, the nobles patterned their procedures on those of the rival group: they thought and acted as the “right wing” of the revolutionary party itself. Both groups submitted in advance to arbitration by democratic legitimacy. The episode, therefore, marked not a parting of the ways between the supporters of the old regime and adherents of the new one, but the first of the revolutionary purges. Playing by its enemies’ rules, the opposition was defeated by mid-December.[3]

In Brittany an analogous split occurred in September and October rather than December. The traditional corporate bodies and the philosophical societies involved had different names. The final purge of the nobles was not carried out until January 1789. The storyline, however, was essentially the same. [4]  La Révolution n’a pas de patrie (p. 131).

The regulations for elections to the Estates General were finally announced on January 24, 1789. As we shall see, they provided the perfect field of action for the societies’ machinations.

The Estates General of France originated in the fourteenth century, and were summoned by the King rather than elected. The first two estates consisted of the most important ecclesiastical and lay lords of the realm, respectively. The third estate consisted not of the “commoners,” as usually thought, but of the citizens of certain privileged towns which enjoyed a direct relation with the King through a royal charter (i.e., they were not under the authority of any feudal lord). The selection of notables from this estate may have involved election, although based upon a very restricted franchise.

In the Estates General of those days, the King was addressing

the nation with its established order and framework, with its various hierarchies, its natural subdivisions, its current leaders, whatever the nature or origin of their authority. The king acknowledged in the nation an active, positive role that our democracies would not think of granting to the electoral masses. This nation was capable of initiative. Representatives with a general mandate—professional politicians serving as necessary intermediaries between the King and the nation—were unheard of. (pp. 97–98)

Cochin opposes to this older “French conception” the “English and parliamentary conception of a people of electors”:

A people made up of electors is no longer capable of initiative; at most, it is capable of assent. It can choose between two or three platforms, two or three candidates, but it can no longer draft proposals or appoint men. Professional politicians must present the people with proposals and men. This is the role of parties, indispensable in such a regime. (p. 98)

In 1789, the deputies were elected to the States General on a nearly universal franchise, but—in accordance with the older French tradition—parties and formal candidacies were forbidden: “a candidate would have been called a schemer, and a party a cabal” (p. 99).

The result was that the “electors were placed not in a situation of freedom, but in a void”:

The effect was marvelous: imagine several hundred peasants, unknown to each other, some having traveled twenty or thirty leagues, confined in the nave of a church, and requested to draft a paper on the reform of the realm within the week, and to appoint twenty or thirty deputies. There were ludicrous incidents: at Nantes, for example, where the peasants demanded the names of the assembly’s members be printed. Most could not have cited ten of them, and they had to appoint twenty-five deputies.

Now, what actually happened? Everywhere the job was accomplished with ease. The lists of grievances were drafted and the deputies appointed as if by enchantment. This was because alongside the real people who could not respond there was another people who spoke and appointed for them. (p. 100)

These were, of course, the men of the societies. They exploited the natural confusion and ignorance of the electorate to the hilt to obtain delegates according to their wishes. “From the start, the societies ran the electoral assemblies, scheming and meddling on the pretext of excluding traitors that they were the only ones to designate” (p. 153).

“Excluding”—that is the key word:

The society was not in a position to have its men nominated directly [parties being forbidden], so it had only one choice: have all the other candidates excluded. The people, it was said, had born enemies that they must not take as their defenders. These were the men who lost by the people’s enfranchisement, i.e., the privileged men first, but also the ones who worked for them: officers of justice, tax collectors, officials of any sort. (p. 104)

This raised an outcry, for it would have eliminated nearly everyone competent to represent the Third Estate. In fact, the strict application of the principle would have excluded most members of the societies themselves. But pretexts were found for excepting them from the exclusion: the member’s “patriotism” and “virtue” was vouched for by the societies, which “could afford to do this without being accused of partiality, for no one on the outside would have the desire, or even the means, to protest” (p. 104)—the effect of mass inertia, once again.

Having established the “social mechanism” of the revolution, Cochin did not do any detailed research on the events of the following four years (May 1789–June 1793), full of interest as these are for the narrative historian. Purge succeeded purge: Monarchiens, Feuillants, Girondins. Yet none of the actors seemed to grasp what was going on:

Was there a single revolutionary team that did not attempt to halt this force, after using it against the preceding team, and that did not at that very moment find itself “purged” automatically? It was always the same naïve amazement when the tidal wave reached them: “But it’s with me that the good Revolution stops! The people, that’s me! Freedom here, anarchy beyond!” (p. 57)

During this period, a series of elective assemblies crowned the official representative government of France: first the Constituent Assembly, then the Legislative Assembly, and finally the Convention. Hovering about them and partly overlapping with their membership were various private and exclusive clubs, a continuation of the pre-Revolutionary philosophical societies. Through a gradual process of gaining the affiliation of provincial societies, killing off rivals in the capital, and purging itself and its daughters, one of these revolutionary clubs acquired by June 1793 an unrivalled dominance. Modestly formed in 1789 as the Breton Circle, later renamed the Friends of the Constitution, it finally established its headquarters in a disused Jacobin Convent and became known as the Jacobin Club:

Opposite the Convention, the representative regime of popular sovereignty, thus arises the amorphous regime of the sovereign people, acting and governing on its own. “The sovereign is directly in the popular societies,” say the Jacobins. This is where the sovereign people reside, speak, and act. The people in the street will only be solicited for the hard jobs and the executions.

[The popular societies] functioned continuously, ceaselessly watching and correcting the legal authorities. Later they added surveillance committees to each assembly. The Jacobins thoroughly lectured, browbeat, and purged the Convention in the name of the sovereign people, until it finally adjourned the Convention’s power. (p. 153)

Incredibly, to the very end of the Terror, the Jacobins had no legal standing; they remained officially a private club. “The Jacobin Society at the height of its power in the spring of 1794, when it was directing the Convention and governing France, had only one fear: that it would be ‘incorporated’—that it would be ‘acknowledged’ to have authority” (p. 176). There is nothing the strict democrat fears more than the responsibility associated with public authority.

The Jacobins were proud that they did not represent anyone. Their principle was direct democracy, and their operative assumption was that they were “the people.” “I am not the people’s defender,” said Robespierre; “I am a member of the people; I have never been anything else” (p. 57; cf. p. 154). He expressed bafflement when he found himself, like any powerful man, besieged by petitioners.

Of course, such “direct democracy” involves a social fiction obvious to outsiders. To the adherent “the word people means the ‘hard core’ minority, freedom means the minority’s tyranny, equality its privileges, and truth its opinion,” explains our author; “it is even in this reversal of the meaning of words that the adherent’s initiation consists” (p. 138).

But by the summer of 1793 and for the following twelve months, the Jacobins had the power to make it stick. Indeed, theirs was the most stable government France had during the entire revolutionary decade. It amounted to a second Revolution, as momentous as that of 1789. The purge of the Girondins (May 31–June 2) cleared the way for it, but the key act which constituted the new regime, in Cochin’s view, was the levée en masse of August 23, 1793:

[This decree] made all French citizens, body and soul, subject to standing requisition. This was the essential act of which the Terror’s laws would merely be the development, and the revolutionary government the means. Serfs under the King in ’89, legally emancipated in ’91, the people become the masters in ’93. In governing themselves, they do away with the public freedoms that were merely guarantees for them to use against those who governed them. Hence the right to vote is suspended, since the people reign; the right to defend oneself, since the people judge; the freedom of the press, since the people write; and the freedom of expression, since the people speak. (p. 77)

An absurd series of unenforceable economic decrees began pouring out of Paris—price ceilings, requisitions, and so forth. But then, mirabile dictu, it turned out that the decrees needed no enforcement by the center:

Every violation of these laws not only benefits the guilty party but burdens the innocent one. When a price ceiling is poorly applied in one district and products are sold more expensively, provisions pour in from neighboring districts, where shortages increase accordingly. It is the same for general requisitions, censuses, distributions: fraud in one place increases the burden for another. The nature of things makes every citizen the natural enemy and overseer of his neighbor. All these laws have the same characteristic: binding the citizens materially to one another, the laws divide them morally.

Now public force to uphold the law becomes superfluous. This is because every district, panic-stricken by famine, organizes its own raids on its neighbors in order to enforce the laws on provisions; the government has nothing to do but adopt a laissez-faire attitude. By March 1794 the Committee of Public Safety even starts to have one district’s grain inventoried by another.

This peculiar power, pitting one village against another, one district against another, maintained through universal division the unity that the old order founded on the union of everyone: universal hatred has its equilibrium as love has its harmony. (pp. 230–32; cf. p. 91)

 The societies were, indeed, never more numerous, nor better attended, than during this period. People sought refuge in them as the only places they could be free from arbitrary arrest or requisitioning (p. 80; cf. p. 227). But the true believers were made uneasy rather than pleased by this development. On February 5, 1794, Robespierre gave his notorious speech on Virtue, declaring: “Virtue is in the minority on earth.” In effect, he was acknowledging that “the people” were really only a tiny fraction of the nation. During the months that ensued:

there was no talk in the Societies but of purges and exclusions. Then it was that the mother society, imitated as usual by most of her offspring, refused the affiliation of societies founded since May 31. Jacobin nobility became exclusive; Jacobin piety went from external mission to internal effort on itself. At that time it was agreed that a society of many members could not be a zealous society. The agents from Tournan sent to purge the club of Ozouer-la-Ferrière made no other reproach: the club members were too numerous for the club to be pure. (p. 56)

Couthon wrote from Lyon requesting “40 good, wise, honest republicans, a colony of patriots in this foreign land where patriots are in such an appalling minority.” Similar supplications came from Marseilles, Grenoble, Besançon; from Troy, where there were less than twenty patriots; and from Strasbourg, where there were said to be fewer than four—contending against 6,000 aristocrats!

The majority of men, remaining outside the charmed circle of revolutionary virtue, were:

“monsters,” “ferocious beasts seeking to devour the human race.” “Strike without mercy, citizen,” the president of the Jacobins tells a young soldier, “at anything that is related to the monarchy. Don’t lay down your gun until all our enemies are dead—this is humanitarian advice.” “It is less a question of punishing them than of annihilating them,” says Couthon. “None must be deported; [they] must be destroyed,” says Collot. General Turreau in the Vendée gave the order “to bayonet men, women, and children and burn and set fire to everything.” (p. 100)

Mass shootings and drownings continued for months, especially in places such as the Vendée which had previously revolted. Foreigners sometimes had to be used: “Carrier had Germans do the drowning. They were not disturbed by the moral bonds that would have stopped a fellow countryman” (p. 187).

Why did this revolutionary regime come to an end? Cochin does not tell us; he limits himself to the banal observation that “being unnatural, it could not last” (p. 230). His death in 1916 saved him from having to consider the counterexample of Soviet Russia. Taking the Jacobins consciously as a model, Lenin created a conspiratorial party which seized power and carried out deliberately the sorts of measures Cochin ascribes to the impersonal workings of the “social mechanism.” Collective responsibility, mutual surveillance and denunciation, the playing off of nationalities against one another—all were studiously imitated by the Bolsheviks. For the people of Russia, the Terror lasted at least thirty-five years, until the death of Stalin.

Cochin’s analysis raises difficult questions of moral judgment, which he does not try to evade. If revolutionary massacres were really the consequence of a “social mechanism,” can their perpetrators be judged by the standards which apply in ordinary criminal cases? Cochin seems to think not:

“I had orders,” Fouquier kept replying to each new accusation. “I was the ax,” said another; “does one punish an ax?” Poor, frightened devils, they quibbled, haggled, denounced their brothers; and when finally cornered and overwhelmed, they murmured “But I was not the only one! Why me?” That was the helpless cry of the unmasked Jacobin, and he was quite right, for a member of the societies was never the only one: over him hovered the collective force. With the new regime men vanish, and there opens in morality itself the era of unconscious forces and human mechanics. (p. 58)

Under the social regime, man’s moral capacities get “socialized” in the same way as his thought, action, and property. “Those who know the machine know there exist mitigating circumstances, unknown to ordinary life, and the popular curse that weighed on the last Jacobins’ old age may be as unfair as the enthusiasm that had acclaimed their elders,” he says (p. 210), and correctly points out that many of the former Terrorists became harmless civil servants under the Empire.

It will certainly be an unpalatable conclusion for many readers. I cannot help recalling in this connection the popular outrage which greeted Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem back in the 1960s, with its similar observations.

But if considering the social alienation of moral conscience permits the revolutionaries to appear less evil than some of the acts they performed, it also leaves them more contemptible. “We are far from narratives like Plutarch’s,” Cochin observes (p. 58); “Shakespeare would have found nothing to inspire him, despite the dramatic appearance of the situations” (p. 211).

Not one [of the Jacobins] had the courage to look [their judges] in the eye and say “Well, yes, I robbed, I tortured and I killed lawlessly, recklessly, mercilessly for an idea I consider right. I regret nothing; I take nothing back; I deny nothing. Do as you like with me.” Not one spoke thus—because not one possessed the positive side of fanaticism: faith. (p. 113)

Cochin’s interpretive labors deserve the attention of a wider audience than specialists in the history of the French Revolution. The possible application of his analysis to subsequent groups and events is great indeed, although the possibility of their misapplication is perhaps just as great. The most important case is surely Russia. Richard Pipes has noted, making explicit reference to Cochin, that Russian radicalism arose in a political and social situation similar in important respects to France of the ancien régime. On the other hand, the Russian case was no mere product of social “mechanics.” The Russian radicals consciously modeled themselves on their French predecessors. Pipes even shows how the Russian revolutionaries relied too heavily on the French example to teach them how a revolution is “supposed to” develop, blinding themselves to the situation around them. In any case, although Marxism officially considered the French Revolution a “bourgeois” prelude to the final “proletarian” revolution, Russian radicals did acknowledge that there was little in which the Jacobins had not anticipated them. Lenin considered Robespierre a Bolshevik avant la lettre.

The rise of the “Academic Left” is another phenomenon worth comparing to the “development of the enlightenment” in the French salons. The sheltered environment of our oversubsidized university system is a marvelous incubator for the same sort of utopian radicalism and cheap moral posturing.

Or consider the feminist “Consciousness Raising” sessions of the 1970’s. Women’s “personal constructs” (dissatisfaction with their husbands, feelings of being treated unfairly, etc.) were said to be “validated by the group,” i.e., came to be considered true when they met with agreement from other members, however outlandish they might sound to outsiders. “It is when a group’s ideas are strongly at variance with those in the wider society,” writes one enthusiast, “that group validation of constructs is likely to be most important.”[5] Cochin explained with reference to the sociétés de pensée exactly the sort of thing going on here.

Any serious attempt to extend and apply Cochin’s ideas will, however, have to face squarely one matter on which his own statements are confused or even contradictory.

Cochin sometimes speaks as if all the ideas of the Enlightenment follow from the mere form of the société de pensée, and hence should be found wherever they are found. He writes, for example, “Free thought is the same in Paris as in Peking, in 1750 as in 1914” (p. 127). Now, this is already questionable. It would be more plausible to say that the various competing doctrines of radicalism share a family resemblance, especially if one concentrates on their negative aspects such as the rejection of traditional “prejudices.”

But in other passages Cochin allows that sociétés de pensée are compatible with entirely different kinds of content. In one place (p. 62) he even speaks of “the royalist societies of 1815” as coming under his definition! Stendhal offers a memorable fictional portrayal of such a group in Le rouge et le noir, part II, chs. xxi–xxiii; Cochin himself refers to the Mémoires of Aimée de Coigny, and may have had the Waterside Conspiracy in mind. It would not be at all surprising if such groups imitated some of the practices of their enemies.

But what are we to say when Cochin cites the example of the Company of the Blessed Sacrament? This organization was active in France between the 1630s and 1660s, long before the “Age of Enlightenment.” It had collectivist tendencies, such as the practice of “fraternal correction,” which it justified in terms of Christian humility: the need to combat individual pride and amour-propre. It also exhibited a moderate degree of egalitarianism; within the Company, social rank was effaced, and one Prince of the Blood participated as an ordinary member. Secrecy was said to be the “soul of the Company.” One of its activities was the policing of behavior through a network of informants, low-cut evening dresses and the sale of meat during lent being among its special targets. Some fifty provincial branches accepted the direction of the Paris headquarters. The Company operated independently of the King, and opponents referred to it as the cabale des devots. Louis XIV naturally became suspicious of such an organization, and officially ordered it shut down in 1666.

Was this expression of counter-reformational Catholic piety a société de pensée? Were its members “God’s Jacobins,” or its campaign against immodest dress a “holy terror”? Cochin does not finally tell us. A clear typology of sociétés de pensée would seem to be necessary before his analysis of the philosophes could be extended with any confidence. But the more historical studies advance, the more difficult this task will likely become. Such is the nature of man, and of history.


[1] François Furet, Interpreting the French Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 173.

[2] Furet, 184.

[3] Furet, 185.

[4] Furet, 186–90.

[5] http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/pubs/01psa.html [3]

Source: TOQ, vol. 8, no. 2 (Summer 2008)


Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2012/06/from-salon-to-guillotine/

mardi, 17 avril 2012

Caspar von Schrenck-Notzing, RIP


Caspar von Schrenck-Notzing, RIP

Paul Gottfried (2009)

PAUL GOTTFRIED is the Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.

The death of Caspar von Schrenck- Notzing on January 25, 2009, brought an end to the career of one of the most insightful German political thinkers of his generation. Although perhaps not as well known as other figures associated with the postwar intellectual Right, Schrenck- Notzing displayed a critical honesty, combined with an elegant prose style, which made him stand out among his contemporaries. A descendant of Bavarian Protestant nobility who had been knights of the Holy Roman Empire, Freiherr von Schrenck- Notzing was preceded by an illustrious grandfather, Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, who had been a close friend of the author Thomas Mann. While that grandfather became famous as an exponent of parapsychology, and the other grandfather, Ludwig Ganghofer, as a novelist, Caspar turned his inherited flair for language toward political analysis.

Perhaps he will best be remembered as the editor of the journal Criticón, which he founded in 1970, and which was destined to become the most widely read and respected theoretical organ of the German Right in the 1970s and 1980s. In the pages of Criticón an entire generation of non-leftist German intellectuals found an outlet for their ideas; and such academic figures as Robert Spämann, Günter Rohrmöser, and Odo Marquard became public voices beyond the closed world of philosophical theory. In his signature editorials, Criticón's editor raked over the coals the center-conservative coalition of the Christian Democratic (CDU) and the Christian Social (CSU) parties, which for long periods formed the postwar governments of West Germany.

Despite the CDU/CSU promise of a "turn toward the traditional Right," the hoped-for "Wende nach rechts" never seemed to occur, and Helmut Kohl's ascent to power in the 1980s convinced Schrenck- Notzing that not much good could come from the party governments of the Federal Republic for those with his own political leanings. In 1998 the aging theorist gave up the editorship of Criticón, and he handed over the helm of the publication to advocates of a market economy. Although Schrenck-Notzing did not entirely oppose this new direction, as a German traditionalist he was certainly less hostile to the state as an institution than were Criticón's new editors.

But clearly, during the last ten years of his life, Schrenck-Notzing had lost a sense of urgency about the need for a magazine stressing current events. He decided to devote his remaining energy to a more theoretical task—that of understanding the defective nature of postwar German conservatism. The title of an anthology to which he contributed his own study and also edited, Die kupierte Alternative (The Truncated Alternative), indicated where Schrenck-Notzing saw the deficiencies of the postwar German Right. As a younger German conservative historian, Karl- Heinz Weissmann, echoing Schrenck- Notzing, has observed, one cannot create a sustainable and authentic Right on the basis of "democratic values." One needs a living past to do so. An encyclopedia of conservatism edited by Schrenck-Notzing that appeared in 1996 provides portraits of German statesmen and thinkers whom the editor clearly admired. Needless to say, not even one of those subjects was alive at the time of the encyclopedia's publication.

What allows a significant force against the Left to become effective, according to Schrenck-Notzing, is the continuity of nations and inherited social authorities. In the German case, devotion to a Basic Law promulgated in 1947 and really imposed on a defeated and demoralized country by its conquerors could not replace historical structures and national cohesion. Although Schrenck-Notzing published opinions in his journal that were more enthusiastic than his own about the reconstructed Germany of the postwar years, he never shared such "constitutional patriotism." He never deviated from his understanding of why the post-war German Right had become an increasingly empty opposition to the German Left: it had arisen in a confused and humiliated society, and it drew its strength from the values that its occupiers had given it and from its prolonged submission to American political interests. Schrenck-Notzing continually called attention to the need for respect for one's own nation as the necessary basis for a viable traditionalism. Long before it was evident to most, he predicted that the worship of the postwar German Basic Law and its "democratic" values would not only fail to produce a "conservative" philosophy in Germany; he also fully grasped that this orientation would be a mere transition to an anti-national, leftist political culture. What happened to Germany after 1968 was for him already implicit in the "constitutional patriotism" that treated German history as an unrelieved horror up until the moment of the Allied occupation.

For many years Schrenck-Notzing had published books highlighting the special problems of post-war German society and its inability to configure a Right that could contain these problems. In 2000 he added to his already daunting publishing tasks the creation and maintenance of an institute, the Förderstiftung Konservative Bildung und Forschung, which was established to examine theoretical conservative themes. With his able assistant Dr. Harald Bergbauer and the promotional work of the chairman of the institute's board, Dieter Stein, who also edits the German weekly, Junge Freiheit, Schrenck-Notzing applied himself to studies that neither here nor in Germany have elicited much support. As Schrenck-Notzing pointed out, the study of the opposite of whatever the Left mutates into is never particularly profitable, because those whom he called "the future-makers" are invariably in seats of power. And nowhere was this truer than in Germany, whose postwar government was imposed precisely to dismantle the traditional Right, understood as the "source" of Nazism and "Prussianism." The Allies not only demonized the Third Reich, according to Schrenck-Notzing, but went out of their way, until the onset of the Cold War, to marginalize anything in German history and culture that was not associated with the Left, if not with outright communism.

This was the theme of Schrenck-Notzing's most famous book, Charakterwäsche: Die Politik der amerikanischen Umerziehung in Deutschland, a study of the intent and effects of American re-education policies during the occupation of Germany. This provocative book appeared in three separate editions. While the first edition, in 1965, was widely reviewed and critically acclaimed, by the time the third edition was released by Leopold Stocker Verlag in 2004, its author seemed to be tilting at windmills. Everything he castigated in his book had come to pass in the current German society—and in such a repressive, anti-German form that it is doubtful that the author thirty years earlier would have been able to conceive of his worst nightmares coming to life to such a degree. In his book, Schrenck-Notzing documents the mixture of spiteful vengeance and leftist utopianism that had shaped the Allies' forced re-education of the Germans, and he makes it clear that the only things that slowed down this experiment were the victories of the anticommunist Republicans in U.S. elections and the necessities of the Cold War. Neither development had been foreseen when the plan was put into operation immediately after the war.

Charakterwäsche documents the degree to which social psychologists and "antifascist" social engineers were given a free hand in reconstructing postwar German "political culture." Although the first edition was published before the anti-national and anti-anticommunist German Left had taken full power, the book shows the likelihood that such elements would soon rise to political power, seeing that they had already ensconced themselves in the media and the university. For anyone but a hardened German-hater, it is hard to finish this book without snorting in disgust at any attempt to portray Germany's re-education as a "necessary precondition" for a free society.

What might have happened without such a drastic, punitive intervention? It is highly doubtful that the postwar Germans would have placed rabid Nazis back in power. The country had had a parliamentary tradition and a large, prosperous bourgeoisie since the early nineteenth century, and the leaders of the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats, who took over after the occupation, all had ties to the pre-Nazi German state. To the extent that postwar Germany did not look like its present leftist version, it was only because it took about a generation before the work of the re-educators could bear its full fruit. In due course, their efforts did accomplish what Schrenck-Notzing claimed they would—turning the Germans into a masochistic, self-hating people who would lose any capacity for collective self-respect. Germany's present pampering of Muslim terrorists, its utter lack of what we in the U.S. until recently would have recognized as academic freedom, the compulsion felt by German leaders to denigrate all of German history before 1945, and the freedom with which "antifascist" mobs close down insufficiently leftist or anti-national lectures and discussions are all directly related to the process of German re-education under Allied control.

Exposure to Schrenck-Notzing's magnum opus was, for me, a defining moment in understanding the present age. By the time I wrote The Strange Death of Marxism in 2005, his image of postwar Germany had become my image of the post-Marxist Left. The brain-snatchers we had set loose on a hated former enemy had come back to subdue the entire Western world. The battle waged by American re-educators against "the surreptitious traces" of fascist ideology among the German Christian bourgeoisie had become the opening shots in the crusade for political correctness. Except for the detention camps and the beating of prisoners that were part of the occupation scene, the attempt to create a "prejudice-free" society by laundering brains has continued down to the present. Schrenck-Notzing revealed the model that therapeutic liberators would apply at home, once they had fi nished with Central Europeans. Significantly, their achievement in Germany was so great that it continues to gain momentum in Western Europe (and not only in Germany) with each passing generation.

The publication Unsere Agenda, which Schrenck-Notzing's institute published (on a shoestring) between 2004 and 2008, devoted considerable space to the American Old Right and especially to the paleoconservatives. One drew the sense from reading it that Schrenck-Notzing and his colleague Bergbauer felt an affinity for American critics of late modernity, an admiration that vastly exceeded the political and media significance of the groups they examined. At our meetings he spoke favorably about the young thinkers from ISI whom he had met in Europe and at a particular gathering of the Philadelphia Society. These were the Americans with whom he resonated and with whom he was hoping to establish a long-term relationship. It is therefore fitting that his accomplishments be noted in the pages of Modern Age. Unfortunately, it is by no means clear that the critical analysis he provided will have any effect in today's German society. The reasons are the ones that Schrenck-Notzing gave in his monumental work on German re-education. The postwar re-educators did their work too well to allow the Germans to become a normal nation again.

samedi, 07 avril 2012

Sezession 47 ist erschienen


Sezession-Rundbrief 3/2012
Mittwoch, den 4. April

Liebe Freunde,
Liebe Leser,

ein langjähriger Leser schrieb auf die gerade erschienene Sezession No. 47 erstmals einige Zeilen, eine Art "angestauter Rückmeldung" im 10. Jahrgang. Ich fragte, ob ich daraus etwas zitieren dürfe - ich darf:
"Hoffentlich verstehen Sie, was ich meine, wenn ich sage, daß die 47. Sezession auf ideale Weise ausgewogen ist, oder anders ausgedrückt: ganz bei sich. Sie können als Redakteur die Stimmung ja gar nicht kennen, mit der ein Leser sich in Ihr Heft zu vertiefen beginnt. Es gibt da eine Erwartungshaltung an die Qualität der Beiträge, an eine bestimmte direkte Art der Unterrichtung und Belehrung, vor allem aber an einen Blickwechsel, eine Verschiebung der Perspektive - nicht immer erfüllt Ihr Heft meinen Wunsch, mich Ihrer intellektuellen Steuerung anvertrauen zu können. Der 47. Sezession aber vertraue ich als leser ganz und gar, sie ist genau so frappierend gut und nährend, wie ich es mir wünsche."

chten Sie diese 47. Sezession lesen?
+ Eine Inhaltsübersicht finden Sie hier,
+ bestellen können Sie dort;
+ und wenn Sie jetzt abonnieren, bekommen Sie das Heft kostenlos und bezahlen erst ab Sezession 48.

Es grüßt
Götz Kubitschek, verantwortlicher Redakteur

Sezession 47 ist erschienen

Sez47 78x130 Sezession 47 ist erschienenIm Oktober erscheint die 50. Sezession, es wird ein großes Fest geben. Vorher gehen wir noch drei Schritte – der erste, Heft 47, liegt jetzt gedruckt vor mir, und wenn Sie Abonnent sind, sollten sie diese Ausgabe morgen, spätestens jedoch am Montag in Ihrem Briefkasten vorfinden. Alle Noch-Nicht-Abonnenten verpassen unter anderem folgendes:

+ aus der Feder Thor v. Waldsteins die Fortsetzung und den Abschluß unserer großen Nolte-Debatte, die sich damit über die Hefte 45 bis 47 zieht;

+ Beiträge von Karlheinz Weißmann und Heino Bosselmann über die Lüge vom und den Widerstand gegen den Gesellschaftsvertrag;

+ Grundsätzliches von Torben Ulenwind über die Denunziation und von Martin Lichtmesz über den Autogenozid;

+ Geopolitisches von Thomas Bargatzky (über Afghanistan), Felix Springer (über unser geopolitisches Unvermögen) und Martin Böcker (über den Einfluß des Auslandseinsatzes auf den Ernst im Manöver);

+ Jakob Altenburg interpretiert das neue Wagnerdenkmal in Leipzig, den Bildteil füllen die russischen Peredwischniki und ich selbst war wieder einmal in Rumänien, diesmal zu Besuch bei dem Schriftsteller Eginald Schlattner, der übrigens heute Abend in Zinnowitz auf Usedom liest.

Wer nicht abonniert hat oder das Einzelheft nicht erwirbt, verpaßt darüber hinaus acht Seiten Rezensionen und drei Seiten vermischte Hinweise (etwa auf den neuen Merkur, auf Carl Schmitt, auf Robert Spaemann und auf das Magazin Umwelt&Aktiv). Außerdem hat Günter Scholdt den großen Satire-Streit, der hier im Netz vor Wochen tobte, zu einer Fragestellung genutzt: „Was darf Satire?“ lautet der Titel seines Textes.

Das vollständige Inhaltsverzeichnis der 47. Sezession ist online einsehbar, und dann bahnen Abonnement oder Einzelheft-Bestellung den Weg zu umfassender Lektüre, beides geht hier.

Und: natürlich kannman das Heft auch verpassen. Diese dritte Möglichkeit bedarf keines Links.

00:05 Publié dans Revue | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) | Tags : allemagne, conservatisme, revue, sezession | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

vendredi, 06 avril 2012

«El hombre político», de Arthur Moeller van den Bruck

«El hombre político», de Arthur Moeller van den Bruck

Publicado por edicionesnuevarepublica


«El hombre político», de Arthur Moeller van den Bruck

[Prólogo de Ángel Fernández Fernández]

● Colección «Europa Rebelde» / 24

● Barcelona, 2012

● 20×13 cms., 136 págs.

● Cubierta a todo color, con solapas y plastificada brillo

● PVP: 15 euros


El libro que el lector tiene entre sus manos constituye una nove­dad editorial de primer orden en nuestro país. Se trata de un con­junto de artículos y escritos de variada temática donde se prefigu­ran muchos de los elementos que caracterizarían al movimiento intelectual, florecido durante la decadente república de Weimar, conocido como la “Konservative Revolution”. Si tuviésemos que personalizar los inicios de este movimiento en un autor, éste se­ría, sin duda, Moeller van den Bruck. El compendio de escritos que ofrecemos en esta obra abarcan un periodo que va desde 1916 hasta 1925, fecha en la cual, el autor alemán decidió quitar­se la vida ante el aislamiento ideológico en que se hallaba. Existe otra obra, más conocida y celebrada, titulada Das dritte Reich y publicada en 1923. No obstante, la edición original de la obra que nos ocupa, recogiendo el conjunto de escritos que la componen, no sería publicado hasta el año 1933, fecha en que tiene lugar el acceso de Hitler a la cancillería del Reich. De hecho la secuencia de artículos, y el orden con el que son presentados obedece a la lógica impuesta por Hans Schwarz, el editor, quien trató de estruc­turar de forma secuencial y unitaria el conjunto de textos siguien­do una coherencia en el desarrollo ideológico del autor.

[del prólogo de Ángel Fernández]


Prólogo, de Ángel Fernández Fernández

Capítulo I – El hombre político

Capítulo II – La generación

Las tres generaciones

El alemán en tierra extranjera

El “outsider” como vía hacia el Führer

Revolución, personalidad, Tercer Reich

Capítulo III – Preparatorios de futuro

Meditando sobre Friedrich List

La vuelta de Nietzsche

El retorno de Federico

Capítulo IV – El despertar de los jóvenes

Las ideas políticas de los jóvenes

El preludio heroico

Concepción económica

Indiferencia de Occidente

Mirando hacia el Oriente


Tlf: 682 65 33 56

vendredi, 02 mars 2012

Donoso, precursor de la época del pavor

Donoso, precursor de la época del pavor


Entre restauración y cesarismo: la antiutopía de Donoso Cortés

Por Rafael Campos García-Calderón
Filósofo de la Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos

Ex: http://geviert.wordpress.com/

Cuando en Interpretación europea de Donoso Cortés, Carl Schmitt nos describe el pensamiento del político y diplomático español como un pensamiento de carácter “europeo”, nos muestra algo inédito dentro del llamado “pensamiento reaccionario”.
La Revolución de 1848 fue el anuncio de una nueva era en la historia de Europa. La civilización burguesa europea sustentada en el liberalismo fue puesta a prueba. Una nueva filosofía política suspendió, por un momento, la hegemonía cultural burguesa: socialismo, comunismo, anarquismo, nihilismo y ateísmo aparecieron como una amenaza en el horizonte. Frente a este peligro, la Contrarrevolución europea, uno de cuyos baluartes será Napoleón III, asumió el costo de enfrentar estos acontecimientos. Con su acción, trastocó el orden liberal burgués creando un nuevo fenómeno: el Cesarismo. Así, el Estado recuperó, bajo una nueva forma, su status político y se alió con un conjunto de fuerzas sociales no incluidas, hasta ese momento, en el orden democrático liberal.

Uno de los partidarios de esta Contrarrevolución fue Donoso Cortés. A diferencia de Joseph de Maistre, Donoso no creía en la restauración de la Monarquía. Para él, los reyes habían perdido su lugar en la historia política de Europa. En su lugar solo quedaba la “dictadura del sable”, la nueva forma de ejercicio de la soberanía política. Donoso había percibido que los acontecimientos del 48 no respondían simplemente a una crisis del sistema liberal burgués. En realidad, había visto en ellos uno de los síntomas de un proceso anunciado ya por algunos teóricos. Sin embargo, frente a estos científicos, la visión de Donoso destacaba por su radicalismo espiritual. Para él, no se trataba simplemente de un combate político o cultural, sino de una guerra religiosa contra un enemigo mortal: la pseudoreligión del hombre expresada en el socialismo y sus diferentes formas. En este sentido, superaba la coyuntura política de Napoleón III y preparaba, con su visión, el escenario de una antiutopía.
Por esta razón, Donoso no debería ser considerado un pensador reaccionario, sino más bien el precursor de una nueva época: la época del pavor (δεινόσ). En ella, el hombre, con tal de desplegar su genio organizado, aprovecharía ventajosamente cualquier situación ignorando las diferencias entre el bien y el mal. Es esta consideración espiritual de la cultura europea la que condenó al pensamiento de Donoso al silencio. Superada la revolución, los historiadores burgueses ocultaron los acontecimientos y restauraron su fe en los ideales ilustrados. Sin embargo, los acontecimientos del 48 quedaron sin una interpretación satisfactoria.


Setenta años después la amenaza reapareció en el horizonte. La Revolución Bolchevique dirigida por Lenin desarrollaba el programa que Marx había esbozado, a partir de los acontecimientos del 48, en el Manifiesto Comunista. A diferencia de los historiadores burgueses, los comunistas habían podido leer en estos acontecimientos la inexorabilidad de un proceso que sus rivales pretendían ignorar: el triunfo de la civilización proletaria. Existía, para ellos, una continuidad histórica entre ambas revoluciones y, por tanto, según ellos, un nuevo poder se apropiaría indefectiblemente de los destinos de Europa. Este poder tendría como objetivo primordial el desarrollo de las fuerzas productivas capitalistas para alcanzar el socialismo, fase preparatoria del comunismo o sociedad sin clases.
Sin embargo, esta interpretación no era la única posible. A despecho del olvido de los pensadores liberales, hubo un conjunto de filósofos e historiadores que atendieron a los eventos de aquel momento y a su continuidad en el tiempo. Uno de ellos fue, sin duda, el mismo Donoso Cortés, cuyo diagnóstico de la situación histórica ha permitido esbozar una “interpretación europea” de su pensamiento. Según esta expresión, el alcance de la interpretación comunista estaría fuera de los límites de Europa, pues en lugar de dar cuenta del destino histórico del Viejo Continente, habría esbozado el futuro de un espacio muy diferente: la Rusia de los zares.

La profecía comunista habría proyectado sobre una crisis histórica concreta su propio plan histórico ideal. Sin duda, el lugar de realización de esta idea no podía ser Europa, pues la condición sine qua non para su concretización era la implementación generalizada de la tecnología en la vida social y la centralización de la administración política. A pesar de la interpretación comunista, la cultura europea era todo menos un cuerpo homogéneo capaz de someterse sin más al aplanamiento homogenizante de la tecnología y la burocracia. Para ello, era preciso un espacio político carente de conciencia histórica, es decir, un Estado carente de vínculos orgánicos con su Sociedad. La Rusia zarista, sometida incontables veces al azote tártaro-mongol y a la política del exterminio, era el candidato oportuno para esta nueva utopía.
Para Carl Schmitt, era posible reconstruir esta interpretación europeísta de los acontecimientos del 48 a partir de la obra de Donoso Cortés y de otros pensadores contemporáneos que, sin embargo, no tuvieron con él mayor contacto. Esta perspectiva estaba constituida por tres elementos: un pronóstico histórico, un diagnóstico cultural y un paralelismo histórico con el pasado. Según el pronóstico histórico de esta interpretación, estos eventos habrían marcado el inicio del descenso de la civilización europea frente a la hegemonía de dos nuevas potencias: Rusia y EE.UU. Es a partir de la derrota de Napoleón I frente a Rusia en 1814 que esta nueva realidad se apodera de la historia: las potencias europeas han dejado de ser el centro de la Historia Universal.

El primer hito en la historia de esta interpretación lo constituye, según Schmitt, Tocqueville (1835), quien pronosticó el despliegue de la democratización y centralización administrativa a gran escala por parte de Rusia y EE.UU. Además de ello, Tocqueville hizo un diagnóstico cultural de Occidente. Para él, la revolución de 1789 abría las puertas al proceso de centralización política que se realizaría inexorablemente en manos de cualquier partido o ideología política. En este sentido, la actividad política en general estaba irremediablemente destinada a servir al propósito centralista administrativo: la civilización se dirigía a la masificación.
Paralelamente, Donoso Cortés (1850) había percibido que la política exterior de Europa había decrecido en relación a la de EE.UU., Rusia e Inglaterra. Esta señal le indicaba la misma conclusión a la que Tocqueville había llegado con su pronóstico. En cuanto al diagnóstico, Donoso arribaba a otra conclusión, cercana más bien a la que algunos historiadores y sociólogos alemanes habían efectuado. Según esta, las modernas invenciones tecnológicas puestas al servicio de la administración pública anunciaban la futura mecanización de la sociedad y la destrucción de los órganos intermedios de poder. En efecto, Jakob Burckhardt, Friedrich List, Max Weber y Oswald Spengler, entre otros, diagnosticaron la creciente mecanización e industrialización de la civilización como el camino hacia una sociedad perfectamente organizada dirigida por una burocracia que tiene en sus manos la explotación económica. A los ojos de esta “interpretación europea”, la nueva era no traía consigo el paraíso sino la esclavitud a la técnica.
Un tercer elemento de esta interpretación consistía en la comparación o paralelismo histórico que a partir de 1848 los historiadores, comunistas o “europeístas”, habían efectuado respecto de la situación histórica de Europa. Este paralelismo consistía en la comparación con la época de las guerras civiles en Roma, época en la que el Cesarismo se implantó y en la que el Cristianismo florecía hasta imponerse al Imperio. Esta comparación traía consigo la idea del final de la Antigüedad que, en clave decimonónica, debía leerse como el final del Cristianismo.

Spengler, en la Decadencia de Occidente, había tratado de vincular entre sí diversos paralelismos históricos. Entre ellos, el más importante constituía la batalla de Accio, considerado el comienzo de nuestra era cristiana. Saint-Simon, en El Nuevo Cristianismo, estableció una relación entre nuestra época actual y la de los orígenes del Cristianismo. Para él, el Cristianismo habría terminado y su sustituto, un nuevo poder espiritual, habría llegado a reemplazarlo: el Socialismo, el nuevo cristianismo.
La posición de Donoso frente al paralelismo histórico era muy diferente. En clara oposición a ambas interpretaciones del mismo fenómeno, consideraba que el Cesarismo y el inicio del Cristianismo como paralelismo histórico a los eventos de 1848 eran evidentes, aunque insuficientes para explicar la circunstancia histórica del momento. En efecto, a diferencia de todos los otros pensadores, juzgaba demasiado optimista el pronóstico, pues por ninguna parte veía a aquellos “pueblos jóvenes”, símbolo de la regeneración espiritual occidental, que hubiesen correspondido a los germanos de la época de las invasiones a Roma. En el siglo XIX, esos “pueblos jóvenes” ya estaban corrompidos por el veneno de la civilización occidental desde el momento en que son un resultado de esta. Por ello, para él, el paralelismo histórico entre nuestra época y la era del cristianismo primitivo o del cesarismo no podía asemejarse a la visión que los socialistas tenían del mismo.

En realidad, la falta de este tercer elemento regenerador hacía del paralelismo histórico la antesala a una catástrofe. En lugar de un elemento regenerador, una seudorreligión ‒el socialismo ateo‒ ocupaba su lugar. Se trataba del culto a la Humanidad absoluta, culto que, paradójicamente, conducía, según él, al terror inhumano. Desde su punto de vista y a la luz de los acontecimientos del 48, una religión del Hombre solo podía conducir al terror y la destrucción, pues el Hombre no tolera a los demás hombres que no se someten a él. Para Donoso, esta Utopía era el resultado de un espejismo producido por la asociación entre el progreso de la técnica y la aspiración a la perfección moral de la Humanidad. Así, la idea ilustrada de progreso dejó de ser un esquema abstracto y se transformó en un programa materialmente realizable a partir de la técnica.
La visión que Donoso tenía de los acontecimientos del 48 y del paralelismo histórico tan celebrado se asemejaba, según Schmitt, a la experiencia interior a la que Soren Kierkegaard había accedido por aquellos años. En efecto, Kierkegaard había percibido la amenaza de un clima de horrores a partir de la lasitud espiritual que las iglesias de su tiempo padecían. Una vez más, la era de las masas había llegado. En este sentido, la visión de Donoso no era otra cosa que la objetivación histórica de esta realidad espiritual. A diferencia de las utopías idealistas y materialistas que sus enemigos liberales y socialistas trataban de imponer a la historia desde esferas extrañas a ella, Donoso consideraba el acontecimiento histórico concreto y a partir de él interpretaba los signos sorprendentes de una teleología simbólica.
Desde este punto de vista, el Hombre no podía ser la encarnación de la paz, como querían los demagogos de su época, sino del terror y la destrucción. Según Schmitt, Donoso vaticinó el advenimiento de aquello que Nietzsche expresó en su concepto de Superhombre: la legitimación histórica del poder y la violencia sobre los infrahombres.

jeudi, 01 mars 2012

Why Conservatives Always Lose

Why Conservatives Always Lose

By Alex Kurtagic

In our modern Western societies, liberals do all the laughing, and conservatives do all the crying. Liberals may find this an extraordinary assertion, given that over the past century their preferred political parties have spent more time out of power than their conservative rivals, and, indeed, no radical Left party has ever held a parliamentary or congressional majority. Yet, this view is only possible if one regards a Labour or a Democratic party as ‘the Left’, and a Conservative or a Republican party as ‘the Right’—that is, if one considers politics to be limited to liberal politics, and regards the negation of liberalism as a negation of politics. The reality is that in modern Western societies, both ‘the Left’ and ‘the Right’ consist of liberals, only they come in two flavours: radical and less radical. And whether one is called liberal or conservative is simply a matter of degree, not of having a fundamentally different worldview. The result has been that the dominant political outlook in the West has drifted ever ‘Leftwards’. It has been only the speed of the drift that has changed from time to time.

This is not to deny the existence of conservatism. Conservatism is real. This is to say that conservatism, even in its most extreme forms, operates against, and is inevitably dragged along by, this Leftward-drifting background. And this is crucial if we are to have a true understanding of modern conservatism and why conservatives are always losing, even when electoral victories create the illusion that conservatives are frequently winning.

It would be wrong, however, to attribute the endless defeat of conservatism entirely to the Leftward drift of the modern political cosmos. That would an abrogation of conservatives’ responsibility for their own defeats. Conservatives are responsible for their own defeats. The causes stem less from liberalism’s dominance, than from the very premise of conservatism. Triumphant liberalism is made possible by conservatism, while triumphant conservatism leads eventually to liberalism. Anyone dreaming of ‘taking back his country’ by supporting the conservative movement, and baffled by its inability to stop the march of liberalism, has yet to understand the nature of his cause. The brutal truth: he is wasting his time.

Defeating liberalism requires acceptance of two fundamental statements.

  • Traditionalism is not conservatism.
  • Liberal defeat implies conservative defeat.

Much of our ongoing conversation about the future of Western society has focused on the deconstruction of liberalism. Not much of it has focused on a deconstruction of conservatism. Most deconstructions of conservatism have come from the Left, and, as we will see, there is good reason for this. It is time conservatism be deconstructed from outside the Left (and therefore also the Right). I say ‘also’ because neither conservatism nor traditionalism I class as ‘the Right’. Neither do I accept that ‘Right wing’ is the opposite of ‘Left wing’; ‘the Right’ is predicated on ‘the Left’, and is therefore not independent of ‘the Left’. Consequently, any use of the terms ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ coming from this camp is and has always been expedient; I expect such terms to disappear from current usage once the political paradigm has fundamentally changed.

Below I describe eight salient traits that define conservatism, explain the long-term pattern of conservative defeats, and show how liberalism and conservatism are complementary and mutually reinforcing partners, rather than contrasting enemies.

Anatomy of Conservatism


Proponents of the radical Left like to describe the politics of the Right as ‘the politics of fear’. Leftist propaganda may be full of invidious characterisations, false dichotomies, and outright lies, but this is one observation that, when applied to conservatism, is entirely correct. The reason conservatives conserve and are suspicious of youth and innovation is that they fear change. Conservatives prefer order, fixity, stability, and predictable outcomes. One of their favourite refrains is ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. There is some wisdom in that, and there are, indeed, advantages to this view, since it requires less effort, permits forward planning, and reduces the likelihood of stressful situations. Once a successful business or living formula is found, one can settle quite comfortably into a reassuring routine in a slow world of certainties, which at best allows for gradual and tightly controlled evolution. Change ends the routine, breaks the formula, disrupts plans, and lead to stressful situations that demand effort and speed, cause stress and uncertainty, and may have unpredictable outcomes. Conserving is therefore an avoidance strategy by risk-averse individuals who do not enjoy the challenge of thinking creatively and adapting to new situations. For conservatives change is an evil to be feared.

No answers

We can deduce then that the reason conservatives fear change is that they are not very creative. Creativity, after all, involves breaking the mould, startling associations, unpredictability. Conservatives are disturbed by change because they generally know not how to respond. This is the primary reason why, when change does occur, as it inevitably does, their response tends to be slow and to focus on managing symptoms rather than addressing causes. This is also the primary reason why they either plan well ahead against every imaginable contingency or remain in a state of denial until faced with immediate unavoidable danger. Conservatives are first motivated by fear and then paralysed by it.


Unfortunately for conservatives, the world is ever changing, the universe runs in cycles, and anything alive is always subject to unpredictable changes in state. Because they generally have no answers, this puts conservatives always on the defensive. The only time conservatives take aggressive action is when planning against possible disruptions to their placid life. They are the last to show initiative in anything else because being a pioneer is risky, fraught with stress and uncertainties. Thus, conservatism is always a resistance movement, a movement permanently on the back foot, fighting a tide that keeps on coming. The conservatives’ main preoccupation is holding on to their positions, and ensuring that, when retreat becomes inevitable, their new position is as close as possible to their old one. Once settled into a new position, any lull in the tide becomes an opportunity to recover the previous position. However, because lulls do not last long enough and recovering lost positions is difficult, the recovery is at best partial, never wholly successful. Conservatives are consequently always seen as failures and sell-outs, since eventually they are always forced to compromise.


Their lack of creativity leads conservatives to look for answers in the past. This goes beyond learning the lessons from history. Averse to risk, they mistrust novelty, which makes their present merely a continuation of the past. In this they contrast against both liberals and traditionalists: for the former the present is a delay of the future, for the latter it is a moment between what was and will be. At the same time, conservatives resemble the liberals, and contrast against traditionalists more than they think. One reason is that they confuse tradition with conservation, overlooking that tradition involves cyclical renewal rather than museological restoration. Museological restoration is what conservatives are about. Their domain is the domain of the dead, embalmed or kept alive artificially with systems of life support. Another reason is that both liberals and conservatives are obsessed with the past: because they love it much, conservatives complain that things of the past are dying out; because they hate it much, liberals complain that things of the past are not dying out soon enough! One is necrophile, the other a murderer. Both are about death. In contrast, traditionalism is about life, for life is a cycle of birth, growth, maturity, death, and renewal.


Fear, resistance to change, lack of creativity, and an infatuation with dead things makes conservatives boring. Dead things can be interesting, of course, and in our modern throwaway society, dead things can have the appeal of the exotic, particularly since they belong to a time when the emphasis was on quality rather than quantity. Quality, understood both as high quality and possessing qualities, is linked to rarity or uniqueness, excitement or surprise, and, therefore, creativity or unpredictability. Conservatives, however, conserve because they long for a world of certainties—slow, secure, comfortable, and with predictable outcomes. Granted: such an existence can be pleasant given optimal conditions, and it may indeed be recommended in a variety of situations, but it is not exciting. Excitement involves precisely the conditions and altered states that conservatives fear and seek to avoid. It thus becomes difficult to get excited about anything conservative.


There are good reasons why conservatism is associated with old age. As a person grows old he loses his taste for excitement; his constitution is less robust, he has less energy, he has fewer reserves, he has rigidified in mind and body, and he is less capable of the rapid, flexible responses demanded by intense situations and sudden shocks. It makes sense for a person to become more conservative as he grows old, but this is hardly a process relished by anyone. Once old enough to be taken seriously, the desire is always to remain young and delay the signs of old age. Expressing boredom by saying that something ‘got old’ implies a periodic need for change. Conservatives oppose change, so they get old very fast.


Preoccupation with the past, resistance to change, and mistrust of novelty eventually makes conservatives irrelevant. This is particularly the case in a world predicated on the desirability of progress and constant innovation. Conservatives end up becoming political antiquarians, rather than effective powerbrokers: they operate not as leaders of men, but as curators in a museum.


Sooner of later, through their refusal to adapt until they become irrelevant, conservatives are constantly left behind, waving a fist at the world with angry incomprehension. Because eventually survival necessitates periodic surrenders and regroupings at positions further to the Left, conservatives come to be seen as spineless, as people always in retreat, as, in short, losers. The effective function of a conservative in present-day society is to organise surrender, to ensure retreats are orderly, to keep up vain hopes or a restoration, so that there is never risk of a revolutionary uprising.

Liberalism’s Best Ally

With the above in mind, it is hard not to see conservatism as liberalism’s own controlled opposition: it may not be that way, but the effect is certainly the same. Conservatism provides periodic respite after a bout of liberalism, allowing citizens to adapt and grow accustomed to its effects before the next wave of liberalisation. Worse still, conservative causes, because they eventually always become irrelevant, provide a rationale for liberalism, supplying proof for the Left of why it is and should remain the only game in town. Liberals love conservatives.

Conservatism and Tradition

Conservatism does not have to be liberalism’s best ally: conservatism can be the best ally of any anti-establishment movement, since it always comes to represent the boring alternative. Conservatives defend the familiar, but familiarity breeds contempt, so over time people lose respect for what is and grow willing to experience some turbulence—results may be unpredictable and may indeed turn out to be negative, but at least the turbulence makes people feel alive, like there is something they can be actively involved in. In the age of liberalism, conservatism is fundamentally liberal: it does not defend tradition, since liberalism has caused it to be forgotten for the most part, but an earlier version of liberalism. In an age of tradition, conservatism could well be the best ally of a rival tradition, since conservatism always stagnates what is, thus increasing receptivity over time to any kind of change. Thus conservatism sets the conditions for destructive forms of change.

By contrast, tradition is evolution, and so long as it avoids the trap of conservatism (stagnation), those within the tradition remain engaged with it. This is not to say that traditions are immune from self-destructive events and should never be abandoned: hypertely, maladaption, or pathological evolution, for example, can destroy a tradition from within. However, that is outside our scope here.

Confusion of Tradition and Conservation

In the age of liberalism, because it has forgotten tradition, tradition is confused with conservation. Thus some conservatives describe themselves as traditionalists, even though they are just archaic liberals. Some self-described traditionalists may erroneously adopt conservative traits, perhaps out of a confused desire to reject liberalism’s notions of progress. Tradition and conservation are distinct and separate processes. Liberalism may contain its own traditions. Liberalism may also become conservative in its rejection of tradition. Likewise for conservatism, except that it rejects liberalism and does so only ostensibly, not in practice.

End of Liberalism

Ending liberalism requires an end to conservatism. We should never call ourselves conservatives. The distinction between tradition and conservation must always be made, for transcending the present ‘Left’-‘Right’ paradigm of modern democratic politics in the West demands a great sorting of what is traditional from what is conservative, so that the former can be rediscovered, and the latter discarded as part of the liberal apparatus.

In doing so we must be alert to the trap of reaction. Reactionaries are defined by their enemies, and thus become trapped in their enemies’ constructions, false dichotomies, and unspoken assumptions. Rather than rejection, the key word is transcendence. The end of liberalism is achieved through its transcendence, its relegation into irrelevance.

Given the confusion of our times, it must be stressed that tradition is not about returning to an imagined past, or about reviving a practice that was forgotten so that it may be continued exactly as it was when it was abandoned. There may have been a valid reason for abandoning a particular practice, and the institution of a new practice may have been required in order for the tradition successfully to continue. A tradition, once rediscovered, must be carried forward. Continuation is not endless replication.

After Liberalism

The measure of our success in this enterprise will be seen in the language.

We know liberalism has been successful because many of us ended up defining ourselves as a negation of everything that defined liberalism. Many of the words used to describe our political positions are prefixed with ‘anti-‘. This represented an adoption by ‘anti-liberals’ of negative identities manufactured by liberals for purposes of affirming themselves in ways that suited their convenience and flattered their vanity.

Ending liberalism implies, therefore, the development of a terminology that transcends liberalism’s constructions. Only when they begin describing themselves as a negation of what we are will we know we have been successful, for their lack of an affirmative, positive vocabulary will be indicative that their identity has been fully deconstructed and is then socially, morally, and philosophically beyond the pale.

Developing such a vocabulary, however, is a function of our determining once again who we are and what we are about. Without a metaphysics to define the tradition and drive it forward, any attempt at a cultural revolution will fail. A people need a metaphysics if they are to tell their story. If the story of who we are and where we are going cannot be told for lack of a defining metaphysic, any attempt at a cultural revolution will need to rely on former stories, will therefore lapse into conservatism, and thus into tedium and irrelevance.

After Conservatism

One cannot be for Western culture if one is not for the things that define Western culture. A metaphysics, and therefore ‘our story’, is defined through art. Art, in the broadest possible sense, gives expression to values, ideals, and sentiments that a people share and feel in the core of their beings, but which often cannot be articulated in words. Therefore, the battle for Western identity is waged at this level, not in the political field, even if identity is a political matter. Similarly, any attempt to use art for political purposes fails, because politics, being merely the art of the possible, is defined by culture, not the other way around.

In the search for ‘our story’, we must not confuse art with craft. Craftmanship may be defined by tradition, and a tradition may find expression in crafts, making them ‘traditional’, but the two are not synonymous. Similarly, craftsmanship may improve art, but craft is not art anymore than art is craft. Art explores and defines. Craft reproduces and perpetuates. Thus, art is to tradition what craft is to conservatism. This is why contemporary art, being an extreme expression of liberal ideals, is without craftsmanship, and why art with craftsmanship is considered conservative, illustration, or ‘outsider’.

Those concerned with the continuity of the West often treat reading strictly non-fiction and classics as proof of their seriousness and dedication, but ironically it will be when they start reading fiction and making new fiction that they will be at their most serious and dedicated. If tradition implies continuity and not simple replication, then it also implies ongoing creation and not simple preservation.

After Tradition

No tradition has eternal life. Ours will some day end. Liberalism sees its fulfilment as the end of history, but that is their cosmology, not ours. Therefore, liberalism does not—and should never—indicate to us that we have reached the end of the line. The degeneration of the West is tied to the degeneration of liberalism. The West will be renewed when the liberals come crashing down. They will be reduced to an obsolete and irrelevant subculture living off memories and preoccupied with conserving whatever they have left. Once regenerated, the West will continue until its tradition self-destructs or is replaced by another. Whatever tradition replaces ours may be autochthonous, but it could well be the tradition of another race. If that proves so, that will be the end of our race. Thus, so long as our race remains vibrant, able to give birth to new metaphysics when old ones die, we may live on, and be masters of our destiny.

samedi, 22 octobre 2011

5 to 9 Conservatism


5 to 9 Conservatism

By Greg Johnson

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

Years ago, the friend who had the most influence on my awakening on race and the Jewish question offered a quite clarifying distinction between “9 to 5” and “5 to 9” conservatism.

The 9 to 5 conservatives take their name from the standard 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. work day. These conservatives focus on the economic realm. They wish to preserve economic freedom from government interference. They also focus on cutting taxes and resisting new taxes, so that productive people can keep more of the fruits of their labor. 9 to 5 conservatism, in short, is just economic liberalism. Its most ideologically pure advocates in America today are libertarians and the Tea Party.

5 to 9 conservatives take their name from the rest of the day. They focus on preserving the non-economic realms of life: the family, civil society, religion, culture, history, the environment, etc.

Many 5 to 9 conservatives are actually political liberals. For instance, environmentalists, historical preservationists, and promoters of walkable communities, mixed-used development, human-scale architecture, and public spaces are all objectively conservatives of the 5 to 9 variety (regardless of any genuinely liberal positions they might also hold). But politically they tend to be left-of-center and at odds with the commercial interests championed by 9 to 5 conservatives.

There is good reason why the two kinds of conservatives are at loggerheads. Unlimited economic freedom tends to corrode the other realms of society. The best way to appreciate this is to consider working hours. In America today, we do not have a 9 to 5 economy. We have a 24/7 economy.

As a bohemian intellectual, I can’t complain about this. I find it very convenient to be able to go out at 4:00 am to buy a carton of milk from a meth-zombie. Americans living in Germany are shocked that most stores are closed by 6:00 pm and are not open at all on weekends. It forces them to actually plan ahead, one of the many faculties that American life has allowed to grow slack.

The reason why Germany and other countries regulate the hours of businesses is not because they are “socialists” or “liberals.” It is because they are 5 to 9 conservatives. They realize that shop clerks have friends and families and communities. Work days are regulated so that more people can spend the 5 to 9 hours, and weekends, with their families and friends. Yes, such laws inconvenience us insofar as we are consumers. But we are more than consumers. We have families, friends, communities. Or we should have them.

Why does the government have to get involved? Say that there are no laws regulating the hours of retail establishments. If one firm decides they will extend their evening hours to increase their market share, others will be pressured to follow. Eventually, through the magic of the marketplace, we will compete our way into a 24/7 economy, in which there will be entire industries where the entry level jobs often taken by young people who have children (or should have them) are on aptly-named “graveyard” shifts.

From a social point of view, this is a profoundly destructive development. And from an economic point of view, it is destructive too, since the same amount of milk is sold in a 24 hour day as would be sold in a 10 hour day, yet all are forced to keep the lights on and the buildings manned 24/7 lest they lose their market share.

F. Roger Devlin uses an excellent analogy [2] to illustrate the nature of destructive competition. Imagine you are seated at a sports event. It might be to your advantage to stand up to see an exciting play. But if one person stands, then others will be forced to stand as well. Eventually, everyone will be standing, so the advantage to any individual of standing will be erased. Everyone will have just as good a view of the game as when they started, but they will all be less comfortable . . . because they are standing. The only way to stop this sort of destructive competition is for people in authority to legislate and enforce rules against it. The same goes for the economic realm.

The idea of 5 to 9 conservatism is useful to White Nationalists, because we are 5 to 9 conservatives ourselves. After all, we are concerned to preserve our race, and we are willing to do battle with the 9 to 5 conservatives who are destroying us by importing non-white labor to take white jobs, or exporting white jobs to non-white countries.

The distinction between 5 to 9 and 9 to 5 conservatism is also helpful for envisioning new political alliances—and breaking up existing ones. In America today, the major political parties are coalitions, both of which include significant numbers of 5 to 9 conservatives.

Among Republicans, the 5 to 9 conservatives tend to be religious conservatives and traditionalists. Among Democrats, the 5 to 9 conservatives tend to be environmentalists, consumer advocates, historical preservationists, new urbanists, and the like.

In both parties, the 5 to 9 conservatives tend to be overwhelmingly white. Furthermore, in both parties, 5 to 9 conservatives are exploited by party leaders for their votes. Finally, in the end, 5 to 9 conservative interests are vetoed by the leaders of the major parties, because their primary focus is the promotion of socially corrosive ideologies: economic liberalism for the Republicans, social liberalism for the Democrats. It would be enormously subversive/productive if 5 to 9 conservatives could free themselves from the corrosive ideology of liberalism, whether of the left or the right.

It would be interesting to bring together 5 to 9 conservatives from across the political spectrum to begin a dialogue. I think they would discover that they have a lot more in common than they think. It is a conversation in which we White Nationalists need to take part. We need to be there to help bring their implicit whiteness to full consciousness. We must show them that their values are the products of homogeneous white communities and cannot be preserved without them. We need to explain to them that the leaders of the major parties are exploiting and betraying them. And we cannot neglect to explain to them why both parties pursue Jewish interests at the expense of white interests.

It is also important to help them understand that before the emergence of the modern aberrations of economic and political liberalism, the mainstream of Western political thought from Aristotle through the American Founders recognized that a free society requires private property broadly distributed and stably possessed, and that to achieve this end, a certain amount of economic regulation is necessary.

In the end, White Nationalists are more than mere conservatives, for although a lot of what we want can be captured by the idea of 5 to 9 conservatism, it is not enough. From my Nietzschean/Spenglerian point of view, mere conservatism is not really an alternative to decadence. Instead, it is a form of decadence, for a healthy organism does not merely preserve or repeat the past, but carries it forward and transforms it creatively. But politically speaking, conservatism comes first, since our race needs to survive before we can worry about the luxury of self-perfection.


Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2011/10/5-to-9-conservatism/

lundi, 12 septembre 2011

Entretien avec Paul Gottfried

Entretien avec Paul Gottfried : les étranges métamorphoses du conservatisme

Propos recueillis par Arnaud Imatz

Ex: http://www.polemia.com/

gootfried.jpgProfesseur de Lettres classiques et modernes à l’Elizabethtown College, président du Henry Louis Mencken Club, co-fondateur de l’Académie de Philosophie et de Lettres, collaborateur du Ludwig von Mises Institute et de l’Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Paul Edward Gottfried est une figure éminente du conservatisme américain. Il est l’auteur de nombreux livres et articles sur notamment le paléo et néoconservatisme. Proche de Pat Buchanan, qui fut le candidat républicain malheureux aux primaires des présidentielles face à George Bush père (1992), Paul Gottfried a été l’ami de personnalités politiques comme Richard Nixon et intellectuelles prestigieuses telles Sam Francis, Mel Bradford, Christopher Lasch…

1. Au début des années 1970 vous sympathisiez avec le courant dominant du conservatisme américain. Quarante ans plus tard, le spécialiste notoire du conservatisme américain que vous êtes, déclare ne plus se reconnaître dans ce mouvement. Que s’est-il passé ?

L’explication tient dans le fait qu’il n’y a pas de véritable continuité entre le mouvement conservateur américain des années 1950 et celui qui a pris sa place par la suite. Sur toutes les questions de société, le mouvement conservateur actuel, « néo-conservateur », est plus à gauche que la gauche du Parti démocrate dans les années 1960. Depuis cette époque, et surtout depuis les années 1980, les néo-conservateurs [1] dominent la fausse droite américaine. Leur préoccupation essentielle, qui éclipse toutes les autres, est de mener une politique étrangère fondée sur l’extension de l’influence américaine afin de propager les principes démocratiques et l’idéologie des droits de l’homme.

2. Selon vous, les conservateurs authentiques croient en l’histoire et aux valeurs de la religion ; ils défendent la souveraineté des nations ; ils considèrent l’autorité politique nécessaire au développement de la personne et de la société. Aristote, Platon, Saint Thomas, Machiavel, Burke ou Hegel sont, dites vous, leurs références à des titres divers. Mais alors comment les néo-conservateurs, partisans de la croissance du PNB, du centralisme étatique, de la démocratie de marché, du multiculturalisme et de l’exportation agressive du système américain, ont-ils pu s’imposer?

J’ai essayé d’expliquer cette ascension au pouvoir des néo-conservateurs dans mon livre Conservatism in America. J’ai souligné un point essentiel : à l’inverse de l’Europe, les États-Unis n’ont jamais eu de véritable tradition conservatrice. La droite américaine de l’après-guerre n’a été, en grande partie, qu’une invention de journalistes. Elle se caractérisait par un mélange d’anticommunisme, de défense du libre marché et de choix politiques prosaïques du Parti républicain. Il lui manquait une base sociale inébranlable. Son soutien était inconstant et fluctuant. Dans les années 1950, le mouvement conservateur a essayé de s’enraciner parmi les ouvriers et les salariés catholiques ouvertement anti-communistes et socialement conservateurs. Mais à la fin du XXème siècle cette base sociale n’existait plus.

Les néo-conservateurs proviennent essentiellement de milieux juifs démocrates et libéraux. Antisoviétiques pendant la guerre froide, pour des raisons qui étaient les leurs, ils se sont emparés de la droite à une époque ou celle-ci était épuisée et s’en allait littéralement à vau-l’eau. J’ajoute que les conservateurs de l’époque, qui faisaient partie de l’establishment politico-littéraire et qui étaient liés à des fondations privées, ont presque tous choisi de travailler pour les néo-conservateurs. Les autres se sont vus marginalisés et vilipendés.

3. (…)

4. (…)

5. Vous avez payé le prix fort pour votre indépendance d’esprit. Vos adversaires néo-conservateurs vous ont couvert d’insultes. Votre carrière académique a été torpillée et en partie bloquée. La direction de la Catholic University of America a fait l’objet d’incroyables pressions pour que la chaire de sciences politiques ne vous soit pas accordée. Comment expliquez-vous que cela ait pu se produire dans un pays réputé pour son attachement à la liberté d’expression ?

Il n’y a pas de liberté académique aux États-Unis. La presque totalité de nos universités sont mises au pas ( gleichgeschaltet ) comme elles le sont dans les pays d’Europe de l’Ouest, pour ne pas parler du cas de l’Allemagne « antifasciste » ou la férule a des odeurs nauséabondes. Tout ce que vous trouvez en France dans ce domaine s’applique également à la situation de notre monde académique et journalistique. Compte tenu de l’orientation politique de l’enseignement supérieur aux États-Unis, je ne pouvais pas faire une véritable carrière académique.

6. (…)

7. (…)

8. Vos travaux montrent qu’en Amérique du Nord comme en Europe l’idéologie dominante n’est plus le marxisme mais une combinaison d’État providence, d’ingénierie sociale et de mondialisme. Vous dites qu’il s’agit d’un étrange mélange d’anticommunisme et de sympathie résiduelle pour les idéaux sociaux-démocrates : « un capitalisme devenu serviteur du multiculturalisme ». Comment avez-vous acquis cette conviction ?

Mon analyse de l’effacement du marxisme et du socialisme traditionnel au bénéfice d’une gauche multiculturelle repose sur l’observation de la gauche et de sa pratique aux États-Unis et en Europe. Le remplacement de l’holocaustomanie et du tiers-mondisme par des analyses économiques traditionnelles s’est produit avant la chute de l’Union soviétique. Au cours des années 1960-1970, les marqueurs politiques ont commencé à changer. Les désaccords sur les questions économiques ont cédé la place à des différends sur les questions culturelles et de société. Les deux « establishments », celui de gauche comme celui de droite, ont coopéré au recentrage du débat politique : la gauche s’est débarrassée de ses projets vraiment socialistes et la droite a accepté l’Etat protecteur et l’essentiel des programmes féministes, homosexuels et multiculturalistes. Un exemple : celui du journaliste vedette, Jonah Goldberg. Ce soi-disant conservateur a pour habitude de célébrer la « révolution féministe et homosexuelle » qu’il considère comme « un accomplissement explicitement conservateur ». Sa thèse bizarre ne repose évidemment sur rien de sérieux… Mais il suffit qu’une cause devienne à la mode parmi les membres du « quatrième pouvoir » pour qu’une pléiade de journalistes néo-conservateurs la présentent immédiatement comme un nouveau triomphe du conservatisme modéré.

9. Vos analyses prennent absolument le contrepied des interprétations néo-conservatrices. Vous rejetez comme une absurdité la filiation despotique entre le réformisme d’Alexandre II et le Goulag de Staline. Vous récusez comme une aberration la thèse qui assimile les gouvernements allemands du XIXème siècle à de simples tyrannies militaires. Vous réprouvez la haine du « relativisme historique » et la phobie de la prétendue « German connection ». Vous contestez l’opinion qui prétend voir dans le christianisme le responsable de l’holocauste juif et de l’esprit nazi. Vous dénoncez l’instrumentalisation de l’antifascisme « outil de contrôle au main des élites politiques ». Vous reprochez aux protestants américains d’avoir pris la tête de la défense de l’idéologie multiculturelle et de la politique culpabilisatrice. Vous affirmez que les chrétiens sont les seuls alliés que les Juifs puissent trouver aujourd’hui. Enfin, comble du « politiquement incorrect », vous estimez que la démocratie présuppose un haut degré d’homogénéité culturelle et sociale. Cela dit, en dernière analyse, vous considérez que le plus grave danger pour la civilisation occidentale est la sécularisation de l’universalisme chrétien et l’avènement de l’Europe et de l’Amérique patchworks. Pourquoi ?

En raison de l’étendue et de la puissance de l’empire américain, les idées qu’il propage, bonnes ou mauvaises, ne peuvent manquer d’avoir une influence significative sur les européens. Oui ! effectivement, je partage le point de vue de Rousseau et de Schmitt selon lequel la souveraineté du peuple n’est possible que lorsque les citoyens sont d’accords sur les questions morales et culturelles importantes. Dans la mesure où l’État managérial et les médias ont réussi à imposer leurs valeurs, on peut dire, qu’en un certain sens, il existe une forme d’homonoia aux États-Unis.

En fait, la nature du nationalisme américain est très étrange. Il est fort proche du jacobinisme qui fit florès lors de la Révolution française. La religion civique américaine, comme sa devancière française, repose sur la religion postchrétienne des droits de l’homme. La droite religieuse américaine est trop stupide pour se rendre compte que cette idéologie des droits de l’homme, ou multiculturaliste, est un parasite de la civilisation chrétienne. L’une remplace l’autre. Le succédané extraie la moelle de la culture la plus ancienne et pourrit sa substance.

Pour en revenir au rapide exposé que vous avez fait de mes analyses, je dirai que je suis globalement d’accord. Mais il n’est pas inutile de préciser pourquoi je considère aussi essentiel, aux États-Unis, le rôle du protestantisme libéral dans la formation de l’idéologie multiculturelle. Le pays est majoritairement protestant et la psychologie du multiculturalisme se retrouve dans le courant dominant du protestantisme américain tout au long de la deuxième moitie du XXème siècle. Bien sûr, d’autres groupes, et en particulier des intellectuels et des journalistes juifs ont contribué à cette transformation culturelle, mais ils n’ont pu le faire que parce que le groupe majoritaire acceptait le changement et trouvait des raisons morales de le soutenir. Nietzsche avait raison de décrire les juifs à demi assimilés comme la classe sacerdotale qui met à profit le sentiment de culpabilité de la nation hôte. Mais cette stratégie ne peut jouer en faveur des Juifs ou de tout autre outsider que lorsque la majorité se vautre dans la culpabilité ou identifie la vertu avec la culpabilité sociale. Je crois, qu’à l’inverse de la manipulation bureaucratique des minorités disparates et du lavage de cerveau des majorités, la vraie démocratie a besoin d’un haut degré d’homogénéité culturelle. Je suis ici les enseignements de Platon, Rousseau, Jefferson ou Schmitt, pour ne citer qu’eux.

10. Parmi les adversaires du néo-conservatisme, à coté des « vieux » conservateurs, souvent stigmatisés comme « paléo-conservateurs », on peut distinguer trois courants : le populisme, le fondamentalisme évangélique et le Tea Party. Pouvez-vous nous dire en quoi ces trois tendances diffèrent du vrai conservatisme ?

Je ne crois pas que l’on puisse trouver du « paléo-conservatisme » dans l’un ou l’autre de ces courants. Les membres du Tea Party et les libertariens sont des post-paléo-conservateurs. Les évangéliques, qui n’ont jamais partagé les convictions des vieux conservateurs, sont devenus les « idiots utiles » des néo-conservateurs, qui contrôlent les medias du GOP (Grand Old Party ou Parti Républicain). Actuellement, les « paléos » ont sombré dans le néant. Ils ne sont plus des acteurs importants du jeu politique. À la différence des libertariens, qui peuvent encore gêner les néo-conservateurs, les « paléos » ont été exclus de la scène politique. Faute de moyens financiers et médiatiques, ils ne peuvent plus critiquer ou remettre en cause sérieusement les doctrines et prétentions néo-conservatrices. Le pouvoir médiatique ne leur permet pas de s’exprimer sur les grandes chaînes de télévision. Ils ont été traités comme des lépreux, des « non-personnes », comme l’on fait les médias britanniques avec le British National Party. Pat Buchanan, qui fut un conseiller de Nixon, de Ford et de Reagan et qui est connu pour sa critique des va-t-en-guerre, a survécu, mais il est interdit d’antenne sur FOX, la plus grand chaîne de TV contrôlée par les néo-conservateurs. Il ne peut paraître que sur MSBNBC, une chaîne de la gauche libérale, où il est habituellement présenté en compagnie de journalistes de gauche.

11. Vous avez été traité d’antisémite pour avoir écrit que les néo-conservateurs sont des vecteurs de l’ultra-sionisme. En quoi vous différenciez-vous du sionisme des néo-conservateurs ?

Les néo-conservateurs sont convaincus que seule leur conception de la sécurité d’Israël doit être défendue inconditionnellement. Il est pourtant tout-à-fait possible d’être du côté des israéliens sans mentir sur leur compte. Que les choses soient claires : il n’y a aucun doute que les deux parties, les israéliens et les palestiniens, se sont mal comportés l’un vis-à-vis de l’autre. Cela dit, c’est une hypocrisie scandaleuse, une tartufferie révoltante, que de refuser à d’autres peuples (disons aux Allemands et aux Français) le droit à leur identité historique et ethnique pour ensuite traiter les Juifs comme un cas particulier, parce qu’ils ont connu des souffrances injustes qui les autoriseraient à conserver leurs caractères distinctifs.

12. Quels livres, revues ou sites web représentatifs du conservatisme américain recommanderiez-vous au public francophone ?

Je recommanderai mon étude la plus récente sur le mouvement conservateur  Conservatism in America  (Palgrave MacMillan, 2009) et le livre que je suis en train de terminer pour Cambridge University Press sur Leo Strauss et le mouvement conservateur en Amérique. Vous trouverez également les points de vue des conservateurs, qui s’opposent aux politiques des néo-conservateurs, sur les sites web : www.americanconservative.com 
www.taking.com [2]

13. Vos amis les néo ou postsocialistes Paul Piccone et Christopher Lasch, estimaient que les différences politiques entre droite et gauche se réduisent désormais à de simples désaccords sur les moyens pour parvenir à des objectifs moraux semblables ? Considérez-vous aussi que la droite et la gauche sont inextricablement mêlées et que les efforts pour les distinguer sont devenus inutiles ?

Je suis tout-à-fait d’accord avec mes deux amis aujourd’hui décédés. Les différences politiques entre droite et gauche se réduisent de nos jours à des désaccords insignifiants entre groupements qui rivalisent pour l’obtention de postes administratifs. En fait, ils ergotent sur des vétilles. Le débat est très encadré ; il a de moins en moins d’intérêt et ne mérite aucune attention. J’avoue que j’ai de plus en plus de mal à comprendre l’acharnement que mettent certains droitistes - censés avoir plus d’intelligence que des coquilles Saint-Jacques - à collaborer aux activités du Parti Républicain et à lui accorder leurs suffrages. Plutôt que d’écouter les mesquineries mensongères d’une classe politique qui ne cesse de faire des courbettes au pouvoir médiatique, je préfère encore assister à un match de boxe.

14. Dans les années 1990, deux universitaires néo-conservateurs ont soulevé de farouches polémiques en Europe : Francis Fukuyama, qui a prophétisé le triomphe universel du modèle démocratique, et Samuel Huntington, qui a soutenu que le choc des civilisations est toujours possible parce que les rapports internationaux ne sont pas régis par des logiques strictement économiques, politiques ou idéologiques mais aussi civilisationnelles. Ce choc des civilisations est-il pour vous une éventualité probable ou un fantasme de paranoïaque?

Je ne vois pas une différence fondamentale entre Fukuyama et Huntington. Les deux sont d’accords sur la nature du Bien : l’idéologie des droits de l’homme, le féminisme, le consumérisme, etc. La principale différence entre ces deux auteurs néo-conservateurs est que Fukuyama (du moins à une certaine époque car ce n’est plus le cas aujourd’hui) était plus optimiste qu’Huntington sur la possibilité de voir leurs valeurs communes triompher dans le monde. Mais les deux n’ont d’autre vision historique de l’Occident que le soutien du consumérisme, les revendications féministes, l’égalitarisme, l’inévitable emballage des préférences américaines urbaines c’est-à-dire le véhicule valorisant du hic et nunc.

Je ne doute pas un instant que si la tendance actuelle se poursuit les non-blancs ou les antichrétiens non-occidentaux finiront par occuper les pays d’Occident. Ils remettront en cause les droits de l’homme, l’idéologie multiculturaliste et la mentalité qui les domine aujourd’hui. Les nations hôtes (qui ne sont d’ailleurs plus des nations) sont de moins en moins capables d’assimiler ce que le romancier Jean Raspail appelle « un déluge d’envahisseurs ». En fait, l’idéologie des droits de l’homme n’impressionne vraiment que les chrétiens égarés, les Juifs et les autres minorités qui ont peur de vivre dans une société chrétienne traditionnelle. Pour ma part, je doute que l’idéologie ou le patriotisme civique de type allemand puisse plaire au sous-prolétariat musulman qui arrive en Europe. Cette idéologie ne risque pas non plus d’avoir la moindre résonance sur les latino-américains illettrés qui se déversent sur les États-Unis. Dans le cas ou les minorités revendicatrices deviendraient un jour le groupe majoritaire, une fois les immigrés parvenus au pouvoir, il y a bien peu de chances pour qu’ils s’obstinent à imposer les mêmes doctrines multiculturelles. En quoi leurs serviraient-elles ?

15. Vous avez anticipé ma dernière question sur les risques que devront affronter l’Europe et l’Amérique au XXIème siècle…

Je voudrais quand même ajouter quelques mots. La dévalorisation systématique du mariage traditionnel, qui reposait hier sur une claire définition du rôle des sexes et sur l’espoir d’une descendance, est la politique la plus folle menée par n’importe quel gouvernement de l’histoire de l’humanité. Je ne sais pas où cette sottise égalitariste nous conduira mais le résultat final ne peut être que catastrophique. Peut être que les musulmans détruiront ce qui reste de civilisation occidentale une fois parvenus pouvoir, mais je doute qu’ils soient aussi stupides que ceux qui ont livré cette guerre à la famille. Si ça ne tenait qu’à moi, je serai ravi de revenir au salaire unique du chef de famille. Et si on me considère pour cela anti-libertarien et anticapitaliste, je suppose que j’accepterai cette étiquette. Je ne suis pas un libertarien de cœur mais un rallié à contrecœur.

Propos recueillis par Arnaud Imatz

Notes :

[1] Les figures les plus connues du conservatisme américain de l’après-guerre furent M. E. Bradford, James Burnham, Irving Babbitt, le premier William Buckley (jusqu’à la fin des années 1960), Will Herberg, Russell Kirk, Gerhart Niemeyer, Robert Nisbet, Forrest McDonald et Frank Meyer. Celles du néo-conservatisme sont Daniel Bell, Allan Bloom, Irving Kristol, S. M. Lipset, Perle, Podhoretz, Wattenberg ou Wolfowitz (N.d.A.I.).
[2] Dans son livre Conservatism in America, Paul Gottfried recommande trois autres sources qui peuvent aussi être consultées avec profit : l’enquête de George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 (2ème éd., Wilmington, DE : ISI, 1996), l’anthologie de textes de Gregory L. Schneider, Conservatism in America Since 1930 (New York, New York University Press, 2003) et l’encyclopédie publiée par l’Intercollegiate Studies Institute, American Conservatism : An Encyclopedia (ISI, 2006), (N.d.A.I.).

Correspondance Polémia - 5/08/2011

mercredi, 31 août 2011

Armin Mohler, l'homme qui nous désignait l'ennemi!


Thorsten HINZ:

Armin Mohler, l’homme qui nous désignait l’ennemi


Le Dr. Karlheinz Weissmann vient de sortir de presse une biographie d’Armin Mohler, publiciste de la droite allemande et historien de la “révolution conservatrice”


Armin Mohler ne fut jamais l’homme des demies-teintes!


Qui donc Armin Mohler détestait-il? Les libéraux et les tièdes, les petits jardiniers amateurs qui gratouillent le bois mort qui encombre l’humus, c’est-à-dire les nouilles de droite, inoffensives parce que dépouvues de pertinence! Il détestait aussi tous ceux qui s’agrippaient aux concepts et aux tabous que définissait leur propre ennemi. Il considérait que les libéraux étaient bien plus subtils et plus dangereux que les communistes: pour reprendre un bon mot de son ami Robert Hepp: ils nous vantaient l’existence de cent portes de verre qu’ils nous définissaient comme l’Accès, le seul Accès, à la liberté, tout en taisant soigneusement le fait que 99 de ces portes demeuraient toujours fermées. La victoire totale des libéraux a hissé l’hypocrisie en principe ubiquitaire. Les gens sont désormais jugés selon les déclarations de principe qu’ils énoncent sans nécessairement y croire et non pas sur leurs actes et sur les idées qu’ils sont prêts à défendre.


Mohler était était un type “agonal”, un gars qui aimait la lutte: sa bouille carrée de Bâlois l’attestait. Avec la subtilité d’un pluvier qui capte les moindres variations du climat, Mohler repérait les courants souterrains de la politique et de la société. C’était un homme de forte sensibilité mais certainement pas un sentimental. Mohler pensait et écrivait clair quand il abordait la politique: ses mots étaient durs, tranchants, de véritables armes. Il était déjà un “conservateur moderne” ou un “néo-droitiste” avant que la notion n’apparaisse dans les médiats. En 1995, il s’était défini comme un “fasciste au sens où l’entendait José Antonio Primo de Rivera”. Mohler se référait ainsi —mais peu nombreux étaient ceux qui le savaient— au jeune fondateur de la Phalange espagnole, un homme intelligent et cultivé, assassiné par les gauches ibériques et récupéré ensuite par Franco.


Il manquait donc une biographie de ce doyen du conservatisme allemand d’après guerre, mort en 2003. Karlheinz Weissmann était l’homme appelé à combler cette lacune: il connait la personnalité de Mohler et son oeuvre; il est celui qui a actualisé l’ouvrage de référence de Mohler sur la révolution conservatrice.


Pour Mohler seuls comptaient le concret et le réel


La sensibilité toute particulière d’Armin Mohler s’est déployée dans le décor de la ville-frontière suisse de Bâle. Mohler en était natif. Il y avait vu le jour en 1920. En 1938, la lecture d’un livre le marque à jamais: c’est celui de Christoph Steding, “Das Reich und die Krankheit der europäischen Kultur” (“Le Reich et la pathologie de la culture européenne”). Pour Steding, l’Allemagne, jusqu’en 1933, avait couru le risque de subir une “neutralisation politique et spirituelle”, c’est-à-dire une “helvétisation de la pensée allemande”, ce qui aurait conduit à la perte de la souveraineté intérieure et extérieure; l’Allemagne aurait dérogé pour adopter le statut d’un “intermédiaire éclectique”. Les peuples qui tombent dans une telle déchéance sont “privés de destin” et tendent à ne plus produire que des “pharisiens nés”. On voit tout de suite que Steding était intellectuellement proche de Carl Schmitt. Quant à ce dernier, il a pris la peine de recenser personnellement le livre, publié à titre posthume, de cet auteur mort prématurément. Dans ce livre apparaissent certains des traits de pensée qui animeront Mohler, le caractériseront, tout au long de son existence.


L’Allemagne est devenue pour le jeune Mohler “la grande tentation”, tant et si bien qu’il franchit illégalement le frontière suisse en février 1942 “pour aider les Allemands à gagner la guerre”. Cet intermède allemand ne durera toutefois qu’une petite année. Mohler passa quelques mois à Berlin, avec le statut d’étudiant, et s’y occupa des auteurs de la “révolution conservatrice”, à propos desquels il rédigera sa célèbre thèse de doctorat, sous la houlette de Karl Jaspers. Mohler était un rebelle qui s’insurgeait contre la croyance au progrès et à la raison, une croyance qui estime que le monde doit à terme être tout compénétré de raison et que les éléments, qui constituent ce monde, peuvent être combinés les uns aux autres ou isolés les uns des autres à loisir, selon une logique purement arbitraire. Contre cette croyance et cette vision, Mohler voulait opposer les forces élémentaires de l’art et de la culture, de la nationalité et de l’histoire. Ce contre-mouvement, disait-il, et cela le distinguait des tenants de la “vieille droite”, ne visait pas la restauration d’un monde ancré dans le 19ème siècle, mais tenait expressément compte des nouvelles réalités.


Dans un chapitre, intitulé “Du nominalisme”, le Dr. Karlheinz Weissmann explicite les tentatives de Mohler, qui ne furent pas toujours probantes, de systématiser ses idées et ses vues. Il est clair que Mohler rejette toute forme d’universalisme car tout universalisme déduit le particulier d’un ordre spirituel sous-jacent et identitque pour tous, et noie les réalités dans une “mer morte d’abstractions”. Pour le nominaliste Mohler, les concepts avancés par les universalismes ne sont que des dénominations abstraites et arbitraires, inventées a poteriori, et qui n’ont pour effets que de répandre la confusion. Pour Mohler, seuls le concret et le particulier avaient de l’importance, soit le “réel”, qu’il cherchait à saisir par le biais d’images fortes, puissantes et organiques. Par conséquent, ses sympathies personnelles n’étaient pas déterminées par les idées politiques dont se réclamaient ses interlocuteurs mais tenaient d’abord compte de la valeur de l’esprit et du caractère qu’il percevait chez l’autre.


En 1950, Mohler devint le secrétaire d’Ernst Jünger. Ce ne fut pas une époque dépourvue de conflits. Après l’intermède de ce secrétariat, vinrent les années françaises de notre théoricien: il devint en effet le correspondant à Paris du “Tat” suisse et de l’hebdomadaire allemand “Die Zeit”. A partir de 1961, il fut le secrétaire, puis le directeur, de la “Fondation Siemens”. Dans le cadre de cette éminente fonction, il a essayé de contrer la dérive gauchisante de la République fédérale, en organisant des colloques de très haut niveau et en éditant des livres ou des publications remarquables. Parmi les nombreux livres que nous a laissés Mohler, “Nasenring” (= “L’anneau nasal”) est certainement le plus célèbre: il constitue une attaque en règle, qui vise à fustiger l’attitude que les Allemands ont prise vis-à-vis de leur propre histoire (la fameuse “Vergangenheitsbewältigung”). En 1969, Mohler écrivait dans l’hebdomadaire suisse “Weltwoche”: “Le ‘Républiquefédéralien’ est tout occupé, à la meilleure manière des méthodes ‘do-it-yourself’, à se faire la guerre à lui-même. Il n’y a pas que lui: tout le monde occidental semble avoir honte de descendre d’hommes de bonne trempe; tout un chacun voudrait devenir un névrosé car seul cet état, désormais, est considéré comme ‘humain’”.


En France, Mohler était un adepte critique de Charles de Gaulle. Il estimait que l’Europe des patries, proposée par le Général, aurait été capable de faire du Vieux Continent une “Troisième Force” entre les Etats-Unis et l’Union Soviétique. Dans les années 60, certaines ouvertures semblaient possibles pour Mohler: peut-être pourrait-il gagner en influence politique via le Président de la CSU bavaroise, Franz-Josef Strauss? Il entra à son service comme “nègre”. Ce fut un échec: Strauss, systématiquement, modifiait les ébauches de discours que Mohler avait truffées de références gaulliennes et les traduisait en un langage “atlantiste”. De la part de Strauss, était-ce de la faiblesse ou était-ce le regard sans illusions du pragmatique qui ne jure que par le “réalisable”? Quoi qu’il en soit, on perçoit ici l’un des conflits fondamentaux qui ont divisé les conservateurs après la guerre: la plupart des hommes de droite se contentaient d’une République fédérale sous protectorat américain (sans s’apercevoir qu’à long terme, ils provoquaient leur propre disparition), tandis que Mohler voulait une Allemagne européenne et libre.


Le conflit entre européistes et atlantistes provoqua également l’échec de la revue “Die Republik”, que l’éditeur Axel Springer voulait publier pour en faire le forum des hommes de droite hors partis et autres ancrages politiciens: Mohler décrit très bien cette péripétie dans “Nasenring”.


Il semble donc bien que ce soit sa qualité de Suisse qui l’ait sauvé de cette terrible affliction que constitue la perte d’imagination chez la plupart des conservateurs allemands de l’après-guerre. Par ailleurs, le camp de la droite établie a fini par le houspiller dans l’isolement. Caspar von Schrenck-Notzing lui a certes ouvert les colonnes de “Criticon”, qui furent pour lui une bonne tribune, mais les autres éditeurs de revues lui claquèrent successivement la porte au nez; malgré son titre de doctorat, il n’a pas davantage pu mener une carrière universitaire. La réunification n’a pas changé grand chose à sa situation: les avantages pour lui furent superficiels et éphémères.


La cadre historique, dans lequel nous nous débattions du temps de Mohler, et dans lequel s’est déployée sa carrière étonnante, freinée uniquement par des forces extérieures, aurait pu gagner quelques contours tranchés et précis. On peut discerner aujourd’hui la grandeur de Mohler. On devrait aussi pouvoir mesurer la tragédie qu’il a incarnée. Weissmann constate qu’il existait encore jusqu’au milieu des années 80 une certaine marge de manoeuvre pour la droite intellectuelle en Allemagne mais que cet espace potentiel s’est rétréci parce que la gauche n’a jamais accepté le dialogue ou n’a jamais rien voulu apprendre du réel. Le lecteur se demande alors spontanément: pourquoi la gauche aurait-elle donc dialogué puisque le rapport de force objectif était en sa faveur?


Weissmann a donc résussi un tour de force: il a écrit une véritable “biographie politique” d’Armin Mohler. Son livre deviendra un classique.


Thorsten HINZ.

(article paru dans “Junge Freiheit”, Berlin, n°31/32-2011; http://www.jugefreiheit.de/ ).

dimanche, 10 juillet 2011

La droite et le libéralisme

La droite et le libéralisme

par Pierre LE VIGAN

Maurras rappelle une réticence classique des droites vis-à-vis du libéralisme quand il énonce : « la liberté de qui ? la liberté de quoi ? c’est la question qui est posée depuis cent cinquante ans au libéralisme. Il n’a jamais pu y répondre » (Maurras, Dictionnaire politique et critique, 1938). Pour comprendre cette réticence, il faut remonter aux origines de la droite.

Août – septembre 1789 : à l’occasion du débat constitutionnel, les partisans du veto absolu (et non suspensif) du roi se situent à droite de l’assemblée. À gauche se placent les partisans d’un pouvoir royal faible. Dans le même temps, une partie des droites se prononce en faveur d’une constitution à l’anglaise fondée sur le bicaméralisme. De quoi s’agit-il ? Exactement de deux rapports très différents au libéralisme, et qui concernent dés l’origine les familles politiques qui se situent « à droite ». Être partisan d’un veto royal absolu signifie refuser l’autorité venue « d’en bas », c’est-à-dire du Parlement. C’est, d’emblée, défendre une conception transcendante du pouvoir, et considérer, avec Joseph de Maistre, qu’on ne peut « fonder l’État sur le décompte des volontés individuelles ». À l’inverse, être partisan du bicaméralisme signifie se méfier du peuple tout autant que du pouvoir. Tout en ayant comme point commun l’opposition à la toute-puissance de l’Assemblée constituante, ce sont là deux façons très différentes d’être « à droite ». Le paysage se complique plus encore en prenant en compte les arrière-pensées de chaque position.

Si le bicaméralisme est l’expression constitutionnelle assez claire d’un souci d’alliance ou de compromis entre la bourgeoisie montante et l’aristocratie déclinante, par contre, la revendication d’un pouvoir royal fort peut – et c’est une constante de l’histoire des familles politiques de droite – se faire en fonction de préoccupations non seulement différentes mais contradictoires : s’agit-il de donner au roi les moyens de liquider au profit de la bourgeoisie les pouvoirs nobiliaires qui s’incarnaient dans les anciens parlements, ou au contraire s’agit-il de pousser le roi à s’arc-bouter sur la défense de ces privilèges nobiliaires, ou bien encore de nouer une nouvelle alliance entre roi et  peuple contre la montée de la bourgeoisie ? De même, le bicaméralisme a pour préoccupation d’affaiblir le camp des « patriotes » (c’est-à-dire de la gauche), et rencontre donc des soutiens « à droite ». Pour autant, est-il « de droite » dans la mesure où il relève d’une  méfiance devant tout principe d’autorité ? En tant que moyen d’empêcher la toute-puissance de l’Assemblée constituante, ne relève-t-il pas indiscutablement du libéralisme, c’est-à-dire d’une attitude moderne qu’exècrent une grande partie des droites ?

Cette attitude moderne a ses racines, comme l’a bien vu Benjamin Constant, dans un sens différent de la liberté chez les Anciens et les Modernes. Le bonheur étant passé dans le domaine privé, et étant, sous cette forme, devenu « une idée neuve en Europe » (Saint-Just), la politique moderne consiste à ne pas tout attendre de l’action collective. La souveraineté doit ainsi être limitée, ce qui va plus loin que la simple séparation des pouvoirs. « Vous avez beau diviser les pouvoirs : si la somme totale du pouvoir est illimitée, les pouvoirs divisés n’ont qu’à former une coalition et le despotisme est sans remède » (Benjamin Constant). Tel est le principe de fond du libéralisme : la séparation tranchée des sphères privées et publiques. Conséquence : la crainte du pouvoir en soi. Car dans le même temps, la désacralisation du monde aboutit à ce que chacun estime – comme l’avait vu Tocqueville, avoir « un droit absolu sur lui-même », par déficit de sentiment de  participation à la totalité du monde. En sorte que la volonté souveraine ne peut sortir que de « l’union des volontés de tous ». La réunion des conditions d’une telle unanimité étant à l’évidence difficile, – ou dangereuse – le libéralisme y supplée en affirmant le caractère « naturel » – et par là indécidable – de toute une sphère de la vie sociale : la sphère économique, celle de la production et reproduction des conditions de la vie matérielle. Rien de moins.

Un tel point de vue par rapport à l’économie et aux rapports de travail dans la société n’est caractéristique que de l’une des droites – une droite qui n’est pas « née » à droite mais qui a évolué vers le freinage d’un mouvement qu’elle avait elle-même contribué à engendrer. C’est en quelque sorte la droite selon le « droit du sol » contre la droite selon le « droit du sang ». Relève de la première l’homme politique et historien François Guizot, valorisant la marche vers le libéralisme avant 1789, mais cherchant à l’arrêter à cette date. C’est la droite orléaniste. Les autres droites, celles qui le sont par principe – et parce qu’elles croient aux principes  – prônent l’intervention dans le domaine économique et social. « Quant à l’économie, on ne saurait trop souligner combien le développement d’une pensée sociale en France doit à la droite, remarque François Ewald. […] Il ne faut pas oublier que les premiers critiques de l’économie bourgeoise et des méfaits du capitalisme ont été des figures de droite (Villeneuve de Barjemont, Sismonde de Sismondi) (1). »

Cette critique des sociétés libérales par certaines droites n’est pas de circonstance. Elle s’effectue au nom d’une autre vision  de l’homme et de la société que celle des libéraux. « Il y a une sociologie de droite, précise encore François Ewald, peut-être occultée par la tradition durkheimienne, dont Frédéric Le Play est sans doute avec Gabriel de Tarde le représentant le plus intéressant ». La pensée anti-libérale de droite est, de fait, jalonnée par un certain nombre d’acteurs et de penseurs importants. Joseph de Maistre et Louis de Bonald voient dans l’irréligion, le libéralisme, la démocratie des produits de l’individualisme. Le catholique Bûchez (1796 – 1865), pour sa part,  défend les idées de l’association ouvrière par le biais du journal L’Atelier. Le Play, de son côté, critique « les faux dogmes de 1789 » : la perfection originelle de l’homme (qui devrait donc être restaurée), sa liberté systématique, l’aspiration à l’égalité comme droit perpétuel à la révolte. La Tour du Pin, disciple de Le Play, critique la séparation (le « partage ») du pouvoir, considérant que celui-ci doit s’incarner dans un prince, mais propose la limitation du pouvoir et la consultation de la société (civile) notamment par la représentation corporative : le refus du libéralisme n’équivaut pas à une adhésion automatique à l’autoritarisme.

Par contre, le refus d’une société réduite à des atomes individuels est une constante de la pensée de droite, de l’école contre-révolutionnaire aux divers traditionalismes. Maurras a défendu l’idée, dans ses Réflexions sur la révolution de 1789, que la loi Le Chapelier interdisant l’organisation des travailleurs était un des actes les plus néfastes de la Révolution. Il établit un lien entre celle-ci et le libéralisme pour, tous les deux, les condamner. « L’histoire des travailleurs au XIXe siècle, écrit Maurras, se caractérise par une ardente réaction du travailleur en tant que personne à l’encontre de son isolement en tant qu’« individu », isolement imposé par la Révolution et maintenu par le libéralisme (2). » Thierry Maulnier résumait de son côté l’opinion d’une Jeune Droite composante essentielle des « non-conformistes de années Trente » en écrivant : « Il devait être réservé à la société de structure libérale d’imposer à une catégorie d’individus un mode de dépendance qui tendait, non à les attacher à la société, mais à les en exclure (3) ».

L’Espagnol José Antonio Primo de Rivera formulait un point de vue largement répandu dans la droite française extra-parlementaire quand il évoquait, en 1933, la signification du libéralisme économique. « L’État libéral est venu nous offrir l’esclavage économique, en disant aux ouvriers : vous êtes libres de travailler; personne ne vous oblige à accepter telle ou telle condition. Puisque nous sommes les riches, nous vous offrons les conditions qui nous conviennent; en tant que citoyens libres, vous n’êtes pas obligés de les accepter; mais en tant que citoyens pauvres, si vous ne les acceptez pas, vous mourrez de faim, entourés, bien sûr, de la plus haute dignité libérale. »

Les critiques à l’égard du libéralisme énoncées par une partie des droites sont parallèles à celles énoncées d’un point de vue catholique par Louis Veuillot, puis par René de La Tour du Pin et Albert de Mun, promoteurs des Cercles catholiques d’ouvriers, qui furent confortés par l’encyclique Rerum Novarum (1891), mais dont les positions annonçaient avec cinquante ans d’avance celles de Divini Redemptoris (1937). C’est à ce moment que se met en forme, à droite (avec Thierry Maulnier, Jean-Pierre Maxence, Robert Francis, etc.), une critique du productivisme complémentaire de la critique du libéralisme. La Jeune Droite rejoignait sur ce point la critique d’auteurs plus inclassables (Drieu La Rochelle, Robert Aron, Arnaud Dandieu, …).

Si l’anti-productivisme, comme l’anti-économisme (celui par exemple de la « Nouvelle Droite » du dernier quart du XXe siècle) apparaissent par éclipse à droite, la condamnation du libéralisme est le noyau commun de la pensée de droite. Caractéristique dans sa banalité droitière même est le propos de Pierre Chateau-Jobert : « Le libéralisme, écrit-il, […] a pris la liberté pour seule règle. Mais pratiquement, c’est le plus fort, ou le moins scrupuleux, ou le plus riche, qui est le plus “ libre ”, puisqu’il a le plus de moyens (4) ». Droitiste d’une envergure plus considérable, Maurice Bardèche ira jusqu’à déclarer que, comme Jean-Paul Sartre, il « préfère la justice à la liberté ».

Cette conception de la liberté comme toujours subordonnée à d’autres impératifs explique que la droite soit à l’origine de nombreuses propositions sociales. En 1882, Mgr Freppel demande la création de retraites ouvrières. En 1886, Albert de Mun propose la limitation de la journée de travail à dix heures et, en 1891, demande la limitation du travail des femmes et des enfants. En 1895, le même de Mun demande que soit reconnue aux syndicats la possibilité de posséder de biens à usage collectif. En 1913, Jean Lerolle réclame l’instauration d’un salaire minimum pour les ouvrières à domicile (5).

Les projets de réorganisation des rapports sociaux de Vichy (la Charte du travail soutenue par nombre de syndicalistes) comportent  de même des aspects socialement protecteurs. Enfin, la difficulté de réaliser des transformations sociales qu’a montré l’expérience de gauche de 1981 à 1983 permet de réévaluer les projets de participation et de « troisième voie » du Général de Gaulle et de certains de ses soutiens venus de la droite radicale comme Jacques Debu-Bridel, d’ailleurs anciens du Faisceau de Georges Valois.

La critique du libéralisme par la droite – hormis le courant orléaniste -, concerne tout autant l’économie que le politique. Le parlementarisme, expression concrète du libéralisme politique selon la droite est, jusqu’à l’avènement de la Ve République, accusé de fragmenter l’expression de la souveraineté nationale, et de la soumettre aux groupes de pression. Pour Barrès, « le parlementarisme aboutit en fait à la constitution d’une oligarchie élective qui confisque la souveraineté de la nation ». D’où sa préférence pour le plébiscite comme « idée centrale constitutive » : « le plébiscite reconstitue cette souveraineté parce qu’il lui donne un mode d’expression simple, le seul dont elle puisse s’accompagner ».

De son côté, Déroulède précise : « Vouloir arracher la République au joug des parlementaires, ce n’est pas vouloir la renverser, c’est vouloir tout au contraire instaurer la démocratie véritable ». Péguy, pour sa part, dénonce en 1902 le parlementarisme comme une « maladie ». Trente années plus tard, André Tardieu (1876 – 1945), chef d’une droite modernisatrice de 1929 à 1936, créateur des assurances sociales, député de Belfort (ville se dotant souvent de députés originaux), auteur de La révolution à refaire voit dans le parlementarisme « l’ennemi de la France éternelle ». Dans un contexte singulièrement aggravé, et énonçant le point de vue de la « Révolution nationale », Charles-Emmanuel Dufourcq, dans Les redressements français (6) concentre aussi ses attaques contre le parlementarisme et l’autorité « venue d’en-bas » comme causes, tout au long de l’histoire de France, des affaiblissements dont le pays n’est sorti que par le recours à l’autorité indiscutée d’un roi, d’un Napoléon ou d’un Pétain. Il manifestait ainsi une remarquable continuité – ou une étonnante absence d’imagination selon le point de vue – avec les tendances théocratiques de la Contre-Révolution.

En revanche, plus marginaux sont les secteurs de la droite qui se sont sentis concernés par la critique du parlementarisme effectuée par le juriste Carré de Malberg, qui inspirera René Capitant et les rédacteurs de la Constitution de 1958.  Dès le XIXe siècle, aussi bien la droite dans ses composantes non-orléanistes que la gauche des démocrates et des socialistes – de Ledru-Rollin à Proudhon – sont en porte à faux par rapports aux mythes fondateurs de la modernité française. « L’objectif de 1789 […] consiste, indique Pierre Rosanvallon, à démocratiser, “ politiquement ”, le système politique, qui est d’essence absolutiste, et à libéraliser, “ sociologiquement ”, la structure sociale, qui est d’essence féodale (7) ».

La difficulté du processus tient dans sa simultanéité (et c’est la différence avec l’Angleterre). D’un côté, la gauche socialiste veut « républicaniser la propriété » (Jules Guesde), de l’autre, une certaine droite met en cause « les responsabilités des dynasties bourgeoises » (Emmanuel Beau de Loménie) et le libéralisme qui les a laissé prendre tant de place. Rien d’étonnant à ce que des convergences apparaissent parfois (le Cercle Proudhon avant 1914, les planistes et « non-conformistes des années Trente », le groupe Patrie et Progrès au début de la Ve République, …).

En effet, pour toute la période qui va du milieu du XIXe siècle à nos jours, la distinction proposée par René Rémond en 1954 entre trois droites, légitimiste, orléaniste, bonapartiste, apparaît peu adaptée. D’une part, l’appartenance du bonapartisme à la droite est très problématique : c’est un centrisme césarien. D’autre part, l’orléanisme est écartelé dès son origine entre conservatisme et libéralisme : conservatisme dont François Guizot est une figure centrale, qualifiée par Francis-Paul Benoît de « conservateur immobile, donc non libéral (8) », le libéralisme étant représenté, plus que par les économistes « classiques », par les saint-simoniens modernistes ralliés à Napoléon III.

À partir de 1870, le clivage qui s’établit, « à droite », oppose, plutôt que les trois droites de la typologie de René Rémond, une droite radicale (radicalement de droite, et non conjoncturellement radicalisée), voire une « droite révolutionnaire » (Zeev Sternhell) en gestation, et une droite libérale-conservatrice. L’organisation d’une « droite » libérale au plan économique, conservatrice au plan politique est en effet ce qui permet après le Second Empire le passage, sinon sans heurts, du moins sans révolutions de la France dans l’univers bourgeois et capitaliste. C’est à l’évidence à cette droite que pensait un jour François Mitterrand disant : « la droite n’a pas d’idées, elle n’a que des intérêts ». C’est la droite comme la désigne désormais le sens commun.

Entre la droite révolutionnaire (forme extrême de la droite radicale) et la droite libérale (qui n’est conservatrice que dans la mesure où un certain conservatisme, notamment moral, est le moyen de faire accepter le libéralisme), la vision de la politique est toute différente. Du point de vue libéral, dans la mesure où la souveraineté ne peut venir que du consensus, le champ de la « naturalité » économique et sociale doit être étendu le plus possible. À la suite des penseurs libéraux français comme Bastiat, Hayek affirme que « le contrôle conscient n’est possible que dans les domaines où il est vraiment possible de se mettre d’accord » (ils ne sont évidemment pas très nombreux).

Tout autre est l’attitude du radicalisme de droite (appelé souvent « extrême droite » avec de forts risques de contresens). Jean-François Sirinelli, coordinateur d’une Histoire des droites en France (9), remarque que « l’extrême droite aspire rien moins qu’à un état fusionnel de la politique ». Certes. En d’autres termes, elle aspire à retrouver – ou à inventer – un critère d’indiscutabilité du principe d’autorité, et du lien social lui-même. Conséquence : cette droite radicale tend à ne pas décliner son identité comme celle d’une droite, s’affirmant « ni de droite, ni de gauche » (Barrès, Valois, Bertrand de Jouvenel, Doriot, les hommes des Équipes d’Uriage, le Jean-Gilles Malliarakis des années 80, …), ou encore « simultanément de droite et de gauche » (la « Nouvelle Droite »).

La difficulté de caractériser la droite par des idées à amener certains analystes comme Alain-Gérard Slama à essayer de la définir par un tempérament. Celui-ci consisterait, selon Slama, dans la recherche du compromis. Cette hypothèse ne fait que souligner l’existence de deux droites, une droite libérale, et la droite radicale, que presque tout oppose. Si la première recherche effectivement les accommodements, la droite radicale se caractérise plutôt par la recherche d’un dépassement synthétique des contradictions du monde moderne. À divers égards, sous des formes et à des niveaux très différents, c’est ce qui rassemble Le Play, Péguy, Bernanos, Drieu la Rochelle, Charles de Gaulle. Dépassement des contradictions de la modernité : vaste programme que ces hommes – pas toujours « à droite », mais sans doute « de droite » – n’ont jamais envisagé de mettre en œuvre par des moyens par principe libéraux.

Pierre Le Vigan


1 : François Ewald, Le Magazine littéraire, « La droite. Idéologies et littérature », décembre 1992.

2 : cité dans Thomas Molnar, La Contre-Révolution, La Table Ronde, 1981.

3 : Thierry Maulnier, Au-delà du nationalisme, Gallimard, 1938, p. 153.

4 : Pierre Chateau-Jobert, Manifeste politique et social, Diffusion de la pensée française, 1973.

5 : Cf. Charles Berrias et Michel Toda, Enquête sur l’histoire, n° 6, 1992, p. 13.

6 : Charles-Emmanuel Dufourcq, Les redressements français, Lardanchet, 1943.

7 : François Furet, Jacques Julliard, Pierre Rosanvallon, La République du centre. La fin de l’exception française, Calmann-Lévy, 1988.

8 : Francis-Paul Benoît, Les idéologies politiques modernes. Le temps de Hegel, P.U.F., 1980, p. 314.

9 : cf. Histoire des droites en France, Gallimard, trois volumes, 1992.

Le présent article, remanié pour Europe Maxima, est paru dans Arnaud Guyot-Jeannin (sous la direction de), Aux sources de la droite, L’Âge d’Homme, 2000.

Article printed from Europe Maxima: http://www.europemaxima.com

URL to article: http://www.europemaxima.com/?p=2014

jeudi, 26 mai 2011

Bonald's Economic Thought


Bonald’s Economic Thought

By F.  Rober DEVLIN

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

The French Age of Enlightenment witnessed and celebrated an economic revolution: the rapid growth of speculation and a money economy, and a corresponding diminution in the importance of landed wealth. Bonald believed that the change had been brought about by the practice of usury. He did not condemn all lending at interest as usury, but distinguished between the cases of lending for the acquisition of productive goods (such as land or capital) and lending for unproductive goods meant for consumption.

For example, if I lend a man money to buy a farm, I may legitimately charge him interest out of the goods produced by the farm. In the France of Bonald’s day, this would usually have yielded an interest rate of around four or five percent per annum. On the other hand, if I lend a man money to by bread, his purchase, far from being productive of further value, loses what value it has if not quickly consumed. In contrast to the earth itself, “the products of the earth, are dead values which diminish in quantity or quality.” To earn money by lending for consumption is, in Bonald’s view, essentially unjust and a violation of Christian charity even if freely agreed to between borrower and lender.

It might appear that such a doctrine would forbid an ordinary greengrocer from operating his store at a profit. Bonald holds that the grocer’s ‘profit’ really amounts to a wage for the work he does:

The labor of men who purchase, transport, store, preserve and improve goods merits a salary. The natural decrease, the accidental and eventual loss of goods and the inevitable waste they suffer from their transformation into industrial values all require compensation.

This contradicts the teaching of Adam Smith:

The profits of stock, it may perhaps be thought, are only a different name for the wages of a particular sort of labour, the labour of inspection and direction. They are, however, altogether different, are regulated by quite different principles, and bear no proportion to the quantity, the hardship, or the ingenuity of this supposed labour of inspection and direction. They are regulated altogether by the value of the stock employed, and are greater or smaller in proportion to the extent of this stock. . . . In many great works, almost the whole labour of this kind is committed to some principal clerk. His wages properly express the value of this labour of inspection and direction. Though in settling them some regard is had commonly, not only to his labour and skill, but to the trust which is reposed in him, yet they never bear any regular proportion to the capital of which he oversees the management; and the owner of this capital, though he is thus discharged of almost all labour, still expects that his profit should bear a regular proportion to his capital. In the price of commodities, therefore, the profits of stock constitute a component part altogether different from the wages of labour, and regulated by quite different principles. (The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter 6)

I will not venture to decide the question in Bonald’s favor, but I am inclined to wonder how many modern economists could give a coherent explanation of why his unfashionable view is mistaken.

Money, in Bonald’s view, is properly a sign of value and medium of exchange rather than a commodity like any other. It should not, therefore, command a ‘price’ in the form of interest (except as noted). Where usury is permitted,

interest, or rather the price of money, is infinitely greater than the produce of the earth, [so] everyone wishes to sell his land in order to procure money to lend. But when everyone wants to sell, no one wants to buy. The produce of the land tends to rise to the highest prices, and the lands themselves fall to the lowest, or they are unable to be sold at any price, and one buys only what misery leaves behind or revolutions make available. One notes a general tendency to leave one’s home and the home of one’s fathers, to leave one’s family and country. A vague restlessness and desire for change torments landowners. They complain of being attached to an estate burdened with so many cares, and with too little income left to pay for their luxuries and pleasures. We see an immoderate desire to become rich extending even to the lowest orders of society, causing horrible disorders and unheard of crimes; while in others giving rise to a cold, hard egoism, a total extinction of every generous sentiment, and an insensible transformation of the most disinterested and friendly nation into a people of stock-jobbers who see in the events of society only chances for gain or loss.

To this unstable, calculating and hectic system Bonald opposes the traditional landed or agrarian system of economy which flourishes when interest rates are not allowed to exceed the production of the earth:

Those who can live within the revenue of their capital seek to acquire productive land, because the revenue of land is approximately the same as the interest paid for money, and it is more secure because the capital itself is more sheltered from events. Yet were everyone wants to buy, no one wants to sell. Lands are therefore at a high price relative to goods. All the citizens aspire to move from being possessors of money to being possessors of land, i.e., from a mobile and dependent political condition to a fixed and independent position. This is the most happy and most moral cast of the public mind, the one most opposed to the spirit of greed and to revolution.

The reader will learn more about agrarianism from a few pages of Bonald than from all the literary exercises in I’ll Take My Stand.

Bonald saw no reason why the legislator should remain neutral regarding developments so harmful to the moral habits of society:

A wise policy, one more attentive to general interests than to private ones, would seek to render the circulation of money less rapid: in Sparta, by using iron money, in modern states, by the prohibition of lending at usury. . . . If the profits of commerce regularly rise far above the revenue of the land, it would be a wise measure to bring them back to equality, either by favoring the cultivation of the earth in every possible way, or by containing the speculations of commerce within the limits of general utility.

To restore the agrarian order, Bonald also advocated the restoration of primogeniture and entail: “a law not made for the benefit of the eldest, but for the preservation and permanence of the landowning family.” Revolutionary legislation had mandated the equal division and inheritance of landed estates. This was not unlike Solomon’s judgment of carving the child in two: a half or a quarter or an eighth of an estate is often not worth the corresponding fraction of the original. It may be unfortunate that all men cannot live off their own lands, but parceling out estates into a welter of vegetable gardens does not improve matters; it only forces the ‘heirs’ to sell out for any price they can get. As a leading citizen of his district, Bonald got to know the evils of the new system at first hand.

A rich cultivator whom the author congratulated for the good state of his properties responded in a dolorous tone: “It is true, my property is beautiful and well cultivated. My fathers for several centuries and I for fifty years have worked to extend, improve and embellish it. But you see my large family, and with their laws on inheritance, my children will one day be servants here where they were the masters.”

Bonald even defended the guild system, which Smith had criticized for restricting competition and inefficiently requiring seven year apprenticeships for trades which took six months to learn.

For the inferior classes, the corporations of arts and trades were a sort of hereditary municipal nobility that gave importance and dignity to the most obscure individuals and the least exalted professions. These corporations were at the same time confraternities, and this is what excited the hatred of the philosophes who hunted down religion even in its most modest manifestations. This monarchical institution brought great benefits to administration. The power of the masters restrained youths who lacked education, who had been taken away from paternal authority at an early age by the necessity to learn a trade and win their bread, and whose obscurity hid from the public power. Finally, the inheritance of the mechanical professions also served public morals by posing a check to ruinous and ridiculous changes of fashion.

The author’s first point is especially worth pondering: a man can be happy in a low station, so long as it is a recognized station within his society. The ‘equality bug’ infects men who are deracinated, i.e., who do not belong anywhere. Those with the dignity of even a modest ‘place’ are seldom disturbed by the greater fortunes of others.

Bonald criticized Smith directly:

Wealth, taken in a general and philosophical sense, is the means of existence and conservation; opes, in the Latin tongue, signifies both wealth and strength. For the individual—a physical being—these means are material wealth, the produce of the soil and of industry. For society—a moral being—the means of existence and duration are moral riches, and the forces of conservation are, for the domestic society, morals, and for the public society, laws. Morals and laws are, therefore, the true and even the only wealth of societies, families and nations.

Here again we see Bonald’s sharp distinction between universal or public interests and particular or private ones: economic goods are always private, even if they happen to be enjoyed by all the individuals in a given society. This is why Liberalism (which, according to no less an authority than Ludwig von Mises, is “merely applied economics”) cannot give any account of why citizens should have to sacrifice their lives for their country:

A public spirit cannot be maintained in a commercial and manufacturing nation devoted to calculations of personal interest, and still less today when the laws of war protect the personal property of the vanquished and in our humanitarian sentiments we call it a crime for a citizen not to be paid to defend his land. In every era, poor nations have conquered rich ones, even though they held in their wealth the most powerful motives for self-defense.

Similarly, in his earlier treatise On Divorce [2] (see my review here [3] and here [4]), Bonald pointed out that commercial peoples tend to think even of marriage on the model of a business contract. He writes of “the degradation of a neighboring people [the English] which evaluates the weakness of a woman, the crime of a seducer, and the shame of a husband in pounds, shillings, and pence, and sues for the total on expert estimates.”

Bonald rejects the “privatize everything!” impulse which sees socialism lurking in every town square:

The use of common things, temples, waters, woods, and pastures constitutes the property of the community. Indeed, there is no more community where there is no longer a community of use. It may be true that the commons were poorly administered. I would even believe that their division, in some places, has produced a little more wheat. Yet in some lands this division restricts flocks to spaces too small for them and thus ruins and important branch of agriculture. More importantly, there is no more common property among the inhabitants of the same place and, consequently, no more community of interests, no more occasions for deliberation and agreement. For example, if there were only one public fountain in a village from which water was distributed to all the households, to take away the fountain would be to deny the inhabitants a continual occasion to see, speak to, and hear one another.

Bonald, like Marx after him, saw that industrial poverty was different in kind from the poverty in agricultural states, and a greater threat to traditional social order. Indeed, he comes close to calling the industrial proletariat the vanguard of the Revolution.

The true politician is concerned about the disorders that arise from the alternation of ease and misery to which the industrial population is exposed, which, making the objects of industry without being able to consume them, is no less obliged to consume the fruits of the soil without the ability to produce or even purchase them—and which, finding itself without work and without bread, is a ready-made instrument for revolution. . . . Let it not be doubted that it is in hopes of one day taking this superabundant population into its pay that one party in Europe promotes the exaggerated growth of industry, certain that it can give work to these idle arms in the immense workshop of the revolutionary industry.

Recommended reading:

Louis de Bonald
The True and Only Wealth of Nations: Essays on Family, Economy, and Society [5]
Ttranslated by Christopher Olaf Blum
Naples, Fla.: Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University, 2006

Critics of the Enlightenment: Readings in the French Counter-Revolutionary Tradition [6]
Edited and translated by Christopher Olaf Blum
Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books, 2004

Louis de Bonald
On Divorce [2]
Translated and edited by Nicholas Davidson
New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1992

TOQ Online, Dec. 5, 2009

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2011/05/bonalds-economic-thought/

jeudi, 19 mai 2011

A Brief Overview of Nicolas Gomez Davila's Thought

A Brief Overview of Nicolás Gómez Dávila's Thought





imagen47.jpgI: Introduction

The most subversive book in our time would be a compendium of old proverbs.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila was a man of wide-ranging interests, and his aphorisms reflect that fact. Although he was to a certain extent an autodidact—he received an excellent secondary education, but never attended university, instead relying on his voluminous library—he may rightfully be considered one of the great thinkers of the 20th century. Among the scholarly topics he wrote about are religion, philosophy, politics, history, literature, aesthetics, and more. Besides these scholarly interests, however, many of his aphorisms betray a more personal dimension, with intimate observations on topics like love and the process of aging.

Gómez Dávila by all accounts valued his privacy and was concerned primarily with finding the truth for himself. Why then, would he write down his thoughts and observations in aphorisms and even publish them, however secretively? Gómez Dávila was, quite possibly, writing a subversive collection of proverbs himself. He disavowed originality, and maintained that he desired only wisdom for himself, but despite his protests that he was not trying to convert anyone to his way of thinking, perhaps he secretly did harbor a hope that he might rouse a few souls from their dogmatic slumber. Of course, Gómez Dávila never resorted to a loud and vulgar way of awakening us moderns; he wrote his aphorisms so that anyone who happened to come across them might be inspired by a wisdom that is ancient yet ever young.

Unfortunately, this wisdom is largely foreign to us today, and precisely for that reason, so subversive. There are, then, quite a few aspects of Gómez Dávila’s work that merit closer examination.

II: Why aphorisms?

The first and most obvious is the very form of Gómez Dávila’s work: aphorisms. There has been some speculation about the motivations behind Gómez Dávila’s choice to write aphorisms, even though he himself gave the most important reason in Notas. In this early work, he stated that the only two “tolerable” ways to write were a long, leisurely style, and a short, elliptical style. However, since he did not think himself capable of the long, leisurely style, he opted for aphorisms. Aphorisms, according to Gómez Dávila, are like seeds containing the promise of “infinite consequences.” Another way to think of these aphorisms is to say that aphorisms are like the summits of ideas, which allow the reader to imagine the massive mountain beneath. The sheer number of aphorisms, then, helps take place of the long, metaphysical meditation Gómez Dávila wished for; each aphorism puts another in its proper context, and taken all together, they provide an outline of the implicit text mentioned in the title. But just as importantly for Gómez Dávila, these aphorisms, while providing context for each other, cannot be made into a thought-deadening system.

Another function that Gómez Dávila’s aphorisms served was, as their Spanish title (Escolios a un Texto Implícito) suggests, as notes on books he had read. The Spanish word escolio comes from the Greek
σχόλιον (scholion). This word is used to describe the annotations made by ancient and medieval scribes and students in the margins of their texts. Many of these aphorisms, then, are allusions to other works. They constitute the briefest of summaries of works he read, conclusions he had drawn from these works, or judgments on these works.

Finally, Gómez Dávila’s use of aphorisms was also motivated in part by polemical considerations. In the modern age, the reactionary cannot hope to formulate arguments that will convince his opponent, because he does not share any assumptions with his opponent. Moreover, even if the reactionary could argue from certain shared assumptions, modern man’s dogmatism prevents him from listening to argumentation. Faced with this situation, the reactionary should instead write aphorisms. Gómez Dávila compares his aphorisms to shots fired by a guerrilla from behind a thicket on any modern idea that dares advance along the road. The reactionary will not convince his opponent, but he may convert him.

III: What is a reactionary?

The second extraordinary feature of Gómez Dávila’s work is its “reactionary,” not merely conservative, content. “Reactionary” is mostly used today as an abusive epithet, sometimes as a synonym for that all-purpose slur, “fascist.” However, Gómez Dávila proudly labeled himself a reactionary and actually created a literary persona for himself as “the authentic reactionary,” precisely because of the stigma attached to the term. Gómez Dávila’s lifework was to be an authentic reactionary.

The term “reactionary,” then, demands some explanation. The reactionary, in the common political sense, is a rare breed in
America, primarily because of America’s own acceptance of the Enlightenment. The reactionary, in European history, as the name indicates, is fighting against something. That something is the French Revolution (and the Enlightenment). The conflict between the forces of the Enlightenment and the ancien régime was much more polarizing in Europe than it ever was in America. While America in the aftermath of its own revolution certainly witnessed its own share of power struggles between politicians with traditional, more aristocratic leanings (Federalists) and more radically democratic tendencies (Republicans), both sides generally accepted the legitimacy of Enlightenment ideals of liberal politics, which included democracy, individual rights, and a commercial society, among other things. There was, ex hypothesi, never any serious possibility that a group of disaffected American Tories would conspire to restore the authority of the British crown over the newly-independent United States.

Europe, on the other hand, and especially in France, the conflict between the heirs of the French Revolution and its opponents—the original reactionaries—still raged during the time Gómez Dávila lived in Paris. Indeed, reactionary ideals exercised a powerful influence over certain sectors of French society until after World War II. One important reason for the persistence of reactionary ideals in France was the Catholic Church’s own resistance to modern liberalism (e.g., Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors) and the persecution it often faced at the hands of secular governments following the Revolution, especially the ThirdRepublic. In France, Catholicism and reaction were often overlapping (though not always identical) categories. The tension between modern liberalism and reaction continued to be felt in French Catholic circles during Vatican II. Though reaction as a cohesive movement largely died in the wake of the Council, it has survived in some French Catholic circles to this day, most visibly among the Lefebvrites (SSPX).

Gómez Dávila’s brand of reaction, however, was different. He did not mean to identify himself exclusively with a narrow political position. In several aphorisms, he acknowledged that there is no possibility of reversing the course of history. Traditionalism, in his eyes, could never be a viable basis for action. Indeed, the reactionary’s task is to be the guardian of heritages, even the heritage of revolutionaries. This certainly does not mean that Gómez Dávila made his peace with democracy; all it means is that he also did not allow himself to be deluded by promises of the restoration of the old order. Moreover, in matters of religion, despite his disdain for Vatican II and his fierce adherence to the traditional Latin Mass, which he shared with most Catholic reactionaries, he recognized that the ordinary reactionaries, the so-called “integralists” of the period, were incapable of renewing the Church. For instance, he maintained in one aphorism that the Church needed to make better use of the historical-critical method of Biblical research—a suggestion which would make many ordinary reactionaries furious. Finally, his appreciation of some authors not usually associated with conservative Catholicism, such as Nietzsche and Heidegger, might make some “traditionalist” readers nervous.

If Gómez Dávila’s brand of reaction was different, what then did he actually stand for? For Gómez Dávila, the reactionary’s task in our age is to resist democracy. By democracy he means “less a political fact than a metaphysical perversion.” Indeed, Gómez Dávila defines democracy as, quite literally, “an anthropotheist religion,” an insane attempt to rival, or even surpass, God. The secret of modernity is that man has begun to worship man, and it is this secret which lurks behind every doctrine of inevitable progress. The reactionary’s resistance, therefore, is religious in nature. “In our time, rebellion is reactionary, or else it is nothing but a hypocritical and facile farce.” The most important and difficult rebellion, however, does not necessarily take place in action. “To think against is more difficult than to act against.” But, all that remains to the reactionary today is “an impotent lucidity." Moreover, Gómez Dávila did not look forward to the establishment of a utopia; what he wanted was to preserve values within the world. For this purpose, not force but art was the more powerful weapon.

Nicolas_Davila_Leben_ist_Guillotine_der_Wahrheit.jpgIV: Sensual, skeptical, religious

The third extraordinary feature of these aphorisms is Gómez Dávila’s unmistakable personality. Much of the pleasure of reading the Escolios consists in slowly getting to know this personality. While Gómez Dávila generally did not indulge in autobiography, in the privately-published Notas he was slightly less guarded about himself. In one line he declares: “Sensual, skeptical, and religious, would perhaps not be a bad definition of what I am.” These are the three basic strands of his personality and his work; they belong together, despite any contradictions the reader might think exist between them.


Gómez Dávila was aware that most people view sensuality and religion as contradictory, but he was determined to keep both these basic features of his personality together. He did not deny that sensuality, in isolation, can be a vice; instead of being discarded, however, it needs to be joined with love—love not of an abstract concept, but of an individual. Indeed, the object of love is the “ineffableness of the individual.” In Gómez Dávila’s philosophy, the sensual, by virtue of its union with love, is intimately united with the individual.

But, what exactly is the sensual? If the sensual is merely defined as the opposite of the abstract, an important element of the sensual will be missing. What is missing is value, an important and recurring term in the Escolios. “The sensual is the presence of a value in the sensible.” One of the most important ways of perceiving the presence of values—which are immortal—is through art. A good painting, for example, gives the spirit “a sensual enrichment.” True sensuality wants its object to enjoy eternity. This mention of eternity, in conjunction with the immortality of values, indicates the ultimate goal of sensuality. If the sensual as the embodiment of values, aspires to eternity, it must be a longing for the only being who is eternal, God. This explains why for Gómez Dávila it is not sensuality, but abstraction, that leads us away from God. This praise of sensuality may sound foreign to many Christians today, but one cannot help but be reminded of St. Thomas Aquinas’ statement: “It must be that God is in all things most intimately” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 8, art. 1).


As has already been hinted at, Gómez Dávila shares with the Romantics and the forefathers of conservatism, such as Joseph de Maistre and Edmund Burke, a distrust of Enlightenment reason and intellect. His references to reason (razón) and intellect (intelecto) are rarely complimentary. Indeed, to avoid confusion with these Enlightenment constructions, he prefers to use the term “intelligence” or “understanding” (inteligencia) to designate man’s ability to perceive truth. The greatest truths, however, are often perceived not by means of abstract concepts, but religious rituals. This skepticism accounts, moreover, for his unsystematic method of composition and his preference for aphorisms. No system is capable of embracing the entire universe in concepts.
Not only is Gómez Dávila extremely skeptical of man’s ability to understand the world, he is also very cautious with respect to man’s ability to do what is right. “Good will” and “sincerity” are not excuses for our mistakes, but instead only make our mistakes more serious. Not surprisingly, he is a strong believer in the reality of sin.

Gómez Dávila, however, did not merely repeat old criticisms of the Enlightenment worship of an abstract reason; he turned skepticism into a strength. This can be seen from his discussion of “problems” and “solutions,” two words that recur throughout his work. Gómez Dávila turns their customary relationship on its head. For him, problems are good, and solutions are bad. His first, and most obvious, objection to solutions is that all the modern world’s solutions simply have not worked. Indeed, the modern world is “drowning in solutions.” This observation, true as it may be, still does not reach the core of Gómez Dávila’s objections to solutions. It is not only modern man who is incapable of finding solutions to the world’s problems; no man can devise solutions to his problems. Problems are not to be solved; they are to be lived out in our lives. For Gómez Dávila, man is an animal that has only a divine solution. Skepticism, then, is not a way of finding reasons not to believe in God, but rather of “pruning our faith” in God.

Another word that recurs throughout the Escolios, often (though not always) in connection with skepticism, is “smile.” I do not have time to make a complete study of the connection between skepticism and smiles, but I suspect that Gómez Dávila is the first philosopher to develop a metaphysics of the smile.


Some readers may be inclined to dismiss or at least minimize the role of religion in Gómez Dávila’s worldview. That would be a fundamental mistake, however, in the most literal sense of the world. The foundation of Gómez Dávila’s thought, of his being, was God. As seen above, his reactionary critique of the modern world is essentially a religious one. The reactionary rebellion, in which Gómez Dávila calls us to join him, consists of recognizing God for who He is, and recognizing man’s utter dependence on God.

“Between the birth of God and His death the history of man unfolds.” This is not a bizarre reversal of Nietzsche’s death of God scenario, or a rehash of Feuerbach’s thesis that man creates the gods in his own image. On the contrary, what Gómez Dávila is saying is that it is our belief in and knowledge of God that make us human and separate us from the animals. The ability to perceive mystery and beauty in the things of this world is unique to man; the apes do not feel the “sacred horror” that men feel. What results from this sacred horror? “God is born in the mystery of things.” This feeling of sacred horror is something each individual must experience for himself. For this reason, Gómez Dávila’s religion was intensely personal: “To depend on God is the being’s being.” “God exists for me in the same act in which I exist.” Indeed, the entire tone of his Escolios is one of contemplation in a pervasive silence, which is only broken by the faint sound of Gómez Dávila writing a comment into one of his notebooks.

At the same time, Gómez Dávila’s personal religiosity did not become an attack on religious institutions as such, and he always remained a son of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, he was not afraid to criticize the Church. Indeed, he wrote numerous aphorisms lamenting developments in the Church, especially in the wake of Vatican II. To pick just one example, “the sacrifice of the Mass today is the torturing of the liturgy.” But he always strove to make sure that his criticisms of the Church were “thought from within the Church.” Much of the poignancy of Gómez Dávila’s laments stems, of course, precisely from his great love for the Church. Despite his disappointment with the present, he was mindful that there is no going back to the primitive Church of the Acts of the Apostles, much less to “the lone Christ of the gospels.”

Gómez Dávila’s Catholicism, then, is a combination of the metaphysical, the anthropological, the aesthetic, and the historical. Indeed, all the different threads of Gómez Dávila’s thought, all the many aphorisms, converge in his belief in God.

V: Conclusion

Finally, two suggestion for those readers whose interest in Gómez Dávila has been piqued by this short essay. First, Gómez Dávila cited Nietzsche in his epigraphs for a reason. He would have nothing but scorn for those readers who enthusiastically quote him without grasping his “very definite philosophical sensibility.” The reader should carefully ponder an aphorism before quoting it—and then only at his own risk.

Second, Gómez Dávila’s aphorisms are truly existential. For Gómez Dávila philosophy is not a purely intellectual discipline, but rather a way of life. Each aphorism should act as a call not just to discern the truth, but to assimilate it and to live it.


mercredi, 18 mai 2011

A Short Life of Nicolas Gomez Davila

A Short Life of Nicolás Gómez Dávila




davila-nicolas-gomez.jpgNicolás Gómez Dávila was born in Cajicá, Colombia (near Bogotá), on May 18, 1913, into a wealthy bourgeois family. When he was six, his family moved to Europe, where they lived for the next seventeen years. During his family’s stay in Europe, young Nicolás would spend most of the year at a school run by Benedictines in Paris, but would often go for his vacations to England. However, during his time in Paris he was beset by a long-lasting illness which confined him to his bed for most of two years. It was during this illness that under the direction of private tutors he learned to read Latin and Greek fluently and to love the classics. His formal education ended at the secondary level.

When Gómez Dávila turned twenty-three, he moved back to Bogotá, and almost immediately upon his return married Emilia Nieto Ramos. According to German writer
Martin Mosebach, she was already married when she met Gómez Dávila, and had to obtain an annulment in order to be able to marry him. However their marriage may have started out, it lasted for over fifty years. After the wedding, the young couple moved into the house in Bogotá that was to remain their home for the course of their entire marriage. There they raised three children: two sons and a daughter.

After establishing his household, Gómez Dávila, or “don Colacho” as he became known to his friends, led a life of leisure. Because his own father was for most of his long life able to attend to the family carpet factory, Gómez Dávila only had to manage the business for a short period himself, before in turn passing it on to his son. However, even during the time when he bore primary responsibility for the business, he did not pay excessive attention to it. Mosebach reports that Gómez Dávila generally only visited the office once a week at midday for about ten minutes, in order to tell the business manager to increase profits, before going out to lunch with friends at the Bogotá Jockey Club, where he was an active member, playing polo and even serving as an officer for a while. (He had to give up polo, though, after injuring himself on his horse—he was thrown off while trying to light a cigar.)

Gómez Dávila was in fact a well-connected member of the Bogotá elite. Besides his membership in the Jockey Club, he helped Mario Laserna Pinzón found the University of the
Andes in 1948. Furthermore, Gómez Dávila’s advice was sought out by Colombian politicians. In 1958, he declined the offer of a position as an adviser to president Alberto Llera after the downfall of the military government in Colombia. horre4305.jpgIn 1974, he turned down the chance to become the Colombian ambassador at the Court of St. James. Although he was well disposed to both governments, Gómez Dávila had resolved early on in his “career” as a writer to stay out of politics. Although some of his friends were disappointed that he did not accept these offers, they later concluded (according to Mosebach) that he was right to refuse the honors—he would have been a disaster as a practical politician.

Gómez Dávila instead spent most of his life, especially after his polo injury, reading and writing in his library. He was a voracious reader, often staying up well into the night to finish a book. By the end of his life, he had accumulated a library of approximately 30,000 volumes. Indeed, his family had trouble disposing of many of the books because so many appealed primarily to specialized scholarly interests, and because so many were in languages other than Spanish. (Diego Pizano states in
this article that Colombia’s Banco de la República has recently decided to acquire the library.) Gómez Dávila, besides learning French, English, Latin, and Greek during his childhood, could read German, Italian, and Portuguese, and was even reportedly learning Danish before his death in order to be able to read Søren Kierkegaard in the original. According to Francisco Pizano, Gómez Dávila regretted that he never succeeded in learning Russian—he started learning it too late in life. In addition to reading, Gómez Dávila enjoyed the company of friends whom he regularly invited to his home for lunch on Sunday afternoons. After the meal, he would retreat into his library with his friends for hours-long, wide-ranging discussions.

The result of all this reading and discussion can be found in our author’s works. Gómez Dávila, however, published these works only very reluctantly during his lifetime. Indeed, his first two works were available only to his family and friends in private editions. In 1954, at the urging of his brother Ignacio, he published Notas (Notes), a collection of aphorisms and short reflections, most no longer than a few paragraphs. In 1959, he published Textos I (Texts I), a collection of essays. The intended second volume never appeared. For nearly twenty years after these hesitant forays into publishing, Gómez Dávila re-worked what he had already produced into the aphorisms which constitute the bulk of his output as an author and for which he is best known. This period of silence ended in 1977 with the publication of two volumes of Escolios a un Texto Implícito (Scholia on the Margin of an Implicit Text). This collection of aphorism was followed in 1986 by two more volumes of Nuevos Escolios a un Texto Implícito (New Scholia on the Margin of an Implicit Text). A final volume of aphorisms was published in 1992 as Sucesivos Escolios a un Texto Implícito (Further Scholia on the Margin of an Implicit Text). notas-nicolas-gomez-davila-paperback-cover-art.jpgLate in life, Gómez Dávila also wrote two shorter pieces. The first, De iure (De jure) was printed in the spring 1988 issue of the Revista del Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario. His final work,
El Reaccionario Auténtico(The Authentic Reactionary) was published posthumously in the spring 1995 issue of the Revista de la Universidad de Antioquia; it is perhaps the most programmatic of his works. None of these works was published commercially, and none was ever printed in any great numbers during his lifetime. Notas, Textos I, and all five volumes of Escolios have recently been made available again by Villegas Editores, a Bogotá publisher. Villegas Editores has also put out a single-volume selection of aphorisms, compiled by Gómez Dávila's daughter, Rosa Emilia Gómez de Restrepo, entitled Escolios a un Texto Implícito: Selección.

Gómez Dávila himself did nothing to attract attention to his work. Indeed, his deliberate choice of obscure publishing houses and tiny printing runs seems almost intended to condemn his works to oblivion. Word of Gómez Dávila, however, began to spread slowly toward the end of his own lifetime. Strangely enough, he became best known not in his native
Colombia or in other Spanish-speaking countries, but in the German-speaking world. Philosopher Dietrich von Hidlebrand apparently was the first to make any reference in print in Germany to Gómez Dávila. A few years before his death, German translations of his aphorisms began to appear at the Karolinger Verlag in Vienna. Among the Germans who have professed their admiration of Gómez Dávila are several noted writers, including the late Ernst Jünger, Martin Mosebach, and Botho Strauß. Since his “discovery,” knowledge of his work has spread in other countries in Europe due to the work of a small group of devoted admirers, most especially the late Franco Volpi in Italy. Translations of his works are now also available in French, Italian, and Polish.

Gómez Dávila died in his library on the eve of his 81st birthday, on
May 17, 1994.

mardi, 17 mai 2011

Bijna 180 jaar contrarevolutie in Spanje


Bijna 180 jaar contrarevolutie in Spanje

Ex: http://www.kasper-gent.org/

Het Carlisme is een Spaanse contrarevolutionaire en traditionalistische beweging ontstaan in 1833 als reactie tegen het verlichtingsdenken en de Franse revolutie. Directe aanleiding voor het ontstaan van de beweging was een Koningskwestie. De Carlisten zet zich af tegen ideeën als laïcisme, egalitarisme, rationalisme en individualisme. In deze zin is het Carlisme terug te vinden in de traditie van Joseph de Maistre.

De beweging had een grote invloed in de Spaanse politiek tot het einde van het regime van Francisco Franco in 1975. Het verdedigde het katholicisme en de monarchie in reactie tegen het liberalisme en het modernisme. Thans is het een buitenparlementaire beweging geworden.

Ontstaan en korte geschiedenis

Het Carlisme ontstond ten tijde van de Pragmatieke Sanctie van Ferdinand VII. Deze maakte hierin bekend dat zijn vader de Salische wet had afgeschaft. Deze oude wet stipuleerde een mannelijke erfopvolging van de Koningen. Omdat Ferdinand VII alleen dochters had wou hij deze wet zien verdwijnen, waardoor hij opgevolgd kon worden door zijn dochter (Isabella II) in plaats van zijn broer (Carlos). De laatstgenoemde accepteerde dit echter niet en riep zich in 1833, na de dood van Ferdinand VII, uit tot Koning van Spanje (Carlos V). Door deze koninklijke kwestie ontstond ook de naam ‘de Carlisten’: de reactionaire en katholieke aanhang van Carlos.

Hierna volgde een eerste periode in de Carlistische geschiedenis, een periode waarin men de macht voornamelijk langs militaire weg wou grijpen. Tijdens drie Carlistenoorlogen zouden de zonen van Carlos V de macht proberen grijpen. Na de derde Carlistenoorlog zou Carlos VII heel Noord-Spanje onder zijn Kroon verenigen. In 1874 zouden ze echter het onderspit delven tegen Alfons XII, de zoon van Isabella II. Hierbij werd de laatste afstammeling in mannelijk lijn van Carlos V vermoord, wat veel Carlisten er toe aanzette om Alfons XIII voortaan als legitiem koning van Spanje te erkennen.

Een ander deel van de beweging zette de strijd echter (niet-militair) verder, waarmee een tweede periode voor de beweging aanbrak. In deze periode (tot 1936) zouden ze zich omvormen tot een vreedzame politieke beweging. Xavier I was door de laatste afstammeling van Carlos V aangewezen als Koning en dus de rechtmatige troonsopvolger van Spanje. Zijn zoon Karel Hugo (I) trok zich politiek terug in 1979 en de huidige troonpretendent van Spanje is Sixtus Hendrik (I).

Een derde periode in de geschiedenis van de Carlisten begon in 1936 met de Spaanse burgeroorlog. De Carlisten streden aan de zijde van de overwinnende Falange en Francisco Franco. Op deze manier bleven ze tot het einde van het Franco-tijdperk een zeer significante rol spelen in de Spaanse politiek. Sinds het einde het regime in 1975 verloor de Carlistische beweging veel van zijn invloed en thans is het een buitenparlementaire groep worden.


Zoals reeds in de inleiding aangehaald is het Carlisme een contrarevolutionaire en traditionalistische beweging. Het zet zich af tegen de verlichtingsidee en de Franse revolutie met zijn vele uitwassen.

Het is echter moeilijk om een duidelijk ideologisch beeld te krijgen van de Carlisten. Als traditionalisten en monarchisten zetten ze zich immers af tegen het concept van ideologie als een drijvende politieke kracht. Tevens is er door de lange geschiedenis en het diverse publiek van volgelingen nooit echt een duidelijk ideologische lijn geweest.

carlistas.jpgEr zijn echter 4 begrippen die doorheen de geschiedenis van het Carlisme steeds terugkeren en duidelijk op de voorgrond staan: Dios, Patria, Fueros, Rey.

1) Dios (God). Carlisten zijn katholiek en zien het katholicisme als een fundamentele hoeksteen van Spanje, iets wat men ten allen tijde moet verdedigen (ook politiek). De Carlisten streven naar de verwezenlijking van de slogan ‘Christus Rex’, Christus Koning.

2)Patria (Vaderland).

3) Fueros (~subsidiariteit). Carlisten streven naar regionale autonomie en men ziet Spanje als een amalgaan van regionale gemeenschappen verenigd onder 1 Kroon.

4) Rey (Koning). Carlisten verwerpen het idee van nationale soevereiniteit en stellen dat alle soevereiniteit de Koning toebehoord. Deze macht is beperkt door de doctrine van de Kerk.


Op ideologische vlak vertonen de Carlisten veel overeenkomst met de Falangisten (bijvoorbeeld: sociaal conservatief en katholiek), maar toch zijn er aanzienlijke verschillen. Zo streven Falangisten naar sterke centralisatie binnen de staat, terwijl Carlisten voorstander zijn van regionale autonomie.

Tot de dag van vandaag inspireren Carlistische denkwijzen mensen in (voornamelijk Noord-) Spanje. Het regionalisme (niet te verwarren met separatisme!) blijft een belangrijk denkbeeld in het land. Een van de stichters van het Baskisch nationalisme had een Carlistische achtergrond. Op 7 mei 2007 zei Mgr. Fernando Sebastián Aguilar, Aartsbisschop van Pamplona en Tudela, dat het Carlisme waardig was om publiek en electoraal ondersteund te worden.



De Carlisten gebruiken als vlag het Bourgondisch Kruis. Hun uniform bestaat uit een rode baret en hun (nationaal) lied is het Oriamendi.

Por Dios, por la Patria y el Rey
Lucharon nuestros padres.
Por Dios, por la Patria y el Rey
Lucharemos nosotros también.

Lucharemos todos juntos
Todos juntos en unión
Defendiendo la bandera
De la Santa Tradición.

Cueste lo que cueste
Se ha de conseguir
Venga el Rey de España
A la corte de Madrid.

Por Dios, por la Patria y el Rey
Lucharon nuestros padres.
Por Dios, por la Patria y el Rey
Lucharemos nosotros también.


dimanche, 15 mai 2011

Gomez Davila, il Pascal colombiano che rifiuto il pensiero "corretto"

Gòmez Dàvila, il Pascal colombiano che rifiutò il pensiero «corretto»

di Alfredo Cattabiani

Fonte: Avvenire [scheda fonte]

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (Cajicá, 18 maggio 1913 – Bogotá, 17 maggio 1994)

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (Cajicá, 18 maggio 1913 – Bogotá, 17 maggio 1994) nella biblioteca della sua casa.

Nella biblioteca della sua casa, composta da trentamila volumi, trascorreva la maggior parte della sua giornata uno scrittore cattolico che si definiva provocatoriamente «reazionario»: Nicolàs Gòmez Dàvila, nato nel 1913 a Santafé de Bogotà e là morto nel 1994. Il padre, che aveva fatto fortuna commerciando in tessuti, era proprietario di una grande fattoria. Secondo le usanze della ricca borghesia colombiana, la famiglia si era trasferita per alcuni anni a Parigi perché il figlio ricevesse una educazione europea. Se ne occuparono i benedettini che gli insegnarono fra l’altro a leggere correntemente in greco e latino i classici antichi e i padri della Chiesa. Ebbe anche modo di perfezionare la conoscenza della lingua e della cultura inglese durante i mesi estivi trascorsi in Inghilterra.

Tornato a ventitré anni in Colombia, si sposò ed ebbe tre figli. Da allora no si allontanò più dalla sua casa se non per sei mesi nel 1949, per un viaggio nell’Europa occidentale insieme con la moglie. Preferiva viaggiare con la mente più che con il corpo. Dedicava la sua vita alla lettura, alla meditazione e alla scrittura, rifiutando molte allettanti proposte di carriera politica e anche la nomina di ambasciatore in sedi prestigiose come Londra e Parigi.

Pochi finora ne conoscevano l’opera, tant’è vero che nel 1990 José Miguel Oviedo lo chiamava nella sua Historia del ensayo hispanoamericano «l’illustre sconosciuto». Ed era logico che gravasse un imbarazzato, se non ostile, silenzio su uno scrittore che nella sua opera principale, pubblicata in più anni e in più volumi, Escolis a un texto implicito, sosteneva che tutto quel che è considerato «scorretto» dai nipotini del pensiero che si autodefinì «corretto».

Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Ora finalmente ne possiamo leggere in italiano una prima parte col titolo di In margine a un testo implicito, a cura di Franco Volpi. E’ una raccolta di aforismi sulla scia di Balthasar Gracìan, dei La Rochefoucauld o dei Pascal. Sono folgoranti distillazioni di un discorso più ampio che egli lascia sviluppare al lettore o meglio immaginare perché questi aforismi vengono presentati già nel titolo come scolii, ovvero commenti a un testo che essi sottendono. Ma questo testo, che altro non sarebbe se non il pensiero dell’autore se l’avesse argomentato sistematicamente, non si può agevolmente ricostruire se si è stati educati alla vulgata culturale neoilluminista, rivoluzionaria e strumentalistica che ha permeato le università e la maggior parte dei mezzi di comunicazione.

Certo, un lettore in sintonia con Gòmez Dàvila non può non ripercorrere immediatamente il ragionamento che conduce a un aforisma come: «la scienza inganna in tre modi: trasformando le sue proposizioni in norme, divulgando i suoi risultati più che i suoi metodi, tacendo le sue limitazioni epistemologiche»; oppure a quello sotteso a un altro: «La religione non è nata dall’esigenza di assicurare solidarietà, come le cattedrali non sono state edificate per incentivare il turismo», dove si coglie una critica a chi, pur in buona fede, ha depotenziato il messaggio evangelico in un generico assistenzialismo.

Ma gli altri lettori? Come interpreteranno soprattutto gli aforismi che sconvolgono le loro «idee ricevute»? Come reagiranno di fronte alla sua esaltazione del «reazionario», anche se Gòmez Dàvila spiega che «il passato lodato dal reazionario non è epoca storica ma norma concreta. Quel che il reazionario ammira di altri secoli non è la loro realtà, sempre miserabile, ma la norma peculiare alla quale disobbedivano».

D’altronde vale la pena di resuscitare parole come «reazionario» che furono coniate proprio da chi non ne condivideva le idee, cioè dai rivoluzionari?

Nella sua biblioteca si è trovata tutta la Patrologia greca e latina del Migne: il che ci permette di capire come il suo pensiero si fondasse sul pensiero cristiano più antico; sicché alla luce di queste letture può essere interpretata correttamente anche una sua affermazione che, isolata, sconcerterebbe: «Il paganesimo è l’altro Antico Testamento della Chiesa», nel senso che i saggi greci antichi, da Platone a Cicerone a Plotino, così come quelli di altre religioni, testimoniano di una conoscenza, pur imperfetta e incompleta, di Dio. Convinzione che l’accomuna a un’altra scrittrice del Novecento, Simone Weil la quale, come si rammenterà, scrisse proprio un libro intitolato La Grecia e le intuizioni precristiane.

Tante altre notizie su www.ariannaeditrice.it

vendredi, 13 mai 2011

Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner is overleden

Gerd Klaus Kaltenbrunner is overleden
Ex: Deltanieuwsbrief nr. 47 - Mei 2011

Gerd Klaus Kaltenbrunner“Conservatisme is een ‘elitaire’, men kan ook zeggen ‘esoterische’ aangelegenheid (…).  Het misverstand als zou de conservatief een theorielozen, een onfilosofische, ja, zelfs antifilosofische pragmaticus zijn, lijkt onuitroeibaar. Ik heb nochtans met veel kracht en overtuiging aangetoond dat het een misverstand is, toen ik het over die domeinen had, die man als ‘conservatieve mystiek’ zou kunnen omschrijven (…). Een zekere zin voor de onoplosbare complexiteit van de werkelijkheid, de erkenning van het feit dat men over het leven slechts brokstukgewijs rationeel kunnen spreken, de aandacht voor de tegenstelling, voor het tragische en voor het gedeeltelijk demonische dat door de geschiedenis waart, een constitutionele scepsis tegenover de ‘grote oplossingen’”. Woorden van Gerd Klaus Kaltenbrunner, een grote Oostenrijkse mijnheer, die bij menig jonge Europeaan de grondvesten van een degelijke conservatieve ideeënwereld heeft gelegd.

Kaltenbrunner werd in 1939 in Wenen geboren, maar na zijn studies in de Rechten in 1962 trok hij naar Duitsland en werkte er bij uitgeverijen als lektor. In 1972 publiceerde hij een verzamelwerk Rekonstruktion des Konservatismus, en ontwierp hiermee, enkele jaren na 1968, de basis voor een conservatieve tegenactie. Hij ging in het werk uit van de idee dat het conservatisme eerst de hegemonie op het geestelijke vlak moet veroveren, vooraleer politieke consequenties te trekken.

Gerd Klaus Kaltenbrunner wou niet zomaar ‘conserveren’: hij was er veeleer op uit het ‘moderne’ conservatieve denken mee gestalte te geven – met daarin natuurlijk dat wat eeuwig een Europese waarde had. De door hem opgezette en gepubliceerde Herderbücherei Initiative  - een reeks die liep van 1974 tot 1988 – bracht op een hoog niveau conservatieve auteurs, wetenschappers, onderzoekers en andere bijeen, die rond bepaalde thema’s (soms) baanbrekende bijdragen brachten.  Interessante titels waren (en zijn): Die Zukunft der Vergangenheid (1975), Plädoyer für die Vernunft: Signale einer Tendenzwende (1974).  Gerd Klaus Kaltenbrunner legde ook een bijzondere ijver aan de dag om de bronnen voor het conservatieve denken open en toegankelijk te houden. Hij publiceerde een driedelig werk Europa. Seine geistigen Quellen in Porträts aus zwei Jahrtausenden (1981-1985). Ook het werk Vom Geist Europas heeft niets van zijn waarde verloren en verdient het zeker op opnieuw gelezen te worden.

Hierna werd het stil rond Kaltenbrunner. Hij trok zich – na de ontgoocheling over het uitblijven van een échte conservatieve wende – terug als een lekenmonnik in Kandern, afgesneden van alle moderne communicatiemiddelen. Hij trok ook voorgoed een streep onder het metapolitieke werk. Nochtans loont het de moeite, zeker in deze tijden van ideeënarmoede ter linker en rechter zijde de moeite om de stijl en de onderwerpen die Gerd Klaus Kaltenbrunner nauw aan het hart lagen, te bestuderen.  Met TeKoS hebben wij in elk geval niet op het overlijden van deze bescheiden, overtuigdconservatieve intellectueel gewacht om bijdragen van hem te publiceren. In ons nummer 127 brachten wij een vertaling van Elite. Erziehung für den Ernstfall, in het Nederlands: Zonder Elite gaat het niet. Wij groeten u met bijzondere veel respect, meester Kaltenbrunner!

(Peter Logghe)

mercredi, 04 mai 2011

Armin Mohler / Eine politische Biographie

Armin Mohler. Eine politische Biographie


Ex: http://www.sezession.de/


mohlereinband 121x200 Armin Mohler. Eine politische BiographieHeute wäre Armin Mohler 91 Jahre alt geworden. Ich konnte ihn Mitte der neunziger Jahre noch kennenlernen und habe meinen Verlag nicht zuletzt gegründet, weil Ellen Kositza, Karlheinz Weißmann und ich im Jahre 2000 Mohler zum 80. eine Festschrift überreichen wollten. Es wird keinem Antaios-Leser unbemerkt geblieben sein, daß das Erbe Mohlers und sein besonderer Ton in Schnellroda auffindbar und virulent gehalten werden.

Nun hat Karlheinz Weißmann jahrelange Arbeiten in Form gebracht und legt Armin Mohler. Eine politische Biographie vor (hier subskribieren!). Weißmann ist der beste Kenner des Werks und der Denkweise Mohlers, hat auch Teile von dessen Nachlaß übernehmen können und in vielen persönlichen Gesprächen Details erfahren und Zusammenhänge notiert, die nirgends schriftlich niedergelegt sind.

Weißmanns Arbeit ist eine politische Biographie, weil Mohler ein politisch denkender, strategisch und taktisch im Sinne einer modernen deutschen Rechten agierender Kopf war. Man liest von der Nähe zur Macht (im Umfeld Josef Strauß‘), erfährt, was in den sechziger und siebziger Jahren an Debatten noch alles möglich war und verneigt sich vor der Prinzipientreue Mohlers, der Respekt nie mit Undeutlichkeit oder einer Schleimspur verwechselte.

Dies zeigt sich deutlich in den Großkapiteln über Mohlers Zeit als Sekretär von Ernst Jünger und über die Kontakte mit Carl Schmitt: In keinem Fall war er so etwas wie Goethes Eckermann (am Kaffeetisch sitzend und glühend vor Glück die Gespräche notierend), sondern ein Gesprächs- und Briefpartner auf Augenhöhe, der sich ja zuletzt nicht scheute, Jüngers Frühwerk gegen den Autor öffentlich zu verteidigen (was zum Bruch mit Jünger führte).

Dies alles breitet Weißmann in seiner Biographie aus, und natürlich auch all die anderen, für uns bis heute so wichtgen Aspekte: Mohler rettete das Erbe der Konservativen Revolution, sezierte die Mechanismen der Vergangenheitsbewältigung, verfaßte elektrisierende Essays – wir pflegen sein Erbe zurecht, und zurecht sind viele, die sich – dem Zeitgeist folgend – über ihn erhoben und über ihn urteilten heute so richtig und ganz und gar vergessen …

+ Weißmanns Mohler-Biographie kann man hier für 19 € subskribieren (bis zum 30. April). Später kostet sie 22 €, erscheinen wird sie Mitte, Ende Mai.
+ Von der dreibändigen Mohler-Ausgabe, die wir 2001 und 2002 aufgelegt haben, sind Reste der Bände 1 und 2 noch erhältlich. Wir bieten sie günstig im Doppelpack für 24 € an (in Einzelbänden: 44 €). Bestellen Sie hier.
+ Mohlers Essay Gegen die Liberalen (mit einem Nachwort von Martin Lichtmesz) wird derzeit in 2. Auflage gedruckt. Informationen und eine Bestellmöglichkeit gibts hier.

mardi, 03 mai 2011

G.-K. Kaltenbrunner ist verstorben

Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner ist verstorben

Götz Kubitschek

Ex: http://www.sezession.de/


kaltenbrunner-99x150.jpgGestern ist – wie ich eben erfahren habe – Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner verstorben. Daß ich zuletzt einen seiner Essays in der reihe kaplaken nachdrucken konnte, ist nur eine Marginalie im Leben dieses für eine gewisse Zeitspanne wichtigsten Publizisten der deutschen Nachkriegsrechten.

Ich hatte zu Kaltenbrunners 70. Geburtstag vor zwei Jahren einen Beitrag veröffentlicht (Sezession 28/ Februar 2009). Online ist er hier zu finden.

Und im Oktoberheft 2010 der Sezession (Nr. 38) hatten wir in einer Personenreihe unter dem Titel „Konservative Intelligenz“ selbstverständlich auch einen Eintrag zu Kaltenbrunner veröffentlicht. Im Gedenken an ihn veröffentlichen wir diese Vita hier noch einmal:

Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner wurde 1939 in Wien geboren, übersiedelte nach einem Studium der Rechtswissenschaft 1962 nach Deutschland und arbeitete zunächst für verschiedene Verlage als Lektor. Noch in dieser Eigenschaft gab er den Sammelband Rekonstruktion des Konservatismus (1972) heraus und konnte damit wenige Jahre nach ’68 die Grundlagen für einen möglichen politischen Gegenentwurf liefern. Kaltenbrunner ging dabei von der Einsicht aus, daß der Konservatismus zunächst die Hegemonie im Geistigen erlangen müsse, bevor politische Konsequenzen durchsetzbar seien. Im Hintergrund stand seine Überzeugung, daß die »ökonomischen Verhältnisse« nur den Rahmen für die entscheidenden Ereignisse abgeben: Ideen und Utopien siegen demnach einfach dadurch, »daß sich genügend ›Verrückte‹ finden, die bereit sind, dafür zu kämpfen und sich, wenn’s sein muß, auch töten zu lassen«. Kaltenbrunner sah seine Aufgabe im Bewahren der Tradition des Konservatismus sowie im gegenwartsbezogenen Weiterdenken. Die von ihm initiierte und herausgegebene Taschenbuchreihe Herderbücherei Initiative (1974–1988) diente diesem Ziel. Auf hohem Niveau wurden aktuelle Fragen von verschiedenen Autoren auf dem Hintergrund der konservativen Tradition bearbeitet.

032693_1-234x300.jpgKaltenbrunners Einleitungen wurden dabei lagerübergreifend als scharfsinnig und bedenkenswert gelobt. Die schönen, oft mehrdeutigen Titel der einzelnen Bände prägten sich ein: Die Zukunft der Vergangenheit (1975), Tragik der Abtrünnigen (1980), Unser Epigonen-Schicksal (1980). Bereits der erste Titel Plädoyer für die Vernunft: Signale einer Tendenzwende (1974) wurde als »Tendenzwende« zu einem Schlagwort unter Konservativen und Rechten. Parallel zu den aktuellen Analysen kümmerte sich Kaltenbrunner weiterhin um die Quellen des Konservatismus. Sein dreibändiges Werk Europa. Seine geistigen Quellen in Portraits aus zwei Jahrtausenden (1981–1985) und die Fortsetzung Vom Geist Europas (1987–1992) sind hier zu nennen. Mit dem Begriff Konservatismus war auch Kaltenbrunner nicht glücklich: Mit der Weltbewahrung allein wäre es nicht getan und geborene Konservative gebe es im Zeitalter des Fortschritts nicht mehr. Kaltenbrunner bemühte sich deshalb um eine konservative Theorie. Nach dem 75. Band wurde die Initiative-Reihe eingestellt. Kaltenbrunner beschäftigt sich seither mit Biographien zur Geschichte des frühen Christentums. Seine letzten Veröffentlichungen tragen esoterischen Charakter: Johannes ist sein Name (1993) Dionysius vom Areopag (1996). Kaltenbrunner lebt zurückgezogen im Schwarzwald und publiziert nicht mehr.

samedi, 16 avril 2011

Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl (1823-1897)

Archives 1994


Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl (1823-1897)




220px-Wilhelm_Heinrich_Riehl_01.jpgIl y a 170 ans, W. H. Riehl naissait, le 6 mai 1823, à Bieberich dans le pays de Hesse, aux environs de Giessen. Je m’étonne que son nom ne soit plus cité dans les publications conservatrices ou dextristes. Récemment, la très bonne revue allemande “Criticon” a consacré un article à Riehl. En 1976 était paru, dans une collection de livres publiés par l’éditeur Ullstein, le texte “Die bürgerliche Gesellschaft”, un des plus importants écrits socio-politiques de notre auteur, paru pour la première fois en 1851.


Avant de traiter de l’oeuvre de cet auteur zélé et fécond, nous retracerons en bref sa biographie, ce qui s’avère nécessaire pour la situer dans le temps et dans la société.


Riehl a suivi l’école primaire à Bieberich, le lieu de sa naissance, après quoi il fréquenta le Pedagogium de Wiesbaden. En 1837, il s’inscrit au Gymnasium de Weilheim. En 1839, son père se suicide, parce qu’il estimait être une victime de l’arbitraire bureaucratique. Riehl voulait étudier la théologie et devenir prédicateur évangélique, contre la volonté de son père, qui, en tant qu’homme de confiance des Ducs de Nassau et d’intendant de leur château, avait quelque connaissance du monde, grâce aux voyages qu’il avait entrepris. Riehl se trouvait tout à la fois sous l’influence des théories de son père, un rationaliste et un adepte des idées de 1789, et sous celles, traditionalistes, de son grand-père, Grand Maître de Maison auprès des Nassau. C’est ainsi que l’on peut expliquer la position intermédiaire qu’il prendra, entre l’ordre ancien d’une communauté d’états (Stände) et la problématique d’un dépassement révolutionnaire de ces vieilles structures, ce qui donnera un “conservatisme réflexif”. En 1841, il débarque à l’Université de Marbourg. Son intérêt pour l’histoire culturelle s’y éveille. De Marbourg, il ira à Giessen car l’université de cette ville se trouvait plus près de Bieberich; ce seront surtout des considérations financières qui le forceront à prendre cette décision. A Giessen, il se lie d’amitié avec Michael Carrière, un ami de Bettina von Arnim, égérie du “Cercle des Romantiques”. Le romantisme, avec la sympathie qu’il cultivait pour le moyen âge, avec sa vision artistique mais aussi sociale et économique sur l’histoire, sur le caractère national et sur la “populité”, va s’emparer de la pensée de notre auteur, même s’il s’était auparavant familiarisé avec les pensées de Kant et de Hegel, par l’intermédiaire de ses professeurs de Marbourg et de Giessen. Plus tard, il aurait dit qu’il avait des dispositions trop nettes pour le réalisme et ne pouvait dès lors pas s’enfermer dans un système philosophique.


Après Giessen, il s’en va à Tübingen, une université où les Jeunes Hégéliens donnent le ton. Dans les textes qu’il rédige à l’époque, il salue avec passion le succès de la Révolution de Juillet en France, en 1848. Sa position politique, à ce moment, n’est pas unilatéralement révolutionnaire, selon Geramb (Bibliographisches Jahrbuch, 1900) mais témoigne bel et bien d’une liberté de pensée et d’esprit, surtout dans le domaine religieux. L’influence des Jeunes Hégéliens et de l’esprit libéral de cette époque se perçoivent clairement chez lui ainsi qu’un sens résolument national, opposé à toutes les idées cosmopolites. A l’automne 1843, Riehl avait passé l’examen de théologie à Herborn et avait obtenu des subsides pour poursuivre ses études. Ce qu’il fera à Bonn, où, notamment, le fougueux nationaliste démocrate Ernst Moritz Arndt dispensait ses leçons. Finalement, il abandonnera les études de théologie pour se consacrer entièrement à l’étude du peuple et des structures que celui-ci génère, dans la continuité anthropologique qu’il représente. Il finit par admettre que l’Etat constitue le “peuple organisé” et qu’il existe “pour la volonté du peuple”. Pour gagner son pain, il se fait journaliste dans les colonnes du journal libéral-conservateur “Oberpostamts-Zeitung” de Francfort entre 1845 et 1847. A partir de 1847, il devient rédacteur auprès de la “Karlsruher Zeitung”, puis directeur du “Badische Landtagsbote”.


La révolution de 1848 impulse un tournant à son développement intellectuel. D’après lui-même, ce fut l’année où il devint conservateur en pleine conscience. Il quitte Bade et revient à Wiesbaden. Il y fonde la “Nassauische Allgemeine Zeitung” et devient aussi le cofondateur du Parti démocrate-monarchiste. Pendant un bref laps de temps, il dirigera le Théâtre de la Cour à Wiesbaden. La conséquence de tout cela fut une prise de distance avec la politique et avec le journalisme: il quitte son poste de rédacteur en 1850. Il commence alors les études qui le conduiront à rédiger “Die bürgerliche Gesellschaft”. Même s’il a quitté la politique, il y revient indirectement par le biais de ses études culturelles. Il publie dans un ouvrage en quatre volumes, “Naturgeschichte des Volkes”, les études qu’il avait fait paraître dans les journaux ainsi que quelques travaux de circonstances.


En 1851 parait la première édition de “De bürgerliche Gesellschaft” et, trois ans plus tard, “Land und Leute” (“Le pays et les gens”). “Die bürgerliche Gesellschaft” avait pour intention première de décrire le peuple dans tous les liens qu’il tisse, dans tous ses “états”, mais détaché de toute particularité locale. Dans “Land und Leute”, au contraire, il s’efforcera de pénétrer dans toutes les particularités et les différences locales et régionales du peuple. “Au départ des relations individuelles du pays et des hommes se développe l’abstraction culturelle/historique de la société bourgeoise/citoyenne”, écrit-il. Le Roi Maximilien II de Bavière est vivement impressionné par ce travail. Il appelle donc Riehl à ses côtés.


Riehl devient ainsi membre du “Cabinet littéraire” puis est admis dans le “Symposium”, sorte de table ronde autour de la personne du Roi, où siègent déjà, entre autres illustres personnages, Liebig, Bodenstedt, Geibel et Kaulbach. Au cours de cette même année 1853, il obtient un poste honoraire de professeur à l’Université de Munich. Il avait déjà été nommé responsable des relations avec la presse pour la Maison Royale et pour le Ministère bavarois des affaires étrangères. Son discours inaugural à l’Université était consacré à l’ethnographie: il y déclara que la richesse et la diversité de la nature, des paysages et des sols dans les Allemagnes d’alors dépendait de la formation individuelle au sein du peuple allemand et que, pour cette raison, l’Allemagne devait impérativement viser son unité politique, sans toutefois sombrer dans les affres d’un unitarisme centralisateur. Les activités de Riehl se mesurent au nombre de ses conférences et des lieux qu’il a visités —plus de cent— et au nombre de personnes qui sont venues l’écouter: environ 300.000.


En 1857, Riehl, avec Felix Dahn, prend en charge un important travail d’ethnographie et de topographie: les “Bavarica”. En 1860 parait le volume consacré à la Haute Bavière (Oberbayern) et en 1863 un volume sur le Haut Palatinat (Oberpfalz) et la Souabe. En 1873, il est promu recteur de l’Université de Munich et en 1883 il reçoit un titre de noblesse. En 1885, il est nommé directeur du Musée National Bavarois et conservateur général des bâtiments et monuments classés de Bavière. En 1894, l’année où meurt sa femme, il écrit son dernier livre, “Religiöse Studien”. Deux ans plus tard, notre philosophe, à moitié aveugle et fort affaibli, épouse Antonie Eckhardt, qui le soignera jusqu’à sa mort, le 16 novembre 1897.


Riehl est le père de l’ethnographie scientifique. Il nous a aussi laissé un testament politique. Ses critiques disent que ce testament, qui insiste sur le concept social d’état (Stand), ne tient pas compte des nouvelles formes d’organisation de la société industrielle. Selon Riehl, les peuples, dans leur diversité, sont un produit de différences et de caractéristiques de nature ethnique, historique ou naturelle/territoriale. Pour lui, les noyaux naturels (la famille, la tribu, le peuple/Volk) reçoivent une sorte de primauté. Ils revêtent une signification plus profonde que l’Etat. Les liens familiaux et tribaux sont plus anciens que la conscience individuelle ou la conscience d’appartenir à un Etat, c’est-à-dire plus anciens que les formes créées par les individus ou par les Etats. L’importance qu’il assigne à la famille se voit encore soulignée par le fait qu’il y consacre un volume entier de son oeuvre principale, “Naturgeschichte”.


Ses conceptions socio-politiques sont dominées par l’idée de deux forces qui influencent toute la vie sociale: la force de maintenir (Macht des Beharrens) et la force du mouvement; c’est-à-dire une force conservatrice et une force révolutionnaire. Les forces conservatrices sont représentées par la paysannerie et l’aristocratie. Les forces du mouvement par la bourgeoisie et par le quart-état. Parmi les forces du mouvement, Riehl compte aussi le prolétariat, à côté de la bourgeoisie. Mais son concept de prolétariat est totalement différent de celui de Marx. Il est “le stade de la chute” et “l’état d’absence d’appartenance à un état”. Les ressortissants du prolétariat sont ceux qui se sont détachés ou ont été exclus des groupes existants de la société. Ils se sont alors déclarés “véritable peuple” et c’est dans cette proclamation tacite qu’il faut voir l’origine de toutes les tentatives d’égalitarisme.


On peut certes rejeter la division de la société en “états”, que propose Riehl, comme étant en contradiction flagrante avec les réalités sociologiques de la société moderne. Mais on ne peut pas non plus considérer que Riehl est un théoricien borné, dont la pensée s’est figée sur les rapports sociaux préindustriels. Il s’est efforcé de partir du donné réel pour affronter une société en train de se moderniser et de comprendre celle-ci à l’aide de concepts conservateurs-sociaux (cf. Peter Steinbach, Introduction à “Die bürgerliche Gesellschaft”).


La tentative de classer les strates sociologiques de la société selon des forces fondamentales, telle les “états”, pour les opposer au concept de classe selon Marx, s’est manifestée également après Riehl. Ferdinand Tönnies a défini la société comme une “Communauté” (Gemeinschaft) et comme une “Société” (Gesellschaft) tout à la fois. La première consiste en un ordonnancement selon des caractéristiques et des liens naturels (famille, tribu, peuple); la seconde selon des appartenances changeantes et interchangeables (classe, parti, travail, profession, etc.). A côté du cosmos naturel de la vie du peuple, Riehl a placé la nature proprement dite sur un pied d’égalité avec la culture et a suggéré qu’il fallait la conserver, la défendre, car c’était une nécessité incontournable. Le mouvement de préservation de la nature, le mouvement pour la Heimat (en Allemagne et en Suisse, ndt), le mouvement de jeunesse Wandervogel, entre 1890 et 1914, ont trouvé chez Riehl des idées d’avant-garde (ainsi que nos mouvements verts, avec trois quarts de siècle de retard!). Ernst Rudolf se réclame de Riehl à plusieurs reprises, notamment dans “Heimatschutz” (Berlin, 1897). En dénonçant la destruction du patrimoine forestier allemand, il soulève une question éminemment conservatrice, en réclamant un droit propre à la nature. Sa critique de l’urbanisation outrancière doit également être lue à la lumière des travaux de Riehl.


Riehl avait ses défenseurs et ses critiques. Grimm se basait sur ses écrits, par exemple pour expliquer la différence essentielle entre Schiller et Goethe. Marx en revanche considérait que les conceptions sociales et politiques de Riehl constituaient “une injure au siècle du progrès”. Treitschke aussi s’attaqua à la conception organique du peuple chez Riehl et surtout contre sa vision de la société divisée en “états”: “il n’y a pas plus d’états naturels qu’il y a un état de nature”, écrivait-il dans sa thèse universitaire. Riehl eut un admirateur en la personne de Tolstoï. Leo Avenarius le nommait le “Altmeister der Wanderkunst” (“le vieux maître en l’art de pérégriner”) et avait chaleureusement recommander la lecture de ses “Wanderbücher” à la jeunesse du Wandervogel.


Riehl fut honoré dans l’Allemagne nationale-socialiste: cela s’explique pour maintes raisons mais ne signifie rien quant à ses options véritables. Jost Hermand, dans son ouvrage “Grüne Utopien in Deutschland” (“Utopies vertes en Allemagne”), écrit, entre autres choses: “Riehl avait la ferme conviction qu’une industrialisation et une urbanisation croissantes, avec pour corollaire la destruction du fond paysan, devaient immanquablement conduire à une ‘dégénérescence de la nature’”.


Le conservatisme de Riehl, avec son idée centrale de conservation de la nature et de la culture et son rejet principiel de l’individualisme libéral et de la pensée libérale qui ne raisonne qu’en termes de déploiement de puissance matérielle, font de l’auteur de “Die bürgerliche Gesellschaft”, un philosophe qui, au début de l’ère industrielle, théorisait non pas l’ère pré-industrielle, mais l’ère post-industrielle. Il pensait donc ses idées parce qu’il avait préalablement investiguer les racines mêmes du peuple, les avait décortiquées et en avait conclu, après observation minutieuse et reconnaissance des données naturelles, qu’il fallait protéger et la nature et la culture populaire.



(article paru dans “Dietsland Europa”, Anvers, n°5/1994).