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jeudi, 14 juillet 2016

The Feminist Mystique


The Feminist Mystique

Editor’s Note:

This is the transcript by V. S. of Richard Spencer’s Vanguard Podcast interview of Jonathan Bowden about feminism. You can listen to the podcast here [2]

Richard Spencer: Hello, everyone! Today it’s great to welcome back to the program our friend and contributor Jonathan Bowden. Jonathan, thanks for being back with us! How are things over on your side of the Atlantic?

Jonathan Bowden: Yes, a bit frigid, a bit cold these days, but probably nothing to what it’s like on your side. But otherwise well.

RS: Excellent. Today we are going to talk about another big and important issue for our movement, and that is feminism. It’s obviously an issue of major importance for the world as well.

Jonathan, what makes feminism so complicated and interesting is that it’s had all of these various waves, as they call them, and they’ve often put forward contradictory philosophies and objectives. But maybe that’s what’s made feminism so long lasting and powerful in a way.

To get the conversation started, just talk about that initial impulse towards feminism, where it was coming from, where do you think it cropped up first. What’s sort of the first first-wave, so to speak, of feminism? Do you think this was with women’s suffrage or was it with one of the many liberal revolutions that occurred in Europe over the course of the 19th century? Where do you think that original urge came from?

JB: That’s a complicated and quite a difficult one. Textually, it goes back to Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Rights of Women as against Tom Paine’s Rights of Man produced in a similar timeframe at the beginning of the 19th century and sort of coming out of the later end of the 18th century. She was part of a radical ferment of opinion around William Godwin and his extended family into which she was intermarried.

But the political drift of feminism in its first wave that’s discernible has to be in and around the Great War, 1914–1918 in Europe, and just after where you have a militant movement for women’s suffrage concentrating on the vote but often extending out into other areas and you have that split between two wings. Those who would pursue purely non-violent means, who’ve been largely forgotten by history, the suffragists, and those who were prepared to use direct action, and indeed even violence, to get their way, the suffragettes, who are the ones who history remembers. They are the ones who were force-fed in prison. They are the ones who chained themselves to railings. They are the ones who assaulted police officers. They are the ones who threw themselves in front of derby winners, and some were trampled to death on news reels of the time to great and extended excitement and social convulsion.


So, that was the first wave, which then fed into the swinging 1920s as Europe and the West relaxed into a hedonistic decade after the slaughter of the Great War and prior to the coming depression of the ’30s.

Second-wave feminism, as it is called, is co-relative to the ’60s and has a whole new generation, skipping out several generations, in actual fact, between the first and the second waves. The second wave is notorious for its theorists and its polemics and its going outside the box of what is understood to be political and looking at all areas of life often in a rather caustic and adversarial way.

Culturally, the second wave, you could argue, had far more impact than the first wave, but it wouldn’t have amounted to anything without the first wave, and the first wave did genuinely convulse the society because nothing divided opinion like the issue of if women should get the vote, because it was axiomatic of all sort of other matters in the society. By giving them the vote, it indicated that women could do almost all jobs that men could do up to a point, and it opened the professions to them; it opened the universities to them; it opened higher educational institutions to them; it opened the world of politics and political representation to them, not just voting.

And so, in a way, it changed the world, and that’s why the dynamite of the vote was used.

RS: What do you think was the reigning philosophy of the early suffragists and suffragettes? Was it a liberal one? Do you think it could be connected with some of the early social democratic and Marxian movements? What do you think about that?

JB: Well, I think the honest answer is yes and no. The truth is that female politics resembles male politics pretty closely and that there’s a range of opinion Right, Left, and center. What surprised many sociologists when women got the vote, particularly bourgeois women, is they voted pretty much along the lines that men did and were perceived to have the same social and economic interests that men did.

There have been times when the gender gap has been one way and then the other. For example, today in the Western world, which is quite clearly Anglo-Saxon — the Anglophone world — there seems to be a marked preference for center-Left parties amongst women as against center-Right parties amongst men, and that drift and gap is quite discernible.

But there have been times when women have been much more conservative than men and on certain issues women remain a lot more conservative than men. On law and order issues in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, women often had much more conservative attitudes than men.

So, it’s debatable in a way. Certainly, a large number of bourgeois supporters of female suffrage just wanted the vote as a coping stone, as a sort of seal of approval for their admission into social life and once that happened they reverted to essentially a conservative tradition. Some of the first women to be elected, of course, into parliaments were on the conservative side, because it was inevitable that women from a very bourgeois background would be the best educated women and would be the women who, in some ways, wanted to protect the status quo, and all that the suffrage did for them was allow them to do so. In the past, they would have done that through men, really, then they had a chance to do it on their own behalf.

It is true that the vanguard movements were associated, for the most part, with liberal and with social democratic causes and with the culture of the Left, generally speaking. That’s because it was seen to be an out-of-left-field movement. It was seen to be a movement for radical change and it inevitably adhered to the Left rather than the Right.

RS: Just to add onto what you were talking about earlier. A good friend of mine often will tell a powerful anecdote about female voting, and if you’ll forgive me, I’m forgetting some of the details, but as with details it’s the essence of it that matters.

There was a revolutionary parliament in France, and they were actually bringing up the question of whether women should vote, and actually the people who most vigorously opposed it were the far Left of the parliament, and those who supported it with greatest passion were what we would call the Right and even the clerical Right. The reason for this — and I think in some ways that both were rationally correct to hold those viewpoints — was that if given the chance to vote, women would most likely vote the way that their priest told them to vote and that women in this sense were a kind of force of conservatism. They would maintain the existing religious and aristocratic order. The far Left didn’t really want women to vote in this way.


We discussed a little bit last time about the idea of the majority strategy where you have the large White majority and it’s being dispossessed and attacked by a large rainbow coalition. The women are the kind of traitors or kind of wedge in this. Women, for whatever reason, maybe purely out of sentimentality, want to vote for center-Left parties, the parties that push the buttons about taking care of the children or whatever and they are kind of on the wrong side of the dispossession of America’s White historic majority.

So, again, it’s a very complicated issue and the social manifestations of women’s suffrage can occur in quite different ways.

Let me also ask another question about this. In some ways, I want to move on to second-wave feminism, because you find tracks that are at least more obnoxious, extreme, and things like this, but I want to stick just a little bit longer to pre-WWII feminism.

I’m thinking of someone like Margaret Sanger. She is in many ways a fascinating individual. Nowadays, she’s looked upon by many liberals as a wonderful, heroic, right-thinking woman who was fighting for the rights of women to use contraception and women’s rights in general.

But if we take a little closer look and you peel away a few layers of the onion, you find that she was a eugenicist of sorts, that she was afraid of the feebleminded and weak and so on and so forth overwhelming the healthier stock of America and that in a democracy something like that would be a truly terrible consequence. She would actually flirt with people like Lothrop Stoddard and Madison Grant, people who now would be considered totally beyond the pale, fascist, racialist types.

So, maybe in some of these first waves of feminism that we might think we know what it’s all about if we see it through the lens of modern Left-Right politics, so to speak, but actually it’s something quite different.

Do you have any thoughts on that? Some of the different strands of first wave feminism and how they’re kind of surprising when you look at them from our standpoint?

JB: Yes, I think that’s very true. I think first-wave feminism can’t be divorced from the class backgrounds of most of the women who advocated these positions. Although there’s been a careful pick and mix of the women concerned so that they seem part of a progressive continuum, there are many contradictions and (12:49 ???) that occur. It’s inevitable that these ultra-bourgeois women, for the most part, will often have radically conservative values and a few of them will have cross-fertilized Left-Right values and elitist values at that, despite the fact that they’re in favor of giving the vote to themselves.

This means that they’re not in favor of the vote for others. It also shouldn’t surprise us that when a lot of female literature is published in the late 19th/20th century — in a sense sort of elite literature — it turns out not to be Left-wing particularly. A lot of feminist publishing houses are bemused by the fact that a lot of the literature they publish from the early days isn’t really at all progressive, in their own terms and in the Left’s terms. That’s because the women who wrote it came from upper-class backgrounds. They were the women who were educated at the elite university level in all-female colleges during that era and their values and what they produced reflect that.

You also have a marked partiality for forms of ultra-conservatism among certain early female champions and it’s not for nothing that some of the political leaders who emerge first from the dispensation that gives women the vote turn out to be on the Right rather than on the Left.

Over time, eugenics and feminism have almost completely separated out, but because feminism is concerned with biological and reproductive health and wanted to give women control of it . . . Abortion, of course, cuts two ways. Although anathema to the Christian Right, abortion does feed into eugenics and gender. Indeed, without some concept of abortion you couldn’t have eugenics in a meaningful sense, because how are you to act to prevent these people that eugenicists believe shouldn’t be born or encouraged from being born in the first place? So, there’s an inevitable correlation between certain sociobiological and Darwinian ideas and certain evolutionary ideas and feminism of a particular sort, particularly un-ideological feminism.

So, it’s inevitable that the sort of Marie Stopes wing of the movement will come out of eugenics and family planning, and abortion and pro-choice movements are all deeply mired in feminism, on the one hand, and eugenics, on the other.

RS: Yes, actually the religious Right in the United States, and I assume in Europe as well, have picked up on this, and they’ll usually make inflated claims of abortionists. “They really want to rid the world of Africans,” or something like that or connect Margaret Sanger with Hitler and various things like that. Obviously, this kind of rhetoric is overdone, but it might actually have a kernel of truth to it. But it also points out the egalitarian nature of the so-called religious Right in the country.

Let’s move on to second-wave feminism and the 1960s. I would say that if you talked to the average Joe in the US or Europe who’s maybe a conservative-thinking guy with pretty normal good instincts when you say the word feminism he probably thinks of some woman who’s maybe tattooed and earringed and has totally outrageous views and hates men and probably got dumped at prom or the dance or something and became a lesbian and is driven purely by her resentment. He probably has that kind of man-hating feminist stereotype in his mind. In some ways, a lot of that is associated with that second-wave feminism that came with the New Left, which came with the ’68 revolutions and so on and so forth in the US and Europe.


So, Jonathan, maybe you can give us an introduction to this movement and it obviously has a quite different vibe, so to speak, to it. It probably has a different philosophical grounding as well. It might not even be related to earlier feminism. But what are your views on the impulse behind feminism that arose in the 1960s and beyond?

JB: Yes, I think this is the feminism that most people associate the term by whatever their view. Feminism in the ’60s and thereafter and some of its precursors in the late ‘50s tends to be a movement that is concerned almost completely with revolutionary politics, particularly sexual and psychological revolutionism. It only just about fits into Marxism because it relates to biological or pseudo-biological and sort of quasi-biological theories. It’s associated with a range of alternative society and slightly madcap women like Germaine Greer, who wrote a book called The Female Eunuch which at one level was quite well done but is a hysterical rant about the role of women in society, most of which is utopian in a way. It wants the female role to be changed out of all recognition. To such a degree that you could argue that one of the subtexts is that women become men over time and men become women over time, which was one of the unstated psychological goals of second-wave feminism. To see a feminization of men, in relative terms, and a masculinization of women, in relative terms. And that’s not an entirely stupid notion when you look at the theories some of them were proposing.

RS: Well, they seem to have succeeded in this to a large degree.

JB: Yes, well, feminism is unusual in that it’s one of those revolutions that’s succeeded. In absolute terms, of course, it’s completely failed because it addressed itself to utopias that are not possible of realization. Things like radical feminism, the total separation of female and male lives. Women living separate beehive-like existences in communes. That’s all failed.

RS: I’ll jump in here and then you can get back to your thought, but Alex Kurtagić was suggesting that I read Valerie Solanas’ tract, The SCUM Manifesto, and SCUM in this instance means the Society for Cutting Up Men.

JB: That’s right. She was an American, of course, and a schizophrenic. But she was the most extreme feminist that there’s ever been. Other feminists partly regard her tirade as sort of exhibitionistic, Sadean, and tongue-in-cheek. But yes, it advocates physical attacks on men and, of course, she did attack Andy Warhol. She shot him in the stomach with a gun from which he later recovered, and she was imprisoned for three years because of that. She got off quite lightly because it was regarded as an act of insanity.

Yeah, she represent in some ways the lunatic fringe, even the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe, within that particular movement. Although there will be feminists who will defend her, because she represents a sort of nethermost position or a position that it’s not possible to get beyond, a virulently man-hating position. Misandrist, I think it is, a word that’s never used, really, but means female detestation of men. Misogyny being a male detestation of women, which is a quite well-known word.

If you take a book like The Women’s Room by Kate Millett [Note: Marilyn French wrote the book by that title. Bowden could be referring to French or to another book by Millett, perhaps The Basement] there’s as strong a detestation of men in that than anything in Solanas, but it’s not expressed in as grotesque a way. So, Solanas’ is a deliberately absurdist text.

But that wing of feminism, Radical Feminism as it’s called with a large R, which is counter-propositional biologically and yet is rooted in biology, because it wants a total separation of the sexes and in the end advocates lesbianism even for heterosexual women. Hence books like Lesbian Nation and that sort of thing which come out of this particular milieu.

Feminist groups had internal debates in the ’70s and ’80s about lesbianism when the vast majority of women had to confess that they were biologically heterosexual and therefore this wasn’t an option for them. And they had endless debates about whether they should have political lesbianism instead, but it never really got anywhere.

womlib_1800.jpgSo, that wing of feminism, the more lunatic fringe, radical elements of what is anyway a radical doctrine, has fallen by the wayside, although there are important theorists associated with the anti-pornography movement such as Andrea Dworkin and so on who come out of the radical wing who are still current.

Yet another odd reverberation is the association that anti-pornography feminism has with conservatism, particularly religiously motivated conservatism. Unlike libertarianism, for example, which would take a laissez-faire attitude towards commercial pornography.

RS: Yeah, let’s put some pressure on this. I actually had porn down as an important subject I wanted to discuss. It obviously didn’t, at least to my knowledge, come up with first-wave feminism, but you have an interesting anti-porn movement that did work hand-in-glove with the religious Right, so-called. You also had, I believe, porn’s first leading lady, Lovelace — I’m forgetting her first name — who was in Deepthroat, one of the early large pornography movies. I think it was the first feature film that was porn, and Lovelace eventually became part of the anti-porn movement and worked with Dworkin and people of this nature.

Again, it gets back to how I opened the conversation. What makes feminism this lasting movement is this ability to mutate and its ability to take on contradictory positions. Because you have now throughout the ’90s and 2000s, I’m sure it’s still going on,  whole courses at major universities in the United States, and Europe I’m sure as well, on porn as this way of female power or pure liberation or they probably have other terminologies to describe it that I don’t even understand.

In some ways, there’s almost a yin and a yang to this. There’s the evils of something like pornography, is it’s just expressing how men want to treat women as objects and want to abuse them and so on and so forth, but then porn might be seen on the flipside as this pure expression of a kind of Marcusean, id-driven society of pure liberation and social relations as an orgy and so on and so forth.

Maybe this is part of the power of feminism. It can kind of flip back and forth and radically re-evaluate its social positions.

JB: Yes, I think that’s true, but in a way it’s bound to be like that, because it is slightly ridiculous that half of mankind has a viewpoint. If there was a movement called manism, if there was a movement of men. They’d immediately divide into all the subsections, because men don’t agree on anything.

So, there’s a degree to which to expect women to agree on anything beyond a few superficials is fraught with difficulty. So, you have to frame the thing that women feel they’re in a subsidiary place and therefore that gives them an alliance with each other that then allows them to align around certain core issues. But even then they’ll still be divided on most other issues.

RS: And there’s the Marxian legacy where it’s almost like the female as the proletariat. They are oppressed by the current state of being and therefore they become a sort of world historical actor. They become the universal subject or something. It’s like a Marxianism gendered, so to speak.

JB: Yes, there’s a bit of that going on. Although amongst conservative women, and Dworkin once wrote a book called Right-Wing Women, which is about Right-wing women on the Right of the Republican Party because those are the most discernible Right-wing women that she could find, and they’ve always been a source of fascination to feminists. What makes women otherwise conventional and adopt what they consider to be a male-concentric view once they’ve achieved just civic equality in terms of careers and jobs and money and things of that sort?

Of course, there’s a large area of social conservatism which is part of the female view as well. The view that basically women have a different role in life to men and have different tasks in life to men, but they’re not particularly concerned if they’re allowed to do male tasks. So, if a woman wants to be a judge and goes all out to be one the general conservative female attitude now is, “Why shouldn’t she be one?” And she might be quite a tough-minded Right-wing judge at that when it comes down to it. But they don’t think the world should be up-ended so that women can be judges. It’s just an add-on to the female role that remains otherwise unchanged.

Feminism, like a lot of these movements, is a movement that’s only superficially touched the lives of the overwhelming majority of women. Still, after all the propaganda the other way, 67% of women, about 2/3rds of all women in most societies, want the traditional option. They want some sort of stable marital or other union and they want a family with children and that’s pretty much what they want. And feminism doesn’t really have much to say to those sorts of women, although it always postulates the notion that it never stops trying to address them.

So, the bulk of women remain uninfluenced by it, although they have taken advantage of the successes that feminism has scored because although it’s one of these movements that can be seen to have failed completely in its own utopian terms its effect on society has been so great and its effect on men has been so great that in a way it has succeeded far more than other radical currents far more than other ideological currents. It has succeeded because it has forced the law to maximalize those areas of female-male equality and to disprivilege areas of inequality that did exist in the social and civic space between men and women to the degree that now men who talk openly about opening those spaces up again are frowned upon by other men and are in a very small minority.

RS: Yes. You know, it’s interesting. Just to tell two quick little anecdotes. I did notice . . . I’m now involved in an oppressive bourgeois marriage, but when I was dating I did notice that it was still tacitly accepted that I would be paying for every meal, and if I happened to take a girl on a date and say, “Oh, do you want to split it down the middle?” or something like that I would probably get a very nasty look. At the same time, if during that date I ever suggested something like, “Don’t you think since men are the head of the household that maybe they should be paid more across the board, that that’s a good thing and it’s not really unfair? It’s actually fair because men have more financial obligations than women.” Again, I would probably get a horrified and disgusted look.

So, I think feminism succeeds in particular areas, maybe fails in a couple, but does succeed in general.

Let me talk a little bit about someone totally different than someone like Valerie Solanas, who I am sure most people in the population, even someone who would call themselves a feminist, would probably declare she was mentally ill, and maybe she was acting purely out of hatred. And that is the kind of modern girl feminism that represents a kind of compromise solution for women that is actually quite attractive and is about them playing with the big boys at work or having the ability to get a job. Even if they eventually might want to have a family a little bit later that they still have the opportunity to go become a stockbroker or something like this if they want to.

If you meet these women, they are otherwise normal and healthy. They don’t hold any views of men as evil or should be destroyed or anything like that. So, it’s a kind of acceptable compromise feminism.


I don’t want to make this too much of a leading question, but I think it is worth pointing out that since the 1970s real wages have either stagnated or, probably more likely, declined. What I mean by real wages is the wage paid to the head of a household minus inflation. Essentially, the wage is not keeping up with price increases. What we had in the ’80s and ’90s was in essence “mom went to work.” Dad, if he had a normal job, he could no longer sustain a family of four. It was impossible, particularly with education costs, medical costs going up and so on and so forth. So, in a way, mom had to go to work and that dovetailed with this more palatable feminism that came out of all these waves of feminism.

So, in a way, one could say that the Gloria Steinems of the world are the central bankers’ useful idiots. What I mean by that is that due to things like inflation and economic malfeasance it was impossible for the single breadwinner to have a family and these women were out there thinking that they were suggesting something radical by suggesting that women go to work, but really they were just justifying and maybe even sugarcoating the economic decline of the Western world.

I guess that’s kind of my own take on it there, but you can pick up on that if you’d like to talk about that economic element to it. But maybe, Jonathan, you could just talk about that more palatable kind of compromise feminism which seems to be embraced by, I would say, a vast majority of women.

JB: Yes, it’s a sort of very practical solution and women have always bene a very practical sex at one level of consciousness. This middling solution, where you take a little bit of the small R radical feminism and kick the rest into touch and basically can see it as a conceit and as a way to move forward on the career front, is an eminently sensible way of looking at it. It’s not necessarily what men always wanted, but it’s a solution that in a sense neuters the more virulent aspects of feminism whilst retaining a considerable dose of it.

There was a theorist in the 1920s called Wyndham Lewis who wrote a book in 1926, I think, called The Art of Being Ruled in which he suggested that capitalism was the real motivating force behind feminism, because the whole point was that the family was an archaic and reactionary institution that was pre-modern and floated uneasily in the marketplace and dammed up any alternative lifestyle. All these producers and consumers that could be let loose, but they could only be let loose if women were prized out of the home and were treated as auxiliary men and were used in the workplace in that manner.

It’s a remarkably prescient analysis given that it was regarded as quite mad when he came up with it in the 1920s. It accords almost painstakingly with what’s actually happened.

RS: Yes, without question. Also, the welfare state benefits from it. You have women working, they’re paying more taxes. Divorce benefits certain economic groups. If you’re owning apartments, you’re going to benefit by the family no longer being intact. So, in a kind of horrible way, feminists are again the useful idiots of the banking system and American capitalism.

JB: Yes, and you see that in the cultural area as well. The sort of Sex and the City feminism totally divorced in many ways from the lifestyle and instincts of the Left, which can be quite puritanical, goes with a hedonistic market capitalism. You see this sort of combination of feminism and libertarianism and feminism and libertarian capitalism and the two going along together. You see this in the sort of females’ issues magazines like Cosmopolitan, which are the female equivalent of pornography in many ways motivated again by the market and what it is felt the market will bear and is quite distinct from the traditional romantic fiction, so-called female emotional pornography, which are endless stories fictionalized about romances between men and women which tend to adopt deeply socially conservative and sort of old-fashioned timbre.

Cosmopolitan and Sex and the City are the exact inverse of all of that and advocate an almost predatory and slightly sluttish sort of sexuality for women that traditional moralists were appalled by and women as a whole have tended to regard as a harmful lifestyle for women but is now a sort of market-tested to destruction attitude that’s favored on every newsstand.

RS: Oh, without question. I don’t want to sound too haughty by saying this, but I’m afraid that too many of the women who move to, say, London or Manhattan, they get a job and they’re little miss career gal and they live the Sex and the City lifestyle and at some point in their mid-40s they wake up alone and lonely living with cats. Again, I’m not trying to demean anyone. It just seems to be the case and there seems to be a hangover of the Sex and the City lifestyle, which is something I don’t think anyone wants.

So, Jonathan, expound a little bit, if you would, on how feminism has changed men. I think it’s something a lot more complicated than wussification or men have become like women. I think it’s something deeper and more varied than that.

JB: Yes, I think it is. I think what’s happened is that a whole storehouse or memory chain of male archetypes and types has gone down, has been sort of zapped and factored down. Certain types of raw heterosexuality in a relatively traditional and very Masculine, capital M, have gone away and gone down the memory hole, but so have elements of the dandy and the sort of over-stepping, flamboyant heterosexual. Those roles, which were quite marked and quite varied, and bohemian male roles as well of a traditional type. They’ve gone as well or they’ve been rather neutered and confined as well.

fem0154680235110702_1233227079_n.jpgThere’s a whole intermediate zone of masculine identities who had their card marked and have gone into the past. The question is why has this occurred? And I think the motivation is almost completely male and completely internalized. I think it’s many men do not feel that they can be successful in private life, do not feel they can attract the women they wish to attract or be seen as attractive to such women and certainly not get alongside of them if they are otherwise than the present sort of postmodern man. They feel like they’ve got really no chance in the private lifestakes if they remain loyal to traditional and rather heedless masculinities that are in conflict with the egalitarianism of the present order.

This is something where theory is all very well, but if you want to have a happy or beneficent life you have to do various things to make that turn around in the private area and men have basically just bitten on the bullet really and adopted a whole new set of masculine constructs in order to be successful with women and they think they’ve actually been quite clever because they’ve adopted an element of male feminist language, posture, and behavior in order to get on with women once equality was formalized in civics and in law and in social behavior.

Men haven’t changed deep down that much maybe, but behaviorally they’ve changed a great deal, and this goes to show that men don’t revert to something else when they’re on their own these days except very occasionally and under the influence of all-male banter or drink or whatever. But that’s pretty rare and it’s not the reversal that scandalized feminists would expect on the whole either.

So, I think that a lot of men feel that in order to have successful families, in order to have successful private lives, they need to downplay certain prior forms and play up certain attitudes and variants which are acceptable today. And I think that’s happened right across the board.

RS: Yes, as we discussed off-air, our side sometimes underestimates the importance of that 20% of things that is nurture as opposed to nature and, in the case of men, it’s almost as if the post-feminist man is a new, different biological species. I mean, he’s not exactly, but that nurture end of the equation is quite powerful.

JB: Yes, well, no one would engage in politics, no one would engage in any social ideology if the 20–25% of the things that is nurture as against nature was unimportant. So, it’s in some ways the crucial vortex through which everything becomes what it’s bound to be. If you just left it to nature, you would end up with a semblance of what nature wanted, but you would probably give the game away to all sorts of people who wish to denature nature as much as possible. So, nature on its own isn’t enough and men have not fundamentally biologically changed, but their behavior has altered out of all recognition.

If your average man in the 1920s looked at what happened today, he’d be baffled. And yet a part of him wouldn’t be, because he’d just perceive it as a tactic that is adopted in order to be successful.

RS: Do you think that’s all it is, a tactic?

JB: It’s a tactic that goes quite deep. It’s rather like learning a stage part in a play, but you learn it so well it sort of becomes your unguent. It becomes what you wish to be when you’re off set. I think it’s a part that’s been learned to such a degree that it’s become second nature now.

Maybe that proves that part of the prior masculinities were also slightly rhetorical that they’ve proved themselves to be so adaptable and so changeable. But I think it’s the pressing need to be successful in this area that is the prime motivator.

Also, I just think it goes with the egalitarian discourse. Because what is the alternative? Is the alternative a cult of male superiority? Many men would feel uncomfortable with that because the idea of superiority and hence inferiority in any area strikes people as axiomatically discomforting in present circumstances.

RS: To bring this conversation to a close, let’s talk a little bit about the woman question from a deeper and anthropological standpoint and that is the role of the woman in the West. Certainly, it’s no coincidence that many of these feminist movements were arising out of Europe writ large. Even if you want to blame it on Marxism, it’s arising out of the European milieu at some level. A lot of that has to do with the fact that, despite some of the horror stories told by Leftist academics, women are treated better in the Western world than they are in the rest of the world, quite frankly.

One likes to imagine the oppressive bourgeois marriage or something, but in comparison with most other gender relations around the world the oppressive bourgeois marriage is quite equitable. So, it’s probably no surprise that feminism would grow out of the Western world.

There seems to be a tension in the West between let’s just call it liberalism granting people more equality, thinking that people can transcend their biological or material rootings and kind of decide for themselves and then also another deep Western tradition, which is the family.

I should point this out. If one wants to be a crude Darwinist, in some ways the monogamous family is also a great victory for feminism. I mean, obviously, if we were going to live in a truly Darwinian atmosphere we’d have some sort of polygamy where the big man, strongest guy gets all the women, and all the weaklings are either killed or serve as slaves or something.

But in many ways this tradition of the family and monogamous relations, a very deep tradition, one that predates Christianity, that is also something uniquely Western. You don’t see a lot of monogamy in, say, the Old Testament or Semitic traditions. You see polygamy and tribal relations. But that monogamous family is something uniquely Western.

So, just taking up on some of these thoughts that I’ve put forward, Jonathan, what do you think from an anthropological standpoint is the role of the woman in our European culture?

feministes.jpgJB: Yes, I think it’s really the traditional role. It’s the role that predates ’60s feminism. I think it can be compatible with doing various jobs, but I think it is the mother’s role and traditional female roles extended out into the educational area, into nursing, into areas like that. But essentially the mother role, the Madonna role . . . Of course, there is a sexual role as well. And the scarlet female role is part of that continuum. It has to be because all areas have to be covered by it. So, that’s all part of the package.

All of those survive in the West quite markedly, actually, despite feminism’s impact. So, feminism’s changed everything, yet everything’s remained the same. All of the female lifestyles that pre-existed feminism co-exist with those that have been changed by it.

I think what’s really happened is that feminism hasn’t changed women at all. It’s changed certain patterns of female opportunity, but it hasn’t changed women one iota. What it has changed is it’s changed men a great deal.

I think men have been the real recipients of feminist ideology, and it’s men who have been transformed by it or have been reluctantly so transformed because they feel as though there’s no option but to accept a certain dose of it in order to have some successful private life.

So, I personally believe it’s feminism’s action on the male agenda that’s the crucial issue. Women have changed to a degree, because they’ve adopted some of its vocabulary, but men have had to adapt in a much, much greater degree because it was an alien vocabulary as far as they were concerned. They have adopted it, and they have had to get rid of or junk an enormous prior traditional male set of vocabularies, only a proportion of which are heard anymore even amongst men even when they’re on their own.

Feminism has bitten very deep and has changed men and probably not for the best. If you look at the way men are depicted in 1950s films, which is before the cultural watershed, and how men and women are depicted and allow themselves to be depicted, and depict themselves more is the point, from the 1970s onwards you notice a really radical transformation in the way masculinity is configured, the way heroic masculinity is configured, the way all forms of masculinity are configured. Certain traditional forms of masculinity where the Humphrey Bogart character slaps the woman because she’s misbehaving would now be regarded as so unacceptable as to cause a frisson if they were to occur in contemporary cinema, for example.

RS: Well, it’s interesting that there’s a deep ambivalence with all of this. I’ve noticed this with the success of the television show Mad Men, which in some ways represented men behaving badly so women could kind of gawk at the oppressiveness and outmodedness. So, you’d have men openly hitting on their secretary and lots of ass-slapping and having little affairs during lunch breaks and so on and so forth.

At the same time, if it were just that I don’t think it would be a successful show. It might be a successful show for men, you know, on the Spike network, the stupid jock all-men programming cable network. But the reason why Mad Men was successful was at some level that Don Draper figure, that tall, dark, masculine, strong, self-confident, willing to put someone in their place type of man is something deeply attractive to women, and it’s something they continually long for maybe even despite themselves, certainly despite feminism.

But, Jonathan, I think we have just scratched the surface on this issue. Thank you for being with us and I look forward to talking with you again next week.

JB: All the best! Bye for now!

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jeudi, 09 juin 2016

Frankfurt School Revisionism


Frankfurt School Revisionism

Editor’s Note:

This is the transcript by V. S. of Richard Spencer’s Vanguard Podcast interview of Jonathan Bowden about the Frankfurt School and Cultural Marxism, released on February 16, 2012. You can listen to the podcast here [2]

Richard Spencer: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Vanguard! And welcome back, Jonathan Bowden, as well, my partner in thought crime! How are you, Jonathan?

Jonathan Bowden: Yes, pleased to be here!

RS: Well, I mentioned thought crime. That’s quite an apt term for the subject of discussion this week and that is cultural Marxism, critical theory, and the Frankfurt School. Those are, of course, three distinct things, but they’re obviously interrelated as well and I think they can be discussed as one.

Jonathan, to get the discussion started I think it’d be a good idea to look at cultural Marxism historically and ask where it’s coming from and, in particular, what was the milieu like in interwar Germany where so many of these figures like Adorno and Benjamin and Horkheimer arose.

JB: Yes, I think you’ve got waves of feminism, as we discussed in a previous podcast, and now you’ve got waves of Marxism or waves within waves. Marxism, when it started out of course, had a lot of cultural theory attached to it, and Marx was heavily influenced by utopian socialist theory early on in the so-called Paris Manuscripts and that sort of thing. That was all junked, and Marxism became a heavily economically-concentric discourse, very reductive economically. An alleged science, now regarded 150 years on from those events as a sort of pseudo-science. This remained in play into the early stages of the 20th century, and Marxist parties tended to replicate that at a lower sort of political level.

But in and around the First World War with Gramsci’s ideas, which he wrote down in The Prison Notebooks when he was interned, a type of cultural discourse began to emerge whereby Gramsci had the idea that the superstructure and the base of society were disconnected so that things could exist at a cultural level which were not totally economically determined and couldn’t be held completely to be economically managed. Also, in order to discuss them you needed a wide field of reference.

Partly this was the desire of frustrated intellectuals who wanted to use Marxism. They also wanted to discuss culture, which was their abiding source of interest, but it was also an attempt to broaden the appeal of Marxian ideas. In the ’20s and ’30s in Germany, schools of writers began to emerge that were only concerned with man and society, in John Plamenatz’s term, and were not concerned really with econometrics or economic determinism at all and were only Marxian in this newfangled way and had a heavily theoretical take on life.

I remember a Marxian deconstructionist lecturer once telling me 30 years ago that the bourgeois goes to life with common sense but the Marxist with his theory. This theoretical overload whereby everything in life has to be theorized and every text that one comes across has to be subjected to critical analysis or critical theory gave rise to this school that was concerned with the examination of literary texts, with cultural anthropology, with sociology, with social psychology, with adaptations of most of the social sciences to life and were only vaguely concerned with economics.

Neumann_Behemoth_Structure_Practice.jpgFor instance, Franz Neumann’s large book, Behemoth, which is a Marxian analysis of the economics of National Socialist Germany, was one of the few works of economics that was ever written that came out of the Frankfurt School. Most of it was concerned with cultural critique and critical cultural theory involving very outlandish areas such as sociology of music, which was a particular area of Adorno’s concern.

RS: Let me jump in here and mention a few things. It’s worth pointing out that the Marxist project had failed on its own terms by the 1930s in the sense that Gramsci – and I think that some of his writings weren’t really known until much later in the ’50s – was put in prison by Fascists. In Italy, the Fascists had won, and they had defeated a lot of the Marxist parties. They had some proletarian support, I’m sure, and things like this. The whole Marxian project and economic determinism of capitalism creating these contradictions that create some sort of apocalyptic scenario and the proletariat rises up, that really hadn’t happened.

And also with Frankfurt School members, at least ostensibly they were highly critical of what the Soviet Union had become. The Soviet Union wasn’t really it. It wasn’t the utopia. It was maybe something they deemed a perversion.

So, those were certainly important factors, and also it’s worth pointing out that if we’re talking about the Frankfurt School milieu of Adorno and Benjamin you had people that probably weren’t that interested in economics. Benjamin, some of his great writings are on 19th-century culture in one book, but aphoristic writings about life in the modern age, and certainly Adorno was sort of a classical music snob. He was very interested in Beethoven and something like that.

Anyway, it’s a very interesting milieu that all of this came out of. But anyway, Jonathan, maybe you can talk about two things. Where was it going and what was really the essence of their cultural project?

JB: I think the essence of their cultural project was to revolutionarily change the way in which Western culture was thought about and received. So, it was a grandstanding ambition, at any rate. It was to totally change the way in which Western culture was perceived by those who had created it and by those who were the receptors of its creation. I think this involved, basically, an attempt to go back to the theory that pre-existed the French Revolution, because the big book by Horkheimer and Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, is really about the pre-revolutionary theories and is a critique of the Enlightenment from the Left, not the Right.

But they begin by going back, as radical theorists always do, to first principles and criticize the Enlightenment. Their criticism of the Enlightenment is essentially that it is an attempt by scientific man or would-be scientific man to place himself at the heart of the universe to dominate nature and in so doing enact an enormous revenge. The great theory about Fascism in Dialectic of Enlightenment by Adorno and Horkheimer is that Fascism represents the revenge of a violated nature and is the revenge of a sociobiological current that would not exist if there weren’t attempts to entrap nature within the nexus of progress.

So, already you’re getting a strange idea here. You’re getting a sort of anti-progressive Leftism. You’re getting Leftism which is critical of capitalism and modernity whereas classical Marxism is extraordinarily in favor of capitalism and modernity but just wished to succeed it with another state: socialism and late modernity.

RS: Right. Or hypermodernity.

JB: Hypermodernity, yes.

RS: Well, let’s talk a little bit about this because, as we were talking about off-air when we were first thinking about doing a podcast on this, the mainstream conservative movement, at least in America, is actually somewhat familiar with the Frankfurt School. At least, its intellectuals are and they think they know it as the source of the 1960s and political correctness and so on and so forth. But I always feel that I don’t recognize Cultural Marxism in the way that it’s often depicted by movement ideologues.

So, let’s talk a little about this, put a little pressure on the idea of Enlightenment and dialectic of enlightenment. One of the key scenes, if you will, in that book, which I guess is worth reading but it’s an extremely difficult text to read . . . Just as an aside, I met this German when I was in graduate school and he mentioned that he only read Adorno in English translation because even in the original German language it’s extremely dense.

theodor-adorno.jpgBut anyway, Adorno and Horkheimer aren’t just seeing that Fascism is some reaction of capitalist forces against the Communist wave or something like that. They’re seeing Fascism as coming out of a bourgeois world, and they’re seeing something really wrong at the heart of bourgeois modernity, and I think they picture this in the form of Odysseus who wants to be bound at the mast and is going to renounce man’s more natural being and instead embrace a stern, hard modern man. There’s a world to be made, and we’ve got to go build it.

So, maybe talk a little more about this concept of enlightenment on the part of Horkheimer and Adorno and how this led to a kind of New Left. One that might even have some conservative tendencies in the sense of the abuses against nature.

JB: Yes, it’s an odd one actually, because it’s a sort of would-be foundational Leftism strongly influenced by Hegel, strongly influenced by the early Marx, strongly influenced by Plekhanov who taught Lenin a lot of his Marxism and was a Menshevik, technically, strongly influenced by Gramsci, whose texts would have been known to Marxian intellectuals at that time, and strongly influenced by the “culture of critique,” you could say.

Instead of seeing the Enlightenment as progressive, they see the Enlightenment as an Endarkenment, as a period that’s propriety to bourgeois revolutions which may not be entirely progressive and were afflicted with terror. So, they have a differentiated appreciation of these things. They also have to find the enemy somewhere else, because if the enemy is not really as classical Marxism depicted it and its alleged revolution led to Leninism and Stalinism they have to find their enemy somewhere else, and the enemy for the New Left influenced by the Frankfurt School is alienation. Alienation from modernity, alienation from culture which is capitalist in its predicates, alienation from what they call the culture industry, whereby modern man is totally trapped within the cultural space created by the economy and where there is no room at all for, in conservative terms, folk-based authenticity.

They would never use those sorts of terms, of course, and they would consider them to be reactionary, hubristic terms, but because there is a cultural pessimism, particularly about the cultural life of the masses under capitalist economics and even under socialist economics in the Eastern Bloc to a lesser extent, there is an opening out to vistas of cultural conservatism. This is the Frankfurt School’s inner secret.

I remember professor Roger Scruton, the conservative intellectual, about 25 years ago now included conservative features of the Frankfurt School under one of the headings of cultural conservatism in his dictionary of political philosophy and this caused a little bit of a stir.

But when you look at the fact that, although they sort of found Wagner rather loathsome in relation to what they regarded it as leading to, the classical sort of Schumann, Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven, Bruckner, sort of icons of Germanic, Middle European culture are exactly the icons that in particular they are the most in favor of. Just as classical Marxism is in favor of bourgeois politics and revolutionism over and against the mercantilism and semi-feudalism that preceded it as it looked to the socialism that it thought was going to replace it, they are in favor of radical bourgeois subjectivity epitomized by Beethoven, in their view, and his symphonies, which proclaims the sort of seniority of the bourgeois subject at a moment when the bourgeois subject feels itself to be empowered and all-conquering and the fleeting identification of the meta-subjectivity of the subject that Beethoven accords Napoleon Bonaparte, as he sees him to be an embodiment of the will of bourgeois man.

All of these ideas are there in Adorno’s sociology of music, which is in some ways a sort of Marxian cultural appreciation of great Western icons which could be considered as slightly rueful and slightly conservative with a small “c.” It’s as if he arrives at certain tentative cultural conclusions which are themselves outside of the nature of the theory which he’s allegedly espousing. He’s certainly not alienated by these sorts of musicologists at all.

The point, of course, is that they are the springboard for the modernist experiments of Schoenberg, Webern, and Berg, but that was a radical thing to say when they said it. That’s now regarded as an old hat statement in classical musical criticism. But that’s what they were with Mahler as an intermediary. Mahler between Bruckner and Schoenberg. That sort of thinking and a rejection of Sibelius, who was insulted quite severely by Adorno and the adoration of early to late Schoenberg as the future of music. This became the standard repertoire. The irony is it’s in culture that that theory had its most direct impact. Politically, they’ve had very little impact. It’s in the politics of culture that they’ve not conquered the board but they entered the fabric of what now exists at university level.

RS: Yes, I agree. Even in the fact of criticizing Wagner, the fact that you treat him as this major figure that must be confronted is way reactionary and has conservative tendencies. I mean, I don’t see anyone in the contemporary conservative movement to have much interest in these Romantic titans at all in that sense.

Let’s talk a little bit about the Frankfurt School’s journey to America. It’s quite an interesting one. The Frankfurt School was almost entirely Jewish. I don’t know if there were actually any exceptions to that. There might be.


JB: No, there aren’t. It’s unique in that sense. It’s almost stereotypical. Adorno was half Jewish, and a few of the others were this and that, but basically yes they were almost in toto.

RS: Right. And not only were they Jews but they were Marxists, so needless to say they weren’t accepted in the Third Reich, although they weren’t really directly . . . I guess the Frankfurt School was shut down. I don’t think any of them were, at least personally, persecuted. I know Adorno was even traveling back to Germany on occasion at that time. But anyway, they did move and they went to America and there was actually a kind of exile community in which I believe Schoenberg and Thomas Mann and Theodor Adorno were all living together in a Los Angeles suburb or something like that. It’s quite interesting!

But they also were received, ironically, by the elite. A lot of the Frankfurt School members actually worked for the OSS, which would eventually become the CIA during the Second World War, and they were also getting grants. I believe Adorno got a Rockefeller grant working at Columbia University. They definitely had a reception by the more elite American opinions.

Was it the Rockefeller grant that actually sponsored The Authoritarian Personality?

JB: Yes, that’s right.

RS: Yeah. So, let’s talk a little about this, the next stage of their journey when they became Americans.

JB: Yes, the American stage was interesting because in many ways it contradicts the pure theorizing that they were into, because, although they were given grants and cultural access by these people and seen as sort of honorific rebels against Fascism who had to be supported in the war of ideas, they had to change and water down their theory. They also had to adopt a lot more empirical studies, which was anathema to people like Adorno who hated empiricism. But, of course, empiricism is the Anglo-American way of looking at things. They had to adapt or die, basically. They had to adapt and they had to come up with theoretically-based nostrums that could lead to epidemiological testing and criminological types of testing and almost tick-box forms which ended in the slightly reductive program known as the pursuit of an authoritarian personality with this notorious F-Scale. F for Fascism.

Many of these tests are regarded as slightly embarrassing now and are quite redundant and also not very much used, because although certain people do have more authoritarian casts of personality than others it’s not really a predicate for political positioning because there’s all sorts of hard social democratic positions and authoritarian far Left positions, for example.

RS: Right.

JB: Which go with more authoritarian character structure and don’t align into the F-Scale which these people would like to make out.

However, they were very influential in the rebuilding of Germany after the Second World War, and this is where their theory enters into the mainstream in many ways, because one of their great points is, “What do you do in a democratic society with all the institutions of control, with all the valences of state and other forms of oppressiveness?” as they would see it: the military-industrial complex, the people who work in the security services, the people who work analyzing information on behalf of those services, the people who work in the large prisons and psychiatric environments that exist in all societies, particularly in Western societies?

They always had the view that these people needed to be watched in a way and needed to be prevented from having some of the natural affinities that they would otherwise have if you let them outside of the remit of your theory. This idea that you almost watched the authoritarian gatekeepers in society for signs of “incorrectness” has entered into the mainstream. Very much so.

RS: Yes, I agree that the conservative movement, the mainstream view of the Frankfurt School, that view is really one of Adorno and The Authoritarian Personality. That’s where their criticism really fits, but of course there’s so much more. But that’s certainly a way where you see critical theorists most directly attacking normal bourgeois people. If you have some, what we might call, healthy patriotic opinions that’s high up on the F-Scale.

JB: That’s right, yes.

RS: So, I think in some ways The Authoritarian Personality is probably Adorno and the rest of them at their most cartoonish or something, and it’s not really the most interesting.

JB: That’s right, and there’s a sort of theory by explicators of that school, like Martin Jay and others, that what they’re well known for, such as the F-Scale and so on which was really a concession to their friends and to the people that were giving them grants because what really interested them was this extraordinarily elaborate theory whereby everything in life, particularly in cultural life, was theorized in books like Negative Dialectics by Adorno and Aesthetic Theory, which was unfinished at his death and dedicated to Samuel Beckett, and his support for elements of the avant-garde in the counter-culture during the 1960s, which is a perverse Marxian support because it’s not based on the fact that it’s radical and that it’s coming from the age and that it’s countering that which exists formally, although there’s a little bit of that.

The reason he supports these things is that he believes that the cultural industry is so monolithic, the culture of entertainment and the degradation of the masses is so absolute that only in these little fissures and these tiny, little spaces which are opened up by the critical avant-garde, who often deny easy understanding and deny mediation and deny the audience the collateral of a closure at the end of a piece so that people go away happy or satisfied and that sort of thing, what they are doing is opening a space for genuine culture to exist. That’s why he dedicated it to Beckett, you see.

So, underneath a lot of this theorizing there is a pessimistic despair, a sort of morphology of despair, and that’s very unusual for a Leftist position. It’s usually associated with a Spenglerian, conservative cultural disdain and pessimism for the degradation of the masses under all forms of life and that wish the life of culture could extend and be deeper and be more transvaluated than it is.


RS: Right. You know, this is all quite interesting and at the risk of pushing this Adorno as conservative idea too far, actually recently there was a book of his music criticism. I guess not too recent. It was a book of translations and probably published in 2004 or so. I remember reading it, and he had an interesting essay where he in some ways rethought Wagner and had many positive things to say about Wagner. Believe it or not, he actually had positive things to say about Houston Stewart Chamberlain in the sense that Houston Stewart Chamberlain was a racialist thinker, a god of the far Right, racialist Right, and he said that he saw that one of his reactions against the culture of England and his Romantic embrace of Germany was a kind of reaction against the tyranny of industrialization and that he imagined a more unalienated, authentic world in Germany and that almost these Right-wing strivings were that reaction against capitalism or something. So, again, there is a lot of complexity to all these people and they’re not easily pigeon-holed.

I do want to talk about the 1960s, but before that let’s just put a little more pressure on the culture industry because I think that’s a very useful term for us. I think that’s a term we should be using and maybe even using it in a lot of the same ways that Adorno did. But maybe just talk a little bit more about that idea of the culture industry, what it is, and what Adorno was seeing in mid-20th century America.

JB: Yes, he basically had the idea that the masses were totally degraded by a capitalist and market-driven culture whereby from advertising through to popular cinema to the popular television that was beginning and that would replace cinema and add to it and was an extension of it you have a totally seamless environment in which the masses live which today would be characterized by the popular internet, by the big TV channels, by MTV, by pop music videos, by pop music in all of its various forms.

Don’t forget, Adorno was extraordinarily scathing about jazz, which is regarded as deeply unprogressive and his disgust and distaste for jazz is almost visceral.

RS: Racist!

JB: Yes, almost. In contemporary terms and the terms of the New Left, there is this sort of despairing mid-20th century Viennese intellectual who despises the culture of the masses and that comes very close to an elitist position. It may be a Left-wing elitist position, but it’s an elitist position nonetheless, and once you admit elitism in any area, even if it’s only the cultural one, cultural selectivity, you begin to adopt ramifications elsewhere that are unstoppable.

Although he could never be seen as a neo-conservative figure — these are people who believe that the family is a gun in the hands of the bourgeoisie and that criminality is directly proportionate to its punishment — in other words, you get more criminality because you punish people who are only victims anyway — so don’t forget, these are the sorts of conceits that the Frankfurt School believes in, but the very complexity of their analysis alienates them from populist Left-wing politics and alienates them from easy sloganeering, which is why they’ve been taken up by intellectuals and yet not by mainstream Leftist political movements because their work is just too difficult, it’s too abstruse, it’s too obsessed with fine art and high culture, particularly musical but also in the cinema.

Going back to an analyst called Kracauer in the 1920s, the intellectual analysis of Weimar cinema and expressionist cinema at that was very important to them and they saw that time of cinema’s use of the unconscious, as people would begin to call it later in the century after Freud’s cultural influence, led them into slightly interesting and creative cultural vistas that are not simple and are not reducible to political slogans, but they do ultimately tend to a type of rather pessimistic ultra-Leftist postmodernism.


RS: Yes. Well, let’s talk about the 1960s and the New Left and the hippies and the ’68 violent protests and so on and so forth.

What do you think the connections are between the two of them? I know that supposedly — I wasn’t there, of course — in Berkeley in 1968, they were chanting, “Marx, Mao, Marcuse!” Herbert Marcuse was, of course, from the same milieu as Adorno. He was a Hegelian professor and had an upper bourgeois Jewish background. He remained in America. Adorno would return to Central Europe, but he remained, and he is writing books like Eros and Civilization that were a kind of Marxian-Freudian liberation philosophy kind of thing that the future was about polymorphous perversity. These kinds of things. And certainly very different from Adorno’s more kind of fastidious bourgeois nature.

So, what are the connections between the youth movement of the 1960s and the Frankfurt School? Because in some ways it’s strange bedfellows. It’s different generations. The hippies and anti-war protestors probably couldn’t spell Hegel. A very wide gulf between the people like Adorno and these new kids. So, what are the connections? Do you think as the conservative movement would like to believe that the Frankfurt School were kind of the prophets of sick 1968 or is it a little more difficult?

JB: They are and they aren’t. I think that what happened is intermediate theorists emerged who are not as complicated and whose work could be assimilated to political struggle and sloganeering.

Marcuse is that example. Marcuse wrote several books, the most prominent of which is One-Dimensional Man and Eros and Civilization. One of which is a full-on Left-American attack on modern corporate America, where he anathematizes what will come to be known as the military-industrial complex and what was called the welfare-warfare state whereby welfare is paid in order to keep the masses bedded down and at the same time the perfect society is always engineered out of existence by endless wars in the Second and Third World which are always for the prospect of peace, but the peace never arrives, and there’s always just another war just around the corner, and, of course, the wars are to make profits for the military-industrial complex which is increasingly considered to be the most advanced capitalist part of America in which the political class is totally embedded.

RS: Right. So, what you’re saying is that they were absolutely correct.

JB: Of course, there are many similarities on the other side politically, because Harry Elmer Barnes edited a very large volume called Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, which is very similar from a revisionist sort of school whether isolationist or American nationalist or American libertarian. The people who contributed to that book had a very similar analysis to the one that Marcuse would have of American foreign policy.

Of course, this was occurring in the era of the Cold War when the threat was seen to be the Soviet Union and, to a lesser extent, Maoist China and by arguing for pacifism and isolation you’re arguing for Communist victory elsewhere in the world by the logic of power politics. That’s how Cold War warriors and anti-Communists would have responded to the Marcuse front.

But Marcuse enabled Frankfurt School-related ideas to be politically assimilated by the growing forces of the student New Left, and that’s why they used him as the theorist of choice, because he’s exportable in student terms. He also put himself forward as a student leader, at least theoretically, something which the other Frankfurters were too fey and too theoretical and too abstract and abstruse ever to do. They never would have thought students would listen to their lectures even if they were talking Marxian analysis. Adorno, of course, died as a result of a student action in Germany in the late 1960s when the podium was stormed by some action front hippies or yippies who embraced Adorno — whether they had flowers in their hair, metaphorically, I’m not too sure — and they chanted that as an institution “Adorno is dead,” and Adorno collapsed and had a heart attack relatively soon afterwards and died.

RS: Oh gosh.

JB: This is taken as a sort metaphorization in a way that despite his sort of would-be leadership role of the theorist in relation to these people they were two different universes and the Frankfurt School intellectuals were deeply shocked actually that the West German popular press, particularly the center Right press, held them responsible morally for the emergence of terrorist organizations in West Germany, such as the Baader-Meinhof which later morphed into the Red Army Faction or RAF.

It’s only, of course, come out retrospectively during the latter stages of the Cold War and after the wall came down that the Stasi when the traditional sources of power in East Germany were heavily behind the RAF gave them military expertise and explosives and told them which sites to attack and so on, so that they were as much an extension of the oldest parts of the old Left as they were of the newest parts of the New Left.

Nevertheless, theorists are not always insightful about how the world will use their theory and the Frankfurt School is a classic example of ivory tower intellectuals who partly get a little bit broken up and mangled on the wheel of history.

But Marcuse is an intermediate speaker who the student Left are able to make use of because they can understand what he’s saying. Adorno and Horkheimer and Löwenthal are too abstract, basically. They’re on their own as theorists.


RS: Yeah. Jonathan, to bring the discussion to a close, what do you think is the legacy of these thinkers? In some ways, this is a very big question, because I’m also kind of asking what is the legacy of the New Left and all of this and what is political correctness today. What does it mean and how is it connected with these 20th-century Marxisms?

JB: Yes, this is a difficult one because it’s so diffuse. Yet what I think has happened is they’ve changed the entire temperature which existed, particularly at the university level and amorphously the general media level that feeds out of that at the higher end. What’s happened is that once they lost the hard Left accretions of sympathy for the Soviet Union — witness a text like Marcuse’s Soviet Marxism, which although very short is extremely critical and he’d had been sent to a psychiatric unit or put in a camp for a text like that if he had produced that inside one of those societies, as Marcuse well knew.

You’ve got this great sort of uniformity and diffuseness of the contemporary Left which has collapsed into liberalism, seamlessly taken parts of its agenda over, is no longer associated with apologetic statements about Stalinism, distances itself from all Left-wing atrocities and has critiques of those as well, is part of the seamless liberal-Leftist course that straddles the center and goes right out to the softer reaches of the far Left, bifurcated from the hard Left beyond it.

In all of these institutions, Frankfurt School views play a role. They play a role in defeating the culture of conservatism in all areas: racial and ethnic, criminological and social, areas such as police studies, PhDs written about the prison service, modern theories about cinema. In all of these areas, in cultural studies is a discourse which has only emerged from art colleges in the last 20 years, which is heavily saturated with Frankfurt School-ish types of ideas.

You see the deconstruction and the breaking down of the prior cultural conservatism. They are the intellectual tip of the liberal society which has stepped away from the conservative societies of the 1950s and 1960s.

Up until the ’60s in the West, you had largely a stereotypical center Right to Rightish conservative society, polity, academy, media, and culture, and after that you have a step change to a liberal instead of a conservative society, media, culture, and cultural disseminating strata. This has continued throughout the decades since the 1960s. You’ve had about 50 years now. So, you have a situation where over this 50 year period throughout all of the institutions that matter soft Left theory, theory without hard edges and without endorsement of anti-humanist crimes committed by the ultra-Left all over the world, has become the default position for many people in the arts, in psychology, in medical practice, in psychiatric practice, in nearly all institutions of the state. With the exception of the military and the raw force-based criterion, the areas of state power that rely on the use of force, almost all other areas have been infected by these types of theory. Psychiatric institutions have been and, although it’s a bit of a stretch, the anti-psychiatric movement through R. D. Laing, through Fromm, and through Marcuse, is heavily influenced by at least a proportion of these sorts of ideas.

In the theory of Lyotard and in the theory of Deleuze, is the bourgeois really insane? Are schizophrenics the sane who walk amongst us? Deleuze and Guattari’s text Anti-Oedipus in which the schizophrenic is seen as the last redoubt of sanity in a mad capitalist world, which is by any rational credence insane. Therefore, you have to look to the insane to find the redoubt of sanity.

These sorts of ideas, post-Foucault in the late 20th century, are no longer that eccentric. They were once the most eccentric ideas you could have which conservatives essentially just laughed at. Now, they’ve taken over the institutions. But it’s been in a gradualist and would-be well-meaning and soft-minded sort of way, because this theory has taken over and cultural conservatives have retreated before it to such a degree that there’s hardly any of them left.

RS: I agree. You know, I might disagree with you slightly. I think Cultural Marxism has infected the military in the United States. It’s kind of incredible, but yet we have a major Army general claiming that diversity is the great strength of America’s armed forces as they go overseas to bring women into undergraduate colleges. So, it’s been quite a triumph!

One thing I would just mention, picking up on all these ideas you’ve put forward. I’ve always thought about this; there’s this staying power of let’s call it the postmodern New Left or Cultural Marxism. It’s had this long, decades-long staying power, and if you think about major avant-garde, modernist movements, they were a candle that burned really quickly. They almost burned themselves out.

If you just look at — just to pick one at random — the Blue Rider group or something like that. This is something that lasted maybe 4 years. Dadaism would kind of make a splash and then dissipate and go off into other movements and things like this.


If you look at the art galleries — conceptual art, postmodern art — they’ve been doing the same stuff for maybe 40 or 50 years now! If you look at women’s studies, African-American studies, critical race theory, all this kind of stuff, Foucault . . . I mean, it’s obviously changing, but it’s had this staying power that it’s almost become conservative, and I think this is a great irony.

I don’t know where avant-garde art can go. I don’t know how many times you need to, proverbially speaking, put a crucifix in piss. It’s one attempt to shock the bourgeoisie after another to the point that it becomes old and stale and certainly institutionalized in the sense that many people will go to get masters in fine arts in all these institutions and learn from the great masters of conceptual shock. So, this is a very strange thing about our culture where we have this conservatism amongst postmodern Cultural Marxism.

Do you think this is going to break down, or do you think, Jonathan, that because political correctness has become so obvious or because it’s become something easily ridiculed that it’s going to be overturned or at least come to an end? Do you see that or is that being a little too optimistic?

JB: It might be a bit too optimistic in the short run. I think it’s become institutionalized in a way which those art movements you categorized earlier on have not been for several reasons.

1) It’s a non-fictional area. It’s an academic area, and academics have tenure in mind, and these art movements are sudden, instantaneous, bohemian, and largely outsider movements. They usually row intensely with the major figures who sort of break from each other over a finite period. Surrealism almost came to an end when Breton insisted that they all join the Communist Party in France, but many of them didn’t want to do that. They joined it for discussion and alcoholic treats and to meet women and that sort of thing and to have a chance to exhibit. That’s why most people join art movements.

It’s also not particularly concerned with creation either. It’s concerned with reflexive creativity academically. So, somebody will go through the process of a first degree or second degree, they’ll get the PhD, which is influenced by one of these theoretical figures, and then they’ll become a tenured lecturer over time, and they provide a paradigm or a model for their students as they come up. So, the thing becomes replicating over a career path.

What you’ve had is you’ve had a couple of generations who’ve now done this within the academy, and they’ve also worked for a situation where there’s very little kick against them because there’s very little Right-wing left in the academy. It’s almost totally gone now. It almost can’t survive the pressure valves that have been put on it to such a degree that it’s almost impossible for it to survive. This has meant the rather desert-like, arid terrain of the new left, small “n,” small “l,” really, now dominates the tertiary sector of education, which is why the Left is so strong.

In a mass capitalist world where they feel that people are degraded by the cultural industry, nevertheless what you might call the PBS culture, the national endowments for the arts culture, is completely saturated with this sort of material, and there’s little way to shake it at the present time unless they’re radically disfunded or unless a way can be worked for forces of counter-culture to enter the university space again. Probably only on the internet is the space that they can now adopt and that, of course, is what’s happened for all of these ideas, such as this podcast we’re having today. They’ve gravitated towards the internet, because this is the only space left.

RS: Well, Jonathan, we are the counter-culture. I think that’s one thing that’s been clear to me for some time. But thank you once again for being on the podcast. This was a brilliant discussion, and I look forward to another one next week.

JB: Thanks very much! All the best!rticle printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2016/06/frankfurt-school-revisionism/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/HorkheimerAdorno.jpg

[2] here: http://www.radixjournal.com/bowden/2014/7/24/frankfurt-school-revisionism


lundi, 09 mai 2016

Understanding Spengler


Understanding Spengler

Editor’s Note:

This is the transcript by V. S. of Richard Spencer’s Vanguard Podcast interview of Jonathan Bowden about Oswald Spengler. You can listen to the podcast here [2]

Richard Spencer: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Vanguard! And welcome back as well, Jonathan Bowden! How are you, Jonathan? 

Jonathan Bowden: Yes, hello! I’m very well. Thanks for having me on again.

RS: Quite good. Today we’re going to talk about the philosophy of Oswald Spengler. In these podcasts we’ve talked quite a bit about philosophers who are of interest to the New Right or the Alternative Right or White Nationalists or whatever you want to call us. And we’ve talked about Nietzsche in particular. Nietzsche is an interesting case in the sense that, despite the fact that he has quite a few unfashionable ideas from the standpoint of our enlightened modern age, nevertheless he is still quite popular. Libraries and bookstores are well-stocked with titles on Nietzsche.

Spengler, on the other hand, who equaled or surpassed Nietzsche’s popularity in Central Europe in his own time, has gone down the memory hole in a way. It’s hard to find a book by Spengler at your local bookstore, even a large one. Though I think people have heard about him or they have some general notion that he was a pessimistic German or something like this, they don’t really know a lot about the man and his philosophy. We hope we can increase the level of understanding, certainly, with this discussion today.

Jonathan, the way I wanted to start out this talk about Spengler and the philosophy of history is at a very basic level of understanding. I was thinking before we started this conversation that this idea of linear history is one that is really powerful for people and it also has something to do with Christianity in a way, but it’s also something that’s survived well into the post-Christian West. What I mean by linear history is what maybe could be described in just a simple phrase like “It keeps getting better all the time,” this notion that we’re the next step in history, and this history leads to greater freedom, greater liberation, greater understanding, greater technology, so on and so forth and that, yes, there might be some bad things that happen along the way but those are kind of speed bumps along this highway towards utopia or something like that.

I think if we look at the world from the standpoint of technology perhaps that is true. We’ve had the creation of medicines, from the automobile to the iPhone. Obviously, there’s a way that things have been getting better. They’ve been slowly perfected.

But, of course, culture and civilization, these are two very different things than technology.

Jonathan, maybe we can talk just a little about that just to get this conversation started and to get our listeners’ minds’ wheels turning, so to speak, about the philosophy of history. Think about that powerful assumption. Just that it seems like something that everyone in the modern West, maybe even the modern world, Left and Right, all have and that is of linear history and how Spengler is really challenging that. What do you think about that idea, Jonathan?

osspççç.jpgJB: Yes, I think that’s a good way in. Spengler is a cosmologist of history. He’s a botanist of history, in a way. He sees human cultures and their attendant civilizations very much like geological strata or the morphology of plant life in that they have a natural cycle, even a diurnal, seasonal one. They have a brief flowering and they have a spring, they have a summer, they have an autumnal phase, and then they have a winter of the soul, and then they die. They literally atrophy and die. His belief in the death of great cultures, that cultures could be seen to come to an end, or they can lie silent for enormously long periods prior to some renaissance or kickstart, is deeply troubling to the modern mind which is addicted to the idea of progress and progressivism whatever its standpoint.

Spengler’s emotional register was profoundly melancholic and pessimistic. He once famously in Man and Technics said that “optimism is cowardice.” There is a degree to which his view of history, which is these radial circles which overlap with each other rather like a Venn diagram in mathematics, a science with which he was familiar, accords very much with his own view that things are cyclic and circular and turn back upon themselves, and cultures go through various stages which are inevitable, and each stage follows from the other one and has the seeds of death in its own mouth in the sense that the thing will turn full circle on itself. He turned cultural decline away from merely being of archival and archeological interest.

These are forbidding and almost totalitarian insights of pessimism which don’t accord easily with the 20th century. If you look at a book like Niall Ferguson’s The War of the World, for example, which is a narrative of the extreme violence in Western and global society in the century of the masses, the 20th century, that’s a mordant book. It’s an apocalyptic book. It’s a book that in some ways is opposed to the idea that things are getting better and better. Yet at the same time, it doesn’t feel emotionally pessimistic despite the fact that it’s brimming, on the whole, with pessimistic criteria. So, Ferguson remains an optimist in a sort of belletrist liberal methodology, the belief that things can get better even if they turn out for the worst at a particular time, which he wishes to express.

Spengler would have no truck with that. Spengler believes that cultures are sort of caged in a way and will wither and die a natural death just as [. . .] beauty in accordance with the rhythm which is close to that of biological life in human affairs.

RS: Before we get into his organic concept of history let’s talk a little bit about his milieu, where he was coming from. I would like to talk about the milieu of his life in Germany at the first quarter, first half of the 20th century.

But before that I think it’s worthwhile going back a little bit to the 19th century and some of the philosophies of history which preceded Spengler’s, and I’m thinking, of course, of Hegel and Kant — probably the two biggest figures in that philosophical school. Maybe you could just mention what are some of the ways that Hegel, probably the most well-known, influenced Spengler. Obviously Hegel had a dialectical view of history which is certainly more complicated than “it’s getting better all the time” linear view, but nevertheless it was a progress view of history. He actually felt that history was coming to an end with the Prussian state and so on and so forth.

So, what do you think about, say, the influence of some of these great German idealist thinkers that came before Spengler and how that impacted his notion of the decline of the West?

JB: Yes, I think that they obviously affected him deeply, because they looked for systematic answers unlike the neo-Kantian school that said there is no time for history and that all attempts to find a time in history are artistic and subjective and therefore historically worthless.

It’s important to realize that for a proportion of critics Spengler’s view is not just anathema, but it’s been fundamentally mysterious, because quite a few philosophical schools believe, whether it’s on the Left with Toynbee or it’s on the Right with Spengler, that it’s utterly pointless to have attempts at historical analysis which are non-linear and which seek for an answer to the conundrum of history, that seeks to elucidate the Sphinx and get it to answer questions about the nature of historical reality. They consider that there is no plan. There is nothing other than linear motion in the spasm of time and any attempt to find a historical plan other than the received wisdom of a work is fruitless. They would consider a work like The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbon to be perfect in its way because it takes the Roman Empire as its topic where you have an enormous unfolding vista of historical time, and you have the idea that you have many triumphs and many disasters, but the end is partly a projection of the beginning. So, you have almost a biography of a society.

That’s acceptable. What isn’t acceptable from this school of thinking, which is the current one in academic orthodoxy at the present time, is to try to find a key or philosophical agency to history, to interpret history, that history has a meaning in the way that Thomas Carlyle believed it had meaning in the 19th century. Spengler’s addicted to finding the meaning in history, which pulls him to the outside of several of the major historical schools to begin with. There’s also the fact that he was self-taught and was a sort of autodidact and a sort of terribly gifted dilettante, as someone not completely kindly once said. History is an area par excellence which only academics really believe they are entitled to write.

So, in two areas, academicism and the search for an ontology in history — the search for teleology, the belief that there is a prospective future which can be determined, as Marx believed in a different way, and mapped out — those lie outside of Spengler’s purview and yet make marginal his historical essay, his attempt at finding out the meaning of things in his two volume enormous work The Decline of the West published in 1918 and 1923.

So, he draws on the primary idealists like Hegel, but I don’t think there’s much comparison to be frank when you get to the work, because Hegel believes that history will reach its fulcrum and its termination in the idealistic presentation of the Prussian state in history — a sort of being in history — whereas for Spengler the Prussian state, although he wanted Germany and the Germany of his time to dominate Europe, was just a part of the West and a part of the cycle of the West that would be doomed to decline as all of the great civilizations — the Arab, the Eastern Chinese, the Medieval — were doomed to decline in their way.

ossp750480.jpgRS: Before we talk a little bit more about Germany in his time, actually, I think it would be good to lay out some of the basic terms of Spengler’s history. He talked about a series of great or high cultures and these included the Magian culture, which I guess is the Semitic culture, and the Apollonian of Classical culture, and then Western-American culture, which he described as quintessentially Faustian in nature.

So, Jonathan, maybe you could elucidate some of these big ideas for our listeners so they could have an idea of his organic historical sense, just in particular with those three massive cultures. And again, we’re not talking about epochs, because he’s getting away from a sense of time and he’s putting it in terms of a culture and a people, a civilization. So, maybe you could explain those basic concepts and then also just delineate for our listeners what he means by the Magian, Apollonian, and then finally the Faustian culture, which he felt was coming to a close.

JB: Yes. He felt cultures were self-enclosed and were organic and were not time-concentric. He thought they have a period or expanse of time associated with them.

He sees the Middle Eastern culture as essentially magical and somewhat sterile and introverted and flat and a culture of the desert.

He sees Greek culture as proportioned and massive in its architectural and classical relief. He sees it as less dynamic than the Western culture, more staid, more fixed, and had a tendency towards a preternatural order and the specificity of same.

The Western culture, which he is most keen on, he sees as a partly diabolical culture. He sees it as Faustian. He sees it as a mismatch and matching of things that don’t coherently go together in other cultures. He sees it as a culture of advanced restlessness and absence of an inner sense of ease and with an extraordinary desire for self-transcendence, which is a desire to change everything again and again and again to make it new and make it work and make the Western culture the most dynamically aggressive culture on Earth.

RS: So, is he talking about a mindset with this — I hesitate to use this term but — a collective consciousness, so to speak, amongst the people that is expressed most fully in some of the great people of the civilization? Is that a good way to describe what he’s talking about?

JB: Yes, it’s a sort of civilizational construct of culture permeated through an elite as articulated through and by the masses within a particular civics over time. It’s racially-based to an extent, but only partly so, because his positions are sublimated racialisms whereby, although the Semitic mostly goes with the Magian and the Eastern Mediterranean largely goes with the Apollonian, and the Western is made up of most of Europe and ex-Europe in the New World and the far reaches of the world associated with Western imperial conquests and settlements, North America in particular, the notion that they are purely racial is not one that he accedes to.

He has a Nietzschean concept of race which is that race is important, because breeding is the basis of everything, but it’s too rudimentary for reasons of analysis. For analysis, you have to look at the culture and the civics which are created by specific races and intermingled variants of races over time, and pure biology is not enough to describe man’s ascent, if indeed it has been an ascent rather than a withering to death of prior acknowledged cultures of whatever beauty.

So, Spengler’s always an unhappy bedfellow for various people, because he never fits in with people’s preconditions and prior suppositions. There will always be a tension even with the racialist Right with Spengler as there is with the Left over his pessimistic and non-materialist views of history, his intuitionism, his opening to the subjective elements in culture, his belief in the wintering of the soul of a culture and its partial decline over time, his obsession with the coming up to decadence. All of these would not render him attractive to a Left-wing mind at all. But, at the same time, the liberal progressive sees little in him, the man of the center, because he’s too morbid, too mordant, and pessimistic, too professorial, and too linked to a prior theory which cuts against their ingrained optimism, including the idea, as you said at the beginning of this clip, that “things are getting better and better.”

RS: Jonathan, why don’t you tell us a little bit about this organic story of Western or Faustian culture and its origins after the collapse of the Roman Empire and then how he felt that it was declining and ending in his own lifetime? Maybe you could just give us some outlines of Faustian culture’s birth and flowering and then decline. What was he talking about? Obviously, in order to talk about these things you have to paint in really broad strokes, but I think that’s good, particularly with a podcast like this. So, give our listeners a sense of this organic story of Faustian culture.

JB: With the collapse of the Roman Empire I think he thinks that the classical world comes to an end and the medieval world as such begins. The medieval world is a static and closed civilization which is a magical one based upon totem and taboo and based upon a stiff and regulated cosmology that is only unsettled by the return of classical wisdom in what becomes the proto-Renaissance and then the Renaissance.

The Renaissance inflamed the entire civilization mentally and culturally and sends an enormous coursing torrent of energy through it which leads to an unmapping and an unfolding of new visions and new vistas. Whereby, we see the Middle Ages replaced by a post-Medieval Europe that looks back on the classical period but based upon the stolidity and solidity and the transcendental Magianship of the Middle Ages. It’s the Renaissance and the scientific methodology that gives rise to it, which is a return to a particular intellectual inheritance of the Greeks that gives man this diabolical pact element in the Western cosmos. This is the idea that Faust literally would sell his soul to Mephistopheles for knowledge. He would sell his soul for power over given things, for the power of magic almost in the interpretation of physical reality and the ability to hold sway over the physical world with which the sciences are concerned.

Western man begins a transmutation of everything in life, of every science, of every art, of all forms of economic dealing, all forms of culture and civilizational intent. Recalibrated and cast anew through this prism of Faustian fire, and this enables the West to set out as the Athenians had once done in a restricted Grecian compass to conquer much of the known world and to subdue it to their own restless tasking and desire for self-overbecoming at every possible instance. So, the West is seen as in some ways as a culture of the superman, in Nietzschean terms, reaching out across the world, reshaping other cultures and interacting with them in often destructively creative ways to release more energy, to enhance more transcendence, to enhance more creativity, to lead to more Faustian pacts and bargains, and then to become even more enraptured of its own colossal strength and vigor by importing even more energy through even greater and deeper and more resonating Faustian pacts until the thing teeters on the brink of absurdity to a degree, because the West becomes so enamored of its own mettle that it can’t see that it’s beginning, like all cultures, to engage upon ineffable decline.

RS: What creates the decline? What leads to decadence? What turns continual self-overcoming into decadence?

JB: Probably repetition and probably the fact that he believes that everything is pre-programmed like a computer chip to decay over time. You can only go to the well so often. Probably the spread of democratic, liberal humanist, and materialist ideas and the disjunction between the Enlightenment and the Renaissance.

The Renaissance is seen by most Enlightenment thinkers as a precursor of the Enlightenment, but he doubtless sees the Enlightenment as a giving way of the Faustian bargain to decadence to untrammeled ideas about the will of the majority which the people who put them forward, he believes, must know are absurd because the majority of men could never decide any question of any importance amongst themselves. That women would be given the vote and would be allowed into the function hall of the male. The liberal humanism that would increasingly refuse to distinguish between patterns of being and hierarchies in nature as they express themselves in society.

So, really, it’s the Enlightenment and its definition of the West, which is necessary, because in my reading of his codex of history the decline is necessary and therefore is inborn and the forces which are there, rather like illness and death in the individual, are there to permit change in the rule in the future and the ending of a cycle which is natural as it is in the biological world. So, he doesn’t see decadence as a disaster. He sees it as a necessity.

RS: So, are we still living in an enlightened age in a way that that was the turning point, and we’re kind of the last dregs of the Enlightenment?

JB: You could interpret it in that way, although at the end of The Decline of the West, of course, in the second volume, he preaches a new caesarism, that there may be a democratic caesarism, which of course came to be true throughout the latter third of the first quadrant of the 20th century.

His view that democratic niceties would be replaced by a much more Machiavellian and realistic politics, a politics of ruthless Realpolitik associated, even though he never advocated it, with Fascism. Although some of his political sayings are close to that of a fascistic or faschistoid conservative. That’s why, again, he falls between two camps. He’s not fascistic enough for those people who are enamored of those governments, movements, and regimes at a particular time, but nor is he conservative enough not to be associated with them at least through the glamor of nostalgia. So, he’s too quasi-fascistic for many conservatives, particularly now, but he’s also too conservative for thoroughgoing fascistic types. And that was his attitude, of course, to one of the most notorious governments in the Western world which he lived through the early stages of in the 1930s in his own country.


RS: Right. Actually, we talked about that and the Nazi regime banned his book, The Hour of Decision, which, again, I’m sure in the most of the modern mind they would probably just lump someone like Spengler on in there with Hitler as evil Right-wingers, but obviously that’s certainly not the way they saw it at the time.

Let’s put a little more pressure on this, because this is an interesting issue of Spengler’s life in an age which could even be described as “democratic caesarism.” That is, one based on populism, on popular sovereignty, but then one that is harsh and brutal in many ways, enamored with Realpolitik and so on and so forth. I think it’s a very interesting topic of Spengler’s own life.

JB: Yes, there’s always been a liberal qualm here as to why he didn’t support the Nazi regime. He did vote for Hitler against Hindenburg in the presidential election, which of course Hitler lost. Hindenburg retained the presidency until he died in office, and then it was after the Gleichschaltung it was just rolled up and it became one of Hitler’s many offices as he became supreme leader of all elements of the state and the offices of the president and chancellor were amalgamated into that of the Leader figure.

He also put a swastika outside his lodging windows to annoy the neighbors with his sister, saying that if he unfurled it one should always be prepared to pay the price for annoying people.

But, at the same time, he thought of them as irretrievably vulgar and without high culture, very much Ernst Jünger’s snobbish intellectual attitude towards them. He wasn’t so much bothered about the social origins of many of them, which is what convulsed the German old Right with which Spengler would have been more comfortable, but he was concerned about their cultural ignorance, as far as he was concerned, and the greatness and glory of what it was to be German seen in cultural terms.

In some ways, he’s too spare and too stark and too elitist a figure. For him, just to make mouthwatering speeches about Germany and German identity entirely begins it, what you mean by Germany, what you mean by German cultural identity, unless you’re highly educated, civilized, and knowledgeable about what it means to be German, or to be European in extenso, these political remarks are slightly meaningless.

His one intervention into politics, when he was attempting to get the power for a German on Ludendorff’s general staff during the First World War, General von Schacht I think, didn’t really go anywhere, because his view of practical politics as a man of the study was rather probably overly conspiratorial and sort of overly rarefied. Like a lot of academic intellectuals, he wouldn’t make a good politician.

But, at the same time, although he despised the Weimar Republic and regarded it as an unnecessary appendage, he looked at the glory of the German Empire which had preceded it. He was actually not particularly enamored of the Germans, partly because he believed they were too hostile to other European peoples, and he believed that the coming battles were civilizational and there should be alliances with other European nation-states against the hordes of Asia and Africa and the Far East who would be the real enemies in the future.

RS: So, he had an almost Nietzschean “Good European” sense or one that was almost similar to maybe even Lothrop Stoddard and some of the other people in that general time period.

JB: That’s right. To a Leftist’s mind, he’s almost as Right-wing as Hitler, but he doesn’t agree with his views, just as there are an enormous number of Left-wing intellectuals who, of course, didn’t agree with Stalin. So, there’s a degree to which he also didn’t entirely agree with the aggressive technological features in the Third Reich, which was Romantic and realist and agrarian at one level and yet embraced motorways and rockets and high technology at another, because he believed that technology had become a part of the enslavement of modern man. Very much prefiguring Heidegger’s thinking in this regard.

Also, of course, he didn’t share the anti-Semitism either, particularly. While in no sense being philo-Semitic, like Nietzsche, he didn’t share the crude Jew-baiting, beer hall attitudes that swirled around the German Right. It’s not civilizationally part of the way he perceived reality, because he didn’t view the world conspiratorially or metaphysically conspiratorially. He viewed the world in terms of these great overarching abstractions of cultural civilizations of which Germany was only a part.

He also was a pessimist and didn’t share the extreme and rather myopic optimism of that regime that was very shrill, particularly on its own behalf.

ossp15177784.jpgRS: So, Jonathan, what kind of ideas did Spengler have for the future and did he see the rise of a new civilization?

This past weekend I attended the American Renaissance conference, and Dr. Richard Lynn was there and he gave a very enjoyable and informative talk about eugenics, actually, but he ended by talking about the world of the 21st and probably 22nd, maybe 23rd century being that of the East and China in particular.

Did Spengler talk about any of this? Or did he believe that a new civilization would arise, that an Oriental civilization might have a new rebirth? Did he talk about this? Maybe you could even speculate on it yourself.

JB: Yes, he didn’t really speak of it. He sounded the death knell of an ever present West that was exhausted at the end of the Great War. His thesis was misunderstood and tens of thousands of copies that made him from a sort of penniless, living in genteel poverty intellectual into a sort of major cultural figure throughout Germany and the West, was based on a misnomer.

The mass of the cultured people, of course we’re talking in terms of hundreds of thousands and not the millions, who bought his enormous book and some of the others, which made him moderately wealthy as a consequence and able to live independently, they interpreted the book as an explanation for Germany’s defeat in the First World War, and because it put it into world-historical and cosmological terms it exonerated Germany from its personal defeat. It also seemed scholarly and well-wrought and was not propagandistic. It was not the “stab in the back” mythology. It was not the fact that they’d been let down by forces at home, nor was it the normative liberal view that they’d just run out of men, run out of material, run out of resources and been defeated in that way.

So, people stuck to his book really on the misnomer, because what he was saying was that Germany’s defeat was part of a pattern of defeats that were going on within the civilization at a particular time.

He posited the idea that these defeats could be arrested for a time by democratic caesarism and various forms of populism for which he had a distaste actually, but which he believed to be necessary at this time in the cycle. In Man and Technics, for example, there’s a quite ruthless extolling of the virtues of some of these sorts of regimes up to a point. But he never thought that they were the be all and end all for culture. So, his belief was that the West would continue to decline throughout the 20th century. One of Spengler’s offshoots, of course, is the doctrine of the “clash of civilizations,” which was made famous by that book, The Clash of Civilizations.

RS: Right. By Samuel Huntington.

JB: Yes, written about what? Fifteen years ago now?

RS: Or so, yeah.

JB: Now, that’s a Spenglerian thesis, which he may not like to admit to be influenced by Spengler, some people don’t choose to. You have all sorts of people like the Beats on the Left, or metacultural Left — let’s put it that way — like Burroughs and Ginsberg and Kerouac, who openly admitted being strongly influenced by Spengler, but other people are very reluctant to even admit the fact that he’s come anywhere hear them and their thinking at all.

Nevertheless, the idea that other civilizations will rise, particularly in the Far East, and will challenge the West’s hegemony later in the last century — don’t forget he died in 1936 — is indisputable from the nature of his work, but he doesn’t go on to specify it very much. The second volume of The Decline of the West basically closes on the turnaround of democratic caesarism and the fact that the West is, nevertheless, going into an autumnal and wintry stage and leaves it at that.

But lots of people, of course, take up the mantle. Yockey’s views are strongly Spenglerian even though he fills in Spengler’s work by essentially giving it a National Socialist register. In some ways, Yockey is a Nazified Spengler, because Spengler was never a whole-hogger as far as they were concerned and actually had a different viewpoint. That’s why Yockey’s book tends to be two books in one. Eighty percent of it is a Spenglerian exercise and then at the end there’s the 20% where he basically adopts a Fourth Reich/Third Reich viewpoint, which is his own grafting onto the Spenglerian architecture of a sort of neo-National Socialist Proclamation of London opinion or editorial.

RS: One question that was coming to my mind was we are witnessing, experiencing the winter of Faustian Western culture. Do you think that if there were a rebirth amongst European peoples that it would be something different than Faustian culture? Would it be a kind of revival of the West as we’ve known it, or would there actually be a different paradigm that would be adopted by European peoples?

JB: Well, that’s very broad. I, personally, think that if there is to be a revival it would probably have to be more Classical than anything else and has to be a sort of classicism and has to be a return to the verities of the Greco-Roman world as at least a cultural basis and a starting point for thinking, because that provides you with a pre-Christian as well as a post-Christian dynamic. It’s rational. All of Western high culture had the Hellenic stamp upon it filtered through Rome and the Holy Roman Empire, Christianized and Germanicized, that came after it. And in some ways it’s a common appeal to the inner tensions in Western man that can be resolved classically. So, that’s the inner reason for GRECE, de Benoist’s outfit, calling itself the Group for Research and Study of European Civilization and culture. They want to go back to Greece with modern technology and with the hallmark of a new West and they want a new Right rather than an old Right to carry that project forward even though there are at least five currents of the New Right now separated even from de Benoist.

RS: Right. That’s certainly true. Well, Jonathan, this has been a fascinating discussion and I’m just going to put a bookmark in it because I think we could return to Spengler later on. As with so many of our podcasts, we only scratch the surface on these ideas and — I’m sure I speak for a lot of the listeners — I’m waiting for more. So, we should do it again. Thanks for being on the show again and speaking to us about Spengler, and we’ll talk to you soon.

JB: Thanks very much! All the best.Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

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vendredi, 15 avril 2016

Eugenics & Environmentalism, Madison Grant & Lothrop Stoddard


The E Word:
Eugenics & Environmentalism,
Madison Grant & Lothrop Stoddard

Editor’s Note:

This is the transcript by V. S. of Richard Spencer’s Vanguard podcast interview of Jonathan Bowden about eugenics, environmentalism, Madison Grant, and Lothrop Stoddard. You can listen to the podcast here [2]. The subtitle is editorial.

Richard Spencer: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Vanguard! And welcome back as well, Jonathan Bowden! 

Jonathan Bowden: Yes, hello! Nice to be here.

RS: Very good. Jonathan, today we’re going to talk about eugenics, Madison Grant, Lothrop Stoddard, and the whole constellation of ideas and thinkers surrounding that subject. Before we jump into the conversation, I think it’s worth mentioning this: we certainly live in an age of partisan vitriol and Left-Right battles, but some of the things that really interest me are not those places where the mainstream Left and Right disagree with one another but where they are in total agreement, where they walk lock-step, and one of those things is the denunciation of eugenics as the most evil movement or at least one of them of the past 200 years. It’s certainly also quite often associated with that other most evil movement of Fascism or National Socialism. I think all of them are in agreement that it is both a pseudo-science, but then it’s also in some ways all too effective and something we need to resist. So, it didn’t work, but then it was all too effective at the same time usually in some of these irrational critiques they have of it.

This is a fascinating opinion, because this is something that has changed dramatically over the past century. It’s hard to find another opinion where you have a 180 degree shift in such a fairly short amount of time. It’s almost as if the Western world converted to Islam and began denouncing Christianity and secularism overnight. Perhaps not that dramatic, but you see my point.

MG2.jpgCertainly, something like the National Socialist regime in Germany did have eugenics programs. They were not actually as pronounced as some might believe. They actually modeled a lot of those programs on the eugenics programs found in Sweden and in the state of California. California was probably the ultimate model. You had eugenics being endorsed by university presidents. That is, it was very much endorsed by the elite. They thought this was a good thing and it was also a part of the progressive elite. Eugenics was not a reactionary opinion. It was something that was opposed by the old time religion folks or whom you might call reactionaries. It was something that might even be on the Left in certain contexts. Certainly, with somebody like Lothrop Stoddard, who we’re going to speak about a little bit later, it was a position held by someone who openly thought of himself as a progressive and a modernist. And it also had some popular appeal. Actually, in a talk I gave not too long ago at the H. L. Mencken Club, I showed some pictures that were actually taken by a very good book, a biography of Lothrop Stoddard which was written by a Left-liberal who doesn’t like Stoddard very much but recognizes his importance, but these pictures were of eugenic buildings at the state fair. I believe a famous one was from the Kansas State Fair. They would have a competition for the fittest family, and what they wanted to see was a good genotype. That was a healthy family with all boys and girls looking strong and smart and good-looking parents and things like this. So, eugenics really had a positive value in peoples’ lives. It was something that meant that they were healthy and good and normal and people of quality. Obviously, this has gone through a total reversal.

Well, Jonathan, I think we should talk about all of these things in detail, but maybe you could pick up on that basic history of eugenics that I’ve just outlined that something that was hegemonic has become unspeakable just over the course of 100 years. Something that was endorsed by presidents and now is associated with crazed lunatics. Maybe just talk a little about that and talk a little bit about why that happened. Do you think it was just the legacy of the Second World War or was there something more involved? So, why don’t you just pick up on that, say, our consciousness of eugenics in the 20th century?

JB: Yes, I think what we have here is the acceptance of and then the rejection of, one then the other, the notion that biology impinges upon social matters to a very considerable degree. From about 1860/1870 through to the 1940s, you had a very pronounced view in all sorts of countries, particularly countries like Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and elsewhere — countries you don’t often associate with these sorts of ideas. But eugenic ideas were very pronounced in the policies in these societies and amongst academic and clinical elites.

In some ways, it was progressive biologism. It was the belief that you could act upon that and upon circumstances of lived anthropology as contemporaneously understood, and you could improve the human lot. Just as you could act upon the social and economic sphere from a center-Left perspective to improve mankind’s lot, and from the interventionist conservative’s perspective as well, you could also improve man’s lot biologically.

How this was to be done was a subject of maximal debate, but the idea was that if you bred the strongest children and the tallest children and the fairest children and the most intellectually precocious children who also have pronounced athletic abilities that you would actually begin to create more wholesome human beings, better families, and better communities, and better societies. That sort of viewpoint would have been regarded as axiomatic in the mid-1930s, and it would have been shared by Left-wing liberals, some socialists, many sort of active and laissez-faire libertarians and old liberals, many new liberals, and many conservatives of all sorts.

The only people who really opposed it were people who were very much linked to certain forms of Biblical Christianity, because of course these ideas are inevitably linked to notions of biological health and reproduction what would later be cast by feminism late in the century, second wave feminism, as reproductive rights but then was looked at as reproduction for health and for eugenic health at that. This meant that contraception and abortion, abortion as a form of contraception, particularly in relation to life which was considered in some respects unworthy or inferior in one category or another, would definitely come into play, and Christians’ moral concerns about that fact of eugenics was very pronounced. However, probably a large number of evangelicals shared semi-eugenic ideas, because racial and national ideas were such much more conservative during this epoch and were so much more hegemonic that it meant that the amount of opposition that eugenics got was relatively small in comparison to the almost universal odium in which its held at the present time.

RS: Let me jump in on that, actually. One of the groups that loathes eugenics at the moment is the evangelical Christians, but it’s worth mentioning that there were eugenic laws in the state of North Carolina, for instance, up until the 1970s and the state sterilized a tremendous amount of people, most of them Blacks who were considered unfit for bearing children. So, there was a kind of old time religious repulsion from eugenics as modernist, and that kind of makes sense. But just to back up your point, it was something that was accepted by a large majority of Protestants in the South.

JB: Yes, the sterilization of the unfit was carried out right across the Western world until a particular generation of natural scientists died out in terms of the social application of biological ideas in the 1970s. Really what you have is a generation that accepts new ideas in the ’30s and ’40s when they are young and carries them out in orphanages and halfway houses and children’s homes and clinics for the elderly and infirm and mental hospitals and waystations for the mentally subnormal and so on and so forth and they carry these functions out right across the ’50s, ’60s, and into the ’70s. That generation then dies out, and the scientists who follow them don’t have the same ideas, because they’ve been exposed to a different and a contrary mindset from 1945/46 onwards.

MG3.jpgSo, you have a reversal of what went on and at times an unstated reversal whereby the policies just change. The sterilization of people with grossly deformed and inadequate IQs, for example, to prevent them from breeding people who might be described as “idiots” in future, sort of percussive generations. That came to an end in most Western countries around the same time in the mid-1970s, and I think it came to an end because generationally the scientists who’d imbibed eugenic ideas had essentially passed through the system and were retiring and being replaced by a cohort who didn’t share the same notions.

I also think it’s important to realize that essentially what’s happened is that two concepts have been conflated into one another in order to summarily dispatch both. This is the idea of eugenics as against dysgenics. Dysgenics, which is, if you like, the negative side of eugenics whereby you act though as to prevent harm but you also act as to, in some senses, prevent life through abortion or through selective contraceptive use or through sterilization. The proactive and yet sort of snip-oriented and negative side of eugenics is its really controversial feature. The wholesome side, the building people up, the tonics for the brave sort of side, is one which only the most niggardly and nihilistic and sordid Left-winger would be opposed to, because they find nauseous the idea of happy, athletic, intellectually precocious families beaming for the camera in an Osmonds-like way, you know. It fills them with nausea and disgust, but a number of people who are filled with nausea and disgust for such sort of pungent healthy normality are relatively few and far between, and many of them are neurotic and sort of outsider-in in their orientation.

That sort of eugenics has been deconstructed so that the term eugenics is no longer used, and it’s just a symbol of healthiness. Although, there are radical Christians of a certain specialization who dislike even that. I remember a Christian woman of my acquaintance a long time ago, a theorist in Christianity, Catholics variants of same, expectorated to me at great length about how she was appalled by pictures of athletes in hospital wards for the sick. She said it’s monstrously eugenic having these pictures of these healthy goddess/god type individuals reminding everyone that’s palsied and lame and sick and broken down what they’re not. And it’s essentially conceptually a form of beating them over the head with a truncheon as they’re trying to get a little bit better in their own terms. And these were just pictures of health. So, it shows you how far the sort of negative reaction to even the idea of healthiness as a perceived good has worked in this society. Illness is dealt with as something to be alleviated, but the corollary that you actually obtain health when you’re not ill is something that has been rather left out of the equation. Doctors who too radically value health fall under a certain cloud and under a certain moral suspicion these days that their viewpoint tends in a semi-eugenic direction.

So, certainly there’s been an incredible reversal, but when most people say “eugenics” the thing that they’re really talking about is the negative side of eugenics. The sort of parsimonious “getting rid of the inferior” dimension to it is what people really get riled against. The more positive agenda would probably get a more sullen acquiescence on behalf of most people who are not sold on the idea that healthiness is not necessarily just next to godliness, but two steps away from Fascism.

RS: Right. And actually it’s worth pointing out that many of the elite are pursuing eugenics. They call it genetic therapy or genetic counseling. I don’t want to dwell on these things, but they are in some ways pursuing negative eugenics in the sense that they are certainly much more willing to abort a child with Down syndrome or so on, and that, of course, can be discovered in the womb. In some ways, one could also suggest that eugenics is still living on. It’s just that you simply can’t use that name, because when you use that a swastika flag begins waving in someone’s mind. It just seems like that is what it is, but the actual practice seems to go on.

I want to return to your mentioning of the academic side of this, but before that, and I think I mentioned this at the beginning of the program, but Nazi Germany did have certain eugenics programs. They were not as unusual as many people would have you believe and they weren’t actually as pronounced as some people would have you believe. In some ways, they were rather hum-drum eugenics programs when compared to what was going on internationally and Hitler’s attacks on the Jewish people and what’s come to be known as the Holocaust was obviously not a eugenic program. Hitler obviously had very strong negative feelings against the Jews and he thought that they were a very dangerous enemy, but he did not think that they were stupid morons or something. Again, when you conflate eugenics and the Holocaust or all of the use of concentration camps and so forth in the Second World War you’re really mixing apples and oranges. They’re just not the same thing. But again, that’s the perception and that is the central reason why eugenics is a kind of non-starter in our contemporary world or it kind of has a sub rosa existence or something like that.

Let me ask you a real quick question, because you were talking about the academic side of this issue and the fact that so many of these researchers who were quite predisposed to Galton, Darwinism, eugenics that switched. Is that part of the so-called Boasian revolution in anthropology? What I mean by that is, of course, Franz Boas, who was a sworn enemy Madison Grant. This is actually one of the things that some of us have forgotten. When Boas was talking about things like there’s no correlation or connection between head size and brain size in intelligence and would even say things that were obviously false and literally fabricated his data claiming that an immigrant’s head would change shape when it came to America. The melting pot would change physics. It’s totally a nonsensical notion. But all those papers he wrote were all directed against Grant and eugenics. That was the target, and sometimes that’s forgotten because Boas’ revolution in anthropology and genetics has been so profound and broad that you forget that he was actually reacting against another force and that was Grant and eugenics, who again were hegemonic.

But, Jonathan, was that what you were getting to when you were talking before about the academic shift among researchers? When you had baby boomers and our generation you were essentially having people who were influenced by Boasian anthropology. They did not think in terms of Galton and let’s call it classical Darwinism. Really those people lost the battle, and this is the reason why eugenics kind of vanished after the Second World War.

JB: Yes, I do think it happened in a certain context though. I think that people who supported eugenics found that unless they found a different vocabulary for it their support couldn’t be sustained in polite society. Therefore, they either found arcane and differentiated terminology or they gave up on it completely, and when you have an idea whose time has come a vanguard will push for a contrary system, and if there’s nothing to push back against them they will take the high ground, and they will take over the theoretical discourse of a society, and you need a very small number of people to be singing from the same hymn sheet, in order to effect that. So, you just need the anthropology societies and the anthropological journals and the anthropology academic departments of the United States to tack one way or to lopsidedly tack one way decisively for there to be a complete re-routing and for one set of theories to be replaced by another one.

But it only happened because the soil was so fertile, because the other discourse had drained away to nothingness, and even those who were in favor of it they found themselves unable to articulate it given the moral climate post-1945.

So, Boas and his friends seized the hour, basically, and introduced forms of social discourse, because that’s what it was, that explained everything in terms of the social ramifications of man, and this very much, of course, fed indirectly into the New Left of the 1960s and ’70s, which is quite a break from the old Left in many ways which would accept quite a lot of prior and inheritable characteristics, even biological ones. Marx and so on never thought that man could be changed biologically in his primary nature. The only change that could be brought about was socio-economic, which could be decisive, but was rudimentary in relation to man’s fundamental being. Lenin, as well, never thought that man was capable of change at the biological level. Some people would always be born stupid; others would be born brilliant; some could approximate to one or the other by dint of some application or its absence. People would be born sick or rattled with disease. People would be born healthy. People would be born with mental diseases and disabilities. And with the exception of socialized medical concern, there’s not too much that could be done about that.

Whereas the New Left believed that everyone is a tabula rasa and that everyone can make it up as they go along and that there are certain things that, of course, impinge, such as extreme illness and that sort of thing, from the biological realm, that’s restricted very much just to the narrow issue of personal health. Other than that, every issue is explicable in terms of social engineering and purely social engineering but not sociobiological engineering. That was rendered out of account. So, progressivism snips off that element of it that was biological in the past, and that’s why eugenics was gotten rid of.

RS: Yes. I want to return to this theme that I was talking about before in terms of Grant and this former hegemonic discourse. I think it’s worth pointing out a little bit about Madison Grant the man, because I think if you really look at his story you really see in a nutshell, as it were, the story of the dispossession of the WASP elite over the course of the 20th century.

Grant was actually a lawyer by training, but he never really practiced. He was very similar to Lothrop Stoddard to that degree, who also had a law degree and also had a PhD, but he was immediately fascinated by naturalism. He was actually involved with people like Theodore Roosevelt and the big game hunter, Boone and Crockett club. He was really pioneering the whole concept of wildlife management and conservation. He was co-founder of the Bronx Zoo in 1899 in his native New York. They would actually bring bison into New York City and things like this.

He was involved in the American Bison Society. There were some statistics that before the society got going and the bison were being conserved — I can’t remember the exact statistic –but it was something like less than 20 bison were remaining. Essentially, the bison is obviously a majestic creature, but when it entered the world of rifles and horse-riding men with guns it was a big slab of meat as a target, and it was being slaughtered. We very well might not have the bison, the American buffalo without someone like Madison Grant.

He was one of the co-founders of Glacier National Park, which I am quite lucky to live about a 45-minute drive away from. It might be second only to Yellowstone National Park. Maybe some might even rank it higher. But it’s a truly gorgeous part of the world that includes all sorts of things from mountain peaks to rivers and lakes. It’s truly a miraculous place.

Lothrop Stoddard - 2.jpgHe was part of the Save the Redwoods League. Redwoods, of course, these massive trees, mostly in California. Again, we shouldn’t forget what still exists today for us to appreciate and what probably wouldn’t exist without the work of Madison Grant and his colleagues.

This is someone involved directly with the 1924 Immigration Restriction Act. He was part of the American Defense Society and the American Restriction League, so he was certainly not a politician or a political operative but he was the intellectual force behind these major initiatives which more or less cut off immigration to the United States. I think it did even more than that, because it made sure that America was going to return to what Grant thought of as the Nordic America, the America even before some of the massive Eastern European and Southern European immigration in the second half of the 19th century.

So, this is a man who was part of the elite, he was actually a kind of Brahmin though he was from New York City not Boston, but when you look at these people now you realize that there was this entire elite WASP class that was part of an even deeper tradition that might have included the Adamses and all of these people. Just a totally different version of the American Right than what we have today. In many ways, if you think about it, the kind of Buckleyite-influenced Right is a replacement or a perversion of what we had.

If you think about the history of the life of Madison Grant you really see this other world, a kind of alternative reality for what American conservatism could be.

Do you have any thoughts on that, Jonathan? Maybe America before the Second World War had a chance to have a different path in the world. If people like Madison Grant had been the intellectual leaders and they had been able to influence political leaders. And they were influencing political leaders. Calvin Coolidge was writing articles on how America shouldn’t become a waste dump for the degenerate. He was using extremely strong language that would probably shock some White Nationalists or something. I guess my question is, do you think that there was this other path that America could have taken if people like Madison Grant had prevailed instead of the types of people we have today?

JB: Yes, very much so. I think that the different parts of America could have followed probably proportionate to the issue of isolationism. If America could have remained isolated from not the rest of the world because that’s an impossibility, but isolated from policy involvement with the rest of the world and military intervention in the way it occurred in the First World War, after which there was an isolationist phase, of course, when President Wilson’s dictates were overthrown and there was a return to an isolationist posture. Then the build up to the Second World War, which changed everything and which led to the ascent of globalism as Stephen E. Ambrose calls it in his famous book about the emergence of an American empire as it were, and then the Korean War and then the wars with the Communist blocs and then the war in the modern world that we have today.

I think the influence of such figures would have had is entirely proportionate to the degree to which America remained a republic and not an empire, to use Buchanan’s phrase, and the more imperial America became, the more it became enamored of other models and the less it became enamored of a nativist American model. It’s almost inevitable that nativism would go together with the desire to keep America isolate and keep America out of other conflicts and to keep America from drifting towards global policeman-type roles that it’s been keen to adopt since the mid-1940s, since the attack on Pearl Harbor essentially.

So, I think the general point about men like Grant is that they were from an era where America should have decided its own destiny on its own terms, where the notion of American uniqueness and sort of preferentialism and providentialism, which irritates the hell out of the rest of the world of course, this notion of exceptionalism has been turned around to indicate an imperial or post-imperial vision. But in Grant’s day it was a plea for American uniqueness in American terms, which meant America was to be a society that did not involve itself with the other world particularly but was a New World sufficient unto itself. I think that once America opened up to the forces that wanted it to go global and play a global role, the influence of this old patterned, cross-grained WASP elite was bound to falter and die in the way that it has.

RS: Yes. Well, speaking of the ascent to globalism, I think it’s worth talking about the issue of Haiti, which was quite an important topic for Lothrop Stoddard, who was one of Grant’s protégés and certainly modeled his theories on Grant’s and so on and so forth. He actually wrote his doctoral dissertation on the revolution in San Domingo and that is the race war, for lack of a better term, that occurred on that island after the French Revolution, which was certainly inspired by the French Revolution.

I think it’s worth pointing out a couple of things, to go back to American globalism. In 1915, U.S. Marines were actually sent to Haiti by Woodrow Wilson, and he said that he was going to bring democracy, and they actually remained there for some 20-25 years. They built all sorts of things. That didn’t really work, and then actually in the latter half of Dwight Eisenhower’s administration Marines were sent back to Haiti to keep it from going Communist, and that didn’t do too much. Then in 1994, Bill Clinton actually sought to restore democracy this time around 75 to 100 years later after it was brought to the island.

So, it seems like Haiti has almost been a platform for all of these ideas to play out; that is American globalism, the continual failure of American globalism, and also something which Stoddard talked about which was those revolutionary ideas that would inflame the minds of men.

Maybe, Jonathan, you could just talk a little bit about Stoddard’s rather fascinating book on Haiti and a lot of the ideas he brings up and also just the contemporary relevance of Haiti, how it’s still in the news, we’re still fascinated by ideas of democratizing it or “developing it,” and how this fetish almost won’t ever go away.

JB: Yes, it’s thrown into stark relief by the recent Haitian earthquake and the enormous expenditure of dollars and time and muscle and energy in trying to rebuild Haiti after the earthquake. I remember Alex Kurtagić, I think, wrote a piece on Alternative Right or certainly a similar website that Haiti should not be rebuilt, which of course is an argument for dysgenics in many respects.

French-Revolution-in-San-Domingo2.jpgThe French Revolution in San Domingo by Stoddard dealt with the immediate aftermath of the French Revolution’s impact on Haiti and the tripartite war that developed between the British crown and the Spanish and French authorities there and the emergence of a racially-conscious Black army under Toussaint Louverture and its aftermath in Haiti when Louverture was outmaneuvered by Napoleon, who as history records of course was a racialist which rather shocks people today. When Toussaint was invited to France he was promptly arrested and put in a tower and Napoleon turned to his marshals and said, “You see how I deal with them?”

Napoleon’s views on many of these matters are now quite notorious and have led to a de-escalation of the Napoleonic cult that was part and parcel of French intellectual life for the better part of the last 200 years.

So, this racial warfare, which is not too extreme to call it, which subsumed Haiti led to many bloody massacres and internecine strife to the massacre of the residual White, largely French, population and the emergence of a Black republican dictatorship in Haiti for most of the 19th century.

Haiti is essentially an African society in the Western world and closely resembles a society America set up in extreme West Africa called Liberia. The Liberian flag, of course, is the American flag with just one star. Liberia, which America has also intervened in for the best part of a century and a half in order to try to make things right, was to be the resettlement zone for the Black slaves. Lincoln’s policy in relation to Black emancipation had two strands, one of which of course was never realized and that was the second one whereby after the Civil War he wished at least in theory to deport the African population of the United States back to Liberia, which is why this colony was established on the extreme West African coast, but that of course was never carried forward.

But in relation to Haiti, Stoddard sees it is a clear example of White folly in relation to dealing with essentially another race that has different standards of behavior, different characteristics of identity, and will run a society in a completely different manner to that which Europeans would or even semi-Europeans would. The elites in Haiti since the massacring of the Whites in the early 19th century have always been mulatto, of course, have always been of mixed race, including the notorious Haitian dictatorship of the mid-20th century, Papa Doc Duvalier’s regime and the militia called Tonton Macoute through whom he exercised supreme authority. The Americans supported him despite all of the penchants for bloodthirstiness, putting cabinet members to death during cabinet meetings, personal support for voodooism, dispensing money in the streets surrounded by men with weapons: traditional African ways of behaving. The United States of America supported all of this for fear of getting something worse in Haiti. Indeed, America is always intervening to either prevent authoritarianism in Haiti, but also reluctant to endorse certain people who are thrown up by democracy or pseudo-democratic reform. The controversy around President Aristide when Clinton was in power is a testament to this.

The IQ level in Haiti is pathetically low. Their standard of living is extraordinarily low. An enormous proportion of the population still live in shanty towns, still live in wooden huts, still live in cardboard boxes. A significant portion of the people eke out a purely subsistence form of life. One of the reasons the earthquake had such devastating effects was because all of the houses were jerry-built and didn’t have the internal architectural armor that’s necessary to prevent them from falling about people’s ears. Similar earthquakes occur in Japan all the time and hardly anyone is injured at all, and this is because the quality of the building is so much better.

Haiti is essentially a basket-case society. Stoddard’s first of the type in recognition of this. Usually, it’s dealt with anecdotally. There’s a book by St. John at the end of the 19th century called Haiti: The Black Republic, but his analysis of Haiti is anecdotal, really, and sort of spectatorish, whereas Stoddard’s is scientific and eugenic and sociobiological and anthropological and biophysical and racially historical. So, it’s an attempt to systematize what might otherwise appear to be whimsy and a collection of anecdotes about an Africanized society in the Caribbean and the perils and misadventures of it. Stoddard’s view is a systematization of what otherwise could be ethnic and political clichés. But it’s a pretty devastating analysis of Haiti which can’t really be refuted given its current parlous state as a semi-civilized polity.

LSrevciv.jpgRS: Yes, one thing that I found quite interesting about his book, which I actually read recently because Alex put out a new edition, was the combination between let’s say Leftist ideology, on one hand, and then genetics and biology on the other. One thing you got from the book is that this pot was simmering for a long time. There was always going to be this racial clash. It was never going to ultimately work. It was going to end in tears and blood. But what really set off the revolution, the catalyst, was this new way of talking that was brought to the island immediately after the French Revolution. That you could soon start talking about the “rights of man” and so on and so forth and that this was like pouring gasoline on the fire, and it almost immediately set off a revolution and a race war on the island.

JB: Yes, and yet the irony is that most of those French revolutionary ideas were never to be applied in that way, because most of the extreme revolutionaries in France, such as the Club des Cordeliers or Club des Jacobins, the two major revolutionary clubs, only ever thought those ideas would be applicable to Europeans, to Frenchmen in particular and White men in general. They never thought that those ideas would be applicable to other groups and, although there were always those who wished to go further, there was no tendency in France apart from on the fringes of the fringes — and this was among a revolutionary class, don’t forget — to emancipate the slaves. Nor was there any move to, particularly. And Napoleon certainly put the kibosh on that, because he had no intention of doing so, just as there was no intention to extend these ideas in relation to women. This was regarded as absurd even by the Jacobins themselves, and the most radical people on the Jacobin side, people like Robespierre and Saint-Just, deprecated the idea that these were always for export and always to be reinterpreted in different contexts, although there were people who saw a correlation and believed that the universalism of the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

RS: Well, there was the group, the Amis des noirs, the Friends of the Blacks, that I remember were kind of taking Leftism to its ultimate conclusion. In some ways, what we’re talking about is the history of the Left in general, which has moved from advocating for working people or the proletariat towards advocating for the wretched of the Earth and the Third World. In some ways, that is the movement of the Left in a nutshell over the past 100 years or so.

In closing, Jonathan, let me bring up another movement which is associated with the Left, but it’s also one that’s associated with Madison Grant, and it’s one that I truly hope that our side, our little fringe contingent, might reclaim at some point and I think we should be working to reclaim it right now and that is environmentalism, so-called. I actually don’t even like the word “environmentalism.” I like saying the word “naturalist” or that we want to “conserve nature” is a better term. “Nature” evokes all sorts of things, has all sorts of connotations which I think are much more positive than “environment,” which seems kind of sterile.

Obviously, Madison Grant was a scientist, but he also wanted to preserve, say, the bison, because they were a majestic animal. He thought they were beautiful. He obviously wanted to preserve Glacier National Park, or the area therein, because it was some of the most spectacular grounds on the Earth. I think one way that we could bring to environmentalism and which I think is the most healthy and positive aspect of environmentalism and which actually attracts people as opposed to the other environmentalist movements of global government and things like this that are not very attractive, but what attracts people is the idea of nature, the beauty of nature and experiencing nature.

So, maybe we could just close on that thought, Jonathan. What do you think about our unique ability to reclaim conservationism or naturalism and how, much like Grant, that should be a major cause for us, which is to keep the world green and beautiful and to fight things like the terrible overpopulation that you see in some kind of horrifying city like Mexico City or São Paulo? We want quality over quantity and we want to live on a beautiful Earth. So, what are some of your thoughts on that idea?

JB: Yes, I think that’s mirrored in green ideas itself, because green ideas are not really part of the Left-Right spectrum but they cut across it in various respects. Green ideas are also circular, because there’s a sort of light green outer circle and a dark or deep green, as it’s called, inner circle. And the deep green ideas are very interesting, even misanthropic to a point with doctrines like Gaia and so on that see mankind as a sort of excrescence upon the Earth and the Earth only has value. This is part of the tendency all ideas have to maximize their own extremism and adopt at the margin a fundamentalism of their own coinage.

LSrreurope.jpgNevertheless, certain more moderate deep green ideas are deeply susceptible to a Right-wing coinage. The conservation of all forms of natural beauty, extreme forms of localism, forms of animal husbandry that are linked to preservation of animal species and biodiversity but are not linked to doctrines of rights and animal rights or animal liberation but draw on a similar metaphysic but end in a different place because it begins in one. You see this very much, say, with the split in Britain between a sort of anarchist group like the Animal Liberation Front and a conservationist group like the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The two sort of overlap in terms of some of their coteries, but ideologically they’re very much at variance because the one is conservative, small c, and ameliorative and piece-by-piece and localist, whereas the other wishes to extend the universal doctrine of human rights to animal species and has developed a concept of animal racism, of course, namely speciesism. All of which is an outgrowth of the politics of human rights. But if one eschews the politics of human rights in a grandstanding and universalist way and sees human identity and glory in very much an individual or localized manner then deep green and ecological ideas have a lot to say to all forms of conservativism that wish to preserve and restore as against that which is transitory and that which is to our end and which is purely and only concerned with human life to the detriment of the ecology without which mankind couldn’t subsist.

RS: Absolutely. I mentioned this before. There’s a very useful biography of Madison Grant and it’s by a man named Spiro. Although he seems to be a Left-liberal of some kind, he clearly wants to get it right and that’s certainly admirable. He offers a very useful and rich biography of Grant, which has really influenced my interest in Grant, and one of his major themes is that if you tell someone that Grant is an early environmentalist that’ll usually bring a smile to their face, but if you tell someone he’s also an early eugenicist that will usually inspire shock and horror. But as Spiro points out, there was no contradiction in Grant’s mind between saving the redwoods and saving the White race. Those were part of the same movement, so as I mentioned before, I think we are uniquely suited to generate a sort of renaissance of green or naturalist or environmentalist politics.

Jonathan, let’s just put a bookmark in the conversation right there, and I would love to return to these ideas in the near future and I look forward to speaking to you soon.

JB: Yes, thanks very much! All the best. Bye for now!

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lundi, 21 décembre 2015

Wotan as Archetype: The Carl Jung Essay


Wotan as Archetype:
The Carl Jung Essay

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

In the denazification atmosphere following World War II Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology, found himself accused of having ‘Nazi’ sympathies. While Jung was a man of the ‘Right’[1] his essay explaining Hitlerism as an evocation of Wotan as a repressed archetype of the German collective unconscious put him on the long suspect list of intellectuals who were accused of being apologists for National Socialism.[2] He was fortunate to have been in a neutral nation in the aftermath of World War II.

Certainly, Jung’s school of psychology does not endear itself to the Left in general and to the large numbers of Jews in psychology. A recent biographer states of Jung’s falling out with his mentor Sigmund Freud:

Freud himself was inclined to believe his problems with Jung typified a general incompatibility between Jew and gentile, that Jung hated the ‘Jewishness’ or psychoanalysis and wanted to substitute a Christianised version. Here was irony indeed. Freud had wanted Jung to be an apostle to the gentiles, to prevent psychoanalysis from becoming a Jewish sect. But Jung played the role of St Paul in a quite different sense. Just as Paul had substituted neo-Platonic ‘Christology’ for the original teachings of Jesus, so Jung proposed a psychoanalysis purged of the elements that had kept Freudianism ghettoised as a construct of Viennese Jews.[3]

Hence, when Jung gave his ‘lecture on Wotan, which was first published in 1936,[4] and republished after the war as part of a collection of analytical observations on the modern world,[5] he did so as a doctor diagnosing a phenomenon; not as a political crusader. He was offering observations and explanations in detached, scholarly manner, which is always difficult for many in academia to understand.


Jung’s conception of the psyche as comprising three ‘layers’, including the collective unconscious, is briefly explained in this volume in my essay ‘Odin and the Faustian Imperative’, where Jung’s ‘Wotan’ essay is also mentioned. Archetypes, in Jungian psychology, are prototypes of symbols that are inherited and reside within the unconscious. These symbols transcend the individual psyche and are inherited from the collectivity of our ancestors. They are therefore both universal at the most primal level, in the sense of there being a ‘human race’, and they are also racially specific, in the sense that the ‘human race’ became differentiated (assuming that it was not always so), and differentiate further in terms of culture.

Wotan is an archetype of the Germanic collective unconscious. In explaining the influence of psychic forms on humanity, Jung returned to the archetype of Wotan in a letter to his friend, the Chilean diplomat and writer Miguel Serrano. Jung when writing this in the 1960s was attempting to suggest remedies for the modern predicament of civilised man. While eschewing the mass society that was being accelerated by technology, Jung stated that modern man, or at least the Westerner, must try to find his individual identity without retreating into hyper-individualism: ‘He can only discover himself when he is deeply and unconditionally related to some, and generally related to a great many, individuals with whom he has a chance to compare, and from whom he is able to discriminate himself.’[6]

Within this wider association of the individual there are layers of inherited ancestral experience passed on through millennia; deposited in the individual’s personal unconscious, which is itself a part of the collective unconscious, the reoccurring motifs becoming protosymbols or archetypes. The psyche is like a storehouse or memories not only pertaining to one’s own experiences but also to the collective experiences of one’s forebears, embracing the wider sense of the race and culture, and ultimately the history of a more universal memory at its most elemental, universal level. The layers of the psyche might be seen as analogous to the layers of the human brain, which is a physiological record of cerebral evolution that includes the most primal, the limbic system and the central core, and the most recent, the cerebral cortex.

According to Jung, the ‘Gods, Demons and Illusions’ are names for the inherited inhabitants of the psyche, individually and collectively:

…they exist and function and are born anew with every generation. They have an enormous influence on individual as well as collective life and despite their familiarity they are curiously non-human. This latter characteristic is the reason why they are called Gods and Demons in the past and why they are understood in our ‘scientific’ age as the psychical manifestations of the instincts, in as much as they represent habitual and universally occurring attitudes and thought forms. They are the basic forms, but not the manifest, personified or otherwise concretised images. They have a high degree of autonomy, which does not disappear, when the manifest images change.[7]

Repressed psychic complexes continue to influence not only the individual, but also the collectivity. It is commonly enough known that repression causes mental illness in an individual. However, the same principle applies to repression in entire nations and cultures. If these repressed complexes are not identified and integrated, they manifest in other, unhealthy, ways. A Jungian explanation of repression is that:

There is general agreement that many of the things in the unconscious have become unconscious as a result of repression[…]. This means that there are some things that are unconscious that, at one time or another, have been conscious, and ‘repression’ is a word used to indicate that this has happened. Repression is very closely connected with forgetting.

[…] although we may have forgotten something there is an important sense in which it is still ‘there’ in our psyche and this is what we mean by saying that it is unconscious.[8]

wotan1.jpgThe things that are repressed are those that undermine our image of ourselves if we remembered them.[9] Hence, the Germanics, having been a Christian folk for centuries, were required to repress their ancestral Heathenism, and Wotan thereby became an archetype relegated to the ‘shadow’ of that folk’s collective unconscious, but continuing to exist nonetheless. While repression might play a healthy role in individual development, it is usually undesirable. The Jungian, David Cox, continues:

The first reason why repression is more bad than good is that it means losing some part of oneself. When we wholly forget something we have thought or done, or something that has happened to us it is not merely a matter of forgetting that thing, we also refuse to see that we are the sort of person capable of behaving in the way that we did […]. It may be that there are things that would be so destructive to a man’s character if he did not repress them that it is much better that they should remain repressed, and it is certain that there are right times for everything, so that it might be that it is better not to recover a repressed memory at some particular time.[10]

The second reason why repression is liable to have negative consequences is that,

[…] although the result of repression may be that we do not know about a particular tendency within us, that tendency is still there and it is liable to interfere with our conscious aims. […] Repressed tendencies are able to cause all kinds of peculiar distortions in our behaviour, just because we do not known about them. When we realise that we have tendencies of a particular kind we can do something about trying to control them, but so long as they remain unconscious we can exercise no control over them whatsoever.[11]

In understanding the concepts of repression, the shadow and the collective unconscious, one begins to see why Jung approached Hitlerism with a hopeful attitude, in that this was a manifestation on a mass scale of potentially individuating an entire nation by means of uncovering the repressed archetype and channelling it to conscious good, rather than letting it fester in subterranean, and ultimately destructive manner. Such a raising to consciousness was, regardless of the final outcome, a necessity, because the Germanics still had these unresolved complexes that were entering into the technological age. It seems to have been something that had been awakened by the combined savagery and technology of World War I, and as the poem (cited below) of the soldier Hitler indicates, he was already coconscious of this in 1914.

When a patient seeks assistance from an analyst, the latter aims to bring to consciousness the repressed complexes that are unconsciously influencing the individual. The same pattern of repressed memories and complexes reside within the collective unconscious of a people. Jung in witnessing the mass resurgence of Germanic primeval passions, called the archetype from the ‘shadow’ or repressed aspect of the Germanics ‘Wotan’. To Jung this was of more relevance than a study of social, political and economic phenomena in understanding the sudden and often frenzied mass mobilisation of the Germans under Hitler. Of Wotan Jung stated to Serrano that:

When, for instance, belief in the God Wotan vanished and nobody thought of him anymore, the phenomenon originally called Wotan remained; nothing changed but his name, as National Socialism has demonstrated on a grand scale. A collective movement consists of millions of individuals, each of whom shows the symptoms of Wotanism and proves thereby that Wotan in reality never died, but has retained his original vitality and autonomy.

Our consciousness only imagines that it has lost its Gods; in reality they are still there and it only needs a certain general condition in order to bring them back in full force. This condition is a situation in which a new orientation and adaptation is needed. If this question is not clearly understood and no proper answer is given, the archetype, which expresses this situation, steps in and brings back the reaction, which has always characterised such times, in this case Wotan.[12]

While much of a sensationalist nature has been written about Hitler being possessed by demons, or controlled by occult forces, etc.,[13] from the Jungian perspective it is relevant to ask whether Hitler was the individual through which the Wotan archetype was ‘brought back in full force’, manifesting in ‘a new orientation and adaptation’? Hitler seems to have been conscious of the Wotanistic force coming to consciousness in the trenches of World War I, when he wrote a ‘strange poem’[14] during the Fall of the first year of that war:

I often go on bitter nights
To Wotan’s oak on the quiet glade
With dark powers to weave a union –
The runic letters the moon makes with its magic spell
And all who are full of impudence during the day
Are made small by the magic formula!
They draw shining steel – but instead of going into combat
They solidify into stalagmites.
So the false ones part from the real ones –
I reach into a nest of words
And then give the good and just
With my formula blessings and prosperity.[15]

The poem reads like a choosing and initiation of Wotan’s Einherjar in the trenches of the war in readiness for the black and brown shirted battalions that were to be formed largely from veterans. Toland remarks that a few weeks later Hitler ‘made a portentous prophesy to his comrades: “You will hear much about me. Just wait until my time comes”’.[16]

Of the problems confronting modern Western man who had entered the technological age without having integrated the psychic layers from previous epochs, and which therefore laid repressed, the Germans were the most problematic. The imposed Christian veneer was thinner among them than others, according to Jung, and the Heathen gods nearer the surface. The repressed Wotan archetype made Germans as a collectivity prone to mass hysteria, which did not, however, preclude a generally normal life, just as the individual hysteric could generally be normally functional. It was recognised in history as the furor Germanicus, and this was what Hitler was channelling.[17] When Jung wrote his essay on Wotan he did so in order to show how his theories on the collective unconscious had been verified. It was a warning to modern man to recognise and integrate what was being repressed before the archetypes of the ‘shadow’ burst forth in an overwhelming, destructive manner.

The concept of the ‘shadow’ is important in analytical psychology. While the ‘shadow’ connotes all that it dark and devilish that has been repressed by civilised man, it also carries creative impulses and sound instincts. According to Jung, all archetypes develop favourable and unfavourable effects. They reflect a polarity or what Jung called a complexio oppositorum.[18] The Jungian analyst seeks to unite these conflicting opposites within the individual to create an integrated or total person, or what in Jungian psychology is called ‘individuation’; what Jung called a ‘whole’[19] person. This might also be seen as the psychological counterpart to Hegel’s historical dialectic of history: that of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The analogy occurs to McLynn, who writes that ‘individuation’ is: ‘as in Hegel’s system, the self-actualisation of the ultimate world principle, which in Jung’s terms is the objective psyche. Jung’s system is thus a psychological version of Hegel’s objectification of history’. [20] This is why Jung advocated a ‘wait and see’ approach to the rise of Hitlerism, rather than immediate and hysterical denunciations, as this was a potential unfolding of a psychological dialectic and there existed the possibility of a collective individuation for an entire people. It might also provide an example of how mankind could enter the technological age, when, as Jungians assert, his psyche is still influenced by previous layers of unconscious psychic experience dating from millennia.

Jung’s Essay: ‘Wotan’

The essay ‘Wotan’ was written in 1936, three years after the Hitlerite assumption. Jung had contact with the German Faith Movement, allied to Hitlerism, and knew its leader Jacob Hauer, who had attended Eranos Conferences at Ascona, Switzerland, where he had impressed Jung with his talks on the racial unconscious by using Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious as a predicate.[21] Jung insisted even after the war that since every archetype contains both good and evil, it was impossible to immediately know what course National Socialism would take.[22] As for the essay itself, Jung had observed that in Germany it ‘is that an ancient God of storm and frenzy, the long quiescent Wotan, [that] should awake, like an extinct volcano’,[23] while in Soviet Russian a worship of science manifested also in violent eruption against the metaphysical.

The embryonic manifestation had been observed among German youth in the aftermath of World War I, who roamed the countryside to commune with nature, reverting to the Heathen ethos in a world of technology that had become nihilistic. Jung noted that Wotanist rites had even attended the manifestation:

We have seen him come to life in the German Youth Movement, and right at the beginning the blood of several sheep was shed in honour of his resurrection. Armed with rucksack and lute, blond youths, and sometimes girls as well, were to be seen as restless wanderers on every road from North Cape to Sicily, faithful votaries of the roving god.[24]

Jung was here referring to the generically named wandervogel and other similar groups that rebelled against bourgeoisie materialism, beginning during the late 19th Century. It was the start of a movement that was a reaction against the modern world, which ended up contributing to the emergence of the hippie movement during the 1960s and 1970s, [25] heavily influenced by German immigrants.[26] Gordon Kennedy directly relates this return to nature that manifested in Germany among the youth to the revival of Germanic Heathenism and to Wotan and other ancient Gods.[27] Kennedy and Ryan describe this as ‘a huge youth movement that was both anti-bourgeois and Teutonic Pagan in character, composed mostly of middle class German children, organized into autonomous bands’. [28]

The atavistic resurgence could have taken different forms to that of Hitlerism, but as Jung and others observed, Hitler was a magician, a ‘medicine man’, and an ‘avatar’,[29] able to give form and expression to the Germanic ‘shadow’. In 1937 Jung described Hitler as ‘a medium… the mouthpiece of the Gods of old…’[30]

From the wandervogel and similar movements of disaffected youth, the atavistic revolt was taken over by the masses of unemployed, among whom were many war veterans, whose roaming was not through the hills and countryside but through the depressed streets of Weimer Germany.

Later, towards the end of the Weimar Republic, the wandering role was taken over by thousands of unemployed, who were to be met with everywhere on their aimless journeys. By 1933 they wandered no longer, but marched in their hundreds of thousands. The Hitler movement literally brought the whole of Germany to its feet, from five-year-olds to veterans, and produced a spectacle of a nation migrating from one place to another. Wotan the wanderer was on the move. He could be seen, looking rather shamefaced, in the meeting-house of a sect of simple folk in North Germany, disguised as Christ sitting on a white horse. I do not know if these people were aware of Wotan’s ancient connection with the figures of Christ and Dionysus, but it is not very probable.[31]

Wotan, the wanderer, had inspired the wandervogel and other youth, as Kenndey and Ryan stated in their study of the counter-culture movement. He now assumed his role as leader of the Wild Hunt, as his ‘avatar’ began to gather up the aimless, wandering masses:

Wotan is a restless wanderer who creates unrest and stirs up strife, now here, now there, and works magic. He was soon changed by Christianity into the devil, and only lived on in fading local traditions as a ghostly hunter who was seen with his retinue, flickering like a will o’ the wisp through the stormy night. […].[32]

With the imposition of the Christian veneer on a folk whose God had been driven into the ‘shadows’, waiting to be evoked, Wotan had continued to make his presence felt on the peripheries of consciousness of the Germanics as an elusive figure, the leader of the Wild Hunt, who was now being called back to conscious expression in his role as pre-eminent God. Jung states that Wotan had been kept in sustenance by Germany’s literary figures, and in particular by Nietzsche, who was a seminal influence on Jung’s thinking.[33] The Wotanic force had too often been identified with its Classical Dionysic form by academe, but there seems little point in referring to a Classical archetype for a Germanic one, other than as mean of analogy. Jung stated of this literary tradition that kept the Wotanic force alive, albeit in Classical mode:

The German youths who celebrated the solstice with sheep-sacrifices were not the first to hear the rustling in the primeval forest of unconsciousness. They were anticipated by Nietzsche, Schuler, Stefan George, and Ludwig Klages. The literary tradition of the Rhineland and the country south of the Main has a classical stamp that cannot easily be got rid of; every interpretation of intoxication and exuberance is apt to be taken back to classical models, to Dionysus, to the peur aeternus and the cosmogonic Eros. No doubt it sounds better to academic ears to interpret these things as Dionysus, but Wotan might be a more correct interpretation. He is the god of the storm and frenzy, the unleasher of passions and the lust of battle; moreover he is superlative magician and artist in illusion who is versed in all secrets of an occult nature.[34]

Jung sees Wotan in Nietzsche’s Zarathustra,[35] although Nietzsche seems to have been writing unconsciously under the influence of the hidden god:

Nietzsche’s case is certainly a peculiar one. He had no knowledge of Germanic literature; he discovered the ‘cultural Philistine’; and the announcement that ‘God is dead’ led to Zarathustra’s meeting with an unknown god in unexpected form, who approached him sometimes as an enemy and sometimes disguised as Zarathustra himself. Zarathustra, too, was a soothsayer, a magician, and the storm-wind.

Jung quotes from Nietzsche’s Zarathustra to show the analogous nature between the two, drawing specifically on these figures as conjurers of storms:

And like a wind shall I come to blow among them, and with my spirit shall take away the breath of their spirit; thus my future wills it.

Truly, a strong wind is Zarathustra to all that are low; and this counsel gives he to his enemies and to all that spit and spew: ‘Beware of spitting against the wind’.

And when Zarathustra dreamed that he was guardian of the graves in the ‘lone mountain forest of death’, and was making a mighty effort to open the gates, suddenly. A roaring wind tore the gates asunder; whistling, shrieking, and keening, it cast a black coffin before me.

And amid the roaring and whistling and shrieking the coffin burst open and spouted a thousand peals of laughter.

The disciple who interpreted the dream said to Zarathustra:

Are you not yourself the wind with shrill whistling, which bursts open the gates of the fortress of death?

Are you not yourself the coffin filled with life’s gay malice and angel-grimaces?

Nietzche’s Zarathustra seems to be a perfect poetic expression of Wotan, as well as being a prophetic insight into the ‘wind with shrill whistling, which bursts open the gates of the fortress of death’ in Germany less than forty years later? To buttress his case for what might be considered as Nietzsche’s own unconscious possession by the God, Jung sites three poems by Nietzsche that had been written over the course of several decades. The poems show that although Nietzsche was unconscious of the identity of this ‘Unknown God’, Jung continues, he was certainly aware of the god’s existence and influence upon him. It indicates also something of the still very subterranean life of Wotan in the collective unconscious of Germans that Nietzsche was not able to put a name to the God, despite its obvious Wotanic character:

In 1863 or 1864, in his poem To the Unknown God, Nietzsche had written:

I shall and will know thee, Unknown One,
Who searchest out the depths of my soul,
And blowest through my life like a storm,
Ungraspable, and yet my kinsman!
I shall and will know thee, and serve thee.

Twenty years later, in his Mistral Song, he wrote:

Mistral wind, chaser of clouds,
Killer of gloom, sweeper of the skies,
Raging storm-wind, how I love thee!
Are we not both the first-fruits
Of the same womb, forever predestined
To the same fate?

In the dithyramb known as Ariadne’s Lament, Nietzsche is completely the victim of the hunter-god:

Stretched out, shuddering,
Like a half-dead thing whose feet are warmed,
Shaken by unknown fevers,
Shivering with piercing icy frost arrows
Hunted by thee, O thought,
Unutterable! Veiled! Horrible one!
Thou huntsman behind the cloud.
Struck down by thy lightening bolt,
Thou mocking eye that stares at me from the dark!
Thus I lie.
Writhing, twisted, tormented
With all eternal tortures.
By thee, cruel huntsman,
Thou unknown – God!

When Nietzsche famously declared ‘God is dead’, clearly there was the need to attach a clarification. This ‘Unknown God’ was anything but dead and had Nietzsche in his grip. If Hitler was the ‘avatar’ of Wotan, Nietzsche was the scribe and prophet. Jung refers to a mystical experience that Nietzsche had which indicates a state of possession by Wotan as an archetype:

This remarkable image of the hunter-god is not a mere dithyrambic figure of speech but is based on an experience which Nietzsche had when he was fifteen years old, at Pforta. It is described in a book by Nietzsche’s sister, Elizabeth Foerster-Nietzsche. As he was wandering in a gloomy wood at night, he was terrified by a ‘blood-curdling shriek from a neighbouring lunatic asylum’, and soon afterwards he came face to face with a huntsman whose ‘features were wild and uncanny’. Setting his whistle to his lips ‘in a valley surrounded by wild scrub’, the huntsman ‘blew such as a shrill blast’ that Nietzsche lost consciousness – but woke up again in Pforta. It was a nightmare. It is significant that in his dream Nietzsche, who in reality intended to go to Eisleben, Luther’s town, discussed with the huntsman the question of going instead to ‘Teutschenthal’ (Valley of the Germans). No one with ears can misunderstand the shrill whistling of the storm-god in the nocturnal wood.

Was it really only the classical philologist in Nietzsche that led to the god being called Dionysus instead of Wotan – or was it perhaps due to his fateful meeting with Wagner?

wotan2.jpgThe imagery has the characteristics of Wotan as leader of the Wild Hunt. It is in this role that Wotan had survived his relegation to the ‘shadow of the German collective unconscious, which enabled him through the centuries to re-emerge into consciousness. It is in this role that Wotan has manifested from Scandinavia to Switzerland. Nietzsche’s dream contains all the primary elements of the myth. It is in forests at night that an unwary traveller might encounter a frightening countenance of Wotan, with the cry of ‘Midden in dem Weg!’, while his fellows shout ‘Wod! Wod!’[36] Nietzsche as a lad of 15 had encountered the ‘Unknown God’ as Wotan in the form of the Wild Huntsman, but had never recognised him. Despite his later poetic descriptions of the ‘Unknown God’ who is unmistakably Wotan, his identity remained obscured by Nietzsche’s Classical preoccupations. Jung continues with another prophetic vision among the Germans of the return of Wotan:

In his Reich ohne Raum, which was first published in 1919, Bruno Goetz saw the secret of coming events in Germany in the form of a very strange vision. I have never forgotten this little book, for it struck me at the time as a forecast of the German weather. It anticipates the conflict between the realm of ideas and life, between Wotan’s dual nature as a god of storm and a god of secret musings. Wotan disappeared when his oaks fell and appeared again when the Christian God proved too weak to save Christendom from fratricidal slaughter. When the Holy Father at Rome could only impotently lament before God the fate of the grex segregatus, the one-eyed old hunter, on the edge of the German forest, laughed and saddled Sleipnir.

Hence, when Hitler triumphed over Germany Jung regarded the role of archetypes in explaining the phenomenon as of more use than political or sociological interpretations:

We are always convinced that the modern world is a reasonable world, basing our opinion on economic, political, and psychological factors. But if we may forget for a moment that we are living in the year of Our Lord 1936, and, laying aside our well-meaning, all-too human reasonableness, may burden God or the gods with the responsibility for contemporary events instead of man, we would find Wotan quite suitable as a causal hypothesis. In fact, I venture the heretical suggestion that the unfathomable depths of Wotan’s character explain more of National Socialism than all three reasonable factors put together. There is no doubt that each of these factors explains an important aspect of what is going on in Germany, but Wotan explains yet more. He is particularly enlightening in regard to a general phenomenon, which is so strange to anybody not a German that it remains incomprehensible, even after the deepest reflection.

Perhaps we may sum up this general phenomenon as Ergriffenheit – a state of being seized or possessed. The term postulates not only an Ergriffener (one who is seized) but, also, an Ergreifer (one who seizes). Wotan is an Ergreifer of men, and, unless one wishes to deify Hitler – which has indeed actually happened – he is really the only explanation. It is true that Wotan shares this quality with his cousin Dionysus, but Dionysus seems to have exercised his influence mainly on women. The maenads were a species of female storm-troopers, and, according to mythical reports, were dangerous enough. Wotan confined himself to the berserkers, who found their vocation as the Blackshirts of mythical kings.

A mind that is still childish thinks of the gods as metaphysical entities existing in their own right, or else regards them as playful or superstitious inventions. From either point of view the parallel between Wotan redivivus and the social, political, and psychic storm that is shaking Germany might have at least the value of parable. But since the gods are without doubt personifications of psychic forces, to assert their metaphysical existence is as much an intellectual presumption as the opinion that they could ever be invented. Not that ‘psychic forces’ have anything to do with the conscious mind, fond as we are of playing with the idea that consciousness and psyche are identical. This is only another piece of intellectual presumption. ‘Psychic forces’ have far more to do with the realm of the unconscious. Our mania for rational explanations obviously has its roots in our fear of metaphysics, for the two were always hostile brothers. Hence, anything unexpected that approaches us from the dark realm is regarded either as coming from outside and, therefore, as real, or else as a hallucination and, therefore, not true. The idea that anything could be real or true which does not come from outside has hardly begun to dawn on contemporary man.

For the sake of better understanding and to avoid prejudice, we could of course dispense with the name ‘Wotan’ and speak instead of the furor Teutonicus. But we should only be saying the same thing and not as well, for the furor in this case is a mere psychologizing of Wotan and tells us no more than that the Germans are in a state of ‘fury’. We thus lose sight of the most peculiar feature of this whole phenomenon, namely, the dramatic aspect of the Ergreifer and the Ergriffener. The impressive thing about the German phenomenon is that one man, who is obviously ‘possessed’, has infected a whole nation to such an extent that everything is set in motion and has started rolling on its course towards perdition.[37]

It is evident from the above passages that Jung was observing a phenomenon and explaining its origins, in a detached, scholarly manner. However, for many in academia detached, scholarly objectivity regarding such matters is tantamount to being a ‘Nazi sympathiser’, and one can only apparently escape the smear by hysterical declarations of opposition reading more like political tracts than to try to examine a phenomenon in a clinical manner, and thereby perhaps render some genuine service to mankind. Jung was observing what was taking place in Germany on a collective basis, as he would observe and analyse a patient as an individual. He was also offering an early warning where the phenomenon might lead, once the ‘psychic force’ of Wotan had been unleashed, which might assume the role of leader of the Wild Hunt, pitilessly taking all before it, rather than as his role of muse who had shortly before inspired the happy wanderings of thousands of German youngsters, as they hiked the countryside, far and wide, singing to the tunes of mandolin and guitar in joyous rejection of the materialistic and technological epoch,[38] and which now manifested in the Hitler Youth and League of German Maidens. Jung contiues:

It seems to me that Wotan hits the mark as an hypothesis. Apparently he really was only asleep in the Kyffhauser mountain until the ravens called him and announced the break of day. He is a fundamental attribute of the German psyche, an irrational psychic factor which acts on the high pressure of civilization like a cyclone and blows it away. Despite their crankiness, the Wotan-worshippers seem to have judged things more correctly than the worshippers of reason. Apparently everyone had forgotten that Wotan is a Germanic datum of first importance, the truest expression and unsurpassed personification of a fundamental quality that is particularly characteristic of the Germans. Houston Stewart Chamberlain[39] is a symptom which arouses suspicion that other veiled gods may be sleeping elsewhere. The emphasis on the German race – commonly called ‘Aryan’ – the Germanic heritage, blood and soil, the Wagalaweia songs, the ride of the Valkyries, Jesus as a blond and blue-eyed hero, the Greek mother of St. Paul, the devil as an international Alberich in Jewish or Masonic guise, the Nordic aurora borealis as the light of civilization, the inferior Mediterranean races – all this is the indispensable scenery for the drama that is taking place and at the bottom they all mean the same thing: a god has taken possession of the Germans and their house is filled with a ‘mighty rushing wind’. It was soon after Hitler seized power, if I am not mistaken, that a cartoon appeared in Punch of a raving berserker tearing himself free from his bonds. A hurricane has broken loose in Germany while we still believe it is fine weather.[40]

Atavistic resurgence had conquered ‘reason’, which itself often had assumed forms – and continues to do so – that are irrational and take on religious manifestation, giving testimony to the irrational forces that continue to guide man, whatever the rationalist veneer. Hence, the ‘Enlightenment’ gave rise to the antagonistic Cults of ‘Reason’ and of ‘Nature’ among the French Revolutionaries, whose ideologues unfurled the banner of ‘science’, only to become manifest in the spectacle of an actress adorned, classical style, as the ‘Goddess of Reason’ upon the altar of Notre Dame Cathedral in 1793, while scientific materialism in the USSR deified the corpse of Lenin by mummifying it and entombing it within a stepped pyramid.[41]


While the Germanic armies reasserted the fury of the Teutons with Wotan unbound, was the reaction of the Allies any less ferocious? One cannot ask such questions in a scholarly manner now any more than in Jung’s time, without expecting to be vilified as a ‘Nazi sympathiser’. We are bound by a moral dichotomy that owes its origins to a God of a different culture. However, might it not be said, given such unusual phenomena as the hangings at Nuremberg[42] or the Morgenthau Plan for the post-war extermination of the Germans and the obliteration of their statehood,[43] that the reaction against the Wotanic storm from out of Germania, was a storm of another type from out of the Levant? Here confronting Wotan was Yahweh, the tribal God of Vengeance, who had metamorphosed over centuries under the impress of the Westerner and assumed the form of the ‘Aryan Christ’,[44] but who was now reasserted in all his ancient tribal fury as a jealous Levantine God of War[45] at the head of the Allied armies. A God moreover whose storms of fire literally incinerated hundreds of thousands in the cities of Dresden, Hamburg, and others. Elsewhere in the ‘Wotan’ essay, Jung alludes to this historical phenomenon of confrontation with a foreign God, referring to Yahweh:

It has always been terrible to fall into the hands of a living god. Yahweh was no exception to this rule, and the Philistines, Edomites, Amorites, and the rest, who were outside the Yahweh experience, must certainly have found it exceedingly disagreeable.[46]

What made Jung hopeful in regard to Hitlerism was that the evocation to conscious recognition of the Unknown God offered the potential opportunity to recognise atavistic impulses and deal with them positively, as the analyst deals with the repressed complexes of the individual, which might then be integrated in a positive and creative manner. It was a mass experiment in analytical psychology that might provide lessons to other peoples and cultures to resolve their inner conflicts.

It is above all the Germans who have an opportunity, perhaps unique in history, to look into their own hearts and to learn what those perils of the soul were from which Christianity tried to rescue mankind. Germany is a land of spiritual catastrophes, where nature never makes more than a pretense of peace with the world-ruling reason. The disturber of the peace is a wind that blows into Europe from Asia’s vastness, sweeping in on a wide front from Thrace to the Baltic, scattering the nations before it like dry leaves, or inspiring thoughts that shake the world to its foundations. It is an elemental Dionysus breaking into the Apollonian order. The rouser of this Tempest is named Wotan, and we can learn a good deal about him from the political confusion and spiritual upheaval he has caused throughout history. For a more exact investigation of his character, however, we must go back to the age of myths, which did not explain everything in terms of man and his limited capabilities, but sought the deeper cause in the psyche and its autonomous powers. Man’s earliest intuitions personified these powers as gods, and described them in the myths with great care and circumstantiality according to their various characters. This could be done the more readily on account of the firmly established primordial types or images which are innate in the unconscious of many races and exercise a direct influence upon them.

Jung now comes to another of his controversial theories; that archetypes became racially differentiated with the differentiation of mankind into races. Jung had elsewhere said of these racial differences that are present in the collective and individual unconscious:

Thus it is a quite unpardonable mistake to accept the conclusions of a Jewish psychology as generally valid.[47] Nobody would dream of taking Chinese or Indian psychology as binding upon ourselves. The cheap accusation of anti-Semitism that has been levelled at me on the grounds of this criticism is about as intelligent as accusing me of an anti-Chinese prejudice. No doubt, on an earlier and deeper level of psychic development where it is still impossible to distinguish between an Aryan, Semitic, Hamitic, or Mongolian mentality, all human races have a common collective psyche. But with the beginning of racial differentiation, essential differences are developed in the collective psyche as well. For this reason we cannot transplant the spirit of a foreign race in globo into our own mentality without sensibility injury to the latter, a fact which does not, however, deter sundry natures of feeble instinct from affecting Indian philosophy and the like.[48]

Given the recognition of racial differentiation in analytical psychology, Jung was therefore able to interpret the actions of nations according to their archetypes, such as their Gods, stating of this in his ‘Wotan’ essay:

Because the behaviour of a race takes on its specific character from its underlying images, we can speak of an archetype ‘Wotan’. As an autonomous psychic factor, Wotan produces effects in the collective life of a people and thereby reveals his own nature. For Wotan has a peculiar biology of his own, quite apart from the nature of man. It is only from time to time that individuals fall under the irresistible influence of this unconscious factor. When it is quiescent, one is no more aware of the archetype Wotan than of a latent epilepsy. Could the Germans who were adults in 1914 have foreseen what they would be today? Such amazing transformations are the effect of the god of wind, that ‘bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth’. It seizes everything in its path and overthrows everything that is not firmly rooted. When the wind blows it shakes everything that is insecure, whether without or within. […][49]

However, racial differentiation does not account for the character of the archetypes. Given that, according to Jung, the mind is comprised of inherited layers, not only are the characteristics of the mind inherited on a racial basis but also on a cultural basis. While, as previously mentioned, our brain is comprised of organs that reflect different levels of evolution, from the limbic system to the cerebral cortex, similarly, the unconscious reflects an inherited cultural legacy. This means that ‘modern man’ has been pushed into technological civilisation, and change has been increasing exponentially. Modern man’s psyche is not entirely — not even mainly — ‘modern’. Layers of the mind exist which are inherited from prior cultural epochs, including the most primal. Jung explained this cogently in his autobiography:

If the unconscious is anything at all, it must consist of earlier stages of our conscious psyche… Just as the body has an anatomical prehistory of millions of years, so also does the psychic system. And just as the human body today represents in each of it parts the result of this evolution, and everywhere still shows traces of its earlier stages – so the same may be said of the psyche.[50]

Further, Jung stated of this:

Our souls as well as our bodies are composed of individual elements which were all already present in the ranks of our ancestors. The ‘newsness’ of the individual psyche is an endlessly varied recombination of age-old components. Body and soul therefore have an intensely historical character and find no place in what is new. That is to say, our ancestral components are only partly at home in things that have just come into being. We are certainly far from having finished with the middle ages, classical antiquity, and primitivity, as our modern psyches pretend. Nevertheless we have plunged into a cataract of progress which sweeps us into the future with ever wilder violence the farther it take us from our ranks. The less we understand of what our forefathers sought, the less we understand ourselves, and thus we help with all our might to rob the individual of his roots and his guiding instincts […].[51]

Modern man exists in a technological world, the progress of which is exponential, but his psyche is not able to keep pace with the change. His mind does not ‘progress’ in similar exponential manner. It is a problem also considered by the great physiologist Alexis Carrel, another man of the ‘Right’:[52]

The environment which has moulded the body and the soul of our ancestors during many millenniums has now been replaced by another. This silent revolution has taken place almost without our noticing it. We have not realized its importance. Nevertheless, it is one of the most dramatic events in the history of humanity. For any modification in their surroundings inevitably and profoundly disturbs all living beings. We must, therefore, ascertain the extent of the transformations imposed by science upon the ancestral mode of life, and consequently upon ourselves.[53]

[….] Human beings have not grown so rapidly as the institutions sprung from their brains […].Modern civilization finds itself in a difficult position because it does not suit us. It has been erected without any knowledge of our real nature. […].[54]


Despite this veneer of technological civilisation and the cult of rationalism and science, as well as the veneer of Christianity, the ancient archetypes do not disappear; they are repressed and lurk in the ‘shadows’ of the collective unconscious. Returning to Jung’s ‘Wotan’ essay:

It was not in Wotan’s nature to linger on and show signs of old age. He simply disappeared when the times turned against him, and remained invisible for more than a thousand years, working anonymously and indirectly. Archetypes are like riverbeds which dry up when the water deserts them, but which it can find again at anytime. An archetype is like an old watercourse along which the water of life has flowed for centuries, digging a deep channel for itself. The longer it has flowed in this channel the more likely it is that sooner or later the water will return to its old bed. The life of the individual as a member of society and particularly as a part of the state may be regulated like a canal, but the life of nations is a great rushing river which is utterly beyond human control, in the hands of One who has always been stronger than men. […] Political events move from one impasse to the next, like a torrent caught in gullies, creeks and marshes. All human control comes to an end when the individual is caught in a mass movement. Then, the archetypes begin to function, as happens, also, in the lives of individuals when they are confronted with situations that cannot be dealt with in any of the familiar ways. But what a so-called Fuhrer does with a mass movement can plainly be seen if we turn our eyes to the north or south of our country. […][55]

Jung saw this return of Wotan as the resurgence of the true Germanic character that had been repressed for centuries, which would not be restrained forever and would break forth somehow, for good or ill. He regarded ‘German Christianity’ as an aberration that was not true to the German character. Jung considered that this force should be openly acknowledged and integrated into the modern German folk, rather than being sublimated into any form of ‘Christianity’. He wrote of the desirable form in which German religiosity should take as being the return to Heathenism:

[…] ‘The German Christians’ are a contradiction in many terms and would do better to join Hauer’s ‘German Faith Movement’. These are decent and well-meaning people who honestly admit their Ergriffenheit and try to come to terms with this new and undeniable fact. They go to an enormous amount of trouble to make it look less alarming by dressing it up in a conciliatory historical garb and giving us consoling glimpses of great figures such as Meister Eckhart, who was, also, a German and, also, ergriffen. In this way the awkward question of who the Ergreifer is is circumvented. He was always ‘God’. But the more Hauer restricts the world-wide sphere of Indo-European culture to the ‘Nordic’ in general and to the Edda in particular, and the more ‘German’ this faith becomes as a manifestation of Ergriffenheit, the more painfully evident it is that the ‘German’ god is the god of the Germans.

One cannot read Hauer’s book without emotion, if one regards it as the tragic and really heroic effort of a conscientious scholar who, without knowing how it happened to him, was violently summoned by the inaudible voice of the Ergreifer and is now trying with all his might, and with all his knowledge and ability, to build a bridge between the dark forces of life and the shining world of historical ideas. But what do all the beauties of the past from totally different levels of culture mean to the man of today, when confronted with a living and unfathomable tribal god such as he has never experienced before? They are sucked like dry leaves into the roaring whirlwind, and the rhythmic alliterations of the Edda became inextricably mixed up with Christian mystical texts, German poetry and the wisdom of the Upanishads. Hauer himself is ergriffen by the depths of meaning in the primal words lying at the root of the Germanic languages, to an extent that he certainly never knew before. Hauer the Indologist is not to blame for this, nor yet the Edda; it is rather the fault of kairos – the present moment in time – whose name on closer investigation turns out to be Wotan. I would, therefore, advise the German Faith Movement to throw aside their scruples. Intelligent people will not confuse them with the crude Wotan-worshipers whose faith is a mere pretense. There are people in the German Faith Movement who are intelligent enough not only to believe, but to know, that the god of the Germans is Wotan and not the Christian God. This is a tragic experience and no disgrace. It has always been terrible to fall into the hands of a living god. Yahweh was no exception to this rule, and the Philistines, Edomites, Amorites, and the rest, who were outside the Yahweh experience, must certainly have found it exceedingly disagreeable. The Semitic experience of Allah was for a long time an extremely painful affair for the whole of Christendom. We who stand outside judge the Germans far too much, as if they were responsible agents, but perhaps it would be nearer the truth to regard them, also, as victims.[56]

Here Jung is advising that the best course for German religiosity to take is an overt recognition of the primacy of Wotan, without being mixed with an ‘Aryan Christ’ or Indo-Aryan scriptures from the East, all of which were popular among German folk-nationalists, who sought a wider ‘Indo-European’ heritage for Germanics stretching to India and Iran. Hence Jung advised to return to the fundamentals that had shaped the German folk, without attempting to synthesise Christ, the Eddas and the Upanishads into a ‘German Faith’ that would still not give Wotan his full realisation. ‘Indology’ had emerged primarily in Germany during the latter half of the 19th Century, as scholars and especially philologists drew connections between the wider Indo-European family of peoples, and found the relationship of Sanskrit to German, English, Latin, etc. and analogies between Hinduism and Germanic Heathenism. As for Christianity, this was now considered an ‘Aryan’ religion, if not in origin at least in the manner by which it was remoulded to fit the pre-existing character of the Germanics. One of the most influential of the 19th century German scholars, Ernst Renan, wrote that, ‘Originally Jewish to the core, Christianity over time rid itself of nearly everything it took from the race, so that those who consider Christianity to be the Aryan religion are in many respects correct’.[57] Such ideas influenced the leading Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg.[58] However, Jung apparently did not embrace any such pan-Aryan notions, and insisted on a divide between East and West regardless of the racial components in the former. Whatever the primeval commonality between Indo-Aryans and Germanics, these had long since been subordinated to the distances that had emerged over millennia that had manifested in a differentiation of archetypes. From Jung’s perspective, it was as unsatisfactory for a Germanic to embrace Indic spirituality as it was for him to embrace the Jewishness of Christianity, as both were alien to the Germanic psyche. As previously alluded to, Jung was to later write of the ‘sundry natures of feeble instinct … affecting Indian philosophy and the like’,[59] when he warned of the negative character of being influenced by foreign archetypes. This is why Jung expressed hope in the work of the German Faith Movement, and evidently sought a purified Wotanism.

However the German Faith Movement never came close to the governing circles of the Reich, and sought unsuccessfully to gain some type of recognition as the ‘true religious expression of Nazism’.[60] What Hauer desired was the creation of a ‘Religious Working Group of the German Nation’ that would encompass the Christian churches along with his own movement, as distinct from their being rivalry between them.[61] Despite the popular literature attempting to link Nazism with paganism, there was little support among the Reich leadership for incorporating Wotanism despite the Heathen rites and allusions to Wotanism among the Hitler Youth, certain influences in the SS, and elsewhere. Although dismissive of the resurgence of a Wotanist religion, Hitler did however see the benefit of Wotanist elements in showing youth ‘the powerful working of divine creation’.[62] What Hitler desired from a pragmatic viewpoint was the union of the Christian denominations within a single Reich Church with himself as head of that Church,[63] in the same manner as the British monarch is recognised as head of the Anglican Church.[64] Hauer of the German Faith Movement sought dialogue with German Christianity, as indicated above, and regarded a German Christian as standing closer to his movement than a non-German pagan.[65] Jung hoped for a more clear-cut approach from the German Faith Movement, as the main body of Wotanism in Germany. He would see nothing good coming from the suggestion of blurring the contrast between Wotanism and ‘Aryan Christianity’, but would see it as a hindrance to the evocation to full consciousness of the Wotan archetype.

If we apply our admittedly peculiar point of view consistently, we are driven to conclude that Wotan must, in time, reveal not only the restless, violent, stormy side of his character, but, also, his ecstatic and mantic qualities – a very different aspect of his nature. If this conclusion is correct, National Socialism would not be the last word. Things must be concealed in the background which we cannot imagine at present, but we may expect them to appear in the course of the next few years or decades. Wotan’s reawakening is stepping into the past; the stream was dammed up and has broken into its old channel. But the Obstruction will not last forever; it is rather a reculer pour mieux sauter, and the water will overleap the obstacle. Then, at last, we shall know what Wotan is saying when he ‘murmurs with Mimir’s head’.[66]


Unleashing a force such as that represented by Wotan represented dangers that Jung clearly recognised. Like a dammed river, its unleashing had the potential to follow a course of ecstatic creative energy or destruction to the point of self-destruction. It has the potential to nourish or to drown. Jung’s pessimism in regard to the world situation increased, and he saw nothing good coming out of the post-war, technology-obsessed, hyper-rationalistic world. He was appalled by the rise of communism, but saw the West’s opposition to it as being ‘entirely bankrupt of countervailing ideas’. ‘Jung thought that the West was faced by four main problems in its deep structure: technology, materialism, lack of individuality and lack of integration. [67] Wotan had been both ineptly summoned by half-conscious acolytes and then beaten back by Yahweh, and nothing was resolved in favour of the West.


[1] Jung never repudiated his praise for Franco or Mussolini. F McLynn, Jung: A Biography (London: Black Swan, 1997), pp. 351-352.

[2] Martin Heidegger being another primary example. See: Hugo Ott, Martin Heidegger: A Political Life (London: Fontana Press, 1993).

[3] F McLynn, op. cit., pp. 228-229.

[4] C G Jung, ‘Wotan’, Neue Schweizer Rundschau, Zurich, March, 1936, No. 3.

[5] C G Jung, ‘Wotan’, Essays on Contemporary Events (London: Kegan Paul, 1947), Chapter 1.

[6] C G Jung to Miguel Serrano, Zurich, 14 September 1960; in M Serrano, Jung & Hesse: A Record of Two Friendships (New York: Schocken Books, 1968), p. 84.

[7] C G Jung to M Serrano, ibid., pp. 84-85.

[8] D Cox, Analytical Psychology: An Introduction to the Work of C G Jung (Suffolk: Hodder and Stoughton, 1973), pp. 59-60.

[9] D Cox, ibid., p. 61.

[10] D Cox, ibid., p. 62.

[11] D Cox, ibid., pp. 63-64.

[12] C G Jung to M Serrano, op. cit., p. 85.

[13]T Ravenscroft, The Spear of Destiny (Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1973), J H Brennan, The Occult Reich (New York: Signet, 1974), F King, Satan and Swastika (St Albans, Herts.: Granada, 1976), etc.

[14] J Toland, Adolf Hitler (New York: Doubleday & Co, 1976), p. 64.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] C G Jung, Collected Works (Princeton University Press, 1970), Volume 10, p. 185.

[18] C G Jung, Psychological Types (London: Kegan Paul, 1933), p. 55.

[19] C G Jung, Collected Works, ‘The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious’, (1959) Vol. 9, Part 1, p. 275.

[20] F McLynn, op. cit., p. 300.

[21] R Cavendish (ed.) Encyclopaedia of the Unexplained (London: Arkana, 1989), J Webb, ‘Carl Gustav Jung’, p. 129.

[22] C G Jung, Collected Works, Volume 10, op. cit., p. 237.

[23] C G Jung, ‘Wotan’, Essays on Contemporary Events, op. cit., Chapter 1.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Before its subversion and derailing by drugs and Leftist doctrines, hippie-ism was a self-reliance, back-to-the-land movement, that eschewed modernism and technology. In a recent Television documentary on the New Zealand hippies, entitled ‘Dirty Bloody Hippies’, one of the pioneers of this movement in New Zealand commented that the movement was destroyed by the introduction of drugs, with ‘Americans coming over giving away free LSD’. Interestingly, the use of LSD by the CIA and the recruiting of psychedelic guru Timothy Leary by CIA operative Cord Meyer, is now well known.

[26] G Kennedy and K Ryan, Hippie Roots & The Perennial Subculture (Ojai, California: Nivaria Press, 2004), p. 6.

[27] G Kennedy (editor) Children of the Sun: A Pictorial Anthology: From Germany to California 1883-1949 (Ojai, California: Nivaria Press, 1998), p. 7.

[28] G Kennedy and K Ryan, Hippie Roots, op. cit., p. 15.

[29] C G Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, (ed.) W McGuire & R F C Hull (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1977), pp. 126-128.

[30] P Bishop (ed.) Jung In Contexts (London: Routledge, 1999). See: http://www.scribd.com/doc/6919618/JUNG-IN-CONTEXT1

[31] C G Jung, ‘Wotan’, op. cit.

[32] C G Jung, ‘Wotan’, Ibid.

[33] F McLynn, op. cit., pp. 46, 241.

[34] C G Jung, ‘Wotan’, op. cit.

[35] F Nietzsche (1885) Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1975).

[36] K H Gundarsson, ‘The Folklore of the Wild Hunt & the Furious Host’, from a lecture delivered to the Cambridge Folklore Society at the house of Dr H R Ellis Davidson. Printed in Mountain Thunder, issue 7, Winter 1992.

[37] C J Jung, ‘Wotan’, op. cit.

[38] G Kennedy (ed.) Children of the Sun, op. cit., pp. 69-70.

[39] Houston Stewart Chamberlain, a Germanophilic Englishman, whose magnum opus, Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, was a seminal influence on both Wilhelmian Germany and National Socialist ideology. See: H S Chamberlain, Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (London: John Lane Co., 1911).

[40] C G Jung, ‘Wotan’, op. cit.

[41] An illustration of Lenin’s pyramid can be seen at: http://rst.gsfc.nasa.gov/Sect6/Sect6_12a.html (accessed on 10 July 2011).

[42] Note the analogy with the Purim celebration commemorating the hanging of Haman as the enemy of Israel, along with his sons. Esther 7:9-10, 9:25.

[43] J Bacque, Crimes and Mercies: The Fate of German Civilians Under Allied Occupation 1944-1950 (London: Little Brown & Co, 1997), passim.

[44] See: K R Bolton, ‘Odin and the Faustian Imperative’, herein. Wotan had also assumed the form of the ‘Aryan Christ’ and there was an unresolved dichotomy between Wotan and this Gothic Christianity within Hitler’s Germany that was not resolved, and was also alluded to in the ‘Wotan’ essay in regard to the German Faith Movement. Note also that Jung also mentions Wotan as being ‘seen, looking rather shamefaced, in the meeting-house of a sect of simple folk in North Germany, disguised as Christ sitting on a white horse’. In regard to the conflict between Wotan and the ‘Aryan Christ’ within National Socialist Germany see: R Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity 1919-1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), passim.

[45] Deuteronomy 2: 34, etc.

[46] C G Jung, ‘Wotan’, op. cit.

[47] One of Jung’s primary reasons for breaking with Sigmund Freud was that he considered Freud was projecting Jewish traits onto humanity without account for these differences. This of course brought accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ against Jung.

[48] C G Jung, Collected Works (New York: Pantheon Books, 1953), Vol. 7, p. 149, footnote 8.

[49] C G Jung, ‘Wotan,’, op. cit.

[50] C G Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (New York: Pantheon books, 1961), p. 348.

[51] C G Jung, ibid., pp. 235-236.

[52] K R Bolton, ‘Alexis Carrel: A Commemoration’, Counter-Currents, http://www.counter-currents.com/2010/11/alexis-carrel-a-commemoration-part-1/#more-6258

[53] A Carrel, Man the Unknown (Sydney: Angus and Robertson Ltd., 1937), Chapter 1: 3.

[54] A Carrel, ibid., Chapter 1: 4.

[55] C G Jung, ‘Wotan’, op. cit.

[56] C G Jung, ibid.

[57] R Steigmann-Gall, op. cit., p. 108

[58] Alfred Rosenberg sought to show early in his magnum opus (1930) that Jesus was from a region that had been established by ‘Nordic’ Amorites’, Galilee (p. 6). The problem with Christianity was the influence of Paul undertaking a consciously Jewish mission, whilst John represented the ‘aristocratic spirit’. (pp. 35-37). The Myth of the Twentieth Century (Torrance, California: The Noontide Press, 1982).

[59] C G Jung, Collected Works, 1953, op. cit.

[60] R Steigmann-Gall, op. cit., p. 110.

[61] R Steigmann-Gall, ibid.

[62] R Steigmann-Gall, ibid., p. 143.

[63] R Steigmann-Gall, ibid., pp. 188-189.

[64] R Steigmann-Gall, ibid., pp. 257-258.

[65] R Steigmann-Gall, ibid., p. 149.

[66] C G Jung, ‘Wotan’, op. cit.

[67] F McLynn, op. cit., p. 513.

Source: Woden: Thoughts and Perspectives, vol. 4, ed. Troy Southgate (London: Black Front Press, 2011).

samedi, 14 novembre 2015

Vanguardism: Hope for the Future


Hope for the Future

Editor’s Note:

The following text is the transcript by V. S. of Jonathan Bowden’s London Forum lecture in London on December 3, 2011. I want to thank Michèle Renouf and Jez Turner for making the recording available.   

This is a very difficult topic to speak about because it appears to be a depressing and pessimistic era where most of the storm and stress and most of the Zeitgeist, or spirit of the age, seems to be against us. There’s also a preponderance for people on the Right politically to have metaphysically conservative views, which means they’re often pessimistic; they’re often loyal to Spengler’s idea in the 1920s and 1930s that “optimism is a form of cowardice” and in relation to that sort of idea the notion that one should be optimistic about the future is difficult to sustain. But given that the past speech was rather sort of statistical and slightly morbid in tone, my job is not to put a reverse spin on it, but at least to attempt to generate some optimistic energy.

There are more of us than ever before, but it’s always a question of quality as against quantity in this life, because what I am going to propose is that instead of looking at demographic and quantity-based analyses, quantitative ways of looking at things, let’s look at qualitative ways of looking at things. Let’s look at quality. Let’s look at elitism. Let’s look at the fact that all groups need a vanguard.

I remember once a Times journalist asked me a very long time ago in relation to an event called the Le Pen Dinner, which is now 20 years old and more, he said, “What’s your view of all this stuff about revisionism?” This was in the hotel in Knightsbridge/Kensington where Le Pen and his guests were situated. He said, “What’s your view of all that?” He said, “Is it all true or, contrariwise, is it all false?” And I said, thinking of some famous murder trial of the time, I used the example of the Wests, Frederick and Rosemary now, but of course this particular discussion predated that. I said, “Well, that trial . . . Is everything that occurred in that court case all true or all false?” He said, “Well, hold on a minute! Some of it is bound to be true and some of it is bound to be false.” And I said, “Well, absolutely. That will go for revisionism as much as anything else.”

All that revisionism is, is the ultimate defense of a particular vanguard at a particular time who believe that they are fighting for Western civilization. All elites and vanguard minorities are is the radical consciousness of their own group. Just as people like Louis Farrakhan were mentioned earlier on, who is the leader of a sect called the Black Muslims, and just as they are in some respects totally unrepresentative of a lot of African-American opinion, they nevertheless represent an ultimate redoubt, an ultimate salient, or a bridgehead from which their population can go forth and from which it can gain energy and succor and that’s the way you have to look at these things.

People need ultimate resources. They need absolutists, and they need semi-fundamentalists who will stand up for them at least in a conceptual way. Even if they can’t stand up for themselves, don’t want to, or wouldn’t even know how to. The point of radicals, particularly radicals who deal with the politics of identity in any shape or form, is to provide that elite, is to provide that vanguard.

You all know the technology of a bullet. A bullet is very significant in the impact it can have on a wall or a piece of wood or per force the human body, but if a bullet is perforated in the top or has mercury injected into the top and is sealed in again it becomes a far more devastating weapon. It becomes what is known as a dum-dum bullet.

Now, if a vanguard is to have the effect of such retreated bullets so that conceptually and actually the energy and vigor of debate is transformed by the use of such a vanguard and its terminology, it has to be aware of where it’s coming from, what its tradition is, where it’s going to, and what it represents at a particular time. Just because most of the politics of this era seems to running well and truly against us does not mean that the situation is hopeless, because situations are never hopeless. Groups that have been done down or perceive that they’ve been done down by history have undergone worse traumas than we are undergoing at the present time.

The danger of the ideology of the victim, which I don’t really subscribe to except as a tactic on occasion, is that you begin to think like a victim, and you begin to act like a victim. Many of our people now are almost asking for a whipping, asking for a collective beating, asking to be forgiven for the past, asking to be forgiven for sins and crimes of the past which they never committed, which they’re hardly aware of, which can be reconstrued as episodes of heroic cruelty or glorious vanguardism that don’t even need to be apologized for in the past or in the present.


There’s a degree to which I personally think that the doctrine of vanguardism is the way out of the dilemma that we face. All Communist movements believe that the proletariat needed to be saved from itself. They believe that the masses were degraded by feudalism and by capitalism. They believe that only an elite or a vanguard party could raise the masses up to socialism as the inverse of the capitalism they wish to replace. All Communist movements that flourished in Western and other societies throughout most of the late 19th and 20th centuries based themselves upon the vanguard principle. These movements were tiny. Smaller than the number of people gathered in this room in central West London tonight by a long way.

I’ve got a book about literature on my desk at the moment. In order to tabulate historical reliefs for literary points, they give the listing of events for particular years and in one particular year – I’m not sure, it might be 1912 – it talks about the Bolshevik and Menshevik split. It might have been in that year; it might have been in another year. That split happened in London. It happened in a pub in London, and all Bolsheviki and Mensheviki means is “majority” and “minority.” There was a split between the two of them, and you can imagine them all with their beards and so on haranguing each other and debating about whether there should be an instantaneous rising in Russia or whether they should wait for the historical process to take its course, because Russia was not yet a capitalist society with a bourgeois class that could be overthrown and so on. The majority of Londoners even from the ethnic groups that a significant proportion of those Communists were drawn from would regard all that as idiocy and lunacy just as the bulk of White people today regard a significant amount of what we say as lunacy.

All people who have a vanguard, an elitist mentality, are regarded as partly mad by their own groups, because the majority of people do not want to know. The majority of people wish to live their own life in their own way, and they only look at these broader questions when life impinges upon them and comes upon them, and the hand of life grasps them by the collar and they really cannot do any other thing but notice what is in front of them.

Many of the reasons our people do not seem to have a sense of solidarity amongst themselves in relation to the degree that some other groups could be said to have is because a significant number of them have never been kicked, have never felt what it is as a group to be disprivileged in a society. Unfortunately, in certain areas of British and continental life now and North American life that process for some, and certainly not at the top or middle of the society, is beginning. They’re beginning to realize what it is like to be a minority or what it is like to be culturally disprivileged or what it is like to be dispossessed in a way.

That spirit will grow, but it will only feed into consciousness in a number of select minds, because the bulk of people are not drawn to be in a vanguard formulation. People will only listen to a vanguard when they are desperate. They will only listen to a vanguard when they think there is no other hope. They would love for many of the problems of contemporary Britain, many of which revolve around the processes of immigration, to be solved, but they would love to have nothing to do with it themselves and they would love if somebody came forward magically without trouble and without fuss to deal with it on their behalf. They want no unpleasantness and they want no nastiness, particularly in their own name. But at the same time if anybody does things of any sort that could be ascribed to that they would run away and hide initially, be privately pleased, condemn the people who did it, support the people who are against them, and yet at the same time have a secret smirk and smile on their face about the whole thing. And they would do all of that simultaneously and that’s what people are like and that’s what our own people are like up to a point and that’s the funk and the state of internal confusion and bemusement that our people are in because every time they turn on the box in the corner it says that everything is marvelous and it’s all for the best and that there’s no need to worry and that we’re all sleep-walking towards victory.

I read Nineteen Eighty-Four again recently. It’s been a good quarter of a century since I read that book, and it’s a remarkably prescient work in every sense. Of course, it’s a social democratic criticism of Stalinist authoritarianism, but in actual fact Orwell’s idea that everyone polices their thoughts before they speak, they even police the idea of their thoughts before they speak, is very germane to the present hour.

I was with a relative of mine many years ago and we were in a wood near Liverpool on our own and he looked behind him before he made a politically incorrect remark. Because he was worried! He was worried to be alone in a wood with someone else.

And if you remember, in the second section of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Julia and Winston have their rather tawdry affair, it has to be said in a way, against the party. Sex is rebellion against the puritanism of newspeak and all that. They go into the middle of a wood and they go into a middle of a clearing of saplings in order to get down to it and the reason that they do that is firstly, of course, it’s not in an urban area and therefore there are no telescreens. These televisions that can look both ways with the secret police and thought police behind them. And on the other hand, there are no microphones, because wherever there isn’t a telescreen you can never vouchsafe that there isn’t a microphone in that particular novel listening to you.

People are policed now by political correctness, which they adhere to and which they go along with and which they profess to love whilst at the same time hating and despising looking over their shoulder as they refute it and rebut it in the context of their own life. Because that is what the majority is always like. The majority is confused and inane and believes in the last thing that’s ever said to them. Of course, in all societies you have a hierarchy of knowledge and understanding. Probably about 40% of people are quite politically proficient, know what’s what, know to a certain degree, have a cynical regard for the system as it is, at least a compos mentis about the sort of culture and society we are living in. But a good 60% are not.

There’s a famous story about a Labour member of Parliament who went to a constituent’s door. He was Dennis Potter, the playwright that later emerged on the BBC, and he was a Labour candidate in his earlier vintage. He knocked on the door, and the woman and husband would come to the door, and the woman would say, “What are you going to do about immigration? As a Labour candidate, as our candidate, as the candidate who will speak the truth to us unlike the Tories . . .” Not understanding, of course, that Labour is a center Left party that believes in mass migration as a doctrine of law and morality and whose Nationality Act of 1948 began the modern day process of complete societal transformation because, as Attlee said at the time, “If the races of this world were mixed together there will be no more war,” and that is an ideology which many of the old Labourites believed in body and soul from the anti-colonial movement from which they came. But the bulk of Labour voters thought Labour stood for something very different from that. They thought Labour stood for them and for their family and for their extended family, and people who were like the people who lived on the posher estate down the way voted for another party. That’s what they thought.

But Potter had to answer this woman and her husband because they stood before him. He said, “Well, what do you mean? Labour is in favor of fairness for all.” A politician’s answer, of course, even on the doorstep. She said, “Oh, there’s too many, and they’re taking over the center of town, and I don’t feel safe anymore, and things have changed out of all recognition, and some of what that chap Enoch Powell says – I don’t like him, because he’s a Tory – but at the same time it’s got some truth to it.” All the time Potter was wanting to reply . . . He was wanting to reply that “you’re a bigot,” “I don’t want your vote,” “Even if you are prepared to give it to me under other circumstances where you said you repudiated what you’ve just said.” And all the time his agent was kicking him, was kicking the back of his heels saying, “Come on. There’s plenty of other doors. There’s plenty more to do, Dennis. There’s plenty to get the sort of red ribbon vote out. Let’s leave them to themselves. They’ll probably vote Labour anyway.” As indeed they will.

He kept kicking him and so on, and in the end Potter said, “Labour is for fairness for all, but of course we will listen to your concerns, Madame.” As he was turning away, the agent said, “And what will it be then?” to the husband, who had obviously not really gotten a word in beforehand. And the husband said, “Oh yeah, we’ll vote Labour as normal, because you listen to what we say.” And they’re not alone, because there are millions like that. Millions and millions like that. “Politicians will sort it out.” “Politicians left to themselves will do something to make sure that things won’t get as bad as they could be.”

The other thing you often hear about is death. People say, “It’s not going to happen while I’m around therefore I don’t need to bother about it.” I’ve had lots of people say to me, “Oh, it’s 40 to 50 years off. Who knows what will happen? I can’t do anything. You can’t do anything. So, what’s the point? In any case, I’ll be dead by then anyway or gaga or very elderly.” And so on. You hear that again and again, because of course what you have in modern Western societies is the extreme powerlessness of the individual. Apart from maybe in consumption and expenditure of cash, the average individual feels totally cut off from the external society. It’s what I call deep privatization.

Privatization in the 1980s and the 1990s meant the dispersal of public utilities and was a sort of Thatcherite and neo-liberal ideology, but privatization has actually gone much deeper than that. It’s the view that each is out for himself and society hardly exists beyond the confines of one’s own family, one’s own extended family, and people one happens to know. People feel not just sort of deracinated, but de-popularized and de-democratized, if there are such terms. People are, in an extraordinary sense, alone. Alone with the television, alone with the telescreen, which when they flip from channel to channel tells them all the time that everything is perfect and there are only nasty-minded people who will stir things up as vanguards and various forms of extremism.

Extremism, of course, is something always to be rejected, but I think extremism is necessary. I think it’s socially and mathematically necessary, because there has to be a logic to the logic of logic. There has to be something which takes the argument out to the furthest point on the circle. In maths, if you have a curve, you have a line that penetrates it at the furthest extent, and I believe that there has to be a logic that in the realms of sanity and in the realms of what’s possible bisects the line at the most radical point, and that’s what the people in this room are. That’s what vanguard forms of identity amount to. They are the most radical manifestation of the implicit sense of becoming and belonging and identitarian man and womanhood of the ordinary people in one’s own group, and you have to manifest that, and you have to represent it, and only by doing so can you have a certain effect, because you do have an effect by virtue of existing.

There are many other groups on this planet who always ask the question when anything happens, “Is it good for us?” “Is it good for us, or is it bad for the others?” But most people think actually, “Is it good for us?” Far more people, even of a vanguard or elitist temperament, are prone to say, “Is it good for us?” rather than “Is it bad for the others?” because, contrary to liberals who always think that positions of identity are based on the idea of doing others down, principles of identity are usually based on boosting or, to use an ugly contemporary phrase, bigging up one’s own group. People actually think more positively about themselves before they get into negativity about others, contrary to the view that politics of identity is all about negativity towards others and as long as you can suppress that through political correctness everyone can live happily in a multi-cult, multi-identity firmament or melting pot.

I think the point to make about vanguardism is whenever anything happens, people in other groups and people in other vanguards and liberal humanists in our own group, because as the previous speaker said quite truthfully, it is indigenous liberals who are our real enemy . . . Indigenous liberals are always the enemy. Liberalism within ourselves is always the enemy. It exists even in people who regard themselves as radical, to a certain extent.

We’ve had liberalism in an uninterrupted way for centuries. Russia has never known a liberal regime, and whether one likes it or not the politics of contemporary Russia have a lot to do with the fact that they’ve never known a period of liberalism. You could argue that since the restoration of the monarchy in the 1600s, we’ve known nothing but various forms of liberalism, most of which linked to various elements of the Protestant religion during that time. But until about the 1950s or 1960s most forms of Protestantism retained residual illiberal and patriotic ideas, as for a period they did in a very sectarian way in Northern Ireland.

So, all views have their liberal side. Even hardliners have their liberal side which they have to guard against by chipping away at them. Liberalism also feeds on indifference. Indifference to the future and indifference to the generations that are coming in the future.


But vanguardism is something different, because it lives for the virility of what might be in the future. Make no bones about it, what vanguard Caucasians think about their future is watched and is listened to by liberals and by all the other groups. So, the idea that what we do and what we say and what we think has no relevance or no purport is not true. What is true is the competition between groups is part of the stuff of life. Contemporary society is based upon the formulation that that is not the case, and because it is the case, nature will trump all of the liberal arguments. The problem is that if it doesn’t take a political form nature’s trumping of liberalism will be a very painful process to live through, a very painful process for ourselves, for everybody, and for all other persons in other groups. That is why we have to continue with putting forward percussively the politics of identity from our own standpoint.

Let’s take something in the news at the moment. There’s a large cranking up and there’s a building up of energy for an attack on Iran. At the moment, it appears to be small. It appears to be a cloud smaller than a man’s hand. The United Nations has reported that Iran is building a nuclear weapon. The United Nations has reported that their nuclear technology is of dual use, but all nuclear technology is of dual use. When we developed a nuclear weapon the Americans were staunchly opposed to us possessing it, because they wished to live in a unipolar world where only one power had that particular device. Of course, all other major nations were working on these devices. I believe 34 other countries are developing some sort of nuclear program at the present time, including Saudi Arabia, because they fear that Iran is doing so because they’re nearby.

But let’s look at it in another way. Is it in our interest that Iran is attacked? Is it in our interest that Iran is attacked? And the answer has to be that it is not in our interest, and it is not in our interest because they are not natural friends of ours, not natural enemies of ours. They exist in a different part of the world, though we exist in a post-imperial situation now. We do not wish to be dragged willy-nilly into yet further wars after Iraq and Afghanistan at America and Israel’s behest. As soon as one factors into the question vanguardism and group identity it becomes quite clear that The Times and The Economist and all of these neo-liberal and neo-conservative journals pushing for an attack upon Iran that is not in our interest, and other groups can figure what goes on in the world directly as whether it’s in their interests or not. In a confused way, our people aren’t bothered whether Iran’s attacked or not. Our people sit there watching the TV and think, “If the Israelis do it, well . . . I don’t know what I think really. Somebody down at the pub said it was a good idea. I’ve got no idea myself. Can they refuel their jets without American help? They’ll need American help. If the Americans asked us to help, will that drag us into it?” Most of our people would probably consider, “Is there a danger of backwash of Islamist radicalism against us because we’ve aligned against Muslim nations elsewhere on Earth?” which is not a stupid thing to think actually and is probably one of the more credible middle-ranging opinions that people as they sit in front of the television would come out with.

But if our people began to think more in terms of an identitarian prospect they would nevertheless come to the conclusion that it’s not in our interest to attack Iran, and that’s just one issue out of an enormous number that could be preconfigured. Is it in our interest to help bail out the Euro? Is it in our interest to engage in yet more wars with the United States of America? Is it in our interest to have American bases on our own soil? Is it in our own interest to endlessly have a cultural of Marxian deconstruction over all of our media in comparison to what pre-existed the relatively social conservatism of the 1950s?

If you slot in all of these ideas, which the mass of people are completely unconcerned about, and yet asked an identity-related question you come up with the answer that it is not in our interests.

Then you have to switch the questions around. Are there certain things which are in our interests rather than against our interests at a particular moment in time? Is it in our interest for a significant proportion of our media to be owned by foreigners? Probably not. Is it in our interest for a considerable part of our media to be owned by pornographers? Probably not. Is it in our interest for much of our banking and for much of our media to be totally international and to have no national specificity at all? Probably not. Is it in our interests that so many of our politicians are part of a jet-set international and humanist class that sees Britain as a puddle to their own self and corporate advancement? No, it’s not. As soon as you factor into all of these questions vanguard and elitist propositions on behalf of a group you come up with an interconnected series of answers about what’s in your interests and what’s not.


When Tony Blair went to war over Iraq, he said it was in our interest to hug America close and he was part of an ideology called “Hug Them Close.” This is the idea that you never allow, particularly if you’re a social democrat in a British context on the right of the Labour Party, any space at all between what you and what American foreign policy wants at any particular time even if privately you don’t agree with a lot of it. You still, in a gangster-like way, go along with it.

But is it in our interest to behave in that manner? When we tried to act independently in what may well have been a folly-laden enterprise which was the Suez operation in 1956, America slapped us down! Smacked us in the face and square in the chops! And we had no particular answer either. When a run on the pound was engineered by the United States in order to humiliate this country and show it the error of its ways in going for some unilateral action with the French and the Israelis but not at the behest of American power as it manifested at that particular moment, we were shown what was what. It’s interesting to note that amongst the extraordinary moralism that is part of contemporary culture where obscure Olympics are remembered and Manchester United’s victories in the ‘60s are remembered and various other events are churned over by the media, Suez is never dwelt on. Suez is never mentioned. Fifty years on from Suez receives this much attention, and the reason it does receive no attention is because it was a rank humiliation for the then ruling class in this country who learned some very salient post-war lessons, and that was that you heel to the United States like an aggressive bulldog and basically never venture to do anything without their recognizance.

Part of the multi-ethnic reconfiguration of these islands is American by proxy, because everything that happens there happens here with a slight time lapse because we have modeled ourselves upon their model of near-open borders and fiscal and capitalist movement of money all over the world whereby Communist China now controls large sections of the debt mountain that holds up the United States and where two systems that could be said to be at war with each other ideologically – ultra-capitalist America and post-Communist China – actually have each other in a handshake as well as around the throat because they now rely on each other to prop each other up in the chaotic world system that has now evolved.

The Euro is in desperate trouble, and the Chinese were asked last month to help bail the Euro out, and they refused. And quite rightly they refused, because it’s not in China’s interest to bail out the European economies unless they are reduced to an African level where they can buy country by country! As you know, China is buying up Africa. They basically say to the Black Africans in the sub-Sahara, “Unlike the Whites and unlike the Arabs, we have never oppressed you. Let us buy your country!” And they’re swarming Africa. Eventually there will be, and there are partly, Chinese cities in Africa. It’s not a stupid idea. They will begin running the bureaucracies, they will end up with their own demographic change, and with a smile on their face as they do it they will take that continent. There’s a new scramble for Africa, and it is not Europeans who are doing it. Our time over there, when South Africa went, is gone. The problem is not the dispossession of our colonial elites of the past, but the dispossession of our communities at home in the future and in the present.

But my view is that as long as there is a vanguard to put forward the proposition of an exclusiveness for ourselves, there will always be hope, and that is independent of political parties. Political parties come and go. I believe a new one will be reconfigured in the next 18 months to 2 years on the basis of all the splitting which has gone on at the present time. I believe that a new political party is the way forward, but our own people won’t vote for it. Not in sufficient numbers, because they’re afraid, and because they’re in a funk, and because they would like something to happen but are frightened of the consequences and think that even to mention these things isn’t nice. Only a vanguard can mention these sorts of issues, because only a vanguard is unafraid to deal with the thought of not being nice. These ideas afflict and paralyze our people to a degree which is quite extraordinary.

Probably, viewed systematically, more pressure has to be put for there to be more of a radical response. Such pressure is always possible. Economic collapse is always possible. New wars and disturbances are always possible. But one thing we may have to get used to is the idea that as a group and as an ethnicity we exist in Europe and North America and Australasia and also all over the world. There are plenty of other groups who see themselves as transnational groups, who see their destiny all over the world. They see their destiny in vanguard terms. They see their destiny as having a core group within their own selves that can come back from anything genetically and in other ways. Not only do they ask the question when it is asked of them, “Is it good for me or is it bad for me or my group?” They also are prepared to cleave to their own group in times of trouble.

Certain groups have preserved themselves 60-70% and more genetically since the ancient world and they have done so by a culture of coherence and identity which crosses national borders and which understands that if a group is to survive it may need to adopt some radical measures which involve rolling with the blows.

English and British people exist all over the world. We exist all over the world. All over Europe, all over North America, all over Australasia, in quite a few of the countries of Latin America, in most of the ex-colonies. English is the language of the world. It’s the lingua franca of modernity or post-modernity. We have given the world a great lot, and this is just to refract our own identity through the national consciousness of one particular people who are actually a part of it. So, I think that the worst thing that can be uttered at this time is despair, because there are more than enough of us to provide the vanguard which is necessary. The trick is to link the vanguard to the popular will and to find a way to link the vanguard to the popular will.

So far, organizationally, in the post-Second World War world there has been a failure to link the vanguard to the popular will and that has occurred in all the societies of Western and Central Europe and has occurred even in the post-Communist Eastern European societies where it did appear that such a thing was on the cards immediately after Communism collapsed. It’s also true to say that Communism inoculated these populations against the worst and the most noxious forms of liberalism.


The New Right writer, Tomislav Sunić, who lived under Communism and was imprisoned by it in Croatia with other members of his family, once said that “Communism rots the body, but liberalism rots the soul,” and there is a strong degree of truth to that remark, because liberalism attacks on the internal front, on the front of values and identity. It’s why the majority of our people refute their vanguardistic yearnings and callings.

Most people, particularly teenage boys, have a sort of yearning for vanguardism when they’re early in life, and then they forget it as they get older, and it becomes smeared and smudged over by various forms of liberal orthodoxy. They start either not voting or they vote for one of the prescribed parties: Conservative and Unionist, Liberal Democrat, and Labour. As long as you remain in that area you’re pretty safe in this country job-wise, career-wise, patrimonially-wise, in terms of reputation, in terms of bourgeois reputation in particular. If you step outside of those boundaries, and it’s quite a wide boundary . . . Liberals would say, “Look, we’ve given you as wide a space as almost anywhere in the world where you can cavort and make hay and make political pronouncements. Why do you need to go outside that? Why do you need to go out into these extremist and unheralded furrows and sort of support things which are counter-cultural and anti-system?” And the reason that one would choose to do so is because they are not in the interests of the group from which one originates. That’s the only reason that one would choose to do so.

The only reason for vanguardism is for the elite to protect the mass and seek to bring it forward in history, because the mass can never act for itself.

In Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which I mentioned at the end, Winston and Julia fail in their rebellion, feeble though it was, against the all-powerful party, and Orwell wants them to be seen to fail at the end of the novel. But hope lies in the proles, if you remember. Hope lies in the thick-set woman with the laundry basket who’s singing a song, “It was only a hopeless fancy.” Do you remember that? “It was only a hopeless fancy,” as she puts the diapers on the line she’s singing “it was only a hopeless fancy,” which is a prolefeed song given to them by the Ministry of Propaganda in that particular society.

My view is that the future always allies with the elite not with the mass. The future allies with those that will mold the mass and that will prepare for its energization when a moment comes. That’s why my message is one not of despair but of hope for the future, because as long as indigenous, nationally-conscious, ethnically aware, racially aware, inegalitarian, elitist, and other values and views are put forth in a coherent way, in a sane way, and in an educated way — because people expect views to be put forward in such a way — as long as that happens there is always hope for the future, because people will align in extremis with their own defense mechanism, and they will align with the people who have put forward the defensive barrister’s case, which can become offensive as well as defensive in a particular political and social moment.

My view is that as long as there is a continuous effort to put forward the elitist agenda of our own group in the sense that a proportion of people are prepared to place upon their own shoulders the burden of the moral leadership of their own group . . . That’s what the Black Muslims do. What the Black Muslims in the United States do is they put themselves forward in the most radical way possible. The bulk of American Blacks have no interest in Islam at all and are Christian and often deeply so and will only vote for Christian politicians. Yet their most radical vanguard group has adopted Islam, and they have done so because in their own way of looking at things they consider it to be a less White, a less Western formulation which is more in keeping with their own sense of their own self, their own strength, their own determinancy.

A similar phenomenon can be found among so-called White extremists where many evince pagan and other views, because they basically want a viewpoint which to their point of view is totally cardinal and it relates to themselves and to no one else. But that’s fine, because all those views do is sustain the strength of the vanguard. That’s why people adopt radical metaphysical views about which many people in this room would argue among themselves. But that’s not the point. They’re the fuel. They’re the food. They’re the element that keeps people staunch, because it’s difficult amongst the withering condescension of a liberal society to maintain an elitist identity politics. It’s not straightforward, it’s not easy, and therefore you need to draw upon certain strengths which are theoretical and which are metaphysical and which are emotional as much as anything else because one’s tie to one’s own group has an emotional pull just as one’s tie to a regiment if one’s a soldier has an emotional pull.

That emotional pull is extremely important. The theories are there for the upper part of consciousness and the upper part of the mind. They’re also to keep people subtle and to keep people clever and to keep people alert, because if there is such a crisis that our people feel they cannot survive they will turn to not us, but to people like us. They always have and they always will.

The crisis in our own hearts and minds is the addiction of our people to liberal answers whilst they remain in zones of economic comfort. That is the problem. Of course, there are all sorts of our people who are not in zones of economic comfort at all, but the problem is that many of them are so degraded by the consequences of life and exist day-to-day they have no concern with more general and with more theoretical and with sociological changes. They’re concerned with this luncheon voucher, this meal tomorrow, this is it to the NHS. They’re concerned with what is fundamentally before them at any particular time.

The people you always want in a society are the ones who have something to lose and the ones who are feeling that they are losing it. This enormous middle which extends from the middle of the middle class to the middle of the working class essentially, the heart of the society. Those are the people who have enough of a stake and they are frightened to lose it and at the moment they cleave to liberalism, because they feel that things are not irretrievably and atrociously so bad that they need to call upon elites or vanguards or forms of identity politics to save them. It’s our job to keep pushing the message that they need to turn to their more radical proponents in order to be saved. All that can really be done at this time is to continue to push that message. Organizations will come and go, but ideas remain if not eternal then semi-eternal, and all that we have to do is keep pushing the message of our own self-belief, of our own form of identity, of our own unique position in history, of our own unique cultural achievements, of the barriers that exist to our own advancement which are in ourselves. Although individuals could be harmed by other groups, the real cause of harm to ourselves is ourselves, our own queasiness, our own moderation, our own love of reasonableness, our own love of seeing the other man’s point of view.

All that political correctness is in some respects is a growing out of Protestant/liberal apologetics that we want to hear the other man’s point of view, that we don’t wish to be rude, that we don’t wish to be unfair, that we don’t wish to be insulting. And these things have been erected into a big engine, into a big destructive virus that can be used against us to such a degree now that people fear. People fear opening their own mouths. Everything can be said. Everything can be said. But it can only be said in an abstract and intellectual level, because if you say things at a more guttural or a more primal or a more unindividuated level, you will be arrested immediately under all of the acts which have been passed. If you put things at a high enough level, if you put things at the level of a university Right-wing seminar basically, no one can touch you. No one can touch you on Earth irrespective of all the laws that have been passed. The only exception would be some of the revisionist legislation in Europe in relation to particular statements and that applies just to certain European nation-states and not others. But broadly speaking, you cannot be touched. But this means you are speaking at an abstract level which only alienates you further from the masses, which is done deliberately for that effect.

But also remember everyone knows what you’re saying. Everyone knows what is being said, because things are digested at different levels and people absorb things sensually, intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, through the hands, through the heart, through the eye, through the fist. They sense it and hear it at different levels and everybody understands what is being said even if it’s implicit.

Ours is an implicit group. The English are, in part, shy and restrained and even slightly socially awkward. That’s why theater is so important in our history, because it gives an alternative space to be others and to be exuberant and to be passionate and to be bombastic and virile, things which are not seemingly part of the national characteristic as is. But everyone understands what is being said. Everyone understands what is happening in this society. Everyone understands the transformation that is being wrought, and everyone understands, or almost everyone understands, the choices that may have to be made in the future.

It’s quite clear that at the present time people are not going to vote for a vanguard party, and there isn’t one. But that doesn’t mean that a vanguard party shouldn’t exist. My view is that a vanguard party should exist and will have to be rebuilt for the moment when such a thing may occur, but the real point is the fact that such a vanguard exists.

Menachem Begin once said that all you needed was 200 men. For Zionism to be established in Palestine, all you needed was 200 men who are prepared to act selflessly in the national and ethnic cause and in a religious cause, although his movement was not an explicitly religious one. You don’t need many people. When the politics of mass and individual identity come up, you don’t need an enormous army of people. What you need is those who have the courage and the will to speak at a particular time and those who keep the mental continuity of that tradition going over time. Because everyone notices what we say even if it’s kept from the masses. Everyone notices what the politics of identity amounts to.


Periodically there’s always a program on the BBC about the far Right of some salacious sort. It’s always there. It needs to be there! It’s a compulsive need. Why does it need to be there? Because liberals need to scratch. They need to find their opposite half, they need to find their other side, their shadow, their darkness. They need to stare into the pit of darkness. That’s what they need! Their love with this sinister, other side that they project onto.

In Freudian psychoanalysis, there is the idea of projection. Now, let’s not get into whether that’s a true theory or not, but it’s an interesting idea that people who don’t like something about themselves project their own nastiness and their own fear and fervor onto others, and that is in some ways what liberals do with people who have, let’s call it, nationalistic opinions in Western societies. They are the product of a sort of secular demonization, aren’t they, really? Because the elite that speaks for their own group is treated as the secular equivalent of Satanism virtually, certainly by many forms of popular media. That’s not an untruthful or particularly biased statement. I think it’s just a factual one. Certainly at the level of propaganda it’s a factual one. At the level of academic reportage, it’s not and a more realistic view is taken. But at the level of tabloid media and general media, the demonization is very strong and the demonization has worked, which is why people will not vote in enormous numbers for parties of extraordinary reasonableness. All of the populist parties have fallen over themselves to be as moderate and as acclimatizing as possible in this era. They’ve given away almost 70% of the core ultra views that manifest in these particular views and yet still people will not vote for them in a majority way and that is because the demonization, along with the apathy and the intent of liberalism have all worked.

But demonization has a point of crescendo. The demonization builds and builds and builds until it gets so out of kilter with reality that people shrug it aside as if it’s of no importance and then it can be a form of virility and it can become a form of power and it can become a form of importance.

In Northern Ireland at the moment, the Catholic group is proud to vote for Sinn Féin. Almost everybody. The moderate nationalist party now — nationalist in the context of that society, don’t forget — is dying. The SDLP is an elderly party of trade union activists which is dying.

There is a degree to which we have to understand that in our politics all is open, and anything can happen, and the future is ours if we want it to be and that the point of the elitist view that I’m putting forward is that the absence of despair is always necessary for our way of thinking and our way of looking at things. I ask you not to despair. I ask you to look to the future and to the present and to the past. I ask you to remain in faith with vanguardistic and elitist views. I ask you to remain faithful to unpopular views at the present time because they will become majority views instantaneously at a particular moment if the society should ever break and turn our way. All that can be done is to sustain ideas. One man alone in a room with a computer, a typewriter as it was, can change the world. A few people alone in a room, if they cleave to an idea whose time has come, can still change the world.

There are more of us than ever before. Our people are probably dumbed down to an incredible degree, but more are capable of being better educated than ever before. We’re stronger and fitter than ever before.

In the Boer War, when the slums of England were opened two-thirds of those that came forward were rattled and riddled with rickets and disease and couldn’t fight and wouldn’t fight because they physically couldn’t fight. Churchill once said, “What’s the use of having an empire if you can’t flush your own toilet?” One of his rare radical social statements, and there’s a degree of truth in all of that.

So, I would ask the people in this room to understand they are part of a tradition of non-surrender, a tradition of ultimate resource, a tradition that says “never say die,” a tradition that is the epitome of military life but in another area theoretically and politically and actuarily. One can never take one’s identity from one. One exists for a purpose. Liberals believe life has no purpose, but life has a purpose, and life’s purpose is to go forward and confront that which is before you. What is before us is cultural dispossession unless we are prepared to do something about it. What we can do about it will depend on the circumstances, but what we can do is to remain loyal to our own sense of identity, to our own sense of becoming, to our own sense of what we may be in the future.

Most people are truly afraid. They’re afraid to open their own mouths in relation to any of these issues. We must not fear. We must understand that that degree of fear needs to be conquered in ourselves as it will be conquered in others.

Only when the time comes will we be looked to if we remain loyal to our vision of ourselves. We know who we are, we don’t know yet where we are going, but we will always exist and we must always maximize the maximum potential of our existence.

There’s a book on the side of this room called March of the Titans, which in its way hopes to adumbrate all that we have achieved. Our quadrant of mankind has achieved an enormous amount through elite individuals who replicate back onto the majority the success of their own group in architecture, in law, in art, in scholasticism, in morals, in economics, in military affairs, in technology elsewhere but also in political leadership, also in military courage, also in vanguardism and elitism.

The present political class has betrayed us, but that doesn’t mean that political classes can be done away with. It just means they need to be replaced with people who are better and stronger and more willful and more in tune with the internal vibrations and sense of solemnity of their own group.

I ask you to put your hands together for Britain, for Europe, for Indo-European civilization, for our nation of ourselves, and for an undying and unquenchable fire that can never be put out because it never knows what it is to be extinguished.

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vendredi, 13 novembre 2015

Jonathan Bowden: Gabriele d'Annunzio


Gabriele D’Annunzio

Editor’s Note:

The following text is the transcript by V. S. of Jonathan Bowden’s New Right lecture in London on January 21, 2012. I want to thank Michèle Renouf for making the recording available.   

Gabriele D’Annunzio had basically two careers, one of which was as a writer and literati and the other was as a politician and a national figure. If you look him up on Wikipedia there’s a strange incident which occurred in 1922 when D’Annunzio was pushed out of a window several floors up in a particular dwelling and was badly injured and semi-crippled for a while. Of course, this was during a crucial period in Italian politics because Mussolini emerged as leader of the country and was made prime minister after the March on Rome under a still monarchical system and absorbed and swallowed up all other Italian parties to form the Fascist state in Italy that lasted right until the end of the Second World War.

D’Annunzio as a figure was involved in the Romantic and Decadent movement in Italian literature. He wrote a large number of plays, quite a large number of operas, a large number of novels, and some short story collections. He was too controversial to ever be awarded something like the Nobel Prize, but at the beginning of Italy’s 20th century period he was one of the most popular people in Italy. Almost everyone had an opinion about him and almost everyone had heard of him.

His work combines various pagan, vitalist, and Nietzschean forces, and he was heavily influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche and his philosophy. Some of his works were banned on grounds of public morals both in translation abroad and in Italy per se. The Flame of Life was one of his more ecstatic and Byronic celebrations of life. The Triumph of Death was another of his works, and The Maidens of the Rocks was another one, and a poem called Halcyon which was part of an interconnected series of poems five in number. He was going to write a larger collection than this, but those were the ones that got done. Also, he celebrates the Renaissance period and the period of Italian greatness when Italian civilization became synonymous with Western civilization and indeed looked to put its stamp upon world civilization.

So, D’Annunzio brought together a wide number of strands which supervened in Italian politics and culture since the unification of Italy under Garibaldi in the 19th century. Like Germany, Italy was unified as a modern European nation-state quite late in the day, and a triumphant sense of national vanguardism, identity, and pressure and force was always part of D’Annunzio’s ideology.

Superficially, it seems strange that you have artists of extreme individuality like Maurice Barrès in France in the 1890s who wrote a book called The Cult of the Self (Le Culte du Moi) along Nietzschean and Stirnerite lines and professed a very extreme individuality who were also ardent nationalists. This is because this cult of the heroic individual and this cult of the masculinist and this cult of the superman and the cult of the pagan individual that D. H. Lawrence’s novels in English literature could be said to be part and parcel of at least at one degree went hand in glove with the belief in national renaissance and national glory. The great individual was seen as the prototype of the great man of the nation and was seen as a national leader in embryo whether or not the work took on any political coloration at all. So, what appears to be a collective doctrine and what appears to be an individualistic doctrine marry up and come together and cohere in various creative ways and this was part of the creative tension of the late 19th century.

D’Annunzio is a 19th-century figure who explodes into the 20th century by virtue of mechanized politics. Debts and the pursuit of various people to whom he owed money because of his extraordinarily lavish and aristocratic lifestyle led D’Annunzio to live in France at the time of the outbreak of the Great War, but he soon hurried back to Italy in order to demand his entry into the Great War on the Allied or Western or Tripartite side. Of course, in the Great War, Italy fought with the Western allies, with France, with Russia and Britain against Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman or Turkish Empire in the convulsive conflict which people who lived through it thought would be the war to end all wars.


D’Annunzio had an extraordinary war. He joined up when he was around 50 years of age and gravitated towards the more aristocratic arm of the three that were then available. It’s noticeable that the war in the air attracted a debonair, an individualistic, and an aristocratic penchant. Figures as diverse as Goering in the German air force and Moseley in the British air force and D’Annunzio in the Italian air force all fought a war that in its way had little to do with the extraordinarily mechanized armies that were fighting on the ground.

You had this strange differentiation between massive armies and fortifications of steel with tunnels turning the surface of the Earth like the surface of the moon down on the ground until tanks were developed that could cut through the sterile nature of the attrition of the front – a very static form of warfare from 1915 until the war’s end in 1918 – and yet above it you had this freedom of combat, this freedom in the air with biplanes which were stretched together from canvas and wood and wire and were extraordinarily flimsy by modern standards, without parachutes for the most part, and where the men used to often fire guns and pistols at each other before machine guns were actually fixed to the wings so they can actually fly on each other in flight.

There was a cult of chivalry on all sides in the air which really didn’t superintend on the massive forces that were arrayed against each other on the ground, and this enabled a spiritual dimension to the war in the air that was commented upon by many of the men who fought at that level. This in turn reflected the sort of joie de vivre and the belief in danger and force that aligned D’Annunzio with the futurist movement of Marinetti and with many anti-bourgeois currents in cultural and aesthetic life at the time.

As the 19th century drew to a close there came a large range of thinkers and writers such as Maurice Barrès in France, such as D’Annunzio and Marinetti in Italy who were appalled by the sterility of late 19th-century life and yearned for the conflicts which would engulf Europe and the world in the next century. You have a situation where each era – such as the one we’re in in the moment – precedes what is coming with all sorts of conflicted and heterogeneous ideologies which only become clear once you’ve actually lived through the subsequent period. Between about 1880 and 1910 an enormous ferment of opinion with men as voluble as Stalin and Hitler being in café society parts of Europe planning what was to come or what they might be alleged to be part of at certain distant times. Men often dismissed as cranks and dreamers and wayfaring utopians on the margins of things who were destined later on to leap to the center of European culture and expectancy.

There’s a great story that the French writer Jean Cocteau says about Lenin. He met the man at a party in a house in France in 1910, and the man was sitting in the house. In other words, he was looking after it while someone was away. And Cocteau said to his friends, “And who are you?” and the man said, rather portentously, “Men call me Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. I am known as Lenin. I am plotting the destruction of the Russian Czarist regime, and I am going to wipe out the entire ruling class in Russia and install a proletarian dictatorship.” Straight out without any intermission! And they all said, “Well, that’s very interesting! One applauds you, monsieur!” He said, “What are you doing at the moment?” And he said, “I edit a small journal called Iskra, The Spark, which is the beginning of the ferment of the revolutionary energies which are coming to Russia and eventually the world!” And they thought, “Well, this is interesting!” You know. How many subscribers had Iskra had at that moment? 400? 40? 4? And yet, of course, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov would emerge from the chaos of post-revolutionary Russia, as Russia struggled from its defeat by the Germans in the First World War, to become the leader of the world’s first and most toxic revolutionary state. Nothing is predictable in this life.

When the German high command sealed the Bolshevik leadership, including Vladimir Ilyich, in a train and sent it through their occupied territories into Greater Russia in the hope that it would just create more chaos and foment more distress, they had no idea that this tiny, little faction would seize maybe 11-12% of parliamentary votes and would then take over a weakened state with a small paramilitary force. Because the Bolshevik Revolution was in no sense a social revolution as its proselytizers claimed for upwards of half a century afterwards. It was an armed coup by the armed wing of a tiny political party.

There’s a famous story that Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin all slept in one room with newspaper on the floor the day after the revolution, and Lenin said, “Comrades! A very important thing has happened! We have been in power for one day!” And the amount of Russia that they controlled, of course, was extraordinarily small.


So, one has to realize that this ferment of ideas, Right, Left, and center, religious, aesthetic, and otherwise, occurred between 1880 and the beginning of the period that led up to the Great War and out of which most of the modern ideologies of the first half to first three quarters of the 20th century emerged.

D’Annunzio largely created Italian Fascism. Nearly everything that came out of the movement led by Mussolini at a later date originated with him and his ideas. The idea of the man alone, set above the people who is yet one of them, the idea of a squad of Arditi, people who are passionate and fanatical and frenzied with a stiff-arm Roman salute who are dressed in black and who are an audience for the leader, as well as security for the leader, as well as a prop to make sure particularly the masses and crowd when they are listening to the leader go along with what the leader is saying, as well as a sort of nationalist chorus . . . All of these ideas come from D’Annunzio and his period of forced occupation and Italianization of the port of Fiume.

So, there’s a degree to which this possible assassination attempt against D’Annunzio in 1922 which puts him out of commission for a certain period was in its way emblematic of the fact that he was a key player in Italian politics. He was the only rival for the leadership of what became known as the extreme Right with Mussolini. Certain Fascists at times looked to D’Annunzio when the fortunes of their own movement dipped.

It’s noticeable that during the occupation of Fiume, which we’ll come onto a bit later in this talk, D’Annunzio thought that there should be a march on Rome and rushed to align himself with the Fascists and other forces of renewal and nationalistic frenzy in Italian life after Italy’s victory as part of the winning side during the Great War. That march never happened, but of course was to happen later when Mussolini and other leaders had engaged in deals with the existing Italian establishment. The Mussolinian march on power was a coup with the favor of the state it was taking over rather than a coup against the nature of the state which was hostile to what was coming. So, in a way, the Italian march was leaning on a door that was already open and only forces like Italian Communism and so on, which are outside the circle of the state and its reference to political resources, opposed what the Mussolinians then did.

There is this view that Mussolini and the Fascist movement regularized and slightly de-romanticized the heroic conspectus of what D’Annunzio stood for. D’Annunzio was an artist and when Fiume, which is part of Croatia, was taken over by his militia between 1,000 and 3,000 strong in the early 1920s, because it had an Italian majority and he wished to secure it for Italy in relation to the post-Great War dispensation, he made music the foundation-stone of the City-State of Fiume. There’s a degree to which this is part of the extreme rhetoricism and aestheticism that D’Annunzio was into. This is not practical politics to make music your cardinal state virtue and to create idealized state assemblies with a minimum of chatter, because D’Annunzio believed not in parliamentary democracy but in a form of civics whereby each participant of the nation was represented. That’s why in Fiume he begins the prospect of a corporate state, and he begins an assembly or a vouchsafe body for farmers, for workers, for employers, for the clergy, for industrialists, and so on in a manner that Mussolini would later take over because most of what the Mussolinians did was actually pre-ordained for them by D’Annunzio’s moral and aesthetic coup d’état.

D’Annunzio believed that life should be brief and hectic and as heroic as possible and that the Italians should be based upon the principles of the ancient Roman Empire and of the Renaissance. In other words, he quested through the Italian period of phases of thousands of years of culture for the highest possible spots upon which to base Italy in the 20th century. At his funeral which occurred in 1938, Mussolini declared that Italy will indeed rise to the heights of which he wished and D’Annunzio always wanted Italy to be on the winning side and to be a major player in international and European events.

The truth of the matter, of course, is that Italy for most of its 20th-century existence has not been a minor player, but has not been amongst the major players, has been amongst the second-tier powers of Europe in all reality, and there’s a degree to which many Italian military adventures which were initiated by Mussolini fell back on German tutelage and support when they run into difficulties, although those imperial adventures in Ethiopia and elsewhere were supported by D’Annunzio, who became very close to the regime when he realized that they wished to set up a neo-Italian empire along Romanist lines.

D’Annunzio also supported Mussolini leaving the League of Nations, and he believed oppressed Italians who lived outside of Italy proper should be included, in an irredentist way, in Italy proper. Irredentism is the idea that if you have people of your own nationality who live outside the area of the nation-state you should incorporate them in one way or another, by conquering intermediate territory or by agglomerating them back into a larger federation. This is the idea of having a greater country: Britain and the Greater Britain, Italy and the Greater Italy, Russia and the Greater Russia, and so forth.

There’s a degree to which D’Annunzio aligned himself with the forces of conceptual modernism without being a modernist himself. In a literary and linguist way, he was very much a Romantic of the 19th-century vogue, but his sensibility was extraordinarily modern.

In contemporary Italian literature, there is no easy and defined position about D’Annunzio. One would have thought that a man who died in 1938 and his political career was over by 1922 to all effects would be historical now. D’Annunzio is still a live topic in Italy and is still controversial not least because of the sort of Byronic “sexism” of his novels, poetry, and plays, a screen play in one case and librettos for various operas. Also the fact that he’s such a precursor of Italian Fascism to the degree that he is regarded as the first Duce, the first leader, the first fascistic leader of any prominence that Italy had before Mussolini that his reputation is still extremely divisive in Italian letters. Most of the center and Left when D’Annunzio’s name is mentioned in Italy today still go, “Ahhhh nooo!” If you can imagine a sort of fascistic D. H. Lawrence who later had Moseley’s career up to a point, that’s the nearest you get to a British example of a man like D’Annunzio. Lawrence, of course, would have a completely different reputation had he endorsed the politics of Nazi Germany in the way that he sort of endorsed, slightly, the politics of fascistic Italy. In some ways, Lawrence, who was sort of made into a cult by the Cambridge literary criticism of F. R. Leavis in Britain and I. A. Richards in the United States post-Second World War, would never have preceded to those heights had he endorsed certain political causes of the ’30s and ’40s. So, in a sense, his early death was fortuitous in terms of his post-war reputation.

Robinson Jeffers, the American poet and fellow pagan with whom Lawrence communicated during his life quite manfully, fell into desuetude after the Second World War for, not advocating pro-Axis sympathy as a neutralist America, but by advocating isolationism. Isolationism is, of course, an ultra-nationalist position in American life. The belief that America should not involve itself in the teeming wars of the 20th century, what Harry Elmer Barnes calls perpetual war for perpetual peace, but that America should retreat to its own borders and not concern itself with events outside America, occasionally looking outside to the Caribbean and Latin America. But Lawrence would have gone the same way as Jeffers had he had a career like D’Annunzio and had he endorsed some of the positions that D’Annunzio did.

D’Annunzio’s position on Fascism outside of Italy was more contradictory because he was a nationalist first and last and ultimately it was Italy’s destiny that concerned him not that of other countries. He was in favor of leaving the United Nations, but rather like Charles Maurras in France he was a nationalist in some ways more than a Fascist and his nationalism was proto-fascistic even though he provided much of the aesthetic coloring for what later came in the Italian political dictatorship.

dannarticle_inset_galassi-1.jpgD’Annunzio was a man of great individual courage — it has to be said — and combined the ferocity of the warrior and the sensibility of the artist. One of his most famous individual coups was this 700-mile round trip in an airplane to drop pamphlets of a sort of pro-Western/pro-Italian type on Vienna, which is still remembered to this day. Another of his feats was attacking various German boats with small little motor-powered launchers, something that prefigures a lot of modern warfare where great, large hulking liners and aircraft carriers can be disabled by small boats that speed around them. The principle of guerrilla type or asymmetric warfare whereby much larger entities can be hamstrung by their smaller, Lilliputian equivalents or rivals. Again, this sort of special forces warfare in a way, whether in the air or on the sea, was part and parcel of D’Annunzio’s aesthetic and ethic of life.

It’s noticeable that in modern warfare the notion of individualistic courage never goes away, but war is so much reduced to the big battalions, so much reduced to raw firepower, and so much reduced to the expenditure of force between massive units that are industrially arranged against each other that individual combat often becomes slightly meaningless. But it gravitates to certain areas: the sniper, the elite boatman or frogman, the elite warrior in the air becomes the equivalent of the lone warrior loyal to sort of ideologies of warriorship in previous civilizations and you can see this in the way that these men think about themselves and think about their own missions.

In a previous talk to a gathering such as this, I spoke about Yukio Mishima and the ideology of the samurai based upon the cult of bushidō in Japan. This is the idea of almost an aesthetic martial elitism who sees itself both in artistic and religious terms and yet is also a morality for killing. All of these things are provided for in one package. A man like D’Annunzio did incarnate many of these values in a purely Western and Southern European sense.

D’Annunzio’s war record was such that he won most of the medals, including the gold medal, the equivalent to the Victoria Cross, and he won silver crosses which are a slightly lesser medal and a bronze cross. He was also awarded other medals including a British military cross, because of course he was fighting on the British and Allied side in the First World War.

One of his points that was made by Mussolini and other Italian nationalists was that Italy did not get from the First World War the post-war dispensation which they expected. This is true of almost everybody essentially, but it’s certainly true that Italy was thrust back into the pack of secondary powers by the major victors in the First World War: Britain, the United States, and France. Their role in the post-war peace, which of course was a highly torturous and afflictive peace upon the defeated Germany, was to have major repercussions on the decades that followed. That peace had little to do with what Italy wanted. One of the reasons for the occupation of what later became part of Yugoslavia by paramilitary Italian arms led by D’Annunzio was his dissatisfaction with Italy’s role at the table after the Great War.

His belief in “One Italy” and “Italy Forever” and “where an Italian felt injustice, Italy must be there to protect them,” this belief that caused thousands of men to rise up and come to D’Annunzio’s banner . . . When he began this assault on Fiume he had about 300 men with him. By the time it was over he had about 3,000.

On the internet you can see in 1921 enormous crowds within the city, almost everyone in the city is there cheering on D’Annunzio, who engaged in this increasing rhetoric from the balcony. Indeed, the Mussolinian stage scene whereby the dictator figure, or dictator manqué in this case, addresses the masses who look up to a balcony is all constructed and lit up by stage lights and that sort of thing is all part and parcel of D’Annunzionian theater. D’Annunzio would always ask the crowd rhetorical questions: “Do you love Italy?” And there’s this response, “Yes!” And then there will be another response from D’Annunzio and then another response. If somebody gives a contrary sort of response in the crowd, because these are enormous mass meetings which are difficult to control, he has squads of men dressed in black positioned in the crowd who can sort various malefactors out. This combination of support with a degree of psychological bullying is all part of the festival of nationalistic spirit that somebody like D’Annunzio believes in building almost as a theatrical event where you let the crowd down over time by stoking them up into more and more responses and you allow moments where the crowd just bellows and howls in response until they are replete and exhausted and the man strides back to the edge of the balcony to begin a speech. All of these are things that Mussolini would later develop. So, D’Annunzio in a sense provides a theatrical package for what becomes Italian and Southern European radical nationalism at a later time.

He didn’t live to see the full extent of Italian Fascism, but he had to be kept sweet by the Mussolinian government. Mussolini was once asked by a fellow Fascist leader in Italy what he thought of D’Annunzio and why he behaved in relation to him in the way that he did and he said, “When you have a rotten tooth there are two solutions. You either pull it out violently or you pack it with gold, and I have decided on the secondary option with D’Annunzio.” So, D’Annunzio was given a large amount of money by the Italian state to swear off political involvement after 1922, something that makes the possible assassination of him, attempted assassination, in 1922 rather interesting and mysterious. No one knows whether that was an attempted assassination or not. It’s quite obscure in the historical literature, but it certainly put D’Annunzio back and it put him out of commission for the entire period that the Mussolinians marched to power quite literally.

Later on, he would awarded the leadership of the equivalent of the Society of Arts; he would be awarded a state bursary which paid for a collected edition of his works that was printed and published by the Italian state itself and was available in all libraries and schools and universities; he was awarded numerous medals and forms of honor; his house was turned into a museum which still exists and is one of the major tourist sites in contemporary Italy where planes that he flew in the Great War are restored and can be looked at, boats which he used in the Great War are restored and can be looked at, as well as a library, a military research institute, and all sorts of photographs from the period. There is a large mausoleum to him, which is a contemporary Italian monument of significance. He’s compared in some ways to Garibaldi, the figure in the 19th century with his Redshirt movement that helped unite Italy as a warring, patchwork quilt of a nationality into one overall nation-state along modern lines.

D’Annunzio is one of these synthetic and syncretic figures who combine in themselves several different lives: lover, soldier, aesthete, political warrior, writer, artist. He combined four or five lives in one particular lifespan and brought together all sorts of confluences in the Italian politics of his day.

When he was elected to the senate as an independently-minded conservative at the end of the 19th century, he had no real sectarian politics at all except a belief in conservatism and revolution as he described it. He later moved across the parliament floor to join the Left in a particular vote that broke a deadlock in Italian politics of the time and was regarded as the creation of a new synthesis where part of the Right joined the Left and then split off again to form a different part of the Right or could at least be said to be a precursor of those same developments.

Mussolini, of course, was sat with the socialists and was a socialist deputy and was part of the bloc that favored nationalists rather than international solutions as part of Italian socialism. This is why during the First World War or the run-up to it the Axis within Italy which favored Italy’s involvement in the war against strong pacifists and internationalist currents that wanted to keep Italy out of the European conflagration lost out and one of the key proponents were the Futurists, D’Annunzians, and proto-Fascists from the bosom of the Italian Socialist Party, who combined a degree of nationalism with quite straight-forward Italian social democracy of the period.

D’Annunzio married and had, I think, three children, but was well known for a very torrid love life consisting of a great string of mistresses. He had dalliances with two extraordinarily notorious Italian actresses, both of whom he wrote plays for and operettas. He was well regarded as a sort of bon viveur and a figure about whom myths constellate. Even to this day D’Annunzio is regarded as a cad and egotist and a scoundrel in many circles because that is how he presented himself and the male ego in his literary works.

How original D’Annunzio was is difficult to quantify. His philosophical debt is to Nietzsche, his literary debt is to the Italian literary tradition which essentially goes back to the Renaissance. His great use of style – he was one of the greatest stylists of the modern Italian language – has made sure that his books are in print to this day, but he still remains a controversial figure because of the politics with which he was associated.

How far and aesthetically motivated his desire for dictatorship could work in practice and would not implode because of impracticality is a moot point, but D’Annunzio certainly gave a brio to early Italian experimental and Right-wing politics. He gave a poetic license to authoritarianism which helped make Southern European Fascism extraordinarily culturally interesting long into the Mussolinian regime. It is interesting to notice how many intellectuals and artists aligned with the movement in Italy and made peace with its government.

Also, the use of oppression, which is very light-handed in Italy was part and parcel of this doctrine of brio and of ubiquitousness and the use of style. In some ways it was a very style-conscious regime, an exercise in theater. Many of the post-war historians of Fascist Italy talk about it as being a sort of theatrical society with Mussolini as almost a political actor in some respects. This is very much in the D’Annunzionian tradition which he laid down at Fiume.


Fiume. They conquered this city which is part of Croatia but had an Italian majority at that time. The Italian governor refused to fire on D’Annunzio and his paramilitaries when they entered the city. They took it over and created a sort of corporate state within the state, heralding its creation as a city-state. They said it left the League of Nations, which they refused to recognize because Italians were being exploited by the remit of the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations. They created this sort of aesthetic, fascistic junta that was part theater, part hyper-reality, and part just a governing civic administration with a military arm. Gradually, the forces of reaction, as D’Annunzio would have called them, attempted to call Fiume to account. The Allies chafed against its continued existence as an independent military satellite and city-state. Italian nationalists and others may have flocked to it, including Leftists like anarchists and syndicalists who admired D’Annunzio’s brio and sort of cult of machismo and Italian irregular adventurism which has a medieval tradition, certainly an antique Italian tradition with many admirers from across the spectrum. Yet in the end the Italian state was forced to take action and fired on Fiume, and Italian naval vessels shelled the city. There was a declaration of war, somewhat absurdly, against Italy by D’Annunzio where 3,000 men took on a nation-state that could put tens of thousands of men in boats and planes into play.

Eventually, of course, when the shelling became too bad he said that he could not allow the aesthetic construction of the city to be damaged and so he handed it over to prior Italian power and an international settlement, which involved Yugoslav control eventually coming in.

But Fiume represented a direct incursion of fantasy into political life because there is a degree to which D’Annunzio combined elements of performance art in his political vocabulary. There’s no doubt that he thought of politics as a form of theater, particularly for the masses, and this is because he was an elitist, because as an elitist he partly despised the masses except as the voluntarist agents of national consciousness. He theatricalized politics in order to give them entertainment without allowing them any particular say in what should be done. This idea of politics as performance art with the masses onstage but as an audience, an audience that responded and yet was not in charge, because there’s nothing democratic about D’Annunzio from his individualistic egotism as an artist all the way through to his sort of quasi-dictatorship of Fiume. He represented a particularly pure synthesis and the violence that was used and so on was largely rhetorical, largely staged, largely a performance, partly a sort of theater piece.

In post-modernism, there’s this idea that artists crash cars, burn buildings, and exhibit what they’ve done in gallery spaces and that sort of thing as an attempt at an incursion of reality into the artistic space. D’Annunzio did it the other way around. There was an incursion not of reality into the artistic space, but of artistry into the political space and he went seamlessly from writing these novels of male chauvinism and excess and erotic predatoriness and Italianate brio to running a city-state almost without running any sort of marked gap between the two moments. In the chaotic situation of post-Great War Italy and its environs, he found a template upon which his dreams – his critics would say his bombastic dreams – could be lived out and there is a sort of dreamer of the day to D’Annunzio, but he was also quite hard-headed and practical and most of his political exercises in chauvinism came off unlike many dreams that remain in the scrap-heap of political alternative.

So, in a sense, D’Annunzio’s greatest novel was the creation of what became the Italian Fascist state, which until it was defeated externally and internally was one of the most stable societies modern Europe has seen.

This belief in a nation’s ability to renew itself by bringing various tendencies that are abroad within it together and synthesizing them through the will of one man who must be a visionary of one sort or another is part and parcel of D’Annunzio’s legacy. It’s why he can’t just settle down and be an artist. It’s why, indeed, his post-war Italian reputation is so mixed, because he can’t be divorced from the politician and the statesman that he indeed was.

It’s interesting to think how the world would have developed if European nationalities would have increasingly fallen under the sway of these cross-bred artistic, hybridized figures. Nearly all far Right, and some far Left, leaders have these sorts of characteristics: extreme individuality, colorful backgrounds in the past, a sort of anti-bourgeois sentiment, a refusal to live a conventional life completely, the belief in new forms, and the construction of new forms of modernity almost in a haphazard and experimental way. These people only get their chance during war, economic breakdown, chaos, and revolutionary change when everything comes up for grabs and there is a new dispensation abroad. But it is noticeable that these people do get their chance when these events occur.

It’s also noticeable that the post-war period, very much in Western Europe at any rate, is dominated by two factors. One is the Cold War, which congeals the continent into two rival blocs under partial American domination in the Western sector and direct Soviet domination, of course, of the Eastern bloc, but the second is a fear of contamination through change which is underpinned by the desire to keep market economies functioning at a tolerable level of sufficiency. It’s quite obvious that there is a terror abroad in the Western liberal landscape about what would occur if there is an economic collapse. Not just a slow-down, not just a depression or recession or series of recessions that ends in a Japanese-like depression which can go on for 20 years where you don’t grow at all, zero growth, but something much more devastating than that. An actual crack and crash in the system itself. Because with mass democracy there is no knowing what sorts of demagogues and what sorts of visionaries people might start voting for in small or larger numbers when such a crash occurs and when they literally can’t pay their bills and so D’Annunzio came out of an era of chronic instability and fashioned that instability to his own liking and making, because Fiume was the prototype for a state.

Indeed, in ancient Southern Europe, the city-state was the forerunner of the nation-state. He was attempting to do with an Athens or a Sparta of his own imagination and will and intellect what later became Mussolinian Italy on a nation-wide scale and if Italy had succeeded in carving out an empire for itself in North Africa and further afield in modernity it would have been the basis for an Italian empire because the nature of these things is to expand. That kind of power always chafes against the possibility of restriction and unless it comes up against a greater external force it will always chafe against it in an attempt to push it back and gain greater suzerainty thereby. That’s inevitable. Even under mercantilist pressure, the British Empire adopted that sort of course for many centuries until, if you like, the stabilization of the 20th century and the loss of empire in mid-century.

So, what we’ll see if there are enormous economic crashes in the near to distant future the sort of politics that D’Annunzio represented come back. No one knows what form it will take because things never repeat themselves. They only seem to, because the syntheses that are created are always new and always original. But this crossover between theater, literature, lived demagoguery, the martial and martinet spirit and the spirit of the lone adventurer, the spirit of the marauder, the spirit of the armed troubadour is very much a part and parcel of what D’Annunzio stood for. His present notoriety in contemporary Italy is because he is a man of so many parts and such a threatening overall presence – threatening in the sense that Italian Fascism, although much more integrated into the historical story than fascisms elsewhere, is still very much a devilish shadow cast over the post-Italian polity that all are aware of and yet few dare to speak of with any courage or glory.

D’Annunzio believed that courage and glory and heroic belief in national affirmation were the very principles of life. His example, so out of kilter with contemporary reality, is interesting and refreshing. D’Annunzio is like a sort of Julius Caesar crossed with Jack London. There’s a strange amalgam of tendencies living out of one man and it is remarkable that he could bring that union or fusion with such panache and charisma. Probably it was the military career that he had during the Great War that enabled him to step out of the literary study and into the statesman’s counting house, onto the statesman’s balcony. Without that experience in the Great War I doubt he would have had the following to achieve that. But D’Annunzio represents this strange amalgam in European man of the restless adventurer and the poet, of the dreamer and the activist, of the stoic and the fanatic.

The city-state that he created at Fiume provided for religious toleration and atheism, because of course as a Nietzschean D’Annunzio was an atheist and was not religiously motivated even though the paganism of his literature harks back to the neo-pagans of the Renaissance and to the Roman Empire of antiquity.

The real source of origin for D’Annunzio’s moral equipment has to be ancient Rome and as I look about me in this society there are an enormous number of novels, aren’t there, devoted to ancient Rome? Quite populist, mainstream fare. And it’s quite clear that there is a fascination with Europe’s past and with its authoritarian, bellicose, adventurist, and escapist past and possibly through the mirror image of intermediaries like D’Annunzio there may be a link to a new and more invigorating Europe of adventure and of skill and of destiny and of the will of the desperado and of the man who will never take no for an answer and of the man who would chant these slogans that Achilles uses in Homeric epics to the crowd and hear the Arditi chant them back again and that these are echoes which you can still hear and are still not entirely dormant in Europe at the present time as the Balkan Wars of the 1990s proved in their bloody way. There’s a degree to which these prior giants of Europe are sleeping but are not at rest and there is always the fear in contemporary liberal establishments that these figures and the forces that they represented will be catalyzed yet again in the future by new visionaries and by new leaders and by new literati and by new sources of inspiration who combine the individual and the collective, combine the national and the quietude of the man alone and combine the Renaissance and the ancient world in a new pedigree of what it means to be a man, what it means to be an European and what it means to have a destiny in the modern world.

D’Annunzio preconfigured much of European history until at least the late 1940s, which bearing in mind that he was born towards the middle of the 19th century was quite an achievement. It is not to say that figures who are alive now are not in themselves creating the synthesis for forces that will emerge in the next 50 years.

Thank you very much!

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

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/11/gabriele-dannunzio-3/

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jeudi, 15 octobre 2015

Jonathan Bowden Interview with Tom Sunic (Voice of Reason Radio)


Jonathan Bowden

Interview with Tom Sunic

(Voice of Reason Radio)

lundi, 12 octobre 2015

Charles Maurras & Action Franҫaise


Charles Maurras & Action Franҫaise

The following text is the transcript by V. S. of Jonathan Bowden’s last lecture, delivered at The London Forum on March 24, 2012. The original title was “Charles Maurras, Action Franҫaise, and the Cagoule,” but since he does not mention the Cagoule, I dropped it from the online version. I want to thank V. S. for transcribing a largely unlistenable audio track, and Michèle Renouf and Jez Turner for making the recording available. 

French Action was largely a newspaper, but it extended out into a political movement between the First and Second World Wars and to a certain extent the second decade of the 20th century just passed, so after the first of those two wars. What made Action Franҫaise so special was the theoretical and literary contribution of Charles Maurras.

Maurras was born in Provence. He was an intellectual who was drawn to a kind of revolutionary tradition in French life. France had always been characterized until the later 19th century by a significant quadrant of the population who rejected the logic of the French Revolution. The French Revolution, which lasted from 1789 until Napoleon’s essential conquest of military power in the French Republic in 1796 and his full dictatorship in 1799 thereafter to 1815, was a period of extraordinary and grotesque change the likes of which European civilization had not seen before. Considerable parts of France, like the Vendée and elsewhere, also fought against the revolutionary tyranny of that time. These were known as the Whites, or the counter-revolutionaries. This tradition of regretting the French Revolution was part of High Catholicism and part of the deep social conservatism of sections of the bourgeoisie that existed in France throughout the existence of the Third Republic.

The Third Republic was created after the collapse of France’s military honor in 1870 when the Prussians badly defeated France in the territorial war between two major European states. The emergence and unification of Prussia on the disemboweled and disinherited torso of modern France was something the French took very much to heart. Particularly in 1871, there was a communistic uprising in Paris known as the Commune which started in a particular period and which French troops put down in an extremely bloody and savage way with the sponsorship of German arms behind them in the rear.

Now, Maurras believed totally in what he called “integral nationalism” or nationalisme intégral. This is the idea that France came first in all things. Regarded as a “Germanophobe” for most of his life, Maurras escaped death after the Second World War during the period of purification when a large number of politicians, collaborators, Vichyites, revisionists, quasi-revisionists, independently minded Right-wing intellectuals, and many people who fought in the Middle East and were involved in some way or another with the Vichy regime were put to death or were hounded from the society. The trial that Maurras had at this particular time was truncated and was laughable in terms of French statute then or since.

The Resistance was very much enamored with the prospect of guillotining Maurras, seeing him as the spiritual father of Vichy. However, there was a degree to which this was an incorrect assessment, because de Gaulle had sat at Maurras’ feet during much of his early life. The interesting thing about Maurras is that he did not just influence the French radical Right, he influenced the entire French Right and he provided all of the families of the French Right, particularly those who looked to a more Orléanist monarchical replacement, those who looked to a Bourbon monarchical replacement (this is the Republic, of course), those who looked to a Napoleonic claim, and those that wanted a different type of Right-wing republic. All of these found in Maurras’ theories sustenance for the soul.

Maurras was released from prison into a hospital in the early 1950s and died soon after. He died in a degree of disgrace, and yet there’s also a degree to which that disgrace was not complete nor did it totally fill the sky. Maurras was removed from the Académie Française, the French Academy, which is the elixir of conservative and reactional and literalist and neo-classical standings in French intellectual life, yet he was reposed by somebody who was almost identical to him given the aged and conservative conspectus of the academy.

There is a degree to which Maurras identified four enemies of the French nation as he perceived them from early on in his political career and before the creation of the Action Française movement, which was an anti-democratic movement and which never took part in parliamentary elections. We shall come on to the view that politics was primary for Maurras, unlike spirituality and religion, in a moment.


Maurras believed that these four “anti-nations” within France were Protestants, Jews, Masons, and all foreigners living on French territory. He perceived all of France as essentially sacred and universal in expectancy and energy. He believed that the Third Republic was a rotten, bourgeois counterpace that needed to be ripped down and replaced by absolutist, legitimist, and monarchical tendencies. Unlike the post-war radical Right in France which has made peace with the Republic for reasons of electoral viability, such as the Front National for example which never even intimates that it would like to restore the monarchy if it was ever put anywhere near power, Maurras and his associates were obsessed with monarchical restoration. This gave their type of Rightism a deeply reactionary and deeply counter-revolutionary cast of thought, but it is important to realize that these things were significantly popular in large areas of French national life. Large areas of the unassimilated aristocracy, the upper middle class, most of the upper class, and even parts of the essentially middle bourgeoisie, retained a suspicion of the legacy of the French Revolution and wished to see the recomposition of France along monarchical lines. These policies even lasted well into the 20th century, even beyond the Second World War. Even into the 1960s a better part of 5% of the French nation rejected the logic of the French Revolution, which is a quite extraordinary number of people given the fact that the revolutionary inheritance had lasted so long and had been re-imposed upon the country after the revolutions, themselves abortive, in 1848.

Maurras believed that France needed a strong and social Catholicism in order to be viable. This is complicated given his own tendentious hold on religious belief. Maurras, though never an atheist, rejected the early, comforting Catholicism of his childhood youth and was an agnostic for most of his life. This did not prevent him from adopting a viewpoint which was fundamentalist in relation to Catholic rigor and in the belief of what would now be called traditionalist Catholicism since the Vatican II settlement of the early 1960s, which in Catholic terms began to liberalize the Church and adapted it to a modern, secular age inside of France and beyond its borders.

Maurras believed that spirituality was intensely important for a people and without it a people rotted and became as nothing. He therefore supported radical religion as a maximalizing social agenda whilst not believing in it himself. Indeed, he implicitly distrusted much of the Gospel message and found the Old Testament disastrous in its pharisaical illumination.

Maurras believed that Christianity was a useful tool that an elite would make use of in order to create a docile, happy, contented and organic society. This means that the papacy was deeply suspicious of Maurras despite the fact that politically he seemed to be a drummer boy for what they might have been perceived to want. This led to the prorogation of the Action Française movement by the Vatican at a particular time. I believe this occurred in the 1920s and was not rescinded until 1939 by which time Maurras had been elected to the Académie Française. The Vatican was concerned at the agnosticism from the top and the synthetic use of Catholicism as a masking agent and cloaking ideology for Right-wing politics inside France that it otherwise found quite a lot to support in. There were enormous numbers of clergy in the Action Française as a movement, and they were shocked and horrified by the removal of papal support which undercut support for the Action Française from key sectors of French life at a particular time.

Maurras believed in anti-Semitism as a core element of his ideology and beliefs. He believed that Jews should have no role in national life and no role whatsoever in the sort of France which he wished to see. Although they had not been responsible in any sort of way for much of the events of the French Revolution, he believed that their emancipation, as the emancipation had occurred in Germany, Britain, and elsewhere during the 19th century, had led to a collusion of interests which were detrimental to the sacred nature of France.

He was also strongly anti-Protestant and anti-Masonic and had a view of nationality which is regarded almost as simple-minded today. He basically thought that to command a status within the French nation you had to be French in word, in deed, and in prior cultural inheritance. It wasn’t any good to claim that you were French. You had to be French in terms of the self-limiting definitions of what it was to be national. This meant that there were radiating hierarchies within France as within other European societies inside modernity. This was the idea that some people were more French than others and this implicit elitism was always part and parcel of the nature of his movement.

It’s important to realize that there was an intellectual complexity about French Action which commands a considerable degree of respect, especially from a distance. French Action appealed to an enormous number of intellectuals across the spectrum even though it was sold by quasi-paramilitaries in the street. The youth wing and the radical wings of the Action Française movement were known as the Knights of the King, Camelots du Roi, and they sold these publications in the streets, often engaging in ferocious fights with Left-wing street gangs who attempted to crowd the same pitches, particularly in Montmartre in the center of Paris and the centers of other urban areas.

Maurras believed in action in the streets as a part of politics and disprivileged voting, which he thought was sterile, bourgeois, majoritarian, and anti-elitist. One wonders if there was ever a coherent structure to come to power in the Action Française movement and the only way in which this can be corralled with the historical evidence is to see the Action Française as a [inaudible] group for a particular type of restorationist, social conservatism, and Catholicism inside France.

If Maurras’ vision had been successful, you would have had a national France with an extremely strong and powerful monarchy and an extremely strong and powerful, even hermetic Catholic clergy at the heart of the nation. You would have had strong military and other institutions that ramify with other elements of this traditional French power as expressed in Bourbon restorationist and pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary Romantic royalist France.

Maurras believed that to be happy people had to be content in the structures of their own livery and their own inheritance. The inheritance of the French nation was all-important, and this is why he collaborated with Third Republic politicians such as General Boulanger towards the end of the 19th century. He did this in order to undermine the nature of the liberal republic and lead to reforms and authoritarian constitutions within it which would have served his purpose. He supported a large range of bourgeois, radical, and liberal politicians at the time of the First World War, which he thought was a national surprise of glory and a chance for France to redeem herself on the battlefield against a traditional enemy, which he always perceived as Germany.

This is the area where Maurras is most disprivileged by contemporary nationalist thinkers across Europe and even beyond. His obsession with Germany and with Germany’s strength and his belief that France was belittled by any strength in Germany led him to support French arms in both the First World War 1914-1918 and the Second World War 1939-1945. Initially, he supported de Gaulle and de Gaulle’s use of tank warfare in the early stages of the Second World War. Of course, by the time de Gaulle became supreme commander of French forces, France would be decimated on the battlefield and there was nothing left to repair or even to defend. Guderian, who had read all of the theory which de Gaulle had based his own warfare predictions upon, had already trumped that particular card, and the Germans used British and French ideas about tank warfare to defeat both the British Expeditionary Force and the French army in France. Seizing with revolutionary energy the generational gap in the conduct of warfare, the Germans routed and humiliated the French, who had fought them to a standstill in the past in the Great War, in a matter of weeks, by maneuvering around the Maginot Line and by passing through the allegedly impassable Ardennes Forest to appear behind French lines with roving and energetic Panzer squadrons backed by Stuka bombers.


This catastrophe became a divine and a national surprise to Maurras. Maurras never actively collaborated although nearly all those in his circle would find themselves involved in the Vichy government at one time or another. Vichy began an institutionalization of a revolution from above and a national revolution within France largely permitted under German auspices, particularly in the early years before the radicalization and momentum building of what became the French Resistance under British artillery and the Gaullist movement in opposition and exile.

Maurras believed that the only true purpose of a Frenchman was to enhance the glory of France and all other was tackle and blither. He believed that during the German occupation it was best for French ideologues such as themselves to retreat to his family estate and live there in quietude even though many of his philosophical children collaborated openly with German arms both within and beyond Vichy. People like Laval and Déat with his neo-socialist movement and people like the founder of the French Popular Party, Doriot, the Parti Populaire Français (PPF) all collaborated in various degrees and were influenced by an attraction or repulsion to Maurras’ ideas in one form or another. He was truly the great old man of the French Right by this time.

After the war, the resistance sought to blame Maurras for much of the collaboration that had gone on, including the expulsion of some Jews from France, the international humiliation, as they perceived it, of French subjection to German arms, and the neo-colonial aspects within Europe of German policy in the French nation-state. It’s true to point out, however, that German military rule in France was surprisingly liberal and even benign in comparison to the full-on fury that could be exercised elsewhere in accordance with radical ideologies that had little to do with the calm, cultural intensity when Colonel Abetz met Robert Brasillach for coffee and croissants in a bar in Paris during the French occupation. There was intense collaboration between the young, former students of Maurras like Brasillach, who edited a fascist magazine called Je suis partout which means “I am everywhere,” and cultural Germans such as Abetz who were part and parcel of the German regime that had been installed over Vichy and to one side of it to allow Right-wing Frenchmen to run their own country albeit under German auspices. The relationship was probably somewhat similar to the relationship of American imperialism and its client states in the Third World such as Karzai’s regime in Afghanistan which controls Afghanistan though ultimately beholden to American power in that particular society.

Maurras wasn’t guillotined after the war because he significantly told at his trial, “Nobody hates the Germans more than me.” And this is what saved him from the guillotine, because the Resistance, although they were dying to guillotine him and would have given their eyes and teeth for it, because this gnarled, knotty Frenchman was irreducible on that point. So, they gave him life imprisonment instead which, as an old man, was effectively a death sentence in and of itself. When it was read out to him in the court, a steaming Maurras leapt from his seat and declared that, “It was the revenge of Dreyfus!” An otherwise obscure reference, which for those who are culturally knowledgeable about the entire extensive life of Maurras would have realized refers to the Dreyfus case at the end of the 19th century.

This is again an important disjunction between Maurras and much of the rest of the Right. Maurras was not concerned whether Dreyfus was guilty or not of passing secrets and engaging in espionage, of helping a foreign power, and so on. What he was concerned with is the dishonor done to the French judiciary if he was not found guilty and done to the French army and national state society if he was now to get away with this. This idea that an individual could be found guilty for connective and social-organic reasons irrespective of whether they were actually guilty of the offense one-to-one and in the customary nature of normal life is anathema to liberal ideas of the sovereignty of the individual that should be placed in a premium position in relation to all social actions.

Maurras was a fundamentalist anti-Dreyfusard and was part of a campaign spearheaded by elements of the revanchist Catholic Church and post-Boulanger elements in the French Republic to the extent that Dreyfus should be found guilty and executed if possible. For many like Maurras, the actual condemnation of Dreyfus which ensued and his being sent to Devil’s Island in the Caribbean was a minor punishment in comparison to the ingloriousness of the episode for France and what it told you about the conduct of the French national general staff at that time.

The Dreyfus case divided France between brother and brother, between father and children, between man and wife like no other case that had convulsed the nation in the course of its late 19th century/early 20th century development. It was truly one of those instances which define a generation. When Zola wrote J’accuse…! And accused the French police, army and courts of essentially fixing on an unfortunate man and blaming him for the sins of others and deporting him to Devil’s Island as a result of a false charge, he laid an explosive mound at the bottom of French national life which men like Maurras were determined to defuse.

Maurras believed that the English were always perfidious and were always against the divine France, although there were moments when he sought collaboration with English and British figures but always against the more dreaded bogey of Germany. It could be seen from a distance that Maurras’ nationalism has negative and anti-European features, although its simplicity and its purity about who belongs and who doesn’t belong is very clear and is easy to sustain. His views were not particularly racial beyond the fact that France was the leading light of world civilization and had to be treated as such. It was quite clear what he meant by who he was and who he was not, a Frenchman or a French woman, in the era in which he lived. You inherited genealogically what you were from the generations that had lived in the society prior to you and you were a Catholic and you were, to all intents and purposes, a reasonably pious one and you yearned for the return of the monarchy in France as against the secular republican institutions which replaced the monarchical structures of the Bourbon era after the Revolution and again after the Restoration which followed after the Revolution. You were not Protestant and you were not a Mason and you were not a Jew and you were not a foreigner and you were not of foreign mixture, namely of non-national French admixture. These things are quite clear and quite capacious in their reasonableness.


There’s a degree to which Maurras’ intense nationalism has fueled an enormous amount of the radical Right that exists in the south of Europe and the southeast of Europe and further in Central and Latin America where its ideas have been taken to heart by many Dominican, Costa Rican, Brazilian, and Argentinian nationalist writers and thinkers and academics. His thinking is also most crucial to the development of Catholic societies and, of course, he has little social interplay with the Anglo-Saxon world. Maurras seems to have little to say to Anglo-Saxony, though much to say to the integral nature of the nation which is always the defiant and unyielding France.

Where did Maurras get his opinions from? A strong bourgeois background and an affiliation with the French provinces led to an identification with the rural ideal of France as a place touched by the glory of God, even a deity that he didn’t subscribe to for much of his active life. Maurras believed that France had a new destiny amongst all of the nations on Earth not to bring people together, not to supervise people and not to be loyal to Swiss institutional ideas, as he dismissed the ideas of Rousseau, who was Swiss and strongly influenced by Calvinist and Protestant thinking which he blamed for the French Revolution.

Rousseau once declared in the first line of his social contract that in the prisons of the future men will have “Libertas,” “liberty,” stamped upon their chains. This uniquely Protestant idea whereby even the social organs of direction are there to free the individual from bondage. It’s a notable instant where in Louisiana, in the southern state of the United States, the steel batons that American police use for riot control have “liberty” inscribed upon the baton. This means that there’s the head of a rioter being broken by a riot policeman. You are being beaten over the head with freedom. You are being beaten into freedom! And this uniquely, sort of sado-masochistic and ultra-Protestant view whereby you are being punished in freedom, for freedom, by freedom is a uniquely American take upon the French Revolution. Indeed, handcuffs wielded by many American police forces have “freedom” written upon them. So, as you are handcuffed and beaten you are receiving both liberty and freedom. These are very important ideas which come from the French Revolution.

When you stand before a French court you have to prove your innocence. As everybody knows, the British idea, which transcends the Atlantic and is visible in the jurisprudence of the United States, is that you are innocent before the bar of the courts and you have various barristers there to defend your rights. In France, the opposite is true. In accordance with revolutionary jurisprudence, the state knows best. The state has divulged religiosity to itself. The state is the residual legatee of all ideas of liberty and dispassionate justice. You have to prove your innocence to the state, because if the state argues in a prior way for the possibility of your guilt you must be guilty of something or why else would the state dare to accuse you.

Maurras’ ideas come quite close to certain Anglo-Saxon ideas in his rejection of this idea of the martial, republican and even Protestant French republican state. This means that Maurras seeks help from German and English intellectual critics even as he is unmasking French intellectual culture for its support and tolerance of the French Revolution.

The French Revolution remains the most cardinal event in history as regards the modern history of France. The French Revolution characterized an enormous range of change in European society and in the lifestyle of European man. If you remember, the revolution had quite timid beginnings with the desire for bourgeois reformism and the integration of politicians like Mirabeau in 1789. It then morphed into a more legalistic liberal assembly with a legislative assembly in 1790-1791 which then became the much more revolutionary Convention in 1792-1794. This is the period associated with the Terror and the dominion of Maximilien Robespierre. Robespierre had his rival, Danton, who he sent successfully to the guillotine, but he only preceded him by a matter of a few months, was convulsed by the idea that he was imposing with revolutionary violence the implementation of justice upon France and that he’d been given the right to do so not by God but by a new-fangled Deist cult or religion called the Cult of the Supreme Being. This attempt is the height of the Revolution’s attempt to replace Catholicism with an atheistic cult, whereby reason was worshipped as a goddess and a naked virgin was placed in the [inaudible] with a liberty cap on the high altar in Notre Dame by French revolutionary Jacobins, deeply shocked the sensibility of Catholic France that it had never forgiven Paris for its revolutionary energies which were disliked by much of the rest of society.

For much of French history, Paris had always been the center of revolution even though the French revolutionary anthem, La Marseillaise, came from Marseille to Paris in order to save revolutionary Paris by adding fuel from the most revolutionary and violent part of the provinces who were then fighting against the Whites, or the counter-revolutionaries, as they came to be known.

Napoleon Bonaparte was an equivocal figure for Maurras. He liked the authoritarianism, he liked the glorification of France, but he also saw the extension of French imperialism under Bonaparte’s agency to be anti-French and to ultimately portend to national dishonor. This meant that there was if not a pacifist then a limit to national aggrandizement in Maurras scheme of things. If the nation was crucial to all social development, the nation had borders, and the nation had limits, and authoritarianism inevitably put constraints upon social action, which reminds people that Maurras remains a sort of radical or revolutionary conservative.

Regarded retrospectively as something of a French fascist, Maurras was never fascistic, although his conservativism contained strongly sublimated elements of fascism and quasi-fascism and certain beliefs in the corporate state and certain methodological axes which he would share with movements in Salazar’s Portugal, Mussolini’s Italy, and Franco’s Spain. All of these three regimes were endorsed by Maurras and by the Action Française. Hitler’s movement in Germany and its successful breakthrough there was in no sense endorsed. Indeed, he supported de Gaulle, and he supported mainstream Third Republican politicians who were anti-Hitler just as he supported Clemenceau in the First World War because he was anti-Kaiser.

The threat to France from Germany and the helplessness of France in the face of German military might were abiding themes for Maurras who saw the possibility of defeat on the battlefield as a moral and spiritual defeat for France, although like all quixotic and intuitive nationalists, Maurras believed that France could never be totally defeated. A political system had gone down under the Panzers, a political system had gone down under the Stuka bombers, but France itself was irrational and eternal and would always spring up again.


Initially, he supported the de Gaullist fight against the Germans. He immediately switched to Vichy and national liberation when he saw that much of what he wanted in policy terms could be instituted under German aegis. The fact that it was under German aegis caused him great psychic pain and wanton disregard. He therefore retreated to his own estates to cover the dichotomy of supporting Vichy at a distance without wishing to be seen to champion its German precursor.

Maurras lived in an era of tumultuous change and violent excess. None more so than the events of the 6th of February 1934. These events, unlike the Paris events of 1968 which have been emblazoned in world history and have counter-parts in Berkeley, California and the streets of Britain and the streets of West Germany as it then was and elsewhere throughout the Western world, have largely been forgotten and have been deliberately dropped down the memory hole, collectively and historically. Maurras, however, was deeply involved in the events of 1934 which were nothing more or less than an attempt to overthrow the French Third Republic by revolution from the Right-wing.

Riddled with scandal and approximating to extreme decay due to the economic lashings of depression from the United States and elsewhere who were beginning to humiliate the French exchequer, the radical Right decided to depose by going onto the streets the French Third Republic in early February 1934. This was awful rioting, and it was very serious and very destructive social rioting by about 100,000 demonstrators from all of the French combat action leagues that then existed in the country. These included the Action Française and the large veteran association from the First World War called Cross of Fire or Croix-de-Feu. It also involved large apolitical veterans’ organizations and smaller, more targeted Right-wing combat veterans’ leagues.

All of these movements marched on Paris and marched on the National Assembly and marched on the presidential buildings in an attempt to overthrow the Third Republic with violent revolutionary activism from the streets. It’s quite remarkable that these events have been excised from history to the degree that they have, particularly as they were to force catalytic change in French political life. Daladier’s regime, which was part of a Left front and Left coalition government collapsed and was replaced by the more general government of the Right.

One of the interesting examples of this period is the fact that, unlike today where the radical Right is shunted off to the side and all the areas of political thought including the moderate Right strive to have nothing to do with it whatsoever, in that era the radical Right infused the mainstream Right and even liberal, center Right elements of the Right were not immune to radical Right-wing ideas. This shows you that politics is about energy and about how you corral and contrast various forms of energy over time. There is no earthly reason why radical forms of opinion, as occurred in the 1960s the other way around on the Left, can’t influence more moderate, more statist, more staid, and more centric forms of opinion. It all depends upon the timing, the character of the men involved and the secondary forces which they can put into play. No one knew this better than Maurras who influenced these structured, highly controlled Right-wing mobs, which is what they essentially amounted to, in their assaults on French liberal bourgeois power at this time.

Sixteen died as a result of the rioting, and over 2,000 were injured, which is a large number of injuries to be sustained in endless fighting with French riot police and French police who turned out en masse to defend the Third Republic. Communists and socialists and trade unionists of the Left also mobilized large counter-demonstrations. Very much akin to events which occurred in Dublin in not too distant a period when there was a concertedly disconcerted attempt by the Civic Guard movement of Eoin O’Duffy to overthrow the post-IRA Fianna Fáil movement which then dominated the Irish Republic. It should be noticed that both societies had a penchant for political violence and for the rhetoric of extremism in the street and both were Roman Catholic societies unlike Britain, which existed of course halfway between these two polities.

The Right failed in both Ireland and France to replicate what had occurred in Portugal, Spain, and Italy, never mind Germany. However, the radical Right had an enormous transforming impact upon the entire Right wing which led a large element of the pre-collaborationist cabinet in the mid- to late-1930s to collaborate once the Vichy government was set up.

Vichy is always described as a regime by historians in an attempt to discredit it in relation to a proper government which is so described. Yet there is a degree to which the Vichy government had the support actively of at least a third of the French. De Gaulle, through a remarkable piece of political [inaudible] to make after the war, said that no one ever collaborated. This is after the purification, of course, which killed many thousands of those who were alleged to have done so. But the trick of saying that no one collaborated allowed the post-war generations to unite over the fact that there was a German occupation, no French collaboration except for a few purists and traitors and a Resistant movement activated from home and abroad. It was a clever and intellectual and ideological start to enable France to recover more quickly after the war and settle differences without being too hawkish or squeamish about it. But there is a degree to which it was a lie and a blatant untruth.

France bore quite a large price for its staunching of social peace after 1945. You have to remember that after 1945 there was no effective Right in France, because the whole of the Right had been allegedly discredited by collaboration. This meant that there was an enormous gap and only classic centrist, conservative movements fielded candidates against the center and Left in the immediate post-war elections.

De Gaulle, of course, was trying to capture the market for existing Right-wing opinion with his movement [inaudible]. De Gaulle had subliminally fascistic credentials for some of his policies and went back to yearnings for a hard man and a strong man to govern France with an iron hand. These go back to General Boulanger and back to the Bonapartism of the 19th century. De Gaulle’s movement with his endless personality cult and military drills and obsession with the cult of the leader certainly had strong fringe associations with the radical Right which he’d never the less repudiated and excoriated both in action and in print.

No internal warfare on the Right has been more striking than the one in France between the legacy of de Gaullist historical tradition and the legacy of collaboration. This again is to be seen in the Algerian War long after Maurras’ death in which the two wings of the French Right fight fanatically with each other. The government and the Civic Action Service movement and the Barbouzes fighting with the official French army against both the Algerian nationalists of the FNA and the ultra Right-wing Secret Army Organization or Organisation de l’armée secrete, which was formed by revolutionary members of the paratroopers and other French regiments firstly in Indo-China and then in Algeria to prevent the removal of Algeria from the French nation.

41e12-dpbWL.jpgFrance and Algeria, of course, were joined at the hip in accordance with the Napoleonic doctrine of Algérie française. In the end, the division had to occur, but at least a million French Algerians, who were totally French of course, pieds noirs, black feet, came back from North Africa to live in the south of France where they became the bedrock for the Front National vote in the deep south of the country in generations to come.

There is also a degree to which Maurras’ influence on the French Right is pervasive, and this is the influence of social Catholicism. At every large FN event there is a ferverous mass. For those not in the know, this is a traditionalist type of Catholicism that rejects Vatican II and settlements around it in the contemporary Catholic Church. It is essentially an old-fashioned, in Protestant terms, smells and bells mass whereby the priest turns hieratically to God and doesn’t look at the congregation and the congregation look at him, or look at his back, and he’s looking up because he’s looking up at that which is exalted and beyond him. This type of social Catholicism which exists in the FN on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, because if you don’t believe in it you don’t have to go along with it, it part and parcel of their appeal to all of those national constituencies which were not buried in 1945 and were not buried in 1789 and were not buried in 1815 but have continued to exist as a vital part of the French nation and of the French national whole.

Maurras’ belief in the integral France – organic, unified, militarized, Catholicized, and hierarchical – was never achieved during his lifetime, but his influence on the French Right-wing and on neo-Bourbon, legitimist, Orléanist, and Bonapartist tendencies of opinion was profound. His influence on French military thinking was also profound, although his influence on Catholicism became strained when Catholic humanists like Jacques Maritain, who had been close to the Action Française for a considerable period, moved away from it in the 1920s. The Papacy moved against Maurras and Action Française because of his doctrine of politics first. Maurras believed that if politics was put first all the other problems that beset France and lead to spiritual difficulties could be changed retrospectively.

However, there was a degree to which this put the cart before the horse. By making himself a declared agnostic and being relatively open about this fact, he played into the hands of certain radical Catholic traditionalists who didn’t like a mass movement that used Catholicism synthetically to cover over political differences of opinion inside France.

He was also guilty of the anti-legitimist claim put forward by many deeply conservative apolitical and asocial French Catholics. This was the view that they should have nothing to do with the bourgeois Third Republic and that they should remain French and Catholic forever irrespective of a wicked regime that could not be stopped from sinning in its own right. Maurras would have nothing to do with this and believed that politics first, second, and third was necessary for the redemption of France.

The idea of monarchical restoration and a return of the French monarchy was not a quaint political ideal as far as Maurras and his immediate supporters were concerned. They believed that only by repudiating the Republic, only by ripping out the accretions of what could be described as the French version of the Bolshevik regime, namely the latter day inheritance of the French republican, revolutionary tradition and all its structures, could the France that he wanted be brought about.

Although post-war forms of the radical Right-wing in France have had to make peace with republicanism in order to survive and contest democratic elections where they have had considerable support, more so than in most other Western European countries, there is a degree to which Maurras was quite technically direct in the issue of the French republican experiment and the mass terror that it induced between 1792 and 1794 which cast the shadow of a guillotine across French revolutionary rhetoric.

Most of the great Right-wing figures, such as Abel Bonnard, look back through Maurras to the great ultramontanist figure, Joseph de Maistre. Joseph de Maistre, who wrote in the late 18th century and earlier, is responsible for the doctrine of papal infallibility up to a point at least in terms of its theoretical mark when it was introduced quite late in the day in 1870 in recognition of extra-Catholic and intra-Catholic disputes.

Maurras was determined to see Catholicism revived within France and put at the heart of the French nation, and he did residually return to the Catholicism of his childhood near to his own deathbed. Whether this was just an insurance policy or was a genuine conversion to the faith with which he had always lingered is open for his biographers to contest.

Maurras was a peppery individual with a sort of reynardical moustache and trimmed beard. He was splenetic and outrageous in debate and commentary. He called for the assassination of many public figures from the editorial mouthpiece of his magazine for which he was given many suspended sentences. When a French politician argued that all of the Right-wing combat leagues should be disarmed in France because he saw the danger of the events of 1934, Maurras called for his assassination in print, which as the calling for an execution of a government minister he was jailed 8 months for his transgression.

Maurras was never afraid to speak his mind about any of the problems that beset France from the Dreyfus case through to the French armies in the First World War to the conduct of the Treaty of Versailles. He also wanted France to impose more rigorous and more judgmental and more harsh and caustic sanctions on Germany, long considered by most historians to be a disastrous maneuver. But there is nothing in relation to what it is to be French beyond which Charles Maurras would not go.

Maurras saw himself as the quiet leader of a counter-revolutionary force in French life that would lead to the institution of an integral nation and an integral nationality above sectional interests and above party interests, which he always despised. The interesting thing about his form of Frenchness is that everyone could have a role in it. All of the minorities which he effectively despised as foreigners, métèques, would actually always have a role within France. It’s just that role would be lesser proportional to who and what they are in relation to the role of the French. Ultimately, his vision was conservative. If you were more French than somebody else, you had more of a say and more of a role. If you were Catholic rather than Protestant or Jewish or something, you had more of a role in France. It is not to say the others would have no role, but they would have a severely restricted and reduced role in relation to those who would supervene over the goddess. The goddess was one of his private terms for France and for the French nation, which was always perceived as a feminine creation and identity by all of its proponents and detractors.

Charles Maurras is so French a figure that he is largely ignored in the Anglo-Saxon and Anglophone world because he’s seen to have little to teach to the rival Protestant, national, and imperial trajectories of these societies. This is arguably true. Maurras has to be seen and judged in French terms and in French terms alone.

Although he never succeeded in the most radical of his aims, part of the regime that existed under Vichy can be seen as the endorsement of many of his ideas although the resistance groups would pitch and the Allied invasion pulled back upon Vichy and led to the end of the collaboration. The irony of Maurras’ tradition and career is that the sort of France he wanted was brought about under the arms and vigilance of the nation he hated more than any other, namely the Germans. This is part of the irony of history, which would not be forgotten on somebody as literate and carefully minded as Charles Maurras.

One of the things that is most striking about Maurras is that the Action Française was read intellectually right across the spectrum. A young, homosexual Jewish author called Marcel Proust, who was later to write one of the most famous books in French literature called Remembrance of Things Past, used to literally run every Friday down to the Camelots du Roi paramilitaries who sold Action Française on the street in order to buy Action Française. When he was asked by a certain dumbfounded bohemian who had met his acquaintance why he did this, he said he did it because it was the most interesting paper in France. This is something which is key to an understanding of people like Maurras and the radical Right cultural tradition that they represented. They were admired by all sorts of people who didn’t share their opinions at all, and that was part of the elixir of their power and their cultural influence. This is why he was elected to the French Academy, the most august and antiquated of French cultural institutions.

508611258.jpgSo, I think it falls upon us, as largely non-French people, to look back upon this traditionalist philosopher of the French radical Right with a degree of quiet appraisal. Maurras was a figure who could be admired as somebody who fought for his own country to the last element of his own breath. He was also somebody who’s own cultural dynamics were complicated and ingenious. To give one cogent example, the Greek play Antigone deals with the prospect of the punishment of a woman by Creon because she wishes to honor the death sacrifice of her brother. This becomes a conflict between the state and those who would seek to supplant the state’s momentary laws by laws which are regarded as matriarchal or affirmative with the chthonian or the fundamental in human life. George Steiner once commented in a book looking at the different varieties of Antigone that most critics of the Left have always supported her against Creon and most socially Right-wing commentators like T. S. Eliot have always supported Creon against Antigone. And yet Maurras supported Antigone against Creon, because she wished to bury her brother for reasons which were ancestral and chthonian and came up from under the ground and were primeval and were blood-related and were therefore more important and more profound than the laws that men had put together with pieces of parchment and bits of writing on paper.

Charles Maurras: hero of France, national collaborator with excellence, we salute you over this time, we remember your contribution to the [inaudible] of a rival nationality!

Thank you very much!

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mercredi, 19 novembre 2014

Edward Elgar


Edward Elgar

By Jonathan Bowden

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

Editor’s Note:

This is the transcript by L. and D.H. of Jonathan Bowden’s talk on Edward Elgar, which you can listen to with musical examples here [2]. Please post any corrections below as comments.   

We’re here today to talk about Edward Elgar, the great composer of the English renaissance in modern music – by which I mean 20th-century music. There’s an enormous gap in our island’s musicology between Elizabeth’s time when some major, largely Roman Catholic, polyphonic composers like Byrd and Tallis and the first John Taverner and Davenport and others came to the fore, and Henry Purcell. Purcell lived in and around the time of the Great Fire of London from the restoration of the Stuart monarchy after the interregnum of Cromwell and the Civil War until the turn of the 1700s. He died, like Keats, of tuberculosis, so it is essentially believed.

Now, Purcell was a great genius of structure and order and composition and is described somewhat loosely as the English Mozart. Byrd and Tallis looked back through what for them was the modern idiom of polyphony to medieval plainsong and chant and high Christian Catholic music. We factor forward across two centuries basically, from 1700 to 1900, and there is not really an English composer of universal – never mind European – significance.

People come and go, and there are academic composers like Parry and so on towards the end of the 19th century, with whom Elgar was initially compared. But in actual fact, apart maybe from Sullivan’s Irish Symphony in 1864, there is not too much to speak of. What fills the musical landscape of our society during those 200 years is largely French and Italianate musical theater and opera, which, paradoxically, had begun back under the culture of the Puritans in the English Civil War where a lot of theater, including Shakespeare, was banned. But musical performances which were non-liturgical and non-religious were allowed. Therefore, women with large sort of busts and bodices and so on would perform secular pieces on stage, completely at variance with many Puritan ideas, but as long as it wasn’t religious it was okay. And that type of musical dramaturgy dominated our musical life for 200 years. And the view grew up on the continent that during the great era of largely Germanic symphonies, defined principally by Mozart and by Beethoven, we reached a position in England where there really was no music that was at all interesting or of universal import to the European civilization. Certainly, any music that could be talked about was parochial.

Elgar completely redefines the nature of English music, English classical music, and high art music of a British character. He’s also not a lone genius because, partly opened up by his example, there come several generations of composers who contain individuals like John Ireland was heavily influenced by him and Bax and Bliss, who wrote a lot of ballet scores, and eventually Britten and Tippett, despite his Left-wing views, and Birtwistle and Mathias, a Welsh composer of largely choral works, many of them put on by the BBC Third programme as it was. Sir Peter Maxwell Davies at the present day, who looks to post-modernity, but also very early and even pre-Baroque musical styles to draw inspiration from, and then goes back up to the present day again to complete his cycle of eight symphonies and who lives up in the Orkney Islands is a continuation of a tradition that really began with Elgar.

Elgar moves English people in a way that no other composer–certainly none of those that I’ve just mentioned–really does. He speaks emotionally and from the heart and subjectively to the impressionism of the English. There is something slightly magical and indefinable about his musicology, whether people are listening to the sort of imperialist performances like “Land of Hope and Glory,” like “Rule Brittania” orchestrated by him, like Pomp and Circumstance, whether they’re listening to things to do with Victoria’s jubilee, or whether they go much deeper into works like the first two finished symphonies or the third symphony which would be finished from impressionistic notes long after his death by a contemporary, middling, and rather academic composer, or whether they’re listening to Cockaigne or whether they’re listening to The Kingdom or whether they’re listening to the mysticism related to his own personal Catholic faith of The Dream of Gerontius, his music draws English people in, in a way that really words cannot define.

There’s an interesting story that I’d like to share with you just for a moment that shows you the power of Elgar beyond all political and social affiliations as regards Englishness. Tony Banks is, in many ways, a very decadent and Left-wing politician who’s just left the House of Commons saying he despises most of his constituents who happen to live in a part of east London called Newham. Sixty percent of them are black, so I don’t know what that says about Banks’ particular take on all that. But he was a very Left-wing member of the GLC under Livingstone in the 1980s. When Thatcher shut that local authority down for internal political reasons within the British establishment – she didn’t like the way Livingstone was introducing taxes into London and so on, and was under business pressure to do so – the GLC on their final afternoon played Elgar throughout the three or four hours when the bailiffs were coming in to turf them out of what was then County Hall, which is now a private sector tower block.

And they played the Enigma Variations, and you had people like Banks who, in many ways, has been party to political and social programs and processes that have torn most of what this country once was down over the last 30, 40, 50 years – and he’s just one individual. But you have him in tears over the Enigma Variations, which represents the quintessence of Englishness. And you see the power even in the most unlikely places that this music has when it’s particularly manifest in relation to our nationality. There is something about the Worcestershire countryside; there is something about England, greenness and lushness and sweetness and harshness; there is something about the weather; there is something about the insularity both as a source of strength, of imaginativeness, of fairy tale lights, of romantic and imaginative introspection, but also sentimentality which is there in this man’s music and which, really, is in no-one else.

People like Purcell were great composers of the European type who happen to be English, but Elgar is a great English composer who is largely self-created because, unlike Vaughan Williams and unlike Bax who draw on a lot of Celtic folklore – but both of them went back to folk traditions that pre-exist higher or classical forms of white or Indo-European or Aryan music, Elgar created out of his own person; he created for himself in terms of his own deep emotional longing and desires. He also created in a very impressionistic way. After a day’s teaching, for example – because that’s what he did to survive for most of his adult life – he would play on the piano. He would play in an almost sort of stream of consciousness and free association way. He would note things down, how certain conjunctions of the diatonic register, certain forms of tonal composition, would work. He’d play them over to the wife again and note them all down. He’d go away and stick things to the backs of chairs in his study and so on and see that there would be an overlap between that piece over there and this bit over here, and, gradually, the texture of a larger work would be built up step-by-step organically, almost like pottering about your garden essentially in terms of his mental musicianship.


He was a very good violinist, a very good cello player when he was young. He didn’t really master any other instruments, but he became a major conductor of his own and other music, because British music was beginning to burgeon then, as I’ve already mentioned, towards the end of his life. He also hired many individual virtuosi and people who could actually play many of his pieces. It’s important to realize that there were several Elgars and that in many respects he was a very private man. His ultra-Tory politics and imperial manner and “blimpishness” together with figures like Conan Doyle, Kipling, and Rider Haggard and so on, many of whom in that Edwardian and Victorian era he was deeply, personally associated with and was friendly with, can give people the wrong impression about him.

There is a certain Leftist distaste for Elgar or for politics of imperialism with which he began Victoriana and with which he can be associated. But at the end of the day, he was a radical rather than a purely conservative, in the sense of restorationist, figure. He’s a man who wanted to bring forward a deep, romantic sensibility and articulate it through an individual vision of genius. Now “genius” is a concept itself which is unfashionable today, as is beauty, but Elgar believed in both. But true to a lot of English and British visual art, personhood and individual character – character above all – was supremely important. Elgar was, in many peoples’ minds, whether bohemian or otherwise, an eccentric. Amongst anglers, amongst people who like to row, amongst people who like to cycle in the countryside around where he lived, there’s a degree to which even amongst these rather more conventional and slightly staid, inartistic types he always stood out as a bit of an eccentric. Whereas amongst the artists he often brought to them the manner of the Victorian drawing-room and the Imperialist grand-uncle. So he existed as a “straight” amongst the bohemians and as an alternative person amongst people who were on a more conventional and bourgeois register.

Like all artists he existed between worlds, because the great point of an artistic sensibility is observation and analyzing life from without, because although his music is primarily about emotional sentiment, art is not a matter of sentiment. It’s not about emoting or sentimentality. Art is a hard, ultimately, rather than a soft discourse. Deep down it’s more objective than subjective. It’s the objectification which is what art is about, creating objects out of emotion. Science is about the objects of the natural world, of that which can be ratiocinated from the front of the brain, whereas all artistic matters are about emotion and lie deep in the recesses of the back brain in particular. But there’s a science of them, there’s a logic to them, there’s a knowledge of them and how the processes which connect with people’s emotions and are translated into form actually work. And music of all forms – which in some ways is why it’s always the most difficult to talk about in my view – is the form which is beyond all of the others because its language, its semiotic, is universal for all human beings within and beyond race. It’s almost the one art form that can impact on all minds and on all states of consciousness. Apart from the completely tone-deaf and deaf from birth there’s virtually nobody who can’t be moved by music. One pauses to think here that the greatest musician in the European classical tradition is Beethoven who was deaf for a significant proportion of his life and can hardly play properly towards the end, but the music was pure inside, and a lot of it was done by sight in terms of actual reading and close reading of the score. There are musicians to this day who actually relate more to the eye and the text, if you like – they’re textualists – rather than the ear, although for nearly everyone, of course, who works in the area it’s a combination of the two.

Now, Elgar epitomizes certain forms of Englishness which, for a long time, stood rejected at the heart of the continental culture. English music, even its revival, through Bax, through Bliss, through Vaughan Williams, through Ireland, through Tippett, through Britten, through Britten’s operas via Elgar, even looking back to people like Sullivan and Parry and so on, forward to modernists of a certain moment like Birtwistle and not Mathias but certainly Sir Maxwell Davies. Despite all of these and despite the recognition that continental musicology has given to them and large books by Germanic critics like Ernst Naumann have now been written about English music in the 20th century there is still this slight belittling of English musicology in continental sensibility, this sort of view that it’s all a bit Constance Lambert and a bit more, that it’s too saccharine, and it’s too sweet, that it lacks Germanic rigour and harshness, if you like, in these great architectural cathedrals of sound that someone like Bruckner creates, or pure concern with form or the expression of very lurid and over-the-top operatic emotion, that somehow there’s a certain quaintness to it, a certain shyness, a certain internal privacy, a certain softness and sweetness. This is, at times, a continental view of English music.

cover.jpgBut this music that is Elgar’s — which is, racially speaking, a combination of Germanic and Celtic strands musically, within one particular personality — creates a feeling that English people respond to with deep sonorousness in joy and in sadness. And there is certainly joy and power and pageantry in Elgar’s music. But there’s also sadness as well. Because reading the life closely and with an eye upon the text you can really sense that there’s a bit of a sine curve in Elgar’s personality, and there are deep troughs as well as great ecstasies. There is the fact that after a major period of creation like the Second Symphony, he needed to rest up and couldn’t do very much creating for quite long time. After his wife died, I think in 1920 or thereabouts, there’s a great falling away. And apart from occasional pieces – an unfinished opera I think based on King Henry VIII – until his death, there wasn’t too much done. Elgar also realised that after the Great War there had been a high point of what critics would call jingoistic patriotism with which he had become partly associated, let’s be frank. And there was a great falling away of interest in his music during the 1920s. Although no-one, even his detractors, would actually say that he wasn’t very, very significant.

One piece that I would like to talk about in particular is The Dream of Gerontius, which is based upon a personal impression of Elgar’s religious ideas. His Roman Catholicism has never really been pushed that much although no-one’s particularly shied away from it in relation to his own specific biography. But it was there, and in an artistic way it was reasonably central to his life. His Catholicism had very little to do – if not nothing to do – with sectarianism. But what it was, was a personal religious tradition of transcendence, of the belief that you go beyond the body completely, which can lead in that theology to a disrespect for the body.

Now, The Dream of Gerontius is based upon a poem by Cardinal Newman. He was an important convert from the high Anglican Church to the Roman Catholic Church in England in the middle of the Victorian period, indeed the high Victorian period. He led a movement out of the clerisy of Oxford University at the time called first the Oxford Movement and then the Tractarians. To many people this is rather dry and archival and archaeological material, so to speak. But in the Victorian period for somebody important or for a group of people led by Newman to convert from the Anglican dispensation, which has now largely collapsed in our culture. Let’s face it, who listens to Rowan Williams now? For them to go over from that to Rome was an earthquake. It was a decisive change and it set people wondering what was happening to English Protestantism, so to say, in the 19th century.

The most mystical poem of a high Gerard Manley Hopkins type that Newman wrote was The Dream of Gerontius, upon which Elgar bases his particular work. There’s an interesting metaphoricisation of this piece in the Elgar museum, which is a private sector museum based near Worcester. They’re very odd there, if you want to film about all this. You’ve got to pay quite a lot to go in there and so on and so forth. We went round the cottage where he was born which is turned into a museum. But an American contemporary sculptor, modern but traditional in casting, has done a metaphoric vision in stone but in three dimensions obviously of The Dream of Gerontius, and there’s a figure, which is the soul, leaving the corpse, leaving the body after death, and none of us knows what happens technically when a body dies but there’s a certain energy which is obviously in it goes. Because a cadaver is just an inanimate object whereas anything that has organic life in it is so qualitatively different to that which doesn’t, that something which was there is gone. The big question, of course, is where and what energy there was there has gone.

A003913.jpgBut in this particular relief the energy is going up out of the body and there are various sort of devilish, satanic creatures reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch and so on clawing around the bottom or the pedestal of the sculpture, trying to drag the spirit down into matter, into present day, into the somatic, into the bodily. And there are angels, or angelic figures of some description – because it’s not an explicitly Christian sculpture actually – moving the spirit upwards and outwards and towards the light. And Elgar is always concerned with, if you like, certainly in this piece, a certain lightness and a certain delicacy of touch; strength with delicacy; music in some ways relating to the spirit of dance although he never really explicitly wrote for the dance the way Bliss did with pieces like Checkmate later on, now which have been revived towards the end of the 20th century by sir Vernon Handley and his influence at Liverpool Philharmonic, for example.

Now, I see Elgar as essentially as a deeply individuated and traditional artist who is subjective, emotional, sweet-tempered, slightly melancholic, very, very English, and concerned primarily with transcendence. But there are also great moments of joy and that martial patriotism that the English have and which is a sort of pageantry. I’ve always been struck by elements of English nationalism within the British context and how they differentiate it from the more Celtic parts of the British peoples, such as the Irish, the Scottish, and the Welsh, against their own national feeling. There is in the English a slight softening or understatement of a more radical position and the need emotionally to express a radical feeling of patriotism and self-regard by using perhaps slightly softer tones and terms.

And this is why, in comparison to very militant expressions of national feeling, English people can stand to attention to things with sort of tears in their eyes and tears streaming down their faces and with extreme emotion and, sometimes, with very held-in violence as well that relates to these types of emotional forms that touch them very, very deeply and very much at the heart. It is that sort of belief that you can do an extraordinary thing and you don’t really necessarily want to be praised too much for it, at least in public afterwards. It’s that slight diffidence in the expression of that which otherwise would be radical which characterises partly the depth of Elgar’s music, partly the fact that it’s a certain sense of English sensibility unmasked, and there are certain cultural criticisms of the English viewed outside in that see ourselves, see the English people, as in part wearing a mask. Elgar’s music is the emotional expressiveness of the English people unrepressed and without a mask, with deep sonority relating to private and yet personal experiences of a general, generic character. It is also expressive of the European civilisation in high art music, but it is totally concentrated in the sensibility of these islands.

You can also hear a voice – a musical voice and a musical personality – coming out of this music from first to last. And when BBC Radio 3 in alliance with the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall produced the Third Symphony which is made up from scraps – absolute scraps and notes chucked about his study basically and pasted together by essentially an academic musicologist – immediately people realised it was him living again almost a century later, certainly 70 years later. And that voice, that sensibility, that sureness of note and pitch and tone came through yet again. And although maybe the Third Symphony, in inverted commas, has had much less impact than the first two, never mind the Enigma Variations, never mind The Dream of Gerontius, never mind the personal and impressionistic motifs based upon his friends like Jaeger and, later on, the composer Richter who took him up, notice again the Germanic influence that, although understanding the difference between the English and the Germanic, nevertheless cleaved to the English voice which was new and original and put the music of England and, later, Britain in its entirety back upon the map of European civilisation 200 years after the death of Henry Purcell.




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jeudi, 23 octobre 2014

Paganism & Christianity, Nietzsche & Evola


Paganism & Christianity, Nietzsche & Evola

By Jonathan Bowden 

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

Editor’s Note:

This text continues the transcript by V. S. of Jonathan Bowden’s interview at the Union Jack Club in London on Saturday, November 21, 2009, after his lecture/performance on Punch and Judy [2]. The title is editorial. 

Q: When did you decide to convert to paganism and why?

B: Well, I never really converted to paganism. I mean, there are some orthodox pagans, if you can have such a thing, who probably think I am not one. But I’m a Nietzschean and that’s a different system. Somebody made this for me. [Points to odal rune pendant.] And I like Odinic paganism sort of as an objectification of my sort of sensibility. Does one believe the gods objectively exist in another realm? Well, you see, religion is a philosophy about life which is sacristic and has rituals in which you partly act out, therefore it’s more important because it’s made slightly more concrete than ideas or it’s really just based upon ideas. There are relatively simple but powerful ideas at the crux of all the big religious systems. Most people are born in a system and just accept that and go along with it as long as it’s not too onerous or they feel like they live their life through it properly.

I just agree with the ethics of that type of Nordic paganism, which is really how the Vikings lived and how they behaved. I’m less concerned with small groups, which I respect. I like the Odinic Rite, but I personally believe that those sorts of things will only ever activate post-modern minorities and very small ones at that.

I think people should identify with what they think they are and the values that they hold. This symbol really means strength or courage or masculinity or the first man or the first principle of war or the metaphysics of conflict. So, I just think it’s a positive system of value.

I never really was a Christian. Culturally, I have great admiration for elements of Christian art. More so than most people who are pagan who have violently reacted against it. I don’t really share that emotionalism. But I don’t agree with Christian ethics. Deep down, they’ve ruined the West, and we’re in the state that we are because of them.

Q: Just added on to that: How do we create more Nietzscheans? How do we spread Nietzscheanism as a religion, as an idea?

B: You’ve got to get people quite young. I think you’ve got to introduce alternative value systems to them. This is a society that says weakness is good, weakness should be pitied, the ill are weak, the disabled are weak, people who’ve got various things wrong with them (too fat, too thin, bits dropping off) they need help. They may need help. But the value system that lies behind that desire to help worships the fact of weakness and the fact that people are broken. If you worship the idea of strength and tell the weak to become stronger, which is a reverse idea for helping them essentially. You help them in order to get stronger. You totally reverse the energy pattern and you’ve reversed the system of morals that exists in this culture now. You’ve reversed the sort of things that Rowan Williams or his predecessor or his likely successor always says, basically. I think that’s what you have to do.

I personally think it’s a moral revolution, not anything political, that will save the West, because all the technology is here, all the systems of power are here. You only have to change what’s in people’s minds. It’s very difficult though.

Q: So, to a young person watching this video, never heard of you before, where would he go to find out about Nietzscheanism?

B: Just go to the Wikipedia page, surprisingly, although it’s a bit trivial, is actually quite accurate in a tendentious way. Although some of the philosophical debates about him and the genealogy of his works might confuse people because it views it in an academic way. And you don’t need to put his name to it. There’s a cluster of power-moral, individualistic, elitist, partly antinomian, partly gnostic, partly not, partly pagan, vitalist and other ideas which go with that sort of area.

Strength is morality. Weakness is sin. Weakness requires punishment. If you’re weak, if you’re obese, if you’re a drug addict, become less so. Become stronger. Move towards the sun. Become more coherent. Become more articulate. Cast more of a shadow. It’s almost a type of positive behaviorism in some ways. But it’s not somebody wagging their finger and so on, because you’re doing it for yourself. It comes from inside.

Q2: Do you not think though that Nietzscheanism doesn’t have a transcendental element to it?

B: That’s why I’m wearing this [rune pendant], you see, because I probably think there ought to be such a thing. Many people need to go beyond that. If his thinking before he went mad, probably because he had tertiary syphilis, it’s up to sort of 1880, so we’re talking about thinking that’s 130 years old.

I think in some ways he’s an anatomist of Christianity’s decline, because Christianity been declining mentally and in some ways extending out into the Third World where it’s real catchment area now is. I mean, there will be a non-White pope soon. Christianity will begin to wear the face of the south very soon. It’s the ideal religion for the south. It’s pity for those who fail, for those who are weak, for those who are hungry, for those who are broken. Have pity on your children, O Lord. It’s an ideal religion. Don’t take it through violence or fear or aggression. Submit and be thankful for what He will give you in His wisdom.

But it’s ruining us. For centuries we were strong even despite that faith, but of course we made use of it. The part that fits us is the extreme transcendence of Christian doctrine. That’s what Indo-Europeans like about that faith. The enormous vaulting cathedrals, the Gothic idea that you can go up and up and up. It’s that element in it that we like, and we made into ourselves. But we forgot the ethical substratum. We forgot the sort of troll-like ethical element that there is no other value but sympathy, there is no other value than compassion, that love is the basis of all life. And ultimately that is a feminine view of civilization which will lead to its collapse in masculine terms.

Q2: How would you view the works of Julius Evola?

B: Yes, they’re the counter-balance to Nietzsche. There is a lot of religious elements in there of a perennialist sort that a lot of modern minds can’t accept. You see, Nietzsche is a switchblade, and nearly all people in this society are modern even if they think they’re not. Nietzsche is a modern thinker. Nietzsche is a modernist. Nietzsche can reach the modern mind. Nietzsche’s the most Right-wing formulation within the modern mind that people can accept.

My view is that people who accept Evola straight out aren’t living in the modern world. That’s not a criticism. It’s a description of where they are. I think for people to become illiberal they have to become illiberal first within the modern world. Some people would say you have to go outside of it. You know, the culture of the ruins and the revolt against the modern world, per se. But I personally think that we’re in modernity.

But there will be people who go to Nietzsche and Thus Spake Zarathustra, which is really a semi- or pseudo-religious text, is not enough and they’ll want to go beyond that and they’ll want a degree and a tier of religiosity. The dilemma always in the West is what to choose. Back to Christianity or on to paganism? Which system do you choose?

Evola said he was a Catholic pagan, didn’t he? One knows what he means. But I see paganism peeping out of everything. I see paganism peeping out of Protestantism, the most Jewish form of Christianity, through its power-individualism and its extremist individuality (Kierkegaard, Carlyle, Nietzsche). I see paganism saturating Catholicism and peeping out of it at every turn, aesthetically, artistically, the art of the Renaissance, the return of the Greco-Roman sensibility, the humanism of the ancient world. Some of the greatest classicists were Medieval Popes and so on. I see it just looming out. The whole structure of the Catholic Church is a Roman imperial structure, Christianized. So, I see it peeping out.

Our law is Roman. All of our leaders were educated and steeped in the classical world to provide a dialectical corollary to Christianity without them being told that’s what is happening. The decline of the classics is partly because people don’t want to go back there, basically. So, you don’t teach it to anyone apart from tiny little public school elites, which are .2% of the population who read a few authors who no one else even knows exist. You know, big deal.

The difficulty with Evola is that it’s a very great leap for the modern mind. Although in his sensibility, I agree with his sensibility, really. I agree with him going out amidst the bombings, not caring. I agree with that sort of attitude towards life, which is an aristocratic attitude towards life. But we’re living in a junk food, liberal, low middle class society. You’ve got to start where you are. I think Nietzsche is strong enough meat for most people and is far, far, far too strong for 80% now.

Today, the mentally disabled have been allowed into the Paralympics. So, you will have the 100 yard cerebral palsy dash at the next Olympics in London in 2012. This is the world we’re living in. Nietzsche would say that’s ridiculous and so on. And that is a shocking and transgressive and morally ugly attitude from the contemporary news that we see. So, it’s almost as if Nietzsche’s tough enough for this moment.

But I’m interesting in that he said, “God is dead in the minds of men.” That doesn’t necessarily mean, of course, although he was a militant atheist, he’s living open the idea that . . . [God objectively exists—Ed.]. You see, the Christian idea of God was dying around him, mentally, and it has died. I mean, hardly anyone really, deep down, believes that now. Even the people who say that they do don’t in the way that they did 100 years ago or their predecessors did.

So, it has died, but I think there are metaphysically objectivist standards outside life. Whether our civilization can revive without a return to them is very open. It’s very questionable. Where that discourse is to come from is . . . The tragedy would be if Christianity sort of facilitated our greatness, but ended up ruining us, which of course might be the true thesis.

Now we’re getting into deep waters.

Q: What is your view of Abrahamic religions?

B: I think religion is a good thing. The Right always supports the right of religion to exist. Religion does cross ethnic and racial boundaries. Afghanistan was Buddhist once. I prefer people to have some sort of religious viewpoint, even the most tepid sort of thing, but none at all, because at least there is a structure that is in some sense prior.

But, personally, I prefer tribally based religions. I prefer religions that are about blood and genetics and honor and identity and are nominalist and that are specific. But I think people will adopt different systems because they’re physiologically different even within their group. You can see that about certain people. Certain people, Christianity suits them very well and they can be quite patriotic and quite decent people and so on in that system and there we are. But for me? No.

I’m a barbarian in some ways. People can worship what gods they want within the Western tradition, and that’s all right.


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samedi, 18 octobre 2014

Julius Evola: The World’s Most Right-Wing Thinker


Julius Evola:
The World’s Most Right-Wing Thinker

By Jonathan Bowden 

Editor’s Note:

This text is the transcript by V. S. of Jonathan Bowden’s lecture on Evola delivered to the 27th meeting of the New Right in London on June 5, 2010. As usual, I have deleted a few false starts and introduced punctuation and paragraph breaks for maximum clarity. You can listen to it at YouTube here [2]. Three passages are marked unintelligible. If you can make out the words, please post a comment below or contact me at editor@counter-currents.com [3]. 

This is the 27th meeting of the New Right, and we’ve waited quite a long time to discuss one of the most important thinkers of the radical Right and of a Traditional perspective upon mankind and reality, and that is Baron Julius Evola.

Now, Evola is in some respects to the Right of everybody that we’ve ever considered in nearly any of these talks and not in a sort of unprofound or sententious manner. Julius Evola was somebody who rejected purposefully and metaphysically the modern world. Now, what does that mean? It basically means that at the beginning of the last century, Baron Evola, who is a Sicilian baron, decided that there are about four alternatives in relation to modern life for those of heroic spirit.

One was suicide and to make off with one’s self by opening one’s veins in the warm bath like Sicilian Mafiosi and Italian cardinals and Sicilian brigands and ancient Romans.

Another was to become a Nietzschean, which for many people in tradition is a modern version of some, but by no means all, of their ideas, and it’s a way of riding the tiger of modernity and dealing with that which exists around us now. Later, people like Evola and other perennial Traditionalists as we may well call them became increasingly critical of Nietzsche and regard him as a sort of decadent modern and an active nihilist with a bit of spirit and vigor but doesn’t really have the real position.

I make things quite clear. I would be regarded by most people as a Nietzschean, and philosophically that’s the motivation I’ve always had since my beginning. That’s why parties don’t really mean that much to me, because ideas are eternal and ideas and values come back, but movements and the ways and forms that they take and expressions that they have come and go.

evola.jpgNow, moving from the Nietzschean perspective, which of course relates to the great German thinker at the end of the 19th century and his active and quasi-existential and volitional view of man, is the idea of foundational religiosity or primary religious and spiritual purpose. In high philosophy, there are views which dominate everyone around us and modern media and everyone who goes to a tertiary educational college, such as a university, in the Western world. These are modern ideas, which are materialistic and anti-spiritual and aspiritual and anti-religious or antagonistic to prior religious belief so much so that it’s taken as a given that those are the views that one holds. All of the views that convulsed the Western intelligentsia since the Second European Civil War which ended in 1945, ideas like existentialism and behaviorism and structuralism and so on, are all atheistic and material views. They’ve been discussed in other meetings. As one goes back slightly, one has various currents of opinion such as Marxism and Freudianism and behaviorism beginning in the late 19th century and convulsing much of the 20th century.

But these are views that an advanced Evolian type of perspective rejects. These views are anti-metaphysical and often counter the idea that metaphysics doesn’t exist, that it’s the school returning of the late Medieval period, what was called the Medieval schoolmen. In some of his books, Evola talks about Heidegger, Martin Heidegger, of course, who got in trouble in the 1930s for his alleged academic positioning in relation to the most controversial regime of modernity. Heidegger, in my opinion, and I’ve talked about Heidegger before, was a quasi-essentialist to an essentialist thinker. Evola believes he’s an existentialist, but that’s largely by the by.

These anti-metaphysical views are that which surrounds us. All liberalism, all feminism, all quasi-Marxism, all bourgeois Marxism, all cultural Marxism, the extreme Left moderated a bit into the Center, high capitalist economics and the return of old liberalism against the Keynesianism which was the soft Marxism that replaced it earlier in the 20th century . . . All of these ideas are materialistic and atheistic and aspiritual and anti-metaphysical.

You could argue that the heroic Nietzschean dilemma in relation to what is called modernity is a quasi-metaphysical and metaphysically subjectivist view that there are values outside man and outside history that human beings commune with by virtue of the intensity with which they live their own lives. But there is a question mark over (1) the supernatural and (2) whether there is anything beyond, outside man within which those values could be anchored.

So, the idea of permanence, the idea of a metaphysical realm which most prior civilizations are based on—indeed Evola and the Traditionalists would say all prior civilizations are based on—is questioned by the Nietzschean compact. It is ultimately, maybe, the beginnings of a very Right-wing modern view, but it is a modernist view. Take it or leave it.

The sort of viewpoint that Evola moved towards, and there was a progression in his early life and spiritual career and intellectual and writing career, is what we might call metaphysical objectivism. This is called in present day language foundationalism or fundamentalism in relation to religiosity. Fundamentalism, like the far Right, are the two areas of culture that can’t be assimilated in what exists out there in [unintelligible] Street. They’re the two things that are outside and that’s why they can never entirely be drawn in.

Now, metaphysical objectivism is the absolute belief in the supernatural, the absolute belief in other states of reality, the absolute belief in gods and goddesses, the absolute belief in one supreme power (monotheism as against polytheism, for example), the absolute belief that certain iterizations, certain forms of language and spiritual  culture exist outside man: truth, justice, the meaning of law, purposive or teleological information about how a life should be lived. Most people in Western societies now are so dumbed down and so degraded by almost every aspect of life that nearly any philosophical speculation about life is indeterminate and almost completely meaningless. It’s a channel which they never turn on.


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Now, the type of metaphysical objectivism that Evola postulates as being an anchor for meaning in modern life can take many different forms. One of the great problems many Right-wing or re-foundational or primal movements or tribal movements or nationalistic movements of whatever character have is if there is a religion somewhere behind it–as there often is for many but not all of the key people involved in such movements and struggles–what form should that be? Everyone knows that culturally, and this is true of a formulation like GRECE or the New Right in France, as soon as you begin to get people of like-mind together they will split on whether they’re atheist or not, secularist or not, but they are also, on a deeper cultural level, split on whether they’re pagan influenced or Christian. Such divisions always bedevil Right-wing cultural and metapolitical groups.

The way that the Evolian Tradition looks at this is to engage in what is called perennialism. This is the inherent intellectual and ideological and theological idea that there are certain key truths in all of the major faiths. All of those faiths that have survived, that are recorded, that have come down to us, even their pale antecedents, even those dissident, deviant and would-be heretical elements of them that have been removed, in all of them can be seen a shard of the perspectival truth that these particular traditions could be said to manifest. Beneath this, of course, is the ethnic and racial idea that people in different groups within mankind as a body perceive reality differently, experience it differently, have different intellectual and linguistic responses to it, and form different cults, different myths, different religions because they are physically constituted in a manner that leads to such differentiation.

This can lead among certain perennialists to a sort of universalism at times, almost a neo-liberalism occasionally, where all cultures are of value, where all are “interesting,” where all are slightly interchangeable. But given that danger, the advantage for a deeply religious mind of the perennial tradition is to avoid the sectarianism and negative Puritanism which is inevitably part and parcel of building up large religious structures.

As always, a thinker like Evola proceeds from the individual and goes to the individual. This can give thinking of this sort a slightly unreal aspect for many people. Where are the masses? Where is the democratic majority? Where is the BBC vote that decides? The truth is Evola is not concerned with the BBC vote. He’s not concerned with the masses. He regards the masses, and the sort of theorists who go along with him regard the masses, as sacks of potatoes to be moved about. His thinking is completely anti-democratic, Machiavellian to a degree, and even manipulative of the masses as long as it’s down within an order of Tradition within which all have a part.

Evola dates the decline of modernity from, in a sense, the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance. But many thinkers of a similar sort date the slide at other times. Evola’s a Catholic and once asked about his religious particularism he said, “I’m a Catholic pagan,” which is a deeply truthful remark, dialectically. I am not a Christian, but if you look at it from the outside the core or ur part of Christianity is obviously Roman Catholicism, even though I was technically brought up in the Protestant sort of forcing house of Anglicanism. A wet sheet religion if ever there was one. But Anglicanism, of course, is a syncretic religion. It’s a politically created religion. A bit Catholic, a bit Protestant, but not too much, and with a liberal clerisy at the top that’s partly Protestant-oriented within it and exists to manage the thing.

One of the truthful, although this is en passant, asides that can be made about Anglicanism and the reason why it’s been supported even today through state establishmentarianism when virtually no one attends these churches at all except the odd old lady and immigrants from the Third World, is that it’s a way of damming up some of the extremism that does lurk in religion. Religion is a very dangerous formulation as the modern world is beginning to understand.

evola_card10.jpgI remember Robin Cook, who was a minister who opposed the Iraq War and so on and died on a Scottish mountain, all that obsessive walking when one’s thin and redheaded can lead to undue coronaries, but Cook once said, and he’s a son of the manse like most of these Scottish politicians are, in other words, he comes from a Calvinist background to a degree, he said that in his early life he thought with the general Marxist and Freudian conundrum that religion was over. And now towards the end of his life, this is just before he died, he said, “the dark, clammy, icy hand of religiosity,” in all sorts of systems, “is rising again, and secular Leftists like us,” he’s speaking of himself and those who believe in his viewpoint, “are feeling the winds of this force coming from the side and from behind.” It’s a force that they don’t like.

I personally believe, as with Evola, that people are hardwired for faith. Maybe 1 in 10 have no need for it at all. But for most people it’s a requirement. The depth of the belief, the knowledge that goes into the belief, the system they come out of, is slightly incidental. But man needs emotional truths. George Bernard Shaw once said, “The one man with belief is worth 50 men who don’t have any” and it’s quite true that all of the leaders of great movements and those that imposed their will upon [unintelligible] inside and outside of particular countries have considerable and transcendent beliefs, philosophical, quasi-philosophical, religious, semi-religious, philosophical melded into religious and vice versa. Without the belief that there’s something above you and before you and beyond you and behind you that leads to that which is above you, we seem as a species content to slough down into the lowest common denominator, the lowest possible level.

Evola and those who think like him believe that this is the lowest age that mankind has ever experienced, despite its technological abundance, despite its extraordinary array of technological devices that even in an upper pub room in central west London you can see around you. It is also true, and this is one of the complications with these sorts of beliefs, that some of the methodologies that have led to this plasma screen behind me would actually be denied by elements of some of the religiosity that people like him would put forward, but that’s one of the conundrums about epistemology, about what you mean by meaning, which lurks in these types of theories.

The interesting thing about these beliefs is that they are primal. Turn on the television, turn on the radio, the World Cup is just about to begin. Everywhere there is trivia. Everywhere there is celebration of the majority. Everywhere there is celebration of the desire for us all to embrace and become one world, one world together. As someone recently said, “I don’t want to be English. I don’t want to be British. England’s a puddle,” he said. “I want to step out. I want to be a citizen of the world! I don’t want to have a race. I don’t want to have a kind. I don’t want to have a group . . . even a class! I don’t want to come from anywhere. I want to be on this planet! This planet is my home!” Well, my view is that sort of fake universality . . .  Maybe you should get him one of these dinky rockets and fire himself off into some other firmament, because this is the home that we have and know. And the only reason that we can define it as such is by virtue of the diversity of what exists upon it. But the number of people who wish to maintain that level of diversity and the pregnant meanings within it seem to get smaller and smaller with each generation.

The politicians that we have now are managers of a social system. It’s quite clear that we do not have three ruling parties, but one party with three wings, the nature of which are interchangeable in relation to gender, where you come from in the country, class, background, how you were educated, and whether you arrived in the country as a newcomer in the last 40 to 50 years or not.

Now, Evola’s step back from what has made the modern world leads to certain radical conclusions about it which are spiritually and politically aristocratic. Most people are only aware of the Left-Right split as it relates to a pre-immigration, slightly organic society where social class was the basis for political alignment. Bourgeois center Right: conservatism of some sort. Center Left: Labour, social-democratic, trade unionist, and so on. Now we have a racial intermingling which complicates even that division. The distinction between the aristocratic and upper class attitude and the bourgeois attitude, which is as pronounced as any Left-Right split between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, is that which Evola advocates.

Evola believes, in some respects, in masters and slaves, or certainly serfs. He believes that the merchant and those who deal purely with economics have to be subordinated to politics, to higher politics, to metapolitics, to military struggle. He believes that the warrior and the religious leader and the farmer and the intellectual/scholar/craftsman/artist are uniquely superior to those that make money, and nearly all of Evola’s views are in some way a form of aristocraticism.

If you look at all of the sports that he favors–fencing, mountaineering–they all involve lone individuals who prepare themselves for a task which is usually dangerous and which can usually result–mountaineering for example and his book Meditations on the Peaks–in annihilation, if you go wrong, but creates an extraordinary and ecstatic sense of self-overbecoming if you conquer K2, the Peruvian mountains, the Eiger, Mount Everest and so on. Even in the more populist forms of mountaineering, the sort of beard and upper middle class Chris Bonington cheery mountaineering as you might call it, there is a streak of aristocratic, devil may care and Byronic license. The bourgeois view is, “Why do that!? It’s dangerous. It’s pitiless. You could be hurt and injured! There’s no profit. It serves no higher reason than itself.” For Evola, the reason and the purpose is the reason to do it. It is the stages that you go through and the mental states you get into as you prepare and you execute a task which is dangerous and the same analogy can be extended to martial combat, the same analogy can be extended to sports like ancient wrestling.

Modern wrestling is a circus, of course, where the outcome is largely decided by the middlemen who negotiate the bouts between clowns, who can still damage each other very severely. But ancient wrestling was a bout that ended very quickly and was essentially religious, which is why the area that they wrestled in was purified with salt in most of the major traditions.

Fencing: Take away the protective gloves and gear and you have gladiatorial combat between people who are virtually on the brink of life and death. It’s only one step removed from Olympic fencing. Notice that in the contemporary Olympics, a movement that was founded in modernity on the Grecian ideal, nearly always founded by aristocrats, all of the early victors in shooting and fencing and all these early sports are aristocrats. Of course, the early Olympics have their funny side. Many of the female athletes that won the early Olympics were transsexuals. Of course, medical checks were instituted to prevent hermaphrodites and people of diverse genders and that sort of thing from competing in these competitions. But the individualistic sports in a mass age have been disprivileged and are largely regarded as strange wonderland sports that the masses only flip channels over in relation to the Olympics.

For a man like Evola and for the sensibility which he represents, things like sport are not a diversion. They are targets for initiation in relation to processes of understanding about self, the other, and life that transcend the moment. So, one bout leads to another, leads to another moment of skill. It is as if these moments, which most people always try to avoid rather than engage upon, are in slow motion. The whole point of Evola’s attitude toward these and other matters is to go beyond that which exists in a manner which is upwards and transcendent in its portending direction.

This is a society which always looks downwards. “What will other people think? What will one’s neighbors think? What will people out there think? What will all this BBC audience think? What do the masses, Left, Right, Center, pressing their buttons on panels and consoles think?” The sort of Evolian response is what they think is of no importance and they ought to think what the aristocrats of the world, in accordance with the traditions, which are largely religious, out of which their social order comes, think. You can understand that this is an attitude which is not endeared, this type of thinking, to contemporary pundits and to the world as it now is.

The_Yoga_of_Power_Cover.jpgIt’s also inevitable that when Evola’s books were published they would enter the English-speaking world via the occult, via mysticism, via various types of initiated and individualistic religiosity. The whole point about the Western occult, whether one believes in the literal formulation that these people spout or whether one believes in it metaphorically and quasi-subjectively, is that it’s an individualistic form of religiosity. In simple terms, mass religion involves a small clerisy or priesthood in the old Catholic sense up there and the laity are down there and it’s in Medieval Latin, it’s slightly mysterious, you partly understand it if you’re grammar school educated, otherwise you don’t, it’s mysterious and semi-initiated, but you don’t really know, the mystery is part of the wonder of the thing, you look up at them and they’ve got their backs to you, and they’re looking up further beyond them towards the divine as they perceive it. Now, that’s a traditional form of mass religiosity, if you like.

But the type of religiosity with which he was concerned was individualistic and voltaic. It was essentially the idea that everyone in a small group is a priest. Sometimes there’s a priest and a warrior combined. One of the many scandals that we have in modernity is crimes that are committed by members of various religious groups and organizations. Many Traditionalist minded people believe that the reporting of these crimes in the mass media is deliberately exaggerated in order to demonize any retrospectively traditional elements of a prior and metaphysically conservative type in the society.

But if one looks at it another way–and one of the things about Evola is the creativeness of the aristocratic mind that looks at essentially Centrist and bourgeois problems in a completely different perspective–he would say about those sorts of scandals, which I won’t belabor people with because everyone knows about them, that it’s the absence of the dialectic between the priest, somebody who believes in something, somebody who believes in a philosophy that isn’t just theirs and therefore relates to a society and relates to a continuing generic tradition out of which they come . . . Most contemporary philosophers are “just my view.” “Just my view as a tiny little atom.” Rather than my view as something that’s concentric and links me to something larger and that therefore can be socially efficacious. But from an Evolian perspective, the absence of the warrior or the martial and soldierly traditions and its interconnection with belief and the individual who believes is the reason for decadence or deconstruction or devilment or decay in these religious organizations. In his way of looking at things, there’s a seamlessness between the poet-artist, the warrior, and the religious believer. They are different formulations of the same sort of thing, because they are always looking upwards and, in a way, are deeply individualistic and egotistical but transcend that, because the concentration on one’s self or one’s own thinking, one’s own feeling, one’s own concerns, one’s own attitude towards this mountain, this woman, this fight, this text is conditioned by that which you come out of and move towards.

Evola doesn’t believe in progress nor does the Tradition that he comes out of. They don’t believe in scientific progress. They don’t believe in evolution. But his anti-evolutionism is strange and interesting. It’s got nothing to do with creationism and, if you like, the Evangelical politics of certain parts of what you might call the Puritan American Right, for example. His attitude is a reverse attitude, which in a strange way is an involuntary and inegalitarian way of looking at the same issue. His view is that the apes are descended from us as we go upwards rather than we are descended from them as we leave them in their simian animalism. So, in a way, it’s actually a reformulation of the same idea but looking upwards and always seeing, if you like, the snobbish, the aristocratic, the prevailing, the over-arching view rather than viewing the thing from a mass, generic, and middling perspective which includes people.

Tony Blair says the worst vice anyone can have is to be intolerant. It’s to be exclusive. It’s to exclude people. “The nature of Britishness is inclusion,” when, of course, the nature of any group identity is exclusion, and who is on the boundary and who can be allowed in and the subtleties and grains of difference that exist between one excluded group and another, where one tendency of man ends and another begins. Evola believes, in a very controversial way, that decline is morphic and spiritual combined. In other words, races of man have a spiritual dimension, have a higher emotional dimension, have a psychological dimension, but never forget that Evola is not a Nietzschean. He is not somebody who believes that it’s all at this level. He believes that the gods speak to man directly and indirectly and the civilizations that we come out of are based essentially on religious premises.

Moderns who sneer at these sorts of attitudes, of course, forget that virtually every civilization that mankind has ever had until relatively recently, and in every civilization there are documents and artifacts which are included in the storehouse of the British Museum just over there in central London, was religiously and theologically based. It’s only really in a post-Enlightenment, Scottish Enlightenment, English Enlightenment, French Enlightenment, 18th century plus sort of a way that the secularization of Western Europe rivals the rest of the planet. Further east in Europe, less of it. Further south in Europe, a bit less of it. Religiosity on most of the other continents of the Earth is still a primary force, but Evola would despise the sort of religiosity that prevails there because he would see in it broken down thinking, syncretism, the people who would say he would be in favor of contemporary Saudi Arabia, for example, would probably be sorely disappointed. He would see under the religious police, under the strict observance of this or that rule, American satellite dishes and modern devices and that which is external, in relation to modernity, and which is being internally accepted. So, Evola was always the critic, if you like, and always on the outside.

Now, his career is quite complicated because when he was a very young man he fought in the First World War on the Italian side. They, of course, fought on the “Western” or Allied side in that war as is often forgotten. There are some extraordinary photos of him on the internet in these goggles and these helmets looking like extraordinarily fascistic, and that movement hadn’t even really been created then. He looks like that in a D’Annunzian-type way, stylistically, even before the gesture itself.

Evola, of course, partly disapproved of Fascism and National Socialism even though he became very heavily implicated and/or involved in both of them, because in his view they weren’t Right-wing enough! They weren’t traditional enough. They weren’t organic enough. They weren’t extreme enough. Evola is probably the only thinker in the 20th century whose written a slim volume criticizing National Socialism from the Right not from any point to the Left. He only aligned with these movements because they forced modernity to question itself and because they were anti-democratic and because they were ferocious and desired morally and semi-theologically–because few, including liberal critics, would deny that there was a semi-theological insistence to most of the radical European movements, even of the Left but certainly of the Right, in the first half of the last century. Evola saw in these movements a chance but no more, which is why he flirted with them, why he wrote a fascist magazine in Italy, why he went to colleges run by Himmler’s SS in Germany, why he was disapproved of by them, why he had sympathizers in the Ernst Jünger-like in the party who protected him, why he was allowed to write with a degree of freedom whilst giving a degree of loyalist obeisance to these structures and yet, at the same time, to remain outside them. The question has to be raised whether Evola’s philosophy is consonant with the creation of a society or whether it will become, if you like, a spirited individualism.

Evola was also involved in the beginning of his career in one of the most radical modernist movements of the 20th century: Dadaism in Italy. He produced Dadaist paintings. Now, this, superficially, looks quite extraordinary. But of course there was a strong interconnection between certain early modernisms and fascistic ideologies. The reason that he became involved in Dadaism is quite interesting, and, of all things, there is a talk on YouTube that lasts four-and-a-half minutes in which Evola is an old man explicating why he was involved. He says the reason we got involved in these movements was to attack the bourgeoisie, was to attack the middle class, and was to attack middle class sensibility and sentimentality. The extraordinary radical anti-system nature of many radical Right ideas, which is hidden in more moderate and populist variants, comes out staring at you full in the face in people like Evola. Many fascistic and radical movements of the Right, of course, were peopled by adventurers and outsiders and quasi-artists and demi-criminals and religious mystics and madmen and people who were outside of the grain of mainstream life, particularly people who were socialized by the Great War, which many of them experienced as a revolution.

Wyndham Lewis who was strongly drawn aesthetically to modernism and politically to various forms of fascism and was a personal friend of Sir Oswald Moseley once said that for us, the First War was a revolution, wasn’t a war. We saw killing on a truly industrial scale. We saw the industrialization of slaughter.

One of the interesting ironies of the Evolian, and in some ways Ernst Jünger’s, position about war is that, although thinkers like them are regarded by pacifists and liberal humanists and feminists, as warmongers, there is a distaste for mass war in Jünger and Evola and the others, because it’s the war of the ants, the war of the masses in blood and dung and soil and gore. There is nothing chivalric about a man being torn to pieces by a helicopter gunship when he doesn’t even have a chance to get his Armalite into the air.

Evola would prefer the doctrine of the champion. You know, when two Medieval armies meet, and one enormous, hulking man comes out of one army, in full regalia trained in martial splendor and arts as a previous speaker discussed in relation to the Norse tradition, and another champion emerges and they fight for a limited objective that leaves civilization intact on either side. But the one that is defeated will obviously pay dues to the other.

Now, this shows the extremely Byronic, individualistic, and aristocratic spirit that lurks in Evola’s formulations. The way that his works have come down to us, of course, is the way that he lived his life and the books that he wrote. It’s interesting that the Anglo-Saxon world has received his literature through translations by mystic and occultistic publishers in the United States: about tantra, about Buddhism, about Japanese warrior castes and traditions, about the Holy Grail, about Greco-Roman, High Christian, pagan, and post-pagan Europeanist and other traditions.

Another radicalism about Evola is his total unstuffiness and absence of prudery in dealings with sex. Evola wrote a book called Metaphysics of Sex. He regards sexuality as a primal biological instantiation through which the races of man are renewed and replaced. But at the same time he regarded it as one of the primary human acts of great energy and force that has to be channeled, has to be made use of, has to be transcended in and of itself. You have this odd commitment to tantra, which is a sort of erotic extremism of occultic sex, and a total opposition to pornography. Why? Because the one involves commercialization of sex, the one involves money interrelated with sexuality. From this purely primal perspective, unless a marriage is arranged between dynastic states or groups for particular statal purposes, which is fine, money has almost nothing to do with these areas of life.



The disprivileging of money as the basis of everything and the belief that the society that we have now is the result of the fact that every politician in all of the parties represented in the major assemblies, including radical Right parties essentially of a populist hue actually, believe in Homo economicus. They believe that man is an economic integer and nothing else matters. Immigration? It’s good for the economy, don’t you know? Mass movements of capital around the world at the flick of a button on a screen in exchanges all around the globe, particularly in the Far East now but also ubiquitously? It’s good for the economy! Everything is based upon the freeing of people from prior forms of alleged servitude due to economic enhancement. The sort of doctrines Evola holds are not neo-Medieval, nor are they a desire for a return to the ancient world with certain modern technologies. In some ways, they are a return to the verities that existed before the modern world was created.

One of the most substantial critiques of this type of thinking is the belief that the modern world is inevitable, that all cultures and races will modernize and are doing so at a great rate of knots, that skyscrapers and enormous megalopolic cities are being thrust up in the Andes and the Far East and even client Chinese-built ones will emerge in Africa and elsewhere and that it would be onwards and upwards forever in relation to what we have now. There are grotesque problems with that, of course, because to give every human on this planet irrespective of race, kinship, clime, and culture a middle American lifestyle you will need 3 planets, 8 planets, 10 planets, or you may need them, in order to give them that middle American feeling. The three satellite dishes, the condominium, the three Chelsea tractors outside in the driveway, the multiple channel TV, and so on. To give every African that we will need many, many planets and many, many times the economic wherewithal that we have even at the moment.

The interesting thing about Evola is that many issues that convulse people today–famine in the Third World, war in the Congo, HIV/AIDS–he would say they’re interesting, of course, because they’re things that are going on, and everything has a meaning even beyond itself. But ultimately they’re unimportant. The number of humans on the Earth doesn’t matter to his type of thinking. Pain and suffering do not matter in accordance with his type of thinking. Indeed, he welcomes them as part of the plenitude of life, because life begins in pain and ends in pain and most people live their entire lives in denial of the fact that life is circular as his philosophical tradition believes the world is and meaning is. There is progression around the circle, but there is decline, and decline and death are part of an endless process of will and becoming.

It is essentially and in a very cardinal way a religious view of life, but also a metaphysically pessimistic and conservative view of life in a profound way that the conservatism of contemporary liberal Tories like Cameron would not even begin to understand. To a man like him, theories of Evola’s sort are lunacy, quite literally, the return to the Dark Ages, the return to the Middle Ages, quasi-justifications of slavery, quasi-justifications of the Waffen SS. This is what Cameron or his colleagues on the front bench and his even more liberal colleagues on the same front bench would say about these sorts of ideas.

1907166939.jpgBut the irony is that 300 to 400 years ago, most civilized structures on Earth were based on these ideas. Even the modern ones that replaced them are based upon the contravention of these sorts of ideas, which means that they realized they were real enough to rebel against in the first instance. It’s also true that even in the high point of modernity, post-modernity, hypermodern reality, all the phrases that are used, when a war occurs, when the planes go into the towers in New York, when the helicopter gunships stream over Arabian sands, you suddenly see a slippage in the liberal verities and in the materialism and in some of the ideas which are used to justify these sorts of things. Not much of a slippage, but you suddenly see a slippage, what occultists and mystics call a “rending of the veil,” a ripping of the veil of illusion between life and death.

What is life really about? Is life really about shopping? Is life really about making more and more money? Is life really about bourgeois status when one already has enough to live on? Is life really about eating yourself to death? These are the sorts of things that Evola’s viewpoint pushes before people, which is why the majority will always push it away.

His political texts are essentially Revolt Against the Modern World, Men Among the Ruins, and Ride the Tiger, which explore the nature of a man who is born now when most of the prior traditions of his culture and his civilization have collapsed.  The decivilization of man, the fact that Western cities have turned into Third World zones, the fact that semi-criminality is endemic, the fact that when you go into a street graffiti is there, rap music blares from a passing car, 20%, 40% of the street has no relationship to you aesthetically or ethnically or racially or culturally. Evola would see this as part of the inevitable climate of decline and spiraling downwards towards matter, which is intentional and volitional.

The most controversial area of Evola is when he begins to unpick and reformulate many classic propositionalisms of what might be called the “Old Right” to determine what has occurred and why. Evola is essentially, although he began in a more subjectivist and changeable mood, a deeply religious and aristocratic man. This means there is always a reason. Liberals believe that everything is a confusion and everything is contingent upon itself and everything is an accident waiting to happen. But like Christ in the New Testament, who believes that when two birds fall to the ground the father is aware, Evola believes that there is always a purpose and a reason. Evola believes that civilizations are collapsing in on themselves and tearing themselves apart internally for reasons that are pushed by elites and by forces which are manifest within them that will that desire. The endless atoms and causal moments in the chains may not know of that which is coming, that which is non-volitional, that which is partly pre-programmed. He believes that these tendencies of mass servitude, mass death, mass proletarianization spiritually, mass plebeianism, mass social welfare, mass social democracy are willed, that the destructivity of prior cultural orders is willed and definite, and certain racial groups are used to facilitate that destruction, and that other groups use them in order to achieve it.

He believes in an aristocracy of man, because he believes everything is hierarchical. There was an interesting moment in a by-election in East London or eastern London just recently when the chairman of the party that I used to be in a while ago was asked by a woman of Afro-Caribbean ancestry, “Are we equal with you?” The media’s there, you know. Twenty cameras are upon this individual, and, therefore, given the logic and the paradigm that he is in he said, “Yes.” He would probably want to say, “Yes, but . . . ,” but the media has gone on because it’s got the required answer. Indeed, lots of media investigation now is asking a politician to affirm their correctness before a prior methodological statement, and woe betide any of them if they show the slightest backsliding on any issue about which they should be progressive.

Who can put words in the mouth of somebody who died a while back, but Evola’s answer, the answer of his type of thinking, would be that that woman is unequal in relation to a black writer like Wole Soyinka, who is a Nigerian from the Yoruba tribe and won the Nobel Prize. Is he worthy of winning the Nobel Prize? Was he given the prize in the 1990s because it was fashionable to do? Rabindranath Tagore, the great Indian writer and Brahmin and higher caste type, won it in 1913. Probably wasn’t too much political correctness then, but there was probably a bit even then. The Evolian answer is that she is not equal in relation Soyinka, and Soyinka is not equal in relation to Chaucer or Defoe or Shakespeare or Voltaire or Dante or Tolstoy or Dostoevsky or Wagner, that everything is unequal and that everything is hierarchical and that there is a hierarchy within an individual and between individuals and between groups of individuals, because everything is looking upwards and everything has a different purpose in life.

This means that those who are at the middle and the bottom of an ethnicity, of a social order, of a gender, of a prior historical dispensation should not be lonely, in his way of looking at things, or afraid or rebellious or full of alienation and fear. Because everyone has a role within a hierarchy and people can move to a degree although his viewpoint is essentially aristocratic and not meritocratic. A man like Nietzsche, who Bertrand Russell once condemned as advocating an aristocracy when he was not born in it or anywhere near it, would be accepted, but never completely accepted by an aristocratic caste. Things that are regarded as hopelessly naïve and snobbish now, Evola regards as just due form.

locandina.jpgWhat is the worst thing in the world at the present time according to Sky News? Probably discrimination. Discrimination of one sort or another. Evola would believe that discrimination is the taxonomy of an aristocratic sensibility. One reaches for a piece of cake, one discriminates. One has an arranged marriage with another member of the Sicilian nobility, one discriminates. One reaches for a sword to do down a bounder that one wishes to beat with the flat of the blade, one discriminates between the weapon and the object of the rage, which is itself indifferent because it sees something beyond even itself. These are views, of course, that the majority of people will find cold, chilling, brutal, [unintelligible] beyond their conception. Almost forms of insanity in actual fact in relation to what is today regarded as normal or moral or even human. They are partly inhuman ideas, in some ways, but they are ideas that most aristocracies and most warrior castes have had for most forms of human history.

Evola’s books are now widely available to those who wish to read them. The great conundrum of his work is, does it portend to an asceticism? In other words, if the era of destruction, which is the Kali Yuga on the ideology which he puts forward, which is the Hindu age of destruction where everything is broken and everything is melded together prior to decomposition which will feed a universal rebirth at a future time, because mankind is seasonal in relation to Spengler’s view of the world where his view of history is compared to plants and botany to give it some sort of methodology, some sort of structure.

Don’t forget, these are 19th century and early 20th century ideas. No history don, or hardly any history don, today believes history has a meaning. Carlyle believed that the sort of deistic nature of history impinged upon the decadence of the French royalist elite and it led to the revolution because they didn’t superintend France properly. He sort of believed in his Protestant, thundering way from the pulpit of his study in the mid-19th century that the French Revolution was an outcome that was partly deserved by a failing aristocracy. In other words, history had a meaning.

It had a purpose. Nobody believes history has a meaning or a purpose. Certain anti-fascists would say Stalingrad had a purpose, but they forget that the Red Army shot 16-18,000 of their own men, and the Commissars stood 18 feet behind the lines. They shot an army of their own men in order to win that battle, just as secret police in the Third World cut off the ears and cut out the tongues of any who retreat in battle before they send them back to their villages.

Would Evola approve of that? He would probably say that if it was done individualistically or as a matter of revenge or of rage it’s dependent upon the circumstances, but to do it in a mass-oriented way–mass camps, mass sirens, the totalitarian response particularly of communism, the reduction of everything to the lowest common denominator so all can be free in a sort of pig-like uniformity–he would consider that really to be death and to be fought against.

Evola is extraordinarily controversial because there is an area in his thinking, particularly in relation to the Islamic world, that leads almost to the justification, as certain liberal critics say, of forms of religious terrorism. He never quite advocates that, but it’s quite clear that his loathing of the modern world is so much and his nuanced appreciation of the Islamic concept of Jihad–where you fight within yourself against doubt and fight externally in a quasi-pagan and masculine way against the enemy that is without you–has a resonance that chimes with certain extremist religious people who basically want to blow the modern world up.

So, Evola is, as I say in my title, one of the world’s most Right-wing, certainly most elitist, thinkers. The interesting thing about him is that everything always looks upwards, even his doctrine of race.

You find in many racialistic movements a sort of socialism. That if you are of my ethnicity you are “all right,” as if possession of a certain melanin skin content or absence of same is all that the thing was about. When Norman Tebbit says that the British National Party is old Labour plus allied racialism, there is always a streak of truth to such viewpoints. Evola doesn’t believe in that.

Evola believes that race is spiritual as well as physical. If a man comes to you and says, “Oh, I’m White! You should be looking after me, mate!” he would say what is your intellect, what is your quality, what is your moral sense, what do you know about your civilization, how far are you prepared to fight for it, what pain can you endure, have you had understanding of death in your family and in life, are you a mature and profound human being or are you part of the limitless universality although you were born in a particular group which I respect and come from myself.? That’s the sort of principle that he would have.

Now, that is an attitude of revolutionary snobbery in a way, but it’s snobbery based upon ideas of character. And in the end as we know, politically, character is a fundamentally important thing. And the absence of it, particularly in quasi-authoritarian movements is poisonous because people once in place cannot be removed except by the most radical of means. So, there is a degree to which leadership is all important.

Look at an army. An army is not a gang of thugs. But it can easily become one. An army can easily become a rabble, but armies are controlled by hierarchies of force, the nature of which is partly impalpable. Each squad has a natural leader. Each squad has its non-commissioned officer. Each squad has an officer above them. In real armies, German, British armies of the past, if one officer goes down somebody replaces them from lower down, assumes immediately the responsibility that goes with that role. Even if all the officers are gone and all non-commissioned officers, the natural leader, one of the 5%–most behavioral anthropologists believe that 1 in 20 of all people have leadership critera–can step forward in a moment of crisis and are looked to by the others, because they provide meaning and order and hierarchy in a moment of stress.

Have you ever noticed that when people undergo disaster or when they’re in difficulties they look for help, but they also look for people to lead them out of it? Leaders are never liked, because it’s sort of lonely at the top, but leadership is probably like the desire to believe in something beyond yourself. It’s inborn. And while the principle of leadership remains, where in even democratic societies leaders are required in order to energize the democratic masses . . .

Don’t forget, most of the Caesarisms of modernity are Red forms of Caesarism, forms of extreme authoritarianism and even pitilessness all in the name of the people. All raised in the name of the masses and their glory and their freedom, their liberty and their equality. When Forbes magazine says that the Castro family’s wealth in communist Cuba is $70 million US dollars, when it calls them communist princes . . . Don’t forget, an ordinary man in Cuba could be in prison for owning his own plumbing business. When you realize that these people are princelings of reversal, you sense that some of the hierarchies, although they wear different names and different forms, are occurring in an entropic phase or in a culture of decay do relate to many of Evola’s ideas even in reversal. He would say this is because these ideas are eternal and are perennial and will out in the end.

The traditional political Right-wing criticism of these sorts of ideas is that they are purely philosophical, they relate to individuals and their lives, they tend to Hermeticism and the ascetic view that a learned spiritual man, a man of some substance, can go off and live by himself and the rest can rot down to nothing and who cares. They say that they feed a sort of post-aristocratic misanthropy.

Look at our own aristocracy. They probably lost power in about 1912. They were never shot like in the Soviet Union, they were never beheaded like in revolutionary France of 200 years before. But they have lost everything in a way because their function has been taken from them, hasn’t it? The reason for those schools, the reason they were bred in the first place, the reason for all their privileges and so on has been taken away. The fascination with the Lord Lucan case in the ’70s, the sort of decline of that class. He listens to Hitler’s speeches at Oxford, beats the nanny to death, not even get the right woman in the basement. This sort of thing. Can’t even get that right! Couldn’t even get the crime right! It’s the decline of a class, isn’t it? Going down, and knowing they’ve gone down as well. It’s sort of Oswald Moseley’s son enjoys being dressed up as a woman and spanked and his son has just died of a heroin overdose. And yet Oswald Moseley is in that family chain. You don’t really need to think that there is a sort of efflorescence there. It’s a bit unfair on that family and so on.

But don’t forget, this was a class that was born to pitilessness and rule. This was a class that identified with eagles. That’s why they put them on their shields and on their ties and on their schools. And now look at them.



But, of course, they have in a sense joined the rest, haven’t they? They’ve joined the mass. And what they once were no longer matters. Cameron sums it up in a strange sort of way. Traditionally, since the 1960s, the Tories have always elected pushy middle class people with which the mass of their electoral support can identify.

It was always said Douglas-Home would be the last of the old breed. He was premier when I was born. He would be the last of the old breed that would survive and thrive. When asked about unemployment in 1961, Douglas-Home said, “There’s room for a second gamekeeper on my estate.” And people said he was out of touch. Out of touch! And he was out of touch! Let’s face it. But he thought that was a quite commodious and moral answer, you see.

Cameron is strange because all of the ease–the ease before the camera, the ease before people, no notes, look at me, not a trembling lip–all of that ease is part of the genetics of what he partly comes out of. And yet all of his values are bourgeois. All of his values are middling and mercantile. All of his values are this society’s as it now is.

Would Douglas-Home have joined or even given money to United Against Fascism, who he would have regarded as smelly little people on the margins of society who were a Left-wing rabble who probably needed to be beating the grass somewhere? Or in my regiment. You see what I mean? The idea that he would identify with these people because the real enemy represents the seeds of the aristocracy from which one has fled, that wouldn’t occur to him. He was too much what he was, basically, as a form to really consider these lies and this legerdemain and this flight of fancy.

One comes to the most controversial area of Evola’s entire prognosis, and this is the belief that Jewishness is responsible for decline and that they are a distant and another race that pushes upon things and causes things to fall and be destroyed. These are the views, of course, the belief that there is a morphic element in the nature of the decline, that has made him so untouchable and controversial. The interesting thing is that when he was approached about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is believed by all liberal humanist scholars to be a forgery of the Okhrana secret police based upon an alleged French novel, I think in the 19th century, Evola said, I’m not concerned whether it’s a forgery or not, which is a very interesting response.

Because in Evola’s occultistic and Hermetic view of the world you can indicate something through its reversal, you can indicate something through metaphorization, something can be emotionally true and not completely factually true, a text can be used to exemplify truths deeper than its own surface. This is a religious view of the text, of course, that the text does not end with itself. It’s a Medieval view and is based upon a science of linguistic study called hermeneutics where you would look at every word, you would look at every paragraph, you would look at every piece of syntax to deconstruct for essence rather than deconstruct to find the absence of essence.

In the Western world, if you go to university now and you do any humanities, any arts, any liberal arts, or any social science course you will come across an ideology called deconstruction. Even vaguely, the semi-educated have heard of it. This is a viewpoint that says that any essentialisms (race, class isn’t an essentialism, but it begins to become one in the minds of man, belief in God, gender and so on) lead to the gates of Auschwitz. This is what deconstruction is based on as a theory. Therefore you look at every text, you look at every film, because they’re obsessed with mass culture, you see, looking at what the masses look at and what they’re fed by the capitalist cultural machine. They look at this and say, oh look, dangerous essentialism there. Did you see in that John Wayne film? Did you see the way he spoke to the Red Indian? Sorry, Native American. You see that sort of thing. You look at these things and you break them down and you break them down again and you break down the element of sort of “David Duke” logic that could be said to lie in that particular phrasing and so on.

But the sort of analysis that Evola maintains is what you might call constructionism rather than deconstructionism. And that’s building upon the essences of things and bringing out their discriminatory differences. So, to him the fact that that text may have been put into circulation by the Okhrana, the czarist secret police, as a profound Hermetic, metaphoricization for courses of history which may or may not be occurring, is worthy of study. He again returns to the idea that everything has meaning.

If you want war with the Islamic world, the towers will fall. If you a pacifist and isolationist America to enter the Great War, a particular boat with civilians onboard but weapons underneath, will be torpedoed by the Germans. If you want to get the isolationist boobs of middle America into a global struggle in the early 1940s you allow the prospect of an attack that you know is going to happen to it there and you make sure your aircraft carriers are not there and you blame the middling officers who were there for their incompetence retrospectively because it is the moment to kick start democratic engagement with heroic and Spartan activities.

Who can doubt that there is a streak of the Spartan? When an American Marine goes up a beach on Iwo Jima or when he fights in Fallujah? Some of the modern world has certainly fallen away for that man as he faces oblivion in warriorship against the other, even within the modern. People like Evola and Jünger would realize that. There’s even at times, in the extremity of modern warfare, a return to the individual. What about these American pilots and these other pilots, these Russian pilots, who fly in these planes, and the warrior is part of the plane. You know, they have a computer in their visor and they have all sorts of statistics coming up before them. It’s like a man who is an army fighting on his own, isn’t it? He’s got an amount of force under his wings which is equivalent to an army of centuries ago. So, you have a return to elite individuals trained only for killing and warriorship at the top tier of present Western advanced military metaphysics.

The interesting thing about Evola’s way of thinking is it’s creative. Most Right-wing people are pessimistic introverts who don’t like the world they were born into, but Evola seems to be to me in some ways an extravagant, optimistic aristocrat who always sees, not the best side of everything, but the most heroic side of everything that goes beyond even itself. Even if the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, in accordance with his diction, was a lie and can be proved to be such, the fact that millions were motivated to believe in it, millions to reject its causation, that people fought out the consequences and the consequences of the consequences in relation to even some of those ideas, means that it is of great specificity and import.



Nietzsche has the idea that a man stands on the edge of a pond, and he skims a pebble into the pond, and it skips across the water. You know when you get it skimming right and it goes and it goes and it goes and wave upon wave moves upon the surface, and you can’t predict the formulation of the wave and the current that it leads into. And that History has unknown consequences.

The Maoist general who was asked by an American sympathizer after the Maoist Long March, itself partly mythological, “What’s your view of the French Revolution?” And he memorably replied, “It’s too early to tell.” Because it’s only two 200 years back. That is the sort of perspective that Evola has.

Although there will be crushing defeats, and men of his sort, aristocrats, for whom the modern world has no time, play polo, waste your money, go to brothels, gamble all the time. There’s no role for you. The world is ruled by machines and money and committees and Barack Obama.

You know, American Rightists call Obama “Obamination” instead of abomination. Is he the signification for everything that is declining in America and isn’t all of these middle class tax revolt type movements which are 100% grassroots American really within the allowed channels of opposition? “He’s a socialist!” “It’s all about tax. It’s not about anything else.” “It’s all within the remit of health care budgetary constraints and views on same.” Etc, etc. “What about the deficit?” Aren’t all of these movements and the rage that they contain elements and spectrums of what he would call anti-modernity or semi-anti-modernity within modernity?

None of us know what the future will hold, but it is quite clear that unless people of advanced type in our group believe in some of the traditions that they come out of again, they will disappear. And in Evola’s view they will have deserved to disappear. So, my view is that whatever one’s view, whatever one’s system of faith . . . and don’t forget that in the Greek world you could disbelieve in the gods and think they were metaphors, you could kneel before a statue of them or you could have a philosophical belief in between the two and all were part of the same culture, all were part of the same city-state, and if called upon as a free citizens to defend it, even Socrates would stand in line with his shield and his spear.

All of Evola’s books are now available on the internet. The most controversial passages about morphology and ethnicity are all available on the internet. Read Julius Evola. Read an aristocrat for the past and the future, and look back to the perennial Traditions that are part and parcel of Western civilization and can fuel the imagination and fire even in those who don’t entirely believe in them.

Thank you very much!




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lundi, 29 septembre 2014

Jonathan Bowden: Heidegger

Martin Heidegger

By Jonathan Bowden 

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

heidegger-crop Editor’s Note:

The following text is a transcript of Jonathan Bowden’s lecture on Martin Heidegger at the 6th New Right Meeting in London on February 18, 2006. You can listen at YouTube here [2]. If you can make out the passage marked unintelligible, please post a comment below. 

In truth, this is not one of Jonathan’s best lectures, but even Heidegger experts would be hard pressed to deliver a good introduction in one hour. It is, in particular, highly misleading to characterize Heidegger as an “essentialist.” But Jonathan means simply the belief that reality that exists “outside” and “before” the existence of the mind. And indeed, Heidegger so strongly believed this that he rejected even Platonic essentialism as implicitly subjectivist, because it posiys that ultimate reality consists of entities that satisfy our quest for certainty, thus conceiving the world based on the needs of the human subject.  

Martin Heidegger: this talk in some respects is incredibly difficult, because I remember when the elitist Jewish academic George Steiner was asked to do the Fontana Modern Masters on Heidegger, it was because a long series of Oxbridge academics couldn’t do it. They basically couldn’t reduce the extraordinary complexity of, in particular this work, Being and Time, to 100 pages. Because Fontana Modern Masters, as you know, is a students’ sort of “cheat” primer, the sort of thing that people look up on the internet now. And to reduce Heidegger to that is slightly ridiculous. But you also have to provide a sort of middling and upper-middling foregrounding for people to come into the theory anyway, otherwise they’ll be at sea.

Now, what people do when they write Times Literary Supplement, never mind Sunday Times, articles about somebody like Heidegger is they basically talk about his politics; they talk about whether or not he had a mistress; they talk about his early Catholicism; they talk about wraparound and biographical matters, because the theory is amongst the most difficult metaphysical theories written in the last century.

Probably Adorno and Sartre on the ultra-Left—both of whom cross over with certain areas that Heidegger was concerned with, Sartre, biographically never mind anything else—and Heidegger are amongst the most complicated theorists that one can ever imagine. So, before we start on this talk we have to look at what’s happened to Western philosophy in the last hundred years.

Now, for those who read their philosophy at tertiary level in our universities—and tertiary education has been so degraded in many respects through egalitarian discourse that it’s almost meaningless, but for those who do—they know that there are two great clusters in Western academic philosophy: so-called Anglo-American philosophy, and so-called, but essentially actual, European and Continental philosophy.

We grow up, whether we like it or not—because even the Tony Blairs of this world are actually subliminally influenced by these ideas—in an empirical, naturalist, factually-oriented, slightly anti-theoretical current which comes from our alleged and soi-disant Enlightenment. And we come out of essentially an anti-theoretical and an anti-metaphysical discourse which is why something as unbelievably outré as this is literally outside of British and Anglo-concentric thinking in all sorts of ways. For a long time it was said that Being and Time would be untranslatable, and it wasn’t translated until ’62. And don’t forget, the book was written in the ’20s. And it’s translated by two academics, so it’s sort of two-for-one, with Blackwells, a sort of generalized Oxbridge publisher.

Now, what is Continental philosophy trying to do, and why does Anglo-American philosophy think it’s meaningless? Because these are questions that can’t be answered and therefore shouldn’t even be asked, in a Bertrand Russell and Wittgensteinian way of looking at things. Basically, Heidegger is trying, through semi-atheistic and allegedly secular discourse, to arrive at certain ultimate spiritual truths grounded in pure philosophy, and in pure thinking about thinking, even thinking about the thinking of thinking. And he is trying to prove certain cardinal things that, in many ways, gifted adolescents ask, but often as they atrophy into adulthood and early maturity they fall away from. Most people ask, “What’s life for?,” “Is there a God?,” “Is there ultimate purpose?,” “What is death about?,” “Will anything happen to me that can be acknowledged as existing before I die that impinges upon this cardinal event?,” “Why are most people completely oblivious to these issues and are terrified and often in a state of mild anxiety if they come up in general discourse?”

Now, Heidegger is trying to reach real conclusions, grounded philosophical conclusions, about these cardinal matters. Because he believed that Western metaphysics—and this is an incredibly arrogant statement really—that Western metaphysics had gone wrong for 2500 years of falsity and inauthenticity in relation to the primal nature of Being, which he believed is even a category within the notion of being which he calls Being-in-being.

Now, what’s “Being”? The “science” of Being in abstract philosophy is called ontology, and all of his work is about ontology. Now, this slogan behind me which Troy has kindly put up is, in part, a conceit because it says, “Martin Heidegger and Death’s Ontology.” Well you can’t really have an ontology of death, but you can have an ontology of life. But his whole point is to place life, as understood as concrete Being and as phenomenon, before death.

Heidegger is essentially a religious thinker, but he wants to route theoretical and theological energies through pure intellectuality. Why so? Because it is a way into intellectual understanding in the 20th century. Most of the cardinal ideas of the 20th century impinge upon him. And he was taught phenomenology at university by Edmund Husserl, to whom Being and Time is dedicated. In the sort of epigraph/frontal page he says, “Dedicated to Edmund Husserl in friendship and admiration. Black Forest 8th of April 1926.”

Now, many people, sort of undergraduates, people who go on Channel 4 documentaries, say that Martin Heidegger is an existentialist. And he influenced enormously that school, but in actual fact he is not an existentialist, hence the endless intellectual complication. He is as far removed as that, whilst being tangential to it, as one can possibly imagine. Now, he is a radical essentialist of the most primary and foundational form.

Most of the contemporary theory that’s influenced Western university professors and other intellectuals in the last 30 years is based on a particular type of existentialism which is designed, in a way, to get rid of this sort of material even before they start thinking. The idea is that existence is all there is, and existence foregrounds essence. There is no prior essence, there are no ontological variants which could be said to be true before us. Essentially, there is—put crudely and in Sun editorial terms if you can even describe Heidegger in such cultural proximities—they’re saying that God is not just dead, but was always dead and was always a mistake and even the admission of his existence or partial existence was based on a question that shouldn’t be asked, because it was epistemologically false even in the asking of it.

Epistemology is the science, or way, of understanding how one should think: thinking about thinking, if you like. Because in this type of thinking, before you have a thought you must, rather like a surgeon, make sure your tools are all right in order to operate. So you have to think about the thinking you’re going to initiate before you even start thinking.

Now, most Left-wing ideas are based upon the idea that we’re a tabula rasa, that we’re a sheet of paper, that you can write upon it as you want and as you will; that we’re the product of economics, or that we’re the product of social forces or interconnections of the two; there might be a bit of biology but it’s so mediated through socio-economic concerns that it’s lost sight of. Certainly, there are no prior truths to us and our existence. Hence Sartre’s famous essay which was designed to bring Leftist students, and a whole generation of them, many of whom are prominent in the media now and so on, in the Western world into a particular type of thinking. He wrote an essay called Existentialism is a Humanism because ultimately, in a sense, it is, although paradoxically there have been plenty of Right-wing existentialists.

They believe that existence precedes essence; essence is just an idea, is a ghost, is a spook in the machine, is that which is prior, is that which all modern theory rejected when the modern world replaced the medieval world. And in some respects, although it’s a very crude analysis, Heidegger is a super-charged modern who was a return of radically medieval ways of looking at the world; at meaning; at purpose; at will; and at existence in existence as clarified essence. So, in a way he is trying—scribbling away at this chalet he had, made of wood in the Black Forest— to confirm the existence of God, basically. That’s what he’s trying to do with this enormous amount of theory.

When post-structuralism, so-called, became the cardinal intellectual discourse of our universities, pretty much in the 1980s/1990s and subsequently, those theories are based upon the idea which radicalizes even the existentialist project of the ’50s and ’60s. And this is that there is no essential foundation to meaning. I remember a Marxist university professor I know quite well—he teaches at some upgraded poly which is now called a university in London—Malcolm Evans, who wrote a book about Shakespeare called Signifying Nothing, which is a quote from Macbeth of course, so there’s a clever interweaving of texts going on here. But he basically believes that essentialism is dangerous. Because of course, although your average Socialist Worker Party activist, and there’s few of them left, would even think in these terms, it is a totally rival and totally discontinuous and totally oppositional way of thinking. They believe, they begin with man in his predicament and the only way to get out of that predicament is to change one’s environment which creates the nature of that predicament.

Heidegger’s view is that everything is prior, everything is prior, and death is before you. And death, in accordance with essentially his religious nature, is what life is about. In other words, life is about preparing yourself for inexistence.

Now, one of the sort of comets that goes across this constellation which could be said to be Heidegger is Jean-Paul Sartre who did his thesis in Germany, partly during the Nazi period. Sartre, this rather sort of short-sighted ugly man, stooping around, running about, didn’t seem to know what was going on in Germany at this period. Indeed, there were circles of the Left in post-war France who held it against Sartre that he actually studied in Germany during this period, influenced by these sorts of ideas.

Now, Sartre takes these ideas in another direction. So, he doesn’t have a prior essence; that there are things like Beauty with a big “B,” Justice with a big “J,” Truth with a big “T,” and so on, that exist prior to man. He believes that everything is unknown prior to specific consciousness. But you authenticate yourself and the possibility of Being by confronting nothingness and filling the emptiness with volition, in his case by choosing to be an extreme Leftist. Life is utterly meaningless. But one chooses a course for one’s life and for one’s discourse.

And this led him to myopic apoliticism and moping around in German libraries in the 1930s through to Maoism, essentially, because he basically ended up in a sort of Maoist sect before he died in the 1970s. Something which, because Pol Pot of all people passed through some of those Parisian Salons in the 1970s, listening to people like Kristeva and these other post-structuralist theorists, has rather doomed Sartre in post-war and after his death terms, because you can’t claim existentialism as a humanism when one of your moral pupils turns out to be Pol Pot! That’s been a bit difficult, you see.

But you have this extraordinary radicalism in the examples of these two men: Sartre ends up with Mao (put crudely), and Heidegger ends up with Hitler. Because both of them, if you like, begin thinking cardinally about the values of our civilization which, when you think about it logically, would lead them to some of the most radical conclusions, socially, politically, and ideologically, which are possible.

Because this type of intellectuality—and I’m going to read certain sections of it because there is a pretension always to talking about people like Heidegger without dealing with what we’ll call the hard core; you’ve actually got to look at the material which is written in a sedentary way but is written, in a sense, in accordance with the notion of intellectual fury. It’s a belief that all of life and all of meaning can be revealed through mental processes, which I don’t believe is true, but it’s a heroic attempt to do this.

And this sort of language is virtually a system of thinking which has more relationship with artistic ways of describing things, actually. Because Heidegger’s theory is something that you have to experience. Here is a man dwelling upon ultimate questions of whether there is an essence in an essence, of what it means to be you, or this table, or anything that phenomenologically exists. Or, are there realms above us or beneath us or around us? And, how can you answer a moral question with an affirmative statement?

Wittgenstein’s point in Tractatus and after is that ultimately you can’t answer a morally affirmative statement because to do so is meaningless outside language, and language is all that exists, and language is given even only a partial meaning through context. There’s a famous and funny story of Wittgenstein where he’s ferociously berating an American visiting professor at Cambridge and he says, “You can’t make affirmative moral statements,” and he’s waving a poker in his face. And the university professor replies, “Here’s an affirmative moral statement: don’t wave pokers in the faces of visiting professors.” And Wittgenstein hurls the poker into the fire and storms out of the room in a rant.

But these attempts, abstract and very radical though they are, always, like Icarus in a sense, go up and then come down again. Because, mark my words, every politician and every pundit, no matter how low-level, no matter how 200 times beneath this sort of discourse they are, is actually replicating ideas that have come from somewhere and are going somewhere. The reason why—you know, you walk around London today—the world is as it is, is ideological in the broadest of senses. Because a man who has any sort of belief becomes the equivalent of 50 men in action. And Heidegger was a man whose action was theory in this purely Germanic way.

I met a German intellectual once and he said, “Ah, you’re an intellectual,” and he sits down and he looks right into your eyes and you begin the theory. This is a totally un-British sort of way of behaving because there’s no concept of irony in a way, but this idea that you achieve truth through almost a violence of intellectuality, which in a way Heidegger evinces.

Now let’s read something from Being and Time. Now, Being and Time is divided into two books, essentially. The first one is “An Explanation of the Question of the Meaning of Being; The Necessity, Structure and Priority of the Question of Being.”This is whether we can even talk about the nature of talking about the book. We have, “The Necessity for Explicitly Restating the Question of Being,” we have “The Formal Structure of the Question of Being,” we have “The Ontological Priority of the Question of Being,” and we have “The Ontical Priority of the Question of Being.” That takes him 32 pages before he’s even started. You’ve got to clear away all the refuse in your garden before you start, basically.

Part One is “The Interpretation of Dasein in Terms of Temporality,” that means the interpretations of Being in terms of time, andThe Explication of Time as the Transcendental Horizon for the Question of Being.” Then there’s another section about “Being-in-the-world in General as the Basic State of Dasein.” Then there’s a section on “The Worldhood of the World,” by which he means, “Is the world as we appear?” Can we prove that you are actually there? Because it’s actually very difficult from first principles to prove common sense: that I’m speaking to you, that I’m not speaking to myself, that it’s a vision, that I’m talking about things that are endlessly solipsistic, in pure mental processes without being empirical, because this type of theory believes that empiricism distorts because you go down to matter, and so you must keep it totally at a theoretical level. It’s actually quite difficult to prove the idea that everything isn’t an idea, and that even addressing you in this way is an idea, and so on.

“Being-in-the-World as Being-within and Bringing-one’s-Self to the ‘They’.” This is the idea that one approaches the possibility of semi-existence in another, theoretically, before one gets there. Then we have “Being-in as Such.” Intellectual Germans love these little “as suches” and so on. “Care as the Being of Dasein,” now this is the self-reflexiveness of the possibility of Being in being. What does he mean by “Being in being”? He really means the presence of God in life. Really, deep down, in my view, he never left the Jesuits who trained him intellectually, and his thesis was on Duns Scotus; the idea that everything is, essentially, foregrounded before one gets there, theoretically.




Here’s the second book, Division two. “Dasein and Temporality; Dasein’s Possibility of Being-a-Whole and Being-Towards-Death,” which is the real point, to place man in full understanding of it before death.

Now, there’s always with this sort of theory, possibly a sort of alienation effect. But the way to look at it is there are few moments of profundity in most individual’s lives, but one of them is that period when one is probably pretty conscious that one is waiting for death. And it’s going to happen to all of us, you and me, and in some ways the way to overcome the sort of innate philistinism that exists about this pure, pure theory is to put yourself in that position. Because Heidegger’s work is a man in early life in full consciousness of radical mental gifts, thinking about what it means to die before you get there, and not responding at the level of emotion. Although I believe personally that all theory is physically based and comes out of the emotions as part of one’s physicality, but let’s not intrude my ideas too much.

Another section is “Dasein’s Attestation of an Authentic Potentiality-for-Being, and Resoluteness.” Another section is “Dasein’s Authentic Potentiality-for-Being-a-Whole, and Temporality as the Ontological Meaning of Care.” Then there’s a section on “Temporality and Everydayness.” By this time we’ve got up to page 421, by the way. Then there’s a section on “Temporality and Historicality,” and then there’s a section on “Temporality and Within-Time-ness as the Source of the Ordinary Conception of Time.” Then there’s some dealings with other theorists who are rather brushed away at the end, Hegel in particular.

The last section of all, which is Section 83, around pages 436–486, is “The existential-temporal analysis of Dasein, and the question of fundamental ontology as to the meaning of Being in general.” This is the moment when he wants to place man before death, self-aware of the nature of authentic existence.

As a critique of all this sort of material Adorno—in some respects his chief ideological nemesis on the other side—wrote a book called The Jargon of Authenticity which is an attack upon this type of thinking. Adorno is one of the key thinkers in what’s called Western Marxism and the Frankfurt School.

Now, here is a section on death, because it’s all essentially about death. “Underlying this biological-ontical exploration of death,” that just means the biological exploration of death, “is a problematic that is ontological.” That concerns the science of Being. “We still have to ask how the ontological essence of death is defined in terms of that of life. In a certain way, this has always been decided already in the ontical investigation of death. Such investigations operate with preliminary conceptions of life and death, which have been more or less clarified.” That’s in the last 290 pages which I’ll forebear from reading out. “These preliminary conceptions need to be sketched out by the ontology of Dasein.” Which is Being in being. “Within the ontology of Dasein, which is superordinate to an ontology of life, the existential analysis of death is, in turn, subordinate to a characterization of Dasein’s basic state. The ending of that which lives we have called ‘perishing.’ Dasein too ‘has’ its death, of the kind appropriate to anything that lives.” Basically he’s asking here, does what traditionalist orders have called the soul survive death? “And it has it, not in ontical isolation, but as codetermined by its primordial kind of Being. In so far as this is the case, Dasein too can end without authentically dying, though on the other hand, qua Dasein, it does not simply perish. We designate this intermediate phenomenon as its ‘demise.’” Then there’s a large footnote which I’ll forebear from going into because it’s printed in point 6, I think. “Let the term ‘dying’ stand for that way of Being in which Dasein is towards its death.” Auxiliary footnote. “Accordingly we must say that Dasein never perishes. Dasein, however, can demise only as long as it is dying.” So, he’s talking about the death of the concept of the soul which is self-aware of the possibility of that moment. “Medical and biological investigation into “demising” can obtain results which may even become significant ontologically if the basic orientation for an existential interpretation of death has been made secure.” Ah ha! “Or must sickness and death in general—even from a medical point of view,” Notice: “medical point of view.” Physical stuff which we keep out of sight. “Be primarily conceived as existential phenomena?”

The first thing that strikes you about this is his attitude towards death. You walk round a death ward in a hospital—you know they’re all about to give out—most people’s response is physical and emotional, the one and the other. He regards that as bourgeois deviation; even as filth. Always keep your theory before you because that’s how you apprise the nature of that which is real as against that which is mere appearance, and that which is governed by dread.

In the 1960s the counter-culture, that had many tendencies which ultimately tended overwhelmingly to the Left regardless of this, had the notion that life was not as it should be or could be. That there needed to be a spiritual dimension to human beings that had been lost sight of given the collapse of the Christian religion. And I take it as unarguable that in our civilization in the last hundred years, in accordance with what it once was, in the West largely, with the odd exception, individual and group, the Christian religion has collapsed. And it’s collapsed amongst the most advanced thinkers of our civilization and racial or ethnic group from early in the 19th century. Or at least they were aware of the possibility of its mass collapse long before it became a sociological phenomenon. This is why this theory, which ultimately has had much more impact in theology than it has in philosophy, has been put in this particular way.

When the Renaissance occurred in our thinking one of the great criticisms of the philosophical schools that preceded it, of which Duns Scotus was an accredited master, was that they were dealing with things that could never be proved at this level of reality, even theoretically. And the slogan that’s used is that they were debating the number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin. And it was all utterly pointless, and we had to get away from all that.

Now, Heidegger wants to go back there, up to a point, but in actual fact he wants to go even further back. He wants to go back to the pre-Socratics, he wants to go back to the Sophists, he wants to go back to the original and primary Greek thinkers that begin the process two-and-a-half thousand years ago, which is why Nietzsche obsessed him. Because, if you like, Nietzsche stands half way between this radical essentialist/quasi-religious thinking, that there is before you nothing but God, and God in all and God for all, and you’re part of Him. Which, if you sacralize this language, begins to make sense of what Being is, what Being-in-being is, what Being-in-being before all being is, and so on. It’s, if you like, a re-rooted theological language use. There’s that position. And prior traditionalists who have Right-wing views largely accord philosophically and psychologically with this area.

Nietzsche, who’s a figure who obsessed Heidegger of course, and who has this enormous theoretical explosion at the end of the 19th century, just preceding the emergence of people like Husserl, Jaspers and Heidegger, in early 20th century Germanic thinking at a high philosophical level. Don’t forget, Anglo-American philosophy almost denies the possibility of metaphysics. Bertrand Russell would say, if he were sat at the back, which is a bit difficult considering he’s been a corpse for about thirty years, “It’s all meaningless. It’s an interesting talk but it’s about things that can’t be proved at any level and is therefore pointless. Because your view is as good as his, as good as so and so’s. The only difference is people can put it better, or worse. But there can be no grounded truth that I can grasp and put social practice and purpose to.”




Now, Nietzsche stands halfway between the Left existentialist view, that there’s nothing prior, that, put very simply, we make it up as we go along.

Baudrillard, a French intellectual, wrote a book in the 1990s saying that the first Gulf war was just a computer game; it didn’t happen. Didn’t happen, it was just a discourse. All those cluster bombs and stealth bombs and so on, it was just a fantasy in a televisual age: one man’s discourse, you see?

In an age of extreme relativism, which is the almost opposite of this absolutist theory, totalitarian theory, which is actually, mentally what it is, we see the division between what exists now and the reasons for some of the very controversial, certainly in the mainstream, political choices that Heidegger made in the middle of his life in Germany in the thirties.

Now, Nietzsche’s position is that there is a prior, there is an essence, but Nietzsche is a partial to semi-absolute existential thinker. Because Nietzsche’s contribution to modernity and to modern intellectual thinking is there may be things which may be prior, but we don’t know what they are, and we have to test them through struggle, through life, through will and purposiveness, and various levels of what he called Will to Power which he believed was the basis of all lived existence.

So, Nietzsche says God is dead partly to say he’s a militant atheist but partly to say that the idea of God in the minds of men has died, which means that theoretically it may not have completely died but is in a point of collapse. Because the point is to test and to rearrange, and you put up a view and I will attack it because life is struggle. And in that struggle comes out the possibility of meaning. Nietzsche would say, “There is a truth but I don’t know it yet.” There is a degree to which ontological circumstances cannot be proved but are not rendered prior meaningless, which is why Nietzsche approaches nihilism, the belief that there is no purpose and no values and no constraints and no morals that aren’t purely human, and that there is nothing outside. Which, of course, makes it very difficult to run any sort of a civilization because there are no lines.

And Nietzsche stands halfway between what you might call this existential Leftist praxis and Heidegger. Nietzsche’s become extremely fashionable on the Left in the last thirty years and there’s lots of post-modernist books by people like Deleuze and Guattari, and these sorts of people, who love the element of Nietzsche that tears down—“I come as a destroyer!”—because in order to create you’ve got to destroy first, you’ve got to level off a bit. There’s ruins around you, so you give them a bit of a push.

All of Nietzsche’s thinking before Zarathustra, when he begins to vouchsafe his own view, if you like, is largely a tearing down: a tearing down of the normative nature of ethics in The Genealogy of Morals; tearing down of the idea of truth itself; an erection of science in works like The Dawn or The Joyful Wisdom/The Gay Science; and then a tearing down of the idea of science; a playing up of certain Darwinian and evolutionary ideas which Nietzsche’s actually quite suspicious of because, he doesn’t think that life and circumstances are linear at all, he believes they’re circular and everything that was comes back again. He thinks that Darwinists are cretinous materialists and shallow optimists. Look at people around you. Are they progressing and moving upwards or are they just dullards led by a few people at the top who manipulate them?

Now, Heidegger made a radical, possibly the most radical, choice philosophically and politically in the century that’s just passed. Admittedly, he was living in Germany at a time when, if the Left-liberal consensus would have it, the most controversial regime in the 20th century came to power. Now, if you were in other races or in other societies you would actually refute that, you’d say that Stalin’s or Lenin’s or Mao’s or various other regimes were more important. You could argue that the most important regime in the 20th century is the American one. But put all that on another table for today.

Heidegger decided in 1933 to join the Nazi Party, to join the National Socialist German Workers Party and gave lectures for a year in his university in full Nazi uniform;[1] and was involved with all of the party Gauleiters and other figures in his area to the shock and horror and consternation of much of the academic elite that he was associated with. And don’t forget that Heidegger did this for purely speculative and theoretical reasons. Heidegger had no concern with doctrines of race, no concerns with doctrines of conspiracy, no concerns with politics at all. Politics was irrelevant in relation to placing man before death, which is what life was about. And what he loved about this movement was that he thought it was a primordial movement that was bringing back, almost in an occultistic way, the partiality towards death, and in some ways it was bringing back the ancient world with modern technology. That’s why he reached out to it.

Now, he regarded democracy, just like middle-brow secular humanism, as a deviation. Because in a sense his nature is so primordially prior and religious that he considers almost all normal life to be irrelevant: family, having a good time, pleasure, pleasure as a principle for life, which in liberal theory is cardinal. The American constitution talks about liberty, talks about property, talks about happiness. Heidegger doesn’t think the purpose of life is happiness; the purpose of life is death and facing ontology. But he doesn’t put it in the vocabulary that you must fall before the one who is on the cross and who bleeds for us because, in a sense, Heidegger just increasingly sees those as forms of metaphysics for metaphysics, stuff that needs to be put out of the way so that one can concentrate on the cardinal things of life, death, spirituality, and the possible existence of God.

“God”, as he told Paul Celan when they met in ’67, “has always been with me.” Celan is interesting of course, a Jewish poet who wrote in German for which he was condemned by his own group and converted to Catholicism because of Heidegger’s influence. And that was not a sectarian influence, because Heidegger was totally uninterested in what sect people were in, and so on. These were all forms that have no importance.

And in some ways there’s a great paradox, because Heidegger’s thinking is so purely, transcendently extreme that he’s one of the few figures where the pagan/Christian split in our civility doesn’t really mean anything to him. This is one of the things that interests me very much about him. With this Right-wing group, for example, a few Christians turned up early, they went, and it’s largely pagan in orientation. In the New Right in Europe, and so on, you have this very great split between the two. Heidegger’s almost totally unconcerned with those things because the forms that people worship Being in being through are incidental to placing man before ontological prerequisites.

His view is that you base life and society upon the profound thinking that will impinge upon a man of full consciousness, not [unintelligible] debilitated, before his moment of death. And that’s why he joined the Nazi Party. That’s why virtually no one could understand why he’d joined it, because he was totally sort of unorthodox in ideological terms because he had very little interest in that.

After a year he realized that: 1. Put crudely, they didn’t understand what he was on about. 2. That he was having to make political decisions in the university, the library, its use and so on that he didn’t agree with. And he fell away. He left the Party then[2] and continued to teach in the university until 1945. In ’45 he was proscribed by the de-nazification tribunals that were set up in the Western Allied zones. Now, he was forbidden from teaching in post-war Germany even though all sorts of people had him as a guest lecturer, so they used to get round it that way. And you have this strange situation where he became a sort of moral and spiritual leper in post-war Germany, and yet he was extremely respected. So Dr. Heidegger, Professor Heidegger, was everywhere. But at the same time he didn’t even have a university post.

And there’s all sorts of interesting things because Husserl taught him, and because Husserl was a Jew he was banned from the university library, but after the war Heidegger was banned from the library. And Jaspers wrote to educational authorities in Germany saying he shouldn’t be given a post. So you have all of this as well.

There was a play a couple of weeks ago on the BBC by John Banville, an Irish writer, about Heidegger that was very interesting. And it’s a dramatization, because all dramatists are interested in dialectic. They’re interested in two minds if it’s a theoretical play of any sort, two minds coming together that disagree, and the tension and the charge and the flow of energy that occurs between those two minds, and whether you can make a narrative out of it that can be listened to from beginning to end. And it’s this talk in his hut in the Black Forest.

Because, very interestingly, there is almost inevitably a monastic element to Heidegger. Heidegger is into the woods in primal inner Germany. To sit there in the middle of this forest and dwell upon death. And write a book of 450 pages of—to certain Anglo-Saxon minds—sheer intellectual torture, virtually, in order to get nearer to the truth that is the truth that is the truth, that will not set you free but release you to die with some dignity. Because that’s the only truth that matters. And there’s a sort of divine element to it in a way because it’s so near to the inexpressible.

Artistically, of course in a blowback sense, it’s had an enormous influence on novelists in Germany like Hermann Broch, who wrote The Death of Virgil, and wrote a book called The Sleepwalkers, and so on. And this extraordinary capacity for intellectual abstraction that many German writers have, that begin with a relatively straightforward narrative and then lurch off into ultimate speculative questions, is very much influenced by this type of theory.

But I don’t think people who are illiberal can understand the shock in liberal intellectual elitist circles of a man like Heidegger joining the Nazi party. It is actually emotionally slightly difficult to describe it. From a sort of BBC view of culture it is the worst thing, and not just the worst thing but beyond the worst, that one could do. This man of supreme intellectual gifts dwelling alone in his Shavian hut in the woods dwelling on the ontology of death in life in death in life in death in life—do you see what I mean?—joins, what they considered to be, a barbarous wrecking crew. And they’re appalled, they’re utterly morally appalled. And since the war people have not really known what to do with Heidegger at all.




And because, in a sense, his theory is an attempt to bring back a different version of the West’s civilization, most people who were on the side politically that he associated with, albeit only for a period, didn’t know how to make use of him either, in a strange sort of way. That’s why he’s this sort of illisible figure. It’s noticeable in Tomislav Sunic’s book on the New Right, for instance, Heidegger in a way can’t be integrated. It’s a sort of cigarette on the paper that burns through to the other side. He really is in a zone on his own.

And what’s he trying to do? He’s trying to see whether human beings can live authentically. There’s a moment in Nietzsche’s letters early on in his theoretical course/development/prognosis after the first text, Birth of Tragedy, when he describes seeing a goatherd killing a goat on a hill—I think it’s in Italy—and it’s what James Joyce would call an epiphany. It’s a moment of total, in his terms, authentication and realization. It’s a poetic moment. It’s what certain natures call a perfect moment. A moment that certain consciousnesses will look at before they die as the one moment that was perfect: the sky, and the goat, and the man, and the soil, and the sun. And, essentially, it’s a religious moment; it’s a sort of cosmotheist moment, in a way.

And Heidegger’s point is to get people to experience such moments, which is why he writes this enormous theory to try and intellectually prepare people for the possibility of having such moments. Which is why, of course, when people try and stimulate themselves to have such moments. They chant; they sing; they starve themselves; they go without; they live ascetically; they do things to alter consciousness. In a sense he just deals with pure consciousness because he doesn’t, almost, relate to the physical level at all.

But it is an attempt to go back to what many Western and Indo-European theorists have believed was cardinal at the beginning of Greek culture. It’s Nietzsche’s view and it’s other people’s view that the Greek tragedians—the great three, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides—that there is a “decadence,” in a sense.

Aeschylus is the most hieratic, the most removed from everyday, the most transcendental, the most ur-ascending.

Sophocles is not a humanist by any means—there’s the matter of the Theban plays, of course—but it’s a step down from that sense of mystery, that sense of sheer awe. We now live in a society without any sense of the sacred at all, as de Benoist has pointed out. It’s virtually void.

And a level down in this trajectory involving the Greek tragic writers is Euripides. He’s hardly writing soap opera, but the gods and the goddesses are seen almost, if not level with human beings, then as superhumans who are just a couple of levels up. But they relate to each other, they fight with each other, they make love to each other, and all this sort of thing, in a way which is recognizably humanesque.

And, in a way, you could metaphoracizse it, because with theory like this that’s all you really can do, certainly in a talk of this nature. Those prior moments when Aeschylus looks at the divine—because don’t forget Western theatre begins with religious ritual and gradually separates itself out—it begins with a monologue, and then Aeschylus has the idea this is going on a bit too long, so we’ll split it and we’ll have a duologue, and the two consciousnesses talk to each other. And in that you have the tension with which you can sustain drama in our culture, in any culture.

Now, in this theatricalization of this meeting in the hut in the woods where he wrote Being and Time and where he wrote other books on Greek tragedy and on Nietzsche, Celan and Heidegger have this talk. And this is Banville dreaming. But this type of theory is actually quite close to forms of artistic creation; forms of higher, non-entertainment based spiritual creation in art forms. And Celan says, “Why did you join the Nazi Party?” And Heidegger replies, “Because they were the one movement of the 20th century that, in my terms, had a tragic view of life. That had a view of life which is actually the motif and the inner essence—Dasein—of the Greek tragedians taken up to date two and a half thousand years later.” And I think that’s essentially a truthful statement.

He gave an interview to the Spiegel magazine after his death, in the sense that it was recorded before his death but could only be published as part of his will and settlement after his demise. I think it was published about three, four weeks after he died. And they ask him, because it was a very adversarial interview while he was alive, post-dated as I say, about why he’d joined, why he did this, why he did that, and so on. And in actual fact there’s lots of evasion and attempts at exculpation and bringing in all the usual things, and even though political correctness wasn’t a buzzword then, he’s in some ways playing games. He’s like a politician on the defensive.

But in actual fact, as often with art in my view, you’ve got to cut to the truth suddenly through all sorts of layers, even if the person never said it, it can actually illuminate because it crystallizes in a form the value of something. And when he says to Celan, with no one there, in this fantasy. Because Celan didn’t go and see him in that hut for nothing, just so he could put his name in Heidegger’s signature book, “I’ve been up to the professor’s lodge.” People at this sort of level don’t do those sorts of things. He wanted to know why, as George Steiner said, one of, if not the most, advanced theoretical minds of the Western civilization in the 20th century adopted this particular course.

And he did it because he believed that you cannot have a society where death has no meaning, because life has no meaning. And you cannot have a society which bases itself upon the absence of the religious urge, however you define that urge and whatever system you use. Because if you do the reverse you will end up with a society which has two values beyond subsistence. And that could be seen in the title of a grubby play produced in London a couple of years ago called Shopping and Fornication. But that is all that life is, if you do not have spiritual levels based upon that.

People will always be completely divided about the forms and the language that they use to talk about cardinal matters. But in a way, in a quite moving way really, Heidegger is attempting to get people to face in early modernity what it means to have a civilization and, not to be human, but to live with profound and real meaning. There’s no doubt that this theoretical postulation and this extreme abstraction is quite alien to certain elements of the Western civilization, certainly our own quadrant of it during the last couple of hundred years. But it is an attempt, not to aestheticize life, but to place life, ultimately, at the service of God, even and most especially for people who either don’t believe in him or can only approach such numinence through endless tiers of theory.

Thank you very much!


[1] Heidegger was not a member of the SA or SS. Therefore, he did not have a “Nazi uniform.”—Ed.

[2] Heidegger resigned from the Rectorate but did not resign from the party. He remained a member until the end in 1945.




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dimanche, 24 août 2014

Communism, Nihilism, Neoism, & Decadence

Stewart Home: Communism, Nihilism, Neoism, & Decadence

By Jonathan Bowden

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

Editor’s Note:

[1]The following text is a transcript by V.S. of one of Jonathan Bowden’s most entertaining lectures, which was delivered to the 25th New Right meeting in London on February 13, 2010. Although Stewart Home is the principal subject, Bowden romps through a wide field of politically correct theories, ultra-Left sects, and decadent forms of modern art.

In editing this transcription, I introduced punctuation and paragraph breaks. I also deleted a couple of false starts and added the first names of some figures.You can listen to the lecture at YouTube here [2]. Several bits were unintelligible and are marked as such. If you can understand these words, please post a comment below.

BowdenDemon.jpgI’d like to talk about Stewart Home: communism, nihilism, neoism, and decadence. I’ve given three talks on the extreme Left. One is called “Marxism and the Frankfurt School and the New Left [3].” Another was called “The Totalitarian Politics of Nineteen Eighty-Four [4].” And another one was about the concept of brain-washing and the use by the North Koreans and the Chinese of behaviorist techniques, particularly on prisoners in the Korean War—a totally forgotten struggle now—and a novel by an Italian-American called Francis Pollini [5] that was based on those events.

Stewart Home is an incredibly obscure figure who is on the margins of the cultural avant-garde, so I’m going to come to him towards the latter stages of the talk when I’ve dealt with some of the building blocks to begin with.

Most conservatives, with a small “c,” look around Western European countries like Britain today and wonder why they’re living in a mildly, but evidently Left-wing society. They wonder why they’re supposed to have won, but have actually lost. As they look around them, everything’s changed from what it was 40 to 50 years ago—every normative social value and experience—and they wonder why that has occurred.

There are many reasons for why it’s occurred, but one is the complete containment and taking over of the cultural space by what we’ll call cultural Marxism or Marxian ideas or soft Left ideas or post-communist ideas and their march through the institutions after the 1960s. But it didn’t just happen then. It had been prepared much earlier in the 20th century.

Marxism is a doctrine—before Lenin added the conspiratorial element of a vanguard party that seizes power with its paramilitary wing in a declining state—that originates from the middle of the 19th century and has a refutation of idealistic and utopian socialisms, some religious, some secular that preceded it. Marx believed that he had a science of history, that the thing was prior and determined, that history could be read like a runic pattern or the pattern of a Persian carpet, and he was the master of the dialectic that would determine humanity’s future. We now know that the nightmarish regimes that were created across the planet in the 20th century on the basis of some or all of his ideas failed, and most of them have been destroyed. But their legacy is still here.

Clare Short’s got a bit of the witness at the moment in the liberal press because of her appearance at the Chilcot Inquiry. She said something very interesting when the Soviet Union collapsed. She said, “Communism is over, but Marxism is not.” That’s a very prescient remark, because what’s happened in the Western world is that the idea that everything is economically predetermined in Marxian theory, that everything has a social dynamic which is structured and physical at the basis of economic life and it is materialistic, has been changed.

It was changed at the beginning of the 20th century by an Italian communist theorist in prison called Antonio Gramsci. He had the idea that the superstructure and the base—that which was beneath and economic and material, that which was above and philosophical and cultural—can be disjoined. They can be separated and teased apart. That’s actually a heresy in classical Marxism. But it enabled an enormous vista of struggle to be opened up right across academic, artistic, intellectual, and media-related life right across the West.

Part of the Left disengaged from the politics of vanguardism and engaged in what is now largely called cultural struggle. One of the great weaknesses of all forms of conservatism—whether Gaullism in France or Republicanism in the United States or Christian Democracy in Germany and Italy and elsewhere—is their refusal to fight cultural struggle, their refusal to believe that their enemies were in deadly earnest.

In the 1960s, persons who were regarded as “reactionary,” particularly in the academy, used to laugh at a lot of what was occurring. It was almost a joke. I’m sure most people are aware of that satire called Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe which is based upon Peterhouse College, Cambridge of all these reactionary and ultra dons, people like Maurice Cowling, people like Roger Scruton who were associated with that college. They are metaphysical or deep blue conservatives, illiberal conservatives, people who were right on the edge of the conservative range of opinion before the far Right begins, as far as you can go within the mainstream, basically.

Those individuals—and I knew Cowling once (he’s dead now)—didn’t give in. But in a way they didn’t understand that in order to fight back against the tidal wave of Leftist ideas throughout the ‘’20s, ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and thereafter you had to go further out ideologically, even if you weren’t prepared to make organizational commitments, even if it turned to fellow-traveling. You had to use Far Right ideas, even if you didn’t call them that, to fight against the Left in its militancy. Basically, conservative academics from Michael Oakeshott onwards refused to do so, absolutely refused to do so, and in doing so they basically put the noose around their own neck in relation to the forces that were coming.

Because their enemies were in deadly earnest. They wanted to transform the mindset of Western societies, and the way that they configured to do that wasn’t through vanguard parties, although they supported them, wasn’t through doctrines of social revolution, although they may have residually supported that. It was by changing the grammar that people used to think with at the advanced level.

Bowden-West-Cover-medium-e1397245147546.jpgStrangely for militant egalitarians, they used an extreme form of cultural elitism. You take the universities; you take the dons and the academics in the universities; you take the people who mark the PhDs that provide the methodology of attainment through which you get a don at the university. You then replicate that through all male and female students at the first, second, and third levels of tertiary education, never mind the people coming up from the secondary level.

As egalitarian education has been spread, we’re going to have a society where 30-50% go to university; there’s the University of Slough, which used to be the Poly in the Thames valley. You can do degrees in hair-dressing. You can do degrees in golf studies. You can do degrees in anything! You know, you send this away to a P. O. box number in Edinburgh, and in a couple of weeks it’s packaged, and you get a PhD in nuclear physics, then straight back in the post! This is the way it’s going!

There are a few upper-class people now who refuse to go to university. Princess Diana refused to go, partly because she wasn’t too bright, but also because it doesn’t have any social cache anymore, because if everyone goes it’s got no kudos. This is the idea! If everything is degraded, do you want to eat the bread that’s been in every other mouth?  This is the thing about egalitarian ideas.

The plan of Leftist subversion, which is a wave of academics in all sorts of areas, not necessarily networked, not necessarily doing it in relation to each other, but doing it in relation to the logic of their studies. They do it in discourse after discourse.

They do it in economic theory, which before John Maynard Keynes was classical liberal methodology, Alfred Marshall being the last of that particular school, revived by F. A. Hayek and Milton Friedman in the middle of the 20th century as a dissident current that would then come back. Keynes comes first, and Marxist economists like Professor Joan Robinson at Cambridge come later.

Then you go to anthropology. The first great textbook of anthropology is Arthur de Gobineau’s book, The Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races. This begins anthropology as a subject. This is a “racist” text. Anthropology is the science, or semi-science, that always has to deny its first text, because its first text is now so offensive in relation to all of the discourses that have come after. From the early part of the 20th century, you get the growing up of various discourses which are called social or socialized anthropology: the idea that race has nothing to do with anthropology, when race is the periodic table of anthropology and is the taxonomy of the human within that particular academic discipline. You reach a situation where by the 1970s if a don at, say, the University of Sussex, an ultra-Left institution on the south coast, said that there were cardinal racial differences in intelligence between people, there would have been an absolute riot on that campus, an absolute riot which would have had to have been controlled by the police and the authorities.

One thing the Left realized throughout the 20th century is that people who are very mental and people who are very abstracted in terms of their intellect can be physically intimidated very easily. The mind and the body are so split in Western life that all you have to do is have a small mob wave their fists at a couple of dons, and they’re prostrated, and they can’t do anything, and they’re in fear of their lives, and they will write in a different way afterwards. Trotsky said in a pamphlet called The Necessity of Red Terror, which was published in 1917, that you shoot a thousand to intimidate a million. But all you need to do at many universities is lob a brick through on Fresher’s day, and people are frightened to discuss and to write about and to theorize about whole sets of ideas.

Everyone knows that there is a spectrum since the French Revolution of far Left, moderate Left, center, moderate Right, radical Right views. Since about 1968, the radical Right chunk—which is to the Right of Oakeshott, Scruton, and Cowling—has been broken off and cannot be talked about other than as critique. You can talk about how you detest these ideas. You can talk about how evil and wrong they are. You can talk about how mistaken they are. But they can’t be adumbrated in and of themselves.

This is complicated because there are certain academies, such as the French one, where that’s not always true, and this is because in France there was a very powerful intellectual fascist tradition—essentially, that’s what it was—which goes right through to today and even to the New Right. There’s a degree to which in the Sorbonne in the ’70s you could see a poster saying, “Drieu La Rochelle: lecture this afternoon.” He committed suicide of course after the war because he was a collaborationist intellectual with Otto Abetz and other people in the German cultural ministry in Paris in occupied France at that time.

So, it’s not uniform. These things are process led and dynamic. It doesn’t just happen in economics and anthropology. It happens in psychology. It happens in sexology. It happens in English literature. It happens in the creation of new discourses such as cultural studies, which is the dissemination of ideas about mass culture. And it happens in critical theory.

Critical theory is a viewpoint that’s grown up across the arts and across the humanities and even into areas of law like criminology, which can also be considered to be one of these “ologies,” one of these subjects, and other areas of history of art, aesthetics, in philosophy courses, philosophy itself and so on.

The Anglo-American world, of course, had an empirical view of philosophy largely since Hobbes, but certainly since Russell in the 20th century, and a hostility to European philosophy which meant that there was less Marxist influence here. But the trouble with Bertrand Russell’s type of philosophizing is that it doesn’t believe that any of the big questions can be answered, and therefore philosophy itself becomes slightly pointless, and a cul-de-sac where you discuss the language you use to arrive at a concept to which there are multiple interpretations and of which you are forever unsure. In and of itself, that’s the preparation—this radical, tepid uncertainty—which leads from conservatism to liberalism and from liberalism to something that’s a bit more certain and lies to the Left of it.

Everything in Western societies has moved to the Left throughout the 20th century. I am not a Christian, but you could argue that after Vatican II many Catholics became Protestants; many Protestants became liberals; many secularist liberals who are ex-Protestant moved further to the Left and adopted views that they would have regarded as semi-extreme in the past as long as they were not connected to physical force, militant working class politics, vanguardism, and the absolute politics of communism.

You have many Left-wing liberals now who have views which are to the Left of hardcore communists in the ’20s and ’30s, and they don’t realize that and they’re horrified by the atrocities of Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot and all the others. But what they don’t realize is that they have imbibed a doctrine of totalitarian niceness and squeaky clean correctness about these concepts, which existed in the way that their minds were attuned to before they became conversant with it.

This march through the institutions has also been a march through the media, because when you have an intellectual clerisy it tends to control the conceptual ideas in the society and the way that society talks to itself in modernity is through the media, and also propaganda and ideas about how you talk to the media. Most polytechnics, or post-polytechnics now—because polytechnics were once vocational institutions, of course dominated by people who tended to support the Labour Party—have now been upgraded to new universities or universities have been downgraded to new universities which are polytechnics, because if all have a degree what does it mean?

PulpFacism-Bowden.jpgIn America, you can go to a university and, outside the Ivy League, you don’t necessarily have to have the qualifications to get in. So, you have a remedial course. There’s a considerable number of people from certain types of racial minorities in those remedial courses—taught to do English, taught to do math, and then they do sports science or sports psychology. They won’t be doing physics. They won’t be doing mathematics. They won’t be doing metaphysics. They won’t be doing Shakespeare.

There are certain colleges now that have votes about whether Shakespeare should be on the English course. But that’s a mistake, you see, because democracy is always a mistake! When hardline Marxists allow the students to vote, the students, even though they’re liberal, often come up with more conservative results than what the professors want! That’s the logic of vanguardism: you don’t allow them to decide. You say Shakespeare is a reactionary Elizabethan bigot with undue essentialist notions that you shouldn’t permit!

The notion of essentialism has come in in the last 30 to 40 years in relation to great fads in intellectual life. It has to be understood that for the last 100 years or so all mainstream, hardcore, Western intellectual developments have been atheistic. They’ve taken atheism as read, not as something to be debated. The first great ideology after the war was existentialism, which contained many elements including a dissentient far Right strand as well.

Existentialism was replaced by a new creed, fad, wave of history, whatever you want to call it, called structuralism, which relates to ideas at the beginning of the 20th century called formalism. Then people got bored with structuralism. Structuralism was around at the time of the student revolts in the late 1960s. Not totally a Left-wing idea, but in a way bent towards the Left by certain ideas. If the revolutionary Left on campus couldn’t take an idea as read they would turn it around. Hegel was not a Left-wing thinker, but Left-wing Hegelianism emerged. Marx was part of a group of Left Hegelians with Engels. They used to meet in a beer cellar prior to the German revolution in 1848 to discuss Left theory. Similarly, Left structuralism begins to emerge, particularly with Claude Lévi-Strauss in anthropology and with Ferdinand de Saussure in linguistics.[1] These ideas relate to certain currents in modernist art in particular in the late 19th and early 20th century. If we approach this subject area we get a bit closer to Home, who nominally is the hook that I’m hanging this particular talk on.

You can’t do English at a contemporary British university—certainly outside Oxbridge, where there’s just a received canon—and not come across critical theory. Critical theory is based upon a notion called deconstruction, and most people who are intellectually minded have heard the word deconstruction somewhere floating around, floating in the back pages of The Observer color supplement, that sort of thing. They’ve heard the word.

Deconstruction is another word for post-structuralism, which is the ideology or the new fad that replaced structuralism in the ’60s and ’70s. It’s most closely associated with a thinker called Jacques Derrida, who wrote a number of books basically saying that history doesn’t exist, that biology doesn’t exist, that the writer of a text does not exist. There is only the text. There is only the grammar of the text. A painting can be a text. A poster can be a text. A film can be a text. Only the text. Nothing but the text.

It’s the view that essentialism leads to the gates of Auschwitz, which is repeated again and again as a mantra within these particular courses. They believe that any prior identity—say the statement “men and women are different,” the John and Joan book, you know, a child says, “Men and women are different”—wrong on every account! Prior essentialist agenda, revolutionary, sub-genocidal reactionary ideologies in relation to the specification of male and female. Don’t you know men and women are interchangeable? Don’t you know that they are the same? If somebody says, “But don’t they have different brains?” “Lies put about by eugenicists linked to reactionary and essentialist ideas!” Again re-routed to the ovens. “Listen to your theory!”

Of course, in these areas, to think differently from the nature of this theory is impossible, because you will not finish the course. You will not even get a 2.1, which is the sort of median level for your average student, in that course if you don’t go along with this.

Some of this thinking relates to Western ideas that go very far back, because in medieval scholasticism there’s a doctrine of hermeneutics whereby you analyze the text of the text of the text. You look inside it to see the hint of the divine which is there. And some of these ideas actually do come out of that particular trajectory. So, in some ways it’s a very ancient thing that’s been repositioned and been reused for hostile purposes. Only the core theorists in this area, Deleuze, Guattari, Derrida, and others, would actually know that is the case.

When the Enlightenment and modern scientific rationalism began and they argued that the schoolmen were concerned about the number of angels that danced on the top of a pin and philosophy was about natural process and law of nature as the Greeks believed 2,000 years before, 1,500 years before their postulations of course, there was a degree to which they’d thought they had got rid of that type of thinking. But interestingly, that type of thinking, which in some ways is very “reactionary,” has come back through these New Left ideas.

The one thinker who is partly outside all of this and has a special status as a monster within the 20th century is Martin Heidegger. Now, Martin Heidegger was an extreme essentialist and was a religious thinker who was highly influenced by these ideas of extreme hermeneutics and the peeling away of the onion of the text. Heidegger has one book that is 400 pages saying, “What is thinking?” or “What is the nature of thinking?” Heidegger wrote 80 books, all 80! Most of which have never been released.[2]

Although Heidegger is one of the most radical thinkers of the 20th century, Heidegger’s political affiliation, if only for a year between 1933 and 1934, has meant that in a sense he has become an unperson. After the war, when he was allowed to write and continued to write he used to write in the Black Forest. He had a wooden cabin in the Black Forest, and he used to commune in this particular woodland fastness, this shed almost, with nature and by himself in pure theory.

A lot of these ideas are based upon pure theory. They are based upon the idea that the bourgeois—the enemy in Marxian terms—goes to life with common sense. The Marxist goes to life with his theory! Only if you see the veil of theory before reality, the pink prism through which reality is refracted, only then can you be in history; only then are you truly alive, because you’re interpreting the dialectic of future knowledge.

Now, the irony is that these communistic systems that statally imposed these ideas on people have all collapsed. People who lived in Poland during Gomułka and other regime leaders had to do Marxist-Leninism four times a week, just like the Catholic schools that these schools replaced, where we did religion four times a week. They did Marxist-Leninist theory four times a week.

There was a Far Left party in Britain called the Revolutionary Communist Party, which was a split from the Socialist Workers’ Party, a so-called Rightist deviation within Marxist-Leninism. In 1986, they set exams for their cadres. You had to do exams on Grundrisse and Groundwork and Kapital volume I, volume II, volume III to pass exams on this sort of material just like in Poland.

bowden7.jpgPeople imposed this on themselves internally within the West, and yet historically these ideas have lost. These ideas have come crashing down as statal and political and architectural structures. Yet in the minds of elite Western academics, the softer non-vanguard version of these ideas are alive and well and kicking and are in control.

It’s largely true that most artistic departments—used as a term for the humanities and the social sciences—across the board are in the hands of the West’s most ferocious ideological opponents inside the West, mentally. Not necessarily in terms of how people live their lives and so on, but in terms of what they accept.

The worst ideas in the world are some of the ideas in this room from the perspective of these sorts of people! And they know what they are against, although most of them are in a sense more coherently in favor of what they’re for. Most Left-wingers and liberals, like Tony Blair, begin with the first thing Blair ever did, which was to go on an anti-National Front march. The first moment was negative. He knew what he was against almost before what he knew what he was for. But many of these people actually know what they’re for as well, and what they’re for is a world without any prior signification.

Deconstruction is the idea that you have a text before you, and this text has a system of rhetoric which is related to the personality of an individual author, but the author doesn’t exist. It’s just a text. It’s just a signification. What you do is split the power of the rhetoric, the oratory, the nature of the language used, the control of the phrases used, the essentialist markers that delimit the promiscuity of linguistic and moral choice, and you deconstruct them. You open up the field of signification so that language can flow freely in its joy and in its meaningless splendor. This is called jouissance, the joy of deconstructing the text so that it reveals its anti-essentialist possibilities when the crypto-fascistic moments of identity in it have been removed, and this is what they do.

They will take an author like Céline, who is a French National Socialist essentially, if words have any meaning, and they will say, “This anti-Semitic statement shows the insecurity of a lower middle class background. He obviously wets his bed. He was beaten by his father.” They will deconstruct every particular notification. Actually, this is a philo-Semitic text, which loves foreigners, which loves homosexuals, and is egalitarian! The whole point of deconstruction is that you reverse the meaning of the text.

But these ideas have their dangers, because there are certain things that liberals believe are sacred, and there are certain things that they believe shouldn’t be deconstructed and are beyond deconstruction. One of the primary deconstructive figures, who wasn’t necessarily a Leftist, was a man called Paul de Man, who was head of English and Philosophy, head of the Yale school of deconstruction at this Ivy League college. Ivy League college, Yale, has a school of deconstruction![3] Yes, it does! Acting against the West in order to affirm the negation of its identity. This is the sort of thing it said.

Now, Paul de Man was head of philosophy there, but Paul de Man had a secret past far worse than beating his wife or something like that. Paul de Man was a collaborator in occupied Belgium and was a minor member of the Rexist movement with Léon Degrelle. It was all very serious. And he also wrote some articles for a magazine like Scorpion shall we say, but it was in occupied Belgium at the time, so it was a bit more serious.

When it was discovered that he had this past, the whole of the movement of deconstruction gathered at the University of Alabama in the Deep South of the United States to discuss this unfortunate recrudescence of essentialism in the life and time of their chief American guru. Derrida came up with a remarkable wheeze. He said that because there were articles on the one side of the page of these collaborationist journals that were more extreme than what de Man had written, de Man was actually protesting against the extremism of the rival and mirror-reflected text with his own understated fascism, therefore revealing that he was in internal critical protest at the nature of this foul language and this sort of thing. Foul language in another way.

Interestingly, deconstructionism and post-structuralism have never survived this particular revelation, and it’s not fallen off a cliff, but it’s much less fashionable now than it was. It’s also begun to be attacked by certain hard Leftists who are more materialistic, more pro-science and so on and don’t agree with this type of what they consider to be empty and rather vacuous theorizing. So, there’s been a certain revisionism.

Not all of these ideas have it their own way. There often outliers who are dissentient. They’re often critics within the system as well as without who are progressive. You can only criticize progress if you are yourself a progressive. This is part of the deal. So, there are progressive critiques of this sort of thing. Lévi-Strauss loathed elements of modern culture, loathed modernist art and so on. There’s a degree to which certain impermissible reactions or “fleets to the essence,” as it is sometimes called, are permitted by very radical theorists.

There’s also certain of the revisionists like Serge Thion, for example, who played with post-structuralist ideas, which makes them very dangerous. As soon as I heard about post-structuralism in the 1980s, I knew that certain revisionist types would make use of some of these methodological tricks, because it’s inevitable. You can apply deconstruction to deconstruction. You can get Céline’s text, you can get the deconstructive answer to the text, and then you can deconstruct the deconstructive answer to the text and you end with Céline again!

So, you think, “What’s the point of doing all that?” And the point of doing all that was to question the affirmations of Western society. That’s what the point of all that is. The people who flood into the humanist disciplines in sociology, in fine art and elsewhere, if you say, “Well, you know, Caravaggio is a homosexual,” people will say, “Oh, dangerous assumptions there. A bit too essentialist. Are you reading the author or the artist who wrote the text too much into his own work?” And so on. It creates a fog of uncertainty. It creates an irony of the absence of affirmation, the absence of pride, certainly the absence of the justification of hierarchy, which it’s all about.

Ken Livingstone is a populist libertarian Left-wing politician. When he was asked about political correctness and banning Black children in south London from saying nursery rhymes like “Ba-Ba-Black Sheep” and so on, he said, “That’s Evening Standard garbage.” He said, “Political correctness is an attempt to change people’s minds and language. It is concentrated on two egalitarian premises: absolute moral equality in questions of race and gender.” He’s a real Leftist.

That’s what it’s really about! It’s not about any of these epiphenomena. It’s about making elitist and inegalitarian assumptions morally and linguistically impermissible. And if they’re impermissible for a university professor, they’ll be impermissible for a struggling fourth level post-degree student, and they’ll be impermissible for a middle-class bloke who sort of half-believes what’s in the Daily Mail, and they’ll be impermissible for right the way down the society. And they will, in a garbled way, come out of every news channel you can speak of.

Many liberals now say, “We’re fighting for Western values in Iraq. But what are Western values? Do we have a right to fight for them? In any case, should we affirm ourselves? We’re attacking the essentialism of their own. We should deconstruct at home first before we go abroad imposing our signifiers upon these worthy foreigners.” And so on. You see, it begins small. It begins with a debate about language, but it becomes much more powerful. In the intellectual ideologies that operate outside the sciences now, these ideas are de rigueur. To be actually against them is to morally shock, far more than transgressive post-modern art in relation to the Turner Prize and that sort of thing.

Things like the Turner Prize bring me to Stewart Home. Now, the Turner Prize is attacked by Home, but from the Left. You can only criticize Left from Left. He’s to the Left of the Turner Prize. The sort of art that is exhibited in the Turner Prize, which is a sort of stitch-up by various dealers particularly in the 1990s in relation to a particular school of post-modern artists that came out of Goldsmith’s College of Art in the late ’80s, early ’90s. Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin and Gavin Turk were the most prominent of the three. They were picked up with a lot of big money and people wanted to make their own money as a result of it. However, it’s based on an ideology called anti-objectivist art which comes from the 1960s and was largely part of the hippie movement.

John Lennon was involved extensively in anti-objectivist art. Do you remember getting into a bag for peace? This is where a naked John Lennon, covered with hair, would get into a bag. A bag! Yoko Ono, who was a member of a group called Fluxus, would draw the zip on the bag, and Lennon would stay there for a day, because the idea was that if we were all naked and in bags and covered with hair, we wouldn’t fight, and there would be no more war! There would be a realm of peace on this earth for us all to enjoy!

Another Fluxus fad that Yoko was very keen on was the revelation of the buttocks. They would sit there naked before NBC and CBS and ABC and the BBC and all the big channels of that era revealing their naked buttocks. Because of course you won’t fight if you’ve revealed yourself in that way, and the point was to avoid struggle by not fighting.

These ideas had little currency and didn’t last too long, but anti-objectivist art begins there, and from it Stewart Home begins his particular intellectual career at this time.

Home’s is an anarchist, essentially, or a libertarian communist or an anarcho-communist. He’s written many books, but his one real claim to fame is a book called The Assault on Culture—the assault on culture!—From Lettrism to Class War. And he deals with an assembly of extreme Left avant-garde groups that come out of the major modernist tendencies as they end.

Modernism is a very complicated area that goes back to the middle of the 19th century. It’s a reaction, in part, against photography. It’s a desire to go inside the mind and fantasize. It was despised for much of the late 19th century, early part of the 20th century, then became the major aesthetic discourse of liberal humanism. There’s a complication there, because both fascism and communism flirted with modernism. Most of them then turned against it, although the Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian far Right regimes made use of moderate modernist tendencies.

Modernism has always had a devilish side from the perspective of Left humanism, because a lot of the early modernists were fascists, were anti-humanists, and were radical Rightists like Ezra Pound, like Wyndham Lewis, like Marinetti, like Gaudier-Brzeska, like Céline and so on. That’s because there was an anti-democratic element to it, because of course modernism was a bohemian attack upon the sensibility of the majority. It loathes what ordinary people think about art, so it will destroy what they want and impose what intellectuals want. It’s a sort of vanguard hostility to the boring majority. Bomb the suburbs! That’s the sort of view of modernism.

But that can tend to the Right as well as the Left in strange moments, because national cultures were still alive to the degree that there could be national modernisms. Expressionism was a largely Germanic form; futurism was an Italian form; surrealism was a French form. Surrealism was the only major modernist movement that linked formally with communism, through the radically state socialist ideas of its founder, André Breton. Basically, surrealism died with him, but as it died all sorts of shards came out of it, one of which was called situationism.

Situationism was a minor ideological current that’s achieved quite a bit of currency, particularly on the far Left, because a lot of the students in 1968 mouthed situationist slogans. The media was convulsed to find that, on one hand, there were these hippies throwing bricks at members of the CRS—the very tough central riot police in Paris and the other big cities—but they would paint these slogans on walls saying, “Seize the imagination” or “Release the factories” or “I want to play with myself” or something like that. Strong-hearted philosophical stuff like this. They would spray things on the walls. And most of these were situationist slogans taken from a book called Society of the Spectacle written by Guy Debord in the late 1960s. Debord later committed suicide in dubious circumstances. There was another intellectual associated with this tendency called Raoul Vaneigem who wrote The Book of Pleasures and The Revolution of Everyday Life.

Now, these books had a lot of impact in revolutionary artistic scenes. It’s very interesting to notice this combination of far Left art, anti-social practice, misanthropy, and extreme amounts of money, and their ability to attract each other in disassociated ways. Anti-objectivist art began as hostility to the art market. It began by producing artworks that no one would want to buy! That’s the whole point. You were rebelling against the market! They used to have marches on Sotheby’s saying, “Death to Sotheby’s! Death to Sotheby’s!” Now they’re all sold in Sotheby’s for enormous amounts of money!

The most classic example of this was an Italian conceptual artist in the 1970s called Piero Manzoni, and Manzoni used to sell blocks of his own ordure. He used to sell blocks of his own ordure in gold-tinted, beautifully framed sort of 18th-century gold-leafed tins. An Italian-American heiresses used to buy this for $7,000 a tin to say at their kinky and trendy parties that, “I bought one.”

Because artists always loathed the dealers. They always loathe the middlemen, a third of whom have always been of a certain ethnicity. Always. A third of art dealers are Jews, and a third of art dealers are homosexuals, and not always an overlapping category. But artists loathed the middlemen, and there’s a desire to revenge yourself on the middlemen by producing work that can’t be sold, that’s impossibilist, if you like.

But the market can sell anything. You can sell debt as an asset from which you can make more money. So, why not sell cars that are bolted together? There’s a famous case of one artist who was neo-conceptual and was an action artist who tried to sell his dead body after he’d committed suicide. There’s also a man called Rudolf Schwarzkogler, who’s Austrian, and he wound himself in mummification, and either did commit suicide or feigned to commit suicide. I hope not to ruin anyone’s appetite by some of this, but it’s all true. It’s all true, I assure you of this! There were several other ones who left bits of their bodies, including arms and legs, in various galleries and so on, and this was photographed in the 1970s. This was action art, wasn’t it? I mean, let’s face it! There’s something that’s going on here! Home’s book The Assault on Culture has Schwarzkogler’s pre-corpse mummified body on its front, so you know what you’re getting.

Now, the movements with which Home deals are situationism, which is a Left-wing critique, in other words a critique from the Left, within the Left; there’s lettrism, which is another idea which relates to certain formalist and linguistic ideas; and there’s the movement for the imagist Bauhaus, which is a splinter from Breton’s surrealism. They’re also slightly dangerous movements, because Home has an equivocal element, not in what he wants but in what will happen.

One of the dangers about the Cult of the New and the Cult of the Future is that there can be different futures that Left-wing people don’t like. There was a group in the 1970s called mail art, and this woman would do these traditional biographical pictures, very traditional academic art, the sort of thing [unintellible—sounds like Auckland] would have done at the turn of the 20th century and just in and around the Great War, and she would send them to people. She would send them to the Prime Minister. She would send them to the Pope. She would send them to the Chief Rabbi. And they were all pictures of Adolf Hitler. They opened them and were appalled. It was quite a scandal, and she said, “But I’m not a Nazi. I’m just being transgressive. I’m doing what is non-bourgeois. Hitler may have done evil things, but I’m not evil. I’m just painting a picture. It’s just a representation.”

So, you see, if you adopt the Cult of the New . . . And Home had this idea called neoism where he wants to create culture anew, which is largely based on Marinetti’s ideas that you can bomb everything and begin again, because we are the masters of the ruins. It’s the rhetoric of people who’ve never been to a real war, you see, and those who were just about to, because a lot of this stuff came out in 1912 and was just the quivering in the antennae of the Armageddon that was about to erupt. Although, to be frank, many of the Marinettists, the futurists, actually did fight in the war, because they believed in war. They glorified war. “We glorify men! We glorify war!” This is why they linked with Mussolini later, or some of them did.

Now, Home’s work is based upon the idea that you can go beyond the Left and push even that which is Left-wing further Left. He’s in this odd position, because the Left never thinks it has won. Even when it’s triumphant, even when many dons agreed with some of their assumptions, they think, “It’s not gone far enough. The revolution has been betrayed! You need to go further! More radicalism, more self-criticism, more anti-essentialism! It’s not enough! Turds in a box: not enough! Deconstructing classic opera: not enough!”

Turandot and other operas now, even in the West End, often have a urinal on the stage. Urinal? What’s that about? That’s Duchamp’s idea of the ready-made, you see. This plate is art! Who are you to say it’s not? I look at this work. I mediate it. I objectivize it as my view of life. The stained dregs of life in this coffee cup. Life ending in doom. Didn’t Beckett say they were born over a grave, there’s a cry, and then it’s all over? You see, art! I want 2,000 for this now, and you’ll give it to me! And that’s how that sort of thing starts.

I heard a bloke once at the English National Opera, and a critic said, slightly bemused, “Why do you put a toilet on the stage?” And he said, “We’re acting against the piece. We put the thing on, but we try to destroy it as we put it on. It’s deconstruction.”

And you know why these ideas have got a hold? Because they’re bored. Because they’re bored with Western culture. Since the Second World War, state funding of the arts has replaced bourgeois capitalist money. It’s replaced aristocratic patronage. And you can only do Shakespeare so many times. There’s a great tiredness to these state institutions, and this tiredness often breeds a kind of nihilism. “Why, let’s tear it all down, this fuddy-duddy stuff that we endlessly have to replicate with the tax-payers’ money!” These ideas course through even revived and classical theater.

Racing Shakespeare is the favorite one. At the beginning of the 20th century, Othello was always played by a white man blacked up: Olivier very famously in the ’50s and thereafter. Middle of the century, always played by a black actor, because you had to bring to the foreground the nature of race and the nature of oppression and the nature of Shakespeare’s unfortunate alienating and objectifying tendencies: odious. Now, usually, Othello is played by a white actor, because not to black up is to draw attention to the hideous racism of the piece so that guilt should be infused in the audience for the crime of Western civilization. Nine million dead. Farrakhan said in the United States, “Never mind the six, what about the nine!? The nine million who died in the Atlantic slave trade! What about us?”

There was a famous Richard Eyre version of The Merchant of Venice in the 1990s where the female lead apologizes for the Shoah on stage. She’s kneeling before the audience. Don’t remember that in the text, actually! Don’t remember that in the original play! This is ironic considering that some of these ideas have come out of this idea of extreme textual specificity. “But you can always change the text when you want! It’s only a text!” And this sort of thing.

There’s is a sort of comedic element to these ideas, but I assure you that it would be instructive for everyone here to go to the Institute of Contemporary Arts. The ICA’s in Pall Mall, near the Queen. Right in the center of all the establishment buildings, and it’s all very nice in there with mellow lighting and all this. You go in, and there’s a bookshop in there, and that is very interesting, because that bookshop is like a cathedral bookshop to this type of culture. Home’s books are all prominently displayed in that particular bookshop. All of these deconstructive, anti-identity, post-racial, non-class, non-gender specific, gender-neutral-language particularisms are all there. Volume after volume after volume.

Actually, Home did a book once that had sandpaper on the cover so it would cut up all the books next to it, you see? Revenge! Revenge on the books! And you’d also damage yourself when you touch it, you see? So, he’s attacking the reader! William S. Burroughs was once asked, “What do you want to do with the reader?” And he said, “Kill him. I want somebody to open the page and be so appalled that they virtually drop into it, you know?”

There was a famous moment with Nineteen Eighty-Four, the BBC one with Peter Cushing in the 1950s. There was a Mrs. Treddis of North Wales[4] who allegedly did drop dead during the rat scene, Room 101. She was watching this on a state subsidized channel on the BBC, and when O’Brien gets the rats out in the Chinese torture scene—“Do it to Julia!”—she just caved over, poor old Mrs. Treddis. The MP was straight on the thing. He was in the Commons saying, “It’s disgraceful that the state broadcaster is killing its own constituents with art!” You couldn’t make it up, could you really? There is a degree to which the desire to attack the audience is very much part of this art.

There’s actually a form of art called auto-destructive art by Gustav Metzger where the art actually blows up, or a tube of acid will turn over one of those sort of mechano-wheels—you know, one of those sort of amateur things—and the tin turns up and pours acid down the front. So, the art attacks you, you attack the art, the art attacks itself. And then you buy what’s left, even though it’s been completely destroyed.

These ideas actually entered into popular culture because a lot of rock bands and so on were made up of students who go to art colleges. The Who used to destroy their instruments on stage. Pete Townshend, when he wasn’t looking at dubious sites on the internet, was wrecking his guitar. And these guitars are expensive things. Keep it plugged in. And he’d smash it on the ground, and sparks would be going up. I think it’s totally counter to health and safety, personally. And he’d smash it, and it would blow up! It would blow across the room, and all the crowd would be chanting. This was based on auto-destructive art. But, of course, they were working class lads, and there were dangerous moments of essentialism in The Who because they always had the Union Flag behind them when they’d perform. Ah, the danger of those estates. More deconstruction, that’s what’s required.

Home criticized the situationists because it was always a Hegelian theory and therefore allowed certain religious notions in from the outside. There was a communist called Jean Barrot who wrote a critique of situationism. He was later a supporter of Pol Pot, but he’s not heard of too much these days. Certainly would have been heard of if he had been Cambodian.

Now, Home got into trouble a couple of years ago, and Larry O’Hara, who’s a sort of libertarian anti-Right wing critic who’s prepared to be at least reasonably factual up to a point, wrote an article called “Stewart Home: The Fascists’ Flunkey.” Because if you advocate for new areas of culture, total newness, you will attract people who don’t necessarily believe in equitable variables. And he attracted certain people, certainly Richard Lawson, who’s well known from the National Party and Scorpion and Perspectives and had his website called Fluxeuropa and was a Left European nationalist, I think it’s fair to say. He also struck up a bit of a relationship with Bill Hopkins, an old friend of mine, and there’s a film, six minutes of Stewart Home interviewing Bill Hopkins. It’s on YouTube [6].

Now, he’s been heavily vilified for this, because by an ideological detour into the concept of the new, he forgot progressive verities. He’s recovered. But it’s bad news to reach out to radicals before you know who they are. You can get into deep trouble doing that, and he has. Because people say, “Didn’t he have some friends who were . . .” That’s what’s remembered in this [unintelligible—sounds like “tap it in”] and Google your name sort of an age.

Home believes that everyone can create a culture just as there were certain classical music concerts in the 1970s where the orchestra would make it up as they went along. Xenakis was another one. You wouldn’t have a piece. You would deconstruct the music. Indeed, they would tear the music up before the performance and stamp on it! Stamp on it in a rage at the bourgeois class! Then they would sort of make some music. Home believes that everybody can do that. He calls it the universal proletarianization of culture: the universal proletarianization of culture. And he idolizes these slightly Rightist elements. He idolizes these skinhead novels in the 1970s. Does anyone remember these novels by Richard Allen called Skinhead and Suedehead and [unintelligible—sounds like truth my bitch]. and all these sorts of novels that used to be read under the table in schools, seized in reformatory schools because, you know, no reading in this [unintelligible]. They were written by this old drunk on the south coast called Richard Allen, and Home loves all this.

He’s written several books. Red London is one. He’s also written books that are just swear words, the C-word is the title, oh yes. And the S-word and the F-word. These are all in Smith’s. They’re all in Waterstones. He’s done it because he thinks, “Why not? And also I’ll push distribution to such a degree that are they going to go on Radio 4 and say ‘Well, we have books with all sorts of swear words in them, but we won’t allow them on the cover. The Royal Chamberlian lives in memory. We will not allow it on the cover.’” And Home is saying, “Why not? Why not? Are you some bourgeois slob, mate? I’m pushing this in front of you.”

He’s also a very extreme homosexual. You would have to have this. So, his works are these sort of cartographic fantasy of proletarianized homosexual blokes rampaging around London. This is on sale at any Waterstones, books called C— and S—  and F—. I’ve looked at the covers, and I’ve read the theories. But the theory’s important in a way, because at the end of The Assault on Culture he endorses Class War.

Now, Class War is a group that emerged in the early 1980s and is led by an anarchist called Ian Bone. And they do believe in Bakunin’s idea of total war on the state. When Bakunin was asked “What is anarchy?” he said, “Total revolution against God.” And that is what anarchism believes: total revolt against all ideas of transcendence, total revolt against all ideas of hierarchy. “Pull it down! Destroy it!”

There’s a famous story about Bakunin in E. H. Carr’s—a Soviet-philic writer—biography. Bakunin’s riding along, because he’s an aristocrat of course. He wanted to destroy everything, even the aristocrats first. And he sees some brigands robbing a house, and they’re smashing it to pieces with axes and so on. He says, “Stop!” in Russian, gets out, and joins the brigands, and he starts destroying and running out with the paintings and butting them and leaping up and down on them and hurling bricks through the windows and all this. When somebody said, “Mikhail Mikhalovich, why are you doing this?” He said, “Because it’s there.” Because it’s there.

And Home’s view is that destruction is a creative passion. First you destroy, then you create on the destruction. Even if you create and destroy, because you level the field for new forms: neoism! The cartography of inversion! And if you don’t like it, you can get a bit of this! It’s this sort of stuff. The interesting thing is that these ideas are not revered. They’re eccentric ideas even within the milieu of the cultural Left. But they’re there.

Scorpion’s not sold in the ICA bookshop. Alain de Benoist is not sold in the ICA bookshop. Books about Heidegger are sold in the ICA bookshop. Heidegger, Monster of Nazism: A Philosophy of Inhumanity Exposed! Heidegger and the Jewish Question. Unanswered questions, who was his mistress? We demand the facts! Heidegger! 400 pages of his Party membership between 1933 and 1934. Husserl: Did he Ban him from the Library? The Truth! Heidegger: Deconstructed. Pluto Press in three editions. That’s in the ICA library! But the authors of that which constitutes European identity are for the most part conspicuously absent from the ICA library.

Class War has, of course, died many years ago, and Bone is largely retired from active politics. He appeared on Jonathan Ross once, who I call Jonathan Dross, and he appeared wearing a wig screaming and ranting. Bone’s just treated as a freak show, you know. Just something to laugh at, really.

However, from our point of view, not altogether laughable because a group called Antifa emerged from Class War. Antifa would very much like to beat us all to death, I mean, they really would. But they’re very small and of little significance. The interesting thing is that he was drawn to Class War because they’re situational, because it’s not going to succeed, is it? But you create a happening space, you create action art in society. Do you remember the march on the rich? “Bash the rich!” Remember the marches in Henley? “Bash the rich! Bash the rich!” You know, this sort of thing. Bored policemen, drongos and hippies and white Rastafarians, people with purple mohicans and this sort of thing walking along surrounded by the special patrol group, screaming execration at the bourgeois class and that sort of thing. It was all good fun. Then they’d go back on the train up to [unintelligible] or [unintelligible] or wherever it was. Bone was there. The hard men were there.

There was a famous moment of anarchism in Chicago where all these very old bourgeois people are eating in an extremely rich restaurant, and the anarchists unfurl a banner in front of them saying, “Behold your future executioners!” And they love this sort of sport as play as action as theory. Anarchism, unlike communism—because of course anarchism is to the Left of communism—has a theory called direct action: direct action on the anger of the class, which of course is terrorism really. They don’t call it that, but that’s essentially what it is. These sorts of stunts, even that Class War stunt, “make the middle class afraid,” tossing and turning in their beds and only wondering if those mohican yobs are coming for them.

Those demos are very interesting. I once went on one of those demos and watched, and the hardcore anarchs, the hardcore activists, stand at the back and they throw forward the hippies and the drongos and the others. And they’re the ones who are beaten by the special patrol group or whatever the riot squad is called now. They’re on the ground, and they’re covered in blood, and the policemen step on them and kick them. This was the ’80s. I mean, I saw it with my own eyes. It wasn’t a travesty of British behavior. I saw it. But the hardcore activists with leather jackets are at the back, and when one goes down there’s another there, you know, because the masses are just fuel—fuel for anarchy.

The point of these doctrines is that you open a space in the society where you can create new forms, because when you open a space anything can happen. If you assassinate a politician, anything can happen. That’s why they used to assassinate them all the time in the 19th century.

These sorts of ideas of rage and deconstruction and alienation—particularly impinging on all forms of identity—have probably reached their high water mark. But the very fact that they can be canvassed, the very fact that they are in the ICA, they’re in the NO, they’re in the theoretical book branch of the National Theatre—all state-subsidized. There’s tens and tens of millions of pounds that are spent on these institutions every year through the art boards and so on. The fact that these ideas are in the Western academy is a testament to the fact that communistic doctrines of radical destruction and deconstruction have taken over the mindset in the society. People who speak against them are, well, they’re nowhere to be seen basically, because they’re terrified. They’re partly waiting for the next fad, really, in the hope that some of this stuff will wash away.

But the interesting thing is that they always know what they’re against. Home is certainly aware of the New Right. He used to edit a magazine called Smile—smile!—which was a nihilist, communist magazine. That’s what it said on the front. You can go to Smith’s, you know, “Would you like to buy a nihilist, communist magazine? Smile.” It would have an article about Lenin and an article about the Bombo Gang, and then you would have diseased genitals, because it would shock the bourgeois audience and scratch the hatred of the masses. And in that transgression you open up a moral space for more radicalism of the mind and of the spirit. It is psychologically subversive, and they know what they’re doing! They know what they’re doing. The shocked person goes, “Disgusting trash!” and throws it away. They’ve actually had an effect, the effect of rejection before the next strike.

My view has always been that that sort of militancy has to be stood up to. And you have to fight back. And you have to fight back as hard and as ruthlessly as they do. That’s why they are aware of us and fear us.

Stewart Home also has an interesting view of race, which is an original formulation. I’ve never heard it even from the Trotskyists, and he’s not a Trotskyist. He believes that race doesn’t exist, but the masses believe it does. Now, that’s an interesting formulation, because if you think about it you either have it as a foregrounded form of iterization, it’s being, Dasein, being in being as Heidegger would call it. It’s that which is there. It’s biological. It’s there. It’s foundational. It’s prior. It’s elemental. It’s essential.

Or you don’t believe that. Maoists and extreme communists believe that all humans are a white sheet of paper. Any sexuality, any ethnic specification, any culturalization, any level of intellect could be pre-programmed into you. As Mao’s people would say, you can torture a man into progressive ideas to the degree that they’re coming out of his ears.

Do you remember what O’Brien says to Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four? “First, we make you love Big Brother, then we kill you. Don’t you remember, Winston,” he says, “you’re just a cell in the body of the Party? Do you die if you cut your fingernail?” Do you remember that, and the great actors like Sir Richard Burton who played that part?

Now, Home’s idea is interesting in a way, because they believe in false consciousness. He’s basically saying race is the false consciousness of the masses, but if nothing is prior, then reality is in the consciousness of the masses. Therefore, if the masses think that race exists, it does exist, even in far Left terms, because only that which is thought moment by moment in the struggle exists! So, in a strange sort of way, he’s ended up with a Right-wing deviation within Marxist cultural logic. He’s actually got back to a position he says he refutes.

But it’s an interesting one, because if you notice, the dip in biological thinking in the middle of the 20th century as a reaction to the Second World War, is the high point for these type of new Left ideas. Now that biology has been re-emerging in the last 30 years. And it’s very interesting, for example, that the Anti-Defamation League in the United States opposed the creation of the Human Genome Project. And many gay libertarian groups opposed the Human Genome Project. They are radically opposed to the idea of the biological investigation of the building blocks of life, because it will lead to the possibility of acceptance by the masses of a prior essentialism.

There was an interesting incident last year when the Genome Project’s scientific review board wrote to the German Academy of Sciences and said that “In our opinion, life is 80% natural law and prior biological purpose.” Not 60%, not 70%, but 80%. Man is socialized by 20%, and I view the socialization as environment, and environment is ecology, and ecology is a species of biology. So, in a way, it’s all biological.

And the German Academy wrote back, “We cannot accept this thinking. We cannot accept this thinking, because we understand that your postulate is from good intentions, but it draws us perilously close to rejecting the methodology of the basic law upon which contemporary German governance, state, society, and academic learning is based.” So, the German government says that a particular scientific outcome is wrong, and as a citizen of the contemporary united German republic, founded under occupation by Adenauer in 1948, you have to repute it. We don’t care what science says! We repudiate science! This is a revolutionary development really, whereby the Left, the organ of progress, is rejecting science.

There’s a concept on the New Left of scientism. Scientism. Science is ugly, male, reactionary, authoritarian, phallocratic. All this sort of stuff. There’s a strong streak of feminism in all of these discourses. The Left has sort of given up on that. Many Leftists are now debating about how they deal with biology. Peter Singer, who wrote the book Animal Liberation, which founded that whole movement: “Liberate the animals, you filthy speciesists,” “Put down that ham sandwich,” that sort of thing. Singer, of course from a certain ethnicity, from Australia where he was in the Australian senate. He was a civil libertarian and radical green. He’s a utilitarian. He’s a very interesting thinker. Because he’s introducing a new hard liberalism.

Singer says maybe biological ordinance is true; maybe disability is inherited; maybe gender is inherited; maybe sexuality is due to brain function; maybe the Right is correct. But what you must do is pass every law and every methodology that lies behind the law, jurisprudence, to make sure that there is either equality of opportunity or equality of outcome or those who proselytize for inequality of outcome are not allowed to affect it by the nature of their discourse. So, what he’s saying is even if biology is unequal, you make the society so impervious to that logic, even though you’ve got a hierarchy, that it’s not aware of that.

That’s the most important and intelligent form of far Leftism. They can only sustain anti-science. They built their entire creed on science. They can’t repudiate it. That’s just a stunt for a couple of decades. They’re going to have to accept the Human Genome Project. They’re going to have to accept the biological and prior ordination of man.

Every time I go into an NHS clinic there’s a leaflet for transplants, and in the middle of that leaflet you’re asked about your race. It says, “Are you White Caucasian? Are you Asian? Are you Negroid or Diaspora African?” All these little boxes. And that’s because human internal tissues will not transplant or graft as well in relation to one race as another. Prior racial difference within the taxonomies of the human even at the physical level.

If a scientist at Oxford or Cambridge or the London School of Economics had said that openly in the 1960s or 1970s, there would have been rioting! There would be rioting in the canteen. There’d be rioting in the lecture hall. The special control group would have been on the campus. You would have been hounded out of that place of learning. It’s now in an NHS leaflet. Quietly, no fuss. It’s just intruded there as a fact. “Who can reject it? We’re helping people! We’re helping people!”

And talking about helping people, there are ultra-liberal groups in the United States who are campaigning against certain forms of medicine that affect individual ethnicities. There are certain diseases that Blacks and Africans suffer from, particularly sickle cell anemia, which is almost congruent to them, and certain drugs that have genetic potential and originate from some of the theory and experimentation of the Human Genome Project react primarily on their group. There are ultra-liberal groups who are campaigning to not allow the Food and Drug Agency to license these.

Why? Why? Because it undermines the idea that man is a white sheet of paper that you can do with what you want and there is no prior identity. They would rather blacks suffer than that these drugs were produced, because they admit the prior biological differentiation of the human. And when you begin there, when you begin with such a monstrous prior essentialism, the doors to you-know-what are swinging open. So, you must close down the thing before you even begin to agree with what you disagree with.

Thank you very much!


[1] Bowden misspoke here: Ferdinand de Saussure was the founder of Structuralism, not one of its later developers as he seems to imply here.—Ed.

[2] Heidegger’s Collected Edition (Gesamtausgabe) runs to nearly 100 volumes, most of which were published posthumously.—Ed.

[3] The Yale School of Deconstruction signifies an intellectual movement, not an academic department or college. De Man joined the faculty in French and Comparative Literature at Yale. At the time of his death in 1983, he was Sterling Professor of the Humanities and chairman of the Department of Comparative Literature at Yale.—Ed.

[4] Apparently, the woman was actually named Beryl Merfin of Herne Bay, Kent.—Ed.


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

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2014/08/stewart-home/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/b-stewart-home-jpg.jpg

[2] here: http://youtu.be/S8tjGJ4eUdA

[3] Marxism and the Frankfurt School and the New Left: http://www.counter-currents.com/2012/05/marxism-and-the-frankfurt-school/

[4] The Totalitarian Politics of Nineteen Eighty-Four: http://www.counter-currents.com/2014/08/george-orwells-nineteen-eighty-four-2/

[5] Francis Pollini: http://www.counter-currents.com/2011/08/francis-pollinis-night/

[6] YouTube: http://youtu.be/eNFVLU0pIWM

mardi, 24 décembre 2013

Tom Sunić Interviews Jonathan Bowden

Southgate, Troy (Ed.) Bowden Thoughts and Perspectives.jpg

Tom Sunić Interviews Jonathan Bowden

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

Editor’s Note:

The following text is a transcript by V. S. of Tomislav Sunić’s interview with Jonathan Bowden. Click here [2] to listen to the audio. A couple of words have been marked as unintelligible. If you can make them out, please post a comment below.

Tom Sunić: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen! Good afternoon, dear friends! 

This is your host, Tom Sunić, from Croatia and I’m very pleased again to have a good friend of mine and also a good guest. This is Jonathan Bowden. Hello, Jonathan! Can you hear me well?

Jonathan Bowden: Yes. Hello! Greetings from Britain!

Sunić: Listen, Jonathan, I’m very, very pleased to have you on my show for a variety of reasons. What I would like to do today is the following thing. In the first segment, I’d like you first to say a few words about yourself, about your background, and about your political background as well. Then in the second segment we’ll talk a little bit about your literary and artistic accomplishments.

But, let’s first start with yourself, Jonathan. Don’t be too shy. Just tell me what you’ve got, because you have heavy artillery. I’m very pleased indeed to have you on my show.

Bowden: Ha! Yes, well, I’d like to say hello to everyone who might be out there in the ether. I was born in England, in Kent, in the farther southeast of England, the so-called garden of England in 1962. So, I’m sort of 48 now. During almost the entirety of my educated life, liberal ideas of one sort or another, libertarian, center-Left, far-Left ideas have been hegemonic and dominant amongst most educated people in Britain and elsewhere.

It may come as sort of news to people, particularly in the United States, that there is really very little freedom of expression in Britain and in parts of Western Europe about certain key matters. It’s rather ironic because the rest of the world thinks that opinion is free here, and the Second European Civil War (what I call the Second World War) was fought for freedom of expression and so on. Whereas there’s no First Amendment right here, and there are many ways in which discussion is curtailed. I think that’s rather ironic because dictating a discussion indicates that you have something to suppress, when in actual fact most educated and artistic people in England and Britain now are vaguely liberal-minded or, at the very least, they go along with what is called a politically correct mindset.

Now, this has grown up over the last 40 to 50 years in this sort of cultural revolution of the 1960s in Britain and elsewhere across the West. You have a situation now where almost everybody who goes through tertiary and even higher secondary education comes out with a slightly identikit formulation, the same sort of views about certain core issues or the same belief that certain topics are unsayable or are off-limits, particularly about generic inequality, or biological differences between people, or inherent differences between male and female.

Another difference, particularly with American listeners, is the almost complete collapse of Christianity in England and Britain. We, of course, had a state semi-Protestant church for half a millennium called the Church of England. I was baptized in it, I was confirmed in it, as 30 million English people were. Yet, it is largely invisible and is kept alive by the residual liberals in its hierarchy and many of the immigrants from the Third World, via the British Empire, who were given the religion externally and, of course, who still believe in its precepts. You have the paradox that many of the immigrants who are Anglicans now and have come in from the outside are more socially conservative and come from more psychologically conservative cultures than the hierarchy of their own church. But that’s a minor cultural war increasingly on the margins of English life.

But it would be wrong to say that many Judeo-Christian assumptions have gone. They’ve been secularized and have taken a humanist form.

Sunić: I’m [unintelligible], so to speak. How did that affect your formative years? Let’s say 20, 30 years ago when to grammar school and afterwards when you went to university. Can you tell me something about that because, as I understand, the Left back then did not hold such a firm grip on cultural power.

Bowden: Yes, that’s contradictory. I was about 18 coming on 20 when Margaret Thatcher came to power in Britain, and it’s paradoxical that the liberal Left was not so entrenched in establishmentarian discourse then as now, the better part of 30 years on. However, the far Left, by which we mean a sort of Trotskyite, sort of ultra-Left, and sort of Leftish reaches of Communism, which looked down on the Communist Party of Great Britain which was to wind up in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union that partly financed it. They had enormous power at least at the level of the street, by which I mean in campuses they had the power to break the windows of dons who had ideas that they disapproved of particularly in the biological sciences, but also in psychology and culture and elsewhere.

I joined the Conservative Party, which is the equivalent of the Republican Party in the United States, and center-Right Christian Democrat parties throughout Western Europe, when I was about 18. The interesting thing about the Conservative Party is that (1) it ceased to be culturally conservative in a metaphysical sense a long time ago, and (2) it has never understood the cultural struggle that the radical Left has waged inside European societies, which includes Britain and indeed the United States. Conservatism has never conserved anything for about 40 to 50 years, and because it allowed the arts and the media and the academy and much of the clerisy and intelligentsia to be completely penetrated by the ideas of their sworn enemies, you’ve ended up in Britain and elsewhere with this strange hybrid of a Left-wing capitalist society which is the norm across the West.

Sunić: How do you explain that? How were they able? You’re talking, of course, about the Leftists. How did they permeate and infiltrate into the mainstream opinion-making?

Bowden: I think there’s two ways. I think there’s an external or exterior strategy, and there’s an interior strategy. I think the exterior one is by pressure groups, by proselytization, by student militancy, by the militants of today who tone it down to become the dons of tomorrow.

But I think there’s also an internal element. I think many people internalize the idea that Right-wing values, elitist values, values of prior identity, values of belief in hierarchies, and so on were somehow wrong or vaguely immoral or amoral or non-permissible or, in a much more mercenary way, wouldn’t foster one’s career too much in the future. So, the moral uncertainty of certain people, even on the moderate Right, meant that they had partly internally collapsed in relation to a range of ideas.

I also think it’s important to understand that the Left understood that it had lost the battle over the economy several generations back, and since Gramsci in the latter part of the second decade of the twentieth century had been fighting various forms of cultural war primarily against conservative opponents who were increasingly mentally defenseless against them.

Unlike the moderate Left that’s always seen far-Left ideas shorn of Communist politics as a permissible ally, the moderate Right has always seen far-Right or radical Right ideas as part of the enemy mix or an area that they can’t go to. They have this paradox that there were certain very radical conservative, metaphysically and intellectually conservative dons in English life, Maurice Cowling at Cambridge about whom I’ve given a talk somewhere on the internet, and Professor Roger Scruton, who’s still alive. They’re known as deep blue or metaphysical conservatives. They’re the last of a dying breed, if you like. Even they were resistant to the idea of using far-Right ideas against the Left and the liberal Left on campus.

Sunić: Let me just clarify one thing, Jonathan, if you don’t mind. You remember Enoch Powell. You remember what he said, and he was a real promising politician, but nowadays he would be clearly dismissed as a Fascist, an ultra-Fascist. So, basically we’re talking about this semantic distortion (there’s that word that I keep repeating over and over again). What was considered quite decent, normal, mainstream Right in the UK or for that matter in continental Europe 30 years ago, now this is considered an extreme Right.

Bowden: Yes, that’s right. It’s as if you’ve had a shuffling to the Left in all areas, in religion, in the media, in the academy, in the arts, in the general clerisy, even in the sort semi-sciences, the humanistic sciences, and the social sciences, and even in the softer parts of the hard sciences. So, you’ve had a shift to the Left in all areas.

Enoch Powell is an interesting example. Like Nietzsche, who was given a university professorship when he was 24, Powell was given a professorship at the University of Sydney in Australia when he was 24 years of age. Powell could speak 10 European languages.

Sunić: Did you know him personally? Did you ever meet him?

Bowden: I met him towards the end of his life. Like a lot of allegedly dictatorial men, he was extraordinarily short. He used to stand on a box to address meetings. It was concealed behind the podium, you know. He came from quite a long line of sort of Napoleanesque men in various ways.

The irony is that Powell was in many respects an extremely Right-wing liberal. He was at the outermost cuff of the old Tory party. He was very much an economic liberal. Very anti-statist. Very anti-socialist. Some of his values were not far-Right at all, but would be close economically to people like Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek and the Austrian school. Don’t forget the great reaction in Britain is against the post-war planned welfare state, deficit financing, and Keynesianism, so many fiscal conservatives looked to be in that sort of area and wouldn’t be regarded as radical Right at all.

In certain other areas, Powell was out of grain with what might be called a compassionate society. He was Minister of Health in the 1950s, and you may remember there was a scandal about birth defects with a drug called thalidomide, and he had to deal with that. Though he turned to Christianity in his middle life, the High Church, High Anglican, Anglo-Catholic type of Christianity a bit like T. S. Eliot the poet (and Powell was also a poet actually), early in his life he had been very strongly influenced by Nietzsche, and that certain intellectual implacability influenced Powell throughout his life.

Powell is most famous with the masses for speaking out against mass Third World immigration into Britain in the late 1960s, which catapulted him from obscure Tory ministerial ambition to be somebody that skinheads and football fans and the overwhelming mass of the population had heard of. He then became one of the most significant men in the country because he dared to speak about issues which virtually no one else in the establishment would.

Powell was an outsider in many ways, despite his intellectual accomplishments. He was seen as an outsider. He didn’t attain the leadership of the Conservative Party in and around 1970. He later advocated that people should vote Labour in order to get a referendum on membership of the European Union, the sort of putative federation that exists in this part of the world that Right-wing nativists and nationalistic people across Europe tend to oppose. Not all, but most of them do. He was an Ulster unionist, of course, which got him involved in radical Protestant type politics in relation to the sort of war that people have heard of in Northern Ireland.

But Powell was one of these figures that Britain has grown up in the last 100 years. Joseph Chamberlain at the beginning of the twentieth century, Sir Oswald Mosley in the middle of the twentieth century, and Enoch Powell at the end of the twentieth century who posited an alternative political trajectory for Britain. They were very radical men. They didn’t really have an allegiance to party, and there’s a nationalistic strand to all of them. Powell was a member of the Tory party, a member of the Ulster Unionist Party, he advocated voting Labour at times tactically. Mosley was a member of both the Tory and the Labour parties before he founded the New Party that then became the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s. Joseph Chamberlain began in the Liberal Party, then formed his own Liberal Unionist Party, then moved over to the Tories. The Liberal Unionists were probably proto-fascistic in the late years of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century.

Sunić: Excellent. Jonathan, how did it affect your own trajectory, if I can put it that way? Because you had at some point a couple of years ago quite a prominent role as a cultural advisor for Nick Griffin. I don’t want to get into those squabbles and what happened, but could you just give us a rough idea of to what extent Enoch Powell and then Tyndall affected your political trajectory, not intellectual so much?

Bowden: Yes, I mean, politically . . . In some ways the two are combined because the one thing I always thought about conservatism, even very Right-wing conservatism, is (Powell to one side) there’s great cultural aridness there. There’s a strong anti-intellectuality and philistinism in conservatism per se, particularly its British example. You know, philosophy is taught in France from the age of 6. But the British culture, particularly English culture, is strongly pragmatic, strongly non-heuristic, anti-conceptual, practical and pragmatic and utilitarian.

Margaret Thatcher was a scientist, and it showed in the politics, particularly the cultural policies of her government. When you bear in mind that she had as much power as Reagan had in the United States, particularly in the first term, and yet virtually nothing was done with this cultural power. There were a few items, a minor issue about homosexuality, so-called Section 28, and tacit support for White South Africa, but apart from these things, all other institutions, in particular the BBC, were left in the hands of her most ferocious opponents.

Sunić: You mean Leftists?

Bowden: Partly it’s an inability to see where your enemies are and know where they are, and it’s also the absence that many conservative politicians had of what you might call a complete civilizational discourse that led me to look at political tendencies further out, if you like.

Sunić: Sure. Jonathan, let me just focus for a while on your specific case. You are pretty much active. First with the BNP and now you’re the “chief intellectual leader” of the British New Right. So, could you give me some specific details about your political and intellectual trajectory over the last ten years?

Bowden: Yes, in the last twenty actually. In the early 1990s, I was in the accredited Right-wing group on the Right-wing of the Conservative Party, which then called itself the Conservative and Unionist Party, called the Monday Club, which went back to the 1960s and was created by the Marquess of Salisbury who, of course, is related to the aristocratic British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury 70 years before in the last years of the nineteenth century.

The Monday Club, of course, deliberately chose that name so that there would be no far-Right subliminal messages. They first had their meeting on a Monday, so they called themselves the Monday Club, the most neutral name in the world. The Monday Club was a significant organization in the 1970s. By the time I had joined it, it was well and truly dying.

I formed a metapolitical group of my own called Revolutionary Conservative at that time which lasted for a few years and I was also the deputy chairman of quite a notorious group, actually, called Western Goals, which was an extreme anti-Communist and Cold War group. I went through that Cold Warrior phase, if you like, on the Western side. Those groups were quite interesting because they did consist of people from the conservative Right and people from the far Right who rubbed shoulders with each other. It was a sort of reverse alliance of the Second World War, do you see what I mean? It was Right-wing conservatives and far Rightists against Communism.

The interesting thing about the World Anti-Communist League which was the organization that Western Goals was affiliated with was that it contained anti-Communists of every race and type right across the world. It had some very notorious affiliates in Latin America, in Asia, in Africa and that sort of thing.

General Singlaub who was head of the National Security Council under Jimmy Carter came across and gave us a talk once. I like these American generals very much as individuals, because they’re very brave men, But they were warriors and you had to wonder in your inner mind if they really knew what cause they were fighting for. John Singlaub had fought in ten wars across his lifetime. He’d fought for the American Empire, as even he called it privately, all his life. He was a fascinating man. So, just sort of artistically and intellectually and psychologically it’s interesting to meet some of these types who do sort of, partly, run the world. Carter sacked him, of course, because he accused Carter of being soft on Communism.

Then, after the Cold War was basically won, I moved slightly further out and became more and more enamored of cultural struggle. I was in a group called the Bloomsbury Forum, published a few things, and I had a little group of my own called the Spinning Top Club which was sort of a metapolitical group. It was largely a group of friends. Then I became increasingly involved in and around the edge of the British Nationalist Party. I was involved in a break-away tendency from that in some respects called the Freedom Party. Then, in 2003, I joined the BNP and became cultural officer for about four years thereafter. After that, I was in this tendency which I still am chairman of now called the New Right.

Sunić: Jonathan, let me ask you. I hope it’s not too personal of a question. Do you still have contacts with the BNP? Specifically, are you in touch with Nick Griffin?

Bowden: Well no, Griffin and I don’t really get on. But that doesn’t really matter. I still speak at their meetings. I still have some sort of residual cultural influence with them. Lots of people think I’m too Right-wing for the BNP, actually. It’s a great paradox, given that I seem to have started as a conservative. In my own mind, of course, my views have hardly changed. The perception of them has changed a great deal. But my views were always philosophically based and I’m a very unusual British Right-wing thinker in some ways.

Sunić: Very much so. In fact, I was going to point that out to our listeners today that you seem to combine this militant political activism just as much as you are skilled and very much adept at writing excellent pieces and also giving good lectures on Carlyle, on Nietzsche, on Jünger, and we’ll talk about this in our next segment.

But back a little bit to this political life of yours. So, I understand now you don’t have any specific official ties with the BNP, am I correct?

Bowden: That’s right. People announce me as sort of cultural officer and that sorts of thing, but that’s just something that to see at meetings, really. I’ve always seen my role as very similar to that of a Marxist intellectual in reverse. If you take the small parties of the British far-Left. The Left wing never goes anywhere but culturally has been very significant. Of course, you’ve got the Socialist Workers Party and militant Workers Revolutionary Party and these sorts of groups. They would have had Marxist academics and Marxist intellectuals who passed through them, who often weren’t members, who had cultural or metapolitical roles, sometimes critical of the narrow sectarian leadership of such parties, and so on. Intellectuals like the Greek Alex Callinicos in the Socialist Workers Party.

I see myself the other way around. I see myself as a Nietzschean, or sort of post-Nietzschean, who has been in various Right-wing political parties and groups attempting to educate people, attempting to culturalize them to various things, attempting to put things in a broader context, trying to get people to understand that it’s not just about immigration and leaving the European Union. Or, in an American context, it’s not just about the absence of gun control, states’ rights, immigration, who controls the media, and these sorts of issues.

The Right at its best should basically stand for the advance of Western civilization, and that means you have to know something about the civilization that you have to know something about the civilization that you’re attempting to push forward, if you see what I mean.

Sunić: Sure, by all means. We’ll definitely discuss more about cultural hegemony and about some of the artistic works by our friend, author Jonathan Bowden in the next segment. But, Jonathan, let’s get back a little bit to some of those technical issues. I understand there’s a New Right in Great Britain now. I know some people. Our common friend, Troy Southgate, and I understand there are more folks. Do you have some loose structure? Do you guys hold some meetings? Or what specifically is the goal of the British New Right including Troy Southgate? I’m sure you’re in touch with him.

Bowden: Yes, he’s the organizing secretary of the group. In some ways, the New Right is a bigger and better continuation of some of the smaller metapolitical groups I’ve mentioned in the last couple of minutes. It’s gone on for about four to five years now; it’s had about 26 through 30 meetings and a couple of dinners, five magazines. Now that this is very much the internet age, you can speak to 50 to 60 people in a room and tens of thousands of people, if they want, can see the thing or hear the thing later on the world wide web.

The term “New Right” confuses people, of course. It’s a relatively useful term. It’s not as intellectually and culturally coherent in the sense of de Benoist’s French New Right or Steuckers’ Belgian version. It’s a more eclectic group that consists of different and even Old Right tendencies, if truth be told.


Sunić: I’m glad you pointed that out, because I had a discussion on a VoR show with Alain de Benoist about this conceptual problem as to how the New Right is being defined or interpreted or instrumentalized in the UK as opposed to France. This causes friction sometimes, definitely. Go ahead.

Bowden: Yes, it’s partly a Britishness, of course. Many British intellectuals, for example, are uncomfortable even with the word intellectual. So, British intellectual life when it takes a political form tends to be less purist and less sectarian. French and continental intellectuals love tiny little tendencies that are completely pure, and people who can’t stand it leave and form a trajectory of their own. Whereas our group tends to be more of a synthesis. It’s basically a generalized Right-wing philosophical circle which allows freedom of speech particularly in a culture where there is not freedom of speech about quite a lot of salient matters, and you have to be quite careful about the speech that you put forward even within this space.

Also, there’s a general premise. Even for a very ideological group, there’s a streak of English pragmatism to it.  It creates a greater space for people to put forward educated (I believe reasonably highly educated) inegalitarian views. Probably about 5% of it, in truth, would be consonant with GRECE and what they formulate. Probably intellectually, GRECE has had more influence in the United States than it has in Britain.

Sunić: Let me read a little paragraph of yours which I think is very fascinating and which serves almost like a framework for our discussion.

“Politics is just a sideline, you see. Artistic activity is what really matters. As Bill Hopkins once told me, one man sat writing alone in a room can alter the entire cosmos. It is the ability through a typewriter or whatever else to radically transform the consciousness of one’s kind. Cultural struggle is the most interesting diversion of all.”

This is what you said to Troy Southgate. Could you please comment a little bit on that, on cultural struggle, and how you see it exactly from this our contemporary perspective and from the British perspective?

Bowden: I think politics is limited in a way in this era. I think this is quite true when you look at the votes that radical Right parties past the accredited center-Right get. They come up. They go down. I suppose the party in Belgium, Vlaams Belang, once the Vlaams Blok, and Jean Marie Le Pen’s organization in the French fifth Republic, the Front National, have done the best on the Western side of the continent. But even they are partly peripheral, demonized, out of power, and very far away from even having a hand upon the hand that controls the tiller of their respective states.

I think one of the many reasons for this is that the entire culture, with the odd exception that maybe in relation to market economy performance in a liberal way, is stressing humanistic and egalitarian goals. The entire Zeitgeist is against you, or seems to be so. And, therefore, I think that you have to sit as Gramsci and other Leftists did 90 to 100 years ago and work out what can be done to push the culture back in a more organic, more traditional, more elitist, more hierarchical way, however you want to look at it.

Therefore, I think that cultural struggle, particularly in the arts (I think especially in the arts, because I see the arts as the dream space or the sub-consciousness, if you want to use that phrase, of the society.) I think it’s extraordinarily interesting and/or important, and it’s really my fundamental interest to see what can be done in that area.

Situationism is a theory that came out of Surrealism and influenced the Leftist events of May 1968 in Paris and America and elsewhere. Whether you can engage in what they call détournement,  the idea that you can turn around the specificity of the moment, and you can invert in many ways the cultural inversion of the last 40 to 50 years. Is it possible? Liberals would say, “Is it desirable?” But can it be done and in what ways can it be done?

I take an elitist view of culture. I believe that everything comes down from above, and I believe that the spirit is the brain of the mind and the mind dominates the body. But the mind, of course, is only a part of the body. I think rather like Hobbes the great English theorist 400 odd years ago against whom British cultural theory reacted. Hobbes was an authoritarian, an absolutist, a semi-elitist, a non-democrat, and even an atheist in a deeply religious age. So, he was quite a shocking combination. He appalled both the Royalists and the Cromwellians. I’m quite enamored of Hobbes, in a way, who of course is close to the English version of Machiavelli in his doctrine of statecraft.

Hobbes’ idea of the society that is organic and where the mind and the body are integrated influenced me a great deal. I think the contemporary West suffers from an extraordinary mind-body split. And the intelligentsia has gone off and talks to themselves and doesn’t connect to the bulk of people in Western societies at all. There is a degree to which I personally think that if you put into currency ideas and cultural forms which have a primal element, have a primordial element, have in some respect a pagan dimension, I think you can knit the mind and the body back together again.

I also think it’s very important, and something that political people nearly always miss, that rationalism is not enough. I think you move people at a level beneath the mind, physiologically and in terms of the emotions. In fact, the Right is more powerful when it appeals as much to the subconscious as much as the conscious mind. I think an enormous number of people, including the Right’s bitterest and harshest opponents, are slightly subconsciously attracted to it in spite of themselves. That’s why they can never stop talking about it, even from an oppositional perspective.

I do believe in cultural inversion, that you can get into sub-consciousness of the era that you’re in and begin to turn it around. I’m also very aware that movements of the ’20s and ’30s were based upon, in part, a Romantic counter-culture that stretches back to the 1870s if not before. The counter-culture as we perceive it is purely Leftist and comes from the 1960s. I agree with Ezra Pound that the artistic community is like the antennae of the civilization that they’re a part of and that they feel the tremors in the web or in the ether before anyone else. That’s why a lot of twentieth century art is about trauma and alienation and ugliness and neurosis, because that’s what the intelligentsia feel, and that’s what the artistic part of the intelligentsia feel.

I see Right-wing cultural formations everywhere, even though they wear other hats, even though they seem to be denouncing the Right. But you have to view these areas artistically and not completely in a linear or rational way.

Sunić: You mentioned Hobbes. So, how do you actually square away Hobbes now with our modern society?

Bowden: I think British and English theory reacted against Hobbes and English Enlightenment, Scottish Enlightenment thinking is a reaction against him. Hobbes is interesting because he’s so modern. He’s so ferocious and contemporary. It’s amazing to think it’s 400 years ago, but the climactic events of English history, certainly the internal violent events, are 400 years ago. We only ever had one Puritan revolutionary military dictator, and he’s 400 years ago. We’ve only ever had one republic, and that’s 400 years ago.

The elements of Hobbes that interest me are the closest to Machiavelli, but the idea of an organic society where mind and body are synchronized with each other. I think modern culture suffers from an enormous mind-body split, a Cartesian split. About 140-odd years ago, artists and intellectuals began creating totally for themselves and, if you like, divested themselves of the mass of the population and have been talking to themselves partly since. That’s partly a good thing, partly a very bad thing. I think if you can to knit the mind and body back together again in various subtle ways, great changes can occur, but they won’t be immediately obvious.

Artistic activity is extraordinarily important, and the arts are not really, although they appear to be,  from our point of view, completely in the hands of the enemy. I don’t always think that is the case if you view the arts in a different way. I think Rightist ideas, or let’s call them conceptually elitist notions, are ubiquitous even when they’re being traduced and denounced. I think that a different perspective on these sorts of things can lead to turn around. Inversion of the inversion and attacks upon liberal definitions of culture even from within what it’s saying.

But these are very complicated areas and, on the whole, political people have almost no time for this and I think don’t often understand the dynamics of the artistic space, which is why they’ve left it to people who are interested in these areas. And in this era and the one that precedes it, that’s congruent with their most significant opponents.

Sunić: Jonathan, let me ask you one thing which is quite conspicuous, that I come across in your writings quite often. This is elitism. I would certainly appreciate if you could define it a little bit. So, let me just read a sentence of yours.

“A man who possesses an idea or a spiritual truth is the equivalent of 50 men. Every pundit, tame journalist, academic, or mainstream politician is mouthing hand-me-down ideas from a philosopher of yesteryear.”

I just want to make clear that I understand that correctly. So, basically, as I understand, you both reject egalitarianism and economism but, at the same time, just in terms of conceptualizing objective reality, it seems to me that you sometimes use language which is a little bit too arcane, if I can put it modestly.

Bowden: Yes. That particular set of ideas comes in some ways from an artist and a writer who would be regarded as a Leftist: George Bernard Shaw. One of the things I’m interested in is the reclamation of certain people who were once regarded as Left-wing. I think that, although it’s a small amount of mileage, there is a tiny bit of mileage in these very elitist, extremely culturally knowledgeable people of 100 years ago and more who were on the Left then. People like H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw and some, but not all, of the Fabians here; people like Jack London, in a complicated way, in the United States at the same time.

Now, there is a complication with them because increasingly these figures—and Shaw was influenced by both Wagner and Nietzsche and this odd comingling of Marx and Wagner (an interesting synthesis, if you like)—and I personally think these figures are now too White, too Eurocentric, too knowledgeable about the classical world. I think they make the contemporary New Left quite uncomfortable. And there’s a certain energy to their criticism which can be made use of.

William Pierce of the National Alliance, of course, was heavily influenced by Man and Superman and by quite a few of Shaw’s more elitist and dissentient ideas.

Even though I am a pagan and a Nietzschean, even though I wonder if the supernatural actually exists in a factual sense rather than a metaphorical and an aesthetic one, I do believe that the ultimate truth is religious, and the ultimate truth is outside man, and we are not aware of what that ultimate truth may be, and the Western post-Socratic tradition is an opening out to the possibility of that, rather than the declamatory affirmation of what it is.

Sunić: Let me ask you a question. Are you a pagan? Are you a Christian? Are you a religious person? How would you define yourself, if I may ask you that?

Bowden: I would say I was a spiritual person more than I was a religious person. I believe in having what de Benoist calls a sense of the sacred. I am a pagan. I’ve attended pagan events. I am aware that metaphysically objectivist pagans, as I would call them, believe that Odin and Thor and Loki and all the others physically exist in another realm. I’m less certain about that. I don’t mind make-believe. But I personally don’t believe that’s the issue with religion. Religion, to me, deals with emotional rather than normative or factual or empirical truth. Emotional truth is far more powerful and is ultimately what draws the energy of civilizations together, what creates great ecstasies, what creates great waves of creation and destruction, what creates great civilizations and prepares for their fall.

Sunić: OK, Jonathan, where’s the spiritual? You’re talking about the emotional. How about the spiritual aspect?

Bowden: I personally think that the heightened creative energy that comes from emotionally-based rationality reaches the spiritual. But, for me, artistic activity is probably the nearest I get to belief. To me, it’s a form of religious belief.

Just take one example that convulsed contemporary culture quite recently in the United States and all over the world. I went to a Catholic school, but I went as a Protestant, and I’m not a Christian, retrospectively. But Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ, which had an enormous impact all over the world, to me is extraordinarily interesting and is a spiritual as well as a cultural event.

But primarily, it’s an artistic phenomenon of immense power whatever prior system one adheres to.

I don’t think the West has a prior system. I agree with Evola when he was asked, “What is your religion?” He said, “I’m a Catholic pagan.” And I think the West has a dialectic that’s both Christian and pagan fused together.

Sunić: Jonathan, I noticed in your artistic work and also in your prose an almost obsession, if I can put it that way, with the Gothic and the macabre. Why is that?

Bowden: Yes! Yes, I do love the macabre! I think that’s where part of the power in art is. I see politics and art in a slightly occultistic way.

If you attend a far-Right meeting, it’s not a conservative meeting, at all, but many of the views expressed are extremely conservative. I think that Left-wing people are rebels, conservative people are conformists and radically Right-wing people are rebellious conformists.

Sunić: Good point!

Bowden: In the occult, if you like, you have a destructive potentiality, which is the Left, and you have a concrete and stabilizing force, which is the Right, and yet the energy comes from the Left on to the Right to energize it and to reformulate the nature of civilization and its discourse. Therefore, I see, partly, the ultra Right as having certain energies which are drawn from the Left and are purified by the Right and then moves further out because there isn’t room elsewhere on the spectrum for them.

I see the Right as partly demonic, in the sense that Goethe meant, partly Mephistophelian. Although these are dangerous areas, of course, the primal cultural areas are dangerous. The reason that the far Right is vilified and demonized all over the Western world is because it represents the fundamentalist energies of its own culture.

Sunić: This is a fascinating statement of yours, but would you elaborate? Not just for the audience, but for myself as well. Go ahead.

Bowden: In the Islamic world and in the Arab world, you’ve got a lot of these corrupt elites and so on who are aligned with American and, indeed, Zionist power in a strange sort of way to keep Islamism down. And Islamism is seen as their own fundamentalism, their enemy within, the danger, the danger that people will turn to the most fundamentalist current within their society and civilization.

Now, looking at the Western world which is a civilization based upon inverted premises of the Islamic world. The West, in my view, is an anti-theocratic and open-minded civilization, but the idea that because of that we don’t believe in anything is utter nonsense. We have a fundamentalism of our own, and I think it’s the guilty conscience of most Western intellectuals, particularly liberal-minded people in the arts. An enormous number of Western artists and writers and intellectuals, even through reversal and antagonism, were attracted to fascism in the first 30 to 40 years of the twentieth century, and they were often attracted in an emotional way at a level deeper than reason, because they were attracted to the ur-discourses, the foundational and fundamentalist beliefs, classical and yet Romantic combined, of our own civilization.

It’s interesting to note, in relation to modernism for example, many of the early modernists—Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, Marinetti, Céline, Ezra Pound, and so on—were deeply attracted to the extreme Right. They were attracted because they saw in it fundamentalist cultural energies. It’s very interesting that late modernism has been taken up as the pet of the liberal establishment and completely denuded of nearly all of those energies, and it’s ended up in often decadent and squalid vistas that deconstruct almost everything the West is about and laughs whilst the process is going on.

And yet, even in that, I see a reaction against the foundational light, and I see the danger of European intellectuals being attracted to their fundamentalist discourses.

Often with culture you have to make things concrete. For example, take the book about cinema that was written by Lucien Rebatet [actually Robert Brasillach—Ed.] and Maurice Bardèche which influenced Truffaut. Now, Truffaut (half-Jewish director, of course) came to Britain to make his film in English, but the film is completely aesthetically French. French cinema is extremely distinct within Western cinematography. Every different from Anglo-American cinema. This is a film of Ray Bradbury’s science fiction book, Fahrenheit 451, where the books are burnt by firemen and nobody reads because books give people dangerous ideas. Now, the aesthetic of that film is deeply fascistic, and I believe it’s influenced by Rebatet, who knew Truffaut personally. Because fascist theorists in the ’30s, including ex-Communists, were obsessed with cinema.

Why were they obsessed with cinema? Because cinema is the mass art. It is the art of modernity. It appeals to the intellectual and it appeals to the man who’s got almost no mind at all because the images go straight on to his nervous system. It’s an organic form of art that can appeal from the professor at one end to the roadsweeper at the other. Of course, it is the fine art of the modern age. Modernism turned inside the mind because replication of external realities became photographic.

Cinema is the mass medium of modernity. It’s why I’ve made films. It’s also why Communism and fascism were obsessed with cinema and obsessed with control of it. It’s why Hitler wanted Fritz Lang to be head of German cinema after Metropolis in 1939.

Sunić: Excellent point. Jonathan, I know you’ve got an excellent website. I would certainly appreciate if you could just say aloud for our audience exactly the address of your website.

Bowden: It’s www.jonathanbowden.co.uk [The site is no longer online.—Ed.]

Sunić: That’s very easy. You’re everywhere. I see you on Wikipedia and everywhere. I certainly need to alert you, folks. Do listen to our friend, Jonathan. He’s an excellent speaker. I’m somewhat suspicious about your art though, your pictorial art. May I ask just a private question? Why do you actually sort of revel in those distorted figures, those oddly almost degenerate faces of yours? I mean you talk about chthonic art, this primeval feelings that you so often mention in your talks and in your artwork.

Bowden: It’s interesting. Partly because there are savage and ferocious forces in me, and I think you have to be truthful to them when you create. Probably the greatest artist in the Western tradition is Michelangelo. The greatest painter in the Western tradition is Botticelli. And yet, the one who appeals to me most emotionally is Hieronymus Bosch. Modernism is partly a diabolical form of art, and I’m not an aesthetic conservative. I’m partly revolutionary and conservative. On the whole, Left-wing people like my art and Right-wing people like the ideas contained in it but don’t like it. That’s simplistic, but it’s true. I think you have to paint what’s inside you.

The Christian tradition’s quite interesting here because the most aesthetically interesting parts of the Christian tradition are the Baroque magnificence of sort of heavenly ardor, the building on light or the principle of light, the almost Albigensian idea of light cascading upon itself. The Baroque. And the other potentiality is the demonic and the diabolical.

I mentioned Gibson’s film a moment or two ago, and in that film the devil is an androgynous woman. Many people, including certain ultra-Catholics who of course are close to Gibson conceptually, were rather put out by that. But in Christian tradition, because the diabolical can never be known by man, the artist is free to interpret it to a degree with his own imagination.

See, I think the imagination is incredibly powerful, and I think imagination moves people more than reason. I think the reason people are attracted to the radical Right, even though the forefront of their mind says they’re not, is the power that it has, and that power is negative as well as positive. It’s not just beauty. It’s beauty and ugliness combined, synthesized, and even stepped beyond.

So, I suppose my aesthetics are Nietzschean in a way. I’m a sort of Right-wing modern person in some ways. I would like the world to be different than what it is, obviously. But this is where I differ from Evola. Evola said there was three alternatives to modernity: suicide, being a Nietzschean or getting rid of it all and destroying it and returning to absolute Tradition based upon prior metaphysical realities. A part of me wouldn’t be opposed to that, like pagan poets like the American extremist Robinson Jeffers, for example. But at the same time, I think we’re in the modern world, and what you hope to do is turn its own energies in an elitist way.

One of the things that fascinates me is how under the surface images can be used. I once sat and watched the film 300. You know the Hollywood film which is in fact based on a Frank Miller graphic novel?

Sunić: I heard of it, but I didn’t see it.

Bowden: David Duke did an analysis of that film. That’s an anti-Persian, anti-Iranian film. It’s partly, if you want to look at it in this way, a neo-conservative film. If you know what I mean. And yet, if you turn the sound down and you look at it as a tableau of images. It’s sepia tints, which relates to early Renaissance paintings, people like Cimabue and Giotto. It’s images from Leni Riefenstahl. [Unintelligible] without any ideological overlay, just look at the aesthetics of the heroic! Not who we’re supposed to be against, not who we’re supposed to be for, but you just look at the physiological aesthetics of the thing. Images are very powerful and can create different mental states in people.

Goebbels wrote a novel when he was very young called Michael.

Sunić: I read it! Yes.

Bowden: It’s an Expressionist novel, and it’s a sort of Left-Right novel written when he was under the Strassers’ influence. Somebody once asked him, because he was regarded as a Catholic fundamentalist, “What is your view of God?” And he said, “My view of God is an eight-armed idol in darkness with flames around it, dancing girls, and human sacrifice.”

It’s almost Assyrian, isn’t it? And somebody said to him, “Well, my dear doctor, that’s not very Christian, is it?” And he said, “You mistake me, my friend. That is Christ.”

Sunić: Jonathan, well, this is a fascinating discussion that we’ve had and I hope to have you more often here on my show.

Folks, this was Jonathan Bowden, as I said you’ve got to check his website. He’s a great artist, and you can download his books. He’s a man who is quite familiar with Lovecraft. He probably knows him by heart, and Carlyle, but he is a man also of tremendous classical erudition. You can ask him about Marlowe and Shakespeare. He can talk for hours.

Jonathan, it was nice to have you here. We’ll have to go now. We’ll part company, but I hope to catch up with you soon in London. Thank you very much and bye for now!

Bowden: Thanks very much.




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vendredi, 17 mai 2013

Robert E. Howard & the Heroic



Robert E. Howard & the Heroic

By Jonathan Bowden

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

Editor’s Note:

The following text is a transcript by John Morgan of a lecture by Jonathan Bowden, “Robert Erwin Howard: Pulpster Extraordinaire,” given at the 26th New Right meeting in London on Saturday, April 17, 2010. The audio is available on YouTube [2].

Unfortunately, significant portions of the audio were cut off at the beginning of the second and third segments on YouTube. For the purposes of publishing this essay in the Pulp Fascism [3] collection, I also removed some 2,300 words of digressive material. If anyone has access to a complete copy of the lecture, please contact me. Also, if you have any corrections or if you can gloss the passages marked as unintelligible, please contact me at editor@counter-currents.com [4] or simply post them as comments below. If and when a complete transcript can be assembled, we will publish it here as well. 

I’ll be talking about Robert Ervin Howard. A while back, I had a talk about H. P. Lovecraft, Aryan mystic, and he was one of a triumvirate of writers who wrote for a fantasy magazine called Weird Tales, a pulp magazine; they were incredibly cheaply produced magazines in the 1930s, with quite good art, graphic sort of art, printed on cheap bulk newsprint paper which was very acidic and fell apart very quickly. And yet three writers, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Ervin Howard, and Howard Phillips Lovecraft have survived and been inducted into literature. I saw in my local library that Penguin Classics, or Modern Classics, the ones with the grey covers, now include Robert Erwin Howard’s Heroes in the Wind, from Kull to Conan: The Best of Robert E. Howard as a book. Penguin Classics, you see? So it begins as a pulp, and a hundred years later it’s redesignated as literature.

Howard is a very interesting figure. He only lived 30 years. He was born in 1906 and shot himself with a revolver in the head in his car, outside his home, when he was 30 years of age. We’ll get on to that afterwards. He wrote 160 stories, and the interesting thing about these stories is that they are pre-civilized in their settings, they’re barbaric, they’re ultra-masculine stories, and they deal with many themes which have been so disprivileged from much of mainstream liberal humanist culture that they no longer exist.

Howard had a range of heroes and wrote in most popular genres. He wrote to make money, but he began as a poet, and a poetic and sort of Saturnalian disposition influenced his work and his friendship, by correspondence, with Lovecraft, and to a lesser extent, Clark Ashton Smith, throughout his life. He was of Irish descent, and he was born in a town which became a boom town in the oil booms of the early 20th century in Texas. For those of you who don’t know, Texas is enormous. England fits into Texas twelve times, and Britain, eight times. He was born in Peaster, Texas, and spent some of his early life in a town called Brownwood, a quintessentially small-town American, which is the experience of most white Americans through the settlement of Western civilization in North America. The state capital, of course, is Austin, and you have the big cities like Houston, Dallas, and Galveston.

Now, Howard hated the oil booms, and what happened. When the oil boom happened to Cross Plains, a town of about 1,200 with a mayor and so on, morphed into a large, sprawling, lawless place of about 10,000. An enormous number of prospectors and drillers and criminals and people seeking easy money, all heavily armed of course, came in to Cross Plains. The town burst out beyond its limits in all directions. Oil was discovered everywhere. Fortunes were made, and fortunes were lost.

At the time he was born, lynchings were still in vogue right across the South and the ex-Confederate states. Everyone displayed and carried weapons openly. Sometimes the Rangers, as they were called, a man alone in the sun with a rifle, was basically all you had of semi-ordered civilization. People don’t realize how, if you like, wild and open certain parts of the United States were, certainly until the 1860s, 1870s.

The psychological experience of an intuitive and sympathetic and radically imaginative young man like Howard invests the tall Texan story, and stories of prospectors and ranchers and drillers in the oil industry, and Texas Rangers and Marshals and so on, with an added piquancy. His family supported the Confederacy in a previous generation, and he was mildly descended from certain Confederate commanders.

His attitude towards life is expressed in the stories, which is why they survived. The stories are like lucid dreams. You walk straight into them, and the action begins. Most of them were dreams, and in a way, most critics believe Howard’s an oral creator. He’s in the oral, folklorist, and narrative-oriented tradition. He’s a storyteller par excellence. It’s said he wrote at night, and he used to chant the stories to himself, which of course is a very old Northern European and Nordic tradition. It’s the idea of the skald. It’s the idea that things are illuminated to you, and you speak because you hear the voice.

He had a series of masculine heroes beginning with certain Celtic and Pictish/Scotch-Irish heroes such as Bran Mak Morn and so on; Conan, the hero that he’s most associated with, whose name, of course, is abstracted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s middle name. Howard would take from all sorts of roots, many of which related to heroic, Celtic, Indo-European elements which he imagined to exist in his own past.

robEHow.jpgHe was very influenced by G. K. Chesterton’s dictum at the beginning of the 20th century that myth is the commingling of emotional reality with what is understood to be fact. If you mix together eras and peoples, but you keep the emotional truth of the substance of what we perceive their lives to have been, then you can influence the present and the future. It’s noumenal truth, as Aristotle said 2,000 years ago, the idea that certain things are artistically and emotionally true irrespective of what you think about them factually.

His most famous series of stories, the Conan stories that he wrote pretty much towards the end of his life, were based upon a false yet true/factual world history, the so-called Hyborian Age that he created for himself. Maps of the Hyborian Age have been produced, and they are based upon a realistic sociology, ethnography, geological history, and a coherent view of economics. The country of Aquilonia that Conan ends up conquering at the end of the mythos is partly Britain. The Picts are partly the Scots, of course, covered in woad, barbaric, kept out by a wall, that sort of thing.

War is the dynamic of all of Howard’s fiction, and his attitude towards life was conflict-oriented. His stories are described as ultra-masculine and non-feminist stories. Unkind critics say that they’re Barbara Cartland for men, where all women are beautiful, all men are heroic, where magic works instead of science, and where force decides all social problems, and there is a degree to which the genre which he has founded, called sword and sorcery—of which one supposes J. R. R. Tolkien, an Oxford professor, is the senior representative in the 20th century—is an example of the literary and the heroic in contemporary letters. It’s interesting to notice that the early great texts of the Western civilization, Homer, Beowulf, are deeply heroic, and yet over time, the heroic imprimatur within our language and within our sensibility dips.

It’s said that boys aren’t interested in reading at school, and that 80 to 90% of those who do English literature courses in further educational colleges and universities, the tertiary sector, are women. It’s said that men don’t disprivilege literature, and it’s also said in the West that boys get bullied if they’re regarded, as Howard was when he was younger, as sissies because they read too much, and this sort of thing.

I think one of the problems is that literature that appeals to men is often not the concern of the people who run these sorts of educational establishments. If the sort of people that influenced Howard, people like Noyes, people like Robert W. Service, people like Byron, people like Kipling, people like the heroic imperialist literature of William Henley, who was the basis for Long John Silver in Treasure Island, and was a close friend of Robert Louis Stevenson, a man who could go from bonhomie to murderous rage with a click of your fingers, as Silver does in Treasure Island, of course, because he moves from extreme malevolence to a sort of Cockney paternalism in the same breath. Now, if this literature was normative much further down the social and the educational scale, one would imagine that boys and youngish men would be much more interested in literature as a whole.

Howard essentially sold stories from about the age of 20, certainly 19. He started writing when he was 9, and the interesting thing about him is that his stories are not really derivative. There are connections to enormous writers that were prominent at the time, principally Jack London, but Howard emerged fully-formed and had his own voice from the very beginning.

London’s a very interesting figure, because London’s often been associated, truthfully and yet forcefully, with the extreme Left. Trotsky, of course, wrote an introduction to his famous dystopia of American life called The Iron Heel, and yet London, as George Orwell intimated in one of his essays, was proto-fascistic, and was in many ways a Left nationalist, or even a National Bolshevik, or somebody who would be now described as a Third Positionist. London’s positions were those of socialism from the outside, but also a form of socialism, with and without quotation marks, that was Right-wing rather than Left-wing, and was both national and racial. The interesting thing about London’s discourse is the radicalism of the racialism. [. . .]

We had at the last meeting, or the meeting before last, a speaker from Croatia called Tomislav Sunić who wrote a book which I edited a long time ago, actually, called Homo Americanus: Child of the Postmodern Age. Among the very important points about that book is his recognition, as a European ex-Catholic in his case, of the Protestant fundamentalist nature of the United States. I think this is a crucial point to understand the United States. The influence of contemporary Jewry in the United States is due to the fact that it’s a Protestant fundamentalist country and many, many Americans really believe in their deep and even subconscious mind that the viewpoint that they are a self-chosen elect to rule by right, by divine imprecation, is so deep in their consciousness, the idea as Pentecostalists sing, that “we are Zion,” goes so far down that the difference between their identity and their group specificity and their militant patriotism and that of a small country in the Middle East, and people who didn’t begin to emigrate en masse into the United States until the latter stages of the 19th century, and only really began to have major socioeconomic impact, particularly culturally, in the first quarter to a third of the 20th century makes these things, to my mind, easier to understand.

Now, Protestant fundamentalism doesn’t seem to have scratched Howard very much, and yet one of his heroes is a Puritan called Solomon Kane, and Solomon Kane, who comes between Bran Mak Morn, Kull, and Conan, is in some ways his first major hero. Solomon Kane is very, very interesting because he’s one of these Protestant extremists of the 1620s—well, they’re set before—but that’s when the movement comes to power in the Cromwellian Interregnum in England, and yet stretches way back into the previous century, and yet in a strange way he’s an outsider, even in that movement.

Kane dresses all in black with a little white sort of a bib round his neck. He’s extraordinarily heavily armed, as most of the Puritans were, had a sword on either side, had pistols in the belts, had a knife in the boot, because you were fighting for the Lord, you see! “I am the flail of the Lord.” They had these endless quotes, largely from the Old Testament, but to a degree from elements of the New, which they would roll out on occasions when they had to justify what they were about to do, and that their instincts wanted to do, in a way that nothing could restrain them.

There’s a famous moment in Northern Ireland, when James Callaghan was Northern Irish Secretary under Wilson in the late 1960s, slightly sympathetic to Social Democratic, Catholic nationalism in Northern Ireland, as part of the local movement was then, but in a very moderate way, and then said in a concerned and perplexed way to the Reverend Ian Paisley, who softened a bit as he’s got older, and in turn wanted to be Prime Minister of Northern Ireland before he died, he said to Paisley that, “But we’re all the children of God, Reverend,” and Paisley said, “No! Nooooo!” He said, “We are the children of wrath!

And that is the attitude of those Puritan extremists, loyal to the Old Testament in many ways. Men of a sort of always implacable fury, and elements of their dictatorship, under Cromwell of course, were increasingly maniacal. The banning of Shakespeare, our greatest writer. When an English national revolutionary movement bans the country’s greatest-ever writer, you do begin to think there’s something slightly wrong, don’t you, no? Similarly, the flogging of actors under the New Model Army in Newcastle for performing Shakespeare, these were the latter stages, these were the Buddhas of Bamiyan moments, weren’t they really, of these English revolutionaries of the 1640s, or what was really going on.

Now, the sort of Puritanism that Howard puts into this character is different, because Howard’s character, Solomon Kane’s a loner, a man who always fights for his own cause, but when he hears those almost voluptuous pagan stirrings in the background, it’s always Christianized, and it’s always put in a Protestant context.

Cromwell once had a phrase: “I disembowel you for Christ’s love.” And that’s what he said in the Putney Debates. When the parliamentary side won the Civil War, the whole New Model Army, which of course was a revolutionary army of that time—no brothels, no drinking; in the Royal army, you went to the back, and there was endless entertainment at the back of the battlefront. With the Puritan armies, there was none of that. You went to the back, and there was no drinking, and there was a chap ranting at you about whether you’d sinned that day.

It was less fun, but at the same time, when they raised their pikes together, not in a higgledy-piggledy way, or one bloke at the back didn’t want to, but they raised them together, as one unit. They would all chant, “God is our strength.” Cromwell understood as Shaw said early in the 20th century that a man who has a concept of reality that is metaphysically objectivist, a man who believes in something as absolute truth is worth fifty men. And that’s the type of revolutionary ideology that these people then had.

But at the Putney Debates, there was a debate about how the country should go, and Ireton and the other supreme commanders were there. Under Cromwell they committed regicide of course, they killed the King, so the future of the country was theirs. There was another tendency known as the Levellers, who in some ways of course were retrospectively the first socialists, so-called because they wanted to level down distinctions. There was an even more radical movement called the Diggers that came along later. But Cromwell told Ireton, “Either we hang them or they will hang us.” And that’s the Levellers. And at the end of the Putney Debates, the army moves aside, the Cromwellian regime has been established, and the Levellers are hanging on the trees. So Cromwell had got his way.

The importance of Protestantism to the United States, in a complicated way, is the reason why there has never been an extreme Right-wing movement of any great success in the United States, except in a localized way like the Klan to deal with particular circumstances at a particular time. America, you could imagine, is ripe for such a movement, as Australia always has been, and yet there has not been one, not really. Not a national movement. There were figures in the 1930s: there was the Silver Shirt movement; there were Father Coughlin’s radio broadcasts, which had all sorts of interesting ramifications in American life, as Catholic priest giving the radical Right to essentially a Protestant nation, which of course set up a cultural tension and contradiction in and of itself.

There are also interesting liberal counterparts to this. Most people remember Orson Welles’ treatment of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, when the Martians invade New York, and then he admitted it was a fiction retrospectively, and tens of thousands of ninnies leave New York because they think the Martians are landing. “Gee, they’re up the road!” And they get the pickup truck, and they go. And then they broadcast later that it was all a stunt and it was an artistic show, and people shouldn’t take it literally.

Welles deliberately did that to discredit Coughlin. He said afterwards, “We did it because too many people believed everything that fascist priest was telling them on the radio, so we proved them, don’t believe what you hear that comes out of the radio.” And that’s a purely sort of aesthetic response to the impact that sort of thing had.

robEHow2.jpgYet still movements lie there, Aryan Nations, National Alliance, these sorts of movements, very small, very isolated, geographically and in other ways. National Alliance was quite interesting because it morphed from Youth for George Wallace. That’s how it started, and then it took various transformatory steps until it emerged as a very hard-line group under the late Dr. William Pierce at a later date.

And this culture of extreme Protestantism—which contained elements which are to the Right of almost anything you’ve ever seen, mentally, psychologically, conceptually—seems partly, because, of its extreme individualism, to be incapable of generating radical Right mass movements. Most Americans still adopt a deliberately materialist, liberal humanist and individualist way of looking at life. They divide into two basic political parties that have switched over during the course of the last two centuries. Don’t forget in the 19th century the Republican Party was the party of the nominal Left, and the Democrats were red. The Democrats were conservatives who supported states’ rights—not the right to secede, but certainly the right to own slaves. The party led by a man who’s proud to have ex-slaves in his own family, the present President, would have actually, in a strange sort of way, not been able to join the Democrat Party in the 19th century, and yet the switch around, that you can vote in each other’s primaries, and that “Isn’t everyone a Democrat? Isn’t everyone a Republican?,” hence the meaninglessness of the names, adds to this sort of feeling that you get in the contemporary United States that all that matters is money and social success. America’s very important, because America, of course, dominates this country now culturally and geopolitically. We can’t almost do anything without them, and all the wars that we’re now dragged into are due to American hegemony.

But the repudiation of parts of American power should never blind ourselves to the cultural excellence of what many white Americans have achieved, both for their group and individually. If you actually look at all the radical Right literature, the alternative side of an isolationist and American nationalist posture, there is some great work there by people like William Gayley Simpson, who wrote an enormous book of over a thousand pages called Which Way Western Man? Again, without going on a tangent too much, he’s a very interesting man because he’s an ex-Trappist monk. He began as a liberal and an aching humanist whose heart bled for the Third World and who had all the correct sort of UN-specific attitudes, and gradually he changed step by step by step, and he ended up, if not a member then a fellow traveler, of the National Alliance. That is quite a change. That is quite a leap. But it is also true that tens and tens of thousands of educated Western people who are liberal-minded now will have to change their views, will have to begin to change their mindset in this and the coming generation if Western civilization is virtually not to slide off the cliff. [. . .]

Now, to return to Howard, Howard’s writing, by the end of his sort of period, and don’t forget that he was sort of mature at 22 and dead at 30, he produced 160 stories, 15, 16 volumes basically, and other fragments. There was an unfinished fantasy novel called Almuric, the early Celtic stories, Bran Mak Morn and the others morphed into Solomon Kane. There were associated Westerns and humorous stories. There were some detective stories, but he never particularly liked that genre, although his attitude towards life was hard-boiled. There were also some Crusader stories as well, and some slightly mythological stories about a sort of white man in the East called Gordon, presumably named after the Gordon of Khartoum, but actually an American, and these were the old Borak stories set in Afghanistan, where he goes native and fights along sort of inter-tribal and group-based and clan lines in that context.

Howard’s attitude toward politics is quite complicated and not entirely logical, and primarily emotional. He supported the New Deal because he believed the American economy had collapsed and something needed to be done. He argued strongly with H. P. Lovecraft, he was more of a “reactionary” in these respects, a classical liberal, didn’t like the Roosevelt and the people around him, didn’t like intervention in the market in that sort of Protestant, American way. He felt that you fail commercially, you suffer punishment, because God has chosen that punishment for you. Destiny involves sacrifice.

The irony is that the banks have been saved in the United States by Bush, costing trillions of dollars, but the metaphysic which founded the country would have allowed all of those banks to fail, all of those banks to fail and all those bankers to hang themselves and throw themselves off buildings. That happened in 1929, and then you rebuild quickly, because the pure, American, sort of Randian view is that capitalism is an insatiable animal and vortex of energy, and if people go to pot, if people lose everything they have, if as a trader, an insurance agent I vaguely knew years ago at Lloyd’s, lost all his money in the Names scandal, and goes there on a Sunday and unlocks the door and goes down to the toilets and sits there and drinks Domestos and kills himself and is found by the cleaners, Africans probably, on Monday morning, and his senior partner in Lloyd’s said, “Well, that’s capitalism for you.” And that’s it! What goes up goes down! This was the view that founded the United States

And yet the irony is, why have these Western politicians intervened, why have they saved these structures: few collateral damage moments, Lehman Brothers; they’ve charged Goldman Sachs with fraud. Well, that’s a bit late, isn’t it, really? And yet why have they intervened? They’ve intervened because of the voting danger. The fact that there are radical parties on the fringe of all Western societies, everyone knows who they are, that people could vote for in a major moment of fiscal/physical/moral/emotional distress, and the whole Western clerisy that’s bought into the contemporary liberal package knows that. Many of these parties are actually quite moderate in relation to the traditions they come out of, but they terrify the present establishment that often sees the more populist ones as just the start of something worse that’s coming behind, see?

And there’s also a certain guilt there as well, because these people are well aware of what’s happened to Western societies because they’ve been running them for 70 years. This idea it’s all an accident, “I didn’t really mean it,” and the turning of Western societies into a sort of version of Brasília, en masse with a tiny, little elite at the top that’s creaming most of the goodies off for themselves.

I’m not an egalitarian in any sense, but it’s interesting to note that this country’s slightly more unequal now than it was in 1910 in terms of 90% of all equity and all capital and all wealth is owned by the top 10%, and the top 2% of that 10%, and yet the society has changed out of all recognition, 1910 to 2010. Most Western people born in the first [unintelligible] part of the 20th century would not believe the transformation of the West just in a lifetime, basically, after they died. And it occurred because of the extraordinary wars, largely amongst ourselves, that we fought in the 20th century that also gave outsider ideologies like Communism their chance to vulture-like pick over the defeat and the carrion corpses of what was left.

The heroic attitude towards man and society that Howard’s work depicts exists virtually nowhere except as play and pleasure in computer games for boys and adolescents, in comic books and so on. The areas of life where that sort of ethos remains, the armed forces, the army, navy, and air force of most contemporary Western societies, particularly their specialist or elite forces, in Britain the Special Air service, the naval equivalent the Special Boat Service, and all of those novels, these Andy McNab sort of novels about the heroic and this sort of thing, which are lapped up by a largely male audience, largely male audience. Other than that, there is not really the imprimatur of the heroic in Western life, the extraordinary demilitarization of Western life, hardly ever see a policeman, hardly ever see soldiers. When do you ever see British forces? And that’s because they’re always outside the country as globalist mercenaries fighting American and Zionist wars all over the world. They’re never seen here, and many of their commanders don’t want them here, either, because they regard parts of British life as so irretrievably decadent that they actually want to keep their troops away from much of what’s happened in relation to the society. There are towns in Berkshire where a lot of the military stay, like Arborfield and these sorts of towns, where it’s quite clear there’s a sort of military zone and there’s a civilian zone. You all know what British towns are like on Friday, Saturday night: no police; they’re all in their vans; they’re all in the station; they’re at home; they’re filling in forms. They wear yellow bibs when they’re out, but when you want one, you can never see them, can you?

And a lot of our older people are, let’s face it, frightened to go into town and city centers on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, certainly after 6. And why is this happening? It’s partly happening because the concept that Howard’s fiction deals with, masculinity, has been completely disprivileged, completely demonized and rerouted in contemporary liberal life. Hostility to masculinity, certainly as defined, say, before 1950 is very considerable, and it’s had a very corrosive effect ideologically, aesthetically. Men can have their own pleasures in various zones, which are sort of sneered at and disprivileged, but the centrality of the heroic as a myth for life has largely gone.

The way to explicate something like Howard, as I did with Lovecraft before, is to maybe to concentrate on one of their stories. With H. P. Lovecraft I chose “The Dunwich Horror,” and with Howard I would choose “Rogues in the House,” which was published in Weird Tales in the early ’30s. One fantasy critic has called it the greatest fantasy story of the 20th century, but that’s just one individual’s opinion. It’s relatively early in the Conan series.

Conan is a northern barbarian, and because everything’s fused together in Howard, he’s got slightly Nordic, Germanic, and slightly Celtic traits. He’s an outsider, but he has a clean code of masculine barbarism. Civilization is always seen as slightly weak-kneed and sybaritic to Howard. And yet at the same time, barbarism has its own inner order.

Now, there are counter-factual and countercultural elements there that will be used by social anthropologists in a totally different context, like Lévi-Strauss and others, in the middle of the 20th century, but Howard means it in a different way.

There’s a Left-wing streak to Howard, as there was to London, a siding with the outsider, with those ruined by capitalism, by tramps. London’s book about the East End is one of the most extraordinary books about mass poverty before George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London and “How the Poor Die,” were quite extraordinary works. A poor little hospital in Paris before any sort of socialized medicine, where those who were in the bottom 10%, their corpses were just thrown on the ground! And they died in agony, and they kick you away and put another one on top. This is how the poor die! And Orwell said to this chap in this hospital, “But look at the state they’re in!” And he said, “Well, they gave up slavery. Here’s another batch.” This was the attitude then. This is why things like the labor movement, even in the United States in an attenuated way, were created, to correct that imbalance as it’s seen from the bottom.

The far Right, of course, always wanted not the class war of the contemporary Left, but to socialize mass life in a way that preserved the traditions of the civilization of which we’re a part, that brought on what was excellent about the past and yet realized that the 50% of people who own no capital, the 50% of people who are largely excluded from all center-Right parties’ definition of patriotism, are part of the country, are part of the nation, fight the country’s wars for the most part when they’re asked to do so, and therefore have to be within the remit of social consideration in relation to education, health, and other matters.

My explanation for Howard’s support of the New Deal and that type of politics largely is along those sorts of lines. It’s the sort of apolitical chap who likes country and western in a Midwestern state and supports socialized medicine up to a point, as long as it’s not too costly, doesn’t like Obama, and supports our troops, you see. But it’s in a sort of apolitical zone which has got no real knowledge above that. Some of the instincts are right, but the ideological formulation in which that takes place is likely wrong, because even these wars—do you think Iraq was fought for ordinary white Americans? Do you think Afghanistan has anything to do with ordinary families living in Nebraska or Nevada or Kansas? None of these wars have anything to do with them at all. Even the Black Muslims have worked out that white gentiles largely are second-class citizens now in the society that they created. But that’s another story, and I’d just like to concentrate on Howard.

This particular story concerns Conan from the outside, Conan as perceived by an aristocrat and fop called Murilo. Howard’s a little bit of a Nordicist. He thinks southern Europeans are a bit foppish in comparison to northern Europeans. There’s a streak of this, and some of the society is seen to be Italy, Corinth, Zamora, but they’re not. But they seem to be Italy.

Well, there’s this Italian city-state that’s run by a corrupt priest called Nabonidus, who’s known as the Red Priest. These myths are set, these stories, mythologically encoded, are set before the beginning of recorded history and after the sinking of Atlantis, possibly a fantasy itself. So he sets them far back enough that he can do whatever he wants with them, but at the same time he can import a large amount of retrospective historical insight.

The interesting thing is the Machiavellianism of the politics of these stories. All of these societies are run extremely ruthlessly and are run completely for the power interests of the people in charge. The nationalities don’t really matter, but they are, if the gloves are off, as marauding and vengeful as their own leaders who they represent at a lower level. Truly Howard believes, with the Roman dictator Sulla, that when the weapons are out, the laws fall silent.

Now, Murilo is a courtier, a relatively corrupt courtier, in this city-state, and Nabonidus comes to him one day at a royal council meeting and gives him a small casket that contains a severed ear. And this is a warning, as it would be if a Renaissance prince in post-Medieval Italy, gave it to a rival, and it’s, “Clear off. Get out of the city-state as quickly as possible. I’m giving you one day.” And Murilo wonders what he’s going to do. He can flee, but he’s not a coward, why should he leave his own city? And in any case he’s got lots of rackets on the go, you know, so he wants an out, and he thinks, “I need to assassinate Nabonidus,” who runs the drunken King as a sort of priest/philosopher-king/leader of a native death cult within the city like a puppet master controls his dog.

So he needs a vassal, and he finds it in the prisons of the city where a young, heathen, northern barbarian has been captured and lays there in chains after various escapades and thefts, and this is a young man of 19 called Conan, who’s twice the size of a normal man. All Howard’s heroes are physically enormous, and all incredibly violent, although they all have an honor code of their own which is interesting, particularly towards the end of the story, what you might call an innate code of masculine morality and honor which is part and parcel of natural law.

The Social Darwinian view that was spread throughout mass culture, particularly these types of fictions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is not entirely true as all prisons and all armies testify, there’s a code of honor and morality even in very extreme male behavior. Rapists are always amongst the most disprivileged in any prison. Men who attack and feed on women, for example, in very all-male and male-concentric cultural spaces are always disprivileged, always disliked, and that’s because of innate feelings about how, in a very traditionalist way, what we call partly a sexist way now, men should treat women, and these things pre-date all modern ideas and are partly innate, and in some ways, because Howard is such an instinctualist, he brings these sorts of forces to the fore.

Now, Nabonidus wants Murilo to leave the city. Murilo hires Conan to murder Nabonidus. Nabonidus is [unintelligible]. Conan is in his cell sucking some beef off a bone, and besides, Nabonidus is an upper-class priest—so why not murder him for money, he’s an adventurer?—so he decides to go with Murilo on this plot. As always with Howard, a synopsis never does justice to the sort of the lucid dreaming of the story itself. Howard always said that he was there and that Conan was next to him like an old soldier dictating his stories, some of which will be tall stories as well.

Now, Murilo then hears that Conan has been captured because the guard that he bribed to get him out of the prison has been arrested on another offense. Conan’s actually escaped in another way and joins Murilo later. Murilo, desperate, a Borgia without any sort of a family fortune decides to murder Nabonidus himself, so he creeps up to his fortified estate, which is on the edge of town, described in this Gothic way—it’s dark, it’s sepulchral, it’s moonlit, there’s an enormous dog that roams the grounds.

Remember Conan Doyle’s stories? There’s always this enormous mastiff that the villain has that roams the grounds to bring people down, but Watson shoots on Holmes’ behalf usually at the end. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is extraordinarily amusing because the hound is covered with phosphorous to make it glow in the dark when it races after some poor chap who’s looking back, terrified, on a sort of West Country moor, and yet phosphorous is so poisonous that, the dog licks itself all the time, one lick and its dead. But these stories are metaphorical. They’re extreme exercises in the imagination. They’re not concerned with these pettifogging details of which critics make too much.

Now, Murilo creeps into the garden and, horror of horrors, what does he find? He finds the dead body of the dog, and it looks as though it’s been savagely mauled in a way by something he doesn’t understand, by some weird thing or ape or monster. He then proceeds into the house and finds much of it wrecked. Nabonidus is nowhere to be seen, and one of his servants, Joka, has been murdered.

Suddenly he gets into the inner chamber of Nabonidus’ villa, which is modeled on a Renaissance palace essentially, and he sees the Red Priest, so named because he wears this red cowl, sitting on a throne, made of alabaster, and everything’s heavy and ornamental, a bit like those Cecil B. DeMille films from the ’30s, everything extraordinarily overdone and luxuriant. And he creeps up to Nabonidus to stab him, and the figure turns, and it’s a were-thing, or a monster, something of the imagination. It’s not human at all, simian rather than human. And Murilo faints, and then the story closes.

This story’s in three acts. Traditionally, like a lot of Western drama, like Dante’s Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise, you’ve got this three-pronged triadic element, the thesis, the antitheses, the synthesis at the end. So that’s the first part.

The second part is Murilo awakens in dungeons or interconnected corridors underneath Nabonidus’ house, manse, mansion. He crawls along a corridor and somebody hisses, and it’s Conan. He’s come into the house to murder Nabonidus because Murilo’s going to pay him, and because he’s a member of a cult that he dislikes and so on. Murilo scents his hair, like the young aristocrats of his era, and Conan’s senses are so acute that he detects that with his nostrils, and that’s the reason he doesn’t attack him in the darkness.

They both decide to, they swear loyalty to each other—don’t forget this is an oral culture where bonds and legal sanctions are expressed orally. Howard despised the element of modern life where people say anything they want just to get their own way at any particular time. In pre-modern, say Nordic societies, the oath or something which is given verbally with strength is as binding as any legal document ever could be, even more so.

Conan and Murilo proceed looking for Nabonidus. They come out into the body of the house, which as I said resembles just sort of Renaissance, Florentine palace, and they see Nabonidus stripped, semi-naked and wounded, in a neighboring corridor, and they wonder what has replaced him up inside the house.

And what has happened, as he in a dazed way explains once he returns to full consciousness, is that his servant, who’s this ape that he’s taken from one of the outlying countries in Howard’s imaginary kingdoms, has supplanted him as the master in the house. Howard, to a moderate degree, believed in science, believed in evolution, it was very much almost  a cult then, as was eugenics, and Thak as he’s called, this ape-man who wears the red because he’s supplanted the human he wanted to supplant, has thrown his master, Nabonidus, into the pit and has seized control of the house. Thak sits, waiting for them to come out of the pit because there’s a bell underneath there in the pits that they’ve crossed, a trap basically, and he knows humans are down there, and he’s waiting for them.

Nationalists emerge. There’s an interesting political element here, because Nabonidus is a very corrupt ruler and has the King in his thrall, so nationalists of the city-state—you could be a nationalist and of a city-state because it was the unit of civilization essentially, and a country would be city-states federated together. Attempts to assassinate Nabonidus in a way that Murilo wanted to, Thak deals with them. The story fast-forwards in a very filmic way, because Howard is a visualizer. The male brain is visual and always thinks in images. And these sorts of stories are extraordinarily cinematographical in their nature and their forward, pumping lucidity.

Thak senses that they’ve come up from under the ground, and there are interesting pseudo-scientific elements. The Red Priest, Nabonidus is a scientist and a mage and a magician combined. It’s Religion and the Decline of Magic in some ways if you view it academically. He has this construction of mirrors whereby from one room you can reflect light through tubes that contain small mirrors, and it ends up being able to look into another room, so you can actually look round corners, and they can see Thak, and he can see them.

Because he needs to dispose of the bodies of the nationalists who’ve come into the house, Thak disappears for a time, and Conan and the others seize their chance, and they go up. Nabonidus becomes terrified when all the doors are locked and he can’t find the weapons they need to fight against his servant who’s turned against him.

In the end, Conan has to face off against Thak in this quite extraordinarily violent scene. Howard was one of the most brilliant writers of physical force and conflict between men in the 20th century. There’s little doubt about that. It’s so immediate you’re almost there and it is essentially visual. Conan and Thak have this clash-of-the-gods-type of titanic duel with each other, much like a scene from Homer basically, Hector before the walls of Troy. Thak is done down in the end, and Conan, half-dead, is saluted by Murilo.

Nabonidus then tries to betray both of them, and Conan does for him, really, with a stool. He whips up a stool and throws it into his head, and he falls, and all Conan can say is, “His blood is red, not black,” because in the slums of the city they said the Red Priest’s blood was black because his heart was black, and Conan’s a barbarian and a literalist, you see. “His blood isn’t black.”

There’s an interesting moment when Conan is helped by Murilo because he’s so hurt and wounded in the fight with Thak, and he pushes Murilo aside and says, “A man walks alone. When you can’t stand up it’s time to perish.” That’s not an attitude you heard from the Blair government too often, is it? These are pre-modern attitudes, you see. As somebody on Radio 4 would say now, “But that’s a dangerously exclusionist notion. What about the ill, what about the weak?” And of course in that type of barbaric morality, the strong look after the weak, but only in an assent of being and natural law which is codified on the basis of the morality of strength. That’s what those sorts of civilizations thought and felt.

And the other interesting thing is that he looks down on Thak, this sort of beast, sort of man that he’s killed, and he says, “I didn’t kill a beast tonight, but a man! And my women will sing of him.” And there’s two cultural views of these sorts of things. One is to regard them as remarkable pieces of creative imagination. There is other is to sort of laugh and sneer at them, and think that they represent old-fashioned values that we’ve thankfully gotten rid of, or moved away from.

The stories, with the exception of the Kane stories, are all pre-Christian in the most radical of terms, and yet pre-liberal and liberal secular, which of course in the modern West is what’s replaced Christianity. I would say that contemporary Catholicism is rather like the Protestantism of yesteryear, and Protestantism has become liberalism, and liberalism has morphed, strangely, without the Protestantism that gave it a moral compass, into a form of cultural Marxism, and that’s what we have now.

And yet Howard’s stories are very, very interesting and very dynamic and very much appeal to an imaginative element in certainly a lot of men. The belief in self-definition, the belief in the heroic as a model for life, the belief in strength but with an honor code that saves it from wanton exercise in strength without purpose, and the beliefs that one is part of even a tribe or a community.

In the stories, Conan’s a Cimmerian. He’s from a northern group. He’s always introduced, he’s only got one name, he’s so primal, he doesn’t have any other names. Conan. Like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, he only had one name. Heathcliff, he doesn’t need any other names. He’s just a force, you see? A force of the female imagination, which is what he is. And in a strange way, the way in which he’s described in that novel by Emily Brontë is very similar to the way Conan’s described, but Conan’s a bit more beefed out, a bit more muscular.

Many films have been made, many TV series have been made, there’s a Conan industry in the 20th century. What Howard would have thought of all that no one knows. He’s there, possibly on a slightly lower tier, but with Tarzan and Doctor Who and James Bond and these other iconic sort of mass popular fantasy figures. Yet in all of them, certainly in this sort of material, there’s a truth to experience, there’s a vividness, there’s a cinematographical and representational reality, and there’s a concern with courage, masculinity, and the heroic which is lacking from most areas of society, and there’s also an honor code, a primitive morality if you like, which goes with it and gives it efficacy and purpose.

The other thing which he differentiates in this type of literature is respect for the enemy. When Terre’Blanche was murdered, I noticed liberals on the BBC giggling and sort of laughing and thinking it was all a jolly joke. These are people who are against the death penalty and believe that murder’s a terrible infraction against human rights, jurisprudence, and all the rest of it. But the sort of cultural space that this work comes out of respects the enemy. Kills the enemy, respects the enemy, which of course is a soldier’s emotion. Many who’ve fought in wars don’t disrespect the enemy. They know what they’re like. British soldiers who’ve fought in the Falklands, American soldiers who’ve fought against Islamist militants, and even some of the militants themselves when they’ve fought against Western warriors, understand the code of the soldier and the code of the warrior on the other side. But many of these men are spiritually, fundamentally similar men in a way, born in other groups.

Men will always fight with each other, and they’re biologically prone to do so. How, in an era of mass weapons of destructive warfare, some existing and others not, that is to be worked through. It is a part of the destiny of the relationship between groups and states. But the hard-wiring that makes men competitive and egotistical and conflict-oriented is ineradicable and irreducible, and modern liberal societies which are based upon the idea of inclusionist love without thought of conflict are sentimental to the point that they will fall apart, bedeviled by their endless contradictions.

And I personally think that if you inculcate yourself, with a bit of irony and estrangement, from some of the elements of the culture of the heroic that certainly subsisted as mainstream cultural fare in our society before 1950, you have a different attitude towards what spews out of the telly every evening, and you have a different attitude towards the sort of culture that you’re living in, and you have a different attitude towards great figures in your own group and even in others, and you have a different attitude towards yourself and the future.

I give you Robert Ervin Howard, 1906 to 1936, a man who walked alone but spoke for an element, not just of America, but what it is to be white, male, Western, and free.

Thank you very much.


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lundi, 08 avril 2013

Pulp Fascism

Pulp Fascism

By Jonathan Bowden 

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

Editor’s Note: 

The following text is a transcription by V. S. of a lecture entitled “Léon Degrelle and the Real Tintin,” delivered at the 21st meeting of the New Right, London, June 13, 2009. The lecture can be viewed on YouTube here [2]. (Please post any corrections as comments below.)

I have given it a new title because it serves as the perfect introduction to a collection of Bowden’s essays, lectures, and interviews entitled Pulp Fascism: Right-Wing Themes in Comics, Graphic Novels, and Popular Literature, which is forthcoming from Counter-Currents.

I proposed this collection and title to Bowden in 2011, and although he wrote a number of pieces especially for it, the project was unfinished at his death. We are bringing out this book in honor of the first anniversary of Bowden’s death on March 29, 2012. 

jb_index.jpgI would like to talk about something that has always interested me. The title of the talk is “Léon Degrelle and the Real Tintin,” but what I really want to talk about is the heroic in mass and in popular culture. It’s interesting to note that heroic ideas and ideals have been disprivileged by pacifism, by liberalism tending to the Left and by feminism particularly since the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s. Yet the heroic, as an imprimatur in Western society, has gone down into the depths, into mass popular culture. Often into trashy forms of culture where the critical insight of various intellectuals doesn’t particularly gaze upon it.

One of the forms that interests me about the continuation of the heroic in Western life as an idea is the graphic novel, a despised form, particularly in Western Europe outside France and Italy and outside Japan further east. It’s regarded as a form primarily for children and for adolescents. Yet forms such as this: these are two volumes of Tintin which almost everyone has come across some time or other. These books/graphic novels/cartoons/comic books have been translated into 50 languages other than the original French. They sold 200 million copies, which is almost scarcely believable. It basically means that a significant proportion of the globe’s population has got one of these volumes somewhere.

Now, before he died, Léon Degrelle said that the character of Tintin created by Hergé was based upon his example. Other people rushed to say that this wasn’t true and that this was self-publicity by a notorious man and so on and so forth. Probably like all artistic and semi-artistic things there’s an element of truth to it. Because a character like this that’s eponymous and archetypal will be a synthesis of all sorts of things. Hergé got out of these dilemmas by saying that it was based upon a member of his family and so on. That’s probably as true as not.

The idea of the masculine and the heroic and the Homeric in modern guise sounds absurd when it’s put in tights and appears in a superhero comic and that sort of thing. But the interesting thing is because these forms of culture are so “low” they’re off the radar of that which is acceptable and therefore certain values can come back. It’s interesting to note that the pulp novels in America in the 1920s and ’30s, which preceded the so-called golden age of comics in the United States in the ’30s and ’40s and the silver age in the 1960s, dealt with quite illicit themes.

One of the reasons that even today Tintin is mildly controversial and regarded as politically incorrect in certain circles is they span much of the 20th century. Everyone who is alive now realizes that there was a social and cultural revolution in the Western world in the 1960s, where almost all the values of the relatively traditional European society, whatever side you fought on in the Second World War, were overturned and reversed in a mass reversion or re-evaluation of values from a New Leftist perspective.

Before 1960, many things which are now legal and so legal that to criticize them has become illegal were themselves illicit and outside of the pedigree and patent of Western law, custom, practice, and social tradition. We’ve seen a complete reversal of nearly all of the ideals that prevailed then. This is why many items of quite popular culture are illicit.

If one just thinks of a silent film like D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation in 1915. There was a prize awarded by the American Motion Picture Academy up until about 1994 in Griffith’s name. For those who don’t know, the second part of Birth of a Nation is neo-Confederate in orientation and depicts the Ku Klux Klan as heroic. Heroic! The Ku Klux Klan regarded as the hero, saving the White South from perdition, from the carpet-baggers, some of whom bear an extraordinary resemblance to the present President of the United States of America. Of course, they were called carpet-baggers because they were mulatto politicians who arrived in the South primarily from the North with certain Abolitionist sponsorship and they arrived with everything they owned in a carpet bag to take over. And that’s why they were called that.

That film, which you can get in any DVD store and buy off Amazon for ten pounds or so, is extraordinarily notorious, but in actual fact, in terms of its iconography, it’s a heroic, dualist film where there’s a force of darkness and a force of light. There’s a masculine individual. There’s people who believe that they’ll sort out problems with a gun. The Bible, in an ultra-Protestant way, is their text. It’s what they base metaphysical objectivism and absolute value upon, and that film is perceived retrospectively as an extreme White Right-wing film although Griffith himself is later to do a film called Intolerance and actually, like a lot of film makers, had quite a diverse range of views irrespective of his own Southern and Texan background.

The thing one has to remember is that the methodology of the heroic can survive even if people fight against various forces in Western life. One of the great tricks of the heroic in the last 40 to 50 years is the heroic films involving icons like Clint Eastwood, for example, as a successor to this sort of archetype of John Wayne and the sort of Western stylized masculinity that he represented. Eastwood often plays individualistic, survivalist, and authoritarian figures; Right-wing existentialist figures. But they’re always at war with bureaucracies and values that are perceived as conservative. One of the ways it tricks, which has occurred since the 1960s, is to reorient the nature of the heroic so that the eternal radical Right within a society such as the United States or elsewhere is the enemy, per se.

There’s a comic strip in the United States called Captain America which began in the 1940s. Captain America is a weedy young man who almost walks with a stick and has arms like branches, and of course a friendly American scientist introduces him to a new secret program where he’s injected with some steroids and this sort of thing and immediately becomes this enormous blond hulking superman with blue eyes. Of course, he must dress himself in the American flag so that he can call himself Captain America. So you get the idea! He has a big shield which has the star of the United States on it and has a sidekick who dies in one of the 1940s comics, but of course these figures never die. They’re endlessly brought back. But there’s a problem here because the position that Captain America and a lesser Marvel Comics equivalent called Captain Britain and all these other people represent is a little bit suspect in an increasingly liberal society, even then. So, his enemy, his nemesis, his sort of dualist alternative has to be a “Nazi,” and of course Captain America has a Nazi enemy who’s called the Red Skull.

The Red Skull is a man with a hideous face who, to hide this hideousness, wears a hideous mask over his hideous face as a double take. The mirror cracks so why not wear a mask, but it’s not a mask of beauty. It’s a skull that’s painted red, and he’s called the Red Skull. He always wears green. So, it’s red and green. He always appears and there’s always a swastika somewhere in the background and that sort of thing. He’s always building robots or cyborgs or new biological sorts of creatures to take over the world. Captain America always succeeds in vanquishing him in the last panel. Just in the last panel. The Red Skull’s always about to triumph until the fist of Captain America for the American way and the American dream comes in at the end.

This mantle of the heroic whereby Right-wing existentialists like Captain America fight against the extreme Right in accordance with democratic values is one of the interesting tricks that’s played with the nature of the heroic. Because the heroic is a dangerous idea. Whether or not Tintin was based on Léon Degrelle there is of course a fascistic element to the nature of the heroic which many writers of fantasy and science fiction, which began as a despised genre but is now, because it’s so commercially viable, one of the major European book genres.

They’ve always known this. Michael Moorcock, amongst others, speaks of the danger of subliminal Rightism in much fantasy writing where you can slip into an unknowing, uncritical ultra-Right and uncritical attitude towards the masculine, towards the heroic, towards the vanquishing of forces you don’t like, towards self-transcendence, for example.

iron_dream.jpgThere’s a well-known novel called The Iron Dream and this novel is in a sense depicting Hitler’s rise to power and everything that occurred in the war that resulted thereafter as a science fiction discourse, as a sort of semiotic by a mad creator. This book was actually banned in Germany because although it’s an extreme satire, which is technically very anti-fascistic, it can be read in a literal-minded way with the satire semi-detached. This novel by Norman Spinrad was banned for about 20 to 30 years in West Germany as it then was. Because fantasy enables certain people to have an irony bypass.

Although comics are quite humorous, particularly to adults, children and adolescents read them, scan them because they sort of just look at the images and take in the balloons as they go across because these are films on paper. They essentially just scan them in an uncritical way. If you ever look at a child, particularly a child that’s got very little interest in formal literature of a sort that’s taught in many European and American schools, they sit absorbed before comics, they’re absolutely enthralled by the nature of them, by the absolute villainy of the transgressor, by the total heroicism and absence of irony and sarcasm of the heroic figure with a scantily clad maiden on the front that the hero always addresses himself to but usually in a dismissive way because he’s got heroic things to accomplish. She’s always on his arm or on his leg or being dragged down.

Indeed, the pulp depiction of women which, of course, is deeply politically incorrect and vampish is a sort of great amusement in these genres. If you ever look at comics like Conan the Barbarian or Iron Man or The Incredible Hulk and these sorts of things the hero will always be there in the middle! Never to the side. Always in the middle foursquare facing the future. The villain will always be off to one side, often on the left; the side of villainy, the side of the sinister, that which wants to drag down and destroy.

As the Hulk is about to hit The Leader, which is his nemesis, or Captain America is about to hit the Red Skull, which is his nemesis, or Batman is about to hit the psychiatric clown called The Joker, who is his nemesis, there’s always a scantily clad woman who’s around his leg on the front cover looking up in a pleading sort of way as the fist is back here. It’s quite clear that these are archetypal male attitudes of amusement and play which, of course, have their danger to many of the assumptions that took over in the 1960s and ’70s.

It’s interesting to notice that in the 1930s quite a lot of popular culture expressed openly vigilante notions about crime. There was a pulp magazine called The Shadow that Orson Welles played on the radio. Orson Welles didn’t believe in learning the part, in New York radio Welles, usually the worse for wear for drink and that sort of thing, would steam up to the microphone, he would take the script, and just launch into The Shadow straight away. The Shadow used to torment criminals. Depending on how nasty they were the more he’d torment them. When he used to kill them, or garrote them, or throttle them, or hang them (these pulps were quite violent and unashamedly so) he used to laugh uproariously like a psychopath. And indeed, if you didn’t get the message, there would be lines in the book saying “HA HA HA HA HA!” for several lines as he actually did people in.

The Shadow is in some ways the prototype for Batman who comes along later. Certain Marxian cultural critics in a discourse called cultural studies have pointed out that Batman is a man who dresses himself up in leathers to torment criminals at night and looks for them when the police, namely the state, the authority in a fictional New York called Gotham City, put a big light in the sky saying come and torment the criminal class. They put this big bat symbol up in the sky, and he drives out in the Batmobile looking for villains to torment. As most people are aware, comics morphed into more adult forms in the 1980s and ’90s and the graphic novel emerged called Dark Knight which explored in quite a sadistic and ferocious way Batman’s desire to punish criminality in a very extreme way.

There was also a pulp in the 1930s called Doc Savage. Most people are vaguely aware of these things because Hollywood films have been made on and off about all these characters. Doc Savage was an enormous blond who was 7 feet. He was bronzed with the sun and covered in rippling muscles. Indeed, to accentuate his musculature he wore steel bands around his wrists and ankles, as you do. He was a scientific genius, a poetic genius, and a musical genius. In fact, there was nothing that he wasn’t a genius at. He was totally uninterested in women. He also had a research institute that operated on the brains of criminals in order to reform them. This is quite extraordinary and deeply politically incorrect! He would not only defeat the villain but at the end of the story he would drag them off to this hospital/institute for them to be operated on so that they could be redeemed for the nature of society. In other words, he was a eugenicist!

Of course, those sorts of ideas in the 1930s were quite culturally acceptable because we are bridging different cultural perceptions even at the level of mass entertainment within the Western world. That which is regarded, even by the time A Clockwork Orange was made by Kubrick from Burgess’ novel in the 1970s, as appalling, 40 years before was regarded as quite acceptable. So, the shifting sands of what is permissible, who can enact it, and how they are seen is part and parcel of how Western people define themselves.

Don’t forget, 40% of the people in Western societies don’t own a book. Therefore, these popular, mass forms which in one way are intellectually trivial is in some respects how they perceive reality.

Comics, like films, have been heavily censored. In the United States in the 1950s, there was an enormous campaign against various sorts of quasi-adult comics that were very gory and were called horror comics and were produced by a very obscure forum called Entertainment Comics (EC). And there was a surrogate for the Un-American Activities Committee in the US Senate looking at un-American comics that are getting at our kids, and they had a large purge of these comics. Indeed, mountains of them were burnt. Indeed, enormous sort of semi-book burnings occurred. Pyramids of comics as big as this room would be burnt by US and federal marshals on judges’ orders because they contained material that the young shouldn’t be looking at.

The material they shouldn’t be looking at was grotesque, gory, beyond Roald Dahl sort of explicit material which, of course, children love. They adore all that sort of thing because it’s exciting, because it’s imaginative, because it’s brutal, because it takes you out of the space of normalcy, and that’s why the young with their instincts and their passion and glory love this sort of completely unmediated amoral fare. That’s why there’s always been this tension between what their parents would like them to like and what many, particularly late childish boys and adolescents, really want to devour. I remember Evelyn Waugh was once asked, “What was your favorite book when you were growing up?” And just like a flash he said, “Captain Blood!” Captain Blood! Imagine any silent pirate film from the 1920s and early ’30s.

Now, the heroic in Western society takes many forms. When I grew up, there were these tiny little comics in A5 format. Everyone must have seen them. Certainly any boys from the 1960s and ’70s. They were called Battle. Battle and Commando and War comics, and these sorts of thing. They were done by D. C. Thomson, which is the biggest comics manufacturer in Britain, up in Dundee. These comics were very unusual because they allowed extremely racialist and nationalist attitudes, but the enemies were always Germans and they were always Japanese.

Indeed, long after the passing of the Race Act in the late 1960s and its follow-up which was more codified and definitive and legally binding in the 1970s, statements about Germans and Japanese could be made in these sorts of comics, which were not just illicit but illegal. You know what I mean, the Green Berets, the commandos, would give it to “Jerry” in a sort of arcane British way and were allowed to. This was permitted, even this liberal transgression, because the enemy was of such a sort.

But, of course, what’s being celebrated is British fury and ferocity and the nature of British warriors and the Irish Guards not taking prisoners and this sort of thing. This is what’s being celebrated in these sorts of comics. It’s noticeable that D. C. Thomson, who has no connection to the DC group in the United States by the way, toned down this element in the comics as they went along. Only Commando survives, but they still produce four of them a month.

In the 1970s, Thomson, who also did The Beano and utterly childish material for children for about five and six as well as part of the great spectrum of their group, decided on some riskier, more transgressive, more punkish, more adult material. So, they created a comic called Attack. Attack! It’s this large shark that used to come and devour people. It was quite good. The editor would disapprove of something and they would be eaten by the shark. There was the marvelous balloons they have in comics, something like, “This shark is amoral. It eats.” And there would be a human leg sticking out of the mouth of the shark. Some individual the editor disapproved of was going down the gullet.

Now, Attack was attacked in Parliament. A Labour MP got up and said he didn’t like Attack. It was rather dubious. It was tending in all sorts of unwholesome directions, and Attack had a story that did outrage a lot of people in the middle 1970s, because there was a story where a German officer from the Second World War was treated sympathetically, in Attack. Because it was transgressive, you see. What’s going to get angry Methodists writing to their local paper? A comic that treats some Wehrmacht officer in a sympathetic light. So, there was a real ruckus under Wilson’s government in about ’75 about this, and so they removed that.

judge-dredd-1.jpgVarious writers like Pat Mills and John Wagner were told to come up with something else. So, they came up with the comic that became Judge Dredd. Judge Dredd is a very interesting comic in various ways because all sorts of Left-wing people don’t like Judge Dredd at all, even as a satire. If there are people who don’t know this, Dredd drives around in a sort of motorcycle helmet with a slab-sided face which is just human meat really, and he’s an ultra-American. It’s set in a dystopian future where New York is extended to such a degree that it covers about a quarter of the landmass of the United States. You just live in a city, in a burg, and you go and you go and you go. There’s total collapse. There’s no law and order, and there’s complete unemployment, and everyone’s bored out of their mind.

The comic is based on the interesting notion that crime is partly triggered by boredom and a sort of wantonness in the masses. Therefore, in order to keep any sort of order, the police and the judiciary have combined into one figure called a Judge. So, the jury, the trial, the police investigation, and the investigative and forensic elements are all combined in the figure of the Judge. So, if Judge Dredd is driving along the street and he sees some youths of indeterminate ethnicity breaking into a store he says, “Hold, citizens! This is the law! I am the law! Obey me! Obey the law!” And if they don’t, he shoots them dead, because the trial’s syncopated into about 20 seconds. He’s given them the warning. That’s why he’s called Judge Dredd, you see. D-R-E-D-D. He just kills automatically those who transgress.

There’s great early comic strips where he roars around on this bike that has this sort of skull-like front, and he appears and there’s a chap parking his car and he says, “Citizen! Traffic violation! Nine years!” and roars off somewhere else. Somebody’s thieving or this sort of thing and he gets them and bangs their head into the street. There’s no question of a commission afterwards. “Twelve years in the Cube!” which is an isolation cell. It’s got its own slang because comics, of course, create their own world which children and adolescents love so you can totally escape into a world that’s got a semi-alternative reality of its own that’s closed to outsiders. If some adult picks it up and looks at it he says, “What is this about?” Because it’s designed to exclude you in a way.

Dredd has numerous adventures in other dimensions and so on, but Dredd never changes, never becomes more complicated, remains the same. He has no friends. “I have no need of human attachments,” he once says in a slightly marvelous line. He has a robot for company who provides most of his meals and needs and that sort of thing. For the rest, he’s engaged in purposeful and pitiless implementation of law and order. One of his famous phrases was when somebody asked him what is happiness, and he says in one of those bubbles, “Happiness is law and order.” Pleasure is obeying the law. And there are various people groveling in chains in front of him or something.

Now, there’ve been worried Left-wing cat-calls, although it’s a satire, and it’s quite clearly meant to be one. For example, very old people, because people in this fantasy world live so long that they want to die at the end, and they go to be euthanized. So, they all queue up for euthanasia. There’s one story where somebody blows up the people waiting for euthanasia to quicken the thing, but also to protest against it. And Judge says, “Killing euthanized is terrorism!” War on terror, where have we heard that before? Don’t forget, these are people that want to die. But Dredd says, “They’re being finished off too early. You’ve got to wait, citizen!” Wait to be killed later by the syringe that’s coming. And then people are reprocessed as medicines, because everything can be used. It’s a utilitarian society. Therefore, everything is used from birth to death, because the state arranges everything for you, even though socialism is condemned completely.

There’s another bloc, it’s based on the Cold War idea, there’s a Soviet bloc off on the other side of the world that is identical to the West, but ideologically they’re at war with each other, even though they’re absolutely interchangeable with each other. But the Western metaphysic is completely free market, completely capitalist, but in actual fact no one works, and everyone’s a slave to an authoritarian state.

There’s also an interesting parallel with more advanced forms of literature here. A Clockwork Orange: many people think that’s about Western youth rebellion and gangs of the Rockers and Mods that emerged in the 1960s at the time. Burgess wrote his linguistically sort of over-extended work in many ways. In actual fact, Anthony Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange after a visit to the Soviet Union where he was amazed to find that, unlike the totalitarian control of the masses which he expected at every moment, there was quite a degree of chaos, particularly amongst the Lumpenproletariat in the Soviet Union.

George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four has an interesting idea, and that is that the proles are so beneath ideology, right at the bottom of society, the bottom 3% not even the bottom 10%, that they can be left to their own devices. They can be left to take drugs. They can be left to drink to excess. They can be left to destroy themselves. Orwell says “the future is the proles” at one point. Remember when Winston Smith looks out across the tenements and sees the enormous washerwoman putting some shirts, putting some sheets on a line? And she sings about her lost love, “Oh, he was a helpless fancy . . .” and all this. And Winston looks out on her across the back yards and lots and says, “If there’s a future, it lies with the proles!” And then he sings to himself, “But looking at them, he had to wonder.”

The party degrades the proletariat to such a degree that it ceases to be concerned about their amusements because they’re beneath the level of ideology and therefore you don’t need to control them. The people you control are the Outer Party, those who can think, those who wear the blue boiler suits, not the black ones from the Inner Party.

TheIronHeel500.jpgThis interconnection between mass popular culture, often of a very trivial sort, and elitist culture, whereby philosophically the same ideas are expressed, is actually interesting. You sometimes get these lightning flashes that occur between absolutely sort of “trash culture,” if you like, and quite advanced forms of culture like A Clockwork Orange, like Darkness at Noon, like Nineteen Eighty-Four, like The Iron Heel, like The Iron Dream. And these sorts of extraordinary dystopian and catatopian novels, which are in some respects the high political literature (as literature, literature qua literature) of the 20th century.

Now, one of the reasons for the intellectual independence of elements in some comics is because no one’s concerned about it except when the baleful eye of censorship falls upon them. A particular American academic wrote a book in the early 1950s called Seduction of the Innocent which is about how children were being depraved by these comics which were giving them violent and racialist and elitist and masculinist stereotypes, which shouldn’t be allowed.

Of course, a vogue for Left wing comics grew up in the 1970s because culture in the United States, particularly men’s culture, is racially segregated in a way which is never admitted. African-Americans have always had their own versions of these things. There are Black American comics. Marvel did two called The Black Panther, and the Black Panther only ever preys on villains who are Black.

There’s another one called Power Man who’s in prison loaded down with chains and a White scientist, who might be Jewish, experiments on him. He’s called Luke Cage and he’s experimented on so he becomes a behemoth. A titan of max strength he’s called, and he bats down the wall and takes all sorts of people on. And yet, of course, all of the villains he takes on, very like the Shaft films which are both about James Bond films which are very similar, all of this material is segregated. It occurs within its own zone.

But you notice the same heroic archetypes return. Yet again there’s a villain in the corner, usually on the left side, Luke Cage has an enormous fist, there’s a sort of half-caste beauty on his leg looking up, staring at him. This sort of thing. It’s the same main methodology. It’s the same thing coming around again.

Although there have been attempts at the Left-wing comic, it’s actually quite difficult to draw upon with any effect. Because, in a way you can criticize comics that are metapolitically Right-wing, but to create a Left-wing one is actually slightly difficult. The way you get around it is to have a comic that’s subliminally Rightist and have the villain who’s the extreme Right. There are two American comics called Sgt. Fury and Sgt. Rock and another one’s called Our Army at War. Sgt. Rock, you know, and this sort of thing. And you know who the villain is because they’re all sort in the Second World War.

The attitude towards Communism in comics is very complicated. Nuclear destruction was thought too controversial. When formal censorship of comics began in America in the 1950s something called the Approved Comics Code Authority, very like the British Board of Film Classification, emerged. They would have a seal on the front of a comic. Like American films in the 1930s, men and women could kiss but only in certain panels and only for a certain duration on the page as the child or adolescent looked at it, and it had to be, it was understood so explicitly it didn’t even need to be mentioned that of course it didn’t even need to be mentioned that it was totally heterosexual. Similarly, violence had to be kept to a minimum, but a certain allowed element of cruelty was permitted if the villain was on the receiving end of it.

Also, the comics had to be radically dualist. There has to be a force for light and a force for darkness. There has to be Spiderman and his nemesis who’s Dr. Octopus who has eight arms. But certain complications can be allowed, and as comics grow, if you like, non-dualist characters emerge.

There’s a character in The Fantastic Four called Doctor Doom who’s a tragic figure with a ruined face who is shunned by man who wants to revenge himself on society because he’s shut out, who ends as the ruler of a tiny little made-up European country which he rules with an iron hand, and he does have hands of iron. So he rules his little Latvia substitute with an iron hand. But he’s an outsider, you see, because in the comic he’s a gypsy, a sort of White Roma. But he gets his own back through dreams of power.

There’s these marvelous lines in comics which when you ventilate them become absurd. But on the page, if you’re sucked into the world, particularly as an adolescent boy, they live and thrive for you. Doom says to Reed Richards, who’s his nemesis on the other side, “I am Doom! I will take the world!” Because the way the hero gets back at the villain is to escape, because they’re usually tied up somewhere with a heroine looking on expectantly. The hero is tied up, but because the villain talks so much about what they’re going to do and the cruelty and appalling suffering they’re going to inflict all the time the hero is getting free. Because you have to create a lacuna, a space for the hero to escape so that he can drag the villain off to the asylum or to the gibbet or to the prison at the end. Do you remember that line from Lear on the heath? “I shall do such things, but what they are I know not! But they will be the terror of the earth!” All these villains repeat that sort of line in the course of their discourse, because in a sense they have to provide the opening or the space for the hero to emerge.

One of the icons of American cinema in the 20th century was John Wayne. John Wayne was once interviewed about his political views by, of all things, Playboy magazine. This is the sort of level of culture we’re dealing with. They said, “What are your political views?” and Wayne said, “Well, I’m a white supremacist.” And there was utter silence when he said this! He was a member of the John Birch Society at the time. Whether or not he gave money to the Klan no one really knows.

There’s always been a dissident strand in Hollywood, going back to Errol Flynn and before, of people who, if you like, started, even at the level of fantasy, living out some of these heroic parts in their own lives. Wayne quite clearly blurred the distinction between fantasy on the film set and in real life on many occasions. There are many famous incidents of Wayne, when robberies were going on, rushing out of hotels with guns in hand saying, “Stick’em up!” He was always playing that part, because every part’s John Wayne isn’t it, slightly differently? Except for a few comedy pieces. And he played that part again and again and again.

Alamo_1960_poster.jpgDon’t forget, The Alamo is now a politically incorrect film. Very politically incorrect. There’s an enormous women’s organization in Texas called the Daughters of the Alamo, and they had to change their name because the White Supremacist celebration of the Alamo was offensive to Latinos who are, or who will be very shortly, a Texan majority don’t forget. So, the sands are shifting in relation to what is permitted even within popular forms of culture.

When Wayne said he was a supremacist in that way he said, “I have nothing against other people, but we shouldn’t hand the country over to them.” That’s what he said. “We shouldn’t hand the country over to them.”

And don’t forget, I was born in ’62. Obama in many of the deep Southern states wouldn’t have had the vote then. Now he’s President. This is how the West is changing on all fronts and on every front. American Whites will certainly be in the minority throughout the federation in 40 or 50 years. Certainly. Indeed, Clinton (the male Clinton, the male of the species) once justified political correctness by saying, “Well, in 50 years we’ll be the minority. We’ll need political correctness to fight that game.”

The creator of Tintin, Hergé, always said that his dreams and his nightmares were in white. But we know that the politically correct games of the future will be Whites putting their hands up in the air complaining because somebody’s made a remark, complaining because they haven’t got a quota, complaining because this form is biased against them, and this sort of thing. They’ll be playing the game that minorities in the West play at the moment, because that’s all that’s left to them. You give them a slice of the ghetto, you predefine the culture (mass, middling, and elite), in the past but not into the future, elements of the culture which are too much reverent of your past don’t serve for the future and are therefore dammed off and not permitted. This is what, in a sense, White people face in America and elsewhere.

One of the great mysteries of the United States that has produced an enormous amount of this mass culture, some of which I have been at times rather glibly describing, is why has there never been a mass serious Right-wing movement of the real Right in the United States. The whole history of the 20th century and before would be different if that had occurred. Just think of it. Not some sort of trivial group, but a genuine group.

Don’t forget, the real position of the American ultras is isolationism. They don’t want to go out into the rest of the world and impose American neo-colonialism on everyone else. They’re the descendants of people who left the European dominion in order to create a new world. Hence, the paradox that the further Right you go in the United States, the more, not pacifist, but non-interventionist you become.

Before the Confederacy, there was a movement called the Know Nothings, and this is often why very Right-wing people in the United States are described as Know Nothings. Because when you’re asked about slavery, which of course is a very loaded and partial question, you said, “Well, I don’t know anything about it.” And that was a deliberate tactic to avoid being sucked in to an abolitionist agenda or a way of speaking that was biased in the political correctness of its own era.

But it is remarkable that although the Confederacy didn’t have the strength to win, if they had won the history of the whole world would be different. The 20th century would have never taken the course that it did.

One of the interesting things about the American psyche, of course, is that many unfortunate incidents, the war that we fought with the United States in 1812, for example, have been completely elided from history. It’s gone! It’s gone! We almost went to war with them in 1896 over Venezuela. That still has slightly interesting intonations even now a century or more on when Joseph Chamberlain was Colonial Secretary. This is again [elided] rather like the Suez incident 1956. There are certain incidents that are played up. And there are anniversaries that are every day on the television, and that you can’t escape from. But there are other anniversaries and other events which have been completely air-brushed from the spectrum and from the historical continuum as if they never occurred.

One episode is the extraordinarily bad treatment of prisoners of war by Americans going way, way back. The Confederates and the Unionists treated each other that way in the Civil War, but the Mexicans certainly got the boot in the 1840s as did the Spanish-Cubans at the turn of the 20th century. Americans beat up every German on principle, including members of Adenauer’s future cabinet when they occupied part of Germany. They just regard that as de rigeur. This frontier element that is there, crude and virile and ferocious, not always wrong, but ultimately fighting in ways which are not in the West’s interests, certainly for much of the 20th century, just gone, is part and parcel of the heroic American sense of themselves.

Where do all of these archetypes ultimately come from? That American popular culture which has gone universal because the deal is that what America thinks today, the world thinks tomorrow. When we allegedly ruled the world, or part of it, in the 19th century, Gladstone once stood in Manchester in the Free Trade Hall and said, “What Manchester thinks today, the world thinks tomorrow.” But now it’s what’s on MTV or CNN today, that the world would like to think is the ruling discourse of tomorrow.

American self-conceptuality is, to my mind, deeply, deeply Protestant in every sense. Even at the lowest level of their popular culture the idea of the heroic man, often a dissident police officer or a rancher or a hero of certain supernatural powers and so forth, but a man alone, a man outside the system, a man whose anti-Establishment, but he fights for order, a man who believes that everything’s settled with a weapon (which is why they always carry large numbers of weapons, these sort of survivalist type heroes). All of these heroes, the ones created by Robert E. Howard, the ones such as Doc Savage and Justice Inc., the Shadow, and all of the super-heroes like Batman.

Superman is interesting. Superman is Nietzschean ideas reduced to a thousand levels of sub-intellectuality, isn’t it? That’s what’s going on. He has a girlfriend who never ages called Lois Lane, who looks 22 now even though she’s about 88 in the trajectory of the script. There’s a villain who’s bald called Lex Luthor who’s always there, always the nemesis, always plotting. Luthor’s reinvented later in the strip as a politician who takes over the city. Superman’s clean and wholesome, you see, whereas the villain becomes a politician. You can see the sort of rhetoric.

luthor-1.jpgLuthor and Superman in the stories are outsiders. They’re both extraterrestrials. Luthor, however, has anti-humanist values, which means he’s “evil,” whereas Superman, who’s partly human, has “humanist” values. Luthor comes up with amazing things, particularly in the 1930s comics, which are quite interesting, particularly given the ethnicity of the people who created Superman. Now, about half of American comics are very similar to the film industry, and a similar ethnicity is in the film industry as in the comics industry. Part of the notions of what is right and what is wrong, what is American and what is not, is defined by that particular grid.

Luthor’s an anti-humanite. Luthor always has these thuggish villains who have several teeth missing and are sort of Lombrosian, and they’re ugly, have broken noses and slanted hats. This is the 1930s. And Luthor says, “I’m sick of the human. We’ve got to transcend the human.” They don’t have words like “transcend” in comics. They say, “go beyond” or something, you know. “We’ve got to go beyond the human. Humans have got to go! I’ve got to replace them with a new species.” And one of his thugs will say, “Way to go, Luthor! This is what we want!” If you notice, you have a comic called Superman, but Superman has liberal values and fights for democracy and the American way, and Luthor, although no one ever says he’s “fascistic,” is harsh, is elitist, is inegalitarian.

You know that the villains have a tendency to punish their own men? You remember Blofeld in the Bond films? One of his own minions will fail him, and he’ll sit in a chair and you know what’s going to happen. A hand strokes the cat with the diamonds around its neck. The villain likes cats, and the cat’s eyes stare on. The finger quivers over the button. And Blofeld, or Luthor, or Dr. Doom, or the Red Skull, or the Joker, or whoever it is, because it’s the same force really, says, “You failed me. There is only one punishment in this organization . . .” Click! The button goes, and there’s an explosion, the bloke screams, goes down in the chair.

There’s a great scene in Thunderball at the beginning where the chair comes up again. It’s empty and steaming, and all the other cronies are readjusting their ties. Blofeld’s sat there, and the camera always pans to his hands, the hands of power. You know, the hands of death, the hands of Zeus, the hands of Henry VIII. The closet would meet, and they’d all be disarmed by guards, but he would have a double-headed axe down by the chair.

It’s said, by American propaganda, that Saddam Hussein once shot his Minister of Health during a revolutionary command council meeting, and the same script had to be continued in the meeting by the Deputy Minister of Health. Just think of how the Deputy Minister felt! Let’s hope he wasn’t wearing gray flannels, because they might have been brown by the end of the cabinet session.

This idea of dualism, moral dualism (ultimately a deeply Christian idea in many ways as well as a Zoroastrian idea) is cardinal for the morality of these comics and the popular films and TV serials and all the internet spin-offs and all of these computer games. Because even when the hero is a woman like Lara Croft and so on, it’s the same methodology coming round and round again. Because adolescent boys want to look at somebody who looks like Lara Croft as she runs around with guns in both hands with virtually nothing on. That’s the sort of dissident archetype in these American pulps going back a long way. It’s just the feminization of heroic masculinity actually, which is what these sort of Valkyries are in popular terms.

Now, the dualist idea is that there’s a force for evil and a force for good, and we know who they are (they are the ones out there!). In The Hulk, the Hulk is green because he’s been affected by gamma rays. The Hulk alternates with a brilliant scientist, but when he’s in his monstrous incarnation—because of course it’s a simplification of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in Robert Louis Stevenson’s myth—the Hulk, particularly early on in the comics, is incredibly stupid. If he saw this table in front of him he’d say, “Table. Don’t like table.” And he’d smash it, because Hulk smashes. That’s what he does! He smashes!

The villain in The Hulk is called the Leader. The Leader is the villain. The Leader is all brain. Indeed, the Leader has such a long head that he’s almost in danger of falling over because of the size of his brain. So, like children have to wear a steel brace on their teeth, the Leader wears a steel brace on his head because he’s “too bright.” So, the Leader—notice the Leader is a slightly proto-fascistic, Right-wing, elitist figure, isn’t he? The man who wants to dominate through his mind—is counter-posed by just brute force: the Hulk!

This idea that there’s a force for good and a force for evil and the one always supplants the other, but the one can never defeat the other, because the Leader in The Hulk, the Owl in Daredevil, the Joker in Batman, Dr. Doom in The Fantastic Four, Dr. Octopus and the Green Goblin (another green one) in Spiderman . . . They’re never destroyed. If one of them is destroyed, their son finds their mask in a trunk and puts it on and knows that he wants to dominate the world! And comes back again. They can never be destroyed because they’re archetypes.

The comics hint at a sort of pagan non-dualism partly because they insist upon this good and evil trajectory so much. That’s in some ways when they become quite morally complicated and quite dangerous.

In Greek tragedy, a moral system exists, and it’s preordained that you have a fate partly in your own hands even though it’s decided by the gods. In The Oresteia by Aeschylus, you have a tragedy in a family (cannibalism, destruction, self-devouring) which is revenged and passed through into future generations. So that the Greek fleet can get to Troy, a girl is sacrificed. Clytemnestra avenges herself as a Medusa, as a gorgon against her husband who has killed her own daughter. Then, of course, there’s a cycle of revenge and pity and the absence of pity when the son, Orestes, who identifies with the father, comes back.

In this type of culture, and obviously a much higher level conceptually, it’s noticeable that the good character and the evil character align, are differentiated, merging, replace one another, and separate over the three plays in that particular trilogy.

If you look at real life and you consider any conflict between men, Northern Ireland in the 1970s (we’re British here and many people here are British nationalists). But if you notice the IRA guerrilla/terrorist/paramilitary, the Loyalist guerilla/terrorist/paramilitary . . . One of my grandfathers was in the Ulster Volunteer Force at the beginning of the 20th century, but I went to a Catholic school.

Nietzsche has a concept called perspectivism whereby certain sides choose you in life, certain things are prior ordained. When the U.S. Marine fights the Islamist radical in Fallujah, the iconography of an American comic begins to collapse, because which is the good one and which is the evil one? The average Middle American as he sat reading Captain America zapping the channels thinks that the Marine is the good one, with a sort of 30-second attention span.

But at the same time, the Marine isn’t an incarnation of evil. He’s a man fighting for what he’s been told to fight for. He’s a warrior. There’re flies in his eyes. He’s covered in sweat. He’s gonna kill someone who opposes him. But the radical on the other side is the same, and he sees that he’s fighting for his people and the destiny of his faith. And when warriors fight each other, often there’s little hatred left afterwards, because it’s expended in the extraordinary ferocity of the moment.

This is when this type of mass culture, amusing and interesting and entertaining though it is, begins to fall away. Because whenever we’ve gone to war, and we’ve gone to war quite a lot over the last 10 to 12 years. Blair’s wars: Kosovo. There’s the bombing of the Serbs. Milošević is depicted as evil! Remember those slogans in the sun? Bomb Milošević’s bed! Bomb his bed! Bomb his house! And this sort of thing. Saddam! We’re gonna string him up! The man’s a war criminal! The fact he’d been a client to the West for years didn’t seem to come into it. Hanged. Showed extreme bravery in a way, even though if you weren’t a Sunni in Iraq, definitely, he wasn’t exactly your man.

There’s a degree to which the extraordinary demonization of the Other works. That’s why it’s used. The British National Party won two seats in that election but there was a campaign against it for 12 to 15 days before in almost every item of media irrespective of ideological profile saying, “Don’t vote for these people!” to get rid of the softer protest votes and you’re only left with the hard core. That’s why that type of ideology is used. Maybe humans are hardwired to see absolute malevolence as on the other side, when in actual fact it’s just a person who may or may not be fighting against them.

But what this type of mass or popular culture does is it retains the instinct of the heroic: to transcend, to fight, to struggle, to not know fear, to if one has fear to overcome it in the moment, to be part of the group but retain individual consciousness within it, to be male, to be biologically defined, to not be frightened of death, whatever religious or spiritual views and values that one incarnates in order to face that. These are, in a crude way, what these forms are suggesting. Morality is often instinctual, as is largely true with humans.

I knew somebody who fought in Korea. When they were captured, the Koreans debated amongst themselves whether they should kill all the prisoners. There were savage disputes between men. This always happens in war.

I remember, as I near the close of this speech, that one of Sir Oswald Mosley’s sons wrote a very interesting book both about his father and about his experiences in the Second World War. This is Nicholas Mosley, the novelist and biographer. He was in a parachute regiment, and there’s two stories that impinge upon the nature of the heroic that often appears in popular forms and which I’ll close with.

One is when he was with his other members. He was with his other parachutists, and they were in a room. There was The Daily Mirror, still going, the organ of Left-wing hate which is The Daily Mirror, and on the front it said, “Oswald Mosley: The Most Hated Man in Britain.” The most hated man in Britain. And a chap looked up from his desk and looked at Mosley who was leading a fighting brigade and said, “Mosley, you’re not related to this bastard, are you?” And he said, “I’m one of his sons.” And there was total silence in the room. Total silence in the room, and they stared each other out, and the bloke’s hands gripped The Mirror, and all the other paratroopers were looking at this incident. And after about four minutes it broke and the other one tore up The Mirror and put it in a bin at the back of the desk and said, “Sorry, mate. Didn’t mean anything. Really.” Mosley said, “Well, that’s alright then, old chap.” And left.

The other story is very, very interesting. This was they were advancing through France, and the Germans are falling back. And I believe I’ve told this story before at one of these meetings, but never waste a good story. A senior officer comes down the track and says, “Mosley! Mosley, you’re taking too many prisoners. You’re taking too many prisoners. It’s slowing the advance. Do you understand what I’m saying, Mosley?” And he said, “Sir, yes, I totally understand what you’re saying.” He says, “Do you really understand what I’m saying? You’re slowing the advance. Everyone’s noticing it. Do something about it. Do you understand?” “Sir!”

And he’s off, I guess to another spot of business further down. Mosley turns to his Welsh sergeant-major and says, “What do you think about that? We’re taking too many prisoners.” Because what the officer has told him in a very English and a very British way is to shoot German soldiers and to shoot German prisoners and to shoot them in ditches. What else does it mean? “You’re slowing the advance! You’re taking too many prisoners! You’re not soft on these people, are you, Mosley? Speed the advance of your column!” That’s what he’s saying, but it’s not written down. It’s not given as a formal and codified order. But everyone shoots prisoners in war! It’s a fact! When your friend’s had his head blown off next to you, you’d want revenge!

I know people who fought in the Falklands. And some of the Argentinian Special Forces and some of the conscripts together used dum-dum bullets. Hits a man, his spine explodes. So, when certain conscripts were found by British troops they finished them pretty quickly at Goose Green and elsewhere. This will occur! In all wars! Amongst all men! Of all races and of all kinds! Because it’s part of the fury that battle involves.

One of my views is that is that we can’t as a species, or even as groups, really face the fact that in situations of extremity this is what we’re like. And this is why, in some ways, we create for our entertainment these striated forms of heroic culture where there’s absolutely good and absolutely malevolent and the two never cross over. When the Joker is dragged off, justice is done and Inspector Gordon rings Batman up (because it is he) and says, “Well done! You’ve cleansed the city of a menace.” All of the villains go to an asylum called Arkham Asylum. They’re all taken to an asylum where they jibber insanely and wait for revenge against the nature of society.

I personally think that a great shadow has been cast for 60 years on people who want to manifest the most radical forms of political identity that relate to their own group, their own inheritance, their own nationality, their own civilizational construct in relation to that nationality, the spiritual systems from the past and in the present and into the future that are germane to them and not necessarily to the others, to their own racial and biological configuration. No other tendency of opinion is more demonized in the entire West. No other tendency of opinion is under pressure.

Two things can’t be integrated into the situationist spectacle based upon the right to shop. They’re religious fundamentalism and the radical Right, and they’re tied together in various ways. It’s why the two out-groups in Western society are radical Right-wing militants and Islamists. They’re the two groups that are Other, that are totally outside. The way in which they’re viewed by The Mirror and others is almost the level of a Marvel Comics villain.

I seem to remember a picture from the Sunday Telegraph years ago of our second speaker [David Irving], and I’m quite sure that it’d been re-tinted, at least this is my visual memory of it, to appear darker, to appear more sinister. I remember once GQ did a photo of me years ago when I was in a group called Revolutionary Conservative. That photo was taken in Parliament Square. You know, the square that has Churchill and Mandela in it, that square near our parliament, with Oliver Cromwell over there hiding, [unintelligible] over there hiding further on. That photo was taken at 12:30, and it was a brighter day than this. But in GQ magazine it was darkened to make it look as though it was shot at nine o’clock, and everything was dark, and because it involved so much re-tinting it slightly distorted and reconfigured everything. That’s because these people are dark, you see! They’re the force from outside! They’re that which shouldn’t be permitted!

Whereas I believe that the force which is for light and the force which is for darkness (because I’m a pagan) can come together and used creatively and based upon identity and can lead on to new vistas. But that’s a rather dangerous notion, and you won’t find it in The Fantastic Four when Reed Richards and Dr. Doom do battle, and you won’t find it in Spiderman when Peter Parker and Dr. Octopus (Dr. Otto Octavius) do battle with one another. You won’t see it when the Aryan Captain America is taking on his National Socialist nemesis, the Red Skull. You won’t see it with the Hulk taking on the Leader. You won’t see it in any of these forms. But these forms have a real use, and that is that they build courage.

Nietzsche says at the end of Zarathrustra that there are two things you need in this life. You need courage and knowledge. That’s why Zarathrustra has two friends. He has an eagle, which stands for courage, and he has a snake, which stands for knowledge. And if you can combine those things, and synthesize them, you have a new type of man and a new type of future. And Nietzsche chose the great Persian sage as the explicator of his particular truth, because in the past he represented extreme dualism, but in the future Nietzsche wished to portray that he brought those dualities together and combined them as one heroic force.

Thank you very much! 

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