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Arms & Being

Dominique_Venner1,895 words

A propos of . . .

Dominique Venner
Frontier Pistols and Revolvers
Edison, N.J.: Chartwell Books, 1996

Dominique Venner
Le coeur rebelle
Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1994

Of the 50 or so books written by the now world-famous Dominique Venner, Frontier Pistols and Revolvers is the sole one to have been translated into English. This is what led me to it. But unlike his other works, it is a “coffee-table book,” laid-out with lavish photos of old American revolvers, accompanied by small blocks of text describing the historical context that shaped their origins and development.

At one level, Frontier Pistols and Revolvers is a photographic chronology of Samuel Colt’s invention and the legacy it left 19th-century America. The book’s appeal is thus seemingly to gun lovers and the distracted – not to “nationalists” interested in the ideas of Europe’s foremost “identitarian” thinker.

Despite the “superficiality” of its coffee-table format, Frontier Pistols and Revolvers nevertheless exudes something of Venner’s more consequential works, especially in its references to “arms and being.”

***

Not unlike Ernst Jünger, Venner was a figure whose force of arms and force of words were a rebuke to the modern bourgeoisie and its assault on Europe’s tradition and identity.

We know very little about this grand Français. Even the “biographical” Le Coeur rebelle, Venner’s memoir of the Algerian War and of the coup that sought to overturn De Gaulle’s Fifth Republic, tells us little (in the conventional sense) about his family background and early formation.

From other sources, for instance, we know his mother died when he was ten and that he was one of five children, but there is no mention of her or them in his memoir. The most basic facts of his early years are similarly concealed. His father, an architect and, more interestingly, a Doriotiste, is mentioned twice in his memoir, but apparently only for the sake of comparing him to someone of greater significance: Venner’s maternal grandmother, another rebel heart.

This “impish and not very charitable old lady” — whose husband, a career officer, had died in the first battle of 1914, gallantly charging Maxim guns and Mausers, as if he were at Austerlitz – was largely responsible for imbuing the young Venner with the “martial culture” that would later shield him from the infamies of bourgeois France.

Women, he held, are responsible for transmitting tradition in the family and his grandmother seems to have played this role in his life.

***

In the late 1940s, at the tender age of 14, Venner (bored with school and perhaps unhappy with his family) ran off to join the Foreign Legion. After jumping a train to Marseille and then storing away on a ship to Ajaccio, he was apprehended by French authorities once he reached North Africa. He would spend the next two days and nights in the central commissariat of Ajaccio, before being escorted home. Throughout this adventure, he tells us in his memoir, his grandmother’s revolver, which filled him with “a heady sense of freedom” and obviously emboldened him in his daunting enterprise, remained strapped to his chest, hidden under his clothing.

He had discovered the revolver in her house almost accidentally. But it had an immediate and consequential effect on him. Though small and fitted for a woman’s hand, the weapon was a serious one. “Marvelously heavy,” it unbalanced him at first, struck as he was by its evident power and “aesthetic perfection.”

Aesthetics was indeed fundamental to Venner. In Le Coeur rebelle he says beauty, not ideas, had formed, at a very early age, “the heart of his heart.” (His few years at college – after a decade as a paratrooper in French Algeria; after numerous ideological and street battles at the head of the Parisian droite révolutionnaire in the late 1950s and ‘60s; and after becoming a hunted member of the outlawed OAS, a prisoner of De Gaulle, and a founder of the ENR – were spent studying art history.)

The aesthetics Venner embraced in his youth held that beauty, in its harmony with the cosmic order, trumps ugliness; that tragedy is the basis of all redeeming art; that the form of a state (republic, monarchy, etc.) matters less than the type of man who dominates its society; and that it is never the law that guarantees the good behavior of a man, but the quality of a man that insures the integrity of the law.

 ***

Venner’s aesthetic experience of his grandmother’s revolver was simultaneously a moment of awakening (in an “existential” sense). For an arm, he immediately understood, is more than an arm. “It is something that defies despair, appeals to courage, breaks with fatality.”

Little wonder he admired the early American occupation with firearms, along with the history of conquest that made every white man an armed citizen.

In Frontier Revolvers and Pistols, he writes: “To conquer and create what they believed to be a land of liberty – the land of the Americans – they [the country’s early Anglo-European settlers] . . . took up arms and waged war – not as soldiers defending a state, but as free citizens of an independent republic.” Rifle in one hand and pistol in the other, Americans overturned Britain’s evil empire, overcame the threat of savage Indians, and tamed their wilderness empire.

In building this new country, where “Colt’s Law” ruled, individual bravery and initiative inevitably took the lead. The result: “A new conception of civic responsibility [took] root here, one born of necessity but also tied to the ancient Celtic and Germanic concepts of the free man distinguished above all by his right and responsibility to bear arms.”

Historically, the conquest of the American West corresponds to the development of the revolver. “Ever present, ever ready, it provided comfort to a man in solitude – [for it was] a pioneer’s all-risk insurance plan, his ‘equalizer.’” A gun in the hand of an Indian or a criminal might pose a threat, but “in the hand of a responsible citizen it is a means to stand up to that threat. A gun is the only defense against the misuse of a gun and therefore an invaluable instrument of justice and fair play.”

The bloody reputation of the American West, Venner claims, was an invention of journalists and filmmakers. With its numerous well-armed men, the West was qualitatively more peaceful and less violent than many American cities. (Between 1865 and 1900 there were 600 gun-related murders in the West; in New York City, where the court system ruled, there were 800 such murders in a single year [1886]).

Unlike New Rightists contemptuous of America’s counter-civilization, the judgment of this modern Spartan is less categorically negative, for an armed people, he knew, was a free people. In retaining something of its cult of arms for so long, he thought Americans had been spared many of the emasculating effects that would otherwise have come with their endlessly expanding capitalism.

The right to bear arms is not, however, simply a requisite to freedom. It is also the guarantor of whatever peace and sweetness – whatever beauty – man comes to possess. For Venner, this realm of possession is the realm of women – who are responsible for the love in man’s world, for the laughter in his children, and the replenishing of his life. Such a world, with its comforts and gifts, exists, though, only through man’s determination to defend it. Without Mars, no Venus.

Most people in the late 1950s and early ’60s lacked this determination, for they lived in a bubble of material wellbeing, unconscious of the violence, hunger, and desperation of the surrounding world. The sex, fun, and money of their consumer society simply couldn’t be bothered with these unpleasant realities.

During the Algerian War (1954-62), Venner came face to face with the civilization-destroying implications of such indifference.

***

Several generations of Frenchmen and Europeans had made Algeria (which was as French as 19th-century California was American) into a garden land. But once France’s willingness to defend her possession ceased (under the inglorious Fourth Republic), Algeria was lost. Basking in the postwar “economic miracle,” the Metropolis was more concerned with enjoying the fruits of France’s recent prosperity than with defending Frenchmen being butchered by Muslim “freedom fighters.” (The two previous generations, we should remember, had nearly exterminated themselves in their two world civil wars.)

In step with America’s postwar demonization of the European world – and by implication the white man’s world — the French Left, the media, the institutions, and schools depicted every effort to defend French Algeria (i.e., the white European colons, their farms, vineyards, enterprises, and cities) as an act of racism or imperialism, and every act of FLN savagery as justifiable in the name of liberation and self-determination.

Refusing to uphold the virile side of existence, Metropolitan France (whose GNP doubled in the 1950s) ended up – influenced by left-wing, alien, and capitalist interests (by definition anti-national and often Jewish) — allowing thousands of French Algerian whites to be slaughtered and more than a million of them to flee – with child in hand — the land of their cradles and graves.

In abandoning Europe’s southern frontier, France would go on to abandon herself, her destiny, and any prospect of defending her people from the Third World’s impending invasion. For once the sovereign assertion of national authority, along with the war-making powers to uphold it, were deemed antiquated – then the market, the reign of money, and mass consumption would alone define French “destiny.” Hence also the maniacal imposition of everything promoting the economization and denaturalization of European life.

As for Algeria, it has become another failed Third World regime, a wretched, ugly place, poor and dysfunctional; worse, millions of Algerian Muslims continue to carry on their ancestral war against the French (the “Gauloises”), but now in the suburbs of Paris and other large cities. (“France lost Algeria but kept the Algerians.”) Decolonization was suppose to bring “peace, justice, and democracy” to the world, but, of course, it failed, for it was essentially an anti-white phenomenon, premised on the fiction that all right and justice was on the non-European side.

The subsequent Cultural Revolution of May 1968 (whose tenets were liberal and American, not Russian and Soviet) would destroy the last obstacles to bourgeois dominance in France, as Eros and Dionysius banished the warrior spirit that once secured European freedoms.

The human and moral bankruptcy of the Algerian War and the ensuing inauguration of money’s unmitigated reign would hereafter anathematize Europe’s ancient cult of arms.

The virile, anti-bourgeois, anti-utilitarian, and masculine structure of Greco-European being has since given way to the feminist, homophile, egalitarian, and anti-white principles promising Europe’s extinction.

*** 

Frontier Pistols and Revolvers offers a glimpse of an age when white men stood upright before the dangers threatening them – just as Le Coeur rebelle represents a period when a handful of soldiers, the future pioneers of European identitarianism, sought to reverse the fate of their besotted countrymen. Explicitly or otherwise, both works suggest that the proscription of “armed being” leaves Europe defenseless before the dangers threatening her.

But this is no cause for despair. Venner, the champion of Sam Colt, reminds us that there is nothing written in stone — that the gods and heroes can always return. To regain their homes, white men need only resume Ulysses’s epic odyssey, as they heed the force of arms and the force of words that are the incomparable legacy of Dominique Venner.

 

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8 Comments

  1. rhondda
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    This essay reminds me why I so like Michael O’Meara’s work and exactly why I do not subscribe to the Fourth Political Theory which is so abstract. It’s the people and their values and character. Even within a book about guns, this seems to shine through. That Dominique Venner was a very wise man. Perhaps more sun than lightning. None the less against the time.
    One of my favourite philosophers is Albert Camus and although he is considered being on the left, his love of Algeria and the fact that he defied Sartre and the rest because his mother was in Algeria just melted my heart. In fact his book the Stranger is all about a man who did not love his mother and how society prosecuted him for that and not because he killed a man. No wonder he wrote about the absurd.

  2. WG
    Posted July 20, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Very inspiring, as always.

    I wonder how many nationalist Frenchmen were influenced and shaped by the ‘crucible’ of the Algerian War? Dominique Venner and Jean-Marie Le Pen are two, of course, but I’m sure there were others.

    For Anglo readers interested in the Algerian War, I would recommend Simon Murray’s book, “Legionnaire” (1978). Murray, an Englishman, served with the French Foreign Legion in the Algerian War from 1960 to 1965 and later became a highly successful international financier in Asia.

    P.S. I would very much like to see Venner’s book “Le coeur rebelle” published in English.

  3. Petronius
    Posted July 20, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    If you can relate to people who prefer to shake off an alien occupation, then why put “freedom fighters” in quotation marks?

    • White Republican
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 1:39 am | Permalink

      Answer: because “freedom fighter” is typically used in a dishonest way (“freedom” being a euphemism for anti-White racism and barbarism), because the “freedom fighters” in question were savages, because the “freedom” they fought for and got was one of criminality and chaos, and because they remain parasitic upon, rather than autonomous from, France and the French. All that should have been obvious from what Michael O’Meara wrote.

  4. Jaego
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Speaking abstractly, from the perspective of Universalism, the French should have left Algeria and kicked the Algerians out of France. But somehow, the Universalists never seem to be for for real Universalism but always for subversion. Why is this? Perhaps Universalism per se doesn’t exist. Or that they have an Agenda which they don’t wish to share since it so against Nations and Peoples. Too bad, since morally they had a case…. But I guess Morality can’t stand alone like that.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 12:23 am | Permalink

      The North American New Right stands consistently for nationalism for all nations. Algeria for the Algerians, France for the French. As opposed to might makes right. Defenders of colonialism are declaring to their intention to be murderers and thieves toward their neighbors. I do not like being colonized, so I would not colonize others. The planet is big enough for all peoples to have homelands.

    • White Republican
      Posted July 24, 2013 at 12:50 am | Permalink

      A minor quibble: I think it would be wrong to say “Algeria for the Algerians,” as if there is an Algerian nationality, as distinct from an Algerian state. Bernard Lugan, an eminent French scholar on African affairs, prolific author, and, I believe, a contributor to Dominique Venner’s Nouvelle Revue d’Histoire, notes that Algeria was a French colonial creation. There appears to be considerable divisions between the Arabs and the Berbers within Algeria. A genuine process of decolonization would have dismantled the colonial states and reorganized states on another basis.

      Some nations and nationalisms are artificial in the sense that they have no solid ethnic and historical basis. Other nations and nationalisms are artificial in the sense that they have yet to be born, have yet to be made by “the awakeners of nations” of which Jean Mabire wrote.

      In Europe, a more articulated conception of identity and sovereignty than that of nineteenth-century nationalism might be appropriate, like that of identitarians who favor a combination of regionalism, nationalism, and Europeanism, governed by the principle of subsidiarity.

      As for North America, a new nation or nations need to be created for White peoples.

  5. White Republican
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 2:57 am | Permalink

    With its reflections on arms and being, this fine article reminds me of one of my favorite passages in Ernst von Salomon’s novel The Outlaws, which was recently reprinted by Arktos Media after having been long out of print:

    “Lieutenant Kay collogued privately with some of us. He talked to Kleinschroth’s squad; he collected the cadets; in the billets he sat and talked with the sergeants, in the canteens with people from other battalions, in the Weimar cafés with officers of all ranks.

    “Gradually he collected some twenty men. They recognized each other by a look or a word and knew that they were all of one mind. They were centres of unrest in their companies. They had not yet got over the war. War had moulded them; it had given a meaning to their lives and a reason for their existence. They were unruly and untamed, beings apart, who gathered themselves into little companies animated by a desire to fight. There were plenty of standards round which they might rally. There were still plenty of strongholds to be attacked; plenty of enemies were still encamped round about them. They had realised that this peace was a delusion — they would have no part in it. An unfailing instinct had kept them in the army. They fought anywhere and everywhere, because they liked fighting. They wandered about the country because they always saw the chance of fresh excitement, because new adventures beckoned to them. Yet each one of them had a different idea of what he wanted. The master word had not been given them. They vaguely divined what this word was — they even uttered it and then felt abashed. They tried it and tested it with secret tremblings. They slurred it over in conversation and yet it obsessed them. The word was weather-worn yet enticing, potent but unsubstantial, idealised in the subconsciousness but unspoken. The word was ‘Germany.’

    “Where was Germany? In Weimar, in Berlin? Once it had been at the front, but the front had crumbled. Then it was supposed to be at home, but home had failed them. Was it where the German people were? But they were screaming for food and thinking of their stomachs. Was it the State? But the State was fussing about its constitutional form. Germany survived in venturesome minds. Germany was there where swords were unsheathed for her; she was there where armed bands were threatening her existence; she shone resplendent where those who were informed by her spirit wagered all they possessed for her sake. Germany was at her frontiers.”

    It’s perhaps no accident that Dominique Venner wrote a book on the Freikorps.

    In any case, we are in the state of affairs described by Salomon, in which the nation has been destroyed and it falls upon a militant minority to recreate it.

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