Two books published in the early 1950s by two European aristocrats merit careful study by every contemporary European conservative since they express the authentic reactions of authentic noblemen to the revolutionary changes that Europe has for long suffered under the yoke of democracy and totalitarianism. These are Erik, Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time (1952) and Barone Giulio Cesare Evola’s Gli Uomini e le rovine (Men Among the Ruins) (1953).
Both Evola and Kuehnelt-Leddihn were opposed to democracy for its leveling tendencies which they considered to be a mere transitional stage towards totalitarian systems communist as well as capitalist. However, while Kuehnelt-Leddihn focused on the democratic mania of equality—which he considered incompatible with liberty or true freedom—without clearly attributing this mania to the middle classes, Evola unequivocally identified the bourgeoisie and their innate mercantile nature—which militates against the warrior ethos of the earlier aristocratic societies—as the source of the evils of democracy.
Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (1909-1999) was, as a member of the aristocracy of the Habsburg Empire, a monarchist and “arch-liberal” in the tradition of Alexis de Tocqueville. He devoted his career mostly to championing the liberties that he felt were threatened by democratic and socialistic doctrines. Between 1937 and 1947 he lived and taught in America, returning to America regularly after that time, from his native Austria, in order to lecture and continue his mission of improving American understanding of the mind and mentality of the Europeans. He was associated with the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty and, before that, with the Ludwig von Mises Institute from which the Acton Institute had branched off as a Christian offshoot. He was constantly aware of the difference between the Catholic monarchical order to which he belonged and the various democratic and totalitarian systems that sprouted all around him in post-1914 Europe, and his principal concern was to combat the leveling impulse of democracy which leads to totalitarianism and the deprivation of liberties.
Already in 1943, during the war, he had written a work on political history called Menace of the Herd or Procrustes at Large (Milwaukee: The Bruce Pub. Co., 1943) which discussed the defects of democracy and socialism in Europe, as well as in America and Russia. I shall restrict my observations mainly to the second of his political studies, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of our Time (Caldwell, Id.: The Caxton Printers, 1952), and refer to the first only for contextual substantiation.
The first part of Liberty or Equality is devoted to an examination of the inextricable connection between democracy and tyranny. In his earlier work, The Menace of the Herd, he had highlighted the connection between the bourgeoisie of Europe and the development of capitalism. He pointed specially to the Protestant Reformation as that movement which liberated the capitalist spirit by strengthening the prestige of the usurious Jews in European society. The Protestant countries of northern Europe particularly developed with extraordinary speed into capitalist states while the southern lagged behind in more traditional societies:
[Jean Cauvin’s] theocratic city state of Geneva had still a few aristocratic traits, but its soul was already essentially ochlocratic and bourgeois. At the time of his death we find a highly developed middle-class civilization and culture of a capitalistic and semirepublican character in the countries of the Rhine valley — in Switzerland, in the Palatinate, in Alsace, in Holland — but a similar process under the same accelerating influence can also be observed in districts further away: in southern France, in the British Isles, and in eastern Hungary.(51)
The problem of this new rule of money and technology was that, unlike the Catholic south, it was culturally sterile:
Apart from a few poets we see these followers of Calvin contributing very little to the arts and letters. They lacked painters, musicians, architects of originality; hilarity was for them suspect and their humor was limited. (51)
There arose in the north also the dangerous slogan of “progress”:
the old hierarchic and personal societies were hammered into shapeless masses by the two great products of “progress” — the megalopolis and the factory. “Progress” is (a) a collectivistic and (b) a purely urban ideal . . . (58)
And hot on the heels of this new-fangled idea of “progress” came the notion of “humanity”:
“Humanity” as such scarcely existed as a living principle in the Middle Ages because man had in regard to eternity no collective existence. Individuals sacrificed themselves for their families, their manorial lords, kings, cities, rights, privileges, religion, their beloved Church or the woman they loved, in fact, for everything or anybody to which or to whom they had a personal relationship. The anonymous sand-heap “humanity” was unknown to medieval man and even the concept of the “nation” was not equivalent to a gray mass of unilingual citizens but was looked upon as a hierarchy of complicated structure . . . The collective singular “humanity” was only created after the Reformation as a living unit. (58f)
The bourgeoisie responsible for capitalism and democracy however were not in sympathy with the lower classes, which were more closely allied with the aristocracy:
The capitalistic bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century (mainly if we consider the upper-middle classes) stood for an election system which excluded the lower classes even from indirect influence in the government. The middle-class “democrat” frequently dreads the manual laborer, who often sided with the aristocrat, and he usually hates the peasant politically, partly on account of the ingrained loathing of the agrarian elements against the city, partly on account of the conservative-patriarchal structure and tendencies of the farming population (56f)
Thus the will-o’-the-wisp of “humanity” rendered men not more “fraternal” but less:
Democratistic culture and civilization lowered them to the unhierarchic sand heap but, paradoxically, did not bring them any nearer to each other. The thought of a common creator and a common origin can alone unite human beings (59)
This is indeed the source of the alienation of modern democracies:
In the hierarchic Tyrol, people are much nearer to each other than in “democratic” New York, and even the Albanian practicing his vendetta is more good neighborly than the inhabitant of modern Berlin or Stockholm. (60)
Interestingly Kuehnelt-Leddihn traces the beginnings of popular democracy or “ochlocracy” to the materialistic thought of Jean Cauvin (John Calvin) and the denial of the next world by the Enlightenment thinkers who ushered in the French Revolution:
There is little doubt that atheism, agnosticism, and the denial of the other world are partially responsible for the rapid technical development which gave us, apart from exquisite instruments for mass destruction, various means to bridge time and space. (35)
Mass distribution of commodities through technology makes everything available to everyone because “Nobody should have the right to pride himself on being the sole possessor of a specific thing” and the sociological result is a rapid collectivization:
“Democracy” in its first stages is intrinsically a struggle against privileges and later democratism continues this bitter, depersonalizing struggle against everybody and anybody with the help of the demoniacal magic of technique. (65)
Universal education too is identified by Kuehnelt-Leddihn as one of the “collectivist” features of democracy:
instead of sticking to the hierarchic principle in the most aristocratic of all domains — intellectual education — a whole corollary of compromises with the mass spirit were made in this field; education became thus finally nothing but another factor of leveling applanation side by side with industrialism. (66)
It is significant also that the middle classes were especially opposed to the Catholic Church on account of its hierarchical nature and its preoccupation with mysteries, which in a democracy had to be rationalized by the half-educated masses. As he notes,
It must also be kept in mind that the class most antagonistic to the Church has been during the past centuries the middle class, or the bourgeoisie. It is the middle class in France, Austria, Germany, Bohemia, and Moravia which shows the greatest percentage of Protestants. (69)
Unlike Evola, Kuehnelt-Leddihn does not consider liberalism as a distinguishing characteristic of democracy but, rather, he considers democracy’s characteristic obsession to be the desire for equality, which as mentioned above contradicts the natural desire for liberty. Freedom itself he defines in Liberty or Equality as the liberty to develop one’s personality:
the greatest amount of self-determination which in a given situation is feasible, reasonable and possible. As a means to safeguarding man’s happiness and protecting his personality it is an intermediary end, and thus forms part of the common good. It is obvious that under these circumstances it cannot be brutally sacrificed to the demands of absolute efficiency nor to efforts towards a maximum of material welfare. (2)
In this context, he takes particular care to distinguish Anglo-Saxon democracy from Continental, for the former is directed from above and retains the character of an “aristocratic republic” (135), whereas the latter tends to mass democracy which leads to totalitarianism. He also reminds us that:
some of the best minds in Europe (and in America) were haunted by the fear that there were forces, principles and tendencies in democracy which were, either in their very nature or, at least, in their dialectic potentialities, inimical to many basic human ideals — freedom being one among them.
The principal defects of democracy derive from its materialistic concerns, thus its mass production, militarism, ethnic nationalism, racialism and all tendencies toward “simplification” that tend towards uniformity and sameness, what he calls “identitarianism.” He quotes Lord Acton’s remark that “Liberty was the watchword of the middle class, equality of the lower.” This is however different from his own statement in The Menace of the Herd that “Liberty is the ideal of aristocracy, just as equality stands for the bourgeoisie and fraternity for the peasantry” (48). Indeed, if equality were the prime demand of the lower classes as Lord Acton had suggested, the leveling that Kuehnelt-Leddihn points to is clearly not due to them but rather to elites that organize them as “masses of men who are ‘alike and equal’ attracted by small and vulgar pleasures.” His quotation from Alexis de Tocqueville in Liberty or Equality indeed makes this quite clear:
above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications, and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent, if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and arbiter of that happiness: it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances—what remains but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living? (29)
We see from this description of the workings of democracy that the latter is a maternalistic caricature of the paternalistic political ideal that we shall see is propounded by Evola. Even though Kuehnelt-Leddihn does not, like Evola, blame the bourgeoisie for this forced leveling of the lower classes, he does notice that capitalist mass production and nationalistic militarism are creations of the bourgeois capitalists rather than of the proletariat.
We may note also that he considers racial nationalism as a form of “proletarianism” where whole nations are elevated to pseudo-aristocratic status (58). However, it may be inferred from his own discussion of the different attitudes to nationalism and racialism among Catholics and Protestants (see below) that this nationalism and racialism are not so much characteristics of the lower classes as of those who exploit the democratic system, which must be principally the capitalist middle classes.
In general, Kuehnelt-Leddihn does not accentuate the dangerous revolutions of the bourgeoise in monarchical or aristocratic states nor their baneful effect on the lower classes, which it has little sympathy for. He does not also clearly relate the Jews in European society to the transformations from monarchies to democracies and collectivist societies that European countries have undergone in recent history although he cursorily hints at the Old Testament roots of the materialism and obscurantism that mark Protestant democracies. His main concern being the defense of individual and social liberty, he studies the gradual transformation of democratic governments into tyrannies. If in democratic states actual dictators do not emerge on the scene, totalitarianism manifests itself nevertheless in the bureaucratic apparatus of the state which caters to the social welfare needs of the lower classes. Here again he is, on the surface at least, rather lenient towards the middle classes since he does not remark that a benevolent state bureaucracy might cater to the genuine needs of the people while it may also interfere in the financial ambitions of the middle classes.
In the development of democracy into totalitarian tyranny Kuehnelt-Leddihn rightly notices the crucial role played by Protestantism. Unlike Evola, who does not discuss the nature or dangers of Protestantism in his critique of modern Catholicism, Kuehnelt-Leddihn squarely places the blame for democratic degeneration on Protestantism. He notes that, ideologically, democracies depend on relativist principles which are themselves characteristic of the Protestant movements:
relativism, which the clear thinker and logician rejects, plays an enormous role in the political and spiritual realm of democracy. We leave it to the psychologist to determine the feminine implications of such relativism. But relativism and readiness for compromise go hand in hand, and an absolute refusal to compromise on fundamentals (a Catholic rather than a Protestant trait) would soon bring democratic machinery to a standstill. (126)
While Catholics are unpliable when it comes to dogma, Protestants are rather more subjective in their approach to doctrinal matters. Catholics are consequently more convinced of their principles and do not favor latitudinarianism. As he notes,
Catholic dogma, except for an “increase in volume,” has remained unchanged, and commentary on it has varied only within certain limits. Protestantism, on the other hand, is in a constant process of evolution. Whereas the faith of Catholics can be exposed to the process of diminuation de la foi (“diminution of the faith”), that of the Protestant is also subject to the rétrêcissement de la foi (“narrowing of the faith”). (180)
On the other hand, Protestantism is a more fanatical religion that insists, in a mediaevalist and Old Testament manner, on God alone while Catholicism has always considered God and Man with equal care. This explains the wonderful artistic explosion of the Renaissance and the Baroque, which are relatively poorly represented in Protestant lands:
Thus the key to the real understanding of the Catholic cultures of the European Continent and of South and Central America is, for the Protestant as well as for the Catholic of the British Isles and North America, an understanding and appreciation of the cultural, artistic and intellectual values of Humanism, the Renaissance and the Baroque. (182)
The Protestant insistence that “religion is a private matter” is completely opposed to the Church’s concern with the “totality of human culture” (39), culture itself being distinguished from civilization, which caters to the merely material comforts of mankind:
Yet while civilization is basically lack of friction, smoothness, comfort, and material enjoyment we have to look at traditional Christianity — with its violent opposition to euthanasia, abortion, contraception, pacifism, and individualism — as being something “uncomfortable.” (36f)
Protestantism and Calvinism also posses an Old Testament tendency to take earthly success as sign of divine favor which is absent in Catholic nations, “where the beggar is a ‘useful’ member of society and commercialism is not highly appreciated.” (185).
Protestants fearful of social fragmentation naturally tend to the lowest common denominator that mark collectivist systems. Catholics, on the other hand, are more personally developed than the Protestants, who through their tendency to compromise, solidarity, cooperation, neighbourliness (192) tend to be more conformist than Catholics, and even more bigoted. In fact one of the distinguishing features of democracy itself — for Kuehnelt-Leddihn as well as for Evola — is that it is “anti-personalistic” and “collectivistic” (134) and its tendency to exert “horizontal pressure” results in totalitarian systems.
It is not surprising thus that “Calvin established in Geneva the first truly totalitarian police-state in Europe” (183) The French Revolution too was of Protestant inspiration:
It is also obvious that the ideological substance of the French Revolution is almost in its entirety the product of Protestant dialectics. Although there are some minor Cartesian and Jansenistic elements in the political philosophy of ’89 and ’92, the main impulses came from America, Britain, Holland and Switzerland. (187)
This is why also, as Kuehnelt-Leddihn reminds us, “Count Keyserling calls America socialistic in a deeper sense and arrives at the conclusion that ‘most Americans want to obey as no soldiers have ever done.’”
Catholics, by contrast, are undemocratic by nature:
it is virtually certain that the Catholic nations, with their love for personal liberty, their earthly pessimism, their pride and scepticism, will never in their hearts accept parliamentary democracy.
Catholic countries deprived of monarchy tend to bureaucraticism, anarchy or party-dictatorships rather than to democracy:
We have to ask ourselves whether in the most extreme cases, when violent temperament is combined with thorough ideological incompatibility (Spain, Portugal, Greece, South America), government from above on a bureaucratic basis is not the only safeguard against the alternative of anarchy and party dictatorship (125)
Catholicism is essentially paternalistic and hierarchical, qualities that Evola too prescribes for his organic conservative state. Catholics favor patriarchs but not policeman, they can even often be anarchists and militate against the State. While the uniformity of the ruling political parties in Protestant countries facilitates nationalism as well as totalitarianism, Catholics are not popular nationalists nor do they favor centralization, but rather federalism (201). Kuehnelt-Leddihn gives the example of the German federalist Constantin Frantz (1817-91) who opposed centralized totalitarian regimes and he reminds us that the Prussians too were not pan-Germanic but rather dynastic.
The political solution to the inherent problems of democratic government that is propounded by Kuehelt-Leddhin is a hereditary monarchy with local organs of self-government. Unlike dictators, monarchs are restricted by Christian law and here the doctrine of human imperfection, or “original sin” serves as a moderating influence in monarchies as well as it does in democracies. Monarchy, like Catholicism, is paternalistic and not “fraternal.” The reason of the superiority of such a paternalistic rule — typical also of Catholic orders — is that it obliges the ruler to be more responsible than democratically elected leaders are. Monarchies are not oligarchical, plutocratic or prone to corruption since money does not rule the state as in democracies. Further, the monarch not only represents political responsibility but also fosters “great” statesmen within his government possessed of a comparable commitment to the duties of a state. A monarchy is also more efficient with its bureaucracy than a democracy is and more capable of undertaking grand ventures.
Monarchs are in most cases biologically superior, and hereditary rule constitutes an organic rule which is contrary to variable party rule. They are trained for rule from childhood and have a moral and spiritual education for their office. At the same time, they have greater respect for subjects (152) and protect minorities since they do not depend on any majority support. Monarchies also tend to be international and ethnically mixed thus serving as a unifying force (see also 159).
As democracies depend on what the Jewish Socialist historian Harold Laski called a “common framework of reference” (97) or consensus, there is in fact less freedom of expression in democracies than in monarchical states. This is particularly true of Catholic states which are marked by different levels of enlightenment and thereby do not fall into the trap of Protestant utopianism. Catholicism does not believe that all are capable of the same education and understanding since it is constantly conscious of the notion of human imperfection or “original sin.” The liberality of the Catholic in general arises from generosity and not from relativistic reasoning that forcibly reconciles opposites.
Unfortunately the greater liberties enjoyed in traditional Catholic monarchies have been curtailed in recent times by Protestant regimes. But Kuehelt-Leddihn reminds us that only 13 percent of the population of European continent are followers of Protestant creeds (205). And it should be borne in mind
that the countries of continental Europe all need a mission, a final end, a metaphysical goal—which even elections, increased exports, more calories and better dental care are not going to obviate. (207)
It is of vital importance therefore that one must “strive to help the European continent find its own soul” (208). Following Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s discussion of monarchism and Catholicism and their natural opposition to republicanism and Protestantism, we may assume that what is needed is a restoration, insofar as it is possible, of the Catholic monarchical system — “Only thus can the Continent hope to become again what it used to be, a tierra libre y real—a Free and Royal Land” (208).
* * *
The political tenets of the Sicilian nobleman Julius Evola (1898-1974) have been somewhat obscured by his “traditionalist” interests in esoteric systems such as Hermeticism, Zen Buddhism and Yoga. People have a general notion that he was a sympathizer of both the Italian Fascist and German National Socialist movements, but a closer reading of his later works, especially his major political work, Men among the Ruins (tr. Guido Stucco, Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002), will reveal that he was closer to the Fascist ideology especially as represented by the philosopher Giovanni Gentile than to the racialist thinkers of the National Socialist Reich such as Alfred Rosenberg or Walther Darré.
More forcefully than Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Evola identifies the bourgeoisie as the source of the problems of the modern world since they are the chief representatives of the doctrines of liberalism based on the primacy of the individual. Liberalism is a materialistic and utilitarian philosophy insofar as it takes into consideration only the material needs of the individuals that constitute society. Its feigned campaigns of liberty are belied by the fact that exploitative capitalism is a natural result of bourgeois materialism:
The turning point was the advent of a view of life that, instead of keeping human needs within natural limits in view of what is truly worthy of pursuit, adopted as its highest ideal an artificial increase and multiplication of human needs and the necessary means to satisfy them, in total disregard for the growing slavery this would inexorably constitute for the individual and the collective whole. (173)
The individualism fostered by Liberalism results in an atomism and fragmentation of society that is then countered by forms of totalitarianism which are equally inadequate in their merely quantitative and economic concerns. Totalitarianism is, according to Evola, order imposed from above on a formless people. Marx was indeed right in attacking the bourgeoisie but erred seriously in forcing the proletariat to serve as the cornerstone of a utopian society that is characterized by sterile uniformity:
Totalitarianism, in order to assert itself, imposes uniformity. In the final analysis, totalitarianism rests and relies on the inorganic world of quantity to which individualistic disintegration has led, and not on the world of quality and of personality.
Thus totalitarianism destroys all the vestiges of organic development that previous bourgeois states may have retained from their aristocratic past:
Totalitarianism, though it reacts against individualism and social atomism, brings a final end to the devastation of what may still survive in a society from the previous “organic” phase: quality; articulated forms, castes and classes, the values of personality, true freedom, daring and responsible initiative, and heroic feats. (151)
The exaltation of the “worker” in socialist as well as collectivist systems is also a universalization of the essentially servile nature of liberalist economic thought.
The solution to the problems inherent in any bourgeois ordering of society consists in the development of personality rather than individualism among the people. Among nations too, autarky should be encouraged rather than the internationalism of global commerce:
It is better to renounce the allure of improving general social and economic conditions and to adopt a regime of austerity than to become enslaved to foreign interests or to become caught up in world processes of reckless economic hegemony and productivity that are destined to sweep away those who have set them in motion. (176)
The necessary control of the economy can be undertaken only by the state. The class conflicts focused on by Marx should be corrected by a corporative system or a system of estates such as in the Middle Ages:
The fundamental spirit of corporativism was that of a community of work and productive solidarity, based on the principles of competence, qualification, and natural hierarchy, with the overall system characterized by a style of active impersonality, selflessness, and dignity. (225)
Of prime importance in the corporative system of earlier European history is the fact that
The usury of “liquid assets”—the equivalent of what today is the banking and financial employment of capital—was regarded as a Jewish business, far from affecting the whole system. (225)
In other words, Jewish usury was, if utilized by states, always regarded as a feature of outcasts of European society.
Evola’s solution to the social injustice of capitalism focuses on the elimination of the parasitical capitalists and the deproletariatization of the workers:
the basic conditions for the restoration of normal conditions are, on the one hand, the deproletarization of the worker and, on the other hand, the elimination of the worst type of capitalist, who is a parasitical recipient of profits and dividends and who remains extraneous to the productive process. (226)
Unlike Marx who sought to turn the proletariat into owners and directors of companies, Evola maintains that the proper eradication of the evils of capitalism should begin with the curtailment of the rampant profit-motivation of the companies and their directors by the State. All companies should therefore, in general, be responsible to the State (231). All national economic issues should be dealt with in the Lower House of parliaments while the Upper House should be the sole representative of the political life of the nation. The latter body cannot be an elected one but must be appointed – and for life. In fact this Upper House should act as what Evola calls the ruling elite or “Order” of a nation.
Evola imagines this Order in warrior terms and the subordination of the mercantile class to the warrior is an essential feature of his political doctrine. Naturally, the warriors are not the same as soldiers, who are merely paid military employees. Warriors are ruled by concepts of honor and loyalty to the nation, such as were found recently in the Prussian military echelons. The state is indeed essentially a masculine socio-political phenomenon in contrast to society, which is mainly feminine. The core of the state will be formed by Männerbünde or male ruling elites:
The political domain is defined through hierarchical, heroic, ideal, anti-hedonistic, and, to a degree, even anti-eudemonistic values that set it apart from the order of naturalistic and vegetative life. (124)
The reason for the exclusive position of ruling males in a state is that
every true political unity appears as the embodiment of an idea and a power, thus distinguishing itself from every form of naturalistic association or “natural right,” and also from every societal aggregation determined by mere social, economic, biological, utilitarian, or eudemonistic factors. (122)
This power is in its origins sacred, as it was for example in the concept of imperium in the Roman Empire for it expresses a transcendent order, a concept that will be familiar to students of the Fascist philosopher, Giovanni Gentile.
Democracy and socialism signal a dangerous shift from the rule of the masculine state to that of the feminine society and of the demos. A State is not a “nation” either since a nation is typically a motherland, even if it is occasionally called a fatherland in some countries. The Romans, Franks, as well as the Arabs who spread Islam were all constituted of Männerbünde at first, and only when they degenerated into democracies did they become “nations.”
Since any conservative revolution needs to restore the primacy of the warrior ethos it must begin by opposing the mercantile one of the bourgeoisie:
the “conservative” idea to be defended must not only have no connection with the class that has replaced the fallen aristocracy and exclusively has the character of a mere economic class (i.e., the capitalist bourgeoisie)—but it must also be resolutely opposed to it. What needs to be “preserved” and defended in a “revolutionary fashion” is the general view of life and of the State that, being based on higher values and interests, definitely transcends the economic plane, and thus everything that can be defined in terms of economic classes. (114)
This would also require the formation of a new elite or Order:
The essential task ahead requires formulating an adequate doctrine, upholding principles that have been thoroughly studied, and, beginning from these, giving birth to an Order. This elite, differentiating itself on a plane that is defined in terms of spiritual virility, decisiveness, and impersonality, and where every naturalistic bond loses its power and value, will be the bearer of a new principle of a higher authority and sovereignty; it will be able to denounce subversion and demagogy in whatever form they appear and reverse the downward spiral of the top-level cadres and the irresistible rise to power of the masses. From this elite, as if from a seed, a political organism and an integrated nation will emerge, enjoying the same dignity as the nations created by the great European political tradition. Anything short of this amounts only to a quagmire, dilettantism, irrealism, and obliquity. (132)
Disregarding the norms of a socialistic state the organic conservative state must be a “heroic” one that is not based on the family nucleus but on the Männerbünde which produce the leaders of the state. These men which will even abjure a family life for a dedication to the task of ruling:
As far as a revolutionary-conservative movement is concerned, there is a need for men who are free from these bourgeois feelings. These men, by adopting an attitude of militant and absolute commitment, should be ready for anything and almost feel that creating a family is a “betrayal”; these men should live sine impedimentis, without any ties or limits to their freedom. In the past there were secular Orders where celibacy was the rule . . . the ideal of a “warrior society” obviously cannot be the petit-bourgeois and parochial ideal of “home and children”; on the contrary, I believe that in the personal domain the right to an ample degree of sexual freedom for these men should be acknowledged, against moralism, social conformism, and “heroism in slippers.” (271)
There is no danger of the extinction of the line of rulers even though they may follow a celibate life since
the example of those centuries-old religious orders that embraced celibacy suggests that a continuity may be ensured with means other than physical procreation. Besides those who should be available as shock troops, it would certainly be auspicious to form a second group that would ensure the hereditary continuity of a chosen and protected elite, as the counterpart of the transmission of a political-spiritual tradition and worldview: ancient nobility was an example of this. (271)
The organic conservative state will be based not on individuals but on persons, whose raison d’être is their personality and its higher development. This realization of the personality of an individual is equivalent to his freedom. The ‘free’ person is indeed free of the claims of his lower nature and demands a complete self-mastery. The most highly developed or differentiated person is the absolute person or leader:
The “absolute person” is obviously the opposite of the individual. The atomic, unqualified, socialized, or standardized unity to which the individual corresponds is opposed in the absolute person by the actual synthesis of the fundamental possibilities and by the full control of the powers inherent in the idea of man (in the limiting case), or of a man of a given race (in a more relative, specialized, and historical domain): that is, by an extreme individuation that corresponds to a de-individualization and to a certain universalization of the types corresponding to it. Thus, this is the disposition required to embody pure authority, to assume the symbol and the power of sovereignty, or the form from above, namely the imperium (140)
Thus, unlike Kuehnelt-Leddihn who championed hereditary monarchy, Evola seems to favor an enlightened dictator or one who belongs to a new aristocratic order of men.
The state formed by this elite will be not only organic but also hierarchical and firmly based on the principle of authority. In fact, this principle is the core of any organic state, which must necessarily grow from a definite center:
A State is organic when it has a center, and this center is an idea that shapes the various domains of life in an efficacious way; it is organic when it ignores the division and the autonomization of the particular and when, by virtue of a system of hierarchical participation, every part within its relative autonomy performs its own function and enjoys an intimate connection with the whole. In an organic State we can speak of a “whole”—namely, something integral and spiritually unitary that articulates and unfolds itself—rather than a sum of elements within an aggregate, characterized by a disorderly clash of interests. The States that developed in the geographical areas of the great civilizations (whether they were empires, monarchies, aristocratic republics, or city-states) at their peak were almost without exception of this type. A central idea, a symbol of sovereignty with a corresponding, positive principle of authority was their foundation and animating force. (149)
The basis of all authority is itself a “transcendent” quality, as Gentile had also insisted:
Conversely, the organic view presupposes something “transcendent” or “from above” as the basis of authority and command, without which there would automatically be no immaterial and substantial connections of the parts with the center; no inner order of single freedoms; no immanence of a general law that guides and sustains people without coercing them; and no supra-individual disposition of the particular, without which every decentralization and articulation would eventually pose a danger for the unity of the whole system. (153)
Only an organic state can absorb all the manifold differences and conflicts that may exist within a state:
Even contrasts and antitheses had their part in the economy of the whole; as they did not have the character of disorderly parts, they did not question the super-ordained unity of the organism, but rather acted as a dynamic and vivifying factor. Even the “opposition” of the early British parliamentary system was able to reflect a similar meaning (it was called “His Majesty’s most loyal opposition”), though it disappeared in the later party-ruled parliamentary regime. (149)
Nationalism too should be avoided if it is of the popular sort rather than one based on the concept of a spiritual nation:
In the first case, nationalism has a leveling and antiaristocratic function; it is like the prelude to a wider leveling, the common denominator of which is no longer the nation, but rather the International. In the second case, the idea of the nation may serve as the foundation for a new recovery and an important first reaction against the internationalist dissolution; it upholds a principle of differentiation that still needs to be further carried through toward an articulation and hierarchy within every single people. (249)
His vision of a regenerated Europe is one of an organic, sacred empire, or imperium, centered not on “the concepts of fatherland and nation (or ethnic group)” which “belong to an essentially naturalistic or ‘physical’ plane” but on “a feeling of higher order, qualitatively very different from the nationalistic feeling rooted in other strata of the human being” (276):
The scheme of an empire in a true and organic sense (which must clearly be distinguished from every imperialism, a phenomenon that should be regarded as a deplorable extension of nationalism) was previously displayed in the European medieval world, which safeguarded the principles of both unity and multiplicity. In this world, individual States have the character of partial organic units, gravitating around a unum quod non est pars (a one that is not a part, to use Dante’s expression)—namely, a principle of unity, authority, and sovereignty of a different nature from that which is proper to each particular State. But the principle of the Empire can have such a dignity only by transcending the political sphere in the strict sense, founding and legitimizing itself with an idea, a tradition, and a power that is also spiritual. (277)
The chief hurdles to the formation of a new Europe are American cultural hegemony, the yoke of democratic government, and “the deep crisis of the authority principle and the idea of the State” (285). But even though the task of unifying Europe may be a formidable one it must be attempted, with the planning and organization undertaken from the top down, by the new elite “Orders” of the various nations that constitute it (278).
As regards the religious foundations of a State or Empire, Evola is remarkably pessimistic in his estimation of the power of Catholicism to provide these since he considers it to be excessively committed today to a liberal democratic path which has deprived it of its traditional political force. In fact he considers the anti-Ghibelline or Guelfian movement of the Middle Ages to be the very source of the secularization of the modern State. Thus it would be better
to travel an autonomous way, abandoning the Church to her destiny, considering her actual inability to bestow an official consecration on a true, great, traditional and super-traditional Right. (215)
In spite of his callous treatment of the Catholic Church and its potential as a religious basis for a conservative State, Evola does examine in greater detail the subversive effects of another international sect, Judaism, whose political ambitions were exposed in the so-called Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion (1903) which, even if not based on fact, would represent a literary depiction of the totalitarian goals of the Jews. As Evola explains:
the only important and essential point is the following: this writing is part of a group of texts that in various ways (more or less fantastic and at times even fictional) have expressed the feeling that the disorder of recent times is not accidental, since it corresponds to a plan, the phases and fundamental instruments of which are accurately described in the Protocols. (240)
The principal evil of the design of the international Jews is their thorough economization of modern life:
the economization of life, especially in the context of an industry that develops at the expense of agriculture, and a wealth that is concentrated on liquid capital and finance, proceeds from a secret design. The phalanx of the modern “economists” followed this design, just as those who spread a demoralizing literature attack spiritual and ethical values and scorn every principle of authority. (240)
Not only was Marxism a useful tool of the Jews but also those biological and philosophical doctrines that fostered atheism such as Darwin’s evolutionary biology and Nietzsche’s nihilism. The Jews further employ various tactics of subversion, having recourse to counterfeit doctrines of so-called “traditionalism” and “neo-spiritualism”:
The content of this “traditionalism” consists of habits, routines, surviving residues and vestiges of what once was, without a real understanding of the spiritual world and of what in them is not merely factual but has a character of perennial value. (245)
The effect on the individual of these various subversive movements is
to remove the support of spiritual and traditional values from the human personality, knowing that when this is accomplished it is not difficult to turn man into a passive instrument of the secret front’s direct forces and influences. (241)
The most efficacious way of combating the subversion of international Judaism or Zionism is for the new warriors to learn to operate on the metaphysical plane, maintaining an “unconditioned loyalty to an idea” since that is “the only possible protection from occult war; where such loyalty falls short and where the contingent goals of “real politics” are obeyed, the front of resistance is already undermined.” As he warns those who wish to undertake a conservative revolution or counter-revolution,
no fighter or leader on the front of counter-subversion and Tradition can be regarded as mature and fit for his tasks before developing the faculty to perceive this world of subterranean causes, so that he can face the enemy on the proper ground. We should recall the myth of the Learned Elders of the Protocols: compared to them, men who see only “facts” are like dumb animals. There is little hope that anything may be saved when among the leaders of a new movement there are no men capable of integrating the material struggle with a secret and inexorable knowledge, one that is not at the service of dark forces but stands instead on the side of the luminous principle of traditional spirituality. (251)
* * *
We see therefore that unlike Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Evola focuses on the bourgeoisie as the chief source of the democratic degeneration of modern Europe just as his discussion of the “occult” dimensions of the ongoing subversion helps one to concentrate on the international Jewry as the principal agents of subversion that must be combated in a counter-revolution. Unfortunately Evola does not place much hope on either a hereditary monarchy or Catholicism as the twin foundations of traditional European society but instead seeks to build a new knightly Order that will yield strong enlightened leaders for the European states.
The lack of enthusiasm for Catholicism in Evola’s discussion of the State is however corrected by Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s perceptive analysis of the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. In strong contrast to Evola’s negative attitude to the modern Church, Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s account of political history places a marked emphasis on established religion, and especially on Catholicism, in his formulation of the conservative state. Any contemporary attempt to return Europe to its natural pre-democratic vitality may therefore have to start not only from Evola’s warnings of the dangers of the mercantile bourgeoisie and of the surreptitious war of the Jews against the European aristocratic traditions but also from Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s revelations of the deleterious effects that the relativist and materialist temper of Protestantism has had on modern European society.
1. This is of course typical of the land of the Puritans, America. The transformation of Hebrew-inspired Puritanism into finance capitalism in America has been well noted by Werner Sombart in Die Juden und das Wirtschaftsleben (1911). See also my article “The End of American History,” which appeared at Counter-Currents on September 17, 2014 as well as in K. Deva (ed.), Aristokratia III: Hellas.
2. The only detailed study of Evola’s political thought in English is Paul Furlong’s Social and Political Thought of Julius Evola (London: Routledge, 2011).
3. See, for instance, my recent article, “The End of American History.”
4. We may remember in this connection the typical Jewish aversion to authoritarian states and personalities in Theodor Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel Levinson, and Nevitt Sanford, The Authoritarian Personality (1950).
5. Indeed, the Protocols should be classified with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) as fictive non-fiction.