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Letter from the Third Reich

1,016 words

Translated by Guillaume Durocher

Translator’s Note: This article is translated from the French version in Emil Cioran, Apologie de la Barbarie: Berlin – Bucharest (1932-1941) (Paris: L’Herne, 2015), pp. 67-71. Originally published in Romanian as Emil Cioran, “Scrisoare germană,” Calendarul, November 14, 1933. The title is editorial. I have sometimes modified the paragraphing.

I would like to share the joy that is mine in finding myself in a world which is politicized, but which is neither sickening nor flat. I have always placed politics on the margins of spiritual life because, considered in itself, it is only a sum of infertile externals. It only busies itself with frameworks and forms, and it ignores vital comprehension and internal rhythm, qualitative complexity, and organic movements. What is quite pleasant in the political spirit of today’s Germany is that the Germans are integrating themselves into the general forms of the spirit through multiple connections and relations. This is because, in attempting to found a political phenomenon on an entire vital disposition – a collection of values independent of those of politics – they have overcome the latter’s platitudes conceived as a collection of autonomous values. This effort charms me. It consists in intentionally mixing religious, artistic, philosophical, and other values into the political sphere, thus politicizing the world without trivializing it.

When one thinks of the degree to which, in the majority of democratic countries, the sphere of political life is separated from that of other values, and of the size of the gap between politics relative to other forms which have isolated and reduced it to an irreversible nullity, one can only admire the German phenomenon, which has forcibly vitalized politics by appealing to others forms of the mind.

It is admirable to see how, in order to justify its existence, the regime changes the law, modifies religion, reorients art, builds another historical outlook, brutally eliminates three-quarters of the consecrated values, rejects with frenzy, and quivers with enthusiasm. If one objects that today’s political orientation is unacceptable, that it is founded on false values, that racism is a scientific illusion, and that German exclusivism is a collective megalomania, I would respond: What does it matter, so long as Germany feels well, fresh, and alive under such a regime?

Some say: But what about the citizen’s participation in the government, real freedom of thought, and individual expression? For my part, I respond to all democrats: in the current dictatorial regime, the citizen finds himself engaged with much more soul than he is in these insipid democracies, in which an illusory representation and a scandalous atomization have reduced political existence to an impoverished simulacrum.

Considered as an ideal orientation, in the purity of values and demands, democracy is indeed the most admirable regime. However, from the practical and historic point of view, it is henceforth external to man and inadequate. He who is unaware of this inevitability, according to which essentially inadequate forms of life become, with time, foreign to our psychological depths, this man will never resign himself to going from democracy to dictatorship.

One must ask all the democrats in the world: Why was it necessary to instate a dictatorship in Germany? In the same way one must ask all men: How can you conceive an amor fati[1] for your individual existence and refuse to accept one in politics? Nothing is more painful than to see the degree to which men are insensitive to historical necessities, the degree to which their lack of barbarism estranges them from the irrational rhythm of life.

I was on the road to Prague when a social-democratic Czech – gentle as only democrats can still be (no doubt because of an awareness of the irreparable) – told me, with the strength of conviction, that Hitlerism would fall within two months, lamenting the lack of courage and brutality of the German Social Democrats who, if they had had these qualities, would surely still be in power. This man was unconsciously praising the Hitlerians.

I can also mention a Romanian friend here in Berlin, of an extraordinary temperament and with a passion as deep as it is overflowing, who delivered a panegyric to democracy and its current necessity to me for twelve hours, without succeeding in convincing me. I have met men whose sole desire is to return to the Enlightenment, who admire the eighteenth century and wish for the return of its spirit. Let me confess another joy: that of belonging to an epoch where the irrational has entered all fields; that of finding the supreme proof for a few metaphysical suppositions.

The time has come for irrationalism to be heard philosophically, but also politically. Whoever respects forms and awaits death with indifference cannot be an irrationalist in politics. Let us accept life as an inevitability; let us fight in and with this inevitability against all that is resistance to death, irreparable. If every irrationalism is paradoxical, it’s because it expresses the paradox of life. Let us be proud unto death of the contradiction of life.

Concerning the present historical moment, rather than the rationalism of the democratic politicians, I prefer barbaric, explosive, fecund, and dynamic irrationalism which, against dead forms, legalism, and judicial rigor, marks a triumph of vitality, energy, and desperate acts. Political irrationalism starts from the vital’s frustration in its struggle against outdated frameworks, hence its mix of barbarism, enthusiasm, despair, and exaltation. If one is not organically sensitive to this mix, to this admirable confusion, to this creative effervescence, one will not understand the German phenomenon.

Great political phenomena do not develop in a linear fashion, but according to a rebellious complexity. However, its direction depends solely on immanent destiny, an organic substructure only accessible to men gifted with a vital comprehension. No country in the world can embody a politics in the grand style without having had the courage to exist, a limitless courage, an infinite exaltation, and a grand madness. What’s more, I am overwhelmed with melancholy when I think that there is a country at the mouth of the Danube which does not have the courage to exist.

Berlin, November 1933

Note

[1] A love of (one’s) fate.

7 Comments

  1. Theodora
    Posted May 2, 2019 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Just thought to share a brilliant short video on these matters from Aethelwulf Hunter. It’s called “Historical Perspective”.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zU9VX7DjeBY

  2. Vauquelin
    Posted April 25, 2019 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    “This regime is irrational and mad, and that’s a good thing.”
    I guess I don’t have a high enough IQ to see this as the glowing praise it’s intended to be. NatSoc programs seemed quite a rational and sane to me, its racial theory more than a mere “scientific illusion.” Rather than stating it’s not an illusion Cioran says “so what if it is, as long as it feels good.” That doesn’t strike me as a very sound argument.

    • Guillaume Durocher
      Posted April 25, 2019 at 3:42 am | Permalink

      I agree. It’s rather scandalous to any convinced racialist. As a reluctant nihilist, Cioran loves passion for passion’s sake. Romanian nationalists seem to have been generally uninterested in race.

      • Razvan
        Posted April 26, 2019 at 7:08 am | Permalink

        It is more nuanced than that.

        There were Romanian nationalists that valued race explicitely as fundamental. There was even a Romanian National Socialist Party heavily influenced by NSDAP.

        Others saw the race only implicitely, probably under the Italian fascist influence – which at least initially didn’t express itself on the issue.
        Most Romanians wanted modernity and modernism, that’s why fascism had a greater influence.

        For the Romanian nationalists the fundamental issue was the emancipation of the large Romanian masses, all the rest came second.

        I believe it was a pragmatic point of view.

        • Guillaume Durocher
          Posted April 26, 2019 at 8:14 am | Permalink

          Thanks for the information! I am very curious about the motivations behind Romanian nationalists and their intellectual supporters (Eliade, Cioran, Țuțea). Concerning Cioran, things are quite clear for me now. For Eliade, I get the impression that he had a basically Evola-style adherence to Tradition, both in politics and religion (based on my reading the Portugal Journal). I still don’t know all that much about the Iron Guard.

          • Razvan
            Posted April 27, 2019 at 12:05 am | Permalink

            the Romanian nationalism has three main stages.
            1. nineteen century nationalism: reprezented by young noblemen, usualy Paris or Berlin educated, masonic, anti church, anti fanariot greek, and later anti jewish. From their point of view these foreign groups were simply and utterly despicable. To be fair, the New York jews still have to learn a thing or two from their greek fanariots counterparts.
            The intellectual apex Mihai Eminescu. When I say apex I think Mein Kampf level. Unfortunately not translated. His entire political work has been banned till 1990.
            2. The end of nineteen century till the sixties. Romanian independence, Romanian church independence from the Greek church of Constantinopole, the rise of the so called village intellectuality. Priests, teachers, lawyers, officers, richer peasants with some education were fervent nationalist. Even the poor peasant had displayed in his house some christian icons and some cheap pictures of the great historical personalities of the past.
            This group gave birth to different nationalist parties. Including the Iron Guard, The National Christian Defence League, The People Party, National-Socialists, National Christian Party, various nationalists groups in the army.
            This social group has born probably the most diverse and bright generation of Romanian intellectuals. Eliade and Cioran are notorious because they managed to escape the Russian instituted hell. Others escaped to Italy and are less known. Like Vintila Horia – a very interesting writer. The most of them were simply killed or kept in prisons.
            AC Cuza, NC Paulescu, Nae Ionescu, Octavian Goga, Mircea Vulcanescu, Vasile Lovinescu (friend of Eliade, traditionalist and Guenon disciple), Nichifor Crainic, Radu Gyr, Constantin Noica, Stefan Tatarascu to name very few.
            Others, those with military background fought to the end until Russian army and the Russian consultants left Romania in 1963; an interesting side note is that many were caught by Securitate and Russians due to the Kim Philby. Little known are the peasants revolts against the communist power in the fifties. The last one took place in 1961.
            3. The third phase or Ceausescu phase, but toward its end, is the national bolshevik. Partly it fulfilled the hopes of the previous generation. Modernity, upward mobility of lower classes. By no means on par with the old nationalists. Today it looks that they were and still are more interested to compromise the authentic nationalists. Totaly inept economically and sometime histerical.

            Regarding the race issue. To this moment for Romanians it wasn’t the foreign race what manaced its existence. Not the Turks, the Gypsies, not even the Jews. They were easily recognized and miscegenation was an utter shame. Exitinction level foes were the Orthodox Greeks and Russians. Greeks brought the most sordid, corrupt and decadent regime in the Romanian people history. While the Russians are the most efficient exterminator on the Earth. They cheat and they lie, they kill and they steal only to save your soul. They spoil and they rape while in full grandeur delirium.

            Race is fundamental, but not enough. Truth and justice are also fundamental.

    • example
      Posted April 25, 2019 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      “[S]o what if it is, as long as it feels good” essentially comes down to that he cares about the wellbeing of his people, even if it means doing the wrong thing – as long as that wrong thing helps his people’s wellbeing. Another way to put it is that he’s ok with doing dictatorship even if it’s the wrong thing to do because at the end of the day, doing a dictatorship even if it is wrong secures the wellbeing of his folk (since they like dictatorships), which is all he cares about.

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