Interview on the Thought of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – Françoise – July 27th 2017

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Françoise: Hello Thibault Isabel, last June you released a book about Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Could you present and explain the reasons for this book?

 
Thibault Isabel: Since the collapse of communism, the modern world lives with the idea that there no longer exists a viable alternative to liberalism. “There is no alternative,” as Margaret Thatcher already said. But, we quite simply forget that alternatives have always existed, provided that they return to pre-Marxist socialism, which has nothing to do with Stalinist collectivism. Proudhon offers a contesting vision with a human face, incompatible with the Gulag and the dictatorship of the proletariat. It allows us to rethink the present in the light of the forgotten ideas of the past. That’s why he’s useful.

Françoise: Proudhon came from a modest background and, throughout his life, he had to work in order to survive: he became a worker, and then became an independent worker managing his own publishing house… How did that influence his thoughts?

 
Thibault Isabel: Proudhon was horrified by wage labor. He found having to work for a boss, not having the power to conduct his own professional activity, humiliating. In his eyes, the cardinal virtue was responsibility, autonomy. Every man should become master of his own acts and destiny. That’s why the philosopher from Besançon nourished a boundless love for independent labor. His entire political and economic doctrine aimed to make labor freer, in order to liberate individuals from the domination of the powerful.

Françoise: Proudhon – the thinker of balance – is a reference for intellectuals coming from very diverse perspectives. Could one say he crosses political currents, a non conformist? What were his influences? And his heirs?

Thibault Isabel: Proudhon was neither capitalist nor communist. But, all the political thought of the 20th century was structured around this opposition. Henceforth, Proudhonian thought seems unclassifiable today, because it isn’t reducible to a clear and well defined camp on the left-right axis as we conceive it. The majority of Proudhon’s heirs themselves escape this divide, the non-conformists of the 1930s show very well, notably the young personalist intellectuals gathered around Alexandre Marc at the time. As for the authors that influenced Proudhon, we must in fact cite all the pioneers of socialism: Cabet, Owen, Leroux, Fourier, etc. We have the tendency to forget that he existed in a vast nebula of very talented intellectuals.

Françoise: Long after his death, the Catholic writer Georges Bernanos could say of modern civilization that it was before “a universal conspiracy against any form of spiritual life”. What was Proudhon’s point of view on Modernity and the philosophy of Progress?
Thibault Isabel: Proudhon defended social progress, but he didn’t believe in the linear progress of civilization. He was even convinced that progressivism took on a Utopian and chimeric character. That’s why he simultaneously called himself a partisan of progress and conservation, because in reality we need both in order to make a healthy society flourish.

Françoise: Proudhon made particularly virulent statements regarding ecclesiastical institutions but in parallel he was also very conservative in regards to morality. What was his relation to the religious question?
Thibault Isabel: Proudhon was inspired by religion. Raised firstly in Catholicism by his mother, he progressively freed himself from theist mysticism in order to orient himself towards a sort of pantheism, under the notable influence of traditional Freemasonry (not secular Freemasonry of course). Proudhon felt very close to the old pagan religions, and was particularly interested in Taoism, even Amerindian religion, even if he had a very limited knowledge of it.

Françoise: De la justice dans la révolution et dans l’ Église, then La pornocratie (published incomplete and posthumously), earned Proudhon a reputation as a misogynist…. Are his visions of the Woman and his critique of the feminization of society essential to his economic and political thought?
Thibault Isabel: No, frankly I don’t think so. The Proudhon’s statements on women, while rather lamentable from my point of view, had no effect on his deep philosophical thought. I will ever go as far as saying that he didn’t succeed in extending his philosophical principles to the question of the sexes, which would have allowed him to prefigure the idea of “equality in difference,” dear to many contemporary differentialist feminists. Proudhon remained stuck to biological inferiority of women, which he only nuanced on rare occasions in his books.

Françoise: Proudhonian thoughts on property are particularly cliched today … Could you clarify his famous phrase “Property is theft?”
Thibault Isabel: Essentially Proudhon was a stubborn defender of small private property, which seemed to constitute a restraint on the development of big capital. When Proudhon affirms that “property is theft,” he only denounces the accumulation of capital, that is to say the fact that small independent property owners have increasingly been replaced by big capitalist property owners. The first works of Proudhon remain a bit ambiguous about this distinction, but the later works will set the record straight in a very explicit manner.

Françoise: One calls Proudhon an anarchist or socialist, but could one also consider him as a precursor of ‘de-growth.?’

Thibault Isabel: In the strict sense, no, as in the 19th century there was little sense in calling for more frugality in order to fight ecological devastation, the effects of which were not as visible as they are today. On the other hand, Proudhon was incontestably one of the great precursors of ‘de-growth’ through his general philosophy. He questioned the accumulation of wealth for its own sake and privileged the qualitative over the quantitative. One also finds a quasi-religious relation to nature with him.

Françoise: Could the Paris Commune, which occurred a few years after his death, be seen as an attempt (consciously or unconsciously) to put some of his ideas into practice?

Thibault Isabel: Of course, especially since the majority of the Communards were Proudhonians! Don’t forget that, at this time, Proudhon was more famous than Marx … On the other hand, the defeat of the Commune put a sudden halt to the expansion of Proudhonian thought in France: many Proudhonians lost their lives in the course of events in this period.

Françoise: Proudhon was a socialist deputy and he affirmed that “One must have lived in this voting booth called the National Assembly in order to understand how the men who are the most completely ignorant of the state of the country are nearly always those who represent it.” What was his general vision of democracy and politics?

Thibault Isabel: Proudhon didn’t like parliamentary democracy, which he judged to be technocratic and potentially dictatorial. He would have had no liking for “Jupiterian presidents,” for example. Instead Proudhon defended local and decentralized democracies, where the people express themselves in a much more direct manner and participate in politics.

Françoise: Proudhon considered France as the “country of the happy medium and stability … despite its rebellious spirit, its taste for novelty, and its indiscipline” and that “a conservative and a revolutionary” slumbers in each Frenchman. What relationship did Proudhon, proud native of the Franche-Comté region, defender of federalism and the principle of subsidarity, entertain with the French nation? And the French state?
Thibault Isabel: Proudhon didn’t like France very much, which he associated with Jacobinism, centralization, and contempt for local particularities. Rather he was a regionalist. But his federalism implied the coexistence of different scales of power, where France could serve as a intermediate stratum between the region and Europe. Proudhon believed that French nationality was an abstraction and that it didn’t correspond to any physical fatherland. Only the regions found favor in his eyes, because they were closer to man. The soil is what immediately surrounds us and concretely shapes our way of seeing the world.

Françoise: What books by Proudhon should be read first?

Thibault Isabel: It’s rather difficult to say. Proudhon wrote a lot, and he had the annoying habit of diluting his thought with interminable digressions which haven’t aged well. His later works are the best in my opinion, and the most synthetic. I especially recommend The Federative Principle, which condenses his principal political thoughts regarding democracy.

Source: http://leblogdethibaultisabel.blogspot.com/2017/07/entretien-Pierre-Joseph-Proudhon.html

Ernst von Salomon – Revolutionary, Conservative, Lover – Philitt – October 7th 2016

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In The Outlaws (1930), Ernst von Salomon retraces his madcap political adventure shortly after the Great War. His literary persona became emblematic of the German Conservative Revolution and the work became a prophecy for the lost generations. His lesson: nihilism can be conquered by a passion stronger than the torments of History. The outlaw thus finds his salvation in the warrior experience that precedes the elevation of the spirit.

The Outlaws opens with a quote by Franz Schauweker: “In life, blood and knowledge must agree. Then the spirit rises.” That is the entire lesson of the work, which contrasts knowledge and experience and concludes by discovering that these two opposites inevitably attract. Then a question is posed: must we let these two attractions cancel each other, striking and destroying each other, and the one who experiences them as well; or must the tension be resolved in creation and thought.

A lover distraught by a Germany in tatters, spurned by history at the twilight of the First World War in which he was too young to participate, Ernst von Salomon embodied the Revolutionary Conservative passion in action when he chose to participate within the Freikorps in order to continue the fight. But if Dominique Venner could describe this mythic epic as a nihilistic adventure, the irrational stubbornness of Salomon appeared as an authentic quest for meaning which he pursued throughout his entire journey as warrior and then militant. Despite the surrounding disarray and the lack of purpose from which some hot heads seemed to suffer, the dropout Salomon always expressed the instinct to reconquer a cherished nation. In his eyes, only revolution could return Germany’s former splendor, which he had been taught to die for.

The Troubled Revolutionary

Ernst von Salomon was just 16 years old when the armistice was signed on November 11th 1918, an age of razor sharp follies, ideas, and passions which prevent resignation. If confusion is the first feeling that the author confesses at the start of The Outlaws, hope soon follows and it’s this permanent tension between these two contrary inclinations that creates the relentless struggle between reason and life. As the life of the author, at the start of his work, seems to only sustain the pursuit of his ideal, which he doubtlessly already perceived as a mirage even though he refused to abandon it. Thus he admits: “We were ready to act under the impulse of our feelings alone; and it didn’t matter if we could prove the righteousness of our acts. The accomplishment of the act is what matters these days.” It’s not reason, it’s not ideas that guide the enamored lover of Germany, vexed by a humiliating peace, but a sentimental rage that he cannot control. Thus the revolutionary instinct arises, the essentially destructive instinct whose sole objective is to overthrow the established order, including the internal, spiritual, and moral order of the one guided by it. He challenges the world by challenging himself to test himself before pretending to know.

Movement before anything else, action from every angle appeared as the only way of salvation, the sole conviction of this frustrated generation was that nothing good could arise in the era of parliamentarianism and the ruling bourgeoisie. Maybe he doesn’t understand it yet, but what matters is the struggle against the immobility of systematic thought, whether liberal or Marxist. And if we speak of salvation, it doesn’t solely mean collective salvation through the restoration of German grandeur. War, then defeat and the conditions of the peace are morally destroyed the individual as well. So movement is the condition for the survival of everyone, a vital attempt to rediscover meaning: “In the attack we hope to find deliverance, a supreme exaltation of our forces; we hope to be firm in the conviction of being up to our destiny, we hope to feel the true values of the world in us. We march, nourished by no other certitudes than those that could be worthy for our country.” Lines that join those from Battle as an Inner Experience by Ernst Jünger and show the extent of the spirit of revenge that motivated and shaped warrior instead of soldiers, free men rather than replaceable parts.

It’s the expression of an impatient folly, a lover’s folly. Refusing immobility, ceaselessly putting oneself in peril as one questions himself, is the sign that the nationalist revolution rejects the Platonic love of an idea. Because the beloved nation has been lost, it should be conquered again, by occupying the borders, not by seducing it. Yet a moment comes where action no longer suffices to nourish hope. Exalted violence can destroy the one who endures it and the once who exercises it alike. The author avows, “We have ignited a pyre that not only burns inanimate objects, it burns our hopes, our aspirations, but also the laws of the bourgeoisie, the values of the civilized world, it burns everything, the last remnants of the vocabulary and beliefs in the things and ideas of this time, all this dusty junk that still lingered in our hearts.” The ideal annihilates, the idealist tends towards nihilism. Fate is increasingly obvious, obligating the warrior to reconsider his aspirations, or to die from having used up all that resided in his heart. In order to survive, it is necessary to project a new ideal, to cut an alternative from the tarnished banner that one brandishes without believing in it. Movement becomes an empty shell that demands only to be filled by a production of the spirit, experience is useless without knowledge. It is no longer a question of moving to survive, but of knowing how to move, towards what goal. Then, revolutionary passion, remembering that it was born from reaction, proposes an audacious conservative goal.

Intellectual and Violent: The Outpouring of the Spirit

The permanent tangle of individual and collective considerations in the work creates the perfect psychological portrait of the revolutionary, of the militant in the strict sense (ie military methods). But in the political struggle of the immediate after war era, the young Ernst von Salomon firstly revealed himself to himself, intellectual and violent, rather than advancing an idea. From the start, the political will of the author and his accomplices was at best a quest, a will to find points of reference in the fog of the surrounding crisis, more than a real inclination. But if simple reflection was not the beginning of this quest, it’s a sign that the German ideal of the nascent Conservative Revolution was not purely philosophical. It was more encompassing, more total: it’s a “worldview” (Weltanschauung), certainly impregnated with philosophy, guided by intellect, but also concretely experienced, visceral. This worldview nourishes will as much as thought and expresses itself sentimentally in lyrical, dreamlike, suggestive, or allegorical terms that defy jargon and rationalist concepts. The emblematic style of the German Conservative Revolution that we find in the prose of Ernst Jünger or Carl Schmitt aims to suggest, touch, project rather than simply expose. The outlaw that Salomon embodies is not a man of the drawing room. With him, experience comes before knowledge. The young man’s feelings precede his intellectual formation and metapolitical consciousness. It’s only through writing that he seeks the truth of eternal values in the extremes of lived experience, in order to transform experience into knowledge. Thus the work takes its meaning in order to raise it to another level, to raise it to the rank of a tool accessible to all.

Here one finds a magnificent expression of the paradox of Revolutionary Conservative thought, modern among the anti-moderns in that it proposes to turn modernity against itself, but also and especially in that it can seem to accord priority to action, the driving impulse comes from the domain of the senses, and not from the domain of ideas. What is not experienced is only bourgeois equivocation, as one of Ernst von Salomon’s comrades says about a book by Walter Rathenau – assassinated with the complicity of our author by Organization Consul- entitled In Days To Come, inspiring this terse comment: “So many sparks and so little dynamite.” Salomon himself admits to feeling shipwrecked, when he swears with spite that the considerations of high politics have made the Freikorps useful idiots in the service of foreign interests. And the will to act towards and against everything in a permanent headlong rush only seems to spare those who, like von Salomon, are capable of sublimating action into thought and extracting a little truth from it, clarifying a worldview, proposing a goal. Revolutionary folly, the irrational and anarchic impulse, channeled like so, moderated by conservative instinct, calls for a much greater wisdom and an indispensable effort of conceptualization.

But Salomon would not find this equilibrium, though he had the intuition, until his release from prison. Still too fevered, too extreme in his will to act at any price, until the crime, until a damnation that he didn’t even seem to fear. The outlaws were the outcasts thrown into the arms of the devil by the blows of history, exclusion would destroy the weakest of them, and reinforce the others in a besieged citadel. A bit before his death, more than 40 years after the publication of the Outlaws, he confessed to having really questioned the meaning of his action during his second imprisonment, after which he fully espoused the Conservative Revolutionary Movement by initiating the “revolution of the spirit,” already mentioned and presented in his work in embryonic form. Namely a task of redefining concepts, like the French encyclopédistes of the 18th century, presumed precursors of the French Revolution. But as if the tension between knowledge and experience was fundamentally insurmountable, history would confront this task, this knowledge, with the experience of politics and cause to it languish through the ideological and political deviation of National-Socialism.

Source: https://philitt.fr/2016/10/07/ernst-von-salomon-revolutionnaire-conservateur-amoureux/

Considerations on Optimism and Pessimism in Politics – Georges Sorel

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“In politics, the optimist is an unreliable or even dangerous man, because he doesn’t take the great difficulties that his projects present into account; they seem to possess a self confidence leading them to the effortless realization that they are destined, in their mind, to produce more happiness.”

To him, little reforms, made through constitutional policy and especially by governmental staff, seem sufficient to guide the social movement in such a way to lessen what frightens sensitive souls in the contemporary world. Since his friends are in power, he declares that we must let them have a free hand in things, that we must not rush, and content ourselves with what their good will suggests; it is not always solely self interest that dictates his satisfied words; as often believed: self interest is strongly aided by self-love and insipid philosophical illusions. The optimist passes from revolutionary anger to the most ridiculous social pacifism with remarkable ease.

If he has an impassioned temperament and if, unfortunately, he finds himself armed with power, permitting him to realize a ideal that he has forged, the optimist can lead his country to the worst catastrophes. Actually, he soon realizes that social transformations don’t happen as easily as he expected; he brings his woes to his contemporaries, instead of explaining the progression of things through historical necessity; he tries to make the people whose ill will seems dangerous to him disappear for the good of all. During the Terror, the men who caused the most bloodshed were those who had the strongest desire to make their countrymen realize the golden age they dreamed of, who had the most sympathy for human misery: optimists, idealists, sensitive people, they proved themselves to be all the more implacable because they had a greater thirst for universal happiness.

Pessimism is an entirely different thing than what the caricatures most often present it as: it’s a metaphysics of mores rather than a theory of the world; it’s a concept of a route towards deliverance strictly linked to: on one hand, experimental knowledge that we have acquired from the obstacles that oppose the satisfaction of our imaginations (or, if one wants, linked to the feeling of social determinism), – on the other hand, to the deep conviction of our natural weakness. We must never separate these three aspects of pessimism, although their close connection is hardly taken into account in practice.

1 – The name pessimism derives from the fact that the complaints made by the great ancient poets on the subject of the miseries that constantly threaten man made a great impression on historians of literature. There are few people to whom good luck has never presented itself at least once; but we are surrounded by harmful forces that are always ready to emerge from ambush, in order to fall upon us and crush us; hence very real suffering arises which provokes the sympathy of nearly all men, even those who have been treated favorably by fortune; moreover sorrowful literature has been successful across nearly all of history. But one would only have a very imperfect idea of pessimism by taking this type of literary production into consideration; in general, in order to appreciate a doctrine, it doesn’t suffice to study it in an abstract manner, nor among isolated personalities, one must research how it manifests in historical groups; thus we are lead to add the two elements mentioned above.

2 – The pessimist sees social conditions as forming a system bound by an established truth given in full, imposed by necessity, which would only disappear through a catastrophe that sweeps it away entirely. So it would be absurd, when we accept this theory, to make a few evil men bear responsibility for the evils from which society suffers; the pessimist doesn’t have any of the sanguinary follies of the optimist, distraught by the unforeseen resistance his projects encounter; he doesn’t contemplate creating happiness for future generations by butchering the selfish today.

3 – The way of conceiving the route to deliverance is the most profound thing in pessimism. Man would not endure the test, either from the laws of misery or fate, which shock our naive pride so much, if he didn’t have the hope of overcoming these tyrannies through an effort that he would attempt with a group of companions. The Christians would not have reasoned so much about original sin if they didn’t feel the need to justify deliverance (which must result from Jesus’ death), by supposing that this sacrifice had been made necessary by an appalling crime attributable to humanity. If the Western Christians were much more concerned with original sin than the Eastern Christians, that is not due to the influence Roman law alone, as Taine thought, but also to the fact that the Latins had a more elevated feeling of imperial majesty than the Greeks, considering the sacrifice of God’s Son as the realization of an extraordinarily marvelous deliverance; hence the necessity of deepening the mysteries of human misery and destiny.

Source: http://www.voxnr.com/841/considerations-loptimisme-pessimisme-politique-georges-sorel

Michel Clouscard, The Capitalism of Seduction – Rébellion 46 – February 2011

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At the end of the 1970s, Michel Clouscard debuted an analysis of the phenomena arising from triumphant liberalism. His approach was clearly a response to the PCF’s (then locked into a dogmatic “orthodoxy”) lack of comprehension regarding mutating capitalist society. Faced with serious leftist ideological drifting after Mai 68, he proposed updating theory and revolutionary strategies by taking the mutation of the dominant system into account.

That lead him to unearth the root of what he named “the capitalism of seduction.” He makes it the heart of capitalism’s praxis, that is to say the whole of the dominant class’ maneuvers to transform social relations and expel the class struggle from history. The discourse of seduction rests on the destruction of Being by seeming, of Truth by representation, of Intelligence by conditioning. Reinforcing the already existing exploitation and alienation in capitalism, it even destroys the consciousness of the working classes.

A Genealogy of the Transformation of French Society

In the work of Michel Clouscard, and especially in “The Capitalism of Seduction,” we find a complete critical review of post 1968 society. Aymeric Monville recalls the context this book was written in: “At the time where ‘The Capitalism of Seduction’ was released for the first time, in 1981 from Editions Sociales, this decryption of this new society’s initiatic rituals (pinball, jukebox, posters, jeans, long hair, hash, motorcycles, rock) seemed like an event. Structuralism had barely emerged and the ‘human sciences’ only seemed interested in the (otherwise exciting) initiatic rituals of the Bororos [Translator’s Note: A Brazilian tribe] If it suited some to update a few of these rituals, on the other hand, let us admit that the Zeitgeist, the collective unconsciousness, had not changed. At best, the spectrum of ‘protesting innocence’ had expanded.”

Through this exercise in the anthropology of mores, he showed that the pseudo-rebel postures of the bourgeois youth had become included in a global system. They are initiation rites into the consumer society that “libertarian liberalism” had established to assure the reproduction of the capitalist model. I must desire what everyone desires, normality reached through the integration of the false values of merchant society.

Michel Clouscard traces the origin of the Capitalism of Seduction to the Marshall Plan. This plan to aid reconstruction was a “gift” to Europe made through the economic force of the United States at the start of the Cold War France, after Great Britain, was the principal beneficiary of this totally disinterested manna from heaven.

The penetration of the American model was the start of the death of old traditional French society. The working classes, peasants and workers alike, put thrifty and rigorous values into practice, the basis of a strong communitarian consciousness, “the alliance of an ethic of necessity and a morality of thrift.” But the openness to the American economic and cultural model would overwhelm this society with the complicity of the national bourgeoisie. Michel Clouscard didn’t idealize this society of necessity, but he thought that socialism could inherit values from it.

The conquest of French consciousness was rapid, consumer society predicated the disappearance of traditional values. They were replaced by frivolity and mercantile attitudes. At the start of the 1960s, this marginal cultural model of ludic, libidinal consumption tended to become the model of the elements who were the least involved in the life of traditional society: youth and women. Note that it was not antipathy towards the youth or latent misogyny that lead Michel Clouscard to make this observation, but a study of the social structures of the era and the processes of production.

On the contrary, capitalism gave birth to a new category with veritable ferocity: parasitic non-productive jobs (a large category extending from the false artists of “modern art” to the intellectual sell-outs to the system, passing through publicists and other dealers).

The Reign of the Savage Beast

With Mai 68, the culture of seduction, selective and marginal until then, would stretch to cover global society. The sociologist then mentions the role of libertarian-liberalism in breaking down the last moral and cultural locks against the capitalist tidal wave.

According to Clouscard, “libertarian-liberalism” is not libertarian for everyone all the time. On the contrary, it’s a strategy that permits the reciprocal begetting of the permissive and the repressive, putting in place a system that presents itself, as Clouscard said, with the elliptical thoroughness that we often find in his prose, as “permissive regarding the consumer and repressive regarding the producer” (A. Monville).

In appearance, capitalism is the system that offers greatest chance to satiate ones’ basest passions. Impulses of every type are exalted by the ideology of “always more.” Henceforth, in the field of merchandise, every desire must be immediately satisfied as a need, through possession. Desire is placed on the level of vital needs. We exist according to what we consume and not through what we construct ourselves. The experience of a relationship to another is enclosed in the desire to possess the same attributes of success and individual performance. The dynamic of desire is manipulated in the service of capital’s development.

This social process aims for the atomization of the social body, which would be the end of the Political, everything will be available to the market of desire. Michel Clouscard wrote, “The savage beast, unbridled and insatiable, is the image chosen by Hegel to designate civil society when it’s merely a marketplace, when the hegemony of liberalism of liberalism (or neo-liberalism) is realized … Then capitalist conditioning becomes all powerful…”

Social classes must experience a break with their origins, with the historical culture that begot them. This rupture must be forgotten. Thus an increasing availability to other values appears and permits their integration into the system. The negation of the reality of class struggle is the priority of capitalism, it allows the negative consequences of its domination to be denied.

Capitalism leads to “the impoverishment of history.” Michel Clouscard remarks that “crisis has become a strategy for the management of crisis.” Society is perfectly frozen and blocked, “The more it rots, the better it holds! This stalemate that no longer allows any momentum is the impoverishment of history.” Society falls into depression and the individual closes up on himself. “Everything is permitted, but nothing is possible. The harsh reality of prohibition in crisis follows the permissiveness of mass consumption,” he wrote at the start of “Trentes calamiteuses” [Translator’s note: referring to the 30 years of stagnation following the economic boom of “Trentes glorieuses” of the post-World War 2 era].

Mad Love Against Every Simulacrum of Capitalism

How to escape this blocked situation? Michel Clouscard responds that it’s necessary to return to fundamentals. At the end of his life, he reaffirmed the importance of re-founding a collective destiny. “I defend the organic essence as such of this social body. It’s the substance of the state. It belongs to history and not to some survival instinct inspired by nature, collective interests transcend local divisions in the face of a common external peril … It already acts to combat the moral peril created trough the collaboration of internal reaction and external imperialism.” Faced with the globalization of capital, he affirms the necessity of the idea of the nation in a clearly revolutionary sense, “The state was the super-structural instance of capitalist repression. That’s why Marx denounces it. But today, with globalization, it’s totally the opposite. While the nation state could be the means of oppression of one class by another, it became the means to resist globalization. It’s a dialectical game.”

He also endeavored to respond to the Capitalism of Seduction with a much stronger notion. His “Treatise on Mad Love” address the myth of Tristan and Yseult at length. In its medieval and Wagnerian versions, it would be a response to the evil that devours our society. For him, the interpretation of the myth reprises the Platonic conception of love. The Platonic reminiscence – that of lost unity, the reconciliation of opposites – is also the recognition of the Other, and the support, the means of looking forward, of the couple’s journey. Love is made from these tender moments which cannot be separated: retrospection and looking forward, attachment to the past and the quest for the future, obsession and seeking.

The transient agitation of desire is not love, it only leads to frustration. It’s only a simulacrum of souls eaten down by the spirit of the era. A quest towards the void that only leads to depression.

Michel Clouscard revisits the importance of this double anchoring in the ideal and reality that love offers. In Greek mythology, “Love visits Aphrodite in the day and spends the night with Psyche. Sharing the body and soul: structure. Libertarian liberalism tramples on what the human consciousness produces, its intimate debates, its freedom. Transgressive consumption erodes the Psyche. I propose conjugal life and the Psyche as a progressive foundation. They are the two loves of man, and his great grief, the double pursuit of the Eternal Feminine.”

Who was Michel Clouscard?

He was born in 1928, in a very modest peasant family from Tarn. “He crystallizes the course of a worker’s world, which, by seizing the means of intellectual expression, accesses consciousness for itself,” writes Aymeric Monville, who continues the re-edition of his principal works with éditions Delga.

After his philosophy studies (his thesis director was Henri Lefeuvre), he became the professor of sociology at the University of Poitiers from 1975 to 1990. From the start of the 1970s, Michel Clouscard developed a critique of “liberal-libertarian” capitalism and social-democracy. He proposed the ‘de-dogmatization’ of Marxism, without abandoning the theoretical work of Marx: “we must update the sociological schema of the class struggle, reconstitute the terms of the workers’ economic oppression in the context of the mode of serial production, analyze the anthropological and political-cultural mediation of the passage from use value to exchange value, address the social initiations to capitalist civilization, challenge theoretical subjectivism or economism in order to allow for a joint analysis of the market of desire and the new exploitation.”

Close to the Parti Communiste Français, he refused its reformist orientation in a radical manner: “We must change strategy and philosophy. No longer ape the PS and the third way. We must be those who endure, proposing serious issues. That’s what people expect. When I saw them have a fiesta at the Central Committee (Prada and others), I found that derisory. Communism means taking charge of the world’s misfortunes, without pathos. We aren’t here for conviviality. That’s what Jack Lang is for. What we must do, is to rediscover praxis. We must reshape a world where ‘action will be the sister of dreams’, to cite Baudelaire. To make an alliance between Prometheus and Psyche. The adversaries of Marxism have gotten a grip on psyche; we must take it back from them.” Retiring to Gaillac, Michel Clouscard passed away on February 21st 2009.

Published in Rébellion 46 (February 2011)

Source: http://rebellion-sre.fr/michel-clouscard/

Neo-Nationalism and the “Neue Rechte” in West Germany from 1946 to 1988 – Robert Steuckers – Vouloir n°45/46, 1988.

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A critical reading of : Margret FEIT, Die “Neue Rechte” in der Bundesrepublik : Organisation – Ideologie – Strategie, Campus, Frankfurt a.M., 1987, 242 p.

To place the German “New Right” under the magnifying glass is not an easy thing; firstly because term was neither used nor claimed by the men and groups that journalists arbitrarily pigeonholed under this label. Actually, the term “Neue Rechte” is a creation of journalists, a lazy verbal convenience that designates attempts at ideological and practical innovation which occurred in the “nationalist” camp in West Germany. Recently, Margret Feit tried to investigate this rarefied world and released a book, a dense 244 pages abounding with useful information, but, alas, also incongruous commentary and erroneous simplifications.

The reason for these derailments is simple: M. Feit is a professional anti-fascist militant, one of these Don Quixotes who, forty years after the spectacular collapse of Hitler’s Reich, spends their time harassing increasingly antiquated phantoms. But the variant of her Don Quixotism diverges a bit from that of her Francophone colleagues in the vein of Article 31 (Paris) or Celsius (Brussels); who get completely befuddled, fabricating incredible plots where we see, for example, the Belgian Justice Minister Jean Gol, liberal and Israeli, plan the emergence of a gigantic paramilitary network with the former leader of the movement Jeune Europe, Jean Thiriart, and a representative of Zaire’s president, Mobutu Sese Seko in the backroom of a Brussels restaurant! M. Feit doesn’t take the joke that far.

Why Read This Book

If the “who’s who” of Article 31, Celsius, their Flemish buddy who rages in Morgen and the no less unerring Maurice Sarfatti, alias Serge Dumont, scribbler at Vif / L’Express, whose colleagues privately scoff at him, politely saying, “he’s still a big adolescent…”, all sink into charming fantasy, the incurable childishness from son to father of the Golden Sixties, M. Feit accomplishes a more serious task; she’s from the masochist variant, which (poorly) stalks its own phantoms but also collects authentic documents in order to denounce, what she believes to be, a veritable network, infested with wickedness and ready leap upon poor democracy like the wolf does to the tender little lamb in the fables. But Dame Feit is an archivist, she cites her sources and that’s why her book is noteworthy, even if it doesn’t contain an index and the outline of its chapters, which intends to be an analysis of the intellectual content of the “Neue Rechte”, is purely and simply taken from the useful and well written book published in 1975 from the pen of Günter Bartsch (1).

It’s worth more than a note if we rid ourselves of her fantasies, which return to every paragraph at a full gallop, in order to be constantly repelled by the terrible energy displayed by M. Feit’s quasi-neurotic desire to acquire a shred of scientific respectability. Let us therefore consider that this book has a certain value, which remains hidden behind an undergrowth of fantasies, and one must know how to read it with the dexterity of a professional pathfinder.

The Nationalist Camp Before the Advent of the “Neue Rechte”

In 1946, the DReP (Deutsche Rechts-Partei ; German Right Party) appeared, a fusion of the DKoP (Deutsche Konservative Partei) and the DAP (Deutsche Aufbau-Partei ; German Reconstruction Party), two groups formed in 1945. The DReP, lead by Fritz Dorls and Fritz Rößler, was too heterogeneous to endure; the conservative wing separated from the socialist wing which, with two party leaders, formed the SRP (Sozialistische Reichs-Partei) in 1949. In October 1952, the government banned this party, under the pressure of the allies, who were disturbed because it demonstrated a certain dynamism (1951: 11% of the vote in Basse-Saxe and 16 seats). The party was opposed to the pro-Western policy of Adenauer, fighting for a unified neutral Germany and seriously competing with the “left” thanks to its audacious social program. M. Feit doesn’t utter a word about this resolutely non-right-wing engagement … The ban forced its militants to change their symbols and modify their style of propaganda. The DRP (Deutsche Reichs-Partei) would take over from it, again registering a certain success in Basse-Saxe (8.1%, more than the liberals from the FDP). However economic recovery played in favor of the confessional parties and the SPD.

From Statist Nationalism to Plebiscitary Nationalism and “Basisdemokratisch”

Following the failure and ban of the SRP and the stagnation of the DRP, nationalist milieus turned upon themselves. The most audacious rejected all forms of pro-Occidentalism and chose neutralism or a German form of Gaullism. But the criticisms essentially focused on the relics of Bismarckian statism passed on by the “old nationalist” leaders of the SRP and DRP. The organizational nucleus of this hostile revision to centralizing statism was the DG (Deutsche Gemeinschaft ; German Community) of August Haußleiter, who came from the Bavarian CSU. This DG was nationalist, neutralist and anti-liberal, in the sense intended by the principal protagonists of the Weimar era “konservative Revolution.” This group aspired to legitimize the state on the basis of popular will, the generator of popular harmony and conviviality, not on the power of the party that won the elections. From the start, with such a program declared for the 2 German republics and Austria, the militants of the DG took the side of colonized peoples fighting to acquire independence (Nasserist Egypt, the Algerian FLN, etc) as these fights were aligned with the German will to gain self-determination.

In May 1965, while the remnants of the DRP reassembled with a new formation, the NPD (National-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands), founded in November 1964, the DG, with the DFP (Deutsche Freiheits-Partei ; German Freedom Party) and the VDNV (Vereinigung Deutsche National-Versammlung ; Association for A German-National Rally), evolved into the AUD (Aktionsgemeinschaft Unabhängiger Deutsche ; Action Community of German Independents). A divide arose immediately: the old, statist nationalists found themselves in the NPD, while the left wing of the nationalists, with its principal intellectuals, found themselves in the AUS.

From the AUD to the Opening to Left Wing Movements and Ecologism

We note that the VDNV counted Wolf Schenke, founder of a “third way” concept and a partisan of neutrality, and the historian Wolfgang Venohr (cf. Orientations n°3), in its ranks. The AUD, faithful to its populist and organic will and its refusal of the old statist and quasi-fascist formulas, opened itself to the leftist APO (Außerparlamentarische Opposition ; Extra-parliamentary Opposition) and made a number of pacifist and neo-democratic (whose objective is the erection of a democracy beyond parties and traditional ideological family) arguments. The negotiations with the APO would fail (although many leaders of the APO and the SDS, its student organization, would find themselves in the neo-nationalist camp in the 1980s) and the militants of the AUD would establish ecological circles, in the name of an organic ideology, a very romantic and Germanic tradition: the protection of Life (Lebensschutz). Many of its militants would create, with the most left wing elements, the famous “Green Party” that we know today.

The Strasserists: “Third Way,” European Solidarism

The Strasserists, grouped around Otto Strasser, constituted a supplementary component of neo-nationalism after 1945. After the collapse of the Third Reich, Otto Strasser, then in Canadian exile, sent Rundbriefe für Deutschlands Erneuerung (Circulars for German Renewal) to his sympathizers in mass quantities. These circulars mentioned German unification on the basis of a “European third way,” centered around a solidarism that dismissed both Western liberal capitalism and Soviet style socialism. This solidarism would abolish class distinction, by forming a new leading elite. German unity, as seen by Strasser, implied armed neutralism, the future military nucleus of an independent Europe that should become an equal, if not superior, political power to the USA and USSR. This Europe would ally with the Third World, as Third World countries would furnish raw materials to the “European Federation” during its gestation.

In order to support and spread this program, the West German Strasserists founded the DSU (Deutsche Soziale Union) in 1954. Many national-revolutionary militants made their first commitments there, notably Henning Eichberg between 1956 and 1959. In 1961, he passed to the VDNV of Venohr and Schenke (cf. supra). This passage implied an abandonment of the neo-Strasserists’ statism and centralism and an adherence to populist democracy, which the AUD championed.

Worker’s Self Management and the Nationalism of Liberation

In this same movement, the “Vötokalisten” grouped around E. Kliese appeared. This political circle elaborated an new theory of worker’s self-management, derived from the principles of “German socialism” (cf. Orientations n°7 and Trasgressioni n°4), the only true revision of Marxism in this century. This theory of worker’s self-management formed the nucleus of the social doctrine of the UAP (Unabhängige Arbeiter Partei), another group created at the start of the 1960s which desired to be “the combat group for a libertarian and democratic socialism of the German nation.” Vötokalisten and the militants of UAP laid claim to Ferdinand Lassalle, founder of German social democracy and admirer of Bismarck’s work. Here the French reader will note how close social democracy is to the different variants of German neo-nationalism.

This German socialism, with Lassallian connotations, opposed the NPD, judged to be excessively right wing, as much as the communists and the SPD, judged to be traitors to the socialist ideal. An important personality appeared in this movement: Wolfgang Strauss, former militant from the East German Liberal Party (LDPD) and former convict in Vorkuta. Strauss was the advocate of a popular socialism and a nationalism of liberation, whose model was derived from the Ukrainian resistance, Russian solidarism, and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, among others. In this view, nationalism is conceived as the emotional yeast that gives rise to a socialism close to the people, resolutely anti-imperialist, hostile to large scale entities, ethno-pluralist.

The Decline of the NPD

Despite a few initial successes in the Länder elections, the NPD never surpassed the score of 4.3% (in 1969) for the federal vote. The party was divided between idealists and opportunists, while the movement for democratic, neo-socialist and proto-ecological nationalism attracted more intellectuals and students. This sociological stratification effectively lead to the principal ideological innovations of German neo-nationalism on the eve of the agitations of 68. If one is interested in this constant germination rather than fixed structures, an analysis of the student organizations that were created on the margins of the NPD (and often in direct opposition to it) will be very useful.

Many initiatives happened in quick succession in the academic world. Among them, the BNS (Bund Nationaler Studenten ; National Student’s League) in 1956, on the impetus of Peter Dehoust, currently the director of the magazine Nation Europa (Coburg). Dehoust and his companions wanted to base the political combat of the nationalists on an engagement in the domain of culture from every angle, which, in the German political language, calls for the start of a new Kulturkampf. The disciplines favored by this “Kulturkampf” were of course history and biopolitics. The BNS assuredly constituted a well conceived organizational model, but its ideological message was, in many aspects, more conservative than the program and the intentions of the DG, which later became the AUD.

The organizations that took over in the 1960s, between the development of the NPD and the agitation of 67-68, were more faithful to revolutionary populism and quite hostile to the last strains of statism. In October 1964, Sven Thomas Frank, Bodo Blum and Fred Mohlau founded the IDJ (Initiative der Jugend ; Youth Initiative) in Berlin, which in 1968, would merge with a few other militant organizations to form the APM (Außerparlamentarische Mitarbeit ; Extra-Parliamentary Cooperation); this new initiative was clearly modeled on the leftist APO (Außerparlamentarische Opposition). The APM aimed to bring together, with the nationalists, those who didn’t renounce the idea of German reunification, and who hadn’t stopped considering Berlin to be the sole capital of all Germany.

Rudi Dutschke and Bernd Rabehl Slide Towards A Form of Nationalism

Günther Bartsch relevantly underlines, contrary to M. Feit, that, despite the initial divide caused by the national question, all the student groups, leftists as well as nationalists, slid towards a new, militant nationalism of protest. Bartsch recalls that the 2 leftist leaders in Berlin in 68, Rudi Dutschke and Bernd Rabehl, didn’t raise the stale equation: “nationalism = fascism” at all. On the contrary, quite early on, Rabehl insisted that nationalist motivations had played a first rank role in the French, Russian, Yugoslav, and Chinese Revolutions in many theoretical texts.

According to Rabehl, nationalism dialectically receives a progressive utility; it catalyzes the process of history and provokes the acceleration of class conflicts, from which socialist revolutions unfold. National ideology can give a unifying discourse to the different components of the working class. Rabehl continues, on the global scale, a German neo-nationalism, carried by the working class, can undermine the American-Soviet condominium, the embodiment of reaction and stagnation in the 20th century, just like the “Metternich system,” arising from the Congress of Vienna, was at the start of the 19th.

Dutschke, with all his charisma, supported this slide initiated by his comrade Rabehl. He even went further: he wrote that in the 20th century Germany had experienced 3 forms of revolutionary worker’s socialism: the socialist SPD, the communist KPD, and … Hitler’s NSDAP (which he nevertheless criticized for certain compromises and diplomatic orientations). This (very) partial rehabilitation of the historic role of the NSDAP shows that Manichean anti-fascism, which rages today, no longer dominated the discourse among the serious leftist theorists of the 1960s. Margret Feit evidently doesn’t utter a word about this slide towards nationalism and dogmatically avoids looking into the theoretical value of this common argument of the “New Left” and the “New Right.” Bartsch notes that the militants of the left and the young nationalists had a good number of shared ideas, notably:

  • The refusal of the establishment
  • Criticism of consumer society
  • Hostility to media manipulations
  • The refusal of hyper-specialization
  • An anti-technocratic attitude with ecological connotations
  • Anti-capitalism and the will to form a new socialism
  • The myth of the revivifying youth
  • An anti-bourgeois attitude where Marxism and Nietzscheanism closely mingle
  • The will to question absolutely everything

Why didn’t nationalists and leftists march together against the system, if their positions were so close? Bartsch thinks it’s because nationalists still conveyed the images and references of the past in an overly stereotypical manner, while the left wielded “critical theory” with a remarkable dexterity and benefited from the resounding impact of Marcuse’s book, The One-Dimensional Man, [cf. The critical analysis of M. Haar, L’Homme unidimensionnel, Hatier/Profil d’une œuvre, 1975]. The gap between their “styles” was still insurmountable.

Junges Forum” and “Junge Kritik” : a laboratory of ideas in Hamburg

The magazine Junges Forum, founded in 1964 in Hamburg, envisioned “laying the theoretical bases of a new thought” from the outset. The will that guided this intention, was motivated by the desire leave the strictly political ghetto, where it saw total stagnation regarding the recruitment of new militants, and suggest a new message to depoliticized citizens, capable of gaining their interest and rousing them from their torpor. Those who were named by M. Feit as the “head thinkers” of the “ Neue Rechte” published articles and manifestos in the columns of Junges Forum. Among them: Wolfgang Strauss, Lothar Penz, Hans Amhoff, Henning Eichberg and Fritz Joß. The themes addressed concerned: intellectual renewal, the search for a more satisfactory form of democracy, the elaboration of an organic socialism, German reunification, European unity, outlining an international order based on organic principles, ecology, regionalism, solidarism, etc.

In 1972, the editorial committee of the magazine published a 36 point manifesto, whose stated objective was to propose the basis for a popular and organic socialism, capable of constituting a coherent alternative to the dominant liberal and Marxist ideologies (the text, without notes, is reproduced in full in the appendix to Bartsch’s book). This manifesto exercised a relatively modest influence among us, notable in certain circles close to the Volksunie, among Flemish solidarists, regionalists, some neo-socialists and solidarists in Brussels, notably in the youth magazine Vecteurs (1981) which only published a single issue, where an adapted translation of the program of Junges Forum was reproduced, by Christian Lepetit, militant of the quasi-Maoist AIB (Anti-Imperialistische Bond ; Anti-Imperialist League). Robert Steuckers spread this message into the orbit of the magazine Pour une renaissance européenne, the organ of GRECE-Bruxelles, directed by Georges Hupin.

European Nationalism, The New Economic Order, Philosophy and Policy

In parallel with the magazine, a collection of paperback books appeared, under the title Junge Kritik. More than notebooks of Junges Forum, the treatises bound into the 3 volumes of Junge Kritik constituted the essential basis for a total revolution of nationalist thought at the dawn of the 1970s (the publication of the first 3 booklets extended from 1970 to 1973). Margret Feit, evidently not interested in the evolution of the ideas, prefers to fabricate a puzzle from real or imaginary connections to underpin her latest conspiracy theory.

Objectivity obliges us to directly refer to the texts. In Volume 1 (Nationalismus Heute; Nationalism Today), the young leaders Hartwig Singer (pseudonym of Henning Eichberg), Gert Waldmann and Michael Meinrad argued for a Europeanization of nationalism, and, consequently, for a liberation of our entire continent from American and Soviet tutelage. The revised nationalism would be progressive thenceforth because it would imply the liberation of our peoples from economic and political oppression, operating at two speeds (Western and Soviet), as the “dutschkistes” in Berlin had envisioned, not the conservation of dead structures (as the old liberal/ Marxist historiography suggests).

In the second volume of Junge Kritik, entitled Leistungsgemeinschaft (community of service), Meinrad, Joß and Bronner developed the economic program of neo-nationalism: solidarity of the working classes of all nations, ownership of means of production by all who worked, drastic limitation of capitalist concentrations of wealth. Hartwig Singer, for his part, published a Manifest Neue Rationalität (Manifesto for a new rationality), where the parallel with the efforts of Alain de Benoist at the same time is glaringly obvious. Singer and Benoist, in effect, wanted to launch an offensive against the essentialism of the dominant ideologies of the era, through the interpretation of Anglo-Saxon empiricism given by Français Louis Rougier. However, Singer also added the lessons of Marx, for whom all ideology conceals interests, and Max Weber, theorist of the process of rationalization in the West, to this empiricist and Rougierian message. Singer, writing in a German context totally more revolutionary than the Franco-Parisian context, struck by an overly literary anti-Marxism, dared to mobilize Marx, the hard realist, against the abstract and false Marx of the neo-moralists. Which allowed him to correct Rougier’s apolitical stance that lead to a socially respectable conservatism incapable of smashing the practical incoherence of the ambient liberalism of the West.

Neo-Nationalism is “Progressive”

In the third volume, which was entitled Europäischer Nationalismus ist Fortschritt (European Nationalism is Progress!), Meinrad, Waldmann, and Joß reiterated and completed their theses, while Singer, in his contribution (“Logischer Empirismus), accentuated the conceptual modernism of Junge Kritik; the proximity of its approach to Alain de Benoist’s in Nouvelle École from 1972-1973 appeared even more evident in the text Manifest Neue Rationalität. Singer not only cited Nouvelle École abundantly but encouraged his comrades to read Monod, Russell, Rougier, and Heisenberg, 4 authors studied by Nouvelle École. Singer added that, from this four way reading, it is possible to deduce a new type of socialism (Monod and Russell), neo-nationalism (Heisenberg), and a new “European consciousness” (Rougier). In effect, Rougier had demonstrated that the European spirit was the only spirit open to progress, capable of innovation and adaptation. European rationality, according to Rougier, Benoist, and Singer, largely transcended contemplative oriental ideas that the hippy vogue had injected into public opinion, in the wake of 68 and the protest against the American war in Vietnam. Neo-nationalism henceforth appeared progressive, open to modern sciences, just like it appeared progressive in the eyes of Dutschke and Rabehl because its energy could break the oppression represented by a macro-political alienation: the alienation established at Yalta.

This German-French philosophical pairing didn’t endure: a few years later, Éléments, the organ of GRECE and Alain de Benoist, attacked the ecological movement, which the Germans felt directly committed to. In the scheme of national defense, the French supported a national nuclear arms program, an approach that the Germans didn’t care about. It was only in 1982, when A. de Benoist decided completely in favor of German neutralism, that the respective positions of the Germans and the French joined together once again.

The Flemish Contribution

In Flanders, where Junges Forum had its most subscribers outside of Germany, the solidarism and regionalism of the Hamburg magazine had roused much interest, so much that a good number of Flemish (meta)political writers contributed to the effort of Junges Forum. We cite, in no particular order: Jos Vinks (Le nationalisme flamand, 1977 ; Le pacifisme du mouvement flamand, 1981; La langue afrikaans, 1987), Roeland Raes (Le régionalisme en Europe, 1979), Willy Cobbaut (L’alternative solidariste, 1981), Frans de Hoon (Approche positive de l’anarchisme, 1982), Piet Tommissen (Le concept de “métapolitique” chez Alain de Benoist, 1984), Robert Steuckers (Henri De Man, 1986). On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Belgian independence, in 1980, Jos Vinks, Edwin Truyens, Johan van Herreweghe and Pieter Moerman explained the historical roots and situation of the linguistic quarrel in Belgium, from the Flemish point of view. The French contribution was limited to a text by Alain de Benoist defining the “Nouvelle Droite” and an essay by Jacques Marlaud on the Gramscian theory of meta-politics and its practical application by the “Nouvelle Droite” in 1984.

One imagines what would have been a fusion of “dutschkisme”, neo-Europeanism, and Gramscian praxis in Europe – that’s what a few Francophone high school students in Brussels, grouped around Christian Lepetit and Éric Delaan, hoped for, before academic scattering and military service separated them … The furtive misadventure of Lepetit and Delaan deserves attention as it shows that neo-socialist and regionalist neo-nationalism, prefigured by the Germans, had the ability to seduce boys who militated in the Maoist anti-imperialist movement, then in full collapse, beyond Germany’s borders.

The National-Revolutionary “Basis Groups”

In parallel with the Junges Forum enterprise, which continues today and will celebrate 24 years in 1988, the German neo-nationalist movement constituted “basis groups” (Basisgruppen). The term came from the vocabulary of leftist protest. The student organizations of the left spilled over from the universities and invaded the high schools and factories. The emergence of the “basis groups” signified that, henceforth, there existed a national-revolutionary presence in all layers of society. This diversification implied a decentralization and relative autonomy of local groups who should be ready to intervene very quickly at any moment in their city, their high school, their factory, without needing to refer to a central body.

Agitation in Bochum

The strategy of the “basis group” demonstrated itself in the most spectacular fashion at the University of the Ruhr in Bochum. A group of neo-nationalist activists militated effectively there and founded a journal, the Ruhr-Studenten-Anzeiger. Around this militant newspaper, a Republikanischer Studentenbund (RSB ; League of Republican Students) organized in 1968, which aimed to become a counterweight to the leftist SDS. Conflict would soon follow: the militants of the RSB criticized the SDS for organizing pointless strikes in order to consolidate their power over the student masses. In the course of a blockade organized by the leftists, the RSB took the university of Bochum by storm and proclaimed, in a populist-Marxist language, their hostility to the “exploiters” and “bonzes” of the SDS, having become stakeholders in the new establishment, where leftists had henceforth been accorded a place. The proclamations of the RSB, drafted by Singer, were stuffed with citations from Lenin, Marx, and Mao. Singer also referred to the rhetoric of the German workers in Berlin against Ulbricht’s communist functionaries, during the June 1953 uprising. The revolting RSB students insulted the East German functionaries of the SED, calling them marionettes of the Soviets, “monkeys in glasses,” “fat cats,” and “paper-pushing reactionaries.” This appropriation of the Marxist vocabulary and style of Berlin Uprising of 1953 irritated the leftists as, ipso facto, they had lost the monopoly on militant shock-language and foresaw a possible intrusion of national-revolutionaries into their own milieus, with the evident risk of poaching and counter-attraction.

The scuffles of 1968 and the nationalists’ adoption of a language drawn from Marxist ideology, though surprising the SDS, hardly had an echo beyond the Ruhr and it was confronted with a conspiracy of silence. The RSB and the Ruhr-Studenten-Anzeiger disappeared, which didn’t necessarily entail the total disappearance of left-wing nationalist agitation in Bochum. Thus, at the start of the 1970s, the nationalists participated in left wing demonstrations against property speculation and rent increases and they appropriated the slogan of Trotskyite groups: “The division of Germany is the division of the German proletariat!” In itself, the adventure of the RBS is significant for the further evolution of German neo-nationalism (which M. Feit erroneously calls “Neue Rechte”), it marked its definitive transition to the left, its exit from the quasi-rightist microcosm in which it was encrusted, due to the existence of the NPD. The historical weakness and sterility of “rightism” were proclaimed there and the emphasis was resolutely placed on socialism, critical reasoning, militant atheism, and futurism.

Munich and Bielefeld

After Bochum, other “basis groups” were established and each developed its own originality. Thus in Munich, Wolfgang Strauss formed a committee of young workers, high school students, and students, whose objective was to give them militant culture based on literature and political science. Strauss named his group Club Symonenko, from the name of a Ukrainian poet, Wasyl Symonenko, who died in 1963, after enduring Soviet repression. This committee demanded the liberation of the Ukrainian historian Valentin Moro, organized soirees with the exiled Polish writer Zygmunt Jablonski and held rallies on June 17th, in memory of the Berlin Workers’ Uprising of 1953, distributed bilingual tracts in favor the IRA and founded a James Connolly “labor circle”, in honor of the militant union leader and Irish nationalist, who drew his arguments from Celtic mythology. Its German references were the poet Georg Büchner, founder of the Society for the Rights of Man in the 19th century, and the Romantic poet Theodor Körner, who fought with the Lützow Free Corps (referenced in the music of Weber) in order to drive the Bonapartist oppressor and his pillaging troops out of Germany. Strauss succeeded in laying the basis for an original political culture on the eve of the 1970s, drawing from the corpus of popular and libertarian Slavic and Celtic nationalist thought, and reawakening the enthusiasm of young Germans for their nationalist, libertarian, anarchist, and radically anti-bourgeois poets at the start of the 19th century. This corpus would be upheld as such in the columns of the magazine Wir Selbst, at the start of the 80s.

If in Sarre and North Rhine-Westphalia, the “basis groups” ended up choosing subservience to the NPD – which never stopped being problematic and causing grave ideological conflicts – in Bielefeld, the NJ-Stadtverband group (Urban Group of Nationalist Youth), close to the Berliners of the APM, managed to organize a modern agitation, with records of protest songs composed by Singer, and printed 4,500 copies of a paper, Wendepunkt! Never before seen! The editorial strategy was to gather a maximum of texts and dispatches, coming directly from the militants, and align them in the columns of the paper; other “basis groups” followed the same strategy, which allowed them to form a solid cadre, thanks to a good division of labor and a concentrated mass of militant dispatches. Militancy thus become lively and profitable.

Five Types of Action

Meinrad thought coordination between groups should extend to the national scale, and eliminate the right wing and outmoded NPD. Groups should number from 15 to 20 local activists self-financed from relatively high contributions, and regularly conduct 5 types of action, as Bartsch explains:

1 – Commemorations, notably of June 17th 1953 and August 13th 1961, the date the Berlin Wall was erected.

2 – Ecological actions: The group Junges Forum in Hamburg excelled there. It organized Bürgerinitiativen (Citizen’s Initiatives) against the construction of a highway in the middle of the city. In this perspective, nationalism meant protecting the natural integrity of the popular biotope.

3 – Social actions: They were essentially directed against property speculation, rent increases, and increases in the price of public transport. These actions also aimed to expose the irrationality of the functioning of the machinery of the state, which pretended to be a perfect democracy.

4 – Solidarity actions: they aimed to support Eastern European nationalist protests, as during the 1970s the West German neo-nationalist activists thought that German unity could only be realized through a major upheaval in Eastern Europe.

5 – Resistance actions: especially rowdy protests against the visit of East German personalities to the West in the framework of Wily Brandt’s Ostpolitik.

Towards Unity: The NRAO (Nationalrevolutionäre Aufbauorganisation)

The ensemble of “basis groups” didn’t form a party, structured in a rigid manner, but a dynamic movement that ceaselessly integrated new information and facts. Its non-rigidity and diversity set a contemporary tone and prevented all stagnation, any collapse into itself or into a fixed corpus of thought. Politics doesn’t only come into play during elections, or in furtive moments, but it constantly extends into and pervades daily life. Better: it is ingrained into the consciousness due to constant agitation, which means that each militant takes to heart the task of personally disciplining himself every day though reading newspapers and books, especially those written by his adversaries, which challenge his essential and untaught cultural references, in order to better understand the ideological divides that are articulated in the country.

In order to amplify the actions of these “basis groups” implanted in German cities and universities, many of figureheads of this neo-nationalist (or national-revolutionary) movement decided to create a “coordination organization” in March 1974, which took the name NRAO or Nationalrevolutionäre Aufbauorganisation (Organization for National-Revolutionary Development). Many meetings would be necessary to establish a common strategy. During the first, which took place on March 2nd and 3rd 1974 at Würzburg, three orators laid the bases for renewal: Alexander Epstein (alias Sven Thomas Frank), Lothar Penz and Hans Amhoff.

Epstein’s Speech

Epstein’s speech revealed, among other things, a willingness to fight “the enemies on the inside,” refusing ersatz Western European patriotism (integration into the European Community sold as a panacea by Adenauer’s friends), and to play the Chinese card against the two superpowers in international politics. In this manner, Epstein integrated the Maoist theory of “three worlds” into the national-revolutionary doctrinal corpus. Moreover, he proposed that the national-revolutionary movement was the only authentically national movement, because the East German SED and the West German DKP had sold out to the USSR, while the bourgeois parties, the SPD, FDP, and the CDU/ CSU were the guarantors of the American presence, despite the left wing of the SPD, favorable to a conciliatory Ostpolitik. In this scheme, the NPD placed itself to the right of the Bavarian CSU through its incurable rightism. Only the little Berlin Maoist microcosm, publisher of the prestigious magazine Befreiung, found favor with Epstein, who thus became the advocate of tacit and courteous cooperation between the Maoists and the national-revolutionaries.

Epstein, like Penz and Amhoff, thought that the strategy to follow couldn’t be clandestine or illegal in any way; as the national-revolutionaries were the only ones to claim the reunification of the country in a coherent fashion, their program conformed to the watchword inscribed in the preamble to the democratic constitution of West Germany, the watchword that asked the citizens to mobilize all their efforts to restore freedom and unity to Germany. Consequently, during this meeting in Würzburg, Penz articulated his “biohumanist” social vision and Amhoff explained his revised definition of modern national liberation, essentially anti-imperialist.

The Creation of Sache des Volkes”

The geographic dispersion of groups, the different styles of work that each one had, and some ideological divergences ensured that no centralism could coordinate the diversity proper to the national-revolutionary movement. On August 31st 1974, Epstein (S.T. Frank), Waldmann and Amhoff gathered a thousand national-revolutionary militants for new projects: to engage in ecological protest because the massacre of the countryside is the work of a rootless capitalism without a fatherland; outline a solidarist, rooted, popular socialism, in the style of the socialism adopted by the oppressed peoples of the third world; construct workers’ self-management in the Yugoslav style, etc. The movement Sache des Volkes (SdV; Cause of the People), which emerged from this meeting, intended to be a part of a diffuse global moment which fought against capitalism and Soviet state socialism everywhere in the world.

Hartwig would flesh out this double refusal, to which the French national-revolutionary militants also adhered (notably those in Lutte du Peuple and the Provençal militants of the CDPU), as well as the Italian and Belgians of Jeune Europe and its various incarnations. In the speech he sent to the congress of Sache de Volkes, which would be read to them, he reminded them it was elementary to refuse Moscow like Washington, but he also explained that it was necessary to take new facts into account: the principal enemy was no longer local, nationally based, capitalism but multinational capitalism which made US and Red Army its police throughout the world. Singer then designated a more precise, unique enemy: multinational capital, of which the classical imperialisms established at Yalta were only instruments. In this view, the policy of detente only aimed open markets in the East for Western multinational capitalism.

SdV expressed itself from 1978 to 1988 in the magazine Neue Zeit, which continues to be published in Berlin, while a series of pamphlets punctuated the militant life of the movement like Laser(Düsseldorf), Ideologie und Strategie, Rebell et Der Nationalrevolutionär in Vienna; the latter is still published under the direction of Helmut Müller. 

Solidaristische Volksbewegung (SVB)

While the youngest element of the national-revolutionary movement modeled their offensive strategy on the left’s, the Hamburg militants, gathered around the magazine Junges Forum and the figure of Lothar Penz, opted for a “solidarism” more positive than the critical, offensive, and revolutionary discourse of SdV. From this practical disagreement, a parallel movement was born, the Solidaristische Volksbewegung (Solidarist Folk Movement), whose press organ would be SOL. In 1980, the SVB became the BDS (Bund Deutscher Solidaristen ; League of German Solidarists), after having directed the ecological GLU (Grüne Liste Umweltschutz ; Green List for the Protection of the Environment). In January 1981, SOL merged with Neue Zeit, which became ipso facto the collective organ of SdV and BDS.

Wir Selbst” and the NRKA

At the start of the 80s the two groups lost their monopoly on the national-revolutionary press, due to the appearance of two new factors: the creation of the prestigious magazine Wir Selbst (Colbenz) by Siegfried Bublies, and the emergence of a new coordinating network, the NKRA (National-revolutionärer Koordinationsausschuß ; National Revolutionary Coordination Committee), supported by the magazine Aufbruch. Created in Düsseldorf in the wake of the magazine Laser, previously controlled by SdV, from the start, the NKRA wanted to break with Neue Zeit in order to address social questions in a more “progressive” perspective and further accentuate the national-revolutionary movement’s anti-capitalist critique.

This evolution arose from the fact that the new members of the Düsseldorf cell no longer came exclusively from the classical post-war neo-nationalist network, but often from Marxist-Leninism. These new elements intended to remain faithful to the “quintuple revolution” advocated by SdV in the manifesto in 1974. The quintuple revolution should operate on national, social, ecological, democratic, and cultural levels. The critique launched by the militants of the NKRA was the creation of the “second generation” of national-revolutionaries, whose recent militancy prevented them from falling back into the “errors” of right wing paleo-nationalism.

New phrases and concepts appeared, notably those of an autogestionary “democracy of councils” (Rätedemokratie) and a “disconnection” in the style of Albania and North Korea. There were also new figures who directed the circles and magazines of this “second generation”: H.J. Ackermann, S. Fadinger, P. Bahn, Armin Krebs (not to be confused with the Frenchman Pierre Krebs, who founded the magazine Elemente, the twin sister of GRECE’s magazine, Éléments).

At the end of 1979, the young nationalist activist Siegfried Bublies founded the magazine Wir Selbst (We Ourselves; the German translation of the Irish Gaelic Sinn Fein) where, very soon, the influence of Henning Eichberg (Hartwig Singer) would make itself felt. He would take up the pen again to demand, from the viewpoint of revolutionary restoration shared by the Greens, “basis democracy” (Basisdemokratie), cultural revolution, the establishment of a decentralized economic order, socialism with a human face (based on the theses of the Czech economist of “Prague Spring”, Ota Sik), an approach to life in accordance with ecology, and ethno-pluralism, the cornerstone of the anthropological vision of German neo-nationalism. Moreover, Bublies found a formulation that succinctly explained the meaning of its fight: Für nationale Identität und internationale Solidarität, that is to say for national identity and international solidarity. Thus Bublies sought to preserve the identities of all peoples and unite all those who fought for the preservation of their essence across the world, beyond ideological, racial, or religious divides.

Wir Selbst” : A Forum Noted For German Political Debates

But political-philosophical essays remained in the minority in the magazine, which rapidly became a forum for all who sought to address the German question, never resolved, in a new manner. Wir Selbst thus opened its columns to personalities who never belonged to the nationalist movement in the strict sense: the urbanist and ecologist Konrad Buchwald, the historian Helmut Diwald, the former high ranking East German official Wolfgang Seiffert, the television producer Wolfgang Venohr (formerly of the VDNV), the journalist Sebastian Haffner (an anti-Hitler emigre to New York during the war who returned to nationalism in the 1980s), the artist-provocateur Joseph Beuys (formerly of the AUD), professor Schweißfurth (influential member of the SPD), etc. More recently, the generals Löser and Kießling (cf. Vouloir n°30) addressed the problems of territorial defense and the reorganization of the armed forces in a democratic and populist perspective in the columns of Wir Selbst.

Bublies’ magazine, whose style and presentation were generally high quality, thus succeeded in positioning itself as a forum where men from various perspectives could freely debate. The year 1987 saw a slackening in the pace of publication, due to the fact that the magazine sought to give itself a definitive tone, which would be neither the activist militancy of SdV or a pale copy of Marxist militancy. As for the NRKA, it first evolved in to the NRKB ( NR-Koordinationsbüro; National-Revolutionary Coordination Bureau), before calling itself more simply, Politische Offensive. It is certain that the militants of the “second generation” of national-revolutionaries were torn between, on one hand a fidelity to the heritage of SdV, and on the other, a will to burn all bridges with the anti-Marxist “rightism” of national-revolutionaries in 1968. It seems that the “national-Marxists,” behind Stefan Fadinger, wanted to separate the “second generation” from traditional national-revolutionaries, grouped behind Markus Bauer, editor of Aufbruch. Other figures like Peter Bahn, Karlheinz Pröhuber and Werner Olles, preferred to remain neutral in this internal debate and expressed themselves in Wir Selbst.

The NR Movement Between Surfers and Militants

Twenty years after 68, militancy experienced a low tide across Europe, Guy Hocquenghem said that “Mao suits” were being recycled in Paris; Lévy and Glücksmann quickly denied their former commitments, etc. In Germany, the Marxist left experienced a real crisis, just like the national-revolutionaries. All the hyper-politicized movements had to face increasing de-politicization and the hemorrhaging of militants. Protest, the will to construct alternatives gave way to sunbathing and surfing, barricades gave way to the seductions of “sea, sex, and sun,” at least until the day where the stock market crash could no longer be avoided or stopped.

The national-revolutionaries and the Sixty-Eighter Marxists exploited a universe of values that, whether we want it to or no, remains immortal, even if that seems like a disturbing assumption today. That’s why global perspectives, which restore the guiding principles of a movement, are useful: they prepare the way for the next offensive which will inevitably happen.

Some Conclusions

The books of Günter Bartsch and M. Feit allow us to grasp the evolution of German neo-nationalism since 1945. They also allow us to identify the broad philosophical options of this political movement; which we’ll cite, in no particular order: a theory of scientific and Eurocentric knowledge (at least in the initial phase which valued European rationality and science, supplemented by logical empiricism and the works of Rougier, Monod and Heisenberg; the French and Germans shared the same concerns at this moment), biohumanism oscillating between organic / vitalist anthropology and biological materialism, ethno-pluralism, national and rooted socialism (the Irish model of James Connolly and Slavic populism), national liberation, and the idea of a European space.

A Heterogeneity that Margret Feit Doesn’t Want To Notice

The label “Neue Rechte” gives the impression that the German movements qualified as such by M. Feit are the twin brothers of the French “Nouvelle Droite.” Yet the serious researcher willnotice the heterogeneity of these two worlds very quickly, despite evident overlaps, overlaps one could also notice between Dutschke and Eichberg (alias Singer) or GRECE and the socialist CERES of Chevènement. The German pseudo-“Neue Rechte” appeared in a more militant situation, less metapolitical, and drew from different intellectual domains than those Benoist and his friends in France utilized. If we must find a direct and clear influence from GRECE in Germany, it’s found with Pierre Krebs, director of Elemente, with Armin Mohler who revealed the existence of the French “Nouvelle Droite” to the readership of Criticon, or in the scattered translations of French neo-rightist texts.

In the doctrinal scheme, the Germans were not very insistent about egalitarianism, the warhorse of the French “Nouvelle Droite”; only Lothar Penz, the theorist of national-revolutionary biohumanist solidarism, included a few thoughts on biological hierarchies in his vision of man and the city. Consequently, the impact of aesthetic, Hellenic, even Celtic paganism was quite reduced in Germany, thought many of the national-revolutionary activists were adherents of the “unitarism” of Sigrid Hunke, whose book The True Religion of Europe, was translated in France by éditions Le Labyrinthe in 1985, under Alain de Benoist’s auspices.

If Bartsch had objectively limited his investigation of the national-revolutionary movement and demonstrated his desire to avoid any obfuscation, M. Feit mixes types and includes organizations or magazine belonging to the classical nationalist right, like Mut, Bernhard Wintzek’s magazine, or the monthly Nation Europa of Peter Dehoust, in her analysis of the “Neue Rechte” (an improper term for the least). She presses this obfuscation even further by including the conservative Bavarian magazine Criticon of Caspar von Schrenk-Notzing, close to the Bavarian CSU in certain respects, in what she believes to be a conspiracy. Reading these various magazines reveals that the selected themes and philosophical choices made by each were different, despite intersections quite evidently due to literary, philosophical, or political current events. Every magazine possesses its originality and doesn’t want to lose it.

The Brief Venture of the ANR

The confusion between the national-revolutionary movement and the classical nationalist right maintained by M. Feit arises the partial observation of a phenomenon from 1972. In January of that year, dissidence arose within the Bavarian NPD, inspired by a certain Dr. Pöhlmann. He asked for a few meetings with Singer, while not endorsing his anti-Americanism at all. From this dissidence an activist grouping, the ANR (Aktion Neue Rechte ; Action for a New Right) emerged, which rallied youth discontent with the NPD, criticizing their party for being too politically and socially conservative. The venture would last until November 1973 when the ANR split into many groups:

1 – The national conservatives, who would form the AJR (Aktion Junge Rechte ; Action for a Young Right)

2 – The “Hitlermaniacs” (who came, in part, from wacky fans in brown and black uniforms, with leather and studs, who were sometimes heard chanting slogans, especially in Dixmunde and the shady restaurants of big cities, and who, in certain cases, proclaimed a ridiculous homosexuality where “Aryan” and juvenile bodies were erected as objects of veneration)

3 – Those who returned to the cradle, the NPD

4 – Those who evolved towards national-revolutionary ideology

The presence of a few compromising idiots in the ANR, perpetually drunk and quickly expelled, allowed the drawing room moralists to infer “Nazism” from a school of thought that ultimately conveyed an ideology of synthesis, exercising a real seduction on the free spirits of the militant left. The phrase “Neue Rechte” is thus erroneously applied to the national-revolutionary sphere. M. Feit’s tactic is crude: the part is taken for the whole. The fringe of the ANR that evolved towards revolutionary nationalism ended up giving its name to all contemporaneous nationalist movements, even left-wing ones. The objective of this obfuscation is evident: associate the brawlers in boots (who can attract media attention) with the modernist intellectuals, so they cannot influence the broad and free minds of the dutschkiste and para-dutschkiste left, or bind together the analyses of GRECE and CERES into a useful ideological bloc in France.

One evidently notices, in light of these facts, the tactical error committed by certain leaders of GRECE in accepting and claiming the “Nouvelle Droite” label that the provocateur journalists of the Parisian left bourgeoisie accorded them. The M. Feit’s diversion operation found itself reinforced: the pseudo-“Neue Rechte” is crudely obfuscated with the “Nouvelle Droite” although they are quite different movements.

Impacts in Flanders and Wallonie

In Flanders, Pol Van Caeneghem and Christian Dutoit’s attempt at synthesis, notably with the group Arbeid and the magazines Meervoud and De Wesp, unfortunately turned into sterile leftism, just like the brilliant syntheses of Mark Cels-Decorte and Freddy Seghers (close to Wir Selbst for a time) within the Volksunie and the VUJOs (Cf. volumes of propaganda entitled Integraal Federalisme — 1976 — and Integraal Federalisme 2 — 1980). While in Wallonie, Jeune Europe – whose leader Jean Thiriart had outlined an excellent project of alliances with the non-aligned states of the Third World, with China and Black American militants – remained the prisoner of rigid Latin political thought unsuited to inspire revivifying dynamism, its embryonic and dissident union USCE (Union des Syndicats Communautaires Européens), under the leadership of Jean Van den Broeck, Claude Lenoir and Pierre Verhas, opted for a regionalist organization of our continent and officially distanced itself from “everything right-wing.”

USCE firstly published Syndicats Européens and then L’Europe Combat, which would be published until 1978. This experience was the only serious national-revolutionary attempt in Wallonie after the failure of Jeune Europe, when Thiriart failed to spread his anti-Americanism to his right wing audience, which hastened to betray him. Today, a sympathetic synthesis is emerging on the left, close to the ecologist ideology, in the columns of the magazine Wallons-nous.

From “Jeune Europe” to Nothingness

An incarnation of Jeune Europe which evolved towards a useless philo-Sovietism, the PCN of the Charleroi native Luc Michel, unfortunately emerged from the most bizarre extreme-right and neo-nazi groupuscules, it didn’t manage to take off politically (and for good reason!) and its editorial enterprise, very instructive for specialists and historians (Cf. Vouloir n°32/34), stagnated because it didn’t address problems that directly interest a militant audience. The magazine Conscience Européenne, which recently devoted several issues to the economic war between the USA and Europe and the illusion of detente, suffered from dissension in 1984, which lead to the establishment of Volonté Européenne and Cercle Copernic, directed by Roland Pirard, a somewhat bizarre individual who frequently changes pseudonyms (Bertrand Thomé, Roland Van Hertendaele, Roland Brabant, etc.) and naively dreams of founding a neo-Teutonic “order of chivalry!” If Luc Michel performs useful documentary work and furnishes very interesting analyses, despite his cliched language, the dissident Pirard sinks into complete caricature, reinforced by appallingly neglected editorial standards and confoundingly mediocre analyses, where Hitermaniac outbreaks occasionally re-surge, crossbred with a neo-Stalinism and pro-Khomeinism so ponderous that Soviet cliches seem hyper-lyrical in comparison. So there’s no hope for the rebirth of the dynamism of Jeune Europe and its French heir, the CIPRE of Yannick Sauveur and Henri Castelferrus, in Brussels or Wallonie.

In Conclusion

In conclusion we can say that the German national-revolutionary movement constituted a synthesis that situated itself at the crux of leftism and nationalism and that it still harbors much potential for sincere militants, those who truly care about social life. Moreover, when one observes the synthesis realized by Cels-Decorte and Seghers within the Volksunieentre from 1975 et 1981, we see that a comparable synthesis is still possible in our countries, apart from any marginal position. We have to reflect on it.

Article published under the pseudonym “René Lauwers”, in: Vouloir n°45/46, 1988.

◘ Supplementary Bibliography:

  • Günter Bartsch, Revolution von rechts ? Ideologie und Organisation der Neuen Rechten, Herder-bücherei, Freiburg i.B., 1975.
  • Karl-Heinz Pröhuber, Die nationalirevolutionäre Bewegung in Westdeutschland, Verlag deutsch-europäischer Studien, Hamburg, 1980.

Source: http://robertsteuckers.blogspot.com/2014/12/neo-nationalisme-et-neue-rechte-en-rfa.html

Friedrich-Georg Jünger’s “The Perfection of Technology” – Robert Steuckers – March 30th, 2017

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A denunciation of the mechanized titanism of Western thought, this work is the quarry from which all contemporary ecological thought draws in order to refine its critiques. Divided into two parts and one excursus, themselves divided into a multitude of small concise chapters, the work begins with an observation: Utopian literature no longer takes politics as its subject matter, but technology, which causes a disenchantment with the Utopian line of thought. Technology resolves none of man’s existential problems. It doesn’t increase leisure time; it doesn’t reduce work: it only replaces manual labor with “organized” labor. Moreover, it doesn’t create new wealth, on the contrary it condemns the condition of the worker to pauperism.

The deployment of technology was due to a general lack that reason sought to fill. But this lack didn’t disappear with the encroachment of technology: it only camouflaged it. The machine is a devourer, annihilating substance: its rationality is henceforth illusory. The economist believes, at first, that technology is the generator of wealth, then he realizes that its quantitative rationality is only an illusion, technology, in its infinite will to perfect itself, only follows its own logic, which is not economic. The modern world is henceforth characterized by a tacit conflict between the economist and the technician: the latter seeks to determine the processes of production despite profitability, a factor judged to be too subjective. Technicality, when it attains its highest degree, leads to a dysfunctional economy.

This opposition between technology and the economy will astonish more than one critic of contemporary uni-dimensionality, accustomed to putting economic and technological hypertrophies on the same level. But Friedrich-Georg Jünger saw economy as its etymology implicitly defined it, setting the standards of oikos, the housekeeping of man, well circumscribed in time and space. The establishment of oikos doesn’t proceed from an excessive mobilization of resources, similar to the economy of pillage and la razzia [Translator’s note: referring to slave raids conducted by the Barbary Pirates] (Raubbau), but a parsimonious enrichment of the place one occupies on earth.

The central idea of Friedrich-Georg Jünger regarding technology, states that it is an automatism dominated by its own logic. Once that logic starts forward, it escapes its creators. It multiplies itself in an exponential manner: machines demand the creation of other machines, until achieving complete automation, both mechanical and dynamic, at an extremely regimented pace, thus in a fatal pace. This fatal pace penetrates into the organic tissue of the human being and submits man to its deadly logic. Henceforth man no longer possesses his own pace, internal and biological, but feverishly seeks to adapt to the inorganic / fatal pace of the machine. Life inexorably comes to be submitted to the grand automation that technology produces, which ultimately regulates life entirely.

This generalized automatism is the “perfection of technology,” to which Friedrich-Georg Jünger, an organicist thinker, contrasts maturation (die Reife), which only natural beings can attain, without violence or coercion. The major characteristic of gigantic technological organization, dominant in the contemporary era, is the exclusive domination exercised by technology’s own determinations and causal deductions. The state, as a political body, can acquire, by means of technology, more power. But that is, for him, a sort of pact with the devil as the principles of technology then imply the extirpation of organic substance and its replacement by technological automation.

Whoever says total automation means total organization, in the sense of management. Labor, in the era of the exponential multiplication of automation, is organized to the point that it detaches itself from the ergonomic immediacy provided by hand and tool. This detachment leads to excessive specialization, normalization, standardization. To this Friedrich-Georg Jünger adds the concept of Stückelung (splitting, cutting, “division into pieces”) where “fragments” are no longer parts (pars, partes, Teile) of a whole but pieces (Stücke) reduced to serving a function in a device.

Friedrich-Georg Jünger joins Marx to denounce the alienation of these processes but distinguishes himself from Marx when he considers the process to be fatal so long as one remains chained/ connected (gekettet /angeschloßen) to the technological-industrial apparatus. The worker (Arbeiter) is a worker precisely because he is connected volens nolens [Translator’s note: Latin, willingly or unwillingly] to this apparatus. The condition of the worker doesn’t depend on the modesty of his wages but on this connection, independent of the amount of salary. The depersonalized connection causes the loss of the personal quality. The worker is he who has lost the internal bond that ties him to his work, the relation that makes interchangeability impossible, between him and another worker or between his purpose and another purpose. So alienation is not primarily economic, as Marx thought, but technical.

The general progression of automation devalues all labor directly derived from the interior character of the worker and triggers the process of natural destruction, the process of “devouring” (Verzehr) substance (the resources offered by Mother Nature, the generous donor). Because of this alienation by the technical order, the worker is hurled into a world of exploitation without the least protection. In order to benefit from a semblance of protection, he must create organizations, notably unions, but those remain connected to the technological-industrial apparatus.

The protective organization doesn’t emancipate, it enchains. The worker defends himself against alienation and “division into pieces” but paradoxically accepts the system of total automation. Marx, Engels, and the first socialists only saw political and economic alienation, and not technological alienation. Among them, no one took machines seriously. The dialectic of Marx, from this fact, became a sterile mechanicism, in the service of mechanized socialism. Socialism retained the same logic as total automation under the capitalist aegis. Even worse, its triumph would not put an end to automated alienation but would cause this movement to accelerate, by simplifying it and increasing it.

The creation of organizations generalizes total mobilization, which makes all things mobile and all places like workshops or laboratories buzz with incessant agitation. Any social sphere that tries to escape this total mobilization counteracts the movement and consequently endures repression: thus concentration camps open, mass deportations and collective massacres begin. It’s the rule of the unrestricted manager, a sinister figure appearing under a thousand masks.

Technology doesn’t produce harmony, the machine is not a goddess that dispenses blessings. On the contrary, it sterilizes the giving natural substrates, it organizes pillage to the ends of the Wilderness. The machine is a devourer, it must be unceasingly fed and, because it consumes more than it gives, it exhausts the riches of the Earth. Enormous elementary natural forces are hijacked by the gigantic technological machinery and its imprisoned retinues, which often leads to explosive catastrophes and demands constant surveillance, another facet of total mobilization.

The masses embroil themselves, voluntarily, in this total automation, annihilating isolated resistances, individual consciences, in the same stroke. The masses allow themselves to be carried by the hectic movement of automation, so that in the case of failure or a momentary halt in the linear movement towards automation, they experience a feeling of emptiness that seems insufferable to them.

Henceforth war is also totally mechanized. The destructive potential are amplified to extremes. But the shine of uniforms, the mobilizing worth of symbols, the glory, fades. We expect nothing but endurance and tenacious courage from soldiers.

The absolute mobility initiated by total automation turns against everything that retains endurance and stability, notably property (Eigentum). Friedrich-Georg Jünger, by posing this assertion, defines property in an original manner: the existence of machines rests on an exclusively temporal conception; the existence of property rests on a conception of space. Property implies limits, demarcation, hedges, walls and fences, enclosures. Technological collectivism wants to make these limits disappear.

Property creates a limited, circumscribed field of action, enclosed in a determined, precise, space. In order to progress vectorially, automation must break down the locks of property, the obstacle to the establishment of its omnipresent communication and connection networks. A humanity deprived of any form of property cannot escape total connection.

Socialism, by denying property, by refusing what remains in the world of “enclosed” zones, exactly facilitates absolute connection. Thus the possessor of machines is not an owner; the mechanized capitalist undermines the order of property, characterized by endurance and stability, to the benefit of an all-dissolving dynamism. Personal independence is only possible if there is no connection between events and the technical apparatus’ way of thinking and organization.

Between his critical and acerbic reflections on automation and the excessive technicality of modern times. Friedrich-Georg Jünger challenges the great philosophers of the European tradition. Descartes initiated a dualism that established an insurmountable separation between the body and the mind and eliminates the systema influxus physici that both relied on, in order replace it with punctual divine intervention that made God a watchmaker. The res extensa [Translator’s note: corporeal substance] is a dead thing: it its explained as an arrangement of mechanisms in which man, the instrument of the watchmaker God, can intervene at any moment with impunity. The res cogitans [Translator’s note: the mental substance] is then established as the absolute master of the mechanical processes ruling the universe. Man can become like God: a watchmaker who can manipulate everything to his will, without fear or respect. Cartesianism gave the signal for the exorbitant technical exploitation of the planet.

Source: http://www.in-limine.eu/2017/03/la-perfection-de-la-technique-de-friedrich-georg-junger-par-robert-steuckers.html

Péguy and the Socialist City – La revue socialiste – August 1897

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Péguy and the Socialist City

August 1897. Charles Péguy was 24 years old. He published in La revue socialiste one of his first texts: On the Socialist City

On the Socialist City

In the socialist city social goods will be well administered.

Socialists want to replace, as much as possible, the governance of men in society by the social administration of things, goods: in effect, men are indefinitely varied, which is good, but one cannot organize the governance of men according to an exact scientific method; while goods are not indefinitely varied, we can organize the administration of goods according to an exact scientific method. The majority of difficulties, sufferings which seem to be caused by the poor governance of men, come from the poor administration of goods. In order to better organize the administration of goods, socialists want to socialize social labor, that is to say the all the labor necessary for the city to continue living.

To this ends, they want to socialize the material which is necessary for social labor, that is to say the social means of production: the land in so far as it can be used for social farming; the sub-soil, mines, and quarries; industrial tools, machinery, workshops, stores, commercial tools, routes and means of communication. The means of production will be socialized, that is to say they will be returned to the city, to all the citizens.

Social labor will be socialized, that is to say it will be done by all citizens. The individual shares of social labor, that is to say the share of social labor which will be rendered to the city by every citizen, will doubtlessly not be the same among them, as it is impossible, but it will be, as much as possible, equal among them, in the sense that differences will only be directed by the different needs of the city and the different individual aptitudes of the citizens as laborers, and in this sense these inevitable differences of quality, intensity, duration, style will be compensated, as much as possible, by others differences of quality, intensity, duration, style such that the the individual shares of social labor are as equal in quantity as possible. In exchange the city will assure the citizens a truly human education, exact assistance in case of sickness or infirmity, and finally assistance for the entire duration of old age.

Education will be equal for all children, but not in the sense that individual educations will be identical, of course, but in the sense that differences in individual educations will only be driven by the resources of the city and the different individual aptitudes of the citizens as students.

The means of consumption will be left freely available to the citizens in quantities as equal as possible.

Consider the advantages of this regime from the perspective of the city and the perspective of the citizens.

From the perspective of the city, this regime will spare human labor, whose waste is immoral. This saving of human labor will be realized in many ways, including the three following:

Competition will be suppressed. It is bad. On first glance it seems to have positive effects in the present society, but these positive effects hardly begin to make up for the ills it has caused by itself. We don’t always recognize them as ills because our education, just as poor, trains us to work through a feeling of vain emulation, foreign to work itself and the proper ends of labor. Competition is bad in principle: it is bad that men work against each other; men should work with each other; they should work to improve their labor; not to use their labor to vanquish other workers. Due to competition workers aren’t paid according to what they’ve done, which would be just in the strict sense, nor are they paid regularly, which would be just or harmonious in a broad sense, but they are only paid according to what their competitors haven’t done. Competition is often excessive, when one of the competitors realizes that he can’t work better than his competitors, he works worse than them through fraudulent measures, in order to ensure victory anyhow. Competition often uses false advertising, which tends to give the advantage to the most cunning work over the best quality work. Finally international competition is the cause of war, arms races, and the ills that follow, just like individual competition causes trials, private conflicts, the majority of private and public hatred, and the associated ills.

Idleness will be suppressed. In order to calculate the savings of the social labor thus realized, we must also compare the number of idlers to the total number of citizens in present society; we must add to the number of idlers all the citizens who work to provide individual luxury for the idlers at present.

Production will be centralized as much as possible; yet if centralization is harmful to the interior lives of men and for the superior work of humanity, especially for art and philosophy, it is good for social production, because it permits the citizens to perform the social labor of production better and more quickly, and thus to it permits citizens to live better and be freer to pursue their interior lives and the superior work of humanity. The socialist city will organize intensive farming and industry, centralize commerce, so as to derive from human activity the greatest amount of the best means of consumption.

From the perspective of the citizens, the socialist regime will have two advantages over present day society:

It will establish a fraternity, between all citizens and for all citizens, a real and living solidarity; justice; real and living equality; real liberty – instead of false fraternity, false justice, false liberty.

It will lessen the impacts of individual catastrophes as much as possible. In present society we let individual misfortunes fall with all their weight on citizens, who are often crushed by them. Since there are, despite everything, undefined individual social bonds, these misfortunes have undefined, incalculable repercussions. There are so many repercussions that even progress is ultimately costly. For example, when one invents a machine that eliminates half the labor of a job, consumers in general derive certain benefits because prices fall, but half the workers are punished, and these individual misfortunes have such far reaching repercussions that all the suffering thus caused to the citizens is worse than the advantages benefiting the consumers. On the contrary, in the socialist city, when such inventions take over a job, it will suffice to reduce the number of concerned workers without catastrophes, either by training fewer apprentices in this field, or by giving some workers the time to learn a new trade; looking ahead, when the measures take their full effect, the number of hours the workers devote to this job will be reduced, which will not be a misfortune for anyone in the city.

Thus established, the socialist city will be perfect in so far that it will be socialist. In so far that it will be a human city, it will still be imperfect. But it will be the least imperfect of human cities possible, in the sense that all difficulties, all sufferings will be at worst equal to what they must be in any individualist society.

For example, the difficulties which arise from the choice of career and laziness:

One will ask us, how can you be sure that people will serve in the most arduous or dullest trades, in a word, sacrificial trades?

Firstly, we note that as mechanization increases jobs are increasingly concentrated there and there will be fewer sacrificial jobs. Next we note that in the socialist city we can always compensate for what is still painful or boring in these sacrificial trade with benefits. And finally, if, despite this compensation, voluntary workers desert certain trades, it will suffice to make it a mandatory service, obligatory, universal and personal, in order to assure that these jobs are done.

But they will say, that’s coercion!

Doubtlessly it is coercion, but it’s just and official coercion. While in present society there is universal coercion, all the more dreadful as it is both unjust and devious: unjust because coercion doesn’t equally affect all citizens; devious, as no one wants to confess that we force certain citizens to do certain jobs, but we are quite content with general misery so much, that to the citizens who fall so low, these jobs seem like a blessing to them. And that’s what the entire present society rests upon. In order to avoid certain jobs, certain social functions, certain services, mandatory services, we squander human suffering: instead of bringing workers from the middle class trades to the sacrificial trades, if need be, the workers in the sacrificial trades are dropped lower, without seeming to notice it, so low that they say they are lucky to go back to these trades.

And they will say, what will you do about laziness?

Firstly we remark there will would be much less laziness when every citizen has received normal education. Then we remark that there would be much less laziness in a city where the majority of careers will be constantly open to all, because there will be much fewer false vocations, because there will not be any forced vocations, because it will not be possible to return to poorly engaged lives. And finally if, in a city where three or four hours at most in an easy job suffices to secure daily life, if in such a city, we still find idlers who refuse any form of work, these sick people will not die from hunger in a city so rich in means of consumption, but we can reduce theirs to the level of strict necessity.

So they will say, will the lazy be maintained at the expense of the city?

Doubtlessly, but what does the present society do if not to maintain them, and at great cost, in its asylums, its hospitals, its penal colonies, or in its more sumptuous hotels, mendicant parasites or luxurious parasites, or workers in unprofitable trades.

According to this exact method of analysis and comparison, one will always see that the supposed worst possible outcomes of the socialist city, are the real, habitual rules of present society.

 

Source: http://www.jaures.eu/ressources/de_peguy_sur-peguy/peguy-et-la-cite-socialiste/

Proudhon for Today and Tomorrow – l’Action Française 2000 n° 2958 – July 6th 2017

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Editor in chief of the magazine Krisis and author of numerous essays, Thibault Isabel just published a work devoted to Proudhon (1809-1865). The latest news on the thinker from Besançon from the perspective of Maurrasian traditionalism.

L’Action Française 2000 – Why did you publish this book on Proudhon’s thought today? Does it carry a certain relevance in our post-modern times? What could Proudhon still tell us?

Thibault Isabel – For a century, the Marxist domination of ideas prevented us from conceiving a non-communist alternative to the hegemony of the liberal system. Whether one was in the camp of the USSR, or in the camp of the United States. Henceforth, the fall of the Berlin Wall changed the situation. But this situation left us orphaned: even those who wanted to oppose the neoliberal system didn’t truly know what intellectual corpus to mobilize. So it is salutary to return to the pre-Marxist sources of the critique of liberalism, in order to understand what we can think regarding a coherent alternative without sinking into collectivism. In addition, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon anticipated numerous central problems of our time: the stranglehold of technocratic governance over the citizen’s sovereignty, the false opposition of the left and right (which both carry out liberal policy, in a form of false alternation), the financialization of the economy, the cult of consumption, etc.

Your book is entitled “Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – Anarchy Without Disorder.” Why is anarchy not disorder? And what ends up linking it to federalism?

To be clear: Proudhon never supported violence, chaos, and moral laxity. Quite the opposite! He defended extremely rigorous ethical positions, condemning riots for their bellicosity and even accusing strikers or saboteurs of showing too much intransigence. Don’t forget that the adjective “libertaire” [Translator’s Note: referring to anarchists who reject moral boundaries] was initially coined in the framework of a polemic against Proudhon, judged to be excessively conservative. Proudhon believed in liberty, but not in individualism or moral nihilism. What he called “anarchism” corresponds to a radical form of democracy, supposed to give sovereignty to the people in the framework of a decentralized order, organized around the local sphere.

What is political federalism and economic mutualism? How are they complementary?

Proudhon was horrified by everything big and he adored everything small. He was convinced that men would only rediscover their autonomy within a human-scale order. He despised bureaucratic mega-structures, which alienate individuals and groups. From this point of view, he prefigured not only the Orwellian critique of dictatorial Stalinism, but also the critique of hyper-administered societies where the state machinery inflates to the point of absorbing everything. This observation evidently applies to modern Western nations, having become Jacobin, particularly France, as it applies supranational structures to governance like the European Union or the IMF. Federalism is a weapon against these processes of centralization. He aims to re-localize politics so that the citizens can retake control of their lives. This measure must be accompanied by economic decentralization, as the processes of bureaucratization are expressed in the private sphere as much as in the public sphere, with the development of multinational corporations which alienate the worker in the exact same way as the bureaucratic state alienates the citizen. So we should favor small tradesmen over big planetary corporations, small artisans against big de-localized factories, and the small peasants against big industrial agriculture. This occurs through mutualism, which consists of workers banding together into independent federations so that they can better resist multinational corporations. In other terms, we must implement economic federalism, in addition to political federalism, in order to protect ourselves against foreign powers while strengthening the local social fabric.

In his book Décoloniser les provinces [Translator’s Note: To Decolonize the Provinces], Michel Onfray – who prefaced your book – aligns Girondism with Proudhonian federalism. Does that seem erroneous to you?

The Girondins, under the Revolution, defended very different ideas. But overall they were driven by a visceral contempt regarding the politicians in the capital: in effect it’s this Parisian confiscation of power which then gave birth to the Terror. Proudhon shared this fear entirely, especially since he defended the provinces and their identities as well. Would you be surprised if I mention that the political and economic capital of a country is concentrated exactly within its administrative capital, in this case Paris for France? As such Proudhon could recognize his thought in Girondin provincialism. Moreover I would like to mention a point: Girondism gave birth to the French intellectual conservatism of the 19th century. Tocqueville, for example, considered today as a “right wing” author, supported ideas very similar to Proudhon. In reality, at the time, Proudhonian socialism wasn’t really a left wing ideology (in the sense of the statist, liberal, or libertarian left of the time), and conservatism was not really a right wing ideology (in the sense of the Orleanist, Bonapartist, or Legitimist right). Tocqueville, upon entering into the Assembly, even asked to be seated on the left! All our political labels have to be reviewed. From the start, anarchism and conservatism constituted two complementary branches of the same family of thought.

How is Proudhonian anarchism anti-modern? How is Proudhon a visionary critic of consumer society?

It was the process of modernization which lead to the concentration of political capital in the hands of the bureaucratic technocracy, and its this same process of modernization which lead to the concentration of economic capital in the hands of international finance. Proudhon expounded an anti-modern vision of society, certainly open to social justice and progress, but desirous to re-root culture. He also initiated the critique of consumer society in the measure where he advocated a form of “happy frugality.” He said we should free the poor from misery but we should not live with the obsession to become rich or always consume more.

Why was Proudhon favorable to patriarchy? You write: “Proudhon the anti-capitalist anarchist ended up warmly appreciating the most conservative ideas, not because he thought they were superior, but because he understood their share of legitimacy.” An adept of social progress, was not Proudhon anti-progressive in the moral and politico-cultural scheme?

Proudhon believed in the autonomy of individuals, who must exercise their sense of responsibility, but he questioned the liberal conception of the atomized individual, enclosed within himself. Though one could reject various types of communitarianism and integralism, which enclose the individual in an oppressive tradition, one mustn’t reject community solidarity or the value of heritage. The individual naturally lives among others. He doesn’t live for solitude. So this anthropological position is neither liberal, nor reactionary. It’s neutral. Nevertheless, that didn’t prevent Proudhon from being particularly backward looking in moral matters. It’s doubtlessly the aspect of his thought that is the most old-fashioned: even in Catholic Traditionalist milieus, I don’t think that many people would adopt the Proudhonian vision of wife and family, much more rigid than any vision we can see today! In any case that’s a paradox which deserves to be underlined, regarding a man who objectively was the principal founder of French socialist thought.

Proudhon was hostile to “the power of parties” and the “electoral game,” but yet he defended the institution of organic democracy? In what way was he even tempted by the royalist solution? Georges Sorel, Édouard Berth, and Les Cahiers du Cercle Proudhon (of Maurrasian origin), claimed this exact Proudhonian heritage a century ago. How did Proudhon reconcile anarchy, federalism, and monarchism?

Proudhon was not a monarchist. On the other hand, he wasn’t part of the cult of the Republic. He underlined that democracy, which he strongly believed in, could be combined with any type of regime (even dictatorship, which he abhorred). So there exists deeply democratic monarchies as there exists deeply dictatorial republics. That’s why rapprochements between certain Proudhonians and certain Maurrasians could take place in the 20th century. But their agreement was not easy, because strong ideological disagreements remained. Maurras said that “monarchy, it’s anarchy plus one.” Proudhonian federalism put the emphasis on local power instead. Bridges were possible between both doctrines, but only up until a certain point. Nevertheless, we sometimes find a common inspiration with Maurras and Proudhon, which also is found with Georges Bernanos, Charles Péguy, and the Non-Conformists of the 1930s.

You write, “Traditionalist in his mannerisms, Proudhon reconciles us with the most ancient thoughts, against foolish modernism – this strange two headed hydra that reveals itself in Adam Smith, the father of liberalism, as well as with Karl Marx, the father of communism.” Elsewhere, you qualify him as “protectionist” before his time. Do you confirm this statement?

Protectionism constitutes one of the best means to re-localize the economy! Proudhon castigated protectionist measures when they served to aid the development of big national industry against foreign industry: if Coca-Cola was a French company, would that change its detrimental effects on society? But on the other hand, the philosopher called for the establishment of federal protectionism, which simultaneously expresses itself on continental, national, and regional scales. Thus each level of power would support local production. This multifaceted protectionism would guarantee the equitable distribution of resources by preventing dumping, by which bosses – or shareholders today – put downwards pressure on wages and put the workers of every country into competition. Economic production would develop as locally as possible. We should understand that the development of globalized liberalism undermines the sustainability of concrete solidarity. Only the return to a world of independent workers can restore self-mastery. This project is less Utopian than it seems. The “uberization” of labor and the multiplication of speculative bubbles makes turbocapitalism increasingly fragile. The classical wage earner is on the way to extinction. The economy is metamorphosing. We must simply desire that the change occurs in a way favorable to human dignity. The ideas of Proudhon can help us there.

Interviewer: Arnaud Guyot-Jeannin

Source: https://www.actionfrancaise.net/2017/07/07/proudhon-aujourdhui-demain/

Werner Sombart on the Ethic of Subsistence and the Capitalist Spirit – Philitt – May 22nd, 2017

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A figure of the German Conservative Revolution, Werner Sombart devoted a large part of his work to the analysis of the capitalist spirit and the research of its origins. By focusing on the genesis of capitalism which he situated in the Late Middle Ages, the German sociologist highlights the opposition between a pre- capitalist European commercial ethic, called subsistence, and a specifically capitalist ethic. This latter was firstly influenced by Christian thought, which limited it, before it freed itself from it.

The feudal and corporatist economy of the Middles Ages was dominated by the idea that everyone should be capable of living from his work in conformity with his rank and by leading an honest life. The statement of Sigismond, the Germanic Holy Roman Emperor at the start of the 15th century, recounted by Werner Sombart, transcribes this ideal: “Work exists so that each man can earn his bread by performing it and so that no one can impinge upon the trade of another. Thanks to it each man can satisfy his needs and feed himself.” The economic logic governing such a society was thus subordinated to the necessity of providing for the producers and the determination of prices was essentially based on the costs of production. Usage value took priority over exchange value: prices didn’t depend on supply and demand in the pre- capitalist commercial spirit. Likewise, any maneuver aiming to depress prices, like a fire sale, was judged immoral.

This ethic, which Werner Sombart qualified as the ethic of subsistence, created a particular conception of the notion of competition. In order to assure price stability and the means of survival for everyone, tradesmen and artisans were restrained to the domain of a particular activity and a defined clientele. Impregnated with the peasant spirit, this commercial morality considered that “the client was for the city dweller, what the plot of land was for the peasant,” according to Sombart. Any pursuit of clients was thus prohibited and the actions aiming to attract clients from one’s neighbor were forbidden. Relying on the commercial regulations and the legal records of large commercial cities, Werner Sombart showed that any attempt at commercial promotion could lead to sanctions.

Moreover, by assuring the organization and regulation of professions, the guilds watched out to make sure no one impinged on another person’s realm of activity. Regarding the prohibition of lending at interest that predominated at the time, it conformed to the ethic of guarding against any panic by forbidding the production of money from money. The sociologist remarked that this pre- capitalist economy was not very productive. The lack of commercial rigor, the multitude of holidays, and the slowness of transaction speed reduced the efficiency of a society in which economic work was not the central point, a society in which the elites were not legitimized by their commercial prowess. In effect, this spirit corresponded to European societies in which life was regulated by social, popular, and religious events, which imposed their imperatives upon commerce. Moreover, Werner Sombart was well aware that the principles of this ethic of subsistence were regularly violated. Yet the regular transgression of the forbidden, even the occasional tolerance of this transgression, did not weaken the principle nor its mark left on the spirit of the age.

The emergence of the first forms of capitalism in Italy in the 13th and 14th centuries, notably in Florence, broke with the preceding eras not only by valuing wealth obtained from work, but especially by rationalizing economizing attitudes. Werner Sombart underlined the role of certain aspects of Catholicism in this evolution. By advocating the idea of a chaste and moderate life but also the absolute mastery of oneself and rigor in work, the Thomist doctrine of Catholicism encouraged the rationalization of life and created a fertile ground for the development of homo economicus. Honesty and rigor in business were no longer solely constraints imposed by reputation but virtues required by the personal conscience of the individual, which increased the degree of necessity. These Christian virtues were a catalyst for the capitalist spirit but they were equally an important limit. Thomism did not condemn wealth but it distinguished it from enrichment. Movement, dynamism always excites mistrust and the fear of a violation of limits. Furthermore, even when it is allowed, this enrichment must not be the end goal. Man must remain the ultimate ends of the economy.

The Persistence of the Ethic of Subsistence

However the principles of the ethic of subsistence remained omnipresent in this first form of capitalism. More rational and effective than before, commercial activity remained low intensity. The ideas of limits combined with the ethic of subsistence had lost none of their importance and commerce remained subordinated to the social life of individuals. Devoting one’s life to the expansion of one’s wealth was not the capitalist ideal of this era, it was to earn enrich oneself rapidly and retire from business in order to enjoy and live on the earned wealth. Werner Sombart explained that during this period of primitive capitalism, prices remained essentially determined by the usage value of goods and competition was strictly subordinated to the principles of the pre- capitalist economy: “Even during the first half of the 18th century, the merchants of London saw the efforts of some of their colleagues to decorate their shops or attract clients with tasteful and elegant displays as unfair competition.” The sociologist illustrated this late remnant of the ethic of subsistence by citing the writings of Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe but also a figure of English capitalism and editor of the Complete English Tradesman published in 1725. In this work, the entrepreneur didn’t hesitate to take a position against unregulated commerce. He accused it of lowering prices by drastically diminishing the jobs necessary for an equal amount of production in order to concentrate profit in the hands of a few. Werner Sombart also recalled the mistrustful attitude of Italian Guilds in the 16th century towards the first machines in the name of defending labor. So this first capitalist period remained profoundly enclosed by social life, limiting any desire for the autonomy of economic logic in relation to religious and traditional principles.

The mutation of this classical capitalism into modern capitalism began the 18th century but it only truly revealed itself in the 19th. The economy then became autonomous and was no longer subordinated to the limits of traditional society. Man was no longer the center of the economic universe. The old principle of “earn as much as possible by the doing the least amount of business possible” was no longer fashionable, on the contrary, it was to always produce more in order to compensate for ever falling prices. Commercial advertising became widespread and attempts to attract and seduce the clientele were no longer objects of moral condemnation. All the juridical and moral shackles of the past ages were treated like obstacles to destroy in order to liberate commerce. Economic efficiency became the only moral principle in business. Werner Sombart remarked the former virtues of primitive capitalism (rigor at work, a spirit of thrift and honesty) survive in the modern world but under an “objectified” form. These virtues are justified as long as they prove their economic effectiveness but are no longer followed if their utility ceases, in private life for example.

The Modern Cult of Growth and Movement

For Werner Sombart, the principal mutation of the modern capitalist spirit resides in the motive of the capitalist. In the era of primitive capitalism, the merchant was animated by the love of profit and the will to conform with Christian virtues, the latter stimulated but limited the capitalist spirit. In the modern era, the love of profit was accentuated, the virtues objectified, but the capitalist was especially moved by a new force. It is the will to grow and the love of this growth that motivates him before all. The limitless expansion of business constitutes his supreme goal. This imperative of growth suppose an absence of limit on work, production, and the creation of wealth. Werner Sombart explained that modern commercial activity achieved an unbounded wealth, but also and especially a depth and intensity previously unparalleled: “Forward, forward! Such is the watchword of our times. The advance of the market and furious commotion: that is what characterizes it before all. We know to what extent this excess of activity exhausts bodies, withers souls. All the inherent values of life are sacrificed to the Moloch of work, all the aspirations of the heart and the spirit must give way to a single interest, a single preoccupation: business.” The sociologist did not hesitate to compare this psychology of the modern businessman to the psychology of a child whose mental world rests upon permanent agitation, the desire to always attain more, the love of novelty, and the feeling of power. Education permits the regulation of such caprices by imposing limits on the desires of the child. The modern commercial ethic rests on this infantile psychology freed from any educational shackle.

This fundamental rupture brought by modernity created the cult of movement and change. Negatively perceived, stability became, on the contrary, a synonym for immobilization and sterility. At the end of the tumultuous 19th century, Charles Péguy still perceived the vestiges of the old ethic of subsistence: “They said that a man who works well and conducts himself well will surely never lack anything … this whole old world was essentially the world of making a living” whose disappearance constitutes what is properly modern: “And maybe that’s the most profound difference, the abyss that exists between the ancient, pagan, Christian, French world, and our modern world.” The dynamic of modern capitalism analyzed by Werner Sombart in the first part of the 20th century has continued to our day. The recourse to publicity and marketing, the race to lower prices, and the imperative of economic growth have intensified since the writings of the German intellectual. While the fluidification of society appears to be the ideal of the modern world now more than ever, the practices condemned by the ethic of subsistence are made commonplace. Yet one still finds significant traces of this ethic in the deontological rules of certain so-called “regulated” professions. The lawyer’s organization thus forbids the canvassing of clients from a member in the name of the principle of brotherhood and restrains advertising to preserve the dignity of the profession. Through his original approach to notions of economic growth, competition, and price determination, the historical and worldly wise analysis of Werner Sombart constitutes a relevant tool to address contemporary questions of growth and the local or alternative economy.

Source: https://philitt.fr/2017/05/22/ethique-de-subsistance-et-esprit-capitaliste-chez-werner-sombart/

Fiume – The Avant-Garde of History – Idiocratie – April 18th 2016

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The demonstrators of “La nuit debout” have such an inventive poverty, between the hackneyed slogans of the radical left and the obsolete practices of participative democracy, that we propose to them, in the guise of a meditation – if this word still has meaning to their conformist spirits – a shot of adrenaline, a pleasurable more-than-life that they are unlikely to encounter in their “convivial” assemblies whose debilitating gestures have even gone so far as to replace the hollow words.

“Having reached my destination, I offered red roses to Frate Francesco in the Vatican, I threw more red roses, as proof of love, for the Queen and the People above the Quirinal. Over the Montecitorio [the Italian parliament], I threw a rusty iron utensil attached to a red rag, with a few turnips attached to the handle and a message: Guido Keller – from the wings of the Splendor – offers to the parliament and government that has ruled thanks to lies and fears for quite some time, a tangible allegory of its merit.”

Rome, 14th day of the 3rd month of the Regency.1

That’s how Guido Keller – adventurer and futurist aero-poet – recalled the “bombardment” of the Italian parliament that he accomplished on November 14th 1920 on board his Ansaldo SVA 5.2 monoplane, to protest against the signing of the Treaty of Rapallo on November 12th 1920 by Italy and Yugoslavia. The “aero-romantic” escapade of Gabrielle D’Annunzio’s principal lieutenant symbolically marked the end of one of the most surprising post-war enterprises: the seizure and occupation of the frontier city of Fiume and the transformation, for a year, of the city into a vast field of aesthetic – political experimentation, that we can consider more as a womb of radical European avant-gardism than as a womb of the new political phenomena that emerged as a result of the conclusion of the First World War, in particular Italian Fascism.

The city of Fiume, or Rijeka in Croatian, had benefited from its status as an autonomous free port accorded to it by the decree of Charles VI of Austria in 1719, and then renewed by the empress Maria Theresa. In 1848, Fiume had been briefly occupied by Croatia before regaining its independence in 1868. An international city par excellence, Fiume was, in 1919, inhabited by Italians, Croats Hungarians, and Germans. Italian remained the dominant language and the local dialect, “Fiumian,” was similar to Venetian, while the dialect of the surrounding countryside corresponded more to a variant of Croatian. This mixture conferred a very strong identity to the city and Fiume could be considered as an example in miniature of the multiculturalism that marked, and also undermined, the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

In 1919, the prime minister Vittorio Emanuele Orlando left Paris, where the peace conference between the victors of the First World War was held, appalled by the decisions taken regarding his country. Denying their promises from 1915, the allies had in effect ignored the conditions by which they had negotiated Italy’s entry into the war on their side against the Central Powers,2 notably the cession of the famous irredentist territories, including Fiume, to Italy. Nevertheless, the president of the council, Francesco Saverio Nitti, more concerned by the social troubles that shook Italy in the Biennio rosso3, accepted the conditions offered to Italy by the allied powers and officially signed the armistice on September 10th 1919.

Among all the voices that were raised at this moment to denounce the policy of Nitti, was that of the “poet-warrior” Gabrielle D’Annunzio, which seemed to overpower all the others. Not content with publicly accusing Nitti of cowardice, he surrounded himself with a small group of faithful followers and at the head of a veritable personal army of demobilized soldiers and adventurers, made the decision to march on the city of Fiume, from which he expelled the American, English, and French expeditionary corps that occupied it without difficulty, with the goal of restoring the city to the Italian state. However the Italian government disappointed his expectations by refusing his offer. Then D’Annunzio made the decision to establish a government in Fiume based on the charter composed by the anarcho-syndicalist Alceste de Ambris, taking the place of a constitution for the city of Fiume, and presaging the creation of an “anti-League of Nations” allied with all the “oppressed peoples of the earth.” The “Regency of Carnaro,” thus created and named by D’Annunzio, initiated a political experience singular in Europe that would run from September 1919 to December 1920. Around D’Annunzio the new masters of the city of Fiume thronged: the Arditi4, but also Futurists, Dadaists, anarchists, monarchists, and all sorts of adventurers from every ilk. Bolshevik Russia was the only state to recognize the existence of this insurrectionary city-state in which local notables observed, terrified but powerless, their city transforming itself into an immense stage where baroque settings in honor of the Vate were performed and public debates in which free love, the liberation of women, and the abolition of prison were discussed. “Masquerade, raillery, and derision serve as their language,” wrote Claudia Salaris. “Futurists, Dadaists, and anarchists experiment in the laboratory of Fiume, discussing themes as daring for the era as woman’s liberation, drugs, the abolition of money and prisons.”5

In general, the escapade of Fiume is only considered as a proto-Fascist demonstration of the spirit of revenge that animated a part of the Italian elites mutilated by the victory. But, it is suitable to understand the episode from a much less reductive angle. From the foundation of the Regency of Carnaro, the principal artisans of the adventure of Fiume actually considered their enterprise as the point of departure for a revolutionary movement that should respond to both to the political, as well as the most radical social and aesthetic, aspirations of the postwar avant-gardes and déclassés, conscious of being part of a devastated country which henceforth only belonged, in their opinion, to the rearguard of the victors. A heteroclite mixture of nationalist claims, anarchist passions, libertine sensibilities, a tumultuous aggregate of soldiers on the loose, adventurers, artists of the grenade, enraged Futurists, Dadas of combat, frenzied monarchists, fantastic criminals, poets in uniform, revolutionaries without a cause, and some veritable candidates for the insane asylum, the “republic of Carnaro,” decreed by D’Annunzio on September 12th 1919 from December 30th 1920 constituted a unique experience in the chaos of post-war Europe. Proclaimed as a place of love and perpetual festivity, it stirred the curiosity of Mussolini who remained doubtful, but didn’t forget to draw essential lessons from the permanent theater organized by D’Annunzio throughout his revolution for himself. On the other hand, it excited the disdain of Marinetti who only saw in the activists of Fiume a collection of gypsies thrown into the same hysterical fray of anarchists, Futurists, and monarchists. The charter of Carnaro, drafted by the Italian anarcho-syndicalist Alceste De Ambris, showed Fiume’s new masters’ contempt for the modern state and intended to truly base itself on popular sovereignty, but it also inscribed in the new constitution a certain number of social advances hardly imaginable for the era. Besides the fact that the charter was famed for having declared music as a fundamental principle of the state, it authorized divorce, gave women the right to vote, legalized homosexuality, the usage of drugs, and nudism. The Belgian poet Léon Kochnitzky, close friend of D’Annunzio, saw “Fiumanism” as a universal revolutionary enterprise, capable of overthrowing the established order of the old world:

To rally the forces of all the oppressed peoples, nations, races, etc, of the world into a compact formation. And use it to fight and triumph over the oppressors and imperialists who want their financial interests to prevail over the most sacred sentiments of man: faith, love of country, individual liberty, and social dignity.6

Ludovico Toeplitz, Italian filmmaker and polyglot, was charged with the foreign relations of the Regency of Carnaro and, as such, he was also tasked with establishing the League of Fiume, a veritable “anti-League of Nations,” according to Gabrielle D’Annunzio’s wish:

I made contact with all the malcontents of various countries around the world: with Zaghloul Pasha, not yet prime minister but then leader of the party of Fellah; with Kemal Pasha, the power leader of the Young Turk party, who would doubtlessly take power next. In Fiume, we founded the Anti-League of Nations, in opposition to the iniquitous treaty of Versailles.7

The resupplying of this modern pirate city, besieged since the start of 1920 by the Italian army, was assured by audacious surprise attacks, supervised by the D’Annunzio’s principal lieutenant: Guido Keller, a personality so fantastic that he still seems today only capable of existing in a novel. Veteran of the Italian air-force, Futurist aero-poet and fantastic mystic, Keller reinvented in the air a form of the courtly duel consisting of taking the lead over his opponent before letting him nobly flee. He was also the founder of a fraternity of barbers, which he joined after having demonstrated that he was capable of cutting his hair in flight, and had installed a tea set in his plane, which he piloted most of the time in his pajamas.

In Fiume, within the beautiful milieu of joyous anarchy constitutionally established by the Regency of Carnaro, it was not rare to see Keller spending a part of the day in the simplest garb or eventually made up as Poseidon. He slept in the trees, was a vegetarian, and considered any opportunity to detonate a grenade as a manifestation of joy. “When he he had free time,” Atlantico Ferri wrote in the Testa di ferro, “he climbed trees, completely nude, and performed all functions that most men fulfill at the ground level– including the most natural – in his airplane.” Thick black hair, Mephistophelian beard, Keller seemed nearly more Faun than human being. One of his favorite pastimes also seemed to be scaring the young couples who went to kiss near the cemetery of Fiume by making the howls of beasts at night to the point where commander D’Annunzio had to order a company of soldiers to prove that no zombie or werewolf hid there. Specialist in surprise attacks and acts of piracy through which the city survived, Keller also drafted a circular inviting all of Italy’s insane and asylum bound to demand their freedom in order to join Fiume8 and was also the founder of a secret Yoga society that entertained relations with Futurists of all stripes and nationalities as well as the German Dadaists9 and Russian and Hungarian Bolsheviks. Lenin declared before the war that he considered D’Annunzio as the only true revolutionary leader in Italy10; he forgot to mention the indispensable companion of the Vate, Guido Keller, who was as capable of organizing a romantic and theatrical assault – entitled “The Castle of Love” – on the presidential palace of Fiume, as he was of stealing fifty horses from under the nose of the Italian army. Keller was convinced that Fiume had become both “the city of Holocaust” and “the city of Love,” the epicenter of an earthquake that would shake history, liberate peoples, and overthrow the assassin states and impostor governments.

The episode of Fiume, anachronistically modern, seems both suspended beyond time and at the same time installed at the heart, at the hinge, of European history. The revolutionaries of Fiume united together to establish the complete invasion of existence by art, and at the same time the complete politicization of art. The gesture of revolt became the artistic manifestation of revolution, war, combat an aesthetic demonstration: the ultimate allegory of life’s movement, from death and chaos. The Futurists, the Dadas of combat, the revolutionary monarchist, anarchist, or nationalist poets that one could encounter in Fiume had predecessors in the 19th century whose slogans they reprised, reproducing their poses and reissuing in part their engagements, on a city-wide scale and in a somewhat crazy experience during which aesthetics and action formed a single gesture.

The establishment of the government of Fiume was accompanied by the partial seizure of power within the city by the Yoga society which had the duty of affirming the avant-garde and internationalist vocation of the Fiumian movement. In la Testa di ferro, magazine of the Yoga society directed by the Futurist Mario Carli, nicknamed “Our Bolshevik” or “the Little Father of Bolshevism,” they celebrated “the Italian city of Fiume – city of new life- liberation of all the oppressed (peoples, classes, individuals) – discipline of the spirit against all formal discipline – destruction of all hegemonies, dogmas, conservatisms, and parasitisms – crucible of new energies – few words, much substance.”11 The Yoga Union designated its wishes as a “lyrical order” capable of liberating both peoples and the creativity of the individual by fighting any form of alienation. “Revolutionaries not for or against a party, but revolutionaries against what we are,” proclaimed the first issue of the magazine, published November 13th 1920. The motto that the members of the Yoga society gave it demonstrated the art of rhetoric as much as the art of war. It was “conquer the adversary through irony, expose it to ridicule by depriving it of any barbaric authority, as well as the foolishness it deserves,” 12 in other words, to oppose conservatism with irony and to speak out:

Against golden safety goggles

Against ‘goodbye my dear’

Against throaty ‘r’s

Against posing

Against madness proper, organized in the serious and spiritual home for exhibitionist purposes13

The Yoga Society transformed the atmosphere of the city of Fiume into a permanent theater, proliferating surprise actions and spontaneous public demonstrations that latter day avant-gardists would call “happenings,” in the middle of the street, under the eyes of the stunned population and to the great dismay of the city’s notables. They also organized public consultations during which they touched upon every subject, where they spoke of everything, quickly, with the enthusiasm of those who imagined that liberated speech would accelerate the fall of the old world or simply with the ardor of the forlorn who basically knew that “end times” were doubtlessly coming soon.:

At the heart of the old city of San Vito we found the plaza to gather. A big tree protected the harmony of speech under its expanse… One night, we spoke of the abolition of money, another of free love, another yet, of the politician, the regulation of the army, the abolition of prisons, the embellishment of the city… That was how conversation flowed, admirably, on the old plaza, in perfect harmony between the prostitute and the poet, between the navigator and the antiquarian, between the banker and the intellectual, while the presence of animals, in their silence, was appreciated.14

Thus Margherita Keller Besozzi, Guido Keller’s cousin and feminist figure decreed that: “The woman of Fiume is nothing other than the mother of the modern woman,” the revolutionaries, via their magazine, launched always more radical slogans, in a measure that seemed to follow the tragic fate of the adventure of Fiume:

So block the trains and ships, flood the obscene mines, close the workshops (cages of fools invented by devils), set fire to offices, ministries, stock exchanges where they earn what isn’t worth earning … and save life! … With what voluptuousness would I set fire to your stupid “academies,” your putrid “museums,” full of the remains of faded beauty (created by workers for princes) that you are no longer capable of understanding, to your “schools of art,” where in grand pomp buried corpses teach those without genius how to become more mediocre than their master.15

The “bloody Christmas” of December 24th 1920 ended the adventure of Fiume and D’Annunzio’s attempt at an esoteric and a-historical revolution, forcing the evacuation of the city after a week of rough combat against the Italian army. The Vate would end his life nearly confined to his home on Lago di Garda, having become an invalid after having mysteriously “fallen” from his window on the night of August 13th or 14th 1922.

For Guido Keller, the failure of Fiume was the beginning of a wandering that would lead him from Italy to South America, where he attempted to give life to his libertine dreams. He firstly tried to establish a flying circus show entitled “The Conquest of the Sun,” and then exiled himself to Turkey to establish a pilot school, before becoming a military squadron officer in Benghazi Libya. Defeated by the rebels, he would sympathize with them before embarking for South America and Peru – “Fatherland of coca – the generous princess” – where he would launch a revolutionary attempt, bloodily crushed. “The dead are similar to those in Fiume,” he wrote to Sandro Pozzi. “I am on the route traced by destiny: I sought out my distant land, and like Ulysses, I exchanged a one-eyed horse for a blind mount.” The last act of his existence saw him associate with the painter and sculptor Hendrik Andersen in order to create a “city of life” on a lost island in the Aegean where no law or form of order should exist and where only artists and adventurers would be authorized to live. The project never came to fruition. In 1929, Guido Keller died, victim of a motorcycle accident on a road in Italy, like Thomas Edward Lawrence, called Lawrence of Arabia, six years later. As for D’Annunzio he died in 1938 and Mussolini accorded him a national funeral, which he doubtlessly wouldn’t want, he who had become a political undesirable confined to his home by the Fascist regime. The time of dreamers and poets was no more and Europe was once again handed over to the confrontations of empires, carnivorous ideologies that would devour whole peoples and utopias.

Notes:

1) Guido KELLER. Signed notes. in Janez JANSA. Il porto dell’amore. Texts by Domenico Cuarenta. Quis contra nos 1919-2019. www.reakt.org/fiume

2) Negotiations that promised Italy, in exchange for its participation in the conflict, the cession, after the war of the regions of Trentino, South Tyrol to the Brenner, Istria, Dalmatia, the cities of Trieste, Gorizia, and Gradisca, a protectorate over Albania, sovereignty over the port of Vlora, the province of Anatolia in Turkey, plus the Dodecanese and other colonies in East Africa and Libya. The near totality of these agreements would be ignored at the Paris Conference in 1919.

3) This expression designates the two years, from 1918 to 1920, which after the end of the war were marked by very strong social agitation in Italy and the fear of a communist seizure of power, henceforth named “the Red Biennial.”

4) The “Ardent.” Companions of D’Annunzio, for the most part former soldiers, whose uniform, rallying cry, “me ne frego,” and organization became the major inspiration for Mussolini during the creation of his Fasci of Combat.

5) Claudia SALARIS. A la fête de la révolution. Artistes et libertaires avec D’Annunzio à Fiume. Paris, Éditions du Rocher, 2006. p. 11

6) De Felice, D’Annunzio politico 1918-1938, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 1978, p. 73. Cited by Janez Jansa. Il porto dell’amore. Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana

7) Ludovico Toeplitz, Cial a chi tokka, Milano, Edizioni Milano Nuova, 1964, p. 49

8) At the same time, Marinetti proclaimed: “It is time that we also make a conscious and evolved art from madness (the overthrow of logical relationships).” This type of declaration of course recalls the surrealist declarations and attempts in Germany realized by SPK at the end of the 1970s to liberate psychiatric hospitals. Attempts that ended in the armed intervention of the German GIGN against an establishment “self managed by the ill.”

9) The expedition of Fiume was warmly saluted by the Dada Club in Berlin, in a telegram sent to the Correrre Del Sierra : “Conquest is a great Dadaist action, and we will employ all means to assure its recognition. The Dada Dadaco global atlas already recognizes Fiume as an Italian city.”

10) The illegal government of Fiume quickly made contact with Bolshevik Russia which was the only state to recognize its existence.

11) Slogan appearing in a number of issues of La Testa di ferro.

12) Sandro Pozzi in La Testa di ferro.

13) Manifesto-poster: “The Founding of the Yoga in Fiume”

14) Giovanni Comisso. Il Il porto dell’amore. Longanesi [Biblioteca di narratori]. 2011.

15) Yoga n°2. 20 novembre 1920.

Source: http://idiocratie2012.blogspot.com/2016/04/fiume-lavant-garde-de-lhistoire.html