Carl Schmitt: The Nomos of the Earth or the Rootedness of Law – PHILITT #2


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In “The Nomos of the Earth” (1950), Carl Schmitt shows that order cannot exist without rootedness. Against positivist thought and the cosmopolitan ideal, he appeals to the earth, the elementary substrate of any society, in order to understand humanity’s relation to the world.

[Article initially published in the magazine PHILITT #2 devoted to the earth and rootedness.]

A great figure of the German Conservative Revolution, Carl Schmitt opposed the heirs of Auguste Comte’s positivism, and more specifically judicial positivism, whose most famous theorist was Hans Kelsen (also an opponent of Schmitt). In his “Theory of Pure Law,” he only studies and recognizes law enacted by man, that one calls positive law, obscuring the deep origin of these norms and rejecting the very idea of natural law which would be based on higher values. On the other hand, striving to find the source of law, Schmitt revives the concept of an inherent law of the land. If localization, defined geopolitical space, primarily figures in his study of power relations, his philosophy of law invites us to a very organic reading, with a ecological connotation. Then, without even mentioning any moral values, that positivists qualify as extrinsic to judicial matters in order to disregard them, “The Nomos of the Earth” puts the logic of these legalists to the test of peasant common sense: “First, the fertile earth contains within herself, within the womb of her fecundity, an inner measure, because human toil and trouble, human planting and cultivation of the fruitful earth is rewarded justly by her with growth and harvest. Every farmer knows the inner measure of this justice.” The earth is also delimited by the man who works it, just like mountain ranges and waterways. Finally, it is the foundation of all enclosures, the visible manifestations of social order, power, and property. So one understands that the earth is “triply linked to law.” A particular order exists, proper to and defined by a given territory, which imposes itself from the moment it is taken. If seas are free, order reigns on terra firma.

This vision of an a priori and de facto rootedness of order seems to void the relativist posture which consists of believing that states and nations plunge an order that they create from scratch into the soil they dominate through force, great fireworks, symbols, and inflammatory speeches. If rootedness decrees order, it gives itself the attributes of a natural force and the reassuring face of a founding myth that aims unite a people with its land in a quasi-mystical manner. Schmitt refutes those who still want to see in the notion of rootedness a pure romantic abstraction without basis in reality, a superfluous and trite tool of policy provision, indeed a “nationalist” myth of “inwardness and hate for the other,” according to the now common abject expression. In reality we will discover that it is entirely the opposite, as someone who doesn’t accept a particular soil is irrevocably linked to a particular order and would consider that the order to which he consents is valid everywhere – for example, someone who pretends to be a citizen of the world: he would potentially violate every land, every order, every law, with the exception of his own.

The authentic peace lover can only admit that from the very moment where a territory is seized, the order that it bears imposes itself, as much on the inside, on whose who have seized it, as on the outside, that is to say, on the foreigner who can only legitimately impose a different order. In other words, to consider that a concrete link between rootedness and a particular order, between a given law and the land it rules over, doesn’t exist is a negation of the sovereignties that express themselves in the diversity of orders. So rootedness no longer appears as a choice, a myth, or an a posteriori construction, but primarily as an unsurpassable necessity of politics: the necessity of submitting to the order that the earth bears and imposes on he who takes it, divides it, and works it. To refuse this postulate can only lead to the destruction of the elementary substrate of all society. By using the term of nomos to designate “the first measure of all subsequent measures, the first land appropriation as the first partition and classification of space, the primeval division and distribution,” the author formulates a deep critique of positivist thought in its entirety, which is uninterested in the “way of birth” and for which only “the law of phenomenon” counts. This semantic method shows that in legal matters as well, he who disregards history disregards the earth as much as he who disregards the earth disregards history: he is rootless.

The idealist and universalist political project inherited from the French Revolution then seems absurd, making a concrete ambition of what the author designates as “philosophical generalizations of the Hellenistic era creating a cosmopolis from the polis.” And Schmitt adds that “they were deprived of topos, that is to say localization, and thus couldn’t constitute a concrete order.” One naturally comes to think that any political project, expressed through law, that doesn’t anchor itself in solid land and the reality it imposes is suspect.

From Ungrounded Thought to the Destructive Disdain for the Earth

If the rootlessness of the positivists, when it is only a working hypothesis, an academic intellectual posture, is not an a priori danger, the judicial and political evolution that concerned Carl Schmitt at the end of the “Nomos of the Earth” illustrates the disaster to which this paradigm leads. The “jus publicum europaeum” that the French Revolution began to question before the First World War finished it, rested on the acceptance of the diversity of judicial and spatial orders and the recognition of the enemy as justus hostis, in other words as a legitimate enemy to make war upon. But the ungrounded thought of the League of Nations (now the United Nations), American imperialism sometimes masked under the traits of a benevolent universalism, linked with the considerable means of mass destruction, could have broken humanity’s instinctive and natural attachment to the earth by reintroducing the notion of justa causa, once theological (and subject to the judgment of the Pope), into military relations while subsidizing the cosmopolitan dream. It’s as if the man capable of destroying the land of another (especially if the latter cannot do the same) despised the land deeply. As if the man capable of destroying the planet only thirsts to dominate it entirely to preserve himself. The the ambition of a “new world order,” the expression that George H.W. Bush himself imprinted on us, is the most striking symbol of this political and intellectual rupture: there no longer seems to be a place for multiple and diverse political and judicial orders, linked to their own lands, whose relations would be ruled by norms simply aiming to limit war. There will henceforth be a single order, universal and cosmopolitan, that we can envision being born in the rubble of Old Europe, symbolically taking root in the ruins of Dresden Cathedral. An order that has no history since it took nothing, an order that has no land but that which it has destroyed.

Also, war will no longer be limited, but criminalized, and prohibited in principle by the United Nations. Because an order, even global, can only be peaceful. Having tasked themselves with accumulating the sufficient means to reduce the world to dust, humanity is confronted with the moral question of the usage of these weapons of mass destruction. One can only reasonably allow using them in so-called just wars against an enemy that must be destroyed, and not only contained. But air war and the very newsworthy “police bombing” operations are the image of absolute contempt for the earth. “Aerial bombardment has annihilation as its only meaning and purpose,” states the author. We see fighter planes as arrogant and proud vectors of this new world order that is imposed from above, dismissing the earth from their cockpits, only knowing the earth of the American parent company. By pretending to conduct a war without ever treading on enemy soil, the essential link between occupation, obedience, and protection is broken in the eyes of Schmitt. Without soldiers on the ground, and thus without concrete links with the earth, the way to pure and simple destruction from the air is opened. But the opinion remains: soldiers no longer die on the field of honor. Once again, the link with the earth appears as an unavoidable and necessary source of order, while the use of aerial space alone sows chaos. It seems that only the projection of men onto the earth, the mother and support of all order, is capable of giving satisfactory political results. But that doesn’t matter, because there is no longer war, because all the enemies we strike are no longer states equal to those who fight against them, but the incarnation of evil! But, as David Cumin, biographer and specialist on Carl Schmitt, likes to recall, the enemy for the latter is “the figure of our own question,” the war of annihilation examines the paradigm and the morality of great Western military powers. This new relation to the earth invites us to seriously consider the lesson of Carl Schmitt at the end of his preface: “The earth has been promised to the peacemakers. The idea of a new nomos of the earth belongs only to them,” for modern destructive war separates law from its source and its seat, which is the earth.



For a National Communism – The Magazine “Die Tat” – Alexandre Marc Lipiansky – La revue d’Allemagne et des Pays de langue allemande, N°60, October 15th 1932


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In troubled, uncertain, and transitory periods such as the one Europe – Germany in particular – has experienced for the last fourteen years, it is very rare that political struggles express the deep movement of the era, whether they dream of legal or illegal forms. Most of the time, revolutionary as well as governmental parties, act and fight for ideas and passions already on their way to obsolescence and concern themselves with problems that belong more to the past than the future or even the present. It is not just popular passions that unleash themselves for or against prefabricated people or ideas, if I could say, as if cast in the mold of history. The forces of the future, in similar eras, are often very distant from the political arena and even from what we commonly perceive through “action.” Thus in the 18th century, the social, political, and economic forms of modern France elaborated themselves bit by bit far from Versailles and Paris, in the peaceable and “inoffensive” literary and scientific societies of the provinces, in the reading room of Voltaire and the “Hermitage” of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Much later, Communist Russia was prepared during interminable debate sessions in the cafes of Zurich, Paris, and London. This is because the real “action” – that which bears fruit, inscribes itself in reality, and doesn’t pulverize itself into vain and noisy agitation – is firstly “thinking” and “speaking.” It’s difficult to say that there is an “essential” difference between “thought” and “action,” not only a difference of “degree,” and that thought is naturally action in the measure where it’s the expression of a meeting between concrete reality and the mind. It’s analogous to what happens for electromagnetic rays, which are only perceptible to our eyes between the red and violent wavelengths, but beyond the violent and below the red, they are not any less real. Without desiring to make vain and artificial historical comparisons between the situation in France before 1789, and that of Russia in 1917 and Germany today, it seems to us that it would help make sense of the realities limited to the observation of men, things, and issues that occupy the spotlight beyond the Rhine for the moment.

We certainly do not pretend that the German theater of electoral events is without immediate importance. Yet we cannot prevent ourselves from thinking that the electoral success of Hitler has a totally episodic character and is only a manifestation – or more accurately, an external and temporary deviation – without decisive importance, of the deep spiritual crisis that has impacted Germany for the past 14 years. It’s not a “Third Reich” as Hitler’s lieutenants imagine, that will end this crisis, that would be trivial; its a new incarnation of Germanic destiny.

During these last years, the German crisis was so virulent, so intense, so chaotic that it was impossible – even for informed observers – to try to ascertain the ferments of the future from the decomposing elements, truly the dead was mixed with the living like in a tropical forest in a maelstrom of souls.

But, for some time, the German spiritual crisis has tended to polarize and – as long as one is aware of how things are in Germany – one can discern profound currents, essential tendencies that are emerging beyond the Rhine. Doubtlessly these tendencies still lack precision on many points; but the general orientation is clearly being drawn and it seems one can risk saying that the evolution of Germany in the future will be under the sign of National Communism, of which others have already shown certain aspects. Of course we do not mean that this term indicates a constituted and crystallized form of society, but an ensemble of tendencies whose subsequent orientation is still difficult to summarize.

We wish to attempt, in the following pages, to study the movement of the souls and minds of the German youth in one of its most conscious, objective, and intellectual manifestations: the activity of the group around the magazine Die Tat. This magazine, of a highly intellectual character, has achieved an important readership figure and now occupies a first rank position in the life and spiritual evolution of the German youth – which the so-called informed press continues to pass over in silence. As, on the other hand, the group that is constituted around this magazine generally keeps its distance from political struggles – piquantly paradoxical for a magazine entitled “action” – it seems particularly interesting to us to treat this group as the geometric locus, or as the fulcrum, of a study on the German spiritual revolution. In this fashion, it will be possible for us to indicate, along the way, what constitutes universal elements in this human revolution – like any profound spiritual movement – and what assumes a specifically Germanic form. In other terms, the magazine Die Tat seems detached enough from political contingencies and practice so that impartial study of the ideas expressed or sketched in it reveals the spiritual crisis of Germany is the only the particular expression suited to the Germanic temperament and tradition of a general movement of souls and minds that increasingly extends to all European youth, whose manifestations are more or less intense or veiled according the particular circumstances that reign in each country.

For the past few years, the Die Tat group has shown a great amount of intellectual activity, and has successively released a number of interesting theories and ideas, curious but often imprecise and sometimes contradictory.

This plethora of ideas and tendencies that characterizes the activity of the Die Tat group, is actually interesting in itself. It proves that the writers who compose it are in intimate contact with psychological reality, in constant transformation, fusing with the Germany of today if I could say; as arrested ideas and doctrines with diamond sharp edges are always made by men of the drawing room and “ivory tower” intellectuals, without contact with the ambiance of their time and their country, emerging without spiritual light and without deep influence on their contemporaries. So we will not analyze in detail the theories and the ideas that the magazine Die Tat has successively introduced to the public in the course of the last years here.

In regards to a group such as Die Tat, such a method, purely analytic and academic, which suits theses at the Sorbonne, remains ineffectual. We will also try, in the following pages, to extract, on one hand, the tendencies that increasingly “galvanize” the movement and give it a decisive orientation, and, on the other hand, the essential ideas around which the Die Tat group concentrates and on which all the members seem to agree, whatever their divergences on other points, from the seething chaos of the more or less vague or even contradictory theses of Die Tat, and the circles that gravitate around this magazine.

Like most doctrinal constructions worthy of the name, the doctrinal construction that the members of the Die Tat group work for is firstly based on the observation of a given situation and disorder as the point of departure: this given situation, this disorder would be the general weakness of the modern capitalist system. The people of Die Tat do not condemn the capitalist system by dogmatic judgment in the abstract or through sentimental reaction; they are in no way professional socialists, if one can say that. If they condemn capitalism, in their eyes, this condemnation is written in the facts. The manner of envisioning things gives their studies on capitalism a very particular accent of scientific and nearly even academic objectivity. Thus the tone of the studies devoted to this problem by the mysterious Fried [pseudonym of Ferdinand Friedrich Zimmermann, author of the “End of Capitalism”], one of the principal collaborators of Die Tat, is as distant from the verbal violence and dogmatism of the socialist critique as it is from the pretentious frivolity of “drawing room anti-capitalism” so fashionable recently. They are the first to render justice to the historical merits of the system, as well as to the personal qualities of the men who were its creators and pioneers. Fried, in particular, shows with an impressive technical precision that highlights, so to speak, the mechanism by which modern capitalism has engaged our society in a real economic impasse. The purely economic part of Fried’s work is too dense, too rigorous, too detailed to possibly summarize in the framework of one article – despite its exceptional interest. On the other hand, it is possible to give a schematic survey of the entirely original psychological and sociological analysis that Fried makes regarding the evolution of the capitalist system from its beginnings until the current global crisis, which, according to our author, marks its logical conclusions and its historical end.

Fried divides the evolution of capitalist economic regime into three phases. The first is that of exploration, discovery, and the strictly technical and economic struggle.

It’s the heroic period of capitalism, the period where audacity and the taste for risk was truly inseparable from the capitalist spirit and where the identification of the former with the latter – which certain authors of political economy textbooks still do through routine and intellectual sclerosis – appears to Fried as legitimate and precise. After the phase of creation and conquest, comes the phase of establishment, organization, and regular development of the regime.

The mercenaries, the economic adventurers of the first period, often without scruples but not without a certain grandeur, are succeeded by a more balanced, less “colorful” type of man, if I could say, more staid, more bourgeois, in short, the type of the great “captain of industry,” prudent enough to conserve and manage the inherited wealth and industry, and, at the same time, “dynamic,” wise, and skillful enough to adapt the capitalist machine to new technologies and constantly changing necessities.

For some time already, the capitalist system has entered into a very different period than the first two: the period of bastardization and decadence. This phase would essentially be characterized by the abandonment of the principles of struggle and risk that created the strength and grandeur of capitalism. The current masters of the regime are surrounded by fat, their blood is heavy, their muscles are loose, while it seems that their fatigued nerves escape the control of their will and they become similar to those pale, de-virilized, and nocturnal “aesthetes” that the captains of industry fifty years ago would have mocked so loudly in their pride of strong, healthy, and vigorous men. Stinnes, Kreuger, and Company are only apparent exceptions that confirm the rule. It seems, according to our author, that the current masters of capitalism have fallen prey to what one could call the “psychosis of security.” All their efforts actually attempt to transform the powerful machine that their fathers bequeathed them into a vast system of mutual assurances. Multiple phenomena highlight this deficiency of capitalism, this abandonment of the principles that formed its basis and reason to exist. We will only cite a few significant examples: on one hand, the increasingly frequent call for the state to bail out bankrupt banks and struggling shipping companies (we know that in Germany today, nearly all the shipping companies and a number of important banks are in the hands of the state), and, on the other hand, take responsibility for the millions of unemployed that capitalism, which had once wrenched the peasants from the earth, is powerless to employ today. Finally we cite, in a similar vein, the maladroit and shameful borrowings that capitalism has made from the revolutionary economic concept of the “plan” under the hitherto inoperable form of cartels, trusts, international conventions, thus renouncing its very essence and signing, with its own hands, its death sentence after having signed its resignation by making an appeal for state tutelage; because we know that regimes which want to distort the principles of the rising new revolutionary order for their own benefit inevitably die from this botched transfusion of blood, if I could express myself so. Thus the new blood they injected into their veins ferments in their debilitated organism, provoking the shock that ultimately kills them. Must we recall that in 1789 the “Feuillants”, Barnave, Lameth, Monnier, that is to say the left wing monarchists, the supreme hope of the monarchy, delivered the coup de grace by trying to renew it, by accommodating it to the taste of the day.

Moreover, as the folks at Die Tat say, the disorganization of the capitalist organism also manifests through other signs, which, in the collective scheme, fully recall the symptoms of a neurotic individual. We will not overemphasize, in the restricted framework of an article, this aspect of the question. We will limit ourselves to pointing out, for example, that capitalist Europe’s equipping of exotic countries has thus aroused their future competitors’ self initiative, closing the possibilities of future commercial expansion in advance on one hand, and on the other hand, that post-war super-rationalization pushed beyond all measure and all sense, has lead to the most extravagant manifestations of real collective madness. One must confess that it is difficult for the impartial observer not to see, as the folks at Die Tat do, in this double and successive error of modern capitalism a truly unpardonable aberration, a sort of unnatural logic, which singularly recalls the logic of the schizophrenic and demented, whose thought turns on itself, so to say, and encloses itself in a labyrinth built on the void and fed with emptiness, impossible to break with reasoning.

The analyses, of which we have tried to give a succinct schema in the preceding pages, lead to – if one knows how to broadly interpret the thought of this German group which is the object of this study and separate it from the complications and digressions inherent to the German spirit – a categorical conclusion that one can formulate as thus: the capitalist system has freed the economy from all external restraint. It has unbound the economy from any attachment to non-economic factors of life and mankind. In other terms, it has realized the “pure” economy, the “absolute” economy, if we can say, also implicitly proclaiming the primacy of the economy. But having reached this point of perfection , it devoured itself so to say or more exactly it exploded, it cracked like a gemstone under extreme temperatures; absolute purity confused itself with sterilization. Here we note that Mme Yvonne Serruys concluded a very well documented study on the American attempt at super-rationalization entitled “Farm Board,” with a condemnation of the capitalist regime very similar to the one made by the Die Tat group. The spiritual French movement grouped around Ordre Nouveau and the magazine Plans also expresses analogous ideas on many points. There is evidently a connection of a few young minds that the impartial observer should note.

It seems, in any case, and whatever one may think of this phenomenon, that we have been assisting the collapse of the economy’s primacy for some time, and the deep meaning and lesson of this terrible economic crisis that ravages the world resides in this collapse. Mr Fried made us perceive a new proof of this collapse very subtly, an a contrario proof in a way, in the very attitude of those who – in different scheme from that of modern capitalist society – also claim the primacy of the economic in their doctrine. If one actually analyzes the theory and the practice of the “seizure of power” and the “socialist state,” as realized, in part, in Russia, one can note that they implicitly recognize a certain primacy of the state over the economy. Starting from this very interesting and curious observation, but perhaps a bit too subtle, the Die Tat group thinks that it is the state which, under a new form, must realize the necessary revolution, put an end to economic disorder and reestablish the primacy of the spiritual, without which human enterprises, whatever their order and nature may be, go awry and fall into chaos. We remark, in passing, that we recognize the mark of the modern German spirit in this accent put on the state.

The Die Tat group, after having established the critical review of the capitalist system’s weakness and having imputed, in the final analysis, this weakness to the reversal of values which consists of replacing the primacy of the spiritual with the primacy of the economic, thus came to believe that it the state’s duty to realize the new order which society needs.

But, as we have already said, the folks at Die Tat do not believe that the state, in its present form, can fulfill the role they assign it. The new state, they write, will the expression, the organic emanation of the “people” (Volkstaat). This notion of the “people’s state,” we immediately note, is not without a certain Germanic obscurity. Yet, if we study things closely in the spirit of Die Tat’s leaders, we perceive that the Volkstaat is only the concrete outcome, the crowing institution, if we can express it so, of a revolution that mustn’t limit itself to a change of political, social, and economic regime, but must be “a revolution of the soul” before all, capable of giving rise to a new “incarnation” of man and a new starting point for civilization. To summarize these abstract notions a little, we say – though this example has, like all historical examples, only a limited value – that the revolution predicted by Die Tat would be on the order of the Reformation, which gave a “new visage” to a large part of humanity. It seems we can sat that, in the spirit of the German thinkers grouped around Die Tat, the Volkstaat will be the active expression of the revolutionary people, the latter being the collective manifestation of the “new man.”

These ideas have lead the folks at Die Tat – who, we recall, are not drawing room theorists but thinkers convinced that ideas only have value in the measure where they are the intellectual reflection of human necessities and realities – to ask where they can find the elements, the ferments of the “revolutionary people” of tomorrow in today’s society. For these German revolutionaries, as for many observers of social realities, every given social state provokes the formation of an ensemble of opposing forces in itself – through an intrinsic reaction that would be too much to analyze here. According to Hans Freyer – the member of the group who has particularly studied this problem – it is essentially important that this organic reaction is not sterilized and channeled into a laborious attempt at transforming the given elements, which can only lead to the reform of the existing state of things, that is to say to compromise. For Freyer, the true expression of this internal dynamism of today’s society can only be a “rupture,” in other words a revolution. This conception leads, through a series of observations and deductions that we don’t have the space to analyze here, Mr Freyer to believe that Karl Marx committed an error by identifying revolutionary ferment with what he called the “proletariat.” While recognizing in part the truth of his theories, indeed even “the prophecies” of Das Kapital’s author. Freyer addressed a veritable indictment against the proletariat. The latter, according to our author, has not shown itself to be worthy of its revolutionary mission. It prefers the improvement of society to struggle against it; it has abandoned revolutionary spirit for the slow acquisition of well being within the very society that this spirit must destroy. Reformist socialism has betrayed its revolutionary mission. Mr Freyer tells us it only embodied a moment of history, the protest of an elite that believed it expressed, and expressed often, the effort of the proletariat directed against the concept of bourgeois society made man into a thing, a commodity. But setting foot on the ground of actual reality, the proletariat renounced this leap into the world of freedom of which Marx spoke and concluded an armistice, maybe even a peace treaty, with the spirit of bourgeois society. More than any other opposition party, the ideology of socialism agreed to every conciliation in advance. It still uses – through a mixture of routine and hypocrisy – the term of struggle, devalued and devoid of any substance, but it no longer attaches any concrete or dynamic meaning to it. So it will not be the proletariat who will form and erect the foundation of this new state that Fried announces, and Freyer proclaims the necessity and imminence of a “revolution from the right.”

What does Die Tat mean by this term, “revolution from the right,” which lends some ambiguity? Nothing resembling the reactionary movement. Quite on the contrary, for them, revolution from the right is that which is capable of resolving the problem that escaped the so-called “revolution from the left,” that of the proletariat: namely the liquidation of the “atomistic” and “rationalist” society of the past two centuries. That is to say that the “revolution from the right” of Die Tat’s men is in some way, and in certain aspects, beyond Marxism, beyond communism. Through it, the doctrine of Freyer and his friends singularly incidentally resembles the doctrine of the small grouping of “Eurasianists” who seek to complete and “transcend” Soviet communism. Now that we have seen the goals and orientation that the German group we’re studying intends to give to the “revolution from the right,” two questions naturally come to mind: who will realize the revolution and in what manner?

It is perhaps one of the points where Freyer’s thought and the doctrine of Die Tat have the most novelty and creative originality. In their eyes, the revolution is not actually a simple question of temporal interests, it will not be the work of a “class.” It can only be realized by those who have already performed it in themselves and for themselves, who have broken with the bourgeois conception of life, and whose vision, mind, and soul are open to the “revelation” of the necessary world of tomorrow, who already live in it, so to say. Those who carry in themselves this “revelation”, this vision if one prefers, form – according to the thinkers of Die Tat – the initial cell of the “revolutionary people.” And thus is clarified this notion of the “revolutionary people,” of which it seems that one can say it is – in the doctrine we’re trying to analyze – both the revolutionary ferment within present society and the prefiguration of the future society that will form when the revolutionary rupture eliminates the “categorical imperatives” of pure “rationalism” and “utilitarianism” that poison the world today. In summation, according to Die Tat, the revolutionary people is, in the measure that it already exists, and will be, in the measure where it will encompass all of society one day, lead by ideals, through ideas, in the sense that the Greeks gave to the word, instead of material preoccupations erected as sacred dogmas and indisputable axioms under a more or less direct form. The society of tomorrow will be “ideocratic.” That doesn’t mean, however, that the Die Tat group neglects the economic aspects of life. It only intends to put economics in its proper place, which is secondary and necessary, and subject it to the spiritual. We have already addressed the ideas of Mr Freyer and his friends on reformist socialism above. The readers won’t be astonished that the Die Tat group affirms that the attitude of the “people” before today’s society can only be – contrary to the attitude of most union workers – one of absolute intransigence. Revolution, according to them, can only arise from what Mr Freyer calls radical negation: an energetic, even frightening term. The question that asks itself, on this point of analysis, can be formulated as thus: according to the Die Tat group, what must the point of this “radical negation” be firstly directed against? In other terms, what is the place in the edifice of bourgeois society that should be attacked first?

The answer to this question is found in various studies by the Die Tat group, but it’s Mr Hans Zehrer, former editor of the liberal Vossische Zeitung, currently the leader of the movement that is the object of this study, who has answered it at length and most precisely. For him, it’s liberalism, the liberal conception of truth in particular, and parliamentarianism as its projection into the political field, that the “revolution” must attack before all. According to Hans Zehrer, the liberal conception of the truth – common to all political parties, whether on the right or left – can thus be analyzed: the truth is, before all, what is discussed; more exactly truth only exists as a function of the scientific confrontation of opinions and decision only emerges via abstract reasoning. And, in the final analysis, decision is made from a compromise pushed as far as possible and a sort of numeric operation of which the “vote” is the most complete and adequate expression. It’s exactly because the regime is bound to this more or less conscious conception of truth, that all action engaged against it, on its on terrain, that is to say – to transpose what we just said in the philosophical scheme to the political one – in the parliamentary field, far from harming it, necessarily enforces it.

To support these affirmations, Zehrer, reviewing the forces of resistance which, in the course of the 19th century tried to either curb the evolution of capitalist society or block it, shows that these forces, conservative as well as socialist, have been subjected to the same processes of degradation and decomposition under the dissolving action of the parliamentary pseudo-struggle against capitalist liberalism. Henceforth, far from threatening the foundations of contemporary society, social conservatism (the Die Tat group sees, not incorrectly, in social conservatism, a tradition that runs counter to the primacy of the economic that Fried attributes to the appearance of capitalism, as we have already seen), on one hand, and reformist socialism on the other, form essential pieces of it. The latter, by limiting capitalist arbitrariness through an adroitly arranged philanthropy on very level of the regime, prevents capitalist society from provoking, through its excess, an overly violent reaction. It acts as a sort of lubricant according to Zehrer, indeed even an intermediary mechanism destined to dampen the inevitable shocks of the machine. As for conservatism, it masks the spiritual nothingness of contemporary capitalism by shoring it up with values imbued with patriotism, tradition, religion, thus throwing a veil of pseudo-spirituality on the naked inhumanity of the system.

We see there is something “religious” in the Die Tat group’s conception of the revolution; thus begging the question of what is the group’s attitude towards religion, and in particular the religion organically constituted in the framework of the Catholic Church; Hans Zehrer doesn’t take a strong position in this regard; but if one knows how to make the necessary connections and overlaps in his book, it is easy to take account of his tendencies on this point; Zehrer condemns with utmost severity the German Catholic Center Party because it uses the religion to sustain dying liberalism; but Zehrer thinks, on the other hand, that if the Catholic Church could break with what is destined to perish in today’s world, new and magnificent “chances “would open to it.

Having reached this point of his analysis, Mr Hans Zehrer has come to envision the most immediate reality and consider the political and psychological facts of the present situation in Germany. He doesn’t believe in the strength of resistance of what one could call the moderate parties. From socialism to national conservatism, these parties will increasingly see their influence diminish in the measure that the German revolution takes form and gains consciousness, and they are destined to disappear in the revolutionary tumult that will follow. Thus only the extremes should retain our attention: the national-socialist wing on one hand, the communist wing on the other.

One cannot deny that there are open or secret links between the movement of Die Tat, which sometimes shows some affection for fascism, and national-socialism. There is, on certain points, an indisputable parentage between the ideas that the publicists and economists grouped around Die Tat slowly elaborate and those trumpeted by the adepts of the Third Reich. It is certain, in particular, that a theory such as that of economic autarky – a theory that we find elsewhere in the liberal economy of the 19th century – has acquired a new prestige, thanks to the highly interesting works of Die Tat. We cannot analyze or even summarize these economic studies here. We will content ourselves with noting that the partisans of economic autarky start from the observation of international capitalism’s weakness to reach, relying on a politico-geographic analysis of what they call the Germano-Balkan or Germano-Slavic “space,” the conclusion of the possibility of a nearly complete rupture of relations between Germany and the capitalist West.

We will remark in passing that if German big industry has supported Adolf Hitler, the prophet of autarky, for purely tactical reasons, it now seems to be increasingly abandoning this peculiar theory where the most audacious observations mingle with reminiscences of a bygone era – in order to seek a rapprochement with French heavy industry.

For some time already, the attitude of the Die Tat group regarding national-socialism has become extremely reserved, even negative. In effect, national-socialism only has an existence as a mass movement, while, on the contrary, the Die Tat group resolutely condemns large organizations with an electoral character. On the other hand, national-socialism is engaged in the most demagogic activity, while the Die Tat group is reserved and concentrated on itself. “He who lacks the courage to abstain from all immediate action is a spiritual deserter,” proclaims Mr Fried. That is to say that the collaborators of Die Tat can only rebuke the noisy exhibitions of Adolf Hitler. The only ambition of the Die Tat group now is to address a merciless critique of what it calls capitalist and liberal bankruptcy.

But one can guess that the communist party is not any more sympathetic to the friends of Zehrer than the national-socialist party today. For Zehrer, the two militant wings of the revolution both have betrayed their mission. They have transformed themselves into “parties,” in the liberal and bourgeois sense of the word, into mass organizations based on quantity, and consequently subject to the laws of demagogy, delivered to the “temptation of legality” and parliamentarianism. Thus they lost on the way the creative intransigence without which the necessary revolution is stillborn. Imperceptibly, the “liberal virus” thus infected the most decided adversaries of liberal society.

Before this “deficiency of revolutionary parties” thus stigmatized by Mr Zehrer, what are the recommendations of the Die Tat group? In other terms, what are the formations and groupings, present or future, in which the revolutionary spirit could be embodied, the only thing capable of saving Germany – and later the world – from perdition, in the eyes of Mr Zehrer and his friends.

It seems that the predictions and sympathies of Mr Zehrer lend themselves to an eventual transformation of the communist party which – one one hand, detaching itself from its specifically Marxist origins with which its links are already fairly relaxed, and on the other hand, linking to Stalinist myth (so long as it has real value) of the historical-geographic development of Eurasia – could integrate the German national tradition. It seems that national-communism summarizes the thought of the director of Die Tat on this point.

But the politico-social aspect of the question is far being expressed in an entirely adequate fashion in the thought of Mr Hans Zehrer. More precisely, he doesn’t exhaust the problem, such as it is posed by the thinkers of Die Tat. Any revolution worthy of calling itself one is thus not only a radical change of institutions and their principles, but especially and above all a real creation, that of a “new man.”

This new man can only arise from a spiritual effort, in all its depth and concentrated intensity. Within today’s chaos, we must not join “political parties”, but unite in “groups of thought and action,” – in “lodges” – if the term doesn’t not evoke something radically different in the eyes of French readers than what is meant by Die Tat – in organically linked societies of men who prepare the future. These men must have a new conception of life and the world; such a conception cannot be elaborated by solitary thinkers working in their ivory towers, by “clerks”, in other words, but by “concrete revolutionaries” linked to the very substance of their people and representing, or more exactly, projecting the convulsions and growth of the people in the spiritual scheme.

We hope we have given the French reader, in this article, an exact enough synopsis of the essential ideas, very interesting but sometimes confused or a bit contradictory, emerging from the ensemble of works inspired by the bold initiatives of the magazine Die Tat. Doubtlessly, we have been obligated to give an unintentional stylization to a movement in the midst of evolution. But unless one succumbs to the temptation of chaos and formlessness that any impartial observer of present day Germany cannot fail to experience, we must resign ourselves to limiting ourselves and framing a movement nearly impossible to tie down in all its liquid complexity, if I can express myself so. Anyhow, our intention is to show, above all, behind the facade of garish colors of today’s political edifice, the slow movement of forces that will shape tomorrow.

The Youth Movement and National Revolutionary Ideology Under the Weimar Republic – Thierry Mudry –  Vouloir n°43/44 – 1987


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From the years 1924-25 until the legislative elections which, in short, would propel the National Socialist party into the first rank, nationalist militancy was principally represented in Germany by the paramilitary groups (Wehrverbände), the heirs of the Freikorps, and the youth leagues (Bünde). Due to the economic crisis, the most radical elements of these groups and leagues would evolve towards revolutionary national socialism (the Strasser tendency) or National Bolshevism while others (that is to say the majority of the league members and leaders) would seek an accommodation with the system for a time and rally to new parties, like the German State Party (arising from the merger of the Democratic Party and the Young German Order of Artur Mahraun) and the Conservative People’s Party (formed by the Social Christians and elements coming from the extreme right DNVP), trying in vain, to make them instruments of German revival.



Bündisch Socialism



The members of the youth leagues were inflamed with passion for “Bündisch socialism,” a variant of the “German socialism” to which numerous socio-professional milieus and political groups in Weimar Germany rallied. “Bündisch socialism” was very close to the “soldierly socialism” professed by their elders in the paramilitary groups. In both cases, the accent of this socialism was put on the group, not only on the Bund or the militarized group, but also the Volksgemeinschaft (the Community of the People) served by Bund or group, into which it was integrated. While the “soldierly socialism” of the elders was based on the experience of the war and the comradeship of the front, the “Bündisch socialism” of the youth rested on the experiences of hikes throughout Germany, the contact with the German people, and the communitarian experience of the Bund, the comradeship experienced within the Bund. With the crisis and the increasing radicalization of the youth leagues, “Bündisch socialism” became more concrete and transformed into a national-revolutionary socialism favorable to the total or partial nationalization of the means of production, a planned economy, and German or Central European autarky.



The Hitlerian Challenge



After Hitler’s accession to power, the principal youth leagues (except the “Mendicants”, the most moderate, notably the important Deutsche Freischar) united in March 1933 into the Grossdeutsche Jugendbund under the sponsorship of Admiral von Trotha, a close associate of Reich President Hindenburg. Thus they hoped to escape the “synchronization” (Gleichschaltung), meaning dissolution and the integration of their members into the Hitler Youth. On their side, the “hardest” leagues, the most Völkisch (for which Volk was often synonymous with Rasse) and the most critical regarding Hitlerism at the same time (they judged it from a revolutionary national socialist or National Bolshevik point of view) regrouped into a Bündische Front für Wehr-, Arbeits- und Grenzdienst ( Bündische Front for the service of defense, labor, and border security), under the presidency of a “Trotskyite of National Socialism,” Dr Kleo Pleyer.

The youth leagues were, despite their desperate efforts, dissolved during the summer of 1933. Their members then entered into the Hitler Youth and especially in the cadre of the Deutsche Jungvolk (which gathered the youngest elements of the Hitler Youth) in order to continue their activities and promote the Bündisch spirit there. The others, older, (the associates of Friedrich Hielscher) entered into the SS and the Ahnenerbe (“Heritage of the Ancestors”, the sector of the SS specializing in scientific research, particularly historical and prehistoric research). Yet others (the Strasserists under the direction of Heinz Gruber) chose to enter into the Labor Front in order to accentuate its socialist orientation. Finally, Dr. Werner Haverbeck tried to regroup the youth of Bündisch spirit into an organization, Reichsbund Volkstum und Heimat, a satellite association KdF (Kraft durch Freude, “Strength Through Joy”) – this organization would soon count nearly a million members.



The Repression Begins



But under the notable pressure of Baldur von Schirach, leader of the Hitler Youth, who feared seeing his authority over the German youth contested, repression struck the former Bündisch leader from 1934 onward: some were excluded from the Hitler Jugend [Werner Lass, founder and leader of the “Freischar Schill” and the secret organization of the Eidgenoßen (Confederates)], others were arrested [Heinz Gruber, founder and leader of the Schwarze Jungmannschaft, the social-revolutionary dissidence from the Hitler Youth, which became part of Otto Strasser’s Black Front; Robert Oelbermann, founder and leader of the Nerother Wandervogel] or forced into exile [Eberhard Köbel, nicknamed “tusk”, founder and leader of the “Deutsche Jungenschaft vom 1.11.1929”, dissident movement from the important Deutsche Freischar; Fritz Borinski, social democrat and one of the leaders of the Deutsche Freischar; Hans Ebeling, founder and leader of the Jungnationaler Bund, deutsche Jungenschaft; Karl-Otto Paetel, founder and leader of the Gruppe Sozialrevolutionärer Nationalisten], others were ultimately assassinated [Karl Lämmermann, one of the leaders of the Deutsche Freischar, assassinated during the Night of the Long Knives]. Haverback’s Reichsbund was dissolved.

Despite four successive bans (in 1933, 1934, February 6th 1936, and May 13th 1937) and the mandatory incorporation of the German youth into the Hitler Youth, mandated in 1936, and applied in practice in 1939, certain leagues would continue their activities in Germany clandestinely and illegally. That was the case of:

1) The “Deutsche Jungenschaft vom 1.11.1929”, founded by “tusk”, the alias of Eberhard Köbel, in 1931, in liaison with the exiled Karl-Otto Paetel and Otto Strasser (Helmut Hirsch, member of the “d.j. 1.11” and correspondent of Strasser, condemned to death on June 4th 1937, would be hanged at Plötzensee).

2) The Nerother Wandervogel

3) The Jungnationaler-Bund, deutsche Jungenschaft, dismantled in 1937, whose leaders would be heavily condemned during the trial in Essen.

If certain leagues could survive clandestinely, with limited effective membership, new groups appeared, bands of adolescents who refused integration into the Hitler Youth and the militarization of the youth. Some of these bands imitated Western fashions and prefigured the postwar groups, others professed a moralizing Christianity and constituted the continuation of the Christian youth organizations, yet others renewed the romantic ideal of the Wandervögel. Among these new groups, the most well known was, without contest, Die Weisse Rose, in which some of the oldest belonged to youth leagues.

The Bündisch youth, and their imitators, were not the only ones to resist Hitlerian “Fascism”: we must also mention the young communists in the labor milieu and the young Catholics in the Rhineland and Bavaria. While the first relied on the clandestine infrastructure of the German Communist Party, the second sheltered themselves behind the Concordat signed between Hitler and the Pope in 1933.



The Bündisch Ideal in Exile



The Bündisch ideal, progressively smothered in Germany, was maintained abroad in exile. Otto Strasser sparked the creation of a Ring bündischer Jugend, which was integrated into his Deutsche Front gegen das Hitlersystem (German Front against the Hitlerian System). An anti-fascist magazine, controlled by the communists, emerged in Paris under the title Freie deutsche Jugend (this phrase denoted a faction of the independent youth movement between 1913 and 1923 and would denote the East German youth organization after the Second World War). Karl-Otto Paetel edited in Stockholm, then in Brussels and finally in Paris, the Schriften der jungen Nation and the Blätter des sozialistischen Nation (disseminated in Germany by the Siliava sisters, members of the “Deutsche Jungenschaft vom 1.11.1929” in Berlin). Finally in 1935, Hans Ebeling and Theo Hespers would establish the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Bündischer Jugend in Belgium, which Paetel and Tusk joined, which would give rise to the Deutsche Jugendfront. This youth front was linked to Dutch, Belgian, and British groups. It was born from the desire to regroup the entire German youth opposition. But this attempt failed due to communist maneuvers and these young resistants’ lack of cohesion. Ebeling and Hespers, who were not discouraged, then published the magazine Kameradschaft (Comradeship) from 1937 to 1940.



Hans Ebeling and Theo Hespers



Ebeling and Hespers’ magazine Kameradschaft dreamed of uniting all the youth animated by the Bündisch ideal beyond the conventional political divides. Their will to struggle against the uniformity of organization introduced by the NSDAP preceded from a desire to exclude no Volksgenosse [member of the folk] from the future community being constructed. In light of the passions that animated the political scene of the era, this project and this hope was utopian, which the communists perfectly perceived. A heavy suspicion of treason would weigh on their leaders, in contact with people who actually plotted against Germany for the benefit of foreign services. The poor Hespers would pay dearly for his idealistic commitment: he would be hanged at Berlin-Plötzensee.

The magazine Kameradschaft constitutes an important testimony to the resistance of the Bündisch youth to the Hitlerian state and to its social and political project against Fascism. This German language magazine, edited in Belgium, was clandestinely disseminated in Germany. Its founders, Hans Ebeling and Theo Hespers, were both former youth league leaders in exile. The first, born in 1897 in Krefeld, had taken part in the First World War (he finished it with the rank of lieutenant), the combat of 1920 (in the Rhineland) in the ranks of the provisional Reichswehr and the resistance against the French occupation troops in the Ruhr. He joined the Jungnationaler Bund shortly after, from which he separated in 1924 to found the more activist and more radical Jungnationaler Bund, deutsche Jungenschaft, which evolved towards National Bolshevism. Starting from the end of 1929 until January 1933, Ebeling directed, with Professor Lenz, the magazine Der Vorkämpfer.

In the company of other Bündisch leaders (notably Werners Lass and Karl-Otto Paetel) Hans Ebeling participated in international meetings in Freusburg (August 1927) and in Ommen in Holland (August 1928), destined to prepare the foundation for a global league for peace. These international meetings, during which the young Bündisch leaders established contacts with the representatives of the extreme left and the colonized peoples, accelerated the radicalization of the youth leagues (note that Ebeling, Lass, and Paetel, who participated in them, consequently became figures of National Bolshevism) and would inspire Ebeling to found, with Prof. Lenz, a few months later, in January 1930, the magazine Vorkämpfer, with a ultra-nationalist, anti-capitalist (Vorkämpfer adopted elements of Marxist analysis) and anti-imperialist (and pro-Soviet) orientation.

Theo Hespers, born in 1903, joined the Catholic youth organization Quickborn at the age of 14, to which he belonged until 1927. He also participated in the passive resistance against the Franco-Belgian occupation of the Ruhr. He then joined the Vitus-Heller-Bewegung and directed the Pfadfinderschaft Westmark, which constituted, with Ebeling’s league, Werner Lass’ Freischar Schill, and the Young Prussian League of Jupp Hoven, the “Combat Committee of the National Revolutionary Groups in the Western March” in the Rhineland.

The Vitus Heller movement to which Theo Hespers belonged was the only Christian National Bolshevik movement (the other movements of this type affected indifference to religious matters, even an aggressive atheism, or spoke in favor of a Germanic neopaganism) and actually implanted itself in the Catholic milieu (National Bolshevism was, as L. Dupeux demonstrated, a very majority “Protestant” phenomenon – unsurprising since National Bolshevism attached itself to the German protestant tradition of Arminius, Widukind, and Luther – which did not prevent the Catholic Rhineland, a frontier region receptive to German nationalist theses, from being, with Berlin and Franconia, one of the strongholds of National-Bolshevism).



The Bund, Alternative to the Parties and the Single Party



Kameradschaft wanted to be the tribune of the young opponents of Hitlerism. The Young Nationalists, Young Socialists, Young Catholics, and Young Protestants who expressed themselves in Kameradschaft affirmed themselves as Bündisch, völkisch and great German nationalists, Christians, Democrats, and Socialists at the same time.

For them, the Bund constituted a political mode, the model of a “German democracy,” founded on the Führer / Gefolgschaft pair (the charismatic Führer, in the service of the idea, freely chosen and subjected to the permanent approbation of the group, was only a first among equals here). They contrasted the Bund to the bankrupt parties of the Weimar democracy and the single party of the Hitlerian dictatorship. The Bund was also a social model founded upon comradeship (Kameradschaft) – contrasted to Hitlerian Schadenfreude – and a model of individual integration and socialization based on enthusiasm; a model of political education and even a model of the revolutionary community of combat formed by the activist German youth, enemy of Weimar and then Hitlerism.

For the collaborators of Kameradschaft, who particularly insisted on the role played by the Bund in the matter of political education and for whom the Bündisch man was the political man par excellence, entirely devoted to the service of the state and the people, the Hitlerian state appeared as a dictatorship of apolitical petty bourgeois elements (associated with a politicized Reichswehr but avoiding all political responsibility). Under the Third Reich, the political, indeed physical liquidation, of nationalist activism considered dangerous by the new masters of Germany (paramilitary groups and youth leagues) seems revelatory in this regard. Kameradschaft devoted two large articles to the judicial proceedings against the Jungnationaler Bund, deutsche Jungenschaft, and against Niekisch and the “ Eberhard comradeships.”



Redefining Volksgemeinschaft



The völkisch nationalists took up the defense of the Volk and the Volkstum but refused the “neo-German imperialism” of the Hitlerians. In the spirit of the collaborators of Kameradschaft, völkisch nationalism attached itself to the defense of the independence and Volkstum of all peoples. They also took up the defense of the Volksgenossen, against the continuing capitalist exploitation and against the arbitrariness of the Hitlerian state; they advocated the constitution of a true Volksgemeinschaft (community of the people) unrelated to the so-called Volksgemeinschaft, product of the police state and Hitlerian mass politics; in their eyes the constitution of this “true” Volksgemeinschaft constituted a new socio-economic order (socialists), which would put an end to the class order arising from capitalism, and a spiritual reorientation (völkisch) with a Christian essence, which would combat the materialist disarray of the epoch. The “revolutionary national socialists” of Otto Strasser and the “social-revolutionary nationalists” of K.O. Paetel defended the same point of view (with the nuance that the spiritual reorientation envisioned by Paetel and his friends would be most German pagan than Christian).

Like Otto Strasser, they contrasted the greater German tradition, based on the refusal of the Austro-Prussian dualism, in which they situated themselves, to Pan-Germanism. They rejected the capitalist economy founded on profit as well as the war economy and “bureaucratic anarchy” (of Hitlerian Germany realized the symbiosis), to which they substituted a Plan (a German, then European Plan). They prefigured, in the framework of this plan, an economy destined to satisfy the needs of the people, the nationalization of key industries which would break the power of big capital, and the sharing of large landed properties, and finally the constitution of cooperatives in all domains of economic activity.



In fact, the editorship of Kameradschaft posed as the heir of two traditions:



1) The Libertarian Tradition of the Wandervogel



The tradition of the independent youth movement, notably the Free German Youth emerging during the meeting at Hohe Meißner in 1913. Against the paternal / paternalist world (Väterwelt), the youth movement affirmed its fidelity to the forefathers, the ancestors (Vorväter). Against the tutelage of institutions (school, church, family) and bourgeois society, they claimed independence and chose young leaders for themselves. Against the Wilhelmine state and bourgeois chauvinism, they affirmed their love for the Volk and their allegiance to the Volk. Against the big city, the movement proposed the Wandern, hiking across the German countryside (“the deep Germany”) in contact with the authentic German Volk. Against revealed religion, they encouraged Germanic religiosity. Against the use of tobacco and condemning alcoholism, against physical degeneration, they exalted physical strength and Nordic beauty (depicted by the artist Fidus), and practiced gymnastics and nudism.

Finally, after the test of the Great War, the youth movement lead to the emergence of youth leagues in 1924-25 arising from the merger of the dissident scout groups and the Wandervögel.



2) The “Freikorps” Tradition



The tradition of the Freikorps, which had formed the provisional Reichswehr in 1919 before becoming enemies of the Reichswehr issuing from the military clauses of the Treaty of Versailles (which had reestablished the aristocratic traditions of the Imperial Army, thus putting an end to the democratization of the army, and notably the officers corps, provoked by the Great War and its consequences), and the tradition of the national-revolutionary paramilitary groups that succeeded the Freikorps, who attacked the reaction embodied by the industrialists and planters, the generals of the Reichswehr and the right wing politicians.

Despite the originality of the Hitlerian phenomenon and the originality of the magazine’s interpretation of it (an interpretation which approached the ‘theory of totalitarianism’ in certain regards), Kameradschaft reprised certain critiques against Hitlerism that had been formulated beforehand by its predecessors in the youth movement regarding Wilhelminism, and by its predecessors in the Freikorps or paramilitary groups regarding Weimar and reaction (notably the Reichswehr associated with Hitlerian power) in the Weimar era.



Links between the Bündische in exile with the French “Non-Conformists” and “Planistes”



Beyond the bond of evident shared lineage between the German Youth, the Freikorps and paramilitary groups, and Kameradschaft, one notes an astonishing relation between the ideas of the Bündisch youth, as expressed in Kameradschaft, and those of the young French Non-Conformists of the 1930s who adhered to patriotic, federalist, personalist, communitarian, planist, corporatist or syndicalist watchwords.

Contacts existed between the representatives of the German youth leagues and the French Non-Conformist groups: thus Harro Schulze-Boysen (veteran militant of the Young German Order, who would later play a first rank role in the Red Orchestra, and director of Planer, the German equivalent of the French magazine Plans, directed by Philippe Lamour), was, with Otto Abetz, one of the German delegates to the Front unique de la Jeunesse Européenne, created on the initiative of the French groups Plans and Ordre Nouveau. Consequently, Ordre Nouveau entertained close contacts with Otto Strasser, the group formed around the magazine Die Tat, and especially the magazine Der Gegner (The Adversary) – to which Louis Dupeux devoted a chapter of his thesis on National-Bolshevism – directed by Harro Schulze-Boysen and Fred Schmid, founder and leader of the Grey Corps league, a split from Deutsche Freischar.

But personal contacts alone cannot explain such a convergence: what linked the best elements of the German and French youth was a common refusal of liberalism and totalitarianism, from which they emerged, and a common aspiration to a spiritual (or if one prefers: cultural), political, and socioeconomic revolution.

Ernst Jünger: A Mythic Existence – Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner –  Nouvelle École – n°48 – 1996.


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The idea that he could not have lived and wrote sends chills down the spine. There are few figures in the history of the 20th century German literature to whom this affirmation could apply. Ernst Jünger is one of them.

Born in 1895, the year of the discovery of X rays by Röntgen, Ernst Jünger is indeed the writer – thinker of Strahlungen [German: Radiations]. This doesn’t solely apply to the biographical writings that bear this title either. One couldn’t better qualify the impression produced by his immense body of work, which spans more than 60 years, than through a concept of modern physics, precisely the concept of radiance (Strahlung). On such heights, matter, light, and knowledge are one. Spiritual and chthonic elements, Antaeus and Plotinus, meet in a perfect “union of opposites” (coincidentia oppositorum). Poetry and the spirit of precision, mysticism and science lose their antithetical character there:

“Thus we tirelessly strive to give direction and harmony to floods of light, to radiant sheaves, to raise them to the rank of images. In all honestly, to live is nothing else. In the supreme order, cosmic and terrestrial radiations are so inextricably linked that they reveal significant motifs.”

In these lines, Jünger condensed his spiritual itinerary into a revelatory formula.

Jünger is the great loner of German literature – at least in Germany. He is as isolated as Nietzsche was during the Wilhelmine era, when they esteemed Dühring and Eduard von Hartmann as great thinkers, and Rudolf Baumbach and Emanuel Geibel as great writers. But unlike Nietzsche, create period of Jünger lasted longer than Goethe’s. He started as the chronicler of the First World War, wrote of essays like “On Pain,” narratives like “African Games” of “Visit to Godenholm,” novels with autobiographical connotations like “The Slingshot”, works with Utopian orientations like “Heliopolis,” “The Glass Bees,” and “Eumeswil.” He composed “figures and cappriccios” – to re-use his own expression – that one can salute as first rank contributions to the surrealist poetry of our century. He surprised the public through his works discussing the philosophy of history and pronouncing a diagnosis on the contemporary era, as well as by his visionary and premonitory sketches: “The Peace,” “Uber die Linie,” “Treatise on the Rebel,” “The Wall of Time,” and “The Universal State.” He noted lived experiences with countries, insects, drugs, adventures, impressions and reflections of his numerous journeys which lead him to France to Norway, from the Mediterranean isles to Africa, from Brazil to Singapore. These autobiographical writings and essays take up the most space in his body of work.


A Work With Multiple Faces


Ernst Jünger wrote a great deal, even at an advanced age. Those who know how to read him often interpret him in strongly divergent ways, depending on the book that firstly seduced them in the deepest manner. The reason why it is so difficult to come to an agreement on Jünger comes from the fact that every one of his readers prefers a different work, a different period. There is the combatant and the militarist, the pacifist and the humanist, the observer and the visionary, the physiognomist and the allegorist, and finally: the aesthete, the dandy, the existentialist, the morphologist, the skeptic, and the Homo religiosus, the hobbyist who meditates on minerals, plants, and insects, the man who delight in s seeking treasures and collecting the customs and traditions of faraway countries, the lucid critic of civilization, the magisterial experimenter and explorer of the most varied forms of life and cultural models, the player and the maker of myths. The judgments of certain admirers of Jünger, this exceptional author – who say he is the greatest since the death of Gottfried Benn and Rudolf Pannwitz -often differ to the point where one could ask if they’re addressing one and the same author. But these disagreements find their justification in the polymorphy of the Jüngerian body of work and in the subjectivity – inescapable, shaped by the era, the generation and the historic kairos [the crucial instance] – of he who encounters Jünger through his books and what he extracts from them.

For those who lived through Hitler, National Socialist totalitarianism, and the Second World War with open eyes, the impression that the little book “On the Marble Cliffs” produced remains ineffable. Karl Korn confided in 1974: “We were trapped, it must not be forgotten. Suddenly this grand poem surged forth like a light in our prisons. Certainly, this vision of the apocalypse confirmed the horror of our situation, but it was a message coming from a another universe at the same time. What courage the first lines of the book gave to us:

“You all know this intractable melancholy that seizes us when we remember happy times and free this emotional capacity that drives away the oppressive feeling of our imprisonment in the belly of the Leviathan! The sorrowful elegiac tone bound to the interludes where the erasmic ambiance of the herbarium and library of the hermitage imposes itself, all that annihilates the despair and anguish that oppresses us. Ancient fascination transports us.”

Likewise, Dolf Sternberger:

“This is the boldest literature produced in the era of the Third Reich in Germany. It was like a beacon that suddenly illuminated the shadows and cleared the country. It was the coded verdict condemning our miserable rulers. We rubbed our eyes: we could hardly conceive that such a thing was possible.”

On the other hand, for others, the two – very different – versions of the essay “The Adventurous Heart” constitute the most exciting, intense, and fascinating writings of Jünger.


The Reign of Titans


In my opinion, Ernst Jünger is primarily and above all the author of the book “Der Arbeiter: Figure and Domination.” It’s one of these rare works makes you grasp reality with a new look upon reading it. I do not know a single work, except maybe that of his brother Friedrich Georg on technology (Maschine und Eigentum), that makes all that the Marxists offer on the subject look like pure and simple verbiage, a mixture of prolix humanitarianism and doctrinaire economism. All these socialisms that incense and flatter the worker as a social factor seem terribly insipid, wordy, conformist, and sectarian compared to what Ernst Jünger says, for whom the worker is firstly a titan, not an exploited being deserving pity, but a planetary exploiter, not an economic agent but a power on the metaphysical level.

What book is as stimulating, immense, and full of fury as Der Arbeiter! The grand lucid diagnostic of his epoch, putting it into perspective in the framework of the history of philosophy, and at the same time, an apocalyptic evocation of events to come, it’s an assemblage of extremes, composed of ice and fire, a work whose ambition, radicalism, and expressive power can only be compared to the late writings of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.

At the time Der Arbeiter’s publication, Jünger was 37 years old. He held neither a university degree nor an official post, and hadn’t earned literary prizes; but he had received the highest military distinction in Germany, the “Pour le Mérite” medal, created by Frederick the Great. Adventurer, front line soldier, nationalist and writer, anti-bourgeois and bellicose even after his de-mobilization, a loner, an original, whose war books “Storms of Steel,” “Copse 125,” and “Fire and Blood,” accurately expressed the experience of an entire generation in a cold and brutal, but also excitable and impassioned, language. This Jünger was neither a democrat nor a liberal, he was never one thereafter; but he was no longer a monarchist, nor a national-conservative, nor a reactionary whose ambition was to re-establish the old regime. In his book published in 1929, “The Adventurous Heart,” one finds on the other hand, a reference to “the Prussian anarchist” who “armed with sole categorical imperative of the heart and referring only to it, searches the chaos of unleashed forces seeking the foundations of new orders.”

As Nietzsche remarked, Cataline was the figure that prefigured Ceasar. The Prussian anarchist is the adolescent form of the post-bourgeois modern conservative, who is no longer preoccupied with preserving existing situations bequeathed by tradition. Armin Mohler, who was once Jünger’s secretary, referred to “the crucial conservative period.” Once this latter period was crossed, conservatism radically transformed. If until then it had turned towards the past, sacrificing itself to traditionalism and restorationism, it henceforth looked towards the future – it became revolutionary. It became so at the moment where it discovers that its commitment no longer applies to a faith defined by its content (“God, Emperor, Country,”), but by a formal attitude: “The essential thing is not knowing why, but knowing how we fight.” The essential thing is henceforth fundamentally formal values, aesthetic in the limited sense of the word – even if that mean a merciless aesthetic of technocratic samurai. Opinions, ideologies, programs are only hollow concepts: form and attitude, that’s what counts.

The conservative metamorphoses into a “heroic realist” subjected to the dynamic of technical – industrial processes. He doesn’t consider himself as a brake on it in any way. In full cognizance, body and soul, he pushes himself to fuse with it. The dynamic of universal technical revolution cannot nor should not be decelerated, all the more reason to ask: does that posit a reactionary romanticism, a sterile and powerless nostalgia. Moreover, the anarchy that results from the emergence of modern technological processes and which has opposed, victoriously, every attempt by the conservatives to bring it to heel or domesticate it, should radically grow to reach an extreme stage and spread the new order that already pre-exists in itself, now hidden there: “There is no escape, in any direction, rather it acts to reinforce the efficiency and the speed of the processes we are enmeshed in. It is good, however, to sense a stable nucleus behind the excesses of the dynamism of our times.”


A New Cosmic Order


In the exacerbated – to fullest brightness – dynamism of the technical process which has henceforth been unleashed, stupefying progressive humanists, a new cosmic order reveals itself. We are lead to a new advent of extinct religions. Thanks to a limitless zeal in the service of technological processes (an attraction nothing can resist), thanks to an attitude of fatalism, aggressive so to speak, the new Nomos of the earth will be revealed. The ancient thought of a divine magic constraint appears again in the age of the total disenchantment of the world. The Arbeiter is the one who realizes a theurgic transubstantiation, a phenomenon which has a cosmogonic character in the strict sense of the world: he creates a universe. The work he accomplishes does not belong to an economic category, nor is it the object of sociological observation or socio-political measures: it’s a “new principle” which “mightily surpasses the economic in all its forms.” Labor becomes a cosmological category, indeed ontological. In the new era which is now opening, being itself reveals itself as work: all is one. It is not Divine love that puts the sun and stars in motion, as Dante sang, but work. The anonymous and universal demiurge. There is nothing that could not be conceived as work:

“Work is the rhythm of the hand, thoughts, heart, life, day and night, science, love, art, faith, religion, war; work is the vibration of the atom and the energy which sets the stars and solar systems in motion.”

Work is the totalizing principle par excellence, it experiences no contradictions beyond itself. There is no Sabbath where God and men rest; the workplace is limitless – and likewise, the workday is 24 hours. Even rest, play, distractions, festivals demonstrate, in Jünger’s piercing look, a character that fully integrates this new fully principle, and he presents striking documentation and the results of inquiries which evidently illustrate the increasing absurdity, not only of the old system and Sundays and holidays, but also of bourgeois culture as a whole, whose practice is separated from the universe of work in an artificial fashion.

The Jüngerian Arbeiter no long carries the odor of proletarian misery, of slave uprisings, of the appeal to social emancipatory pity. He no longer is part of the humiliations and outrages of the dispossessed and exploited. He personifies the elite of the technological era. He’s an aristocrat, a lord, and a “Super-Prussian.” He rules by serving and exercising his function. Representative of the technical universe, he implements a mobilization of telluric dimensions, just as he entertains a particularly intimate relation with the sphere of the elementary, unlike the bourgeois. The Arbeiter is a metaphysical figure, or, to reprise Kant, the transcendental schema according to which Jünger experiences a new age of the world: the eon of planetary technological revolution. Technology is “the mode under the which the figure of the Arbeiter mobilizes and revolutionizes the world.”

Mobilization and Revolution signify the disappearance of the individual; he dies like the old rambler or drawing room. The Arbeiter is a uniformed soldier of enterprise, the Prussian exercising a function as a part of a machine. This role tailor made for the German, more than the representatives of other nations, “because he lacks, deep within himself, any form of relation to individual liberty and thus to bourgeois society.” Nevertheless, Jünger didn’t intend to say that the Arbeiter is a specifically German figure: he is an imperial figure, who ignores national consciousness and dissolves all patriotic bonds.

In this context, it is important to underline the concept of “organic construction,” which comprises many levels of meaning. The term “organic construction” firstly integrates the idea that metaphysical power, which mobilizes the material world under the form of technology, subjects not only inanimate matter, but also organic units. The organic world and mechanical universe become elements of a globalizing ensemble that Jünger, if he had written his book fifteen year later, would have probably christened “cybernetic.”

Moreover, the term “organic construction” signifies that “technology attains the same ultimate degree of autonomy that one finds among plants and animals.” Pushing his logic to its conclusion, “organic construction” aims, via technology, to abolish the dichotomy between nature and civilization. It’s a profound mutation, indeed a global recreation of the earth which realizes the fusion of the elementary and the sublime, of instinct and intellect, of reflection and vision. This recalls Kleist’s motif of dialogue in the marionette theater. There is no longer a possible return to the vitality, security, and grace of the time before technology: we only have the choice of tracing our route across the infinity of modern technology in order to reach a new innocence, an intimate fusion, freed from all contradiction, of life with its tools and artifacts.

But what guarantees the success of this “organic construction?” Could the telluric process of the global revolution also fail? Jünger doesn’t have an explicit response to this question. The latter question, nevertheless, would it not only be a new expression of the “bourgeois” point of view, which always and everywhere desires “results” from an enterprise? In Jünger’s eyes, Marxism is still a bourgeois ideology in this regard. The supreme good for man doesn’t consist of the realization of such or such utopia, but in the “sacrifice of one’s self.” At least it’s the attitude proper to the iron race of the Arbeiter, “who knows the offensive as much as the lost position, but for whom it matters little to know if the situation is improving or deteriorating.”

The only appropriate attitude is the refusal of compromise and once one adopts it, there is no longer any “lost post.” In this context Jünger speaks of “heroic realism,” which doesn’t allow itself to be shaken by the prospect of total annihilation and the knowledge of the uselessness of one’s efforts. The “Arbeiter represents heroic realism” and is capable of choosing death with pleasure and furthermore seeing in this act a confirmation of order. The privilege of rediscovering, after the disappearance of the old beliefs, the essential truth according to which “life and cult are identical” is reserved to him. Ernst Jünger’s book ends with these lines: “One is seized by emotion when one beholds man, in the midst of chaotic zones, occupied with the forging of weapons and hearts, and when one sees how he renounces the expedient of happiness. To take part and to serve: that is the task that is expected of us.”

Ernst Niekisch interpreted the spirit in which this book was written as a type of “German Bolshevism” and the Jesuit Friedrich Muckermann, editor of the magazine Der Gral, famous at the time, wrote an open letter to the author: “You know I haven’t stopped seeing the face of Lenin between your lines?” The Völkischer Beobachter published a critique which lambasted the book: they reproached it for abstract intellectualism, of being distant from life, and blind to the primitive forces of “blood and soil.” The era that was supposed to begin was not the era of the Arbeiter, but the era of People and Race …

In October 1932, just after the publication of the book, the first 5,000 copies were sold out in a few days. There would be three new editions in the same year; the fourth, 15 to 20,000, was present in libraries until the war, to the moment where the dreamlike work, “On the Marble Cliffs,” read as a coded condemnation of the Hitlerian Reich, made its mark in Germany. Martin Heidegger commented on the book in a small group during the winter of 1939-1940; this attempt to interpret the present situation in the light of Jünger’s Arbeiter was secretly monitored by the Nazis, and ultimately forbidden. Heidegger was not surprised, “as it is in the very nature of the will to power to forbid the real to which it subjects itself to from appearing in reality.” Later after the war, Heidegger encouraged Jünger to re-edit The Arbeiter. After having hesitated, Jünger followed the advice of the philosopher from Freiburg and reissued the text from 1932 in the sixth volume of his works, with Klett publishing, in Stuttgart.


Victim and Sacrificial Priest


In the era where The Arbeiter was written, he was fascinated by the experience of collectivist planning in Russia. The eastern empire where Lenin lead his revolution seemed to be “one of the great destinations for travelers in our time.” At the time where the millenarian Ernst Bloch had the impression to assist with the beginnings of the celestial Jerusalem on earth, the old combatant Ernst Jünger wrote, not without a ferocious satisfaction: “There are countries where you can be shot for sabotage in the workplace like a soldier who abandons his post and where foodstuffs have been rationed for fifteen years like in a besieged city – and these are the countries where socialism was been implemented in the most undeniable fashion.”

The Arbeiter whose outline he traces is a secularized crusader and monk. He is the victim, sacrificial priest, and even the Moloch to whom one offers sacrifices, at the same time: “The more the style of life is cynical, Spartan, Prussian, or Bolshevik, the better.” Nevertheless, “the warrior skepticism” that Jünger proclaims, like Sorel, the admirer of Lenin, before him, is not a leftist ideology. Alfred Andersch aroused false expectations when he affirmed in 1973 that the reader capable of really deciphering The Arbeiter could discover anything else than a man of the right there. In a very precise sense, the book is right wing, just like Ernst Bloch’s “The Principle of Hope” represents a left wing gnosis. The Arbeiter who renounces the frivolity of happiness is another race than the proletarian of the class struggle, as the theorists of emancipation on the left present him to us.

Jünger’s master isn’t Marx, but Nietzsche. The iron age of the Arbeiter that he prophesizes is not the unconstrained reign of freedom, but a profane and technocratic empire of planetary dimensions. It is probably without classes – if only because the aforementioned is a phenomenon inherited from bourgeois society. But it is neither egalitarian nor liberal. Freedoms exclusively present themselves under the form of the right to work: it’s the organization of work that takes the place of the social contract. The State of Labor (Arbeitsstaat) is super state of the technocratic and collectivist type, which presents a militarist – elitist structure.

Assuming that, we will not disagree, adherence to the idea of hierarchical power, attachment to authority, discipline and constraint, the primacy of the imperial virtues of heroism and elitism, are part of the essential constants of the thought and attitude of “the right,” then The Arbeiter of Jünger is a right wing book, and to a very high degree. We’ll immediately add that chasms separate it from all the right wing movements of the clerical, feudal, corporatist, völkisch, or racist type. It has nothing in common with old style conservatism, agrarian romanticism, or Kulturpessimismus. However, the absence of any retrograde, restorationist, or nostalgic ingredient, changes nothing regarding the fact that the institution announced by Jünger’s imperial figure of Der Arbeiter – ascetic, technician, and soldier at once – would signify a redeployment of conservatism on the planetary scale.


The Creator of Myths


The Arbeiter has lost none of its provocative power. One cannot throw it into oblivion by considering it only as an illustration of philosophy and thought in the era of the Weimar Republic’s last spasms. It contains a mass of observations, reflections, and disturbing hypotheses that are only not outdated, but are stronger than ever after 50 years. The author, we recall, considered himself as a seismograph; anyone who has read The Arbeiter would accord Ernst Jünger the right to affirm it: “Concerning historical realities, I’m in the position of a lookout, in the sense that I perceive things in advance, before they present themselves.”

Jünger did not content himself with coldly registering what he observed: he also represented what we could call a “mythic existence.” One could give to his book, in a more appropriate manner than the prolix and pathetic work of the same title, the name of “The Myth of the 20th Century” – as one cannot deny that it is. One can contrast another myth to it, which would have its roots in the absolute without appeal to a sentiment of life differing in essence. What fundamental disposition could be further opposed to the thunderous universe of the factory than the melancholic memory of idyllic life “in our little communities, under a peaceful roof, with benign discussions and friendly greetings day and night?” The singular certitude that there still exists gardens “inaccessible to the Leviathan” in our days? If Ernst Jünger predicted the irresistible irruption of the Arbeiter, his own existence and life style were ultimately in contradiction with this globalizing technocratic vision. He did not disown his myth of the Arbeiter, but he re-imagined it, like the myth of the Rebel and the Anarch (which is nearly the opposite of the anarchist). In 1978, at the age of 83, placed in the role of “Mexican” (in the sense that Alexander von Humboldt gave to the term), he confessed in an interview with Jean-Louis de Rambures that he preferred “what Germans called Heimat or what is the island for those who live there.” to the global technocratic state. Thus in his manner, he confirmed the words of Eugen Gottlob Winkler: “Jünger cannot be refuted, he can only be surpassed.” He devoted his whole life to this principle.

The Magic Cancellation of Crisis and the “Physiognomic Method” of Ernst Jünger – Robert Steuckers – Vouloir n°123/125 – 1995.


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Jünger saw in the figure of the Arbeiter the central category around which the modern world, subjected to the planetary domination of technology, was called to organize itself, in “total mobilization” though and in labor. More precisely, a response adapted to the rise of nihilism in the modern era could be deployed through the technological mobilization of the world. With it, he salutes the advent of a new figure of man, modeled on the Nietzschean superman.

Among the adepts of Marxist ideology, very few have analyzed the thought of those they call “pre-fascist”, or outright “fascist”, including Ernst Jünger, who would evidently be one of the figureheads. Armin Steil is one of the rare Marxist ideologues who has analyzed the paths of Georges Sorel, Carl Schmitt, and Ernst Jünger with pertinence, depth, and especially clarity in his work Die imaginäre Revolte : Untersuchungen zur faschistischen Ideologie und ihrer theoretischen Vorbereitung bei Georges Sorel, Carl Schmitt und Ernst Jünger (The Imaginary Revolt: Inquiries on Fascist Ideology and its Preparation with Georges Sorel, Carl Schmitt, and Ernst Jünger).

Focusing on Der Arbeiter, Steil notes that Jünger’s logic, starting from his “fascism” or more precisely his “revolutionary conservatism,” is not a theoretical logic, a constructed logic, based on the observation of causes and effects, but a metaphorical, poetic, imagistic logic and language. Facing a chaotic socio-economic and political reality, facing the crisis of German society and culture, Jünger wanted to master its perverse effects, its dysfunctions through aesthetics: so his “fascism,” his “revolutionary conservatism,” would essentially be aesthetic in nature, contrary to Marxism, which molds itself on material realities and resolves crises by operating on socio-economic matters themselves, without idealist recourse, without recourse to transcendence or to an aesthetic. Steil very justly concludes: “The book [Der Arbeiter] wants to teach [men] to have a sovereign attitude in the face of social attitudes.” Cold, dispassionate, microscopic observation thus forms the “magic key” that would permit an elite to master the crises, to put an end to chaos and the corrosive disparities that hinder the proper functioning of societies that are subject to them.

To be Hyper-Perceptive Eyes

The willing spirits that thus desire “to take the bull by the horns,” to act on the political terrain, to fight against crises and their effects, should not bind themselves to building a mechanical system of ready made ideas that perfectly match and fit together, but should be hyper-perceptive “eyes,” capable of describing the phenomena of everyday life: what Jünger calls the “physiognomic method.” It allows one to see the essence of a thing in its simple appearance, grasping the unity of essence and appearance, which is the “form” (Gestalt), invisible to all inattentive, distracted observers, not used to wielding the “physiognomic method” with the desired dexterity. All valuable, fruitful phenomena thus bear in themselves a “form,” more or less hidden, a potential force that it captures and puts in the service of a political or historic project. On the other hand, every phenomenon that only appears as “normal” is consequently a phenomenon without further “form”, without “force.” Such a phenomenon would be an early warning sign of decadence, a sign indicating a reshuffling of the cards, forms die, thus obeying a hidden logic, which prepares the advent of new forms, of unbroken forces.

The observation of the phenomena of everyday life, of the details of our daily settings, gives a glimpse of where the fall and death of forms manifest themselves: neon, garish lights, loud and artificial modern cities, are a patent indication of this fading of forces, masked by colors and intensities without real life. Modern traffic in the big cities burdens the pedestrian, the only physical being in this universe of concrete, asphalt, and metal, on the barely tolerated margins are the sidewalks, tracks reserved for the “least speedy.”

The “Arbeiter” uses the “Physiognomic Method”

So the “Arbeiter” is the figure that makes use of the “physiognomic method,” observes, deciphers, plunges into this universe of artifice to seek buried forces, in order to mobilize them for a purely imagined project, “Utopian” in the Marxian and Engelsian sense of the term, Steil explains. This recourse to the imaginary, as the Marxist Steil explains, proceeds from a logic of doubt, which aims to give meaning to that which does not have it, at any cost. It aims to convince us that behind the phenomena of decline, of de-vitalization, an “Order” and laws emerge, which are avatars of the one God refused by the advocates of historical materialism. This “Order”, this Gestalt, this “form”, integrates the infinite diversity of observations posed by people, but it is not, like in the case of historical materialism, a reflection of social relations, but rather a total vision, intuitive, going directly to the essence, that is to say the original form. It is not the objective and positive enumeration of causes and effects that allows one to decide and act, but, on the contrary, a piercing look what allows one to see and grasp the world as the theater where forms confront or cooperate with each other.

The “Arbeiter” is precisely the one who possesses such a “piercing look”, and who replaces the bourgeois, who reasons strictly in simple cause and effect. Steil notes the gap between this vision of the “Arbeiter” and the Marxist and empirical vision of the “Proletarian”: the figure forged by Jünger places himself high above socio-economic contingencies; while the proletarian conscious of his dereliction operates at the heart of these contingencies, without taking any distance, without detachment. The “high flight” of the Arbeiter, his aquiline perspective, gives him a mask: metallic or cosmetic, the gas mask of the combatant, the drivers helmet with the men, makeup with the women. Individual traits disappear behind these masks, as should individual human, all too human, imperfections disappear. The figures of the Arbeiter are certainly imaginary figures, excessively idealized, de-individualized and examined: they act like Prussian soldiers in the Frederician era of practice. Following their leaders, these lesser (but nevertheless necessary) avatars of the Arbeiter and the Prussian soldiers from the “war in lace” [Translator’s note: referring to the ornate uniforms worn by soldiers of the 17th and 18th century] certainly lose the imperfections of their individuality, but also abandon their doubts and disorientation: rules and Order are safety anchors offered by the new elite community of “Arbeiters,” virtuosi of the “physiognomic method.”

The Apparent Independence of the Proletarian

Steil protests that Order, as an imaginary projection, and the “physiognomic method” are instruments against the empirical and Marxist notion of “class struggle,” before clearly giving Jünger’s version: to leave the laborer, the worker, in the grasp of socio-economic contingencies is to leave him in a world entirely determined by the bourgeoisie, arising from the bourgeoisie and ultimately controlled by the bourgeoisie. By occupying a designated place in the bourgeois order, the worker only enjoys an apparent independence, he has no autonomy. Every attack launched against the bourgeois order from this apparent position is also only apparent, destined to be recollected and reinforce the establishment. “Theoretically, every move takes place in the context of an outdated social and human utopia; practically, each brings to dominion, time and again, the figure of the clever business man, whose art consists in bargaining and mediating,” writes Jünger. For Steil, this definition radicalizes the Sorelian vision of socialism, which desires to transform politics into pure means, without a limiting objective, inscribed in contingencies.

To Restore “Auratic” Work

A Marxist will see, in this idealism and in this purification of politics as pure means, an eliminations of politics, a will to put an end to the destructive violence of politics, which is only, in the Marxist view, “class struggle.” But technology operates to sweep away the dead forms in order to establish new forms following a planetary confrontation of extant forms, still endowed with more or less intact forces. So technology destroys residual or obsolete forms, it makes the permanent war of forms planetary and gigantic, but the “Arbeiter,” by coldly instrumentalizing the “physiognomic method,” gives a final form to technology (a desire that is never realized!). This final form will be artistic and the beauty emerging from it will have a magic and “sacral” function, like in so-called “primitive” societies. The restoration of these forms, writes Steil, will be achieved through the restoration of “auratic” work, eclipsed by technological standardization. The Aura, the impalpable expression of form, of the essence of represented phenomenon, restores the sacred dimension, proclaims the return of the cult of beauty, by qualitative replacement of the dead religiosity from the bourgeois era.

“Heroic realism,” the foundation of the new socio-political Order, will be carried by a dominant caste simultaneously exercising three functions: that of retainer of knowledge, that of new warrior forged during the battles of material in the Great War, and that of producer of a new aesthetic, a medium integrating social differences.

Armin Steil, in his Marxist critique of the “pre-fascism” of Sorel, Jünger and Schmitt, clearly lays out the essence of a work as capital as Der Arbeiter, where the mania for fabricating systems is refused in favor of great idealist affirmations, disengaged from the overly heavy contingencies of bourgeois society and proletarian misery. The Jüngerian path, in this view, appears as a disengagement from the yoke of the concrete, as a haughty retreat ultimately leading to a total but external domination of this concreteness. But in the piercing look, demanded by the physiognomic method, is there not, on the contrary, an instrument to penetrate concreteness, much more subtle than simple surface considerations of phenomena?

Reference: : Armin STEIL, Die imaginäre Revolte. Untersuchungen zur faschistischen Ideologie und ihrer theoretischen Vorbereitung bei Georges Sorel, Carl Schmitt und Ernst Jünger, Verlag Arbeiterbewegung und Gesellschaftswissenschaft, Marburg, 1984

Chisinau Manifesto – “To Realize The Great Europe” – Geopolitical Propositions for a Resolutely Multipolar World – Sans Frontières, July – August 2017


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We, the participants of the International Conference “From the Atlantic to the Pacific: For a common destiny of Eurasian peoples,” intellectuals from Moldavia, Romania, Russia, Greece, France, Italy, Serbia, Georgia, and Belgian, adopt the following Manifesto:

1) After the decline and disappearance of the socialist bloc in Eastern Europe at the end of the last century, a new geopolitical vision of the Old World, notably in its relations with the Americas, has urgently become necessary. Because the inertia of political thought and the lack of historical imagination of today’s Western elites has led us to a simplistic conclusion, namely that the conceptual basis of Western style liberal democracy, the market economy, and the strategic domination of the United States, has become the only solution to emerging challenges. This model, held as universal, must imperatively be the model for all of humanity.

2) This new visage of the world is imposed on all: the reality of a world entirely organized according to the Euro-Atlantic paradigm. An influential neo-conservative think tank in Washington hasn’t hesitated to use the formula which best expresses their point of view: “the global empire,” unipolar and naturally extending in concentric circles. In the center “the rich North” and the Westernized sphere, which includes external territories such as the Japanese archipelago, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia. The rest of the world, made of “under developed” or “developing” zones is considered as a vast periphery destined to evolve in the same direction, but at a slower pace.

3) In accordance with this unipolar vision, Europe is perceived as a North American satellite zone and the continental bridgehead of the Anglo-Saxon sphere unfolding into the Eurasian space. Europe, though partly integrated into the rich North, cannot pretend to assume any leadership in it. Europe, in the light of such a project, is perceived as an instrument of history guided by the American World, and not as an autonomous subject, that is to say as a geopolitical entity deprived of all specific identity and authentic sovereignty. The vast majority of its cultural, confessional, ethno-historical singularities, its Greco-Latin heritage and its Christian roots, are henceforth considered obsolete. The parts of these past legacies considered useful have already been integrated into the global project; the rest is consigned to uselessness without recourse. Europe has been decreed geopolitically negligible, emptied of its own substance and deprived of all real independence.

4) The economic crisis has become quasi-permanent, accompanied by disastrous austerity policies, and ineffective plans which always find their justification among economic elites characterized by a decreasingly hidden contempt for the people and the democratic expression of their will. The absurd destiny reserved for Greece and the alarming accumulation of Western arms and troops on the borders of Russia are also symptoms of this nullification of Europe, and of the lie that liberal globalization represents, promising peace and prosperity, but ultimately only bringing war, poverty, and instability.

5) We underline that democracy and the free market are only one aspect of the historical European contribution among many others. In matters of political and social organization, many other ways have been opened by great Europeans, scientists, politicians, thinkers, and artists. The identity of Europe is much bigger and deeper than what Anglo-Saxon dogmas present it as, a caricatured mixture of ultra-liberalism and market fetishism.

6) Today’s Europe has its own strategic interests, which are discernibly different from the dominant thalassocratic interests, as well as from the very distinct needs of the project of liberal globalization. Thus the real Europe (which has nothing to do with Brussels) cannot have its policies or its choices towards its Southern or Eastern neighbors dictated to it.

7) These considerations lead us, the intellectuals of the Eurasian continent, deeply preoccupied with our collective destiny, to the conclusion we now uphold, with urgency, an imperative need to construct and militate in favor of an alternative vision of the world to come. A world where the place, the role, and the mission of Europe and European civilization will be better, more secure, and freed from the asphyxiating ideological tutelage inherent to the imperialist project of the thalassocratic empire.

8) The only viable alternative in today’s circumstances seems to be defined in the framework of a multipolar world. Multipolarity actually accords to all countries and civilizational spheres the right and the liberty to organize themselves, to develop themselves, and to construct their futures in accordance with their own identity and history. This foundation of freedom in evolutionary choices and access to modernity constitutes the only reliable basis for the establishment of just and equitable international relations. Technical progress and increasing openness between countries should favor dialogue and prosperity between peoples and nations without harming their respective identities. Differences between great cultures and civilizations should not necessarily result in disagreement between them. Contrary to the simplistic and logomachic rhetoric of some theorists with imperialist aims such as Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington. Dialogue with multiple voices will become the privileged vector for the creation of a new world order built on cooperation and reconciliation between cultures, religions, and nations.

9) Concerning Europe, we propose, as the concrete manifestation of the multipolar approach, a balanced and open vision of a “Greater Europe” as an innovative concept for the future development of our civilization in its strategic, social, cultural, economic, and geopolitical dimensions.

10) Greater Europe concerns the geopolitical space determined by the limits of European civilization. This model of borders derives from a completely new concept, the idea of the civilization-state. The revolutionary nature of these limes implies progressive transformations, unlike the brutal delimitations that peoples subjected to the arbitrary whims of conquerors have experienced during their divisions of the world. Consequently: this Greater Europe will naturally be politically and geographically open to interactions that will proliferate with its neighbors in the West, East, and South.

11) European civilization has Christianity as its historical foundation, which is itself grafted onto the grand Greco-Latin heritage. Christianity, under its various forms, must guarantee in reciprocal respect and tolerance, in the civilizational space of the Greater Europe, the material and spiritual serenity of the different confessions historically present on the continent.

12) This Greater Europe, in the context of a multipolar world, is of course surrounded by other large territories, each basing its homogeneity, indeed unity, on cultural affinities existing between the various nations populating its territory. We can thus predict the appearance of a great North America, a great Eurasia, a similar sphere in the Asia – Pacific region and in the Middle and Near East, and in a more distant future a great South America and a great Africa.

13) We imagine this Greater Europe as a sovereign geopolitical power, the retainer of a firm cultural identity, cultivating its own social and political models (based on the principles of the ancient European democratic tradition and the moral values of Christianity), with its own defense capabilities (including nuclear), and its own strategic access to fossil fuels and new energy sources, as well as organic and mineral resources. For this reason, we enjoin the European states that are members of the Atlantic Alliance, the essentially Anglo-Saxon and non – European warmongering coalition, to withdraw from NATO. Leave NATO to enter into bilateral and multilateral alliances with France and Russia, the historical military guarantors of European independence, in order to satisfy the needs of regional and international security. In order for Greater Europe, meaning the constituent states, to fully recover the regal right of issuing currency, we demand withdrawal from any treaty or organization limiting their sovereignty in the monetary domain.

14) The first threat we must face is the threat of the standardization of the world, which implies the unspoken law of unlimited growth, unleashed greed and crime against the independence of people as the ordinary operating mode of predatory financiers. It is time to make a new appeal to the Non-Aligned Countries for a new Bandung Conference with the goal of constructing a multipolar world.

15) Private enterprises as well as public institutions now find themselves confronted with the obligation to comply with coercive norms whose sole goal is to undermine national sovereignty and the peoples will. We should establish, enact, and announce for humanity, sets of non-binding norms whose conception will be uniquely guided by the general principle of conformity to national identity, to the laws, traditions, and collective choices of each nation.

16) The more the financial system and the global markets are integrated, unified according to the same rules, the more the next crisis will be destructive and global. In order to avoid a massive destruction of wealth and a total collapse of human activity, the surest method is to construct market organizations, systems of compensation, regulation, and information beyond the reach of global Anglo-Saxon finance, the almighty dollar, and the banking network of high finance whose epicenter is located in Basel within the Bank for International Settlements. The Shanghai Treaty Organization, as well as other international organs of the same order of magnitude, are invited to design the basis of a truly multipolar system effective and stable, for finance, commerce, and the exchange of goods, services, and currency.

17) Finally, with the goal of promoting the project of a Greater Europe and the concept of dynamic multipolarity, we make an appeal to the various political forces of Western and Eastern Europe, as well as to the Russians, to their American, Asian, or other partners, asking them to bring, beyond their political options and religious and cultural differences, an active support to this initiative. We call for the creation of Committees for a Greater Europe. These committees should reject unipolarity, recognize the growing danger of Anglo-Saxon imperialism, and especially, in the case of extra-European committees, elaborate similar concepts for each of the other civilizations composing humanity. By working together, strongly affirming our specific identities, we can achieve the establishment of a balanced, just and potentially better world. A peaceful world where every culture, faith, tradition, or creation will find its legitimate place.

May 27th, 2017, Chișinău, Republic of Moldova


Homage to Henning Eichberg (1942-2017) – August 2017


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“Wer trägt die schwarze Fahne heut’ durch die gespalt’ne Nation?
Who carries the black flag today in the divided nation?
Wer sprengt die Ketten, wer haut darein und kämpft für die Revolution?
Who breaks the chains, who strikes forward and struggles for the revolution?
Bist du dabei, bin ich dabei, heut’ oder morgen schon?
Do you, do I, today or maybe tomorrow?
Wann stürzt im Lande die Fremdherrschaft vor der deutschen Revolution?
When will foreign domination in this country fall before the blows of the German revolution?
Hervor, Leute, hervor – hervor!
Onward, lads, onward – onward!
Die schwarze Fahne empor!
Hold high the black flag!
Denn überall wo das Unrecht herrscht, geht die Fahne der Freiheit empor!
Everywhere where unrighteousness rules, raise high the flag of freedom!”

Every nationalist militant knew the words of this third stanza of the song: it was the unofficial anthem of the entire movement, so to speak. Henning Eichberg, who composed its text, was the principal thinker of the German national-revolutionary movement in West Germany, during the 60s and 70s. This theorist ended up emigrating to Denmark to become a member of the Socialistisk Folkeparti (Socialist People’s Party). At the end of his life, one could say that he belonged entirely to the political left of his new country. Despite this astonishing transition in the political landscape of Germany and Scandinavia, the key concepts of the “Nation” and “People” (“Nation” and “Volk”) remained cornerstones of his scientific and political interests.

These two key concepts came directly from his idiosyncratic past, his biographical itinerary. Henning Eichberg was born on December 1st 1942 in Schweidnitz in Silesia. His family left the region before the end of the war and settled in Saxony. Even when Eichberg began his political mutation and fully and entirely became a man of the left, he never stopped considering himself as a Silesian, as he recalls elsewhere in an interview accorded to the magazine Ökologie in 1998: “At the start of the project of modernity, peoples rose and sought to make themselves subjects of history, they marched in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity … but this third value was forgotten: precisely, brotherhood, sisterhood, the communitarian feeling, or to mark it in red letters, solidarity … That’s why we must restart the project of modernity from zero. The preceding project lead to the murder of entire peoples, ethnic cleansing. Genocide and ethnocide are diametrically opposed to fraternity. That’s why I hold onto my Silesian identity, so that it is not forgotten. Silesia will not die with the old generation. The American Indian didn’t die at Wounded Knee either.”

From Adenauer’s CDU to Pure Nationalism

In 1950, the family of the young Henning Eichberg moved to Hamburg. In a retrospective interview given in 2010, he reminded his readers that he never felt at home in West Germany. In the 1950s, the young man Eichberg sought to become involved in the Adenauer era. He joined the Christian democratic CDU and obtained the rank of reserve officer in the Bundeswehr. Yet his reflections and observations made him realize one thing: the parties of the CDU only envisioned German reunification from an entirely theoretical point of view; moreover the increasing Americanization of the country particularly disturbed him. At the start of the 1960s, Eichberg reoriented himself politically bit by bit. This labor of reflection lead him to call himself a “national revolutionary.” His character attracted attention as he produced an enormous amount of work as publicist in these years, notably writing in the magazines Nation Europa, Deutscher Studenten-Anzeiger, Deutsche National-Zeitung und Soldatenzeitung and for a very important theoretical organ despite its niche style: Junges Forum. He quite justly acquired the reputation of being the principal theorist of the national-revolutionary movement in West Germany. In a work devoted to this movement, the very attentive observer of German extra-parliamentary movements Günter Bartsch vividly describes him as the “Rudi Dutschke of the right,” in his reference work “Revolution von rechts? Ideologie und Organisation der Neuen Rechte.” Some of his texts, written under the pseudonym Hartwig Singer were truly the foundational texts of a new political theory at the time. He then had the ambition to develop a theoretical corpus for German nationalism that could stay the course and endure. This corpus must, in his opinion, answer all the great questions of the moment and enter into serious competition with the ideas proposed by the “new left.”

The Western Characteristic

Happy are those who still posses the little black books entitled Junge Kritik, which Eichberg edited at the time, today the younger people have enormous difficulty finding them even in specialized bookstores! The owners of these precious booklets can measure the quality of Eichberg’s thoughts, unequaled in Germany in the 1950s and 60s. There Eichberg raised nationalism to a very respectable theoretical level: in his proofs, he starts from the postulate of a “Western characteristic,” the origin of the psychology and mores of the peoples of Europe, from which one could also deduce the emergence of typically European / Western phenomena like technology. Eichberg sought to deploy his political efforts to keep these traits of the European psyche intact in the framework of industrial societies, which all need to renew themselves from their identitarian origins.

But even while he was becoming the principal theoretical innovator of the nationalist camp in Germany at the time, Eichberg had already branched out into certain circles of the “new left” in Hamburg, who were also fighting against imperialism, especially American imperialism. These circles were “Club Lynx” and Arie Goral’s Galerie. Though Eichberg portrayed himself as a radical anticommunist in the 1960s, that didn’t prevent him from finding many positive ideas in the emerging 68er movement, because they raised a “revolt against the establishment.” He said an authentic right would never defend this establishment. Consequently, he made the watchword of this new anarchic left his own: “Disorder is the first duty!” However at the same time, Eichberg rejected conventional “socialism” and argued for a “European socialism” which was simultaneously a modern nationalism. He then referred to the left wing of the NSDAP in the 1920s.

Another revealing discovery by Eichberg in 1966: his participation in the summer camp of the French youth who militated within the “Fédération des Etudiants Nationalistes” (FEN). He was impressed by the revolutionary determination of French militant but also their will to reconnect with the socialist and syndicalist traditions of their country. Eichberg saw a “new socialism for the Europeans of tomorrow” emerging. These years saw the emergence of the ideal of a “European Nation” among French and German nationalists.

Observers of Eichberg’s path will remark with interest that he had not entirely passed to the new left by the end of the 1960s. He had good reasons not to take the plunge. In principle, he saluted the merits of the left-wing revolt, which had shaken the political edifice of West Germany, but he also criticized the indifference the leftists displayed to the position of their own people. Eichberg thought that that leftist students militated in “diversions” when they rose up for Mao’s China or Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam instead of fighting firstly or at least simultaneously for the reunification of Germany, itself an emblematic victim of Soviet and American imperialism. Eichberg deplored the fact that the left wing opposition didn’t harmonize its struggle for the liberation of Vietnam with the struggle for the liberation of Germany. So at first Eichberg retained his basic opinions: create a “new right” in parallel (and not necessarily in opposition) to the “new left” but a new right where militants must be both “nationalists” and “socialists,” as Günter Bartsch recounts in the book I just mentioned. Thus Eichberg held his distance in the 1960s and 70s.

The Magazine “Wir Selbst” as a new tribune for Eichberg

Among the mythic actions that one mentions regarding Eichberg in the framework of his “new right,” there is a protest against the conferences held by Willy Brandt with the DDR’s Prime Minister Willi Stroph in Kassel in 1970. The group assembled by Eichberg distributed tracts entitled: “The division of Germany is the division of the German proletariat.” Two years later, Eichberg drafted the founding program of a movement, Aktion Neue Rechte, whose first principle would be “the nationalism of liberation” (Befreiungsnationalismus). This “nationalism of liberation” would spread in a Europe and a world divided into two blocs, one communist, the other capitalist. This incapacitating and humiliating division thus demanded the German people’s unconditional solidarity with the combat of all ethnic minorities within states, with all the peoples deprived of their national sovereignty by the American and Soviet superpowers, also victims of this duopoly. In 1974, the militants around Eichberg founded Sache des Volkes/ Nationalrevolutionäre Aufbauorganisation (Cause of the People/National Revolutionary Construction Organization – SdV/NRAO). Eichberg clearly intended to pursue one goal: encourage the political left to take the national question into consideration. Starting from this moment, he was a persona grata in certain circles of the left. He could publish his articles in some of their organs like Pflasterstrand, das da and Ästhetik & Kommunikation. He participated in the inaugural congress of the Green Party in 1979 in Baden – Wurttemberg. He then cultivated the hope of seeing a “third way” emerge from the ecological movement, distant from the fixed ideas of the right and left. But alas, he rapidly had to note that it was an error: henceforth, he would consider the Green Party as a new bourgeois party.

Eichberg was fascinated by Rudi Dutschke’s evolution. In his last years and especially before his death, the late leader of the Berlin student protesters increasingly emphasized the idea of German national self-determination in his political thought. In 1979, Siegfried Bublies founded the magazine Wir Selbst, with a national-revolutionary inspiration as Eichberg intended. Bublies had been a permanent fixture of the “Young National Democrats” in Rhineland – Palatinate. This well organized organ would become Eichberg’s principal tribune from where he would spread his non-conformist ideas.

In this magazine, Eichberg could display his always innovative ideas, which challenged and provoked but also forced the reader to reflect, to review his unrefined convictions. Eichberg’s thought was a thought in motion, nothing frozen in immobile concepts. He didn’t affirm a concept of “nation,” but he sought, with his readers, to define something organic and living: national identity. He probed every approach to re-root the people despite the deracinating context of late capitalist industrial society, in order to relieve the loss of countries and regions under the blows of globalization and Americanization.
Ultimately, Eichberg gave up seeking to influence the German political scene. In 1982, he definitively emigrated to Denmark where he received a professorship at the university of Odense. In his Danish exile, he clearly broke more and more with right wing milieus. Much later, his former disciples would learn with stupefaction that he argued for a multicultural society in his own way. From his Danish professorship, Eichberg would acquire an international scientific renown. He became specialist in “body culture” and sport. All that was distant from the theories he professed in the columns of Wir Selbst or Volkslust. His theories on sport and body culture are very interesting but their very acute scientific character obviously doesn’t electrify militants like the innovative and pioneering texts of the national-revolutionary faction he boldly drafted in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

Henning Eichberg passed away in Odense in Denmark on April 22nd, 2017.

Wer trägt die schwarze Fahne
Wolf in Lieder

1. Wer trägt die schwarze Fahne dort durch Schleswig und Holsteiner Land?
Das sind die Bauern, das ist Claus Heim, der trägt sie in der Hand.
Sie pfändeten ihnen die Höfe weg, da bombten sie die Behörden entzwei.
Im Jahr achtundzwanzig erhoben sie sich gegen Zinsdruck und Ausbeuterei.
/ : Hervor, Leute hervor, hervor! Die schwarze Fahne empor! Denn überall,
wo das Unrecht herrscht, geht die schwarze Fahne empor.

(Who carries the black flag in the lands of Schleswig and Holstein?
It’s the peasants, Claus Heim carries it in hand.
Their farms mortgaged and taken, they blew up the government agencies!
In the year of 28, they rose against interest and exploitation)

2. Wer trägt die schwarze Fahne dort durch das Westfalenland?
Das ist der Kumpel von der Ruhr, er trägt sie in der Hand.
Sie schlossen ihnen die Zechen zu, das war das letzte mal;
im Jahr sechsundsechzig erhoben sie sich gegen Bonn und das Kapital.
/ : Hervor, Leute hervor, hervor! Die schwarze Fahne empor! Denn überall,
wo das Unrecht herrscht, geht die schwarze Fahne empor.

(Who carries the black flag in the land of Westphalia?
It’s the coal-miner of the Ruhr, he carries it in hand.
They’ve closed his mines, it’s the last time;
In the year of 66 they rose against Bonn and Capital.)

3. Wer trägt die schwarze Fahne heut` durch die gespalt`ne Nation?
Wer sprengt die Ketten, wer haut darein und kämpft für die Revolution?
Bist du dabei, bin ich dabei, heut` oder morgen schon?
Wann stürzt im Land die Fremdherrschaft vor der deutschen Revolution?
/ : Hervor, Leute hervor, hervor! Die schwarze Fahne empor! Denn überall,
wo das Unrecht herrscht, geht die Fahne der Freiheit empor.


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.


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.


Considerations on Optimism and Pessimism in Politics – Georges Sorel



“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.