- 1.The Meaning of Aristocracy for the Anti-Bourgeois Front – Part 1
- 2.The Meaning of Aristocracy for the Anti-Bourgeois Front – Part 2
- 3.The Meaning of Aristocracy for the Anti-Bourgeois Front – Part 3
There are two ways of being anti-bourgeois, and these are not only different, but even antithetical to one another.
Translated by John Bruce Leonard
The following text is the first part of an essay published by Julius Evola in the 1940 June edition of La Vita Italiana, XXVIII, 327. The essay is interesting both as an extension of recent discussions here in Arktos Journal, and as a critique of bourgeois society and a corresponding clarification of the meaning of the aristocratic principle.
Those consequences into which the recent and well-known anti-bourgeois polemic, in its more serious aspects, has led us, can more or less be summed up as follows. Bourgeois civilization and spirit, being as it is incompatible with fascism, must be overcome. There are however two ways of being anti-bourgeois, of desiring the end of the bourgeoisie, and these are not only different, but even antithetical to one another. In the first, the bourgeoisie, along with all of its derivatives – bourgeois ethics, bourgeois culture, plutocracy, capitalism, etc. – must give way to a popular regime of the masses: the ‘social’ or ‘collectivist’ era must be affirmed over and above the bourgeois. From the other point of view, the true overcoming of the bourgeois lies instead in aristocracy. A new aristocratic epoch is what must be affirmed, beyond the bourgeois decadence of Western Civilization.
It is hardly necessary to note here that only this second conception is acceptable from the fascist point of view and that only in this way can fascism be anti-bourgeois, while not ceasing to be the irreconcilable enemy of communism and of Marxism – movements that also brandish anti-bourgeois attitudes, but naturally in the first of the two senses hereabove mentioned. Nor is this the place to insist on the polemic which we have already various times brought against certain milieus which, under the brand of being anti-bourgeois, attempt to introduce aberrant, counterfeit and ‘socializing’ interpretations of the Revolution.1
The Bourgeois Surrogates of Aristocracy
We have thus already had occasion to indicate that has no doubt made a false move the moment one takes up the term ‘aristocracy of thought’. The superstitious cult of ‘thought’ is, in reality, one of the traits of bourgeois civilization, which invented this cult and propagated it for obvious polemical reasons. Against the aristocracy of blood and the aristocracy of spirit, and so as to divest these of their authority, bourgeois civilization, consolidated through the advent of the Third Estate, affirmed the right of ‘true’ aristocracy, which was supposedly the aristocracy of ‘thought’. Now, the anti-intellectualism and the virilism, characteristic of new renovating currents and of fascism, suffice bring this bourgeois myth to the bar. What is this ‘aristocracy of thought’? It can be reduced for the most part to the famous ‘intellectuals’, to the creators of philosophical theories, to the poets and the literati, which is to say, to those whom Plato rightly wished to banish from his State – a State which was not in the least, as is vulgarly believed, a utopian model, but which reflected what was traditionally always held to be normal in the affairs of ordinary politics. Now, to perceive the total absurdity and anachronism of this view, it is enough to speak aloud the idea that an elite of ‘intellectuals’ and thinkers should stay in power, though they also might well be, character-wise, cowardly and little more than petit bourgeois.
As the fumes of the progressivist and scientistic Enlightenment have begun to clear, we cannot conceive of the ‘aristocracy of thought’ even in the terms of scientists, inventors, and technicians. All of these are doubtlessly useful elements for a modern society, and it was an excellent thing to give them the means, with the new corporate order which took the place of the preceding demo-parliamentary order, to act more efficaciously in the compages of the new State. But it is also evident that one cannot recognize even to this ‘aristocracy’ the qualification proper to a ruling class, the creator of a new civilization beyond the bourgeois. It is much more appropriate to Marxism and Bolshevism than to our Revolution to think that an elite of technicians, aiming at resolving purely material, social and economic problems, will conduct a collectivized humanity, over which they exercise control, toward a new Paradise, to such an extent that they can demand any higher recognition.
Having established in these terms the inconsistency of the formula ‘aristocracy of thought’, it remains to us to examine the other idea, which refers to a generically authoritarian and dictatorial notion. Already the fact that there exists such a term as ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ demonstrates the necessity of clarifying the meaning of the terms ‘dictatorship’ and ‘authoritarianism’. It is one of the merits of Pareto2 that he demonstrated the inevitability of the phenomenon of elitism, which is to say of a ruling minority. But with this we are still far from being able to speak correctly of ‘aristocracy’. Has Pareto himself not considered the case in which this elite might be constituted precisely by the bourgeoisie?
But we wish above all to bring something else into relief; namely, the rapport between the aristocracy and the totalitarian-authoritarian idea. If one aims with precision to overcome both the bourgeois and collectivism, one must have very clear ideas regarding the scope, the sense, the limits and the possibilities for development of the totalitarian-authoritarian idea, specifically in relation to the aristocratic idea. To what extent can the totalitarian people-leader formula, which brings liberalism and its irresponsible democratico-bourgeois regime to an end, serve as a valid cornerstone for the new edifice? To what extent can it thoroughly resolve the problem with which we began?
The Double Face of Totalitarianism
Here it is meet that we enter upon what will seem to be delicate ground to those who do not possess adequate principles; we must enter into the field of the relation between the authoritarian idea and absolutism, between the directing unity of an organic State and the tribunal of the people. We have already touched upon this argument in a previous article, where we spoke of the true significance of the actions undertaken by Philip the Fair of France.3
Let us take up the fundamental idea once more by saying that the phenomena of totalitarianism and of statal concentration has various meanings, indeed contrary meanings, according to the type of regime which preceded it.
Let us suppose, as an initial example, the case in which the pre-existing regime in question is that of a well-articulated society, with social strata and even castes which are clear and distinct, not artificially so, but from national vocation – not closed or conflictual, but rather as agents, acting in an orderly concert within a whole hierarchy; let us suppose moreover that the differentiation and the anti-collectivism of this society are also expressed through a certain division of power and of sovereignty, with a certain autonomy of functions and of particular rights, over which the central authority reigns, reinforced rather than diminished in its spiritual sovereignty by this partial decentralization precisely; such a state of affairs can be seen e.g. in the positive aspects of the feudal regime. Now it is evident that if in such a society centralism and totalitarianism were affirmed, these would signify a destruction and a disarticulation, the regression of the organic into the amorphous. To concentrate all powers at the centre in an absolutist fashion is, in such a case, something like to the efforts of a man who wishes to directly refer to his brain every function and activity of the body, and who therefore attains the condition of those inferior organisms who are constituted only by a head and an inarticulate and undifferentiated body.
This precisely is the situation in anti-aristocratic and levelling absolutism, which was methodically pursued, under the impetus of a variety of circumstances, by the Kings of France above all, following upon Philip the Fair. And Guénon has rightly observed that it was not an accident that it was precisely first France to undergo the Jacobin revolution, with the advent of the Third Estate. Indeed, those absolutist Kings, enemies of feudal aristocracy, literally dug their own graves. By centralizing, by dissolving and disassembling4 the State, substituting a bureaucratico-statal superstructure for virile and direct forms of authority, of responsibility and of partial personal sovereignty – by doing all of this, the enemies of aristocracy created a void around themselves, because their vain court aristocracy could signify nothing any longer, and the military aristocracy was by then deprived of any direct connection with the country. The differentiated structure which acted as the medium for the nation as mass was destroyed, detached from the sovereign and from his sovereignty. At a blow, the revolution easily abolished that superstructure and put power into the hands of the pure mass. Aristocratic absolutism therefore opens the way to demagoguery and collectivism. Far from having the character of true dominium, it finds its equivalent only in the ancient popular tyrannies and plebeian tribunals, both of which alike are collectivistic forms.
Things stand well otherwise however when the antecedent to the process of authoritarian concentration is not a feudal and organic society, but a ‘modern’ society, which is to say, a society of dissolution. This is the state of affairs in our own society. Liberalism, democracy, egalitarianism, and internationalism had reduced the nation to the condition of mercurial masses who were on the verge of dispersing in every direction, and of sinking down to the point of that total genuflection represented by socialism and by communism. Before such a state of affairs, the first and most urgent task was obviously that of creating a bulwark, a brake, with all available means, so as to neutralize the tendency toward centrifuge through a centripetal political force. And precisely this is the sense and the positive value of the process of fascist totalitarianizing. After having achieved this first task, the next, which immediately presents itself, is to articulate the nation anew, to bring the nation back to itself, to unify it beneath the sign of various myths and symbols and protect it against every disintegrating and dispersive force; this is a matter of shielding it from every form of collectivism and giving life to very clear, hierarchically connected unities, possessing their own persona. Only in this way can it have a structure, an organic reality, capable of persisting in time and armed with its own conservative force – a force that cannot be present in any collective and formless substance, such as is held together only by a given state of mind and by the general structures of the State. Only then will the Revolution truly have generated a new, completely formed being.
1Where the Italian Rivoluzione is obviously meant to refer to the Fascist, and not the French or American, Revolution. When Evola refers to the French Revolution below, he puts it in the lower case. As for his critique of Fascism, it was certainly one of the major themes of his political philosophy, and can be found primarily in A Traditionalist Confronts Fascism, Fascism Viewed from the Right, but also in other books, including his last, Recognitions.
2Vilfredo Pareto (1848–1923) was an Italian political scientist and sociologist, but also an engineer. The Pareto Principle, which states that about 80% of the effects for most events come from about 20% of the causes, was his discovery—a most curious principle with a wide variety of applications. Pareto himself noted, for instance, that in Italy about 20% of the population owned about 80% of the land, and that in a garden about 20% of the pea-pods will contain about 80% of the peas. The idea has been put to valid work in economics, management, science, and sports, and it is entertaining, and often fruitful, to try to put it to use in other fields as well. Julius Evola mentions him often in his work, and devotes a laudatory essay to him in Chapter 30 of Recognitions.
3This essay, ‘The Case of Philip the Fair’, has yet to be translated into English. It represents an interesting foray into a bit of history which had re-emerged during the Fascist epoch. Philip the Fair, or Philip IV of France (1268–1314), was considered by some fascists to be a kind of proto-Fascist – idea which Evola strongly critiques in the aforementioned essay.
4Italian: disossando e disarticolando, literally ‘deboning (i.e. extracting all the bones from) and de-articulating (i.e. eliminating all the junctures, pivots, joints etc., as e.g. of a body)’ – a vivid metaphor following from the idea of the ‘organic state’.