Arktos https://arktos.com Fri, 24 May 2019 14:48:51 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.1 The Sense of History – Part 1 https://arktos.com/2019/05/24/the-sense-of-history-part-1/ https://arktos.com/2019/05/24/the-sense-of-history-part-1/#view_comments Fri, 24 May 2019 14:48:51 +0000 https://arktos.com/?p=6645 The history of modernity is almost coeval with the ‘history of history’ itself – the history, that is, of a specific idea or sense of history which has emerged specially in our time, and which governs us like our very second nature. The following essay is an attempt to grasp certain key elements of this modern idea or sense of history.

The distinction between facts and values proves to be not only arbitrary, but actually untenable; this raises grave questions regarding the ‘objective’ study of history as we understand it.

This essay, which will be broken into three parts, will be kept deliberately brief in each of them. Its aim is not so much to provide evidence for the claims that will be forwarded as to attempt to grant, in a carefully delimited space, an overview of the question, capable of being taken in, as it were, ‘at a glance’. It goes without saying that there well may be errors in the particular factual statements made in this essay, and it would be well worth investigating in greater detail and with greater care the degree to which these are justifiable or limited or simply false. Toward that end, each section of this essay could in and of itself easily form the stuff of at least a book-length study, and any such study, supposing it were done in the right spirit, would be eminently worth consideration. But our purposes here preclude any such detailed thoroughness. The readers of this essay are as ever invited to make any errors known to its author, that he will not suffer the misfortune of repeating his mistakes, nor they of having to encounter them more once. But the author’s purpose here has been to consciously move beyond the scholarly temptation of strict textual or ‘historical’ analysis to provide a wider view, which in turn might have implications for the very treatment which is made of that more specialized and rigorous work.

The question of the ‘history of history’ is generally approached from the perspective of a specific idea of history which is in point of fact the offspring of that ‘historical progression’; this view has become unequivocally the popular notion in contemporary times. If summed up in a word, this contemporary popular view might describe history as the ‘study of the way things really happened’, which is to say, the objective investigation of past events through study of concrete evidences, and particularly written documents. This provides on the one hand a more or less neat division between ‘history’ and ‘pre-history’, and on the other establishes what appear to be straightforward and evident criteria for the study and evaluation of the former. Yet this concept of history, at first so clear and simple, becomes enormously complicated upon the narrowest review. We list but several of the many major problems that it confronts; this list, while not being exhaustive, is alone sufficient to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the popular notion of history, and therefore to call the entire study of history, the study of our time, radically into question. To wit:

  1. The written documents which form the primary source material for historical studies were composed by fallible human beings with limited perspectives, personal biases and explicit or hidden agendas which skewed or curtailed their free view. Thus, there is conflict between them regarding the evaluation, and even regarding the factual description, of the times they would describe. Recognition of this fact is becoming more salient than ever in the growing political divisions of our time, which appear to have formed various ‘historical camps’ that insist on viewing history in sometimes diametrically opposed ways.1 These differences of perspective seem to rely, not at all on any ‘objective’ reading of past documents, so much as an evaluative disagreement standing within the very presuppositional frameworks or worldviews of the historians in question – a disagreement therefore which requires recourse to philosophy, and which cannot be resolved through ‘historical studies’ alone. History thus seems to have entered into a ‘postmodern’ phase in which the kaleidoscopic variety of opinions on any given past event make impossible its impartial assessment; and it would seem that there is and can be no transhistorical criterion for adjudicating this chaotic variety of visions or standpoints.
  2. Even when generalized consilience can be found in the documents that make up a given period, the historian is obliged to doubt the validity or comprehensiveness of this view in accord with the simple but powerful observation that ‘history is written by the victors’. This holds the truer, the farther into past one proceeds; for the rarity of literacy in early times, the limited media upon which the written word could be preserved and the degradability of many of these same media made it difficult on the one hand for losing parties to secure their ‘side of the story’ in lasting narratives, and on the other made it relatively easy for the victors to suppress these alternative accounts and to obliterate compromising ‘counterfactual’ documentation.
  3. At the same time, even when the ‘loser’s history’ has been spared the furies of time and willful obfuscations, it cannot itself be taken as valid a priori, for it might be influenced by resentment, hatred, envy, the desire for revenge or any other number of distorting passions. The historian must therefore weigh the variety of interpretations given to historical moments in the past and derive therefrom a transcendent opinion on them – but this evidently presses him well past the boundaries of ‘objective’ reading of documents and cataloging of brute ‘facts’.
  4. Similarly, many historians had or have excellent reasons to conceal their true views regarding this or that event, personage, institution, religion, custom, idea, etc., given that frank expression of certain opinions could easily result in persecutions, corporal or pecuniary punishments, imprisonment, in extreme cases even exile or execution.2 One therefore cannot take past historians purely at their word, but one must read them ‘between the lines’ or judge their words based on secondary evidences (e.g., anecdotal stories regarding their lives or private utterances; conflicting statements they themselves make under diverse rulers; evidences they have provided in their texts indicating their true opinions, etc.). This can hardly be regarded as ‘factual investigation’, and would appear to transcend the limited notion of history which we presently embrace, confounding altogether the notion of ‘historians as fact collectors’ which has become the vulgar view of our time.
  5. No historian who records the doings of his day can have been everywhere and seen everything; therefore he must rely on hearsay and the report that is made to him of distant events. This will be the truer, the wider is his theme. But the work that he himself pens is taken by modern historians as a ‘primary source’, when in fact it is often enough a secondary or even tertiary source, the original fount of which has often enough been lost to time and so cannot be identified much less adjudicated. Even when the original source is identifiable, one’s judgement of it relies inevitably on secondary accounts. The notion of ‘primary history’ is therefore much narrower than is commonly believed, and even where it exists is not as simple and straightforward as one may hope.
  6. History is supposedly composed of ‘facts’. But even if this curious modernism is taken uncritically – and there is much to critique in it – it is evident that the ‘facts’ which compose any moment of human existence are myriad if not infinite. The overwhelming majority of ‘facts’ surrounding us in each moment are not even noticed by us, not to speak of recorded: no man living now will ever know whether Caesar had shaved the morning he crossed the Rubicon. Anyone who sets down the ‘facts’ of a historical moment is therefore necessarily selecting, not every single fact he comes across without scruple or discrimination, but the salient facts, the important facts, the essential facts, the characteristic facts, and is thereby exerting evaluative criteria which do not depend in any way on ‘factual objectivity’, but rather on a hierarchy of ‘values’ which the historian or record-keeper in question almost certainly has not openly recorded in his work, and which he might very well simply be taking for granted.3 The distinction between facts and values, in any case one pleases, proves to be not only arbitrary, but actually untenable; and this raises grave questions regarding the ‘objective’ study of history as we understand it.
  7. The records that have come down to us are not immune to the ravages of time; most of them have been lost altogether; many of those that remain are fragmentary; and even with those that have been to some extent wholly preserved, in most cases the original form has been lost and we are confronted with a number of duplicates written after the fact and disagreeing with one another on any number of particulars. Historians are thus compelled to attempt to reassemble a crumbled fresco, whose final image they cannot intuit beforehand, and which has lost more pieces than they know how to count, or had some pieces replaced with others, produced second-hand, that might be inaccurate or skewed. Nay, worse yet than that: historians are compelled to reassemble a crumbled copy of a crumbled fresco, prior to ever having seen the copy or the original, and without knowing whether or not the pieces of the copy they are using are in fact original to the copy, or are indeed copies of copies. The historian is thus lost in a castle of simulacra, battling these phantoms in search of the flesh and blood, and never sure if he has accidentally slain it, or if it has not long ago died.
  8. History, particularly but not exclusively older history, appears to be an often free mixture of ‘historical’ events and ‘mythologic’ record. The historian is confronted in the first place with the necessity of attempting to understand the limits of the latter, which is taken uncritically to be ‘unobjective’ or even simply false. At most, he will interpret mythology as reflecting some kind of prior ‘historical fact’ (e.g. the myths of the gods are simply inflated stories of past heroes; the myths of tribal peoples contain knowledge or rules for living, extracted from the long experience of our ancestors, regarding sanitation, useful practices, experience-produced taboos, etc.). But to come to right terms with these mythological stories in a way consonant with his tacit secularism, the modern historian must interpret them in a manner which is utterly foreign to many if not all the men who originally wrote them down, thus importing alien canons to the study of past thought and imposing his preconceptions of possibility and the limits of reality on worldviews that understood reality in a totally different way. The justifiable limits of this approach are in no way immediately evident and will rely on any number of ‘subjective’ or ‘individual’ – not to say historical – elements within the historian himself: his ‘personal equation’ as Julius Evola calls it. ‘History’ is often granted an exaggerated importance because it permits one to view the world from a variety of perspectives; but it would seem that the historian is compelled to presuppose the fitness or inadequacy of these perspectives before he has ever adopted them as his own, even ‘experimentally’; how then can he hope that his conclusions will be sound or objective?

These are but a few deep complications on our modern notion of history, complications of such gravity and such inescapability that they seem to blur if not rupture the fragile line stretching between the historian – he who attempts to ‘study things as they happened’ – and the artist – he who, through seemingly divine plastic powers, reformulates and remoulds everything that was into a novel form. This latter seems to be a maker or a molder or even a creator of the past, a kind of trans-historical spider weaving his elegant patterned webs across the very face of time and binding the otherwise unbindable shards of a shattered yesterday, with little or no regard for how they might have originally hung together. But if this distinction between historian and artist proves untenable, as the above considerations would seem to suggest, this marks the ‘end of history’ as an independent intellectual pursuit, and certainly explodes any hope men might still put in a ‘scientific history’, in any sense one might intend the phrase.

Modern historians too often assassinate ‘history as teacher’ and render all of human memory sapid and monotonous by reducing it to a mixture of dry trivialities and dull truisms.

Most historians, confronted with these enormities, merely turn their glance away and complacently embrace the least interesting rump of the grand historical feast: they tacitly accept the superiority of our present-day views regarding politics and society, and complacently judge all of history in that feeble light; or else they focus their attention exclusively on that portion of the past which can be ‘objectively’, and even ‘mathematically’ analysed (e.g. so-called ‘economic history’ or ‘business history’, or that part of history which is subjectable to scientific method through the study of anthropology, archeology etc.). In consequence, they assassinate ‘history as teacher’ and render all of human memory sapid and monotonous by reducing it to a mixture of dry trivialities and dull truisms.

History was not always so viewed, however. The simple proof of this is contained in the ‘fact’, evident to any school boy – or at least, any school boy who has not had his education pillaged by the contemporary methods, which, it is easy to suspect, are aimed at rendering the grounds for true education arid, rather than fertilizing them – that the very ‘Father of History’ himself, the Greek Herodotus, was a startlingly irresponsible historian, insofar as he seems to catalogue all sorts of stories, no matter the source, without any reliable criterion to discriminate the false from the true, hearsay from verified or verifiable fact. The ‘Father of History’ appears to be, far from a Father, a mere hapless child. Were we not blinkered by our dogmatic confidence in our own superior ‘historical sense’, this would open a great question to our eyes: the question of the meaning of the very idea of history.

This matter, which might appear at first glance to be merely an academic question of tertiary interest to us philoccidentals so far as our great war, our great struggle for the soul of the West, is concerned, must take on an immediacy and urgency when a number of facts are duly recognized. These might broadly be summarized in the statement that history forms the fundament of Modernity. The consequences of this simple observation are manifold, but again restricting ourselves to the essential, we can indicate a few of the most momentous.

First, the modern view of history, from its origins up through a major strand of modern thought which continues in raging full force in the present moment, presupposes a sense of historical progress, the possible or in many cases inevitable development of the ‘present’ (the original sense of ‘modern’) with respect to the past. The modern view of history therefore infuses its holders with an at least implicit sense of their material, philosophical or moral superiority with regard to the past. This is the sense whereby it is permitted to modernity to scorn, vilify, uproot and outrage all traditions and all memory – the consequences of which attitude are surely in no need of review by we men of the Right. This sense is therefore absolutely indivisible from the modern spirit as such; the degree to which one succumbs to this ‘progressivism’ is almost a measure of one’s inner degree of ‘modernity’.

Second, the modern view of history implies a ‘historical sense’, a historically privileged ability to intuit or experience or comprehend the variety of past worldviews and historically contingent ways of being. This ‘historical sense’ is clearly lacking to all past epochs, insofar as the very idea of ‘history’ emerges as a generalized view within the past five hundred years. While rare past individuals might have previously held to a roughly similar attitude, this sense characterizes modern times in a way that it never characterized past epochs as such. This ‘historical sense’ is thus a great siren, luring the understanding to shipwreck and misfortune, for by posing as the critical sense itself, it is in fact a soporific on our critical faculties. It condemns us to the worst kind of complacency, for we confuse our most superficial feelings for the past with the past itself, and hold ourselves to have pierced to the heart of epochs no sooner than we have glanced upon their skin and costumes. Our implicit faith in our ‘historical sense’ renders us historically obtuse.

Third, a major part of the urgent work of the Right, as expressed explicitly in the moniker ‘Deep Right’, is an unearthing of the origins, the traditions, the fathers and forefathers, in an act of wonder or reverence. This work can be undertaken only insofar as ‘history’ is conceived of as everliving and eternally accessible, rather than as entombed and uninterable. If the past is but deceased, we have naught to learn of it; the lessons carried by corpses are at best incidental. Only as man can make himself someway immortal does the study of history become in any way vital and imperative. The idea of History as it has emerged in the modern epoch presupposes precisely the ‘mortality’ of the past, either its having simply perished, or its having become someway unreal or unrepeatable in its unspannable distance in time, or its having been supplanted by subsequent and superior forms. The modern idea of the past is linked, not to the renaissance of prior greatness, but to the apotheosis of an imminent mediocrity. It is severed from all reverence, all living love for what has been. At its very best, it is expressed in conservation merely; at its worst it stands rather for the wanton destruction and ravaging of everything that was, and thus everything that is – a future-inebriation and a monomaniacal obsession with the ‘cutting edge’, the ‘up and coming’, the the ghostly next step – an enthroning of ‘all-consuming Time’ as the king of all things. The view that past man took of their own past impelled them to build cathedrals to worship the gods and palaces to glorify the long-lived arts of which they were the heirs, to perfect their hand-crafted techne and to till the fields of human culture ever and anew, to raise statues to the glory of their progenitors and to look in all sincere seriousness to what these men had uttered and taught; the view that present men take of the past leads them to build museums and mausoleums, to raze or discard or mummify everything of yesterday and to affront every ‘was’ with a ceaseless furor for the ‘will be’, which leads necessarily to an erosion of memory and the power of memory, a deadening of the spirit and a numbing of the senses, rank superficiality and frenetic impatience, and the effacement of all sensibility and all subtlety, the great taedium vitae, and a debilitating habituation to the shocking, the garish, the outrageous, the offensive, the vile, brutal, and horrible.

This is the state of our modern soul. We who would rectify this and cure ourselves of these ills, we who would, as crippled and inverted Orpheuses, return to the land of the living from this antemortem death within which we all blindly drift and wander, have a great ascent before us. Perceiving the pervasiveness of the idea of history within every single act and each individual theory proposed by modernity, we turn our gaze hence a moment, to attempt to grasp the ‘history of history’ and to see if it might not grant us some ray of light from the upperworlds.

The following parts of this essay are aimed at offering orienting reflections on this matter, limited according to the principle already alluded to. The first of the following parts will be dedicated to unearthing the premodern ‘sense of history’, as well as we are able, which emerged from several of those peoples that most immediately fathered us; and the second part will be dedicated to attempting to comprehend the bewildering tenebrous forest into which ‘modern history’, in every sense of the term, has stumbled and strayed.

References

1A most strikingly clear example of this in recent times is so-called ‘Whig historiography’, which sees in history a continual ascent or progress, as against Evolian or Traditionalist historiography, which tends to see in history a continual decline or regress. But one does not need go so far as that; suffice it to consider the much more modest, but no more bridgable, dispute between ‘conservative’ historians like Paul Johnson and Niall Ferguson and ‘liberal’ historians like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky.

2Anywhere there exist laws prohibiting the free inquiry into this or that historical event – as for instance our present laws regarding ‘Holocaust denial’ or laws proscribing ‘racism’ or the like – there necessarily arises the suspicion that at least some of the historians who treat of these events or questions might treat of them in an artificially cautious or secretive way so as to avoid the consequences of openly stating legally censurable views. Some men, of course, are willing to express their views openly, and the consequences be damned; there will always be a Giordano Bruno who willingly goes to his stake, not so much for the truth, as for the right to speak his truth. But admirable or rash as this attitude may be, one can hardly expect that every human being will hold to it.

3The question of his own unconsciousness with respect to his presuppositions is identical to the question of his rank as a historian, and more, as a man. While a Chomsky is swaddled in the safe blankets of his age and its attitude, a Xenophon lives high above these things.

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Fourth Political Theory with Tim Kirby https://arktos.com/2019/05/24/fourth-political-theory-with-tim-kirby/ https://arktos.com/2019/05/24/fourth-political-theory-with-tim-kirby/#comments_reply Fri, 24 May 2019 12:10:54 +0000 https://arktos.com/?p=6641 Tim Kirby of the Center for Syncretic Studies talks to the Arktos crew about Fourth Political Theory and the state of affairs in modern Russia, where Tim has lived for many years. What is 4PT and why is it necessary? Does Russia offer an alternative to modern liberalism? How do Russians see the West? Is Russia a threat to Europe, and Eastern Europe in particular? Join us for new perspectives, from an expert on the ground, regarding Russia and its political, social and geopolitical situation.

Related books

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Lee https://arktos.com/product/lee/ https://arktos.com/product/lee/#comments_reply Fri, 24 May 2019 11:31:58 +0000 https://arktos.com/?post_type=product&p=6625 After an absence of several decades, the aging and curmudgeonly Leland Pefley returns to his hometown to find that nothing is as he remembers it, and everything has gone to the dogs. Armed with nothing but a cane to ward away vice and to impose decorum and justice on the insolent decadence of his times, the erudite Lee sets out on a desperate quest to find a shred of intelligence in his contemporaries, prepared to beat it out of them if necessary. Propelled thence on a series of unlikely adventures, he finds himself at the heart of a story pitting nostalgia against modernity and the old against the new, in a scathing commentary on the decline of our society, and a hilarious and anguishing tale of an old man walking arm-in-arm with death.

The first edition of Lee was published in 1991 by Four Walls Eight Windows, and received excellent reviews in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Reader and The New England Review of Books. The second edition was published in 2007 by Penguin. This is the third edition.

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Lee https://arktos.com/product/lee-hardback/ https://arktos.com/product/lee-hardback/#comments_reply Fri, 24 May 2019 09:34:12 +0000 https://arktos.com/?post_type=product&p=6607 After an absence of several decades, the aging and curmudgeonly Leland Pefley returns to his hometown to find that nothing is as he remembers it, and everything has gone to the dogs. Armed with nothing but a cane to ward away vice and to impose decorum and justice on the insolent decadence of his times, the erudite Lee sets out on a desperate quest to find a shred of intelligence in his contemporaries, prepared to beat it out of them if necessary. Propelled thence on a series of unlikely adventures, he finds himself at the heart of a story pitting nostalgia against modernity and the old against the new, in a scathing commentary on the decline of our society, and a hilarious and anguishing tale of an old man walking arm-in-arm with death.

The first edition of Lee was published in 1991 by Four Walls Eight Windows, and received excellent reviews in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Reader and The New England Review of Books. The second edition was published in 2007 by Penguin. This is the third edition.

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Marx on Globalisation, Whigs & Free Trade – Part 2 https://arktos.com/2019/05/23/marx-on-globalisation-whigs-free-trade-part-2/ https://arktos.com/2019/05/23/marx-on-globalisation-whigs-free-trade-part-2/#view_comments Thu, 23 May 2019 14:18:36 +0000 https://arktos.com/?p=6628 Chartists

The primary demand of the workers’ movement was the extension of the electoral franchise, which was advocated by the Chartist party. Marx saw its success as paving the way towards revolution in Britain. Yet the basic demands of the Chartists were to be superseded by the Marxists, Liberals and Fabians, and the workers’ movement derailed until it became another wing of plutocracy, as Spengler noted.

Marx quoted a Chartist candidate on the electoral hustings, at length:

I say the representatives of two systems stand before you. Whig, Tory, and money-mongers are on my left, it is true, but they are all as one. The money-monger says, buy cheap and sell dear. The Tory says, buy dear, sell dearer. Both are the same for labour. But the former system is in the ascendant, and pauperism rankles at its root. That system is based on foreign competition.

Now, I assert, that under the buy cheap and sell dear principle, brought to bear on foreign competition, the ruin of the working and-small trading classes must go on. Why? Labor is the creator of all wealth. A man must work before a grain is grown, or a yarn is woven. But there is no self-employment for the working-man in this country. Labor is a hired commodity-labour is a thing in the market that is bought and sold; consequently, as labour creates all wealth, labour is the first thing bought-‘Buy cheap! buy cheap!’ Labour is bought in the cheapest market. But now comes the next: ‘Sell dear! sell dear!’ Sell what? Labor’s produce. To whom? To the foreigner-aye! and to thelaborer himself-for labor, not being self-employed, the laborer is not the partaker of the first fruits of his toil. ‘Buy cheap, sell dear.’

Marx and Engels disdained the idea of a protected home market, disparaged any such policy as merely aiding capitalist manufacturers, and instead advocated the Free Market.

How do you like it? ‘Buy cheap, sell dear.’ Buy the working-man’s labor cheaply, and sell back to that very working-man the produce of his own labor dear! The principle of inherent loss is in the bargain. The employer buys the labor cheap – he sells, and on the sale he must make a profit; he sells to the working-man himself – and thus every bargain between employer and employed is a deliberate cheat on the part of the employer. Thus labor has to sink through eternal loss, that capital may rise through lasting fraud. But the system stops not here. This is brought to bear on foreign competition-which means, we must ruin the trade of other countries, as we have ruined the labor of our own.

How does it work? The high-taxed country has to undersell the low-taxed. Competition abroad is constantly increasing-consequently cheapness must increase constantly also. Therefore, wages in England must keep constantly falling. And how do they effect the fall? By surplus labor. How do they obtain the surplus labor? By monopoly of the land, which drives more hands than are wanted into the factory. By monopoly of machinery, which drives those hands into the street – by woman labor which drives the man from the shuttle – by child labor which drives the woman from the loom.

Then planting their foot upon that living base of surplus, they press its aching heart beneath their heel, and cry ‘Starvation! Who’ll work? A half loaf is better than no bread at all’-and the writhing mass grasps greedily at their terms. [Loud cries of “Hear, hear.”]

Such is the system for the working-man. But Electors! How does it operate on you? How does it affect home trade, the shopkeeper, poor’s-rate and taxation? For every increase of competition abroad, there must be an increase of cheapness at home. Every increase of cheapness in labor is based on increase of labor surplus, and this ‘surplus is obtained by an increase of machinery. I repeat, how does this operate on you! The Manchester Liberal on my left establishes a new patent, and throws three hundred men as a surplus in the streets. Shopkeepers! Three hundred customers less. Rate payers! Three hundred paupers more. [Loud cheers.] But, mark me! The evil stops not there. These three hundred men operate first to bring down the wages of those who remain at work in their own trade. The employer says, ‘Now I reduce your wages.’ The men demur. Then he adds: ‘Do you see those three hundred men who have just walked out – you may change places if you like, they’re sighing to come in on any terms, for they’re starving.’ The men feel it, and are crushed. Ah! you Manchester Liberal! Pharisee of politics! those men are listening – have I got you now? But the evil stops not yet. Those men, driven from their own trade, seek employment in others, when they swell the surplus, and bring wages down. The low paid trades of to-day were the high paid once – the high paid of to-day will be the low paid soon. Thus the purchasing power of the working classes is diminished every day, and with it dies home trade.

Mark it, shopkeepers! your customers grow poorer, and your profits less, while your paupers grow more numerous and your poor’s-rates and your taxes rise. Your receipts are smaller, your expenditure is more large. You get less and pay more. How do you like the system? On you the rich manufacturer and landlord throw the weight of poor’s-rate and taxation. Men of the middle class. You are the tax-paying machine of the rich. They create the poverty that creates their riches, and they make you pay for the poverty they have created. The landlord escapes it by privilege, the manufacturer by repaying himself out of the wages of his men, and that reacts on you. How do you like the system? Well, that is the system upheld by the gentlemen on my left. What then do I propose? I have shown the wrong. That is something. But I do more; I stand here to show the right, and prove it so.” [Loud cheers.]

Here the Chartist makes many valid points. He indicates how foreign trade undermined the home market; how keeping wages low stagnated the economy and was counter-productive – issues that remain relevant. But while the Chartist lamented the destitution of what had formed from the towns and villages into industrial cities as the alienated ‘proletariat’, and pointed – in part – to the causes, Marx saw only the potential to radicalize the uprooted ‘proletariat’. Hence, he and Engels disdained the idea of a protected home market, disparaged any such policy as merely aiding capitalist manufacturers, and instead advocated that the Free Market must continue on its course for the sake of the march of history toward socialism and Communism.

While we read the Chartist account, another lesson is that the current charge of ‘white privilege’ is nothing but a fallacy, and early socialist works such as Engel’s The Condition of the Working Class in England must be ignored by the Left: Writing of this ‘white privilege’ at St. Giles, London, Engels said:

The houses are occupied from cellar to garret, filthy within and without, and their appearance is such that no human being could possibly wish to live in them. But all this is nothing in comparison with the dwellings in the narrow courts and alleys between the streets, entered by covered passages between the houses, in which the filth and tottering ruin surpass all description. Scarcely a whole window-pane can be found, the walls are crumbling, door-posts and window-frames loose and broken, doors of old boards nailed together, or altogether wanting in this thieves’ quarter, where no doors are needed, there being nothing to steal. Heaps of garbage and ashes lie in all directions, and the foul liquids emptied before the doors gather in stinking pools. Here live the poorest of the poor, the worst paid workers with thieves and the victims of prostitution indiscriminately huddled together, the majority Irish, or of Irish extraction, and those who have not yet sunk in the whirlpool of moral ruin which surrounds them, sinking daily deeper, losing daily more and more of their power to resist the demoralising influence of want, filth, and evil surroundings.1

According to neo-Marxian ideology the proletarian wretches, with their ‘white privilege’, came from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland as colonisers, to New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and the USA, to exploit the indigenous populations, and their descendants must now and always atone.

However, Marx and Engels, insisted that the answer to the issues was not to rebuild the home market, which necessitates rising wages to consume production, as the Chartist pointed out. They insisted that ‘protectionism’ is no answer, and specifically rejected the economic theory being advanced in Germany by Friedrich List.

Perhaps Marx was overcompensating because he was himself thoroughly bourgeois in his outlook, in the way Engels had described the mentality.

Interestingly, Engels in his 1845 book stated that the ‘Communist revolution’ does not involve the proletariat alone but is concerned with the liberation of the entirety of mankind from the ‘bourgeoisie’ outlook, which is one of money and self-interest. Engels pointed out that this socialism was from the ‘German’ school of philosophy. Spengler drew from the same source for his ‘Prussian socialism’. Spengler pointed out that Marxism emerged from the English materialistic Zeitgeist, and hence, unlike German socialism, did not aim to transcend capitalism but to appropriate it.2 Had Engels pursued his own line of ‘German socialism’ (the frequent idea among the Right that Engels was ‘Jewish’ is not correct) rather than coming under the intellectual domination of Marx, socialism might have later accepted the path offered to it by Spengler, Gregor and Otto Strasser,3 et al. However, to the 1886 American edition of his book Engels felt obliged to add as closing paragraphs that

It will be hardly necessary to point out that the general theoretical standpoint of this book – philosophical, economical, political – does not exactly coincide with my standpoint of to-day. Modern international Socialism, since fully developed as a science, chiefly and almost exclusively through the efforts of Marx, did not as yet exist in 1844. My book represents one of the phases of its embryonic development; and as the human embryo, in its early stages, still reproduces the gill-arches of our fish ancestors, so this book exhibits everywhere the traces of the descent of Modern Socialism from one of its ancestors, German philosophy. Thus great stress is laid on the dictum that Communism is not a mere party doctrine of the working class, but a theory compassing the emancipation of society at large, including the Capitalist class, from its present narrow conditions. This is true enough in the abstract, but absolutely useless, and worse, in practice. So long as the wealthy classes not only do not feel the want of any emancipation, but strenuously oppose the self-emancipation of the working class, so long the social revolution will have to be prepared and fought out by the working class alone. … And to-day, the very people who, from the impartiality of their “superior stand-point” preach to the workers a Socialism soaring high above their class interests and class struggles, and tending to reconcile in a higher humanity the interests of both the contending classes – these people are either neophytes, who have still to learn a great deal, or they are the worst enemies of the workers – wolves in sheeps’ clothing.

The original thoughts Engels expressed in 1844 were that ‘Communism’ stood above the breach between ‘proletariat and bourgeoisie’, and that even the capitalist class would be emancipated by a socialist revolution from its ‘bourgeois’ character; which was in the tradition of German Socialism and the Right, defined as a mentality rather than an estimation of wealth. This is akin to what the Strassers were to call ‘German socialism’ (synonymous with ‘revolutionary conservatism’) when they drew on the German Middle Ages in propounding a guild-based federative state.4 What Engels had been proposing in 1844 were ideas that he repudiated in 1886 as coming from ‘the worst enemies of the workers’. A few years after The Condition of the Working Class was published, Engels was collaborating with Marx on The Communist Manifesto, where Marx’s vehemence is expressed against such ‘reactionism’ as Engels had been propounding a few years before. Perhaps Marx was overcompensating because he was himself thoroughly bourgeois in his outlook, in the way Engels had described the mentality.

There was a third theory that arose around the same time, neither socialist nor Free Trade: Friedrich List’s National System of Political Economy (1841). ‘I would indicate, as the distinguishing characteristic of my system, NATIONALITY. On the nature of nationality, as the intermediate interest between those of individualism and of entire humanity, my whole structure is based’.5

List was a noted economic adviser and his ‘national system’ had an impact on the economic policies of the USA and the German states. He was regarded as the antagonist of Adam Smith, List stating that a nation must secure its manufacturing self-sufficiency to a maximum extent by protection before opening up to outside competition. He did not reject Free Trade per se, as part of a process following the securement of national self-sufficiency, but he did base his system on the nation and ‘nationality’, and saw even then that the Free Traders ignored the national factor in economic affairs. He criticized the primacy of economics over high politics and its use as a factor in foreign policy. He condemned the cosmopolitanism of the Free Traders, and it is notable that even from the early 19th century the Free Traders were the globalists of their day, advocating Free Trade as the harbinger of ‘international peace’ – a notion that List rejected but which, as alluded to previously, Marx accepted. List stated, contra the Free Traders, that the interests of the individual do not necessarily coincide with the interests of the national community, and that it is the duty of the State to ensure that they did so coincide in creating and maintaining ‘national unity’. Again, there is the concept of the organic community, where economics is subordinated to the common interest.

The Right could surely learn by brushing the dust from List’s National System of Political Economy rather than considering the presumed offerings of Adam Smith, Hayek, von Mises or Ayn Rand.

The Right could surely learn by brushing the dust from List’s National System of Political Economy rather than considering the presumed offerings of Adam Smith, Hayek, von Mises or Ayn Rand. The issues List was addressing are today very relevant. They suggest the ‘Prussian socialism’ of Spengler, and the rejection of the Right in that era of capitalism and the English School, but here we are again today, in an ironic situation where the Right forgets its own traditions, with elements within the Right talking about the Free Market as the epitome of Western inventiveness (to cite Stephen Molyneux).

However, Marx damned List for the same reason that he damned the neo-medievalist ‘reactionists’, for both sought an organic unity – or ‘national unity’, as List put it – that in Marx’s view would throw a spanner in the inexorable dialectical ‘wheel of history’ towards pure Communism. In a largely ad hominem attack, as was his habit, Marx stated of List:

How Herr List interprets history and what attitude he adopts towards Smith and his school.

Humble as is Herr List’s attitude to the nobility, the ancient ruling dynasties and the bureaucracy, he is to the same degree ,audacious” in opposing French and English political economy, of which Smith is the protagonist, and which has cynically betrayed the secret of “wealth” and made impossible all illusions about its nature, tendency and movement. Herr List lumps them all together by calling them “the School”. For since the German -bourgeois is concerned with protective tariffs, the whole development of political economy since Smith has, of course, no meaning for him, because all its most outstanding representatives presuppose the present-day bourgeois society of competition and free trade.

The German philistine here reveals his “national” character in many ways.6

If it even seems as though Marx is defending Adam Smith and the Free Trade School, from a dialectical perspective that is indeed what Marx does. It is also of incidental note that here Marx displays a projection of his own character, indicating his psychological state when alleging that List is simply attacking Adam Smith on moral grounds:

But just as the German bourgeois knows no better way of opposing his enemy than by casting a moral slur on him, casting aspersions on his frame of mind, and seeking bad motives for his actions, in short, by bringing him into bad repute and making him personally an object of suspicion, so Herr List also casts aspersions on the English and French economists, and retails gossip about them. And just as the German philistine does not disdain the pettiest profit-making and swindling in trade, so Herr List does not disdain to juggle with words from the quotations he gives in order to make them profitable. He does not disdain to stick the trade-mark of his rival on to his own bad products, in order to bring his rival’s products into disrepute by falsifying them, or even to invent downright lies about his competitor in order to discredit him.7

…Hence, Marx, protagonist for Adam Smith and the Free Market.

Marx had been an early advocate in favour of Free Trade. His planned speech to the Free Trade Congress in Brussels in 1847, but delivered to the Democratic Association in Brussels, was described by Engels in the preface to an 1888 pamphlet:

That was the time of the Brussels Congress, the time when Marx prepared the speech in question. While recognizing that protection may still, under certain circumstances, for instance in the Germany of 1847, be of advantage to the manufacturing capitalists; while proving that that Free Trade was not the panacea for all the evils under which the working class suffered, and might even aggravate them; he pronounces, ultimately and on principle, in favour of Free Trade.8

Engels reiterated the position they had written of on Free Trade in The Communist Manifesto, that the system would accelerate social fracture and clear the way for the next stage in the historical dialectic:

To him [Marx], Free Trade is the normal condition of modern capitalist production. Only under Free Trade can the immense productive powers of steam, of electricity, of machinery, be full developed; and the quicker the pace of this development, the sooner and the more fully will be realized its inevitable results; society splits up into two classes, capitalists here, wage-labourers there; hereditary wealth on one side, hereditary poverty on the other; supply outstripping demand, the markets being unable to absorb the ever growing mass of the production of industry; an ever recurring cycle of prosperity, glut, crisis, panic, chronic depression, and gradual revival of trade, the harbinger not of permanent improvement but of renewed overproduction and crisis; in short, productive forces expanding to such a degree that they rebel, as against unbearable fetters, against the social institutions under which they are put in motion; the only possible solution: a social revolution, freeing the social productive forces from the fetters of an antiquated social order, and the actual producers, the great mass of the people, from wage slavery. And because Free Trade is the natural, the normal atmosphere for this historical evolution, the economic medium in which the conditions for the inevitable social revolution will be the soonest created – for this reason, and for this alone, did Marx declare in favour of Free Trade.9

Again, Free Trade is welcome for the Marxian dialectic to proceed on the misery of the uprooted city proletariat, which will be driven to revolution:

The question of Free Trade or Protection moves entirely within the bounds of the present system of capitalist production, and has, therefore, no direct interest for us socialists who want to do away with that system.

Indirectly, however, it interests us inasmuch as we must desire as the present system of production to develop and expand as freely and as quickly as possible: because along with it will develop also those economic phenomena which are its necessary consequences, and which must destroy the whole system: misery of the great mass of the people, in consequence of overproduction. This overproduction engendering either periodical gluts and revulsions, accompanied by panic, or else a chronic stagnation of trade; division of society into a small class of large capitalist, and a large one of practically hereditary wage-slaves, proletarians, who, while their numbers increase constantly, are at the same time constantly being superseded by new labour-saving machinery; in short, society brought to a deadlock, out of which there is no escaping but by a complete remodelling of the economic structure which forms it basis.10

We must ask then, how sincere are Marxists when they campaign against what is today called ‘globalization’, which is nothing other than the process Marx and Engels saw as contributing to the internationalisation of both the means of production, and of the proletariat, as necessary parts in the dialectical process? Furthermore, how sincere are Marxists who agitate for the amelioration of labour conditions when, again, the increasing destitution of labour is a necessary part of the same historical process?

However, Engels realised that defending Free Trade and attacking Protectionism might prompt support for the latter from a conservative or just as much, from a ‘socialist’, position. He therefore sought to dissuade the reader from such a course:

From this point of view, 40 years ago Marx pronounced, in principle, in favour of Free Trade as the more progressive plan, and therefore the plan which would soonest bring capitalist society to that deadlock. But if Marx declared in favour of Free Trade on that ground, is that not a reason for every supporter of the present order of society to declare against Free Trade? If Free Trade is stated to be revolutionary, must not all good citizens vote for Protection as a conservative plan?

If a country nowadays accepts Free Trade, it will certainly not do so to please the socialists. It will do so because Free Trade has become a necessity for the industrial capitalists. But if it should reject Free Trade and stick to Protection, in order to cheat the socialists out of the expected social catastrophe, that will not hurt the prospects of socialism in the least. Protection is a plan for artificially manufacturing manufacturers, and therefore also a plan for artificially manufacturing wage labourers. You cannot breed the one without breeding the other.11

The crisis of capitalism is prophesied as inevitable, regardless of Free Trade or Protection, so one might as well accept fate and vote Free Trade, and Engels concludes on that note:

The wage labourer everywhere follows in the footsteps of the manufacturer; he is like the “gloomy care” of Horace, that sits behind the rider, and that he cannot shake off wherever he go. You cannot escape fate; in other words, you cannot escape the necessary consequences of your own actions. A system of production based upon the exploitation of wage labour, in which wealth increases in proportion to the number of labourers employed and exploited, such a system is bound to increase the class of wage labourers, that is to say, the class which is fated one day to destroy the system itself. In the meantime, there is no help for it: you must go on developing the capitalist system, you must accelerate the production, accumulation, and centralization of capitalist wealth, and, along with it, the production of a revolutionary class of labourers. Whether you try the Protectionist or the Free Trade will make no difference in the end, and hardly any in the length of the respite left to you until the day when that end will come. For long before that day will protection have become an unbearable shackle to any country aspiring, with a chance of success, to hold its own in the world market.12

It is no wonder that Engels and Marx were so vehement in their condemnation of List’s ‘National System’, and of the ‘reactionists’ who sought the return of guilds. Both offer organic alternatives by addressing flaws in capitalism, without resorting to the abolishing of private property, destruction of the Church, and elimination of the family. Other movements arose including distributism, guild socialism, and social credit, each often in alliance.

Conclusion

The lesson for the Right is that Whig-Liberalism and Free Trade serve a dialectical purpose in destroying tradition, to make way for the next phase of the class struggle, which would end with the triumph of socialism and its evolution into world Communism. What we see here is the common ground between the Left and capitalism that was described by Oswald Spengler and Julius Evola. What was the common enemy? Tradition, monarchy, aristocracy, faith, land; the organic bonds that had to be cleared away by the bourgeois revolution, as the harbinger of the Communist revolution. Yet we are told by journalists, academics and even a good many supposedly on the ‘Right’ that Whig-Liberalism and Free Trade are ‘Right-wing’. It is the bourgeois revolution of capital that destroyed the remnants of Gemeinschaft, regarding the institutions that held organic communities together as ‘the faux frais of production’. The process of destruction had already taken place in 1789 with the Jacobin Revolution, a bourgeois revolution that eliminated those ‘faux frais of production’ in the name of ‘the people’, establishing a centralized state, and destroying the rights of group association in the name of Free Trade and held together by a social contract. Gesellschaft replaced Gemeinschaft, and if any objected to this new liberty, such as the entire Vendée region, proto-bolshevik class extermination was the answer.

Today, the oligarchs, in the revolutionary role they have assumed from the 19th-century bourgeois, continue the same dialectical process in completing the destruction of the traditional institutions on a global scale, desiring the creation of a world ‘civil society’, and targeting whatever vestiges remain of organic communities. Here the Left, in the name of ‘civil society’, is very useful, particularly feminism, and funding is lavished upon the causes of ‘civil society’, including the ‘colour revolutions’, and the ‘Arab Spring’, by the Soros network, tax exempt Foundations, National Endowment for Democracy, USAID, Freedom House, and a seemingly endless host of others.

The historic irony is that the dialectic did not serve to inaugurate Marxian-socialism, but to continue the process of capitalist internationalisation (globalization) in which the Left has played its part in helping to destroy the traditional institutions that Marx declared to be outmoded for both oligarch and communist. Spengler pointed out a century ago that every ‘proletarian movement’, including the Communists, serve the interests of ‘money’. The post-Marxist Left continues to do so. The Right remains the only genuine revolt against the bourgeois spectre and its Leftist golem.

References

1Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), chapter: ‘The Great Towns’.

2Oswald Spengler, ‘Prussianism and Socialism’ (1919) in Prussian Socialism and Other Essays (London: Black House Publishing, 2018).

3Otto Strasser, Germany Tomorrow (Oxford: Alden Press, 1940). Here the ‘revolutionary conservative’, a term used by Strasser, will find a complete doctrine for the Right that transcends capitalism, and restores the organic state, based on decentralisation and de-urbanisation.

4Otto Strasser, Germany Tomorrow, op. cit., passim.

6Karl Marx, ‘Draft of an Article on Friedrich List’s Book: Das Nationale System der Politischen Oekonomie’ (1845); I. General Characterisation of List.

7Ibid.

8F. Engels, Preface to Marx, On the Question of Free Trade (1888).

9Ibid.

10Ibid.

11Ibid.

12Ibid.

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Retroculture https://arktos.com/product/retroculture/ https://arktos.com/product/retroculture/#comments_reply Thu, 23 May 2019 10:02:45 +0000 https://arktos.com/?post_type=product&p=6609 Taking America Back

If you have ever felt out of place living in the modern world, Retroculture gives you the option to dwell in a different era.

Addressing the various aesthetics, architectural styles, values and manners of days gone by, William Lind identifies the concepts of Retroculture and provides the reader with the tool-set to begin situating their lives in the “new-old.”

However, this shift in lifestyle addresses not only the hobbyist, but also American society at large, urging a return to an era in which truth, politeness and beauty were considered paramount, and pointing a way forward to a brighter future for the nation as a whole.

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Marx on Globalisation, Whigs & Free Trade – Part 1 https://arktos.com/2019/05/22/marx-on-globalisation-whigs-free-trade-part-1/ https://arktos.com/2019/05/22/marx-on-globalisation-whigs-free-trade-part-1/#comments_reply Wed, 22 May 2019 13:40:19 +0000 https://arktos.com/?p=6600 Some Lessons on What It Is to Be ‘Right’, By the Father of Communism

The Right ever seeks to define and redefine itself, and this seems to be a process that accelerates rather than diminishes. This is not because the Right has always been ideologically nebulous: precision of definition should not be such a chore and source of contention. If the Right is intrinsically based on honouring tradition, then is it not obvious that the first port of call in clarifying itself ideologically is its own traditions? But in looking to these there arises a multiplicity of terms, each one apparently a repudiation of the errors of what came before it: Nouvelle Droite (albeit a term coined by journalists to describe the ‘Grecist’ school around Alain de Benoist since 1968) in contrast to the Cold War Right with its obsession with the USSR; Alt Right coined by Professor Paul Gottfried to distinguish traditional (paleo-)conservatives from ‘neo-conservatives’, because the latter is laissez faire, Wilsonian-internationalist rather than coming from any Right tradition; Deep Right to distinguish what are considered to have been tactical blunders by the Alt Right.

I rather like a term ‘Organic Right’ that was used decades ago by the Russian Czarist émigré leader George Knupffer,1 who recognized that banking reform and integralism are the predicates of anything properly called Right. Knupffer stated of Capitalism and Communism: ‘In practical as well as philosophical terms there is no fight between the Capitalist system, based on usury, and Communism, since the former created the latter and gives it every support while pretending to oppose it; both are concerned with the identical aim; both are concerned with the identical aim of founding the materialistic world state’.2 This attitude is the same as that of Oswald Spengler and Julius Evola. Spengler had written:

Socialism contains elements that are older, stronger, and more fundamental than his [Marx’s] critique of society. Such elements existed without him and continued to develop without him, in fact contrary to him. They are not to be found on paper; they are in the blood. And only the blood can decide the future.3

To Marx and Engels such ideas would be outrageously metaphysical, even medieval, but they reflected German idealism, while Marx was a product of the British materialistic Zeitgeist, and hence was to Spengler the reflection of that Zeitgeist rather than its antithesis. Spengler termed the revolt against capitalism ‘Prussian socialism’ to distinguish it from the British school of economics, whether of Marx or Adam Smith.

If the Right is intrinsically based on honouring tradition, then is it not obvious that the first port of call in clarifying itself ideologically is its own traditions?
[I]f we call these money-powers ‘Capitalism’, then we may designate as Socialism the will to call into life a mighty politico-economic order that transcends all class interests, a system of lofty thoughtfulness and duty-sense that keeps the whole in fine condition for the decisive battle of its history, and this battle is also the battle of money and law. The private powers of the economy want free paths for their acquisition of great resources.4

Spengler further explained the identity of Marxism with capitalism:

The concepts of Liberalism and Socialism are set in effective motion only by money. It was the Equites, the big-money party, which made Tiberius Gracchus’ popular movement possible at all; and as soon as that part of the reforms that was advantageous to themselves had been successfully legalized, they withdrew and the movement collapsed.

There is no proletarian, not even a communist, movement that has not operated in the interests of money, in the directions indicated by money, and for the time permitted by money – and that without the idealist amongst its leaders having the slightest suspicion of the fact.5

Here there was no identity crisis, according to which capitalism is assumed to be the foundation of the ‘Right’. Evola was unequivocal:

[I]t is absurd and deplorable for those who pretend to represent the political ‘Right’ to fail to leave the dark and small circle that is determined by the demonic power of the economy – a circle including capitalism, Marxism, and all the intermediate economic degrees.

This should be firmly upheld by those who today are taking a stand against the forces of the Left. Nothing is more evident than that modern capitalism is just as subversive as Marxism. …

Thus, despite the fact that the antithesis between capitalism and Marxism dominates the background of recent times, it must be regarded as a pseudo-antithesis.6

Evola’s answer to capitalism and its Marxist offspring was, again, the organic state. 7

Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

The difference between what Evola called the condition of a ‘normal’ social order,8 whose last remnants were ended with the Jacobin Revolution, and the modern era of artificial societies, is the difference described by the sociological terms Gesellschaft – ‘a rationally developed mechanistic type of social relationship characterized by impersonally contracted associations between persons’ – and Gemeinschaft – ‘a spontaneously arising organic social relationship characterized by strong reciprocal bonds of sentiment and kinship within a common tradition – to resort to simple but cogent dictionary definitions.9 This is the difference between a society and a community; and it is a ‘society’, the ‘civil society’, to which we are told to aspire in the modern epoch. When these terms became a matter of wide sociological discourse after World War I (although they had emerged during the 1880s) they prompted efforts to revive organic communities, reflected in an interest in corporatism, a revival of the medieval ethos, and guild socialism. There was a movement prior to this to reconstruct the medieval social order during circa the mid-19th century, which Karl Marx vehemently damned as ‘reactionism’, because it disrupted the dialectical course of history – the class struggle:

Marx looked at history dialectically; hence he did not condemn the ascendency of Free Trade and the bourgeoisie.

The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant. All these fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history. If by chance they are revolutionary, they are so only in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat, they thus defend not their present, but their future interests, they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.10

Marx on Whigs and Tradition

The issue then that should delineate what is ‘Right’, and what can readily distinguish it from the absurdly broad definition ascribed to it by academics and journalists, who see everyone from Hitler to Milton Friedman as being its exemplars, is the difference between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. Although the terms were not in use by sociology in 1852, that year Marx, who supplemented his freeloading off Engels and family inheritances, by journalism, wrote in the New-York Daily Tribune, on England’s electoral system and the electoral contest then taking place between the Whig and the Chartist parties. Given that Whig-Liberalism is now widely held to be an ideology of the Right, Marx’s observations as to the position of the Whig party and the effects of Free Trade on tradition are interesting. Marx saw Free Trade and the rise of the Bourgeoisie as representing ‘modern English society’. It should be kept in mind when reading Marx that he looked at history dialectically, as a conflict of opposites; hence he did not condemn this ascendency of Free Trade and the bourgeoisie, but saw it as a necessary part of the dialectical process. The bourgeois were the harbingers of a class revolution that had displaced feudalism and the aristocracy, landed gentry, and the remnants of medievalism. Without this bourgeoisie Free Trade revolution, the dialectical process could not proceed to the next phase: the ascendency of the proletariat and socialist production. He began his Tribune article:

While the Tories, the Whigs, the Peelites11 – in fact, all the parties we have hitherto commented upon – belong more or less to the past, the Free Traders (the men of the Manchester School, the Parliamentary and Financial Reformers) are the official representatives of modern English society, the representatives of that England which rules the market of the world. They represent the party of the self-conscious Bourgeoisie, of industrial capital striving to make available its social power as a political power as well, and to eradicate the last arrogant remnants of feudal society. This party is led on by the most active and most energetic portion of the English Bourgeoisie – the manufacturers. What they demand is the complete and undisguised ascendancy of the Bourgeoisie, the open, official subjection of society at large under the laws of modern, Bourgeois production, and under the rule of those men who are the directors of that production.12

Globalization

Marx welcomed Free Trade and the bourgeoisie as the harbingers of revolution. In 1852 he described what is today called ‘globalization’:

By Free Trade they mean the unfettered movement of capital, freed from all political, national and religious shackles. The soil is to be a marketable commodity, and the exploitation of the soil is to be carried on according to the common commercial laws. There are to be manufacturers of food as well as manufacturers of twist and cottons, but no longer any lords of the land. There are, in short, not to be tolerated any political or social restrictions, regulations or monopolies, unless they proceed from ‘the eternal laws of political economy’, that is, from the conditions under which Capital produces and distributes. The struggle of this party against the old English institutions, products of a superannuated, an evanescent stage of social development, is resumed in the watchword: Produce as cheap as you can, and do away with all the faux frais of production (with all superfluous, unnecessary expenses in production). And this watchword is addressed not only to the private individual, but to the nation at large principally’.13

Today we should all be familiar enough with the process of globalization promoted by oligarchs who do not feel bonded to anything other than money – who promote a globalized economy ‘freed from all shackles’, as Marx put it. Most significantly, he points to the soil as having becoming a commodity like everything else, where the ‘lords of the land’, the landed aristocracy, are replaced by city manufacturers, and where Free Trade accelerated not only the dispossession of landed aristocracy, but the peasant and artisan who became the urban proletariat, working under conditions to ‘produce as cheap as you can’. Of this rural depopulation, which Spengler saw as a symptom of cultural decay, but Marx saw as the proletarianization of artisans and peasants, he wrote in The Communist Manifesto:

The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life.14

Marx had also foreseen that this process would not only be confined to ‘the nation at large’, but would place the British worker in competition with the foreign coolie, because the means of production, the machine, is not bound to any land, and the new processes of production have become international (globalized); as he wrote in The Communist Manifesto, ‘Just as it has made the country dependent on the town, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilized ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West’.15 This is today’s globalization, but in Marx’s day was called ‘imperialism’ and ‘colonialism’. Again, what the Left decries as ‘imperialism’ for the sake of political strategy, was in reality considered to be another necessary part of the historical dialectic leading towards socialism. It might be recalled that among the Bolsheviks the following century, it was debated whether socialism could proceed from a peasant society, or whether it must, as per Marxian dialectics, first go through the stage of capitalism.

The development of capitalism would also lead to the concentration of the economy in ever fewer hands: ‘The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralized the means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands’.16 Traditional society, so far from being centralized, was based on the federation of families, villages, regions, guilds; it was the federation of associations, the Gemeinschaft that had been struck by Jacobinism, and finished off by capitalism. Marx wrote of this that ‘the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organization of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder’.17 Here also the ‘extensive use of machinery’ and the ‘division of labour’ has caused the work of the proletarian to lose its ‘individual character’, and ‘consequently all charm for the workman’. ‘He becomes an appendage of the machine’.18 Marx’s answer was to expropriate the ownership of the machine, as if that would cause a difference in ethos. Disaffected Socialists, such as Henri de Man, saw the inadequacy of Marxism in failing to transcend the bourgeois ethos with the aim of reviving the spirit of craft.

Today, the proletariat becomes an international economic class unattached to any organic bonds. The proletarian assumes the role of the oligarch.

What remained for Marxian-socialism was for the proletariat to assume the position of the bourgeois: not to transcend the bourgeois. The answer of the Right was to restore the rights of group association, to federate and decentralize, and many states sought this renewal, such as Vichy and the Portuguese ‘New State’, inspired by papal encyclicals such as Rerum Novarum, inspiring alternatives such as the ‘distributist’ movement of G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, and guild-socialism.

Today the globalization process not only involves the ‘unfettered movement of capital’, and of machinery (technology) but also the globalization of the labour market via immigration. Again to quote Marx from The Communist Manifesto: ‘National differences and antagonisms between peoples are daily more and more vanishing, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to the freedom of commerce, to the word market, to uniformity in the ode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto’. The victory of the proletariat would accelerate the process of internationalization, or globalization as it is now called. 19 Again, communism would assume the role hitherto assigned by the historical dialectic to capitalism, and the proletariat would become internationalized, due to the internationalization of economic processes by capitalism. The proletariat becomes an international economic class unattached to any organic bonds, as had the bourgeois and the modern oligarchy. The proletarian assumes the role of the oligarch.

Destruction of Tradition

Marx had stated in The Communist Manifesto that he was in favour of Free Trade because of its subversive character, and the class conflict that would result. He stated that Protectionism was a ‘conservative’ policy; Free Trade, ‘revolutionary’. In his Tribune article he commented on how the organic traditions would be weighed according to their effects on the balance sheets of the bourgeois:

Royalty, with its ‘barbarous splendors’, its court, its civil list and its flunkeys – what else does it belong to but to the faux frais of production? The nation can produce and exchange without royalty; away with the crown. The sinecures of the nobility, the House of Lords? faux frais of production. The large standing army? faux frais of production. The Colonies? faux frais of production. The State Church, with its riches, the spoils of plunder or of mendacity? faux frais of production. Let parsons compete freely with each other, and everyone pay them according to his own wants. The whole circumstantial routine of English Law, with its Court of Chancery? faux frais of production. National wars? faux frais of production. England can exploit foreign nations more cheaply while at peace with them.20

How precisely does this, written in 1852, express today’s mentality of the globalist oligarchs? Monarchy, aristocracy, armies, are weighed up according to costs; the ‘faux frais of production’. During 2015 and 2016 New Zealand held two referenda on whether to change the traditional flag, which includes the Union Jack, the legacy of colonialism. The issue was one of symbolism epitomizing the nineteenth-century materialist Zeitgeist under which we live: the demand for change came from New Zealand’s National Party Prime Minster, John Key, whose previous career had been with Wall Street, who campaigned for a flag that would better serve as a ‘trade mark’ for ‘New Zealand Inc.’ That is to say, replace traditional symbolism so that New Zealand can be better marketed in terms of world trade. National is described as a party of the centrist ‘Right’. It is symptomatic of how the proponents of capitalism are located on the ‘Right’ despite their historical record of subverting tradition since the days of Marx, while Leftist ideologues describe the ‘Right’ as a bourgeoisie reaction. They ought to consult Marx more diligently.

Marx further explains his dialectical analysis of the revolutionary role of the bourgeois and Free Trade:

You see, to these champions of the British Bourgeoisie, to the men of the Manchester School, every institution of Old England appears in the light of a piece of machinery as costly as it is useless, and which fulfils no other purpose than to prevent the nation from producing the greatest possible quantity at the least possible expense, and to exchange its products in freedom. Necessarily, their last word is the Bourgeois Republic, in which free competition rules supreme in all spheres of life; in which there remains altogether that minimum only of government which is indispensable for the administration, internally and externally, of the common class interest and business of the Bourgeoisie; and where this minimum of government is as soberly, as economically organized as possible. Such a party, in other countries, would be called democratic. But it is necessarily revolutionary, and the complete annihilation of Old England as an aristocratic country is the end which it follows up with more or less consciousness. Its nearest object, however, is the attainment of a Parliamentary reform which should transfer to its hands the legislative power necessary for such a revolution.21

Can it be more plainly stated? A ‘Bourgeois Republic’ based on Free Trade ‘is necessarily revolutionary’, and the aim was ‘the complete annihilation of Old England’. Today we can say that the aim of the oligarchy that emerged is that of a universal republic based on Free Trade, now called globalisation. Indeed, it is what we call ‘democracy’, which acts as a façade for plutocracy, whose authority has been perfected through international banking.

According to Marx’s historical dialectic, the Whigs had destroyed the aristocracy, but feared the rise of the working class.

But the British Bourgeois are not excitable Frenchmen. When they intend to carry a Parliamentary reform they will not make a Revolution of February.22 On the contrary. Having obtained, in 1846, a grand victory over the landed aristocracy by the repeal of the Corn Laws, they were satisfied with following up the material advantages of this victory, while they neglected to draw the necessary political and economical conclusions from it, and thus enabled the Whigs to reinstate themselves into their hereditary monopoly of government.

And if the aristocracy is their vanishing opponent the working class is their arising enemy. They prefer to compromise with the vanishing opponent rather than to strengthen the arising enemy, to whom the future belongs, by concessions of a more than apparent importance. Therefore, they strive to avoid every forcible collision with the aristocracy; but historical necessity and the Tories press them onwards. They cannot avoid fulfilling their mission, battering to pieces Old England, the England of the Past; and the very moment when they will have conquered exclusive political dominion, when political dominion and economical supremacy will be united in the same hands, when, therefore, the struggle against capital will no longer be distinct from the struggle against the existing Government — from that very moment will date the social revolution of England.23

The Diktature of capital will have ‘battered to pieces Old England’, and what remains, after the class conflict between aristocracy and capital, would be the class conflict between capital and labour.

References

1G. Knupffer, The Struggle for world Power: Revolution & Counter-Revolution (London: Plain Speaker Publishing, 1971), p. 205.

2Ibid., p. 207.

3Oswald Spengler (1919), Prussianism and Socialism.

4Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1972), Vol. 2, p. 506.

5Ibid. p. 402.

6Julius Evola, Men Above the Ruins (Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2002), pp. 166–167.

7Ibid., pp. 148–164.

8See Julius Evola, Revolt Against the Modern World (Rochester: Inner Traditions International, 1995).

9Merriam-Webster.

10Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto, ‘Bourgeois & Proletarians’.

11Followers of Sir Robert Peel, ex-Tory Prime Minister, who left the Tory Party in 1852 and with Whigs and Radicals formed the Liberal Party, advocating Free Trade. They formed a short-lived Coalition Government during the 1850s.

12Karl Marx, ‘Free Trade and the Chartists’, New-York Daily Tribune, August 25, 1852.

13Ibid.

14Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto, ‘Bourgeois and Proletarians’.

15Ibid.

16Ibid.

17Ibid.

18Ibid.

19Ibid., ‘Proletarians and Communists’.

20Karl Marx, ‘Free Trade and the Chartists’, op. cit.

21Ibid.

22A reference to the revolt of 1848.

23Karl Marx, ‘Free Trade and the Chartists’, op. cit.

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Perspectives on the Islamic Question https://arktos.com/2019/05/20/perspectives-on-the-islamic-question/ https://arktos.com/2019/05/20/perspectives-on-the-islamic-question/#view_comments Mon, 20 May 2019 16:10:22 +0000 https://arktos.com/?p=6587 In a recent article for Arktos Journal, Dr. Kerry Bolton described with his usual painstaking research and freedom from vulgar prejudice the connections between the agenda of the present political establishment on the one hand and the promotion of Islamophobia on the Right on the other. He went admirably far in dispelling a number of myths that have taken hold lately, both as regard Islam and the proper stance of a man of the Right thereto. For anyone who has not read Dr. Bolton’s piece, I urge them to do so in place of the present one; for what follows is little more than a largely superfluous footnote on the work that he has done, even in those few places where it might appear to diverge from it.1

The Establishment is better pictured as a continually morphing community of sometimes conflicting parties, which however can work as a single bloc and act in unison, when necessary.

Before coming to my own thoughts on how we should view Islam today, a word regarding my suppositions in this essay. I have good reasons for holding to these views, but I cannot defend them here, so I will lay them out as axioms for the present purposes. It is my supposition that there exists a network of vested political and economic interests (generally described as the ‘elites’, the ‘Establishment’, the ‘Deep State’, etc.), acting along relatively concerted lines which are divergent from, in many cases perpendicular to, the interests and desires of ‘the people’, and which therefore cannot be regarded as in any way democratic in their intentions or their functioning. At the same time, I do not believe that this network forms a unified or centralized power structure with a singular intent; there is no single group, be it ethnic or economic or supranational, which wholly controls or contains this Establishment. I believe the Establishment is rather better pictured as a continually morphing community of sometimes conflicting parties, which however can work as a single bloc and act in unison, when necessary, for the promotion of their overriding interests or the neutralization of a common threat. This network, on account of its enormous economic leverage, its influence over the ceaseless ideological engineering known as ‘advertising’, its pervasive financing or manipulation of our visible politicians, and its connections to and control over the media, is capable of influencing Western societies in any number of different ways, not least of all politically. We can visualize this as the upper stratum of the power structures that presently exist in our states – a stratum which indeed stands so far over them that it is sometimes hard to perceive it with any clarity or immediacy.

Beneath this there is another stratum, much more visible because much nearer to our view, which is populated on the one hand by generally sincere (and therefore generally peripheral) politicians, and on the other by the variety of popular opinions that are currently strong enough to make themselves felt in legislation. Because the governments of the West are nominally democratic, this popular voice can sometimes still make itself heard, and can have real impact on the outcomes of elections and referenda. (Should anyone doubt this, I invite them to furnish an explanation for the negative and even hysterical response to events like Brexit and the election of leaders such as Donald Trump.) Because this stratum of our governance can legitimately be considered ‘populist’, it bears as well the dangers and the limitations of any ‘populism’: namely, it can be moulded through incomplete or fallacious information, it is fickle over time, and it often enough votes with its heart or its stomach rather than its head or its spirit. Nonetheless, as has been seen in recent years, it tends to move in what must be considered a favourable, if insufficiently radical, direction from the perspective of the Right, especially as compared to the former stratum, which exists exclusively in detriment of any True Right.

It is clear that these two strata will sometimes be at odds. The upper stratum, when it cannot contain the currents of the lower, will attempt to direct them to its long-term advantage in every way it can; and it has proved itself unhappily effective at so doing in the course of the most recent decades.

Granted this as my referential framework, I would like to lay out certain aspects of my view of the question of Islam in Europe particularly. I state therefore the following theses:

  1. The Establishment is inherently secular and is opposed to every form of sincere worship, Islam and Christianity most decidedly included. The Establishment has no real sympathy for either of these faiths, despite its occasional pretenses to the contrary, and will do everything in its power to subvert and disenfranchise them both in the long run, because its own power and its own social and political objectives are predicated on the neutering of religion as such.
  2. Toward this end, the Establishment will willingly play such faiths off against each other in a sociological and metapolitical policy of ‘divide and conquer’. Any kind of authentic Christian-Islamic axis would represent a grave menace to this Establishment because it could potentially produce an anti-globalist front of global dimensions. (Anyone who doubts the critical points of agreement that might stand between a Muslim and a man of the Right is invited to consider the critique made of modernity by many contemporary Muslim scholars; see, e.g., the work of Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad.)2 The Establishment will therefore seem to fall down now on the side of Islam, and now against it, as the case may require and its present agenda may dictate. This accounts for the degree of seeming incoherency in the current approach to Muslim immigration and the Muslim world, whereby it appears sometimes that Muslims are given a quantity of protection and political favouring that native Europeans might crave, even while at the same time the very political and economic figures who encourage this support invasions of or ‘regime change’ in certain Muslim countries, on the pretext of overthrowing tyrannical and unliberal forms of government.
    The Establishment, in its geopolitical game, has everything to gain from an anti-Islamic attitude, and nothing to lose. The Establishment, in its socio-political and domestic game, has everything to gain from a pro-Islamic attitude, and nothing to lose.
  3. The Establishment, as Dr. Bolton has so admirably shown, is therefore pleased to see the kind of reflexive anti-Islamic attitude which is increasingly prevalent on the Right, and will willingly encourage a connection between the Right and Islamophobia in the popular mindset. This grants three separate benefits to the Establishment: first, it eliminates the possibility of any kind of ideological alliance between the Right and certain healthy Islamic circles, which alliance is rather natural given the opposition to modern secular liberalism that both these groups embrace; second, it provides a useful safety valve affixed to the Right which can be employed the moment the Right gains too much in popularity (which is to say that, whenever necessary, the Right or its representatives can be censured, prosecuted and quarantined for ‘bigotry’, ‘racism’, ‘Islamophobia’, ‘fascism’, etc.); and third, it directs the popular resentment, not against our leadership or the puppeteers thereof, whereat it should rightly be aimed, but rather against a foreign, in many cases illusory, in some cases totally artificial enemy, such as ISIS, the bogeyman of a pre-planned and monolithic Arabic invasion into Europe, individual immigrants, etc.).
  4. The Establishment, in its geopolitical game, has everything to gain from an anti-Islamic attitude, and nothing to lose. The Establishment, in its socio-political and domestic game, has everything to gain from a pro-Islamic attitude, and nothing to lose. At least, in the short term; in the long term, there is the threat of an Islamic take-over in the government. Yet it is absurd to think that the Establishment has not accounted for this danger, and is not in some way calculating how to make the most of it.
  5. The Establishment is happy to see Islam diluted by the secularism of the West; Muslims who are only nominally Muslim provide a welcome stream of new labourers and consumers to its economies, permit it to maintain its delusion of ‘diversity’ (a mere cloak for the fundamental homogeneity of outlook in liberal societies), and persuade the whole of society that authentic religious faith really is an anachronistic and unnecessary ‘ideological’ accretion on human existence.
  6. The Establishment is equally promoted by the presence of manageable numbers of Islamic terrorists on European soil, because the chaos that these agents unleash permits the institution of more universal surveillance and the passing of increasingly invasive laws, not to mention the slandering of the religious impulse in general and the promotion of a ‘safe’, ‘peaceful’ and ‘tolerant’ secularism.
  7. Similarly, the Establishment is always delighted by lone-wolf attacks by members of the ostensive ‘right’, because it can use these to rebuke the true Right and to justify the ostracism, censorship, and defamation of the same.

Several other factors remain to be stated from the other side of the picture, to wit:

  1. There are good reasons to suppose that a working alliance, or at a least degree of sympathy, with certain elements of traditionalist Islam would be of enormous benefit to the Right, insofar as the men of the Right and the traditional believers of Islam are all battling the same monster, namely Modernism. In the third part of his essay, Dr. Bolton speaks at some length on this matter.3
  2. At the same time, there are about a dozen centuries of conflict standing between Islam and Christianity, or between the Middle East and Europe, which we cannot forget and must not discount. The Crusades cannot be erased from our histories, nor the very good reasons that launched them. It must not be forgotten that Islam twice attempted to conquer Europe under its special banner, and was not so very far from succeeding. Yet Islam is not European, and ample proof of this is granted by a simple thought experiment: ponder what a successful Islamic invasion would have meant for the Gothic period and its architecture and social forms; for the art of the Renaissance; for the memory of and respect for Antiquity, and for the pagan substrata which have always existed throughout Europe’s history and beneath Europe’s surface. Were Islam tomorrow to become the primary faith of Europe, what would become of the Notre-Dame, of St. Peter’s or its Sistine Chapel, of the Louvre, of the Roman ruins at the heart of Rome or the Acropolis in Greece, of centuries of European classical music and millennia of European literature? This question is yet more emphatic precisely to the degree that this hypothetical ‘European Islam’ were a true Islam, and not a false and secularized version of the same. Islam might be healthier than Christianity vis-à-vis Modernism at this historical juncture; but it is entirely fair, nay it is incumbent on us, to ask to what extent the ascension of even a very healthy Islam would represent a revival of Europe, rather than its erosion and obliteration by other means.
  3. There is a portion of Islam which truly is interested in converting or subverting all European infidels, conquering the whole of Europe for the establishment of a continent-wide caliphate and putting down all forms of opposition to the Qur’an through a military interpretation jihad. They view, and not altogether insanely, the mushrooming population growth of even nominal Muslims in Europe as a means toward one day attaining this end, at first through democratic election of Islamic or Islam-sympathetic leaders, and perhaps subsequently through violence or the threat of violence. This cannot be regarded as anything other than a threat to European political and cultural autonomy, and the larger the Muslim population in Europe becomes, the more feasible such a plan appears to be.
  4. Along the same lines it would be irresponsible and indeed blind of us not to note the degree to which a certain kind of Islam has been associated with the development of parallel communities on European territory which hardly stand for the rebirth of Europe. While this is a problem pertaining more to immigration than to Islam as such, nonetheless Islam provides the glue by which these communities are held together and transformed into a scourge against, not so much the Establishment, as peacable European citizens. Nor can it be negated that these communities, and the faith which characterizes them, have been responsible for producing an abundance of terrorist attacks which in many cases aim directly at Christian events, symbols or individuals. When church burnings and desecrations have become common events, when a priest has been beheaded in his own church on European soil during a church service, when Christians, no matter how tepid their faith may be, are no longer free to join confidently together as Christians even for comparatively innocuous modernisms like Christmas markets, and when all of this is accountable to a specific religion, we are compelled to look at that religion with great care and to ask to what extent its dogma is truly productive of such a situation.
  5. The conditions for any kind of coalition or understanding between the Right and certain Islamic schools or groups must therefore be approximately as follows: we would recognize a common enemy, and to that extent we would agree to lay aside our very real differences in light of an urgent communion of purpose. We would seek to defend authentic Islam in traditionally Islamic countries, and traditionalist Muslims would likewise agree to defend our European traditions in European territory – this, wholly despite the fact that these two traditions are finally incompatible with one another. This is an old-style confederacy such as the nations of the past were wont to form with one another, each recognizing the other’s territorial, legal and customary claims and working in respect of these toward the containment of a common foe. Insofar as our Muslim neighbours refuse to accept these terms, we cannot regard them as allies but as agents of those powers that would destroy us (either the Establishment or else a globally ambitious Islamic extremism, or else the two working in a kind of strange and totally temporary synchonicity or symbiosis).

It appears to me absolutely necessary to recognize both Islam and the octopus-like Establishment for they are: the former a rich and inherently multifaceted tradition with a variety of outlooks and positions, some fluid with our own and others viscous to it; the latter a creature which seeks power at all costs and is blithely unconcerned with ideology of any kind whatsoever, save as ideology serves the end of expanding its control. It is difficult to get one’s hands around either of these phenomena, and it is easy to fall into any number of confusions. One would like to take a firm stance one way or another on the Islamic question, but reality rejects all efforts at simplification and forces us to a subtler and more nuanced view. Likewise, one would like to ascribe to the Establishment a unitary approach to the Islamic question, but this is precisely what one cannot find anywhere one looks in the political order today. This because the Establishment will use Islam where it is useful, will suppress it where it is not, and will change its approach diametrically depending on new circumstances and the outcome of current events. It will do precisely the same thing with the Right itself, if we are not knowledgeable and intelligent enough to counter it.

We of the Right cannot fully embody this same flexibility on account of our adherence to deep principles, and if we deny those principles in order to free our hand we will traduce our very reason for fighting and abort the world we would promote long before it has ever been born. But we can be flexible in our understanding of the situation; nothing constraints us to see the world from a skewed or limited perspective. Dr. Kerry Bolton’s work is indispensable for that, and it is my sincere hope that I have modestly contributed in the same direction with this all-too-brief analysis of an immensely complicated problem.

References

1See Dr. Bolton’s article, ‘Islamophobia: Trojan Horse Amidst the Right’.

2His work includes both videos and books; one obviously relevant place to begin is with his lecture entitled ‘Riding the Tiger of Modernity’, which can be seen on YouTube.

3Francis Parker Yockey also had some very interesting ideas on the related question of how the Third World might be marshalled in the struggle against the hegemony of the United States; apart from the books that Yockey himself has written, Dr. Bolton has written a first-rate biography on him which discusses this matter, among of course a great many others. See Yockey: A Fascist Odyssey (Arktos, 2018).

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The Tarantula’s Bite https://arktos.com/2019/05/17/the-tarantulas-bite/ https://arktos.com/2019/05/17/the-tarantulas-bite/#view_comments Fri, 17 May 2019 13:25:36 +0000 https://arktos.com/?p=6093 Story has it that in the land of an ancient civilization far from Europe, an American expedition, bemoaning the poor competitivity of the native inhabitants who had been recruited for work, believed a suitable means could be found for spurring them on: the Americans doubled the hourly pay. Failure: following this raise, the better part of the workers came to work only half the hours of before. Since the natives held that the original reward was sufficient for the natural needs of their life, they now thought it altogether absurd that they should have to seek more for themselves than that which, on the basis of the new criterion, sufficed for the procuring of those needs.1

This is the antithesis of what we have recently begun to call Stakhanovism.2 This anecdote might act as a testing stone for two worlds, two mindsets, two civilizations, by which one of them might be judged sane and normal, and the other deviant and psychotic.

Before the advent in Europe of ‘mercantile economy’, out of which modern capitalism would rapidly develop, it was the fundamental criterion of economy that the pursuit of wealth should be excused and licit only as it served to guarantee a subsistence corresponding to one’s state.

In referring to a non-European mentality, let no one adduced any commonplaces here, regarding the inertia and the indolence of these races, as compared with the ‘active’ and ‘dynamic’ Western ones. In this, as in other spheres, such objections have no raison d’être: it suffices to detach oneself a moment from ‘modern’ civilization to perceive also in us, in the West, the same conceptions of life, the same attitude, the same esteem of lucre and of work.

Before the advent in Europe of what has officially and significantly been called ‘mercantile economy’ (significantly, because one knows in what account the traditional social hierarchy held the ‘merchant’ and the lender of money), out of which modern capitalism would rapidly develop, it was the fundamental criterion of economy that exterior goods must be subject to a certain measure, that the pursuit of wealth should be excused and licit only as it served to guarantee a subsistence corresponding to one’s state. Subsistence economy counted as the normal economy. This was also the Thomistic conception and later on even the Lutheran conception.3 It was essential that the single individual recognized that he belonged to a given group, that there existed determinate a fixed or limited framework within which he might develop his possibilities, realize his vocation, tend toward a partial, specific perfection. The same thing held in the ancient corporative ethics, wherein the values of personality and quality were emphasized, and wherein, in any case, the quantity of work was ever a function of a determinate level of natural needs. In general, the concept of progress in those times was applied to an essentially interior plane; it did not indicate leaving one’s station to seek lucre and to multiply the quantity of one’s work in order to reach an exterior economic and social position which did not belong to one.

All of these, however, were once perfectly Western viewpoints – the viewpoints of European man, when he was yet sane, not yet bitten by the tarantula, not yet thrall of the insane agitation and the hypnosis of the ‘economy’, which would conduct him into the disorder, the crises and the paroxysms of the current civilization. And today one trumpets this or that system, one seeks this or that palliative – but no one brings the question back to its origin. To recognize that even in economy the primary factors are spiritual factors, that a change of attitude, a true metanoia,4 is the only efficacious means if one would still conceive of halting the slide – this goes beyond the intellect of our technicians, who have by now gathered to proclaim in unison that ‘economy is destiny’.5

But we already know where the road shall lead us upon which man betrays himself, subverts every just hierarchy of values and of interests, concentrates himself on exteriorities, and the quest for gain, ‘production’, and economic factors in general form the predominant motive of his soul. Perhaps Sombart6 better than anyone has analyzed the entire process. It culminates fatally in those forms of high industrial capitalism in which one is condemned to run without rest, leading to an unlimited expansion of production, because every stop would signify immediately retreat, often being forced out and crushed. Whence comes that chain of economic processes which seize the great entrepreneur body and soul, shackling him more totally than the last of his laborers, even as the stream becomes almost autonomous and drags behind it thousands of beings, finally dictating laws to entire peoples and governments. Fiat productio, pereat homo – precisely as Sombart had already written.7

The which reveals, by the way, the backstage work of ‘liberation’ and of American aid in the world. We stand at the fourth of Truman’s points8 – the same Truman who, brimming over with disinterested love, wishes ‘ the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas’ of the earth: in other words: carrying to its term the new barbaric invasions, the brutalization in economic trivia even of those countries which by a happy confluence of circumstances are yet preserved from the bite of the tarantula, are yet preserved in a traditional tenor of life, are yet withheld from that economic and ‘productive’ exploitation which carries us to the bitter end of every possibility for man for nature. The system of the Americans, mutatis mutandis, persists in these commercial companies, which carry cannons along with them in order to ‘persuade’ whomever has no interest whatsoever in commerce…

Better to renounce the phantasm of an illusory betterment of the general conditions and to adopt, wherever it is necessary, a system of ‘austerity’, which does not yoke itself to the wagon of foreign interests, which does not let itself become embroiled in the global processes of a hegemony.

That ethic epitomized in the principle ‘abstine et substine9 was a Western one; so was its betrayal in a conception of life which, instead of maintaining need within natural limits toward the pursuit of that which is truly worthy of human striving, takes for its ideal instead the growth and the artificial multiplication of need itself, and also of the means to satisfy this need, with no regard for the growing slavery this must constitute first for the single individual and then for the collective, in accordance with an ineluctable law. No one should marvel that on such a basis there can be no stability, that everything must crumble and the so-called ‘social question’, already prejudged from the start by impossible premises, must intensify to the very point which is desired by communism and Bolshevism…

Moreover, things have gone so far today that any different viewpoint appears ‘anachronistic’, ‘anti-historical’. Beautiful, priceless words! But if ever one were to return to normality, it would become clear that, so far as the individual goes, there is no exterior, ‘economic’ growth worth its price; there is no growth whose seductions one must not absolutely resist, when the counterpart of letting oneself be seduced is the essential crippling of one’s liberty. No price is sufficient to recompense the loss of free space, free breath, such as permit one to find oneself and the being in oneself, and to reach what is possible for one to reach, beyond the conditioned sphere of matter and of the needs of ordinary life.

Nor do matters stand any differently for nations, especially when their resources are limited. Here ‘autarchy’ is an ethical principle, because that which has weight on the scale of values must be identical both for a single individual and for a State. Better to renounce the phantasm of an illusory betterment of the general conditions and to adopt, wherever it is necessary, a system of ‘austerity’,10 which does not yoke itself to the wagon of foreign interests, which does not let itself become embroiled in the global processes of a hegemony and an economic productivity cast into the void. For such processes, in the end, when they find nothing more to grasp on to, will turn against those same individuals who have woken them to life.

Nothing less than this becomes evident to whomever reflects on the ‘moral’ implicit in the simple anecdote recounted at the beginning of this essay. Two worlds, two mindsets, two destinies. Against the ‘tarantula’s bite’ stand all those who yet remember just activity, right effort, what is worthy of pursuit, and fidelity to themselves. Only they are the ‘realizers’, the beings who truly stand on their feet.

References

1 The source of the story is unknown. As for the title of this chapter, according to an old Italian tradition, the bite of the tarantula supposedly leads to a condition of hysteria and extreme agitation bordering, by certain accounts, on madness. Accordingly the name tarantism was given to this condition, and it was a common condition in the south of Italy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The tarantella dance takes its origin from this sickness, first because those who were gripped by tarantism felt a desperate need for frenetic physical activity, and later because this very need was formalized into a form of dance which was held to be therapeutic for the disease. In the present case, the furious contemporary desire to work, to be productive, to engage in commercial activity, is likened to this old malady.

2 After Alexey Stakhanov, a Russian miner who became renowned throughout Soviet Russia for his remarkable stamina. He set the world record for coal mining, reportedly mining 227 tons of coal in one day. This record was later disputed by some who believed he had been aided by the Soviet authorities themselves in order to produce propaganda for the workers, but Stakhanov’s name remains to this day crystallized in the Italian language in the term staconovista, meaning a man of tireless work ethic.

3 For the Thomistic conception, see Summa Theologica, II-II Q. 66. For example, he says in Article 2, ‘A more peaceful state is ensured to man if each one is contented with his own’. For Luther’s view, see his tract On Trade and Usury. Toward the beginning of this work he says, ‘Therefore some of the merchants, too, have been awakened, and have become aware that in their trading many a wicked trick and hurtful financial practice is in use, and it must be feared that the word of Ecclesiasticus applies here and that ‘merchants can hardly be without sin’. ’ (Translation Charles M. Jacobs.)

4 From the Ancient Greek μετάνοια, ‘changing one’s mind’ (lit. ‘beyond the mind’). This is a prominent Biblical theme, and is generally translated by the word ‘repentance’. Its original meaning, probably also among the Christians, was a change of heart, a spiritual conversion; and this is clearly the meaning it takes on in Evola’s use.

5 These were the words originally of Walter Rathenau (1867-1922), a Jewish German statesman and diplomat during the Weimer Republic. He was the signee of the Treaty of Rapallo, by which Russia and Germany renounced their territorial claims after World War I, leading to increased trade between the two. For his signature to this document, and for his intellectual ideas, which tended toward socialism, Rathenau was held to be a revolutionary in some circles, and he was assassinated in 1922 by the right-wing Organization Consul.

6 Werner Sombart (1863-1941), a German economist and sociologist. He began as a student of Marxist thought (Engels said he was the only German professor to have understood Marx) but by the end of his life had approached the National-Socialism of the Nazis. Throughout his career he was known for his intrepid consideration of the role that race plays in society. His early connections to Marxism and his later connections to Nazism have sadly blackened his memory, and, as Evola states in Chapter 25 (where he considers certain aspects of Sombart’s thought in greater depth), Sombart ‘is an author worthy of more study than we generally give him’.

7 Latin: ‘Let there be production, though man should perish’. Taken from Sombart’s Der Bourgeois (1913), yet to be translated into English.

8 From President Truman’s famous ‘Point Four Program’, as announced in his inaugural address of January 20, 1949. (The subsequent citations in this chapter are also taken from that address.) This program was purportedly a foreign policy of aiding underdeveloped countries and encouraging their growth and industrial progress. As Evola points out here, it is unlikely that the motivations behind this program were really so altruistic.

9 Latin: ‘endure and abstain’, often translated ‘bear and forebear’. It was a saying of the Greek Stoic Epictetus (c. AD 50-135). Epictetus was born a slave, and his main work, The Discourses, is formed of the statements he made to his pupis, which were transcribed and compiled by his student Arrian. Abstine et substine in many ways epitomizes the Stoic philosophy which later had such influence over Roman civilization: to tolerate the ills that come upon us and to refrain from forming attachments to things over which we have no control.

10 Evola here uses the English word ‘austerity’. Quotation marks are Evola’s.

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Disquisition on the Origins – Part 3 https://arktos.com/2019/05/15/disquisition-on-the-origins-part-3/ https://arktos.com/2019/05/15/disquisition-on-the-origins-part-3/#comments_reply Wed, 15 May 2019 12:40:05 +0000 https://arktos.com/?p=6580 History and the Origins

Following the course of our argument so far, we have been carried to a disquieting vista. Traditionalism and Modernism, these evident uncompromising antipodes, apparently agree on a crucial point: the present moment must be abolished. They propose diametrically contrary reasons for this conclusion, and profoundly different solutions to the problem it presents. Modernity would replace the here and now with the ‘next phase’, which ultimately culminates in a terminus to mankind itself; Traditionalism would replace the here and now with the ‘divine order’ or some echo thereof. Modernism opposes the present with an impatient ‘not yet’, Traditionalism, with a plaintive ‘no longer’. The unavoidable consequence of the one view as much as the other seems to be the necessity of more or less violent change.

Modernism opposes the present with an impatient ‘not yet’, Traditionalism, with a plaintive ‘no longer’.

This unexpected point of contact between these two great antagonists can be reformulated negatively: both Modernism and Traditionalism are necessarily anti-conservative with respect to the present moment, with respect to the whole of Modernity. They agree that the one view which is no longer possible, and perhaps no longer even palatable, is the conservative view.

How can we account for this point of community where we would least expect to find it?

Modernism conceives of the present moment as being governed by a secret law pressing mankind and human society ever upward; this is the crux of its ‘overcoming’ of the present.1 Traditionalism conceives of the present moment as being governed by a secret law pressing mankind and human society ever downward, save as they are infused or inspired by buoyant divine forces, whose reappearance will come at the end of the cycle of ages, after the Kali-yuga or the Iron Age. The Modernist views history as a trend which culminates in the ‘end of history’, a final and universal homogeneous world state, a kind of political Pangea. This world state alone would realize the ‘freedom’ of mankind, the freedom of everyman to seek what ends he will; it is the denatured theology of modernism incarnate on earth. The ‘aim of history’ by this view, as well as the right work of the individual, is governed inexorably by this ‘historical finality’. The Traditionalist meanwhile holds that the right work of the individual is to prepare for the return of the cycle from its lowest to its highest point, to prepare the rebirth of the origins after their long decadence in modern times. This will follow the collapse of the present ‘order’, the close of the present cycle in fire or ashes.

These views, apparently contrary to one another, are both open to the same fundamental philosophical objection: neither one has demonstrated, nor can demonstrate, the necessary issuance of its predicted future from out of the dark womb of ‘History’. The one has recourse to ‘historical necessity’ or to the supposedly inevitable but ultimately indemonstrable ‘march of history’, the other to what is openly acknowledged to be a myth, i.e. a story which is logically unprovable but which is supposedly bound to a divine past, and which thus contains a divine lesson or kernel of esoteric truth. Both are purportedly derived from a presumed insight into the ‘laws of history’; both acknowledge, that is to say, that there exist, at least for our fallen time, precisely such ‘laws’, and that these ‘laws’ are effective on human action and human societies. This makes for a philosophical dilemma: the particular interpretation that one makes of history depends, not on one’s analysis of history, but on one’s prior commitments to one or the other of these worldviews.

At the same time, in the absence of such commitments, the analysis of history seems to result forever in a kind of stalemate. The future is characterized by impenetrable mystery, the past by essentially ambiguous or equivocal facts, and the present by a quality of uncertainty and dependence on one’s embattled knowledge of what preceded it and what will follow it. Both Modernism and Traditionalism attempt to formulate such understanding and predictions, but how can they possibly do so to the satisfaction of a critical mind? One’s view of the past, as noted, is governed by one’s presuppositions, the very subject matter of philosophical inquiry. So far as the future goes, either man is free, and so history cannot be foreseen with any mathematical precision or any degree of surety since it depends decisively on unpredictable acts today and tomorrow, or else men are the slaves of contingency, so that nothing can ever guarantee or even forestall that tomorrow a piece of ‘bad fortune’ will not intervene and radically change his direction or destroy him altogether. Recourse to supposed ‘laws of history’, derived from history itself, are no good here, because the one thing visible on any naïve review of history is the total absence of such laws. History is not like the physical or organic worlds – evidently predisposed to a kind of intuitable regularity. There is no ordered firmament standing above the sphere of history, no cosmos in which it is evidently contained, no systems of stars which reflect in the regularity of their movements some manner of coherency and pattern; history, if it has laws, buries them deep within itself beneath a scintillating and mercurial skin, so that one must go delving Hegel-like or Spengler-like, deep into its bowels, to discover them. But then these laws are fundamentally disputable; they are the subject, not the presupposition, of philosophical inquiry. As little as history shows to us an unequivocally rising ladder of human progress, so little does it reveal a manifest cycle of downward motion or decay. History moves by fits and starts, now climbing and now descending, and reveals nothing so much to the impartial observer as the salient absence of regular motion.

This makes scientific prophecy of the future impossible: the future remains mysterious so far as rigorous science is concerned. On the other side of history, the deep past, history is bound by an equally impenetrable pre-historic shadowland. We know that this pre-history exists on account of the enigmatic traces it has left for us in the rumours and ruins of what were, to all extant evidence, mighty civilizations, quite sufficient in their extent and achievements to disprove the anthropological or scientistic assessment of pre-history as a world of primitives and savages. But at the same time we know almost nothing concrete about the beliefs or ways of life or quality of the men who peopled it. It is a city unknown, and our investigations into it always have the character of guesswork.

The existence of this past and its simultaneous inaccessibility suggests to us the the terrible reality and devastating power of telluric catastrophes, disasters capable of wiping entire civilizations, not only off the map, but out of human memory. This is inbuilt into the very idea of Traditionalism and its cyclical view of the world; but it would appear that these catastrophes can occur at any moment during the cycle, and not only at its nadir. By Traditionalist standards, at least, it appears that the Golden Age lies on the other side of just such a catastrophe. For all we know, this worldwide catastrophe brought an end to the Golden Age. One is compelled to ask if such catastrophes, which have led to the annihilation of civilizations entire, might not lead as well to the annihilation of mankind itself. Today indeed we are forced to approach this question from a fundamentally new standpoint: for today, for the first time in history, mankind itself is capable of producing precisely such a man-annihilating catastrophe. This power is not even limited to a single possibility: nuclear holocaust; the artificial production of a super-virus or super-disease which can eliminate the race; the ruination of the planet’s atmosphere through ‘manmade global warming’ or the desertification of the Earth’s surface until the Earth can no longer sustain human life; the production of an ‘artificial intelligence’ of sufficient uncontrollability and unpredictability that it might massacre the species entire; the manufacture of self-propagating ‘nanotechnology’ which might alter the physical conditions surrounding us until they become inhospitable to human life; the engineering of the human genome for so long and to such a radical extent that the races genetic profile becomes unstable or susceptible to any number of unexpected disasters – these are only the possibilities which might face us in the relatively near future on account of our current level of ‘technological progress’. We can thus derive no complacent optimism from our review of history: the ‘necessity of progress’ is called into question by the evidences of the deep past on the one hand and by the fruits of that very ‘progress’ itself on the other.

In this sense, it would appear that the Traditionalist perspective is in its way more ‘optimistic’ than the Modernist, for it seems to provide for the commencement of a new cycle, and thus at least promises the preservation of the race, if not of its present forms or achievements. At the same time, there can be no fixed surety that mankind is destined to survive the coming ‘end of the cycle’. Its survival depends, not certainly on the laws of nature, but on the will of the divine; but what do we know of the divine will, or of what the divine mind thinks of humankind and its wretched struggles? Surely the existence of individual men is not a matter of concern to the divine; this conclusion is so obvious as to become trivial, and hardly needs a work like Voltaire’s Candide to bring us to awareness of it. One has merely to consult the mortality list of the most recent earthquake to confirm as much. Nor are good men, nor even divine men, spared these disasters, so far as their earthy existence goes. What can guarantee then that the divine will ensure the survival of any man when the final catastrophe comes? Who can assure us that the gods will scoop up even some handful of worthy survivors from out of the inferno to see to their continuation? Both Modernism and Traditionalism seem to be conditioned by a secret optimism which has no clear grounding, and which would seem to be contradicted by other elements of the same views. Traditionalism has, however, this excellent reason for hope, which Modernism cannot claim: even if the end of man is to come, the divine is eternal, and divinity in man is equally so. Man, insofar as he has become a transcendent being in his person, is deathless in the decisive respect. To this extent, Traditionalism gives an empyreal guarantee of life to man or to the best men.

He this as it may, we are concerned with the question of human history and its conservation or loss; and whatever the reality of the Traditionalist promise, the earthly destruction of man means necessarily the end of that history. So far our analysis of history goes, we find nothing to guarantee its continuation; a multitude of contemporary viewpoints promise to us a bright tomorrow (e.g. the universal liberal order of freedom, equality, prosperity; the return of the Golden Age; the technological singularity which brings a new state of wonder and makes possible the physically impossible, transforming us into gods), but all of them might in fact be but a secret nightmare gilded in false array (e.g. a global dictatorship, the final Armageddon, a technocratic tyranny or the abolition of our humanity in a digital death). All these views in their popular form tend to lead to nothing so much as the deresponsibilizing of men, for they convince us to shuck our duties from our shoulders and thrust them upon the back of some fantastical tomorrow. In the meantime we bury ourselves in complacency and wretched contentment, a kind of nihilism which is so petty and pathetic that it hardly deserves so dire a name.

We can derive no complacent optimism from our review of history: the ‘necessity of progress’ is called into question by the evidences of the deep past on the one hand and by the fruits of that very ‘progress’ itself on the other.

Having arrived at such a point we are compelled to step back and take stock. The question reasserts itself: What are Modernism and Traditionalism, and where do they originate? What are their origins?

Traditionalism takes its bearings, as we have lately stated, by the unitary and esoteric truth lying behind appearances and exoteric teachings; but it takes its point of departure from the necessity of finding one’s way in fallen times. Its point of departure, that is to say, is not the esoteric (that is rather its destination); its point of departure is a rebellion against Modernism. It is late-come, tardy; even by its own estimation, it would not exist at all if we lived in a truly ‘Traditionalist’ epoch. The very titles of many of its founding works – as for instance Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World and Guénon’s Crisis of the Modern World – point to its reactionary nature. It exists in reaction to, in response to, the modern crisis. It therefore points us in two directions simultaneously: first, to analysis of the pre-modern Traditionalist line of teachers and civilizations, and second, to its great contender, the Modern World. It would not exist in the absence thereof; Modernism is the necessary, if not sufficient, condition for Traditionalism. To adequately understand Traditionalism, we must therefore understand Modernism.

Modernity takes its proximate origins from two sources: the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. The first is equivalent to the attempt to resuscitate a dormant Antiquity, primarily in the political and artistic senses. Philosophically, it represents a conscious departure from Antiquity, an overcoming of a dark ‘history’ through the diligent study of the same. The Renaissance rebirth of Antiquity thus unwittingly laid the groundwork for its subsequent murder in the Enlightenment; and for the same reason, the Renaissance has a more peripheral role in the development of Modernism than the Enlightenment; the Enlightenment is the true ‘origin’ of Modernism.

But the Enlightenment, as even these remarks demonstrate, was not born of the void. It consisted primarily in a response to, a modification of, or a rebellion against classical philosophy, and classical political philosophy in particular. Its purported reasons for this rebellion were from the very first pragmatic; classical political philosophy, as Machiavelli stated it,2 did not treat of the reality of human life, but rather of some ‘ideal’ human life which was not actual and could not be made so. This was aggravated by the irksome disproportion, noted classically by Hobbes,3 between the seemingly objective and final successes of mathematics in the new science on the one hand, and the continuing disrepair and chaos of human polities on the other. The difference between geometry and political philosophy, of course, had always been known; this was hardly a discovery of modern times. But classical philosophy had taken the difference to be produced by the nature of geometry as opposed to the nature of the human being; these natures differed, and consequently it would be meaningless to attempt to understand them via parallel philosophical approaches or methodologies. The moderns were enormously impressed, however, by the emergence of natural science, which they took to be a demonstrable improvement over classical science; and, having seen that this natural science could be extended to the whole of the physical world (what began to be known as ‘nature’ in the inclusive sense in contradistinction to the restrictive or distinctive classical idea of nature),4 believed that this science could be extended to human beings and human things as well as to number and geometrical form. For by the new view, the human being was considered ‘a part of nature’, comprehensible in light of the ‘natural laws’. One primary source of Modernism, if it is not the true source of Modernism itself, is therefore located in the question of science, as this was elaborated by Galileo, Newton, Huygens, Copernicus, Kepler, Lavoisier &co.

The question therefore opens of the character of the change which these men produced in the former natural science – that natural science of the scholastics which traced its origins back the Philosopher, to Aristotle himself, and which was transmitted to the first modern natural scientists via the reconciliation which Thomas Aquinas had effected or attempted to effect between classical philosophy and Christian theology. Why did the moderns effect a break with this tradition? In what did this break consist? To what extent is it tied to the spirit of the Renaissance, and to what extent did it represent rather an extraneous and unrelated spirit, a spirit of its own – the Modern spirit in ovo? What is the relation of this idea to the concept of History which arose in that same period, and what critique can be made of both these new ideas?

Rather than rejecting the present or the history which produced it in favour of some tenuous future or haze-bound pre-history, we make time itself the object of our work, we dwell like divers or fishermen on this sea of memory.

These questions, some of which are neglected to such an shocking extent that they are often not even perceived any longer, point us emphatically to a conclusion which is relevant to our present disquisition: Modernism arose in specific dialectic with pre-Modernism. One must therefore comprehend the ‘before’ if one is to rightly comprehend the ‘after’: the true origins of Modernism are coeval with the origins of the West itself, of the Western Tradition. It is imperative that these origins be understood.

The origins of the Western Tradition can be traced back to a remarkable extent to two men, two ‘historical moments’ which were absolutely unique and ‘creative’ with respect to all that followed: Socrates and Christ. In some ways, these men were strangely parallel in their lives: they both voluntarily chose to live lives of comparative poverty and even ‘ignominy’ with respect to the standards of their time; they were martyred by their governments on the pretext (among other things) of impiety; both were regarded as being in some way totally new or revolutionary by the milieus in which they moved, and were therefore largely greeted with strong mistrust on the part of the older generations and ecstatic devotion on the part of the younger; and neither of them, so far as we know, wrote down even a single one of their teachings, but were rather recorded in these teachings by their pupils or disciples. But here the similarities end, and a remarkable series of contrasts commences.

One was given to the shocking and, to orthodox minds, insanely arrogant claim that he was the incarnate Son of God; the other was given to the provoking and maddeningly humble claim that he knew that he knew nothing. One silenced his critics with the power of his single utterances; the other demonstrated the poverty of his critics’ views through ruthless and lengthy dialectic. One is recorded primarily as speaking to or before crowds and masses of men, and was intent on the conversion of all mankind; the other did all in his power to turn his conversations upon a single specifically chosen man or else very small select groups, spoke in dialogue even in the presence of others, and sought the cultivation of an extremely exclusive group of rare potential philosophers or philo-philosophers. One wept thrice, proclaimed the coming of God, promised redemption and the overcoming of the grave and founded hope as a virtue; the other promised, it would seem, nothing at all, and is said to have laughed in the very hour he was made to die. Finally, one of them impelled men to absolute loving obedience to the One God; the other, to absolute uncompromising investigation of the cosmos, without restriction and without special regard to supposedly divine commandments.

This is, of course, an impossibly curtailed treatment of either of these men, not to speak of both together. We present it merely to indicate the route by which a ‘return to the origins’ might bear real fruit for our study of the modern crisis. For nothing can be clearer than this: that the confrontation with Modernity demands of us a return to the origins, both the proximate (in the Renaissance and Enlightenment) and the deep (in classical and Christian Antiquity). The origins must be unearthed and grasped; the alternatives which they supplanted (as for instance: the Greek poetic tradition; the European pagan traditions; the rival cults of late Rome, such as the Mithraic; Christendom and the Gothic Age; etc.) must be drawn with due clarity, sympathy and justice, that their potential and their limitations in our modern day can be brought to light; for only through the self-knowledge that such ‘historical studies’ might furnish us can we possibly hope to confront the crisis of our times.

Such a return must be an act of reverence or of wonder. It opens the meaning of Modernity itself, and represents at the same time the revival of our Tradition; rather than rejecting the present or the history which produced it in favour of some tenuous future or haze-bound pre-history, we make time itself the object of our work, we dwell like divers or fishermen on this sea of memory, this wellspring of matchless vitality beneath us. We transform ourselves from mere cynical critics of our age into lovers of the West, philoccidentals. Thereby we revive, not only the customs, ways, styles of life contained in this superabundant and multifaceted past of the West, but its very soul, its philosophy or its faith, its eternal and unchangeable ‘Ideas’ or archetypes, which form its pith and its essence. And thereby, and thereby alone, do we open the possibility, the unique and precious chance, of a non-nihilistic response to Modernity, through the resurrection or rebirth of its truest and most fundamental origins.

References

1In this overview we disregard the powerful critique brought against this notion of history by men like Nietzsche and Hiedegger, who, one might say, preserved the modern sense of history, but shore it of the modern notion of progress. Both men have been implicated much more clearly in the advent of those political regimes which opposed the modern trend than in that trend itself, and this is no doubt in part due to their anti-progressivist, anti-meliorist view of history.

2See Machiavelli, The Prince, esp. Chapter XV.

3See Hobbes’ introduction to his Philosophical Rudaments Concerning Government and Society. See also Descartes, Rules for the Direction of the Mind, esp. Rules Two and Three, which would form the basis for his subsequent Meditations.

4This distinction can be briefly summarized as follows. The classical idea of nature took nature to be that which distinguishes the beings of the world from the other beings of the world; the nature of man is not the nature of dog, which in turn is not the nature of the stars or the stones. Each nature implies an end, a telos for the being in question, and these teloi cannot be interchanged. The right end of man is not the right end of a dog. ‘Nature’ for modern times, on the other hand, is rather something equivalent to the universe as such; it is the sum total of things that exist and that emerge on the basis of identifiable and mathematizable laws. But in the comprehension of these laws, the possibility arises of changing their emergent course; man can influence or alter or command the ‘natural’ order. To this extent, man stands in some mysterious way outside of ‘nature’; ‘nature’ is therefore increasingly understood in contradistinction to ‘man’ or ‘technology’ or to the artificial world that man produces. There appears to be a tension here; for man’s separation from the ‘natural world’ indicates that he cannot be comprehensively analysed in the light of its laws. Yet modern science is dedicated to nothing so much as the presupposition that the entire world, man included, can be analysed in the light of these laws. Man appears to wish to destroy his own underpinning, and the doctrine of progress suggests moreover that he is capable of doing so. Man remains the one open question in the world, the one ‘unnatural’ being. This inclines man along a path which ultimately seems to aim at his extricating himself altogether from the ‘laws of nature’ – process we have reviewed to some extent in Part II of this essay, and which appears to culminate in self-annihilation.

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