Interview with Robert Steuckers by Troy Southgate
Troy Southgate: When and why did you decide to become involved in politics?
Robert Steuckers: I was never actually involved in politics, as I was never a member of a political party. Nevertheless I am a citizen interested in political questions but of course not in the usual plain and trivial way, as I have no intention to become a candidate, council deputy or Member of Parliament.
For me “politics” means to maintain continuities or, if you prefer, traditions. But traditions that are embedded in the actual history of a particular human community. I started to read historical and political books at the tender age of 14. This lead to a rejection of established ideologies or non-values.
From the age of 15 onwards, with the help of a secondary school history teacher, a certain Mr. Kennof, I realized that people should grasp the main trends of history in keys and always make use of historical atlasses (I have collected them ever since) in order to understand in one glimpse the main forces animating the world scene at a precise moment of time. Maps are very important for politics at a high level (diplomacy, for instance).
The principal idea I acquired at this young age was that all ideologies, thoughts or blue prints which wanted to get rid of the past, to sever the links people have with their historical continuities, were fundamentally wrong. As a consequence, all political actions should aim at preserving and strengthening historical and political continuities, even when futurist (pro-active) actions are often necessary to save a community from a sterile repetition of obsolete habits and customs.
The discourses of most ideologies, including the various expressions of the so-called far right, were in my eyes artificial in the Western World just as communism was an abstraction in front of the whole of Russian history in the East or an abstraction obliterating the genuine historical patterns of the East-European peoples submitted to Soviet rule after 1945. The rupture of continuities or the repetition of dead past “forms” leads to the political-ideological confusion we know nowadays, where conservatives aren’t conservative and socialists aren’t socialists anymore, and so on.
Fundamental political ideas are better served in my eyes by “Orders” than by political parties. Orders provide a continuous education of the affiliated and stress the notion of service. They feel reluctant in front of the mere politicians’ petty ambitions. Such Orders are the Chivalric Orders of the Middle Ages or the Renaissance in Europe, the notion of fatwa in the Persian Islamic world as well as later experiments, including in the 20th Century (The Legion of Michael the Archangel Michael in Romania, the Verdinaso in Flanders, etc.).
Troy Southgate: Please explain what you mean by the term “Conservative Revolution” and, if possible, provide us with an outline of some of its chief ideologues.
Robert Steuckers: When the phrase “Conservative Revolution” is used in Europe, it is mostly in the sense given to it by Armin Mohler in his famous book Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918-1932. Mohler listed a long list of authors who rejected the pseudo-values of 1789 (dismissed by Edmund Burke as mere “blue prints”), stressed the role of the Germanic in the evolution of European thought and received the influence of Nietzsche. Mohler avoided, for instance, purely religious “conservatives,” be they Catholics or Protestants.
For Mohler the main brandmark of “Conservative Revolution” is a non-linear vision of history. But he doesn’t simply take over the cyclical vision of traditionalism. After Nietzsche, Mohler believes in a spherical conception of history. What does that mean? It means that history is neither simply a repetition of the same patterns at regular intervals nor a linear path leading to happiness — to the end of history, to a Paradise on Earth, to felicity, etc. — but is a sphere that can run (or be pushed) in every direction according to the impulsion it receives from strong charismatic personalities. Such charismatic personalities bend the course of history towards some very particular ways, ways that were never previously foreseen by any kind of Providence.
Mohler in this sense never believes in universalistic political receipts or doctrines but always in particular and personal trends. Like Jünger, he wants to struggle against everything that is “general” and to support everything that is “particular”. Further, Mohler expressed his vision of the dynamic particularities by using the some awkward terminology of “nominalism.” For him “nominalism” was indeed the word that expressed at best the will of strong personalities to cut for themselves and their followers an original and never used path through the jungle of existence.
The main figures of the movement were Spengler, Moeller van den Bruck, and Ernst Jünger (and his brother Friedrich-Georg). We can add to these triumviri Ludwig Klages and Ernst Niekisch. Carl Schmitt, as a Catholic lawyer and constitutionalist, represents another important aspect of the so-called “Conservative Revolution”.
Spengler remains the author of a brilliant fresco of the world civilizations that inspired the British philosopher Arnold Toynbee. Spengler spoke of Europe as a Faustian civilization, at best expressed by the Gothic cathedrals, the interaction of light and colors in the glass-works, the stormy skies with white and gray clouds in most of the Dutch, English, and German paintings. This civilization is an aspiration of the human soul towards light and towards self-commitment.
Another important idea of Spengler is the idea of “pseudo-morphosis”: a civilization never disappears completely after a decay or a violent conquest. Its elements pass into the new civilization that takes its succession and bends it towards original paths.
Moeller van den Bruck was the first German translator of Dostoevsky. He was deeply influenced by Dostoevsky’s diary, containing some severe judgments on the West. In the German context after 1918, Moeller van den Bruck advocated, on the basis of Dostoevsky’s arguments, a German-Russian alliance against the West.
How could the respectable German gentleman, with an immense artist’s culture, plea in favor of an alliance with the Bolsheviks? His arguments were the following: in the whole diplomatic tradition of the 19th century, Russia was considered as the shield of reaction against all the repercussions of the French Revolution and of the revolutionist mind and moods. Dostoevsky, as a former Russian revolutionist who admitted later that his revolutionist options were wrong and mere blue prints, considered more or less that Russia’s mission in the world was to wipe out of Europe the tracks of the ideas of 1789.
For Moeller van den Bruck, the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia was only a changing of ideological clothe Russia remained, despite the Bolshevik discourse, the antidote to the Western liberal mind. So defeated Germany should ally to this fortress of anti-revolutionism to oppose the West, which in the eyes of Moeller van den Bruck is the incarnation of liberalism. Liberalism, stated Moeller van den Bruck, is always the final disease of a people. After some decades of liberalism, a people will ineluctably enter into a terminal phase of decay.
The path followed by Ernst Jünger is known enough to everyone. He started as an ardent and gallant young soldier in the First World War, leaving the trenches with no gun, simply with a hand grenade under his arm, worn with elegance like the stick of a typical British officer. For Jünger the First World War was the end of the petty bourgeois world of the 19th Century and the “Belle Epoque,” where everyone had to be “as it should be,” i.e. behave according to said patterns pre-cut by borrowing teachers or priests, exactly as we all today have to behave according to the self-proclaimed rules of “political correctness.”
Under the “storms of steel,” the soldier could state his nothingness, his mere fragile biological being, but this statement couldn’t in his eyes lead to an inept pessimism, to fear and desperation. Having experimented the most cruel destiny in the trenches and under the shelling of thousands of artillery guns, shaking the earth thoroughly, reducing everything to the “elemental,” the infantrymen knew better of cruel human destiny on the surface of this planet. All artificiality of civilised urban life appeared to them as mere fake.
After the first World War Ernst Jünger and his brother Friedrich-Georg turned out to be the best national-revolutionist journalists and writers.
Ernst evolved to a kind of cynical, soft, ironical, and serene observer of humanity and the facts of life. During a carpet bombing raid on a Parisian suburb, where factories were producing war material for the German army during WWII, Jünger was terrified by the unnatural straight air path taken by the American flying fortresses. The linearity of the planes’ path in the air above Paris was the negation of all the curves and sinuosities of organic life. Modern war implied the crushing of those winding and serpentine organicities. Ernst Jünger started his career as a writer by being an apologist of war. After having observed the irresistible lines thrust forward by the American B-17s, he became totally disgusted by the unchivalrousness of the pure technical way of running a war.
After WWII, his brother Friedrich-Georg wrote a first theoretical work leading to the development of the new German critical and ecological thinking, Die Perfektion der Technik (The Perfection of Technics). The main idea of this book, in my eyes, is the critique of “connection.” The modern world is a process trying to connect human communities and individuals to big structures. This process of connection ruins the principle of liberty. You are a poor chained prole if you are “connected” to a big structure, even if you earn £3000 or more in one month. You are a free man if you are totally disconnected from those big iron heels. In a certain way, Friedrich-Georg developed the theory that Kerouac experimented untheoretically by choosing to drop out and travel, becoming a singing tramp.
Ludwig Klages was another philosopher of organic life against abstract thinking. For him the main dichotomy was between Life and Spirit (Leben und Geist). Life is crushed by abstract spirit. Klages was born in Northern Germany but migrated as a student to Munich, where he spent his free time in the pubs of Schwabing, the district in which artists and poets met (and still meet today). He became a friend of the poet Stefan Georg and a student of the most original figure of Schwabing, the philosopher Alfred Schuler, who believed himself to be the reincarnation of an ancient Roman settler in the German Rhineland.
Schuler had a genuine sense of theater. He disguised himself in the toga of a Roman Emperor, admired Nero, and set up plays remembering the audience of the ancient Greek or Roman world. But beyond his lively fantasy, Schuler acquired a cardinal importance in philosophy by stressing for instance the idea of “Entlichtung,” i.e. the gradual disappearance of Light since the time of the Ancient City-State of Greece and Roman Italy. There is no progress in history: On the contrary, Light is vanishing as well as the freedom of the free citizen to shape his own destiny.
Hannah Arendt and Walter Benjamin, on the left or conservative-liberal side, were inspired by this idea and adapted it for different audiences. The modern world is the world of complete darkness, with little hope of finding “be-lighted” periods again, unless charismatic personalities, like Nero, dedicated to art and Dionysian lifestyle, wedge in a new era of splendor which would only last for the blessed time of one spring.
Klages developed the ideas of Schuler, who never wrote a complete book, after he died in 1923 due to an ill-prepared operation. Klages, just before WW1, pronounced a famous speech on the Horer Meissner Hill in Central Germany, in front of the assembled youth movements (Wandervogel). This speech bore the title of “Man and Earth” and can be seen as the first organic manifesto of ecology, with a clear and understandable but nevertheless solid philosophical background.
Carl Schmitt started his career as a law teacher in 1912 but lived till the respectable age of 97. He wrote his last essay at 91. I cannot enumerate all the important points of Carl Schmitt’s work in the frame of this modest interview. Let us summarize by saying that Schmitt developed two main idea the idea of decision in political life and the idea of “Great Space.”
The art of shaping politics or a good policy lays in decision, not in discussion. The leader has to decide in order to lead, protect, and develop the political community he is in charge of. Decision is not dictatorship as many liberals would say nowadays in our era of “political correctness.” On the contrary: a personalisation of power is more democratic, in the sense that a king, an emperor, or a charismatic leader is always a mortal person. The system he eventually imposes is not eternal, as he is doomed to die like any human being. A nomocratic system, on the contrary, aims at remaining eternal, even if current events and innovations contradict the norms or principles.
Second big topic in Schmitt’s work the idea of a European Grand Space (Grossraum). “Out-of-Space” powers should be prevented to intervene within the frame of this Great Space. Schmitt wanted to apply to Europe the same simple principle that animated US President Monroe. America for the Americans. OK, said Schmitt, but let us apply “Europe to the Europeans.” Schmitt can be compared to the North-American “continentalists,” who criticised Roosevelt’s interventions in Europe and Asia. Latin Americans also developed similar continentalist ideas as well as Japanese imperialists. Schmitt gave to this idea of “Greater Space” a strong juridical base.
Ernst Niekisch is a fascinating figure in the sense that he started his career as a Communist leader of the “Councils’ Republic of Bavaria” of 1918-19, that was crushed down by the Free Corps of von Epp, von Lettow-Vorbeck, etc. Obviously, Niekisch was disappointed by the absence of a historical vision among the Bolshevik trio in revolutionist Munich (Lewin, Leviné, Axelrod).
Niekisch developed a Eurasian vision, based on an alliance between the Soviet Union, Germany, India, and China. The ideal figure who was supposed to be the human motor of this alliance was the peasant, the adversary of the Western bourgeoisie. A certain parallel with Mao Tse-Tung is obvious here. In the journals that Niekisch edited, we discover all the German tentatives to support anti-British or anti-French movements in the colonial empires or in Europe (Ireland against England, Flanders against a Frenchified Belgium, Indian nationalists against Britain, etc.).
I hope I have explained in a nutshell the main trends of the so-called conservative revolution in Germany between 1918 and 1933. May those who know this pluri-stratified movement of ideas forgive my schematic introduction.
Troy Southgate: Do you have a “spiritual angle”?
Robert Steuckers: By answering this question, I risk being too succinct. Among the group of friends who exchanged political and cultural ideas at the end of the Seventies, we concentrated of course on Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World. Some of us rejected totally the spiritual bias, because it lead to sterile speculation: they preferred to read Popper, Lorenz, etc. I accepted many of their criticisms, and I still dislike the uttermost Evolian speculations, alleging a spiritual world of Tradition beyond all reality. The real world being disregarded as mere triviality. But this is of course a cult of Tradition mainly supported by young people “feeling ill in their own skin,” as we say. The dream to live like beings in fairy tales is a form of refusing to accept reality.
In Chapter 7 of Revolt Against the Modern World, Evola, on the contrary, stresses the importance of the “numena“, the forces acting within things, natural phenomena or powers. The initial Roman mythology laid the accent more on the numena than on the personalised divinities. This bias is mine. Beyond the people and the gods of the usual religions (be they Pagan or Christian), there are acting forces and man should be in concordance with them in order to be successful in his earthly actions.
My religious/spiritual orientation is more mystical than dogmatic, in the sense that the mystical tradition of Flanders and Rhineland (Ruusbroec, Meister Eckhart), as well as the mystical tradition of Ibn Arabî in the Muslim area or of Sohrawardî in the Persian realm, admire and worship the total splendor of Life and the World. In these traditions, there is no clear-cut dichotomy between the godly, the sacred, and the holy on the one side and the worldly, the profane, and the simple on the other. Mystical tradition means omni-compenetration and synergy of all the forces yeasting in the world.
Troy Southgate: Please explain to our readers why you place such importance on concepts like geopolitics and Eurasianism.
Robert Steuckers: Geopolitics is a mixture of history and geography. In other words of time and space. Geopolitics is a set of disciplines (not a single discipline) leading to a good governance of time and space. Geopolitics is a mixture of history and geography. No serious power can survive without continuity, be it an institutional or historical continuity. No serious power can survive without a domination and a yielding of land and space.
All traditional empires first organized the land by building roads (Rome) or by mastering the big rivers (Egypt, Mesopotamia, China), then lead on to the emergence of a long history, to the sense of a continuity, to the birth of the first practical sciences (astronomy, meteorology, geography, mathematics) under the protection of well structured armies with a code of honor, especially codified in Persia, the womb of Chivalry.
The Roman Empire, the first empire on European soil, was focussed on the Mediterranean Sea. The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation couldn’t find a proper core as well coordinated as the Mediterranean. The waterways of Central Europe lead to the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, or the Black Sea, but without any link between them. This was the true tragedy of German and European history. The country was torn between centrifugal forces. The Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen tried to restore the Mediterranean realm, with Sicily as the central geographical piece.
His attempt was a tragic failure. It is only now that the emergence of a renewed imperial form (even under a modern ideology) is possible in Europe: after the opening of the canal between the Rhine-Main system and the Danube river system. There is a single waterway now between the North Sea, including the Thames system in Britain, and the Black Sea, allowing the economical and cultural forces of Central Europe to reach all the shores of the Black Sea and the Caucasian countries.
Those who have a good historical memory, not blinded by the usual ideological blue-prints of modernism, will remember the role of the Black Sea shores in the spiritual history of Europe: in Crimea, many old traditions, be they Pagan or Byzantine, were preserved in caves by monks. The influences of Persia, especially the values of the oldest (Zoroastrian) Chivalry in world history, could influence the development of similar spiritual forces in Central and Western Europe. Without those influences, Europe is spiritually mutilated.
Therefore the Mediterranean area, the Rhine (also coupled to the Rhone) and the Danube, the Russian rivers, the Black Sea and the Caucasus should constitute a single civilization area, defended by a unified military force, based on a spirituality inherited from Ancient Persia. This, in my eyes, means Eurasia. My position is slightly different than that of Dughin but both positions are not incompatible.
When the Ottomans gained complete control over the Balkan Peninsula in the 15th Century, the land routes were cut for all Europeans. Moreover, with the help of the North African sea rovers assembled by the Turkish-born Barbarossa based in Algiers, the Mediterranean was closed to peaceful European commercial expansion towards India and China. The Muslim world worked as a bolt to contain Europe and Moscovy, core of the future Russian Empire.
All together, Europeans and Russians joined their efforts to destroy the Ottoman bolt. The Portuguese, Spaniards, English and Dutch tried the sea routes and circumvented the African and Asian land mass, ruining first the Moroccan kingdom, which drew gold from subtropical Western African mines and claims in order to build an army to conquer again the Iberian Peninsula. By landing in Western Africa, the Portuguese got the gold more easily for themselves and the Moroccan kingdom was reduced to a mere residual superpower. The Portuguese passed around the African continent and entered the Indian Ocean, circumventing definitively the Ottoman bolt, and giving for the first time a real Eurasian dimension to European history.
At the same time, Russia repelled the Tartars, took the City of Kazan, and destroyed the Tartar shackle of the Muslim bolt. This was the starting point of the continental Russian Eurasian geopolitical perspective.
The aim of American global strategy, developed by a man like Zbigniew Bzrzezinski, is to recreate artificially the Muslim bolt by supporting Turkish militarism and Panturanism. In this perspective, they support tacitly and still secretly the Moroccan claims on the Canary Isles and use Pakistan to prevent any land link between India and Russia. Hence the double necessity today for Europe and Russia to remember the counter-strategy elaborated by ALL European people in the 15th and 16th Century.
European history has always been conceived as petty nationalist visions. It is time to reconsider European history by stressing the common alliances and convergencies. The Portuguese seaborne and the Russian landborne actions are such convergencies and are naturally Eurasian. The Battle of Lepanto, where the Venetian, Genoan, and Spanish fleets joined their efforts to master the East Mediterranean area under the command of Don Juan of Austria, is also a historical model to meditate upon and to remember.
But the most important Eurasian alliance was without any doubt the Holy Alliance lead by Eugene of Savoy at the end of the 17th Century, which compelled the Ottomans to retrocede 400,000 sq. km of land in the Balkans and Southern Russia. This victory allowed the Russian Tsars of the 18th Century, especially Catherine II, to win decisive battles once more.
My Eurasianism (and of course my whole geopolitical thought) is a clear answer to Bzrzezinski’s strategy and is deeply rooted in European history. It is absolutely not to be compared with the silly postures of some pseudo-national-revolutionist crackpots or with the poor aesthetic blueprints of new rightist would-be philosophers. Besides, one last remark concerning geopolitics and Eurasianism: my main sources of inspiration are English. I mean the historical atlas of Colin McEvedy, the books of Peter Hopkirk about the secret service in the Caucasus, in Central Asia, along the Silk Road and in Tibet, the reflections of Sir Arnold Toynbee in the twelve volumes of A Study of History.
Troy Southgate: What is your view of the State? Is it really essential to have systems or infrastructure as a means of socio-political organization, or do you think a decentralized form of tribalism and ethnic identity would be a better solution?
Robert Steuckers: Your question needs a whole book to be properly and completely answered. Firstly, I would say that it is impossible to have A view of THE State, as there are many forms of States throughout the world. I make of course the distinction between a State, which is still a genuine and efficient instrument to promote the will of a people and also to protect its citizens against all evils be they machinated by external, internal or natural foes (calamities, floods, starvation, etc.).
The State should also be carved for one population living on a specific land. I am critical, of course, of all artificial States like those that were imposed as so-called universal patterns. Such States are pure machines to crush or to exploit a population for an oligarchy or foreign masters. An organization of the peoples, according to ethnic criteria, could be an ideal solution, but unfortunately as the events in the Balkans show us the ebbs and flows of populations in European, African, or Asian history have very often spread ethnical groups beyond natural boarders or settled them within territories which were formerly controlled by others. Homogeneous States cannot be built in such situations. This is the source of many tragedies, especially in Middle and Eastern Europe. Therefore the only perspective today is to think in terms of Civilizations as Samuel Huntington taught us in his famous article and book, The Clash of Civilizations, first written in 1993.
Troy Southgate: In 1986, you said “the Third Way exists in Europe at the level of theory. What it needs is militants.” [“Europe: A New Perspective” in The Scorpion, Issue #9, p.6] Is this is still the case, or have things developed since then?
Robert Steuckers: Indeed, the situation is still the same. Or even worse because, growing older, I state that the level of classical education is vanishing. Our way of thinking is in a certain way Spenglerian, as it encompasses the complete history of the human kind.
Guy Debord, leader of the French Situationnists from the end of the Fifties until the Eighties, could observe and deplore that the “society of the spectacle” or the “show society” has as its main purpose to destroy all thinking and thought in terms of history and replace them by artificial and constructed blueprints or simple lies. The eradication of historical perspectives in the heads of pupils, students, and citizens, through the diluting work of the mass-media, is the big manipulation, leading us to an Orwellian world without any memory. In such a situation, we all risk becoming isolated. No fresh troops of volunteers are ready to take over the struggle.
Finally, tell us about your involvement with Synergies and your long-term plans for the future.
“Synergies” was created in order to bring people together, especially those who publish magazines, in order to spread more quickly the messages our authors had to deliver. But the knowledge of languages is also undergoing a set-back. Being plurilingual, as you certainly know, I have always been puzzled by the repetition of the same arguments at each national level. Marc Lüdders from Synergon-Germany agrees with me. It’s a pity for instance that the tremendous amount of work performed in Italy is not known in France or in Germany. And vice-versa. In order to keep this short: my main wish is to see such an exchange of texts realized in a swift manner within the next twenty years.
Steuckers, Robert. “Interview with Robert Steuckers.” Interview by Troy Southgate. Synthesis, 2001. <http://www.rosenoire.org/interviews/steuckers.php>.
Note: See also Robert Steucker’s website Euro-Synergies: <http://euro-synergies.hautetfort.com >.
Notes on further reading: Armin Mohler’s book Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918-1933 (Graz & Stuttgart: Ares-Verlag, 2005), mentioned in this interview, is one of the most important works concerning the Conservative Revolution. It has been translated into French as La Révolution conservatrice en Allemagne: 1918-1932 (Puiseaux, Loiret: Pardès, 1993). Also worth noting is Mohler’s Von Rechts Gesehen (Stuttgart: Seewald Verlag, 1974).
On Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, one of the founding intellectuals of the Conservative Revolution, an excellent overview of his thought in English is Lucian Tudor’s “Arthur Moeller van den Bruck: The Man & His Thought” (originally published online: Counter-Currents.com, 17 August 2012), available on our website here: <https://neweuropeanconservative.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/arthur-moeller-van-den-bruck-tudor/ >.
For a good overview of Carl Schmitt’s works and philosophy in English, see Paul Gottfried, Carl Schmitt: Politics and Theory (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990).
For an overview of Ludwig Klages’s works and philosophy, see Joe Pryce, “On The Biocentric Metaphysics of Ludwig Klages,” Revilo-Oliver.com, 2001, <http://www.revilo-oliver.com/Writers/Klages/Ludwig_Klages.html > (this essay was republished in print as an introduction to Klages anthology, The Biocentric Worldview [London: Arktos, 2013]). (See this essay in PDF format here: On the Biocentric Metaphysics of Ludwig Klages).