Tag Archives: Fascism

Conversation with Alain de Benoist – Versluis

A Conversation with Alain de Benoist by Arthur Versluis (PDF – 303 KB):

A Conversation with Alain de Benoist by Arthur Versluis

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De Benoist, Alain. “A Conversation with Alain de Benoist.” Interview by Arthur Versluis. Journal for the Study of Radicalism, No. 8.2 (Fall 2014), pp. 79-106. Retrieved from <http://files.alaindebenoist.com/alaindebenoist/pdf/jsr-entretien_avec_arthur_versluys.pdf >.

 

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Femmes Fatales – Solère

Sisters of Salome: Femmes Fatales, Left & Right

By Fenek Solère

 

Left/Right dichotomies in the representation of female militants in the movies The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008) and A Student named Alexander (2011).

‘Although typically villainous, or at least morally ambiguous, and always associated with a sense of mystification and unease, femme fatales have also appeared as heroines in some stories . . .’ — Mary Ann Doane

From the Levantine Lilith to the Celtic Morgan Le Fay; and from Theda Bara’s vamp in Hollywood’s A Fool There Was to Eva Green in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, the notion of the fille d’Eve tantalizes us. In sociological terms the notion of diabolic women is potent with misogyny, witchcraft and the negative aspects of anima, how woman appears to man, from the Jungian viewpoint. To take the cinematic angle, licentious dames mean box office receipts, plain and simple. Roger Vadim’s And God Created Woman (1957), starring starlet Brigitte Bardot and Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Betty Blue (1986) with Beatrice Dalle being just two cases that prove the point.

Stereotypes range from enchantress to succubus, haunting our consciousness in different guises, such as the spectral Cathy from Emily Brontë’s classic Wuthering Heights (1847) or the more malign character of Rebecca in Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 book of the same name. As Charles Baudelaire (1821-67) (1), Once mused, ‘The strange thing about woman — her pre-ordained fate — is that she is simultaneously the sin and the Hell that punishes it’. Indeed, a whole academic industry has grown up deconstructing such iconography with writers like Toni Bentley’s Sisters of Salome (2002); Bram Dijkstra’s Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture (1986); and Elizabeth K. Mix’s Evil by Design: The Creation and Marketing of the Femme Fatale in 19th-Century France (2006) leading the way.

Baudelaire’s own magnum opus Les Fleurs du Mal (1857) epitomizes the dichotomy perfectly. The schizophrenia embodied in his poetic creations, Jean Duval (Black Venus) and Apollonie Sabatier (White Venus), both mirroring and reinforcing some male fantasies about women’s sexuality in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. The dialectics of Serpent Culture and Snake Charmer sensuality, so beautifully carved in Auguste Clesinger’s (2) writhing milk white statue Woman Bitten by a Snake (1847), a representation of Apollonie Sabatier currently on display in the Musée d’Orsay, raises the question, is she squirming in agony or riding a paroxysm of pleasure from the venomous bite?

Moving beyond the arts, literature and film to the political milieu? What evidence do we have for Femme Fatale’s within the Left/Right dichotomy? There is certainly a colorful cast of charismatic characters to choose from: Inessa Armand, Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin, Jiang Quing, Bernardine Dohrn, and Angela Davis to name but a few on the left-side. Unity Mitford, Savitri Devi, Alessandra Mussolini, Beate Zschape, Yevgenia Khasis, and Marine Le Pen, as examples from the right side of the aisle.

It is my intention to dismiss empathetic documentaries like Confrontation Paris, 68, The Weather Underground (2002) and hatchet-job investigative journalism like Turning Point’s Inside the Hate Conspiracy (1995) about America’s The Order without further comment. Instead arguing that there are few, if any, historically accurate, unbiased and insightful fictional or factional celluloid representations of female (or for that matter male) political militants in circulation. Instead, what we are served up are predictable stereo-types and clichéd cartoonesque parodies, completely aligned with the liberal left Euro-68 ethos, wherein, a mélange of well-meaning but misguided (and always attractive) socialist idealists try to change society for the better, juxtaposed with psychopathic rightist harridans, or male sexual inadequates, portrayed as vacuous outsiders, decidedly uncool and devoid of social capital.

Indicative examples of the genre being, from the left: The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1975), The Underground (1976), Running on Empty (1988), What to Do in Case of Fire (2002), Baader (2002), The Dreamers (2004), Guerilla — The Taking of Patty Hearst (2005), Regular Lovers (2005), Mesrine: Killer Instinct (2008), Che (2008), The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008), The Company You Keep (2012) and Something in the Air (2013). As opposed to the more objectionable characterizations of rightists in productions like The Day of the Jackal (1973), The Odessa File (1974), The Boys from Brazil (1978), Betrayed (1988), Siege at Ruby Ridge (1996), Brotherhood of Murder (1999), and A Student named Alexander (2011).

For the sake of argument I have been deliberately selective and will focus specifically on Uli Edels’s Baader Meinhof Complex and Enzo De Camillis’s fifteen minute short A Student named Alexander. Risking the approbation of cultural commentators by possibly extrapolating too general a hypothesis from too limited a sample, I nevertheless press my case, that the content, reaction and intent of both these films exemplify the paradox of Left/Right caricatures in the entertainment media.

Recipient of 6.5 million euros from various film boards and Golden Globe and Oscar nominee in the Best Foreign Film category, The Baader Meinhof Complex, rode the wave of resurgent seventies retro, a movie filled with baby boomer nostalgia for the late sixties and early seventies. Simpler times, when idealism meant Sartre, anti-Vietnam protest, Che Guevara posters, and smoking pot in bedsits listing to the sitar music of Ravi Shankar.

The movies all-star cast includes Martina Gedeck as Ulrike Meinhof, Moritz Bleibtreu as Andreas Baader, Johanna Wokalek as Gudrun Ensslin, and Alexandra Maria Lara as Petra Schelm. All of whom had already or were soon to appear in mainstream feature films like: The Lives of Others, Run Lola Run, The Good Shepherd, Pope Joan, North Face, Control, and Downfall.

The action begins with the 1967 Schah-Besuch mass street protest in Berlin against the Shah of Iran. Mohamed Reza Pahlavi’s supporters are depicted launching an unprovoked attack on the anti-Pahlavi elements, resulting in running battles and the shooting of Benno Ohnesorg in Krumme Strasse 66, by what appears to be a reactionary police officer, Karl-Heinz Kurras, but who was in reality a card-carrying member of the Communist Party acting as an undercover operative for the East German Stasi.

We are then treated to scenes where Maoist students hold packed meetings, intercut with footage of American warplanes strafing and bombing Vietnamese peasants. Rapidly followed by ‘Red’ Rudi Dutschke (3) of 2nd June Movement fame (named after the aforementioned riot) raising his clenched fist, the Messianic leader of the Gramscian ‘Long March through the Institutions’.

Dutschke is elevated to intellectual martyr status when he is mercilessly gunned down in the street by Josef Bachmann, portrayed by actor Tom Schilling, whose cinematic appearance is clearly meant to conjure images of a Hitler Youth or a die-hard Werewolf with a chronic nervous disposition. Which is ironic given that the Baader Meinhof gang and the various later incarnations of the Red Army Faction relied so heavily on a group linked to Heidelberg University, the Sozialistisches Patientiv Kollektiv (Socialist Patient Collective), an organization that sought to convince neurotics and the insane that they were not wrong, it was the system that was wrong, and social revolution was the cure.

‘Shooting is like fucking,’ screams Baader as Bernd Eichinger’s screenplay and Rainer Klausman’s hypnotic lens combine to present a seductive and fast paced cine-orgasm of free love, role model women for Second Wave feminism, cool people smoking cigarettes in coffee shops debating Marxist dialectics, driving around in BMWs, burning department stores, shooting up road signs, Robin Hood bank robbers sunning themselves topless in PLO training camps, liberating captives in a back glow of exploding gelignite and the swashbuckling rat-a-tat of 9mm shells.

Even the capture of Baader, Ensslin, and Meinhof for their egregious crimes are contextually ambiguous. Baader, in a scene more reminiscent of the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) than the original television footage of his stand-off with police; Meinhof, kicking and screaming in outrage, rather than the deflated, depressed, and played-out fantasist she was; and Ensslin, by pure chance, when a shop assistant notices a gun in her handbag. Another martyr is then injected into the story as Holger Meins (4) is depicted a la Bobby Sands (5), going on hunger strike and the subsequent trial in Stammheim (6), more Monty Python farce than a serious attempt to enact justice.

One is left in doubt as to where the audience’s sympathy is meant to lie. Especially, with our ever heroic protagonists making fun of the trial judges and gaining increasing support from those in attendance with their witty quips and stunning mind-games. Even The movie’s ending perpetuates the on-going myth that the ‘night of death’ was not triggered by the failure of the Mogadishu hijack (7) to negotiate their release but was in fact a pre-arranged multiple state murder made to look like simultaneous suicide. The movie culminating in a defiant cadre of young stern faced acolytes holding a graveside vigil, determined eyes set on continuing the struggle.

As a consequence, Christina Gerhardt writing in the Film Quarterly describes the movie thus: ‘During its 150 minutes, the film achieves action film momentum, bombs exploding, bullets spraying and glass shattering’. While Christopher Hitchens commenting in Vanity Fair refers to the movie’s ‘Uneasy relationship between sexuality and cruelty . . . an almost neurotic need to oppose authority’. A theme implied by Michael Bubach, son of Siegfried Bubach, the former Chief Federal prosecutor assassinated by the Red Army Faction in 1977, who’s summation of the feature pointed to the fact that the film ‘concentrates almost exclusively on portraying the perpetrators, which carries the danger that the viewer will identify too strongly with the protagonists’.

Examples of how this claim can be justified are so numerous that they would prove tedious to list. However, two personifications, beyond the central characters, stand out in particular, the first involving a chase sequence where Petra Schelm, portrayed by the beautiful Alexandra Maria Lara, is cornered and dies defiantly in a shoot-out with a horde of drone-like cops. The second is the murderous Brigitte Mohnhaupt, depicted by the stunning Naja Uhl, who is shown bedding Peter-Jurgen Boock, played by the teenage heart-throb actor Vinzenz Kiefer, before cold bloodedly slaughtering Siegried Bubach in his own home, organizing the ‘hit’ on Jurgen Ponto, Chairman of the Dresdner Bank of Directors, and the kidnap and murder of Hanns Martin Schleyer. Mohnhaupt, the leader of the second generation of the urban guerillas was also implicated in the 1981 attempt to kill NATO General Frederick Kroesen with a PRG-7 anti-tank missile. In fact, just the sort of unrepentant femme fatale we meet in her polar-opposite, the rightist Francesca Mambro in A Student Named Alexander, but who is treated in the diametrically opposite way.

In Enzo De Camillis’s 15 minute silver ribbon winning short, shown at the Roma Film Fest and lauded for its journalistic quality, the much maligned Mambro is portrayed by Valentina Carnelutti (8), who at least partially resembles Mambro. De Camillis, a blood relative of the Alexander in question, (so no conflict of interest there?) indicated his intent in making the movie was to ‘show young people what they do not know, to reflect on a period of history that should not be repeated’. So, following a showing at The House of Cinema to an audience of impressionable students, a discussion is initiated, moderated by Santo Della Volpe (9), who declares at the outset, that ‘The goal of the short is not to re-open old wounds or discussions on the years of lead (10), but to bring to light the issue of the victims that are set aside, of which we no longer speak’.

Really? Well, that is somewhat convenient given the long list of crimes committed by the Italian Brigate Rosse during the period in question. The most notorious being the ambush at Via Fani on the 16th March 1978 and the kidnap and murder of the President of the Christian Democrats, Aldo Moro. But it should also be remembered, especially given the context of De Camillis’s film, that the Left also killed activists from the right wing Italian Social Movement (MSI) and the University National Action group, like Miki Mantakas, murdered in Via Ottaviano in Rome in 1975, and Stephan and Virgilio Mattei, the sons of the MSI party District Secretary for Prati.

It is also a disingenuous claim given the vociferous presence of the Association of Families of victims of the massacre at Bologna train station of 2nd August 1980, whose demands echo down the decades through documentaries and dramas. The latter being the main event used to demonize Mambro and her then lover, now husband, Valerio Fioravanti (11). Although, they have long denied involvement in the Bologna attack, though freely admitting, like their Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari (Armed Revolutionary Nuclei) NAR accomplices to other political killings, such as, the assassination of Judge Vittorio Occorsio (12) in 1976 and Magistrate Mario Amato (13) in 1980.

Fioravanti maintains that the bombing was the work of Libya, but the Italian government were reluctant to pursue that line of enquiry because of the state’s dependence on Libya’s oil and blamed neo-fascists instead. Mambro and Fioravanti also confessed to planning an attack on the then Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga (14), so one can hardly accuse them of hiding their intentions. When the initial 16 year prison term for Mambro was converted into house arrest in 1998, the Bologna Association’s President Paolo Bolognesi, described Mambro’s parole as ‘A disgrace. It is outrageous that this parole was granted to a terrorist who does not have the requirements, who was sentenced and has never expressed any feelings of detachment from her past’. This, despite the fact that the NAR, never claimed responsibility for the incident and there is substantive cause to believe that the Mafia Banda della Magliana gang (15) and prominent politician Licio Gelli’s (16) secretive Masonic Propaganda Due P2 Lodge (17) linked to the NATO’s Cold-War Operation Gladio architecture (18) had a hand in the incident.

The prosecution’s main witness against Mambro’s partner Fioravanti, Massimo Sparti, of the banda della Magliana, was even contradicted by his own son. ‘My father has lied about his part in the Bologna history’, he declared. Similarly the sinister presence of German terrorists Thomas Kram and Margot Frohlich, closely linked to both the PLO and Carlos the Jackal, who were in Bologna that very same day was never properly investigated. Coincidences like this and the possible link to the Ustica Massacre (19), when Aerolinea Itavia flight 870 was brought down by a missile, gave President Francesco Cossiga pause for thought, leading him to state on the 15th March 1991 that he felt the attribution of the Bologna Massacre to fascist activists may be based on misinformation supplied by the security services.

Returning to A Student named Alexander, unlike the Baader Meinhof Complex, the detail is nearly entirely on the victim, showing his cluttered bedroom, his journey by car to the art school in Piazza Risorgimento. No context is provided as to why Mambro and the NAR are robbing the Banca Nazionale on the 5th March 1982. Neither is reference made to the murder of her fellow MSI activists Franco Bigonzetti and Francesco Ciavatta, gunned down in the Acca Larentia by Left extremists, the Armed Squads for Contropotere Territorial, despite the fact that this led Mambro and her cohort to confront both their political opponents and the police in three days of shootings, stabbings and torching cars across Prenestino:

‘A few of us knew what this meant. Francesco Ciavatta was in our small circle. Our immediate reaction was shock, as if a relative had died. We looked at each other not knowing what to do. All around the city young militants flocked to us. The Italian Social Movement did not react. Kids like us were being used to keep order at meetings of Giorgi Almirante (20) , ready to take the blows and hit back . . . Acca Larentia marked the final break with the MSI . . . It could no longer be our home. For three days we shot at police and this marked the point of no return . . .’ — Francesca Mambro

Even, the circumstances of Alexander’s death are disputed. The movie depicts Mambro standing over the boy, firing into his head execution style, apparently mistaking him and his small umbrella for an armed plain clothes policeman. The counter argument is that he was killed in cross-fire as the NAR broke out of a police encirclement. A shoot out in which Mambro did not have in her possession the gun that was identified as the murder weapon and was herself very seriously wounded in the abdomen. She later recalls, hiding out in a garage, where a young doctor visits her and confirms ‘that it is only a matter of time . . . saying I could die . . .’

A discussion followed as to whether or not her compatriots should kill her there and then because she may talk under anesthetic but instead the NAR cell, led by Giorgio Vale (21), who went on later to found Terza Posizione (22), deposited her on the roadside outside an Emergency room.

When Mambro’s Rome based lawyer Amber Giovene challenged the authenticity of the way Mambro is depicted in the movie, claiming it ‘harmed her image’ she was met with a barrage of criticism. The case, overseen by prosecutor Barbara Sargent, was opened three months after the film opened and came like a bolt from the blue to the self-righteous director and the cultural association School of Arts and Entertainment. People in Bologna were whipped up into a state of frenzy, signing a petition in support of the film, which had already received a letter of commendation from the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano. Expressions like censorship and statements like ‘You cannot stop a cultural work, you cannot stop history’, were bandied around with the usual air of moral indignation.

The 2013 Appeal notes relating to the accusation of defamation of Mambro’s character read: due to the benefit of the law, Francesca Mambro, who has never repented of her criminal and terrorist past, nor as ever wanted to work together to build the truth about serious events like the Bologna Massacre, will remain free. The request for the seizure of the short film is extremely serious because it sets a precedent on the freedom of cultural expression, journalism and news, and also because it opens the door to dangerous revisions and attempts to wipe clean historical memory’. The account continues: ‘A country without memory will never understand the present or the future’.

The double standards and contradictions exemplified in the differing responses to A Student Called Alexander and The Baader Meinhof Complex cannot be more stark. Memorialization of such actions are to be glamorized and mythologized if of the Left and censored and misrepresented if of the Right. The word revision is of itself loaded, implying an attempt to challenge supposedly known historical facts and is a term usually reserved for historians deviating from the legend of the Jewish Holocaust. Indeed, it seems that anything that transgresses the Left’s self-serving narrative is to be expunged, cast down the Orwellian memory hole, or twisted beyond all recognition.

Roberto Natale, the auteur of such movie classics as Kill Baby Kill and Terror Creatures from the Grave, also reiterated before his recent demise, that ‘there is a right and duty to tell. Art strengthens the record and citizens need to know. We journalists are on the side of those who stubbornly continue to speak against the custom in our country to silence uncomfortable voices, instead of being willing to speak. This short film has to circulate and be seen in schools, but not only in Rome’.

So, is the movie meant to educate or perpetuate the questionable conviction of Mambro for that specific crime? Be re-assured De Camillis states:

I tell you a story, I do not give you a political speech. I want to get out of games of this type. The short film I made for a number of reasons that I think are important. It is a warning to our politicians. Right now, if you do not listen to the needs of young people, you risk terrorism, perhaps we have already. We remember the riots in San Giovanni in Rome in October (23), the bullets that came in envelopes and the letter bombs.

Then specifically commenting on the release of Francesca Mambro, but of course not being invested in any way, De Camillis adds:

I will not even enter into legal issues because one relies on the judgment of the judiciary already formulated in 1985. But a citizen reflecting on the penalties imposed on others for far less serious offenses fully expatiated are still in prison. Mambro was guilty of 97 murders and was sentenced to nine life sentences. Yet, she walks outside, lives 400 meters from my house, and I may happen across her path by accident. There is a whisper that this story has resurfaced because of my family bonding and friendship with Alexander . . . Who was Alexander Caravillani? He was a boy of 17, he ran with the times, had a girlfriend, and harbored all the fantasies of a 17-year-old. He was not political, nor left or right. He passed in front of the bank, was simply crossing the street, going to school when he was shot, his short umbrella tumbling from his jacket, leading Mambro to believe he was a plain clothes policeman. Then she came back and put a bullet in his head. For that, she was sentenced to life imprisonment.

This is a story, he insists once again, to preserve the history of the years of lead.

And if that is indeed the case, why not tell the story of one of the murdered MSI Youth Front members, Sergio Ramelli, 18; Francesco Cechin, 19; and Paolo Di Nella, 20, contemporaries of Alexander Caravillani and Mambro, who met their deaths by beating, shooting, and stabbings from Leftist brigands like the Autonomus Workers in the late ’70s and early ’80s? But of course, that will never happen. It does fit their agenda.

On February 11th 2012, De Camillis in direct contradiction to his supposed non-political stance is quoted, ‘Today, the city of Rome is right’, referring to the ‘post fascist’ Mayor Gianni Alemanno (24), MSI Youth Front veteran and graduate of Campo Hobbit (25), who was elected in April 2008 to the sound of Fascist-era songs and shouts of ‘Duce’. ‘Who are those who have called me to present the short film?’ asked Camillis, ‘They are Alemanno’s allies, Berlusconi’s Il Popolo della Liberta (26) . . . When it all came out I was in silence and I decided to just promote it, as I always do. But in the face of this attack, I mean to defend it at all costs. It is a ‘cultural action’ like opposition to gagging journalists. This is a way to silence not only the news but also the authorship of the image’.

There is clearly no intention of admitting even the possibility of bias or inaccuracy. De Camillis and his people are intent on staking their claim to the moral high ground. The following day, Mambro’s lawyer responded: ‘I write in the name and on behalf of the my client Francesca Mambro about the article published yesterday . . . I understand the presentation of the short film flatters the author. But I do not understand the claim that Mambro came back and shot him in the head. I do not know if Mr. De Camillis’s draws from insider sources? Caravillani, unfortunately died in the firefight because a bouncing bullet caused his immediate death. A bullet from an assault rifle that Mambro had never had in her possession, either as she entered the bank or as the NAR shot their way out. The scene is constructed in a way that will definitively condemn Mambro’. When Caravillani was struck, the judges concluded, it was because the young man, after he had run, suddenly found himself in the trajectory of shots fired between the various agents . . . Unfortunately, even the trailers of the short graphically depict Mambro in the disputed manner, astride a guy lying on the ground, shooting the coup de grace . . . I am sure, that in the name of the need to preserve the memory of the years of lead, both you and the newspaper for which he writes would give an account of this correction’. My personal advice is not to hold your breath for a retraction. Smear and distortion is their modus operandi.

Sentenced, for the killing of 9 individuals between May 1980 and March 1982, and the alleged involvement in the massacre of the Bologna bombing on 2nd August 1980, Mambro served 16 years in prison. Sometimes sharing a cell with Anna Laura Braghetti (27), of the Brigate Rosse, then after 1998 home detention until the 16th September 2008 when she was granted parole on the basis of ‘repeated and tireless dedication to reconciliation and peace with the victims’ families (28). Parole was ended on September 16th 2013 when the sentence was disposed of . . .’

So to end has I began with a quote from a French man of letters, Alexandre Dumas (29), author of The Three Musketeers, ‘she is purely animal; she is the babooness of the Land of Nod; she is the female of Cain: Slay her!’ Or at least besmirch her reputation and disparage her cause so that no one will want to emulate her.

Notes

  1. Along with Edgar Allan Poe, Baudelaire identified counter enlightenment philosopher Joseph de Maistre as his maître a penser and adopted aristocratic views. He argued ‘There are but three things worthy of respect: the priest, the warrior and the poet. To know, to kill and to create . . .’
  2. Auguste Clesinger (1814-1883), French sculptor who created Bacchante, the Infant Hercules Strangling Snakes, Nereid, and Sappho, was an Officier de la Legion d’honneur.
  3. Rudi Dutschke (1940-1979), disciple of Rosa Luxemburg and critical Marxist, survived Josef Bachmann’s attack, but drowned as consequence of having an epileptic fit in the bath.
  4. Holger Meins, seized with Baader and Jan Carle-Raspe on the 1st June 1972, went on hunger strike, dying a mere 39kg in weight. He is a central character in the movie Moses und Aron by Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet (1974). Followed by a documentary about Meins called Starbuck — Holger Meins by Gerd Conradt (2002).
  5. Bobby Sands (1954-81), a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) died whilst on hunger strike in HM Maze Prison. During the course of his protest he was elected to the British Parliament as an Anti-H Block candidate. He has been depicted in various films including Some Mother’s Son (1996) and Hunger (2008) and is celebrated in songs like Christy Moore’s The People’s Own MP’.
  6. Stammheim is a high security prison in Stuttgart.
  7. Four militants of the Commando Martyr Halime hijacked Lufthansa flight 181 on the 13th October 1977. The plane was stormed in Somalia by GSG-9 elite counter-terrorism units in an operation code-named Feuerzauber (Fire Magic).
  8. Valentina Carnelutti was trained at the Theatre Active in Rome and the Mime Theatre Movement. She has also appeared in the movies Martina Singapore (1995), Ridley Scott’s Hannibal (2001) and The Best of Youth (2003).
  9. Santo Della Volpe is a professional journalist who covered the first Gulf War and is a managing editor on Italy’s TG3.
  10. The term “Years of Lead” was used to describe the socio-political turmoil in Italy between the 1960s to the 1980s. It is thought that the reference originated from a movie called Marianne and Julianne by Margarethe Von Trotta. The Italian title was Anni di Piombo, literally years of lead. A later linked feature called The German Sisters (1981) became a classic of new German cinema, sympathetic to Gudrun Ensslin and dedicated to women’s civil rights.
  11. Born in 1958, Giuseppe Valerio ‘Giusva’ Fioravanti, was a former child actor, who became a leader in the NAR and has been romantically linked with Mambro since 1979. While serving his prison sentence he made a documentary on Rome’s Rebibbia prison, Piccoli Ergastoli, Little Life Sentences (1997).
  12. Occorsio Vittorio (1929-1976) oversaw the trial of those indicted for the Piazza Fontana bombing.
  13. Maria Amato was an Italian magistrate assassinated by NAR member Gilberto Cavallini in 1980.
  14. Francesco Cossiga, Italy’s 42nd Prime Minister and 8th President between 1985-1992.
  15. The Banda della Magliana was a criminal network operating out of Lazio, named after the district from where most of their leaders originated. Their activities included the murder of the banker Roberto Calvi, the kidnapping of Emanuela Orlandi and the attack on John-Paul II.
  16. Licio Gelli, an Italian financier, heavily involved in the Banco Ambrosiano scandal and the venerable master of the P2 Lodge.
  17. The Propaganda Due (P2) Lodge was under the jurisdiction of the Grand Orient of Italy implicated in numerous crimes and mysteries, often referred to as a ‘state within the state’.
  18. Operation Gladio was the code-name for NATO’s ‘stay behind’ activity should the Warsaw Pact mount an invasion of western Europe. The name Gladio came from the word gladius, a type of short Roman sword.
  19. The Ustica Massacre is still a subject of some controversy. Whether or not a French naval aircraft brought the plane down with a missile, or a bomb was set off in the toilet as evidenced by forensic experts, it is known that the Libyan leader Colonel Gadaffi was in the same airspace at the time. Linking the Ustica and Bologna incidents became common in some conspiracy circles.
  20. Giorgio Almirante (1914-1988) studied under Giovanni Gentile, the eminent pro-Fascist philosopher and wrote for the Rome-based fascist journal Il Tevere. He once described Julius Evola as ‘Our Marcuse, only better’. Almirante was suspected of safe-housing Carlo Cicuttini, a MSI leader in the Monfalcone area and later a member of the Ordine Nuovo, a suspect convicted in absentia for his part in the Peteano di Sagrado killings. Almirante and his rival Pino Rauti often clashed bitterly on the tactics and methodology used by the Italian Right.
  21. Giorgi Vale was killed in a shoot-out with police.
  22. The Terza Posizione emerged from the national student’s movement under Roberto Nistri, who was imprisoned from 1982 to the early 2000s.
  23. The San Giovanni Riots of the 15th October were violent street protests by Black Bloc Left extremists.
  24. Gianni Alemanno was born in Bari in 1958. He is a former secretary of the MSI’s Youth Wing, who entered the Chamber of Deputies representing Lazio, serving as Rome’s 63rd Mayor between 2008-2013 and a Minister of Agriculture under Silvio Berlusconi. He is married to Isabella Rauti, the daughter of Pino Rauti.
  25. Campo Hobbit was named after Catholic writer J. R. R. Tolkien’s first novel. It was an alternative cultural and musical ‘happening’ linked to Elemire Zolla who wrote The Arcana of Power 1960-2000. Held in various locations, the first in Montesarchio, it boasted its own Manifesto and became a ‘field school’ for the Italian New Right and thinkers like Pino Rauti and Marco Tarchi.
  26. Berlusconi’s Il Poplo della Liberta was closely aligned with Gianfranco Fini’s conservative National Alliance and Umberto Bossi’s Lega Nord.
  27. Anna Laura Braghetti owned the apartment where Aldo Moro was imprisoned. She is also the subject of her own book Prisoner which influenced Marco Bellocchio’s film Good Morning, Night (2003).
  28. Mambro currently works for the Italian NGO Hands off Cain, an association campaigning against the death penalty linked to the Libertarian Radical Party.
  29. Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870). It was said of Dumas, that his ‘tongue was like a windmill — once set in motion, you never knew when it would stop, especially if the theme was himself’ — Watts Phillips, English illustrator, playwright and novelist.

 

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Solère, Fenek. “Sisters of Salome: Femmes Fatales, Left & Right.” Counter-Currents Publishing, 7 May 2015. <http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/05/sisters-of-salome/ >.

 

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Critical Analysis of Evola’s Thought – Benoist

“Julius Evola, Radical Reactionary and Committed Metaphysician” by Alain de Benoist (PDF – 366 KB):

Julius Evola, Radical Reactionary and Committed Metaphysician

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De Benoist, Alain. “Julius Evola, Radical Reactionary and Committed Metaphysician: A Critical Analysis of the Political Thought of Julius Evola.” The Occidental Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 1 (Spring 2015), pp. 17-62. Document retrieved from: <http://files.alaindebenoist.com/alaindebenoist/pdf/julius_evola_radical_reactionary.pdf >.

 

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The Sole “Anti-Fascist” Thought – Benoist

The Sole “Anti-Fascist” Thought

By Alain de Benoist

Translated from the Spanish by Lucian Tudor

 

Translator’s Note: The present article is a translation of “El pensamiento único ‘antifascista’” (originally published at El Manifesto, 9 February 2015). The Spanish version was a translation of an excerpt from the French “Les méthodes de la Nouvelle Inquisition” (“The Methods of the New Inquisition”), a speech delivered at a colloquium organized by GRECE in November, 1997. The French version was later republished as “Pensée unique, nouvelles censures” in Alain de Benoist’s book Critiques – Théoriques (Lausanne & Paris: L’Age d’Homme, 2003).

The term “pensée unique” in French or “pensamiento único” in Spanish, which is translated here as “sole thought” and “single thought,” is difficult to render in English without losing its original meaning. In French, Italian, and Spanish it refers to a form of thought which has been made obligatory or compulsory for everyone in society; so it is asserted to be the “sole thought” which is allowed.

***

Some time ago Jean-François Revel has spoken of “devotion” to qualify the opinion about an idea solely in terms of its conformity or its power of attraction in respect to a dominant ideology. We could add that devotion represents the zero degree of analysis and understanding. It is precisely because devotion dominates that today ideas which are denounced are not refuted, but rather that it suffices to declare them inconvenient or unbearable. Moral condemnation is exempt from an analysis of the hypotheses or of the principles under the prism of truth and falsehood. Now there are no just or false ideas, but rather appropriate ideas, in sync with the spirit of our time, and ideas which do not conform are denounced as intolerable.

This attitude appears even more reinforced by the strategic obsessions of the actors of the “right thought.” It matters little in this sphere whether an idea is just or false: what is important is to know which strategy it can serve, who draws upon it and with what purpose. A book can thus be denounced, even though its content corresponds with reality, with the only excuse that it runs the risk of converting ideas considered intolerable into “acceptable” ones or of favoring those which one wants to silence. It is the new version of the old slogan, “do not cause Billancourt to despair!” [Translator’s note: This is the exclamation with which Sartre hoped that he had camouflaged the truth, lest the workers of Renault of Billancourt would despair and falter in their revolutionary fervor]. Needless to say that with this approach, the place where we express ourselves is more relevant than that which we go to speak: There are admitted places and “unrecommended” places. All criticism presents itself, therefore, as an attempt for disqualification that is obtained by resorting to words that, in place of describing a reality, function like others as so many signs or operators for maximum delegitimization. Our singular strategists thus betray their own mental system, which only attributes value to ideas to the extent that they can be manipulated.

In the past, this work of delegitimization was carried out to the detriment of the families of more diverse thought – we think, for example, about the grotesque campaigns in the times of McCarthyism. But currently it is being done, without doubt, in a single direction. It has to do with crossing out as illegitimate all thought, all theory, all intellectual construction that contradicts the philosophy of the Enlightenment which, with all the shades that one wants, constitutes the support on which current societies are legitimized. For that, politically correct thought essentially resorts to two impostures: anti-racism and anti-fascism. We will say a few words regarding these two.

Racism is an ideology which postulates the inequality between races or which attempts to explain the whole history of humanity based solely upon the racial factor. This ideology has practically no defense nowadays, but we pretend to think that it is omnipresent, assimilating to it xenophobia, attitudes of rejection or distrust in respect to the Other, and even to a simple preference for endogamy and homofiliation. “Racism” is presented as the emblematic category of residual irrationalism, rooted in superstition and prejudice, that which would impede the emergence of a society which is transparent before itself. This criticism of “racism” as fundamental irrationality simply and plainly recycles the liberal fairytale of a pre-rational world which is the source of all social evils, as was demonstrated now more than half a century ago by Adorno and Horkheimer in saying that it reflects the ineptitude of modernity to face the Other, that is, difference and uniqueness.

Denouncing “racism” as a pure irrationality, that is, as a non-negotiable category, the New Class betrays at the same time its distance in respect to reality, but also contributes to the neutralization and the depoliticization of social problems. In effect, if “racism” is essentially a “madness” or a “criminal opinion,” then the battle against racism has much to do with courts and psychiatrists, but, however, it now has nothing to do with politics. This allows the New Class to forget that racism itself is an ideology resulting from modernity by the threefold bias of social evolutionism, scientistic positivism, and the theory of progress.

“Anti-fascism” is a completely obsolete category to the same extent as is “fascism,” to which it intends to oppose itself. The word is today a catchall term without any precise content. It is an elastic concept, applicable to anything, employed without the least descriptive rigor, which ends up being declined into “fascistic” and even into “fascistoid,” which allows itself to be adapted to all cases. Leo Strauss has already spoken of Reductio ad Hitlerum to qualify this purely polemical form of discrediting. The manner in which, nowadays, any non-conformist thought is crossed out as “fascist” on the part of censors who themselves could hardly define what they understand by that term, forms part of the same discursive strategy.

“There is a form of typically European political correctness which consists of seeing fascists everywhere,” observed Alain Finkielkraut on this point. “It has become a habitual procedure for a cohort of whistleblowing scribblers,” added Jean-François Revel, “to throw to Nazism and revisionism all individuals whose reputation they want to besmirch.” One can observe the consequences of that every day. The most trivial incident of French political life is judged today under the prism of “fascism” or the Occupation. Vichy “becomes an obsessive reference” and is converted into a phantasm which allows maintaining a permanent psychodrama, and given that they prefer the “duty of memory” to the duty of truth, this memory is regularly appealed to for justifying the most dubious comparisons or the most grotesque understandings. “This everlasting incrimination of fascism,” wrote Jean-François Revel, “whose excess is so shocking, which ridicules its authors in place of discrediting its victims, reveals the hidden motive of political correctness. This perversion serves as a substitute for the censors, for those left orphaned by the loss of that incomparable instrument of spiritual tyranny which was the Marxist gospel.”

Revealing of these effects is the outbreak of hostilities provoked by the exploitation of the Kremlin archives, which began to cause the breakdown of some statues of legendary “heroes.” Equally revealing is the result of observing in what manner the simple verification that the Communist system had ended the lives of more people than any other system in history (a hundred million dead!) today raises the virtuous indignation in milieus that “do everything to conceal the magnitude of the catastrophe” – as if this verification is equivalent to the trivialization of Nazi crimes which are by definition incomparable with anything, as if the horror of the crimes of Communism could be attenuated by the supposed purity of its original intentions, as if the two great totalitarian systems whose rivalry and complementarity characterized the 20th Century would not be inscribed into a relationship out of which one or the other would become unintelligible, as if, in the end, some dead weigh more than others.

But we must also emphasize that contemporary “anti-fascism” – which, paraphrasing Joseph de Maistre, we could qualify not as the opposite of fascism but rather as fascism in the opposite sense – has totally changed in nature. In the 1930s, the theme of “anti-fascism,” exploited by Stalin on the margins of the authentic fight against true fascism, would serve the Communist parties for questioning capitalist bourgeois society, accused of serving as the breeding ground of totalitarianism. It was then about showing that the liberal democracies and the “social traitors” were objectively potential allies of Fascism. However, currently it is exactly the opposite. Today, “anti-fascism” serves before all as an alibi for those who have vigorously joined the single thought and the system. Having abandoned all critical attitude, having succumbed to the advantages of a society which would offer them sinecures and privileges, they want, embracing the “anti-fascist” rhetoric, to give the impression (or make the illusion) of having remained loyal to themselves. In other words, the “anti-fascist” posture permits the Penitent, the central figure of our time, to forget his retractions by employing a wildcard slogan which does not cease to be a commonplace one. Yesterday’s strategic tool with which mercantilist capitalism was attacked, “anti-fascism,” has been converted into a mere discourse in its service. Thus, while the forces of potential opposition are prioritarily mobilized against a phantasmagoric fascism, the New Class which exercises the reality of power can sleep soundly. Making reference to a value which it not only no longer supposes to be a threat for current society, but rather which, on the contrary, reinforces what it is, our modern “anti-fascisms” have been converted into its watchdogs.

It is so true that for politicians, the denunciation of “fascism” is today an excellent way to remake a reputation for oneself. The most corrupt use and abuse it to minimize the importance of their malfeasances. If “fascism” is the absolute evil, and they denounce it, that means that they are not entirely bad. False accounts, unfulfilled electoral promises, grafts and corruptions of all sorts become lamentable faults but, in short, secondary ones in relation to the worst. But not only the Left or politicians need a nonexistent “fascism” that embodies absolute evil. Also, all of modernity on the decline needs a bête noire that allows it to make the social pathologies which it itself has engendered acceptable, under the pretext that however bad things go now, they would never have a point of comparison with those things that took place in the past.

Modernity is thus legitimized by means of a phantasm of which, paradoxically, we are told at the same time that it is “unique” and that it can return at any time. Confronted with its own emptiness, confronted with the tragic failure of its initial project of human liberation, confronted with the counter-productivity that it generates everywhere, confronted with the loss of references and with generalized senselessness, confronted with nihilism, confronted with the fact that man becomes increasingly more useless from the moment in which his abstract rights are proclaimed, modernity is left no other recourse than to divert attention, that is, to wield nonexistent dangers to impede the rising awareness of the truth. The recourse to the “absolute evil” functions then as a prodigious means of forcing the acceptance of the evils which our contemporaries are faced with in their daily lives, evils which, in comparison to this absolute evil, become contingent, relative, and, in the last instance, accessories. The exacerbated opposition to the totalitarianisms of yesterday, the unending tiresomeness about the past, prevents analyzing the evils of the present and the dangers of the future, at the same time that they make us enter into the 21st Century with a strong hindrance, with an eye fixed on the rearview mirror.

It would therefore be an error to believe that the current “anti-fascism” represents nothing. On the contrary, it poses a negative legitimization which is fundamental for a society that no longer has anything positive to include in its balance sheet. “Anti-fascism” creates the identity of a New Class that cannot exist without invoking the scarecrow of the worst thing so that it is not reduced to its own emptiness. In the same manner that some do not find their identity any more than in denouncing immigrants, the New Class only finds its own in the virtuous denunciation of an absolute evil, whose shadow hides its ideological vacuity, its absence of references, its intellectual indigence, in the last analysis, that it simply no longer has anything more to contribute, neither original analyses nor solutions to propose.

Therefore, it turns out to be vital for the central core of the “right-thinking” [biempensante] to prohibit all questioning of the fundamental principles which constitute their support of legitimacy. For if things were otherwise, it would be necessary that the dominant ideology accepts being questioned. But it would not consent to that, since it shares the conviction with the greater part of grand messianic ideologies that if things go badly, if the anticipated success is not attained, it is never because the principles were bad, but, on the contrary, because they had not been sufficiently applied. Yesterday they told us that if Communism had not attained paradise on earth, it was because it had not yet eliminated a sufficient number of its opponents. Today they tell us that if neoliberalism is in crisis, if the process of globalization entails social disorders, it is because there still exist too many obstacles which obstruct the proper functioning of the market.

To explain the failure of the project – or to reach the desired objective – a scapegoat is needed. There need to be nonconforming opponents, deviant or dissident elements: yesterday, the Jews, the Freemasons, the lepers, or the Jesuits; today, the supposed “fascists” or “racists.” These deviants are perceived as disturbing, bothersome elements which obstruct the advent of a rational society, so that it is necessary to purge the social body by means of an appropriate prophylactic action. If, for example, xenophobia exists in France today, it is not due to any case of a badly controlled immigration policy, but rather to the existence of “racism” in the social body. In a society whose components are increasingly more heterogeneous, it is made essential to establish a kind of civil religion designating a scapegoat. The shared execration serves then as nexus which, while fighting an enemy, even if it be only a mirage, it allows the maintenance of a semblance of unity.

But there exists, in addition, another advantage to moral denunciation, and it is that against the “absolute evil” all means valid. Demonization, indeed, has not only had the consequence of the depoliticization of conflicts, but has also caused, likewise, the criminalization of the adversary. This becomes an absolute enemy which must be eradicated by all existing means. One then enters into a kind of total war – and it is so much so that it is claimed to be carried in the name of humanity. To fight in the name of humanity leads to placing one’s adversaries outside of humanity, that is, to practice the negation of humanity. From this perspective, the apology for murder and the call to lynching are also found to be justified.

Finally, what should be noted is that the disqualifying labels manipulated today in the name of political correctness are never claimed labels, but rather attributed labels. Contrary to what happened in the 1930s, when the Communists and Fascists openly claimed their respective denominations, today nobody reclaims the qualifications of “fascist” and “racist.” Their nomination thus has no objective, informative, or descriptive value, but rather a purely subjective, strategic, or polemical value. The problem that arises is to know what the legitimacy of their attribution is. As this legitimacy is always to be tested, it is deduced that the “test” is always derived from the very possibility of attribution.

The psychoanalyst Fethi Benslama wrote that “today fascism is no longer a bloc, an easily identifiable entity embodied in a system, in a discourse, in an organization which can be demarcated,” but that it “rather assumes fragmentary and diffuse forms inside the whole of society […], a form such that no one is sheltered in a worldview, guarded from this disfiguration from the other which makes it arise as a boisterous, joyful body, secretly expanded body all over the place.” Such declarations are revealing: if fascism is “secretly expanded all over the place,” “anti-fascism” can evidently accuse anyone.

The problem is that the idea according to which evil is all over the place is the premise of all inquisition and, likewise, the premise upon which conspirationist paranoia is supported, as it had inspired in the past the witch-hunts and the justifications of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Just as the anti-Semites saw Jews everywhere, the new inquisitors see “fascists” everywhere. And as the supreme cunning of the Devil is to make people believe that he does not exist, protests are never heard. Topping it off, a popular psychoanalyst is permitted to interpret the denial or the indignant rejection to put on the uniform that they try to offer us with such complacency, just like so many other supplementary confirmations: the refusal to confess is the best proof that one is guilty.

“A man is not what he hides, but rather what he does,” said André Malraux. Believing that “fascism” is all over the place, meaning nowhere, the new inquisition affirms on the contrary that men are before all what they hide – and that it aims to uncover it. It boasts of seeing beyond the appearances and of reading in between the lines, to better “confuse” and “unmask.” It is in this way that the presumption of guilt knows no limits. What is “unsaid” is decrypted, decoded, and detected. Speaking clearly, authors are denounced, no so much for what they had written, but for what they had not written and what it is assumed they had intended to write. The content of their books is not boycotted, content which is never taken into consideration, but rather the intentions which are believed to have been divined. The police of ideas then becomes the police of ulterior motives.

 

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De Benoist, Alain. “The Sole ‘Anti-Fascist’ Thought.” Tankesmedjan Motpol, 13 April 2015. <http://www.motpol.nu/lucian/2015/04/13/the-sole-anti-fascist-thought/ >.

 

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Curse of Victimhood & Negative Identity – Sunic

The Curse of Victimhood and Negative Identity

By Tomislav Sunic

 

Days and months of atonement keep accumulating on the European wall calendar. The days of atonement however, other than commemorating the dead, often function as a tool in boosting political legitimacy of a nation – often at the expense of another nearby nation struggling for its identity.

While the media keep reassuring us that history is crawling to an end, what we are witnessing instead is a sudden surge of new historical victimhoods, particularly among the peoples of Eastern Europe. As a rule, each individual victimhood requires a forever expanding number of its own dead within the context of unavoidable lurking fascist demons.

Expressed in the postmodern lingo of today, the modern media-made image trivializes the real death and dying into an image of a hyperreal and surreal non-event. For instance, the historical consciousness of Serbs vs. Croats, Poles vs. Germans, not to mention the victimological memories of the mutually embattled Ukrainian and Russian nationalists today, are becoming more “historical” than their previously recorded respective histories.

It seems that European nationalists do not fight any longer for their living co-ethnics, but primarily for their dead. As a result, as Efraim Zuroff correctly stated, “in post-Communist eastern Europe, [they’re] trying to play down the crimes of the Nazi cooperators and claim that the crimes of the Communists were just as bad.” (AS,” Top Nazi Hunter: Eastern Europe Rewrote the Holocaust,” by Benny Toker, Ari Yashar, January 27, 2015).

Yet Zuroff’s s remarks, however sharp, miss the wider historical context. Any day of atonement or, for that matter, any day of repentance on behalf of a victimized group, is highly conflictual, if not warmongering by its nature.

It was in the name of antifascist victimology and their real and surreal fear of the resurrection of the anticipated fascist Croatia, that local Serbs staged a bloody rebellion in Croatia in 1991. It was in the name of their own post -WWII victims, killed by the victorious Communists on the killing fields of Bleiburg in Austria in May 1945, that Croats, forty-five years thereafter, began their war of secession from the Yugoslav grip. The Ukrainians still nourish the memory of Holodomor, the Poles nurture their memories of Kaytn, the Cossacks commemorate their victims in Linz, the Russians have their numerous Kolymas, the Germans their Dresdens — locations standing not only as memorial sites, but also as symbols of just retribution in the eyes of the Other.

Crimes committed by the Communists in Eastern Europe during and after World War II were not just Allied collateral damage, or a freak, unintended accident, but a planned effort to remove millions of undesirables.

Almost by definition this raises time again the painful symbolism of Auschwitz, a locality standing not only for a specific historic and clear-cut site of large-scale dying, but also as a didactic location designated for teaching the world the meaning of worldwide tolerance. Of course, the liberation of the Auschwitz camp by the lauded Soviet troops, raises a side question regarding their previous itinerary, especially if one considers that millions of East European and ethnic German civilians were either displaced or killed by the very same Soviet troops on their way to Auschwitz in January 1945.

How genuine were the tears of European statesmen and politicians at the recent commemoration event for the Auschwitz dead will remain a matter of wide speculation and wild guesses. Suffice it to note that if one were to take a peek into the recent history of France, in 1940 the entire Communist and left-leaning intelligentsia sided with the pro-fascist Vichy regime. Of course, in the aftermath of WWII it became politically expedient for the French intellectuals to posture as ardent philo-Semites and learn hastily the antifascist vulgate.

Another case in point are modern Croat politicians, who almost without any exception, prior to 1990 were strong advocates of the unity of the Yugoslav Communist state, as well as staunch purveyors of the socialist “self-managing” economy — only to rebrand themselves shortly thereafter into either rabid nationalists or Brussels-gravitating free marketeers.

The same feigned mea culpa scenario can be observed today among the German political class which had gone a step further, as seen in the recent verbal gestures of ex-president Horst Köhler and acting president Joachim Gauck, the latter of whom stated that “there is no German identity without Auschwitz.”

One can thence surmise that without the memory of Auschwitz, EU politicians would likely be in goose-stepping unison, marching to the enchanting tunes of Giovinezza or the Horst Wessel Lied.

Some scholars seem to be well aware of the mendacious mentality of contemporary European politicians. As Shmuel Trigano notes, “while setting itself up as “new Israel,” the West recognizes in Judaism a factual, if not a juridical jurisdiction over itself.” His words signify that the West has become “Jewish “to the extent that for centuries it had kept denying the Jews their identity. It follows from this that the strange verbal construct “Judeo-Christianity” is not an elusive and dangerous oxymoron at all, but rather a symbol of self-defeating and false identity.

On the one hand, the latter day European victimologists nurture latent anti-Jewish feelings, while on the other hand, they continue formulating their ethical ukases and legal judgments almost exclusively on secularized teachings of the Hebrew sages.

Since the end of the cold war, the political class all over Europe claims its own bizarre brand of antifascist victimology by resurrecting the fascist straw man, as if the invocation of the fascist demonology could exonerate it from its fascist past and possibly give it a free pass in the eyes of Jews. It appears that liberal democracies in the EU and the USA cannot function at all without regurgitating fake philo-Semitic terms of endearment on the one hand, while indulging in a false self-denial on the other.

It might be worth considering setting up an international interfaith conference where scholars of different ethnic and intellectual backgrounds could discuss both the positive and the negative sides of different victimhoods. As of now, diverse and often conflicting victimhoods are not likely to bring about genuine reconciliation among different Europe peoples, let alone solve the rapidly emerging war of victimhoods in the increasingly racially fractured and balkanized European Union. Self-serving victimhoods only exacerbate the false prejudices of the Other and lay the ground for new conflicts.

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Sunic, Tomislav. “The Curse of Victimhood and Negative Identity.” Arutz Sheva: Israel News, 30 January 2015. <http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/16392#.VMuCwGjF9e9 >.

 

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On Fascism – Benoist

On Fascism

By Alain de Benoist

Translated by Lucian Tudor

 

Translator’s Note: In the present brief article, Alain de Benoist sets forth a basic definition of “Fascism,” challenging by implication the unacceptable generalizations of this term by certain Liberal and Leftist scholars today. Benoist also makes it clear that Fascism is a time-bound phenomenon which arose in very specific circumstances, and is therefore not a metahistorical idea (as some pretend). This understanding allows one to differentiate it from other forms of Right-wing thought (whether we speak of Traditionalism, Revolutionary Conservatism, Identitarianism, or others) and also to recognize the necessity of doing away with the simplistic and outdated struggle of “Fascism” versus “anti-Fascism.”

***

Innumerable definitions of Fascism have been proposed. The simplest is still the best: Fascism is a revolutionary political form, characterized by the fusion of three principal elements: a nationalism of the Jacobin type, a non-democratic socialism, and the authoritarian call to the mobilization of the masses.

Insofar as it is an ideology, Fascism was born of a reorientation of socialism in a direction hostile to materialism and internationalism. Addressing itself to an electorate mostly of the Right, it has often had promoters among men of the Left. Neither racism nor anti-Semitism are consubstantial to it (Zeev Sternhell). In its concrete incarnations, it has been shaped by historical occurrences of the beginning of the 20th Century (the First World War, the Soviet Revolution), by the general frame of the epoch (the modernization of the global society), and by the nature of its electorate (essentially of the middle classes, sometimes with a proletarian component).

The experience of the trenches along with disenchantment by technology, Jünger has written very well, has marked a fundamental breakage. During the First World War, society appeared to divide itself into two groups: the combatants and the others. Returned from the front, the first had the feeling of having conquered rights over those others who had not fought. The combatants had believed in a society where the virtues of war (courage, the spirit of camaraderie, permanent availability) would also reign in times of peace. The patriotic rhetoric, when it is developed on a foundation of class struggle, could not be but a deceptive illusion.

After the Great War there had been seen, for the first time, the coincidence of nationalist exaltation and the (relative) disappearance of social differences. In the end, it is also with the First World War that the anti-democratic spirit “ceased to seek its principal supports in the past” (Georges Valois). An explosive mixture. The Bolshevik Revolution, at the same time, shows that a revolutionary movement can come to power by mobilizing the masses. It introduces the idea of the new man and imposes the model of political commitment of the priestly type; a political apostolate. The forms taken by Fascism to avert the menace of Communism would often be mimetic forms: they imitated those of the opponent so much so that they could effectively combat it (Ernst Nolte).

Behind a discourse at times traditionalist, understood as archaic, Fascism has been fundamentally modernist: it has encouraged and sustained all the developments of science and of industry, has favored the emerging technocracy, has contributed to the rationalization of the economy and to the institutionalization of the welfare state. To the extent by which it had glimpsed the abolition of the social classes of the 19th Century, and which, on the other hand, it had carried a will to power that it could not dismiss any of the tools placed at its disposal by techno-science, it could not act in any other manner. As Adorno and Horkheimer have already observed on the eve of the Second World War, Fascism, Communism, and the New Deal represented different versions of a project of social reconstruction where the State was called to play a principal function in the rationalization of the economy and in the reconfiguration of social relations.

At its foundation, Fascism is based upon the modern trilogy: State-People-Nation. All its effort is directed to making synonyms of these three terms, which are nowadays separated. Born over the sign of the Fasces, before anything else Fascism has wanted to appear like it. Thus it had wanted to bring together the social classes and the political families, opposed in another epoch, to consolidate the unity of the nation. This was at the same time its strength and its weakness. Obsessed by the unity, it has been the centralizer.

Pretending to avert the specter of civil war, it has engendered absolute hatreds, left as a fractured, irreparable heritage. Its Jacobinism, its subjective nationalism, is the source of all its failures: the one who tends to that unity necessarily excludes that one who does not allow himself to be driven to the unity.

That spirit of community, which has profoundly marked Fascism, does not permit Fascism to characterize it as its own. Fascism has not produced anything more than a particular version. In Fascism, the idea of community is vitiated by the conviction that that it must be animated and directed from the above, in a statist perspective, whereas a true community spirit is incompatible with statism.

The 20th century has without doubt been the century of Fascisms and of Communisms. Fascism was born of war and died in war. Communism was born of a political and social explosion and died in a political and social implosion. It could not have been Fascism if not in a given stage of the process of modernization and industrialization, a stage which now belongs to the past, at least in the countries of Western Europe. The time of Fascism and of Communism is finished.

In Western Europe, all “Fascism” today cannot be anything other than a parody. And the same occurs with the residual “anti-Fascism,” which responds to this phantasm with even more anachronistic words. It is because the time of the Fascisms has passed away that today it is possible to speak of it without moral indignation or complacent nostalgia, as one of the central pages of the history of the century which has just ended.

 

Source: Alain de Benoist, “El Fascismo,” Elementos: Revista de Metapolítica para una Civilización Europea No. 67 (15 Mayo 2014), pp. 9-10; http://issuu.com/sebastianjlorenz/docs/elementos_n___67._fascismo_i.

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De Benoist, Alain. “On Fascism.” Counter-Currents Publishing, 27 January 2015. <http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/01/on-fascism/ >.

 

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Evola’s Political Endeavors – Hansen

Julius Evola’s Political Endeavors by H.T. Hansen (PDF – 574 KB):

Julius Evola’s Political Endeavors

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Hansen, H.T. “Julius Evola’s Political Endeavors.” Introduction to Julius Evola, Men Among the Ruins: Postwar Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist, pp. 1-104. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2002.

Note: On Evola’s theories, see also: “Against Nihilism: Julius Evola’s ‘Traditionalist’ Critique of Modernity” by Thomas F. Bertonneau, “Julius Evola on Race” by Tomislav Sunic, “Tradition?” by Alain de Benoist, “A True Empire: Form and Presuppositions of a United Europe” by Julius Evola, “The Defining Element of the Conservative Revolution” by Julius Evola, and various other articles by or about Evola.

 

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Vilfredo Pareto – Alexander

Vilfredo Pareto: The Karl Marx of Fascism

By James Alexander

Italian contributions to political and social thought are singularly impressive and, in fact, few nations are as favored with a tradition as long and as rich. One need only mention names such as Dante, Machiavelli, and Vico to appreciate the importance of Italy in this respect. In the twentieth century too, the contributions made by Italians are of great significance. Among these are Gaetano Mosca’s theory of oligarchical rule, Roberto Michels’ study of political parties, Corrado Gini’s intriguing sociobiological theories, and Scipio Sighele’s investigations of the criminal mind and of crowd psychology. [1] One of the most widely respected of these Italian political theorists and sociologists is Vilfredo Pareto. Indeed, so influential are his writings that “it is not possible to write the history of sociology without referring to Pareto.” [2] Throughout all of the vicissitudes and convulsions of twentieth-century political life, Pareto remains to this day “a scholar of universal reputation.” [3]

Pareto is additionally important for us today because he is a towering figure in one of Europe’s most distinguished, and yet widely suppressed, intellectual currents.That broad school of thought includes such diverse figures as Burke, Taine, Dostoyevsky, Burckhardt, Donoso Cortés, Nietzsche, and Spengler and stands in staunch opposition to rationalism, liberalism, egalitarianism, Marxism, and all of the other offspring of Enlightenment doctrinaires.

Life and Personality

Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto was born in Paris in 1848. [4] He was of mixed Italian-French ancestry, the only son of the Marquis Raffaele Pareto, an Italian exiled from his native Genoa because of his political views, and Marie Mattenier. Because his father earned a reasonably comfortable living as a hydrological engineer, Pareto was reared in a middle-class environment, enjoying the many advantages that accrued to people of his class in that age. He received a quality education in both France and Italy, ultimately completing his degree in engineering at the Istituto Politecnico of Turin where he graduated at the top of his class. For some years after graduation, he worked as a civil engineer, first for the state-owned Italian Railway Company and later in private industry.

Pareto married in 1889. His new spouse Dina Bakunin, a Russian, apparently loved an active social life, which was rather in conflict with Pareto’s own love of privacy and solitude. After twelve years of marriage Dina abandoned her husband. His second wife, Jane Régis, joined him shortly after the collapse of his marriage and the two remained devoted to one another throughout the remainder of Pareto’s life.

During these years Pareto acquired a deep interest in the political life of his country and expressed his views on a variety of topics in lectures, in articles for various journals, and in direct political activity. Steadfast in his support of free enterprise economic theory and free trade, he never ceased arguing that these concepts were vital necessities for the development of Italy. Vociferous and polemical in his advocacy of these ideas, and sharp in his denunciation of his opponents (who happened to be in power in Italy at that time), his public lectures were sufficiently controversial that they were sometimes raided and closed down by the police, and occasionally brought threats of violence from hired thugs. Making little headway with his economic concepts at the time, Pareto retired from active political life and was appointed Professor of Political Economy at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) in 1893. There he established his reputation as an economist and sociologist. So substantial did this reputation eventually become that he has been dubbed “the Karl Marx of the Bourgeoisie” by his Marxist opponents. In economic theory, his Manual of Political Economy [5] and his critique of Marxian socialism, Les Systèmes socialistes, [6] remain among his most important works.

Pareto turned to sociology somewhat late in life, but he is nonetheless acclaimed in this field. His monumental Treatise on General Sociology, and two smaller volumes, The Rise and Fall of the Elites and The Transformation of Democracy, are his sociological masterworks. [7] Subsequently, we will consider the nature of some of the theories contained in these books.

The title of Marquis was bestowed on Pareto’s great-great-great- grandfather in 1729 and, after his father’s death in 1882, that dignity passed to Pareto himself. He never used the title, however, insisting that since it was not earned, it held little meaning for him. Conversely, after his appointment to the University of Lausanne, he did use the title “Professor,” since that was something which, he felt, he merited because of his lifetime of study. These facts point to one of the most dominant characteristics of this man — his extreme independence.

Pareto’s great intelligence caused him difficulties in working under any kind of supervision. All of his life he moved, step by step, towards personal independence. Because he was thoroughly conscious of his own brilliance, his confidence in his abilities and in his intellectual superiority often irritated and offended people around him. Pareto, in discussing almost any question about which he felt certain, could be stubborn in his views and disdainful of those with divergent opinions. Furthermore, he could be harsh and sarcastic in his remarks. As a result, some people came to see Pareto as disputatious, caustic, and careless of people’s feelings.

In contrast, Pareto could be generous to those he perceived as “underdogs.” He was always ready to take up his pen in defense of the poor or to denounce corruption in government and the exploitation of those unable to defend themselves. As author and sociologist Charles Powers writes,

For many years Pareto offered money, shelter, and counsel to political exiles (especially in 1898 following the tumultuous events of that year in Italy]. Like his father, Pareto was conservative in his personal tastes and inclinations, but he was also capable of sympathizing with others and appreciating protests for equality of opportunity and freedom of expression [8]. Pareto was a free thinker. In some respects, he is reminiscent of an early libertarian. He was possessed of that duality of mood we continue to find among people who are extremely conservative and yet ardent in their belief in personal liberty. [9]

Since he was an expert in the use of the sword, as well as a crack shot, he was disinclined to give way before any threats to his person, a mode of behavior he considered cowardly and contrary to his personal sense of honor. More than once he sent bullies and thugs running in terror. [10]

Pareto suffered from heart disease towards the end of his life and struggled through his last years in considerable ill health. He died August 19, 1923.

Les Systèmes socialistes

A lifelong opponent of Marxism and liberal egalitarianism, Pareto published a withering broadside against the Marxist-liberal worldview in 1902. Considering the almost universal respect accorded the more salient aspects of Marxism and liberalism, it is regrettable that Pareto’s Les Systèmes socialistes has not been translated into English in its entirety. Only a few excerpts have appeared in print. In an often quoted passage that might be taken as a prophetic warning for our own age, Pareto writes:

A sign which almost invariably presages the decadence of an aristocracy is the intrusion of humanitarian feelings and of affected sentimentalizing which render the aristocracy incapable of defending its position. Violence, we should note, is not to be confused with force. Often enough one observes cases in which individuals and classes which have lost the force to maintain themselves in power make themselves more and more hated because of their outbursts of random violence. The strong man strikes only when it is absolutely necessary, and then nothing stops him. Trajan was strong, not violent: Caligula was violent, not strong.When a living creature loses the sentiments which, in given circumstances are necessary to it in order to maintain the struggle for life, this is a certain sign of degeneration, for the absence of these sentiments will, sooner or later, entail the extinction of the species. The living creature which shrinks from giving blow for blow and from shedding its adversary’s blood thereby puts itself at the mercy of this adversary. The sheep has always found a wolf to devour it; if it now escapes this peril, it is only because man reserves it for his own prey.

Any people which has horror of blood to the point of not knowing how to defend itself will sooner or later become the prey of some bellicose people or other. There is not perhaps on this globe a single foot of ground which has not been conquered by the sword at some time or other, and where the people occupying it have not maintained themselves on it by force. If the Negroes were stronger than the Europeans, Europe would be partitioned by the Negroes and not Africa by the Europeans. The “right” claimed by people who bestow on themselves the title of “civilized’ to conquer other peoples, whom it pleases them to call “uncivilized,” is altogether ridiculous, or rather, this right is nothing other than force. For as long as the Europeans are stronger than the Chinese, they will impose their will on them; but if the Chinese should become stronger than the Europeans, then the roles would be reversed, and it is highly probable that humanitarian sentiments could never be opposed with any effectiveness to any army. [11]

In another portion of this same work that calls to mind the words of German philosopher Oswald Spengler, Pareto similarly warns against what he regarded as the suicidal danger of “humanitarianism”:

Any elite which is not prepared to join in battle to defend its position is in full decadence, and all that is left to it is to give way to another elite having the virile qualities it lacks. It is pure day-dreaming to imagine that the humanitarian principles it may have proclaimed will be applied to it: its vanquishers will stun it with the implacable cry, Vae Victis [=”woe to the vanquished”]. The knife of the guillotine was being sharpened in the shadows when, at the end of the eighteenth century, the ruling classes in France were engrossed in developing their “sensibility.” This idle and frivolous society, living like a parasite off the country, discoursed at its elegant supper parties of delivering the world from superstition and of crushing l’Infâme, all unsuspecting that it was itself going to be crushed. [12]

Marxism

A substantial portion of Les Systèmes socialistes is devoted to a scathing assessment of the basic premises of Marxism. According to historian H. Stuart Hughes, this work caused Lenin “many a sleepless night.” [13]

In Pareto’s view, the Marxist emphasis on the historical struggle between the unpropertied working class — the proletariat — and the property-owning capitalist class is skewed and terribly misleading. History is indeed full of conflict, but the proletariat-capitalist struggle is merely one of many and by no means the most historically important. As Pareto explains:

The class struggle, to which Marx has specially drawn attention, is a real factor, the tokens of which are to be found on every page of history. But the struggle is not confined only to two classes: the proletariat and the capitalist; it occurs between an infinite number of groups with different interests, and above all between the elites contending for power. The existence of these groups may vary in duration, they may be based on permanent or more or less temporary characteristics. In the most savage peoples, and perhaps in all, sex determines two of these groups. The oppression of which the proletariat complains, or had cause to complain of, is as nothing in comparison with that which the women of the Australian aborigines suffer. Characteristics to a greater or lesser degree real — nationality, religion, race, language, etc. — may give rise to these groups. In our own day [i.e. 1902] the struggle of the Czechs and the Germans in Bohemia is more intense than that of the proletariat and the capitalists in England. [14]

Marx’s ideology represents merely an attempt, Pareto believes, to supplant one ruling elite with another, despite Marxist promises to the contrary:

The socialists of our own day have clearly perceived that the revolution at the end of the eighteenth century led merely to the bourgeoisie’s taking the place of the old elite. They exaggerate a good deal the burden of oppression imposed by the new masters, but they do sincerely believe that a new elite of politicians will stand by their promises better than those which have come and gone up to the present day. All revolutionaries proclaim, in turn, that previous revolutions have ultimately ended up by deceiving the people; it is their revolution alone which is the true revolution. “All previous historical movements” declared the Communist Manifesto of 1848, “were movements of minorities or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.” Unfortunately this true revolution, which is to bring men an unmixed happiness, is only a deceptive mirage that never becomes a reality. It is akin to the golden age of the millenarians: forever awaited, it is forever lost in the mists of the future, forever eluding its devotees just when they think they have it. [15]

Residues and Derivations

One of Pareto’s most noteworthy and controversial theories is that human beings are not, for the most part, motivated by logic and reason but rather by sentiment. Les Systèmes socialistes is interspersed with this theme and it appears in its fully developed form in Pareto’s vast Treatise on General Sociology. In his Treatise, Pareto examines the multitudes of human actions that constitute the outward manifestations of these sentiments and classifies them into six major groups, calling them “residues.” All of these residues are common to the whole of mankind, Pareto comments, but certain residues stand out more markedly in certain individuals. Additionally, they are unalterable; man’s political nature is not perfectible but remains a constant throughout history.

Class I is the “instinct for combinations.” This is the manifestation of sentiments in individuals and in society that tends towards progressiveness, inventiveness, and the desire for adventure.

Class II residues have to do with what Pareto calls the “preservation of aggregates” and encompass the more conservative side of human nature, including loyalty to society’s enduring institutions such as family, church, community, and nation and the desire for permanency and security.

Following this comes the need for expressing sentiments through external action, Pareto’s Class III residues. Religious and patriotic ceremonies and pageantry stand out as examples of these residues and will include such things as saluting the flag, participating in a Christian communion service, marching in a military parade, and so on. In other words, human beings tend to manifest their feelings in symbols.

Next comes the social instinct, Class IV, embracing manifestations of sentiments in support of the individual and societal discipline that is indispensable for maintaining the social structure. This includes phenomena such as self-sacrifice for the sake of family and community and concepts such as the hierarchical arrangement of societies.

Class V is that quality in a society that stresses individual integrity and the integrity of the individual’s possessions and appurtenances. These residues contribute to social stability, systems of criminal and civil law being the most obvious examples.

Last we have Class VI, which is the sexual instinct, or the tendency to see social events in sexual terms.

Foxes and Lions

Throughout his Treatise, Pareto places particular emphasis on the first two of these six residue classes and to the struggle within individual men as well as in society between innovation and consolidation. The late James Burnham, writer, philosopher, and one of the foremost American disciples of Pareto, states that Pareto’s Class I and II residues are an extension and amplification of certain aspects of political theorizing set down in the fifteenth century by Niccolò Machiavelli. [16] Machiavelli divided humans into two classes, foxes and lions. The qualities he ascribes to these two classes of men resemble quite closely the qualities typical of Pareto’s Class I and Class II residue types. Men with strong Class I residues are the “foxes,” tending to be manipulative, innovative, calculating, and imaginative. Entrepreneurs prone to taking risks, inventors, scientists, authors of fiction, politicians, and creators of complex philosophies fall into this category. Class II men are “lions” and place much more value on traits such as good character and devotion to duty than on sheer wits. They are the defenders of tradition, the guardians of religious dogma, and the protectors of national honor.

For society to function properly there must be a balance between these two types of individuals; the functional relationship between the two is complementary. To illustrate this point, Pareto offers the examples of Kaiser Wilhelm I, his chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and Prussia’s adversary Emperor Napoleon III. Wilhelm had an abundance of Class II residues, while Bismarck exemplified Class I. Separately, perhaps, neither would have accomplished much, but together they loomed gigantic in nineteenth-century European history, each supplying what the other lacked. [17]

From the standpoint of Pareto’s theories, the regime of Napoleon III was a lopsided affair, obsessed with material prosperity and dominated for almost twenty years by such “foxes” as stock-market speculators and contractors who, it is said, divided the national budget among themselves. “In Prussia,” Pareto observes, “one finds a hereditary monarchy supported by a loyal nobility: Class II residues predominate; in France one finds a crowned adventurer supported by a band of speculators and spenders: Class I residues predominate.” [18] And, even more to the point, whereas in Prussia at that time the requirements of the army dictated financial policy, in France the financiers dictated military policy. Accordingly, when war broke out between Prussia and France in the summer of 1870, the “moment of truth” came for France. Napoleon’s vaunted Second Empire fell to pieces and was overrun in a matter of weeks. [19]

Justifying “Derivations”

Another aspect of Pareto’s theories which we shall examine here briefly is what he calls “derivations,” the ostensibly logical justifications that people employ to rationalize their essentially non-logical, sentiment-driven actions. Pareto names four principle classes of derivations: 1) derivations of assertion; 2) derivations of authority; 3) derivations that are in agreement with common sentiments and principles; and, 4) derivations of verbal proof. The first of these include statements of a dogmatic or aphoristic nature; for example, the saying, “honesty is the best policy.” The second, authority, is an appeal to people or concepts held in high esteem by tradition. To cite the opinion of one of the American Founding Fathers on some topic of current interest is to draw from Class II derivations. The third deals with appeals to “universal judgement,” the “will of the people,” the “best interests of the majority,” or similar sentiments. And, finally, the fourth relies on various verbal gymnastics, metaphors, allegories, and so forth.

We see, then, that to comprehend Pareto’s residues and derivations is to gain insights into the paradox of human behavior. They represent an attack on rationalism and liberal ideals in that they illuminate the primitive motivations behind the sentimental slogans and catchwords of political life. Pareto devotes the vast majority of his Treatise to setting forth in detail his observations on human nature and to proving the validity of his observations by citing examples from history. His erudition in fields such as Greco-Roman history was legendary and this fact is reflected throughout his massive tome.

Natural Equilibrium

At the social level, according to Pareto’s sociological scheme, residues and derivations are mechanisms by which society maintains its equilibrium. Society is seen as a system, “a whole consisting of interdependent parts. The ‘material points or molecules’ of the system … are individuals who are affected by social forces which are marked by constant or common properties.” [20] When imbalances arise, a reaction sets in whereby equilibrium is again achieved. Pareto believed that Italy and France, the two modern societies with which he was most familiar, were grossly out of balance and that “foxes” were largely in control. Long are his laments in the Treatise about the effete ruling classes in those two countries. In both instances, he held, revolutions were overdue.

We have already noted that when a ruling class is dominated by men possessing strong Class I residues, intelligence is generally valued over all other qualities. The use of force in dealing with internal and external dangers to the state and nation is shunned, and in its place attempts are made to resolve problems or mitigate threats through negotiations or social tinkering. Usually, such rulers will find justification for their timidity in false humanitarianism.

In the domestic sphere, the greatest danger to a society is an excess of criminal activity with which Class I types attempt to cope by resorting to methods such as criminal “rehabilitation” and various eleemosynary gestures. The result, as we know only too well, is a country awash in crime. With characteristic sarcasm Pareto comments on this phenomenon:

Modern theorists are in the habit of bitterly reproving ancient “prejudices” whereby the sins of the father were visited upon the son. They fail to notice that there is a similar thing in our own society, in the sense that the sins of the father benefit the son and acquit him of guilt. For the modern criminal it is a great good fortune to be able to count somewhere among his ancestry or other relations a criminal, a lunatic, or just a mere drunkard, for in a court of law that will win him a lighter penalty or, not seldom, an acquittal. Things have come to such a pass that there is hardly a criminal case nowadays where that sort of defense is not put forward. The old metaphysical proof that was used to show that a son should be punished because of his father’s wrongdoing was neither more nor less valid than the proof used nowadays to show that the punishment which otherwise he deserves should for the same reasons be either mitigated or remitted. When, then, the effort to find an excuse for the criminal in the sins of his ancestors proves unavailing, there is still recourse to finding one in the crimes of “society,” which, having failed to provide for the criminal’s happiness, is “guilty” of his crime. And the punishment proceeds to fall not upon “society,” but upon one of its members, who is chosen at random and has nothing whatever to do with the presumed guilt. [21]

Pareto elucidates in his footnote: “The classical case is that of the starving man who steals a loaf of bread. That he should be allowed to go free is understandable enough; but it is less understandable that “society’s” obligation not to let him starve should devolve upon one baker chosen at random and not on society as a whole.” [22]

Pareto gives another example, about a woman who tries to shoot her seducer, hits a third party who has nothing to do with her grievance, and is ultimately acquitted by the courts. Finally, he concludes his note with these remarks: “To satisfy sentiments of languorous pity, humanitarian legislators approve ‘probation’ and ‘suspended sentence’ laws, thanks to which a person who has committed a first theft is at once put in a position to commit a second. And why should the luxury of humaneness be paid for by the unfortunate victim of the second theft and not by society as a whole? … As it is, the criminal only is looked after and no one gives a thought to the victim. [23]

Expanding on the proposition that “society” is responsible for the murderous conduct of certain people, with which viewpoint he has no tolerance, he writes:

In any event, we still have not been shown why people who, be it through fault of “society,” happen to be “wanting in the moral sense,” should be allowed freely to walk the streets, killing anybody they please, and so saddling on one unlucky individual the task of paying for a “fault” that is common to all the members of “society.” If our humanitarians would but grant that these estimable individuals who are lacking in a moral sense as a result of “society’s shortcomings” should be made to wear some visible sign of their misfortune in their buttonholes, an honest man would have a chance of seeing them coming and get out of the way. [24]

Foreign Affairs

In foreign affairs, “foxes” tend to judge the wisdom of all policies from a commercial point of view and usually opt for negotiations and compromise, even in dangerous situations. For such men profit and loss determine all policy, and though such an outlook may succeed for some time, the final result is usually ruinous. That is because enemies maintaining a balance of “foxes” and “lions” remain capable of appreciating the use of force. Though they may occasionally make a pretence of having been bought off, when the moment is right and their overly-ingenious foe is fast asleep, they strike the lethal blow. In other words, Class I people are accustomed by their excessively-intellectualized preconceptions to believe that “reason” and money are always mightier than the sword, while Class II folk, with their native common sense, do not nurse such potentially fatal delusions. In Pareto’s words, “The fox may, by his cunning, escape for a certain length of time, but the day may come when the lion will reach him with a well-aimed cuff, and that will be the end of the argument.” [25]

Circulation of the Elites

Apart from his analyses of residues and derivations, Pareto is notable among sociologists for the theory known as “the circulation of the elites.” Let us remember that Pareto considered society a system in equilibrium, where processes of change tend to set in motion forces that work to restore and maintain social balance.

Pareto asserts that there are two types of elites within society: the governing elite and the non-governing elite. Moreover, the men who make up these elite strata are of two distinct mentalities, the speculator and the rentier. The speculator is the progressive, filled with Class I residues, while the rentier is the conservative, Class II residue type. There is a natural propensity in healthy societies for the two types to alternate in power. When, for example, speculators have made a mess of government and have outraged the bulk of their countrymen by their corruption and scandals, conservative forces will step to the fore and, in one way or another, replace them. The process, as we have said, is cyclical and more or less inevitable.

Furthermore, according to Pareto, wise rulers seek to reinvigorate their ranks by allowing the best from the lower strata of society to rise and become fully a part of the ruling class. This not only brings the best and brightest to the top, but deprives the lower classes of talent and of the leadership qualities that might one day prove to be a threat. Summarizing this component of Pareto’s theory, a contemporary sociologist observes that practicality, not pity, demands such a policy:

A dominant group, in Pareto’s opinion, survives only if it provides opportunities for the best persons of other origins to join in its privileges and rewards, and if it does not hesitate to use force to defend these privileges and rewards. Pareto’s irony attacks the elite that becomes humanitarian, tenderhearted rather than tough-minded. Pareto favors opportunity for all competent members of society to advance into the elite, but he is not motivated by feelings of pity for the underprivileged. To express and spread such humanitarian sentiments merely weakens the elite in the defense of its privileges. Moreover, such humanitarian sentiments would easily be a platform for rallying the opposition. [26]

But few aristocracies of long standing grasp the essential nature of this process, preferring to keep their ranks as exclusive as possible. Time takes its toll, and the rulers become ever weaker and ever less capable of bearing the burden of governing:

It is a specific trait of weak governments. Among the causes of the weakness two especially are to be noted: humanitarianism and cowardice-the cowardice that comes natural to decadent aristocracies and is in part natural, in part calculated, in “speculator” governments that are primarily concerned with material gain. The humanitarian spirit … is a malady peculiar to spineless individuals who are richly endowed with certain Class I residues that they have dressed up in sentimental garb. [27]

In the end, of course, the ruling class falls from power. Thus, Pareto writes that “history is a graveyard of aristocracies.” [28]

The Transformation of Democracy

Published as a slim volume near the end of Pareto’s life, The Transformation of Democracy originally appeared in 1920 as a series of essays published in an Italian scholarly periodical, Revista di Milano. In this work, Pareto recapitulates many of his theories in a more concise form, placing particular emphasis on what he believes are the consequences of allowing a money-elite to dominate society. The title of this work comes from Pareto’s observation that European democracies in the 1920s were more and more being transformed into plutocracies. The deception and corruption associated with plutocratic rule would eventually produce a reaction, however, and lead to the system’s downfall. In Pareto’s words,

The plutocracy has invented countless makeshift programs, such as generating enormous public debt that plutocrats know they will never be able to repay, levies on capital, taxes which exhaust the incomes of those who do not speculate, sumtuary laws which have historically proven useless, and other similar measures. The principal goal of each of these measures is to deceive the multitudes. [29]

When a society’s system of values deteriorates to the point where hard work is denigrated and “easy money” extolled, where honesty is mocked and duplicity celebrated, where authority gives way to anarchy and justice to legal chicanery, such a society stands face to face with ruin.

Pareto and Fascism

Before we enter into the controversy surrounding Pareto’s sympathy for Italian leader Benito Mussolini, let us take pains to avoid the error of viewing events of the 1920s through the spectacles of the post-World War II era, for what seemed apparent in 1945 was not at all evident twenty years before. Inarguably, throughout the whole of the 1920s, Mussolini was an enormously popular man in Italy and abroad, with all except perhaps the most inveterate leftists. An American writer puts it as follows:

Postwar [First World War] Italy … was a sewer of corruption and degeneracy. In this quagmire Fascism appeared like a gust of fresh air, a tempest-like purgation of all that was defiled, leveled, fetid. Based on the invigorating instincts of nationalist idealism, Fascism “was the opposite of wild ideas, of lawlessness, of injustice, of cowardice, of treason, of crime, of class warfare, of special privilege; and it represented square-dealing, patriotism and common sense.” As for Mussolini, “there has never been a word uttered against his absolute sincerity and honesty. Whatever the cause on which he embarked, he proved to be a natural-born leader and a gluttonous worker.” Under Mussolini’s dynamic leadership, the brave Blackshirts made short shrift of the radicals, restored the rights of property, and purged the country of self-seeking politicians who thrive on corruption endemic to mass democracy.” [30]

If the Italian Duce was so popular in the 1920s that he received the accolades of the Saturday Evening Post [31] and the American Legion [32], and the highest praises of British and American establishment figures such as Winston Churchill [33] and Ambassador Richard Washburn Child, [34] how much more enthusiastic must have been Italians of Pareto’s conservative bent at that time. They credited Mussolini with nothing less than rescuing Italy from chaos and Bolshevism. The coming tragedies of the ’40s, needless to say, were far away, over a distant horizon, invisible to all.

Pareto invariably expressed contempt for the pluto-democratic governments that ruled Italy throughout most of his life. His rancor towards liberal politicians and their methods surfaces all through his books; these men are the object of his scorn and sharp wit. Pareto translator Arthur Livingston writes, “He was convinced that ten men of courage could at any time march on Rome and put the band of ‘speculators’ that were filling their pockets and ruining Italy to flight.” [35] Consequently, in October 1922, after the Fascist March on Rome and Mussolini’s appointment by the King as Prime Minister, “Pareto was able to rise from a sick-bed and utter a triumphant ‘I told you so!’.” [36] Yet, Pareto never joined the Fascist Party. Well into his seventies and severely ill with heart disease, he remained secluded in his villa in Switzerland.

The new government, however, extended many honors to Pareto. He was designated as delegate to the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, was made a Senator of the Kingdom, and was listed as a contributor to the Duce’s personal periodical, Gerarchia. [37] Many of these honors he declined due to the state of his health, yet he remained favorably disposed towards the regime corresponding with Mussolini and offering advice in the formulation of economic and social policies. [38]

Many years before the March on Rome, Mussolini attended Pareto’s lectures in Lausanne and listened to the professor with rapt attention. “I looked forward to every one,” Mussolini wrote, “…[f]or here was a teacher who was outlining the fundamental economic philosophy of the future.” [39] The young Italian was obviously deeply impressed and, after his elevation to power, sought immediately to transform his aged mentor’s thoughts into action:

In the first years of his rule Mussolini literally executed the policy prescribed by Pareto, destroying political liberalism, but at the same time largely replacing state management of private enterprise, diminishing taxes on property, favoring industrial development, imposing a religious education in dogmas….” [40]

Of course, it was not only Pareto’s economic theories that influenced the course of the Fascist state, but especially the sociological theories: “the Sociologia Generale has become for many Fascists a treatise on government,” [41] noted one writer at the time. Clearly, there was some agreement between Pareto and the new government. Pareto’s theory of rule by elites, his authoritarian leanings, his uncompromising rejection of the liberal fixation with Economic Man, his hatred of disorder, his devotion to the hierarchical arrangement of society, and his belief in an aristocracy of merit are all ideas in harmony with Fascism. Let us keep in mind, however, that all of these ideas were formulated by Pareto decades before anyone had ever heard of Fascism and Mussolini. Likewise, it may be said that they are as much in harmony with age-old monarchical ideas, or those of the ancient authoritarian republics, as with any modern political creeds.

Some writers have speculated that had Pareto lived he would have found many points of disagreement with the Fascist state as it developed, and it is true that he expressed his disapprobation over limitations placed by the regime on freedom of expression, particularly in academia. [42] As we have already seen, however, it was in Pareto’s nature to find fault with nearly all regimes, past and present, and so it would not have been surprising had he found reason occasionally to criticize Mussolini’s.

Neither Pareto nor Mussolini, it should be pointed out, were rigid ideologues. Mussolini once declared, perhaps a bit hyperbolically, that “every system is a mistake and every theory a prison.” [43] While government must be guided by a general set of principles, he believed, one must not be constrained by inflexible doctrines that become nothing more than wearisome impedimenta in dealing with new and unexplained situations. An early Fascist writer explained, in part, Mussolini’s affinity with Pareto in this respect:

“To seek!” — a word of power. In a sense, a nobler word than “to find.” With more of intention in it, less of chance. You may “find” something that is false; but he who seeks goes on seeking increasingly, always hoping to attain to the truth. Vilfredo Pareto was a master of this school. He kept moving. Without movement, Plato said, everything becomes corrupted. As Homer sang, the eternal surge of the sea is the father of mankind. Every one of Pareto’s new books or of the new editions of them, includes any number of commentaries upon and modifications of his previous books, and deals in detail with the criticisms, corrections, and objections which they have elicited. He generally refutes his critics, but while doing so, he indicates other and more serious points in regard to which they might have, and ought to have, reproved or questioned him. Reflecting over his subject, he himself proceeds to deal with these points, finding some of them specious, some important, and correcting his earlier conclusions accordingly. [44]

Though Fascist rule in Italy came to an end with the military victory of the Anglo-Americans in 1945, Pareto’s influence was not seriously touched by that mighty upheaval. Today, new editions of his works and new books about his view of society continue to appear. That his ideas endured the catastrophe of the war virtually without damage, and that they are still discussed among and debated by serious thinkers, is suggestive of their universality and timelessness.

Notes

  1. See, for example, W. Rex Crawford, “Representative Italian Contributions to Sociology: Pareto, Loria, Vaccaro, Gini, and Sighele,” chap. in An Introduction to The History of Sociology, Harry Elmer Barnes, editor (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), Howard Becker and Harry Elmer Barnes, “Sociology in Italy,” chap. in Social Thought From Lore to Science, (New York: Dover Publications, 1961), and James Burnham, The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom (New York: The John Day Company, 1943).
  2. G. Duncan Mitchell, A Hundred Years of Sociology (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1968), p. 115.
  3. Herbert W. Schneider, Making the Fascist State (New York: Oxford University Press, 1928), p. 102.
  4. Theory, Jonathan H. Turner, Editor (Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications, 1987), pp. 13-20.
  5. Appearing originally in 1909, the Manuele di economia politica has been translated into English: Ann Schwier translator, Ann Schwier and Alfred Page, Editors (New York: August M. Kelly, 1971).
  6. (Geneva: Librarie Droz, 1965). Published originally 1902-3. The book has never been fully published in English.
  7. The Treatise on General Sociology (Trattato di Sociologia Generale), was first published in English under the name The Mind and Society, A. Borngiorno and Arthur Livingston, translators (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Javanovich, 1935). It was reprinted in 1963 under its original title (New York: Dover Publications) and remains in print (New York: AMS Press, 1983). The Rise and Fall of the Elites: An Application of Theoretical Sociology (Totowa, New Jersey: The Bedminster Press, 1968; reprint, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Books, 1991) is a translation of Pareto’s monograph, “Un Applicazione de teorie sociologiche,” published in 1901 in Revista Italiana di Sociologia. The Transformation of Democracy (Trasformazioni della democrazia), Charles Power, editor, R. Girola, translator (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Books, 1984). The original Italian edition appeared in 1921.
  8. This term, “equality of opportunity” is so misused in our own time, especially in America, that some clarification is appropriate. “Equality of opportunity” refers merely to Pareto’s belief that in a healthy society advancement must be opened to superior members of all social classes — “Meritocracy,” in other words. See Powers, pp. 22-3.
  9. Powers, p. 19.
  10. Ibid., p. 20.
  11. Adrian Lyttelton, Editor, Italian Fascisms: From Pareto to Gentile (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), pp. 79-80.
  12. Ibid., p. 81.
  13. H. Stuart Hughes, Oswald Spengler: A Critical Estimate (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952), p. 16.
  14. Lyttelton, p. 86.
  15. Ibid., pp. 82-3.
  16. James Burnham, Suicide of the West (New York: John Day Company, 1964), pp. 248-50.
  17. Pareto, Treatise, # 2455. Citations from the Treatise refer to the paragraph numbers that the author uses in this work . Citations are thus uniform in all editions.
  18. Ibid., # 2462.
  19. Ibid., # 2458-72.
  20. Nicholas Timasheff, Sociological Theory: Its Nature and Growth (New York: Random House, 1967), p. 162.
  21. Pareto, Treatise, # 1987.
  22. Ibid. # 1987n.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Ibid., # 1716n.
  25. Ibid., # 2480n.
  26. Hans L. Zetterberg, “Introduction” to The Rise and Fall of the Elites by Vilfredo Pareto, pp. 2-3.
  27. Pareto, Treatise, # 2474.
  28. Ibid., # 2053.
  29. Pareto, Transformation, p. 60.
  30. John P. Diggins, Mussolini and Fascism: The View from America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972), p. 17. Diggins’ quotations in the cited paragraph come from the writings of an American Mussolini enthusiast of the 1920s, Kenneth L. Roberts.
  31. Ibid., p. 27.
  32. Ibid., p. 206. Mussolini was officially invited to attend the San Francisco Legion Convention of 1923 (he declined) and some years later was made an honorary member of the American Legion by a delegation of Legionnaires visiting Rome. The Duce received the delegation in his palace and was awarded a membership badge by the delighted American visitors.
  33. In an interview published in the London Times, January 21, 1927, immediately after a visit by Churchill to Mussolini, the future British Prime Minister said: “If I had been an Italian I am sure that I should have been wholeheartedly with you [Mussolini] from start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism.” See Luigi Villari, Italian Foreign Policy Under Mussolini (New York: The Devin-Adair Company, 1956), p. 43.
  34. The United States Ambassador to Italy in the ’20s, Child dubbed Mussolini “the Spartan genius,” ghostwrote an “autobiography” of Mussolini for publication in America, and perpetually extolled the Italian leader in the most extravagant terms. Diggins, p. 27.
  35. Pareto, Treatise, p. xvii.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Franz Borkenau, Pareto (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1936), p. 18.
  38. Ibid., p. 20.
  39. Benito Mussolini, My Autobiography (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1928), p. 14.
  40. Borkenau, p. 18.
  41. George C. Homans and Charles P. Curtis, Jr., An Introduction to Pareto (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1934), p. 9.
  42. Borkenau, p. 18. In a letter written to Mussolini written shortly before Pareto’s death, the sociologist cautioned that the Fascist regime must relentlessly strike down all active opponents. Those, however, whose opposition was merely verbal should not be molested since, he believed, that would serve only to conceal public opinion. “Let the crows craw but be merciless when it comes to acts,” Pareto admonished the Duce. See Alistair Hamilton, The Appeal of Fascism: A Study of Intellectuals and Fascism, 1919-1945 (New York: Macmillan Company, 1971), pp. 44-5.
  43. Margherita G. Sarfatti, The Life of Benito Mussolini (New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1925), p. 101.
  44. Ibid, p. 102.

A different version of the preceding article appeared in the Journal of Historical Review, 14/5 (September-October 1994), 10-18. The text presented here, however, includes some additional material; the JHR version is not yet online.

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Alexander, James. “Vilfredo Pareto: The Karl Marx of Fascism.” Counter-Currents Publishing, 29 July 2011. <http://www.counter-currents.com/2011/07/vilfredo-pareto-the-karl-marx-of-fascism/ >.

 

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