Saturday, October 08, 2005

History of Green Fascism, Part 2.

"Don't rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world stood up and stopped the Bastard, the Bitch that bore him is in heat again." - May 6th 1945

Bertolt Brecht

Naziism didn't spring full-grown overnight from the German soil
like a bloody, pus-seeping mushroom; and Germanic people didn't suddenly throw themselves into fits of fascist psychosis on the spot at Nuremberg because Hitler was a great public orator and spiffy dresser. The cheap lies we hear today about Islam are the same cheap lies used to explain Germany's descent into Nazi madness, and just as stupid and pointless: The humiliation of proud people with a long and great culture pushed to desperate measures by an arrogant imperialist force bent on extracting every last drop of native blood; poor and desperate people trying to reclaim lost soil and the people of their nation; poor and desperate people who are anxious like we are anxious for peace, but for justice and dignity and just a few more places to add to the pot, places rightly German in the first place, and who are we to be propping up the Czechs and the Poles, the Magyars, the Letts, the Danes, and cetera. We can wash the arguments in shit all we like but the lies won't come out white.

The Germanic people worked long and hard for over a hundred years to reach the state of the last Reich. They were focused and dedicated, and they got what they worked for. It was no mistake. Today we see the same movement toward fascism, this time in new a coat but the same bitch in heat again.

What most well-intentioned and reasonable people think of as saving the whales and chickens and rabbits and what have you, saving the ozone, keeping the water drinkable; all these things are good in themselves; but what, gentle reader, underlies this push for saving Mother Nature from rape by Modernity? We don't bother addressing the concerns of unreconstructed Right-wing ideologues who would argue anything unreasonable simply for the sake of ideology. Those are garbage people of the Stalinist apologetic ilk not worth our time or spit. Our concern here is with the moderate middle class Westerner who is concerned about issues of health and safety for himself and his nation and the world at large. To address those concerns we must look into the gestational time of Nazi Germany, and from there we will see the hijacking by a small minority of terrorists who do not understand the nature of environmentalism. Ah, but we'll see too the fruits of fascism ripening in the fields of the suburbs, the growth of a new fascism unbeknowst to us. We'll see more of the roots of the fascism that is choking the West.

Our common understanding of the good and right of environmentalism, of saving baby seals and such, is not truly what we might think it is, it coming with underlying philosophical positions that we, if we know of them, will recoil from. We speak, of course of fascist irrationalism, racism, and anti-Modernist fascism.

Rather than continue here we'll continue with the second part of our look at the essay on the history of the Green fascist movement in Europe. As we've stated many times before, there are great things to admire about fascism, but they are few, and we must know what we think if we are to think clearly and not throw out the baby with the natural spring bathwater.

Just as old Nazis didn't arrive unbeckoned from nowhere one evening as everyone slept, so too post-modern fascism will not come upon us unannounced. It's visage is here with us-- if we will see it.

The Youth Movement and the Weimar Era

The chief vehicle for carrying this ideological constellation to prominence was the youth movement, an amorphous phenomenon which played a decisive but highly ambivalent role in shaping German popular culture during the first three tumultuous decades of this century. Also known as the Wandervögel (which translates roughly as 'wandering free spirits'), the youth movement was a hodge-podge of countercultural elements, blending neo-Romanticism, Eastern philosophies, nature mysticism, hostility to reason, and a strong communal impulse in a confused but no less ardent search for authentic, non-alienated social relations. Their back-to-the-land emphasis spurred a passionate sensitivity to the natural world and the damage it suffered. They have been aptly characterized as 'right-wing hippies,' for although some sectors of the movement gravitated toward various forms of emancipatory politics (though usually shedding their environmentalist trappings in the process), most of the Wandervöge were eventually absorbed by the Nazis. This shift from nature worship to Führer worship is worth examining.

The various strands of the youth movement shared a common self-conception: they were a purportedly 'non-political' response to a deep cultural crisis, stressing the primacy of direct emotional experience over social critique and action. They pushed the contradictions of their time to the breaking point, but were unable or unwilling to take the final step toward organized, focused social rebellion, "convinced that the changes they wanted to effect in society could not be brought about by political means, but only by the improvement of the individual." 16 This proved to be a fatal error. "Broadly speaking, two ways of revolt were open to them: they could have pursued their radical critique of society, which in due course would have brought them into the camp of social revolution. [But] the Wandervögel chose the other form of protest against society—romanticism." 17

This posture lent itself all too readily to a very different kind of political mobilization: the 'unpolitical' zealotry of fascism. The youth movement did not simply fail in its chosen form of protest, it was actively realigned when its members went over to the Nazis by the thousands. Its countercultural energies and its dreams of harmony with nature bore the bitterest fruit. This is, perhaps, the unavoidable trajectory of any movement which acknowledges and opposes social and ecological problems but does not recognize their systemic roots or actively resist the political and economic structures which generate them. Eschewing societal transformation in favor of personal change, an ostensibly apolitical disaffection can, in times of crisis, yield barbaric results.

The attraction such perspectives exercised on idealistic youth is clear: the enormity of the crisis seemed to enjoin a total rejection of its apparent causes. It is in the specific form of this rejection that the danger lies. Here the work of several more theoretical minds from the period is instructive. The philosopher Ludwig Klages profoundly influenced the youth movement and particularly shaped their ecological consciousness. He authored a tremendously important essay titled "Man and Earth" for the legendary Meissner gathering of the Wandervögel in 1913. 18 An extraordinarily poignant text and the best known of all Klages' work, it is not only "one of the very greatest manifestoes of the radical ecopacifist movement in Germany," 19 but also a classic example of the seductive terminology of reactionary ecology.

"Man and Earth" anticipated just about all of the themes of the contemporary ecology movement. It decried the accelerating extinction of species, disturbance of global ecosystemic balance, deforestation, destruction of aboriginal peoples and of wild habitats, urban sprawl, and the increasing alienation of people from nature. In emphatic terms it disparaged Christianity, capitalism, economic utilitarianism, hyperconsumption and the ideology of 'progress.' It even condemned the environmental destructiveness of rampant tourism and the slaughter of whales, and displayed a clear recognition of the planet as an ecological totality. All of this in 1913!

It may come as a surprise, then, to learn that Klages was throughout his life politically archconservative and a venomous antisemite. One historian labels him a "Volkish fanatic" and another considers him simply "an intellectual pacemaker for the Third Reich" who "paved the way for fascist philosophy in many important respects." 20 In "Man and Earth" a genuine outrage at the devastation of the natural environment is coupled with a political subtext of cultural despair. 21 Klages' diagnosis of the ills of modern society, for all its declamations about capitalism, returns always to a single culprit: "Geist." His idiosyncratic use of this term, which means mind or intellect, was meant to denounce not only hyperrationalism or instrumental reason, but rational thought itself. Such a wholesale indictment of reason cannot help but have savage political implications. It forecloses any chance of rationally reconstructing society's relationship with nature and justifies the most brutal authoritarianism. But the lessons of Klages' life and work have been hard for ecologists to learn. In 1980, "Man and Earth" was republished as an esteemed and seminal treatise to accompany the birth of the German Greens.

Another philosopher and stern critic of Enlightenment who helped bridge fascism and environmentalism was Martin Heidegger. A much more renowned thinker than Klages, Heidegger preached "authentic Being" and harshly criticized modern technology, and is therefore often celebrated as a precursor of ecological thinking. On the basis of his critique of technology and rejection of humanism, contemporary deep ecologists have elevated Heidegger to their pantheon of eco-heroes: Heidegger's critique of anthropocentric humanism, his call for humanity to learn to "let things be," his notion that humanity is involved in a "play" or "dance" with earth, sky, and gods, his meditation on the possibility of an authentic mode of "dwelling" on the earth, his complaint that industrial technology is laying waste to the earth, his emphasis on the importance of local place and "homeland," his claim that humanity should guard and preserve things, instead of dominating them—all these aspects of Heidegger's thought help to support the claim that he is a major deep ecological theorist. 22

Such effusions are, at best, dangerously naive. They suggest a style of thought utterly oblivious to the history of fascist appropriations of all the elements the quoted passage praises in Heidegger. (To his credit, the author of the above lines, a major deep ecological theorist in his own right, has since changed his position and eloquently urged his colleagues to do the same.) 23 As for the philosopher of Being himself, he was—unlike Klages, who lived in Switzerland after 1915—an active member of the Nazi party and for a time enthusiastically, even adoringly supported the Führer. His mystical panegyrics to Heimat (homeland) were complemented by a deep antisemitism, and his metaphysically phrased broadsides against technology and modernity converged neatly with populist demagogy. Although he lived and taught for thirty years after the fall of the Third Reich, Heidegger never once publicly regretted, much less renounced, his involvement with National Socialism, nor even perfunctorily condemned its crimes. His work, whatever its philosophical merits, stands today as a signal admonition about the political uses of anti-humanism in ecological garb.

In addition to the youth movement and protofascist philosophies, there were, of course, practical efforts at protecting natural habitats during the Weimar period. Many of these projects were profoundly implicated in the ideology which culminated in the victory of 'Blood and Soil.' A 1923 recruitment pitch for a woodlands preservation outfit gives a sense of the environmental rhetoric of the time: "In every German breast the German forest quivers with its caverns and ravines, crags and boulders, waters and winds, legends and fairy tales, with its songs and its melodies, and awakens a powerful yearning and a longing for home; in all German souls the German forest lives and weaves with its depth and breadth, its stillness and strength, its might and dignity, its riches and its beauty—it is the source of German inwardness, of the German soul, of German freedom. Therefore protect and care for the German forest for the sake of the elders and the youth, and join the new German "League for the Protection and Consecration of the German Forest."24

The mantra-like repetition of the word "German" and the mystical depiction of the sacred forest fuse, once again, nationalism and naturalism. This intertwinement took on a grisly significance with the collapse of the Weimar republic. For alongside such relatively innocuous conservation groups, another organization was growing which offered these ideas a hospitable home: the National Socialist German Workers Party, known by its acronym NSDAP. Drawing on the heritage of Arndt, Riehl, Haeckel, and others (all of whom were honored between 1933 and 1945 as forebears of triumphant National Socialism), the Nazi movement's incorporation of environmentalist themes was a crucial factor in its rise to popularity and state power.

We will continue this presentation of the roots of Green fascism in our next installment. As we do so we expect the readers will see clearly the rise of Irrationalism and philobarbarism emerging from the swamps of our most primitive life prior to Modernity. For some it will not matter. For others the world will begin to make more sense as it is, and they will find a new energy to fight against the retrograde forces of fascism.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Kill the Wabbit

Some people become upset when they read here that Leftism is fascism. Regardless of the documentation, in spite of all the clear evidence, they cling to irrationality, and due to organic inability cannot seem to grasp the truth that the Left is a fascism. This post we claim further that the Green movement is fascist. Below we see the first installment of a lengthy essay on the history of ecology as fascism.

Fascism has only a dozen or so central tenets, and many of them are included in ecological anti-Modernism. Does it mean that those who are concerned about environmental degradation are fascists? To an extent it does. To promote values of a fascist is to become a fascist whether one chooses to be so or not. This is what we have referred to often as an unconscious fascism, a naive fascism.

We are here at a disadvantage in that we can't know what our readers are familiar with and what not. We err on the side of generosity by putting in few editorial comments, but as this blog progresses we will return again in detail to each of the concepts discussed in general. For this installment we have again limited our editorial to high-lighting essential concepts and biographies.

For those dedicated readers who might have missed previous posts on this topic we refer you to Darre and Heidegger.

I think it is speciesist to think that the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center was a greater tragedy than what millions of chickens endured that day and what they endure every day... (Karen Davis, PhD (!) Vegan Voice)

The Roots of the Blood and Soil Mystique

Germany is not only the birthplace of the science of ecology and the site of Green politics' rise to prominence; it has also been home to a peculiar synthesis of naturalism and nationalism forged under the influence of the Romantic tradition's anti-Enlightenment irrationalism. Two nineteenth century figures exemplify this ominous conjunction: Ernst Moritz Arndt and Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl.

While best known in Germany for his fanatical nationalism, Arndt was also dedicated to the cause of the peasantry, which lead him to a concern for the welfare of the land itself. Historians of German environmentalism mention him as the earliest example of 'ecological' thinking in the modern sense. 4 His remarkable 1815 article On the Care and Conservation of Forests, written at the dawn of industrialization in Central Europe, rails against shortsighted exploitation of woodlands and soil, condemning deforestation and its economic causes. At times he wrote in terms strikingly similar to those of contemporary biocentrism: "When one sees nature in a necessary connectedness and interrelationship, then all things are equally important—shrub, worm, plant, human, stone, nothing first or last, but all one single unity." 5

Arndt's environmentalism, however, was inextricably bound up with virulently xenophobic nationalism. His eloquent and prescient appeals for ecological sensitivity were couched always in terms of the well-being of the German soil and the German people, and his repeated lunatic polemics against miscegenation, demands for teutonic racial purity, and epithets against the French, Slavs, and Jews marked every aspect of his thought. At the very outset of the nineteenth century the deadly connection between love of land and militant racist nationalism was firmly set in place.

Riehl, a student of Arndt, further developed this sinister tradition. In some respects his 'green' streak went significantly deeper than Arndt's; presaging certain tendencies in recent environmental activism, his 1853 essay Field and Forest ended with a call to fight for "the rights of wilderness." But even here nationalist pathos set the tone: "We must save the forest, not only so that our ovens do not become cold in winter, but also so that the pulse of life of the people continues to beat warm and joyfully, so that Germany remains German." 6 Riehl was an implacable opponent of the rise of industrialism and urbanization; his overtly antisemitic glorification of rural peasant values and undifferentiated condemnation of modernity established him as the "founder of agrarian romanticism and anti-urbanism." 7

These latter two fixations matured in the second half of the nineteenth century in the context of the völkisch movement, a powerful cultural disposition and social tendency which united ethnocentric populism with nature mysticism. At the heart of the völkisch temptation was a pathological response to modernity. In the face of the very real dislocations brought on by the triumph of industrial capitalism and national unification, völkisch thinkers preached a return to the land, to the simplicity and wholeness of a life attuned to nature's purity. The mystical effusiveness of this perverted utopianism was matched by its political vulgarity. While "the Volkish movement aspired to reconstruct the society that was sanctioned by history, rooted in nature, and in communion with the cosmic life spirit," 8 it pointedly refused to locate the sources of alienation, rootlessness and environmental destruction in social structures, laying the blame instead to rationalism, cosmopolitanism, and urban civilization. The stand-in for all of these was the age-old object of peasant hatred and middle-class resentment: the Jews. "The Germans were in search of a mysterious wholeness that would restore them to primeval happiness, destroying the hostile milieu of urban industrial civilization that the Jewish conspiracy had foisted on them." 9

Reformulating traditional German antisemitism into nature-friendly terms, the völkisch movement carried a volatile amalgam of nineteenth century cultural prejudices, Romantic obsessions with purity, and anti-Enlightenment sentiment into twentieth century political discourse. The emergence of modern ecology forged the final link in the fateful chain which bound together aggressive nationalism, mystically charged racism, and environmentalist predilections. In 1867 the German zoologist Ernst Haeckel coined the term 'ecology' and began to establish it as a scientific discipline dedicated to studying the interactions between organism and environment. Haeckel was also the chief popularizer of Darwin and evolutionary theory for the German-speaking world, and developed a peculiar sort of social darwinist philosophy he called 'monism.' The German Monist League he founded combined scientifically based ecological holism with völkisch social views. Haeckel believed in Nordic racial superiority, strenuously opposed race mixing and enthusiastically supported racial eugenics. His fervent nationalism became fanatical with the onset of World War I, and he fulminated in antisemitic tones against the post-war Council Republic in Bavaria.

In this way "Haeckel contributed to that special variety of German thought which served as the seed bed for National Socialism. He became one of Germany's major ideologists for racism, nationalism and imperialism." 10 Near the end of his life he joined the Thule Society, "a secret, radically right-wing organization which played a key role in the establishment of the Nazi movement." 11 But more than merely personal continuities are at stake here. The pioneer of scientific ecology, along with his disciples Willibald Hentschel, Wilhelm Bölsche and Bruno Wille, profoundly shaped the thinking of subsequent generations of environmentalists by embedding concern for the natural world in a tightly woven web of regressive social themes. From its very beginnings, then, ecology was bound up in an intensely reactionary political framework.

The specific contours of this early marriage of ecology and authoritarian social views are highly instructive. At the center of this ideological complex is the direct, unmediated application of biological categories to the social realm. Haeckel held that "civilization and the life of nations are governed by the same laws as prevail throughout nature and organic life." 12 This notion of 'natural laws' or 'natural order' has long been a mainstay of reactionary environmental thought. Its concomitant is anti-humanism: Thus, for the Monists, perhaps the most pernicious feature of European bourgeois civilization was the inflated importance which it attached to the idea of man in general, to his existence and to his talents, and to the belief that through his unique rational faculties man could essentially recreate the world and bring about a universally more harmonious and ethically just social order. [Humankind was] an insignificant creature when viewed as part of and measured against the vastness of the cosmos and the overwhelming forces of nature. 13

Other Monists extended this anti-humanist emphasis and mixed it with the traditional völkisch motifs of indiscriminate anti-industrialism and anti-urbanism as well as the newly emerging pseudo-scientific racism. The linchpin, once again, was the conflation of biological and social categories. The biologist Raoul Francé, founding member of the Monist League, elaborated so-called Lebensgesetze, 'laws of life' through which the natural order determines the social order. He opposed racial mixing, for example, as "unnatural." Francé is acclaimed by contemporary ecofascists as a "pioneer of the ecology movement." 14

Francé's colleague Ludwig Woltmann, another student of Haeckel, insisted on a biological interpretation for all societal phenomena, from cultural attitudes to economic arrangements. He stressed the supposed connection between environmental purity and 'racial' purity: "Woltmann took a negative attitude toward modern industrialism. He claimed that the change from an agrarian to an industrial society had hastened the decline of the race. In contrast to nature, which engendered the harmonic forms of Germanism, there were the big cities, diabolical and inorganic, destroying the virtues of the race." 15

Thus by the early years of the twentieth century a certain type of 'ecological' argumentation, saturated with right-wing political content, had attained a measure of respectability within the political culture of Germany. During the turbulent period surrounding World War I, the mixture of ethnocentric fanaticism, regressive rejection of modernity and genuine environmental concern proved to be a very potent potion indeed.

We'll pause here for this installment and will continue next time with further pieces from this and other essays on the history of ecofascism and Left dhimmi philobarbarist fascism.

For those who care to look into the depths of fascist influence on modern Left ideologies we suggest browsing the archives for Darre and Heidegger. If there are ambiguities or points that require explanations not in the texts we will try to address them in the letters section.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Left Dhimmi Fascism (More)

How did the Left go so wrong? Let's not bother with opinionated idiots, let's ask a Leftist.

Below we have an abridged versoin of an essay that begins to address some of the central problems of the Left today, its historical progress into fascism, and its future, if the Left has one distinct from outright fascism indistinguishable from the White fascists of old.

This post is aagain rather lenthy so we've left our comment to highlighting for emphasis. Please feel free to comment below. We don't even delete stupid comments. Critical and intelligent comments are really welcome.

Click on the link for the full essay or try this smaller version to begin with.

The Heterodox Period: 1968-1979
It would not be an exaggeration to say that virtually all the tenets defining the left during the "orthodox" period were substantially challenged, if not superseded, by events during the legendary sixties. Thus, it is not by chance that in Germany, France, Italy, and the United States, the "'68ers" (achtundsechziger, soixantehuitards) have attained near mythical status, and generated a considerable nostalgia, in the postwar histories of these countries' left-wing politics. Be it the events at Berkeley, Columbia, and the National Democratic Convention in Chicago for the United States; "the events" in Paris; Italy's Hot Autumn; or the politics of confrontation embodied by the Extra-Parliamentary Opposition (APO) and the Student Socialist Organization (SDS) in the Federal Republic, there developed a clear challenge to the existing lefts in each of these societies.

For the first time in the history of the left, the essential impetus for this development came not primarily from Europe but from the United States. Concretely, these changes were anchored in two major struggles that informed American politics at the time: the civil rights movement at home and the Vietnam War abroad. Both of these developed into absolute icons for all lefts in the world. Mainly carried by students and not by the traditional subject of the left-that is, the industrial working class--this massive transformation of the discourse of the left was deeply anchored in the cultural climate of the United States, which the rest of the world, particularly Europe's students and its young generally, embraced with enthusiasm. One cannot understand the rise of the New Left in Paris, Berlin, Milan, and London without understanding the massive influence of American rock 'n' roll, folk music, protest songs and poetry, and the civil rights movement's tactic of the "sit in." Posters of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Jerry Garcia, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Allen Ginsberg adorned the homes of thousands of European New Leftists alongside such other icons as Che Guevara and, of course, Ho Chi Minh. On both sides of the Atlantic, this generation was equally formed by the first seemingly democratic and impromptu rock festival held in the muddy fields near Woodstock, New York, and by one of Europe's foremost intellectual émigrés who, unlike others in his immediate milieu, proudly remained in America while becoming one of this country's most challenging critics. I am talking about Herbert Marcuse, whom many have--quite rightly--called the New Left's most influential thinker. The deep American roots of the New Left in Europe, both in form and substance, are beyond debate.

In notable contrast to the subsequent time period, which entailed a paradigm shift, the New Left challenge developed within the Marxist paradigm--though it was profoundly threatening to the existing world of socialist politics. If the subsequent era was to transcend socialism and develop some sort of post-socialist politics, New Leftists in the period I have labeled "heterodox" wanted a "true" socialism, freed from what they viewed as related perversions: social democracy in the West and Leninism/Stalinism in the East (though some New Leftists were mesmerized by Leninism in its Maoist version).

The authority that parties of the established left enjoyed during the orthodox period eroded in this decade of heterodoxy. On the intellectual level, the New Left offered a radical critique of the politics of the hegemonic parties. On the institutional level, there emerged small, but intellectually influential parties to the left of the traditional social democratic and communist parties in terms of their programs as well as their strategic approaches. Though small in actual numbers, these parties represented the legacy of the "68-ers" in the left's "party space"--a standing challenge to the orthodox left. The Parti Socialiste Unifié in France might perhaps be the best example of this genre: small in number of voters, members, and officeholders, but important in intellectual influence.

On the other hand, the relationship between parties and unions changed substantially. Several points are worthy of mention in this context:

1. Everywhere in Europe there occurred at this time a clear politicization of the unions. They expanded their horizons from the confined world of industrial relations and shop-floor affairs to include issues of "grand politics" hitherto left to the respective "sister" (or "mother") party. Unions catapulted themselves into a position of quasi-equality with "their" parties. On the one hand, they entered into various macropolitical arrangements with employers and the state that gave labor an active role in economic management. Even though often defensive in nature (and also demobilizing), these neocorporatist arrangements signaled a new union strength. In addition to this activism "from above," the unions also engaged in an activism "from below." Largely propelled by a restive rank and file that wanted to cash in on its superb position in a tight labor market, the unions bargained for the most impressive "quantitative" and "qualitative" gains attained by labor at any time in the fifty-plus years of the postwar period. Even though these two activisms clashed with each other, they emanated from the same optimism, power, and self-confidence that redefined the role of unions inside the European left during this period.

2. This, of course, led the unions to distance themselves from their respective parties. Nowhere was this more obvious than in Italy, where the three union confederations (allied with different parties) discovered that as many things united as divided them. Similar, though not as effective, distancing maneuvers on the part of unions also occurred in Germany, Britain, Sweden, and Austria. Only in France did the old transition-belt model between the Communist Party (PCF) and the communist-dominated trade union federation (CGT) remain largely intact. There too, however, independent union power figured significantly in the discourse of the left, particularly because the former Catholic union, sporting the new acronym CFDT, shed its former clericalism and became one of the most vocal advocates of the New Left.

3. Central to this activism was the role of hitherto marginal elements within the labor movement. Although labor's core-that is, male, skilled, industrial workers-also participated in the general mobilization, it was often its lesser skilled, female, and foreign colleagues who were the political vanguard at the grass roots and on the shop floor. Add to this group a substantial presence of tertiary-sector "intellectual" workers, and the new working class had become a politically meaningful reality.

4. There was also a noticeable "intellectualization" of the labor movement. Through the influx of a large number of academic researchers, many of whom were veteran "68-ers," the unions developed a more sophisticated theoretical approach to problems that until then remained largely beyond their purview. Union leaders always had a very ambivalent relationship to left-wing intellectuals, but now a "march through the institutions" on the part of New Left activists changed organized labor's mentality to a noticeable degree.

But something wholly new also happened at this time: the rise of left politics outside of any established institutions, parties, or unions. It was in this milieu that the new meaning of "leftism" in Europe and the United States was forged. It was at this critical juncture--the decade between 1968 and 1978--that tendencies developed whose influence persists to this day, in Germany especially, but also in Europe generally. In my article "The Minister and the Terrorist" (Foreign Affairs, November-December, 2001), I described four groupings that emerged at this juncture within the New Left.

I call the first group the "Westerners." Germany's current foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, is exhibit A. This group, though vehemently against the war in Vietnam, totally supportive of third world liberation movements, and bitterly opposed to Western--as well as West German-capitalism, began to reorder the hierarchy of its negative preferences. Crucial in this reordering was that tyranny rather than capitalism was put at the top of the list. Put positively, at the top now was not the emancipation of the working class or even the liberation of third world peoples from imperialism, but rather democracy, due process, constitutionalism, and human rights. For reasons that probably have more to do with the personal psychologies and histories of the relevant individuals than with macro-sociological factors such as class background, education, religion, geographic origin, and gender, the Westerners successfully differentiated between American culture (which they loved, as is evident from Fischer's well-known admission that Bob Dylan had a greater influence on his life than Karl Marx) and American politics in the world (which they disliked). Above all, they did not develop a visceral hatred of all things American. And they also began to look at the Holocaust as a development sui generis and not merely as an epiphenomenon of what the rest of the German left then still called--and continues to call--"fascism" rather than National Socialism. As a consequence, the Westerners committed a major blasphemy in the eyes of the rest of the left. They argued that the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany could--and did-on occasion produce good things, such as a stable and democratic order in Germany and Europe; and that liberal democracy, though capitalist, was indeed preferable to tyranny, even of the people's republic kind. They saw the West also as an occasional force of liberation and emancipation, not only as one of repression and exploitation. Lastly, members of this group upheld the value of universalism--already at this time a ready target for various relativizing particularisms that came to define other groups on the left, to which I now turn.

The second group I call the "Third Worldists." They considered imperialism the most important political issue of the day and rejected everything that the developed world stood for, including Western values and industrial modernization. The Third Worldists would later constitute the bulk of the "Fundamentalist" (or "Fundi") wing of the German Green Party and fight a bitter rearguard action against what they believed to be the sellouts by Fischer and his "Realos." During the 1970s, the Third Worldists believed that the Federal Republic was second only to the United States in its objectionable character. They detested its parliamentary institutions, disdained its market-based economy, hated its role as a driving force in modernization's inevitable destruction of the environment, and feared any manifestation of nationalism, which they saw as a harbinger of the ever-looming "fascistization" of German politics and society. They were vehemently anti-Zionist (although not necessarily anti-Semitic) and found in the Palestinians an emblem of noble suffering and anticolonial resistance.

The third group were the "orthodox Marxists," who located the source of the Federal Republic's ills not in industrial modernization but in capitalism. In contrast to all other New Leftists, members of this group considered the industrial working class not only a worthy ally but as an "objectively necessary" part of any major social transformation. Adherents of this tendency reached deep into the SPD and some German trade unions, notably the metal workers', printers', journalists', writers', and bank employees' unions. They also developed cozy relations with East Germany, whose Marxist-Leninist system they regarded with tolerant admiration if not outright enthusiasm. This group's strength explains why serious criticism of "actually existing socialism" in the Soviet bloc was unpopular in parts of the German left well into the 1980s-so much so that the Polish Solidarity movement was often denounced by German unionists and social democrats as retrograde and reactionary. (During his JUSO [youth organization of the SPD] days, the current chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, was closest to this wing of the New Left.)

I call the fourth and last remaining group the "neo-Nationalists." The New Left focused mainly on opposing the war in Vietnam, demonstrating solidarity with developing-world liberation movements, and transforming bourgeois society. But in Germany it also had a nationalist component provoked by the country's division and limited sovereignty. Left-wing nationalism has a long history in Germany (National Bolshevism and the Strasser wing of the National Socialists are two cases in point), and it is hardly surprising that such feelings were represented among the '68ers as well. Nationalist sentiment grew over the controversy surrounding the 1983 deployment of American intermediate-range nuclear missiles on German soil and was later intensified by German unification. By the mid-1990s, in fact, a substantial number of '68ers had completed a journey from extreme left to extreme right, with the constant factor being their hatred of the West. Today, this antimodernist, anti-Western sentiment is alive and well throughout Europe among those on the extreme right and left who invoke nationalism in their opposition to globalization. The two most prominent German radicals to undergo such a shift are Horst Mahler and Bernd Rabehl. Along with two other prominent ex-leftists, Mahler--now the far right National Democratic Party's official legal counsel--recently declared that the '68er movement had been "neither for communism nor for capitalism, neither for a Third-Worldist nor for an Eastern or a Western community of values." Instead, it had been "about the right of every Volk to assert its national-revolutionary and social-revolutionary liberation." In this view, the Germans were no exception. Already then, the main root of Germany's trouble lay in its solid anchoring in the West--controlled by that double-headed evil, the United States and world Jewry. In marked contrast to the Third Worldists, adherents to this path developed an anti-Zionism that could barely, if ever, be differentiated from anti-Semitism.

This is also the period when the left's enmity against Israel, begun in the wake of the Six Day War of June 1967, became a salient issue for its politics, its identity, and also its internal divisions. Indeed, I would argue that perhaps the most defining gauge of where somebody stood politically, how she/he saw the world, was that ubiquitous triangle of Israel, the Jews, and the United States. Roughly speaking, to the Westerners, the plight of the Jews was a serious issue, which meant that they developed a much more favorable view of Israel than did the other three groups. To the Third Worldists and the orthodox Marxists, the plight of the Jews--though real--remained unimportant, massively subordinate to the plight of third world peoples (to the Third Worldists) and of workers (to the orthodox Marxists). In the nationalist camp, by contrast, the plight of the Jews was either never acknowledged or even viewed with outright contempt. It is here that the nexus between the völkisch left and the völkisch right, which manifested itself so vigorously in the streets of many German and European cities in the spring of 2002 and again in 2003, was forged.

Paradigm Shift: 1980-1989
In this era most fundamental assumptions of the socialist project underwent major challenges. Above all, the 1980s witnessed the weakening --perhaps even severing--of an alliance that once had defined the left, with the working class as subject of history and driving force of progressive politics. From circa 1880 until 1980, the most fundamental dogma of social democrats and communists alike was that the working class would be the decisive carrier of social transformation beyond capitalism. Both theoretically and empirically, there was a tight logical connection between the working class and the left: not all workers had to be left, but there could be no left without workers. All other movements, social groups, and individuals were in principle subordinated to the working class in the endeavor of attaining socialism. This changed drastically in the course of the 1980s. Briefly put, the working class lost its position not only as a theoretically compelling feature of all socialist orientations but also as an empirical necessity of quotidian politics. This radical change has three salient features.

1. The appearance of the new social movements and their political offspring, the Green parties. In the course of the 1970s and increasingly in the 1980s, progress began to mean almost the opposite of what it did before. The term had always been associated with some sort of growth, but now the desirability of growth was questioned, if not entirely rejected. If being left and progressive meant building dams and steel mills during the previous two eras, it now implied saving little fish and rare birds from the destruction wrought by those very dams and mills. The universalism of class as a primary political identity was superseded by the particularism of groups. Faith previously placed in technology, centralization, and the state was now conferred upon localism, decentralization, and community power. The left moved from growth, state, class, economy, and politics to identity, gender, empowerment, and deconstruction. Tellingly, much of critical social science, formerly engaged on behalf of a progressive agenda, was now superseded by an increasingly philosophized Marxism, which in turn drifted toward literary criticism and various other poststructural and postmodern intellectual endeavors.

It had become clear by the mid-1980s that green was the left's trendsetting color instead of the century-old red. Increasingly, also, the color purple denoted the arrival and staying power of politically meaningful women's movements in the public arena of all advanced industrial democracies. Possibly no other change wrought by the New Left had such a tangible impact on virtually all aspects of private and public life as did the rise and establishment of the women's movements. In brief, protecting the life-world, reclaiming lost intimacy, defending vulnerable groups, extolling smallness--all this replaced the previous faith in the liberating aspects of technology and the obsession with "mega" projects that had dominated the European and American left's discourse for exactly one hundred years.

Fragmentation and Polarization

With the collapse of Soviet communism and the green and purple challenge to Western social democracy, the European left has lost the overall coherence of modernist universalism that defined it for more than a hundred years. On the one hand, one should rejoice in this development, because Truth and Progress (with capital letters) were too arrogantly defended by much of the left throughout the twentieth century. We will most likely be spared any repetition of the horrors of the GULAG or the genocidal mania of the Khmer Rouge-whose protagonists claimed to be acting in the name of justice, equality, and progress. But there exists a more fundamental problem. Although one can still identify many worthy causes that qualify as progressive, one would be hard-put to identify a subject of history that--like the working class of yore--could form the social basis of a unified left. Instead, we witness the proliferation of groups focused on particular forms of injustice, slighting, and victimization--in other words, on purely negative experiences. These experiences may all be real, but the groups that develop around them will remain largely powerless without the positive institutions of community that were so essential in the creation of a politically effective working class. And as a consequence of their powerlessness, they will turn inward, extolling their own particularism, which will only further fragment an already fragmented left. It is in this context that the old siren songs of nationalism and neonationalism seem especially appealing to the lefts of all industrial societies.

A new European (and American) commonality for all lefts--a new litmus test of progressive politics--seems to have developed: anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism (though not anti-Semitism, or at least not yet). I cannot think of two more potent wedge issues that define inclusion and exclusion on the left today. In a hierarchy of key items defining what it means to be left in contemporary Europe and the United States--pro-choice, abolition of the death penalty, equality in marital arrangements and official recognition of gay and lesbian couples by the state; progressive income tax; economic and social justice; support for third world claims against the rich first world; multilateralism as opposed to unilateralism; legalization of marijuana; and on and on--opposition to Israel and America figure at the very top. If one is not at least a serious doubter of the legitimacy of the state of Israel (never mind the policies of its government) and if one does not dismiss everything American as a priori vile and reactionary, one runs the risk of being excluded from the entity called "the left." There has not been a common issue since the Spanish Civil War that has united the left so clearly as has anti-Zionism and its twin, anti-Americanism. The left divided, and divides, over Serbia, over Chechnya, over Darfur, even over the war in Iraq. There are virtually no divisions over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and over the essence of the United States. If one has anything positive--or even non-derogatory--to say about the United States or Israel, one always needs to qualify it with a resounding "but."

Andrei S. Markovits is the Karl W. Deutsch Collegiate Professor of Comparative Politics and German Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His latest book is called Amerika-Dich Hasst Sich's Besser: Antiamerikanismus und Antisemitismus in Europa, published in 2004 by Konkret-Literatur-Verlag in Hamburg. An expanded and amended English-language version is forthcoming from Princeton University Press. This article is based on a paper presented at the 2004 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association.

*Seymour Martin Lipset and Stein Rokkan, "Cleavage Structures, Party Systems and Voter Alignments: An Introduction" in Seymour Martin Lipset and Stein Rokkan, eds., Party Systems and Voter Alignments: Cross-National Perspectives (New York: The Free Press, 1967), pp. 1-64.

We have not only argued the points above in previous posts, we have shown through documents from Left thinkers over and again the legitimacy of the theses above. The Left is a fascist reaction. Those who complain in the face of the documentation are simply too stupid to bother with. The question, as Lenin so aptly stole it, is: "What is to be Done?"

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Irrationalism as Modern Philosphy

Western culture is decaying before our eyes, falling into a pit of blackest nihilism, a culture made sick by unbelief in itself and its values, in its very worth as social project. We see the problem clearly in the first of the three essays below, a look at education today, a silliness imposed upon children that wastes not merely their time and energies but their very minds. The result is a failure of society. We cannot have a functional society of trained morons. We cannot have a successful culture of philosophical Irrationalists. And guess what we have?

Our second piece is a further example of where we are going wrong in our lives as we abandon our heritage of Rationalism and of ordinary common sense. Together, the first two essays show a problem directly emanating from our schools and 'educational systems.' We have a culture that cherishes "feeling" but cares nothing for the foundations of our culture as it must be if we are to continue on our revolutionary course of Progress and Modernity.

It is in the third piece that we get to examine in some excerpted detail the history and impact of fascist Irrationalism that results in our post-modernist Left dhimmi fascism. The latter essay, though cut down significantly, is still longish. The essay is interesting and enlightening, covering in synopsis many of the concerns we deal with at this blog daily. Due to the length of this installment we have kept our comments to a minimum here and have only high-lighted for editorial effect.

For those with a need to understand how our Western world has gone so wrong, and what we can and must do to reverse the nihilism, we urge a careful reading of the fianl essay here. We will, as always, continue to elaborate on the main ideas below. We highly recommend the final essay here for its clarity and insights. Yes, it's long.

Theodor Dalrymple

The Triumph of Reason?
Why bad theories never die | 27 July 2005

In Australia recently, I shared a public platform with an educationist, who had won awards for social innovation in the field of education for disadvantaged minorities. I was looking forward to what she had to say.

I was soon in a towering rage, however. She uttered some of the most foolish cliches of radical education theory, now about 40 years old—theories that I had fondly thought were now behind us, such as the harmful effects upon the children of disadvantaged ethnic groups or families of an emphasis on education as learning, with particular reference to the damage done to their self-esteem by the dominant culture's fetish about reading and writing.

These "technologies," as the social innovator called them, were in any case on the verge of obsolescence because of computerized voice-recognition systems, so why teach them? Why not recognize children's individual strengths and natural creativity, and why not accept what their native cultures brought to the great smorgasbord of life (my expression, not hers): such as, presumably, singing and dancing and basket-weaving and female circumcision.

This was all said with such smugness, with such an expression of beatific complacency and self-content, that I wanted to get up and strangle the innovator there and then. As a believer in the necessity of self-expression, she would no doubt have understood. I recalled what one of my patients in the prison once said to me, to explain why he had murdered his girlfriend: "I had to kill her, doctor, or I don't know what I would have done."

However, having been educated in precisely the kind of school that the innovator derided—namely, one in which I sat in a row with lots of other children and regularly heard in no uncertain terms that, being no more important than any other child in the class, I had wait my turn if I wanted to speak—I was able to control myself and even be polite in my reply.

I pointed out the obvious things, such as that the announcement of the death of reading and writing as a means of distant communication was premature, to say the least, and that if it was all right for children not to learn to read and write because it was in their culture not to do so, then was all right for them not to go to school at all; and that it took little imagination to understand how difficult and painful life in a modern society must be for someone who could neither read nor write properly.

Halfway through my own reply, however, I suddenly became bored. Why do I spend so much time arguing against such obvious rubbish, which should be both self-refuting and auto-satirizing the moment someone utters it? Why not just go and read a good book?

The problem is that nonsense can and does go by default. It wins the argument by sheer persistence, by inexhaustible re-iteration, by staying at the meeting when everyone else has gone home, by monomania, by boring people into submission and indifference. And the reward of monomania? Power.

Bill Bennett's recent abortion comments exposed the divide in America between thinkers and feelers. Bennett said "If you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." But Bennett then immediately added that doing so would be "an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do." No thinking person listening to Bennett would believe that he ever advocated aborting black babies.

But Bennett's abortion remarks did conjure a horrible image of the mass killing of unborn black children. Feelers, those who believe emotional reaction should trump all else, naturally were horrified at Bennett's comment. A feeler would find this image very painful to bear. A feeler, therefore, might feel that Bennett would have presented listeners with such a word-picture only if he himself was not bothered by the idea of killing black babies. Thinkers, however, have been defending Bennett because they believe that intellectual rigor often requires deliberately confronting painful images to get at truth.

Besides attacking Bennett, feelers have also gone after Larry Summers, Bill Maher and John Roberts. Harvard President Larry Summers recently suggested that researchers should look into whether genetics could explain why there are so few women scientists. Feelers immediately condemned him. Summers suggested something intensely painful for some feminists to hear. His feeler critics assumed that he would put them though such an emotional ordeal only if he hated them. For feelers Summers' comments were so horrible in part because deep down these feminists probably think there might be a genetic cause for the dearth of female scientists.

Bill Maher, the former host of Politically Incorrect, got in trouble with feelers when he said that the 9/11 hijackers were not cowards. A thinker would have to concede that those who deliberately give their lives for a cause, regardless of how horrid the cause, don't fit the conventional definition of cowards. A feeler, however, would violently reject associating any positive qualities, including bravery, with the 9/11 hijackers. A feeler would believe that Maher would have done this only if he sympathized with the terrorists.

Dianne Feinstein recently made herself the Queen of Feelers when the senator announced she was voting against John Roberts because he wouldn't answer questions as a son, husband and father but just as a dispassionate lawyer. She objected that Roberts gave only "very detached response[s]." Senator Feinstein clearly believes only feelers are qualified for our Supreme Court.

Schools, with their focus on raising students' self-esteem, are doing everything possible to raise our children as feelers. U.S. students do horribly on international math tests but get top marks in mathematical self-esteem. Anything that makes a person or group feel bad is considered a sin by the educational establishment. One educationist even frets over "the damage done to [students'] self-esteem by the dominant culture's fetish about reading and writing." Another consequence of the triumph of educational feelers is the prevalence of speech codes at many colleges which are designed to prevent favored groups from having their feelings hurt.

James D. Miller writes The Game Theorist column for TCS and is the author of Game Theory at Work.
By Alex Steiner
5 April 2000

Use this version to print

We are posting today the concluding part of a series on the life and work of twentieth century German philosopher Martin Heidegger.

The year 1848 saw revolutionary movements break out throughout Europe. The working class took its first steps as an independent political force. This had profound reverberations among all strata of society. Following the events of 1848, the philosophical reaction against Enlightenment rationality becomes more conscious of its aims. If the original opposition to the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century came from the monarchists, landholders and the church, the nineteenth century saw a new wave of opposition to the legacy of the Enlightenment emanating from those forces who felt most threatened by the emerging bourgeois society. They looked back longingly to a mythical golden age in a medieval past.

In Germany especially where the bourgeoisie had still to establish its political hegemony, the birth of political Romanticism found resonance among the peasantry and the middle class, which felt most threatened by the democratic revolutions that began to challenge the old order in the Europe of the 1840s. This played into the hands of the dukes, princes and landholders who had no desire to share political power. In 1841, 10 years after Hegel's death, the Prussian authorities brought in his former roommate and philosophical nemesis, Friedrich Schelling, to lecture in Berlin.

With Schelling's later philosophy we can say that the Romantic reaction against the Enlightenment found its first philosophical voice. Schelling sought to replace the Enlightenment's concern with reason, political freedom and social equality with a rejection of reason in favor of revelation and elitist values. Schelling's later system consecrated an appeal to myth and authority.

Consequent on the defeat of the 1848 revolution, the anti-rationalist tendencies expressed in the later philosophy of Schelling found fertile ground. The promise of the French Revolution, which seemed to inaugurate a new era in human history, was transformed into the nightmare of Prussian reaction. Instead of celebrating new possibilities, the prevailing spirit was one of resignation to a very narrowly circumscribed avenue of political practice. The notion of freedom was redefined subjectively, as an inner state that can be maintained despite the vicissitudes of political life. This was combined with a deep pessimism toward the ability of human agents to create a more humane society. The name of Arthur Schopenhauer will forever be linked to this strand of subjective idealism.

There was a fundamental change in social conditions after 1848. Whereas political Romanticism maintained a hostility to capitalism prior to 1848, following the turmoil of that year, which saw the working class rise as an independent political force for the first time, the political thrust of Romanticism, particularly in Germany, was turned against the working class. All that remained of the anti-capitalist impulse of the earlier period of Romanticism was a cultural critique of bourgeois mediocrity.

Aristocratic and elitist values were championed as a safeguard against the threat of the great leveling out of society introduced by democratic and socialist impulses. Needless to say a palpable fear of the working class was exponentially heightened following the events of the Paris Commune in 1871, in which the working class for the first time briefly took power in its own hands. The mood of the German petty bourgeois immediately following the defeat of the Paris Commune was captured in a letter written by Nietzsche:

"Hope is possible again! Our German mission isn't over yet! I'm in better spirit than ever, for not yet everything has capitulated to Franco-Jewish leveling and 'elegance', and to the greedy instincts of Jetztzeit ('now-time').... Over and above the war between nations, that international hydra which suddenly raised its fearsome heads has alarmed us by heralding quite different battles to come."[1]

Nietzsche in particular plays a key role in our narrative for it is with him that the Enlightenment project is literally turned on its head. Nietzsche appropriates the Enlightenment's own critical weapon and turns it against the Enlightenment. He begins by unmasking the relations of power lurking behind claims to truth, a technique that was developed by the Enlightenment in its struggle against religious superstition, and turns this against the Enlightenment itself. He concludes that all truth claims amount to nothing more than exercises of the "will to power." He reinterprets the entire history of thought as an expression of a hidden will to power.

According to this account, for the past two millennia we have witnessed the "will to power" of Christianity guiding the fate of European culture. Nietzsche despised the egalitarian movements for democratic reforms and socialism that emerged in his time. He saw these modern political and social movements as threatening the aristocratic values for which great civilizations and great people (the overman) should strive. He indicts Christianity, which he sees as imbued with a "slave morality" for setting into motion a process which culminates in the Enlightenment's final unmasking of religious beliefs, an event he called "the death of god." The Enlightenment ushers in an age in which values can no longer be grounded, an age of nihilism.

It is in Nietzsche that the counter-Enlightenment finds its real voice. And it is to this tradition that we should look in situating the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. Heidegger himself in fact recognized Nietzsche quite correctly as a kindred spirit. But whereas Nietzsche saw himself as the prophet announcing the coming of nihilism, Heidegger sees himself as the biographer of a mature nihilism. Heidegger's views were formed in the deeply pessimistic atmosphere engendered by Germany's defeat in World War I. He was influenced by the right-wing author Ernest Juenger, whose novels celebrated the steadfast, resolute soldier meeting his fate in battle. Another important influence was Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West, a hysterical rant against socialism and liberalism, which are indicted for corrupting the values of Western civilization.


Lebensphilosophie was not so much a specific philosophical doctrine as a certain cultural mood that affected broad areas of the intelligentsia. It is characterized by a sharp dichotomy between science and technology on one side, versus the category of "Life" on the other. For its ideological armaments Lebensphilosophie borrowed the critique of scientific understanding from the debates that were raging prior to 1848. Scientific understanding, thought of as narrow and barren, was contrasted to "Experience" which gives us an intuitive access to "Life." This appeal to immediate intuition which gradually becomes more pronounced is what brands Lebensphilosophie as a form of irrationalism.

In his most important work, Being and Time, Heidegger sets out for himself the heroic task of retrieving the history of metaphysics. Specifically, Heidegger maintains that modern man has forgotten the meaning of the question of Being. He says that in using the common word "is" we no longer know what we mean. According to Heidegger, the subject-predicate logic which we use every day conceals the true meaning of what existence really is. Heidegger claims that the Greeks had an authentic experience of Being as "unconcealment." But when Greek philosophy was translated into Latin, it lost the richness of this primal experience. The experience of Being was reified into a relation between a thing and its properties. Heidegger sees his task as the retrieval of the original meaning of Being which has been lost. From this vantage point he goes to war against the entire history of Western philosophy following the Greeks.

The echoes of Nietzsche are here evident and they will become even more obvious in Heidegger's later philosophy. Like Nietzsche, Heidegger turns away from the history of philosophy which he views as hopelessly compromised by a flawed model of knowledge. His method of practicing philosophy also retraces the steps of Nietzsche. He abandons discursive argumentation that try to convince an unbiased reader by the force of their logic in favor of prophetic pronouncements and etymological sleight-of-hand that aim at overpowering the reader.

In his later philosophy, Heidegger will go even further in his repudiation of the history of philosophy. He will claim that all philosophers after the pre-Socratics have been guilty of falsifying and concealing some kind of primal experience of Being. His program for retrieving the original meaning of Being becomes transformed into a project aimed at the "destruction of metaphysics."

Being and Time is preoccupied with a discussion of the meaning of death. According to Heidegger, it is the imminence of death and our knowledge of it that makes an "authentic" life possible. It is only when we live life at the extreme, and confront our own mortality, that we are able to set aside the inauthentic chatter of our day to day existence and come to terms with our true selves. This theme, which Heidegger called our Being-towards-Death, is by no means new in the history of thought. It is closely related to the meditations of scores of religious writers from St. Augustine to Kierkegaard to Tolstoy.

Perhaps more to the point, however, Heidegger's secularized meditation on the imminence of death and the responsibilities that devolve to us as a result owe more to the heroic literature of Ernest Juenger. It is the soldier above all who is called upon to make a decision that will validate his life as he faces imminent death. Heidegger's category of "resoluteness," which becomes so important to existential philosophy, is rooted in the situation of the soldier facing the enemy in the trenches in a hopeless struggle.

Many commentators have remarked that this feature of Heidegger's thinking, his emphasis on the need to make critical decisions determining ones fate, illustrates the essentially apolitical quality of Heidegger's philosophy. Seemingly, one can choose to be either a Nazi, as Heidegger himself did, or a member of the French resistance, as Sartre did, and still remain faithful to the terms of an authentic existence. The completely empty character of the categories of authenticity and resoluteness have been the subject of much criticism. Habermas, for instance, characterized it as "the decisionism of empty resoluteness."[2] Heidegger is taken to task for lacking a criteria by which to judge the worth of one decision against another. Given the accepted interpretation of Heidegger, this criticism is correct as far as it goes. However, a remarkable book that has just been published promises to turn upside down the body of received opinion on the philosophy of Heidegger.

In his path-breaking work, Historical Destiny and National Socialism in Heidegger's Being and Time, Johannes Fritsche demonstrates that not only are the categories discussed in Being and Time not apolitical, but on the contrary, "When one reads Sein und Zeit in its context, one sees that, as Scheler put it, in the kairos [crisis] of the twenties Sein und Zeit was a highly political and ethical work, that it belonged to the revolutionary Right, and that it contained an argument for the most radical group on the revolutionary Right, namely, the National Socialists."[3]

Fritsche's point is that Heidegger's idiom and use of language were part of a shared tradition of right-wing thought that emerged in the 1920s in Germany. The political content of Being and Time would have been clear to Heidegger's German contemporaries. However, to readers of the French and English translations that circulated a generation or two later, this political content is completely obscured. Instead as Fritsche mockingly puts it, "You see in Being and Time the terrifying face of the old witch of the loneliness of the isolated bourgeois subjects, or the un-erotic groupings in their Gesellschaft [society], and you see the desire for a leap out of the Gesellschaft."[4]

Sartre and the French existentialists adopted from Heidegger the themes of loneliness and alienation as well as the corollary notion of a heroic and resolute voluntarism in the face of an absurd world. Fritsche maintains that whatever the merits of their own works, the existentialists misunderstood Heidegger. Fritsche's argument for reading Heidegger as the philosopher of National Socialism is impossible to summarize here. It relies on a very sophisticated historical and philological analysis of the text of Being and Time. After reconstructing the actual content of Being and Time, Fritsche compares it with the writings of two other notorious right-wing authors who were contemporaries, namely Max Scheler and Adolf Hitler. Fritsche demonstrates that the political content of Being and Time and Mein Kampf are identical, notwithstanding the fact that the first book was written by a world renowned philosopher and the second by a sociopath from the gutters of Vienna.

One of the myths Fritsche exposes is that Heidegger's notion of authenticity bears some relationship to the traditional conception of individual freedom. Fritsche demonstrates that for Heidegger achieving "authenticity" means precisely the opposite of exercising freedom. Rather it means that one answers a "call" to live life according to one's fate. The fate whose call one must answer has been preordained by forces that are outside the scope of the individual. Answering the call is therefore the very anti-thesis of any notion of freedom. In support of this thesis, Fritsche quotes the following passage from Being and Time:

" Dasein [Heidegger's term for human being] can be reached by the blows of fate only because in the depths of its Being Dasein is fate in the sense we have described. Existing fatefully in the resoluteness which hands itself down, Dasein has been disclosed as Being-in-the-world both for the 'fortunate' circumstances which 'comes its way' and for the cruelty of accidents. Fate does not arise from the clashing together of events and circumstances. Even one who is irresolute gets driven about by these—more so than one who has chosen; and yet he can 'have' no fate."[5]

Fritsche comments on this passage as follows:

"First, far from being something a Dasein creates or changes or breaks, 'fate' exists prior to the Dasein and demands the latter's subjugation. The point is not how to create or break fate [which would be a typical existentialist interpretation. A.S.]. Rather, the problem is whether a Dasein accepts, opens itself for, hands itself down to, subjugates itself to, or sacrifices itself to fate—which is what authentic Dasein does—or whether a Dasein denies fate and continues trying to evade it—which is what ordinary, and therefore inauthentic Dasein does."[6]

Nor is the fate to which authentic Dasein must subjugate itself some sort of existential angst. For Heidegger, fate had a definite political content. The fate of the patriotic German was identified with the Volksgemeinschaft, a term that was used polemically by the Nazis to denote a community of the people bound by race and heritage. The idea of a Volksgemeinschaft was, in the right-wing literature of the time, often counterposed to that of Gesellschaft, a reference to the Enlightenment notion of a shared community of interests based on universal human values. Continuing his analysis of authenticity, Fritsche comments:

"In contrast to ordinary Dasein and inauthentic Dasein, authentic Dasein ...realizes that there is a dangerous situation, and relates itself to the 'heritage.' In so doing, it produces the separation between the Daseine that have fate and those that do not, i.e., the inauthentic Daseine. In the next step authentic Dasein realizes that its heritage and destiny is the Volksgemeinschaft, which calls it into struggle.... After this, authentic Dasein hands itself down to the Volksgemeinschaft and recognizes what is at stake in the struggle.... Finally, authentic Dasein reaffirms its subjugation to the past to the Volksgemeinschaft and begins the struggle, that is, the cancellation of the world of inauthentic Dasein."[7]

In characterizing the struggle for authentic Dasein as "a cancellation of the world of the inauthentic Dasein," Fritsche is being overly metaphorical. In plain language, "the cancellation of the world of inauthentic Dasein" is a reference to the fascist counterrevolution. It entails the destruction of bourgeois democracy and its institutions, the persecution and murder of socialists, the emasculation of all independent working class organizations, a concerted and systematic attack on the culture of the Enlightenment, and of course the persecution and eventual elimination of alien forces in the midst of the Volk, most notably the Jews.

If Fritsche's interpretation of Being and Time is correct, then it can likewise serve to demystify the riddle of the relationship between Heidegger's early philosophy and his later conversion to a peculiar form of quietism. Many commentators have been puzzled at the seemingly radical transition from a philosophy based on activism, as the typical interpretation of Being and Time saw it, to one rooted in the mystical resignation to one's fate that characterizes Heidegger's later philosophy. Fritsche has shown, however, that the early philosophy was anything but voluntarist. The notion of man transforming his destiny in accordance with his will is a typical Enlightenment motif that bears little resemblance to Heidegger's vision. Rather, as Fritsche has demonstrated, we do not so much transform our destiny as find what it is and submit to it. Thus, the sense of resignation is already there in the early philosophy. The transition therefore in the later philosophy is hardly as radical as it has appeared.

We can add that there is nothing particularly unique in Heidegger's theory of authenticity as answering the call of one's fate. A strikingly parallel conception can be found in the work of another contemporary intellectual who evinced sympathy for Nazism, the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. Lecturing in 1935, Jung provides the following account of the relation between individual volition and our collective fate:

"Our personal psychology is just a thin skin, a ripple upon the ocean of collective psychology. The powerful factor, the factor which changes our whole life, which changes the surface of our known world, which makes history, is collective psychology, and collective psychology moves according to laws entirely different from those of our consciousness. The archetypes are the great decisive forces, they bring about the real events, and not our personal reasoning and practical intellect.... Sure enough, the archetypal images decide the fate of man. Man's unconscious psychology decides and not what we think and talk in the brain-chamber up in the attic."[8]

If we substitute Jung's vocabulary, grounded in his mythological appropriation of psychology, with Heidegger's philosophical categories, we will find an essential congruence in the thought of Jung and Heidegger. For instance, if "authentic Dasein" stands in for "man's unconscious psychology" we will have reconstructed another expression of Heidegger's argument that fate is neither created nor transformed by the conscious activities of men. Rather fate is a pre-existing state, an archetype in Jung's terminology, whose "call" on some unconscious level, one is compelled to "answer" or risk the consequences of inauthenticity.

The affinity between Heidegger's thinking and Jung's should not be interpreted as a case of cross- pollination between philosophy and psychology. Rather, what it does demonstrate is a shared outlook deriving from a common ideological source. This common substratum is the Volkisch ideology that had been gestating in Germany for a century prior to the development of Nazism. Whereas the philosophers of the counter-Enlightenment paved the way for Volkisch ideology, an eclectic assortment of ideologues were its actual authors. From the Romantic reaction against the Enlightenment, to Nietzsche's pronouncement that nihilism is the culmination of Reason, the belief in progress and the perfectibility of mankind through science and social evolution was successively undermined. These moods resonated among those social forces that found themselves increasingly displaced and marginalized by the industrialization of Germany in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The rise of Volkisch ideology expressed the fears of peasants, artisans and landowners squeezed between the pincer movements of the bourgeoisie and the working class.

Ideologies emerge not only from the official philosophical schools, but are also generated through an "underground" whose leading representatives are often barely noticed by later historians. Heinrich Riehl (1823-97), a man who left no trace in any history of philosophy text, was a seminal theorist of Volkisch ideology. His book Land und Leute [ Places and People] argued that the inner character of a people is completely intertwined with their particular native landscape. Central to Riehl's thinking and to Volkisch ideology thereafter is the concept that certain classes or ethnic groups have an organic relationship to the land and are thus "rooted" whereas others are "rootless" and cannot be assimilated to the Volk. The historian George L. Mosse in his definitive history of Volkisch ideology, provides a summary of this aspect of Riehl's ideas:

"Yet for Riehl a third class, dangerous to the body politic and unfit to be accommodated within Volkisch society, had come into being. This group, identified as true 'proletariat,' consisted of the totally disinherited ...

"What precluded the integration of the proletariat into the system of estates was its instability, its restlessness. This group was a part of the contemporary population which could never sink roots of any permanence. In its ranks was the migratory worker, who lacking native residence, could not call any landscape his own. There was also the journalist, the polemicist, the iconoclast who opposed ancient custom, advocated man-made panaceas, and excited the people to revolt against the genuine and established order. Above all there was the Jew, who by his very nature was restless. Although the Jew belonged to a Volk, it occupied no specific territory and was consequently doomed to rootlessness. These elements of the population dominated the large cities, which they had erected, according to Riehl, in their own image to represent their particular landscape. However, this was an artificial domain, and in contrast to serene rootedness, everything it contained, including the inhabitants, was in continuous motion. The big city and the proletariat seemed to fuse into an ominous colossus which was endangering the realm of the Volk ..."[9]

Jung, having been philosophically predisposed towards Volkisch mythology, expressed sympathy with Nazism in the immediate period after 1933. Unlike Heidegger, however, Jung did not answer the "call" and never joined the Nazis. It is perhaps not entirely coincidental that this unflattering period of Jung's biography, like that of Heidegger's, although known for decades, has only recently become the subject of critical scholarship.[10]

It is not too difficult to see how the themes of "rootedness" and "rootlessness" appear in Being and Time as "authenticity" and "inauthenticity." The Volkisch strands in Heidegger's thought combined with the irrationalist heritage of Nietzsche to produce an eloquent statement of the social position of the petty bourgeois in the period between the two world wars. In his study of the genesis of irrationalist philosophy George Lukacs diagnosed the social psychology of the time that created such an opening for Heidegger's conceptualization:

"Thus Heidegger's despair had two facets: on the one hand, the remorseless baring of the individual's inner nothingness in the imperialistic crisis; on the other—and because the social grounds for this nothingness were being fetishistically transformed into something timeless and anti-social—the feeling to which it gave rise could very easily turn into a desperate revolutionary activity. It is certainly no accident that Hitler's propaganda continually appealed to despair. Among the working masses, admittedly, the despair was occasioned by their socio-economic situation. Among the intelligentsia, however, that mood of nihilism and despair from whose subjective truth Heidegger proceeded, which he conceptualized, clarified philosophically and canonized as authentic, created a basis favourable to the efficacy of Hitlerian agitation."[11]

One can add the observation made by Lukacs, that official National Socialist "philosophy" could never have gained a mass audience without years of irrationalist culture paving the way.

"But for a 'philosophy' with so little foundation or coherence, so profoundly unscientific and coarsely dilettantish to become prevalent, what were needed were a specific philosophical mood, a disintegration of confidence in understanding and reason, the destruction of human faith in progress, and credulity towards irrationalism, myth and mysticism."[14]

Perhaps then Heidegger's biggest crime was not his enlistment in the Nazi Party and assumption of the rectorship of Freiburg. These were merely political crimes, of the sort committed by many thousands of yes-men. Perhaps his crime against philosophy is more fundamental. Through it he contributed in no small degree to the culture of barbarism that nourished the Nazi beast.

Danse Macabre: Heidegger, Pragmatism and Postmodernism

"This conceit which understands how to belittle every truth, in order to turn back into itself and gloat over its own understanding, which knows how to dissolve every thought and always find the same barren Ego instead of any content—this is a satisfaction which we must leave to itself, for it flees the universal, and seeks only to be for itself."[15]

One of the most curious philosophical trends in the postwar period has been the embrace of Heidegger by many left-leaning intellectuals. This is an extraordinarily complex subject to which we can hardly do justice in the scope of this presentation. We wish simply to sketch the epistemological kinship, despite the historical differences, between Heidegger and his contemporary sympathizers.

What has characterized the postwar intelligentsia in the West has been the wholesale abandonment of any identification with Marxism, humanism or any vestige of Enlightenment rationality. The hopes of a generation of radical intellectuals were trampled underneath the weight of the failed revolutionary movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s. It would be hard to underestimate the impact on the French intelligentsia in particular of the failure of the revolutionary upsurge of May-June 1968. Legions of former left intellectuals began a wholesale retreat from the Enlightenment vision of an emancipatory rationality. Their spirit of despair was summed up by the late Jean-Francois Lyotard, the founder of postmodernism:

"We can observe and establish a kind of decline in the confidence that for two centuries, the West invested in the principle of a general progress of humanity. This idea of a possible, probable, or necessary progress is rooted in the belief that developments made in the arts, technology, knowledge and freedoms would benefit humanity as a whole ...

"There is a sort of grief in the Zeitgeist. It can find expression in reactive, even reactionary, attitudes or in utopias—but not in a positive orientation that would open up a new perspective."[16]

Lyotard's personal history exemplifies the political and intellectual transformation of an entire generation of radicals. In the 1950s and 1960s he was on the editorial board of the radical journal Socialisme ou Barbarie. He was an active participant in the events of May 1968. Following the restabilization of the Gaullist regime after 1968, Lyotard turned against Marxism, which he characterized, along with the Enlightenment notion of progress, as a "failed metanarrative."

Holding the attempt to encompass in thought the terrible recent history of our time a failure, it was not a very big step for the postmodernists to appropriate the irrationalist tradition that turned its back on the Enlightenment. This is where the Heidegerrians, postmodernists, deconstructionists and neo-pragmatists find a common ground. All these trends reject what they call the traditional conceptual thinking, "Philosophy" or "Science" with capital letters.

Why did these disparate philosophical traditions gravitate to Heidegger's notion of a "thinking that is more rigorous than the conceptual"?[17]

They saw in Heidegger the intellectual apparatus that would take them beyond the now suspect model of rationality that has been the hallmark of Western philosophy for 2,500 years. Heidegger provided the anti-foundationalist approach of Derrida, Rorty and others with a systematic critique of the history of philosophy. The postmodernists, deconstructionists and pragmatists solemnly accepted Heidegger's diagnosis of the terminal state of Western thought when he said, "What is needed in the present world crisis is less philosophy, but more attentiveness in thinking; less literature, but more cultivation of the letter."[18]

The neo-pragmatist Richard Rorty comes to the identical conclusion when he writes:

"If Philosophy disappears, something will have been lost which was central to Western intellectual life—just as something central was lost when religious intuitions were weeded out from among intellectually respectable candidates for Philosophical articulation. But the Enlightenment thought, rightly, that what would succeed religion would be better. The pragmatist is betting that what succeeds the 'scientific,' positivist culture which the Enlightenment produced will be better."[19]

In a remarkable confession, Rorty himself explains the underlying sociological imperative that has produced this sea-change in Western thought. In describing the malaise that has passed over Western thought Rorty writes:

"It reflects the sociopolitical pessimism which has afflicted European and American intellectuals ever since we tacitly gave up on socialism without becoming any fonder of capitalism—ever since Marx ceased to present an alternative to Nietzsche and Heidegger. This pessimism, which sometimes calls itself 'postmodernism,' has produced a conviction that the hopes for greater freedom and equality which mark the recent history of the West were somehow deeply self-deceptive."[20]

We thus witness the peculiar intellectual partnership between the post 1968 generation of disappointed ex-radicals with the ideas of the German radical right of the 1920s. The warm reception for Derrida and French postmodernism in the United States can be explained by a series of developments in the past three decades that in many ways parallels the experiences of the French intelligentsia. We have in mind the disillusionment that occurred when the heady days of protest politics of the 1960s and early 1970s gave way to the constricted cultural and political landscape of the Reagan administration.

Yet, what is the content of the new "thinking" about which Heidegger, Derrida and Rorty speculate? We will look in vain in the works of Heidegger, Rorty, Lyotard or Derrida for an explanation of what this new "thinking" is and how it is "better" than a thinking grounded in an attempt to conceptualize an objective world. At best, we are told to look at the work of poets and other artists whose intuitive aesthetic view of the world is offered as a new paradigm of knowledge. This explains the later Heidegger's abandonment of the traditional philosophical issues in favor of musings on the poetry of Hölderlin. We can discern a similar trend in the works of the postmodernists and neo-pragmatists. Derrida for instance has sought to redefine the philosophical enterprise as a form of literary text. Rorty champions the "good-natured" novelists at the expense of the sickly philosophers.[21]

Heidegger's claim to point to a primordial "thinking" that is in some way a return to a more authentic, uncorrupted insight is hardly new in the history of philosophy. It is but a variation of the claim that immediate intuition provides a surer basis for knowledge than the mediated sequence of concepts that brings particulars into relation with universals. The attempt to grasp the bare particular, uncorrupted by the universal, whether conceived of as "sense perception" or a mystical access to the divine, has dogged philosophy for centuries. In his own time, Hegel had to respond to the intuitionists who opposed critical thought. Replying to these thinkers, he wrote, "what is called the unutterable is nothing else than the untrue, the irrational, what is merely meant [but is not actually expressed]."[22]

This comment, it seems to us, makes a perfect coda to Heidegger's "thinking" that is beyond philosophy. Heidegger's "thinking" is not post-philosophic but pre-philosophic. We have not so much overcome the history of metaphysics, as we have regressed to a period in the history of thought prior to the emergence of metaphysics, prior to the differentiation of science from myth and religion.

The pomposity and pretentiousness of Heidegger's return to the archaic was magnificently punctured by one of Heidegger's earliest and most trenchant critics, Theodore Adorno. Adorno highlighted the hidden assumption in Heidegger's thought, "the identification of the archaic with the genuine." Continuing this thought he wrote:

"But the triviality of the simple is not, as Heidegger would like it to be, attributable to the value-blindness of thought that has lost being. Such triviality comes from thinking that is supposedly in tune with being and reveals itself as something supremely noble. Such triviality is the sign of that classifying thought, even in the simplest word, from which Heidegger pretends that he has escaped: namely, abstraction."[23]

What practical results ensue from this kind of "thinking"? The non-mediated perception leads one back to the "familiar." The "familiar" is that which we take for granted as being self-evidently true. It is the realm of historically ingrained assumptions and class biases, those axioms of everyday life that are accepted by ones friends and colleagues that make up the realm of the "familiar." The intuitionist is thereby a slave to the historically rooted ideologies of his place and time, all the while thinking that he has overcome all dogmas and prejudices. For Heidegger, the "familiar" is heavily invested with the ideological stance of the Radical right, its shared mythology of a Volk having a common destiny, the betrayal of the fatherland by the liberals and socialists, etc. For the contemporary crop of postmodernists and neo-pragmatists, it is possible to delineate a common set of beliefs that are considered today's intellectual coin of the realm. Among these one could mention the following:

Rational discourse is incapable of encompassing the complexities and nuances of (post)modern society. (The fact that such a statement is itself an example of rational discourse and is therefore self-refuting does not seem to bother proponents of this view.)

The notion of progress cannot be demonstrated in history. This is closely related to a deep sense of skepticism about the possibility of harnessing technology for the benefit of humanity.

The working class cannot play a revolutionary role. Some postmodernists counterpose other forces to the working class. Others simply despair of any possibility of a revolutionary transformation of society. Others even deny the existence of the working class in contemporary society.

All, however, are united in their conviction that the prospect for socialism is precluded in our time. It follows that Marxism is conceived as a hopeless Utopian dream. This last conviction is uncritically adopted by all shades of postmodernism, deconstruction and neo-pragmatism. It has the force of a new dogma, one that remains completely unrecognized by its proponents.

Let us be clear. The defenders of Heidegger today are not, with a few notable exceptions such as Ernst Nolte, supporters of fascism. What they see in Heidegger is his attack on the history of rational thought. Like Heidegger, they wish to return to a mythical past prior to the corrupting influence of Western metaphysics. The politics of the "primordial thinkers," those who would in Hegel's words, "flee the universal," invariably leads to a politics that elevates the immediate and fragmentary at the expense of the objective and universal interests of humanity.

It is not accidental that the postmodernists have become supporters of various forms of "identity politics," grounded in subjectively conceived particularistic interests, such as gender or ethnic group or even neighborhood. They oppose any notion of a politics based on universal and objective class interests. This is but a variation of Heidegger's political position of the 1920s and 1930s in which the reality of the mythical Volksgemeinschaft became the chief principle around which political positions were formulated.

Finally, we wish to ask once more why has Heidegger been considered by many the greatest philosopher of this century? We can certainly elucidate some reasons why philosophers and others who have no sympathy for fascism, find his work compelling. His work does evince a deep familiarity with the history of philosophy and its problems. He also develops a very novel interpretation of this history. At bottom, the content of his thought is neither profound nor original. Judgments of this sort are not, however, based on the content of Heidegger's philosophy. They arise from the perceived lack of an alternative to the spirit of nihilism that pervades our age. Heidegger more than anyone else in the twentieth century gave voice to that spirit.

It is a spirit whose presence must be banished. The other of nihilism, the spirit of hope and equality ushered in by the Enlightenment, is Marxism. We wish to conclude with the words of the German Marxist, Walter Benjamin, himself a victim of the Nazis. Commenting on Ernst Jünger's book celebrating the fascist aesthetic, War and Warriors, he wrote the following, at a time (1930) when the fascist threat began to cast a very dark shadow:

" Until Germany has exploded the entanglement of such Medusa-like beliefs cannot hope for a future. ...Instead, all the light that language and reason still afford should be focused upon that 'primal experience' from whose barren gloom this mysticism of the death of the world crawls forth on its thousand unsightly conceptual feet. The war that this light exposes is as little the 'eternal' one which these new Germans now worship as it is the 'final' war that the pacifists carry on about. In reality, that war is only this: the one, fearful, last chance to correct the incapacity of peoples to order their relationships to one another in accord with the relationships they posses to nature through their technology. If this corrective effort fails, millions of human bodies will indeed inevitably be chopped to pieces and chewed up by iron and gas. But even the habitues of the chthonic forces of terror, who carry their volumes of Klages in their packs, will not learn one-tenth of what nature promises its less idly curious but more sober children, who possess in technology not a fetish of doom but a key to happiness."[24]

Many of the concepts discussed in the essays above are to be found in previous entries at this blog. Our goal here is to create a case for the defense of Modernity, and to show that our opponents are heirs to the Counter-Enlightenment and Romantic movements of the late 18th and 19th centuries culminating in Naziism and today's fascist Post-Modernism and Left dhimmi fascism.

For those who came this far we hope you'll take the time to comment.