In the September, 1941 issue of La Vita Italiana, Julius Evola wrote a review of Das Reich der Völker by the German political theorist, Hans Keller. The first part of Evola’s essay is a review of the book. In the second part, whose translation appears below (ff), Evola provides his own conception of the role of the Volk. Clearly, Evola cannot support Keller’s naturalism nor the role of the Volk as the vanguard or the base for the political organization.
In the Traditional perspective, the Volk is lunar or passive and therefore has to rely on a spiritual and political hierarchy for its full development. Thus Evola must needs oppose any sort of nationalism on the basis of an ethnicity or a race. In rejecting that sort of neo-Nordicism, Evola will lead us back to the ideal of Romanity.
In primis et ante omnia we cannot adhere to the mythology of the Volk, of the “people nation”, so dear to Keller, who makes them the base of his juridical edifice. Mussolini once spoke ironically of the “mysterious entity that calls itself the people”. “People”, be it only as “Volk”, is a simple myth that always and inevitably sounds like demagogy: of the type which is accompanied by intense polemical applications to disvalue and degrade the significance of everything that is the State, the formative political force from above. Keller stands on the most naïve optimistic natural law: he believes that the people exist as a very precise entity, equipped with its own consciousness, its own will, determined by “eternal laws” superior to all political forms in which they are concretized, a depositary of determinate values. We can only speak of similar things to some naïve types for whom, today, the natural meaning of nationality (quite different from every “nationalism” and deprived of a “political” character) becames something extremely tenuous in the face of becoming the “mass” of the people and the advent of a civilization no longer based of truly traditional values. Hegel said, “the people is that part of the State that does not know what it wills”. That is exact. Our fascist idea is that the people, the nation, exists only as the State, in the State, and in a certain measure, only through the work of the State.
But our State is not the end of Keller’s artificial antitheses: it is not a juridical superstructure, a mere fact of “power”, an external power without basis. Our State is ethical and spiritual. It has the value of an entelechy, i.e., of a formative force of the nation and of the “people”, who otherwise would remain a diffuse and unformed reality, vegetating on a naturalistic plane of life, without any metaphysical, ethical, or truly heroic tension.
Our point of view is detached both from the idea of natural law and the collectivizing of the people, as well as the abstract, juridical and rationalistic of the State. We are realists. We do not believe in the “people”, instead we believe in a guiding, formative elite and, wherever it happens, leaders of the people. Keller has in mind the State only as caput mortuum, i.e., as that which became in some cases, when the political structure created by leaders and elites personifying living traditions depersonalized themselves, objectified themselves, created an excuse to justify themselves, giving to understand the existence of public autonomous powers and of neutral juridical forms or norms to order to obtain in that way recognition to which the direct affirmation and the prominent prestige by the high stature of the Leaders and by superior princes was not enough.
To reach the same goal, i.e., to hold it without exhibiting it, along other directions, therefore, it is joined to the creation of a myth opposite in appearance to that of the neutral “State”, but in reality ansering to the same end: the myth of the “people”. Keller lets himself avoid the admission that the idea of the Volk was “discovered” in 1933. Even if the date is not for us so recent, having some precise antecedents especially in democratic nationalism and French Jacobinism, (in fact even in France, as the antitheses to an excess of statism, determined by the centralizing, absolutistic, and anti-aristocratic work followed by the kings up to Philip the Fair, left, for the first time, the mystique of the nation, of the people as source of every law, not putting up with any authority from above)—even, therefore, if the Volk was not even discovered in 1933, only it stands in fact that the mythology referring to it is new, it was unknown by preceding civilizations and there came to life for precise political and propagandistic reasons: the “people” and Volk, far from being notions having, today, a real content, are two idea-forces, two myths taken up by a power to affirm a given political system, determined by circumstances, to capture and organize the forces—in themselves directionless and apt to follow very different suggestions—of the true people and to strengthen therefore a give type of political authority. For the less important socializing tendentiality, it was not necessary to us in Italy to have recourse even to this myth: to us the spiritual idea of the State, and moreover, the direct authority that proceeds from a Duce and from a Monarch were sufficiently based to lead to the same result.
Keller says that all the differences between statualistic law and one based on the idea of Volk lies in the judgment on human nature: in the first case, as in every idea of Reich and Imperium of Roman Catholic origin, it is pessimistic and does not have faith in human nature, while in the second case it has. But what is this “human nature”? We are not pessimists, but realists. We believe in human nature, but not of everyone, less than ever in the collectivity as the mass, whose psychology we know well; instead, we believe in that of the minority who create the States, who animate the peoples, who lead the collectivities to the heights which they could never reach alone. Neither statism, therefore, nor natural law, but the aristocratic hierarchical ideal, without the charade that is necessary only to demagogues and weak natures. That is what we mean by Roman and Aryan realism.
Keller says: “to the Romanesque people, only the State is important, even if they serve additively nationalistic motives.”
We say that we can even renounce the additive motives; we value the Mussolinian idea, according to which the people is something weak and blind, before they came to constitute a reality and a unitary will, compenetrated by higher meanings with the birth of the State. But we are not statists, because we do not make an idol of the State, as Keller and certain German jurists make of the Volk: because behind the State, in our view, there is somebody, there are Leaders, Monarchs—if you want, there is a “superrace”, in which alone “nation”, “people”, “race”, “tradition” cease to be abstractions. Every great “people” is always comprised of various influences, various racial elements, various traditions. It is the work of the elites to choose, to affirm, from among them all, a given element, to subordinate every other to it, leading back in that way to a precise order which otherwise would have remained heterogeneous and arrested in the form of a confused potentiality.
Part II ⇒