Evola Viewed from the Right (II)

⇐   Part 1 of a review of Julius Evola’s Fascism Viewed from the Right
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Evola points out an obvious, yet forgotten, fact that is more applicable to the USA than to Italy or Europe in general. In the USA, what is called “conservative” is actually “liberal” in historical terms. Specifically, it is the political system of the Third Estate, of the bourgeoisie, of “free enterprise” capitalism. Hence, in respect to the rule of the Priests and Warriors, it is actually on the “left”, a revolutionary idea. Only in relationship to socialism and communism can it be considered to be on the “right”, but only relatively, not absolutely or in principle. The true right, therefore, is confusing to conservatives; on the one hand, it also opposes socialism, but on the other it seems alien. That is why American conservatives are so fickle on the so-called “social issues”, sometimes attached to them, and other times, wishing they would disappear from public discourse. Hence, when pushed, the conservatives eventually side with the socialists against the true right. That is why they always lose and only claim victory when the eventually adopt more and more values of the left.

In the USA, the so-called liberals are actually socialist. Most will deny this, but keep in mind that we are describing real relationships, not nominal. Anyone who opposes not only the Priests and Warriors, but the Bourgeoisie as well in favor of formerly marginalized groups are of the left, in reality, even if not nominally. That is why the left is constantly in fear of an alliance of the Church and the Military, to which they add corporations (the symbol of the bourgeoisie), often with the prefix of “evil”. The irony is that those groups hardly oppose the left any more, in fact, they are often at the forefront of promoting leftist ideas. Rather than a direct attack, the left prefers incentives, regulations, cultural domination, and even outright infiltration to shift the remnants of the three estates of the realm to the revolutionary side; hence, they have become useless as counter-revolutionary counterweights.

Hence, Evola’s project will also have to show how the Fascist system dealt with the economic domain. He points out that unified Italy, which had come into existence just a generation or two before Mussolini, was modeled on the French revolution and not any true right. Evola points out that Italy did not have an established aristocracy to represent a true right; on the other hand, there was no reign of terror as there had been in France. Evola does not point out that the right was dominated by the church at that time, which was opposed to the Italian republic.

An excellent point he made is the idea of the “loyal opposition”, which can have some merit within a parliamentary system. The purpose of the opposition party is really to keep things honest, to offer sound criticism. The ruling and opposition parties both still support the state and its transcendent principles. Compare that with contemporary systems in which the various parties agree on no principles and are constantly trying to overturn the other. Hence, there is constant agitation as one party seeks to assert its dominance over the other, not just for power’s sake, for to alter entire moral and social structures.

Evola wants to distinguish certain principles of Fascism from its specific manifestation in Italy during the twenty years under Mussolini. He explains:

Fascism has undergone a process of what can be called mythologizing. In regard to it, the attitude taken by most people has an emotional and irrational character, instead of a critical and intellectual one.

That may be true, so his appeal to rationalism over emotionalism makes sense. However, in the traditional point of view, there is a perspective that is higher than the “critical and intellectual one”. Perhaps Mussolini is not a mythical figure, but the Leader was often mythologized. If we start from Guido De Giorgio’s understanding, he acted quite literally as God’s representative on earth. The Leader was revered as such from the Egyptian Pharaohs to Roman Empire. In some cases the Leader could even be understood as an avatar of God, such as, for example, Parashurama, who overturned the revolt of the Kshatriyas.

That is why one should take with caution Evola’s assertion that “the two planes of principle and historical contingency are absolutely distinct.” Of course, they are not “absolutely” distinct as though the plane of manifestation had an independent reality and was not itself the reflection of the spiritual plane. He means here the limited sense that the events of history cannot be understood simply as a judgment on the truth of principles; hence, Italy’s defeat does not imply the invalidity of the principles of Fascism, not the truth of the political systems of the Allies. Hence, Evola intends to evaluate Fascism in a more limited way. He is hampered in this task in that Fascism did not start from a clearly formulated doctrine, but rather it developed in an organic way over time. Evola’s task, then, is to extract the main principles while ignoring any stillborn intellectual offshoots.

In chapter III, Evola says that Fascism began as a “reaction” against the secular masonic state, which Evola describes as:

a state that on the whole lacked a myth in the positive sense, i.e., a superior animating and formative idea that could have made of it something more than a mere structure of public administration.

Against this, Fascism, Evola claimed, revived the idea of the state. Actually, the neo-idealism of Giovanni Gentile provided that revival, and it owed more than a little to Hegel. WWI awakened forces that “were intolerant of bourgeois Italy”. These forces were a fortiori intolerant of the socialists who had opposed interventionism, so Fascism began to define itself as a movement of the counterrevolutionary right. As such, it opposed democracy, plutocracy, freemasonry, in short, the principles of the French Revolution. It is obvious now, a half century after Evola’s book, that no major movement (i.e., one with any pretense of political power) of the so-called right would adopt any of that platform and would actually be appalled by it. Hence, the universal opprobrium attribute to Fascism or to any movement that smacks of it. So when Evola tries to extract what is “good” in Fascism, it won’t be seen as universally good.

The first principle that Evola gets into is the idea of the state, which is given pre-eminence, both over the people and the nation. He quotes Mussolini:

Without the State there is no nation. There are merely human aggregates subject to all the disintegrations which history may inflict upon them … only the State gives structure to the people … the nation is created by the State which gives the people a will and thereby a real existence. [my translation]

Evola makes use here of the notion of hylomorphism, which has done so effectively in various contexts. Here, specifically, the “state” is the form and the people the “matter”, in a relation analogous to that between the soul and the body. The Fascist state, therefore, is the animating and organizing force; this is the opposite of the modern minimalist liberal state which protects the liberties of the individuals who inhabit a particular geographic region.

To perform its task, the Fascist state affirmed “authority, order, and justice”, and appealed to the Roman idea (“Romanity”). Evola describes it:

Fascism recalled the Roman idea as the supreme and specific integration of the myth of the new “strong and organic” political organism; Roman tradition was not merely rhetoric and tinsel, but an “idea of strength”.

Evola admired that audacious move, since it tried to build a bridge across the centuries, connecting Italy at that time to ancient Rome. Evola points out a problem in that the significance of the state differed on both sides of the bridge. Moreover, the virile ethics, severity, and discipline of the Romans may not have transferred so well to the Italians. This Evola marked as a defect and the attempts to re-assert Romanity were non-existent or ineffective. He points to the Institute of Roman Studies which was never more than mere erudition promoting the study of philology and archaeology, rather than an effective political, spiritual, and ethical force.

12 thoughts on “Evola Viewed from the Right (II)

  1. Taking the example of Iran, I would tend to see it as more like medieval Europe in terms of the division of authority. The religious lead is taken by the Ayatollahs of the Guardian Council, but the political Leader in terms of every rule seems to be the President (previously Ahmadinejad, now Rohani). Does the revolutionary Guard fulfill the role of Kshatriya, if in an imperfect form?

    On the State, perhaps we should watch our definitions. Do we mean the bodies which govern the country, or the foundation on which they are based? The Romans lived under several forms of government, from monarchy to Republic to various forms of Imperial rule. So what was the constant in each era which defined the State and people? Even Roman values like severity and simplicity changed throughout the years. The only uniting principle was Rome the idea, even as Rome referred first to a city and then to an Imperium. Rome did not fall when Alaric sacked the city, but when that idea ceased to define its civilization (and that in itself is hard to place. Secessions took place several times…look up the Empire of the Gauls). So then the nation is the “folk”, the people and culture in its diversity and unity; the State in Traditional terms comes to be when the ruling elite among a people uses Traditional principles as their standard. The communist State, alternatively, uses communist ideology as its standard and guide. So the State is definable as when a ruling body has principles to guide and judge themselves, and are not just ruling for personal gain.

    To use Dugin’s analysis, fascism was defined by taking the State in and of itself as its foundation (an observation which has problems, but useful nonetheless). This is why it tended, like communism, toward totalitarianism. One of its errors was to abandon the idea of the State as needing to embody the Idea. Others never intended this at all and simply used religious and nationalistic rhetoric to attain power. A State without such a foundation is a ruling gang. And indeed, most States are gangs which are molded over time to higher purposes. Rome was once, after all, a band of tribes just trying to survive on the Italian peninsula.

  2. Anon, I invoked my privilege to remove the link you provided since it contains scurrilous gossip, the type of activity that men don’t engage in. The reason you weren’t sure where to put it is because it doesn’t belong here, it has nothing to do with anything discussed here. Surely that thought must have crossed your mind? Please consider yourself unwelcome to post any more comments here.

    Arktos Media is mentioned as a courtesy because they provided a review copy of the book in question and readers may be interested in purchasing it. I am doing the review from Evola’s Italian text and have provided alternative translations where I felt the English translation is incorrect, misleading, or inadequate.

    The personal activities of the principles of Arktos Media are of no concern to us and a mere link to a publisher should not be construed of an endorsement of things we know nothing about.

  3. Wasn’t sure where to post this. Thought I would include it here, just for fun, since Arktos gets mentioned in your article. The Arktos-related section begins about half-way down. Cheers.

    [link removed]

  4. Interesting point indeed Cologero! I agree with your assessment of the umma and you are right that it is inline with De Giorgio’s understanding of the traditional state.
    However, even though we might disagree with Evola’s definition, I am still not clear how his is a contradiction as you say?

  5. Cologero brought up the Iranian leader who is a fine example of the Capo.

    Is there not though an inherent problem within Catholicism that an absolute state could never be created because the Pope could never tolerate a Duce having temporal authority over the priests (as de Giorgio’s Capo does) ? and unlike Islam the Pope is not a temporal ruler as the Caliph or Imam Khomeini was so we are stuck with a dualism at the top – the same dualism that destroyed Frederick II’s attempt to build a new empire in the XIIIth century.

  6. Now you are getting to an interesting point, Saladin, which exposes a contradiction in Evola (and also the Fascist state). I was eventually going to get to this, but here is suitable as a starting point.

    Forgive me for venturing beyond my competence, but I believe the following to be true. The umma is not really an aggregate of individuals, but rather of a community of persons united in Islam. Correct? So the state expresses the will of the umma and speaks for it in temporal affairs. Nevertheless, the state is subordinate to Islam. This is more in line with how Guido De Giorgio understood the traditional state. Iran, moreover, even has a Supreme Leader, as De Giorgio suggested, and his role is certainly higher than Il Duce Mussolini since it encompasses spiritual leadership.

    What Evola wants, and this was true even of his philosophical foil Giovanni Gentile, is for the state to be absolute. That is why Evola had so much trouble with the Catholic church’s role in the state. This is an extension of Evola’s failure to resolve consistently how he saw the relation between the Priests and the Warriors. Hence, the Italian state as such could not create the spirit of the people as much as Evola expected it. The people were united in their religious tradition, and the state grudgingly had to come to terms with it.

  7. Thanks for your clarification Cologero!
    You maybe right in saying that Evola’s justification for the State was Classical and not Hegelian, but Evola himself mentions that Hegel was one of his earlier influences.
    I do not reject the State in toto (I don’t think any Traditionalist would) but to say that “Without the State there is no nation”, as Avery said, is an inversion of the normal order of things. Again, I have to renew my studies of Evola’s writings on this topic, but in your reply to Avery, you make the case that Evola’s use of the term is quite different from it’s modern connotations.
    Taking my tradition as an example, ss far as I can tell (and I am not an expert in Islamic history, even though I grew up Iran) in Islam the “state” is subordinate and secondary to the “umma”. That is to say: the nation (or the folk) is the soul of the state and not the other way around.

  8. Saladin, I don’t believe that Evola was particularly fond of Hegel. Actually, he gave a classical, not an Hegelian, justification for the state as the soul of a nation. If Evola’s view of the state is not pleasing to you, then what would you put in its place as the consciousness of the nation? Or do you reject the concept in toto and see nothing but an aggregate of individuals? If not, how is that aggregate organized?

    I should also point out that Evola referred to Guenon as the Maestro, so it is preferable to reserve that term for him.

  9. Avery, you are confusing the State with a government. The examples you provide are bureaucratic agencies, mere artifacts, not something natural and organic.
    Evola claims the organic state is actually the soul of the nation, intimately connected to the people, of which it is the organizing principle, its consciousness. The state, in this conception, does not exist in a vacuum, but only in relation to the “matter”, i.e., the people. The state, then, is the conscious manifestation of the not yet fully conscious of its identity. That does not mean it lacks an identity.

    The modern idea is along the lines of Rousseau’s Social Contract. Individuals get together to create a government, regulated by a contract or constitution, that is supposed to safeguard each of their interests. That is not a nation, but rather a congeries of competing interests. Of course, the actual individual is helpless in that situation, so various power blocs emerge further fractioning the government which is forced to expend all its efforts in appeasing the various factions.

    The situation Mussolini encountered was a people who only knew a the liberal social contract type of state. That was the matter he needed to work with, mold, and shape; in other words, the historically contingent situation. So, his task was more than the situation in a truly organic society which did not know such a conception. Hence, there was an educative aspect necessary, for which he invoked the idea of Romanity (a word which the English translation avoids using, for no good reason. The Romans did not need an institute because they did not need to be educated, they already embodied those qualities.

    This is one of Evola’s main points. The historical failure of Fascism was not because of the falsity of its principles, but rather to the contingencies of the time.

    As we mentioned in the review, those principles are anathema to the modern mind, which can see in them only totalitarianism and stultification, rather than the call to live life on a superior, virile level. Individuals today, however, prefer to choose their own paths to fulfillment even if the almost always fall short. As we showed in Kidz, Kulcha, Kreativity, even the best and the brightest seldom find their way beyond animal existence.

  10. I think he means something more subtle, along the lines of the symbol: “the eagle is not a piece of metal – the eagle IS Rome”.

    “We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us; we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges. When soldiers take their oath they are given a coin, an asimi stamped with the profile of the Autarch. Their acceptance of that coin is their acceptance of the special duties and burdens of military life—they are soldiers from that moment, though they may know nothing of the management of arms. I did not know that then, but it is a profound mistake to believe that we must know of such things to be influenced by them, and in fact to believe so is to believe in the most debased and superstitious kind of magic. The would-be sorcerer alone has faith in the efficacy of pure knowledge; rational people know that things act of themselves or not at all.”
    ? Gene Wolfe, Shadow and Claw

    I agree that in a sense, the Nation brings forth the State. But in another sense (and I think this is the meaning intended by Evola, although I could be wrong), it is the Regime or State and ultimately the Capo or Head who gives a final definitive cast to the political body.

  11. I agree with you Avery! The only point of contention that I have always had with the Maestro has been his total defense of the State. Granted, his state is more nuanced than what you have described, the Hegalian influence on Evola was not entirely wholesome. Here I side with Nietzsche when in Thus Spake Zarathustra he likens it to a monster.

  12. “Without the State there is no nation.”

    This is precisely the inverse of the truth, and if that sounds like a political or loaded statement, try knocking it down a few levels: “Without City Hall there is no city,” or “Without the Bureau of Indian Affairs there are no Indians.” Evola shouldn’t have been surprised that Fascism could not engineer itself into being “organic”. Ancient Rome never needed an Institute of Roman Studies.

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