The Conservative Revolution Then and Now: Junger and the European New Right

Will Fredericks


The conservative revolutionary writers, as with some of the European New Right commentary on them, are not the easiest writers to interpret, let alone use. Their writings nevertheless provide a necessary base for any effective socio-political action. As Vladimir Lenin wrote “Without a revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement”.  Besides the type of revolutionary bomb thrower, who goes out in a quick blaze of glory, there are many other useful types for the activist or revolutionary, as Tom Sunic noted:

Unfortunately, many self-proclaimed White racialists think they can fight the System by violent means. Jünger’s sovereign type of a nonconformist wisely watches from his watchtower and waits for the right moment before he strikes.

There is, as I noted previously, an element of self-serving ambivalence one discovers in Jünger’s writing, and I suspect this is true of other conservative revolutionary writers as well. However, his insights are still broadly admired by those familiar with his writing.

In particular his work on Figures and Types is much admired. In his 1963 book, Type-Name-Figure, he noted that “Figure and Type are higher forms of vision. The conception of Figures confers a metaphysical power, the apprehension of Types an intellectual power.” Alain de Benoist discusses four of these  Figures in his review, Soldier, Worker, Rebel, Anarch: Types & Figures in Jünger’s Writings. The first of the figures is described as follows:

The Front Soldier (Frontsoldat) is first of all a witness to the end of classical wars: wars that gave priority to the chivalrous gesture, that were organized around the concepts of glory and honor, that generally spared civilians, and that distinguished clearly between the Front and the Rear.

The Front Soldier is followed in succession by the Worker, the Rebel, and the Anarch. Like the Soldier, the Worker is a collective creature of impersonal technology. They are both part of the “political” Junger and his heroic realism” of the Twenties. The Rebel and the Anarch by contrast are personal Figures of the unpolitical Junger. The Rebel “repudiates active impersonnality, because he intends to preserve his freedom” The Anarch is like the Rebel, but somehow different, described in a way that to me calls to mind “the Watchtower”  “The Rebel is still in revolt, while the Anarch is beyond revolt. The Rebel carries on in secret—he hides in the shadows—while the Anarch remains in plain sight. Finally, whereas the Rebel is banished by society, the Anarch banishes himself. He is not excluded; he is emancipated.”

As I previously noted, it seems problematical to me how White nationalists could use Jünger’s later writings and his Anarch type as supportive of White nationalism—and equally problematical how his early writings could provide much support for traditionalism. It certainly might appear that Jünger’s early writings and his first two types, emphasizing “service” and “allegiance” over freedom, stand in opposition to his later writings, embodied by the last two types, the Rebel and the Anarch, which emphasize the opposite.  Alain de Benoist attempts to clear up this seeming misconception.

It is easy to see what differentiates the two couples formed, on the one hand, by the Front Soldier and the Worker, and on the other, by the Rebel and the Anarch. But one would be wrong to conclude from this that the “second Jünger,” of On the Marble Cliffs, is the antithesis of the first. Rather, this “second Jünger” actually represents a development, which was given a free course…—that one could describe as both mineral and crystalline—on the immutability of things and on that which, in the very heart of the present, raises us up to cosmic signs and a recognition of the infinite, thus nurturing the “stereoscopic vision” in which two flat images merge into a single image to reveal the dimension of depth.

There is thus no contradiction between the four Figures, but only a progressive deepening, a kind of increasingly fine sketch that led Jünger, initially an actor of his time, then a judge and critic of his time, to place himself finally above his time in order to testify to what came before his century and what will come after him.

Call it a defect in my “stereoscopic vision” but I still see a contradiction between the two couples, nor do I see how at least the latter can be at all reconciled with White nationalism. (Indeed, it’s difficult to reconcile even the former with traditionalism).  One immediate alternative explanation that may deserve consideration is whether, like many things in his writings, certain things about Jünger’s “Types” in this case, the chameleon-like nature of the Anarch, may be an apologia for certain characteristics Jünger found increasingly useful for his personal benefit as time went by. (In the article quoted below, Samuel Francis also suggests similar reasons behind some of the European New Right’s changes on stances—as a concession for the benefit of today’s PC thought police). Reading this passage from de Benoist one is also struck by a quote from von Klemperer directed at Moeller van den Bruck but broadly applicable to all the conservative revolutionaries. “His chief shortcoming lay in his failure to see that the dilemma of conservatism could not be solved by a virtuosity of style”.

In any event the feeling that Jünger’s views over time are ultimately consistent seems to be part of a pattern of positive interpretations given by de Benoist toward the conservative revolutionaries, as stated in an earlier essay:

In this vast movement with its innumerable ramifications, I by no means saw a current of thought that was merely a Wegbereiter with National Socialism, as has sometimes been said, but on the contrary, an alternative course whose development and a better structuring could perhaps have saved the world from the Hitlerian disaster.

Reading these words my initial impression was that, although clearly de Benoist finds enough redeeming factors among the conservative revolutionaries to strike a very upbeat tone regarding them, an endorsement from de Benoist and the European New Right no longer seems an unambiguous thing from a White nationalist or traditionalist viewpoint. Their views on multiculturalism have undergone a dramatic change in the past decade, and their apparent philosophical confusion today was described by Samuel Francis in one of his last (alas) articles.

In fact, it is never clear in O’Meara’s account why anyone who embraces post-modernism, whether on the left or the right, would retain any logical grounds for affirming any social fabric or philosophical commitment whatsoever. Despite O’Meara’s somewhat tortured account of how the New Right tries to eat the post-modernist cake while at the same time salvaging traditional identities that post-modernism rejects, the New Right’s position appears inherently arbitrary and contradictory.

Overall though, my intuitions about the nature of this interesting alliance between the old “German New Right” (“neo-conservatives” being an old alternative term for the conservative revolutionaries before the god-awful current appropriation of the term) and the European New Right must remain tentative. Although Counter-Currents Publishing kindly has been able to translate and publish some of Alain de Benoist’s recent work, it is a small sampling of a very large body of work stretching over a period of well over three decades, most of which has not been translated into English.

de Benoist’s article however is detailed enough to at least make some interesting speculations. He cites an interesting progression in his views on Jünger and the conservative revolutionaries in general, from an early, purely literary awareness, to a period of intense interest in their “political” works (focusing on the first couple of Figures), to a shift of interest to the latter unpolitical Jünger and the second couple of Figures. One wonders if this shift in interest might be connected with the shift in the views of de Benoist and others associated with the European New Right noted by Sam Francis, such as the shift from “counter-modernity” (which may largely characterize Francis’s own personal position, to “anti-modernity” (including taking a position against “xenophobia”). Francis describes counter-modernism and speculates on the reasons for the change among European New Rightists as follows.

Counter-modernism is itself a form of modernism and accepts many of its metaphysical premises (including its naturalism) while rejecting the conventional implications and constructs (especially social and political) that the Enlightenment and its heirs have devised. Examples of counter-modernist thinkers in Euro-American thought would be Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, the Federalist Papers, the Social Darwinists of the nineteenth century, the classical elite theorists Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca, and James Burnham.

Quite frankly, it is impossible not to suspect simple expediency and safety, as the European Thought Police (both figuratively in the dominant culture and literally in the actual criminalization of the right through “race relations” laws) in the 1980s began cracking down on what were demonized as “racism” and “hate speech.” The New Right may have found it safer to abandon counter-modernism and science entirely than to pursue and elaborate the logical social implications of the new science of man.

This explanation by Francis is certainly buttressed in the case of Jünger by his own actions per de Benoist “His youthful political writings were completely ignored, at least by the general public. …. In short, Jünger was seen as a writer and nothing else. Moreover, Jünger himself was apparently not only quite well-satisfied with this situation but contributed to it to his own way, since he long refused to allow a French translation of his great book of 1932, Der Arbeiter. And of course when a French translation of Der Arbeiter finally did come out, it stirred up the dread “polemics” Jünger seems to have tried in his later career to avoid. When today’s liberals read passages from his early work, such as “it is impossible to be too nationalistic,” and passages that invoke daemonic powers on nationalism’s behalf, they are unlikely to give him the Nobel Prize in literature as de Benoist thinks they should.

The opaqueness of some of de Benoist’s and Jünger’s writings today, together with the lack of knowledge about and material on them in English, doesn’t make definitive conclusions on them easy. But it seems clear that this trend toward the unpolitical explains both the decline of these two respective movements and the close ties that developed between Jünger and the European New Right. Moeller in his career went the opposite direction, from the unpolitical to the political, and wrote “Prussianism is the will to the state, and the interpretation of historical life as political life in which we must act as political men.” However, Von Klemperer goes on to say that “there was a close link between the “unpolitical” Moeller and the “political” Moeller; his politics were inspired by a search for the daemonic, for the myth. It was both the weakness and strength of Moeller’s politics, as it was of the politics of all revolutionary conservatives, that, compared with traditional Bismarckian standards, they remained basically “unpolitical.”

As with being “unpolitical,” the “search for the “daemonic” by no means distinguishes Moeller among the conservative revolutionaries. It is one of their general characteristics, and especially distinguishes Jünger through all phases of his work. The early phases of his work were marked by a penchant for barbarism that von Klemperer compares to Thomas Mann’s Dr. Faustus, summarizing by noting that “barbarism became for him, in Mann’s terms a — however “slightly compromising” — form of conservatism, and the devil a source of religiousness.” The later Jünger as described by de Benoist similarly is still entranced by the daemonic, albeit not in the form of militarism. Per de Benoist, “he [Jünger] wrote: ‘The visible contains all the signs that lead to the invisible. And the existence of the latter must be demonstrable in the visible model.’” Thus for Jünger, there is transcendence only in immanence. And when he intends to seek the “things that are behind things,” to use the expression he employs in his “Letter to the Man in the Moon,” it is while being convinced, like Novalis, that “the real is just as magical as the magical is real.”

In other words, taking refuge in the “unpolitical” and the “search for the daemonic, for the myth” seems to be in many ways a fairly time-honored solution by now for these orientations of European rightists, both  to handle a difficult political situation with increasingly limited political and social freedom, and to deal with their own ambiguities and ambivalences. Whatever the causes, a trend toward the unpolitical does not make it easy for those who endeavor to achieve a renaissance here and now among our own people. Whatever Jünger has to say to “the Man in the Moon”, and however much he and de Benoist seem to want to go there, it certainly does not seem to make it a whole lot easier for us still here on earth.

Their escape from the political into the mythic in so many ways seems to be a failing not of them alone but of so many people in the White nationalist movements. Whether it be the religious cult of post-Rockwell National Socialism, Christian Identity, the latter-day Ron Paul cultists, or the practical renunciation of that simple Schmittian “Concept of the Political,” nothing has worked for them, and nothing will work for the European New Right. However much Junger and de Benoist and others try to reinvent themselves as literary creatures or philosophers, they still will be viewed as putative leaders of a political movement. Whether the European New Right is able to have a positive influence in stemming the displacement of European peoples and the destruction of their culture depends on their adoption of a clear and forthright position, not just toward the literary heavenly firmament but toward the political here and now.

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