Maurice Bardèche’s Vision of the Future, Part I
Translator’s Preface to Maurice Bardèche’s Nuremberg or the Promised Land, edited for TOO
Maurice Bardèche’s Nuremberg or the Promised Land was the first extended critique of the Nuremberg Trial. For a Frenchman to criticize that trial and especially the French role in it in 1948 took great courage: the book was banned in France, copies of it were seized, and Bardèche in 1952 was sentenced to a year in prison, although he spent only a few weeks there before being pardoned. His criticisms of the Nuremberg Trial have since been repeated by many others. In fact, just two years later in a subsequent work, Nuremberg II ou les Faux Monnayeurs (Nuremberg II or the Counterfeiters), Bardèche was able to cite a long list of others who had likewise criticized the fairness of that trial. Nuremberg or the Promised Land may with some justice be viewed as a polemic. Bardèche himself in effect admits it: “I needed to write it: that is my only excuse for this indiscretion.”
But if it is a polemic, it is also very far from being a mere rant. Most of the book is in fact a painstakingly logical “criticism of testimony,” specifically of the testimony produced by the French delegation at Nuremberg in support of the charge that during the occupation the Germans had tried to exterminate the French or, more exactly, had had a “will to exterminate.” The charge is absurd and Bardèche easily demonstrates its absurdity. But its absurdity is what makes him so upset: he cannot forgive the French delegation that it will allow a future “German historian” to show that “France lied.” Bardèche concentrates upon this part of the trial, however, not because the French were responsible for it and he is French but because it deals with events that he and his readers know firsthand and hence can judge whether the treatment of them at the trial was fair or not.
Bardèche’s book is a classic. It is of interest today primarily because of what it says about the future. Throughout the first three quarters of the book the discussion of the trial is interlaced with somber warnings and ominous admonitions to the reader: “One is proposing a future to us, one does so by condemning the past. It is into this future also that we want to see clearly. It is these principles that we would like to look at directly. For we already foresee that these new ethics refer to a strange universe, a universe with something sick about it, an elastic universe where our eyes no longer recognize things.”
The presence of these warnings and admonitions to the reader gives the book an oracular tone. Bardèche has examined the transcript of the Nuremberg Trial and now, like an ancient prophet after examining the entrails of a sacrifice, he has bad news to deliver and knows that others will not want to hear him. Indeed, very few have been willing to hear him. The last quarter of the book is devoted entirely to an exposition of what the future will bring. That anyone in 1948 could have foreseen so accurately our modern world is to me astounding. Bardèche recognized that the judicial travesty at Nuremberg was not simply an act of vengeance by victors against the vanquished and that what was on trial there was not just the particular German defendants, nor the German nation, nor even National Socialism, but rather nationalism itself: the idea that a people own the land that they have long lived in and have the right to live in it as they wish and to exclude others from living in it if they so wish. It is nationalism in any form which was condemned at Nuremberg.
With amazing prescience Bardèche foresaw in its condemnation the coming of an international system which is first and foremost economic, not political or governmental. Its purpose is to protect an international economic élite, not ordinary persons, or peoples or nations. It offers the latter lots of rights but no guarantees that these rights will be respected. Its laws are unclear (unlike those of a prince) and broadly unenforceable, but the system does not attempt to enforce them broadly but only selectively. For selected victims punishments are severe. Victims are selected not so much because they have broken laws but because they have offended the “universal conscience,” the conscience created and fostered in us all by the media (Bardèche’s “radio”). Bardèche clearly foresaw the system which we today call “globalism,” although he nowhere uses that term. He also foresaw at least implicitly many other aspects of our world: Third World immigration, the irrational glorification of democracy, loss of sovereignty, humanitarian wars and interference, hate crimes, affirmative action, racial miscegenation and replacement, etc.: “At the bottom of the sanctuary there sits a Negro god. You have all the rights, except to speak evil of the god.” “And, from one end of the world to the other, in perfectly similar cities . . . there will live under similar laws a bastard population, a race of indefinable and gloomy slaves, without genius, without instinct, without voice. . . But this will be the promised land.”
In 1949, one year after the publication of Nuremberg or the Promised Land, another prophetic book was published, George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. In it Orwell describes a scary future in which there is a single party dictatorship, living conditions are drab, food is scarce, people’s thoughts are openly controlled by Big Brother, their words and actions are monitored through “telescreens” which they cannot turn off, they are given no choice over what they view on these screens, there is only one channel on the “telescreens” and one film (always a war film) in the theatres, in one such film refugees trying to escape are shot to the delight of the audience. Some of these refugees are Jewish, “the Enemy of the People” is a Jew, Emmanuel Goldstein, who is condemned for “advocating freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought,” people are openly taught to hate him and his followers during “Two Minutes Hate” and “Hate Week”; sex is discouraged through a “Junior Anti-Sex League,” the Inner Party is called the “Inner Party,” thoughtcrime is called “thoughtcrime,” Thought Police are called “Thought Police,” the media propagate obvious, self-contradictory lies such as: “War Is Peace,” “Freedom Is Slavery,” “Ignorance Is Strength,” people are told that democracy is “impossible” (although the Party is said to be its “guardian”), capitalism is viewed as a barbarity that has “vanished.”
The world described in 1984 little resembles that of the Occident today. We live in multi-party democracies. Our mainstream media tell us not only that democracy is possible and a very good thing, but that its triumph everywhere is virtually inevitable—an inevitability which we should make every effort to encourage. Living conditions are generally good, food is abundant. Capitalism is alive and well and is promoted as an economic panacea. Our politicians advocate the same things as does Emmanuel Goldstein. Our media propagate obvious lies such as: “Diversity is our strength,” but they at least avoid flagrant self-contradictions (some kinds of diversity may indeed be a source of strength, although certainly not the radical ethnic diversity that our media promote). Refugees do not flee our societies, but rather risk their lives trying to get into them. We are not taught to hate, but to tolerate. Sex is not generally discouraged, even among the young. With our multi-channel televisions and the internet we are free to see, hear, read, and discuss almost anything, if not everywhere. Freedom reigns.
Yet to some that freedom seems, if not illusory, useless. It is useless because people’s thoughts and actions are monitored and controlled not by anything outside themselves but by their own warped consciences—consciences deliberately warped by our mainstream media, consciences closely resembling Bardèche’s “universal conscience.”
Orwell’s and Bardèche’s books have had quite different careers in the Occident. Orwell’s, although formerly banned in the Soviet Union, has been widely read and praised; Bardèche’s is still banned in France and is generally unknown elsewhere. 1984 has served to warn us against the dangers of Communism, and for that deserves acclaim. But one cannot help but wonder if its general acclaim today is not also an index to its irrelevance. We have escaped the dreadful future envisioned by Orwell in 1984. We have not escaped the dreadful future envisioned by Bardèche in 1948. Bardèche says that his “only ambition, in writing this book, was to be able to read it again without shame in fifteen years.” My ambition, in translating it, was much more grandiose: I hope to hear it read some day without shame on TV by a politician. Bardèche wrote this book for the sake of the German “reprobates,” whom “the radios of all the people of the world, and the presses of all the people of the world, and millions of voices from all the horizons of the world” characterize as “monsters.” I have translated it also for the sake of “reprobates,” those nationalists throughout the Occident whom all our radios and presses and millions of voices likewise characterize as little better than “monsters.”
End of Dr. Held’s Preface; Part 2 will consist of excerpts from Maurice Bardèche’s Nuremberg or the Promised Land followed by brief final comments by Dr. Held.
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