Thursday, December 31, 2009
Lessons to Learn from the Frankfurt School
Though the Frankfurt School is justifiably attacked by the White Right, there are certain lessons to be learned from its development and influence. It could be said that the Frankfurt School saved(or salvaged) Marxism–and leftism in general–and carried it one step further. Paradoxically enough, Frankfurters did this not by building on Marxist dogma but going back to the origins of Marxism. They focused on the writings of Marx before Marx became a Marxist–a thinker so satisfied with his theories that he abandoned criticality and devoted his energy toward an all-purpose theory purporting to connect all the dots of history. Prior to the rise of Marxism as an iron-fisted–and soon to be totalitarian–ideology, Marx had been more of a critical thinker than an all-knowing prophet. Before Marx developed a purely Manichean view of society and morality, he had sought to study and analyze society. Before he embarked to ‘change’ history and society, he sought to understand them. Eventually, all inquiries, studies, and theories develop a tendency to develop into iron truths or dogma. If they remain theories forever, they can’t be turned into a tool or weapon of practice. But, the danger of dogma is it shuts off further thought, dissension and opposition, and critical thought.
Whenever an idea or theory turns into dogma, it assumes that the End of Thought has been reached; all that remains is to implement those thoughts as practice so as to change society for the better for all eternity. This is also true of Visions. All religious visions are harbingers of the new. Visionaries open up new windows of opportunity where spirituality comes alive as a creative and original force. Thus, Jesus offered a new ways of understanding and serving God. Muhammad did the same for the Arab peoples. But eventually, visions harden into dogma, and the followers of the new religion claim the FINAL TRUTH has been revealed and everyone must conform to it. Perhaps, dogmatization or mainstream-ization is, to an extent, necessary. If all of humanity existed in a constant state of flux where thousands of POVs and ideas-as-theories contended with one another without producing a unifying truth or set of values for most people, civilization would probably fall apart. But, when a single dogma gains total domination over a people or a group, it pretty spells the end of thought and progress.
This is why the Frankfurt School was vital to the future of Marxism. The latter-day Marx, in his supreme arrogance, believed he had arrived at The Theory that explained just about everything–how history worked, what humanity desired, what justice was, how people should live, etc. He was convinced–and convinced a lot of people–that his ideas were not merely political, philosophical, or moral but also scientific and objective. Thus, Marxism came to attract and inspire a lot of people who, despite their intelligence, courage, and dedication, lacked the virtues of open-mindedness, genuine criticality, and skepticism/caution. To hardline Marxists, liberal open-mindedness was just lazy bourgeois fantasizing. Criticism of Marxism itself was attacked as heresy. Skepticism and caution were said to be signs of half-heartedness, indecisiveness, and cowardice. A true revolutionary had to fully accept the wisdom of Marx and devote himself fully to The Cause. Any hesitation meant he was really just bourgeois-chickenshit. So, it was not surprising that many intelligent people who joined the Russian Revolution often did not think very intelligently. They could only think ‘intelligently’ in their service to The Cause; of course, half-blind intelligence is not true intelligence. If evidence or developments seem to contradict or negate the theories of Marx, they blamed everything but Marx’s theories. The Russian Revolution was a great lesson in how one can be intelligent and not think intelligently at all. Much the same was true of Leninism and then later with Maoism. Never mind that the Russian Revolution contradicted what Marx had predicted, and the Chinese Revolution contradicted what Lenin had predicted. Diehard communists convinced themselves that history was more or less working out as Marx had portended, and if things didn’t turn out as they were supposed tot, the flaw must lie with reality and humanity than with Marx’s theory. Of course, the nature of Marxism being what it was, there soon developed rifts between various schools of Marxism and among national communisms, each one purporting to uphold true Marxism while the opponents were heretics or ‘bourgeois capitalist roaders’.
Anyway, the Frankfurt School came along at just the right time. In the 1930s, history was not turning out like Marx or even Lenin had predicted. Germans went with the radical rightism of National Socialism. Communist Russia could not export its revolution to any of the Eastern European nations whose elites and even masses preferred closer ties with ‘fascist’ Germany than with communist Russia. Chinese communist movement had miserably failed, and both the right-wing forces of Japanese militarism and Chinese Nationalism seemed to be on the rise. Also, it was obvious to all honest and relatively conscientious observers that Soviet communism had turned into a murderous and totalitarian enterprise. And, most Marxists in the Western world seemed either to blindly toe the Moscow line, fall behind cult figures like Leon Trotsky, or regurgitate the same radical truisms.
Of course, Hitler messed up royally in the next decade, and Soviet Union gained great power and prestige and became the second superpower after the U.S. And, with the rise of anti-colonial movements all over the world, it even seemed for awhile as though USSR would lead the bulk of humanity into the future. On the other hand, the Cold War turned the majority of the working class in the free world against communism. In 1968, it was the children of the bourgeoisie who were rioting in the streets while the members of the working class marched in support of De Gaulle. Also, with the rise of prosperity in the West, the working classes were simply not dreaming of End of History and World Revolution.
Also, it was becoming irrefutable that despite its power and size, the communist empire that arose since WWII was a moral catastrophe and an intellectual embarrassment. Though some Western European intellectuals continued to apologize for the USSR, their arguments became less and less convincing. Others like Sartre shifted their allegiance from the Soviet Union to Red China and non-white radical nations or movements, but that was bound to be discredited too as anti-intellectualism and oppressive brutality dominated all those systems.
Thus, the Frankfurters were prescient in the 1930s in dealing with the problems of Marxism. They were convinced that Marxism was NOT the iron law of history. Rather, it was a tool, an instrument or method, to be used for understanding, critiquing, and reforming society. Furthermore, the Frankfurters didn’t believe that Marxism had connected all the dots among history, economics, sociology, psychology, etc. No, Marxism offered some key methods toward finding certain answers, but Marxism could not answer all questions or solve all problems. Thus, Marxism had to be integrated with other ideas–such as ones developed by Max Weber and Sigmund Freud. To the Frankfurters, Marxism was a critical tool, not a scientific fact.
Also, the Frankfurters ventured beyond the crude materialism of most Marxists and acknowledged the importance of human psychology and culture.
Even if the white right may detest or disagree with the goals of the Frankfurters–or Antonio Gramsci–, there is no doubt that their revisions or re-formulations revitalized Marxism into an intellectually and culturally vigorous discipline, methodology, and even a neo-movement.
Of course, critics can argue that the Frankfurters were blind to one crucial detail–Marxism is useless or dangerous even as a critical methodology because its inner logic can only nudge or lead us ever closer to a form of totalitarian statism since its goal is to subvert and undermine the institutions and values that are crucial to the maintenance of modern democratic capitalist society where people are bound together by national unity and traditional values. If the dominant intellectual ideas in society weaken the justifications for capitalism, nationalism, conservatism, individual liberty, and etc, then wouldn’t society eventually decay and fall apart? From the rubble, wouldn’t a non-democratic tyrannical order arise?
Indeed, it is this aspect that has rightfully angered many white right critics of the Frankfurt School. The White Right may grudgingly respect the old-time communists who openly stated their goals and confronted their enemies face-to-face. They shook their fists at the capitalists, and capitalists shook their fists back.
The Frankfurters were more dangerous in the long run because of their insidious and stealthy nature. They permeated into our institutions not as hardline radicals but as respectable ‘open-minded’ intellectual. Thus, they came to wield influence on the ‘bourgeois’ elites of this country, and in time, the elites became more leftist and anti-nationalist than the masses. Since the elites control the means of representation and communication, it was only a matter of time before the masses to become more leftist or anti-conservative. We can clearly see this in the acceptance of ‘gay marriage’ among young people hooked to pop culture and indoctrinated by public education. How else can we explain the dire fact that the most educated members of the US voted overwhelmingly for that scumbag Barack Obama the jiveass mofo?
We cannot deny the fact that the Frankfurters were radical leftist Jewish weasels, rats, or termites who penetrated some of the most core intellectual institutions of this country and gnawed away the foundations from within. There is no doubt that they were our enemies.
(But, the sheepishness of the masses must also be blamed on conservatism to some extent. Conservatives tend to stress respect for authority figures, flag-waving, getting with the program, with-us-or-against-us, allegiance to symbolism, appeal to emotionalism, populism, etc. When conservatives controlled or had great sway over culture and values, sheepishness of the masses may have favored conservatism, but when the culture and media fell into the hands of the left, the sheepish masses–who’d long been conditioned by conservative values–simply came under the thumb of new authority figures of the left. If the core of conservatism is to fall in line behind those in power, then it made sense for many Americans to fall in behind the New Boss–Jewish, black, gay, and Latino. Thus, white women who had once sang, ‘Stand by Your Man’ were suddenly singing, ‘I wanna suck a big black cock’. White boys who had worshiped white athletes were suddenly awestruck by black athletes. White kids who had mindlessly deified white rock stars were grinding their groins to rap music. Whites who had hero-worshiped men like John Wayne and Ronald Reagan raised children who were gaga over Oprah and Obama. In other words, most sheepish people worship and admire that which is promoted, disseminated, approved, and/or marketed by the powers-that-be. Thus, the teenyboppers who had once swooned to Tom Cruise now get their thrills by dreaming of Will Smith.)
Even so, there is much to be learned from the Frankfurt School because its members were indeed critical and creative enough to redeem and save a moribund ideology fated to be discredited. No idea or dogma can last forever by claiming to be the one-and-only truth. For it to survive, it must evolve into another idea. Thus, Christianity had to change and reformulate itself in a changing world. There is less and less appeal for a dogmatic Christianity that says the Earth is 6,000 yrs old. New Christianity must interpret the Bible historically or metaphorically–or poetically–than literally in order for it be relevant in the modern world. Otherwise, it will be the religion of dummies and ignoramuses. Similarly, hardline Marxist theories prophesying the fall of capitalism and rise of the proletariat– Leninism, Stalinism, and Maoism–are now useless. Che Guevara is still popular but as an icon and sex symbol–or rock star–than anything else. If Marxism still has a hold on the intellectual classes around the world, it’s thanks to people like the Frankfurters who understood the limitations of Marxism as a science and recognized its usefulness as a critical tool–to be used in tandem with other tools. Thus, the Frankfurters turned Marxism from an ideology at war with the capitalist West to one that could be employed usefully within the capitalist West.
So, it was only natural that the Frankfurters were more interested in Marx’s earlier writings than the works he came to be famous for. They were more interested in the critical Marx and the process through which he arrived at his ideas than in the infallible Marx possessed of perfect wisdom.
Another crucial importance of the Frankfurt School was it didn’t only critique ideological and class ‘enemies’ but also many of the assumptions of hardline Marxism and dogmatic Left. It was as if the Frankfurters had laid Karl Marx on a couch to be psycho-analyzed by Freud.
This is a crucial lesson for the White Right for it suffered the same fate as communism. If Marxism turned into the monstrosity of Leninism, Stalinism, and Maoism, the modern right turned into the horrors of Japanese Imperialism and National Socialism–and to a lesser degree, the stupidities of Italian Fascism. This is all the more unfortunate because the modern rightist ideology of fascism was developed by disenchanted Marxists and leftists. If Mussolini had been more thoughtful and less enamored with his ego, he might have developed a kind of pre-Frankfurt School for the modern right.
After all, the whole point of early fascism was that there was no single truth or ideology that can be an answer to all problems. If fascism wasn’t exactly critical, it was certainly creative. Instead of seeing the world and history in stark Manichean or purely dialectical terms as outlined in Marxism, fascists saw history and society as being organisms where various forces eternally contended, competed, fused, and sought harmony. There was no need to create a wholly classless society, no need for a totally new society.
Fascists rejected hardline conservatives and reactionaries too. There was no going back, no stopping change and progress–as change was organic and necessary–, and no clinging to old dogmas.
On the other hand, man was not a purely rational creature who could plot out and execute perfect progress based on purely ‘objective’ understanding of himself and history. Thus, fascism and other forms of modern rightism had been creative and critical. There were many schools and many possibilities. They even attracted or forged alliances with numerous intellectual giants of the time in various fields. So, what went wrong? The same thing happened to the modern right that happened with the modern left. Dogmatism, regimentation, and a dulling of the mind took over as Mussolini and Hitler took total power and began to regard themselves as neo-gods.
To be sure, one could argue that the fate of both the modern left and modern right was pre-ordained by the nature of their ideologies. One could argue that the inner logic of Marxism could only have led to Stalinism; in other words, totalitarianism wasn’t a perversion of Marxism but it’s inevitable outcome. If indeed capitalism must be destroyed and an avant-garde intellectual class must rule in the name of the proletariat, it’s only logical that the bourgeoisie, liberal democracy, and pluralism will have to go. Thus, even as alternative Marxists denounced the brutality and oppressiveness of Leninism or Stalinism, they were blind to the fact that Marxism or radical leftism would have turned out much the same even if Trotsky or Chomsky assumed the mantle of power. This isn’t to suggest that all ideas or trends on the left is necessarily totalitarian. There has been a moderate, skeptical, libertarian, and/or cautious Left on the side of individual liberty and pluralism. And, it’s true that even radical ideologies like Marxism can be mined for useful or insightful ideas.
As for the modern right, one could argue that it too could only have given rise to men such as Mussolini and Hitler–that they were not deformities of the modern right but the consequences of its inner logic. After all, what did the modern right stress? Unmoored from traditional spiritual values of Christianity, the modern right was heavily pagan and obsessed with visionary greatness. Friedrich Nietzsche laid the ground for the wold-be ‘superman’ types. Since the modern right often–if not always–rejected the notion of the all-embracing and loving God of the New Testament, it gave rise to an idea that man himself could be god-like and direct the fate of the world. And since the modern right upheld the idea of natural hierarchy, it meant the superior individuals should rule over the inferior masses–and inferior masses should blindly follow and worship the ‘great men’–and that superior races, cultures, or nations should rule over the inferior races, cultures, or nations.
To be sure, the idea of superiority of one people over others was nothing new. But, if Christianity has at least reminded the ruling class that all humans are the same children of God, the modern right tended to have a much harsher view not only because of lack of faith in Christianity but because of its adherence to Social Darwinism.
There were some elements on the modern right which embraced spirituality, but it tended to be of the dark and disturbing occult kind, sometimes even a perverse distortion or misinterpretation of ancient artifacts or alien cultures, reaching the apotheosis of ludicrousness in the mind of Heinrich Himmler.
And, there were modern rightists defined more by what they were against than what they were for–especially in occupied France where many French Rightists tolerated the German Occupation if only because it crushed the communists, socialists, liberals, and the Jews. They tended to be against modernity, industrial society, Jewish finance, the ‘slave’ religion of the Christian Church, Bolshevism, materialism, decadence, and/or black music. But, what were they really for? It was hard to say, and these kinds of ‘rightists’ tended to fall into a rut of nihilism and opportunism. One wonders if Ezra Pound’s support of Italian Fascism was really genuine or just a means to play the Bad Boy against what he perceived to the soulless modern West.
To be sure, there was a strong contingency of the Christian Right in or at least allied with the modern right. For some of these people, Christianity was more a symbol of Western tradition, glory, and power–National Christianity–than a set of moral or spiritual principles, and they should not be confused with genuine Christians who allied with the modern right in fear of the radical left or out of hatred for decadent modernity.
The modern right, though accepting of science and technology, was also marked by an ideology rooted in ‘blood and soil’. As such, it tended to consecrate and enshrine all that was dear to one’s own people while too often disdaining or holding in contempt the cultures and even the racial makeup of other peoples. The modern right was a strange mix of rational ideas and irrational impulses and visions. It developed a talismanic version of Darwinism, half science, half blood religion. Thus, the modern right produced a strange ideology where cold-hearted automatons, who claimed to have gone ‘beyond good and evil’ and gained a clear view of the world without the obfuscation of sentimentality, also claimed to be ‘spiritual’ than ‘materialistic’.
Their brand of spirituality claimed to be unfettered by pitying compassion for the weak, diseased, and the mediocre and espouse a true pagan spirituality which valued the strong, beautiful, healthy, and superior. It was meant to be a kind of spiritual Darwinism. It was supposed to be a fusion of beauty, intelligence, and strength, the very best qualities of man.
It’s no wonder that the Nazis were obsessed with neo-classicism and harkened back to the world of the Ancient Greeks where the gods and heroes represented strength and beauty. Of course, this was a terrible caricature of Ancient Greece just as heavy metal and punk are stupid caricatures of the rich and diverse idiom of rock music. The Nazis only amplified one aspect of the classical world at the expense of all others. Obviously, they had no use for something like the anti-war play ‘Trojan Women’ nor for the many schools of thought which pondered the tragic fate of man and warned against the vice of arrogance and hubris. Also, the existence of many city-states prevented the rise of one mindset uber alles.
Alexander the Great later unified Greece and expanded the empire, but he had a certain respect for other cultures and the bravery of his enemies. Nazism, on the other hand, was psychotically arrogant, contemptuous, and/or hateful of all things non-Aryan. Many Nazis were men with small brains with even smaller hearts who mistook their lack of thought as vigor and their lack of sympathy as an higher form of ‘spirituality’.
At any rate, it never seemed to occur to many on the modern right why the great spiritual faiths took the form they did. There are two forms of spirituality: one that idealizes and magnifies things of this world and one that seeks to escape or rise above this world. On some level, both of them are related, but there are important differences. It’s easy to understand why people have always been obsessed with power, wealth, beauty, and etc. Those are things we want in THIS world. They mean survival, glory, power, and pleasure to those who have them. Thus, many cultures worshiped gods and spirits that were said to embody these qualities. Take Thor(power) in the Germanic mythology or Aphrodite(beauty) in the Greek.
And, one of the appeal of the Old Testament was that Jehovah was supposed to be most powerful being in the universe; if you were on his good side, he would help you to defeat the enemies.
Even so, the Judeo-Christian faith eventually came to favor–at least morally–the loser over the winner, or at least the virtuous and poor over vicious and powerful(or poor). (It can’t be emphasized enough that Christianity is, foremost, a religion for the good and kind, not necessarily of the poor. To Jesus, a good heart was more important than poverty and weakness. Thus, a wicked poor man had no more chance of going to heaven than a wicked rich man. Indeed, Jesus preferred a conscientious and redemptive rich man over a vile and wicked poor man. It’s only the modern leftist variation of Christianity that, via Marxist materialism, equates poverty = virtue. On the other hand, the liberal global elite seems to have no problem promoting themselves as the best of the best for their combination of riches, power, and social conscience. Thus, the attraction of ‘climate change’ faith to a lot of rich globalist elitists. Such movements not only justify their riches–since they support or are associated with ‘good’ social causes–but suggest the global rich are better than all of us.) Christian morality was partly based on the truthful observation that people–as individuals and collectives–lose far more often than they win. For every victory, there were bound to be many defeats. Also, even the strong eventually grow feeble. Even riches don’t last forever and cannot be taken to the next world when one dies. Even the beautiful grow wrinkly and old. Even the healthy grow diseased.
The Jews lost time and time again, many more times than they won. Yet, unlike most cultures which vanished from the face of the Earth upon defeat, the Jews formulated a new kind of religion where they could never be spiritually defeated even if physically defeated. Since their god was not tied down to one place or time, the Jews came to believe that their God was with them and see them through–if they kept the faith.
This didn’t mean that God favored the weak over the strong–or that God especially loved the Jews because they were so often the losers. It meant God favored the faithful of heart over the strong of body. If His people remained faithful to Him, then vengeance would be His, and he would, in time, smite the peoples who had done harm to His people.
There was a strong moral code in the Old Testament and some stuff about the importance of compassion, but it too was a religion of power–or power-lust. The difference between the Jews and the ancient pagans was really in a matter of degrees. Pagans expected their gods to deliver victory and greatness HERE AND NOW. If such weren’t forthcoming, they lost faith in their god, the social order broke down, and the culture was lost. In contrast, the Jews developed a culture of patience. Even if things turned out bad for the Jews HERE AND NOW, there was still a sense that God was plotting for their eventual triumph. Thus, the Jews needed to remain faithful and true to the One and Only God.
Indeed, many a prophet explained the downfall or suffering of the Jews as a consequence of their sinfulness. As a result, the Jewish religion became ever more moralized. Eventually, the Jewish religion went from a delayed or patient expectation of eventual power toward a tendency to favor the weak(and virtuous) over the strong as its main principle. Though this idea never became the core of Jewish beliefs, it spawned an innovator in Jesus.
Jews had innovated their religion to the point where defeat, loss, or weakness was not necessarily fatal or even something to be ashamed of. As long as they kept the faith, they could expect good things in the future. A great messiah would arrive and save the Jews and defeat the enemies. But, Jesus went the extra step and said defeat, loss, and weakness in THIS world was not something one should struggle against with the aid of faith but something one should willfully and happily embrace with faith.
According to Jesus, the Jews should not expect better times in THIS world. The world was sinful and it will be as it always has been. Since the world is sinful and filthy, wealth and power could only be attained through sin and filth. Thus, it was better to be poor and weak and unstained by the temptations and abuses of wealth and power.
It should not surprise us why Jesus’s message eventually spread like wildfire. We tend to remember the past through its kings, warriors, art, and monuments, but the fact remains that power, wealth, beauty, and good times were really enjoyed by maybe 1% of the population if that. Everyone else lived like shit. Of course, there were slave rebellions and creations of new orders, but they all turned out to be the same in the long run–‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’. So, the idea of making peace with one’s unhappy lot and knowing that the Son-of-God loved you despite your weakness, poverty, or illness were no doubt appealing to many people. (It also became popular among the ruling classes because wealth and power often make one feel spiritually empty and compromised. And, there was the usefulness of Christianity in controlling the masses with a value system that stressed accepting one’s meager lot in this world.)
Also, death rates were quite high until relatively recent times, and most people lost many dear ones. Thus, there was an emotional need to believe in some kind of afterlife where you might meet your dear ones again. Many on the modern right tend to laugh at the ‘slave religion’ of Christianity, but they forget that most of their ancestors were slaves or serfs than great warriors or kings. Because even an average Joe today lives better and enjoys more goodies than kings or noblemen of yesteryear, there is a tendency to identify with men of power than with men without power.
To be sure, the modern mind is kind of schizo because it is, at once, more power-and-wealth-obsessed than ever AND more egalitarian than ever. Everyone watches and fantasize about grand historical epics about the Great Men of Power, but we are also taught in schools that history must teach about The People and not just about Great Men.
As for Jesus, there was a contradiction between his worldly message and his promise of a new beginning. Though his worldly message seemed to be ‘accept your lot as a poor and virtuous weakling’, his prophesy forebode that He shall return one day and cleanse the world of all the bad elements and establish a kingdom of heaven on Earth. This is proof that there is some connection between pagan and Judeo-Christian religions. All said and done, whether the gratification is immediate or delayed, it all comes down to POWER.
But, there is another deeper connection between paganism and Judeo-Christian beliefs–wisdom.
All religions have required some kind of magic man, medicine man, sorcerer, witch, shaman, priest, soothsayer, etc. Though a primitive or warrior pagan culture may stress power and gory glory, the custodians of the religion need something other than brute strength and power. They need to tap into the dream world or the OTHER world; they need to go on mind journeys or meditate; they need to develop complex rituals based on mystical cosmology; they need to reflect on experience and understand reality not only in terms of its outward–or superficial–appearance but its deeper and hidden dynamics. Thus, even as Thor is the strongest of the gods in German mythology, Odin is considered the top god because of his possession of wisdom. Odin’s wisdom may pale next to that of Yahweh, but he’s a real thinker compared to the dimbulbs or pretty tarts who are his companions. Similarly, though Ares is the god of war and Aphrodite is the goddess of beauty in the Greek pantheon, they get less respect than Apollo and Athena who are associated with wisdom.
Insofar as all religions strive for some kind of wisdom, and to the extent that wisdom goes beyond fixation with beauty, power, and wealth, all religions have something deep in common. The tragic and evil aspect of Nazism was the only ‘wisdom’ it derived from pagan religions was Odin’s cunning, Thor’s muscle-headedness, Aphodite’s pornographic narcissism, and Ares’s brutish recklessness. Stupidity is bound to fail and fall, and so fell Nazism. To be sure, the good guys can sometimes lose too, but they leave behind a legend of the lost noble cause, which may later inspire generations to come. But, the defeat of the Nazi Germany left the world with nothing more than relief. Win or lose, evil forces don’t inspire us, which is why the Mongols and the Nazis have never captured the positive imagination of the world.
Though it is true that there were certain tendencies in the ideas and assumptions of the modern right that led to the disasters of Italian Fascism and National Socialism, it could be argued that this was less INEVITABLE with the Right than with the Left. For one thing, there was no universal or rational logic that purported to unite all rightist ideas. Indeed, rightist ideas were notable for having primary relevance to their place or nation of their origin than for all of humanity. Also, the Right was far more comfortable with concepts such as ‘culture’, ‘blood and soil’, ‘the irrational’, and ‘sacredness’ whereas such ideas were either suspect or anathema to the Left. If one could argue that there was only universal truth for all leftists around the world–and a logic governing such truth–, no such claim could be made for the right. There were as many rightist ‘truths’ as there were rightist entities. For the right, the truth wasn’t merely material or objective but what an individual or a people felt or held sacred.
In this sense, the right could be less dangerous and aggressive than the Left OR more dangerous and aggressive. If the Right in any nation argued only for national power and sovereignty, it only minded its own business. But, if the Right in any country plotted to conquer other nations, the result could be a total bloodbath.
The Left was more meddlesome as it called for World revolution, but it regarded–theoretically anyway–all people as being equal and deserving of ‘universal justice’–as defined by the left of course. Thus, even as the USSR killed countless people in the regions it occupied, its stated official goal was to spread the brotherhood-of-man. Nazi Germans, on the other hand, could very likely treat conquered peoples as less-than-human–depending on how the subject races measured on the Nazi scale of racial hierarchy.
Even so, Nazism was only one possible outcome of modern rightist ideas then coursing through Europe, and there was never a unified right-wing support of Mussolini’s Italy or Nazi Germany–or Franco’s Spain–comparable to the united leftist support of Marxist dogma or the Moscow line.
This was only natural as some modern rights were romantics, some were scientific or materialist, some were occultist, some preferred the past, some welcomed the future, some were pro-industry, some were anti-industry, some were business-oriented, some were socialist-oriented. Because of the crazy-quilt realities of the modern right, it’s understandable why Mussolini harked back to the distant glory of ancient Rome in order to find SOMETHING that might unite all Italian rightists. All the better to find the unifying symbols in the long lost past since no one agreed on anything in the present. If Roman glory was the unifying symbol for Italian modern rightists, German National Socialism settled on racial nationalism. Thus, National Socialism had a room for pro-science people, pro-religion people, pro-capitalists, pro-socialists, pro-paganites, pro-Christianites, and so forth and so on. How do you maintain unity among such plurality? Hitler presented the idea of German national pride and greatness.
For most Germans, the appeal of Nazism was German nationalism, not theories about the ‘Aryan’ race. ‘Aryanism’ became the central animating force of National Socialism ONLY AFTER Hitler consolidated total power. German nationalism meant revival of German power, German economic recovery, and regaining of some German lands. It didn’t mean igniting another world war.
Hitler deviously used German nationalism to gain power, but his main goal was ‘Aryanism’, a kind of demented ideology rooted in a false reading of history and calibrated as an imperialist plan to create an ‘Aryan’ empire. ‘Aryanism’ went beyond German borders in scope and policy. After all, Germanness was limited to German lands. But, Aryanism interpreted all of history as a battle between the noble, beautiful, and healthy blonde-and-blue-eyed Aryan peoples vs the mongrel or dark races. Thus, Hitler believed that nearly all great civilizations had initially been created by the Aryans but had come to ruin because Aryan founders had grown weak by mixing their blood with the lesser humans. (Hitler saw the rootless and venal Jews as facilitating this racial decay all throughout history by settling in Aryan-created civilizations and using their deviousness to undermine the rightful power of the Aryan elites. Simply put, Hitler and his cohorts projected or grafted what they observed in the modern West on ALL of history.) Aryanist view implied that much of the world been dominated by the great Aryan peoples. Himmler even argued that the original Aryans of Central Asia had been the first blonde and blue-eyed people. Of course, much of this was pure unadulterated nonsense. But, as long as Hitler, Himmler, and other lunatics were obsessed about some long lost blonde-and-blue-eyed Aryan paradise, they hungered to create a neo-Aryan empire in the modern world, and their targeted real estate was the vast lands of Russia. The insane ideology of Aryanism rode in through the Trojan Horse of German nationalism. Many Germans supported Hitler to revive Germany, not to build a utopian ‘Aryan’ empire.
Because of the crazy-quilt nature of the modern right, it’s perhaps true that the right should focus more on culture and ideas than on politics. It is unfortunate that the left has gotten a leg up in the area of culture since culture is essentially ‘irrational’ and the product of creative forces. The rational left is understandably more critical–deriving from Marx’s scientism–, but the modern right should have had the creative edge–inspired by Nietzsche. (Alas, it was the modern left which creatively appropriated Nietzsche and even Heidegger in the post-WWII era whereas much of the ‘far right’ turned to stupid Holocaust Denial, skinheadism, Neo-Nazism, and other childish lunacies.) Indeed, it is not surprising that many of the great artists in the first half of the 20th century were modern rightists–as opposed to the old school rightists who stuck to the dogma of God and Country. Somehow, the creative juices on the modern right were stomped out by the rise of Italian Fascism and especially National Socialism. For all their talk of art and culture, the severity of censorship and officialism did much to stifle and suppress individual eccentricity so crucial to art, vision, and culture. One could argue that Mussolini and Hitler were visionary artists in their own right, and surely no one can deny the grandeur, power, and even a degree of brilliance in what they managed to pull off before they shot everything to hell with reckless upmanship and warmongering.
Anyway, if there is something the Right can learn from the Frankfurt School, it is this: Like the Frankfurters, the Right must go back to the origins. The Frankfurters went back to Marx before he hardened into a Marxist. Similarly, the modern right must go back to the ideas and visions of the modern right before they were perversely distorted or simplified into something like Italian Fascism or National Socialism. And, the modern right must study the manner in which many modern rightists in the first half of the 20th century rejected or resisted the rise of corporate fascism which replaced an organic rightism or proto-fascism. Also, the modern right must study why some original thinkers on the modern right surrendered or lent their support to the likes of Mussolini and Hitler, thus abandoning their critical faculty and creative spirit for the sake of brute power and domineering glory.
It would have been sheer foolishness for the Neo-Left to build on Leninism, Stalinism, or Maoism–or even dogmatic Marxism. History never turns out like ‘great men’ prophesy nor is heaven ever possible on earth–Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China certainly weren’t it. Thus, the Frankfurters wisely went back to what might be called proto-Marxism when Marx was still a thinking and searching man than an all-knowing wiseman.
Similarly, it is ludicrous for the modern right to build on great political and moral failures of Mussolini and Hitler. (This doesn’t mean we should reject everything they did as some of their ideas had the ring of truth and some of their accomplishments were admirable and great.) We need to go back to the beginning when nothing had yet been carved in stone, when all things were possible for the modern right, when many different schools and individuals offered their own vision of the world and critique of modernity. Of course, eventually and for the purposes of action, we must arrive at some set of ideas that may constitute a new dogma, but this process must take time and great effort. The problem with the modern right in the 20th century was it took power too quickly before it matured into deeper and vaster pool of thought. Also, the modern right came to power in a state of panic when the bourgeoisie supported the radical rightist in order to stave off the radical left. In this state of Manichean panic and power struggle, the ideas became polarized and starkly us-vs-them.
There may not be much time for the White Right since we are faced with dire cultural and demographic problems. Nevertheless, unless the white right reforms and re-formulates itself–and expunges the sickness of Nazism–, it will never develop into an ideology or movement that will win over the majority of people or inspire the most intelligent and talented to take up the nationalist flag.