The Dreamer of the Day: Francis Yockey and American National Bolshevism
From New Interventions, Vol.10 No.4, 2001
’Provincial patriotism of the nineteenth-century type can evoke no response. The unity of the West which the barbarian has always recognized is recognized at the last hour by the West itself .... Western policy has the duty of encouraging in its education of the youth its manifestation of strong character, self-discipline, honor, ambition, renunciation of weakness, striving after perfection, superiority, leadership – in a word – Race.’ (Francis Yockey, Imperium, 1948)
Fascism, two world wars, the genocide of the Jews and gypsies, and the weakening of the nation-state through exhaustion cast a cloud over nationalist archaisms in the advanced capitalist world after 1945 (the emerging Third World was, of course, another story). For these reasons, and because of an important internationalisation of capitalism through US world hegemony, it was inevitable that the radical right in the advanced capitalist countries would turn to archaic symbols connected to the West as a whole. Thus, throughout Europe and to some extent in the USA, ‘Aryans’ (the word having acquired a bad odour) were rebaptised ‘Indo-Europeans’, and highbrow intellectuals such as Martin Heidegger, Mircea Eliade, Marija Gimbutas and Julius Evola created the high road for the rehabilitation of the old ideas, which was followed on lower roads by Atlantis buffs, occultists, Celtic tree-worshipers, fake Tibetologists, Wagner freaks, Holocaust deniers and Teutonic rune scholars.
Today, in Europe, including Russia, and to some extent in the USA, important factions of the radical right have quietly buried the old biological racism and the nationalist chauvinism of pre-1945 fascism. The most sophisticated figures, such as Alain de Benoist, freely quote from Antonio Gramsci (for which Gramsci is of course not to be blamed), argue that the old categories of ‘left’ and ‘right’ are dead, and insist that their desire to expel immigrants and Jews from Europe has nothing to do with ‘grandpa’s fascism’, but rather because they see such groups invariably as bearers of ‘other cultures’, not inferior, mind you, but ‘different’. These theorists have their own version of post-modern cultural relativism, and say that Jews, blacks and Arabs are fine – just as long as they stay in their own countries, or return there, the sooner the better. The European radical right supported Iraq in the Gulf War, a type of ‘Third Worldism’ that was marginal in Western interwar fascism (but not entirely absent, as we shall see).
What fascism hates above all is universalism, and it hates the Jews for having, through the monotheism they passed to Christianity, supposedly inflicted the ‘slave morality’ (Nietzsche) of universalism on the ‘strong’, ‘young’, ‘nature-loving’ ‘blond beasts’, the Indo-Europeans and other pagans, and for having, through the ban on image-making, destroyed such peoples’ pagan nature-worship and myth. Capitalism for the fascists mostly means finance capital, Jews and money; the link between monotheism and abstraction on one hand and commodity production and wage labour on the other is beyond their ken. Behind the hatred of universalism is the hatred of the idea of humanity, or what Marx called ‘species-being’; fascism sooner or later, and usually sooner, identifies some group, whether whites, or Teutons, or an aristocratic cultural élite, the ‘Übermenschen’ (supermen) as destined to dominate, or expel, or annihilate the ‘Untermenschen’ (inferior beings), or, more up to date, those who are ineffably ‘different’. The trendy post-modern left supports ‘difference’ and argues for relativistic tolerance (which extends to tolerance of barbaric archaisms, such as cliterodectomy, among ‘subaltern peoples’), the hard radical right supports it to advocate (at least in its politer forms) removal, but both currents find themselves in profound agreement on the fundamental issue of the denial of humanity as a meaningful reality. Like their predecessors, the early nineteenth century enemies of the Enlightenment and the universalism of the French revolution, they ‘know Frenchmen, Germans, Italians and Greeks’, but consider ‘man’ a meaningless abstraction.
Thus the contemporary right-wing publicist Armin Mohler is not wrong to say that today’s post-modernists are the bastard progeny of the Conservative Revolution of the 1920s (about which more below).
It is fairly well known that Hitler and the Nazis always insisted that they had learned a great deal from America, and in particular from the American eugenics movement, which preceded their own Social Darwinism, racial laws and ban on interracial marriage, doctrines of blood purity, and medical experiments on ‘Untermenschen’, by decades.
What is less well known is that an American fascist theoretician, Francis Parker Yockey (1917-1960), himself marginal in the American radical right even today, is actually a theoretical pioneer of the contemporary international fascist revival with its new cultural politics, and is recognised as such from France to Russia’s contemporary ‘red-brown’ ferment. (Yockey is promoted in the USA, and somewhat disingenuously, mainly by Willis Carto and the Liberty Lobby.) Contemporary fascism, internationally, finds it a largely losing battle to conjure up the old biological racism and master-race theories: they can chip away at the still-powerful association of such biological determinism with the concentration camps, but they have found a far more fertile path in circumventing such questions with a whole new battle over ‘culture’. And once this is recognised, the centrality of Francis Yockey, the subject of the excellent book by Kevin Coogan under consideration here, and who spelled this out in his 1948 book Imperium, looms into view.
For most of these intellectuals, Hitler and the Nazis were vulgar guttersnipes and their ‘völkisch’ (that is, populist) ideology merely one more version of the mass society the Conservative Revolutionaries despised. What mainly characterised the Conservative Revolution were variants of an aristocratic radicalism that imagined a regeneration of decadent bourgeois society from the throes of materialism, democracy, socialism and feminism by a ‘hard’ cultural élite of ‘supermen’, men such as those tempered in the trench warfare of the First World War and the ‘storms of steel’ (the title of Juenger’s 1920s best-selling novel) of the modern technological battlefield. Spengler, in his major work, had defined ‘universalism’ as the passage from ‘culture’ to ‘civilisation’ in an organic rise and fall; this phase emerged when the old culture-bearing élite was sinking into effete aestheticism, and prepared the way for Caesarism (an anticipation of the coming of Hitler).
Aside from Spengler himself, two figures of the Conservative Revolution in particular stand out as decisive influences on Yockey: Carl Schmitt and Karl Haushofer. As a student at Georgetown University in the mid-1930s, Yockey encountered Schmitt as the leading international Catholic jurist of the period. Schmitt’s relationship to Hitler and the Nazis was complex, but hardly (to put it mildly) a hostile one. Schmitt’s sophisticated legal theory was little short of state-idolatry, and presented a distinction between ‘enemy’ and ‘foe’ which passed easily into fascist political and legal thought. An ‘enemy’ for Schmitt was an opponent of the moment, with whom there was temporary conflict and disagreement, but a ‘foe’ was an irreconcilable opponent against whom the struggle was potentially total and lethal. Schmitt ridiculed Western parliamentarism and democracy, and developed ideas about the inevitability of extra-parliamentary activity – activity in the streets – which also influenced the German New Left in the 1960s (Schmitt was among other things an admirer of Lenin). This in turn shaped Schmitt’s idea of Ernstfall or ‘ultimate confrontation’ in which normal legality had to be suspended. (Schmitt provided the legal cover for the 1934 ‘Night of the Long Knives’ in which Hitler eliminated the ‘red fascist’ wing of the Nazi Party around the Strasser brothers).
Last but not least (for Yockey) was Schmitt’s idea of ‘Grossraumordnung’, literally ‘great space order’ but more concretely a ‘geographical zone dominated by a political idea’ (a concept beyond the nation-state), which after 1945 was taken over into Yockey’s call for an ‘Imperium of the West’, a European super-state capable of resisting both the Soviet Union and the USA (though Yockey considered the USA the greater danger).
But if Schmitt was one of the more brilliant theorists (along with the Italian philosopher Gentile) of fascism’s well-known mystique of the state, the figure of Karl Haushofer leads us into some of the most unusual and important aspects of Yockey’s later development. Haushofer was the leading German exponent of ‘geopolitics’, a theory of international power politics developed by the German Ratzel and the Englishman Mackinder. Based ultimately on a Social Darwinist idea of struggle for ‘space’, geopolitics was a theory of the struggle for world empire, essentially the pre-1914 struggle between then-dominant Britain and ascendant Germany. The basic idea of geopolitics was that the world power which controls the perimeter of Russia controls the world, thus making it the theory of the ‘great game’ among the world powers from the Baltic to China and Japan, via Iran and Tibet. Haushofer spoke Far Eastern languages (Japanese, Chinese, Korean) as well as Russian fluently, and spent years in Japan as a German military attaché in the wake of Japan’s stunning defeat of Russia in 1905.
The Russo-Japanese war was of particular significance since it was the first time that a ‘white’ nation had been defeated with modern weapons by a ‘non-white’ nation, and it was a kind of ‘wake-up call’ to emergent anti-colonial struggles everywhere. (Because it also led to the mass strike wave of 1905-06, a dress rehearsal for the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, it also set down the association, with a brilliant future ahead of it, whereby colonial peoples came to see 1917 primarily as a national and not as a proletarian revolution.) Haushofer knew a great deal about esoteric schools of Japanese Buddhism (and was rumoured to belong to one), and later distinguished himself as an officer in the German army during the First World War. But the most important idea which Yockey took from Haushofer was the latter’s advocacy of German support for anti-colonial peoples in their struggles against the British and French empires, as well as Haushofer’s rejection of white supremacist reticence about such support, at a time when ideas of the ‘yellow peril’ and the rising challenge to ‘white’ world supremacy were common coin throughout the West. Haushofer is often cited as the inspiration of the lucid passages treating foreign policy in Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but, as Coogan points out, Hitler and Haushofer parted ways over race. Hitler preferred an India under white (that is, British) rule to Indian independence, however much the latter might weaken the British empire. This Haushofer link to Yockey emerges after 1945 in Yockey’s sympathy for Third World liberation struggles, including those of the Palestinians, Nasser’s Egypt and Castro’s Cuba.
The Rise of National Bolshevism
Because of Germany’s central position in continental Europe, the possibility of a German-Russian rapprochement against the West often hovered over European power politics, posing a direct threat to Britain and France, and much of the foreign policy of the two major world empires was aimed at preventing just such an alliance. Germany since 1870 had been the ‘new power’ threatening British and French hegemony, and German support of different kinds for anti-colonial movements in the British and French empires (which dated from the pre-1914 Kaiserreich) was a constant problem for the latter. Thus in 1922, when the Rapallo treaty brought Germany into an alliance with revolutionary Russia, there was general consternation in Anglo-French ruling circles. In 1932, as in 1923, the German Communist Party again cooperated with the Nazis in strikes and street actions against the ‘main enemy’, the ‘social-fascist’ German social democrats, a perspective they bizarrely maintained even after Hitler seized power and put them into concentration camps, expressed in their slogan ‘After Hitler Comes Our Turn’. Finally, the consternation occasioned by Rapallo was completely eclipsed by the impact of the Stalin-Hitler Pact in 1939.
But ‘National Bolshevism’ refers to much more than just a rapprochement between Germany and Russia, or tactical collaboration between Communists and Nazis against liberals and social democrats. It condenses a series of attitudes which reach far beyond Europe, and which have wider currency in the contemporary world than is generally recognised: hence the importance of Yockey and of Coogan’s study of him. National Bolshevism is one of the most extreme forms of appropriation of elements of the revolutionary socialist movement for the preservation of class society. Weimar Germany from 1918 to 1933 was a laboratory of myriad currents thrown up by the simultaneous potential of working-class revolution in 1918-21 and of the extreme reaction (which borrowed significantly from the workers’ movement) brought to bear against that potential, culminating in Hitler’s triumph in 1933. Though figures such as Béla Kun and Karl Radek are better known, National Bolshevism entered the workers’ movement most dramatically in Hamburg and Bremen in 1920, articulated by the two German ex-Wobblies Fritz Wolffheim and Heinrich Laufenberg, who threw themselves into the German workers’ councils that sprung up after the First World War. For Wolffheim and Laufenberg, as for a number of other currents of the early 1920s in Germany and elsewhere, workers’ revolution was the royal road to the national revolution; for the National Bolsheviks, the Russian Revolution was itself a national revolution. To his credit, Lenin called National Bolshevism ‘eine himmelschreiende Absurditaet’, roughly, a ‘monstrous absurdity’. Unfortunately, other figures of the Third International were not so careful.
The National Bolsheviks, and later Yockey, saw the cosmopolitan proletarian internationalism of Lenin, Trotsky and the early Russian Revolution as a superficial veneer which was cast aside by Stalin.
‘National Bolshevism’ ultimately transposes Marx’s theory of the war between the classes to an international theory of struggle between ‘bourgeois nations’ and ‘proletarian nations’, and buries the singularity and autonomy of the working class (the international class par excellence) in a mystique of the state and the nation. In the interwar period, the main ‘bourgeois nations’ (or plutocracies, as Georges Sorel, among others, called them) were Britain and France; after 1945, the same logic was transposed to the new centre of world capital, the USA. And nowhere more so than in the work of Francis Yockey. The ‘proletarian nations’ were first of all Germany and Italy, but the term applied equally (if not more so) to all the ‘new nations’ created by the Versailles Treaty, beginning with Eastern and Central Europe, not to mention the Latin American nations under the thumb of Anglo-French or American finance capital, and last but hardly least the growing nationalist ferment in the colonial world, a ferment encouraged, as indicated earlier, by successive German governments.
It is still little recognised today how ideologies first developed in interwar Europe to describe the tensions between the ‘core’ bourgeois democracies and the ‘periphery’ of ‘young’ or ‘new’ nations were exported to the semi-colonial and colonial world, often directly through the influence of ‘National Bolshevik’ or later National Socialist figures, and after 1945 by the Nazis who fled to the Middle East and Latin America. After 1918, dozens of new nations emerged from the four defeated empires (Hohenzollern Prussia, Habsburg Austria-Hungary, Romanov Russia and the Ottomans) and after 1945, dozens more appeared in Africa, the Middle East and the rest of Asia from the break-up of the British and French empires. In most of these ‘new nations’, as well as in the semi-colonial countries of Latin America (Perón’s Argentina and Vargas’ Brazil come to mind), there was a real or potential local élite that recycled alloyed or unalloyed ‘National Bolshevism’ from its original Central and Eastern European interwar sources into international ‘left’ ‘anti-imperialist’ currency. The 1960s Western leftist admirers of Chou En-lai and Lin Piao would have perhaps been surprised to learn that the latter’s occasional references to the struggle between ‘bourgeois nations’ and ‘proletarian nations’ had been articulated decades earlier by Joseph Goebbels and Gregor Strasser. It would have been less of a surprise, or none at all, to Francis Yockey.
The Theories of Francis Yockey
Much of Imperium reads like recycled Spengler, arguing for a hierarchy of culture élites, drawing on the same organic metaphor of rise and decay of cultures used by Spengler.
Like Spengler, Yockey in Imperium rejects the old fascist race theories: ‘Race is not group anatomy. Race is not independent of the soil. Race is not independent of the Spirit of History. Race is not classifiable, except on an ability basis. Race is not a rigid, permanent, collective characterization of human beings, which remains always the same throughout history.’ (p.282) The hierarchy of races at any given time are historical creations which ‘can have, of course, no eternal validity’ (p.285). ‘Thus the school of Gobineau, Chamberlain ... was on the same tangent as the materialists who announced that there is no such thing as Race ... The source of a hierarchy of races is History, the forces of happening ... Thus, in the subjective sense, there is also a hierarchy of race. Above, the men of race, below – those without race.’ (pp.285-94)
For Yockey, the ‘twentieth-century viewpoint on this matter’, in contrast to the biologistic view of nineteenth-century reaction, begins from the ‘observed fact ... that all strong minorities – both within and without a High Culture – have welcomed into their company the outsider who was attracted to it and wished to join it, regardless of his racial provenance, objectively speaking. The racial snobbery of the nineteenth century was intellectual, and its adoption in a too-narrow sphere by the Resurgence of Authority in Europe between the two World Wars was a grotesquerie.... ‘safeguarding the purity of race’ in a purely biological sense is sheer materialism. Race, in both its meanings, is the material of history, not the reverse.... To the twentieth-century outlook, a man does not belong to a race; either he has race, or does not. If the former, he has value to History; if the latter, he is valueless, a lackey’. (pp.300-2)
Following this critique of biological racism, Yockey spells out his own view: ’Western policy has the duty of encouraging in its education of the youth its manifestations of strong character, self-discipline, honor, ambition, renunciation of weakness, striving after perfection, superiority, leadership – in a word – Race.’ (p.307)
As with race, so with narrow nationalism: ’Provincial patriotism of the nineteenth-century type can evoke no response. The unity of the West which the barbarian has always recognized is recognized at the last hour by the West itself.’ (p.316)
It was the Slansky show trial in Czechoslovakia in 1952 which brought Yockey’s ‘National Bolshevism’ to its final form, in which he transposed the German-Russian ‘Rapallo’ strategy of the interwar period to the new world situation of US-Soviet polarisation, now advocating that Europe as a whole should ally with the Soviet Union, as the lesser danger, against the greater menace of the United States. Along with this view (articulated at a time when most Nazis and other far-rightists were virulently anti-Soviet) went Yockey’s revival of Haushofer’s call for full support for Third World struggles of national liberation, for the purpose of weakening the US world empire. By executing 11 Jewish members of the Czech Communist Party, the Stalinist bloc was signalling, in Yockey’s view, that it was ready to abandon the last pretences of ‘Jewish-inspired’ proletarian internationalism and fully to assert the ‘barbaric’ culture of the peasant masses which had been the other force of the revolution.
Yockey laid this out in his book The Enemy of Europe of 1953. In this shorter work, Yockey more sharply rejected, in his own barely-coded language, the ‘nineteenth-century’ aspects of Nazism: ‘ ... the engrafting of the outworn nonsense of the vertical race notion onto the glorious European Resurgence of Authority brought about by the European Revolution of 1933 was an enormous tragedy.’ (The Enemy of Europe, 1985 edition, p44) Yockey argued that unless Europe unified around a ‘Prussian-ethical Future’, the ‘nation-building Ethic of Authoritarian Socialism’ then: ‘the Europe of 2050 will be essentially the same as that of 1950, viz, a museum to be looted by barbarians, a historical curiosity for sightseers from the colonies; an odd assortment of operetta-states; a reservoir of human material standing at the disposal of Washington and Moscow; a loan market for New York financiers; a great beggars’ colony, bowing and scraping before the American tourists.’ (p.45)
Yockey’s basic view, drawing on his Spenglerian categories, was that the rule of the ‘culture-distorters’ (that is, the Jews) who had ‘taken power’ in the USA in Roosevelt’s New Deal, posed a greater threat to Europe than the Soviet Union, which was merely a peasant-barbaric society. If the Soviet Union conquered Europe, in Yockey’s analysis, it would finally be ‘Europeanised’ in the same way so many barbaric conquerors (for example, the Mongols) had been culturally absorbed in the past by the peoples they conquered. The USA, on the other hand, had in Europe a stratum of willing ‘traitors’, the ‘churchills, degaulles, adenauers’, et al – Yockey relished writing their names in the lower case – who were willing to be the flunkies of American domination. Whether by sparking a European uprising against Soviet domination or by absorbing the Soviet bloc into a European super-state organised along the lines of ‘Authoritarian Socialism’, Soviet control of Europe was preferable to the continuing rule of the pro-American stratum of ‘traitors’.
Thus a culturally-based rather than biological theory of race, a rejection of narrow nationalism for a European super-state conceived along the lines of Carl Schmitt’s Grossraumordnung, and a pro-Soviet, pro-Third Worldist ‘tilt’ against US world hegemony are the core of ‘orthodox Yockeyism’, and have been taken over, as one source, into the contemporary European New Right by theoreticians such as Alain de Benoist in France, Jean-François Thiriart in Belgium and Aleksandr Dugin in Russia. As indicated earlier, the anti-universalism which Yockey got from Spengler – cultures do not interpenetrate, Jews and blacks are not part of the West because they are bearers of ‘other cultures’ – is strangely echoed by the view of contemporary leftist post-modernism (for example, Edward Said) that cultures confront each other as invariably distorting ‘texts’.
Yockeyism after Yockey
In addition to the portraits of Spengler, Schmitt and Haushofer in the formation of Yockey’s own thought, Coogan provides remarkable detail on the cultivation, in these circles, of esotericism (Evola’s books, often with no reference whatever to his lifelong fascist leanings, can be found in any New Age bookstore in the USA or Europe today). He shows the far-right’s use of JJ Bachofen’s theory of matriarchy (which also influenced Marx and Engels), and of the sexual theories of Otto Weininger, who argued that every culture is aligned somewhere on a spectrum between absolute poles of masculine and feminine. Some Nazis had used Weininger’s theories to buttress their own views of the subordination of women, as part of a general view of contemporary democracy as a largely feminised society in which the old warrior values had been eroded. Coogan provides material on the Rumanian anthropologist Mircea Eliade, who in the 1930s had been a vocal intellectual and activist of the fascist Iron Guard in that country – a fascist movement whose sadism toward Jews nauseated even the German SS officers during the war! – and who became a world-renowned professor at the University of Chicago.
Last but not least, Coogan delves into the history of the political activities of these networks. The story of Evola leads into the ‘strategy of tension’ of the terrorist far-right in Italy up to the 1970s, with murky connections to the clandestine armed network called Gladio which was established under US auspices in Italy (with direct counterparts in other major European countries) for purposes of armed action against the Italian left and a possible Soviet invasion. Perhaps most remarkable in Coogan’s account are the activities of the Naumann Circle, a group of ex-Nazis who developed ‘astonishing influence’ in various nationalist regimes (for example, Nasser’s Egypt) and movements (for example, the Palestinians, first of all through the well-known pro-Nazi Grand Mufti of Jerusalem). Hjalmar Schacht, Hitler’s finance minister, became a consultant in Nasser’s Egypt and negotiated deals for German industry aimed at undercutting Anglo-American deals with Egypt and with Mao’s China. Nasser hired the former Nazi manager of the Škoda armaments factory in Czechoslovakia to upgrade Egypt’s military, and in 1955 the Škoda works, now under Stalinist rule, concluded a major arms deal with Nasser. (Here was ‘National Bolshevism’ point-blank.) Coogan tells the equally remarkable story of the new fascist and ‘red-brown’ currents in Russia well before the collapse of the Soviet Union, with the sponsorship of anti-Semitism from the highest levels. Finally, he traces the evolution of certain ‘Yockeyite’, ‘National Bolshevik’ figures of the European far-right, such as Alain de Benoist, who broke with Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front over the question of race, and came out for various Third Worldist movements, all the while propagating Indo-European paganism against ‘universalism’ (a code word for ‘Jewish’ influence) and promoting Holocaust ‘revisionism’ in Third World countries that he visited.
In 1992, de Benoist was at the centre of a ‘National Bolshevik’ episode in which far-right and Stalinist intellectuals participated in a forum to discuss what they had in common. Similar meetings have taken place periodically in Libya.
Thus Coogan’s excellent book, starting from an obscure American fascist figure who has little currency in the far right of his own country, takes us into the whole world of the international fascist revival since 1945, and in particular to the sophisticated cultural forms of race theory that have pushed aside the old biologism and national chauvinism, and the disconcerting ways in which this constellation of ideas of a ‘new fascism’ has made its way into high cultural expression. Coogan’s book is essential for an understanding of the ‘reactionary-radical’ ideologies that are emerging to challenge the international communist project.