A Punch from the Right
Evola is not your average political thinker. Quite the opposite: he was something spectacular. Evola rejected the modern world with such resolution that his starting points differ vastly from those of conservatism, as well as those viewpoints which could be described as reactionary. Thus, when Evola rejects Fascism, it’s from a perspective which is completely foreign to the modern mind.
Arktos recently published a collection of essays by Julius Evola in which he explains his relationship with Fascism and National Socialism. The title is A Traditionalist Confronts Fascism, and as the title surely reveals, these writings are polemical to a degree. The British critic and thinker Jonathan Bowden once said in a lecture that Julius Evola can be said to be the most Right-wing man to ever have lived. For this reason, it is interesting to read what Evola has to say on these ideologies. The intriguing thing is that Evola confronts them from the Right; these movements weren’t Right-wing enough for him.
Evola is not your average political thinker. Quite the opposite: he was something spectacular. Evola rejected the modern world with such resolution that his starting points differ vastly from those of conservatism, as well as those viewpoints which could be described as reactionary. Thus, when Evola rejects Fascism, it’s from a perspective which is completely foreign to the modern mind. It cannot be compared with a critique that is leveled from the positions of liberalism or socialism. Evola’s own outlook is not easy to characterize, but the word for it is traditionalism.
Evola is often linked to Fascism, and one of the reasons that this collection is worthwhile is that is constitutes a rare occasion when traditionalism is contrasted with Fascism. Fascism contains values which can be said to be cultural rather than political, as in its reverence of heroism and vitality, but its ideology remains a product of the modern world. Evola had a positive outlook towards some strands within Fascism, but these essays show that he was also highly critical of many of its other aspects, of which he did not approve. This critique, of course, comes from a perspective which differs greatly from the standard critique of Fascist ideology.
To begin with, it would be wrong to characterize Evola as an unmitigated nationalist. This is interesting because most of those who look to Evola for inspiration, or who at the very least show an interest in his thought, are probably nationalists in one sense or another. But Evola distanced himself from the nationalism of his time; from several strands of nationalism, in fact. First, Evola did not view the people as a greatness in its own right. Second, he had no sympathy for the biological and materialistic thinking which was all the rage at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Evola believed, above all, in hierarchies. He believed that there are enormous differences, both between individuals and between groups of individuals. As Evola saw things, it is not good enough to be a member of a certain group. If a person belongs to a supposedly superior race, but still fails to strive toward higher values, that person should still be considered as nothing more than a meatbag. Evola also rejected the idea that culture, action, and values only have meaning in the sense that they express the character of a certain people. In Evola’s mind, the thing which matters is the achieving of transcendence of the highest expressions of a culture, and for that purpose, a single personality can be worth more than an entire people.
Evola also rejected biological racism. But he did not do reject it for the reasons with which a modern liberal would feel comfortable. It should be noted that Evola never defended racial egalitarianism, either. Evola was against this form of racism because it was rooted in the material, and in the biology. Evola looked to the spiritual, and his view was that the spiritual is what really matters. Regardless, Evola’s rejection of biological racism will probably not gain him any supporters within the anti-racist movements of our time; he rejected biological racism because of its materialism, not from a normatively egalitarian standpoint.
One of the most interesting discussions in the book is where Evola offers his view of the state and its functions. The obvious critique one could make of totalitarian or authoritarian systems is that they allow the state to exercise absolute power over their citizens. Evola’s view of politics and the state is complex, but in essence he advocated a return to the Roman principle of the Imperium and an adherence to strict social hierarchies. But as shown in this collection, Evola also rejected some of the more problematic functions of the modern state.
Specifically, he rejected the technocratic state: the state where supposed “experts” draw up plans for the lives of the people which are allegedly better than they could manage themselves. On this point, Evola reminds me of those British and American conservatives who also made a point of critiquing the technocratic state as an outgrowth of the failure of modernism. Evola advocated hierarchies, but he rejected what he calls hierarchism. To me, the meaning of hierarchism is somewhat unclear. But as I interpret the word, it refers to a type of hierarchies which arises in states run by socialism or Communism. These hierarchies aren’t built on higher values of a transcendental sort; indeed, they lead to societies in which the worst people have been put in charge.
The hierarchies Evola advocated are natural ones. There are differences in terms of beauty, strength, health, intelligence, dignity, and so on, not only between individuals but also between groups. The idea of big government, which is built upon the foundation of the modern ideologies, did not speak to Evola. Evola also makes a meaningful distinction between individuals and personalities. An individual can live under a domineering state and still, much like an atom, be alienated from his surrounding culture and society. But a personality who is supposed to be a leader within that culture, and who can direct it in the right direction, cannot exist under such conditions.
There are many sides to Evola’s thinking, and there are a lot of things to unpack. This volume is certainly of interest in order to gain an understanding of Evola’s position in relation to the ideologies which he is often associated with. I think that the essence of his confrontation with Fascism and National Socialism lies in his rejection of egalitarianism and materialism. Evola didn’t care for the materialism of national socialism; something which was not as strong in Fascism. However, Evola also critiqued the egalitarianism which, at least to a degree, is a fundamental part of nationalism. Nationalists still have to appeal to and look after an entire people, and not just its best individuals.
To conclude, Evola critiqued Fascism and National Socialism for their lack of idealism and elitism. This collection is quite an interesting read, and I recommend it for anyone who is interested in seeing the “extreme Right” receiving punches from the True Right.