Daily Archives: 21 August 2006

Moeller, Spengler, and the Rising East

Moeller van den Bruck—a Prussian philosopher and translator of Dostoevsky who committed suicide in 1925—had been obsessed with the coming triumph of “the East,” from bolshevism to Islam over the bankrupt cultures of the West. In Germany the Occident is called Abendland, or “evening land” [just as Arabic al maghreb or Romanian apusul mean ‘the place of the setting sun’ and therefore ‘the west’, as opposed to the Levant ‘rising place, east’], and Moeller—like his friend Oswald Spengler, author of The Decline of the West—thought that the sun was certainly setting on it. The rising sun was in the East, no matter how one defined it. Moeller thought that the right kind of collectivism, so manifestly “natural” among the Russians, offered an antidote to the anomie and selfishness of the Western societies.

Moellerians believed that the “German-Russian side of the world” was meant to do cosmic battle against the forces of Western bourgeois liberalism, with help from sundry other Eastern forces. They saw nations as either young or old. Germany was “young” because it was in an expansionary period, infused with a “leader-idea” (Führergedanke) and relying more on feelings than reason. Russia was in a similar phase, and the Bolshevik Revolution was a manifestation of it. Both Russia and Germany were searching, experimental nations, obsessed with their deep origins in barbarian I conflict; therefore, the Soviet Union was a false enemy. The real enemies lay in the West: they were the victors of Versailles. The United States, however, would be welcome in the coming “Eastern” alliance because it had a youthful spirit, a farm culture, and a lively “inner barbarian.” Moeller’s ideas, at times difficult and fruitlessly obscure, would more than likely have sunk into obscurity after his death, eclipsed by the work of his more media-savvy and self-promoting friend Oswald Spengler.*

([Footnote:] *In fact, Moeller had originally helped Spengler to feel better about the “decline of the West” back in 1919. Spengler had gone into a funk when his book’s publication had coincided with Germany’s defeat in the First World War; though one might think the philosopher of decline and despair would feel vindicated, the decline he had been thinking about was supposed to result from Germany’s victory—and the subsequent decline of its warrior fiber, as it grew fat and complacent—not from something as straightforward as an actual military defeat! Like most Germans, Spengler had not even considered that possibility. Moeller, apparently in a “high” period, convinced Spengler that by losing the war, Germany had won, because by facing the decline first, Germany could embrace its loss and form an “alternate West,” with the “young nations” of the East—in order to deliver a coup de grâce to the west West, so that the real revolution—not the “bourgeois Marxist Revolution”—could succeed at last…. Whatever one thinks of the logic, it apparently cheered Spengler up. The two became fast friends.)

But luckily for the Moellerians, their hero had written one final work before he killed himself and had given it, as an afterthought, a title that would resonate like no other. Moeller was going to call the little volume The Third Force, but at the last minute he changed his mind and called it The Third Reich.

SOURCE: The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, by Tom Reiss (Random House, 2005), pp. 244-246

Does this shed a little more light on the pen name of the cold-blooded Asia Times columnist who calls himself Spengler? His latest column, entitled The peacekeepers of Penzance, begins in typical fashion.

Like W S Gilbert’s cowardly policemen in The Pirates of Penzance, Europe’s prospective peacekeepers have decided that “a policeman’s lot is not a happy one”. Europe’s serious exercise in peacekeeping led to the massacre of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica, when Dutch soldiers turned over Muslims in their charge to Serb death squads.

France offers no more than 200 engineers to join the peacekeeping force that the United Nations Security Council has mandated as a buffer on the Israeli-Lebanese border. The last time French peacekeepers ventured into Lebanon, a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed 58 paratroopers. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has appealed to Italy to lead the 15,000-strong UN force. The last time an Italian army confronted a well-armed and determined force in the region, at the Ethiopian battle of Adwa in 1896, the Italians suffered 70% casualties.

Otto von Bismarck pronounced the Balkans unworthy of the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier, and Europe’s governments seem unwilling to sacrifice a single soldier to maintain the peace in southern Lebanon. This raises the question: What is Europe’s interest in the Middle East? The answer appears to be: To disappear and be forgotten with the least possible fuss.

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"Social Monarchism" in Weimar Germany

Lev [Nussimbaum aka Essad Bey] was not only [a would-be Burkean] conservative, he was a monarchist—as he announced in an article in Die Literarische Welt in 1931. “So why have I remained to this day a monarchist despite my having lived in a republic for years, and why am I becoming more monarchistic every day?” … His answer is simple and even rather sensible: “The world of today faces two great dangers: bolshevism and a nationalism that is overrunning everything. I know of only one means to stave off these two dangers: monarchy.” To which he adds, it must be “true monarchy and not its constitutional, nationally limited, Wilhelmine version.” …

Lev’s eclectic politics led him to ever weirder groups on the fringe of Weimar society. One such was the Soziale Konigspartei—the “Social Monarchist party”—which ran against the spirit of the times in various conflicting ways: it was philo-Semitic and called for a restoration of the kaiser but also wanted to form a kind of “workers’ state.” The idea was to get the kaiser to return with the backing of the proletariat, thus ending the farce of competing extremisms and finger-pointing that parliamentary democracy had brought to Germany. The Social Monarchists attacked everything the Nazis stood for, and didn’t find many allies anywhere else, so they were doomed from the start. It didn’t help that their leaders were an obscure mixture of liberal but penniless nobles and “creative proletarians.”

Lev’s dabbling in such groups evokes something of the disorientation of the time. Many people in the 1920s looked back on the monarchies and could not fathom that it was all over. This was not ancient history—this was life the way it had always been throughout history, back to Charlemagne, Saladin, or King David, and up until last year, or the year before that. This was the world that Lev had over his shoulder. And it had been replaced by—what? Fiends on all sides, bloodthirsty, completely unrestrained by their fathers’ and grandfathers’ traditions of politics, society, and decency. All the groups Lev tried joining in these years would have in common the idea that the only way to avoid bolshevism or fascism was a revival of monarchism with the support of the “people,” however defined. It was really a “happy valley” sort of politics that hoped to achieve something familiar from Robin Hood and King Arthur stories: the world righted by placing the “good” king back on the throne, his people content in their old time-tested traditions. But Lev’s state of mind had something in common, too, with modern libertarianism and its suspicion of central authority (and with a lot more justification). As he commented, “The less a government tried to make me happy, all the better I felt.”

SOURCE: The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, by Tom Reiss (Random House, 2005), pp. 246-247

Genius or crackpot? Wingnut or moonbat? Lev or Essad? We excerpt, you decide.

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