Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The End of Americanism

Patrick J. Buchanan
Suicide of a Superpower
New York: St. Martin's Press, 2011

Pat Buchanan’s Suicide of a Superpower is an apt follow-up to his 2002 volume, The Death of the West. Although the new book focuses on the United States, it restates and updates the narrative of the older book. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the former refers briefly to the latter early on.
Buchanan’s main thesis is this:
When the faith dies, the culture dies, the civilization dies, the people die. That is the progression. And as the faith that gave birth to the West is dying in the West, peoples of European descent from the steppes of Russia to the coast of California have begun to die out, as the Third World treks north to claim the estate. The last decade provided corroborating if not conclusive proof that we are in the Indian summer of our civilization.
Suicide of a Superpower by Pat BuchananSuicide has stirred some controversy in the mainstream media for stating what for many is, or should be, known and obvious, but which for the majority is either not so or taboo: the negative consequences of immigration, diversity, and multiculturalism.

Yet, the book has obtained wide coverage and seems widely available—last month, while travelling in the United States, I saw it prominently displayed in the bookshops of major airports. This is a significant achievement that must not pass without notice, for there are others who have been advancing identical theses without the same level of exposure.

Suicide, however, is not without significant limitations, and these merit detailed discussion, for they stem from an outlook that will need to be overcome if we are ever to move forward with an effective solution to the suicide of America and the rest of the West.

The Pluses

With 428 pages of meat in it, Suicide is divided into 11 chapters, each of which is in turn divided into shorter sections with lapidary titles. The chapters are: The Passing of a Superpower, The Death of Christian America, The Crisis of Catholicism, The End of White America, Demographic Winter, Equality or Freedom, The Diversity Cult, The Triumph of Tribalism, The ‘White’ Party, The Long Retreat, and The Last Chance.
In none does Buchanan flinch from presenting the facts as they are. And where there are lacunae, Kevin MacDonald has already filled them with his Culture of Critique. The first chapter is in tone apocalyptic, yet the sheer rapidity of the United State’s decline as a superpower justifies that tone; Rome’s decline in wealth and capability may have taken longer, but America’s is comparable and, as Buchanan presents it, suggests familiar buildings and everyday objects one day becoming ruins and broken artefacts in a continent abandoned to a dark age. Buchanan proposes solutions in the final chapter, but, besides flawed (and I get to that further down), they are conditional, which lends the trajectory of decline traced throughout most of the volume an aura of inevitability. This is not an indulgence on pessimism, because all previous empires eventually collapsed, and all previous great civilisations in history came to an end.

In his detailed discussion of Christianity’s role in the United State, and of the crisis of Catholicism, Buchanan acknowledges the importance of the transcendent. Many of the ills that afflict the West in our age are linked to, if not the result of, a materialist conception of life, and of the consequent subjection to a secular economist criterion of all matters of importance to a nation and a people. The dispossession and loss of moral authority of White peoples in their own traditional homelands was to a significant degree achieved through, or caused by, economic arguments. It was not the so-called ‘civil rights’ movement in the United States that turned Detroit into a ruin; what turned it into a ruin was the reliance on economic arguments—so characteristic of the materialist liberal outlook—that enabled the decision to purchase Black slaves in African markets and ship them to North America. Similarly, the loss of moral and spiritual vigour, which has so enfeebled the White race and sapped its will to live, can be traced to the rise of secularism, to the severing of the race’s link to the transcendent. ‘Where are the martyrs for materialism?’ he asks.

To this Buchanan adds a helpful discussion about equality and freedom. He explodes the liberal conception of them as concomitant concepts, and convincingly presents them as polar opposites in a dichotomy: greater equality means less freedom, greater freedom means less equality. Buchanan makes clear that the only possible way to see these two concepts as concomitant is by ignoring human biodiversity, for, where inborn differences in physiology impose upper limits to human plasticity, equality—the elimination disparities in outcome—cannot be achieved without handicapping the cause of those disparities. Thus, the freedom to choose among the best universities is limited for bright White students when entry requirements are relaxed among less able non-White students in the effort to achieve equal outcomes among all racial groups.

The chapters on the diversity cult and tribalism re-state arguments that have for years been advanced by Jared Taylor. Taylor has done it in much greater detail, but Buchanan will reach a much wider audience, so this is a gain. Buchanan also echoes the Sailer Strategy—‘the idea that inreach to its white base, not outreach to minorities, is the key to future GOP success’—in his discussion of his party’s prospects as Whites decline in the United States. And, like Taylor, he ridicules those who see this decline as a cause for celebration.
Also like Taylor, but in the economic area, Buchanan reveals some astonishing facts. Apparently, the United States military relies on equipment that cannot be made without parts manufactured by potential enemies and economic rivals. Did you know that?

Another helpful discussion is introduced in the final fourth of the book, where Buchanan, following Amy Chua, deals with the fatal design flaw that afflicts multiethnic nations that have embraced democracy and capitalism:
Free markets concentrate wealth in the hands of a market-capable ethnic minority. Democracy empowers the ethnic majority. When the latter begin to demand a larger share of the wealth, demagogues arise to meet those demands.
This is a reply to the economic argument for the state-sponsored policy of immigration, diversity, and multiculturalism in the West, repeated without proof and refuted by empirical studies everywhere, that supposedly boosts economic growth because diverse immigrants ‘bring in skills’ and foster greater creativity. In fact, said policy leads to Whites becoming dispossessed minorities, as they already did in a number of other former European colonies. Buchanan points out that people like Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, and Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, use ‘principles invented by white men—universal franchise and majority rule—to dispossess white men’. He also quotes 19th century Rightist Louis Veuillot to describe how democrats are dispossessed by non- (or ‘instrumental’) democrats: ‘When I am the weaker I ask you for my freedom because that is my principle; but when I am the stronger I take away your freedom because that is my principle’. He asks: ‘What does the future hold for the West when people of European descent become a minority in nations they created, and people of color decide to vote themselves proportionate or larger shares of the national wealth?’

In terms of solutions, Buchanan offers common sense advice: the United States should live within its means and actively take steps to cut its deficits. For him this means pruning government and government expenditure, including social security benefits and military bases overseas; and instituting a policy of economic nationalism, levying tariffs on imports and cutting corporation tax to zero, so as to revive manufacturing in the United States, attract overseas investment, and reduce reliance on imports. I do not think even economists will agree on whether this would yield the desired results, but at least Buchanan is making concrete policy proposals that place the interests of his country first, and is willing to accept that ethnonationalism is an inescapable reality of the human condition.

The Minuses

There are fundamental flaws in Buchanan’s exposition.

Firstly, he equates European civilisation with Christianity. This is surprising, particularly coming from an American writer, advancing an Americanist position, given that some of the basic principles and practices upon which America was founded, such as the constitutional republic, originated or had their roots in Europe well before the dawn of Christianity. What about ancient Greece? What about ancient Rome? Were those not European civilisations? A more accurate statement is that the United States is a Christian country. This is defensible, even if the United States never had an established religion and even if not all Americans were Christian. Perhaps what Buchanan means is that Faustian civilisation—the civilisation of Northern Europe, of which North America is an extension—is a Christian civilisation.

Buchanan is correct to identify the decline of Christianity in America as one of the roots of its decline. In doing so, however, he has Edward Gibbon as his inverse counterpart, for Gibbon identified the rise of Christianity in Rome, that is, the decline of the Roman religion, as one of the causes of Rome’s fall. Gibbon would have sympathised, perhaps, with the statement, ‘When the faith dies, the culture dies, the civilization dies, the people die.’ Yet, given that the fall of Rome did not mean the end of European man, and that if the rise of Christianity was linked to Rome’s fall, the rise of Christianity was also linked to the rise of Faustian civilisation. All this tells us, therefore, is that we may be witnessing the end of a cycle involving Christianity. However, even if it is Christianity’s fate to pass, as have other religions, or to become a ‘Third World religion’, as Buchanan puts it, European man will still be there, at least for a while, and, provided he survives as a race, he will give rise to a new civilisation, traceable to the Greek, the Roman, and the Faustian, but founded on somewhat different principles. This will bring no comfort to Christians, nevertheless, and Buchanan, as a Christian, is justified in his alarm.

Gibbon would concede that Buchanan makes a powerful argument for Christianity. A monotheistic religion with a personal god can be a potent unifying force, eliciting much stronger commitments from its followers. The Roman pagans were easygoing, and vis-à-vis other religions, the pagan outlook, as expressed by Nehru in a conversation with the former Chilean Ambassador in India, Miguel Serrano, is generally ‘live and let live’. One can easily accept that it is not difficult to decimate a people with that outlook, for, in as much as it resembles the multiculturalists’ easygoing attitude to all religions except Christianity, it is proving daily in our society an agent of dissolution. It may well be that in a world of intense ethnic competition, a high-tension—even totalitarian and intolerant—religion is the more adaptive group evolutionary strategy. Buchanan’s discussion on the growth and endurance of evangelical Christianity, Orthodox Judaism, and militant Islam indicates he is of this view, and that is a plus consistent with his recognition of the importance of the transcendent. Yet he inadvertedly exposes a conundrum: if Christianity is a universal faith, accommodating every race and nationality, as he says, and if, as he also says, non-evangelical forms of Christianity have declined because they are accommodating, then, would this not suggest that Christianity will not survive in practice as the White man’s religion unless it becomes a non-accommodating faith?

Secondly, Suicide makes it clear that Buchanan cannot conceive of anything beyond the America of the 1950s. This is the most unfortunate aspect of this book. It is also the reason why Buchanan offers no real solutions, other than turning back the clock. Were his recommendations implemented in the United States, they would only retard the processes that are in place, achieving a temporary reprieve, a momentary stabilisation, before resuming their course, perhaps with renewed vigour and speed.

What Buchanan seems not to recognise is that, while the 1950s may have felt good for many, the conditions for the modern trends that he condemns were already in place then. They were simply masked by the transient prosperity, stability, and romanticism of the era. The 1950s led to the 1960s. And the upheavals of the 1960s had their roots in the academics of the 1930s, who in turn had their roots in Marxism, dating back to the 19th century, which in turn had its roots in liberalism and the Enlightenment in the 18th century. And this is not merely a question of there having always been a hostile faction within the American republic, seeking to undermine it with its insidious liberalism; the conservatives who opposed Marxism also had their intellectual roots in 18th-century liberalism. Buchanan makes it seem as if the United States has been hijacked by liberals, but the fact is that it has always been in the hands of liberals, right from the beginning: the United States was founded and is predicated on the ideas of classical liberal intellectuals, and its Founding Fathers were classical liberals. If the United States seems to be spearheading the process of Western decline, bringing everyone down with it, it is because liberalism took stronger root there than anywhere else, due to a lack of opposition to liberal ideas.

From this perspective it can be argued that Buchanan’s Suicide of a Superpower is not the result of the United States’ being ‘far off the course set by [the] Founding Fathers’, but rather of the United States’ being exactly on that course, even if the Founding Fathers never anticipated that it would lead where it has led.
As a conservative in a republic founded by classical liberals, Buchanan is by definition a classically leaning liberal, defending a previous stage in the development of liberalism. Hence his failure to see beyond liberalism’s event horizon.

Liberals have a linear conception of history. Thus Buchanan hopes that by prescribing better liberal policies (what he would call conservative policies), the American republic can be set back on course and resume its trajectory of endless progress and economic growth. Unfortunately, treating the problem as if it were a disease in need of a cure is futile when the problem is a congenital defect. In such cases the best hope is genetic resequencing, a form of death and rebirth. Most likely it will mean certain death and a possible rebirth, elsewhere, as something else, perhaps in North America, but at first, if at all, only in a part of it. Concretely this means the break-up of the union into regions and the emergence among them of a dominant republic among weaker ones, with strength or weakness being a function of the dominant racial group in each case.

Similarly futile is the attempt to revert a civilisation to an earlier stage of development. In the Spenglerian view this would be like trying to turn an old dog back into a puppy, or an old tree back into a bush. Technology may make it possible one day to reverse the physical effects of ageing, but it will not erase the memories and conclusions of a lifetime, and therefore not rejuvenate the spirit. This applies even in the non-organic realm: we may be able to restore an old mechanical typewriter so that it looks and works like new, but it will still be obsolete technology, and its reason for being will shift from usable tool to unusable antique.

Unfortunately for those living today, reality is more in accord with the organic conception of history, whereby things go in cycles and slow build-ups lead to rapid changes in state. Following Spengler, Francis Parker Yockey argued that attempts to cause a reversion into an earlier state of development will at best yield temporary results, introducing distortions that will be magnified as the next stage of development indefectibly follows.

One can sympathise with the argument that it would be worse if the current political leadership in the United States managed to stabilise the economy and perform plastic surgery on the face of America, as this would buy said leadership more time and permit existing trends to remain in place until the possibility of a White rebirth in North America, even without United States, became extinct. A Spencerian collapse sooner may open up avenues that may be closed later.

Buchanan wonders whether the United States will implode by 2025. This was my own scenario in Mister, where the United States disintegrates in a hyperinflationary chaos. But it is difficult to predict with accuracy and I would not want to speculate beyond a possible dismemberment along regional lines sometime this century. When it happens, whenever it may happen, those who remember the America we know today and who did not know better until it was too late will be amazed that people thought the United States would go on forever. They will also be amazed that people ever thought as they do now, despite the final outcome being so blatantly obvious. Buchanan’s diagnosis is mostly accurate, but his treatment, well intentioned as it is, is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

The Balance

Despite its defects, there is no escaping it: Suicide of a Superpower is a punishing indictment of the United States’ post-war political leadership, authored by a prominent conservative who speaks as part of America’s mainstream establishment. Any White American fed up with the way things have been going in recent decades and looking for new politics beyond Democrat or Republican will find here solid justifications for going beyond convention and eventually adding his muscle to the struggle for fundamental change.
Suicide will not awaken the complacent, induce the fearful to speak up, or cause ideological enemies to change their views. The complacent is comfortable in his ignorance and does not want his world disrupted by inconvenient truths; in most cases he has the means to avoid them by insulating himself economically. The fearful, who knows but remains silent, will not be emboldened by Buchanan’s confirming him in his views; he will wait, as he has always waited, and then side with change once it looks like it is going to win. The ideological enemy is beyond convincing; the only solution is to crush him thoroughly.

Should you buy Suicide of a Superpower? The answer is yes. Not only is it brave, but it contains many helpful insights and bewildering facts to fuel a healthy debate. The fact that the book is everywhere has also infuriated the radical Left, who have renewed their efforts to have Buchanan fired by MSNBC. The radical Left does not want this kind of discussion to take place in a mainstream media forum. In fact, radical Leftists would like Buchanan to be banned from the networks, shunned by his publishers, phlebotomised by the taxman, prosecuted by the ICC, and sent to the gulags, to spend his old age in poverty, obscurity, and hard labour—surrounded, of course, by politically correct diversity. To his credit, Buchanan has not buckled in to criticism. Therefore, every copy that is sold is a kick to the radical Left, and added impetus for the book to reach more persuadables.

With enough manpower and talent it will be possible to survive the cataclysm and make it through to the other side. The other side is something entirely new; traditional, but different—it is not the White America of the 1950s, nor Reagan on steroids, nor is it a linear extrapolation of what is good about the 2010s minus what is bad. For Whites to survive in America, Americanism must end. Those who survive will be the architects of what comes after Americanism; they will not call themselves Americans—the designation may not even make sense for them. Viewed from the other side, with the old certainties gone and new ones in place, it will be impossible to think as we do today, even if future generations carry forward much of European knowledge, traditions, and cultural legacy.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Tito Perdue's The Sweet-Scented Manuscript

The Sweet-Scented Manuscript is Tito Perdue's first novel, though not his debut, a status that the vicissitudes of fortune and of the publishing industry dictated would be Lee, his most critically acclaimed work. The latter shares the protagonist with the novel at hand, which recounts Leland (Lee) Pefley's first year at Antioch College, in Yellow Springs, Ohio, in 1956-57.

As it happens, that first year is also his last, because, somehow, despite the college turning out a cesspit of permissiveness and scruffy Marxist radicals, of students with—to use Tito's terminology—a 'glandular' conception of romance, Lee manages to get expelled, along with Judy, his stunning sweetheart, and their best friends.
The narrative progresses in linear fashion, and begins with Lee riding a bus en route to the college. The boy has left his native Alabama behind and is venturing into 'the North' for the first time. He is introspective, nervous, and absent-minded, surrounded by a bestiary of miserable fellow travellers, his bus driven by a gloomy and glowering driver, while his hand checks constantly that his wallet is still in his pocket. Lee the dreamer is wholly innocent of crowds and urban life. One of this preoccupations is identifying intellectual geniuses—for he imagines these are the type of people who attend university, and somehow expects them to have a particular look about them, which leads him, as he approaches his destination, to scrutinise those in his age group bearing books. These opening scenes dilate for many pages, crammed with detail and clever phrasing, setting a leisurely pace for and the ironic tone of the rest of the novel. This is one to be read slowly, relishing every sentence like a rich desert wine.

Of course, Lee, who by this time has experienced a whole series of petty indignities, has a moment of panic upon arrival, suddenly eager to hide and run straight back to Alabama. Instead, he puts on his bored expression and ploughs on towards the college campus. (Misanthropic that he is, he will not deny himself an experience.) There he meets Luke, a hyperactive, studious, loquacious, well-dressed Jewish student, who just about armwrings our suspicious hero into becoming his roommate. Lee is so self-absorbed and nervous that he, under his aloof veneer, forgets he is still carrying his suitcase as Luke leads him around the campus.

It is not long before Lee is disabused as to the nature of the college ecology, which pullulates with depressive existentialists, Marxist charlatans, and sex-crazed lazy philistines. Yet it is also not long before he encounters Judy, a short, busty brunette from New York, coveted by all the male students, and also an ice queen. Lee, hit as if by a crocket mallet to the face, recognises his destiny, and he seizes the moment boldly to go where no man has dared before, securing a dance with the belle—much to the outrage and despair of those less gifted in the testicular department than he. Young man that he is, however, and emboldened by his achievement in a single evening, Lee succumbs to hubris, and causes—with an attempted kiss—an abrupt retreat, which sets him up for a protracted game of cat and mouse with the capricious girl.
You will have to read the novel to discover what happens, but suffice it to say that this is a magical love story, cute, visceral, and absorbing, with a caliginous dreamlike atmosphere, a charismatic voice, clever dialogue, and endearing characters so real that they almost feel like personal friends. Indeed, one is almost able to inhale the distinctive air of that time and place, almost a witness to events, rather than a reader from cynical postmodernity, half a century removed.

And yet, this is more than a love story, for as the story migrates into Cleveland's slums and windy Chicago, the novel is riddled with amusing incidents, troubled characters, menacing creeps, and trenchant observations, immortalised in literature in the inimitable bookish fashion of a reactionary snob—of an amiable but misanthropic Southerner like Tito Perdue, who hates young people because 'they are always smiling'. Nostalgia for the romantic aspects of the 1950s in America combines with fascination for the corruption, the squalor, and the misery of the 'adult' world, as discovered by a dreamy 18-year-old boy—a boy who completely rejects and is ill-adapted for the modern system of wage slavery, hypocrisy, iracund mini-despots, and semi-catatonic drudgery. Because for him progress in life is a function of being kicked out of ever larger institutions.

The Sweet-Scented Manuscript is also riddled with all manner of idiosyncratic leitmotifs, phrasal and descriptive, deployed by Perdue to deadpan humourous effect, somehow in a manner that fuses Wagner with the dulcifluous 1950s ballads recurring throughout the novel. Bus drivers are always surly and sarcastic; journalists are always fat; and adults are always angry and miserable, or suppressing anger and misery. Suppressed aggression is a subtle thematic undercurrent.

The latter is organically linked to another despite its higher aspirations: Lee is obsessed with books. Books are the first thing he notices in a room, the library one of the first places he visits, and a reading list one of his first gifts for Judy. And yet, in his intellectual preoccupations, he combines the irreverent, agrestial naïvety of a rural upbringing with an uncompromising, cultured superciliousness. In a way he lives in and detached from a world that is not good enough for him, either in its bucolic or metropolitan facets, and which is progressively to get further and further removed from his ideals.

This being Perdue's first novel and largely autobiographical, it is afflicted by some of the expected traits of an incipient literary writer with superior talent and an archaic mind: the narration, for example, is hyper-real, recording every remembered detail, at times more for Perdue's benefit than for the reader. The dialogue can sometimes be confusing, as it is often reproduced without beats. Also there is vague evidence of this having been originally a much longer work—Tito tells me that his initial draft was 1,000 pages long, with double the final wordcount, and that he wrote the novel with a mechanical typewriter, in 1983, knowing nothing about novel writing except for the fact that novels were long.

All the same, the story is told in a terrifically amusing manner, and every page is a constellation of little gems. While immersed in this novel, for example, my wife asked me to read her a couple of pages. I ended up reading 27 because she kept laughing at Perdue's descriptions of trivial situations, and at the kind of things that made him, or Lee, indignant. For a modern reader, the America of the 1950s, or at least the parts of it that interested Perdue, is very quaint, particularly as seen through the eyes of someone who both is nostalgic for that era and was horrified by its decadence and lacking authenticity. This is especially true in the interactions between Lee and Judy, the starry-eyed competitive lovers, whose relationship has the charm of innocence associated with those times.

One is sad to reach the end.

As an author, Perdue says he admires Orwell, Faulkner, Hardy, and Dostoevsky, but contemporary readers will probably not fail to notice similarities between my work and Perdue's. In unusual ways, there are some astounding parallels, which neither he nor I failed to note after exchanging novels over the Summer, even though our voices and novels are different. I am also reminded somewhat of Alexander Theroux, another misanthropic, anti-modern, sesquipedalophiliac author of literary fiction. However, unlike Theroux, the pitiless satirist, or myself, the scientific artist, Perdue is a disgusted but amused romantic.

If you are interested in Perdue's work, it may be a good strategy to begin with The Sweet-Scented Manuscript, and then follow Lee's adventures chronologically: The New Austerities (Lee at 42), published in 1994; Journey to a Location (Lee at 70), to be published by Arktos; Materials for all Future Historians (Lee at 71), not yet published; Lee (Lee at 72), published in 1991; and Fields of Asphodel (Lee in the post-mortem world), published in 2007. Two other Lee novels exist, The Smut Book (Lee at 11) and Morning Crafts (Lee at 13). The latter will be published by Arktos, with specially commissioned cover artwork by yours truly.

You can purchase The Sweet-Scented Manuscript and Perdue's other extant novels here.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Miguel Ezquerra's Berlin, a Vida o Muerte

This book was donated by a supporter of the Miguel Serrano translation project, into whose Amazon list I had added it on account of Don Miguel making reference to it—albeit briefly—in The Golden Thread.
Miguel Ezquerra was a Spanish Falangist and soldier, who fought in the Spanish Civil War and as a volunteer in World War II, first as a member of the Blue Division (known as Division Azul, or Division Española de Voluntarios in Spain, and 250. Infanterie-Division in Germany) and subsequently in the Waffen SS.
His only book, Berlin, A Vida o Muerte (loosely, Berlin, At Any Cost), is an autobiographical account of his experiences during the final months of World War II.

General Franco did not take sides during that war, but allowed volunteers to join on the German side. The Blue Division, a unit of Spanish volunteers that served in the Wehrmacht, was active between 1941 and 1943. Eventually, pressured by the Alliess, conservative Spaniards, and the Catholic Church, Franco ordered the solders to return to Spain, and were repatriated in 1944.

Some refused to return and remained in Germany (Ezquerra calls them ‘despistados’, or ‘absent-minded’), where they either worked or were absorbed into other German units. Among those who were repatriated, some slipped through the Franco-Spanish border and joined the Germans again as volunteers. Ezquerra was one from the latter group.

The book begins with a laconic 600-word prologue, where Ezquerra summarises his life up until 1943. We learn that after being demobilised following the end of the Spanish Civil War, he worked as a teacher for a while before enlisting in the Blue Division, where, according to his account, he reached the rank of Captain.
‘The Fatherland suffocated me,’ he says in Chapter I; there were many things he was unhappy with and he desired to join the struggle for European civilisation, which for him meant fighting with the Germans against the Soviet communism.

Together with a few comrades, Ezquerra successfully crosses the French fronteer, then closed, and reports to the German authorities as a volunteer. He is soon back in the German army, where his rank is recognised.
What follows are a series of adventures. While they welcome Ezquerra and holding him in high regard on account of his behaviour in previous combat missions, the Germans do not initially deploy him on the front, as is his wish. He does, however, encounter a number of fellow Spaniards, then and throughout the book, many of whom had been in the Blue Division with him.

In the early stages he spends much time in France, employed in German counterintelligence, consorting with all manner of shady characters in the seedy underworld of occupied France. He reports that the resistance movement, celebrated after the war, was invisible in 1944; that, in fact, the French gave the Germans no trouble.

Eventually, he is given combat assignments, one of which is in Normandy, shortly after the Allied landing. Ezquerra tells how he and his men got behind enemy lines in the Battle of the Bulge and blew up a munitions depot, capturing 300 Americans.

As the Germans prove unable to contain the Allied tide, Ezquerra eventually finds himself having to evacuate France and catch up with the Germans, who had already left. The ‘resistance movement’ surfaces only then—except Ezquerra depicts it as comprising individual cowards who, having lived peacefully and profitably under the occupation, remembered their courage and reinvented themselves as heroes of the resistance—after it was safe to do so.

Once in Germany, life picks up the pace, and Ezquerra is now near the epicentre of events. Promoted for the second time in his narrative, Ezquerra is finally given a unit with his name, and assigned a nearly impossible mission defending the Reich’s chancellery, which by this time is being encroached upon by the vastly superior Russian forces. The mission is accomplished, but Ezquerra is, in the end, the last man standing. All that remains afterwards are ruins.

With Hitler dead, and the war visibly lost, Ezquerra drinks with a fellow officer until captured by the Russians. Other prisoners are rounded up and either deceived and killed or marched Eastwards, evidently destined to the gulags, although these are not mentioned.

Ezquerra decides at this point never to reach Russia—either to die or return to Spain. His escape and tense efforts to achieve the latter objective occupy the final portion of the book. And of course, we see, as we saw earlier, how Spanish communists, peppered throughout Europe, organised chekas at the end of the war and began maltreating their vanquished enemies.

The story is gripping, a potent cocktail of horror, harshness, and fanatical will, told with a dry, rock-hard laconicism and crammed with feats of nearly insane courage.

As a story, it is first rate. It reads almost like a novel, despite its literary minimalism.

As a biographical account, some have found it lacking at times, afflicted by the author’s apparent vanity and self-serving embellishments.

Certainly, Miguel Ezquerra, known to have been a very colourful character, comes across as a superman in his own account: a singularly brave soldiers, stoic, astute, indifferent to pain, esteemed, feared, and a born fighter and leader—hardest of the hard, but not without humanity. He proves a charismatic character.
Some historians have found difficult to confirm some of the episodes he recounts. Naturally, this may well be because of the chaos of the moment and of the war in general while in its final stages. His promotion to lieutenant-colonel, for example, was given verbally, in the field, and the only evidence appears to be Ezquerra’s own account, where he receives the news with indifference; yet, the promotion takes place just ahead of the final battle for Berlin.

Ezquerra also tells how he was taken to Hitler’s bunker, met the Führer, and was offered by him the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and German citizenship, the latter of which Ezquerra thanks but declines, stating ‘I will be Spanish for as long as I live’. He subsequently tells that he had strong tea with Goebbels, who commended the bravery of the Spanish volunteers.

Possible historiographical difficulties aside, there is no question Ezquerra was an idealist and an uncommonly brave soldier, that he volunteered thrice to fight for the future of Europe against communism, that he sought action on the front, and that he was eventually in the Waffen SS, at the time the most elite and exclusive armed force in the world. In other words, this was a man who was eager to follow through with an ideal and who put his life on the line, ready to sacrifice it, in a world where most crave peace and comfort and would do anything to avoid even a bit of inconvenience.

The first facet of this book that interested me was its extremism. With an angry title like Berlin, At Any Cost, which one cannot but utter with a gurn and rippling masseters, the idea of fanatical soldiers bent on defending a position to the last, even beyond all hope, is appealing to someone fascinated with extremity and extremes. All the same, the book is not political or philosophical, and, apart from passing comments derisive of communism, any political or philosophical content there may be is implied.

The second facet was the insights the book affords into the author’s psychology, which I found most counter-intuitive where I thought it most closely matched the national temperament in his fatherland, and most instructive whenever he engaged with his compatriots. And their idiosyncracies as Spaniards are not lost on Ezquerra, who was glad to find German officers aware of them, as this awareness paid dividends during combat operations. This was partly the reason why, rather than a heterogeneous force, Einheit Ezquerra, formed at the end of the war, was comprised of Spanish volunteers.

Finally, the third facet was the insights the book provides into the conditions of occupied France, and the situation and behaviour of non-German expatriates involved with or under the aegis of the Axis. Berlin offers a witness’ account, and a perspective, on people and aspects seldom thought about, and perhaps also seldom mentioned, in the history of the occupation and World War II. Certainly the history of the Spanish Waffen SS is little known, as is the fact that they were among the last defenders of Berlin, along with the Germans and the French of the Charlemagne Division.

For a short and Spartan book of 132 pages, there is much for the reader to enjoy.
Ezquerra’s adventures did not end with the war, and he went on to live for another 39 years, a number of them in Brazil, having passed through various Caribbean republics. His post-war life is recounted in an interview granted to the Spanish magazine, Interviu. That, however, is another story . . .

Monday, 6 June 2011

Guillaume Faye's Why We Fight

Guillaume Faye
Why We Fight
London: Arktos, 2011

This unusual 2001 book is Guillaume Faye’s attempt at a manifesto for the European resistance, now finally available in English thanks to Arktos Media. It is also a manifesto for European rebirth, as otherwise it would not be called a manifesto.
Why We Fight by Guillaume Faye 
As I stated in my review of Guillaume Faye’s other, recently translated book, Archeofuturism, and echoing Why We Fight translator Michael O’Meara’s own assessment, Guillaume Faye is one of the most creative proponents of the European New Right. He is also visibly more radical than Alain de Benoist, nevertheless a uniquely erudite and incisive mind (see here). And this is immediately apparent in the way in which this book has been organised: it begins with an assessment of the current situation in the West, with short and penetrating chapters rapidly discussing various features of European society (bureaucratism, Islamisation, museological conservatism, etc.); but then the narrative breaks and is followed by a dictionary of 177 essential terms (plus two additions by German translator Pierre Krebs), each meant as a tool or a weapon for the metapolitical warrior and political soldier. This in is turn followed by a concluding chapter, where Faye answers the question implicit in the title, and outlines—in general terms—his tactical and strategic recommendations.

Faye communicates his thinking in a direct, high-velocity prose, which, in spite of its evident erudition, and much to O'Meara's credit in the English edition, is energetic, angry, and intense. The latter, however, owes in no small measure to the fact that, while Faye may be intellectual heir to a tradition of cultural pessimism, best exemplified by the Weimar-era Conservative Revolutionary writers, he is far from yet another purveyor of doom and gloom. On the contrary: for Faye, nothing is set in stone; history for him is an open, dynamic field where anything is possible, where the unthinkable may well become thinkable and the impossible possible, if the will is there to make it so. Similarly, we must credit Faye’s rejection of antiquarianism, folklorism, and museological traditionalism: blood memory, Tradition, and race are essential for the vitality of European culture, but for him a culture condemns itself to rigor mortis when it allows tradition to degenerate into traditionalism, into a cult of the past, into conservatism; a vibrant European culture is faustian, constantly renewing, futuristic, even if necessarily rooted in archaic values and ancestral heritage. Moreover, Faye is openly contemptuous of academicism and pretentious intellectual masturbation and stresses that any metapolitical discourse that is produced must serve a concrete purpose in the real world, must find translation into action, and must aim to produce meaningful political gains.

Readers of Archeofuturism will recognise here many of the themes occurring in the aforementioned book: the fact that the modern world created by the egalitarian liberals is doomed to perish, having generated through its design a convergence of catastrophes; the fact that the liberal conception of history as a process of continuous development and endless economic progress is a myth, not to mention environmentally unsustainable; the fact that many of the regionalist movements are nevertheless part of the problem, being Leftist, egalitarian, antiquarian, and aracial; the fact that Europe is being aggressively colonised by the poor peoples of the South (the Third World), and particularly by Islam; the fact that Islam is—as far as he is concerned—Europe’s principal enemy, with ambitions to conquer the continent; the fact that (in his mind) the United States is Europe’s main adversary; the fact that our present establishment leaders are active if not complicit in the destruction of Europe, and have made a virtue of just about everything—political correctness, xenophilia, devirilisation, homosexuality, materialism—that spells the death of European culture; his vision of a Eurosiberian imperium, purged of Third World colonisers, and comprising a hundred or more autonomous regions; his vision of a multi-tier world economy; his vision of a hierarchical, aristocratic society that is nevertheless fluid and non-totalitarian, with each man being master of his own destiny; his vision of an economically and technologically advanced imperium, where both the politics and technology serve the Volk, rather than being determined purely by economic factors; and so on.

Mention here of an European ‘imperium’ may remind American readers of Francis Parker Yockey, who used the term. There is, however, a fundamental difference between the two thinkers with regard to the age of absolute politics: for Yockey, the United States was a European outpost, and the Jews the arch-enemy of European civilisation; for Faye, the arch-enemy is Islam and the United States is Europe’s prodigal son, but nevertheless an adversary because of its will to impose on Europe its system of materialist economism and its tactical alliance with Islam to weaken Europe as a rival superpower. It may seem perplexing for some to see Faye speak of the United States as pursuing an alliance with Islam, given the former’s pro-Zionist Middle-East policy, but Faye is thinking about initiatives such as the United States’ backing of Turkey’s entry into the European Union—in other words, the alliance is tactical, not sincere, and purely about perpetuating its power.

This is where I diverge from Faye, with whom I find much to concur: like Yockey, I see the United States as a far-flung European outpost. The country was founded, organised, and Europeans; its culture is European, even if distinct from that of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Poland, or Spain—even if it has superficially incorporated some West African elements, and even if somewhat forgetful of the Ancient and Mediaeval tradition and thus primarily a growth of Enlightenment-era English and French philosophy. The latter was instrumental in the creation of the American system that Faye scorns, but this is not to say that, where it matters, the United States, like Canada, is to be considered part of Europe, part of a European imperium. By contrast, Yockey saw Russians as non-Europeans; and this is here where, in terms of where the European space begins and ends, I diverge from the American.

What is most refreshing, and what makes this book especially important, despite Faye’s errors, is the fact that it rejects conservatism: for Faye, there is nothing left to conserve, firstly because what we have today is corrupt and not worth conserving, and secondly because conservatism equals exhaustion, stasis, and therefore death. Following an organic view of history, Faye believes in moving inexorably forward, loyal to our traditions and blood memory but also constantly renewing ourselves, rather than being paralysed by nostalgia. Faye is not yet another critic of modernity with an in-depth knowledge of what is wrong, yet without solutions; for Faye, a diagnosis is about finding a cure, not a cathartic reaction or a theoretical exercise. Faye also leaves the field open to possibilities (‘anything is possible’, and ‘where there is a will, there is a way’, he says); he is by no means a determinist: race is important, but not enough; there needs also to be a will to power, the will to fulfil the collective destiny. Those who get lazy, or get tired, disappear. Leaving out chance, survival is in the hands of the deserving. And not everybody deserves to survive. Therefore, it is up to us to determine whether our future is in a museum or in the stars, a discredited race of losers in the enemy’s textbooks or the masterful authors of universal history.

Overall this is a fairly successful attempt at crafting a manifesto for European rebirth in the 21st century, if probably a bit too long and too crammed with ideas to be immediately digestible. However, Faye envisions a multi-pronged strategy, with many actors occupying many niches and waging the revolutionary war in many different ways, some overtly, some covertly, each according to his interests and abilities. Therefore, he would most likely see this book not as a total solution, but as a necessary yet not sufficient contribution to the struggle. Certainly, readers of all levels will profit from it.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Ward Kendall's Hold Back This Day

Ward Kendall
Hold Back This Day
San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2011

For years I was after this book. Each time I checked, however, Amazon had the paperback edition listed for ridiculous prices, well into the triple-digit range.

At last Greg Johnson came along, contacted the author, and organised a new edition of this long-out-of-print dystopian novel through for Counter-Currents.

Ward Kendall’s Hold Back This Day follows an identifiable pattern in American dystopian fiction dealing with the prospects of the white race. We are taken to a future after the 2070s, when the forces of egalitarianism have triumphed almost completely, the world government having nearly completed a project for ending war by homogenising all human populations biologically. In this future, planet Earth is populated by 19,000,000,000 people, all converging towards an indeterminate race with medium brown skin.

History has been re-written, erasing the white man from its annals. If the white man is mentioned in any way, it is as a paradigm of evil: the white race was the most malevolent that had ever existed, having enslaved other races, grown wealthy at their expense, and appropriated their achievements. Its extinction was to be welcome, and the achievement of that extinction the accomplishment of a grand humanist mission, designed to propel humanity towards a more elevated era of brotherhood and equality.

Some whites still exist, however, and one of them is the main character, Jeff Huxton, a school teacher. Needless to say that he is deeply depressed, ridden with shame and self-hatred. All the same, he is able to hold a job, and enjoy some privileges, thanks to his position, which involves destroying racial identity through education and fomenting racial extinction through encouraging miscenegation. (Other whites are essentially non-persons.) Needless to say also that his white son, Adam, product of a frowned-upon marriage with another White woman and former wife, eventually evolves from bright child to embittered teenager, half-psychotic with contained rage, self-loathing, and clinical depression.

When the story begins, Jeff is married to Li Ming, his second white, of Asian origin but otherwise racially ambiguous. Later she turns out to be selfish, duplicitous, and basely malicious. Likewise, his daughter, product of this marriage, later becomes involved a state-sponsored genocidal enterprise.

Jeff exists in a global economy, which has meant being stationed in various regions of the planet over time. One of the worst was North America. When the action begins, he is about to take up a new position in Africa.

Jeff’s boss is Ahmad Yehudit, a corpulent man of medium brown skin, racially neutral, confusing even, whom we visualise more or less as a mulatto. Like most of the other characters, he has a weirdly incongruous name-surname combination; he also professes the world religion, which is mix of all religions, but which also has recognisable Islamic features and in conversation results in comically incongruous expressions.

As the story develops, Ahmad is promoted and enters the privileged circle of the world rulers. The world they preside over is one of universal poverty, authoritarian governance, crumbling infrastructure, hunger-suppressing pills, covert mass killings, and scientific regression. Indeed, the project of racially homogenising humanity has had the predictable effect of lowering global IQ and thus of making it progressively harder to maintain (let alone advance) a technological civilisation. It is Richard Lynn’s worst case scenario.

And not unexpectedly, we discover that the governing class, comprised mostly of individuals with the ideal skin tone 5, live in obscene luxury, albeit well hidden from view, justifiably paranoid. They are, of course, thoroughly corrupt, cognisant of their lies and uninterested in the future of humanity; their sole preoccupation is the perpetuation of their rule and the continued enjoyment of their hypocritical privileges.

There is some hope, though, for there exists an underground resistance movement. Its members have links with an offplanet colony, which represents the White race’s last hope. The novel is set up to bring these two opposing forces into conflict. We can think of it, therefore, as an interplanetary race war, where the entire future of humanity is at stake, not just that of a single country or continent.

Kendall is adept at maintaining a suspenseful narrative. As the novel progresses and the stakes rise, it becomes ever more difficult to put the novel down. And even where the good guys score a victory, the consequences are depressing, disastrous, and prospects grow ever grimmer. In the end, we one cannot decide whether we could call the outcome a victory or a defeat. It is traumatic. For Kendall, it seems, the price that would have to be paid, should things be allowed to get this far, will be horrific, and the end result catastrophic, losses outweighing any wins.

In various ways this is superior to other popular novels I have read in this genre. It is certainly better than Scott Wilson’s Utopia-X, which contains a number of similar features (browbeaten Whites, malevolent browns, privileged Blacks, squalor, and a monstrous deception by a corrupt ruling class of anti-White racists); and although shorter and simpler plotwise, it has a more in-depth and astutely observant characterisation than Randolph Calverhall’s Nazi revenge fantasy, Serpent’s Walk.

There are some minor flaws. In 212 pages, for example, we are told twelve times that the Earth has ‘nineteen billion’ inhabitants—that is more or less once every seventeen pages. I see no need to pound it this hard.
Also the leader of the resistance is perhaps too good, too noble, to be entirely believable. He certainly belongs to a type, a stereotype, that I seem to have encountered in similar novels by American authors, and I tend to think that leaders of any underground resistance movement, of any aggressive opposition to the reigning system, when the stakes are this high, the enemy so ruthless, and the situation so bleak and so critical, would be a pitiless pragmatist, a charismatic but otherwise thoroughly unpleasant person. In other words, a darker and more ambiguous character.

Finally, I would have preferred the dire and harrowing conditions in this future world to have been shown a bit more rather than told, especially considering the fact that this novel intends a serious message. It would not have been necessary to subject readers to 500 pages of anxiety and claustrophobia, but a couple of descriptive passages would have driven the point home more forcefully. Of course, this is the sort of thing that tends get sacrificed in the interest of speed.

All the same, Kendall successfully creates an utterly dark and stomach-churning future of planned extinction, universal poverty, and social degradation, built on cowardice, fuelled by envy, and defined by mediocrity. The reader is left in no doubt that a doomsday asteroid or a thermonuclear holocaust would be preferable to this. The most depressing aspect of this work is that Kendall’s scenario is a fairly believable extrapolation of present trends: even if the specifics turn out the be different or more complex or ambiguous, even if the process herein described takes longer, the end result, absent the predicted dominance of the far East later this century, would not differ much from what is described in this novel.

The lesson to take away—which is intended for an expected all-white audience—is clear: either act now, and risk being called names, or pay down the line with the entire future of the race, with no certainty of a desirable outcome even if action is taken eventually. And I does seem silly—does it not?—to worry about being called names or being frowned at when these are the consequences.

On the whole, this is very much a novel of its time. In the future, historians seeking to learn about the commonly held social attitudes of Americans in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, will note firstly, that this was a time when said Americans were, on the one hand, preoccupied with equality, and on the other, with human races; and secondly, that while the majority believed or at least paid lip service to the absolute moral goodness of equality, there was a minority who regarded its pursuit as an evil. Today, however, the novel will only be comprehensible to that minority; the majority will dismiss it (without reading it) as an absurd paranoid delusion by a man filled with hate. This is because egalitarian ethics (the dominant ethics of our times), based as it is on the supposition of natural equality, cannot abide a defense of whiteness, since that would not only necessitate privileging it, but also, if whiteness is treated biologically, as it is in the novel, acquiescing to natural inequality. On that basis alone, the intended public warning is lost. Only the overthrow of egalitarianism with a moral theory that treats difference or uniqueness as a good, would bring it back from beyond the pale.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Miguel Serrano's La Antártica y Otros Mitos

I was recently sent a copy of La Antártica y Otros Mitos, Miguel Serrano's earliest book, if one excludes his anthology of short stories by Chilean auhtors, published ten years earlier. Originally published in 1948 in paperback format, it is, besides very rare, little more than a booklet, and contains a speech, delivered by Serrano upon his return from a three-month visit to O'Higgins Land in Antarctica.
La Antártica y Otros Mitos is quite unlike Serrano's later books, as the text was written for voice delivery and is, therefore, slightly more accessible. It does, however, contain a great many of the fundamental themes that he would then go on to explore in his oeuvre, except in this case the organising principle is Antarctica and his fellow Chileans' relationship with the extreme South.
Serrano does not engage in travel or explorer-type writing, so this is not an esoteric version of Scott's diaries or of the books penned by fellow and subsequent explorers, like Shackleton, Mawson, Byrd, and Fuchs and Hillary, some of which I have reviewed and some of which are on sale through the shop. Instead, Serrano's description of the White Continent is mytho-philosophical; it is a spiritual and metaphysical exploration, rather than a geographical one.

Woven into the narrative are references to Spengler, Nietzsche, and Poe, but also to Wegener, Keyserling, and Szabo. The latter was one of the earlier c0ntributors to the Hitler survival myth. And, naturally, we encounter Atlantis—Serrano believed that Antarctica might have been the lost continent, and speculated as to whether, once the ice melted, we would one day encounter remnants of a lost civilisation on the subglacial landscape. Serrano was familiar with the geological findings by Wilson during Robert Scott's Terra Nova expedition: fossilised plant life on the Transantarctic mountains, which indicated Antarctica once had a warm climate (indeed, hundreds of millions of years ago it traversed the equator before returning to the pole).
The speech is the main part of the book, and it is prefaced by the author, as is a second part containing a poetic spiritual reflection. Antarctica had a profound impact on Serrano and references to it recurred in his later work.

La Antártica y Otros Mitos has never been translated into English. This is probably because its length and format gives it limited commercial appeal. All the same, it is quite interesting and the booklet still merited a review in Occidente magazine. The latter, publised in February-March 1949, I translated not too long ago and contains a excerpt from the present work. You can read it here.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Alain de Benoist's The Problem of Democracy

Alain de Benoist
The Problem of Democracy
London: Arktos, 2011

Alain de Benoist is a name readers are likely to have come across in these circles, being a founder and leading figure of the Nouvelle Droite—the European New Right—as well as head of the French think tank GRECE. Sadly. This French philosopher’s vast output—50 books, 2,000 essays—has remained largely unavailable in the Anglosphere, due to a lack of English translations. This is something that Arktos has begun to rectify. The Problem of Democracy (originally, Démocratie: Le Problème, first published 26 years ago) is the first book-length political work to appear in English, and the first of a series of volumes to appear on the aforementioned imprint.
The Problem of Democracy by Alain de Benoist
De Benoist is an astonishingly erudite and penetrating thinker, yet, like many brilliant minds, and quite unlike his pretentious and intellectually bankrupt counterparts on the Left, he is able to write with singular clarity and economy. This tome offers an eloquent example: De Benoist examines the theory and practice of democracy, analysing it from every angle you ever thought and never thought of and would have never imagined, demystifying and getting right down to the core of the matter, and illuminating the reader with surprising insights, all in a slender volume of just over 100 pages. How many authors do you know who can do that with profundity and academic rigour in such a compressed space and without producing incomprehensibly compacted prose? Homi K. Bhabha could learn a thing or two from this edition.

The fact is that this book is a lot better than it looks. With democracy not being exactly the height of fashion around these parts, and with the cover being rather opaque and impersonal, one imagines that this is going to be a slow and boring read. Yet the opposite is the case: Yes, De Benoist tells the reader much that he already knew or suspected about modern Western democracies; but he also uncovers a mass of otherwise obscure yet crucial realities that show exactly how much of a charade our governments are, and how modern citizens have been reduced to idiocy—in the classical sense of the word. The sections dealing with the deficiencies of modern liberal democracies are truly fascinating, even for readers who think they know everything there is to know on the topic.

De Benoist begins by problematising this taken-for-granted term, democracy, and by showing that it is, and has been, used very loosely, cynically, imprecisely, disingenuously, and outright deceptively, to describe just about any system of government, from direct democracies to totalitarian communist regimes. To his mind, only the democracy of Athens in ancient Greece can be genuinely referred to as a democracy: after all, those who invented it best know what it was about.

Judged against this standard, modern democracies fail to meet the required definition—they are something else, but not democracies.

De Benoist also demonstrates that democracy is not synonymous with liberalism, elections, or even freedom. In fact, often the opposite is the case: modern elections are effectively a delegation—and therefore an abdication—of sovereignty, the anointment of a self-perpetuating class of professional politicians who then do whatever they like, with complete impunity.

De Benoist’s main thesis is that genuine democracy can only exist in a community with shared values and common historical ties. A secondary thesis is that the larger the political unit, the stronger the type of government needed to hold it together. The liberal democracies of the West, governing over vast multicultural multitudes, are necessarily repressive and tend increasingly towards totalitarianism. As it happens, this is a point I made in a certain novel:
a homogeneous society [is] easier to legislate for because people shared a concrete set of values; a highly heterogeneous society require[s] mountains of legislation, regulating every aspect of the individual’s life, as well as a bloated and highly complex bureaucracy, designed to invent it, record it, expand it, refine it, and enforce it, alongside an omniscient surveillance apparatus, to constantly monitor behaviour and report non-conformity.
Such conditions, I argued, make it preferable to have
strict controls on who was allowed to come and settle in Europe, rather than strict controls on what people who lived in Europe were allowed to say, write, read, watch, think, or publish, what organisations they were allowed to belong to, what political parties they were allowed to vote for, what music they were allowed to listen to, and what personal associations they were allowed to maintain, in order to keep the chanko stew in the social pressure cooker from exploding.
Surprisingly, De Benoist also posits that a genuine democracy is elitist, not egalitarian. Equality exists among citizens before the law, and in such a system, citizens are given equal opportunities to be unequal. Democracy does not assume natural equality. What is more, a genuine democracy, according to De Benoist, is designed to offer elite turnover, the idea being that if citizens are given equal opportunities to be unequal, then each gets what he deserves, and the best elements rise to the top while the worst sink to the bottom.

Thus De Benoist argues for a fundamentalist understanding of democracy, and a return to the model of Antiquity, albeit adapted to modern times (he offers some suggestions as to how this may be done). This exemplifies perfectly how one can be radical while being traditional.

In sum, this slender volume can be read very profitably and is worth recommending to anybody, irrespective on their love or hatred for democracy—because they are, in fact, so similar in their criticisms, De Benoist has something here for supporters and detractors alike. The Problem of Democracy offers plenty of ammunition for anybody wanting to engage conventionally thinking citizens in thought-provoking debate.

A book like this should be in standard political science reading lists in all Western universities.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Richard E. Byrd's Alone

Richard E. Byrd
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1938

I first encountered Richard Evelyn Byrd while researching the Nazi UFO legend, which Ernst Zündel popularised during the late 1970s in his book UFO: Nazi Secret Weapon?, and which was elaborated—from an esoteric perspective—by Miguel Serrano in El Cordón Dorado (The Golden Thread). In these accounts, Byrd appears in connection with the ambitious  US-sponsored Antarctic expedition of 1946-1947, Operation Highjump, which he led, and which, according to various speculative historians and conspiracy theorists, was abruptly cut short due to Byrd having been met with attacks by German flying saucers, operating out of a secret base in New Swabia, on Queen Maud Land. Proponents of the Nazi UFO legend maintain that, following National Socialist Germany’s defeat in 1945, two submarines, U977 and U530, smuggled a surviving Adolf Hitler to the aforementioned base, Point 211, in New Berlin, the capital of Germany’s Antarctic claim, and continued to operate there for many years after the war. The esoteric narrative claims that from there Hitler went underground, entering the Earth’s hollow interior via a polar entrance; and that he has since waited in the hidden hyperborean civilization that still survives there for the day when he would return, commanding a fleet of UFOs that would defeat the forces of darkness and found the Fourth Reich.
The present book has nothing to do with these fascinating narratives, however, being an account of Byrd’s experiences during his second Antarctic expedition. By the time the latter was launched in 1933, Byrd, an American naval officer and explorer, had already become known for his pioneering flight to the North Pole in 1926 (which later emerged was unsuccessful), and his nearly-successful trans-Atlantic flight in 1927 (which Charles Lindbergh was credited for not long after, as he was able to land in Paris). Byrd’s first expedition had taken place in 1928-1930, and involved his famous—also pioneering—flight to the South Pole—an account of it can be found in his book, Discovery.

The 1933-1935 expedition was Byrd’s second in Antarctica, and involved extensive meteorological studies in the continent. Among Byrd’s plans was to establish Advance Base, deep into the Ross Ice Shelf, where he would spend the Winter collecting data. Until then, all the meteorological data previously gathered by explorers had been collected either from coastal stations or during fast-moving journeys; a static weather station situated in the continent and gathering data over a six-month period would provide scientists with a much more accurate climatological picture of Antarctica.

Conditions in the Antarctic interior during the Winter months are the most hostile on Earth. The cold is more extreme than in the Arctic. Nothing lives. Months pass in complete darkness. And in Byrd’s time, hundreds of miles of sea ice made the continent inaccessible for half the year. Moreover, the landscape, although beautiful, is barren, on the Ross Ice Shelf consisting of a vast plain of iron-hard ice. Because of this, Byrd had initially conceived Advance Base as a three-man weather station: he knew from previous experience that two men living in close quarters for six months under such conditions and unable ever to escape each other would end up hating each other for the rest of their lives, which would add to their already heavy psychological strain; three men meant there would always an arbitrer and the option for one of taking a break from another’s grating habits. Due to being delayed by adverse weather and difficulties with the terrain on the Bay of Whales, however, the main base, Little America II was not ready until later than anticipated, and this meant having to revise earlier plans for Advance Base. The base would not be at the foot of the Queen Maud mountains, but much nearer, at 80.08ºS; and, because of the impossibility of bringing enough supplies before the onset of Winter, it would not be staffed by a team of three, but by a solitary man. Byrd chose himself for this mission.

At the beginning of the book, Byrd sets out his reasons: firstly, he could not ask of other men something he was not willing to do himself; and secondly, he thought the experience would be personally beneficial, as it would enable him effectively to stop time and use his six months of isolation to do all the thinking, reading, and listening to music the frenetic pace of modern life made otherwise impossible. The decision nearly cost Byrd his life, and the experience irrevocably changed him, causing the book not to be written until four years after the events.

Even in April, with the Autumn just beginning, conditions on the Ross Ice Shelf are severe. The ice shelf is the size of France and is hundreds of metres thick; it is also located in the windiest continent on Earth. Robert Scott and his four men died there, stuck on a ten-day blizzard with temperatures in the minus forties, having starved for months while attempting to cross it on their return journey from the South Pole in 1912. While building Advance Station, Byrd’s men had to keep an eye out for each other, looking for signs of frostbite. And once built, the shack that constituted Byrd’s living quarters was still freezing, with any water not directly on the stove turning into ice within minutes.

All the the same, Byrd’s first two months went well. The data gathering and survival kept him well busier than he anticipated, and he had to wrestle with the psychological effects of relentless deathly silence and isolation, but he still managed to read, meditate, and listen to music, as he had desired; indeed, by May he had achieved a sense of inner piece, and felt his beliefs crystallise in manner he had never previously thought possible. Until this point, Alone grows progressively philosophical in tone.
But then, disaster struck.

Byrd maintained twice weekly radio schedules with Little America, using a primitive radio receiver that enabled him to hear but not send sound—his messages to the main base were transmitted in morse code, at which he was not skilled. Electricity for the receiver came from a gasoline generator located in one of the two tunnels running out from the front of the shack, which was buried in the ice. Ventilation both in the shack and in the tunnels was far from perfect, and the pipes leading out of them tended to become clogged with ice—the cold was indeed so intense that even the fumes from the burning stove or the running generator engine did not thaw it out. During an early June schedule, Byrd noticed the generator engine was skipping, and interrupted his exchange to investigate. Byrd found the tunnel choking with smoke. Next he found himself coming to on the tunnel floor, having been unconscious for several minutes. He had been knocked out by the carbon monoxide in the fumes. He was saved by the steep temperature gradient that existed throughout the underground weather station, where heat rose to form a layer of warmer air against the ceiling while the floor remained some thirty degrees colder (and better oxygenated).

Byrd managed to switch off the generator and crawl back into shack, where, in a daze, he managed to finish the schedule some twenty minutes after his interruption. He did not inform Little America of the incident, or of his condition, instead explaining away his absence as simple trouble with the generator, out of a desire not to alarm his men. Yet from that point onward Byrd was poor shape: the carbon monoxide in the tunnel had only provided a knockdown blow, but the fact was that he had been gradually poisoning himself for some time, as the stove in the inadequately ventilated shack had a leaky pipe and the air had consequently been slowly filling up with carbon monoxide. Even before his collapse, Byrd had recorded aching eyes and headaches in his diary. Now he was in danger: the Winter was still deepening and the sun, which had dipped below the horizon in April, would not return for months. A rescue would be in all probability impossible, and if attempted certainly extremely dangerous: besides the darkness, the cold, and the blizzards, the Ross Ice Shelf is riddled with heavily crevassed regions, made treacherous by the fact that many of the abyssal caverns just below the surface are covered by thin bridges that make them invisible; a man on foot or in a tractor could find himself plunging into a black bottomless chasm. (Douglas Mawson lost a man this way.) Byrd was thus compelled to conceal his condition and stick it out until October (well into the Antarctic Spring), which was earliest he had authorised his men to come and get him.

What follows is yet another a harrowing tale of unimaginable suffering and endurance. Plagued with blinding headaches, back aches, leg aches, weakness, dizziness, and loss of appetite, Byrd was barely able to function. Even the simplest tasks, like rising from his bunk or putting on his clothes, came to require supreme effort and willpower, as well as considerable time; this was made worse by the fact that, having identified the problem, Byrd was now forced to choose between yet more carbon monoxide poisoning and freezing cold. You can well imagine, if you have ever resisted rising out of bed on a cold day, or found it hard to rise while with tonsilitis or a kidney infection, how much more difficult this is when the air temperature is like on the Martian surface.
At 50º[F] below zero a flashlight dies out in your hand. At -55º kerosene will freeze, and the flame will dry up on the wick. At -60º rubber turns brittle. . . . Below -60º cold will find the last microscopic touch of oil in an instrument and stop it dead. If there is the slightest breeze, you can hear your breath freeze as it floats away, making a sound like that of Chinese firecrackers. As does the morning dew, rime coats every exposed object. And if you work too hard and breathe too deeply, your lungs will sometimes feel as if they were on fire.
Even April’s relatively moderate cold had already given Byrd much to think about. The novocaine in his medical kit had “froze[n] and shattered the tube glasses”. So had the chemicals in the fire bombs. “Two cases of tomato juice [had] shattered their bottles”. Whenever he brought canned food inside the shack he had to let it stand all day near the stove to thaw it out. And the touch of cold metal burnt his fingers even through the protection of gloves. Temperatures only rose during blizzards, but even during these “heatwaves” it never rose above several degrees below freezing point in the very best of cases. Consider that among Byrd’s tasks involved him going outside, even during blizzards, to collect data, de-rime the instruments, or unblock frozen ventilation pipes. He rarely came back without a frostbitten nose, toe, cheek, or finger.

While healthy, Byrd put out the stove and opened the door at night, in order to prevent fires and aid ventilation while he slept. After his June collapse, he was forced to keep stove usage to a minimum—enough to defrost whatever meager food he managed to eat and hold down. The result was a sheet of ice gradually creeping up the walls, until it eventually encased the whole of the shack’s interior. When waking in the morning, in cold pitch blackness, Byrd found his face and hair a mess of ice inside his sleeping bag; his shoes were stiff with frozen sweat, and could not be put on without first being worked on with the fingers—at -40ºF (-40ºC) .

Despite such adversity, Byrd managed a partial recovery, but he soon relapsed due to the continuing issue of poor ventilation. To make things even worse, the generator in the fuel tunnel broke down beyond repair, and Byrd was then forced to use an emergency receiver that generated its own electricity by means of a manual crank. Chronically weak and malnourished as he was, his radio schedules became punishing feats of aerobic exercise, which felt like being beaten within an inch of his life. Around this time Byrd also experienced a wave of extremely low temperatures, which froze or nearly froze even his specially prepared his instruments. When required to go out onto the surface, the outside air—at that moment down to -84ºF (-64.4ºC)—nearly suffocated him, on account of the instant constriction of his air passages. While climbing a short ladder the rungs frostbit the balls of his feet through the four soles of his polar boots. And afterward frozen skin came off his cheeks when removing his face mask.

Were it not because the men at Little America began suspecting Byrd’s unwellness on account of his unintelligible messages, long delays, and seeming lack of energy, it is possible he would not have survived. The rescue operation involved subterfuge on both sides, as Byrd feared for his men and the prestige of the operation, while the men at Little America did not wish to contravene his explicit orders not to come for him until six months had passed and there was ample light for safe travelling. Even though a rescue operation was eventually launched, the tractors did not reach Byrd until mid August, two previous attempts having failed due to the darkness and mechanical failure. Moreover, departure from Advance Base was further delayed by several weeks in order to allow Byrd sufficiently to recover, which he managed after being—effectively but not formally, due to a tacit agreement to maintain appearances—temporarily relieved of his duties.

Byrd states at the beginning of his account that he only wrote the book at the insistent behest of friends and colleagues, and that he initially resisted doing so because the experience had been a personal one. Further, as a Virginian and man of his time he deemed it unseemly to share his emotions with world. A man’s emotions, he argued, are most seemly when hidden. Likewise with a man’s suffering, which in his case he concealed as best he could from his subordinates, even after he had nearly despaired and on the verge of death. Indeed, Byrd admits to losing his cool only once, and deeply regretting it—losing his cool in Byrd’s opinion was urging his men to hurry during a radio schedule. True, Byrd was a navy officer, and he confesses that some of what he wrote in his diaries was left out, but it is difficult to imagine a modern man displaying that kind of mastery over his emotions in the face of  such extreme adversity. It is an edifying example.
Next to Lennard Bickel’s Shackleton’s Forgotten Men Byrd’s is one of the most gripping accounts of Antarctic horror and adventure I have yet encountered. His narration is compelling and it is difficult to put the book down, which is probably why there have been multiple editions and why the book remains in print, over 70 years after it was first published. This is recommended reading for anyone seeking inspiration from the hard men of a more glorious age.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Joseph P. Farrell's Reich of the Black Sun: Nazi Secret Weapons and the Cold War Allied Legend

Joseph P. Farrell 
Reich of the Black Sun: Nazi Secret Weapons and the Cold War Allied Legend
Adventures Unlimited Press, 2004

Even though I acknowledge that governments conspire—against the electorate, against organisations, and against other governments—I have never been a conspiracy buff: there is a difference, in my mind, between conspiring to make Britain more multicultural, as did the Labour government of Tony Blair, and covering up alien abductions. All the same, this does not stop me from having some fun weaving the mythology of Nazi UFOs and secret bases in Antarctica into a novel, as I am presently doing, and informing myself with the extant literature on this topic. And it was for this reason that two years ago I purchased the book under review here.
Reich of the Black Sun argues that the secret weapons developed by the National Socialists during World War II were subsequently appropriated by the Americans, under whose aegis former National Socialist German scientists continued their research during the Cold War. Among them are innovative aeronautical projects (unidentified flying objects) and even anti-gravity technology. Dr. Farrell’s is a more science-oriented narrative of the discovery by Hitler’s scientists of what Miguel Serrano calls ‘the other science’ in his Esoteric Hitlerist volumes. 

At the time, this was my first encounter with speculative history of this nature: similar books that I was lent in the past were returned unread. And had I been looking for proof of suppressed events, I would have been disappointed, because Dr. Farrell’s prose is tendentious and calculated to maximise sensation, despite a quasi-scientific veneer. He follows the useful tactic of exploiting the gaps between primary records, and inserting there elaborate speculation and loaded questions in the vein of ‘Could there be more to this than we’ve been told?’ His conclusions precede and predetermine the research methodology, and his prose is clearly aimed at an audience that is already predisposed, indeed actively looking for reasons, to believe in mind-blowing conspiracy theories. The psychologist in me imagines that in an age of alienation, secularism, and boredom, mind-blowing theses provide stimulation and meaning. Certainly, feeling that they are in on a secret, in on the workings of a monstrous conspiracy that most citizens have no knowledge of, infuses feelings of superiority in both unremarkable and marginal readers alike.

Another minus in Reich of the Black Sun is the number of typographical errors: these are numerous, and multiply as one progresses, leading one to speculate that an error by the publisher led to an uncorrected draft making it to publication. Whatever the cause, the quantity of errors is very distracting in the first edition.
What makes this especially disappointing, however, is that Reich could have been a hugely entertaining book. Unfortunately, Dr. Farrell’s approach lacks sophistication, and this limits his appeal to well informed, slightly above-average minds, with above-average critical analysis skills, but crucially lacking when evaluating evidence. It is a shame, because the potential offered by the material under examination only marks the present effort as a wasted opportunity. With less blatant bias, a more clinical tone, sophisticated arguments, and a more devious use of research techniques, an author wishing to run with the idea would have produced an effective series. Even more unfortunately, the second volume in the series (Reich is the first) is no better: it is longer, and has been proofread much more carefully, but it grows tedious after a while, as hundreds of pages are spent going back and forth in what seems like grasping, without ever making a convincing case for the existence of a German anti-gravity device. The result is that even though I am open to alternative perspectives and interpretations of historical data and events, and likewise sceptical of officialised histories, I find myself resisting Dr. Farrell’s narrative, and mentally rebutting him on every page.

The trick is obviously to plant a seed of doubt, and to very deviously hide the fact that this is, ultimately, still a form of science fiction—we may call it, science fictory. Doing it well requires extraordinary skill and, more importantly, an utterly cynical realism in one’s understanding of human psychology—of the fiendish kind some may find in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

On the topic of Nazi secret weapons, as obviously partisan and as hastily put together as it was, I still prefer Ernst Zündel’s classic UFO: Nazi Secret Weapon? The latter offered an entertaining overview of the now well-known theories / mythos without Zündel—who contributed to their elaboration—trying too hard to be taken seriously; and perhaps it is because of that Zündel’s was a more successful effort. And even better from my point of view is Miguel Serrano’s treatment of this exact same topic, which we find in parts of his 1978 book, El Cordón Dorado: Hitlerismo Esotérico (the latter volume covers much more besides). There, in the chapters dealing with the UFOs and the Antarctic, it is presented in much more erudite form and without rationalist pretensions: Serrano’s narrative inhabits a mystical space between history, mythology, fantasy, and poetry, with some elements of autobiography thrown in, so it becomes a philosophical / metapolitical work of literature and reflection.

Despite its defects, Reich of the Black Sun contains a wealth of information and parts of it may prove a useful source of inspiration for a writer of fiction. For me, however, this sits in a neutral space between science and speculation, and I would rather it went more one way or the other.
Let us hope I will have better luck next time.