Skip to comments.The Century 1914
Posted on 06/16/2013 1:25:22 PM PDT by annalex
On the book The Century 1914 by Dominique Venner (Pygmalion, 2006). The author answers the questions of the journalist Pauline Lecomte.
In publishing The Age of 1914 , Dominique Venner offered an impressive historical synthesis which is a culmination of all his works, and proposed a new interpretation of the European history in the twentieth century. To summarize this book is impossible. Everyone will make their own interpretations. It provides a detailed analysis of the great revolutionary movements and major conflicts of the twentieth century. It contains a broad meditations on history, politics and great actors. It also contains projections for the future. What is immediately striking is the description of the old European social order, the modern times order and its development before 1914. Thast was the order that the Great War destroyed. On its ruins, Dominique Venner shows that four major ideological systems arose, embodied by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, Lenin, Mussolini and Hitler. The author takes these ideologies seriously. For him, they are overlaid with classic conflict of powers, and exacerbated the struggles that have taken place during a large part of the century. The American democratic order emerged victorious. And with what consequences, and for how long? These are the questions to which Dominique Venner offers answers. It also examines the principles that will enable European nations to be reborn. We will try to find out more with him.
Pauline Lecomte: A note of your Prologue attracts attention. You write that France and Europe, contrary to what is claimed, have not entered into the era of the end of ideology. To the contrary, they are experiencing ideological saturation. What do you mean?
Dominique Venner: We do not perceive this ideological saturation because one ideology reigns supreme. It has become the norm. It is not discussed and is not even seen for what it is. This is a consequence of the new "Thirty Years War" (1914-1945) that ended with the victory of two major foreign and hostile to Europe powers, the United States and the USSR. Consequently, Europe has ceased to exist. Bleeding, traumatized, guilt-ridden, meaningless, doubting herself, she lost faith in her values to the point of forgetting them altogether. She became a part of the two victorious ideological systems, divided between the supporters of the Soviet communism and the American democratism. This lasted until the implosion of the USSR in 1991. From that time, only one model has emerged, Americanism, crowned by its victories, its economic efficiency, its technical and military superiority. Various chauvinistic bursts against it have not changed anything. The American liberal ideology, its economics, hypocritical moralism, its globalism and its interpretation of history have established themselves as the standard, single-mindedly.
PL: But could the debate on the French decline and reforms result in a rejection of the dominant ideology?
DV : There is no debate. Everyone is saying the same thing, left and right. Everyone suggests technical or economic, or institutional remedies for what is a huge crisis of civilization, a metaphysical crisis, existential.
PL: What is the cause of this crisis, according to you?
DV: It is a direct consequence of the new Thirty Years War which began in 1914 and ended in 1945 with a series of disasters and the death of the old European order, that was still alive on the eve of 1914.
PL: You dedicated the first chapter of your book to the description of this European world before 1914. That world comprised, you say, both the traditional and very modern features. Does it not mean that at the time the alliance was possible in Europe between seemingly contradictory worlds of tradition and modernity?
DV: We usually forget that before 1914, except for France where the republican system was not working very well, all the major European powers were monarchies supported by active and progressive nobility. The performance of the German Reich, that was a worry for England was even one of the causes of the war.
PL: You just mentioned the nobility. What was his role in Europe before 1914?
DV: Without idealizing it, we see that the purpose of the nobility was not only its perpetuation, but also related to merit, implying a constant renewal, to also the transmission of a service ethic and asceticism. The function of the nobility, when it is worthy of the name, is to control and protect, but also to offer the whole society a living model of higher humanity, in the manner of Homer's heroes in ancient Greece. In Prussia, the secret of this superiority was based on training of the successive generations who had internalized an ethic of duty, which was ingrained in the subconscious. In 1914 and until the end of the war, with few exceptions, the German bourgeoisie acquired the values of the Prussian nobility and the authoritarian state, where a strong power, independent of special interests and classes, was dedicated to the common good. Through the voice of Thomas Mann, Max Weber, Oswald Spengler, the theologian Ernst Troeltsch or historian Friedrich Meinecke, we understand that the German intellectuals asserted until 1918 that freedom is conceived not only in serving the duty, but that also service and human dignity are not mutually exclusive.
PL: You say that the European order was destroyed by the war of 1914. But that order did not prevent the outbreak of the war. Isnt then that order to blame for the war?
DV: Indeed, on the eve of 1914, the European system was in crisis. But it is not the order that caused the war, but rather the oblivion and denial of the order. Since the end of the first Thirty Years War in 1648, the so-called European concert between states was based on the awareness of belonging to the same family of nations between the wars which were to remain limited and subject to "the rights of nations". The Concert of Europe was based on the civilizational values common to all the ruling elites. However, since the late nineteenth century, the common consciousness was transformed by the democratization of public life, which became the main cause of hatred between nations and resulted in the embarrassment of 1914. Thereafter, the industrialization of war multiplied in unimaginable proportions the murderous and destructive weaponry. This morbid process of changing passions and technology was a product of not the European civilization but of its corruption. In their time, the greatest minds, such as Taine, Renan, Nietzsche, Unamuno, Ortega y Gasset, Spengler, Toynbee, Max Weber were worried about the drift that led to the disaster.
PL: After 1918, were there not attempts at revitalization of the European order?
DV: It was, indeed, the essence of all the ideas of the "third way" between capitalism and communism, present in some resistance movements. It was also the original meaning of Italian Fascism and German National Socialism - putting aside the specifically Nazi doctrine of racial Darwinism, which was something of its own self. These two great movements however, remained dependent on previous democratic excesses. They were wildly aggressive in their nationalism. They were not at all European. However, they were based originally on healthy aspirations of the younger trenches generation: the desire to start a new aristocracy of merit and socialism freed from the class struggle and egalitarianism. The active part of this generation was composed of young men who believed in the expeditious and unlimited power of the will. In Germany, after the failure of the old elites in 1918, the revival was underway till 1933 driven by the new elite emerging out of plain citizenry and the military. Their cyclopean efforts and strategy as brutal as they were clumsy, failed as well, and the failure was much more definitive than the previous one. In the aftermath of two world wars, only ruins of the ancient civilization remained in Europe and a huge mess, while domination without distinctions by the foreign powers and ideologies was imposed; the pseudo-European Union is the product of that.
PL: In your book, you take ideologies seriously. Are they not mere illusions?
DV: Even when they are perfectly utopian, ideologies determine the behavior of men and communities once they seize their mind and imagination, that is to say their "representations" of reality.
PL: What do you mean by the concept of "representation"?
DV: Unlike other mammals, humans need to give meaning to their lives. They need meaning as much as bread. Men exist only in their "representations": religious, moral or ideological, often unaware of them, yet they shape their existence and goals. These "representations", which could also be called prejudices, themselves change in different cultures, beliefs and ages, only the need for them is universal. The intensity of the need to form "representations" varies, of course, depending on the individual. While, for example, all European from the thirteenth century, lord or shepherd, was satisfied with a basic belief in a tutelary God, the clergy were exploring theology on which they based the purpose and justification of their lives. It may be objected that many frauds and cynics entered into professions without any "representation" just to listen to their appetites, their thirst for power or misanthropy. Maybe so, but to make the absolute selfishness an exclusive vision of life, is still in itself a "representation."
PL: In Europe, which are now the dominant representations?
DV: For the most part, these are the same that were imported by the victors of 1945, a mix of anti-fascism and Americanism without the national qualities of Americans, but with the added bonus of a compassionate neurosis. Everyone or almost everyone is impregnated with it, starting with the former leftists. It should be noted that the attractive ideal of individual freedom and openness to the world of liberalism, mask more or less the predatory oligarchic power associated with the media. We also know that any market power turns people into slaves and consumers of the goods, but these are truths to keep to ourselves. In the manner of a huge clear-cutting bulldozer, the system leaves Europe with empty shell of States having abdicated much of their sovereignty to the global power of financial predators. There is no question that the nations themselves lost the treasures of which they were once the guardians, and lost the power to protect their own nationals; they are now exposed to the crazy ukases of the Eurocrats for which they did not ask, to the invasions of exotic manufactured products, not to mention other, more serious, consequences of invasions. Gradually a landscape of torn societies emerges, in which the common rules of civility are largely abolished, where fathers are not quite fathers and women are always something more than women, where youth is made incapable of any exercise of will, -- selfish and capricious beings. The general breakdown of the system is temporarily forestalled with antidepressants and the common efforts of the psychologist, the judge and the police.
PL: According to you, this system has reached the end of its course and already hit the wall of reality.
DV: The collapse of the myth of Progress, the key of the whole system, is the first reality caused by the menace of the Progress itself with its myth of unlimited economic growth, the threats to nature and to life, the threat of biological manipulation. Universalism is the second pillar of the ideological system. Now, however, the reality of the clash of civilizations undermined that pillar. This reality is reflected in the scale of the entire planet, but also on our soil due to massive immigration. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world has entered a totally new era, unstable, dangerous and unpredictable, but, paradoxically, which can give a chance to the Europeans.
PL: Can we draw an analogy between what Europe has lived through since 1945 and what Asia, especially China, had lived through for a long century after the Opium Wars and until recently?
DV: Despite all the differences, a mental detour to China is indeed interesting to apprehend the distances and understand the lot of Europe since the Second World War. China possessed a many thousand years of history and was a civilization that could compete well with that of Europe. She also knew historical ruptures, suffered invasions, yet she had triumphed, still able to reinvent itself. As you said, everything changed for her starting with the Opium Wars with one extreme episode in 1860, the conquest of Beijing and the sack of the Summer Palace by a Franco-British expeditionary force . China was then forced to open its ports to trade and the influence of the West without being able to oppose it. The trauma was immense. For the first time in its long history, China doubted itself and its civilization. The new generations were convinced that the tradition was the cause of the decline. To modernize and regain power, China had to get rid of ancestral values and adopt those of the West, including communism. This was the origin of the chain to the bloody revolutions in the delusions of Maoism. Afterwards, under Deng Xiaoping, shaken by the fall of the USSR, and also influenced by the example of Japan and even Singapore, China - that is to say its hierarchs - has chosen to follow her own way. It took the American West input of liberal economics, but retained an effective authoritarian political system and in doing so, on the spiritual plane, China went back to the roots of Confucianism. Proportionally, since World War II, Europeans, without knowing it, had an experience similar to that trauma China endured in the late nineteenth century. We have lost faith in our values , which we do not even recognize anymore. We imitate the American model, even when we criticize it, having no freedom to imagine a truly European future.
NRH [sic! A-x]: Do you think that the example of China and all other re-awakened identities will in the future encourage the Europeans?
DV: For Europeans, the combination of modernity and tradition as observed in Asia is a troubling mystery. With the premonitions of the end of history, the culture of progress, the contempt for the past and given our lack of long memory, we are helpless before the great global movement back toward identity. We take it even as regress: -- what a ridiculous idea, isnt it, to appeal to Confucius, Moses or Mohammed! In our error, we seek technical (political, economic, organizational) solutions for a crisis of civilization that is spiritual. It is therefore difficult to understand that a Muslim computer scientist is more powerful for he feeds on the Koran; that the State of Israel is based on the Torah; that the modernization of India is inseparable from return to Hinduism. This is the reality. Technical modernity cannot happen other than by people who vigorously assume their identities going back to their sources. Outside of Europe, the page has been turned on the quest for modernity in imitation of the Americanized West and on the rejection of tradition.
PL: Do you think that time will also come for Europeans?
DV: In the immediate future, as we are victims of our lack of identity memory, we stay at the early stage of the quest for efficiency: our decline is analyzed as a technical, or political, or structural failure. But it will come to an end. Faced with major events to come, we will have no choice but to call on our spiritual energy. The one from which the vital impulse of our civilization arose several thousand years ago, and continued to lead us for better parts of our history. To become impregnated with the thought of Homer for Europeans, Confucius for Chinese Muhammad for Muslims is to be reborn on the models that fueled the most authentic part of these respective cultures. It's not going in reverse, it is the reactualization of the living principles of the ideal of our life. We must liberate our founding poetry from the libraries which locked them up and sterilized our wisdom culture!
PL: In your mention of prophets, sages and poets of the founders of the great traditions of identity, you are quoting among others Confucius, Mohammed, Moses or Homer, but not Jesus. Why?
DV: Because of His claim of divinity, and His universality, Jesus is apart and on another level entirely. He himself says that His kingdom is not of this world.
PL: Beyond what we have said, one is tempted to ask what do you propose?
DV: I do not propose any recipe. I propose to reflect on ourselves with a truly fresh look. Facing the collapse of all political and religious foundations, I propose to return to our authentic sources, those of the Homeric poems, the foundation of the Greek world, and unparalleled expression of all Indo-European heritage . The solutions will then come by themselves. In a terrible spiritual crisis, first spiritual answers must be provided. Men exist only in what distinguishes them: clan, lineage, history, culture, tradition. There is no universal answer to the questions of existence and behavior. Each civilization has its truth and its gods, all respectable so long as they do not threaten us. Each civilization brings his answers, without which people, men or women, deprived of identity and models, rush into bottomless trouble. Like plants, men cannot live without roots. It is up to everyone to find his own.
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 Subject widely developed in "History and tradition of the Europeans. 30,000 years of identity" (Le Rocher, 2002, new edition completed 2004).
Everyone who wants to control others (liberals) wants power. Knows they need and require power.
Knowing this they know to be effective they must keep power and maintain it, and often increase it and maintain it.
They keep it by controlling the law and writing the law so as to allow them to keep power.
This is the second greatest reason why a countries’ laws increase greatly. The first is because societal decay destroys individual self-control, so the control of the individual - since they are no longer desiring to govern themselves - reverts back to government, often at the pleading of its own citizens.
The old world nobility that he celebrates also couldn't find outlets for its desire to serve outside of war.
When the war finally came, it swept that class away.
By the way. Posts 1-3 are the three parts of my ping list. I intend to use it occasionally, perhaps a few times per month, for post on philosophical, historical or political nature, especially on issues dear to me: monarchy, religious conservatism, political right wing, paleolibertarianism, anti-communism and anti-sovietism.
Some of you know me for being sort of bite-your-head-off type Catholic, but I will not engage this ping list for ecumenical brawls I am certain to engage in the future, and I will not encourage religious wars on these threads.
So, I want to consolidate my three lists into one. If your name is on 1-3, and you want to be on the consolidated list, you needn’t do anything. If you are not on any list but want to be, let me know. And if you want off, also let me know.
The greatest reason is something we don’t even recognize: the lack of national consciousness. We plain don’t have national governments, not in the US and not in Europe. The corollary is that every modern government governs like an occupying force, but multiplying rules of curfew.
Renaming the years and events of 1914-1945 as “the Thirty Year War” is neither helpful nor accurate.
Another great Socialist/Communist ideology as to how to the state controls its minions.
Lots of interesting speculation, but without an anchor.
Europe isn’t just Moses or Homer. Europe was a combination of Athens, Greece, and Rome—but the dominant cultural influence was Christianity.
As the interviewer’s question suggests, however, Venner ignores Christianity. And his response? “Because of His claim of divinity, and His universality, Jesus is apart and on another level entirely. He himself says that His kingdom is not of this world.”
Well, yes. But that is not to say that Christianity has no impact on the culture of Europe and the West.
He is correct in pointing out that “nobility” has its positive aspects. Nobles are trained to care for their dependents: “Noblesse oblige.” That ideal is not always or even often put into practice, but then neither are most other ideals.
On the other hand, freedom is hardly an American invention. It stems ultimately from Christianity. Islam demands submission. Allah is totally arbitrary, and his followers must do whatever he says. The Jewish and Christian God is good and just, and His followers are given the gift of free will, to love and obey God or to disobey and turn away.
The decay of Europe, and also the decay of America, are owing to the same problem: the loss of Christian values as the leading cultural and social determinant.
I would say it is not "commercial world" but what he calls Americanism, acerbically adding "without the national qualities of Americans". Do you really think that interest in national and religious identity is nothing more than "trouble with the commercial world"? Do you think France or Germany prior to 1914 did not live in the "commercial world"?
It's precise and to the point.
Centralized planning has nothing to do with the subject on hand.
Venner sounds like a garden-variety unwashed Sartre wannabe.
Yes, I agree with you. In France or Germany, for example, — I am no expert on either but I’ve seen stuff on the Internet — everywhere you look you see Christian history, and only marginally, and for pure entertainment, pagan classics.
Maybe because Sartre is the only French philosopher you can remember the name of?
And what is wrong with the assertions you quoted, on merits?
Yesterday ProgressingAmerica posted an interesting piece by H. L. Mencken from 1920, mostly about Theodore Roosevelt, but with some choice comments on Wilson (who was still President at the time).
Roosevelt: An Autopsy, by H.L. Mencken (1920)
It's still false.