Troy Southgate examines late Italian philosopher Julius Evola’s Men Among the Ruins: Post-War Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist. PRAVDA.Ru will present this summary as a series
4. ORGANIC STATE – TOTALITARIANISM
Evola now attempts to make a distinction between the totalitarian and organic State. The democracies have gone to great lengths in order to portray the traditional State "in a heinous way," ensuring that opponents of democracy are instantly equated with brutality and fascism. Totalitarianism, being a relatively modern word, is inevitably applied to past systems in a purely retrospective manner. Evola, however, seeks to approach the question of totalitarianism by examining the way in which the term is actually defined by the democracies. Therefore whenever the author refers to the more positive aspects of "totalitarianism," these components are said to accord with the organic State: "A State is organic when it has a centre, and this centre is an idea that shapes the various domains of life in an efficacious way; it is organic when it ignores the division and the autonomisation of the particular and when, by virtue of a system of hierarchical participation, every part within its relative autonomy performs its own function and enjoys an intimate connection with the whole." It is not difficult to see how this differs fundamentally with the individualism and liberalism of the modern age. Evola rightly points out that more traditional societies were even able to accommodate a loyal opposition. In stark contrast to the representative party system of today, the early English Parliament was far more pluralist and was often heard to refer to "His Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition." But the organic State also had a spiritual or religious dimension, whereby the political was formulated in accordance with a more penetrating and unitary outlook. This, says Evola, is what makes the organic synonymous with the traditional. In the minds of the liberals and the communists, of course, this healthy approach to former societies and a more pluralist style of organisation inevitably means that tradition is wrongly equated with "fascism." Evola, on the other hand, is able to counter this fraudulent analogy by explaining that "totalitarianism merely represents the counterfeited image of the organic ideal. It is a system in which unity is imposed from the outside, not on the basis of the intrinsic force of a common idea and an authority that is naturally acknowledged, but rather through direct forms of intervention and control, exercised by a power that is exclusively and materially political, imposing itself as the ultimate reason for the system." Having lived through Mussolini’s Italy, of course, Evola was more than aware of the shortcomings relating to the Corporate State. Totalitarian dictatorship also fails to accept the organic chain that runs between the upper and lower poles of traditional society, replacing pluralism, decentralisation and participation with the fuhrer-princip. Furthermore, the totalitarian State "engenders a kind of sclerosis, or a monstrous hypertrophy of the entire bureaucratic-administrative structure." The Orwellian ministries of Nazi Germany spring to mind, becoming "all-pervasive, replacing and suppressing every particular activity, without any restraints, due to an insolent intrusion of the public sphere into the private domain, organising everything into rigid schemes." But these characteristics are not a purely modern phenomenon, on the contrary, as Oswald Spengler notes in The Decline of the West [Oxford University Press, 1991, p. 73]: "the great cultures accomplish their majestic wave-cycles. They appear suddenly, swell in splendid lines, flatten again and vanish, and the face of the waters is once more a sleeping waste." Thus, a similar pattern emerged during the death-throes of Persia and Greece and, according to Edward Gibbon: "the demise of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the cause of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight. The story of its ruin is simple and obvious; and instead of inquiring why the Roman Empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long." [The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chatto & Windus, 1960, p. 524-5]. Similarly, Evola likens the degenerative process to a living organism: "after enjoying life and movement, a stiffening sets in when they die that is typical of a body turning into a corpse. This state, in turn, is followed by the terminal phase of disintegration." The way in which the organic or traditional State is perceived is also important. Fascism and Marxism tend to lead to blind statism, but Evola believes that the organic State must be granted a degree of "Statolatry." In other words, rather than seeking to worship the State for its own sake, "[t]here is a profound and substantial difference between the deification and absolutisation of what is profane and the case in which the political reality derives its legitimisation from reference points that are also spiritual and somehow transcendent." This is the difference between the materialist and the spiritual, the totalitarian and the organic. The spiritual element acts like a societal adhesive, binding together the unitary whole to which the people are willingly attached without coercion or repression. In contemporary Western societies it is considered normal in certain occupations and ceremonies to undertake an oath. But despite being a remnant of the distant past, the oath today has been stripped of its sacred implications and has become empty, meaningless and contractual. This is because the State and various other national institutions have become a merely temporal form of authority, rendering the more spiritual expressions of verbal fidelity completely irrelevant. The gulf between the contractual and the traditional is demonstrated by the way in which the "Official Secrets Act" is designed to secure the loyalty of the individual to the State. In feudal times, of course, the intrinsically transcendent nature of the oath became manifest by way of the sacramenum fidelitatis. This was infinitely more binding than giving one’s allegiance to a company, an institution or a squadron.
But when the traditional State is said to represent a unitary organism it must not be compared, warns Evola, to the humanistic vision epitomised by Hegel’s "Ethical State." Indeed, when Hegel perceives the individual to be part of a universal code of ethics, he is looking at humanity through rose-tinted spectacles. The unworkable liberalism which pervades this idealistic interpretation will only lead to one thing: totalitarianism in the name of "tradition" and "order." Therefore the "ethical" State inevitably leads to the "fascist" State, with the destructive multi-party system being replaced with an even more dangerous one-party dictatorship. Muammar al-Qadhafi, whose vision of the "organic" State conflicts with that proposed by Evola and other traditionalists, defines the party thus: "It is the modern dictatorial instrument of governing. The party is the rule of a part over the whole" [The Green Book, Tripoli, 1977, p. 11]. On this point Evola agrees, suggesting that once the party has ascended to power it simply tries to advance the interests of its own faction. It is therefore divisive and threatens the stability of that which must be unitary and transcendent. The solution to this problem, it seems, lies in the re-establishment of an elite suited to maintaining the balance of sovereignty and authority. Evola suggests that this can be done from within by both installing and enduring a period of interregnum, although National-Anarchists prefer to advocate the foundation of new decentralised communities on the periphery from which elite cadres recreate the very essence of true aristocracy.
Troy Southgate submitted this work to PRAVDA.Ru
To read Part 1, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/11/28502.html
To read Part 2, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/13/28609.html
To read Part 3, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/15/28798.html
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969