Break Their Haughty Power

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Tue Oct 31 08:53:21 MST 2000


(Some of you may be familiar with the name Loren Goldner. His writings have
been circulated widely on the Internet. I had mistakenly assumed that he
was a member of the American SWP, but he seems rather to be a "council
communist" of long standing. In any case, he has set up a website called
"Break Their Haughty Power" at: http://home.earthlink.net/~lrgoldner/. The
selection below consists of the concluding paragraphs of a review titled
"The Nazis and Deconstruction: Jean-Pierre Faye's Demolition of Derrida".)

Further, Faye shows that the famous word "Dekonstruktion" was first used in
a Nazi psychiatry journal edited by the cousin of Hermann Goering, and that
the word "Logozentrismus" was coined (for denunciatory purposes) in the
1920s by the protofascist thinker Ludwig Klages. In short, sections of
French and, more recently, American academic discourse in the "human
sciences" have been dominated for decades by a terminology originating not
in Heidegger but first of all in the writings of Nazi scribblers, recycled
through Latin Quarter Heideggerians. Faye zeroes in with surgical skill on
the evasions of those, particularly those on the left, for whom the
"greatest philosopher" of the century of Auschwitz happened to be--as a
mere detail--a Nazi.

But there is more, much more. (No short review can do justice to the
multiple levels of this book.) Faye argues that the evolution of
Heidegger's thought from 1932-1933 to 1945 can be understood essentially as
a response to the party attacks, by Krieck and others, and Heidegger's
(apparently successful) attempts to distance himself from what Krieck
called the "metaphysical nihilism" of the "Judenliteraten" (i.e., Jewish
litterateurs) which he claimed to find in Heidegger's pre-1933 work.

Faye shows that after 1933, under pressure from Nazi polemics, Heidegger
began to characterize the prior Western metaphysical tradition as
"nihilist" and worked out the whole analysis for which he became famous
after 1945: the "fall" in the Western conception of Being after Parmenides
and above all Aristotle, the essence of this fall in its modern development
as the metaphysics of the "subject" theorized above all by Descartes, and
the evolution of this subject up to its apotheosis in Nietzsche and the
early Heidegger of Being and Time. Between 1933 and 1945, this diagnosis
was applied to the decadent Western democracies overcome by the "internal
greatness" of the National Socialist Movement; after 1945, Heidegger
effortlessly transposed this framework to show nihilism culminating not in
democracy but... in Nazism. In the 1945 "Letter on Humanism" in particular,
Western humanism as a whole is assimilated to the metaphysics of this
subject The new project, on the ruins of the Third Reich, was to overthrow
the "Western humanism" that was responsible for Nazism! Thus the initial
accommodation to Krieck and other party hacks, which produced the analysis
in the first place, passed over to a "left" version in Paris, barely
missing a step. The process, for a more American context, goes from Krieck
to Heidegger to Derrida to the postmodern minions of the Modern Language
Association. The "oscillation" that Faye demonstrated for the 1890-1933
period in Langages totalitaires has its extension in the contemporary
deconstructionists of the "human sciences," perhaps summarized most
succinctly in Lyotard's 1988 call to "donner droit de cite a l'inhumain."

Faye is tracking the oscillation whereby, in 1987-1988, it became possible
for Denrida, Lyotard, Lacoue-Labarthe, and others, to say, in effect:
Heidegger, the Nazi "as a detail," by his unmasking of the nihilistic
"metaphysics of the subject" responsible for Nazism, was in effect the real
anti-Nazi, whereas all those who, in 1933-1945 (or, by extension, today)
opposed and continue to oppose fascism, racism, and antisemitism from some
humanistic conviction, whether liberal or socialist, referring ultimately
to the "metaphysics of the subject"-such people were and are in effect
"complicit" with fascism. Thus the calls for an "inhuman" thought.

It is perhaps here that the "linguistic" level on which Faye operates
achieves both its greatest success and reveals its weakness. Because, quite
apart from philosophy and language, there is no shortage of examples in
which liberalism, Social Democracy, and Stalinism, to take three major
sorts of forces that have been enlisted in antifascism, have been complicit
with fascism itself. In Germany, before 1933, it was the liberal parties of
the center that melted away, losing their base to Hitler; the German Social
Democrats outdid themselves, even after January 1933, in attempting to
carve out a role as a loyal opposition to Nazism (right up to May Day 1933,
the date of both Heidegger's rectoral speech and of the banning of the
SPD); as for the Stalinist KPD, it is the case in point of Faye's
"oscillation."

In the last decade in France and in Germany we have seen moderate right and
moderate left parties, in classic fashion, moving to accommodate the
demands of the new racist far right. Faye, writing in the now forgotten
democratic euphoria of 1989-1990, feels free to use terms such as
"democracy" and "human rights" in a completely unexamined way, whereas such
terms have also been sullied in the mouths of the likes of Francois
Mitterand and Jacques Attali, not to mention Bernard-Henri Levy and Alain
Finkielkraut. Faye is absolutely right to show where the full force of the
Heideggerian project comes from and to what moral bankruptcy it leads:
Heidegger, in three decades after World War II, could never bring himself
to condemn Auschwitz, and in a 1952 essay mentioned concentration camps in
the same breath with the mechanization of agriculture as comparable
examples of "nihilism". Faye is also right to show how Heidegger and the
Heideggerians, in their "redescription" of Western thought, have distorted
everyone from Aristotle to Spinoza to Nietzsche, the last of whom
virulently denounced German anti-Semitism and who described himself as "at
one" with Spinoza, whereas for Heiegger Spinoza was a "Fremdkoerper"-- a
foreign body-- in philosophy. There is a deep critique to be made of
Heidegger, the French Heideggerians, Foucault and Derrida, and their
latter-day bastard progeny the post-modernists, and Jean-Pierre Faye has
made a major contribution to it. Western thought will be extricating itself
from the effects of their "redescription" of the tradition for a long time.
Nevertheless, this project cannot be carried through to completion without
a critical examination of the way in which many "democrats" and defenders
of human rights, by their hypocrisy and double standards, have themselves
contributed to the malaise over the positive meaning of such concepts,
through the most remarkable emigration of words, of the ideas of Ludwig
Klages, Dr. M.H. Goering, and SS officer Ernst Krieck.


Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org






More information about the Marxism mailing list