[Marxism] Taboo Italian Thinker Is Enigma to Many, but Not to Bannon

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Feb 10 07:04:19 MST 2017

NY Times, Feb. 10 2017
Taboo Italian Thinker Is Enigma to Many, but Not to Bannon

ROME — Those trying to divine the roots of Stephen K. Bannon’s dark and 
at times apocalyptic worldview have repeatedly combed over a speech that 
Mr. Bannon, President Trump’s ideological guru, made in 2014 to a 
Vatican conference, where he expounded on Islam, populism and capitalism.

But for all the examination of those remarks, a passing reference by Mr. 
Bannon to an esoteric Italian philosopher has gone little noticed, 
except perhaps by scholars and followers of the deeply taboo, 
Nazi-affiliated thinker, Julius Evola.

“The fact that Bannon even knows Evola is significant,” said Mark 
Sedgwick, a leading scholar of Traditionalists at Aarhus University in 

Evola, who died in 1974, wrote on everything from Eastern religions to 
the metaphysics of sex to alchemy. But he is best known as a leading 
proponent of Traditionalism, a worldview popular in far-right and 
alternative religious circles that believes progress and equality are 
poisonous illusions.

Evola became a darling of Italian Fascists, and Italy’s post-Fascist 
terrorists of the 1960s and 1970s looked to him as a spiritual and 
intellectual godfather.

They called themselves Children of the Sun after Evola’s vision of a 
bourgeoisie-smashing new order that he called the Solar Civilization. 
Today, the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn includes his works on its 
suggested reading list, and the leader of Jobbik, the Hungarian 
nationalist party, admires Evola and wrote an introduction to his works.

More important for the current American administration, Evola also 
caught on in the United States with leaders of the alt-right movement, 
which Mr. Bannon nurtured as the head of Breitbart News and then helped 
harness for Mr. Trump.

“Julius Evola is one of the most fascinating men of the 20th century,” 
said Richard Spencer, the white nationalist leader who is a top figure 
in the alt-right movement, which has attracted white supremacists, 
racists and anti-immigrant elements.

In the days after the election, Mr. Spencer led a Washington alt-right 
conference in chants of “Hail Trump!” But he also invoked Evola’s idea 
of a prehistoric and pre-Christian spirituality — referring to the 
awakening of whites, whom he called the Children of the Sun.

Mr. Spencer said “it means a tremendous amount” that Mr. Bannon was 
aware of Evola and other Traditionalist thinkers.

“Even if he hasn’t fully imbibed them and been changed by them, he is at 
least open to them,” he said. “He at least recognizes that they are 
there. That is a stark difference to the American conservative movement 
that either was ignorant of them or attempted to suppress them.”

Mr. Bannon, who did not return a request for comment for this article, 
is an avid and wide-ranging reader. He has spoken enthusiastically about 
everything from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” to “The Fourth Turning” by 
William Strauss and Neil Howe, which sees history in cycles of 
cataclysmic and order-obliterating change. His awareness of and 
reference to Evola in itself only reflects that reading. But some on the 
alt-right consider Mr. Bannon a door through which Evola’s ideas of a 
hierarchical society run by a spiritually superior caste can enter in a 
period of crisis.

“Evolists view his ship as coming in,” said Prof. Richard Drake at the 
University of Montana, who wrote about Evola in his book “The 
Revolutionary Mystique and Terrorism in Contemporary Italy.”

For some of them, it has been a long time coming.

“It’s the first time that an adviser to the American president knows 
Evola, or maybe has a Traditionalist formation,” said Gianfranco De 
Turris, an Evola biographer and apologist based in Rome who runs the 
Evola Foundation out of his apartment.

“If Bannon has these ideas, we have to see how he influences the 
politics of Trump,” he said.

A March article titled “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the 
Alt-Right” in Breitbart, the website then run by Mr. Bannon, included 
Evola as one of the thinkers in whose writings the “origins of the 
alternative right” could be found.

The article was co-written by Milo Yiannopoulos, the right-wing 
provocateur who is wildly popular with conservatives on college 
campuses. Mr. Trump recently defended Mr. Yiannopoulos as a symbol of 
free speech after demonstrators violently protested his planned speech 
at the University of California, Berkeley.

The article celebrated the youthful internet trolls who give the 
alt-right movement its energy and who, motivated by a common and 
questionable sense of humor, use anti-Semitic and racially charged memes 
“in typically juvenile but undeniably hysterical fashion.”

“It’s hard to imagine them reading Evola,” the article continued. “They 
may be inclined to sympathize to those causes, but mainly because it 
annoys the right people.”

Evola, who has more than annoyed people for nearly a century, seems to 
be having a moment.

“When I started working on Evola, you had to plow through Italian,” said 
Mr. Sedgwick, who keeps track of Traditionalist movements and thought on 
his blog, Traditionalists. “Now he’s available in English, German, 
Russian, Serbian, Greek, Hungarian. First I saw Evola boom, and then I 
realized the number of people interested in that sort of idea was booming.”

Born in 1898, Evola liked to call himself a baron and in later life 
sported a monocle in his left eye.

A brilliant student and talented artist, he came home after fighting in 
World War I and became a leading exponent in Italy of the Dada movement, 
which, like Evola, rejected the church and bourgeois institutions.

Evola’s early artistic endeavors gave way to his love of the German 
philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and he developed a worldview with an 
overriding animosity toward the decadence of modernity. Influenced by 
mystical works and the occult, Evola began developing an idea of the 
individual’s ability to transcend his reality and “be unconditionally 
whatever one wants.”

Under the influence of René Guénon, a French metaphysicist and convert 
to Islam, Evola in 1934 published his most influential work, “The Revolt 
Against the Modern World,” which cast materialism as an eroding 
influence on ancient values.

It viewed humanism, the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation and the 
French Revolution all as historical disasters that took man further away 
from a transcendental perennial truth.

Changing the system, Evola argued, was “not a question of contesting and 
polemicizing, but of blowing everything up.”

Evola’s ideal order, Professor Drake wrote, was based on “hierarchy, 
caste, monarchy, race, myth, religion and ritual.”

That made a fan out of Benito Mussolini.

The dictator already admired Evola’s early writings on race, which 
influenced the 1938 Racial Laws restricting the rights of Jews in Italy.

Mussolini so liked Evola’s 1941 book, “Synthesis on the Doctrine of 
Race,” which advocated a form of spiritual, and not merely biological, 
racism, that he invited Evola to meet him in September of that year.

Evola eventually broke with Mussolini and the Italian Fascists because 
he considered them overly tame and corrupted by compromise. Instead he 
preferred the Nazi SS officers, seeing in them something closer to a 
mythic ideal. They also shared his anti-Semitism.

Mr. Bannon suggested in his Vatican remarks that the Fascist movement 
had come out of Evola’s ideas.

As Mr. Bannon expounded on the intellectual motivations of the Russian 
president, Vladimir V. Putin, he mentioned “Julius Evola and different 
writers of the early 20th century who are really the supporters of 
what’s called the Traditionalist movement, which really eventually 
metastasized into Italian Fascism.”

The reality, historians say, is that Evola sought to “infiltrate and 
influence” the Fascists, as Mr. Sedgwick put it, as a powerful vehicle 
to spread his ideas.

In his Vatican talk, Mr. Bannon suggested that although Mr. Putin 
represented a “kleptocracy,” the Russian president understood the 
existential danger posed by “a potential new caliphate” and the 
importance of using nationalism to stand up for traditional institutions.

“We, the Judeo-Christian West,” Mr. Bannon added, “really have to look 
at what he’s talking about as far as Traditionalism goes — particularly 
the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism.”

As Mr. Bannon suggested in his speech, Mr. Putin’s most influential 
thinker is Aleksandr Dugin, the ultranationalist Russian Traditionalist 
and anti-liberal writer sometimes called “Putin’s Rasputin.”

An intellectual descendant of Evola, Mr. Dugin has called for a 
“genuine, true, radically revolutionary, and consistent fascist fascism” 
and advocated a geography-based theory of “Eurasianism” — which has 
provided a philosophical framework for Mr. Putin’s expansionism and 
meddling in Western European politics.

Mr. Dugin sees European Traditionalists as needing Russia, and Mr. 
Putin, to defend them from the onslaught of Western liberal democracy, 
individual liberty, and materialism — all Evolian bête noirs.

This appeal of traditional values on populist voters and against 
out-of-touch elites, the “Pan-European Union” and “centralized 
government in the United States,” as Mr. Bannon put it, was not lost on 
Mr. Trump’s ideological guru.

“A lot of people that are Traditionalists,” he said in his Vatican 
remarks, “are attracted to that.”

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