I’ve been reading a couple of pre-war right-wingers, Hilaire Belloc and Julius Evola. In the few things I’ve been reading, Belloc’s big political concept is Nation, Evola’s is Empire. Belloc seems to be mostly an old-fashioned continental liberal who likes citizenship and equal laws for those of the same nation. He thinks that in the end Nation has to make room for Church, but it’s unclear from what I’ve read what he thought about the relation between the two. Evola thinks Nation is OK and agrees it’s insufficient. He doesn’t like the Church, though, he’s evidently taken Nietzsche too much to heart, so he brings in Empire, which he sees as a comprehensive self-sufficient political and spiritual reality.
Both are influenced by modern thought and write for modern men. It follows that they present themselves more as Rightists than Traditionalists, in that they tend as a practical matter to emphasize fact and therefore force. Thus, Belloc admires the French Revolution, and Danton in particular, because they did things and created realities that seem to him enduring and therefore normative, like the national state based on equal citizenship. Likewise, Evola insists on the traditional distinction among priests, warriors and economic producers, and in theory recognizes the supremacy of priests, or at least of priest-kings, but in fact seems more interested in warriors and thought he was going to get something out of working with the Fascists and even National Socialists.
The two are of course very different, I haven’t read that much by either, and any overall statement I made about their views would likely distort them. Still, it seems illuminating to pick up on some themes they present and observe the fate of the concepts they favor. If we do so, and pay attention to facts, then we have to notice that today Western nations consider “openness” their ultimate moral substance and “xenophobia” the ultimate sin, the American Dream means bureaucratic equality and a heavily mortgaged house, and we have an inchoate universal empire claiming to be a self-sufficient political and spiritual reality based on world markets, transnational bureaucracies, and the human rights movement. Under such circumstances there is no prospect that nation or still less sacralized empire can serve for us as leading ideals or sustaining moral realities.
It seems to me that the prewar Right, especially on the continent, appealed too much to what is strong and to decisive action. Such appeals showed its modernity and therefore its incoherence. The lesson I draw from its practical disappearance after the War, and the more radical disappearance of any significant Right after the ’60s, is that such appeals don’t do much good. You have to have something before you can make that thing effective, so contemplation and truth must be given clear priority over action and effect. “Im Anfang war die Tat” and “the real is the rational and the rational is the real” sound impressive but putting action, achievement and fact first leads to technological nightmare. To rebuild we must start with the good and the true rather than the visibly effective.