The following review was published in the September 2003 issue of American Renaissance.
The Scorpion is the leading publication in English about the thinkers and themes of the European New Right (ENR). It is edited by Michael Walker, an Englishman living in Germany who is well-connected in Nationalist circles in Europe. American Renaissance readers know him from his talk on “European Nationalist Movements” at the 1998 American Renaissance conference.
The ENR is the most important intellectual movement in Europe to oppose the postwar liberal-to-socialist consensus. It insists on discussing issues the “mainstream” does not want to hear about—like the importance of human differences—and raises them in ways that make them hard to ignore. As Thomas Jackson points out in his review of Tomislav Sunic’s Against Democracy and Equality (American Renaissance, December 1992), it has “played a central role in dislodging Marxism as the unacknowledged religion of European intellectuals.”
Nonetheless, it remains all but unknown this side of the Atlantic. Since the Founding Era, Americans have had little interest in European political thought, and this lack of interest has had some justification. America has mostly had a free and stable government that has brought its people peace and prosperity. Europeans mostly have not. The main political invention we have imported from them recently has been the welfare state. Why look to them for inspiration?
Times change. European politics is still no model to follow, but we are no longer free from its vices. On both sides of the Atlantic the state has become the enemy of people and culture. All Western governments now make it fundamental policy to abolish human distinctiveness and thus the qualities that define their own peoples, in the name of efficiency, equality, and lifestyle freedoms. To that end pervasive bureaucratic controls have been established, obvious facts and basic political and social issues hushed up, and dissidents silenced as bigots and haters. The consequences have been catastrophic: political unresponsiveness, bureaucratic tyranny, unchecked cultural degradation, and—to all appearances—the impending death of the West.
Radical political dysfunction requires rethinking basic principles. Neither cheerleading for the American Way nor conspiracy theories lead us anywhere. The similarity of problems on both sides of the Atlantic means there is no longer a fundamental opposition between European and American politics. Instead, the political history of Europe now makes European thought especially useful, because Europeans have been forced by events to think through modern political pathologies. Until recent decades, we have been spared that need.
The other English-speaking peoples are in the same position as we. Long-term stability and an insular location may be good for a country, but they do not provoke thought. European political thinking that tries to offer a fundamental alternative to the current destructive left-liberal order is almost unavailable in English. The result has weakened right-wing political thought throughout the English-speaking world.
For over 20 years The Scorpion has worked to change this. Its goal is to make sense of the modern world and find new ways to defend and advance such traditional concerns as people, culture and nation. It recognizes that the West has turned against itself, and that its leading tendencies are destroying the things that have made it what it is. The publication therefore believes that its ultimate goal must be to help lay the groundwork for a new European civilization based on different principles.
That goal is hugely ambitious, and requires rethinking fundamental principles. Each issue of The Scorpion therefore deals with a great political or cultural theme: race, sex, education, ecology, nihilism, the nature of the nation or the state. It includes a long essay giving the editor’s thoughts, and also pieces, often by ENR thinkers, that offer a variety of other perspectives.
The style of the magazine is intelligent, well-read, and sometimes quite demanding. Authors treat basic issues at the level they demand, and so the magazine is not intended for the mass market. Nonetheless, the attitude of the writers is far from academic. The survival of European man is at stake, and even when discussing high theory—or “culture and metapolitics,” as the magazine’s self-description puts it—the concern is with what to do about the very difficult situation in which Europe finds itself.
Many of the articles are excellent. Those by Alain de Benoist in particular are often very helpful introductions to ways of thought unknown in America, while the editor’s essays add a touch of English commonsense, practicality and fairmindedness to grand continental theorizing. (I should disclose that I am a contributor.)
In addition to the themes to which issues are devoted, the magazine has published several series of articles exploring topics such as the stateless nations and regional cultures of Europe, and the German “conservative revolution,” a movement after the First World War that inspired the ENR and included such men as Oswald Spengler and Carl Schmitt. Other continuing interests include the significance of science—especially genetics—and the search for a new religious outlook. There is an extensive book review section and a reader’s forum, and the magazine also publishes manifestos of non-mainstream political movements, provocative clippings from the European press, and the occasional restaurant review.
The Scorpion handles its topics with great freedom. Even though informally associated with the ENR, it toes no lines and feels free to publish anyone, debate with anyone, and differ with anyone. Above all, it emphasizes its independence. It rejects party lines, pursues arguments as best it can, and presents thinkers who place the Western political world in new perspectives—often, for Americans, radically new perspectives. It opens up new avenues of thought for those who want to extricate themselves from the suffocating public philosophy now forced on us everywhere.
As an example, The Scorpion has featured the thought of the Italian writer Julius Evola and of the writers of the German Conservative Revolution. Those thinkers analyze government (or rather the state) in ways that for Americans are wholly unexpected. In this country we have a simple and utilitarian understanding of government, as the administrator of the will of the people or a regulatory body promoting prosperity and order. European thinkers like Evola and the Conservative Revolutionaries present other theories that are sometimes more useful in explaining political life. Government might, for example, be viewed as a sort of higher will that gives direction to social life, or as the expression of the innate character of a people. Even if in the end we prefer the more down-to-earth American view, the additional perspectives are needed to sort through something as multifaceted as politics. After all, can something men are willing to die for, like country and flag, really be explained by utility and practicality?
More generally, The Scorpion and the ENR are useful because of their breadth of interest. The European complaint is that Americans, especially conservatives, are concerned with machinery, money, moralism, and not much else. The complaint is exaggerated but not invented. It’s a mistake to abandon to the Left whatever goes beyond immediate practicality. Politics depends on its setting—not just economics and ethnicity, but also architecture, the arts, literature, philosophy, and the natural environment. The long-term prospects of the Right are dim unless it can dispute ownership of those things by the Left. The Scorpion therefore takes on not only the political and the “metapolitical,” but the seemingly nonpolitical: thinkers like Nietzsche and Heidegger, cultural movements like romanticism and nihilism, issues like ecology and the built environment. It matters to a nation what music it listens to, how its people dress, what its public buildings look like and what its academics study. There are no quick fixes for such things, but we need to be aware of them, and the Europeans have gone through them much more thoroughly than we have.
The magazine has its limitations. Much of the theorizing is at a considerable distance from concrete politics. It rarely deals with issues of immediate practical concern to Americans, although it sometimes publishes articles about America, and has had a special issue on this country. It is put together for people who want to think about basic issues, and so will be unsatisfying for anyone who wants ready-made positions. And most of us will disagree with some things in it. Writers close to the ENR often use America as a whipping boy for the problems of Europe, and their discussions of economics and ecology sometimes ignore the need to put limits on the jurisdiction and activity of government. There are differences between European and American political discussion, and we must translate concepts, make allowances, and sometimes disagree.
The ENR seems to me wrong, for example, to blame Christianity for the universalism and egalitarianism that it correctly believes are destroying the West. In fact, Europeans have been looking for equal and rational universal principles since the pre-Socratics, and composing utopias since Plato. The wars of the last century and the EU suggest that getting rid of Christianity only makes European secular utopianism more destructive.
However that may be, what’s needed today is not support for the views we already have or a ready-made program for cultural reconstruction. What’s needed is a source of new perspectives, and a forum in which important and often speculative ideas can be discussed freely and openly, without regard to whether our rulers find them acceptable. For this, The Scorpion is an irreplaceable resource. There is nothing else like it in English.
There was a revealing debate some years back in the Scorpion readers— forum between the editor and several readers who questioned the wisdom of publishing a couple of letters from national socialists. Might not such actions threaten the magazine’s respectability and ability to be taken seriously? Mr. Walker rejected the criticisms vigorously and at length—as indeed he had vigorously taken issue with the national socialists—and summarized the credo that motivates his magazine:
“Unlike [one of the readers], I am happy to say that I am neither “viscerally anti-nazi” nor “viscerally anti-liberal.” I am viscerally anti-stupidity, and I am viscerally anti-totalitarian, I am viscerally anti-crudity and viscerally anti-ugliness … . These are the things we should be fighting, not liberals or nazis but these things when they appear in what they do and say, for in debate a man should not be held to account either [for] what others say he is or even for what he says he is; he should be held to account for that he means and what he does.”
In a world of spin, hype, code words and politically correct censorship, The Scorpion thus stands for discussion among human beings. It stands for ethnic and cultural particularity in a world that celebrates —diversity— so as to abolish it in favor of the uniformity of economics and bureaucracy. It promotes the intellectual and cultural work needed for constructive political action to become possible. It should be heard.
Independence, adventurousness, and lack of concern for respectability come at a price. The publication is at times something of a one-man show, and is perpetually underfunded. It comes out only once a year, and subscriptions are expensive (in North America, $36 for four 52-page issues by airmail. There is a reasonable selection of articles at its website, gopher://sdf.lonestar.org/1/users/thescorp/. The magazine has also put out a CD that includes the 19 issues published from 1981 through 1998. The CD is well worth acquiring, since very few of the topics the magazine was discussing in 1981 have dated. The —fast pace of modern life,— it seems, is only a distraction from the intellectual paralysis The Scorpion has always fought.