The common link between Steve Bannon and the alt-right – the “socialism of fools”

There is growing concern about the attention being given to far right organizations in the wake of the election of Donald Trump. But there is a good deal of confusion about how such groups are linked to the incoming Trump Administration.

One line of criticism bases itself on the fact that Steve Bannon, a top advisor to Trump who is set to join the new President in the West Wing upon inauguration, made the link clear when he said that his website, Breitbart.com, provided a platform for the “alt-right” (a euphemism for anti-semitic, fascist and white supremacist organizations and individuals). Bannon is now distancing himself from that remark and the focus on possible actual organizational links between Bannon and the fascist right is not likely to bear fruit.

Far more important are the ideological connections that are helping to foster a hostile environment since the election.

One key common ideological viewpoint shared by Bannon and the fascist right is their shared interest in and support for the ideas of Julius Evola, a leading intellectual of Italian fascism and an agent of Nazi Germany prior to and during World War II. Evola is not a widely familiar figure now but he deserves much closer attention. During the recent controversial conference sponsored by the National Policy Institute in Washington D.C. – complete with explicit Nazi salutes – the leader of the organization, Richard Spencer, referred to the attendees as “Children of the Sun.” This was an explicit reference to the youthful followers of Evola in fascist Italy. For Evola the sun evokes a notion of a pure culture that is superior to darker lunar cultures.

A more powerful idea of Evola’s intrigues much of the fascist right including Steve Bannon: that is Evola’s “traditionalism.” In comments that Bannon delivered via Skype to a conference held in the Vatican in 2014 he said the following:

“When Vladimir Putin, when you really look at some of the underpinnings of some of his beliefs today, a lot of those come from what I call Eurasianism; he’s got an adviser who harkens back to 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. A lot of people that are traditionalists are attracted to that.

“One of the reasons is that they believe that at least Putin is standing up for traditional institutions, and he’s trying to do it in a form of nationalism — and I think that people, particularly in certain countries, want to see the sovereignty for their country, they want to see nationalism for their country. They don’t believe in this kind of pan-European Union or they don’t believe in the centralized government in the United States. They’d rather see more of a states-based entity that the founders originally set up where freedoms were controlled at the local level.

“I’m not justifying Vladimir Putin and the kleptocracy that he represents, because he eventually is the state capitalist of kleptocracy. However, we the Judeo-Christian West 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 — and I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing. I think strong countries and strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors, and that is really the building blocks that built Western Europe and the United States, and I think it’s what can see us forward.”

In a single step Bannon artfully evokes via the concept of “traditionalism” both his support and interest in Evola as well as Vladimir Putin and also explains how he wants to “translate” that concept into the American context via nationalism. Thus, when Bannon now tries to distance himself from the explicitly racist and anti-semitic “alt-right” he does it via the concept of traditionalism-cum-nationalism. And there are no shortage of interviews or videos with Bannon where he goes on ad nauseam about his support for nationalism as against the alleged materialist globalism of Washington and New York elites.

That, in turn, leads to the only slightly more palatable rhetoric of Bannon’s new fuhrer – sorry – leader, Donald Trump. When Trump attacks the New York Times, Saturday Night Live or the cast of Hamilton he is invoking the anti-elitist, anti-cosmopolitan and, most importantly, anti-pluralist themes developed by Bannon since he himself abandoned his own “elitist” career as a Wall Street banker. As his remarks to the Vatican conference demonstrate, these themes are deeply rooted in the fascistic concepts of nationalism and traditionalism – an attempt to return the country to some mythical pre-globalist traditional America – an America that has never existed and cannot ever exist.

Unfortunately that approach struck a chord in the recent election with many unemployed and underemployed Americans who think that Trump can conjure up an economic miracle. Bannon himself has said the Trump era is as exciting as the 1930s – a period of massive industrial expansion in countries like the U.S., in part, but also, of course, in fascist Germany and stalinist Russia.

It is no wonder that the German socialist leader August Bebel referred to anti-semitism as the “socialism of fools.”

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  1. Actually, Evola could possibly agree with Bannon. I knew Evola personally, as a young man in Rome, and I have written an e-book about him. Here is my article explaining it all: FATHER FRANK’S RANTS
    Rank Number 714 13 February 17

    DARTH VADER’S WASHINGTON AVATAR

    Darth Vader: the masked, dark villain of the Star Wars series. A cosmic bogey to scare little children. Those keen on demonising Steve Bannon, President Trump’s top strategist, scream he is Vader’s latter-day incarnation. Bit fanciful, eh? But you ain’t heard nothing yet. Might Bannon be a fan of a real, flesh-and-blood, lethal Darth Vader of the last century? An intellectual extremist, an occult magician, a Voldemort-like figure whose name is mud? I mean, shock and horror, Julius Evola! A New York Times article – ‘Steve Bannon Cited Italian Thinker Who Inspired Fascism’ – tells it all.

    In a 2014 Skype interview Bannon did indeed mention Evola’s unmentionable name. Not as a hero of his but as someone admired by a certain Russian ideologue of Eurasianism, allegedly influential with President Putin. Bannon also unkindly termed Putin’s government ‘a kleptocracy’, a robbers’ rule, and said nothing else about Evola. Still, sheer mention of that blood-curdling ogre is enough to drive frantic the liberal media elites out to besmirch Trump and his administration.

    It is perplexing. Because Bannon could not possibly share some of Julius Evola’s key ideas. The priest knew the very man. And has recorded his memories of him in a book: ‘Julius Evola: the Sufi of Rome’. Available on Amazon Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Julius-Evola-Sufi-Frank-Gelli-ebook/dp/B0082BSGFU.

    JE, like me, grew up in Rome. As Baron Julius, a minor aristocrat. An early work, ‘Pagan Imperialism’, raised a storm because he proposed to reverse Italy’s Catholic heritage. The pre-Christian Roman Empire of the Caesars was his model. Future Pope Paul VI – G.B. Montini – attacked Evola in print and so he had to lie low. The point is, the Baron was basically a neo-pagan. A feature irreconcilable with Bannon’s boasted Judeo-Christian philosophy.

    Evola’s magnum opus, ‘Revolt against the Modern World’, sets forth his world outlook. The history of humanity is not an evolution, as many believe, but an involution. Not a progress but a regress. A descent, a fall, a degenerating from an aboriginal Golden Age. The Hindu Arian doctrine of the four ages of man exemplifies it. Priests, warriors, merchants and serfs are severally the ruling caste of each age. But no need to take it literally. Evola meant that the values typical of each group become dominant in different epochs. Sacred, war-like, capitalist and proletarian values rise, clash and fall. At each stage there is a duality, a struggle between opposing forces. Like Rome and Carthage, nobility and plebs, Papacy and Empire, liberty and equality, bolshevism and fascism, order and subversion. You can guess which side JE was on.

    Tradition was JE’s cause, not fascism. Black-shirted hotheads once tried to beat him up as a posh, elitist monarchist, mocking him as effete. An SS secret file dubbed him ‘a reactionary’. He wasn’t even a racist (though he penned a bizarre ‘Synthesis of Racial Doctrine’) in the vulgar sense. If race means anything in his works it is in terms of spiritual types or categories, not biological ones. He quoted approvingly Trotsky’s jibe at Nazi racism as ‘zoological materialism’.

    If Steve Bannon has struggled through Evola’s ‘Revolt’ I wonder what he makes of passages touching upon Islam. The smaller and the greater Jihad. He quotes Qur’an and prophetic sayings in an appreciative sense, as esoteric formulations of heroic doctrines. Thus, you discover that King Richard the Lion Heart and Sultan Saladin fought each other but they were still not real enemies. Because both stood for transcendent, genuine spiritual values. The Christian and the Muslim alike believed their warriors fallen in the holy war were bound for Paradise. A view unlikely to be shared by Steve Bannon, Kim Wilders and Marina Le Pen, I guess.

    JE warmly praised Islamic mysticism, I can vouchsafe. Sufis, initiations into fraternities like the Turkish Mevlevis and the Moroccan Bouchichia he highly valued. His own friend a former mentor, Rene’ Guenon, had embraced the faith of the Crescent and settled in Cairo as a sheikh. Evola gave me a personal letter of introduction to members of an Egyptian tarikat, when from Italy I first travelled to that country.

    Evola’s sympathy for Sufi mystics does not mean he condemned fighting for the sake of religion. Far from it. Before Europe fragmented into quarrelling nation states, the Crusades exemplified universal and transnational principles. Even their military failures were opportunities for inner cleansing and purification from the greed and materialism that had contaminated their soldiers. An authentic military undertaking for the sake of transcendence, as common to the Cross and the Crescent, war rested on a firm belief in a world beyond this world. That transcendence lost or forgotten, fighting becomes something primitive and bestial. Wars of total extermination, genocides like Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the result.

    JE’s literary output is large. ‘The Mystery of the Graal’ explores the Arthurian legend. Predictably (and wrongly), he denies its Christian strands. In ‘Riding the Tiger’, he suggests a spiritual strategy for radical traditionalists in this age of dissolution. In ‘Lo Yoga della Potenza’, he shows how yoga techniques can raise the practitioner to quasi-immortality. A favourite of mine is ‘Metaphysics of Sex’. Phrases like ‘magical coitus’ will puzzle readers. A man will share a woman’s bed for months, always desiring her but ‘without having any physical contact with her’. No hint what the lady might feel about such magical techniques…

    My take on JE is that he plotted to bring together East and West – on the mystical level. I wonder whether Mr Steve Bannon, aka Darth Vader, would approve of that.

    Revd Frank Julian Gelli



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