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A Walking Encyclopedia: Revisiting Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

A Walking Encyclopedia: Revisiting Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, an Austrian aristocrat who lived in the United States with his family for a decade after the Anschluss, was a journalist, linguist, novelist, encyclopedist, political scientist, theologian, and student of the human character who reported – on site – and bore even-handed witness to many of the great events of the mid-twentieth century, including the Ukraine famine, the Nazi revolution, the Spanish civil war, and Congolese independence. The first part of this retrospective appreciation is drawn from the first part of a review of Leftism Revisited published as “Yes, but…,” Modern Age, 34 (Spring 1992): 241-45.[1]

The measure of a great work of political or philosophical imagination is whether, after fifty years, it still offers timely and timeless insights into both the daily headlines and the perennial human condition. In this respect, the Bible is in a league of its own. Among ancient classics, Homer’s epics, Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Poetics and Nicomachean Ethics, and Augustine’s City of God must be included. As we approach our own time a consensus may be harder to reach, but would probably include the Federalist Papers, Alexis de Tocqueville’s two great works, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy’s Out of Revolution, and, perhaps in due time, René Girard’s works on mimeticism. These authors all stood on the shoulders of giants of the past. Girard’s name began to be lifted from obscurity during his lifetime. Another one who merits a retrospective consideration is Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, whose adventurous life alone – if even half were ever told – would command our attention. Like Whittaker Chambers and a host of others, he was a witness to the tyrannies that have marred the age, which he presented most forcefully in Leftism (1974), later revised as Leftism Revisited (1991). My original review is reprinted below, with notes and corrections in brackets, followed by short analyses from several of his works. 

Leftism revisited: an appreciation (1992) 

When is the last time heard a word breathed against democracy? Today’s conservative is apt to sing paeans to “the spirit of democratic capitalism” or the “democratic revolutions” that now rock the remnants of the crumbling Communist empire. Contrast these sentiments with those of America’s Founding Fathers, who, as Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn notes, “despised democracy.” The antipathy expressed by Alexander Hamilton to George Washington – “The people, Sir, your people are a great beast” – sounds strange to our ears today.

Here the reader might object: “But Hamilton was a closet royalist and unpopular, to boot! Who elected him?” Consider John Adams, then: “Democracy will envy all, contend with all, endeavor to pull down all, and when by chance it happens to get the upper hand for a short time, it will be revengeful, bloody, and cruel.” Or Thomas Jefferson: “The mobs of the great cities add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body.” Two centuries ago, Adams and Jefferson represented the opposite poles of American politics. Yet both favored “natural aristocracy” and “republican government.”

In his newly revised Leftism Revisited: From De Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot (Regnery Gateway, [1990]; originally published by Arlington House, 1974), Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, an Austrian aristocrat and long-term observer of America and Americans, claims that “the foundations of the American republic are aristocratic and Whiggish with an antimonarchic bent.” The War for Independence indeed held considerable appeal for the European nobility. The evident justice of the American cause won to its side many young noblemen, who crossed the Atlantic as volunteers. Kosciusko, Pulaski, von Steuben, Rochambeau, Lafayette, De Kalb, and the nearly forgotten “Colonel Armand” Tuffin won battlefield honors while helping win American independence. If, as John Adams noted later in life, the “revolution” was first won in the hearts and minds of the people, it caught the imaginations of Europeans, as well.

By sharp contrast, Kuehnelt-Leddihn regards the French Revolution as “historically the mother of most of the ideological evils besetting civilization, not only of the West but of the entire world.” It is true, he notes, that “a filiation between the American War for Independence and the French Revolution existed in a psychological sense, but there was a tremendous and catastrophic misunderstanding as far as ideas and content were concerned – the first in a row of never-ending mutual transatlantic misinterpretations and misjudgments.”

The French Revolution gave impetus to the ideological and increasingly pagan transformation of Christian civilization. The utopian hopes of the French Enlightenment began moving out of the salons and cafes of Parisian high society, first into the streets, then into the capitals of Europe, and more recently into the living rooms and public schools of the middle and lower classes everywhere. Nationalism burst onto center stage in 1789 to the tune of the Marseillaise and the rhythm of marching boots began to jar the dynastic thrones of Europe. But the nationalist impulse was polluted at its source. “The spirit of the Marseillaise was Nazi and racist: ‘To arms, citizens, form your battalions, let us march, march, so that impure blood will drench our furrows.’”

Two centuries of revolution have given us only a utopia of “guillotines, gaols, gallows, gas chambers, and gulags.” Francisco Goya recognized very early that “the dream of reason produces [monsters],” some of which he witnessed and recorded in a series of etchings of the French occupation of Spain, entitled The Disasters of War. Consider the nightmare of Charles-Armand Tuffin [as told in Leftism]. Having fought so bravely for American independence, he returned to his castle in France only to watch with increasing despair the anarchy and the despotism that tore apart his country under the banner of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Lacking Lafayette’s keen instinct for self-preservation, Tuffin took up arms again and stood in the breach, but soon fell ill and died early in 1793 while planning an insurrection against the fratricidal revolutionary government. His collaborators were fed to the guillotine, as were thousands of others. Of such injustices are great civilizations undone.

The new edition of Leftism Revisited begins with an amusing anecdote about the last lecture of Theodor W. Adorno, the chief author of The Authoritarian Personality (1950) and a New Left luminary of the neo-Marxist Frankfurt School. Adorno was the co-inventor of the F-Scale (F for Fascism), a social science research profile which was used by leftist academics in the 1950s to discredit their political antagonists as “authoritarian” and “undemocratic.” (Perhaps it is a sign of progress that today’s “thought police,” by contrast, seem to have given up even the pretense of being scientific). The moral of the story is that revolutions also devour their authors, sometimes in strangely appropriate ways. But the campus rebellion of the late 1960s which, at one point, brought Adorno to a tearful comeuppance also sparked a reaction. “More and more Americans came to the conclusion that Right is right and Left is wrong.”

Here again the reader might object: “Right is right and Left is wrong.? What nonsense!” Not at all. One might as well object to the preponderance of evidence drawn from history, language, and the Bible. The story is always the same: the sheep are sent to the right and the goats to the left. Some are made vessels unto honor; others unto dishonor. This the rebel can never abide. Exalting the sheep, he protests, is unfair to the goats.

Leftism is first and foremost a religion of revolution, something that Edmund Burke recognized near the outset and Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer discerned two generations later. It is the conscious and deliberate transvaluation – with malice aforethought – of western Christendom, its symbols, and its foundational truths. In Manichean fashion, it exalts the humble and abases the proud on its own terms and its own authority. After all, as the saying goes, “turnabout is fair play.” This is the old leveling spirit – “a dull, animalistic leaning towards social conformity” – seeking to bring down all high things, even on a cosmic scale. As Saint Paul recognized, it worships and serves the creature more than the Creator. Rejecting the transcendental perspective of Christianity, Leftism substitutes another gospel: a version of the story told by goats.

The name of this ersatz religion is Legion. Whether it is John Dewey’s “common faith,” Auguste Comte’s “religion of humanity” (Comte is claimed by some as a conservative!), or the diabolical “socialism” dissected by Igor Shafarevich, it draws on the same narcissistic program first insinuated by the Serpent in the Garden and later, according to Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, broached to Jesus in the Judean wilderness. It is this same “revolutionary faith” that the present Librarian of Congress, James Billington, studied in all its pageantry and pretense in Fire in the Minds of Men.

By taking the everyday passions of life and dramatizing them, the revolutionary ideologue aims to hit people where they live. Hence revolutionary theater. All the world is a stage. The arts are increasingly exalted as exquisite yet powerful media of propaganda.

Indeed, it appears that all of modern life has come to be driven by these two engines – power and pleasure – though in widely varied ways. The spirit of our age seems to be embodied by “the Divine Marquis,” de Sade, who is known as “the grandfather of modern democracy” but is even better known to philistines as a pornographic novelist.

Kuehnelt-Leddihn describes the revolution de Sade helped inspire as, “in so many ways, a sanguinary sex orgy.” So decadent have we become that we now seek little more than to sublimate or domesticate the revolution in our midst. Few hope – or care – to stop the contagion of raw greed and violence. Here again the revolutionary program mimics Christianity by insisting, in its own way, that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.”

Consider for a moment the importance of the Christian sacraments in the history of the West. Is it too much to say that communion wine represents the lifeblood of Christian civilization? The communion cup dramatizes and reminds us of the vicarious atonement of Jesus Christ. It is the shedding of His blood – “once for all” -- that binds past, present, and future into a coherent community of faith. It is this very community that the Left seeks to imitate, appropriate, subvert, neutralize, and ultimately destroy, just as a parasite destroys its host.

We do not have to search far for examples. They confront us in the biography of our own nation. A careful theological reading of Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic” should raise some eyebrows. The use of sacramental language in Abraham Lincoln’s Lyceum Address of 1838 should disturb its readers enough to reexamine his more familiar later speeches. What about John Dewey’s description of the public school teacher as “the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of God?” A much older and presumably more chastened Dewey later added: “I cannot understand how any realization of the democratic ideal as a vital moral and spiritual ideal in human affairs is possible without surrender of the basic division to which supernatural Christianity is committed.” Quite so. But, ever the moralist, Dewey still preferred to see us all – sheep and goats, not to mention wolves – adrift in the same boat rather than accept a “spiritual aristocracy.” In this he resembles a character in one of Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s short stories, the “good pagan”: a pathetic creature who, having refused the real wine of faith, prefers “the whiff of [the] empty bottle” [the title of the story]. Dewey’s idea of democracy was a teetotaler’s paradise.

The trouble is that revolutionary democracy, like the “bad pagan,” is anything but moderate. The same may be said of Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s manner of dealing with revolutionary democracy. He writes in the Continental rather than the Anglo-Saxon manner, in order, he says, “to give a wholesome jolt” to the reader. “Complacency is out. I am admittedly a radical, a man who tries to get to the root of the matter.” The author spares us few details while dissecting the “ideology of democracy”: specifically its utopian egalitarianism, social conformity, hatred of diversity, and capacity for violence. So be warned! This book is not for the faint of heart or the queasy of stomach.

The first part of Leftism Revisited revolves around a series of contrasts – identity and diversity, equality and liberty, democracy and liberalism, right and left – that help flesh out the character of Leftism while reclaiming the political language of modem liberalism, which has been expropriated by the Left. “Usurp” could be used here just as easily as “expropriate.” It is the revolutionary imperative: Take whatever properly belongs to your enemy – ideas, values, property, position, power, family – and use it to defeat him. Those who see only unrelated battles over isolated issues miss the essence of the cultural wars that rage in our midst. Kuehnelt-Leddihn takes care to show, in the words of the first edition, that “the vast majority of the leftist ideologies now dominating or threatening most of the modem world are competitors rather than enemies.”

In an earlier essay, Kuehnelt-Leddihn argued that the script of modern history has been written by the two Johns of Geneva, Calvin and Rousseau. The first stood for the glory of God; the other substituted the worship of humanity. Here once again he observes that their intellectual heirs remain locked in battle.

Let us note that the causes célèbres of the Left may change – nationalism, democracy, progress, globalism, racism, eugenics, feminism, environmentalism, cosmic consciousness, political correctness, Afrocentrism – but the central purpose remains the same: Efface the image of God in man for the sake of some other sovereign, some other program, and some other salvation. In a chapel message a few years ago, Kuehnelt-Leddihn declared that the real issue is the choice we must make between God and nothing. Our problem, as Solzhenitsyn declared just a few years ago, is that “we have forgotten God.”

Today, the lurches and spasms of a sick Red dinosaur blind us to the “inner crisis of the West,” a much graver peril than the threat of Communism. This should be evident in the deadly evolution of democracy toward “the totalitarian provider state” with its “increasing drug consumption, the mass butchering of the unborn, the shrinking birth rates, the decline of family life, the evanescence of authority.”

Leftism Revisited concludes with a warning that the “swaddling clothes of nationalism and democracy, two forms of collectivist horizontalism…, threaten to become shrouds, soon to suffocate us.” Indeed, the better part of our culture lies encased in museum-tombs or preserved in obscure cubbyholes. Most of its heirs seem to have lost all conviction and left the city gates unguarded. As Kuehnelt-Leddihn noted in the first edition, “polite doubt or relativism ... will neither lead to ‘progress’ nor protect us against the assaults of the organized or unorganized left, old or new. Man is willing to die only in the service of genuine convictions, for an exclamation mark, not for a question mark.”

The author saves his severest strictures for the “mild Leftism” of the “good pagan,” not to mention the kind of Christian for whom there is no yesterday and no tomorrow. Here I am thinking of a cartoon on the title page of one of his earlier books, The Timeless Christian (1968). An intense little man with an empty head is marching relentlessly ahead. The caption reads: “Stupidity roams the world.” It would be hard to find a more succinct description of Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s thesis in Leftism Revisited.

After recording leftist genealogies in the second part (Campanella begat de Sade, Rousseau begat Robespierre, and so forth), Kuehnelt-Leddihn proceeds to distinguish between real liberalism (Adam Smith, Tocqueville, Mises, Hayek) and false liberalism (Holmes, Dewey, B.F. Skinner) in the third part. The book concludes with a long section on “The Left and U.S. Foreign Policy,” beginning with the great Crusade launched by Woodrow Wilson, who suffered from “the Great American Malady, the belief that people the world over are ‘more alike than unalike’.”

Kuehnelt-Leddihn does not flinch in assigning blame. George David Herron, a clergyman and aide to President Wilson, “helped dig the grave of Old Europe,” he says. Concerning “World War I and its seemingly permanent aftermath,” he argues: 

“Two facts stand out: Twice it was a Democratic Administration (comprising the greater part of the leftist forces) that engaged the United States in a global war, and twice two hierarchical organizations – industry and the military – won the wars. It was the democratically elected or appointed politicians that lost the fruits of these costly victories – costly in blood and money – at the conference tables. In the long run, genuine achievements do not come from mere intuitions, but only through knowledge. The engineers and captains of industry, the generals and the admirals, had learned their trade. The politicians had their jobs solely because they were popular.” 

Lamentably, the gap between Scita [common knowledge] and Scienda [the necessary knowledge for decision making] “is incessantly and cruelly widening.”

So a final word of caution is in order. The stripping away of illusions, which is a necessary part of the maturing process, can be a profoundly demoralizing experience, too. Since the book is written for English readers, many of the book’s best shots are aimed at the leaders of the great island nations, including the United States, that lie on this side of the English Channel. If you entertain a high opinion of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, or American foreign policy generally, be prepared for some bad news. The author keeps his powder dry. Much of it, by the way, he stores in the 150 pages of notes. Read them and weep. Individually and corporately, we have much to repent. 

Shining a harsh light on dark times 

As a young journalist still in his twenties, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, to quote a biographical sketch, “led an adventurous life. Although a scholar, he has always been on the move. He was present in all the hot spots of Europe. There is not a revolution, a revolutionary government, or an upheaval in our times that he has not gone through personally. He was in Nazi Germany during the Reichsparteitag; in Soviet Russia during the big famine of 1932 and 1934; he witnessed the two Austrian revolutions in 1934; he was on the front during the Spanish Civil War; he has seen the Italian Fascism in all its phases. He has observed the Croat unrest and numerous other upheavals of society.”[2]

Much of his subsequent writing exudes the immediacy of a seasoned journalist who could write from direct experience even as he was informed by a wealth of geographical, historical, literary, linguistic, theological, and scientific knowledge. Few journalists or academicians have had such an encyclopedic command of so many fields, although – among Americans -- Walter Lippmann, M. Stanton Evans, and Robert D. Kaplan deserve honorable mentions in this regard.

I first encountered Erik, along with Thomas Molnar, in Portland, Oregon at a meeting of the Mount Hood Society in 1981. In 1987 I invited him to speak as a guest Bicentennial lecturer at my campus In Indiana, a week following Russell Kirk’s lectures. His presentations were humorous, personable, and sometimes shockingly blunt, as when he delivered the most hard-hitting chapel message the faculty and students had ever heard, concluding with a reference to St. Teresa of Avila: “Díos or Nada! God or Nothing!”

Perhaps the best case for the continuing relevance of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s contribution is to simply let the man speak for himself. He had a mastery of eight languages – among them, French, English, German, Russian, Hungarian, and Japanese (studying under a military attaché named Tomoyuki Yamashita) – and was conversant in more than a dozen others. He traveled to over 100 countries, wrote 31 books, and published innumerable articles in 15 languages and 22 countries. A posthumous collection of his writings is entitled – as rendered into English – Worldwide Church: Encounters and Experiences on Six Continents, 1909-1999.[3] The following vignettes are drawn from several sources. 

Academia and Exile 

As “Jesuit by birth” I had taught one year at Beaumont College in England, thus prematurely terminating my study of theology in Vienna. Soon after my transfer to Georgetown University in early 1937 I had married Countess Christiane Goess, a Ph.D. who had come from a very good family, i.e., a family which had produced numerous inmates of concentration camps, Russian prison camps and local jails in the years of the Nazi domination and the aftermath. My own doctor’s degree (at the University of Budapest) I had acquired before my American appointment. Little over a year later, and a few days before I visited Spain, the Nazis took over what was left of Austria. The subsequent weeks, spent in umbra mortis [the shadow of death] on the sombre, deserted battlefields of the Iberian Peninsula, were a time of reflection and meditation. They had the same sobering effects as climbing in the high Alpine regions. Austria under Nazi control I saw twice afterwards. After two confiscations, my career as a writer in the German language had come to a temporary stop; and at the end of 1939, when my third vacation was drawing to a close, I was faced by the momentous question whether to return to the United States in order to provide for my growing family, or to drift with all those dear to me through the dark night into which we were just sailing. Even today I do not dare to say whether my return to America on a boat through Arctic waters was morally a “good thing.” Europe I did not see again until the summer of 1947.

The eight years in America I spent in other universities and colleges, acting as professor, as head of a history department, as a lecturer in Japanese. The last four years I taught in Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia, a school of the Sisters of St. Joseph. This was my happiest time in the New World. The long vacations I used to explore the country visiting all forty-eight States and Canada, my main interest being directed towards the Indians of the Southwest. I saw many sides of life in the United States, at times working on the assembly line, carrying out an assignment of the American Geographic Society in Alaska, hitch-hiking in the Rockies, studying in the Hoover Library, or campaigning for the legal protection of the Calaveras South Grove in California. 

- F. J. Sheed, Born Catholics (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1954), 227-28. 

Identity and Diversity 

Identity and identitarian drives tend toward an effacement of self, towards a nostrism (“usness”) in which the ego becomes submerged. Of course, nostrism (a term created by the Austrian Nazi Walter Pembaur) can be and usually is a multiplication of egoisms [ed. Rousseau’s will of all]. Whoever praises and extols a collective unit in which he participates (a nation, a race, a class, a party) only praises himself. And therefore all identitarian drives not only take a stand for sameness and oppose otherness, but also are self-seeking…

Luckily man in his maturity and in the fullness of his qualifications has not only identitarian but also diversitarian drives, not only a herd instinct but also a romantic sentiment. More often than not we have the yearning to meet people of the other sex, another age group, another mentality, another class, even another faith and another political conviction. All varieties of the novarum rerum cupiditas (curiosity for the new) – our eagerness to travel and to eat other food, hear another music, see a different landscape, to get in touch with another culture and civilization – are derived from this diversitarian tendency in us. A dog neither wants to travel, nor does he particularly mind getting the same food day in and day out, if it is healthy fare. Man, however, wants change. The ant state, the termite state, might remain the same all through the centuries, but man’s desire for change results in “history” as we know it. There is something in us that cannot stand repetition, and this hunger for the new can be quite fatal if it is not blended with an element of permanence – and prudence.

Viewing these two tendencies, these two drives, both with psychological foundations, but only the romantic sentiment with an intellectual character, we inevitably come to the conclusion that modern times are more favorable to the herd instinct than to the enthusiasm for diversity. 

- Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1974, pp. 15-17 (hereafter L. 15-17). 

On Alexis de Tocqueville 

Early in 1849 he became Vice President of the Assembly and later in the year he even joined the Ministry of Odilon Barrot under Louis Napoléon. For six months he was Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Soon, however, he watched with mounting dismay the entrenchment of Louis-Napoléon, who on December 2, 1851 had himself declared President for ten years. Alexis de Tocqueville, who had written such dispassionate and well balanced books and had made some well measured speeches in the Chambre and in the Assemblée, nevertheless did not typify the saying of Gonzague de Reynold: “Often behind a false moderation there lurks genuine cowardice.” He was one of the few courageous men who went with the magnificent Berryer to the mairie (town hall) of the Tenth Arrondissement of Paris to protest against the usurpation of Louis-Napoléon. Almost immediately he was arrested.

Alexis de Tocqueville refused to cooperate with the Second Empire in any way and used his enforced leisure to prepare his major work on L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution, of which a large fragment was published just prior to his death in Cannes in 1859. In this brilliant analytic work he showed that the centralizing tendencies which characterized the Revolution had made their appearance as early as under the regime of Louis XIV and that the Revolution continued evil trends which existed before. At the same time this book also testifies to his newly won conviction that the cause of freedom would fare better in a constitutional monarchy than in any other form of government. More than ever the inner connection between equality, uniformity and despotism stood clear before his eyes. In the Ancien Régime he insisted that ‘intermediary bodies’ – guilds, city governments, provincial parliaments, local privileges – had been in the past the best defense against the extension of centralized tyranny.

De Tocqueville was not only a cold, self-controlled thinker but also a visionary rising to great eloquence. He knew that the world would not stand still and that revolutionary and revolutionary forces were active all the time and affected democracy probably even more than other political and social systems. Yet what were the prospects of democracy, at once so totalitarian and so malleable? In the last volume of his Democracy in America our author expressed the view that it could end in anarchical chaos or, as an alternative, in a new form of tyranny, a totalitarian welfare state which would turn men into mice.

His feeling for the shape of things to come was une sorte de terreur religieuse [a kind of religious dread]. Thus when he died his only hope was the Cross, not “progress” in the popular sense, which he dimly perceived as a road to total slavery, widespread envy and universal debasement. 

- Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, “Introduction,” to Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. Henry Reeve. Vol. 1. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, [1965], pp. xiv-xv, xviii. 

George Davis Herron as Woodrow Wilson’s “Gray Eminence” 

The precise nature of [George Davis] Herron’s services to the United States and Britain is rather ambiguous… [Woodrow] Wilson seems not to have taken serious notice until 1917, and their contacts remained epistolary until the Paris Peace Conference, when they finally met. There is little doubt that Wilson was deeply impressed by Herron’s books – and also, perhaps, by the fulsome praise bestowed upon him by Herron.

His great moment … came when he was empowered to receive Professor Heinrich Lammasch on a confidential peace mission from Vienna. Lammasch was a personal friend of the Emperor Charles, a first-rate scholar and three-time president of the International Court of Arbitration in the Hague…

The meeting between Herron and Lammasch took place on February 3-4, 1918, on an estate near Berne that belonged to Dr. Muehlon, a self-exiled and embittered German industrialist. During a whole afternoon and evening Lammasch explained to Herron the plans of Emperor Charles, plans which were identical with those of his uncle, the murdered Archduke Francis Ferdinand. Lammasch described the envisaged transformation of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy into a federated political body in which, entirely in keeping with one of Wilson’s Fourteen Points, the individual nations (ethnic groups) should be “accorded the freest opportunity of autonomous development.” Actually, the picture painted by Lammasch was such that Herron at first saw no reason to reject the proposal, but he decided to reflect over it before giving an answer. During the night, he began to wrestle with this “temptation” as “Jacob wrestled with God near Yabbok.” By morning he knew that he had gained a complete victory over himself: Lammasch had been nothing but an evil tempter. No! The Habsburg monarchy had to go because the Habsburgs as such were an obstacle to progress, democracy, and liberty. Had they remained in power, the whole war would have been fought in vain.

Lammasch returned to Austria a broken man. Herron wrote a negative report for the President which he immediately transmitted to Hugh Wilson, American charge d affaires in Berne, and on February 11 the President made a speech which implicitly rejected the Austrian peace overture.

Had Austria-Hungary been taken out of the war, Germany could not possibly have fought on (as in 1943, after Italy’s defection) and hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved. But Herron was a bellicose leftist: Human lives meant nothing to him… 

- Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism Revisited: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot (Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway, 1990), 212-14. 

On the Spanish Civil War 

The Second Spanish Republic was born in chaos. The fall of the monarchy revealed enormous moral and intellectual cavities in the fabric of Spanish population; the old order seemed to be dead. The Crown, the Church, the Faith, authority and respect – all disappeared in a holocaust. We must keep in mind that under the “liberal monarchy” the universities had become havens for radical leftist ideologies, religious education had been totally neglected, the big cities had proliferated, a rootless proletariat and lumpenproletariat had grown up, and the agrarian sector had stagnated. Now churches and monasteries were burnt down, education was paralyzed, and the old forces of tradition and order were in total disarray.

The Spanish Left, clinging theoretically to the (no longer existing) parliament and the republic, had its own revolution – la Revolución del 18 de Julio, which amounted to a total break with the unstable republic of 1931. In the Socialist-Anarchist-Communist triad that held power, only the Anarchists stood for a typically Spanish outlook. Behind the rapidly forming battle lines, the “Reds” (including the Anarchist Red-Blacks) staged the main assault against all traditional Spanish values. The cry “Viva Espana!” was declared to be “fascist” and punishable by death. But the war of extermination was directed mainly against the Church, her priests and religion, and the devoted laity. Public worship had to cease. Nearly 7,000 priest, nuns, and friars were fiendishly murdered, and for a lay person to wear a religious medal or emblem often amounted to a death sentence. A feverish madness gripped the masses. The most ghoulish horrors were perpetrated… All the horrible visions of Goya’s desastres de la guerra suddenly came true. Scenes such as Hemingway described in For Whom the Bell Tolls – peasants slaying a country priest, for instanceactually happened. Was there perhaps some good reason for all this?... Schiller’s statement that world history is the world’s court of judgment is simply not true. The noblest causes have been defeated and evil has triumphed, again and again… 

- Eric von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Intelligent American’s Guide to Europe. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1979). 370-72. 

A Red-Brown Alliance Sparks the Second World War, 1939 

Negotiations were started between the Western allies and the Soviet Union to build up a solid front against Hitler. There is very little doubt that peace would have been preserved if Germany had been had been faced by the specter of a two-front war. The German-Russian military pact, concluded between Ribbentrop and Molotov, gave to Hitler the necessary guarantee for a free hand in the West. Even after the joint Nazi-Communist conquest of Poland Soviet economic aid to Nazi Germany was increasing. In the fall of 1940 Nazi planes engaged in the Battle of Britain were using Soviet gasoline. The prospect of a two-front war, on the other hand, would have resulted in a reorganization of the conspiratorial forces within the German army…

Hitler told [Count Galeazzo] Ciano that he was convinced that Britain and France would never start a general conflagration by supporting Poland. Thus the surprise among the Nazi leadership when Britain’s declaration of war on September 3rd was almost boundless...

At first the Stalin-Hitler Pact, which made the war possible, and the subsequent outbreak of the fighting stunned the leftist camp all over the world. The leftists, needless to say, forgot that the Nazis were arch-leftists and that the alliance with the Soviet Union, concluded to destroy Poland, was by no means an act of political perversion. Hitler had always preferred communism to the free way of life and Goebbels, especially as a younger man, had a genuine admiration for a socialist Russia, the natural ally of Germany.

Though used to acting like sheep, many leftists in the Western World discovered that they were still human beings; others stuck blindly to their Red loyalties and found that the Nazis weren’t so bad after all. Needless to say, the Brown press in Germany had made a complete volta face and all the anti-Communist propaganda ceased overnight... The Soviet Union, having just gobbled up Eastern Poland and occupied strategic places in the three Baltic republics (all with Nazi connivance), was suspected of having designs on the latter. Mr. Molotov indignantly declared: “We stand for a scrupulous and punctilious observance of pacts on a basis of complete reciprocity and we declare that all nonsense about sovietizing the Baltic countries is only to the interest of our common enemies and of all anti-Soviet provocateurs.”

Not much later the Soviet Union (without Nazi protest) attacked Finland and decent people all over the world were outraged…

…I do not share the frequently found opinion that a full Nazi victory in World War II would have been preferable to the present [1974] state of affairs. A victory of the German armies would have enhanced Hitler’s prestige to a point where any revolt by the army would have been unthinkable – and no other revolt was possible… With Britain on her knees and Russian war [materiel] under the control of Berlin, the Nazis would have be come well nigh invincible!…

Still, whereas we can insist that America’s entry in 1917 was a truly fateful decision which paved the way to World War II, a Nazi victory in Europe – for one or two generations – would have been an unmitigated disaster. Nearly as disastrous, however, was the political-psychological warfare waged by the Allies as well as the “order” which actually emerged from World War II. (L. 289-94) 

The Portland Declaration: A Summary (1982) 

In the Free World, a beleaguered fortress, it has become imperative to formulate a vision based on a coherent outlook which can be shared by most of us. These, then, are the main points of such a creed in a short version: 

  1. In all languages, whether dead or modern, “Left” stands for negative, “Right” for positive principles.
  2. Men and women are equally important, but their innate characteristics favor (and sometimes rationally preclude) certain occupations and vocations.
  3. The family is the living cell of every society. (Man is the creature who knows his grandfather.) It is based on sex, eros, friendship, affection and charity... friendship [philoi] being the most important factor because loyalty pertains to it rather than to sexuality or Eros.
  4. A healthy society is not a monolith, but consists of various well correlated layers and groups with different qualities and functions. However, neither society nor state should be permitted to become absolutes.
  5. The state is the result of man’s frailty and incompleteness. Its legitimacy rests not only on authority but, due to Man’s fallen nature, also on exterior power. Authority rests on love, or respect, or rational insight, it is an interior force.
  6. The state has an “annexationist” character tending toward centralization and the development of a Provider State. We must uphold the principle of subsidiarity. Action should always be taken by the smallest possible unit, starting with the person.
  7. What we now have is maximal government of the lowest quality; what we need is minimal government of the highest order.
  8. There is no escape from “technocracy.” Reason, knowledge and experience must reenter government at the expense of popularity and passions. Parliaments should faithfully mirror public opinion and might have purely legislative powers, but they must not become policy‑forming bodies. Government should rest on first‑rate expertise [scienda] and respect for personal freedom.
  9. Freedom is inseparable from personal property, socialism produces only equality in poverty.
  10. Freedom is not an end in itself but a condition to live and to act in. “As much freedom as possible, as much coercion as necessary.” The common good marks the limits of freedom.


- Erik von Kuehnelt‑Leddihn, comp., The Principles of the Portland Declaration (New York: National Committee of Catholic Laymen, 1982). 

Photo source: YouTube


[1] The original text of Leftism is available online at, a detailed outline of Leftism may be found at, and the text of Liberty or Equality may be found at

[2]Francis Stuart Campbell [pseud.], The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1943). Text is from the flyjacket.

[3]Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Weltweite Kirche: Begegungen und Erhahrungen in sechs Kontinenten 1909-1999 (Stein am Rhein: Christiana-Verlag, 2000). It includes samples of the author’s dispatches from more than 100 countries, illustrated with black and white reproductions of his photographs and paintings.



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