DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
Further inquiry into the religious roots of American Neoconservativism
Catholic thinkers were convinced by such protestors as Martin Luther and John Calvin that Protestants were not necessarily heretics choosing a contrary religion but were in effect atheists. For one thing, the most radical among them held that faith alone sufficed to save those who were already selected for salvation, anyway; hence no good works were required. As everyone knows, faith without works is not faith at all but is cowardice and hypocrisy. Furthermore, the most egregious of the reforms would have done away with many if not all of the visible signs of faith, including the rituals, ceremonies, and even the flesh-laden cross itself, not to mention the priests, who alone held the copyright on the gospel and its interpretations. Worse of all, some of the reformers believed that Jesus had not come to fulfill the old law but to abrogate it for free love.
When the Protestant revolution got out of hand and tended to anarchy, Protestant leaders reverted to traditional authoritarian thinking, that law and order might be restored with their blessing, under Protestant princes, of course. Permanent revolution, after all, cannot be tolerated. Luther and Calvin differed in several respects, and they had their “liberal” qualities, but on some issues they were more than conservative. Calvin, for example, sympathized with liberal humanists and with aristocratic republicanism, yet he created a virtually totalitarian theocracy for Geneva.
The founding Protestants have had a profound influence on our own “new conservatives” or neoconservatives, also hailed as ‘primitives’, ‘regressives’, ‘pseudo-conservatives’, ‘neofascists’, and so on. The ‘neocons,’ reacting to the supreme liberal threat of Kennedy, continued by Johnson after the inglorious defeat of Goldwater, have managed to obtain control over the funds and police power of the United States – few people realize it, but Clinton was the best Republican the United States ever had.
Many neoconservatives are “fundamentalist” and “born again” Christians, usually right-wing political “primitives” of the Republican Party. They are awfully fond of the Old Testament and its ambiguous, cruel/merciful tribal deity. They are monogamous monotheists who tend to fear communal seed-mixing and the mix-ups of sodomy most of all. As “frustrated Jews,” they tend to support the modern state of Israel; indeed, their alliance with Israel is so intimate that orthodox Jews in Israel fell threatened in their religion, for there are two ways to kill a Jew: take his life, or convert him.
The Roman Church of course has its Jewish aspects: for instance, its fondness for the poor and its customary emphasis on charitable works; the Jews were kind to the poor, to slaves and strangers, and unemployment was virtually unknown in their ancient communities. Yet the Church also has its Imperial Roman aspect, which was hated by both Jews and Christians alike. After the rejuvenation of the Roman civilization by barbarians, Christians in the northern regions of the Holy Roman Empire tended to admire the “mystical”, visionary Paul and his original libertarian credo more than Jesus and his conservative followers.
Now Carl Schmitt, a Catholic apologist for the Nazi Blood Purge and Hitler’s seizure of power, is one of the foremost fascist fathers of neoconservativism. He is rarely mentioned by the neocons – the new conservatives of the United States distanced themselves from German right-wing thinkers when the German atrocities became notorious, although they were wont to continue to study their works. Schmitt’s influence can be traced through Leo Strauss to Paul Wolfowitz in the Bush administration. Schmitt like everyone else in Europe felt the influence of the Judeo-Christian culture.
Schmitt is best known for his works on dictatorship and for the development of the concept of ‘total’ or ‘totalitarianism.’ As for politics in general, he argued that the purpose of politics is to find out who your friends and enemies are so that enemies can be eliminated. The enemy of course is liberalism, which threatens the survival of the good or conservative portion of the human race. Liberals are so immoral, decadent, weak, mentally confused and race-mixed that egalitarian communism might ensue if the world is not saved by its best friends, the “new” conservatives.
Arbitrary decisions must be made to that end, by leaders with dictatorial powers, without genuine debate and discussion. The liberal logjams must be broken up. Emergencies should be provoked to deal with perverse liberalism, to defeat perceived enemies, on the basis of one pretext or another, since socialists are unable to think for themselves. Lies must be told to the feared masses, to make them fearful and docile. Better, yet, if the liar convinces himself that his lies are true – Hitler’s great fault. Hence the dictator, by virtue of his innate will to have absolute power, his unconscious drive to be the supreme being, struggles to obtain total power over the state and all spheres of society identified with it; not necessarily in the name of God, the recitation of which is now rendered obsolete in atheistic quarters, but in the name of natural “human rights”, in the name of democracy, freedom, equality, fraternity, and so on, while subverting those despised liberal ideas in actual practice – after all, the liberals are in fact the hated enemy, and all is fair in the hate-based self-love of war.
Imperial Catholicism was naturally the religious context for Carl Schmitt’s main political notions. The Catholic Church was the ancient Roman source of many conservative notions in Germany. As Novalis noted in 1797, “The instinctive universal policy and tendency of the Romans also resides in the German people. This Germanity is true popularity and therefore an ideal.” We recall that Hitler was brought up Catholic; he respected the authoritarian Church, although he despised its priests and loathed the alleged “weakness” and “servility” of the Christian ethic, and, as we have mentioned, he was impressed with Luther, the frustrated Catholic renegade whose violent demagoguery helped plunge Europe into ruinous war – Luther was not very meek and mild, at least not when wielding a pen. Carl Schmitt gleaned the rationale for his dictatorial Decisionism and anti-Discussionism from the great Catholic conservative, Don Juan Donoso-Cortes, Marques de Valdegamas (1809-1853), a prominent neoconservative descendent of the great conquistador who conquered Mexico. Just as Ronald Reagan, the “sons of Reagan,” and Mussolini, Hitler and Schmitt love to denounce liberalism and the socialist ideals of the English and French revolutions, Donoso-Cortes disparaged the political and social solutions of liberalism and socialism. Liberalism, argued Donoso-Cortes, held that society would benefit by a good form of government, while socialism believed that all forms of government are evils which will be inevitably be done away with at the utopian end of history. But, he asserted, good and evil reside in the human being, who is originally evil and who cannot be saved by forms government or the absence of them. This argument rings familiar in our ears, and presently precludes liberal expenditures on changing conditions and institutions which cannot survive without rendering a great mass of the world population impoverished, with inadequate food and shelter and health care.
Lutherans, unlike the Calvinists who were long opposed by princes, had the help of their princes. Lutherans, particularly the Prussians who aspired to revive the Holy Roman Empire as the Second Reich, despite the liberalization and decentralization of the Lutheran church organization, took on the political features of their worst enemy, the Catholics, after they had defaced and stolen the Catholic property. The primitive, violent and arbitrary characteristics of the Hebrew tribe’s Almighty Terrorist were obviously most attractive to the modern anti-Semitic barbarians whose ancestors had allegedly been saved by the communistic love of Jesus the Christ. Not only in their Northern pride did some of their scholars eventually repudiate Christ’s Jewish origins, claiming that he was Greek, they, in the interest of their “superior northern European culture”, repudiated their cultural debt to the Roman Church and Empire.
“If evil neither exists in the state nor in society, why and wherefore require the overthrow of society and the state?” Donoso-Cortes asked.
Man can only be voluntarily saved by one institution, he said: by the mother Church, according its doctrinal interpretations of the Holy Spirit. For instance, the compassionate-conservative doctrine that rich and great men should be voluntarily responsible for poor little men, who are, in their proper place, not to rebel in any case, not even against the tyrants who wield God’s iron rod to punish the community for the sins of their remotest ancestors, if not for their current works. What great men and their spiritual advisors are responsible for in particular, what their specific material rights and duties are, must not be subjected to debate and discussion, at least not by the under classes; they must be obedient to their overlords, who, in turn, are of course obedient to God.
He who knows God, said Donoso-Cortes, knows the laws of political and social truth. Government and society constitutes the affirmation of the laws, under Christian princes who are subject to the infallible Catholic Church, which is in the sacred business of saving fallible humankind from liberalism and socialism and from rational discussions about the truth or falsehood of its authoritative decisions.
“There is no truth that she (the Church) has failed to proclaim, nor error that she has not anathematized…. She looks upon error as born and existing without rights, and she has therefore pursued, resisted, and extirpated it in the most hidden recesses of the mind.”
We might add that she methodically coerced the truth from many fleshly bodies as well, especially during the Inquisition. Calvin has been selectively prosecuted by scholars for the murder of Servetus. In fact the Protestants followed Catholic suit and murdered thousands of heretics, beheading one, for example, at about the same time as Servetus was murdered, for suggesting that women should be allowed to preach.
Donoso-Cortez admits that free discussion is asserted because all men are in fact fallible in their judgment, and therefore they can and do err, despite the claim from potentates that their power is beyond the pale of discussion and that any challenge to that power is in itself a mistake. Nonetheless, the proposition that the principle of free discussion is infallible is itself fallible, for, all men or fallible or infallible. If they are infallible, discussions would be absurd, since they are bound to be in agreement hence there would be nothing disagreeable to discuss. If they are fallible, nothing could be agreed upon.
Thus goes the old either/or, static logic. Standing alone, the static logic is bound to ignore the dynamic logic, that Truth is the principle of the “truthing” process, a dialectical discussion. But never mind. Fortunately for humankind, the Church provides the only solution to that dilemma or any other conundrum for that matter, by opposing infallible truth to error.
To wit: Man is from God; man’s errors are from sin; he was delivered from sin by washing himself in the blood of the sacrificed son of God, by drinking the blood and eating the flesh of the sacred scapegoat – hence man is worthy of redemption and is received into the Roman Church, where he will confess his sins one after another and enjoy divine inspiration by virtue of his voluntary submission and obedience, between the commissions of sins, and during crusades to wash the rest of the world in blood that it might be saved too.
“The Church alone has the right of affirmation and negation…. When society forgot the doctrinal decisions of the Church, and consulted either the press or the pulpit, the magazines or the public assemblies, as to what the truth was or error, then all minds confounded truth and error, and society was plunged into a region of shadows and illusions…. The doctrinal intolerance of the Church has saved the world from chaos. It has placed political, domestic, social and religious truths beyond controversy. These primitive and sacred truths are not subject to discussion, because they are the basis for discussion…. Discussion, the universal solvent… has destroyed your adversaries, and will destroy yourself…. I am resolved not to tolerate it…. Death assumes the guise of discussion when it desires to remain concealed and unrecognized. Rome was too wise to be thus deceived, and when it entered her gates under the mask of a sophist, she saw the disguise, and she dismissed it…. Man fell only because he entered into an argument with a woman, and the woman fell because she listened to the devil…. This same demon appeared to Jesus in the desert, and attempted to provoke him to a spiritual contest…. Catholic and rationalist theories are not only utterly compatible, but likewise antagonistic. All subversion, whether it be in the political or social order, is condemned by the Catholic theory as foolish and useless.”
Emphasis has been added to the last sentence, to support the status quo of all institutions including liberal and socialist states. However, we suspect that Donoso-Cortes might not mind subverting a communist state, whether or not the communism is spiritual or material – it can be very difficult to keep the two divided. Although he says human institutions cannot save humankind, he obviously excludes the Catholic Church, sets it aside in brackets, for it is a divine and infallible institution.
“Obedience to God is preferable to obedience to man….” continues Donoso-Cortes. “(Princes), by the very act of governing in the name of God, represented humanity as impotent to constitute a legitimate authority of itself…. (People) who only submitted to their princes in obedience to the divine command became the representatives of the highest and most glorious of human prerogatives, that of submitting to no yoke except divine authority…. A voice of peace, consolation, and mercy had been heard throughout the world…. This voice taught the nations… that the rich and great are born to serve others, because they are rich and great. Catholicism, in deifying authority, sanctified obedience… condemned pride… the spirit of domination and that of rebellion…. Everywhere she (the Church) upheld the rights of God and the inviolability of his holy commandments” – the world was a lot better off than under its former masters, et cetera.
In fine, Donoso-Cortes argued that discussion was worthless because men are fallible. Exalted decisions must be made by Catholic princes, in the name of an arbitrary god whose Church is of course infallible. The Pope Pius IX appreciated Donoso-Cortes’ “subtle” conservative reasoning so much that he adopted it to lay down the doctrine of papal infallibility.
Donoso-Cortes’ argument certainly made good sense to Carl Schmitt during the reactionary, decadent “liberal crisis” of his time, so he called its principle “Decisionism,” and applied it to the neoconservative cause. What was direly needed to save the world form liberalism, thought Schmitt, was a dictatorship over a chain of provoked emergencies, instead of futile resort to the liberal rule of settled law with its civil rights and such – Hitler of course used liberal law to seize power, then he suspended the law indefinitely. After all, Germany was encircled by traitors and terrorists. Red-blooded Germans despised the liberal traitors who allegedly sold Germany out. The apocalyptic visions of flooding and fire and bloody soil prior to the Great War were still fresh in the Aryan mind – the pan-German final solution was at hand to purify the world of its liberal, most likely, Jewish corruption.
Donoso-Cortes hated the French declaration of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. Mind you that he had started out as a moderate – he was a member of the Spanish Parliament, then an ambassador to Paris – but experience with the revolutions of his own time had turned him sharply to the right and back into the embrace of the Mother Church. He reasoned that, if the socialists who adhered to their French notions managed to achieve a stateless society without the Church, then such a utopia would, may Heaven forbid, amount to nothing more than the chaotic anarchism of Paris in Terror.
Now that we have we quoted from Donoso-Cortes’ Essay on Catholicism, Liberalism and Socialism, we are inclined to turn to the pages of the most prominent enemy of his way of thinking, someone inspired perhaps by the Devil himself, if there is such a person.
–To be continued–