“Blood and Soil,” cont.

Emerson G. writes:

In “Roebuck on the Catastrophe,” you wrote:

In the stunted intellectual world of these “blood-and-soil” conservatives, you’re either a paleocon or a neocon. They have a set of slogans, and are unable to think beyond them.

I’m a “blood and soil” guy like our Founders and I’m pretty sure I’m a paleocon!

I thought that was a good thing.

It’s not that important, but maybe you could expand on your statement in a future post.

I’m very pleased that you are well enough to keep plugging away.

LA replies:

Thank you very much for the good wishes.

Re “Blood and Soil,” read Wikipedia’s article on the origin and meaning of the term in late 19th century Germany, and, subsequently, its centrality in Nazi ideology. Then ask yourself if that term—that 19th century romantic nationalism, that Nazi-type mystical worship of race and land—had anything to do with the American Founding or the historical self-understanding of the American people.

It’s one thing to believe in and defend your people, your race, your country. It’s another thing to turn the genome of your people into a mystical object of worship, which is what “Blood and Soil” is all about.

Read George Washingon’s Farewell Address, with its deeply felt evocation of the American land and its natural unity, and of the duty of Americans to love America. This is not “blood and soil,” nor is it neocon propositionalism. It is true and proper love of one’s nation, one’s country, one’s people.

Unless paleocons can understand that there are ways of loving your people and your country which are not “blood and soil” tribalism on one side, and not neocon propositionalism on the other, they will remain unable to make any positive contribution to American conservatives thought and politics.

[LA adds: I am not saying that Washington should be our model for how to speak of nation and people, as he also leaned too much toward the abstract Enlightenment view of society. My purpose in bringing him up was simply to point to someone who evokes the deepest love for a particular country, without resorting to the crudities of “blood and soil” type rhetoric.]

Also, I’m reminded that when Jared Taylor appeared on the Phil Donahue program in 2003, he was asked if his beliefs were Nazi-like, and he had a very interesting answer. He said that Nazism was a European ideology which had nothing to do with America and was irrelevant to his own beliefs on race. I would add by extension that “Blood and Soil” is a European ideology which has nothing to do with America and is irrelevant to white American conservatives’ belief in their people and culture.

Here is the beginning of the Wikipedia article:

Blood and Soil (German: Blut und Boden) refers to an ideology that focuses on ethnicity based on two factors, descent (Blood (of a folk)) and homeland/Heimat (Soil). It celebrates the relationship of a people to the land they occupy and cultivate, and it places a high value on the virtues of rural living.

The German expression was coined in the late 19th century, in tracts espousing racialism and national romanticism. It produced a regionalist literature, with some social criticism. This romantic attachment was widespread prior to the rise of the Nazis. Major figures in 19th century German agrarian romanticism included Ernst Moritz Arndt and Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl, who argued that the peasantry represented the foundation of the German people and conservatism.

Ultranationalists predating the Nazis often supported country living as more healthy, with the Artaman League sending urban children to the countryside to work in part in hopes of transforming them into Wehrbauern.

Richard Walther Darré popularized the phrase at the time of the rise of Nazi Germany; he wrote a book called Neuadel aus Blut und Boden (A New Nobility Based On Blood And Soil) in 1930, which proposed a systemic eugenics program, arguing for breeding as a cure-all for all the problems plaguing the state. Darré was an influential member of the Nazi party and a noted race theorist who assisted the party greatly in gaining support among common Germans outside the cities. Prior to their ascension to power, Nazis called for a return from the cities to the countryside. This agrarian sentiment allowed opposition to both the middle class and the aristocracy, and presented the farmer as a superior figure beside the moral swamp of the city.

Nazi ideology

Richard Walther Darré addressing a meeting of the farming community in Goslar on 13 December 1937 standing in front of a Reichsadler and Swastika crossed with a sword and wheat sheaf labelled Blood and Soil (from the German Federal Archive)

The doctrine not only called for a “back to the land” approach and re-adoption of rural values; it held that German land was bound, perhaps mystically, to German blood. Peasants were the Nazi cultural heroes, who held charge of German racial stock and German history—as when a memorial of a medieval peasant uprising was the occasion for a speech by Darré praising them as force and purifier of German history. This would also lead them to understand the natural order better, and in the end, only the man who worked the land really possessed it. Urban culture was decried as a weakness, “asphalt culture,” that only the F├╝hrer’s will could eliminate—sometimes as a code for Jewish influence.

It contributed to the Nazi ideal of a woman: a sturdy peasant, who worked the land and bore strong children, contributing to praise for athletic women tanned by outdoor work. That country women gave birth to more children than city ones also was a factor in the support.

Carl Schmitt argued that a people would develop laws appropriate to its “blood and soil” because authenticity required loyalty to the Volk over abstract universals. [cont.]

November 20

Bartholomew writes:

You wrote:

Re “Blood and Soil,” read Wikipedia’s article on the origin and meaning of the term in late 19th century Germany, and, subsequently, its centrality in Nazi ideology. Then ask yourself if that term—that 19th century romantic nationalism, that Nazi-type mystical worship of race and land—ever had anything to do with the American Founding or the historical self-understanding of the American people.

It’s one thing to believe in and defend your people, your race, your country. It’s another thing to turn the genome of your people into a mystical object of worship, which is what “Blood and Soil” is all about.

Ok, I think I understand a little better where you’re coming from. But you’ll have to forgive me if 20th century Nazis weren’t the first thing that came to my mind over at The Thinking Housewife when discussing 18th century American Founders. Now that you mention it, yes, of course, “Blood and Soil” meant a certain, very idolatrous thing to 19th and 20th century Germans and that idolatry had nothing to do with the American people’s understanding of themselves as a people.

Nevertheless, when you elsewhere wrote that the American people have always had a “multi-leveled” understanding of nationhood and that it differed from the way non-Nazi, traditional Europeans (and every other kind of people for that matter) have thought of nationhood, and that Americans were not in fact a people while under colonial rule, well I had to disagree. Back over at The Thinking Housewife, I linked two sources, one from John Jay (Fed. Paper #2) and one from Benjamin Franklin (On the increase of mankind) in which both Founders make blood claims (claims legitimized by ancestry) on American soil and, Franklin especially, talks about the American colonists as a separate, though British-derived, people as early as 1755!

And when I wrote about “blood and soil”, I was not thinking of Nazis, but rather of the Indonesian (actually Javanese) concept of pribumi (literally “Sons of the Soil”, see this Wikipedia entry) with which I became familiar several years ago while studying Indonesian race relations and which got its start around the same time as the American colonial period, well before the Indonesian gained political independence (1949). In an interesting parallel, some Javanese Muslims have used the concept over the years to persecute the resident, ethnic Chinese. Indeed, it is the basis for some State-sanctioned, unjust racial discrimination against the Chinese. So, yes, I am aware the concept can be twisted in the service of evil. What good can’t?

Anyway, I know that you’re not a proposition nationalist. And I agree that a discussion like this should not disrupt the unity of our small camp. As for the relevance of the discussion to larger issues, I don’t know; I do think it’s only natural we discuss it. After all, if we weren’t in some way already interested in a purely academic way in the concepts of nation, race and so on, how many of us would have stumbled across this blog and others like it?

LA replies:

Yes, I agree that it’s natural that we discuss it, though I felt that much of the discussion, going into such details, was a distraction from things that were more pressing.

As for your and others’ persisting disagreement with me on the question of American peoplehood, the discussion becomes a bit wearisome, since I have already replied adequately—and repeatedly—to your position. I’ve shown that before the Revolutionary era the British American colonists had racial, cultural, and other commonalities, but that it was not until the Revolution that they formed themselves into, and saw themselves as, a people. Why is this so difficult to understand? Can we not understand that a phenomenon, such as peoplehood, has multiple aspects, not one aspect, and that these aspects do not manifest all at the same time, but through a process that takes place over time?

In John Fonte’s worthwhile and very alarming talk on global governance that was shown on C-SPAN over the weekend, he said of the American Revolution (at about the 54 minute mark), “There was a new demos waiting to be born.” That is exactly right, and exactly my point. Most of the elements of this demos were there, but the demos had not yet been born as a demos. The birth happened during the Revolution.

John McNeil writes:

Speaking as someone in the paleocon orbit, I can understand the allure of “blood-and-soil” ideology. In a different thread you mentioned how neocons promote the mind, while paleocons promote the body. This country’s conservative discourse has leaned so far in the mind direction that it seems that we have to focus heavily on the body side in order to bring balance. But I think you are right to criticize the “blood-and-soil” ideology’s tendencies to mythologize race, rather than seeing it as a key, but not sole, aspect of our national identity.

Indeed, the pendulum swing towards the body in the form of “blood-and-soil” may create a strong enough backlash that conservatives will want to go running back into the arms of the neocons, to protect them from the evil “folkish” paleocons. Hence the need for balance.

LA replies:

Thank you for seeing this.

PBN writes:

I would guess I’m not the only reader hoping you will go into more detail and explore further the difference between your traditionalist concept of the American nation and that of the blood-and-soil paleos. If you have the time and inclination I (and I’m sure many others) would appreciate it mightily. Who are the blood and soil paleos to whom you refer? Is that sort of blood-and-soil concept of American nationalism characteristic of paleoconservatism in general in your opinion?

Thank you very much for the work you do.

LA replies:

I don’t have particular writers in mind. But repeatedly in paleocon forums (and then more recently in the huge thread on “Why Dissidence Is No Longer Adequate” at The Thinking Housewife) I see the same phrases, “blood and soil,” “tribe,” “kith and kin and hearth,” as though such attributes were an acceptable and sufficient description of a political society. They are not. A tribe is a tribe, a primitive form of social organization. A tribe is not a society or a civilization. Similarly, “kith and kin” is the basis of a small related group of people, not of a society and a civilization. I believe that this focus on the smallest possible social unit stems largely from Thomas Fleming’s rejection of all larger wholes (except perhaps the larger whole of Christianity, though he is such a hate-filled maniac it is odd to think of him as a Christian) and his idea that a society should be no larger than a small region. For example, after initially defending America’s white, Anglo-European majority character in the late 1980s (and at that time he was the only established intellectual I knew of who shared my ideas which became The Path to National Suicide), he then in the ’90s, and largely in reaction against Jared Taylor, fiercely rejected the very idea of whiteness and the white race, because it was too large and such a large entity could not be real and concrete or form a real society. In other words, Fleming regarded the idea of the white race as too abstract!

Of course, the whole white race does not form a single political community, nor should it try to do so. Nevertheless, whiteness is an indispensable aspect both of the West as a whole, and of each of the white Western societies that constitute the West, and therefore their whiteness must be defended and preserved. And this is what Fleming, in his hatred of the idea of a shared whiteness and his preference for tiny regional communities based on kith and kin and hearth, seemed to miss.

(Note: What I’ve said above is based on things Fleming wrote in the mid 1990s. I virtually stopped reading him around 1996 when I ended my subscription to Chronicles, so it’s possible his views have changed since then.)

November 21

Laura Wood writes:

Surely, it is possible to use the term “kith, kin and hearth” without being a Nazi tribalist. It is a useful phrase, with poetic immediacy, and does not necessarily refer to a society based on tribe alone.

We definitely need phrases like this. They cut through the fog. We need to reawaken this sense of primal solidarity first before melding it with political principles.

LA replies:

Of course I would agree with you that the phrase has its place, if it were used in a broader context. The Nazi aspect was not my objection to the phrase (it’s “blood and soil” that has the Nazi association, not “kith, kin, and hearth”), but the “tribal” aspect. For years I’ve seen paleocons use it as a catchphrase, a symbol, as though “kith, kin, and hearth” were the main and sufficient statement of their position on culture and politics, and the only alternative to neocon propositionalism. What it seems to mean is that only the smallest possible associations, such as the family and tribe, are good; it seems to preclude the possibility of a nation or of a political society beyond the level of a clan or tribe living together in a small area.

And this is part of the reason why the paleocons are nihilistic toward actually existing societies, especially our own, an attitude seen more clearly in the more outspoken nihilism of their paleo-libertarian allies. The paleo-libertarians regard the state as evil and as the source of all evil. Therefore they think that any large country that has a large state deserves whatever terrible things may happen to it. When America is bombed by Muslim terrorists, the paleo-libertarians smack their lips with relish, since America has gotten the comeuppance, or the “blow-back,” it deserves. The paleocons and paleo-libertarians don’t just hate America’s leviathan state; to express their hate, they side with America’s enemies.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 20, 2012 10:00 AM | Send

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