Julius Evola (1898-1974) was a philosopher and esotericist who lived and wrote during and after the reign of Benito Mussolini in Italy. His esoteric, and slightly idiosyncratic, philosophy espoused in numerous books – Revolt Against the Modern World, Ride the Tiger, and Men Among the Ruins, to name but a few – has been widely influential to readers all across the political spectrum. For example, Evola is cited both as a “fascist intellectual” who “was a major influence through his writings on Italy’s most brutal and revolutionary neo-Fascists”1 and as someone who “opposed literally every feature of Fascism.”2 The natural question that arises is, “How can this be?”
Evola’s political thought was constantly transforming, which makes it extremely hard to pin him down to one particular set of views. While obviously a traditionalist (what that means is explicated in Revolt Against the Modern World), it is a far stretch to say that Evola was someone who was in pure opposition to all of Fascism. To attempt to fully understand Evola’s complex relationship with Fascism, it is best to examine his 1974 book Fascism Viewed from the Right.3 In it, he makes a few key points that are particularly telling. While conceding that “[t]here was very little that was worthy of being ‘conserved’” during the 1930s, Evola explains that the “problematic aspects” of Italian Fascism – likely the aspects he opposed and the modern nature of Fascism pointed out by my colleague Anton Stigermark in his post “A Punch from the Right” – can be explained, if not justified, by the fact that Fascism in Italy had to “start from zero.”4 Further, his belief that Fascism could be reconnected with “the great European political tradition”5 shows that he was hardly an anti-Fascist (in fact, he vehemently opposed the Fascism/anti-Fascism dichotomy,6 which indicates that he likely fell somewhere in the middle of the road).
What’s more, Evola’s combination of Mussolini’s statements regarding the relationship between the people and the State and his own classical conceptions of politics leave us with a “dynamic and creative relationship between ‘form’ and ‘matter’ (body).”7 While agreeing that Mussolini’s quasi-secularized State was “ambiguous,”8 that in no way meant that he rejected the State, or even the ideal of Fascism as such. Being a fan of transcendence (as Stigermark pointed out), Evola recognized that the Fascist state was able to help potentially lesser men achieve a level of transcendence and, further, some ideal of organic national unity.9
What leads to much confusion, and likely causes scholars such as the individual cited above to say Evola “opposed literally every feature of Fascism,” is his critique of totalitarianism – a feature assumed to be intrinsic to Fascism. Evola starts his critique by defining what the Traditional State is – namely it’s “organic, but not totalitarian […which] coordinates forces and causes them to participate in a superior unity, while recognising their liberty.”10 The State, he says, “does not substitute itself for everything […nor does it] aim at a barracks-style regimentation of society”;11 rather, the Traditional State is one where there is “a natural gravitation of parts and partial unities around a centre that commands without compelling.”12 While seemingly antithetical to mythologized views of Fascism, Evola points out that Mussolini’s own ideal Fascist State was not the one caused by modern materialistic conditions – that is, one where “the state […] should take the citizen by the hand like a father takes his son’s hand into his to lead”13 – but rather a state based on “free adherence and reciprocal respect.”14 In fact, Evola even went so far as to say the following about a totalitarian Fascist state (my own emphasis):
Everything in Fascism that had the character of the state acting as a school teacher exercising pressure, not on the political and objective level, but on the level of one’s personal moral life, as one of the aspects of ‘totalitarianism’, should be classed among the deviations of the system.15
It is easy to see that Fascism is not incompatible with Evola’s individualist-traditionalism in the slightest. Rather, any “anti-Fascist” views held by Evola were strictly contextual and contingent,16 and were merely critiques of a “restorative movement in progress, with its possibilities not yet exhausted and crystallised”17 – that is to say, a stepping-stone system, to the “true Right,” so to speak.
It is thus my view that scholars who view Evola as anti-Fascist are taking his isolated critiques of contingent aspects of a working (or shall I say, work in progress) political system and generalizing them to the ideal of Fascism as a whole; an understandable error, but one that is easily rectified via research. I thus fall in the camp of those who think Evola was a “fascist intellectual,” if not a Fascist in his own way.
- Cyprian P. Blamires and Paul Jackson, World Fascism: A Historical Encyclopedia (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2006), pp. 208, 216.
- A. James Gregor, The Search for Neofascism: The Use and Abuse of Social Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 93.
- Which may be supplemented with essays from the collection A Traditionalist Confronts Fascism (London: Arktos Media, 2015).
- Julius Evola, Fascism Viewed from the Right (London: Arktos Media, 2013), p. 32.
- Evola, Fascism Viewed from the Right, p. 27.
- Ibid., p. 26.
- Ibid., p. 32.
- Ibid., p. 38.
- Ibid., pp. 35-36, 41.
- Ibid., p. 42.
- Ibid., p. 43.
- Ibid., p. 45.
- Evola’s essay “Identity Card” in A Traditionalist Confronts Fascism proves this.
- Ibid., p. 25.
A Traditionalist Confronts Fascism
This volume, a companion to Evola’s Fascism Viewed from the Right and Notes on the Third Reich, contains many of his occasional essays on the topic of fascism as understood from a traditionalist perspective which were written between 1930 and 1971, thus comprising both his contemporary and post-war assessments of the fascist phenomenon. Here we find Evola’s views […]
Ride the Tiger: A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul
Julius Evola’s final major work, which examines the prototype of the human being who can give absolute meaning to his or her life in a world of dissolution• Presents a powerful criticism of the idols, structures, theories, and illusions of our modern age• Reveals how to transform destructive processes into inner liberationThe organizations and institutions […]
Notes on the Third Reich
In the same manner as he critiqued Italian Fascism in Fascism Viewed from the Right, in this volume Evola analyses the German National Socialist movement, making a distinction between National Socialism as an ideology and the contingent circumstances which led to its defeat in the Second World War. He traces the origins of the movement […]
Fascism Viewed from the Right
In this book, Julius Evola analyses the Fascist movement of Italy, which he himself had experienced first-hand, often as a vocal critic, throughout its entire history from 1922 until 1945. Discussing – and dismissing – the misuse of the term ‘fascism’ that has gained widespread acceptance, Evola asks readers not to allow the fact of […]