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Ralph Raico old piece critical of Erik Von Knuehnelt leddihn.

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AnonLLF Posted: Sat, Jan 15 2011 9:15 AM

I wish he didn't change his mind.

In the Libertarian Forum July 1974

I apologize for the formatting of my re-print of the  entire text here.It's difficult to alter into a well structure body of text.

Emboldings are mine.



An important part of the process of transforming the American right

into an imitation of old-line European conservatism (a transformation

which Murray Rothbard in particular has described very well in a

number of places) has been the seeping into American rightist thinking of

the philosophy of history that sees the germs of modern "decay" and

"chaos" in the various critical movements of the past few centuries,

especially the Enlightenment, but going back even to the Reformation

and, beyond that, to certain medieval "heresies." All modern ideologies

are seen as anti-theologies, and God forbid that any significant historical

change should be interpreted as the result of earthly, economic interests.

The incorporation of elements of this Weltanschauung has given current

American conservatism an air of profundity, old-world wisdom and

downright "class" which is the main product retailed, for instance, by

the "Intercollegiate Studies Institute" and by Modern Age, as well as by

National Review in its more "philosophical" moments. When carried

through by a genuine scholar like Eric Voegelin, this approach has a

certain interest. The present work is an example of the approach at its

very worst. So, with an eye to the possible impact of Leftism in

reinforcing a fundamentally reactionary and anti-libertarian

interpretation of the course of modern history among American rightists,

I beg the reader's indulgence to venture a lengthy and what could be

termed spirited attempt at nipping that impact in the bud.

A comment is in order concerning Kuehnelt-Leddihn's scholarliness:

there is no doubt in my mind that the greater part of his reknown within

the American right is due to the circumstance that (as he says of himself

in the Preface) he reads twenty languages and speaks eight. This, and the

fact that he travels to interesting places, rather than his mediocre and

derivative books or his remarkably uninformative column in National

Review on continental affairs, account, I think, for what reputation he

has in this country. Now, Leftism is filled with close to two hundred pages

of back-of-the-book notes, demonstrating his knowledge of languages and

his wide reading, and these are evident also in the text. (Some of the

apercus that are supposed to be the fruit of this rich learning, though, I

find ridiculous: to the pensee, for instance, that "socialism and the

Jewish mind do not easily mix," my reaction would be: Someone ought to

tell them about it! ) But the quality of K-L's thought is so low, his power of

reasoning so dim, that the rest just does not matter very much. Take a

look at this try at linguistic fireworks, at the beginning of the chapter on

"Right and Left":

Right and left have been used in Western civilization from

times immemorial with certain meanings: right (German

rechts) had a positive, left a negative connotation. 111 all

European languages (including the Slavic idioms and

Hungarian) right is connected with "right" (ius), rightly,

rightful, in German gerecht (just), the Russian pravo

(law), pravda (truth), whereas in French gauche also

means "awkward, clumsy," (in Bulgar: levitsharstvo). The

Italian sinistro can mean left, unfortunate or calamitous.

.The English sinister can mean left or dark. The Hungarian

word for "right" is jobb which also means "better," while

ha1 (left) is used in composite nouns in a negative sense:

balsors is misfortune.

How this stuff is conceivably connected with the political terms "left"

and "right" -which stem from the accident that radicals were seated to

the left in the French National Assembly of 1789 and reactionaries to the

right - will perhaps be made clear to us in the hereafter, when we no

longer see as through a glass darkly. Meanwhile, I submit that we have

here to do with an author whose sense of judgment is fundamentally

spoiled and who is not above trying to show off (as another example of his

corrupt judgment, there is the fact that he mentions Tom Paine four
times in the book, never discussing his political ideas, but twice

mentioning that he was the hero of a play by a certain Nazi playwright

named Hanns Johst). All in all, I cannot recall ever coming across a case

such as K-L's, where a scholarly apparatus of similar magnitude was put

to the service of such a low-grade intellectual effort. A few preliminary

examples: the author is discussing the criminal code of the Soviet Union;

he suggests that the very existence of punishment there contradicts the

regime's official philosophy: "since materialism rejects the notion of

free will, why should there be punishment for anything?" This is all he

says on the subject, so we are left to wonder: What does it profit a writer

on social questions to read twenty languages and yet never to have heard

of the deterrentist theory of punishment? In another place, K-L advances

the claims of the neo-liberals, like Roepke, as against older liberals such

as Mises, stating that the former "admitted curbs on mammothism and

colossalism to preserve competition. They thought that the state had a

right and then a duty to correct possible abuses of economic freedom -

just as we give a mature person a driving license and the right to travel

wherever he wants but still make him submit to traffic laws." With

grade-school stuff like this, just whom does K-L think he is writing for?

Moreover, there are little gaps in his reading which tend to disqualify him

from writing on the subjects he does: note fifty-two on page 482 shows

that he probably has not even heard of the Clapham-Ashton-Hartwell

view on the effects of the Industrial Revolution on the British workingclass

or at least certainly has no idea of its significance.

K-L's languages and life of reading allow him to make disdainful

comments (justifiable, I suppose) about all kinds of ignorant, man-in-thestreet

Americans (it's part of his indictment of democracy, you see) ; but,

judged by the standards of the better sort of academic thinking prevalent

here, he doesn't begin to qualify as a serious intellectual.

In coming to grips with Leftism, we can leave aside the completely

superficial discussions of key concepts in social thought, such as

"liberty," "equality," "democracy," etc., contained in the first few

sections; the book is clearly no treatise on political philosophy. We ought

to note, however, K-L's petty sniping at such "leftist" concepts as

equality before the law - as well as his sneaky rationalizations, sprinkle

through the book, of such oppressive institutions as European serfdom

and even Negro slavery ("In many cases the blacks could have been

grateful to have ended as house slaves in Virginia rather than as human

sacrifices in bloodcurdling ceremonies such as the Zenanyana, the 'Evil

Night' in Dahomey"). And in his continuing attack on democracy,

childish touches are not lacking: rape is referred to as "sexual

democracy" and cannibalism as "nutritional democracy" (why not

"aristocracy"?). On this level of analysis of concepts, however, his

definitions of "right" and "left" deserve some examination, since they

help determine the structure of the book. It is here that the mishmash

begins in earnest.

How, the reader might wonder, does Hitler wind up on the left? The

answer is simple: everything evil is identified with the left in K-L's mind,

just as everything good is identified with the right. Get these as unbiased

definitions, meant to help us organize modern political ideas and

developments: "The right stands for liberty, a free, unprejudiced form of

thinking, a readiness to preserve traditional values (provided they are

true values), a balanced view of the nature of man . . . but the left is the

advocate of the opposite principles." So that Hitler - even if he hadn't

been a believer in democracy (K-L's interpretation) was necessarily a

leftist. All methods of political repression are leftist, according to our

author - for instance, censorship (hasn't K-L ever heard of the Index of

Probited Books? - or was this a "leftist" element in the Church of the

Counter-Reformation?). For this reason, he claims that even
Metternich's system was partially leftist: "it assumed authoritarian

features and aspects which must be called leftist, as for instance the

elaborate police system based on espionage, informers, censorship and

controls in every direction." My own scholarship is, alas, quite modest;

but even I have come across the fact that, among the penalties imposed

on the Arians at the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) was that all copies of

Arius's books had to be surrendered under pain of death; so that the

history of the thin hand of the Church guiding the strong arm of the State

m smashing heretics and intellectual deviants goes back at least as far as

that. Informers were used by the various Inquisitions, of course, and part

of the instroment of recantation which Galileo was forced to sign under

threat of torture compelled him to inform on other Copernicans.

(Naturally, the ecclesiastical powers have not been able to do much along

these lines in more recent centuries, but then it has been a long while

slnce the world belonged to them.) Guess for yourself the value and

integrity  of a work that starts with this fundamental distinction: "If we

identify, in a rough way, the right with freedom, personality, and variety,

and the left with slavery, collectivism, and uniformity, we are employing

semantics that make sense." Thus, the implication is that a sensible

terminology would classify the Roinanovs as leftists; and Jefferson and

Pame, who are termed "mild leftists," would have to be moderate

supporters of collectivism.

The heart (and bulk) of this much too long book is constituted of a

history - a history of "leftist" ideas in the modern period and of their

working out in political developments. K-L's presentation of key episodes

in this  continuing story is completely tendentious and largely worthless.

To take one example in connection with early modern history: he cites

the Anabaptist excesses at Muenster, but not the preceding attempts by

both Lutherans and Catholics to annihilate, by the most brutal methods

imaginable, peaceful Anabaptists who asked only for the right to ignore

the State. His chapter on the French Revolution is a joke. He finds

himself able to discuss the taking of the Bastille (and to conclude that the

Marquis de Sade inspired the whole incident, as well as the brutality that

accompanied it), without any reference to the fact that the activity in

Paris was a response to a military coup put afoot by the Court. He

describes in absurd detail varlous horrors committed during the Reign of

Terror, but does not even mention the war going on at the time against

most of Europe, nor does he inform the reader that the French perhaps

had cause for panic in the circumstance that the King and Queen had

betrayed them to an enemy who had publicly threatened to give the city

of Paris over to military execution. Very significant is that K-L

scrupulously ignores the rather well-known thesis of Tocqueville, that the

Revolution (and Napoleon) basically simply continued the statist and

centralizing tendencies of the monarchy: this is an interpretation which

he, with his uncritical adulalion of European monarchism and his hatred

of the great Revolution of 1789 (a hatred which is nothing but Taine shorn

of every shred of intelligence, or, better, Gaxotte shorn of all esprit and

style), could not afford to consider.

The lengthy descriptions of leftist atrocities is a favorite pastime of KL's

in this book. Meanwhile, massacres committed under the auspices of

monarchy, imperialism, rightist regimes or especially his own Church

are either sloughed off with an adjective such as "harsh" or consigned to

utter oblivion. Thus, we look in vain for gory details when it is a question

of the expulsion of the Spanish Jews in 1492, the activities of Franco's

Moorish troops during the Civil War, or the atrocities of Leopold 11's

agents in the Congo (K-L foolishly talks about the Congo's brutal

exploitation by "private companies" -trying slyly to shift the debit from

the side of imperialism and monarchism to the side of capitalism, by

passing over the fact that these "private companies" were set up and

largely owned by the King of the Belgians). As for any number of rivers

of blood shed by the political and religious powers legitimized through

tradition or by regimes defending the status quo there is not a word: not a

word, for example, of what the Crusaders did when they captured

Jerusalem in 1099, of what those who responded to Innocent 111's call did

to the Albigensians, of what French Catholics did to the Huguenots on St.

Bartholomew's Day, of what the Versailles soldiers did to the

Communards in 1871 (they killed about twice as many people as were

killed during the Re~gn of Terror). Since K-L is into dwelling on the

interesting little physiological facets of political 1-illings, he might have
shared with his readers an example or two of how the kings of Europe for

centuries put to death those they judged to be felons. A very good

example would be Damiens, executed in 1759 for attempting to

assassinate Louis XV. (The description is in Iwan Bloch's biography of de

Sade, which K-L cites.) It is possible that no other human being in the

history of our race ever suffered as much in one day as did Damiens.

The snide remarks K-L permits himself in regard to leftists are totally

inexcusable and shameful. "Demolition," he asserts, "delights all

leftists, fills them with diabolic glee" (including Kautsky, Bernstein and

Jean Jaures? - or were these perhaps men of the right?). He refers to

"the great leftist delight, i.e., the defiling of cemeteries" (look - I

personally know two or three leftists who, I am morally certain, do not

delight in defiling cemeteries!). This garbage is repeated again and

again: "One should never forget: Sadism is the outstanding

characteristic of the entire left." He terms FDR "nearly insane" and

says that "he could not be held morally responsible for many of his

utterances and actions" (but the most he says about Hitler along these

silly psychiatric lines is that he was "neurotic"). He piggishly calls

American student demonstrators "screaming and shouting bearded

spooks." For the following, the reader (unless he or she has a copy of the

book handy) must take my word that it appears in Leftism: "Nicolas

Calas exhorted leftists with the words, 'Comrades, be cruel!' Hitler

followed the call. Not in vain have we been told by Charles Fourier,

grandfather of socialism, in his Theorie de l'unite universelle: 'The office

of the butcher is held in high esteem in Harmony.' " Just take in for a

moment this thoroughly dishonest juxtaposition of statements! K-L is

obviously making a desperate gamble on the ignorance of his readers, on

their not being aware of what is probably the single best known of

Fourier's ideas: namely, that he wanted to make all socially-necessary

work enjoyable; one method was through raising the social esteem of

indispensable but dirty jobs, such as the butcher's. To use this concept of

Fourier's in order to associate him somehow with political atrocities and

Hitler is really as simple and direct a case of intellectual knavery as I

have ever seen in print in my lifetime.

The section on Marx is filled with all sorts of personal nonsense about

the great socialist. K-L writes of Marx's "mad ambitions" as a young

man, i.e., to make a name for himself as a poet (surely, every young man

who had ideas of that kind must be mentally unbalanced! ), and states

that: "The non-fulfillment of his (artistic) dreams made him a

revolutionary, and here we have a strong analogy with Hitler." (Really,

instead of irrelevantly footnoting articles in Hungarian in Munich

reviews on the non-existence of serfdom in medieval Hungary, such an

assertion as this one might be thought to require some substantiation -

but none is furnished.) We have petty shots: "There is no doubt that

Marx, initially at least, loved his wife and daughters dearly . . ."

(emphasis added), as well as large-scale silliness: "the dominant

characteristic of Marx: self-hatred" (actually, his dominant

characteristic was rebellion). K-L's plain lack of intelligence comes out

in his comment on Engels in his relationship to Marx: "This wealthy

manufacturer from the Ruhr Valley also had sufficient funds to support

the penurious cofounder of international socialism and communism.

Lenin's 'useful idiots' thus existed long before Lenin." Just what is this

supposed to mean? The words say that Engels was a dupe, a kind of 1940's

Hollywood-type, maybe like Edward G. Robinson or John Garfield - but

such an interpretation of Friedrich Engels' rble in the history of

socialism would be . . . incorrect.

What to say about K-L's treatment of classical liberalism? Well, first of I

all, there are incomprehensible stupidities: he thinks that the Manchester

School was contemporaneous with Adam Smith, and he lists Bismarck

(and Mazzini) as an "Old Liberal" along with Gladstone, Cobden (who

evidently did not belong to the Manchester School) and Mises! Then, to

smear German liberalism, he takes the National Liberals to be

representative of it, never mentioning the truly liberal Freisinnige Partei

and its great leader, Eugen Richter: the difference is that, where the

former supported the laws against the socialists and Catholics, and

protectionism, imperialism and militarism, the latter opposed these.

Whatever K-L's forte is, it is not analytical thought, so that it would not

be worth our while to enter into an examination of his ideas as to the

evolution of liberalism through various phases. As an anti-totalitarian

Christian conservative, what he is trying to prove, of course (so what else

is new?), is that classical liberalism somehow set the stage for

totalitarianism and statism, in Germany and elsewhere. But, to prove
anything, one must deal with coherent propositions. Now, K-L says that:

"it is not surprising that old liberalism became illiberal. If one is

solemnly convinced that all strong stands, all firm affirmations, all

orthodoxy, all absolutes in thought are evil . . ." etc., etc. But he himself

lists Mises and Gladstone (and one would suppose he would include

writers like Spencer and de Molinari) as Old Liberals. Did these men not

take strong stands, not make firm affirmations? What value as historical

interpretation could we expect to find contained in such a collection of

absurdities, distortions and self-contradictions as this?

The prime example of the bitter fruits of liberalism and "leftism" is,

naturally, Nazism. It came into heing because the Germans "divorced

themselves from religion and willfully turned their backs on great

traditions." The old conservative song-and-dance. Yet what ,evidence is

there that the majority of Germans who voted for the Nazis were not

sincere Christians? K-L correctly points out that part of the Nazi vote

came from voters who had previously supported the "liberal" parties

(such as they were in Germany by then); but why not mention that the

Enabling Act of March, 1933, the basis for the Nazi consolidation of

power, was supported by the Catholic Center Party in the Reichstag? At

times, Catholicism did offer some resistance to the Nazis, and deserves

credit for it. On the other hand, there were instances such as the

proclamation issued by Cardinal Imitzer of Vienna, speaking for the

bishops of Austria, which celebrated the "extraordinary

accomplishments of National Socialism in the sphere of voelkisch and

economic reconstruction as well as social policy." This was in 1938.

Naturally, the complexity of this cluster of problems is not something

that K-L could be expected to do justice to. More generally, as a brief

response to this line of consenrative interpretation, we would have to say:

the maintenance of Christian faith cannot be the key to solving the

problem of how to have a humane world, since Christian faith has

historically been compatible with every manner of swinishness
perpetrated on human beings, especially before humanism came to

temper religious fanaticism and liberalism to limit its possib~lities for

doing harm. In any case, it is not for a member of that Church to lay the

blame for massive diabolical mistreatment of human beings at the door

of "leftism," agnosticism and liberalism.

Although they do nothing to redress the balance, there are a few good

points to be noted in Leftism: K-L has an attractive curiosity about and

love of certain kinds of facts - facts about persons, places, tribes and

nations and their traditions, and so on. Many of his judgments and values

are commendable: he is a strong revisionist on the Paris Settlement of

1919; dislikes Wilson, Roosevelt and Churchill heartily; hates Eleanbr

(although he overestimates her importance) ; has contempt for American

left-liberals and fellow-travellers; realizes that the war criminals of

World War II included those who caused the ovens to be lit not only at

Auschwitz and Dachau, but also in downtown Hamburg and Tokyo, in

Dresden and Hiroshima. The author passes some friendly comments on

anarchism and admits that he would not be reluctant to call himself a

"Christian Conservative Anarchist" (but what could this amount to if he

is, for example, a lover of the Franco regime? Probably not much more

than a relish in "variety"). Occasionally, the quality of his thinking

passes muster: Chapter 20, for instance, on some of the dilemmas

historically faced by European conservative thought, is decent enough.

But this is all in all as bad a book as has come to my notice in many years;

and I believe I have given adequate grounds for this judgment. If the

reader thinks I have been too "harsh" on K-L, let him or her recall his

slanders, explicit and implied, on hundreds of thousands of socialist men

and women, the class of people for whose intelligence and good intentions

Hayek had enough respect to dedicate to them his Road to Serfdom.

In the minds of many of those who keep up with Buckley's magazine

and with the American conservative movement, there is, I think, the

sense that writers like Russell Kirk and Kuehnelt-Leddihn are being

presented as the conservative counterparts of libertarians like Mises and

Hayek; the former are their big guns and deep scholars, some attempt at

an answer to the obvious excellence of the latter. ActualIy, as

symbolizing the relative intellectual power behind the two movements,

this notion seems to me entirely correct.




I don't really want to comment or read anything here.I have near zero in common with many of you.I may return periodically when there's something you need to know.

Near Mutualist/Libertarian Socialist.


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Beefheart replied on Sat, Jan 15 2011 11:50 AM

I've read this before in The Libertarian Forum-- when did Raico change his mind, exactly? I know-- from listening to the end of his The Struggle for Liberty-- he has taken a liking to Hoppe, but I recall nothing that makes him the sort of monarchist K-L was, explicitly.

My personal Anarcho-Capitalist flag. The symbol in the center stands for "harmony" and "protection"-- I'm hoping to illustrate the bond between order/justice and anarchy.

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Merlin replied on Sat, Jan 15 2011 3:59 PM

But the quality of K-L's thought is so low, his power of

reasoning so dim, that the rest just does not matter very much

Wow, I certainly disagree strongly here. Of course, no one is perfect.

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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Kuehnelt Leddihn's Leftism was the first book I read that lead me on the road to liberalism, although his orientation was neo-liberalism. He later changed his mind on the fabled "third way".

This is apparently a Man Talk Forum:  No Women Allowed!

Telpeurion's Disliked Person of the Week: David Kramer

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AnonLLF replied on Sun, Jan 16 2011 7:06 AM

Having read KL after Raico's review here I flicked a few pages in and saw exactly what he was talking about.KL is just a pseudo-intellectual conservative monarchist(a far rightist in my view) Everything evil to him is left and everything good ,right.He's the ultimate stereotype and we should distance ourselves as much as possible from him.He's a reactionary.



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Merlin replied on Sun, Jan 16 2011 7:09 AM

Scott F:

He's a reactionary.

And I thought that word had no meaning in this forum smiley

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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AnonLLF replied on Sun, Jan 16 2011 7:25 AM


 when did Raico change his mind, exactly?

They would do well to consider the judgment of an authentic conservative like Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn"

-Rethinking Churchill.

I'm sure there's a quote somewhere else too.


" but I recall nothing that makes him the sort of monarchist K-L was, explicitly."

I didn't mean he became a monarchist.I meant changed his opinion of K-L.


I don't really want to comment or read anything here.I have near zero in common with many of you.I may return periodically when there's something you need to know.

Near Mutualist/Libertarian Socialist.


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Being the one guilty of authoring the LRC EvKL centennial article, I find this thread particularly interesting. Thank you.

On a related note, this peculiar love mail, albeit not so affectionate, ticked into my mailbox yesterday, almost 18 months after publication:

So you never "met the knight?"

How silly... poor you!

All we a world filled with people who wish to
"kiss-up" to the oligarchs! Hows sad.

Proctor S. Burress

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