New right wing think tank: Revival of Oswald Spengler´s „The Decline of the Occident“?

New right wing think tank: Revival of Oswald Spengler´s „The Decline of the Occident“?

It is not unusual in politics when deserving party members step out of line by paying their respects to the political opponent or even founding their own rally movement. Sahra Wagenknecht made the left livid with her homegrown Standing Up  (Aufstehen) ; the Christian Democrat Hans-Georg Maassen likes to fish in standing waters, as did the former Social Democrat Thilo Sarrazin before him. Pole position in the race for effective dissidence, however, is undoubtedly occupied by Max Otte. The former federal chairman of the Value Union (Werteunion), which is associated with the CDU and CSU, has had himself nominated by the AfD as a candidate for the election of the Federal President. It’s an honor for him, says the latecomer, bursting with pride. The CDU, on the other hand, is fuming; the side jumper is supposed to leave the party, he has already lost his membership rights. For a long time, the Christian Democrats had no problem with the fact that some members displayed close ties to the far-right AfD. Now, the new CDU chairman Friedrich Merz promises, the toleration should finally end. The displeasure at the AfD’s coup is understandable, but the crucial question is: How well did the CDU know their fellows? Politically, he may be a marginal figure, but in the intellectual transition area between the conservative bourgeoisie and the right-wing AfD (Alternative for Germany), Max Otte is an important key player. The man is not only an economist and fund manager, but also a well-read, programmatically thinking intellectual; he would like to feed the emaciated German conservatism with core motives of the Weimar right and open it up to new milieus.

For example, Otte appreciates Sahra Wagenknecht and occasionally portrays himself as the man on the left from the right. In his book The Crash is Coming, published in 2006, he predicted the world financial disaster at a time when his self-absorbed guild was still dreaming of the stable rationality of free markets in its neoliberal slumber. At an Attac event in 2017, Otte called for a financial transaction tax and a ban on short selling. In 2009, during a lecture at the Evangelical Church Congress, he had already emphasized that the financial market had to be strictly regulated and that the capitulation of politicians to a wild „predator capitalism“ that only worked for the super-rich had to come to an end. „Predator Capitalism“? Does the crash prophet Max Otte secretly read Karl Marx?

No, he reads the philosopher Oswald Spengler incredibly intensively. Otte, and that makes his case interesting, not only went in and out of the Desiderius Erasmus Foundation, which is close to the AfD, but also founded an Oswald Spengler Society together with the Belgian intellectual David Engels and others. There is nothing wrong with that at first, because reading the universal scholar is still brutally rewarding. For anyone interested in the betrayal of democracy by the German bourgeoisie, Spengler’s writings continue to be fruitful. The philosopher Theodor W. Adorno attested to him an unfathomable feeling for the tendencies of his age; Spengler was forgotten after 1945 because bourgeois society wanted to forget its own downfall – the extermination of the Jews. Spengler roamed „mercilessly through the cities of mankind as if they were the wilderness that they are“ with a „peeking hunter’s eye“. He divulged „hardly less about the secrets of culture than Hitler about those of propaganda“. Under the surface, however, Spengler (1880-1936) never completely disappeared. Spengler`s  anthology Nachleben, published in 2018, shows, for example, the traces his thinking has milled into the work of the media theorist Friedrich Kittler, how the philosopher Heinz Dieter Kittsteiner dealt with him (critically) and what connections Spengler’s thinking has to postmodern analyses . The director Jean-Luc Godard approvingly quotes Spengler at the end of his film Deutschland Neu(n) Null and that Michel Houellebecq has a soft spot for him is nothing new. Max Otte knows this and he appreciates it: The first prize that his company gave went to: Houellebecq.

What fascinates the conservatives about the Hamburg high school teacher Oswald Spengler, whose excessive erudition did not prevent him from pursuing the Weimar parliamentarism („beer table of higher order“) with glowing hatred? What do you intend to do with the autodidact who unrolled his metallic, rattling sentences like tank chains? For example this one: „History is about life and always only about life, the triumph of the will to power and not the victory of truths.“ In a lecture given in English in 2018, Max Otte dealt extensively with Spengler’s interpretation of history. The tone is academically cold, but not a word about how Spengler, together with the fascist intelligentsia, prepared the intellectual ground for Hitler. Otte explains how, according to Spengler, the world cultures follow an organic process, how they rise in their youth and then, in their late phase, fall and pass away again. „It makes sense for me,“ affirms Otte several times, feeling particular satisfaction that sociobiologists like Edgar O. Wilson (supposedly) confirm Spengler’s central thesis. In a longer essay, he also praised Spengler for how „consistently ‚Darwinian'“ he had argued in all areas of life. Competition is the ubiquitous nature of society: „Competition is both in nature and in human society. It does not end with the animal kingdom, but continues in human society.“ Incidentally, Spengler would have spoken of selection.

If Spengler’s sociobiology for Otte does not belong to the scrap heap, but old gold, then this applies even more to his criticism of the disempowerment of politics by „big money“. In his 1933 publication The Hour of Decision, Spengler laments the „degrading abuse of the state for economic interests“; Governments are commanded by „business leaders“ and are forced to „accommodate completely to their desires and views“. Politics „is the continuation of private business by other means“. This may sound surprising coming from a radical conservative, but criticism of the hegemony of capital was an integral part of the worldview of the Weimar right. Capitalism, writes Spengler, as if it were a new insight, greedy for growth and pursued a „need stimulation through all means of advertising“ to the farthest corner of the world; the „distance selling is extended and enforced in every conceivable way“. With palpable panic he describes the blackmailing power of large corporations, for example by outsourcing production to low-wage countries.

Just as „devastating“ he finds the new „value phantoms“ that are spread by „insidious banks“ and are not backed by anything real. Spengler means the „homeless roaming financial capital“ that exists „only on paper“; it forces solid entrepreneurs to turn their ancestral family holdings into volatile blocks of shares until, in the end, no one knows who owns their factory. „The productive economy is ultimately nothing but the willless object for stock market maneuvers.“ Spengler was a book eater, he must have known Rudolf Hilferding’s standard work Das Finanzkapital, but he doesn’t quote it. Hilferding was a leftist, while Spengler wanted to give his criticism of the „morbid inflation of fictitious financial capital“ a right-wing twist: the speculative bubbles were blamed on a left-wing conspiracy, an alliance of liberal opinion leaders, a socialist zeitgeist and a labor force incited by the unions. Everyone is parasitic, everyone wants to benefit from capitalism. In their eternal greed for „luxury wages“ they blackmailed the economy and triggered an insatiable need for capital. „The mob has become master.“

Spengler’s Alternative for Germany is Caesarism. When a culture has ended its course, it degenerates into a civilization dominated by economy and technology and has to assert itself against other civilizations in the wild of world society. In Spengler’s eyes, decadent democracy is naturally unsuitable for this; instead, an authoritarian leader has to take charge. With superior ruthlessness he must drain the liberal-socialist swamp and save the weary community from its final downfall. „The masks from the age of parliamentary intermediate states will fall completely.“ fall of the West As the ideal type of leader, Spengler imagines a „man of facts“ who is above the parties and guided by his „instincts“; the new Caesar should be in contact with the „primal powers“ of life and face reality fearlessly in the face without idealistic frills, but with a predatory eye.

„But life is war (…). The future belongs to the great people of fact after Rousseau’s do-gooders have spread out on the stage of world history and have disappeared without a lasting trace.“ The list that the longed-for factual people are supposed to work through is yards long, but Spengler only lets the cat out of the bag on the final pages of Years of Decisions (Jahre der Entscheidung). One is immediately in the presence of right-wing culture wars, in the midst of disputes about postcolonialism and identity politics, in the midst of phrases from Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the propaganda for white supremacy. Why? Because Spengler takes his rhetorical riding crop in hand and calls for a decisive battle to defend the „white race“ against the former slaves and exploited, whose thirst for revenge threatens the western way of life. „They look down on the white man as on somethingo f the past.“ They suspected the weakness of the West; the „white master nations negotiate today where they ordered yesterday, and will have to flatter tomorrow in order to be allowed to negotiate“.

Oswald Spengler was the epitome of bourgeois indifference, a self-proclaimed master, who always seemed ready to crush the powerless, small and inconspicuous under his boots. But the way he explains to his readers the „gnashing of teeth“ of the „colored people“, the legitimate reason for their anger, reveals an astonishing insight that is completely unusual in right-wing milieus: the „cultural nations“, explains the anti-humanist, have the supposedly „savages“ and „barbarians“ mistreated and humiliated others until the „hopelessly inferior“ and „the exploited without rights“ could not help but throw off the white yoke and „repay their terrible masters for the suffering and humiliation of a century“. Understandably, the damned of this earth are now taking revenge on their tormentors and their uprising „will be the gravest crisis the white peoples have to go through together“. „Whose sword gains victory here will be the lord of the world.“ But Spengler remains true to himself and draws a powerful conclusion from a moral insight: Instead of tearing each other apart – as in the First World War – the Western world must join forces to hold down the global South. For woe betide if the „colored people“ one day unite with the masses of workers in order to „put an end to the white world“ in a striking combination of class and race struggle. Then it was all over with the beautiful bourgeois world, then the fall of the West followed. It threatens, to use the succinct English title of the bestseller, The Decline of the Ocident.

In other words: Should the AfD’s ideology planners ask for material that can be used , Spengler will reliably deliver. It’s enough if you modernize your greasy semantics a bit and no longer talk about Bolshevik elites, but left-liberal ones. And the rest fits too. Spengler’s „fact people“ are today’s right-wing and radical right-wing „real politicians“; they have „arrived in reality“ and know that „life is struggle“. In contrast to the left-wing do-gooders, they don’t represent cosmopolitan phrases, but national interests. Even in a pandemic, Spengler’s factual people are useful to the right. You are hardened; they know the natural cruelty of fate and dying and death. Spengler put it this way: „Medicine weakens natural selection“ and „extends every life, whether it is worth living or not“.

Spengler’s right-wing anti-capitalism will also find its friends. He makes the folkish AfD milieu compatible with left-wing nationalists, there are enough historical models. Benito Mussolini had demanded solidarity between the workers and the fascist elite, as had the „national-revolutionary“ Strasser wing in the NSDAP. And with surreptitious references to the US East Coast and Wall Street, right-wing anti-capitalism could also be sharpened anti-Semitically. And of course: Yesterday’s „colored people“ are today’s migrants. Spengler’s „struggle of the white race“ is now the struggle for white supremacy and against the „great exchange“. It goes without saying that the „enthusiasts for ‚human rights'“ have to have their mouths shut on this occasion. „The entire liberal-socialist problem literature“, Spengler knew, „moves around this suicide of the white race“ – it actually promotes it . Of course, the pacifism („apostles of world peace“), which he always mocked, must also be overcome, because „the colored people take up the sword when we lay it down“.

As you can see, there is a lot of poison in Spengler’s prophecies of doom. The AfD can easily feed his fear narratives into the discourse; not to directly engage in party politics with them, but to change the cultural climate – metapolitically, so to speak. In any case, it’s no wonder that Max Otte rarely misses an opportunity on his way to right-wing extremism to paint the „dissolution and decadence“ of Western culture on the wall in AfD colors. For him it seems to be a foregone conclusion that in this „late period“ European culture „disintegrates“ and the Occident perishes. The West is „giving up“ and the „acceptance of the Islamization of Europe by large parts of the population“ is the convincing proof of this. But there is still one religion, the „last religion of the West“: the „globalistic, multicultural one-world ideology“. Finally, in his speech honoring Michel Houellebecq, Otte considers whether Spengler was right when he claimed that a democratic cycle lasted around two hundred years. That would be pretty accurate, because the French Revolution is now a good two centuries over. What remains? The „re-ideologization“ of all relationships. And the gender asterisks.

Right-wing authors, especially the apocalyptists among them, often enough have excellent powers of perception; what the overly anxious Spengler wrote about nomadic city life is still phenomenologically impressive. What is disturbing, however, is the inner collaboration with evil, the purring comfort in the end of the world and the desire for authoritarian disruption. So it will not be a coincidence that Otte admires the factual man and social Darwinist Donald Trump and insisted on attending his inauguration. In this case, Spengler would have been right, as Adorno remarks: clairvoyantly he recognized that the bourgeoisie throws its liberal traditions overboard the moment they are no longer useful to it.

Spengler’s admirers value the fact that their hero did not allow himself to be harnessed to Hitler’s National Socialist carts. That’s right, he liked Mussolini better. However, it is also true that Spengler serenaded the Nazis in 1933 with these sentences: „No one could long for national upheaval more than I did. I hated the dirty revolution of 1918 from day one, as the betrayal of the inferior part of our people the strong, fresh one who stood up in 1914 because he could and wanted to have a future.“ One would like to know what Max Otte thinks of such slogans. Or the Trump fans‘ desire for a national upheaval and their storming of the Capitol in Washington. Once he whispers casually about a „reconnection to our roots,“ and perhaps the candidate for the office of Federal President then dreams of a state that is called democracy but is no longer one.

As much as one can consider some parts of Spengler worth reading, it is to be feared that Otte’s reception of Spengler will be a wild social Darwinist, biological-völkischer racism and militarism brew, especially since he is also running for the AfD, where now since Meuthen’s departure  It should be clear to the last idiots that the Höcke wing is now the determining force and the remaining bourgeois elements are just pure window dressing. The new Harzburg Front that has become a party is now clearly dominated by the fascists, like the Republicans by Trump. What I find most astonishing is that no one seems to have read Höcke’s book „Not twice in the same river“(Nicht zweimal in denselben Fluss) and that the AfD has not even been attacked centrally for its Dexit demand will. In any case, Höcke decides which elements of Spengler suitable for ideology will be adopted by the AfD and it remains to be seen to what extent Otte’s Oswald Spengler Society will prevail alongside Götz Kubitschek’s Secession (Sezession)/ Insutute for Szatepolicy (Institut für Staatspolitik) and the AfD’s Erasmus Desiderius Foundation as the ideology think tank of the fascist AfD after the former stronghold of the New Right in In the 1980s and 1990s, the Siemens Foundation under Armin Mohler and his „Conservative Revolution“ no longer serves as an ideological pioneer.

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