The anarch on May Day


Today, May Day 2008, we came across a relevant passage in Eumeswil, which happily also deals with the anarch/anarchist contrast we need to clarify at this early stage in our blog. Martin Venator, Jünger´s model anarch in this book, is discussing political changes in a prelude to the following quotation, in particular the overthrows of governments that happen periodically in the state of Eumeswil, indeed in any society.

“For the anarch, little has changed; flags have meaning for him, but not sense. I have seen them in the air and on the ground like leaves in May and November; and I have done so as a contemporary and not just as a historian. The May Day celebration will survive, but with a different meaning. New portraits will head up the processions. A date devoted to the Great Mother is re-profaned. A pair of lovers in the wood pays more homage to it. I mean the forest as something undivided, where every tree is still a liberty tree.

For the anarch, little is changed when he strips off a uniform that he wore partly as fool’s motley, partly as camouflage. It covers his spiritual freedom, which he will objectivate during such transitions. This distinguishes him from the anarchist, who, objectively unfree, starts raging until he is thrust into a more rigorous straitjacket.” Eumeswil, Page 114


As Jünger makes clear here, seasonal political changes have no essential meaning for the anarch, other than their practical implications for his survival. Regimes change like the seasons, flags are like leaves on a tree, with practical meaning but no higher sense in and of themselves. New leaves grow on the ancient tree of civilization and at the end of their natural season their life blood is cut off, they dry up, fall, and become no more than compost for the new leaves of the next season. In this earthly progression, there is no human progress, no net spiritual gain, only external cycling in time. This can be observed by the historian in his objective studies of the past and by the anarch in his neutral observation of the changes of his present world. As the historian does not identify with particular moments in the continuous flux of history, so the anarch does not identify with (or against) the personally-random political situation he finds himself in at any one moment.

But seasonal change is real, with causes that lie deeper than any social expression of it. May Day, once a pagan feast day dedicated to the Great Mother, is usurped by the state, which subverts the natural revitalizing energy of the spring season for its own propaganda purposes. The holy-day has been profaned, and now each new regime merely provides new faces, new ideals, for its self-celebratory feast. As Jünger says, a pair of lovers in the forest celebrates seasonal renewal far more profoundly than any great processions. Moreover, in the forest, every individual tree still stands as a freedom tree.

In the midst of the seasonal change of the flags, the anarch is essentially unaffected. While the flag was blue, he wore a blue uniform, partly to blend in and maintain anonymity, partly as the costume his role in the world comedy required. The uniform was in any case unessential, he never identified with it, never confused it with his own skin. He can thus throw it off and assume a different colored one, one that will best aid, or camouflage, his personal cause in the social reality .

Underneath the unessential covering lies his essential spiritual freedom, which, in the moment between the fall of the old system and the implementation of the new one, between his ditching the old and putting on the new uniform, he can bring into the objective world and live out. In the anarchic interim, the anarch can momentarily express what was already his objective inner state. His inner freedom can manifest in the world for a time. On the other hand, when anarchy becomes the order of the day, the anarchist is no freer than he was before. For he is unfree in himself, he has no free self-identity and thus needs the uniform he defines only in negative relation to the normal one imposed by the hated state. During anarchy, he loses his defining cause, the hated state, the hateful external rules and restraints, and in this vacuum he loses all control. This quickly leads to his confinement or elimination by the new powers.


  • “I have seen them in the air and on the ground like leaves in May and November; and I have done so as a contemporary and not just as a historian.”

    A clear reference to the end of both World Wars.

  • Agreed, Manuel is Jünger himself in this case. But in essence the reference is to any political change.

By SiFr



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