I was recently asked if someone knew where Ernst Jünger’s “The Peace” could be had in English – though one of his more important books with an excellent translation into English by Scott Hood, it has been out of print for many decades.
It turned out to be a great question, because I consequently found this DOWNLOADABLE SCAN.
Note that this book would be a most timely read at this moment since it deals so fundamentally with the prerequisites of a successful European Union!! In fact, Jünger, far more so than Helmut Kohl for instance, may have been one of the original visionaries of the European Union.
I also found the excellent review that follows by Joseph Martin!
AMAZON REVIEW OF “THE PEACE” BY ERNST JÜNGER
This book was originally written by Jünger as a ‘blueprint’ for a post-Nazi settlement if the German Army had succeeded in assassinating Hitler. This essay (it really is quite short), according to the author’s foreword, was sketched in 1941 and completed in the summer of 1943. The reason Jünger mentions this is that it shows he was working on this essay before Germany began losing the war. However, this ‘alibi’, which I doubt, is not essential for him personally; his anti-Nazi novel “Auf den Marmorklippen” (“On Marble Cliffs”) had been published in 1939. Also, keep in mind that Jünger, unlike Heidegger and Carl Schmitt, refused to join the Nazi party.
What surprised me when I first read this essay many years ago was the importance that Religion would play, according to our author, in any post-Nazi settlement. We are certainly immediately tipped off that something unusual is afoot by the epigram that Jünger places at the beginning of Part One of this essay:
“The hatred, which is completely conquered
by love, becomes love: and such love is
then stronger than if hatred had not preceded it”
Spinoza, Ethics, 44th Theorem [or Proposition]
One can be forgiven for being more than a bit surprised that this “God intoxicated man” would appear at the beginning of a book by the author of the novel “Steel Storm” and the essay “Total Mobilization”! But circumstances change, and Jünger, to his credit, changed with them. In Germany and elsewhere, those with Fascist or, if you prefer, ‘Konservative Revolutionary’ tendencies rarely displayed a Universalist bent. Well, prepare yourself for a shock. On the first page we read that, “It may safely be said that this war has been humanity’s first joint effort. The peace that ends it must be the second.” For me, it was this ‘universalism’, so surprising in this author, that also made this book most memorable for me. Now, it must be noted at the outset that this universalism is not the entirely secular modern universalism of a Marx or a Kojève. Jünger makes room for the religious sentiments that they entirely exclude!
Part One (“The Seed”) of this essay discusses the present (that is, WWII) and Part Two (“The Fruit”) discusses what Jünger hopes will happen after the war is over. (That is, after Hitler is assassinated and WWII comes to an end.) In Part One Jünger denounces totalitarianism and the camps. Those who still think that the extermination camps were an Allied fiction should read what Jünger has to say about them:
“The camps filled, too, where forced labor ceased only with annihilation – thus achieving its deliberate aim. […]
The secrecy, the shunning of the light, the slaughterings in cellars and evil places and the hasty, unceremonious burial of the victims showed only too clearly that here was no execution of just sentence, but mere outrage and wanton murder.
The number of Golgathas where the disenfranchised were slaughtered is enormous. The crime of which the unfortunates were accused was merely that of existing, the stigma of their birth. They fell because they were sons of their people, of their fathers, of their race, as hostages, as adherents of a disinherited creed, as disseminators of their faith, which laws invented overnight had decreed to be a mortal taint.
[…] they attempted to root out whole peoples, whole races, whole classes, and where leaden tyranny in league with technical efficiency celebrated endless bloody nuptials. (pp. 28-29)”
I do not believe that Jünger anywhere in this essay mentions the Jews by name. But this was to be a document not only for the Allies but also the Germans; and Jünger knew his audience only too well. In the midst of the war Jünger, and all the right-wing anti-Nazi resistance groups, were hoping that an assassination of Hitler could somehow keep Germany from being invaded. If this assassination had happened, the German Army would have had to eventually suppress the Party, and it needed to keep the German Center loyal. In this precise situation an argument over the the status of Jews could only have served the Nazis…
Earlier I had called the 1941-1943 dating of this essay an alibi. Part of my reasoning for that is based on the following passage (starting on page 30) regarding the atrocities of both the Nazis and the Soviets:
“It was the evil spirit of the rabble which there in darkness practiced its grisly arts. Then we saw the feigned indignation of other evil forces which came to the haunts of infamy to exhume the hastily buried victims and expose the wasted corpses, to measure, count and reproduce them as served their ends. They played the accusers only to acquire the right to still baser vengeance which they sated in similar orgies.
Thus one massacre was succeeded by another baser still. (p. 30-31)”
This is, undoubtedly, an allusion to the Eastern Front and the Soviet Union and the atrocities that occurred there. But by the Summer of ’43 were the Germans on the run enough to justify writing the above passage? Of course, I could be wrong, but this passage sounds a half-year too early to my ear. (SIMON: Perhaps…. but then Jünger had also foreseen much of the atrocity of WWII, be it Soviet or Nazi, in “On the Marble Cliffs” published in 1939).
Just as Part One began with an epigram so does Part Two:
“Not in the even course of the bourgeois world, but in the thunder of the Apocalypse are religions reborn.”
Walter Schubert, Europa und die Seele des Ostens
You see, I told you, Religion again. The first paragraph reads:
“We have seen the victims of this war. To their somber ranks all nations added their contingent. All shared the suffering and therefore the peace must bear fruit for them all. That is, this war must be won by all.” (p. 37)
Now, if one is losing a war, the slogan ‘there must be no losers’ can be quite compelling. The logic of this position was forced on Jünger, and the German Army, by circumstances. But let’s see where this leads.
First we are told that just as WWI ended the era of Monarchies, so too WWII will end the era of nation-states. They will be replaced by Empires. …And this leads to peace – how? Well, Jünger proposes a United Europe! The futility of two world wars has taught its necessity. The only alternative to unity is “hate and retribution”, which will now lead to “universal destruction”.
Now, Jünger does not envision a Kojèvean Universal World-State. What our author believes is that the “division of the earth into great territories” prepares a planetary order that will end the possibility of global war. (Note that another Konservative Revolutionary cum Fascist, Carl Schmitt, will later call for this ‘Great Bloc’ solution to Modern World Politics in his “Theory of the Partisan”.) As an aside I should mention that years ago I was so surprised by the ‘Universalism’ in this essay by Jünger that I had wondered if he had, during the Occupation, somehow found his way into one of Kojève’s tremendous lectures on Hegel’s 1807 ‘Phenomenology’. But that now seems to me impossible, I believe Jünger arrived in Paris after Kojève stopped giving his lectures.
“The reasons why the formation of great empires must come are spiritual by nature and are based on the principles of the age.” (p. 44)
Jünger goes on to argue that it is modern technology that allows these world empires to come into existence, but the current frontiers conspire against this. Now this proposed unification of Europe will not (perhaps this is merely because it cannot) dominate the whole world.
“Europe must become a partner in the great Empires which are forming on this planet, and are striving towards their final form. (p. 46)”
Okay. What could, according to our author, prevent this? Another vengeful peace like Versailles. No, this is not merely another ‘alibi’. Jünger goes on to denounce the Nazi ‘New Europe’ for making the very same mistakes that were made at Versailles! This ‘New Europe’ was “the imperial disguise of a militant national state, but not a league based on the equal rights and duties of all.” The coming Empire that our author here conjures must be an Empire that all willingly join. He does, however, believe that France and Germany will be the cornerstone of the European Empire to come. It should be noted that our contemporary European Union has, in fact, not contradicted this last point.
Our author is at pains to argue that the coming peace cannot be based on vengeance;
“…neither parties nor nations should sit in judgment on their opponents.” For if “partisans make the distinction, then they convert criminals into martyrs and national heroes. (p. 54)”
Again, Jünger is here arguing against the Allies imposing another Versailles Treaty. This was a very real fear among Germans. And do note that this was not merely German paranoia; the Morgenthau Plan envisioned turning Germany into a pastoral state sans industry and army. (Although, I do believe that the present essay was composed before the Morgenthau Plan was leaked in September of ’44.)
At this point, our author enumerates three questions. The first one appears especially surprising.
“It is the question of living space, for there are certain powers which are fighting for space – those that are also called the totalitarian states. The fact that they are on the move is a sign that the division of the earth, as developed historically, requires to be altered. (p. 55)”
Two points immediately jump out: first, he tacitly makes an equivalence between Germany and the USSR (the ‘totalitarian states’) and thus seemingly proposes that land gained by both these powers in the course of this war be allowed to remain with them. The second point is that this meant that certain states (Poland, e.g.) might disappear and some areas (Alsace Lorraine, e.g.) will be annexed by one or the other of these ‘totalitarian’ powers. I honestly don’t see how the UK or the US could possibly have allowed that! “The earth must provide bread far all.” Hmmm…
The second question is that of Justice. This is the question of the non-totalitarian powers:
“certain other powers claim to be fighting for justice. Undoubtedly, the curtailment of rights which the totalitarian states have imposed upon men is not their internal affair alone. (p. 56)”
And now we see, a ‘deal’ is being proposed, if the totalitarian states are allowed to expand then they, in turn, must democratize or ‘liberalize’ themselves. So, Jünger is not here proposing a little tête-à-tête between Germany and the USSR, rather he is proposing to end totalitarianism by some shrewd horse-trading: Land for Freedom. While the German Army, to rid themselves of Hitler and his Party, would gladly accept this, there was really no chance that Stalin would have accepted it!
“No other peace can last except that made between free people.”
That is, our author is here maintaining that no alliance is possible with the USSR and that if it does not ‘de-totalitarianize’ WWIII is around the corner.
We now understand the first two questions. The third question centers on “how a new way of life is to be achieved” (p.56). We are now in our author’s ‘wheelhouse’. The ‘total mobilization’ of the War both has (and will) lead to the total mobilization of everyday life. And he sees this as common to all nations. So these three questions are said to answer each other:
“To cure the sickness of the land-hungry peoples is to give them the chance of reforming the laws, and thus the element of danger is removed. The forces which are released from making armaments will produce for all. (p. 57)”
But, as one might expect from the author of the essays “Total Mobilization” and “The Worker” (this last, “Der Arbeiter, Herrschaft und Gestalt”, to the best of my knowledge is still untranslated), the most important element, according to our author, is the Worker and his Mobilization:
“In this respect the nations have come to resemble each other closely and are becoming daily more alike; for the same great rhythm inspires the total mobilization on which they have embarked. This is not merely a question of armaments but of far-reaching transformations. That the products of this labor process are delivered to the fronts is only one aspect of it; the other, invisible but no less effective, is at work within the nations themselves. Thus no nation will be demobilized in the same form as that in which it entered the war. War is the great forger of nations as it is of hearts. (p. 56)”
Jünger expects a great deal from the Worker:
“At the same time the figure of the worker, losing its titanic cast, will reveal new aspects of itself – then it will be seen what relation it bears to tradition, creation, happiness and religion. (p. 57)”
Today, to our postmodern ears these various pronouncements regarding the Worker sound utopian and perhaps even vaguely ‘Marxisant’. But that is because we know better. The only altar that the worker ends up worshiping at (especially in the most ‘advanced’ nations) is that of mere entertainment.
The discussion of precisely how land is to be divided also remains vague.
“In this connection there is no point in going into details. (p. 59)”
He does not believe that a United Europe is a utopian project, pointing out that “the world knows states where the most diverse nations, races and tongues are united. (p. 59)” He here mentions the USA, USSR, Switzerland and the British Empire. But today the USSR has fallen and Britain has not been an Empire for a long time. While up to the end of the WWII it might have seemed that the direction of history was towards states (or Empires) of ever greater size and diversity, postwar developments have not clearly borne that out.
Our author would like to see both more authority and more liberty:
“There should be uniformity of organization in whatever concerns technical matters, industry, commerce, communications, trade, weights and measures, and defense. (p. 60)”
“Liberty, on the other hand, dominates in diversity – wherever nations and men differ. That applies to their history, their speech and race, to their customs and habits, their art and their religion. Here there cannot be too many colors on the palette. (p. 61)”
But again, if postwar developments are to be believed, diversity tends to tear large collectivities into smaller pieces. Indeed, in this light, one wonders if even the United States itself can survive…
All of the above, according to our author, is tending towards European Union. In the ‘cultural plane’ liberty will reign, while in the realm of ‘material civilization’ authority must be served.
“Europe can become a fatherland, yet many homelands will remain within its territories. (p. 61)”
Law, economics, science and technology will continue on their universalist path but the various cultures and ethnicities will at the same time be sacrosanct. But today we have to ask, after well nigh 50 years of postmodernism, how is this possible when the cultural tends to become the political and therefore tears at the fabric (I mean to say at any possible fabric) of political unity?
But it is not fair to expect answers from a text written so long ago. We have now made our way through a little more than three quarters of our essay. Jünger will conclude the essay with a discussion of the utility of Religion and the danger of nihilism.
“The peace must not be founded solely on human reason […it must] also exist as a holy covenant. (p. 62)”
Without religion our author wonders
“What do treaties avail”?
He then argues that nihilism was strongest in Germany and Russia and that was why
“between these two peoples that the war assumed its purest form. (p. 62)”
The word ‘pure’ here must not be understood as praise. The eastern front consisted of two nihilisms (Nazis, Stalinists) at war, and we are left to infer that the infamous horrors that occurred on the eastern front derive from that fact. Jünger pointedly notes that this nihilism first came to power in the USSR and only then in Nazi Germany, as a ‘reaction’. The historian Ernst Nolte made this argument famous – or, if you like, infamous – years later.
For the next two pages Jünger waxes poetic on Russia and Germany. We need not be surprised at this. Jünger was sympathetic to the ‘National Bolshevism’ of Ernst Niekisch and his hope for an alliance with the USSR. With France and Great Britain, Russia and Germany will form the core of our ‘New Europe’. From the vantage point of the 1940’s, I would think that Great Britain would appear to have been an unlikely participant in this venture. After all, they had fought three wars (Napoleonic, WWI, WWII) to keep Europe from being united. But our author anticipates this and argues that the necessities of the geopolitics of the postwar era will convince them. Yes, that is not impossible.
I have mentioned that the ‘Universalism’ of Jünger so surprised me in my initial reading that I thought that Kojève might somehow have a hand in it. But, of course, there are two major differences between them. The first is that, like Carl Schmitt, Jünger does not foresee a World State; rather he sees a world dominated by several large empires. Also, for Kojève, there can never be any question of religion in the World State. But for Jünger,
“in spite of all tribunals and treaties we will plunge deeper into destruction if the transformation remains purely humanitarian and is not accompanied by a theological one. (p. 63)”
With this our author breaks from all forms of secularism, whether of the left or the right.
I bring this all up again because Jünger saw the world, much like Kojève, divided between the Soviet (Communist) and the American (Capitalist) way. But
“although America, like Russia, will exert a powerful influence on Europe, neither of these two possibilities will be realized. (p. 66)”
Thus Jünger’s Europe is to be a ‘third way’ between both the Soviet and the American way.
During WWI Rosa Luxemburg famously said that the choice facing the world was “Socialism or Barbarism”. Now, a generation and a world war later, Jünger indicates in this essay that the choice facing the world is ‘Religion or Nihilism’. Now, ‘Religion or Nihilism’ could have never become the rallying cry of the European right that “Socialism or Barbarism” became for the left because of the contempt that much of the German ‘Konservative Revolution’ had for Christianity. This is a contempt that Jünger apparently did not share.
“Technical knowledge should be kept in its place. (p. 67)”
“That is possible only if men strengthen themselves metaphysically in proportion to the growth of technical science. (p. 67)”
The ‘new theology’ begins here. This theology will be “knowledge of the deepest causes and of the highest law which shaped the world. (p. 67)” It is, according to our author, the danger of nihilism that makes the ‘new theology’ necessary. And now he reveals the limits of his tolerance of cultural differences:
“Whoever places his trust in man and human wisdom alone cannot speak as judge, nor can he expound as teacher, heal as doctor or serve the state as official. These are modes of life that ends with the hangman in the seats of the mighty. (p. 68)”
So you see, the target of this essay is not merely Nazi and Communist totalitarianism; the target is materialism, the Enlightenment, and secular humanism itself!
“The state therefore acts in its own interests if it not only advances the great doctrines of salvation, but places its trust in those of its citizens who confess to belief in an intelligence transcending man’s. To the extent that this comes about we will see nihilism decline, the desert shrink – just as persecution on grounds of faith flourished when nihilism was strongest. (p. 68)”
What Jünger is proposing here is nothing less than the end of liberalism… No?
“The view is still widely held that to re-establish order it would suffice to return to the liberal state. But that would merely mean returning to our point of departure. (p.69)”
That is why liberalism must end according to our author; it failed to stop nihilism. and it will so fail again.
“The true conquest of nihilism and the attainment of peace will be possible only with the help of the churches. (p.69)”
Thus education must now “aim at adherence to a faith and not indifference. (p.69)” Jünger argues that:
“man is determined to believe; that he has demonstrated by the very strength with which he has clutched at absurdities, at fleeting phantasms of the mind. (p. 70)”
So, while the various European secularists (liberal and socialist, and let’s be honest and here add the German ‘Konservative Revolutionaries’ too) all believe that religion is a dead issue, Jünger maintains that the need to believe among the people was unbroken; thus the only real question then is – what, exactly, will they believe? And so this turn to theology on the part of our author can be said to be based on prudence…
An end to liberalism! One wonders (if Hitler had been assassinated and the German Army had suppressed the Party) how the Americans and the British would have reacted to this essay…
So now we understand; our author here proposes diversity without liberalism, – it is almost postmodern! (Or medieval…)
“Diversity of peoples, races and nations – besides these Europe can also possess a diversity of churches, no matter with what rites and symbols they worship. (p. 71)”
But even this has its limits:
“In Europe, however, the state church can only be the Christian church. (p. 71)”
The Christian church gained this right in the crucible of war, for it opposed the totalitarian monsters. Thus simple faith and complex theology proved superior to the ‘subtle systems’ of Man.
“They all lead to murder and the cult of power. (p. 72)”
The World Wars have taught the futility of merely human solutions.
“The people must be brought back to Christian morals, without which they are rendered as defenseless prey to destruction. (p. 72-73)”
Technology without peace can only be nihilism unto death…
“That is the prospect which nihilism has to offer – the great triumph of death after which it yearns. (p.75)”
Diversity without liberalism, Europe a single empire, the world divided by several empires. And religion guiding all… – It is the medieval plus technology! And this is, according to our author, our last hope to evade Destruction.
“The real struggle in which we are involved is more and more clearly that between the powers of destruction and the powers of life. In that fight the fighters for justice stand shoulder to shoulder like the chivalry of old. (p. 77)”
The slim hardcover volume I have in front of me dates from 1948. I don’t believe it was ever reprinted. Why? Its admission that there were Nazi death camps and the universalism we find throughout the essay could never have pleased the extreme right. And its abiding belief in (the utility of) religion would have displeased secularists of all camps. It is, however, a very interesting period piece that deserves to be reprinted. Also note that Jünger was often in dialogue with Heidegger, and everyone reads him. For that alone Jünger needs to be read more often…