Antaios: Old ideas in new disguises

A far-right publisher intends to give Neo-Nazism a makeover 

Once Upon a Time in the East

Schnellroda is a provincial town in the eastern-German federal state of Saxony-Anhalt. Here, on a former knight’s estate, live the writer Götz Kubitschek and his wife, fellow writer Ellen Kositza. Far from the hustle and bustle of modern-day urban life, the two subsist on the livestock they raise, as well as harvests from their vegetable patch. Inside the house, furniture crafted from monotonously dark wood combines with the occasional pre-Raphaelite painting to give the estate’s interior an otherworldly appearance. Though married, Kubitschek and Kositza refer to each other using the German formal “Sie”. Their seven children, who bear such names as “Brunhilde” and “Ingeborg”, receive stiff upbringings and spend their spare time manufacturing eerie felt dolls.

What might, to the unsuspecting reader, appear to be a German sequel to The Wicker Man is in fact something far more sinister. Kubitschek is the founder of Antaios, one of Germany’s leading publishers of far-right literature. Founded in 2000 as an obscure internet-site dedicated primarily to regurgitating statistics about immigration and crime rates, Kubtischek’s enterprise has grown steadily over the past two decades, taking advantage of the PEGIDA-movement and the 2015 refugee crisis, to become a significant factor in national politics. Together with his wife, he now acts as ideological advisor to an influential circle of affiliates, including Martin Sellner, the founder of the Identitarian Movement, and Björn Höcke, a politician whose dogwhistling about “Lebensraum” and the “Great Replacement” make him stand out even among his AFD colleagues. In 2017, Kubitschek made the national news when his stand at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the largest of its kind in Germany, was surrounded by left-wing protesters. Both Höcke and Sellner were present at the event; the latter began chanting “Wo wart ihr Sylvester?” (“Where were you on New Years’ Eve?” – a reference to the 2015-16 sexual assaults in Cologne) at the activists.[1]

Antaios bills itself as the publisher of ‘respectable’ right-wing texts which match left-wing theory in intellectual rigour and cosmopolitanism, deserving, in effect, the same legitimacy and consideration in the public sphere. Those who peruse the publisher’s homepage might find themselves dazzled by an elegantly designed website, boasting a packed roster of authors including Martin Heidegger’s son Hermann. The name itself has a mysterious ring to it, and evokes no immediate negative associations. In fact, it is a reference to an obscure figure from Greek mythology, a half-giant slain by Heracles on his way to the garden of the Hesperides. More generally, Kubitschek has maintained a prudent distance from more obviously discrediting practices like Nazi-worship or Holocaust denial. To take this charade at face-value would, however, be a fatal mistake. As a dive into their intellectual pedigree reveals, Kubitschek and his entourage are no more interested in intellectual debate than mainstream neo-Nazis, and they are even more dangerous.[2]

One Hundred Years of Apologism

The first stop on our intellectual-historical itinerary is 1918, German democracy’s birthdate. In that year, the German thinker Hans Freyer published Antaeus, the first in a series of books developing his contribution to what has been termed the “conservative revolution”. Freyer argued for a strictly hierarchical society in which the state would act to homogenize and bind together a national community. After 1933, Freyer worked for the Ausschuss für Rechtsphilosophie, a jurisprudential committee presided over by the odious Nazi and genocidaire-to-be Hans Frank. Freyer’s works were blacklisted in postwar East Germany, but under Adenauer he was allowed to continue his academic career in the Federal Republic, where he remained an influential public figure.[3]

The “conservative revolution” to which Freyer contributed is somewhat amorphous in nature. Most commonly, the designation is used as an umbrella term for a ragtag group of writers with interlinking philosophies who emerged around the turn of the century. Some of the most famous are Charles Maurras, the leader of the anti-Semitic Action Francaise, Maurice Barrès, originator of the term “national socialism”, and Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, who introduced the idea of the “Third Reich” in a namesake work and forms one-third of the sinister troika explored in Fritz Stern’s The Politics of Cultural Despair. The term’s vagueness derives in part from the fact that it is largely a retrospective imposition, developed in the postwar era by the Swiss writer Armin Mohler.[4]

Not only did Mohler contribute substantially to the reification of the “conservative revolution”, he was also one of its leading apologists. Given his personal history, this is hardly surprising: as a young man, Mohler dodged military service in Switzerland in oder to join the SS. Eventually he was classed as “unreliable” and discharged, but only after undergoing an intensive ideological training programme during which he eagerly read the works of Ernst Jünger, author of the pro-war memoir Storm of Steel. Having returned to Switzerland, Mohler completed his dissertation, The Conservative Revolution in Germany, 1918-1932, in 1949. In the same year, he became a private secretary to his idol Jünger, but eventually quit his job over the author’s decision to sanitize his pre-war texts of ultranationalist elements. Mohler remained a fascistic gadfly to the end of his life (he once told an interviewer that he modelled himself after José Antonio Primo de Rivera), becoming an advisor to the Germany’s far-right Republicans in the 1980s. He died in 2003; his funeral oration was delivered by Götz Kubitschek.[5]

Jünger may have been too repentant for Mohler’s taste, but he continued to exercise far-right influence. In 1959, he was tasked by the German publisher Ernst Klett with establishing a bi-weekly journal to spread his reactionary views and obsession with pyschedelics and Jungian mysticism. Jünger complied, and chose as its title Antaios. After failing to recruit Aldous Huxley as co-editor, the two settled on the Rumanian writer Mircea Eliade, a one-time intellectual supporter of the Iron Guard, as a substitute. In this way, the publication became the home of reactionary theorizing and obscurantist mysticism, a combination exemplified by one of its chief contributors, Julius Evola. In 1971, after a long and steady decline in readership, Klett smelled the coffee and the journal was discontinued. Today, its legacy lives on — by naming his company Antaios, Kubitschek pays constant homage to Freyer, Jünger and the “conservative revolution”. Whilst Antaios‘ creator and his apostles distance themselves from more recognizable forms of Nazism, both ideological currents can easily be traced to common intellectual origins.[6]

The Rules of the Game

One crucial difference exists between the two, however. While the “new right” peddles the same authoritarian, xenophobic ideology as its “old” counterpart, it tries to do so in new ways. Rather than march down the street in jackboots or beat up foreigners, its members aim to create a new current of counter-hegemony via a fascist interpretation of Antonio Gramsci, gradually spreading through all sectors of society and through our democratic institutions. This they do by marketing their ideology as an innovative, intellectually rigorous addition to the right end of the political spectrum. To obscure its fascist roots, they adopt a rhetorical approach which superficially resembles that of Trotskyism: Hitler and the Nazis weren’t at all the logical culmination of the “conservative revolution”, but instead traitors to it, much like Stalin to the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. A commemorative banner draped over the front wall of Kubitschek’s estate depicts not Hitler, but Claus von Stauffenberg, executor of the failed July Plot against the dictator and, according to the “new right”, the revolution’s real personification.[7]

All of this is in the name. In the original myth, Antaios is the son of Gaia, the earth, and near-to invincible while his feet are in contact with her. To defeat him, Heracles is forced to lift him off the ground and subsequently strangle him. Kubitschek tries to lure ideological opponents onto his terrain, where they are easy victims. He draws comparisons between his own political programme and that of the ’68 movement; at the Frankfurt book fair, he confidently declared that the pendulum would, after 50 years, soon finally swing back to the right. The equivalency is a false one, but it allows Kubitschek to put his feet firmly on the ground. If Antaios is to be defeated, we must reject its terms, rather than play by the rules set out by its rhetorical games.[8]

 

 

 

[1] Neutral Unabhängig, ‚3sat KULTURZEIT vom 09.03.2016 über Götz Kubitschek und Ellen Kositza‘ (9 Mar. 2016), https://youtu.be/3HtecOf2Yks (Acc. 10 Oct. 2019); Originally broadcast by 3sat, 9 Mar. 2016, as Kulturzeit

Neutral Unabhängig, ‚Die rechte Wende – 3sat – 22.11.2017 – Götz Kubitschek, AfD, Identitäre Bewegung‘ (22 Nov. 2017), https://youtu.be/FMd6JrdxmQo (Acc. 10 Oct. 2019); Originally broadcast by 3sat, 22 Nov. 2017, as Die rechte Wende

[2] Verlag Antaios, https://antaios.de (Acc. 10 Oct. 2019)

‘Antaeus’ in Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Antaeus (Acc. 10 Oct. 2019)

[3] Ernst Klee, Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich (Fischer, 2005)

[4] Roger Woods, ‘Introduction: What was the Conservative Revolution?’ in R. Woods, The Conservative Revolution in the Weimar Republic (Palgrave MacMillan, 1996) https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9780230375857_1 (Acc. 10 Oct. 2019)

Bernhard Dietz, ‚Gab es eine „Konservative Revolution“ in Großbritannien?‘ in Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 54-4, 2006, p. 607-38, https://www.ifz-muenchen.de/heftarchiv/2006_4_3_dietz.pdf (Acc. 10 Oct. 2019)

[5] Volker Weiß, ‚Er forderte die Revolution von rechts‘, Die Zeit (7 Jul. 2016), https://www.zeit.de/2016/29/armin-mohler-neue-rechte-afd/komplettansicht, (Acc. 10 Oct. 2019)

Hans-Gerd Jaschke, Die Republikaner: Profile einer Rechtsaußen-partei, (J.H.W. Dietz, 1993), p. 46.

Dietz, ‚Gab es eine „Konservative Revolution“ in Großbritannien?‘

[6] Matthias Schöning (ed.), Ernst Jünger-Handbuch: Leben – Werk – Wirkung (Metzler, 2014), p. 223.

[7] Neutral Unabhängig, ‚Kulturzeit‘

Neutral Unabhängig, ‚Die rechte Wende’

Tilo Jung, ‚Politikprofessor Hajo Funke – Jung & Naiv: Folge 435‘ (15 Sept. 2019), https://youtu.be/grnnfG_dumQ (Acc. 10 Oct. 2019)

[8] Neutral Unabhängig, ‚Die rechte Wende‘