Shekhovtsov suggests that there are two types of radical right-wing music that are cultural reflections of the two different political strategies that fascism was forced to adopt in the ‘hostile’ conditions of the post-war period. While White Noise music is explicitly designed to inspire racially or politically motivated violence and is seen as part and parcel of the revolutionary ultra-nationalist subculture, he suggests that ‘metapolitical fascism’ has its own cultural reflection in the domain of sound, namely, apoliteic music. This is a type of music whose ideological message contains obvious or veiled references to the core elements of fascism but is simultaneously detached from any practical attempts to realize these elements through political activity. Apoliteic music neither promotes outright violence nor is publicly related to the activities of radical right-wing political organizations or parties. Nor can it be seen as a means of direct recruitment to any political tendency. Shekhovtsov’s article focuses on this type of music, and the thesis is tested by examining bands and artists that work in such musical genres as Neo-Folk and Martial Industrial, whose roots lie in cultural revolutionary and national folk traditions.
Published as: Anton Shekhovtsov, ‘Apoliteic music: Neo-Folk, Martial Industrial and “metapolitical fascism”’, Patterns of Prejudice, Volume 43, Issue 5 (December 2009), pp. 431-457.
—Hans Breuer, 19131
In 2000, when I was the editor of a small self-published musical magazine, I received a CD entitled Victory or Death by the Swedish band Folkstorm.2 The CD contained ten tracks of harsh Industrial music and the disc was decorated with a Nazi-style Reichsadler atop an empty oak wreath.3 The back cover was ornamented with runes and listed the tracks ‘Feldgeschrei’ (Field Turmoil), ‘Harsh Discipline’, ‘Propaganda’, ‘We Are the Resistance’, ‘Social Surgery’, to name but a few. The words of the songs were inaudible, due to the highly distorted vocals, but everything else vaguely suggested the radical right-wing nature of Folkstorm’s ‘ideology’. Surprisingly, the band promised ‘No politics. No religion. No standard’, a prudent statement written on the disc itself.
If the band disclaims any reference to politics while these signs suggest the opposite, what type of ‘propaganda’ is it? Folkstorm’s message has little to do with that of some of its compatriots like Totenkopf, whose track ‘Can’t Be Beaten’ unreservedly proclaims: ‘Show them where you stand and feel no remorse, my Aryan brother, it’s time for race war.’4 Neither is Folkstorm’s message a provocation similar to the late Punk Rocker Sid Vicious’s notorious posing in a t-shirt with a swastika on it. If the message is not the White Noise broadcast of racial hatred,5 or the ‘spit in the face of bourgeois society’, then what is it? In this article, I argue that there exists a particular kind of radical right-wing music that does not promote outright violence, is not related to the activities of political organizations or parties, and is not a means of recruitment to any political tendency. Therefore, I take Folkstorm’s ‘No politics’ statement seriously, although I hope to reconceptualize it in a way that avoids any futile attempt to drain the clearly right-wing message of its essence. I refer to this music as ‘apoliteic’ (a term explained below), and this article will analyse its nature and significance by considering two musical genres, namely Neo-Folk and Martial Industrial, that are most often used by bands and artists for disseminating an apoliteic message. I hope to demonstrate that apoliteic music and White Noise are cultural reflections of the two different political strategies that fascism was forced to follow in the ‘hostile’ conditions of the post-war period.
Before I proceed, it must be noted that neither Neo-Folk nor Martial Industrial can be considered ‘fascist musical genres’. Unlike White Noise, which refers specifically to ideologically motivated music, these two genres are first and foremost typological constructs that embrace particular kinds of combined sounds. Indeed, whether or not Neo-Folk or Martial Industrial can be equated with fascist or neo-Nazi propaganda has been hotly debated since the mid-1990s when a number of bands playing in these genres started to receive—due to their extensive use of fascist imagery—attention from left-wing journalists as well as attacks by anti-fascist groups. On several occasions, anti-fascist protests, petitions and pickets were supported by the authorities who banned performances of particular Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial bands. In 2004 the major Austrian Martial Industrial act, Der Blutharsch, had to cancel a performance in Israel due to protests by, among others, the Israeli cabinet member Natan Sharansky, the Knesset member Yossi Sarid, the mayor of Tel Aviv Ron Huldai and the Anti-Defamation League. The following year, the most famous Neo-Folk band, Death in June, lost the right to sell its album Rose Clouds of Holocaust in Germany after an investigation conducted by the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien (BPjM, Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young People).6 Neither of these bands is part of the White Noise scene, but both embrace—as I shall argue below—explicit elements of the fascist Weltanschauung.
Major terms and concepts
There are several terms that journalists, public officials and scholars use to refer to artists or bands that—from the observers’ point of view—perform music impregnated with fascist or extreme right-wing ideas. Some of these are umbrella terms that encompass different musical genres, while others refer to specific ones.
The term ‘White Noise’ originates from White Noise Records, a label that released Skrewdriver’s single ‘White Power’ in 1983. Skrewdriver was a British band that openly promoted revolutionary ultra-nationalism through their records, and their performances sometimes turned into riots of neo-Nazi skinheads. Skrewdriver’s late leader Ian Stuart was a member of the British National Front (NF), while the band itself was closely associated with both the NF and the British National Party (BNP). In fact, Skrewdriver might be considered ‘the musical wing’ of the NF, as it raised funds for the organization and helped recruit new members. Moreover, in 1987, Stuart founded the Blood & Honour network that promoted ultra-nationalist bands, organized their concerts and served as a nexus for neo-Nazi skinheads in Europe and the United States.7 Since Skrewdriver played a type of Punk Rock music known as Street Punk or Oi!,8 the term ‘White Noise’ originally referred to Punk Rock acts that propagated extreme right-wing ideas.9 Currently, due to the generic variety of bands that play at Blood & Honour concerts, one can apply this term to any aggressive rock music that is imbued with an openly fascist or racist message.
It is crucially important to highlight two features of White Noise. First, this type of music is characterized by overt racism or revolutionary ultra-nationalism. White Noise bands do not veil their messages and some of the bands’ names—not to mention the albums and song titles—speak for themselves: Race War, Totenkopf, Final Solution, Jew Slaughter, Legion 88, Konkwista 88, Angry Aryans, Brigada NS, RaHoWa etc.10 Second, White Noise is associated with either direct violence against an Other or the political cause, however marginal, that inspires it. It is quite often the case that White Noise musicians do not conceal their membership in revolutionary ultra-nationalist groupuscules, larger organizations or even electoral parties. As mentioned above, Skrewdriver worked alongside the NF, while the Romanian band Brigada de Asalt (The Assault Brigade) is an integral part of the neo-Nazi organization Noua Dreaptă (New Right), presumably backed by the Romanian radical right-wing Partidul Noua Generatie (New Generation Party). A large number of White Noise bands appear on the so-called ‘schoolyard’ CDs compiled and released by the radical right-wing Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (National Democratic Party of Germany) for free distribution among German youth.
Surprisingly, the term ‘White Noise’ does not seem to cover Black Metal bands that promote ultra-nationalist ideas. In this case, journalists and scholars use the term ‘National Socialist Black Metal’ (or simply NSBM) to refer to the same White Noise socio-political message when it is disseminated by Black Metal music.11
Another umbrella term for radical right-wing music is simply ‘Right-Wing Rock’. This term gained currency in Germany (Rechtsrock) among left-wing activists, scholars and government institutions such as the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV, Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution) and the BPjM,12 but is used in English-language academic works as well.13 The BPjM states that, ‘with the exception of jazz and classical music, there is no musical genre that is not infiltrated by right-wing extremist organizations and is not a medium for extreme right-wing content’.14 It lists eight musical genres that are collectively identified as Rechtsrock (Right-Wing Rock): skinhead bands (obviously not a genre, but apparently the BPjM meant White Noise here), NSBM, Hatecore, Techno Music, Hip-Hop, Folk, singer-songwriters (again, not a genre, but individuals who compose and perform their own works, usually accompanied solely by acoustic guitar) and Neo-Folk. According to the German office, it is these genres that are commonly used by musicians who promote ‘the glorification of National Socialism, the representation of Adolf Hitler and his party comrades as role models (or tragic heroes)’, and who seek to ‘instil racial hatred, [or] call for violence against foreigners, Jews or those who disagree with them’.15 Such an analysis suffers from one grave shortcoming. ‘Right-Wing Rock’ per se is an over-extended term, and the BPjM interprets it too narrowly for it to be applied to the wide range of genuine right-wing music. To be a right-winger or even a fascist one does not necessarily have to glorify Nazism or seek to instil racial hatred. The BPjM obviously hits its target with White Noise and NSBM, but by including Neo-Folk — even if we assume it is only right-wing Neo-Folk acts — within a narrow definition of Rechtsrock, it risks missing the mark.16 In order to explain this crucial distinction, we need to consider two major concepts: fascism and apoliteia.
In this article, I subscribe, methodologically, to a dominant school within ‘fascist studies’ that posits fascist ideology as a form of revolutionary ultra-nationalism.17 This approach is most extensively elaborated by Roger Griffin who defines ‘fascism’ as
This interpretation of fascism ‘implies an organic conception of the nation that is not necessarily equated with the nation-state or its existing boundaries, and which is indebted to the modern notion of the sovereignty of the “people” as a discrete supra-individual historical entity and actor’.19 The excessive mythologization of the nation as well as the impetuous thrust towards its palingenesis result in fascism having the appearance of a political religion. As such, fascism generates its own culturally defined collective behaviour that possesses specific characteristics, among which ‘adventure, heroism, the spirit of sacrifice, mass rituals, the cult of martyrs, the ideals of war and sports [and] fanatical devotion to the leader’ are most prominent.20 These features are by no means the sine qua non of fascism but they are indicative of fascism’s commitment to the aestheticization of political life, extreme activism and spectacular politics, and hence directly linked to its tendency to manifest itself as a form of political religion.
Although fascism is an enfant terrible of the twentieth century, its socio-political lifespan is not bounded by Mussolini’s and Hitler’s regimes. After the joint forces of the Soviet Union and the western liberal democracies had crushed fascism’s war machine, it was forced to evolve or, rather, mutate into three distinct forms. The groups that still wanted to participate in the political process had to dampen their revolutionary ardour rather dramatically and translate it ‘as far as possible into the language of liberal democracy’.21 This strategy gave birth to new radical right-wing parties that have become electorally successful in several countries over the last twenty-five years. Revolutionary ultra-nationalists, on the other hand, retreated to the margins of socio-political life and took the form of small groupuscules that kept alive ‘the illusory prospect of having a revolutionary impact on society’.22 The third form of post-war fascism was conceptualized in the teachings of two fascist philosophers, Armin Mohler and Julius Evola. InDie konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918-1932, published in 1950,23 Mohler argued that, since fascist revolution was indefinitely postponed due to the political domination of liberal democracy, true ‘conservative revolutionaries’ found themselves in an ‘interregnum’ that would, however, spontaneously give way to the spiritual grandeur of national reawakening. This theme of right-wing ‘inner emigration’ was echoed by Evola in his Cavalcare la tigre(Ride the Tiger), published in 1961.24 Evola acknowledged that, while ‘the true State, the hierarchical and organic State’, lay in ruins, there was ‘no one party or movement with which one can unreservedly agree and for which one can fight with absolute devotion, in defence of some higher idea’. Thus, l’uomo differenziato should practise ‘disinterest, detachment from everything that today constitutes “politics”‘, and this was exactly the principle that Evola called ‘apoliteia’. While apoliteia does not necessarily imply abstention from socio-political activities, an apoliteic individual, an ‘aristocrat of the soul’ (to cite the subtitle of the English translation of Cavalcare la tigre), should always embody his ‘irrevocable internal distance from this [modern] society and its “values”‘.25
The concepts of interregnum and apoliteia had a major impact on the development of the ‘metapolitical fascism’ of the European New Right (ENR),26 a movement that consists of clusters of think tanks, conferences, journals, institutes and publishing houses that try—following the strategy of so-called ‘right-wing Gramscism’—to modify the dominant political culture and make it more susceptible to a non-democratic mode of politics.27 Like Mohler and Evola, the adherents of the ENR believe that one day the allegedly decadent era of egalitarianism and cosmopolitanism will give way to ‘an entirely new culture based on organic, hierarchical, supra-individual, heroic values’.28 It is important to emphasize, however, that ‘metapolitical fascism’ focuses—almost exclusively—on the battle for hearts and minds rather than for immediate political power. Following Evola’s precepts, the ENR tries to distance itself from both historical and contemporary fascist parties and regimes. As biological racism became totally discredited in the post-war period, and it was ‘no longer possible to speak publicly of perceived difference through the language of “old racism”’,29 ENR thinkers pointed to the insurmountable differences between peoples, not in biological or ethnic terms but rather in terms of culture.30 They abandoned overt fascist ultra-nationalism ‘in the name of a Europe restored to the (essentially mythic) homogeneity of its component primordial cultures’.31
How do fascism’s strategies in the ‘hostile’ post-war environment relate to music? While there can be no purely musical reflection of right-wing party politics, White Noise has nonetheless become part and parcel of the revolutionary ultra-nationalist subculture. And I suggest that ‘metapolitical fascism’ has its own cultural manifestation in the domain of sound, namely,apoliteic music. This is a type of music in which the ideological message contains obvious or veiled references to the core elements of fascism but is simultaneously detached from any practical attempt to implement that message through political activity. Apoliteic music is characterized by highly elitist stances and disdain for ‘banal petty materialism’. Both apoliteicartists and their conscientious fans appear to be self-styled ‘aristocrats of the soul’,32 united in their implicit knowledge that the imperium internum is the reflection of a forthcoming new era of national and spiritual palingenesis. Lost in contemplation of this utopian future, they perceive the current situation as the interregnum. Regardless of the extent to which the contemporary Europeanized world is actually decadent or spiritually impoverished, it will always pale beside the imaginary fascist ‘brave new world’.
The concept of apoliteia correlates with one more important, indeed crucial, notion, namely, the Waldgang. Ten years before the appearance of Evola’s largely pessimistic Cavalcare la tigre, Ernst Jünger published the essay Der Waldgang,33 which anticipated Evola’s reflections on apoliteia.34 Jünger, the author of the critically acclaimed In Stahlgewittern (1920) — translated into English as Storm of Steel — and Der Arbeiter (The Worker) (1932), celebrated war, in which he saw embedded the metaphysical process of the forging of a new civilization.35He therefore sympathized with the Nazi regime, which seemed to be the embodied instrument for setting such a process in motion. However, as Griffin notes, Jünger ‘stayed aloof from politics, reluctant to abandon the heights of his metapolitical outposts’,36 although the regime actually benefitted from his literary works that legitimated fascism in the cultural sphere. In his post-war Der Waldgang, Jünger severely criticized the spiritually deprived Titanic that was the modern age, seized by ‘liquidations, rationalizations, socializations, electrifications and pulverizations’ that required ‘neither culture nor character’.37 Nonetheless, he urged free individuals to ‘stay on shipboard [sic]’ (that is, to use technological progress to their advantage) and, at the same time, ‘retreat into the forest’ (Waldgang). For him, the forest was a symbol of ‘supratemporal Being’ or ‘the Ego’ and, by ‘retreating’ into it, ‘the wanderer in the forest’ (Waldgänger) could resist the moral corruption of the interregnum.38 Confronted with ‘demoniac forces of our civilization’, liuomo differenziato rejects the apparent choice (‘either howl with the wolves or fight them’) and finds an alternative in ‘his existence as an individual, in his own Being which remains unshaken’.39 Remarkably, Jünger argued that the
While the concept of the Waldgang is clearly another aspect of apoliteia (or perhaps the reverse of it), apoliteic artists perceive themselves as ‘wanderers in the forest’. They necessarily allude to myths—whether pagan or, less often, Christian—but such allusions do not represent an attempt to return to a mythologized past. Nor can the positions of these artists be construed as anti-modern, let alone anti-technological. On the contrary, they choose ‘both the forest and the ship’,41 as they oppose the decadent interregnum with their inner commitment to a re-enchantedalternative modernity of the reborn nation, heroic individualism and a subjectively interpreted ethic of military honour.
Neo-Folk and Martial Industrial: the origins
Arguably the most obvious examples of apoliteic music—which reveals itself through music, lyrics, band names, album and song titles, cover art, style of dress as well as being subtly articulated in live performances—can be found in certain Neo-Folk and Martial Industrial works.42 From a ‘technical’ point of view, the two genres may seem musically different. The typical Neo-Folk artists sing melancholic ‘folkish’ songs to the accompaniment of acoustic guitars, violins and piano, while typical Martial Industrial acts create dark bombastic collages that usually feature various samples of military marches, battle noises or war-oriented speeches. The genres correlate—hardly surprisingly—with Evola’s interpretation of the idealized origin of now desacralized modern western music. From his point of view, as expounded in Cavalcare la tigre, ‘the most modern western music has been characterized by increasing estrangement from its lineage, both the melodramatic, melodic, heroically romantic and pretentious line (the last of which is typically represented by Wagnerism), and the tragic-pathetic line (we need only refer to Beethoven’s principal ideas)’.43 Although it’s unlikely that Evola himself would have enjoyed most extreme samples of Martial Industrial music, it is significant that both genres—no matter how ‘technically’ different they are—fit his description.
Apoliteic music is organically accommodated within Neo-Folk and Martial Industrial since their roots lie in revolutionary and national cultural traditions. While Martial Industrial clearly descends from Industrial music, Peter Webb and Stéphane François correctly assert that Neo-Folk, too, is an emanation of Industrial music.44 Industrial can be briefly and inevitably inadequately characterized as a fusion of Rock and Electronic music, mixed with avant-garde experiments and Punk provocation.45 Although the genre was ‘genetically’ born in the mid-1970s with the establishment of the Industrial Records label, Karen Collins has traced the first usage of the term ‘industrial’ as applied to music back to the preface of Francesco Balilla Pratella’s Musica Futurista of 1912.46 Luigi Russolo, another Futurist musician and Pratella’s colleague, was the author of a 1913 manifesto entitled L’Art des bruits (The art of noises) in which one apparently finds the first conceptualization of Martial Industrial. Considering the variety of natural and artificial noises that could be employed for the projected ‘revolution of music’, Russolo wrote: ‘And we must not forget the very new noises of Modern Warfare. The poet Marinetti, in a letter from the Bulgarian trenches of Ariadnople described to me … in his new futurist style, the orchestra of a great battle.’47 Although Russolo’s Futurism did not draw him to Italian Fascism, Pratella and Filippo Marinetti did become—like many other Futurists—ardent supporters of Mussolini’s regime.48 Obviously, modern Industrial music has been influenced by other cultural and musical trends (Dadaism, musique concrète, Pop, Rock, Electronic and Post-Punk), but its emergence (or rather re-emergence) in the mid-1970s was a result of the ‘spiritual’ evolution of Futurist music.
Apart from general influences that shaped Industrial music, Neo-Folk draws heavily on national folk traditions. The first point of reference is a wave of the so-called ‘roots’ revivals that swept the Europeanized world a few decades after the Second World War, reaching their apogee in the 1960s and 1970s. Several major features characterized roots revivals: first, the revitalization and imitation of national traditional music; second, the adaptation of folk music to modern musical genres, especially to Rock and Pop; and, third, the politicization of folk music. As Britta Sweers argues, ‘in the context of the various twentieth-century folk revivals, the terminology [folk music] was always combined with political or ideological meanings, in particular with the idea of traditional or folk music as a counterpoint to popular (i.e., commercial) music’.49 Politically, most folk bands and singer-songwriters were influenced by left-wing ideas while ‘the events of May 1968’ had a strong impact on the development of roots revivals. The left-wing orientation of folk artists was particularly evident in Germany, where the roots revival encountered a problem of legitimacy since Volkmusik was ‘destroyed’ by ‘the “kurzbehoste” [those dressed in short trousers] of the German youth groups and the armies of National Socialist soldiers and supporters’ through their ‘aggressive usage of the songs and the tradition’.50
Although the US and European roots revivals have—to a certain degree—triggered the emergence of Neo-Folk in the 1980s, apoliteic Neo-Folk bands apparently draw inspiration not from the 1970s left-wing protest folk songs, but rather from the previous folk revivals that took place at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. These revivals varied throughout European countries. In Britain, for example, the phenomenon was associated with folk song collectors such as Cecil Sharp, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Lucy Broadwood, who endeavoured—quite successfully—to raise public appreciation of folk music and to ‘secure’ a distinctively English folk tradition.51 In Germany, the roots revival unfolded within various clubs and movements such as Der Wandervogel (the bird of passage). This movement began in 1896 ‘in reaction to aspects of bourgeois life and music aesthetics and presented a counterculture to the ubiquitous, harmony-singing Männergesangsvereine (“male choral societies”) of the late-nineteenth century’;52 it ‘aimed to reclaim a national identity for Germany, based upon its songs’.53 In Italy, one of the most famous folk song collectors was none other than Francesco Balilla Pratella, who withdrew from the Futurist movement after the First World War and dedicated the rest of his life to the traditional music of his native Romagna, ‘much to Marinetti’s disgust’.54 Revealingly, by moving from Futurist music to Italian traditional folk, Pratella anticipated the 1980s rise of Neo-Folk out of the Industrial milieu.
‘Europe is dead’—’Looking for Europe’—’Europe, awake!’
Europe—or rather a highly mythologized and idealized concept of Europe—is central to the ethos of apoliteic music. In fact, Europe has long been a popular object of mythologization.55A modernist statue in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg features Europa as a woman sitting on a bull. The statue represents the ancient Greek myth of the abduction of Europa by lascivious Zeus disguised as a white bull. Over the centuries the myth has been the subject of thousands of works of art, but in modern times the idea of Europe has spawned even more interpretations: a bastion of Christianity, a part of the Free World, a vanguard of civilization, a place torn between the capitalist and socialist powers or, most recently, one divided by former US President George W. Bush into the Iraq-war-friendly ‘new Europe’ and the ‘old Europe’ that doubted the validity of the military campaign. These are mythological constructs applied to one and the same geographical region. Fascists, or Eurofascists, have constructed their own mythological Europe as a ‘homogeneous cultural entity or primordial racial community’.56 With regard to radical right-wing music, one can distinguish the three main lyrical and artistic themes alluded to in the title of this section: the death of Europe; Europe in the interregnum; and the rebirth of Europe.
Seen from the point of view of the Waldgänger, there are several causes of Europe’s death. It was, first of all, a consequence of the establishment of the New World Order, marked by the domination of liberal democratic values and the rejection of the fascist European myths. In an interview with the Anglo-Dutch apoliteic band H.E.R.R., one of the vocalists, Troy Southgate, who is also a prolific New Right author, states:
If liberal democracy is the enemy of European cultural identity, interpreted in fascist terms, then the 1945 Yalta conference—where the leaders of Britain, the United States and the USSR discussed the post-war reorganization of Europe—was clearly the time-point of the funeral march. Death in June makes this message clear:
Sick with liberalism
Sons of Europe
Chained with capitalism …
On a marble slab in Yalta
Europe’s death (or, perhaps, its ‘mere’ decline) is also linked to the growing multiculturalism of European states. In his analysis of ‘the Euro-Pagan scene’, Stèphane François argues that such bands ‘condemn multicultural society, seen as the manifestation of the decline of European values and the victory of corrupting Western universalism’.59 Josef Maria Klumb of Von Thronstahl, one of the most influential and prolific apoliteic bands, unambiguously corroborates this notion:
The Russian musician Ilya Kolerov (Wolfsblood) echoes Klumb’s concern for Europe’s cultural integrity. While he maintains that he likes ‘neither communism, nor Nazism, nor modern Jewish democracy’, Kolerov openly admits: ‘Maybe, I’m racist partly. I don’t want Moscow to be an Asian city. I want to see pure French or British on the streets of London or Paris.’61 Kolerov’s argument draws on the ‘new racist’ theories of ethnopluralism advanced by the European New Right and propagated in Russia by the ‘metapolitical fascist’ philosopher Aleksandr Dugin.62 The ethnopluralist theory champions ethno-cultural pluralism globally but is critical of cultural pluralism (multiculturalism) in any given society. By distorting a democratic call for the right of all peoples and cultures to be different,63 the theory thereby attempts to legitimize European exclusionism and the rejection of miscegenation. In ethnopluralist terms, the ‘“mixing of cultures” and the suppression of “cultural differences” would correspond to the intellectual death of humanity and would perhaps even endanger the control mechanisms that ensure its biological survival’.64
Toroidh, one of Henrik N. Björkk’s bands (apart from the now defunct Folkstorm), musically elaborates another explanation for Europe’s death in the European Trilogy. In an interview conducted by the British magazine Compulsion Online following the release of Europe Is Dead, the second part of the trilogy, Björkk tells readers: ‘The European Trilogy is all based upon the chaotic 20th century—the world wars, the ethnic conflicts and the dream of a united Europe. The Europe that conquered the old world, and colonized the new, and that passed away with the Second World War.’65 Björkk is presumably raising the spectre of the Eurofascist view of the lost ‘European civil war’ of the twentieth century, lost not to one European country or another but to non-fascists. In any case, Björkk’s ‘dream of a united Europe’ clearly has nothing to do with either the European Economic Community or the European Union but is, rather, of a united fascist Europe, a notion that was extremely popular within certain Italian Fascist and Nazi circles.66
The vision of a dead Europe is articulated not only in lyrics, song titles and artists’ interviews, but is also graphically expressed in album covers and artwork. In most cases the theme of Europe’s death is represented in mournful images of cemetery sculptures, doleful people with bent heads, dead soldiers and their personal belongings, abandoned battlefields and trenches. Of course, the featured images do not imply that a given album will—either musically or lyrically—focus exclusively on Europe’s death. Most apoliteic bands combine the three Europe-centred themes, although each theme does have its specific graphic representation.
The German band Darkwood has its own trilogy that deals with the ‘struggle of Europe’ (see Figure 1). The first part is entitled In the Fields,67 and its cover features a bas-relief of a sorrowful woman kneeling on one knee, her bent head in one hand and a flower in the other. The cover of the second part, Heimat & Jugend (Homeland and Youth),68 features an image from a Belgian graveyard. The third part, Flammende Welt (World in Flames),69 has on its cover another bas-relief, this one depicting a military medic presumably serving with the Axis forces (he wears a steel M35 helmet) holding his fallen or badly injured comrade.
Flammende Welt opens with the solemnly ominous instrumental track ‘For Europe’, and eventually concludes with the song ‘In Ruinen’, which undoubtedly alludes to Evola’s workGli uomini e le rovine (literally ‘the men and the ruins’, but usually translated into English asMen among the Ruins), published in 1953,70 thus anticipating his 1961 Cavalcare la tigre. Henryk Vogel, the man behind Darkwood, comments: ‘the open end “In Ruins” is not just a state after the struggle of Europe but also a dark premonition of what is to come.… In the last song [In Ruinen], whispered vocals announce that there is to be a cultural resistance—which is necessary not only for Europe.’71 In another commentary on the song, Vogel ponders the post-war development of Europe and argues that ‘they decided for the Marshall plan and bought our souls with gold. But some souls cannot be bought, and a secret Europe lives on—as expressed in “In Ruinen”.’72 Similarly, Ian Read of the British band Fire + Ice replies to the question of whether he still believes in Europe: ‘The whole world is rapidly becoming all the same and this is painfully obvious in Europe which is rapidly losing any essence it had of old. In fact, this spirit only remains in certain special people who foster it.’73
For fascists, ‘a secret Europe’ is hidden in the interregnum, while the Europe of the ‘deadly’ liberal democratic order and of ‘homogenizing’ multicultural society triumphs. Those who feel devastated by the alleged loss of an old Europe of aristocratic hierarchy, organic ethnic-cultural community, sacrifice and heroism have nothing for it but to ‘retreat into the forest’ and find the answer to the current situation there.
Said: ‘I’m looking for Europe, I’ll tell you the truth.’
Some find it in a flag, some in the beat of a drum
Some with a book, and some with a gun
Some in a kiss, and some on the march
But if you’re looking for Europe, best look in your heart.74
References to Ernst Jünger are everywhere in the texts and images of apoliteic music. At least two Neo-Folk bands dedicated their albums to the German writer: Sagittarius (Die Große Marina),75 and Lady Morphia (Recitals to Renewal).76 The latter album features a track called ‘The Retreat into the Forest’ in which a male singer recites an extract from the English translation of Jünger’s Der Waldgang. In 2001 the German label Thaglasz, which evolved from a Death in June fan club, released the truly pan-European three-LP compilation entitledDer Waldgänger.77 As might be expected, most of the tracks are named after Jünger’s novels and essays, and some have titles that reflect a certain elaboration of the ideas expressed in his above-mentioned essay: This Morn’ Omina’s ‘Innere Emigration’ (inner emigration), Luftwaffe’s ‘A Solitary Order’ and Von Thronstahl’s thought-provoking ‘Waldgang & Apoliteia’.
Von Thronstahl, whose music, in Klumb’s own words, ‘reflects the longing for the true European identity and soul’, ‘our secret home that is Europa’,78 demonstrates the most acute perspicacity regarding ‘metapolitical fascism’. One of the band’s tracks is called ‘Interregnum’ and it is featured on the split album Pessoa/Cioran,79 dedicated to Fernando Pessoa and Emil Cioran. Pessoa was a Portuguese modernist poet who blended ‘an elite nationalistic sentiment, which favoured authoritarian leaders, with certain strains of avant-garde poetics and anticlerical mysticism’.80 Although sometimes sarcastically critical of Salazar’s Estado Novo (especially after it outlawed secret organizations like the Freemasons and Rosicrucians), Pessoa actually embraced it and, in 1936, a year after his death, the government republished some poems from his Mensagem (Message) (1933) to celebrate the anniversary of the regime.81 Cioran was a Romanian-born philosopher who, in the course of the 1930s, sympathized with both the Italian and German fascist regimes, as well as being close to the Romanian fascist movement Iron Guard, also known as the Legion of the Archangel Michael.82 The leader of the Iron Guard, Corneliu Codreanu, was also honoured with a special double-CD compilation, Codreanu: Eine Erinnerung an den Kampf (Codreanu: a reminiscence of the struggle),83 that featured many Neo-Folk and Martial Industrial artists.
Thematic compilations are important media for the expression of the idea of Europe in the interregnum. Musical tributes to individuals (often genuine icons for both neo-fascists and ‘metapolitical fascists’), such as Ernst Jünger, Corneliu Codreanu, Julius Evola,84 Leni Riefenstahl,85 Arno Breker,86 and Friedrich Hielscher,87 reveal that these figures—in one way or another associated with fascism—are true exponents of the Europe now dead and, by contributing their pieces to these compilations, apoliteic artists reconfirm their allegiance to the principles of ‘organic Europa’. The sentiment and perception of the interregnum is, perhaps, best described in Death in June’s ‘Runes and Men’ (another allusion to Evola’s Gli uomini e le rovine):
So, I drink a German wine
And drift in dreams of other lives
And greater times.88
The specific stylistic expression of the theme of the interregnum lies outside the realm of music itself. While one may rightfully consider that the images of ruins featured on album covers and/or booklets refer to the theme of Europe’s death, it seems more reasonable—given Evola’s overwhelming popularity among apoliteic artists—to link such images to the theme of the interregnum. The same applies to images of forests. Of course, when artists illustrate their albums with such images (sometimes the artists themselves are portrayed on them), it is possible to conclude that they simply like forests. One can also interpret forests as symbols of enduring organic rootedness and/or voluntary dissociation from modernity’s stunning decadence and decay. Both explanations are legitimate and most likely correct in many cases. However, the legacy of Jünger, whose ghost haunts the Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial scene, cannot be ignored; thus, the images of forests may very well be alluding to the idea of the ‘retreat into the forest’ that signifies existence during the interregnum.
The idea of the rebirth (palingenesis) of Europe is an important integral element of Europe-centred apoliteic music. This notion implies that, despite Europe’s death, followed by an indefinite interregnum during which the ‘aristocrats of the soul’ are forced to undertake theWaldgang, a fairy (or, rather, eerie) Europe of ‘metapolitical fascists’ will inevitably be reborn. The German band Belborn inserted this idea in metaphorical form into a song called ‘Phoenix’:
Sind wir das Feuer das bewahrt
Die Wahrheit in des Wesens Kern
Den Schöpfungsgeist in Wort und Tat.
Vogel aus der Götter Hand
Hebe uns empor
Setze die Welt in Brand.89In this cold world of ice
We are the fire that keeps
The truth in the essential seed
The creative spirit in word and deed.
Bird from the gods’ own hands
Raises us upwards
Sets the world on fire.
Reflecting on Europe’s ‘spiritual rebirth’ in an interview with the Romanian magazine Letters from the Nuovo Europae, Belborn, however, denied Europe’s death, maintaining that she was only sleeping: ‘No need to give birth to something again that was never dead! Europa is only sleeping at the moment because the sandman was and is too busy. Europe awake!!!’90 In any case, both ideas—Europe’s rebirth and her awakening—are mythological metaphors that reveal the palingenetic thrust of apoliteic music. Troy Southgate’s band Seelenlicht conveys this by quoting Hermann Hesse’s Demian (1960) on the inlay cover of their album Gods and Devils: ‘The bird struggles out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wants to be born, must first destroy a world.’91 Besides the similarity of the bird metaphors in these texts from Belborn’s and Seelenlicht’s albums, both of them point to the death of the actual order that will usher in a new one. In this context, the required demise is not of ‘organic Europa’ but of the present ‘McWorld’ of liberal democracy. This connotation of the notion of palingenesis is effectively articulated by Howard Williams in his article on Immanuel Kant’s employment of the terms ‘metamorphosis’ and ‘palingenesis’: ‘Where a palingenetic change takes place, the existing structure takes on a wholly inappropriate guise, which is out of keeping with the true nature of the organism. Here the birth of a new structure can only take place with the completed death of the old.’92
Thus, it is not a coincidence that, for example, the US band Luftwaffe associates palingenesis with Kalki, a Hindu goddess who is to end the present age (Kali Yuga) of decadence and decay, in ‘Kalki’s Army’:
We’ll rip your world to shreds
Your corporations will burn
Your institutions will burn
Your churches will burn
Your flag will burn
You will burn!…
Within the Meta-Kronosphere
This moment is decried
You would have thought
Your actions were your own
But history has moved your hand
Now history has given us this day
The dark ages are over
Our age is come.93
The association of palingenesis with Kalki can be traced back to the writings of the French Nazi mystic Maximiani Portaz, better known as Savitri Devi. During the years of the Third Reich she actively propagated a belief that Hitler was an avatar of Kalki, destined to crush ‘the combined dark age forces of Jewry, Marxism, and international capitalism’.94 The impact of Devi’s writings on neo-Nazism as well as ‘metapolitical fascism’ is considerable. The German apoliteicband Turbund Sturmwerk cites her The Lightning and the Sun (1958) on the back cover of their eponymous album: ‘Never mind how bloody the final crash may be!… We are waiting for it [and for] the triumph of all those men who, throughout centuries and today, have never lost the vision of the everlasting Order, decreed by the Sun …’95 This ‘leitmotif’—of course, not always a result of the adoption of Devi’s (c)ravings—recurs repeatedly in the lyrics and interviews of apoliteic artists. Henryk Vogel, for instance, assumes that ‘it’s possible that everything will crumble to dust and a new generation will rise from the ashes of the materialistic system to install a new order of splendour and light’.96
Interestingly enough, the idea of Europe’s rebirth also reveals itself through the names of the labels that release—almost exclusively—apoliteic music. In 1981 Douglas Pearce founded New European Recordings, whose discography includes the albums of his band (Death in June), as well as other acts like Boyd Rice and Friends, Fire + Ice, TeHÔM and Strength through Joy.97In 2002 the Belgian label Neuropa Records was established to release albums by such bands as Toroidh, Horologium, Un Défi d’Honneur (also known as A Challenge of Honour), Levoi Pravoi, Oda Relicta and others.
It is worth noting that the word ‘palingenesis’ itself gained currency in the apoliteic milieu. What is even more important is that it is interpreted by conscientious fans in a ‘metapolitical fascist’ sense, even if the term does not actually appear. See, for example, a review of theinstrumental track ‘Palingenesis’, composed by the Swedish Martial Industrial band Arditi, for the flavour both of this kind of intuitive apoliteic interpretation and of Martial Industrial music:
H.E.R.R. reproduces almost the same ‘mental picture’ in their song ‘A New Rome’:
We are soldiers again
We are raised from the fields
With our swords and our shields…
A city to win
With the sun on our skin
We failed in the past
But today she will last.99
Military imagery is unsurprisingly one of the most widely employed stylistic elements ofapoliteic music. When such acts and artists as Death in June, Boyd Rice, Dernière Volonté, Les Joyaux de la Princesse and Krepulec dress in military or quasi-military uniforms for performances or promotional photographs, they emphasize their musical and lyrical image as ‘cultural soldiers’ who keep the flag flying in the fight against ‘the age of decay and democrazy [sic]’, as the title of one of Von Thronstahl’s songs has it.
Eschewing profane politics for spiritual warfare
In 1996 the German New Right weekly newspaper Junge Freiheit published a short article on new musical trends.
This article was possibly the very first attempt to get Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial artists involved in the ‘right-wing Gramscian’ struggle for cultural hegemony. From then on, Junge Freiheit has been publishing interviews with apoliteic artists and enthusiastic album reviews. In France, however, the reception of Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial music by New Right thinkers has been ambivalent. For example, the leader of the French New Right, Alain de Benoist, who actually enjoys folk music, finds it disturbing when folk artists (like Death in June) add ‘elements of Nazi subculture’ to their music, and considers them provocateurs. In his turn, Christian Bouchet, the founder of Nouvelle Résistance (New Resistance), embraces what I am calling apoliteic music, as opposed to White Noise.101 The Russian New Right, associated first and foremost with Aleksandr Dugin’s neo-Eurasianist organizations, especially the Ievraziiskii Soyuz Molodezhi (ESM, Eurasian Youth Union), takes a favourable view of apoliteic music, and a leader of the local ESM branch in Kazan even owns a small company (Arcto Promo) that organizes music festivals—called ‘Finis Mundi’102 —that sometimes feature apoliteic bands. The British case is more straightforward as Troy Southgate, the leader of the British New Right and the founder of the National Anarchist group, is an apoliteic artist himself. He is also the editor of the New Right journal Synthesis: Journal du Cercle de la Rose Noire,103 in which he publishes, inter alia, his reviews of Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial albums.
Significantly, all the movements and groups that, in one way or another, turn to Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial bands in an attempt to infiltrate certain youth subcultures are metapolitical, rather than political. These organizations then eventually find they have more in common with the musical bands than with genuinely political parties, movements or even violent neo-fascist groups. Similar to the apoliteic musicians, who ‘function as a kind of metapolitical reference point for those people who find themselves disillusioned with the state of the modern world’,104 these New Right groups focus on the cultural terrain in their attempt to influence society and make it more susceptible to undemocratic and authoritarian ways of thinking.
Of course, there are exceptions. Troy Southgate was once a member of the NF, but he left the organization long before he started participating in musical ‘metapolitical fascist’ projects. Anthony (Tony) Wakeford of Sol Invictus was also a member of the NF and, in 2007, he wrote a repentant message for his website stating that he had had no interest in or sympathy for the ideas of the NF for about twenty years, and that joining the organization had probably been ‘the worse decision of [his] life and one [he] very much regret’.105 Furthermore, the possibility that a few apoliteic musicians are members of radical or extreme right-wing political organizations can’t be ruled out, but it is crucial that such membership be kept secret and not paraded.
The reason why apoliteic artists avoid involvement in outright right-wing political activities does not so much reflect concern for their reputations (although they do value them), as the lack of correspondence between ‘spiritual warfare’ and ‘profane politics’. For instance, members of the Russian Neo-Folk act Ritual Front, who define the concept of the band as ‘Tradition, antiquity, modernity, Gods, death, life, war, struggle, warrior’s path’, at the same time disdainfully state: ‘We are neither an Oi-band nor participants in the skinhead underground who are engaged in politics directly!’106 Both radical right-wing political parties and racist/neo-Nazi groupuscules also seem contemptuous of ‘spiritual revivalists’, who would most likely refuse to play at campaigning concerts or to call for getting rid of ‘racial enemies’.
The question, however, remains as to whether apoliteic bands can function as instruments for popularizing and promoting genuine fascist ideas, the adoption of which can eventually lead their listeners to contribute to the political cause, even if such bands—perhaps honestly—do not mean to. The answer, beyond any doubt, is ‘yes’. Music is a powerful instrument of (mis)education: the idealization of fascism, while over-emphasizing its ‘values’ and deliberately concealing (and even normalizing) its crimes and genocidal practices throughout the interwar period and the Second World War, effectively contributes to a misreading of modern history, especially by conscientious fans. We can only conjecture as to whether an individual will be satisfied with just ‘drifting in dreams of other lives and greater times’ or will eventually become involved in attempts at the practical implementation of those ‘dreams’.
Censoring or banning apoliteic music, however, is undesirable in a democratic society as well as ultimately impossible. ‘Metapolitical fascists’ are keen on using cryptic language and codified symbolic metaphors. On what grounds could one ban artists for using the words like ‘apoliteia’, ‘Waldgang’, ‘interregnum’ or ‘palingenesis’? Or pictures of runes/ruins? The sounds of ‘the orchestra of a great battle’? Eurocentric imagery? On the other hand, how effective are civil society protests or boycotts? Apparently these activities only make martyrs of apoliteicartists and strengthen—if only in the eyes of their fans—their image as righteous fighters for an ‘organic Europe’.
In the context of this problem, which itself requires its own discussion, it may be interesting and informative to learn the opinion of Eric Roger of the popular French band Gaë Bolg, which is seen as part of the Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial scene, but cannot be consideredapoliteic.
Most of the promoters in the [Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial] scene have organized, or continue to organize, concerts of the right-wing bands. Some of these promoters are ‘dodgy’, while the others are completely ‘clean’, they’re just interested in music and don’t care about political issues. How is it possible to distinguish between ‘clean’ people (oh, I hate the word ‘clean’, it has a bad smell of witch-hunting!) and the ‘unclean’, if you don’t know people personally? Or should we refuse all the concerts organized by people who have ever organised ‘bad’ concerts in their life?
If we (I mean the bands who are against the right-wing ideology) categorically refuse to play at the festivals that feature right-wing bands, don’t we give them more space? In this case, our withdrawal would only help them propagate their ideology, isn’t it nonsense? Isn’t it better to stay in order to affirm our opposition? But if I say that, isn’t it somewhat hypocritical? Isn’t it a sort of compromising? Isn’t it an excuse we find to accept our ‘tolerance’, the same tolerance we loudly condemn in other cases?
At the same time, I really and deeply think that it’s important that we stay and that we don’t leave an empty place to the right-wingers.107