Friedrich Nietzsche Was Not the Inspiration for the Left

Nietzsche, who abhorred the politics of the Left, and who envisaged a new aristocracy, may be said to have invented the atheism of the political right. - Werner Dannhauser[i], “Nietzsche (1844-1900)”

August Harriman argued on these pages that the guiding philosopher of the global elites is not Karl Marx.  Rather, “Nietzsche is the unifying theory that explains what’s happened to the Western world – formerly known as Christendom – a word and world now extinct.” 

Nietzsche around age 30 in 1875 (public domain)

Harriman continues,

Nietzsche is the justification for the totalitarian control, Nazi and Communist, that was dominant for a significant portion of the 20th Century.  Our elite have chosen the Left as their vehicle to win and maintain power.  The Left seeks the demise of the Judeo-Christian moral code, and … the dissolution of the American nation … white Christian America. … There is nothing in the Left’s agenda that fails to comport with Nietzsche.

Harriman is correct that one should not make the mistake of assuming that the entirety of the psychotic Left derives from Marxism. And he may be correct that many of the Western elites may think of themselves as followers of Nietzsche.  But if so, it is a bastardized Nietzsche, not the real Nietzsche, who made his “abhorrence” of the Left abundantly clear, writing:

This overall degeneration of man down to what today appears to the socialist dolts and flatheads as their man of the future—their ideal—this degeneration and diminution of man into the perfect herd animal (… the “free society”), this animalization of man into the dwarf animal of equal rights and claims, is possible, there is no doubt of it.  Anyone who has once thought through this possibility to the end no longer knows any nausea than other men, but perhaps also a new task!  - Beyond Good and Evil (para. 203)

Dannhauser also points out that Nietzsche’s work “is an implicit critique of Marxism.”

Part of the problem interpreting Nietzsche is that the current Left does not really have a coherent philosophy.  Since it is an inconsistent mixture of neo-Marxism, childish romanticism, incoherent post-Modernism that rejects the notion of truth, revenge masquerading as “social justice,” plain old greed and lust for power, and even Satanism, it is hard to characterize.  If a movement does not have any clear principles, but only narcissism, hate and rage, one can’t attack its principles. This is why the left cannot exist or get its way except, with the help of what masquerades as our “news” media, by hiding its true intentions.

Harriman’s argument is based on Nietzsche’s attack on Christianity (“God is dead.”) and his promotion of a “master morality” and the associated doctrine of the Nietzschean “superman” [Übermensch, literally “over-man” or “higher-than-man”].  Harriman writes:

His [Nietzsche’s] “masters of the earth” rule through wealth, media, and the manipulation of law, science and culture. As if coming out of central casting is Klaus Schwab and his World Economic Forum.”

In fact, Klaus Schwab and the WEF, not to mention the other authoritarian elites that are currently working in the service of their inflated egos and bank accounts, are nothing like Nietzsche’s “masters of the earth.”  Although Nietzsche’s concept of “master morality” is obscure, these “masters” are, as Dannhauser makes clear, conceived as “part poet, part philosopher, part saint.” Nietzsche’s “masters of the earth” will resemble the saint because “his soul will retain all the depth which Christianity has given man.  He will be Caesar with the soul of Christ.”  Dannhauser, further characterizing Nietzsche’s view of Christianity, continues,

Christianity has deepened man. [It] spiritualizes man by sublimating his instincts until [the] possibility of their expression in ever more delicate forms.  [T]his has produced, among other things, science. …  Christianity has superseded the Greeks.  Nietzsche’s transvaluation of values … will transcend Christianity rather than destroy it.

Christian morality … deepened and heightened man’s spiritual powers. [It] emphasizes truthfulness.  It … makes man a more subtle and clever animal. [Its] devotion to God evolves into a devotion to truth ….

Nietzsche’s rhetoric may suggest a complete abandonment of Christianity, and for that he maybe justly blamed, but it is in the nature of his view of history, like Hegel before him, that the new view generally incorporates much of what is positive in the older one.

Nietzsche does envisage what he calls a “great politics,” presumably practiced by his artist-philosopher “Übermensch”, but, Dannhauser points out, his concept of the superman [ubermensch] “is necessarily vague and ambiguous [because] there is a strong strain of radical individualism in Nietzsche.”  Nietzsche compares his “Übermensch” not to a lion but a child (a new innocent birth). 

Perhaps Ayn Rand’s fiercely individualistic architect, Roark, in The Fountainhead may be one example familiar to ordinary Americans of a popularized quasi-Nietzschean “ubermensch.”  And whatever one thinks of Roark, he was not the least bit interested in telling other people what to do.  Quite the contrary, he was entirely about individual artistic achievement, the pure antithesis of the completely spiritless money/power charlatan authoritarians like Schwab and the WEF.  Indeed, it is arguable that Nietzsche’s concept of the Übermensch was entirely aesthetic, not political in the ordinary sense.

In his Twilight of the Idols Nietzsche titles a section “Whispers to conservatives” in which he states  that, unfortunately, the old conservatism is no longer possible because the world has just become much too complicated.  A new synthesis on the right is necessary.  The title of the section is a literary device that suggests a sympathy towards conservativism.

Dannhauser points out that as many commentators on Nietzsche have noted, he “was no fascist, he was a violent critic of German nationalism and he would have loathed Hitler.”  However, though true, that misses the main point,

Nietzsche has a noble vision of man’s future. His own delicacy, integrity and courage shine through his writings.  He was also free of the crude racism that was to be an important element of fascism, and he had only contempt for political anti-Semitism.

Despite all this, Dannhauser admits that Nietzsche did influence fascism, but that this is because the fascists, like the Nazis, “abused” his words (misinterpreted him).

Dannhauser gives an informed and balanced view of Nietzsche’s thought, both the good and the bad.  Nor does he agree with all of Nietzsche’s views.  He concludes,

Any examination of Nietzsche’s political philosophy must not only reveal the deep ambiguities but must point to the grave consequences of that political philosophy. … [However,] the errors of great men are venerable because they are more truthful than the truths of little men.

There are few philosophers who are more antithetical to the Left than Nietzsche.  Some leftists may think of themselves of Nietzschean “masters of the earth” but Nietzsche would find them“abhorrent”.  This is important because one does not want to give the impression that the contemporary Left can find a philosophical justification in Nietzsche.  Nietzsche may be obscure, but properly understood he is one of the Left’s worst enemies.

[i] University of Chicago Ph.D. and longtime Cornell University Government professor Werner Dannhauser, an orthodox Jew born in Buchau Germany in 1929 whose family fled to the United States in 1939 to escape the Nazis, specialized in the Great Books, Nietzsche and the Ancient Greeks.

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