Arktos have recently published an English translation of Dominique Venner’s The Shock of History. Dominique Venner was a prolific writer and historian but so far little of his work has been translated into English aside from a few tantalising snippets and quotes.
Before he was a writer Venner was a soldier and political activist. He served as a paratrooper, fighting on the French loyalist side in the vicious Algerian war. Then he was a member of the dissident far-right paramilitary Organisation of the Secret Army which tried to overthrow the de Gaulle government.
He lived as an outlaw, and did hard time for involvement with the OAS. Venner was far from the typical bookish historian. Upon his release he continued his aggressive activism and became a part of Alain de Benoist’s Nouvelle Droite school of political thought.
Venner’s take on European identity is that of the 30,000 year primordial tradition of the Indo-European people which still resides, albeit largely forgotten, in our subconscious. As such he leans heavily on pre-Christian influences and cites The Iliad as one of his sacred texts, and Europeans as the sons of Homer and Odysseus.
Venner was opposed to Christianity, although he rarely mentions it. He reserves his plentiful scorn and vitriol for the forces of modernism but his brief criticism of Christianity is measured and useful. He describes Christianity as a strength while Europe was is in its ascendancy and sought to impose itself on the world, but which has since become a source of universalist guilt and offers no moral defence against the massive alien influx we are now suffering in our decline.
‘Europe has been thrown, naked and defenceless, into a world aching to vengefully humiliate her’
-Dominique Venner, The Shock of History
Venner urges Europeans to return to a deeper, underlying identity beyond a mere personal relationship with God to give us the necessary moral defence which modern Christianity is unable to provide. There’s none of the boorish hostility of the militant atheist and there is enough value in his writing that Christians should not be put off from reading him.
After a lifetime of danger, rebellion and political activism, Venner committed suicide in 2013, shooting himself in the head in Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral. It was a decision apparently provoked by the deterioration of his native France and the rest of Europe, and the seeming inability or unwillingness of Europeans to successfully resist its colonisation. It was not however borne out of despair, but a conscious decision to remain in charge of his destiny until the final moment, and a rousing call to action to all Europeans. Suicide is one of the themes of this work, and foreshadows Venner’s own suicide shortly after.
Religion, Memory, Identity
The book itself is a transcript of an interview between Venner and historian Pauline Lecomte. Venner answers questions and navigates across a broad spectrum of ideas concerning the dormition of Europe following the First World War and the forces of Americanism and Communism which have occupied and suppressed Europe ever since. He finishes with a discussion on The Iliad and The Odyssey, which he sees as the origin of European Tradition.
Despite the gloomy subject matter, Venner remains optimistic. This corrupt and unnatural system cannot last. The ‘shock of history’ for which the book is named is the conspiring forces that we are experiencing today and which will awaken Europeans and compel them to confront and accept their identity and energise their will to survive. The unfolding catastrophes of globalism, massive immigration and poisonous ideologies will become impossible to ignore. Even moderate Europeans will be forced to look beyond the communist-capitalist duality in order to reclaim our lands and resume the struggle for our destiny which has lain dormant since 1914.
The Third Position
Venner talks of the Conservative Revolution and the Third Position ideology that arose in Europe following World War One and the deconstruction of the old aristocracy. These early revolutionary thinkers, many of them veterans of the First World War, foresaw the coming catastrophes of Communism, capitalism and the dangers of the increasing mechanisation of war.
It was not just Germany that was defeated during the World Wars, but the whole of Europe. Venner identifies both Communism and Americanism as two hostile forces which consumed the smouldering ruins of Europe following her disastrous twentieth century conflicts. Both of these alien forces hated the old Europe, its ways and its men. They both sought to divorce the European man from his roots and in his place build a homo economicus who was valued only for what he could produce and consume. While ideologically opposed, and using differing methods, Americanism and Communism have very little to tell them apart in terms of their terrible toll on Europe.
‘Homo economicus of the future: the zombie, the new man, homogenous, devoid of depth, and possessed by the spirit of unlimited universal commerce. The zombie is happy. He is told he will find happiness in satisfying his desires, because his desires generate revenue.’
-Dominique Venner, The Shock of History
It may be jarring for some to hear Americanism indicted as an ideology as toxic to Europeans as Communism but it’s a crucial part of understanding identitarian and Third position thought. Communism has fallen in the East and Faith and Tradition are rising again. Americanism hasn’t gone away. The famous American pursuit of happiness has become the nihilistic pursuit of fun, sex and money. The West is still labouring under mindless consumerism, rootlessness, atheism, broken families and warped morals even while it cowers in the face of a foreign invasion. It suggests that Americanism is even more persistent and hostile to Tradition than Bolshevism ever was.
The Religion of Humanity
The West is now suffering under the false and secular religion of Humanity. This religion teaches the dogma of ‘human rights’, or as Venner calls them, the ‘right to zombification’. Modern man becomes obliged to submit to the doctrine of individualism, liberalism, egalitarianism, moral degeneracy, diversity, almost anything at all which might be monetised and weaponised to serve those in power.
Utterly proscribed by this religion are ideas of identity and racial solidarity for Europeans, which stand in the way of the corrupt elite’s dreams of power over a homogenous slave race. Those who do not bow to Humanity’s false idols are hunted by a ‘pitiless inquisition’, and suffer a ‘social and civic death’.
‘Men exist only by what distinguishes them: clan, lineage, history, culture, tradition… Every civilisation has its truths and its gods, all respectable so long as they do not threaten our existence.’
-Dominique Venner, The Shock of History
Hidden and Heroic Europe and the Adventurous Heart
Venner talks about what he calls the hidden Europe. Even while Europe suffers and declines there will be a small number of men for whom the primordial European tradition is still alive in their consciousness. This small, secret elite will be in constant rebellion against the forces of modernism and carry the flame of Tradition into the future.
Nobility is not merely a question of blood and wealth, but one of merit and of spirit. The aristocracy was not, as it is portrayed by class warriors today, one of lazy, effeminate rule, but there to protect as well as to command. Nobility serves as an ideal for all men to aspire to, whatever their birth. Before 1914 even the German bourgeoisie was vested with noble Prussian values, and that freedom and duty are aspects of one another.
The Kingdom of Prussia had its origins in the Ordenstaat, the militaristic, monastic state carved out by the knights of the Teutonic Order. Through a combination of conquest and service, these Holy warriors created a nation, and their values were guarded and handed down by their descendants for centuries. It is this ascetic, martial spirit which lurks in the heart of European men and from which our future will spring.
This book has broad appeal. It is a great introduction to European identitarianism and for those curious conservatives beginning to question why mainstream conservatism has been such a dismal failure. For seasoned Reactionaries and dissidents it’s well-trodden ground but Venner has a unique voice that brings clarity to complex problems.
The conversational back-and-forth and Venner’s articulate expression lend the book an accessibility even to those who may be new to Third Position and New Right ideas. His career as a soldier and rebel provides steel and realistic pragmatism that is absent from the work of more detached philosophers. Occasionally the interviewer changes tack just when Venner has the bit between his teeth on a particular topic. I would have liked to have heard Venner’s thoughts at greater length but they cover a lot of ground in a relatively short book, so some degree of brevity is necessary.
In The Shock of History, Venner manages to weave together the rare combination of an accurate appraisal of our current problems and a way out of the darkness. Above all it is a message of optimism and faith that Europe will prevail.