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War Against the West

NEW YORK – In 1938, Aurel Kolnai, a Hungarian philosopher of Jewish origin living in exile, published his most famous book, The War Against the West, an investigation of the ideas underpinning National Socialism. Kolnai seems to have read every turgid treatise – most written by third-rate thinkers – extolling the martial, self-sacrificing, blood-and-soil virtues of the Land of Heroes, and damning the materialistic, liberal democratic, bourgeois societies in the Lands of Merchants (that is to say, the West).

The Land of Heroes was of course Nazi Germany, and the West, corrupted by Jewish money and noxious cosmopolitanism, was represented by the US and Britain. You had to share the same blood to belong to the heroic German Volk, whereas citizenship in the Anglo-Saxon world was open to immigrants who agreed to abide by the law. This idea of two distinct models of citizenship goes back at least as far as the late nineteenth century, when Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II viewed Britain, America, and France with contempt for being mongrel societies, or indeed, in his phrase, “Jewified.”

The “West” won the war, at least in the western half of Europe; the Soviet Union won in the east. And, instead of being punished, the former enemies were educated – through cultural and political programs, richly subsidized by US money – to be more like Americans.

At the same time, the United States, with the help of Britain, set up a new international order after 1945, based on free trade, supranational institutions, and, in theory at least, the promotion of liberal democracy.