Ritter Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Knight of Austria, and Exemplar of the Hapsburg Restoration Movement, died on this day seventeen years ago in Lans, Tyrol. As this is the first post marking the anniversary of this great Austrian’s death, I thought it would be fitting to give his biography in his own words (taken from his book, Leftism):
I am an Austrian with a rather varied background and a good share of unusual experiences. Born in 1909 as the son of a scientist (radium and X-ray) who died as a victim of his research work, I traveled quite a bit as a young boy and acquired a knowledge of several tongues. Today I read twenty languages with widely varying skill and speak eight. At the age of sixteen I was the Vienna correspondent of the Spectator (London), a distinguished weekly founded by Addison and Steele. Engaged in the study of law and Eastern European history at Vienna University at the age of eighteen, I transferred a year later to the University of Budapest (M.A. in Economics, Doctorate in Political Science). Subsequently I embarked on the study of theology in Vienna, but went to England in 1935 to become Master at Beaumont College and thereafter professor at the Georgetown Graduate School of Foreign Service from 1937 to 1938. I was appointed head of the History Department in St. Peter’s College, Jersey City (1938-1943) and lecturer in Japanese at Fordham University. Until 1947 I taught at Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia. These studies and appointments were interspersed with extensive travels and research projects, including the USSR as early as 1930-1931.
During my years in America I traveled in every state: Only southeastern Oregon and northern Michigan alone are still my “blank spots.” [editor’s note: He eventually reached every state.] In 1947 I returned to Europe and settled in the Tyrol, halfway between Paris and Vienna, and between Rome and Berlin, convinced that I had to choose between teaching and research. From 1949 onward I revisited the United States on annual lecture tours. Since 1957 I have traveled every year either around the world or south of the Equator.
One of my ambitions is to know the world; another one is to do research in arbitrarily chosen domains serving the coordination of the various branches of the humanities: theology, political science, psychology, sociology, human geography, history, ethnology, philosophy, art. I have a real horror of one-sided, permanent specialization. I am also active as a novelist and painter. My books, essays, and articles have been published on five continents and in twenty-one countries.
An ardent defender of Liberty and Tradition, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn demonstrated that the real War of our time is the War between Right and Left, understood as the War between those fighting for Man’s ultimate Salvation, and those wittingly and unwittingly fighting against it. He realized that to be on the Right meant to stand for the ideal of Christendom, an ideal which the forces of Leftism sought eagerly to erase:
Writing as an Austrian, nevertheless I have to tell my readers in all candor that I am also writing as a man who still has a “home,” a Heimat, but since my childhood, since November 1918, no longer a fatherland. The Alpine Republic of Austria has made every imaginable effort to deny its historic roots going back to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. It shed all the symbols recalling the Hapsburg monarchy either in the form of the Danubian monarchy or its real matrix, the Holy Roman Empire.
It’s too bad that Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn dissented from Catholic teaching in his later years by embracing the false doctrine of economic and political liberalism. His praising of Ludwig “Man of 1789” Von Mises and Murray Rothbard is very unfortunate as these men considered themselves to be heirs of the American and French revolutions the very revolutions that would eventually lead to the overthrow of the Hapsburg Empire and the final destruction of Christendom. His branding himself as a neo-liberal in the mode of Hayek is especially unfortunate. The quixotic attempt to wed radical economic liberalism and Catholic social thought has had disastrous consequences for traditional Catholicism in America, Kuehnelt-Leddihn, shares some of the blame for contributing to that.
The Hapsburg Restorationist said:
I am not aware of any time that Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn dissented from Church teaching. Your claim is based on a false understanding of the word “Liberalism” as he used it, which is not at all the Liberalism condemned by the Church (see my post, Liberty and Catholicism, and v. Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s book Liberty or Equality). His economics were those of Röpke, slightly modified in accord with Catholic teaching. And while he praised v. Mises as a person, that was because they knew each other personally, and he certainly did not subscribe to many of v. Mises’ ideas. Further you speak of the American “Revolution”, as if the American War were anything like of the same kind as the French Revolution. Please do your research more carefully next time you wish to comment on this site.
Ita Scripta Est said:
Yes I’m aware of his idiosyncratic definition of liberalism and I am saying it’s not convincing as almost no one- liberal or traditionalist-accepts that definition. Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s distinction between pre-liberals and old-liberals is a distinction without a difference. Real traditionalists like Bonald understood the problematic nature of Adam Smith’s doctrines better than von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. Anyway von Kuehnelt-Leddihn branded himself a neo-liberal along the lines of Friedrich Hayek. The economic liberalism von Kuehnelt-Leddihn defends has been condemned by numerous popes. One simply can’t embrace liberal capitalism and claim to be a orthodox Catholic. That Kuehnelt-Leddihn is published in journals known for being run by people who dissent from Catholic social teaching such as the Acton Institute and the Von Mises Institute doesn’t support your position that he had correct definition of liberty in mind.
What seems to have happened to von Kuehnelt-Leddihn is not unlike what happened to otherwise orthodox Catholic thinkers like Jacques Maritain who came to embrace American-style liberalism during the war years seeing it as the only alternative Soviet communism and to National Socialism.
Further you speak of the American “Revolution”, as if the American War were anything like of the same kind as the French Revolution.
I hope you don’t buy into the discredited American conservative theory that the American and French revolutions were fundamentally different phenomenon. That thesis only really arose during the Cold War as a way of showing that America’s revolution was somehow different than the continental revolutions of Europe. The American Revolution gave rise to egalitarian and democratic impulses that have swamped much of the world. Don’t take my word for it read read von Kuehnelt-Leddhin’s friend Murray Rothbard who does a good job showing just how radical the American Revolution was, even more radical in some respects than the French Revolution. Perhaps you could research it more.
Anyway I can’t for the life of me see the need of all this arguing about trying to save the true notion of liberty. Your blog reminds me a lot of that clown John Zmirak who made similar arguments about the Habsburgs as classical liberals and made appeals to Röpke. Like you Zmirak is on a crusade against evil anti-liberty reactionaries who are not sufficiently appreciative of liberalism. Despite whatever the Church’s nuanced definition of liberty may have been trying to resurrect that nowadays where the corrupt notion of liberty is so dominate and ingrained is worse than futile. What is needed is a new kind of moral vocabulary that transcends past notions. This is my last comment to this discussion.
The Hapsburg Restorationist said:
“Yes I’m aware of his idiosyncratic definition of liberalism.”
You obviously are not.
“Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s distinction between pre-liberals and old-liberals is a distinction without a difference.”
That is superficial observation. There is an actual difference, when one studies this subject in depth. You insist on asserting that v. Kuehnelt-Leddihn “branded himself a neo-liberal along the lines of Friedrich Hayek” which is no where found in or supported by his writings. In this and in everything else you write such as your asserting that he was the “friend” of Murray Rothbard, you a display superficial understanding. Please consider actually reading his writings. Was he right about absolutely everything political or economically? No. Yet he was and I am first and foremost Catholics adhering the principles of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclicals Libertas, Diuturnum Illud, Rerum Novarum, Pope Pius XI’s Divini Redemptoris, Quadragesimo Anno, and all the authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church. As to the difference between the American War and the French Revolution, let me direct you to Charles Armand Tuffin, loyal soldier of America and of the King of France. However all this is seemingly irrelevant to the main point of your comment, which is this:
“Anyway I can’t for the life of me see the need of all this arguing about trying to save the true notion of liberty… Despite whatever the Church’s nuanced definition of liberty may have been trying to resurrect that nowadays where the corrupt notion of liberty is so dominate and ingrained is worse than futile.”
Ah we’ve come to it at last. You take a relativistic philosophy of words, and you concede to the Enemy one of the last remnants of the treasures of Unfallen Eden we have left in this fallen world. Words have meanings in connection to reality, and if we concede that, what grounds do we have left to fight on? Futile is it? Perhaps it is futile to fight for the Good against corruption, but that is not what the Catholic Church teaches. What the true Tradition has taught is that the Truth is Good, and we must fight for the Truth. “What is needed is a new kind of moral vocabulary that transcends past notions.” Could you believe this and call yourself a Traditionalist? Perhaps you do not.
“This is my last comment to this discussion.”
Thank you, this shows the virtue of temperance, and for that I am grateful.
It’s been some time I read von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s works so I might be wrong about details but not about the overall impression. As ardent libertarian at that time I read his *Menace of the Herd* with slight disgust but growing curiosity.
I say disgust because this book is far more reactionary than his later works *Liberty and Equality* and *Leftism*. That’s the impression I got from reading all these works. So I think ISE is quite right, EvKL became more liberal as the years passed. It is also quite telling I found his work when studying some materials at the Mises Institute. I was introduced to it by H. H. Hoppe, another so called right libertarian/anarchocapitalist. EvKL provided an article for Hoppe’s book.
And I say curiosity because I really liked his style, his endless but fascinating digression at the footnotes. His knowledge of history was unprecedented and whatever disagreement I have with his work it really is worthy of reading.
I am a bit surprised you have such a positive notion of American revolution. In a way one could argue that the French revolution was more honest in open carrying out exactly the same principles upon which the American republic was founded. Perhaps it wasn’t clear at the end of 19th century or even after WWII but today it seems plain that those principles led to the same consequences. The only difference is the French made it right away — too early — and suffered defeat.
What current leftist say is basically the same classical liberals used to be saying 150 years ago — man’s rights, religious freedom, freedom of conscience etc. I don’t want to reiterate discussion we already had but commenter ISE aims at the same target. The word ‘liberty’ was hacked by the Left to such a degree that is no longer worthy mentioning. I don’t think we need a new vocabulary we just need to make clear that imposing the right order actually means reducing freedom. This is more honest because modern man thinks right order is product of freedom while it is exactly the other way around.
The Hapsburg Restorationist said:
Thank you for commenting, but I’m afraid I really must disagree. Having read The Menace of the Herd first, I don’t see how one could truly appreciate Leftism and Liberty or Equality without the groundwork laid in the former book. If one is constrained to an artificial “liberal against reactionary” framework (an entirely modern concept I might add), instead of v. Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s own understanding of the timeless Right and Left, then even The Menace of the Herd is a “liberal” book. His works have a consistent continuity which I would say is attributable to his comprehensive and Catholic Weltanschauung of the Right.
As to the American War, and its relation to the French Revolution, I would say the currently accepted understanding is the casebook example of the Post Hoc fallacy. If anything, the formation of the American Government was “reactionary,” the founders returning to a more ancient form of Government after the Revolutionary experiment of Absolute Monarchy which sought rather wrongly to place the king above the Law. Not that the formation was perfect nor even remotely ideal, but it was legitimate as far as it could be legitimate, without even mentioning that the King of England was himself in rebellion against Christendom, and was a false claimant to a fabricated Imperial Title.
I am rather of the opinion that the French Revolution, contrary to having “suffered defeat”, actually succeed to the extent that modern day opponents of it are by and large stuck in a modern reaction towards an equally modern Jansenist absolutism. That America’s revolutionary corruption is rather the result of the French Revolution rather than a cause of it is historically evident, and yet too many have a false understanding of history.
Touching your last point, Is the Left even using such rhetoric anymore, in light of its blatant relativism? And if it is, does that make a difference to the Truth? If it ever did the Left no more believes in Freedom than in inherent rights, for the reason that it completely denies the basic nature of Man, or even that Man is a man and not a glorified Ape that will be replaced by something else in the future. But unblinded by twisted definitions, we know by our nature that to be free is good.
“Though now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,”
Thank you again for your comment, and I regret not being able to focus on the aspects of your comment that I agree with.
*The Menace of the Herd* might be liberal from my current point of view. To the former liberal me it seemed very reactionary, esp. its constant attacks on capitalism. But the author’s later shift towards embracing capitalism was quite apparent to me though I am not saying he embraced it fully. Some say it was Wilhelm Roepke’s influence. However, ordoliberalism is still liberalism.
The ‘liberal against reactionary’ framework really is a modern concept. Liberalism is a new political philosophy. A reaction to it must be new as well.
I also agree that the concept of Absolute Monarchy was, let’s say proto-liberal. One of the first errors of modernity and, as far as I can see, a departure from mediaeval tradition. A rebellion against such an arrangement was to be expected and it came. Unfortunately the rebellions pushed things further on the path to liberalism. In that sense the American revolution wasn’t reactionary at all. They did not return to ancient form of Government (republics of Antiquity did not know human rights, religious freedom etc.) they created something radically new.
I disagree their rebellion was legitimate (petty reasons) but even if it were the Declaration of Independence went too far. And even if king George was in rebellion against Christendom the rebellion against him did not help in any meaningful way. It made thing even worse because America is in no way a bastion of Christianity and have never been.
When I said that French revolution suffered defeat I meant restoration of the House of Bourbon. In the long run it won. That American and French revolutions went wrong was not an accident but a result of their underlying liberal principles. Principles that philosophers of Enlightenment came up with. And, of course, freemasons as the Founding Fathers. The same principles that govern even our current political reality.
As to your last paragraph, ask the first leftist what is he fighting for. Or look at pictures of leftist demonstrations. What banners do they carry? Do they not demand human rights, freedom, democracy etc.? Yet we know they don’t want the same thing as we do. Their freedom is our doom, our freedom is non-freedom for them. They are different organism (as Sarda y Salvani puts it) and we can’t live peacefully next to each other, not for long. They will convert us or we will convert them if it’s God’s will.
I don’t mind focusing on what we disagree about. Such a discussion might be inspiring
The Hapsburg Restorationist said:
Thank you for commenting again. I would say (and I’ll admit I could wrong about this) that the shift in EvK-L’s position on Capitalism wasn’t so much a shift in economic views as in economic labels. He was most certainly against Capitalism viewed as a philosophy, or that of the neo-Darwinian kind. The confusion lies I believe in the term Liberalism, which I don’t think can be really applied to Röpke, even as “Ordoliberalism”.
On the subject of the American War, I’m afraid we’ll just have to agree to disagree, but I will say that I don’t believe the issue of legitimacy rests on the theorizing of some of the Founding Fathers (some of whom were Freemasons, but so was de Maistre), but rather on the fact that the actions of King and Parliament were against the chartered law. The form of Government was certainly was certainly a reaction into a more primitive form of government, but that aside, the theory of it wasn’t really anything new at all, but the natural development of the Protestant Revolution, mixed with some genuinely traditional ideas.
I think the Restoration of the Bourbons (which was actually celebrated in America by personages such as G. Morris) rather proves my point. It was accomplished along Reactionary lines, and was a complete failure. The reason for this I would argue was because it was essentially a Reactionary project as opposed to a Sacretemporal (Medieval) Restoration.
The Principles of modern government are most certainly not those of the American Founders, as enlightenment inspired as some of them were, they still held to some form of the Common Good. I agree that we must either convert the Leftists or be converted, but at the same time it’s not that their principles are wholly wrong, but their principles are a corruption of the right principles. It is of this that we have to convert them, that we stand for true Freedom, for the protection of the rights of true human nature, which can only exist when we recognize that there is a Truth, which Leftism has ultimately always denied.
Yes, we’ll disagree on this one. I guess our disagreement is on certain underlying principles which influence our interpretation of history. Just a few clarifying points.
Freemasons: not that I am a huge fan of de Maistre but he renounced his membership in the lodge if I remember correctly. And yes, everybody was Freemason in those times but not everybody managed to push their agenda in the political sphere as far as the founders of American republic.
Bourbons: they were restored, revolution was defeated in that moment. That was my point. What happened afterwards is another thing. I do not deny that the restoration ultimately failed though we would probably disagree about causes.
Last thing: I do not argue that everything was wrong with American republic. I argue the project was sufficiently corrupted by certain liberal concepts since the beginning i.e. it wasn’t a good thing that went wrong due to human failure. So that it has quite consistently ended up where it now is.
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The Hapsburg Restorationist said:
Well, I think you’ve pretty much said all there is to say on your side the subject, as I have on mine. Always glad to have reader present a reasonable disagreement to my own views, helps me clarify them to myself.
One last point on Freemasons, yes there was a point during which practically every noble or influential person and his brother were Freemasons, even his majesty the Emperor Franz I (though he too renounced it, there are still stories floating around Vienna, about how he narrowly escaped when his wife the Empress Maria Theresa came with the Imperial soldiers to break up the lodge). I suppose that’s why I don’t think that the fact that some of the American Founders were Freemasons had so much of an influence as you seem to ascribe them.
Jonathan Adams said:
My reasoning maybe flawed, but I differentiate the French and American revolutions in that, if nothing else, the monarchy that the US rebelled against consented to US’ break-off at the Treaty of Paris in 1783. In contrast, Louis XVI gave up his crown under threat of death. The main aspect of the treaty that the US did not follow was restoring the loyalist property, but the treaty was not conditioned on this (at least I do not recall that it was).
I have heard that UK had the means to continue the war if they desired, but did not because they did not wish to divert resources from the rest of the “empire”. Since the UK did not feel the American colonies were worth the trouble, they lost the ability to contest the US’s independence after 1783. Granted I am not completely familiar with how issues of separatism and lawful/unlawful rebellions were dealt with in Christendom; therefore, my opinion should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
Absolute worst case, I believe the Roman Pontiff and/or the restored Roman Emperor have the power to legitimize a government.
P.S. I do not discuss the War of 1812, because I understand that a large segment of the US government wished to subdue Canada in complete violation of the Treaty of Paris of 1783. I am not sure if the UK was right in attempting to reclaim the US in order to stop further US attempts to invade Canada. However, the UK again consented to US independence after the War of 1812. Therefore, the above point stands that the UK probably can’t contest it anymore. Also, I apologize if my writing is overly verbose.
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