Joshua Green posits that Bannon's term for his politics, and Trump's--"nationalism--was already in wide circulation in the political press. But the term's meaning was (and remains) confusing and has never been fully explicated. While Trump's embrace of "America first" nationalism was chiefly due to its resonance as a campaign slogan, Bannon's attraction to it had a far deeper and more complicated lineage.
More than anywhere else, Bannon saw evidence of Western collapse in the influx of Muslim refugees and migrants across Europe and the United States--what he pungently termed "civilizational jihad personified by this migrant crisis." Citing the tens of millions of people killed in twentieth-century wars, he called mankind "children of that barbarity" whose present condition would one day be judged "a New dark Age." He added, "We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism. And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it."
Bannon's response to the rise of modernity was to set populist, right-wing nationalism against it. Wherever he could, he aligned himself with politicians and causes committed to tearing down its globalist edifice: arch-conservative Catholics such as Burke, Nigel Farage and UKIP, Marine Le Pen's National Front, Geert Wilders and the Party for Freedom, and Sarah Palin and the Tea party. (When he got to the White House, he would also leverage U.S. trade policy to strengthen opponents of the EU.) This had a meaningful effect, even before Trump. "Bannon's a political entrepreneur and a remarkable bloke," Farage said. "Without the supportive voice of Breitbart London, I'm not sure we would have had a Brexit."
For all his paranoid alarm, Bannon believes that the rise of nationalist movements across the world, from Europe to Japan to the United States, heralds a return to tradition. "You have to control three things," he explained, "borders, currency, and military and national identity. People are finally coming to realize that, and politicians will have to follow." The clearest example of Traditionalist political influence today is in Russia. Vladimir Putin's chief ideologist, Alexander Dugin--whom Bannon has cited--translated Julius Evola's work into Russian and later developed a Russian-nationalist variant of Traditionalism known as Eurasianism.
O how the faithful town has become a prostitute. She was full of justice; righteousness itself used to lodge in her, but now murderers.
Mark Sedgwick in Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century (2004) relates that Dugin's Neo-Eurasianism was watched with interest by political radical around the world, [including Bannon's in the U.S.]. However Sedgwick says he will only consider here, only one instance of the export of Neo-Eurasianism--to Israel, where it is represent by two organizations, Be'ad Artzeinu (To our homeland) and MAOF Analytic Group. In concentrating this on Israel, Sedgwick claims he is following Dugin's own assessment of the importance of Israeli Neo-Eurasianism.
The MAOF Group of Vladimir Bukarsky is the less important of the two organizations. This group, which is loosely aligned with a number of other ultra-nationalist groups to the right of the Likud Party, was established in 1997 to promote nationalism among Russian immigrants by means of pamphlets, seminars, and guided tours of Jewish settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (The then Occupied Territories). It has a large website, entirely in Russian, and one of the 24 categories there is devoted to Neo-Eurasianism, with articles by Dugin and other writes on familiar Neo-Eurasianism themes. Neo-Eurasian views are also to be found in the more recent writings of Bukarsky elsewhere. This group appears to be interested only in propagating its views, not in any direct action.
The more important group is Be'ad Artzeinu, which in 2002 claimed several hundred members all of Russian origin. Two of its leaders were in Moscow for the founding congress of the Eurasia Movement, Rabbi Avraam Shumlevich and Avigdor Eskin, both Israeli citizens of Russian origin. At present, Be'ad Artzeinu has launched only one action--protest outside the Latvian embassy in Tel Aviv in April 2001--but the previous activities of Eskin suggest that other actions may be expected.
The biography of Shmulevich illustrates how an Israeli can become a Neo-Traditionalist, on the face of its surprising development, given both traditionalism's and Neo-Eurasianism emphasis on Islam and Dugin's previous connection with groups widely seen as fascist and anti-Semitic. Shmulevich was brought up in Murmansk by secular Soviet parents, vaguely aware that he was "Jewish" but in no way religious. After rediscovering the religion of his grandmother, he immigrated to Israel and became a Hasidic (priest) rabbi (it is not clear in what order these two events took place). The Hasidim, who are in some way the Judaic equivalent of the Sufis, are fiercely Orthodox, and the fiercely Orthodox generally take on of two extreme positions regarding the State of Israel. At one extreme, they may reject it as an irreligious, blasphemous attempt to hasten the redemption. At the other extreme, they may see Israel as an element in the redemption. In this case, Israel's unexpected conquest of Judea and Samaria in 1967 is seen as a divine gift, and any attempt to relinquish these "occupied" territories is blasphemous. This is the position that Shmulevich took. He joined some 250 others in a controversial, symbolically important, and heavily defended "settlement" in a controversial symbolically important, and heavily defended "settlement" in the center of Hebron, a city of some 40,000 Arabs inhabitants, known by them as al-Khalil.
In Israeli terms, Shmulevich and his companions are indisputably radical, generally described in the press as "right-wing extremists" (in Israeli use, the terms "right" and "left" are applied in a very different sense to that in America and Europe, principally denoting approaches to the Palestinian question: the left favors land for peace, and the right does not). The Neo-Eurasainists approach to the Palestinian question is well illustrated by the activities of Avigdor Eskin, another Hebron settler of Russian origin, an associate of Shmulevich, and a member of Dugin's Eurasia Movement.
Eskin became famous in 1995 when he responded to the Oslo Accords by pronouncing on Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin a pulsa d'nura (lashes of fire in Aramaic), an ancient Kabbalistic death curse, believed generally to work within a period of 30 days. Eskin called on "the angels of destruction that they take a sword to this wicked man for handing over the Land of Israel to our enemies." Thirty-two days later, Rabin was shot by Yigal Amir (not a settler, but rather a student from Herzliya), and as a result, in 1997 Eskin was sentenced to four months in prison for incitement. On his release, he began to prepare two projects designed to incite a Palestinian reaction that would destroy the Oslo accords: catapulting a pig's head into the grounds of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount during Ramadan, and placing another pig's head on the grave of a Izz al-Din al-Qassm (a Palestinian national hero killed by the British Mandatory authorities in 1935). The Israeli security services discovered these plans, as well as a plan to burn down a building belonging to an Israeli leftist group, Dor Shalom, and Eskin and an accomplice were arrested. In 1999 Eskin was sentenced to two-and-a-half-years in prison. Ironically, a year later Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount to much the same result that Eskin's projects had aimed at, igniting the second intifada.
Eskin and Shmulevich's participation in a Eurasia Movement that aims to embrace much of the Islamic world is clearly paradoxical. The alliance with Islam was clearly not the element of Neo-Eurasianism that appealed to them. What did appeal was the anti-American elements in Neo-Eurasianism, which fit well with many settlers' view of their own government as betraying them, the Jewish people, and Zionism, under American pressure. Even the government of Prime Minister Sharon seemed to many settlers only a slight improvement on that of Prime Minister Rabin, in that it did not entirely reject the possibility of compromise with the Palestinians and it appeared amenable to possibility of compromise with the Palestinians and it appeared amenable to American pressure. Shmulevich's explanation of this betrayal was the "process of subordination of the political elite to Western influence, against which Neo-Eurasianism struggle.
Shmulevich and Eskin are Neo-Eurasainists rather than Traditionalists, and there is no evidence that either of them has ever read Guenon. Even their Neo-Eurasianism is a consequence rather than a cause of their other activities--Eskin's stance preceded the development of Neo-Eurasianism, and his first known political activity was in 1979, when, at age 19, he and three other young settlers were arrested for breaking into Palestinian houses in Hebron, where they "overturned furniture and assaulted inhabitants." Three years late, in 1981, Eskin was again arrested, this time during a protest in front of the Soviet airline Aeroflot's offices in New York, and charged with "rioting, unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct and attempted criminal mischief." The Israeli Neo-Eurasainists represent a development of Dugin's activities that cannot even be described as "soft" Traditionalism. To the extent that they make use of an ideology partly derived from Traditionalism, however, they too are descended--albeit indirectly--from Guenon work.
THE US--HISTORY AND ITS PERILOUS POWER
Noam Chomsky & Gilbert Achcar in Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice (2007) argues against Israel's acceptance of Russian Neo-Eurasianism invasion of Israeli politics. In his dialog with Achcar, Chomsky states that while the Ashkenazim elites are the ones who are formally for peace, Meritz and the rest, but they're in favor of the neoliberal system and tend to support the breakdown of the social system, which doesn't harm them, but of course is very harmful to a large majority of the population, most of whom are Mizrahim ("Oriental Jews"--the majority of the population in Israel is from the Arab world, and they're very harshly oppressed.) The Russian Jews are a separate component; Chomsky thinks there are about a million of them now; and with very few exceptions, they're extremely hawkish and very much opposed to any of the social democratic policies. Most of them are pretty well placed to move themselves into the professions; most of them, particularly the ones who came from Russia itself and not Georgia, are fairly well educated. And they're extremely militant and hawkish. Actually a lot of them aren't Jews. The Rabbinate, which is very corrupt, is willing to accept them as Jews--mostly because they're blond and blue-eyed, figuratively speaking. They don't look like Arabs, they look more like Northern Europeans. So that helps stem Levantinization. The typical model of the Sabra, an Israeli Jew born in Israel, is supposed to be red-haired and strong, rather like a movie hero in the West. The Russians so-called Jews help with that. I think some of the estimates were that maybe half did not fit the strict criteria for being Jewish. In any event they're a very hawkish element, and they're politically very significant.
Although as Green contends, "Bannon was influenced by his family's distinctly traditionalist Catholicism and tended to view current events against the broad sweep of history." Bannon seems to have overlooked the history of World War One as a religious crusade. Philip Jenkins in The Great And Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade (2014) states that throughout is book, he refers to ideas about the end times, or "eschatology." In particular, the apocalyptic vision tells a story of increasing chaos, marked by war, plague, famine, and disaster, culminating in a divine act of judgment that ends the existing world order and begins a wholly new creation. In Western cultures, those ideas are commonly associated with the New Testament book of Revelation which in its Greek original bears the name Apocalypse. Yet such idea are by no means a Christian preserve, as they originated in Judaism and are the common inheritance of Islam. He will therefore use the term "apocalyptic" without limiting it to its Christian context.
RELIGION AND THE WAR
World War I marked the end of illusions, and of faith itself. In this account, the ideals and chivalry that rode so high at the start of the conflict perished miserably in the mud of France and Belgium. They vanished in a world of artillery and machine guns, of aircraft, poison gas, and tanks, as hell entered the age of industrialized mass production.
Harry Patch, the last soldier actually to have fought in the war's trenches and who died in 2009 at age 111, commented, "What the hell we fought for, I now don't know." The last line epitomizes what many modern people think about the war. All that butchery, they believe, took place for narrow national rivalries and selfish imperial interests.
In such a picture, religion and spirituality seem irrelevant, except as the window dressing offered by states invoking divine justice before sending their young men off to slaughter. Each side cynically appropriated God to its own narrow nationalist causes.
Contrary to secular legend, religious and supernatural themes pervaded the theoretic surrounding the war--on all sides--and these clearly had a popular appeal far beyond the statements of official church leaders. If the war represented the historic triumph of modernity, the rise of countries "ruled by scientific principles," then that modernity included copious lashings of the religious, mystical, millenarian, and even magical. Discussions of the Great War, at the time and since, have regularly used words such as "Armageddon" and "apocalypse," although almost always in a metaphorical sense. Yet without understanding the widespread popular belief in these concepts in their original supernatural terms, we are missing a large part of the story. As Salman Rushdie remarks, "Sometimes legends make reality, and become more useful than the facts."
However thoroughly Eurocentric the conflict might appear, in the long term, it transformed not just the Christianity of the main combatant nations but also other great faiths, especially Judaism and Islam. It destroyed a global religious order that had prevailed for the previous half millennium and dominated much of the globe. The Great War drew the world's religious map as we know it today. [The two religions most effected by WWI are Judaism and Islam.]
Jenkins posits that across the faith spectrum, believers had seen worlds perish. As the crisis of war discredited state alliances, believers were driven to challenge ideas of assimilation and assert new identities. Among Jews and Muslims, too, we see a revolutionary shift in attitudes to states, a new self-definition of faiths in opposition to the wider culture, and a quest for independent sources of authority and authenticity. In all the great faiths, we trace the rapid global spread of new religious styles, often claiming to return to a past of imagined purity. And as for Christians, much of the story would take place in lands far removed from the traditional centers of faith. As old assumptions perished, faiths had to find new maps--both literal and figurative--to guide their conduct.
If the twentieth century redrew the geography of Christianity, then the consequences for Judaism were still more sweeping. Obviously, Jews had not been able to depend wholly on friendly nation-states before the war, but in several countries, at least, they cited workable arrangements. The crisis of war in 1914 raised hopes that the enthusiastic patriotism of Jews would lead to full recognition of their membership in the national community, to a full recognition of Jewish rights. As the war dragged on, though, anti-Semitism grew across the continent, with an enormous element of conspiracy theory. In 1916, the German government carried out a "Jewish census" to examine charges that Jewish soldiers were shirking their front-line responsibilities. For patriotic Jews, this act was a vicious betrayal that called into question everything they had taken for granted about their German loyalties. In Russia, meanwhile, the enemies of the revolution blamed the Bolshevik victory on Jewish plotting, and the theme became a mainstay of the European Right. The Jewish position in Europe seemed ever more dangerous. With theories of benevolent assimilation in ruins, writers and thinkers were driven to seek alternatives, to redefine their identity as Jews. Jewish scholars who, before the war, had lauded secularism now rediscovered much older aspects of faith, including Hasidism and Kabbalism.
But the war also created new opportunities in the form of the Balfour Declaration and the subsequent growth of Zionism--events that would have been inconceivable except in the millenarian excitement of 1917-18. As Geoffrey Wheatcroft remarked, "The First World War changed everything: without it, there would have been no Russian Revolution, no Third Reich, and almost certainly no Jewish state." We might add, no modern Judaism in anything like the form in which we know it.
A war that began with angels ended with Armageddon. Wartime dreams and expectations found new forms of expression that often bypassed the mainline churches. In Europe, this spiritual meltdown led directly to the interwar rise of extremist and totalitarian movements, as the shifting role of churches in national affairs opened the way to pseudo religions and secular political cults. These movements freely exploited supernatural hopes and fears to justify totalitarianism and state worship, aggression, and scapegoating. They offered a new world, to be achieved by whatever means proved necessary. As Michael Burleigh describes in his studies of European religion, both Nazis and communists drew freely on popular millenarian traditions, and mimicked the rituals and iconography of the described churches. The two nations with the most aggressive ideologies of holy nationhood and holy struggle in 1914 were Germany and Russia, both of which would by the 1930s claim a vanguard role in new messianic movements seeking global dominance.