The manifold efforts, talks, intrigues, chats, and rubbing of shoulders in order to finally jockey oneself into a leading position in a democracy consume so much time and energy that the factual knowledge absolutely necessary for statesmanship (as opposed to the qualifications of a mere politician) is almost never acquired.

Erik Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse (1974)


One must be very blind not to be aware that the term “democratic” is very sparingly used in the great enunciations of our time. It appears sometimes in proclamations and speeches of the President calculated for home consumption, as a concession to the mass mind, but in the great, programmatic speeches, in the Atlantic Charter, in the outlines of the Four Freedoms, “democracy” figures nowhere — and rightly so. The Wilsonian blunders will not be repeated. The crime to proclaim that the world should be made safe for democracy against which the Founding Fathers had violently protested will not take place again. The artificial fostering of allegedly American ideas belongs to the past. America of today and tomorrow will help other nations to live, to breathe, to be themselves again, to find their own forms and their own destinies free from the fetters of foreign occupation, of demagogues and mystagogues, of quislings and paid traitors. E pluribus unum, the constructive principle of federation, In God We Trust, the recognition of God’s limitless fatherhood — these two watchwords, together with that of Liberty, should be our creed, not that spurious label democracy which our American forebears despised and execrated.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (1943)

This protest against the use of the word democracy is not a mere pedantic fight against a technical term. “Democracy” should be discarded as quickly as possible from our vocabulary; it should only be used in its classical connotation. The reason for such a reform lies in the world-wide implications of technical terms. America is not a democracy. We are not fighting for democracy. We fight for liberty. America not only fights for its own survival, for its own liberty, but also for liberty abroad. Human dignity can never be preserved without liberty. Liberty is therefore a real good, a precious good worth while to be redeemed by blood.

Yet by calling this great struggle a fight for democracy, we are implying a fight for a political ideal which is not ours and which even in some of its journalistic-popular connotations is shared by only a tiny minority of our allies. Russia may be a democracy according to St. Thomas, but it is no democracy according to popular conception (confounding it with liberal popular representation). Perhaps it matters little in the case of Russia which momentarily is our military, not our ideological ally. But India, China, Greece, Serbia, Austria . . . are these “democracies,” in the popular or classical sense? Does Europe nourish a nostalgia for either form of democracy? Or is there not rather the world over a desperate craving for liberty, personal liberty, group liberty, national liberty, religious liberty? Are we not rather going to win the world over to our side by appealing to the unquenched thirst of liberty without which, as we have said, there can be no realization of human dignity and personality ?

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (1943)

The concrete political situation of the present moment is not the subject of our analysis; it is nevertheless fairly obvious that ” democracy,” in spite of the ubiquity of this term, has failed the expectations of mankind. Democracy, no less than its bitter fruit—the tyranny of the one-party state—has foundered as a guarantor of freedom, the role in which it has posed for so long. Democracy, moreover, has betrayed its own idealism (which found such pregnant expression in the “Atlantic Charter”) with greater levity than any modern despotism. Democracy, no less than modern tyranny, is morally dead, a living corpse, a whitened sepulchre; yet tyranny with its monarchical externals is at least a sinister concentration of material forces and drives.

The latter’s physical menace, heralded by the dark cloud of corroding and demoralizing fear, is addressed to all of us. Therefore we need forms of government which can give us both freedom and strength – forms of government which fulfil the ethical as well as the practical demands of the times – of all times. If historical and geographic accidents had not favoured the rise of a gigantic empire on the western rim of the Atlantic which, through its dimensions, its numerous citizenry, and its safe distance, represented a unique counterweight, the western rim of the Old World would have lost its freedom twice within the last decade. Yet how inefficient this giant can be at times in face of the planning powers of evil we have seen when, in tired confusion, it surrendered at the green table after so many splendid military triumphs. Victory gained through the twin hierarchies of industry and the armed forces, was thrown away by the politicians.

America would act wisely if she would return to her great traditions; Europe, on the other hand, insofar as she is not enslaved, is faced by a categoric imperative. She must, must find the way back to her eternal well-springs or perish. The illusions, myths and lies of the last hundred years are going to save neither her soul nor her precarious physical existence.

Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time (1940)

But let us conjure up the memory of a late medieval feast. The guests have arrived in a great variety of clothes, and even the costumes of the males show the most adventurous diversity. But they all would have belonged to one faith and one basic ideology. Based on this common denominator, they would have uttered a whole score of views. Yet we can very well imagine a dinner given in a “modern democracy” – and not only a so-called “people’s democracy” of the Eastern pattern! – in which all the men arrive in a black uniform (the tuxedo or “tails”), all of them with clean-shaven faces, all of them uttering in unison with parrot-like monotony the same identical political and social cliches. After some questioning and investigation one would nevertheless find that this monotony stems from a chaotic cauldron of the most variegated religions and philosophies.

If a deist Mason, a Catholic, a Barthian, a vegetarian with Hinduist notions, and a “Freethinker” consider it as natural that they all believe in equality, majority rule, compulsory education and “progress” – then we have to doubt sincerely not only the logicality of their capacity to think, but also their real freedom of thinking! And it is also self-evident that a society with different premises, but bent upon achieving the same results from its “thinking” process, has to exercise a far greater pressure than one with a uniform religious basis. In its stark irrationalism such a society must be strictly anti-intellectual, and arrive at the very rejection of methodic thought.

Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time (1940)

Thus the problem of our time remains—to have good government with personal liberty; to have a maximum of security with a maximum of liberty. For the solution of such a problem, democracy offers no solution, because the masses, choosing between freedom and the illusion of economic security, will usually head straight for the will-o’-the-wisp. After having fallen prey to the fausse idee claire of democracy they will succumb to the even falser idee claire of national or international socialism. When we mention the masses, all the optimistic demagogy about the superb qualities of the Common Man comes to our mind. Indeed, the old monarchies were far from being models of perfection. The ancien regime, if we look merely at its seamy side, was made up of murder, inefficiency, corruption, narrowness, immorality, procrastination, intrigue, egoism, deceit and pettiness and it had long been in need of radical reform when it disappeared.

Yet it never promised a New Dawn or a Paradise on Earth and it must be conceded that it relinquished the stage of history with little opposition, almost in the expectation that the bombastically heralded New Experiments were bound to fail. And fail they did! The ancien regime had lasted a thousand years, and for over a hundred years the Continentals had tried to make a synthesis with the new forces. Then the stage was entirely left to the “Dawnists,” to our noble friend, the Common Man, and bankruptcy arrived not within a thousand years, but within half a generation. It came in a swift and deadly way. It murdered liberty by entirely new methods and it repeated the errors of the Old Government on a colossal scale: all the persecutions of Jews through the ages were dwarfed to microscopic size by Hitler’s delirious mass murders, and all the victims of the Inquisition burnt at the stake through centuries did not amount to one-fourth of the number of those cremated alive one afternoon in Dresden, when among 150,000 killed at least two-thirds perished fully conscious in the fiery flames…and this without an inquest, without the slightest effort to establish a real or even a subjectively imputed guilt at the very end of a war. To the horrors of the concentration camps almost girdling the globe we are at a loss to find any parallel.

Thus, the crown to many a European, especially to a Central European, indeed is a symbol of freedom—not only when he thinks of the terrors of the East, but also when he reflects upon the sly process of enslavement in the West.

Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time (1940)

History, unfortunately, is not rational or strictly logical, but a process which takes place in a Vale of Tears. Democracy rose in our civilization when the condition of the world least warranted it. It put tremendous weapons of technical progress into the hands of those least qualified to use them, and, allied with nationalism, it now becomes a powerful obstacle to the necessary unification of large regions. The Federation of Europe is lamentably handicapped by “politics,” that is, party-politics; and every word spoken by the various party leaders in the democracies must be weighed not so much as to their effect abroad as to their possible repercussions at the next elections. The disappearance of an effective monarchy is a special blow to the co-operation and amalgamation of the Old World, because monarchy alone would by now possess the full necessary supra-national outlook. It has got past the stage of tribal affiliations, which republicanism and democracy have by no means achieved. A Council of European Monarchs could be an effective co-ordinating body for Europe; an all-European Parliament, on the other hand, could not. Not only would it be faced, as a genuinely elected body of popular representatives, by an insuperable language problem, but, considering the level of our parliaments in wisdom and manners, as well as their ideological divisions, it would merely serve to break up, not to unify Europe. It is one thing that French deputies in the Chamber should shout at each other Scélérat! Assassin! Voleur!; but such verbal exchanges between a Communist gentleman from Toulouse and a Carlist gentleman from Pamplona might have deadly consequences. ” Civil wars” on an unprecedented scale could be the result.

Thus the historical problem of our day is and remains the establishment of minimal government-from-above assuring and maintaining personal liberty. This issue cannot be shirked or permanently delayed by preserving the illusory fluidity of democratic institutions which have final control of the central government. Sooner or later this flux will congeal into the tyranny or the virtual dictatorship of a mass-party. Little it matters whether such rule is based on repeated elections won through permanent appeals to the lower half of the social pyramid, or whether it rests squarely, as in the “People’s Democracies,” on the efficiency of a ubiquitous police. Little it matters that finally a new oligarchy arises which methodically suppresses even those layers who helped to establish its sway. And since only real elites have a genuine psychological and intellectual interest in liberty, it is evident that they must have a position in political life which is more substantial than their numerical share. Needless to say, we do not identify such elites with classes or castes; they are the people capable of creative action. And creation as well as creativeness stands in constant need of liberty.

Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time (1940)

We are being forced, anyway, to rely increasingly on government by experts, and we have pointed out before that the discrepancy between the things which are theoretically known, the scita, and those which ought to be known by the “politicized” masses, the scienda, is increasing by leaps and bounds. Even if it is true that general education is improving and that the general level of education is rising—which we sincerely doubt—the political and economical problems with their implications as well as the scientific answers for their solution are growing in number as well as in complexity. This is a race between an arithmetical and a geometrical progression.

To ask a peasant from Central Switzerland in a Landsgemeinde whether a concession should be given to a cheese factory is one thing, and to ask a man in the street in Kalamazoo or Welwyn Garden City what sort of diplomacy should be used towards Mao-Tse-Tung’s China is quite another. Yet this discrepancy is equally apparent in the modern “politicized” executives. In 1815, at the Congress of Vienna, it was sufficient for a Foreign Minister to have a good grasp of history, geography, genealogy and human psychology— besides the mastering of the French language. Today such knowledge, even theoretically, would be entirely insufficient. Twenty years of intensive study and travel, twenty years of delving into such additional subjects as international law, racial psychology, military affairs, economics, agrarian sciences, geopolitics and a whole score of other disciplines seem to be indispensable.

And yet, the grim truth has to be found in the fact that our modern foreign ministers have not ten per cent of the knowledge, the insight, the manners and the experience of a Metternich, a Castlereagh, a Talleyrand, a vom Stein or a Humboldt. Usually their linguistic capacities are so limited that without the help of interpreters they could only bark at each other. We have seen in the immediate past men who had the fine experience of selling champagne, of driving buses or imbibing their knowledge for their tasks from reading H. G. Wells. And the decline from 1815 to the level of 1919 is probably as great as the dègringolade from 1919 to 1945.

Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time (1940)

After the weakening of the popolo/Geremei government in 1292 and under the impact of factional conflict and the institution and expansion of “privileged” status in 1306, 1310 and 1319, however, the use of private accusation procedure changed dramatically. Assault cases had been, as we have seen, the type of case that dominated the private accusation court procedure and had been the means by which families controlled their feuds in the thirteenth century. Accusation procedure was the specific area still reserved for “private justice,” the area in which the podesta, representative of “public justice,” did not have the authority to initiate an investigation, except under certain specified circumstances. But the function of assault charges in the private accusation judicial process had changed – from a means of controlling feuds to a means of vengeance, protection, and control by the ruling faction. In the early fourteenth century one increasingly finds only the charges of the privileged against their enemies. There are no counter- charges since the law of privilege effectively prevented the opposition from using the courts.

A complete register of accusations has survived from January, February and March of 1319, the year of yet another factional coup that further narrowed the power base to those who supported the growing authority of the Pepoli family, and the evidence from that register indicates a pattern startlingly different from the popolo-dominated 1280s. Increasingly in the early fourteenth century private accusation procedure came to be monopolized by those of “privileged” status. In the complete 1319 register, which is typical for accusation records of that period, there are thirty-four cases, (of which thirty concern assault and four concern trespass or property damages). What is startling is the number of cases in which the accusor invoked his privileged status: Twenty-eight of the thirty-four cases, a figure in sharp contrast to the low number typical of the 1280s pattern. The “privilege” referred to was popolo status of accusor and magnate status of accused or that of simple privilege (that of 1306) and “new” privilege (that of 1310). Of the remaining four cases, two of the accusors were titled individuals from the city, which would put them in the elite category. In not one case is there a counter- charge by the accused as was typical of the 1280s. By 1319 accusation procedure was the preserve of the privileged and elite of society. The courts were being used not so much to contain the vendetta as to further it. Criminal justice, which had been depersonalized in theory, but not in practice, during the popolo dominated 1280s, became an even more manipulated and personalized system in both theory and practice in the early fourteenth century.

The nature of social control thus had changed significantly by the early fourteenth century. To be sure, in both the popolo reform years of the late thirteenth century and the post-1306 faction-dominated period the courts were manipulated and to an extent that manipulation can be interpreted within the framework of “conflict theory.” Thus, during the 1280s, as we have seen, the entire community had used the courts to protect itself against “outsiders” and the popolo party had also utilized the courts, probably less successfully, as a means of pursuing its conflict against the magnates. After 1306 manipulation took the form of one faction of the popolo party using the courts in its struggle against another faction. But there is a major difference between the nature of social control in those two periods that cannot be explained within the limitations of conflict theory. In the 1280s the courts not only served as a vehicle for conflict, but they also functioned well in minimizing disputes and helping to control the vendetta. This role, however, was severely reduced in the new kind of social control that dominated the post-1306 period.

Moreover, the role of ideology had changed as well. Ideology, which had served as the ethos binding together the popolo party and its sympathizers and which did have an impact on criminal justice in the 1280s, had become a mask for the self- interests of a narrow group…The criminal court system of the early fourteenth century had lost any trace of pretensions to impartiality and impersonality and had become a blatant instrument of factional conflict, protection, and revenge. The legal reforms of the late thirteenth century and the popolo ideology of law and order, with its ideals of abstract justice, were only a temporary reality in the thirteenth century and were submerged in the factionalism of the early fourteenth century. The dream of justice remained unfulfilled in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and remained so for centuries to come.

Sarah Rubin Blanshei, “Crime and Law Enforcement in Medieval Bologna” (1982)

The breakdown of the popolo into clearly defined, legally distinctive factions is apparent by 1303, but the key year in this development is really 1306. Later privilege lists, such as those of 1310 and 1319, refer back to 1306 as the major point of change in early fourteenth century political and legal structures.

The 1310 and 1319 revisions of the privileges lists demonstrate how powerful a legal weapon privilege had become for the ruling faction. According to the provisions governing those privileges, a privileged person could make an accusation against a member of the opposition and his charge would have validity by his word alone. The enemy faction however, could not respond with counter- charges, since privilege carried with it immunity from investigation in assault cases.

As a result of this expanded concept of “privilege,” private accusation procedure in the early fourteenth century became primarily a legal weapon of the ruling faction. Consequently, accusation records from the 1280s and the early decades of the fourteenth century reflect very different patterns of law enforcement. In the 1280s assault cases dominated the private accusation procedure, with other types of cases such as property damages, trespass, the ignoring of court orders, and single-instance theft cases (frequently by servants of the household) also included, but to a much lesser degree. All socioeconomic levels of the established community turned to the courts and used the accusation procedure to settle their differences: Contadini, great as well as lesser guildsmen, individuals from the upper ranks of the urban elite, including magnates – all appear in the private accusation records, as accusor as well as accused. Occasionally a feud between prominent families would break out and temporarily dominate the private accusation records as charges and counter-charges were filed, as, for example, in 1286, when one incident provoked seven cases, comprising thirteen percent of the cases in one of the four notaries’ records. This incident, as usually happened, resulted in the acquittals of all concerned and demonstrates vividly how elite families in the 1280s used the law courts to contain the vendetta.

Sarah Rubin Blanshei, “Crime and Law Enforcement in Medieval Bologna” (1982)