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More and More Polite; or, The Cosmopolitan Pan-Europeanism of Wyndham Lewis – and Its Blasted Betrayal!

Wyndham Lewis 2

Wyndham Lewis around the time of the First World War

The writer and painter Wyndham Lewis presents a study in contradictions. He was, for one, a violent man and a soldier who longed for peace. “Lewis as an artist and as a writer is an American, a Briton, an Englishman, a Europeanist, a modernist who advocated ultimately the values of tradition within the vortex of force that he put forward, and I personally think he was a great man in his troublesome and vexatious way,” Jonathan Bowden avers1; but he was also a revolutionary, both artistically and politically, and reluctant to be constrained by the particulars of an exclusive nationality. “Wyndham Lewis was an exemplary modernist cosmopolitan: born a citizen of three nations, Lewis extensively toured the artistic scenes of pre-War Europe as a young bohemian,” points out Emmett Stinson:

[…] Lewis’s autobiographical works emphasize his unequivocal belief in the value of cosmopolitanism. For example, he notes that living on the continent in his youth was a transformative experience, since, while living abroad, “the bad effects of [his] English education wore off” and, as a result, he ceased to be an Englishman and “became a European.”

A combative and controversial figure on familiar terms with all of the avant-garde luminaries of his day, he led Britain’s Vorticist movement in the arts and edited the journal BLAST before serving in the Royal Artillery during the First World War, after which he published the novels The Childermass (1928) and The Apes of God (1930) and the essay collections The Art of Being Ruled (1926) and Time and Western Man (1927), among other books. Most notoriously, he wrote the favorable Hitler (1931). “Lewis’s chief political concerns” during the interwar years “and through most of the rest of his life,” writes Stinson, “were the avoidance of further world wars and the creation of societies and governments adequate for the production of great art.” The artist’s view of race “would bear directly on his conception of cosmopolitanism in the 1920s,” he continues:

In his polemical tract, Paleface (1929), which was prompted by a visit to the United States in the summer of 1927, Lewis critiques the “philosophy of the ‘melting-pot’” […] arguing that contemporary sentimental and “ethical” arguments for equality have been accompanied by “a darker and darker cloud of poison gas always gathering upon the horizon” and “aeroplanes pregnant with colossal bombs.” Here, Lewis suggests that contemporary, liberal arguments for equality have not been effective in stopping armed conflict – and thus need to be rejected for other strategies that will bring about global peace.2

Wyndham Lewis

A portrait of the artist as he chose to be viewed

“Lewis’s political trajectory in the inter-war years is by no means unusual, and has much in common with that of substantially different artist veterans such as the nurse-volunteer and writer Vera Brittain,” posits Ann-Marie Einhaus.

Lewis and Brittain alike emerged from the war as firm believers in its destructive effects and as opponents of the Treaty of Versailles; they were determined to prevent renewed conflict, although it is hardly surprising – given their disparate backgrounds – that they differed radically in their appraisal of the underlying causes of war and their motivation for wanting to prevent another. Whereas Brittain was driven by a desire to memorialise the dead through her pacifist activities, seeking to prevent future wars by promoting greater international unity through the young League of Nations, Lewis came to feel strongly that the League of Nations and its internationalist outlook would in fact be to blame for the next war. He condemned the League for what he saw as its unjustified interventionism […]3

Lewis specialist John Constable explains that “Lewis was never much interested in nationalism […] and he was as a consequence never much interested in Fascism,” considering it “simply as a dreary phenomenon of Italian patriotism.” Mere nationalism, in Lewis’s view, was tolerable only as a “necessity, as he saw it then, of a compromise with popular sentiments toward nationhood in order to achieve fruitful revolution.” Further, “Lewis’s interest in Nazism in the late Twenties and early Thirties was based on the quite mistaken belief that Hitler was an internationalist who would favor the creation of a Pan-European racial and cultural brotherhood,” Constable writes.4

Lewis, while not a racial supremacist, “suggests that race (here a European whiteness) might be a unifying concept for “a new West” (by which Lewis means Europe), creating a ‘local Melting-pot’ that would dissolve national boundaries and thus avoid the sovereign disputes that prompted WWI,” writes Stinson5. Lewis puts it like so in Paleface:

We should grow more and more polite: but, if possible, see less and less of such other kinds of men between whom and ourselves there is no practical reason for physical merging, nor for spiritual merging […] If the White World had kept more to itself and interfered less with other people, it would have remained politically intact, and no one would have molested it […] We could have been another China.6

Sadly, Lewis was to abandon his pan-Europeanism after the Second World War, and “would finally argue for a thoroughgoing cosmopolitanism, in which he finally dispensed with race as a meaningful political category,” Stinson explicates:

This reconsideration of cosmopolitanism and race, which receives its fullest treatment in America and Cosmic Man (1949), and is reiterated in Rude Assignment (1950) and The Writer and the Absolute (1952), seems to have been prompted by Lewis’ period of living in the United States and Canada and another more indirect factor: the creation of the atomic bomb. Lewis foregrounds the importance of his time in the United States, which has transformed him “from a good European into an excellent internationalist.” This transformation is already apparent in the titular reference to “cosmic man,” who has supplanted the figure of “Western man” from Lewis’s earlier Time and Western Man.

Wyndham Lewis 3

Lewis poses with his portrait of T.S. Eliot

Lewis argues that the United States is “a new kind of country,” which is the “Cosmopolis” that “the Greeks of antiquity only dreamed of.” He argues that the US model should be globalized, since “the earth has become one big village, with telephones laid on from one end to the other, and air transport, both speedy and safe.” Lewis emphatically rejects both nationalist and racial bases for political unity, criticising the German nationalism of the 1930s that was based “upon a blood-tie, uniting the entire Volk,” and instead praises the United States as an exemplary post-racial and post-national society: “the one great community in which race has been thrown out.” Instead, Lewis proposes a cosmopolitan “rootlessness” (picking up on a term he had first deployed in Anglosaxony) that would push beyond “racial doctrines, or even to thinking in terms of soil, or rootedness.” This doctrine of rootlessness, in which people have no political ties to race or even specific localities, will produce “a new kind of man”: cosmic man.

Driving these arguments is Lewis’s desire to avoid the military conflict that had characterized the first half of the twentieth century. Lewis even argues that this new cosmopolis would not be a “utopia” but “just somewhere in which armed groups are not incessantly menacing each other, and throwing all ordered society back into a primitive savagery every few years.” Lewis’s sudden advocacy of cosmopolitanism can be at least partially attributed to his new fears about the destructive power of nuclear weapons, which, if they “were freely used in large numbers” would wipe out “half of the population of the world” and destroy modern civilization. Lewis suggests that the threat of self-destruction is what will actually impel the appearance of world government: for “the new principle of brotherhood, and the essential de-snobbing of the various racial stocks, we can depend, I suggest, upon the atom bomb.”7

Is it too mean to observe that these years in which Lewis embraced a deracinating American exceptionalism-cum-globalism are also the years in which he began to lose his eyesight?

When he produced The Demon of Progress in the Arts in the 1950s, he was beginning to go blind, which of course for an artist and for an intensely visual person is a great affliction, possibly the greatest one there could be. He had a particular type of cancer that came behind the nose and pressed upon the optic nerves and gradually dulled both eyes. He lost secondary vision, everything became misted, and finally they went. It’s exactly the condition that John Milton had many centuries before.

Now, when he was going blind, the one interesting thing about Lewis because of his Nietzschean credo was a total absence of sentimentality. There was no pity for the other, but there was no pity for himself either.

Bowden also notes, however, that “residually his modest Catholicism loomed rather large” at the end of his life8. For his earlier racialism combined with ardent opposition to war – and, too, for his creativity and his hatred of the boring – Aryan Skynet salutes the man who conceived of himself as the Enemy; but, for the rest, may he be blasted!

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Endnotes

  1. Bowden, Jonathan. “Elitism, British Modernism, and Wyndham Lewis”. Counter-Currents (August 7, 2014): https://www.counter-currents.com/2014/08/elitism-british-modernism-and-wyndham-lewis/
  2. Stinson, Emmett. “Wyndham Lewis’s Cosmopolitanism: On Historicity and Modernist Studies”. Affirmations 4, no. 1 (2016): http://affirmations.arts.unsw.edu.au/index.php?journal=aom&page=article&op=view&path%5B%5D=97&path%5B%5D=145
  3. Einhaus, Ann-Marie. “Lewis and War”, in Gasiorek, Andrzej; and Nathan Waddell, Eds. Wyndham Lewis: A Critical Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015, p. 54.
  4. Constable, John. “The Lewis Question”. Essays in Criticism 43, no. 3 (July 1993), p. 268.
  5. Stinson, Emmett. “Wyndham Lewis’s Cosmopolitanism: On Historicity and Modernist Studies”. Affirmations 4, no. 1 (2016): http://affirmations.arts.unsw.edu.au/index.php?journal=aom&page=article&op=view&path%5B%5D=97&path%5B%5D=145
  6. Lewis, Wyndham. Paleface: The Philosophy of the “Melting-Pot”. London: Chatto and Windus, 1929, p. 15.
  7. Stinson, Emmett. “Wyndham Lewis’s Cosmopolitanism: On Historicity and Modernist Studies”. Affirmations 4, no. 1 (2016): http://affirmations.arts.unsw.edu.au/index.php?journal=aom&page=article&op=view&path%5B%5D=97&path%5B%5D=145
  8. Bowden, Jonathan. “Elitism, British Modernism, and Wyndham Lewis”. Counter-Currents (August 7, 2014): https://www.counter-currents.com/2014/08/elitism-british-modernism-and-wyndham-lewis/
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About icareviews

Propaganda Minister of #AryanSkynet

23 comments on “More and More Polite; or, The Cosmopolitan Pan-Europeanism of Wyndham Lewis – and Its Blasted Betrayal!

  1. icareviews
    June 17, 2017

    Reblogged this on icareviews.

    Like

  2. Hipster Racist
    June 17, 2017

    race (here a European whiteness) might be a unifying concept for “a new West” (by which Lewis means Europe), creating a ‘local Melting-pot’ that would dissolve national boundaries and thus avoid the sovereign disputes that prompted WWI

    This was a very common sentiment at the time and it’s largely what drove the international liberalism of the American establishment like the Rockefellers and Carroll Quigley.

    It’s hard for our generation to comprehend how awful the World Wars really were – by World War II they were bombing cities full of men, women, and children and ended it with nuclear weapons.

    Liked by 1 person

    • icareviews
      June 17, 2017

      It was apparently difficult for most of the “greatest generation” to comprehend it, as well. For all the death and destruction, a lot of men came back with fond memories of World War II. Everybody acted like they’d done something heroic in blowing the hell out of Europe, so there wasn’t much profit in questioning any of it afterward. Archie Bunker just contented himself with bragging about the piece of eye-talian shrapnel in his butt.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hipster Racist
        June 17, 2017

        Some Americans may have come back with fond memories because America just stepped in at the last minute when everyone else was nearly fought out. Few who see actual carnage have fond memories of it and of course Archie Bunker was a media creation.

        Liked by 1 person

      • icareviews
        June 17, 2017

        I was using “Archie Bunker” to represent an unsophisticated type incapable of reflection. He’s of course a caricature and an insult to whites; but he was also beloved of precisely the people he was intended to depict. People watched the show largely because they found identity in him, not realizing they were being ridiculed all the while. I’m not denying that a lot of people were probably traumatized or disillusioned by service in the war; but it was a sufficiently mechanized conflict that a lot of the participants never even set foot on a battlefield. One of my grandfathers, for instance, was in the Navy and just unloaded cargo from ships as far as I know. But a lot of these people are boastful and prideful, as if their participation really saved the world, and since that’s what they’re encouraged to think, they and their families don’t question it – because they don’t want to. I remember talking to a normie friend of mine about how stupid and useless World War 2 was, and he wouldn’t hear any of it. His reason? A couple of his uncles or somebody in his family had died at Pearl Harbor. So, for him, it didn’t even amount to a coherent reconstruction of the geopolitics of it; he just couldn’t bear to believe that his uncles had died because of FDR’s obstreperousness, in an attack that was in no manner inevitable. Their deaths had to mean something noble to him and casting any aspersions on the American cause would have undone their sainthood for him. Combat photographer Russ Meyer, meanwhile, mainly seems to have remembered losing his virginity in a French whorehouse and told a tall tale about tagging along on a mission to assassinate Hitler.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. smartwhiteguy
    June 17, 2017

    His “Hitler” book must have been very favorable judging by the price. It doesn’t look like (((they)))want anyone to read it!:
    https://www.amazon.com/Hitler-Wyndham-Lewis/dp/B005FPB0PE/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1497735469&sr=8-1&keywords=Wyndham+Lewis+hitler

    Like

    • icareviews
      June 17, 2017

      Yes, I find it odd that nobody has bothered to republish it as a print-on-demand title. Maybe it’s not in the public domain. If it isn’t, it ought to be. Lewis later published another book critical of the Fuhrer titled The Hitler Cult.

      Liked by 1 person

      • smartwhiteguy
        June 17, 2017

        He had to do that if he wanted to continue playing artist and make any money at it.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. bob saffron
    June 18, 2017

    Thanks, I wasn’t acquainted with Lewis.

    Mind you, this Pan-Europeanism is just so much nonsense (sorry Richard!). “White”, “Christian”, are the coarsest of filters, with language, history, and racial affinity separating the peoples into nations. I can only think this fanciful thinking comes from touring with the Baedeker and a wad of dollars at a time when they went staggeringly far.

    Liked by 1 person

    • icareviews
      June 18, 2017

      When you and another man find yourselves backed into a sheer cliff face with a pack of wolves surrounding you, you don’t care if he’s Viennese or Parisian. Either will to survive will unite the Europeans or they’ll die as a set of sovereign peoples.

      Like

      • bob saffron
        June 19, 2017

        Sure, but that reductio never arises. Never do you find yourself in a trench with another white man whose language you don’t speak, and if you are, you’d better fix the bayonet!

        Of course, you can learn other languages and come to appreciate the similarity of one white nation’s problems with another’s. Leaders do form political alliances, but that’s a distinctly organized, not spontaneous phenomenon.

        Like

      • icareviews
        June 19, 2017

        “Sure, but that reductio never arises.”

        The cliff and the wolves are metaphorical. We’re already there, the wolves are here, and you don’t need to physically find yourself in a literal trench in order to understand what I’m getting at.

        Liked by 1 person

      • bob saffron
        June 19, 2017

        Once the Basques secure their homeland from the Spanish, then they can decide what to do with their blacks, Jews, Chinese, etc..

        Like

      • icareviews
        June 19, 2017

        Sovereignty, if it is to appear, will first return in pockets before consolidating.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hipster Racist
      June 18, 2017

      This whole “problem” with pan-Europeanism/pan-Whiteness vs. ethno-nationalism is easily solved if people stop trying to create some White Utopia and instead just deal with problems in a pragmatic way.

      How about all White people world-wide stick together when we are under attack from anti-whites and otherwise leave all the various permutations of White people to their own ethnic cultures?

      I have no reason to try to shoehorn a French Quebecois into my WASP Americanism, nor would I have any problem teaming up with a French Quebecois to fight off BLM, Muslim terrorists, or Zionist Jews.

      Probably plenty of French Quebecois and Anglo WASP fathers wouldn’t want their daughter marrying the son of the other, and fine. But probably plenty wouldn’t have a problem either.

      Honestly I think in the Current Year these sorts of “problems” are just made up because people love to troll online and of course anti-white (((subversives))) want to cause infighting.

      Historically, people like Wyndham Lewis had good reasons for trying to downplay ethnic nationalism in the context of the World Wars, but we face completely different problems today.

      Like

      • icareviews
        June 18, 2017

        “Of course historically, people like Wyndham Lewis had good reasons for trying to downplay ethnic nationalism in the context of the World Wars, but we face completely different problems today.”

        If anything, whites have more motivation today than ever before to seek supranational solutions. That’s still futuristic given the present political climate; but Europeans, while increasingly imperiled within their national borders, are still a supermajority in Europe overall and ought not to overlook that fact while it’s still a fact.

        Like

      • bob saffron
        June 19, 2017

        I don’t put any faith in supranational solutions, but I think that supranational consciousness is already partially realized. David Duke videos get subtitled in many European languages and the message of “Whites under attack!” is immediately comprehensible in the viewer’s own particular context.

        I’d like to see a far less Brussels-heavy Europe. Moreover, I can’t think of any Jewish group militating for political decentralization in Europe (or the States, or indeed anywhere).

        Like

      • icareviews
        June 19, 2017

        “or indeed anywhere”

        Oded Yinon.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hipster Racist
        June 19, 2017

        supranational consciousness is already partially realized. David Duke videos get subtitled in many European languages and the message of “Whites under attack!” is immediately comprehensible in the viewer’s own particular context.

        My view as well. It’s likely best to simply organize “whites” in a defensive manner: whites vs. anti-whites. It’s easy to organize people against a common enemy. Complicated plans for supra-national entities or Spencer’s idea of some sort of White Imperium are visionary at best, LARPing at worst. Simply getting white people to unite as whites against anti-whites sidesteps all the complicated issues of Basque vs. Spanish, British vs. Scots, Americans vs. Europeans.

        The longer I’ve been around the more I see Bob Whitaker as being pretty much the only person with a workable strategy.

        Like

      • icareviews
        June 19, 2017

        You’re just going to have to learn to live with us pesky dreamers of the day.

        Like

      • Sam J.
        June 21, 2017

        As they say in Australia, “Bob Whitaker was a legend”.

        Like

  5. Pingback: More and More Polite; or, The Cosmopolitan Pan-Europeanism of Wyndham Lewis – and Its Blasted Betrayal! | Hipster Racist

  6. bob saffron
    June 19, 2017

    Touché! I’d quite forgotten about those peoples, with my Eurocentrism and all, ha ha. But the West is a host where Jews exert de facto control; centralization maximizes their yield. In the case of countries identified by Yinon, Jews weren’t able to penetrate and subvert the power structure; centralization, allowing powerful military forces, was against their interests.

    (Not that it’s really my concern, but ask a Kurd or a Shiite whether he mourns the old Iraq.)

    Like

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