Corneliu Zelea Codreanu
For My Legionaries
Introduction by Kerry Bolton; Historical Overview by Lucian Tudor; with new appendices and photographs.
London: Black House Publishing, 2015
Black House Publishing has been known to me only as the publisher of relatively inexpensive, nicely produced Kindles that bring back into circulation the works of Sir Oswald Mosely and others of his circle; the Black House being, I gather, the Mosely HQ in the Thirties. Therefore, I was pleased to see them expanding beyond this laudable project into a work from the corresponding Green House of the Romanian Iron Guard.
Corneliu Codreanu’s For My Legionaries is a legendary text among the coteries of the Right, providing a first hand account of the rise of a distinctive version of Europe’s “generic fascism” in a — to most Westerners — frankly obscure corner of the world. More importantly, it documents the inspiring story of a band of young men who swore to save Romania or die trying. As Metapedia says:
The book gives much information about Codreanu’s life and his fascinating and heroic struggle against corrupt politicians and manipulative Jews in order to create a greater, religiously Christian, and culturally purer Romanian nation.
Published in Romanian in 1935, the first English edition appeared in 1979: a third edition, translated and edited by Dr. Dimitrie Gazdaru, appeared in 2003. According to Black House,
This new edition of For My Legionaries is distinguishable from previous editions by the inclusion of 100 pages of new text, footnotes, appendices and photographs which are a crucial aid to understanding the book and its context. . . . [T]his edition of For My Legionaries is the most comprehensive edition published to date.
Kerry Bolton’s Introduction is delivered in his usual clear yet information-packed style. It follows the text of the book rather closely, which is good, as despite the heroic tale it has to tell, Cordreanu’s book has always struck me as a tad leaden and overly detailed, often more the raw material of a history — for example, a whole section, almost a page, just listing names — than a finished work. Lucien Tudor agrees:
Readers will notice that the book is not organized in the manner expected of a standard autobiography, but rather as a collection of disparate, although still chronological entries describing events at different dates, news articles, excerpted documents, brief philosophical reflections, manifestoes, and speeches of addresses. . . . Codreanu had evidently written the book in haste and in conditions where he was too distracted to compose the work in standard fashion.
More positively, one could say that the resulting nook, malgre lui, is surprisingly modernist, even post-modernist, for a supposed “reactionary” or “fascist,” posing once again the vexed question of “revolutionary conservatism” or “fascist modernism.”
Bolton’s Introduction will give the reader a sort of implicit map or outline he can carry with him to get through the sometimes meandering text.
But what jewels await that reader along the way!
A country has only the Jews and leaders it deserves. Just as mosquitoes can thrive and settle only in swamps, likewise the former can only thrive in the swamps of our sins.
Its culture: the fruit of its life, the product of its own efforts in thought and art. This culture is not international. It is the expression of the national genius, of the blood. The culture is international in its brilliance but national in origin. Someone made a fine comparison: bread and wheat may be internationally consumed, but they always bear the imprint of the soil from which they came.
[T]he rulers of nations must judge and act not only on the basis of physical and material interests of the nation but on the basis of the nation’s historical honour, of the nation’s eternal interests. Thus: not bread at all costs, but honour at all costs.
If the Christian mystery, which tends to ecstasy, is contact between Man and God, through, ‘ascent from human to divine nature,’ then the national mystery is nothing more than man’s contact, or contact of the mass, with the spirit of its nation. Not intellectually, for it could be the case with any historian, but live, in their hearts.
The country is dying because of a lack of men, not a lack of programs.
In line with the last quote, Codreanu is very much the theorist of the new kind of man needed both the create the new state, and to inhabit that state.
Legionary life is beautiful, not because of riches, partying or the acquisition of luxury, but because of the noble comradeship which binds all Legionaries in a sacred brotherhood of struggle.
With the Legion’s emphasis on death, beauty, and above all, beautiful death — early on, Legion evangelists are nicknamed “The Death Team,” and all Legionnaires are committed to martyrdom — Bolton is right to briefly allude to the Samurai (or at least Mishima’s version)
More to the point, Codreanu’s Legion of St. Michael (rather than Mishima’s beloved St. Sebastian) seems another upsurge of the archetypal Männerbund — or what I’ve called, after William Burroughs, “Wild Boys” — who arise, as Krishna describes his own role, “whenever there is decline of righteousness” (Bhagavad-Gita, 4.7).
And speaking of beauty, Bolton is also emphasize, right on page one, that “the basis of the Movement was Faith and Work, that is to say, the movement had again made work a sacred duty.” From work camps in aid of struggling peasants, to building their own Green House headquarters, the legion would have fit right in with the Arts and Crafts movement or those Traditionalists who sought to recover what Coomaraswamy liked to call “the traditional or Christian or true doctrine of art” or, even more to the point — the Green House indeed — the contemporary Wild Boys of Germany, the Wandervogel.
Emerging from the same anti-bourgeois matrix of ideas as produced the samurai/Zen/garden unity of religion/death/beauty, we can understand how this new man arrived capable of organizing a paramilitary force where, “Wherever the Legionary’s hand and soul show up, a garden appears.”
Lucien Tudor’s “historical overview” actually comprises two parts: one, for the general reader, comes before the text, providing some basics of Romanian history and the context in which Codreanu’s nationalism, anti-Semitism, and unique economic ideas make sense. I certainly appreciated this, although a map would have been a helpful addition.
[U]nique ethnic cultures only exist because there also exist different and separate ethnicities, not an undifferentiated “humanity,” as egalitarian and universalist ideology teaches.
It is natural and healthy for different ethnic groups to exchange cultural products and idea between themselves, but an ethnic group must moderate such interactions so as to not allow foreign groups to dominate their culture, if they are to maintain the authenticity of their own ethnic cultures.
This, of course, leads to “anti-Semitism,” since Romania found itself in a situation that should be familiar to Americans, at least those of the Right:
[T]he Jews steadily gained . . . an ever increasing presence in the universities, eventually reaching the point where they would outnumber ethnic Romanian students and, consequently, dominate future elite occupations.
As Tudor elucidates it, the ethnic ideal leads to the Legionaries developing a Third Positon form of economy, so that all classes, being ethnically one, receive equal consideration, as well as — for uniquely Romanian reasons — becoming fervent monarchists.
Tudor’s second essay is a more scholarly outline of the history, structure and legacy of the Iron Guard, which appears as part of the Appendices. The latter also include valuable fugitive material, such as the Legion’s oath and the transcript of Codreanu’s only recorded speech.
As we’ve seen before, Mr. Tudor is an erudite expositor, but his overview materials sometimes seem to have originated from another language than English, and the publishers would have done him and the reader a service by giving them at least one more going-over before letting them see print.
The photographs are few in number, as one would expect from such a poorly documented period — sometimes deliberately so; Bolton tells us that Codreanu’s wedding was filmed and show to enthusiastic crowds in Bucharest, until it was confiscated by authorities and disappeared — but are all the more interesting and valuable for that.
There are occasional lapses in proofreading but nothing especially egregious that would hinder the reading of this exciting chronicle of populist upheaval. Two other matters are more serious.
First, the layout of the explanatory essays makes it hard to tell when material from the main text is being quoted; block quotes are not indented or otherwise distinguished from Bolton or Tudor’s text, and one must infer this retrospectively by the reader noticing the footnote superscript at the end of the paragraph and checking it out to see if it is to a section title of the book. In such cases, it might have been nice to have a more or less exact page number, but the sections are mostly short so it’s not much of a problem to locate the passage.
More problematic is the binding. Black House’s hardbacks actually resemble those high-lending-volume paperbacks in old time high school libraries where an outside vendor has cut off the cover, glued the pages into a “hard cover” and pasted the pictorial paperback cover onto the front. As a former librarian, I appreciate how this adds to durability, but it definitely subtracts from readability: it’s stiff and hard to hold for long periods, like the library copy of Dune I never finished.
The only real drawback with books like this, as with histories of the interwar period in general, is that one begins to feel a surge of jealousy, becoming a bit of what Nietzsche would call “a man of ressentiment.” Despite the social, economic, and cultural chaos of the inter-war period, there existed movements — more or less serious — one could join and hope to make a difference. Today, not so much.
We live in similar times — the “Great Recession” or “Greater Depression” as some have suggested — but also, in a time when not only are our “democratic representatives,” to the urgent demands and enthusiastic cheers of the Jewish-dominated media, pulling down flags and monuments to our ancestors, but even digging up their bones.
We were born in the mist of time on this land together with the oaks and fir trees. We are bound to it not only by the bread and existence it furnishes us as we toil on it, but also by all the bones of our ancestors who sleep in its ground. All our parents are here. All our memories, all our war-like glory, all our history here, in this land lies buried. . . . By what right do the Jews wish to take this land from us? On what historical argument do they base their pretensions and particularly the audacity with which they defy us Romanians, here in our own land? We are bound to this land by millions of tombs and millions of unseen threads that only our soul feels, and woe to those who shall try to snatch us from it.
This is the kind of automatic, bred in the bone resistance (itself, perhaps, symbolized by the Confederacy) that seems no longer fashionable, or even possible. This is what happens when, by the processes discussed by Mr. Tudor, some other ethnicity controls the nation’s narrative.
Although Dyann Roof’s futile and pointless gesture is the proximate cause of the latest spasm of self-righteous cultural genocide, we need to ask must be done to create some kind of more effective vehicle of opposition.
My suggestion: buy this book, read it, get all angry and envious, and send a donation to Counter-Currents, where the battle for our culture — the battle for the mind of North America — is taking place.
1. For example, Jorian Jenks, Spring Comes Again (an earlier edition is reviewed here) and Alexander Raven Thomson’s The Coming Corporate State (discussed by the late Alisdair Clarke in his “ARYAN FUTURISM” speech, delivered to the New Right meeting in central London on 28 May 2005, here); my own recent observations on Mosley’s Blackshirts’ black shirts are found in “There’s Something about a Man in Uniform: Reflections on Sartorial Fascism,” here.
2. And not to be confused with Black House Rocked, anti-natalist fiction from Hopeless Press which I reviewed here.
3. Obscure enough to allow such participants as Mircea Eliade and Emil Cioran to amass wighty reputations in the West before anyone thought to ask “What did you do during the War?” On the latter, see Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston, Searching for Cioran (Indiana University Press, 2009) and Marta Petreu’s An Infamous Past: E.M. Cioran and the Rise of Fascism in Romania (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2005).
4. Metapedia, here. For more on Codreanu and the Legion, see two articles by Christopher Thorpe, “The Legionary Doctrine” (Counter-Currents, January 24, 2012, here) and “The Romanian Legionary Movement between Truth and Deception” (Counter-Currents, Jun 12, 2012, here).
5. York, SC: Liberty Bell Publications, 2003; available, if you must, on archive.org. Amazon has another edition by “White Wolf” (CreateSpace, 2012).
6. Ezra Pound, of course, comes to mind. Generally, see Roger Griffin, Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler (New York: Palgrave, 2007), reviewed by Alisdair Clarke here, as well as Kerry Bolton’s Artists of the Right: Resisting Decadence, ed. by Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012).
7. Citing Yukio Mishima on Hagakure (New York, Basic Books, 1977). See Bolton’s “Yukio Mishima” here. See also Greg Johnson, “Remembering Yukio Mishima: January 14, 1925–November 25, 1970,” here; “Mishima’s philosophy of life and death is found in his Way of the Samurai, a commentary on the Hagakure.”
8. On the Männerbund, see my review of the work of Wulf Grimsson, “A Band Apart” here and reprinted in The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012). Although, as an avowedly Christian organization, the Legion expresses its “apartness” through a vow of celibacy. Despite this, Codreanu himself eventually married, recalling Brian De Palma’s implicit Männerbund film, The Untouchables (1987), where Elliot Ness doesn’t want any married men on the team, despite being married himself. See my “‘God, I’m with a heathen.’ The Rebirth of the Männerbund in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables,” here and also reprinted in The Homo and the Negro, where I reflect further on the role of the Männerbund as a male-bonding organization necessarily outside but supportive of the family.
9. Ruskin, for example, who sent his art students out to repair cobblestone pavements.
10. See the collection edited by Brian Keeble, Every Man an Artist (Bloomington, Ind.: World Wisdom, 2005).
11. See “The hidden origins of the hippie movement” by “*A**V*,” here.
12. “It was a challenge from God to live on spirit without matter.”
14. “Memphis City Council unanimously votes to dig up Confederate general, wife,” here.
15. Otter: “Bluto’s right. Psychotic . . . but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!” Bluto: “We’re just the guys to do it.” Animal House (John Landis, 1978); see it here.
16. “The battle for the mind of North America is taking place in the video arena — in the Videodrome.” — Brian O’Blivion, Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1963).