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Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (July 31, 1909 – May 26, 1999) was an Austrianmarker Catholic aristocrat intellectual who described himself as an "extreme conservative arch-liberal." Kuehnelt-Leddihn often argued that majority rule in democracies is a threat to individual liberties, and declared himself a monarchist and an enemy of all forms of totalitarianism. Described as "A Walking Book of Knowledge," the cosmopolitan Kuehnelt-Leddihn was a polyglot, able to speak eight languages and read seventeen others. His early books Menace of the Herd and Liberty or Equality were influential within the American conservative movement. His best-known writings appeared in National Review, where he was a columnist for 35 years.


Kuehnelt-Leddihn was born in Austriamarker. At the age of 16, he became the Viennamarker correspondent of The Spectator. From then on, he wrote for the rest of his life. He studied civil and canon law at the University of Viennamarker at the age of eighteen. From there, he went to the University of Budapest, from which he received an M.A. in economics and his doctorate in political science. Moving back to Vienna, he took up studies in theology. In 1935, Kuehnelt-Leddihn travelled to England to become a schoolmaster at Beaumont Collegemarker, a Jesuit public school . Subsequently he moved to the United States,where he taught at Georgetown Universitymarker (1937–38), Saint Peter's Collegemarker, New Jerseymarker (head of the History and Sociology Department, 1938–43), Fordham Universitymarker (Japanese, 1942–43), and Chestnut Hill Collegemarker, Philadelphia (1943–47).

After publishing books like Jesuiten, Spießer und Bolschewiken in 1933 (published in German by Pustet, Salzburg) and The Menace of the Herd in 1943, in which he criticised the National Socialists as well as the Socialists directly or between the lines, he could not return to Nazi-occupied Austria.

After the Second World War, he resettled in Lansmarker in Tyrol where he lived until his death. However, he was an avid traveller: he had visited the USSRmarker in 1930–31, and eventually travelled to every state in the United Statesmarker.

Kuehnelt-Leddihn wrote for a variety of publications, including Chronicles, the Rothbard-Rockwell Report and the Catholic World. He also worked with the Acton Institute, who declared him after his death "a great friend and supporter," and was an adjunct scholar of the Mises Institute. [66902]


His socio-political writings dealt with the origins and the philosophical and cultural currents that formed Nazism. He endeavored to explain the intricacies of monarchist concepts and the systems of Europe, cultural movements such as Hussitism and Protestantism, and what he perceived as the disastrous effects of an American policy derived from anti-monarchical feelings and a concomitant ignorance of European culture and history.

Kuehnelt-Leddihn directed some of his most significant critiques towards Wilsonian foreign policy activism. Traces of Wilsonianism could be detected in the foreign policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt; specifically, the assumption that democracy is the ideal political system in any context. Kuehnelt-Leddihn believed that Americans misunderstood much of Central European culture, including but not limited to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Kuehnelt-Leddihn claimed this was one of the contributing factors to the rise of Nazism. He also highlighted characteristics of the German society and culture (especially the influences of both Protestant and Catholic mentalities) and attempted to explain the sociological undercurrents of Nazism.

Contrary to the common historical view, Kuehnelt-Leddihn asserted that Nazism (National Socialism) was a leftist, democratic movement ultimately rooted in the French Revolution that unleashed forces of egalitarianism, identitarianism, materialism and centralization. He essentially argued that Nazism, fascism, radical-liberalism and communism were essentially democratic movements, based upon inciting the masses to revolution and intent upon destroying the old forms of society. Furthermore, Kuehnelt-Leddihn claimed that all democracy is basically totalitarian and that all democracies eventually degenerate into dictatorships.

In Liberty or Equality, his magnum opus, Kuehnelt-Leddihn contrasted monarchy with democracy and presented his arguments for the superiority of monarchy: diversity is upheld better in monarchical countries than in democracies, monarchism is not based on party rule, and it "fits organically into the ecclesiastic and familistic pattern of Christian society". Thus he concluded that monarchical government is actually more "liberal", in that it provides greater liberty. As modern life becomes increasingly complicated across many different sociopolitical levels, Kuehnelt-Leddihn submits that the Scita — the political, economic, technological, scientific, military, geographical, psychological knowledge of the masses and of their representatives — and the Scienda — the knowledge in these matters that is necessary to reach logical-rational-moral conclusions — are separated by an incessantly and cruelly widening gap and that democratic governments are totally inadequate for such undertakings.


  • "Right is right and Left is wrong."
  • "The three fundamentally leftist revolutions, those that spawned France's democracy, Russia's international socialism, and Germany's national socialism, formed and fashioned the history of the last two hundred years and established the 'Centuries of the G' — guillotines, gaols, gallows, gas chambers, and gulags." Leftism Revisited, pg xvii
  • "We share with the beasts a craving for sameness and a gregariousness which makes us desire the company of people of our own age, sex, race, creed, political conviction, class and taste. But it is exclusively human to have a thirst for diversity, i.e., to be happy in the company of those who are different from us in every respect, as well as to travel, to enjoy other foods, hear other tunes, see other plants, beasts, and landscapes. The delight in the variations of creation distinguishes man from beast as much as religion or reason." The Principles of The Portland Declaration
  • "America is built on a voluntaristic basis. To be an American is frequently not an accident but a matter of choice and free decision. It means conscious assimilation and amalgamation. The word Americanism is not without real significance." Liberty or Equality, pg 99
  • "It is the low drive for sameness and the hatred of otherness that characterizes all forms of leftism, which inevitably are totalitarian because, defying the divine diversity of the universe, these ideologies want to convert us by force to sameness -- sameness being the brother of equality. The leftist vision enjoins uniformity: the nation with one leader, one party, one race, one language, one class, one type of school, one law, one custom, one level of income, and so forth. Since nature provides diversity, this deadening sameness can be achieved only by brute force, by leveling, enforced assimilation, exile, genocide. All forms of totalitarianism, all leftist ideologies, reaching their culmination in the French, Russian, and German Revolutions, have gone that way -- with the aid of guillotine, gallows, gas chambers, and Gulag." The Principles of The Portland Declaration



  • Gates of Hell
  • Night Over the East
  • Moscow 1979
  • Black Banners

Socio-political works

  • The Menace of the Herd (under the pseudonym of "Francis S. Campell"), The Bruce Publishing Co., Milwaukee, 1943.
  • Liberty or Equality, Christendom Press, Front Royal, Virginia, 1952, 1993.
  • The Timeless Christian
  • The Intelligent American's Guide to Europe
  • Leftism, From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse, Arlington House, Publishers, New Rochelle, NY, 1974.
  • Leftism Revisited, From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot, Regenery Gateway, Washington, D.C., 1990.

Notes and References

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