Only after the end of World War II did Evola become the intellectual of choice for the far right—“their Aristotle,” Germinario said. “Both in Italy and in Europe, it’s hard to find a militant who hasn’t dealt with Evola’s writings.”
Evola’s once-marginal “spiritual racism” proved more fit to survive the fall of fascism than other ideologies from the Mussolini era, according to Pisanty. “Biological racism fell out of fashion and nationalist racism eventually morphed into a more acceptable form of nationalism,” the semiologist explained. “But Evola’s message, soaked in conspiracy theories, has quietly endured in the underground and has reemerged on the surface recently, thanks to the popularity of conspiracy theories.”
What’s more, Evola’s way of thinking resonates in a “post-truth” world, Pisanty said. For instance, in 1921, the philosopher wrote an introduction to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion—an anti-Semitic text first published in 1903—in which he conceded that the document may have been a forgery, but insisted that it nevertheless contained a deeper truth.
For some scholars, the fact that an anti-Semite is held in high regard by radical conservatives claiming to defend the “Judeo-Christian West” comes as no surprise.
“When people from the far right talk about the ‘Judeo-Christian’ roots of the West, often what they really mean is ‘Christian.’ The ‘Judeo’ part is just fig leaf,” said Donatella Di Cesare, a philosopher at the Sapienza University in Rome.
For Di Cesare, it’s Evola’s relationship with Christianity that makes his popularity within the alt-right uniquely perplexing. “There are two approaches to religion [in right-wing identity politics], depending on how one views the relationship between Christianity and Judaism,” she said. “I can either be a neo-pagan right-winger and reject Christianity because it came from Judaism, or I can reconcile my right-wing views with Christianity by separating it completely from its Jewish roots. What I cannot do, however, is to be a neo-pagan and a Christian at the same time.”
Nevertheless, Di Cesare noted that “there are points of convergence” between the Christian and the neo-pagan far right: “In the end both approaches come down to the idea of defending one’s identity at any cost, and religion is just an instrument [in this struggle].”
This may explain why some far-right organizations that appeal to “Christian values” still appreciate Evola.
Matteo Cavallaro, a political scientist at Paris 13 University, said this phenomenon isn’t limited to American groups. Forza Nuova, an Italian far-right political party that combines radical Catholicism with xenophobia, has likewise embraced Evola and has even organized conferences about him. Explaining how some Christians in the far right rationalize their fascination with the philosopher, Cavallaro said, “They argue that Evola’s main teaching was to go back to tradition, so we have to look for what incarnates the tradition today, which is the Catholic Church.”