Agenda 21 and the Conservative Revolution

“If they could arrange an alien invasion, they would have done so.” Or at least that’s what author Rosa Koire claimed regarding the outbreak of Covid-19, and in connection to the infamous Agenda 21 [1]. Yet another conspiracy? Perhaps, but regardless of the numerous theories that have sprung around it, Agenda 21 is a real thing: an international agreement, described by its inceptors as “a non-binding action plan of the United Nations about sustainable development,” one that has already been signed by 179 nations, that includes Germany, France, Israel, and the United States. But why all this fuss? What’s wrong with sustainable development? Well, according to the same author, a greener planet is only part of the whole story, and a small one at that. Because following the voices of many of other critics, Koire’s book claims that Agenda 21 is a dystopia in the making: a globalist project of top-down controls, where national sovereignty will recede in favor of giant trans-national bureaucracies that will rule from afar, and through constant surveillance. A New World Order similar to the ones prophesied by Orwell and Huxley. Similar perhaps to Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, the totalitarian master of men who gives them bread and peace while relieving them from the anguish of being themselves [2]. A world that, following perhaps the example of the great novelist, would be one of peace, where extra-national authorities will resolve international conflicts. One of prosperity even, where individual needs will be met by near-perfect planning achieved through a combination of artificial intelligence and ambient surveillance. And while, living through an age of confusion, it seems impossible to tell whether this plan is real or yet another conspiracy, what is undeniable is that, if it were real, it would not be the first, but the second, as the first Agenda 21 referred not to 2021 but to something closer to 1921, where it found resistance from a group of young Germans who revolted against the ideals of a pacifist world. What they got was National Socialism; what they needed was ancient Greece.

In February of 1941, a German stranger walked the stage of a lecture hall at one of New Yorks’s liberal universities. His name was Leo Strauss, and the lecture he was about to give would forever cast him as a suspect of pro-Nazi sympathies. Strauss however, as his name should suggest, was a Jew, who emigrated from Germany just in time for his life. A contradiction? Perhaps, but even beyond his ethnicity, Strauss was a philosopher, one whose opinions rarely flattered the ears of the many. And so, he began his attempt to explain the real roots of Nazism, or “German Nihilism,” as he calls it following the term assigned to the National Socialists by another author. The historical moment was far from neutral. Only a few days before, field marshal Irwin Rommel had taken command of the Afrika Corps, and as the United States had not yet joined the resistance, Britain stood alone. And it was in front of this American audience that, instead of a pro-war piece of propaganda, Strauss would explain something few were prepared to consider: that National Socialism was but the surface of a much deeper, and indeed very German, phenomenon. A phenomenon that should be examined in its terms rather than by its worst representatives, the Nazis. Thinking back to my own life and to the various discussions I had on this topic, I remember a young German friend, who once told me, with an air of a personal confession, that Hitler’s rise could be explained by a single thing: inflation! But while my reading list was still relatively short, there was something about this over-simplistic, and over-materialist explanation that rang false. Thankfully I was not alone, as Strauss probably had to deal with similar “theories,” because in the opening of his lecture he affirms that while the experience of the Germans after their defeat in WW1 most certainly produced a kind of “national depression,” the question is why this depression took the particular form of National Socialism, rather than say… alcoholism. Because the movement that sprang in Germany and took the world by storm was, according to him, not merely reactionary. In contrast to how they were portrayed, the Germans did not merely want to destroy everything, but something particular, something that Strauss identified as “modern civilization.” By this, of course, he did not mean “technological progress,” in which the Germans excelled before and as well as during the war, basing much of their military power in their tradition of scientific excellence. No, something else must have been meant by the term “modernity,” something closer to how “conspiracists” chose to see Agenda 21.

Seen through this lens, Strauss offers a valuable sketch from a chapter that was practically omitted from European history. Because according to him, what the Allies tried to impose on Germany after it’s historic defeat in the 1rst World War, is what they were trying to impose on the whole world all along: a global state of enforced peace and commercial prosperity, where national differences would be resolved by supra-national entities similar to the British Commonwealth. At the same time, the values of individual citizens would be re-modelled through education to reflect those liberal principles on which this state rested. Only a generation ago, general von Moltke could quickly proclaim that “eternal peace is a dream, and not even a beautiful one.” Still, following Germany’s defeat, the international stage was set for the realization of that dream. Throughout these radical changes, Strauss was not an outside observer but himself part of this new generation of “very young Germans” as he calls them, who saw their country destroyed, while a new world order imposed by internationalist forces from afar. And just like him, these young Germans knew the horrors of such a global pacifist culture. They knew it from Nietzche! During the most dramatic part of his speech, Strauss relates that “it was this prospect which led to Nihilism. The prospect of a pacified planet, without rulers and ruled, of a planetary society devoted to production and consumption only, […] of spiritual as well as material goods. It was this prospect that was positively horrifying to quite a few very intelligent and very decent, if very young, Germans.” In sharp contrast therefore to the beliefs of this “very young German” that I met so many decades after this speech was delivered, who could find “inflation” to be a sufficient cause, the 20’s generation according to Strauss did not object to the new world order because they got worried about their economic prospects, as in many respects they had nothing left to lose. What they hated, was the very prospect of a world in which everyone would be happy and satisfied, in which everyone would, in the words of Nietzsche himself, have their little pleasures by day and their little pleasure by night, a world in which no great heart could beat, and no great soul could breathe. What for the communists then was a realization of their dreams for humanity, appeared to young Germans as the greatest debasement of humanity, as the coming of the end of humanity, as the arrival of the Last Man. Unfortunately, these young Germans did not know what they wanted to put in its place. They did not know because no one had taught them. Torn between artificially imposed pacifism and the communist revolution, no one had told them there was an alternative. But to find it, one must go beyond the horizon of the Enlightenment itself, and back to where political thinking first began. Back to ancient Greece. Had their teachers told them, they would know that their passion against what they called “Kulturbolschewismus,” Cultural Marxism, was not theirs, it was in Plato all along! 

It was “old-fashioned” teachers, as Strauss calls them, sensitive enough to understand the genuine aspirations of their students that these Germans needed. But instead… they got liberals: teachers who not only misunderstood their hopes but re-affirmed their worst fears, that a liberal planetary society was inevitable. Teachers who insisted that Europe had found no alternative, historically, to liberal democracy. But that is historically false. Europe had found a replacement. It was discovered by Plato and later developed by Aristotle. Two “old-fashioned” Greeks who, having observed human nature rather than trying to re-engineer it, concluded that most regimes are defective one way or another, and by going too far in the direction favored by the group that exerts the most power, the nobility in aristocracies, or the people in democracies. Their solution was rather simply: to mix those regimes in a way that each would cancel out the deficiencies of the others. A scheme where the inclusion of aristocratic institutions would counter the rising populism that democracies always bring along with their many benefits. A system that Cicero later called a “res publica,” Republic. Yet no one had told them any of that. And the reason Strauss gives, surprisingly, is that these liberal teachers had themselves misunderstood the Greeks. They might have understood the Aristotelians of their time, Strauss insists, but not Aristotle. How could this be the case, however?

And how come Strauss himself was so different? Well, for starters Strauss was not alone, he belonged to a generation, not only of Germans, but of German philosophers, who tried to complete what had already begun in Germany a few generations before theirs: to bring back an inceptual understanding of the ancient world, with Greece being considered its most complete, and perhaps most noble example. In a famous aphorism, Nietzsche has described German culture as “one great attempt to build a bridge leading back from the modern world to the world of Greece,” and one has only to recall the names of Goethe, Schiller, and Hölderlin to see that Nietzsche’s remark was at least partly true. Nietzsche himself, the most potent influence of this post-war generation, was nothing if not a radical criticism of modern civilization in the name of classical antiquity. And since modern civilization is premised on materialist science, that critique took the form of a search for an alternative. For us today, living through an age where technology has penetrated every aspect of our lives, it’s almost impossible to formulate such criticism. Our way of thinking about the world is dominated by what Epicurus lamented as the “eimarmeni” of natural philosophers [4], the determinist view of material science: nature as the realm of mechanical necessity and mathematical predictions. Back in Strauss’ youth, however, an alternative had already, albeit minimally, been proposed by thinkers such as Hegel, and the general intellectual climate that he portrays for Germany appears to have been one against science in the name of life and direct experience. The originator of this new critique following Hegel was Nietzsche, who had made the radical attempt to look at science from art. Still, during Strauss youth, many other thinkers took to the task, with the most radical perhaps being Martin Heidegger. The look he proposed was that that natural world, the world as it is present for us, is before, and the basis of, the scientific perspective, and he believed that this was the subject of Plato and Aristotle’s philosophy. That was precisely what made Socrates turn from a proto-scientist to a philosopher as he reveals in Plato’s Phaedo [5], his revelation being that science must start from what is known to us from everyday experience. According to Heidegger then, if we truly want to arrive at an adequate understanding of the “natural” world, we simply have to learn from the Greeks. 

But both the intellectual glory and the political misery of the Germans may be traced back to the same cause: German civilization is considerably younger than the culture of the West. At least that is the reason Strauss gave for this radical departure from the predominant views of Europe before the war. And so, moving towards the fateful years of the 1930s, pressed by the encroachment of the liberal order, feeling the cold hand of science on the nation’s soul, the young Germans of Strauss’ generation made a final attempt to escape. If their teachers did not teach them the virtues discovered by the Greeks, enforcing their relativist doctrine, where righteousness is a cultural construct invariably created for some material gain, they would fall back to the one attribute that proved them wrong: bravery in war. The only righteousness that is that destroys the individual who holds it. This speech, Strauss’ “German Nihilism,” would be the last of its kind. In later years he would develop a style that became his signature: the esoteric writing, or writing between the lines. As a consequence, many of his following books remain obscure, with each reader coming to different conclusions. But can we blame him? 




Leo Strauss, German Nihilism (as delivered on February 26, 1941, to the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science, New School for Social Research.)

Strauss, Leo. “The Living Issues of German Postwar Philosophy.” [Philosophical Review, 49, no. 4 (1940), 492.].



[2] Barrett, William. Irrational Man, (p. 174). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] Koire, Rosa. Behind the Green Mask: U.N. Agenda 21. The Post Sustainability Press; 1st edition (September 2, 2011).

[4] “ἐπεὶ κρεῖττον ἦν τῷ περὶ θεῶν μύθῳ κατακολουθεῖν ἢ τῇ τῶν φυσικῶν εἱμαρμένῃ δουλεύειν.” Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus [134]

[5] Sebell, Dustin. The Socratic Turn: Knowledge of Good and Evil in an Age of Science (2015).