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Achmed Huber, The Avalon Gemeinschaft, and the Swiss “New Right”

by Kevin Coogan

Achmed Huber is not only a devout Mus­lim and sup­port­er of polit­i­cal Islam; he also a lead­ing mem­ber of the avowed­ly pagan Swiss-based Aval­on Gemein­schaft (“Aval­on Soci­ety” also known as the Aval­on Kreis or Aval­on Cir­cle). Aval­on’s esti­mat­ed 150 mem­bers include aging Swiss SS vol­un­teers, youth­ful far right fanat­ics, and died-in-the wool Holo­caust deniers. Each sum­mer sol­stice this mot­ley mélange of char­ac­ters jour­neys deep into the Swiss woods to rit­u­al­ly wor­ship the pre-Chris­t­ian Celtic gods of ancient Europe. They then spend the rest of the year bemoan­ing the Enlight­en­ment and deny­ing the Holo­caust.

Although Huber is one of Aval­on’s lead­ing mem­bers, he was not involved in found­ing the group. Aval­on began as a curi­ous mix­ture of Old Right and New Right cur­rents that reflect­ed its found­ing mem­bers involve­ment in a far right youth group known as the Wik­ing-Jugend Schweiz (WJS) as well as their lat­er rejec­tion of cadre-based pol­i­tics for the cre­ation of Aval­on as a self-pro­claimed elite soci­ety. Besides being steeped in mys­ti­cal imagery, Aval­on’s founders also embraced “New Right” jar­gon most fre­quent­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the French the­o­rist Alain de Benoist, his Paris-based think-tank, GRECE (the Groupe­ment de Recherche et d’E­tudes pour la Civil­i­sa­tion Européene), and GRE­CE’s Ger­man coun­ter­part, Pierre Krebs‚ Thule Sem­i­nar.

Aval­on’s ori­gins begin in the end of 1986 with the for­ma­tion of the WJS by two young far right­ists, Roger Wüthrich and Andreas Lorenz. After Wüthrich and Lorenz returned from a win­ter camp in Ger­many spon­sored by the Wik­ing-Jugend Deutsch­land (WJD), they were grant­ed per­mis­sion by the WJD to form a Swiss branch of the orga­ni­za­tion. The WJS was for­mal­ly launched in April 1987 and began pub­lish­ing a paper, Nord­wind, that specif­i­cal­ly tar­get­ed Swiss youth. As WJS pro­pa­gan­da put it, “Have you had enough of degen­er­ate art, jun­gle music, envi­ron­men­tal destruc­tion, immoral­i­ty, and Coca-Cola cul­ture? Then come to us! Work with us for a bet­ter worth­while future. Trav­el, camps, sports, adven­ture, com­rade­ship and love of our home belong to our pro­gram. Hard work, dis­ci­pline, good man­ners, courage, and hon­or are things that for us again have mean­ing. The zero (Null) bloc of youth is already shuf­fling off to its decline with a Walk­man in its ears and ham­burg­ers on its brains. Not us! Join us! Viking Youth! That is the youth move­ment faith­ful to the peo­ple of Switzer­land.”

In the sum­mer of 1988 the WJS, with help from the WJD, orga­nized a sum­mer camp in Seel­is­berg, Switzer­land. Par­tic­i­pants were told that they would learn things like folk danc­ing, old Ger­man let­ters, and sports like box­ing. The WJS promised all who signed up the expe­ri­ence of “forced march­es in ankle deep mud” until the “dead tired” final­ly reached their goal “filthy, soaked with sweat, with a ban­ner in hand, and a proud smile on [their] face.” The forced march­es were a nec­es­sary camp expe­ri­ence, Nord­wind explained, because “in the all mas­cu­line cul­tur­al cir­cles to which we belong, dis­ci­pline and morals are the key­stone of our view of life.”

Alas, few Swiss youth seemed will­ing to part with their blue jeans and Coke cans for folk dance lessons and forced march­es. In Feb­ru­ary 1991, at the WJS‚s fourth con­ven­tion in Wor­blaufen, Switzer­land, the group vot­ed to dis­solve itself. Along with its fail­ure to recruit youth cadres, the WJS was equal­ly con­cerned about pos­si­ble adverse pub­lic­i­ty. Just a month ear­li­er, a Swiss far right­ist named Robert Burkhard – pres­i­dent of the Nation­al­rev­o­lu­tionären Partei der Schweiz (NPS) – had been arrest­ed for a hand grenade attack on a jour­nal­ist in Win­terthur­er, Switzer­land. After the police dis­cov­ered WJS mate­r­i­al inside Burkhard‚s apart­ment, the WJS feared that it too might now come under scruti­ny by the Swiss author­i­ties. Equal­ly trou­bling was the devel­op­ment of ide­o­log­i­cal dis­sent inside the WJS itself. The Aar­gau Can­ton branch, for exam­ple, open­ly broke with the WJS‚s lead­er­ship and embraced a “nation­al rev­o­lu­tion­ary direc­tion” com­plete with open over­tures to the Swiss Left. Roger Wüthrich, the WJS‚s co-founder, was par­tic­u­lar­ly appalled by this move because he con­sid­ered Nation­al Bol­she­vism a polit­i­cal dead end, par­tic­u­lar­ly giv­en the fall of Com­mu­nism.

The Birth of the Aval­on Gemein­schaft
Fol­low­ing the offi­cial dis­so­lu­tion of the WJS, Wüthrich and anoth­er right­ist named Andreas Gross­weil­er decid­ed to build a new elite cadre orga­ni­za­tion, the Aval­on Gemein­schaft. They struc­tured their new group on the New Right mod­el espoused by de Benoist and GRECE in France and by Pierre Krebs and the Thule Sem­i­nar in Ger­many.

Wüthrich and Grossweiler‚s turn from a failed cadre-based polit­i­cal activist mod­el to a self-pro­claimed elite struc­ture did not occur out of the blue. The for­ma­tion of the Aval­on Gemein­schaft came after the Swiss far right had learned about French and Ger­man “New Right” the­o­ry, which pri­mar­i­ly occurred through the activ­i­ty of a young Gene­va-based right­ist named Pas­cal Jun­od. In 1983 Jun­od first estab­lished the Cen­tre nation­al de la pen­sée européene with for­mer mem­bers of the New Euro­pean Order (NEO) backed stu­dent group, the Nou­v­el ordre social, to help pop­u­lar­ize New Right ideas in Switzer­land. One year lat­er, Jun­od next estab­lished anoth­er Gene­va-based orga­ni­za­tion, the Cer­cle Proud­hon, in 1984. Jun­od also helped orga­nize the Swiss branch of the Thule Sem­i­nar while he also served as the Swiss cor­re­spon­dent for GRE­CE’s jour­nal, Nou­velle école.

In his book Strate­gie der kul­turellen Rev­o­lu­tion, Pierre Krebs, head of the Thule Sem­i­nar, gives a use­ful overview of New Right think­ing when he embraces the the­o­ry of “intel­lec­tu­al hege­mo­ny” tak­en from the Ital­ian Marx­ist Anto­nio Gram­sci and “detourned” by the New Right. Krebs also artic­u­lat­ed New Right themes when he attacked the “prin­ci­ple of equal­i­ty” and instead demand­ed a “War against Egal­i­tar­i­an­ism and Root­less­ness: For Orig­i­nal­i­ty and Iden­ti­ty! Against Amer­i­can­ism and Col­lec­tivism: For Cul­ture and Organ­ic Human­ism! Race is Class! For a Het­ero­ge­neous World of Homo­ge­neous Peo­ples! Vive la dif­fer­ence!”

Start­ing in 1987, mem­bers of the Swiss branch of the Thule Sem­i­nar took part in a pagan gath­er­ing around the Celtic hol­i­day Lug­nasad, along with a del­e­ga­tion from the WJS and var­i­ous neo-Nazis from across Europe. In 1988 the Swiss branch of the Thule Sem­i­nar, along with the Cir­cle Proud­hon, orga­nized seem­ing­ly schol­ar­ly-sound­ing talks on top­ics like “The His­to­ry of the Tem­plers and “The Her­itage of the Indo-Euro­peans” on the grounds of Gene­va Uni­ver­si­ty.

Although lack­ing the schol­ar­ly chops of a de Benoist or a Krebs, Aval­on’s founders were quick to pro­claim their own elite sta­tus as well as their embrace of pagan ideas. Gross­weil­er, for exam­ple, said that Aval­on’s mem­bers “con­sid­er our­selves as an intellectual/spiritual elite and know that our ideas are incom­pre­hen­si­ble to sim­ple peo­ple.” Aval­on’s emer­gence also came wrapped in a heavy dose of Celtic mys­ti­cism. One Aval­on tract began, Aval­on – white mist cov­ered island in an icy sea. Aval­on, land of inner rest and the con­fi­dent, holy land of the Celts. Aval­on, orig­i­nal home­land and secure pole of our Euro­pean cul­ture. The land of King Arthur gives our soci­ety its name. Many of our way and beliefs shall find the pow­er in the cir­cle to resist the time of the wolf (the destruc­tion of val­ue). This is our spir­i­tu­al place of refuge, [the] place of the call­ing to mind of Europe‚s eter­nal val­ues, Courage, Hon­or, Loy­al­ty.

Huber and Aval­on
Achmed Huber’s lat­er emer­gence as a key Aval­on leader no doubt reflects both his well-devel­oped net­work­ing skills as well as his pow­er­ful con­tacts inside the Euro­pean right. Huber’s par­tic­u­lar asso­ci­a­tion with Aval­on, how­ev­er, may also be due in part to Aval­on’s New Right trap­pings. New Right­ists are almost by def­i­n­i­tion extreme­ly anti-Amer­i­can, and many look favor­ably on col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Islam­ic world. In tra­di­tion­al Islam they see a cul­ture that has resist­ed the siren song of the Enlight­en­ment. GRECE leader Alain de Benoist (who has vis­it­ed both Iran and Libya) also reg­u­lar­ly crit­i­cizes Jean-Marie le Pen’s Front Nation­al for its harsh­ly anti-Mus­lim and anti-immi­grant views.

That said, Aval­on appears to be a rather poor copy of the GRECE mod­el. The New Right, it should be recalled, emerged in Paris in the late 1970s and ear­ly 1980s as a response not just to the cul­tur­al Amer­i­can­iza­tion of Europe but also as a reac­tion by a post ’68 gen­er­a­tion of young right-wing activists to the failed Old Right’s tedious embrace of Hitler nos­tal­gia and crude anti-Semi­tism. Against this, the New Right rev­eled in redis­cov­er­ing unortho­dox the­o­rists, par­tic­u­lar­ly from the 1920s “Con­ser­v­a­tive Rev­o­lu­tion­ary” move­ment in Ger­many; thinkers like Carl Schmidt, Moeller van den Bruck, Ernst Niekisch, and Ernst Junger. All of these men‚s ideas had either been high­ly mar­gin­al­ized or active­ly sup­pressed dur­ing the Nazi era. Under Huber and Wüthrich, how­ev­er, Aval­on is far more close to intel­lec­tu­al­ly spu­ri­ous groups like the Cal­i­for­nia-based Insti­tute for Holo­caust Review than with the elite Parisian salon world of de Benoist.

Still, Huber and Wüthrich have tried to give Aval­on some veneer of respectabil­i­ty. In March 1998, for exam­ple, on the two hun­dredth anniver­sary of his death, Huber and oth­er Aval­on mem­bers laid a wreath at the memo­r­i­al to Gen­er­al von Erlach, who was killed by Napoleon‚s troops in 1798. Erlach’s death sym­bol­ized not just the end of Bern’s Ancien Régime and the tri­umph of Napoleon‚s army but the vic­to­ry of the Enlight­en­ment ideals of equal­i­ty, democ­ra­cy, and broth­er­hood asso­ci­at­ed with the French Rev­o­lu­tion that both Aval­on and the New Right so despise. By lay­ing a wreath at Erlach’s tomb, Huber and Aval­on were sug­gest­ing that they were will­ing to fight once more to recap­ture a world once thought hope­less­ly van­ished.

Huber and Wüthrich have also por­trayed Aval­on in a press com­mu­niqué as a high­ly respectable group that spon­sors gath­er­ings ded­i­cat­ed to sci­en­tif­ic and cul­tur­al themes – par­tic­u­lar­ly the hon­or­ing of Europe‚s “Celtic Ger­man­ic inher­i­tance” – as well as to ground­break­ing crit­i­cal research into ques­tions of con­tem­po­rary his­to­ry. Aval­on’s eager embrace of Holo­caust deniers, even more than its strange cel­e­bra­tions of the sum­mer sol­stice, have stripped it of even a vague sense of legit­i­ma­cy as an seri­ous orga­ni­za­tion engaged in his­tor­i­cal research.

Aval­on func­tions as a kind of umbrel­la orga­ni­za­tion for the Holo­caust denial move­ment in Switzer­land. Under the cov­er name of the Stu­di­en­gruppe für Geschichte (His­to­ry Study Group), for exam­ple, Aval­on spon­sored a 1993 pre­sen­ta­tion by lead­ing French Holo­caust denier Robert Fau­ris­son at a hotel con­fer­ence room in Bern. Some 70 peo­ple, includ­ing the NEO’s Gas­ton-Armand Amau­druz, attend­ed the gath­er­ing. Huber’s close friend Jür­gen Graf, a lead­ing Swiss Holo­caust denier who is now liv­ing in Tehran, pro­vid­ed the simul­ta­ne­ous trans­la­tion from French to Ger­man when Fau­ris­son spoke. Robert H. Count­ess, an Amer­i­can edi­tor of the Insti­tute for His­tor­i­cal Review, also addressed an Aval­on gath­er­ing in April 1995. Huber’s lat­er par­tic­i­pa­tion (along with Graf and the Ger­man NPD’s Horst Mahler) in an IHR con­fer­ence that was to have occurred in Beirut in the spring of 2001 can be seen as a log­i­cal exten­sion of the kind of Holo­caust denial activ­i­ty that both Huber and Aval­on have been involved with for years.

Final­ly, it seems par­tic­u­lar­ly iron­ic that a self-pro­claimed Mus­lim like Huber would be asso­ci­at­ed at all with any “New Right” group­ing, even with a pale par­o­dy of the New Right, as Aval­on appears to be. Huber, after all, is a self-pro­claimed devo­tee of Islam, an utter­ly monothe­is­tic reli­gion. In the New Right canon, monothe­ism has always been por­trayed as the orig­i­nal sin. This has been so ever since de Benoist iden­ti­fied the Enlightenment‚s uni­ver­sal­is­tic val­ues as a sec­u­lar exten­sion of a monothe­ist world­view; name­ly the Judeo-Chris­t­ian tra­di­tion which Islam claims to com­plete.

New Right the­o­rists insist that they embrace pagan­ism and the pagan notion of a uni­verse of plu­ral­is­tic gods pre­cise­ly out of their desire to dethrone monothe­is­tic thought struc­tures which they see as essen­tial to the future elim­i­na­tion of Amer­i­can “mono­cul­ture.” That a fanat­i­cal Islam­ic monothe­ist like Huber could spend each sum­mer sol­stice out in the woods wor­ship­ing Celtic gods is one more bizarre twist to his already bizarre life.