The Right-Left Divide: Does It Still Matter?

One of the most debated issues in recent years by European political observers (journalists and political scientists) has been the possibility, or the impossibility, of overcoming the right-left divide. This was particularly the case in the so-called “Latin” European countries of France and Italy, where the “old” dichotomy, established for over a century, seemed to be firmly and lastingly established.

In polls conducted at the end of the year 2000, in these countries, 60–70 percent of citizens stated unequivocally (at least when allowed to do so) that democracy had stopped working properly; that there no longer were substantial differences between right and left governments; and that the divide is no longer really relevant.

I myself contributed to the debate on the permanence or the end of this divide, its transformation or its decline, by publishing Droite/Gauche: pour sortir de l’équivoque. Histoire des idées et des valeurs non conformistes du XIXe au XXIe siècle (Right/Left: Getting Past the Ambiguity. A History of Non-Conformist Ideas and Values from the 19th to the 21st Centuries). What follows is a summary of the important points of this book.

To understand the radical and surprising recent socio-political change happening in European countries (the birth and development of many populist movements in much of the continent, governmental alliance between the League and the 5-Star Movement in Italy; popular rebellions/ insurrections, like the “Red Cap” and the “Yellow Vests” against the self-proclaimed progressive oligarchies or “elites” in France; the emergence of Vox in Spain; Brexit in the United Kingdom, etc.) – it is worth reflecting in depth and more specifically answering a few key questions: What is the Right? What is the Left? What are the arguments for and against the “inevitable” or “accidental” division that articulates the political life of modern representative democracies? Why is the Left-Right dichotomy more and more discredited in public opinion in European countries?

Beyond the multiplicity of definitions of the Right and the Left, two radically different approaches clash one with the other: One is philosophical and the other historical.

The philosophical approach seeks to define the essence, the intimate character of the two phenomena; the historical, empirical and relativistic approach denies that these are isolated absolutes, independent of contingent situations (local and temporal). The first approach leads to strengthening or consolidating of the traditional dichotomy, while the second leads to its criticism, its questioning, or its casting into doubt.

In the background, there is, of course, the triple divide among the major political parties of radical globalization carried out for over thirty years by the dominant oligarchy (political, economic, financial and cultural), whose positions are sometimes alter-globalists, internationalists and crypto-Marxists (Podemos, Syriza or La France insoumise), sometimes anti-globalists.

The latter dividing in their turn between, on the one hand, the liberal-conservatives who pursue the union or the alliance of the rights (like Marion Maréchal Le Pen in France, or the leaders of Vox in Spain), and, on the other hand, the republican and secular tendency “simultaneously of the right and the left” which embodies a line seeking to synthesize identity and sovereigntist aspirations, ideas of fatherland and social justice (like the National Front of yesteryear with Florian Philippot, or the National Rally of Marine Le Pen today).

How is the Left and the Right to be Defined? The Essentialist Point of View: The Divide is Not Over.

The essentialist view has been defended by many authors for more than half a century. From a right-wing position, we can cite, among others, the French Christian Democrat, René Rémond, the Hungarian-American traditionalist, Thomas Molnar, or the Spanish conservative, Gonzalo Fernández de la Mora.

More recently, we can cite in France the former adviser to former President Nicolas Sarkozy, Patrick Buisson (and his biographer, close collaborator of the philosopher Alain de Benoist, the journalist François Bousquet), the political scientist Guillaume Bernard, or professor of constitutional law, Jean-Louis Harouel. And we include another of the founders of the New Right, the journalist Michel Marmin.

On the Left, we have to mention, among the best known, the Italian Norberto Bobbio, the Englishman Ted Honderich, the Frenchman Jacques Julliard, and the Spaniard, Esperanza Guisán.

The Right, in the most conventional and the most common sense of the term, would be synonymous with stability, authority, hierarchy, conservatism, loyalty to traditions, respect for public order and religious convictions, protection of family and the protection of private property. Conversely, the Left would embody dissatisfaction, demand, movement, a sense of justice, donation and generosity.

Neo-Marxist, neo-social-democratic and sometimes neoliberal propaganda, which claims to be “progressive,” sees in the Right the reaction against the Enlightenment, against Progress, Science, Equality, Humanism (their deities always written in capital letters).

The Right and the Left would, after all, reflect only the eternal conflict between the rich and the poor, the dominant and the dominated, the oppressors and the oppressed. But when the subject is the object of a slightly more serious investigation, we quickly realize that this identification of the political Right with the economic Right, or the Right of conviction with the Right of interest or money (so widespread in the mainstream media) is just one more myth, more ideological smoke, a propaganda lie.

The readers of Vilfredo Pareto, familiar with his famous thesis on the collusion between plutocrats and revolutionaries, know this well. Examples that lend nuance to, or invalidate, the myth abound – from the bourgeois actors and heirs of the French Revolution, to today’s billionaire magnates and financial speculators, like George Soros.

In reality, there has always been in Europe, at least since the end of the 19th-century, an anti-liberal or “illiberal” (as we say today), traditional, social and anti-capitalist Right, which not only affirms its commitment to the national community, but also defends social justice. And there has always been a socialist or socializing Left which defends, at the same time, republicanism, secularism, the fatherland and the nation.

The essentialist point of view always privileges the “idea” over “existence,” reality or facts. It is developed at different, more or less sophisticated, levels of analysis. Let us recall here the oppositions that this view exhibits:

1) First of all, there is the pessimism of the Right against the optimism of the Left. There is the realism and the tragic sense of life against idealism, against sentimentalism, the triumph of good conscience and naïve optimism. According to this premise, there are ultimately two temperaments which always oppose one another. There is always the same antagonism: The reactionaries/conservatives versus the reformist or revolutionary progressives.

2) At a second level of analysis, there are the two metaphysical positions: Transcendence and immanence. On the one hand, there are those who defend God, and on the other, those who deify man.

Here Christian metaphysics and the correct reading of the Gospels are opposed to the great heresies and falsifying utopias of Christianity, to millenarianism, to Gnosticism (the God of evil against the God of good), or even to belief in the religions of politics with their secularized version of apocatastasis. In the background, there is a kind of eternal fight of light against darkness, of good against evil (each one being of course interpreted and defined differently according to whether one belongs to one of the two poles of the Right or Left).

3) Other authors oppose the Right which believes in human nature without change with the Left which believes in infinite perfectibility of man (a man, of course, not soiled by original sin, as Christianity teaches).

There is thus the Right which believes in the natural order, as opposed to the Left which believes in universal reason; the Right which has a holistic vision of society as opposed to the individualist approach of the Left (this radical individualism which appeared with the French Revolution also explains the subsequent collectivist and totalitarian reaction of Marxist socialism).

Therefore, there exists the right-wing organism (that is to say, the society which develops like a tree, with roots and branches, which cannot be changed with impunity, according to everyone’s will) – which would oppose the left-wing mechanism (i.e. the society that operates like a clock, with the possibility of changing and modifying each part, without limits).

4) A fourth difference would be the importance of family and community ethics, defended by the Right, in the face of the obsession of the Left for the liberation from mores and customs.

5) Another frequently cited antinomy is that between, on the one hand, spiritual aristocratism (not to be confused with social or material aristocratism) and the feeling of freedom, typical of the Right, and, on the other hand, the leveling and materialist egalitarianism, characteristic of the Left. In other words, quality versus quantity.

The main idea of the Left, then, becomes the search for equality which in turn becomes its driving force, while the message of the Right becomes the belief in emulation. The Left is thus a kind of slope towards material equality, and the Right a kind of slope towards spiritual aristocracy.

6) Another significant dissimilarity is also of note: The passion for the unity of the Right (with the usual call for the union of the national community) against the spirit or the will to divide the Left (with the reactivation of the class struggle).

7) Two other major principles are often opposed and declared to be irreducible. There is the conflictual or polemological vision of the world, characteristic of the Right, which opposes the dream of the bright future of humanity, the utopia of the “New Man” obsession of the Left.

It is obviously not a question here of the New Man wanted by the Christian God, but of the New Man desired by modern totalitarianisms – in their Marxist-Leninist, National Socialist, and neoliberal, or neo-social-democratic versions, while not forgetting the recent ideological variant of “anthropological justice,” which is itself intensified by bio-ideologies, delusional ideologies, the strangest seeds of which are almost all found in National Socialism, as noted by the Spanish political scientist, Dalmacio Negro Pavón.

8) Last but not least, there is the eternal struggle between the old and the new, the trendy and the old-fashioned, the current and the obsolete, the old and the modern. Some even do not hesitate to see in the defense of language an authentic Right marker. But on this account, the teachers of the public schools of yesteryear (republicans, secularists, socialists, nationalists and other “progressives,” moderates or extremists, reformists or revolutionaries), would only be vulgar reactionaries or rightists who ignored each other.

In short, from the essentialist point of view, there is always a Right and a Left. Some, like Jacques Anisson du Perron, start from the premise or the intangible axiom that “the Right has always existed, since it merged with the political organization of traditional civilizations. In contrast, the Left only appeared in modern times.” Consequently, we would be eternally condemned to live and to know only two opposite conceptions of the world and life, and at a lower level, two morals, two forms of psychology, even two temperaments.

At this point, it is perhaps worth remembering that the Russian mathematician and dissident, Igor Shafarevich said that, from a philosophical point of view, socialism has always existed as a specific tendency of human societies (and that ‘it did not only appear historically in the 19th-century). Nor should we forget that Nicolai Berdyaev said the same thing about nationalism and/or patriotism (which have a lot of common history in their modern forms): Born on the Left, at the beginning of the 19th-century, they moved partially to the Right at the end of the 19th-century.

That said, there is still a key point to emphasize: Most “essentialist” authors insist on the diversity or the plural character of the Right and the Left. They rightly show that there is no Right and Left, but Right and Left, without however reaching a consensus, when it comes to defining or classifying them.

Thus, for example, the liberal René Rémond distinguished three Rights: Traditionalist, liberal and nationalist, and three Lefts: Libertarian, authoritarian and Marxist. But after him other authors (such as the Israeli socialist, Zeev Sternhell) distinguished two Rights: Radical/revolutionary and conservative, and two Lefts: Progressive and revolutionary. Still others (like the conservative, Stéphane Rials) see a single traditional Right and four Lefts: Authoritarian-nationalist, liberal-bourgeois, anarcho-libertarian and social-Marxist.

More recently, authors like, Marc Crapez (specialist in the nationalist Left or “reactionary”) have pointed out the existence of a good dozen tendencies of the Right and the Left and have discredited or withdrawn a lot of value and interest from educational and university classifications.

Criticism of the Left/Right Divide. The Historico-Relativist Point of View

Historically, the Right/Left divide is barely a century, perhaps a century-and-a-half, old. This is the prosaic reality. After the French Revolution and for decades, division or opposition was limited to a question of parliamentary language (the partisans of power occupied the seats on the right and the opposition those on the left). As the Spanish philosopher, Gustavo Bueno, said very well: “In the Cortes of Cadiz [the Constituent Assembly sitting from 1810 to 1814 during the war of independence against France], there was no Right and Left.” The mythical divide is indeed much more recent.

In common opinion, the birth of this divide hardly dates back to the 1870s and 1900s and perhaps even later, to the 1930s. Consequently, the great cyclical conflict between the eternal Right and the immortal Left has hardly been around for a century. In addition, as Julien Freund rightly noted in 1986, it is a divide “essentially European and even localized in the Latin countries, although it was taken up some time ago by the Anglo-Saxon countries.”

For the historian of political ideas, it is relatively easy to show that the values of the Right and the Left are not immutable, that the crossovers or the exchanges of ideas have been and remain constant. The Rights are diverse and plural like the Left, which explains their divides and permanent conflicts.

The Right and the Left are universalists or particularists; internationalists/globalists and supporters of free trade, or patriotic and anti-capitalist; centralists and Jacobins or regionalists, federalists and separatists; Atlanticists, Westernists and Europeanists (supporters of a federal Europe), or nationalists, Europeanists (defenders of a Europe of nations) and/or non-third-worldists; they may or may not be individualists, rationalists, positivists, organicists, mechanists, atheists, agnostics, spiritualists, theists or Christians.

There is no timeless definition of the Right or the Left that applies everywhere and at any time. The Right and the Left can only be defined historically, in relation to the periods and problems that arise at a given moment.

It is easy to show that the main political issues are constantly shifting from left to right and vice versa. I think I showed this in detail in my book, Droite/Gauche, pour sortir de l’équivoque, to which I refer the interested reader. This is the case with imperialism, colonialism, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, anti-Masonism, anti-Christianity, anti-Catholicism, of anti-parliamentarianism, of the criticism of the demo-liberal model, of technocratism and anti-technocratism, of Malthusianism and of Antimalthusianism, of federalism, of centralism, of anti-statism, of regionalism, of separatism, of ecology, human rights criticism and the right to interfere (let us remember the harsh criticisms of the Italian anti-fascist liberal, Benedetto Croce, the socialist Harold Laski or the nationalist Mahatma Gandhi against human rights).

And such is also the case with the denunciation of the Enlightenment, anti-capitalism, the defense of the sovereignty and identity of peoples, immigrationism and anti-immigrationism, national preference, islamophilia and islamophobia, arabophilia and arabophobia, patriotism, nationalism, sovereignism, europhilia and europhobia, russophilia and russophobia, the alliance with the third world, anti-Americanism or American anti-imperialism, etc. All, absolutely all these questions escape the obsessive debate between the Right and the Left.

Many continue to oppose and divide not only between parties, but also within parties. We can therefore better understand why unions or alliances on the Right or on the Left are, and have always been, fragile, volatile, ephemeral or temporary. Added to this is, of course, the weight of the generally oversized ego of political leaders, but also their conflicting interests and career plans, which are poorly masked by the alleged differences on the political lines or the programs to be adopted.

The questioning of the permanent validity of the Left/Right dichotomy is at the same time historical, philosophical and moral. It is by no means the monopoly of an author, an intellectual movement, or a political party. On the contrary, the political sensitivities and opinions of the authors who criticize the Left/Right divide are very diverse.

It is the liberal José Ortega y Gasset who said: “To be on the left or to be on the right is to choose one of the innumerable ways available to man to be a fool; both, in fact, are forms of moral hemiplegia “(La Révolte de masses, Preface for the French Reader, 1930).

It is the liberal Raymond Aron who declared: “We will bring some clarity, in the confrontation of French quarrels, only by rejecting these ambiguous concepts [of Right and Left].”

It is the liberal-conservative Julien Freund who wrote: “The distinction between Left and Right is in the order of a and local; it does not determine essential political categories… Philosophical correctness requires that one exceeds this circumstantial classification… The rivalry between the Right and the Left is not based on a judgment of morality, but it is one of the current forms of the fight for the power.”

It is the national-syndicalist José Antonio Primo de Rivera who invited the rejection of the annealed hatred of the Right and the Left, and who affirms: “To be on the right or to be on the left is always to exclude from the soul the half which it needs to feel. Sometimes, this means the exclusion of everything and to replace that with a caricature of the half” (Ha fenecido el segundo bienio, January 9, 1936).

It is the Marxologist, Costanzo Preve, a representative figure of Italian communism, who stated: “The Right/Left dichotomy is nothing other than an incapacitating residue, or an artificial prosthesis, perpetuated by the ruling class.”

It is the ex-militant soixante-huitard and leftist, Jean Baudrillard, who noted: “If one day political imagination, political requirement and political will may a chance to rebound, it can only be on the basis of the radical abolition of this fossil distinction which has been canceled and fully disowned over the decades, and which no longer holds except by complicity in corruption.”

It is the Greek libertarian socialist, Cornelius Castoriadis, who recognized this: “It has been a long time now that the Left-Right divide, in France as elsewhere, no longer corresponds either to the great problems of our time or to radically opposed political choices.”

In reality, countless authors with very diverse convictions, follow the “skeptical” or critical tradition of the Left/Right divide. Over the years, they have become legion. The names of the traditionalist Donoso Cortés, the liberals José Ortega y Gasset and Miguel de Unamuno, the heterodox socialist-Marxist Gustavo Bueno can be cited here as an example.

Among the French, there are Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Maurice Barrès, Charles Péguy, Simone Weil, Daniel-Rops, Jean Baudrillard, Jean-Claude Michéa, Christophe Guilluy, Vincent Coussedière, Alain De Benoist, Marcel Gauchet.

Among Americans, there are Christopher Lasch, Paul Piccone and Paul Gottfried.

Among Italians, Costanzo Preve, Augusto del Noce, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Marco Tarchi, Marco Revelli and many others.

The majority of political scientists and journalists agree that the neo-social-democrat Left (with its far-left allies) has stopped proclaiming its will to resolve the social question and to bring about social revolution (with the hope for the liberation of the proletariat), and has assumed the principles of the free market and now prefers to invoke societal and anthropological “values” (defense of the “world citizen,” integration of “victimized” minorities, such as, homosexuals, transsexuals, feminists, immigrants, genderism and multiculturalism).

As for the neoliberal Right (which rejects alliances with the traditional and radical Rights), it has abandoned the defense of the nation, morals, religion and family, to deal exclusively and cynically with the economy.

But what can it mean to be simultaneously of the Right and the Left? For Marxists, neo-social-democrat, Social Liberals and Conservative Liberals, denouncing the Right/Left opposition can only be an extremist and cynical attitude. Among them, many are the commentators who see in this criticism of the traditional dichotomy only the resurgence of fascism, if not to say of National Socialism or Nazism. But in reality, this view is invalidated by historical facts.

Fundamentally, to define oneself simultaneously of the Right and the Left is to express the conviction that a political community needs both justice and freedom, progress and conservation, patriotism and internationalism, personalism and solidarity, order and freedom, economic initiative and social guarantees, respect for human rights and the affirmation of the duties of men, equality and merit, fraternity and competitiveness, nothing more and nothing less.

All these concerns can be summed up in a few words: It is about the political will to defend spiritual, religious, patriotic or national values and, simultaneously, to pursue the common good, or to affirm the need for collective solidarity and social justice. This attempt at synthesis is found in the programs of many intellectual movements, which were born and developed in Europe, from the end of the 19th-century to the present day – movements that are radical, revolutionary and extremist, or moderate and reformist, depending on the place and time.

In my book, I refer to the twenty models or examples that are social-traditionalism (and according to the Italian economist Stefano Solari – Donoso Cortés is even the inventor of the Third Way).

These are:

The Left/Right divide was also often questioned by politicians from the center, by representatives of social liberalism, neo-social democracy and neoliberalism.

This is particularly the case with President Emmanuel Macron, or Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and various other political and intellectual figures. Paradoxically, they are also proven representatives of the globalist oligarchy who, as adept connoisseurs of the magic of words, presented – for electoral purposes – a centrist, watered-down and diluted version of the criticism of the Right/Left divide.

They know that this traditional divide is today widely discredited in public opinion and take this into account, at least verbally, to seduce their constituents.

But the policies of these leaders are nevertheless in line with those of social democratic or Christian democrat politicians, who distinguished themselves several decades ago, like Tony Blair, Schroeder or Clinton. The latter then called themselves the “Third Way,” as theorized by the Englishman Anthony Giddens and the North American Amitai Etzioni.

In Spain, Albert Rivera and his party Ciudadanos, who have embarked on the same path, have obtained significant support from the former French Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

We can summarize the success of this strategy and its positive result electorally (although not definitely, as demonstrated by the considerable difficulties faced by President Macron and his government) – by recalling the famous words of young Tancredi, a character in The Leopard: “If we want that everything stays as it is, everything has to change.”

So, what remains of the Left/Right divide and what is the new divide that seeks to replace it? The criticism of the Left/Right dichotomy consists above all in showing that there are neither “eternal values” on the Right, nor “immortal principles” on the Left. In other words, the Right and the Left are the result of certain opinions about facts and ideas, which do not come from an ideal model, an archetype, or an idea in the Platonic sense of the term.

It is not a question of denying that historically the Right/Left divide explains a large part of the political phenomena of the past, but only of denying that it explains them all. It is a question of showing that the allegedly immutable political debate, which opposes two “essentialized” categories (the eternal Right and the immortal Left) has become an artificial prosthesis that only serves to perpetuate the situation of the dominant oligarchy.

The Right/Left divide seems to be nothing more than a mask, which serves to hide another division, now much more decisive: That which opposes rooted peoples to the self-proclaimed elites, who are the very vectors of uprooting; that which opposes the defenders of sovereignty, identity and national cohesion with the partisans of “world governance.” And that which opposes the excluded from globalization and cast into the peripheral areas of the country (people or citizens who obviously have – or will have – their own leaders under the “iron law of the oligarchy”) with the privileged of the system, to the dominant oligarchy, to the globalized or hyperclass ruling class, which lives in the beautiful districts of the big cities, the most developed zones of the country and which, moreover, rubs shoulders, preferably or exclusively, with the privileged elite of globalism in other countries.

Today, there is clearly a new dualism which replaces the old Right/Left opposition (even the essentialist authors, who reject the possibility of an extinction or disappearance of the dichotomy, recognize that it has undergone profound alteration or modification). Populism versus oligarchy, roots against globalization, community and solidarity culture against liberal and progressive culture – reflect the new dividing line. Whatever the self-proclaimed “experts” and other “specialists” in the media say, these are two entirely new ways of interpreting the confronting reality, two rational but irreconcilable ways of viewing where the greatest danger comes from, of choosing our future and our commitment.

Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECD. He is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left – all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés.

The image shows, “Fillette de Concarneau à la miche de pain (Girl from Concarneau with a Loaf of Bread”), by Henri-Jules-Jean Geoffroy, painted in 1886.

Ricardo Duchesne: The Necessity Of A Common Ground

This month, we (TP) are pleased to interview Dr. Ricardo Duchesne (RD), a Canadian scholar, who writes about the importance of Western culture and civilization. Dr. Duchesne recently took “early retirement” from his tenured position at the University of New Brunswick so he could enjoy the opportunity to think critically about current politics and the history of Western Civilization, freed from the anti-intellectual and anti-Western atmosphere prevailing in Canadian universities.

TP: Welcome to the Postil, Dr. Duchesne! Could you give us a little background of your experiences as a professor in Canadian academia leading to your decision to take early retirement? You have been burdened with various baseless yet pernicious labels. Do you think this is simply weaponized language to win rhetorical points, or do you think this is a symptom of something graver – the rise of mass conformity in the West, i.e., the death of freedom?

RD: Like almost everyone in academia, I was a leftist throughout my student days and for about 10 years after I began teaching in 1995. My disengagement with the left was not a two-step transition from left to right.

Over the course of many years, I travelled the entire political spectrum from Soviet Marxism and Third World Communism to Western Marxism and New Left politics, from mainstream liberalism and postmodernism to neo-conservatism, and from these establishment views to the realization (around 2012/13) that the supreme political issue of our times was the forced diversification of all Western nations through mass immigration.

Mind you, through these changes in ideology I have remained attached to Western individualism. I was really bothered by the way leftists (pretending to be liberals) had manipulated the principle of minority rights into a call for the diversification of Western lands through the importation of millions of individuals from diverse cultures and races. I could not accept the claim that a program of diversification implemented from above with little democratic consultation was concomitant with the fulfillment of liberal-democratic ideals.

There is nothing in the philosophy of liberalism that requires one to accept mass immigration. One can be a firm believer in individuals rights in the same vein as one rejects the ideology of diversity. The Western nations that fought in WWII against Nazism had very strong immigration regulations.

I came across the term “cultural Marxism” around 2011-12. This term, it seemed to me, captured the politics of the left quite well in pointing to the fact that contemporary leftists were far less concerned with class economic issues than with the transformation of the culture of the West, the traditional heterosexual family, the “Western-centric” curriculum, the values of the Enlightenment.

The left was no longer identifying the ruling elites in economic terms but primarily in sexual and racial terms. The academic left was far less concerned with improving class relations than with attacking whites as a race and claiming that all cultures were morally and intellectually equivalent.

It was obvious to me that the often-used concept “Dead White Males” was a direct attack on the legacy of Western civilization, the high culture of this civilization, right inside the institutions of “higher learning”. It was an attack with malicious double standards, of which the most unfair standard was the prohibition of any ethnic identity by whites except negatively against its “white privilege” — in the same vein as minorities were celebrated in racial terms as “vibrant” and as progressive “victims” fighting “oppression” by whites.

I had no problem with the left arguing that Nazism was unacceptable because of its racism, but it was obvious to me that we were dealing with a new leftist ideology that would have us believe that any strong admiration for Western history and its achievements was tantamount with racism against those who were from non-Western cultures.

I could see how in academia students were being thoroughly indoctrinated to believe that any positive cultural identity on the part of Europeans was immoral and illiberal. I realized that multiculturalism was about encouraging other races to be proud of their cultures in the same vein as Westerners were expected to show pride in their increasingly multicultural nations, in the celebration of other cultures and races.

As liberalism came to be dominated by cultural Marxists, the use of racial categories became a staple of the left, weaponized to promote the forced diversification of Western nations. Immigrant diversity grew imperceptibly at first in the 1960s/1970s, as other leftist movements, women’s rights, civil rights for blacks and indigenous peoples, environmentalism, and anti-war movements, played the dominant role.

But from the 1990s on, with increasing momentum, immigrant diversity became the established religion it is today. Across the West no one is allowed to question the pathological the idea that INCREASING (without any set limitations) racial diversity through IMMIGRATION is “the greatest strength” of the West.

I think I would have survived in academia if I had restricted myself to the questioning of feminism, and multiculturalism, in the name of assimilation to Western culture by immigrants. I know a few conservatives in academia who vigorously question many aspects of the left.

What is prohibited above all else is any critical thinking about the diversification of the West through immigration. Both the left and the right side of globalism support diversity. When one questions diversity, one is going against the entire establishment.

Since the left successfully linked immigrant diversity with promotion of racial equality, and since globalist neocons agreed with them, anyone who questions immigrant diversity is automatically categorized as a racist who is fighting racial equality, even if you believe, as I do, in minority rights.

Your use of the phrase, “the rise of mass conformity in the West,” is spot on, insofar as it refers to the utter lack of dissident thinking in the West on the question of diversity. The spread of transsexualism undoubtedly poses an immense threat to our civilization, but I think one can survive in academia questioning trans politics, as the success of Jordan Peterson testifies and the success of magazines like Quillette.

TP: In your pivotal book, The Uniqueness of Western Civilization, you dismantle the arguments of various historians who seek to deny the West its exceptional character. Could you acquaint our readers with some of these arguments and how you have taken them apart?

RD: Denying the exceptional character of the West has come along with the promotion of multiculturalism. There are legitimate scholarly questions about the rise of the West that predate multiculturalism, but it is hard to deny that efforts to downplay the achievements of the West intensified as multiculturalism spread in the 1990s.

Advocates of a multicultural world history openly admit today that it is morally wrong to teach about the exceptional character of the West to a diverse classroom. This is why the teaching of Western civilization, a requirement across most colleges in the United States some decades ago, is now a rarity; and those who still teach Western civ are very careful to portray the West as a civilization “connected to the rest of the world”.

The basic argument of “revisionists” (such as Kenneth Pomeranz, Jack Goldstone, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, David Christian, and multicultural historians generally) is that the West was only different in acquiring the resource-rich lands of the Americas, subjugating African and Asian lands with its gun-powder technologies and aggressive colonialism.

Currently, most of the experts are focused on the comparative economic histories of Asia/China and Europe/England, under the supposition that economic differences are the real issue. Europe/England, they insist, was barely, if at all, ahead of Asia/China before the “great divergence” brought by the Industrial Revolution after 1750s/1820s.

These two major regions were similarly developed in their technologies, markets, state organization, and agrarian productivity, with Asia/China standing slightly ahead until Europe managed to surge ahead in the eighteenth century thanks to colonial empires and readily available coal supplies.

Even someone like Gregory Clark, not a multicultural historian, views all preindustrial societies as equally “Malthusian,” improving productivity very slowly, never achieving sustained improvements in their living standards, because every advance was consumed by higher rates of surviving children. He, and multicultural historians, believe that all preindustrial civilizations were fundamentally alike in their inability to achieve technological changes capable of outpacing population growth. Multicultural historians also believe (but not Clark) that Europe was “lucky” in acquiring colonies to finance a revolution that finally allowed it to escape the Malthusian limitations that prevailed throughout history before the Industrial Revolution.

It was not hard for me to show – which is telling since no one else thought about it — that China was the beneficiary of its own colonial expansion around the same time as Europe colonized the Americas. China extracted masses of resources from territories in the southwest, including the very sizable territory of Manchuria in the north. China acquired vast amounts of American silver through its positive balance of trade with Europe, in addition to American tropical goods.

But the key counter argument I make is that the Industrial Revolution was only one divergence among many others that should be traced back to the ancient Greeks. While it is true that, before the Industrial Revolution, the standard of living in the world’s civilizations barely rose above subsistence, except for a tiny minority at the top (and in this respect all civilizations were alike in their Malthusian limitations), we should not ignore achievements in scientific reflections, democratic politics, arts, music, historical consciousness, military strategies and organization.

As it is, you can’t ignore the role of mechanistic science in the making of steam engines, which were crucial to the industrial take off of the late eighteenth century. James Watt’s steam engine rested on new scientific principles about the connection between heat and motion.

Some revisionists reluctantly acknowledge this connection but they assume that China would have developed this technology if the right economic incentives were in effect, the prices of the factors of production, or cheap access to coal. But this ignores the immense intellectual breakthroughs involved in the rise of modern Galilean and Newtonian science, the many ideas which had to come together before Newton could come up with his mechanistic world view.

There is no question that the Second Industrial Revolution after 1850, associated with chemical industries and electricity, would have been impossible without the periodic table, the science of thermodynamics and electromagnetism, which were totally absent in the non-Western world.

These modern scientific ideas, moreover, presupposed ancient Greek deductive reasoning, geometrical proofs, the logic of Aristotle and the subsequent scientific ideas in Hellenistic times in the fields of mathematics, solid and fluid mechanics, optics, and physiology, as argued in Lucio Russo’s The Forgotten Revolution: How Science Was Born in 300 BC and Why It Had To Be Reborn (2003).

We can’t ignore either the fact that the Hellenistic period was followed by the theory of impetus of medieval times and the introduction of algebraic notation in the early Renaissance, to name a few key ingredients that created the conditions for modern science.

We should mention as well the creation of universities for the first time in history with legal autonomy, proper standards for the acquisition of degrees and with a curriculum heavily infused with logic, mathematics, grammar, theology, and philosophy. In other words, there was continuous development in scientific knowledge, and rationalization, from ancient to medieval to renaissance to modern times, and from this science to the First and the Second Industrial Revolution.

In Uniqueness I also go beyond the science-modern industry connection, to write about the importance of the Greek miracle, Roman rational law, rise of autonomous cities, and a legal system with many types of laws – feudal, manorial, mercantile, urban, canon, and royal law — the European discovery and mapping of the globe, the Enlightenment, and other cultural developments that bespeak of a civilization far more dynamic and creative.

One of the things I talk about lately is the European invention of all the disciplines taught in our universities: history, geography, geology, economics, archaeology, botany, physics, biology, chemistry, paleontology, and many other fields. This fact alone speaks volumes about how different the West was.

TP: Would it be correct to say that self-loathing is now an orthodoxy of Western culture? If so, what do you think is the origin of this self-hatred? Why does the Western mind now choose to denigrate, and even deny, its own existence?

RD: I addressed this question in Uniqueness in terms of how the Western idea of progress was rejected from about the 1960s onwards, replaced with the opposite idea of regression. Marshall Sahlins, Margaret Mead, Marvin Harris, among others, come up with the idea that history had regressed away from the “affluent, egalitarian, and peaceful” world of hunters and gatherers to the American capitalist empire with its pollution, increasing inequalities, and threat of nuclear war.

I attributed this to the rise of a number of interrelated ideological currents, history from below, postmodernism, cultural relativism, feminism, identity politics, and dependency theory. The left came to view the West as the promoter of world inequality, an empire that rose on the backs of Third World peoples, a destroyer of nature with its capitalism, an elitist culture that was dismissive of the contributions of people “from below”, and a believer in metanarratives that excluded the stories of “the Other”.

I explained how these ideologies were rooted in the Western proclivity for continual self-reflection, criticism of its assumptions, re-examination of past ideas. What made the West so creative was turned against the West itself from the 1960s on.

The trust in reason, which brought modern science and the Enlightenment, came under suspicion — reason came to be seen as “one dimensional”, inherently “instrumental”, uncaring of nature and the “knowledges” of Indigenous peoples, and Eurocentric.

With the spread of multiculturalism in the West, it was no longer a matter of identifying the limitations of reason, as the Romantics, Heidegger, and the Existentialists had done; it was a matter of identifying the West as such with “logocentrism” and the creation of binaries that excluded other ways of being, less exploitative ways of life.

In the affluent world of the 1960s, young people bought these naïve ideas, even as the evidence was coming in that hunters and gatherers were the most violent peoples proportionate to their numbers, and news about the far worse environmental pollution in the Soviet Union, China, and non-Western nations, and the suppression of equal rights and persistence of despotic rule.

The self-loathing of Westerners is an extremely strange phenomenon without parallels in human history, and it came precisely at the peak of achievement of this civilization. Today I am inclined to think that this attitude has roots in the peculiar, and contradictory, psychology of whites to see themselves as the moral care takers of humanity at the same time as they see the ways of other humans as more authentic and good-natured.

But we can’t ignore the role certain individuals played in pushing white guilt, in making a whole generation believe that the West cheated its way to greatness, and that the West is now morally obligated to the rest of the world, and that it must perform penance by diversifying itself and replacing its “white supremacist” past.

TP: In your book, Faustian Man in a Multicultural Age, you continue to present the history of Western uniqueness, by way of a frontal attack on academic Marxism. In light of this, could you explain what you mean by the West’s “Faustian soul?”

RD: Unlike Uniqueness, Faustian Man was written after I became aware that immigrant diversity was the main agenda of the left and the establishment right. This book, which was also intended for a wider audience, gets into the ideology of cultural Marxism, and how this term can be effectively used to identify all the major ideological currents of the West.

However, in this book I did not attribute the uniqueness of the West to differences in average IQ between races and ethnic groups. I felt that the term “Faustian man” from Oswald Spengler was a more fruitful way to grasp the intense creativity of the West.

This term refers to a type of man who is always looking for ways to transcend ordinary life, to find the explanations for the nature of things, to subject accepted beliefs to critical reflection. There is a rationalizing tendency in this soul in the way that Max Weber observed since ancient Greek times in polyphonic music, perspective painting, architecture, theology of Christianity, historical documentation, military organization, bureaucratic administration, and modern capitalism.

But Spengler was astute in going beyond Weber’s protestant ethos, and seeing that the driving impetus behind this rationalization was not some calmed intellect peacefully sitting on a chair, or some religious figures coming onto the scene in modern times, but a “soul”, or a psychological energy inside Western man, with origins in the early Middle Ages (though I think the origins go further back in time) to break through the unknown, achieve immortality, strive upwards into the heavens, imagine infinity, and achieve incomparable deeds through al life of arduous endeavours.

I elaborate in Faustian Man how this soul should be traced back to the aristocratic culture of Indo-Europeans in the context of their way of life in the Pontic steppes, their initiation of horse-riding, co-invention of wheel vehicles, dairy diet, and other material attributes, including their unique aristocratic form of rule wherein the ruler was seen as “first among equals” and in which the highest goal in life was performance of heroic deeds for the sake of immortal fame.

It is not that other cultures, such as the Huns and Mongols from the steppes, lacked all these attributes. I try to explain how these cultures came under the influence of more advanced despotic civilizations, losing their aristocratic tendencies; and, it has to be said, we are not talking about absolute differences in kind — the differences that matter in history are differences in degree.

TP: The Central Asian origins of the West is a theme that is also dominant in your thinking, in that you do not shy away from the Indo-European roots of Western man. Are there specific characteristics which led to Indo-European (IE) dominance, from the borders of China, to India, to Ireland, and beyond? In other words, is it possible to define an “Indo-European mind?”

RD: Let me add to what I already said about Indo-Europeans that in Faustian Man I have a chapter which contrasts the historical significance of the Indo-European to the non-Indo-European nomads. I argue that the impact of such nomadic peoples as the Scythians, Sogdians, Turks, and Huns never came close to the deep and lasting changes associated with the “Indo-Europeanization” of the Occident.

While Indo-Europeans were not the only people of the steppes organized as war bands bound together by oaths of loyalty and fraternity, they were more aristocratic and they did retain their aristocratic forms of rule as they moved into higher levels of state organization, and they did thoroughly colonized Europe with their original pastoral package of wheel vehicles, horse-riding, and chariots, combined with the ‘secondary-products revolution.’

In contrast, the relationship between the non-Indo-European nomads with their more advanced sedentary neighbors was one of ‘symbiosis,’ ‘conflict,’ ‘trade,’ and ‘conquest,’ rather than dominion and cultural colonization.

One of the ways I try to get into the Indo-European mind is to read books about their myths and their heroic poetry and songs, such books as West’s Indo-European Poetry and Myth and Watkins’s How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of IE Poetics, going back to a prehistoric oral tradition. Although this subject needs more investigation, one of the points I note is that IE poetry exhibits a keener grasp and rendition of the fundamentally tragic character of life, an aristocratic confidence in the face of destiny, the inevitability of human hardship and hubris, without bitterness, but with a deep joy.

I note as well that Indo-European stories show both collective and individual inspiration, unlike non-Indo-European stories from the steppes, which show characters functioning as collective representations of their communities. In some sagas there is a clear author’s stance, unlike the anonymous non-Indo-European sagas. The individuality, the rights of authorship, the poet’s awareness of himself as creator, is acknowledged in many ancient and medieval sagas.

TP: In your work, you are also a very disciplined critic of multiculturalism. Why do you think the West has created multiculturalism? And why is anti-white racism now another orthodoxy of Western literary and scholarly elite?

RD: Multiculturalism on its own is fine if one is reflecting about the co-existence within the boundaries of a nation state of more than one ethnic group, say, three or four groups long established in the nation. One can accept Pierre Trudeau’s identification of Canada as multicultural in 1971 in light of the multiple European ethnic groups co-existing in Canada, including small Asian, Black, and Indigenous groups.

I have no problem with a multiculturalism that recognizes the cultural presence of long established cultures within the nation state alongside the dominant Anglo/Quebecois cultures, and the right of individual members from other cultures to express their own traditions as long as such recognition does not entail the proliferation of full blown cultures with their own quasi state; although in the case of Quebec and Indigenous peoples this may include granting them some autonomy in their own territories within a federal system.

The problem is that Trudeau was not thinking of Canada as it was then; he was thinking of a future Canada that would open its borders to new cultures in the world. He was thinking about breaking up the domination of both Anglo and Quebecois Canada, delinking the nation-state from these two ethnic groups, turning these cultures into private affairs, individual choices, while pushing multiculturalism as the official culture.

Trudeau, however, never anticipated the way multiculturalism would become an anti-white movement, and he never called for the rise of full-blown cultures, but believed that multiple cultures could express themselves within a Western political culture of equal rights, rule of law, and democracy.

But with his son, Justin, there is now talk of a “post-national” Canada that downplays even its “Western” liberal heritage, or interprets this heritage from a cultural Marxist perspective to mean that Canada should accommodate the cultural ways and political inclinations of other peoples inside the nation, including the “indigenization” of the curriculum in our universities, and the marginalization of “Eurocentrism” in the Arts and Sciences.

As you know, the introduction of multiculturalism in Canada was part of a widespread phenomenon in the West, with some states not identifying themselves as officially multicultural but nevertheless opening their borders to non-Europeans peoples. The common glue that held European immigrants in the past was their Christianity and common historical experiences in Europe.

But once the borders are opened to multiple traditions and religions, multiculturalism inevitably follows. All the talk about Canada being a “mosaic” and the US being a “melting pot” is over – the US is no less a mosaic today than Canada.

Multiculturalism is the order of day at the level of states or municipalities in the US, and across most schools and universities, and in the media. We are just witnessing the beginnings of cultural divisions, the inability of governments to hold their nations together as the cultural landscape is broken apart with the dissolution of common cultural experiences, common historical memories, heroes, and religious beliefs.

Without a common history, religion, and deep culture, beyond mere political liberalism, individuals cannot find a common ground, a sense of collective identity, which is indispensable for humans in their search for meaning, for something beyond their pleasures and daily careers. They become instead mere private consumers without roots, easy to manipulate by corporations – which brings me to how it is that both the left and the right came together in their support of immigrant multiculturalism, but for different reasons.

The globalist right wants mass immigration because it increases shareholder earnings in terms of lower wages, the total market value of goods and services generated from a growing population, real estate development, shopping malls, highways, and dollar stores. It cherishes docile consumers and workers without a strong national identity who can identify with any generic global brand. CEOs love academic ideas about inclusiveness and diversity, a universal-ingroup identity in which humans from all races and sexual orientations become equally attached to their banks, FB pages, Google searches and Twitter accounts.

The globalist left, on the other hand, is obsessed with fulfilling the ideal of equality, which now means fighting “systemic racism”, which it equates with the very existence of white majorities in Western nations. It claims to be fighting for the human rights of everyone, the right of refugees and poor immigrants, to come to Western nations, against “privileged” whites who greedily want these nations all to themselves.

They are global socialists who believe that immigration will balance per capita incomes across the world, releasing population pressures in the Third World, while providing ethnic votes for leftist parties in the West.

The left at least provides ideals for individuals to live for, and this is why it still attracts so many young individuals. The smart right-wing globalists realize this, and this is why they promote leftist ideals, their continuous struggles for the equalization of all things.

But the left is now nihilistic, too individualistic in its pursuit of individual identities, breaking apart all common identities, ethnic, national, sexual, thus leaving individuals stranded alone with anarchic and undisciplined values as the only glue.

So both the right and the left have converged in their agreement that Western nations must be diversified and that whites who question this program are racists who want to reign supreme over other races, even though no nation outside the West is expected to include other races within their nations, and dissident whites don’t want to rule over other races but only to protect their cultural heritages and identities across the West, against mass immigration, which does not preclude some immigration and individual rights for everyone.

TP: Your critique of multiculturalism finds its fullest expression in your book, Canada in Decay: Mass Immigration, Diversity, and the Ethnocide of Euro-Canadians. In many ways, Canada has enthusiastically embraced the rather eccentric ideas of one scholar, namely, Will Kymlicka, who is very much the “Godfather” of multiculturalism. Why has Canada adopted Kymlicka’s vision as its own, so that it now seeks to become a “post-nation?”

RD: Kymlicka did not originate the idea of multiculturalism. He effectively rode a multicultural wave making the argument that multiculturalism is not inconsistent with a version of liberalism that values community attachments and rejects the libertarian idea that individuals can fulfill their goals as private consumers and producers in the market place.

Humans have a “deep need” to belong to a community; they are inherently social beings who make choices and fulfill themselves as individuals inside a common culture. Kymlicka employed these “communitarian” ideas (well-established within a branch of Western liberal thought) to push the idea that multiculturalism could provide the community ties for immigrants coming to Western societies from different cultural backgrounds.

Anglos in Canada, he began to argue in the 1990s, already had their cultural communities; we should not expect immigrants to assimilate to the “dominant” Anglo culture since immigrants come with their own cultural traditions; instead, we should allow them to retain and cherish their customs, folkways, languages, religious beliefs – so long as these cultural ways were not inconsistent or ran counter to the liberal principle of individual rights.

But when one looks closely at what Kymlicka means by the “dominant” Anglo culture in Canada, he really means a deracinated neutralized sphere consisting of modern economic amenities, infrastructure, legal rules, and liberal political institutions.

He actually calls for Anglos, and, I would argue, Euro-Canadians generally, to forgo their deep cultural traditions, their heritage in Canada, the idea that they were the founders of this nation; for a future Canada that will have a neutral public sphere, bereft of the religious symbols of Euro-Canadians, without special public holidays for Anglos, or public attachments to songs, without an “Eurocentric” anthem, etc. in order to make a new Canada that is fully welcoming towards the cultures of immigrants. Euro-Canadians must set aside their cultural memories and customs, and adopt multiculturalism as their culture, adopt a culture that celebrates the cultures of immigrant minorities.

Because the Quebecois are a minority in Canada, they can affirm their cultural heritage in Quebec, preserve its distinctive character, but the Quebecois too (in Kymlicka’s view) should accommodate immigrants with different cultures, and start educating their children to be multicultural. Indigenous peoples too should be allowed to achieve some territorial autonomy within a loose federal system where they can affirm their unique cultural ways and preserve their heritage.

They add to Canada’s multiculturalism. Immigrant minorities are not expected to create their own autonomous territories but are to be granted group cultural rights in addition to their individual rights, i.e., affirmative hiring, dual citizenship, TV stations, government funding for the preservation and enhancement of their cultures, special loans to establish businesses, and a new curriculum away from the heritage of Euro-Canadians.

Meanwhile, Anglos will enjoy individual rights only, downplay their collective traditions in Canada for the sake of a new multicultural culture. Immigrants, Quebecois, and Indigenous peoples can interpret multiculturalism as a call for them to enhance their particular cultures, whereas Anglos (and Euro-Canadians) can only interpret multiculturalism as a call to embrace the “vibrant” cultures of others.

So, there is a huge double standard in Kymlicka, to the point that he thinks Euro-Canadians should not be allowed to speak out against diversity, speak out in defence of their heritage in Canada, on the grounds that such attitudes are “racist” against minorities. Immigrant minorities should be celebrated for speaking out in defence of their cultures.

Anglos and Euro-Canadians should be condemned for not accepting the creation of a new Canada with many collective immigrant cultures. Kymlicka regularly refers to the majority Anglo culture as a culture of “colonizers,” “racists,” and “conquerors” while using pleasant words such as “pride” and “culturally meaningful lives” when speaking about minority cultures.

Kymlicka says that Canada must “never be allowed” to be “white and Christian again”. Not just Canada, however. He has spent most of his academic career giving talks in Europe promoting the “incredibly successful model of Canadian multiculturalism”, calling upon Europeans to diversify themselves through mass immigration.

He is disingenuous in the way he makes his students believe that he is merely calling for minority rights in Europe, and that multiculturalism is intended only as way of protecting these rights. But it is obvious that his theory of multiculturalism – for which he has received hundreds of thousands of dollars by way of grants and government prizes – was intended as part of a program to diversify all European nations through immigration. Government and corporations pay him handsomely for papers explaining how Europe should be thoroughly diversified.

He argues that it is racist for any European nation to retain its heritage and not accept millions of Africans, Muslims and Asians. He completed his PhD under the Marxist Gerald Cohen, who wrote a highly celebrated book in the 1970s on historical materialism. He regularly uses the cultural Marxist phrase “slow march through the institutions” in reference to the imposition of multicultural norms across Western societies, inside government institutions, private companies, the media and schools.

All the while he claims that his ideas are about the actualization of the ideals of “liberal democracy”. But he is clearly of the view that no one should be allowed to question diversity, that Europeans should not be allowed to defend their heritage, and that only minorities-to-become-majorities have a right to collective cultural identities right inside European nations. He is a cultural Marxist who has enriched himself by promoting the ethnocide of Europeans.

TP: In this book, you carefully examine Canada’s Franco-British heritage. While it is true that Quebecois culture remains resilient, why has Canadian English culture entirely collapsed?

RD: Simply put, the Quebecois have a stronger sense of collective ethnic identity, a sense that being a Quebecois is about speaking a language, having strong Catholic roots, unique customs, foods, songs, memories; whereas Anglo Canadians came to identify their culture as individualistic per se. This does not mean Anglos have no cultural identity; they did in their connections to Britain, and then to their experiences and uniquely developed customs in Canada along with other English-speaking Canadians.

But still, they are of the view that their culture is about “individual liberties”. This left them far more susceptible to leftist attacks against their past historical “crimes” and the need to become more inclusive. But this is happening to the Quebecois as well, certainly the ones in Montreal and among the globalist elites; they now think that speaking the French language is good enough to be a good Quebecois and that an immigrant from a former French colony can be more Quebecois than an English-speaking person with deep family roots in Quebec.

TP: Do you think Canada will continue to exist as a nation?

RD: No. Canada is undergoing the most radical transformation in its history right now, and so is Britain, France, Italy, Australia, United States, New Zealand, Sweden, Germany, and other Western nations. The transformation is due to imposition of immigrant diversity.

You can’t have multiple races and cultures in large numbers co-existing within the same nation state without a strong ethnic majority providing some cohesion to the nation. Justin Trudeau was implying as much when he said Canada was a “post-nation”.

Similar statements are being made in other Western nations as they are thoroughly diversified. Donald Trump is a civic nationalism; he values the liberal culture of his country, its achievements and historical memories; he does not like painting the American past in negative terms, and when he says “make America great again” he means “again” not because he wants to return to the past but because he values the past and believes that the leftist attacks on America’s past should not go unchallenged.

You can’t be a great nation without respecting your history, the founding peoples, the accomplishments of your ancestors. But in Canada we don’t have a populist movement; the culture from top to bottom is dominated by the left, and the left now hates national identities of any kind including civic identities based on Western liberal values, never mind a strong cultural identity that cherishes the cultural traditions of Canada in a deep way.

Canada will die as a nation with a unique identity. Separatist regional tendencies should be expected, but it depends how much these regions are diversified, since the Canadian government is implementing a well-orchestrated plan to diversify rural towns beyond the major cities; and, once this happens, all the regions will look alike in their diversity, multiple cultures without any common glue to even be able to create smaller national identities out of the regions.

In other Western nations we will have similar trends, but I do anticipate a counter movement by the native French, Italians, possibly Australians, and perhaps later on the Germans. Not sure about Sweden and Britain, but I can’t believe the British will disappear without a fight. Brace yourself for coming civil wars.

TP: What lies ahead for you personally? Is there another book on the horizon? What are you researching?

RD: As you know, I took early retirement after I experienced an “academic mobbing” (to use the term an expert on work place mobbing used in an article he wrote about my case) at my former university where I had been a professor for 25 years. I have more time to do pure research and get involved in politics.

I am currently writing my fourth book, and it will be about the psychology that brought Western civilization its greatness. I believe that the discovery in ancient Greece of the mind, the realization that humans have a faculty that is uniquely theirs and is the source of our knowledge, and that truth can only emerged out of this faculty in communication with other minds, rather than handed down through blind traditions, enacted by gods, or mysterious forces beyond our comprehension, is a key to Western uniqueness.

Westerners became increasingly conscious of their consciousness, aware that they can affirm themselves as an “I” in contrast to that which is not-I. Their aristocratic attitudes played a big role in nurturing this psychology, which entails a disposition not to submit, to prostrate in front of any authority however much one may rightfully respect worthy authorities; it means not allowing one’s being to be swallowed up by the world around, by nature, the demands of the body, knowing what belongs to the I and what belongs to the not-I.

This is a multifaceted, long drawn out development with roots in the prehistoric world of Indo-Europeans, with increasing levels of self-reflection exhibited throughout Western history. It is a view that does not deny the civilizational decline that accompanies affluent cultures but which looks to the degrees to which humans have attain or expressed themselves consciously as high as possible in the order of nature.

TP: Thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts and ideas with our readers. We sincerely appreciate you giving us this opportunity.

The image shows, “The Anger of Achilles,” by Jacques-Louis David; painted in 1819.

Paddy’s Lament: The Irish And Their Music In The American Civil War

Introduction

In this essay we will look at songs concerning the Irish in the American Civil War, in order to come to a deeper grasp of this community in that war. By doing so, we will explore the interaction of the Irish with other minority groups caught up in the conflict, and their common lot with the larger Anglo culture.

We will examine period pieces and modern compositions related to the Irish. These songs are “The Opinions of Paddy Magee,” “We’ll Fight For Uncle Sam,” “Irish Volunteer,” “Kelly’s Irish Brigade,” “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp,” “Two Brothers Masterson,” “Boys That Wore the Green,” “Paddy’s Lamentation,” the equally doleful “Mick Ryan’s Lament,” and “Modern Army O.” Passing references will be made to “I Goes to Fight Mit Sigel” and “List of Generals.”

The Civil War produced a great many musical pieces. I chose the ones in this essay that especially invite distinct topical consideration. Briefly, “We’ll Fight For Uncle Sam” looks at Irish soldiers from the North. It also allows us to delve into George McClellan’s persistent popularity with his units, both ethnic and otherwise, throughout the course of the conflict. “Kelly’s Irish Brigade,” examines Irish southerners. In “Two Brothers Masterson” we look at the tensions that immigrants had with Africans. The role Germans and natives played in the war and its music is also considered.

The song “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp” permits us to see connections with political movements back in Ireland. “The Irish Volunteer” demonstrates an eagerness to adopt native concerns and politics by new arrivals. “The Boys Who Wore the Green” is a look into the unit and cultural diversity, and chaos, which the 19th-century citizen-soldier model of military organization allowed for. “Paddy’s Lamentation” gives us insight into the disillusion which mid-war Irish were feeling, along with the rest of America.

Finally, “Modern Army O” and “Mick Ryan’s Lament” take us to the postwar world of an America eager to get back to normal. There is, of course, overlap in some of the themes chosen here, and each verse carries much historical meaning. Therefore, these works of popular art allow us to take a survey of topics related to Irishmen in the definitive American experience, the Civil War.

Gratitude and Patriotism

At the top of our list is “The Opinions of Paddy Magee.” The song addresses the proximate reason many Irish came to America in the mid-19th-century: the Great Hunger of 1845-49.

Along with other Anglosphere lands (Britain, of course, but also Canada and Australia) – starving Celts arrived in these United States by the hundreds of thousands at that time. Immediately they were recipients of native hostility.

The 1860s conflict gave refugees like “Opinions’” fictional narrator Paddy a chance to route the libel of divided loyalties, and show his gratitude towards his adopted home. During the real-life outbreak of war, the Catholic archbishop of New York, John Hughes, could not hang flags fast enough from his parishes. With memories of the popular “Know Nothing” Party and the horrific anti-Catholic Philadelphia riots of 1844 not far from mind, our soldier-singer declares:

Whin Ireland was needing, and famine was feeding
And thousands were dying for something to ate,
‘Twas America’s daughters that sent over the waters
The ships that were loaded with corn and whate.
And Irishmen, sure, will forever remember
The vessels that carried the flag of the free.
And the land that befriended, they’ll die to defend it
And that’s the opinions of Paddy Magee.

According to the song, the Civil War allowed these new Americans to repay charity given them a generation before.

Pay

Next at bat we have a pair of songs, “We’ll Fight For Uncle Sam” and “The Irish Brigade.” With these pieces we confront the basic question of why Irish immigrants participated so robustly on both sides of the conflict? The Crisis of 1860 and the war it precipitated were many miles removed from the concerns and culture of the Irish.

Whatever theoretical appeal Constitutional liberties like freedom of religion held for Hiberians, the welcome they actually received was not a warm one. Anti-Irish animosity became so desperate that famously during the Mexican War (1846-48) an entire brigade of the Federal army deserted over to the Mexican side!

Like German immigrants two generations later, Irish support for the Union was not a given. One pedestrian, though evergreen, reason immigrants fought in large numbers was for money. The famous $13 per month which Union privates received, even the Confederate’s $11 per month, a holdover from the prewar pay scale, was head and shoulders better than the unstable morsels which urban day laborers took in, to say nothing of the tempestuous lives of rural farmers.

In “We’ll Fight for Uncle Sam,” a Union piece, it contains the line, “Not long ago I came here from the bogs of sweet Kilarney. I used to cry out, ‘Soap Fat!’ because that was my trade, sir; ‘til I ‘listed as corporal in Corcoran’s brigade, sir.” Many of the Irish immigrants of the 1860s had come from rural stock. They had few marketable skills in the crowded cities of the north. If the army didn’t allow for a better life, it at least provided a less indigent one.

Geopolitics:Cotton

It is unwise to consider the Civil War in a vacuum. As comfortable as it is to study as such, as our definitive event, we must recall what Walter McDougal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute says. The War of the Rebellion was not an insular oddity, but, “part of the deepest rhythms of world history.” The trends of centralization, servile abolition, and a “shrinking” technological world were forces America participated in along with the rest of the world.

Both “We’ll Fight” and “Opinions” additionally invite the humble listener into the world of international politics. British support for the Confederacy is warned off with the line, “If John Bull should interfere, he’ll suffer for it truly, for the Irish boys in action will give him balley hooley.” We also hear, “John Bull, ye ould divil. Ye’d better keep civil!”

Through mid-war there was a chance of Britain supporting the Confederacy. This would have possible military advantages, and definite financial advantages. For a country heretofore not permitted to raise funds on the international markets and from major banks, legal recognition amongst the world community was a must.

The hungry textile mills of Europe lustfully weighed on the minds of British MPs as they considered the U.K.’s official reaction to the North American bloodletting. With the nearsightedness characteristic of speculation, the southern economy was a one-trick, cotton pony by the start of the war in 1861. “Guns for Cotton” was the dear hope of Confederate statesmen. Until the Crown could develop its cotton market in India, which eventually came on line by mid-war, this was an equation British statesmen were inclined to consider.

European powers, and others besides, needed cotton from the South for their mills. This commercial concern weighed heavily against ethical reservation concerning slavery. “Scott’s Anaconda,” the blockading of the entire Confederate coastline by the Lincoln administration, put a wrench in the French supply chain for the entirety of the war.

The “Famine du Coton” in Alsace, Normandy, and Brittany matched the supply hardships experienced by the English. The financial angle could have put European powers in the Confederate corner, and this was possibility enough for our Irish songsters to put John Bull – and by extension, Marianne – on alert.

Geopolitics: The Trent Affair

The possibility of English support for the Confederacy was made likelier still with international guffaws by Union leaders. For example, the Trent Affair in November 1861 was when Union sailors boarded British ships to arrest two Confederate agents under the laws of war.

The Lincoln administration was adamantine that the Confederacy was not a nation. Thus, according to their own logic, southern agents were not subject to the rule of international law. The only conclusion left, then, was that Union sailors trespassed on British property, and kidnapped British guests.

Earnestly for them in the moment, and amusingly for us 150 years later, Northern attorneys engaged in great rhetorical gymnastics trying to justify their Administration’s position, while also fending off charges of criminality. This incident, combined with William Seward’s subsequent bluster in the press, brought the relationship between the U.K. and U.S. the closest to war since 1812.

Geopolitics: Slavery

Slavery is a topic which does not enter into any of the immigrant-related songs chosen for this essay, north or south. In fact, even in general works from the war period, forced servitude is only mentioned obliquely. Examples of this include, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Marching Through Georgia,” both Union songs; and “Bonnie Blue Flag,” and Albert Pike’s reworking of “Dixie,” for Confederate examples.

As a slave power, nearly alone in the Western world besides Brazil and Cuba, the Confederate States of America (CSA) did not do themselves any favors when appealing to European nations for legal recognition, much less material assistance. France and Britain were the two biggest candidates for Confederate support. France had abolished slavery in 1794 (albeit briefly resurrected by Napoleon) and the United Kingdom in 1833. In the age of 19th-century mores, whatever the temptation of cotton, the CSA’s “peculiar institution” worked against their international interests.

Irish Confederate Units

The odds against the Confederate cause from the start tended to lend its partisans to associate their enterprise with grand moral and political motives, and historical precedents. “Kelly’s Irish Brigade” attempts to weave the Confederate struggle and its Hibernian involvement into the larger saga of Irish liberation.

When nowhere near technical brigade size, the southern narrator sings, “[Northerners] have called us rebels and traitors, but themselves were called that name of late.” While the song immediately goes on to reference the Rebellion of 1798, we also intuit the songster’s general scorn for Yankees.

Like the British in the American Revolution, an event which was within reaching memory at the time of our topic, invading Yankees were occupying another country as far as southerners were concerned. This certainly is a parallel not lost on the narrator of “Kelly’s Irish Brigade.” He sings, “They dare not call us invaders. ‘Tis but states’ rights and liberty we ask. And Missouri we’ll ever defend her. No matter how hard the task.”

Larger Struggles

We next have “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp.” This song allows us to connect the Irish struggle in the Civil War with another fight in another land. It speaks with the voice of an imprisoned Union soldier trying to keep up his spirits despite his condition. As he says, “Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching. Cheer up, comrades, they will come!” Just wait, just hope, we’ll be free in time.

Most people today would not associate “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp” with the Civil War. The tune was co-opted and popularized a few years after Appomattox for the Irish nationalist cause. Rebranded as “God Save Ireland,” it commemorates the Manchester Martyrs. The Martyrs were three Fenians hanged by the Crown in 1867. The retooled “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp,” now “God Save Ireland,” became the de facto anthem of Irish Republicans through the War of Independence (1919-21).

Rather than a forlorn, pining captive, though, “God Save Ireland” has its prisoner-singer defiant ‘til the end. One stanza reads, “They met him [the hangman] face to face, with the courage of their race. And they went with souls undaunted to their doom.” When we recall Cathal Brugha’s famous use of “God Save Ireland,” we must remember its connection to an earlier generation and an earlier war.

The Fenians

We turn now to the influences of the Fenians on the Civil War. The Fenian Brotherhood was a group founded simultaneously in America and Ireland in 1858 (on St. Patrick’s Day, of course). The Civil War promised a ready means for these secret revolutionaries to build and drill a corps of fighters to ship back home.

One of the stranger aspects of Celtic participation in the War of the Rebellion, as the United States government still calls the 1860s bloodletting, is that a people dominated by an outside power, as Ireland was by the British, would enthusiastically enlist in significant numbers on the side of a power trying to squash the self-determination of another group of people, the American southerners. This is a curious dynamic we’ll see later with the post-war Irish participation in the western Indian Wars.

In his infamous summons of 75,000 men, a move which initially worsened the Crisis, President Lincoln plainly said his intention was, “To suppress said combinations.” However, practical considerations overruled die-hard revolutionary ideology. The majority of immigrants lived in Northern cities like Boston and New York, as opposed to southern ports like Charlestown and New Orleans.

Additionally, the Union’s chances of victory were more secure from the start. While it took at least two years to come to full strength, once the Federal government brought its organizational and industrial might to bear, their ability to train and arm mass bodies of men recommended Fenian support for the Union. The conflict would provide free quality training which Irish revolutionaries could deploy back in Ireland.

In On Deciding to Fight for the Union, Union Irish Brigade leader, Thomas Francis Meagher said, “We could not hope to succeed in our effort to make Ireland a Republic without the moral and material support of the liberty-loving citizens of these United States.”

This decision can be directly tied to individuals who helped raise Irish units. Meagher (pronounced “mar”) was involved in the Young Irelander uprising of 1848, that “Year of Revolutions.” Transported to Australia after his conviction of treason, Meagher escaped and made his way via Brazil to America.

Another revolutionary was Michael Corcoran. In addition to a revolutionary pedigree as rich as Meagher’s, Corcoran made a name for himself when he was court-martialed for not leading the largely-Irish 69th New York Militia on parade when the Prince of Wales visited America in 1860. The charges were dropped upon the eruption of hostilities. However, “The Boys Who Wore the Green” saucily remembers, “Colonel Corcoran led the 69th on that eventful day [i.e., Bull Run], I wish the Prince of Wales were there to see him in the fray.”

Meagher and Corcoran organized and drilled an expanded 69th New York following the Confederate firing on Ft. Sumpter in April 1861. The unit was altogether green. However, several soldiers had seen service in recent European wars. These included ten officers lately in the service of Pope Pius IX’s own “St. Patrick’s Brigade,” in the Papal States’ luckless fight against Garibaldi.

Narratives

When, how, and why minority groups align their interests and narratives with related groups is a topic well worth its own treatment. By “narrative” I mean a group’s own reading of its revolutionary history, especially in light of similar struggles elsewhere.

Such is also the forging of the Irish nationalist “apostolic succession” narrative. This narrative attempts to link Ireland’s own desperate rebel history. It also includes foreign efforts for the Liberal cause in its understanding. The Fenian narrative in this case includes friendly connections with America’s Revolutionary experiment.

The ancient clan system in Ireland was smashed with the Tudor conquest. The 1745 Battle of Culloden in neighboring Scotland brought this truth home. Suddenly the passing of the clan system went from a suspected abstraction to a bloody, grim reality. Celtic nationalists ultimately retrenched and settled upon the most cutting-edge political philosophy of the day to rally around: republicanism.

America’s two wars with Britain, as well as the explosion of the French Revolution on the Continent, gave added inspiration to independence-minded Hiberians for their own liberty. However ill-served rebels like Robert Emmet were by the republican National Assembly, the international republican experience provided garrisoned Ireland an example to imitate.

Indeed, during the heady days before his imprisonment for sedition in 1848, Thomas Meagher advocated physical force republicanism against the pacifistic position of Daniel O’Connell’s supporters. He specifically used the American example as justification. Ireland’s revolutionary past merged with the American saga as theoretical examples which expats like Corcoran and Meagher were keen to develop and fuse for the ends of their Irish story.

Other Ethnic Groups

Next, we consider the role of race, the Irish, and the Civil War. In introducing this theme, we recall that Irishmen were not the only subgroup to be caught up in the majority-Anglo Civil War. Indians, blacks, and Germans all richly participated as well.

Native Americans, however, come from a vastly different musical tradition than the various European ethnicities which participated in the war (including the majority Anglo one). Additionally, they made a different use of martial music. Thus, we have no corpus of native Civil War music.

Another possible field of study is German participation in the war. They were closer to the Irish military and musical experiences. The Germans were also a community numerically as robust as the Irish. However, the language barrier meant that few period songs were written, and less survive for our perusal.

There is one delightful exception to this Saxon dearth: “I Goes To Fight Mit Sigel.” Reasonably concerned with his martial alcohol access, our patriot-narrator explains, “Dere’s only von ting vot I fear, Ven pattling for de Eagle. I vont get not no lager bier, Ven I goes to fight mit Sigel!”

Franz Sigel’s command of the largely-German XI of the Army of the Potomac is also noted, along with Irish commanders, in the 1864 song “List of General.”

African-American Interactions

When it comes to Irish interactions with African-Americans, “Two Brothers Masterson” does not blush. The 19th-century was not a politically correct era. Perhaps this allows us a truer picture of the times. “Masterson” is set to the tune of the “Croppy Boy,” and it follows an equally doleful trajectory.
At this point you ought to be noticing a cross-over of music in the later development folk. Both America and Ireland equally influenced the other’s music.

Twice in “Masterson” we note the unhappy interaction of American blacks and Irish. The singer states, “With savage blacks [the brothers] did not agree.” When put upon to help hang his sibling, Patrick refuses. Sensing a need, a nearby, “wild black sergeant proposed to do the deed.”

This artistic animosity can be traced to the actual competition both groups faced for northern jobs during this period. Indeed, we remember that during the New York draft riots in 1863 African-Americans were especially targeted by the rioters, and a great many of those rioters came from the Irish community centered around New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen district.

Chaos

In “The Boys That Wore the Green” we get a taste of the chaos of those early days of the Rebellion. The song memorializes the motley units which found themselves at the First Battle of Bull Run in July of 1861. The peacocking and bluster which both sides liberally engaged in, from well before Lincoln’s election the previous autumn, quickly drained away as the grim reality of protracted battle loomed.

After a solid start on the morning of July 21st, the Rebels rallied and broke the Union ranks. It’s a debacle commemorated in the fourth stanza of “Boys.” The singer talks about the capture and recapture of the 69th’s battle flag, declaring, “The colors of the 69th, I say it without shame, Were taken in the struggle to swell the victor’s fame.” Politely omitted is the fact that Michael Corcoran was wounded and also captured in the battle. He was paroled and went on to organize Corcoran’s Legion, another majority-Irish unit.

The rearguard fight the Irish Brigade made at Bull Run with the 11th New York Zouaves is mentioned in the fifth stanza. It states, “In that hour of peril, the flying mass to screen, Stood the gallant New York firemen, with the boys that wore the green.”

After several verses lauding the mutual assistance each unit gave the other during the Civil War’s seminal battle, the song finishes, “Farewell, my gallant countrymen, who fell that fatal day. Farewell, ye noble firemen, now mouldering in the clay. Whilst blooms the leafy shamrock, whilst runs the old machine, Your deeds will live bold Red Shirts, and Boys that Wore the Green!” And indeed, each unit had cause to be nostalgic. By mid-war both, due to attrition and maturation, regiments were drastically different from their early-war selves.

Militia Model

At Bull Run, the citizen-solider model favored in America well into the 20th Century was sorely tried. If the Confederate national army wasn’t itself in its birth pangs on “that eventful day,” however, things would have been worse for the north. The rebel inability to consolidate and counter-attack is the biggest “what if” of the entire conflict.

The organizational militia model in force, during those well-sung early days of the fight, allowed for a small perpetual corps of men, mostly alumni of the military academies, to be the nucleus around which a much larger mass of militia could form. Those militia units were called in the Federal parlance of the time, “Volunteers.” True to their forebears in the American Revolution, these Volunteers were led by officers chosen either for quality, charisma, or graft.

While the militia system provided against an ancient Cesarean takeover, or a modern Military Industrial Complex, it made for chronically messy military starts. The United States would know this well into the 20th-century. In any case, the behavior of the 69th at Bull Run was something the men could be proud of.

It was a legacy they would have an opportunity to build upon, a year and a half later at Antietam. As the late Connecticut author, Thomas Craughwell, wrote, “The Irish Brigade turned the tide at Antietam. By driving off the Confederates, it all but ensured a Union victory. The Irish had been building a reputation as tenacious fighters; at Antietam they cinched it.”

Unit Diversity

Not all of early-war messiness was bad or incompetent. It occasionally allowed for local flare. Ethnic regiments such as Irish, German, and Indian units are examples of this diversity. Likewise was the “Zouave” phenomena. Inspired by French soldiers, these light infantry units were recruited from the fire brigades of New York City by the early-martyred Elmer Ellsworth.

Clothed in their distinctive red and blue embroidered uniform, the 11th New York was one early group to buttress the defenses of Washington, following weeks of anxious waiting and rumors, during the Secession Crisis in the spring of 1861. Both their unusual accoutrements and their baptism of fire at Bull Run guaranteed the mutual affection of both regiments in “The Boys Who Wore the Green.”

Little Mac

Lastly, “The Boys Who Wore the Green,” along with “We’ll Fight for Uncle Sam” and “List of Generals,” raises the specter of “Little Mac.” George McClellan was the Army of the Potomac’s sometimes-commander. Notoriously reluctant to engage with a southern opponent who was two or three times his size, Abraham Lincoln once humorously said, McClellan had a case of, “the slows.”

Nevertheless, “Little Mac,” as his troops affectionately called him, was an excellent organizer. Units always had the supplies they requested, and after defeats like the Second Bull Run, McClellan was able to rebuild the army and boost its confidence.

While their affection wasn’t able to take Little Mac to the White House in 1864, it was able to live on in songs with verses like, “Once again, the stars and stripes, Will to the breeze be swellin’. If Uncle Abe will give us back Our darlin’ boy McClellan;” and, “Of one more [general] I’ll be telling, and who should be restored straightway. To put an end to this rebellion: Little Mac, he knows the way!”

Burnout

The gay, baggy pants and striped shirts of the Zouaves went by the wayside in “Paddy’s Lamentation.” Thanks to Sinead O’Connor, this is the only piece in our Civil War selection with popular play. The song describes the wariness Irishmen were feeling by mid-war.

This song also reflects the greater mood of America. Similar to the narrator of “Masterson,” our pleading singer advises, “To America I’ll have ye’s not be going. There is nothing here but war, where the murderin’ cannons roar. And I wish I was at home in dear old Dublin.” Like many ethnic songs, “Paddy’s Lamentation” has “Easter eggs” in it which betray its North American composition. “Dear old Dublin” was far removed for most 19th-century Irish immigrants. Hiberians who came to America, mostly came from the west of Ireland.

In any case, all the men who were inclined to go in for Meagher’s transatlantic revolutionary schemes had done so by the war’s second year. After that, the motives were less idealistic. Cap-stoning this sentiment was the death of Michael Corcoran in 1863 in a riding accident in Fairfax, Virginia.

As Craughwell writes, “[Corcoran’s] death came as a shock to the Irish Brigade, whose men had loved and revered Corcoran since 1860 when he refused to march the 69th Regiment in a parade honoring the Prince of Wales.” Either money or the force of law stocked the ranks of the Irish Brigade after the initial idealism died down.

Manifest Destiny Resumed

Finally, we close with two postwar pieces: “Mick Ryan’s Lament” and “Regular Army O.” The one doleful, the other comical, both songs take us from the eastern seaboard to the Wild West, with the downsized U.S. military. With the Rebellion over, the American government returned to its pre-war hobby: westward expansion. Our refugee-cum-trooper, Mick Ryan, sings, “I swear I did not see the irony,

“When I rode with the Seventh Cavalry. I thought that we fought for the land of the free, When we rode from Fort Lincoln that morning.” In other words, the expat from Erin was used in his turn to dispossess Indians from their homes. This ultimately led to his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, commanded by former Civil War hero, George Armstrong Custer.

In “Modern Army O,” we’re introduced to a man who, making no idealistic motivational pretense, “had the choice of going to the army or to jail.” Compelled to endure longer and longer marches on less and less grub, our modern soldier throws off the whole army and skedaddles to Mexico.

In both songs we are confronted with one of the curses of war: addiction to fighting. As long-standing the battlegrounds of today attest, places like Somalia, Afghanistan, or Syria, after a while a country’s young men have no stock and trade but war.

That was the condition many veterans found themselves in, in 1865. Decidedly less ideological or reverential than earlier pieces, the song shows an increased assimilation of Irishmen by the later part of the 19th-century, due in part to their military service. As Craughwell writes, “The courage and sacrifice of the Irish Brigade during the Civil War helped diminish prevalent anti-Irish prejudice in America.”

Conclusion

Our selections have featured both early-war, red-blooded martial anthems, burned-out ballads from later in the conflict, and ironic and irreverent postwar choices.

The songs were written from historic moments of patriotism, and contemporary meditations on the hardships of history. They permit us to dive into aspects of the American Civil War which standard study does not allow for. We come closer to our subject. We laugh and cry and bleed and gripe along with the soldiers, who fought the war – and we sing with them, too.

John Coleman is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut (USA). Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.

The image shows, “July 27, 1861: New York’s 69th (Irish) Regiment return from 1st Battle of Bull Run” by Louis Lang, and painted in 1862-1863.

America Reborn

Does the world need or want a strong United States? This essential question, whether consciously iterated or not, underlies much of what passes for commentary on the presidency of Donald Trump. Of course, there is the easy caricature that is to be found in the popular media, of Trump as the great villain of the age, who also happens to be stupid, boorish, and well, a “Nazi.” Such vilification has been ongoing ever since the man was elected.

Those who purvey this caricature seem mindless of the consequences of their outrage. They like to imagine that somehow the direct opposite of the Trump presidency will magically be embodied in the Democratic Party, and all will be well again. Such willful naivety, or perhaps confusion, also suggests that the critics of Trump have little interest in understanding what kind of a nation the US is and should be – internally and on the international stage.

But there is also another view. More sober and guided by political realism. And this view understands that the world will always need a strong nation that will pull the rest of the countries towards a particular kind of future. The world has never been so introverted that it does not need leadership. Thus, under whose aegis will be the world be at its best? This question cannot be answered by simply repeating platitudes about social justice. Indeed, justice in the context of politics means alliances with nations that follow a common cause.

There are two questions that must be answered by those who are anti-Trump: Does the world need a strong United States? If not, which nation will be the world-leader? There is an important difference in these two questions – because strength does not necessarily impart leadership, although it is a necessary component. Which nation does the world want to follow? There are, of course, choices.

There is China, which is now busy trying to build a world empire, no matter what the cost. Although it has acquired a lot of wealth, mostly from the USA, it has serious internal fault-lines, chief among them being a population that may or may not be loyal to the Communist state.

There is Russia, which seeks dominance in Eurasia but which is still struggling with decades of Communist destruction; nor does it have the political maturity to take on a decisive leadership role – indeed, what does Russia stand for today?

Then, there is the EU, which is still hoping to become a force to be reckoned with – but it is inherently nothing more than a collection of progressivise, pseudo-moralistic agendas (climate change, third-world migration, multiculturalism). Nor has the EU trading bloc furthered any kind of real economic boom, as it was supposed to do. If it were not for the UK, Germany and France, the EU would be long dead – and the UK has just made its exist from this rule by bureaucrats. The EU will always be an on-going social experiment, with feet of clay; and its various social agendas render it useless for any kind of leadership role. And then there is the USA, which still functions with the ideal of the free market.

Here, an important point needs to be clarified. Leadership is not colonialism, imperialism, or hegemony. It is simply the necessity of hierarchies, if any kind of order is to exist. Otherwise, there is only chaos. So, which nation allows for the greatest freedom (one may argue about the nature of this freedom – but that is simply a rhetorical trick), and which nation promises the best methodology for economic stability.

Drieu Godefridi, in his latest book, Reload! Comment l’Amérique invente le siècle (Reload! How America is Inventing the Century) offers his choice. For him, it is only and always America, which he sees as undergoing a grand economic rebirth (which he calls a “renaissance”), under Trump, whose economic policies have geared America for dominance in the century ahead. That is the premise of the book, which Godefridi then proceeds to elaborate both eloquently and strongly. Currently, the book is only available in French. Perhaps, soon, it will be available in English. Of course, Godefridi is writing for the EU audience, “where the decline of America is a European fantasy.”

Indeed, the tradition of anti-Americanism has deep roots in Europe, going back to Georges-Louis Leclerc and Voltaire, and where it takes on three characteristics: First, there is the envy of American inventiveness and wealth, especially in the area of technology (indeed, the modern world is now defined and determined only by American inventions). The fruit of this ingenuity is massive wealth.

Second, there is the view that American culture is inherently corrupting and destructive and thus must be controlled if it cannot be avoided. This generates a sense of superiority, where European culture is better than what is available in America. Third, there is the wary regard of American military might, which has cast the nation into the role of the “policeman of the world.”

Godefridi boldly addresses this anti-Americanism by first linking it with those easy anti-Trump sentiments that are daily declaimed in the media, and which train people “to hate, despise and dread the figure of Trump.” Such rancor arises from that sense of superiority, wherein Trump embodies the entire caricature of the “ugly American.”

Second, and more importantly, there is the apposition of the American economic model and the EU one. The latter is readily summarized: “That in Europe, the Left does not consider over-regulation a problem is normal. After all, in the socialist worldview it is freedom that oppresses and it is the law that liberates. So, it is not only normal but desirable that human relationships be regulated more and more, often down to the minutest detail.”

Thus, the EU economic model is micromanagement, so that production becomes largely a “department” of the state. This runs counter to the American model which, despite much tampering by the Obama administration, is now being set free. And the result is a US economy that is out-performing all others in the West. It is the “Trump miracle.”

To show how well the US economy is doing, Godefridi points to some cold, hard facts:

  • With a population four times smaller than China, the GDP of the US is 50 percent higher than that of the Asian dragon, having crossed the $20 Trillion mark back in 2018.
  • In world GDP, the US share now is 25 percent – a level not seen since 1980.
  • American GDP per citizen is 50 percent higher than the French GDP per citizen – and the gap is widening.
  • The US is responsible for 40 percent of the world’s entire military spending – and this percentage is increasing.

So, what accounts for this humming economy? Very simply the policies of the man a lot of people love to hate – President Trump – who has ushered in a new American renaissance, “the rebirth of a conquering America, dominant and faithful to its founding values.”

The book is divided into two parts. The first, entitled, “Internal Politics,” deals with the various hurdles that Trump has had to face ever since he became President, from the Russian Collusion delusion and the two-year probe by Mueller – to the economic mess left by Obama – all those regulations which hindered and curtailed free enterprise and which now need to be eliminated.

Thus, Trump has diligently reduced imports in order to boost American prosperity; he has repealed laws that hinder freedom; he has fixed the justice system which had become overly-populated by members of an activist judiciary; he has begun to limit the power of the Deep State; and he has revived the energy industries, by breaking free from the mantra of “renewables” and relaunching coal, oil and shale – so much so that America is now entirely energy-independent. Such is the meaning of, “America First.”

Indeed, it is this freed-up energy that is driving the American miracle economy, which had been made to bend to the dictates of climate alarmist ideologies: “In the energy sector, it is as if Obama never existed!” What we now see is an America being run on the free-market model, rather than an America being run according to the EU model: “Evolution is always richer, more diverse and unpredictable than the wise, ‘apriorist’ theoretical constructions of experts.”

The second part of the book, entitled, “International Relations,” looks at the effect that President Trump is having on the world stage. He has moved the US embassy to Jerusalem; he has re-negotiated free trade; he has dealt decisively with China, NATO, and the UN; he has rejected the Marrakesh Pact and the Paris Accord; and he has signaled an end to foreign military entanglements, thus redefining the meaning of international relations. In each case, Trump has deeply left his mark.

By moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, Trump took the lead in recognizing a simple fact, which everyone likes to ignore – that it is in Jerusalem where the Israeli government is located, and it is to Jerusalem that all foreign missions go when they want to deal with Israel. So, why not locate the embassy where Israeli power resides? The only objection to having the embassy in Jerusalem is a “moral” one, in that Jerusalem is regarded by some as being “occupied land.” Of course, no one bothers to explain what that term actually means in the context of history and contemporary politics.

As for free trade, Trump’s aim is straight forward, and entirely free of ideological blinkers: “…what Trump wants, in fact, is exactly what the American workers and the middle class of the United States both want – to reap a greater share of the fruits of prosperity.” How is this a bad thing?

In regards to China, Trump fully understands the “source” of that nation’s wealth. First, all of its industry is owned by the state, not individuals. Certainly, certain people have become billionaires in such a system – but they are ultimately “managers” of companies that owned by the Communist state. Of course, this wealth has been used to lift many Chinese people into prosperity – but this does not change the fact that wealth itself, within the Communist system, is another mechanism of control, and that the vast majority of the Chinese people have very little share in this prosperity.

Second, the source of China’s wealth is the result of piracy – namely, the outright theft of countless US intellectual property rights (such rights are also stolen from other nations as well). And the products produced from these patents and inventions are then sold back to the West.

In effect, Trump knows very well that the Chinese have not really created anything – they have simply taken American ingenuity and have learned to profit from it vastly. With a new trade deal, Trump has struck a serious blow to China’s entire wealth-generating strategy by shutting down intellectual property theft.

Wryly, Godefridi points out – meanwhile, back in Europe, everyone is worried about climate change!

As for NATO, Trump as simply asserted that the US will no longer foot the bill. If other nations want NATO to exist, then they will have to finance its existence. The US will no longer be paying for everyone else’s defense. Of course, this will mean that in order to keep NATO afloat, Europe will have to wean itself from the many progressive social programs that have become part of “European culture,” and start managing its own defense.

Godefridi then looks at the UN by way of its most recent diktat – the Marrakesh Pact, which allows regular migration into the West from the third-world countries, hand-picked by UN bureaucrats as somehow “endangered” and in need of being relocated to the West. This Pact ignores the will of the people living in the West and simply imposes floods of migrants from disparate parts of the world as a “reality” that cannot be refused by any parliament or any referendum.

Of course, Europe and Canada are eager participants in this disastrous scheme – without bothering to ask their own citizens, whose very tax-money is blithely being used to fund this population transfer. Although opposition is rising, it is hard to predict how effective it can, given what has already been accomplished by the UN. This is what the phrase, “open borders” means. The UN, an unelected agency, nevertheless dictates what a Western nation can and cannot do.

As for the US, Trump has wisely rejected the Marrakesh Pact, as being just one more disastrous socialist scheme. And the stakes are indeed high, for it will lead to migratory anarchy in the West: “The alternative is between the open borders of the contemporary Left, and the practice of our civilization since the dawn of time, that is to say, border control: We only access a country through consent.”

Godefridi describes the UN as, “the privileged means of normative colonization by national democracies.” As many have already pointed out, the UN is an institution that has long outlived its usefulness. A reform is certainly needed, if not an outright dismantlement. Godefridi recognizes that there is certainly a need for institutional exchange between nations, But is the UN the proper institution for such exchange? Most would say that it is not. Whether Trump is able to dismantle the current structure of the UN remains to be seen.

Further, the entire climate change industry has met a formidable foe in Trump, who simply walked away from the madness that is the Paris Accord, which would like see the West entirely deindustrialized, with no real access to any kind of energy, since both solar and wind are disastrous. As Godefridi observed in his earlier book, The Green Reich, fossil fuels have brought freedom to humanity. Take these fuels away, and humanity loses its freedom.

Trump’s decision to minimize involvement in Afghanistan and not to proceed with regime change in Syria has upturned the approach of previous administrations – of bombing other countries into democracy. Instead, he has taken up the greater challenge of reducing American presence in the world, so that the various nations look after themselves rather than look for America “police protection.” Indeed, America has spent Trillions in all kinds of foreign entanglements – and sacrificed the lives of thousands of its young men and women.

And all for what? The gain of this huge sacrifice has been minimal. This is the question before the Trump administration – will it continue to feed the demands of the Industrial Military Complex? It would appear not, for in 2018, Trump ordered a full audit of the Pentagon, which is valued at $2.4 Trillion – that is “equivalent to Apple + Walmart + the state of
California, all doubled.” We will have to wait to see the consequence of this audit.

Godefridi continues his analysis of Trumpian America by examining the current culture war that is now taking place. He rightly sees America, and indeed the entire West, as engaged in a death-struggle of two worldviews. One, which he simply calls “Europe” is fixated on trying to live in the future, by somehow creating a Utopia that will contain no inequality (sexual, religious, or racial); that will function perfectly on renewable, “green” energy; that will have no borders; that will have happy citizens eager to pay ever-increasing taxes to keep the Utopia going. Those who hate Trump want the Utopia for America.

Then, there is the other worldview – one based in the reality of daily life. This worldview regards government of any kind, whether liberal of conservative, as inherently against the people. Thus, it is not politics that is the essential component of a good life, but civil society – which can never be constructed by government regulations: “The individual and the family, capitalism and its progress: such are the bright lights of the conservative American Weltanschauung, from 1776 to the present day.”

This clash of two opposing worldviews leads Godefridi to give a complete explanation of what he calls the “American renaissance.” He astutely observes that America’s rebirth will come about as a result of an agonistic managerial approach, which is “the more sophisticated and realistic conflict management technique,” and which “consists in using the conflicts, within contexts and people, to spark the best for the one the plan that really matters: that of the final decision.”

This agonistic approach is little understood by the commentators and media analysts – because they adhere to another approach, namely, of ataraxia, derived from the Epicureans and the Stoics, which endorses the “idea that happiness is forged in the absence of trouble. Thus, peace, harmony, constancy … calm and tranquility! Every trouble, according to this early utilitarian point of view, comes about because of an avoidance of happiness.” In effect, this is the avoidance of decision-making, which leads to systemic chaos.

Thus, America’s rebirth is coming about because of Trump’s “Management, not in spite of, but because of, conflict. The capacity to decide and stick to decisions that are rooted in principles and riveted to goals, while searching for the new angle.” This approach is transforming America into the economic engine of the world once again. Such is the true meaning of “Make American Great Again.”

Lastly, Godefridi imagines the future, in the year 2075 – and this is what he sees…

  • America will be dominant in most sectors – economic, military, cultural.
  • The 21st-century will not belong to China, because it is simply not built to succeed. Its economy is driven by the dollar, and its political structures are totalitarian. Further, China will lose out to Russia in Asia.
  • As for the European Union, it will fall apart, because of its unsustainable commitment to ecology, which will entirely suffocate freedom, innovation, and the ordinary people’s ability to save. There will be more riots, like the Yellow Vests, because the middle-class will no longer be able to afford necessities, such as, heating, electricity, transportation.
  • Thus, Europe will be partly rebarbarized, before a probable rebound.

But despite all this, the fire of humanity’ advancement will continue to burn in America, from where it will once again rekindle humanity to achieve all that its genius allows.

Godefridi ends his book with this hopeful declaration – “Le XXIe siècle est américain” (The 21st-century is American).

The image shows, “Major Anderson Raising the Flag on the Morning of His Taking Possession of Fort Sumter, Dec. 27, 1860,” by Edwin D. White, painted in 1862.

A Modest Proposal To Rescue Higher Education

There are three issues that reflect crisis in higher education: Rising costs leading to serious student debt; lack of competence of graduates in basic skills; politicization.

Costs of Higher Education

The cost of obtaining a degree has risen at an astronomical rate, compared to the overall rate of inflation. Part of the reason is that when someone else is paying (government-guaranteed loans) we cannot resist the temptation to raise prices and to overspend.

This over-spending is reflected in the fact that academic bureaucracies and support staff have swelled. They have swelled because the increase in people seeking degrees leads to a vast increase in the number of students either incapable of, or unprepared for, college-level work. Lack of preparation reflects the disaster of K-12 schooling.

Culturally, we have not honestly discussed students’ limited ability and disinterest. A large part of the educational establishment sustains the myth that it has a utopian social technology for solving all social problems.

In addition, the higher-education industry refuses to give up market share and prefers to adulterate (dumb-down) the product, as well as pursue its private political agenda, as opposed to its academic mission. It is much more exhilarating to think that you are transforming the world than to admit that you are part of a gigantic fraud.

We continue to camouflage these difficulties by doing away with the evidence – doing away with tests or other forms of objective assessment and by engaging in semantics. Faculty, who are rightly fearful of finding themselves redundant or expendable, are complicit.

Competence

Lack of competence reflects the dumbing-down of standards and achievement. The very failure of post-secondary education leads to the claim that students need more education in the form of advanced degrees – which, by the way, increases market share. The major problem here is that we have not distinguished between higher education and longer education.

Higher education, as reflected in serious requirements in multiple disciplines (what the old liberal arts degree used to reflect, like mathematics, science, history, philosophy, foreign languages, the ability to read and write critically, to do research and scholarship, etc.), is only achievable by about 20% of the school-age population – again a difficult statistic for a democratic culture to accept.

Longer education, on the other hand, is achievable by about a further 60% of the school-age population. This is what the vast majority of students really need to function in an increasingly complex economic world.

If we focused resources on this cohort, then we would produce competent graduates relevant to the workforce. The academic establishment would cry that these graduates have not been taught liberal subjects – ignoring the fact that most students are neither interested in, nor capable of, understanding these subjects or critical thinking.

It is also not clear to me that a liberal arts education makes you a better human being or a better citizen. As a result, most students do not learn what they can and should learn. Finally, the liberal arts have by now been totally politicized. For example, instead of reading Shakespeare to learn something about the human predicament, students now are led to discover that the author was racist, sexist, homophobic, and so forth.

Politicization

There is a hidden political agenda. Since the 18th-century, the intellectual world has been dominated by the ideology of the Enlightenment Project – the view, based on the false assumption that the so-called “social sciences” are like the physical sciences; that there are experts (university professors) who know the fundamental truths; such that they have a social technology which enables them to solve every social problem; and thus they should be in charge of an institution (namely, the government) with the power to implement this technology over every other social institution. In addition to being empty abstractions, mission statements are thinly veiled political agendas.

It should come as no surprise that such intellectuals favor central control and that they seek to silence dissent (including, and especially, other professors who deny the existence of these truths or this technology). If the experts were to disagree, then we would not know who, if any, are the real experts. John Stuart Mill must be turning in his grave.

These ideologues educate the K-12 faculty, the journalists and even the clergy; they dominate the publishing and media world. They offer academic positions to politicians or their spouses – the academic-political complex; they fund propaganda centers; they control who is invited to be a commencement speaker.

Given the foregoing, it should come as no surprise that the political agenda of universities is to indoctrinate students into becoming democratic socialists, i.e., to vote for the left-wing of the Democratic Party. All of this costs money and necessitates a big endowment devoted, not to education or to tuition remission – but to a political agenda.

Given these problems, I therefore propose the following remedies.

Economic

All universities should lose their tax-exempt status. They should charge a market-determined price for their services: if degrees are so valuable monetarily with regard to future income then universities should contract with students to pay no tuition (i.e., everybody goes to college for ‘free’) but students would agree to pay a modest percentage of all future earnings. Who would turn down such a great win-win offer? Presumably, some universities could focus on under-prepared students.

Universities cannot contend that they are preserving a cultural and intellectual heritage – in fact, they are trashing it. The heritage is being preserved in many other institutions and should never be the exclusive prerogative of one type of institution. Serious research in all fields is now being done primarily in think-tanks and private laboratories.

All universities should be required to contribute ¾ of their present endowment to defray the costs of student loans by present graduates of their respective schools. In many cases, universities are circumventing donor intent. The endowment is now used to pay huge salaries to administrators and consultants, and as well to turn campuses into country-clubs. Universities have engaged in false advertising by accepting students knowing that many of them will not succeed (e.g., retention rates).

Universities should be encouraged to define themselves and their own requirements – how many years, what courses. We need innovation and experimentation. We need boutique education.

There will no longer be any need for accreditation. Accreditation agencies promote uniformity not competition; they are a disguise for the imposition of the political agenda; they are so inherently corrupt (academic insiders evaluating other academic insiders) that Enron’s accounting/auditing scandal pales by comparison.

Competence

Academics favor government regulation, so why not regulate them as well?
All graduates should be required to take a competency exam consisting of four parts:

  • Basic communication skills (write a coherent paragraph)
  • Math skills
  • Technology skills (e.g. computer) [Standards to be set by the Department of Education in consultation with representatives from the top five technology companies, as determined by market value]
  • Knowledge of major public policy debates (see next section on politicization)

Those who pass the exam would be given a certification (like passing the bar exam in law or board exams in medicine). These certifications will be made public so that employers may use them in judging applicants for a position. Perhaps U.S. News and World Report could use these statistics. This is certainly more reliable than the popularity polls they use now.

If the graduate fails the exam three times, the degree must be rescinded; but the student may take the exam as many times as he/she wished. Those who fail the exam five consecutive times should be allowed to participate in a CLASS-ACTION SUIT AGAINST THEIR UNIVERSITY.

The Department of Education should evaluate schools on their certification passage rates. These ratings would be made public; below a certain passage rate would lead to the revocation of their license and eventual closure of the school.

The Department of Education is not going to disappear – every time democratic socialists are elected, they will bring it back. Every regulatory agency runs the risk of politicization. My suggestion brings it out in the open and minimizes it.

Politicization

The examinations on religion, politics, or other disputed topics, should not turn on the truth or falsehood of opinions, but on the matter of fact that such and such an opinion is held, on such and such grounds, by such and such authors, or schools, or churches. All positions would be studied.
The selection of disputed topics and the acceptable answers would be publicly posted in advance.

The Department of Education would form a special committee, both to formulate the questions and what constitutes an acceptable answer (especially the reasons or arguments for a position). The use of fallacious reasoning (e.g., ad hominem arguments) would result in disqualification.

The membership of the committee would be determined as follows: every political party that polls at least 5% of the national vote will designate their participant(s); and the number of each group’s designees will be proportional to the last presidential election. Terms will be staggered.

The Q&A will be formulated by those who advocate the position. No test is perfect but it is better than no test. Current university students have no idea that there is an alternative position on anything. The point is not to require agreement but merely require knowledge of what is being argued, by whom, and how.

Nicholas Capaldi is Legendre-Soulé Distinguished Chair in Business Ethics at Loyola University New Orleans, where he also serves as Director of the Center for Spiritual Capital. He is the founder and President of the Global Corporate Governance Institute. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and his PhD from Columbia University. His principal research and teaching interest is in public policy and its intersection with political science, philosophy, law, religion, and economics. He is the author of 8 books, over 100 articles, editor of ten anthologies, member of the editorial board of six journals, and has served as editor of Public Affairs Quarterly. He is Associate Editor of the Encyclopedia of Corporate Social Responsibility (Springer). His most recent books are Liberty and Equality in Political Economy: From Locke versus Rousseau to the Present, as well as The Anglo-American Conception of the Rule of Law. He is also the author of the Cambridge intellectual biography, John Stuart Mill.

The image shows, “The School,” by Jan Steen, painted in 1660.

How To Survive Deplatforming

Free speech and freedom of expression are often assumed to be inherent qualities of being a modern human being. However, modern life is also very much aligned with technology, where freedom has very limited currency, because it gets in the way of the larger project of the entire Internet which is the establishment of vast communities that, hive-like, depend upon like-mindedness. Such conformity is termed, “community standards,” which are policed by various rules and regulations. Transgression of these “laws” brings punishment. either mild or severe.

But the Internet is also a marketplace, where things are bought and sold, and where thousands, if not millions, of people have established flourishing careers. Here, the question of freedom seems entirely irrelevant, since all manner of things can be bought and sold – even the most heinous (like pornography of the worst sort and human trafficking). There is no internal policing here, and thus no limit to what can be bought and sold.

Access to the Internet, whether for information, communication or commerce, is controlled by platforms and their owners. And those who own and control these platforms also own and control communities and the “standards” which govern them. At the same time, these platforms provide the means for effective commerce. For example, most people use the platform known as, Facebook, for communication – while most other people use Facebook to sell things. This dual function makes Facebook both a communications company and a service-provider for commerce.

But notice what takes place in this dynamic – suddenly, Facebook is both a policing agency which cannot allow any sort of disruption of the harmony that it is trying to establish within its community of the like-minded – while also being an open marketplace, in which it also profitably participates by selling ads. Thus, where does Facebook’s allegiance lie? To the community, or to the marketplace? This question, in fact, burdens all other platform owners also, such as, Twitter, Youtube, Google, Instagram, and so forth.

What happens when the community feels disrupted and complains to the platform owner to do something about the disrupter who happens to be using the platform for commerce? As has been happening rather regularly, the platform heeds the community and exiles the disrupter who has no recourse for appeal and everything that he/she has built is immediately shut down.

This is known as a “deplatforming campaign,” where the outraged bombard service platforms with complaining emails and messages asking that the disrupter’s very presence be entirely removed. Does the platform owner do nothing and continue to profit from the disrupter’s commerce? Or, does the platform obey the will of the outraged community – and drive the disrupter from the platform forever?

Welcome to the Cancel Culture – where what you say may not just get you banned from using the largest services on the Internet, but may also get you banned from using essential services like banking and credit cards – just because someone did not like what you said online. This modern-day version of exile is known as, “deplatforming.”

It is a dire problem, affecting thousands of people, many of whom have lost all ability to earn a living. Suddenly, the question of freedom takes on a far grimmer aspect, in that it starkly shows that for some, being deprived of freedom means not only the inability to speak online – but even being deprived of money. In the great juggernaut of mega tech-companies that own the Internet, the deplatformed individual instantly becomes a non-entity, a non-person, who is also denied financial services, such as, banking and credit cards.

Given the fact that cancel culture is only growing, in which outrage is the new morality, it is indeed timely that Mark E. Jeftovic has written, Unassailable. Defend Yourself From Deplatform Attacks, Cancel Culture & Other Online Disasters. Jeftovic is certainly the right person to be writing this book, as he runs a technology company himself, in Toronto, Canada, and is a current Director of the Internet Society, Canada Chapter. So, the wisdom that he imparts is not theoretical, but solid and practical.

Therefore, this book is filled with valuable insights about the problem of deplatforming – but more importantly it also offers real and viable solutions to arm the ordinary individual with strategies to survive and thrive online. This is especially crucial for people who make a living online. Jeftovic lays out his plan clearly: “This book is for anybody who earns their living online. While primarily it is for content creators, many of the principles in this book can be used by any business that relies heavily on their internet presence, and as such must take measures to remain online at all times.”

For those who might imagine that this all some tempest in a teapot and far beyond their own interaction with the world online, Jeftovic has this to say: “Even if you are a content creator who assumes nothing you say is controversial enough to attract a deplatforming campaign, bear in mind that what seems reasonable today may be considered beyond the pale tomorrow.”

The book begins with a Foreward by Charles Hugh Smith, which is a chilling but spirited summary of what is truly at stake: “Societies around the world are experiencing unprecedented cultural purges of ideas and narratives that challenge the status quo. In some nations, this purge is managed by the central government, China being a leading example. In the developed Western nations, this purge is being conducted by private for-profit technology platforms that function as quasi-monopolies in Internet search, video and advertising (Google) and social media (Facebook and Twitter).”

These tech giants are now all-powerful kingdoms who control their realms and their borders very effectively; and their decisions are final and without any due recourse: “A content creator banned by a tech platform has no rights or recourse: the platform is not obligated to identify the “crime” that supposedly violated their User Agreement or present evidence in support of this accusation. The banned user has no means to contest the ‘conviction’ or the ‘sentence.’” Thought criminals are therefore made invisible instantly.

This silencing, or rather erasure, of people is now on-going and persistent practice because these “tech platforms wield extra-legal powers that are impervious to conventional government protections of civil liberties. (Those who attempt to sue these corporations face legal teams larger than those serving government agencies.) Users agree to open-ended Terms of Service that the corporations can interpret however they please, without any transparent process of appeal or redress.”

In effect, if people do not know how to protect themselves, they will always be victims online. It is this protection through knowledge that Jeftovic offers – and his book is the very blueprint for being empowered online in the years ahead.

The book itself is divided into two parts. The first is historical in nature and is therefore entitled, “The Battle for Narrative Control.” Here, Jeftovic provides context for the “culture war” currently being fought on all fronts by those who want to make sure that people only have access to a certain kind of “truth;” that the harmony of like-mindedness is rigorously maintained; and that freedom means absolute conformity. Such hive-mindedness can only result in a society that is “less intolerant and more inclusive with each successive generation.”

In fact, all of us are now used to the conditions of groupthink, because we respond in the prescribed manner whenever we encounter certain “trigger-words.” Jeftovic warns: “The real threats today have names like “the greater good”, “the science is settled”, “that’s a conspiracy theory” and any other variation on a theme that some people feel it’s within their purview to decide what ideas are acceptable for everybody else, and more perniciously, that any disagreement is illegitimate and not permissible.”

Part II is entitled, “What You Do About It,” and it is an honest and highly useful blueprint to entirely and fully own your own means of production (to use a convenient Marxist phrase). If you rely solely on the means of production provided by the platforms of the tech-giants, you will always be in danger of being silenced, unpersoned, and financially destroyed.

Jeftovic then proceeds a give step-by-step, and easy-to-follow methodology, through which you can “own the race-course,” as he puts it. He covers all the essentials that are necessary to ensure your financial and even ideological survival on the Internet. These include: owning and promoting your own brand; the best webhosting; how to do blogs the right way; how to engage with discussion forums; how to get the right kind of email service; how to podcast; how to buy and sell online; avoiding bad revenue models and using good revenue models; how to get on alternative platforms, and much else besides.

Since, Part II is really a how-to instruction manual, it would be unfair to summarize what Jeftovic teaches, for most of it is proprietorial information that will be available to those who purchase this book. To do otherwise would be stealing his commercial thunder, as it were. For those that truly want to use the Internet as a means to exchange ideas and to enter into profitable commerce, then Unassailable truly is an essential and necessary vademecum.

In one of his thought-pieces at the very end of the book, Jeftovic has this to say: “Do you really want to live in a world where people sever business and personal relationships because a literal flash mob demands it? Where mobs get to pick and choose who you are allowed to associate with?”

How will you answer these crucial questions in this society where outrage is a valuable commodity? Perhaps, the greatest way to thumb one’s nose at tech-tyranny is to survive and to prosper, no matter what the tech-giants throw our way. Jeftovic has likely written a revolutionary manifesto about winning freedom in this tech Dark Age.

The image shows, “The Gathering” by the Swedish illustrator Simon Stålenhag, painted in 2015.

What Is Political Realism?

Well sourced and documented, but at the same time stripped of all concessions, and freed from all conventionalism, this book boldly departs from the beaten track of the history of political ideas. Its author, Dalmacio Negro Pavón, a renowned political scientist in the Hispanic world, is among those who best embodies the European academic tradition – that of an era when political correctness had not yet taken its toll, and when the majority of academics adhered with conviction – and not by opportunism as happens so often today – to the scientific values of rigor, probity and integrity.

What does this tell us? Let us demonstrate by drawing, largely, upon his analyses, his words, and his formulations.

Historically, the world has had no other form of government than that of the few (the ruling minority); and any government needs public support. There is no political community without hierarchy; no hierarchy without organization, no social organization which cannot materialize without the leadership of a small number. This is called the “iron law of oligarchy.”

Behind all known forms of government (monarchy, aristocracy, democracy – according to the classic classification; democracy and dictatorship – according to modern classification), there is only one minority which dominates the immense majority. The multiple possible variants of government depend on the type of makeover of this minority, and the limits and controls to which this minority submits in the exercise of power.

Oligarchic positions are never disputed by the masses; rather, it is the different factions of the political class which dispute them. The governed do not intervene in this permanent dispute, except as a breeding ground for new contenders for power, as a breeding ground for new elites. The governed are spectators; sometimes animators; rarely referees.

When an oligarchy is discredited, it is invariably replaced by another in search of prestige, that is to say, of exercising legitimacy, ready, if necessary, to use demagoguery. Popular sovereignty is a myth which allows the oligarchs all the abuses and all the scams imaginable. The Utopian who dreams that it is possible to eliminate selfishness in politics and to base a political system on morality alone does not hit the target, any more than the realist who believes that altruism is an illusion and that all political action is based on selfishness.

Apart from the eternally naïve, political consensus (a collective expression of the loyalty of the political class towards itself) only deceives those who want to deceive themselves, for personal convenience, or to obtain some favors. Political problems cannot be resolved definitively. In politics there is only room for compromise.

What about democracy in Europe? It is less a religion than a superstition, a substitute, a substitute or an appearance of faith, which was born from the religions of politics. It is “an organized hypocrisy,” said Schumpeter; it is reduced to the opportunity that the partitocratic oligarchies offer the governed to periodically decide on an option, generally limited, after having carried out a large operation of information or marketing to win public opinion.

That said, and despite everything, it seems that a large part of the people is more and more aware of the existence of the iron law of the oligarchy. On the other hand, and more and more fearful, the oligarchy tightens to the maximum the screws which subject the demos to the singular supermarket that is the State of the political parties. We know the reactions of hostility, contempt and fear that populist movements and popular rebellions like the “Yellow Vests” (in France) arouse in almost the entire European establishment.

A revolution needs leaders, but statism has infantilized the conscience of Europeans. It has undergone such a contagion that the emergence of real leaders has become almost impossible, and that when it occurs, mistrust prevents people from following them. It is therefore better, once you reach this stage, to trust chance, boredom or humor, all major historical forces, to which we do not pay enough attention because they are hidden behind the screen of progressive enthusiasm.

The analyses, questions and harsh remarks, often even very corrosive, of Negro Pavón are unlikely to make him friends among the small number of those in power, or among their often- servile supporters of the political, economic and media-cultural world. But he does not care. Former professor of the history of political ideas at the Complutense University of Madrid, currently professor emeritus of political science at the University San Pablo de Madrid, member of the Royal Academy of Moral Sciences and Politics, the author of over twenty books and several hundred articles, he has nothing left to prove.

A fine connoisseur of classical and modern European political thought, an excellent polyglot, an inveterate reader of all the great European and American authors, Pavón invites us on a remarkable journey through the history of Western politics while at the same time giving us a lucid and penetrating diagnosis of the reality of Europe and the West today.

Pavón is openly attached to the School of Political Realism. It is therefore not useless, before ceding to him the pen, to recall in broad outline why this School of thought is so often the object of misunderstandings, procrastination and caricatures. What do we mean by political realism, or by the tradition in politics of Machiavellianism, which yet does not become Machiavellian?

Before answering, we must mention the usual depreciative arguments of his opponents. Realism would be, according to them, the cult of the epoch, a Manichean, pragmatic, opportunistic, fatalistic and desperate ideology, an ideology of dominants, cantors of conformism, which makes the moment an end in itself, which considers the present to be unsurpassable, which refuses to think about change and the future.

But this indictment, now so widespread, is after all just one more illustration of the misdeeds of ideological fog. It is reminiscent of the enlightened (or benighted) Anti-Machiavelli despot, Frederick II, who wrote in order to seduce and abuse the Europe of philosophers. As the ad to the fiction films of my youth said: “any resemblance to real situations existing or having existed is only a coincidence.” As we will see, political realism is, on the contrary, a method of analysis and of complete, intense and radical criticism of all constituted power.

Strictly speaking, political realism is neither a homogeneous school nor a unitary intellectual family. It is only a habitus, a disposition of mind, a point of view of study or research which seeks to clarify the rules that policy follows. It is not the defense of the status quo, the defense of the established order, or the doctrine which justifies the position of men in power, as its adversaries claim falsely.

Political realism starts from the facts, but it does not go before them. It is not disinterested in the final ends and is distinguished in this from the cynical type of pseudo-realism which reduces politics to the will to power, to the reign and to the worship of force in its purest form. The authentic political realist is a man with principles, morals, and a deep awareness of the duties and responsibilities of political action. Prudence, wisdom, balance, a sense of responsibility and firmness of character are the keys to his thinking.

The precursors of this realistic school of thought are, for example: Thucydides, Aristotle, Ibn Khaldoun, Machiavelli, Gabriel Naudé, Hobbes, Tocqueville, and many others.

Among the contemporaries and the moderns we may cite: Moisey Ostrogorski, Vilfredo Pareto, Robert Michels, Gaetano Mosca, Carl Schmitt, Max Weber, Simone Weil, Raymond Aron, Gaston Bouthoul, James Burnham, Benedetto Croce, Maurice Duverger, Gonzalo Fernández de la Mora, Julien Freund, Bertrand de Jouvenel, Halford Mackinder, Harold Laski, Gianfranco Miglio, Jules Monnerot, Michael Oakeshott, Giovanni Sartori, Eric Voegelin, Jerónimo Molina Cano, Alessandro Campi, and many others, with often very different convictions (conservatives, liberals, socialists, etc.).

The authentic realist affirms that the finality proper to politics is the common good. But he recognizes the vital necessity of non-political ends (happiness and justice). According to him, politics is at the service of man.

The mission of politics is not to change man or make him better (which is the path of totalitarianism), but to organize the conditions of human coexistence, to shape the community, to ensure internal harmony and external security. That is why, in his view, conflicts must be channeled, regulated, institutionalized and, as far as possible, resolved without violence.

Dalmacio Negro Pavón rigorously addresses each of the ideas of political realism. The two main ones are found in the titles of the first two essays of his book, The Iron Law of the Oligarchy, namely, “Law Immanent in Politics,” and “Demystifying Democracy.”

He then completes these two essays with a shorter essay, “On the Dominant Political Theology,” which deals with the theological-political question; or, if one prefers – on the existential and spiritual causes of the current situation, especially on the importance of the influence of theological heresies on modern political thought and attitudes.

Thus, we may classify all of the ideas in his book in the following order:

First idea: The inevitability of oligarchy, and the governing–governed division. This is the famous law of bronze, the bronze or iron of oligarchy, formulated by Robert Michels. Depending on the regimes and the societies, as we have said, the circulation of elites may be more or less large, but in the last resort, it is always the small number, the minority that rules.

Second idea: Ideal democracy is unattainable and democratic symbols are fictions. The complexity of the problems, and above all the size of societies, constitute as many obstacles to self-government. In general, politicians know this, but everyone also knows the importance of speech-magic.

On the other hand, real democracies always tend to become oligarchies. The more democracy gets organized, the more it tends to decline. The more it is organized, the more the possibilities of coaction and manipulation of the masses increase. “Democracy, government of the people, by the people and for the people,” according to Lincoln’s famous phrase, is Utopian or religious. Democracy is a method. It cannot be an end, an absolute ideal, a moral imperative. Democratic ideology, democratic faith, is rhetoric. It only serves to evade responsibility and crush opposition in the name of the people.

Third idea: Politics cannot avoid a vision of man. The political realist may think that man is historic, or that there is a human nature. But in both cases, he considers that human impulses largely explain the unstable nature of political institutions and the conflictual nature of politics.

Fourth idea: Recognition of the inherently conflicting nature of politics. Life will always be the theater of conflicts and differences. Politics, in the traditional sense, is the great “neutralizer” of conflicts. This is why systematic and blind resistance to any form of power (the belief that “power is evil”) is an excellent method to accelerate the corruption of power and lead to its substitution by other forms of power, which are often much more problematic and more despotic.

Just because a people lose the strength or the will to survive or to assert themselves in the political sphere – does not mean that politics will disappear from the world. History is not tender – Woe to the strong who become weak!

Fifth idea: Skepticism about forms of government. It is impossible to scientifically make a categorical judgment on the suitability of any of the regimes in place. There is no optimal or perfect regime. Each political regime is a contingent and unique solution, a transitory response to the eternal problem of politics. All regimes are also subject to wear and tear and corruption.

Sixth idea: The rejection of all mono-causal interpretation of politics as biased and arbitrary. Mono-causal explanations “in the last instance” by economics, by politics, by culture, by morals, etc. are reductionist and make no sense.

The study of political parties and unions, carried out by Robert Michels at the beginning of the 20th-century, reveals particularly well the fundamental characteristic of societies: The tendency to oligarchy. A political party is no more and no less than a group of people who unite to conquer and retain power. Everything else (even the ideology) is secondary.

The parties are born as elitist groups and become organizations of notables; then, with universal suffrage, they are most often transformed into mass parties. But when they organize themselves strongly, they always obey the iron law of the oligarchy. The analysis of “mass parties” has laid bare some general principles which can be stated as follows.

  • The bulk of the population is struck with a kind of political incapacity. When they lose their leaders, they withdraw and abandon the political field.
  • Oligarchy is a social necessity. The principle of organization is an absolutely essential condition for political struggle.
  • It is the minorities and not the masses who vie for power. The leaders of all the camps present themselves as the spokespersons of the people – but, in reality, it is always the struggle between the old minority, which defends its hegemony, and the new ambitious minority which intends to conquer power.
  • Leadership is tendentially autocratic. Leaders do not just want to last, they always want more power. The alienation of the masses, the professionalization, the intellectual and cultural level of the leaders, the tendency to seek renewal by cooption, even nepotism, are powerful elements which contribute to the isolation of the leaders. Base rebellions have very little chance of success.
  • The party is an instrument of domination. Contrary to what they claim, the parties are organizations that want elected officials to dominate voters and are agents of dominating constituents.
  • The oligarchic tendency is consubstantial with the parties. Only a minority participate in party decisions, and often this minority is ridiculously small.

Conclusion: Real democracy is an oligarchy elected by the people. It excludes the use of physical violence but not moral violence (unfair, fraudulent or restricted competition). Two conditions may allow the reform in depth of current political democracy for the benefit of the people.

First, the represented should be able to regain the freedom to directly control the representatives or elected officials which ability has been improperly taken away from them. This would require the establishment of a majority electoral system with an imperative mandate. Representatives would thus be obliged to respect the imperative mandate of their respective voters.

Finally, for the people to be able, if not to direct and govern, then at least to integrate and participate durably in political life, the principle of direct democracy should be widely accepted, via the Popular Initiative Referendum (PIR), or the Citizen Initiated Referendum(CIR).

However, one can be a skeptic or a lucid pessimist but refuse to despair. We cannot eliminate oligarchies. So be it! But, as Dalmacio Negro Pavón tells us, there are political regimes that are more or less capable of mitigating and controlling their effects.

The crux of the matter is to prevent those in power from being mere conveyors of the interests, desires and feelings of the political, social, economic and cultural oligarchy. Men always fear the power to which they are subjected. But the power which makes them submit also fears the community over which it reigns. And there is an essential condition for political democracy to be possible and for its corruption to become much more difficult, if not impossible, as Dalmacio Negro Pavón further emphasizes.

Attitudes towards government must always be wary, even when it comes to friends or people for whom we voted. Bertrand de Jouvenel rightly said in this connection: “the government of friends is the barbaric way of governing.”

This extract constitutes the “Introduction” by Arnaud Imatz to La loi de fer de l’oligarchie. Pourquoi le gouvernement du peuple, par le peuple, pour le peuple est un leurre (The Iron Law of Oligarchy. Why Government of the People, by the People, for the People is a Decoy), by Dalmacio Negro Pavón (2019).

Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECD. He is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left – all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés.

Translated from the French by N. Dass.

The image shows, “The Continence of Scipio,” by Nicolas Poussin, painted in 1640.

Human Rights – Not All That Universal

The intellectual hegemony that the proponents of the human rights ideology claim to exert has made us somewhat forget that it was vigorously contested in 1948.

In the opinion of a good number of political commentators, the moralization and ideologization of human rights has led to formidable abuses. Contrary to the international diplomatic tradition of negotiation and dialogue, the concept of human rights is nowadays widely used to exclude, ostracize, or humiliate adversaries.

Since the 1990s, nothing has proven more dangerous to stability and world peace than the Manichaean precept of, “human rights or chaos.” A key element of the new globalist Bible (along with individualism, consumerism and multiculturalism), human rights have become a sort of Trojan horse for Western military interventionism.

This risk had been anticipated by the most prestigious intellectuals in the immediate post-war period. Gandhi, Harold Laski, Benedetto Croce, Emmanuel Mounier and many other thinkers from all walks of life, were severe, or at least reserved, when drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948. They did not question the uniqueness of human nature, but challenged the unreal or Utopian nature of the universality of human rights. A critical attitude, widespread at the time, is today ignored or overlooked by the mainstream media.

The profusion of texts published on the occasion of the preparation of the Universal Charter, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations – in Paris, at the Palais de Chaillot – on December 10, 1948, deserves an in-depth analysis. We will limit ourselves here to recalling the main philosophical and legal objections, which were made during the drafting project, before presenting a choice of edifying reflections and testimonies.

The first step is to destroy a myth. The French Revolution was not the “founding event” of democratic modernity on a planetary level; it was only a case in point. It takes gross ignorance or bad faith to identify the ideas of democracy, liberalism and human rights with those of 1789.

The liberal economist, Wilhelm Röpke, wrote precisely on this subject: “Democratic and liberal history can claim dates that are much more convincing than 1789.” To be convinced, in addition to evoking the role and place of local assemblies in the Middle Ages, we can list a host of dates that have been forgotten or passed over in silence.

We can indeed evoke the Cortes of Leon of 1188, the Catalan Cortes of 1192 (in the Iberian Peninsula); the Magna Carta of 1215 (in England); the Golden Bull of 1222 (in Hungary); the Swiss Federal Charter of 1291, the general Swedish code of King Magnus Erikson (around 1350); the Dutch Federation of 1579; the Petition of Right of 1628 (in England), the Mayflower Compact (of the Pilgrim Fathers of America) of 1620; the Bill of Rights of 1689 (in England); the Declaration of independence of 1776 (in the United States of America); the Constitution of the United States of 1789 with its famous amendments; the Swiss Federal Constitution of 1848 and 1874, and so on. Unlike the French Revolution of 1789, these dates do not mark breaks, but stages of a slow and progressive evolution.

A brief historical reminder helps to break a second myth. A certain French chauvinism leads to claim that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is directly inspired, on the initiative of René Cassin, by the Declaration of Human and Citizen Rights of 1789. A similar reading leads the Americans to claim the model of their own Declaration and the “motherhood” of Eleanor Roosevelt.

The reality is much more complex because the contributions are multiple. The history of this text teaches us that very many personalities from countries as different as Australia, Canada, Chile, China, the United States, France, India, Lebanon, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the USSR actively participated in its design. Among the eighteen members, who made up the Human Rights Commission, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, eight were on the Drafting Committee responsible for drafting the preliminary text.

Among them, the Canadian John P. Humphrey, the Chilean Hernán Santa Cruz, the Chinese Peng Chung Chang, the French René Cassin, the Indian Hansa Mehta, the Lebanese Charles Malik, and the Filipino Carlos Rómulo.

Debates in the Commission and in the Committee saw deep philosophical and ideological differences when the Cold War began. The rights of women and ethnic minorities, freedom of religion, the right to property, the importance of individual rights, the place that should be given to economic and social rights, the freedom to contest, the concepts of duty and of responsibility, and finally, the role of the State – all proved to be formidable stumbling blocks. In the compromise, finally adopted in 1948, it was the western, liberal and individualist conceptions which prevailed.

As the past few decades have shown, human rights are written in history and vary in time and space. Several international declarations have been adopted, emphasizing the relative and evolving nature of each. This was the case with the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950 and the Additional Protocol of 1953. In 1966, two international covenants supplemented and corrected the Declaration of 1948, introducing the rights of peoples, minorities, women, the concept of duty and the concept of cultural heritage of humanity.

Then, there were the Pacts and the Program of Action of the World Conferences in Vienna (1993) and Durban (2001), the Declarations of UNESCO (notably the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity of 2001), and the International Labor Organization (ILO), without forgetting the charters adopted at the regional level (Africa, Asia, Pacific, Latin America, Arab and Muslim world). Thus, a declaration of human rights in Islam, under the influence of sharia, was adopted in 1990 in Cairo by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

All of these texts have tried to take greater account of the diversity of cultures. All have rewritten, amended and outgrown the 1948 Universal Declaration, which can no longer be viewed as the sole reference.

Human rights are a concept according to which all human beings have universal and inalienable rights, whatever their nationality, ethnicity or religion. These rights, which aim to protect the dignity of the individual, are enforceable in all circumstances against society and the State.

But the origin, validity and content of human rights are a constant subject of debate. The most diverse personalities and authors, such as, Bentham, Burke, Marx, or the popes who preceded John XXIII and Paul VI, to name but a few, underscored these rights’ specious, impracticable, contradictory, ethnocentric and Utopian character.

Legions of historians, theologians and philosophers of law have criticized their alleged universality and their ideological character. They have shown that, under the guise of granting infinite satisfaction to all, the system works exclusively for the benefit of the few.

Theologians regard these rights as a political instrument in the hands of the powerful. Marxists denounce class rights within them. Historians and geopoliticians commonly see them as a political weapon, a means for powerful nations to maintain their domination or the status quo. Jurists often argue that the law presupposes a relationship between men, an objective factor external to the person, while human rights derive only from man himself, from his nature.

Many, finally, denounce the erroneous vision of an individual barricaded in his sovereignty, when the person must be considered within the framework of a social group (family, ethnicity, nation, religion) strongly bound by social duties and ethical norms.

On a metaphysical and religious level, it has been possible to criticize human rights for being based only on man, instead of being founded first on the rights of God. This is how we usually oppose the American Declaration (1776), which intended to transcribe and proclaim the rights conferred by the creator and legislator God, to the French Declaration (1789), which founds human rights on human will and ignores God.

For sociologists, the ideology of human rights considers the sovereign individual, locked in his citadel of inalienable rights and more important than his community of belonging, as the ultimate goal of political association. Faced with the “natural” aspiration of men to obtain universal, absolute and abstract “rights,” cultural traditions are secondary, incidental, even illegitimate.

Moreover, these rights generally refer to the satisfaction of quantifiable needs. Finally, the ideology of human rights considers that a world organization, conceived as a last resort, is always preferable to sovereign nations. All these principles implicitly assume the existence of a universal reason common to all men, a reason which, because of its universality, must prevail over the cultural and historical specificities of peoples.

Law historian and philosopher, Michel Villey, notes that “respect for the human person is not the invention of Kant or even of Christianity. There was no more exalted virtue in Rome than humanitas, which is both the duty to perfect human nature in oneself and to respect it in others.” Christian revelation undoubtedly exalts human dignity more, but the expression “human rights” remains absent in Christian literature.

The Spanish thinkers of the School of Salamanca (1483-1617), at the origin of the great concepts of modern public international law, ignore it and prefer to draw from the natural law of duties, obligations borne by individuals, rather than rights.

All of them extol the community values of solidarity and cooperation between human beings and against the individualist values of selfishness and competition. “Catholicism is not the cradle of human rights,” insists Villey. The papacy, until John XXIII, remained constant in its attitude of hostility to human rights. In fact, “human rights originate in a deviated Christian theology… They are the product of modern philosophy, hatched in the 17th century,” with Hobbes and Locke playing the founding roles here.

Michel Villey, therefore, points out that “Each of the alleged human rights is the negation of other human rights, and practiced separately generates injustices.” And again, “We have never seen in history that human rights were exercised for the benefit of all. The problem with human rights is that no one can participate, except to the detriment of certain men.”

For his part, the Spanish philosopher, Raimon Panikkar, specialist in the comparative history of religions, stresses that “human rights are a Western intellectual construction.” He further adds that “It is clear that the Declaration (of 1948) was constructed according to the prevailing historical currents of Western thought over the past three centuries, and in accordance with a certain philosophical anthropology, or a certain individualist humanism, which helped provide a rationale.”

The political scientist, specialist in ethnic and linguistic minorities, Joseph Yacoub, also notes that human rights are eminently culturally dependent and that they are dependent on political manipulation and instrumentalization: “Human rights actually vary from place to place and from time to time. The underlying values, freedom, equality, tolerance, non-discrimination, etc., are historically relative and evolving.”

France has known a succession of declarations since 1789. The Constitution of the United States, the oldest in force, has been amended twenty-seven times. The 1948 Universal Declaration was supplemented by a series of subsequent texts. The various nations, conglomerates of nations and international organizations of Africa, Asia and America have adapted human rights to their worldviews, thus demonstrating that the human person is perceived and protected distinctly according to civilizations and cultures.

It is often unknown that a good number of intellectuals, in particular French, such as Emmanuel Mounier, Jacques Maritain, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, or Georges Gurvitch, in their time, severely criticized the excess of individualism and rationalism of rights human, their lack of reference to duties and obligations, their ignorance of the rights of natural communities born outside the State (the family, the nation, the economic and working communities, the international community), and finally, their silence on social and economic rights.

In 1947, UNESCO carried out an inquiry into “the theoretical problems raised by the drafting of an International Declaration of Human Rights.” A questionnaire was sent to various personalities from the member nations of the organization and a document was published on June 15, 1948, under the title, A Collective Approach to the Problems of Human Rights, preceded by a preface by Jacques Maritain. This “manuscript” contains the answers of Gandhi, Harold Laski, Teilhard de Chardin, Benedetto Croce, Aldous Huxley, Salvador de Madariaga, Emmanuel Mounier, Richard P. McKeon, E.H. Carr, Luc Somerhausen, and many others.

Among the responses published, many would today bring their authors the wrath of the censors of social welfare. Let us see what they say.

Mahatma Gandhi sneeringly objected: “I learned from my mother, illiterate but very wise, that all the rights worthy of being deserved and preserved are those which come from accomplished duty… One could show that any other right is only a usurpation for which it is not worth fighting for.”

The English historian of international relations, Edward Hallett Carr, said for his part that “No declaration of rights which does not also include a declaration of the corresponding obligations can have real meaning.”

Socialist theorist Harold Joseph Laski, former president of the British Labor Party (1945–1946), warned: “Any attempt by the United Nations to draw up a Declaration of Human Rights, based on individualist conceptions, would inevitably be doomed to failure… In fact, if a declaration of this kind does not take into account the important ideological differences which exist between political societies and their effects on individual and collective behavior, there will be nothing to gain and much to lose by formulating it… We do not have the right to awaken the hope of humanity, if we are not able to create the conditions without which this hope cannot be realized.”

The anti-fascist philosopher Benedetto Croce, founder of the Italian Liberal Party, was even more severe: “I do not even see how it could be possible to formulate a declaration which constitutes a compromise and that would not thus be meaningless or arbitrary. It may be that you and your colleagues, when you set to work, discover the futility and impossibility of this work, and even if I may say it, the danger of making readers smile at the naivety of men who have designed and formulated such a declaration.”

The Belgian lawyer, J. Haesaert, drove the point home: “The lawyers know very well that the laws are impotent without mores… In short, the essential is not the law, but the common conduct to which it is the adminicle… It is to prepare for new disappointments in seeking slogans rather than educating people: the spirit of good neighborliness would advantageously replace the most eloquent declarations of the world, and propagating it is a matter more of the educator than the lawyer.”

Cautious, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin declared that “the human races are not equal but different and complementary like the children of the same family.”

The Unitarian political scientist Quincy Wright, a professor at the University of Chicago, noted that human nature is the product of a particular culture. Consequently, “human rights must be stated taking into account their relativity.”

Censor of rationalism and individualism, Emanuel Mounier, suggested a “rectified draft declaration of human and community rights,” based on an investigation by the journal, Esprit, published in May 1945.

Philosopher Filmer Stuart C. Northrop, a professor at Yale University, warned: “A bill of rights for all countries cannot be based solely on the values and traditional ideological claims of one or the other.”

The Chinese philosopher, Chung-Shu Lo, developed the Confucian concept of human rights: “Man must fulfill his duties towards others rather than claiming rights. This is the moral foundation of social and political relations in China. The notion of mutual obligations is the essential teaching of Confucianism.”

The English journalist and novelist, Aldous Huxley, insisted on the importance of the economic rights of the most underprivileged.

The Bengali Muslim poet, philosopher and politician, Humayun Kabir, emphasized that “the Western conception of human rights has a fundamental flaw. Whatever these rights are, in theory, they are very often recognized, in practice, only by Europeans, and sometimes even by certain Europeans only.”

Indian thinker S.V. Puntambekar, professor at the University of Nagpur, warned: “Thinking only of liberties by neglecting the virtues which are their corollaries, would lead to an imbalance of life and to stagnation or even to degradation of personality as well as chaos and social conflicts.”

Neurophysiologist Ralph W. Gerard, President of the American Physiological Society, provided the biologist’s perspective: “Human rights and duties cannot be absolute, but always relate to the environment.” They are “a function of culture. Any doctrine which sees in man only the individual or the unit within the group, is necessarily false. The duality of man, both individual and element of society is inevitable.” Life evolves, and as a result “any declaration of rights will become imperfect at some point, and can only lose its value.”

The Australian anthropologist, Adolphus Peter Elkin, professor at the University of Sidney, points out: “Out of society, the individual would have no rights.” On the other hand, “all human rights are also relative, because they have for their origin and as a condition the necessities of common life, which shapes and nourishes personal life.”

In his preface to this survey, Jacques Maritain justified belief in human rights, but only as a “common ideology limited to the practical order.” He emphasized that “for peoples to agree on how to effectively enforce human rights, they should have in common… at least a practical conception of man and of life, a shared philosophy of life.”

And Maritain was forced to develop an absurd theory that in the area of human rights action precedes thought. Instead of trying to justify and define human rights, he said, “put them into practice and protect them.” As early as 1942, Maritain had published in New York a harsh criticism of the individualism of human rights, in which he said, “We ended up treating the individual as a god, and we gave him all the rights so that we might see him with absolute and unlimited rights of a god.”

In 1952, UNESCO published the famous brochure by Claude Lévi-Strauss, Race and History, which the latter finalized, almost twenty years later, with his conference, Race and Culture (1971), delivered at the headquarters of the same organization. On this double occasion, the famous anthropologist also manifested a singularly critical attitude towards the Western conception of human nature, “universalist and ethnocentric,” which is at the heart of the declaration of human rights.

There are so many texts, comments, reflections and arguments that are today “politically incorrect,” that the mainstream media has, for the long term or temporarily (?), swept under the rug.

Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECD. He is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left – all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés

Translated from the French by N. Dass.

The image shows, “Flachsscheuer in Laren (Flax Barn in Laren),” by Max Liebermann, painted in 1887.

The Many Myths Of The Spanish Inquisition

To 21st Century sensibilities, to speak of Holy and Inquisition in the same phrase would seem a contradiction. Never has a subject seen so much ink-slinging — or whitewashing — as the Holy Inquisition. The modern mentality has a natural difficulty in understanding an institution like the Inquisition because the inquisitorial process was not predicated on liberal doctrines such as freedom of thought, which became central in Western culture in the 18th Century.

The modern mind has difficulty in grasping religious belief as something objective, outside the realm of free private judgment. Nor does the modern mind see the Catholic Church as a perfect and sovereign society where orthodoxy should be maintained at any cost.

Religious intolerance is not a unique product of the Middle Ages: everywhere and always in the past men believed nothing disturbed commonweal and public peace so much as religious dissensions and conflicts.

By the Middle Ages, it had become accepted that the gravest kind of crisis was that which threatened the unity and security of the Latin Church, and not to proceed against the heretics with every means at the disposal of Christian society was not only foolish, but a betrayal of Christ Himself. The modern concept of the secular State, neutral toward all religions, would have shocked the medieval mind.

Modern men experience difficulty in understanding this institution because they have lost sight of three facts. First of all, they have ceased to grasp religious belief as something objective, as a gift of God, and therefore outside the realm of free private judgment.

Second, they no longer see in the Church a perfect and sovereign society, based substantially on a pure and authentic Revelation, whose first and most important duty must naturally be to retain unsullied this original deposit of faith. That orthodoxy should be maintained at any cost seemed self-evident to the medieval mind. Heresy, since it affected the soul, was a crime more dangerous than murder, since the eternal life of the soul was worth much more than the mortal life of the flesh.

Finally, modern man has lost sight of a society in which the Church and the State constitute a closely-knit polity. The spiritual authority was inseparably intertwined with the secular in much the same way as the soul is united with the body. To divide the two into separate, watertight compartments would have been unthinkable. The State could not be indifferent about the spiritual welfare of its subjects without being guilty of treason to its first Sovereign, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Before the religious revolution of the 16th Century, these views were common to all Christians.

As William Thomas Walsh points out in Characters of the Inquisition, the positive suppression of heresy by ecclesiastical and civil authorities in Christian society is as old as monotheism itself. (In the name of religion, Moses put to death far more people than Torquemada ever did). Yet the Inquisition per se, as a distinct ecclesiastical tribunal, is of much later origin.

Historically, it operated as a phase in the growth of ecclesiastical legislation that adapted certain elements of Roman legal procedure. In its own time, it certainly would not have been understood as it is presented today. For, as Edward Peters points out so well in his landmark study, Inquisition, “the Inquisition” was an “invention” of the religious disputes and political conflicts of the 16th Century. It was later adapted to the causes of religious toleration and philosophical and political enlightenment in the 17th and 18th Centuries.

This process, which was always anti-Catholic and usually anti-Spanish, became universalized. Thus, eventually the Inquisition became representative of all repressive religions that opposed freedom of conscience, political liberty, and philosophical enlightenment.

Myth #1: The medieval Inquisition was a suppressive, all encompassing, and all-powerful, centralized organ of repression maintained by the Catholic Church.

Reality: Except in fiction, the Inquisition as a single all-powerful, horrific tribunal, “whose agents worked everywhere to thwart religious truth, intellectual freedom, and political liberty until it was overthrown sometime in the enlightened 19th Century” simply did not exist.

The myth of the Inquisition was actually shaped in the hands of “anti-Hispanic and religious reformers in the 16th Century.” It was an image assembled from a body of legends and myths, which took shape in the context of the intense religious persecution of the 16th Century.

Spain, the greatest power in Europe, who had assumed the role of defender of Catholicism, was the object of propaganda that decried “the Inquisition” as the most dangerous and characteristic of Catholic weapons against Protestantism. Later, critics of any type of religious persecution would adopt the term.

In fact, there was not one monolithic Inquisition, but three distinct inquisitions.

The Inquisition of the Middle Ages began in 1184 in southern France in response to Catharist heresy, and dissolved at the end of the 14th Century as Catharism died out. Modern studies show conclusively that there is no clear evidence that people in medieval Europe conceived of the Inquisition as a centralized organ of government. The Popes of the times had no intention of establishing a permanent tribunal. For example, not until 1367 does the title inquisitor hereticae pravitatis even appear when the Dominican Alberic was sent to Lombardy.

Pope Gregory IX did not establish the Inquisition as a distinct and separate tribunal, but appointed permanent judges who executed doctrinal functions in the name of the Pope. Where they sat, there was the Inquisition. One of the most damaging legends that was spun through the centuries is the image of an omniscient, omnipotent tribunal whose fingers reached into every corner of the land. The small number of inquisitors and their limited scope far belie the exaggerated rhetoric. At the end of the 13th Century, there were two inquisitors for the whole of Languedoc (one of the hotbeds of the Albigensian heresy), two for Provence and four to six for the rest of France.

As for the accusation that the Inquisition was an omnipresent body throughout Christendom, the Inquisition did not even exist in northern Europe, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, or England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland.

The vast majority of cases in the 13th Century were directed against the Albigensian heretics in southern France. It was not even established in Venice until 1289 and the archives of that city show that the death penalty was inflicted by the secular power on only six occasions in totu.

El Santo Oficio de la Santa Inquisition, better known as the Spanish Inquisition, started in 1478 as a State institution appointed to discover heresy, deviations from the true Faith. But Ferdinand and Isabella also instituted it to protect the conversos, or New Christians, who had become victims of popular indignation, prejudices, fears and greed. It is important to note that the Inquisition had authority only over baptized Christians, and that the unbaptized were completely free of its disciplinary measures unless they violated natural law.

Finally, The Holy Office at Rome was begun in 1542, the least active and most benign of the three variations. A recent study by John Tedeschi, The Prosecution of Heresy, deals with the Roman Inquisition and the procedures it followed after its reconstitution in the mid-16th Century in its struggle to preserve the faith and to eradicate heresy.

The value of Tedeschi’s study is that it overturns long-standing assumptions about the corruption, inhumane coercion, and injustice of the Roman Inquisition of the Renaissance, assumptions that Tedeschi admitted he harbored when he began his extensive work in the documents. What he “very gradually” began to find was that the Inquisition was not a “drumhead court, a chamber of horrors, or a judicial labyrinth from which escape was impossible.”

Tedeschi points out that the inquisitorial process included the provision of a defense attorney. Further, the accused was given right to counsel and even received a notarized copy of the entire trial (with the names of prosecution witnesses deleted) so that he might make a response. In contrast, in the secular courts of the time, the defense attorney was still playing only a ceremonial role, the felon was denied the right to counsel (until 1836), and evidence against the accused was only read in court, where he had to make the defense on the spot.

Tedeschi concluded that the Roman Inquisition did dispense legal justice in terms of the jurisprudence of early modern Europe and even goes so far as to say, “it may not be an exaggeration to claim, in fact, that in several respects the Holy Office was a pioneer in judicial reform”.

Myth #2: The Inquisition was born from the bigotry, cruelty and intolerance of the medieval world, dominated by the Catholic Church.

Reality: The Inquisition found its beginnings in a calm, measured, and deliberate attempt to set up a juridical instrument of conformity that would eliminate the caprice, anger, and bigotry of the mobs. Further, the medieval inquisitors were combating a social, and not just theological, danger.

At the end of the 12th Century, the Inquisition was established in southern France in response to the Albigensian heresy, which found particular strength in the cities of Lombardy and Languedoc. It is important to point out the social dangers presented to all society by this group, which was not just a prototype of modern Protestant fundamentalism, the popular view of our day.

The term Albigensian derives from the town of Albi in southern France, a center of Cathar activity. The Cathars (the name refers to the designation of its adherents as cathaaroi, Greek for the “pure ones”) held that two deities, one material and evil, the other immaterial and good, struggled for the souls of man. All material creation was evil and it was man’s duty to escape from it and reject those who recognized it as good.

The God of the Old Testament, who created the world, which is evil, was repudiated. It was the New Testament, as interpreted by the Cathars, that acted as guide for man to free his spiritual soul from evil matter, the body.

A 13th Century authority, Rainier Sacconi, summarized the belief of the Cathars thus: “The general beliefs of all the Cathars are as follows:
The devil made this world and everything in it. Also, that all the sacraments of the Church, namely baptism of actual water and the other sacraments, are of no avail for salvation and that they are not the true sacraments of Christ and His church but are deceptive and diabolical and belong to the Church of the wicked… Also a common belief to all Cathars is that carnal matrimony has always been a mortal sin and that in the future life one incurs no heavier a penalty for adultery or incest than for legitimate marriage, nor indeed among them should anyone be more severely punished on this account. Also, Cathars deny the future resurrection of the body. Also, they believe that to eat meat, eggs, or cheese, even in pressing need, is a mortal sin; this for the reason that they are begotten by coition. Also, that taking an oath is in no case permissible, this consequently, is a mortal sin. Also, that secular authorities commit mortal sin in punishing malefactors of heretics. Also that no one can attain salvation except in their sect.”

The Cathars thus held that the Mass was idolatry, the Eucharist was a fraud, marriage evil, and the Redemption ridiculous. Before death, adherents received the consolamentum, the only sacrament permit-ted and this permitted the soul to be free from matter and return to God. For this reason, suicide by strangulation or starvation was not only permitted, but could even be laudable.

To preach that marriage was evil, that all oaths were forbidden, that religious suicide was good, that man had no free will and therefore could not be held responsible for his actions, that civil authority had no right to punish criminals or defend the country by arms, struck at the very root of medieval society. For example, the simple refusal to take oaths would have undermined the whole fabric of feudal legal structures, in which the spoken word carried equal or greater weight than the written.

Even Charles Henry Lea, a Protestant amateur historian of the Inquisition who so strongly opposed the Catholic Church, had to admit: “The cause of orthodoxy was the cause of progress and civilization. Had Catharism become dominant, or even had it been allowed to exist on equal terms, its influence could not have failed to become disastrous.”

In response to the severity and frequent brutality with which the northern French waged the Albigensian Crusade, in which many heretics were killed without formal trial or hearing, Pope Innocent III set in motion a process of investigation to expose the secret sects.

Another problem confronting the papacy was the willingness on the part of the laity to take the most severe steps against heresy without much concern for the heretics’ conversion and salvation. The real father of the medieval institution is considered to be Pope Gregory IX, friend of both St. Francis and St Dominic. He would call upon the newfound mendicant orders to assume the dangerous, arduous, and unwanted task of inquisitors.

What Pope Gregory IX instituted was an extraordinary court to investigate and adjudicate persons accused of heresy. The unprecedented growth of the Albigensians in southern France surely played into his decision.

In northern France as well, the Church was facing sporadic mob violence that often fell on the innocent. The practice of putting heretics to death by burning at the stake was assuming the force of an established custom. The Pope was also concerned about the reports coming from Germany about a sect known as the Luciferians, a secret society with fixed rituals that profaned the Sacred Host.

On the secular plane, the Pope was facing a formidable power, Emperor Frederick II, the supposedly “modern” and “liberal” Hohenstaufen, a ruler utterly indifferent to the spiritual welfare of the Church and continually at loggerheads with the Papacy. A Christian ruler in name only, Frederick II was heavily influenced by astrologers and Muslim customs (he kept a harem); he ruined two crusades, and was excommunicated twice.

As early as March 1224, he ordered that any heretic convicted in Lombardy be burned alive (the ancient Roman penalty for high treason) or as a lesser penalty, their tongues torn out. Pope Gregory, fearful that Frederick was committing to flames men who were not heretics but merely his own personal enemies, sought to find a more measured way to deal with the problem.

In 1233 Pope Gregory IX responded with his own solution: to replace the lynch law with a regular legal process headed by the mendicant Dominicans and Franciscans. They would be examiners and judges specially trained for the detection and conversion of heretics, protected from avarice and bribery by the vow of poverty, and devoted to justice.

The first point, therefore, to be noted in connection with the mendicant Inquisition is that it came into being in response to a defined need. In the matter of heresy, it introduced law, system, and even justice where there had been limitless scope for the gratification of political jealousy, personal animosity, and popular hatred.

When we find one historian describing the introduction of the Inquisition as a “step for-ward in juristic theory,” we must understand him in that sense. Inquisitio means investigation, and this was the Pope’s concern: a real investigation, a judicial procedure, instead of outright lynching, instead of acts motivated by irrational mob emotions and private vengeance.

The second point is that the mendicant orders were charged with the task of preserving the integrity of the Faith as well as the security of society. The failure to stem the tide of this heresy would have allowed a collapse of Western Christendom. One of the most thoroughly successful tribunals in all history, it succeeded in extirpating the anti-social poison of the Albigenses and thus preserved the moral unity of Eu-rope for another three hundred years.

Myth #3: The hideous procedures of the Inquisition were unjust, cruel, inhumane, and barbaric. The Inquisition roasted their victims’ feet over fire, bricked them up into walls to languish for all eternity, smashed their joints with hammers, and flayed them on wheels.

Reality: Despite the compelling Gothic fictions, the evidence leads us to a wholly different conclusion. The procedures of the Inquisition are well known through a whole series of papal bulls and other authoritative documents, but mainly through such formularies and manuals as were prepared by St. Raymond Peñaforte (c1180-1275), the great Spanish canonist, and Bernard Gui (1261-1331), one of the most celebrated inquisitors of the early 14th Century. The Inquisitors were certainly interrogators, but they were theological experts who followed the rules and instructions meticulously, and were dismissed and punished when they showed too little regard for justice.

When, for example, in 1223 Robert of Bourger gleefully announced his aim to burn heretics, not to convert them, he was immediately suspended and imprisoned for life by Gregory IX.

The inquisitorial procedures were surprisingly just and even lenient. In contrast with other tribunals throughout Europe at the time, they appear as almost enlightened. The process began with a summons of the faithful to the church where the inquisitor preached a solemn sermon, the Edit de foi.

All heretics were urged to come forward and confess their errors. This period was known as the “time of grace,” which usually lasted between 15-30 days, during which time all transgressors had nothing to fear, since they were promised readmittance to the communion of the faithful with a suitable penance after confession of guilt.

Bernard Gui stated that this time of grace was a most salutary and valuable institution and that many persons were reconciled thereby. For the principal aim of the process was to draw the heretic back into the grace of God; only by persistent stubbornness would he be cut off from the Church and abandoned to the scantier mercy of the State.

The Inquisition was first and foremost a penitential and proselytizing office, not a penal tribunal. Unless this is clearly recognized, the Inquisition appears as an unintelligible and meaningless monstrosity. In theory, it was a sinner, and not a criminal, who stood be-fore the Inquisitor. If the lost sheep returned to the fold, the Inquisitor counted himself successful. If not, the heretic died in open rebellion against God, and, as far as the Inquisitor was concerned, his mission was a complete failure.

During this time of grace, the faithful were commanded to provide full information to the Inquisitor concerning any heretics known to them. If he thought there were sufficient grounds to proceed against a person, a warrant was dispatched to him ordering his appearance before an Inquisitor on a specified date, always accompanied by a full written statement of evidence held by the Inquisitor against him.

Finally, a formal order of arrest could be issued. If the accused failed to appear, which rarely occurred, he would become an excommunicate and a proscribed man, that is, he could not be sheltered or fed by anyone under pain of anathema.

Although the names of witnesses against the accused were suppressed, the accused was given an opportunity to protect himself from false accusations by giving the Inquisitor a detailed list of the names of personal enemies. With this, he could conclusively invalidate certain testimony against him. He also had the power to appeal to a higher authority, even the Papacy if need be. A final advantage of the accused was that false witnesses were punished without mercy.

For example, Bernard Gui describes a father who falsely accused his son of heresy. The son’s innocence quickly came to light, and the father was apprehended and sentenced to prison for life.

In 1264 Urban IV further added that the Inquisitor should submit the evidence against the accused to a body of periti or boni viri and await their judgment before proceeding to sentencing. Acting more or less in the capacity of jurymen, this group could number 30, 50, or even 80. This served to lessen the enormous personal responsibility of the Inquisitor.

Again, it is important to emphasize that this was an ecclesiastical court, which neither claimed nor exercised any jurisdiction over those outside the household of faith, that is, the professing infidel or the Jew. Only those who had been converted to Christianity and had subsequently reverted to their former religion came under the jurisdiction of the medieval Inquisition.

Torture was first authorized by Innocent IV in the bull Ad extirpanda of May 15, 1252, with limits that it could not cause the loss of a limb or imperil life, could only be applied once, and then only if the accused seemed already virtually convicted of heresy by manifold and certain proofs.

Certain objective studies carried out by recent scholars have argued that torture was practically unknown in the medieval inquisitorial process. The register of Bernard Gui, the inquisitor of Toulouse for six years who examined more than 600 heretics, shows only one instance of where torture was used. Further, in the 930 sentences recorded between 1307 and 1323 (and it is worthwhile to note that meticulous records were kept by paid notaries chosen from civil courts), the majority of the accused were sentenced to imprisonment, the wearing of crosses, and penances. Only 42 were abandoned to the secular arm and burned.

Legends about the brutality of the Inquisition in regard to the numbers of persons sentenced to prison and of those abandoned to the secular power to be burned at the stake have been exaggerated through the years. Working carefully from extant registers and available documents,

Professor Yves Dossat estimated that in the diocese of Toulouse 5,000 people were investigated during the years 1245-1246. Of these, 945 were judged guilty of heresy or heretical involvement. Although 105 persons were sentenced to prison, 840 received lesser penances. After painstaking analysis of all the available data, Dossat concluded that in the mid-13th Century, only one out of every hundred heretics sentenced by the Inquisition was abandoned to the secular power for execution, and only ten to twelve percent even received prison sentences.

Further, the Inquisitors often reduced sentences to lesser penances and commuted others. The large numbers of burnings detailed in various histories are generally unauthenticated, or are the deliberate invention of anti- Catholic propagandists of later centuries. From the growing evidence, it seems safe to assert that the general integrity of the Holy Office was maintained at an extraordinarily high level, much higher than that of contemporary secular courts or later.

Myth #4: It was the Spanish Inquisition that exceeded all barbarousness, terrorizing all of society with its tyrannical and cruel practices.

Reality: On November 6, 1994, the London BBC aired an amazing testimony to the falsity of these claims in a documentary titled “The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition.” In it, historians admitted that “this image is false. It is a distortion disseminated 400 years ago and accepted ever since. Each case that came before the Spanish Inquisition in its 300-year history had its own file.” Now, those files are being gathered together and studied properly for the first time. Prof. Henry Kamen, an expert in the field, admitted candidly that the files are detailed, exhaustive, and bring to light a very different version of the Spanish Inquisition.

Protestant antipathies nourished this propaganda campaign against the Catholic Church and the powerful leader of the Hapsburg dynasty who commanded the most powerful armies in Europe, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Their fears intensified especially after the battle of Mulburg in 1547, where Charles’ enemies were virtually annihilated. Philip II‘s succession to the Spanish throne and his own dedicated opposition to Protestantism fanned such fears.

As Philip wrote to his ambassador in Rome in 1566, “You may assure His Holiness that rather than suffer the least damage to religion and the service of God, I would lose all my states and a hundred lives if I had them. For I do not propose nor desire to be ruler of heretics.”

Yet while the Spanish often triumphed in the field of battle, they were abject losers in the propaganda war. They made no defense against the legend of Spanish cruelty and barbarism created so that Europe would sympathize with the Protestant revolt in Netherlands.

Defaming the Inquisition came to be the most natural choice of weapon to achieve this end. Many pamphlets and brochures, too numerous and horrendous to enumerate here, have been written since the 16th Century.

It suffices to mention only a few: The Apologie of William of Orange, written by the French Huguenot Pierre Loyseleur de Villiers in 1581, enshrined all the anti-Inquisition propaganda of the past forty years into a political document that “validated” the Dutch Revolt. In 1567, Renaldo González Montano published his Sanctae Inquisitionis Hispanicae Artes aliquot detectae ac palam traductae, which was soon translated into all the major languages of Western Europe and widely circulated. It contributed decisively to what became known as the “Black Legend” that associated the Inquisition with the horrors of the torture chamber.

Such accounts were enlarged upon by other Protestant writers, such as the Rev. Ingram Cobain in the 19th Century, who described one of its fictitious items of torture: a beautiful full-size doll that cut up the victim with a thousand knives when he was forced to embrace. The myth had been created and would assume proportions bordering on the ridiculous in the literature, travelers’ reports, masonic narratives, satires (Voltaire, Zaupser), plays and operas (Schiller, Verdi), histories (Victor Hugo) and gothic novels of later centuries.

Concerning torture, Prof. Kamen recently said, “In fact, the Inquisition used torture very infrequently. In Valencia, I found that out of 7,000 cases only two percent suffered any form of torture at all and usually for no more than 15 minutes . . . I found no one suffering torture more than twice.”

Prof. Jaime Contreras agreed: “We find when comparing the Spanish Inquisition with other tribunals that the Spanish Inquisition used torture much less. And if we compare the Spanish Inquisition with tribunals in other countries, we find that the Spanish Inquisition has a virtually clean record in respect to torture.”

During this same period in the rest of Europe, hideous physical cruelty was commonplace. In England, transgressors were executed for damaging shrubs in public gardens, poaching deer, stealing a woman’s handkerchief and attempting suicide. In France, those who stole sheep were disemboweled. During the reign of Henry VIII, the recognized punishment for a poisoner was to be boiled alive in a cauldron.

As late as 1837, 437 persons were executed in England in one year for various crimes, and until passage of the Reform Bill, death was the recognized penalty for forgery, coining, horse thieving, burglary, arson, robbery and interference with the postal service, and sacrilege. It is clear that in indicting the Spanish Inquisition upon specific charges of physical cruelty and callous brutality, we must proceed with some circumspection.

The myth of unlimited power and control exercised by the Spanish Inquisition has also been found to be groundless. In 16th- Century Spain, the Inquisition was divided into twenty tribunals, each covering thou-sands of square miles. Yet each tribunal had no more than two or three inquisitors and a handful of administrative clerks.

Prof. Kamen has noted: “These Inquisitors had no power to control society in the way historians have imagined they had. They had no power. They had no function; they had no tools to do the job. We, enforcing that image, have given them the tools that never existed.”

In reality, the Inquisition’s limited contact with the population comprised part of the reason it did not at-tract the hostility of Spaniards. Outside major cities, towns might see an inquisitor once every ten years or even once in a century. One reason people supported the Inquisition was precisely because it was seldom seen, and even less often heard.

amen also records that at every period in its history, there are records of strong criticism and bitter opposition. Yet based on the exploitation of inquisitorial documents first by Llorente, and then by Henry Charles Lea, scholars have made the error of studying the Inquisition in isolation from all other dimensions of Spanish culture and society, as though it had played a central role in the religion, politics, culture, and economy and as though no opposition or criticism was permitted.

Menendez y Pelayo‘s satire on those who have blamed the tribunal for all the ills of Spain underscores this view: “Why was there no industry in Spain? Because of the Inquisition. Why are we Spaniards lazy? Because of the Inquisition. Why are there bullfights in Spain? Because of the Inquisition. Why do Spaniards take a siesta? Because of the Inquisition.”

The Inquisition cannot be blamed for the “decadence of Spanish learning and literature,” states Peters in his acclaimed objective study Inquisition, despite the claims of Protestant historian Charles Lea or Catholic historian Lord Acton. “After the thunderclap of the 1559 Index,” he states, “which was directed mainly against vernacular piety, no attacks were mounted against Spanish literature and not one in a hundred Spanish writers came into conflict with the Inquisition. Indeed, long after the measures of 1558-59 Spain continued to have an active intellectual life based on a world experience vaster than that of any other European nation.”

A final and most important myth remains to be examined.

Myth #5: Man is more free and happy when the State or Nation does not make public profession of any one true religion. Therefore, true progress lies in separation of Church and State.

Reality: This is the crux of the question. The most dynamic element, the most essential matter is found in the attitude of the human spirit in relation to the questions of religion and philosophy. To fully under-stand the response, it is necessary to assume several presuppositions.

The Catholic concept of history is based on the fact that the Ten Commandments are fundamental norms of human behavior that correspond to natural law.

To aid man in his weakness, to guide and direct him and to preserve him from his own tendency toward evil and error resulting from original sin, Jesus Christ gave the Church an infallible Magisterium to teach and guide the nations. The adhesion of man to the Magisterium of the Church is the fruit of faith. Without faith, man cannot durably know and entirely practice the Commandments.

Therefore, as man elevates himself in the order of grace by the practice of virtue inspired by grace, he elaborates a culture, a political, social, and economic order in consonance with the basic and unchanging principles of natural law.

These institutions and this culture so formed in its ensemble can be called Christian Civilization. Further, nations and peoples can only attain a perfect civilization, a civilization in complete harmony with the natural law in the framework of a Christian civilization and through correspondence to grace and the truths of the Faith.

For this, man must give his firm recognition to the Catholic Church as the one true Church of God and to its authentic universal Magisterium as infallible. Therefore, man must know, profess, and practice the Catholic faith.

Historically, one must ask when this Christian civilization existed. The answer may shock and even irritate many. There was a time when a large portion of humanity knew this ideal of perfection, knew and tended toward it with fervor and sincerity.

This period, sometimes referred to as the Golden Age of Christianity, is the epoch of the 12th and 13th Centuries, when the influence of the Church in Europe was at its zenith.

Christian principles then dominated social relations more fully than at any other period before or since, and the Christian State then approached most nearly its full development. Leo XIII referred to this period in his encyclical Immortale Dei (1885) in these terms: “There was a time when the philosophy of the Gospel ruled the States. In this epoch the influence of Christian Wisdom and its Divine Wisdom penetrated the laws, institutions and customs of the people, all the categories, all the relations of civil society. The religion instituted by Jesus Christ, solidly established in all dignity due it, flourished everywhere, due to the favor of Princes and the legitimate protection of the magistrates. In this time, the Priesthood and Empire were linked with a happy concord and the friendly exchange of good offices. Organized in this way, civil society gave fruits superior to all expectations and its memory persists and will continue to persist, and no artifice of its enemies will be able to corrupt and obscure it.”

A portrayal of Catholic society implies above all else an exact idea of what the relationship between the Church and temporal society should be. The State in principle has the obligation to profess officially the truth of the Catholic faith, and, as a consequence to prohibit the functioning and proselytizing of heretics.

For not only the Church, but all of temporal society was created for the salvation of our souls, as St. Thomas Aquinas shows conclusively in De Regimine Principum. In it, St. Thomas shows us how absolutely all things created by God were created for the salvation of our souls and must be means that serve positively for our sanctification. Men themselves were created for the salvation of one another. This is why they live together in society. Thus, temporal as well as spiritual society should assist in the primary purpose of man’s existence, the salvation of his eternal soul.

This exposition of society implies an understanding of the hierarchy of values, wherein spiritual values have a greater worth than material ones. For example, in the Summa Theologica (II, II, ii, 3), St. Thomas notes that if it is just to condemn counterfeiters to death, then surely it is necessary to put to death those who had committed the far worse crime of counterfeiting the Faith. For eternal salvation must be regard-ed as greater than temporal property, and the welfare of all must be regarded as greater than the welfare of the individual.

These affirmations have consequences painful for the liberal spirit of our days. For, if the State proclaims that one single religion is the true one, it has an obligation in principle to prohibit the diffusion of sects of a heretical character. It is understood that in Catholic society the highest purpose of the State lies in recognizing the Catholic Church, in defending her, in applying her laws, in serving her. In a Catholic society, the Pope has an indirect authority over all that touches on the interests of the Church.

In this way, the Pope is elevated above all the temporal powers. When a head of State is heretical, the Pope has the right to depose him, as in the case of Henry IV of France, the legitimate pretender to the French throne. In other words, a heretic does not have the right to govern a Catholic country.

As Father Denis Fahey points out in The Kingship of Christ, in the Middle Ages the State fulfilled its obligation of professing that religion which God Himself had established and through which He wanted to be adored and worshipped — the Catholic religion. When Catholics answer the objections of non-Catholics to the Inquisition, they sometimes seem to lose sight of the formal principle of order animating the civilization of the Middle Ages.

If a State proclaims a religion as being the true religion, it has an obligation as a matter of principle to prohibit the diffusion of heresy and heretical sects. This obligation is a most painful one for the liberal mentality to accept. Heresy was considered a crime because the State recognized the Catholic religion for what it objectively is, the one true Religion established by God, and not a simple temporary arrangement, here today, gone tomorrow.

In presenting the principles of the social Kingship of Christ, Father Denis Fahey says: “The truth is that the State then grasped the formal principle of ordered social organization in the actual world and that the Inquisition was set up to defend the hold of the world on order against the fomenters of disorder. . . That same principle is meant by God to mold the new matter and the new circumstances of all succeeding ages. Socially organized, man in the world redeemed by Our Lord is not as God wants him to be unless he accepts the supernatural, supra-national Catholic Church. The modern world has turned aside from order and is suffering for its apostasy and disorder. This great truth needs to be proclaimed unequivocally, so that the interior life with which we celebrate the feast of the Kingship of Christ may be deepened. It is infinitely better to go down struggling for the integral truth than to win a seeming victory by whittling it down.”

Blackening the name of the Holy Inquisition has obviously found root in this widespread tendency, even among princes of the Church, to “whittle down” these principles of the Catholic social order. While, at base, the problem of the Holy Inquisition must be examined at the philosophical level, there is also no doubt that through the centuries “the Inquisition” has assumed a monstrous dimension out of proportion to the facts.

The pens of Protestant propagandists during the Reformation began the myth-making process by depicting the Inquisition as just another example of the evils of Rome. In their works the tribunal was presented as the supreme instrument of intolerance.

Wherever Catholicism triumphed, they claimed, not only religious but civil liberty was extinguished. The Reformation, according to this interpretation, brought about the liberation of the human spirit from the fetters of darkness and superstition. Propaganda along these lines proved strikingly effective.

However, as the scholars of the last decade have begun to examine the archives, their studies are showing that the interests of truth demand that the Inquisition be reduced to its proper dimensions. Its significance can be grossly exaggerated if we rely on the largely fictitious images presented by the propagandists and philosophes of the Enlightenment and age of Romanticism and liberalism that followed.

These writers, who even included Lord Acton, falsely assumed the Inquisition was part and parcel of a special philosophy of blatant intolerance and cruelty. In reality, it evolved as a product of the society it served. In sum, for those objective Catholic minds who are militant against the errors of liberalism and modernism of our own age and who look with admiration on the spirit and institutions of the Age of Faith, there can still remain a healthful admiration for the Holy Inquisition.

Marian Horvat holds a PhD in medieval history.

The image shows, “A Scene from the Inquisition,” by Francisco de Goya, painted ca. 1808-1812.

José Ortega y Gasset And The Masses

Oh, but this is a fascinating book. Written in 1930 by the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, it is one of those books that is occasionally mentioned, especially recently, but rarely actually read. 1930, in Spain, was the hinge of fate, and it has been nearly a hundred years since Ortega wrote. That means we can see where he was wrong, and where he was right, and what he wrote says to us today.

First, though, we have to hack our way through two misconceptions that both seem to attend any modern mention of The Revolt of the Masses. The first, simpler, misconception is that this is a book about class, about how Ortega favors the bourgeois, or the rich, over the working class, or at least that it is an analysis of their conflicts.

Given that class was a hot topic in 1930, this is a reasonable guess from the title, but it is totally wrong. This misconception cropped up repeatedly after Trump’s election, and, for example, the review by David Brooks in the New York Times of J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy was titled “The Revolt of the Masses.” But Ortega was a political moderate, and seems to not have been exercised by questions of class at all. Rather, this is a book about human excellence, what it can accomplish, and how it can be destroyed.

The subtler, more pernicious, misconception is that Ortega’s call for excellence is a call for masses to defer to experts—supposedly, according to various chatterers, Ortega’s main point is that experts are ignored. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, Ortega thinks all, or almost all, modern experts are the definition of mediocrity, and the masses deferring to them is like deferring to a mirror.

Instead, people should defer to a natural aristocracy, not of blood, but of focus and accomplishment. Those people are not experts, who are narrow, but are instead broad people of taste, judgment, and discipline. We will return to this misconception later, with specific recent examples, but now that we are past the reef, we can sail into the open ocean of Ortega’s thought.

So, if this is not a book about class, who are the “masses”? Ortega divides every society into “minorities,” a small set of people who are “specially qualified,” and the “masses,” everyone not specially qualified. The key question is who is average and who is not. A mass person feels as if he is “just like everybody,” that he is not particularly special, and not only does this not concern him, he celebrates the fact. (Thus, someone who examines his talents and concludes he is mediocre, and feels that is a problem, is not a mass man).

But this, of course, begs the question—what makes a person above average or, in Ortega’s term, “specially qualified”? They are those who make personal demands for excellence upon themselves, and live in that way. This makes them the minority, by definition. They may not fulfill those demands; it is the demand being made, that alone, which makes the person a minority. In contrast, mass men “demand nothing special of themselves, but […] to live is to be every moment what they already are, without imposing on themselves any effort toward perfection.”

The minority, the elite, are thus not coterminous with traditional aristocracy or a ruling class. Ortega acknowledges that in traditional social elites excellence is more likely to be found, but mere heredity does not make a person place demands on himself, so an aristocrat by blood can be a mass man just like a peasant or a steelworker—and a peasant or a steelworker can be a member of the minority.

The class of intellectuals, in particular, fancy themselves to be above the masses, but are often vulgar pseudo-intellectuals, swept along by lazy, commonplace thinking, and therefore mass men. Children of the excellent frequently ride on their parents’ accomplishments; they thereby become mass men themselves.

Ortega wants “nobility” to mean not nobility of blood, but to restore the meaning of “noble” as “well-known, that is, known by everyone, famous, he who has made himself known by excelling the anonymous mass.” Anyone can do this, from any walk of life, but few do, human nature being what it is.

Having gotten definitions out of the way, Ortega’s first substantive point is that in the past, the mass was content to exist in the background, ceding to the minority such higher-level societal functions as art, government and political judgment. No more. Now, the mass assert their right to dictate in all such areas, without having to demand from themselves, much less achieve, excellence.

In politics, this is “hyperdemocracy,” and Ortega thinks it a degradation. In other areas, such as philosophy (Ortega’s specialty), it means that readers (and, today, listeners and YouTube watchers), do so “with the view, not of learning from the writer, but rather, of pronouncing judgment on him when he is not in agreement with the commonplaces that the said reader carries in his head.”

It’s not that the mass man thinks he’s an expert. “The characteristic of the hour is that the commonplace mind, knowing itself to be commonplace, has the assurance to proclaim the rights of the commonplace and to impose them wherever it will. . . . . The mass crushes beneath it everything that is different, everything that is excellent, individual, qualified and select.” Mediocrity rules, and does not care that it is mediocre.

All this is a new thing in our history, but not in world history. It can be found in the declining years of Rome, among other places. Ortega ascribes its modern growth, though, not to decline, but to liberal democracy, to the discovery of the abstract sovereignty of the individual.

He doesn’t dislike liberal democracy—quite the contrary, he thinks both that it’s great, and that it’s inevitable and broadly irreversible, as I discuss further below. But if the individual is sovereign, we should not be surprised if each man treats himself as if he is indeed sovereign.

None of this implies decadence—contra Spengler, Ortega thinks that relative to the nineteenth century, which viewed itself as a time of “plenitude” when the destination of society had been reached, the twentieth century, viewing the future as open-ended and in flux, is in many ways superior. (At this point, you have to remember, it’s 1930; look around you at the world of 2018, as well as the past hundred years, then chuckle grimly and draw your own conclusions).

But the twentieth century takes it too far, because the mass men dominate, and they have “lost all respect, all consideration for the past.” Thus, the mass men both see the future as open, but assured, and themselves as perfect and satisfied. That’s a dangerous combination, for it leads to a world “empty of purposes, anticipations, ideals.”

It was those things the minority supplied, and it was those things that drove the world forward. Now, with the triumph of the masses, nobody supplies those things. So the twentieth century is an apogee—but the nature of apogees is there is nowhere to go but down.

Thus, the nineteenth-century, for all its accomplishments, also gave us the rise of the mass man, and the mass man will, unless his rise is constrained, within thirty years, “send our continent back to barbarism.” (This is a book quite explicitly about Europe. America is treated as close to a non-entity, with thinly veiled contempt. And Europe is defined as France, Germany, and England—it does not, for these purposes, really even include Spain).

The mass man, for example, feels that he himself is qualified to decide, and should decide, political matters, rather than his vote “supporting the decision of one minority or another.”

That will lead to the disappearance of liberal democracy, which Ortega regards as man’s highest political achievement (“legislative technique”), but it will also lead to the end of “industrial technique,” since the pursuit of technical excellence by minorities drives industry forward, just like other pursuit of excellence drives political organization forward.

It is this latter “industrial technique,” this combination of “scientific experiment and industrialism,” that Ortega names “technism.” Technism has allowed the mass man to escape the feeling that dominated all prior societies, that of material scarcity and restrictions. At the same time, liberal democracy makes the mass man believe that he is master of his psychic and political destiny.

Thus, the mass man feels in his bones that life is now “exempt from restrictions” on every level. That is to say, in modern parlance, he is emancipated. “The world which surrounds the new man from his birth does not compel him to limit himself in any fashion, it sets up no veto in opposition to him; on the contrary, it incites his appetite, which in principle can increase indefinitely.”

Ortega’s objection is not that appetites increasing is bad; he did not foresee the logical endpoint of total emancipation, which is total autonomy combined with total tyranny and a denial of basic reality. Instead, his objection is that the mass man fails to appreciate that all this, that benefits him, was created with great toil by the excellence of minorities; he thinks it manna from heaven.

What characterizes the mass man is inertia—the opposite of the ceaseless, self-generated search for excellence that characterizes the truly noble. And this failure to understand the sources of the bounty that blesses him, his “radical ingratitude,” combined with the new dominance of the mass man over society, means it will all disappear, and barbarism will return, as excellence flees.

For Ortega, such barbarism isn’t of the type that, looking backward, the twentieth century actually delivered. Rather, “barbarism is the absence of standards to which appeal can be made.” That seems like not a fatal problem, but it is. No standards, no progress, only regress. Certainly, mass men are the creators of such tripe as Syndicalism, Fascism (explicitly in the Mussolini sense) and, Communism (“a monotonous repetition of the eternal revolution,” oblivious to history, like all these movements).

They are created by “the type of man who does not want to give reasons or to be right, but simply shows himself resolved to impose his opinions. This is the new thing: the right not to be reasonable, the ‘reason of unreason.’ . . . Hence his ideas are in effect nothing more than appetites in words. . . .” (Ortega would not have enjoyed spending time on Facebook, much less Twitter).

When mass men of politics say they are “done with discussions,” this is what they mean. It implies also that “direct action,” that is, violence, becomes not the ultima ratio, the final argument when all others are through, but the prima ratio, the first argument. This is always true, “at every epoch when the mass, for one purpose or another, has taken a part in public life.”

In all areas, what is recognized by the excellent, the minorities, in all times as “civilized,” from literature, to sexual relations, to art, to manners, to justice, decays. It is those standards for those things that make “the community, common life” possible. Result of their end: barbarism, if we don’t change course.

We can certainly see this degradation of all standards today, to a degree that makes Ortega’s prescience startling (although he was far off the mark on one matter, which I talk about last). Not only is the mass man as Ortega defines him far more dominant, over the whole Western world, than in Ortega’s time, but we see the barbarism Ortega identifies has long since arrived. Certainly almost nobody demands excellence in any field; instead, the mass men who rule demand such rubbish as “diversity and inclusion,” the wholesale granting of unearned benefits on the basis of (preferred) immutable characteristics.

The very idea that there is such a thing as excellence is denied as a matter of course. Similarly with the political processes Ortega identifies. We hear all the time, mostly from the Left but also from the Right, that the time for discussion is over, and the time for action is here, by which the speaker means “conform to my unreasoned and emotion-driven demands or be crushed.” (Such language is all over the latest push to confiscate firearms, for example, along with other forms of knuckle-dragging political behavior that would have horrified Ortega, with his focus on high rationality and political liberty).

And, more broadly, what characterizes everything in the West is a call for total autonomy implemented, if necessary, by government tyranny, and a rejection of any standards as an offense against emancipation.

Ortega believed that as long as the minority of the excellent dominates, progress is inevitable. And the reverse is also true. Therefore, Ortega would, perhaps, not be surprised by the situation today. Moreover, since barbarism has arrived in the form of the domination of mass men, it is natural that a portion of those mass men hold themselves out as the minority, as the elites.

But, of course, they are merely the rulers—they do not actually demand of themselves any pursuit of excellence at all. The names of categories are maintained, in art, politics, and culture, but they are hollow, for the standards are set by mass men clothed in false skins. So, it is entirely possible, if standards have decayed and barbarism returned, for there to be nobody at all to whom the masses can turn for guidance. The polestar may simply have winked out, to, perhaps, be restored at a time to be announced, when the world is remade.

Thus, The Revolt of the Masses feels surprisingly fresh, given not only its age but all the water that has passed under the bridge since it was written. Yes, Ortega does display a simplistic, if touching, faith, in liberal democracy, which has since his time shown its deficiency.

The Europe of 1930 is the triumph of “liberal democracy and technical knowledge,” shown by, among other things, a tripling of the population of Europe. (Ortega is wrong here, of course—there is no necessary, or actual historical, linkage of liberal democracy with the rise of technical knowledge or its impacts in the Industrial Revolution).

He concludes that “liberal democracy based on technical knowledge is the highest type of public life hitherto known,” and though it might be possible to imagine a better, anything better must continue to embody both liberal democracy and technical knowledge, and that it would be “suicidal” to return to any pre-nineteenth-century form. It is the “truth of destiny.”

That was a supportable argument, maybe, in 1930, but not now. True, the term no longer means what it meant for Ortega. For him, it meant political liberty, “consideration for one’s neighbor,” “indirect action” (i.e., a rejection of violence), and, explicitly, universal suffrage where the mass of voters chose among programs offered by their betters.

Today, it means, as Ryszard Legutko says, “coercion to freedom,” where no political liberty is offered to those opposed to unbridled autonomy, and democracy means only being allowed to vote for what today’s elites, who are not Ortega’s minority, allow.

Ortega thought liberal democracy “announces the determination to share existence with the enemy.” Those who today howl “I can tolerate anything but intolerance” can have nothing in common with this sentiment. So perhaps we can say that Ortega may have been right, but liberal democracy as he used the term is dead, a casualty of the barbarism he feared, replaced by its zombie equivalent (although probably such zombification was inevitable, in the nature of liberal democracy, as several recent writers have claimed).

As I promised, let’s turn back to the second misconception about Ortega’s thoughts, regarding “experts.” In the past few years, there have been minor outbreaks of renewed interest in Ortega’s thoughts, always facile. For example, in the Atlantic, a colloquy recently appeared between a staff writer and a reader, where the statement was endorsed by both, that Ortega “describes a movement that appeals to a cross-section of non-intellectual people across class lines that seems to parallel Donald Trump’s cross-cultural appeal. There it seemed to lead to Fascism.” Ortega would have a conniption.

His objection is not that the mass man fails to be intellectual; it is that the mass man does not pursue excellence. For the most part, Ortega loathes modern intellectuals as the very worst type of mass man. Nor does he make any suggestion at all that mass men lead to Fascism; rather, he says that the domination of mass men leads to regression in political organization, one possible end of which is Fascism.

The Atlantic colloquy continues, with such gems as “[T]he digital age seems to have trouble accepting ‘elite’ consensus regarding complex topics such as climate change (and gun control, evolution and tax policy, among many other subjects where the vast majority of scientists, economists, etc., accept certain basic facts that are rejected by large swaths of the public).”

Ortega did not care about what scientists and economists had to say. At all. He would call them ignoramuses, narrow men whose narrow learning did not qualify them to say anything at all to society at large, especially about topics not subject to rigid calculation. His “elites” were men of excellence and broad learning, not sophists and calculators.

To Ortega, “special qualifications” are not those of experts. Our experts are scientists and similar types who are narrow and ignorant outside of a tiny area, yet presume to think otherwise. His leaders, to whom the mass should defer, are men of great mind, not technicians. They are aristocrats.

In fact, Ortega despises the “ ‘man of science,’ the high-point of European humanity,” as being actually “the prototype of the mass man.” This is because the days of scientific discoveries by generalists, like Newton, are over, and the days of narrow specialization by each scientist are here. Science itself is not specialized, and in fact must be informed by areas outside science—but scientific work, today, must be specialized.

The days of encyclopedic minds are gone, and what we have are specialists, each only knowledgeable in “the small corner of which he is an active investigator.” Given this hyper-specialization, men who are overall mediocre, rather than excellent, can actually keep science advancing (this is today called the “Ortega Hypothesis”), because “a fair amount of the things that have to be done in physics or biology is mechanical work of the mind which can be done by anyone, or almost anyone.”

But such men think they are excellent, even though each “knows very well his own tiny corner of the universe; [but] he is radically ignorant of all the rest.” He is a “learned ignoramus,” which is bad enough, but worse is in store, for “By specializing him, civilization has made him hermetic and self-satisfied within his limitations; but this very inner feeling of dominance and worth will induce him to wish to predominate outside his specialty. The result is . . . that he will behave in almost all spheres of life as does the unqualified, the mass-man.”

This is what we see, most of the time, when people demand that the public listen to “experts”—that we listen to specialists in one area who are thereby presumed to be competent to lecture us in areas either only loosely related, or, more often, wholly unrelated.

The names are endless, but include everyone from Bill Nye to Stephen Hawking. It is these specialists, Ortega says, who exist in a state of “ ‘not-listening,’ of not submitting to higher courts of appeal,” a characteristic of the mass man. That is, the experts we are told today we must listen to are, for Ortega, the archetypal mass men, whom we should ignore, and to whom we listen to at our peril.

Finally, Ortega veers off the mark in his last chapter, which covers a third of the book. Here, he extols the need for a European superstate. This chapter has various insights, including that force follows public opinion, and that if Europe does not rule the world, it is not clear that anyone will or can, leading inevitably to “universal barbarism.”

His analysis of nationalism is interesting (“In defending the nation we are defending our tomorrows, not our yesterdays”), but his idea that all states proceed to fusion of social classes (which seems in contradiction to the rest of his book) is demonstrably false. The biggest problem, though, is that he extends this idea of fusion, or consolidation, to extend beyond the nations of Europe, to a true fusion of Europe.

We have seen the zenith of this idea in our lifetimes, and it was not a very high zenith. It has been falsified that “The more faithful the national State of the West remains to its genuine inspiration, the more surely will it perfect itself in a gigantic continental state.” Nor is it true that “Only the determination to construct a great nation from the group of peoples of the Continent [will] give new life to the pulses of Europe.”

Quite the contrary, in fact, as we have seen. The so-called great nation is about to be no nation at all, as all can clearly see. It is not the failure of prediction that bothers me, but that the reasoning and analysis on which it is based, which is conclusory and fantastical, is far inferior to that in the rest of the book.

Despite the last chapter’s failings, this book is very much worth reading and pondering. (I read it because my mother asked me to, on the grounds that she would likely never get around to it herself, and I would do her a service by reviewing it). It does not offer a program to fix the problems identified—that is something we will have to come up with for ourselves.

I don’t know if Ortega had anything to say about that in his other writings. My guess is that he would not be surprised by Europe’s terminal decline, or by that America was able to extend his thirty-year deadline for the West by a few decades, yet is now in the same leaky boat of the Europe of 1930, but with more holes and more fat people in the boat.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

The image shows, “De landverhuizers” (the Emigrants), by Eugène Laermans, painted in 1894.