Feminism – Unfortunate Footnote To History

In their eternal quest to remake reality, a perennial target of the Left is the family: man, woman, and children, the bedrock of all human societies. The family, by its existence and by what it brings forth, mocks the Left project, and so the Left has tried to destroy it for 250 years. But only in the twentieth century did this effort gain real traction, when our elites became converts to the fantasy that sex roles as they existed were artefacts of oppression, not organic reality. What followed was mass indoctrination in falsehoods about men and women, in which this infamous book played a key role. If you see a sad wine aunt (they are all sad), and you see them everywhere, you see a small part of the resulting social wreckage.

The Feminine Mystique was chosen in the 1960s, the decade that really began our decline, as the central pillar of the enormously destructive myth that a woman can “have it all” – both a fully-realized family in the home and a fully-realized career outside the home. Many elements of our present ruin can be traced back to this propaganda. The myth itself is duplicitous, however. For its purveyors, a woman’s career is far more important than the family – lip service is only paid to the family because women keep stubbornly insisting they want a family. To their great frustration, this is a problem our rulers have been unable to solve, causing them to resort to ever more extreme and ultimately self-defeating falsehoods about men and women. It would be funny if it had not been so catastrophic.

I could spend hours amusing myself blowing holes in this execrable book, but I have sworn off reviewing books merely to show how they are wrong. Therefore, we will instead use this book to discuss some of the defects in societal structures in America today as they relate to men and women, and how those structures should be remade. A sneak peek: men and women are very different. They always have been, and they always will be. And from a societal structure perspective, the crucial truth is that men drive a society forward, while women bind a society together. So, it will always be in any successful society, and any society that attempts to contradict truth will only find its own obliteration.

But you will be disappointed, I am sure, if I do not at least summarize this book, and doing so is helpful to frame discussion about recapturing our future. It’s not easy – a reader has to excavate in layers, removing all the primitive psychobabble and 1950s ephemera. Moreover, he must reconcile himself that there are no hard facts in this book with which to grapple. None. It is purely a series of cherry-picked anecdotes, presented in a pseudo-scientific manner in order to compel conclusions the author, Betty Friedan, had already reached about society.

She was born into and raised in a far-left family, and from her earliest youth to her death in 2006 worked unceasingly to impose on our society all her radical politics. Agitation was her life. In 1957 Friedan, bored with her part-time job writing for the radical press and unhappy with her marriage to an advertising executive, sent an amateurish questionnaire to her classmates from her 1942 graduating class at Smith College (an all-women’s college still extant).

The survey had thirty-eight questions, all yes-no or multiple choice. None are surprising or all that interesting, and the survey is loaded: the desired responses are indicated by the choice of questions and by using guiding adjectives (e.g., “Is your marriage truly satisfying?” – meaning that unless it is truly satisfying, the only possible answer is “no”). Friedan claims that the responses surprised her, so she then conducted interviews with eighty women. Upon the supposed results of these interviews a book claiming to show a new understanding of all of American society is built.

What, then, is the “feminine mystique?” It is the “strange discrepancy between the reality of our lives as women and the image to which we were trying to conform.” “Our” and “we” here mean a small set of women very similarly situated to Friedan, but in a neat sleight of hand, Friedan manages to pretend that “our” and “we” is all American women, or at least all educated, married, upper-middle class American women. (Working-class women receive a grand total of zero words in this book, other than a suggestion that career women hire cleaning women. LGBTQQIP2SAA people get more attention, at least – in the form of Friedan’s complaint that bored women without careers turn their sons into homosexuals).

According to Friedan’s “data,” women are “unsatisfied,” even though they objectively had gotten everything they wanted. They have “a hunger that food cannot fill.” They all say “I want something more than my husband and my children and my home.” The “mystique” is the supposedly-false belief that they don’t have a hunger, that they don’t want something more, but are instead very happy, or at least satisfied, with traditional sex roles, the “image to which we were trying to conform.”

OK, then, what do women actually want, if it’s not family and home? Well, Friedan meanders a lot, but basically she tells us women want self-fulfillment through “the life of the mind and spirit.” So, do we all, I suppose, but to Friedan, this means a job, any full-time job, outside the home – nothing more. A housewife, that is, a woman who raises children, has a sound marriage, and acts feminine, but does not work full-time outside the home, is a sad and contemptible person in Friedan’s eyes.

In an early instance of the scientism that has, during the Wuhan Plague, swallowed the world, Friedan lectures us that “In [the] new psychological thinking… it is not enough for an individual to be loved and accepted by others, to be ‘adjusted’ to his culture. He must take his existence seriously enough to make his own commitment to life, and to the future; he forfeits his existence by failing to fulfill his entire being.” This piece of infantile babbling is illustrative of the entire book.

Friedan faces a problem in selling this story, though, which she grudgingly admits – all other contemporaneous surveys showed that what women actually want is to be a housewife. This makes Friedan angry. She is greatly offended that at a time when more and more women are getting college degrees, an ever-higher percentage of women show no interest in a career.

But there is an easy answer! They are not lying; they have been tricked. They have been bamboozled by women’s magazines written by men, which exist to sell them products they will only buy if they are kept in the home, just like Adolf Hitler did, you know. If these poor, deluded women could only be objective, they would all know they suffer “terrible boredom,” which can only be cured by working outside the home.

Without a career, you see, a woman can have no identity at all; she is “barred from the freedom of human existence and a voice in human destiny.” She’s also “doomed to be castrative to her husband and sons” (a clear instance of projection by Friedan, who was nothing if not that to her own husband and sons). But good news! Friedan has uncovered the “truth” that has escaped us all.

The rest of the book, 500 sophomoric, tedious pages in all, is terrible. Repetitive anecdotes interspersed with bad history; cut-rate Freudian analysis (Friedan can’t get enough Freud) that no doubt seemed very daring at the time; praise for the ludicrous and discredited Margaret Mead’s fantastical lies about sex relations in primitive cultures; claims that colleges are failing women because women don’t choose the same subjects as men; demands for population restriction; psychological drivel about nuclear weapons; praise for the silly Dr. Spock; comparing the position of American housewives to that of inmates in Nazi death camps; endless pushing the idea that women are kept in the home so they will buy things (ignoring that they can buy a lot more things if they work outside the home); lecturing the reader that women forced to be housewives “offer themselves [sexually] eagerly to strangers and neighbors” because they’re so bored; and numerous variations on the claim that any woman without a career is infantile and prone to “severe pathologies, both physiological and emotional.”

All this is gloriously evidence-free; Friedan’s usual technique is to make a sweeping statement, quote from an (always anonymous) “expert” supporting her, and blare triumphant conclusions.

The author’s contempt for children permeates the book. The only thing worse than a woman who wants to stay home and make her and her husband a happy home is one who wants to add children to her living nightmare, which only seems like a dream to her because she can’t see as clearly as Friedan. She herself threw over her family, including three children.

In an Epilogue, written in 1970, Friedan crows about how wonderful the reception to her book was. As a result, she “finally found the courage to get a divorce,” from which she concludes that “I think the next great issue for the women’s movement is basic reform of marriage and divorce” (the wreckage of which we can see all around us today). She herself has moved into “an airy, magic New York tower, with open sky and river and bridges to the future all around.” She has “started a weekend commune of grownups for whom marriage hasn’t worked – an extended family of choice, whose members are now moving into new kinds of marriages.” She does not mention that she conducted a long affair with a married man (who refused to leave his wife); it seems likely that, like John Stuart Mill, she constructed an entire philosophy around justifying her own bad behavior.

You get the idea; there is no need to continue examining the details of this book, the pages of which are only useful to line birdcages. This is all propaganda, which we have been fed so long that we believe it as history. As with other, slicker propaganda, such as the television series Mad Men, it portrays a set of falsehoods, laced with enough true background facts to pacify the reader eager to agree and comply. (It is always crucial to remember that much of what “everybody knows” now about many periods in the past is simply lies, and there is no better example of this than the 1950s and 1960s, in nearly every facet of their history, fed to us through our screens). Boring. Let’s talk instead about what a well-run society would look like.

But first, let me expand my thinking about why this book “succeeded” in its goal of massive social change. As with all major social changes, mere propaganda is not adequate explanation. The propaganda was successful because it hit our society at precisely the right moment, when it was open to the infection. First, emancipation was in the air; as Yuval Levin discusses at considerable length in The Fractured Republic, the 1950s were a unique moment in American history, when it falsely seemed like everyone could have unlimited freedom without cost, and this belief was not confined to those on the Left, but permeated society.

Second, and tied to the first, intermediary institutions, and the thicker web in which families were set, had already evaporated. Housewives, at least the suburban housewives who are Friedan’s sole focus, were in fact very frequently alienated and atomized, because the organic social structures that had supported both men and women had declined sharply (and would disappear entirely, as Robert Putnam narrated in Bowling Alone). These women did have more free time as the result of labor-saving devices; Friedan claims work expands to fill the time available – but the real problem is that given their removal from the thick social structures of previous decades, free time had no satisfying social outlet, giving Friedan’s explanatory fantasies a surface appeal, like a poisoned apple.

Third, and perhaps most important, the Left goal of destruction of the family fit precisely, in this case, with the unbridled capitalism, the excessively free market, that has worked hand-in-glove with the Left for decades to destroy our society (aided by the government). As a result of this book, or rather the propaganda campaign built around it, we got a massive movement of women into the workforce. Did those women get fulfillment, as Friedan promised? Maybe a few did, but most of them got BS jobs of various types, and we all got a massive increase in consumerism, which we are told is wonderful, because “look how much GDP has increased as a result of women entering the workforce!”

Of course, even this “fact” is a lie, because GDP excludes work inside the home. If two women raise their children, their work is excluded from GDP, but if each is paid by the other to raise the other’s children, GDP expands. But then GDP is largely a fake statistic and much of our economy a fake economy; and anyway it is simply false that any expansion in GDP is a social good, especially when the resulting costs, in the form of mass social destruction, are treated as disconnected, mere happening coincident in time but unrelated.

Regardless, with the assistance of the government and free-market enthusiasts eager to enrich a rotten ruling class, now a two-income family is required for what is regarded as a decent lifestyle, or even just to make modest ends meet, and this was independently a goal of too many in our society.

Better yet for our neoliberal overlords is a one-income family consisting of a permanently single woman. If you want to shudder, read a completely insane CNN article from 2019, titled “There are more single working women than ever, and that’s changing the US economy.”

The point is that single women spend an ever-greater proportion of the money spent on consumer goods, so we must further this trend, in particular by ensuring that those such women foolish enough to have children are given a place to park their children while they work to get money for the consumer goods that should be the real focus of their lives. There is more and more advertising, if you pay attention, to single women of luxury goods that in the past would be bought as gifts for those women – who now have nobody in their lives who will buy them any gifts at all, and must purchase artificial joy. It is enough to make one cry, if one wasn’t already fully occupied in flogging the cretins who brought us to this stupid pass.

So, enough abuse of the stupid. What should the social roles of women and men be in a well-run society? As you can doubtless tell, we are working our way to a call to limit women working outside the home. Let’s start by asking what women want. We are often lectured today, by the commissars of the loathsome ideology of “diversity and inclusion,” that fifty percent of all jobs should be held by women (or at least desirable jobs – men will keep all the dangerous and dirty jobs).

The usual response of “conservatives” is to point out that, empirically, most women simply don’t want the same jobs as men, so in a world of perfect choice far fewer than fifty percent of most jobs would be held by women. This fact is on actual display in countries that are most egalitarian about sex-role choice, notably the Scandinavian countries, where women choose traditional roles at very high rates. The timid “conservative” naturally begins, as demanded by the Left, with a preemptive apology. “Of course, I think women should be allowed to choose the path they want.”

Wrong. I don’t think women should be allowed to freely choose the path they want (nor should men). They should make the choice for family. To that end, society should largely nullify choosing career over family as an option, and coerce women into certain occupations and modes of life – and should in like manner coerce men, among other things to lead a life of being the sole provider for a family (unmarried men, beyond say, thirty, and men who fail to provide, should also be socially penalized)

In other words, society should reflect the natural division of the sexes, regardless of whether some people in society would prefer to make some other choice, whether because of their outrider nature, excessive focus on self, or because of ideology. We should return to social compulsion, shame and ostracism, to achieve this, as well as major changes to tax and legal structures, such as by absolutely barring no-fault divorce and offering (like the government of Hungary) massive payments to married couples with multiple children.

I’ll end with more thoughts on specific structural changes, but to expand on this positive vision, let’s begin with the end in mind. How should society recognize and beneficially implement the telos of both men and women? Therefore, let’s talk about astronauts. That is, let’s discuss Space, the first pillar of Foundationalism’s twelve pillars, and the role of women in Space.

The overriding principle of Foundationalism is reality, and restoring a realistic understanding of the roles of men and society is another pillar of Foundationalism. The crucial fact about men and women in society is that they are, and must be, partners. That women cannot do everything that men can do, and men cannot do everything women can do, and that even when each can do what the other can do, usually cannot do it as well, does not make one sex subordinate. But without recognizing and honoring this basic fact of different competencies, no society can operate for long.

Astronauts show how this works in practice. What is the purpose of astronauts? This is really one question in two parts. First, what is the purpose of astronauts in the present day, when astronauts are limited to short trips to, and short stays in, near-earth orbit? At most, perhaps, astronauts might visit Mars in the relatively near term, if Elon Musk has his way, although I’ll believe it when I see it. And second, what is the purpose of astronauts if humanity were to expand permanently, as often depicted in science fiction, such that astronauts are not just travelers, but off-earth inhabitants, the conquerors of a new frontier?

There are quite a few female astronauts today. If sex were ignored, would there be as many? Of course not. Far more men than women have the characteristics that make one want to be an astronaut, and make one a good astronaut. All our children are collectively assaulted from their earliest youth with massive propaganda pushing the idea of female astronauts.

Try something – go to any museum exhibit related to Space, and count the number of female astronauts depicted. It’ll be around eighty percent of the total, always with hagiographic sub-exhibits about specific women astronauts who accomplished nothing at all. Women who express any interest in being an astronaut are giving an unmerited boost at every stage, beginning in kindergarten, and when the time comes to choose astronauts, are placed at the front of the line. I doubt if astronaut selection were sex-blind there would ever have been a single female astronaut.

The purpose of astronauts today is to increase our knowledge and make possible future expansion outside the confines of Earth, what I think is a very important part of our society’s work. What are the costs and benefits of distorting the reality of female astronauts? Among other costs, choosing inferior candidates must mean, on average, not only that inferior work is done. It also means that the pool of outstanding candidates diminishes, because there is a strong incentive for the most talented and driven, and thus the most prideful, all men, to walk away in disgust from a rigged system.

A society that does not seek out and reward its best is a doomed society, and this is just one example of our such habits tied to sex roles. There are other costs to coddling female astronauts, of course – many of them very similar to the costs of allowing women in the military. What are the benefits? None, really, but I suppose the argument is that some women feel better about themselves, in the same way a child praised for crude finger painting by his parents feels better about himself. That is, unjustifiably, but in this case, knowing the praise is unjustified, and thus made simultaneously humiliated, and aggressively on the lookout for anyone adding to the humiliation by pointing out the obvious.

As to permanent human expansion, an excellent depiction of this is the books and television series The Expanse. Well, it’s excellent, except for its depiction of women, which is insane. In fact, there are no women at all in The Expanse. There are many men, each of whom acts like a stereotypical high-testosterone man, who are given female names and female physical characteristics, but none of them bears any resemblance to actual women (except for one, a Margaret Thatcher type, real but extremely rare).

In real life, if our society were to expand into the solar frontier, no “female” character in the show would occupy any position she occupies in the show – even if there were no social barriers to occupying that position. Real women as characters are totally and completely absent. Children almost never appear, and never under the care of any female character (except the lesbian “wife” of one character, who abandoned her “family”). All this is extremely jarring, making the show difficult to watch, except if you are deluding yourself, or have given it no thought at all. Yet, sixty years after The Feminine Mystique, this lying propaganda is not only ubiquitous, but ever more aggressive – probably because our ruling classes feel their hold on the greased pig of reality slipping away.

If we really got the frontier world of The Expanse, as far as sex roles, it would be like Little House on the Prairie with fusion drives and rail guns. Not only would no woman fight, and spaceships crewed only by men, both military and commercial, be the absolute rule, but women would have large families, over which they, embedded in a larger web of families and women, would exercise most of the responsibilities.

The simple reality is that men, far more than women, are interested in what’s involved in conquering Space, or conquering anything: fighting, risk-taking, adventure and glory, as well as dangerous and physically demanding jobs. Men and women would partner to achieve the near impossible tasks required to push mankind forward, but men would do the pushing and take the risks, in large part to protect the women. Such natural partnership is demanded by any harsh environment – it is only in our current softness that we can pretend otherwise. When reality is busy asserting itself in the form of hard vacuum silently waiting to kill you and your children, nobody will pretend that women and men are interchangeable.

Sadly, we must return to today, and hope our future in Space will work itself out, or that we can work our future out to make that possible. What did women, and all of us, get when women were pressured for decades to work outside the home? Let’s see – the women got BS jobs, often make-work funded by government dollars or the expansion of worthless work such as human resources, or innumerable other forms of paper pushing (many the result of pointless and destructive government regulation of one sort or another).

Friedan promises that women who listen to her siren call will be “mastering the secrets of the atoms or the stars, composing symphonies, [or] pioneering a new concept in government or society.” A wave of bitter laughter from millions of women can be heard, women who discovered too late that those type of jobs were not on offer, and they gave up children and a decent family life for a delusion. It’s not just women, though – only a tiny segment of men has a job that offers real accomplishment, “the life of mind and spirit,” either.

The job does not give them fulfillment; it is a means to their real method of fulfillment, providing for and protecting their family. And two careers maximizes success for neither spouse; meaning that men, who in their nature do get meaning much more than women from their success in the outside world, are more damaged by the demand for two careers – not collateral damage, but intended damage in the Left’s age-old war on the family. The result, when the natural order of sex roles is upset, is that nobody benefits, and society circles the drain.

I keep banging on about the differences between men and women, as if they were self-evident. They are, of course, and that used to be a commonplace, but dispelling the fog of self-induced unknowing is, I suppose, necessary. There are many differences between the sexes, and I have discussed them before in other, but related, contexts, such as the insanity of allowing women into the military.

As regards the question of work within and outside the home, the key facts are as follows. First, women are far better suited to, and far more interested in, raising children than men, and the point of the family is children – a family consisting of a childless couple has a great sadness at its core (yes, I know we’re not supposed to say that out loud).

Second, men seek glory, power, and dominance. Women simply don’t. (Offering exceptions to this general rule does not prove anything; it is equivalent to pointing to hermaphrodites to argue against the unalterable truth that mankind is divided universally into male and female). True, few jobs offer the chance for glory – but providing and protecting largely satisfy, for most men, this urgent drive.

Women therefore don’t choose to do what it takes to have a successful career, meaning achievement in a hierarchy earned through competition. The vast majority of women lack the drives necessary. They may in fact be smarter, better organized, and have other traits associated with career success. But their essential drives are directed toward family.

By studying societies of the past, we can see how a non-ideological society organically develops. In Western countries, the usual structure for well over a thousand years has been a partnership between men and women, where each is supreme in one sphere of family life, contained in a larger family web, but consults the other. Women do hold up half the sky – it’s just that their role, in its nature, is inward-facing, and men’s is outward-facing.

In the West, there has never been any equivalent of the “eastern” approach, typified by purdah, the separation and seclusion of women (driven by defective religious or cultural imperatives that, just as Friedan did, mar the natural order of a society).

Muslims during the Crusades were famously scandalized by how the men of the Franks allowed their women not only to appear in public, but to scold them and order them about. To take a more recent example, one cannot do better than Matthew B. Crawford’s talk in Why We Drive about women and men in Appalachian motocross racing, where, on and off the track, men and women act in (sometimes coarse) partnership, together striving towards excellence (something Crawford heretically contrasts with the sickening inversions he sees in Portland).

As with any human society, within this broad truth, there have been many local variations. Even Friedan admits that until near her present day, American women were not oppressed or unhappy. (Friedan does not make the flatly untrue claims about historical “patriarchy” that are the norm now, such that “everybody knows” that The Handmaid’s Tale is both history and future. She doesn’t because everyone would have laughed at the obvious untruth and pitched her book into the trash; it is only now, after sixty years of propaganda, that we believe there ever was a patriarchy). “Until, and even into, the last century, strong, capable women were needed to pioneer our new land; with their husbands, they ran the farms and plantations and Western homesteads.” (She should be cancelled for mentioning plantation).

Friedan doesn’t make the obvious conclusion – that if the subset of women on whom she is focusing are alienated by their circumstances, returning to the thicker social web even Friedan praises, not destroying the family, is the answer. But then, after all, destroying the family in the pursuit of emancipation from all unchosen bonds was her real end, not offering fulfilment within families to women.

This does not exclude women from ever working outside the home. Quite the contrary, actually. In the past, young women often worked. When rural life was the norm, women and men both worked, but neither could be said to have a career – this was division of labor, rather. As city life became the norm, young women often worked, until they found a husband. Often this was in work at which they excelled and tied to female talents and preferences, such as teaching and nursing.

Higher-status women, like Friedan, went to college and found a husband there (something Friedan, famously masculine and no doubt finding it hard to find a husband, bitterly complains about). Women whose children had left the home might work as well, or women with children might work-part time upon necessity. There is nothing inherently societally destructive of this. What is destructive is where the woman prioritizes that work over family, demanding it become a career – that is, a main focus of her life, and the driver of her happiness, or more likely, the lack of it.

What of a woman who does not get married, not purely by choice? That is, some women, because of their personality or physical appearance, find it difficult or impossible to marry. Or maybe failure to marry is some combination of bad luck and bad management; past a certain age, as everyone knows, a woman’s ability to get married drops precipitously (hence wine aunts). Usually, in our modern atomized society, such women have no choice but to substitute career for family – in the past, they would be woven into the structure of an extended family.

Until we can return to that latter, career is really their only option – like my own recently-deceased aunt, who chose a career in virology, after getting an M.D. from Harvard, and with whom I was close. She loved children, but never married (though she could have – she was indoctrinated into “career first”), and as a result was desperately lonely and unhappy for decades. I blame Friedan (and my aunt’s mother, my grandmother, who pushed anti-family ideology years before this book was published).

I have to admit, though, that had you had asked me twenty years ago, I would have largely bought into the myth that women having a career, and being treated as the equivalent of men in pursuit of that career, was a sound social choice. My wife and I met as big-firm M&A lawyers in Chicago; we presumed, early on, that we’d both end up with legal careers at large firms, with a nanny for our children.

We were conditioned to believe that any other system is monstrous, and that women lawyers should be viewed the same as male lawyers, even though everyone knew that women lawyers dropped out of law firms at vastly greater rates than men, either after they had a child or simply because the aggressive, high-pressure, competitive hierarchy of a large law firm is not congenial to the nature of women in general. (That it is congenial to some is irrelevant; one can always find exceptions to most general rules, and social structures are built on general rules, not exceptions).

My wife soon realized that wasn’t for her, though, and quit her law firm job some time before I quit mine to become an entrepreneur. But what followed has been an organic partnership. I was the public face of our company, but it would have been a failure without her guidance, encouragement, and support, since she balanced, among other defects, my disagreeable tendencies and limited ability to judge character (although, contrary to questions I get sometimes, I am not in the least autistic).

On the other hand, along the way we formed a spin-off company for which I suggested, or insisted, she be CEO, and that was a grievous mistake, only corrected after some years. But it all worked out great for us. For many of our friends, who refused to change course as we did, it has not worked out so well at all.

It is true that if women are discouraged from working outside the home, there will be some price to pay. Nothing is free. First, some women will be less happy than if they had careers – few perhaps, but not zero. Second, to the extent women working outside the home are producing real value, actual economic output will dip, and people will be able to afford fewer goods and services.

This may or may not be a problem; the reason most two-parent families must have both parents work is to make ends meet, because unbridled capitalism has allowed employers to squeeze “efficiencies” out on the backs of the workers, in order to enrich executives and stockholders, and claim these steps are necessary (expertly covered by James Bloodworth in Hired). Yes, it’s also social expectations on the consumer side; if you “need” a large house, frequent new cars, and a $1,400 phone, you need more income. Changing this terrible system to make it the norm that one income adequately supports a family, by limiting the “free market,” will be essential.

Third, you will give up those relatively rare occasions when a woman working outside the home makes, through her employment, a significant contribution to advancing society. I don’t mean, say, women working as scientists at pharmaceutical companies – any discoveries made by them would also be made by men, and probably sooner and better, given the real differences in men’s and women’s capabilities and drives, and the destructive advantages bestowed on women in any male-dominated profession. I mean exceptional production.

True, the bumper sticker phrase, “Well-behaved women rarely make history” is only fully accurate if you delete the “Well-behaved.” As I say, men drive a society forward, while women bind a society together; and this necessarily means that all, or nearly all, spectacular achievements will be those of men. But this is still a potential cost.

What structural/legal changes should be made, other than the social compulsion mentioned earlier? No, not ticky-tack programs such as new family leave policies, which anyway just encourage women to work outside the home. Rather, government policies, tax and otherwise, should massively favor single-income married families where the man works.

Employment discrimination (and all other types of discrimination) on the basis of sex, and marital status, should not only be completely legal, but socially encouraged, even demanded. Not only is sex discrimination, like age discrimination, almost always entirely rational, such discrimination is affirmatively necessary to accomplish the desirable society.

Again, no-fault divorce should be banned, and modern technology that erodes healthy relationships between men and women, from Tinder to online pornography, should be rigorously suppressed. No doubt other matters will deserve similar attention, and a new propaganda campaign, especially in popular entertainment, to reverse sixty years of indoctrination will also be needed. Let’s get started!

Life being what it is, some women will always choose to work outside the home. Sometimes this is in their particular nature; sometimes they actually need the money. This should not be made illegal, but there should be a substantial social penalty for women who make work a career.

In the same way as for decades women who choose not to have a career have been held in contempt, viciously portrayed across all popular media and vilified by our ruling classes, a married woman who chooses to have a career should be looked down upon, especially if she has children, and most of all if she chooses not to have children. (One can multiply special cases – what if a woman cannot have children? Hard cases make bad law, and bad social policy; the median case is what matters). And a “career woman” should presumptively be discriminated against in favor of a man competing in the same career path, and most of all in favor of men with children.

It is doubtless true that we cannot turn a switch. If all women in the workforce today left the workforce tomorrow, much disruption would result. A lot of it, that tied to BS jobs, would be temporary. But in some jobs, such as family-practice physicians, where women are the majority, rebalancing jobs could only be done over time. And some jobs, such as elementary-school teaching and nursing, will always have women in the majority, since those jobs always appeal more to women, and it is possible to enter and leave those jobs as a woman’s life changes – most of all, before, and perhaps after, a woman marries and has children. The exact result will derive organically from general rules, not from an artificial ideology.

The goal, across all of society, is to return to a natural partnership between men and women. This is very much not a siloed partnership, where the man and woman each operate completely separately in pursuit of a unified goal. Instead, there is necessarily overlap – a woman advises her husband in his role outside the home, and the husband assists his wife in her roles inside the home, in particular with children, especially with boys as they come of age, but also simple relief of the drudgery that characterizes much household work. But human nature dictates that those spheres and roles be different, and only by a return to this can human flourishing be reborn, relegating this book to history as an unfortunate footnote.

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, “Dans le bleu (Into the Blue)” by Amélie Beaury-Saurel, painted in 1894.

Cometh The Hour, Cometh The Man

I have always been aware of the great Shawnee Indian war chief Tecumseh. I grew up within walking distance of the site of his confederacy’s defeat, by William Henry Harrison at the Battle of Tippecanoe, and often visited the battlefield as a child. Tecumseh himself wasn’t at the battle; he was far away, trying to raise Indian allies. The battle was instead lost by his inconstant brother, Tenskwatawa, known as the Prophet, with whom Tecumseh had a fraught, but close, relationship. In this book, Peter Cozzens expertly and evocatively traces the lives of these once-famous brothers, the last of the eastern woodlands Indians of North America to mount an effective challenge to the expanding United States.

Cozzens, though the author of many books, is best known for an outstanding 2016 work on the Indian Wars in the West, The Earth is Weeping. That book, focused on the nineteenth century, did not cover the defeats of the eastern Indians. Here Cozzens turns to the earlier period, roughly 1750 to 1820, in which the Indians of the Ohio Valley lost their lands. Before 1750 the Europeans had already broken the power of the Six Nations (of whom the Iroquois are the best known), thereby consolidating control over the Eastern Seaboard. British, and soon enough American, settlers kept pushing west, despite promises made to the Indians, and the resulting conflicts are the topic of this book.

Tecumseh was born in 1768 into a division of the larger Shawnee tribe. The Shawnee were an Algonquin tribe – Indian ethnography is complex, but the two major groupings of North American eastern woodlands Indians were the Algonquin and the Iroquois, who, broadly speaking, were ancient enemies. The Shawnee were then resident in southern Ohio (where my grandparents lived, and I often visited Shawnee State Park with them, giving me more childhood doses of Tecumseh). They had not been in Ohio for long; Shawnees were peripatetic, in their culture and as the result of decades of attacks from the Iroquoian tribes.

The French and Indian War, that is, the Seven Years War, had ended in 1763, with the British defeating the French and taking Canada. The Shawnee did not participate in that conflict, in which the Six Nations did actively participate. This was the first major involvement of the Indians in the wars of the Europeans. The core Indian interest was to maintain their own lands, something that, in retrospect, was always doomed to fail. After that big war, small Indian wars continued off and on, notably Pontiac’s War, which ended in 1766.

All the Indian wars followed the same basic pattern. The government, whether the Crown or later the United States, would promise or agree to a boundary line, beyond which white settlement would not be allowed and the Indians could lead their traditional lives. White men would ignore this – some combination of, as Cozzens says, “hardscrabble farmers in search of better land, fugitives from justice, and the congenitally restless of slack moral fiber.” The Indians would become fed up and slaughter dozens or hundreds of white men, women, and children, often in the most gruesome ways. (Daniel Boone’s sixteen-year-old son was captured and tortured to death, for example.) The white man would react by organizing punitive military expeditions to kill Indians, in usually, but not always, somewhat less gruesome ways, and drive the Indians off the land.

If there is a crucial fact about the Indian Wars, and in general the relationship between Indians and Europeans, it is that the North American Indian population was shockingly low, and always had been. When Tecumseh was born, a mere fifteen hundred Shawnees claimed most of what is now the southern half of Ohio.

True, disease had earlier decimated many of the tribes (although the idea that the Europeans deliberately gave them smallpox is probably a myth – no matter, they got that, and other diseases, anyway; Tecumseh himself survived smallpox), and we don’t know how many Indians there were before the Europeans arrived. But likely not that many more than later – the eastern Indians were primarily hunter-gatherers, and the land simply didn’t support huge numbers, as can be seen by frequent references to game totally disappearing, and starvation looming, when any sizeable group of Indians gathered for even a few weeks.

This problem was exacerbated by white overhunting in the borderlands, and by the fur and skin trade – as Cozzens notes, Indians began to kill just to have something to trade for alcohol, of which more later. Even at the height of their power, in the mid-seventeenth century, the Iroquoian Confederacy, aggressively expansionist and ruling over a vast area of what is today northeast and upper-midwest America, totaled no more than 50,000 people. Cozzens estimates that the total Indian population of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley in 1768 was approximately 60,000 – at the same time the thirteen British colonies had two million inhabitants. Moreover, the Indians, resource poor, deliberately kept their birth rate low (though they did not practice infanticide). Thus, they could never have hoped to compete with the white man in numbers.

Even with their small numbers, the Indians mostly competently played a losing hand. Their only real possible move was to involve themselves in the wars among the French, British, and Americans – the Long Knives, as the Algonquins called the last – and hope to side with the winning team, with the expectation they would then be left in peace. Thus, despite no real interest in the white man’s wars, they were inevitably forced by circumstance to join. That, man-for-man, Indians were far better warriors than the whites, and they were quick to adopt European technology, could not compensate for their small numbers and democratic method of fighting, “every man his own chief.” Indians often won battles when allied with regular European troops, or alone when fighting poorly trained troops, but usually lost against any sizeable European force that maintained order.

Tecumseh’s father died in 1774, when Tecumseh was five, at the Battle of Point Pleasant, in what is now West Virginia. This was one of numerous skirmishes in Dunmore’s War, a brief but brutal war caused, predictably, by Virginians pushing west. The British then formally set the Ohio River as the boundary of the Indian lands. This boundary was a key fact of Tecumseh’s childhood, and its inevitable breaching by the white man the ground of his life’s work. His early years were spent near today’s Chillicothe; Cozzens does an excellent job of sketching the culture of the Shawnee, which we will discuss later.

The years of Tecumseh’s youth and early adulthood involved the further splintering of the Shawnee, some of whom moved west, and the grinding advance of the white man, sometimes in arms, but more often with a toxic joint offering of alcohol to dull the Indians and money to bribe tribal chiefs to sell land for a tiny fraction of its true worth. In 1782 the uneasy peace ended. In the Gnadenhutten Massacre, Pennsylvania militia, responding to Indian raids, killed nearly a hundred Delawares, men, women, and children (who were completely uninvolved in the raids, and in fact were farming Christians). The Shawnees and other Algonquins went on the warpath, killing hundreds of white settlers, and fighting pitched battles.

At the Battle of Blue Licks, in what is today Kentucky (and is considered one of the last battles of the Revolutionary War), they (along with their allies and some British rangers), killed sixty-seven Kentucky militia. (Among those were another son of Daniel Boone; no wonder Boone wasn’t a big fan of the Indians. But then, who even knows today who Daniel Boone was?) George Rogers Clark, a regular army officer in charge of the Kentucky militia, responded with organized expeditions that pushed the Shawnee out of southern Ohio, which was promptly overrun with American settlers.

Tecumseh moved north too, although as a young, unattached warrior he ranged widely, and he participated in various skirmishes and fights, as well as piracy against Ohio River settler flatboats. But fewer than a thousand Shawnee remained east of the Mississippi and north of the Ohio. The rest moved to Missouri, or to Creek country in the south, or to join the Chickamaugas who lived on the Tennessee River, near today’s Chattanooga. For a while, Tecumseh, and his brothers, visited Louisiana, then Tennessee.

He eventually returned to the Ohio Valley, however, and took part in the crushing 1791 defeat of Arthur St. Clair’s chaotic expedition against the Ohio Indians, which, in the usual pattern, was followed a few years later, in 1794, by “Mad Anthony” Wayne’s destruction of a large group of Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, where Tecumseh also fought.

Tecumseh gradually raised his profile and attracted followers, mostly aggressive young men and those who wanted to maintain the traditional Indian life, as many of the tribes became less warlike and dependent on annuities and other handouts. He and his extended family moved to today’s eastern Indiana, maintaining reasonably good relations with the local whites (helped by that Tecumseh spoke some English).

Some years passed, and the Indians south of the Great Lakes continued their slow decline. Harsh winters, vanishing game, American pressure, and alcoholism told on them. Then Tenskwatawa, Tecumseh’s younger brother, regarded as a useless, drunk buffoon (he had shot his own eye out as a child), suddenly claimed to have received a series of visions giving him divine revelation. He informed their small Shawnee village that the Great Spirit had told him that to gain heaven Indians must give up alcohol, and all the white man’s ways, and from this base he developed a new syncretic religious doctrine, with bits and pieces of earlier Indian mysticisms, Christianity, and Shawnee culture.

Tenskwatawa’s religion was only the latest in a series of Indian religious revivals. A Delaware, Neolin, had preached a similar set of doctrines in the 1760s, which was adopted in part by the Ottawa war chief Pontiac to fuel his eponymous war. In the Prophet’s doctrine, there were two opponents: Americans and witches. As far as Americans, however, Tenskwatawa’s doctrine wasn’t militaristic, but particularistic. Despite American fears, he did not, at first, preach going on the warpath. As far as witches, Cozzens frequently mentions the woodland Indian obsession with witches. Very often supposed witches, usually elderly chiefs whom younger men wanted to move out or unmarried women with enemies, were tortured and killed; the Prophet eagerly participated in these killings as a judge. You won’t read that in the sanitized Indian hagiographies they teach schoolchildren as history nowadays.

Almost all the Shawnee immediately converted. Other surrounding Indians were a harder sell, though some took to the new religion, especially Wyandots and Miamis, and many expressed interest, travelling to hear the Prophet speak. Thus, Tenskwatawa quickly became regionally famous, but at this time, around 1806, Tecumseh continued to be obscure – if mentioned at all, mentioned as “the Prophet’s brother.” Nonetheless, those who noticed him observed his charisma, presence, and leadership ability, and his rise to prominence can be dated to this time – perhaps prefigured by the name his parents gave him, which meant “shooting star” or “blazing comet.”

Tensions between the young United States and Great Britain were rising again, primarily the result of the Napoleonic Wars and their impact on American trade. The Indians held frequent conferences with various representatives of the United States, in a complicated dance asking for money and goods, but also reassurances about their land.

Meanwhile chiseling agents of the government, including William Henry Harrison, sometime military leader and now governor of the Indiana Territory, steadily ate away at Indian land title by bribing chiefs to sell land at pennies on the dollar. The United States was well aware, though, that if war came with Britain, the Indians might ally with Britain and attempt to retake their lands. And so it happened.

Tecumseh, in the years leading up to open war between Britain and the United States, acted as a Shawnee ambassador, both spreading the message of his brother and trying to create a new political alliance among different contiguous tribes. Indian alliances were notoriously short-term and opportunistic, making this an uphill climb, and in general both of Tecumseh’s messages were received coolly. Moreover, the Americans were aware of these efforts and opposed them, manipulating those Tecumseh sought to persuade with cash and alcohol. The ins and outs of the period 1806 to 1812 are complex, but covered in detail by Cozzens, including a famous and acrimonious council between Harrison and Tecumseh in 1810 at Harrison’s estate in Vincennes.

In 1811 Tecumseh finally achieved greater success recruiting Indian allies, helped by the belief among some Indians that war with the Americans was inevitable, and also by the Great Comet of 1811, visible for five months and sold by Tecumseh as an omen of their coming victory under his leadership. Tecumseh even made a long southern journey, trying and failing to convince the Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Cherokee, in today’s Mississippi and Alabama, to join his confederacy.

Cozzens casts Tecumseh as a firm believer in his brother’s faith, a matter of historical dispute, but this was primarily a political recruiting effort – the Prophet’s message never resonated much beyond the Prophet himself. Yet we should remember that this effort was nearly unprecedented; Tecumseh was a visionary, the rare man who can see and act beyond the constraints of his upbringing and culture, seeing what has to be done and doing it.

Meanwhile, the Indians Tecumseh had already recruited, Shawnees and parts of allied tribes, were grouped around Tenskwatawa in Prophetstown, near today’s Lafayette, Indiana. The others were Wyandots, Kickapoos, Potawatomis, and Miamis, but no tribe joined the Prophet and Tecumseh wholesale; it was usually belligerent young men who flocked to them.

Harrison, in a military role though he was still governor, marched up the Wabash from Vincennes in southern Indiana, fearing that Tecumseh would bring more warriors from the south and start a war, which Harrison figured to nip in the bud. The Prophet did not want to fight Harrison, but the warriors around him were young and impatient, and he had sold them on the belief that his magic would guarantee victory.

Harrison, camped near Prophetstown, made impossible demands that the Indians disperse and leave Indiana. So the Prophet’s forces, while Tecumseh was hundreds of miles away, in the early morning of November 7, 1811, attacked Harrison – and were defeated, although not as badly as Harrison, eager to burnish his political image, would have it. This is the battlefield I wandered in my youth.

Tecumseh returned and rejoined his brother and what remained of the Indiana Shawnees; what they said to each other is not recorded. The winter of 1812 featured widespread, but sporadic, Indian violence across the Indiana Territory, also ranging up through today’s Chicago and into Wisconsin, as well as Michigan.

The Shawnee brothers threw their lot completely in with the British, who held forts in and around Detroit, and who were now formally at war with the Americans. The latter sent strong forces northwards to subdue British Canada; the British promised the Indians they would never retreat. But after American naval forces succeeded in dominating the Great Lakes and thus cut British supply lines to western Canada, the British felt they had to abandon Detroit and retreat east, which the Indians saw as a betrayal, with many promptly abandoning the fight.

Tecumseh traveled east with the British, bitterly demanding the British stand and fight – and when they did, Tecumseh died, shot through the heart at the Battle of the Thames, in today’s Chatham, Ontario, October 5, 1813. Tecumseh’s alliance, the last attempt by the woodlands Indians to act collectively, died with him.

The remaining Algonquins moved to Canada, where their descendants still reside. The Prophet lived on in obscurity and poverty for another twenty years; by the time he died, he was nothing but a curiosity. Tecumseh was posthumously admired for his virtues by the young United States; his death is shown in many artworks, not least in the Rotunda of the Capitol. They don’t say much about him in schools today, preferring to focus on helpless victims and supposed emancipations, rather than heroic deeds and lives.

A great many fascinating details about Indian culture are brought out by this book, making it more interesting than a mere work of dry history. (Cozzens never uses or even adverts to the stupid term “Native American,” though it appears on the dustjacket.) No surprise, the Shawnee were fiercely racist – they thought they were superior to the whites, because they were first born of creation, and for that matter, they were superior to other Indians, though both Indians and whites had a pecking order. The Long Knives, according to Tenskwatawa, were not human at all, merely demons who crossed the Stinking Lake as scum on the waves.

This racism is not a knock against the Shawnee; some degree of racial empathy among similar people is inevitable – the challenge is managing it to make it not excessively pernicious (something at which the America of today is failing, as the deliberate whipping up of racial hatred in 2020 shows). Yet at the same time, the Shawnee, like all the woodlands Indians, adopted whites, and mixed-race individuals, Métis, were often prominent in Indian leadership, helped by having a foot in each camp.

In fact, several of the closest companions of Tecumseh’s youth were kidnapped white boys, most of whom ultimately returned to the whites, but some of whom died with him. As Sebastian Junger says in Tribe, this disinclination of forcibly adopted whites to return to civilization, and the not infrequent leaving of civilization by adult whites to join the Indians, says something about European civilization, not complimentary.

Cozzens also touches on harsher topics. He says rape was forbidden by traditional Shawnee beliefs, and the Shawnee were very disciplined in all sexual matters. But later he refers to Ojibwa allies raping Shawnee women (and the Shawnee then getting payback by shooting their “allies” in the back in a subsequent battle), so it must have occurred sometimes among the woodlands Indians.

In his earlier book, Cozzens notes that rape was common among the Western Indians, so any differences among Indian tribes were cultural (and the occasionally heard claim that rape is a purely European phenomenon just propaganda). Torture and cannibalism of captives by Indians were routine, as well – a captive never knew whether he or she would be adopted or tortured to death, though adoption was more common, unless the Indians were seeking revenge for some recent affront or defeat.

The most interesting topic, perhaps, is alcohol and the Indians. Alcohol, even more than disease, destroyed both Indian populations and their will to resist the Europeans. Governments constantly issued dictates forbidding trading alcohol to Indians, but to no effect, since it was far easier to get the Indians drunk and steal their goods, or trade for them at rock-bottom prices to Indians desperate to get alcohol, than to trade honestly, and the government, British or American, was always unwilling or unable to enforce this and other dictates with respect to the Indians.

The catastrophic effects of alcohol on the Indians tend to be deemphasized today because their extreme affinity for it is felt to reflect poorly on the Indians. Many or most Indians became raging alcoholics when given alcohol (not Tecumseh, though he did drink upon occasion), and those who did not were happy to get roaring drunk whenever they could. It was common for Indians to literally drink themselves to death, and they frequently did extremely harmful things under the influence of alcohol, such as slaughtering their own livestock, or murdering each other over trivial matters.

Australian Aborigines have a similar reaction to alcohol, so I imagine it is related to some genetic quirk in populations never exposed before to alcohol. But, of course, we are not allowed to talk about genetic differences today.

A quick glance around the internet shows a wild desperation to reject the historical truth about the Indian lust for alcohol, including Google curating its results to avoid any support for it – though they don’t deny other genetic traits tied to alcohol, such as the “Asian flush.” And Wikipedia, showing why it is a highly dubious historical aid to memory, unhelpfully lies to us in racist fashion, blaming the white man: “Native Americans typically experience higher rates of alcohol use compared to other ethnicities as a result of acculturative stress directly and indirectly associated with historical trauma.” Nope. Indians just loved (and love) to get drunk, never mind the damage they knew would result.

However, let’s not end on a sour note. Yes, Tecumseh lost. He was foredoomed to lose. But his actions, his blazing course across the sky of the Ohio Valley, speak to us still today. One should be careful not to believe the myth of the noble savage, but also careful not to fall into the opposite error, that peoples more primitive than us cannot provide exemplars to us.

Tecumseh, man of grandeur mixed with tragedy, was a Man of Destiny. He tried to preserve his culture – and he did not back down, he did not count the cost, but did the very best he could with what he had. It was not enough, but that says nothing bad about his character, and tells us nothing about what success other men, yet to appear, who embody his virtues but apply them to new challenges in a new time, will have.

Tecumseh proves that such men arise across cultures. Whether they arise in desiccated cultures such as ours, I am not so sure. The Shawnee, as all the woodland Indians, chose their leaders, most of all their war leaders, by leadership ability and success, so the best men came to the fore. We’ve abandoned that, so how can a Man of Destiny gain traction in America today?

The hyper-feminized reaction to the Wuhan Plague suggests that, perhaps, like good seed cast on hard ground, our own Man of Destiny may not find a receptive audience. Yet almost certainly, if the truth were allowed to be ferreted out, more people voted for Donald Trump than for Joe Biden, which suggests the ground only appears hard, because we are fed propaganda that it is hard, to demoralize those who are based in reality.

Similarly, most likely the cowardly reaction to the Plague we see all around us appears as the norm because of the societal pressure put on everyone to outwardly comply, combined with massive censorship of those who are willing to state the truth. No, I think the Man of Destiny will be welcomed when he comes – not by all, but by enough.

Nonetheless, the Man of Destiny will not arise until the day is far gone, when the feet of clay that support our society crumble. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. I think, reading this book, that after all, we are just waiting for a new, and not that very different, Tecumseh.

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, “Portrait of Tecumtha;” water color attributed to Owen Staples, ca. 1915, after w wood engraving by John Benson Lossing, ca. 1858, after a drawing taken from life by Pierre Le Dru ca. 1808.

Naval Power In World History

Jeremy Black has an international reputation for his prolific writings on the past, present and future of politics, diplomacy, warfare, strategy, empire, historiography, cartography, the press, and even the historical context of James Bond. Like other scholars in such fields, he has his roots in diplomatic history, in his case that of the early eighteenth century.

This book exhibits all his trademark qualities as a writer and historian: accessibility, wide and recondite learning, global approaches, long chronological spans, lateral thinking, striking observations, and confident exposition.

Often provocative, he is unfailingly interesting, with the ability to see familiar issues in new ways, and to leave the reader with food for thought on important subjects. This book provides an analytical survey of naval warfare from the ironclad era of the 1860s, through the two World Wars (including substantial chapters on the inter-war period) and the Cold War, to the current era and into the future. As he says at the outset, the focus is on the interplay of technological, geopolitical, and resource (for which read fiscal and economic) issues.

This approach enables avoidance of both narrowly technical force structure issues and of a too broad-brush treatment which pays them insufficient attention. In adopting an explicitly global and comparative framework, Black shows his understanding of military forces in general and navies in particular: the critical nature of their relative, rather than absolute, power and their relevance beyond the purely local or regional maritime domains.

While indicating how naval power was a key to imperial acquisitions and maintenance in the late 19th century, Black points out its limitations in both protracted and truncated continental conflicts. The American Civil War saw the effective initiation of littoral anti-access strategy with coastal-defense monitors and fortifications armed with 15-inch guns. Along with the perennial strategic problem of Canada (the British Empire’s indefensible landward frontier), this precluded British intervention on the side of the Confederacy. The Franco-Prussian War, swiftly decided on land, gave little opportunity for a French blockade to work and underlined for France its age-old need to prioritize the army over the navy and the continental over the maritime front.

Black gives attention to developments and conflicts usually ignored in the Anglosphere, such as the attempt of Korea to modernize naval power and the War of the Pacific 1879-1883 which saw Chilean victory over Bolivia and Peru. While surveying naval technological and doctrinal changes after 1880, Black places them in context by observing how the First World War would have been strategically recognizable to British admirals of past eras – a continental conflict in which Britain was successful by means of economic warfare, trade protection, alliance diplomacy, and expeditionary forces.

Unlike in 1870, the German failure to knock out France at the outset meant that the war evolved into a long and complex confrontation, largely between continental and maritime power, in which the latter was victorious. Time, as usual, worked in favor of maritime power which then excelled in creating strategic options. Railways, as Black points out, could mobilize the resources of a continent, but ships could deploy those of the world. The great irony was that sea power prior to the war had, however, over-promised and was seen as under delivering.

Black draws parallels between the inter-war period and the current era, while distinguishing between the rise of Japan, an insular state, as a naval power in the early 20th century and China today, a continental state whose maritime ambitions have been enabled by the absence of a landward threat since the end of the Cold War. Interestingly, when considering the force structure issues of the 1930s, Black argues that rumors of the death of the battleship were greatly exaggerated and that its expected vulnerability to air attack was not fully borne out in the 1940s. Like other surface warships, it had enduring value, including as a means of naval night fighting.

The longest chapter deals with the Second World War which was marked, as Black points out, by the ‘world ocean’ becoming a unified theatre involving every type of naval conflict. He therefore resists the temptation to divide the analytical narrative into European and Pacific stories but treats them as an integrated whole. This enables consideration of British grand strategy in having to tackle an ultimately impossible task of war with three enemies in two hemispheres (the strategic nightmare of the British Empire triggered by the rise of a hostile extra-European naval power in Japan – a problem which had never arisen during the age of sail).

The German blitzkrieg of 1940 repeated the outcome of 1870 with the rapid defeat of France in a land war. But the pivotal difference was British naval-maritime power which enabled prolonging of the conflict. Black argues correctly that Britain was not in real danger of invasion, given the strength of the Royal Navy and the inadequacy of German amphibious capability. The critical struggle was of course in the Atlantic, where air cover against U-boats had to be progressively developed: a need insufficiently anticipated by both the RAF and the RN.

Striking at Pearl Harbor, Black argues, was not in Japan’s interest when the Pacific naval balance of forces was in the IJN’s favor in terms of a campaign in South East Asia. He also explores the interesting counter-factual of what he sees as the lost Japanese opportunity to project greater naval power in the Indian Ocean, threatening the British position in India, rather than fighting wholesale against the US Navy in the Pacific.

Black divides his treatment of the Cold War into two chapters dealing with the period of American dominance up to the late 1960s and that of the stepped-up Soviet challenge which followed. He points out the importance of naval power even in a period of confrontation rather than conflict, including its role in globalising great power rivalry and conducting regional wars as in Korea and Vietnam.

The US alliance system, in both the Atlantic and Pacific areas, was very largely a construction of sea power, and created issues of planning, procurement, and interoperability greater than those which had faced Britain and the Dominions in an earlier era. The Falklands War, as a successful episode in sustained maritime warfare in the missile age, encouraged both US political commitment to a maritime strategy and Chinese interest in naval power projection.

Black’s discussion of the post-Cold War period recognizes the complexities of naval power in an era of state and non-state actors, network-centric and asymmetrical capabilities, new awareness of the operational level of warfare at sea, and the high financial cost of cutting-edge naval technology. He is good on the politics of US naval power in a democratic age, on force structure issues for the major and medium powers, and on the psychology of Chinese maritime strategy.

That navies do not carry the baggage of association with the interventionist wars following 9/11 is a political asset for them, especially in a period of growing maritime rivalry. Black argues that despite the political charisma of air power, and given the largely unfulfilled promise of trans-Eurasian land transport, navies are of enduring relevance when population growth and economic activity are concentrated in littoral cities, and when global maritime trade continues to increase in capacity and cost-efficiency.

While appreciating how warships are increasingly threatened by land-based weaponry, he recognizes the sheer strategic value of naval surface forces. Perhaps the fundamental choice facing advanced navies today is between fewer more costly and highly capable units and more which are less capable but less costly and more readily risked. One should add that the latter category probably involves more lives at stake.

If there is a criticism to be made of the book, it is that somewhat more emphasis could have been placed on the human element of naval capability. But there are interesting observations, for example on the superiority of US naval leadership education between the Wars which fostered the higher operational and strategic problem-solving skills evident in the defeat of Japan.

The book takes advantage of the explosion of modern naval historical writing over the last generation, and as usual Black’s footnotes are worth a read. Australian developments, from the creation of the RAN to the Defence White Paper of 2016, are given attention and placed in global context.

While each reader will find opinions with which to differ, the book has something informed, perceptive, and sensible to say about virtually everything within its scope, and is highly recommended for its rich and intriguing detail as well as thematic imagination.

Dr. John Reeve is Honorary Senior Lecturer in History at University of New South Wales Canberra, Australia. This review originally appeared in the Australian Naval Institute.

The image shows, “The Battle of Jutland,” by Montague Dawson, painted ca. 1949.

What Is England?

Not to submit forever, until
The will of a country is one man’s will,
And every soul in the whole land shrinks
From thinking – except as his neighbor thinks.
Men who have governed England know
That dreadful line that they may not pass
And live.

These lines are from The White Cliffs, that famed long poem by Alice Duer Miller, written in September of 1940, in the very midst of the Battle of Britain, that epic struggle of the few against the myriads of the Luftwaffe. By the time this opening phase of a six-year long war finally ended in October of that year, 544 of the “few” had been shot down and killed over English skies. Eighty years on, their sacrifice is remembered by way of commemorative events, but what of the England that they died for? Has it endured in its will, in its national character, which Miller points to in her poem?

This, perhaps, leads to a larger question, one more difficult to answer – what is England in the 21st century? Further, is a nation a set of ideas, or the shared experience of a group of people bonded by common origins, or simply a geographical location in which people live without espousing anything essential other than circumstance of birth, or economic necessity and advantage?

To write a history of a nation encompasses far more than the tracing out of events, since the past must now more than ever also be justified as possessing intrinsic worth that will yield its value to all upon its retelling. Given the entrenchment of intersectionality, the past is fraught territory, lest anything within its ambit be glorified and thus foreground essentialist conclusions of “Englishness.”

Jeremy Black’s most recent book, A New History of England, rather deftly navigates these tricky waters to arrive at an apt justification, in that “past and future also exist in a counterpoint with each other.” Black understands that “The future and identity of Britain… have become unclear…” and thus, “…In this context, there is renewed interest in considering the identity of England.” He is also well aware of the now-contentious ground of history: “Those who fear the future tend to praise the past, while those who chart hopeful destinies for the future are often critical of the past. The curse of the past is particularly present for those who seek to empower themselves through past grievances, whether real or imagined; but to abandon history leads to the broken continuity with the past in which identities are lost and values atomised.”

Perhaps the reason why history is now so problematic is that we have a lot of problem defining the discipline properly. What is history? The totality of events, or the written report of said events? Adding to the ambiguity is the shift away from any and all notions of human destiny in favor of causal laws, which then makes history a rational explanation, by way of description or reconstruction of what happened in the past. Since modernity lacks cohesion, only point of view, opinion remains. Thus, existentialist, neopositivist and historicist opinions see history as capricious, without true description – which means that history is not an explanation but simply another story, in a much-tangled network of narratives. Nothing but this network exists or matters. The great flaw in this argument is that history is not a natural science that it must meet standards of rational causation – and more importantly, it is a necessary component in contemporary life – and thus cannot be rejected nor simply be a story poorly or deftly told.

Black rather admirably grounds the importance of history within the expanse of res gestae, by both acknowledging that consciousness is the standard of truth for modernity, while also recognizing the necessity of transcendence, in that history must also contain “…the far more complex reality of overlapping and often very different, if not clashing, senses of identity. Alongside nationhood, people can also identify through social structures, religion, gender, ethnicity and other factors, although there is a risk of putting excessive weight on modern ideas of self-identification through gender, ethnicity and other factors.”

Such an understanding allows for a rather precise conclusion: “… the English are those who live in England.” As to why the book is about the history of “England” rather than a history of “Britain,” Black offers this clarification: “…the idea of Britain, especially of the Anglicised bits of Scotland, Wales and Ireland, is, in many (but by no means all) respects, essentially a ‘bigger England’ view: an English identity was stamped on some of the ‘Celtic Fringe’ and, in turn, opposition to real or alleged English interests and values helped drive local identities and political activism.” The “idea” of Britain is also summarized. It is the “…strength of the core of England – Westminster, London, the monarchy, the [national] system.”

Thus, the first chapter is geographical in nature, or that other “history, that of the relationship with the environment.” Accordingly, the impact of human activity throughout the breadth of the region is examined, with the ensuing loss of certain species of both flora and fauna. However, the area that comprises England is also the most fertile in the entire island, thanks to the Gulf Stream and reliant rainfall. This gave those who lived in this region economic power and thus the “fuel” to extend control.

Further, being an island, geography required an outlook and thus institutions which were markedly different from the Continent. Thus, there was a reliance on the navy, which made conscription for a standing army less important (although this did not preclude England from getting involved in various military ventures). Raw materials also played their part, especially coal. Therefore, it is not surprising that the notion of environmentalism as integral to history is developed in England, in the 19th century by Charles Pearson.

The second chapter looks at the condition of England before the arrival of the Romans, starting with early hominid presence, and then the coming of the modern humans in the Paleolithic period, the hunter-gatherers of the Mesolithic, and the eventual spread of domesticated animals and wheeled vehicles and metalworking (copper, bronze and lastly iron). By the second millennium BC, there are stone circles and henges, with Stonehenge being the most famous, though certainly not the only one.

From 800 BC, England came to be dominated by the Celts, who spread westwards from what is now Germany. There were many settlements and towns, but no real indication of an urban civilization. What can be learned about this era is from archaeology mostly, as the Celts were not literate and left no written culture. This means that it is impossible to speak of a “proto-England” at this early era.

With the coming of Julius Caesar in 55 BC, the island became part of the Roman world, and thus Chapter 3 deals with Roman Britain. The subduing of the island was no easy maneuver and required much hard-fighting and effective military leadership, which lasted well into the next century, with the invasion by Claudius in 43 AD. This process finally ended with the conquest of Wales in 76 BC. The Romans, of course, never managed to hold sway over Scotland and Ireland. Hadrian’s Wall (seventy miles long), built in 122 AD, was an admission of this inability.

As Britain became a Roman province, it acquired the many benefits of Mediterranean civilization. Towns were established, provincial capitals established, with London being the capital of the entire province. As well, roads were laid down, agriculture improved, technology imported and trade with the rest of the world established. And important cultural changes, such as, Christianity, had immediate impact. On the whole, Roman Britain was peaceful; the source of the unrest were Roman military units who were always in turmoil because of the political ambitions of their commanders. Eventually, Britain, as with the rest of the Roman world in the West, could not hurl back the relentless attacks by barbarians. Rome itself was captured by Alaric the Goth in 410 AD. This also spelled the end of Roman Britain, which was left defenseless in the face of barbarian threats from the Continent.

Chapters 4, 5 and 6 deal with three pivotal events in the history of the island – the coming of the Anglo-Saxons (which established the English language and England itself), Danish conquests (the Danelaw), and thirdly the Norman Conquest. The Anglo-Saxon period, from 450 AD to 1066, was one of rich culture, as evidenced by the finds at Sutton Hoo, as well as high literary achievement, in both Old English and Latin, such as, Beowulf and the work of the Venerable Bede.

During this 600-year period, the character of England may best be described as “Scandinavian,” since it was finely integrated with that northern world, culturally and linguistically. The fateful year of 1066 changed all that, for with the Norman Conquest, England not only changed dynasties but cultural alignment – the Normans sheared away Scandinavian influence (and made Scandinavia itself a back-water of Europe) – and merged England with the life of Europe.

Chapter 7 examines the medieval period, in which kingship was Norman and French. However, during this time, England also created institutions that were unique, for feudalism gave way to the Magna Carta, with the growth and establishment of parliament. The Church was a cultural engine, for it established monasteries, hospitals and universities. The resultant intellectual and economic growth led to innovations in technology and flexible civic structures (towns and corporations). England also extended westwards and now included Wales, which began the transformation of England into Britain. However, this was also the time of the Great Plague, the Hundred Years’ War and the devastation of the War of the Roses, which effectively ended the medieval age.

Chapter 8, examines the Tudors, which saw emerge a new energetic type, namely, the “gentleman,” who possessed power not by virtue of noble birth, but because of individual effort. The Tudors greatly promoted gentlemen, who in turn gave them wider influence and wealth. Such men defeated the Spanish Armada, brought English colonies into North America, extended trade, and gave England a novel status – that of world influence. Paradoxically, such expansion also meant that a more dynamic type of governance was needed. This was found in a refurbished parliament – and the consequent diminishing of royal power. By the time Queen Elizabeth I died, royalty had lost most of the “divinity” that once hedged a king.

Chapter 9 concerns the Stuarts and the Interregnum in which the Civil War and Cromwell’s rule ensured that parliament would now be above the crown. This meant that law was paramount (the habeas corpus) and the State limited in overreach so that the subject possessed rights that could not be supervened. More importantly, the crown, because it was under parliament, became an integrated part of the nation, instead of an overarching system of power. As well, England formed a union with Scotland (1707) and became Britain.

After the Stuarts, parliament could also readily “import” suitable sovereigns (William from Holland, who was in fact the grandson of Charles I, and after him the German Hanoverians). Such integration – people, parliament and crown – ensured great social, economic and political stability, something that the rest of Europe would never enjoy until well into the 19th and 20th centuries.

Chapter 10, concerns the 18th century, which was a period of great innovation and invention, for this saw the Industrial Revolution, the Age of Reason, and a global reach of the English language. France, with its Napoleonic Empire was defeated and humbled, which gave England the baton of a world power. But England had also suffered its own humility, with the American Revolution, which meant the loss of half the continent of North America and the creation of the United States. Internally, however, England saw none of the upheavals that gripped Europe throughout this period. This is because of three factors – the entrenchment of a powerful and independent legal system; Whig liberalism; and socially conscious Anglicanism, which fostered gentility, or what could come to be called, “the Sentimental Revolution.” These three political and social forces allowed England to maintain stability and cohesion.

Chapter 11 deals with the 19th century, which is also generally known as the Victorian Age, after the monarch whose reign spanned for much of the century. England saw its prestige and influence increase globally, as it also became an empire on which it was said “the sun never set.” This imperial achievement (thus, Great Britain), came as a result free trade (beginning with the abolition of the Corn Laws) and a more streamlined fiscal system that also had simplified taxes. There was also the establishment of the post office; the laying down of an extensive rail network; the creation of a civil service that was not political aligned but concerned with the responsible management of the nation. England also brought an end to the international slave trade.

But rapid industrial growth created untold misery, for the ordinary factory-worker had no real protection and exploitation was rife in a Britain rapidly industrializing. The Factory Act of 1819, and its later refinements, imposed limitation on the number of work-hours for men, women and children; which, in turn, brought about the weekend holiday (beginning with half the Saturday off). The work week (the “English week”) gave dignity to labor that was previously absent. More importantly, a new class of citizenry was created – the middle-class, which soon became the backbone of the nation. All this did not mean that there was no mismanagement and bad decisions (like the Great Famine in Ireland). Nevertheless, there was always the higher ideal of working towards stability and peace.

Chapter 12 deals with the 20th century, which brought an end to the power of England, by way of two World Wars, even though Britain won both. The cost of victory was great, for meant dismantling the empire itself into a Commonwealth of nations and dominions (beginning with Ireland). England, as in the start of its history, slowly retracted until it once again became an island nation, within the broader context of Europe, which eventually brought it into the European Union (an economic and cultural relationship that is now, in turn, being dismantled through Brexit). Britain is no longer Great, but merely the United Kingdom.

The final chapter engages with an interesting issue – that of English identity, where the unity itself of the Kingdom is now being called into question by those who would like to see it dissolved, so that England once again becomes surrounded by other nations – Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Thus, regionalism has meant a collapse of another kind – that of cultural continuity, so that “Englishness” is nothing more than a heap of fragments which cannot really be glued back together again – for there is no “glue” available to accomplish such a task. As Black observes: “Thus, the destruction or weakening, from the 1980s, of traditional and, until then, still vital benchmarks of national identity – the Common Law, Parliamentary sovereignty, national independence, the monarchy, the Church of England, a culture of tolerance – was not followed by the creation of any viable alternatives.”

So, what lies ahead? Black is not overly optimistic about England: “Not only the sovereignty and the cohesion of the United Kingdom, but also the character and unity of England are being recast, or is it destroyed, in the name of modernity. It is difficult to feel optimistic about the outcome.” It appears that those who now govern England have now rather blindly passed that line which Alice Duer Miller warned about in her poem.

This book was a joy read, for it is marked by deep insight, clarity of thought, and an impressive marshalling of facts. It really should be on every thinking person’s bookshelf, for it possesses that rare quality among books of its genre – it does not disappoint.

The image shows, “The Departure of a Troop of 11th Hussars for India,” by Thomas Jones Barker, painted in 1866.

Civil War In Finland

You have likely never heard of the Finnish Civil War. A brief war, in some ways a simple war, it lasted only three months, from late January to late April, 1918, but killed around one percent of the population. It was started by the Left, the Reds, and ended by the rest of Finnish society, the Whites, who crushed the Reds, preserving Finland from the fate of Bolshevik Russia. This war is an object lesson in how even a homogenous, largely united country can quickly end up in civil war when part of the population becomes gripped with Left ideology, and it is also an object lesson in what to do in response.

There is more than one reason you have not heard of this war. Finland is obscure, as shown by that there is apparently an internet myth that Finland itself is a fiction cooked up by the Japanese and the Russians to preserve bountiful fishing grounds that exist where maps show Finland to be. More importantly, perhaps, other events in 1918 had much greater historical consequence—the Bolshevik Revolution and the height of World War I occurred at precisely the same time.

But just as relevant to this war being unknown is that the Left, who for over seventy years has written the histories taught to us, is embarrassed and afraid that they lost the war, a war of rebellion they chose to begin because Finnish society rejected their poison. They know that their loss disproves the idea that the arrow of history points left, just as does their loss of the Spanish Civil War. They can’t ignore the Spanish Civil War, so they simply lie about it (and lie more as time goes on and the truth slides further from view). If the Finnish Reds had won, you would know about their triumph, which would be sold as a righteous victory. I am here today to remedy this historical amnesia.

Of course, the war is well-remembered in Finland itself. English-language sources, however, are few and far between; I bought and read every one of consequence. I started with a basic overall history of Finland, David Kirby’s A Concise History of Finland, which I separately reviewed a few weeks ago.

I then read what seems to be generally acknowledged as by far the most important English-language history, the massive The Finnish Revolution 1917–1918, by Anthony Upton. This book, a monograph in the old style of great detail and little editorial comment, was published in 1980 and was then translated into Finnish; apparently even in Finland (though I speak no Finnish at all) it is regarded as one of the, if not the, masterworks on the Civil War. Upton’s book narrates the run-up to the war and the war itself in day-by-day, nearly hour-by-hour, detail.

I also read a recent academic anthology, translated from the Finnish, The Finnish Civil War 1918, edited by Tuomas Tepora; and the updated second edition of Risto Alapuro’s State and Revolution in Finland. These two latter are less substantive than Upton’s work, but still thorough. And in this small selection, at least, the authors avoid propaganda masquerading as history, a real problem in books about the Spanish Civil War, although to be sure all three books lean toward the Reds.

Tepora’s volume spends far too much time on worthless areas like “gender and psychohistory,” but does contain some updated factual scholarship since Upton wrote. Alapuro’s work seems like it should be propaganda—he’s an avowed Marxist, and the book was published by an explicitly “radical left” press, Haymarket Books. Nonetheless, he strives to be neutral, and his biases tend to show up in his macro interpretations, not in distorting the actual history.

I also consulted some other books focused or bearing on the war, such as John H. Hodgson’s 1967 Communism in Finland; C. Jay Smith’s 1958 Finland and the Russian Revolution 1917–1922; Henning Söderhjelm’s The Red Insurrection in Finland, published in translation in London in 1919; The Memoirs of Marshal Mannerheim, by the key figure in the entire war, the White commander, Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim; and German general Rüdiger von der Goltz’s My Mission in Finland and the Baltic.

Furthermore, brief discussions of the Civil War usually show up in detailed histories of the Bolshevik Revolution. Lenin and his compatriots took refuge in Finland after their failed coup of July 1917, and the Bolsheviks, as we will see, supported the Finnish Reds—though such support was ancillary to their own problems and focuses. Therefore, I studied some Bolshevik-oriented writings as well, even if none really added anything new.

From all these sources, it’s possible to get a complete picture of the Civil War. Although I can’t be certain, not having read the Finnish-language literature, it appears that the war is not subject to the kind of completely fabricated propaganda typically generated by the Left during its conflicts with the Right. Probably that is mostly because there were, and are, nearly no foreigners interested in the war who could be profitably targeted with such propaganda.

Moreover, in a small, homogeneous society and with the war being short and well-documented, it would be difficult to convincingly maintain manufactured falsehoods over the long term. Thus, propaganda about the war, during and after, was and is apparently confined to exaggeration, not fiction.

A note on terminology. I will here simply refer to the Finnish Civil War as the Civil War. For a long time it was referred to in Finland as the “War of Independence,” tying it to successfully separating Finland from Russia, and at the same time tarring the Reds with the brush of attempting to prevent Finnish independence. Which is true, but not because they wanted to be subject to Russia, rather they believed that socialism would usher in the Brotherhood of Man, making independence irrelevant.

The Finnish Left has long called the Civil War the “Class War,” and other names have been used as, since the 1960s, leftist influence has gained in Finnish historiography. The simplest name makes the most sense, and “Civil War” (or “Domestic War”) is apparently mostly used today among the Finnish public.

As to the participants, traditionally “Whites” and “Reds” have been the primary terms used, and I will often use those as well. True, a more accurate characterization of the Whites would be the “Loyalists” or “Republicans,” since they represented the legitimate democratic government (far more so than Spanish “Republicans”). That would be confusing, however. I will frequently use the catchall term “the revolutionary Left” for the Finnish Reds. As with any political movement, there were variations within their ranks, but in practice all acted under the umbrella of the Social Democratic Party, the SPD, which was a revolutionary Marxist party, and which, since there was no Finnish Communist party until well after the war, contained within itself all elements of far-left thought. One might make subtle distinctions, as in Russia among Social Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, but for our purposes, they were all the Left, committed to violent revolution.

Sometimes when reading about the Civil War, the reader is struck by the feeling that this was a stupid and wholly unnecessary war. The Left leadership contained no men of excellence or real drive; they were men of weak character who bounced from one crisis to another, often of their own incompetent manufacture, both before and during the war. They held the principles of Lenin, or close to them, in theory, and shrieked them loudly in the press, but shrank from their full application, which did nobody any favors. They were led to war, a war they, and they solely, chose to initiate, by the own iron logic of their ideology, unable to come up with creative approaches or to take the long view. And not having any line of demarcation to their left, they were inexorably drawn to ever more violence, in the usual dynamic of leftist movements.

Background

Finland did very well during the nineteenth century. For centuries it had been part of Sweden (and to this day Swedish is one of Finland’s two official languages), until Russia defeated Sweden, and in 1809 Finland became part of the Russian Empire, as the Grand Duchy of Finland. In practice, Finland occupied an advantageous position within the Empire, viewed as loyal to the Tsar and largely left to govern itself internally. Finns did not even have to serve in the Tsar’s armies, though many chose to make a career in the Russian military, and Finland was able to sell to Russian markets on advantageous terms (to the annoyance of many Russian nationalists).

Class divisions in Finland were not nearly as extreme as in some other European countries. Finland is sparsely populated and crop agriculture limited, so a good deal of Finland’s agriculture was husbandry, including dairy products, and timber, both wood itself and derivatives such as pine tar. Demand for all these products both from Russia and from Europe increased sharply during the century, enriching all of Finnish society, and at the same time creating some fractures within what had been a stolid, patriarchal-type society with a high degree of social satisfaction.

The small Finnish upper class based its wealth partially on land holdings (although most timber was owned by peasants), and partially on their position in administration of the state.

A handful of rich industrialists also emerged toward the end of the century (steam-powered sawmills were introduced in the 1860s), owning manufacturing concentrated in a few areas in southern Finland, notably Tampere. Crucially for the course of the war, the railroad network had become quite extensive by 1918, bringing a land of frozen lakes and roads made impassable by mud together, and allowing more industrial activity, mostly in the south but also in a few more-northern regional centers. Still, by 1914, there were only around 200,000 industrial laborers.

A large middle class existed, including very many smaller farmers who owned enough land to live comfortably (and more, if they owned significant timber). At the other end of the rural scale were landless laborers, who in that harsh land typically spent the winters in the forests cutting wood to make ends meet. In-between was a large group of crofters, who held long-term leases on land, often paid largely or wholly in-kind. Conflict between landowners and crofters arose when landowners perceived they could get better returns by ending the leases and hiring laborers—a problem exacerbated by that many of the leases were oral.

Also in the middle class were clergy (Finland was uniformly Lutheran) and civil servants of one type or another—as was common in many areas of Europe, government service was regarded as a prestigious employment.
What bound the Finns together, then and apparently now, was nationalism. Despite practical loyalty to the Tsar, Finns regarded the Russians as beneath them, and always had. All classes, top to bottom, idealized Finnish independence, in combination with a century-long national recapture of Finnish culture, such as the Finnish epic, the Kalevala.

The Russians made little effort to tamp down Finnish thought and speech about independence, but refused to even confirm the specifics of what the Finns saw as a special constitutional status, much less grant formal independence. The Finns played the long game, strengthening their cultural institutions and evincing a great degree of unity around the matter, but keeping it as an aspiration, not a concrete political goal. But in 1901 the Tsar introduced conscription, and the response was the politicization of the independence movement.

This politicization occurred at the same time as other political matters were fermenting. One was the issue of crofters’ holdings. Another was expanding the franchise, which for the most part was restricted to property holders. The SDP was formed in 1903, unopposed by the other classes, who (mostly incorrectly, as it turned out) thought that organized workers would be educated, and therefore responsible, workers. It was, as typical for such parties, a hard Marxist party, not what we think of as “social democracy” today.

The SDP was explicitly revolutionary from the start—but not with quite the same vigor as the Russian Marxists, rather similar to the German Marxists, whose program, as Upton says, they incorporated verbatim. They contemplated that the triumph of Communism was inevitable, and their job was to manage the inevitable. It is very important for us today to understand what seems to us a quirk in early Communists, but is an essential point. They believed that Communism was science, and its triumph was as certain as any other scientific law, or that two plus two equals four.

This encouraged an attitude of passivity, sometimes fatalism, among the Finnish Left, where violence was known to be inevitable, but something that could not be controlled, rather in effect being an independent actor.
Politically, naturally, the focus of the SDP was class struggle (the trade unions were somewhat separate, although ultimately also dominated by the revolutionary Left), and the majority view among the SPD until after the Civil War was that all class enemies, collectively referred to as “bourgeois,” should not be fraternized with, whether socially or politically.

This meant that parliamentary democracy was largely a farce, since from the very beginning of strife, one side rejected compromise and normal parliamentary give-and-take. This character defect in the SDP was exacerbated by the single biggest factor in dividing Finnish society along class lines—the relentless mendacious propaganda peddled by the revolutionary Left press, especially the SDP’s flagship newspaper, Tyomies (The Worker). The education level in Finland was low, and as a direct result the working class believed the lies told to them, which revolved during the 1910s around the supposed hatred of the “bourgeoisie” for the working man and their desire to starve the working man into submission for their own enrichment.

In 1905, when the turmoil in Russia resulted in political change there, the SDP called a general strike, hoping to achieve similar dramatic results in Finland. The representative of Russian power, the Governor General, bolted, and the small Finnish police force largely disbanded (there was no Finnish army), leaving a power vacuum.

This led to the creation of Red Guards in urban centers for the first time by the SDP—not that this was an original idea, since orthodox twentieth-century Marxism always contemplated self-generated militias supposedly to “protect the workers,” in reality to impose revolutionary Left will. But mostly these forces were a ground-up creation, not one created or commanded by the Executive Committee of the SDP, and this set the pattern for much of the next fifteen years—a weak Left leadership swayed by those even further left. So while theoretically, the Red Guard reported to the SPD leadership, in practice, its leaders often dictated to the SPD.

In response, a “Home Guard” (sometimes referred to as the “Civil Guard”) was formed by the “bourgeoisie.” At this point in the reading of the various books on the Civil War, a crucial defect shows up in all of them, most evident in Upton. None of the authors, except Alapuro to a limited extent, give any depth to the loyal elements of Finnish society, those opposed to the Reds, the Whites. They all richly sketch the SDP and all Left entities. But everyone else is just the faceless “bourgeoisie,” the standard derogatory Left term (until they switched to “butchers,” of which more later). Thus, after detailing at length the creation of the Red Guards, Upton simply says “the bourgeoisie formed a separate Home Guard, consisting mainly of university students.” We are not told anything at all more (although if you examine the data closely, it is evident that in an inversion from many Left revolts, students supported the Whites—only two students died fighting for the Reds, and 251 died fighting for the Whites).

Similarly, we are told that at this time the SDP “recruited a group of largely bourgeois intellectuals,” many of whom were very important in later years, notably Otto Kuusinen. What made them “bourgeois,” we are not told. With the exception of Mannerheim and a few government ministers mentioned from time to time, all the authors treat the “bourgeoisie” as the Borg, a mass with no individuals. Its motives are opaque, and it acts as a monolith, though that can’t actually have been true, and hints of broad diversity peek out. We get endless detail about the internal arguments and tensions of the SDP, but we get almost no understanding of the Whites except as it relates to military decisions. We learn all about the administrative structure of Red Finland, and almost nothing about White Finland’s, other than in connection with Mannerheim. I don’t know if this massive lacuna is present in Finnish-language literature, but it’s jarring to the reader of any of the books I read, and makes the reader wonder what else is being left out of the story.

In any case, in 1905 in Finland, as in Russia, matters settled down, somewhat. The Tsar confirmed a radically new constitution put forth by the Finnish estates that included universal suffrage (thus showing pretty clearly the “bourgeois” weren’t opposed to the working class at all—although unlike in other countries that suffered violent Left revolutions, it does not appear any of the rich funded the Left out of ideological sympathy or a desire to be eaten last). The SDP disbanded the Red Guards (and the miniscule nascent Home Guards were also disbanded) and instead focused on electoral politics, building an efficient machine.

Realizing that urban workers numbered too few for their purposes, they aggressively and successfully recruited throughout the countryside, as a result winning forty percent of the seats in the new Parliament. Mostly, they recruited crofters, not the landless laborers. Upton says the latter were “too sunk in ignorance and apathy, or too dependent on employers to be willing to engage in politics.”

Probably that was true, but the urban working class was ignorant, too—more likely the issue was that exposing rural workers to a stream of propaganda was harder than doing the same for urban workers, and direct personal appeal to the interest of the more educated was a better strategy. Moreover, rural success was limited by the SDP’s aggressive emphasis on atheism and free love, the usual Marxist bellwethers—Finnish rural society was strongly religious, having undergone a pietist revival during the nineteenth century, and contempt for Christianity was not a good selling point.

But the power of Parliament was, for the most part, an illusion, since the Tsar was now taking a far more active role in Finnish matters, and Parliament was not the sovereign—the Tsar was. In practice, what Parliament did was advisory, and the Tsar mostly rejected the advice, which meant he rejected most of what additional the SDP wanted. (He did bar the termination of crofter leases, however—but the SDP wanted the land given as freehold, without compensation to the owners, to the tenants, so even this was inadequate in their view). Rather than cooperating with the other elements of society to increase pressure on the Tsar, the SDP chose to view every non-Left group ideologically, and concluded they were the problem, not the solution. They fed this false view, for which Upton notes there is no evidence at all, to the workers.

Nonetheless, at the beginning of World War I, Finland was quite peaceful. Big talk did not mean big problems. Prosperity was widespread. The Finns did not fight, except as volunteers, in the World War, but the Russian presence increased greatly, since Finland occupied (and occupies) a strategic position for Russia. This led to yet more prosperity, as the Russians spent money in Finland on massive fortifications—but this was counterbalanced by the loss of Germany and Britain as export markets. Still, Finland did not suffer much in the war—the biggest problem was food insecurity, because Finland relied on grain imports from Russia, which became unreliable.

In 1916, the SDP won a slim absolute majority in Parliament—although the Tsar refused to allow Parliament to meet, given that it was prone, in his view, to agitation, which he could ill afford at that time. And he made clear that if Russia won the war, Finland would not gain more independence.

A group of Finns, in essence a clandestine single-issue political party, the “Activists,” whose main program was immediate total Finnish independence through violence against Russia if necessary, and who had some relationship with all the recognized Finnish political parties except the SPD, negotiated with the Germans (the logical patron to the Finns if the Russians refused independence) to achieve the opposite result. Among other actions they recruited somewhat more than a thousand Finns to travel to Germany, to fight under German command but with plans to later assist in seizing Finnish independence. This became the “Jäger Battalion,” an important component of the later Civil War.

Unrest in Russia during February 1917 led to uncertainty in Finland. Russian soldiers stationed in Finland, mostly on the coasts and mostly sailors, mutinied and shot their officers. The soldiers set up Soviets and proceeded to stir up trouble in Finland, including encouraging allied revolutionary Left Finns to form new Red Guards, again to “maintain order.”

Order had to be maintained because a key demand of the Left was the disbanding of the police in all the cities and towns, such that the Left, through its militias, would be the only group able to exercise force. (It’s strange to see this same demand appearing in 2020 in America, now in the mouths of the BLM terrorists, for the same reason as a hundred years ago. Although in Finland, the Left demanded the municipal governments pay the Red Guards, and today George Soros pays their modern equivalent, Antifa).

Kerensky’s Provisional Government was sympathetic both to Finnish independence and to the Finnish Left, but most concerned with not giving the Germans an opening in the World War. The Russian change in government was, in some ways, the proximate cause of the Civil War, because the Tsar’s abdication created an ambiguity as to who held the ultimate power in Finland. Did it revert to the Finns, under a creative interpretation of the events of 1809, making the Finns automatically and permanently formally independent? Or did it transfer to whomever held supreme power in Russia at any given time, from whom formal independence must be sought? This argument clouded all power relations in Finland until the end of the Civil War.

The Russian Provisional Government persuaded the Finns to form a government, complicated by that although the SPD held the most seats, on principle most of its members still refused to participate in any type of coalition government with “class enemies.” After pressure, though, the SPD bent enough to form the socialist-majority “Tokoi government,” named after its chief minister, and containing ministers from four other parties, the “bourgeois” parties. Those were the Old Finns, the Young Finns, the Swedish People’s Party, and the Agrarian Party. (Again, we get almost no information, other than scattered hints, about what these parties believed, what they held in common, and what their position was on issues crucial to the SPD. They are merely “bourgeois,” a contentless propaganda term).

The SPD quickly lost control of the more radical revolutionary Left elements, which engaged in mass demonstrations in Helsinki and other towns. A key demand was to seize food from imaginary hidden stocks of the non-Left classes; fear of starvation was a major problem by this point, and a nonstop propaganda topic of the SPD was the supposed thievery and hoarding by the non-Left, endlessly repeated to whip up hatred and unify the Left, although without any evidence provided. (We have yet another analogue today, as the American Left shrieks “racism!” constantly, while never providing evidence of any actual racism at all.) Nonetheless, the SPD leadership maintained enough control to prevent open violence—for a little while.

Meanwhile, by the end of April 1917, with the police disbanded, the Red Guards began to engage in violence against the non-Left, both in cities and in the countryside, along with coercion of municipal authorities, making the Left militias in many instances, as was intended and planned, the ultimate authority. The non-Left parties therefore began, by June, to discuss setting up their own paramilitaries, but unwisely failed to do so; the SDP’s organs used these discussions anyway to whip up more hatred and fear among the rank-and-file Left. As Upton says, “In short, the socialist press sought to persuade an unsophisticated and captive readership that the capitalist enemy was deliberately trying to starve the workers so as to weaken them and beat them into submission.”

Violent propaganda was the stock-in-trade of the SPD; the standard term for any non-Left opponents, from long before and through the Civil War, used scores of time in quotes in all the books I read, was “butchers.” Seeing the writing on the wall, in the countryside, the farmers began, without government help, to organize mostly unarmed “fire brigades,” excluding socialists, something assisted by the great popularity among rural Finns of intermediary institutions, not just churches but also many other social-benefit groups, theater groups, and so forth.

Inevitably, as Upton says, by August 1917, everywhere in Finland there was an atmosphere of fear.
The Tokoi government was incompetent, due to the contradictions it contained, and it could not work well with the Russians, since even the SPD was keenly interested in formal Finnish independence, the non-negotiable demand of all Finnish parties, and not in the least interested in getting involved in the World War, to Kerensky’s annoyance, given he regarded the two as necessarily linked. Kerensky therefore stalled by claiming he could not authorize Finnish independence without the Russian Constituent Assembly, which had yet to meet, and in the meantime, he expected the Finns to fight.

The SPD therefore began to fall fully into the orbit of the Russians even further to the left than Kerensky, most of all the Bolsheviks, who were only too happy to promise immediate complete independence—even though the Bolsheviks had no power in Finland, except for tight personal ties to some in the SPD.

Endless talks with the Russian government produced no real movement toward a solution, so the SPD passed a bill claiming full Finnish independence, the valtalaki, annoying Kerensky, who rejected this action as ineffective, even more. And when Kerensky crushed the premature Bolshevik revolt in July, the Provisional Government, as sovereign, dissolved the Finnish Parliament and scheduled new elections for the beginning of October. The SPD was not happy, but assuming they would win the election, grudgingly accepted this dissolution.

Violence by the Left increased rapidly, including riots in the major cities; in response, the non-Left elements of society finally started forming private security forces. These forces tended to fall within the Activist orbit, and have strong anti-Russian overtones, rather than being directed at the SPD, which should have reduced tension – but they could hardly announce that their purpose was getting rid of the Russians, and anyway since the SPD looked to the Bolsheviks more and more, and were friendly with local Russian Communist elements, these new loyalist forces ultimately were certain to conflict with the Red Guards. T

hese security forces blended into the Home Guard forces that began to be raised in the countryside and started to assume a more formal structure. Both the Red Guards and the Home Guards made strenuous efforts to acquire weapons, which were rare and hard to get (something Americans of today find difficult to comprehend), and managed to accumulate a modest quantity and variety of light weapons, mostly bolt-action rifles and revolvers, with a very few machine guns, and little ammunition. Inevitably, the first political murder was on September 24, when SPD elements, in revenge for the arrest of some Red Guards, shot a random Home Guard member on the street in a Helsinki suburb.

But, shockingly to them, amidst large turnout, the SPD lost the election, although there was no clear mandate for any of the other parties, either, and no party had a majority. The surprised SPD immediately started threatening violent revolution, and calling for concrete action, issuing a long list of non-negotiable demands, including confiscation of any non-Left weapons and confiscation of all food stocks for distribution to SPD supporters.

Most of all, they denied the legitimacy of the election, demanding an immediate new election with a lowered voting age. They falsely claimed, with zero evidence, that the results of the election were fraudulent and “the product of conspiracy between the bourgeoisie and Russian reactionaries.” Not only must the non-Left parties agree to a new election on their terms, they must also agree immediately to a new constitution and a purge of all non-Left judges and civil servants, and the formal disbanding of all Home Guards and similar groups. Or, don’t you know, the SPD would not be responsible for the violent revolution sure to result over which they had no control, since it was a scientific inevitability.

This denial of legitimacy is the crux of the matter and was the immediate cause of the Civil War. Although the confused question of sovereignty vis-à-vis Russia clouded the matter, that’s a smokescreen. The reality is that, always and everywhere throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the Left denies the legitimacy of any election it loses under conditions where it expects a revolution. Given what we’ve seen in America from 2016 through 2020, we shouldn’t be surprised at this course of events at all.

At this point, in October, the Bolsheviks took power in Russia. Lenin, who had a close relationship with top members of the SPD, particularly those most far left, encouraged the SPD to “rise and take power” (although the flow of Russian weapons to the SPD temporarily slowed, as the Bolsheviks needed them to cement their own rule). The leaders of the SPD were not Lenin, though; they lacked his virtues, and were always prone to half-measures combined with threats they could not, or did not, follow through on, to Lenin’s annoyance and disgust.

Still, on November 14 the SPD announced a general strike. In those days, a general strike was not what we see in France occasionally today, where the bus drivers stay home and museums close; it was an overt attempt to take power through extralegal means, short of full rebellion but with full intent to use violence, and under the guidance of a “Revolutionary Council.” The Home Guard was still struggling to be born, and the non-Left parties were neither prepared to nor inclined to fight, yet, so in all the major cities, and many smaller ones, the Red Guard took control, invading homes of their opponents to search for guns and food (and liquor, to the chagrin of SPD leadership), and arresting and imprisoning hundreds of their opponents, murdering some people along the way.

In truth, the Left had taken over much of the country without much violence. But the government, in the form of civil servants, shut down, and the SPD leadership lost its nerve, calling off the general strike on November 16, over the objections of the Red Guard leadership—although in much of the country the strike, and violence, continued for another week. As always, the SPD leadership were men who talked big but could not follow through.

And to cover their incompetence, they ramped up talk of violence, blaming their opponents for murders by Reds (twenty-seven by November 26) and generally endorsing violence, a move not calculated to calm the situation, and alienating those non-Left politicians who still had any interest in cooperating with the SPD. When Parliament convened, a non-Socialist government was formed, on November 26. The SPD had gotten the opposite of what they wanted, and the opposite of what they had promised their constituents.
In a sense, the general strike lost the Civil War for the Reds, since it forewarned their opponents. The non-Left elements were not going to be caught flat-footed by the Red Guards again. All Finnish society still wanted formal independence, and now the new Parliament treated with the Bolsheviks. In theory, of course, the Russian Communists were only too happy to have the Finns be independent, if they only asked, since socialism had no borders.

So, Parliament, after wrangling about form, declared independence in early December (today December 6 is Finnish Independence Day), formally notifying the Bolsheviks as requested, though they found it degrading to do so. The mechanics of independence were not nearly as simple, though—there was the matter of the extensive Russian military presence, both troops and equipment, much of it immovable. Nonetheless, independence was, over a few weeks, internationally recognized, creating a brief wave of good feeling in Finland.

It did not last. The SPD had never abandoned their list of non-negotiable demands, and continued to press them. But the non-Left parties refused, of course, and they could, because they held parliamentary power. The Red Guards, still only tenuously under control of the SPD leadership, continued to expand and engage in freelance raids for food and arms, extortion, and other forms of politically-oriented criminality, openly and, as Upton says, “all with complete immunity from legal sanctions.” (It appears this was because they could not be arrested without violence, not because the judicial system had been taken over by the Reds, as ours has today in many American urban areas).

Among other things, in Turku (the second city of Finland), the Red Guard led three days of riots on December 15, looting shops and burning buildings, and setting the entire country on edge. The SPD leadership publicly frowned on the violence—and blamed their enemies for it, claiming the Turku riots were organized as a provocation, not conducted by the Red Guards (again we see a reflection of this in 2020, with the gaslighting total lies we are told that right-wing “white supremacists” were in some way involved in the massive exclusively Left violence in American cities this summer).

The government was unable to openly rebuild defense forces against this insurrectionary activity, except in secret, because of threats from the Red Guards, who controlled crucial chokepoints on the rail network, preventing the assembly of anti-Left forces except by drips and drabs. Whatever the government’s inability to raise forces, no surprise, the Home Guard, privately funded and organized, grew rapidly, although with little central direction, rather on a local level. (The SPD, of course, lied that the Red Guards had only come into existence to counter the previously non-existent Home Guard).

Unlike the Red Guards, though, the Home Guard focused not on looting, but on training, either under Finnish officers with some military experience or under small contingents of Jägers sent home by Germany (who were coming home in small groups, rather than in one large group, because the Germans were making nice with the Bolsheviks at the time). They still lacked weapons, however – the Germans sent some, but were unsuccessful in sending more. The Finnish government, after some dithering, did proceed to establish a military command, recruiting (as their second choice) a Finnish aristocrat who had fought for the Russians – Mannerheim. He was a man of overwhelming self-confidence and competence.

On January 9, Parliament authorized the creation of a large army, directed at the Russians if they would not leave, and an internal security force, clearly directed at countering the Red Guards. Mannerheim immediately began to implement these directives, while the SPD shrieked hysterically in Parliament that the “butchers” were starting a war, waving on the floor of Parliament poisoned dum-dum bullets that the government was supposedly issuing to the Home Guard to use on the workers. Meanwhile, the SPD asked for, and got, more large shipments of weapons from the Bolsheviks (even if, again, by modern American standards, these were trivial amounts of weapons).

Although only a minority of the SPD leadership actually wanted war, they all believed fervently that the “triumph of the workers” was inevitable, and a hard core of militants was able to dictate SPD policy – as had been seen in the general strike, consistency was not a hallmark of the SPD leaders. Naturally, they continued to claim that any violence was due to their opponents. As Upton paraphrases the official SPD position, published in Tyomies, “Their [opponents’] sole responsibility for any violence that ensued was further asserted by the doctrine of historical necessity; those who oppose the forces of history are guilty of the violence this causes.” Thus, after some waffling, on January 27th, the SPD’s Executive Council declared that “It has been decided to take all state power into the trustworthy hands of the nation’s workers. . . .” The Civil War was on.

The Civil War

As seems to be the case with most modern civil wars, everyone was expecting this to happen, and was just waiting for the show to begin. Intellectually, the Whites viewed this as a war of independence, against Russia, not a war against the Reds, whom they chose to view as a proxy for the Russians. For the most part, this was not true; the violence was just another in a long line of wars begun by the Left when they could not achieve their goals within an existing system.

Sometimes they manage a veneer of legality for grabbing power that they never intend to risk giving up again, as in 1936 Spain or 1970 Chile; when that fails, as it did in Finland, they turn to direct action. It’s not really their fault; it is baked into the way they view the world. Anyone with sense can see the signs long before the fighting actually begins. You might want to take a look around America today.

The government immediately handed over supreme White military power to Mannerheim, who in his high-handed aristocratic way interpreted this as all power, causing tension with the civilian government, which would ultimately, had the war lasted longer, had to have been resolved. As it turned out, though, the government’s ministers fled southern Finland, stronghold of the Reds, barely escaping, and were initially dispersed in northern Finland, so Mannerheim was able to do as he pleased with little trouble, in practice largely functioning as the ruler of White Finland during the Civil War.

The pressing problem Mannerheim faced was that he directed no real military power; the government was far behind the Reds in organizing for war. Even with his minimal forces, Mannerheim immediately responded to the SPD’s declaration of war with bold assaults on Russian garrisons in White Finland, successfully disarming several with minimal bloodshed, and managing to capture significant stocks of desperately-needed weapons.

The Reds did not engage in immediate military action; there were no White garrisons to attack in Red Finland, and they contented themselves with arresting specific people, when they could find them, which they mostly could not—it appears Finland is, or was, an easy place to hide.

For ten days, both sides made ready. Control of the rail network was crucial; the roads were hard to use and could, at this season, only be travelled by sledge, though frozen lakes could also be crossed by men on foot, but movement at speed of large forces required rail. Mannerheim focused on cementing control in northern Finland, and by mid-February, controlled all north Finland (which was most of Finland, but only half its population). In retrospect, the only chance the Reds had was a massive initial push, since when the war began, only they had organized fighters and weapons.

But they lacked the training and the will, and their decision structure was not nimble. The White and Red armies coalesced during the month of February, while each tried to figure out the best way to defeat the other. As with all things in this somewhat cut-rate war, most of the Red leaders could not put their whole heart into it. This is perhaps the strangest thing about the Civil War—the lack of competence of the Reds. In the usual course of left-wing violence, hard men of power come to the fore, shoving aside those with less will. That did not happen here.

Soon enough, both sides turned their focus to the rail network, which had main east-west and north-south trunks. For both sides, preventing the other side from attacking along the three north-south trunks became critical. The fighting during the war did not, with a few exceptions, involve large masses of men fighting in positional warfare.

The front lines were, except in a few places located on critical rail junctions, usually many miles apart, miles that were in practice impassable except by small groups of scouts or skirmishers. Conflict, outside the taking of towns and cities using men brought up by rail, mostly involved men shooting at each other from a distance, with few casualties and, if an advance was attempted, victory almost always going to the defenders. Artillery was minimal.

The Bolsheviks promised troops but failed to deliver; the Russian garrisons mostly wanted to go home to Russia, not fight in another foreign war (evenj if a considerable number did volunteer to fight for the Reds). And although the Bolsheviks sent a lot of weapons, the supply was unreliable, and Lenin’s personal intervention was repeatedly necessary to get weapons released. Mannerheim spent the initial days of the war, when not strategizing, aggressively training his men and expanding his army, including through conscription. He also negotiated with the Germans for support, for weapons, for the full return of the Jägers, and for troop support, although the latter was the least important to him, since he wanted to show a Finnish, not a German, victory. His goal was independence, along with destroying Bolshevism.

It is important to remember that at this point the Germans were, in a way, patrons of the Bolsheviks—the German aim was to win the World War, still ongoing, and keeping the Bolsheviks out of the way, avoiding restarting fighting in the East, was their goal. Thus, Mannerheim realized, the Germans were not as anti-Bolshevik as the Finns, and if Germany was needed to win the war, Finland would likely become a German satrapy, defeating the overriding goal of full Finnish independence.
As always under Communism, the Reds immediately unleashed a Red Terror in the areas they controlled.

But, by comparative historical standards, it was a fairly restrained Red Terror. The usual Left mechanism of “Revolutionary Courts” was used, combined with opportunistic murders by Red Guards, and the target was any members of the Home Guard, or those politically opposed to the revolutionary Left. However, as with so much about the Finnish Reds, this was terror-lite, or in the eyes of the Bolsheviks, an incompetent Terror.

The Revolutionary Courts mostly handed out fines and imprisonment, not executions, and in a rare departure from revolutionary Left orthodoxy, focused not on class membership, but specific proven actions deemed to be harmful to the working class. The Red Guards were annoyed at this, wanting just to kill class enemies, and engaged in parallel organized murders. But these were relatively few in number, except in Helsinki, where the Red Guard in practice ran the city and the initial Red Terror was more significant – but still modest by usual revolutionary Left standards.

Perhaps this was some quirk of the Finns themselves, slow to rage, or maybe the short duration of the war and the need to focus on immediate concerns meant less immediate killing, and the Reds would have unleashed a greater terror over time. Later events suggest the latter.

Many more Reds than Whites died in the Civil War. In 1998 the Finnish government commissioned a study to determine, so far as possible, the names and details about every person killed during the war and its immediate aftermath. (I assume this was non-political and accurate, but have no way to determine if that’s true).

The total was about 37,000, in a nation of 3.2 million people. Of those, about 9,000 were killed in battle; 9,000 were murdered or executed; and 13,000 died in prison camps. But 27,000 were Reds and 5,000 were Whites (with 5,000 “other,” presumably Russians or those impossible to determine). 7,500 Reds were executed or murdered; only 1,500 Whites.

The disparity wasn’t because of the more merciful character of the Reds, but because the Reds captured few prisoners in battle and captured no towns or cities they did not initially hold. The Whites weren’t merciful either, though. Often the Whites killed prisoners out of hand on the grounds they were not legitimate wartime opponents, but traitors and murderers. (Captured Russians fighting for the Reds were almost invariably shot).

Mannerheim waffled on what treatment should be meted out to captured Reds, sometimes calling for courts martial after the war, sometimes implying they should be shot immediately, so in effect he was responsible for much of the killing of prisoners. This was probably a mistake, since most of these men were probably simply misguided, and the actual architects of the Civil War mostly escaped punishment after the war, hiding abroad.

The role of the civil service deserves its own attention. Most of the bureaucracy was trapped in Red Finland, so Mannerheim did not benefit from their service, which they would mostly no doubt have given, since most of the civil service was “bourgeois” by Left definition. The Reds dismissed the bureaucrats from their posts for refusing to work, and tried to administer the existing machinery of government themselves. This was largely a failure. However, the crucial postal and rail services kept working, more or less, thanks to the efforts of the lower-level workers who may not have been Reds but were willing to keep working, in part simply to feed their families.

The banks mostly refused to open, but the Reds controlled the Central Bank, and simply blew open the vaults and helped themselves to all the cash on hand to pay their bills, then printed more. (C. Jay Smith notes that this “operation [was] facilitated by the fact that the [Red] Minister of Finance, Edward Gylling, was an ex-burglar”).

Printing money would have ultimately crashed the Red economy, but did not within the three-month period of the war. Telegraph workers stuck around—and, since they were, according to Upton, “notoriously White sympathizers,” proceeded to pass secrets to Mannerheim. (Of course, the usual term for refusing to work is “strike.” Upton adopts the Red characterization of any refusal to work for the Reds instead as “sabotage,” aligning himself with the Reds—similarly, no person is ever described by Upton as “notoriously a Red sympathizer”; negative emotionally-laden terms are reserved for Whites).

Food was also a problem for the Reds; they quickly discovered all their wild claims of food hoarding were false, and so had to rely on Russian imports, which were sketchy at best, along with seizing any food they could find. But they managed to avoid starvation.

The Reds were also disappointed in the workers who were supposedly the core of their support. After years of relentless propaganda, most did support the Reds. However, Upton makes clear that generally the workers offered “low productivity and rising expectations”—in other words, they wanted more pay for less work, and, no surprise, “pious exhortations” had little effect. Again, in three months this did not cause real problems, and many of the workers were happy to join the Red Guard, simply to get pay and food, and opportunity for loot, so adequate troops were not really a problem for the Reds.

Demonstrating their usual tendency to lack of focus, the SPD leadership spent quite a bit of time during the war planning for a postwar socialist society, which would have democracy again, since everyone knew democracy inevitably led to socialism. And having no dynamic and charismatic leaders, they strangled themselves on committees and “democracy” within their structures, compared to the Whites, who operated much more efficiently, even though they had only a skeleton government.

An interesting aspect of the Finnish political division is that before and during the war, Finnish artists all supported the Whites. We associate artists with the Left, but that is largely historical happenstance. For a century, Finnish culture had been organized around a vision of Finland as an independent nation with its own deep culture. Thus, it is no surprise that artists, and all the cultural elite, had no sympathy for the Left, with its perceived desire to subjugate Finland to Russia and rejection of Finnish culture in favor of an alien ideology.

This demonstrates it is a mistake, and historically false as I have discussed elsewhere, to believe that artists necessarily lean left—and, in fact, the Right today desperately needs outstanding artists. Doubtless this rejection by the cultural elite frustrated the Reds, a feeling exacerbated by no public demonstrations of popular support, in part because Finland is cold and the culture not prone to overt emotion, but mostly because those not on the Left stuck in Red Finland saw “the Reds as betraying the national cause,” in Upton’s words, and simply stayed out of the way.

The Red Guards were used as the formal military of the rebels, though not all were sent to the front. Training was nominal at best—the Reds had the loyalty of few men with experience of military command, almost zero NCOs or professional officers.

The negative impact of poor training was exacerbated because pseudo-democracy was the order of the day, thus taking orders wasn’t the forte of the Red Guards, who, no surprise, often preferred simply to loot and pillage, rather than frontally assault enemy positions.

When orders were received, often units chose whether or not to obey, and in any case the Red leadership often had little knowledge of where units were. Panic among the Red Guards after any battlefield reverse was very common, and discipline for such failures, and worse ones, such as outright cowardice or looting, was none.

While the Bolsheviks supplied a great deal to the Reds, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, signed on March 3, required the Russians to leave Finland immediately, and to cease supporting the Reds. The Bolsheviks had no choice but to sign, and anyway Finland was the least of their concerns. Lenin told the other Bolsheviks that after a “breathing space,” world revolution would solve the problem in the Red Finns’ favor.

When other Bolsheviks demanded they nonetheless keep materially supporting the Red Finns, Lenin said “Wars are not won by enthusiasm but by technical superiority. Have you got an army? Can you give me anything but blather and slogans?” Nonetheless, he agreed to keep supplies flowing to the Reds sub rosa, but at a lesser level than before, and as the Russians left Finland to return home, they mostly gave their weapons to the Red Finns. Bolshevik volunteers in modest quantities (Upton estimates up to 4,000, or about ten percent of Red front-line total troops) also remained to fight with the Finnish Reds. Of course, this gave force to the Whites’ claim that the Reds, by allying with Russians, were fighting against Finnish independence, so it was a double-edged sword for the Reds, costing them propaganda points.

When battle was fully joined in various locations, at the end of February, it centered around thrusts along the rail lines, aiming to take control of crucial chokepoints. The Reds were helped by that they initially held most of these points and they also had several armored trains supplied by the Russians. The Whites were helped by their superior organization and training.

Fighting was concentrated in three areas along the three main north-south lines—the Häme region in the west, which included the city of Tampere, site of the largest battle in the war; Savo in the central section of the country; and Karelia in the east, toward Lake Ladoga and what was now Petrograd. The Reds, knowing they were under time pressure (and fearful, in addition, of German aid to the Whites), and holding the crucial city of Tampere already, attacked north in Häme on March 9. If they had been successful, they could have severed Mannerheim’s hold on the northern east-west rail line, splitting his forces in two and likely defeating the Whites. But they failed.

On March 15, with inferior numbers, Mannerheim then attacked south, using frontal assaults for the most part, simply because those were dictated by terrain and weather. He isolated Tampere, but was unable to quickly capture the city, which had around 4,000 Red fighters. Mannerheim retrenched, among other moves bringing the Jäger regiment, regarded as the most competent force he had, to Tampere.

By April 4, using artillery and street-by-street fighting, Mannerheim had ground down the Red defenses, and captured Tampere on April 5. This probably decided the Civil War; by this point Mannerheim had destroyed one of the two Red major armies, killed 2,000 Reds (as against 600 White dead), and captured 11,000. Moreover, Mannerheim’s troops had made significant inroads in Karelia. In other areas the Reds tried to push forward, and failed, although in several areas the fighting was bitter and resulted in hundreds dead.

Red morale collapsed. As always, the Red leaders did not shine; they peddled delusional lies to their followers while making plans to escape themselves. They could have fought on; they still had 30,000 men on the front lines, and at least another 30,000 Red Guards in rear areas. Moreover, they still had geographic links to Russia; they had not been split, merely lost their western forces. They still held the capital, Helsinki.

However, their cause took another hit when on April 3 the Germans landed 10,000 troops in extreme southern Finland, on the Hanko Peninsula. These took Turku, and the Red civilian leadership promptly fled Helsinki, the obvious next target for the Germans, while lying they had not, leaving their leaderless troops behind to defend the city. Those troops lost quickly to the Germans, so the capital fell to the Whites.

The Red military leadership then ordered all remaining troops and the non-front line Red Guards to fall back eastwards, toward Russia, abandoning even positions that were not under immediate threat. The Reds fled east on foot from their various positions, large and small, discipline falling apart, killing and looting along the way, making this the month with the highest body count for the Red Terror. (This suggests that the extreme Red Terror common to all revolutionary Left regimes was mostly just partially delayed by circumstance, and that had the Reds won they would have killed much larger numbers of people).

The SPD leadership, on April 14, simply abandoned the fight, fleeing to Russia (from whence those who survived the purges would return, in 1939, to again attempt to subjugate the Finns to Communism) while exhorting their followers to keep fighting, to cover their escape—an orthodox Marxist option, but not one that earned them any honor among their followers, or Finns generally.

The Red rank-and-file didn’t get far, being encircled near Lahti, and 20,000 of them surrendered by May 2. Those whose original station had been farther east, in Karelia, another 18,000 men, centered around Viipuri (now Vyborg, in Russia), had been defeated by April 29 (after engaging in mass executions of White prisoners).

This marked the end of large-scale fighting.
So, by May, the Whites had won, saving the nation and ensuring its independence, and they had 80,000 prisoners whose crimes had to be dealt with. All the authors maunder on about the supposed postwar “White Terror.” To call right-wing restoration of the rule of law “terror” at all is mostly a misnomer—a very deliberate one, designed to conceal the essential fact that terror is a standard tool of the Left, but rarely used by the Right.

Terror as used by the Left is violence outside the rule of law directed at enemies to break their will; guilt or innocence of action is irrelevant, the point is to keep the populace as a whole terrified and therefore compliant. But it is a historical fact that the Right rarely, if ever, relies on such methods. Instead, the Right views punitive repression of specific guilty individuals who are proven to be, or are known to be, guilty, as a tool of restoring and maintaining power. This deliberate confusion of the word “terror” to cover two distinct tendencies is not accidental; it is designed to protect the Left from the opprobrium of their actions.

True, one might argue that killings of prisoners by the Finnish Whites were “terror.” No doubt those shot were in fear. But those surrendering risk being killed in any war due to the height of emotions and the charge of adrenaline, and the goal of their killing was simply not the same as Left terror directed at civilians. No argument can be made that post-war trials by the Whites were “terror.”

They followed the entire structure of the rule of law, including appeals, but it is that period to which the mendacious term “White Terror” is usually applied by Left propagandists, both of Finland and in other places where the Right has beaten down Left savagery, such as Hungary in 1919 or Spain in 1939 (though, from recent events in Spain, it appears that beating it down again there will be necessary).

It is also true, more generally, that formal right-wing political repression reactive to preceding left-wing terror is difficult to analyze, because unlike left-wing political terror, a global phenomenon that has killed well more than a hundred million people, right-wing political killings are something that have never occurred on a wide scale, always only briefly, during and after wars, though often without the punctilious application of the rule of law the White Finns insisted on. (I leave aside here, for later further treatment and distinction, the brief mid-century period of twentieth-century “right-wing” ideological murders based in race and religion).

Did Pinochet’s extrajudicial killings of a few thousand known Communists, whose rule would have meant the deaths of hundreds of thousands or millions, constitute “terror”? Not in the same sense as the countless global Red Terrors. Pinochet’s targets were few in number, and they were guilty, of specific crimes, not being “class enemies.” Pinochet’s real crime was beating the Left, and he has never been forgiven, nor will he be, until the global Left is utterly and permanently broken and destroyed.

The reality in Finland was that even though many trials were held, very few people were executed after the war—thirty, to be precise, after 265 death sentences were confirmed by the Supreme Court, which rejected some of the 403 original death sentences on appeal (although several thousand captives had already been summarily killed during the war, to be sure).

In the usual right-wing way, quite a few prison sentences of short duration were handed out, which were quickly commuted or amnestied in almost all instances—by the end of 1918, in fact, with every single prisoner being released by 1927. The biggest failure that can be laid at the feet of the Whites is the death of 13,000 prisoners between May and August in prison camps, of malnutrition-exacerbated disease.

Of course, this was the height of the Spanish flu, and food was short in the camps because food was short everywhere, not due to deliberate starvation. So perhaps there was little way to avoid these deaths, but it still is a strike against the Whites. Naturally, though, the mythology of the prison camps has been used ever since by the Left to further whip up class hatred.

So ended the Civil War. Mannerheim, hero of the hour, was soon enough sidelined by the White civilian leadership, tired of his high-handed ways. Twenty years later, in the Winter War, Mannerheim helped to save his country again. But that is another story, as also is how immediately the Finnish peasants were rewarded for their loyalty to the Whites with extensive land reform, and how within a very few years, the Finnish Left were fully readmitted to politics, though they failed to achieve working-class political unity, and they suffered social debilities for another twenty years.

Still, Finnish society knitted itself together, no doubt because the winning side did not have an ideology, and was happy to simply return to the days of parliamentary rule, and very happy that Finland had, at last, achieved independence.

And what does all this tell an American of today? Quite a bit. First, that the revolutionary Left will never stop voluntarily. They cannot; to do so contradicts the basic premises of their world view, today as in 1789, and all the years in between, most of all that human perfectibility is achievable and that any price, especially a price paid by those who would deny others heaven on earth, is worth paying.

Second, for the Left, whenever power is not handed to them, those who do hold power are held to be necessarily illegitimate, and any action to strip them of power justified.

Third, they can be stopped, because in their nature their reach exceeds their grasp, but stopping them cannot be done with words, since to the Left, words are meaningless. It will always and ever, until their hold on the human imagination is broken forever, be only possible to stop them by force. This is our future, whether we like it or not.

We can hope it will be through the current institutions of order, if those are not yet wholly subverted by the Left. If not, it will be by some other mechanism, as the Finns found to their sorrow. The time is not yet – it probably would have been, had Donald Trump beaten the margin of fraud, since our Left would have been certain to, and was preparing to, react in the same way as their ideological predecessors and comrades, the Finnish Left, did in 1918. Maybe we get a break for a while. Or maybe not.

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 “The Attack,” by Edvard Isto, painted in 1899. [The Russian doubleheaded eagle is attacking the maiden Finland].

Overcoming Scrutonism, Finally

A disease is going around. No, not the Wuhan Plague. This malady only affects the Right, and I name it “Scrutonism.” The symptoms of Scrutonism are a razor-sharp ability to identify one’s enemies and to understand their plans to destroy us, combined with a complete inability to imagine any way in which those enemies can be defeated. For a sufferer of this disease, his headspace is occupied by nostalgia and fear, in varying proportions – mostly the former in the late Roger Scruton’s case, mostly the latter in Rod Dreher’s case. Scrutonism’s harm is that it makes sufferers ignore the only question that matters for the Right today: what are you willing to do, given that your enemies are utterly committed to destroying you and yours?

I used to be a Dreher fanboy, until he lost the plot with the Wuhan Plague and, more generally, descended into constant unmanly maundering. I’m still a fan, however (to steal a line from Aaron Renn, though he was talking about Tim Keller, not Dreher). And Live Not by Lies has partially restored my opinion of Rod Dreher as a pillar of today’s Right. It is an outstanding book, tightly written and tightly focused. That does not mean it is complete, for reasons I will lay out today, but it is good for what it is – the sharp diagnosis of the ways, means, and ends of our enemies.

The outline of the book is simple. Dreher shows how life in America (and more broadly much of the West, though America is his focus) is swiftly becoming indistinguishable from life under totalitarian Communism, in its essence, if not yet all its externals. The Left, now as then, will do anything to impose its evil will across all society. (This is obvious on its face and established in detail in many of my other writings, and also at enormous length on Dreher’s blog at The American Conservative). The Left’s political vision is wholly illusory, while at the same time utterly destructive. A necessary part of their plan, again now as then, is suppression of all dissent, especially religious dissent, through controlling all aspects of every citizen’s life. This plan is already largely implemented for many sectors of American society, although Dreher claims this is a “soft” totalitarianism, different in degree from the “hard” totalitarianism of Communism at its height.

He talks of Czesław Miłosz and the pill of Murti-Bing, of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, of Hanna Arendt. He deftly draws parallels between the rise of Communism in Europe and our present situation. He identifies the appeal of the Left, and of its totalitarian ideology. He talks of progressivism as religion and of the cult of social justice. He talks of woke capitalism and the surveillance state built by the Lords of Tech. He talks of the oppressive social credit system in China (under the funny heading, “The Mark of the East”). These chapters are uniformly excellent and I strongly recommend them to anyone not already familiar with these truths.

But my purpose here today is not to summarize what is happening now. Many others have summarized this book well. And to be clear, as with most of my book reviews, I am not actually reviewing Dreher’s book. Rather, I am delivering my own thoughts. If you don’t like that, well, you’re in the wrong place.

A crucial internal ambiguity pervades this entire book. Dreher’s frame is totalitarianism. He channels men and women who suffered under the evilest regimes the world has ever known. He paints a picture that offers gruesome tales of torture as a regular instrument of state control. The epigraph he uses, from Solzhenitsyn, says such evil “is possible everywhere on earth,” and Solzhenitsyn was not talking about a social credit system, but real torture and death. Yet Dreher disclaims, repeatedly, that this might happen here. Instead, he suggests a Huxley-ite future, or Murti-Bing, or Shoshana Zuboff-ite/PRC-type consumerist monitoring. At the same time, though, he talks about ever-growing state and, more, private corporate actions that are not yet physical torture, yet are meant as severe punishment, such as job loss and social ostracism. The reader is confused. What, precisely, is the future Dreher predicting, and why? The question remains unanswered.

Dreher does, however, offer a type of solution. In the face of these poisonous headwinds he prescribes spiritually-centered private organizing, in essence his famous Benedict Option. “[The Christian dissident] needs to draw close to authentic spiritual leadership – clerical, lay, or both – and form small cells of fellow believers with whom [he] can pray, sing, study Scripture, and read other books important to their mission.” He must be prepared to suffer, because in the new dispensation, he will suffer, if he refuses to worship the new gods. Dreher, in short, recommends the “parallel polis,” with a strong religious component.

He has discussed this before. I have also discussed this before, and that it will not be allowed, because our enemies have learned from their earlier defeats, and as Dreher himself repeatedly says, they have vastly more powerful tools than their Communist forbears did. Thus, for example, he is correct that families are resistance cells – but our enemies see this too, which is why families will not be allowed to be resistance cells, but will be forcibly broken up if parents dare to instruct their children aright. No, the parallel polis will be of short duration, if indeed it can be set up at all, and the Benedict Option, without an armed wing, is dead on arrival.

Dreher does not offer any non-passive mechanism for success (but I will – just wait a few minutes). Dreher recommends Christian witness such as that of Václav Benda and his family. He recommends retaining cultural memory, and accepting suffering. But nothing succeeds like success. We know about the Bendas because Communism fell. And Communism fell both because of its internal contradictions and because it faced massive external pressure put on it by the West.

Dreher is unclear as to what exactly he expects the future to bring to people of today situated like the Bendas. In essence, his argument seems to be that it ultimately worked out for dissidents under Communism, so it will, someday and in a manner yet to be shown, work for us. Maybe. Or maybe not. In other words, Dreher seems to think that the parallel polis is self-executing, as long as strong religious faith is kept.

Moreover, whether Dreher sees it or not, we are indeed heading to hard totalitarianism, not merely soft totalitarianism. To our enemies, justice delayed is justice denied. That inescapable inner logic, combined with Girardian scapegoating, means soft totalitarianism will never be enough for them. We already have soft totalitarianism, for any white-collar worker; and anybody can see that the demands for compliance are accelerating, not slowing down.

The reader sees no reason at all why we’re not heading to “prison camps and the executioner’s bullet,” because Dreher doesn’t give one, while at the same time talking a great deal about the Gulag, the Rumanian torture camp at Pitesti, and so on, continually recurring to such history. Then he says “American culture is far more individualistic than Chinese culture, so that political resistance will almost certainly prevent Chinese-style hard totalitarianism from gaining a foothold here.” This is whistling past the graveyard – how has this supposed individualism slowed down our enemies even a whit? Soft totalitarianism may lie on the far side of hard totalitarianism (as it was with late Communism), but it will get worse long before it gets better. The reader gets the impression Dreher is pulling his punches, afraid of being seen as too extreme, too “out there,” in our controlled political discourse.

Hope is not a plan. Dreher should see that; he even quotes a Slovak dissident, “If they had come at us in the seventies, they might have succeeded. But we always remembered that the goal was to turn our small numbers into a number so big they could not stop us.” Dreher doesn’t acknowledge that getting those big numbers is crucial to success, along with a will to action (used in later Communism for mass demonstrations), and he has no plan for getting them. “Only in solidarity with others can we find the spiritual and communal strength to resist.” True enough – but what is “solidarity” here? Is it meeting in the catacombs to pray for a better day? Or meeting to plan action? Apparently only the former.

Yes, Dreher offers some legislative solutions. They make sense. But, as Bismarck said, politics is the art of the possible. He meant compromise is necessary, but if your enemies have all the power and have no need to compromise to get everything they want, what is possible of what you want, is nothing.

Nobody with actual power will even associate his name in public with Dreher’s legislative proposals, because they are cowards, and they refuse to be seen opposing globohomo. Political proposals in the current frame will not come to fruition; they will die like the seeds in the Parable of the Sower, either among the brambles, or fallen on rocky ground. Legislative proposals are not a mechanism for success.

Scrutonism, of which as you can see Dreher has a bad case, is a call to be a beautiful loser. But you can’t inspire anyone with a program that offers being a loser. People cowering under fire want a plan; they want a leader to point not only to what Christ would do, but how that will help them, and more importantly their children, come out the other side, cleansed and victorious.

What Dreher offers instead is a call to martyrdom. This is theologically sound, but not politically. And unlike Communism, the modern Left, globohomo, faces no external pressure. This is a strategic question, of passivity versus aggression. When I think of 1453, I think not only of the priest, celebrating the Divine Liturgy as the Turks tore into the Hagia Sophia, turning to the eastern wall and walking into it, from whence it is said he will return when the Turks are expelled (which will hopefully be soon). I think also of Constantine XI Palaeologus, the last Emperor, cutting off his imperial ornaments and rushing out to die with the common soldiers. How about some of that?

Dreher talks very often of the Bolsheviks. He never mentions the Whites, who after all could easily have won, or other heroes who actually did defeat Communism, such as Francisco Franco or Augusto Pinochet. My point is not that we need to encourage violence, though I am not opposed in the least to violence in the right circumstances – quite the opposite. My point is that people need positive, active heroes, not just heroic sufferers.

No man is an island, in the John Donne cliché, but that means that very few have the internal resources to passively suffer. They need inspiration about how the future will be better, both in this world and the next. Dreher does not offer it. He instead offers a variation on The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, a book I read (said to be second only in popularity to the Bible), and thought was depressingly passive and navel-gazing. People like me may go to the back of St. Peter’s line – or maybe not, since we did not take what we were given and bury it in the ground of personal introspection, but rather grew it.

So, if you do not have enough people or enough power at this moment to impose precisely your vision of the world, where do you start? You form alliances with those who have similar goals. Yet Dreher never talks about alliances, except briefly in connection with Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia. As Dreher mentions, most of Charter 77’s participants weren’t Christian, and some were radical Marxists. But he suggests no equivalent for the religious Right today, alliances with those with alien views who, together with us, oppose the totalitarianism of the Left. Why? Because he has been instructed that policing one’s rightward boundary is what he must do, before anything else. (There are no possible leftward alliances for us; what are sometimes called “good faith liberals” are merely willing dupes in the Left’s totalitarian agenda, and of no use in this fight).

This policing has, for many decades, been the original flaw of the Right, for which William F. Buckley bears most of the responsibility – hobbling ourselves by permitting our enemies to dictate with whom we may ally. Dreher may not even realize it, but his enemies have crippled him before he can leave the gate.

I’ll give Dreher a short break here, for this problem is not his alone, but general. A few months ago the generally excellent Sohrab Ahmari, who is much more aggressive than Dreher, was hyperventilating, on his own initiative, that VDARE (a racially-tinged anti-immigrant front in which John Derbyshire is prominent) was absolutely, unequivocally, beyond the pale and nobody at all should have any interaction with it. (He was complaining that Trump advisor Stephen Miller had shared VDARE links years ago while at Breitbart). His support for this was, I kid you not, an article from the far-left Guardian newspaper, a British paper, extensively quoting the odious so-called Southern Poverty Law Center, a noted hate group.

This shows that, still now, even the dissident Right of men such as Ahmari voluntarily debilitates itself by letting the Left set limits for it on what is acceptable discourse and what are acceptable alliances. This is no way to win. Utterly smashing the SPLC is the way to win. Does that mean I think we should ally with racists and the like? Yes. Yes, it does. Absolutely. Six days a week and twice on Sunday. We should ally with anyone who will help us win.

I resisted this obvious conclusion for a long time, but it’s true. Who then should be sought, now, not tomorrow, as allies? First, the neopagan Right, exemplified today by Bronze Age Pervert, a movement of great appeal to many young men, who are the backbone of any winning radical political movement. Second, the racialist right. The Left is explicitly and totally openly racist today, whipping up anti-white hatred everywhere, and it’s just dumb to pretend this isn’t obvious. They abandoned the colorblind ideal long ago, yet demand we pretend they are not racist to the core. Racism may be a sin (although it is no special sin, merely one of innumerable examples of the cardinal sin, pride, and far from the worst of those).

But I’m happy to ally with all sorts of sinners, and so is every politically-minded Christian, if he is being honest. The violent. Those who dishonor their parents. Adulterers. Homosexuals. In fact, it may surprise you to know, I myself am a sinner! I may not want some sinners in my inner circle, or around my family and children, but in pursuit of common goals, worthwhile goals, why not link arms?

We instinctively reject this obvious truth, because to cripple us, and gradually destroy us, the Left forbids it, and we, since the late, unlamented Buckley, have let them so dictate, to our destruction. No more, if we have any sense. The Titans must throw off the chains forged by their enemies, and that means working hand-in-glove with all the people the Right has traditionally excluded on ideological grounds.

Of course, neither the neopagan Right nor the racialist Right, nor other subcurrents on the right (integralists and anarcho-libertarians, for example) have any relevant power or influence today. The idea is not that allying with open racists will be the key to power (although it might well be in the future, if the Left continues fomenting racial hatred, and white people finally react defensively). It is that doing exactly what benefits us, and making decisions on that basis only, defangs the Left. We must ignore their demands that we spend enormous energy policing our rightward boundary, while they never, ever, for a single second, police their leftward boundary. I see no point in allying with clowns, men like Richard Spencer – because they are ineffective and incompetent, not because of their views. I have no interest in working to implement fantasies of ethnostates. But if the white nationalists or the anti-Semites want to work with me to destroy the Left, let’s go. That doesn’t mean all alliances are simultaneously possible, or that they will be necessarily permanent. I think that black people and other ethnic minorities should overthrow the grifters whom they let speak for them, and I’d be happy to then ally with them to destroy the Left, if enough of them wanted to do so. Still, even if that were to happen, I doubt that a durable coalition of the general dissident Right (e.g., Ahmari), white nationalists, and based black people would be possible. Too much divergence in worldview would likely make such a coalition untenable except on narrow issues, or against powerful outside enemies.

On the other hand, historically speaking, all tribal and ethnic groups had contempt for each other, as is human nature, yet managed not infrequently to work together – the Ottoman Empire is one such example. But they were not infected with modern ideologies. More broadly, I doubt if a modern country, with modern communications, can be successful at all if the people within it have too little in common; the United States tried, with the melting pot, but that was probably a special moment with special circumstances that can never be recaptured. Probably the future is a fractured United States with some degree of ethnic sorting, and within those new states, ongoing alliances of various types to ensure the Left never rises again.

But those are problems for Future Charles! Let me be positive for a moment. Unlike Dreher, I see a path to victory against the totalitarianism of the Left. First, in every Warsaw Bloc country, what sustained the Left in power was not the guns of the government, but the guns of the Soviet government. We don’t have that problem, and in fact we have guns ourselves, a lot of them. Unless we let them take the guns, we can only lose so much power, if we have the will to resist. Second, under Communism, it appeared that dissidents were only a tiny fraction of the population. This was a deliberate lie, and the same lie is told here. Globohomo only seems triumphant, because our enemies propagandize us, using their total control of modern media, that it is triumphant.

I don’t think globohomo is like the German government in the times of Franz Jägerstätter, of whom Dreher often talks (an Austrian Catholic executed by the National Socialists, and the subject of a 2019 film by Terrence Malick, A Hidden Life). Jägerstätter faced something that actually was unstoppable – not only a strong and determined ideological government, but one supported by the vast majority of the population (as José Ortega y Gasset wrote, force follows public opinion), that was fighting an existential war, and run by Germans, not by low-IQ fat trannies with butch-cut green hair. I think our current ideological opponents appear strong, but are weaker than they appear, probably far weaker.

Third, regardless of power balance, unreality cannot continue forever. What ended Communism in Eastern Europe was not a wish for blue jeans, or liberal democracy, but a wish to return to ordered, Christian liberty. Because what the Left offers can never satisfy (most of all it cannot satisfy the young – they will not tolerate endlessly being fed porn in their pods), the wish for reality that satisfies will always rise again. Dreher quotes a Slovak dissident, “[This soft tyranny] will end. The truth has power to end every tyranny.” He notes that no dissident leaders under Communism, in the 1970s and 1980s, expected Communism to fall in their lifetimes, and they were completely wrong. Yes, hope is not a plan, but being on the side of reality is an asset.

What specific mechanism, then? Some, including Dreher in some moods, argue that we can go on as we are at this moment forever, that we will get semi-competent digital totalitarianism as far as the eye can see, offering Murti-Bing along with Ryszard Legutko’s coercion to freedom. This is false. Perhaps the most important truth to recognize is that our society is so very, very fragile, as the Wuhan Plague has exposed. Even Dreher seems to recognize that collapse is more than possible, it is probable. “It only takes a catalyst like war, economic depression, plague, or some other severe and prolonged crisis that brings the legitimacy of the liberal democratic system into question.” True, his conclusion is typically pessimistic: that the Left will use the crisis to end any freedoms remaining. That’s silly. We’re going to get, and we should welcome despite the likely hardship and cost to ourselves, a hard reset, which is coming whether we want it or not. Whatever it is (most likely economic collapse), a great many people will be very, very unhappy and desperate as a result.

There lies opportunity, which we must seize. Yes, one possible short-term result is that our current rulers see their thrones of power shaken, and respond by assigning people like us the role of scapegoat. (Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World proceeds somewhat in this vein, though presumably we can ignore the eschaton for the current analysis.) This is where guns come in. The other possible short-term result is that those prepared to throw our rulers from their thrones, and bring about a new order of things, can use such a fracture to restore the world.

I am perfectly well aware that this sounds insane to those on the Left, who really believe that they are on the right side of inevitable history, and that I am spinning a lurid fantasy of doom followed by victory to comfort myself at their certain triumph, which they know, they just know, will bring the secular eschaton, any day now. But I have history on my side, not them; if one thing characterizes today’s left, other than evil, it is lack of historical knowledge. Someone is Pollyanna, but it is not me.

Naturally, given the likely future, we should be preparing. There is a great deal good with Dreher’s recommendations of spiritual preparation, and it dovetails well with the creation, now, of networks of those who will adopt a more aggressive, active, coordinated role upon the onset of a societal fracture. If those networks are not formed now, they will be difficult to form later, when the time comes. (If the time never comes, that is just the way it is, but that seems unlikely.) What those are, I don’t really know yet, though I have some inkling. What I do know is that, despite attempts at censorship, modern technology allows those potentially involved to find each other, and we should be doing that – in secret, at least in part, to blunt the inevitable attacks.

After the reset, what we’ll get is new politics. Dreher says, “As far as we can tell, there is no new political religion brewing in beer halls or coffeehouses.” He’s wrong there; whatever it will be already exists, although it is unlikely to be wholly new. It just lacks the right leaders and the right fertile ground, and those will arrive. I do worry, though, that even a reality-based, reborn, yet still rich, society will find fresh new ways to be stupid. I imagine a society that can be great, the High Middle Ages with rockets, but what is the evidence that, given human nature, that society can ever exist? Maybe human nature just won’t permit it; maybe people want comfort and vice, if they can afford it, not great things, and always will. But that is also a problem for Future Charles! Or, more likely, his great-grandchildren.

And when, after the fire, we have won? Dreher quotes dissidents who are very proud that Christians did not seek vengeance after the fall of Communism. That’s very nice of them. But what it ignores is that neither did they seek justice, the reification of which is often indistinguishable from vengeance, the difference lying only the in the heart of the punisher. This was a gross error.

Once the Left is broken, and their nasty ideology permanently discredited, whatever the mechanism, meting out justice and ensuring that ideology never rises again are both essential. The best historical example of a process along those lines is post-World War II denazification, but not one cut short by new geopolitical reality as that one was, rather a permanent one. Yes, there will have to be rigorous punishments for some on the Left, just as there were at Nuremberg.

Mostly, though, it will have to be permanent denial of civil rights, such as public political participation, or the ability to teach, and denial of the ability to cause trouble or influence others, such as forbidding all access to media and the Internet. Is that itself a modest type of “soft totalitarianism?” Yup. Someone must rule; classical liberalism, where the ideas of John Stuart Mill underpin society, doesn’t work. Dreher, in another one of his confusions, calls for a return to classical liberalism, which he fails to see inevitably led to where we are today, and only ever tolerated men like him on sufferance. No thanks. I’m fine with doing to the Left, forever, what Dreher accurately complains they now do to us. If they don’t like it, they can find a new country. Let’s get on with it.

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, Scotland Forever,” by Elizabeth Thompson, Lady Butler, painted in 1881.

History Is Not Manichean: A Conversation With Arnaud Imatz

This month we are so very pleased to publish the English version of an interview with Dr. Arnaud Imatz, the renowned French historian, who has published over a dozen books and numerous articles in both European and American journals and magazines. Dr. Imatz has contributed several times to the Postil. Here, Dr. Imtaz is in conversation with La Tribuna del Pais Vasco in regards to his new book, Vascos y Navarros (Basques and Navarrese).

La Tribuna (LT): How did the idea of writing the book, Vascos y Navarros, come about?

Arnaud Imatz (AI): I started by writing a chronological article in French and was surprised to see it published in a tourist guide in which they did not even mention my name. As a result, I decided to considerably revise and expand that article. More than anything, it is a small tribute to my ancestors. They were Basques, Navarrese and Béarnais. They were fishermen, bakers, vintners, public works contractors, military men, carpenters, tobacco growers, booksellers, restaurant owners and hoteliers, located for the most part in Hendaye.

I was born in Bayonne, but after a few months of life I was already going with my mother to the beach at Hendaye, La Pointe, right by Fuenterrabía. A beautiful place, now gone, having been replaced by the beautiful but conventional marina, the marina of Sokoburu. With my wife, my son and my two daughters, I first in Paris and then for twenty years in Madrid. I have unforgettable memories of Madrid and close friends (even a true “spiritual son”). But I spent most of my time – more than forty years – in the Basque Country, an exceptional place in the world.

Of course, my Galician, Breton, Andalusian or Corsican friends may disagree. This is normal. My children and grandchildren, who live further north, and my wife, born in the Ile-de-France (although of partly Biscayan descent), sometimes make fun of my excessive attachment to the land. But what difference does it make! I also had my doubts and reacted with skepticism when in the distant 1980s a Basque friend, a professor of Law, who had been a member of the tribunal that examined my doctoral thesis, answered my questions: “How about La Reunion? La Martinique?” etc.: “Well, well, but you know that when you see Biriatu ….” He didn’t even bother to finish his sentence. Now I know he was right.

LT: So your family has deep roots in the Basque Country?

AI: Yes, indeed. My surname, Imatz or Imaz, meaning “wicker,” “of wicker,” “pasture,” or “reed,” is found, above all, in the Basque Autonomous Community, but it is also present, although less frequently, in Navarre and the French Basque Country. On my mother’s side of the family, there are a good number of Basque surnames. Most were born and lived in Hendaye. Some moved away, went to work in different cities in France or Spain (Madrid, Palencia or Andalusia), even in America. But sooner or later almost all of them returned to their native town in the French Basque Country.

My maternal grandfather was Basque, Carlist and of course Catholic. He kept a beret his whole life which was given to his family by Don Carlos. He worked in hotels in Guayaquil and London and later in the María Cristina de San Sebastián, when it opened in 1912. During the First World War, he was a gunner in the Battle of Verdun. Once demobilized, he returned to Hendaye to take over his parents’ hotel. He spoke Basque and French, but also Spanish, like most of the members of my family at that time; and by the way, they were very closely connected with Spain and the Spanish.

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, my great-grandfather had a brother, who was parish priest in Biriatu. He was dedicated to his priesthood, but he also liked to play pelota. Yes! And always wearing his cassock. He became very involved in the defense and safeguarding of the Basque language and culture. Such were the famous French-Basque priests of yesteryear.

My great-aunt used to play the piano and she taught me, among other things, the Oriamendi and the Hymn of San Marcial. From her house, located on the banks of the Bidasoa, she could see the Alarde de Irún and at night hear, although very rarely, the whispers of the smugglers. My great-aunt and great-grandmother (a strong widow who had been the director of the Hendaye Casino in the 1920s) told me many memories of our border family.

LT: Can you tell us about some of these memories?

AI: Some anecdotes. A few months before he died, my Carlist grandfather, naturally in favor of the national side, negotiated with Commander Julián Troncoso, a friend of his, for the exchange of a friend from the Republican side, Pepita Arrocena. As a result of the attempted Socialist Revolution, in 1934, Pepita had crossed the border with her driver and with the socialist leader, Indalecio Prieto, hidden in the trunk of her car.

Also, French friends of my grandfather participated in the unsuccessful assault on the Republican submarine C2, which was anchored in the port of Brest. I must say that during the Civil War, many foreign correspondents used to stay at my grandparents’ hotel.

At the end of the war, my grandmother, now a widow, was close friends with the wife of Marshal Pétain, French ambassador to Spain. But two years later, being in the so-called “forbidden” area, in the middle of the Nazi occupation, and despite her friendship with Annie Pétain, the “Marshal,” my grandmother sympathized with the Gaullists and participated in anti-German Resistance. She was in contact with the ORA (Organization de Résistance de l’Armée) of the Basque Country, along with her friend, Dr. Alberto Anguera Angles, from Irune, who was in charge of routing messages of those escaping from France.

The other branch of my family, the paternal one, was Béarnaise, from Pau and Orthez. My paternal grandfather was a Catholic Republican, a non-commissioned officer who was one of the most decorated soldiers of the First World War. Handicapped by the war, he settled in Hendaye in 1919, with his wife and four children as a tobacconist and bookseller. His son, my father, was born in Hendaye six months later.

My father was a great athlete, who was four times French pelota champion in the 1930s and 1940s, with the long bat (pala larga) and in the plaza libre (court). My paternal family was then divided between the stalwarts of Marshal Pétain (my grandfather), and the supporters of Charles de Gaulle (his four sons, among whom were my father and my godfather). The oldest of my grandfather’s sons was seriously injured at Dunkirk.

All these family memories made me understand very early that history is not Manichean, that it is always made of light and dark, that there are no absolute good and bad, that there are no so-called historical or democratic justices as peddled by the traffickers of hatred and resentment, who are miserable political puppets who live to play with fire.

LT: In your opinion, do more things unite or separate Basques and the Navarrese?

AI: To answer in detail it would be necessary to refer to the long history of the medieval Basque counties, the kingdom of Navarre, Spain, the Hispanic Empire and the French nation-state. These are topics that I address, albeit briefly, in the historical summary given in my book. I would of course be unable to summarize all these substantial issues in a few words. I concede that personally, despite my nationality, and due to my Spanish-French culture, I sympathize much more with the Hispanic Catholic Empire of Charles V and Philip II than with the Gallican-Catholic French nation-state of Richelieu, Louis XIII, Louis XIV and the Revolutionaries of 1789 and 1792. We already know that the “reason of state” of these French politicians was greatly influenced by Machiavelli and indirectly by the writings and attitude of the Protestants. That said, five, ten or fifteen centuries of common history cannot just be erased, manipulated, or misrepresented.

Now, if in your question you refer essentially to our own time, I will tell you that, paradoxically, there are more and more things that unite the Basques and Navarrese and less that separate them. But, beware! This does not mean that I fall into those independence or separatist dreams. What I think is happening is that both these peoples are losing their specificities and are gradually uniting – but unfortunately into nothingness, in the great meat-grinder of globalism.

Let me explain. At this point, we are all victims of globalization, consumerism, commercialism, demographic decline, multicultural individualism, the decline of religion and the Church and Christianity – all these many plagues that have shown themselves, in the long run, to be much more corrosive and deadly for both the Basques and the Navarrese (and also in general for all the peoples of Europe) than the “forty years of Franco’s dictatorship,” or the “Bourbon centralism of the 19th century,” or “French Jacobin centralism.”

It is true, thank God, that our lands (which have sometimes been marked by savage violence unworthy of human beings) have not endured the horrors of Nazism, or worse still (because of the sheer number of deaths) the monstrosities of Marxist-communist totalitarianism. In this, the radical nationalists are completely blind and are totally wrong as to who the enemy is. Torn apart by the hodgepodge of Marxist internationalism and what Americans call “cultural Marxism,” the radical, Abertzale left has become the perfect ally of hypercapitalism or globalist turbocapitalism. The two, globalists and nationalist-separatists, are tearing apart the best of the Navarrese and Basque values, the deepest roots of both peoples. In the background are two grips of the same vise.

LT: In your opinion, what does Euskara mean for the reality of Basques and Navarrese?

AI: It is an important factor, but not enough to define the entirety of Basque identity and reality. Just as important are ethnicity, demographics, culture, and history. There are Euskaldunak Basques, because they speak the Basque language. There are Euskotarrak Basques because they are ethnically defined as Basques, even though they express themselves in French or Spanish. And there are Basques who are Basque citizens because they reside in the Basque Country and love the Basque Country. In the Autonomous Community of Navarra, which is founded on a long and brilliant history of its own, it is another story: there are Basques who feel Basque and many Navarrese who are not and do not feel Basque.

What the Basque Government does to defend the Basque language seems to me to be quite successful, despite all the cartoonish and meaningless actions that have been taken against the Castilian language or – better said – Spanish, which is one of the two or three most widely spoken languages in the world. We already know that language is not enough. In addition to this, it should not be hidden, the results of the policies in favor of the Basque language are rather negligent. The reality is that there is no nation or country possible without a historical legacy, combined with consent and a will to exist on the part of the people. Nicolas Berdiaev and other famous European authors such as Ortega y Gasset spoke of unity or community of historical destiny. Well, without the harmonious combination of the historical-cultural foundation and the voluntarist or consensual factor, without these two factors, there can be no nation. And that is why there is no longer a true Spanish nation today, as there are no true nationalities or small nations within Spain today.

The same can be said of the rest of Western Europe, whose power is in clear decline, if we compare it to the current great powers. In France, it is very significant that a professional politician like Manuel Valls, who always believes he has an ace up his sleeve, has recently admitted that “French society is gangrenous, fractured by Islamism.” For this very reason, the Catalan authorities and Catalanists, who emphatically declare or hypocritically imply that they prefer North African immigration that does not speak Spanish, considering it more prone to learning Catalan, than a Catholic and Spanish-speaking Spanish-American immigration, are ignorant and incoherent. With them the days of fet Catala are numbered. At least, and for the moment, the immigrationist nonsense of the Catalanists does not seem to prevail so strongly among the radical Basque nationalist militants.

LT: How would you define the Navarrese feeling of identity?

AI: I think I have already answered in part. For me, Navarrismo is in the past; its hallmarks were Catholicism and traditionalism. It was the same as the Requetés, the red berets that my maternal grandfather admired so much and that today only exist in homeopathic doses. I would say the same about the figure of the noble, catholic, deep-rooted, hard-working and honest Basque of yesteryear.

It seems that the “elites,” the Basque and Navarrese oligarchy or political caste have chosen, I do not know if definitively or not, the path of harmonization and alignment with the values and presuppositions of globalism or alter-globalism (which does not matter), or of the so-called progressive transnationalism. They pretend to believe that the Basque and the Navarrese are defined only administratively or legally from a document or an identity card. It seems that they are eager to populate the future Basque and Navarrese territories with the homo economicus, asexual, stateless and phantasmagoric, so criticized in the past by the Basque-Spanish Unamuno, and by the most important figures of Basque nationalism.

If to this we add the ravages of the terrible demographic crisis, undoubtedly the worst in all of Spain and possibly in all of Western Europe, the prospects are not very encouraging. And, all the while, young Basques listen to Anglo-Saxon music, play “Basque rock,” eat hamburgers, consume drugs (young Abertzales more than anyone else), demand the opening of borders, immigration without limits, aggressive secularism, gender theory, transhumanism, hatred of the state and the history of the Spanish nation, and all the bullshit imported from American campuses. I could just say in French or English: “Grand bien leur fasse /Best of luck to them.” But I have the intimate and terrible conviction that if there is not a quick reaction against them, they will bring us a bleak, raw and bloody future in which our descendants will suffer.

LT: What do you think of Stanley Payne’s statement in the Prologue to your book, pointing out that “The Basque Country is the most unique region in Spain?” What are your feelings towards the Basque Country and towards Navarre?

AI: Stanley Payne belongs to that tradition of Anglo-Saxon historians who almost never lose their cool, or they say things with a certain degree of caution and balanced composure. He is a researcher and historian; but he is also a man and not a robot. That is why he opines, judges and interprets, although always with a certain sobriety and consideration. In the Prologue, he refers to the uniqueness of the Basque language, institutions and history (ignoring ethnicity). Now, he is American. I am not. And if I say that I agree with him when he says that “the Basque Country is the most unique region in Spain” many will say that this is due to my personal preference. Precisely as a result of that Prologue by Payne, a friend of mine, not without a sense of humor, wrote me: “This is very good, although I think that Galicians are more particular than Basques.”

In the book Vascos y Navarros I have tried to be as rigorous, honest and disinterested as possible. I have always thought that true objectivity does not lie so much in a hostile withdrawal, as in a kind of well-intentioned will that is capable of understanding and explaining the ideas of others without giving up one’s own reasons. That said, let me say and repeat here that, despite recent evolutions or regressions and the shortcomings of the pseudo or self-proclaimed Basque-Navarrese political “elites,” the Basque Country and Navarre are my favorite lands.

LT: How do you see the recent history of the Basque Country and Spain from the point-of-view of the French Basque Country?

AI: Partisanship, ignorance or disinterest, not only of the majority of the French but also of the majority of French politicians and journalists, for the history and politics of the Basque Country and Navarre, and more generally for Spain in its entirety – is abysmal, unfathomable. The trend is slightly different in the French Basque Country due to the proximity of the border and the presence of a weak but not insignificant Basque nationalist electorate, representing 10% to 12% of the general electorate. Generally, many feel Basque, but as in the rest of France, most are disinterested in the history and politics of the peninsula, unless a momentous event occurs. As for the small Basque nationalist minority in the north, they tirelessly recycle Hispanophobic clichés, although they sometimes fear being swallowed up by their powerful brothers to the south.

In my case, I have not surrendered. With the help of a handful of young and veteran French historians and courageous editorials, I continue and will continue to explain, denounce and refute black legends, misconceptions, censored data, instrumentalized facts and Hispanophobic nonsense, spread by the ignorant, the wicked and, unfortunately, by a good part of the Basque, Navarrese and Spanish political caste.

The image shows, “Landscape Of The Basque Country,” by Charles Lacoste, painted in 1925.

The Spanish version of this appeared in La Tribuna del Pais Vasco. Translation by N. Dass.

Notes From The End Of Philosophy

Rémi Brague, in Anchors in Heaven: The Metaphysical Infrastructure of Human Life, is concerned with what has become a central question in prosperous Western societies: Should we have children? If the human species should go on existing (which is taken for granted in the book), what assumptions are required for us to keep it going?

This question becomes all the more urgent as we witness what Aron called the demographic suicide of Europe. Implicit in the latter concern is the suicide of European culture as opposed to Islamic families in Europe for whom this is apparently not an issue. This seems, as we shall see, to be a special problem for Western intellectuals.

One can offer many causes for this demographic suicide, but Brague is not interested in causes but in reasons. That is, he is interested in the philosophical rationales for not procreating that have appeared throughout the history of philosophy but which have intensified since the 19th-century vogue for nihilism.

Brague seeks to understand how philosophy could have evolved into this morass. In his short book, he launches into an impressive philosophical tour-de-force that will make quite a few demands on the reader. The subtitle of the book is “The Metaphysical Infrastructure of Human Life.” As I understand his account, metaphysics evolved into the central issue of “being,” or a concern with the fundamental truths.

While “Being” in classical and medieval thought was originally focused on the world as a whole, modern philosophy (Descartes onwards) changed the focus to how we come to know being, the “truth” about being, or a shift to epistemology. This evolved even further with Kant into a concern for the “human being” or knower. In the 19th-century, it became even more clear that the knower actually projects meaning or truth onto the world and this projection has both a history and many varieties. This led in turn to the question of whether what we project is “good?” Unfortunately, we no longer had any reference point for answering this question. It was a short step from this to the conclusion that there is no way of anchoring the “good.”

Philosophically, “life” had lost its meaning. Further elucidation did not help. While we might no longer fear death, we might fear the losing of our life. But even this fear does not amount to an argument for “giving” life in the act of procreation or “sacrificing” one’s life for someone else’s life. We might love (enjoy) living but this does not entail that we should love giving life. In fact, armed with a little bit of philosophical nihilism we might justify wallowing in what Nietzsche described as the life of the “last man,” focused only on personal pleasure.

What is required is a new kind of reason to give life. Once more returning to the philosophical tradition, Brague references those thinkers like Mirandola who saw that free will (not reason) is what was unique to humanity. Brague maintains that this makes preserving freedom an end-in-itself; and that, given our personal finitude, giving life to others (or sacrificing for others) through procreation is or should be our highest aspiration. In this, he claims to have established “The Anchors in the Heavens.”

Brague’s scholarship is impeccable and wide-ranging. One cannot but agree with his identification and formulation of the issue. In addition, I would subscribe personally and whole-heartedly to his conclusion that what distinguishes us is our free-will, that freedom is an end in itself, and we should give life to others. In what follows I want to arrive at the same conclusions by a slightly different route. I note with approval Brague’s referencing literary figures and others outside of the narrow field of philosophy.

What follows might seem like a lengthy digression, but the capacity of intellectuals to muddy the waters (this does not apply to Brague) seems to be without limits. The field of philosophy itself contributes to the problem.

The Troubles With Philosophy

I maintain that professional philosophy is an obstacle to understanding. I shall offer three arguments. The first is that a careful study of the history of so-called “philosophy” will show that philosophy has defined itself out of existence. Second, one major strand of contemporary philosophy, analytic philosophy, appeals to science in such a way that to do so is to allow science to engage in the assisted suicide of philosophy. Finally, the other major strand of contemporary philosophy, Continental philosophy, has reduced philosophy to mindless advocacy.

One of Brague’s earliest, and to me, most important points is terminological. “Metaphysics,” which is supposed to be the most fundamental part of philosophy, was originally, in classical Greek, ta meta ta physika, the title of one particular book or collection of Aristotle’s lectures. It is not a term from Plato or any earlier thinker. The expression might mean “after” or “before” the book entitled “physics.” It is not clear whether this was a name given by a librarian to identify the position of a “book” on a shelf, or perhaps meant to be read before the “physics” and therefore somehow more fundamental. A version of the expression appears in the third century Greek and in Arabic in the ninth century. The expression becomes a noun “metaphysics” in a twelfth-century translation into Latin, and its history continues thereafter.

I think a similar account can be given of the term “philosophy” itself. Is it a kind of book, a noun, an adjective, or a discipline? There is no continuous and unambiguous history of the discipline of “philosophy.” You would look in vain for an entry on “philosophy” in a contemporary dictionary of philosophy, or an encyclopedia of philosophy. To be sure, there is an Academic discipline called “philosophy,” but you would be hard-pressed to distinguish among “philosophers,” “teachers” of philosophy or “historians” of philosophy. Likewise, there are people called astrologers, books on astrology, etc., people who are paid to cast horoscopes as well as offer advice and make predictions. But, unfortunately, there is no connection between the positions of heavenly bodies and human destiny.

What does the History of “Philosophy” show us? In the beginning, no distinction was made among intellectual disciplines. One popular formulation of the differences (Frankfort) has been among three things:

Mythopoeic thought > Hebrew monotheism > Greek Philosophy (world explains itself).

Among the latter, Plato and Aristotle (responsible for two perennial but alternative modes of thought) have been the most influential, down to the present. Aristotle offered a history leading up to him; such teleological accounts keep reappearing depending upon who the historian is. This makes the history of philosophy and philosophy itself all about “me.” An important feature of this kind of history is the assumption that the same principles explain both the non-human and the human world.

An important transition occurred with the advent of modernity (Descartes to Kant), the recognition that meaning is something human beings project onto the world. Copernicanism upends the whole tradition – knowledge = how human beings understand the world. How we understand ourselves is fundamental; how we understand the non-human world is derivative.

Within the foregoing framework, the seventeenth-century introduced the distinction between natural philosophy (non-human world) and moral philosophy (human world). In the eighteenth-century, the human world became more complicated, as it was recognized that how we understand ourselves obviously has an historical dimension. This raises the current ongoing issue of relativism.

Hegel was, officially, the last philosopher to put it all together, specifically by making the knower and the known identical and by recognizing the historical nature of the whole. Hegel also recognized that the arts, religion, and philosophy were all different ways of expressing the same truth. It was now not clear what philosophy could be hereafter except a limited canon with some pretentious terminology. Some writers (Fukuyama on Kojeve) have interpreted Hegel so that liberal societies are the end of all history. Apparently, nobody has informed the Chinese about this.

Philosophy came to an end with Hegel. This is not meant either to praise or bury Hegel but to call attention to a discipline now without a role. It is my hope that this will also shed some light on the waste in the contemporary intellectual landscape. Nor is this meant to delegitimize everything done by people now associated with this “passé” discipline. Anybody in any discipline, who attempts to clarify concepts, identify basic presuppositions, and discuss the origin, history and evolution of our conceptual framework can be said to be doing philosophy.

Moral philosophy has subsequently evolved into myriad disciplines, known as the so-called “social sciences.” Here, the dance begins to repeat itself. Some understand the model of all science to be mathematics or physics; others prefer biological models; still others insist that the “social” sciences are not really sciences but either sui generis or ideologies masquerading as science.

Psychology, for example, claims to be the science of how we understand ourselves; but psychologists are split among those who think such a “science” is either “mechanical” (physics is the model), “organic” (biology is the model), or sui generis. If psychology is some kind of hard science, as analytic philosophers maintain, then philosophy has just defined itself out of existence. Philosophy can be no more than an account of the methodology and history of science, something done in other disciplines. What does philosophy mean now that it is not a separate discipline or subject matter?

Those who understand that the human/social world is sui generis, for example, Hayek, point out that both Hume and Kant saw that science rests upon values that cannot be scientifically certified. Some other kind of understanding is necessary. The best example of someone who makes this case today is Wayne Cristaudo in his recent (2020) book Idolizing the Idea. Philosophy is not about eternal truths. The proper role of philosophy is not to answer questions which require all sorts of extra-philosophical knowledge, but to question the questions that lead our inquiries about ourselves. In order to do this adequately requires a hermeneutical, dialogical, and anthropological approach.

The contemporary alternative to analytic philosophy is Continental philosophy (structuralism, deconstruction, postmodernism, etc.) They are all philosophies of anti-domination and limitless freedom. These too suffer from the failure to understand how the world came to be the way it is and why it is the way it is. Both major movements have become a major source of social ill, folly, and division.

Nicholas Capaldi, a Legendre-Soule Distinguished professor at Loyola University, New Orleans, USA, is the author of two books on David Hume, The Enlightenment Project in Analytic Conversation, biography of John Stuart Mill, Liberty and Equality in Political Economy: From Locke versus Rosseau to the Present, and, most recently, The Anglo-American Conception of the Rule of Law.

The image shows Frenzied Woman by Odd Nerdrum, painted 2005-2007.

The Failure Of Conservatism

Michael Anton is the man who today best communicates the fractures among the Right. He identifies, and exemplifies, growing incompatibilities among conservatives, both on the issues of the day and in beliefs about desirable political structures. Anton first came to public notice under a pseudonym, Publius Decius Mus, writing in 2016 during the brief life of a pro-Trump blog, the Journal of American Greatness.

In September of that year, Anton published a famous essay, “The Flight 93 Election.” His first point was that, like the passengers of Flight 93, Americans opposed to the permanent boot-stamping dominance of the Left had an existential choice. They could, as it were, charge the cockpit by taking a chance on Trump. Or they could passively accept Hillary, and face certain political death. His second point was that their behavior when faced with this choice showed that the conservative movement, as it exists now, was wholly worthless. These claims were, no surprise, controversial.

Within a few weeks Anton revealed his identity; after the election he worked for several months in the Trump White House, in the national security apparatus, until the swamp creatures managed to come to dominate the West Wing and the populism of Trump’s early months evaporated. So he departed for Hillsdale College in Michigan, and, for now, the life of a public intellectual. I hope he doesn’t spend the rest of his days in that role; he would probably agree that we have enough public intellectuals and not enough doers. My guess is that soon enough, in the unsettled times ahead, he will find a new role.

This 2018 pamphlet reprints the original “Flight 93” essay, a follow-up “Restatement” also published prior to the election, and a new essay, “Pre-Statement on Flight 93.” This last tells us what, exactly, it is that Anton wants our politics to be, to meet the criticism that he had earlier offered only a negative vision. In all these essays, Anton’s basic point is the same one as I am always hammering—we are in a new thing in American history, an existential struggle between the forces of Right and Left, respectively good and evil, and there can be only one. The Left has always known this and acted accordingly, with malice aforethought; the Right, or part of the Right, is coming to realize it. Between the modern Left and the principles of virtue there is no middle ground; there is no compromise; there is no universe in which the principles of the Left can continue to be allowed a seat at the public table. They must be defeated, and suppressed, root and branch. We must awake, and those Lotos-Eaters putatively on the Right who refuse to rouse from slumber must be thrown overboard. So says Anton, in essence, and I could not agree more.

Anton begins with a “Note,” a recap of the reception of his original essay. This primarily means its reception on the Right; the Left didn’t pay much attention then, deafened by their collective baying for Hillary’s imminent ascension, and has not paid much attention since, either, which is probably a mistake. Within the Right, because the sclerotic organized Right of think tanks and little-read journals was Anton’s main target, the backlash against Anton was fierce, though it was all of the pearl-clutching variety, free as a bird from all logic or reasoning.

Those same segments soon enough coalesced into the noisome #NeverTrumpers, rats following their diminutive, tubby Pied Piper, Bill Kristol, who has unfortunately not led them into the mountain to disappear forever. Here, and in the “Pre-Statement,” Anton in his usual pithy style refutes what few coherent objections to his claims have been made. I will note those later, but Anton is willing to admit one, and only one, failure in his earlier essays—that in his original essay, he was insufficiently generous to and appreciative of Donald Trump.

In his “Note,” Anton also explains his choice of pseudonym at more length, a name borne by two Roman men, father and son, who each sacrificed himself on the field of battle. He cites interpretations by both Leo Strauss and Harvey Mansfield to rebut his critics, using close readings of my favorite Machiavelli text, Discourses on Livy. Anton’s basic point is that Machiavelli “says that a republic may be led back to its beginnings ‘either through the virtue of a man or through the virtue of an order’ and goes on to say that ‘such orders have need of being brought to life by the virtue of a citizen who rushes spiritedly to execute them against the power of those who transgress them.’ In other words, orders and men are both necessary and neither is superior to the other; virtuous men are necessary to execute good orders.”

Anton here leaves some ambiguity as to his own goals. He says that “In 2016, I judged the modes and orders of my time—and especially of conservatism—to be exhausted and imprisoned within an inflexible institutional and intellectual authority. I believed that its conclusions on the most pressing matters were false and pernicious and that its orthodoxy therefore required smashing.” Despite Machiavelli’s warning that “nothing is more difficult to handle, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage, than to put oneself at the head of introducing new orders,” Anton chose to do so. But to what end? He refers to being led back to beginnings, but he also speaks of new orders. Which is it? That is one of the things I will examine here, after first evaluating the three essays.

In the original Flight 93 essay, Anton notes that all American conservatives agree that things are very bad in America, have been for some time, and are getting worse. If conservatives truly believe the critical importance to society of all the problems we face, from family breakdown to out-of-control government to an inability to win wars, they must conclude “we are headed off a cliff.” But—they don’t really believe it, as Anton illustrates with an article from the Weekly Standard (ironically, in retrospect, given that journal’s fate), recommending for all problems the usual tired litany of conservative solutions, such as decentralization, federalism, and civil renewal. “Which is to say, conservatism’s typical combination of the useless and inapt with the utopian and unrealizable. . . . ‘Civic renewal’ would do a lot of course, but that’s like saying health will save a cancer patient. A step has been skipped in there somewhere. How are we going to achieve ‘civic renewal’? Wishing for a tautology to enact itself is not a strategy.”

This is the gravamen of Anton’s complaint—conservatives keep offering the same solutions that have solved nothing, to solve problems that only get worse, as their power gets less and the Left grows ever more dominant. You can’t believe that things are awful and getting worse, but also that they can continue on their current path indefinitely; it is a contradiction. And that’s what today’s conservatives, that is, those in the public eye, believe. (In fact, since Anton wrote, “leading” conservatives such as Jonah Goldberg have come right out and admitted that they are happy to lose and for the Left to win completely, just a little slower, please).

Even those few conservative solutions that have been tried have failed or been quickly erased by the Left. “The whole enterprise of Conservatism, Inc., reeks of failure. Its sole and ongoing success is its own self-preservation.” Such claims have made Anton a prime target of the happy losers whom he attacks, ranging from Goldberg (who specifically targeted Anton in his terrible 2017 book, Suicide of the West) to Michael Gerson. For reasons I will discuss below, Anton’s only organized allies appear to be the Claremont Institute, and perhaps The American Conservative magazine—both powers on the Right, to be sure, but isolated from the invitations to cocktail parties and pats on the head from the cultural elite of the Left that are so important to Goldberg, Gerson, and the other similar indistinguishable nonentities who cluster together.

So what passes for today’s American conservatism is of little or no value. I can get behind that. That doesn’t mean all alternatives are virtuous, or desirable. Anton makes a point I am often found making, that Trump’s mere existence is a sign of the times, not of good times, but as of an angel breaking a numbered seal. “Only in a corrupt republic, in corrupt times, could a Trump rise. It is therefore puzzling that those most horrified by Trump are the least willing to consider the possibility that the republic is dying.” Sure, if you’re part of the professional-managerial elite, the past two decades have been pretty good to you.

For everybody else, and for the fabric of society, the opposite is true, and if you can’t see it, you’re too embedded in the ruling class, or too dependent on their tolerance and largesse for your daily bread. Others have expanded on this point, from Tucker Carlson to Richard Reeves to Kurt Schlichter, though few have made the focus of their ire the conservatives who are supposed to care about such things.

The non-Trump Republican presidential candidates, had any of them won, wouldn’t have done anything to stop or turn back the tide of the Left, since “their ‘opposition’ is in all cases ineffectual and often indistinguishable from support.” But a Hillary win would be a fatal disaster for America, cementing its destruction. It “will be pedal-to-the-metal on the entire progressive-Left agenda, plus items few of us have yet imagined in our darkest moments. Nor is even that the worst. It will be coupled by a level of vindictive persecution against resistance and dissent hitherto seen in the supposedly liberal West only in the most ‘advanced’ Scandinavian countries and the most leftist corners of Germany and England.

We see this already in the censorship practiced by the Davoisie’s social media enablers; in the shameless propaganda tidal wave of the mainstream media; and in the personal destruction campaigns—operated through the former and aided by the latter—of the social justice warriors. We see it in Obama’s flagrant use of the IRS to torment political opponents, the gaslighting denial by the media, and the collective shrug by everyone else.”

That all this would have come true is proven by the Left’s behavior since the election. They do what they would have done under Hillary, but lacking the power of the executive branch, the damage they can do is somewhat limited. On the other hand, their rage at losing to Trump has fueled the fire. Not having executive power, for now, doesn’t stop, among other evils, endless violence against any public display of support for Trump; aggressive campaigns on the state level to legalize infanticide and push the latest in sexual fluidity as the moral equivalent of abolitionism; mass censorship of conservatives on all social media platforms; and the personal destruction of anyone within their reach, or within the reach of their allies in all large corporations, the media, or the universities. And, most of all, we see it in their two years of whipping up hate in the media and using bogus “investigations” to cripple Trump and persecute anyone associated with him.

Swinging around again to his punching bag, the weak betas of Conservatism, Inc., Anton notes that they certainly aren’t going to lead resistance to the horrors of a Hillary administration. Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t, since all opinion-making is controlled by the Left. But they don’t want to; they “self-handicap and self-censor to an absurd degree. Our ‘leaders’ and ‘dissenters’ bend over backward to play by the self-sabotaging rules the Left sets for them.” (I have complained before, for example, of the conservative lust for pre-emptive apologies, a perfect example of what Anton complains of).

What we need instead is a leader who will fight, who will punch back. He will stop importing millions of Third World migrants, who erode our economy’s strength and vote in lockstep for the Left. He will adopt trade and antiglobalization policies that benefit all Americans. “Who cares if productivity numbers tick down, or if our already somnambulant GDP sinks a bit further into its pillow. Nearly all the gains of the last twenty years have accrued to the junta anyway.”

What we can’t have is Hillary. Conservatism, Inc., is “objectively pro-Hillary.” Anton concludes that if we do get Hillary, in the longer term, “the possibilities will seem to be: Caesarism, secession/crack-up, collapse, or managerial Davoisie as far as the eye can see . . . which, since nothing lasts forever, at some point will give way to one of the other three. Oh, and I suppose, for those who like to pour a tall one and dream big, a second American Revolution that restores constitutionalism, limited government, and a 28 percent top marginal rate.” We will return to these options, and whether any are desirable, below.

Anton’s initial piece got just about the warmth of reception one would expect. Actually, it got no reception at all, until Rush Limbaugh read the entire thing on his radio program. (That conservatives dominate talk radio is intolerable to the Left, and censoring it a prime goal of theirs. The ability of new thoughts like Anton’s to gain traction through that medium is why, even though talk radio can never set what the news is or what polite public opinion is allowed to be.) But then a wave of hatred and bile from those conservatives attacked (that is, nearly all of them) crashed into Anton, along with some tut-tutting from a few conservatives who saw that their rage was merely proving Anton’s point. Anton responded a few days later with “Restatement on Flight 93.”

Here he briefly addressed the most cogent attacks on him. Using the passengers of Flight 93 as a metaphor was simply standard drawing of inspiration from heroes. It wasn’t “disgusting.” “It’s quite obvious that’s what really is disgusting to these objectors is Trump.” Trump isn’t too immoderate to be President; he may be a “buffoon,” but “one must wonder how buffoonish the alleged buffoon really is when he is right on the most important issues while so many others who are esteemed wise are wrong.”

Trump is not too radical; in fact, on the surface he’s more progressive than other recent Republican presidential candidates. He’s actually quite moderate in his policies of “secure borders, economic nationalism, and America-first foreign policy.” The problem is that he is a threat to what is now called the Deep State, as outlined by John Marini: he might win, and he threatens “the current governing arrangement of the United Sates, [which] is rule by a transnational managerial class in conjunction with the administrative state.” Trump is not “authoritarian,” which is a meaningless term as used here (and as I have shown at length by analyzing post-election writings, merely means in practice “erosion of the power of the Left”). Trump does not want to “trash the Constitution,” which anyway is laughable, given that the Left’s entire, open and acknowledged, program of the past hundred years is to trash the Constitution.

No, reiterates Anton, he was right the first time. Conservatism is a miserable failure. Doom is at the door, and if you choose to let it in, your fate will be upon your own head.

We all know what happened next. Trump won. The Left lost its mind, and unleashed fresh helpings of savage hatred upon the land. (I did not predict this; I predicted a new era of optimism and limited comity. More fool me.) They marshaled all their resources, from that disgusting hate group the SPLC to Rod Rosenstein to Facebook to the FBI to Jonah Goldberg, in order to stop Donald Trump from fulfilling any of his promises. And we are still living through these days of rage, which are, probably, merely the foothills of our own coming hot civil war.

Anton, however, appears to have been stung by the claim that he only offered a negative vision, although on its face that claim is untrue. He therefore wrote a new piece, “Pre-Statement on Flight 93.” Anton seems grudging about writing it; noting that since the Left’s project is destruction, of all opposition and of all non-Left “people, institutions, mores and traditions,” “It’s a bit rich to be accused by nihilists of lacking a positive vision.” This piece is, I think, the least successful. It’s not that it’s bad; it’s excellent. The problem is that while it rejects what Conservatism, Inc. has to offer, it repeats an equally unrealistic prescription, namely a turn back to the Constitutional and political framework of 1787 and 1865.

A combination of political philosophy, political argument, and history, in the Pre-Statement Anton cites Aristotle for the basic claim that all human activity aims at some good. Beyond food, shelter, and security, “mere life,” the good life is happiness or felicity, which is achieved by developing our capabilities to reach the telos of man, “the completion or perfection of those traits which are uniquely characteristic of man.” “Radical individualism and private hedonism,” the goals of (though Anton does not say so) the Enlightenment, undermine human flourishing.

This much has been known, in the West at least, since the Greeks, but the American Founders brought political order in the service of these goals to near perfection (which was perfected by the post-Civil War amendments). Federalism, limited government, and representative republicanism created the best system ever. But it is not one that can be exported to all peoples in all times, nor can it work if there is inadequate “commonality in customs, habits, and opinions.” As everyone with any sense knows, diversity is the opposite of our strength.

This near-perfect system has been attacked repeatedly since 1787, Anton tells us. First, by the followers of John Calhoun, unsuccessfully. Second, by the early-twentieth-century Progressives, successfully and causing great damage. And third, fatally, by the acolytes of John Rawls, purveyors of so-called social justice and of forced equality, and the New Left, advocates of the tearing down of America, group rights, and oppression theory. All these attacks are incoherent and destructive, but they have collectively succeeded in destroying the Founders’ vision, and erecting in its place a system that maintains many of its outward forms but within is crawling with decay and worms.

As the Left’s power grows ever greater, they must either “compound the lies, or suppress and punish dissent.” They choose both, following the dictates of Herbert Marcuse and his heinous “repressive tolerance.” We need to “return to life and the conditions of life: the rule of law, responsible freedom, confidence in our civilization, patriotism, and concern for the common good instead of only the particular good of groups claiming oppression or disadvantage.”

I agree with nearly all of this as an analytical matter. As a prescriptive matter, though, it is sorely lacking, other than that Trump is somewhat better than Hillary in these regards. If I have a core political organizing principle, it is that you cannot go back; the way is shut. Truly insightful modern conservatives realize this and make it the starting point of their thought. But Anton seems to shrink from this conclusion, unwilling to realize, or recognize, that the vision of the Founders is dead. There is no path to return to it, and if we did, the massive changes in the world and in America would make their system a failure if re-implemented today. It was good, in a unique time and place, for a small and homogeneous country built on a politics of virtue.

The modern world is so very, very different from that; what the modern world needs is indeed a return to the principles of Aristotle, but not just those relating to the purposes of man, rather also those of varieties of political structure other than democracy, which Aristotle, and everyone else who matters, has always recognized as the worst form of government, for proof of which today we need only look around.

Anton is, therefore, a reactionary. I divide reactionaries into various camps, but the two relevant ones here are Straussians, followers of the German philosopher Leo Strauss, and what I call Augustans. Straussians, although they have various internal divisions, believe that the desired end of political history arrived already—and was left behind. Therefore, today’s Cthulhu State, a multi-tentacled horror of unlimited and unaccountable power, exemplified by the monstrous administrative state that finds no warrant in the Constitution, should be destroyed and the Republic restored by the simple expedient of turning back the political clock.

Augustans, on the other hand, focus on power and its uses. A more common term for this is Caesarism, but that is a misnomer, since Caesar merely toppled a tottering system. It was Augustus who created a new one, in which the forms of republican government remained, and even some of its application, but the real power shifted, toward a mixed government with heavy monarchical and aristocratic elements. Rollback is not the goal; the goal is seizing the levers of power as they exist now, and overthrowing the great as the opportunity presents itself, creating a new thing entirely. Thus, the focus is power guided by virtue, but always power.

In his original Flight 93 essay, Anton came across as Augustan. But he blurred this with his Pre-Statement, which is Straussian. Straussianism, while internally coherent, offers nothing, because there is no path to reach its goals. It is Reaction in the sense of turning the clock back, when what is called for is Reaction in the sense of building a new thing guided by the wisdom of the past. Anton is extremely intelligent, and I suspect he is deliberately hiding the ball. I think what he really wants to call for is either of two of his three stated alternatives to Trump winning: Caesarism (that is, an Augustan state), or secession/crack up.

This conclusion is strengthened by the sarcasm with which Anton refers in his original essay to “a second American Revolution that restores constitutionalism, limited government, and a 28 percent top marginal rate.” Other than tax rate, that’s basically the Straussian solution, and he laughs at it. And since Anton says managerial Davoisieism will end up in Caesarism too, that suggests that the only two options left are the ones he wants to pick from. Trump, though, is not a good Caesar; he is a holding pattern, a finger in the dike while other pieces are being moved on the board. We are just waiting for the Man of Destiny, to be named later.

I don’t know Anton, but my bet is that he realizes that he can’t marginalize himself further by calling for the formal destruction of the Republic, even if it has already been destroyed in practice. He has to make a living, of course, and I don’t think he’s rich (despite Jonah Goldberg’s sneering, yet bizarre, efforts to slur him as rich). But he clouds the air by failing to make a choice. I see why he can’t, and instead tries to have it both ways. Me, I don’t have to make a living as a public intellectual, and “marginal” grossly overstates my relevance, so I’ll happily get behind an Augustan state, or the crack-up of the United States, or both. We’re going to get there anyway, after all – the only questions are how fast, with how much unpleasantness, and whether the destination will be the Pax Romana or something less pleasant. I’m all in for a Pax Romana updated by Christianity, the other innumerable blessings of the West, and modern science. Whether we’ll get it, I don’t know.

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, Solitary Figure in a Theater, by Edward Hopper, ca, 1092-1904.

The Dead-End Of Liberalism

This is a special review. It is special because it is the last of its kind. I no longer intend to spend my time, and your time, on books that I know to be completely wrong, merely to show they are completely wrong. I am keenly aware of what I call “the closing door,” embodied in the words of John 9:4 – “the night cometh, when no man can work,” which Samuel Johnson had engraved on the inside cover of his pocket watch. This does not at all mean that I am stopping writing, only that I will no longer write in the vein of correcting errors of the political Left. For the hour is late, and the Right has better things to do.

Thus, I will no longer review, or read, leftist claptrap. That includes a substantial majority of modern popular works; essentially all books on history and politics that receive wide publicity, from the latest anti-Trump screed to anything on race, along with a great deal else. It also includes many, though not all, older leftist works that are leftist canon. Does it profit me to read any such book and demonstrate its innumerable falsehoods and logical errors? No, because I know the truth already, and I know the minds of all these writers and the vast majority of their readers are a closed circle, filled with lies and impervious to the truth. I will discover nothing new; and they benefit by me wasting my time, because opportunity costs.

True, my writing about such books might profit others who are less informed or have spent less time evaluating leftist claptrap, and who are drowning daily in the disinformation spewed out by leftist media and culture. But I can add the same value for those people by sometimes discussing leftist propaganda when I am discussing legitimate works. All the leftist agitprop I am now going to ignore is worse than worthless. It is total lies, which, fascinatingly, is a relatively new departure for the Left.

Over decades, the Left was rewarded for slanting and twisting the truth, never punished, and now that they have total control over the organs of communication, culture, and power, simply disregarding the truth in the service of power, serving instead lying propaganda, is the inevitable consequence. What you reward, you get more of. For the Left, since 1789, after all, the ends justify the means, and the purported goal of their Utopian cult is now in sight, so any tool is justified. So I understand why they lie, and how and why the New York Times today became no different than the Pravda of 1988. But I see no reason I should legitimate their webs of lies.

It is all a question of priorities. My core priority is to establish the Foundationalist state, under which human flourishing may again occur. What is the chief obstacle to the Foundationalist state? The power of the Left, and the corruption of the West it has wrought, by rejecting the pursuit of excellence and accomplishment, and by corroding individual virtue. Working to demonstrate that the Left lies as it breathes merely grants power to their lies. As I have said, the only way out is through, and that means, most of all, offering a positive vision of what the future can look like, as opposed to the world visible around us wrought by the Left—and them implementing that vision.

More broadly, I no longer care what any organ of the Left, or any individual leftist, thinks or says about any topic. At all. I don’t need to understand them better; I already understand them completely, and what they have to say that is not lies, is evil that has led us to our current degenerate and decayed society, for which they bear primary responsibility. Nor is it important to understand better their motivations: greed, love of power, millenarian fervor, sheer stupidity, love of destruction, hatred driven by racist ethnonarcissism, animal rage generated by envy of beauty and accomplishment. No, there is no reason whatsoever to engage the Left, except in the act of utterly and permanently breaking their power and imposing a decent society. The time for debate with the Left is over; the time for the re-imposition of reality arrived long ago.

The Left, always and everywhere, has known the existential nature of the struggle, and the exterminatory character of their program, and in every case acted to the extent its power allowed. Today in America, they no longer pretend the Right is even permitted to debate; after all, error has no rights. They are now imposing their final end-state on us, a project they will soon complete if they are not stopped. Our only goal should be to smash the Left and impose the will of the Right, in a complete reformation of our society—if we can, a topic for another day. What form that imposition of will might take remains to be seen. It could be a democratic turn to a Viktor Orbán-type leader, though more aggressive, who combines economic populism and nationalism, and is not afraid to use existing tools to break the Left. It could be a fragmentation of the country, along Kurt Schlichter lines, where the Left is confined in their own new country to descend into Venezuela, or worse, and the Right can form a renewed society. It could be many other things, each prefigured by history. But the path leads inevitably to war, whether hot war or cold war. It already is war, though a war fought only by the Left. Time to fight back, effectively.

Oh, I will read plenty of books I disagree with, in whole or in part. But those will be books that illuminate the way forward. I will no doubt still find much to criticize in some books. I will continue to read and analyze books that I know are partially wrong, such as those written with a whole or partial Left bias that are not works of politics or history (e.g., science or economics), because in those something of value can often still be found.

I may sometimes read books that I strongly suspect are completely wrong, say anything new from Jonah Goldberg, but that could still contain something of interest, especially books whose readership may include those on the Right working toward victory. I may read classic Left works, because they are classic, thus they may contain something of value, and moreover I know they inform my enemies, so knowing their contents is of use. Lenin, for example. (Not all old Left works are classic, of course. Take Edward Said’s Orientalism—I tried reading that, and it was worthless, lying trash, and laughably, obviously so.) But for the most part, I will read either books that are not political at all, but of interest to me for other reasons, or books that I see as useful in building Foundationalism.

More generally, I intend to spend as little time as possible discussing political matters with the Left. They can read my works, or not, and there may be exceptions to my general rule. But why discuss political matters with leftist commenters on my writing, or with my left-leaning relatives? Their worldview consists wholly of lies, destructive lies, lies that corrode all societal virtue and wholly block all societal accomplishment. They cannot be convinced otherwise; like any cult member, and cult is what the Left is, as shown by that their ideology does not permit any new fact to contradict their prebaked conclusions.

Someone must rule; now it is them, and changing that is the challenge of the next decade, followed by the suppression of their evil works and the proper education of both our children and our brainwashed adults. Meanwhile, with leftists with whom we have a social relation, we can talk about other things—although since the Left insists on politicizing all of life, there is, sadly, often very little we can talk about.

But before I call it a day, let us discuss this book. In it, childlike naivete alternates with low malice, combining in an execrable stew. I read Why Liberalism Works because it claims to be an answer to Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed, a key text of today’s post-liberal Right. To my disappointment, other than in its title and one unbelievably stupid sentence inside, this book completely ignores Deneen’s book, and also ignores all claims and arguments of today’s post-liberals. Instead, it substitutes, for engaging with ideas, heated repetition of bogus ideological claims. It’s crushingly boring and tiresomely predictable. But reading this book made me understand more fully why and how we are all force fed propaganda, of which this is merely an exemplar, on a daily basis, and led me to the decision outlined above. I’m happy for that, at least.

The author, Deirdre McCloskey, is what we can call a “choice extremist.” This is a type of libertarianism, but not confined to limiting the state. Rather, it is an endorsement of man as mayfly, impelled by no other desire than maximizing pleasure, and insistent that any limitation on such pleasure is evil incarnate. People like McCloskey, who claim to be centrists seeking human flourishing, offer the distilled essence of the worst of the Left, without the leavening concern for social fabric that some of the Left offers, or used to offer. A clean sweep will begin with these people, McCloskey and his [indeed, his, ed.] neoliberal allies, many long falsely seen as conservatives. For me, this book was unpleasant to read, and this review a drag to write. Still, I read the whole book, every word, hacking through the ignorant writing and annoying tone of unjustified superiority combined with a jarring, oily pseudo-femininity. You’re welcome.

Totally aside from its other defects, McCloskey’s book is poorly structured, because rather than writing a new book, he cobbled together numerous existing short writings, added some filler, divided them into four rough groups, and presented the results as a tasty pottage to his masters at the American Enterprise Institute and other similar bastions of mendacious toadies to leftism and chaos. Constant repetition is therefore the hallmark of this book; it could have been a fifth of its length and said the same things. Again, you’re welcome. Rather than analyze the fifty essays in this book sequentially, I’m going to summarize the author’s key claims, which are merely repeated with slight variations and emphasis throughout the entire book. Let’s get on with it.

First, McCloskey draws the line of demarcation that snakes through the entire book. We have “true liberals.” And we have everyone else. True liberals are awesome. Everyone else is bad, and bad precisely to the extent he differs in any way from true liberals. By “true liberal,” McCloskey means someone who is a fan of the core tenet of Enlightenment political philosophy, of emancipation from all unchosen bonds, an atomized free actor in every facet of his existence. True liberals, you see, adhere to the Golden Rule, which is, properly viewed, merely Adam Smith’s principles of free trade applied to all activities of life. In fact, total emancipation is dictated by God—McCloskey claims that some fictional “Abrahamic egalitarianism” is common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and in case we are unclear, calls Smith, ad nauseum, “the Blessed Adam Smith,” who revealed the correct interpretation of the Gospel, which previously had escaped all of us.

The rest of the book is merely endless variations on ascribing superlatives to “true liberals” and attacking everyone not a “true liberal,” though flavor is added by changing the adjective occasionally from “true” to “humane,” “sisterly,” or “motherly.” To support this division as an intelligent way to view the world, McCloskey’s tool is not evidence or reason. Rather, his only tool is ignoring or totally mischaracterizing opposing arguments while using tendentious, emotion-laden terms. In the second paragraph of the Preface, for example, he contrasts true liberals, who have “splendid arts and sciences,… toleration,… inclusiveness,… cosmopolitanism” with “illiberal regimes,” from whose “violent hierarchies” true liberals have liberated us, though “brutal, scaremongering populists” such as Viktor Orbán are still fighting their inevitable defeat by the true liberal paladins. The rest of the book does not vary from this pattern.

Second, in order to praise true liberals as the source of all that is righteous, McCloskey offers a puerile and false chain of historical causation. It is hard to exaggerate how simplistic this book is. In a nutshell, which is all we are offered, in the late 1700s, true liberalism began, when demands for emancipation and atomized liberty, that is, the Enlightenment, began. This political philosophy created the “Great Enrichment,” “economic betterments for ordinary people,” by “giving voice” to people who were formerly voiceless and utterly passive. This has continued, so now we are rich and getting richer, which is all that matters.

Now, McCloskey does recognize the glaring problem in this set of claims, which is that only clowns believe that the Industrial Revolution had any connection to the Enlightenment. So he dodges by trying to separate the supposed Great Enrichment from the Industrial Revolution. He claims that the latter was a mere commonplace, frequent throughout history, of doubling income, but that the Enrichment was a new thing in history, created purely by true liberalism. In one of the most bizarre passages of a book that is filled with them, McCloskey claims that equally important industrial revolutions also occurred in Islamic Spain and Song China. Before 1800, you see, progress was regarded as dishonorable and sinful, something “economists and historians are starting to recognize”—led, of course, by the most insightful historian of the modern age, McCloskey himself. Our unexceptional industrial revolution continued, creating the Great Enrichment, because “liberalism inspirited the masses to devise betterments and to open new enterprises and to move to new jobs.”

These are radical historical claims, but no evidence at all is offered for them, or any other historical claim. McCloskey is a historian by trade, but almost zero history appears in this book. To be fair, that may be the nature of such a cobbled-together book; he mentions his trilogy of other books about “bourgeois values,” with a passing claim that those books support what he says here, so perhaps one has to read those too to get any actual arguments from history. I won’t read them, because life is too short.

But back in the real world, there is no mystery as to how the Industrial Revolution created the economics of the modern world, and there is no such thing as a separate Great Enrichment. The West, starting in England, combined the advances of the Scientific Revolution (created purely by Europeans) with the right cultural practices, such as hard work and the rule of law, added some other factors endlessly debated (coal? intelligence? sea power?) and thereby escaped from the Malthusian Trap, which had never occurred a single time anywhere else in the world. Once created by the West, this package feeds on itself, and can be exported to any culture willing and able to adopt the gifts of Western technology and culture.

Some are; most aren’t either willing or able, and haven’t been for the past two hundred years. If they do, and to the extent they are willing to adopt these cultural and technological practices (which do not include frippery such as democracy), countries are lifted out of poverty, a process continuing, in fits, starts, and steps backward, today. The end. The rickety and ahistorical claims that McCloskey makes are simply objectively false, which he probably realizes, since beyond announcing conclusions, he makes no effort to support them. (No surprise, McCloskey ignores China’s and Singapore’s adoption of Western technology and methods to escape the Malthusian Trap, since those successes alone disprove every single claim he makes).

Third, there are enemies of true liberalism, who want to cast the whole world into darkness and end the Great Enrichment by opposing choice extremism. These are, today, primarily the parties democratically elected in Hungary and Poland, though occasionally Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are thrown in too. As with all of his odious neoliberal caste, McCloskey hates and fears those in power in Hungary and Poland, because their success and popularity prove everything he says false, and he is afraid their powerful ideas will spread to dominate throughout Europe and the United States (a fear that is, fortunately, well on its way to being a reality).

McCloskey does not deign to tell us why Hungary and Poland are bad, or how the policies enunciated by their governments will end the Great Enrichment. He just mouths the usual total lies that the press is attacked and the rule of law eroded, without any actual attempt to demonstrate those claims. In reality, of course, censorship and erosion of the rule of law is far more prevalent in the United States and Western Europe; but that’s censorship and erosion of the rule of law McCloskey likes. He’s very much a fan of flexible principles – for another example, despite his claim that we should all operate only on “sweet talk,” he openly celebrates in this book how he helped destroy the life of J. Michael Bailey, a Northwestern University professor who failed to adequately celebrate sexual degeneracy.

In addition to Viktor Orbán and some Poles, there are also domestic enemies. McCloskey hates American conservatives, that is, anyone on the Right not a corporatist, Koch-type Republican, with an ill-concealed burning passion. No surprise, he never once engages their arguments, even though he chants “let’s listen, really listen, to the arguments of our supposed enemies, and consider their logic and evidence.” The core of McCloskey’s “thinking” is a crude logical trap. We should have “a society held together by sweet talk among free adults rather than by coercion applied to slaves and children.” What if that sweet talk concludes that most people want to, let’s say, ban pornography? That’s coercion! So, in other words, McCloskey wants talk, as long as that talk has no chance of ending in conclusions other than the ones he has already mandated as the only acceptable ones for society. That’s just dishonest. But that’s this book.

We reach the nadir of McCloskey’s hate and stupidity in the single sentence devoted to Deneen. I was excited to get there, figuring I would get an actual response to post-liberal arguments. What I got was this, in toto. Brace yourself. “Liberalism, intones Deneen, entails ‘the loosening of social bonds’ (bonds such as slavery in the British Empire), ‘a relentless logic of impersonal transactions’ (so unlike the transactions of pious Israelites selling lumber to Egyptians, say), and the proposition that ‘human beings are thus, by nature, non-relational creatures, separate and autonomous’ (as for example in the non-relational exploration of human relationships in the bourgeois and liberal English novel since 1700).”

That’s it. That’s the entirety of McCloskey’s “argument.” The first parenthetical, about slavery, is apparently meant to be a refutation of Deneen in some way I cannot fathom. I have no idea what the second and third parentheticals, about Israelites, lumber, and English novels, are trying to say; they are not tied to anything else McCloskey says elsewhere. I am still scratching my head. But I can assure you that McCloskey thinks he has crushed Deneen, which says a lot more about him than anything else.

Fourth, for McCloskey, there are no enemies on the Left. Sure, some on the Left are mistaken, notably Thomas Piketty, on whom McCloskey spills a lot of gently-phrased words. But everyone on the Left is “earnest and amiable,” just a little wrong, like the “sweet slow socialist” George Soros or McCloskey’s unnamed “beloved and extremely intelligent Marxian friend.” The New York Times is wrong sometimes, but “sweet” and “benevolent.” Anyone on the Right, though, is “vicious,” a “thug,” or any of innumerable similar terms, and McCloskey certainly has no friends who are conservatives.

Fifth, true liberalism must struggle against bad policies, some of which are pushed by evil people and some by ignorant people. Any policy that has any element of “coercion” is bad. The worst policy of all is any restrictions whatsoever on immigration. We are told that “bad people” in the United States “wish to deport law-abiding and hardworking immigrants, in response to a scientifically bankrupt economic notion, which is anyway unethical, that immigrants take jobs away from natives, or a scientifically bankrupt sociological notion, also unethical, that their children will never become properly American.” If the “Hungarian farmer or West Virginia coal miner” complains that he can no longer feed his children, he has no legitimate complaint, rather, “what is being complained about is change, and as it happens desirable change.” We know it is desirable because it is happening because of the free market, for “Profits are a signal of general worthiness.” The end. Really.

You can see why neoliberals love this stuff, but the normal reader wonders why no effort, none at all, is ever made to demonstrate the truth of these claims and why we are never, not once, given any suggestion that we should perform cost-benefit analysis on any social policy. McCloskey’s claims and demanded social policies are uniformly and without exception wonderful and costless, and this truth is self-proving. Any questioning proves you are “authoritarian” or “fascist,” not “humane” and McCloskey’s “dear friend.”

Sixth, total emancipation in all areas of life will lead to total human flourishing. We are guaranteed that it is an absolute certainty that so long as we are true liberals, unlimited wealth will be ours, which will make us happy (not for McCloskey any wondering about the relationship, beyond a certain point, of wealth to happiness). And not just happiness—the resulting “enrichment will cause . . . a cultural explosion, casting into the shade the achievements of fifth-century Athenian drama and T’ang poetry and Renaissance painting.” His evidence for this? That the 1960s, the dawn of emancipation in America, were culturally, especially in art, far superior to the Renaissance. Yes, that’s what he claims.

Woven throughout the endless repetitions of this six-point plan is much other dumbassery. We are lied to that the “classical definition of liberty/freedom is the condition of being liberated/free from physical interference by other human beings,” which is the exact opposite of the truth. Pericles would reject everything McCloskey says out of hand, then have him flogged for corrupting the virtue of the body politic. Economic fallacies abound, most of all the exaltation of GDP as a measure of human flourishing (combined with the only other measure of human flourishing, the absolute right, derived from nothing in particular, to not be “pushed or bossed around without voluntarily given consent or contract”). “Leisure… should be accounted as income.” If you can’t find a job because an illegal immigrant took it, you are still making money, peasant, so stop complaining! Third-rate thinkers like Tyler Cowen and Eric Hoffer are extolled as brilliant. If some things are better now, everything that exists now must be good. And, most of all, culture doesn’t matter for anything, and no human motivation other than the desire for maximized freedom exists.

I’m not going to waste any more time on the claims of this book, but I want to examine what this book means. That is, on its face, nearly everything in this book is shockingly dumb, and I don’t think McCloskey is dumb (though he’s not nearly as smart as he thinks he is). So why did he write it? Ah, there’s where it gets interesting, and indicative of our politics today. Every so often the real agenda’s slimy face peeks through. We see it in the occasional obeisances [sic] to a free-floating “dignity.”

McCloskey’s project is to endorse a vision of humanity completely atomized, and he knows that to sell this he has to claim that all the worthwhile advances of the modern world are created by atomization. Okay, but why is McCloskey paid to purvey propaganda under the guise of being a purveyor of history and ideas, and then lionized across many forms of media? It’s because this is merely one small facet of the giant propaganda machine that spews its output across our society today.

We are everywhere surrounded by endless propaganda designed to push an agenda that simultaneously pushes the Left goal of emancipation combined with forced egalitarianism while lining the pockets of our neoliberal overlords. Every movie, computer game, or other form of media involving violence or the military features a complete inversion of reality, where female warriors exemplifying alpha male characteristics triumph over weak men with feminine characteristics. Every movie and TV show, for children or adults, celebrates homosexuals and sexual degenerates. Advertisements do the same. Wise Latinas instruct stupid white people. The propaganda machine is kept going by aggressive censorship across all media and social media, silencing the strongest voices of opposition and ensuring that those that remain self-censor to avoid deplatforming.

Still, at the end, this is a clarifying book. It made me realize what I started this review with—that debate is a waste of time, and the choice is utter defeat by the Left, or destroying the Left. Dispose yourselves accordingly.

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 a detail from the Crucifixion and Last Judgement diptych, by Jan van Eyck, ca. 1430 and 1440.