The Debt to Beauty

It is the undoubted attraction, the beauty of women that leads men to become entangled in the combats of the eternal war of the sexes, never finished, never won.

There are those who have defined woman as a sphinx without mystery, without enigma, whose fascination is enclosed in appearance. Mystery or no mystery, it is her unquestionable attraction, her beauty, that leads men to become entangled in the combats of the eternal war of the sexes, never finished, never won, full of battles of attrition, of a few triumphant blows of the hand and of many months and years of trenches, barbed wire and constant, monotonogamous, stultifying bombardments. So much wastage and abundance of hendecasyllables, so many flaming and sublimated madrigals to always end up in a barren and soured bedlam: Dulcinea is always Aldonza and not vice versa. Such is the force and seduction of a simple, imaginary and unrealizable promesse de bonheur [promise of happiness], as the divine Stendhal would write. The beloved is a screen on which the lover projects his dreams, that is the quixotic misunderstanding essential to the whole love struggle, where animal impulses mingle with the fantasies of the spirit: the centaur in search of his Pallas.

For the other side—that of the sphinxes—which is the one with the strategic superiority and the most practical design, this war was resolved in a prosaic and binding objective, but very necessary for society: the family, the house, the polis, the market. That they lived happily ever after culminates all the narratives of the West, and it covers with illusion the inexorable need to reproduce the social body, to give continuity to something that is much more important than the vain and impossible happiness of individuals. Or, at least, this had been so until some members of the high castes decided to change the rules of the game and pervert the natural inclinations of human livestock with the spread of a poison that acts as a solvent of societies and civilizations: the search for an impossible abolition of reality so that even the most delirious fantasies, almost all of them purely corporeal and erotic, become real, something that, of course, cannot happen, but that makes the sphinxes stop thinking about their essential objective and replace it with a phantasm that only produces neurosis for them and great profits for those who invoke it. And when one of the sides—the strongest—is upset, the other is disoriented; the subtle balance is broken. This, fundamentally, is what El deber de lo bello [The Debt to Beauty], the recent novel by Javier R. Portella, is about.

Since the last century we knew that absurdity was the essential note of existence. But it is in this century that it has gone from being a simple intellectual or historical reference to become everyday life—the usual scenario of an increasingly ugly, puritanical, hysterical and imbecilic existence, a product imported from America but with European roots, especially Anglo-Saxon.

The protagonist of the novel, Hector, is overwhelmed (and how!) by the plagues of our time: political correctness, gender superstition and delirious feminism. Hector is the fulminated man, whose true love life was annihilated by Cristina, his former partner, and who seeks in extraordinary adventures the meaning of an existence that moves in a field of shadows where he longs for the light, but has the mania of looking for it inside all the tunnels. His erotic epiphany comes at the hand of Angelica, a prototype of the feminine ideal of our time, liberated but seductive, whose name comes in handy if we take into account that demons are also angels. Fantasy becomes reality for Hector, but it only brings him mild joys and constant ashes. Wounded by beauty and hopelessly addicted to its affairs, our postmodern Werther becomes entangled in a skein of sensual labyrinths that torment him. This comes to an extreme when he encounters a sophisticated sphinx, Margot, with echoes of Faust and Bulgakov, who leads him to his inevitable Walpurgis Night.

All of this is told with humor and with a tone that is more French than Spanish, for it is not a traditional thing to describe with elegance the deviations of the flesh, to untie with care such tender ties. Portella draws a humorous but deep portrait of an empty and full society, satisfied to the point of stupidity, a portrait that takes us from the classrooms of the pathetic Santiago Carrillo High School or from a sordid back room of the Ministry of Equality to the mansions of the European oligarchy; Hector goes through all the circles of the amorous hell of our time, of this unbridled chaos, of the glorified vulgarity that can only be redeemed by the cult of beauty, something that the protagonist misses throughout the novel and that only shines in a few moments—as that which they call “happiness.”


Sertorio lives, writes and thinks in Spain. this review comes through the kind courtesy of El Manifesto.

In the Footsteps of Pascal

Pierre Manent has published a new book, entitled Pascal et la proposition chrétienne (Pascal and the Christian Proposition). It is a rich and dense work which seems to us to be of the utmost importance. It is nevertheless a demanding work, and I fear that many of our contemporaries will not be able to penetrate it, so much has Christianity in particular and the question of God in general have become foreign to their preoccupations and even to their culture.

It is on this theme that Pierre Manent’s reflection opens. The doubt that assails Europeans, the self-hatred that they often manifest, the forgetfulness and even the rejection of their history, stem from the fact that “Europeans do not know what to think or what to do with Christianity. They have lost the intelligence and the use of it. They no longer want to hear about it” (p. 7). We no longer perceive the new radicality of Christianity, nor do we measure the change brought about, after the Reformation and the Wars of Religion, by the progressive implementation of the “sovereign State” which, in the name of a supposed philosophical and religious “neutrality,” has ended up monopolizing all authority, including the spiritual authority of “values”—”There is no law above that of the Republic”—so much so that the power of the Sovereign State has become limitless.

A Religion Like No Other

Now, it was in the middle of the 17th century that the sovereign State was being fashioned, and it is in this unprecedented context that Pascal, in an unfortunately fragmentary and unfinished way, reflected afresh on the “Christian proposition,” to use Pierre Manent’s expression, namely that of the Christian faith, of the very possibility of the Christian faith. Because of this reflection, Pascal is particularly adapted to our time, a precious guide, but a guide difficult to follow without a sure master to lead us. This is what Pierre Manent does in a pedagogical and luminous way, by developing for us the way Pascal envisages this “Christian proposition.”

We know that Pascal was very engaged in the quarrel between grace and freedom and that he chastised the Jesuits for advocating a more accommodating religion so as not to see so many lukewarm souls, indifferent to the Gospel, drift away from the Church—the parallel with a certain current situation will not escape anyone! Yet, Pascal pleads, Christianity is not a religion among others. He does not justify it by the authority of the Church or of Scripture, but by the unique fact that it alone “adequately accounts for the principal ‘contrariety’ of the human condition, divided between greatness and misery” (p. 361)—it alone also dares to go against some of the most universal springs of human nature, such as love of enemies or forgiveness of offenses. The dogma of original sin accounts for this “contrariety”: “Certainly nothing strikes us more harshly than this doctrine [of original sin], and yet without this mystery, the most incomprehensible of all, we are incomprehensible to ourselves. The knot of our condition takes its twists, and turns in this abyss. So that man is more inconceivable without this mystery than this mystery is inconceivable to man” (Pensées, 122, quoted on p. 239-240).

The Enlightened Choice of the Heart

Pascal is not a theologian who seeks to rationally prove the existence of God. Faith does not need proofs; these are addressed to reason but it is not there that faith is decided: it is a gift of God who puts it in the heart of man. Pascal thus seeks to address the will—the famous “wager”—more than the intelligence, an approach which, nevertheless, is in no way opposed to reason: “The prophecies, the very miracles and the proofs of our Religion are not of such a nature that one can say that they are absolutely convincing, but they are also of such a nature that one cannot say that it is to be without reason to believe them” (Pensées, fr. 682, quoted p. 316). And Pierre Manent adds: “Nothing is more foreign to Pascal than the ‘leap of faith.’ He gives us rather a course of reason which leads us to a choice of the heart, of the knowing heart” (p. 361), because it is not a blind choice, but a reflected and enlightened one.

And yet, Pascal points out, few seem to make this choice: “The most significant fact is not the authority acquired by Christianity but, on the contrary, the theoretical or practical atheism of the immense majority of human beings, Christians included” (p. 365). Today even more than in Pascal’s time, the idea that the only great matter of life is the choice of God with what it implies for the salvation of the soul or its eternal loss does not interest many people. This brings us back to the problem of God’s grace being offered to all, and human freedom having that power to refuse it. “There is enough light for those who only wish to see, and enough darkness for those who have a contrary disposition” (Pensées, 139, quoted on p. 367).

To make the believer and the non-believer “live together” is not easy: the solution of modernity has been to push religion to the margins of public life. Pascal does not provide a political solution; but he does provide us with a demanding path, and one that is adapted to our time of incredulity: “And all we need to know is that we are miserable, corrupt, separated from God, but redeemed by Jesus Christ; and this is what we have admirable proof of on earth” (Pensées, fr. 402, quoted on p. 406).


Christophe Geffroy publishes the journal La Nef, through whose kind courtesy we are publishing this article.


Featured: “Blaise Pascal” portrait. Unknown artist, ca. 17th century.

Hilaire Belloc: The Permanence of the Heretical Spirit through History

Editions Artège has brought out an unpublished French translation of Hilaire Belloc’s The Great Heresies. By showing how the great heresies of Catholicism result from permanent forms of mind in history, the British thinker underlined the genius of Catholicism and its incompatibility with modernity, itself the fruit of the Protestant mind.

The publication of this translation is an opportunity to discover the prolific author that was Hilaire Belloc. A historian by training, a close friend of G. K. Chesterton, but also a poet, novelist, member of parliament and military chronicler, Hilaire Belloc was British on his mother’s side but a fervent Catholic, born in France in 1870, to a French father. In Les Grandes Hérésies (The Great Heresies), first published in 1938, Belloc presents and analyzes the main heresies that successively opposed Catholicism: Arianism; what he calls the Mohammedan heresy; the Albigensian heresy; and Protestantism.

In the introduction to the book, the author recalls the etymology of the word “heresy” which comes from the Greek hairetikos meaning “who chooses.” A heretic is one who adheres to a dogma except for one aspect of it that he specifically chooses to reject. Heresy is characterized by the nature of that choice which corrupts the unity of the dogma in question. Belloc thus defines heresy as “the enterprise of deconstructing a unified and homogeneous body of doctrine by the negation of an inseparable element of the whole.” For example, the heresies of the early centuries of the Church specifically attacked the mystery of the incarnation. With Arianism, then Nestorianism and Monophysitism, it was a question of debating first the exact nature of Christ, then the ways in which his two human and divine natures coexisted.

The Permanent Temptation to Rationalize Dogma

Behind the conceptual and dogmatic battles waged between the Church and heresies, Hilaire Belloc perceived, however, something other than simple intellectual quarrels over dogmatic details. The great heresies actually embodied permanent types of mindsets in history. Belloc thus highlights the propensity of the great heretical currents to rationalize, simplify and demystify Catholic dogma.

The first great heresy that was Arianism illustrates this tendency. Arianism, doctrine professed by the Alexandrian Christian theologian Arius at the beginning of the 4th century, denied the divine nature of Jesus Christ. For the Arians, Christ was the Son of God, but he was still a man and not a God. It was by confronting the supporters of Arius that the Catholic Church proclaimed the dogma of the consubstantiality of the Son and the Father at the Council of Nicaea in 325.

Despite all the care taken by the Church to choose the vocabulary used to qualify the relation between the Son and the Father, the Arian heresy continued in new forms which refused to admit the strict equality between the Son and the Father. Arianism therefore sought to elucidate the question of the incarnation, the mystery of which it refused.

Other ancient heresies such as Nestorianism and Monophysitism pursued this desire to rationally solve the “problem” of the incarnation. It was necessary to explain by reason the nature of this son of God who was Christ. For the Nestorians, the divine and human natures of Christ were necessarily strictly separated, man and God cohabited in the figure of Christ. For the Monophysites, it was the human nature of Christ that was called into question. In both cases, God did not become fully man. In the midst of these attempts at logical and rational explanations, the Church maintained its complex and mysterious dogma of the one but triune God.

It is this same desire for simplification and rationalization that Hilaire Belloc perceives in Islam, which he qualifies as Christian heresy. Coming from a pagan background on the margins of the Roman Empire that had become Christian, Muhammad adopted a Christianity purged of its dogmatic complexities.

Islam takes up the idea of a single god, creator of the world and granting life after death, but denies the incarnation by making Jesus a prophet. For the British historian, Islam foreshadows the heretical quest for rationalism and the abolition of the Catholic mysteries that was then the Reformation. All these great heresies had in common the simplification of Catholic dogma by trying to purge it of the mysteries that proud human reason could not grasp.

The Heretical Rejection of Matter

For Belloc, the study of heresies reveals another tendency of the mind that also emerges chronically in history—that consisting in condemning matter. This matter is bad while the spirit is the only source of the good. The Albigensian heresy perfectly embodied this tendency by condemning any carnal compromise with matter: sexual relations, marriage, procreation, consumption of meat and alcohol were prohibited. The ideal of purity advocated by the Cathars (from the Greek katharos: pure) conceived matter as intrinsically evil. Belloc sees in it the resurgence of the ancient Manichean heresy but also the precursor of Protestant puritanism. These heresies are all based on the mortifying detestation of matter and carnal life; whereas the Catholic Church condemns this dualism and values the union of spirit and flesh.

Rejection of mystery, thirst for rationalism and refusal to inhabit the world carnally are the pillars of the great heretical currents. However, Belloc does not reduce heresies to their religious and spiritual dimensions. As a historian, he is interested in the practical reasons for the success of the great heresies. He thus notes the social dimension of heresies, which can feed on worldly postures and use the dynamics of local particularisms to prosper. Arianism thus spread within the old pagan elites and in Roman military circles, anxious to differentiate themselves from the very popular religion that Catholicism was becoming.

The Albigensian heresy was also a means for local identities to assert themselves in medieval southern France. Belloc is fascinated by the continuing success of Islam. He attributes this success in particular to the fact that the Mohammedan heresy developed outside the Church and was able to benefit for centuries from a constant renewal of its fighters who also came from barbarian worlds. Noting the possible compatibility between Islam and the modern world, he prophesied a probable return of the vitality of Islam, despite the “physical paralysis” in which this religion found itself, when he wrote his book in the middle of the 20th century.

The Revolution of the Protestant Heresy

But it is to the Protestant heresy that Belloc devotes his longest chapter. It is a fundamental heresy from which modernity emerged and which shook the foundations of the Church. He traces its genesis in detail during the 14th and 15th centuries. Belloc considers, however, that Protestantism was not condemned to become the heretical religion it has become. The Reformation could have been a simple reform of the Catholic Church without altering its faith or dogma. The historian finely traces how Protestantism finally became heretical and above all how it altered Catholicism and then generated the spirit of modernity.

For Belloc, the particularity of Protestantism is to constitute more a “moral atmosphere” and a disposition of the mind than a religion. Calvin’s doctrine no longer governs the modern world, but its spirit would endure: “the fruits of Protestantism prove to be permanent, despite the fact that its doctrine has disappeared.” Founded on the contestation of authorities and the primacy of rational individual examination, Protestantism dissolved its own theological and scriptural foundations to give birth to modernity.

Belloc’s entire book tends to highlight the specificities of Catholicism, which has never yielded to the temptations of simplification and rationalization of the mysteries of its dogma. For the English author, however, the Protestant Reformation constitutes a turning point which manages to make Catholicism doubt its own dogma. Secularization of the Protestant spirit, modernity also appears as the fruit of this doubt of the Church on itself.

The Great Heresies is the work of a historian who assumes his Catholic fervor and tries to explain why the study of heresies allows us to better understand both Catholicism and the modern world. By becoming incarnate on Earth to save mankind from original sin, the Christian God irrevocably entered into history. The great religious currents that appeared afterwards are all linked to Christianity. Religion can only be Catholic or heretical.

For Belloc, the advent of modernity cannot be a return to the noble paganism of antiquity. This return is impossible after the coming of the Savior. Unable to make people forget Christ, modernity can only be an inversion of Catholicism. Modernity and Catholicism are then be engaged in a struggle to the death. Belloc admits that the organic laws of history could support the near-end of Catholicism. But the faith of the Catholic author forces him to maintain the hope of a safeguard of the Church and the resurgence of its mysteries.


Bertrand Garandeau is an anarcho-conservative sovereignist, based in France. This article appears through the kind courtesy of PHILITT.


Featured: “First Temptation of Christ,” fol. 28v, Livre d’images de Madame Marie; ca. 1285-1290.

How the West Brought War to Ukraine: A Review

[Read an excerpt from How the West Brought War to Ukraine]

It can be rather effectively argued that the greatest export commodity of the USA is war, commonly known as the Military Industrial Complex, which has spent the bloody decades after WWII bringing “democracy” to the benighted of the world—by bombs and sanctions, if necessary.

The latest such grand crusade is the war in Ukraine, which we have all been told to think of as “us” defending a fragile “democracy,” invaded out of the blue by the latest manifestation of Attila the Hun. Here was Ukraine happily minding its own business, until one day Putin woke up and decided that he needed to be a world-conqueror and off he went to “invade” Ukraine. The simplistic narrative of the “innocent” and the “criminal” has deep appeal in the Western psyche, conditioned no doubt by Hollywood. Thus, all the media had to do was point out the “criminal,” and the rest took care of itself. Out came all the virtue-signaling that the West is now so good at mustering. Now, there is not a shred of doubt in the minds of the majority in the West that this is a war between the “good guys” and the “Great Villain,” with the likes of Biden, Justin Trudeau, Britain and all the other cheerleaders for “democracy” constantly handing David’s loaded sling-shot to Ukraine to get the job done—but which the likes of Zelensky keep dropping. This is what fighting villainy to the last Ukrainian actually looks like.

But there is a far worse invasion that was completed a long time ago—that of the Western mind, addled by what is euphemistically known as “the mainstream media,” which knows that spin is the most effective form of victory in any war.

This is why Benjamin Abelow’s book, How the West brought War to Ukraine is a must-read, for it shows that this war is not about Ukraine, but about Russia, which needs to be brought to heel and become “democratic”: “…the vaunted goal of ‘regime change,’ which in the United States is sought by an informal alliance of Republican neoconservatives and Democratic liberal interventionists” (p. 5).

Abelow is careful in his analysis and gives a thorough and balanced account of what led Russia to undertake an attack on Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Despite mainstream narratives, the attack was carefully provoked (orchestrated comes to mind). So, unlike “settled history,” which would have us believe that Ukraine is the “innocent bystander” in all this, Abelow undertakes a meticulous unpacking of the various provocations (Ukrainian and Western), which began in 1990 and finally came to a head on February 24, 2022. Wars don’t just happen; they are the result of a long series of failures and outrages. In the words of Professor Richard Sakwa: “In the end, NATO’s existence became justified by the need to manage the security threats provoked by its enlargement. The former Warsaw Pact and Baltic states joined NATO to enhance their security, but the very act of doing so created a security dilemma for Russia that undermined the security of all” (p. 51).

Given that Russia is a nation-state, it must look after its geopolitical interests and defend what is crucial to what it deems necessary to continue, as Jacques Baud has so often pointed out in this magazine. Not to recognize these interests is to be blind to reality: “The underlying cause of the war lies not in an unbridled expansionism of Mr. Putin, or in paranoid delusions of military planners in the Kremlin, but in a 30-year history of Western provocations, directed at Russia, that began during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and continued to the start of the war. These provocations placed Russia in an untenable situation, for which war seemed, to Mr. Putin and his military staff, the only workable solution” (p. 7).

These provocations are now well-known, and thus rigorously ignored, denied or glossed over as “Russian propaganda.” These include bringing arms as close to the Russian border as possible; the expansion of NATO, despite promises given to Russia that that would never happen; the withdrawal of the US from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (which now gives the US first-strike capability); the ousting of a democratically elected Ukrainian government and installing neo-Nazis into power in 2014; NATO military exercises along the Russian border; pushing Ukraine to join NATO, despite warnings from Russia that that would mean war; since 2014, training and arming the Ukrainian military, in which many of the units are openly neo-Nazi; actively nurturing Russophobia in Ukraine; encouraging the bloody war in the Eastern portions of Ukraine, which were seen as “pro-Russian” and therefore hostile. There are many others that can be listed.

Of course, the last provocation was telling Zelensky not to negotiate when Russia attacked on February 24. He was ready to do so, and a war would have easily have been avoided, and many helpless lives saved. But Boris Johnson flew out, met the Ukrainian president, and negotiation was off the table.

And this is the most baffling thing—the West does not want peace at all. It wants a war of total annihilation for Russia, which will never happen, of course, but which the West so far seems not to understand (perhaps because it is now governed by leaders who have little understanding of warcraft). No Western politician bravely calls for negotiations, for a ceasefire, for peace, for even a little breather. It’s war and more war, and the billions and arms keep pouring in: “To my knowledge, Zelensky never received any substantial American support to pursue his peace agenda. Instead, he was subjected to repeated visits by leading American politicians and State Department officials, all of whom spouted a theoretical principle of absolute Ukrainian freedom, defined as the “right” to join NATO and to establish a U.S. military outpost on Russia’s border. In the end, this “freedom” was worse than a pipe dream. Although it advanced the aims of the United States—or, more accurately, the interests of certain American political, military, and financial factions—it destroyed Ukraine” (p. 60).

The military historian Bernard Wicht, whose interview appears elsewhere in this magazine, very astutely observes that the West no longer has the ability to wage conventional war—not even the United States; this is why armed conflict in the 21st century is now “farmed” out to modern-day condottieri, who bring their private armies wherever their paymasters tell them to go. Is this is why billions are being sent to Ukraine, to pay for all the mercenaries? The war machine chugs along, indeed.

The strength of Abelow’s book is that it makes complexity accessible. Wars have so many moving parts, and Abelow with a deft hand guides the reader along. As is true of all good writers, this book is filled with clarity and insight, with an eye for the bigger picture, and all the while letting facts lead where they will. This is a rare talent nowadays.

Given the much-mentioned threat of nuclear war, the book ends with a prescient warning: “Policy makers in Washington and the European capitals—along with the captured, craven media that uncritically amplify their nonsense—are now standing up to their hips in a barrel of viscous mud. How those who were foolish enough to step into that barrel will find the wisdom to extricate themselves before they tip the barrel and take the rest of us down with them is hard to imagine” (p. 62).

Finally, as professor Sakwa pointed out, this entire tragedy would have been easily avoided if Zelensky had been encouraged to say just five little words: “Ukraine will not join NATO.” Why he could not say that lays the entire blood-guilt upon the collective leadership of the West.

How the West brought War to Ukraine is satisfying to read because it brings truth to light—and that is the highest calling any worthy writer can pursue. Rush out and buy it; and after you’ve read it, you will be both amazed and infuriated. The condottieri now run the show—but perhaps we the decent folk of this world will learn once again how to get rid of them. Perhaps this will be this war’s silver lining.


C.B. Forde lives in rural Ontario, Canada, where he reads, thinks and dreams.

Colonialism and Bruce Gilley: Electric Kool-Aid Acid of the Moral Imagination

1.

When Queen Elizabeth II died the poorest people in the United Kingdom crawled out of their hovels in their dirty rags to join in solidarity with all those poor people who were still suffering from the yoke of colonialism in the undeveloped world. As one, they cheered that the source of all their suffering was finally gone—now, at long last, they could all live the free and prosperous lives that the Queen of the British Empire had denied them. YIPPEE… Oh, sorry, that did not happen.

If the lines of millions mourning her passing are anything to go by, there were plenty of outpourings of grief from her subjects, not to mention her own family who, for all the tabloid guff, are people. The grief of the living in their mourning is something that is a reminder of the fleeting nature of life on earth and what awaits us all. Irrespective of whether one is for or against the monarchy, it was a somber occasion, signaling the passing of an age as much as a sovereign, as much as a person.

Some people, though, are incapable of mustering even a modicum of decency in the face of death—they are the ones that generally show as little respect for the living as for the dead, though they often yell and scream as if they were the carriers of humanity’s better self, which is the picture that they have of themselves. And while there is a good case to be made that the monarchy as an institution in Great Britain may not last much longer, now that one of the most popular and dutiful of monarchs has died, the fact is that the Queen always displayed far more compassion, and respect for her subjects and their institutions than the members of that class that has successfully seized upon the moral imagination of the present, which it uses to denounce any relics of the past as well as anyone else that may obstruct the imperial ambitions of its authority. What they call diversity is merely division.

The Queen was indisputably vastly wealthy, but her life was one which few of us would like to lead. It required the kind of curbing of appetites and desires that few of us, and few in her family, were capable of—of devoting herself to a life-time, in which decorum and duty overrode everything else. This was authority and duty in the old style. She may not have been so flash on Derrida or Foucault, but her bearing and intelligence and character were all tailored to the position for which she had been groomed and which she carried out with grace.

Grace is not a word that comes to mind when I think of the new pro-globalists moralists that run the show now, in every Western land. They see the world as a great big trough which they will lead others to, provided they, in their role as liberators and representators of the oppressed, have their fill first. Anyone who thinks that their ideas are just verbal squish covering up their own sense of self-importance and ambitions to rule the earth alongside the globalist corporations and technocrats will need to be destroyed. Tyrants, as Plato rightly observed, are bred in the chaos of ultra-democratic aspirations and the accompanying social breakdown those aspirations create.

Just as their view of the present involves preferring abstractions (you know the ones, equality/equity/diversity/inclusivity/ emancipation, etc.), which have not been adequately tested in the reality of history, to see if they are of any more value than providing some kind of status of moral authority to the ones who use them—it takes these same abstractions into the past, and in finding that these abstractions were not there in any meaningful way is able to condemn the past as one of sheer oppression. Of course, the past they select to condemn is very selective: for the same class loves to create fantastical stories about premodern or non-Christian societies, as if they were just wondrous paradises of tolerance, diversity, equity and inclusion—from the world’s first and greatest democracy in Aboriginal Australia, where they would meet in their town-halls to make sure all was fair and square, to the wonderful multiculturalism of the Ottoman empire, with its pride parades.

It was primarily the members of this class of fabulists, who now control the Western education system and media outlets, who were predominantly using the occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s death to bang on about the genocidal history of the British empire and the role of the monarchy in general, and Elizabeth in particular. I do think the treatment of the native Americans in the USA in the nineteenth century might be described as genocidal; it was certainly absolutely shocking, but that was not the fault of the British empire, any more than the gulags were the fault of the Romanovs. But it did not matter to those tweeting their spittle about the Queen’s death that since the handing over of Hong Kong to the CCP in 1997 (something deeply regretted by the many Hong Kong locals I met in my eight or so years living there), Great Britain no longer has any colonies, while when Queen Elizabeth came to the throne in 1952 there were still over 70 colonies. Not that decolonization was an act triggered by the crown for, as everybody but those doing their celebration of spitting and drooling, seem to know, the British monarch while a de jure Head of State/constitutional monarch is de facto a ceremonial figure, symbolizing the nation’s unity—which to be sure is no easy feat in the divided area of the United Kingdom. In any case, her position requires her not intervening in political decisions that are the province of the parliament and courts. Thus, it was when there was a constitutional crisis in Australia back in the 1970s, and the deposed Prime Minister sought for her to intervene, she stayed right out of it.

In the United States, one of the first out of the blocks to drool and punch the air in celebration was the Nigerian born Associate Professor of Second Language Acquisition at Carnegie Mellon University, Uju Anya. She tweeted, “That wretched woman and her bloodthirsty throne have fucked generations of my ancestors on both sides of the family, and she supervised a government that sponsored the genocide my parents and siblings survived. May she die in agony.” The fact that, a few days after tweeting this bile, some 4000 other “scholars” publicly endorsed her (there must be far more by now), just goes to show what tax-payers and students are getting for their money.

From what I can gather, the slender threads of reality that Anya has woven into her fabric of verbal vomit and idiocy are that the British government supplied arms to the Nigerian government in their war against the secessionist attempt by the military governor of Nigeria’s Eastern Region, Lieutenant Colonel Emeka Ojukwu, in what turned into a horrific civil war. A mountain of literature exists on the war, though anyone who wants fair and brief appraisals of what occurred might read pages 199-205 (2011 edition) of Martin Meredith’s magisterial, The Fate of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence, or Margery Perham’s even-handed and first-hand account, “Reflections on the Nigerian Civil War” in International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944), vol. 46, No. 2 (Apr., 1970)., pp. 231-246.

In a manner befitting the moralizing, fabulizing, historically revisionist class of which she is a member, Anya fails to address the most basic of facts about her own country’s history: the French and Russians were also providing arms to the belligerents; that is belligerents on all sides were killing each other and seeking weapons from anyone willing to supply the same to them; the secession attempt by Ojukwu was a resource grab without any legitimacy that would have had disastrous results for Nigerians outside Biafra; Ojukwu’s propaganda game was as dangerous as it was vile as it was disastrous in its contribution to the mass starvation of the Biafran people that remains one of the most shocking famines in relatively recent historical memory. The chain of events which sparked the war and famine was ignited by Igbo military officers who assassinated key figures in the First Nigerian Republic. Finally, and to quote Perham, “the federal constitution of the three provinces, taken over by the Nigerians in October 1960 was largely the product of the Nigerians themselves, built up in intensive discussions and conferences, and attended by all the political leaders over a period beginning in the forties, and ending with the final conference of 1958. The basic differences between the main parts of Nigeria were not evaded: they were endlessly argued, but not even a dozen years of discussion and political advance, following half a century together under the canopy of British rule, could square the obstinate circlers within which deep and ancient tribalisms were enclosed.”

But who needs real political facts when you can become a mega-star in todays’ academic world with a tweet, so long as the tweet amplifies an ostensibly morally certain consensus, whilst confirming the moral superiority of all those, who also don’t need to actually know anything to know what they know, viz. that empires and colonialism are very, very bad? And no good person could ever be a beneficiary of empire—somehow, magically, the Nigerian born Anya, along with God knows how many of the other 4000 scholars, lives in the USA, reaping the benefits of office and wealth that come from what colonizers and their techniques and technologies of world-making have created.

This “logic” is the logic of the silly, who think that they can just arbitrarily go back into bits and pieces of history to select a point from which they can blame the people they don’t like—this time British imperialists. Sorry, but no people anywhere have been where they are forever. Which is partly to say the world is not a moral fabrication of bits and pieces all fitted together into a nice Disney movie about all the inclusion and diversity there would have been had it not been for… the British, the Germans, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Gauls, the Celts, the Abassids, the Persians.

Really folks! The world we inhabit is what people in their conflict, scarcity, cruelty, suffering, and everything else that has been done in the past have made. We are all respondents to a reality that precedes us and that we then work upon. Here, the moralists puff themselves up and splutter some kind of nonsense that has to do with their indignation that some people have killed more or suffered more…blah blah…than others. Let’s just say, we can’t undo the past, and pretending that we do by having reparations, etc. is just one more fantastical bit of fanaticism that is only a new way of creating work for a bureaucracy and moralizing class seeking ever more dependents.

In the case of reparations, they will mean nothing two generations down the track—but understanding that means thinking about economic behaviour, and human motivation and institutions, and the kind of thing that requires that rarest of things in today’s Tik Tok academic world—thoughtfulness.

This virtue stuff exhibited by people who are paid to denounce unequal things that obstruct universal emancipation is today’s electric Kool-Aid Acid of the moral imagination. Let’s face it, everyone has to earn a buck, and there is no easier way to do so today than by running around tweeting, screaming, teaching, or writing great big refereed academic tomes from illustrious brand name presses or densely footnoted articles in “prestigious journals” denouncing people who just won’t take out that part of their brain that enables them to see that all that stands between them and emancipation (which means—as far as I can see—having lots of sex and having lots of stuff) is their being subject to racist, sexist, colonialist blah blah blah ideas that scholars like Anya and her 4,000 mates (probably far more by now) think are “facts.”

So, I really can’t blame Anya; or, to pluck another from the media wing of the cathedral of woke idiocy, Tirhakah Love, a “senior newsletter writer for New York Magazine, who wrote, “For 96 years. That colonizer has been sucking up the Earth’s (sic.) resources,” and “You can’t be a literal oppressor and not expect the people you’ve oppressed not to rejoice on news of your death” for seizing the career opportunities made available to them by a ruling class whose rule is predicated upon destroying the shared norms, institutions and cultural achievements of the West in the name of the moral progress they embody, and the great future they believe they will bring into being—on the basis of which we can see already that would be a world of ever greater spiraling inflation, ethnic/tribal violence resulting from opening up “citizenship” to anyone who wants to live anywhere irrespective of criminal background, or commitment to any traditions of their new homeland; far more urban, racially based riots and burning of businesses, including black ones (to make way for gentrification); far greater crime (from burglary, shoplifting to murder), adorning inner city areas with tents for the ever-increasing number of homeless junkies; the redeployment of police resources away from crime prevention and into community development activities, such as flying pride flags and dancing in parades when they are not arresting racists, and homo-transphobes; schools in which critical race theory (whites are all the same—unless they teach critical race theory—and all bad), and the joys of the multiverse of sex and the importance of sexual rights, like the rights to change your sex as soon as you can speak are the main curricula; ever more spaces for public denunciations and ever more censorship; sacking of all who won’t do whatever the right-thinking authorities say they must do, say, or think; increasing the number of abortions up to and in the aftermath of an unwanted birth; ever more military interventions funded by you in the West for people outside the West to die in in far off lands that will save this great world from its nefarious enemies—and lots more butcher’s paper and crayons for “life-long” learning because learning to live in this shit will require that one remains a compliant imbecile during the entirety of one’s life-time.

2.

Bruce Gilley is a Professor of Political Science at Portland University—at least he was still there last time I looked, though it seems his existence is an affront to all the other good and virtuous professors who work there and who are doing their damnedest to push him into unemployment (the idea that professors could in any way be more virtuous than other people, and hence be tasked with instructing them in how to be better people, is something that, in a world less insane, would be worked into one of the more incredulous episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm).

Bruce Gilley was once a highly respected scholar—with a dizzying number of academic prizes behind him—who once published books with such illustrious academic presses as the University Of California, and Columbia and Cambridge University. He burnt his bridges within the academic world with his essay “The Case for Colonialism.” The paper originally appeared in Third World Quarterly in 2017, having passed the blind refereeing process—a process that might give the delusion that the refereeing process in the Humanities and Social Sciences ensures academic quality and integrity—it doesn’t. But in any case those denouncing Gilley only care about referees who agree with them; and in the case of this essay, a petition of “thousands of scholars” and the resignation, in protest, of nearly half the editorial board of the journal, plus death threats being sent to the editor of the journal ensured it being “withdrawn” and given a new home.

Since the denunciations and attacks, Professor Gilley has written two books, both with Regnery Press—one can safely assume a university press will no longer touch anything he writes. His previous book, The Last Imperialist: Sir Alan Burns’s Epic Defense of the British Empire, before getting into print, underwent a similar saga. It was first going to be published by Lexington Books (an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield), where Gilley was also going to oversee, as the Series Editor, “Problems of Anti-Colonialism,” which would bring out books that sought “to reignite debate through a critical examination of the anti-colonial, decolonizing, and post-colonial projects.”

Then, the cancel crowd stepped in, started a petition on change.org: “Against Bruce Gilley’s Colonial Apologetics.” Many indignant “scholars” eagerly added their signatures. There was a counter-petition, which got nearly 5000 signatures, to try to save the series. But true-to-form, Rowman & Littlefield buckled and cancelled the series.

Eventually, Gilley found a far better home for his work—Regnery Publishing, which has also published his most recent book, In Defense of German Colonialism: And How Its Critics Empowered Nazis, Communists, and the Enemies of the West. This book does an excellent job of showing the ideological idiocy of those who are entrusted with teaching history to the youth of today, and who preside over the institutions which are preservers and now complete fabricators of a historical memory; that is to act as a foundation for future building.

Professor Gilley does not need my help in the shootout with the academy, as he takes down one “scholar” after another for preferring their ideological concoctions to the facts of the matter. But it is worth drawing attention to a few points that undermine not simply the ideological nonsense or inconvenient facts that derail the academic consensus which Gilley takes on with verve and astuteness, but both the role that the academy has adopted in ostensibly learning from the evils of the past to build a better future, and the mind-set that so commonly succumbs to preferring ideological simplicities and grand sounding nostrums to the far more complicated explorations which yield equivocations and hesitations in judgments about people who have had to deal with vastly different circumstances than those of our professional idea-makers, brokers, and overseers—as well as conclusions which one might not particularly be appreciated for reaching. That is, the study of real history requires being prepared to consider questions that transport one outside of a consensus that has been cemented because it was not driven by facts, historical or otherwise, nor by a well-considered and well-orchestrated series of questions, but by a priori “morally” and politically derived commitments which close off all manner of questions and hence understandings about reality.

History was among the more belated of the Humanities to fall into the kind of ethico-politics that took over Literary Studies for at least a generation.

In any case, working in the profession of “ideas” today involves little by way of having any virtue other than repeating and making inferences based upon certain moral consensuses and topics. One becomes a member of the profession of ideas by virtue of teaching and writing—the one exception in the doing is that increasingly universities have accepted the pedagogical value of political activism, if it is of the sort that conforms to the ethico-political ideas that have been accepted as true by those who write and teach on, and administer, the ideas which are to be socially instantiated. There are, to be sure, things one must not say (words or phrases one must not use) or do (at least to certain people with certain identities); but in the main not saying or doing those things is not remotely difficult, especially when the rewards are there for the taking, if one just goes along with things.

Just as character is a matter of irrelevance in today’s ideational configuration of identity, bestowing the right to a position, as a representative of one’s favoured disempowered group, being committed to a group narrational identity, has professional currency. Being an identity is to today’s mindset; what intelligence and character used to be. Neither of the latter are particular important anymore, as intelligence is dumbed down to the level of the school child, and character dissolved into an identity feature.

Today, our morally-fuelled anti-colonialists are condemning something that is now totally safe to condemn because it is no longer a reality that has any other part to play in their world than a moral occasion for their career advancement as talking moral heads. Being a part of today’s educated/ educational “leadership” brings with it all manner of predispositions and circumstances, and they are not ones that have anything remotely to do with what people who signed onto the foreign service or civil service in the age of colonialism, or even the academy some sixty or so years back, had to do.

People of different ages are pushed and pulled by different influences and priorities—and in so far as most young people are swept into whatever activities are part of the streams of opportunity, approval, ambition and mimetic desire that defines them, the difference between the youth who were caught up in the colonial enterprise, the revolutionary enterprises in Russia or China, or liberal progressive Wokeness today is not so much in their emotional enthusiasm and certainty, but the specific enterprise that has been socially and pedagogically concocted by the preceding generation and the opportunities that they grasp.

One can definitely identify which elites and which nations fare better by their doing; but so much of the doing is based upon what was made by previous generations, and who did what with the opportunities they had, as well as how much overreach and wastage occurred. Yes, I do think the elite generation of the West are more imbecilic and less charitable and capable of understanding the world and the circumstances that have made it and what is required to sustain a civilization than the elite that spawned colonialism. All groups have their blind-spots, and pathologies (here I am an unreconstructible Aristotelian) and the elites of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century are not beyond criticism—no group is, because no group and no one can see exactly what they are doing, nor have all the information that would help their doing—but to dismiss them all as racists and plunderers is to be shockingly ignorant about their intelligence, moral sensibilities and motivations.

In any case, the various reasons that were involved in decolonization, including their excessive cost, an increasing lack of support on the home front, and the aspirations of an indigenous elite and rebels calling and /or fighting for national independence, were not events that had anything to do with the academics of today who contemplate colonialism as a moral problem with a very simple answer—it’s really bad.

Our time is not one in which colonialism offers any kind of desideratum at a personal, social or political level. Which is also to say the academic who writes critically about colonialism today is doing about as much to stop colonialism occurring now as their writings have to do with preventing a reconnaissance mission on Venus.

Of those teaching in universities who have fought for wars of independence who are still alive and who might hold a job in a university or in the media, the kind of questions raised by Gilley then come into play, viz. did things fare better once there was “liberation?” The answer to that will depend upon many things—who the colonizers were and what they did, and what transpired afterward.

Having taught in Darwin (Australia), I met a number of people who had fought against the Indonesians to create an independent East Timor/Timor-Leste. The results in Timor-Leste are mixed, though it is very poor; and while there are issues of corruption, it is stable. For their part, the Indonesians were, to put it mildly, not loved by the locals. The fact that the Indonesians occupied it after they had liberated themselves from the Dutch only goes to show that yesterday’s colonized can readily become tomorrow’s colonizer.

The question of how a country fares after colonialism is a serious one, and in some places the results have been horrific. It was the existence of such cases, of which there are many, with Cambodia winning the prize in that department, closely followed by a number of African nations like Uganda and Congo, that makes an article, such as Gilley’s case for re-colonialism, worth considering. But it is a far better career move to hate on Gilley by people who would rather ignore any facts which might complicate the founding passage of post-colonial scripture that the ‘white-colonialist devil’ is the demiurge responsible for all the post-colonial violence that occurs, and the formerly colonized are either angels of light and liberation, or zombies created by their white masters.

Gilley’s article is short enough for me not to have to repeat its contents. I will simply say that Gilley was trying to make serious recommendations about how recolonizing might be a better option in some places than continuing in the same way. That is the kind of idealism/thinking by design that I genuinely eschew, but as a thought experiment it deserved better than the accolades of denunciation it garnered. And had his critics taken their heads out of the sack of Kool Aid Acid, they might have realized that Gilley does not argue for reconquering territory, but for investment with legal/sovereign strings attached being undertaken in areas desperately in need of economic and social development.

My problem with this is that just as the anti-colonialists in Africa were often educated in the West, where ideas about how great communism and such-like started to abound and were commonplace in the 1960s, now what the Western mind offers would be even worse. The re-colonizers would be operating with their ESG and their DEI commitments and targets—they would be saddled with green energy goals, which would make sure they stay poor, and be expected to buy electric cars, otherwise keep on walking; their kids would be schooled in critical race theory, so they could blame everything that goes wrong on white people, and gender-sexual anatomy fluidity to break up the traditional family and anything else that the elite running corporations have seized on to incorporate into the great new world.

The new mental imperialism promises nothing but the endless division and persecution of anyone out of step with the ideology that ensconces Western liberal progressivism as the global norm. The clientelist assumptions and strategies which make of our professional ideas-people the emancipators of all and sundry who are not white, wealthy, cisgender men, who don’t support the globalist political left/progressive technocratic view of life being transposable to any circumstance, including that of people who live in former colonies, who only have to sit down and read their various primers on Fanon, or study post-colonial fiction and poetry, etc., along with Judith Butler to see how they can fix up their world, and get to the same standard as, say, a San Francisco tent for the homeless with free crack.

3.

Much of what Gilley says in his article has been said by others, his “mistake” was to say it straight and assemble it into a formulation that exposes the thoughtlessness of the modern ideological consensus about colonialism. More broadly, though, the thoughtlessness that Gilley is dealing with is not just about colonialism, it is about how the world has come to be the world that is. Colonialism is certainly one part of that, and it is what concerns Gilley.

But if we take a step back from colonialism (and it is this that also distinguished, as Gilley notes, the “pro-colonialist” Marx from the “anti-colonialist” Lenin), two further considerations about the world are particularly pertinent, if we want to free our minds from the enchainment of stupidity that is presented as some kind of moral progress which is due to the purity of thought and being of our contemporary pontificating paragons. The first is where violence and war fit generally into the schema of human things. The second is technology (including the division of labour it requires—one of Marx’s better thoughts was to see the interconnection the division of labour, i.e., classes and technology; and like all Marx’s better thought, Marxists have abandoned it), and administrative technique.

With respect to the first, warfare is a perennial feature of human existence. The reasons for any given war may vary, but to blame war itself on one particular group is ridiculous. In the context of colonialism, warfare was pertinent to colonialism at every level of its development—from the wars that were commonly occurring between rival groups that colonialists were frequently able to use to their strategic advantage, to the wars between and against colonial powers that led to the demise of empires and their colonies.

That wars would continue after colonialism would only surprise those who think that merely deeming war a bad or an immoral thing might somehow play a role in preventing it. But while I find pacificism to be a response to war akin to when my cat thinks that if he cannot see me, I cannot see him—so he hides under a stool with his back to the wall and tale sticking out right under my nose—I find even more abominable the moral cherry-picking that poorly informed academics make about which violent conflicts they choose to take a stand on, without concerning themselves too much with all the forces and flows that go into it—thus, in general, their tacit support for the NATO proxy war in Ukraine.

A general, and hence, to be sure, not overly helpful formulation about why wars occur is that competing interests, predicated upon ways of being in the world and making the world, go to war when they see no other way to get what they want—in the past, more often than not, that was acquiring or protecting scarce resources, including labour power. Modern commerce does not necessarily prevent war because some resources are such that access may be unreliable or so tenuous that conquest is the more certain way to acquire them. But international trade is often the more secure way to acquire wealth. Of course, the moral imagination of the modern academic is not slow to critique capitalism. But as with violence and war, it cherry-picks which kind of capitalists are bad and who it serves (finance capital/big tech/big pharma are now its major “masters”)—it also comes up with fudge-words when confronted with the truth that socialism was no less murderous—and generally resulted in even more poverty—than capitalism, though state apparatuses and the elites who run them do make a very big difference as to whether capitalism can be even mildly benign.

Just as there is no genuine design solution to the problem of competing interests and life-ways, there is no simple design system that can eliminate war or class differences—though one thing that might ameliorate some of our problems is that groups have more thoughtful and well informed sources of information and representation, so they might be able to broker their differences from positions of strength (which in turn requires discipline in what is done with resources, how they are channelled in terms of strategic priorities, and who is fit and able in applying them).

But sadly, we have handed over the minds of our public and private institutions to a class of people, in the main, with ambition and enterprise existing in inverse relationship to the ability to think through alternative scenarios and consequences.

Irrespective of how one “parses” the moral behaviour and qualities of any group in conflict with another, and while just war theory may have an illustrious history, it has become a standard go-to position of idea professionals, whose sense of justice can be traced back to their own magnanimity—the fuse of most wars is woven out of various complex threads that go a long way back and have their own “reasons,” which is why a new party of force may take advantage of older animosities between groups to leverage its new authority.

Imperialism and the establishment of colonies are ancient ways of doing power that involve war; and any suggestion, whether tacit or outright, that suggests that there was something uniquely immoral about British imperialism or modern European colonialism is a fantasy.

The question of what benefits or costs were associated with any given empire or colonialisation project can only be answered by sitting down and doing the calculating. At some point, one might find that certain behaviours fit into some kind of moral calculus—such as Spaniards ending human sacrifice in the Aztec empire, or the British prohibiting the practice of widow-burning (sati) in India; or one might count the number and scale of massacres and ethnic and religious rivalries and wars committed during the reign of a colonizing power with those that occur previous to or after their reign. In the latter case, no matter how heated someone wants to get about the violence of the British in India, none in their right mind could think that the scale ever remotely approximated the scale of violence of the Partition (1947), or the subsequent war of Bangladesh.

In any case, and in any given colonial or imperial venture, there will be all manner of pluses and minuses that could be calculated, and there will be some beneficiaries and some losers. The point here, though, is that any fool can say that any imperial or colonial endeavour of yesterday is immoral—but the reasons for the endeavour were as much the reasons of yesterday as were the morals of those who undertook them. We might well be thankful that we do not live in such times with such choices or moral consensuses—all well and good, but so what? A strictly moral account of any given society is always going to turn out negative—life is frequently one tragic set of choices after another—which in part is why our educated elite can keep getting away with the nonsense of the air in their heads and the smoke of their words seeming more beguiling to youth and know-nothings who believe that all we have to do is “reimagine” the world to get the world we want—one of endless stuff and sexual pleasure—yippee!

While Gilley, citing pertinent writings and speeches from Bismarck, makes a case for Germany’s colonial enterprise being largely driven by extra-commercial incentives, in the main I think it difficult to un-entwine benign moral intentions of those with authority from opportunity for cads and bounders that may exist in the new colonies—though, my point is equally that wherever you go and whenever you went there was always some lot extracting stuff from and being cruel to another lot. Concomitantly, anti-colonialist forces often had to be as ferocious and cruel against those who did not find the new aspiring hegemonic elite to be serving their interests, as they were against the colonialists whose resources and power they wished to capture.

If the point I have just made emphasizes the eternal return of violence/ war/ opportunity/ authority, the second point, I think extremely important, is the unique nature of the technological and technocratic levels of advancement that occurred in the West, leading up to and culminating in the industrial revolution.

There are many aspects that we can consider to be definitive in the formation of the modern, but the industrial revolution makes any nation, in the position to take advantage of it, far more powerful than any peoples who are required to succumb to its authority. But, as Carroll Quigley convincingly argues in Tragedy and Hope, the industrial revolution is but one in a sequence of revolutions that occurred in the West; and the uniqueness of the West’s potency—as well as the problems it generates for itself and elsewhere—is intrinsically bound up with the sequences of its revolutions.

Here there can in my mind be no doubt that the world wars are the West’s creation, and I strongly recommend the little known book by Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Out Of Revolution: An Autobiography of Western Man, which provides an account of the flow and circulatory nature of the revolutionary events which formed the peoples of Western Europe into the powers that would find themselves in the Great War and its aftermath.

But when the West is transported into other regions, such as its colonies, the powers that have been its revolutionary offspring come in a very different sequence and with varying accompanying problems.

I do not want to go into the different sequence of structural developments of revolutionary processes feeding into different and staggered modernities, but I do want to highlight the point that whether it was grace, genes, or the luck of the historical draw, or something else again that led to the modern West, once there was a modern West, and once there were modern weapons, and an industrial revolution, then class conflicts in non-Western countries played out along lines which have everything to do with resource-opportunities and competition and wilful determination by groups ready to use their arms to engage in the age-old act of resource extraction, from those who grow food to those whose labour can be put to use for them to expand the possessions and services at their disposal. One can morally condemn this all one wants, but it is a universal phenomenon that only passes by the intellect of people whose understanding of premodern life comes from Rousseau and Disney.

That is, once modern weaponry and machinery and the various goods they produce, from cars to tanks, designer clothes and luxury homes, smart drugs and high-class whores (let’s face it, the appetites of gangsters are as basic as they are commonplace among the extremely wealthy), exist, along with a group who are willing to do anything to get them, there will be an “enslaved” or violently brutalized class. That there will be tribal-elements involved in the social bonding is also pretty well inevitable (the Mafia and dynasties follow a similar logic).

This situation, to repeat, is not the result of colonialism as such but of modernity. And modernity brings with it a reality in which the choices are as inevitable as they are terrible: join it or don’t join it. Any group that opts out of joining makes itself vulnerable to any group with weapons who wants to encroach upon its territory, its resources, its labour, and its women. Further, the longer the delay in joining it, the more difficult it will be to adapt to what to a traditional life-way is a massive juggernaut of technologies and techniques exploding its fabric.

This is why the greatest enemies of the traditional life of the most vulnerable of social groups on the planet, the indigenous peoples who had not formed cities and/or larger units of social organization, were not missionaries or colonizers of the nineteenth century but the progressives of today who purport to ally themselves with anyone against Western supremacy, but who are, in fact, anti-traditionalists, Western supremacists, who have ditched anything that grounded the West in those pathways of life shared by all peoples.

Irrespective of the time of “joining” with a life-way of a superior power, and irrespective if the joining is one of choice or conquest, any group that joins in the process of modernization will find that it has to compromise/adapt its traditions and behaviours to the juggernaut. Seen thus it is hard to see how colonialism itself can be blamed for the choice. It isn’t responsible for that choice. Though our ideocrats tend to think that every problem is merely a matter of educating moral reprobates, which seems to be working out swell in US inner cities, where all manner of crimes go unpunished, and levels of violence and criminality are plummeting—NOT. Why not, though, try exporting a batch of critical race theory books to those areas where post-colonial gangsters and dictators—sorry victims of colonialism—now extort and kill others so they can wake up and see the light and go back to college, perhaps even one in the USA, and learn how to teach critical race theory and so be part of the great love fest that the new moral leaders of the West are creating.

German postcard (1899). “Hurrah! Samoa is ours!”

But let’s get back to reality—colonialism might better induct the colonized into the means and manners required to live with the machinery and technology, and administrative and various systems that are being introduced into this world that cannot escape modernity—to repeat, because if it is not introduced by the colonizers, it will definitely be introduced by those “industrious” enough to get hold of the equipment and weapons that they can put to use. This is where Bruce Gilley raises important arguments, and why the reaction to him only illustrates what a mind dump the academy is, as it disseminates fantasies, moral and not so moral, about the world and its history so that it can enable a technocratic infantile future, as bereft of knowledge and wisdom, as it will be bereft of real love, and creative and cooperative endeavours.

I have already made the points that I wish to emphasise about modern colonialism needing to be interpreted against the constant of human conflict nd the tragic choice placed before any premodern people. I do think that life is ever one in which we are born into the sins and transgressions of our fathers; which is to say, I think Greeks and Christian were essentially correct and in agreement about the kinds of limits we confront, and that the modern elite aspires to throw away those limits and does so by substituting fantasies about the past as well as the future to beguile us into their nightmare.

But there can be no doubt that the modern opens up previously undreamt-of technologies and techniques which are amazing, and which enable the possibility of greater comfort and opportunities to do things for those that can get access to them. Thus, it is inevitably the case that any people who are conquered by a technologically superior people, if not completely turned into slaves, will benefit from the materials now available to them. We might call this the Monty Python/ Life of Brian argument for colonialism. To put it briefly: What have European colonizers ever done for the World? Answer: they brought with them the modern techniques and technologies of wealth creation. And the absence of those techniques and technologies is lower life expectancy and, in terms of sheer numbers, less wealth and less social choices.

Of course, in any society not everyone is or was a beneficiary of new social or technological innovations, and in every society the number of poor is significant—and prior to the industrial revolution poverty was far greater, and far more people were far more vulnerable to unfortunate climate conditions. And let us be real, at a time when there is so much panic about climate change, the fact is that any future famine, as with a number of past ones, will be far more likely due to political conditions than climate alone. At a time when the Malthusians run amok and aspire to dictate how the world should be depopulated, there is less global poverty and food shortage than ever; and where it does occur, politics and corruption rather than climate or population are the primary causes.

4.

The points I have made above are general, but if I were to recommend one book that any reader wanting to consider a test case, which refutes so much of the moralising that is done about colonialism should read it would be Gilley’s In Defense of German Colonialism: And How Its Critics Empowered Nazis, Communists, and the Enemies of the West. The Postil has already published a short extract from it; but that extract did not indicate the extent to which Gilley exposes and successfully critiques the thoughtless claims that academics have made about German colonialism—or, in his (un-minced) words, “the drivel that passes for academic history” about German colonial history.

Early in the work, Gilley makes three points about colonialism in general, which are worth repeating and the antithesis of the kinds of facts that get in the way of a good moral fantasy. I will quote them:

Islands offer an almost perfect natural experiment in colonialism’s economic effects because their discovery by Europeans was sufficiently random. As a result, they should not have been affected by the ‘pull’ factors that made some places easier to colonize than others. In a 2009 study of the effects of colonialism on the income levels of people on eighty-one islands, two Dartmouth College economists found ‘a robust positive relationship between colonial tenure and modern outcomes.’ Bermuda and Guam are better off than Papua New Guinea and Fiji because they were colonized for longer. That helps explain why the biggest countries with limited or no formal colonial periods (especially China, Ethiopia, Egypt, Iran, Thailand, and Nepal) or whose colonial experiences ended before the modern colonial era (Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, and Haiti) are hardly compelling as evidence that not being colonized was a boon.”

And,

Colonialism also enhanced later political freedoms. To be colonized in the nineteenth–twentieth-century era was to have much better prospects for democratic government, according to a statistical study of 143 colonial episodes by the Swedish economist Ola Olsson in 2009.

And,

These twin legacies of economic development and political liberalism brought with them a host of social and cultural benefits—improved public health, the formation of education systems, the articulation and documentation of cultural diversity, the rights of women and minorities, and much else. It is no wonder, then, that colonized peoples by and large supported colonial rule. They migrated closer to more intensive areas of colonialism, paid taxes and reported crimes to colonial authorities, fought for colonial armies, administered colonial policies, and celebrated their status as colonial subjects. Without the willing collaboration of large parts of the population, colonialism would have been impossible.

With respect to the motives and the legacy of German colonialism, Gilley makes the argument that it was not primarily a plundering undertaking, in which blacks were to be treated as sub-humans and whites could treat them however they wanted—Gilley provides a number of examples of whites behaving badly in the German colonies and being punished for doing so. To frame it thus is not only to replace fact with fantasy but it is to ignore not only the statements of the colonizers themselves, but more important the voices of the colonized—Gilley provides numerous citations—who found that German colonial rule had bought greater peace and prosperity to them, thanks to placating tribal rivalries and long held animosities (Chapter 3 provides an analysis of the Herero and Nama peoples, and the imaginative claims that Herero-Nama wars were created by the Germans, or even more fantastically that they were gestures of anti-colonialism!). The major motivation, argues Gilley, is that colonialism was perceived as the accompanying condition of nation-building and being taken seriously as a major European power. The point is an interesting and important one, and it illustrates the vast gulf that separates the mindset of the generation that now dominates in the universities from that of a previous generation caught up in a completely different set of priorities of world-making.

Gilley provides numerous examples of what the German colonialists built, and again I will cite a few of his cases.

Having first established peace in East Africa, the Germans proceeded to establish prosperity. A 1,250-kilometer railway was built linking Lake Tanganyika to Dar es Salaam. To this day, the railway remains the lifeblood of Tanzania’s economy and of Zambia’s trans-shipment traffic. The German colonial railway was not just economically beneficial. It also led to the documenting of the region’s geography, vegetation, minerals, and peoples—much of which was carried out by the German-English railway engineer Clement Gillman as he surveyed the new line.

And,

For the green conscious, it is especially noteworthy that German colonialism discovered the knowledge and crafted the regulations that protected the great forests and fauna of today’s Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi.

And,

Without doubt, Germany’s greatest humanitarian contribution to Africa during its colonial period was the discovery of a cure for sleeping sickness. In terms of lives saved, Germany’s colonial achievement could stand on this ground alone. Sleeping sickness originated in nomadic cattle-herding populations in Africa whose movements had spread the disease for hundreds of years before the colonial era. The increase in intensive farming under colonialism accelerated its spread, an inevitable result of policies to increase food supply and modernize agriculture. The disease was ravenous. The British calculated that an outbreak in 1901–07 killed between two hundred thousand and three hundred thousand people in British Uganda, and two million people succumbed in all of East Africa in 1903 alone.

Nineteenth century colonialism is, as Gilley rightly notes, part of a genuinely civilizing approach to world-making. While that approach had both liberal and traditional European (conservative) accompaniments, it was also to be found in the communists Marx and Engels; and while the German socialists opposed how colonialism was being administered, they were, again as noted by Gilley, not unsupportive of colonial rule.

While the success of the modern, as these examples indicate, can be seen in terms of technical and technological advances, its diabolical underside is disclosed by the ideological concoctions that were to be transposed globally with far more devastating effects than colonialism itself. And if the first part of Gilley’s book might be an eyeopener for those who have not wanted to seriously think about what benefits accompanied colonialism, which is to say, those who have not thought out of the now fashionable moral academic box, the second part of the book makes the important point that both the Nazi and the communist projects were able to fuel anti-colonialist sentiments among various members of the aspirant elites in colonized country for their own geopolitical benefit and to the greater detriment of the societies in which these ideologically “educated” elites took power.

Need I say that any elite members wishing to gain power through national independence had no need to worry about the boring give-and-take and talk-fest that is endemic to democracies. Far easier to push through one’s will and that of one’s loyal support group or tribe and end up with—bloody chaos.

In an age where the holocaust is the diabolical terminus of history and anything and anyone from St. John to Luther to the family has been held up by some scholar or philosopher to be responsible, it is not surprising that colonialism would also be held responsible for the holocaust. But in spite of it now being commonplace among German academics to claim that there is line of continuity between German colonialism and the Nazis, the Nazis themselves from Hitler down wanted no truck with the colonialists and, in the main, few of the colonialists wanted what the Nazis wanted. In case anyone had not noticed, the Nazis were not in the civilizing business. Their fusion of nationalism and socialism, along with their antisemitism, and cult of the leader, was also embraced, along with open admiration for Hitler himself, by numerous anti-colonial leaders, most famously Nehru, Nasser, Amin and the Palestinian cleric Amin al-Husseini.

In the main, while academics don’t like the Nazis (unless they are Ukrainian ones who kill Russians and draw up hit lists of people to be liquidated for speaking out against them), they generally do like communists – in their upside-down world, communist rebels are freedom fighters. That communism is a Western ideological import that has not only exacerbated group and class conflicts but has been the means for justifying and entrenching “third world” elites with no idea how to better enhance economic conditions of people other than seizing land and property and pointing guns at people who must do what they are told.

The story of former colonies becoming entangled in the cross-fire of the Cold War like that of ambitious elites who used independence to secure their own power and wealth, along with those groups who give them their allegiances, is a horror story that belongs to the post-colonial age; but it is not the kind of story that neatly folds into a curricula or mind-set, where the answers to the cause of all things bad are white supremacism, i.e., European colonialists.

In a world as complicated as ours, the failure of the West to have an educated elite that are incapable of understanding the world before it, and the past behind it, is devastating. We are now living in that devastation; and although I detest those whose moral imaginations have been formed by sticking their heads in the bucket of Electric-Kool Aid Acid that now passes for an education, I have to concede that previous better-educated generations failed to see the consequences of their actions, and we are now living within those consequences.

Post script. Readers of a certain age will probably have recognised that I have borrowed the phrase “The Electric Kool-Aid” from Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Test, a book about Timothy Leary and his Merry Pranksters bussing across the US and their other shenanagins. This was in the days before college kids demanded safe spaces and fentanyl had become the drug of social breakdown. Wolfe was one of the founders of what was hailed as the new journalism in the early 1970s. Our world looks life the morning after what may have started as a party of sex and drugs and rock n roll and has turned into a nightmare of loneliness and totalitarianism.


Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen booksHe also doubles up as a singer songwriter. His latest album can be found here.


Featured: General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, the “Lion of Africa,” a poster by Grotemeyer, dated 1918. The caption reads: “Kolonial-Krieger-Spende,” or “Colonial Soldiers Fund.” Signature of von Lettow-Vorbeck at the bottom.

Buddhism: Chronicle of a Delusion

We give below a review of the recent book by Marion Duvauchel, entitled, Bouddhisme, chronique d’une illusion (Buddhism: Chronicle of a Delusion), which is a meticulous dismantling of the fabrication known as “Buddhism.” We are hoping that this book will soon be available in English. For those who are able to read French, please support Dr. Duvauchel’s important work and purchase a copy.


Universal religion, wisdom, spirituality, philosophy or brilliant syncretism—Buddhism is a religious as well as a historical enigma. But it appeals to the entire bobo class fond of cheap spirituality: we fold a leg, we join our hands and we wait for the sovereign peace of the Buddha with his silly smile (or suave, it depends). To be clear, the doctrines of appeasement are witchcraft! But the “fiction of the Buddha” accompanies the meditation techniques supposed to bring the peace of the “Blessed One,” techniques that have recently been implanted in our educational system, in the hope of calming children down whom distracted parents have been careful not to educate and instead have irritated them. And this fiction of the Buddha is solidly implanted in the common culture.

As for this common knowledge about the Buddha’s religion, we know almost nothing about how it was developed. However, the fascination that Buddhism exerts today cannot be defeated without an analysis, nourished by the weight of European Orientalism in the diffusion of this religious phenomenon—in others, successful propaganda. Scholarly, prestigious, erudite and then popularizing propaganda. But propaganda nevertheless.

This work of elucidation is what Bouddhisme, chronique d’une illusion [Buddhism, Chronicle of a Delusion] is about. In ten chapters, the book examines three centuries of Orientalist historiography: the infatuation of Europeans for India, the fascination for the “old ageless texts,” the discoveries haloed by sensationalism, the occulted aspects, the thorny question of Indian languages and writings, including Kharosthi. And the frauds—archaeological and intellectual. All this in a historical and political context that scholarly works rarely take into account, and for good reason—they rely precisely on this field of knowledge with improbable foundations without ever questioning it. The chapter on the four Generals of that potentate of the Punjab (Ranjit Singh), as intelligent as he was illiterate, carries the weight of history as well as that of the singular men, intrepid mavericks, atypical mercenaries who also built the history of Central Asia (Middle Asia), where Buddhism had found new lands for its missions, where it had taken root in a different spiritual climate and by multiplying the Buddhas who became “bodhisattvas.”

Let us draw out some of the constitutive features of this religion with mythical contours. First, the founder, an Indian prince, raised in a bubble of opulence, who discovers one fine morning the incarnate condition of humanity in its most distressing modalities, death, illness and old age. Then, the canon and the doctrine—an elusive thing, nourished by oral traditions that nothing attests to; tirelessly taken up again and again, enriched, renewed, glossed and commented upon. And then, the factors of the transmission of this canon—a marvelous narrative no matter the current that bears it, in Pali as in Sanskrit, and which was only put into writing in the 18th century (the Lalita-vistara). Let us add for good measure, what may be called the “inculturation of Buddhism” beyond India, its cradle, and the depth of this Central Asia that the Russians call “Middle Asia,” where the “bodhisattvas of Serindia” were born. Finally, the multiplicity of currents, cults and magico-religious practices that developed in Tibet after the first schisms and the session of the two “vehicles,” giving a system of grandiose magic and fabulous pantheons that have nothing to do with primitive Buddhism but are, on the contrary, late constructions.

It was the French, English, German, Russian and Dutch researchers who, fascinated by the “old ageless texts” of India, gradually elaborated this “fiction of the Buddha.” All this was not without discussion. Three centuries were necessary to finally impose the idea of the Buddha’s historicity, of his canon, of his gesture and of his miracles, a historicity in which scholars, academics and translators, all great skeptics before the Lord when it comes to the religion of their own childhood, pretended to believe. One cannot do without a hermeneutic, a structure of interpretation. The religious vocabulary used by European orientalism is that of Catholic theology. It is by the yardstick of Catholicism, suavely denied, that all these orientalists analyzed what came down to them from India and Asia and which they have reconstituted as the history of the Buddha and Buddhism. Duly popularized by the prolific and talented pen of René Grousset, it has rendered a constituted knowledge, universally accepted, to which Sylvain Lévi affixed his definitive seal (Génie de l’Inde), discarding in passing the part taken by the Christian missionaries, who could not be considered as founders, or even as precursors.

In 2004, however, Peter Skilling threw a spanner in the works of Buddhist studies by questioning the relevance of the usage that establishes a necessary link between “Theravada” and the Paleo Canon—he established that this usage is the product of norms established in Europe from the end of the nineteenth century to the middle of the following century, and that this reinvented Theravada, mainly English-speaking, had progressively gained an international influence, including among Asian Buddhists themselves. He makes it clear that the nomenclatures that have been legitimately used are not based on vernacular sources but largely on assertions imposed by the scientific community. The term “Buddhism” itself was challenged by a Sinhalese exegete as nonsense invented by Europeans. A Minnesota researcher, David Dreuwen, established in 2020 in a meticulous article that three centuries of research have never been able to “scientifically” establish the historicity of this Indian prince who became a “bhikshu.”

The first chapter of Buddhism, Chronicle of a Delusion takes up this problematic issue and reinforces Dreuwen’s thesis. How the Buddha, for a long time held to be a legendary being by Orientalists themselves, progressively became a historical personality is, in fact, explained by the Orientalists themselves: “Without the Buddha, Buddhism is inexplicable.”

These European zealots include, the honest Frenchman Eugene Burnouf (founder of Buddhology); the dubious Thomas William Rhys Davids who founded with his theosophist wife the profitable Pali Text Society and who was accused of embezzlement in Ceylon where he was stationed and had to leave after a trial; the improbable theosophists, like Henry Steel Olcott and the Buddhist monks whose European origins are hidden by colorful monastic names, of which the most representative were Nânatiloka (alias, Anton Walther Florus Gueth) and Ananda Metteyya (alias, Charles Henry Allan Bennett, the same one who coined the expression “Theravâda Buddhism” with the meaning we know today).

And then there was the Levi “clan,” which gave French Indianism all its prestige, and which today nourishes the hagiography of current research.

Each structural aspect of Buddhism is analyzed in the ten chapters of this book, which carefully examines data that is often hidden, little known, rarely cited, along with theories that are accepted and established on very shaky ground, but to which the prestigious status of what is called “institutional orientalism” or “learned orientalism” gives the entire weight of academia.

The first Indianists—Auguste Barth, Abel Bergaigne, Johan Kern—were Sanskritists before they were “Indologists.” They translated these “old ageless texts” (the formula is from Louis Renou) which fascinated them but which turned out to be much less ancient than what was believed and allowed to be believed for a long time. But to do orientalist research, one must also be able to date the material. India is one of those civilizations that remained as if immobile at the threshold of history, fascinating indeed but not very inclined to give dates—such goes history. Hence the importance of the pillars of Ashoka, the third king of the Maurya dynasty, the one who completed the first—and very brief—unification of India in Asian history.

Ashoka was changed into a marvelous king who promoted the Buddhist ideal after a spectacular conversion. In reality, Ashoka is a common example in the history of empires, of the alliance of politics and religion. Nothing to be moved by. He was an exemplary king—a great one at that—in that he knew how to use a religion that was not yet established, for the purpose of unifying that first great Indian state, the Maurya Empire. He organized a police empire and knew how to exploit this proto-Buddhism for the purposes of surveillance and control of a territory that went as far as Gandhara and a whole area that has since been called the “Hellenized East.” Is the “Dharma” that he promotes in his edicts Buddhist law? This has been believed for so long that the matter seems to have been settled. If he were a great king, it is also because he understood the interest of writing—we owe to him the first Indian alphabets, even if this fact is disputed by Indian researchers.

Buddhism as a religious fact cannot be dissociated from this epistemological history, from this history of the nascent and then growing science of Orientalism—a history of dazzling or patient discoveries. The English, who took over India and ousted the French and the Dutch, took the lion’s share of the work, but they also knew how to collaborate with European researchers. This is the case of the deciphering of Indian writing, attributed to James Prinsep, but which in reality was a collective work.

Marion Duvauchel’s work focuses on this history of Orientalist research and its key discoveries, such as Burnouf’s monumental work as a defector; Princeps’ deciphering of Indian scripts; and the collection of coins by these “first excavators” whose history is now being unearthed thanks to Jean-Marie Lafont’s thesis; the work of Emile Sénart, a rich man married to an even richer woman, an atypical man without rank or academic title who supported French Indianism with his relations as well as his fortune and who tried to open some breaches in the stilted world of a rigid research. And then, Russian orientalism, decapitated by Bolshevism which sent some of the researchers to the gulags of sinister memory.

It is appropriate to give a special place to the art of Gandhara and to Alfred Foucher’s contributions, rendered obsolete by current research (especially by the Russians), and which, on the other hand, has given pride of place to the much more profound interpretations of Daniel Schlumberger. In 1973, at the time of his death, Gérard Fussman paid him homage, recalling not without disloyalty the episode during which the archaeologist of Bactria had laid out his thesis on the birth of Buddhism. For Schlumberger, it was born from the meeting of an Indian genius (or of a group of Indians in search of truth) with the members of the Greek “philosophical sects” which lived in India, since the lightning raid of Alexander and the kingdoms of the Diadochoi who followed this brilliant conquest. Schlumberger thus questions the accepted dating of the existence of the “first” Buddha. This thesis, deeply argued and methodically presented by a man who knew he was at death’s door, broke the conventional wisdom of official Indianism. It received a frosty reception, was never re-examined and has only recently been mentioned by a courageous Indian academic.

Where does Buddhism come from? How was it born? The enigmatic founder does not explain everything. Indians consider Buddhism to be just one of a multitude of sects, and they are astonished to see their country associated with the religious brilliance of a religion that deserted it in the 8th century. It was not until the 21st century that a true anthropology of Hinduism appeared, reminding us of what Buddhology had erased: the central concepts of Buddhism (Dharma and Karma in particular) were derived from classical Brahmanism. It was Madeleine Bardiau’s honor to have undertaken this work. With Louis Renou they renewed the whole of Indianism. Without successors.

And the Catholic World in all This?

There was the work of Cardinal de Lubac who gave us two major books, including Amitaba, which he was able to write thanks to the archives of the Guimet Museum that were freely opened to him. How can we explain that after the Second Vatican Council, while the quality of his work on Buddhism gave him intellectual legitimacy, he was excluded from the committees of interreligious dialogue? No doubt that once again, the Church chose mediocrity which, today, is spread out in all the instances of inter-religious dialogue.

The Iranian spirit was not foreign to the transformations that renewed Indian Buddhism or that took it to another cultural land. And this spirit was imbued with gnosis. Born in Alexandria, it came to die in the East, in the third century AD, but not before nourishing that great flow of Manichaeism—and those multiple rivers of Buddhism, inhabited by the multiplicity of bodhisattvas who have supplanted the proto-Victorian Buddha that Europe has resurrected with great spiritual antics.

It was during this 3rd century that a new prophet arose at the confluence of the three religious zones— the Iranian Mandean and Zoroastrian, the Indian Buddhist and Hinduist and the Christian already nibbled away by heretical sects. Mani modestly claimed to assume in his person Buddha, Jesus and Zoroaster. From Buddhism, he assumed all the legendary and mythological apparatus; from Christianity he copied the militant organization, the practice of confession and the literary forms.

But with Manichaeism, everything became blurred. Gnosis dissolved borders, limits and categories. What remained was the idea that all along the Silk Roads three great religions spread out to China: Buddhism, Manichaeism and Nestorian Christianity.

Throughout its improbable history, Buddhism never stopped changing. Borrowing here—including undoubtedly from Christianity—accommodating there, it underwent such transformations that to account for it one has to end up imagining a primitive Buddhism of Pali tradition (Theravada) of which Sri Lanka would be the depositary, while a current of Sanskrit language developed in North India and beyond the inventive and popular Mahayana, intended for the multitudes whom the complex asceticism to reach Nirvana would otherwise repel. In this historically more recent version, Buddhism still revealed itself as prodigiously Indian.

Let us give the last word on this point to Ernest Renan, who took a sharp, lucid and caustic look at Buddhism:

“Drunk with the supernatural, led astray by the dangerous taste it had of playing with the infinite and of losing itself in mad enumerations, India pushed its chimera to the extreme, and thus violated the first rule of religious fantasy, which is to be measured in delirium and to feign according to the analogies of a certain truth.”

Buddhism, an illusion? A fiction? A mirage?

Yes, in other words—a chimera.


Featured: Heracles as Vajrapani of the Buddha. Detail from a panel. Gandhara, 2nd century AD.

The Paradox of Japanese Modernity

Modernity, as it appeared in Japan in the 19th century, baffles the Westerner who might consider questioning it. Because it is often wrongly perceived as an exclusively European phenomenon, its Japanese expression is reduced to an attempt to imitate it in order to make up for economic, political and military backwardness. Yet, in Moderne sans être occidental: Aux origines du Japon aujourd’hui (Modern without being Western: At the Origins of the Japan of Today), Japanese history specialist Pierre-François Souyri demonstrates that Japanese modernity, far from being an ersatz of Western modernity, has an identity and genesis of its own.

The identity between modernization and westernization of Japan is one of the most commonplace points of view. Writers, filmmakers, but also, more seriously, historians often describe a feudal archipelago that embraced Western modernity by discovering the new power of the expanding European empires in the mid-nineteenth century. The British gunboats created a sense of urgency and weakness in this traditionally isolationist people, forcing them to catch up technically, economically and politically. This approach thus holds that Japanese modernity is the product of the West; that the deep causes of the transformation of Japanese society are exogenous and that this radical change can be understood in the mode of pure and simple imitation, in particular through new tendencies, such as nationalism, imperialism or Japanese-style capitalism.

However, defends the thesis of an autonomous development, by underlining the internal causes that pushed the archipelago to embrace a specific and, precisely, non-Western modernity. In his opinion, if modernity has its origins in 16th century Europe, it also found its expression in 19th century Japan which, independently of the arrival of the Americans on its territory, experienced upheavals that profoundly redefined the organization of Japanese society, as well as the very mentality of its people. According to him, “the European vision of modernity… permeated Japanese discourse, to the point that some see it as a ‘spiritual colonization from within’ that polluted their historical imagination for more than a century.” In other words, the Japanese themselves were until recently unable to think of their own modernity outside the Western paradigm. They “long sought to conceive of the gap between Japan and the paradigm, consciously or not, by doing ‘Eurocentric comparatism.’”

It is not a question here of affirming that Japanese modernity owes nothing to Western modernity; rather, it is a question of restoring the originality of a historical phenomenon, by avoiding a systematic comparison with the European model. “For the past twenty years, this way of looking at things has been revisited in Japan, to the point that the history of Japanese modernization is now conceived at a pace identical to that of the ‘great powers,’ with shifts that were often less relevant than one might have thought.” From then on, Japanese modernity was no longer to be apprehended negatively, i.e., by always looking for what Japan does not have compared to Europeans, but positively, i.e., by reflecting on the nature of this modernity. In short, it is no longer a question of reasoning in terms of failure but of difference. “History indeed invites us to see that specific forms of modernity were born in Japan, with their own dimensions, hybrid and heterogeneous, and that they can sometimes be exported.”

The Japanese “Enlightenment”

The change of regime is decisive to understanding this period of Japanese history. The Meiji Restoration (1867-1912), the return of the emperor to the forefront, after more than two centuries of rule by the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1867), is part of the Japanese “Enlightenment” (bunmei kaika). In the ninth century, with the failure of the central state to defend the provinces, the political power of the emperor had faded to give way to a feudal Japan, dominated by daimyos (lords) and several centuries of civil war, until the arrival in power of Tokugawa Ieyasu in the early seventeenth century. The authority of the Tokugawa shogunate had been based in part on its ability to pacify Japan; but, faced with the military and technical superiority of the West, the regime no longer seemed to have the means to protect the country. From then on, only a central state with a modern army could ensure the security of the Japanese people against a possible invader.

The supporters of the Japanese “Enlightenment” were particularly impressed by Bismarck, during the Iwakura mission, which toured Europe from 1871 to 1873. The restoration of the Emperor was thus part of a context of modernization and “civilization;” but, unlike Western modernity, it did not involve the creation of a new type of regime, as in France or the United States. The writer and political theorist Fukuzwa Yukichi refers to this as “revolutionary restoration.”

From the outset, Japanese political modernity had something “conservative” about it; and Westerners were perfectly comfortable with the authoritarian character of the new regime. The Japanese case is thus very different from the French and American cases marked by intrinsically progressive revolutions. Moreover, if the West appears as a model in technical and military terms, it is also a rival, an enemy that must be imitated in order to better protect Japan. It is thus a double movement, both xenophilic and xenophobic, which conditions the advent of Japanese modernity.

That said, many supporters of the “Enlightenment” felt that political change was insufficient and that it was also necessary to transform society in depth by influencing mentalities. This is the case of the Society of the Year VI, which imported from Europe the practice of public debate, which had been completely absent in the archipelago. “We knew the palabra or the informal discussion in small groups; but confrontational debate was hardly in use. It would even have been shocking,” explains Souyri.

Muragaki Norimasa, deputy head of the Japanese delegation that went to Washington in 1860, was very surprised by the verbal violence of certain exchanges in parliament. “A minister who was taken to task by a member of parliament replied calmly, whereas a samurai would have drawn a sword!” Feudal Japan was administered by the samurai who respected a strict code of honor. The elites were forged by a warrior mentality and not a politician one. Insults were answered with weapons. There was therefore a long way to go to move from a society of hierarchy and honor to a society of free individuals practicing public debate and exchange between equal citizens.

Some members of the Year VI Society understood the link between the nature of the political regime and individual mindsets, as despotism was not really able to produce “civilized” individuals as in the West. The philosopher Nishi Amane said: “Docility is an important quality for the Japanese. In a despotic regime, it is indeed a highly prized quality.” Nakamura Masano, on the other hand, believed very early on that assemblies and councils elected by the people should be created to break with this despotic tradition and awaken the Japanese to the practice of politics.

The “Doctrine of the Quintessence of the Country”

Japanese modernity was also characterized by the emergence of nationalisms of different kinds. If the first intellectuals of the Meiji period wondered about the possibility of a change of regime to allow the Japanese to have more individual rights (freedom of assembly, association, expression) and real political freedoms, the debate then turned to the question of defining this new Japanese identity. “From the years 1887-1888… the terms of the debate evolved and henceforth crystallized around the question of identities within the nation, with a balancing act between three elements, the West and its always fascinating and threatening influence, the East (but this is mainly China) which became a kind of land of utopia or expansion, and finally Japan, whose essence had to be constantly redefined between the two previous poles.”

What is particularly interesting in the Japanese case is that nationalism, which is par excellence a modern political doctrine, was not only formed from the Western model. This is particularly true of a trend called the “doctrine of the quintessence of the country” (kokusui shugi). “They wanted to be the defenders and promoters of a pure national identity, of a form of nationalism of a new nature, of a national idealism,” Souyri emphasizes. From then on, we must not blindly imitate the Western model, which destroys what makes up the Japanese identity, but build a nationalism capable of grasping and respecting Japanese history and ethos. By adopting Western mores and techniques, Japan risked losing its soul, losing what is specifically Japanese. Those who defended the “doctrine of the quintessence of the country” believed that Japan should not be absorbed by modernity but should invent its own modernity, especially by preserving what is specifically Asian.

The Meiji government used an ancient concept to define the nature of the Japanese nation in order to confront popular demands and the supporters of the old feudal system: kokutai, which “refers to the national peculiarity of the imperial dynasty that has ruled the country forever and ever.” However, kokutai originally meant only the form and identity of a state, Japanese or not. It was a form of mystical nationalism in the 19th century that gave kokutai a new and specifically Japanese meaning: a conservative, national and anti-feudal doctrine. The idea of kokutai disrupted the old feudal hierarchies that structured society under the Tokugawa dynasty. It was used to build a strong central state that advocated the equality of all subjects before the deified person of the emperor, a particularly effective way to foster the emergence of a modern nation. “The emperor combines political authority with prestige of a spiritual nature. He is both the German Kaiser and the Pope of Rome embodied in one individual.”

Once again, we observe that Japanese political modernity was built by borrowing and recasting notions inherited from tradition, not by wiping the slate clean. The term kokutai appeared in the Imperial Constitution of 1889. Its first article states: “The Empire of Greater Japan is under the government of the emperor whose lineage has ruled our country since the beginning of time. The historical continuity of the Japanese Empire, despite periods of displacement, notably under the Tokugawa shogunate, allowed the defenders of the new Meiji regime to make themselves the guarantors of an absolute political authority, capable of resisting Westerners and defending a threatened ancestral Japanese identity.” Paradoxically, this new form of nationalism, out of rejection of Western values, turned in particular to Confucianism. “If there is a doctrine, it is rather a form of syncretism in which the most conformist Confucian thought is allied with the national precepts of autochthonist thought, mixed with forms of social Darwinism and modern nationalism,” says Souyri.

Japanese Anti-Modernism

In 1886, Shiga Shigetaka founded a new type of nationalism of cultural type. In Landscapes of Japan (1894), he explained that the beauty of Japanese nature is superior to that of Western countries and that from this aesthetic superiority should come a feeling of pride. “Shiga bridges the gap between a poetic and impressionistic discourse, and a naturalistic discourse that is scientific but based on the comparison, implicit or not, with the rest of the countries.” The objective of this book was to decompress the Japanese towards the Westerners by insisting on the natural beauty of the archipelago but also by praising the greatness of their poetry. Shiga’s thought thus went against the universalism of the Enlightenment to develop a new form of particularism but without falling into the xenophobia of the “doctrine of the quintessence of the country,” in which he did not recognize himself. “More than a political ideology, it is a thought with a cultural vocation,” insists Souyri.

In the same vein, we can cite Okakura Tenshin, famous for his Book of Tea, who understood early on the importance of valorizing Japanese art in the establishment of the new state. He participated in the creation of museums, the protection of heritage and the teaching of art. In his eyes, “fine arts are the quintessence and splendor of a nation.” While the Japanese were fascinated by Western art, Okakura Tenshin, who was a connoisseur of Western art, had the ambition to bring the importance of traditional Japanese art to the West. He “[was] at the origin of this image of an anti-modernist Japan, based on a mysterious and refined Japanese culture.” In this, Okakura Tenshin’s modernity can be compared to the anti-modern modernity of a Baudelaire defined by Antoine Compagnon. His anti-modernism is a reaction to Western cultural domination that sought to reactivate, within the framework of the development of the modern state, the aesthetic forms of Japanese tradition. In doing so, he participated in creating “a kind of invariance, the ‘eternal’ Japan'” as well as his “own orientalism.”

Pierre-François Souyri’s book allows us to understand that Japanese modernity was structured as much by imitating the Western model as by rejecting it. If there was indeed, in the history of Japan, a first movement influenced by the European Enlightenment, it was quickly counterbalanced by political doctrines that sought to preserve the spiritual and cultural identity of Japan, drawing on heterogeneous elements: Asianism, Confucianism, but also on a reinterpreted kokutai. This book is thus an invitation to detach oneself from any ethnocentrism in order to better understand the conditions of possibility of the emergence of a specifically Japanese modernity. “This forces us to assimilate in our mental schemas this simple idea: we are not the sole depositaries of modernity. Modernity was not invented once and for all by Europeans, and European modernity is perhaps not an exceptional and almost miraculous phenomenon. Other forms of modernity have manifested themselves elsewhere, and particularly in Japan.”


Matthieu Giroux is a Dostoyevskian sovereignist and the editorial director of PHLITT. This article appears through the generous courtesy of PHLITT.


Featured: “Founding of the Nation,” by Kawamura Kiyoo; painted in 1929.

The Left has Won: A Review of Julien Rochedy

For almost three years now, Julien Rochedy has been writing books. His latest book Philosophie de droite confirms his talent.

The left has won. The right has lost. Vae victis. In this accessible and cultured book, the author presents a critical genealogy of the 18th century, from which all our problems emanate: progressism, wokism, deconstruction, nihilism, soft and Europeanist liberalism, self-hatred, universalism. Blue, green, colored hair, interlopers and grotesque drag queens are the corrupted fruits of this difficulty century. And likewise, in a conversational tone, our friend Rochedy explains to us how and why the right lost and why the left won: “The counter-revolutionary restoration regularly failed, not because of any weakness in the counter-revolutionary philosophy, but because the counter-revolutionaries were largely incapable of using political methods and the press.” And to continue: “It is useless to congratulate oneself, as the right still does, by noting that the major part of the people shares a good part of conservative ideas. Also, the inability of the right to become an aggressive minority is without question one of the great causes of its perpetual failures.”

Julien Rochedy does not seek to distinguish the left from the right as political parties on an increasingly fragmented chessboard, but as a course of life, a line of thought and conduct. In short, to be left or right is to be bilious or sanguine. The right is dour, a kill-joy, declaiming ill omens, while confusing bourgeois domination by money with the conservative or reactionary base. In short, the right has become autistic, crazy by dint of being right, without ever having known how to sell a dream.

The core of the book is a critical and impressive synthesis of the Left Enlightenment. We are, at our time, in the degenerate phase of the Enlightenment. The old regime is characterized, as Charles Maurras said, by that tradition “which reigns in the past by its silent power and the solid bond of habit;” it is from this point of view that Hubert Métivier defines the Old Regime as custom. The Enlightenment is the opposite. Jacobinism established it; the use of the Reason devoured faith and mystery; the will to deconstruct prevailed upon tradition; and the conceptual and universal man prevailed on real men. “The enlightenment invented the idea of possible happiness. If happiness was possible, it had to be for all: whoever emancipates himself, by Reason, from the past and its traditions, was its natural candidate; the mathematical laws which apply to nature are invariable and universal; it can thus only be thus for the whole human race. ” Happiness itself is built against Christian joy, the foretaste of the heavenly table, and turns away from original sin that Lent reminds us of every year. If happiness, a new idea in Europe, the happiness of this earth, is attainable, let’s go for it, even if it means massacring, destroying, burning. All means are good to gain it.

The elite of this century are more and more gnawed at by an established bourgeoisie and convinced of progress. This elite, motivated by “likes,” flirt in the salons like on Tinder; they are depicted with exquisite cruelty by Crébillon fils, notably in Les Égarements du cœur et de l’esprit (The Wanderings of the Heart and the Spirit), the most beautiful piece of writing of the Regency. Autistic, the nobility hid in their lands, refusing to go to war. The bourgeoisie, harried yet ambitious, formed into clubs, into circles, entrepreneurial, patrons of new ideas, and awaited their turn. Chateaubriand says it in his Memoirs: the aristocracy had reached the age of vanities. In a century when the Old Regime was slowly rotting, two thinkers imposed the foundations of the left: Voltaire and Rousseau.

Robert Darnton in The Literary Underground of the Old Regime explains the difference between the two men: the one thinks of what has been polished by the use of society, relationships and world codes; while the other thinks that society is bad; that it rots men and corrupts hearts, who are infinitely good however when they are naked, in the natural. Julien Rochedy sums up very well the differences between a left of center and a societal left. Voltaire advocates the liberal values of tolerance and progress, and thus impiety and materialism; Rousseau advocates the deconstruction of the structures of society, structures that are factious and therefore unjust. Voltaire is linked to Sade, the archetype of the degenerate produced by a society without God, without taboos or prohibitions; while Rousseau is linked to Robespierre, the terrible technocrat motivated by cold and vaunted ideas.

The revolution inspired by Rousseau envisages this: namely, that the citizen consents from now on to give himself entirely to the community, body and goods. In the Discourse on Political Economy, the Swiss defends the idea that everything belongs to the State: property, goods, education of children. What a magnificent totalitarian system! He excludes the one who voluntarily evades the clause of the contract. Rochedy quotes extracts from The Social Contract that are particularly eloquent: “The sovereign people can banish from the State anyone who does not trust them; they can banish him, not as an impious person, but as an unsociable one, as incapable of sincerely loving the laws, justice, and of immolating his life to his duty if necessary.”

The way Rochedy draws the French revolution as a progressive left-wing revolution, opposed to the English revolution, a hundred years before, defined by Burke as conservative, is remarkable. Burke understood the use of a revolution to restore a political situation, by re-establishing historical continuity. It is the people who put a sovereign monarch back in place, conscious of tradition and permanence.

Can we save the 18th century? Yes, insofar as it still produces beauty, designs beautiful castles, large gardens, interiors furnished with remarkable furniture, colorful fittings, delicate paintings. If Rousseau and Voltaire are our enemies, how can we not love the melancholy of the solitary walker and the Century of Louis XIV in which lived the excellent master of Ferneyt, so remarkably well written. Voltaire is the BHL of the XVIIIth century, who has for him, at least, the form and the pith.

“The counter-revolution will not be a contrary revolution, but the opposite of the revolution.” Half of the book, once the left-wing thought is dismantled, is a praise of counter-revolutionaries. Burke is the theorist, de Maistre the polemicist, Chateaubriand the fiddler. This book is an initiation into a current of thought so badly explored and so denigrated. One can only feel a deep sympathy for these thinkers as they are clear, just, clairvoyant; and in the ideas as in the form. They have the talent for the sentence well-written, for aphorism, for the punch line. They all participate in literary glory. Let’s taste the efficient and acid prose of Joseph de Maistre who shoots red-hot at the rights of man: “If they had said the rights of the Citizen, or of the man-citizen, I would still understand them. But I confess that Man, as distinguished from the Citizen, is a being that I do not know at all. I have seen, in the course of my life, Frenchmen, Englishmen, Italians, Germans, Russians, I have even learned, in a famous book, that one can be Persian. But I have never seen the Man, if he has rights, I do not care; never will we have to live together: let him go to exercise these rights in imaginary realism.” Edifying!

The counter-revolutionaries resurrected, in the middle of a century that invented individualism, the holistic conception of the Classics. Man is part of a whole and this whole is made of identity, of tradition. This is the thought of Herder, the best enemy of Kant who ever remained in Koenigsbergian mists, that theorist of a universal history and of a cosmopolitan world inhabited by abstract Man; thought confirmed by this sentence of de Maistre: “Let us be told, let us write whatever we want; our fathers have dropped anchor, let us hold on to it.”

In opposition to the Revolution and the rights of man, theorizing and applying the supreme being, and to Freemasonry, which wants to crush the wicked, the thinkers of the counter-revolution defend Christianity and praised this religion as a guarantee of stability and tradition that societies need. It is not a secularized Christianity, the product of a bland globalism, open to the world, adept at tea parties, but a Christianity that embraces natural law, the famous Ambrosian revolution, and makes sense in the lives of men in an organic way.

“It is the authority,” writes Rochedy, “of the Church that maintains it [society], after having shaped it in view of Christ; it is her infallibility that imposes on men the spirit of obedience and fidelity to that which is older and greater than themselves. The Catholic Church is the guarantor of the principle of authority.” In short, Christianity structures and guarantees society horizontally and vertically through access to a hierarchy that leads to the transcendent and to Heaven. The cross, in short. I would advise my friend Julien to read Father William Slattery’s book, Comment les catholiques ont bâti une civilisation (How Catholics Built a Civilization), a fundamental book in this defense and illustration of Christianity. Christianity has built a civilization of builders, from Ambrose of Milan to the rise of monasteries, Venetian capitalism, the fruit of entrepreneurial freedom, the year 1000, land clearance, the formation of champions of knowledge and of schools. “Catholicism,” says the abbot, “is not a religion, but a vision of the world, a vision of all the dimensions of man, of all the dimensions of society.”

The last part of Julien Rochedy’s book presents in two chapters the project of a right-wing thought that opposes to reason, materialism, politics, individualism, Man, the contract, revolution and freedom, tradition, Christianity, religion, community, humans, history, continuity, freedoms. History is the conscience of right-wingers: it sets the example, makes sense, confirms continuities. Classical truths make sense. One can then begin to dream of a society where the sovereignty of borders would be guaranteed, where the structures governed by God would make sense, from the nation to the family; where solidarity would make a community; where respect for hierarchy would place the soldier, the priest, the father and the ancestor in their rightful place in society. This world is the world of peace that the counter-revolutionaries have outlined.

It is regrettable that the title of the book does not correspond entirely to the project centered on the eighteenth century, at the origin of left-wing thought, and that the author does not continue in the history of ideas with the Romantic current, reduced to Chateaubriand, the anti-moderns such as Flaubert and Balzac, the anti-bourgeois such as Baudelaire and Bloy; then the thinkers of the Action Française up to the philosophers of politics and law, like Spengler, Toynbee, Evola or Schmitt. Perhaps even an overview from Saint Augustine to Tolkien would have given a sum of traditional thought. This is the wish that we address to our friend: to continue his work from book-to-book with a true counter-history of ideas likely to make us renew with the beautiful, the good, and the true. Our society needs it.


Nicolas Kinosky is at the Centres des Analyses des Rhétoriques Religieuses de l’Antiquité. This articles appears through the very kind courtesy La Nef.


Featured: “Marie Antoinette being taken to her Execution, October 16, 1793,” by William Hamilton; painted in 1794.

Hybrid Warfare in the Gray Zones

“He who knows how to wage war conquers another’s army without fighting; takes another’s fortresses without laying siege; crushes another’s state without keeping his army out long,” says the famous ancient Chinese treatise The Art of War, whose authorship is traditionally attributed to the military commander and strategist Sun Tzu (6th-5th centuries B.C.).

Surprisingly, this statement is still very relevant. Moreover, Sun Tzu can be called one of the first theorists in the field of hybrid warfare, which seems to be a modern phenomenon. The treatise of the ancient Chinese philosopher still serves as the basis for theoretical approaches in the activities of the intelligence services of many countries, including the United States.

Speaking of the role of the United States in the formation of the concept of hybrid warfare, it is worth noting that this country was the first to develop and apply the term. Over time, the American (and generally Western) concept of hybrid warfare has been constantly changing, causing a lot of controversy among many researchers and analysts studying hybrid warfare. One such analyst is Leonid V. Savin, who in his book Hybrid War and the Gray Zone examines in detail the genesis of the concept of hybrid warfare, the scholarly developments of Western authors and the further transformation of the term. From the title of the book, it is easy to understand that in addition to hybrid warfare, the work examines another no less remarkable phenomenon, namely, the “gray zone. Thus, in his book Savin examines in detail the evolution of the Western concept of hybrid warfare and the gray zone, and analyzes the changes that have occurred in the approaches to the study of these phenomena in the context of the changing geopolitical picture of the world.

Before turning to the content of the book, I would like to say a few words about the author. Savin is a political scientist, the author of many books on geopolitics and contemporary conflicts, including such works as Towards Geopolitics, Network-centric and Network Warfare: An Introduction to the Concept, Ethnopsychology: Peoples and Geopolitical Thinking, New Ways of Warfare: How America Builds its Empire, and many others. He is the editor-in-chief of the information and analytical portal Geopolitika.ru, following the Eurasian approach. In this regard, even before reading the book, one might assume that Savin in his work will speak in the spirit of Eurasianism, criticizing the unipolar globalist model of the world, promoted by the United States. As it turns out, these assumptions are not mistaken.

Hybrid War and the Gray Zone consists of three parts, which, in turn, are divided into smaller sections. However, before proceeding directly to the consideration of the concepts of “hybrid warfare” and “gray zone,” L.V. Savin highlights some of the changes that have occurred in modern conflicts in recent years. In addition, the author discusses new trends in international relations, in the context of the current geopolitical reality. According to the political scientist, in our complex and contradictory world, the problems of new forms of conflicts should be approached as objectively and cautiously as possible, because a common understanding of any modern problem is not so easy to find.

The first part of the book is devoted to the evolution of the term “hybrid warfare,” from its first mention in 1998 to the present day. Savin examines various interpretations of the concept developed by the Western military-scientific community. Thus, the author studies and analyzes the works of R. Walker, J. Pinder, B. Nemeth, J. Mattis and F. Hoffman, C. Gray, M. Booth, J. McQueen, N. Freyer R.W. Glenn, B. Fleming, as well as US doctrinal documents on hybrid warfare, including the US understanding of Hybrid Warfare (2010), Guide to Organizing a Force Structure to Counter Hybrid Threats (2015), the Military Strategy Analysis of the US (2015), TRADOC G-2, Joint Operating Environment 2035, and the Joint Force in a Contested and Disordered World (2016). In addition, Savin examines the approaches of NATO and the EU, which have developed their own concept of hybrid warfare.

It is worth noting that a separate place in all theoretical developments of Western countries on the problems of hybrid warfare is given to Russia. The author of the book devotes a separate chapter to this phenomenon. In particular, Savin describes in detail the approach of U.S. Army Major Amos Fox, who assesses Russia’s actions in the context of hybrid warfare.

After reading this chapter, it is clear why the term “hybrid warfare” is so difficult to understand. The answer is simple: there is no single definition of “hybrid warfare” because, first, each researcher interprets the concept differently, and second, it is constantly changing and evolving depending on the geopolitical context.

In addition, the term is very ambiguous and is interpreted by all sides in their own interests. As for Western interpretations of the concept of hybrid warfare, most of them state that hybrid warfare is waged primarily by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. Obviously, labeling these countries as “hybrid actors” is largely meaningless, since there are hardly any countries (much less major powers) that are not currently engaged in hybrid warfare. Hybrid warfare is the new reality (is it new?) in which modern society exists. Moreover, the label of “hybrid actor” is itself part of the hybrid warfare waged by Western countries, among others.

The second part of the book, as one might guess, is devoted to the study of another concept—the “gray zone.” This part again begins with how Russia is labeled. This time Savin cites the example of a statement by Brian Clark of the Hudson Institute, who noted that “Russia is waging an aggressive war in the gray zone against Japan.” Thus, the author begins the topic for a new discussion—about the interpretations of the concept of the “gray zone.”

The second part also examines the evolution of the concept, giving interpretations by the U.S. State Department and Congress, as well as by major think-tanks such as RAND and CSIS. It is worth noting that many approaches are accompanied by illustrations in the form of diagrams, which makes it much easier to understand one or another interpretation of the “gray zone” concept. Savin considers two interpretations of the “gray zone”—as a disputed geographical area, and as an instrument of political struggle. The author presents the cases of China, which has disputed territories in the South China Sea, and Israel with its long-standing activity in the gray zone.

The concept of the “gray zone” is no less ambiguous than the previously considered concept. As in the case of hybrid war, Savin also believes that the “gray zone” in the coming years will serve as a special label for any actions of certain states, primarily Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. After reading this section, one can draw a conclusion similar to the one given earlier on hybrid warfare; and this is no accident: the concepts of “hybrid war” and “gray zone” are indeed very similar and interchangeable in many ways; it is not immediately clear what their difference is, and whether there is one at all. This is what the author devotes the third part of the book to.

Thus, in the third part, the political scientist combines the two concepts under study by analyzing various documents and studies in which “gray zone” and “hybrid warfare” act as synonyms. This part of the book definitively answers the question of whether a war can still be fought without direct combat operations. In addition, the last case study examined by the author, the Russian special operation in Ukraine, once again proves that the actors of hybrid warfare and actions in the “gray zones” are not only Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, but also the “collective” West. New instruments and methods of confrontation are indeed regularly introduced and tested in hot spots by different countries, including both Russia and NATO member states and other international actors.

As for the differences between the two terms, they are indeed difficult to define, and the third part of the book confirms this. As many of the studies examined by Savin show, mixing the concept of “gray zone” and “hybrid warfare” is indeed possible. This phenomenon is most clearly explained by Arsalan Bilal, a member of the Arctic University research group: “The hybrid war itself can take place in the gray zone, and the gray zone, respectively, creates conditions for the hybrid war.”

In summarizing, Savin repeats the thesis that the West will continue to label Russia a “hybrid actor” and accuse it of malicious actions in the gray zone, using political rhetoric and fabricated data to do so. In addition, Savin explains why it is important and necessary to study Western approaches and experience in hybrid warfare.

Speaking about the overall impression of the book, we can say without a doubt that it greatly adds to the body of knowledge on the topic of hybrid warfare, which is currently more relevant than ever. The book will be especially useful for those readers who study new forms of conflicts—information confrontation, cyber warfare, economic wars, etc.

It is also worth noting some nuances. First, despite the small size of the book, one cannot say that it is easy to read. It contains a lot of complex terminology, which is not suitable for the unprepared reader. But we should not forget that this work is intended for a specialist audience—researchers and theorists in the field of conflictology, international relations and military strategy; people who make political decisions and are engaged in the development of information content. In effect, to read this monograph, one must have a certain knowledge base, at least in the field of international relations.

Second, for the most part, the work describes Western research on the topic at hand. Although the author’s point of view and sentiment can be felt “between the lines” while reading the book, I would have liked to see more commentary and explicit discussion by Savin in the work. This would have helped to delve even deeper into the topic of hybrid wars and “gray zones,” as well as to better understand what Western experts are trying to convey to the readers of their works. An expert’s comments are never superfluous.

After reading this book, two important conclusions can be drawn. First, hybrid wars are a reality in which we will always have to exist. We ourselves are part of hybrid warfare; and, in many ways, we are its object. In the age of information society and technology, there is no other way—we have become part of this geopolitical reality whenever we access social networks, read the news, turn on the television, etc. We are all objects of pervasive influence, objects of an endless flow of information that serves the interests of one side or another of the hybrid warfare. The second conclusion, which follows from the first, is the need to be able to perceive critically any information. Even if the source is authoritative (and the sources given in the monograph are very authoritative), all of them also serve someone’s interests and are always biased, as Savin’s book readily proves.


Anastasia Tolokonina is a graduate student, Department of Journalism Theory and History, at the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia. [This review comes to us at the kind courtesy of Geopolitika.]


Featured: “Die Schachpartie” (The Chess Game), by Lucas van Leyden; painted ca. 1508.

The Importance of Gaetano Mosca

A great book opens one’s eyes to processes that one may have missed had one not read it. Likewise, its power lies in activating one’s own abilities of thought to see more clearly what others may not notice at all or merely glimpse as a blur in the fog.

Few books I have read are better guides and eye-openers about how to think structurally, historically, and comparatively about politics generally, and the major crises of our time, crises that have largely been induced by a ruling class that has globalist ambitions, than Gaetano Mosca’s Ruling Class. Reading it can also help one be better attuned to the political fluxions that draw us toward the break-down of politics as the means for staving off those terrible forces of human destruction and rejuvenation—war and revolution, which are the inevitable consequences of a failure to adequately maintain and cultivate the powers of peace.

The ruling class of the West, which forms the core of a globalist elite, draws us into an external war—that remains at this stage a proxy war—and (most conspicuously so in the United States and Europe) a civil war that is playing itself out politically and institutionally and has already destroyed the very possibility of a common political culture.

1. Canonical and Great Books

Some books found peoples and nations; some assist in the founding of institutions; some open pathways for new types of orienting of human beings and help us forge a new reality; some provide the language and thought patterns of an epoch; some books are prophetic; and some provide the wherewithal that best defines the problem of an age. The most influential of these great books are canonical. And in spite of the ideological attack upon the canon which was part and parcel of a sweeping attempt to accommodate Western institutions to the knowledge and intellectual capacities of poorly-educated and under-read undergraduates and graduate students, canonical books exist because our world would simply not be the same were they to not have existed. This was also why it was commonly assumed amongst professors, teachers, and the professional classes that every educated person should acquaint himself with certain books at some point in his life-time.

The canon also reflects the problems of the ages and the most significant of attempted solutions—which is why it is so diverse, if I may be permitted to use a word that has become an ideological truncheon in the arsenal of managerial and progressive moral absolutes. A canonical work might not be error free, or it may be fraught with problems (Marx’s Communist Manifesto or Capital or Rousseau’s Èmile and Social Contract are obvious examples), or just simply defiant of traditional ethical appeals (Machiavelli’s Prince). Nor does the canon contain a collection of like-minded sentiments or responses to the human condition. And the idea that it is simply the point of view of white men makes no sense, given the shoddiness of the category—are people from what is now the Middle East, Northern Pakistan and Central Asia white?—or the authors of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Koran, the Analects, the Tao Te Ching, and the Bhagavad Gita, which all are canonical works?

Then there are books which, though lesser known, if read attentively, can change how you see the world forever. They may not be canonical, but they express profound insights which, if remembered, would help us greatly in making sense of our world. I consider the writings of J.G. Hamann and Herder, of Franz Rosenzweig and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy to be good examples of these kind of books. In the case of both pairs of thinkers, they were contemporaries of much more influential and famous philosophers—viz., the former were contemporaries of Kant, the latter of Heidegger. But whereas Kant and Heidegger remain essential to the philosophical tradition and hence to the curriculum of Philosophy (at least to that curriculum that breathes outside of the straightjacket of Analytic Philosophy), if one has attentively read Hamann et. al., then one can quickly identify a range of egregious deficiencies in the philosophies and legacies of Kant and Heidegger, and his ‘68 progeny.

Then there are books that were ignored at the time of their publication; or having made a strong impression upon a discipline or the public have faded from view, only to undergo a revival because they have been (re)discovered by later generations who see that they address something of profound importance about their lives and times. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, for example, were “stillborn” only to be reborn; while Mises’s Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, took on a new life when the Soviet Union was collapsing.

Explosive times, invariably, call out for the most thoughtful and inventive of people to make sense of them. And great books are inevitably forged out of the explosive fall out; the materials and problems of times in great crisis. Though, we should note, that human beings are crisis producing creatures—which is why those who believe in progress invariably are forced to temper their enthusiasm when their own circumstances and age go to hell.

But let us first address the tumult of our time, which is the reason I suggest Gaetano Mosca’s Ruling Class is a must read.

2. Global Leadership Aspirations versus those Non-Compliant Critics from the “Led-ship”

We are living in a period of civil wars in the West being played out in its institutions, as the ruling political class, and the various interests it represents and deploys for its objectives, overturns (in large part by redefining the character and roles of all) traditional social institutions. It is a civil war that is rather typical of all civil wars—a ruling class furnishes the world in a way that suits its interests; but such furnishing requires great sacrifice from those whose lives are an important part of this new furnishing. And the proposed purpose, the changing circumstances, and the new future being made, do not fit well with the interests (the ways of being in the world) of those who are required to get in step with the dictates of the ruling class.

The civil war of our time, in other words, is the struggle over whether the future will be dictated by a globalist elite and those who (often unwittingly) work on their behalf, or by those who oppose the goals and means of that elite, and the sacrifices that are required to achieve it. On the one side stand those who believe they are striving for human progress, and that progress involves greater “emancipation,” “safety,” “diversity and inclusion,” and “equity.” Yet, as their critics point out, they are creating a world which is far less equitable, safe or free. They are contributing to a divide between the immensely rich, the highly paid leaders, and administrators, celebrities, elite athletes, and all those who are employed to do their bidding by supervising and instructing everyone in what to think and say, on the one hand, and the rest.

The rest are those who are meant to make up the great “led-ship,” who are to do the bidding the various leaders, the “representatives” of sustainability, global justice, world health—and pretty much anything else said leaders can think of—and thus the “rest” find themselves increasingly beholden to leaders. Irrespective of their intentions, the more vocal opponents of this ruling elite can see that they are aiding and abetting corporate technocratic globalism, and its accompanying suppliers of governance (administrative states beholden to larger global administrative powers, such as the EU, and the UN), knowledge (from big tech/media and its fact-checkers to the requirement that scientific research be funded by state-corporately authorized research institutions and bodies which comply with consensuses that are manufactured within various professional associations, again complying with corporate and state requirements, and standardized curricula crafted around ostensibly universal rights), health (Big Pharma, and WHO, medical associations, and boards), and safety (the Industrial Military Complex and international military alliances whose very existence requires manufacturing wars, which may never be won, but which help ensure a continuous resource stream from tax-payers to arms manufacturers, bureaucrats and the military so that a global standing military reserve will never cease to exist).

What to those who embrace this globalist order and its rulers and minions is a more caring, safe and compassionate, environmentally sustainable world order, is to others but mindlessness and mental enslavement, infantile indulgence, and the suppression of the more traditional institutions and roles, which have provided people with a sense of the fit between themselves and the kind of freedom that was worked out over multiple generations in the numerous spheres of sociality. Whereas supporters of globalism can be found everywhere—though, the further away one gets from the West, such supporters exist in ever smaller numbers—the opponents of this global elite do not form a natural alliance: being a traditional Muslim, Jew, or Christian does not mean that the common ground—one’s traditional faith—is very common or solid as a base for an alliance. Conflict and wars are the inevitable accompaniments of traditional life-ways. But the delusion of the globalist elites is that under their direction there will be perpetual peace.

Again, critics of the globalist elite (which take NATO as its military shield) will point out that what is happening is not that war as an existential feature of human existence has ceased, or even diminished, but the grounds for its existence have shifted, and the beneficiaries for its existence have assumed the authority of being the planetary peace-providers.

If nature abhors a vacuum, then the nature of our global administrative, financial, communication systems have created a vacuum that has been filled by a globalist ruling class—a Superclass, as David Rothkopf, who served in the Clinton administration, formulated it in his book of that name. (Rothkopf, who is not at all hostile to this elite, makes the case that while membership is relatively mobile, it numbers around six thousand people at any given time). In filling that vacuum, the global elite have required that the world adopts itself to their interests, which are the interests that support their authority. But, again, their interests, simply do not suit the overwhelming number of people who live on planet earth, and do not feel that this superclass is of any benefit to them—critics of the superclass go further and see it as a class whose ambition wildly outstrips its competence, and is thus a destructive force, far greater than what nature and our other social formations would generate.

The globalist ruling class inaugurates another fundamental break with tradition—and at the danger of repeating myself—the modus operandi of the globalist elite is its break with all real traditions, involving a kind of substitution racket, like fake gold being passed off as real gold. This particular break is that previously whereas power formations which move beyond those of outright enslavement or tyranny are historically formed symbiotically, so that a sacrificial order is established—no serious sacrifice is required of the globalist elite themselves: they can pay others to enforce others to make the sacrifices that are intrinsic to social reproduction (notably sacrifices of the independence of mind to the ruling ideas, the sacrifice of one’s faith to the higher absolutes of globalist/corporatist/progressivist ideology, and sacrifice of one’s relative economic well-being).

For all its aspirations, though, Globalism Inc. remains largely politically ineffective outside of the West, and the great geo-political non-Western globalist alternative to Western globalism, China, is one that far more carefully attends to bringing along the ruled with its ruling class—which is not to say that on certain divisive issues it will not do what ruling classes always do, i.e., brutally enforce its authority. The way it has managed to cement its authority by avoiding a civil war is to ensure its adherence to traditions in a way that makes it something of a mirror image of the West. But, to repeat, there is no natural allegiance between the traditionalism of the Chinese and those in the West, who find greater solace in their traditions than in the new elite counterfeit fabrications. To question these fabrications in the West as counterfeit, based upon (collective self-)delusions and/or deception, is now to be a “right-wing extremist,” and to question any of the ticket items that are advanced through these fabrications, and to even speak of a globalist elite is to be a dupe of a conspiracy theory, which is to say that those making a play to be the global ruling class smother resistance by ideological indoctrination, accompanied by social, economic and political enforcement.

The primary reason that the West has been the leader of the globalist agenda, from its social alliances, to policy, to ideology is because the West has been created through wars and revolutions, and the relative success of its institutions, prior to breeding a class determined to destroy them, has been the incorporation of a dynamic which enables adapting to its changing technological and socio-economic circumstances. In the West, it is not the case that those who wish to preserve their traditional way of life are wishing to leap back to pre-modern times, as, for example, has been the case in much of the Islamic world’s response to modernization. Thus, for example, in the United States, those who are most outspoken against the progressive direction of their country identify themselves as “patriots,” i.e., as defenders of the American revolution and the principles it founded and which have evolved in its wake.

Today, the ruling class in the United States has largely embraced switching the founding of the United States from the date marking the independence of a colony from a foreign oppressive power it defeated in a civil war by declaring “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” to a date which takes its founding as an act of enslavement, and its perpetuity as one of a trail of injustices that must now be rectified by those who will lead its people (who no longer are merely the citizens and their children) via the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, the media, the classroom, and wherever else people may assemble, speak, or reflect.

Of course, there are still some people who belong to the political class who are on the “wrong side of history,” the side that identifies in the United States with the founding fathers, who are appalled that the new ruling class works in tandem with the youth of the nation and its educators to overturn institutions, tear-down statues, change the names of military bases, schools and other buildings and, rewrite their history books and school curricula, so that the men who founded the United States may have their status removed and their personage shamed, and the more diverse, and the tolerant ruling class who represent the truth of power and an emancipated future may live in safety, free from the “moral odium” of their forebears. The civil war that is taking place is one which exists because the ruling class has changed. It has gone globalist, become “virtuous,” and got “woke.”

There is, I believe, no better book for making sense of what is now transpiring than Gaetano Mosca’s Ruling Class.

3. Mosca Elements of Political Science and Their Importance for Understanding the Affinities Between Totalitarian Ruling Classes

Apart from its providing a number of key elements to help make sense of the times we are living through in the West, I came to the conclusion, right at the end of my academic career, after picking the book up again for the first time in nearly fifty years (when I had been too young and stupid to realize what gold it was) that Mosca’s Ruling Class is, along with Aristotle’s Politics and Thucydides’ Peloponnesian Wars, probably the best foundational text for studying Political Science that has ever been written. (For all its greatness, I would not say that Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope is a foundational text for studying Political Science)

The Italian title of The Ruling Class (when literally translated) is Elements of Political Science, the first edition of which appeared in Italy in 1896; the English translation of the revised edition of 1923 appeared in 1939. The English title is perhaps a more catching one, and it does capture the content of the book. But I think it regrettable that in an age where Political Science is little more now than a disciplinary name rather than a genuine academic discipline that this book is rarely read by those who study Politics. Today, as would be evident to anyone who simply read the titles of papers presented at the American Political Science Association, with the possible exception of rational choice theory (which I think is irredeemably flawed by its inattention to culture and history), most who teach Political Science are morally committed political partisans who have little or no interest in exploring their role within the ruling class. Or indeed thinking outside of the two-dimensional model and its intersectional variant, which would make them and their chosen groups oppressed members of a society they wish to transform, instead of being paid employees (mostly of) the state whose task it is to educate and socially prepare the next generation for reproducing the kind of society that its “leaders”—its ruling class—deem as desirable.

As the Italian title suggests, in dealing with elements of a science of politics Mosca’s book is one that cuts across cultures, which is to say it is a structural examination, a study of the laws that lead to rulership and its class-based nature. Though the structures and laws examined by Mosca are analyzed in their historical genesis and mutations, which is to say Mosca’s study is also an historical study, as it must be given that history provides the condition of our circumstances, just as our response to circumstances also make history. Thus, it examines the changing conditions which give birth to the different social needs and opportunities for different types and classes, and hence the different priorities of governance and those who form the political class of a time and people. It is also comparativist in its approach. In his “Introduction” to the Ruling Class, Arthur Livingstone provided a good summation of Mosca’s method:

He will of course take the facts about society from any source or method that can supply them, only so they are facts—from economics, from anthropology, from psychology, or any similar science. He does explicitly reject for the political-social field any absolute exclusive acceptance of climatic or north-and-south theories, anthropological theories based on the observation of primitive societies (the question of size is important), the economic interpretation of history (it is too unilateral), doctrines of racial superiorities and inferiorities (many different race theories have had their moments of splendor), and evolutionary theories (they fail to account for the rhythmical movement of human progress—biological evolution would require continuous improvement.

The book opens with Mosca showing the inadequacy of most competing approaches to Political Science, noting that various claims to Political Science “are still, little more than philosophical, theological or rational justifications of certain types of political organization which have for centuries, played and in some cases are still playing, a significant role in human history.” Then, it proceeds to lay down the foundational fact upon which there can be political life, as well as a science of it:

Among the constant facts and tendencies that are to be found in all political organisms, one is so obvious that it is apparent to the most casual eye. In all societies—from societies that are very meagerly developed and have barely attained the dawnings of civilization, down to the most advanced and powerful societies—two classes of people appear—a class that rules and a class that is ruled. The first class, always the less numerous, performs all political functions, monopolizes power and enjoys the advantages that power brings, whereas the second, the more numerous class, is directed and controlled by the first; in a manner that is now more or less legal, now more or less arbitrary and violent, and supplies the first, in appearance at least, with material means of subsistence and with the instrumentalities that are essential to the vitality of the political organism.

Mosca then notes that “in every political organism there is one individual who is chief among the leaders of the ruling class as a whole,” but that person may not hold supreme power according to law. No head of state can rule without the support “of a numerous class to enforce respect for his orders and to have them carried out.” Indeed, it is because of the need for competing and potentially conflicting forces to be coordinated, so that peace between them reign, that a figure symbolizing unity and bearing ultimate sovereignty can act as a mediator between them. That is, it is sovereignty which is a consequence not a precondition of a larger class of “interested” parties; but once established its success depends upon a fit between the sovereign’s interests and that powerful class that commands and coordinates subordinate powers. Of course, that power is originally martial—and the Ruling Class is particularly attentive to the importance of the changing nature of armies in the transformation of ruling classes.

Mosca also notes that just as states require a unity of ends and agreeable means between the sovereign and the most powerful class which girds its authority, there is also a need to draw from the “masses” a group to facilitate and enforce the functions of the rulers. As he puts it:

and granting that he can make one individual, or indeed many individuals, in the ruling class feel the weight of his power, he certainly cannot be at odds with the class as a whole or do away with it. Even if that were possible, he would at once be forced to create another class, without the support of which action on his part would be completely paralysed. On the other hand, granting that the discontent of the masses might succeed in deposing a ruling class, inevitably, as we shall later show, there would have to be another organized minority within the masses themselves to discharge the functions of a ruling class. Otherwise all organization, and the whole social structure, would be destroyed.

…the real superiority of the concept of the ruling, or political, class lies in the fact that the varying structure of ruling classes has a preponderant importance in determining the political type, and also the level of civilization, of the different peoples.

In the chapter “Principles and Tendencies in Ruling Classes,” Mosca notes that it is the middle-class that generally supplied the personnel for the bureaucracy; that it is the moral level of the bureaucracy that signifies the moral level of the ruling class; and that the members of the bureaucracy tend to “believe in their own infallibility,” and are “loath to accept criticisms and suggestion from persons who are not of their calling.” With the expansion of the state into ever more areas of what were once considered private domains of life, and the expansion of those who work with the state, combined with those who are not of the bureaucracy generally but who are affiliated to a party and/ or committed to a political program and work in the corporate and private sector to achieve the kind of state they desire, this combination of moral assuredness and hostility to criticism threatens to generate the kind of opposition that typically leads to the overthrow of a ruling class. Just as the partitions between private and public spheres, the market and state have been pushed aside, thus indicating the death of old fashioned liberal democracy, the bureaucracy no longer has either the aspiration or pretence of being non-partisan. Its members now almost totally represent the program of the “liberal (anti-democratic) progressive.”

The totalitarian trinity of people, party, and leader(ship) has been a complete success in the United States, while most other nations still play by two party rules when it comes to the parliament, but administrations, service providers, school and university curricula, legislation regarding sexuality, policies for multiculturalism, advancement of identity politics and minorities, hate speech etc. are systematically progressive and utterly globalist. And when even it comes to the parliament, as the example of Boris Johnson and BREXIT illustrates, today there are all manner of serpentine ways that political rulers may slip from defender of the nation and its mores to employee of Globalist Inc. Ultimately the most ambitious and most driven members of a ruling class have little regard for older rules of etiquette precisely because of their own sense of moral conviction, and the ability they have to appoint and reward those who share their convictions.

The greater part of the Ruling Class is an historical analysis of the varying ruling class structures and the historical and social conditions that have given rise to them. Apart from any comparisons between Mosca and his contemporaries, who also were developing an elite theory of politics, which I touch upon below, the idea of a ruling class is most commonly associated with Marxism. But the difference between the Marxian deployment of the term to advance its own political program, and Mosca’s analysis, is two-fold—and it is this difference which I think enables us to see why Marxism is ideology, while Mosca’s work a contribution to Political Science.

First, the Marxists promise a future where there will be no ruling class. But that future could only be realized if there were a unity of purpose and such a vast coalition of interests that politics, rulership, class, and divisions between people would have ceased to exist. Thus, Marx’s claim that communism would eliminate the division of labour whist providing material abundance of a sort so that all could live according to their ability and needs. This is a unity that simply has never existed for any protracted period of time, and could only exist were different social interests eliminated—but they are generated out of the division of labour—and it is the division of labour that is the sine qua non of large-scale production, not the desire of someone to dabble in one or other form of creative productivity as it suits him.

Marx simply could not demonstrate how the elimination of the division of labour could defy everything known about economic production and create more abundance than it did when groups existed on such a small scale that what division of labour existed (such as between the sexes and the ages) was negligible. Which brings us to the second point: the Marxist future, irrespective of Marx’s own inability to see what he was doing, is nothing more than a verbal conjuration. In that sense it is the perfect means for those whose primary “skill” is rhetoric. The link between oratory, sophistry (the use of education for the advancement of one’s political power), demagoguery, and tyranny was critically observed by Plato; and that link has only become more intense within the displacement of the old ruling class by one in which verbal prowess and rationalization is fundamental to political legitimation.

Marxism is but one means by which a class, trafficking in words and ideas and persuading people to follow the objectives they lay down, and the means they authorize to achieve those objectives, has come to rule. Of course, that class needs resources; and the most common means available to it are: theft (a means used by the Bolsheviks for a relatively short while, and a means which the United States and, with the European Union, set to follow, are using in their proxy war against Russia), taxes, and donations to political parties.

Marxism did not die with the end of the Soviet-style central planning. In the West, it has survived in its non-Leninist incarnation, as an intrinsic ideological component of the Humanities curricula of elite Western universities. It has survived because it is an ideology whose endgame irreality is of no relevance to its success as an ideological way of oversimplifying reality for an aspirational ruling class keen to find a path to professional careers providing them with the power to build the world around its leadership. The particular interests of those who identify with any one of the radical variants that have come out of Marxist critique is to rule and thus decide how resources are to be deployed for which purposes by which people. This is ideologically passed off as achieving an absolute good – universal emancipation.

Marx himself appealed to a future of spontaneous universal cooperation based upon the complete mutuality of interests of the species (once the bourgeoisie were eliminated). But the impossibility of having large scale productivity and consumption growth without a market and capital investment, and of having political direction without a ruling party and state has meant that Marxism, and its various academically refined spawn, is but one piece of the ideological puzzle justifying the actuality of a ruling class that deploys a combination of value imposition, technocracy—its inevitability and spread being well noted in another very important book, James Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution—and financial control. It is achieved by a completely politicised social, pedagogical, and economic alignment or coordination of human action- what the Nazis call Gleichschaltung, which in turn requires suppressing any resistance whether of thought or deed. In so far as the process is ideological – the result of thinking built around political ideational alignments—this ruling class is far more attuned to the dangers of thoughts and words than were any inquisitors or contemporary mullahs.

In sum, while Mosca sees the ruling class as the inevitable accompaniment of all large-scale social organization, Marxism passes off the notion of the ruling class, and indeed politics itself, as but a transitory phase of social existence, whilst creating a rhetorical smokescreen for the rise of a political class that, if successful, claims to speak on behalf of universal interest and thus, if successful, should be able hold its power into perpetuity.

Typically, when Mosca’s work is raised, it is grouped along with other theorists of political elites, most notably Roberto Michels and Wilfried Pareto. Unlike Michels who had been a Marxist before becoming an anarcho-syndicalist and supporter of Il Duce, and Pareto, whose support of Mussolini was brief (Pareto died in 1923) and something of an ill-fit, given the liberal nature of his economic thought, Mosca was a liberal, but not one who was oblivious to its failures and shortcoming, and the threats posed to it by fascism—he wrestles with the problems of representative government in the book’s final chapter.

Although there was some dispute between Pareto and Mosca over who should get the prize for being the first to focus upon political elites as forming the basis of political science, the more important contrast within the elite theorists is between Mosca and Michels.

Michels’s study of the social democratic movement had led him to the observation that oligarchy was the inevitable type of all political organization; and his support for Mussolini expressed his willingness not only to embrace the fact of the inevitability of elite authority, but to endorse a political ideology in which elite power was openly factored into the political program and party.

Ironically, today, while fascism is the pejorative hurled about to discredit anyone who objects to the ticket items of globalist progressivism and corporatism, the globalist program and agenda is built around the unquestionable moral and political authority of cultural and global “leaders” who are increasingly schooled in leadership programs. The preoccupation with leadership today reaches from culture to industry to universities to politics. A jarring example of how central leadership is to politics today was to be seen in an election poster I saw nailed up all over the place in Australia’s recent election. When the poster is translated into German my point needs little further comment: ”Australien braucht einen Füherer, keinen Lügner.”

People in liberal democracies so frequently and blithely speak of politics in terms of the need for political leadership that they seem completely ignorant of the fact that unlike fascist, or communist states, in liberal democracies the most important role of the government (at least in peace time) was not to lead but to provide the conditions so that people might peaceably lead their own lives as best they saw fit.

Michels, like our present globalists, is rather typical of a certain kind of mentality that begins with abstractions and ideals about what political power may achieve if expressing the popular will, but which, in dealing with the actual requirements of maintaining political power, readily either abandons its more democratic rhetoric or simply twists it haphazardly so that it can get on with the business of directing who does what. The business of deciding who must do what—and along with this, who gets what from whom, and deciding what occurs to them, if they won’t do it, is the end of politics; and thus, a task that befalls every ruling class.

Moreover, for all the idolatry surrounding politics today, as if it is the means for solving all our problems, the state, though impossible to do without, is a blunt means (its powers are force, persuasion, and bureaucracy) of orchestrating human action. The problem with totalitarian forms of government is not that their political class makes political decisions, but the expansive combination of the range of decisions and components of life that become absorbed under their political reach and authority, and the intolerance shown towards those who question its authority.

Apart from the idolatry of progressive ideas, and leadership, the use of the state and corporations to ensconce a technocratic elite doing the ideological bidding of a globalist ruling class that demands unity in peacetime, of the sort that in a traditional liberal democratic society would only be required in wartime, is indicative of the totalitarian nature of the modern globalist project. Hence too it must control what can be said, and the best way to control that is to indoctrinate children into the values and narratives that the ruling class holds as absolute.

Also, all distinction between war and peace is being destroyed in Western democracies—we are being attacked by a never-ending series of threats requiring militant response, from the destruction of the planet due to anthropogenically induced climate change, to viruses and infectious diseases that can only be stopped if we all follow the leadership provided by pharmaceutical companies and state authorized medical “advisors,” and the numerous others who have been authorised to identify the correct information and “facts” on any topic warranting totally unified militant action.

Thus, there can never be a time when the ruling class takes a step back from its leadership role. Now we have the impending threat of an actual war—just yesterday General Milley advised the graduating class of West Point of the “increasing risk of global war.” There is, indeed, an impending threat, though the question is not only why, but whether the alliance of Western powers is actually less rather than more totalitarian than the global powers it opposes.

The great challenge of modern liberal-democracy is to maintain a political culture in which the social tensions are fecund enough to make social adaptations of a sort that prevent the political body from succumbing to either traditional ossification or progressivist delusions of governance becoming a mere shell concealing implacable wills. It is an irony that the ruling classes supporting fascism and globalism respectively positioned themselves in antithetical ideological terms with respect to the past and future—whilst both were captured by the internal dialectic of their political means: the fascists presented themselves as Rome reborn, but their emergence and the forces they mustered were all extremely modern. The globalists, on the other hand, appeal to a future free from oppression (a utopia); but they can only achieve this by the old-style means of enforced unity; what Friedrich von Hayek saw as the limited power flow of an order of taxis, which is typical of military and bureaucracy.

The Marxist tradition had gone along with the Saint-Simonian formulation that the future would be free of politics; and in its place there would simply be the administration of things. That tradition had a longer pedigree in utopian writing generally, though Rabelais’ depiction of the Abbey of Thélème had identified the nub of a tradition that runs through Rousseau, and the various socialist writers like de Mably through Saint-Simon and (in spite of their polemics against utopians) Marx and Engels: that nub was political unity. As in the Abbey of Thélème, there would be no leaders because everyone wanted the same thing and everyone did exactly what was required at the time of its requiting.

Both fascism and Marxism were born out of this faith in unity—though in the case of fascism the unity (people, state, party) required at its theoretical foundation an all-knowing, caring leader. In the case of communism, the cult of the personality was not something that was forged theoretically but developed out of necessity, as a party that had seized power in a coup, and defended it in a civil war, was faced with conflicting decisions about what to do about the food supply—should it be collectivized immediately, or allowed to operate through market inducements?—and workers who did not like the labour conditions required of them by those who had promised such liberation and now were shipping people off to prison camps.

Whether fascist or communist, these two modern responses to future-building not only required a mass that complied with what its ruling class dictated, but a mass which was ideologically committed to that ruling class and hence indoctrinated in supporting all its choices. The real difference between liberal democratic regimes and fascist and communist ones had nothing to do with abstract theories—which were, of course, prevalent enough—but with how openly one might grumble about the ruling class. One might say that the grumbling made little difference; but taking away someone’s right to grumble involves deploying state and corporate resources to that end – and hence job opportunities – it also only fuels the grumbling and discontent. Which is also partly why the levels of social discontent in so much of the Western world is so high.

The ruling class of today’s Western democracies now has no compunction in doing what the fascists, and Marxists before them did: and ultimately that is because it is the same kind of people demanding the same objective—that their will be done on earth as it is in the heaven of their ideas.

Reading Mosca will not help anyone prevent this; but reading him does help one place what is happening now in a larger, historical perspective, whilst also providing one with a healthy dose of scepticism, so that one does not fail to note that the primary interest of a ruling class is the preservation of its right to rule. In and of itself that is understandable; but the matter of whether they are doing a good enough job in facilitating the interests of the ruled is something else. And a ruling class that must control information-flows is one that has shown that it no longer cares about the interests of those they rule—which is always the beginning of their own demise.


Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen books.


Featured image: “New Gods, Old Monsters,” by David Whitlam; painted 2020.