Pierre Legendre: The Last “Renaissance Man”

Pierre Legendre (1930-2023) was one of the greatest thinkers that France has produced in modern times. His rich and nuanced thought, which encompassed history, philosophy, film, psychoanalysis, anthropology, and the law, he himself characterized as “dogmatic anthropology.” His passing on March 2, 2023 marked the end of an era in that he was the last “Renaissance man,” one learned in so many fields of knowledge, least of which was his mastery of a beautiful Latin style.

The French philosophy, Pierre Musso, author of Introductions à l’œuvre de Pierre Legendre [Introduction to the Work of Pierre Legendre], published just a few days before the thinker’s death, assesses and comments on the monumental legacy that Legendre has left behind. Professor Musso is in conversation with PHILITT, through whose kind courtesy we bring you this interview.

PHILITT (PL): The silence that followed the death of Pierre Legendre outraged some of his readers. Do you share this indignation? How do you explain the relative indifference of the academic world towards his thought and his work?

Pierre Musso (PM): I am not overly disturbed by the low media profile of Pierre Legendre’s death. Legendre himself did not particularly like the media or academic circles, and avoided them as much as possible. When one sees the tributes that the media pay, especially in the audiovisual sector, to various popular personalities—which Legendre was not—one can legitimately think that it is rather to Legendre’s glory that he was not celebrated in this way. Moreover, Legendre has always been a contrarian, on the fringes of academic and, of course, media institutions.

The real cause of this post-mortem silence, in my opinion, lies in the sheer ignorance of Legendre’s work in these circles, and in particular in France. If his work remains important and widely disseminated, notably his first film, La fabrique de l’homme occidental [The Fashioning of Western Man] (1996), with the text published in the collection of the Mille et une nuits [Thousand and One Nights], it is especially known and recognized abroad. There are already translations in German, in part in Italian, in Japanese, and some in English.

Paradoxically, many thinkers have been inspired by Legendre, often without quoting him. Legendre has been, as he himself said, “plundered” a lot, for a long time, including by intellectual luminaries who do not necessarily refer to Legendre’s work when quoting him. This is the fate of important works. His work spanned some sixty years, from the 1960s to the present. He pursued his work with constancy and on the fringes of institutions and disciplines. And this work is immense. Immense not only by its volume—some forty works, including his ten “Leçons [Lessons],” which contain the essence of his thought—but above all by its originality and complexity. I prefer to call it a cathedral work. In other words, a monument with an architecture of great complexity, but which offers several entrances and where one is free to go and admire this stained-glass window, that work of art in one corner, that text in another.

One of the aspects that explains the difficulty of apprehending Legendre’s thought is that he cannot be put away in a compartment, educed to a discipline. Legendre was not simply a jurist, a psychoanalyst, perhaps a philosopher and probably more an anthropologist. He himself would have gladly called himself “founder of dogmatic anthropology,” which is obviously incomprehensible, even dangerous, for most media.

PL: As you write in the introduction to Introductions à l’œuvre de Pierre Legendre [Introductions to the work of Pierre Legendre], “a scholar at the interface between science and poetry,” Legendre stands out from recent thinkers because of his erudite style and his multidisciplinary analysis that spans two millennia of the history of thought. In your opinion, what is Pierre Legendre’s genius—in the sense of the Latin ingenium?

PM: Legendre’s fundamental intuition is that of symbolic determinism. What is it about? Legendre places at the heart of his thought the question of why? This question was formulated, to put it simply, by a Father of the Church, Isidore of Seville, an encyclopedist of the 6th-7th century, who asked both why live and die? And how to live and die? The question of why is that of meaning; and, beyond meaning, that of the symbolic, knowing that the “speaking animal,” as Legendre calls it, constantly asks itself the question of why, and is aware of this constitutive intrigue of its being, transmitted from generation to generation. The stake, to “institute the human animal,” is to build founding narratives, myths or fictions, which answer this question of the why?

Nowadays, in Western society, the question of why is largely evacuated. Either it takes refuge in traditional religions, or society only responds to the question of how, to the question of norms and technique. We are thus faced with what Legendre calls a “wandering of the symbolic” or a “symbolic disintegration;” that is, a phenomenon of de-symbolization. This means for Legendre that there are several forms of “rationality.” That of the principle of non-contradiction, first of all, the rationality of logic in the Aristotelian sense and a fortiori in the Hegelian sense; that is to say, the constant rise in abstraction in rationality. Legendre borrows from Husserl the term of “surrationality” to characterize the West of today, where Bachelard spoke of “surrationalism,” in reference to surrealism.

The second form of rationality, fundamental, is that of the dream or the myth, where the principle of non-contradiction does not function anymore. This is the beauty of dreams, which explains why we spend half our lives dreaming, whether asleep or awake. This second rationality, just as important as the first one, is occupied by beliefs, myths, religions. This word “religion” did not please Legendre very much. In his last works, in the last ten years, since Lessons IX, he preferred the notion of “fiduciary,” borrowed from Paul Valéry. This term introduces the notion of fides, faith, which structures a civilization from its founding myth, which belongs to the symbolic, a term that could also be discussed at length.

The third form of rationality, which has often been buried in the West but which is very prevalent in many societies, concerns the corporeal. This last one gave place to Pierre Legendre’s works on the dance, La passion d’être un autre [The Passion to be Another (1978)]. If one does not have in mind these various forms of rationality of the speaking animal, one locks oneself, as the West does today at the time of the Techno-Science-Economy, only in the surrationalism or the technical, economic and techno-scientific hyperrationality.

In this respect, the accusation of conservatism made against Legendre does not stand up to analysis. Indeed, symbolic determinism is a reaction to what other currents, for example Marxists, have called “economic determinism” or still others “technical determinism.” Basically, as I write in a provocative way in these Introductions, one could link Legendre to a whole neo-Marxist or neo-Marxian current, a current which, against this formula of economic or technical determinism prevalent in Marx, Engels or Lenin, has valorized, within the Marxian matrix, the question of cultures, of the symbolic and of the imaginary. I am thinking in particular of Gramsci, Cultural Studies, the Frankfurt School (Adorno, Horkheimer). From this point of view, we can make a connection, which I myself sketched out in La Religion industrielle, between Legendre’s contribution and these currents. In any case, to classify Legendre among the conservatives is of little interest.

PL: At what moment and in which work do you situate the birth of “dogmatic anthropology” and the Legendrean project of subjecting the West to a kind of great genealogy or psychoanalysis?

PM: To understand Pierre Legendre’s project, one must first understand the meaning he gives to dogmatic anthropology. Legendre deliberately borrows a word, that of “dogma,” which he describes as “dangerous, sulfurous,” since “dogmatic” is often used to characterize fixed thought. Legendre in fact reinvests the Greek etymology of “dogma” (δόγμα), that is, that which appears and which, in its appearance, is a feint. It is thus a staging, a dramatization of the symbolic which, etymologically too, is the link that separates, according to the image of the dollar bill torn in Western filmss to find itself at the end of a contract. This link that separates refers to the unspeakable and the invisible: God, the Fatherland—one thinks of Kantorowicz’s text on the formula “to die for the Fatherland”—the Republic, Peace, and other beliefs or founding myths of our societies. For example, it seems to me that one of the major myths in the West today is that of scientific progress, established as a myth by positivism in particular. The institutions, their norms and their laws, in a society, are established and founded “in the name” of a symbolic myth, of a founding fiction. Pierre Legendre often quoted in his work this formula from the Middle Ages: Fictio figura veritatis est, i.e., “fiction is the figure of truth.” This aspect is fundamental to Legendre.

The nodal moment in Legendre’s work seems to me to be his thesis, supervised by Gabriel Le Bras and defended in 1957, entitled, “La pénétration du droit romain dans le droit canonique classique : recherche sur le mandat (1140-1254)” [“The Penetration of Roman Law into Classical Canon Law: Research on the Mandate (1140-1254”)]. Legendre was later greatly influenced by historians such as Ernst Kantorowicz or Harold Berman, who showed how the West was built, starting with what Berman called the “Big Bang of Western thought,” namely, the “papal revolution,” i.e., the Gregorian reform. For Legendre, as for Kantorowicz, this rupture of the eleventh and seventeenth centuries is the key moment when Roman law, inherited from the Empire which possessed a powerful normativity without answering the question of why, met Christianity; a kind of faith without law. This encounter was essentially born of the compilation made by the medieval jurist Gratian, an author often cited by Legendre as the founder of Western institutions, in the Decretum Gratiani or Concordia discordantium canonum (1140). This Decree, prolonging the “papal revolution,” maintains that man is governed according to two measures, which, on the level of institutions, will result in the opposition and the hierarchy between the papal authority and the power of the emperor, the spiritual foundation and the normative foundation. It is therefore the meeting of two monuments: the legal block inherited from Roman law and the heritage of Christian spirituality.

The intuition of dogmatic anthropology is really explicit in 1974, with the publication of L’amour du censeur : essai sur l’ordre dogmatique [The Love of the Censor: An Essay on the Dogmatic Order]. The notion of “dogmatic” appears clearly for the first time in the title of the work. With Jouir du pouvoir. Traité de la bureaucratie patriote [The Joy of Power. A Treatise on Patriotic Bureaucracy], these are the two founding texts of Legendre who, until 1982-1985, with the publication of Leçons II. L’empire de la vérité : Introduction aux espaces dogmatiques industriels [Lessons II. The Empire of Truth: An Introduction to Industrial Dogmatic Spaces], gave rise to a dogmatic anthropology. He then extended this reading of the Gregorian reform in the following works, sometimes giving the impression of repeating himself, as Lucien Sfez reproached him for doing when he devoted a long chapter to Legendre’s thought in his Critique de la communication [Critique of Communication]. Legendre repeats himself, in my opinion, because he discovered a fiduciary structure, an invariant throughout history, which he finds, with Kantorowicz and Berman, in the Gregorian reform: the double structure of man governed by the rationality of reason or normativity and that of myth. These two forms of rationality mentioned above were assembled during the Gregorian reform and thus constitute an institutional structure of the West.

Here we enter the second period of Legendre’s work. Indeed, Legendre establishes a junction, notably from Lessons II that led to his film Dominium mundi (2007), between the “Gratian moment,” in the twelfth century, the luminous century of the High Middle Ages, and the hyper-technological rationality of the “managerial revolution” of the twentieth century, named as such in James Burnham’s important book, published during the Second World War: The Managerial Revolution: What is Happening in the World (1941). Legendre notes that management has a relationship to the governance of the world that is faithful to Gratian’s decree but obeys a single measure: efficiency. The why is evacuated at the cost of a de-symbolization: what remains is the how, which Legendre calls the “Gospel of Efficiency,” the dogma of effectiveness that results from the industrialization of the West. His strength is thus to have noticed that from the Gregorian reform came two major institutions of the West: the State based on law, which is at the heart of his reflection, and the Enterprise based on management. His criticism of the disintegration of the State, quite rightly, makes him value management as a new form of rationality in the West.

When Legendre, in this period, tried to think the essence of institutions, he also did so from linguistics, taken up by Lacan. What characterizes the human, the speaking animal, is that he divides words and things. He thus enters, by definition, in the representation and to dissociate himself from the narcissistic image, that is to say from the enclosure, as Lacan underlined it; between oneself and his image, man needs a third party, the Big Other in the Lacanian sense. Any society is structured according to a ternary scheme, which Legendre takes from classical anthropology. But if we leave ternarity to enter a binary structure, as is the case in the contemporary West, where the institution dialogues with rationality alone, the balance of society is threatened. Any society is ternary because the human animal distinguishes words and things by the word. The first symbolic institution is therefore language. Following in Lacan’s footsteps and borrowing from Saussure’s linguistics, Legendre erects the bar that separates the signifier from the signified, a first form of institution of the Third. In the mirror stage of Narcissus, there is also a third term between the subject and his image: the mirror.

Finally, a last period of his work stands out after 2009, in the last fifteen years of his life. This moment of his thought is devoted to the question of the religious. Legendre wanted to produce a film on religion, following his three famous documentaries: La fabrique de l’homme occidental [The Fashioning of Western Man], Miroir d’une nation: l’ENA [Mirror of a Nation: Ecole Nationale d’Administration] and Dominium Mundi: l’Empire du Management [Dominium Mundi: The Empire of Management]. Having run out of time, he left us only one work, Les Hauteurs de l’Eden [The Heights of Eden] (2021). In the texts of this period, he shows a preference for the word “fiduciary,” deeming that the word “religion” is worn out. As he often wrote, one does not know a society that does not have a fiduciary architecture, a staging in aesthetics, music, theatrics, etc.; and this, whatever the society and not only in the West.

This interest in the fiduciary leads him to make one last great discovery, in Leçons IX. L’autre Bible de l’Occident : le monument romano-canonique [Lessons IX: The Other Bible of the West: The Roman-Canonical Monument]: the idea of “Schize” [“split”], according to a term borrowed from Lacan. Just as the Gregorian reform provides the link that separates, the foundation of the symbolic, the Schize designates the moment when, while the juridical block, that is to say the structure of rationality and normativity with which the West is endowed—that of management and law today—remains indestructible, the symbolic enters into complete erosion. The West can substitute a myth for the other, pass from God to the Republic, from the Republic to the Nation, to Progress, etc. At the time of the Schize, the link that separates is separated: separation prevails over religion which, etymologically, designates both the reading (religere) and the link (religare). The knot that held the two aspects, distinguishable during the papal revolution, is broken.

PL: Aware of the de-civilization that is taking place, in the light of the Techno-Science-Economy, in the “managerial West,” Legendre seemed, in his last works, to be definitively leaving a ship that is sinking more and more at each “bifurcation,” according to the term you use in Le religion industrielle. How did the author of l’Avant-dernier des jours [The Penultimate of Days] envision the next decades of the West?

PM: In several places in his work, Legendre criticized the Durkheimian approach to religion. According to Legendre, a great rupture took place from the moment when religion became an individual and subjective choice. Hence his preference for the term fiduciary. Originally, religion designates that which founds and governs the whole society which is held together by this foundation: myths, beliefs etc. Legendre criticized, for example, the existence of a free market of religions, the “to each his own belief,” which has as a consequence that the answer to the why is in the individual sphere. This de-symbolization leads, according to him, to a social disintegration, since the foundation of society, which makes it constitute and transmit itself from generation to generation, comes from the collective answer to the why, which constitutes the identity of the West and the genealogy of each society.

From the moment when religion becomes an individual matter, a free market, contemporary beliefs, in the light of the Techno-Science-Economy, come under hyper-rationalism and technical or techno-scientific hyper-rationality. The “In the name of” has moved towards Progress, Performance and Efficiency. Now, the idea of Progress being, for a while, debated and in the process of disintegration, there remains the technocratic and techno-scientific hyper-rationality. The future of the West, according to Legendre, is the capitalism of the New Age, the technolatry of Silicon Valley, transhumanism; that is to say, the myth of immortality, calling into question all the limits that are at the foundation of the symbolic. Everything that is technically and scientifically possible must be realized—such is the great myth of Silicon Valley. We are entering into a pure positivist functionalism, driven by the mythology of techno-scientific progress. In this respect, for Legendre, the West is heading for disaster. A society that frees itself or abandons the symbolic is condemned to social decay. From this point of view, Legendre is rather pessimistic.

Legendre saw what the West does not want to see of itself, according to his formula, and therefore looked at it from the perspective of foreign cultures, especially those of the South: Japan, Asia and especially Africa, which he visited a lot. There are therefore other civilizations that have not abandoned the why, or that have given it a different content: community and territory in the case of Africa, for example. Through positive globalization, the concert of nations, the West brings to light the values of other civilizations called “of the South.” In this respect, if he feared an “end of the West,” like Spengler or an “end of philosophy” in cybernetics like Heidegger, Legendre emphasized that this decline valorizes other forms of civilization and seems to call for another positive globalization in the concert of civilizations.

PL: If he willingly recognized, with Blumenberg, the “legitimacy of modern times,” Legendre exposed, on the other hand, the “medieval crucible” of this same modernity. In the “secularization quarrel,” which goes back at least to Hegel, and in which he takes part in spite of himself, what is Legendre’s position?

PM: One cannot have a society without symbolism, without a foundation of beliefs and myths; this is, as I have already expressed above, the starting point of dogmatic anthropology. This is why, according to Legendre, there is no society that can be secularized. Religions or fiduciary structures remain, even if they become secular with the industrial religion of the “techno-science-economy.” In dogmatic anthropology, it is institutions that hold a society together. Now the institution, Legendre explains, is what makes the collage between the why to live and the how to live; that is to say between the symbolic and the norm. If institutions no longer produce this “glue,” according to a term borrowed from the neo-Platonists, the structure of societies collapses. Legendre often resorts to the architectural metaphor and describes the structure of societies, built like monuments. Hence the importance, for Legendre, of genealogy and the link woven between the “medieval melting pot,” where the foundations of this monument that is the West are laid, and contemporary Management, the current face that this same West gives us to see. Since his vision of history is not linear but sedimentary, what is deepest in history, like the lava at the bottom of a volcano, can become the most burning actuality.

What interested Legendre is the invariant structure of the institutions that make up society. If today the West is faltering, this means that its institutions, starting with the State, still a major institution in the organization of nations in the democratic West, are no longer doing their job of “bonding” faith and law. Thus, the balance of the dogmatic edifice of the West is threatened. This disintegration of the state institution is a distant consequence of the Schize. At the time of the Schize, the State “recovered,” so to speak, the symbolism of the Church by transferring the theological to other Referents. Then, according to the great revolutions of its history, those identified by Harold Berman—the Papal Revolution, the Reformation, the English, French, American and Russian revolutions, as well as the managerial revolution (end of the 19th-20th century)—the West was constituted and the State borrowed different “founding References.” Today, the West speaks in the name of efficiency, borrowing the managerial doctrine, which I call in a book the State-Enterprise.

But this collapse of the edifice goes back further. In the last millennium, the Church was the great founding institution and the State largely took over the Church model. This model of the Church-State became a nation-state from the 16th century, with Machiavelli, etc. It triumphed with the Treaty of Rome. It triumphed with the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) and Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651), the acme of the State model, until the French Revolution and the beginning of the 19th century. Moreover, the State constitutes, especially in France, the pivotal institution, to which Legendre devoted his very first works, in connection with the history of administrative law for example. When Legendre sees the State becoming a “ghost,” as he writes in Fantômes de l’État en France [Phantoms of the State in France], he obviously had in mind the French model, where the State is the institution of reference. The “lassitude of the state” and its disintegration was a major concern of Pierre Legendre. I hypothesize, in several of my books, that business and management could perhaps replace, and are already serving as crutches for, this decaying state.

PL: A scholar perched on the shoulders of other scholars whose heir he readily acknowledged himself, Pierre Legendre was first and foremost a scholarly reader. If one had to make—a legendary exercise par excellence—the genealogy of his thought, with whom would you compare the author of the Leçons [Lessons]?

PM: Beyond the contribution of psychoanalysis, law, history and anthropology, Pierre Legendre was first and foremost, in my opinion, a great scholar, therefore an encyclopedist, a walking library, such as no longer exists. Legendre spent his life not only in conversations with the greatest, but in libraries all over the world, his nose in manuscripts. One can compare him, of course, to historians such as Kantorowicz or anthropologists such as Lévi-Strauss, from whom he certainly drew inspiration when he thought up his dogmatic anthropology, a reference to structural anthropology. Legendre himself cited his exchanges with André Leroi-Gourhan, who studied the relationship of the human to the world, both technical and symbolic. This duality crosses, under different forms, the work of Legendre.

Moreover, we know that he knew Lacan, that he met him frequently, that the latter helped him to publish in his book series. Legendre insisted, moreover, that his work completed a subject that the Paris Freudian school did not want to tackle, namely the institution, a blind spot in Lacan’s approach according to Legendre. However, Legendre descended more immediately from Freud. From the latter, he retained a sentence that is essential to his reasoning, found in Civilization and Its Discontents (or The Discontent in Culture), published in 1935: “If the evolution of civilization presents such similarities with that of the individual, and if both use the same means of action, would we not be authorized to make the following diagnosis: have not most civilizations or cultural epochs—even the whole of humanity perhaps—become “neurotic” under the influence of the efforts of civilization itself?”

Legendre was mostly in the line of great scholars. I am thinking of Athanasius Kircher, the German Jesuit and encyclopedist who, in the 17th century, was more important and better known than Newton. This great scholar in all fields—mathematics, astronomy, medicine, archaeology, etc. – was, for Legendre, a personal friend, whom he met and left every day, in his library. This was not limited to the producers of texts, so to speak, but concerned many artists, in literature—J.L. Borges for example, whom he met; in cinema—Chris Marker, whom he knew well and quoted in his work; in painting—Magritte, whom he often commented on. Text and image were, for Legendre, inseparable. He cherished and quoted a formula of Saint Augustine: without knowing it, man “walks in the image,” starting with his own.

Legendre’s books are, for this reason, full of images, from medieval paintings to more recent advertisements. This is not an artificial juxtaposition or gratuitous erudition; it is a way for him to show how the thought structure of a society is transmitted across generations, or beyond the medieval melting pot. From the beginning to the end of his work, his task was to detect the structure of the invariant beyond the variations.

Among Legendre’s references, one can also think of Gratian, a great jurist scholar who compiled biblical, patristic and legal texts in the 12th century. Closer to home, we can better understand Legendre by thinking of the figure of Paul Valéry: philosopher, poet and writer. In short, Legendre’s references were always other encyclopedists combining science and poetry; whatever their personal approach and the historical moment of their work.

PL: During the last twenty decades of his work, Pierre Legendre paid particular attention to young students, to whom he devoted certain essays. The Introductions, on the other hand, also testify to the diverse receptions of his work. Did Legendre seek to become a school, or at least to have an intellectual posterity?

PM: Pierre Legendre was concerned with his heritage, it seems to me, since his first film, La fabrique de l’homme occidental, that is, since 1996. The film, when I showed it to my Master’s and DEA students at the Sorbonne, was a revelation and an enlightenment for many. The documentaries that followed, the small books he published after conferences at the École des Chartes (L’inexploré [The Unexplored], 2020) or at the Lycée Louis le Grand (La Balafre: À la jeunesse désireuse [The Scar: To the Desiring Youth] 2007), for example, where he addressed a young audience, also prove that. His latest works show a concern for popularization, insofar as his work and his style are often dry and difficult.

Nevertheless, Legendre’s first concern was that of transmission: to transmit the enigma of why? The great schools and universities bathed in positivism and scientism are primarily interested in efficiency, in performance; everything appears transparent and clear. Another anthropologist, Georges Balandier, also noted that the West is in a “technological and scientific hyper-power” that avoids the economy of the why, in other words a power without meaning. Legendre left, in his own way, the same message.

Moreover, we now see international readings of Legendre, cultural appropriations of his thought. The Introductions show it well: a great scholar like Osamu Nishitani, in spite of the complexity of understanding the West from Japan, has an original and profound apprehension of Legendre’s thought. The same is true of certain German and Italian scholars. The borrowings—I spoke earlier of plundering—sometimes give way to real appropriations. Like a Michel Foucault, Legendre will in my opinion be truly recognized when he is more widely translated into English. That is also what the West is all about. That is why Legendre preferred to conduct his scholarly conversations in Latin.

“Why Ballet?” Questions from Iran

This very interesting exchange between an Iranian, Esfandiar, and Julie Cronshaw on the topic of ballet, points to the importance and necessity of the arts to properly cultivate the ground of culture so that it may yield good fruit.

Julie Cronshaw is a graduate of the Royal Ballet School’s Teacher’s Training Course and has danced professionally in ballet companies in Germany, the United States and Russia. Currently, she is the Artistic Director of the Highgate Ballet School in England. She gained her Cecchetti Teaching Diploma in 2009 and Fellowship (the highest teaching award given by the ISTD) in 2010. Julie guest teaches regularly in Paris. She is a founding member of the Auguste Vestris Society, a non-profit, Paris-based teaching organization which is dedicated to promoting classical ballet, particularly the work of great ballet masters such as Enrico Cecchetti and August Bournonville.

Esfandiar (Es): Hello Miss Cronshaw. This is Esfandiar here in Turkey but I am from Iran. My friends in the Lebanon have told me about your film Ballet’s Secret Code, on the teacher Enrico Cecchetti, and that now it has 460,000 views after two years on YT.

We have no ballet in Iran since 1979 but I like it. I feel happy when I see the people dancing to that beautiful music and I would like to do it too. Also, the Russian people here always talk about ballet and their favourite dancers. I read about it, I have learnt names for steps and watched many films. These are my questions to you about Enrico Cecchetti.

Julie Cronshaw (JC): First of all, thank you for taking the time to write to me.

It has been quite a surprise, to follow the rise in audience figures of Ballet’s Secret Code, since its release in January 2021. The project evolved from a ‘light-bulb’ moment which distilled the Method of Cecchetti’s Days of the Week into a few simple principles, and which I felt needed to be shared. When the project was finally finished I could say to anyone who asked: if you want to know, it’s on film and the information is freely available to all.

What has been even more of a surprise is to receive and read the hundreds of interesting comments and questions from across the world. There have been some lively debates on aspects of ballet as an art form and how the principles relate not only to other kinds of dance and sports, but also to society in general.

Es: What is the difference between what they teach in Russia today, and Cecchetti ? Is Cecchetti too old-timer for stage-dancing now?

JC: To be honest, the only ballet classes in Russia that I have seen recently are on the internet and the last time I watched a Russian ballet company live in London was when the Bolshoi Ballet visited a few years ago. Their dancers are so superb technically and artistically, and the love, reverence and understanding they have for the art form is palpable, I don’t wish to criticise…that would be petty and small-minded of me! Cecchetti -and a decade or two before him, August Bournonville- were not wrong when they said that the light of Terpsichore would shine again in Russia when it had dimmed in Europe.

Still as we say here, ‘A Cat may look at a King’ and when I watch a Russian ballet class sometimes it is interesting to see how the dancer’s anatomy is pushed far beyond what I believe to be aesthetically and morally acceptable. This is a personal observation! I state it clearly on the documentary, a dancer’s body is their instrument, don’t trash it! Do you not wince in empathic pain when you watch unnecessary contortion and the extreme stretching? This is in their classes and onstage as much as it is in so many other companies and schools around the world.

Also I notice the ‘international style’ combinations one sees in so many ballet classes everywhere (Jean-Guillaume Bart of the Paris Opera refers to them as ‘McDonalds’ ballet’) are creeping into some of their company classes too.

When I danced briefly in Russia in 1994, the company classes were full of ballet steps I recognised from my Cecchetti ballet training and had not otherwise seen for a while – I was living in the USA at the time and not studying Cecchetti Method. The Vaganova style is different but the principles are the same, exactly as they were back then, as far as I experienced for the short time I was there in that company.

The Russian dancers are otherwise so fabulous and they deliver what an audience expects these days, which would be a short answer to the second part of your question: is Cecchetti too much of an old-timer for today’s stage dancing? I fear “Yes, at the present time”. This could all change and hopefully for the better, because we can all see how the Western world is descending into a very dark place at a very fast pace.

Artists have always reflected the society around them and this includes its moral, cultural, philosophical and spiritual aspects. Whether one likes or loathes what a choreographer puts onstage, it usually reflects some of these aspects in his creations. I discovered just how prescient a well-known contemporary choreographer is, when I gave a presentation on ballet, ballet training and the arts in the summer of 2021 and showed an excerpt on video. I’m not sure if the piece was intended to be for or against trans-humanism and the war on women, but it was quite frightening and some of the audience asked me to switch off the video as it made them feel sick.

If one can be optimistic about the future of humanity then there is a place for Cecchetti’s Method in the ballet companies of that world. Cecchetti’s training is moral, as well as anatomically sound, and of great artistic merit. The old laws of England tell us: Be honest, do no harm and cause no loss. Cecchetti would surely agree.

Es: I do a lot of sports, but I would one day like to try ballet. I see that the Italian man in your film does not have today’s special ballet physique. But he can do the steps. The ballerina is quite old and can still do all the steps. You are quite old and can do the steps, too. So, is it necessary to be young and have special ballet physique to dance Cecchetti correctly?

JC: How does one define “old”!? When you watch those of us with maturity who can dance those Cecchetti combinations, we do not feel “old” because the enchaînements (step combinations) do not require us to push our muscles, ligaments and joints beyond their limits. We enjoy and appreciate the sophistication of these wonderful combinations, where younger dancers cannot, yet. And we do not need to compete with the ballet-gymnast who can kick up their legs for effect when we are instead, whether consciously or not, exploring the geometric shapes and Platonic forms within an adage set to a Beethoven sonata. There is of course a minimal necessary technical requirement and a very high bar is set for some of the combinations, but this is classical ballet and an art form to be studied for years, decades, not just a jog around the gym.

It is recommended that if one wishes to become a competent practitioner of anything, better to start when one is young – but Cecchetti Method does not preclude beginners who are adults or dancers with less than perfect physique. As it is a Method based on the efficient mechanical actions of the human body in motion, it can be taught to anyone who is willing and reasonably able to learn it.

Es: I notice that Cecchetti seems very decent, I think it’s the word, compared to today’s ballet. There seem to be more steps to the music, difficult, fast steps; it is less exhibitionist, less putting the body on show. In the Middle East, we don’t like it when private things are shown in public. Cecchetti could be more popular in the Middle East because of decency. Do you think?

JC: Cecchetti lived and worked at a time when people were more modestly clothed and classical ballets favoured elaborate costumes, a story, and step combinations.

As the 20th century wore on, what became “acceptable” in society (or rather, it has been proposed, what has been thrust upon us by influential people intent on pushing their own agenda) also became acceptable on the stage. As I mentioned above, artists reflect what is going on around them, so ballet styles have changed too. Of course you can argue, times have to change, but one should always strive for better in any age, or leave that which is good and true to serve as a baseline from which to begin to explore the new.

The classical ballet can so clearly express the most noble expressions of humanity in form and movement and yes, simply through steps! It’s a language.

We have now reached a point here in the West where we are scraping the bottom of the barrel culturally and morally, and it’s in the arts as well. There is a profound disgust that many of us feel when we are subjected to the unmentionably vile ugliness of modern art. As spectators we must distance ourselves from it or we will suffer emotional and spiritual abuse, which causes us long term psychological damage and leads to societal moral decline and degradation.

Es: I study physics. You write on your Website The Cecchetti Connection that Cecchetti knew about the physical principles that he put into each day of class for one week. Why is that important? Instead of just thinking up nice moves to keep students happy?

JC: Without standing upon the basic physical principles of movement that correspond to natural law, dancers would, almost literally, not have a leg to stand upon.

The beauty of Cecchetti’s Days of the Week is that each day concentrates both the dancer’s body AND mind on a specific set of steps with similar movement qualities, and builds upon their complexity and variety as the dancer’s competency and artistry develops. As a result, the dancer’s competency and artistry also develop through the repetition and increase in complexity of the original basic step of the day—and the following week this step returns to provide the theme for that day’s class.

Just as the ballet class is structured with a barre and centre work, Cecchetti took the structure and development of basic movement principles one by one, and taught them in their most obvious order, across six days of the week. They begin on Monday with the notion of aplomb and progress to the Saturday class of bouncing allegro.

It’s a very disciplined and highly organised method of working that constantly scales up the dancer’s capacity to improve technique and movement possibilities. Just kicking up the legs, doing multiple turns and throwing oneself across the floor with a few fancy circus tricks is not only hazardous, but also eventually stagnates the mind and will have the opposite effect on any thinking dancer whose level of artistry would otherwise grow with maturity, even as their pliancy and strength starts to decline.

Es: You are a Fellow of the Imperial Society of Dancing, Cecchetti branch. Someone told me that it is harder than getting a PhD, so many years of study and theory, and you have to dance all the steps well too. How did you learn all the things that you know about Cecchetti ? Who are the teachers who were your guides?

JC: I could not comment on a comparison of the difficulties of becoming a Fellow in the Cecchetti Method with the challenges of attaining a PhD! When one has danced classical ballet all one’s life, and then teaches, at some point it becomes either an obvious or natural progression to study in depth the Method learned for so many years.

I am thankful to all my many ballet teachers for sharing their years of experience, knowledge and wisdom. I was not Cecchetti-trained as a child, and when I lived in the USA I was a professional dancer, working with my former husband, whose career was with American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Ballet.

As a student at the Royal Ballet School, I studied with the internationally-renowned Cecchetti teacher Richard Glasstone and then trained on and off with him over many years.

Roger Tully has been the most profoundly influential ballet teacher I have ever worked with, and he taught a completely different style of ballet class, but always stated the principles.

It was because of his teaching that I put two and two together and realised the underlying principles behind Cecchetti’s Days of the Week. In 2007, I was lucky enough to be asked to join the Société Auguste Vestris, a not-for-profit teaching society in Paris, whose founder is a woman of exceptional intellectual and practical capabilities, Katharine Kanter. The extraordinary people that Katharine knows from around the world and has brought together—either to become part of the society or to give presentations and workshops—has stimulated a quest for knowledge, and for certain it sparked off a latent intellectual predisposition that sent me down the path I’ve been on ever since!

Thanks to Katharine, a series of lucky happenstances, useful contacts and the financial support from the AV Society, I was able to persuade two dancers to take part in the film and find the spaces and the time to rehearse them. Then the film itself gradually came together! I read all I could find on Cecchetti and his contemporaries. His life story often provides a background context when I am occasionally asked to write an article for a Cecchetti or other dance journal.

Es: I have watched many films from the 50s and 60s. For example, Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes in The Swan Lake, 1960. The music is very fast, faster than today. But she can do all the steps in time, very fast “inside” turns and very fast backbend, or else tilting sideways or forwards on one leg off-balance. She was old then, 40, but she doesn’t seem worried. Her muscles are pretty; she doesn’t look athletic. Today, the girls look like sportswomen with big muscles, they are tense and push the steps hard. Why is that? Is ballet a sport?

JC: Margot Fonteyn was not only an artist of the highest level but also a very special human being, according to the anecdotes of those who knew and worked with her. The artist reflects their state of being and doing through their art. Dancers today are not educated to think and act either inside or outside of the studio, in the way that Fonteyn did.

During the decades that Fonteyn was a prima ballerina, Cecchetti Method was still being taught extensively in London, for example at the Royal Ballet School even though the Founder and Director of the Royal Ballet company at that time, Dame Ninette de Valois, was already looking around internationally for teachers and dancers to enhance the technical level of the company, its prestige and global appeal. The style of the Royal Ballet, exemplified by the choreography of Frederick Ashton, showed intricate footwork, lyrical lines and fluid port de bras. It developed as a combination of the teaching of the first and second generation of Cecchetti trained dancers, Ballets Russes emigres, and other independent ballet teachers from around the world.

This style of dancing depended upon step choreography and gestures to convey a story or sometimes an abstract idea. It was the way things were done in those days, and it wasn’t the fashion to dance onstage in one’s underwear. Nor to kick the legs up and perform ballet tricks for sensational effect. This is maybe why dancers today push so hard and have the big muscles and dance like it’s a sport: the training encourages effect and show, not so much anymore the crystallisation into form of an idea or ideal from the realm of the imagination, and projected through the highly contrived – and perfectly suited for it- environment of the theatre stage.

As a side note, one cannot say that dancers from those mid 20th century decades could not do the tricks, like the fouettés and so on, of course they could, but there was another aesthetic that took precedence over the effects. Technique was used as a means to an end not its end. Ballet is an art not a sport.

Es: I have also watched the Russian ballet films from the 50s and 60s. I enjoy to see the girls like Svetlana Efremova or Gabriela Komleva. Other girls are good too. They could do anything, jump high, criss-cross very fast with the feet, also doing very hard steps on their toe-tips. They seem better than the girls today, stronger, telling about the music, and also, making it look easy. Why is that?

JC: They are fabulous yes aren’t they? The technique taught in those days was more likely focused on step combinations and different kinds of steps rather than stretching and effects, as I’ve tried to explain in replying to your previous question! When one takes up more time in class stretching at the barre, obsessing over the height of an arabesque, hitting those numbers for pirouettes and wondering how one is going to look wearing not much more than a leotard or shorts that evening onstage, it must surely change one’s approach to training!

I have a theory that the rampant narcissism in society and especially in the ballet, is in no small part, brought about by the ongoing unpleasant cultural changes being forced upon us at all levels, the abusive, un-education system, the horrendous global situation, political lawlessness and the pervading sense of uncertainty in the world that dancers pick up upon because they are artists and reflect that which is around them.

Es: I have watched films with American men dancing classical ballet now. Their leg muscles seem bulged up, especially the quadriceps, and they seem to put the weight to their toes. I am a sportsman and I don’t put the weight on my toes. The American men are thin but they look heavy. Why is that?

JC: The body is a heavy and solid object! When one puts weight over the toes the direction of force is directed downwards and the effort required to shift it is more than when the weight is distributed about the central axis – and where the musculature in the torso can be more efficiently directed.

When the legs do more work proportionately to that of the torso it becomes obvious that the muscles in the legs will develop disproportionately to the muscles in the torso.

Es: Does Cecchetti have special steps, special training, for men ? Do the feet have to be pointing outwards as much as in modern ballet which is 180°?

JC: There are lovely combinations for the male dancer including long, sustained adages, some choreographed and complex others using simple repetition of movements and poses in the basic directions of the body. There are slow adagio pirouettes (turns) and fast, virtuosity pirouettes, for which the Maestro was renowned in his dancing years, and all sorts of jumps, not just the big leaps across the stage but bouncing combinations (in the style of Bournonville), petite and grande batterie (criss-crossing the legs in beats close to, or farther off the floor)) and unusual, off-balance combinations that wouldn’t look out of place in a contemporary class!

No, the feet do not have to be turned out to 180 degrees, and Cecchetti’s 5th position doesn’t over- cross, which helps to keep the legs turned out at the thigh and facilitates speed.

Es: I saw your “Tips for a Ballet Teacher.” You talk about renversé (bending strongly and turning upon oneself, either towards (en dedans) or away (en-dehors) from the standing leg). I don’t understand how you can hold off-balance like that while moving downwards or turning. You don’t fall down. Is it special muscles you use? Or is it the move that helps you?

JC: It’s the momentum of the turn generated by the torso, the correct carriage and use of the head as it’s heavy, and the coordination of the legs and arms, all of which are vital for carrying the momentum of the renversé and enabling the recovery, especially if it’s into a position of extension en l’air (the gesture leg is fully stretched and held in the air), as in renversé en dedans.

Es: I saw that Lebanese teenagers have sent you a video of a ballet they made up, to honour Cecchetti, after they watched your film. Please tell about that.

JC: The YouTube video made by this couple (who were young but not teenagers, if I recall!) was made during one of the Covid lockdowns. They rehearsed and produced a pas de deux in the summer heat, in a ruined building which was little more than a shell, and the piece they created, was very simply and honestly done, sincere and very artistic. I was contacted through the Ballet’s Secret Code e-mail address and sent the link. It reminded me of what Roger Tully used to say in class sometimes, and it would be said not in irony, but as a high compliment:

“It could almost be dancing!”

Featured: Anna Pavlova in the Ballet Sylphyde, by Valentin Serov; painted in 1909.

Socrates on the Radio

It’s eleven o’clock on Tendencies Radio. It’s time to hand it over to George Waddle for his program “Open Mind.” Hello George.

Hello, Armanda. Hello all. Welcome to this new edition of “Open Mind,” along with Claudine Idiotintown. Good morning, Claudine. How are you this morning?

Good morning, George. That’s a beautiful shirt you’re wearing!

Isn’t it? Today we welcome the philosopher, Socrates. Good morning, Socrates.

Socrates greets kindly.

“He’s really ugly.” Claudine whispers in the host’s ear. “Thank God we’re not on TV.”

Hello, Socrates. Hello…!

Why doesn’t the clown answer? thinks Waddle. But like the good professional he is, he continues.

So, Socrates, you are a famous philosopher. You have written a lot.

No, by Zeus, I have not written anything.

You haven’t written anything?

Not one line.

But, but, OK. Well, I really want to ask you your opinion on something that concerns us all. Yesterday, as you certainly know, the prestigious site Manip-Media published a damning report about the minister, Constant Waffler. Let’s recall what happened. The young Waffler stole three or maybe it was four marbles from Stephanie Gasbag when both were in kindergarten and, when latter complained, Waffler replied, “Girls don’t know how to play marbles!” The association Stop Girlphobia immediately denounced this slip of the tongue and demanded the head of the minister, and the leader of the opposition followed suit. In short, here we are in the middle of Wafflergate. What do you think, Socrates?

I don’t know. I am not able to answer that question.

But come on, Socrates, such a violation of equality, of justice!

What justice are you talking about?

Well, justice, you know, justice!

But isn’t justice a difficult question?

Yes… no…. And you Socrates, what is your definition of justice?

I don’t know. Justice is lived rather than defined. I talked about it with Thrasymachus and we agreed that injustice is a vice and justice a virtue.

Thrasymachus, Thrasymachus, who is this weirdo? But then Waddle said to himself that he had found a good angle of attack and continued.

A vice, a virtue. Those words sound a lot like what a reactionary would say. You wouldn’t be a reactionary, would you, Socrates?

I don’t know. What do you mean by reactionary?

You know, those narrow-minded people, those backward-looking people, those populists.

You know, the only thing I know is that I know nothing. I wouldn’t be able to answer that.

Well, then would you be on the side of the populists?

I don’t know. What do you mean by populist?

This guy’s impossible, thought Waddle. But bravely he continued

You know, Socrates, these people who criticize the elites, these narrow-minded, these reactionaries.

No, I don’t know.

Well, finally, to which side do you belong?

Which sides are you talking about?

But Socrates, did you just crawl out under a rock? I’m talking about the opposition between people of progress, the people of the Enlightenment and the conservatives, the retrogrades. And Socrates, will you stop answering my questions with questions?

Why? Is it forbidden to ask questions?

No, but the rule is that the journalist asks questions and the guest answers

Yes, but is that a good rule?

Oh, that’s not the point, Socrates.

I mean, why don’t journalists want to be asked questions?

Because that’s how an interview should be. But tell me, Socrates, aren’t you one of those people who scapegoat journalists, who constantly criticize them?

You know, I’m new in this country. I wouldn’t want to pass judgment. But why can’t we criticize journalists?

That’s a different question entirely! But the answer is easy—because journalists embody freedom of expression, because to criticize them is to undermine freedom, democracy.

What freedom are you talking about?

There you go again! Freedom of expression at all costs! This is obvious.

For example, does the freedom of expression of journalists include the freedom to say uncertain or erroneous things?

Uh, what are you talking about? No, of course not.

Does it include the freedom to say untrue things?

No, no, no. Look, I’m asking the questions!

Let me finish. I will be brief. So, you agree that the freedom of expression is based on something beyond it?

Maybe, maybe not. But, please, Socrates, let’s get back to the subject. Let’s go back to… I don’t know.

Let’s go on, if you don’t mind. What is freedom of expression for?

Now you’re getting annoying. But how should I know. They never talk about these things in journalism schools.

What freedom of expression is based on, wouldn’t that be the real thing?

Yes, maybe, if you like.

So, the freedom you claim is the freedom to tell the truth?

Yes, that’s it, that’s it.

So, if a journalist does not tell the truth, is it not reasonable to criticize him?

If you want to, yes, but that never happens.

Are you saying that journalists are infallible and that they abhor cheating?

Oh, that’s too much! Thank you, thank you, Socrates! This was Open Mind, a program by… by… Waffler George. Next week, …well…, you’ll see. A few ads up next.

As he left the studio, a gaggle of journalists were all over Socrates. He managed to escape, but one of them, the fastest, the youngest, caught up with him.

“Please, Socrates, please, a word. If I come back empty-handed, my editor will fire me. Besides, I know you. I’ve read your disciple, Plato.”

Socrates stopped.

“I work for Time,” said the young man with pride. And he quickly continued:

“Here, here is my question. I’m sure it will interest you. You say in the Phaedrus that the written word is inherently defective because one cannot know to whom one is speaking, whereas the spoken word allows one to tell each person what it is good for him to hear. So, why did you agree to speak on the radio? You will tell me that you spoke without a doubt, but radio has the defects of the written word—you could not know precisely to whom you were speaking.”

Yes, yes, I congratulate you. But can you say that I said many things on the radio?

“Yes, well, no. I mean you asked a lot of questions.”

That’s my usual way. But do you think we’ve gone too far?

“I suppose you’re going to blame the journalists again.”

I’m just asking if an ordinary radio interview lends itself to dialectic, I mean to a real dialogue.

“But it certainly does. The microphone was all yours.”

Isn’t it true that radio journalists usually stay on the surface of things?

“You are very severe!”

That they shy away from developments?

“But that’s the law of the genre!”

That they like to make a show of things and play the arbiter of elegance?

“Now, you’re exaggerating!”

And that the best thing to do is to make the journalist pass an examination that is useful to him and to those who listen?

“Ah, that’s it. You went to the radio to say bad things about the radio! Or rather, to show off. But, but I can’t write what you say. My editor would have a fit. Tell me something I can write. I don’t know, about… about… OK. What advice would you give to a young man?”

But, my young friend, I don’t know anything. I am only trying to give birth to the mind of the one I am talking to.

“Go ahead, go ahead, I am ready.”

I would be happy to, if it were possible, but time is too short. I have to be at the Champs Elysees this afternoon.

Philippe Bénéton is Professor emeritus of Rennes I and is the author of Le dérèglement moral de l’OccidentLes fers de l’opinionIntroduction à la politiqueLe conservatisme. This interview appears courtesy of La Nef.

Giorgio Locchi and the Suprahumanist Myth

Philosopher, journalist and essayist, Giorgio Locchi (1923-1992) was one of the tutelary figures of non-conformist thought, which deeply influenced two streams: the New Right and Neo-paganism (with the myth of the Suprahuman). In this interview, his son Pierluigi Locchi explores the essential ideas of his father. The interview, conducted by Eyquem Pons, appears through the kind courtesy of Revue Éléments.

Eyquem Pons (EP): Many readers are unaware of the very existence of Giorgio Locchi. Can you resituate who he was? His life, his struggles, his passions?

Pierluigi Locchi (PL): I will answer your question by mentioning some key stages in his life.

Born in Rome on April 15, 1923, my father entered the Nazareno College by competitive examination at the age of ten. Four years later, his Italian and Latin teacher, Padre Vannucci, gave him a book on his fourteenth birthday with these words: “This book is on the Index, but as you will get there one day anyway, I want to be the one who gave it to you. This book was The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music by Friedrich Nietzsche. My father remembered it all his life: “Thanks to him,” he confided to me one day, “I discovered that others felt the same things as me!”

At the end of the war, just 22 years old, my father had to give up higher studies in philosophy that he would have liked to pursue, since he had to provide for his parents quickly. Having opted for a doctorate with a faster course, in philosophy of law, he had nevertheless been chosen by his professor to succeed him in the chair of philosophy of law at La Sapienza University in Rome. Unfortunately, for financial reasons, he could not afford to wait the necessary number of years and took up a career as a journalist. This took him to Paris in 1957, as a correspondent for the Roman daily Il Tempo, where he remained until the end of his life.

The 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s saw Girogio Locchi holed up in his office, but he did end up finding the audience that the University of Rome had not been able to give him, initially in the circle of young French intellectuals frequenting the Librairie de l’Amitié and gathered around the magazine Europe-Action by Dominique Venner and Jean Mabire, among whom a certain Alain de Benoist already stood out, and then especially in the community gathered around GRECE ( Research and Study Group for European Civilization) of which he was one of the co-founding members. Though my father was also a member of the editorial board of the magazine Nouvelle École, to which he contributed very regularly until 1979, his role was rather different. Being the thinking head of this new movement, Locchi was more than a philosopher, journalist, essayist and thinker; he was, as Guillaume Faye rightly wrote, “an awakener and a dynamiter,” exactly in the spirit of Friedrich Nietzsche.

And a whole generation of intellectuals has drunk from the spring of this master, who, after having evolved within or around GRECE and then branched off, still constitutes today the spearhead of non-conforming thought, starting with Alain de Benoist, today the undisputed leader of the New Right. And “old-fashioned” master, my father transmitted a lot orally. I remember in particular the two years when he received on Tuesday evenings in our house in Saint-Cloud, near Paris, a whole assembly of students and young workers, eager for knowledge, gathered in particular for two training periods, one dedicated to Richard Wagner and the other to Friedrich Nietzsche. Who would have believed that? On this double filiation rests a good part of the intellectual formation of those who played and still partly play a preponderant role in European nonconforming culture.

Another great passion of my father was music, and perhaps above all the work of Richard Wagner. I will be eternally grateful to him for letting me discover Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at Bayreuth at the age of eleven! Among his other areas of interest, some, such as history, linguistics, our Indo-European past, are well-known. Others, such as quantum physics or logic, are less so. All his knowledge, all his passions, however, were always put by him at the service of a work of unveiling, with Giorgio Locchi holding particularly to his role as historian.

If the history of which he speaks to us is clearly part of a suprahumanist perspective, which I will have the opportunity to speak about, he has always insisted on the role which must be that of any historian, which is to carry out an analysis, sine ira et studio, without hatred or passion, as Spinoza said, that is to say without letting his own necessarily partisan positions influence the way in which this analysis is presented; therefore without taking sides in the exposition of the facts, or more exactly, specifying each time in what perspective, from what point of view the facts are presented. From there, the fight of his whole life became one of working for the understanding of what the suprahumanist myth is, what are the different forms in which it has successively manifested itself for more than a century and a half, and in what it carries within it, which is the renewal of our civilizational heritage. It is a work of both historian and philosopher, the same myth taking each time, from Wagner to Nietzsche, from Heidegger to Locchi, to name but a few, a new form in whoever carries it within him, by the laws of becoming.

EP: What does it bring to this family of thought?

PL: I am always wary of exaggerated enthusiasm and grandiloquent assertions, but I have to repeat the terms used by Guillaume Faye in his “Archaeofuturist reflections inspired by the thought of Giorgio Locchi”: “I weigh my words carefully—without Giorgio Locchi and his work, which is measured by its intensity and not by its quantity, and which also rested on a patient work of oral formation, the real chain of defense of European identity would probably be broken.”

It is therefore a major contribution in two ways, and major for looking to the past, for considering our present, or for projecting ourselves into the future. Major, first, for looking to the near past, considering his work of formation of the new generations of the 1970 and 1980s, generations which in France and in Europe carry today the most radical alternative and innovative thought in face of the system in force, a true system “to kill the people,” as Guillaume Faye rightly wrote. Second, major for looking to the distant past, considering the centrality, that he was the first to grant in the post-war period, to the significance of the Indo-European fact. Regarding our present, we owe him the highlighting of the epochal conflict, recently appeared, between the opposite historical tendencies, irreconcilable and irreducible to each other, which are the egalitarian bimillennial tendency and the suprahumanist tendency. This is a particularly valuable key to understanding. Moreover, the suprahumanist perspective allows the definition of what is common to the various sensibilities and organizations that compose it, beyond the visions and the individual or partisan specificities. As for the future, it is by this same suprahumanist perspective that Locchi allows us to think the alternative to the anthropological decline that Europe is experiencing and to aim at a rebirth of Europe that is only conceivable by the regeneration of our history.

EP: What is the importance of the two works, Wagner, Nietzsche et le mythe surhumaniste (Wagner, Nietzsche and the Suprahumanist Myth), and Définitions (Definitions) by Giorgio Locchi?

PL: First of all, a clarification. Only the essays that appeared in Nouvelle École some fifty years ago are being “reissued” in Wagner, Nietzsche et le mythe surhumaniste—and the half-century that has passed is in itself an answer to your question. Wagner, Nietzsche et le mythe surhumaniste remained unpublished until now. Even though it takes up the theme of Nouvelle École, no. 31, this book is entirely reformulated in the perspective of the author’s open theory of history, which constitutes a key to interpretation briefly sketched out in one or two writings published in France in the 1970s, and brought out here for the first time. This is therefore its first presentation to the French public.

Giorgio Locchi’s work is central for those who want to think about the new European renaissance. It even constitutes a true unveiling, Locchi allows us to understand how and why, after having passed through pagan antiquity and the Western Christian cycle, European identity finds itself today, in a world undergoing profound change, in the midst of forgetting itself, for some, and in the midst of rediscovering itself, for others.

Even unfinished, his work represents for me a true cornerstone of our vision of the world, in the same way as the works of Wagner, Nietzsche or Heidegger, which is why I am delighted that the Iliad Institute is committed to publishing in the coming years the complete texts written by the Roman philosopher.

EP: What is the place for suprahumanism today? And what is the difference between anti-egalitarianism and transhumanism?

PL: I will answer in one or two sentences, by affirming first of all that the suprahumanism corresponds to the crossing of a new stage by the European man and the European civilization, and that by this very fact it is situated in a stage of conscience superior to the one of egalitarianism—which cannot be the case of the simple anti-egalitarianism that is satisfied with inverting a scale of values that would not be convenient for it in egalitarianism. I will also add that transhumanism corresponds to the egalitarian way, to face the anthropological mutation that we know today, and a way whose harmful consequences can be fought only by the suprahumanist vision.

EP: Could you elaborate further?

PL: Certainly, I am well aware of the innovative aspect of the “suprahumanist principle,” and it is therefore necessary, here more than ever, to define the terms we use.

Suprahumanism is this new historical tendency whose founding myth appeared almost at the same time in Wagnerian dramas and sacred scenic representations and in the Nietzschean philosophy and poetics. The suprahumanist tendency spread like wildfire throughout Europe, which in the second half of the 19th century was largely ready to welcome it, in all artistic, cultural and political circles. The founding myth that animated this tendency carried with it a new vision of historical time, the one that Heidegger would define as “authentic temporality,” in which man expresses his historicity, his being-for-history, and that my father named the “three-dimensional conception of historical time,” a spherical vision of historical space-time.

This conception was consubstantial with the work of the authors of the German Conservative Revolution, as with that of a Gabriele d’Annunzio and even of a Charles Maurras. I quote Giorgio Locchi:

“The suprahumanist conception of time is no longer linear, but affirms the three-dimensionality of the time of history, time inextricably linked to that one-dimensional space which is the very consciousness of every human person. Every human consciousness is the place of a present; this present is three-dimensional and its three dimensions, all given together as the three dimensions of physical space are given together, are the actual, the become and the to-be.

“This may seem abstruse, but only because we have been used to a different language for two thousand years. Indeed, the discovery of the three-dimensionality of time, once made, turns out to be a kind of Columbus egg. What is indeed human consciousness, as a place of time immediately given to each of us? It is, on the dimension of the personal becoming, memory, that is to say the presence of the past; it is, on the dimension of actuality, the presence of the spirit in action; it is, on the dimension of the future, the presence of the project and of the pursued goal, project and goal which, stored and present to the spirit, determine the action in progress.”

Giorgio Locchi’s first contribution is precisely to highlight this kinship beyond the strong specificities of each one; this common vision of history; this way of feeling man as a historically free being, which constitutes an absolute novelty: “What we have called up to now the past, the historical past, exists in fact only on the condition of being in some way present, and present to consciousness. In itself, as the past, it is insignificant, or more precisely, ambiguous: it can mean opposite things, have opposite values: and it is each of us, starting from our personal ‘present’, who decides what it should mean in relation to the foreseen future.”

Likewise, Locchi notes, suprahumanist authors “always attach the idea of ‘myth’ to that of ‘revolution,’ within the framework of a conception of history in which the linearity of historical becoming is no longer more than an appearance, in which the ‘origin’ returns in each ‘present,’ is born from each ‘present’ and rises from each ‘present’ toward the future in a project.”

Suprahumanism, as defined by my father, is therefore not an expression or a trend among others, but the common matrix of all artistic, literary, cultural, political or metapolitical expressions aiming at the rebirth of our European civilization, whenever the latter is seen as having come to the end of a cycle and condemned to “rebirth or death.” Another definition—in a way, the term “suprahumanism,” was chosen by Locchi in homage to the Zarathustrian myth of Friedrich Nietzsche.

EP: We are indeed moving away from anti-egalitarianism.

PL: If every suprahumanist is, by definition, in the camp opposed to the egalitarian tendency, every anti-egalitarian does not necessarily belong to the suprahumanist camp, since there is also an anti-egalitarianism that claims egalitarian values simply inverted, such as Satanism, for example.

It should be noted here above all that the appearance of the new suprahumanist historical tendency has allowed the two-thousand-year-old egalitarian tendency to become aware of itself and its unity beyond the differences of the religious, philosophical and political currents that compose it. This explains the ever-increasing “unnatural” rapprochements between the Church and communist unions, between financial oligarchies and anarchist or revolutionary “ecologist” movements, and so on.

There remains the question of transhumanism. Independently of the lexical proximity with the term of suprahumanism, which readily creates at times a confusion, what makes the question particularly complex, is that one meets supporters and detractors of transhumanism in the egalitarian camp and in the superhumanist camp, each one going off its own definition, privileging this or that aspect, and ignoring others.

Let’s try to see more clearly.

Here too, the work of Giorgio Locchi is of great help, but I must once again move the cursor and refer first this time to his description of the three great stages passed by man in the course of his history, and which correspond to three types of social organization. There is no question of going into detail here about hominization, the Neolithic revolution and the contemporary technological revolution. I refer, in particular for the first two, to the second part of the study on ” Lévi-Strauss et l’anthropologie structurelle [Lévi-Strauss and structural anthropology],” in particular in Définitions.

However, I point to an essential observation: where man transforms his environment, he transforms himself. The first man created himself by giving himself, through culture, the means to live in spite of his incomplete biological condition—indeed, where the animal is inscribed in the specific environment given to each species, benefiting from a mode of use inscribed in its genetic code, man is born incomplete and defenseless, exposed to the hostility of the world. No fur to protect himself from the cold, no claws to defend himself, etc. In other words, where the animal has received everything by its own inheritance, where it is born finished, man, in addition to his own biological inheritance which leaves him unfinished, needs a period of extra-uterine gestation, then a long period of education, to appropriate the cultural inheritance, starting with language, which will make him become man. If, as an unfinished mammal, man survived, it is because he forged himself, by forging his own culture, that is to say the weapons that allowed him to create his own environment; he adapted to his needs according to the objectives that he set himself. These can obviously differ according to the types of man and the latitudes, but a constant is common to this first hunter-gatherer man—he is himself both subject and object of his own domestication.

EP: Then the Neolithic revolution.

PL: Things changed radically with the Neolithic revolution, when man added a new string to his bow, that of domesticating living nature. Now, domesticating living nature implies sedentarization and specialization, and therefore a radical modification of the social organization. Locchi indicates in several essays, short and concise, of a crystalline clarity, how our Indo-European ancestors faced this revolution, making their own this new type of man, assuming this splitting of the originally unique man in different types of men and solving the problem through the communitarian link and the assumption of a common destiny. They thus projected a pantheon in which the gods, human and too human, embody the ideal of a world where man has become multiple, while reflecting in their functional trilogy—Jupiter, Mars, Quirinus to put it in the manner Roman—the three social functions (priestly, warlike and productive) of Neolithic society, which the Indo-Europeans therefore conceive of as a community of destiny, chosen and even desired, with its uncertainties. The acceptance of this becoming, in which divided man rediscovers his original unity, is what we call the tragic meaning of history. But Locchi also indicates how, for another part of humanity, this revolution was, on the contrary, a curse, a bitterly regretted loss of the original unity of the first man, a metaphysical unity that must be rediscovered. For this part of humanity, history is to suffered; it is the consequence of a transgression, an evil that must be rid of in order to reconnect with unity, to rediscover the uniqueness of the first man. This other humanity therefore ideally sees itself as One—and expresses it in monotheism. We see here how, already, by redrawing the picture of this previous revolution, we are led to speak of the meaning of history, and of opposing visions of history.

Which brings us back to transhumanism, which is perhaps the most striking symbol of the third great stage just taken by man, that of the domestication of matter-energy, and where man is once again transformed into transforming his environment.

We must of course start by agreeing on the term. This can be understood (at least) in two ways. Either we mean by transhumanism all the new techniques of appropriation, including of man himself by man, that the domestication of matter-energy now allows—biotechnologies, genetic manipulations, but also artificial intelligence and techniques of influence, for example—and in this case transhumanism is an objective fact, a concept that can sum up in one word the new human situation; either we see in transhumanism the objectives that some think they can achieve thanks to these new techniques—and in this case transhumanism is defined according to subjective data specific to the one who judges it “immoral,” because of transgressing or even aiming at abolition of “natural” and “eternal laws.” Now, the key to the domestication of matter-energy enables us to understand that we have no choice but to “deal with” its consequences; and the key to the epochal conflict between opposing tendencies enables us to understand that we find ourselves faced with the same alternative as during the Neolithic revolution—accept the transformation of man or reject it out of nostalgia for the previous state. Our Indo-European ancestors took up the challenge and adopted this transformation. This is exactly what the suprahumanists intend to do, faced with the challenge of modernity.

EP: What can a young reader find in Locchi’s demanding texts?

PL: I remember how, on reading these texts, different elements of my vision of the world, of my way of feeling things, of my analysis of past or recent events found an interpretative key that satisfied both my intellect and my heart, and how they have allowed me to structure my thinking and guide my action throughout my life.

I can only wish the young reader to experience the same sense of unveiling that I experienced for myself many years ago. As a young auditor of the Iliade Institute’s training cycle told me, Locchi’s thought is a “radically modern thought, turned towards the future and which intellectually equips anyone who appropriates it, whatever the field in which he will exercise his talents: artistic, literary, cultural, political or metapolitical.”

EP: Giorgio Locchi developed the idea of “interregnum,” a transitional phase in our history. What does that mean?

PL: As mentioned, we are witnessing the emergence of a third man, even more specialized and socially divided, and therefore, from our European point of view, even more under the obligation, on pain of pure and simple disappearance, to find his unity, his fulfillment in a community of destiny based on a new origin, just as there was a new origin for the second man, a new origin expressed with Homer, with Greek tragedy, the Germanic Edda, Indo- European in its various forms.

This new origin naturally claims continuity, the appropriation of our European heritage, but also requires its overcoming. This new origin—and the Locchian teaching takes on its full meaning here—appears in the form of a new myth. And just as the works of Homer, or the Eddas, or the Rig-Veda embody the European worldview of the Second Man, the suprahumanist myth, as represented by Richard Wagner and formulated by Friedrich Nietzsche, embodies the worldview of the European Third Man. This is the subject of the second book published by the Iliad Institute, Wagner, Nietzsche et le mythe surhumaniste (Wagner, Nietzsche and the Suprahumanist Myth).

EP: The Interregnum we are experiencing today corresponds to the period when the two epochal tendencies mentioned above clash without one or the other having really won.

PL: The interregnum will last as long as this conflict between the egalitarian tendency, certainly the majority, but shaken, and the suprahumanist tendency, minority but more determined than ever, is not resolved. We can also say that the interregnum will last as long as the partisans of a European response to the challenges of modernity rise up against the very people who use transhumanist techniques to cause peoples to regress to a stage comparable to that of the animals, enclosing them in an eternal materialistic and hedonistic present which is none other than the end or exit of history. The interregnum will cease only in the event of the total victory of the suprahumanist tendency, or the complete eradication of its representatives.

Contrary to a Dominique Venner who, even if he did not know when it would take place, did not doubt the awakening of Europeans, Giorgio Locchi does not pronounce on a final outcome, and limits himself to indicating that the choice is always possible as long as men will carry within them the suprahumanist myth. In this he is on the same wavelength as Nietzsche, who gave us a first vision of this interregnum by describing man as this bridge stretched between the Beast—the last man—and the Superman, whom he calls for.

EP: Since one of the two books is a collection of definitions, is there a quotation that could summarize or introduce Locchi?

PL: Just one seems difficult to me to find. So, I’m going to skip this.

EP: In spite of a certain mutual affection, Nietzsche nevertheless wrote a pamphlet against Wagner. Isn’t it problematic to present them both as the fathers of suprahumanism?

PL: On the value of these pamphlets (The Case of Wagner, Nietzsche contra Wagner)I refer to the entire chapter Locchi dedicates to the “Nietzsche Case,” which answers your question in a detailed and even “definitive” way, according to Paolo Isotta, an Italian musicologist and author of the afterword entitled, “La Musique, Le Temps, le Mythe” [Music, Time, Myth], where a Stefan George, for example summarizes rather dryly: “Without Wagner, there would be no Birth of Tragedy; without the awakening provoked by Wagner, there would be no Nietzsche…. The Wagner case is in reality the Nietzsche case itself.”

I will limit myself here to quoting two extracts from this chapter:

“Nietzsche drew in philosophical terms the structure of the suprahumanist myth and, by a new language, conferred the first evidence of the implications of this myth. But this myth already existed, because it was represented by and in the Wagnerian drama. Nietzsche did nothing more than give it a ‘name’ and a ‘philosophical’ formulation.”

And further on:

“The fact that Wagner and Nietzsche, one by representation, the other by formulation of an identical myth, create the ‘mythical field’ of suprahumanism and insert it concretely into history, does not mean, moreover, that below the respective representation and formulation of the same myth, they do not have divergent ‘reflections’ on the retrospective opened by the myth and, consequently, on the strategy with which to pursue the ‘goal’ of the suprahumanist tendency.”

EP: In the current debate on the notions of the West and Europe, what place can the thought of Giorgio Locchi take?

PL: You asked for a quote earlier, I’m giving you one as a prelude to my answer: “Europe only exists, and is only possible, when it ceases to be the West of the world. As long as the Europeans do not renounce this logic, any political project will have the effect of nailing them to the historical destiny that stems from Yalta.” Locchi says so in the last of the twelve Definitions brought together in the work which has just appeared, named, following the example of the first Italian edition of the Definizioni: “Europe is not heritage but future mission. If we look more closely, the whole current debate on the notions of the West and Europe can be resolved by adopting this perspective, which is none other, once again, than that of Nietzsche, for that Europe is “Land der Kinder,” land of children and not of fathers, and of Heidegger, when he calls for the “new beginning” of Europe (for example in his first course in the lecture course, Introduction to Metaphysics).

Once again, the distinction between the spherical vision of history, specific to the suprahumanists and the linear, parabolic vision specific to the egalitarians, makes it possible to better understand the distinction between Europe not-heritage-but-mission-future and a Western Europe doomed to disappearance or to the triumph of the annihilation of our civilization.

The fact remains that there is still debate between Europe and the West in the suprahumanist camp. This is due above all to reasons of a semantic order and generally comes from the absence of a possibility of precise expression, because many are still those who feel things in a suprahumanistic way, but remain prisoners of a vocabulary and terms which I hope Locchi’s thought will make it possible to understand to what extent they belong to the opposite tendency. In his study “History and Destiny”, the second of the Definitions, Locchi speaks of a “modern schizophrenic West,” in majority “Judeo-Christian West which ended up discovering itself as such” and where “only the small minorities, scattered here and there, look with nostalgia on the achievements of their oldest ancestors… and dream of resuscitating them”—recalling however that such a return “can never happen” (“we do not bring back the Greeks”), but… can turn into a regeneration of history. And he who says regeneration of history, says regeneration of Europe, uncoupled, therefore, from a now ambiguous and mostly enemy “West.”

The West, with which Europe was certainly able to merge in the past, and to which most of the current leaders of European nations claim to belong, has in fact today become egalitarian and now seems above all to aim for the establishment of a new leveling and populicidal world order. From the Locchian perspective, Europe is opposed to this egalitarian West which no longer has anything to do with the Europe that the suprahumanists are calling for (and it is moreover not without interest to see that more and more, and even within the European Union, a tendency is emerging which, in the name of European sovereignty, opposes the dominant vision which aims to include Europe in the sphere of influence of the United States, rightly perceived as the new center of the West).

EP: How do we apply the “Locchian” reading grid in 2023?

PL: I believe I have already given a certain number of examples, and the last just now. In summary, I would say that with Locchi, any fighter for a new European renaissance has a precious compass allowing them to distinguish, beyond the appearances of a major and complex epoch conflict, what is the responsibility of their own tendency: suprahumanist, within the scope of the opposing egalitarian tendency.

Health, Freedom, Politics: An Interview with Pedro Morago

A Spaniard by birth, Pedro Morago is a leading light amongst contributors to the Italian and Spanish alternative news media. After practising as a solicitor in Spain, where he specialized in criminal and constitutional law, Morago uprooted his career path and moved to England to study the methodology for evaluating scientific research, a subject he now teaches.

As a devout Catholic, his pondered views on the current Pontificate—expressed on the very eve of the death of Pope Benedict XVI—are perhaps unsurprisingly, borne out by other Catholic observers such as François Asselineau, head of the UPR in France or the author of Benoit et moi.

In clear, simple terms, Morago’s interview also sheds light on the circumstances of Mario Draghi’s departure, which may seem impenetrable to a foreigner, and on whether Georgia Meloni might not be putty in the hands of the Usual Suspects.

Interview conducted, and translated from the Spanish-language original, by Mendelssohn Moses.

Mendelssohn Moses (MM): You teach Methodology of Scientific Research at Teesside University, I believe. That must have helped you to see through the Scamdemic pretty quickly! Tell us about how you realized what was going on back in 2020.

Pedro Morago (PM): Indeed. I’m Senior Lecturer in Research Methods and Evidence-based Practice (clinical area).

Pedro Morago.

In early 2020, I was still in a bit of a fog, but on November 9th of that year, the very moment I heard Biden the President-elect, announce that “vaccines” for COVID-19 were about to become available, I rushed to examine the manufacturers’ clinical data and the authorization process by the FDA in the USA and the MHRA in the UK. With that before my eyes, along with articles by the likes of Professor Peter Doshi and Dr. Diana Zuckerman in the British Medical Journal, by February/March 2021, I was fairly clear in my mind about glaring methodological flaws in the studies the manufacturers put out, as well as disturbing irregularities in the so-called emergency use authorizations issued by the regulators.

MM: How did you meet up with Riccardo Rocchesso and start contributing to 100 Giorni da Leoni?

PM: As 2020 drew to a close, and by early 2021, re-information channels and media sprang up all over Italy, and began to play a major role—not only in knocking the scales from the citizenry’s eyes as to what was really being hatched, but in preventing millions of those resisting (the Resistants) from being cut off and isolated. Whereas, one of the Plan’s main objectives was precisely to bell-jar dissidents.

That said, on listening to the alternative media, I began to note a great lack in precisely my own area of expertise, that is, in evaluating evidence from scientific research studies. Accordingly, I fired off e-mails to twenty or so leading contributors to those media, and offered my help on a volunteer basis.

To my surprise and delight, within 48 hours I heard from Riccardo Rocchesso at 100 Giorni da Leoni, from Dr. Loretta Bolgan, from Carlo Dalmasso of the Federazione del Popolo Sovrano, Fabio Frabetti of Rinascimento Italia, from the writer and politologist Cosimo Massaro, with whom I straightaway began to work. Through them, I became acquainted with Dr. Barbara Balanzoni, the conductor Andrea Colombini, the admirable Ornella Mariani, Professor Alessandro Meluzzi and other prominent Resistants in Italy.

By working regularly with 100 Giorni da Leoni for nearly two years, on programmes which attracted on average 130,000 viewers each and sometimes 200,000, including Youtube and the two Facebook channels, I became sufficiently well-known to get in touch with various citizens’ groups from Easter 2022 on, mainly in Central Italy. And recently, Spanish channels, which had been following 100 Giorni, like Baleares Acción, Scabelum.com and Hyper Halcón (the latter has quite a large audience), have asked me to take part in their programmes regularly.

MM: You have lived and worked in Spain, England and Italy. How did you decide to leave practising as a constitutional lawyer in Spain, and move to England to study and then teach in a totally different field?

PM: A rather gradual process in point of fact. For some years, I did volunteer work in the Mental Health area, while also practising as a solicitor. At the end of the day, I decided to retool, as it were, and moved to England where I had the great good luck to study at Oxford University for three years, specialising in evaluating scientific research. On graduating, I was straightaway offered a position with Robert Gordon University at Aberdeen, where I lectured (2004-2008) on how to evaluate the efficiency of social policies. From 2008 on I have been lecturing at Teesside University, where I have focused more on research methods and evidence-based practice in the clinical field.

MM: I would like to ask one or two “left field” questions. Carl Schmitt, the NSDAP ideologue, is a very big cheese amongst Spain’s constitutional lawyers who will of course blithely refuse to discuss THE issue.´

Schmitt’s theory of the State of Emergency as the normal modus operandi for what he called “the State,” and his theory of the “State” as being literally founded upon the Friend-Enemy opposition, stands as the polar opposite to the humanist, optimistic notion of law espoused by Aldo Moro, who, one forgets, was amongst the drafters of the Italian constitution of 1946.

By the bye, Carl Schmitt is most likely the “spiritual father” of Emmanuel Macron’s new foreign policy spokesman, Miss Anastasia Colosimo, who teaches Political Theology (sic) at the Institut de Sciences Politiques.

As for ex-Prime Minister Mario Draghi, his modus operandi in all fields, was to call out a state of emergency on myriad sophistic pretexts.

Would you like to comment on Aldo Moro as a constitutionalist, as opposed to the Schmittians?

PM: Throughout the “Western world” an attempt is underway to suspend constitutional arrangements and replace them by a regime where every decision, whether or not it be legal, may be waved through in reliance upon a public health emergency.

More specifically, freedom of speech, of movement, the freedom to demonstrate in the streets, are all subjected to a systematic onslaught on the basis of a purported right to health on the part of society.

Most perplexing, perhaps, in terms of this attack on constitutional rights, is the docility with which a sizeable chunk of the citizenry has simply acquiesced. I would venture to opine that this attitude has arisen through several decades of relative well-being, and an ever-more pronounced craving for both physical and socio-economic comfort.

In that respect, contemporary society does appear strikingly similar to that Carl Schmitt describes, where a specious security becomes the supreme value in many citizens’ eyes, one for which they willingly delegate to the “sovereign,” the powers to decide, and to manoeuvre within a state of exception, over-riding the principle of lawfulness, all by reference to an alleged emergency.

On the quite other end of the scale, former Prime Minister Aldo Moro was a fervent advocate for our citizens’ constitutional rights, which he knew must be upheld even and especially where these may contradict public interest. As I have just said, this ideal of freedom, one which prevailed for decades throughout most of the West, has been frittered away by meretricious “security” criteria. Globalist-leaning leaders are hell-bent on making of the state of exception a standing rule of government, in a manner that would make Carl Schmitt himself green with envy.

MM: Another “left field” question. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has been very outspoken on major strategic issues and strongly opposes the “Great Reset.” He is almost unknown in France. Could you say a few words about his work?

PM: Monsignor Viganò is a Catholic Archbishop who, until he retired in 2016, held high responsibilities, most lately as Papal Nuncio to the USA. He first came to general attention through his August 2018 Letter to La Veritá, protesting at what he believed to be a protracted cover-up by Bergoglio and other eminent Churchmen, of alleged sexual misdoing by US Cardinal McCarrick. Furthermore, in recent years, Monsignor Viganò has acquired considerable international notoriety amongst dissident circles, owing to his comments on video and in geopolitical journals, where he has scathingly and very precisely outlined the Great Reset, of which the so-called pandemic was merely the opening shot. For those who so wish, I would suggest they consult Viganò’s statements, which appear on countless Telegram channels.

MM: As a non-Christian, I have no business discussing Church business. However, Pope Francis’ decisions concerning the “vaccines,” so called “climate change” and the extremely bizarre Council for Inclusive Capitalism with the Vatican, are all highly political.

You are a Catholic. How would you evaluate these manœuvres ?

PM: As a practising Catholic, I have known the Pontificates of Paul VI, Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and the very brief Pontificate of John Paul I, acknowledging in all the figure of the Vicar of Christ.

When Benedict XVI resigned however, many Catholics were thrown into dismay, all the more so that although Benedict was modest and retiring, he had quickly become known as a bulwark against the dictatorship of relativism: his firm defence of non-negotiable principles made him the reference for hundreds of millions, doubtless billions of people who reject the tyrannical new world order.

Many observers, including myself, opined that the moral and intellectual authority gained by Benedict made him the globalists’ perfect target; they wanted him out, and someone else—namely Bergoglio—in, someone who would cheerfully embrace their pseudo-religion’s dogmas. From the moment Bergoglio was elected, his conduct unleashed grave concern amongst many Catholics.

Insofar as I’m concerned, although I’ve had to listen to interventions by Bergoglio which tend to systematically desacralize Catholic faith and tradition, I had refrained from expressing an opinion on his person, to avoid horrifying my entourage. In recent years, however, Bergoglio’s role and that of “his church” relative to the COVID-19 business and the so-called “vaccines” has compelled me to speak out on his true role.

With a modicum of discernment, from Bergoglio’s tone and from what he has said against those Catholics who rejected the vaccine mandates (egregiously cruel those mandates were, in Italy), one readily concludes who was the true and only Pope of the Church of Christ.

Not to speak of the latest Feasts of Nativity and Easter of Resurrection, where one finds Christ’s salvific action brazenly replaced by that of the COVID-19 “vaccines.”

MM: What were the true reasons Mario Draghi stepped down as President of the Council?

PM: The mainstream recounts a tale of Mario Draghi’s great mission, sabotaged by irresponsible political parties, notably the so-called “sovereignist, extreme-right wing Lega.” The reality is otherwise.

Carpetbagged into Italy by his supremos at Davos, Draghi’s task was to turn our country into a test-tube for the Great Reset. Once his government had been installed, with the backing of every party, save for Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia, it rammed through vaccine mandates on April 1st, 2021 for all healthcare workers, and then drastically slashed constitutional rights via measures like the Green Pass, theretofore unheard of in any Western democracy.

The initial plan had been for Draghi to enjoy a lightning-swift tenure as Prime Minister, followed by his shoo-in election to the Presidency of the Republic in January 2022. Late in 2021, this seemed a done deal to many, above all to Draghi himself; he would then have become the anointed Carl-Schmittian, steering the state of emergency as the new, standing form of rule.

But things got nasty for Draghi during the elections. Some parliamentary groups like Lega, Fratelli d’Italia and the Conte faction of Movimiento 5 Stelle failed to reach a consensus, whereby not only did Draghi fail to get himself elected President—he garnered support so minute as to be ludicrous. That spelled his end. Draghi’s ego has been dented to a degree that little has been heard from him since.

My own view is that in Italy, despite the cruelty of the state of exception, a great many citizens never took their third shot of “vaccines,” thereby snarling up an injection campaign which was to end by January 2022 and smooth Draghi’s path to the Presidency.

Despite being embedded in the institutions, parties such as Lega, Fratelli d’Italia and Movimento 5 Stelle picked that up on their radar screen, and unlike the hard-core globalist parties like the PD, they kept a look-out for unrest in the streets. As a result, Draghi’s position as Prime Minister began to totter, until in July 2022, Lega, backed for the occasion by Forza Italia and thanks to the calculated ambiguity shewn by Conte, gave the Draghi project its coup de grâce.

Nevertheless, I must stress that, contrary to what the mass-media imply and what many citizens imagine, Draghi never lost his Parliamentary majority. It was not want of that majority which led him to step down—but rather the fact that he lost the backing of ALL political parties (though Meloni’s party was not in the Government, its opposition had always been symbolic, and thus useful to the regime). However, no stowaways are admitted on a mission like that assigned to Mario Draghi; the fact that some parties jumped ship and set up an oppositional front obstructed a project that was inherently totalitarian in nature.

MM: As Pino Cabras never tires of repeating, NOTHING can be done in Italy until the country withdraw from NATO, the EU and the Euro.

Giorgia Meloni has however made it clear that she will do none of the above. What game is she playing? Who owns her?

PM: Throughout what is by now a lengthy political career, Giorgia Meloni first appeared as a decent and rather courageous individual, the usual nonsensical attacks from militant “progressives” notwithstanding. That said, Meloni appears to be wanting in substance with respect to various political, legal and cultural matters, making her pretty malleable from the standpoint of certain factions. Since she joined the Aspen Institute and became Prime Minister, her manner in public has notably altered. For those, like myself, who had entertained some hopes of Giorgia Meloni, it has been disheartening to see her unsure of herself in press conferences, or striving to please journalists who only a short while back were praising Draghi to the skies, and now eagle-eye her every utterance, seeking a flaw.

On the plus side, Giorgia Meloni’s government, perhaps riding the wave of international events, has rather swiftly dismantled most of the Draghi-era constraints. While some, plausibly enough, like to think that she’s playing a double game, i.e., paying lip-service to globalism so long as it holds up, while keeping the lines to the streets open in the event the Davos crowd stumble or even crash altogether, that would mean having a thick hide and a kind of cunning that Meloni may lack—unlike Pedro Sánchez in Spain.

MM: The US Biolaboratories in the Ukraine having to be withdrawn owing to Russia’s discoveries, the Pentagon would now appear to be moving the P3 (doubtless, de facto, P4) labs to Italy. The Municipal Council of Pesaro (Marche) has just voted to sell a huge swathe of municipal terrain to a P3 lab. Only ONE Councillor voted against: Pesaro, L’Acquila, Livorno, Sigonella… and there are others. Who is financing this? Where does the money come from? Is anything known of the pressures on the local or regional Councils?

Italy’s first capital, Turin, is about to be turned into NATO’s capital, with the Pentagon’s weird DIANA project set to take over the city’s labs, universities and businesses.

How did the Pentagon swing that decision? Who in Turin’s Municipal Council voted for this? Who or what in the Italian Government approved it? Has money been changing hands?

PM: This is not an area where I have any special insights. Overall, let’s just say that historically, Italy has been a battlefield over-run by foreign powers, all seeking to stake a claim. This has ratcheted up since WWII, when Italy, at the centre of Cold War manoeuvres, owing to her strategic and political importance, has been turned into a Euro-Atlanticist colony.

That said, Italy also happens to be home to a people who, relative to many other Western countries, for historical and cultural reasons, entertain a great affinity with Russia. Accordingly, what happens on the Ukrainian front in the coming months, and its impact on the Atlanticist West in terms of the de-globalization now ongoing, will be most interesting.

MM: As many as 3 or 4 million Italians voted on September 25th for the anti-NATO, anti-vaccine mandate parties. Re-information news channels, blogs and websites are self-financed and garnering millions of views.

Are things starting to move? Is there hope?

PM: Doubtless on account of the massive onslaught on freedom in this country over the past few years, there have sprung up in Italy resistance networks and alternative news channels, deploying through social networks, which are likely amongst the best-organized in the world. Several channels actually have over 200,000 subscribers.

The time came when the founders and contributors to those news channels may have thought that their visibility was henceforth such, that political leadership was around the corner; they thereupon decided to stand for election in the Parliamentary elections in September 2022. Given that the potential electorate likely represented something in the range of 6 to 8 million votes, the dissident candidates would indeed have had a fairly good crack at entering Parliament.

The problem is however, that having never come to an agreement amongst themselves, four or five parties stood separately for election. What is more, a good number of dissidents saw the want of a constituent process, that should have led to a clear idea-platform, headed by people elected by the major resistance movements’ grass-roots. Consequently, those individuals decided not to vote, none of the so-called “anti-system” parties got into Parliament, and their influence has somewhat declined.

Bearing in mind as well, that with Meloni’s arrival, there’s been something of a return to Business-as-Usual, which has tended to douse the fighting spirit which had sprung up during the worst of the Draghi era.

At the time of writing, while public interest has never slacked in 100 Giorni da Leoni, Visione TV, La Finanza sul Web, and so many others, I do have the impression that the dissidents’ social and political activity has slightly fallen off. It will probably spring back to life only if those who run the country on behalf of the globalists try to mount a fresh, desperate attack, a thing one cannot entirely rule out—given the less-than-hopeful outlook for the globalists at this time.

Featured: “Ace,” by Robert Dean Stockwell; created in 2005.

Of Collective Security: An Interview with Michael Jabara Carley

Michael Jabara Carley is a specialist in 20th century international relations and the history of Russia and the Soviet Union. His research focuses on the Soviet Union’s relations with Western Europe and the United States during the years 1917 and 1945. This research has come together in a three-volume study, first of which, entitled, Stalin’s Gamble: The Search for Allies against Hitler, 1930–1936, will be published by the University of Toronto Press.

He is the author of 1939: The Alliance That Never Was and the Coming of World War II, Silent Conflict: A Hidden History of Early Soviet-Western Relations, and Une Guerre sourde: l’émergence de l’Union soviètique et les puissances occidentales.

Professor Carley has also written many essays on French intervention in the Russian Civil War (1917-1921), on Soviet relations with the Great Powers between the two world wars, on questions of “appeasement,” the origins and conduct of the Second World War, and on major current issues. He is a Professor of history at the University of Montreal. It is a great pleasure and honor to discuss his work with him in this interview.

The Postil (TP): You have written a trilogy on the Great Patriotic War, that is the Second World War as experienced by Soviet Union. The first part of this magisterial study will be published soon. What is your overall aim?

Michael Jabara Carley (MJC): My trilogy, as I call it, deals with the origins and early conduct of the Second World War and the Great Patriotic War (Velikaia Otechestvennaia voina). The VOV is the name given to the war in Soviet and Russian history arising from the German invasion of the USSR on 22 June 1941. My work runs from January 1930 to December 1941. My project was first entitled “A Near-run Thing: The Improbable Grand Alliance of World War II,” supported by an “Insight” research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. My initial objective was to write a narrative history of how the USSR, Britain, and the United States, powers hostile to each other during the interwar years, became allies against Nazi Germany and the Axis. The work evolved from an envisioned single volume into three dealing with Soviet relations with the great and lesser European powers and the United States.

Michael J. Carley.

TP: Is there a difference between a Western historiography of WWII and a Russian one?

MJC: Oh yes, the difference is enormous. During the war, it was clear to all who had eyes to see that the Red Army played the key role in smashing the Nazi Wehrmacht and winning the war in Europe. The United States and Britain played supporting roles. After 1945 the war became an important object of propaganda in the Cold War. The new narrative was that the United States or Churchill single-handedly won the war in which the USSR was practically invisible.

In the western media, histories, iconography, Hollywood films, comic books, more recently video games, the Red Army is invisible. The key moment in the war was operation Overlord, the Normandy landings, when in fact, they were an anticlimax, grand to be sure, in a war whose outcome had already been determined by the Red Army. In the context of the Cold War, it was normal that the United States would seek in various ways to rub out the memories of the Soviet role in the war, for otherwise how could you portray the USSR as a menacing communist enemy.

TP: Would you tell us about the other two volumes in the trilogy?

MJC: Volume 1: Stalin’s Gamble: The Search for Allies against Hitler, 1930–1936, explores the Soviet Union’s efforts to organize a defensive alliance against Nazi Germany, in effect rebuilding the anti-German Entente of the First World War.

Volume 2: Stalin’s Failed Grand Alliance: The Struggle for Collective Security, 1936-1939 covers the period from May 1936 to August 1939. These were the last three years of peace in Europe during which occurred the great crises of the pre-war period (the Spanish civil war, Anschluss and the Munich sellout of Czechoslovakia) and the last Soviet efforts to organise an anti-Nazi alliance.

Volume 3: Stalin’s Great Game: War and Neutrality, 1939-1941 covers the first phase of the war in Europe, notably the disappearance of Poland, the Winter War between the USSR and Finland, the fall of France, the battle of Britain, and the Nazi build-up and invasion of the USSR. All this occurs within the broader framework of Soviet diplomacy and intelligence operations and Stalin’s failures to interpret correctly the signs of Hitler’s intention to destroy the Soviet Union.

TP: Your work has focused on Russian archival records. Were there any surprises, which made you rethink your position(s)?

MJC: My work has focused on Russian archival sources and western archival sources (inter alia French, British, US, etc.). The Russian sources indicate—and this will be a surprise for some people—that Soviet foreign policy as conducted by the Commissariat for foreign affairs (NKID) functioned like that of any other foreign ministry. It sought to define and protect Soviet national interests, as perceived by the NKID, and promoted amongst the Soviet leadership, especially in the Politburo (in effect the Soviet cabinet), which over time became synonymous with a single person, Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin. In the 1920s this meant seeking to improve political and economic relations with the main western powers. No country was too small to escape NKID attention and wooing. In the 1930s it meant seeking to build an anti-Nazi alliance to contain Hitlerite Germany or to defeat it in war if containment failed. The first generation of Soviet diplomats were well-educated (or self-taught), multilingual, sophisticated, and good at their jobs.

So? What is so surprising about these “discoveries?” Several generations of western historians have maintained that Soviet foreign policy was made by the Communist International or Comintern and intended to pursue world socialist revolution and not the protection of Soviet national interests. These did not exist. My previous book Silent Conflict deals with the complicated interaction of the NKID, Comintern, Stalin, and the Politburo in the 1920s. Suffice it to say that traditional western historiography requires revision based on the study of Russian archives. We now have histories before the opening of Soviet archives and histories after their opening.

TP: The Soviet era is largely dominated by Joseph Stalin. Are there aspects about him that are ignored or misconstrued by Western historians?

MJC: People have been writing books about Stalin since the interwar years. His recent biographer Stephen Kotkin reminds us that he was a “human being.” He was that, but of course human beings can also be serial killers. Stalin was what he was, amongst other things, crude, cynical, vengeful, murderous. He placed little value on human life and freely dispensed with it.

In the realm of foreign policy, he had a more or less normal relationship with the NKID and its leadership until the purges. In the 1930s his principal NKID interlocutor was Maksim M. Litvinov, the commissar or narkom for foreign affairs. Stalin’s interactions with Litvinov were those of a head of government with his/her foreign minister. There was give and take on both sides, but most of the time until 1939 Stalin supported Litvinov’s policy recommendations. Not always but most of the time. It is a “normal” side of Stalin that we sometimes miss because of his ruthlessness and the purges.

TP: In the years leading up to WWII, how did the West view, or understand, Stalin and Soviet Russia? And, likewise, how did Stalin view the West?

MJC: The “west” did not have a uniform view of Stalin. There was the mainstream media view of him as bloodthirsty communist. In some government circles, in the British Foreign Office, for example, he was perceived as a ruthless “realist” looking to secure his own power. Western iconography, political posters, cartoons, etc., are rich in their portrayal of Stalin, amongst other roles, as a vampire feeding on the blood of innocents. This was a consistent view of him during the interwar years with some moderation in the 1930s when western realists—Winston Churchill is the best known of these people— recognised the need to cooperate with the USSR against Nazi Germany. The “realists” were always a minority amongst western governing elites and were never able to impose this policy in government until the Nazi invasion of the USSR. Of course, western communists were more disposed to recognise Stalin as the great leader of the USSR. They had to or were expelled from European parties or purged when Stalin got his hands on them. There were however exceptions to the rule when communists (in France for example) could initiate policy changes accepted in Moscow.

As for Stalin, he remained a communist, but he was willing to cooperate with the western powers against Hitler both in the 1930s and after June 1941. We operate under different social systems, he often said, but this should not prevent us from recognizing common interests and cooperating against common foes.

TP: Then, there is the notorious year, 1932, with its Great Famine, in which 5 to 7 million died. Was this famine “political strategy,” ethnic cleansing (Holodomor), a natural disaster, or something else?

MJC: I only deal in passing with this issue in my work because the famine did not affect foreign policy, but the best recent treatment of the famine is in the second volume of Kotkin’s biography of Stalin. Kotkin argues that the famine was the result of various factors, political, economic, weather, and insect infestations. It was not aimed at the Ukraine as a form of genocide or “ethnic cleansing.” The famine affected the entire Soviet grain belt with Kazakhstan being the hardest hit.

TP: The next year, 1933, brought Adolf Hitler to power. How did Stalin and the Soviets view Hitler?

MJC: The initial Soviet reaction to Hitler’s assumption of power in early 1933 was to try to maintain the “Rapallo” policy of tolerable relations with Germany. Nazi hostility to the USSR in 1933 was so intense that the maintenance of Rapallo became impossible and in December 1933 the Politburo approved a shift in policy to collective security against Nazi Germany. This meant in effect the rebuilding of the World War I Entente against Wilhelmine Germany. Litvinov became the great Soviet spokesperson for this policy, but it was not his personal policy, it was that of Stalin and the Soviet government. Stalin was the Soviet government. No policy, large or small, could pass without his approval.

TP: The years leading up to 1939 are complex and often little understood, especially in regards to the motivations and concerns of Soviet Russia. Did the Soviets see a war coming?

MJC: There is not the slightest doubt that the Soviet leadership saw war coming. Nazi Germany was the great danger to European peace and security. Litvinov and other Soviet diplomats liked to quote to their western counterparts Mein Kampf, Hitler’s best-selling book, outlining his plans for European conquest. France and the USSR were identified as targets of German conquest. Germany needed Lebensraum, additional living space in the USSR. Slavs, Jews, Roma were lower species of human being good only for slavery or death.

TP: What was the role of Britain and France in this regard? Were they more suspicious of Hitler or of Stalin, or of both equally? And why could they not form an alliance with Stalin against Hitler?

MJC: The answer to this question is complicated and is the subject of Stalin’s Gamble, vol. 1 of my trilogy. In France and Britain anti-communism was a driving force, though its intensity fluctuated from time to time during the interwar years. Political and economic elites were largely anti-communist, but not entirely, as I have noted above. This was especially true during the 1930s after Hitler became German chancellor. One Soviet diplomat noted that the great question of the 1930s was who was enemy no. 1, Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union? Western elites, with important exceptions, got the answer wrong to this question. Fascism was the great bulwark against communist or socialist revolution, the ideology arising from the crisis of capitalism during the interwar years. Remember, Germany was not the only fascist state, the Duce Benito Mussolini had taken power in Italy in 1922. In France and Britain there were tolerant attitudes toward Italian fascists. If only Hitler would soften the hard edges of Nazism and adopt the “softer” fascism of Mussolini, it would be easier to accept him. For numerous European conservatives Hitlerite Germany was not an enemy but a potential ally against the left.

When Soviet diplomats tried to warn of the Nazi danger, many western counterparts did not buy the argument that Hitler was the problem. This was especially so after the eruption of the Spanish civil war in July 1936. It looked to many conservatives that communism might take root in Spain and then spread to France. What a catastrophe! So, when Soviet diplomats warned of Hitlerite Germany, conservatives, the political right, but also spreading into the political centre and centre-left, saw this as a ruse de guerre to spread communism into Europe. Collective security and mutual assistance against the common foe, did not work as an argument, because European elites did not see or did not want to see Hitler as a common foe. The British Foreign Office was against collective security and against anti-fascism as arguments for unity. Anti-communism was a major impediment to an Anglo-Franco-Soviet alliance against Hitler, even in 1939 when war looked increasingly inevitable.

TP: Then there is Poland. How would you characterize the Polish view of Hitler, especially given that Poland was allied with Nazi Germany until 1939 (a little-known fact)? What were Poland’s ambitions and motivations?

MJC: Yes, then there was Poland. I call it the skunk in the woodpile of collective security, but it was not the only one. A Polish state reappeared on the map of Europe in 1918 at the end of World War I. It was intensely nationalist. During 1919-1920 Poland sought to reestablish its frontiers of 1772, as a great European power. This led to war with Soviet Russia and a white peace, signed in early 1921 which satisfied neither side. Poland did not re-establish its 1772 frontiers, but obtained important Ukrainian and Byelorussian populated territories, which Soviet Russia saw as lost because of military weakness.

The Polish leadership saw itself situated between two potentially hostile great powers, and so explained its foreign policy as neither one or the other. But when push came to shove the Polish leadership always leaned toward Germany. In January 1934 Poland signed a non-aggression pact with Germany. Soviet offers of rapprochement were rejected. In following years Poland acted as a saboteur of collective security and worked against Soviet diplomacy. Everywhere in central and eastern Europe, diplomats warned that Poland was marching toward its ruin if it continued to pursue a pro-German, anti-Soviet policy. I would not say Poland was a Nazi “ally” but it was certainly an accomplice in 1938 when it cooperated with Germany to bring about the dismemberment of the Czechoslovak state. For its troubles Poland got a small portion of Czechoslovak territory. Incredibly, in 1939 it continued to sabotage attempts to conclude an Anglo-Franco-Soviet alliance. It did so until the very day the Nazi Wehrmacht invaded Poland on 1 September 1939.

TP: Was the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 the Soviet attempt to thwart war, or was it a reaction to the Munich Conference of 1938, in which the West thought it had won “peace in our time?”

MJC: The Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact was not a Soviet attempt to thwart war, it was an attempt to stay out of the war and to remain neutral. Yes, in part, it was a reaction to the Munich accords, but it was more than that. It was the direct result of six years of failed Soviet attempts to construct an anti-Nazi grand alliance. One by one, the prospective members of this failed grand alliance fell away: the United States in the spring-summer 1934, France paradoxically in late 1934 (in a more complicated process), Italy, yes, fascist Italy in 1935, Britain in February 1936, and Romania in August 1936. One after the other they fell away; and Poland of course, the spoiler of collective security, the proverbial skunk in the woodpile, never contemplated an alliance with the USSR against Germany. Moscow was always the undesirable ally, the greater enemy, even though, paradoxically, it was Poland’s only option for salvation.

The Soviet Union could not, on its own, organise mutual assistance against Nazi Germany. Collective security had to be a grand political coalition from left to centre-right, a World War I union sacrée, of all-in national defence of all political parties against a common foe. In the west no one wanted it; no one wanted the Soviet Union as an ally (with the exception of communists and “realists”; a Soviet ambassador called them “white crows”) in a potential war-fighting alliance, in a situation where there was no agreement on the common foe. Even Czechoslovakia, the most needy potential ally, would not go all-in with the USSR. No eastern European country would without France and Britain, but France would not march without Britain, and Britain would not march at all.

This is a complicated story related in volumes 1 and 2 of my trilogy. In the great cover-up of the genuine history of the origins of World War II after 1945, it was the necessary corollary of Cold War propaganda to rub out the primary role of the Red Army in the destruction of the Wehrmacht. Early on, revisionist historians began to put the story together, starting with the “Guilty Men,” the appeasers, who prepared the way to catastrophe. It was the release of Soviet government papers in the 1990s, however, which has allowed the emergence of a more complex narrative, constructed with the assistance of Soviet eyes. In this narrative Stalin, the “human being,” understandably could not trust the British and French governments, conniving, manipulative, unwilling, to be all-in allies against Nazi Germany even in August 1939.

As it was, the British and French left their ally Poland to blow in the wind when Germany invaded it. Stalin correctly assumed that France and Britain would sit on their hands while Germany and the USSR fought it out in the east. Would they have been more loyal to the USSR than they had been to Poland? Of course not, if you asked Stalin. However, war is full of the unexpected. The USSR ended up fighting a ground war practically alone against Nazi Germany from June 1941 to September 1943 and even after the Normandy landings still carried the main burden of fighting on the ground. That of course is another story.

TP: World War II, when it broke out, was the result of diplomatic failure on the part of Britain, France, and Poland. Is this a fair assessment?

MJC: I have answered this question in my above responses, but yes, Britain, France, and Poland bear a large responsibility for the failure to organize an early grand alliance in Europe against Hitler.

TP: Could the Allies have defeated Hitler without the Soviets?

MJC: No, and this is not a conclusion made in hindsight. The main argument of western “realists” was that without the USSR, France and Britain could not win a war against Nazi Germany and would certainly lose it. Britain had no army to speak of, two divisions could at once be sent to France in the event of war. The French army could not alone fight off a German invasion. On the other hand, the Red Army could at once mobilise 100 divisions, in fact, more, against Nazi Germany. Churchill and former prime minister David Lloyd George said it plainly in the House of Commons during the spring of 1939. Victory was impossible without an alliance with the USSR. Do the math of relative contributions to boots on the ground: Britain, two divisions; the USSR, 100. This is not to mention 35 Czechoslovak divisions prior to the Munich betrayal. The French and British governing elites liked to count every enemy twice over and potential allies not at all.

TP: In your book, Silent Conflict: A Hidden History of Early Soviet-Western Relations, you discuss Soviet relations with the West. How would you categorize these? And did these early years set the tone for the Cold War?

MJC: With the notable exception of Soviet-German relations and the conclusion of the treaty of Rapallo (spring 1922) which regularised Soviet relations with Weimar Germany, Soviet-western relations were poor. Anti-Communism was an insurmountable obstacle to better relations even though there were “realists,” notably in France, who advocated rapprochement. The Comintern was active in China where a great revolutionary movement was underway. Britain especially had important commercial interests in China threatened by the revolutionary movement. I see this period as the early (or stage 1 of the) Cold War which ended in 1941. Western-Soviet hostility in the 1920s was an impediment to building an anti-Nazi alliance in the 1930s.

TP: The West has long had deep-seated Russophobia. What accounts for this?

MJC: Russophobia is not really a subject directly treated in my work. It is a form of western racism against Russia, motivated these days by the Russian threat to US world domination. This is a topic for another discussion.

TP: Are there other projects that you are researching?

MJC: I am getting on in years, and the publication of my trilogy will take up my time, inshallah, for the next couple of years. I see the trilogy as the capstone of my work as historian and author. After the trilogy is published, as I hope it will be, who knows?

TP: Professor Carley, thank you so much for your time.

Featured: “Europe will be Free!” Poster by Viktor Koretsky, 1944.

What Ukraine Tells Us about the Coming War

At the end of 2021, Bernard Wicht published Vers l’autodéfense : le défi des guerres internes (Towards Self-Defense: The Challenge of Internal Wars). His reflections remain highly topical, despite the recent return—apparently—of “inter-state” conflicts. We asked him a few questions in order to better understand the new front lines.

In his review of this book, the philosopher Eric Werner stressed the most worrying aspect of war in the 21st century—its irruption into the internal space of societies, its transformation into a war of “all against all,” without limits and without rules. As a historian and strategist, Wicht “does not content himself with describing the transformations in question, but links them to the overall evolution of our societies, showing that they are the consequence of more profound upheavals.”

We are now direct witnesses of these deep-seated upheavals, on a daily basis. Since the publication of his book, events of tectonic proportions have occurred. We thought it would be useful to take stock of the spirit and modalities of self-defense at a time when “conventional” warfare between armed forces is returning. [This interview is conducted by Laurent Schang, who runs the publishing house Éditions Polémarque, in Nancy, France, and Swiss-based Slobodan Despot, who publishes the magazine Antipresse.

A huge thank-you to Arnaud Imatz and Jean-Cyrille Godefroy, who made it all possible.

In the current scientific literature on post-9/11 armed conflicts in general, and on the war against the Islamic State in particular, it is customary to draw a more or less explicit line between the protagonists involved. This principle of distinction is based on the presupposition that contemporary conflicts are between two sides, one of which is good and the other bad by default. This moralization of the study of conflicts, which is original on the scale of the history of war, or more precisely on the scale of the ways in which so-called “Western” nations think about war, nevertheless poses a number of theoretical problems. This tendency is detrimental to the study of war on the one hand, and to the development of an appropriate response on the other (Olivier Entraygues, Regards sur la guerre: L’école de la défaite—Views on the war: The School of Defeat).

Laurent Schang and Slobodan Despot (LS-SD): First, a necessary preliminary question. In a context of almost complete disinformation, on both sides, is it possible to think of deciphering the military operations in progress?

Bernard Wicht (BW): If one day we manage to arrive at the difference, the war in Ukraine will undoubtedly be taught first as the greatest maneuver of disinformation ever carried out in the history of the art of war. Let’s recall in this regard that since the First Iraq War (1990-1991), disinformation has been an integral part of the strategy implemented by the United States and its Western allies.

Bernard Wicht.

On that occasion, it was the case of the incubators of the maternity hospital in Kuwait City, which was given to the media. These incubators were allegedly disconnected by Iraqi soldiers when they invaded Kuwait, causing the death of the newborns who were in them. It was the post-conflict investigation of a team of Danish journalists that exposed the lie—the hospital in Kuwait City does not have a maternity ward and women do not go to give birth there. In addition, the young woman who denounced this apparent war crime before the UN authorities in New York turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador in Washington, a student for several years at an American university. For Washington strategists, the aim of the maneuver was then to provoke an “emotional shock” within the international community, making it unavoidable to give a UN mandate for the military liberation of Kuwait.

Then, in 2002, before the outbreak of the Second Iraq War, the famous “proof” of the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein possessed was brandished before the same UN bodies, in the form of a small vial, by the American Secretary of State at the time, the former Chief of Staff of the American army, General Colin Powell. Again, the aim was to convince the world of the grave danger posed by Iraq to international stability. Up to now, these weapons of mass destruction have not yet been discovered.

This strategy of disinformation is currently being pursued on a global scale, mainly by the European and American media and a handful of experts close to NATO circles. This maneuver has so far succeeded in preventing any coherent analysis of the Ukraine conflict. The Ukrainians keep issuing victory communiqués, while the Russians are very discreet. In other words, in the words of the famous detective (created by Agatha Christie) Hercule Poirot, “in this case everyone is lying,” forcing our man to reconstruct events according to his experience of crime, common sense and basic questions (cui bono, motive, opportunity and means).

In this particular war, we find ourselves in a very similar situation to Poirot, and we are forced to try to reconstruct the course of operations according to some bits of reality and using knowledge of the art of war and military history. This is why we must ask ourselves, beyond the successive narratives that the United States and NATO have sought to impose since the beginning of the conflict (victorious resistance by Ukrainian forces; then Russian war crimes; and, more recently, a vast Ukrainian counter-offensive and retreat by the Russian army), what can be said with a minimum of certainty at this stage:

  • At the end of 2021, on the eve of the outbreak of war, the Ukrainian army was in a state of decay (See insert: “Ukraine, A Failed State?”).
  • In June 2022, senior Ukrainian officials acknowledged that their troops were suffering appalling losses in the face of the firepower of the Russian army, with around 100 dead and 500 wounded per day.
  • On the ground, since the end of the summer, we see a Russian army that does not seem to be in any hurry to end things, taking its time by advancing in some places and retreating in others. Although largely mechanized and with complete control of the sky, it does not launch the great decisive offensive aimed at the capitulation of the Zelensky government. On the contrary, it has allowed the Ukrainians to retake some towns and villages.

Should we therefore accept the official Western narrative of a decisive counter-offensive, thanks to the miracle weapons delivered by NATO (including the mercenaries to serve them) and the general withdrawal of Russian forces unable to react?

This version of the facts could be acceptable if we were facing the Russian army of the 1990s, the one that got bogged down in Chechnya and whose decay was then equivalent to that of the Ukrainian army on the eve of February 24, 2022. It took Vladimir Putin more than a decade to restore an effective and competent military whose qualities were seen during the intervention in Syria alongside Bashar al-Assad, starting in September 2015.

Ukraine, A Failed State?

In his 2017 study, Emmanuel Todd gave a pessimistic diagnosis of Ukraine. He considers it a nation “which has not been able to build itself in a state since its separation from Russia.” He adds that the country is dangerously empty of its population: “above a certain threshold of emigration… in Ukraine, for example… flows can destabilize societies… without being able to predict much more than the appearance of sociological black holes.” In this regard, he evokes “the appearance of a zone of anarchy” and recalls that the massive departure of the Ukrainian middle classes to Europe or Russia, makes it very unlikely that this country will be politically stabilized because, precisely, “the construction of a state is only the institutional crystallization of the supervision of society by its middle classes.”

Since 2014 (Euro Maidan), the Ukrainian political class has disintegrated into internal quarrels between the pro-Russian and the pro-European, leaving the field open to far-right paramilitary organizations.

LS-SD: How would you explain this “game of cat and mouse” that the Russian army is engaged in?

BW: I think that this expression itself gives us the “key” needed to decipher what is happening at the present time:

  • For the record, Russia’s objective is not primarily Ukraine, but to stun and unbalance the EU and NATO (energy crisis=> economic crisis=> inflation, recession. See insert: “The Legacy of Soviet Operational Thinking”).
  • On the other hand, under pressure from his Western mentors, President Zelensky withdrew his February-March peace proposals, so the war can continue until it is exhausted. This is most likely the game that the Russian cat is playing with the Ukrainian mouse. Since a negotiated solution seems impossible today, only the (demographic) exhaustion of Ukraine can guarantee Russia relative long-term “tranquility” on its southwestern border.
  • This cat-and-mouse dialectic could explain the Russian attitude of “not wanting to end it all.” Such a strategic posture is not unheard of in military history.

Let’s explain this with a historical example.

The case of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) is particularly emblematic from this point of view. General Franco, commander-in-chief of the nationalist forces, was considered for a long time, certainly as a very shrewd politician, but as a poor strategist on the ground. Despite the military superiority at his disposal, he made poor operational choices, giving the Republicans the opportunity to carry out desperate counterattacks, prolonging, in this way, the war by at least two years.

Then recently, historical research revealed that these “wrong choices” were made knowingly in order to exhaust the human potential of Republicans in battles of annihilation, where the firepower of the nationalist army could reach its full potential. For example, even in September 1936, rather than seizing Madrid, then very little defended, and thus obtaining the capitulation of the Republican government and ending the war in two months, Franco opted for the capture of Toledo—a city certainly very symbolic, but whose strategic importance was limited. Franco wanted a long war to destroy the demographic pool of the Republicans and thus “cleanse” the conquered regions of populations favorable to the regime in place. He felt that he could not have the stability necessary to rebuild the country if a young and sufficiently large pro-Republican generation survived the war. He said it explicitly in an interview: “In a civil war, it is better to systematically occupy the territory, accompanied by the necessary cleansing, than a rapid rout of the enemy armies that would leave the country infested with adversaries.”

The Legacy of Soviet Operative Thought

Thinking in terms of the “Ukraine” objective is too narrow. It is important to bear in mind that, geographically speaking, Russia is a world country (in the Braudelian sense). Neither Western Europe nor the United States are. Russian strategic thinking unfolds at a macro-spatial and macro-cultural level. It takes up the achievements of its big sister, Soviet strategic thought, which developed and conceptualized what is called the operational level of war, which no longer primarily targets tactical military objectives (troops, equipment, infrastructure, etc.), but the adversary as a system.

Operative thought does not view the enemy from a strictly military angle, unlike the classical Clausewitzian doctrine of destroying enemy armed forces in a great battle of annihilation deemed as the key to victory. Soviet and then Russian operative thinking approaches the adversary from a systemic perspective—it aims at its collapse, not in a great decisive battle, but by actions in depth.

It should be noted that this notion covers different aspects: the term depth does not necessarily refer to the defensive device of the adversary (fortifications, logistics centers, communication networks), but to all political, socio-economic and cultural structures as well as the infrastructures which allow the enemy country to function. Therefore, from the perspective of Russian operative thought, the objective pursued is rarely specific; it is holistic.

Russia is not simply seeking to bring a recalcitrant neighbor to heel, it is the “systemic enemy” that it is aiming at by showing in concrete terms that it is not only ready, but above all capable of waging war, including nuclear war. This systemic enemy is obviously the EU and NATO. Russia was able to become aware at the latest with the war in Syria (from 2011 onwards) of the meagre capacities of Western intervention which, in this case, were limited to sending a few contingents of special forces to support the Kurdish militias. It was able to get a concrete idea of the severe operational limits and the inability of the Atlantic Alliance to conduct a large-scale military operation due to a lack of manpower and logistics.

After that, Vladimir Putin and his staff were able to plan their intervention in Ukraine. But Ukraine is not the main objective of the war; it is only a battlefield, i.e., a place where military operations take place. The Russians have other effects and targets.

As for the effects, Russia wants to demonstrate that it can declare a conventional war and bring it to an end. In the face of this show of force, it must be noted that NATO and the European Union (EU) are militarily “absent.”

LS-SD: Do you think that the Russians also want a long war? Do they really have an interest in it?

BW: Mutatis mutandis, this could be the calculation of the Russians in the face of the war (by proxy) that the United States and NATO are waging against them through the Ukrainians. This war will eventually end because of a lack of fighters. But we must hasten to add that, on the Russian side, everything is not simple either. The shock caused by the partial mobilization of the young generation does not bode well. Indeed, a part of the society of this great country has been tasting for more than twenty years the “delights” of the consumer society—possibility to travel abroad, a certain feeling of freedom linked to the consumerist way of life, etc. For all of them, suddenly, everything has changed. For all them, suddenly, everything has stopped and closed. The specter of war and death now haunts their daily lives—hence the question, is a war that is prolonged and begins to affect the young Russian generations themselves, still acceptable—and especially bearable?

Under these conditions, we can hypothesize that Russia and Ukraine are both at risk of a mutual collapse. A bit like the dialectic between Greece and Rome in antiquity, the antinomy between these two worlds being summarized by the famous formula— Captive Greece took captive her savage conqueror—expressing the fact that, militarily defeated, Greece nevertheless managed to completely Hellenize the Roman world. In this case, a militarily destroyed Ukraine would provoke, as a shock in return, a collapse of Russia because of the sacrifices required or, at least felt, by a part of the Russian people. The recent attacks perpetrated on the Russian soil could reinforce this feeling of sudden fragility?

LS-SD: What is the relevance of your study on self-defense when war is raging on our doorstep?

BW: As its title indicates, my latest little book is devoted to self-defense, which I consider to be the operational concept instead of that of “national defense,” which became obsolete with the decline of the nation-state (marked in particular by the concomitant and exponential return of mercenarism.

[Weberian sociology regarding the formation of the modern state (Max Weber, Norbert Elias, Otto Hintze, Charles Tilly, to name the main ones) focuses on the construction of the state monopoly of coercion—also called monopoly of legitimate violence. It thus highlights the evolution of the military apparatus and its progressive control by state authorities. From the point of view of this conception of state-building, the recourse to mercenaries represents an intermediate stage between the feudal age (characterized by the absence of the state as well as by an anarchic chivalry practicing private warfare—Faustrecht), and the contemporary period with the advent of national armies completely controlled by the state. The current return of mercenarism, via the recourse to private military companies, tends to signal a “return to the past,” and consequently a relative de-construction of the state monopoly. On this subject, see Yves Déloye, Sociologie historique du politique.]

That is why, when war broke out in Ukraine, I thought that my study had also ipso facto become obsolete, for the Russian attack seemed to indicate the great return of conventional war between states and that of regular armies. My working hypothesis, based on “molecular civil war” type threats, with a predominance of non-state actors, such as narco-gangs, narco-terrorists and Islamo-jihadists, seems therefore compromised. As my friend Laurent Schang said to me on the evening of February 24, “this time it’s the end of war 2.0” (referring to sub-war challenges).

LS-SD: Are the Western/European nation-states still capable of waging war?

BW: It is apparent that apart from a few scattered battalions, NATO no longer has any effective military power; that the German army is in an advanced state of decay; that the French army (although still very operational) has only seven days’ worth of ammunition in the event of a high-intensity confrontation, and it is the same with all the rest.

All this means that in Western Europe, the nation-state is no longer capable of “making war,” a function that was its main regalian attribute and the driving force behind its historical construction (according to Charles Tilly’s famous formula, “war makes the State.” (See insert “War as the Driving Force behind Nation-State Construction”).

Today, the nation-state is huddled over its sole penal-carcenary privilege. Moreover, the storm of media disinformation, orchestrated since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, shows that citizenship has lost all substance and that it is no longer important to inform free and responsible men and women, but to keep a populace, always on the verge of a riot or revolt, calm.

War as the Driving Force behind Nation-State Construction

In his approach to state-building, Charles Tilly highlights two factors that contribute to the formation of the state monopoly of legitimate violence—on the one hand, constraint (the capacity to impose order and, above all, to mobilize the human resources necessary to wage war); and, on the other hand, capital (the capacity to finance and equip armies through taxes and the profits of foreign trade).

Thus, Tilly demonstrates that it is the combination of these two factors (hence the title of his work) that determines the type of state organization in force, at a given historical moment—that is, the one capable of “making war.” In our case, from the 16th century onwards, the transformations in the art of war (systematization of the use of firearms, recourse to professional soldiers, exponential growth in the number of soldiers) led to the need for the existing political units in Europe to have sufficient financial resources to be able to “afford” this new military tool.

Hence the institutionalization of taxation, in place of the old local feudal dues. The foundations of the modern nation-state were thus laid (a bureaucracy in charge of levying taxes, a standing army). From then on, the constraint-capital dynamic was set in motion—the more wars succeeded one another in Europe, the more the above-mentioned nation-state phenomenon was strengthened in the geographical areas concerned (the Netherlands, France, Spain, and later on, Prussia and Sweden). And thus we come to the famous formula: war makes the State.

Today, this analysis remains fully relevant for understanding the evolution of military-political units. However, the dynamics described above have changed scale—with globalization, capital is no longer located at the national level. As a consequence, states are emptied of their substance and depend on global finance for their functioning.

Nowadays, at the junction of constraint (mobilization of human resources) and capital (mobilization of financial resources), we no longer find regular armies, but two types of non-state military organizations—on the one hand, mercenarism in the form of private military companies (PMCs), and, on the other hand, armed-paramilitary-criminal groups. The former are generally financed by global capitalism, the latter by the grey economy. On the one hand, there is the combination of Wall Street and PMCs, and on the other, the combination of drug trafficking and various irregular armed groups.

LS-SD: So, your analysis remains relevant?

BW: Vanitas vanitatis… Yes. It is that of a nation-state emptied of its substance by disaster capitalism, of post-national societies subjected to an internal violence that is no longer channeled by the now obsolete state monopoly. If it were still necessary, the war in Ukraine and the decisions it has generated (in particular the sanctions of which we are the first victims) demonstrate that European states are no longer concerned with the well-being of their peoples; that their political elites are sucked in by the dynamics of global capitalism and by those who hold the control levers.

Fernand Braudel said: “Capitalism only triumphs when it identifies itself with the State; when it is the State.” Moreover, its regulation no longer goes through the nation-state (welfare), but through war (welfare => warfare), whether it is internal or against an enemy, designated by the media apparatus (Russia in casu). It is important to keep this reality in mind and to make it the starting point of any effort to understand the mechanisms of the present world—in the framework of global capitalism, the empty-shell nation-state is no longer the subject of war; it is only the theater (the setting, one might say), the geographical space where the confrontations take place. If we try to study it beyond the media noise, the war in Ukraine reveals this new state of affairs.

LS-SD: Yet this conflict marks the return of war between nation-states. So, isn’t it contradictory to say that the nation-state is no longer the subject of war?

BW: No, and this question allows me to clarify my point. Roughly speaking, one can say that until February 24, 2022, many analysts (myself included) considered that infra-state warfare represented the major risk in Europe: 1) confrontations at the molecular level (suicide attacks, machete attacks, shootings); 2) taking place below the technological threshold; 3) involving armed groups, gangs and terrorist cells; 4) financed via drug trafficking and other channels of the grey economy. In other words, a representation that follows directly from Martin van Creveld’s observation: “Modern armaments have become so expensive, so fast, so indiscriminate, so impressive, so cumbersome, and so powerful that they are sure to drive contemporary warfare into dead ends, i.e., into environments where they do not work. (The Transformation of War, p. 52).

As I said at the beginning, the outbreak of the war in Ukraine has shattered this threat picture by making us think of a return to conventional warfare in Europe (battles between regular armies, tank engagements, artillery, aviation and long-range missiles, the specter of the use of tactical nuclear weapons). However, on closer inspection, the reality of combat is not so obvious. Certainly, conventional warfare is well and truly present on the Russian side, with a disciplined, well-equipped, well-commanded army practicing joint maneuver.

On the Ukrainian side, on the other hand, the situation is much more blurred, as the regular conscript army was already in disarray before the conflict broke out, thus forcing the Zelensky government to rely on paramilitary groups, in particular the sinister Azov battalions, whose abuses against the civilian population are now well known. Nevertheless, they are the only real fighting forces on which the “failing” Ukrainian state (let’s be honest and use this term) can rely to confront the Russian offensive. Let us specify that these units are not directly dependent on the Ukrainian state; they have their own mode of financing, based on trafficking and mafia racket of the local populations whom they do not hesitate to use as human shields. However, they were completely decimated in the fighting around Marioupol and the Azovstal steelworks. From that moment on, it must be considered that they ceased to exist as constituted troops.

[It would seem that since the outbreak of the conflict, the Ukrainian authorities have issued eight calls of mobilization to make up for the heavy losses suffered. It is therefore worth asking why the younger generation is still responding to these calls when they are almost certain to die on the battlefield. The following hypothesis can be evoked: Ukrainians from the working classes did not have the possibility to flee abroad for lack of means; in a destroyed country where the economy is exsanguinated, it is not unreasonable to think that a “nice” bonus for the commitment (financed by the dollar) can represent for them a sufficient motive, because the sum thus received makes it possible to guarantee the survival of the remainder of the family. As is often the case in military history, it is the poor who pay the blood tax.]

Today, after the frightening human losses suffered by Ukrainian troops, it is mercenaries who seem to bear the brunt of the fighting—but who, above all, are taking over the predatory role previously played by the Azov battalions. These mercenaries are obviously not paid by Ukraine, which does not have the means, but by the American-NATO military-media complex. Capitalism is at work! We can therefore already say that at the moment, a weakened (failing) state—Ukraine in this case—is no longer able to wage war with its own national forces. It is obliged to call upon external forces that it does not control. We are thus in line with our previous observation on the incapacity of the nation-state to wage war.

[According to the analysis of the available videos, they would be mercenaries of Latin American origin, probably recruited by the services of Erik Prince (founder of the infamous SMP Blackwater). The latter had been called, at the time of the Arab Spring, by the oil-rich monarchies of the Gulf, to provide them with military police battalions, composed of Colombian mercenaries. The latter had no qualms about firing on the crowd, whereas the Tunisian and Egyptian armies had refused to do so in their respective countries. Erik Prince has the necessary connections for this recruitment pool].

Let us digress a little to note how much we find here the scenario of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). This war is a perfect illustration of the above-mentioned developments: the confusion between internal and inter-state warfare; the relative weakness of the states involved; and, as a result, the exponential recourse to private military contractors (mercenaries). For the record, the young European kingdoms (France and Sweden) sought to take advantage of the temporary weakness of the Holy Roman Empire to increase their territory and their influence in Europe. For the latter was entangled in an internal struggle against the Protestant princes who were challenging the imperial power.

First France, then Sweden entered the war to take advantage of this momentary fragility of the Empire. But, neither the king of France nor the king of Sweden had the means for their policy. They did not have sufficient nation-state apparatus to maintain such a war over a long period of time and over vast territories; their bureaucracy, still in its infancy, did not allow them to raise taxes in an efficient and sustainable manner, nor to recruit the necessary troops from among the population.

The Holy Roman Emperor had the same limitations. This is why all of them called upon military entrepreneurs (Wallenstein, Tilly, Saxe-Weimar in particular). In addition to their skills as great captains, these military entrepreneurs were also talented businessmen with the appropriate networks to recruit soldiers and maintain their armies. From then on, and precisely because of the implementation of this business model, this war became a “commercial affair,” largely determined by the interests of these entrepreneurs and their financial backers. It was they who decided on the goals, not so much according to the politico-strategic priorities of the States, but rather according to the “commercial” interests of their respective companies (the armies of mercenaries made available to the European princes in struggle). To do this, and given the insufficiency of public funding, they relied on the first “transnational financial system”—the Bank of Amsterdam. However, no matter how clever the Batavian bankers were, the credits provided were never enough to cover all the needs, especially in terms of logistics. As a result, mercenary armies continued to “live on the land,” looting and pillaging almost all of Central Europe.

The duration of the conflict can also be explained by this reason—in a Europe emerging from feudal economy and entering the so-called “first capitalism,” military entrepreneurship brought really juicy profits.

In short, the Thirty Years’ War offers an example of a confrontation that can be described as “pre-Clausewitzian,” i.e., a confrontation in which, although initiated by states, war quickly ceased to be the continuation of politics by other means, for lack of adequate state resources. Mutatis mutandis, it is a similar situation that we find today in Europe with the war in Ukraine.

LS-SD: So, are we witnessing (or not) the return of conventional war in Europe?

BW: Certainly, but this statement requires some explanation, because if there is a return to conventional warfare, we must hasten to say that it is a conventional NG (new generation) war in which, on the Ukrainian side, the paramilitary and mercenary forces, charged with defending the country are proving to be more dangerous for the Ukrainians than the Russian army that is attacking them.

From this point on, the following parameters seem to be emerging concerning this “new generation conventional war”: 1) at the core level, a weakened (failing) nation-state which is no longer able to ensure its defense by means of its national armed forces; 2) which has to call upon irregular forces, paramilitary and mercenary; 3) these forces are “living off the country” through racketeering and predation; 4) and are massively financed and equipped by global capitalism. Moreover, it appears that Ukraine is by no means a precursor in this matter—at the beginning of the war in Syria (2011), it was the intervention of Lebanese Hezbollah irregulars that saved the weakened state of Bashar El Assad from collapse.

In the same way, the case of Azerbaijan points to a similar situation—it is thanks to the arms and mercenaries made available by Turkey, as well as to the contingents of Arab-Muslim fighters, all paid for by Azeri oil revenues, that this country manages to achieve the successes that we have seen in Nagorno-Karabakh.

But despite all their differences, Ukraine, Bashar’s Syria and Azerbaijan are not strong states. This is not the case in the United States, which is the only country in the world that has a strong social cohesion and a prosperous economy that benefits all its citizens. Nor do any of these countries have a genuine national political elite on which the nation-state apparatus can rely; power is held by clans or mafia-like cliques seeking above all to monopolize wealth for their own benefit.

LS-SD: As a result, for the Ukrainians, it is “a war within a war?”

BW: Yes, and this is not surprising, if we follow the grid of Hobbes’ Leviathan: in the absence of the State, it is the war of all against all—which, in the age of global capitalism, can last indefinitely because it represents a very lucrative business—hence the concept of “disaster capitalism.”

In other words, conducted by fighters from paramilitary and mercenary units, this NG belligerence is “limitless” and itself becomes the objective; civilians supposedly defended become the main objective of the aforementioned armed groups, and the war effort is financed by global capitalism in its “disaster” declination. Such a war does not respect the distinctions of civil/military, front/back, war/crime. It is mixed [I will not use the term “hybrid” because it is so overused and misunderstood]: conventional on the battlefield, criminal in its functioning, terrorist in its acts and targeting populations. Let me emphasize how we get to the characteristics of sub-state warfare described above.

LS-SD: From this vantage point, what further general perspective can be drawn from the Ukrainian situation?

BW: The Ukrainian case highlights the profound transformation of Europe and the Western world (in fact its disintegration) through two specific dimensions: one macro-economic and the other macro-geographic. The first reminds us of the relevance of the principle that war is waged in the same way as wealth is produced: the mode of economic production at a given time has a determining influence on both the type of war and the configuration of the military tool. Thus, wars between states in the 19th and 20th centuries were essentially based on a three-term equation: Nation + Industrial Revolution = mass armies. Industrial capitalism has formatted national spaces (nation-states) and increased competition between them in a paroxysmal way.

Today, the era of regular national armies financed and equipped, thanks to the progress of the Industrial Revolution, is definitively over. Capital has mutated; it has become entirely financialized and has migrated to the supranational level, leading to what is usually called globalization. It is at this level that wealth is now produced and the conduct of war is irrevocably modified. This means, as we have already said above in reference to the return of mercenarism, that states are no longer masters of their own defense. A regular army, even if it remains apparently financed by a state, has become de facto a tool at the service of global capital, as illustrated by the (almost surreal) eagerness of European governments to empty their meager arsenals, disarming their own armed forces to send weapons to Ukraine, some of which are already being sold on parallel markets. The analysis of this war reveals such a reality which was is both unprecedented and unimaginable before.

[In such circumstances, and following the announcement that the Bundeswehr (German army) had only a two-day supply of ammunition, a German commentator questioned this state of affairs and its official recognition by the authorities. He went so far as to formulate the hypothesis of a “de facto surrender,” explicitly admitted, in order to preserve Germany from destruction in the event of the war spreading westwards. According to him, by declaring itself “bankrupt” due to the liquidation of its very modest stocks of arms and ammunition in favour of Ukrainian forces, the country could avoid “becoming the next battlefield” once Ukraine is destroyed. While this may be a bit far-fetched, it does highlight the extent of Western European disarmament in the current conflict.]

As regards the macro-geographic dimension, the Ukrainian case underlines the value of the analysis delivered by David Cosandey in his monumental study published in 1997 and entitled, Le secret de l’Occident: du miracle passé au marasme présent (The Secret of the West: From the Past Miracle to the Present Morass). In his quest to understand this “past miracle,” Cosandey focuses on the geographical factor as the decisive element of European dynamism. Europe being a priori only a promontory of Eurasia, it is its coastal perimeter, in the north as in the south, which is jagged, meandering and irregular, which allows for the establishment of very diverse socio-political entities, but intensively practicing commercial exchanges among these entities first, then with the rest of the world.

It is thus because of this specificity of the European geographical space that Cosandey proposes his explanation of “the” miracle based on two neologisms of his creation: “mereupory” and “thalassography.” The first term aims at explaining the scientific progress of Europe by its stable political division and its commercial dynamism. The second term specifies that the commercial dynamism as well as the diversity and the stability are favored by this very particular coastal contour, compared to the other continents. Therefore, based on this mereuporico-thalassographic articulation, Cosandey examines the contemporary evolution of our continent.

In casu, it is not a question of subjecting the theses of Cosandey to criticism, but to consider what they say to us of Europe in the framework of the war in Ukraine. Cosandey indeed thinks that the power of the armaments developed since the Second World War fundamentally questions the morphology of Europe. In other words, space is no longer sufficient to absorb military force. It is now too small to be able to form a stable geopolitical zone.

Consequently, Cosandey argues that the European geographical advantage is now obsolete because of the power of armaments: “Because of the progress of military technology, the thalassography of the European continent, however extraordinary it may be, no longer allows a system of states to establish itself there durably.” This insight obviously deserves some explanation.

The reference to the progress of military technology refers mainly to the continental and intercontinental reach of modern weapons (ballistic missiles, aircraft carriers and long-range aircraft capable of striking any point on the continent). Faced with these capabilities of force projection over very long distances, the meteoric and thalassographic qualities of Europe become ineffective—the specificity of its coastline is no longer sufficient. The continent becomes once again a simple tongue of land, a Eurasian promontory, which can be crossed very easily, and in all directions (migratory flows seem to confirm this). Hence the impossibility, under such conditions, of maintaining a stable and dynamic chessboard of states, since these no longer have the capacity to protect themselves, and their geographical borders no longer fulfil a defense function.

Following Cosandey on this trajectory, the war in Ukraine seems to indicate that the future of Europe in terms of states can only be that of a large-scale disorder—a kind of new Middle Ages in which the Church is replaced by the dollar.

LS-SD: To conclude, let us return to the initial question. Is self-defense still relevant in such a state of chaos and disorder, of war without limits?

BW: Now more than ever—especially in a Western Europe incapable of defending itself, where the Ukrainian pattern is likely to be repeated. For, if the nation-state is no longer the subject of war, then it is the individual himself who becomes the subject of war (hence self-defense). Moreover, this individual is no longer a citizen, but a “naked man” stripped of all protection, without a city (a-polis) and liable to be put to death by the police as well as by the gangs or the aforementioned actors of the conventional NG war without limits. For this naked man, from now on, self-defense represents the only horizon in terms of residual freedom and security, the last means of preserving some snippets of the status of political animal that citizenship in arms (the hoplitic polis) previously conferred on him.

[Several factors argue not only for a prolongation of the war, but for its possible extension to the European region: the attitude of Russia, which is ready to continue the fighting as long as the Ukrainian government does not make a peace proposal; the possible involvement of Belarus; the clumsiness and blunders of the Poles and Lithuanians with regard to the enclave of Kaliningrad; the activism of the EU, the United Kingdom and the United States to prevent any end to the hostilities; and, last but not least, the blind eagerness of Germany to empty its arsenals and send their contents to Ukraine.]

Let us specify that the notion of self-defense understood here goes beyond the simple technique of fighting with bare hands. It represents the reverse side of self-defense because it is not a legal concept protecting the citizen, but a state of affairs, a defensive tactic, a survival reaction. In this sense, it constitutes the ultimate barrier of the banished and the proscribed against the violence they are subjected to. For them, it is the means to rebuild themselves, to become human persons again and not only bodies (homo sacer) that can be violated at will.

The philosopher Elsa Dorlin speaks in this respect of the construction of a “martial ethic of the self,” through practices that the disarmed individual, without citizenship, uses to protect himself physically from aggression. And, given the generalized chaos and the collapse looming on the horizon of European societies, in the wake of the war in Ukraine, it is important to insist on this reconstitutive function of self-defense. To defend oneself is to exist—the insurgents of the Warsaw ghetto are an emblematic example!

Let us also point out however that even in this scenario of re-empowerment, the margin of maneuver of homo sacer remains very narrow. This is why the putting into perspective of events (according to the method of long historical time), that is to say the narrative, occupies a strategic place. This allows for the definition of a space, an “alternative” reality to the narrative imposed by the military-media complex of global capitalism. The philosopher Eric Werner seeks to articulate this minority narrative with the triptych—autonomy-crisis-proximity—in response to that of the dominant discourse—insecurity-crisis-resilience. For the record, this last notion does not mean to resist, but “to meekly accept one’s fate, however bad it may be.”

Autonomy, proximity, self-defense, understood as “defense as close as possible,” will, in all likelihood, constitute the new reference points in a European world where the war in Ukraine marks the ultimate end of the Western historical cycle: “The time of revolutions is over. We are living in the time of extermination; and, by implication, the time of survival and self-defense. This is the era of pockets of autonomy.”

Having qualified the world-system by the state of insecure governance, we can begin by defining the new framework of war. It is part of the abatement of national sovereignties. The European nation-state no longer seems to be relevant to solve the security problems of its citizens. The latter, a historical legacy of the Westphalian state (1648), and theorized by Hobbes in Leviathan (1651), geographically delimited, is in decomposition… Moreover, the degradation of the nation-state model sees its military sovereignty put under the tutelage of another form of sovereignty, non-military, that is to say economic, carried by global capitalism (Olivier Entraygues, Regards sur la guerre: L’école de la défaite—Views on the war: The School of Defeat).

Bernard Wicht is a lecturer at the University of Lausanne, where he teaches strategy. He is a regular speaker at military institutions, including the Ecole de Guerre, and think-tanks abroad. He is the author of several books, including Vers l’autodéfense: Le défi des guerres internes (Towards Self-Defense: The Challenge of Internal Wars), Les loups et l’agneau-citoyen. Gangs militarisés, Etat policier et desarmement du peuple (The Wolves and the Citizen-Lamb: Militarized Gangs, the Police State and the Disarmament of the People); Citoyen-soldat 2.0, Mode d’emploi (Citizen-Soldier 2.0: A User’s Guide); Europe Mad Max demain ? retour à la défense citoyenne (Mad Max Europe Tomorrow? A Return to Citizen Defense); Une nouvelle Guerre de Trentre Ans ? Réflexion et hypothèse sur la crise actuelle (A New Thirty Years War: Reflections and Hypothesis on the Current Crisis); L’OTAN attaque : la nouvelle donne stratégique (NATO Attacks: the New Strategic Order); L’Idée de milice et le modèle suisse dans la pensée de Machiavel (The Idea of the Militia and the Swiss Model in Machiavelli’s Thought).

Featured: “Defenders of the Brest Fortress,” by Pyotr Krivonogov; painted in 1951.

Dismantling Legacy Narratives: An Interview with Massimo Mazzucco

Massimo Mazzucco, film-maker and polemicist, is Italy’s best-known debunker of the mainstream media narratives. An associate of Giulietto Chiesa (1940-2020), with whom he founded Contro.tv in 2019, he came to prominence through documentaries dismantling the 9/11 gambit, thereby attracting armies of hostile fact-checkers. Alongside Margherita Furlan, one of the country’s most astute foreign policy analysts, and a disciple of the writer Giulietto Chiesa, Mazzucco has focused his efforts via the website luogocomune.net, on unifying the Italian opposition to those who would blithely ram the European Titanic into the iceberg. He has recently published, Ucraina, l’altra verità [Ukraine—The Truth Viewed from the Other Side]. Mendelssohn Moses conducts this interview with Mr. Mazzucco.

Note: It may be useful for our readers to learn that Giulietto Chiesa, whose name, on the notorious Myrotvorets “hit-list,” was crossed out on his death with the label “Liquidated,” stated the following at a 2015 conference on the EuroMaidan coup d’état:

“The crisis in the Ukraine is not a regional one. It is the US, clashing with the rest of the world, and that starts with a direct onslaught on Russia. The US knew the Ukraine was a bomb waiting to go off… and intends to expel Russia from world financial markets, a radical shift which will alter the face of power worldwide… some pretext will be seized upon to freeze Russia out of the Swift system, and thus forestall all her financial transactions… I may be rowing against the tide, but it’s to save our skins. Were WW III to erupt, you and I along with all those who deride me as a conspiracy theorist will go up in smoke. I’m very concerned, because we are teetering on the edge of war, a great war. Before our eyes, lies the premise for WW III. Before ever the Ukraine enters NATO, something terrible will happen. On the borders between the Baltic States and Russia, preparations for war are underway… The crisis in the Ukraine is the opening shot in an onslaught by the USA and Europe against Russia, for which the sanctions are an indicator. The Ukraine is the stick with which to beat Russia… (Italy) will only recover her sovereignty if she withdraw from NATO and become, once again, a free, neutral and sovereign state. All the more so, that what NATO, what this sort of defence represents, will be utterly useless in the event of war.

Mendelssohn Moses (MM): Tell us a little about your websites and internet channels—Luogocomune.net, Contro TV, Casa del Sole. How did you decide to found them, and when?

Massimo Mazzucco (Massimo M): Luogocomune.net, the website I set up in 2004, was among the very first “re-information” sites in Italy. I launched it in the wake of my research into what went on at New York on September 11, 2001. As time went by, the site evolved, and we now deal with the major controversies of our time—from a “re-information” standpoint.

MM: You’re often seen on Cento Giorni da Leoni, Byo Blu, Visione Tv—the re-information channels in Italy—which are very high quality, and with which you cooperate closely. And they seem to be self-financed, which is quite an achievement. Is that correct?

Massimo M: Absolutely. Each one of our websites is self-financed, thanks to donations; and we are all in constant touch—by that I mean that we share all the most relevant information, and we often invite one another to speak.

Massimo Mazzucco.

MM: Only François Asselineau of the UPR here in France seems to have understood that the string-pullers are playing the same electoral game with Fratelli d’Itali and Meloni as they played with Cinque Stelle four years ago. Would you mind debunking the Meloni hoax for our readers? Who are her puppet-masters? What are some of her more egregious untruths? What is her so-called program?

Massimo M: Well, I don’t really think Giorgia Meloni is being “managed” by third parties. That said, to get into government, she decided to drop major planks of her platform, including pulling out of NATO and the EU! And she has had to claim that she backs the Ukraine and NATO 100%, despite having been rather less on board with Atlanticist positions earlier on. Having by now seriously blunted the point of her blade, she has come to resemble Mario Draghi, the outgoing Prime Minister, to a degree that once she gets into power, I fail to see how she might make any difference relative to her predecessor.

MM: The sovereignist opposition in Italy presented some remarkable candidates, on remarkable platforms—no vaccine mandates, no vaccine pass, no to NATO, no to the Euro, no to the EU. Italia Sovrana e Populare, the group around Davide Barillari, the allies of Pino Cabras, the Italexit with Dr. Gianni Frajese—doubtless the most high-powered group of people standing for office in the whole of Western Europe. Many of these people are brilliant intellectuals who have put their career and livelihood on the line over the past two years. They have proven that they have principles. Despite blackmail, threats and coercion, at least 20% of the population has refused to take the “vaccines.” That’s a 20% potential voter base. However, apparently no one has gotten into Parliament. How is this possible?

Massimo M: The bad news is that the parties which one might call “anti-system,” rather than all pulling together, chose to stand for election separately. As the Italian electoral system requires that one garner 3% of the vote to get into Parliament, not a single one of these parties has got in! All I can say is that I hope everyone has learned the hard way from this debacle, and that next time round, they stand united.

MM: Italexit candidate Nunzia Schiliro has just said on Byo Blu television news that a main reason for the dissidents’ electoral flop at this critical juncture is the “cognitive decline of Italian youth” and “galloping illiteracy in the general population.” Would you like to comment?

Massimo M: Well, although “cognitive decline” is a reality, my own view is that this is not the reason for the flop. As I’ve just explained, with each new party standing for office separately, they ended up shooting each other in the foot.

MM: Many young Italians have never heard of Enrico Mattei, a strategic genius who revolutionized Italy’s place in the world. He opened relations with Russia and China and launched the flow of gas from Russia—by the way. Should his ideas not be discussed and taught all over Italy, now?

Massimo M: Enrico Mattei held ideas which led to his death. His policy of cooperating with Russia did not wash with the USA, and since Mattei would not cave in to the Seven Sisters, the decision was taken to get rid of him. For Italy to assert his ideas, and what he stands for in history, would mean charging the USA with that crime, a move which Italy is not in a position to make at the present time.

MM: Massimo, you are the author of several documentaries on the events of 9/11 (Twin Towers), as an Own-Goal by the US against the US. The so-called “elites” appear to have decided they no longer need the Western population alive, for both financial and ideological considerations. Would you like to comment?

Massimo M: I’m not entirely certain that the Western elites no longer need their populations. They do need them, but as subject peoples, as slaves, rather than as upstanding citizens. The by-now notorious Great Reset road-map is a blatant illustration of that.

MM: An incredible public debate took place on June 7th between foreign policy analyst Giorgio Bianchi, military specialist Manlio Dinucci, and the high-strung chief editor of Corriere della Sera, Fiorenza Sarzanini. The latter had just published a frontpage piece on a purported “Putin lobby” in Italy, without however adducing a shred of factual proof. What is the fall-out from that debate?

Massimo M: Fall-out? Further to that debate, charges of blacklisting individuals have been leveled at Corriere della Sera. I would suggest that this has not precisely gilded their reputation.

[Following an Italia Sovrana e Populare public meeting at Rome on October 15, the journalist and ISP candidate Giorgio Bianchi and Francesco Toscano, head of ISP, flew to Gioia Tauro in Catania. From the airport, Toscano dropped Bianchi off at a hotel at 1 AM. At 3 pm, the room bell rang, and two police officers, along with the hotel receptionist, burst into the room. The police said they were “looking for information,” and searched his belongings. They had no search warrant, nor were any charges pressed. Bianchi has no criminal record.

Further to the Corriere della Sera front-page attack in early June on “Putin’s lobby in Italy,” including Bianchi’s photograph, this is the second or third time incidents of this nature have occurred in relation to Bianchi, who in August was granted an exclusive interview with Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova].

MM: Italy has been occupied since 1955 by NATO—there are over 100 NATO/US bases, two of which at least have nuclear weapons. In the event of war with Russia, Italy, generally considered the world’s most beautiful country, would be entirely destroyed. Is there any understanding of this among the people?

Massimo M: The Italian people, more’s the pity, do not grasp how real that danger actually is. We tend to imagine that nuclear war only happens in films—whereas, it could break out at any moment.

MM: Thank you for this interview, Massimo.

Writing Grace: An Interview with Thibault de Montaigu

Thibault de Montaigu is the author of five novels, the most recent one, La Grace [Grace] recounts his conversion and was awarded the Prix de Flore (2020). He is in conversation with Christophe Geffroy of La Nef, through whose kind courtesy we bring you this interesting discussion.

Christophe Geffroy (CG): For you, is there a “Christian literature?” Does the label “Catholic writer” seem relevant to you?

Thibault de Montaigu (TM): At the end of the 19th century, when this notion was coined, one could distinguish two kinds of Catholic writers, even if very few claimed this label—the official ones like Paul Bourget or Henry Bordeaux, who sought to defend Catholic civilization, and the “converts” like Bloy, Claudel or later Péguy who sought, with fury and intransigence at times, to regain the breath and ardor that modernity was extinguishing. It goes without saying that the former have aged very badly, while the latter retain an eternal radiance and freshness. For it is the Spirit that guides their pen and not their pen that tries to impose the Spirit on their readers.

Thibault de Montaigu.

CG: Can literature be apologetic, explicitly or implicitly? Do you have any examples of works that have made an impression on you in this sense?

TM: Literature, like any artistic experience, is first of all a matter of emotion. Its vocation is not to defend a position but to make you feel the invisible. “My novels do not deliver messages, there are telegraphists for that,” rightly wrote Morand. But apologetics essentially takes the steep path of reason to convince its reader. Even if Pascal in his Pensées can captivate us with his words and his jibes, he will never touch our hearts as St. Augustine does in his Confessions.

CG: How would you define grace, which is also the title of your book its title? Are there, in your opinion, any particular difficulties in giving a literary account of it?

TM: I don’t consider grace from a theological point of view, because I wouldn’t be able to do that, but only from an experiential point of view. For me, it is the unique possibility of a carnal contact with the beyond. This point of tangency between the earthly and the absolute. In other words, it is God who agrees to descend to us in order to raise us up to Him. But obviously words are very poor at telling of such a miracle, because in the very moment when God ravishes us, we cease to exist for ourselves. Consciousness dissolves to let His light and His love penetrate. What can literature do in the presence of His face?

CG: Is there a “Catholic writer” who has had a special impact on you?

TM: St. Augustine never ceases to amaze me; and the genre of confessions, which he invented, was a model for writing Grace. He is the direct inspiration of great mystics whose work I hold in high esteem, such as Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Angela of Foligno.

As for the moderns, I have a particular tenderness for those who, in their books, relate the struggle in the heart of each man between gravity and grace. Bernanos, of course, but I am also thinking of Julien Green’s magnificent Journal non-expurgated, which Bouquins has just published, or the chiaroscuro poems of Pierre Jean Jouve. It is hard to enclose in one work both the beauty and the misery of man, the mark of original sin—that is to say, of the distance from God—and the possibility of salvation, which is offered to each of us. These authors, to whom I can add Dostoyevsky, tell of this fundamental rupture that is both our cross and our hope.

CG: As a convert, how do you see the Church today and this modern world that seems so far from God?

TM: In writing Grace, I was struck by how the Franciscans, many of whom are men inhabited by a luminous faith, have lost their way in our times by abandoning the robe and sometimes transforming themselves into charities—which is, of course, a large part of their mission but not the only one. Today it is an order that is withering away, while the Augustinians, with whom I had the good fortune to stay in Lagrasse, attract a large number of the faithful and give birth to many vocations. They have kept the habit and the traditional liturgy but also work outside their monastery. Ora et labora. This is, in my opinion, the right balance to keep. God is manifested in love for others but also in the beauty of hymns and churches. I can testify to this, as I was struck by grace during the Office of Compline at Le Barroux Abbey. In the face of the de-structuring of the modern world, the sacred will always remain the greatest bulwark.

Featured: The Lamb at the Foot of the Cross, a leaf from the Beatus Manuscript, ca. 1180.

In the Rush of Time: An Interview with Jean-Pierre Valère

Jean-Pierre Valère, whose real name is Jean-Pierre van Lerberghe, is a Belgian actor, weightlifting champion, and musician. He stars in Moloss (originally known as Lopak L’Envoûteur, Lopak the Enchanter), which premiered at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival, on August 31, 2022. Moloss is co-directed by Abdelkrim Qissi and Abel Ernest Tempo. (See Grégoire Canlorbe’s conversation with Abdelkrim Qissi).

Grégoire Canlorbe (GC): Are you happy with the screening of Moloss at the BIFFF [Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival]?

Jean-Pierre Valère (J-PV): Yes, very happy. I had the pleasure of meeting an excellent journalist in you, and I also got to meet the whole team of the film, so many wonderfully talented actors. It was like a crowning for us, in such magnificent setting, on the occasion of the great return of BIFFF after this devastating epidemic.

Jean-Pierre Valère (right) with Grégoire Canlorbe.

GC: What was the shoot like?

J-PV: It was an honor to film alongside friends, Abel Ernest Tembo and Abdelkrim Qissi. Ernest is remarkable as a director cameraman. I saw firsthand his great art. Restrained, unassuming, he knows how to direct his actors without seeming to direct them. The staging subtly and brilliantly alternates the intimate with the explosive. Our two friends Abdelkrim and Ernest, really, know how to hit all the right notes in a perfect symphony of collaboration.

GC: Did you like playing your character in the film?

J-PV: I am so grateful for the chance Ernest and Abdelkrim gave me to play this offbeat role—offbeat in just the right way. The bits of humor that the character brings, like when he tries to reassure Moloss, whose best friend he is, are a contrast to the many scenes of violence and the almost constant feeling of dread found in the film. It was a shooting like no other, an adventure like I had never experienced before, which I had the chance to share with all these heroes that are the other actors of the film, all of them remarkable. I hope that a sequel will be made. Terminator did it successfully, why not Moloss?

[Spoiler alert! Skip this question and its answer about the film for those who don’t want to know about a crucial revelation]

GC: A rather late revelation in the film is that your character, up till then, had been under the yoke of a hypnotic substance. How did you get into the skin of a character subject to such a chemical “spell?”

J-PV: I like subtle acting, whether I’m playing bastards (as in the RTL-TVI series Affaires de Famille) or funny and nice characters (as in Moloss). Many humorists, if they want to be funny, must be good comedians first and foremost. I tried to play my character in Moloss with nuance—to bring out the state of mind he is in by playing him, paradoxically, as if nothing had happened. Whether it’s the role I play in Moloss, or the role of a local “J.R.” character, a real scoundrel (I love that!) that I play in Affaires de Famille, it’s all about the look, and a sincere and natural performance.

[End of spoiler]

GC: Looking back on your weightlifting career, what do you see?

J-PV: A very weighty career, if I may say so, since I was a finalist at the Olympic Games in Mexico, Munich, and Montreal, with a silver medal at the 1970 world championships. He was very proud of his little track record, this Valère guy, who was then known by his real name, van Lerberghe.

GC: How does the art of using your hands as a musician differ from the art of using your hands as a weightlifter?

J-PV: Excellent question. As you know, I have been in love with music—especially piano and guitar—since I was a child. As someone who likes to play classical improvisation, I was surprised to find out that weightlifting does not alter (no pun intended) the flexibility of the fingers when playing musical instruments; these are two reflex actions of the finger muscles that are quite specific, each in its own way. I was afraid that I would not be able to play the guitar or the piano properly after a training session, but I was amazed to discover that weightlifting and music are perfectly compatible disciplines; and that the improvement of the first one does not compromise the improvement of the second, provided, of course, that weightlifting is not too time-consuming to take away time from music. But I think that an artist, whoever he or she may be, should cultivate versatility as much as these meager twenty-four hours a day allow.

GC: You played the main role in the Belgian TV-drama, Affaires de Famille (a total of 105 episodes, broadcast since 1996). What are your favorite TV-dramas?

J-PV: My interpretation of Didier Barillot in Affaires de Famille, with the influence of Dallas’ J.R., is one of the greatest satisfactions of my acting career, as is my recent interpretation of Moloss’ best friend. I hope to have the chance to play other roles of the same quality in the near future. I used to enjoy the series Dallas, but I don’t watch any series nowadays.

GC: Among the contemporary musicians, are some particularly dear to your heart as a music lover?

J-PV: Lang Lang, an extraordinary person and a virtuoso pianist capable of an infinite number of nuances; Khatia Buniatishvili, whose physical beauty is matched only by her sublime piano playing. But above all, the Beatles—under an apparent lightness, the most inspired and diversified geniuses of the 20th century!

GC: Jean-Claude Van Damme alone is nicknamed “The Muscles from Brussels,” even though such a qualification fits you just as well, if not more? What do you make of that?

J-PV: The reason is simple—Jean-Claude is world famous. Here’s an interesting anecdote in that regard. We were both training at the Centre National des Sports in Brussels, me in weightlifting, him in karate. One evening when we were the last two in the weightlifting room and were doing our abs side by side, he told me about his plans to go to America and make a career in cinema. As I didn’t want to break his momentum, I said it was a good idea, never believing for a second that anything would ever come of it, considering the competition he would have to face. But we know what happened. I called him one day. He was in London. I hadn’t seen him in, say, twenty years; but he was still as nice and friendly as ever, just surprised to hear from me.

GC: What do you remember about Vasily Alekseyev?

J-PV: Fortunately for me, we were not in the same category. He was classified as a super heavyweight, and I was classified as a light heavyweight. He weighed in at one hundred and seventy kilos, and I weighed in at less than ninety kilos. In Belgium, weightlifting was at that time a despised sport, so that everyone had to train alone in his cellar, without any real professional supervision. The Russians were pros, and we were amateurs, so to speak. That’s why I’m proud to be vice world champion!

GC: So, tell us about your friendship with heavyweight Serge Reding.

J-PV: A young man of incredible kindness! His shyness played tricks on him in competitions. He was as gifted as Vasily Alekseyev, if not more so, but he let himself be impressed by the Russian champion, who was not afraid of anything and who went through some formidable psychological training. When we both went to compete all over the world, it was always a wonderful adventure that we would remember for the rest of our lives; an initiatory journey to discover different civilizations. There is always something to learn and something to gain from meeting others—the calmness of New Yorkers in traffic, for example, or the eternal smile of the poorest of the poor.

GC: Are you still weightlifting?

J-PV: Now, I just do “maintenance of the machinery,” as they say. I go to a gym two or three times a week, with the idea of maintaining, as they say, the locomotor system and to prevent an inevitable loss of strength as one gets older. It is important to be able to keep one’s physical independence until the end. And, while we are at it, to maintain a well-balanced, or at least a presentable, body.

GC: You are a songwriter, with a particular penchant for love songs if I am not mistaken.

J-PV: My songs are not well known, but that doesn’t take away from the pleasure I take in writing them. I am a literary person above all else; some people ironically say that I speak like a book. I try, in any case, to bring a particular care to the choice of words, and to distil nuance, even humor.

GC: So, tell us about your favorite songs.

J-PV: I have a special affection for the Beatles’ songs, as they are practically the coming together of Mozart, Beethoven, Gershwin and rock. That four such talented musicians, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison, could team up is a unique event in the history of music! Other songs that blow me away every time I listen to them are the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” or Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (a wickedly slow song, as they used to say back then, with infinite poetry!); and Jean-Louis Aubert’s “Les Plages” (a wonder of nostalgia).

GC: By your own admission, you are a “literary man.” Who are your favorite French language writers?

J-PV: I must confess that I read relatively little, suffering from a problem with the eyes that, when too active, get tired very quickly. The little I have been taught about French and Greek philosophers has been a fundamental background for me. Victor Hugo, Alfred de Vigny, or Montaigne I do particularly like. But the one I really like and prefer is Chamfort (not the singer, the other one!), for that art of his which can express a strong idea in a short sentence. I invite everyone to read Chamfort’s Maximes et Pensées, which contains true philosophy, and whose discovery in my adolescence, a time when I was precisely in need of philosophy, was formative for me.

GC: Thank you for your time. Is there anything you would like to add or expand?

J-PV: “The most lost of all days is the one in which one has not laughed,” wrote Chamfort. I would humbly add that the worst periods in life are those when one finds oneself without the slightest project, which throws one into the darkest depression. One project that is occupying me at the moment is a book that I plan to call, modestly, A Guide to the Universe, a title that I hope will be catchy. I hope to have time to finish it (which brings us back to a subject we discussed earlier—the little time we have each day). I plan to put my thoughts on things in it, and I have written about 20 pages so far. I have a few songs with a touch of humor and irony that I would like to record in the studio, with guitar accompaniment by myself. A lot of work to do, but you know how versatility is an ideal that drives me.

I was happy to meet you. You are considerate in your interviews and let your interviewee express himself—which is so rare that it needs to be highlighted.