Kharkov and Mobilization

The recapture of the Kharkov region at the beginning of September appears to be a success for Ukrainian forces. Our media exulted and relayed Ukrainian propaganda to give us a picture that is not entirely accurate. A closer look at the operations might have prompted Ukraine to be more cautious.

From a military point of view, this operation is a tactical victory for the Ukrainians and an operational/strategic victory for the Russian coalition.

On the Ukrainian side, Kiev was under pressure to achieve some success on the battlefield. Volodymyr Zelensky was afraid of a fatigue from the West and that its support would stop. This is why the Americans and the British pressed him to carry out offensives in the Kherson sector. These offensives, undertaken in a disorganised manner, with disproportionate casualties and without success, created tensions between Zelensky and his military staff.

For several weeks now, Western experts have been questioning the presence of the Russians in the Kharkov area, as they clearly had no intention to fight in the city. In reality, their presence in this area was only aimed at affixing the Ukrainian troops so that they would not go to the Donbass, which is the real operational objective of the Russians.

In August, indications suggested that the Russians had planned to leave the area well before the start of the Ukrainian offensive. They therefore withdrew in good order, together with some civilians who could have been the subject of retaliation. As evidence of this, the huge ammunition depot at Balaklaya was empty when the Ukrainians found it, demonstrating that the Russians had evacuated all sensitive personnel and equipment in good order several days earlier. The Russians had even left areas that Ukraine had not attacked. Only a few Russian National Guard and Donbass militia troops remained as the Ukrainians entered the area.

At this point, the Ukrainians were busy launching multiple attacks in the Kherson region, which had resulted in repeated setbacks and huge losses for their army since August. When US intelligence detected the Russians’ departure from the Kharkov region, they saw an opportunity for the Ukrainians to achieve an operational success and passed on the information. Ukraine thus abruptly decided to attack the Kharkov area that was already virtually empty of Russian troops.

Apparently, the Russians anticipated the organisation of referenda in Lugansk, Donetsk, Zaporozhe and Kherson oblasts. They realised that the territory of Kharkov was not directly relevant to their objectives, and that they were in the same situation as with Snake Island in June: the energy to defend this territory was greater than its strategic importance.

By withdrawing from Kharkov, the Russian coalition was able to consolidate its defence line behind the Oskoll River and strengthen its presence in the north of the Donbass. It was thus able to make a significant advance in the Bakhmut area, a key point in the Slavyansk-Kramatorsk sector, which is the real operational objective of the Russian coalition.

As there were no longer any troops in Kharkov to “pin down” the Ukrainian army, the Russians had to attack the electrical infrastructure to prevent Ukrainian reinforcements by train to the Donbass.

As a result, today, all Russian coalition forces are located within what may become the new borders of Russia after the referenda in the four southern Ukrainian oblasts.

For the Ukrainians, it is a Pyrrhic victory. They advanced into Kharkov without encountering any resistance and there was hardly any fighting. Instead, the area became a huge “killing zone” (“зона поражения”), where Russian artillery would destroy an estimated number of 4,000-5,000 Ukrainians (about 2 brigades), while the Russian coalition suffered only marginal losses as there was no fighting.
These losses come on top of those from the Kherson offensives. According to Sergei Shoigu, Russian Defence Minister, the Ukrainians lost about 7,000 men in the first three weeks of September. Although these figures cannot be verified, their order of magnitude matches the estimates of some Western experts. In other words, it seems that the Ukrainians have lost about 25% of the 10 brigades that were created and equipped in recent months with Western help. This is a far cry from the million-man army mentioned by the Ukrainian leaders.

From a political point of view, it is a strategic victory for the Ukrainians, and a tactical loss for the Russians. It is the first time that the Ukrainians have taken back so much territory since 2014, and the Russians seem to be losing. The Ukrainians were able to use this opportunity to communicate about their final victory, undoubtedly triggering exaggerated hopes and making them even less willing to engage in negotiation.

This is why Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, declared that the moment “is not one for appeasement.” This Pyrrhic victory is therefore a poisoned gift for Ukraine. It has led the West to overestimate the capabilities of the Ukrainian forces and to push them to engage in further offensives, instead of negotiating.

The words “victory” and “defeat” need to be carefully used. Vladimir Putin’s stated objectives of “demilitarisation” and “denazification” are not about gaining territory, but about destroying the threat to the Donbass. In other words, the Ukrainians are fighting for territory, while the Russians seek to destroy capabilities. In a way, by holding on to territory, the Ukrainians are making the Russians’ job easier. You can always regain territory—you cannot regain human lives.

In the belief that they are weakening Russia, our media are promoting the gradual disappearance of Ukrainian society. It seems like a paradox, but this is consistent with the way our leaders view Ukraine. They did not react to the massacres of Russian-speaking Ukrainian civilians in the Donbass between 2014 and 2022, nor do they mention Ukraine’s losses today. In fact, for our media and authorities, Ukrainians are a kind of “Untermenschen” whose life is only meant to satisfy the goals of our politicians.

Between 23 and 27 September, there were four referendums in progress, and the local populations have to answer different questions depending on their region. In the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, which are officially independent, the question is whether the population wants to join Russia. In the oblasts of Kherson and Zaporozhe, which are still officially part of Ukraine, the question is whether the population wants to remain within Ukraine, whether they want to be independent, or whether they want to be part of Russia.

However, there are still some unknowns at this stage, such as what will be the borders of the entities that will be attached to Russia. Will they be the borders of the areas occupied by the Russian coalition today or the borders of the Ukrainian regions? If it is the second solution, then we could still have Russian offensives to seize the rest of the regions (oblasts).

It is hard to estimate the outcome of these referenda, although one can assume the Russian-speaking Ukrainians will most probably want to leave Ukraine. Polls, whose reliability cannot be assessed, suggest that 80-90% are in favour of joining Russia. This seems realistic due to several factors.

Firstly, since 2014, linguistic minorities in Ukraine have been subject to restrictions that have made them 2nd class citizens. As a result, the Ukrainian policy has caused Russian-speaking citizens to no longer feel Ukrainian. This was even emphasised by the Law on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in July 2021, which is somewhat equivalent to the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, which give different rights to citizens depending on their ethnic origin. This is why Vladimir Putin wrote an article on 12 July 2021 calling on Ukraine to consider Russian speakers as part of the Ukrainian nation and not to discriminate against them as proposed by the new law.

Of course, no Western country protested against this law, which is a continuation of the abolition of the law on official languages in February 2014, which was the reason for the secession of Crimea and Donbass.

Secondly, in their fight against the secession of Donbass, the Ukrainians never tried to win the “hearts and minds” of the insurgents. On the contrary, they have done everything to drive them further away by bombing them, by mining their roads, by cutting off drinking water, by stopping the payment of pensions and salaries, or by stopping all banking services. This is the exact opposite of an effective counter-insurgency strategy.

Finally, the artillery and missile strikes against the population of Donetsk and other cities in the Zaporozhe and Kherson region in order to intimidate the population and prevent them from going to the polls is further alienating the local population from Kiev. Today, the Russian-speaking population is afraid of Ukrainian reprisals if the referenda are not accepted.

So, we have a situation where the Western countries announce that they will not recognise these referenda, but on the other hand they have done absolutely nothing to encourage Ukraine to have a more inclusive policy with their minorities. Ultimately, what these referenda could reveal is that there has never really been an inclusive Ukrainian nation.

Moreover, these referenda will freeze a situation and make Russia’s conquests irreversible. Interestingly, if the West had let Zelensky continue with the proposal he made to Russia at the end of March 2022, Ukraine would more or less retained its pre-February 2022 configuration. As a reminder, Zelensky had made a first request for negotiation on 25 February, which the Russians had accepted, but which the European Union refused by providing a first package of €450 million in arms. In March, Zelensky made another offer that Russia welcomed and was ready to discuss, but the European Union once again came to prevent this with a second package of €500 million for arms.

As explained by Ukraïnskaya Pravda, Boris Johnson called Zelensky on 2 April and asked him to withdraw his proposal, otherwise the West would stop its support. Then, on 9 April, during his visit to Kiev, “BoJo” repeated the same thing to the Ukrainian president. Ukraine was therefore ready to negotiate with Russia, but the West does not want negotiations, as “BoJo” made clear again on his last visit to Ukraine in August.

It is certainly the prospect that there will be no negotiations that have prompted Russia to engage in referenda. It should be remembered that until now, Vladimir Putin had always rejected the idea of integrating the territories of southern Ukraine into Russia.

It should also be remembered that if the West were so committed to Ukraine and its territorial integrity, France and Germany would certainly have fulfilled their obligations under the Minsk Agreements before February 2022. Moreover, they would have let Zelensky proceed with his proposed agreement with Russia in March 2022. The problem is that the West is not looking for Ukraine’s interest, but to weaken Russia.

Partial Mobilization

Regarding Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilisation, it should be recalled that Russia has intervened in Ukraine with considerably fewer troops than the West considers necessary to conduct an offensive campaign. There are two reasons for this. First, the Russians rely on their mastery of the “operative art” and play with their operational modules on the theatre of operations like a chess player. This is what allows them to be effective with reduced manpower. In other words, they know how to conduct operations efficiently.

The second reason that our media deliberately ignore is that the vast majority of the combat actions in Ukraine is carried out by the Donbass militias. Instead of saying “the Russians,” they should (if they were honest) say “the Russian coalition” or “the Russian-speaking coalition.” In other words, the number of Russian troops in Ukraine is relatively small. Moreover, the Russian practice is to keep troops only for a limited period in the area of operations. This means that they tend to rotate troops more frequently than the West.

In addition to these general considerations, there are the possible consequences of the referenda in southern Ukraine, which are likely to extend the Russian border by almost 1000 kilometres. This will require additional capabilities to build a more robust defence system, to construct facilities for troops, etc. In that sense, this partial mobilisation is a good idea. In this sense, this partial mobilisation is a logical consequence of what we have seen above.

Much has been made in the West about those who have sought to leave Russia to avoid mobilisation. They certainly exist, like the thousands of Ukrainians who sought to escape conscription and can be seen in the streets of Brussels driving powerful and expensive German sports cars! Much less publicity has been given to the long queues of young people outside military recruitment offices and the popular demonstrations in favour of the decision to mobilise!

Nuclear Threats

As to the nuclear threats, in his speech on 21 September , Vladimir Putin mentioned the risk of nuclear escalation. Naturally, the conspiratorial media (i.e., those that construct narratives from unrelated information) immediately spoke of “nuclear threats.”

In reality, this is not true. If we read the wording of Putin’s speech, we can see that he did not threaten to use nuclear weapons. In fact, he has never done so since the beginning of this conflict in 2014. However, he has warned the West against the use of such weapons. I will remind you that on 24 August, Liz Truss declared that it was acceptable to strike Russia with nuclear weapons, and that she was ready to do so, even if it would lead to a “global annihilation!” This is not the first time that the current British Prime Minister has made such a statement, which had already prompted warnings from the Kremlin in February. Moreover, I would like to remind you that in April of this year, Joe Biden decided to depart from the US “no-first use” policy and thus reserves the right to use nuclear weapons first.

So clearly, Vladimir Putin does not trust Western behaviour that is totally irrational and irresponsible, and which is ready to sacrifice its own citizens in order to achieve objectives guided by dogmatism and ideology. This is what is happening in the field of energy and sanctions at the moment, and this is what Liz Truss is ready to do with nuclear weapons. Putin is certainly worried about the reactions of our leaders who are in increasingly uncomfortable situations because of the catastrophic economic and social situation they have created by their incompetence. This pressure on our leaders could lead them to escalate the conflict just to avoid losing face.

In his speech, Vladimir Putin does not threaten to use nuclear weapons, but other types of weapons. He is of course thinking of hypersonic weapons, which do not need to be nuclear to be effective and which can thwart Western defences. Moreover, contrary to what our media say, the use of tactical nuclear weapons is no longer in the Russian employment doctrine for many years. Moreover, unlike the United States, Russia has a no-first-use policy.

In other words, it is the Westerners and their erratic behaviour that are the real factors of insecurity.

I am not sure that our politicians have a clear and objective view of the situation. Ignazio Cassis’ recent tweets show that his level of information is low. First of all, when he mentions Switzerland’s role and neutrality in offering its good offices, he is a bit out of touch with geography. In Russia’s mind, Switzerland has abandoned its neutrality status and if it wants to play a constructive role in this conflict, it will have to demonstrate its neutrality. We are a long, long way from that.

Secondly, when Cassis expressed his concern about the use of nuclear weapons to Lavrov, he clearly did not understand Vladimir Putin’s message. The problem with today’s Western leaders is that none of them currently has the intellectual capacity to deal with the challenges that they themselves have created through their own foolishness. Cassis would probably have been better advised to express his concerns to Truss and Biden!

The Russians—and Vladimir Putin in particular—have always been very clear in their statements and have consistently and methodically done what they said they would do. No more, no less. One can of course disagree with what he says, but it is a major and probably even criminal mistake not to listen to what he says. For if we had listened, we could have prevented the situation becoming what it is.

It is also interesting to compare the current general situation with what was described in the RAND Corporation reports published in 2019 as the blueprint for trying to destabilise Russia.

Figure 1—From the RAND Corporation’s 2019 paper on how to destabilise Russia. This document shows that the US was aiming for a campaign of subversion against Russia, in which Ukraine was only an unfortunate instrument.

As we can see, what we are witnessing is the result of a carefully planned scenario. It is very likely that the Russians were able to anticipate what the West was planning against them. Russia was thus able to prepare itself politically and diplomatically for the crisis that was to be created. It is this capacity for strategic anticipation that shows that Russia is more stable, more effective and more efficient than the West. This is why I think that if this conflict is going to escalate, it will be more because of Western incompetence than because of a Russian calculation.


Jacques Baud is a widely respected geopolitical expert whose publications include many articles and books, including Poutine: Maître du jeu? Gouverner avec les fake news, and L’Affaire Navalny. His most recent book is on the war in Uktraine, entitled, Operation Z.

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

1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.

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

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

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

And,

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

And,

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

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

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

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

And,

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

What’s at Stake in the War in Ukraine

After a U.S.- and European Union (EU)-orchestrated coup in Kiev in 2014 and eight years of civil war that followed, Russia decided to go on the military offensive in Ukraine. The mainstream media is focusing on the war, but very important events are also taking place behind the scenes.

While NATO member countries reacted almost as one behind Joe Biden to denounce Russia and implement sanctions against the Kremlin, this was not the case for most of the “rest of the world.” While the EU and the United States are pouring money into arming and supporting V. Zelensky in Kiev, Russia is weaving its web with precisely that “rest of the world” that is not hostile to it. Among other things, it is strengthening its relations with the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – 41% of the world’s population), which are substantially increasing their consumption of Russian products (oil, fertilizers, grain, etc.) and signing new contracts in national currencies, thereby weakening the all-powerful US dollar, the pillar of the American empire. Moscow has also shown that it is resilient in the face of sanctions that are hurting Europe more than Russia, as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban notes: “I thought we were shooting ourselves in the foot, but now it seems that the European economy has shot itself in the lungs and is suffocating.”

The American Decline

The United States is no longer the power it once was. It is torn by a major political and societal crisis that the last presidential elections exposed and that the mid-term elections of next November will amplify. Their empire, built on violence, is running out of steam. While Europe sees a recession, Russia announces trade surpluses. While the euro falls below the dollar for the first time in 20 years and Germany runs its first trade deficit in 30 years, the Russian ruble strengthens. The EU thought it could do without Russian hydrocarbons by replacing them with imports from other countries and American liquefied natural gas (LNG). The problem is that the United States and Europe do not have sufficient infrastructure to import this LNG, and that the “rest of the world” is not fighting to deliver its hydrocarbons to us. La Tribune headlined in early July: “Electricity: prices may triple this winter.” We, the French, are going to pay dearly for our abandonment of political sovereignty in favor of Washington and Brussels.

Vladimir Putin’s real objective is not the Ukraine but American globalism. He says: “This is the beginning of the transition from American liberal globalist egocentrism to a multipolar world. A world that is not based on selfish rules invented for the sole purpose of pursuing a hegemonic policy, nor on hypocritical double standards, but on the basis of international law and the sovereignty of peoples and civilizations; on their desire to live out their historical destinies with their values and traditions and cooperate on the basis of democracy, justice and equality.”

The US and the EU did not see this move coming. They do not want to see that the “rest of the world” is fed up with the hegemony, hypocrisy and interference of the Atlanticists who practice a systematic double standard to their sole advantage. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya… the West has helped itself to hydrocarbons and other natural resources at the expense of international law and respect for the sovereignty of nations. The West has largely tarnished its image in these wars and foreign interference. Also, the “rest of the world” does not adhere at all to the American imperialist program and its woke anthropology, stemming from the cancel culture that Washington and the European and Anglo-Saxon capitals try to impose on them.

Faced with this admission of weakness, Washington is confronted with a historical dilemma: to admit its limitations and adapt peacefully to the emergence of a new world model, or try to go all out in a military confrontation that can only be global and possibly nuclear. Let us not forget that the Americans have already revived their economy twice, thanks to the two world wars. Let us hope that they love their children more than they love their Empire.


Nikola Mirkovic is a French-Serbian graduate of the European Business School and passionate about geopolitics. He has been bombed by NATO. This article appears courtesy of La Nef.


The Third Period of Russia’s Modern History: War

What is happening now in Ukraine is war. There is no more Special Military Operation (SMO)—what we have is called “war.: Not a war between Russia and Ukraine, but a war of the collective West against Russia. When U.S. trackers direct missiles at Russian territory, it can only be called “war.” And it doesn’t matter whose arms they are fighting with. When they aim HIMERS at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant it can be interpreted as an attempt to deliver a nuclear strike on Russia. If the US, NATO and the collective West had not sided with the terrorist regime in Kiev, all the goals of the SMO would have been successfully accomplished long ago. But the real war began. The West has crossed all red lines. This is irreversible.

Russia—both the government and the people—cannot fail to comprehend this. Hence the first steps toward declaring martial law and mobilization—in Chechnya, in Crimea, and then, I think, in other regions as well, especially the border regions.

What is going on requires, above all, reflection. There are three geopolitical periods in modern Russian history.

The first is the 1990s. The USSR collapsed and Russia capitulated to the West. The price for capitulation was the dismemberment of the great power (Russia as the USSR = Russian Empire), and the delayed disintegration of the Russian Federation, a fragment of the USSR. Up front, the West planned the final, smooth disintegration of the Russian Federation. Admittedly, Yeltsin tried—albeit clumsily and inconsistently—to resist this—hence the point of the first Chechen campaign. If Russia had lost that campaign, it would have had only one choice: what modern Western ideologists call “decolonization;” that is, complete disintegration and the final transfer of power to a pro-Western occupying administration, the so-called “liberals.”

The second period began with Vladimir Putin’s accession to power. The new course was to stop the inevitable (as it seemed at the time) collapse and restore Russia’s sovereignty, which had received a severe, almost life-threatening, blow. The government’s main policy was not to directly confront the West, to lull it into a false sense of security, and to create the illusion that Russia agreed with the globalists’ basic demands but only insisted on a postponement. It worked. The second Chechen campaign was won, and the Chechens, once separatists and Russia’s enemies, became Russia’s most loyal sons and defenders. Separatism was also eradicated in other regions. Russia strengthened its independence and began to actively influence international processes. At some point Putin’s strategy and his focus on sovereignty was recognized by the West, and it began to prepare for a serious confrontation.

In 2014, the globalists made a breakthrough in Ukraine, and organized and supported a coup d’état and brought to power in Kiev a neo-Nazi Russophobe terrorist clique, slavishly loyal to the United States and NATO. Moscow responded by reuniting Crimea and supporting the long-suffering people of Donbass. But it was a compromise. The denouement came on February 24, 2022.

This is a purely racist approach: Whoever thinks differently than we do should be wiped off the face of the earth. It is not new to the West. The only thing new is its fusion with liberalism, with the LGBT agenda, with the radical desire of the modern West and its elites to destroy all the structures of traditional society—religion, state, family, ethics, man himself, by fusing him with a machine and placing him under total surveillance, under total control. Welcome to the Matrix, to the “brave new world.”

Russia—and above all, sovereign Russia—does not fit into this context at all. That’s why the West openly supports all terrorist and extremist organizations and direct terrorist acts if they are directed against Russia, against the Russians, against the Russian civilization itself and its bearers.

We are in a war. It is already impossible to avoid it. From the very beginning it was impossible, because that is the underlying logic of the history of things: some powers want to keep the unipolar world and their planetary hegemony at any cost, while others revolt against it and openly proclaim a multipolar world order. The future will depend on who wins this war. If there will be future at all.

Russia has already entered the war. China, another powerful sovereign pole, is about to enter.

So, it should come as no surprise that Russia is in a ring of fire. The escalation of hostilities between Russia’s allies, Azerbaijan and Armenia, the conflict between other allies—Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the promise by some political forces in Georgia to open a second front against Russia, the artificial stirring up of the Transnistrian conflict in Moldova, growing threats to Belarus and the policy of its sovereign leader Alexander Lukashenko, and finally, the attempt to isolate the Kaliningrad region and direct attacks on Russian regions (Crimea, Belgorod region, Voronezh, Kursk, Rostov regions, Krasnodar region)—all these are elements of the Western Anaconda strategy, customary for the US, to strangle Russia. Legitimately, we are looking for an answer. And this explains the true meaning of the last SCO summit. We need allies in a multipolar world. And we have a chance to find them—but this time outside the West.

In essence, we are in World War III.

What to do in such a situation?

We have entered the third period of Russia’s modern history—a war with the West, which it managed to impose on us.

This period is the most difficult and decisive. But we were unable to prevent or avoid it. The price was surrender. The geopolitical war of the West against Russia is ongoing. In it only the stages that change—cold or hot. Right now, it’s hot. There is nowhere hotter.

The West does not even allow the very possibility of the existence of a sovereign, independent, autonomous Russia. The same is true of China, as well as other countries that take their sovereignty seriously. From the point of view of the globalists, only those states have the right to exist that agree with the ideology of liberalism, with the general line of the United States and NATO, with the movement towards World Government. All those who are against it are subject to destruction.

The first and most important thing is to accept things as they are. This is very important. Public consciousness does not keep up with the course of events, does not understand the meaning of history, is not aware of the irreversibility—fatality—of change. Suppose a murderer enters a house, while the owners are asleep. Or another situation: he sneaks in and they, aware of the threat, are awake. Of course, that too could end badly, but there is a chance of a good outcome. When everyone is asleep, there is no chance of salvation. Russia, wake up.

Secondly, we must declare martial law in the country and act accordingly. Not everywhere, but in the most vulnerable key areas, especially the border regions. In those areas that are already at war. Or in those areas, where the authorities understand objectively and soberly the situation in which the country finds itself. Remember how the regions behaved during the covid epidemic? Some imposed more stringent measures, others less. And the Kremlin was watching, noting, monitoring. It’s the same now. We impose martial law and modify our policies according to the clear motto: “Everything for the front. Everything for victory.” And we are responsible for this. If we were too hasty, we will be corrected. And if we are too late?

Third: the restructuring of the economy in a warlike manner. Maybe I will be condemned by the patriots who hate our government’s economic bloc, but I can see that in Russia the economic situation is more or less the same, given such radical conditions. We thought it was the weakest link, but it turns out it is not. I do not want to and cannot go into details any further, but the main thing is the following: we need to put industry and the financial system on a war footing. It is everyone’s job to equip our troops with everything they need. From weapons, transport, UAVs, body armor and secure communications to clothing and medical supplies. This is a matter of life and death today. Army and volunteer supply. And here, perhaps, for sabotage and corruption, the worst penalties should be imposed. The excesses we are all hearing about in terms of supplies for our soldiers make our blood run cold.

Fourthly: the mobilization of society. Most competent people and those who are fighting say we don’t need a total mobilization; we need a full complement and an influx of qualified reservists with military experience and a vocation. People are ready, but they need to be provided with the proper conditions, both material and psychological. in order to change from peace (or, more precisely, the illusion of peace) to war, there needs to be a compelling reason. Russia’s information machine needs to provide them with that reason.

Fifth: a culture of awakening. Society needs to wake up to the war. This requires a tremendous amount of effort—in education, in the arts, and in reorganizing the information sphere.

Who are we? Who is our enemy? Where does this conflict come from? What are its reasons? What are our traditions, ideals and values for which we are now shedding blood, enduring hardship, receiving blows?

Who are they? Where did their hatred for us come from? Why have they decided to destroy us? What kind of world do they want to build?

In a thousand ways, scientists, artists, philosophers, journalists, and teachers must give clear answers to these questions over and over again.

The culture of awakening is the ideology. The ideology of our Victory.

One last thing. Many already awakened are still thinking in the categories of loyalty/traitor. This is already behind us. There are no more conditions for betrayal. The die is cast, and there is no turning back. Those on our side are condemned by that side. Those who try to go over to the side of an enemy intent on destroying us are signing their own sentence.

Yes, we are not on an equal footing. While the collective West fights for its planetary supremacy, we fight only for our being, for our life, for the right to be what we are. They can retreat, as long as they have a place to go. We don’t. We are backed against the wall.

The West is attacking us on our own native Russian soil.  And no one can count on the forgiveness of the enemy. Everyone will be reminded of everything.

It remains to be won. In the name of the fallen. In the name of the living. In the name of those who have yet to live—and who may not get such an opportunity to be born. Everything depends on us.


Alexander Dugin is a widely-known and influential Russian philosopher. His most famous work is The Fourth Political Theory (a book banned by major book retailers), in which he proposes a new polity, one that transcends liberal democracy, Marxism and fascism. His most recent book is Eurasische Mission: Eine Einführung in den Neo-Eurasianismus (Eurasian Mission: An Introduction to Neo-Eurasianism). This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geoolitica.


Featured: “The People’s War,” by Andrei Gorodnichyov; painted in 2009.

It’s Putin’s Fault!

If Vladimir Putin did not exist, he would have to be invented. This is, in any case, what the leaders of the oligarchic regime that rules the Western world through fear, lies and corruption, think. In order to achieve their ends, they need to create an enemy, and for that they need a scapegoat who will bear the full weight of their mistakes. And the fabrication of information is essential for the fabrication of the enemy.

They have therefore found an easy way to clear their name in the eyes of their population by attributing to this public enemy, which has become the enemy of humanity, their own strategy of world domination.

To explain their own infringements of people’s rights, all they have to do is to claim at every turn: “It’s Putin’s fault!” This is the key to the process that, since the end of the world war, has led to a fratricidal war in Ukraine and to the rupture between Russia and the West, the consequences of which are incalculable.

Doctor Angela and Mrs. Merkel

However, one cannot clear the responsibility of Russia, of the Russians and of Vladimir Putin himself in the evolution that led to this disaster. It is certainly not a question of giving credence to accusations that feed a Russophobia that the war in Ukraine has exacerbated, by extending to all Russians a discredit that previously tended to oppose Vladimir Putin and the interests of Russia and Russians. From now on, it is the whole Russian people; it is the fact of being Russian alone which is the object of a hateful and contemptuous rejection.

But it must be recognized that the Russians, by ratifying the changes that brought about the end of the Cold War and by carrying out self-destructive reforms, are themselves at the origin of this “demonization,” sought by the United States and carried out with the help of their victims. Drunk with their hubris and confident in their victory, the sorcerer’s apprentices who have taken the reins of the West do not realize that they are endangering world peace and security. But they would never have taken this path if Russia, after having put an end to the USSR, had not encouraged them to take it.

General Desportes, one of the few intelligent, honest and informed observers of political life, indicated in a recent interview one of the keys, according to him, to a war that will undoubtedly only result in defeated people, recalling the words of Vladimir Putin, who, when asked by Mrs. Merkel what his greatest mistake was, replied: “It is to have trusted you.”

Zinoviev’s Lesson on the “Global Supra-Society”

The Russians have every reason to blame their leaders for having actively contributed to their downfall. But, accustomed to passivity in the face of their rulers, they did not react after their refusal to put an end to the USSR in the referendum organized by Gorbachev and left unresolved. It was only after having suffered the consequences of this self-destruction in the sinister 1990s, under the presidency of Boris Yeltsin, that they endorsed the recovery policy undertaken by Vladimir Putin.

The results obtained explain the popularity of the latter. But, as he himself recognized in his answer to Mrs. Merkel, he is not himself exempt from responsibility in the subjugation of his country to foreign powers that unscrupulously practice double standards.

To better understand the game that is currently being played between Russia and the West through Ukraine, one must go back to the end of the Cold War, marked by the reunification of Germany and the self-dissolution of the USSR by its president Gorbachev. Gorbachev’s death gave rise to a discreet tribute from the Europeans and a hostile silence from the Russians, who did not forgive him for having betrayed the state for which he was responsible.

If Gorbachev had the merit of putting an end to communism, he also destroyed the Russian power, built by the Soviet Union, in the heritage of the tsarist empire. In the Russian collective consciousness, he trampled on a history of which he was the heir. This concordance has been very well analyzed by Alexander Zinoviev in his book, Global Suprasociety and Russia. In his conclusion, Zinoviev wrote:

The Gorbachev-Yeltsinian treason is the greatest treason in the history of mankind by its main parameters, by the importance of its participants, by its degree of calculation and premeditation, by its social level, by its consequences for many countries and peoples, by its role in the evolution of mankind. So, if we Russians have been robbed of the right to be the first to discover a new way, the communist way, of the social evolution of mankind, we should at least recognize that we are the champions in the sphere of treason.

The Non-Implementation of the Minsk Agreements

At the root of this betrayal is the Western syndrome and the democratic mirage. In Russia Under the Avalanche, in 1998, Solzhenitsyn described the collapse of his country and the decay of a society left to be plundered by the bandits in power, in the name of democracy. In his reports, he revealed the despair of a population that had lost faith in its future. But some people still believed in the arrival of a providential man who would save Russia.

When Vladimir Putin took power and brought the oligarchs to heel, restoring the state’s sovereignty, he identified himself with this savior who was restoring Russia’s history and memory. And this sheds light on the support of his population in a war that does not speak its name and for which the Russian people are called to suffer, in flesh and soul.

This is why Russophobia, which associates in the same demonization the Russians and their president, is not totally wrong. Faced with a crusade that reminds the Russians of other crusades that they have defeated by their heroism and self-sacrifice, the people are united to their tsar. But there is a difference between patriotic wars and the invasion of a brother-country, accused of treason.

And if it has come to this, it is because Vladimir Putin was mistaken as much about a Ukraine that he thought was subservient as about a Europe that never wanted to apply the “Minsk agreements,” intended to peacefully resolve the conflict between the government of Kiev and the separatist republics. And if he made this mistake, it is because, in spite of what he said, he continued, in his relations with the “collective West,” to trust enemies that he took for partners.

Dangers of a War that will not be Named, Until It’s Over

By calling this invasion a “special operation,” Vladimir Putin was undoubtedly aware of the impossibility of waging a war, a real war, a total war, against Ukraine, guilty of being in a pact with the West.

Clausewitz had warned against the danger of waging war without wanting to do so, since war is only the continuation of politics by other means. The Russian army, obliged to wage war, not to defend its own country but to attack another country, whatever the reasons for doing so, is now seeing the truth of this warning. Between a shameful peace and nuclear escalation, the die is now cast and Russia, Europe and the world are facing an uncertain future. NATO strategists, who have provoked this war to maintain the existence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, may well come to regret their decision.

And it will be useless yelling, to clear themselves of their own responsibility—”It’s Putin’s fault!


Gérard Conio, professor emeritus of the University Nancy-2, edited the fabulous book series, “Classiques slaves” at the l’Age d’Homme publishing house. This article appears courtesy of Éléments.

Buddhism: Chronicle of a Delusion

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the Catholic World in all This?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buddhism, an illusion? A fiction? A mirage?

Yes, in other words—a chimera.


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

Ancient Greek Mathematics: An Unrivalled Western Achievement

“In the history of civilization the Greeks are preeminent, and in the history of mathematics the Greeks are the supreme event. Though they did borrow from the surrounding civilizations, the Greeks built a civilization of their own which is the most impressive of all civilizations, the most influential in the development of modern Western culture, and decisive in founding mathematics as we understand the subject today. One of the great problems of the history of civilization is how to account for the brilliance and creativity of the ancient Greeks” [Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times (1972)].

“Of all the manifestations of the Greek genius, none is more impressive and even awe-inspiring than that which is revealed by the history of Greek mathematics” [Sir Thomas Heath, A History of Greek Mathematics (1921)].

In this article, I argue that the contribution the ancient Greeks made to mathematics is superior to the combined contribution ALL the higher civilizations of the non-Western world made. Mathematics is usually left unmentioned in liberal arts accounts of the “Greek Miracle,” even though it had a direct, indispensable role in the rise of modern industrial civilization. We know that mathematics is characterized by rigorous reasoning and precise quantitative calculation; and that it has real-world applications in physics, biology, epidemiology, engineering, chemistry, technologies, computer science, social sciences, and finance. But mathematics is not a mere adjunct to the sciences and technology. Mathematicians have conceived many ideas decades before anyone foresaw their possible applications to science. Without the geometry of Bernhard Riemann, invented in 1854, and other mathematical ideas, the general theory of relativity could not have been articulated. “The revolution in modern physics which began with the work of W. Heisenberg and P. Dirac in 1925,” Eric Temple Bell explains in Mathematics: Queen and Servant of Science (1931), “could never have started without the necessary mathematics of matrices invented by Cayley in 1858, and elaborated by a small army of mathematicians from then to the present time.”

The Greeks constructed an entire geometrical system known as Euclidean, the study of plane and solid figures, about the nature of reality, on the basis of axioms and theorems in a purely deductive manner, without physical evidence, which subsequently found verification and application in the development of modern physics. They were the first people to realize that the universe expresses itself naturally in the language of mathematics, and that mathematical truths have a validity that transcends the limits of time and space. It was this realization about the power of mathematics that persuaded Plato that mathematics comprehends a reality that exists independently of human beings and that mathematicians can apprehend this eternal reality through the sheer power of their deductive reasoning. One does not have to be a Platonist who believes that mathematical truths exist eternally and independently of reality, however, to agree with Adam Smith that mathematical terms express “the most abstract ideas which the human mind is capable of forming,” and that it was the Greeks who first conceived a mathematics based on rigorous proofs, which subsequently found experimental applications in Galilean and Newtonian science.

Since prehistoric times, humans have formulated conceptions of number and geometrical forms in creative art. But while there is evidence for the invention of the abstract concept of number, that is, the realization that three sheep, three fingers, and three days, share a common property of “threeness,” as well as for the idea of a one-to-one correspondence between the objects of one collection and those of another, including counting an ordered sequence of symbols, such as knots on a cord, basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division—most of the cultures of the world made 0 contributions to mathematics defined as a specific field of knowledge, entailing a system of numeration, with a variety of arithmetical calculations with whole numbers and fractions, the solution of linear equations and the mensuration of simple areas and volumes. We only have the Egyptians, Babylonians, Chinese, Indians, and Islamic peoples to compare.

When we compare the Greeks to everyone else, two conclusions are inescapably supported by the best scholarly literature:

  1. The Greeks were the first to derive mathematical concepts from pure reasoning alone with little reference to the external world, that is, the first to think about numbers and operations abstractly, as products of the rational powers of man, and to realize that geometry is concerned not with physical objects but with points, lines, triangles, squares, as objects of pure reason. The Greeks invented deductive reasoning, a method wherein reason proposes self-evident premises or axioms from which it deduces theorems in a rigorously consistent manner. The Greeks thus provided proofs for their mathematical derivations, which not even the Indians, the Chinese, and the Muslims, who came after, accomplished at the same level.
  2. Although ancient Greek mathematics (600 BC-600 AD) came before Indian (200-1200 AD) and Islamic mathematics (700-1400 AD), with the latter allegedly “picking up the best from Greek and Indian mathematics and developing it further”—in truth the modern European development of analytic geometry, infinitesimal calculus, and the theory of functions, was substantially based on ancient Greek mathematics. Isaac Newton acknowledged the importance of Euclidean geometry in his articulation of his presentation of his laws of motion in the form of two mathematical theorems: “it’s the glory of geometry that from so few principles it can accomplish so much.”

“Multicultural Mathematics”

The mathematical achievements of the Greeks, and of modern Europeans who grounded themselves on these achievements, is deeply unsettling to the current effort of the West to become a multicultural place where the diverse races, cultures, and religions of the world are made to feel co-equals in the making of this civilization. The current zeitgeist is that mathematics has been a “global effort…spanning…multiple cultures,” or that the achievements of modern Europeans “involved an extensive exchange of ideas among individuals around the world.” “Multicultural mathematics” is now a major educational staple of the West. The book, Multicultural Mathematics: Teaching Mathematics From A Global Perspective, published in 1991, explicitly states that the “customs, heritage, history, and other aesthetic aspects” of non-European immigrants must be incorporated as “essential components” of “an effective educational program.” The key academic text is The Crest Of The Peacock: Non-European Roots Of Mathematics, by George Gheverghese Joseph, professor at University of Manchester. First published in 1991, reprinted 3 times by Penguin, republished by Princeton Press in 2000, with a third edition released in 2011, this book has been cited about a thousand times, with great reviews in prestigious journals. It claims that Europeans scholars have distorted and devalued non-European contributions as “part of the rationale for subjugation and dominance.”

Only two sources are referenced to back this claim: a book published in 1908 by Rouse Ball, and a book by Morris Kline, Mathematics in Western Culture (1953). The latter book in particular is faulted for ignoring “a considerable body of research pointing to development of mathematics in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, pre-Columbian America, India, and the Arab world that had come to light [by the time Kline wrote his book].” Gheverghese proposes a “new model” of the history of mathematics, in which multiple cultures are shown to have played equally significant roles with “cross-fertilization between different mathematical traditions” happening at various times. He flaunts his model as complex, cosmopolitan, and nuanced—superior to the simplistic, linear, one sided, parochial Eurocentric model. Both the old and the new research contradict and invalidate these claims. First, most of the books Gheverghese relies upon to construct his new model are authored by Europeans themselves.

Second, the book by Rouse Ball is actually very cognizant of the contribution of non-Europeans. The title is, A Short Account of The History of Mathematics, and it begins with four sections on “Knowledge of the science of numbers possessed by Egyptians and Phoenicians,” and “Greek indebtedness to Egyptians and Phoenicians.” Ball’s point is that theoretical-deductive mathematics originated with the Greeks.

Third, Gheverghese complains about the “neglect of Arab contribution to… mathematics” without telling his readers that Rouse Ball’s book has two long chapters with the titles: “The Mathematics of the Arabs” and “Introduction of Arabian Works into Europe, 1150-1450,” in which he affirms original contributions: “From this rapid sketch it will be seen that the work of the Arabs… in arithmetic, algebra, and trigonometry was of a high order of excellence.”

Why would Gheverghese, in what is otherwise a solid book in its effort to bring out the best in non-western mathematics, distort the scholarly contribution of Rouse Ball in this manner? Because academics are committed to multiculturalism, and this ideology allows one to distort the truth, for the sake of fighting “white racism”.

Fourth, regarding Kline’s book, Gheverghese leaves out the fact that Kline’s book is specifically about Western mathematics: “The object of this book is to advance the thesis that mathematics has been a major cultural force in Western civilization.”

Fifth, why did Gheverghese ignore so many books published after the 1950s, such as Carl Boyer’s A History of Mathematics (1968)? This book has chapters dedicated to “Egypt,” “Mesopotamia,” “China and India,” and a chapter with the title, “The Arabic Hegemony.” Why did he ignore Kline’s subsequent book, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times (1972), possibly the most authoritative historical survey published so far, which opens with chapters on Mesopotamian and Egyptian mathematics, with an additional chapter on “the Hindus and Arabs?” Every book I have read has chapters on non-Europeans. We can go back to D.E. Smith’s two volume work, History of Mathematics, published in 1923, to find two opening chapters on non-European contributions, and one chapter plus half of another on “Oriental” mathematics, along with separate sections on Oriental contributions inside all the chapters about European contributions. Smith actually co-authored a book on Japanese mathematics.

The basic arguments that Smith presented in History of Mathematics are still valid. He offered an opening chapter on Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and India, as “pioneers in mathematical development before 1000 BC.” Then chapters on the contributions of the Classical and the Hellenistic Greeks, from 600 BC to 400 AD. We are informed that during the “five centuries from 500 to 1000 AD… Europe was intellectually dormant,” while “there were four or five mathematicians of prominence in India” (p. 152); and, furthermore, that China saw the greatest accomplishments during the five centuries from 1000 to 1500 AD. While Smith may have neglected Muslim contributors, believing that they were “transmitters of learning rather than creators,” he did offer sections on the “greatest mathematicians” during the Islamic ascendancy from the eight to the fourteenth century. After 1200-1400, Smith’s focus shifted back to the Europeans because from this point on all the original ideas came from them alone.

Greeks Compared to Egyptians, Babylonians, and Chinese

The indubitable reality is that, if you look past politicized books on “multicultural mathematics,” the scholarly consensus coming from the best books on the history of mathematics for over a century now, and to this day, is that the Greeks, as Kline says in History of Western Mathematics, initiated a mathematics that “differed radically from that which preceded them” (p. 24). Dirk Struik’s A Concise History of Mathematics, in the 1948 edition that I am using, acknowledges Babylonian math “rose to a far higher level than Egyptian… in its computational technique” (p. 23), while arguing that “nowhere” in Babylonian mathematics “do we find any attempt at what we call a demonstration. No argumentation was presented, but only the prescription of certain rules” (p. 31). William Berlinghoff and Fernando Gouvêa follow a similarly developmental interpretation in Math Through the Ages: A Gentle History for Teachers (2015). This book, keep in mind, was published by The Mathematical Association of America, which is attuned to the multicultural sensitivities of teachers and students. They point out that, while the Egyptians “could solve simple linear equations… [and] knew how to compute or approximate the areas and volumes of several geometric shapes,” Babylonians “made use of extensive tables of products, reciprocals, conversion coefficients, and other constants,” and “they could also solve a wide range of problems that we would describe as leading to quadratic equations” (pp. 9-11). However, with the Babylonians, “the ideas behind the methods for solving quadratic equations were probably based on ‘cut-and-paste geometry’ [and] Babylonian geometry was devoted mainly to measurement…. The Greek mathematicians were unique in putting logical reasoning and proof at the center of the subject” (pp. 11-15).

Stuart Hollingdale, in his biographical book, Makers of Mathematics (1989) agrees that “the concept of proof [in Babylonia] is conspicuous by its absence; and there is no clear distinction between exact and approximate results” (p. 11). Carl Boyer’s text, A History of Mathematics, the revised version co-authored by Uta Merzbach (1989), is unequivocal in its assessment that “pre-Hellenic peoples had no concept of proof, nor any feeling of the need for proof… there are no explicit statements from the pre-Hellenic period that would indicate a felt need for proofs or a concern for questions of logical principles” (p. 47). In contrast, as Reviel Netz tells us in The Shaping of Deduction in Greek Mathematics: A Study in Cognitive History (1999), Greek mathematics produced knowledge of general validity; not only about the particular right triangle ABC of the diagram, for example, but about all right triangles. In the polemical culture that Greeks inhabited, where intellectuals sought to outdo each other, where no one could claim control over what constituted the truth on mere utilitarian grounds, or reliance on their official capacities, sage-like status, or adherence to norms sanctified by kinship, making the most persuasive arguments was very important, and in deductive mathematics the Greeks saw the possibility of expressing incontrovertible truths.

But what about the Chinese with their long history, past ancient times, and their “greatest” mathematicians who lived during the Sung Era (960–1279)? “Chinese mathematical works… are in the spirit of the Babylonians rather than the Greeks. They consist of collections of specific problems and present a curious mixture of the primitive and the sophisticated.” In the course of their long history, the Chinese became “more advanced than the Babylonians in that they gave general rules, often with formal proofs” (Hollingdale: p. 93), and excellent mathematicians “flourished during the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries” (p. 94), when the Europeans were experiencing their “long interlude” in the Middle Ages merely rediscovering the Greek works. Nevertheless, as Joseph Needham admitted, despite his enormous admiration for the overall accomplishments of the Chinese, “Greek mathematics was on a higher level, if only on account of its more abstract and systematic character.” In Chinese math, “there was an absence of the idea of rigorous proof.” In fact, the Chinese never developed a formal logic. “Mathematics in China was therefore utilitarian… Of mathematics for the sake of mathematics there was very little” (1995: pp. 62-64).

Boyer and Merzbach agree that the ancient Chinese were “repeating the old custom of the Babylonians and Egyptians of compiling sets of specific problems,” in contrast to the Greeks of this period who were “composing logically ordered and systematically expository treatises” (p. 222). Zhu Shijie (1249–1314) was “the last and greatest of the Sung mathematicians” but he was a lone, wandering scholar about whom little is known, author of two treatises, of which the first, Introduction to Mathematical Studies (Suanxue qimeng), was a “relatively elementary work” which was “lost until it reappeared in the nineteenth century.” His greater work, Jade Mirror of the Four Origins (Siyuan yujian), which also “disappeared in the eighteenth century, only to be rediscovered in the next century,” represents “the peak in the development of Chinese algebra, for it deals with simultaneous equations and with equations of degrees as high as fourteenth” (pp. 229-30). We will see below, however, that symbolic algebra was a product of early modern Europe, and that Greek mathematics was directly responsible for the development of modern mathematics. This is the reason Morris Kline’s text, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times, ignores Chinese mathematics in preference for the contributions of Hindu and Arabic mathematics to modern Europe.

The Greeks Were the Forerunners of Modern Mathematics

While reasonable people will have no problems agreeing that Greek mathematics stood far above Egyptian and Babylonian accomplishments, many will find the additional claim that in ancient times the Greeks were already more accomplished than the combined civilizations of China, India, and Islam to be an exaggeration bordering on historical falsification. How could a small population in ancient Greece accomplish more than civilizations that lasted thousands of years, with China and India practicing mathematics after ancient Greece was gone, and Islam standing on the shoulders of Greek achievements? This makes no sense. The most popular argument taught to students today, which prevails online, even though it is not supported by serious scholarly research, is that Hindu-Islamic mathematicians, standing above the Greek legacy, nurtured the rise of modern European mathematics. Here’s the World’s #1 Online Encyclopedia: “Through contact with other cultures, and especially the absorption of Arab ideas and innovations, European learning in fields such as mathematics was able to go beyond the work of ancient scholars. New fields of study unknown to the Greeks were opened, leading to such developments as the calculus of Newton (1642-1727) and Leibniz (1646-1716), which would revolutionize both mathematics and science.”

The impression they want to convey seems reasonable enough: ancient Greek mathematics came before Indian (200-1200 AD) and Islamic mathematics (700-1400 AD), with the latter “picking up the best from Greek and Indian mathematics and developing it further.” The best historical scholarship shows, however, that the modern development of analytic geometry, infinitesimal calculus, and the theory of functions, was substantially based on ancient Greek mathematics. This same scholarship acknowledges that the modern West owes a debt to i) “Islamic scholars who collected, preserved, and translated the Greek mathematical texts” (Hollingdale: p. 101), and ii) the Hindu “creation of the decimal positional number system that is universally used today,” that is, separate symbols for the numbers 1 to 9, negative numbers, and the notation for a missing position, that is, a zero symbol (Hollingdale: p. 101; Kline, 1972: pp. 183-197).

What about the argument that, while the Greeks originated deductive geometry, the Hindus and Muslims added substantially new ideas to arithmetic leading to the rise of modern symbolic algebra and to trigonometry? Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (780–850) is thus eulogized as the “father of algebra”, offering “the first” systematic solution of linear and quadratic equations. Wikipedia informs impressionable students that he is “the first to treat algebra as an independent discipline.” Furthermore, Al-Biruni (973–1050), we are told, was among those “who laid the foundation for modern trigonometry,” which allowed Muslims to take Greek geometry to higher heights, since trigonometry studies relationships between side lengths and angles of triangles.

First, in response, we need to be aware that ancient Greek mathematics extended from 600 BC to 600 AD, which equals about 1000 years of history. It is commonly assumed that Greece’s greatness was restricted to the “Classical” period of the 5th and 4th centuries BC, the age of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Hippocrates, Herodotus, Thucydides, the defeat of the Persians, the rise of Athens, the birth of democratic citizenship, and so on. They forget the “Hellenistic” period between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the rise of Augustus in Rome in 31 BC, and the fact that Greek high culture remained dominant through Roman times. The Classical Period is known as the “Golden Age”—but not in mathematics. The golden age of Greek science was during the Hellenistic era, and, within this era, the golden age of mathematics was from about 300 BC to 200 BC, the time of the three greatest mathematicians: Euclid, Archimedes, and Apollonius. There were many other great mathematicians before and after this age. The birth of mathematics in Greece is generally identified with Thales (623 –545 BC), about whom Aristotle said: “To Thales… the primary question was not What do we know, but How do we know it.” Among the things he is said to have proven is that “the pairs of vertical angles formed by two intersecting lines are equal.” The next great figure is Pythagoras (580-500 BC) who founded a very influential school, the first to classify numbers: real numbers, rational and irrational, integers, rational fractions, algebraic irrational numbers and transcendental numbers.

The list of mathematicians and their achievements is too long: Archytas (b. 428 BC), Hippasus (400 BC), Hippias (b. 460), Hippocrates of Chios (430, not to be confused with the “father of medicine”), Zeno of Elea (450), Anaxagoras (428), Democritus (460), and the greatest of the Classical Period, Eudoxus (b. 408 BC), known as the father of mathematical astronomy, and the first to formulate the method of exhaustion, which some see as a precursor to the methods of calculus. Menaechmus (380–320 BC) is known for his discovery of conic sections and his solution to the long-standing problem of doubling the cube using the parabola and hyperbola. These men wrote books, some of which have been lost, though we have commentaries on them and some of the titles; for example, Democritus wrote: On Numbers, On Geometry, On Tangencies, On Mappings and On Irrationals.

After the “golden age” of Euclid, Archimedes, and Apollonius, we have more greats: Aristarchus (310-230 BC), who wrote On the Sizes and Distances of the Sun and Moon; Eratosthenes, remembered for his almost accurate measurement of the Earth; Hipparchus (b. 180 BC), the father of trigonometry; Menelaus (100 AD); Ptolemy (100 –170 AD), the founder of Cartography and Geography, and author of the famous Almagest. Heron (62 AD) is best known for this formula: If a, b, and c are the lengths of the sides: Area = Square root of √s(s – a)(s – b)(s – c) where s is half the perimeter, or (a + b + c)/2. We could go on with Diophantus (b. 200AD), author of a series of books called Arithmetica, which is seen as the “highest point of Alexandrian algebra,” with its “most striking feature” being the solution of indeterminate algebraic equations (Kline, 1972: pp. 138-43). The last of the greats is Pappus (b. 290 AD), known for his Collection (c.  340), and his hexagon theorem in projective geometry, the full significance of which “was not realized until the seventeenth century” (Hollingdale: p. 90).

Archimedes (b. 287 BC) is consistently “ranked with Newton and Gauss as one of the supreme mathematical geniuses of all time” (Hollingdale: p. 64). Suffice it to list his writings that are preserved in full: On the Equilibrium of Plane Figures, Quadrature of the Parabola, On the Sphere of the Cylinder, On Spirals, On Conoids and Spheroid, On Floating Bodies, The Measurement of the Circle, The Sandreckoner and The Method. The Conics by Apollonius is known as a “masterpiece” containing 487 propositions proven by the “rigorous deductive methods characteristic of the Greek masters” (Hollingdale: p. 57). Before I address the role of Hindu-Muslim algebra, I will close with a few words about Euclid. His book, The Elements, has been “by far the most influential work ever written,” matched only by the Bible. Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton all built their theories on the basis of Euclidean geometry. The Elements, which Bertrand Russell said was “one of the best books ever written,” compiles, organizes, and reworks many of the mathematical concepts of Euclid’s predecessors into a consistent whole. Its deductive method has been the most important procedure used by Westerners for demonstrating scientific certitude (“truth”) until the seventeenth century. No book in the non-west provided such a self-conscious presentation of what it means for a statement to be “known to be true.” It states that there must be some set of statements, called axioms, that are assumed to be true intuitively, from which point one can derive other basic statements or theorems. Some have said that a book entitled, Aryabhatiya, written in 499 AD by the Indian mathematician Aryabhata, is “somewhat akin to that of Euclid’s Elements” in that both are “summaries of earlier developments, compiled by a single author.” But as Boyer and Merbach point out: “There are, however, more striking differences than similarities, between the two works. The Elements is a well ordered synthesis of pure mathematics with a high degree of abstraction, a clear logical structure, and an obvious pedagogical inclination; the Aryabhatiya is a brief descriptive work” (p. 237).

Now, it is true, it was in the field of geometry, not arithmetic, that the Greeks constructed their Euclidean deductive method. In Greek arithmetic operations, which did include algebra, there is no “explicit deductive structure.” These are the words of Morris Kline, who goes on to say: “The work of Heron, Nichomachus, and Diophantus, and of Archimedes as far as his arithmetic is concerned, reads like the procedural texts of Egyptians and Babylonians, which tell us how to do things. The deductive, orderly proof of Euclid, Apollonius, and of Archimedes’ geometry is gone. The problems are inductive in spirit, in that they show methods for concrete problems that presumably apply to general classes whose extent is not specified” (1972: p. 144).

Kline, however, is less impressed by the achievements of Indians and Muslims in Arithmetic: “The high period [of Indian mathematics] may be roughly dated from about AD 200 to 1200.” “Hindu mathematics became significant only after it was influenced by Greek achievements…. The geometry of the Hindus was certainly Greek…. Geometry during this period showed no notable advances…. They did have a special gift for arithmetic.” They gave “rules for the multiplication, division, and square roots of irrational expressions…. They used abbreviations of words and a few symbols to describe operations…, The Hindus recognized that quadratic equations have two roots and included negative roots as well as irrational roots…. In indeterminate equations the Hindus advanced beyond Diophantus…. In trigonometry the Hindus made a few advances.” However, “the Hindus were less sophisticated than the Greeks in that they failed to see the logical difficulties involved in the concept of irrational numbers. Their interest in calculation caused them to overlook philosophical distinctions, or distinctions based on principles that in Greek thought were fundamental” (1972: 183-90). Moreover, by about 1200, “scientific activity in India declined and progress in mathematics ceased…. It is fairly certain that the Hindus did not appreciate the significance of their own contributions. The few good ideas they had, such as separate symbols for numbers 1 to 9, the conversion to base 10, and negative numbers, were introduced casually with no realization that they were valuable innovations.”

Regarding Islamic mathematics, Kline has this to say: “The cultural resources available to the Arabs were considerable. They invited Hindu scientists to settle in Baghdad.” Fundamentally, what “the Arabs possessed was Greek knowledge…. In arithmetic the Arabs took one step backward… they rejected negative numbers…. To algebra the Arabs contributed first of all the name. The word ‘algebra’ comes from a book written in 830.” They did not invent algebra: their algebra is “founded on Hindu and also Babylonian and Greek influences…. Arabic geometry was influenced mainly by Euclid, Archimedes, and Heron.” In conclusion: “The Arabs made no significant advance in mathematics. What they did was absorb Greek and Hindu mathematics, preserve it, and, ultimately, transmit it to Europe/”

This view is corroborated by the authors I have cited thus far. For example, Berlinghoff and Gouvêa say of Indian mathematics that “the main thing that is mostly missing from their texts is any explanation of how their methods and results were found. They did not give proofs or derivations” (p. 28). Boyer and Merzbach highlight the accomplishments of Brahmagupta (598–668 CE) for being the first to “give a general solution of the linear Diophantine equation ax + by = c, where a, b, and c are integers,” and they add that “the trigonometry of the sine function came presumably from India.” though Kline thinks that in trigonometry the Hindus made only “a few minor advances” (1972: p. 189). Overall, in the estimation of Boyer and Merzbach, there was a “lack of nice distinction on the part of Hindu mathematicians between exact and inexact results.” In their view, indeed, “analytic geometry and calculus had Greek rather than Indian roots, and European algebra came from Islamic countries rather than India” (245-50). According to Hollingdale, the period of Arab pre-eminence between the 9th-11th centuries, only “saw many useful—but not outstanding—advances in algebra, number theory, trigonometry, optics, and, to a lesser extent, geometry” (p. 101).

When all is said, for all the contributions made by Indians and Muslims, it would be Europeans in the modern era, on the direct strength of what the Greeks had accomplished, who would transform arithmetic/algebra into proper sciences by introducing symbolism and making “extensive and impressive contributions to the theory of numbers,” and thus learning to justify algebraic reasoning, by viewing algebra as an extension of logic in treating quantity, and by reversing the dependence of algebra on geometry, and indeed using algebra to help solve geometric constructions problems. When the Greco-Roman world ended in the sixth century, and Islam took the Mediterranean world, only a small part of the Greek mathematical corpus was known in Europe—until the 11th when scholars from Europe went to Islamic Spain to translate into Latin the works that Muslim scholars had preserved and commented upon. For some time, until about 1400, European mathematics benefitted from this Islamic legacy with its adoption of Hindu numerals. Through the 12th and 13th, Kline writes, Europeans “energetically sought out copies of the Greek works, their Arabic versions, and texts written by Arabs,” while contributing their own translations of Greek works into Latin rather than relying on translations that had passed through Arabic translations.

We should not forget, however, that this absorption of Islamic mathematics occurred within an emerging rationalist Christian framework, the “Renaissance of the 12th Century,” which included the invention of universities with a “rational” curriculum and a continuous sequence of scholastic philosophers. I will mention only a few names: Roger (not Francis) Bacon (1220–1292) is identified as beginning experimental science and for writing about the importance of mathematics to all science; and Jean Buridan and Nicholas Oresme are both acknowledged for their demonstration that “the effective velocity in uniformly difform motion was the average of the initial and final velocities.” It is even said that Oresme anticipated Descartes’ coordinate geometry, with “contributions towards the development of the concept of graphing functions and approaches to investigating infinite series.”

This broader rationalist atmosphere, together with the rise of universities, was absent in the Islamic world, despite its admiration for Aristotle. Only Christians would seek to provide logical proofs for the existence of God. Spectacles and mechanical clocks were both invented in 13th century Europe. Romanesque and Gothic architecture required more practical geometry than the architecture of other civilizations. For the sake of modesty, however, let us say that, up until about 1500, European mathematicians, “with their algebraic emphasis, derived more inspiration from Arabic and medieval mathematics than from the much richer inheritance of Classical Greece” (Hollingdale: p. 107). It still remains the case that the European breakthrough into modern mathematics that came in the 1600s was primarily grounded in Greek mathematics.

Before this breakthrough there was Leonardo Pisa, also known as Fibonacci (1175-1250), identified as “the most creative mathematician of the medieval Christian world,” who followed Islamic mathematicians “in using words rather than symbols and in basing the algebra on arithmetical methods/” His work, De practica geometrie (1225), however, was based on Euclid’s book. Nicolas Chuquet’s Le Triparty en la science des nombres (1484) explained the Hindu-Arabic number system and how to perform arithmetic with this system. This treatise was novel, however, in devising an exponential notation where the power of the unknown was indicated by an exponent; and in presenting an algebraic notation with an isolated negative number, though he viewed negative numbers as absurd. Girolamo Cardono “astonished” the mathematical world by giving algebraic solutions to both cubic and quartic equations in his book, Ars magna (1545).

After other prominent names, the most significant transition to modern mathematics came with the introduction of a fully symbolic algebra by François Viète [Franciscus Vieta] (1540-1603). Because Hindus and Muslims had placed their practical arithmetical calculations in the forefront of their mathematics, and had elevated algebra on an arithmetic rather than a geometric basis; and because the European transition to modern mathematics took place in arithmetic and algebra, it is commonly believed that Hindu and Islamic mathematics laid the groundwork for Vieta’s transition to algebraic symbolism, and subsequent developments in analytic geometry, calculus, and functions. Not true. Vieta’s book, In artem analyticem isagoge [Introduction to the Art of Analysis] (1591), was part of his “program of rediscovering the method of analysis used by the ancient Greek mathematicians,” as The Britannica Guide to the History of Mathematics recognizes (2011: p. 96). His algebra had a firm Greek geometrical foundation. “His aim was to uncover and restore the algebraic relationships that were, he believed, hidden behind the geometrical presentations of the Greek masters” (Hollingdale: p. 120). Vieta saw his new symbolic algebraic method “as an advancement over the ancient method, a view he arrived at by comparing the geometric analysis contained in Book VII of Pappus’s Collection, with the arithmetic analysis of Diophantus’s Arithmetica.” (The Britannica Guide: p. 96). Despite the attempt of this Guide to portray mathematics as a “global effort…spanning…multiple cultures,” it can’t hide the actual truth. Once this Guide hits the modern era, not a single non-European is mentioned since none participated in modern mathematics.

Vieta was the first to use algebraic symbols or letters deliberately and systematically, not only to represent unknown quantities but also as general coefficients. “The Arabs had not advanced one iota in symbolic notation.” The “turning point in the history of algebra” came with Vieta (Dantzig, [1930] 1954: 85-7). Before him, in Europe, letters had been used for the unknown, and the first abbreviations used from the 1400s on were p for plus and m for minus; the = was introduced in 1557 by Robert Recorde. These changes in notation, the use of special words and number symbols, were essentially abbreviations of normal words. In fact, prior to Vieta, it was only Diophantus (AD 200) who had consciously introduced symbolism to make algebraic writing more compact and efficient. Vieta’s education was overwhelmingly based on the writings of the ancient Greeks—Apollonius, Archimedes, Pappus, Diophantus; and the works of European mathematicians such as Cardano, Tartaglia, and Stevin. After Vieta, his analytic algebra was applied to the study of curves by his French countrymen Fermat and Descartes, who were also motivated by the same goal of applying new algebraic techniques to Greek geometry, leading to the development of analytic geometry. Vieta actually drew a conceptual line between his new symbolic algebra and arithmetic, calling the former a true algebra, with the potential to become a universal science. In other words, the arithmetic algebra of the Hindus and Muslims was not, in his estimation, truly algebraic.

The Mathematics of Perspective

This transition to modern mathematics was founded primarily on the Greek achievement, not as a mere intellectual exercise, but in response to the newly emerging scientific world of the Renaissance era, the age of exploration and the rise of Copernican astronomy. Copernicus’s heliocentric system, and Kepler’s (1571-1630) three planetary laws, were based on the Platonic belief that the universe was ordered according to a mathematical plan and that the truths of nature could be revealed in mathematical laws and geometrical terms—ideas that were absent in both the Islamic and the Hindu world. Renaissance perspective painting, the realistic depiction of scenes on canvas by incorporating three-dimensions, relative distances, size, and positions of objects, was likewise based on a thorough study of Euclidean geometry. The European cartographic revolution, the mapping of the world, was intimately connected to Greek mathematics; Gerard Mercator’s (1512-94) map solved the problem of projecting figures from a sphere onto a flat surface.

The advantage deductive geometry had over practical arithmetic, trial and error, or reasoning by induction and analogy, is that its validity came from the logical derivation of conclusions from self-evident premises, rather than from approximate inferences based on observations of empirical facts restricted to a time and place. Even if we were to argue that deductive mathematics is merely a conventional language that Westerners imposed upon the world, rather than an accurate revelation of the structure of the universe, the success of Euclidean mathematical models lay precisely in mimicking or predicting the behavior of physical bodies. In the ideal world of abstraction that Galileo created, without resistance or friction, in which physical bodies were reduced to geometrical forms, perfectly smooth bodies moving on a perfect plane, the principles of Euclidean geometry held. As Galileo declared, “the grand book of the universe…cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and to read the alphabet in which it is composed…the language of mathematics.” It was the Greeks who discovered the language of nature.


Ricardo Duchesne has written a number of articles on Western uniqueness. He the author of The Uniqueness of Western CivilizationFaustian Man in a Multicultural AgeCanada in Decay: Mass Immigration, Diversity, and the Ethnocide of Euro-Canadians.


Featured: A folio from Synagogue (Collection) by Pappus, ca. 10th century AD.

Asking the Question of God

Likely for the first time in the history of humanity, a civilization officially has no God; its authorized authorities act in all things as if God did not exist. This civilization is ours, the West, once Christian and now profoundly de-Christianized in record time. Of course, everyone can believe, practice a religion, but faith is now a private matter that is not supposed to encroach on the public sphere.

The alternative is very simple—either God exists or He does not; there is no third position. Officially, as a state institution, we have therefore made a choice: He does not exist. Although our regimes claim to be “neutral” (“secular”) and think they have achieved this neutrality by protecting freedom of religion and worship—within the limits of public order—they are, in fact, atheists. In our historically unprecedented situation, perhaps this is the lesser evil and ultimately the only viable balance that still maintains a certain civil peace.

Rejection of God without Consequences?

That non-believers, who have apparently become the majority, are satisfied with this state of affairs or even defend it, seems normal and natural. On the other hand, it is more surprising on the part of believers—is it not extraordinary that they never question the rejection of God within our overdeveloped societies and its possible consequences? Historically, is there no link between the erasure of God from the city and from consciences, on the one hand, and the slow decline of an apostate Europe, on the other? Is it a mere coincidence that, in this context, criminal materialistic ideologies arise in the West, at the origin of two atrocious world conflicts, a real European collective suicide? Is there also no link between this erasure of God and the exacerbation of a Promethean hubris which claims the autonomy of man, of his all-powerful will unbound by any limit, moral in particular?

In our postmodernity, we benefit from unprecedented living and health conditions, and yet malaise has never been so widespread; many of our contemporaries claim to be less happy than previous generations. Is this crisis not the consequence of the inner emptiness that drives us, of the absence of meaning given to our lives? Certainly, even if the subject is taboo, the main dimension of the crisis we are experiencing is spiritual and has to do with the ignorance of God.

The weakening of Christianity leads to a growing misunderstanding of the Christian universe. The vision of the family and children, the concept of natural moral law have become inaudible to many, often more out of inculture than hostility. During a recent debate between Fabrice Hadjadj and Antoine Bueno on birth control, the latter dared to make this revealing admission: “I understand almost nothing of my opponent’s answer. We don’t speak the same language.” These words are terrible in that they show how the fractures are worsening to the point where we no longer understand each other, so that any minimum common basis for living in society in peace and respect for the other is gradually disappearing.

The Triumph of Manichaeism

And this worrying factor is amplified by the extension of the obligatory thinking that reduces the complexity of the world to a Manichean vision. The subjects on which debate becomes impossible, for which an “official truth” exists, are constantly expanding: abortion, gender, Covid, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict—thus feeding conspiracy fantasies. On these issues, opponents of the dominant doxa are not treated as legitimate challengers, which should be self-evident in a democracy, but as enemies to be eliminated: one does not discuss with such people, one discredits them, one criminalizes them, one excludes them from the perimeter of respectability so that, in the eyes of the media, they no longer exist.

I don’t see how to resolve the fractures mentioned above, symptoms of the “decivilization” and “barbarization” of our societies, without succeeding in re-Christianizing a part of the French. I am intimately convinced that it is the radiance of all the holy souls who sincerely seek God, the prayers that go up to Him untiringly, that prevent the world from completely unraveling—hence the crucial importance of contemplative religious orders.

In the Bible, indifference to God is common; and even when God became incarnate in His Son, how many listened to Him and believed in Him? In the Old Testament, the chosen people often denied God; we are analogously in a comparable situation. I am not saying that our misfortunes are a divine punishment, I am saying that the rupture with the supernatural order has also broken the harmony of the natural order, which thus goes adrift: the flouted natural laws are enough to make us lose our footing according to the normal course of things. And in the Bible, each time, the only remedy was to return to the God of the Covenant. Perhaps we Christians should take the Bible a little more seriously.


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


Featured: “Funeral of the Anarchist Galli,” by Carlo Carrà; painted in 1911.

Walter Schubart: Can the East regenerate the West?

In his 1938 book, Europe and the Soul of the East (Europa und die Seele des Ostens—translated as Russia and Western Man), the Latvian writer of German origin, Walter Schubart, questions the possibility of a spiritual rebirth of the West compromised by Promethean ideology. In his eyes, the heroic man, that is to say the man who submits the world to his will, has run out of steam and must give way to the Messianic Man who alone will be able to reconcile the East and the West.

The spiritual decline of the West is a fact. Since the advent of what is usually called “modern times,” old Europe has abandoned making belief in God the condition of the possibility of the common good and of human life. The Promethean era—named after the Titan who stole the divine fire to give it to men—has reversed all values to make materialism, individualism and technical progress a new trinity. The superhuman has replaced the divine as the philosophical horizon. But the man who conceives himself as his own measure is exhausted and the 20th century has shown that the West has been irremediably attracted by its own destruction.

Therefore, where can we find the resources for the spiritual recovery of Europe? How to reinject spirituality into the worn-out carcass of Promethean Man? In the eyes of Walter Schubart, the salvation of the West must come from the East—and, more precisely, from that country torn between the two worlds since the reforms of Peter the Great—Russia. To the figure of the Promethean Man—of which Napoleon was the most perfect incarnation—Schubart opposes the figure of the Messianic Man.

Let us specify above all that for the author of Europe and the Soul of the East, history is cyclical and is divided into four ages. Each age produces a prototype of man who is characterized by his relationship to the universe: the Harmonious Man, the Heroic Man, the Ascetic Man and the Messianic Man. The Harmonious Man, the ideal of ancient Greece and China, does not perceive the heterogeneity of the spiritual and the material as a source of conflict. He contemplates the universe with love and is fully satisfied with the order of things. For him, “the problem of the meaning of history is already solved,” specifies Schubart.

The Heroic Man, the model of ancient Rome and modern Germany, sees chaos when he looks at the world. He wants to order what surrounds him, to make it conform to his will.

The Ascetic Man, on the other hand, considers material existence as a lure and turns away from it to devote himself solely to the spiritual. His objective is to live outside the world and within himself, while waiting for physical death. The Hindus and the neo-Platonist Greeks had adopted this philosophy.

Finally, the Messianic Man wants to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth and relies on an inner mysticism. To do this, he must reconcile what has been separated, through the love he carries within himself. The early Christians and the Slavs are emblematic of this temperament.

Schubart also breaks down the last millennium of the West into two ages: the Gothic Age, which was dominated by the Ascetic Man, and the Promethean Age, which was and still is dominated by the Heroic Man. In his eyes, the Promethean Age has run out of steam and must give way to the Johannine Age (of Saint John) which has the Messianic Man as its model. The Promethean age, as we have said, is characterized by man’s desire to detach himself from God: “No matter that Western man finds his destiny in the economy, or even in politics or in technology, he is certain that he no longer finds it in spirituality, nor in divinity. He has definitively renounced a spiritual attitude towards life. Attracted by material powers, he has finally succumbed to the forces of the earth—he has made himself a slave of matter,” writes Schubart. The contempt for the material that characterized the Gothic Age and its Ascetic Man is mirrored by the contempt for the spiritual that characterizes the Promethean Age and its Heroic Man.

Russia: A Link between East and West

The Johannine Age that the author calls for must therefore be envisaged under the sign of unity, in accordance with the temperament of the Messianic Man: “The Messianic Man does not act out of a spirit of domination, but is guided solely by a constant concern for conciliation; the feeling that animates him is love. He does not seek to divide in order to rule, his concern is to unite what has been separated,” emphasizes Schubart. For the Messianic Man, in this case for the Slavic soul, the spectacle of a fragmented world is unbearable. The separation of the material from the spiritual, of the soul from the body, of man from nature, and ultimately of man from God, strikes him with a deep sense of longing. The Messianic Man wants to recover the lost unity that was the joy of the Harmonious Man: “The image of the Universe that the Harmonious Man has of it is more or less the same as that which the Messianic Man had of it. However, whereas the one has already reached the goal, the other still seeks to reach it in a very distant future; both consider the Universe as the beloved being to whom they give themselves in order to unite with it.”

It is the Russians who have the task of turning the West from the Promethean to the Johannine Age, precisely because the Slavic soul—because it is fundamentally Eastern—is impervious to materialist and atheistic doctrines. Written in 1938, the thesis of Europe and the Soul of the East immediately raised an objection—why should salvation come from Russia when the Soviet Union has achieved on earth the exact opposite of what Messianic Man has a right to expect? Communism has turned materialism, atheism and technical progress into a state ideology: “The Russians, who are faithful to the Church, see in the Soviet Union the ‘Kingdom of Antichrist,’” responded Schubart.

For the author, the contradiction is merely superficial. Bolshevism is, according to him, only a vast enterprise of sabotage of the Promethean ideal. Schubart held that the advent of the Soviet Union was merely a harmful consequence of the Occidentalism which has been trying to impose itself on the Russian mentality since Peter the Great. The monstrous character of the Soviet Union resided precisely in this contradiction between the Slavic soul and the Promethean ideal: “The Russian is carried by a living feeling of universality. The contemplation of the steppes without limits always brings back his glance towards the infinite one. It will never be able to put itself in harmony with Promethean culture whose fundamental base is egocentrism and which supports individual emancipation or—what amounts to the same thing—the decline of the gods.”

The Unsinkable Russian Soul

Similarly, state atheism advocated by the communist regime had no hold on the deep convictions of Russians: “The absence of religious feeling, even within religions—this is the characteristic of contemporary Europe. The persistence of religious feeling, even in a materialistic ideology, is the characteristic of the Russian Soviet world. With the Russians, everything has a religious character, even atheism,” writes Schubart. This paradoxical formula translates a deep truth: the Russian man cannot do without religion, even when he renounces it. Schubart relied on Dostoyevsky’s Demons to support his point. Indeed, Stavrogin and Kirilov deploy, each in their own way, a mystical impulse in their enterprise of negation of divinity. Despite their respective nihilism, they position and define themselves only in relation to God. Unlike Westerners, they cannot be indifferent to this question.

Finally, the historical failure of communism, which Schubart did not see in his lifetime but which he foresaw, is a demonstration by the absurd of the intrinsically spiritual character of the Russian mentality: “Russia has provided the world with proof that a culture without God is doomed. It has also proved that the autonomy of the individual is an illusion,” says Scunart. And it is this unsinkability of the soul which can allow Russia to realize the synthesis between East and West, between the metaphysical spirit and the Promethean spirit, between faith and reason: “…modern Europe is a form without life—Russia is a life without forms. In the first case, the soul has abandoned the body and left an empty carcass. In the second case, life has destroyed the forms that hindered it.” Messianic Man—”the perfect man,” says Schubart—of the Johannine Age must above all be understood as a reconciled man, as a man who reaches out with all his might toward the lost harmony of Homer and Lao Tzu, even if it means finding the apocalypse in his path.


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


Featured: “Strelka,” by Andrei Remnev; painted in 2015.

Wilberforce’s Attack on Vice is Needed in the USA

This writer has been researching the life and thinking of William Wilberforce, who was the chief advocate for the elimination of slavery in the British empire, which in fact was abolished by Great Britain in 1833. This research revealed that Wilberforce also advocated for a change in morals and manners in Great Britain and its worldwide empire. He was concerned that Biblical values were eroding, and that a much higher standard of personal as well as public conduct was needed among English-speaking Christians. He thus was a preacher and polemicist to the country/empire as a whole, and not only to a particular congregation from a particular pulpit. Wilberforce, in addition to fighting to end slavery based on the Biblical premise that all men and women were created in God’s own image, sought to encourage “piety and virtue, [and the prevention of] vice, profaneness and immorality.” This aspect of his work or mission became known as the Society for the Suppression of Vice (SSV).

This SSV, founded in 1802, grew rapidly and had over 1200 members by 1812. It was authorized by King George III who, the reader undoubtedly recalls, was the monarch whose control we rejected during our War for Independence from 1776 to 1783. Thus, the move for moral purity had legal authorization by a king whom we considered to be so immoral.

The list of SSV’s offending behaviors was quite long. It included profanation of the Lord’s Day (Sunday), profane swearing, publication of blasphemous, licentious and obscene books, selling by false weights and measures, keeping of disorderly public houses, brothels, and gaming houses, illegal lotteries, cruelty to animals.

Well, dear reader, are you at all shocked that the one man who was the key player in bringing slavery and the slave trade to an end in the British Empire was, at the same time, on this moral crusade? Are you suddenly aware that the obverse side of the moral coin that was being held by Mr. Wilberforce contains all these moral injunctions? That high-minded and Biblically grounded individual saw then that slavery, although particularly un-Biblical, was only one side of the moral crisis besetting British society. If he was concerned about the general moral estate of Great Britain at that time, how much more should our Senators, Representatives, Judges, elected officials of all stripes—Governors, state legislators, mayors, city council members, etc.—feel dismayed and disgusted not only by our country’s moral downslide, which, by early 19th century standards, is our moral collapse.

In New York City, while prostitution is still illegal on the books, the ladies are no longer looked upon as perpetrators to be tried. The women are not put in jail, and instead therapy is offered. The judgment that this behavior is degrading and fosters a decline in public morals is removed from the equation. Prostitution is perceived simply as a type of maladjustment.

Also, the ACLU has successfully fought against obscenity laws for decades to the point where outright porno magazines are publicly for sale in stores and have been so for decades.

When I was growing up, gambling was restricted to Nevada. Now it is a staple in many states. Lotteries of all kinds are also advertised, and tickets are for sale in every bodega and newspaper store. With these gambling outlets, the idea of something for nothing pervades society. It accentuates the covetousness of society condemned without equivocation in the Ten Commandments. Gambling in the stock market is considered a wholesome and admirable “business activity.”

What about swearing? God’s name is regularly used in vain for decades. When this writer worked in an office with industrial engineers, the F-word was standard fare. One pastor I had years ago said that whenever he felt frustrated as a young man, he would start cursing. When he entered Bible college, he still had the same habit. But since he noted that the other students did not indulge in that profane pursuit, he resolved and prayed to be able to overcome that sin. He kept on cursing until one day, feeling very frustrated by some setback, he found that he grabbed the back of a chair (as he typically would) but that no curse words came out. The vain, immoral reactions to life’s frustrations were overcome. Although there were some occasional outbursts after that one successful moment, the corrupt speech was clearly defeated. Finally, it disappeared entirely.

Licentious and obscene books and films are standard fare. Nudity, conjugal relations, passionate kissing scenes, couples undressing themselves or each other, as well as an explosion of pornographic videos in theaters and especially on the Internet has turned our country into a sex-obsessed village. Conservative publications obsess about the sexualization of children in the early grades in our schools, but have allowed the pornographic obsessions of the Internet to run amuck. Pornography is driving a wedge even between the adult male and female populations. Settings to prevent this on cell phones or computers are strict (against), moderate, or off, but those settings are easily accessed and changeable. The concept of “prurience” that was once the basis for declaring reading or visual matter obscene is now out the window. Instead, any laws attempting to restrain this unfettered obscenity and vulgarity are considered an infringement on free speech.

This writer was invited to a lecture by someone representing the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). He spoke forcefully about the suppression of free speech that obscenity censorship represented, and how pleased he was that his organization had been at the forefront of crushing the accursed, rigid, Victorian morality behind all censorship.

During the Q&A following his talk, one person in the audience said that censorship was challenged because some literature like the novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence had some obscene passages; but it was nonetheless considered to have redeeming literary merit, which offset the need for censorship. But the questioner then asked, “What about patently obscene material which has no redeeming literary merit? Shouldn’t that material be banned?” The speaker just brushed off the questioner by saying, “I don’t think so.” He gave no reasons in support of his primitive position.

We know that obscene literature degrades the minds of the users. Lust in the heart and mind—not only homosexual lust as some moralists would say—is according to the Bible to be discouraged as it offends the Living God who desires us to live on the spiritual level. All lust outside of wedlock is ungodly. Wilberforce understood that the morals of the Bible are eternal and uplifting. We need to revamp our laws and enforce our laws that are already on the books. We conservatives complain about the sexualization of children in the present world of trannie-ology; but we must acknowledge that in all areas of morals, including the sexual, we have been too lax for decades in allowing immorality to hold sway. Just as we are surely glad to be rid of the travesty of slavery, we must stand wholeheartedly against the trashy tolerance that has developed over the past few decades.


Jeffrey Ludwig presently teaches philosophy at a public university. He has also taught at Harvard, Penn State, and Juniata College, and during a stint as a high school teacher was listed four times in Who’s Who Among America’s High School Teachers. His latest book, Christian Perspectives, Vol.1 is now available.


Featured: “William Wilberforce,” by John Rising; painted ca. 1790.