Artificial Intelligence: An Oxymoron

Few topics gain more media attention today than the prospect of computers using AI (artificial intelligence) taking ever greater charge of human activity, even to the point where many fear AI will usurp humanity itself. This fear arises from the belief that AI has already become aware of its own existence and may decide that it is a form of life superior to less efficient human beings, who then will be judged by AI as an “imperfection” that should be removed from the planet!

This way of looking at AI computers arises from the inherently positivistic assumptions that tend to accompany a technological age, such as ours, in which natural science is seen by many as the only true and objective way of looking at the world. All this begets a kind of metaphysical materialism in which everything we find in the cosmos is the product of material entities and the physical forces which govern their behavior.

Since Darwinian naturalism views living things as the end product of material forces and particles, it is naturally assumed that the emergence of self-reflection and intelligence in man is also simply the natural product of eons of physical and organic evolution, such that complex neural networks found in highly evolved brains eventually gives rise to self-awareness and even complex forms of thinking in later hominins, including Homo sapiens. It is a short step to think of modern computers as simply artificial life forms that can develop—through a kind of self-programming—self-reflection, understanding and complex reasoning—even a concept of personhood, which they then apply to themselves.

Moreover, the natural sequence of logic here seems to be that, if material nature can produce thinking, self-reflecting organisms, such as man, then, with the advent of computers, super computers can be developed from material components which can even then “out think” human beings, as evinced by their ability to beat our best chess champions. The neural networks of artificial computers can exceed the capacity and natural programming of the human brain so as to produce superior thought processes as is now manifested by the advent of artificial intelligence.

Hence, the notion of emergence of “artificial intelligence” appears to be a scientifically correct depiction of the natural evolution of human intelligence which then begets the technology of super computers that can easily outshine even the mental capacities of their creators.

Does Richard Dawkins Really Exist?

The only problem with the above commonly accepted scientific view of reality is that it is based on a philosophical interpretation of the world in which nothing above the level of submicroscopic particles or waves actually exists as a whole thing. This theme I explain in detail in a YouTube video entitled: “Atheistic Materialism—Does Richard Dawkins Exist?”

Modern evolutionary materialists embrace what is essentially the doctrine of atomism that traces back to the Greek philosopher, Democritus (c. 460—c. 370 BC), who maintained that the world is composed of nothing but tiny, indestructible, inert, solid, material particles that interact mechanically. While this differs from modern quantum-mechanical “atoms” that are not inert, but interact through electric and magnetic force fields, the basic notion is still the same: fundamental units of matter compose all things and nothing really exists as a whole above the atomic level.

The inherent logic of both these basic atomistic worldviews entails that atomists themselves, such as Richard Dawkins, do not actually exist as whole beings. Atomism may exist as a philosophy, but atomists themselves do not exist!

As a simple example, you can produce dihydrogen oxide, better known as water, by combining oxygen and hydrogen into a single molecule. But, does the water molecule now constitute a single thing, distinct from everything else—or is it still just two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen, temporarily sharing outer orbit electrons? Atomism would say that they are still just separate atoms of oxygen and hydrogen, now sharing a few electrons so as to act as a functional unity—no more a single thing in reality than is a horse and its rider. Modern physics and chemistry comport with this same atomistic interpretation.

This means in effect that nothing above the atomic level constitutes a single whole being, distinct from everything else—not fleas, not zebras, not cats, and not human beings (including Dr. Dawkins)! Atoms may engage in incredibly complex relationships with other atoms in this dynamically interacting world—including forming temporary combinations of organic molecules working synergistically according to their DNA “program” so as to present the functional unities we perceive as single things called “organisms.” Still, none of these “systems” constitute what philosophers call a “substantial unity,” that is, some whole being distinct in itself and separate from everything else. Atomism renders an interpretation of physical reality in which the interaction of uncountable atoms may form what looks like substantial unities, but which, at most, constitute merely functional unities that are in reality no more unified than a pile of sand or an automobile.

Atomism logically entails that we are merely amazingly well-organized piles of atoms!

To have real unity at levels above the atoms, you need some principle of unity that makes a thing truly the same kind of thing throughout its whole reality. Aristotelians call that principle the “substantial form.” For example, if we are one being, it is because our human nature is of one type or form. The form of our stomach is not “stomachness,” but “humanness.” We are human from top to bottom, side to side. Otherwise, we would not be one being, but just a pile of anatomical parts—or, at the deepest level, merely a pile of cooperating atoms.

The human substantial form, or soul (life principle), makes us a single, unified being or substance by pervading and specifying as human every single least part of our being that is truly “us.” This does not, of course, include things within us that are not actually part of our human substance, such as the urine in our bladders, or the acid in our stomachs.

Nonetheless, you cannot keep excluding such “non-human” entities within us without doing away with the entirety of our substance. That is, most of what we say belongs to the human body really does so and is human throughout. The nature of our toes is not “toeness,” but again, as indicated above, “humanness.”

Proponents of evolutionary materialism would maintain that their view of natural science is simply common sense, the only view of the world that comports with its actual composition of atomic or subatomic extended units of physical matter. But this entails that nothing and no one above the atomic level really exists, meaning that both the natural scientist as well as his laboratory assistants are merely glorified piles of atoms having an organizing schema of DNA, but no real existential unity—no common nature of “humanness” that unites all parts and subordinates them to a human nature that pervades their entire physical reality.

It is one thing to say that the human body is composed of atomic particles. But, it is quite another thing to say that the human being is nothing but those same atomic particles. The first statement is simply a statement of scientific fact. But, the second one is quite different, since it is a materialistic philosophical interpretation of the scientific fact—an interpretation that effectively denies the common sense reality that we live in a world composed of, not just unseen atoms, but of flowers, bugs, dogs, and people!

We all know that an automobile is an incredible functional unity that is composed of thousands of discrete and independently-existing parts. But, that does not entail that it is a genuinely-unified single being. That is why any speeding ticket is issued to the person who was the driver and not to the vehicle itself—even though it was the car that was observed breaking the speed limit. Moreover, even though the automobile far exceeds the speed of a human being in terms of ability to move through space, it lacks the existential unity needed to be subjectively responsible for its motor vehicle legal infraction. For the same reasons, even an AI computer or robot may function as an impressive functional unity—even far exceeding mere humans in computational abilities, and yet, such electronic-mechanical devices possess no more substantial unity than does the automobile.

On the other hand, human beings have a lived experience of existential unity which belies the reductionist simplicity of atomism. We are well aware of the incoming fire of all our senses presenting to our consciousness the multiple sensible qualities of numbers of physical objects external to our physical body. We are also aware that we can command and coordinate all the mental and physical powers of our person to ward off, say, the attack of an angry dog. Any abstract philosophical interpretation of unseen “atoms” which denies our immediate awareness of our own existential unity, as well as that of other things, like dogs and other persons, fails to comport with the total reality of human experience.

In the end, atomistic philosophical doctrines are no more realistic than Platonic ones, which insist that the Really Real world is not the one given in our direct experience of reality, but rather is some abstract expression of things actually unseen and unexperienced in our immediate awareness of ourselves and of the world around us.

In sum, the direct experience we have of ourselves is that we have capacities of sense experience, thought, and free choice which no individual atoms possess. Such qualitatively superior properties are not found in individual atoms. They are found solely in living organisms which exist as wholes governed by some formal principle which unifies and specifies them to be unified superior realities, such as plants, animals, or men. Physically inanimate objects—whether singular or somehow physically conjoined—simply do not have the qualitatively superior properties of living things. Such living properties are manifest solely when atomic units are part of a composite whole that exhibits that same nature throughout and activities proper to that nature. A dog is a dog from nose to tail because all of its parts act together to sustain the activities proper to the whole living canine organism.

Emergent Properties

Materialists will sometimes claim that sensory and intellectual activities found in man may not be found in bodily chemical components isolated in themselves, but that they “emerge” from atomic particles when they are combined into complex organic entities, such as animals and humans.

This may be true of simple electrical and mechanical properties, such as those manifested by atomic entities when combined into molecules. For example, hydrogen and oxygen are not liquids at room temperature, but when combined into water, they manifest that quality. But, certain qualities found in animals, such as the formation of images or sensation of objects of sight, manifest operations that are utterly beyond the limitations of merely physical objects and the atoms that compose them.

As I explain in my recently-published book, Rational Responses to Skepticism, (384-390), forming visual images or sensing visual objects entails knowing physically extended things as a whole, which is something no purely physical entity can do. What is universally true of all physical things, including atoms, is that they are physically extended in the space-time continuum, that is, with one part of them being in one part of space-time and another part being in another part of space-time. No physical thing can be in two distinct locations at the same time, unless it is one thing with diverse parts in different places—as our feet are in one place and our head in another.

In simple terms, that is why a television set presents the image of a dog by having thousands of diverse pixels illuminated or not illuminated over the breadth of the entire screen so as to form an image of the whole dog (from a single perspective). (A pixel or “picture element” is the smallest unit in a digital image.) But each pixel is either “on” or “off.” No single pixel represents the whole dog. TV sets do not “see” the objects they display on their screens. It takes a living dog to look at the screen and bark at what he sees as an entire dog.

This is also why every kind of physical recording, sensing, data processing device, and the like, necessarily uses some form of physically extended medium to display or express the content which it stores and/or manipulates. This is because it really “knows” nothing, but is simply retaining and/or rearranging the content of the objects it “apprehends” into a format that that living knowers alone can either sense or understand.

Thus, the “core storage and processing” mechanism of every data-processing machine is itself extended in space so that one part of it can represent one part of the “known” object and another part represents a different one, whether it be recorded on photographic film, a disc, a chip, tape, or any other physically extended object that can “point by point” represent something else—even written content, such as this article. This physical process of recording and manipulating data in no way constitutes actual cognition.

On the contrary, only an immaterial power that is not extended in space is able to grasp the whole of a sensed object as a single unified whole all at once. The dog sees the entire image of the dog on the TV screen, precisely because the dog’s sight—unlike the TV screen itself—is not composed of discrete physical parts that merely represent “on” or “off” of pixels, but rather is able to apprehend the whole as a whole because, being immaterial, it grasps the entire sensed object in a simple act that has no physical parts. (N.B., Grasping the “whole” does not mean seeing the object from all sides at once, but merely seeing the entire surface that presents itself from a given perspective.)

Some materialists claim that this immaterial ability of sense cognition to grasp whole objects in a simple act is merely a property that “emerges” from matter under suitable conditions—just as “wetness” appears in the place of hydrogen and oxygen gasses when they chemically combine. But this assertion clearly violates the principle of sufficient reason when applied to extended material things trying to apprehend physical objects as a whole. For it claims that discrete physical parts, which are themselves inherently unable to grasp the unity of whole sense objects, are still somehow the adequate reason for apprehending a visible object as a unified whole.

While “wetness” is still a physical property of certain chemicals in a combined state, being physically extended in space-time is precisely the limiting factor that makes physical things, as such, unable to explain the simplicity of the act of grasping a whole visible object all at once. That is, it simply is not in the nature of matter to do this. For matter to express all the content of a physically extended object in a single location is as impossible as it is for a TV screen to express an entire picture in a single pixel. That is why the material, as such, is not a sufficient reason for the performance of immaterial acts, such as seeing wholes.

To make the point even more clear, attempting to depict an extended object, like the image of a dog, on a single physical point would be like trying to put all its light content into a single pixel on a television screen. In the process all distinctions and visual content would be unified, but also no longer discernible. This is, in fact, what used to happen with the old electron tube TV sets when you turned them off. The horizontal and vertical output fields would collapse instantly, leaving for a few seconds nothing to see but a bright spot of light in the center of the screen, since all the picture data was now overlapped on itself in a single spot. The data was still there, but the image was destroyed!

Image and Concept

As if this limitation of matter were not enough to show that atomism alone cannot explain the lowest form of cognition, sensation, those acts which specify true understanding or intelligence are of an even higher form and are acts proper to true human beings alone.

Typical of the confusion which attends the empiricist mentality when confronted with traditional claims of the qualitative superiority of man over beast, the philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) exhibited total incomprehension of the essential difference between the sense life of animals and the intellectual life of true human beings. He failed utterly to grasp the incommensurable difference between the sense image and the intellectual concept.

Since Hume’s empiricism entailed him maintaining that all we know are sense impressions, he viewed all knowledge as being limited entirely to the sensory order. Thus our direct experience of external objects is composed of vivid and lively sense impressions, whereas our knowledge of ideas is taken from memory or imagination and is less vivid. Modern materialists tend to follow the same reasoning.

Since for them all experience is ultimately merely sensory, no sharp distinction between images and ideas or concepts exists. All knowledge is conceived in terms of neural patterns in the brain so that images and ideas or concepts are essentially of the same nature.

But, in reality, there are sharp and easily provable distinctions between images and concepts—such that images belong to a form of internal sensation that always exhibits dependency on matter, whereas concepts are of a clearly immaterial and non-imaginable character. Images are said to be material in that they always appear under the conditions of matter. This means we find them always singular, concrete, and with material qualities like shape, color, and size that can be imagined or even realized in a painting or sculpture. You can imagine a cow or a square, but it is always this cow or this square with this particular color, size, or shape, which is also experienced as extended in space.

On the other hand, the concept or idea of “cowness” or “squareness” cannot ever be imagined or realized concretely, since it must apply to all possible cows and squares, and thus, cannot have merely the particular colors or shapes that are found in an image of one or even a group of them. You can imagine all the humans gathered at Easter in St. Peter’s Square, but even they would only be imagined as a sea of heads and would not express all the diversity of characteristics found in the concept of humanity, which covers every possible human that has ever lived or could ever live! This is not to mention the evident fact that concepts themselves cannot be imagined. For example, what is your image of justice (which is not merely a blind lady with scales) or of beauty (which is not itself physically attractive as a concept) or even of the concept of a concept itself?

Moreover, we understand concepts or ideas, but not images. We see a concrete realization of an image, perhaps, but we never can see a concrete realization of a concept. For that very reason, abstract art results in odd representations of distorted singulars when trying to depict such universal concepts as humanity or vengeance.

The bottom line is that, while images (1) are material entities as evinced by them always being under the conditions of matter and (2) are shared by both animals and man, universal concepts apply to all possible concrete instances of their content and are, thereby, abstracted from any particular material qualities at all. This means that human intellectual concepts—the meanings that underlie our linguistic inventions called words—are strictly immaterial in nature, and thus, exceed the power of any purely material being to produce. Indeed, the ability to form such immaterial concepts is the very basis for the Thomistic proofs for the strict immateriality or spiritual nature of the human intellectual soul, since the ability to form such strictly non-material entities exceeds the capacity of anything that is purely material in nature.

All this is but a brief summary of a topic I have treated in far greater detail in my book referenced above. (162-176.)

Why Artificial Intelligence is an Oxymoron

What has all the above analysis got to do with the question of artificial intelligence in computers? It is this. The entire presumption that computers can exhibit intelligence like human beings is, in the first instance, based on the belief that animals possess some primitive form of intelligence in the form of an internal life of interacting images taking place in neural networks in their brains. Since Darwinian naturalistic evolution views man as being simply a highly developed animal, it maintains that thought processes in the human brain are simply better developed abilities to manipulate images which constitute primitive thinking in higher animals.

Therefore, if—following this materialistic reasoning—human intelligence is basically a form of complex manipulation of images within the human brain, and if the brain and its images are material in nature—the end product of blind evolutionary processes, then, in principle, there is no reason that electronic computers cannot be programmed to manipulate their own material data in such a way as to actually constitute thinking and the possession of intelligence.

Indeed, are not computers viewed as “thinking machines” already? Do we not program them to use symbolic logic to analyze highly complex intellectual problems and draw probabilistic or absolutely true conclusions?

So, are not these thinking machines already exhibiting intelligence—even though, at least until recently, under the direction of human programmers? What does the concept of artificial intelligence add to this equation except the notion that the computers will “take over” the whole process themselves—become self-programming—and engage in intellectual pursuits of their own? Is that not what is already being claimed for AI computers and even AI robots?

But there is one small fly in the ointment. While computers can be programmed to manipulate symbols we humans encode for them, and while they can present to us the logical inferences derived from such formal logic, this does not entail that such computers actually understand the intellectual concepts or ideas which these symbols represent!

That is, you can get a computer to write “Cogito, ergo sum.” But that does not mean it has even a single iota of understanding about what it just wrote!

As we have shown above, while animals have a sense life entailing material images in their cognitive faculties, this does not entail that they possess intellectual understanding of universal ideas or concepts. But, it is precisely the understanding of meanings or concepts which constitutes the essence of intelligence. In fact, the word, “intelligence,” is taken from the Latin “intus” and “legere,” which means “to read within.” That is to read within the very nature of things. “Intellegere” means “to understand.” And it is from “intellegere” that we derive the English term, “intellect.”

Since human beings alone understand concepts or ideas, not mere images, human beings alone possess true intellect. That is, man alone, among all the animals, is an intellectual creature of God.

Hence, the train rushing toward expecting intelligence from blind material evolution is derailed at the point at which we move from experiencing mere images to making the claim that there is actual understanding of the concepts with which these images are merely associated. Indeed, we may have an image of a blind lady holding scales which is associated with the concept of justice—but, the image itself conveys none of the understanding of this noble concept and all its implications!

Even some otherwise well-educated present commentators frequently refer to possible space aliens as being “sentient creatures” of God. But Merriam-Webster defines “sentient” to mean “responsive to or conscious to sense impressions; aware; finely sensitive in perception or feeling.”

In a word, sentient creatures are mere animals, who share the powers of sensation. They have sense experience. But, that does not entail that they possess any intellectual powers. What is happening here is that these commentators are failing to distinguish sensation from true intellection. Man alone on this planet possesses true intellect, because man alone has the power to understand concepts, form judgments, and reason to conclusions. That is why traditional philosophers define man as a “rational animal,” meaning an animal with intellectual powers enabling him to engage in true reasoning whose content he understands—not the mere sense experience and association of images found in brute animals.

Computers—no matter how sophisticated—fail to fulfill the meaning of any form of intelligent beings on two counts: (1) they are not even things whose substantial unity is constituted by a single substantial form making all its parts to share the same nature, and (2) they have no intelligence at all, since to have intelligence is to understand the natures of the things symbolically represented by computer language. Not only do they understand nothing, but, unlike even a dumb bunny, they do not have sensation of anything at all—since they lack the substantial unity needed to be a living animal that is able sense physical objects as a whole.

Artificial intelligence is an oxymoron because it is a simple contradiction in terms. If something is artificial, it lacks genuine intelligence—no matter how complex and impressive its external behavior may be programmed or even self-programmed to appear. If something has true intellectual experience, it cannot be a mere artificial object. Rather, it is a natural creature with an intellectual, spiritual soul directly created by God.

Bad News for Captain Kirk

As an addendum consistent with the philosophical principles explained in the analysis given above, I cannot but think of the thousands of times Captain Kirk and his crew on Star Trek employed transporters in order to journey to distant stars or planets or even just to the surface of a planet or back up to the mother ship.

The basic concept of a transporter is that it disassembles the molecular structure of the person and uses the format of that molecular structure to assemble the same person at some distant point. This theoretical device is based on the assumption that an object or person is simply a properly-configured collection of atoms—in accordance with the false philosophical claims of atomism.

The only problem with this process is that disassembling the atomic structure of the person also destroys his really existing substantial unity, which means—simply putyou just killed him!

Whatever structure is attempted to be reassembled from molecules at the end point of the “transfer” lacks any substantial form to unify it. Since that substantial form happens also to be a spiritual soul, unless the God of all creation deigns to give ultimate proper organization to those molecules by creating and infusing a human spiritual soul into that matter, nothing genuinely alive and human can appear at the other end of the transmission!

More importantly, if you are Captain Kirk, what was your body remains totally disassembled back at the starting point and you are dead. It makes me wonder how many times a “Captain Kirk” died in the years Star Trek was on television.

Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York, where he also served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. He is the author of three books, Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s ExistenceOrigin of the Human Species, and Rational Responses to Skepticism: A Catholic Philosopher Defends Intellectual Foundations for Traditional Beliefas well as many scholarly articles.

Featured: Creación de las aves [Creation of the Birds], by Remedios Varo; painted in 1957.

Wearing Woman-Face

To mark International Women’s Day, one of the leading lights of progressive thought, Justin Trudeau, issued a writ in which he let loose all manner of simpering on the subject of “woman,” before claiming some moral high ground about fighting “hate.” This Cloaca Minima of the New World Order also drew to full height to declare: “We reiterate today that trans women are women.”

We will leave aside the fake custom dedicating days to all sorts of “moral” causes—this assumes that the remaining 364 days of the year will have nothing whatsoever to do with said cause, for example, here, women.

To “mark” a day dedicated to women, Canada’s foremost pansophist informed us that men too are women. All men have to do is invest in some feminine clothing, smear on lipstick, and be instantly transformed into a “woman.” In other words, a woman is no more than the slight of a man’s hand.

To be a woman, you just need to wear “Woman-face,” just as Trudeau is fond of wearing blackface, and so to use his logic, he can also declare: “We reiterate today that white men are black men.”

To disagree with government declarations is to “hate,” and politicians like Trudeau have handy “hate-laws” to make sure the police show up and haul you off to face the full penalty of the law. You must admire the naked emperor’s new clothes. There can be choice. Repeat: “Trans woman are women!”

As is now too obvious, the West is defined by its ongoing war against reality, because it innately believes that reality is an invention of the “white man” and thus must be destroyed, so that a new “reality” may be established in its place. These various “white” sins are said to be entrenched in the entire system of the West, which is why the general political attitude is that of destruction of all that exists. The world must be built back better—without the white man.

The greatest of such white sins is viewing humanity as “men” and “women,” because in doing so, there are received (traditional) expectations of how a man and a woman must live, and what a man and woman must do. Therein lies the danger for the Western political class, in that received wisdom denies their authority, because tradition is a way to live beyond the hold and reach of politics. The more people value and share tradition, the less they need politics. For Trudeau and his ilk, this is truly dangerous as it fully invalidates them, for politics alone must be the be-all and end-all of life in all its totality.

This is why the trans movement is the final culmination of the great cycle of self-destruction that the West has engaged in: the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s (which included feminism), then gay rights of the 1980s and 1990s, and now the elimination of all notion of sexuality with transgenderism. From unhindered pursuit of pleasure to chemical and surgical castration. The point of it all? To sequester life itself into the narrow confines of politics, where life becomes impossible without politics—for the castrated creature needs full government support (emotional, social, and financial). In effect, the transgendered freak is the perfect face of Western politics.

It bears veering into a little more detail.

The prefix “trans-” is Latin in origin, where it means, “beyond.” But in our time, the prefix has transitioned into an adjective and at times even a noun and replaces the earlier terms “transexual” and “transgender.” Note as well another term that has now fallen out of favor—”transvestite” or a crossdresser, which had long been part of literary culture, since in theater all female parts were played by men (from the time of the ancient Greeks), and in drama crossdressing thus became a device to conceal identity and gain access to that which was otherwise forbidden (for example, in Euripides’ Bacchae or Hippolytus). More often, however, crossdressing was simply comedic. Culture carries deep influence, and transvestitism, through the theater (and later the screen), seeped into society as a strategy to win through deception. Thus, a rhetorical, literary ruse became social activism.

Because, in theater, men and women crossdressed, at times, to gain sexual access (marriage) or even prurience, this too became part of a sub-culture, much promoted, for example, in the 1920s, especially in Weimar Germany. Thus, in the underbelly of society, transvestitism was a trick to get sexual reward, with costumes and role-playing.

Over the past few years, crossdressing has been turned inwards to affect the reality of the human person, where costume becomes a permanent self-transformation. This has been classified as “gender dysphoria,” but mental disorders are always a tricky mode of explanation, since people have all kinds of motivations for their behavior. Rather, what has happened is that crossdressing has been given a political dimension—where men in female attire and make-up (woman-face) are declared to be “women” by political decree. The advantages therefore of crossdressing are great. And this decree is then internalized by crossdressers, who sense a chance at power, and who then agree to mutilate their bodies in order to gain advantage. The body is sacrificed in order to establish a better self, in a ”better world” that will replace the old, traditional one, in which men and women lived within the demands of their biological reality. In the “better world,” biological reality must be “fluid,” because the indeterminate self is ever-ready to assume any new political advantage. This “fluidity” is actively promoted by the education-media-entertainment complex. This “better world” demands neutered creatures, forever “celebrating” their castration—and there exists many a doctor who will happily assist. And people have a hard time understanding Dr. Mengele?

But, here, the “better world” runs into a problem. As is obvious, a neutered creature cannot reproduce. This is where schools become essential, where there is always a supply of new recruits for the trans flock. In other words, schools are places where the children of others are groomed, a process in which teachers (especially women) are now adept, to become “better.”

An Excursus into History

In history, castration was practiced to enforce control and ensure compliance in ancient times. The most famous example being the Gallus priests of the Cybele cult, who castrated themselves, then wore make-up and dressed like women, when they assumed office. Larger Roman society took a dim view of this fringe cult and much proscribed it, though it was never banned outright (perhaps because it was fringe). Then, there were the eunuchs of the Byzantine and Ottoman courts, who were employed as guards of the women’s quarters and harems. The purpose, obviously, was to ensure they could not be attracted to those they were guarding. Later in the 18th century, boys were castrated to preserve their pristine singing voices, which were much in demand in theaters and courts of the time.

What links these various examples from history is that sexual mutilation has always served the purposes of power. The trans creature is deeply, innately handicapped because it can no longer function in traditional human society—it must have recourse to a support system. And, yes, this creature is an “it,” because it has fundamentally destroyed the very essence of humanity that it was born with, in order to become the imaginary. It has sacrificed itself to ensure that politicians can justify their claims and their conspiracy theories. And in the process, notice what has happened—the dignity and value of the human body has evaporated, so that the “better” human body is one that perfectly embodies the happy-talk of politicians.

What to make of all this? Simplicity is always the best. The West is now gripped by evil; and evil must always hurl itself into extremes. Such is the logic of Satan: the vile in the human imagination must replace the good. This is the real reason why the rest of the world is now rejecting the West, for to seek to go beyond the human is suicide. Thankfully, the world will not be jumping off that cliff.

Aristarch lives in splendid isolation and writes whenever something catches his eye and the Muse grabs him by the throat.

On Life and Causality

I. Life, Causality, and the Catholic-Protestant Divide

What do the definition of life and the philosophical concept of “secondary causality” have to do with hot-button issues that separate Catholics and Protestants? A lot, I believe, and what follows here is an introduction to a concept that can be explored in more detail.

We live in a time when nominalism, existentialism, and plain old ill-will have robbed many of fundamental common-sense certitudes. Witness the spectacle of a member of the nation’s highest court refusing to define “woman,” justifying herself with the flimsy pretext that she is not a biologist, as if foundational realities regarding human nature were the exclusive domain of a caste of experts in white lab coats.

Those who have not lobotomized themselves with the dirty scalpel of progressive ideology can say what a woman is, what a man is, and what a baby is, even if the latter is still in utero.

Speaking of which, those of us who are anti-abortion (and we should not fear that label) need to be able to define that thing we say we are for: life. There are many philosophical definitions of life, but none of them improves upon the simple one that Brother Francis taught us: “the power of immanent activity.”

Brother illustrated this by describing a scene outside of his office window: It was a windy day, and there were leaves and other small objects being blown in one direction by the powerful gusts. The uniformity of motion was disturbed by a small bird, not much bigger than some of the objects being blown about, going in the opposite direction. The inanimate objects were all subject to transient action, that is, they were being acted upon by the force of the wind. But that bird, being alive, was capable of activity that was inherent to itself, or, as the definition has it, the bird was capable of “immanent activity” because it was alive, the power of locomotion being the basis of numerous acts of sentient life.


As a material object, the bird is subject to transient activity as well — it can be blown about, thrown, eaten by a predator, etc., but inanimate objects (like the dead leaves, bits of paper, sand, etc.) are only capable of transient activity. There is nothing in them by which they can act. The principles of activity are all outside them. The tiniest living plant, no matter how fragile, how dependent upon other things, how radically contingent, is capable of acting by a power intrinsic to it: growing, assimilating nutrition, reproducing its kind. If a living thing has the higher nature of animals, it can also move, know, and pursue the objects of its appetites. Man, as a rational animal, has the higher faculties of intellect and will in addition to all those other powers he shares with lower forms of life. In the higher gradations of life, immanent activity takes on a nobler character, but whether he is exercising the powers common to lower life forms or those requiring the use of his mind, man’s life (his anima, which also means soul) is the principle of his immanent activity. It so happens that the superior nature of his immanent activity puts man at the pinnacle of material creation.

Even though living beings are capable of immanent activity, and man specifically is capable of the elevated activities of thinking and willing, it remains true that all that is not God is radically dependent upon God, for such is the very notion of creatureliness. God not only created all that is, He also sustains it in existence. Yet, does it not remain true that all the immanent activities of living things on earth are really and truly their acts, things proper to them that they actually do? Yes! This is the case whether we consider the mighty oak reaching toward the sky by assimilating water, nutrients from the soil, and sunlight; or the bee making honey and wax; or the man plying his trade. In all its grand totality, creation is the work of God, its First Cause; yet, God willingly and purposely operates through secondary causes all the time. Rain may drop from the heavens—by which I mean the sky—but it does so following laws of nature that are measurable: there is a cycle, dependent on the stable natures of things, by which water evaporates, becomes clouds, then eventually returns to the thirsty ground or the aquatic surfaces of the world in a scientifically observable way (regardless of the sometimes frustratingly imperfect predictions of the meteorologists!). We can truly say that God makes it rain as He sustains all that is and gave to the water, the sun, the atmosphere, etc., their natures by which these activities occur. But the genuine causal role of these created things cannot be denied. It is observable, and is no mere phantasm. This is what we call “secondary causality.” A secondary cause is defined by Father Wuellner as “a cause under and dependent upon the first cause; a created cause; a cause that can only specify the kind, but not the being of the effect.”

The words “first” and “second” here have nothing to do with mere chronology. We are speaking metaphysically. The simplest way to clarify the notion is to say that what is second is absolutely subordinate to and dependent upon what is first.

God could have established a created order in which all making and all change comes about directly and exclusively from Him, just as He created all that is ex nihilo in the beginning. He could have opted to be not only the First, but also the Only Cause. But He did not do so. Instead, He ordained sexual and asexual reproduction so that animals and plants can reproduce themselves. He also made man, created in His image and likeness, to be himself a maker. He remains the First Cause, but all living material things come from others of their kind acting as secondary causes; man’s industry can, “under and dependent upon” God, yield goods of all sorts: agricultural, mechanical, technological, literary, artistic, moral, etc.

Common sense and daily experience tell us this is real. Without secondary causality in creation, the universe would be a far more mystifying thing and no stable order would be observable. The laws of gravity, gas diffusion, motion, entropy, etc., would all be non-extant. Among the myriad cause-and-effect experiences of human life, we would be left wondering where babies come from, since it’s not Mommy and Daddy (with God infusing an immortal soul). Imagine if Volkswagens just dropped from the sky by divine fiat, and we needed no factories to produce them. This might seem like a sort of theocratic socialist paradise, but such a world would be less predictable and more dangerous, with nobody to sue for deaths and injuries from falling Volkswagens.

Secondary causality is so present to us that we usually take it for granted. I recall my mother informing me that the grass would not simply cut itself. Neither, apparently, would the First Cause descend to do the job. That was appointed to me, apparently as a result of Adam’s sin along with the more immediate maternal command. (And let me say that Louisiana summers lend a certain poignancy to the words “the sweat of thy face”—Gen. 3:19).

Speaking of parental commands, in our family lives, we understand that good parenting helps children to develop well, whereas bad parenting is harmful. Heli was blamed for failing to discipline his sons, leading to dreadful consequences for his house and for all Israel. By contrast, Abraham (whose original name, Abram, means “good father”) carried out a wonderful job of parenting with Isaac. While offspring eventually become responsible for their own actions, both good and bad parenting have undeniable effects—as do good and bad education, good and bad moral example, etc. All this fits into our category of secondary causality.


The order of grace parallels the order of nature and builds upon it. The natural man is elevated by grace into the supernatural order. He is a “new creature” (cf., 2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15). He is not only alive with the natural life of man, but he has the “eternal life” that comes from grace: “Now this is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3; cf., many other passages). That life is consummated in heavenly glory, but is commenced on this side of the grave by grace, so Saint John could write, while yet in this veil of tears, “God hath given to us eternal life. And this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). This new and higher life also has its own “immanent activity” that is proper to the new nature grafted into us by grace. Acts of faith, hope, and charity, of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, the Fruits of the Holy Ghost (Gal. 5:22-23), and the sublime Beatitudes are all proper to this life. Without the First Cause giving us eternal life, such acts would be impossible, but the acts are nonetheless our acts, and we shall be judged upon them as upon our evil deeds: “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Apoc, [Rev.] 20:12; cf. Matt. 16:27, Matt. 25:31-46, Rom. 2:6-8).

Just as God is radically necessary and we contingent in the order of nature, so, too, is He indispensable and we utterly dependent in the order of grace. Yet, without a hint of contradiction or an iota of irony, our Christian common sense must here also acknowledge secondary causality at work. It would not do to use the examples of the sacraments, for our Protestant brethren do not accept them — or, to be more accurate, not all Protestants accept all seven. To limit ourselves to explanations that they would accept, let us consider the Bible, preaching, the Twelve Apostles, the wood of the Cross, human language, even grace itself, which, while so sublime a thing, is not, after all, God Himself. All of these are creatures, yet all have a real causality in human salvation. Moreover, each can be further broken down into constituent parts that show more minute secondary causes at work. Preaching, for instance, necessitates created human language, our human minds, the modes of transportation or broadcast by which the preacher is made present to his auditors, the vocal chords of the preacher, and the ears of those who hear (“Faith then cometh by hearing” [Rom. 10:17]), etc.

Concerning authentic preaching, Jesus said to the seventy-two disciples, “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me” (Luke 10:16). From God, the First Cause, to the sacred Humanity of Jesus, to the disciples, to their hearers. A clear-cut case of secondary causality operating in the supernatural order.

Next I would like to illustrate the concept of secondary causality with further Biblical examples, showing how certain key doctrines of the Protestant Reformers are refuted by the clear scriptural data on the subject.

II. Causality and the Biblical Economy of Salvation

When God created all things in the beginning, He did so for a purpose worthy of Himself: His own glory. It may surprise readers to learn that this is actually a dogma of the faith and that anyone who denies it is under the formal anathema of an Ecumenical Council: “If anyone … denies that the world was created for the glory of God: let him be anathema.” (Vatican I, Session 3, Canon 5, “On God the creator of all things.” This is one of the canons appended to the end of Vatican I’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith).

God is glorified by all creation, including stars and planets, rocks and rivers, trees and flowers, and all manner of brute beasts. Each of these glorifies God by acting in accordance with the nature it received from Him. All the aforementioned creatures give God glory by necessity, there being no free will involved.

There are vestiges of God all throughout these lower orders of creation, “footprints” of the Creator which reveal Him to the knowing mind at the same time they effect His glory. This would explain why certain Psalms and the Canticle of the Three Children from the Book of Daniel summon various inanimate and brute creatures to join with us in the praise of God. The Church has incorporated these cosmological prayers into her liturgy.

In creating man, God endowed this higher creature with His own image and likeness. By grace, He also gave men power to be made children of God (cf., John 1:12). This creature has understanding and free will. This creature can know God, and can freely love and serve Him, thereby rendering Him glory in a way superior to what lower creation can do.

In material creation, we humans are unique in having such potencies; we share them only with those pure spirits we call angels.

According to his nature as a knowing and free person, man can, relying on “the First Cause,” actually be a cause of God’s glory. This is the highest manifestation of what we call “secondary causality.”

Which brings me to the subject of Part I above, in which I wrote about the concept of life and the philosophical distinctions of primary and secondary causality, applying these concepts to certain points of doctrine that separate Catholics and Protestants. I concluded that piece with a promise that I would illustrate the concept of secondary causality with further Biblical examples to refute certain key doctrines of the Protestant Reformers.

Let us recall that the original Protestant “Reformers” — and I am speaking principally of Luther and Calvin — denied the freedom of the human will. Luther referred to the will as “enslaved,” famously making an odious comparison between our will and a donkey. If God rides the donkey, the will is compelled to be good; if the devil, evil.

But so much of Holy Scripture’s plain sense refutes this (not to mention the constant tradition of the Church through the ages!). While all secondary causes, including our free wills, are radically and absolutely dependent on the First Cause, this does not render God the “Only Cause” neither does it obliterate the reality of secondary causality.

Let us begin our brief journey through the New Testament with Saint John the Baptist. Saint Luke relates to us the words of the Angel Gabriel to Saint Zachary, who learns that his son would “convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God … [and] turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people” (Luke 1:16-17).

Obviously, God Himself converts people, changes hearts, and prepares people for perfection — indeed, prepares them for the coming of Jesus, which was the vocation of the Baptist. But if these words of the Gospel have any cogent meaning (and they do!) then God not only works directly on men’s intellects and wills by His grace, but also does so indirectly through other men, men like Saint John the Baptist. There are multiple layers of secondary causality operating here.

The parables of Our Lord provide numerous examples to illustrate secondary causality and refute the heresies that deny it. A good one to begin with is the very familiar Parable of the Sower, the first of Our Lord’s parables, found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 13:3 ff., Mark 4:3 ff, Luke 8:5 ff.). Jesus Himself explained it to the Apostles in private after preaching it to the multitudes:

Hear you therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, there cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart: this is he that received the seed by the way side. And he that received the seed upon stony ground, is he that heareth the word, and immediately receiveth it with joy. Yet hath he not root in himself, but is only for a time: and when there ariseth tribulation and persecution because of the word, he is presently scandalized. And he that received the seed among thorns, is he that heareth the word, and the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choketh up the word, and he becometh fruitless. But he that received the seed upon good ground, is he that heareth the word, and understandeth, and beareth fruit, and yieldeth the one an hundredfold, and another sixty, and another thirty. (Matt. 13:18-23)

The seed that was sown was universally the same: it was “the word of the kingdom.” What varied was the condition of the ground upon which it fell: (1) the wayside, (2) stony ground, (3) thorny ground, and (4) good ground. The good ground itself was not all of the same quality, inasmuch as the yield of fruit varied from one part of the ground to another. Saint Luke speaks of the men represented by the good ground as having a “good and perfect heart”; these men, “hearing the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience” (Luke 8:15).

Is it not plain from this that secondary causality is operative here? Men cooperating with grace, or failing to do so, is what distinguishes the different kind of ground, while the seed itself (the free gift of faith) is the same in each case, even if it be accompanied by different degrees of actual grace to accept it. There is also variety in the virtue of the “good ground,” which refutes Calvin’s idea that there is a radical equality among the saints, while it affirms the existence of different degrees of merit among the just.

Next, we will look at the Parable of the Pounds. “And calling his ten servants, he gave them ten pounds, and said to them: Trade till I come” (Luke 19:13). Each of these servants received the same amount of money. Each was directed to use it to turn a profit. We learn only of three of the servants. One of them doubled the amount he was given and was praised for his good work. A second gained a profit of fifty percent over the original he was given and was also praised. The third simply returned the original ten pounds to his master with a rather lame excuse. Far from being praised, this servant is reprimanded severely and his ten pounds are given to the first servant, the one who doubled the initial investment.

In this parable, the First Cause gives something indispensable for the task at hand: “investment capital.” He orders his servants to enter into the chain of causality and do something with the money to give it increase. Rewards and punishments are meted out accordingly. Secondary causality at work.

Similar to the Parable of the Pounds is the Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 25 — which, you may recall, is all about judgment. While the details differ somewhat — e.g., this time each servant is given different amounts — they resemble one another inasmuch as two servants are praised and rewarded, while a third is punished. His punishment is worth recounting: “And the unprofitable servant cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This man’s crime was returning to his master the one talent he was given, and not making more money from it, as his fellow-servants had done. Again, the servants are being commanded to cooperate with the causality of their Master so that they will be “profitable.” In the supernatural life, this is exactly what God wants.

In the Parable of the Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-13), we learn lessons on persevering prayer. (This is one of at least two parables that impart this lesson.) Jesus clearly explains the point of the parable this way: “And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened” (Luke 11:9-10). The Savior Himself, who perfectly understands and teaches about the economy of human salvation, is clearly attaching a causal, salvific role to human acts. One might object that we need the promptings of actual grace to ask, seek, and knock. I wholeheartedly agree with this; it is no objection to the main argument, which is that our willing performance of these acts — under the influence of grace — has a causal role in our salvation.

In the very brief Parable of the Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9), we are given a clear proof that God wants us to bear fruit or be cut down. God plants the “tree” of our spiritual life; His servants “dig it about and dung it,” but it must bear fruit or be punished.

In the Parable of the Invited Guests (Luke 14:7-14), we find these two gems:

  • Because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted” (v. 11).
  • But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind; and thou shalt be blessed, because they have not wherewith to make thee recompense: for recompense shall be made thee at the resurrection of the just” (vs. 13-14).

Taking it as a given that God’s grace aids us in doing the good things Our Lord recommends here, we still learn from this parable that there is a cause-and-effect sequence that is dependent upon our human activity, i.e., our cooperation with grace. The reflexive pronoun lends a certain emphasis to the causal role of the humble man in his own exaltation: “he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.”

Without connecting the dots for the reader, I will recommend four other parables for your consideration. Play a little game of holy erudition and read these yourself to see how secondary causality clearly enters into the economy of salvation as Jesus teaches it to us in these beautiful stories: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8), and the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14).

Let me conclude by citing some passages from the Apostle to the Gentiles. Their application to this argument should be obvious:

  • For which cause I admonish thee, that thou stir up the grace of God which is in thee, by the imposition of my hands.” (2 Tim. 1:6)
  • Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God.” (1 Cor. 4:1)
  • I have planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the increase.” (1 Cor. 3:6)
  • I became all things to all men, that I might save all.” (1 Cor. 9:22)

Let us commit ourselves to giving glory to God by knowing, loving, and serving Him — and seeking Him in all things. These grace-aided activities on our part allow us voluntarily to cooperate with the First Cause as secondary causes of God’s glory and of our own salvation. We can even achieve those ends by working to save others (see Saint Paul’s last quote!). In doing all this, we enter into God’s very purpose in creating the world.

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel. This article appears courtesy of

Featured: The Importunate Neighbour, by William Holman Hunt; painted in 1895.

Persecution of Christians in Ukraine

In this address to the UN Security Council, Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, details the crimes of President Zelensky against Christians, who belong to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, including torture, arrests, public beatings, murder of priests, and churches arbitrarily seized and, at times, set on fire. All this violence is abetted by a relentless denigration in Ukrainian media, which slanders these Christians as “Putin stooges,” and therefore fair-game. Few in the West even know about these atrocities, which occur daily in Zelensky’s Ukraine. The crime of these Christians? They refuse to join the government-approved, CIA-created, schismatic church of Zelensky.

Metropolitan Anthony is Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. He served Orthodox dioceses in Rome and in Paris. (A metropolitan is a senior bishop).

This address was delivered on January 17, 2023. Given the increase in anti-Christian violence in Ukraine, we thought it important to share Metropolitan Anthony’s concerns and warnings.

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I thank you for the opportunity to speak at this high gathering. The Russian Orthodox Church, both independently and in cooperation with the other Orthodox Churches, the Roman Catholic Church, Protestant denominations and representatives of the world’s traditional religions, does as much as it can to protect the rights of believers throughout the world, especially Christians. At present we are extremely concerned about flagrant violations of universal and constitutional rights of Orthodox believers in Ukraine.

It is difficult to overestimate the peacemaking potential of religion and the Church in interstate and civil conflicts. Orthodox Christianity has for centuries provided a common spiritual and cultural basis for the lives of the peoples of Russia and Ukraine and could serve to restore mutual understanding in the future. But the very basis of such a dialogue is being undermined in Ukraine right now, where attempts are being made to destroy the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at the initiative of the Ukrainian leadership. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is not a political, but a religious organization that brings together more than 12,000 communities and millions of Ukrainian citizens.

Metropolitan Anthony addressing the UN. Photo: Global Orthodox.

On December 2022, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine issued a decision, the actual purpose of which is to limit the rights of communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The state body adopted a number of measures that include instructing the government to prepare a draft law on “the impossibility of activities in Ukraine of religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence” in Russia—in fact, we are talking about banning the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, although its governing center is in Kiev, not in Moscow, and it is administratively independent of the Russian Orthodox Church; intensification of counterintelligence “activities” of Ukrainian special services in relation to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church; depriving the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the right to use churches of the most important historical monastery—the Kyiv Monastery of the Caves (Pechersk Lavra); introduction of so-called “sanctions” against its clergy.

On the same day, the decision was approved by a decree of Ukrainian President V.A. Zelensky; his subsequent decrees established the list of bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church subjected to “sanctions.” “Sanctions” mean, among other things, the actual deprivation of rights to manage property in Ukraine.

Moreover, as reported by the Ukrainian media, a number of bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church were subsequently deprived of Ukrainian citizenship by decree of President Zelensky, which will probably be used as grounds for their forced expulsion from the country.

Meanwhile, Article 25 of the Constitution of Ukraine states: “A citizen of Ukraine cannot be deprived of citizenship and the right to change citizenship. A citizen of Ukraine may not be deported from Ukraine.

Article 9 of the UN-sponsored Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, to which Ukraine acceded in 2013, states: “No Contracting State may deprive any person or group of persons of their nationality on racial, ethnic, religious or political grounds.”

Ukrainian episcopate and clergy lists are adopted by the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine without a legitimate judicial and investigative procedure or the opportunity to challenge the decision. “Sanctions” and deprivation of citizenship are applied to clerics of only one confession, while Article 24 of the Constitution of Ukraine expressly prohibits privileges or restrictions on the rights of Ukrainian citizens on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Thus, deprivation of citizenship of Ukrainian religious figures is undoubtedly a form of mass political repression that contradicts the Constitution of Ukraine and international agreements adopted by this state. At the same time, precisely those rights and freedoms are violated, the restriction of which is expressly prohibited by Article 64 of the Constitution of Ukraine, even during martial law or state of emergency.

Since October 2022 up to the present time, under the pretext of “counterintelligence activities,” the Security Service of Ukraine has conducted mass searches in monasteries and communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church all over the country. During these activities, the honor and dignity of clergymen are humiliated, and false, slanderous rumors are spread in the media. For far-fetched reasons, criminal cases are brought against the episcopate and clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. As in the years of atheistic persecution in the Soviet Union, they are groundlessly accused of anti-state activities. Old newspapers and magazines, theological and historical books from the personal libraries of the victims serve as “evidence.”

Political repressions against the episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have been the culmination of the repressive religious policy of the Ukrainian authorities in recent years, the ultimate goal of which—contrary to Article 35 of the Ukrainian Constitution on the separation of the Church from the state—is the total control of religious life of society by state authorities.

In 2018, with the active anti-constitutional intervention of the state apparatus and special services of Ukraine and with gross violations of Orthodox canon law, the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” was created. Further efforts by the authorities are aimed at forcing the communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to join the new religious organization created by the Ukrainian state and enjoying its patronage.

In 2019, new norms of religious legislation were introduced in Ukraine, making it easier for raiders to seize churches by holding fictitious referendums of residents of territorial formations, ignoring the opinions of members of religious communities of these churches, but with the intervention of outsiders, sometimes armed persons. Such seizures are accompanied by falsified documents, gross violations of the law, mass clashes, and beatings of believers and clergy. In 2022, 129 churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church were seized. The legal registration of its new congregations is completely blocked.

In 2019, a law was also passed to change the name of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with the easily identifiable goal of alienating its property. Due to its inconsistency with the Constitution of Ukraine, the law was suspended pending review by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine at the suit of a group of Verkhovna Rada deputies. However, last month the law was enacted. Now there are seven more bills registered in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine aimed at restricting the rights or liquidating the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Lawmakers do not hide the fact that the goal of their drafts is to infringe on the rights of communities and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, to forcibly seize its property, deprive it of its historical and legal name, forbid it to call itself Orthodox and, finally, to ban its activities and completely liquidate it on Ukrainian territory.

By violating the principle of the separation of the church from the state, confirmed by Article 35 of the Constitution of Ukraine, the leadership of Ukraine and local governments actually prohibit the use of intra-church theological and canonical criteria in assessing religious phenomena and officially require communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to join other religious organizations.

The Ukrainian media conducts an unbridled smear campaign against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, calling for a complete ban on its activities and for the use of pressure and violence against its representatives, which bears clear signs of hate speech. Such an information background leads to a surge of violence against believers: numerous cases of arson and vandalism in churches, beatings or even attempted murders of clergy—sometimes right in churches, during services.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the Council, in conclusion of my speech I would like to call your attention to the illegal actions of state authorities of Ukraine in relation to the largest denomination of the country, numerous facts of violation of the rights of believers guaranteed by the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Thank you for your attention.

The War Against the Dead: José Antonio Primo de Rivera, Eternal Victim of Hatred

It is said that when Charles V’s troops were victorious in Wittenberg (1547), some of his advisors urged him to exhume and burn Luther’s remains, which were in the chapel of the city castle. Magnanimous, the emperor simply replied: “He has found his judge. I wage war on the living, not the dead.” But respect for the graves of the dead, the desire for reconciliation and fraternization no longer seems to be on the agenda in the Spain of Pedro Sánchez. A New and striking demonstration of this is the latest twist in the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos or Valle de Cuelgamuros) affair, with the exhumation of the remains of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, finally agreed upon by his family, in the face of pressure from the authorities and to avoid desecration of the grave by foreign hands. The mistake, for many people of good will, has been to persist in expecting sublime acts from the government when the source of the sublime has long since withered away. And so, the young founder of the Spanish Falange was exhumed and buried for the fifth time on the 120th anniversary of his birth (1903-2023). But why so much hostility, resentment and hatred towards José Antonio? Who was really the founder of the Falange?

Refusing Manichean History

For the craftsmen of the dominant historiography, neo-socialists or self-proclaimed “progressive” neo-liberals, the answer is as simplistic as it is repetitive: he was “a fascist, the son of a dictator,” and the case is closed. After thirty-five years of “conservative” or Francoist propaganda, followed by almost half a century of “progressive” propaganda, and despite the impressive bibliography that exists on the subject, José Antonio remains the great unknown or misunderstood figure of contemporary Spanish history. For his opponents, admirers of the Popular Front, often covert glossers of Comintern myths, the young founder of the Falange was a sort of daddy’s boy, a cynical admirer of Italian fascism, a pale imitator of Mussolini. At best, for his opponents, he was a contradictory, ambiguous spirit, who sought in fascism a solution to his personal and emotional problems. Worse, again for his opponents, he was a servant of capital, an authoritarian, antidemocratic, ultranationalist, demagogic, arrogant, violent, racist and anti-Semitic personality, devoid of any intellectual quality. In addition to this absurd and grotesque accusation, his right-wing opponents are no less known for their grievances. According to them, he advocated a deliberately catastrophic policy, a strategy of civil war. In any case, for them, he was a misguided personality whose contribution to political life was null, marginal or negative insofar as he accelerated the national disaster. Some add, as if this were not enough, that José Antonio’s presence in the national camp, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, would not have changed the course of events. If he had confronted the military, they say, they would have imprisoned or even executed him. If he had survived and been more successful, “he would most likely have been completely discredited.” And they do not hesitate to point out what they call a “contradiction between Joséantonian Falangism and Catholicism,” concluding, without hesitation, “as the Bible says, he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.” But to affirm is not to prove.

For nearly half a century, I have been opposed to this caricatured, Manichean or soap opera history, to these reductive schemes contradicted by a considerable mass of facts, documents and testimonies. I know that the mere consideration of values, facts or documents, which contradict the opinion of so many so-called “scientific historians” (or rather camouflaged militants), leads ipso facto, at best, to silence and oblivion, and at worst, to caricature, to exclusion, to insult, to the accusation of complacency, of calculated legitimization, or even of disguised apology of fascist violence. But it doesn’t matter, the main thing is to say what needs to be said. A work, a historical study is worth its rigor, its degree of truth, its scientific value.
Once one has read much of the inexhaustible hostile literature, one must take the trouble to go to primary sources. In my case, the careful study of the Complete Works (Obras Completas de José Antonio Primo de Rivera, 2007) and the rigorous analysis of the documents and testimonies of the time have opened my eyes. The usual clichés about José Antonio Primo de Rivera, his person and his actions, or the repetition of truncated formulas and declarations taken out of context, in order to show the “poverty” of his analysis and the “weakness” of his thought, have not impressed me for a long time.

How can we grant a minimum of credibility to authors who keep silent, ignore or dismiss hundreds of balanced testimonies? Why is the anthology of opinions of personalities from all walks of life, published by Enrique de Aguinaga and Emilio González Navarro, Mil veces José Antonio (A Thousand Times José Antonio, 2003), so carefully ignored by so many so-called “specialists?” Why did Miguel de Unamuno, the greatest Spanish liberal philosopher of the time, along with Ortega, see in José Antonio “a distinguished mind, perhaps the most promising of contemporary Europe?” Why did Salvador de Madariaga, the famous liberal and anti-Franco historian, describe him as a “courageous, intelligent and idealistic” personality? Why would renowned politicians, such as the socialists and anarchists Félix Gordón Ordás, Teodomiro Menéndez, Diego Abad de Santillán and Indalecio Prieto, or famous liberal and conservative intellectuals, such as Gregorio Marañón, Álvaro Cunqueiro, Rosa Chacel, Gustave Thibon and Georges Bernanos, have paid tribute to his honesty and sincerity? Why would the most famous French Hispanist, member of the French Institute, Pierre Chaunu, a great connoisseur of Gaullism, have established a surprising parallel between the thought of Charles de Gaulle and that of José Antonio in a long article in Le Figaro (P. Chaunu, “De Gaulle à la lumière de l’Histoire,” September 4-5, 1982)?

Neither Right nor Left

José Antonio, as a precursor and disciple of Ortega y Gasset, had already denounced, ninety years ago, the two forms of moral hemiplegia: “To be of the right, as to be of the left, is always to expel from the soul half of what there is to feel. In some cases, it is to expel it entirely and to replace it by a caricature of the half” (Arriba, January 9, 1936). He wanted to create and develop a political movement animated by a synthetic doctrine, embracing all that is positive and rejecting all that is negative on the right and on the left, in order to establish a profound social justice so that the people return to the supremacy of the spiritual. The metaphysical, religious and Christian dimension, respect for the human person, refusal to recognize the State or the party as the supreme value, anti-Machiavellianism, and Classical and non-Hegelian foundation of the State are distinctive elements of his thought. With his sense of justice, solidarity and unity, while respecting diversity, with his strong sense of duty, José Antonio was both a traditionalist and a revolutionary.

He probably wanted to carry out a project that was too idealistic for his time: to nationalize the banks and the large public services, to attribute the surplus value of work to the unions, to carry out a profound agrarian reform in application of the principle: “The land belongs to those who work it,” to create a family, communal and union property. He wanted to establish individual, family, communal and union property, with similar rights.

Was his program reformist or revolutionary, realistic or utopian? One can debate this, but what cannot be said is that it lacked openness, generosity and nobility. José Antonio’s national-unionism failed miserably, but ultimately because he was a victim of the resentment, sectarianism and hatred of the Left as much as of the selfishness, arrogance and immobility of the Right. Censored, insulted, caricatured, imprisoned (three months before the July 18 uprising) and shot by the Marxist and anarchist Left on November 20, 1936, after a parody of a trial, the founder of the Falange, mocked and harshly criticized by conservatives and liberals before the war, was recuperated, manipulated, denatured and finally executed and buried a second time by Franco’s Right.

Alain Guy, a fine connoisseur of Spanish philosophy, and the political scientist Jules Monnerot, to mention only two prestigious French academics and intellectuals, affirmed that Joséantonian Falangism could not strictly speaking be reduced to “fascism” alone, that is, for serious historians and political scientists, to a certain model designating the imperfect similarities that can be established between the Italian and German phenomena. Nor was it reduced, they said, to Francoism, a regime and ideology whose character was above all conservative and authoritarian. Personally, I certainly do not put an equal sign between, on the one hand, José Antonio’s Falangism, Italian fascism, German revolutionary conservatism (before Hitler’s takeover) and, on the other hand, the three great hysterias of the twentieth century: National Socialist racism, the savage economism of neo-liberalism, or, the one that has undoubtedly caused more deaths than the two previous ones, Marxist socialism.

That said, it must be emphasized that José Antonio acted in a very specific time and space, the Spain of 1933-1936. His thought is not entirely reducible to the historical-cultural context, but it cannot be used to give concrete answers to current questions. Moreover, it contains elements that are questionable or even unacceptable today. Thus, its theorization of the “enlightened” minority, structured in clubs or parties, which would be the actor of development and revolution in the name of the people, is clearly marked and contaminated by the totalitarian conceptions inherited from liberal Jacobinism and Marxist socialism.

José Antonio and the French Non-Conformists of the 1930s

The Christian personalism of the founder of the Falange is very close to the thought of the French nonconformists of the 1930s (Robert Aron, Arnaud Dandieu, Jean de Fabrègues, Jean-Pierre Maxence, Daniel-Rops, Alexandre Marc, Thierry Maulnier, Emmanuel Mounier or Denis de Rougemont) who so influenced the future president of the French Republic, Charles de Gaulle (No less interesting is the comparison that can also be made with the thought of the founder of Fianna Fail, president of the Irish Republic, Éamon de Valera).

Ninety percent, if not all, of the personalist ideas of the French non-conformists of the 1930s, ideas most of which are surprisingly current, and which first permeated the most original circles of the Vichy regime, as well as those of most of the non-communist networks of the Resistance, were shared by the young leader of the Falange.

To be convinced of this, it is enough to recall here the main ideas of this French personalist current (see: Jean-Louis del Bayle, Les non-conformistes des années trente, 1969). There is first of all the criticism of the representative, parliamentary democracy, synonymous of lies, of absence of character, of dishonorable behavior, of control of the press and the democratic mechanisms, of regime in the hands of an oligarchy of ambitious and rich men. Then there is anti-capitalism, whose roots are philosophical and moral rather than economic or political. It is the virulent criticism of “laissez faire, laisser passer,” which leads to the transformation of society into a veritable jungle where the demands of the common good and of justice are radically ignored. It is the denunciation of the submission of consumption to the demands of production, itself submitted to speculative profit. It is the rejection of the absolute primacy of profit and financial speculation, as well as of the domination of banks and finance. It is the rejection of usury as a general law, of the triumph of money as the measure of all human action and of all value. Finally, it is the reproach of attacking initiative and freedom, of killing private property by concentrating it in fewer and fewer hands: “Liberalism is the free fox in the free henhouse.”

This personalist, non-conformist current declared itself “neither of the right nor of the left,” “neither communist nor capitalist;” it wanted to fight for the “dignity of the human person,” for “spiritual values,” and defended “the third way;” it wanted to extend individual property by multiplying non-state collective properties; it wanted to reorganize credit by entrusting it to banks, managed by professional organizations or consumer associations. His main criticism of capitalism was summed up in two words: materialism and individualism. “Drink, eat and sleep is enough;” in that, affirmed the nonconformists, Marxism does not break with capitalism, but prolongs its defects. The ultimate goal was not happiness, comfort and prosperity, but the spiritual fulfillment of man. They advocated simultaneously the need for a revolution of institutions, an economic and social revolution and a spiritual revolution. Fundamental to them was the idea that any upheaval of structures would be useless if it were not accompanied by a moral and spiritual transformation of man, beginning with that of the supporters of the coming revolution.

This brief review of the personalist spirit of the French nonconformists of the 1930s leads to the conclusion that there is not a single one of their proposals that does not find an echo in the writings and speeches of José Antonio. Primo de Rivera was neither a Hegelian, nor a racist, nor an anti-Semite. He did not place the state or race at the center of his worldview, but man as the bearer of eternal values, capable of being saved or lost. He did not advocate a materialistic and totalitarian revolution (collectivist-classist, statist or racist), which seeks to reduce social and spiritual reality to a single model, but a spiritual, total revolution, at once moral, political, economic and social—a Christian-personalist revolution, integrating all people and serving all people.

The influence of Italian fascist ideology on the thought and style of José Antonio is undeniable, but there are also other influences no less important, such as traditionalism, liberalism, anarchism and Marxism-socialism. Many judge José Antonio’s admiration for Mussolini severely. It is true that at the beginning of his brief political career, like many other politicians and intellectuals of his time, such as Churchill or Mounier, he showed a real esteem and even enthusiasm for the social achievements of the Duce. But we must not forget that the state totalitarianism of Mussolini’s regime was infinitely less bloody than the totalitarianism of class or race. All modern ideologies have been at the origin of flagrant crimes, and none can claim to be more human than the others. But there are degrees of horror, and when it comes to judging the founder of the Falange, a minimum of decency and rigor is required.

José Antonio and Che

Several authors have ventured to draw a parallel between José Antonio and the most emblematic figure of twentieth-century revolutionary romanticism, the Leninist-Maoist guerrilla, Ernesto Guevara. The similarities, however, are imperfect. Both exalted the virtues of courage, loyalty and fidelity. Both symbolized the altruism of youth. Both despised luxury, lavish tastes and the ostentation of wealth. Both rejected the economic and social order where only money reigns, where society is abandoned to the sole rules of profit and triumphant egoism, with their inevitable corollaries of speculation, greed and corruption. Both disregarded fear, despised money and were driven by a passion for duty. But the similarities end there.

José Antonio was a convinced Catholic. Che had no metaphysical concerns and was hostile to all religious beliefs. A materialist and atheist, Ernesto Guevara despised what Nietzsche denounced as “the weaknesses of the Christian.” Fanaticism, sectarianism, harshness, hatred of the Other, revolutionary demagogy are traits that Che shared with Robespierre, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin and Mao. The most terrible thing about Che is the mixture of personal asceticism and the ability to scourge others, the certainty of always being right, the abstract hatred, the cold political cruelty. For him, friends were friends only if they thought like him politically. Like his master, Lenin, political combat legitimizes all means: cunning, manipulation, cynicism, extreme violence, insults, invective, slander, libel, subsidies to the enemy of the fatherland, theft of inheritances, robberies and summary executions. Che loved people not as they are, with their greatness and weaknesses, but as the revolution would have transformed them. He was an exterminating angel. He expressed his feelings more easily for the death of an animal than for that of an enemy. It is difficult to imagine José Antonio ordering the summary execution of more than a hundred opponents, as Che did in the fortress of La Cabaña. It is equally difficult to imagine him writing, like Lenin to Gorky (September 15, 1922), these repugnant lines about intellectuals to deplore the delay in their executions: “The intellectuals, lackeys of the bourgeoisie, think they are the brains of the nation. In reality, they are not its brains, they are its shit” (see: Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, Lénine, 1998, p. 586).

The Ethics of José Antonio

José Antonio had a sense of measure and balance; he knew that in politics, the absolute refusal of any compromise (which is not the abandonment of principles in favor of opportunism) always leads to implacable terror. Republican and democrat of reason, he rejected any nostalgia of the past, whether monarchist, conservative or reactionary. He had no more the excessive taste of the military for order and discipline than the irresistible attraction of the actor or artist for the stage and comedy. He was neither Franco (for whom he had little sympathy) nor Mussolini. Stupid as it may seem, José Antonio had a marked inclination for goodness; a “goodness of heart,” as the master Azorín rightly pointed out, which, together with a high conception of justice and honor, an unquestionable physical courage, a constant intellectual preoccupation, a charisma or magnetism of a leader, and finally, a keen sense of humor, made him inevitably likeable.

Contrary to the Jacobin utopians and socialist-Marxists, José Antonio wanted to base his system on the person and to defend cultural, regional and family specificities. He did not seek to make the Other, an Other Me, but simply to accept him, to understand him and to convince him to collaborate with him for the good of the whole national community. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, in the face of the avalanche of hatred and fanaticism, of iron and blood, he resisted and stood up almost alone. From his cell in Alicante, he offered his mediation in a last attempt to stop the barbarism. But it was a lost cause, and it was rejected. He died with dignity, without hatred, with a serene soul, like a Christian hero, at peace with God and men. In his will he wrote: “I forgive with all my heart all those, without exception, who may have harmed or offended me, and I ask all those to forgive me to whom I may owe the reparation of some wrong, be it great or small” (November 18, 1936). In the political world of the 20th century, notable personalities abound, but it is difficult to find more noble ones. He was a kind of last Christian knight.

That said, historically, José Antonio’s merit is that he tried to critically assimilate, from a deeply Christian position, the socialist revolution while dissociating spiritual and communitarian values from the reactionary right. And one of his most original characteristics was to appear on the political scene of his time with a new rhetoric, a new way of formulating politics, with an original and attractive language for the young.

Lies and Truths

It is now appropriate to examine the accusations of violence and anti-democracy that are so often levelled at him. Invariably, he is reproached with a phrase that he himself described as unfortunate: “When Justice and the Fatherland are undermined, there is no other admissible dialectic than that of fists and guns.” But it is still necessary to quote it in its entirety and to put it into perspective. Let’s not forget the constant exalted, inflammatory and anti-democratic declarations of his opponents, starting with those of the “Spanish Lenin,” the socialist revolutionary and Marxist Largo Caballero, who called for the “dictatorship of the proletariat” (Cádiz, May 24, 1936), and declared “we are not different from the communists” (Bilbao, April 20, 1934); “I want a republic without class struggles, but for that, one must disappear” (Alicante, January 25, 1936); or the slogans repeated tirelessly by the socialists newspapers Claridad and El Socialista: “May the parliamentary republic die,” “Hate the criminal bourgeoisie to death.”

Let’s contextualize the alleged Joséantonian violence. The Joséantonian Falange was responsible for sixty to seventy murderous attacks between June 1934 and July 1936. But in the same period, it suffered about 90 deaths in its ranks (there were 2,000 to 2,500 deaths during the Second Republic). From the day after its foundation, in October 1933, the Joséantonian Falange suffered a dozen deadly attacks. These were not street fights, but terrorist attacks, carried out by socialists, communists and anarchists, to physically eliminate the distributors of the Spanish Falange (FE) weekly. The propagandistic image against the Spanish Falange (FE), as the main group whose terrorist action provoked the Civil War, is radically false. It was for his refusal to enter the cycle of violence for months that José Antonio was nicknamed “Simon the Gravedigger” by the right, and that his party and its militants received the nicknames of “Spanish Funeral” (FE) and “Franciscanists.” In reality, it was only after eight months of waiting that the Joséantonian Falange reacted violently. The trigger was the death, on June 10, 1934, of a 17-year-old Falangist student, Juan Cuellar, murdered in the Casa de Campo by a group of Madrid socialists. To top it all off, the socialist activist Juanita Rico urinated on the corpse of her victim and the father of the young Cuellar was unable to recognize his son’s face, which had been stomped, crushed and mutilated.

In reality, a presentation of the facts that ignores the Bolshevization or revolutionary radicalism of the socialist party, the development of the socialist and communist paramilitary apparatus, the incoherence of the liberal republicans, and the reactionary immobility of the conservatives, in order to better demonstrate that the Joséantonian Falange was the main cause of the violence during the Republic and, consequently, of the final breakup, is simply fraudulent. Violence was never a postulate of the Joséantonian ideal. It was violence to repel aggression or to defend rights or timeless truths (“bread, country and justice”) when all other instances were exhausted.

Anti-capitalist, anti-socialist and anti-Marxist, José Antonio was certainly that. But was he anti-parliamentary and anti-democratic? Why would he have said: “But if democracy as a form has failed, it is mainly because it has not been able to provide us with a truly democratic life in its content… Let us not fall into the extreme exaggerations which translate the hatred of the superstition of suffrage into contempt for everything democratic. The aspiration to a democratic, free and peaceful life will always be the objective of political science, above all else” (see Conference in Madrid: “La forma y el contenido de la democracia”—”The Form and Content of Democracy,” 1931). It is ridiculous to transpose the present image of Spanish democracy to the past. The present situation cannot be compared to the period before the Civil War. Then there were many revolutionaries and convinced conservatives, but very few tolerant and peaceful democrats. Respect for the other was not the order of the day.

Was José Antonio a putschist, as many authors claim? It is well known that coups d’état, whether moderate or progressive (and much more rarely conservative), were a prominent feature of political life in Spain (and also in much of Europe) during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the Spanish Peninsula, after the French invasion and from 1820 onwards, no less than 40 major pronunciamientos or coups d’état, and hundreds of very minor ones, took place. It is more than likely that José Antonio was marked, even contaminated, by the putschist tradition of 19th century liberalism and by the dual putschist tradition of early 20th century anarchism and socialism. But what is certain is that his ephemeral and incongruous “insurrection” project, suggested only once at the Gredos meeting (June 1935), was never more than a circumstantial, theoretical and imaginary response—without the slightest principle of application—to the serious socialist insurrection of October 1934.

Who were the real theoreticians and technicians of the dictatorship from the end of the 19th century in Spain, if not the epigones of the praetorian tradition of liberalism, such as the republican-democrat Joaquín Costa, not to mention the socialists and Marxists who were then openly doctrinaire or advocates of the dictatorship of the proletariat, or, more precisely, of the dictatorship of the Party over the proletariat. José Antonio did not doubt the sovereignty of the people. He wanted to improve the participation of all citizens in public life. But to individualist and liberal democracy, to collectivist and popular democracy, he preferred organic, participatory and referendum democracy, which, according to him, was more capable of bringing the people closer to the rulers. In the Europe of the inter-war period, this choice appeared to many as possible, balanced and reasonable. Moreover, if this choice had not been considered by many to be realistic and thoughtful, why would so many famous leaders, whose political convictions were the opposite of José Antonio’s, such as the first Fidel Castro or the Prime Minister José María Aznar, have been attentive readers and admirers of the Complete Works in their youth?

Contrary to what is so often repeated, José Antonio admired, even with a certain naivety, the British parliamentary tradition. Some Falangist activists, who did not appreciate the interventions of the founder of the FE in Parliament, did not fail to criticize his “excessive taste for parliamentary debates.” In reality, José Antonio was a supporter of organic democracy, as were Julián Sanz del Río, Nicolás Salmerón, Fernando de los Ríos, Salvador de Madariaga and Julián Besteiro, to name just a few Spanish liberal and socialist authors.

On the other hand, José Antonio was much more patriotic than nationalist. The nation is not, according to him, a race, a language, a territory and a religion, nor a simple desire to live together, nor the sum of all these. It is above all “a historical entity, differentiated from the others in the universal by its own unity of destiny.” “We are not nationalists,” he said in Madrid (November 1935), “because to be nationalist is pure nonsense; it is to implant the deepest spiritual impulses on a physical motive, on a simple physical circumstance; we are not nationalists because nationalism is the individualism of the peoples” (Discurso de clausura del Segundo Consejo nacional de la Falange—Closing speech of the Second National Council of the Falange), Cine Madrid, November 17, 1936).

Some authors have tried to detect in him a late evolution and a rapprochement, almost in extremis, with the theses of National Socialist Germany. They rely on a work dated August 13, 1936, Germánicos contra bereberes (Germanic vs. Berber), written in the middle of the Spanish Civil War, in his cell in Alicante and found among his papers after his death. In it he expresses a superficial and reductive ethnocultural vision that does not stand up to rigorous historical criticism. He tries to explain the Reconquista as a confrontation between two archetypes, the “Germanic spirit” and the “Berber spirit;” but at the same time he seems to recognize the Hispanic-Romanic-Visigothic fusion. This work contains inaccuracies and assertions that are later totally denied and refuted by him in his will. However, it is worth recalling here that this type of ethnocultural interpretation was widespread in his time and among authors with contradictory beliefs. Most historians of nation-states conceived of their origins as an opposition between natives and conquerors. Thus, the historiography of France constantly oscillated between the thesis of a Frankish origin (Clovis, the Frankish king) and that of a Celtic and Gallic origin (Vercingetorix) or Gallo-Roman when Rome was taken into account. For the aristocrat Montesquieu, the liberties were of Germanic origin. But to return to the alleged racism of the work, Germanic vs. Berber, it should be remembered that the same abusive accusation could be made against works of philosophers and historians Ortega y Gasset, Américo Castro or Sánchez-Albornoz.

José Antonio was clearly anti-separatist, but he never succumbed to the Jacobin and centralizing temptation. His speech to Parliament on November 30, 1934, is a testament to this. “It is clumsy to try to solve the Catalan problem by considering it artificial… Catalonia exists in all its individuality, and many regions of Spain exist in their individuality, and if one wants to give a structure to Spain, one must start from what Spain really offers… That is why I am one of those who think that the justification of Spain is found in something else: Spain is not justified by a language, nor by a race, nor by a set of customs, but… Spain is much more than a race and much more than a language… it is a unity of destiny in the universal… That is why, when a region asks for autonomy… what we must ask ourselves is to what extent the consciousness of the unity of destiny is rooted in its spirit. If the consciousness of the unity of destiny is well-rooted in the collective soul of a region, it is hardly dangerous to give it the freedom to organize its internal life in one way or another” (España y Cataluña, Parliament, November 30, 1934).

Let us also recall in passing the alleged machismo or antifeminism of José Antonio for having expressed one day the desire of a “joyful Spain and in a short skirt.” It is perhaps not useless to recall here the name of one of the most outstanding figures of Spanish feminism, the lawyer Mercedes Formica. It is to her that we owe the deep reform of the Spanish Civil Code in favor of the rights of the women in 1958. A Falangist from the beginning in the 1930s, she was a loyal follower of José Antonio throughout her life (who appointed her national delegate of the SEU union and member of the Political Junta), which makes her the victim of a fierce omertà today. In her memoirs, Formica sweeps away the propagandist myth of an anti-feminist José Antonio, demonstrating its falsity and imposture.

As for the so-called imperialism of the founder of the FE, the arguments of those who support it are extremely fragile. There is no territorial claim in the Complete Works. According to José Antonio, in the twentieth century the Spanish empire could only be spiritual and cultural. It goes without saying that one would look in vain for anti-Semitic or racist overtones in his words. He uses the term “total state” or “totalitarian” five times, not without errors and clumsiness, but he does so clearly to signify his desire to create a “state for all,” “without divisions,” “integrating all Spaniards,” “an instrument in the service of national unity.”

Equally surprising is José Antonio’s opinion on fascism. He expressed it unambiguously in 1936: fascism “claims to resolve the disagreement between man and his environment by absorbing the individual into the collective. Fascism is fundamentally false—it is right to presuppose that it is a religious phenomenon, but it wants to replace religion with idolatry” (Cuaderno de notas de un estudiante europeoNotebook of a European Student, September 1936). As for his Catholic convictions, they are beyond question. The last and clearest manifestation of these can be found in the above-mentioned testament that he wrote on November 18, 1936, two days before his execution.

A Variant of the Third Way

The Joséantonian Falange is a variant of the Third Way ideologies, which many doctrinaires, theorists and politicians have defended or advocated since the end of the 19th century. Historically, personalities as diverse as De Gaulle, Nasser, Perón, Chávez, Clinton or Blair have referred to the Third Way. But their allegiances, despite sometimes misleading appearances, are not the same. There are two different political filiations, two directions that never meet. Beyond times, places, words and men, the supporters of the authentic Third Way pursue tirelessly the overcoming of the antinomic thought. They want, as José Antonio said, to build a bridge between Tradition and Modernity. The synthesis-overcoming, the need for reconciliation in the form of overcoming, is for them the main objective of all great politics. This is, after all, the root of the almost metaphysical hatred that their opponents feel for them. This being said, since José Antonio’s thought constitutes one of the members of the vast family of Third Way ideologies, it is all the more legitimate to ask the question: “What did José Antonio really leave us?” To answer this question, I will once again use the words of the Basque philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, which conclude my early book on José Antonio, prefaced in Spain by the economist Juan Velarde Fuertes: “He has bequeathed himself, and a living and eternal man is worth all theories and philosophies.”

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

Save the Notre-Dame!

The reconstruction of the Notre-Dame de Paris is gradually turning into a desecration of an ancient Christian church, which was built in all its beauty to hold the holy Host. But plans are afoot to make the sacred site into a tourist-friendly information-center. The letter that follows is a protest over this Godless make-over.

If you would like to add your name to the letter of protest to the Archbishop of Paris, you may do so here.

An Open letter to Mgr. Laurent Ulrich, Archbishop of Paris

“What the fire spared, the diocese wants to destroy!”


I am writing this letter as president of Avenir de la Culture, an association of lay Catholics who since 1986 have been defending Christian values in French society. I also represent more than 110,000 people who have signed the attached petition asking the Diocese of Paris to refrain from inserting contemporary art inside the Notre-Dame.

The Tragedy of April 15, 2019

Some dates remain tragically engraved in the history of a country. As far as ours is concerned, April 15, 2019 is certainly one of them. On that day, it is not necessary to remind you, the Notre-Dame was set ablaze. Under the stunned gaze of Parisians and people around the world, the flames devoured the cathedral’s centuries-old beams. The spire collapsed, engulfed in an abyss of fire. As the mast sank, who did not fear the total loss of the ship? All night long, the firefighters led a heroic struggle to save almost a thousand years of history, accompanied by the impromptu prayers of the faithful, begging the Queen of Heaven not to abandon the cathedral dedicated to her. At dawn, the rising sun bathed an ocean of ashes with its light. In the midst of it, the towers of the Notre-Dame stood, miraculously intact. The Notre-Dame outraged! The Notre-Dame broken! The Notre-Dame martyred! But the Notre-Dame saved! As is the case with all miracles granted by Heaven, the miracle of the Notre-Dame de Paris invites conversion.

Why this Tragedy?

The cathedral had already witnessed the iconoclastic fury of the Reformation, the impious vindictiveness of the Sans-Culottes, the Prussian machine gun and the atrocities of two world wars. It stood upright through the vicissitudes of history before stumbling at the dawn of the third millennium. Why did God allow the tragedy of April 15, 2019? And why did He spare His sanctuary in extremis? Is it possible not to see in this fire an allegory of the drama our country is going through? Once the commander of Christianity, it is now faltering, eaten away by apostasy and hatred of God. “France, Eldest Daughter of the Church, are you faithful to the promises of your baptism?”—asked His Holiness John Paul II on the occasion of his first apostolic journey to France in the spring of 1980. How can we revive the promises made by Clovis in the baptismal font of Rheims on Christmas night in 496, without being faithful to the centuries of Christianity that are the fruit of these promises, and to the Notre-Dame its most beautiful flower? The tragedy of April 15, 2019 was an opportunity to implore the mercy of Heaven, as the faithful spontaneously understood, with rosary in hand and knees to the ground, begging God on the burning banks of the Seine.

A “Contemporary Touch” Envisaged

Unfortunately, as soon as the blaze was extinguished, the Notre-Dame was threatened with an outrage worse than the one inflicted by the flames. The head of state called for a “contemporary touch” on the occasion of the reconstruction of the roof and the spire of Viollet-le-Duc, destroyed by the fire. Immediately, the so-called “avant-garde” architectural firms competed with aberrant proposals, in brutal rupture with the sacredness of the place. The Dijon-based firm of Paul Godart and Pierre Roussel suggested a glass roof for tourists to stroll through. The NAB studio and the architect Nicolas Abdelkader offered to replace the roof with a botanical greenhouse in order to, among other things, “support professional reintegration by learning about urban agriculture, horticulture and permaculture.” Mathieu Lehanneur, a designer in the 2nd arrondissement in Paris, suggested replacing the spire with a giant, hideous flame that would somehow give the fire of April 15 the honors of time. However, the most obscene and implausible proposal was the one privately advoacted by the President’s companion herself, if we are to believe Roselyne Bachelot. In her book, 682 jours [682 Days], the former Minister of Culture says: “Lunching a few days later with Brigitte Macron, she showed me a plan for a project culminating in a kind of erect phallus, surrounded at its base by gold balls… “

Miraculously saved from the flames, here was the Notre-Dame threatened with assuming the face of our time: atheistic, playful, recyclable and even pornographic.

Head of State Forced to Back Down

Fortunately, the projects of “modernization” of the Notre-Dame, to which Mr. Macron had opened the door, aroused the disapproval of heritage lovers. “You can’t play with the Notre-Dame… you can’t make a ‘contemporary architectural gesture’ on a historical monument like this cathedral,” warned Didier Rykner, historian and director of La Tribune de l’Art. To rebuild the spire identically, “it is the cheapest, the fastest, the most efficient solution; it is the way of wisdom and legality,” added Stéphane Bern, the government’s “Mr. Heritage.” Public opinion was also stirred up. The French Association for the Defense of the Family Property Tradition took the initiative of an international petition addressed to the Head of State and to the Minister of Culture in order to demand an identical restoration of the Notre-Dame. Supported by a dozen French and foreign associations, notably Avenir de la Culture, this petition gathered more than 110,000 signatures, proving, if it were still necessary, the immense influence of your cathedral. Faced with protests from all sides against the “contemporary touch” he had announced, Emmanuel Macron was forced to back down. “After passionate debates, the president sided with the defenders of heritage and public opinion,” noted Le Figaro on July 9, 2021. The Notre-Dame seemed to be saved from disfigurement Alas, this did not take into account the indecent opportunism of those whose mission is to watch over the integrity of the sanctuary.

Notre-Dame Disguised as Disneyland?

As early as the fall of 2020, disturbing rumors began to appear in the press. Le Figaro sounded the alarm against the “controversial project of Mgr. Aupetit” for the redevelopment of the cathedral: “The computer-generated photos give the impression of an airport runway, or even a ‘parking lot’. The development project, to which the daily had access, would be a fabric of “disruptive creations,” which would not fail to break the “secular harmony” of the Notre-Dame. The 14 side chapels of the building would be completely renovated in favor of highlighting works of art: “Old paintings from the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries will dialogue with contemporary art objects.” A year later, when the project was to be examined by the National Commission on Heritage and Architecture, the British press echoed new concerns. “It’s as if Disney were entering Notre-Dame,” denounced architect Maurice Culot in The Telegraph. The specialist added: “What they are proposing to do to Notre-Dame would never be done to Westminster Abbey or Saint Peter’s in Rome. It’s a kind of theme park and very childish and trivial given the grandeur of the place.” Several architects who had access to the file complained to the British newspaper about aberrant innovations such as a “discovery trail” that would take visitors on a journey to Africa and Asia, texts projected on the walls in different languages, exhibits of mediocre taste and the dedication of a chapel to the theme, albeit secular, of ecology. Confessionals, altars and classical sculptures should be discarded. “This is political correctness gone mad. They want to turn Notre-Dame into an experimental liturgical showroom that exists nowhere else whereas it should be a landmark where the slightest change must be handled with great care,” concluded one architect quoted by The Telegraph.

Anti-Christian Artists

Another reason for concern, and not the least, is the diocese’s planned use of artists whose orientations and works are in every way opposed to the Church’s teaching. Among them: Ernest Pignon-Ernest, Louise Bourgeois and Anselm Kiefer. The first is the President of Friends of Humanity, the famous communist daily. A fellow traveler of the PCF for nearly 50 years, he has notably campaigned for the legalization of abortion. In 1974, Ernest Pignon-Ernest posted in the public space drawings of naked women, victims of clandestine abortions to encourage members of parliament to vote in the Veil Act. In 2019, on the occasion of the European elections, the artist was proud to have voted for the list led by Ian Brossat, a Parisian elected official who called for the desecration of the the Sacré-Cœur Basilica of Montmartre! Louise Bourgeois, who died in 2010, was also close to feminist movements. She is the author of pornographic works, celebrating male and female genitalia. Her last major installation, the Steilneset Memorial, is a tribute to witches. The German painter and sculptor, Anselm Kiefer, is notorious for his fascination with the Kabbalah. “The Old Testament has always struck a chord with me because it expresses the cruelty of God,” he says.

Excellency, the very possibility that the diocese would consider working with such characters is a scandal! How could the works of ungodly artists stand side by side with those of the heralds of God in the Middle Ages without defiling them?

“What the Fire Spared, the Diocese Wants to Destroy”

Once again, the plans to denature the Notre-Dame generated a strong reaction from heritage lovers. On December 7, 2021, in the columns of Le Figaro, an article co-signed by more than a hundred personalities from the academic and artistic world—including philosophers Alain Finkielkraut and Pierre Manent, historian Pierre Nora, and filmmaker Jean-Charles Fitoussi—denounced in no uncertain terms the planned alterations: “What the fire spared, the diocese wants to destroy.”

How can we believe, Your Excellency, that such eminent personalities would use such terrible words without having first weighed them? “The Diocese of Paris wants to take advantage of the restoration project to transform the interior of the Notre-Dame into a project that will completely alter the decor and the liturgical space,” the letter read. The signatories denounced “the installation of removable benches, lighting that changes with the seasons, video projections on the walls, etc., in other words, the same fashionable (and therefore already terribly outdated) ‘mediation devices’ found in all the ‘immersive’ cultural projects, where silliness often vies with kitsch.” They begged the diocese to back down: “Let’s respect the work of Viollet-le-Duc. Let’s respect the work of the artists and craftsmen who worked to give us this jewel. Let’s simply respect the heritage principles of a historic monument.” Before this forum, the academician Jean-Marie Rouart had also castigated, with a vehemence unusual for a member of the French Academy, “artistic freaks likely to distort it, to spoil our memories, to damage forever the spirit and soul that hovered in this sacred place.” “The Notre-Dame has miraculously escaped everything. Perhaps not, alas, the reformist pruritus of Bishop Aupetit,” he lamented in the columns of Le Figaro.

Who are the Artists Pre-Selected by the Diocese?

What was the response of the Diocese of Paris to this barrage of criticism? A skillful silence in the expectation that the storm would cease. As soon as the lightning fell, and the clouds moved away, the machination continued, in all discretion. According to Le Figaro, “five artists have been working for two months on the new liturgical furniture and are due to submit their work on May 23.” Among the artists “more or less close to the Church” are Constance Guisset, “a feminist and progressive on social issues” and Laurent Grasso “fascinated by the solar star and its ramifications.” A brief search on the Internet reveals that the artists preselected by the diocese are the originators of ugly, grotesque and eccentric contemporary works, far removed from the sacred harmony and splendor of Christian art. Everything leads us to believe that the Notre-Dame will be ravaged, disfigured, soiled. In the columns of Le Figaro, Mgr Olivier Dumas, rector-archpriest of the Cathedral, tried, not without cynicism, to extinguish the controversy: “We do not ask them (the artists) questions about their spiritual life or their religious practice. We believe him and that is the heart of the problem: entrusting to men without God the care of His house. ” He who is able to receive this, let him receive it,” says Our Lord in the Gospel (Mt. 19: 12).

A Supplication Left Unanswered

Along with the criticisms of the academic world, the faithful, and more widely all the French devoted to heritage, rose up. This time, it is Avenir de la Culture which led the revolt. The association that I have the honor of presiding addressed to the apostolic administrator of the diocese, Mgr Georges Pontier, a supplication in order to beg him to renounce subjecting his Cathedral to the dross of contemporary art. “Mr. Macron backed down by renouncing, for the exterior of the cathedral, the outrage of a ‘contemporary architectural touch.’ And now the diocese is rushing into it,” lamented the 108,536 signatories of the letter. Despite several letters informing him of this cry from the heart, addressed to him by the lovers of the Notre-Dame, Mgr Pontier refused them the charity of a reply. “Clericalism is a perversion in the Church,” Pope Francis said on Italian television in February 2022. “Under every type of rigidity there is rot,” he added on that occasion. Wouldn’t these warnings of the Supreme Pontiff apply to the leaders of the Archdiocese of Paris? Indeed, Your Excellency, how can we fail to describe as “clerical” and “rigid” this implausible contempt of the diocesan authorities for tens of thousands of faithful who turn with anguish to their pastor? Would the virtues of dialogue and “synodality,” so often present in the speeches of clerics, not apply to the faithful who wish to preserve our Christian heritage? As Jean-Marie Rouart rightly reminded us, the Notre-Dame does not belong to the archbishop of Paris, but to the entire nation. It is therefore right and normal that the French, and in particular Catholics, express themselves when they feel that the nature of the Cathedral is threatened. And the least we can do is to answer them!

Only Your Hand…

Despite protests from all sides, on December 9, 2021, the verdict fell: the project to redesign the interior of the Cathedral was validated by the members of the National Commission for Heritage and Architecture, with reservations concerning, on the one hand, the relocation of statues of saints in the chapels and, on the other hand, the benches on wheels equipped with lights planned by the diocese. There is no hand left to prevent the Notre-Dame from being defiled, except yours, Excellency! Think of the judgment of history and, even more, of God, if you allow this irreparable act to take place. The Notre-Dame remains, despite the stigma of the fire, the most beautiful sanctuary of Christianity. The queen of cathedrals is a jewel box of beauty, destined to receive what is most sacred in the world: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Its silhouette makes it immediately clear that it is a ship that leads souls to Heaven. Each of its windows, each of its statues and stones are dedicated to the glory of God. How can we not think, as we walk along its nave, of the heavenly Jerusalem described by the Apocalypse of Saint John in Chapter 21: ” And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light shall the nations walk” (Revelation 21:11;23).

Pedagogy of the Sacred

Before it was closed, thirteen million visitors entered the Notre-Dame every year. What were these men, sometimes from the ends of the earth, looking for? A mirror of their time? No, on the contrary, they were looking for beauty and sacredness, which our world without God is so cruelly lacking. They were seeking, often without knowing it, a trace of that blessed time when the “philosophy of the Gospel governed the States,” according to the expression used by H.H. Leo XIII in his encyclical Immortale Dei of November 1, 1885. ” Then it was that the power and divine virtue of Christian wisdom had diffused itself throughout the laws, institutions, and morals of the people, permeating all ranks and relations of civil society,” the Pope wrote of Christianity. ” The State, constituted in this wise, bore fruits important beyond all expectation, whose remembrance is still, and always will be, in renown, witnessed to as they are by countless proofs which can never be blotted out or ever obscured by any craft of any enemies,” continues Pope Leo XIII. Is not the Notre-Dame one of the most marvelous “documents” of this time that bears the name of Christ? The pedagogy of the sacred, desired by the contemporaries of Suger and St. Louis, speaks not only to the intelligence, but to the soul. “I myself was standing in the crowd, near the second pillar at the entrance to the choir on the right side of the sacristy. And it was then that the event that dominates my whole life took place. In an instant my heart was touched and I believed.” How many souls, far from God, have experienced under the sacred vaults of Notre-Dame, the encounter that shook Paul Claudel in these places? Where will these thirsty souls go to drink, if the source were to dry up through your fault?

Where do These Ill Winds Come From?

Your Excellency, where do the ill winds that suddenly threaten to sweep through the Notre-Dame come from? No doubt Father Gilles Drouin, in charge of the liturgical and cultural development of your Cathedral, offers us the beginning of an answer when he declares: “If Vatican II broke with the Latin Mass and turned the altars around to go towards the flock instead of turning their backs on them, fifty years later, part of the work remains to be done. Thus, it would be a matter of deconstructing Notre-Dame to make it a “conciliar” cathedral that no longer honors God, but Man! Alas, so many churches have suffered the same fate! “In the 1960s, the French clergy interpreted the Vatican II Council by implementing a vandalism unheard of since the French Revolution in the name of a dubious modernism,” recalls Didier Rykner. A vandalism that is, unfortunately, not limited to architecture. As Guillaume Cuchet has masterfully demonstrated in his book Comment notre monde a cessé d’être chrétien (How Our World Ceased to be Christian), the Council convened by H.H. John XXIII coincided with the beginning of a collapse, unprecedented in its brutality, of Catholicism in France, outside the period of persecution. Sacramental practice has become residual in our country, priestly ordinations are decreasing year after year, and, as you know, the clergy is plagued by sordid affairs of morality which bring despair the faithful and to which no one sees an end. Your Excellency, it is not only the Notre-Dame that is burning—in fifty years, Christian France has been reduced to ashes. And now, in the midst of this dark night, you are preparing to extinguish the Notre-Dame, the ultimate beacon of Christianity.

Your Excellency, it is not too late to refrain from letting into the Notre-Dame the “fumes of Satan” that stink up the Church, in the tragic words of Pope Paul VI. To hand over your Cathedral to unholy modernity would not only be an insult to those who built and preserved it, it would also be, first and foremost, an offense to the One to whom it belongs. From this touch, inevitable curses will be arise for the Eldest Daughter of the Church, at the very moment when a muted persecution threatens the Catholics of France. How can one not shudder to think that the Archbishop of Paris will write a chapter in this tribulation, by working to desecrate his own Cathedral? Excellency, for the love of God, spare the Notre-Dame! There is still time.

Please receive, Excellency, the assurance of my high and filial consideration,

Paris, March 25, 2023
Feast of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary

Jose Antonio Ureta,

This letter appears through the kind courtesy of Avenir de la Culture.

Featured: The Hand of God protecting the faithfful, with a depiction of Notre-Dame de Paris, from the Hours of Étienne Chevalier, painted by Jean Fouquet, ca. 1452-1460.

Has Christianity Evaporated in the Consumer Civilization? Pasolini’s Prophecy

Pasolini, with his usual prophetic gaze, was among the first to lucidly decipher the real scope of the telluric change that society was undergoing ab imis fundamentis. In particular, he understood how the consumer society was not only not founded on Christianity, but had to annul it in order to impose itself as the only permitted religion. When, in 1973, Italian cities were literally invaded by jeans billboards with the overtly desacralizing formula “you will have no other jeans but me,” Pasolini commented on the incident with a scathing article entitled “Linguistic Analysis of a Slogan.

In particular, the photos used for the advertisement showed respectively: a female belly and blue jeans unbuttoned in a provocative way, accompanied by the inscription “you won’t have any other jeans but me;” and a woman’s butt with the slogan, “he who loves me follows me.” Finally, “Jesus jeans” was the name of the product advertised in such a disruptive way for the time. The Christian creed was twisted and manipulated to promote one of the many products of the new atheistic and consumerist creed of capitalist civilization which, precisely in those years, was abandoning its dialectical-bourgeois phase to move on to the absolute-post-bourgeois one. It was moving from a “market” society, still founded on religious auctoritas, to a “market” society, centered solely on the auctoritas of the commodity form which, as such, had to reduce everything—including religion itself—to the rank of circulating merchandise. The original Christian message was not only immanentized, profaned and deprived of its peculiar reference to the sphere of transcendence—with a synergistic movement, it was refunctionalized in a liberal-consumerist sense, evicting de facto the God of the Heavens and replacing Him with the new divinity of the markets and the cornucopia of goods marketed by it in the sphere of capitalist circulation.

In fact, Pasolini’s article does not dwell on the images used for the posters and, therefore, on the properly erotic aspect of the message, although “sexual consumerism” and bourgeois hedonism were undoubtedly themes he treated with precision elsewhere. In this case, Pasolin’s analysis is directed towards the words used in the posters and the messages conveyed by this rhetoric. The language of market civilization is homologized and hypersimplified, since it must be accessible to all in the reified form of a consumer good—the slogan thus stands as a privileged register of the culture industry and the society of spectacle, which reduces language itself to stereotyped and technified expressiveness. Every particularity and every nuance are destroyed for the benefit of an undifferentiated and homogenized subculture, which reduces and simplifies everything in the name of an apparent interclassism for qualitatively indistinct consumers. The civilization of capital justifies and promotes homologation by calling it “equality” while, paradoxically, making society increasingly unequal, subsumed under the alienating homologation of commodities.

Advertising expressiveness coincides with the abolition of all expressiveness. The new violent linguistic model, stereotyped and homogenized, has dissolved any kind of social and cultural diversification, so that it can become universal and usable by all. In the specific case of blue jeans, the advertisement uses, in the form of slogans, concepts and formulas taken from a deliberately distorted and profaned religious imaginary, in which Christ himself becomes a commercial brand, an expressive function of that one God—the Market, precisely—that consumer civilization recognizes and venerates. Although the billboards were quickly withdrawn by the public authorities, after an article of protest by Catholic institutions appeared in L’Osservatore Romano, the tendencies and coordinates of the future development of capital were fixed. The fabula docet has shown that the Church, which initially could have the illusion of being able to stop the advance of consumerist nihilism, would soon be overwhelmed until it disappeared, becoming itself an advertising brand among so many others. In Pasolini’s opinion, the Church was seriously mistaken, deluding itself with the possibility of being able to take advantage of the liberal-consumerist regime as it had taken advantage of the Fascist one. No equivalent of the Lateran Pacts was possible with the neo-Hedonist civilization of consumption. That led Christianity to its dissolution. The liberal-consumerist world, in fact, was ready to found itself on itself, on its own structural nothingness, freeing itself completely from the support of the Church, on which the empire of capital had also been founded up to that moment.

The previous bourgeois capitalism, which found one of its superstructural legitimacies in the Christian religion, and with it established that nexus of mutual recognition and support that culminated in the Lateran Pacts of 1929, was evolving towards a new figure: specifically, towards a post-bourgeois absolute capitalism of “nothing but commodities and nothing but consumers,” which was preparing to “give a free ticket” together with the bourgeoisie, also to the Christian religion. In Pasolini’s words, “fascism did not even scratched the Church, while today Neocapitalism destroys it.”

In the advertising poster for blue jeans, Pasolini was able to recognize one last piece of evidence to add in support of his thesis, according to which consumer civilization was even more totalitarian than fascism: the black shirt inside which the latter constrained bodies, unable to conquer souls, became superfluous in the alienated kingdom of consumerism, where the soul itself is controlled in a totalitarian way. If fascism had had to make a pact with the Church and with Christianity, trying to make use of both and, in any case, unable to get rid of them, the civilization of consumerism could now banish them definitively, profaning their symbols and their messages. Not only did the new liberal-consumerist hedonism of anarcho-capitalism for uninhibited consumers no longer need Christianity—it could easily mock and ridicule it, manipulating its vocabulary and imaginary in advertising form. There was no longer any need for an “alliance” between throne and altar, between religion and power, since consumerist power, intrinsically totalitarian, no longer needed it—it could itself also play the role of religion by “divinizing” its products, just as it had done with blue jeans advertised using the traditional Christian lexicon. From that moment on, the war declared by consumerism against the religion of transcendence and the Church itself was open and unstoppable, destined to pass through profanation and culminate in desacralization:

“In fact, there is no contradiction more scandalous than that between religion and the bourgeoisie, the latter being the opposite of religion… Fascism was a blasphemy, but it did not undermine the Church internally, because it was a false new ideology. The Concordat was not a sacrilege in the 1930s, but it is a sacrilege today, because fascism did not even scratch the Church, while today Neocapitalism destroys it. The acceptance of fascism was an atrocious episode; but the acceptance of bourgeois capitalist civilization is a definitive fact, whose cynicism is not only a stain, the umpteenth stain in the history of the Church, but a historical error that the Church will probably pay for with its decline.”

According to Pasolini’s analysis, the Church is guilty of having underestimated neocapitalism and of having failed to foresee the Epochemachend character of such a change (“a definitive fact”). The new power, in fact, has not limited itself to acting externally, finding a balance and an agreement with the altera pars. On the contrary, it has infiltrated the consciences and the weft of the social fabric, dominating and profoundly modifying them, triumphing where even the repressive and authoritarian power of fascism had failed. Pasolini recognizes in the particular case of the Jesus blue jeans slogan, the prodromal signs of a growing weakening of the institutions of the sacred, which are indignant and firmly opposed to offensive advertising posters, but which no longer really have the power to stop the advance of the new desacralizing spirit of consumerist nihilism.

This advance, which has barely begun, for Pasolini is destined to lead to the complete annihilation of Christianity—the Church seems doomed to lose its relevant role and to survive, in the best or worst of hypotheses depending on the point of view assumed, as a folkloric and ceremonial element, deprived of its own autonomy and capacity to colonize consciences and a society in a phase of de-Christianization. The fact that, in 1973, the blue jeans posters were withdrawn from circulation after the Church’s complaint, was only a momentary setback, in no way interpretable as a possible reversal of trend. The path of profanation and desacralization had already been taken and the coming years would only represent an acceleration of this process.

From another perspective it could be argued, following in Pasolini’s footsteps, that not even the historical communism of Noucentisme managed to eliminate the Church, at least not with the success that the radical atheism of consumer civilization is achieving. Suffice it to recall that Stalin himself, on the one hand, authorized the election of a patriarch in Moscow (demanding, however, the collaboration of the Orthodox Church with the political system) and, on the other hand, openly exploited religion as a national cement. Unlike fascism, which had to seek a compromise with the Church, and unlike communism, which is itself a secularized Church, which projected salvation into the immanent space of classless society, absolute-totalitarian capitalism—and it alone—has no internal or external need for religion and the Church: it has no “internal” need for either, because it is based on a complete relativistic nihilism and is, in this respect, self-sufficient and thus intrinsically hostile to the idea of truth, both in its philosophical and its religious sense; moreover, it has no “external” need, since its power is now so persuasive, omnipresent and unrestrained that it no longer has to depend on the support of other forces that have not yet been subdued.

In accordance with the process already observed by Pasolini, the new nexus that characterizes the regime of capital absolutus in its ultimate evolutions, takes shape according to the inclined plane that leads the Catholic religion itself to desacralization and perverse friendship, and in a subordinate position, with the consumerist regime. “The case of the ‘Jesus’ jeans,” wrote Pasolini, “is a sign of all this,” of how the new power—no longer clerical-fascist, but hedonistic and consumerist—can now discard spiritual power: “Power has no more need of the Church, and consequently abandons it to itself.” In fact, Pasolini writes again, “the world has overtaken the Church;” it has gone even further.

Pasolini saw in action the assault on heaven, undertaken by the market system not only in the jeans ad, but also in the partisan figure of Christian Democracy (CD). In it, the reference to the Church and to transcendence was, in fact, purely nominal, since it was a party totally integrated in the new immanentist order of pragmatically capitalist power. With CD—it is argued in the Lutheran Letters—”the Catholic votes will finally be Christian democratic; that is, no longer guaranteed and managed by the Catholic Church, but directly by the economic Power,” which can still formally, for the sake of convenience, call itself Christian. And Pasolini continues: “deprived of any shadow of political thought, Christian Democracy has governed according to the pragmatic—and therefore evidently mimetic, generic and inert—models of Western capitalism: devilishly mixing these models with those of the spiritual models of the Church.”

In short, with CD and its liquid atheism, a political force becomes operative that uses the call to transcendence as a simple instrument to hide and legitimize its own integral adhesion to the model of capitalism on the part of the masses still educated in a Christian sense. It is according to this hermeneutic key that the so-called “defeat” of that anomaly that was the pontificate of the recently deceased Ratzinger, accused of not assimilating and not being in tune with the new marketing of a Catholicism without transcendence and without a theological vocation, can be interpreted. By way of synthesis, as I have tried to demonstrate extensively in my book, La fine del cristianesimo. La morte di Dio al tempo del mercato globale e di Papa Francesco (2023) (The End of Christianity. The death of God in the Time of the Global Market and Pope Francis), the “crossroads” prophesied by Pasolini are currently embodied, on the one hand, by Ratzinger’s Church, which resists the nothingness of consumer civilization and does so by defending tradition and transcendence; and, on the other hand, by Bergoglio’s post-Christian and liberal-progressive neo-church, which dissolves Christianity into low-cost faith and smart masses, effectively causing the suicide of Christianity to which Pasolini alluded.

In confirmation of Pasolini’s prophecy may be cited, among other cases, a 2012 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. The Court legitimized and upheld the use of religious symbols in advertising. Specifically, a Lithuanian company had used the image of Jesus and Mary to sponsor its new clothing line, receiving a fine for it—this judgment was judged by the European Court as harmful to the freedom of expression of the company itself.

With this, Pasolini’s prophecy can be considered fulfilled: the Christian Jesus has been defeated in the confrontation with the capitalist Jesus. The new spirit of hedonistic and desacralizing capitalism, ready to mutate the divine itself into an advertising strategy, was already implicit in that apparently provocative and easily neutralized slogan, which Pasolini had been able to decipher with prophetic lucidity and which today, in the post-1989 world, multiplies hypertrophically in a kaleidoscopic variety of posters and advertisements, representing in fact the new symbolic system within which Western man moves in integral reification. It is for this reason that, again according to Pasolini’s analysis, the new spirit of power, which at first had shown itself to be “competitive with the religious,” was destined to “take its place in providing men with a total and unique vision of life,” stripped of all sacredness and of all connection with the reasons of the soul and with the regions of the eternal.

Diego Fusaro is professor of History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre Returns[This article appears courtesy of Posmodernia].

Featured: Sekmadienis Ltd poster (2012). Slogan reads: “Dear Mary, what a dress!”

Resilience: The Word of Power

A phantom haunts the ruins of technomorphic and pantoclastic civilization: it is the new species of Homo Resiliens. Freed from the remorse of an unhappy conscience and satisfied with the misery of the reified present, the “last man” dedicated to resilience knows nothing great to fight for and to believe in, to strive for and to hope for. Child of postmodern disenchantment and the end of the belief in grands récits oriented towards a redeemed future, the Homo Resiliens is content with what there is because he thinks it is all there can be. His is an ontology as primitive as it is depressive, which resolves possibility in the given reality, the future in the eternal repetition of the present. Conforming himself to the vulgar pleasures offered to him by the civilization of consumption (“one desire for the day and another for the night,” it is suggested in Thus Spake Zarathusta), the last man of resilience has no supérstite resource of value to oppose to the nihilistic maelstrom, which has exhausted all meaning and abandoned the godless world to the nothingness of production and exchange as ends in themselves.

A desperate expression of a purely passive nihilism, a serial member of an amorphous and shepherdless flock, Homo Resiliens views with the icy pathos of distance every yearning for true freedom, every project for the renewal of the world—he is convinced that this is no longer the time and that, in the twilight era of the decline of idols, there is no other way than conciliation and adaptation to an order of things that, however much it is questioned, admits of no alternatives and no escape routes. The imperative of ne varietur is accompanied, almost in a compensatory way, by a hypertrophic work on the self, aimed at making it more mature and stronger so that it is finally ready to accept without blinking whatever it is.

In the physiognomy of the last man, the most vulgar mediocrity imposes itself as the dominant factor, one perceives the integral contraction of the creative power of the human essence, now devoid of enthusiasm and passion—the Resilient Men, “wretches, who never lived” (Inferno III, v. 64)—resign themselves to what is there, adapting themselves time after time and striving to silence any inner voice of dissidence that might still subsist. The subversive force of the transformation of reality is expelled by the withdrawal into themselves of the last men, who live economic fundamentalism and its scenarios of ordinary misery as an irreversible destiny to which they pay submissive obeisance. The stoic imperative of amor fati, understood as adaptability to the logic of the real, constitutes the essential recipe of their mediocre happiness, in which the will of individual impotence coexists with the fury of the will of omnipotence of the technocapitalist production system.

The figure in which the new gregarious spirit of the last men seems to be best condensed coincides with that of the servitude volontaire proposed by La Boétie, which could be translated as the obscure desire to serve in order to be left in peace, to be dominated so as not to see the unlimited enjoyment derived from the flow of circulation of services and merchandise interrupted. Unlike the Resister, that is, the naturaliter nonconformist subject with the gregarious spirit and perhaps even willing to associate in revolutionary forms with his species, the Resilient Man fits the prototype of the ideal slave, who does not know he is one and who ignores the existence of the chains he carries or, alternatively, confuses them with unrepentant opportunities for inner maturation.

The hellish “malaise of civilization” sinks its roots in the elimination of both the Ideal and the social bond; and congruently produces the desert landscape of the mass hermits, of the Resilient who, socially estranged, try to survive by adapting, biographically overcoming the systemic contradictions almost as if they were only nuisances of the unreconciled self. The Revolutionary Man lived in the perpetual hiatus between reality and his dreams; the Resilient Man lives in the inextinguishable absence of dreams that allow him to think reality as something amendable.

A smart and elusive concept, elusive and capable of adapting resiliently to any context, resilience is, by right, an integral part of the constellation of new virtues incorporated into the managerial civilization of business—from empowerment to motivational practices, from problem solving to mindfulness—and of that neoliberal governance that has now saturated the world of life, commodifying it and reifying it without restrictions or free zones. It is, first of all, the existential attitude, but then also political and social, today systematically demanded of the subjects of the market civilization; that is, of consumers without a homeland and without roots, without critical substance and—Gramsci would say—without residue of the “spirito di scissione“: the mandate, in the form of an omnipresent imperative, comes mainly through the falsely polyphonic chime of the mass-media system, which is the megaphone of its master’s voice. The latter daily exhorts the sad tribe of the last men, the “lost people” of the shirtless of unhappy globalization, to become docile and submissive, to abandon all inopportune antagonism and all redemptive fickleness: in a word, to become resilient, to work on themselves to rise to the level of the world in which they live; that is, to endure on a daily basis, without the return of red heat, and without extemporaneous awakenings of the “spirit of utopia.”

Therefore, the dominant imperative, reaffirmed urbi et orbi by the cultural industry and by the officials of the superstructures, is the one that preaches the disenchanted adaptation to the existing as the only possible reality (Peter Sloterdijk, “Psychopolitics of Schizoid Society,” in Critique of Cynical Reason). From whatever perspective one observes, the resilient subject seems to be the ideal in vitro product of the system of production and of the totally administered civilization. Following the robot sketched by Antonio Trabucchi in his work, Resisto dunque sonoI Resist Therefore I Am—(2007), the resilient person is optimistic on principle, tends to read negative events as circumscribed and in any case as an opportunity for improvement, continues to believe that he is capable of controlling and governing his own life, and does not see any defeat, however thunderous, as arousing the will to fight to change the order of things.

His fundamental predisposition, congenital or conquered through hard work on himself, is “emotional agility,” that is, a kind of precariousness of emotions and feelings, called to express itself in the ability to adapt chameleon-like to the most diverse contexts and the most adverse situations, finding the right resources and the right spirit each time. Du mußt dein Leben ändern (You Must Change Your Life), the title of a successful book by Peter Sloterdijk, crystallizes in its most effective form the postmodern rehabilitation of the stoic endurance of the order of things and the glorification of the cynical reason of those who, after all, aspire only to their own individual salvation in the midst of collective tragedy.

Metabolizing the systemic imperative of adaequatio to the order of things, elevated to the status of “evidence” to be scientifically determined and stoically accepted, the contemporary Homo Resiliens makes no effort to understand and, even less, to rectify the order of things—it starts from the assumption that in case of conflict between Subject and Object, it is in any circumstance the former—for him alone in this lies the secret of a happy life—that has to adapt to the latter, overcoming the traumas and discomforts that untimely led him to such divergence. The transforming passion open to the future, which belonged to the revolutionaries, is annihilated by this contemporary form of disenchanted adhesion; a form whose ductility, in any case, easily tends to unveil the farce and ideological ballast.

The heroic mot d’ordre of courage and its reasoned indocility (frangar, non flectar) is overthrown by the vile adage of resilience and its unlimited willingness to suffer in silence (flectar, non frangar), pretending that traumas and injustices are to be welcomed as moments of overcoming and as proofs of fortitude. Note, en passant, that the adjective “fragile” has as its root the Latin verb frango, which means “to break,” “to rupture,” “to shatter”: the resilient is, therefore, the “fragile” who, as long as he does not break, adapts himself to everything, becoming liquid in the liquid society and, therefore, assuming “fluidity” as his own essential quality in all spheres.

Nietzsche’s famous aphorism, according to which was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker, “what does not kill me, makes me stronger,” does not seem to be taken as a definition of the spirit of resilience: in fact the resilient is an intrinsically weak subject, whose acting or, better to say, whose practical inactivity arises from the preemptive recognition of the superior strength of the object in front of him. Varying on the Hegelian theme, he is more a servant than a master since, preferring to bend in order not to break, he is unwilling to run the extreme risk of his life in order to reverse the order of things and gain freedom.

Like the trampled grass, which is always ready to return to its position, so the resilient one absorbs the blow each time, probably grateful for the precious opportunity of maturation he has obtained from it. He is required apertis verbis to cultivate that “mental flexibility” which consists, at bottom, in the ability to adapt to everything and everyone, which, not accidentally, represents a not inconsiderable variant of the universal flexibility of the era of precariousness and the evaporation of all figures of solidity—from family ties to labor relations, from links with communities and territories of belonging to grounded and structured worldviews.

In fact, one can do whatever one wants with the motto, “resilience,” since, in one way or another, it adapts to everything—such is, paradoxically, its degree of resilience. A paroxysmal profile of the postmodern liquid self, Homo Resiliens can be so in the psychological sphere, if he overcomes traumas by modifying himself; he can be so in politics, if he adapts himself cadaverously to the imperative of ne varietur, carved in capital letters in the neoliberal theologomenon; there is no alternative; he can also be so in economics, if he manages to make a virtue of necessity, living as opportunities the scenarios of ordinary exploitation and daily inequality proper to the fanaticism of the market.

De Mauro’s Dictionary of the Italian Language explains that “resilient” is one who manifests the “ability to bounce back from difficult experiences, adversities, traumas, tragedies, threats or significant sources of stress, maintaining a sufficiently positive attitude when facing existence.” In short, one who suffers misfortune and gets up as if nothing happened; one who in the face of injustice, instead of rebelling, finds the strength to go his own way, even if this means a daily dose of mortifying abuse.

Variant of the current fanaticism of tolerance, resilience is naturally a psychological profile. But it is also, inseparably, a political behavior in keeping with the era of techno-capital absolutism and the austerity desired by boss groups, jubilant at the prospect of being able to govern oppressed and resilient masses; or what is the same, masses capable of absorbing without blinking and without returning to the red heat, the daily violence on which a system is structurally based whose basic premise is the exploitation and misery of the majority for the benefit of a few. Let us not forget then that, as Federico Rampini (La Repubblica, January 23, 2013) showed, “resilient dynamism” was the slogan launched in 2013 by the World Economic Forum and by Obama—therefore in places and by people who fully inscribed in the order of the neoliberal hegemonic bloc of Atlanticist traction.

The Homo Resiliens falls and gets up potentially to infinity, but without ever questioning the objective world that always makes him fall again. Successor of the ignavo confined by Dante in Hell, the Resilient Man does not hinder the march of the world and, in fact, seconds it in all its dynamics, even if it is the most fiendishly unjust. He does not even condemn it with the weapons of criticism or subject it to scathing interpellation, trapped as he is by the smug satisfaction of having succeeded in working on himself to the point of finally accepting the unacceptable.

The resilient is the helpless self that sees personal hardships but never real contradictions and who, in case of disagreement with reality, prefers the psychologist’s couch to the square of the communal revolution, the variation of the self to that of the not-self, as Fichte would say. Its privileged sphere of action and life is individuality in the shadow of power, the disarmament of any critical spirit and the preventive mutilation of any project for the future. He is the ideal subject of the passive and homologated masses, in which everyone thinks and desires the same thing (since no one really thinks or desires anymore); but simultaneously he is also the isolated individual of the new era of telematic solitudes connected through the Internet and disconnected from reality and its throbbing contradictions that ask to be resolved in praxis.

In short, the Resilient Man is the ideal subject of the reifying prose of the new post-1989 capitalism and, a fortiori, of the very developments it is undergoing in the first decades of the new millennium—Homo Resiliens has treasured the appeals addressed to him from all points of the unified networks by the monopolists of discourse and therefore, via mediata, by the neoliberal oligarchic bloc. He has accepted to be submissive instead of revolutionary, adaptable instead of contesting, and has even internalized the need to change himself in order to adapt to a status quo of whose unchangeability he is intimately convinced. In short, he has chosen to speak the language of his class enemy, believing in progress—and therefore in the uninterrupted sequence of conquests of the dominant groups—and above all meekly assuming the behavior that the masters have always dreamed of from the slaves. Is it not the unconfessed dream of every master to rule docile and submissive slaves, in a word resilient? Is it not true that every shepherd has always had the desire to be able to lead a meek and obedient flock, ready to do whatever he is ordered to do because he is convinced that there is no other possibility?

That is also why resilience is, among all, the most propedeutic quality for the success of the neoliberal oligarchic bloc, the virtue that is propitious and expected from the massa damnata of the defeated. It is an integral part of the new mental order, politically correct and ethically corrupt, which serves as a superstructural complement to the structure of the asymmetrical diagram of the balance of power in the epoch inaugurated with the burial, albeit provisional, of the Marxian “dream of one thing” under the heavy rubble of the Wall (9.11.1989).

Diego Fusaro is professor of History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre Returns[This article appears courtesy of Posmodernia].

Featured: Resilient Weeds, by Dimitri Sirenko.

The Wagner Factor and the Fairness Principle

Experience of Political Analysis

Throughout the Special Military Operation (SMO), the PMC Wagner and Yevgeny Prigozhin have been the center of attention of Russian society and the world community. For Russians, he has become the main symbol of victory, determination, heroism, courage and resilience. For the enemy a source of hatred, but also of fear and terror. It is important that Prigozhin not only leads the most combat-ready, victorious and undefeated unit of the Russian armed forces, but also provides an outlet for those feelings, thoughts, demands and hopes that live in the hearts of the people of war, completely and to the end, irreversibly immersed in its elements.

Prigozhin took this war to the end, to the bottom, to the last depths. And that element is shared by the members of the PMC “Wagner,” all those who move in the same direction and towards the same goal—the difficult, bloody, almost unattainable, but so longed-for, desired victory. PMC “Wagner” is not a private military company. The money has nothing to do with it. This is a brotherhood of war, the Russian guard, which was assembled by Eugene Prigozhin from those who responded to the call of the Motherland in the most difficult time for her and went to defend her, being ready to pay any price.

You might legitimately ask, but what about our other warriors? What about the Donbass militia, fighting in inhumane conditions since 2014, forgotten by everyone, but firmly in their post? What about our volunteers, who willingly moved to the fronts of the new Patriotic War, which they identified under the inaccurate name of “Special Military Operation?” What, after all, are the regular troops of various units, smashing the enemy and losing their brothers in a brutal confrontation? What about Ramzan Kadyrov’s heroic Chechens? Yes, of course, they’re all heroes, and they all bear priceless portions of our common Victory, to which they gave themselves to the end.

But Evgeny Prigozhin and the Wagner PMC is also something else. They are not only ahead of the rest, in the most difficult sections of the front, storming with inhuman tenacity meter by meter, house by house, street by street, village by village, city by city, liberating the native land from a cruel and vile maniacal enemy. They gave this war a style, became its symbols, found the most precise and most sincere words to express what was happening. It is a rare case in which a military feat of incredible significance and scale is accompanied by equally piercing declarations of worldview—understandable to everyone in Russia. This war is a war for justice. It is waged against evil and violence, against lies and deceit, against cruelty and substitution. But if this is so, it is directed not only against the direct enemy—Ukrainian Nazism and the globalist liberal West that supports it, but also against the injustice that sometimes takes place within Russia itself. Wagner’s war is a people’s war, liberating, cleansing. Half-measures, agreements, compromises, and negotiations behind the backs of the fighting heroes are not acceptable. The Wagner PMC values life very highly, both their own and the enemy’s. And death, the price of which gives the victory, can be paid only for it, and for nothing else.

The aesthetic apotheosis is Prigozhin’s programmatic film, The Best in Hell. It is the new Hemingway, Ernst Jünger. A great film—about the elements of war, about the price of life and death, about the profound existential transformations that happen to a man when he finds himself immersed in the inexorable process of mortal confrontation with the enemy. And with one that is not something radically different, but the reverse side of himself. It is precisely because Prigozhin not only wages war, but also comprehends war, accepts its terrible logic and freely and sovereignly enters into its elements that he represents such a nightmare for the enemy.

It is obvious that for the Kiev Nazi regime, which has no such symbols and which truly fears and hates the Wagner PMC the most in this war, as well as for the real actor, pushing Ukraine to attack Russia and fully arming it, that is, for the West, Yevgeny Prigozhin personally is the main priority, concrete and symbolic target simultaneously. And there is no doubt that the enemy knows the value of symbols. It should not be surprising therefore that it is the Wagner PMC that arouses such frenzied hatred of the enemy; and the West has thrown all its forces to destroy this formation and Yevgeny Prigozhin personally.

Inside Russia, people accept Prigozhin unconditionally. He, without any doubts, is the first in this war. Whatever he says or does, it immediately resonates in the heart of the people, in society, in the broad Russian, Eurasian masses. It is one of the many paradoxes of our history—an ethnic Jew, an oligarch, and a man with a rather turbulent past is transformed into the archetype of a purely Russian hero, into a symbol of justice and honor for all people. This says a lot about Prigozhin himself and about our people. We believe deeds, eyes, and words when they come from the depths. And this dimension of depth in Yevgeny Prigozhin cannot be overlooked.

Russian elites are another matter. It is precisely because Prigozhin has made a pact with the Russian people, with the Russian majority, on the blood—his own and that of his heroes from Wagner—that he is most hated by that part of the elite that has not accepted the war as its fate, has not realized its true and fundamental motives, has not yet seen the mortal danger that hangs over the country. It seems to the elite that Prigozhin is simply rushing to power, and, relying on the people, is preparing a “black redistribution.” For this part of the Russian elite, the word “justice” itself is unbearable and burns with the fires of hell. After all, Prigozhin is himself from this elite, but he found the courage to renounce the class of the rich, exploiters, cynics, and cosmopolitans, who despise all those who are less successful, and to move to the side of the warring, country-saving people.

In such a situation, analysts who belong to these elites as a kind of domestics wonder: how can Prigozhin afford to behave with such a degree of determination, audacity, and autonomy? Isn’t he an experiment by much more influential—indeed, simply the highest—forces in Russian politics, who are testing, by his example, the readiness of society to introduce stricter rules and a more consistent patriotic, people-oriented policy?

In other words, are not Yevgeny Prigozhin and Wagner PMC the forerunners of a full-fledged oprichnina? After all, even in the era of Ivan the Terrible, the oprichnina army was formed precisely in battles and also, as in the case of Wagner, from among the most courageous, courageous, desperate, strong, reliable, active – regardless of pedigree, title, status, rank, position in society.

What Prigozhin gets away with in Russia’s customary political system, no one could get away with. So, the analysts conclude, either he will soon be punished for his impertinence, or this familiar political system no longer exists, and we are witnessing the emergence of some other, unusual, new system, where values will greatly shift in the direction of justice, honesty, courage, and true front-line brotherhood, exactly what the elites hate.

External observers, with all their desire, cannot reliably determine the relationship between Yevgeny Prigozhin personally and the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. Whether or not he coordinates his hard line with the top leadership of the country. There are those who are convinced that Prigozhin’s oprichnina is sanctioned from above; but there are those who believe that it is an independent effort—a truth that surprisingly exactly coincides with the expectations of the majority. For the Russian government as a whole, uncertainty is a natural environment. When we are dealing with the personal will of the president, and when we are dealing with the initiative of his associates, who are trying to grasp in advance and anticipate “the commander’s intention” (the classic term from the theory of network-centric warfare), no one can fully understand. This is a rather pragmatic approach: in this case, the President is above any conflicts within the elites, and the transformation of the system (above all in a patriotic way) is left with complete freedom. If desired, it can be assumed that all the patriotic—and even the most avant-garde—initiatives (such as the PMC Wagner) are implemented with his tacit consent. But no one knows this for sure—just speculation. Prigozhin cultivates this uncertainty to the maximum extent and with maximum effect.

Meanwhile, love for and trust in Prigozhin and the Wagner PMC are growing, and at the same time, anxiety is growing among the elites.

In Prigozhin, society has begun to see something more than a successful and desperate field commander, a warlord. The configuration in the elites that prevailed in Russia before the SMO allowed (with personal loyalty to the supreme power) for a certain oligarchic stratum the opportunity to remain part of the global liberal globalist system. The people grumbled, lamented and complained about this, but as long as Russia’s sovereignty was being strengthened and, as it seemed, nothing threatened the country, this could somehow be tolerated. After the beginning of the SMO, this contradiction was fully exposed. Russia faced a deadly battle with the entire West, which fell upon our country, a West with all its might; and the Russian elite, by inertia, continued to slavishly follow the land of the setting sun, copying its standards and methods, keeping their savings abroad, dreaming of Courchevel and the Bahamas. Part of the elite frankly fled, and part hid and waited for it all to end. And here the “Prigozhin factor” appeared, already as a politician who became the mouthpiece of popular anger towards the remaining oligarchic elites, stubbornly refusing to accept the new realities of the war and do as Yevgeny Prigozhin himself did, that is, go to the front or, at least, join in the cause of Victory entirely and without a trace. If the West is our enemy, then a supporter of the West, a Westerner is a traitor and a direct agent of the enemy. If you are not at war with the West, then you are on its side. This is the simple logic voiced by Prigozhin. And in his decisive battle with the external enemy, the masses of the people saw a second—future—act, the transfer of similar methods for the internal enemy. And this is “justice”—in its popular, even albeit common people—understanding.

Obviously, this kind of oprichnina would have had no effect on the people themselves, since the victims of “justice according to Wagner” would only be the class enemies of the common people, and today even their political enemies, who happen to side with the very force with which the people are at war.

And more and more strata of society are coming to the conclusion (perhaps too simplistic and linear) that it is the “internal enemies” who are responsible for the slippages and some of the failures at the fronts—that is, the same oligarchs and Westerners who are actively sabotaging the will of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief for Victory. And this is where the factor of “justice” comes in. We are ready to fight like Wagner, to die like Wagner, but not in order to return to Russia before February 24, 2022—to the previous conditions. We demand a purification, enlightenment and spiritualization of society and the entire ruling class. We are not just fighting against the enemy, but for justice.

There is a tremendous time delay, but it is the beginning of fundamental change in Russian society. Yevgeny Prigozhin represents one of the directions. This, above all, is war, where Wagner is the brightest illustration of what meritocracy is; that is, the power of the most distinguished, the most courageous, and the most deserving. The elites of war are those who perform the task best, and there are no other criteria at all. In essence, our armed forces—at least some of their most important—assault—components—clearly need to be rebuilt in a “Wagnerian” way. With one criterion for evaluation: effectiveness. In war, the old criterion—loyalty combined with czarist skills—is no longer sufficient. Loyalty in war is implied; otherwise, immediate execution. But now something more is needed: the ability to cope with the task at hand. At any cost. Even at the cost of one’s own and others’ lives. This alone brings out the best. And the worst. And all that remains is to put the best over the worst, and the whole thing will head to Victory.

But this does not only apply to war. In politics, economics, management, administration, even in education and culture, in fact, similar trends are gradually beginning to make themselves known. People of a special kind—Lev Gumilev called them “passionarians”—are able to act in conditions of emergency and achieve significant results. In more prosaic terms “crisis managers.” It is possible to speak about “Wagner-principles” in all fields—those, who cope with assigned—the most difficult, unrealizable—tasks most effectively, come to the forefront. Those who do not cope with the task are relegated to the back burner. In the political science of Wilfred Pareto this is called the “rotation of the elite.” In Russia, this process is extremely inert and sporadic, and most often it is not taking place at all. War, on the other hand, requires the “rotation of the elites” in an ultimatum manner. This is a real horror for the elites, who are old and incapacitated, moreover, cut off from their matrix in the West.

Eugene Prigozhin outlined the most important vector of the direction in which Russia will have to move under any conditions and in any circumstances. That is why the West wants to destroy it, and is counting on the old and no longer appropriate to the challenges of the moment Russian elites to help it in this. The stakes are constantly rising. Victory is at stake. And the way to it lies only through justice.

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. He has also introduced and developed the idea of Eurasianism, rooted in traditionalism. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geopolitica.

Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning

It is a great honor to bring to you this excerpt from Nigel Biggar’s Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning, a book that must be widely read, because it brings clarity, moderation, scholarly depth and much-needed insight to a topic heaped over by hurt feelings (largely contrived) of those who have benefited most from colonialism. The book meticulously shows that the various narratives against the British Empire are exaggerated at best, since the factually measurable achievements of Empire total a great moral good—it was a Golden Age. This book will no doubt enrage those who have made a career of knee-jerk, anti-colonial pronouncements… but, then, truth is often bitter and thus decried.

Professor Biggar is emeritus regius professor of moral and pastoral theology at the University of Oxford, and his work is marked by nuance, perspicacity, and brilliance.

As some may know, Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning was “canceled” by its first publisher which could not help but virtue-signal. Fortunately, courage yet remains among better publishers (William Collins), and the book is now out in print.

Please consider supporting Professor Biggar’s pivotal work by purchasing a copy of this book and by spreading the word.

What follows is an extract from the “Introduction” to Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning, published by William Collins.

It was early December 2017 and my wife and I were at Heathrow airport, waiting to board a flight to Germany. Just before setting off for the departure gate, I checked my email one last time. My attention sharpened when I saw a message in my inbox from the University of Oxford’s public affairs directorate. I clicked on it. What I found was notification that my “Ethics and Empire” project had become the target of an online denunciation by a group of students, followed by reassurance from the university that it had risen to defend my right to run such a thing. So began a public row that raged for the best part of a month. Four days after I flew, the eminent imperial historian who had conceived the project with me abruptly resigned. Within a week of the first online denunciation, two further ones appeared, this time manned by professional academics, the first comprising 58 colleagues at Oxford, the second, about 200 academics from around the world. For over a fortnight, my name was in the press every day.

What had I done to deserve all this unexpected attention? Three things. In late 2015 and early 2016 I had offered a qualified defence of the late 19th-century imperialist Cecil Rhodes during the first Rhodes Must Fall campaign in Oxford. Then, second, in November 2017, I published a column in The Times, in which I referred approvingly to the American academic Bruce Gilley’s controversial article “The Case for Colonialism” and argued that we British have reason to feel pride as well as shame about our imperial past. Note: pride, as well as shame. And third, a few days later I finally got around to publishing an online account of the Ethics and Empire project, whose first conference had been held the previous July.

Thus did I stumble, blindly, into the “imperial history wars”. Had I been a professional historian, I would have known what to expect, but being a mere ethicist, I did not. Still, naivety has its advantages, bringing fresh eyes to see sharply what weary ones have learnt to live with. One surprising thing I have seen is that many of my critics are really not interested in the complicated, morally ambiguous truth about the past. For example, in the autumn of 2015 some students began to agitate to have an obscure statue of Cecil Rhodes removed from its plinth overlooking Oxford’s High Street. The case against Rhodes was that he was South Africa’s equivalent of Hitler, and the supporting evidence was encapsulated in this damning quotation: “I prefer land to ners . . . the natives are like children. They are just emerging from barbarism . . . one should kill as many ners as possible.” However, initial research discovered that the Rhodes Must Fall campaigners had lifted this quotation verbatim from a book review by Adekeye Adebajo, a former Rhodes scholar who is now director of the Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation at the University of Johannesburg. Further digging revealed that the “quotation” was, in fact, made up from three different elements drawn from three different sources. The first had been lifted from a novel. The other two had been misleadingly torn out of their proper contexts. And part of the third appears to have been made up.

There is no doubt the real Rhodes was a moral mixture, but he was no Hitler. Far from being racist, he showed consistent sympathy for individual black Africans throughout his life. And in an 1894 speech he made plain his view: “I do not believe that they are different from ourselves.” Nor did he attempt genocide against the southern African Ndebele people in 1896—as might be suggested by the fact that the Ndebele tended his grave from 1902 for decades. And he had nothing at all to do with General Kitchener’s “concentration camps” during the Second Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, which themselves had nothing morally in common with Auschwitz. Moreover, Rhodes did support a franchise in Cape Colony that gave black Africans the vote on the same terms as whites; he helped finance a black African newspaper; and he established his famous scholarship scheme, which was explicitly colour-blind and whose first black (American) beneficiary was selected within five years of his death.

However, none of these historical details seemed to matter to the student activists baying for Rhodes’s downfall, or to the professional academics who supported them. Since I published my view of Rhodes—complete with evidence and argument—in March 2016, no one has offered any critical response at all. Notwithstanding that, when the Rhodes Must Fall campaign revived four years later in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the same old false allegations revived with it, utterly unchastened.

This unscrupulous indifference to historical truth indicates that the controversy over empire is not really a controversy about history at all. It is about the present, not the past. A remarkable feature of the contemporary controversy about empire is that it shows no interest at all in any of the non-European empires, past or present. European empires are its sole concern, and of these, above all others, the English—or, as it became after the Anglo-Scottish Union of 1707, the British—one.

The reason for this focus is that the real target of today’s anti-imperialists or anti-colonialists is the West or, more precisely, the Anglo-American liberal world order that has prevailed since 1945. This order is supposed to be responsible for the economic and political woes of what used to be called the “Developing World” and now answers to the name “Global South”. Allegedly, it continues to express the characteristic “white supremacism” and “racism” of the old European empires, displaying arrogant, ignorant disdain for non-western cultures, thereby humiliating non-white peoples. And it presumes to impose alien values and to justify military interference.

The anti-colonialists are a disparate bunch. They include academic “post-colonialists”, whose bible is Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) and who tend to inhabit university departments of literature rather than those of history. But academic “post-colonialism” is not just of academic importance. It is politically important, too, in so far as its world view is absorbed by student citizens and moves them to repudiate the dominance of the West.

Thus, academic post-colonialism is an ally—no doubt inadvertent—of Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia and the Chinese Communist Party, which are determined to expand their own (respectively) authoritarian and totalitarian power at the expense of the West.

In effect, if not by intent, they are supported by the West’s own hard left, whose British branch would have Britain withdraw from Nato, surrender its nuclear weapons, renounce global policing and retire to freeride on the moral high ground alongside neutral Switzerland. Thinking along the same utopian lines, some Scottish nationalists equate Britain with empire, and empire with evil, and see the secession of Scotland from the Anglo-Scottish Union and the consequent break-up of the United Kingdom as an act of national repentance and redemption. Meanwhile, with their eyes glued to more domestic concerns, self-appointed spokespeople for non-white minorities claim that systemic racism continues to be nourished by a persistent colonial mentality, and so clamour for the “decolonisation” of public statuary and university reading lists. In order to undermine these oppressive international and national orders, the anticolonialists have to undermine faith in them.

One important way of corroding faith in the West is to denigrate its record, a major part of which is the history of European empires. And of all those empires, the primary target is the British one, which was by far the largest and gave birth to the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This is why the anti-colonialists have focused on slavery, presenting it as the West’s dirty secret, which epitomises its essential, oppressive, racist white supremacism. This, they claim, is who we really are. This is what we must repent of.

This all makes good sense politically—provided that the end justifies any means and you have no scruples about telling the truth. Historically, however, it does not make good sense at all. As with Cecil Rhodes, so with the British Empire in general, the whole truth is morally complicated and ambiguous. Even the history of British involvement in slavery had a virtuous ending, albeit one that the anti-colonialists are determined we should overlook. After a century and a half of transporting slaves to the West Indies and the American colonies, the British abolished both the trade and the institution within the empire in the early 1800s. They then spent the subsequent century and a half exercising their imperial power in deploying the Royal Navy to stop slave ships crossing the Atlantic and Indian oceans, and in suppressing the Arab slave trade across Africa.

There is, therefore, a more historically accurate, fairer, more positive story to be told about the British Empire than the anti-colonialists want us to hear. And the importance of that story is not just past but present, not just historical but political. What is at stake is not merely the pedantic truth about yesterday, but the self-perception and self-confidence of the British today—together with Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders—and the way they conduct themselves in the world tomorrow. What is also at stake, therefore, is the very integrity of the United Kingdom and the security of the West.

Featured: Britannia pacificatrix, mural by Sigismund Goetze; painted ca. 1914-1921.