The Brutal Record Of Marxist Socialism, And The Connivance Of Fellow-Travelers And Other Useful Idiots

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, socialist-communist historiography is no longer popular. The old Lenino-Trotsko-Marxist manichaeism, inherited from the Enlightenment, has gradually withdrawn from the Western political and cultural scene, leaving room for deconstructionist progressivism, an immanent religion just as deleterious, a mixture of contradictory neo-puritan, communitarian and ethnicist beliefs, such as ultra-feminism, multiculturalism, decolonialism, indigenism, immigrationism, the celebration of sexual minorities, Islamo-leftism and the blissful worship of nature.

This new version of humanitarian morality is defended by large multinationals and powerful lobbies or NGOs, with the complacency, even the blessing, of the majority of the political-economical-media elites. The “new righteous,” modern inquisitors, guardians of political correctness, claim, as in the past, to monopolize the interpretation of the meaning of history, to embody goodness, reason, progress, science, humanitarian and democratic values.

The earlier marginalized, excluded, declared reactionary, obscurantist and obstacles to the establishment of the socialist society (in the name of the radiant future and the communist paradise), independent historians and nonconformists, opposed to the unilateral reading of history and to the utopia of the anthropological transformation, which is the prelude to the enslavement of the people, are again subjected to sectarianism, intolerance, contempt and hate. Intellectual terrorism does not vary much in its methods and arguments – in yesteryear, to criticize communism was to play into the hands of the bourgeoisie and fascism. Today, to criticize the deconstructionism of the globalist doxa is to play into the hands of populism, racism and fascism.

Nazi Crimes And Communist Crimes: Double Standards

“Those who cannot remember the past,” said George Santayana, “are condemned to repeat it” (Life and Reason, 1905). The crimes of the National Socialist regime have been quantified and unreservedly condemned, both morally and legally. But there is still a great deal of work to be done to make people aware of the crimes committed in the name of communism; to assess their number and to condemn them in the strongest terms. The terrible human toll of socialism and Marxism is said to belong to history, but it is still astonishingly underestimated, passed over in silence, or even excused or absolved.

Communist sympathizers, and their former comrades-in-arms, whether camouflaged or out in the open, are in the habit of claiming that the criminal practice of Hitler’s National Socialism stems from the perversity of his ideology, whereas that of communism would only have originated from the deviation, the denaturation, the deviation of a generous and humanist inspiration. No one denies the appalling Nazi genocide except a few small groups without influence, or deranged minds.

But on the other hand, communists and their fellow travelers can deny the exterminationist character of the Marxist theoretical-practical apparatus, can express themselves freely on major media, can be heard and even considered sincere and idealist, as long as they solemnly declare, “I do not recognize myself in the crimes of certain communist countries.” Recognized as a crime in the case of Nazism (5 to 12 million dead victims), communist negationism (50 to 100 million dead victims) is tolerated, accepted, even justified. While there should be no difference between the victims of violence, there is a macabre hierarchy for them – and despite everything.

When on September 19, 2019, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on “the importance of historical memory for the future of Europe,” condemning the crimes committed by the Nazi and Communist regimes, the Communist, and more broadly socialist-Marxist, press was indignant and denounced the “manipulation of history.” The text of the Resolution was described as “confusing,” “contradictory,” “unacceptable,” a “monument to relativism,” a “gross simplification of reality,” a “falsification” and “revisionism.”

According to these negationists, self-proclaimed “progressives,” there are good and bad victims: The amalgam between socialism-Marxism and national socialism must be censured and denounced – but the equivalence must be accepted and even recommended when it concerns Nazism and fascism. According to them, there is uniqueness in the case of fascism, but not in the case of communism. The facts do not matter. The Italian fascists caused between 600 and 700 casualties among the social-communist militants and suffered the same number of casualties in their own ranks.

The Mussolini regime executed 9 Slovenian terrorists from 1922 to 1940 and 17 more in 1943, when the civil war started. The number of political prisoners in fascist Italy never exceeded two thousand. The deadly record of Italian fascism is obviously light years different than that of Nazism. But the degree of bad faith, Manicheism, sectarianism and hatred by the communists and their socialist-Marxist fellow travelers is limitless.

Why should the obsession with leveling equality be any less morbid and mortifying than the mania for hierarchizing races? Why should class (or even religious) genocide be less condemnable when in fact it has been even more devastating and deadly than race genocide? These questions remain unanswered; and the pseudo-arguments and pretexts of the communists (“one cannot compare what is not comparable;” “one cannot put on the same level, in full equivalence, Nazism which is destructive, and communism which is regenerative;” “one cannot confuse Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky, Castro, Mao and Pol Pot”) only fool those who want to be fooled.

The Cultural Hegemony Of The PCF And Its Fellow Travelers: 1945-1968

The intellectual and academic circles of Western Europe have always been more or less under the sway of politics. But there is a gap between the usual partial and fragmentary influence and the vast enterprise of nucleation and cultural quasi-domination of Marxism during the years 1945-1989. In the case of France, the hold on cultural life of orthodox communist militants and sympathizers (themselves often manipulated by Soviet agents), and then of the various post-Soviet leftists, was (and let’s not mince our words) – major if not exceptional until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Moscow communism was only brought to coexist with Maoist, Trotskyite, Castro and libertarian communisms from 1965-1968. There were of course, from the aftermath of the Second World War, brilliant anti-communist or anti-Marxist figures, such as Raymond Aron, Thierry Maulnier, Bertrand de Jouvenel or Albert Camus; but for more than forty years the pluralism of French cultural life was, to use two euphemisms, “framed and limited.”

The Marxist or crypto-Marxist inquisitors watched over and locked down the debate. Whoever wanted to make a career in the world of letters or academia had to give pledges to Marxist thought, and above all to avoid clashing head-on with the powerful guardians of the camp of the good.

Examples abound of victims of Marxist and leftist censorship, who saw their intellectual or academic careers compromised, hindered and sometimes broken – the sociologist, Jules Monnerot, for having dissected the Marxist revolution and revealed its character as a secular religion (Sociologie du communisme, 1963); the political scientist, Julien Freund, for his defense of realism in politics (L’essence du politique, 1965): the sinologist, Simon Leys, for his unmasking of Maoism (Les habits neufs du président Mao, 1971); the political scientist, Gaston Bouthoul, for his study of the recurrence of the belligerent phenomenon and his criticism of traditional pacifism, which has become the worst enemy of peace (Lettre ouverte aux pacifistes, 1972); the writer, Jean Raspail, for having prophesied the wild and mass immigration (Le camp des saints, 1973); the historian, Pierre Chaunu, and the journalist, Georges Suffert, for having denounced, very early, the right to abortion and the demographic collapse of Europe (La peste blanche. Comment éviter le suicide de l’Occident, 1976); the historian, Reynald Sécher, for having published La Vendée-Vengé. Le génocide franco-français (1986)… and many others.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, censorship and control took on other forms; but the same deleterious intellectual mores were perpetuated by one-thought and political correctness. We cannot ignore the troubles and career difficulties of a host of academics, such as, the sociologist, Paul Yonnet, for having meticulously analyzed the causes of the French malaise (Voyage au centre du malaise français. L’antiracisme et le roman national, 1993); the specialist in slavery, Olivier Petré Grenouilleau, for having revealed the extent of the Eastern and intra-African slave trade, and not only the Western one (Les Traites négrières. Essai d’histoire globale, 2004); the medievalist Sylvain Gouguenheim, for destroying the myth of a West that would never have existed without Islam (Aristote au Mont-Saint-Michel, 2008), etc. The list of pariahs, banished and marginalized, intellectuals, academics or journalists, is long, very long.

The benevolence, indulgence, connivance and complicity of a large part of the Western cultural and media circles towards Marxist socialism and communist abominations are part of a tradition that is already more than a century old. “There are none so blind as those who do not want to see.” In the 1920s, the edifying testimonies of numerous exiles were known, especially of the hundreds of cultural and scientific personalities, banished, expelled and threatened with being shot, if they returned to the USSR at Lenin’s personal instigation.

These intellectuals, many of them among the most prominent of the Russian intelligentsia, such as Sergei Bulgakov, Nikolai Berdyaev, Nikolay Lossky, Ivan Ilyin, Georges Florovsky, Semyon Frank or Pitirim Sorokin, were not hostile to the revolution as the GPU claimed, but opposed Lenin’s extreme and violent approach. In particular, they reproached Lenin, and this was especially true of the members of the Committee for Aid to the Hungry, for not taking the necessary measures to curb the terrible famine of 1921-1922. Slander, defamation, silence or oblivion were the lot of these first victims of the Leninist purges who, no doubt because of their notoriety, escaped death in the concentration and forced labor camps, created by Trotsky and Lenin, as early as June and August 1918, to lock up “kulaks, priests, White Guards and other dubious elements.”

In 1935, Boris Souvarine published his biography of Stalin (Stalin, A Critical Survey of Bolshevism), which dismantled “in the name of socialism and communism” the lies of Soviet “pseudo-communism.” In 1936, Gide denounced, in his book, Return From the USSR, the vices and defects of a system that he had defended until then. The result – les Amis de l’Union soviétique (the Friends of the Soviet Union) declared him a traitor and an agent of the Gestapo.

Then, in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), there were the instructive testimonies of former communist political commissars, such as, Arthur Koestler, or former members of POUM (anti-Stalinist Marxist Unification Workers’ Party), such as, George Orwell; (the members of the POUM were anti-Stalinist Marxists and not “Trotskyists” according to the accusation of Stalinist propaganda), who had been persecuted and murdered by the torturers of “orthodox communism,” during the Spanish war, as had been anarchist leaders. Among these official Stalinists, the political commissar, Artur London (the future author of the book, The Confession, which Costa-Gavras would bring to the screen) had shown an unquestionable zeal in the persecution of “deviationists.” Ironically, he was also accused of being an “internal enemy” and “a Trotskyite” during the Prague trial (1952).

One of the main heads of Soviet military intelligence in Western Europe, Walter G. Krivitsky, who moved to the West in October 1937, also provided a particularly valuable testimony on the democratic fiction of the various Popular Fronts, the action of the Comintern in the West and its relationship with the GPU. He was violently attacked by the American and European left in 1939, when he published two books on Stalin’s methods (In Stalin’s Secret Service and I was Stalin’s Agent, 1940), and finally was reported to have committed a suicide, in a Washington hotel in 1941 (though most likely killed by soviet agents). The testimonies of communists, who had fled to the West, and those of ex-international brigadists, who had survived the Spanish War, followed one another at a rapid pace, but the reaction of the socialist-Marxist left was always the same – insults, shrugs, skepticism and visceral hostility. As for the intellectuals of the non-communist left, they were conspicuous by their absence.

The manipulation of history by the PCF and its fellow travelers was almost total for decades. The PCF had collaborated for almost two years with the German National Socialist regime (from August 23, 1939 to June 22, 1941) under the German-Soviet Pact (of August 23, 1939), which was finally broken only by the will of Germany.

The PCF mandated Denise Ginollin and Maurice Tréand (between June and August 1940), to negotiate with the German authorities the re-publication of the newspaper, L’Humanité and the legalization of the party. The secretary general of the PCF, Maurice Thorez (head of the party from 1930 to 1964), was condemned for desertion; he was exiled to Moscow on November 8, 1939, and was not to return to France until November 27, 1944, six months after the D-Day landings, and after having been amnestied by De Gaulle. But of this dark truth, nothing was said, nothing was known. Thorez was even presented by the PCF as a proven Resistance fighter, an authentic maverick. The PCF claimed to have called for resistance as early as July 10, 1940, and proclaimed itself the party of the “75,000 shot,” when in fact only 4,500 were shot, and not all of them were communists. The same PCF praised for years ad nauseam the alleged managerial qualities of communist mayors.

The Kravchenko affair broke out at the end of the 1940s, when this Soviet diplomat, who had taken refuge in the United States, published in France, J’ai choisi la liberté (1947) – I Chose Freedom: The Personal and Political Life of a Soviet Official, a book in which he made startling revelations about the collectivization of agriculture, the size of the Soviet Gulag camps, and the exploitation of prisoners as slaves. Described as a defector and deserter, Kravchenko was immediately denounced as a spy by the USSR, by the sister communist parties and by their numerous fellow travelers. The weekly Les lettres françaises, a newspaper close to the PCF, accused him of being a disinformer and an agent of the United States. This was followed by a defamation trial in which the Communists put so-called “character witnesses” on the stand, former Resistance fighters, such as, Frédéric Joliot-Curie and Emmanuel d’Astier de la Vigerie. Kravchenko finally won his case in 1949… but died of a bullet to the head in 1966.

Sartre And Beauvoir: Two Famous Fellow Travelers

After the Liberation, Jean-Paul Sartre, who had become a fellow traveler of the PCF and an intellectual icon of the Marxist left, managed to make people believe that he had escaped from a stalag. The reality, however, was far less glowing – he had been released, most likely through the personal intervention of Pierre Drieu la Rochelle. After his release, Sartre once again became a quiet teacher in Parisian high schools (Pasteur and then Condorcet). But neither he nor his companion, Simone de Beauvoir, were ever members of the Resistance. On the contrary, Sartre wrote at least two articles in the collaborationist magazine, Comoedia (in 1941 and 1944); and Beauvoir, who was dismissed by National Education for a sinister case of lesbianism whose victim was a young teenager, got a job at Radio-Vichy, where she delivered twelve broadcasts, in early 1944, shortly before the D-Day landings. But this secret was well kept. (See Jean-Pierre Besse and Claude Pennetier, La négociation secrète, 2006; Jean-Marc Berlière and Franck Liaigre, L’affaire Guy Môquet. Enquête sur une mystification officielle, 2009 and Liquider les traîtres. La face cachée du PCF (1941-1943), 2007; and Gilbert Joseph, Une si douce Occupation… Simone de Beauvoir et Jean-Paul Sartre (1940-1944), 1991 and Michel Onfray, Les consciences réfractaires, 2013).

At Sartre’s request, the manager of the magazine Les Temps modernes, Francis Jeanson, wrote a spiteful review of The Rebel by Albert Camus in 1952. Camus made the unforgivable mistake of attacking Marxist mythology by claiming to be a member of the anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist tradition. A servile opportunist, Sartre explained at that time: “Communism must be judged on its intentions and not on its acts.” On his return from the USSR in 1954, he asserted: “The Soviet citizen has…complete freedom of criticism.” He went even further, not hesitating to say during an interview for Les Temps modernes (1965): “Every anti-communist is a dog.” Admirer of the dictatorship of Fidel Castro at the beginning of the 1960s, he deviated from the Soviet line only to endorse the Maoist cause, after May 1968.

“Last but not least,” as the English say, this friend of the “suitcase carriers” [left-wing intellectuals and artists supporting and channeling funds to the FLN activists], and agents of the Algerian FLN, was among the “progressive” Parisian intellectuals who defended pedophilia in 1970. The libertarian, Michel Onfray, one of the few honest and courageous intellectuals of his generation, has listed the most prominent members of this group. In addition to the names of Jean-Paul Sartre and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, there were Louis Althusser, Louis Aragon, Roland Barthes, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Louis Bory, Pascal Bruckner, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Françoise Dolto, Jean-Pierre Faye, Alain Finkielkraut, André Glucksmann, Félix Guattari, Daniel Guérin, Guy Hocquenghem, Bernard Kouchner, Jack Lang, Jean-François Lyotard, Gabriel Maztneff, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Philippe Sollers, etc. (See Michel Onfray, La nef des fous. Des nouvelles du Bas-Empire, 2021).

Twenty years later (March 1990), invited to Bernard Pivot‘s program, Apostrophes, broadcast live on Antenne 2, Gabriel Matzneff presented, in front of a complaisant program director, one of his books relating his pedophile loves. The Canadian novelist Denise Bombardier was the only one to speak out on the set. She had to endure that day the sarcasm and mockery, and later the slander and conspiracy of silence of the cream of the Parisian intelligentsia. The pedophile epidemic, or fad, was then affecting the most unexpected circles on both the left and the right. The Church, which “promised eternal damnation to pedophiles,” was mocked and castigated. It had not yet made its complete aggiornamento. The “literary talent” and the “existential freedom” of “L’Ange Gabriel” (sic) (Maztneff), a worthy disciple of the Marquis de Sade and Gilles de Rais, was surprisingly appreciated and even admired by some of the principal theorists of the New Right.

Even a veiled criticism earned an impudent person the title of backward puritan, old-fashioned and frustrated. Fortunately, pedophilia was not “democratized” like drugs, but it would be no less than thirty years before the first cases of pedo-criminality, involving the French National Education system, the sports world and the Church, broke out. The Sauvé report on sexual abuse in the Church of France was not be published until October 2021. Olivier Duhamel, advisor to the presidents of the Constitutional Council, former member of the European Parliament of the PS, president of the National Foundation of Political Sciences and model hierarch of the French Republic, was only forced to resign in April 2021, after an investigation for rape and sexual assault on his minor stepson.

Sartre was accustomed to legitimizing ultra-violence – faithful in this to Vladimir Ilitch Lenin – but his companion, Simone de Beauvoir, was not to be outdone. Michel Onfray gives these few edifying words of the philosopher, in an anthology which deserve to be quoted in its entirety, these few edifying words of the philosopher: “Any revolution requires from those who undertake it the sacrifice of a generation, of a community.” And again: “One will sacrifice the men of today to those of tomorrow, because the present appears as the factor which it is necessary to transcend towards freedom.” (See Michel Onfray, Les consciences réfractaires. Contre-histoire de la philosophie t.9, 2013, p.374).

This is an era already long gone that could be considered as dead and buried, if a number of rabid and unyielding people did not still gloss over, not without explicit or implicit approval, the most vomitory remarks of the “Thénardier of philosophy.” To quote only one example, the communist, Alain Badiou, professor emeritus at the École normale supérieure, wrote not so long ago, thanks to the complacency of the newspaper, Le Monde, these words that one could believe to have come out of the pen of Fouquier-Tinville or Dzerzhinsky, but which are part of the pure Marxist rhetoric of characterization of the adversary: “And why on earth, if they are real enemies, would I be forbidden to insult them? To compare them to vultures, jackals, bitches, headless linnets, and even to rats, vipers, lecherous or not, even hyenas, typists or not?” (Le Monde, July 24, 2008).

Sartre did not fail, of course, to visit the leader of the German terrorist organization, the Red Army Faction, Andreas Baader (in 1972), nor to support the Khmer Rouge until their victory in 1975. Weakened and ill, he seemed to have finally become aware of the need to save all threatened lives, including those of his adversaries (the boat people) – but not long before he died.

Communists, Leftists And Other Useful Idiots: A Shared Hegemony

In the period following the events of May 1968, and despite the decline of the PCF, the hold of socialism-Marxism on people’s minds remained impressive. For the Catholic Church, since the early 1960s, it was no longer a question of anathema or condemnation of “real socialism” or communism, but only of dialogue and peace. The role of Pope John Paul II (and Lech Walesa’s Polish trade union Solidarnosc) was important if not decisive in the collapse of the communist system, but this should not hide the fact that a significant number of Catholic intellectuals eagerly accepted, and some even as early as 1936, the “helping hand” policy of the PCF. At the Liberation, the Resistance fighter, André Mandouze, (who later became actively involved with the Algerian FLN), called for “taking the outstretched hand of the Communists.” Emmanuel Mounier, founder of the monthly personalistic magazine Esprit, said in a July 1947 issue that he had agreed “to graft Christian hope onto the living areas of communist hope.”

A good number of Catholic fellow travelers found affinities in the humanitarianism of the PCF and the values of the Gospel. Liberation theology, which was very popular in South America, developed from 1968 onwards and withered away in the 1970s and 1980s, after the official warnings of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1984). But it has nevertheless formed or influenced many clerics and lay people in Europe, many of whom hold important positions in the Church today. From 1972 to 1989, the YCW (Young Catholic Workers) invited to its gatherings only “class” organizations (CGT and CFDT on the trade union level, PCF and PS on the political level). The membership of former YCW members in the PCF was massive. In November 1998, a former YCW activist was even elected head of the Jeunesses Communistes.

Thanks to the strong personality of John Paul II and the firm theological convictions of Benedict XVI, Rome condemned collaboration with the Communists to the end, thus giving the illusion of the Catholic Church’s capacity to resist any form of neo-paganism or immanent morality. But the degradation of Catholicism, which began in the late 1960s, has not been halted, nor has the agony of Christianity as a whole. In 2013, the pontificate of Francis most likely confirmed the marginalization of Catholicism and Christianity as a religion and most likely the end of Christianity as a civilization.

For more than 70 years, until the fall of the Berlin Wall, the testimonies about the political vices and the concentration camp universe of the communist countries did not stop accumulating. After Kravchenko, Souvarine, Koestler and Orwell, there were the clandestine notebooks of the Samizdat, Milovan Djilas with The New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System (1957), Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn with The Gulag Archipelago (1973), and then Sakharov, Bukovsky, Kovalev, Zinoviev, Voinovich, Grossman, etc., and the criticism of totalitarianism by the French “new philosophers” (authors mostly from the Maoist left, such as, Alain Finkielkraut, André Glucksmann, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Pascal Bruckner, Christian Jambet, Guy Lardreau, Jean-Paul Dollé, Gilles Susong, etc.).

From 1975 onwards, the reports of Vietnamese, Chinese, Cambodian and Laotian victims unreservedly denounced the terror, the crimes, the concentration camps, the forced labor and re-education camps. So many irrefutable testimonies, invariably considered suspect, worthless or false by so many pseudo “virtuous consciences,” the supposed guarantors of democracy and “human rights.” To tell the truth about the communist system was seen as playing into the hands of the right, to be an accomplice of fascism. The true or disguised fellow travelers sometimes admitted, in due lip-service, that communism had killed “tens or hundreds of thousands of people, even millions.” But this was not so serious, since it was in the name of “democratic values” and “the happiness of humanity.” After all, the inspiration was generous; and in any case, death of counter-revolutionaries or fascists was a legitimate sacrifice.

In the 1990s, after the dismantling of the USSR, the Soviet archives made available to researchers did not fail to meet serious resistance. According to the Trotskyite historian, Jean-Jacques Marie, long proclaimed “specialist on the USSR,” these Moscow archives had to be “taken with a grain of salt;” they contained only “imaginary revelations,” and could “be used for anything.” Another example is Stephen Koch’s book, Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Münzenberg, and the Seduction of the Intellectuals, published in 1993.(Its French title is, La fin de l’innocence. Les intellectuels d’Occident et la tentation stalinienne. 30 ans de guerre secrète, 1994). This book was significantly reviewed in Le Monde by the journalist Michel Tatu (“Le prétexte Münzenberg”, 20 October 1995). Koch highlighted the major role of the Soviet spy, Willi Münzenberg, and that of his illustrious recruits, in the unprecedented and formidably effective campaign of Communist manipulation that affected all Western intellectual circles until the end of the 1960s. But his book had a crippling flaw – it insisted on the degree of dependence and submission of the various Popular Fronts to Moscow, particularly in the case of the mythical Spanish Popular Front.

From 1981 to 1995, the two presidential terms of François Mitterrand were marked by various economic-financial scandals, but also by several political-cultural polemics that deserve to be recalled here because of their ideological background. The four communist ministers of Mitterrand obviously had only a symbolic place and role, but the cultural ascendancy exercised by Marxist socialism was of a completely different magnitude. A very large number of Socialist Party cadres had been trained in extreme left-wing parties (PCF, PSU or leftist movements). The lack of police zeal under the various socialist governments to put an end to Action Direct terrorism (1979-1987) cannot be explained otherwise.

The beginning of the 1990s was marked by two political-judicial cases – that of the communist Georges Bourdarel and that of the leftist Cesare Battisti. During the Indochina War, Bourdarel had joined the ranks of Ho Chi Minh’s Vietminh and had become a political commissar in Prison Camp No. 113.

According to the numerous testimonies of survivors of this concentration camp reserved for soldiers, he was guilty of torturing French soldiers. The historian Bruno Riondel, recalls in an edifying work, L’effroyable vérité. Communisme, un siècle de tragédies et de complicités (2020), that 278 of the 320 prisoners in the camp, that this French communist directed, died as a result of the treatment they were subjected to.

Bourdarel lived in the USSR and finally returned to France in 1966, under General de Gaulle’s amnesty law of June 18, 1966. Bourdarel was appointed assistant professor at the University of Paris VII, then promoted to senior lecturer and researcher at the CNRS. Several of his former victims (including a former Secretary of State for Veterans) recognized Bourdarel and filed a complaint in court. This was followed by a media-political campaign in his favor, with the support of some forty academics. Not surprisingly, the complaint against him was rejected, including by the European Court of Justice, because of the amnesty law. The Court of Appeals also ruled that the concept of crimes against humanity, as defined by the International Tribunal of Nuremberg, can only be applied to the events of the Second World War.

At the same time (under Mitterrand and Chirac), Cesare Battisti, ex-member of the group, “Prolétaires armés pour le communisme” (“Armed Proletarians for Communism”), and about 300 other Italian far-left terrorists, were given protection by the French government. Battisti was wanted by the Italian judiciary for committing several assassinations, but extradition was periodically denied, despite the fact that Italy is an EU country. Battisti was complacently portrayed by the mainstream media as a “man of letters,” and was supported, among others, personally by Mrs. Mitterrand, who did not hide her fondness for Fidel Castro’s dictatorship.

This wide political and journalistic network asked for Cesare Battisti “the indulgence due to the purity of his cause.” Thus, for fourteen years (1990-2004), he was able to enjoy, for ideological reasons, the protection of the authorities. His escape to Mexico was even facilitated by the French secret services. Protected in Brazil by President Lula, he was extradited to Italy after Bolsonaro came to power. On March 25, 2019, after admitting his responsibility in four assassinations, he declared before the Italian justice “to have deceived the intellectuals and politicians of the left who supported him.” No comment!

Another highly significant fact: under the impetus of two right-wing men, the president of the Republic Jacques Chirac and the president of the National Assembly Philippe Séguin, on December 5, 1996, on the occasion of the vote for an amendment to a finance law, the French deputies voted unanimously, minus one abstention, for an amendment granting “combatant status” to “Frenchmen who took an effective part in fighting alongside the Spanish Republican Army between July 17, 1936 and February 27, 1939.” One detail does not seem to have troubled them: the International Brigades, to which these Frenchmen belonged, had been created on Stalin’s express orders. The so-called “volunteers of freedom” or “of democracy” were in fact a real army of Stalin in Spain. The vast majority were members of the Communist Party, and the minority were “fellow travelers” belonging to left-wing parties.

From 1994, the new masters of the daily, Le Monde, a “progressive” newspaper called “the leading newspaper,” were Alain Minc, Jean-Marie Colombani and Edwy Plenel. Minc had the reputation of being an opportunist, a businessman and a globalist (he supported, in turn, Mitterrand, Balladur, Jospin, Bayrou, Sarkozy, Juppé and Macron). Jean-Marie Colombani, a socialist, supported Lionel Jospin and Ségolène Royale in the presidential elections. As for Plenel, former editor of the Trotskyite militant magazine Rouge, who became a journalist at Le Monde, he was known and well-regarded for his investigations and his methods similar to those used by a police informant. This journalist “with deep Trotskyist roots” (according to Colombani), was editorial director of Le Monde from 1996 to 2004.

In 2003, the accusations made by Pierre Péan and Philippe Cohen in their book La face cachée du Monde: du contrepouvoir aux abus de pouvoir (2003), led to a crisis for the daily newspaper and the end of this Troika. At the turn of the 21st century, the drift of the French left finally led to a real ideological fracture. In the years 2005-2010, the Islamo-leftism of Plenel and his friends – a strange combination of anti-capitalist radicalism, rejection of traditional secularism, praise for the dominant-dominated/exploited logic, hatred of French identity, Islamophilia and anti-Semitism (anti-Zionism being here only its cover) – constituted the main bridge between the Trotskyists and the political supporters of Islam.

The Polemics Around The Black Book Of Communism

In 1997, nine years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and three years after the new editorial board of Le Monde, Le livre noire du communisme. Crimes, terreur, repression (The Black Book of Communism) was published. This book, brought out by a group of academics, most of them from the extreme left, intended to take stock of the crimes of communism.

In his introduction, the author, Stéphane Courtois, gives a figure approaching 100 million deaths; and, in a direct attack on all conventionalism, makes a “polemical” comparison between the macabre counts of communism and Nazism.

The press of the left and the extreme left was indignant and protested. The Quinzaine littéraire of the former Trotskyite, Maurice Nadeau, L’Humanité of the PCF and Rouge of the Trotskyite theoretician, Daniel Bensaïd, were at the forefront. But they were also backed up by Le Monde and its subsidiary Le Monde diplomatique, where the pen of the communist, Gilles Perrault, was furious.

The historians who went to war against Le livre noir were all Marxist militants or ex-militants, such as, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, ex-member of the PSU, Annette Wieviorka, ex-Maoist, Annie Lacroix Riz, Jean-Jacques Becker, as well as, Madeleine Rebérioux, Marxist-Leninists, Jean-Jacques Marie, Pierre Broué, Alain Brossat, Denis Berger, Trotskyists or Trotskytizers, along with the American, Arch Getty, a pro-Stalinist revisionist (an avowed admirer of the works of the advocate of restalinization, Iuri Zhuykov, who is in the tradition of Western apologists for Stalin, such as, E. H. Carr, Joseph E. Davies, Grover Furr, Domenico Losurdo, Michael Parenti or Paul Robeson). The abnormal reactions of these negationist authors have been faithfully and usefully reproduced by Pierre Rigoulot and Ilios Yannakakis in their book, Un pavé dans l’Histoire. Le débat français dur Le livre noir du communisme (1998).

Unusually, Lionel Jospin, then Mitterrand’s socialist prime minister, with a well-known Trotskyist past, felt obliged to intervene personally in this debate in the National Assembly, thus flying to the aid of the communists, attacked by the right. On November 12, 1997, Jospin did not hesitate to proclaim “the” official version of history: “For me, communism is part of the Cartel of the Left, of the Popular Front, of the struggles of the Resistance… It has never infringed on freedoms… It is represented in my government and I am proud of it.”

Jospin was thus quick to bury the debate. The fault was to be found exclusively with Stalin, nor with Marxist socialism, nor with communism, and certainly not with French communists. It doesn’t matter what the reality is, what the objective facts are. The negationist reflex is always the same – to discredit the adversary; one can then blather on about intentions to make people dream.

Pierre Daix, a member of the Resistance, who was deported to Mauthausen, former editor-in-chief of Les lettres françaises and former deputy director of the Communist daily Ce soir, showed uncommon honesty and courage in his preface, written for the French-speaking public in 1963, to Solzhenitsyn’s book A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch. “Let me say it right away,” he wrote, “there is no difference in nature for me between the camp of Ivan Denisovich and an average Nazi camp…” Horror is horror!

Taking the measure of the hostility evoked by Le livre noir, frozen and stunned by the virulence of the polemics, nearly half of the authors tried to distance themselves more or less from the main author of the work, Stéphane Courtois. One of them, Nicolas Werth, declared in Le Monde in 2000: “The more one compares communism and Nazism, the more the differences jump out.” Rather, let us paraphrase him: the more we compare them, the more obvious their analogies become.

But despite the socialist-Marxist fury and slander, the success of Le livre noir has not waned. It was enormous, having been translated into twenty-six languages and sold more than a million copies. The communists and their fellow travelers tried in vain to light counterfires, successively publishing two improvised works, the first of which was a botched job, Le livre noir du capitalisme (1998) and Le siècle des communismes (2000). The sales of both books were marginal, if not negligible, compared to those of Le livre noir. Finally, in 2002, a new collective work, entitled, Du Passé, faisons table rase! Histoire et mémoire du communisme en Europe (Let’s Wipe the Slate Clean: History and Memory of Communism in Europe), published under the direction of Stéphane Courtois, completed and extended the analyses of Le livre noir. In the preface to this book, Stéphane Courtois recalled the controversies that arose when Le livre noir was published and responded at length to its detractors.

Revolutionary Europe At The Beginning Of The 20th Century

The twentieth century is undoubtedly the time of the bloodiest international wars in modern history. An era of world wars, but also, for Europe, of the greatest internal or intrastate conflict; that of an overwhelming series of revolutions, riots, insurrections and civil wars. (See, Stanley Payne, Civil War in Europe (1905-1949), 2011). This succession of dramatic events began, between 1905 and 1911, with the Russian revolution of 1905, the Romanian peasant revolution of 1907, the Greek military coup of 1909 (a sort of counterpart to the Young Turks’ revolution of 1908), the Portuguese revolution of 1910, and the two Mexican and Chinese revolutions (from 1910 to 1911).

Many other insurrections or revolutionary civil wars occurred afterwards – in Russia in 1917 and in Finland in 1918; but also in many other countries, such as, Hungary (1919), Poland (1919-1921), Latvia (1917), Portugal (1919), Estonia (with a coup attempt led by the Comintern, in 1924), and Germany, where communist and revolutionary socialist riots and insurrections broke out from 1918 to 1923, and were severely repressed by Friedrich Ebert, a moderate social democrat, Chancellor and later President of the Weimar Republic. Again, Mexico (in 1922) and China (in 1927) must be mentioned, and of course Spain (with the socialist insurrection of 1934 and the military coup of 1936 followed by three years of civil war).

During World War II and immediately after the end of the conflict, three other countries experienced bloody civil wars: Yugoslavia (with the struggle between Tito’s Partisans and Mihailovic’s Chetniks, from 1941 to 1944), Italy (1943-1945) and Greece (1944-1949). Adopting a broader perspective, authors as diverse as Eric Hobsbawn, François Furet, Ernst Nolte and Enzo Traverso have come to use the concept of European civil war to refer to the entire 1914-1945 era.

Finally, during the Cold War (1945-1989), insurrections broke out in many Third World countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Angola, Mozambique, Biafra, Uganda, Rwanda, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen, Chad, etc. Of all these “developing” countries, Castro’s revolution and dictatorship were among the least bloody, with approximately 10,000 victims for a population of 7 million (although this is only true if we exclude the number of deaths during military interventions in Africa and the number of exiles and refugees who disappeared at sea, which, according to the specialist Rudolph J. Rummel, could be over 77,000).

In Europe, the deadliest civil wars of the first half of the 20th century were in Finland and Greece, at least in proportion to the population. The Finnish socialists were the first socialists in Europe to launch a revolutionary insurrection against a democratically elected government, in 1918. The Spanish socialists were the second to do so, in 1934. In Finland, a country of 3.7 million people with a parliamentary and democratic regime, 36,000 people died in three and a half months of civil war (9,700 leftists were executed and 13,400 died in prison camps). In Greece, a country of 7.5 million inhabitants, in five years of civil war (1946-1949) 120,000 people died. In Spain, a country of 25 million inhabitants, in three years of civil war, there were approximately 300,000 deaths (150,000 died in combat or were murdered in the rear guard, in each of the two camps), to which must be added approximately 20,000 judicial and extrajudicial executions of left-wing militants between 1939 and 1942 (Socialist-Marxist historians put the number of executions carried out by Franco’s regime at 114,000 to 130,000, while their opponents estimate the figure at 25,000 to 33,000.

According to the most recent rigorous study by Miguel Platón, between 1939 and 1960, there were 24,949 death sentences, of which 12,851 were commuted and 12,100 were executed, a figure from which it is necessary to subtract the executions of common criminals and add the extrajudicial executions of the spring and summer of 1939, for a total of approximately 14,000. This frightening figure does not need to be exaggerated to reflect the scale of the repression that followed the victory of the national camp. Nevertheless, it remains light years away from the massacres committed by the National Socialist and Socialist-Marxist regimes).

The Soviet “Model” And Its Grim Record

Of all these revolutions and civil wars, the case of Russia remains the most emblematic. The bibliography on the events of 1917 is immense, but it is much more limited on the civil war. Two of the best works on the subject are those of Vladimir Brovkin, Behind the Front Lines of the Civil War: Political Parties and Social Movements in Russia (1918-1922), published in 1994, and Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924. We should also mention the book by the American Stanley Payne, Civil War in Europe (2010), and the works of four other historians: the socialist Marc Ferro (October 1917: A Social History of the Russian Revolution), the liberal, ex-communist Alain Besançon (Les Origines intellectuelles du léninisme, 1977), the conservative Richard Pipes (The Russian Revolution, 1905-1917), and the European nationalist, Dominique Venner (Les Blancs et les Rouges, Histoire de la guerre civile russe 1917-1921, 1997).

In 1917, the Russian autocracy was a dying regime even before it was attacked. The terrible mistakes of the Tsarina and Tsar Nicholas II, the sulphureous reputation of Rasputin, the dithering of the ministers, the incompetence of the various governments, the deterioration of the social and economic situation, the crisis of supplies and the terrible losses of the army (2,500,000 dead in two and a half years of war against Germany) were all skillfully exploited by the reformist and revolutionary opposition. On the eve of the revolution, everyone conspired against the regime – the revolutionary movements, of course, the Social Revolutionary Party (S.R.), advocating the populist and peasant uprising, and the Social Democratic Party, representing the Marxist tendency; but, also, the liberal monarchists, the republicans and the moderate socialists. As for the army, it was singularly divided.

The February Revolution of 1917 was a military uprising, grafted onto proletarian movements of limited importance, but skillfully exploited by the revolutionary minority. The day after the abdication of the Tsar, on March 15, 1917, the liberals and moderate socialists formed a provisional government, most of whose members were Freemasons. These men had no idea of the tide that was about to sweep them away. At their head, the revolutionary socialist, Alexander Kerensky, played a pitiful role. The majority of the army cadres welcomed the abdication of the Tsar, if not favorably, at least passively, as if it were a weight off their shoulders. Almost all the future leaders of the white armies, Kornilov, Alexeiev, Denikin, Kolchak, Kaledin, etc. were hostile to monarchic restoration. Totally discredited by the last years of the reign of Nicholas II, the monarchy had no really determined and unreserved defender.

The Bolsheviks (the majority and extremist faction of the social-democratic party), were able to set up an efficient and well-branched-out clandestine organization in the army and in the main industrial centers. In February 1917, they had only 24,000 members; but between April and October 1917, they recruited a considerable number of militants (300,000) and became masters of the country. However, this figure is only relatively significant when compared to the 170 million inhabitants. In fact, it is even proportionally smaller than that of the Spanish CP in July 1936 and that of many other communist parties in later periods.

On October 25, 1917, Lenin, Trotsky and their supporters launched a putsch or armed uprising in Petrograd against Kerensky’s provisional government, which they officially declared dissolved the next day. In the November 1917 elections, which had been planned before the October coup and which Lenin did not dare to suspend, the Bolsheviks obtained only 24% of the votes and were largely defeated. Lenin then decided to dissolve the democratically elected Assembly. On January 19, the Red Guards expelled the deputies manu militari and forbade them to enter the building.

The Bolshevik coup d’état and war-communism, whose foundations were laid by Lenin in the spring of 1918, were the two direct causes of the Russian civil war. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, signed in March 1918, between Germany and revolutionary Russia, was by far the most decisive “foreign intervention” insofar as it gave a second wind to the Bolshevik regime, enabling it to mobilize troops for the civil war. Unlike the Reds, the Whites had no political unity. They included all the opponents of Bolshevism, from the extreme monarchist right, which was in a very small minority, to the socialist-revolutionaries, as well as the republican conservatives, the Great Russian nationalists and the Cossack autonomists.

Unlike the Bolsheviks, the Whites had no worldview, no system of ideas, no powerful project, no mobilizing myth. They are very divided about the future of Russia. Two examples. First, the agrarian problem; while it conditioned the support of the peasantry (85% of the population), the Whites did not provide any solution. They should have supported the mass of small farmers to the detriment of the big landowners; but they do not do so. Second, the Whites should have supported nationalisms. But, blind, they sank into the reactionary defense of “Great Russia, one and indivisible.” Facing them, Trotsky and Stalin, undoubtedly the most important Bolshevik leaders, knew how to mobilize and put military specialists at the service of the revolution, and especially in much greater numbers than the counter-revolutionaries.

The human cost of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia is known today. Scientific estimates of the death toll caused by the dictatorship of the Communist Party since 1917, excluding the enormous losses of the Second World War, leave no room for doubt. The death toll from the first phase of collectivism alone, implemented by Lenin, assisted by Trotsky, from September to October 2018, is 10-15,000. In two months, the Cheka and the Bolsheviks executed three to four times as many people as the Spanish Inquisition did in three and a half centuries (2,500 to 5,000 deaths between 1478 and 1834), and two to three times as many as the Tsarist regime did in ninety-two years (four to six thousand deaths between 1825 and 1917). For the pre-Stalin period alone (1917-1921), the death toll is between 500,000 to 3,000,000.

The Communists and their fellow travelers maintain that there were at most one to three million deaths and only under Stalin. But according to the Soviet demographer Maksudov, the regime-change in Russia led to 27.5 million victims from 1918 to 1958.

In light of the archives of the former USSR, the Russian historian Volkogonov gives a total death toll of 35 million. Robert Conquest speaks of 40 million; Zbigniev Brzezinski of 50 million; Rudolph Rummel of 62 million. The demographer Kouganov and the president of the Commission for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression, Alexander Yakovlev, put forward an even more terrifying overall figure: 66 million dead. According to the most modest estimate, used by most Western historians, there were no less than 15 to 20 million deaths, a figure far exceeded by Mao’s China (40 to 68 million deaths according to Jean-Louis Margolin).

The World Balance-Sheet Of Socialism-Marxism

Stéphane Courtois summarizes the voluminous work that is Le livre noir in a particularly striking introductory chapter. He gives a first result which is nothing more than “a minimal approximation.” The death toll of communism is staggering: USSR 20 million, China 65 million, Vietnam 1 million, North Korea 2 million, Cambodia 2 million, Eastern Europe 1 million, Latin America 150,000, Africa 1.7 million, Afghanistan 1.5 million; the total approaches 100 million.

We knew almost everything about communism or Marxist socialism from the beginning, since the October Revolution of 1917, everything about the crimes, repression and horrors unleashed by the socialist-Marxist ideology. We knew that the criminal practices, that the “class genocide” was the consequence of the perversity of its ideology, of the morbidity of its leveling obsession. It was known that the Soviet concentration camps were an invention of Trotsky’s, and it was known that Stalin, and later Mao, had only taken up and continued the work where Lenin had left it. It was known that the essence of “real socialism,” of Marxist socialism, was cold terror, applied in a meticulous, almost scientific way. It was known, in short, that crime was at the heart of the theory and practice of “scientific socialism.”

But there still remains a need to be informed and to admit the horror. The most terrible criminal enterprise in history was aided and abetted to the end by a large part of the Western political and cultural elite. The responsibility and guilt of the latter are undeniable.

Unsurprisingly, the European people most immune to the socialist-Marxist ideology and system are those who have suffered from it for so many years, such as Hungary, Poland, the Baltic States, etc. But their leaders are, after all, no more critical than Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the Plenary Session of the 18th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club (22.10.2021), Putin said unambiguously:

“The advocates of so-called ‘social progress’ believe they are introducing humanity to some kind of a new and better consciousness. Godspeed, hoist the flags as we say, go right ahead. The only thing that I want to say now is that their prescriptions are not new at all. It may come as a surprise to some people, but Russia has been there already. After the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks, relying on the dogmas of Marx and Engels, also said that they would change existing ways and customs and not just political and economic ones, but the very notion of human morality and the foundations of a healthy society. The destruction of age-old values, religion and relations between people, up to and including the total rejection of family (we had that, too), encouragement to inform on loved ones – all this was proclaimed progress and, by the way, was widely supported around the world back then and was quite fashionable, same as today. By the way, the Bolsheviks were absolutely intolerant of opinions other than theirs. This, I believe, should call to mind some of what we are witnessing now. Looking at what is happening in a number of Western countries, we are amazed to see the domestic practices, which we, fortunately, have left, I hope, in the distant past. The fight for equality and against discrimination has turned into aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity, when the works of the great authors of the past – such as Shakespeare – are no longer taught at schools or universities, because their ideas are believed to be backward. The classics are declared backward and ignorant of the importance of gender or race. In Hollywood memos are distributed about proper storytelling and how many characters of what colour or gender should be in a movie. This is even worse than the agitprop department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.”

We would like to hear sometime a Western leader express himself in this way on this subject.

Such cruelty, inhumanity and sectarian blindness – despite a century of irrefutable testimony and the atrocious record of historical research – is truly appalling. It is said that there are places of memory. But there are also privileged places of lies, manipulation and hate. “What serves the revolution is moral,” Lenin used to say. The historian, journalist and former trade union leader at the CFDT, Jacques Julliard, once declared: “To see the last Marxists in this country taking refuge in a morality of intention will remain, for those who like to laugh, one of the jokes of this end of the century.”

For my part, in the face of the denials of the communists, their social-marxist fellow travelers and other “useful idiots,” and in the face of their offenses against the memory of so many millions of victims, I am reminded of two funny lines from the film, Shawshank Redemption. Banker Andy Dufresne, sentenced to twenty years in prison for murder, meets his future friend Red for the first time in the yard of Shawshank prison. When Red asks him, “Why did you do it? Andy replies, “I didn’t do it, if you must know,” and Red jokingly replies, “You’ll like it here, everyone is innocent.”

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. This article is translated from the French by N. Dass.

The featured image shows the Khmer Rouge killing babies at the infamous “killing tree.” A painting by Vann Nath, ca. 1990s.

Europe Is Not A Nation. The Union Is Not A State: An Interview With Ryszard Legutko

Should the European Parliament exist? What is the ultimate purpose of the supranational structure known as the “European Union?” The philosopher and statesman, Ryszard Legutko tackles these questions with elegant clarity and razor-sharp wit.

Ryszard Legutko is a member of the European Parliament. He is the author of The Demon in Democracy, Society as a Department Store: Critical Reflections on the Liberal State, and, most recently, The Cunning of Freedom.

The conversation that follows, with the journalist Karol Gac, first appeared in the Polish weekly, Dorzeczy (November 7, 2021). We are so very pleased to present this first English translation.

Karol Gac (KG): In which direction, in your opinion, is the European Union heading?

Ryszard Legutko (RL): It’s heading toward oligarchy that is being created by European institutions and the strongest West European countries. And since Europe is dominated by the Left, this oligarchy is united by leftist ideology, aiming at radical restructuring of European societies. While it is true that the powerful states do not necessarily want to dissolve into this European mass, nevertheless they strengthen European structures because through them they pursue their interests. For example, those structures are used by Germany, which for historical reasons cannot impose itself too much with its political power; or by France, which dreams of French leadership in Europe; or smaller countries, such as, the Netherlands and Belgium, which want to strengthen their position in this way. The oligarchy that is emerging is therefore particularly dangerous – it is ruled by the powerful group of a few countries, which use institutions to seize powers not conferred upon them by treaties, and impose an extremely harmful ideology.

KG: Are we witnessing a Hamiltonian moment and an attempt to build a European superstate?

RL: For the European Union, any opportunity is good to advance centralization. It seemed that the poor response to the pandemic would discredit the EU institutions; yet these institutions took advantage of the pandemic by creating programs for a reconstruction fund and a common debt, which is, of course, another step towards centralization. They immediately claimed for themselves jurisdiction over who gets the funds and who does not. This may be a Hamiltonian moment, but it is important to remember that this trend has been going on for a long time.

Ryszard Legutko in the European Parliament.

KG: Given this, isn’t the dispute over the primacy of law fundamental?

RL: Of course, it is. In Polish history we have repeatedly stood up for freedom. It is no different now, when we oppose the new despotism that the European oligarchy is trying to impose on the rest. The primacy of European law is a relatively new invention. In the past, this concept appeared in rulings of the CJEU [Court of Justice of European Union], but it was just the judges’ hypercreativity. We know the judges cannot make law. The law is enshrined in the treaties; and there is not a word in them about the primacy of European law. Pulling the general principle of the primacy of European law out of the hat now is the most ordinary political sleight of hand and proof that violating the Treaties with impunity has already become an everyday practice in the European Union.

It is characteristic that in the European Parliament, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, did not even try to justify her position, when she responded to the speech of Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki. And she did not use any arguments, because no such arguments exist. If they did exist, we would be constantly reminded of them. So, what von der Leyen was left with were threats! That is why Poland can’t back down on this issue. If we give in, in the face of obvious lawlessness, it will be tantamount to surrendering power over Poland to Brussels and its superiors.

KG: However, observing the recent disputes with Brussels, one can come to a conclusion that the EU institutions are acting according to the principle, “What can you really do to us?” We seem to be pointing out that there is no basis for this in the treaties, but these things happen. The law of the stronger?

RL: Definitely. The European Commission, supported by Parliament and unopposed by the major political players, has introduced an unmitigated heavy-headedness into European politics. Actually, the signs of it had been visible before, but the official signal was given by Jean-Claude Juncker when he described the Commission as a “political” institution – if political, then engaging in political conflicts and power struggles. Previously, the Commission was something like a secretariat that prepared projects for implementation. It seemed that von der Leyen would break away from the Juncker model; but she did not. Another institution that does a lot of bad things is the European Parliament, previously derided as decorative. Well, that has changed. It is now a politically rampant institution, controlled by the Left and, as the Left does, it wants to build a brave new world. The despicable role is played by the European People’s Party – the largest group in the European Parliament – which has long since abandoned its Christian-democratic identity. Its leader, Manfred Weber, has made it into a lickspittle dragoon of the left, directing all its energy to fighting the remnants of the political Right.

KG: It seems that the European Union has been at a crossroads for several years. Perhaps the main reason for the Union’s crisis is simply a crisis of its institutions?

RL: The main source of the EU crisis is the European Union itself. Its rulers do not draw conclusions from what is happening. The reaction after Brexit was characteristic; when instead of decreasing the intrusiveness of interference in the affairs of member states, they increased it. Why is this so? The Union contains fundamental structural errors. The most detrimental to the Union is the principle of an ever-closer union. This slogan means that the regulations and laws that have been written down are actually provisional and that their violation and stretching can be tolerated, provided that it serves the purpose of greater federalization and integration. This of course results in contempt for the law, as we see in the Court of Justice of the EU. It is a political institution where government appointees use the law to deepen the centralization of the union. The judges of the CJEU behave politically and their rulings are sometimes completely bizarre and expose their political agenda.

Here is an example. Hungary sued the European Parliament over the activation of Article 7. The issue was that twelve hours before the vote, we received instructions from the Bureau of the European Parliament that abstentions would not be counted, which was a clear violation of the Treaty. The Treaty explicitly stipulates that in the case of votes on Article 7, all votes cast count. So, it seemed that the Hungarians had to win. However, the CJEU ruled that the abstentions could be considered as votes not cast. This is sophistry of the most shameless kind. With such an attitude to the law, it is difficult to gain respect for the European judges and treat the CJEU as a bastion of the rule of law.

Another structural error of the Union is that its institutions are not accountable to the electorate. Who are the commissioners? They are people parachuted in by governments and approved not individually, but as the European Commission in its entirety by the European Parliament. They have no responsibility because they are not accountable to any electorate. Being not accountable to their voters, they can ignore; but they are rather soft-spoken when it comes to confronting the powers that be. Who is Vera Jourova, a Czech commissioner, a figure who emerged out of nowhere, and what legitimacy does she have to threaten and bully the Polish government? An institution acting in this way must sooner or later degenerate, and this is happening before our very eyes. As for the European Parliament, it should not exist at all. The Union is not a state and Europe is not a nation.

KG: All the more so since the European Parliament was created on the assumption that there is a European demos. Meanwhile, we know perfectly well that it does not exist, because there are many nations in Europe.

RL: We have a completely bizarre situation in which 650 MEPs (out of about 700) are deciding on Polish affairs, but they are not accountable to the Polish electorate. The whole idea of parliamentarianism is that the representatives are accountable to the voters; and here we have zero accountability. That is why the European Parliament has degenerated the fastest and the most spectacularly. It is an unbalanced chamber with no respect for rules, including those of decency. The creators of the Union, if they acted in good faith, assumed that the European institutions would self-limit; but they did not create any effective mechanisms that would force those institutions to do so. The art of system building lies, among other things, in creating means to inhibit the natural tendency of institutions to grow, to increase their power, to create pathologies. To cure the Union of its ills, a fundamental reform is needed.

KG: We have the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council. What is the point of having so many EU institutions if, at the end of the day, it turns out that decisions are taken either in Berlin or within a narrow circle, in a rather non-transparent procedure?

RL: This is another of the structural flaws of the European Union. There are at least three power structures in the EU. The first is what is enshrined in the treaties. The second is the real power structure. Germany is the dominant power because it is the strongest country; and no matter what we write into the treaties, that power is not invalidated. It is simply a fact. The system enshrined in the treaties cannot therefore operate in isolation from the real system of power; and this makes the decision-making process unclear and arbitrary. And then there is a third power structure that goes beyond the EU but is very much embedded in it, namely, ideological power.

The Euro-enthusiasts like to repeat the slogan that the EU is unity in diversity. Nothing can be further from the truth. There is no diversity in the Union. There is one ideological model established by the Left; its consequence being the growing despotism. Consequently, the people who are thriving in the Union are former communists. For them, it is like their second youth. Look, for example, at the former communists, once Poland’s prime ministers, who are now MPs. The EU probably brings to their minds the memories of the good old days of proletarian internationalism and the alliance of brotherly parties. In addition to the old communists, there is, of course, the new left with their gender ideology. All this makes the EU a somber place. Unfortunately, Poland and Europe are dominated by a mystified image of the EU, where its dark side is ignored. We won’t learn about this side from professors of European studies, because they either don’t know or don’t want to know how the EU works – and what they do is not far from ordinary propaganda.

KG: Assuming that the EU will continue in the current direction, is this project tenable?

RL: Everything is tenable for a while. The question is, for how long? Many people want the EU to continue its existence, not least because of its demoralizing nature. We can imagine a person entering – forever, as he hopes – into this large, complex system, receiving a very good salary, being fed with the ideology that he is working for a better Europe, or pretends cynically that that he is doing it. But such a person is not quite representative of the current mood. There is growing discontent among citizens, mainly in Western Europe. No wonder that a lot of us expect that the political forces that criticize the EU will come to power and stop the current trend. Until there is a political counterweight to the ruling oligarchy in the EU, the process will unfortunately continue. If a few relatively conservative and sovereign governments were to be formed, the situation could improve. If not, the dissatisfaction will grow and take various forms, also more violent than now.

KG: And maybe this counterbalance will be created by Poland? Some time ago the Law and Justice Party gave an impetus to create an international alliance of right-wing forces.

RL: Those who want more oligarchy in the EU (including the European Parliament and the European Commission) launched a big project called the “Conference on the Future of Europe,” which is a preparation for the next federation leap. There must be a response from those who oppose it. In the West European countries, a large part of the citizens, who look critically at the EU, do not have sufficiently influential political representation, and their voice is eliminated from the public sphere. That is why East European countries, like Poland, have a role to play.

KG: When joining the EU, many people thought it was a gentlemen’s club, where there was a community of values, and decisions were made together. Maybe Poland perceived and still sometimes perceives certain things too naively, and we have just received lessons in realpolitik?

RL: That is indeed how we thought about the EU, although the EU was never such a club. But previously, in the ECC, there was a relative political balance, which today has been replaced by monopoly, and there was also a partial ideological balance, which has been replaced by mono-ideology. Let us not forget that as a result of the educational collapse, European elites today represent a very low intellectual level and are effectively grouped together. The old Europe that we longed for under communism is as alien to the European Union as vegetarianism is to cannibals. The experience of the Union has also given us the opportunity to get to know ourselves better. The emergence of a group of compatriots who do not want the sovereignty of Poland must be shocking. Not many years have passed since the fall of communism, and still 1/3 of Poland prefers to be governed by someone from outside. It is a very dangerous signal. If these proportions were different, it would be easier for Poland to take a leading role and act more boldly in Europe and create a broader sovereignist and reformist front in the EU.

The Resurrection Of Christian Ireland?

As the world watches Dune, another of Frank Herbert’s novels might better anticipate some of the most important changes in Ireland’s religious landscape. The White Plague, Herbert’s novel of the Northern Ireland troubles, imagines a rogue scientist unleashing a virus that radically reshapes western societies – and, in Ireland, provokes radical religious change. As quarantines are imposed, and mobility is radically restricted, characters revive older forms of religious practice that make sense of a chaotic world.

Read during a pandemic, The White Plague is eerily prescient. In Ireland, successive lockdowns, which closed county and even national borders, have been accompanied by increasingly stringent controls on religious practice, and improvised responses. As politicians debate what constitutes an essential public service, few voices have been heard in defense of the importance of the religious communities that for centuries defined what it meant to be Irish. North of the border, where religious politics are still raw, the devolved administration in Belfast carefully encouraged churches to impose their own restrictions on worship. But south of the border, the Dublin government forcibly closed churches, forbidding baptisms and celebrations of the mass – which, critics of the government have not been slow to note, was a suppression of Catholic practice comparable only to that imposed by Oliver Cromwell.

The Dublin government’s refusal to recognize the importance of Christian worship is the latest symptom of Ireland’s sudden-onset secularization. The old Ireland – in which 2.5 million people turned out to see Pope John-Paul II during his 1979 visit – is now almost impossible to imagine. Since the mid-1990s, alongside a sequence of revelations of clerical abuse that seemed only ever to grow in horror, a raft of legislative changes have led to the decriminalization of same-sex sexual activity and divorce, the legalization of abortion and the introduction of same-sex marriage.

While recent census returns suggest that almost 78% of the republic’s citizen’s continue to identify as Catholic, the open-air mass led by Pope Francis, during his visit to Dublin in 2018, was an embarrassing disappointment to its organisers, attracting only around one-tenth of the number of those who had attended the Dublin mass that had been led by John-Paul II. Recent research by the Iona Institute has shown how lockdowns have led to a dramatic decline in mass attendance – suggesting that only one quarter of those who regularly attended mass before the pandemic now continue to do so.

So, while retaining some vestige of Catholic identity, Ireland has become one of the most progressive and secular countries in Europe. And the government’s response to Covid has both highlighted and accelerated this tendency – while also accelerating the development of new religious trends.

For there is another Ireland, which is re-inventing the idea of Christian tradition, as it resists these efforts to throw off traditional Christian teaching. The Catholic Church may be losing numbers, as its wider cultural influence collapses, but there still exists a large number of people who are determined to support claims about the relationship of church and state from which the church itself has moved away. In 2018, for example, the state held a referendum on its blasphemy laws. None of the Christian churches argued that these laws should be retained. The Irish Catholic Bishops Conference described the laws as “obsolete,” and did not support their retention. But over 35% – that is, over half a million – voters backed the retention of the constitutional ban on blasphemy, including 48% of voters in Donegal.

These religious traditionalists represents another “hidden Ireland,” a culture that the mainstream media cannot see and therefore regards as irrelevant. Operating outside the mainstream, these traditionalists are the victims of another partitioning of Ireland, the boundaries of which are marked out by Covid passes, lockdowns, and those unfashionable parts of the island that can be forgotten in the media mainstream.

For, outside the Pale, religious communities are improvising. Looking for clear leadership, some of the most traditionally minded Catholics are drifting to support smaller religious and political movements that clearly articulate their grievances and are able to coordinate their response. Many evangelical protestants, always less churchly and open to innovation, have responded to lockdowns by breaking congregations into smaller units, while others have simply decided to ignore government restrictions and to continue to meet as normal. But neither of these communities are obviously growing.

It might only be among the Orthodox that we can see signs of new life. For the Orthodox churches are growing – largely as a result of immigration from Ethiopia, Eritrea, and central and eastern Europe, but also as a result of conversions. The baptism, last winter, into the Romanian Orthodox Church of the environmentalist and novelist Paul Kingsnorth – an embrace of Christian religion that he recently described in the prominent Catholic journal, “First Things” – suggests that at least some of those conversions may not be intra-denominational transfers.

Frank Herbert’s The White Plague reminds us that religious practice is always changing – and suggests that it might be too soon to pronounce the death of Christian Ireland.

Crawford Gribben teaches at Queen’s University Belfast and is the author of several books on Irish, British and American religious history. His most recent book is The Rise and Fall of Christian Ireland.

The featured shows, “Pilgrims to Clonmacnoise Cross,” by Francis William Topham; watercolor, ca. 1845.

The Importance Of Being Monarchical, or How To Temper Democracy

In the mid-1980s, the middle-aged English philosopher, editor of The Salisbury Review, wrote a column in the London Times, in which he noticed that the Austrian throne is empty and pointed to Otto von Habsburg who could fill the void. To some readers, even if they happened to be British subjects, his idea, I suspect, must have appeared facetious. However, Roger Scruton, the author of the column, who was knighted by Prince Charles in 2016, was a serious man. What others thought could be a joke, to Sir Roger was a serious matter. He spent his life defending and giving fresh meaning to what the progressives consider outrageous only because it is old or appears obsolete.

To be sure, the defense of monarchy in an environment in which democracy is thought of as divine, sounds like a sign of madness. Yet nowadays when democracy is performing very poorly and almost every week provides more and more evidence that discredits it, perhaps it is time to rethink our uncritical attitude to it.

On October 9, this year, the Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, announced that he would resign, after prosecutors began an investigation into allegations that he used public money to pay off pollsters and journalists for favorable coverage. Eight days earlier, on October 1st, the premier of Australia’s New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, “stepped down over a probe into her secret relationship with a lawmaker who is being investigated for corruption.” And on September 30th, former French President, Nikolas Sarkozy, was sentenced to one year for illegal campaign financing. All three scandals happened within less than two weeks.

This is not all. Remember the arch-popular Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva? In July 2017, he was convicted on corruption charges to 10 years in prison. In 2016, the world learned about the so-called “Panama papers.” It was discovered that over one hundred world leaders had offshore accounts to evade paying taxes.

Among them was Oxford-educated “philosopher king,” Abdullah II, of Jordan, who purchased three Malibu properties with the help of offshore companies for $68 million, in the years after the Arab Spring, when his subjects protested against corruption. But kings are kings and have always been in the habit of ripping-off their subjects – something which partisans of the popular government promised democracy would put an end to. Apparently, one does not have to be a king; enough to be a democratic head of state to do what corrupt kings do. The Panama papers include two British Prime ministers – Tony Blair and David Cameron – the Premier of the Czech Republic, several people associated with the Clinton Foundation, and many more.

The USA – the bedrock of democracy – is not a place to look for honest politicians, either. In fact, the US is infested with dishonest politicians, many of whom rot in prison, put there by their electors. In Baltimore, where I resided for almost 15 years, all three mayors during my residence there had to step down on corruption charges. In 2014, Bob McDonnell, the governor of the neighboring state of Virginia, and his wife, Maureen, were indicted on federal corruption charges; so was the governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich (who was sentenced to 14 years in prison), as well as three other governors of the same State.

If you still believe that democracy is a solution to the problem of corrupt government, you’d better read Plato’s Republic or Gorgias, or buy a lantern and, like Diogenes in Athens who tried to find an honest man, look for an honest civil servant who puts the good of those who elected him before self-interest. Many of those who believe democracy to be the best confuse commitment to democracy with commitment to simple human honesty and decency. Unfortunately, when it comes to honesty, democracy does not score higher than other regimes and is likely to continue being the source of frustration to those who put their faith in the people.

The list of corrupted democratic politicians will continue to grow in; and this is not a question of probability but certainty. Democracy, it needs to be stressed, provides more transparency than any other system; it may have eliminated the arbitrary brutal use of physical violence by the politicians, which means that we no longer need to be afraid of living under autocrats like generals Pinochet or Franco and shah Reza Pahlavi, or African political gangsters, like Paul Biya of Cameroon, president since 1982, who exploit and abuse their people. However, as thirst for blood among democratic leaders goes unsatisfied, they instead turn filling their pockets and deceive the naïve public that they serve. That is why the system is not working very well.

An army of naïve political scientists and commentators write books for the believers in popular government on “how to save democracy.” The journalists of the Washington Post lie to the public that “democracy dies in darkness,” while supporting corrupt Left-wing politicians. Social activists, on the other hand, scream louder and louder that the only way to save democracy is to expand it even further. The last suggestion is the surest way to corrupt even more people. Absolute power may corrupt absolutely, but any amount of power will also corrupt – which means that allowing more people to govern will also corrupt a greater number of them. In recent decades democracy started looking like a place where everyone could enrich himself. The careless get caught; others get away; and ordinary people get no share in the big pie.

Thomas Jefferson was an idealist who, as we learn from his letter to J. Langdon, 1810, thought that hereditary monarchs were “all body and no mind,” who can do nothing but mischief. But he was also a realist who knew that the only way to make democracy work is, as he explained it John Adams in a letter of October 28, 1813, to find natural aristocrats to rule over the rest: “The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society… May we not even say that that form of government is the best which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government.”

That was two hundred and eight years ago. Today we can say that Jefferson was mistaken. The democratic environment, which tends to grow and destroy non-democratic elements around it, is fundamentally hostile to creating conditions in which aristocratic virtues can grow. Rather, the opposite is the case – under the influence of democracy even royals succumb to the democratic malaise. It happened to Prince Harry who has recently left the confines of Windsor Castle to settle down in democratic America. So far, the news for the lovers of monarchy is not good. Instead of transplanting aristocratic virtues to America, Prince Harry has become a celebrity. He began his life in the New World by whining on Oprah Winfrey’s show how miserable it is to be a royal and how nasty other royals can be. If you are emotional, you can even feel sorry for him – he is presented as a man who suffered greatly under the heavy yoke of the aristocratic code.

We should not be surprised, however, why democracy suffers from malaise. The political consequence of the decline of aristocratic order was described by the English poet and literary critic, Matthew Arnold. In his essay “On Democracy” (1879), Arnold saw what Jefferson (most likely because his dislike for hereditary aristocracy deprived him of objectivity) missed. He points out that there where aristocracy does not exist, ordinary people are deprived of the ideal that can ennoble them. Where are the Washingtons, Hamiltons and Madisons today? Arnold exclaims in his essay, pointing to the fact that American democracy is unable to regrow the greatness which one found in the generation raised when America was part of the British Crown. What grew instead was the power of the State.

Arnold, it seems, was right, which is testified by the language used in democratic countries. “The most powerful man in the world,” and “the most powerful woman in the world” (as Americans refer to the President and the First Lady); or “the most powerful country in the world” – all are part of everyday journalistic vocabulary in America. (Even the presence of the omnipotent Xi Jing Ping at the same dinner table is unable to change this democratic perception).

It would be wrong to think that such expressions mean that Americans are self-obsessed. Rather, they point to what Matthew Arnold predicted must happen. When a country lost its highest class which “dictated the tone for the nation,” the nation tended to augment the power of the State to see it as dignified and great. However, this democratic jive is not peculiar to America. It can be found in France, another country in which democracy, too, took very deep roots. The President of the Republic acts and looks (especially during the swearing in ceremony) like a secular king, anointed by the people. His residence, the Presidential Palace, just like the White House, reminds you of royal residence.

This is not so in Great Britain. 10 Downing Street looks like an unpretentious townhouse which you see all over London or Baltimore; and it was so even at the end of the 19th century when the British ruled over one fourth of the globe. British Prime Ministers behave like “civil servants.” The reason is simple: Prime ministers in a constitutional monarchy have someone above them, which is a reminder that the power of the people has limits. Whatever a Prime Minister may think of his great talents, the existence of the monarch, even if only symbolic, has a tempering effect on the Prime Minister’s ego. That is why we can’t imagine someone like Donald Trump as British Prime Minister. Were it to happen, I suspect that the British would likely choose to live under a real, not symbolic, monarchy.

Monarchies are a common heritage of all those who look for the cultural roots of Europe. The British monarchy is not the only one in Europe. Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Monaco and Norway are monarchies, too (the Bulgarian king Simeon lives in Spain). But the British monarchy is the most visible and its well-being should matter to everyone. It is the most powerful symbol of the old order which is obsolete only to those who put faith in a system that is far from being ideal. For this defective system to work for the common good we need to be very vigilant. The proclivity for corruption of the managers of this system is (or should be) all too obvious and given the fact how often these managers of democracy are charged with financial impropriety, one may wonder whether any constitutional monarch would survive if he was so often implicated in corruption scandals.

However, what should worry us more than financial scandals are the totalitarian tendencies which democracies developed in the last several decades. Monarchy is a place where a nation finds the continuity of its tradition while totalitarian regimes erase all traces of the past. Democracies today are in the process of doing just that. Changes in the language so that it mirrors an egalitarian worldview, destruction of monuments, changes in educational curricula, forcing us to accept the idea that sex is a matter of choice are the most visible signs of the break with tradition. However, why that is the case should not surprise us. The past and human relationships tell us that reality is hierarchical. Hierarchy is what the progressive egalitarians are against. The past stands in their way to claim absolute power.

There is only one other institution which is like monarchy: it is the Papacy in which the Catholics, regardless of their nationality, find the continuity of their tradition. In one respect, the Papacy is an even more powerful symbol than monarchy – it is older than any single dynasty, and it includes our Greek and Roman heritage, while the monarchy is national. To be sure, not all popes were saints. Only a few of them lived a life which would lead anyone to heaven. But saintliness of life applies to individuals, while tradition is group behavior. When it is based on high ideals, tradition translates into noble behavior of a group, which we call a nation. The function of tradition is to provide us with signs that lead us in this life. Without clear signs on how to behave, nations are lost. They become demoralized and are in danger of indulging in monstrous behavior.

The monarchy will last as long as the royals behave like royals. This is what they owe us — ordinary people. We do not need royals who act like celebrities; we need the aristocracy to ennoble us, take us to a higher level. Once royals act like the commons, the monarchy will vanish; and when that happens, the future will likely, once again, belong to nationalist democracies turned totalitarian. As 20th century experience teaches us, democracies tend to collapse in times of crises and generate hard-core dictatorships, outside of which there is no source of values except ideology.

Mr. Trump acted like those mad kings described by Thomas Jefferson in his letter. But the problem with Jefferson’s argument against monarchy, which is the only one he formulated, is that one can always dethrone a mad ruler and replace him with a sane one. However, it is impossible to dethrone a population seized by egalitarian madness, enticed by populist demagogues who speak like Mussolini or Hitler. Seeing Greta Thunberg on the throne of Sweden would be something truly terrifying. We can only hope that the Swedish king, Carl Gustaf, will continue to rule with dignity, as he has done for many decades, and that monarchies will survive to save us from mad populists and democratic egalitarians.

Zbigniew Janowski is the author of several books on 17th century philosophy, as well as, Homo Americanus: The Rise of Totalitarian Democracy in America and is the editor of John Stuart Mill’s writings.

The featured image shows, “The Coronation of Queen Victoria in Westminster Abbey 28 June 1838,” by Sir George Hayter; painted in 1838.

A Plea For Heterogeneity

Upon reading Professor Legutko’s comments in last month’s issue of The Postil, I was reminded of the apophthegm of the Danish polymath Poul Hennigsen, “Democracy can only be measured by the existence of an opposition.” Prof. Legutko notes correctly that audi alteram partem no longer really holds true. His experiences in communist Poland of course serve as a stern warning to what happens when no opposition is allowed.

To avoid misunderstanding though, opposition for the sake of opposition is a nihilistic pursuit (he correctly notes that “the problem of the opposition is a tricky one”), it must be rooted in the separation and balance of governmental and societal powers. This can be seen for example in the 1936 Soviet constitution – at first glance it, along with those which it inspired in Soviet satellite states seemed quite progressive for their day and age. There was however no division of power; all power resided with the Party, hence the “rights” enshrined therein had no practical currency and no notion of civic society (outside of Party institutions) was permitted.

He notes further that “the danger of homogeneity has been looming over Europe and America for several centuries.” One might even say that for Europe this ideal hearkens at least as far back as Diocletian’s “Edict on Maximum Prices,” issued in the beginning of the fourth century AD.

Here though, one must distinguish clearly between the ideals of “homogeneity,” or rather “mass conformity” – this is of course nothing else than the notion of consensus, the foundation of any social contract, taken to an extreme – in “Europe” and “America.” The European homogenetical – “ism” – experiments (nationalism, communism, fascism, etc.) are for better or worse fundamentally rooted in continental European culture and history. The material philosophy of Marx, heavily influenced as he was by the Young Hegelians, for example, is firmly rooted in the tradition of Continental Philosophy. Anglo-Saxon and thus American culture and philosophy took a different path – one might say that Britannia became part of the Roman Empire too late and left too soon or that the Anglo-American thassalocracy took a different road.

The movement to which Prof. Legutko alludes with his remark “at that time, it never occurred to me that the Western world may produce a society and a state of mind where the opposition as a permanent constituent of political and social life may disappear or become unwelcome” is essentially an Anglo-American import to Europe. In Great Britain and the United States, the above-mentioned “-isms” never really took could take hold, except among some immigrant groups such as the “German Workers’ Educational Society” in London. The reception of Marx in the English-speaking world was always quite distinct from the Continental tradition – Latin America, firmly rooted culturally in Europe followed this path to some extent, too.

By this I by no means wish to claim that Albion and its American parcener do not belong to the “Abendland,” but that rather it took a different path. The West, a marriage of Hellenistic and Christian idea(l)s under the Roman imperial umbrella produced a division of power which mediated between the temporal and the eternal.

The Church always remained separate from the Roman state, which had formerly prosecuted it, because while Christians were willing to accept the worldly authority of Rome, they refused to accept its supernatural authority (e.g. divine emperors). This was historically speaking a rather unique set of affairs, combatted by some (Caesaropapism), and disposed with in the Middle Eastern parts of the Empire with the rise of Islam (Judaism, i.e., Judean religion after the loss of its state, left politics to the [non-Jewish] states in which they lived and concentrated on religious matters). Much of Western history and politics since then has been establishing a modus vivendi betwixt Church and State, a balanced division of power.

So, as has been pointed out by, among others, Remy Brague, the Church secularised the medieaval state by assigning to it a domain of its own, keeping the peace. We forget that “secularisation” (like indeed philosophy) was not in its inception anti-ecclesiastical; it was initiated by the Church and from the 11th century on, it strove to “laicise” the political power by taking away from it all initiative in spiritual matters. This, however, states were never eager to do, given that, for their part, they dreamt only of sacrality.

In the Early Modern Period, after the Thirty Years War and the Counter-Reformation – it is not a coincidence that the borders between Catholicism and Protestantism, excluding the flanks such as Poland and Ireland and cuius regio, eius religio notwithstanding, roughly equate those of the Roman Empire – political stability now being ensured by the principles of Westphalian sovereignty, the new protestant states recalibrated the politico-religious balance in that the secular head of state was also the head of the national church. Furthermore, in Protestantism, the notion of the individual (originally formulated by St Augustine to theologically explain the Trinity) played a crucial role in the economy of salvation. This was especially true in England during the Protectorate (or Interregnum) under Cromwell.

What we though see roughly after, let us say, 1648, are two different approaches to reduce the sacral authority of the Church(es) – one culminating in the French Revolution, the other in the Foundation of the American Republic. Where the French sought to create a secular republic on the ruins of the tyrannous Catholic Church, America founded by the Pilgrim Fathers and their Congregationalist Churches in New England, soon overtaken by Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians, followed in turn by Pentecostalists, Restorationists and others, including native creations such as Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, denied the State any role in matters religious – as Thomas Jefferson, by no count a religious fanatic, noted: “Pure rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg” (Notes on the State of Virginia Query XVII). The uniqueness of America must be seen in light of the “Pilgrim” Fathers (cf. Hebrews 11:13–16) and the other Dissenters who pilgrimed to the new Promised Land, each with their own Heilsgeschichte.

As Ian Buruma has noted, “American Protestantism favour(ed) histrionic emotion over superior learning and democracy over authoritarianism, but it was also a brand of individualism that tolerated inequality as long as men were free to compete for ‘the good things of the world;’” that is, the “honest pursuit of prosperity.” This was also noted by de Tocqueville during his travels to America in the early nineteenth century; the pursuit of material success and the hope of salvation in the world to come were not distinct, but rather closely linked.

Furthermore, de Tocqueville noted that, unlike in post-revolutionary France, “for the Americans the ideas of Christianity and liberty are so completely mingled that it is almost impossible to get them to conceive of the one without the other.” The Catholic Norman nobleman visited the United States during what is known as the Second Great Awakening, and he saw in the puritan ethics the underlying principle of American society. While these on the one hand enabled the building of a civil society, which in turn led to stable democratic institutions, there was also an aspect which worried him, a survivor of the French excesses – namely, a disturbing social conformity and the lack of distinction between public and private life. “The same people, who insisted on their individual rights as citizens of a democratic republic, were capable of inflicting horrible violence on others on the basis of their sexual practices or simply the color of their skin.” The excesses, such as the Salem Witch Trials, are well known. But on the whole one must say that the American experience was much less violent and bloody than the successive revolutionary excesses which plagued Europe.

It is not my goal to pass judgement here, just to note that the Christian Puritan ethics are part of the cultural DNA of the United States and make it quite distinct from Europe. It is also the reason why neither European socialism or communism could ever really make any inroads – they are too antithetical. American secularism, in which the sacred became an individual affair, produced a new dynamic between individual prosperity and social responsibility – the two poles or tension fields between which American culture and society oscillates.

From this, to oversimplify matters for the sake of brevity, morphed for example two diametrically opposing movements: those of the “Social Gospel” and the “Prosperity Gospel,” which are actually but two sides of the same American coin. Both, true to the Puritan ideal and postmillennial theology, enshrining in an egalitarian fashion a fluid transition between private and public; personal holiness and public engagement strove to create an ideal society based on their respective constituent salvific histories – the one opposed to capitalism, the other avowing it. These diametrically opposed poles, however, basically form the basis of civic society and represent the societal division of power in the United States, where European notions of “right” and “left” are inappropriate – but never in terms of Hegelian dialectic, as in Europe, since a real synthesis could not emerge.

Due to this polarity America could emerge as a great nation, the majority of the population including large numbers of immigrants, could settle somewhere between the two extremes, usually along the imaginary equator, mainstream America. Over the years, decades and centuries, the pendulum moved back and forth, seemingly endowed with some uncanny instinct, continually recalibrating, understanding which pole was most seasonal to the present needs and national interest. This equilibrium slowly became unbalanced after the Second World War, culminating in the 1960s when social issues were once and for all politically transformed into moral problems, as both poles tried to immanentize the eschaton, each with their respective (holy) “Wars on…” – and then becoming metamorphosed into respectively the “New Left” and the “Neocons.”

Slowly, the political division of power enshrined in the Constitution, written by enlightened cynics (in Europe such tended to be authored by idealists) began to be eroded inter alia by primaries, plea-bargains, and an activist legal culture espoused by both groups. Both poles, though developed and evolved, remain true to their puritan ideals of public and private holiness, seeing the world as being comprised of the good (the elect) and the evil (the other). The respective elect, of course victims of persecution, strive in a merciless combat against evil, each supported with their own salvific history. With regard to the latter, we see that “fake news” and conspiracy theories are not a recent phenomenon in America and hearken back to the various salvific understandings of history, espoused by the dissenter settlers in New England. So, for example, both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump claim that an election was ‘stolen’ from them; the former due to alleged foreign influence; the latter due to mail-in ballots. Each group lives in its own alternate reality.

The point which I wish to make clear here is that we have here the two faces of Janus – one cannot exist without the other – the New Left, or Wokes and the Neocons or neoliberals. The term “woke,” etymologically related to “Awaking” (in its American religious sense), is but one indicator of the intrinsic religiosity of both. In any case, such culture wars are not new to the United States, nor is this present one more severe than previous ones. They come and go like wildfires, leaving behind “burnt-over districts.” The one strives religiously for an unbridled market as a means to prosperity for all – the elect succeed; those who fail have only themselves to blame. The other sees injustice everywhere and proposes a theology of redemption based on perceived victimhood and public confession of “sins” (hence, self-abasing Prince Harry bemoaning his ‘white privilege’ on Oprah. In many ways he seems to wish to resemble Hester Prynne in Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter). What has changed though, and this is rightly noted by Professor Legutko, is that they have become an export product, waging their endless struggle overseas.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that after the end of the Cold War, no new world order, such as after previous conflicts (Treaty of Westphalia, Vienna Congress, League of Nations, united Nations) was established – instead another a postmillennial manifestation of the “End of History illusion” (originally a premillennial notion formulated in St Augustine’s City of God) gained currency. Secondly, the rise of the internet and social media – which have reinvigorated the Puritan fluidity of public and private. An often-heard cynic quip in Eastern Europe is that if the KGB, Stasi or the Służba Bezpieczeństwa had had social media, such as Facebook, the Iron Curtain would still be in place.

This misses the point – if such states had invented it, probably no one would have used them. We do not have some totalitarian mastermind at work here; rather the digital incarnation of the Puritan ideal – no secrets, yea even having secrets is a sin. Both the wokes and the neocons espouse “transparency” (as well as compliancy and best practice in an absolute moral sense) as an arbitrary instrument to be employed by their respective witch hunters. Jefferson’s point (see above) is now construed as “powers extend to all acts as are seen to be injurious by others” – i.e., mass conformity and mob rule redivivus.

The new digital dimension means that sins can now be hunted down regardless of time and place, when and where they may have occurred. As with Hawthorne’s Reverend Dimmesdale, past injustices must not be forgotten, for they influence the present. Here there can be no freedom, no notion of liberty. We are condemned to our past, without hope of a future. By contrast, “among democratic nations,” as de Tocqueville pointed out, “each new generation is a new people.”

Europe (and indeed the rest of the world) is faced with this double alien onslaught. On the one hand, traditional social market economy and welfare states are deemed protective and uncompetitive. On the other, autochthonous European cultures are viewed as intrinsically racist, heteronormative and transphobic. Now that Europe seems to have created a peaceful modus vivendi for ethnic minorities (without fighting over borders or ethnic cleansing), the concept of new self-declared
“historically victimised” minorities has been imported, much to the detriment of received notions of civic society.

These twin American ideologies, exported via the internet, seem to have taken hold in Great Britain, among Cromwell’s heirs, and in those countries which share long-standing historical and cultural ties with the Anglo-American world, such as, the Netherlands. But also Germany, which since the Second World War, has been politically and economically aligned with the United States – the traditional Anti-a\Americanism of the classical German left and right (e.g. Heidegger’s warning about “Amerikanismus” (Martin Heidegger: Hölderlins Hymne ‚Der Ister‘, GA 53, S. 68) has all but disappeared – while remaining culturally attached to Europe, limping in two minds as it were (much to the dismay of the French), is increasingly feeling the strain.

But this too applies to Eastern Europe, where English supplanted Russian as the first foreign language – in countries which have traditionally been more sceptical to Perfidious Albion, such as France, stubborn resistance can be seen – the notion of “laicity,” by which the Catholic Church fares rather well, is the antithesis of Puritanism. Hence, it is no coincidence that European countries, which boldly ascribe to neo-liberalism, also have a thriving woke culture, or vice-versa, even if markets and victims have to be invented to lie in the American-made Procrustean double-bed.

This admittedly brief exposé, may the reader forgive the author for painting a canvas with very broad strokes, is not to criticise Professor Legutko’s fine analysis of the present European situation, but rather to render a more precise diagnosis of the symptoms. Yes, we are faced with a new homogeneity, but it is a quite different beast; the ghosts of the past have not come back to haunt us. Homogeneity, as the biblical tale of the Tower of Babel teaches us, is that when the whole world is of one language and one speech – succumbing to hubris, we strive to be gods but succeed only in losing our humanity.

Professor Dr. Robert M. Kerr studied Classics and Semitics largely in Vancouver, Tübingen and Leyden. He is currently director of the Inârah Institute, for research on Early Islamic History and the Qur’an in Saarbrücken (Germany).

The featured image shows, “Embarkation of the Pilgrims,” by Robert Walter Weir; painted in 1857.

Contra Merkel – The Climate Argument

With Angela “Mutti” Merkel’s coming resignation, a minor industry of (capital-L) Legacy “valedictory” salutes has come out of the woodwork. Who knew she was owed so many favours? In any case, a politician’s legacy is rarely decided during or immediately after her tenure – history’s sweep is long and unforgiving of all but the best propaganda.

Needless to say, Merkel’s career is far from over – she now graduates to that coveted elder statesman role – and will likely be following her old friend and fellow European Council member António Guterres (now UNSG) to lead some international body. In the interest of the polemic, however, such a candy-floss maquillage campaign should not be allowed to stand unchallenged – Merkel’s record is full of things to criticize, from her dawdling “strategic patience” to her worrying Ostpolitik with Moscow.

Lesser criticisms of Merkel’s tenure would focus on the migration crisis during which she allowed the indiscriminate entry of a 7-figure amount of mainly men of fighting age. Her Jupiterian command of other countries’ governments (and their budgets) during the Euro crisis is another focus of criticism. The details make for worse reading: censorship of sex crimes committed by migrants, the defenestration of Silvio Berlusconi and his Merkel-selected replacement. The blatant disregard for Greek democracy.

There are certainly better grounds to assail her record from: Merkel’s inability to bring Germany’s armed forces up to scratch remains a huge unaccomplished objective which can only really be explained by malice at this point – the consensus is that incompetence doesn’t explain any of her record, after all. Her forays into 4th generation warfare as a replacement (in Libya but especially in Ukraine) have met nothing but humiliation.

I do want to focus on one particularly rich vein of criticism of our beloved Ang – her failure to keep Germany’s climate commitments. The same Germany that was selling emissions-cheating cars to the rest of the world (including, especially, China, but I’ll allow a better pen than mine to cover Angela’s red tendencies) leads the industrialized laggards on decarbonization – all the while installing an unbelievably wasteful amount of solar and wind generation capacity. Breaking the famously efficient Energiewende, the grid now peaks at the wrong time and doesn’t have anywhere near the storage capacity necessary to make the most of the times the renewable generators do peak.

Much like Japan, Germany’s overreaction to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi meltdown resulted in political force being applied against the German nuclear industry, shuttering down perfectly safe (and clean!) base load generators that would end up replaced by much dirtier fossil fuel generation. Worse, a generation of nuclear talent – the most specialized kind of workforce you can imagine – has been wasted just when we need to roll out miniaturized nuclear reactors all over the world to rapidly decarbonize the world’s base power load.

That is certainly one regret I hope Merkel dedicates the rest of her career to ameliorating. It is clearly too early to be considering her legacy – Her multiple failed succession plans, from Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, through Ursula Von Der Leyen and now Laschet’s second-place finish in the election are just as much part of her record as taking credit for Mario Draghi’s good work at the ECB. I’d certainly hope our Kanzlerin will consider the lesser institutions of the international order, like the IAEA, where she can still try to make up for her Schulde in both energy policy and her beloved Iran.

This moment is valedictory for Merkel only in the sense that one graduates from the Gymnasium to the Universität. Her work is not done.

Felipe Cuello is Professor of Public Policy at the Pontifical university in Santo Domingo. He remains an operative of the Republican Party in the United States, where he served in both the Trump campaigns as well as the transition team of 2016/17 in a substantive foreign policy role. His past service includes the United Nations’ internal think tank, the International Maritime Organization, The European Union’s development-aid arm, and the office of a Brexiteer Member of the European Parliament previous to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. He is also the co-author and voice of the audiobook of Trump’s World: Geo Deus released in January 2020, back when discussing substance and principles were the order of the day.

The featured image shows a postcard of Angela Merkel.

Marc Fumaroli: Between War And Peace

There are men whose very appearance makes them sturdy and dazzling; at times sober, at times flambotant; who say everything and justify everything, like a crusader’s armor or a bishop’s paramour. Marc Fumaroli (1932-2020) was one such man. His attire was always impeccable: three-piece suit from Arnys, club tie, velour jacket. He went with the old buildings, the silks and the tapestries, belonging to the altar as well as the throne. If elegance, the last marker of civilization, was to put forward its man, both a great academic and an eminent man of letters, then it could be none other than he, among the great Frenchmen of our time.

One does not need to be a great soul to see that the world of the university is a cesspool, made up of people who have sacrificed everything to it. If they succeed, it’s because they had an idea once long ago, which they keep recycling for years on end, and rest on comfortable academic laurels. Their bourgeois conformity outweighs their worldliness, and if they dare to think, it is often sideways.

There are however some great names, some beautiful figures, who have understood everything, acquired everything, conquered everything. “Fuma” had the insolent lightness to float in the honors, to hold a bibliography as a work; and this way to be a library addict and to give thanks and account with measure; to arrive at fascinating ideas, the whole formulated by admirable syntheses, handled with panache. His Excellency Fumaroli was of those breed of lords, if I may say so, to which Albert Thibaudet, Julien Benda, Claude-Levi Strauss, Roger Caillois or Paul Valéry belonged; these people of letters with superior intelligence, extensive science, profound erudition, and substantial traits that we lack.

The work of Marc Fumaroli is abundant but concentrated around a beautiful unity: the Europe of letters, ideas and spirit. It would be too long to elaborate it in detail, but let us note the importance that his Eminence gave to the Republic of Letters and the circulation of ideas, from the humanists to the 18th century salon; to this Europe that spoke and wrote in French. In the field of rhetoric, of which he held the chair at the Collège de France, the master was interested in its modern leanings and in the reception of Greek and Roman rhetoric in the Grand Siècle, mastered and studied earlier by Professor Laurent Pernot; hence the remarkable pages devoted to the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns.

Above all, Fumaroli was a literary historian who devoted part of his research to the history of the French language, to the institution of the language and to the way in which France became aware of the greatness and the supreme and precious good of its language. Hence the genius of the French language, the lavish allegory, and the Académie française. The notion of taste animated in a particular way the work of this prince of letters, with all its variations, the nuances between the style and the sensitivity. One might see finally, in the twilight, an old man rehearsing the correspondence between the arts, passing from literature to painting, from poetry to sculpture, declaiming his love for Watteau and Fragonard; the last refuge, if it is such, of beauty and elegance.

Fumaroli was of the Right. That is understood. Liberal, he was close to Raymond Aron; conscious of the inequality among men; vindictive towards egalitarianism. The cultural state he never forgave, and yet incisive as a cut of knife on steak he hinted at a theory of the free arts and the freedoms in the most priceless of art, right in front of the sad passions of the sinister Jack Lang, from the cultural to the sewer.

Nationalist and sovereigntist, Fumaroli was hardly any of that. Deducing that custom is better than reform, he was conservative. Reactionary, he conceived the love of the glorious past and of the monarchies of the Ancien Régime, nostalgic of the big and beautiful Europe, of the books, of the thought, of the great names.

His sharp pen, shielded under some corduroy and tweed canvases, could be acidic, even malicious. When a socialist circular sought to impose the feminization of the names of professions in French, he could refrain from irony and brilliant wit: “notairesse (“notaryess”), mairesse (“mayoress”), doctoresse (“doctoress”), chefesse (“chefess”)… rhyme importunately with fesse (butt), borgnesse (“one-eyed woman”) and drôlesse (“hussy”), only very distantly evoking a duchess. Let’s choose between recteuse (“rectoress”), rectrices “rectrix”) and rectale (“rectal”)…”

In the posthumous book just published, Dans ma bibliothèque, la guerre et la paix (In my library, war and peace), Marc Fumaroli expresses once and for all his views and observations about Europe. Like ideas nurtured for decades, this old man in his green suit delivers a fascinating cornucopia, made incredible by the truths that it delivers, all the ideas that are linked. As the author indicates, this book does not follow any method. Rather, it is a ramble, which follows winding paths, forks in the road, deviations.

The book sometimes gives the impression of a messy work, where the author puts down everything he knows, adding reference after reference, one idea after another, giving the feeling sometimes of losing his purpose – war and peace. It must be said that we are far inferior to the master in following him. It is Europe that we hold in our hands; just like that feeling with la Litterature europeenne et le moyen age latin (European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages) of Curtius.

It is not possible to repeat all the ideas put forward in this book by Marc Fumaroli, so numerous are they. But here is its essence – war and peace have been two opposite poles that have built European civilization, a creative and destructive principle, a kind of duet in which one part does not go without the other; but also a duel that feeds, according to the reigns, wars and peace treaties, artistic creation, taste and consciences.

Thus, Fumaroli developed and detailed an entire triptych. The Iliad and the Aeneid are, first of all, founding texts of war and peace. The Greek work resembles a perpetuum mobile of conflicts between lordships, as one finds them in the Italy of the Renaissance, which fed the history of men like a kind of dynamic.

The Trojan war had a moral reason – the unfaithful wife and the deceived husband; but it does not have a political or economic purpose. Menelaus returns with his lady; Agamemnon is murdered; Achilles as well as Ajax are killed; Ulysses struggles to return; and Aeneas has an appointment with his destiny. War does not create vast ensembles; it sanctifies lives and destinies.

As for the Aeneid, it prepares Rome. Aeneas is, before being a pious civilized warrior, a diplomat who prepares the reign to come of Augustus. The Latin work announces the pax romana, based on the need to make war to impose peace, the perpetual peace, that we will find in two times – at the time of the respublica christiana, developed by Augustine in the City of God, and then with the Treaty of Westphalia, following the Thirty Years War.

Fumaroli masterfully devotes a large part of his work to France, mother of ideas, arts and letters, domina of Europe from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century: “Richelieu invented the concept of the European concert. He made the European Republic of Letters admit that the role of conductor was reserved for France.”

Peace and war marked the reign of Louis XIV; and Versailles, as the center of Europe, illustrated, by its opulence and splendor, this opposition. The Hall of Mirrors presented to the world the true power of France – it was France that made war on Spain; and above all it was France that imposed peace on Spain. The disastrous outcome of the War of the Spanish Succession, the libertine regency and the bankruptcy, paved the way for a kingdom less sure of itself, in retreat on the geopolitical level, acquiescing to peace.

War and peace were also embodied in two characters: Bossuet and Fénelon. One was a supporter of a Gallican Church, quick to serve the altar and the throne; the other, a critical observer of power, who made ready, according to the theory of quietism, a desirable pax catholica in Europe at war. This peace was the message delivered by les Aventures de Télémaque (The Adventures of Telemachus), a book of bedside reading and of apprenticeship, for the young dauphin, written by Fénelon.

Only the century of Louis XV was one of weakness – the aristocracy was more and more autistic and did not play its role anymore; the bourgeoisie got ready for the next coup d’état – that of 1789. Finance and technocracy joined forces. War was no longer of any use. It is then that one realizes with Fumaroli, that peace is not a value in itself nor war a moral fault or a misfortune; and that, conversely, a war contributes to glory and peace, and peace leads to weakness and failure.

As well, Fumaroli showed the rise of a royal art. This Louis-Quatorzian art, if not a baroque art, borrowed from papal and Catholic Rome, and is properly Gallican on the one hand, perpetuated by the rocaille, country style of a Watteau until 1740, then formed by Greek and Roman art, marked by the conflict between the Ancients and the Moderns: “[This art] concealed in France the fundamental historical quarrel about the establishment and the legitimacy of the French absolute monarchy, a quarrel whose echoes resounded in the favorable ears of several Jansenist circles of the kingdom. The court of Versailles took sides during the lifetime of Louis XIV for the Ancients, which it endowed in 1701 with an Academy of Inscriptions.”

The Comte de Caylus was a craftsman. This man is both unknown and impressive. An antiquarian, he had, in the sense that the literary gives it, the vibrant passion and the sensitive taste of antiquity; engraver, archaeologist and aesthete, he knew how to give the impulse of antiquity to the taste and the aesthetics of the kingdom.

At first, close to Watteau, whose biography he wrote, he spoke of the complicity of a generation which had altogether been distanced from war and brought closer to the arts of peace: “The tender memory that I keep of Watteau, of the friendship that I had for him, and of the gratitude that I had for him all my life, led me discover, as much as it was possible in him, the subtleties of his art.” Caylus broke with Ovid and was renewed by Homer and Virgil, just as he broke with Watteau, and the shepherds, and the gioia di vivere. With Wickelmann, he shared the feeling of having come too late; therefore, he mourned, nostalgically, for the ancient world. The return to Greek aesthetics implied, if not a rebirth, at least a return to war, to the martial tone and to heroic assurance in the arts.

The last part of this triptych covers the twentieth century and the emergence of nationalism with Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Grossman’s Life and Fate. The liberal and romantic inspiration contrasts with absolutism and royal dynasty. Something deep and visceral accompanies the formation of nation states. Napoleon waged wars of conquest, a “crusade for nothing,” as Léon Daudet would say, in the name of an expansion of an idea, that of French universalism, born of the liberalism of the French Revolution. The nation as an everyday plebiscite, according to Renan, is formed by the adhesion of a people.

All this is summarized by Fumaroli, in these words: “It is not a king who makes war on another king nor an army on another army, but a people against another people.” Here is Europe, determined amidst the emergence of nations and the fall of empires. Modern war compared to the classical, ancient war, shows a qualitative leap.

Fumaroli reminds us that modern war reaches the degree of destruction that is attributed to it by the number of soldiers that it digests and carries, the mass levies that the nations have, the patriotism injected into the consciousness of war that formalizes and freezes the belligerents, the use of materials such as coal and the use of technology. War and Peace is the modern version of an Iliad, where the death of Prince Andre, mowed down by a French bomb shrapnel on the battlefield of Borodino, is the equivalent of the death of Hector under the blows of Achilles in Book XXII. The implacable Fate of Homer is transported into the mystery of the God of Christian love. And Fumaroli takes up the association of peace-corruption and war-salvation for the 19th and 20th centuries.

Life and Fate, as Fumaroli points out, recapitulates the poetry of the two great ancient epics, the Iliad and the Aeneid, divided between the celebration of noble warrior heroes and the curse of battle and its ignoble massacres. Grossman’s novel is torn between goodness, hidden in the description of the mutual relentlessness of the fascist and Soviet evil against the impervious goodness that perseveres beneath the apocalyptic surface of the Final Solution and the Battle of Stalingrad. The madness and mystery of war. Tolstoy’s Homeric heroes are succeeded by two totalitarian democracies. inspired, says Fumaroli, by France of Robespierre’s Terror and by Bonapartist absolutism, “engaging more decisively in mass extermination at home and mass warfare abroad.”

With regard to the last part of the triptych, we can make three observations. First, this Mitterrandian vision of a nationalism that leads to war seems rather stale. The idea that Napoleon is the origin of a degeneration of European consciousness and the father of conflicts between nations, which was good enough to explain the Second World War and totalitarianism, is now somewhat outdated.

Nazism is not, then, the consequence of a nationalist sentiment, of a love of one’s country, of a desire to be at home. It is a German problem in Germany. Nazism, even if it is extreme right-wing, is an idealistic and biological productivism that is strictly German; and it is a mistake to believe that all nationalistic paths lead to it. It is not a nationalism that metastasized but, on the contrary, in the wake of the concert of nations, the expansion of a great European project, of which the Reich would be at the head; a project that rebuffed the old generation of Action Française. such as, Maurras or Bainville, nationalists, and which delighted the Lucien Rebatet, Brasillach or Leon Degrelle, fascists. This literary and intellectual point and this quarrel of generations are both missing

If Europe, finally, is better than nationalisms, and if greater Europe interests us, what is the political purpose of this one? Who leads Europe? Which institutions? Which country? Who has the power? The European Union? This vast joke cannot satisfy us. How can we believe that European technocracy, co-opted, would find the necessary resources to substitute itself for elected monarchs, presidents and ministers, subject to a vote?

Now, there will be no more Fumaroli. Our Cheetah has made his last turn. Going through the whole of his work on war and peace, one can resolutely take up the phrase of Marshal Lyautey, “But they are crazy! A war between Europeans is a civil war.”

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

The featured image shows, “Portrait of Marc Fumaroli, seated,” by François Legrand; painted in 2014.

Who Really Owns Polish Media?

When the Polish television market was being formed in the 1990s, the concern was to ensure that it would not be dominated from the very beginning by foreign capital, which had a huge advantage over domestic capital, which in turn was only just beginning to be organized. Another concern was that Polish society should not be colonized by foreign capital in the media. It was also important that television stations of national range should not impose on Polish society the point of view – worldview or political preferences of the capital owner.

In other words, the point was that television stations should not have a decisive influence on Polish politics (even in a strictly electoral sense), on the professed values, on the self-esteem of citizens, consumer choice, lifestyle and even aesthetic judgments. The television and radio market was subject to licensing for these reasons as well, but primarily because initially there were not enough frequencies for anyone willing and able to operate in the market. For this reason, there had to be a market regulator, which became the National Broadcasting Council (operating since April 28, 1993, and established under the Broadcasting Act of December 29, 1992).

It was the National Broadcasting Council that granted two nationwide terrestrial broadcasting concessions – to the Polsat Company in 1994 and to TVN in 1997. Both entities were backed by Polish capital. The market regulator had little or no knowledge that important people in both of these entities had links to the Communist secret services, which gave them an advantage, both in terms of raising capital (e.g. from the Foreign Debt Service Fund, which was controlled by the Communist secret services and indeed illegal under international law), and in lobbying for the licenses. While the television market was not dominated by foreign capital in the 1990s, it was influenced by people in the communist apparatus of violence and control of society. They also influenced the program mandates of the stations, including the attitude towards the past. and political sympathies and antipathies resulting precisely from the attitude towards the past.

These problems did not change when foreign capital entered TVN (Polsat remained an entity with Polish capital), because a specific program mandate shaped the TVN audience, and in this way it became a valuable asset. This also determined the zeal and temperature of the actions in defense of TVN, whenever the station was accused of representing the interests of the post-communist forces and the part of the post-Solidarity elite that was in agreement with them. The support of the influential elites and their foreign contacts and influence are also decisive in supporting and defending the interests of TVN even in ownership issues, i.e., when ownership changes violate the provisions of the Broadcasting Act regarding the limitation to 49 percent of capital from outside the European Economic Area.

Regarding the amendment to the Broadcasting Act, and indirectly its effect on the TVN television company, there is a large amount of misinformation and, above all, constant brainwashing of people on an industrial scale.
The legal background is that article 35 of the Polish Broadcasting Act of 29 December 1992 requires that radio and television broadcasting in Poland should be majority owned and controlled by entities from the EEA (European Economic Area). No more than 49 % of the shares of broadcasters in Poland may be owned by entities from outside the EU. Requirements such as this are not unique to Poland, existing, for example, in Austria and France.

The current problem with TVN starts well before today. In 2015, TVN belonged to the ITI Group and the Canal+ Group, who controlled the formal owner, the nominal subsidiary company N-Vision B.V. These two companies (ITI and Canal+) both sold the majority of the shares (52,7%) in the TVN company to the American concern Scripps Networks Interactive for 584 million EUR. On June 16, 2015, Scripps Networks Interactive received approval from the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection to take over the TVN company.

Therefore, on July 1, the ITI Group and the Canal + Group sold all their shares in the nominal holding company N-Vision B.V., which controlled 52.7 % of shares in TVN, to a company called Southbank Media Ltd, registered in London and owned by Scripps Networks Interactive. On August 28, 2015, Scripps, through Southbank Media, purchased more TVN shares from stock exchange investors, increasing its ownership to 98.76%. On September 28, 2015, Scripps bought the remaining TVN shares, becoming one hundred percent owner.

Before Scripps bought 100% of the shares, it asked whether the purchase of TVN was compliant with Polish law, because their lawyers had read the Polish Broadcasting Act and had doubts regarding art. 35. Jan Dworak (chief of Polish Broadcasting Council at the time) hesitated a bit, but decided that it was possible. However, everyone was aware of the possible non-compliance with the Polish law, hence the contract included numerous safeguards in the event of the license being revoked. Safeguards were beneficial primarily to the seller, so that he would not have to pay possible compensation.

On July 31, 2017, Discovery Communications announced that it wanted to buy Scripps Networks Interactive (for $ 14.6 billion). The Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection was then ignored, so on February 6, 2018, it was the European Commission that conditionally agreed to this transaction. The condition was to provide operators with the TVN24 and TVN24 BiS signal at a “reasonable price”. On February 26, 2018, the US Department of Justice approved the purchase of Scripps Networks Interactive by Discovery Communications; so, on March 6, 2018, Scripps, and thus also TVN, was acquired. And in this way, and contrary to the law, an entity from outside the European Economic Area has 100 percent shares in a television company operating in Poland.

That is the origin of the current problem. In 2015, either the National Broadcasting Council should not have allowed this transaction; or it should have requested that the parliament amend the Broadcasting Act, because it does not allow any television or radio in Poland to be fully taken over by entities from outside the European Economic Area. Dworak’s Council, however, decided that the takeover was legal and possible.

All the time, TVN is formally owned by the nominal Dutch company with an address at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam – Polish Television Holding B.V. (controlling another paper-only company from Schiphol airport – N-Vision B.V., which owns TVN shares). The nominal company was sold first to Scripps in 2015 and then to Discovery in 2018. The nominal company operates in the European Economic Area, only it is virtual, so in fact 100 percent of TVN shares are owned by a non-EEA group (first Scripps then Discovery), which is inconsistent with the Broadcasting Act of 1992.

It was only in 2021 that the National Broadcasting Council decided that this could not be the case, although the law had been bent for six years. There are many indications that the National Broadcasting Council has reacted only after reports that Discovery is to merge with Warner Media. As a result, a media giant worth 150 billion dollars would be created. Warner of course would like to continue the game started in 2015 and would like to still disregard Polish law. The amendment to the Broadcasting Act halts this situation; and because it is about a lot of money and revenues, a great battle is being fought around it. It is also about whether Poland can pursue an independent policy in the field of media. And this policy is by no means unique in Europe, and Poland is not asking for anything extraordinary. Only the respect of the existing law.

Ownership issues in TVN television are only a fraction of the problems of the Polish media market, which in many segments presents such a high level of concentration that one can speak of hegemony. A high level of concentration in Poland is deemed to exist when a single entity (capital group) reaches a 30 percent share in one of the markets: advertising revenues, revenues from pay-TV fees, TV audience, radio audience or users of online audiovisual services.

Officially, under Polish law, an entity is considered dominant when it achieves a market share of over 40 percent in a given market. Only after exceeding this threshold can the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection block further acquisitions. But in the debate on deconcentration little attention is paid to the fact that dominant broadcasters also have an advantage in the role of advertising brokers. Such as TVN and Polsat, whose advertising bureaus serve not only their thematic channels, but also other media market players. And in their role as ad brokers they often have more influence on the market than as broadcasters.

In the 1990s the Polish media market was widely opened to foreign capital, which later resulted in concentrations exceeding safe levels. This was facilitated by being careless about violations of the law on capital restrictions, e.g., in the television market. As a result, about 70% of the television market in Poland is controlled by foreign broadcasters. The largest shares are held by Americans (controlling half of all TV content), among others Discovery Communications, Viacom, Time Warner, and ITI Neovision (American-French).

In the radio market, foreign companies control about 30% of the market, but radio RMF FM, owned by German Bauer, alone has a 26% share of the audience. On the internet, Onet, owned by German-Swiss Ringier Axel Springer, dominates (more than 17 million users); Interia, owned by German Bauer, is third (ca. 13 million users); TVN24, owned by American Discovery, is sixth (ca. 6 million users); and Fakt, owned by German-Swiss Ringier Axel Springer, is ninth (ca. 5.5 million users). Until recently, the websites of Polska Press Group, taken over by PKN Orlen in 2021, were also German.

The press market has been 70-75 percent dominated by foreign capital. The national press is dominated by German capital: 21 percent of titles belong to Bauer Group, 9 percent to Burda Media, 6 percent to Swiss-German Ringier Axel Springer Polska (including Fakt and Newsweek), 5 percent to Swiss Edipresse, 3 percent to Phoenix Press (German capital), 3 percent to Hearst Marquard Publishing (German capital), and 3 percent to Hearst Publishing (German capital) and Hearst Marquard Publishing (Swiss capital); 2% Egmont Polska (Danish capital). In the local press the dominance of foreign capital reaches as much as 95 percent, which significantly decreased after PKN Orlen took over the Polska Press Group, publishing 19 regional dailies and over 100 local weeklies. The publishers of the most popular monthlies and TV magazines are dominated by companies with German capital: Bauer and Burda Media. The remaining color magazines belong to Swiss capital – Edipresse Polska.

In France, no one may own more than 49 percent of the capital or voting rights in a company holding a concession for a national terrestrial television channel, if its audience exceeds 8 percent of the total audience. At the same time, the owner of the concession may not own more than 33 percent of the capital or voting rights in a local or supra-regional station. Foreign capital cannot exceed 20 percent in a company holding a terrestrial radio or television license. No license will be granted to a broadcaster reaching more than 4 million viewers, 30 million listeners, or having a 20% share in the national circulation of newspapers. If the license is not for nationwide coverage, the same entity may have only one license in the same area. No license will be granted to an entity that owns one or more terrestrial digital television stations reaching 4 million people; that owns one or more radio licenses when the program reaches 30 million inhabitants; and that is the publisher of one or more newspapers, if their share of nationwide circulation exceeds 20 percent.

In Germany, competition and concentration in the media market are regulated by the Antitrust Act. Since 1997 there has been no limit on the number of radio and television licenses held in Germany, but there are various de facto regulations between the federal states that impose restrictions. The concentration threshold is 30 percent of viewership or listenership in a specific year for the media owned. A media company that exceeds the 30 percent threshold may sell its shares, limit its market share or make its airtime available to an independent entity. The rule of 10 percent audience share for one program or 20 percent audience share for other programs applies. In individual federal states, restrictions have been placed on so-called cross concentration, i.e., investments by newspaper publishing companies in radio and television.

For example, in North Rhine-Westphalia, a company dominating the newspaper market cannot hold a majority stake in a radio or television broadcaster operating in the same area. Although there are no restrictions on foreign ownership of the media market in Germany, it is in fact a market almost entirely dominated by domestic capital. This is primarily due to tradition and practice. Although entities such as Time Warner, News Corporation, Viacom or Ufa/Canal Plus France operate in the German television market, none of them has exceeded the 1 percent market share threshold.

Stanisław Janecki, is a well-known Polish journalist, columnist, political commentator and television host.

The featured image shows, “The Girl from Zaba,” by Wlastimil Hofman; painted in 1923.

The Second American Revolution

Victor Davis Hanson, the well-known intellectual and military historian recently published an interesting article, “Are We in a Revolution and Don’t Even Know It?” Basically, he wonders whether the USA is facing a revolution or not, and provides the reader with many examples of the social turmoil, if not a complete flip upside down, now affecting American society.

From the outside, the US situation appears a bit different. As an old saying goes, the one I side the house sees things differently from the one who is outside it. And I’m outside. Thus, I’d like to add some considerations to what was published in Hanson’s interesting article.

A first point which, I don’t know why, seems to be always neglected is that nobody seems to realize, and/or to have told the people what will be the final result of the ongoing Wokeness, if it is not stopped.

In short, if whatever linked to slavery and to the slave-owners must be cancelled, the Americans should:

  • Change the name of their capital, for George Washington was a planter, thus a slave owner;
  • Remove his portrait from $1 bill, not to speak of the quarter;
  • Change the name of Washington State, and any and all institutions named after him;
  • And, best of all and above all – eliminate US Constitution, for it was written and signed by slave-owners.

Absurd? Wait and see. Ten years ago, nobody could expect Political Correctness (the etiology of Wokeness) would be blaming poor Christopher Columbus because he discovered America. So, why shouldn’t one expect Wokeness, incrementally, to finally come to that stage when the US Constitution has to be abolished because it was written and signed by white males who owned slaves? It would make perfect sense, because it suits perfectly what the Woke now hold sacred.

Second point: if all manner of colonial rule and heritage must be rejected, USA must be disbanded, completely, and forever.

What the Americans normally do not say, and perhaps do not like to think about, is that, in cold historical terms, they belong to a country composed of land stolen from the natives, who got promises which were regularly not kept, and when the natives protested (and sometimes also if they did not protest), they were almost all killed (think of Wounded Knee): in other words, America is a colonial land whose original owners were killed or expulsed by colonizers, and only in a very few case were allowed to exist, staying in small areas where nothing exploitable was supposed to be found by the colonial invaders.

The US is one of the clearest cases of imperial colonialism ever seen in the last 3,000 years in the whole world. No ancient world power ever acted their way. The ancient empires that we know of, they all conquered all the land they could, but they never killed all the inhabitants. The Romans too, killed all the opponents in armed conflict, but not all the people whose land they conquered, nor expulsed them from those lands. The USA did. And I’m afraid that this could become a red-hot issue very soon, because, according to the current Woke paradigm, such a country should be cancelled; that is to say, disbanded, abolished.

Do normal Americans realize this? Do the people in the street realize it? Did anybody warn them? Will anybody warn them before it will be too late? Does anyone even wonder, what next?

Third point: the current American situation recalls to my mind what I saw in South Africa, when I visited it after the end of Apartheid. In fact, what is going on in the USA is the typical post-colonial reaction we saw in many of the former British colonies in Africa.

One might wonder how much this may be due to the racial separation maintained in the US for quite a long time, a racial separation, not considering the obvious moral aspects, that was quite odd when one thinks of some aspects of it.

The now so-called African Americans belong to a group existing in the USA for at least three centuries and half (and the last of their ancestors came a bit more than two centuries ago), whilst the ancestors of the majority of the Americans came later, and sometimes quite later. But, simply due to their skin, the newcomers had, and have, in fact much more rights than the African Americans who were already there for many generations. Hence, it is not a surprise if the attitude generated by the American-led destruction of the European colonial empires soon after World War II initiated a wave now affecting the USA, all because of a simple principle – if it was right and had to be applied to other colonialists, why shouldn’t it be right and be applied also to the USA?

Actually, the racial conditions in some European colonial empires in Africa were basically the same as in the US, and one may wonder why such an attitude never affected, and does not affect, South American countries, namely, Brazil, whose slave ratio to white people – currently 1 to 1 – was and still is higher than the USA’s. Perhaps, because they actually melted? Perhaps due to their Latin and Roman Catholic mentality? Perhaps because the child of a slave and of a free man was automatically a free person there? This can be a matter of discussion, but it would be useless now; and this is not a critique, but a simple conclusion of where ideas lead us. What is certain is that for a very long time the US Constitution was not applied in full, seeing that it foresaw equal rights for all; and it was not so. Otherwise, why did Martin Luther King die?

There is another point about the Constitution, and it’s a weak one: the pursuit of happiness.

Nobody can deny that it was, and is, a nice idealistic statement – but nobody seems to realize that, when applied in full, this point basically meant – and still means – that society can be completely turned upside down. The pursuit of happiness is something not belonging to religion, especially to Christianity, because those religions – with their heads firmly on their shoulders – usually promise, and look for, happiness in the next life, not in this one – thus the pursuit of happiness is a Masonic and Deistic statement, an aim as nice in theory as it is dangerous in fact. Happiness is something quite subjective. Thus, who can really properly assess whether the happiness one looks for is wrong or not, whether it is dangerous or not – and if it is wrong, then it is also illegal, along with the way one goes about pursuing it?

Further, delving deeper, the situation changes dramatically, because what the pursuit of personal happiness is may turn into an institutional earthquake.

If a minority sees its rights not respected, in spite of the Constitution, why should that minority not react? And if – as it is normal to expect – to have its own rights respected means also a way to fulfill the constitutionally granted pursuit of happiness, who could deny that a minority has twice the right to protest?

So, besides the way they are acting, is it not this so strange, if we see now the Black Lives Matter movement be so active; and it is in a certain way understandable, if the Cancel Culture movement gains strength. In theory, BLM is looking to have their constitutional rights respected and fulfilled. Of course, we could argue from now till eternity about the way, the means, the process that such a protest has and is using; but this would not change the main count – they feel not respected and they demand their rights to be respected – because the Constitution states it.

Cancel Culture is a very bad and stupid way to act, not to say the worst way to act – but it is understandable that in a sort of exasperated reaction to a longstanding nasty situation, a protester, belonging to a minority whose rights have been this long neglected, may instinctively feel allegiance to Cancel Culture, and throw away the baby together with the bath water; that is to say, may very easily throw away whatever seems linked to the system the protester is reacting against. I do not like it – but is also something whose mechanism I can well understand.

Fourth point. I’m not that sure that what is going on is due to socialism. I’d say it is due to capitalism.

Let us say, that what’s going on with immigration in the Western world is welcomed by capitalism, because opening the borders provides big enterprises with a huge availability of low-cost manpower. This manpower can be exploited both via the small wages they will accept, and by blackmailing the existing workers, forcing them also to accept smaller wages. It is something we know – the Liberals did the same trick in early 19th-century England. It was during the Industrial Revolution; and this sort of “job market” was considered to be a pillar of the Free Market (in capital letters, please – let us pay due respect to the gods of Liberty: Money, Liberalism and Free Market), which, from its iown logic, was a pillar of Liberalism.

Now it’s the same. Basically, the more manpower you can rely on, the less you can pay them and the better you can enslave them, for you can kick out the one, or the many, who will try to protest, and when one has to choose between starving and accepting a small wage, he will take the small wage every time. This is going on in the USA as well as in the European Union – although the EU has a few more social safety nets, which somehow soften the bad impact of economical crisis on the people.

Regardless, on both the sides of the Atlantic, the only obstacle a worker has between enslavement by the enterprises – or by the corporations – and an honest wage is how strong the political expression of the collective, that is to say the State, is. Thus, how able the State is to oppose the corporations, no matter how indebted it may be to them; unless – now, please pay attention – its debt is owned by the corporations, which can that way blackmail the State itself. Now, going back to the American case – who owns the US debt? Or, better, who manages and partially owns the US debt, besides Japan, China, and Luxembourg, I mean? The Banks? And how close to the corporations and to the financial compacts are the Banks? Are they “socialists?” Answer these questions and you’ll get the answer.

Hanson in his article underlines some important daily-life aspects:

“By continuing to suspend rental payments to landlords who have no redress to the courts for violations of their contractual leases, the government essentially has redefined private property as we know it. Who really owns an apartment or a room in a house if the occupant has not paid rent since last spring? Is the de facto owner the renter in physical control of the unit, or the increasingly impotent title holder who must still pay the insurance, taxes, and upkeep?
Do we still recognize the principle that those who owe money must pay it back? Biden is talking about vastly expanding any prior idea of student loan debt cancellations by massive new amnesties. As capitalism transitions into socialism, what about the parents who saved to pay their children’s tuition, the students who worked part-time and took only the units they could pay for, or the working-class youths who decided loans were too risky and preferred instead at 18 to go straight to work?
Are they hapless Kulaks? And what do we name the indebted students and the loan-sharking universities who finagled a collective $ 1.7 trillion student debt? Revolutionaries? Who pays for what others have incurred?”

This is all true, and pretty accurate. But, once more, the roots of the problem lie in the way the US is constituted. Hanson states in the next line, “Supply and demand under capitalism adjudicate wages and thus the rate of unemployment.” This is a perfect “classic economy statement.” Fine in theory, but, besides what happened in 1929 and besides how J.M. Keynes demonstrated the imperfection of such a statement, are we sure that it works, or that it actually worked well in the US?

Of course, I know that millions of immigrants left Europe – and my country (Italy) provided plenty of them – to find a new and better life in the US; and I know that, generally speaking, we have always been told that they fulfilled their hopes. But did this good capitalistic system really work the way we have been told? I would not be that sure.

I’m not thinking of the 1929 crash and of its consequences on people. I’m thinking of the situation portrayed by some American authors at the eve of the 20th century. If you read O. Henry’s stories, namely, Brickdust Row, or Elsie in New York, (from The Trimmed Lamp), or if you have a look at the novels of Jack London, you may have some doubts about how well capitalism worked; and you may wonder how many immigrants and Americans really enjoyed being under it, and used it to achieve the American Dream and got success.

On the other hand, how many immigrants and Americans had a very sad and dramatically poor life, shortened by fatigue and over-work and which ended very badly. In fact, as every historian knows, or should know, we rely on memoirs and accounts written by those who had time to write them. But normally the low and illiterate classes do not leave a trace behind. Thus, we do not know how many people “failed,” and were destroyed by the American capitalistic system.

Back to present situation, if the US is now facing “a collective $ 1.7 trillion student debt,” this is an aspect generated by a capitalistic system. My university years, all together summing all my three levels – in English terms Graduation, Master and PhD – in Italy and in France, cost me less, far less than a single year in an American University. I remember quite well how appalled my father was (who knew the US far better than I do, for he was a tenured, full professor of physics in the Engineering Department and had close links with US research organizations from the time he was in Brookhaven in 1959, and came to the USA every year until 1995), when in 1988 he was told in Berkeley how expensive a school-year was there.

If you must pay for your education, the system can work when you have a well-going economy, distributing huge wages to everybody, or almost everybody. But what if the economy fails? That’s why we in Continental Europe have a state held system. Whilst the State-owned educational system provides everybody with the same opportunities – almost all paid by the collectivity through taxes – and then it is up to the single student to decide whether to exploit them or not – and this seems to me quite Democratic. But a system based on education, only if you can pay for it, makes a big social difference right from the get-go because it predetermines who cannot pay and who thus will have a low-ranked life.
The continental European system is a social system; and the difference between it and the socialist one is the same that exists between Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum and Marx’s Capital.

Let us consider point in regards to the economy. Hanson continues:

“By continuing to suspend rental payments to landlords who have no redress to the courts for violations of their contractual leases, the government essentially has redefined private property as we know it. Who really owns an apartment or a room in a house if the occupant has not paid rent since last spring? Is the de facto owner the renter in physical control of the unit, or the increasingly impotent title holder who must still pay the insurance, taxes, and upkeep?
Do we still recognize the principle that those who owe money must pay it back?”

This is completely true, but it calls to my mind what happened to two people I know after the Lehman Brothers crash. The first was a fine example of parenthood. A friend of mine, a tenured faculty, had just retired when the crash occurred. The domino effect deprived him – as he told me in following year – of $100,000. But this was not all, for his son lost his job, as well as his daughter-in-law lost hers, and they both could no longer pay their loans, and thus they lost their home in a short while, and, of course they lost also all the money they already paid to the bank. And what did my friend do? He took in his son’s family, and went back to work, doing contract-work at the university, in order to look the whole family. This is what any parent would do, I think, or at least what any Italian parent would do (but my friend is of Anglo-Saxon background).

The other person I know, on the other side of the USA, is an attorney, who specializes in loans, especially home loans. Well, before the crash, he had his own office with one or two employees, and had a fair but not excessive yearly income.

Now he has 500 clerks and attorneys working in his office – whose salaries he himself pays – and this “growth” was achieved within three years after the crash and he became – and is – a multimillionaire – all because of the home loans he helped the banks recover from people who could no longer pay back their loans.

This is capitalism. But why is anyone surprised, if a lot of people do not like all this? I mean, in the second example, the attorney will praise capitalism. But what about the first example, of my professor friend and his family? Can they be considered socialists if they criticize the system? Oh, by the way, the professor is a conservative (a Republican in American parlance) – while the attorney is a progressive Democrat. Now what?

Hanson, while speaking of the $1.7 trillion student debt wonders, “What about the parents who saved to pay their children’s tuition the students who worked part-time and took only the units they could pay for, or the working class youths who decided loans were too risky and preferred instead qt 18 to go straight to work? Are they hapless Kulaks?… Who pays for what others have incurred?”

Quite right. But I would also ask – who pays for what happened to the money of my friend the retired faculty member? Nobody. Why? Because this is the capitalistic system. Ah, and does it work only one way, or both ways? Why must it be accepted when one friend is financial ruined, but can’t be accepted now? Why, if a young couple can no longer pay their loan, must lose both the house and the money they had already paid into the mortgage, thus losing twice? Is it morally correct, because ”this is business, honey?” and “what is good for business is good for America?” Or should we start wondering whether what is good for business is not so good for Americans?

Why can it be considered right to be cared for in a good hospital only because of the amount of medical insurance you pay? On this side of Atlantic, for example, last fall I got a first-class surgery in a good hospital, for which I paid just 23 euros, because all had been paid in advance by my, and other people’s taxes. Simple point, please – is this socialism, or is it simply a social state?

Now, I know how easy it is to make comparison, and how easy it is to criticize, especially from the outside, and how hard, if not impossible, is to find or to suggest a good and real solution. I’m afraid I have no solution, because thus would require that the US should deeply change its structure and its mentality – and this is impossible, at least in the short term.

Sadness due to the turmoil devastating American society is something I too share, no matter the fact that I’m a foreigner. But to define such turmoil as socialism is wrong: it has nothing to do with \socialism, and there is nothing whatsoever that can justify complaining about socialism, communism, or whatever. In fact, blaming socialism is misleading.

In case, one might be wondering, did the US sow the wind and is now reaping the whirlwind? My answer is, unfortunately, yes.

So, I’m afraid that, yes, the USA is in a Revolution and perhaps it doesn’t even know It. But is a revolution that the USA prepared all itself, since the time the Constitution was written, a Revolution, like the original one, based on the Constitution, not a revolution ignited by socialism.

And the worst part of it is that Americans do not realize how far will go and what devastating effects this Second American Revolution will and what devasting effects it will unleash. Thus, let’s say, “In God we Trust,” and keep our fingers crossed.

Ciro Paoletti, a prominent Italian historian of military history, is the Secretary General of the Italian Commission of Military History. He is the author of 25 books, and more than 400 other smaller works\, published in Italy and abroad, and mostly dealing with modern and contemporary Italian military history and policy.

The featured image shows, “The slave-market of to-day,” an illustraion by Bernhard Gillam, published January 2, 1884.

Napoleon: Dictator, Or Political Visionary? An Interview With Thierry Lentz

In this “Year of Napoleon,” we are highly honored to present this exclusive interview with Thierry Lentz, who is the foremost authority on Napoleon Bonaparte. He has written over sixty books on the Consulate period as well as the First French Empire. He is the current director of the Fondation Napoléon, and a Professor at the Institut catholique de Vendée.

On the occasion of the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death (May 5, 1821), Professor Lentz is interviewed by Arnaud Imatz, on behalf of the Postil.

Arnaud Imatz (AI): 2021 is the year of the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death at Longwood on the island of Saint Helena, May 5, 1821. The historical figure of the Emperor of the French (although it might be more appropriate to say the “historical figures” of the Emperor) has inspired in the world, and not only in France, an infinity of novels, historical works, films (more than a thousand) and pictorial or musical works. The two legends of Napoleon, black and golden, are now firmly established. But why does Napoleon still remain so much in our memories?

Thierry Lentz.

Thierry Lentz (TL): Napoleon is present in our memories for all the reasons you have just mentioned. He occupies a very special place in French history and memory. But beyond that, he is also linked to our daily life and our habits. Our state still resembles the one he created, our institutions are his and, above all, our daily life is influenced by the Civil Code. Even though this Code has undergone multiple reforms, necessary to adapt to new times and mores, its framework is still the same. It influences our daily lives and even what happens after we die through inheritance law. We are thus aware of the importance of Napoleon in our history… without always remembering that he is indeed there, in our present.

AI: In 1815, the 15-year adventure ended in disaster; the black legend certainly seemed to have definitely won. Napoleon “the warmonger” deserved nothing but ignorance and oblivion. However, the situation did quickly change. How and why did he become the hero of the 19th century liberal romantics against monarchists and traditionalists?

TL: The defeat at Waterloo, and the Treaty of Paris of November 1815, were indeed a catastrophe for France: it was occupied for three years and had to pay a formidable war indemnity. As a result, the image of Napoleon was tarnished; and we can say that it is then that the black legend triumphed. Even his death, announced in Europe in July 1821, went almost unnoticed. The displays of mourning were sporadic.

It was two years later, with the publication of The Memorial of Saint Helena by Emmanuel de Las Cases, that things started to turn around. As Lamartine came to observe, while France was bored, and Charles X passed away as the restorer of the Ancien Régime, that the image of Napoleon, presented as liberal by the Memorial, “recovered” and came to permeate both the arts and politics. The accumulation of references created a somewhat imaginary Napoleon; at the same time as the struggle to maintain the achievements of 1789 was once again becoming a reality. We put the emperor at the head of these struggles.

AI: Should we consider Napoleon as the continuator of the French Revolution, or as its “channeler,” if not its gravedigger? Did he want to conquer Europe in the name of a kind of revolutionary internationalism, or did he paradoxically contribute, by his invasions, to the creation of European nations? Was his ambition to disseminate ideas, relating to the rights of peoples, the defense of civil equality, the “intangible principles” of the Revolution? Or was he quite simply the continuator of Louis XIV, the bearer of the hegemonic aims of France, which then wanted to be dominant in the world as Spain had once been and as England and Germany would be or wanted to be, not to speak of the United States, Russia and China?

TL: Napoleon was undoubtedly the stabilizer of the Revolution, in his own version of 1789. He was certainly not a liberal in politics. But in social matters, he established civil equality, the right to property, the non-confessionality of the state and civil liberty (which is therefore not political). At a time when the country aspired to restore order and enjoy the achievements, he was the right man on the inside. In 1802, he had already accomplished much of the task: the great reforms were launched and civil peace returned.

Outside of France, things were a bit different. He was indeed the continuator of the diplomacy of the Ancien Régime and of the Revolution, halfway between seeking to impose French dominance in Europe and intending to spread the revolutionary principles (of 1789) in Europe. This is why the evaluation of his work outside France is so difficult. This was his main failure. While there is nothing left of the “Great Empire,” a great deal of its political and social accomplishments yet remain in France and in Europe.

AI: Why was the French military superior to others at that time?

TL: The French military benefited from its modernization throughout the Revolution, mainly in terms of manpower through conscription. They were now fighting for ideas and every citizen was invited to participate. Napoleon reorganized everything again—his army corps, the doctrine of the employment of cavalry and artillery, the excellence of command, and the amalgamation of old troops and conscripts. He also benefited from the concentration of the army at Boulogne, where for two and a half years, the soldiers lived together and trained, while awaiting the hypothetical invasion of England.

This army would long remain the best in the world and would show this excellence in the campaigns from 1805 to 1807. It was finally led by a true military genius, with a unique eye and quick decision-making. Things did turn sour afterwards, with the war in Spain, which devoured ground-troops, prevented amalgamation and demonstrated that this Grand Army was not invincible.

AI: Until 1795, France had the third largest population in the world, behind only China and India. Isn’t this the major explanatory factor for the Napoleonic conquests, rather than the merits and faults of the emperor?

TL: Regarding French military losses, which were poorly understood, it was not until the 1970s to have scientifically established figures. They are essentially derived from the work of demographer-historian Jacques Houdaille. Making use of large-scale scientific surveys in the extensive records, he estimated that there were about 450,000 men killed in action and about as many deaths from injury or illness, along with a few tens of thousands of the “missing.” It can be assumed that the actual losses are in the range of 900,000 to 1 million fatalities.

As for the allies and enemies of France, they suffered, it is often said, but without knowing how to prove it, losses that were “slightly higher” than those of the Grande Armée. If we adopt this principle, the wars of the Empire cost Europe from 2 to 2.5 million men over ten years. While this death toll is significant, it is still lower than in many previous and subsequent wars.

What is more, Europe was not drained of blood at the end of the period, neither economically nor demographically. There was no systematic destruction of towns and villages, and even less of the means of production, except in the Iberian Peninsula where the responsibility was largely shared between French and English troops.

Regarding demography, specialists have shown that France had nearly 1.5 million more inhabitants in 1815 than in 1790. For the whole of Europe, population growth was greater for the 1790-1816 period to what it had been from 1740 to the Revolution. These results are of course due to advances in medicine and the decline in infant mortality. But this general finding will no doubt surprise more than one.

AI: Politically, was Napoleon a “classic” dictator, in the Roman sense, or a totalitarian dictator in the modern sense? Do you consider that despite his mistakes, especially in the choice of ministers, often traitors and incompetents, he remained an exceptional leader or even a political visionary?

TL: It goes without saying that from 1799 to 1815, Napoleon spent every minute strengthening and defending the reign of the executive, even if it meant showing himself to be more and more authoritarian. But to speak of a dictatorship and, moreover, of a military dictatorship, is to make fun of history and the meaning of words.

According to the jurist and political scientist Maurice Duverger—who has devoted a good part of his work to the concept of dictatorship—three simultaneous conditions are necessary to characterize it: 1) that the regime be installed and maintained by force, in particular military; 2) that it be arbitrary, that is to say that it suppresses freedoms and controls the decisions of arbitral or judicial bodies; 3) that it be considered illegitimate by a large part of the citizens. The study of each of these points for the Napoleonic regime leads to the rejection of any such peremptory conclusion. Under Napoleon, the establishment of a strong and embodied state was not accompanied by the systematic use of illegitimate coercion or indiscriminate force, much less for the benefit of the army.

AI: In economics, was Napoleon an interventionist or a liberal?

TL: In economic matters, Napoleon was more of a “liberal.” For him, the state did not have to intervene in the day-to-day economy, except for foreign trade which was carried out “for the grandeur of the state.” It was also important to him that the social situation be as stable as possible; and that is why he was able to intervene with public orders at the time of the crises, in particular that of 1810, which was extremely serious.

AI: Is he the “father” of the modern French state?

TL: Napoleon put an end to the trial-and-error approach when it came to the organization of the state and its administration. He simplified the grid into a pyramid model, at the top of which was the executive, not always himself in person, but those who represented the government, such as ministers. This has been called the “French model,” moreover adopted by most European states, with adaptations, even among its enemies.

AI: In his will Napoleon declared himself belonging to the Catholic religion. Can the leader of an army of soldiers from the Revolution, whose members were seen as dechristianizers in most countries of Europe, be presented as a Catholic? Wasn’t his Catholicism more of interest than conviction?

TL: We will never know whether Napoleon believed in God or not. What is certain is that he saw religions, especially the Catholic religion, as an intermediary body that should contribute to social stability and public order. This is why he “reestablished” Catholicism, organized Protestantism and Judaism, leaving them a certain dogmatic freedom, but subjecting them to the law of the state.

AI: What is the difference between the non-denominational Napoleonic state and the tradition of French republican secularism that prevailed from 1880 onwards, under the Third Republic?

TL: The Napoleonic non-confessionality, established in principle by the Civil Code, is a first step towards secularism. It proclaims that the various churches are subject to the state and to the law. But with Napoleon, this is expressed through concrete measures: public and civil status, acceptance of divorce, submission of faiths to the laws governing public order. He had no ambition to intervene in beliefs; but on the other hand, he left nothing to be organized outside of social and political necessities.

AI: Freemasonry lived fifteen extraordinary years under Napoleon, multiplying the number of lodges which went from 300 to 1220. Napoleon had many Freemasons in his family (including Jérôme, Louis and Joseph, whom the Spaniards nicknamed Pepe Botella); 14 of the first 18 marshals were Freemasons, as were a number of generals and most of the great dignitaries of the Empire. What was his relationship to Freemasonry? Was he himself a Freemason?

TL: Even if he himself was not (there is no proof of a supposed initiation in Egypt), Napoleon was surrounded by initiates such as his brothers, as well as Cambacérès, Lebrun, Fouché, Talleyrand, etc. In his Masonic policy, he relied above all on Cambaceres, who appeared to be the “protector” of the Order.

Initiated in 1781 in a lodge in Montpellier, Cambaceres climbed all the ranks and took this commitment very seriously, including at the time of the revolutionary interdicts. He then helped his friend Alexandre-Louis Roëttiers de Montaleau, grand master of the Grand Orient, to “rekindle fires” within the Directory. He thus participated in the first ranks in the meeting of June 22, 1799 by which, in the presence of five hundred masons, the Grand Lodge merged into the Grand Orient.

From that moment, French Freemasonry had almost regained its unity, further supplemented by the addition of the Grand Chapter of Arras to the Grand Orient, on December 27, 1801. It was not affected by the creation of a Scottish lodge, in 1803, an experiment immediately stopped by a new act of union signed a few days after the Imperial Coronation.

This unification of December 5, 1804, sometimes qualified as a “Masonic concordat,” confirmed the primacy of the Grand Orient which, in exchange, admitted the maintenance of several rites within it. Napoleon would have liked Freemasonry to constitute an intermediary body supporting the regime. But it was too plural for that; it crossed too many parties to be able to be a real support. It was never that, and continued its existence without problem under other regimes.

AI: It has often been suggested that after his military expedition to Egypt (1798 – 1799), Napoleon Bonaparte professed great sympathy for Islam? Was he sincere?

TL: Napoleon studied Muhammad, especially through the works of Voltaire. He admired his determined and almost warlike aspect. His sympathy for Islam hardly went beyond that. He did not convert, nor was he inspired by it for the Civil Code, as we can sometimes read on websites that are sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.

AI: Almost all European people had a place in the Grand Army (Dutch, Saxons, Germans, Poles, Spaniards, Portuguese, Italians, Belgians, Austrians, Bavarians, Swiss, etc..). Allied strengths even made up between 20% to 48% of the total force, depending on the campaign, but only the Poles remained loyal to the end. How do you explain that?

TL: It has been said, and we have come to believe, that it was out of pure personal ambition that Napoleon made war. But this forgets that, at that time, peace was a state of emergency and that all states were primarily concerned with preparing for inevitable conflict. This is also forgets that history and geopolitics often made it inevitable. I have written dozens of pages on this subject to which I refer interested readers. I will just repeat here that Europe was not simply divided into two camps during the Napoleonic episode; otherwise, it would not have been until the fall of 1813 that a general coalition was formed against France.

Before that, the continental powers had come to terms with French dominance and tried to make as much profit as possible for themselves. It was the great success of British diplomacy to succeed in uniting all of Europe around its lowest common denominator (bringing down France and its leader), by playing on resentments and unfulfilled promises to some, and to others, on the economy and finances—much more than on the principle of a “liberation” of the Continent. This explains why many foreign contingents were placed at the disposal of the Grande Armée for nearly fifteen years, most often with the consent of their sovereigns.

AI: The controversies surrounding the figure of Napoleon have redoubled in virulence on the eve of the celebration of the bicentenary of his death. The exaltation of heroism and the spirit of sacrifice have now largely given way to victimist and navel-gazing ideology. On the other hand, the wave of political correctness and the nihilistic modes embodied in the woke spirit or the cancel culture originating in North America seem irresistible. As a result, the vast majority of the media see Napoleon only as a tyrant, an instigator of war, a misogynist, a supporter of patriarchy, a slaver (for having reestablished slavery eight years after its suppression and imprisoned Toussaint Louverture, a black separatist, who had been appointed general under the Directory). How do you answer these charges?

TL: I answer them at length in the book I just published, Pour Napoléon (For Napoleon). I think we are at an important time in the fight against the trends that you describe.

Our rulers are paralyzed by groups which have made a specialty of amalgams and historical untruths to impose their “agenda,” and to accuse their country of having “murdered” entire categories, and then defiling public places or calling for action and riot?

Nothing was done either to prevent or to combat the iconoclastic fever that came from the United States, after the tragic death of George Floyd. Even though we sometimes think that the famous “submission,” nicely denounced by Michel Houellebecq, is a bit tricky, it is all the same the first word that comes to mind.

If one believes Montesquieu’s warning that “oppression always begins with sleep,” one can only be frightened to see those we mandate to preserve national cohesion and unity sleeping soundly—or pretending to sleep so as not to see anything, which in the end comes to the same. As a historian and as a citizen, I thought that I could not remain inert in the face of this danger.

AI: Monsieur Lentz, thank you for this delightful conversation.

The featured image shows, “Napoleon I, crowned by the Allegory of Time, writes the Code Civil,” by Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse, painted in 1833.

The featured image shows a portrait of Napoleon by Andrea Appiani, painted in 1805.