1968 and 1989: The Two Fundamental Dates of Turbo-Capitalism

Capitalism dialectically overcomes the antagonistic demands of the proletariat (class struggle, spirit of splitting, partisan organizations, revolutionary passion); and it does so by anesthetizing its consciousness in a consumerist sense, but also by “economizing” the conflict (since the 1970s, the proletariat fights for higher wages and not for overcoming the mode of production, thus metabolizing the ideology of capital as an ineluctable horizon). Simultaneously, capitalism overcomes the bourgeois “unhappy consciousness.” In fact, this also represents, no less than the vindicatory and potentially revolutionary antagonism of the proletariat, a contradiction within capitalism; and this above all, if we consider that the bourgeoisie: a) presents its own universalist vocation which can lead it—as in the case of Marx—to contest the historical capitalist world in which it is still the dominant class; and b) has a non-marketable valuational and ethical sphere and, therefore, ultimately incompatible with the processes of omni-mercantilization proper to absolute capitalism.

The bourgeoisie is, consequently, incompatible with absolute capitalism, just as the latter is, by its essence, irreconcilable with the bourgeois class, both on the immaterial plane (unhappy consciousness) and on the material plane (properties of the middle classes). In reality, turbo-capital presupposes the happy unconsciousness of the resilient, post-bourgeois and post-proletarian consumers, and the destruction of the material bases of the very existence of the bourgeois middle class by the work of the auri sacra fames of cosmopolitan finance and its cynical managers. The bourgeoisie and the proletariat, in their dialectical conflictuality, had developed within the framework of eticity in the Hegelian sense; that is, in the real and symbolic space of the solid and solidary “roots” of community life, linked to the family and the school, to the trade union and the sovereign national State.

By making the world of life precarious, mobilizing, uprooting and completely commercializing it, absolute-totalitarian capitalism provokes the “dejectification,” the annihilation of the sittlich element. It deconstructs any residual community other than the intrinsically anti-communitarian one of the ephemeral do ut des of the market. It neutralizes the family and the unions, the school and the sovereign national state. And it produces the open space of the world reduced to a market and inhabited only by uprooted and homologated consumers, without proletarian antagonistic consciousness and without bourgeois unhappy consciousness.

The post-traditional society, according to Giddens’ expression, becomes a deregulated market, in whose borderless spaces social classes dissolve in the false interclassism of “homologated consumers,” who have as many rights as they can buy. The 1968 ideology—confusing the struggle against the bourgeoisie with the struggle against capitalism—acts as a symbolic order of reference for the new absolute-totalitarian capitalism, itself 1968-ist in its struggle against any legacy of bourgeois ethical life and in its anarcho-deregulating essence. For this reason, as Michéa suggests, since 1968, the Left has been transformed into “a simple political machine destined to culturally legitimize, in the name of progress and modernization, all the forward escapades of liberal civilization.”

With 1968 came the divorce between the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. The latter, from ascetic and disciplinary (i.e., bourgeois), became permissive and transgressive (i.e., post-bourgeois), along the inclined plane that leads from the rebel to the narcissist and from the revolution to the new age. The formal subsumption of the adversarial couple under capital is verified: Right and Left advance more and more towards the horizon of capital, mutually accepted as natural-eternal destiny. De-anticized and precarious, society becomes a simple consumer society, a planetary “system of needs” (Hegel) and an unlimited “commercial society” (Adam Smith); a cosmopolitan market populated no longer by citizens of nation states and by fathers and mothers, but only by competitors; competitors who, in the absence of any community spirit, relate only on the basis of the principles theorized by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations—the omni-lateral dependence of necessity and acquisitive egoism—in relation to the brewer, the butcher and the baker. Following the Hegel of Elements of the Philosophy of Right, a society stripped of the elements of “eticity” (Sittlichkeit) decays into a mere and competitive “system of needs” (System der Bedürfnisse); that is, a simple place of mercantile exchange, governed by the “unsociable sociability” of conflictual atoms that relate only to compete and exchange goods, according to what Alain Caillé has called the axiomatique de l’intérêt.

On the side of intellectual production, the “unhappy consciousness” has dissolved. And, in place of the dialectical class of the bourgeoisie, a global class has taken over that is no longer bourgeois but ultra-capitalist, inclined to frivolously accept the “polytheism of values” and consumerist lifestyles within the “iron cage” of the idolatrous monotheism of the market. It is what, in Historia y conciencia del precariado, we have called the new post-bourgeois, post-proletarian and ultra-capitalist “financial aristocracy;” it is, in short, a class that, bearer of postmodern happy unconsciousness, lives in a parasitic and usurocratic manner, exploiting the slave labor of the dominated class.

For its part, the dominated class (so far not “per se”) coincides with the aforementioned precariat, dynamic fusion of the old bourgeois middle class and the old proletarian working class. The dissolution of the alliance between the unhappy bourgeois consciousness and the struggles for the recognition of menial labor is dialectically reversed in the passive acceptance of the capitalist world frame as irreversible horizon, making its own the “sad passion” of resilience. The planetarized market society of capitalism absolutus no longer knows any social resistance (it lacks a class that contradicts its project), nor political opposition (Right, Left and Center share the same ultra-capitalist vision of the world), nor philosophical delegitimization (with rare exceptions, intellectuals, devoid of “unhappy consciousness,” are today “organic”—in the Gramscian sense—to the system in force, to its relativistic nihilism and its competitive individualism).

The proletariat was dominated but not subdued. In fact, it had its own conceptual maps, largely coinciding with those of the Left in its various historical figures, capable of unmasking class domination and proposing paths of emancipation that would lead to making the cosmos transcend capitalist morphology. On the contrary, the precariat (national-popular servant) is both dominated and subjugated. And it is so to the extent that, in addition to suffering material domination (id est, exploitation and its economic-political organization), it also endures the immaterial and ideological, guided by the same maps provided by the dominant plutocratic groups. In them, the figure of the conflict—now only apparent—between Right and Left plays a role of primary importance. In short, if in dialectical capitalism the Right was theoretically the part of the master and the Left was primarily that of the servant; in turbo-capitalism Right and Left are equally the parts through which the dominion of the master is legitimized. The servant is now represented neither politically nor culturally; i.e., he is dominated in politics and culture as well as in economics.

According to the maps of domination outlined above, “progress” is the name that the pedagogues of the new mental order of culmination of power relations assign to everything that favors the dominant pole. On the contrary, “return” (or “regression”) is the infamous qualification with which the order of the dominant discourse delegitimizes any figure of the limit or, even simply, of non-alignment with respect to the omni- enveloping advance of the commodity form and the reification of the world of life.
According to what we have explained in Minima mercatalia and in Glebalizzazione, 1968 and 1989 mark, successively, two nodal stages of the evolutionary dialectic of capitalism in its transit from the dialectical phase to the absolute. It is from 1960 onwards that we witness the mise en forme of the diverse but equally expressive processes of the Zeitgeist of the new spirit of capitalism: (a) of the eclipse of the unhappy bourgeois consciousness; (b) of the neutralization of the anti-capitalist utopia of the proletariat, now “economicized;” and (c ) of the new anti-bourgeois and ultra-capitalist physiognomy of a new Left which, abandoning Marx and Lenin, has gradually become a “radical mass party” and accepting the reasons of the new order of power relations, which has finally ended up reabsorbing it. The hodierna speculative phase is ultra-capitalist precisely because it is anti-bourgeois first (1968) and post-bourgeois later (1989).

Beyond the irreducible prismatic heterogeneity of the events that have characterized 1968 on a planetary scale, we believe—following in the wake of Preve and of what we have examined in more detail in Minima mercatalia and in Il futuro è nostro—that it is possible to identify a common expressive function. Illusorily hailed as a revolutionary process of opposition to the capitalist structure, 1968 asks to be interpreted, in a diametrically opposed way, as the foundational myth of post-bourgeois and post-proletarian absolute-totalitarian capitalism; and more precisely as the decisive transit point from the dialectical to the speculative phase. The latter is characterized by the eclipse of the two instances (as well as of their alliance) of the anti-capitalist struggle of the servant and of the unhappy conscience of the bourgeoisie and, as a whole, by the substitution of the patriarchal and authoritarian dialectical capitalism for citizen-subjects, by the current turbo-capitalism of the new liberal-libertarian power for consumers with total deregulation (the gauchiste capitalism of the “forbidden to forbid” and of the plus ultra). Exemplum sui generis of the “color revolution,” 1968 was a decisive moment of emancipation not from capitalism, but for capitalism. This was aimed at overcoming the oppositional dichotomy between bourgeoisie and proletariat, and certainly not in the direction of the “sun of the future” of a post-capitalist society governed by relations between equally free individuals, but in the direction of an individualistic liberalization of consumption and customs; and this in the framework of a new capitalism no longer inhabited by bourgeois and proletarians, with their “eticity,” with their non-marketable values and their possible emancipatory anti-capitalism, but only by post-identitarian and Robinsonian consumers, colonized by a commodity form that has now become the new raison du monde.

Since the 1960s, the Left fought against the foundations of modern bourgeois civilization, without realizing that this battle was the same one waged by the new capitalism and its aspiration for the creation of a post-bourgeois space for the unlimited free circulation of commodities, of marketized persons and of the deregulated flows of liquid-financial capital: the struggle against the bourgeois world not only did not coincide with the struggle against capitalism, but finally ended up being identified with the struggle for capitalism itself or, rectius, for its definitive empowerment through the overcoming of the contradictions inherent to the dialectical phase and, therefore, for the transition to the new post-bourgeois and post-proletarian turbo-capitalism, beyond Right and Left.

With 1989, the movement of “naturalization” of capital could be considered complete (capitalismus sive natura): capitalism becomes “speculative,” as humanity sees itself reflected in the speculum of the totalitarian world of commodities. And so it is, more and more, induced to conceive it as the only possible world, in a total desertification of the imaginary. Capitalism then comes to correspond to its own “concept” (Begriff) after having gone through and overcome its own being-other-of-itself with the antithetical-dialectical phase.

As we tried to show in detail in Glebalizzazione, the annus horribilis of 1989 coincided with the epochal date of the imposition of capitalismus sive natura, that is, of economic fanaticism and planetary classism ideologically hypostasized in inescapable destiny or in nature already forever given, neither criticizable nor transformable: there is no alternative. It is the moment of the definitive dissolution of the bourgeoisie-proletariat and Right-Left dichotomies, according to the dynamics initiated in 1968 and culminated in 1989. The subsumption of the Left under capital, which with 1968 was formal and coexisted with fragments of a Left not yet integrated, was transformed into a real subsumption as of 1989, when the Left was completely reabsorbed within the horizon of meaning of capitalism and its progressive neoliberalism. It lives it as a natural and eternal horizon, producing an endless series of anthropological profiles worthy of the “last man” described by Nietzsche and classifiable under the headings of “disenchantment,” “repentance” and “conversion.”

Along with bourgeois culture, the very contradictory presence of the Soviet Union marked a limit for capital. And, as such, it had to be overcome. The Soviet Union and the Weltdualismus it made possible (cuius regio, eius oeconomia) constituted, in fact, a real and symbolic frontier for the market economy: they signaled that this was not the only possible world, nor the only one that really existed. On the other hand, the famous “thirty glorious years” of the West, from 1945 to 1975, with almost full employment and relative prosperity, from which even the less well-off classes benefited in part, were not the gift of a still munificent capitalism with a human face. Rather, they were the necessary effect of the pressure exerted by the reality beyond the Berlin Wall, an alternative model of social justice and existence. The communism implanted behind the “Curtain” was the very image of a possible alternative, or also of the real existence of the Left—albeit in a place other than the West—and the possibility of thinking and being otherwise. With 1989, the total subsumption of the Right and the Left under capital was consummated: both, from that moment on, integrally metabolized capitalism as an ineluctable destiny and the “struggle” between the two parties was fought, from then on, in the form of competition to become worthy of implementing the mere management—sometimes to the Right, sometimes to the Left—of the reforms decided by the global class and by the mercantilist order.

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

The Malthusians

Dr. Malthus, an economist, an Englishman, once wrote the following words:

“A man who is born into a world already occupied, his family unable to support him, and society not requiring his labor, such a man, I say, has not the least right to claim any nourishment whatever; he is really one too many on the earth. At the great banquet of Nature there is no plate laid for him. Nature commands him to take himself away, and she will not be slow to put her order into execution.”

As a consequence of this great principle, Malthus recommends with the most terrible threats, every man who has neither labor nor income upon which to live to take himself away, or at any rate to have no more children. A family, that is, love—like bread, is forbidden such a man by Malthus.

Dr. Malthus was, while living, a minister of the Holy Gospel, a mild-mannered philanthropist, a good husband, a good father, a good citizen, believing in God as firmly as any man in France. He died (heaven grant him peace) in 1831. It may be said that he was the first, without doubt, to reduce to absurdity all political economy, and state the great revolutionary question, the question between labor and capital. With us, whose faith in Providence still lives, in spite of the century’s indifference, it is proverbial—and herein consists the difference between the English and ourselves—that “everybody must live.” And our people, in saying this, think themselves as truly Christian, as conservative of good morals and the family, as the late Malthus.

Now, what the people say in France, the economists deny; the lawyers and the littérateurs deny; the Church, which pretends to be Christian, and also Gallican, denies; the Press denies; the large proprietors deny; the government, which endeavours to represent them, denies. The Press, the government, the Church, literature, economy, wealth—everything in France has become English; everything is Malthusian. It is in the name of God and his holy providence, in the name of morality, in the name of the sacred interests of the family, that they maintain that there is not room in the country for all the children of the country, and that they warn our women to be less prolific. In France, in spite of the desire of the people, in spite of the national belief, eating and drinking are regarded as privileges, labor a privilege, family a privilege, country a privilege.

M. Antony Thouret said recently that property, without which there is neither country, nor family, nor labor, nor morality, would be irreproachable as soon as it should cease to be a privilege; a clear statement of the fact that, to abolish all the privileges which, so to speak, exclude a portion of the people from the law, from humanity, we must abolish, first of all, the fundamental privilege, and change the constitution of property. M. A. Thouret, in saying that, agreed with us and with the people. The State, the Press, political economy, do not view the matter in that light; they agree in the hope that property, without which, as M. Thouret says, there is no labor, no family, no Republic, may remain what it always has been, a privilege.

All that has been done, said, and printed to-day and for the last twenty years, has been done, said, and printed in consequence of the theory of Malthus.

The theory of Malthus is the theory of political murder; of murder from motives of philanthropy and for love of God. There are too many people in the world; that is the first article of faith of all those who, at present, in the name of the people, reign and govern. It is for this reason that they use their best efforts to diminish the population. Those who best acquit themselves of this duty, who practice with piety, courage, and fraternity the maxims of Malthus, are good citizens, religious men, those who protest against such conduct are anarchists, socialists, atheists.

That the Revolution of February was the result of this protest constitutes its inexpiable crime. Consequently, it shall be taught its business, this Revolution which promised that all should live. The original, indelible stain on the Republic is that the people have pronounced it anti-Malthusian. That is why the Republic is so especially obnoxious to those who were and would become again, the toadies and accomplices of kings—grand eaters of men, as Cato called them. They would make a monarchy of your Republic; they would devour its children.

There lies the whole secret of the sufferings, the agitations, and the contradictions of our country. The economists are the first among us, by an inconceivable blasphemy, to establish as a providential dogma the theory of Malthus. I do not reproach them; neither do I abuse them. On this point the economists act in good faith and from the best intentions in the world. They would ask nothing better than to make the human race happy; but they cannot conceive how, without some sort of an organization of homicide, a balance between population and production can exist.

Ask the Academy of Moral Sciences. One of its most honorable members, whose name I will not call, though he is proud of his opinions, as every honest man should be—being the prefect of I know not which department, saw fit one day, in a proclamation, to advise those within his province to have thenceforth fewer children by their wives. Great was the scandal among the priests and gossips, who looked upon this academic morality as the morality of swine! The savant of whom I speak was none the less, like all his fellows, a zealous defender of the family and of morality; but, he observed with Malthus, at the banquet of Nature there is not room for all.

M. Thiers, also a member of the Academy of Moral Sciences, lately told the committee on finance that, if he were minister, he would confine himself to courageously and stoically passing through the crisis, devoting himself to the expenses of his budget, enforcing a respect for order, and carefully guarding against every financial innovation, every socialistic idea—especially such as the right to labor, as well as every revolutionary expedient. And the whole committee applauded him. In giving this declaration of the celebrated historian and statesman, I have no desire to accuse his intentions. In the present state of the public mind, I should succeed only in serving the ambition of M. Thiers, if he has any left. What I wish to call attention to is that M. Thiers, in expressing himself in this wise, testified, perhaps unconsciously, to his faith in Malthus.

Mark this well, I pray you. There are two millions, four millions of men who will die of misery and hunger, if some means be not found of giving them work. This is a great misfortune, surely, and we are the first to lament it, the Malthusians tell you; but what is to be done? It is better that four millions of men should die than that privilege should be compromised; it is not the fault of capital, if labor is idle; at the banquet of credit there is not room for all.

They are courageous, they are stoical, these statesmen of the school of Malthus, when it is a matter of sacrificing laborers by millions. Thou hast killed the poor man, said the prophet Elias to the king of Israel, and then thou hast taken away his inheritance. Occidisti et possedisti. Today we must reverse the phrase, and say to those who possess and govern: You have the privilege of labor, the privilege of credit, the privilege of property, as M. Thouret says; and it is because you do not wish to be deprived of these privileges, that you shed the blood of the poor like wate: Possedisti et occidisti!

And the people, under the pressure of bayonets, are being eaten slowly; they die without a sigh or a murmur; the sacrifice is effected in silence. Courage, laborers! sustain each other: Providence will finally conquer fate. Courage! the condition of your fathers, the soldiers of the republic, at the sieges of Gênes and Mayence, was even worse than yours.

M. Léon Faucher, in contending that journals should be forced to furnish securities and in favoring the maintenance of taxes on the press, reasoned also after the manner of Malthus. The serious journal, said he, the journal that deserves consideration and esteem, is that which is established on a capital of from four to five hundred thousand francs. The journalist who has only his pen is like the workman who has only his arms. If he can find no market for his services or get no credit with which to carry on his enterprize, it is a sign that public opinion is against him; he has not the least right to address the country: at the banquet of public life there is not room for all.

Listen to Lacordaire, that light of the Church, that chosen vessel of Catholicism. He will tell you that socialism is antichrist. And why is socialism antichrist? Because socialism is the enemy of Malthus, whereas Catholicism, by a final transformation, has become Malthusian.

The gospel tells us, cries the priest, that there will always be poor people, Pauperes semper habebitis vobiscum; and that property, consequently, in so far as it is a privilege and makes poor people, is sacred. Poverty is necessary to the exercise of evangelical piety; at the banquet of this world here below there cannot be room for all.

He feigns ignorance, the infidel, of the fact that poverty in Biblical language, signified every sort of affliction and pain, not hard times and the condition of the proletaire. And how could he who went up and down Judæa crying, Woe to the rich! be understood differently? In the thought of Jesus Christ, woe to the rich meant woe to the Malthusians. If Christ were living today, he would say to Lacordaire and his companions: ” You are of the race of those who, in all ages, have shed the blood of the just, from Abel unto Zacharias. Your law is not my law; your God is not my God!

And the Lacordaires would crucify Christ as a seditious person and an atheist.

Almost the whole of journalism is infected with the same ideas. Let Le National, for example, tell us whether it has not always believed, whether it does not still believe, that pauperism is a permanent element of civilization; that the enslavement of one portion of humanity is necessary to the glory of another; that those who maintain the contrary are dangerous dreamers who deserve to be shot; that such is the basis of the State. For, if this is not the secret thought of Le National, if Le National sincerely and resolutely desires the emancipation of laborers, why these anathemas against, why this anger with, the genuine socialists—those who, for ten and twenty years, have demanded this emancipation?

Further, let the Bohemians of literature, today the myrmidons of journalism, paid slanderers, courtiers of the privileged classes, eulogists of all the vices, parasites living upon other parasites, who prate so much of God only to dissemble their materialism, of the family only to conceal their adulteries, and whom we shall see, out of disgust for marriage, caressing monkeys when Malthusian women fail—let these, I say, publish their economic creed, in order that the people may know them.

Faites des filles, nous les aimons—beget girls, we love them, sing these wretches, parodying the poet. But abstain from begetting boys; at the banquet of sensualism there is not room for all. The government was inspired by Malthus when, having a hundred thousand laborers at its disposal, to whom it gave gratuitous support, it refused to employ them at useful labor, and when, after the civil war, it asked that a law be passed for their transportation. With the expenses of the pretended national workshops, with the costs of war, lawsuits, imprisonment, and transportation, it might have given the insurgents six months’ labor, and thus changed our whole economic system. But labor is a monopoly; the government does not wish revolutionary industry to compete with privileged industry; at the work-bench of the nation there is not room for all.

Large industrial establishments ruin small ones; that is the law of capital, that is Malthus.

Wholesale trade gradually swallows the retail; again Malthus.

Large estates encroach upon and consolidate the smallest possessions; still Malthus.

Soon one half of the people will say to the other:

The earth and its products are my property.

Industry and its products are my property.

Commerce and transportation are my property.

The State is my property.

You who possess neither reserve nor property, who hold no public offices and whose labor is useless to us, TAKE YOURSELVES AWAY! You have really no business on the earth; beneath the sunshine of the Republic there is not room for all.

Who will tell me that the right to labor and to live is not the whole of the Revolution?

Who will tell me that the principle of Malthus is not the whole of the counter-Revolution?

And it is for having published such things as these, for having exposed the evil boldly and sought the remedy in good faith, that speech has been forbidden me by the government, the government that represents the Revolution!

That is why I have been deluged with the slanders, treacheries, cowardice, hypocrisy, outrages, desertions, and failings of all those who hate or love the people! That is why I have been given over, for a whole month, to the mercy of the jackals of the press and the screech-owls of the platform! Never was a man, either in the past or in the present, the object of so much execration as I have become, for the simple reason that I wage war upon cannibals.

To slander one who could not reply was to shoot a prisoner. Malthusian carnivora, I discover you there! Go on, then; we have more than one account to settle yet. And, if calumny is not sufficient for you, use iron and lead. You may kill me; no one can avoid his fate, and I am at your discretion. But you shall not conquer me; you shall never persuade the people, while I live and hold a pen, that, with the exception of yourselves, there is one too many on the earth. I swear it before the people and in the name of the Republic!

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865).

This essay was published in 1848. It was translated into English by Benjamin R. Tucker and published in 1885.

Featured: Illustration from the American School Board Journal, 1922.

The Orpheus Complex: The Error of Progressive Neoliberalism

As Michéa has stressed, the new Left of the rainbow is today a victim of the “Orpheus complex.” In order not to lose his beloved Eurydice forever, the singer Orpheus—as Ovid writes in the Metamorphoses (X, 50-52)—could not “look back until he had left the valleys of Avernus” (ne flectat retro sua lumina, donec Avernas / exierit valles).

At the mercy of the cult of progress (id est, of forced capitalist modernization), the neoliberal leftist Orpheus never looks back: he is convinced that the present and the future, in all spheres, can only be better than the past and tradition. he considers that every modernization, in all spheres of human life, is in itself a positive fact and, by this means, achieves reconciliation with capitalist globalization. On the other hand, on the whole, this is the liberal-progressive vision of absolute-totalitarian capital, which advances by annihilating as “regressive” every link and every limit that resists its progress; that is, its march of integral mutation of every being into available commodity and exploitable fund in the name of the infinitely empowered will to power.

Far from preserving the order of things, techno-capital is, to use Jünger’s category, “total mobilization” (totale Mobilmachung) of beings. It ceaselessly transforms the world: Progress is its founding myth. For part of the adventure of Modernity, being in favor of progress may seem a perfectly reasonable option, insofar as progress brings with it emancipation and the development of human potentialities. The mistake, however, consists in confusing progress with emancipation, insisting on implementing the former even when it acts directly against the latter, as has been increasingly evident since 1989. The unreflective adherence to the myth of progress is the error co-originary to the paradigm of the Left and—paraphrasing Engels—is absent in the “socialism of the origins”: that is why today, the recovery of socialism is necessary; that of the Left is impossible.

The original vulnus of the forces of the left quadrant—Michaéa is correct—lies in the mechanical praise of progress and modernization as such; a nucleus that necessarily leads them to reconcile (and, in fact, to merge) with the order of progressive neoliberalism and that it is not imaginable to “extirpate” from the Left’s own code. In fact, this code—Michéa writes—belongs “to the hard core of the metaphysical program of any possible Left, a program it could not renounce, even in part, without completely denying itself.” The myth of progress is the incurable disease in the paradigm of the Left; that which today determines the demand to free ourselves from the Left and its disempowering progressivism in order to resume the path of socialism as the emancipation of the oppressed classes and, with them, of the entire human race.

This hermeneutical framework explains how the Left, which was part of the real opposition to capital in its dialectical phase, becomes useless in the framework of liberal-progressive turbo-capitalism, with which it ends up merging and becoming confused. Also, by virtue of the unbreakable code of progressivism, the opposition to turbo-capitalism can no longer be from the Left (nor, obviously, from the Right), but will have to be founded on new categories, beyond the old cleavage, but nevertheless capable of metabolizing the lessons of Marx and Gramsci, and of their dialectical and socialist anti-capitalism.

The category of “progress” is, in effect, the quid pro quo that has induced the metamorphic new Left to adhere to the rhythm of neoliberal modernization. Until we say goodbye to the myth of progress—and with it to the Left—it will not be possible to pursue a project of real emancipation from capitalism, in a socialist key. This is what Christopher Lasch demonstrated, in the most argued and solid way, in The True and Only Heaven (1991): the thesis according to which “progress cannot be stopped” inevitably brings with it the thesis that “capitalist globalization cannot be stopped.”

The indiscriminate demolition of all figures of limit and tradition—typical of those who are obstinate in “maintaining the left”—does not lead to a socialist society, but to the nightmare of global capitalism; another thing, however, is the reasoned overcoming of limits and traditions that generate oppression and subjugation, such as—among other cases—the servitude of the glebe or prejudices about the anthropological superiority of presumed privileged categories. If capitalism and the Left aim at the indiscriminate deconstruction of all traditions and bonds, socialism should, for its part, selectively protect the bonds and traditions that promote human emancipation and, on the other hand, fight against those that deny it.

In the light of a different perspective, the main task, from an authentically socialist point of view, would be today the revolutionary transformation of that which opposes human emancipation and the selective preservation of that which promotes it. In other words, unlike the Left (which automatically identifies progress and emancipation, even when the former denies the latter), socialism should promote emancipatory progress and oppose disempowering progress.

For example, the neo-language complementing the processes of neo-liberal individualization sanctifies as “progress” the deconstruction of any safety net linked to welfarism or tradition, to community or bonds of solidarity; it liquidates each link in the chain and favors the idea of a society of mutually indifferent and independent atoms, interested only in competing in the arena of the deregulated free market. Would not the priority task of any socialist program be to resist this “progress”—rigorously managed by capital in its own interest—and selectively preserve social rights and class conquests? For the mentis form of the referential new Left, it would be, naturally, the umpteenth form of reactionary and populist opposition to the magnificent future of progress. But, in the light of what has been said, it should be clear in what sense—today hegemonic—there can exist a “progress” that, in relation to emancipation, manifests itself as regressive and, therefore, worthy of being fought.

The deviation consists, ça va sans dire, in accepting indiscriminately as emancipating any modernization and any break with the past, according to the “Orpheus complex.” To overcome the mistreatment and subordination of women is certainly so; but to abandon the study of the Greek language or the wage and labor conquests of the 20th century, is it in the same thing? Clearly, not every step forward is necessarily a step in the right direction. If one finds oneself on the edge of a precipice, the gesture of taking a step forward represents the least desirable and emancipatory progress that can exist. And just as there can be a regressive and counterrevolutionary progressivism, as was that of Marinetti, who theorized the need to kill the “always tedious and oppressive” book, there can also be a communism that is the enemy of progress, as fueled by that of Pasolini or, in a different perspective, that of Benjamin.

Apart from that, the blunder lies in not distinguishing between bonds that enchain and that, as such, deserve to be sacrificed, and bonds that, in a diametrically opposed way, generate freedom and emancipation, and that, therefore, must be selectively protected and preserved. The bonds that enchain, such as the asymmetrical nexus of servitude and lordship on which capital is based, demand to be broken (and instead capital declares them immutable, if not outright just and good). But the bonds that generate freedom and solidarity, such as the family or the school, the trade unions and the “ethical roots” (Wurzeln der Sittlichkeit) of civil society, must be protected (and instead capital aspires to dissolve them, calling this annihilation progress).

In short, the project of a socialist anti-capitalism today must base its program on the emancipation of man and labor, selectively accepting the progress that favors it and rejecting those that deny it.

On the side of the modern adventure—we must insist—progress and emancipation march together. And in most cases, they seem difficult to distinguish. This is precisely what Marx shows in the Manifesto, when he evokes, in a dialectical tone, the emancipatory character of capitalist progress, which is determined in the overcoming of the Ancien Régime, and in the development of modern productive forces.

The modified framework of absolute capitalism, for its part, radically distinguishes progress and emancipation, development of capital and liberation of the dominated classes: to such an extent that—to paraphrase Pasolini—the progress of capital (the “development” of the productive forces and of the corresponding socio-political nexuses) favors dis-emancipation. And it determines social and political regression, disintegrating the very conquests obtained in the framework of dialectical capitalism itself (social rights and spaces of democracy).

It is, in synthesis, the history between 1989 and our present. In the absence of a clear distinction between bourgeoisie and capitalism and between emancipation and progress, from 1968 to the present—and especially since the 1990s of the “short century”—the new Left has fought the bourgeoisie by favoring capitalism and has defended progress by fighting emancipation. The paradox is all the more striking if one considers that in essence capitalism, far from being “static” and conservative, is governed by the incessant transformation of beings and by the permanent revolution of its own conditions.

It was already clear to Marx and Engels when they wrote, in 1848, the Communist Manifesto: the capitalist mode of production lives in the incessant Heraclitean transformation of the world it has forged in its own image and likeness. Its essence lies in the infinite love of unlimited valorization, the secret norm of capital’s innate predatory drive. Unlike the preceding forms of production and social relation, which were based primarily on the conservation of the given conditions and the “unaltered maintenance of the old order of production,” capital exists by permanently revolutionizing the instruments of production and the social relations in which it is structured. It makes incessant mutation its own fundamentum. The total mobilization of beings is its inescapable basis, consistent with the accelerated cycle of the production and circulation of commodities. The only transformation it does not tolerate is, naturally, that which aims at transcending it and generating new and different forms of production and existence.

If the progressive overcoming of the power relations of the pre-modern world was, eo ipso, emancipatory, turbo-capitalist progress as it has unfolded since 1989 is dialectically posed as intrinsically dis-emancipatory and, therefore, worthy of being combated in a socialist key. The principal of the illusions du progress—as Sorel earlier qualified them—and of their religious and intransigent faith resides, in the last instance, in becoming the foundation of the legitimization of the existing, in the form of a dogmatic guarantee according to which what we are today we can continue to be tomorrow in an enhanced form. The ideology of progress, that is to say, of ordered growth according to the temporal figure of the continuum, ends up posing, in the framework of speculative capitalism, as the main obstacle to socialist revolution understood as a “leap” and as a “rupture”—in Leninist terms—of the linear evolution of market society.
It would not be a difficult task, then, to demonstrate how the triumphal march of progress, in which the “victory bulletins” sung by the left-oriented heralds of globalism follow one after the other, is accompanied by social regression and disempowerment of the popular classes. This is translated, for example, in the processes of mass individualization that are determined in the dissolution of the solid and solidary links of the “ethical roots” of society: from the family to the school, from the unions to the power of the State with the capacity to govern the animal spirits of the economy. Such “progress” favors capital and certainly not the national-popular masses of workers, who will be further weakened and deprived of forms of cooperation and protection. For example, the “progress” of the creation of the European Union has led to a hemorrhage of the rights of the working and middle classes. And the same could reasonably be said of the “progress” of the fall of the Berlin Wall and of the “citadel” of social rights, Welfarist conquests and labor protections.

In short, the progressive demolition of social rights and of the Welfarist conquests, in the name of the demands of market rationality, produces “progress” only for the neo-liberal oligarchic bloc, determining, for the “people of the abysses,” growing inequality and poverty, but also the lack of growth of wages and the exponential increase of the working poor. In this regard, it is enough to recall what the economist Marcel Fratzscher showed in Verteilungskampf: Warum Deutschland immer ungleicher wird (Distribution War: Why Germany is Becoming Increasingly Unequal). Fratzscher explains that in 2016 German wages were lower than twenty-five years earlier. The triumphal advance of progress has evidently not involved the working classes of that Germany which—the spokesmen of the neoliberal order claim—is the permanent point d’honneur of progressivism and growth.

On the other hand, can we really celebrate as “progress” the trajectory that—as revealed by Luciano Gallino—led, in the first decade of the new Millennium, to the figure of 50 million poor people in the United States and, in the European Union, to no less than 120 million people (a quarter of the population) being at risk of poverty or social exclusion? Can we really automatically associate the slogan “progress” with the pictures, circulating everywhere, of the increasing number of Greeks, Spaniards and Italians who, in the very progressive neo-liberal European Union, rummage through the garbage in search of food? Or those of the homeless on the streets of the United States, the forge of the glorious progress of capital, who are trying to find shelter from the cold so as not to freeze to death? Or perhaps we would identify as “progress” labor conditions that are increasingly precarious, helpless and abandoned to the unquestioned will of the laws of the market?

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

Class And Man

We are extremely pleased to present a new translation of this very pertinent essay by Nikolai Berdyaev (1874-1948), the well-know Russian philosopher. It was published on January 8, 1918, in the journal, Народо Πравительство (The People’s Government).


The struggle of classes fills the history of mankind. It is not an invention of the 19th and 20th centuries, although in these centuries it took new and aggravated forms. This struggle was also going on in the ancient world and even back then showed varied manifestations. Much instructive reading on this subject can be found in Pöhlmann’s book, История античного коммунизма и социализма (Geschichte des antiken Kommunismus und SozialismusThe History of Ancient Communism and Socialism). Some pages in it are reminiscent of the chronicle of our own times.

The social revolt of the masses has always, and everywhere, been the same in its psychological context. Too much is repeated in social life, and it is difficult to come up with entirely new combinations and permutations in this area. There have been many class-communist movements in the past, and they have often taken on religious overtones. Such communist movements were particularly characteristic of the Reformation era. The spontaneous communism of the lower classes of society is one of the very oldest tendencies that occasionally rises up and tries to overturn the individualistic and hierarchical tendencies. Communism is as old as the world; it was at the cradle of human civilization.

Many times in history, the grassroots have risen up and tried to sweep away all the hierarchical and qualitative differences in society and establish a mechanical equality and intermingling. This leveling equation and simplification of society has always been at odds with progressive historical tasks and the state of culture. Periodically in history there have been tides of chaotic darkness that have sought to overturn the social cosmos and its law of development. Such movements have, time and again, been utterly reactionary and have backfired on people. Socialist Lassalle did not consider the peasant wars of the Reformation era as progressive; he considered them reactionary; that is, contrary to the main historical objectives of the time. And in the element of the Russian revolution the same old, reactionary forces are at work: the ancient chaos that lay beneath the thin layers of Russian civilization is stirring within it.

The class struggle, this original sin of human societies, deepened and changed its character in the nineteenth century. In this advanced age, human society has become very materialized, has lost its spiritual center, and man’s bestial self-interest, under a civilized guise, has reached extreme tension and expression. The moral character of the bourgeois-capitalist age makes the struggle of the classes for their interests more shameless than in former ages. And this is not because of the fact of industrial development, which in itself is a good thing, but to the spiritual condition of European society. The spiritual poison in this society has gone from the top down, from the ruling classes to the oppressed classes.

The materialist socialism of Marx and others, which concentrated in itself all the poison of bourgeois godlessness, was not limited to a more acute knowledge of the fact of the class struggle—it sanctified this fact and finally subordinated man to class. The means of struggle finally overshadowed the higher purposes of life. Materialist socialism, enslaved by the economism of capitalist societies, denies man and human nature; it recognizes only class-man, only class-collectives. A very special sense of life is born—one perceives only the masses and completely ceases to perceive the individual man. Class is quantity. But the individual is quality. Class struggle, elevated to an “idea,” has shut out the qualitative image of man.

In our harsh times, which are tearing away all veils, old-fashioned idealism, which turns its back on the ugly fact of class struggle, on class antagonisms and class stratifications that distort the nature of man, is impossible and naively ridiculous. Class antagonisms and class distortions of the human image play an enormous, though not honorable, role in social life. But our moral judgments and our ideas about the spiritual image of man should not depend on this natural fact.

Human nature may be distorted by man’s class status; the shell of man may be defined by class self-interest and class limitations—but the spiritual core of man, the individual human image, is never determined by class, nor does it depend on social environment. And he who denies this, denies man: he commits spiritual manslaughter. It is ungodly and immoral to see the collective substance of the bourgeoisie or the proletariat instead of man with his good and bad qualities. This is how the idea of class kills the idea of man. This murder is theorized in Marxism. In the realm of the Russian revolution, it is committed practically on a scale never before seen in history. The “bourgeois” man and the “socialist” man cease to be human beings for each other, brothers in the One Father of the human race. In this revolutionary element there can be no liberation of man; for man is denied in his original essence. Class liberation, as it were, binds and enslaves man.


Ever since the world became Christian and was baptized, it has recognized in its religious consciousness that men are brothers, that we have one Father in heaven. In the Christian world, the master and the slave, in their social shells, cannot recognize each other as wolves; they can in their sin, but they cannot in their faith. In their lucid moments, in their spiritual depths, they recognized each other as brothers in Christ. The Christian world remained a sinful world. It fell, betrayed its God, did evil. In it, people hated one another, and instead of the law of love they executed the law of hatred. But the sin of hatred, malice, and violence was recognized by all Christians as a sin, not as a virtue, not as a way to a higher life. Faith in man as the image and likeness of God remained the faith of Christendom. Man was bad, but his faith was good; the spiritual foundation laid by Christ and His Church was good. But there was a severe crisis in Christian humanity.

The soul of the people and the soul of the nations became sick. Faith became bad; they stopped believing in man as the image and likeness of God, because they stopped believing in God. The very spiritual foundations of life have changed. Socialism is not to blame for this spiritual fall; it happened earlier. Socialism has only slavishly embraced this unbelief in man and in God; and it brings it to an end and gives it universal expression. Disbelief in man has led to the deification of man. The struggle of classes is no longer a socio-economic fact; it has become a spiritual fact; it has spread to the totality of human nature and human life. There is not a corner of the human soul, of human experience and of human creativity to which the struggle of classes has not invaded with its exorbitant pretensions.

The theory of economic materialism prefaced, and corresponded to, a new human reality: an economism that spilled over into the whole field of human life. On such ground, the single law of the good was lost in human society. The “bourgeois good” and the “socialist good” want nothing in common with one another, and there is no higher, unified good above them. And so, there is no longer a direct relation of man to man; there is only a relation of class to class. Revolutionary socialism, as it has now revealed itself in Russia, finally kills the possibility of human brotherhood in principle, in the new faith itself, in the idea. According to this new faith, there is no longer a man, but only a bearer and exponent of an impersonal class substance.

Not only are the “proletarian” and the “bourgeois” not brothers for each other but wolves. The proletarian and the proletarian are not brothers but “comrades,” comrades in interest, in misfortune, in the community of material desires. In the socialist faith, the comrade replaced the brother of the Christian faith. Brothers were united to one another as children of the One Father, by love, by community of spirit. Comrades are united to one another by a community of interests, by hatred of the “bourgeoisie,” by the same material basis of life. The comrade in the comrade honors the class, not the individual. Such comradeship kills fundamentally the brotherhood of men, not only the supreme unity of Christian humanity, but also the average unity of civilized humanity.

The French Revolution abused the slogan “liberty, equality and fraternity.” But it did not and did not try to realize fraternity. The socialist revolution imagines that it can and must realize fraternity. But it can only realize fraternity, which brings unprecedented division to mankind. Equality is not brotherhood. Fraternity is possible only in Christ, only for Christian humanity—it is the revelation of the religion of love. The idea of brotherhood is stolen from Christianity and is impossible outside of it. The pathos of equality is the pathos of envy, not love.

Movements born of an equalizing passion breathe revenge—they do not want to sacrifice, but to take away. Brotherhood is organic; equality is mechanical. In fraternity all human personality is affirmed, but in the equality of “comrades” all personality disappears in quantitative mass. In the brother the individual triumphs. In the comrade the class triumphs. The comrade substitutes for the man. Brother is a religious category. Citizen is a political, state-legal category. Comrade is a pseudo-religious category. “Citizen” and “brother” have justification. “Comrade” has no justification. Through the idea of comrade, the class kills man. Man to man is not a “comrade;” man to man can only be a citizen or a brother—a citizen in the state, in secular communion, or a brother in the church, in religious communion. Citizenship is connected with right; brotherhood is connected with love. A comrade denies right and denies love; he recognizes only common or opposing interests. In this rapprochement or disunion of interests, man perishes. Man needs either a civil attitude toward him, a recognition of his rights, or a fraternal attitude toward him, an attitude of unbounded love.


Russian people need to go through the school of citizenship. In this school they should develop respect for the individual and his rights, and they should realize the dignity of the human being as a creature living in society and the state. Every person and every nation must pass through this stage; it cannot be skipped over. When rebellious slaves claim that the civil state is unnecessary and insufficient for them, that they can go immediately to a higher state, they usually fall into an animal state.

The school of brotherhood develops a love of man for man, a consciousness of spiritual fellowship. It is a religious plan that should not be confused with a political plan. It is absurd and ungodly to transfer the wonders of religious life to political and social life, making the relative absolute. Forced brotherhood is impossible. Brotherhood is the fruit of unconditional love. Brotherly love is the color of spiritual life. Everyone is obliged to be a citizen. Everyone can demand respect for his rights, recognition as a human being, even if there is no love.

Socialist comradeship, in its idea, is a compulsion to virtue, a compulsion to fellowship greater than that which one voluntarily desires. “Comrade” is an unacceptable confusion of “citizen” and “brother,” a confusion of state and church society, a substitution of one plan for the other, not this and not that. During these months in Russia, the word “comrade” has acquired a ridiculous and almost shameful meaning. It is associated with the extermination of citizenship and the final denial of the brotherhood of love.

Class in the person of the “comrade” has not only revolted against class, class has revolted against man. The human being is forgotten in the rage of class hatred. But man is a genuine, enduring reality. Man inherits eternity, not class. All class is a temporary, transient phenomenon; it never was and never will be. Man is concrete. Class, on the other hand, is an abstraction. This abstraction unites similar social interests and similar social psyches. But these abstract associations can never form an authentic reality, a real value. The “proletariat” of the socialists is an abstract “idea,” not reality. Only heterogeneous groups of workers, often differing both in their interests and in their mental dispositions, exist in reality. The workers themselves are forced to submit to the abstract idea of the proletariat. And to this bloodless abstraction, human sacrifices are offered as an idol.

Nor does class possess the reality that a nation, a state possesses. Class is a very relative entity; it can occupy only the most subordinate position. All “class” refers to the rinds of life, not to the core. The attempt to base the destiny of society on the idea of class, and the fact of class, is a demonic attempt; it seeks to destroy man, nation, state, church, all authentic realities. The class to which supremacy is attributed degrades all values and distorts all evaluations of life. The working class, believing that it is the only chosen class, leaves no place of life; demolishes and cripples everything. There will be no free citizenship in Russia as long as Russians live under the rule of the demonic idea of class. And the same dark class idea will destroy the remnants of brotherhood in the Russian people, as a people of Christianity.

Hypnosis of the class idea distorts socialism itself and gives it a destructive and suicidal character. If socialism is possible and admissible, it must be based on man, not class. A crusade must be preached against class absolutism. In the backwards Russian people, obsessed with a false idea, deceived and raped—a human being, a human image and human dignity must be awakened.

The arrogance and impudence of class is not the dignity of man; it is in them that man perishes. Not only does man not awaken in the masses of workers and peasants, but he is finally forgotten and drowns in the element of dark instincts. Bolshevik collectivism is the consequence of Russia’s failure to discover the human element, the human personality and the human image. Proletarian class communism on Russian soil is an experience of pre-human, primordial communism. The revolution unleashed this communist darkness, but did nothing to develop free citizenship in the mass of the people. A new and better life will begin in Russia when the luminous spirit of man overcomes the dark demon of class.

Featured image: “Hungry times in Petrograd,” by Ivan Alekseevich Vladimirov, painted in 1919.

Liberalism And Totalitarianism. A Conversation with Ryszard Legutko

Harrison Koehli from MindMatters talks with Ryzard Legutko about his work, life under communism, editing samizdat, the recent controversy with his university’s “office of safety and equality,” and the time he got sued for calling some students “spoiled brats.”

This is insightful and riveting discussion.

The featured image shows, “The Genius Of France Extirpating Despotism, Tyranny, and Oppression frokm the Face of the Earth,” an engraving by Isaac Cruikshank, published 1792.

Bearing Shame

In 401 AD, twenty-nine Saxon “slaves,” strangled each other to death with their bare hands in their prison cells. They chose this death rather than being forced to fight one another in Rome’s arena. Better death than shame. Their “owner,” the Senator Symmachus (famously known as the “Last Pagan”), wrote of them that they were a rebellious “band of slaves, worse than any Spartacus.”1

In the pages of the New Testament we see some interesting public events:

A woman taken in the act of adultery is dragged into the street by her accusers where she is threatened with public stoning.
Jesus is nearly thrown headlong off a cliff after speaking in the synagogue in Nazareth. (Luke 4).
Stephen the Deacon is publicly stoned after preaching about Christ.
King Herod issues orders to arrest more Christians after his execution of James is seen to please the people.
Public life in earlier centuries could be brutal and dangerous. In many locations across the world, little has changed. Recently, there has been a growing problem with spectators at American sporting events, shouting outrageous insults at players and throwing items (beer, bottles, etc.). No doubt, the problem is far more widespread.

But all of these events share something in common: the public use of shame. The language of shame essentially attacks who-a-person-is rather than what-they-have-done. A person who is guilty of murder thus becomes a “murderer.” And though this is technically true, it is also not true. The language of guilt isolates responsibility for a single event; the language of shame assumes that you are now that event waiting to be visited upon all. Guilt suggests punishment or restitution; shame declares that no matter what you might do, you will always be that person.

There is a world of difference, for example, between being wrong about something and being “stupid.” But, as one comedian has it, “There’s no cure for stupid.” Shame labels us as incurable.

The language of shame is far more powerful than the language of guilt. Guilt can be answered and atoned. Shame, however, has no atonement – it is a declaration of “who we are.” There is no atonement for stupid, ugly, incompetent, mean, evil, etc. On occasion, I have been accosted by those who use shame as a verbal weapon. Recently, in an exchange in which I was the object of someone’s labeling, I was told that no apology need be made when speaking the truth – that is, shame is fine so long as it is “true.”

Shame is not only permitted in our culture; it needs no apology.

There is a strange phenomenon about shame, however. I describe this as its “sticky” quality. When we see the shame of someone else, we ourselves experience shame. This can be as innocuous as watching someone’s public embarrassment and sharing the feeling of embarrassment. It is equally and more profoundly true in darker and deeper encounters. We cannot shame others and remain untouched. The very shame we extend reaches within us and takes us with it.

It is there, in its depths, that shame does its most devastating work. It is a primary creator and maintainer of the false self, an identity established largely through the energy of shame that leaves the truth of the soul shrouded in darkness. It becomes the source of acedia, in the words of the Fathers, or anger, anxiety, and depression, in modern parlance.

Unattended shame lives within us like a dybbuk, an angry hurt and hurting soul that breeds death. We ignore the role of shame in our lives to our own spiritual peril. Much that we imagine to be righteousness is only shame in a fancy disguise.

If you have ever engaged in one of the typical shame fights on social media, then think about how you felt when it was over (or even if you only read such a shame fight). There is no inner peace. There can be burning anger and a nattering inner voice of opposition that lingers for days. In terms of shame, it doesn’t matter if you are right. Shame loves the categories of right and wrong. It only matters that your opponent disagreed and that you shamed them. Shame is like the game of global thermonuclear war: the only option is not to play.

Shaming is easily justified by many. Whether it is doctrine, the Church, the state, the culture, whatever institution stands most in danger, shaming, like violence, is considered an effective tool in guarding the fort. However, it remains the case that shame cannot be used without causing damage to the one who uses it. Like the One Ring of Power, shame takes the one who uses it into the darkness and binds them there as well.

The mystery of our salvation cannot be found in living life on its most literal, surface level. Such a life can make no sense of forgiving enemies, doing good to those who hate you, rendering good for evil, being kind to all and sharing your stuff. In short, such a life cannot bear the shame of love. But only such love can know God. We only live by dying. We only heal shame by bearing shame.

Father Stephen Freeman is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.

The featured image shows, “After the Misdeed,” by Jean Béraud, painted ca. 1885-1890.

We: A Dystopian Masterpiece By Yevgeny Zamyatin

Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, written in 1921, is the ur-dystopia of all modern dystopias. True, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984, both of which this book influenced, get more attention today. In fact, it is nearly a cliché, at least on the Right, that we are heading to some combination of the two, the only question being which our future society will resemble more, if we do not first overthrow the lords of the present age. That is as it may be, but Zamyatin’s novel offers a third future, certainly a future more to the liking of today’s ruling class than either of those other futures. And, crucially, its story ends with a lesson lacking in those other books, even though that lesson is, it appears, universally ignored by those who discuss this book.

I warn you now, this entire review is one big spoiler. We is written as a journal of sorts, the stream of consciousness of a man named D-503. He is a mathematician and the Chief Engineer of a spaceship, named INTEGRAL, being prepared for imminent launch to explore Venus, Mars, and beyond. D-503 is a citizen of OneState, under the absolute rule of, apparently, one man, the Benefactor. D-503, along with other members of the citizenry, has been ordered by the Benefactor to create intellectual cargo for INTEGRAL, to be delivered to inhabitants of other planets in order to propagate the ideology of OneState. He decides to simply record what he sees around him, because what he sees is the “mathematically perfect life of OneState.” To speak of it is to herald its perfection. But D-503’s journal turns out to be, without his intent, a journal of his awakening.

Why does D-503 consider OneState perfect? It is the twenty-sixth century; OneState is two hundred years old, and followed two hundred years of war that killed the vast majority of Earth’s population. OneState is a single city, surrounded by an impenetrable glass wall, the Green Wall. All construction within is also of glass, both a technological achievement and a means of ensuring every citizen may be observed. Nobody ever goes beyond the Green Wall—not because the wilderness is a blasted wasteland, but rather because it is the opposite, an area of uncontrolled growth, a riot of plants and animals.

It is not random that D-503’s rocket is named INTEGRAL. The theme of calculus is shot through this book, and the purpose of the rocket is to “integrate the indefinite equation of the universe”—that is, to subject the rest of the universe to the perfection that is OneState, to turn the natural curves of the universe into the straight line and finite quantity of OneState. It will be, for those unknown peoples in space, “the fiery Tamerlane of happiness.”

OneState aims to order the life of man rationally, in contrast to the disordered irrationality of past ages, that led to war, disease, and suchlike unclean and inefficient happenings. The ideology of OneState is not Communism, or any other modern ideology that actually gained traction in real life. We should remember that Zamyatin wrote in the early days of Bolshevism, and before any example existed of the modern cult of personality. Thus, not only is this book not an attack on Communism, the Benefactor is not an analog of Stalin or other Communist big men. He is not even an absolute ruler, but simply the manifestation of the ruling class that has created and maintained this supposed utopia. Who the others at the top are, how they live, and how power is handed onward, is unclear. It doesn’t matter; what matters is the ideology of OneState, and what that does to the minds and lives of the mass of citizens.

The ideology of OneState is Taylorism, or rather the perfectibility of man through Taylorism, the achievement of his total happiness through a total loss of freedom. Frederick Winslow Taylor, who died in 1915, was, of course, the apostle of efficiency engineering—the breakdown of industrial tasks into smaller tasks and an obsessive focus on completing each such task as efficiently as possible, that is in minimum time with minimum labor. (Very strangely, a translator’s footnote says that the Taylor constantly mentioned in the book was “long thought to be” an obscure early eighteenth-century British mathematician, Brook Taylor, who worked with calculus. How that mistake could be made is beyond me, even with the frequent references to mathematics in the book.) Taylor’s “motions per second” are the underpinning of the Table of Hours, which for each citizen, each Number, is a breakdown of what he is to be doing at any given moment throughout the day, down to “fifty statutory chews of each mouthful.” The story sold by OneState to the citizens, as the narrator tries to remind himself as the truth dawns on him, is that because of the reduction of all action to pure rationality, “the gods have become like us—ergo, we’ve become like gods.” This fake theosis is what the ruling class of OneState offers the regimented citizenry.

Conformity to the Table of Hours is enforced by the secret police, the Guardians. They are needed because not all is as perfect as it seems. In fact, public executions for crimes against the state are common, for such crimes as writing a poem that criticizes the Benefactor. Such executions are a public religious ritual, a type of Girardian scapegoating. Zamyatin describes one, conducted as always through dematerialization by the Benefactor’s Machine. He explicitly analogizes it to the ancients’ “divine service” and the Benefactor to a high priest, who “slowly passed through the stands—in His wake were gentle white female hands raised aloft like branches and a million hosannas in unison,” with the invisible (to the populace) Guardians standing in as angels.

The government’s control over the minutes of citizens’ lives is subject to only one limit: two hours in the day when citizens have Personal Hours, and can occupy their time with what they please, within strict limits, naturally. This highlights the interesting separation between the ideology of OneState and that of Communism, or more broadly the ideology of the Left, of which Communism is merely one branch. Left ideologies desire to control the thought of the people; this is what Orwell got right. To that end they use many tools, among the most important of which are the mutilation of language and the perversion of justice. But even as their thoughts are constrained, citizens can spend their time largely as they please, the opposite of OneState. As Orwell pointed out, in a review before he published 1984, in which both thoughts and actions are regimented, Zamyatin offers a much more realistic dystopia than Brave New World, which would in practice immediately collapse of ennui and enervation. Here, the citizenry has a feeling, even if wholly artificially inculcated, of meaning, unity, and accomplishment, which can continue indefinitely—until the spell is broken.

We should remember that in 1921, all elite opinion, or at least that found in decent circles, West or East, assumed the scientific perfectibility of man, and that is still a core belief of the Left. (This was one reason the Bolsheviks were treated as serious thinkers; there was some small excuse for reasonable people thinking that at the time.) Still, the idea of regimentation under total government control has always seemed undesirable to most of us in the West; that’s why We has always been thought of as a dystopia. Liberty, or now libertinism, sells better. Or at least it did until 2020, when our own governments reacted to the very modest problem of the Wuhan Plague with a grab for total control, aided and abetted by large swathes of the population, ants who were suddenly revealed as eager for safety and the comfort of being regimented.

As I have noted before, there is something in human nature, and in particular in those who climb the greasy pole of political power, that loves an unfettered ability to minutely control others—but they need an excuse to get the people to swallow it, and usually the excuse fails to convince the populace (as was the case with global warming alarmism). Rarely does the populace cooperate, but when they do, climbing back out is not allowed, as we see all over the West today. The desire for control is not purely a Left impulse, to be sure, although because extreme control is needed to allow rule while denying reality, as the Left inherently does, it is necessarily a very prominent trait among all Left regimes. But maybe, if there were any Right regimes, it might be evident there as well. Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, generally center-right and reality-based, has implemented an extremely strict plague regime, which surprises me, and is something I cannot understand, but perhaps this is the answer. After all, virtuous regimes that enforce limited government reach are not thick on the ground of modern history.

Despite the best efforts of the ruling class, peeking through the Taylorized life of OneState are human emotions such as jealousy, and the desire of the woman sexually “assigned” (non-exclusively) to D-503 to have a child, forbidden to her because she is short, and eugenics demands she meet the Maternal Norm for height to be allowed to reproduce. D-503 largely lacks the vocabulary or thought patterns to identify emotions, however, making such things, and any non-rational human behavior generally, an irritation to him, because they are something unquantifiable and therefore disturbing. But, as happens, he falls in love, another emotion that has been supposedly Taylorized out of existence. The object of his love is I-330, a mysterious woman he meets, whose public behavior skirts the boundaries of acceptability, and whose private behavior, smoking and drinking and talking treason, goes far beyond it. The meeting is not coincidental; she has targeted him, because she is a leader of a group desiring the overthrow of OneState, the Mephi, and he is the operational leader of INTEGRAL, which they wish to hijack.

No surprise, falling in love troubles D-503, who cannot understand what is happening to him. When I-330 fails to follow the Table, he knows he should report her to the Guardians, but finds excuses to not do so. He logically concludes that he is sick. This sickness is not just his newly discovered romantic feelings, but all his newly discovered emotions and unbidden thoughts, slowly morphing into the realization that he has been lied to his entire life—a realization against which he struggles mightily. He intermittently tries to retreat into the linear realities of mathematics, which he has always believed are the same realities as those offered by OneState—but even there, reality pursues him.

As he descends into what feels like madness, but is really coming awake, D-503 realizes that the conspiracy of the Mephi is broad, and extends through tunnels to outside the Green Wall, where live wild, fur-covered humans. It even extends to within the Guardians, perhaps. He also realizes that I-330 is, if not wholly using him, at least partially using him. But he doesn’t care. Tension rises in the city as the Mephi begin to move—a mini-riot ensues when a marching citizen (they all march in unison as a matter of course) breaks ranks to try to free a prisoner of the Guardians he sees on the street. The newspapers start to make strange statements: “Reliable sources report the discovery once again of signs pointing to an elusive organization whose goal is liberation from the beneficent yoke of the State.” Then comes the annual Day of Unanimity, where the Benefactor is reelected by the assembled populace, the “We” of the title, who vote publicly to show their devotion. He descends from the sky, explicitly a divine figure—and when the pro forma question is asked who votes “No” to his reelection, thousands of hands are raised, instantly casting the city into chaos, as the Guardians pursue those who have dared defy the power of OneState.

The city is, to a small degree, as the organs of OneState retreat, left free. Yet for every action, a reaction, and only a fool ignores this truth in his battles. The powers of OneState announce “Rejoice! For henceforth you are perfect!” In what way? In that every person is to complete the transition to a machine of flesh, through an operation to burn out the “imagination”—meaning independence of thought, including emotion. (This being allegory, we can ignore that turning a person into a calculating machine might very well result in him calculating that the overthrow of the Benefactor made mathematical sense, even for a purely rational actor.)

Perhaps surprising the ruling class, the Operation is greeted with widespread opposition from the populace at large. Wildfire, disorganized resistance arises. Meanwhile, the Mephi implement their plan to seize INTEGRAL—which is thwarted by the Guardians, who had caught wind of the plan. No matter—fighting spreads in the City, and the Mephi smash through the Wall, something thought impossible, letting in the wild outside, heralded by the appearance of birds of prey in the air. Free men skirmish with Guardians and “postoperatives,” bringing up light arms and then heavy weapons; D-503 perceives his civilization collapsing.

Or does he? The last pages are written deadpan again, without the strained emotion characterizing those immediately before; D-503 has been seized and subjected to the Operation. He then gladly, or rather without emotion, betrays what he knows of the Mephi. I-303 and her compatriots have been tortured and are to be executed the next day. But why tomorrow? Because OneState actually is collapsing. The executions “can’t be put off, because in the western quarters there is still chaos, roaring, corpses, animals, and, unfortunately, quite a lot of Numbers who have betrayed reason. But on Fortieth Avenue, which runs crosstown, they’ve managed to build a temporary wall of high-voltage wires. And I hope we’ll win. More—I’m certain we’ll win. Because reason has to win.”

But of course, reason, with its ever-fluid meaning in the modern world, doesn’t have to win. Reality has to win, and that final sentence reveals the truth—OneState is doomed. D-503’s journal is a narration, though he never realizes it, of the inevitable reimposition of reality. Reality cannot be made to conform to calculation; this is the flaw in all ideologies that purport to perfect mankind, because reality always returns, whatever its opposition. The revolt of the citizens of OneState could, for example, be an allegory of the January 2021 Electoral Justice Protest (which, I just noticed, took place nearly one hundred years to the day after this book was written). The parallels between this book and that event are not coincidental; they are the nature of resistance to the loathsome tyrannies of the modern age, which resistance will always rise in a recognizable shape.

As I say, Zamyatin’s book has of late started receiving more mention on the Right, as intellectuals on the Right try to understand the present moment. Yet they ignore the crucial lesson of the book—that OneState is tottering and about to fall, not because of an inspiring book or pithy article, but because the Green Wall has been breached with explosives, corpses litter the street, and the Guardians have been reduced to cobbling together makeshift barriers to the advance of militia forces. Our Right intellectuals ignore that the road back to reality when oppressed by a pernicious ideology, forward to renewal, is always steeped in blood, because ideologues never give up their power voluntarily. He who denies this lies to himself. Once all men knew this; they will be reminded of it, to their sorrow and pain.

Those on the Right who wail about the coming dystopia, whatever brand they forecast, are entirely right that we have already long passed the foothills of dystopia, though its shape remains to be revealed precisely. But most refuse to countenance that the Mephi are right, and they are wrong, with their Benedict Options and grey-man passivism. In a passage that some say was the cause of Zamyatin being exiled by the Bolsheviks, even though his book was not published in Russia until 1988, I-330 says just as infinity dictates there can be no final number, then “how can there be a final revolution? There is no final one. The number of revolutions is infinite. The last one—that’s for children.” So it is.

What does that imply for us? Does it imply that we should join whatever the equivalent of today’s Mephi is? Not necessarily—though not because things aren’t that bad. On the contrary, they are that bad. Our current state is fully as evil as OneState (with our internet standing in for their ubiquitous glass). It offers less Taylorism, and more of an even fouler tyranny of false emancipation and forced egalitarianism, combined with sedation through catering to each citizen’s emotions and base desires, as long as those emotions and desires are approved ones. These are distinctions without a difference; the control sought by our rulers is the same as the rulers of OneState, as is their behavior. Just ask Derek Chauvin, this week sacrificed in a Left religious ritual, a parody of justice, on our equivalent of the Benefactor’s Machine.

To be clear—our current American state is entirely illegitimate and a criminal organization; it has no moral claim on our loyalty, and actively working for its complete destruction is wholly morally justified, that our children may live decently. Paradoxically, however, the reason it now makes little sense to form or join our own Mephi is because our Brawndo Tyranny is far more fragile than the state Zamyatin portrays. Unlike the Benefactor and his myrmidons, our overlords are incompetent idiots, disunited, fragile, stupid, and cowardly. Perhaps that means they could be pushed over the easier, but cornered rats fight, and why pay the cost if not needed? We can be sure they will begin to fracture of their own accord, or under the pressure of external events, at which point the equivalent of the Mephi will be much more effective, though no doubt the types of costs borne by our Mephi, even then, will be the same as those borne by Zamyatin’s. It is in denying that the Mephi are ever necessary that the error lies, not in refusing to build the Mephi now.

To be sure, this is the easier and safer course, and lays the proponent open to the charge of dissimulating, trying to avoid risk while talking big. Perhaps this is a fair charge. Time will tell, and not much time, either.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

The featured image shows an illustration for We.

The Economics Of More Government

Biden’s economic plan will prove disastrous for both the United States and the world economy. Bidenomics will not “build back better” as the slogan says but will have deleterious effects on nearly everyone—unless you happen to live and work inside the Washington, D.C. beltway.

Biden, himself in the midst of a five-decade career in the federal government, has a net worth of over $10 million and owns two multimillion-dollar properties. Not bad for a lowly middle-class civil servant from Delaware who started with nothing. Who says government doesn’t pay, if you know how to tweak the system by getting huge speaker fees and kickbacks? Biden has sucked on the teat of the state his whole life—it is all he knows.

You may recall the “two cows” political satire that grew up after World War II. It goes like this:

  • Under Communism, you have two cows. The government takes them both and then gives you some milk.
  • Under fascism, you have two cows. The government takes them both and then sells you some milk.
  • Under capitalism, you have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
  • Under Bidenism, you have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.

America has never been a socialist country. The people, culture, and pioneer spirit just never allowed it. Yes, some groups wanted slightly more government intervention in the economy or a slightly larger welfare system but until Bidenism, the view held that capitalism was, as the saying goes, as American as apple pie.

No longer.

Under Biden’s woke economic plan, written by none other than the always wrong Paul Krugman, there are just four basic rules. These are not figments of my imagination or construction, either—he delivered them verbatim in the New York Times.

Rule 1: Don’t doubt the power of government to help.

For Biden, who put a huge portrait of Franklin Roosevelt in the Oval Office, more government is always better. Biden never saw a problem he thought the government couldn’t fix. Unlike Bill Clinton, who admitted government is often the problem, Biden fervently believes government can end poverty, curtail the carbon economy, pick winners and losers, and provide the best welfare and health insurance. He will attempt to do everything in his power to swell the size and budget of the central government. That is his core economic premise. Biden has zero business experience except for shaking down corrupt foreign powers in his family’s pay-to-play scheme and wouldn’t know a profit from a loss column.

Rule 2: Don’t obsess about debt.

Sure, we have record budget deficits, and the national debt is on the way to $30 trillion. The more the better. Biden is great at spending other people’s money and printing more. His Federal Reserve is now willing to fight climate change and the Democrat wants to raise taxes by $2 trillion on the backs of everyone making more than $200,000—and on all corporations. This will kill the economic recovery. In Bidenomics, debt is good and more debt is better. A $3 trillion climate change bill is next and near-universal healthcare will follow that soon. Biden is so keen on importing immigrants that he doesn’t care what it costs. Be assured the collapse of the dollar is inevitable in Bidenomics.

Rule 3: Don’t worry about inflation.

The economy’s silent killer is rising inflation. Just ask countries that have suffered its plight. No one escapes its trajectory, everyone loses. Biden wants a hot economy. He doesn’t worry for a nanosecond about inflation. His advisors tell him not to care. It doesn’t matter. But watch the figure as it is about to explode. The laws of real economics do not jibe with the rules of Bidenomics. Government employees and teachers’ unions will get continuous cost of living adjustment increases matched to inflation, but the rest of the population can suffer and go to hell.

Rule 4: Don’t count on Republicans to help govern.

While Biden regularly boasts of bipartisanship and unity, he does not act on it. Instead, his obvious plan is to jam every and anything through a Democratic-controlled House and Senate. If that doesn’t work, he will rule by executive order and circumvent the legislative branch of government completely. The urgent need is for dictatorial power and Biden has a short window (until 2022) to execute all that he intends to accomplish.

Biden would be wise to listen to Britain’s famous Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, who once said, “the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” But Biden is deaf on economics. He is on a mission to transform the country and redistribute its wealth based on race and class.

Thatcher questioned the false compassion of socialists, and dared to expose statism as the senseless, dehumanizing cult that it is. She rhetorically ripped the velvet glove from the iron fist and spoke of the welfare state as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Those are things state worshipers, like those around Biden, cannot abide. Under Bidenomics there is no sense of limits or prudence and little appreciation for the horrible and murderous history of socialism in its various forms elsewhere around the world. Instead, Joe and his woke authoritarians are hell-bent on bringing socialism to America.

Bidenomics will see accommodative monetary policy, expansive fiscal policies, and radical structural reforms, not based on competitiveness but built around rebuilding a comprehensive—and woke—welfare state. And you will end up working most of your waking hours to pay for it.

Biden seeks to undo 40 years of American economic history and to forego growth for ideology. The result should scare all investors, anyone with a 401k or a pension, and the rest of the world that still has its horses tied to the U.S. economic engine. When interest rates rise—and they will—the entire global economy and especially the emerging markets will suffer and falter. Bidenomics will see the stock market decline sharply in six months, unemployment rise, and will do little besides grow the administrative state.

As F. A. Hayek observed in The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944 as a response to Communism and fascism, socialism is an allure to a society based on equality. He knew that the desire for greater central planning by a leftist intellectual elite would be ruinous for free societies. Increasing the power of the state would put us on “the road to serfdom”—meaning the masses would work to serve those who hold the power of government.

Hayek’s conclusion: “By giving the government unlimited powers, the most arbitrary rule can be made legal; and in this way, a democracy may set up the most complete despotism imaginable.”

Welcome to Bidenomics.

Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, scholar-diplomat-strategist, is CEO of the thought leadership firm The Roosevelt Group. He is the author of 18 books, including, The Plot to Destroy Trump and appears regularly in the media, as a keynote speaker, and on television around the world. This article appears through the kind courtesy of American Greatness.

The featured image shows, “Political Corruption,” a cartoon by Louis Dalrymple, from 1894.

History As A Revolutionary Tool

This month we are so very honored to present the English version of an interview undertaken by Jesús Palacios, with Professor Stanley Payne. The launching point of this valuable discussion is the move by the current Spanish government to “re-fight” the Spanish Civil War by way of lawfare. Versions of this “fight” are t be seen throughout the West. As is widely known, Professor Payne is the world authority on modern Spain, whose most recent books include, The Spanish Civil War, and Spain: A Unique History. Jesús Palacios is a Spanish essayist and writer and is the co-author, with Professor Payne, of Franco: A Personal and Political Biography.

Jesús Palacios (JP): When Zapatero came to power, after the state of national shock that was 11-M – the great hidden black hole of democratic time – the subsequent Law of Historical Memory of December 2007 broke the so-called spirit of Right-Left concord of the Transition; and with it, the reconciliation between all social groups by way of two amnesty laws, promoted and defended by the Left and the Communist Party. Thirty years later, the PSOE broke all this by linking its political legitimacy with the revolutionary process of the Left in the Second Republic. In that law, the decoy and trap, was the search for, and the burial of, the victims of the Civil War, but exclusively those of the Left. This opened, as a first step, the Civil War as a dialectical confrontation.

Stanley Payne (SP): In the Democratic Transition, the main parties agreed that no one should use historical questions for partisan and confrontational purposes, leaving history to historians, researchers and writers. In other words, a categorical decision was made to leave the Civil War as a fact of history, so as never to enliven it. Later the Left, or a part of them, argued that a “pact of silence” was made so as not to touch “memory” or history. Nothing was more false. During the initial decade of the Transition, more attention was devoted to this fratricidal war than at any other time, with all kinds of research, studies, books, newspaper, magazine articles, public lectures, plays and movies. Quite the opposite of the myth that has been concocted.

JP: Examining the bill presented by the Socialist Party in Congress at the end of January 2020, which has gone practically unnoticed, and whose draft was approved by the Government last September, we must come to the conclusion, given its substance and content, that underlying the misnamed Historical Memory – now updated as “Democratic Memory “– is the implantation of a new extreme Left regime. It is like a silent revolution that is being carried out by way of power.

SP: The new project represents the ambition to completely dominate the historical and political discussion, together with the entire educational system, encompassing, in effect, the courts, and with that the entire rule of law. It would be the highest expression of turning history into a political weapon for the greatest sectarianism.

But this new law will constitute the maximum attempt, to date, of the spurious politicization of the Civil War and the Franco regime; the new phase of a process that began in earnest almost twenty years ago, and which must be approached from two perspectives:

The political culture of the West on the one hand, and the current strategy of the Left in Spain on the other. The first represents an almost universal strategy in all Western countries, including Latin America. You hate and you want to repudiate history and “cancel” it, because history has not been Leftist in spreading culture and traditional values, which for the Left are abhorrent. Thus, the United States seeks to repudiate almost the entire history of the country by demolishing statues, a process that becomes so nihilistic that they even demolish statues of historic Leftists.

JP: Based on the culture of so-called victimhood.

SP: Exactly. In this culture of denunciation and the destruction of history, the so-called “victimhood” plays a fundamental role. The unique thought of radical progressivism inverts all cultural and moral values, and unlike the traditional culture that respected and consecrated the heroes, the revolutionary culture extols the victims. For them, history deserves no more attention than that of “unmasking” “oppression,” where heroism and heroes do not deserve the least respect, because they cannot be conceived as anything other than “oppressors,” giving the place of honor to the victims.

As for the Second Republic and the Civil War, a person outside this culture would think that the recognized victims would be the tens of thousands of people massacred by revolutionaries, since the first republican revolt of December 1930 (even before the Republic itself) – up to approximately 55,000 people murdered – sometimes tortured in the most sadistic way – by the Left during the war.

However, the revolutionary culture intends to “cancel” and “erase” any aspect of history that it does not like. Thus, the only victims are the many thousands killed by the Right wing, or in reprisals, or after military trials during the war, or under Franco. The history of the others disappears, as in the manipulated history in the former Soviet Union.

On the other hand, in the West in general, the destruction of current democratic systems is sought, because with free elections and an objective rule of law, it is always possible for the center or the Right to win. Hence, they want the current system of constitutional and parliamentary democratic monarchy in Spain to be illegitimate, and it seems easier to try to make it illegitimate in its historical origins by discrediting it for its “Francoist roots,” than to try to overthrow it directly.

The current Left would have wanted to have another civil war, but that is not what the vast majority of Spanish Leftists believed in 1976. Then there was the true “historical memory” of the Republic and the Civil War, not this ghostly simulacrum, a true fairytale that is now being sold.

JP: Since Zapatero set in motion the machinery of the so-called Historical Memory, it has been insisting in many areas that what the Left wanted was to win the Civil War eighty years later by way of propaganda. But that was a huge mistake. What the socialists, communists and separatists want is to make a revolution by way of power to bring about a new state, a new regime. That and no other is the objective of these laws that are actually perverted memory.

SP: Yes, but they seek to reverse the outcome of the war, introducing another version of the “benefits” of that radical and authoritarian republic that still existed in a quarter of Spain in the first months of 1939. Now, in the form of the monarchy, for the moment, the objective is to connect with the Second Republic, but not with the democratic system that existed between April 1931 and February 1936 (except for the revolutionary attempt of October 1934), rather with the revolutionary process that began from the falsified elections of this last date.

As Moa has pointed out, the contemporary political history of Spain has developed in cycles of approximately 65 years (1808-1874; 1874-1939; 1939-2004; 2004-). Of these, the last complete cycle encompasses the modernization of Spain under Franco and all the governments from the Transition to 2004.

The current moment is a phase of decline that began with the overturning of the elections as a result of the terrorist acts of 11-M, accentuated by the deconstruction of Spain as a nation that took place under the Zapatero government, followed by the Great Recession and the ravages of the current pandemic, combined with the disastrous Sánchez government.

JP: Therefore, it is not basically about the Civil War, the victims, Franco and the Franco regime, or the outlawing of foundations and associations. These are tricks, lures.

SP: All of them are mere factors or individual weapons in the struggle to achieve a metapolitical goal. Which is not to say that the Left parties do not take seriously this apparatus that they are setting up. All these initiatives are opportunities to propagandize, repress, intimidate and drug the mind of society.

JP: We are facing a totalitarian project to create a new extreme Left regime that will annul all kinds of protests by the dissenting party, who will be persecuted and silenced with fines, plunder and sentences, under the accusation of exalting the Civil War by those who won it, and of Francoism or dictatorship, promoting the figure of the “snitch,” and the creation of a “Council of Memory,” a Checa by way of the “Truth Commission” earlier.

S.P: That’s right. It would be a kind of “Western Sovietism;” or, something in more contemporary terms, a “European Chinese system.” But, of course, without the Chinese economic strength. It would be more like Venezuela (the country that is the origin of the financing of Podemos), which is an unmitigated disaster. A basic aspect is that it can be used as a tool to try to stir up the public spirit by creating a system of “agitprop” (agitation and propaganda) as a great element of distraction from social and economic suffering. And, also, to further weaken the already fully weakened leaders of the center and the Right, most of whom have participated so meekly and cowardly in this whole process of intimidation by fleeing from it. It goes without saying that it would be a project confronted by the Constitution, which they don’t give a damn about, because in the long term they would impose another constitution of a revolutionary type.

JP: In the totalitarian government project that is being pursued for the new state, education is fundamental, whose curriculum will include “Spanish Democratic History,” from primary school to university, by way of which freedom of thought and teaching will be eradicated at the root, without discussion or controversy. We will have new generations indoctrinated from childhood.

SP: Perhaps the most fundamental thing is the elimination of freedom of education and expression. A main part of revolutionary culture is “re-education” with respect to the past and in many other things. The cultural revolution is probably the most important aspect in the long-run, second only to the domination of power itself. They are the steps for the creation of “light totalitarianism,” which is emerging as the great danger of the West in the 21st-century. It is an irony of history that after the triumph of the West over Nazism and Sovietism, it is on the verge of succumbing under its own kind of totalitarianism, a product of the modern West in its last phase, and emerging from the evolution of democracy, itself arising concretely from the radicalism of the 1960s and from all the ideas of deconstruction and postmodernism.

JP: The writer Iñaki Ezquerra in an essay called this process, “soft totalitarianism.”

SP: This was revealed in the United States, the first Western democracy, under the presidency of Obama, the first anti-American American president (while with the Left in Spain it is normal for there to be an anti-Spanish Spanish president). By 2020 this process has reached a well-developed level in the United States, something that is perhaps not so surprising, because the current doctrine of radical progressivism (or “political correctness”) is the first modern radical ideology created largely in North America. not in Europe, although Europeans have contributed to it. It is about the new secular religion or “political religion” of a post-Christian society, a doctrine also based, in part, on victimhood, on the evolution and distortion of Christian doctrines.

JP: There have been many thinkers critical of the democratic system in the hands of elites who pervert and degenerate it – Schmitt, Nietzsche, Michels and especially Tocqueville, who predicted that it could become the worst of dictatorships because of the political corruption of its rulers.

SP: The original prophet of this was Alexis de Tocqueville. In his great work Democracy in America, originally published nearly two centuries ago, Tocqueville warned how it might be possible for egalitarian democracy to evolve into what he called “soft despotism,” without violence or great repression, but with the distortion of elements of democracy itself. Tocqueville was brilliant, the best analyst of classical American democracy, just as he was the best analyst for the origins of the French Revolution. He was the prophet of our time. Right now, the best American analysts refer to Tocqueville, and his ideas are applicable to Spain as well.

JP: We are facing an extreme situation. We have a generation indoctrinated or stunned in hatred through the machinery of propaganda; an opposition, that has been part of the system’s bipartisanship, not only corrupted, but muzzled by the fear of being branded as Francoist; and some groups and political parties who want nothing more than the destruction of Spain – so they support, in this way, a government whose president and second vice president are amoral and are supported by two parties bathed in corruption.

SP: The situation in Spain is unique, in part, as a consequence of its recent history and the existence of not one but multiple separatisms (which are also growing, as in the case of Navarra, where the Basque region is in a position to fashion another entity, with its own identity, like Navarra). However, from a certain level of abstraction, it can be said that, as in 1808, 1820, 1873 or 1936, the current moment in Spain is the most radical or most advanced of what has emerged as a self-destructive process throughout the West.

JP: Stan, as you know, I’ve been maintaining for a long time that the ’78 regime has collapsed. That regime was a partitocratic system, whose institutions were corrupted over time by the interference and control of the two main government political parties (PSOE-PP), but which both are interested in maintaining for the moment, with the PSOE deployed for the conquest of a new revolutionary state, and the PP used for sheer survival.

Now, there is a new political group (Vox) that identifies more with a social movement. But if there is not a reaction from society alienated by government propaganda and the media that society finances, a reaction that will prevent this revolutionary process of a totalitarian takeover, things will be very difficult. I am not saying that the battle is lost, but we do see a Church that has surrendered and the crown tacitly kidnapped, although Felipe VI has reacted lukewarmly to the government’s ban on traveling to Barcelona. And we have already seen the communist fury, and from the government as a whole that has been unleashed against the King.

SP: Yes, to paraphrase Cardinal Sarah, the hour is late and it’s getting dark. Historically, Spanish rights have depended heavily on Catholicism, and in a secular society they are without protection. Its dialectical weakness is truly impressive.

Most seem to lack the desire to make a serious resistance, while the Catholic hierarchy has, as you say, surrendered. In a decadent society, elites collapse and have no real will or capacity to react, which is the definition of decay. With a certain historical perspective, it can be concluded that in the Spanish case the pandemic and its economic depression have created the equivalent of the First World War for Russia.

The extrapolitical crisis offers the conditions for a more centralized and dominant government, to then move on to the revolution, with the difference that Spanish society is very passive, partly because of the crisis, partly as a consequence of constant brainwashing, and partly because of sheer decadence and inertia. But in Spain the Left does not intend to recapitulate 1917 but rather the Spanish experience of 1936, with the revolution led by a theoretically parliamentary government, although in disguise.

The image shows a drawing by Mercedes Comellas Ricart, a 13-year old girl caught up in the Spanish Civil War. The caption at the back reads, “Esta escena representa el día de la evacuación cuando al ir a subir al tren vimos a un avión que ya tiraba y tubimos de ir a un refugio de alli cerca” (“This scene represents the day of the evacuation when we about to get in the train, we saw an airplane that was firing and we had to get into the nearby shelter”).

Translated from the Spanish by N. Dass.

Part II – A House Besieged: The American People Meet Their Match

This is Part II of a series of three: Part I and Part III.


Last month we learned who the American People are. Armed with this information, this month we explore the unusual situation America finds itself in at this moment. The bloodline People have collided with various interests who have confederated against them. International conspiracy, dubious health regulations, peculiar weather, and rioting are intelligible in this context. As we’ll see, in this, there is nothing new under the sun.

As discussed in my previous essay, we learned who the People are. Using legal, historical, and observational data it is evident the People refer to the constitutors of the various American states, i.e., those men who signed the charters, declarations, and constitutions of the 18th Century which asserted that Britain’s North American colonies were no longer under the Crown corporation’s jurisdiction. Additionally, their families (i.e., the Posterity so often mentioned in writings of the period) are also the People. Finally, so as the People’s posterity not turn into an inbred caste, the constituting People allowed for the occasional addition of talented outsiders through marriage or adoption. This is the reason, for example, why America’s ruling class pays such attention to their Ivy League colleges.

Wait, you interject. Am I saying that when the town mayor and state rep and governor and president and senator talk about the People, and doing the best for the People, and fighting for the People, and protecting and serving the People, that they are not jabbering on about me? Alas, my friend, this is so. Break out your Kleenex.

Larger Context

By the by, while my comments here explore the localized American situation, this knowledge is applicable to world events in general. It is true that there are ideological differences throughout governments. Wahabi Arabia, Red China, and Republican France, for example, all have different governing systems. However, the nations of the world operate using a largely interchangeable legal system. Lost, these last few centuries, among the personalities and speeches and philosophies; lost among passionate and abstract discussions of monarchy and democracy, has been the irresistible rise of the worldwide legal system.

All such systems have come about in more or less the same fashion as America. Namely, some determined faction of the bourgeoisie, a crew somehow locked out of the hall of powers, declare themselves a People, they fight some war to a successful finish, and then they spend the rest of their lives encouraging fellow travelers in other nations to do the same. Rinse and repeat for 300 years.

Our order, the Liberal order, is the order of the People; it is the order of shopkeepers and attorneys. Since that crew wiggled out from under the thumbs of princes and bishops in the 18th Century, they have spared no effort in building their system. Like the Romans whose legacy they pretend to, the People are brusque to their foes, merciless to compatriots who break ranks.

The present pariah statuses of North Korea and Iran, the rough demise of Saddam Hussain and Muammar Gaddafi are suddenly intelligible in light of these dynamics. Second and Third World peoples, forever rag-dolled by the worldwide People, are coincidentally the less legalized populations of the planet. Less do their daily transactions, behaviors, and movements pass through the ledger of bankers, less are they subject to barristers’ regulable STRAWMAN persons, than the rest of mankind. Better than through the lens of race or economy, the poor treatment of these poor peoples can be understood via the dynamic of who the People are, who plays along with them, and who does not.

This Moment

Knowledge of who the People are is a hard pill to swallow. It’s cozier to think that I am the People. Just thinking, That political hack is talking to me! gives me tingles for days. However, tingles aside, knowledge is power, and a mature man knows that even unhappy knowledge allows one to discern events more sharply. It is not a bad thing to be disillusioned.

2020 has been a peculiar year. Whatever Coronavirus is, a botched bioweapon attack, an unintentional lab leak, a seasonal flu nastier than normal, the press has strung out a mild public threat into the story of the year. A sickness easy enough to protect vulnerable men from, has turned into another Black Death, at least on Plato’s 24/7 T.V. wall. America’s racial tension, what tension there is, was something that was either already ably being addressed by local community organizations or so removed from most people’s experience as to be merely an abstract academic conversation.

This marginal problem sparked intestine protests whose necessity only rivals for curiosity their apparent ability to be turned on and off like a switch. A country which still can’t bring itself to call the 2007 crash a depression finds itself with 25% unemployment, and no one seems especially concerned. This startling statistic. and its indifferent reaction, is only bested by an odder development, that universal basic income has found a warm reception in the land of independence.

Christianity, the one social force with enough heft to counter the overreach of the state, has shown itself a toothless shell. Besides some plucky and scattered congregations, the Protestant sects have stood down en masse and, less forgivable, the Catholic Church has become a crouching client of the Federal government. Lastly, much like the rioting of 2020, the dial of nature seems to be cranked up this year with bomb cyclones, derechos, biblical locusts, and a West Coast endlessly aflame. What a year!

The Confrontation

As sure as we know the membership of the People, America’s present instability can be understood as a confrontation between the People and various resentful outside forces who have joined their interests. They include various New Men (i.e., in the Roman sense; those like the Clinton or Obama families who’ve only lately been grafted into the patrician class; they who have little love for the People, nor the People for them), state interests (elements lately called the “Deep State,” including HAARP), and tech and fintech businesses who are quickly overtaking the nation-state in terms of the resources it can marshal for its ends.

For the sake of ease, I will refer to this diverse clique as “technocrats” since digital interests make up the stoutest contingent of this confederation. Their near-term goal is to shove back increasing regulation; their larger aim is the end of the nation state. This is what they mean by the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Historical Backdrop

What we are seeing is nothing new. Rome saw this same confrontation happen. While American Indian, ancient Greek, and Medieval European systems influenced the government of 1787, the Roman Republic provided the largest example for the Founding Fathers to emulate. The 18th Century was a time peculiarly given over to reading ancient Roman history. As such, the Founders were aware of a tension which developed in the old Italian state, namely, the Roman People, the patricians, were slowly but surely outmatched by the rising equites.

Originally, the equite (i.e., cavalry) class consisted of the lower ranks of the patricians. Necessity eventually required enlarging the membership of the equites to include the wealthier plebeians. As the obligations of the state, the size of the army, and the sloth of the ruling class increased in the Late Republic, by around the time of the Servile Wars (ca.,100 BC) the equites ceased to have any real military role in the Roman army. All that remained to consume their days was wealth and ambition. By artful patronage and social entropy, as the decades wore on, the equites were able to gain the upper hand in their struggle with the Senate.

Nothing New Under The Sun

A like dynamic to Rome’s is at play in America. In place of the Roman People, we have the American People. Both are principally defined by bloodline membership. In place of the equites we have the technocrats. Both the equites and the technocrats found themselves under systems which restricted their growth. Just as the cursus honorum restricted the upper echelons of Roman rule to the patricians, so do various elements of the Liberal order hold back the dreams and schemes of the technocrats.

Just as the equites chafed under the mos maiorum, the ancient customs and mindset which undergirded the civic behavior of the Republic, so the technocrats languish under the assumptions of the Liberal order. We may save the specifics of Rome for another day, but to grasp the dynamics of America in 2020, we must remind ourselves of three points assumed by the present order. These are rationality, free speech, and the public space. The People’s nation-state system at least nominally believes in these things; the technocrats do not. Indeed, these three assumptions stand in the way of the latter’s greater growth.

Underlying Suppositions Of The Liberal Order

The present order assumes most men are mostly rational most of the time. It believes men can act with maturity and foresight to make intelligent decisions. Voting only works, after all, if the voters are rational. This is the chief reason Enlightenment states are heavy-laden with schools, libraries, and news media. Whatever raisons d’etre those fields may put out to encourage participation, the state’s interest is to form a well-equipped citizenry.

Connected to this rationality is the idea of free speech. All those well-informed citizens need to be able to compare notes in an unfettered fashion.

Lastly, we have the concept of the public space. This is this most mysterious concept of the present order. We’ve all heard the expression, but what does it mean? The concept of the public space arose in opposition to the Medieval order, an arrangement where everything was private. Private roads, private forests, private rivers, private courts, everything was the private property of someone. The Early Modern public sphere allowed all the little guys in a community to form a social force which could counteract any private interest which arose. This often abused, nearly forgotten concept is the assumption behind all Liberal states.

A rational electorate, freedom of speech, and the public space are hard-forged concepts which rank amongst the defining ideas of the Modern age. Those given to the notion of there being a “Postmodern” age point to the mid-20th Century decomposition of these assumptions as the definitive parameters of this term. However, the long rot of those concepts is only now manifesting. Even five or ten years ago online platforms at least made idealistic pretenses to excuse censorship. Now they shamelessly cite willfulness.

The Dynamic

The parallels between the Roman People and the American People don’t end with our earlier examples. As French Royalist Mallet du Pan famously noted, “The revolution eats its own.” And so it does. Lest we get sentimental and fall into the conservative’s bad habit of automatically siding with an older group over a newer, we remember that in their day the Roman People were just as much haughty upstarts as their American pretenders. They who ejected the Etruscan kings were themselves ejected by the next upstarts, the equites. Just so the American People – they who ejected the agents of the Crown are now besieged by a new social troop.

In the midst of this siege here’s the rub: America’s People have no more fight in them than Rome’s in the days of Marius. Like in the ancient world, America’s People have come to scorn their mos maiorum just as the Roman Senate did theirs. If this were not so they would never have permitted an admiralty statutory system to masquerade as law, they would never have tolerated jobberism among Americans, they would never have erected FBIs on top of CIAs on top of NSAs on top of DARPAs, if they believed the assumptions of their Liberal order they inherited.

Here the People stand in 2020: faithless, compromised, and indifferent. They may yet spur themselves on to one or two more victories before they’re through. They may well beat back the present assault. History trends as history does, though, and the odds are always with the determined. Between the People and the technocrats, there is no doubt who has stamina and who does not. We lose in any case.

Go to Part III.

John Coleman co-hosts Christian History & Ideas, and is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut. Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at its website.

The image shows, “Main Street, Gloucester,” by John Sloan, painted in 1917.