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The Political Anthropology of the Divine Beast (Part III)

Part Three of the Political Anthropology. (3 of 5)


Men who first find human fellowship experience epiphany. They are not so profoundly overawed by this because human beings are united, transcendentally or otherwise, by some over-arching concept ‘Man’, but rather precisely for the opposite reason, because they are not so united. Granted, he is not born alone, as Rousseau’s man strangely is. Man before genuine political organization is still social, still born of a mother, nor is his conception in any way immaculate in the sense of virginity, but only in the sense of sinlessness.

*[This is why the pre-modern Christians speak of the “statu innocentiæ”. The first men were born without sin, because they were born without the concept. So, why make use of their work, when it hinges upon the doctrine of sin? For in them we see the first and proudest European Christianity, which is at first only paganism turned on its head and little else modified ( — to wit, many gods become one God, the flesh and the spirit are pried apart, men are sinful, etc. — ), and so we make use of their completed labours, by putting them aright again, without undoing them altogether.]

We must take a view of men which is, at the very least, a place-holder for our political anthropology. There must be a number of ‘regulative hypotheses’ (to paraphrase Nietzsche) or ‘philosophical fictions’ (to use Hume’s expression instead), i.e. provisional arguments to serve as a heuristic for sketching out the behaviour of men, both individually and collectively.

There are various things we can infer about men as they are. This is similar to how we infer things about the world. For example, we learn from astrophysicists and cosmologists that there is residual heat in the universe — and this has been used as circumstantial proof for the Big Bang theory. It is, in fact, the evidence which was championed as it gained widespread acceptance. Ernst Jünger makes a similar point in his essay ‘The Tree‘ (recently translated and posted on the Jünger blog): “The forest grows vigorously in biomass, returning more to the earth than it asks of it. Flourishing anew each year, it casts off its leaves and branches and ultimately its trunks too, entrusting them to the humus, in which the heat of mighty summers is stored. We still warm ourselves with the surpluses of forests whose riches no human eye ever saw.” This remarkable point returns, incidentally, to men. It applies both figuratively and literally. What we get, again, is the notion of a background heat, from a specific source (in this case, the forests of the earth), but also quite literally the background — and the very ground — of human existential continuation.

Where would we be without forests? Without fire? Without the skins we garbed ourselves in? Without the abundance of the earth? Without other men?

It does not matter that we seem not to need forests, fire, skins, the abundance of the earth or other men. All of these, to some degree or other, are needed for the way of life we enjoy. Supposing they grow more distant from view, it is not because we have progressed so far from needing them, but because they lay at the foundation of our complex, politically organized societies, much like the building and lighting of the common hearth within a city’s walls chronologically lay at the foundation of a Greek polis; their fittedness to our bare necessities lays dimly half-remembered because the providential supererogation of their divine superabundance has allowed us, through varying economic distributions and stratified political organization, to build up our societies — in short, precisely because they are so necessary.

Where would we be without bloodshed?

[Jefferson let more slip than he ever intended, if he truly wrote that the tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with blood. Nietzsche understands that our whole ‘moral world order’ as it were, is a gigantic piece of hypocrisy. Our entire construction of a flawed and slavish morality leads not to less cruelty, but to more, because it is morbidly self-mortifying and destroys others ‘for their own good’, truly a richly portentous monstrum of monstrosities to come; so “the moral conceptual world of ‘guilt’, ‘conscience’, ‘duty’, ‘sacred duty’ originates – its beginning, like the beginning of everything great on earth, has long been steeped in blood.” (II §6, Nietzsche, [trans. Smith, D.], On the Genealogy of Morals [1998], Oxford: OUP. p.46.)

The difference is that, in slave-morality, this becomes more intense and more genuinely, harmfully destructive in proportion to how stringently it is denied by the moralists. However, in the former moralities which may be comprehended under the appellation of master-morality, this is not the case. In these moralities — which are manly and masterly in their conception and sentiments —  blood, sweet, toil and tears are accepted and embraced; sacrifices of every kind are permitted, in the proper place at the proper time, under the proper circumstances.

Slave moralities, modern-day ideologies and utopian dreams are enormous lies. They can simply not be honest on this point, because they are incapable of living up to the genuine unity of life — which is not at all kumbaya, but rather a molten, tectonic shifting, a sacred and structured hiearchy utterly inextricable from the celebration and augmentation of thriving life — which that demands that offerings of all kinds be given up as the very precondition for social order. How many scores of bones lay broken on the field all around us, waiting to be ground underfoot by the ceaseless (and perhaps ultimately aimless) march of History through the world?   How much blood nourishes the roots of the Tree of Life?

In the great edifices of human civilizations, there are always bodies in the foundations. Blood always nourishes these roots, because many must bleed so that some may be free. Many must toil so that culture can even exist. The maintenance or even intensification of a rigid class/caste structure leads to what Nietzsche calls “higher culture”. Countless masses must produce, so that a tiny handful of truly great men can create.]

We must understand the lesson of the Sceptics, that men (like any other natural phenomena) cannot be considered in isolation — that is, rationalistically — separate from their situations. Nevertheless, just as we can discover background radiation throughout the whole universe, in different parts at different times, which lead our scientists to believe in a Big Bang, we can learn things about men from what we know of their similar natures in different situations. So, where do we go from here? Well, we create a cosmology of man, showing his place in his world as a whole! Let it be termed a political cosmology, to go neatly with our political theology and, of course, our political anthropology. Moreover, it will be yet another direction from which to approach this political anthropology.

To this end, we shall take a number of varying and widely contrasted theses, which nevertheless form a complex (and much more life-like) picture of a man. A living being, after all, exists multidimensionally; he has more than one aspect.

(Thesis 1)
Man is a singular creature. It is his mortality which makes him so — even as it makes him live with others, to give meaning to his life. He is being-toward-death, as Heidegger says, and none can die in his place. The greater the danger, the greater the awareness of mortality and its profound riddle (albeit all must be aware, to some extent). Let us treat the singularity of what we call the strongest and proudest of men — the warrior. He is a singularity and is all too aware of the risk of physical destruction.

Since it is this ‘singular-ness’ (not singularity per se) that we are interested in at this point, rather than call the condition in which he exists a bellum omnium contra omnes, we will be better to call it a bellum unum contra omnes. He can stand by himself, in fighting all of nature, all hazards and animals, and even all other men. He makes his war (or what passes for war) by his own choice. He very consciously could die by himself, which shapes how he lives. Encounters with other men mean conflict, even if they do not have to. It is his choice to be the lone frontiersman, the outlaw or the lord — as is a permanently dangerous situation his choice.

This is the sort of man Robert E. Howard envisioned, fully formed in his mind’s eye, when in The Phoenix on the Sword, he wrote the famous lines: “Hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jewelled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.” This calm, lean, pantherish (anti-)hero captures the very physical quintessence of these men almost perfectly.

There are countless examples throughout the Western tradition — and it is perhaps a good omen that they are still, half-unconsciously, drawn upon even today.

A more contemporary example, the idiosyncratically written song ‘Amaranth‘, by Nightwish, opens with these lines:

Baptised with a perfect name
The doubting one by heart
Alone without himself

His is a grim joviality which is so rigidly natural as to appear to us perverse. What can we say of his moods? He is implacable at his worst, indomitable at his best, and inscrutable at all times.

This man, as we find him, is a fearsome skirmisher. His hand, like Ishmael’s, is against all men, as theirs are against him. He shelters himself from them when he sleeps; when he eats, it is apart from them and perhaps at their expense. They huddle together, for warmth, while he skins wild beasts for his adornment and lean comfort. Once the stag is dead, its antlers become his weapons, too. Soon, he will fashion weapons inspired by wildest nature or have others in his power (women, children or such like) do so.

It is natural for him to dictate in this way, for “each one is the law for his own wives and children, and cares nothing about the others”. (The Odyssey of Homer, trans. Richmond Lattimer, London: Harper-Perennial, p.140) The power of the lawgiver, the sovereign and the supreme justice must be derived from his arbitrary imposition — this and nothing else must be its basis. So, a man must make this imposition and a woman must surrender herself to it. Notably, in Roman law, the closest corresponding concept of marital and sexual consent was affectio maritalis (literally the marital feeling or inclination), a man’s and woman’s consideration of one another and themselves as husband and wife respectively. The woman must consider herself “swept off her feet”, as it were.

Nevertheless, this is merely the refinement of a more primitive, primal practice. We see this with the sort of man in question.

A woman becomes his and solely his when he carries her off and takes her in hand, to behold her for himself. Either that or she is given to him by her father or a (male) relative who has precedence and power over her. Thus the Greek marriage ceremony was a giving-away. The woman’s consent, in such times, was the effect of their union, not the cause. In this second case, the man and woman are bound in the home and will be bound by blood, with the wife’s bearing and rearing of his children, whereas the man and his father-in-law are bound by their tacit agreement and their families brought closer together. The laurels of amity thus grow around strength.

Now, she will be safe, but protection and possession are, in this case and at this point, indistinguishable. Man protects what is his, protects what he adores, protects that which becomes part of him. He is not the weak little individualist, bound only to the epidermal limits. The man and his young family grow together in the sweet symbiosis of inequality. Family is a condition of intimate dependence (thus we see the etymological root of ‘family’, in ‘famulia’, and the whole development of the family concept, bundled neatly together). Even so, he has a dignity which can only be maintained in self-reliance.

This is why he makes the law in the home. Even as it is the woman who both obeys and enacts it, through her enforcement, his domicile is in his dominion, in which he is supreme. It is woman who rules the hearth, but she does so in her relation to her man, she serves at his pleasure, only the further to honour his rulership of the household.

This, however, is the case of a few men, but not all. We can see this in how this man sets himself apart from others.

(Thesis 2)
Others might find peace in the so-called ‘state of nature’, but it is a cowardly contentment, it is a demeaning condition of timidity. However, men of the most frighteningly ferocious temperaments exist and must find community with their own or be checked by their fellows — sometimes both. The timid, who like to live in prideless peace, may vainly try to avoid such beings, but this does not at all mean they will not be followed by his depredations. So, they will be protected by one pugnacious protector, against the pugnacity of another — or they may be destroyed, in absence of such protection. There is, at a stretch, a third option: that they could even eke out an existence quite undisturbed and plod aimlessly through life so long as their natures permitted this, as Nietzsche suggests, but it does not. Supposing it did, then in any case, no matter how close they live together, they can never become or join a people. Without a protector and without leaving their places of comfort to awaken and acknowledge that they are surrounded by dangers, they will never become a political community. They will never know walls to shelter them or sanctuaries to worship their own gods or marketplaces, let alone free ones. These are risks such men cannot stomach. They are a poor parody of nomadic warriors: these pitiful creatures are nomadic cowards.

Nietzsche’s point is, of course, quite different (but clearly related): namely, that men are not like this, for survival is not their most fundamental instinct. How many such communities exist — and, indeed, how many fewer last, if they exist in the first place? They will kill for nothing and die for nothing — and so they will be nothing.

So, it is possible that men could be peaceful, but it would be an absurd and un-noteworthy existence, not life. There is no danger Here we have the demonstration that men do not live merely to survive, but to thrive — and, if necessary, sacrifice blood, toil and life itself for this purpose. It is not a will to life which drives them, but a will to power.

Perhaps there is an effeminate ‘state of innocence’, in which men rather prosper, without struggle, without contest. It is possible that, given the arrangements among men, and their natural fearfulness, they might somehow avoid dangers. They might even avoid the animals, so far as that is possible. Fire, the Promethean gift to men, may have been a way of warding them off. One could grant that men might be content in the enjoyment, so far as it goes, of such a state.

In any case, we can for the sake of fascination at least entertain Aquinas’ musing in the Summa, that “homines in statu innocentiæ non indigebant animalibus ad necessitatem corporalem, neque ad tegumentum, quia nudi erant, et non erubescebant, nullo instante inordinatæ concupiscentiæ motu; neque ad cibum, quia lignis Paradisi vescebantur; neque ad vehiculum, propter corporis robur. Indigebant tamen eis ad experimentalem cognitionem sumendam de naturis eorum. Quod significatum est per hoc, quod Deus ad eum animalia adduxit, ut eis nomina imponeret, quæ eorum naturas designant”.

[Translation: “Men in the state of innocence would have no need of animals for his person: for they did not need their hides for clothing, as these men went naked without shame, since they had no inordinate impulses to concupiscence; nor for food, since they ate of the trees of Paradise; nor for carriage, since he was strong enough for this himself. Man needed, however, to acquire an understanding of their natures. This is signified by the fact, that God to him led the animals, so as for him to give them their names, which designate their natures.”]

In the last instance, the point in considering this counter-position is immanent critique. Let us consider, that is to say, how this counter-position ramifies — and how, dialectically as it were, this counter-position is changed and absorbed by our general zoological understanding of Man. So it goes: the earth was very likely a great boon, like a planetary nature preserve which needed no efforts for preservation! It is, then, most probably accurate that men had things much easier in this condition — but they did not make things easier; they do not want things easier.

This is in no man’s nature; in any case, nothing could be further from the nature of the stronger specimens.

Remarkably, Xunzi makes the contrary assertion that this prosperity and ease of living exists where men form hierarchical societies, in accordance with Heaven, and are thus able to subdue other creatures. “Fire and water possess energy but are without life. Grass and trees have life but no intelligence. Birds and beasts have intelligence but no sense of duty. Man possesses energy, life, intelligence, and, in addition, a sense of duty. Therefore he is the noblest being on earth.” (Xunzi, Basic Writings, trans. Burton Watson [2003], p.47) Notice that Xunzi does not give the credit for man’s greatness to his intelligence, but rather to his social instinct and his ability to form stable, stratified societies — or ‘sense of duty’. “He is not as strong as the ox, nor as swift as the horse, and yet he makes the ox and the horse work for him. Why? Because he is able to organize himself in society and they are not. Why is he able to organize himself in society? Because he sets up hierarchical divisions. And how is he able to set up hierarchical divisions? Because he has a sense of duty. If he employs this sense of duty to set up hierarchical divisions, then there will be harmony. Where there is harmony there will be unity; where there is unity there will be strength; and where there is strength there will be the power to conquer all things. Thus men can well in security in their houses and halls. The reason that men are able to harmonize their actions with the order of the seasons, utilize all things, and bring universal profit to the world is simply this: they have established hierarchical divisions and possess a sense of duty.” (Ibid., pp.47—48.) Inequality, order and prosperity are inseparable.

Why is it important to organize in this way?

“Men, once born, must organize themselvesi nto a society. But if they form a society without hierarchical divisions, there will be quarreling. Where there is quarreling, there will be chaos; where there is chaos, there will be fragmentation; where there is fragmentation, men will find themselves too weak to conquer other beings. Thus they will be unable to dwell in security in their houses and halls. This is why I say that ritual principles must not be neglected even for a moment. He who can follow them in serving his parents is called filial; he who can follow them in serving his elder brothers is called brotherly. He who can follow them in serving his superiors is called obedient; he who can follow them in employing his inferiors is called a ruler.” (Ibid., p.48.)

So, Xunzi ties together traditions, rituals, inequality, order and feudal relationships between all men. What is it, exactly, that men enjoy, once they organize in a society with hierarchical divisions?

Xunzi lays these out with a beautiful description of ancient China’s wealth in natural resources:

“In the far north there are fast horses and howling dogs; China acquires and breeds them and puts them to work. In the far south there are feathers, tusks, hides, pure copper, and cinnabar; China acquires them and uses them in its manufactures. In the far east there are plants with purple dye, coarse hemp, fish, and salt; China acquires them for its food and clothing. In the far west there are skins and colored yaks’ tails; China acquires them for its needs. Thus the people living in lake regions have plenty of lumber and those living in the mountains have plenty of fish. The farmers do not have to carve or chisel, to fire or forge, and yet they have all the tools and utensils they need; the artisans and merchants do not have to work the fields, and yet they have plenty of vegetables and grain. The tiger and the leopard are fierce beasts, but the gentleman strips off their hides for his personal use. Thus, wherever the sky stretches and the earth extends, there is nothing beautiful left unfound, nothing useful left unused. Such goods serve above to adorn worthy and good men, and below to nourish the common people and bring them security and happiness. This is what is called a state of godlike order.” (Ibid., pp.45—64.)

Men only enjoy ease when it goes perforce hand-in-hand with dominance and exploitation.

A man will perhaps, in a situation of plenty, with a group to call his own and a vast array of possessions, enjoy a certain ease of living, due to the protection of his property — but the apparatus of protection, with all its historically developed mechanisms, is coercive. It is occasioned precisely by the precariousness of possessions which prevails in the quarrels and clamour of chaos. Moreover, his leisure, his ease of living depends upon the ruthless and guiltless exploitation of others* and not at all upon a peaceful disposition.

*[Notice that the bourgeoisie attempt to justify such exploitation, because they do not really believe in it and must expiate their guilt.]

Regardless, no man begins with brotherly love in a powerless and equal condition. We can comment, if nothing else, that brotherly love, derives from the specific form and content of a relationship between brothers. Note, though, that the relation between brothers inherently requires a specific relation and also that non-brother relations exist. In other words, for brothers to be possible, there must exist those who are not brothers. We may, in a poetic sense, stretch this meaning to include comrades-in-arms. However, we may not so extend it that there are no longer men we do not call brothers — that is to say, of course, that we may not extend this universally. A brotherhood of humanity is therefore impossible — or worse, it implies (as detailed above) that some (e.g. the counter-revolutionary classes!) are excluded from this brotherhood, in order to be the target of an absolute and eternally unrelenting enmity, until they are simply wiped out.

We find this not simply in the relations between concepts, but in the affirmation of practical experience. We find comrades only in great struggles, on the march to battles and war, where we face a common enemy. This is where the strongest of friendships, camaraderie and brotherly oaths are found.

(Thesis 3)
The class of men who rule and fight differ from the rest somehow — and we have just reaffirmed this principle.

So, we are once again brothers, under the gods of our race; our gateway is marked clearly on either side — like the great arcaded entrance-way to the Doge’s Palace in Venice — by two gods, Mars and Neptune, whose dominions seem distinct. The former, the war-god, is he who overturns a vat of fire onto the land; the latter is god of tempests and of the deep. For as surely as warriors drill and march and feast with Mars, the greatest of them surely dwell in the House of Neptune, enduring the long tides and plumbing the depths of themselves and the world. They sup and discourse with the great Lord of the Oceans. It is only from the flux of the seas that they learn that things shift from one condition to another, but they do so constantly — and so Neptune teaches them the paradoxical principle of impermanent permanance or permanent imperanance. The only way to overcome the antinomic contradiction, between the metaphysical extreme of Permanence and the other of Impermanence, an antinomy well known to the Buddhist philosophers, is with a third position: Continuity. Great pantheons of elemental energies and forces preside over the divine-bestial fury which binds us in clans, fiefs and nations: the elemental divinities of war and thunder; fire and the forge; the oceans and the underworld.

What is most ungodly in men comes from the gods.

It does not matter where we find him: Man sooner or later reveals himself, red in tooth and claw: whether feral and free; barbarous and brutal; or, civilized and sybaritic. Everywhere, at every stage of refinement, one finds the specimen that is still primal and proud. Still, even now, he is self-reliant. All that is conducive to his continuation, he arrogates to himself; all that he wants, he acquires. He takes exactly what he needs, like Stirner’s egoist. All things are nothing to him! Nothing but what he makes of them!  Himself he adduces to the innermost meaning of life. He is the most dreadful son of the divinities, the ungodly beast who reaches up and snatches the golden bough, to fashion for himself a godly weapon and symbol.

Why is his gaze so far-seeing? Why does his eye glint with something we have never seen before?

The world he sees is different, because it is a different man seeing it, through different eyes. He welcomes the world into a different heart. It can even be said that his phenomenological perceptions are completely different from the rest of herd-like ‘humanity’ and are exclusive to his kind: his awareness begins with himself, his happiness, desires, drives and his symbolic meaning to himself, which is central, radical, immediate and first in order. To himself, he is ontologically primary; all else, secondary — and a distant second at that. Since there is only so much variety in the biology of men, we may say that this self-experience is a recursive phenomenon (or suite of phenomena). It is, for once, a clean-cut either/or proposition, a binary opposition: either a man is strong and self-reliant or he is not. Following on from this, he must be conscious of his strength, if nothing else, and this consciousness shapes his perceptions, especially his self-perceptions. Conversely, the weak and dependant perceive themselves only upon a distant and indirect reflection, as secondary, as derivative, as an after-effect, as merely an object in relation to a more powerful being. It is the strong who become their masters, because it suits both.

The master gives meaning; the slave must be given meaning.

It is the master that must be venerated.

The man of this kind, since he is strongest, does not need to change. Naturally, therefore, he is the most unselfconsciously conservative of beings. He is the most genuine remembrance of our origins. In him, we have a reminder not only of our own ontogeny, but of the very ontogeny of the political community. These are, quite simply, the men who prevail.

There must be a focal point for lesser men — and it is he. Once they have someone to look up to, they honour in him “the fruit of long ages” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science§40, p.57), as Nietzsche says, and obey happily.  He is their lord and they follow him. When more men such as him appear, with their own dependants and bonded inferiors, we have the whole array of noble and hierarchical phenomena, from the Greek πόλεις (‘poleis’ or cities) with their χῶραι (‘chorai’ or territories) — e.g. Athens with Attica — and the military-aristocratic republics, to the feudal monarchies and the whole feudal-tenurial order of Europe in the Middle Ages.

Accordingly, the war of all against all will only end with the man — and all such superior men — who, alone, combats and destroys all comers.

(Thesis 4)
Man is a social creature. Men can live alone, but they do not. This does not suit man’s natural strengths. (This is to say nothing of his later strengths, whether infrastructural, technological or rational, since these come later.) The strongest man at the dawn of his kind is a warrior; if he lives close to his fellows, albeit solitary and self-reliant, he might be enticed to protect them. This engages both his natural talent and lust for war, as well as his predisposition towards dominance.

Despite his proud self-reliance, the enjoyment of his solitude and the mortal danger posed by other men (as he perceives them), he is even at the beginning of his species social, as thinkers from, say, Aristotle or Xunzi to David Hume have recognized. Men are at their best when they find kinship with their fellows.

The social nature of men is often compared with the perfect social union of insect colonies. The sociobiological term for this form of organization is “eusocial”. It is characterized by a hive mentality, perfect coordination, a complete loss of individuality (cf. Bernard Mandeville’s The Fables of the Bees).

Marx compared the social organization of insects with that of men, when he observed that though bees may build a hive more perfect than any structure built by men, yet the architect is superior to the bee, for he can conceive of the thing before it is built. In other words, men are set above by the faculty of imagination. (Notably, this same faculty is the one Hume regarded as most important for human thought.) This divine gift, the human brain, is the same organ which Schmitt believes makes us capable of distinctively political organization in the face of our beastly nature, despite also being the source of our fame futura famelicus, which only makes us more monstrously bestial.

(This is what Confucius addresses when he says that men seek to feed the eyes, when they should be content to feed the stomach.)

However, that which makes men behave in such a destructive, self-seeking, “asocial” way, is the same thing which allows him to overcome these difficulties: the brain. His destructiveness makes his compliance with a strict and severe social order all the more important and all the more apparent to the operations of a healthy intellect. He is able, unlike the insects, to achieve a form of social organization (in his case, political organization) without sacrificing personality or gender differences. This is also precisely what allows women to dwell happily in the power of men and leads to the “godlike order” of the happy household.

The most apparent question to modern thinking is simply this: Why would demons want to be angels? Why would men — selfish, acquisitive, wrathful, covetous beasts — wish to be divine? It is the question which is wrong, because it already presupposes its own answers to the issues we have raised. Needless to say, these answers are utterly wrong. Why? Again, it is more simple than we might expect: we seize the sacred, we are divine, precisely because we are the most terrible of all beasts on the face of the earth.

Xunzi says that men pursue the good, precisely because their “original nature” is evil. “Now is it the nature of man that when he is hungry he will desire satisfaction, when he is cold he will desire warmth, and when he is weary he will desire rest. […] Every man who desires to do good does so precisely because his nature is evil. A man whose accomplishments are meagre longs for greatness; an ugly man longs for beauty; a man in cramped quarters longs for spaciousness; a poor man longs for wealth; a humble man longs for eminence. Whatever a man lacks in himself he will seek outside.” (Basic Writings, pp.163—166) This is why men must consciously and dutifully obey sagely advice and ritual principles, according to Xunzi — and why a rigidly structured society must be inaugurated and maintained.

Somehow, somewhere and at some point, all scattered groupings of men realize this and come together, eventually arrange themselves in communities. It is a mysterious mixture of conflict and cooperation which ultimately results in lordship, hierarchy and established inequalities. These are enshrined in convention, customs, habits, rituals and traditions, in conformity with the instincts — and a stable political community ensues.

It is, in short, the beginning of the divine beast’s political life.


Classical Realism and the Renewal of Art

The Hound of Heaven

Classical Realism and The Renewal of Art:
The Viability of Traditional Painting in an Era of Rampant Ugliness

“It is austere and profound studies that make great painters and great sculptors; one lives all one’s life on that foundation and if it is lacking one will only be mediocre.”
Jean-Léon Gérôme

“On whom then can [the artist] rely, or who shall show him the path that leads to excellence? The answer is obvious: those great masters, who have traveled the same road with success, are the most likely to conduct others”
Sir Joshua Reynolds

When discussing Western art with educated people, it quickly becomes clear that everyone possesses opinions on its history and current state. Among traditionalists, one need only utter the phrase ‘Turner Prize’ to gain a pained look and acidulous comment on Tracey Emin or Damien Hirst’s latest creation. Conversely, cultural leftists and Tate Modern mandarins often deride nineteenth century academic painting and representational portraiture as static, dull, or reactionary. That which is perverse, blasphemous and calculated to shock often finds great favour in their eyes. Illustratively, Francis Bacon kept a photographic still of the screaming nurse in Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin in his studio. Her wide-open, screaming mouth and blood-soaked eyes apparently inspired him to paint more pictures of writhing, tortured figures. Although perhaps appropriate for the jacket covers of Clive Barker horror novels, they are certainly not ‘perspectival inquiries into late capitalist modernity’ as pompous curators would put it. Additionally, the Young British Artists of the Nineties took this trend to an extreme with Damien Hirst’s A Thousand Years and Marc Quinn’s Self, which incorporated hitherto neglected mediums of maggots and human blood. Calculated to shock, these works stand in radical opposition to a longstanding tradition of European art beginning in Classical aesthetics and reaching its peak in the late nineteenth century.

Fortunately, contemporary art of this sort does not hold absolute hegemony over the art world. Beginning in the sixties, a small movement arose in America which sought to recover a lost patrimonial heritage of both formalized artistic training and technique. Dubbing themselves ‘Classical Realists‘, these artists sought to revitalize traditional painting by incorporating elements from previous golden epochs of Western art. Deeply respectful of what past accomplishments teach us, Classical Realist artists replace disorder with aesthetic symmetry and bring a keen sensibility focused on beauty and human dignity to their works. In order to appreciate their importance as restorers of tradition and skill to Western art, it is vital to understand contemporary art’s deplorable state and how to extricate ourselves from its worldview.

How We Arrived At The Turner Prize

When visiting the National Gallery or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it becomes clear to the viewer that a clear break occurred in the late nineteenth century among European artists. Prior to 1870, the École des Beaux-Arts and Académie Julian led the world in artist training. Taught according to the atelier method, their emphasis focused on technical advancement and progressively acquired knowledge through students learning from acknowledged experts. Masters of detail and figuration such as Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Léon Gérôme instructed students possessing significant abilities including Gustave Moreau and William Adolphe Bouguereau. These budding artists were firstly instructed in observation and drawing before moving to painting and fine portraiture. Numerous Old Masters and Classical sculptures were provided as models so that students can freely copy them in order to perfect specific methods. While learning, the art masters regularly corrected and encouraged in order to bring a student’s abilities to their fullest expression. Paralleled in England, the Royal Academy of Art also operated under these principles and produced such painters as Lord Frederick Leighton and Edward Poynter. Painstaking effort and time went into the creation of these works, with multiple layers of paint covering the canvas in order to create depth and perspective. With the advent of Impressionism, these accepted practices were radically challenged. Initial critics of Impressionist artists argued that these new works were unfinished and lacked the precision of academic paintings. While this author will not attempt to argue that Impressionism constituted an absolute negative turn within Western art, it did pave the way for the advent of Duchamp and radical experimentation.

What Impressionism accomplished was to destabilize the concept of idealized or even realistic depiction as a desirable goal for painters. Manet’s Olympia served as a key bridge between academy painting and Impressionism by depicting a Parisian prostitute as a sordid Venus. Deliberately turning the conception of a classical goddess inside out by substituting a Montmartre harlot, Manet sought to bring art into the urban realities of 19th century Paris. Later Impressionists such as Monet and Renoir expanded on these changes by attempting to incorporate movement and sensations into their work. Fewer layers of paint on the canvas meant the subject could be painted as if the artist had briefly seen it and was trying to recapture its fundamental elements. This trend continued and expanded into Post-Impressionism as artists like Van Gogh and Seurat sought to capture fears and neuroses on canvases. Eventually Fauvism and Cubism did away with any remaining traces of accurate worldly representation and plunged deeply into strong color schemes and abstract shapes. Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 offered congeries of cylindrical and spherical shapes appearing to be in rapid motion. In no way an odalisque by Ingres or Lefebvre, it communicated energy and action without coherent form. Having removed the need for specific subjects within artistic representation, Duchamp took the next step with his Fountain (1917). This work infamously consisted of an upended urinal from a men’s lavatory and a pseudonym signature written across the front. Duchamp defended this work as art as readymade and part of the everyday world. Exhibiting a clear bias against traditional painting and sculpture, Duchamp intended to shock and in his term ‘de-deify’ the linkages between an artist and his work. Deliberately iconoclastic, he desired to remove any distinctions between high and low art so that a urinal could be compared to Michaelangelo’s David. Like stripping away paint layers from an Old Master, Duchamp and subsequent radical artists embarked on a programme of disorder and the promotion of abstraction rather than fine detailing. This passion for abstraction intensified through the thirties and reached its peak in the Forties and Fifties with the Abstract Expressionists centered in New York.

This drive towards abstraction revolved around fundamental ideas of Modernism and Freudianism filtering into art circles. With traditional painting dismissed as ‘bourgeois’ and incapable of deeply revealing truths about contemporary man, critics such as Clement Greenberg argued for a new Laocoön to illuminate this new artistic path. Referential to the classical sculpture Laocoön and His Sons, which once complemented Nero’s Domus Aurea, Greenberg diagrammed a new history of art centered on abstraction as purity. According to this narrative, Pollock’s drip paintings proved superior to Rembrandt and David canvases because they possessed the power to express emotions and themes. Oblivious to the lack of provable artistic skill involved in dripping oils randomly onto surfaces, Greenberg propounded that Abstract Expressionist art allowed artists to express their own psychological unconscious drives. According to this absurd but fashionable concept, the meandering dripped lines of paint in Pollock’s No. 1 and Full Fathom Five illustrated his own tortured psyche amidst the cultural confusion of modern society. Usually these paintings were given a neutral and often ponderous title in order to demonstrate their supposedly profound complexity. Frank Stella’s Die Fahne Hoch attempted to convey Nazi brutality through an array of black banded lines across an unpainted canvas. Likewise, Robert Motherwell’s Elegy to the Spanish Republic consisted of simple black spheres and stripes over an unfinished white background. In order to outdo one another, the Abstract Expressionists continued along their path of simplification and negation until Stella began painting entirely black canvases by the late Fifties.

At this point, modern art had arrived at a creative cul-de-sac. By dismissing Western artistic training developed and cultivated over centuries, the avant-garde centered in New York and London found themselves standing amidst a heap of ruins. Their new Laocoön of abstraction revealed itself as a broken idol and the next major artist to emerge would be a savvy commercial illustrator named Andy Warhol, who once shrewdly commented, “art is what you can get away with.” Pop Art emerged in the Sixties as a strong reaction to Abstract Expressionism in large part because it was daring and constituted a new beginning away from drip paintings and monochrome canvases. Warhol’s soup cans, Jasper Johns’s flags and Roy Lichtenstein’s comic strips both satirized and critiqued mass culture through use of ordinary objects. However, their works appropriately provoked questions regarding their artistic talents. Warhol enjoyed a successful career as a graphic artist but never demonstrated the abilities of an academy painter from the nineteenth century. Spending much of his time chasing celebrities and the jet set for portrait commissions, many of his Seventies works were actually completed by silkscreen assistants.The editor of Andy Warhol’s Interview, Bob Colacello in his memoir Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up quoted Warhol’s assistant Rupert Smith’s hilarious assertion of this practice. According to Smith, the Factory was so busy with commissions that Warhol even had his security guard silkscreen portraits from time to time!While humorous, this anecdote reveals the profound hype and spin which surround so many contemporary artists. Warhol’s own legacy was that artists could literally become media-hyped celebrities as large as Hollywood actors. Amidst all the glitz and glamor of record-breaking auction sales and Studio 54 parties, few stopped to question Warhol’s actual artistic merit. Fame and profit clouded sensible judgment and by the time of his death in 1987, his favored imitators consisted of scenester ‘graffiti artists’ such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Even today, Warhol’s soup cans sell for record prices while truthful art critics know the artistic ability behind them is readily found at any New York or London ad agency.

Having exhausted the capacity to bore through Abstract Expressionism, contemporary art turned to imitation of popular culture and then eventually to obscenity and blasphemy by the late Eighties. Warhol’s ‘Piss’ paintings of the late Seventies proved a harbinger of this trend, which blossomed under Andres Serrano and Warhol’s protege Robert Mapplethorpe. Creating such works as Piss Christ and Mapplethorpe’s collection The Perfect Moment, both artists brought their pet obsessions of urolagnia and sadomasochism into the Tate Modern and Corcoran museums. Fawned over by curators, only conservatives such as the heterodox art critics Hilton Kramer and Roger Kimball wrote jeremiads questioning the artistic value of such works. Far from being serious statements on religion and sexuality, these works of art were deliberately calculated to offend and shock. Not to be outdone, the Young British Artists of the Nineties decided to disgust domestic audiences by using dead animals and bodily fluids as artistic materials. Seemingly intent on creating revulsion among their viewers, artists such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin incorporated dead cows and stained underwear into their works. Winning the Turner Prize in 1995, Hirst’s work Mother and Child Divided featured the bisected carcasses of a cow and calf encased in glass. Not to be outdone, Emin’s My Bed featured a mattress with stained sheets, dirty underwear and empty bottles around it. Both works display a conspicuous lack of talent and maturity on the part of the artist. Perhaps the most egregious example of this trend towards absurdity is found in Terence Koh, whose art often disgusts people who view it.

In addition to selling his own gold-plated feces at the 2007 Art Basel art fair, Koh’s most extreme work is his 2006 creation, Untitled (Medusa). This piece consists of a black-painted toilet stall with ‘phallus-laden religious icons and satanic plumbing fixtures’. Perhaps the most fitting comment on this work is that it mirrors its title—-a vision of twisted horror! Denigrating Christianity, indulging in perversion and intentionally obscene, Mr. Koh’s works appear to be degeneracy defined. If so, the contemporary art of 2010 represents the exhaustion of obscenity just as much as Serra’s black canvases represented abstraction’s demise in 1958. If art is to be rescued from this dearth of talent and aesthetic sensitivity, it must come about through a recovery of older artistic traditions and methods. Classical Realism offers the possibility of a new renaissance within representational painting, portraiture and sculpture. Since the Seventies, a small network of academy schools have emerged teaching students how to create art in the traditions of the Old Masters. Largely ignored by the art establishment in New York and London, they have ensured that honest artistic creation and criticism still exist as a credible subculture. If one knows where to look, art worthy of the École des Beaux-Arts can be found and appreciated for its fine qualities. Operating according to the atelier model, these Classical Realist schools keep a flickering blue flame of aesthetic symmetry and sublime beauty alive for serious connoisseurs.

An Alternative Method: Atelier Schools and Bostonian Dissidents

Classical Realism offers a radically different approach to artistic training because of its hierarchical pedagogy and respect for past masters. Contemporary art often places undue emphasis on the artist as a spontaneously creative individual who need not be fettered by past traditions. In contrast, Classical Realism recognizes that the beginning art student is a novice who needs to be taught by experienced instructors. The sequence of courses students undergo at Classical Realist schools parallels the formalized atelier training of the nineteenth century. Translated from French, atelier means ‘artist’s studio’ and communicates the small, intimate nature of this instruction. Students begin their education with intense observation of both nature and the human form with a keen emphasis on classical symmetry. Influenced by Johann Winckelmann’s conception of Hellenic art, Classical Realists seek to emulate the achievements of the ancient world in their works. Examining both ancient and neoclassical sculpture, students learn the fine points of detailing the human body and its movements with their artwork. Intensively studying skeletal and musculature construction, they soon appreciate man and nature’s physical complexity and effective ways of representation through charcoal and oils.

For the first year, students complete master copies of works and practice drawing using charcoal or graphite. Often cast drawings are created, which are usually representations of a sculpture from classical antiquity. In this process, students learn to translate three dimensional forms onto a two-dimensional surface. While they practice, the atelier master demonstrates finer points of detail and shadowing to students. Straight, curved, diagonal and directional lines are all employed to create visual accuracy and balance. Importantly, the master shows his students how to organize their lines into recognizable shapes. The combination of lines into fixed forms creates images, which are decoded by the eye and identified. Complementary to this, students learn to appropriately measure proportions and distance within their work in order to ensure accuracy. After mastering these techniques, students proceed to the second year of study, which connects the first year’s work with painting. For this period, students focus on the study of griselle and apply it to a variety of representations. Griselle is painting with a monochromatic palette of black and white. It allows for greater fluidity of style and increased practice before proceeding to oils. The subject matter alternates between life models and still objects in order to keep in practice with multiple forms. Giving students greater familiarity and experiences with paint and brush, the second year provides an appropriate transition between beginning and advanced studies.

For the tertiary year in Classical Realist training, the students are provided with oils and canvases so as to begin painting in detail. The atelier master provides copies of increasingly complex paintings so students learn the finer principles of chiaroscuro and trompe l’oeil. Frequently in atelier schools, the paintings chosen as examples depict classical or medieval settings so that students learn costume and architectural details for future works. Working six hours a day for five days a week, atelier pupils learn through repetition and careful training. While often grueling, this intense education will last a lifetime and in invaluable in encouraging natural artistic talent to fully blossom. For the fourth and culminating year, students combine their learned techniques in order to create fully original works of art. This allows the student’s own individual tastes to gradually effect his depiction and sense of colour. For instance, some Classical Realist painters prefer darker, somber pigments to create specific moods while others enjoy lighter, freer elements. Certain preferences in interior styles such as Rococo over Gothic Revival will affect the artist’s sensibilities. While dependent on the person’s own tastes, all Classical Realist artists have passed through the same rigorous training and can converse with each other over multiple techniques and forms. This creates a sense of camaraderie and communication quite similar to the art schools of Europe prior to the 1870s.

Throughout America and Western Europe, Classical Realist ateliers express themselves using similar terms and concepts. Although largely scorned as backward reactionaries and nostalgics by elite art critics, they have successfully breathed new life into almost forgotten practices and made gallery visits palatable for cultural traditionalists. Appropriately, Classical Realism’s birth as an art movement came about in provincial, conservative Boston instead of New York or London. Artists who had studied at the École des Beaux-Arts successively trained other Boston artists, which created a generational tradition of realist artistic representation. Protected against radical art movements by the traditionalism of elite Yankee patrons, these artists cleverly taught the techniques of academic painting to their proteges. Jean-Léon Gérôme’s American student, William Paxton (1869-1941) taught at the Boston Museum of Fine Art’s school for years and also completed commissioned portraits of Presidents Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge. Taking Johannes Vermeer as his muse, Paxton created paintings of extraordinary complexity and subtlety. Awed by Vermeer’s use of focused versus blurred imagery within his paintings, Paxton replicated this ‘binocular vision’ technique within his works. His The Figurine (1921) marked a high point in domestic painting and is a remarkably illustrative of Bostonian culture.

The Figurine depicted an Irish household servant delicately cleaning a glass case containing a Ming dynasty statuette of a imperial courtesan. Referential to Boston’s domestic class structure, ethnic tensions and the city’s vital China trade, the work illuminated a specific, vital moment in American history. Brilliantly executed in oils on canvas and currently in the Smithsonian’s national collection, The Figurine represented the successful transmission and expression of atelier painting into America during its large-scale abandonment in Europe. Additionally, Paxton successfully transmitted academic painting techniques to his capable students who continued this tradition into the Twenties and Thirties. One of these capable proteges was Robert Hale Ives Gammell (1893-1981), whose works are monuments to Realist style and homages to the best of the Old Masters. Still referred to in reverential tones by conservative art patrons, Gammell’s works signify a vital connective point between the achievements of Jean-Léon Gérôme and current Classical Realists.

Descending from a prominent Yankee family and raised in the waning years of the nineteenth century, Gammell displayed artistic precocity from a very early age. Commencing his studies under Paxton in 1911, Gammell readily utilized the extensive collection of Old Masters in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts as material to copy from. After serving in the American Expeditionary Force during the Great War, Gammell spent much of the Twenties visiting European museums and galleries. When resident in Boston during this time, he completed numerous commissioned portraits for prominent American industrialists and statesmen. A deeply intellectual and sensitive man, Gammell soon began to draw closer to religious iconography with Western art and began painting Judeo-Christian and mythological themes extensively after 1930. Emergent from a similar background to T.S. Eliot, Gammell felt a spiritual sickness afflicted the West and that art had been affected by the horrors of the Somme and Verdun. Increasingly, his paintings dealt with mortality, otherworldly visions and images of the divine during this period. Knowing himself to be out of step with modern art circles in Europe, Gammell despaired that traditional painting and atelier training would be lost forever. This combined with the outbreak of war in 1939 caused him to suffer a complete nervous breakdown. He emerged from this experience a shaken man but firmly resolved to accomplish two goals during the rest of life.

Gammell believed his talents and accumulated knowledge necessitated passing them down to a new generation of traditional artists. In 1946, he published a vital work, The Twilight of Painting, which chronicled Western art’s radical decline and the serious threat of its extinguishment through Modernism. By publicizing the need for traditional painting’s survival, Gammell produced a culturally samizdat text read surreptitiously by dissenting artists. Additionally, he established the Boston-based Gammell Studios in 1950 and rigorously trained novices in academic painting methods. Despite disdain from critics, Gammell persevered and earned continued admiration and respect from his loyal students. While training future Classical Realist figures such as Richard Lack, Gammell completed a remarkable series of paintings, which represent his greatest artistic achievement. Based on the mystical poem, The Hound of Heaven by the British ascetic Francis Thompson, these paintings portray extraordinary religious spectacles similar to those of Emmanuel Swedenborg and William Blake. Ennobling instead of denigrating mankind, they depict images of beatific angels, wise saints and samite-clad, pure maidens. The highly detailed and technically advanced skill within this series attests to Gammell’s ability and influences from the best of pre-Modernist art. Arrestingly beautiful and profoundly moving, they stand as a testament to Gammell’s spiritual vision and devotion to academic painting. This devotion would be continued by his finest student, Richard Lack, who began to expand awareness of current Realist painting in America and Western Europe during the Eighties.

Richard Lack and the Expansion of Classical Realism

Born to a Scandinavian immigrant family in Minneapolis in 1924, Richard Lack knew from childhood that he would be a painter. Showing proficiency in drawing and portraiture, he desired to learn how to ‘paint as the Old Masters did’. While studying at the Minneapolis School of Art, Lack became frustrated at his teachers’ inability to impart the necessary techniques within academic, realist painting.  Moving to New York in 1949 in order to find an instructor knowledgeable in this tradition, he spent his mornings copying paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. By chance, a student of Richard H.I.. Gammell’s studio named Robert Cumming noticed Lack copying a Velázquez portrait. Intrigued, Cumming invited Lack to visit Boston and introduce himself to Gammell. After presenting himself at the studio and convincing Gammell of his serious intent, Lack began intensively studying the practices of traditional painting. According to Lack, Gammell’s first major lesson was to teach him to ‘unlock’ paintings in order to see the complexity within them. Like many museum and gallery visitors, Lack had previously viewed pre-Modernist art as consisting of ‘beautiful mysteries’, which he could only see topically. Gammell insisted that his students understand the layers of paint and specific techniques behind each work of art. Additionally, one of Gammell’s patrons provided funds for a 1955 European trip in order for Lack to study major Old World art collections. Through intense observation and imitation while under Gammell’s tutelage, Lack learned to express his own talents in increasingly complex paintings. By 1957, Lack had learned all he could from Gammell and decided to move back to Minneapolis after accepting a job at a small art instruction school. The Upper Midwest gave him a refuge from harping contemporary art circles in New York and he also adored the region’s natural beauty. There, he painted, studied the Old Masters and cultivated an increasing circle of conservative art patrons within the city. Within this safe haven far from Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, Lack’s sense of detailing and stylistics continued to greatly develop and advance his art. His works The Folksinger (1960) and Mother and Child (1962) display both a tremendous reverence for the human form and a keen eye for physical detail. Often painting the city’s leading citizens, knowledge of Lack’s skill soon began to spread throughout the United States and even abroad. By 1969, Lack decided to start his own atelier and began to train other students in the manner of his great teacher, Richard H.I. Gammell. Determined to pass on his expertise to talented novices, Lack taught students from all over the world and also founded the journal Classical Realism Quarterly in 1982. Eagerly read by artists in this growing subculture, it communicated that the recovery of traditional painting was indeed possible and desirable for the art world.

Through Lack’s constant support for Classical Realism, new ateliers were established in North America and Europe by his colleagues and students. The Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, (1976), Studio Cecil-Graves in Florence (1983), and the New York Academy of Arts (1982) were just some of the numerous ateliers started in this period. As his fame grew, Lack received commissions to paint portraits of the Earl of Wilmot’s wife and several Kennedy family members. Classical Realism became recognized by elite patrons as a civilized, tasteful alternative to contemporary art. Additionally, the leading Classical Realist artists Jacob Collins and Graydon Parrish have painted President George H.W. Bush, Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger and J. Paul Getty. In particular, Graydon Parrish has emerged as one of Classical Realism’s greatest current talents He completed his remarkable early work, Remorse, Despondence and the Acceptance of an Early Death when only twenty-four. An allegorical representation of the AIDS epidemic, it displays Parrish’s skillful incorporation of academic techniques and his profound respect for the paintings of Jean-Léon Gérôme and William Adolphe Bouguereau. Most recently, Parrish completed his The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy, which depicts the September 11th terrorist attack. Currently exhibited at the New Britain Museum of Art in Connecticut, it draws visitors from across the world. Though their works, Parrish and his contemporaries continue to increase awareness of Classical Realism and its promotion of traditional painting.

Classical Realism Today

Although their paintings are recognized by conservative art connoisseurs as vital works within a historic tradition, Classical Realists do not command the respect of contemporary art tastemakers. Sneeringly describing them as reactionaries and antiquarians, many critics prefer the plasticine superficiality of Jeff Koons or the deviancy of Grayson Perry. However, in any age including our own decadent times, there are many people who appreciate the Western artistic tradition. Often seen at the National Gallery and the Met, they gaze longingly at Hellenic statues and Jacques-Louis David paintings imagining those talents do not exist among artists today. Fortunately, Classical Realism provides a necessary antidote to their melancholy and assures us that all is not lost within the art world. A network of persevering ateliers provide the necessary training to artists who desire to simply ‘paint as the Old Masters did’. Currently the Grand Central Academy of Art and New York Academy of Art in Manhattan and the School of Representational Art in Chicago offer the best training for emerging Classical Realist artists. There are also smaller ateliers in far-flung cities such as Seattle, Minneapolis and Philadelphia. In the United Kingdom, the London School of Representational Art in Clapham constitutes a healthy and growing traditional subculture within British art. In Europe, Charles Cecil Studios and Angel Academy of Art in Florence and Studio Escalier in Paris offer training for Continental artists. These ateliers regularly communicate with one another and are united by their love for traditional painting. Steadily increasing their visibility, they continue to provide an alternative for those weary of the Tate Modern’s collections.

Classical Realist artists are also represented by an array of galleries in America and Western Europe. Foremost, Hirschl & Adler Galleries in New York and W.H. Patterson Gallery in London constitute the major sellers of their works. W.H. Patterson Gallery proved influential in the successful introduction of Classical Realism into the British art market. Operating from their Mayfair base on Albemarle Street, they successfully represent major traditional painters including Trevor Heath and John Batty. Regularly staging selected exhibitions of important artists, the gallery is a haven for traditional art collectors. Hirschl & Adler performs the same vital function in Manhattan as Patterson Gallery and also stages vital exhibitions. Representing important Classical Realists such as Graydon Parrish and Frederick Brosen, they are a refreshing change from the contemporary art of Chelsea galleries. Any serious art patron would be wise to enquire with both galleries for purchases and establishing contacts with the artists. While these galleries are the major vendors in both cities, there exist other smaller galleries where Classical Realist art can be found. Increasingly, discerning people are turning to Classical Realist art and assisting this movement’s efforts through their own support and connoisseurship.

In our own times, European nations have witnessed a remarkable degradation in the quality and nature of representational art. What was once considered hideous and gauche now sells for millions of pounds at leading auction houses. Often adhering to radically leftist beliefs, artists peddling mass-produced junk and even works exhibiting blasphemy and paraphilias are considered genius by foolish curators. Since the end of the nineteenth century, there has been a remarkable attempted evisceration of Europe’s artistic heritage by those who consider traditional painting to be reactionary and obsolete. However, there are still many patrons who quite rightly value the works of Joshua Reynolds or Jacques-Louis David over those by Francis Bacon and Terence Koh. Conservative, right-thinking people must not abandon the art world and leave this cultural battlefield to be taken over by the Left. Wrongly thinking this struggle to be over, many patrons simply imagine art to be in terminal decline without hope of renewal. Classical Realism proposes precisely the necessary rebirth of art that values instead of denigrates our Hellenic, Christian and Western heritages. As an art movement, it proffers Ariadne’s thread for us to escape the labyrinth of cultural deviancy and self-indulgence readily found at the Tate Modern and The Museum of Modern Art. If we desire a renaissance of artistic forms valued by our ancestors, we ought to grasp it and pull ourselves back into Minos’s glorious palace above.


The Political Anthropology of the Divine Beast (Part II)

Part Two of the Political Anthropology set down as a waypoint for The Devil's Review. (2 of 5)


Our problems do not stop with language. We have much the same problem referring to ourselves as human beings as such. So, the term ‘Man’ cannot be taken for granted, much less used by us as it stands — that is, as if we are affirming that it is something universal — lest we fall into the same trap.

‘Man’ is a terrible abstraction. It is to this fictional creature and only to him, for example, that the ‘Rights of Man’ refer. Not to men as they actually exist.

In his book The One-Dimensional Man, Marcuse evokes human nature somewhat en passant as he discusses universals: “the philosophic concept of “man” aims at the fully developed human capacities which are his distinguishing faculties, and which appear as possibilities of the actual conditions in which men actually live. The concept articulates the qualities which are considered “typically human.” The vague phrase may serve to elucidate the ambiguity in such philosophic definitions — namely, they assemble the qualities which pertain to all men as contrasted with other living beings, and, at the same time, are claimed as the most adequate or highest realization of man.” (Marcuse, H. [1991], The One-Dimensional Man, London: Routledge. p.218—9)

In a note he adds: “This interpretations, which stresses the normative character of universals, may be related to the conception of the universal in Greek philosophy — namely, the notion of the most general as highest, the first in “excellence”, and therefore the real reality”. What Marcuse does not say is this: one does not build from the sky down. Even in orders with an ascendant aspect, orders of rank, where what is highest is most treasured, one builds it as a pyramid is built, not as a castle in the sky or a basket of fire hanging on nought but a cloud. Later in his book, Marcuse makes the Hegelian argument (and explicates it very well) that Nature is subordinate to Reason. Historically, Nature is dependant on the subject ‘Man’.

Marcuse’s presentation of the Hegelian argument is remarkably insightful. Nature is not only to be overcome by Man’s self-realization (as the animal rationale), but moreover ‘liberated’ by this. (He also overlooks the point that the Marxist view of man as the animal laborans turns the animal rationale on its head or even obliterates it as such; this, a point made by Hannah Arendt in ‘Tradition and the Modern Age’, one of the essays in the Between Past and Future.) We see here that Hegel (and the Hegelian Left, well into the twentieth century) carried over the flawed logic of the Revolution, that the ‘liberation’ and realization of Man is liberation as such.

The danger for the Marxist unfolds thus: that it is all too easy to go from making use of what the natural world furnishes, to actually transforming the natural world and, finally, to the theoretical negation and the complete uprooting and destruction of the natural world. Nature has become ‘negative’ from the start, as Marcuse correctly points out. So, the natural is the negation, which must in turn be negated. Practically, this means destruction.

Since the human Subject of History, either as ‘Man’ or as class-conscious proletariat, must be seen as the motive force in a neo-Hegelian-Marxist narrative, everything — natural resources, class enemies, everyone and everything else, even Nature itself — is consumed or destroyed, yet in either case can be called ‘liberated’. So, the monstrous conclusion drawn by the Marxist Left, is that anyone who endeavours to protect their environment and their condition as it is, is in fact resisting ‘liberation’ and must be ‘liberated’ all the more zealously.

This shows us very clearly, of course, the ‘compassionate’ humanity inherent in humanitarian humanisms. In other words, none at all.

The aberrant nature of the abstract universal is also clear to see at this point.

We have thought man into the blue — and we will rue the day we did so. Beginning with the general as the origin — that is, with what had to be abstracted from similar particulars in the first place — is putting the cart before the horse. Reasoning from a general concept after the fact is a convenient way to more quickly and effectively form particular conceptions about different things which may resemble one another in certain respects. It even conforms to that inescapable and indispensable cognitive faculty, by which we form schemata, general ideas which allow us to more efficiently process information. (Ironically for the do-gooders, this is the self-same source of our hated tendency to ‘stereotype’.) The evidence of cognitive psychology shows that this is simply inherent and ineradicable, as well as eminently beneficial.

So, this is how we form general concepts about things which happen to be similar. However, this does not mean the particulars in reality derive from some actually existing hypostasized correspondent of the general concept so formed. Indeed, some particulars rigidly resist generalizations (e.g. the ‘state of exception’ in Schmitt’s writing; or the ‘black swan’ event, as conceived by Nassim Taleb).

To confuse the first thought in a chain of associative thought with It may even be called a ‘category-mistake’, to borrow Gilbert Ryle’s expression. (Today, one will more often find the expression ‘category error’ in Anglo-American academic philosophy.)

This is the dangerous error in Greek thought, which is carried over into the problem of universals and becomes a sort of crisis in Scholastic philosophy and theology. It is even carried over today (albeit harmlessly) by eccentric Catholic traditionalists today, , for whom nominalism is the thought-crime to end all thought-crimes (or, rather, to begin them!), the lèse majesté against Catholic Christendom, which causes the European social order to unravel. Suffice to say, to call this thesis implausible is kind; it is patently comical. However, the problem of universals is inherent in the humanitarian humanisms described above.

We cannot allow ourselves to even be deceived by this notion — not for a moment! — much less, allow ourselves to be destroyed by it.

Even when this dangerous notion of Man was new and had the impulse and credulity of loosed vices, unchecked passions and an unfettered rabble on its side, it was doubted and assailed from now this corner, now another and so on. Today, when this specious, insane, foolish notion is firmly established and ever ascendant, it is more in need of scorn and ridicule than ever, yet receives none of any note. So, we must turn to the words of those who inveighed against the abomination when it was young.

To identify the rough outline of what is at stake, we must turn to a very different thinker: Joseph de Maistre. It is he who flippantly says “there is no such thing in the world as Man.  In the course of my life, I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians, etc.; I am even aware, thanks to Montesquieu, that one can be a Persian.  But, as for Man, I declare that I have never met him in my life.  If he exists, I certainly have no knowledge of him.” Constitutionally at least, ‘Man’ is meaningless; there are only nations.

Man is the last evil spirit or spook,” rails the beautiful egoist Stirner, “the most deceptive or intimate, the craftiest liar with honest mien, the father of lies.” (Max Stirner [2005], The Ego and His Own, Mineola, NY: Dover, p.184)

On this point, we must closely agree with ‘Saint Max’.

However, it is Schmitt who de-politicizes and re-historicizes this ‘spook’, making it contextual and therefore identifying a point of attack.

“Humanity is not a political concept,” he writes matter-of-factly, “and no political entity or society and no status corresponds to it.” This point is, as yet, theoretical — and it corresponds to Schmitt’s definition of ‘the political’. Nevertheless, he does not let up and, in fact, with the very next line, presses the overtly historical basis for his argument: “The eighteenth-century humanitarian concept of humanity was a polemical denial of the then existing aristocratic-feudal system and the privileges accompanying it.” (Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, p.55.)

So, it is like Nietzsche that Schmitt refutes this absolute God, this ‘Absolute Subject’ of humanitarian ideology, in historical terms; with a quick, ‘clean sweep’ — so avoiding the pointless posturing of postulate after postulate, in the cold and shallow realm of Reason, where all is proof and counter-proof and the last word is never the last. Nevertheless, Schmitt maintains his theoretical argument and proceeds, from this historical remark, back to his discussion of the political impossibility of humanity:“Humanity according to natural law and liberal-individualistic doctrines is a universal, i.e., all-embracing, social ideal, a system of relations between individuals. This materializes only when the real possibility of war is precluded and every friend and enemy grouping becomes impossible. In this universal society there would no longer be nations in the form of political entities, no class struggles, and no enemy groupings.” (Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, p.55.)

Paul Gottfried, in his invaluable volume Carl Schmitt: Politics and Theory, raises a very relevant point: “The Stoics, who rejected the older Greek distinction between Hellenes and barbarians, invented the concept of the genus humanum; equally significant, they coined the ominous term inhumanus, which gave rise to new insidious distinctions.” Specifically for the Marxist Left, he points out that the Internationale calls for consolidating “le genre humain,” but also demands violent struggle against counterrevolutionary classes.” In other words, under the auspex of ‘Man’ or humanity, the dehumanized outlaws of humanity can be destroyed utterly and unconditionally, at our leisure and without guilt. Man’s greatest inhumanity to man always takes place under the banner of good intentions — and most brutally under the banner of humanity itself!

In order to save the concept of humanity, Rorty tries to redefine how we approach it in his work Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, under the rubric of his liberal ‘ironism’. Ingeniously, he attempts to do so by means of a fallaciously persuasive sophistry which holds that trying to determine what is “distinctively human” leads to persecutions, so instead we must resign these questions in favour of the (essentially egalitarian) position which embraces all humans — and yet this position itself assumes a pre-determined concept what is human, specifically a universalist concept, with only surface nuance.

“What makes Freud more useful and plausible than Nietzsche”, avers* this strange postmodernist, “is that he does not relegate the vast majority of humanity to the status of dying animals.” (Rorty, R., Contingency, Irony and Solidarity [1989], Cambridge: CUP, p.35.) One must first ask: ‘Useful and plausible to whom?’ This late thinker’s intellectual descendants would be unable to answer this honestly. We can only imagine that he himself also would not.

*[This is precisely an inversion of the relation of both thinkers. Nietzsche is the genuinely far more valuable thinker. Freud is trite and derivative, when held up beside (or rather, below) Nietzsche. Without Nietzsche’s influence, one would have none of the strands of Freud’s thought which made him interesting.]

Digressions aside, we can see why Rorty makes this claim. It is a blatant statement of his implied presuppositions. What is the measure of more useful and plausible? Why, more universalist, of course!

His argument is, needless to say, a piece of rubbish — and one which we can only struggle to call an argumentum ad negationem or argumentum ad negatur; that is to say, an argument to the negated, a strange case of petitio principii, in which the presupposition appealed to (in this case, determinations on the content of the concept of the ‘human’) has already been refuted in the argument itself.

This self-contradictory argument ramifies to underline the instability and assailability of the universal humanity concept.

Gentlemen, you have had your chance — more chances than you deserve, to push this empty concept upon us. No, humanity as a universal must be banished from our discourse. In its theoretical expression, it is deficient; in practical expression, it is unrestricted warfare and the very pogroms the do-gooders constantly warn us about.

Accordingly, we cannot ignore this abstraction, humanity or ‘Man’, which is our most crucial target. It must be utterly obliterated. Man as we understand him is not a universal. The closest Idealism comes to us, is the universalization of men is as a ‘concrete universal’ — that is to say, a universal which consists only of its actual instantiations at any one time — but even this is defective.

The concrete is not at all as the Hegelian pictures it. Otherwise, it would be merely the metaphysicalization of Hume’s empiricist theory of impressions and ideas. Simple ideas coalesce into complex ones. (For example, the complex idea of a rose is merely the composition of the simple idea of red, along with several other simple ideas which together resemble the form of the rose as conceived mentally.) Abstraction of this sort appears to be the ‘first cause’ of that which concretely exists, but it is in fact a posteriori in nature. The abstraction of simple concepts from concrete (complex) concepts always takes place after the fact. The ancient Sceptics realized this. The abstraction cannot be viewed from nowhere, by nobody, as they correctly argued. It is only through the power of discernment and imagination that we separate it out from the bounds of its natural unity in a particular object of perception (which is itself separated arbitrarily by mere differentiation). So, we can see that the abstraction arises from the process of perception itself. The thing which exists is at first undifferentiated in its differentiation. Out of its difference, we delineate and sort particular differences. This means that what is concrete comes first.

So, the ‘concrete universal’ as such, must be revised or thrown out. Supposing it is revised, it must overcome the idealism in which it originates.

Naturally, the concrete universal called ‘Man’ must be completely overhauled so as not to resemble or even imply universalism. Men are not possessed of a single distinguishing quality as we perceive them, but many such qualities which are found together; and yet ‘Man’ is not even a complication of abstractions, made into one concrete (complex) universal, since all is originally one (or, dare one say, ‘undifferentiated difference’), along with the properties that humans share with other species and things, as well as the qualities which make a man who he is personally. The all-encompassing unity which branches out is not, then, a general concept, possessed of a greater ‘excellence’ than particular concepts. We must turn this on its head — or, more precisely, set it back on its feet, to borrow Marx’s phrase. Rather, the all-encompassing unity is in what is perceived, before its differential quality leads it to be separated out. Variation is seamless. The sharpness of separations in nature are merely the projections of the imagination.

Consequently, we must be nominalists on the question of Man — that is to say, the significance of the term is strictly nominal. The referent of the term is not a thing unto itself, but rather the categorization of several similar things (in this case, beings; men) together. In other words, we may accept that there are beings who may be comprehended under the appellation ‘Man’, beings we call men, but that ‘Man’ itself is not something which exists; and that these same beings exist with similar genomic features, inter alia, owing to common origin and composition. Nevertheless, men are not really united causally or teleologically, but rather by what Wittgenstein called Familienähnlichkeit — ‘family resemblances’ — or groups of phenomena found together in a particular.

Humans are whatever they are, regardless of ‘Man’-as-Idea.

Men in concreto have a living existence, vividly and clearly determined by material conditions. They are different in different situations, but something about them can be called ‘human’. This is not essentialism: one can only say that the human species changes little, but not that it is immutable; one can say that it varies widely over different places, times and situations, but always changes consistent with its nature. In politics, Montesquieu (borrowing a term from physics) calls this ‘constance’. The essentialism of Man — just as surely as the hypocritical non-essentialism of the multiculturalists — effectively imputes all important features to all men and peoples at all times. In both theory and practice, these metaphysical extremes are universalism.

Metaphysics is the Judas goat of the political.


The Political Anthropology of the Divine Beast (Part I)


We are political beasts.

This argument has been made at least as early as when it was made by Aristotle. It is from him that I select the expression ‘political beasts’. The reason I render the ζῷον (‘zöon’) in ζῷον πολιτικόν (‘zöon politikōn’) as ‘beast’ is because this seems to me to be the most apt translation. Two problems often lead us to dismiss the importance of the term ‘zöon’ — not only the importance of the term itself, but also in how it indelibly inflects that political part of our beastly nature.

The riddle of our nature opens up to us when we embrace it, not when we ignore it. “The utopian”, Joe Sobran wrote, “wants to fly by disregarding gravity instead of understanding it.” To disregard obstacles inherent in human life is not the same as to overcome them.

This is precisely the error to which we shall not succumb — and, indeed, that we shall endeavour to demolish.


In discussing the nature of men as ‘political animals’ or ‘political beasts’, as in the discussion of other topics, there must be a specifiable domain of knowledge (in this case, one much like Hume’s “Science of Man”), which is roughly mapped out, with an appropriate methodology, even if this is ad hoc. In other words: if such a domain did not already exist, it would be necessary to create one. Supposing this domain is established in some sense, but is not fully mapped out, then we must tend to this also.

What is this domain? ‘Political anthropology’. This is what we call the consideration of our nature as politically interactive beings. In The Concept of the Political, the jurist Carl Schmitt lays out the following heuristic, under this title, by which political philosophies can be cleanly separated into two rough groups by their underlying assumptions: “One could test all theories of state and political ideas according to their anthropology and thereby classify these as to whether they consciously or unconsciously presuppose man to be by nature evil or by nature good. The distinction is to be taken here in a rather summary fashion and not in any specifically moral or ethical sense. The problematic or unproblematic conception of man is decisive for the presupposition of every further political consideration, the answer to the question whether man is a dangerous being or not, a risky or a harmless creature.” (Schmitt, C. [], The Concept of the Political, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p.58)

Also, Schmitt is at pains to avoid imputing a moral interpretative content to the terms ‘good’ and ‘evil’. He takes a brief opportunity to remind the reader of this. Put bluntly, these have none of their moral meaning, in the sphere of the political. They are not used in political-anthropological discussion as normative terms. Rather, in political life, theirs is a practical, political and didactic meaning. So, it is important for Schmitt to be clear on what ‘good’ and ‘evil’ do not mean; their positive content is less important, since he says that “[t]he numerous modifications and variations of this anthropological distinction of good and evil are not reviewed here in detail. Evil may appear as corruption, weakness, cowardice, stupidity, or also as brutality, sensuality, vitality, irrationality, and so on.”

So, what is a man?

This question, rather naturally, recurs throughout European writing, especially political writing, from at least Classical Antiquity. It becomes much more complicated with Christianity, since it has to be reconciled with religious doctrines by means of contrivances and convoluted arguments. Under these new auspices, discussion around it intensifies. This too is quite natural, since many of the great scholars of Christendom are wont to rescue the pagan notions about men, sometimes openly, sometimes in subtle and cryptic ways — but always couched in the creedal and dogmatic language of the day.

We even see this strong trend into the Early Modern period. The transition from mediæval to modern thought is not the cut-and-dry separation — in any case, it is not at all the straightforward ever-improving progress from the Dark Ages to the Renaissance and an ever-unfurling flower of Enlightenment.

The historical movement from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age is also, in a manner of speaking, mirrored in the philosophical movement from a discussion centred on the “statu innocentiæ” (the State of Innocence) to one centred on the “statu naturæ” (the State of Nature), the latter being a term used already in mediæval times, albeit adhering more or less to the meaning of the former. In the mediæval literature, the state of innocence is, of course, Man’s situation in Eden before the Fall; that state in which man is good and his enjoyment of himself, Nature and God’s harmony is — in a word — perfect. This gradually changes as the impetus of European philosophy takes it out from under the auspices of Scholasticism and wider mediæval thought. We see that with the secular or civil focus of Hobbes, for example, the “State of Nature” comes into its own. There is an inversion here that is rather interesting — or rather, a reversion, a subterranean attempt to set the nature of men (inverted by Christian doctrine) back on its feet.

So, how do we make sense of what we’ve turned around? What is this political theology we have just uncovered with this revolution?

Anthropology, as Feuerbach (himself a kind of blessed fool) suggested, must ultimately be the starting point for Theology, just as Theology must be the point of departure for the return to Anthropology. The same also applies when we prefix (literally and figuratively) both anthropology and theology with ‘the political’. So, political anthropology is not only important for its own sake, but also the crucial precondition for a political theology, which is how we end up with all our myths and the prevailing structures of political organization.

Harnessing powerful myths, images, rituals as Master-words, we may string together sentences worth a thousand books, and find a narrative for ourselves — and so, we give rise to anthropological discourses.

So, what is man — and can we discover this in what he says?

The answer is ‘Yes’, but not a straight yes. Man does not say what man is, but he sees.

Since we can see how he is perceived by his fellows, we can answer the question firstly in those terms: ‘Homo homini lupus’ the rational realist Hobbes gives as a motto for his view of man (drawing on Plautus); ‘Homo homini deus’ replies Francis Bacon (drawing on Pliny the Elder); and at last, Schmitt (in his book The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes) poses these two formulations as successive, the former followed by the latter, by pointing to the deus mortalis, the ‘mortal god’, the dread sovereign of the Hobbesian state. Man becomes, to man, a god, where before all men are wolves. It is a wry connection to be drawn and, contextually, is a brilliant connection for the book on Leviathan to make.

Nevertheless, men are not suddenly something else, with no trace of their previous selves. In anything organic, there can never be a clean, completely separate periodization; nor, in any case, can there be anything without intermediate developments and a substantial continuity.

Again, we ask the question, slightly reformulated: What is man throughout? ‘Homo homini lupus’ or ‘Homo homini deus’?

In order to get a fuller and more accurate picture of man qua man, we must agree with both — in other words, agree with both expressions, as well as a third — a synthesis — which retains both. So, we must find this third way of expressing that which makes us human.

Men can be either wolves or gods, to other men. Again, they can also be both. How is this so? It is revealed in their polemical nature. In war, man is at his most predatory and yet his most divine, in one and the same instance. The Ancients, in the intuitive genius of their mythologies, acknowledged this but dimly — yet they did acknowledge it. Indeed, the Ancients had sacrifices before war, but afterward — and these latter were of a narrative nature, conducted after the fact of actual conflict, when the dust settled on the field and men lay mangled by the bronze spear. They would often ritually re-enact the slaughter of battle, the notable deeds of engagement, in the efforts to capture the divine connection in such deeds.

In Roman culture, the wolf-god connection becomes even more apparent, literal and surreal. The Romans would throw open the gates of the Temple of Janus and keep them open in times of war, even as the standard-bearers of Rome’s army adorned themselves and their armour in the skins of wolves. Is it any wonder, too, that Rome’s deified founder Romulus, was suckled on wolf’s milk? This is an even more direction connection! Even though a wolf and a god may be separated by a spiralling staircase of infinity, stretching from Tartarus to Olympus, from the Inferno to Heaven — with each winding step, each interstice, each single quantum an infinity unto itself, despite its infinitesimal slightness — the human dominion spans its entirety. Men can embody each and every increment of this spectrum.

These things are bound together: wolves and gods (in men); sacrifice and war (in the Sacred).

Moreover, the sacredness of war was even known to the philosophers — and to some more than others.

“War is the father of all things”, says Heraclitus. Great Polemos is our progenitor and his kind are everywhere, all around us, at all times. We may count ourselves among his descendants. Even so, it is also in the Heraclitean fragments that we find the wisdom that “nothing is beyond due measure” — that is to say, nothing is beyond the relations in which it exists to other things — “not even the Sun itself”. Everything in the heavenly spheres has a relative position, a mutual and relational aspect; somewhere and at all times, there are sextiles, the perpendicular meetings of squares and the outright diametric relation of oppositions. So, too, does everything on earth exist in its varying relations, within the web of all that is.

War is the most political activity; also the most sacred, and even, consequently, the most human. Given that this is the case, we must understand our origin in polemical terms, why this origin has a divine aspect, and how this brings us to live in political communities.

Men are war-makers first and foremost; tool-makers only insofar as these allow some advantage over other men. Naturally, our first tools were weapons; and if there will ever be a final tool for human beings, it will be a weapon. We have the terrible sense of sacredness which is speculative, which leads us to investigate the universe and interrogate of our place in it. We are only the one religious animal; not only this, but the only animal which ‘plays God’. Indeed, man is the only animal which makes of himself a god outright.

However, we are mortal — and this is what makes lives precious and wars sacred.

We may descend far enough away from our origin to forget it, but we will never be able to destroy it, remove it or somehow replace this origin with another.

The pulp writer Robert E. Howard addressed this with great clarity in his story ‘The Tower of the Elephant’. In this piece, the young barbarian, Conan of Cimmeria, is trying to get his bearings in a tavern full of thieves, thousands of miles from his native land, when he is unwisely mocked by an ugly thief. “Civilized men are more discourteous than savages”, writes Howard, “because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.” Needless to say, in the story, the Cimmerian leaves a dead man behind him.

How does Howard describe the wider scene of the Thieves’ Quarter? “Steel glinted in the shadows where wolf preyed on wolf,” he writes, “and from the darkness rose the shrill laughter of women, and the sounds of scufflings and strugglings.” This, too, is significant. Here are the beginnings of civil society, yet men are still rude — the Zamorian thieves are so because they are criminal and degenerate; and yet Conan is rude, too, but it is because he is barbarian and as yet innocent. Still, wolf preys upon wolf. Even so, wolves differ — and we can admire some more than others. What has really changed, since the archaic time reflected (albeit with creative license) in Howard’s fiction?

Let us widen the field, beyond the scope of the individual, to pit the Celtic-Germanic barbarian race of the Cimmerians against the more ‘civilized’ races far abroad (civilized in the Persian, rather than the Greek, sense). Indeed, let us look to factual rather than fictional races and compare those whose manners preclude their strife-free mingling. We see the same glinting of steel, whether on the personal or on the national level. Men and their families quarrel and kill; nations slaughter and annihilate. This is the way of things, living among others. We confront one another as men, the most monstrous of creatures on the earth, in the most sacred capacity of war. Let us say, then, that ‘Homo homini hominus’. — But this still looks far too much like an evasion! What is the man himself, we ask again?

The question has remained thus far — but now finds an answer: Homo homini ferus—divini’! Man is to man a divine beast.

Indeed, man really is a divine beast! Let it be spoken aloud! Let it be announced to the world!

Why would we want to be otherwise?

What? Would we rather be—homo sapiens? The animal rationale? Isn’t this just the rambling beast, animal loquens, which speaks of itself as rational? The talking animal! Well, then, it might as well be the animal stultum, the jester of the universe, gibbering away senselessly at the feet of the sovereign of the Heavens.

No — we say No! — we are the descendants of the ritual killer.

This man is ferus, divinum, necans — the wild, divine, killing one. He rises out of the earth, stepping into view, like a divine avatar cast in bronze, like a titan reborn. His gods, like him, must have an almightily iron hand. Emanating from this glowing being, we finally have a political theology, but it is indeed a wicked theology, to borrow Yeats’ expression. It is as wicked as the thunderbolts cast from the heavens — and depends upon similar demonstrations of arbitrary, dreadful, superhuman power.

This is the shimmering image we see in the looking glass, a reflection of what we could be: the proud and brooding beast, the great dominator.


Ah, but we look away, for escapism is the order of the age! We want to pretend we are otherwise, than this beast. Even when we meet his gaze, we blink. For the same reason, men in the West today will not lock eyes with the divinities.

No, they prefer “deliberation”, “dialogue” and self-denial.

Talk! Today all is the mechanical pumping of hot air, the chattering of teeth and the snapping of heads — you are all talk, gentlemen! They must escape a decision, at all costs — especially a fateful decision, with dreadfully catastrophic consequences. This is what we call politics — and perhaps it is — but it is not political.

Only a god or a monster — or both — could take such a decision upon titanic shoulders! Of course, today we shun all genuine gods and monsters.

Today, with our thoroughly modern, humanitarian ‘humanisms’ (both Christian and secular), we sanitize ourselves as being either beings divinely created separate from ‘the animals’ or something evolved away from animals in our capacities if not in our very essence. (The first humanism corresponds with creationism; the second, neo-Darwinism.) The latter humanism, at least, is a sort of ‘speciesism’ which acknowledges evolution ‘from’ (that is, away from) the lower animals, only insofar as to mobilize ‘natural selection’ arguments for why we abuse and destroy these lower creatures. On the other hand, the former humanism is just a simpler, perhaps even less sinister, sort of speciesism. (Ironically, animal liberation movements operate on the same — albeit even more strictly unspoken and unexplored — presuppositions as both of these speciesisms.) So, these sentimental creeds, so exhibitive of hysteria and so furtively, perniciously harbouring spite — against all that is genuinely holy, healthy and life-affirming — must be mined out and detonated.

This task could not be more crucial.

Since some sort of humanism or other is deeply ingrained in our contemporary efforts to self-destruct, this author thinks it is time to track down and extirpate these errors, while at the same time laying out a positive concept (rather than merely a negation of a negation!). Our alternatives must be powerfully positive. That is to say, as a general rule, when we smash something we oppose, we must vigorously propose something else. Even as we demolish the vindictive absurdities erected over our sacred sites, we must be careful to restore our altars, sacral fetishes, and ritual mysteries — even if this means making new ones, in honour of the old.

First, some preliminaries for our positive iconography: positing a political nature for human beings must nevertheless not be taken to adhere to some unspoken (and therefore unchallenged) assumption that there is indeed a more general human nature, which is meaningful, which even unites us and so on. ‘Humanity’ indicates nothing which more specific and concrete categories do not already specify much better; and this, to the better enrichment of these indications. Indeed, for that matters, at its most general, ‘humanity’ indicates nothing which is not already generalized much better; again, enriching said indications. We are wont to describe talking as a profoundly and solely human activity. However, other animals communicate just as well — nay, better in some ways!

Here, context is important. Of course, this is the very thing the humanitarian-humanist wants to obscure and obliterate. Everything, especially thinkers, must be de-contextualized. To this end, Aristotle’s second formulation of man’s political nature, as the  ζῷον λόγον ἔχον (‘zöon lōgon echon’), has been taken on in a corrupted form and much abused over time.

It is indeed a strange affectation by which we think of ourselves as a sort of animal loquens. A creature of universal grammar! Universal speech and thought! Universal being! Finally, universal humanity. This absurdity, although seemingly rational (but to whom?), has gradually stretched, exceeded and broken (humanitarian) Reason, the very thing its adherents claim as its justification. Yes, it is a strange and decadent affectation. Nevertheless, this is where our discourse is at the moment and where the errors must be overcome.

The great masses of people today, including their intellectually-bankrupt intelligentsia, are inclined by an obstinate and obstructive obtuseness to regard the expression ‘I speak’ as more profound than, say, ‘I speak French’, simply because it implies in more cases.

At first, the universalist position seems profound; in all honesty, it isn’t even shallow. Even when Aristotle uses the expression mentioned above, ζῷον λόγον ἔχον (‘zöon lōgon echon’), it is something altogether different at his hands. One speaks something meaningful and intelligible to one’s fellows. In other words, one communicates in a community! (The etymological connection here is far from trivial.)

Our contemporaries prefer the predicate ‘I speak’ by itself, because its veneer is the purely imagined power to open doors, break down barriers, and end all dangers. It does not. The predicate derives its worth from the fact that is open-ended and, thus, potentially open to a specific content.

Supposing ‘I speak’, I must speak something, or else be speaking nonsense — in other words, saying nothing at all; not speaking.

Little do our pontificating illiterati realise, that any profoundness of this predicate derives specifically from its determinateness in explicitly specific cases — i.e. from precisely those cases in which that which is spoken is specified: e.g. ‘I speak French’, ‘we speak English’, ‘we speak different languages’ or ‘we speak related languages’. It is from expressions like these that the predicate is abstracted — and only in these expressions does it have any meaning whatsoever. Nevertheless, we prefer the empty predicate.

The philosophies in which we’re schooled encourage and reinforce this. This enshrinement of an abstraction is a piece of sophistry to which we are attracted so closely only (and therefore merely!) by the mendacious meddling of our managers. According to their own logic, they are self-described chatterers and it is by this that they are to be defined. Very well then! We shall agree on this — and only this — point!


On the Global Oligarchy and Anarcho-Tyranny in Russia

An Interview with Dr. Andrey N. Savelev

By Alfred Smith

Andrei Savelev has a PhD in Political Science from Moscow State University. He was an elected deputy of the Fourth State Duma on the “Rodina” ticket (2003-7) and the right-hand man of Rodina’s leader, Dmitry Rogozin. He is chairman of the unregistered political party Velikaya Rossiya (Great Russia). He is the author of over 300 articles, and several books, including Political Mythology (2003), Nation and State: A Theory of Conservative Reconstruction (2005), The Image of the Enemy: Racial Studies and Political Anthropology (2007). He currently teaches courses in the Sociology Faculty at Moscow State University.

Alfred Smith is the alterego of a graduate student somewhere in the UK.  Some of his writings can be found here:

Many conservatives in the West have a favourable opinion of Vladimir Putin, seeing him as true national leader who is working in the interest of the Russian people. Many of my colleagues believe him to be a conservative, even a nationalist. However, in your book Nation and State: A Theory of Conservative Reconstruction, you write that Putin is actually a liberal. In what way is Putin a liberal?

I was very surprised when I met with some Italian conservatives, they gave me a publication in which Putin was extolled as a great world leader, as some sort of model of a nationally oriented head of state. Their confusion had to do with the lack of information about the real situation in Russia, and the misinterpretation of certain rude words spoken by Putin, which were taken as ‘anti-American’ and quoted many times in the Western media. At the time I wrote a short explanation and sent it to the Italians.

Let us remember, for a start, that Athenian democracy made much use of slave labour, ritual prostitution and a monopoly on maritime trade, which more close resemble piracy. In ‘totalitarian’ Sparta the number of hangers-on (the city demos) was much smaller, while the relationship between the Spartans and the helots was more reminiscent of the relationship between landowner and tenant.  Besides, even in Athens it was not permitted to kill a slave arbitrarily. In one of the dialogues of Socrates, his interlocutor tells how the murderer of a slave was bound and thrown into a ditch before being taken into custody.

Liberal ideas appeared and began to manifest themselves in the life of the world in the context of the slave trade and the drug trade (the opium wars, for example). And now formal democracy rests on various forms of slavery (including sexual), unprecedented levels of drug addiction world-wide, and various forms of theft, speculation on commodities and financial instruments, which destroy industry and agriculture through debt bondage.

As far as contemporary Russia is concerned, I judge by the results, by the way of thinking and the actions of Putin. His aims are exclusively liberal. And the results of his governance have been deplorable for the country.  The crisis which Russia fell into in 2008 is still deeper than the one in the Yeltsin period, and Putin’s policies are largely to blame for this. The main cause of this crisis is the legalization of the capital obtained by the oligarchs. This was possible only under an ultra-liberal government. What this means is the pardoning of enormous crimes having to do with the seizure and transfer of property in previous years, during Yeltsin’s presidency. Under Yeltsin they managed to make about ten billionaires right with the law, under Putin, about a hundred.

Liberalism has various definitions.  The main mark of contemporary liberalism is not the demand for freedom of enterprise, but the globalization of the economy and the de facto liquidation of national sovereignty.  Free elections and parliamentary debates are only the façade of the political system. In Russia this façade looks filthy and absurd, but the basic blueprint, accepted in the West, has been preserved. There are no real elections, no real debates. But there are semblances of them. More important is what is behind the façade. What’s behind it is the absolute power of the oligarchy and a corrupt bureaucracy, which is tearing the country in pieces.

Putin is representative of those power groups who have transformed the Russian economy into a part of the global economy, who have changed the economy such that it no longer serves the national interest. The oligarchic order which has developed in Russia was created by the experience and the pressures of the global economy, which is promoted by unaccountable people who have no fatherland. This is not small or medium sized business – this is big business, global business which has penetrated into other countries and integrated itself with similar global businesses: Gasprom, Lukoil, Rosneft etc.  These are the main fuel and energy corporations. But that’s only the beginning of what they do. They have become involved in other arenas, including politics. Their interests are in no way connected to Russia’s national interests. The interest these corporations have in Russia is to use the energy resources of the country in such a way that the Russian people will not gain any benefit from them.

During Putin’s reign, basically all of the energy resources have been exported at a steal – the sale of oil and gas abroad has not resulted in the importation of a stream of products of equivalent value from abroad. Moreover, in Russia the use of energy resources is either kept to a minimum (for example, even in Russia’s central territories they have put the brakes on projects to hook up homes and apartments to natural gas), or the prices of these resources for the domestic consumer  are raised to the level of global prices. The oligarchs view their own country as a milk cow, which they want to milk, but don’t feel like feeding. Fittingly, this “cattle” will soon be sent to the slaughter-house. And then any responsibility they might have had for its fate will be eliminated.

The second aspect of liberalism which is relevant to our country is the formation of a liberal (that is, free from any and all responsibility) bureaucracy. This bureaucracy has basically become its own social class. It’s not only civil servants, it’s a class formed by familial ties and ethnic solidarity which is opposed to the ethnic Russian majority. This is something else we can thank Putin for. And for the ‘iron law of oligarchy’ which in this case met with no resistance from our government: any democratic system degenerates into oligarchy. In this case we see the highest officials included in the oligarchy and the formation of civil service that acts as a mechanism for the suppression of civic consciousness. Liberalism in this environment is an ideology meant to keep citizens on a short leash.  It has replaced the communist ideology, employing the same form of rhetoric, and differing only in its terminology. In the Putin bureaucracy we see not fidelity to law and national interests, but the conviction that one has the right to be arbitrary and flout the law.

Putin in this matter is a perfect model: he ignores the law both as an administrator (constitutional norms are to him unknown, and of no interest), and as a politician, constantly showing off before the whole country. The sanctions of law that are supposed to be common to all do not apply to him. He is like a driver who gets away with breaking all the traffic rules. His cynical flouting of the law is censured only by independent online journalists. Putin provides the model for all the local bureaucrats. Behind the façade of formal obedience to the law they conceal their complete contempt for law. This is their understanding of freedom: freedom to be independent of the law. But with the option of forcing citizens to follow the most absurd and illegal rules.

The relationship between the bureaucratic class and the population is one of corruption. Citizens must pay bureaucrats not only a salary (from the official budget), but also a much larger “rent” in the form of bribes. Besides this, we have to gradually lose our national inheritance in a process of official or unofficial privatization, in which the participants are the very same corrupt individuals. All of this is done outside of the law: the seizure of land, the seizure of businesses, the seizure of buildings and structures built with taxpayer money. Putin conducts himself in exactly the same way.

The liberal bureaucracy has transformed Russia into an open hunting zone, a wild west, where a few are allowed to hunt, and the rest to either observe or become the prey. All the rest must live strictly in accordance with the law and go to the bureaucrat to ask his permission for anything they wish to do.  The bureaucrat, for his part, may act in accordance with the law, or may not act at all. And this pernicious inaction on the part of the bureaucrat is his main tool of manipulation and gaining bribes.

Yet another aspect of the liberalization of Russia under Putin is the mass media, where the level of pornography has exceeded all bounds, while the reliability and completeness of information has ceased to be a priority. State television promotes freedom from restraint, free love, homosexuality, prostitution, slovenliness, ignorance and cynicism. And all of this is under the auspices of the government, which demands only complete loyalty to the regime. In the rest of the media, the most depraved and dissolute people are allowed to run things.

It goes without saying that we are speaking here not of classical liberalism, but of some degenerate form of it. But this is not just in Russia, it is a general tendency.  Rousseau believed in God and saw the advantages of preserving monarchy. Today’s liberals have no guiding principles other than the desire to constantly change their lifestyles and indulge in the most filthy sins. Putin and those like him see no barriers to their will, and recognize no authority other than their own. But they raise barriers for others, for all who have preserved some drop of traditional values. And this is their method of securing social and material benefits for themselves.

Classical liberalism was not antinational. In the French Revolution their was a savage reprisal with Tradition, but there was no difference between liberalism and nationalism. Liberalism was a form of national consciousness which had turned away from God, but was still attached to a national tradition. Not to be a patriot of one’s country and not to aim for the good of one’s people was something found only beyond the confines of European liberal thought. Now we see liberalism of the post-classical variety, libertarianism.  This involves the removal of all barriers which are laid down by traditions. Among them is the tradition of civil service.

It is no coincidence that Putin has said ‘I’m only a bureaucrat, hired for a term of office.’ We understand that a president is elected for a term.  But bureaucrats are not elected. Representatives of the people are elected.  If the representative of the people defines himself as a bureaucrat, then his administration is transformed into a private affair, into a sort of business, in which national interests serve as the product, the fate of the country. If we look at the real state of things, we see that even in his words Putin shows his rejection of any and all responsibility; I’m only hired for a term! Beyond this term, I bear no responsibility, and as a hired bureaucrat, I am just a one of the hired help.

The main thing for us is the results which the reign of Putin has brought for the country.  The colossal sums of money accumulated  over the last several years while oil prices were high have simply been stolen. With this money we could have conducted a massive modernization of our economy. But nothing has been done. Nothing at all! Not a single major industry has been created, not a single major project. The ‘national projects’ that were declared as some sort of breakthrough are now forgotten. The money was squandered or stolen, the result is nil.  The promised modernization of the education system didn’t happen: in Russian schools and universities, they have ceased to teach. The modernization of the army failed, the army is unable to function.

Putin has not carried out a single project, though he had at his disposal such a colossal sum of money as no ruler in the world ever had.  It all went into the pockets of the oligarchs. And now that the oil prices have gone South, it turns out that the electronic credits Russia received as payment for oil and gas are worthless. Now we lack the resources to provide for a more or less decent standard of living for the vast majority of the population, let alone for modernization.

Putin has committed a series of criminal acts to kow-tow to the liberal world community. He has handed over the lion’s share of Russian firms to foreign capital and the deracinated oligarchy, ceded vast territories to China, abandoned the Northern Caucuses (especially Chechnya) to criminality, and destroyed close relations with Ukraine and Belarus using ‘gas blackmail’. The harsh grimaces of this actor should not deceive us.  It is no more than an act.


Could one call Putin a Russophobe?

He ought to be so called.  A man who denounced as ‘idiots and provocateurs’ those who repeat the phrase of Tsar Alexander III ‘Russia for Russians!’ has clearly defined himself as a stranger to our people. He decided to interpret the thesis that ethnic Russians are the ‘state-forming people’ in a liberal manner, adding the word ‘only’: ‘only for Russians’. Of course, that was never the idea at all. But the opposite thesis seems to be the guiding principle of Putin and his followers: ‘Russia without Russians.’ And here his energy is astounding. Not only the destruction of any social action by Russians, but the colonization of the country by tens of millions of foreigners—both legal and illegal immigrants. We call this the ‘policy of replacement immigration.’ Putin doesn’t like the Russian people, so he is replacing them with another people who will be easier to control. Migrants, you know, are pleased to become slaves of the liberal bureaucracy, but the native peoples of Russia demand a welfare state and government that is accountable to them.  They’re too high-maintenance.

Putin’s worldview was formed in the Soviet secret services, where Russophobia was unquestioned. In Chekist circles Russian nationalists were always considered the most dangerous. It is no coincidence that Putin never uses the word ‘Russian’ (russkiy) when speaking of the people. I have not been able to find a single occasion in which he said ‘the Russian people’ (russkiy narod). He might say ‘Russian language’, ‘Russian culture’, but even this occurs rarely enough. ‘Russian people’ he has never said once.  Clearly he has forbidden himself to say it.

Putin’s worldview formed under the influence of Anatoliy Sobchak, one of the leaders of the ‘democrats’ who made it their goal to dismember our country and rob it blind, and then achieved this goal. For them the USSR was an ‘evil empire’, not their Motherland afflicted by communism. They struggled not against communism but against Russia. And they preserved communism, both in the opposition, and in their consciousness. Sobchak was at the same time a communist and an ultra-liberal.  There is no contradiction here. It’s only one step from internationalism to cosmopolitanism. From world revolution to betrayal of the Motherland is no step at all- it’s one and the same.

Russophobia has become the core of Putin’s politics.  Under Yeltsin it was accidental – the result of the take-over of the media and major Soviet publishers by inveterate scoundrels. Under Putin it has been given a systematic foundation.  All Russian nationalist civic organizations have been destroyed. There aren’t even any cultural organizations operating independently of the authorities. But there are fake organizations which are created by the authorities so that real ones will not arise. The authorities bring in hired provocateurs and pursue a plan aimed at creating ‘managed nationalism’. Fake radical organizations receive monetary support, and young people are drawn into them. Then the young people who have been riled up by these provocateurs are subjected to mass repression by the state.

Under Putin the infrastructure of Russian communities abroad has been totally destroyed. Russians were deceived by the supposed concern the authorities showed for them and by ‘Congresses of Compatriots’ which were front organizations. In the place of ethnic Russian communities, bureaucratic organizations were formed which are understood to be agencies of Moscow. In the best case scenario, local notables keep them on a short leash, allowing these Russian organizations to do only what suits the interest of the local ethnocracy. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Kremlin view this as an entirely ordinary state of a affairs. This is how they themselves deal with Russian civic organizations in Russia proper. What we have is an alliance between Russophobes at home and abroad.

Under Putin practically all pro-Russian media has been eliminated. There’s not a single pro-Russian television programme, not a single pro-Russian radio show, not a single pro-Russian newspaper with nationwide circulation.  There is some fictive pro-Russian media, for example the talk show ‘Russkiy Vzglyad’ (Russian View).  Of the Russian Press there remain only two publications, the journal ‘Russkiy dom’ and the newspaper ‘Russkiy vestnik’ which are distributed mainly via church parishes. The number of copies sold is quite modest. The commercial networks through which liberal publications and various ‘glamour’ and pornography are distributed are not accessible to us.

What is more the various charges filed against the remaining small pro-Russian media are used by the office of the public prosecutor to justify political repressions. All of this is documented in the annual analytical reports ‘Russophobia in Russia’. In 2010, even compared to last year which was itself pretty bad, one sees that the repressions have greatly intensified.  They’re not just shutting down publications, they’re charging people with so called ‘hate crimes’ – the number of such charges has gone way up.  The politically motivated Article 282 of the Criminal Code is constantly being used. This process has been spearheaded by high officials in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the office of the Public Prosecutor. Without missing a beat, the judges return guilty verdicts, violating constitutional norms and even elementary common sense.

Pro-Russian publishers and civic organizations are being shut down. Pro-Russian civic activists are investigated and arrested. One of the most memorable events of 2010 was the trial on the assassination attempt on Anatoliy Chubais. Public opinion has long been settled on this question. Chubais himself ought to be imprisoned or executed. To the analysts who have followed the details of the trial, it is absolutely clear that there was no assassination attempt. Chubais has orchestrated a scheme to punish his harshest critics, and that’s why we’ve had this unconscionable farce of a trial. Several times in similar situations innocent verdicts returned by jurors have been thrown out by the judges, citing various circumstances (often falsified). On the other hand, jurors can find themselves under pressure from various criminal structures, and even the authorities themselves, the judges, the administrative organs, the FSB and so on.

On the one hand we see that the people do not accept at all what the authorities are doing, and on the other hand, the repressive machine continues to operate, smashing and pulverizing all pro-Russian organizations, all pro-Russian initiatives as soon as they appear.


Putin and his followers are Russophobes not in word, but in deed. The policy of Russophobia in the last few years has developed to such an extent that it is hard to fathom it. It reminds one of the repressions to which the Soviet authorities subjected the ‘democrats’ of the 1960s. Something similar is going on now, but the extent of the repressions, compared to the 60s, is much greater now. These repressions target any civic activist who in any way associates himself with the Russian people and tries to speak publicly about Russian problems.


How would you evaluate the Russian government’s immigration policy?

Putin’s immigration policy is what we call ‘the policy of replacement immigration’: the replacement of native peoples with new arrivals, foreigners. This policy is tied to the interests of the oligarchs who take these immigrants and form them into a class of slaves who have neither social nor political rights, live under monstrous conditions and receive slave wages. The appearance of this class also serves as a mechanism for crushing the native peoples’ struggle for social rights. Because on the labour market, an immigrant who has no rights, no capacity to defend his interests, is much more profitable for an employer than a native resident, who, upon being hired, demands that his rights be observed and that there be payments into his retirement fund and other benefits.

Today it is easier to hire an illegal immigrant, who demands no more than that his physical survival be secured. This has changed the situation in Russia. Native residents have fallen into a bad situation. And it is reinforced by government decisions which are justified by the aim of overcoming the demographic crisis by bringing in immigrants.  Serious demographers from the very beginning said that this would not resolve a single problem, and would create many new ones. And they were right.

The main problem with illegal immigration is that it is destroying our sense of national community: the formation of ethnic enclaves, which have no intention of assimilating or joining with the civic communities that have formed in the Russian Federation. The situation does not even approach the American idea of the ‘salad bar’ (living next to each other, but not together), because here there is no unifying substance. In Russian this looks more like ‘vinigret’, that is, randomly and unevenly chopped up pieces of various vegetables, tossed together arbitrarily. It is impossible to predict what such cooking will taste like in the end, except that it will in no way accord with Russian traditions.

In Russia a unique situation has developed: it has never happened before that millions of arrivals from Asia, most of whom speak no Russian should colonize Russia’s central regions. It used to be that Russians were brought in to Asian and Siberian societies and basically dominated there as leaders because they excelled the other peoples in their inclination for hard work, culture, and education. They created leading industries, enlightened half barbarous tribes, and created for them the conditions necessary for their survival and defence against external enemies. Now Russia is being filled with a stream of uneducated people who speak no Russian and have not even mastered their own national culture.  This is the sort of human material which is most suitable for oligarchy.  From it arise either ignorant slaves or pitiless criminals.

Such are the foundations of Putin’s immigration policy. First he allowed massive illegal immigration numbering the millions, then with the passage of some laws, the majority of the illegal immigrants were legalized.

The main cultural centres of Russia are being colonized by these waves of millions of immigrants. An unenviable future awaits us. In much the same way Washington DC became a Negro city, with the white population living on the periphery. The same thing is happening with Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhniy Novgorod and other major cities. They are being filled with ignorant Asians.

This, obviously, is leading to catastrophe- to cultural collapse. Because the way of life and thought that defines what historic Russia is is not being reproduced. The oligarchy does not care what population is subordinated to it. A slave need not have any national characteristics, it’s just a person, just a beast of burden. What thoughts it may have, what it may strive for, is of no interest.

The oligarchy does not heed modern science, does not need culture, education, even the army. Under the heel of the oligarchy, whose leading man is Putin himself, all state and social institutions in Russia are coming apart.

The National-Patriotic Party ‘Motherland’ won a large number of seats in the State duma in 2003 and after that began to gain even wider popularity. What happened to this party. Why was it unable to progress further?

One could say that this is a Shakespearian tale. I wrote a book on this called “Motherland against the Demons’.  ‘The Demons’ are associated with the novel by Dostoevsky of the same name.

In 2003, it was not the party, but the ‘Motherland’ bloc that won in the elections. – this was a few parties and a bunch of organizations allied to them.  The ‘Motherland’ party was formed in Spring of 2004 as a result of serious friction among the parties that formed the bloc. One of these parties called ‘Party of the Russian Regions’ was renamed ‘Motherland’ and basically became dominant.  The fraction in the Duma became a party fraction. The rest of the parties were used by opponents more to organize internal divisions.  As a result of traitorous actions, the fraction decreased in size and strength.  Later the party and the fraction were taken over by opponents of ‘Motherland, illegal activities took place, organized by people in the Kremlin at Putin’s behest.

Initially, the purpose of the ‘Motherland’ party was that the party and the fraction in the State Duma would become a support for Putin, Putin as we wanted to see him.  Our hope was to tear Putin away from the liberal oligarchy and bring him over to nationalist positions.  We had a real chance to gain representation in the government. If it had not been for the actions of one of the leaders of the bloc, Sergej Glasev, in the first stage of our activity.  He decided on his own to run for president in the 2004 election, and all our agreements fell apart, in spite of the fact that the ‘Motherland’ fraction and party dissociated themselves from Glazev’s venture. This didn’t change anything.

The ‘Motherland’ party was first transformed from a partner to Putin into an organization that was at odds with him.  Then the course of events and the reforms pursued by Putin pushed the party into the most decisive opposition to Putin. It was then subjected to the harshest repressions, going all the way to outright physical attacks.  Attacks on our leaders, attacks on our activists who were running election campaigns. In one region during the elections two members of our election headquarters were murdered, in another region the leader of our regional organization together with his wife were almost killed – the attackers struck them in the head with hammers. In Moscow there were attempts to kidnap my son, and they kidnapped and beat up the son of my colleague, Deputy Mikhail Markelov. Our leader Dmitry Rogozin was told that this was only the beginning.  They made it entirely clear to him that the criminal attacks would continue, especially against people close to him.

Other illegal actions were carried out entirely in the open.  Our party lists were withdrawn from all elections.  Pretexts were invented to justify this. All the election campaigns the ‘Motherland’ party tried to run were shut down by court decisions which had obviously been ordered in advance by the Kremlin.  At first the party was excluded from the elections in Moscow.  These were crucial elections for us in which we expected to receive 30-40% of the votes.  Polls showed that this is how it would have been. But we were denied this victory and accused of extremism for a campaign ad which employed double entendre which everyone interpreted in his own way. Naturally, the judges settled on what was for us the most unfavorable interpretation and  completely ignored the linguistic analysis.  A year and a half later elections were held in eight regions – we were allowed to participate in only one of them, and that only at the last minute. Wherever our party lists were not excluded, we won second place after the party of the oligarchs Edinaya Rossiya. This we did without the financial, media and administrative resources enjoyed by our opponents.  If there had been equality of access of media and equality before the law we would have beaten Edinaya Rossiya everywhere.  The people in the Kremlin knew this, and decided that our party must be destroyed by any means available. It is precisely for this reason that repressions and felony crimes were organized against us.

The combination of political and criminal repressions forced our leader Dmitry Rogozin to resign his post as party chairman and leader of the parliamentary fraction. Those to whom he entrusted the party to save it from the attacks betrayed us- they did a deal with our enemies. The sponsors of the party basically sold it to the oligarchs. The party ceased to exist in 2006: it’s legal status was taken over, it changed its leader, its name and its ideology. Now in its place is the party ‘Just Russia’, which has no connection to ‘Motherland’ at all and has no future in politics. Because it has neither a sensible ideology nor a notable leader, nor popularity among the people.

So as not to lose our activists, we were forced to start a new party ‘Great Russia’ and prepare it for the elections of 2007. We followed all the legal procedures to the letter, but our party was not registered and was not allowed to participate in the elections. 60,000 people were denied the exercise of their rights because the Kremlin decided that no political party may exist without Putin’s approval.

On what grounds were you denied registration?

There were no legal grounds. Without exception, all the documents submitted as evidence in court were falsified by employees of the Election Commission with support from the Ministry of Justice, which we appealed to several times with evidence of the falsifications.  Naturally, we pursued several lawsuits from the regional courts to the Supreme Court. But the courts proved that they also do not rule in accordance with the law, but with the private opinion of the bureaucrat.

When we formed the party, we understood that they would try to catch us out. For this reason we took the manifesto of a registered party and used it as our own changing only the name. But we were told that the manifesto was against the law. Our argument that exactly the same sort of manifesto was not against the law, and that the party that had adopted it was registered, was rejected.  It turns out that the law is enforced with regard to one party, but not another. This magic trick was declared legal by the court.

There were several other minor complaints, which brought under suspicion a tiny number of the applications by citizens to join our party, and in no way showed any failure on our part to obey the law, were taken to be decisive. Specialists from the Ministry of Justice who testified in court openly declared that it only one clerical error (for example, a mistake about one person’s date of birth in a party of 60,000) was enough to declare our documents void.  The court agreed with this interpretation with is an outrageous violation of legal norms and the constitutional rights of our citizens.  These instructions to the court came from President Putin’s administration.

We tried to challenge each of the claims, showing in court that the affidavits of a few citizens that they did not join the party, first of all, have no witnesses; second, these affidavits were acquired in an illegal manner (by bureaucrats or policemen visiting people’s homes or places of business) and by intimidation; third, without exception all the dates of the affidavits (just like all the other documents) were signed after the deadline established by the Electoral Commission for raising questions about our documents. They also falsified the date on the document declaring the decision to deny us registration. We proved in court that the document had been backdated.  But this meant nothing to the judge.

The courts, under the control of the ruling bureaucracy, ruled in favor of the Ministry of Justice.  Similar decisions were appealed, but confirmed by the Moscow city court and the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

But all of this is the technical side of it. The ideological side is that ‘Motherland’, and later ‘Great Russia’, which arose on the foundation of the same group of activist, is a party that defends Russian tradition, traditions of Russian statehood.  Many monarchists also joined ‘Great Russia’.  Orthodox Christians make up the majority of the party. Under present conditions in Russia, there is no place for such a party in government.  Such a party does not even have the right to advocate its programme, its goals and values.

In your opinion what is the most effective strategy for Russian nationalists in present conditions?

Absent the ability to legally participate in politics, the strategic choice must be in favor of scholarship, education and outreach.  What is needed is the formation of unified worldview and the channelling of that worldview into scholarly, societal, and government circles. In some places in the form of intellectual manifestoes, elsewhere in simplified forms: in the form of slogans and declarations.

Unfortunately, the majority of Russian organizations operate in reverse order. First they invent slogans and declarations, then on the basis of that they try to sketch some sort of political theory. This only leads to absurdities: National Bolsheviks, Orthodox Stalinists, Liberal Conservatives etc.

We are building our organization ‘Great Russia’ on the basis of agreement on basic principles.  We have formulated our doctrine ‘The National Manifesto’, and now we are gathering supporters.

Are there any causes for optimism in Russia?

There are causes for global optimism, because the global oligarchy has turned out to be worthless. I regard what is now happening the world as the beginning of a new era.  This is the move from domination by liberal oligarchies to new a nationalist reconstruction.

I’m not saying that the existing nationalist organizations will come to power, but that new organizations will arise, that existing elites who were focussed  the global market will change their orientation, seeing that a turn toward national interests provides their only chance for survival.

In Russia the rhetoric is already changing. Putin now says that the Americans cannot be trusted. The crisis of 2008 frightened him., everything he was counting on fell through, and his policies turned out to be completely ineffective.

This change of orientation as the old era gives way to the new will happen not in the mind of a single individual, but among many people. The desire of self-preservation will bring them to the conclusion that new rhetoric, different orientations, and even different people in power are needed. Naturally, marginal nationalist groups are not needed in power. But from the ranks of the marginalized (artificially marginalized, composed of people who were pushed aside by repressions) the most capable people will be recruited.  The economic and political elites will sooner change their orientation than be replaced.  In this sense, we have reason to be optimistic on a global scale.

In Russia we have reason to be optimistic because the global processes and our own crisis are felt particularly sharply by us.  Because in our country the bureaucracy and oligarchy are especially cynical, and are prepared to rob the people to the point that they can no longer survive.  When a person is placed in such a life or death situation, he wakes up rather more quickly.  Therefore I surmise that in Russia the processes of transformation leading us into the new era will proceed more intensively than in other countries.

The intellectual elite is, for all intents and purposes, ready.  Moving as I have lately among university professors, I see that the orientations have changed dramatically.  The socialist and communist myths have not returned.  And the liberal and globalist myths have already lost any attraction, and are sooner regarded with hostility. Research is being conducted on nationalist and patriotic ideas.  I see that dissertations are being defended on nationalism, historical conservatism, the Russian Empire, Russian emigrant philosophy. Nobody cares anymore about the travails of the Shestidesiatniki, or the journalism of Perestroika. All this is old hat, it’s boring. But the period of the Empire, Russian philosophy – this is what researchers are interested in, this is what they’re working on.

Russian conservatism is a topic that concerns and interests everyone. And I even think that at the next elections in 2012 Putin, Medvedev and perhaps some other politicians will appeal to the electorate with a totally new doctrine in which Russian conservatism will be central. They won’t talk about global problems, or foreign investment, or the expansion of Russian business in other countries. They will talk about national interests, Russian culture, Russian identity and so on. This will be the dominant theme.  After this will follow a cardinal shift in the orientation of the government and the country will turn from its self-destructive path toward renewal.


[Editor’s Note: Our very own Alfred Smith conducted this interview for Alternative Right magazine. There it appeared in abridged form and in two parts, under the title ‘Revolt Against Oligarchy’. You can find parts one and two here and here, respectively. Please visit the AltRight website and support their important work.]

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