The Game of Draughts by Mattia Preti, 1635
July 12, 2011.
Major challenges exist. They are formidable, unambiguous, and obvious. The consciousness mobilizes quickly against them.
There are also challenges of a diffuse kind. Some diseases are like this… For example, multiple sclerosis. These challenges are like dots on a certain board: one square has one figure, and another square has a different one. The squares are ambiguous, and so are the pieces… and all you need is for a certain composition to take shape. The very moment when that composition finally takes shape, you die. But before the composition takes shape, nothing happens. That is the danger.
As long as at least one of these squares doesn’t have the right figure placed in it (not yet), the body doesn’t feel anything. It may feel some fatigue, some vague discomfort. But it’s not like if some thug comes up to you and slams your shoulder with a metal rod. If he fails to break your arm there and then, you will immediately respond by punching him in the face. Everything would be clear in that situation. And even if he broke your arm, you would try to grab some object and ram it into his head. Because you understand that now he will fight you, too.
These situations with violent head-on collisions are obvious, even classical, if I may say so. The Russian consciousness is perfectly equipped for such a classical war. It is perfect at holding out against strikes, it just takes it. It does not break under the mounting strikes, it powers through the pain, it manages to defend itself somehow, it builds up energy to fight (or the anger, words don’t mean too much here). Finally, it counterattacks and finishes the job.
My friends who study military history say that the Germans always failed to finish the job: they stopped somewhere within three kilometers of the victory point, sometimes they failed to reach it by 200 meters, they couldn’t cross the Volga, and so on.
But the Russians always finish the job. They reach Berlin, place the Red Banner over the Reichstag, convict the criminals at the Nuremberg Trials and hang them. In that case everything is fine. The ultimate classical example of this pattern is the Great Patriotic War, or World War II. That being said, if you believe The New York Times correspondent, the Russians should be stripped of their status (called even more disgustingly there, their “role”) as victim and victor in that war. [https://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/24/world/europe/24iht-letter24.html] But that is a separate issue.
Here I would like to examine the notion of classical warfare. It is classic: here is your enemy; here is your friend; here is the front; here is the terrible damage the enemy inflicts on you; here is your awareness that the enemy is absolute; here is your consolidation with others to fight this enemy (“our cause is just, the enemy will be defeated, victory will be ours”). That’s it. This is the ideal war for which the Russians have been prepared for centuries, in which they have always shown incredibly high qualities, especially when inspired by a great idea.
The time has come for a completely different type of wars – diffuse and disseminated, in which it is never clear what this or that figure (or dot) in the square on the board means, why it was placed there, why there is another figure next to it (like mixing apples with oranges), and what the relationship is between one element of this composition and the other (Fig. 1).
So, the time has come for such composite, diffuse, intellectual, and sophisticated wars. As it seems to me personally (I am not ready to defend this statement and offer it as a hypothesis), this type of war was especially invented, in many respects, in order to defeat the Russians, after it became clear in World War II that they could not be defeated in an ordinary classical war.
In practice, this was accounted for and done during the so-called perestroika: by 1991, the Soviet Union had disintegrated – and not a single plane took off, not a single tank moved to attack the enemy. The enemy had won. Nixon called it “victory without war.” A victory without war is a victory in something else.
What does “without war” mean? If there is not even a “cold war,” but something else… Then what is it?
It is a game. A game where the pieces are arranged in a rather complex system of squares in a complex way. And when they are eventually arranged so that all the pieces are in the right places, death comes. Before that, nothing happens: without an enemy, there is no reaction. As my friends in Spetsnaz used to say: “The enemy has betrayed us.”
We are now dealing with precisely this type of almost unrecognizable intellectually sophisticated wars, for which the people’s consciousness is not prepared. I can say more: the consciousness of no people in the world is prepared for this kind of warfare, but the elite usually wages it (there’s a reason why terms like “game” – “the big game,” “the great game,” “the great chessboard,” etc. – are very closely associated with the elite) and protects the people. In essence, this is its duty to the people.
Our elite has largely either betrayed the people and is playing on the side of the enemy, or has capitulated and does not want to play at all. Or, to the extent that it exists, it is already an ultra-pseudo-elite (i.e., a community of yesterday’s peddlers and thieves, incapable of doing anything but stealing, and without even 1% of the brain matter needed to see “the great chessboard”), and such pseudo-elites are simply outsiders to this.
Consequently, the people and their representatives – those who are called the counter-elite in such super-tragic circumstances – will have to engage in wars, in which the people have never before engaged. Because in this situation, the alternative to such engagement is death.
Hence the enormous importance of the task of political education. Hence the same importance of all that we call complexity. It’s not about complexity for the sake of complexity (“The more complicated, the better!”). It’s about the fact that this is how they will fight us up to a certain point, achieving an overwhelming positional advantage in a complex game. And after that, knock down your own queen. Once you knock your queen down, processes will begin, to which all of today’s horror pales in comparison.
So it is necessary to play, considering simultaneously small and large fields, large and small figures, semi-anecdotal episodes and major conceptual collisions, all together, precisely because this is how the diffuse war is organized; it’s a game in multidimensional space with many undetermined variables. It’s a special war that fell on the heads of our people, whose first round we have already lost.
We have to realize that we have lost the first phase. There is no point in puffing our cheeks; we just need to draw conclusions from it. Then the loss at Narva will be followed by the Battle of Poltava, where Peter “Raises the cup of victory/ For his warlike teacher’s health...” Then we will win the decisive battle in this war and the war as a whole. Because so far, we have lost the first terrible battle. And we were terribly punished for that loss.
The Soviet army could reach the Bay of Biscay in exactly the same amount of time it would take the tanks to get there. They joked that if the officers were upset by a lack of women’s underwear, they could go to Paris and get it. Everyone understood that the Western world faced an enormous power. Why was this power de-energized? Because the game was being played according to different, very complex rules, in which all the tools of classical warfare no longer meant anything. Or, as mathematicians say in such cases, they were necessary, but not sufficient.
If we didn’t have nuclear weapons now, no one would play with us. They would just hit us over the head with the nuclear stick, and that would be the end of it. But we have nuclear weapons. And waging a classical war with us still seems ineffective. That is why a different kind of war is starting, and it is in full swing on all the fields, on all the squares, on all the levels, in the unity of the big and the small.
Now I will mention a touching episode and move on to more serious matters. In saying this, I am not at all saying that this episode is not serious. It is that microscopic square, on which we also need to place the right piece.
We are talking about a conflict that occurred first between a certain Sergey Karnaukhov and Alexei Navalny, and eventually involved Maria Gaidar and other characters. The conflict started with Karnaukhov’s interview to Russian Reporter magazine, which elicited reactions. Then Maria Gaidar reacted. And finally, Mr. Karnaukhov got into trouble.
This whole mess wouldn’t matter, if it were not for a certain statement by Maria Gaidar who refuted Sergey Karnaukhov’s comment in his interview with Russian Reporter. In this interview, Karnaukhov claims that “one of Alexei’s closest friends” (Maria Gaidar confirmed that it was her) told him (Karnaukhov): “You and the bloody KGB goons will break your teeth on Navalny” [https://expert.ru/2011/06/29/slomaete-zubyi-o-navalnogo/].
Maria Gaidar writes in her LiveJournal: “Since this is my quote, I would like to say that Sergey isn’t quoting it accurately. It went approximately (I emphasize, “approximately.” – SK) like this: “Sergey, leave Navalny alone, he has a big future. You won’t be able to stop him, why don’t you do something useful?..” [http://mgaidar.livejournal.com/187004.html ]
Before that, Maria Gaidar answered questions and talked about how she sees her future on Radio Liberty. I quote: “I’m leaving to study at Harvard, at the Kennedy School. It’s a one-year program, and there are people from all over the world studying here who are involved in philanthropy, advocacy, administration, and business. These are people who are interested in democratic change in their countries.” [ https://www.svoboda.org/a/24228412.html]
When a Radio Liberty correspondent asked whether the knowledge gained at the Kennedy School would be in demand in countries with authoritarian regimes, Maria Gaidar responded:
“They don’t teach democratic leadership there. The program teaches micro- and macroeconomics, econometrics, and provides an opportunity for the exchange of experiences of people from different parts of the world, including the completely undemocratic countries in Africa and Asia.”
Radio Liberty explicitly asks: if we are talking about people who are interested in democratic change, then how exactly should they implement this change? Maria Gaidar replies: “They do not teach democratic leaders. They teach how to change “undemocratic” situations into democratic ones.
But that’s not the point. Nor is it about what exactly happened between Mr. Karnaukhov and Maria Gaidar. And it’s not about whether Maria Gaidar said “bloody KGB” or whether she said it the way she wants to interpret herself. But she does not say she said exactly that. She says: “This is roughly what I said: ‘Sergey, get off Navalny, he has a big future. You can’t stop him, you’d better do something useful’…”
Finally, it is not a question of whether Sergey Karnaukhov’s behavior toward Alexei Navalny right, if we interpret his behavior as a desire to put Mr. Navalny behind bars for economic crimes. Karnaukhov acted, apparently unwittingly, exactly in line with the recipes of Mr. Sharp, because there is nothing Mr. Navalny wants more than going to jail on some far-fetched economic charges. Even ones that are not so far-fetched. This is exactly the ideal scenario for Mr. Navalny. Or, more precisely, almost ideal. Because the ideal scenario goes like this: Mr. Navalny should engage in some projects that are so mild that the authoritarian or quasi-authoritarian Russian regime cannot punish him for them without ending up in the stupidest of positions.
Mr. Gene Sharp teaches precisely how to choose, depending on the degree of a regime’s authoritarianism and rigidity, situations in which you can antagonize the regime without ending up behind bars. Or if they imprison you, the regime will look stupid, and you will look like a hero.
That is why Sergey Karnaukhov absolutely fits the bill for Mr. Navalny. He is exactly what Navalny needs. It’s almost the best thing. What would be the best thing?
If Mr. Navalny had been put behind bars, it would have been, according to Mr. Sharp’s manual, “a very tasty burger.” But it’s still not “oysters,” not “pineapples in champagne,” not the most coveted dishes in the world… not “lamb with truffles…” It’s just an average tasty dish. What is the most delightful situation?
The most delightful situation is this: a narrow-minded, helpless and rather “spiteful scoundrel” emerges. The number one role (which – and unfortunately, I do not know this person at all – Sergey Karnaukhov performed exactly) is that of the “spiteful scoundrel” who torments the “democratic leader.” This “spiteful scoundrel” needs to mobilize the authoritarian regime’s forces, after which a “good person” close to the tormented “victim” needs to say, “You get off this victim’s back. He’s out of your league.” It doesn’t matter whether the words used are “this man has a big future” or “he’s out of your league.” It doesn’t matter. “Stay out of this!” And the spiteful scoundrel needs to keep investigating, and be punished:
“The Governor of the Kaliningrad region Nikolay Tsukanov announced today the resignation of his deputy Sergey Karnaukhov. <…> According to “RR”, Karnaukhov’s interview was received extremely negatively in the Presidential Administration. <…> Sergey Karnaukhov spent yesterday in Moscow. Possibly, at the Presidential Administration. Then he flew to Kaliningrad, where he had a meeting with Governor Tsukanov, during which he submitted his resignation.” [https://web.archive.org/web/20120107012227/http://rusrep.ru/article/2011/07/01/karnaukhov/]
This, according to Mr. Sharp’s manual, is the best way the situation can unfold. If what Ms. Gaidar called (or didn’t call) the “bloody KGB thugs” could crush Navalny, then Navalny would acquire the status of a victim. But everyone else would be scratching their heads and thinking: “Damn, if we do the same thing, they’ll crush us too…” Internal dissatisfaction would still accumulate, and someday it would spill out. But at first it might subside.
If Mr. Navalny is just doing his thing and no one particularly notices, then Mr. Navalny can’t muster the energy for his undertakings. But if someone wants to hurt Mr. Navalny and can’t hurt him, then that’s exactly what Mr. Sharp needs.
I understand that maybe dozens (I want to believe hundreds) of people in Russia have read Sharp in detail, and certainly not from the Administration. But it seems to me that Maria Gaidar and some other people (such as Alexei Navalny) have certainly read Sharp.
I think we should read this and take notes, carefully. Books like Self-Liberation: A Guide to Strategic Planning for Action to End a Dictatorship or Other Oppression, coauthored by Gene Sharp and Jamila Raqib from the Albert Einstein Institution.
These books – there are around ten of them – should not only be read and memorized. You have to really digest them because they teach how to play on this multidimensional board. They teach you to recognize when a piece has been placed on a new square, how that square looks, and how it fits into the non-linear systemic architecture of the planned composition.
Let me clarify something about 1991. Gorbachev, after agreeing to the US actions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, decided that he had received some sort of implicit carte blanche to act in the Baltics. They told him something. He moved in the troops. And if he had pushed through to the very end, though the Lithuanian people’s rage would have increased, and nothing radically positive would have been achieved, it would still have led to a temporary lull. Because everyone would have said, “It’s the Russian armored fist again; the Russian bear has come out of its den, and it roared!” That would have caused hatred and fear, and, according to Sharp, it would have been bad. It would not have been ideal. But if Gorbachev sent in the troops and immediately pulled back out at the behest of the Americans, that’s the perfect composition.
If Gorbachev doesn’t send in the troops, you have a political struggle between the social forces in Lithuania who want to leave the USSR, and the social forces in Lithuania who do not want to leave the USSR. And in this struggle, one can play along with the desired forces, help them, and teach these forces to act. In any case, neither of the parties with essentially equal positions can lose completely. Especially, say, in Latvia. It is necessary to play a subtle legal game and so on.
If the time has come for the armored fist, then this fist must enter like a knife into butter, like in Stalin’s time, and achieve its objectives in a matter of hours. And not give a damn about anything else. Or you don’t do it. If you throw the punch, make sure it lands. But to send in the troops and then immediately pull out, to make a lunge and then step back is exactly what Sharp needs. This is a classic composition on the subject of nonviolent action, of “planning for action to end dictatorships.” This is the perfect system of action: first you frighten people, go in, and then make them laugh at your inaction. And the combination of the initial fear followed by laughter will create a constructive rage that will sweep you away. And everyone else who was hoping for your support will be broken and crushed at that moment.
The same is true of the State Committee for the State of Emergency (SCSE). Either you strike, and then instead of showing the dance of the little swans (and “Swan Lake” in general) on TV, you carry out an appropriate line of propaganda and ideology, and other things, finish your job to the end… And then fear or depression sets in, but there is a result. Or you do not strike at all and clear the playing field for the political forces that wanted to remove Gorbachev at the next Congress of the Communist Party, secure the majority at the Congress of People’s Deputies of the USSR, and mobilize the masses. But if you go in and create this impulse of fear, and then you pull away and become a joke, all the forces that could have fought are completely paralyzed. On the other hand, the opponent’s capabilities are maximized, and he receives the maximum possible public support.
Of course, it is comical to compare the little Karnaukhov and Navalny story I am talking about with these big stories. But what both stories have in common is Sharp’s cookbook.
And I’m not saying that in this case all the characters, including these obscure “people from the Administration,” acted according to Sharp’s recipe. I am not saying that at all. I am precisely trying to avoid conspiracy theories. I am saying that it happened AS IF Mr. Sharp were pursuing the optimal result of his strategy. These are the words I’ll answer for. I know Sharp’s work well, and I can prove my claim. I just don’t have the time now to do it elaborately. I think it’s pretty clear to everyone.
Either they want to put Mr. Navalny in jail, and they put him in jail regardless of the excuse afforded by Mr. Karnaukhov’s interview or any other pompous business – quietly, firmly – or something happens to him (God forbid). It would still be strategically detrimental. But it at least creates a temporary gain while deferring all the negative consequences for a very distant future.
Or you have to take the right political actions. If chips are being placed in the game, then you have to place chips in the counter-game, as well. And do it faster and better. But to first plot something against Navalny, then announce it, then get a slap in the face in the form of “he’s out of your league,” and then face the Presidential Administration’s decision, which proves that you really are out of your league… That’s exactly what Sharp needs!
I know how this is orchestrated. It consists of a variety of different aspects. One of them, for example, is that Maria Gaidar is convinced that if a certain Western elite is seriously on Navalny’s side, then no one can touch him. Because she herself does not believe in any kind of “bloody KGB thugs,” she understands the essence of the current political regime very well. It encompasses several components, both strategic and tactical, both political and economic.
The simplest aspect is that the current authorities continue to carry out a Western project (a project for Russia’s deepest integration into the Western world), they dream only of this, they are fully committed to it, but they cannot fulfill it. They are in a tragic state due to their inability to fulfill it, but they continue to persist. And this is the political and strategic component.
The tactical or economic component is that they have put so much effort into this project, that there is no turning back: they’ve moved their money to the West, they’ve moved their families to the West, they’ve bought real estate in the West, and it is insanely difficult to pull everything back from the West, onto our territory.
I said in a previous broadcast that you have to do this, guys. You can’t do anything else. But it’s one thing to say something and even prove it logically and emotionally. And it’s another thing to reverse the inertia that drives everything in this lethal direction.
It’s a current that’s dragging us there. And no one can get out of it alone. And it will never be so that everyone will want to get out of it. The part of the elite that finds itself in the most difficult situation in the West may want to get out of it. It may have the intelligence and the will to reject the Western temptation and return home. If it does not do so, then the entire elite is incompatible with life for the country. This is a very tragic, sorrowful statement, but there can be no other, because things continue to move in this direction.
One more or one less Navalny is one question. Maria Gaidar, Sergey Karnaukhov… But you can’t dismiss Gene Sharp, nor can you dismiss the people behind him.
So, we have an invisible war. A game. A diffuse war. With players placing chips on a very complex board with many squares, in each of which every chip must be positioned in the right way: this little chip is one thing, while the trickery around Budanov is another. And there will be 150-200 squares like this. And when the chips are placed in the “right positions”, the country will be finished. This means that we need to make sure that the chips are not placed in the “right positions.”
Since all the “administrations” out there can actually only get in the way (with good or bad intentions – it doesn’t matter)… It is clear that they are already scared. When Karnaukhov started yelling at the top of his lungs about his menacing plans and making references to the security elite, and it became clear to everyone that Navalny was about to be made into a hero, the Administration decided to get rid of Karnaukhov… But by responding to one challenge, it, to put it mildly, immediately backed itself into another corner. To move forward and then to step back is to maximize one’s loss. That’s what happened, isn’t it?
So it is better to have the social forces play the game. The most important thing is to form the social forces that can play, that have the intellectual optics for such a game and the will, the desire to win it, as well as some sense of the need for revenge. The previous round of defeat was too humiliating, too hard.
There is no need to break down about it: things at Narva didn’t go too well, either. But we can’t afford not to understand the degree of humiliation of what happened and comfort ourselves with various parading patriotic songs. We have to win the new game, guided by the lines from a good song by Tsoi: “We’ll take it from here.”
In connection with this non-linearity, in connection with I called radiation in the previous installment, in connection with the invisibility of threats that we need to make visible, and so on – I will continue to discuss the big story. A much bigger story than the one about Navalny.
This is the story of Modernity that Igor Rostislavovich Shafarevich outlines in his series of articles in the newspaper Zavtra. The articles are interesting. They say a great many conceptual things. And now, of course, is the time for this conceptual conversation.
I can’t say that for me this conversation can be completely devoid of a note of controversy, but I would like a combination of controversy and respectfulness. It seems to me that this is always the best option.
So, it seems to me (and I would like to see a consensus in the patriotic movement on this issue sooner rather than later) that to say that humanism or development is the dark illusion of the monstrous West is, first, strategically futile, and second… To put it mildly, it does not quite correspond to the obvious truth.
One can trace the struggle between humanist and non-humanist forces in the broader sense of the word, of course. In any epic, be it Sumerian, ancient Egyptian, Greek myths, or African, there are always gods who are on Man’s side and gods who are against Man. There are gods who think that Man deserves to be exalted, and gods who think he is insignificant.
Viktor Pelevin, if you remember, mentions “the beads of the god Enkidu” in Generation P. How well this corresponds to the reality of Sumer, Akkad, or Assyria is not the point. The point is that it’s always like this in reality. There are always forces that regard Man as godlike and address him in their struggle against all adversaries. Like Hercules, the demigod, who helps the Olympian gods in their fight against the Titans. This is the case in every epic.
Therefore, humanism is not an invention of the secular mind. Humanism is not a fiction of the West. Humanism is not a fabrication of the Enlightenment. Humanism is an eternal invariant of all cultures and peoples. The moment we equate humanism with the West and the West with negativity, we destroy our humanist potential. This is the first thing to take into account.
Second. Development is the dream of all the peoples of the world. The most ancient of legends and tales speak of development, the world’s greatest texts speak of development. Just because the linear model of development is false doesn’t mean we should abandon development altogether.
Yes, there were great rises and downfalls. Yes, after these downfalls it seemed to people that the Golden Age was behind them. But one cannot abandon development altogether without abandoning Being as the supreme principle. By renouncing Being as the supreme principle and swearing allegiance to Nonexistence, that is, to death, we find ourselves trapped in Gnosticism. In its purest form. This is why there have always been and always will be great contradictions: development – degradation, humanism – anti-humanism.
The linear theory of progress is a simplistic and incorrect version of development. The Marxist version was never about linearity. On the contrary, (and all the teachers of Marxism, starting from the first year of university, or even earlier made this point), it postulated the principle of the dialectical spiral, along which everything ascends. In fact, it is even more complex than that.
There are terrible breakdowns, terrible falls. Humanity can fall anywhere, but that does not mean there is no development. And it does not mean that it is not a good thing.
Life is one of the triumphant stages on the ladder of development. They are followed by the next stage – consciousness. After that there will be new stages… And all this ascent is the highest good, the pursuit of the highest ideal.
What is the difference between Russia and the rest of the world? The difference is that the West has indeed created a certain variant of development. A VARIANT of development. It did not invent development as such, but it created a certain model of development. And it called this model Modernity. For 500 years it indeed implemented this great model – Modernity.
The Russians have never wanted to implement this model. They always believed that they had an alternative model of development. A model that is different from the Western model and yet still is development. The Russians did not curse development in the name of some primordial tradition, or something else. The Eastern peoples did. The Russians saw themselves as an alternative to the West, and they are objectively this alternative and only it.
To the extent that Russia is an Orthodox country, it is a country of the Christian world, that is, of the Western world. But it is a country of the alternative Christian world, the successor of Byzantium, which was the alternative to the papal Rome.
This alternative model of development goes back to time immemorial, for when the Romans took revenge on Greece in ancient times (while they were deeply intertwined with Greece, they also hated it), they wrote: “Revenge for Troy,” destroying the rebellious Greek cities. They regarded themselves as Trojans and the Greeks as the Achaeans, who waged war on the Trojans. So said the myths and works of fiction, which in this case are more important than the historical truth.
Virgil’s “Aeneid” is more important to the Western, and indeed the global consciousness than historical truth, for it was by this “Aeneid” that the Western elite, and the world as a whole, studied for centuries and centuries: “And knew by heart, or thought he did, two whole lines of the Aeneid.”
So the Aeneid’s narrative of Aeneas and his father Anchises, making reference to Crete, is the next stage of descent into what Thomas Mann called “the well of history.” There are even more ancient steps. And when the backward movement begins, when you’ve reached the end, and you have found yourself in the abyss, and you climb back up, you see this whole ladder. And you realize that there have always been two Wests. That the West of Alexander the Great and the West of classical Rome are two different Wests, but they are both Wests.
Russia can never be deprived of its status as an alternative West. And what’s more, it is precisely because Russia is an alternative West that the mainstream West dislikes it more than all of Asia combined. Even if all of Asia were to go to war with the West and try to destroy it, the classical West, not only the Anglo-Saxon West but also the global West, would never recognize Russia. Because by recognizing it, it agrees to an alternative. In the conditions of its own real exhaustion, and these conditions (and here Igor Shafarevich is absolutely right) emerged back in the nineteenth century, as Spengler and many others noted, it must hand over the prize to Russia. And it does not want to.
The West does not want to do so precisely because Russia is its “alter ego,” its “second self”. It is something close and at the same time infinitely distant. Catholicism hates Orthodoxy more than it hates Zen Buddhism or Hinduism. Because those are foreign. But this is a competitor on the same field. And it is the same at every stage of history.
Yes, Marxism was Westernism. But it was an alternative to classical Westernism. And Russia accepted precisely this alternativism, and transformed it in accordance with its deepest tradition, or what are called the key socio-cultural codes. That is how Russia works.
Now a little bit about what our illiberal anti-communists dislike the most.
I believe that Russian history will begin to turn in the right direction when the illiberal (I do not know what to call them: conservative, ultra-conservative, whatever else) anti-communists stop being anti-communists and anti-Soviet. When they acknowledge the simplest thing: first, there emerges an alliance of forces that seek to dismantle Stalin; then, you have an alliance of forces that seek to dismantle the Soviet legacy in general; then, immediately, an alliance emerges of forces that seek to dismantle the imperial. All the events of recent history have simply clarified once again the extent to which it is all interconnected. And then it all comes after the Russian soul. It turns out that the Russian spirit itself is an abomination.
It is impossible to break this chain in the adversary’s actions. Never will any adversary, unless he is faking, pretending, or putting on masks, tear one away from the other. No one cares about Stalin and this Sovietism per se. Everyone wants a final showdown with the Russian spirit. So, every “White” or any other patriot who is truly loyal to Russia must, at this point, renounce anti-Sovietism, anti-communism, and everything that gave rise to them.
He must reconceptualize Sovietism and Communism for himself in any way he finds spiritually close. But he can no longer deny this legacy without finding himself in a completely different camp than the one the spirit of patriotism calls him to. Not without finding himself on the other side of the barricades.
As for the deepest things related to development, the hypnosis of anti-Westernism (and anti-Westernism is the code of our national loyalist forces; and unfortunately, this has been going on for centuries) simply clouds the head, clouds the mind. As soon as the concept of alternativism is accepted – the concept that Russia is an alternative West, but not an anti-West with respect to humanism, progress, and development in general – an absolutely different set of criteria has to be put forth. You cannot call all them evil because the classical West calls them good. Especially since it now, in its postmodernist form, already refuses to call it good.
And here a paradoxical relationship emerges between postmodernist Westernism and our anti-Westernists (aka national loyalists, countermodernists, or as it seems to them, premodernists). The most subtle conflict here, of course, has to do with Huntington. Huntington is serious business.
Unfortunately, it seems to me that Huntington’s theory is serious business mostly in a political rather than a conceptual sense – I will comment on that.
For one reason or another I never felt drawn to a certain country of the world called the United States. That’s how life turned out. I have been to other countries many times, but my path has never taken me there. That does not mean that I have never had any dialogue with them; I always have and I always will. But somehow I was not attracted to that place. The US itself responded with restrained negativity toward me, and rightly so.
But once, something different happened. At the very end of the Yeltsin era, someone who later became a major figure in the Western establishment, and who held an official position in Moscow and then in the United States leadership, began to flirt with people who could hardly be classified as classical Westernernists, including yours truly.
I took my first and only trip to the Spaso House, the residence of the US ambassador, where our Westernernists who would come there… well… every day (just kidding), looked upon me with horror. It’s not a question of who feeds off what embassies, no. It is just that, being zealots for the West in general and the United States in particular, they were naturally much closer to the Americans themselves than those who expressed and continue to express deep doubts about the sincerity of American intentions to be friends with Russia, as well as the sincerity of American intentions to lead the world to progress and humanism.
So I ended up at the embassy. Why was that? Because Huntington was giving a lecture there. This was all before September 11, 2001. Bush had not yet announced a crusade, after which he immediately “swallowed his tongue” because he was told, “Don’t ever say again.” None of this has happened yet. But Huntington was already there.
And this high official told me that Huntington was the future, that Huntington was what it’s all about, that new connections could be made through Huntington… “You know, you think about it, maybe this is all very necessary.” I became very alarmed, because it seemed to me that this could have even more serious consequences than Clinton’s classic “march of democracy” rhetoric. So I just started watching Huntington.
Huntington behaved like a very anxious professor, who was totally confused as to why people were making a major political and conceptual figure out of him. Like me, he too felt there was a catch. He didn’t understand why people were pulling him out of the academic bubble that he had peacefully inhabited and pushing him onto the political arena.
He acted insanely timid. And when I started to ask (I don’t remember if it was in this meeting or in some other conversation with Huntington) where he got his idea of civilizations from in the first place, he was very astonished. But he had to admit in the course of the discussion that there are no civilizations. That there is no one to clash with.
Huntington’s fundamental hypothesis, the clash of civilizations, assumes the existence of civilizations. But there are no civilizations. No civilizations exist in the twenty-first century.
Why don’t they exist? Because a civilization is a macro-social community with a religion at its core. Not a religiously conditioned culture, but a religion. A civilization has to frame itself in religious terms and raise its religious banner.
Even if Islam is willing to do so… But what is Islam? Where is this macrosocial community? There is an ummah, but no caliphate. For an Islamic civilization to emerge, there must be a caliphate. Then perhaps it will march under the green banner of the Prophet. And one civilization will form. But there are no other civilizations.
The United States of America does not raise the Christian banner. No one refers to the words of Nikolay Gumilev:
Tomorrow we shall meet and find out
Who is to become the ruler of these parts;
They are helped by a black stone,
We — by a golden cross on the chest.
It’s a different era. There are plenty of secular people. Religion is not a banner for them.
In what world do these people live, if not in a world of civilizations (according to Huntington)? They obviously do not live in it. The Indians fear most to be called Hindus, because India is a country, and Hinduism is a religion. So what kind of world do all these people live in? What are they doing? The Chinese are what kind of civilization? Taoist, Confucian, Buddhist? Which one?
These are all parts of the project of Modernity. These are the nation states. And as long as there are nation states that carry out this project of Modernity (and the nation is both the actor and the product of modernization – that classical secular nation that the Great French Revolution created), there are no civilizations. And there is no clash of civilizations. The clash of civilizations will arise only when there are no nations, which is something that would still need to be done. And when the world plunges into Counter-Modernity, civilizations will arise. And they will start fighting each other. But the world has yet to plunge into that. The entire East vehemently refuses it, the West is absolutely unready for it. Islamism alone being ready is not enough. Because there are nation-states in the Islamic world that do not refuse to be nation-states, with moderate Islamic characteristics. This world that Huntington talks about does not exist.
But after September 11, 2001, everyone switched to Huntington’s position. Everyone swore allegiance to Huntington. My partner in conversation, who said that Huntington was the future, understood that Huntington was, indeed, the future. That once the Republican Party in the US would come to power and all this Clintonian stuff would be over, another era would begin. It would be the era of Huntington. Huntington was needed as a flag.
Now questions arise.
First. If there is no world of civilizations, what are we talking about? What civilizations are we talking about?
Second. What type of civilization, even if they exist, is Russia?
Third. What is Russia’s place in the world? Is it the East and not the West? But it was said, “Which East do you want to be: The East of Xerxes or of Christ?” Well, the East of Christ is the alternative West. So we have to become the East of Xerxes? But all the seats are taken there. There you have to also change religions and your religiously determined culture, which is a more serious challenge. For Modernity assumes that the culture is determined by religion.
Yes, we live in a Christian world in the cultural sense. Some of our fellow citizens practice a religion called Orthodoxy, as well as other kinds of Christianity. And other kinds of religions as well. How do we reconcile this?
Who are we, the bridge between East and West? But the East does not need a bridge with the West right now. The East has a direct dialogue with the West without needing a bridge. We see all of this. The need for a bridge has disappeared. And we can only find ourselves between the West and the East as between a rock and a hard place. Should we be absorbed by the East based on the principle that since the West is terrible, the East is good? But hardly anyone would consider himself happy to be occupied not by the United States of America and NATO, but by China. There isn’t much happiness there, either.
That does at all not mean that I consider NATO occupation to be a blessing. I think it’s disgusting. But it doesn’t mean that you can jump out of the frying pan into the fire.
So where do we belong? Where? In practice! And don’t our patriots see how this practical question is intimately connected to certain imagery and conceptualizations borrowed from the past? And don’t they realize that the conceptions of both Toynbee and Huntington are ultimately a classical construct of the British Empire, which wanted to rule the world using these monads called “civilizations”? But at the time when the British Empire was coining these concepts to rule its colonies (colonies, I emphasize: anyone who accepts this concept becomes a colony!), the “monads” in the form of these civilizations that had not reached Modernity had no “windows” yet (as Leibniz said, monads should have no windows). But now these “monads” have “windows”.
Then what are we talking about?
There are no civilizations. What exists? There are Modernity, Counter-Modernity, and Postmodernity. Whether or not there is a Supramodernity is up for discussion. And to what extent is it related to Russia?
Everything else they are talking about, of course, exists. Passionarity exists. Except the Chinese are one of the oldest peoples in the world. They should have gone through all of those upheavals and so forth five times by now. Why doesn’t that happen? Because passionarity exists, as do geopolitics and national interests. It all exists. But history stands above it all. With its sociocultural projects. With its great historical spirit. The spirit of historical novelty. It moves peoples, their historical destiny. And if, on the path of their historical destiny, nations can work wonders, then when they leave the path their historical destiny had set for them, they turn into sludge.
I absolutely share the idea that we will be the heirs of the defunct classical West. And that the West had better recognize us in this role. Of course, in the position we are in now, it will be insanely difficult for us to play this role. Harder than ever. But perhaps if we don’t play it, the world will die. The whole world.
But I just want to ask one thing: what are we the heirs of? Of what? Will we too, fleeing from Modernity, which is incompatible with our spirit and our soul, swear allegiance to Counter-Modernity? And what will come of it?
After all, how exactly did the British Empire get into this mess? It wanted to live forever in a world where it was the light of progress, while everyone else was a civilization, i.e. a colony. But then capitalism came along. Uneven development. The principle of costs. And it was faced with the need to develop these colonies. It had to reckon with competitors. And if it kept bringing in cotton from far away, processed it at home, and then transported it back in the same ships to India, it would have gone bankrupt. And having gone bankrupt, it would have fallen prey to its other Western competitors. So it had to develop cotton processing in India, as well as other types of production. And through this it created its gravedigger, the Indian working class and the Indian intelligentsia. It brought India out of the Hindu civilization, which clashed with the Islamic civilization, and propelled it into – albeit imperfect – Modernity. It thus condemned itself to confronting a struggle for national liberation, a national liberation revolution as a result of which the classical British soul lost its most precious thing – the colonial empire.
Anyone who has seen an Egyptian promenade, along which ladies in crinolines were supposed to stroll, or has lived in an Egyptian hotel where real gentlemen once lived, understands that these gentlemen and ladies in crinolines want to stroll around there forever. They want the natives to know their place, and stay there. But the natives no longer want to stay “in their place” because the British have developed them. And they developed them, not because they were noble or “took up the white man’s burden,” but because Germany, France, and others were nearby. If the British had not begun to develop the colonies by bringing capitalism there, they would have lost the competition with other countries.
Now you have to keep Counter-Modernity from losing to anyone? Do you understand how this can be done? Let’s complete the thought. It’s not such a complicated idea, it’s all very clear. There is only one way to do it. Only one. By halting development on a global scale. Globally! By turning the whole world into the British Empire. Once and for all. Forever. Having stopped development altogether.
Then the following picture emerges: there is one hotbed, where a certain process unfolds. In the rest of the world it (i.e., development) has been stopped. Civilizations (“monads”) have arisen there. Everything there has reverted to feudalism, slavery, and beyond. The wheel of history has been turned back. The oligarchy, aka the Iron Heel, rules this global colony on a global scale. The global city rules the global village. And this village will never be anything else. There will always be slave owners and slaves, feudal lords and serfs.
And then I want to ask our national loyalist gentlemen.
1. Would they agree to any role, even the most honorable one, in a world where Russia would be on this periphery?
2. Do they realize that Russia is less suitable for this peripheral role than any other country in the world?
3. Who do they see themselves as within this model?
They see themselves as landlords. And who do they propose as serfs? Who are the men who will be flogged in the stables, and whose daughters these lords will defile, as they had in previous eras? Where is it all supposed to go back to? Does the brain elaborate this picture to its conclusion? Does it take this picture out of this anti-Soviet-antiliberal intelligentsia’s hole into major politics? And is it clear that it won’t end with some orthodox civilization or the like? Everything will be finished off. Entirely different archetypes will begin to work there – in this limitless, final, and irrevocable slavery.
And it is perfectly understandable why this is the case. Because the bourgeoisie was a progressive class three centuries ago. At that time it raised the great slogan of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” Which the anti-liberal, feudally oriented forces already disliked terribly. But at that time, the bourgeoisie was fighting feudalism.
But in the 21st century, this bourgeoisie gladly feudalizes itself. But with only one caveat. It will banish humanism from feudalism. In feudalism – during the Renaissance, Giotto’s Pre-Renaissance, and the classical Middle Ages, there was humanism. It was always there. There was ascension. And there was room for both humanism and progress in their sense outside of the Enlightenment.
But in what is supposed to replace it (no matter what we call it: Counter-Modernity, Integrism, or whatever), there will no longer be any place for anything like that. It will be a terrible thing. And there is not even a whiff of Christ here; it would all have to be banished. That’s when fascism emerges. I have already explained the difference between classical Counter-modernist restorationism and fascism. The difference is that fascism does the work in such situations, while restorationism vacillates. It can sing along with fascism, but others will do the work.
So, what is the meaning of nativism today? In the 19th century, it defended feudalism in Russia. What is it defending now? “The Iron Heel?” This is a fundamental question. And I think that it is time to ask this question as tactfully as possible. It’s time to at least start a discussion about it. Not a discussion between people who hate one another in advance so much that they can’t talk to one another, but a discussion between people who are open and benevolent. Who are ready to find answers to any questions. Ready to argue. I invite everyone to partake in this discussion, in all its forms.
This is not a conflict. We can win, I repeat, only when all the “White” forces, which have not definitively taken the path of national treason, acknowledge the Soviet experience. When they recognize the unity of Russian history. When they acknowledge development as a marker of the Russian historical destiny. When they recognize the greatness of development and alternative development as the Russian mission. When they acknowledge humanism. When they acknowledge the new great message that only Russia can bring to the world. Because, frankly, there is no one else to bring this message. There is no one else willing to continue history in that one and only great sense that it can have. When they recognize history. And reject, for the sake of their country’s life and good, these primordial and gnostic oddities, which are incompatible with Russia and its historical existence. For it is Russia that has always opposed these oddities. The greatest confrontation in its history is the Great Patriotic War.
I understand the difficulty of admitting all this. Because the anti-Soviet venom had been accumulating for decades. And of course, there were reasons for this.
I understand how difficult this is to acknowledge. But these are truly the end times. When everything can be given up in order to prevent something terrible from descending upon the world. Upon the world and upon our country, first and foremost. A sense of historical responsibility, an intuition for history must help you to free yourself from the intellectual burden that you have nurtured for decades and that does not work any longer. It has ceased to work.
This can be done neither by means of harsh debate, nor by means of intellectual violence. It can only be done through love and kindness. Only on the basis of the deepest synthesis.
The time for eclecticism is over. The great merit of the patriotic movement in the previous stage was that it tried to combine the incompatible. And it continues to try. And rightly so. For there is nothing worse than our disunity. But that time is in the past. The time has come for a great new synthesis. It is not a question of someone wanting to secure monopoly over it. God forbid! The issue is that it needs to happen simultaneously on a colossal number of squares of the great board on which our opponent, our historiosophic and ultimate opponent, arranges his pieces.
Let’s reach out to one another. Let us understand that these are the very end times. And we must speak differently in these times. I have quoted Dostoyevsky many times: “Drop your tone, and speak like a human being.” I’m not saying now that somone’s tone is not human. I am only talking about these end times, in which we must unite on an entirely different basis. This unification must be carried out by everyone to the extent of his or her extremely modest strength. Each of us has very modest strength. The question is how to create coherence. For these forces to be united. And that this is not an alliance against some abstract enemy – the West, the liberals, or whoever.
God knows, when you understand what they are doing, many of the problems of incompatibility between your ideology and the ideology of someone close to you disappear. Because there is a truly existential, moral horror in the face of what has been done and continues to be done. In the face of all this, in regards to some individual positionsissues, I am willing to look closely at what Solzhenitsyn was talking about. But only in regards to certain issues. I don’t want more than that. I do not want to change a White into a Red. I want this White to see how it all works. Do you see!
The small inner circle is anti-Stalinism. The big one is anti-Sovietism. The even larger circle is disdain for the Russian Empire. The even larger circle is the war against our historical destiny. Against the Russian spirit.
These circles cannot be separated one from the other. They already coexist. They are glued together by the will of our enemy. They are the instrument of his merciless war against us. If we understand this, we can do something about it. Or should we continue mindlessly saying all the things that people used to say in the dissident anti-liberal kitchens?
I am only addressing the anti-liberal community in this case. I address it by extending my hand to the anti-liberal national loyalist community. Those songs are a thing of the past. They have their inaccuracies. They have flaws. They have weak points. They contain things that were nurtured by the need to fight the USSR. And what was brought in by the international forces. All of this must be blown away. It must be peeled off, as scabs are sometimes peeled off the skin. In the name of life. In the name of the people’s salvation. Because there is very little time left.
My interview “Why We Cannot Allow Russia to Collapse” is published on the official website of the People’s Council (Narodny Sobor) All-Russian Social Movement. Notice the extent to which all this arouses rage, furious rage in a certain circle of people. What exactly is causing such rage?
I think we should talk about that in the next issue of this program.
Source (for copy): http://eu.eot.su/2021/04/21/essence-of-time-chapter-24/
Essence of Time: The philosophical justification of Russia’s Messianic Claims in the 21st century
Experimental Creative Centre International Public Foundation
Essence of Time is a video lecture series by Sergey Kurginyan: a political and social leader, theater director, philosopher, political scientist, and head of the Experimental Creative Centre International Public Foundation. These lectures were broadcast from February to November 2011 on the websites, www.kurginyan.ru and www.eot.su .
With its intellectual depth and acuity, with its emotional charge, and with the powerful mark of the author’s personality, this unusual lecture series aroused great interest in its audience. It served at the same time as both the “starting push” and the conceptual basis around which the virtual club of Dr. Kurginyan’s supporters, Essence of Time, was formed.
The book Essence of Time contains the transcriptions of all 41 lectures in the series. Each one of them contains Sergey Kurginyan’s thoughts about the essence of our time, about its metaphysics, its dialectics, and their reflection in the key aspects of relevant Russian and global politics. The central theme of the series is the search for paths and mechanisms to get out of the systemic and global dead end of all humanity in all of its dimensions: from the metaphysical to the gnoseological, ethical, and anthropological. And as a result, out of the sociopolitical, technological, and economical dead end.
In outlining the contours of this dead end and in stressing the necessity of understanding the entire depth, complexity, and tragedy of the accumulating problems, the author proves that it is indeed Russia, thanks to the unusual aspects of its historical fate, which still has a chance to find a way out of this dead end, and to present it to the world. But, realizing this chance is possible only if this becomes the supreme meaning of life and action for a “critical mass” of active people who have in common a deep understanding of the problems at hand.
Dr. Kurginyan’s ideas found a response, and the Essence of Time virtual club is growing into a wide Essence of Time social movement. In front of our very eyes, it is becoming a real political force.