(Author’s June 2020 note: This essay was written and published in early January 2013.)
Dr. Robert Hickson 6 January 2013
Feast of the Epiphany
Saint Andre Bessette
“He agreed with my view that the means governed the end, ill means distorting the end.” (B.H. Liddell Hart, Lawrence of Arabia.)
“The manipulation of language was one of the salient characteristics of Leninism, particularly in the de-coupling of words from the reality they were supposed to represent.” (Stéphane Courtois, The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression.)
“The war we are in is particularly characterized as being omni-dimensional, but it perhaps is even more sharply distinctive for the fact that within the omni-dimensional deployment psycho-political operations have been raised to the level of a primary weapons system.” (James Burnham, The War We Are In (1967), Chapter I—“The Decade Past,” p. 14)
On 4 June 1960, one month before I was to enter the United States Military Academy as a seventeen-year-old New Cadet, an article was published that was later to illuminate much reality for me as a military officer—especially about the strategic and tactical manipulation of mobs by well-trained, disciplined cadres who sought “command of the streets.” The 1960 article was entitled “Student Riots and Blanqui’s Legacy” and the writer was the former Trotskyite, James Burnham.
Burnham’s well-informed article was originally published in his regular bi-weekly column in National Review under the heading “The Third World War.” But, it was later published again in 1967, in one of James Burnham’s strategic-cultural books, entitled The War We Are In: The Last Decade and the Next.
Moreover, if one considers Burnham’s 1960 article also in light of advanced modern communication-technologies some fifty years later, and in light of such recent, purportedly spontaneous manifestations as “the Arab Spring,” one may freshly see again some enduring principles and applications of effective indirect warfare. We may also come to see how this matter of indirection is itself related to strategic and tactical deception and to the difficult matter of detecting and countering “False-Flag Operations.”
Since this essay proposes to be intelligible to the general reader, as well as urgently pertinent to the reader’s actual needs for discernment and counter-action, it is fitting to make a clarification and a slight over-simplification. By tactical, in this essay, we should understand something as being directed toward more short-term and partial objectives. By strategic, we should understand something as being directed toward more long-term and decisive objectives. The choice of tactics is also a part of strategy. Moreover, in the introductory section of his book’s Chapter VIII, entitled “The Forms of Modern Warfare,” written in 1967 amidst the keen challenges of that era, Burnham thoughtfully says:
Military theorists tell us that the principles of warfare never change. This may be so, if the principles are formulated in general enough terms, but practical strategy as well as weapons and tactics are of course continually changing. The war we are in is not the first in which political, psychological and other “unconventional” methods have been employed. Their use goes back to the beginning of warfare—that is, to the beginning of man’s social history. We take the term “Trojan Horse” from three thousand years ago to describe certain types of contemporary infiltration behind enemy lines. Thucydides makes clear the important role of political warfare in the Peloponnesian conflict. In gaining his sweeping victories at the end of the fourteenth century, the Mongol leader, Tamerlane, made political and psychological measures a major weapons system…. Very often this method of psychological terror attained Tamerlane’s objective—the conquest of a city—without any need of overt fighting. The two surrenders of Czechoslovakia—to Hitler in 1938 and to Stalin in 1947—are not so very different from the surrenders by the Asian cities to the Mongol conqueror….Woodrow Wilson’s fourteen points, particularly his stress on self-determination, were an important factor in bringing about the downfall of the German and especially the Austro-Hungarian governments in the First World War. Hitler took control of the Rhineland, the Saar and Austria, as well as Czechoslovakia, by political warfare methods without fighting by the main elements of his armed forces.
After his brief conspectus of relevant history, Burnham brings us closer to the specific challenge of Leninist-Stalinist-Maoist communism and the revolutionary methods which its strategic-and-tactical “Conflict Apparatus” variously employed:
There is, thus, ample precedent for the communist use of political and psychological warfare methods, together with the many sorts of guerrilla, partisan and paramilitary methods, and the lesser but increasing use of these methods by the anti-communist camp. However, as I have remarked earlier, no previous conflict has displayed as great a variety and number of methods—of dimensions—as the war we are in. From the communist point of view, every institution in the camp of the enemy is a battleground: churches as well as armies; business corporations and trade unions alike; art, literature and science; Boy Scout troops along with intelligence agencies; communications media just as much as political parties. The front, as Colonel William R. Kintner has insisted through the title of one of his books, is everywhere. And since the enemy attacks everywhere, we must either resist everywhere, or succumb.
Let us now turn to Burnham’s consideration of Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881), whom Vladimir Lenin himself thoroughly studied and greatly admired. Burnham will thereby lead us to other deeper considerations by first examining “the political pattern” that “emerges unmistakably” when we observe the worldwide, and often simultaneous, “student riots” of 1960.
Burnham first presents some facts and, then, some of the cumulative effects of these often concurrent, but geographically separated, events—all of them also occurring, we should note, in strategic locations:
During the past two years [1958-1960] there have been mass riots in the streets of many major cities of the non-communist world: Caracas, Montevideo, Lima, Baghdad, Havana, Capetown, Léopoldville, Algiers, Seoul, Ankara, Tokyo, San Francisco, among others. In these, students are usually prominent. Nearly all of these riots, with the notable exception of Algiers, have been directed against political friends of the United States.
Moreover, lest we think these disruptions to be mere trifles, Burnham adds:
These riots have been remarkably successful. They played an essential role in the overthrow of no less than five governments that were firm allies of the U.S.: in Venezuela, Iraq, Cuba, South Korea and Turkey. South Korea and Turkey have been thrown into domestic turmoil.
Then making a partial review of the geographically distributed, representative effects, he says:
Riots in the Latin American capitals prevented Vice President Nixon’s visit from yielding positive results, marred the President’s [Eisenhower’s] subsequent trip, and degraded U.S. prestige in the eyes of the Latin American masses. The fierce riots now sweeping through the street of Tokyo may smash the pro-United States Kishi government, and compel both repudiation of the U.S.-Japan security treaty and cancellation of Mr. Eisenhower’s scheduled visit.
With careful probabilistic reasoning, Burnham raises a few questions and gives his reflective judgment and the reasons for his conclusion, in light of earlier historical operations of “the conflict apparatus”:
Do the communists have a hand in these events? When we fit them together, the political pattern emerges unmistakably. Cui prodest?—to whose benefit—the old rule tells us to ask. Invariably the answer is, to the benefit of the communists and the policies they favor. Where are the street riots against a pro-communist regime or policy? Coincidences so multiple, both positive and negative, simply do not occur in politics.
After giving the likely “left-Liberal and socialist” objections to his view—and he eloquently states them in a whole, lengthy paragraph, and without any caricature or mocking distortion—he proceeds gradually to refute them, by first understanding some other ways of thinking about the usefulness of crowds and uproars. For example:
The Bolshevik approach to mobs, riots and “command of the streets” is rather more serious. In his design for the revolutionary party—the conflict apparatus—Lenin, like Bakunin [the Anarchist] and Nechayev [the Russian Nihilist] before him, incorporated the ideas of Louis Auguste Blanqui, a French revolutionist who lived from 1805-81. Blanqui first became prominent in the 1830 revolution, and devoted the rest of his life, in and out of prison, to revolutionary conspiracy. He believed that the key to successful revolt was the development of a small, secret,“cadre” organization. Normally the cadres would remain underground, abstaining from political affairs. They were to be trained in the manipulation of crowds and the use of the small arms and improvised weapons accessible to crowds.
For our further instruction and strategic edification, Burnham gives some additionally specific history:
Blanqui assumed that the normal course of modern mass society would periodically bring crowds into the streets. Unguided, they would mill around to no particular purpose. The trained cadres could, however, deploy through the mass and take leadership. In the 1848 and 1870 revolutions [in France] the practical cogency of Blanqui’s ideas was proved. In 1870 it was his cadres—4,000 strong—who were primarily responsible for the overthrow of the Third Empire and establishment of the Paris Commune—history’s first revolutionary, proletarian, Soviet dictatorship. Unguided mobs may shake but they do not overthrow regimes. They do not produce consistent slogans and select strategic targets. [That is, as the earlier “Comintern”—Third Communist International Apparatus 1919-1943—had done, and even as the follow-up “Cominform”—the 1943-1956 Communist Information Bureau—did, though in a more mitigated, speciously conciliatory, way]. The coordinated operations of these recent [1958-1960] riots, and their high measure of success, are the product of trained Bolshevik neo-Blanquists who, once the masses take to the street, supply the guidance and slogans, point to the targets, and foment the violence.
Supporting his analysis further, Burnham returns to specific riots then occurring in Japan and Uruguay—and even, in a more incipient way, in California:
This [disciplined guidance] is true not only in Tokyo, where the Bolsheviks work through the wild Zengakuren hoodlums, or in Montevideo, where the communists openly control the student clubs, but in our own San Francisco at “an earlier stage” of the revolutionary process [to be further developed on “the Inner Front” during the Vietnam War?]. The police investigation proved the communist leadership of the student mob that took command of the center of the city….Americans smile incredulously, but it is the simple truth that the HUAC [House Un-American Activities Committee] riots last month [in May of 1960] were not a student prank but a rehearsal for revolution.
What Marguerite Higgins later showed in her 1965 book, Our Vietnam Nightmare, poignantly confirms Burnham’s analysis, especially with the manipulation of the “select” Buddhist mobs against President Diem and his regime, helping the agents and complicitors of the 2 November 1963 assassination of the President and his brother Nhu, and thereby the calamitous overthrow of the Diem Regime. Speaking of the Revolutionary and effectively “neo-Blanquist” Cadre-Chief, the Buddhist monk Thich Tri Quang, for example—who himself had immense contempt for the American dupes who courted him and who fatuously thought they could “reform” him—Marguerite Higgins so modestly (and very humble as to her own insufficiency of discernment) wrote the following in her 1965 book:
It seems strangely unreal, looking back on the summer of 1963 [a few months before the assassinations and following coup], that anybody could have still been in doubt about short-term Buddhist aims. “What do the Buddhists want?” I wrote at the end of my Vietnam tour. “What they want is Diem’s head, and not on a silver platter, but wrapped in an American flag.” What I did not foresee was that “Diem’s head wrapped in an American flag,” was precisely what the Buddhists would get.
As we shall soon see, this outcome closely resembles, not only a form of the deceitful “Judo Principle” (using someone’s own force and vices, as well as his moral virtues, against him), but also another part of Leninist doctrine, namely the concept of “enlightened terror.”
In the May 1960 riots and revolutionary rehearsals in San Francisco, some three years before the Diem assassination, however, even then:
The cadre chiefs were well pleased with the exercise [or the “rehearsal”]. For several hours, screened by student-innocents, (in the protective role of the proletarian wives that the Bolsheviks pushed to the front of the 1917 Petrograd mob), they held control of the streets against all the power [police and military] of the enemy. They compelled the local sovereign, Mayor George Christopher, to capitulate….And they bent the courts to their will. Judge A. Axelrod, with a fatuous statement about not wanting to “cause a stigma,” dismissed all charges against all the rioters, Blanquists and dupes. They flung his sentimentality back in his face with a scornful declaration that they “still stand firmly” by their aims and actions. Would that our mayors and judges might say as much!
Almost three and a half years later, on 5 November 1963—only three days after the Diem assassination—James Burnham wrote another important strategic, and morally discerning, article, entitled “The Revolution on the Mekong.” It was another one of his regular columns in National Review, coming under the heading, “The Third World War,” but also reproduced, on only three incisive pages, in his book The War We Are In.
As a complement and counterpoise to Marguerite Higgins’ later book, Our Vietnam Nightmare (1965), Burnham’s analysis is, however, more geopolitical, strategical, and doctrinal. He begins his column with stern and sobering words which swiftly catch our attention, without his even mentioning the assassinations on All Souls’ Day three days before:
The first two communist objectives in the South Vietnamese sector of “the revolution on the Mekong”—the phrase is Ho Chi Minh’s—have now been attained. Le Duan, secretary of the Communist Party of North Vietnam, listed the early stages when, in September 1960 [three months after Burnham’s earlier-discussed article on Louis Blanqui], he announced formation of the “National Liberation Front” (FLN) of South Vietnam: “This Front must take as the principal objectives the overthrow of the Diem regime, the abolition of the present Constitution, the orientation of the South Vietnam foreign policy toward neutralism, and the establishment of normal [sic] relations between the South and the North.”
Moreover, and very importantly to our deeper understanding of these forms of warfare, Burnham then says:
These objectives have been achieved by “enlightened terror,” which aims at bringing about a situation, chiefly by psychological means, in which the active opponents are destroyed by their own camp.
I believe that these words should be carefully considered, especially because such insidious operations always break intimate trust “within our own camp,” a demoralizing breach which is so difficult to repair.
Burnham then gives supporting documentation for this Doctrine of “Enlightened Terror”:
A remarkable document found on the body of a dead NKVD officer [a Soviet security-and-intelligence officer] explained: “In the concept of enlightened terror the terror subject [the perpetrator] not only remains in the shadows, but acts and applies the terror not in his own name but in the name of his opponent [the target]….In the system of enlightened terror nearly all the efforts of the terror subject are directed at converting the [human] environment into a spontaneous assistant and accessory, in ignorance of its role.” The terror subject indeed [says Burnham] must be congratulating himself today, in his shadows, for the psycho-political manipulation by which he led the Government of the United States to act as his “spontaneous assistant and accessory, in ignorance of its role.”
At this point of his apparent knowledge of the fuller Vietnam “environment,” Burnham is still unaware of (or at least does not mention) the probability of conscious, culpable complicity, as well, on the part of some U.S. actors, civilian and military.
After Burnham gives an excellent, lucid summary of the strategic geography of the Mekong River as “one of the dozen greatest rivers in the world” from the Tibetan plateau to the China Sea south of Saigon, he affirms that, therefore, as seen through the eyes of the enemy, “the revolution on the Mekong” is “conceived as a vast integrated strategic campaign that will carry communism to the South Seas.”
Showing first how almost the entire strategic theater—not sufficiently appreciated by the Americans—is already under predominant communist influence or is at least resisted by an “anti-Western “’positive neutrality,’” as in Cambodia, he concludes:
The South Vietnam sector is now the only remaining obstacle of consequence….[Thus,] an anti-communist South Vietnamese regime has been a road block that must be breached or undermined. To that end a varied mix of weapons has been directed: paramilitary, terrorist, psychological and political….In the middle of 1960 the main slogans of the propaganda campaign—many of them destined to make their way through the layers of underground agents, fellow travelers, collaborators, dupes, silly journalists and innocents all the way to the White House [especially, from the outset, to the January 1961 White House of John F. Kennedy]—were launched: “Overthrow of the reactionary U.S.A.-Diem clique!”; “An end to the policy of repression and terror!” etc.
Concerning President Diem and his regime, specifically, Burnham adds:
The Diem regime represented the only serious and cohesive anti-communist formation in South Vietnam—nor is it by mere chance that Christians were so prominent within it. That regime and that formation are now shattered. The communists and pro-communists are dancing in the streets, schools, and pagodas, along with the naïve and heedless. Some of the officers who took part in the coup are sincerely anti-communist, but they have no “social base” for an anti-communist policy. Moreover, they have the insuperable disadvantage that the whole world knows them—as Moscow immediately named them—for the American puppets they really are.
Concluding his trenchant article with a consideration of the ideologically Liberal John F. Kennedy Administration and Kennedy’s chosen array of progressive “New Frontiersmen,” Burnham says:
The socio-political process that President Kennedy initiated [in early 1961] can be predicted with near certainty [although President Kennedy’s own imminent assassination on 22 November, only some two weeks later, could not be comparably extrapolated nor reasonably expected]. The new regime, or rather succession of regimes [in South Vietnam], will begin disintegrating at once. Its leftward elements will inevitably make contact with the National Liberation Front (are doubtless already in contact)….And is John F. Kennedy, flying [now himself] the [detente] Treaty of Moscow at the masthead of his ship of state, the man to reject the claims of Peace?
(Burnham’s sharp irony here about the true nature of “the Peace” will not be easily missed.)
Whether knowingly or not, whether as knaves or dupes, Liberalism tends to give a free hand to its own assassins, even, at times, hands the weapons over to its own assassins. Burnham came to see this sad fact very well.
Less than a year later, during the new Lyndon B. Johnson Administration, James Burnham was, in fact, to publish his long-germinating and profound and still-unrefuted analysis of Liberalism and of its inherent consequences. It is entitled Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism (1964).
Burnham also knew what Alexander Solzhenitsyn himself, again and again, argued in his own writings and critiques: the Girondins give way to the Jacobins; the Mensheviks give way to the Bolsheviks; Stalinism is not at all a corruption of Leninism, but rather a continuation and further fulfillment of Leninism (even in its own disciplined “strategy of terror”). Stalinism, moreover, is not a corruption of some pure deposit of Marxism-Leninism: the monster is in the doctrine itself. Moreover, Lenin’s and Stalin’s views of power and expansion and the sophistic deceits of dialectical-and-historical materialism (and thus its ongoing manipulations of the purported “contradictions at the very heart of reality”) are entirely different from historical “Russian Nationalism,” despite the latter’s own aggressive and imperially expansive initiatives.
In his own 11 September 1987 essay on James Burnham (shortly after “Jim” had just died on 28 July 1987), Joseph Sobran recalls Burnham’s revealingly important, earlier article from the early 1940s, in the Leftist intellectual journal, Partisan Review, a provocative article entitled “Lenin’s Heir.” In Sobran’s words:
Jim did like to shock. The Machiavellians [first published in 1943, after his break with Trotsky] belongs to the same period as “Lenin’s Heir,” a piece he wrote for Partisan Review to “épater les Trotskyistes” [to “floor” or “flabbergast” the Trotskyites], as he told me once smiling. He épatered them, all right. He called the holy martyr Trotsky a “Platonic Communist” and said that Stalin, not Trotsky, was Lenin’s true successor. Stalin had fulfilled it in its real essence: power.
That is to say, “Power without Grace,” in Helena’s words to her son, Emperor Constantine. She then amplifies her theme in that same conversation alone with her son, and gives her further counsel with a view to the future and even to the coming reality of mass democracies:
“Sometimes,” Helena continued, “I have a terrible dream of the future. Not now, but presently, people may forget their loyalty to their kings and emperors and take power for themselves. Instead of letting one victim [like you] bear this frightful curse [the burden of responsibility of an Emperor’s lonely Rule], they will take it all on themselves, each one of them. Think of a whole world possessed of Power without Grace.”
So, too, will there likely be misery and loutishness and spreading disorder stemming from “Democratic Centralism,” “Bureaucratic Collectivism,” and the theories of Revolutionary Naturalism, such as the dialectical doctrine, power, and disciplined deceits of “Enlightened Terror” which still may come forth from Neo-Leninist Neo-Blanquist Cadres and their coherent “Conflict Apparatus” so deftly prepared and variously able to conduct covert, tactical and strategic, crowd or “mass” manipulation.
Should we not expect that these effective traditions and principles are still being transmitted and subtly adjusted to current actualities (and technologies), and applied, at least by Neo-Bolsheviks or Neo-Jacobins, some of them even religious and imperial Neo-Conservatives or Neo-Zionists? Messianic Politics is still a formative (and “deformative”) and fevered factor in our world.
May we, therefore, at least learn from the varied experience and tested wisdom of James Burnham, which we now, in part, have seen in this little essay. Thus, we may also now analogously remember the subtle and effective practices of Louis Blanqui himself, and consider how he would likely employ the new electronic, “radio-frequency” instruments and bio-nano technologies of “perception management”—and even “psycho-neuro-linguistics”—today in his covert oligarchic guidance of mobs (and even magistrates). Also by using the “trust-shattering” methods of “enlightened terror.” And even especially so (as with the slower cultural strategy of Antonio Gramsci) against the Catholic Church.
© 2013 Robert D. Hickson