Augustin Cochin and Igor Shafarevich: The Revolutionary Phenomenon of the “Lesser People” in France and Elsewhere

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                             10 August 2019

Saint Lawrence (d. 258)

Epigraphs

“It is interesting to compare that [i.e., the principled Russian attitude of a religious resistance to the temporal ruling regime, in contradistinction to the overall “submissiveness” of England] to a similar situation in the classic country that has affirmed the principle of personal freedom and human rights—England. Henry VIII created an utterly new religious faith by taking something from Catholicism and something from Protestantism, and he even altered it several times, so toward the end his subjects did not even know clearly what they were supposed to believe in. And yet Parliament and the clergy proved submissive, and the majority of the people accepted the faith that had been concocted out of political and personal considerations [i.e., keeping their ill-gotten gains from their widespread monastic plundering and chantry looting!].” (Igor Shafarevich, Russophobia (Nationality Issues, 22 March 1990, JPRS-UPS-90-015: Section 2 of 9, on page 4 of 39 pages)—bold emphasis in the original.)

***

“’Messianism,’ that is, the belief by a certain social group (nation, church, class, party) that it is destined to determine the fate of humanity and become its savior, is a very old phenomenon. The classic example, from which the name itself is derived, is the teaching contained in Judaism [hence in some forms of “Jewish Nationalism”] concerning the Messiah (the Anointed King) who will establish the ‘Chosen People’s’ rule over the world. Such a concept has arisen in a great many social movements and doctrines. The Marxist doctrine concerning the special role of the proletariat belongs to the tradition of ‘revolutionary messianism’ that developed in the 19th century. Recent very thorough research into this tradition describes its various stages (Saint-Simon, Fourier), but it mentions Russia only at the very end of the book in connection with the fact that toward the end of the century Western ‘revolutionary messianism’ also swamped Russia.” (Igor Shafarevich, Russophobia, page 5—my emphasis added.)

***

“Here it must be stressed once again that in this work [Russophobia] we do not intend to condemn, accuse or exonerate anyone….Does the humiliation of the Germans under the Peace of Versailles justify National Socialism? We [Russians] would merely like to get an idea of what took place in our country [as of 1988-1989], which social and national factors [including “Jewish Nationalism”] influenced history, and how.” (Igor Shafarevich, Russophobia, page 36—my emphasis added.)

***

In his attempts to understand with integrity certain revolutionary parts of Russian history—especially in the 19th and 20th centuries—Igor Shafarevich gratefully discovered the little-known insights of Augustin Cochin, a French historian of the French Revolution who died on the battlefield in World War I, in 1916. In Russophobia,1 Shafarevich first introduces us to him and to one of his fruitful insights, as follows, especially his concept of the “lesser people” as “a universal historical phenomenon” (15):

One of the most interesting students of the French Revolution (in terms of both the freshness of his ideas and his remarkable erudition), Augustin Cochin paid special attention in his works to a certain social, or spiritual, stratum he called the “Lesser People.” In his opinion, the decisive role in the French Revolution was played by a circle of people that had been established in the philosophical societies and academies, Masonic lodges, clubs and sections. The specific features of that circle consisted in the fact that it lived in its own intellectual and spiritual world: the “Lesser people” among the “Greater People.” He could have said the antipeople among the people, since the world view of the former was based on the principle of the obverse of the latter’s world view. It was there [in such select, exclusive, and privileged circles] that the type of person necessary for revolution was developed, a person for whom everything that constituted the nation’s roots, its spiritual backbone—the Catholic faith, honor of the nobility, loyalty to the king, pride in one’s own history, and attachment to the distinguishing features and privileges of one’s native province, one’s estate or one’s guild—was alienating and disgusting. The societies that brought together the representatives of the “Lesser People” created a kind of artificial world for their members, a world in which their entire life took place. Whereas in the ordinary world everything is tested by experience (for example, historical experience), there [in those subtly managed circles] general opinion decided everything [i.e., “the general will” and even “democratic centralism”]. What was real was what others believed; what was true was what they said; what was good was what they approved of. The ordinary order was reversed: doctrine [the ideology] became the cause, rather than the effect of life. (14—italics in the original; my bold emphasis added)

Before returning to some other proposed examples of the conduct of the “Lesser People,” we shall be helped by Shafarevich’s larger views about the process of history. At the beginning of his Section 4 on “The Lesser People,” he says, for instance:

The views [of Russia and history] examined in the previous sections [Number 2— “View of Russian History” and Number 3—“Plans for Russia” by the “cosmopolitan managers” and the “Western intellectual community”] merge into a single system. Moreover, they are based on a whole philosophy of history—a particular view of the nature of the historical process. It is a question of whether history is an organic process similar to the growth of a living organism or to biological evolution, or [rather] whether it is deliberately designed [and engineered] by people, like some sort of mechanism. In other words, the question is how society is to be viewed—as an organism or a mechanism, as living or dead. (12-13—my emphasis added)

Shafarevich resumes his understanding of how the “Lesser People” are formed:

The mechanism by which the “Lesser People” is formed is what at that time [of the French Revolution] was called “liberation from the dead weight” [of the past and tradition], from people who were to [be] subject to the laws of the “Old World”: people of honor, deeds and faith. To that end, “cleansings” (corresponding to the “purges” of our era) were continually being conducted in the societies. As a result, an increasingly pure “Lesser People” was created, a “Lesser People” which was moving toward “freedom” in the sense of increasing liberation from the concepts of the “Greater People”: from such superstitions as religious or monarchical sentiments, which can be understood only through the experience of spiritual communion with them. Cochin illustrate this with a fine example—the image of the “savage” that was so widespread in the literature of the Enlightenment….Usually this [“savage”] was a person who possessed all the material accouterments and formal knowledge represented by civilization but who had absolutely no understanding of the spirit that gave all of that life, and for that reason everything in life shocked him and seemed stupid and illogical. In Cochin’s view, this image was not an invention but was taken from life, except that these “savages” were found not in the forests of Ohio but in the philosophical academies and Masonic lodges: this was the image of the sort of person they wanted to create, a paradoxical creature for whom the environment in which he lived was a void, just as for others it constituted the real world. He [the “savage”] saw everything and understood nothing, and abilities among these “savages” were measured precisely by the depth of their incomprehension….But that had an obverse side: he could no longer live apart from the “Lesser People”; in the world of the “Greater People” he suffocated like a fish out of water. In this way, the “Greater People” became a threat to the existence of the “Lesser People,” and the struggle between them began….That struggle, in Cochin’s opinion, occupied the years preceding the French Revolution and the revolutionary period. The years of the Revolution (1789-1794) were five years of the “Lesser People’s” power over the “Greater People.”(14-15—my emphasis added)

It has now become even desirable, if not also necessary, to consider Shafarevich’s own honest inferences from Augustin Cochin’s careful and well-disciplined analysis, which also touches upon religious matters and ecclesiastical history, as well:

We are encountering [with Cochin in Section 4] a world view remarkably similar to the one [in Sections 2 and 3 concerning Russia] that has been the subject of our analysis in this work [on Russophobia]. This includes the view of one’s own history as complete savagery, coarseness and failure—all those “Henriades” [like Voltaire’s own 1723 epic poem, La Henriade in honor of Henry IV of France] and [his satirical epic sequel] “Maids of Orleans” [recalling Joan of Arc]. And the desire to break all the ties, even external ones, that linked one with historical tradition [as with the case of the traditional Catholic Church]: the renaming of cities [and saints’ feasts], the change in the calendar. And the conviction that everything rational had to be borrowed from without [like “liberation theology”]—at that time [the 18th century] from England [after its own earlier English 16-17th century reformation and revolution]; this conviction suffuses, for example, Voltaire’s “Philosophical Letters” (sometimes called “Letters from England”). And, in particular, the copying of a foreign political system—English parliamentary government.

I think that this remarkable concept [of a dynamic minority of the “Lesser People”] is not only applicable to the age of the French Revolution but sheds light on a much wider range of historical phenomena. Evidently, at every critical turning point in a people’s life there emerges the same sort of “Lesser People” whose essential beliefs are OPPOSITE to the world view of the rest of the people. For whom [i.e., for such an estranged “Lesser People”] everything that has organically grown up over the course of centuries, all the roots of the nation’s spiritual life—its religion, its traditional state system, its moral principles and its way of life—are all hostile and seem to be ridiculous and dirty superstitions that need to be relentlessly eradicated. Being totally cut off from any spiritual connection with the people [with the “Greater People”], the “Lesser People” regards it as material and regards its processing as a purely TECHNICAL problem, so its solution is not restricted by any moral norms, compassion or pity. This world view, as Cochin notes, is vividly expressed in the fundamental symbol of the Masonic [i.e., a Judeo-Masonic] movement, which played such a role in paving the way for the French Revolution—in the image of the construction of the Temple in which individual people appear in the role as stones that are mechanically laid side by side according to the “architects’” blueprints.

[On pages 15-17] We shall now cite several [three] examples [(1.)“CALVINISM” in the form of the Huguenots’ movement in France and the Puritans’ movement in England”; (2.) “the 1830s and 1840s in Germany”; and (3.) “Russia in the second half of the 19th century”] in order to support our guess that we really are dealing here with a universal historical phenomenon. (15—my emphasis added; the full capitalizations of “OPPOSITE” and “TECHNICAL” are in the original text.)

Amidst all of Shafarevich’s research and his open discussions of various “Nationalisms”—and of “Nationality Issues” more generally, especially in the Soviet Union—he also, though only to a limited extant, faces the more contentious matter of the intellectual and spiritual energy and special coherence of “Jewish Nationalism,” both in Russia and abroad or in exile (as in the émigré communities in Paris or elsewhere in the West). And he thus even mentions for our further examination even the matter of “religious Zionism” in Russia, and Jewry’s place within the often uprooted and dissident Russian Intelligentsia and, hence, the “Lesser People” in Russia or abroad.

Because Igor Shafarevich deeply loves his suffering homeland of Russia, he decided to conclude his 38-page monograph on Russophobia—the fear and hatred of Russia and of things Russian—in an unexpected and deeply touching manner:

Starting with the post-reform years of the 1860s in Russia, the word “revolution” was on everybody’s lips. This was a clear sign of an impending crisis. And as another sign of it, the “Lesser People” started to be formed with all its characteristic features. A new type of person was created…. It must be admitted that the crisis in our history took place at an absolutely unique moment. If at the moment that it broke out Jews had been living the sort of isolated way of life that they had, for example, in France during the French Revolution, [then] they would not have exerted a significant influence on its course….But we were scarcely given a single year; the influx of Jews into the terrorist movement coincided almost precisely with the “emancipation,” with the breakup of Jewish communities, and with their emergence from isolation…..The coincidence of the two crises had a decisive influence on the nature of that era. Here is how it was seen by a Jewish observer (from that, the aforementioned book, “Russia and the Jews”):

“And of course, it was no accident that Jews, who are so inclined to rationalistic thinking, who for the most part were not connected by any traditions with their surrounding world, and who often saw in those traditions trash that was not only useless but even harmful for the development of humanity, found themselves in in such proximity to those revolutionary ideas.”

And as a predictable result:

“We [Jews] were struck by what we expected least of all to encounter in the Jewish milieu: cruelty, sadism and acts of violence that were seemingly alien to a people that was remote from a physically militant life; people who only yesterday had not known how to use a gun found themselves today among the directors of the cutthroats.”

This remarkable book [Russia and the Jews] ends with the words: “One of two things [is there now for the Jews to decide]: either foreigners without political rights [“metics,” resident aliens], or Russian citizenship based on love for the homeland. There is no third possibility.”

But a school has turned up that has chosen precisely a third path, which from the author’s viewpoint [from Shafarevich’s viewpoint] is “impossible.” Not only dislike for the homeland, but complete alienation and active hostility toward its spiritual foundations: not only the repudiation of political rights, but the concentration of all one’s will and efforts to influence the country’s life. Such a combination has proven strikingly effective; it has created a “Lesser People” that in its effectiveness has surpassed all other versions of that phenomenon that have appeared in History [i.e., to include the French Revolution].” (36-37—my emphasis added)

What a noble and fine way to defend his homeland, and with such an admirably differentiated intelligence and loyal heart. “The arguments set forth above lead to the following conclusion: the literary school that is being examined in this work is the manifestation of the ideology of the ‘Lesser People’ and a reflection of its war against the ‘Greater People.’”20—italics in original; my bold emphasis added)

What a way, also, to help us thereby to defend our own homeland and gratefully cherish its own true spiritual foundations.

We honor the fair way that Igor Shafarevich (d. 19 February 2017) has faced his difficult mission of establishing well-proportioned historical truth concerning some still-controversial matters of moment to man.

Would that I could so justly apply Shafarevich’s own criteria and standards of judgment so that I might faithfully and generously defend, sub gratia, the Catholic Faith and the Catholic Church today. The “Lesser People” are actively present and subversive there, too— both within as well as without the Church.

–Finis–

© 2019 Robert D. Hickson

Picture: Augustin Cochin

1This English translation and densely formatted 38-page text of Russophobia has been made and presented by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (F.B.I.S.), which is a part of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the U.S. Government. This longer text is specifically published by the FBIS’s Joint Publication Research in its issue of 22 March 1990: JPRS-UPA-90-015: JPRS Report—Soviet Union—Political Affairs. Russophobia is categorized by them as being pertinent to “Nationality Issues.” See here a link to the full text: https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a335121.pdf. The JPRS introductory note says: “Shafarevich Decries ‘Russophobia,’ Jewish Nationalism,” and their English version is to be found on pages 2-39 of the report. All future references to Russophobia will be placed above in parentheses in the main body of this essay. (Shafarevich’s Monograph was first published in Moscow in NASH SOVREMENNIK in Russian and in two parts: both in June of 1989 (No. 6) and in November of 1989 (No. 11), on pages 167-192 and pages 162-172, respectively. A note from the Russian Editors says: “The article is published in abbreviated form. In order to save space, its scholarly apparatus has also been reduced. However, let us inform readers that all the quotations were checked by the author against their original sources.” (26))

Learning from the Early English Reformation 1531-1606

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                               6 August 2019

The Transfiguration

Epigraphs

“From these few representative instances [of “the propaganda of falsehood”], Catholics may perhaps better appreciate the very great handicap from which Protestants suffer when they come to consider the story of the Reformation in England. The surprise is not that so few come to the facts of it but that so many have had the pertinacity to unearth the truth, embedded under centuries-hard layers of propaganda, and, in finding it, have found also the courage to admit they have been cozened.” (Hugh Ross Williamson, The Beginning of the English Reformation (1957), page 31—my emphasis added).

***

“That [14th and 15th century variegated heretical] dualism…, in one form or another, may be described as the heresy against which the Church has had to struggle from its foundation until today [1957]. The essence of dualism, however the emphasis varies, is a denial of the reality of the Incarnation. By asserting the inherent wickedness of ‘matter,’ of ‘the flesh,’ it continues to separate what Christ united….It denies the first premiss of Christianity—that God became Flesh….It has flourished as the eternal and subtle enemy of the central Christian truth, with which no compromise is possible.” (Hugh Ross Williamson, The Beginning of the English Reformation (1957), pages 32-33—italics in the original; my bold emphasis added).

***

The legend [about Catholics as “rebellious, treacherous hypocrites with alien sympathies”—quoting the Elizabethan Act of 1593] still persists [as of 1957], for in spite of its demonstrable and demonstrated falsity, it is to this day repeated, taught, and officially insisted on in non-Catholic schools and universities. And it will die only when sufficient numbers of people come to realize what, in cold fact, the Reformation in England was—the imposition of a foreign religion to justify an economic revolution, set in motion by the lust of a bad Catholic king [“a simple conflict between loyalty and lust—and loyalty lost” (42)] who made himself and his successors the Spiritual Heads of a new State Church [“an Erastian State” (46)].” (Hugh Ross Williamson, The Beginning of the English Reformation (1957), pages 104-105—my emphasis added).

***

After just receiving an initial invitation to an upcoming autumn conference in Europe concerning “The French Revolution, 230 Years Later—A Critical Review,” I could not but wonder what my limited abilities could contribute to such a two-day gathering.

Although my French is very weak and incomplete, I first thought of presenting a few things on the French historian Augustin Cochin (d. 1916) and his seminal insights about the French Revolution and the influential power of certain forms of conflicting oligarchies.

For, Cochin’s writings have been found very worthwhile by such varied and deeply reflective men as François Furet, Arnaud de Lassus, James Burnham, and Igor Shafarevich. Cochin even understood what Léon de Poncins has called “civil wars within the revolution” and hence amongst its conflicting and contending oligarchs: concurrently engaged in both the “fast path” and “the slow path” of the revolution.

However, a prominent French traditional Catholic scholar and author—my beloved mentor Arnaud de Lassus—freshly provides for us, I think, a more fitting and much more manageable consideration. For, he himself belatedly came to see the importance of the earlier sixteenth-and-seventeenth century English Revolution, and especially its religious and political influence upon the French Revolution. For example, he once memorably said to me modestly and quietly in his home—just after he had finished reading Hugh Ross Williamson’s short and lucid 1957 book, The Beginning of the English Reformation1—that he had regrettably never, until then, realized just how important the English Revolution was in history, even for the better understanding of the French Revolution. He therefore inspired me to re-read, at least twice, my own 1957 copy of H.R. Williamson’s book. Each time I read it, I was gratefully to learn more and more about true history, instead of the specious “propaganda of falsehood.”

If I could now do so, as well, I would send a copy of that book to all of the conference attendees so that they might attentively read this incisive and fair-minded English-language book, and accomplish the reading before the fall conference itself begins. The progressive analogies and proportions of Williamson’s text will be a helpful searchlight to grasp the roots and purposes of the policies and methods and permanent targets of the incipient and maturing French Revolution. Williamson’s book would become for us a more convincingly formative and understandable work of research, one that is timely as well as timeless.

By considering the concrete life span of a seventy-five-year old man (1531-1606) with all of its tumultuous (and tragic) changes, Williamson again and again helps us to see and feel the scale and proportion of the losses to the Catholic faithful in England. His vivid supporting evidence and stories even frequently shake the heart. We again wonder about the mysteries of the Permissive Will of God Triune and Incarnate.

Given his fairness and integrity, Williamson (himself a Catholic) presents the weaknesses and corresponding vulnerability of the Tudor Catholics. For example, he says early in the book:

Thus, in England, the Protestant triumph was made possible by the failure of Tudor Catholics to fulfil their faith. Three sentences will serve as [an] epitome. Saint John Fisher said to his fellow bishops: “The fort is betrayed even of them which should have defended it.” Saint Thomas More described the English priests as “a weak clergy lacking grace constantly to stand to their learning.” And for the [Catholic] laity the Duke of Bedford may be spokesman when he [sacrilegiously] refused to return the plundered property of the Church but threw his Rosary into the fire saying that, much as he loved it, he loved his “sweet Abbey of Woburn” more.

The Reformation in England was made possible by the existence of fear, weakness and self-seeking in the very places, where, above all, one might have expected courage, strength and loyalty. No estimate of it which denies or minimizes this can pretend to accuracy. (6—my emphasis added)

From another perspective, Williamson also shows us a later passage about the reaction and public witness of the Tudor Catholics, in general:

So the prologue [to the deeper revolution] ended. The breach with Rome was effected….The lack of effective opposition to it—as was mentioned at the beginning of this essay—was due to the cowardice, self-interest and blindness of the Catholic hierarchy, clergy, and laity, in whose defense it can only be said that the issues, as presented to them, were technical rather than religious. “Religion,” in the sense in which the term is popularly used, was not in question, though, with [the artful heretic and prose master Thomas] Cranmer in command, the new Continental doctrines were soon to be brought in to buttress the new English Church the king [Henry VIII] had created and to justify the revolution now about to begin. (46-47—my emphasis added)

At this point it will be helpful to consider that, “doctrinally speaking” (37), there were “two distinct streams of heresy” (37), namely:

The older [stream], associated with the “Anabaptists,” attacked the central Christian doctrine of the Incarnation (the Unitarians and the Quakers are the most logical of the “Anabaptists” of today) and was abhorrent equally to Catholicism and to “orthodox” Protestantism. The second [stream of heresy], embodying “advanced” Continental speculations, professed to keep the main Christian doctrines, but so interpreted them as to destroy their true meaning, and specifically denied beliefs, such as the invocation of saints and the existence of purgatory, which resulted in practices of piety and charity inconvenient to secular policy [and power!]. But the crucial issue of the Reformation in England was something apart from these. From the beginning it was and to this day for Anglicans [in 1957] it has remained the [Erastian] State’s jurisdiction over the Church in spiritual mattersthe substitution of the monarch for the Pope. (37—my emphasis added).

However, it had once been known and accepted in pre-Reformation England that “no temporal act can make a temporal man have spiritual jurisdiction.” (12) (We face such disputed matters today, as well, also the permanent difficulty about mixed and overlapping jurisdictions—“the Mixta.”)

Moreover, traditionally and abidingly it has been so that we give “a central position in the Christian faith to what is sometimes known as the Great Prayer of the Church, though more usually referred to as the Canon of the Mass.” (19—my emphasis added)

Williamson also shows us that the “The Great Pillage [of the Church institutions and property] …continued methodically and ruthlessly [the looting and plundering] from the winter of 1537 to the spring of 1540.” (55) Earlier, in 1535, the loyal uprising of the Pilgrimage of Grace took place, but it was met with destructive force, as foreign mercenaries were also later again to be regularly employed, as happened in 1549 against those who resisted the sudden infliction of Thomas Cranmer’s doctrinally skewed new Prayer Book, which was widely imposed on 9 June 1549—on Whitsunday:

The royal forces, five thousand strong, with a core of fifteen hundred mercenaries, veteran Italian infantry and German cavalry, finally defeated them [the uprisen peasants and others] outside of Exeter. “The killing was indiscriminate; 4000 were shot down or ridden down or hanged before the men of Devon would accept, without enthusiasm, the exquisite prose of Cranmer.” (69—my emphasis added) (These latter-quoted and slightly ironic, understated words were those of Hilaire Belloc himself, who also wrote an honorably fair-minded, lengthy book on Cranmer.)

During the brief reign (beginning in July of 1553) of Queen Mary Tudor (d. November of 1558), a well organized and financed migration to Continental Europe started in mid-1553:

The movement was financed by Protestant bankers and merchants, of whom forty eventually took part in the exodus, while in London, as early as the December of 1553, there was a directing committee of twenty-six persons of wealth and influence known as “Sustainers.” In charge of the [strategic] scheme abroad was [William] Cecil’s brother-in-law [and many others besides, including Protestant bishops!]. (78)

In so many ways—which we do not have space and faculties to consider now—the faithful Catholic Queen Regnant, Mary Tudor, was a truly tragic figure, even in her choice of close advisors when she was often so isolated herself. Williamson forcefully confirms that point when “the situation was beyond retrieving” (84), as he saw it:

The varied human vileness” is not too strong a description of Mary’s councillors. Several of them had been the very men who, in her father’s [Henry VIII’s] day, had trimmed their sails to his policies; of the laymen, nearly all had made fortunes out of the dissolution of the monasteries; even Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor, the best and most honest of them, had been an opponent of More and Fisher and had publicly upheld the supremacy of the State over the Church. (84—my emphasis added)

CODA

After the death of Mary Tudor, Queen Elizabeth I’s reign then began, when she was only twenty-five, and she was to reign for forty-five years (1558-1603). She had a continuity of policy and of competent advisors (such as William Cecil and his son Robert) and she had much help from them in order to safeguard her own rule into the early seventeenth century.

If we were to have the sufficient qualities to do so, we should next promptly take a closer look at the continuation of the English Reformation into the ongoing Revolution throughout the entire seventeenth century, at least up to the effective deposition of the last Catholic (and Stuart ) King, James II, as part of the purported “Glorious Revolution.”

In this troubled seventeenth century we would certainly find even more influences upon what would become the secular-naturalistic Enlightenment and the acts of the French Revolution. We would thereby learn much more about overt and veiled oligarchies and the often unaccountable, but well organized, “money power.” As Arnaud de Lassus taught me, there were even keen conflicts in France between the financiers of the Girondins and the financiers of the Jacobins—an instance and example of those “civil wars within the Revolution.” Here, too, I have so much more to learn.

As we come to the end of our current reflections—and as we make a few further recommendations—we shall again recall the framework of seventy-five years (1531-1603) which Hugh Ross Williamson “took as defining the period of the Reformation—from the first guarded Oath of Supremacy in 1531 to the [quite specifically anti-Catholic] penal legislation imposing a sacramental test in 1606.” (95) This period ended three years after Elizabeth I’s grim, fearsome, and still haunting death.

But the English Revolution itself was to continue into, and throughout, the seventeenth century and afterwards. Scholars of the French Revolution will still find that further studies of the English Reformation and the complementary, ongoing English Revolution will provide a proportionate enhancement of our larger historical and theological understanding. (Montesquieu and Voltaire themselves seem likely and largely to have learned much from their English studies, experiences and time in England, although I do not yet know their specific personal and intellectual associations while receptively accepting British hospitality.)

Our own further research should certainly include our attentive reading of the French historian, Augustin Cochin, who as a young man was killed on the battlefield in World War I, in 1916. His writings, many of them posthumously published, show his deep and strategic understanding of small and well-organized philosophic groups (or societies). This matter constitutes part of his larger understanding of both open and concealed oligarchies, especially those who help to subvert the Catholic Faith and the traditional Catholic Church, especially the sacrificing, sacramental priesthood.

–Finis–

© 2019 Robert D. Hickson

1Hugh Ross Williamson, The Beginning of the English Reformation (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1957). This very small book contains 103 pages of text, and then 7 pages of endnotes-references. The main contents are presented in three major sections: Introduction; The Course of the Revolution; and Epilogue: The Half-Century of Settlement. The Introduction (pp. 3-47) is subdivided, as follows: What It [The Reformation] Was; Why It is Misunderstood; The Existence of Heresy; and The Crucial Issue. Further page references to this book will be placed in parentheses above in the main body of this essay.

Applying Democratic Centralism to the Catholic Church Currently

(A note from the author: This essay was originally written in 2015 and later published in April of 2016. However, it has seemed to us worthwhile to re-introduce this brief essay in light of the recent developments concerning the Catholic Church from late 2015 up until May of 2019.)

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                        10 October 2015

St. Francis Borgia, S.J.

Epigraphs

“Modern democracy depends upon a hidden oligarchy [“oligarchie cachée” or perhaps, in the plural, “oligarchies cachées”?], which is contrary to its principles but indispensable to its functioning.” (François Furet, Penser la Révolution française (1978).

***

“That is to say, modern democracy is built upon—and depends upon—a deception.” (Arnaud de Lassus)

***

“You stopped to call on King Herod. Deadly exchange of compliments [perhaps opportunistic blandishments] in which there began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent.” [e.g., the incited and manipulated “ochlos” so soon to be cheering for Barabbas!] (Evelyn Waugh, Helena (1950)—emphasis added)

Josef Pieper once memorably said to me in a conversation in the library of his home: “You find the most precious truths in unlikely places.” (And he often manifested the implications of that insight, in his attentive receptivity and buoyant expectancy. In his early 90s, he even once said to a group of students and professors in Germany: “May I tell you a love-story?” And he suddenly returned to a gracious nun he had known many years earlier, when he had traveled to Iceland as a young adolescent with two of his friends.)

Such a precious and abiding discovery of truth also came to me suddenly in France in the late 1980s–in the home of another beloved mentor, Arnaud de Lassus. Through my mentor’s generosity, he took a book in French and pointed me to one sentence. It was a sentence from François Furet’s book on the French Revolution, Penser la Révolution française (1978), specifically to be found in his concluding chapter on Augustin Cochin (1876-1916), the admired young Catholic historian who died at the battle of the Somme in World War I. (As a young historical scholar Augustin Cochin had also already written much on the French Revolution and especially on Les Sociétés de Pensée et La Démocratie Moderne, an analysis of influential and well-organized, revolutionary oligarchies which was highly esteemed by Furet, who was himself then (in 1988) a well known leftist-leaning intellectual historian, surprisingly.)

François Furet’s own lapidary sentence candidly said the following: “Modern democracy is dependent upon a hidden oligarchy which is contrary to its principles but indispensable to its functioning.”

As I stood there reflecting on that incisive insight, my beloved mentor, Arnaud de Lassus, then said with his characteristic modesty: “I consider that sentence almost perfect. But, I would place ‘hidden oligarchy’ [‘oligarchie cachée‘] in the plural, ‘oligarchies cachées‘. For, there are also civil wars within—and among—the revolutionary elites themselves and their own leavens—as Léon de Poncins so well understood.” And then Arnaud de Lassus added his own lucid inference from the perspicacious words of Furet’s own insight: “Modern democracy is built uponand depends upon—a deception.” That is where we must start! Thus begins the breaking of trust, for the greatest social effect of the lie is that it breaks trust. And we soon discover the rancid fruits of such perfidy and intimately broken trust.

To what extent do we see this deception in the procedures and the consequential breaking of trust now also spreading in and throughout the Neo-Modernist Occupied, updated Catholic Church, especially in the form of a Specious “Democratic Centralism”?

We might now learn a little more to help us illuminate reality, if we better come to understand “The Concept and Reality of Democratic Centralism”—in light of the three Soviet Constitutions and even the 1982 Chinese Communist Constitution, but especially as that Principle and Doctrine might be (or is being) effectively applied today by an apostle of Antonio Gramsci and his grasp of how to achieve a Cultural Hegemony, also through Liberation Theology.1 (In all of this brief presentation, however, I propose to be—and please allow me to be–suggestive, not comprehensive, much less conclusive.)

Our reflections now should also be guided and prudently disciplined by another profound insight from Arnaud de Lassus, an insight which is also a formidable challenge to us: “How does one resist the corruptions of authority without thereby subverting the principle of authority?” And, he added, “especially in the Catholic Church.”

One test case of the reality of this challenge is the currently applied equivocal methods of the October 2015 Synod on the Family in Rome. I speak especially of the procedures directed and applied by Cardinal Lorenzo Baldissieri—the Secretary General of the Synod—with the acknowledged prior approval of the Pope.

“Baldissieri’s Papally-Approved Principles and Ambiguously Applied Methods” certainly remind me of the manipulative changes and equivocations in Praxis of the important and recurrent Concept: the Soviet-and-Chinese Communist Concept and Reality of “Democratic Centralism,” as specifically defined in the texts of all three Soviet Communist Constitutions (1924, 1936, and 1977); and also still in the later, “post-Mao” 4 December 1982 Chinese Communist “Constitution of the People’s Republic [sic] of China (Chapter I, Article 3). The three Soviet Constitutions are sometimes sequentially called by shorthand: “the Lenin Constitution” (1924), “the Stalin Constitution” (1936), and “the Brezhnev Constitution” (1977).

Moreover, fair-minded scholars still discuss “the balance” or “changing proportions” of the composite elements of “Democracy” and of “Centralization” in the “dialectically evolving” meaning and application of “Democratic Centralism” as a concept and as an exquisitely fitting “organizational method” to allow—purportedly—“freedom of discussion” and “sternly disciplined unity of action.”

With this specious organizational method, one can have the appearance of a “participatory” democratic procedure while, in reality, the whole process is organized and steered by a small group of people. It is as if one would say about the desired outcome “these are the conclusions on which I base my facts—and thus the factoids I shall now rearrange to fit my artifice.” A recent example of this tendency might help us to grasp these maneuvers—even some subtle and indirect Gramscian maneuvers—more adequately.

In his candid report from Rome on 12 October 2015, entitled “Thirteen Cardinals Have Written to the Pope: Here Is the Letter,” Sandro Magister has revealed some important facts and maneuvers concerning the ongoing Synod of Bishops on the Family. A portion of this report is pertinent to our own suspicious consideration of “Democracy,” as such, wherever we hear the word; and also to the evidence confirming an entirely expected Centralized Oligarchic Manipulation of the putatively “Open Synodal Process.” For example, as Sandro Magister says:

On the afternoon of the same Monday, October 5, during the first discussion in the [plenary synodal] assembly, Cardinal Pell [from Australia] and other synod fathers referred to some of the questions presented in the letter [to the pope, personally and privately by more than ten cardinals]. Pope Francis was there and listening. And the next morning, on Tuesday, October 6, he spoke. The text of these unscheduled remarks has not been made public, but only summarized verbally by Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J. and in writing by L’ Osservatore Romano….To this account from L’ Osservatore Romano, Fr. Lombardi added that “the decisions of method were also shared and approved by the pope, and therefore cannot be brought back into discussion.” [Franciscus Locutus, Causa Finita?] From this it can be gathered that Francis has rejected the [Cardinals’] letter en bloc, apart from the marginal recommendation not to reduce the discussion only to “communion for the divorced.” And he has not rejected them [the requests of the Cardinals] without a polemical jab, as afterward made known—in a tweet that has not been disowned—by the director [editor] of La Civiltà Cattolica, [Fr.] Antonio Spadaro, S.J., also present [with the pope] in the hall, according to whom the pope told the [synod] fathers “not to give in to the conspiracy hermeneutic, which is socially weak and spiritually unhelpful.” All this at the beginning of the synod….On Friday, October 9, Cardinal Luis G. Tagle, archbishop of Manilla and president delegate of the synod, said out of the blue that, with regard to the final relation [the official Relatio Finalis], “we await the decision of the pope.” And the next day, Father Lombardi, S.J. clarified that “we do not yet have certainty on how the conclusion of the synod will take place, meaning if there will or will not be a final document. We will see if the [capricious? centralizing? arbitrary?] pope gives precise [sic] indications [commands?].” Incredible but true. With the synod in full swing, a question mark has suddenly been raised over the very existence of that “Relatio finalis” which figured in the programs [procedures, methods] as the goal towards which all the work of the synod was finalized….“Catholic doctrine on marriage has not been touched,” Pope Francis pledged [sic] in referring to the entire conduct of the synod from 2014 to today [now in mid-October 2015], in response to the “concerns” of the thirteen cardinals of the letter [the official personal, private letter to the reigning pontiff]. But Cardinal Tagle, a prominent representative of the innovators, also said at the press conference on October 9, with visible satisfaction: “The new method adopted by the synod has definitely caused a bit [sic] of confusion, but it is good to be confused once in a while. If things are always clear, then we might not be in real life anymore.” (My bold emphasis added to the translated text posted on 12 October 2015 on www.chiesa.espressonline.it.)

Does not this entire set of Magister’s selected reports and modest insights also suggest the presence and permeation of manipulative Democratic Centralism? At least we should now be convinced that the Directorate of the Synod is “not playing with a full deck.” This kind of “praxis” must not be considered an honorable Pastoral Method, much less an Example of the genuine Mercy.

Finis–

© 2015 Robert Hickson

1See Humberto Belli, Nicaragua: Christians Under Fire (1984) about the hidden underground influence of Gramsci and the use of “symbolic subversion” learned by the Sandinistas from the Cubans to undermine Pope John Paul’s March 1983 visit to Nicaragua.