Dr. Robert Hickson 10 August 2019
Saint Lawrence (d. 258)
“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.
© 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))