Monday, 24 February 2014


It's a real joke knowing a lot of history. Everything that happens seems like a massively bad pun on something else that happened years ago, and, when that happens, you can't help groaning as you laugh – or vice versa.

Take the situation in Russia. There, in recent years, we have witnessed encouraging signs of traditionalist revival, such as the rise of the Russian Orthodox Church and the assertion of traditionalist values. This has included a clamp down on the rainbow-coloured tsunami of homosexualism that has defiled our planet in recent years, and a rise in family values that has seen the birth rate rise to a level that might one day make Russia less dependent on the hordes of non-White immigrants who have flooded into the country. To top it all the Russians have even brought back the Cossacks with whips to refight the 'Battle of Balaclava'! If this keeps going, it may be only a matter of time before the Tsar is brought back.

But is Russia keen to push this traditionalist vision to the world? A look at Russia Today's American accented mimicry of 'slick' Western media would suggest otherwise. In its foreign dealings, too, Russia tacitly supports modernity and the liberal materialist assumptions of the West, especially when it does business with the West, even though there are other countries – Japan and the Gulf States – who don't feel the need to be quite as accommodating here.

It's hard not to see this limiting of the ideology of traditionalism as a quaint reprise of the old Stalinist idea of "Socialism in One Country."

Back in the heady days of the 1920s – when the world was just getting used to electricity, automobiles, psychoanalysis, women voting, and the disappearance of most of the World’s crowned heads – Russia, awash with revolution, was poised on the dilemma of whether to spread socialist revolution abroad (the position taken by Trotsky) or not (Stalin's more cagey strategy). Stalin was all for consolidation at home and not provoking the capitalist powers abroad by stirring up revolution amongst their workers.

After a few twists and turns, and the dexterous application of an ice pick or two, this dispute was firmly resolved in Stalin's favour, even to the extent of Communists overseas being ordered to curtail excessive outbreaks of revolutionary fervour in places like Spain, where they helped put down the real left-wing radicals, as recorded by George Orwell and Arthur Koestler.

Elsewhere, the order was to lie quiescent in the face of a right-wing takeover, because getting down-and-dirty with the Nazis would have sent out "the wrong message" or been considered outside the prescribed path of history. History, by the way, for those interested in how it works, is not housetrained and seldom takes the prescribed path. From his position in a socialist country that should never have had a socialist revolution according to the "Father of Socialism," Stalin should have been the first to recognize this.

In the same way that Soviet Russia decided to keep its socialism and revolution strictly for home consumption, so as to avoid bugging the neighbours, it now seems to be keeping its traditionalism at home for the same reason. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why it lost in the Ukraine.

The demonstrations against Viktor Yanukovych would have been nothing but a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing without the shock troops of the neo-fascist and ultranationalist groups that provided the muscle, discipline, courage, and cutting edge it needed to actually achieve revolutionary change.

It is telling that these normally despised groups had also been so alienated and kept at arm's length by Putin's Russia that they wholeheartedly embraced a move towards the EU, an organization that wouldn't normally give them the time of day. In many ways, these groups could have been natural allies for a more radically traditionalist Russian.

A Russia that had spent more time reaching out to groups like this with support and recognition of concordant interests would not have been embarrassed in the way in which it was when its chosen corrupt spiv was thrown out.

Comparing Putin's "traditionalism in one country" approach with Stalin's "socialism in one country” strategy may imply that Putin is doing the right thing, because Stalin is generally regarded as one of history’s winners. But what was that I was saying about history seldom taking the prescribed path?

In the case of Stalin, luck overplayed its part. Without an idiot like Hitler destroying what was left of European power and creating the vacuum into which the Soviet Union could grow to Superpower status, Stalin's Russia would just have ended up being a much larger version of North Korea.

Maybe Trotsky was actually right in suggesting World Revolution at a time when countries like Germany, Italy, and even parts of the UK were ripe for it. In the same way, the world we live in now, beset by all the evils of modernity, is not adverse to a bit of traditionalism. Perhaps Russia's best policy now is to support with its massive resources radical traditionalist and nationalist movements wherever they can be found, even in the heartlands of its enemies, rather than simply waiting for the tide of Western modernity to find its way up its rivers and dissolve it in its corrosive embrace.

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