Untimely Observations

Dostoevsky on Modern Conservatism

On the advice of a friend, I have revised and updated a short 2009 essay on Fyodor Dostoevsky and modern conservatism. Translation is mine.

At first glance the U.S. Presidential Inauguration might seem another empty media spectacle. After all, the Commander-in-Chief is anointed by the infallible People, but he attains power ultimately to carry out the interests of globalist oligarchs. Yet the inauguration ceremony also serves as an affirmation of America’s true religion, liberalism. In his 2013 inaugural address, Barack Obama articulated quite clearly that “We, the People” shall lead humanity’s progress toward ever greater liberty and equality.

“Conservative” opposition to leftist political programs and figures, no matter its seeming intensity, is simply a matter of partisanship and policy choices. Republicans, constitutionalists and libertarians all share the same vision of the United States that Obama outlined:

We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names.  What makes us exceptional -- what makes us American -- is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’

Not a nation in any traditional sense, America is a social experiment, a self-willed construct proclaimed to embody the destiny of all mankind. The United States is a triumphant herald of modernity, and modernity is the spiritual impoverishment of being. Blood, faith and heritage are to be abolished by liberty, i.e. the vicissitudes of market forces. The fanciful notion of “unalienable rights” simultaneously disintegrates society while strengthening elite control. In his own second inaugural speech of 2005, Republican George W. Bush saw the drive toward global democracy as “a fire in the minds of men” lighting a path toward a New Order of the Ages.

The man who first spoke of this fire burning through civilization was none other than the brilliant 19th-century Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky in his work The Possessed. In typical fashion, Bush had warped Dostoevsky’s image, holding the noxious revolutionary flame aloft as a liberating force. Never would the man from St. Petersburg have supported this obvious contagion; the forces of subversion must be utterly routed at every level of national life.

Fyodor Dostoevsky has rightly been called a prophet of the modern age. With a depth of vision unrivalled, he saw that cultural, political, and economic disorder have their main source in a crisis of the spirit. Dostoevsky then foresaw how man’s rebellion against the Transcendent would progressively accelerate into full-blown anarchy. This idea became a central theme of The Possessed, his great counter-revolutionary novel. Within the book particular attention was drawn to the spiritual corruption of the ruling class, the so-called conservative elements of society.

Dostoevsky wrote about Russia, but he was also deeply sensitive to the West’s descent into secularism. By the 19th century “enlightened” European man had hurtled headlong into apostasy, abandoning Christ for the worship of self; his first act of regicide was the murder of God within his heart. Without sacral authority, power was said to derive from the perfect will of “We, The People,” guided by moneyed manipulators and their technocrats. Parties like the GOP and the Tories have done nothing to arrest the decline of our societies because they ultimately share the same radical, anti-traditional principles of the Left. For evidence, look no further than Britain’s rapid transformation into a crime-ridden, multicultural surveillance state, where the ruling Conservatives advance homosexual “marriage” as a matter of moral legitimacy.

The ideals of modernity, manifested in progress, equality, democracy, total individual autonomy, etc. form a counterfeit religion. So long as the self-proclaimed Right holds fast to any of these fantasies, opposition to liberalism is meaningless and purely cosmetic. Rhetorical nods to cultural consolidation, i.e. “family values,” are articulated within the corrosive framework of Enlightenment rights ideology, and only for the purpose of grabbing votes. Does anyone seriously contemplate that the Republican leadership will attempt anything meaningful against institutionalized infanticide? Lest we forget, over 50 million unborn children have been slaughtered in the United States since abortion was made legal by the Supreme Court in 1973. It is now a point of pride that American men and women fight for these storied liberties from the Hindu Kush to the Maghreb.

With the traditional West devastated and hierarchy inverted, there is precious little to conserve besides one’s faith and lineage, the necessities for survival and resurgence. But modern conservatives reject the divine-human and heartfelt essence of culture, thereby serving as the liberal order’s most ardent defenders. How easy it is to cheer the next war, demographic dissolution or crass popular amusements, all acts in the founding of a Garden of Earthly Delights, what Dostoevsky imagined as a glorified anthill. The conservative movement knows what’s really important: generous contributions from the financial and defense industries to maintain policies of corporate centralization and overseas empire.

The mainstream Right has led the West to systemic cultural collapse in full collusion with the slightly more radical Left. Dostoevsky's The Possessed reveals the spiritual and intellectual dimensions of this long process and the malevolent spirit behind it. A conversation between the story’s provincial governor, Von Lembke, and the nihilist revolutionary Peter Verkhovensky nicely encapsulates the mentality and path of conservatism in the modern era.

“We have responsibilities, and as a result we also serve the common cause as you do. We are only holding back what you loosen and what without us would scatter in various directions.

We’re not your enemies; hardly so. We’re saying to you: go forward, make progress, even shatter, that is, everything that is subject to alteration; but when needed, we will keep you within the necessary boundaries and save you from yourselves, because without us you would only send Russia into upheaval, depriving her of a proper appearance, and our duty is to look after proper appearances.

Understand that you and I are mutually necessary to each other. In England Tories and Whigs also need each other. Now then, we’re Tories, and you’re Whigs…”

“Well, however you like it,” murmured Peter Stepanovich. “Nevertheless you are paving the way for us and preparing our success.”

Strip away the concern for proper appearances, and it becomes clear that modern conservatism is the handmaiden of revolutionary nihilism.