The Enlightenment, the Soviet Union, and the Revival of an Enlightened Civilization
The Enlightenment and the issue of progress
By the term “Enlightenment,” we refer to a movement of intellectual change that penetrated Europe (and America) during the eighteenth century. It aimed essentially to emancipate human reason from the thraldom of prejudice and superstition (and especially from the feudal ethos and institutions) and to apply it to the cause of social and political reform. A common characteristic of the Enlightened thinkers was a belief in “progress.” According to the idea of progress, humanity has begun its history in ignorance, squalor, and fear, and, thereafter, it has risen slowly and continuously to ever-higher levels in the arts and sciences, in its command of environment, and knowledge generally. Thus, the French epistemologist Bachelard maintains that rationality is a continuous process of overcoming primary impulses, and, in particular, he argues as follows: “In point of fact I see no solid basis for a natural, direct, elemental rationality . . . Rationalist? That is what we are trying to become” (Gaston Bachelard, The New Scientific Spirit, translated by Arthur Goldhammer, Boston: Beacon Press, 1984, p. 171).
A scientifically rigorous study of the history of civilization, in general, and of the history of politics, in particular, allows one to identify and analyze progressive patterns of development of moral consciousness. As Michele Moody-Adams has pointed out, “moral progress in belief involves deepening our grasp of existing moral concepts, while moral progress in practices involves realizing deepened moral understandings in behavior or social institutions” (Michele M. Moody-Adams, “The Idea of Moral Progress,” Metaphilosophy, vol. 30, 1999, 168–85). Allen Buchanan’s and Russell Powell’s typology of moral progress is particularly helpful in order to identify and analyze progressive patterns of development of moral consciousness (Allen Buchanan and Russell Powell, The Evolution of Moral Progress: A Biocultural Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018): As regards moral concepts themselves, the understanding of the virtues, moral reasoning, and moral motivation, world history exhibits the following progressive patterns: (i) an increasing specification of morality, in the sense that moral rules tend to be increasingly differentiated from religion and law; (ii) an increasing internalization of morality, in the sense that, as Immanuel Kant has pointedly argued, moral consciousness evaluates actions not only on the basis of their consequences, but also on the basis of the agent’s motives; (iii) an increasing individualization of morality, in the sense that, in addition to group rights, individual rights are increasingly highlighted, esteemed, and protected, especially as people mature psycho-spiritually; (iv) an increasing expansion of morality, in the sense that human rights (namely, “rights we have simply because we exist as human beings—they are not granted by any state,” according to the United Nations’ basic definition of “human rights”) are increasingly highlighted, esteemed, and protected, especially as modernity is consolidated and develops. As regards the understanding of moral standing, moral statuses, and justice, world history exhibits the following progressive pattern: humanity’s increasing desire and efforts to create and impose new institutions in order to achieve higher levels of justice. The abolition of slavery and the development of international law on the basis of the International Bill of Human Rights are two characteristic cases in point. As regards the proper moralization of humanity and the understanding of the nature of morality, world history exhibits the following progressive pattern: several manifestations of inhuman and degrading treatment that were considered to be normal in previous societies (e.g., child abuse, torture, gender discrimination, various forms of political and spiritual despotism, etc.) are unacceptable to and morally condemned by the modern human being, and, even though, in the contemporary world, human rights abuses continue to take place, the authorities that are responsible for or involved in such types of immoral behavior try to find justifications for them, and they usually do not dare to commit human rights abuses in a blatant way.
However, the identification of the above progressive patterns of development of moral consciousness can only partially refute the arguments of moral skepticism. The history of humanity is characterized by both cases of moral progress and cases of moral setback. In fact, one can discern whole segments of historical space-time that are overwhelmed by morally negative and unacceptable situations, such as those caused by capitalist oligarchies during the “Long Depression” (1873–96) and the “Great Depression” (1929–39), the twentieth-century fascist/Nazi regimes, the twentieth-century regimes of bureaucratic socialism, etc. Therefore, neither the viewpoint that is focused on progressive patterns of development of moral consciousness nor the viewpoint that is focused on the instability of moral consciousness and on cases of moral setback can lead to a comprehensive and rigorous way of understanding the dynamics of moral consciousness.
In order to obtain a comprehensive and rigorous way of understanding the dynamics of moral consciousness, one must extricate oneself from both the intellectual shackles of moral progressivism (i.e., the viewpoint that is focused on progressive patterns of development of moral consciousness) and the intellectual shackles of moral skepticism (i.e., the viewpoint that is focused on the instability of moral consciousness and on cases of moral setback), and to search for those structural elements of moral consciousness that enable one to argue that moral consciousness is characterized by structural stability. By maintaining that one should inquire into the structural stability of the operation of moral consciousness, I mean that one should inquire into the qualitative features of moral consciousness that are recurrent. In particular, if we inquire into the contents of moral values, then we realize that, in different segments of historical space-time, different values were placed at the apex of the corresponding “moral pyramid.”
For instance, as regards the prevailing moral criterion, the study of the history of the European and the modern American civilizations implies the following: in early Antiquity, the prevailing moral criterion was bravery, and the corresponding anthropological ideal was a hero; in classical Antiquity, the prevailing moral criterion was education, and the corresponding anthropological ideal was a wise person or a philosopher; in late Antiquity, the prevailing moral criterion was sanctity (in the sense of psychical beauty); in the Middle Ages, the prevailing moral criterion was chivalry (with its integrated religious, moral, and social code); in the seventeenth-century French society, the prevailing moral criterion was honesty (paving the way for the conception of the modern nation-state as the social space in which “honesty” is manifested and becomes meaningful and, thus, underpinning nationalism and the French notion of the “human of the State” (“homme d’État”)); in the nineteenth-century British society, the prevailing moral criterion was social success, and the corresponding anthropological ideal was a person who complies with the Victorian model of social discipline and control (underpinning Great Britain’s capitalist system and imperial policy); in the nineteenth-century American society, the prevailing moral criterion was individual success, namely, success that originates from and is based on an individual’s own actions, thoughts, and will, and the corresponding anthropological ideal was a “self-made individual” (in particular, the phrase “self-made man” was coined on 2 February 1842 by Henry Clay Sr. in the United States Senate to describe individuals whose success was an entirely individual achievement, and, by the mid-1950s, “success” in the U.S.A. generally implied “business success,” underpinning the United States’ capitalist system and neo-imperial policy, ideologized in a systematic and radical way by the American economist Milton Friedman).
Additionally, nationalism has significantly contributed to the relativization of many people’s perceptions of morality and rationality. The age of nationalism in its most precise sense is usually dated from the eighteenth century, and it is intimately related to the American and the French revolutions. However, the European system of nation-states had already emerged from the European wars of religion, which began in the sixteenth century (after the Protestant Reformation). In particular, the aforementioned system was a system of sovereign princes whose cultural rivalries were kept in check by the principle “whosoever’s territory, his religion” (“cuius region eius religio”), and whose political rivalries were kept in check by a system that is known as the “balance of power.” The system of balance of power was weakened but not destroyed by the revolutions that broke out in the nineteenth century, and it was restored by the so-called Holy Alliance after the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815. However, nationalism and its states-system were internationalized in the aftermath of the First World War. The principles of national sovereignty and national self-determination have been systematically used and invoked by nationalists in order to counter classical ontology, and especially its quest for universal values and principles, as well as in order to equip national bourgeois elites and state bureaucracies with ultimate authority over moral questions and with powerful means for the conduct of psychological operations (for instance, the rhetoric about “patriotism” and “national security” has often served as a pretext for the violation of human rights and liberties by national governments and for the development of the industry of war).
Even though, in different segments of historical space-time, different values were placed at the apex of the corresponding “moral pyramid,” certain values, such as “veracity,” “uprightness,” “accountability,” “strength,” and “perseverance,” irrespective of the particular ways in which they are interpreted by different human communities, seem to have been exerting indisputable moral authority over humanity throughout its known history. In addition, if we inquire into the forms of moral values, and if we approach morality in a formalist way, then we realize that, in every segment of historical space-time, humanity makes a fundamental distinction between “good,” perceived as moral positivity, and “evil,” perceived as moral negativity. Therefore, by inquiring into the contents of moral values and into the forms through which moral values are manifested, we realize that moral consciousness has some recurrent qualitative features (meaning that it is characterized by structural stability).
It goes without saying that the social system exerts significant influence over moral consciousness, and the latter internalizes and reflects social values. But the social system does not create moral consciousness itself, and moral consciousness can always judge and change the established system of values, instead of passively complying with it. Hence, moral consciousness seems to be an innate attribute of the human being. In particular, through a combination of sentiments, volition, and reason, moral consciousness obtains a conception of the “good,” and it determines the conditions under which the “good” can be historically objectified and, thus, become historically meaningful.
For a rigorous and systematic study of the history of philosophy and the philosophy of history, one may read my book The Dialectic of Rational Dynamicity: Strategic Philosophy and Philosophy of History, which was published in 2021 by the R-Techno International Ltd, and it is available as a (downloadable) PDF on the following link of R-Techno’s website:
The political disease
An infectious disease has been spreading all over the world since the eighteenth century. It is due to the virus of autonomous capitalism, namely, a self-referential capitalist system, which, far from underpinning the freedom of humanity, is autonomous vis-à-vis society. In the Middle Ages, the first “townspeople,” the primordial “bourgeoisie,” consisted of people who revolted against the feudal system. They built their own walls, and they instituted capitalism as a substitute for feudalism, thus substituting serfdom with free labor, in order to ultimately safeguard the freedom of the human being. However, gradually, especially in the context of industrialization and colonization, the autonomy of capital replaced the autonomy of the “civic individual,” the “bourgeois.” Hence, the system of “autonomous capitalism” emerged.
In the context of autonomous capitalism, the capitalist system becomes a mechanism that obeys its own terms and logic, it leads to the autonomy of economics from the real human needs and expediencies, and, ultimately, the capitalist system is imagined to be an impersonal and ruthless mechanism that is responsible for the necessities that frustrate human beings. In religious terms, the autonomous capitalist system is the political-economic equivalent of the Jews’, the Calvinists’, and the American Evangelicals’ visions, or rather nightmares, of a judgmental metaphysical overlord, who is, in essence, the metaphysical “underwriter” of the established socio-political system (this is the reason why the statement “In God we trust” is imprinted on the U.S. dollar bill, and this is the reason why the Zionist establishment, which is “secular,” defines the State of Israel as an exclusively “Jewish state”: the former use their Jesus as the supreme underwriter of American capitalism, the latter use their Jehova as the supreme underwriter of Zionist capitalism, and, by combining their religious superstitions and idols, they have also created a “Judeo-Christian” capitalist alliance).
The emphasis that autonomous capitalism places on the assumption that each actor imitates the activities of other actors is the ontological cause of the intellectual and moral poverty that characterizes classical and neoclassical political economy. Within the framework of autonomous capitalism, the “system” operates as an autonomous and absolute authority, since it imposes its own will by defining the terms of economic development, and it subjugates all political and social procedures to its internal “logic.” Before anything else, the system of autonomous capitalism establishes the rules of “economic correctness,” namely, it determines the conditions under which the survival of the economic actors is possible, and the morality of the system of autonomous capitalism is nothing else but its internal logic. Moreover, autonomous capitalism has several mutations: some are nationalist, others internationalist, others moralistic, others hedonistic, others nihilistic, others rationalist, others postmodern, others conservative, others liberal, others militaristic, others pacifistic, etc.
Inextricably linked to the establishment and the development of autonomous capitalism are militarism, imperialism, financial fascism, and mafiocracy (i.e., rule by mafias).
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is the most important representative of the military-industrial complex. NATO was created on 4 April 1949 with the declared goal to operate as a defensive alliance of Western European countries plus Canada and the United States to protect themselves from encroachments by the Soviet Union. However, in essence, NATO has developed into a self-aggrandizing transnational bureaucracy, a marketing apparatus of Western, primarily, of U.S., war-profiteering oligopolies, and a “shadow super-government” that oversees its member-states’ ministries of foreign affairs and defense. For this reason, despite the fact that, since 1991, the Soviet empire no longer exists and Russia has been cooperating economically with Western European countries, supplying them with gas and oil, and several other commodities, NATO continues to exist and plays a very important international role as a tool of U.S. foreign policy of intervention around the world. As the Cold War ended, following judicial investigations into Italian terrorism, Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti was forced to confirm in August 1990 that a secret army, directly linked to terrorist organizations and the clandestine Masonic Lodge P2, existed in Italy and other countries across Western Europe that were part of NATO. This secret army―dubbed “Operation Gladio”―had been set up by the U.S. secret service Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6 or SIS) after the end of the Second World War in order to fight communism, and it was coordinated by the unorthodox warfare section of NATO. The renowned Swiss historian Daniele Ganser, founder and Director of the Swiss Institute for Peace and Energy Research (SIPER) in Basel, has systematically and rigorously investigated NATO’s secret armies, and he has arrived at the following conclusions: in each NATO member-state, “the military secret service operated the anti-Communist army within the state in close collaboration with the CIA or the MI6 unknown to parliaments and populations,” and, in each NATO member-state, “leading members of the executive, including Prime Ministers, Presidents, Interior Ministers, and Defense Ministers, were involved in the conspiracy, while the ‘Allied Clandestine Committee’ (ACC) . . . less conspicuously at times also called ‘Coordination and Planning Committee’ of NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), coordinated the networks on the international level” (Daniele Ganser, NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, Oxford: Frank Cass/Taylor and Francis Group, 2005, p. 1). Thus, during the Cold War, on the pretext of fighting communism, NATO created an armed system of “shadow governance,” in the context of which it managed secret armies, terrorist organizations, members of the organized crime, and secret societies, including special-purpose Masonic networks.
The German-Frankish-controlled European Integration project is a characteristic example of financial fascism. Several German historians have repeatedly published various Nazis’ documents containing plans for European integration. In 1972, in Berlin, Gerhart Hass and Wolfgang Schumann published a collection of documents under the title Anatomie der Aggression (The Anatomy of Aggression), revealing evidence of large-scale plans for the economic integration of Europe under the Nazi leadership in the interest of European financial elites. In particular, such plans were articulated in the Reich Ministry of Economics, the Reich Industrial Group, and the Reich Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The very term “European Economic Community” was used for the first time and delineated in Nazi documents for plans to integrate the economic space of European countries under the Nazi regime. The leading theorist on this matter was Werner Deitz, the head of the Society for European Economic Planning and Great Space Economics. In particular, Nazi economic theorists planned to establish a uniform planning and management system for the European economy which would steadily lead to the subjugation of nation-states to a transnational bureaucratic economic elite. Furthermore, the economic departments of the Reich understood European integration as a process in which all the other nations of Europe were to promote the development of the German economy. It is no coincidence that the first President of the European Commission, namely, of the unelected executive bureaucracy of the European Union, was a Nazi scholar, namely, Dr. Walter Hallstein, who held this post from 1958 to 1967. On 23 January 1939, in the “Mahn & Ohlerich” Cellar, one of the largest convention sites in Rostock, Germany, Hallstein gave a speech in which he defended and described the German occupation of Austria and of large parts of what used to be known as Czechoslovakia as “the creation of the Greater German Reich” and the “legal Germanization of the new territories.” Additionally, Hallstein argued that one of the most important laws to be introduced into the annexed countries was the “Law for the Protection of the German Blood and the German Honor,” which became effective on 15 September 1935. In 1941, Hallstein became Dean of the Faculty of Law and Economics at the University of Frankfurt, Germany. Moreover, on 17 April 1957, Dr. Carl Friedrich Ophüls, who was an active Nazi Party member from 1933 to 1945 (that is, during the entire Nazi reign), became a key “founding father” of Europe’s Highest Court of Justice.
The EMU (European Monetary Union) system, which was established by the Maastricht Treaty (1992), is not only an instrument through which Germany pursues its domination over the Eurozone, but also a system that serves the interests of a business and especially banking elite, and often operates as the economic apparatus of NATO. In particular, it is a totemic society whose “totem” is the economic system that was established by the Maastricht Treaty, whose “priesthood” is the European Central Bank, and whose “Holy Inquisition” is an army of technocrats and bureaucrats who are always willing to rationalize and impose a pan-European conformism to the papal-like “Bulls” of the Eurozone’s business and banking elite. Furthermore, Jean-Jacques Rosa, who served as an economic adviser to the French Prime Minister during 1997-1999 and is the founder of the MBA program and two doctoral programs at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, has explained in the detail the manner in which “European politicians and businessmen decided to circumvent democratic consent in order to lock their societies into a single European super-state” (Jean-Jacques Rosa, Euro Exit: Why (and How) to Get Rid of the Monetary Union, New York: Algora Publishing, 2012).
Finally, it is important to mention that, as the French Professor of Legal History and literary critic Jacques de Saint Victor has argued, mafia (specifically, the European and American transnational system of organized crime) was born in the “décombres” (ruins) of the feudal regime, and it was developed further as a consequence of the advent of bourgeois democracy and capitalism from the nineteenth century onwards (Jacques de Saint Victor, Un Pouvoir Invisible: Les mafias et la société démocratique, XIXe–XXIe siècles, Paris: Gallimard, 2012). In fact, the essence of modern mafia is the result of the merger between a rotten nobility and a criminal bourgeoisie, and various secret/“esoteric” societies and private exclusive membership clubs operate as front organizations for the mafia (op. cit.). In this context, noble families and senior members of the Vatican elite have direct ties to the global organized crime (the publicly revealed and officially investigated corruption of the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican Bank, is a characteristic case in point; see, for instance: Paul L. Williams, Operation Gladio: The Unholy Alliance between the Vatican, the CIA, and the Mafia, New York: Prometheus Books, 2015).
From feudalism to capitalism and beyond
Feudalism, the dominant system in medieval Europe, was a system characterized by a rigid social stratification, according to which everyone had a rigidly instituted position within an “organic whole,” whose major constituent components were the class of the feudal lords, the class of the serfs, and the church, whose major social role was to maintain a balance between the feudal lords and the serfs through religion. By the late Middle Ages, the bourgeois class (namely, a social class of professionals who were neither feudal lords nor serfs) deprecated the political, economic, and spiritual despotism of the feudal system, it revolted against feudalism, and it proclaimed that the social position of an individual should not be determined by feudal institutions, but it should be freely determined by individual action and by the interaction between individuals in the context of a free and fair society. One of the most characteristic examples of a bourgeois revolution in the modern era is the French Revolution of 1789, whose major motto was “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” However, the elite of the bourgeois class conceived capitalism as the embodiment of human freedom in the domain of economics, and, for this reason, after the displacement of feudalism by capitalism, the liberty and the rights of the human individual were gradually largely displaced by and subordinated to the liberty and the rights of the capital itself and the capitalist elite.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the European peoples realized that capitalism had displaced feudalism, but, instead of ushering in liberty, equality, and fraternity among the people, capitalism tends to replace the authoritarian and exploitative relationship between the feudal lords and the serfs with a new authoritarian and exploitative relationship, namely, that between the capitalist class and the proletariat (working-class). Therefore, socialism emerged as a criticism of and a revolt against capitalism, just as the bourgeois ideology had previously emerged as a criticism of and a revolt against feudalism. In fact, the term “socialism” first appeared in 1832 in Le Globe, a liberal French newspaper of the French philosopher and political economist Pierre Leroux, and, by the 1840s, socialism had already become the object of rigorous social-scientific analysis by the German economist and sociologist Lorenz von Stein. Moreover, the English socialist intellectual and activist Thomas Hodgskin (1787–1869) articulated a thorough critical analysis of capitalism and of the labor class under capitalism, and his writings exerted a significant influence on subsequent generations of socialists, including Karl Marx. In particular, from the perspective of Thomas Hodgskin, socialism signifies an attempt to create a free and fair market, in the context of which production and exchange are based on the labor theory of value (freed from exploitative institutions) as part of natural right, which endows moral consciousness, the freedom of the individual, social justice, and social autonomy with ontological underpinnings (in accordance with Thomas Hodgskin’s deism).
Socialism and the devouring of the bourgeoisie by the cetacean of capitalism
In the second and the third centuries A.D., the towns of the Western Roman Empire were destroyed by the invasions of barbaric―primarily, Germanic―tribes, and they were not rebuilt because, especially after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Western Europe was transformed into a mishmash of small and medium-sized agricultural units that were introverted as well as afraid and mistrustful of the “external world.” Both because of the aforementioned socio-economic reasons and because of the Latin West’s gradual severance from the Greek East, Western Europe suffered a serious cultural and economic decline. On the other hand, with regard to the cultural and economic preponderance of the Greek East, specifically, of the Eastern Roman Empire, I have to mention that, in 330 A.D., the first Christian ruler of the Roman Empire, Constantine the Great, transferred the imperial capital from Rome to Byzantium, and the Byzantine educational system was based on the classical Greek philosophical and scientific literature and on the interpretation of Christ’s Gospel by the Greek Church fathers. However, in the tenth century A.D., towns began to grow in Western Europe, and, within a short period of time, they gained autonomy.
The above-mentioned autonomous towns were founded in the West as a reaction against the feudal regime. The townspeople started acting collectively. Initially, their communities were organized around a belfry: at the sound of the bell, all had to gather together since bells were ringing not only for Church purposes but also in order to announce a state of emergency or an imminent danger. Gradually, towns established a popular judicial system, their own system of policing, and their own treasury. Later, towns gained their independence, either by purchasing it or by using violent means. Thus, towns became free republics, and the growth of private property and commerce increased significantly.
Towns were attracting more and more people, not so much for the pursuit of financial gain as for the pursuit of freedom. Serfs could earn their living by cultivating the land, but they could not enjoy enough freedom. Henri Pirenne has pointed out that the quest for freedom was the strongest motive of the people who were leaving their agricultural jobs in order to live in a town (Henri Pirenne, Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the Revival of Trade, translated by F. D. Halsey, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1952). For instance, in the Middle Ages, many Germans used to say “Stadtluft macht frei” (i.e., “urban air makes you free”). Carlo M. Cipolla argues that, like the first European immigrants to America, the liberated serfs were moving to towns in order to have more opportunities for social and economic success than those supplied by the traditional and closed agricultural societies (Carlo M. Cipolla, Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy 1000–1700, 3rd edition, New York and London: W. W. Norton and Co., 1994).
The townspeople―namely, liberated serfs, tradesmen, Jews seeking higher levels of safety and better economic opportunities, impoverished aristocrats, and various other opportunists and fugitives from the feudal system―built their own walls around their towns, and, thus, they became permanent residents of those towns and were called “bourgeois” or “burgenses,” which literally means “of a walled town.” Some of them managed to excel in their professions and to join the king’s council. Additionally, members of the bourgeoisie often created secret societies, whose purpose was the protection of the community’s interest. As we read in the Annales Beneventani, in 1003–05, after the rebellions of the citizens of Benevento against their local prince, Landulf V, “facta est communitas prima” (“the first commune is made”). The first reference to a secret society organized by the bourgeoisie is found in the History of Milan that was written in the eleventh century by the historiographer Arnulfus of Milan; Arnulfus of Milan writes that the union of the bourgeois participated in the rebellion that took place in Milan, in 980 A.D., against the local archbishop, and he characterizes that union as a “coniuratio” (“conspiracy”) because its members were bound by mutual oaths.
The major institution in the medieval Western bourgeois communities was the “General Assembly,” or “Parliament.” The parliament was meeting on a regular basis, and, in some towns, it was meeting every Saturday. The parliament was the source of every communal authority. According to the bourgeoisie, the virtue of any communal authority stems from the very fact that every communal authority is derived from the parliament. In other words, in the bourgeois system, the parliament is not only the source of political authority but also the source of social virtue. In the medieval Western bourgeois communities, the executive branch of government consisted of the “consules” (a consul was an office roughly similar with English aldermen), and they were elected by the parliament. Moreover, the consules constituted the supreme court of the corresponding community. However, gradually, the medieval Western bourgeois communities adopted and implemented the principle of the separation of powers in a rigorous manner (to ensure that the three major institutions of the bourgeois community, namely, the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary are not concentrated in any single body whether in functions, personnel, or powers).
The bourgeois society substituted the traditional, vertical hierarchical model of social organization with a horizontal model of social organization, and it brought about a deep social and cultural rift between the town and the countryside, treating the world of the countryside in a derogatory manner (as a result of the rise of the bourgeoisie, the term “peasant” acquired a clearly negative connotation, implying that the villagers and, in general, the agricultural populations are unsophisticated and rude). The bourgeois system abolished the vertical hierarchical system at the top of which was the bishop (as a type and in place of Christ), and, below him, there were the monarch, the nobility, the monks, the clergy, the knights, the “boni hominess” (distinguished bourgeois), and the simple people (“popolo”). The bourgeois elite introduced and, ultimately, imposed a horizontal mode of social organization whose model was the parliament.
The traditional, vertical hierarchical system could function properly and be acceptable to all the people involved only as long as it could convince, by words and deeds, that it is an image of a transcendent order and a servant of a transcendent goal. In order to be able to do that, the traditional, vertical hierarchical social system should, at least to some extent, constitute an unselfish hierarchy of virtues and not, of course, a selfish and monolithic hierarchical social pyramid. When the bishop was no longer able to convince the monarch that the bishop is a worthy image and servant of higher values and that, therefore, deserves to occupy the apex of social hierarchy, the monarch started claiming more power vis-à-vis the Church and trying to conquer the apex of social hierarchy. When the monarch was no longer able to convince the nobility that the monarch is a worthy image and servant of higher values and that, therefore, deserves to occupy a superior position in the system of social hierarchy, the nobility started claiming more power vis-à-vis the monarch, and several members of the nobility went as far as to contest the monarchical office itself. Moreover, when the nobility was no longer able to convince the bourgeoisie that the nobility is a worthy image and servant of higher values and that, therefore, deserves to occupy a superior position in the system of social hierarchy, the bourgeoisie started claiming more power vis-à-vis the nobility, and several members of the bourgeoisie did not hesitate to try to displace the nobility from policy-making.
The correct operation and the historical survival of the traditional, vertical hierarchical social organization, which prevailed in the Middle Ages, requires and presupposes that the ruling elites have a very high level of existential heroism and embody a moral hierarchy of a superior nature. However, it was ultimately degraded into a historically non-viable form of authoritarianism, and, therefore, the rising bourgeoisie substituted the vertical hierarchical social system with a horizontal one, which was reflecting and expressing the interests and the ethos of the bourgeoisie.
When, for instance, the monarch is not a worthy continuer of the ethos of the legendary King Arthur (a legendary British leader who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defense of Britain against the Saxon invaders in the late fifth and the early sixth centuries), when the royal palace does not exude the ethos of the legendary Camelot, when the State’s strategic vision is not to give witness to the legendary Avalon, that is, to constitute a legendary island of goodness in history, when the administrative authorities of the Church do not give witness to the ethos of Joseph of Arimathea, then such revolutionary forces as Oliver Cromwell and William of Orange, who lurk in the wings of history, hijack power, and, finally, the bourgeois parliamentary system emerges as the best feasible political choice, simply because it is the lesser of two evils. Moreover, it is worth pointing out that, as the renowned Serbian theologian Nikolaj Velimirović (1881–1956), Bishop of Ohrid and Žiča, has argued, war and historical destruction primarily stem from the sins of those who rule; and, indeed, the feudal elites were drowned in the mire of sin (Nikolaj Velimirović, War and the Bible, translated by Fr. Radomir Plavsic, U.S.A.: Serbian Diocese New Gracanica and Midwestern America, 1927). In the modern era, the bourgeois elites did not content themselves with the implementation of a few particular political and institutional changes, but they created a distinct bourgeois civilization, a distinct bourgeois system of values, a distinct bourgeois way of life, and a distinct bourgeois code of behavior.
The bourgeois class instituted and utilized capitalism as an alternative to the old regimes of feudalism and slavery, and, as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels have argued, it plays a heroic role by revolutionizing industry, producing unprecedented wealth, and modernizing society. Nevertheless, as Marx and Engels have pointed out, the bourgeois elites tend to monopolize the benefits of modernization and development by exploiting the working class and thereby substituting old contradictions with new ones (see: David McLellan, The Thought of Karl Marx, 2nd edition, London: Macmillan, 1981). Moreover, in the context of autonomous capitalism, namely, when the structure of the capitalist system becomes an self-referential, automatic reality and, thus, an end-itself, the concentration of capital and imperialism turn against the middle class, namely, the core of the historical bourgeoisie, and give rise to a society in which there are two major classes: the upper class, namely, the capitalist oligarchy, and the lower class, namely, a big intensely exploited and systematically manipulated working class. In this way, autonomous capitalism reproduces modern, capitalist varieties of institutions and social relations that characterized feudalism. Thus, the historical bourgeoisie of the Enlightenment and the classical liberalism can survive and be historically meaningful only if and to the extent that it can maintain the benefits of capitalism while simultaneously overcoming the contradictions and the exploitative relations of capitalism. For this reason, as I argue in my book Taking the Bull by the Horns: Causes, Consequences and Perspectives in Politology and Political Economy (originally published in Greek by the Greek scholarly publisher ΚΨΜ, in 2021: https://kapsimi.gr/), socialism can be interpreted both as an antithesis to liberalism and as the perfection of liberalism in the context of a superior synthesis. This great vision was first implemented in the Soviet Union, and it has been analyzed by Lenin, Trotsky, Alexander Bogdanov, the Soviet “school” of cybernetics, Antonio Gramsci, Ágnes Heller, Karel Kosík, and many other socialist scholars. In fact, the Soviet Union, with all its structural flaws and weaknesses, was the last great, international-political defender and continuator of the essence of the Enlightenment, after the latter’s distortion and abandonment by the Euroatlantic establishment.
All attempts to institute a socialist system have certain characteristics in common. The first is a structural planpertaining to the following themes: property and labor, equality and justice, cooperation and fraternity, the transformation of work, social democracy, working-class power, rationalization and efficiency, culture, planning and liberty. The genuine socialists are human beings who have absorbed and maintain the essence of the Enlightenment, irrespective of their identity in terms of gender, race, religion, language, and culture. They, and only they, can preserve the essence of the Enlightenment and defend it against capitalism, nihilism, and pragmatism. In fact, when pragmatism becomes an end-in-itself, it reduces to passive conservatism and conformism. Furthermore, the genuine socialists’ sphere of competence is the world. Their projects involve the planet.
The second characteristic is wisdom. The socialists are wise because they follow the path of humanistic perfection and critical reason, and they try to overcome contradictions. They have attained the highest levels in all areas of human knowledge. They are similar to the Philosophers of Plato’s Republic, who governed public affairs with wisdom and justice. Hence, Alexander Bogdanov, one of the acknowledged founders of the science of planning and organizational theory, argued that World War I underlined the cultural deficiency of the working class, in the sense that, “inadequately organized and hidebound by tradition, industrial workers had succumbed to the primitive nationalism of the petty-bourgeoisie and the peasantry” (see: John Biggart, “The Rehabilitation of Bogdanov,” academia.edu, November 2018, pp. 11–12). In addition, according to Bogdanov, the socialist intelligentsia was not better equipped to effect a socialist transformation of society, because “the cultural development of the socialist planners themselves was a precondition of socialism, but most social scientists, as members of the ruling class, were imbued with the individualism of private enterprise” (op. cit.). Therefore, Bogdanov argued that socialism is meaningless without a “universal organizational science,” which would “combine and coordinate all the individual disciplines” (op. cit.).
The third characteristic is authority. Knowledge and wisdom give humanity the authority to govern. Those who exercise this authority must be charismatic, rational, and far-sighted and must have a Project that will guide humanity towards wellbeing and happiness. In my book Taking the Bull by the Horns: Causes, Consequences and Perspectives in Politology and Political Economy (originally published in Greek by the Greek scholarly publisher ΚΨΜ, in 2021: https://kapsimi.gr/), after a systematic study of comparative political theory and economics, I propose an integral, rigorous system of political economy, which I have called “critical rational socialism.”
The fourth characteristic is power. Authority requires the necessary power so that the Project can be realized and protected against its enemies. The success of human enterprise is guaranteed where power is exercised wisely. The legacies of the great ideologues and revolutionaries Maximilien Robespierre and Felix Dzerzhinsky provide precious intellectual and political stimuli.
The fifth characteristic is Enlightened Leadership. Leon Trotsky in his book The History of the Russian Revolution(translated by Max Eastman, 1932, Volume One, Preface) argued as follows: “Only on the basis of a study of political processes in the masses themselves, can we understand the role of parties and leaders, whom we least of all are inclined to ignore. They constitute not an independent, but nevertheless a very important, element in the process. Without a guiding organization, the energy of the masses would dissipate like steam not enclosed in a piston-box. But nevertheless what moves things is not the piston or the box, but the steam.”