Always the same

I’ve been interested in American politics for a long time, and have always measured my political beliefs chiefly by American standards rather than Scandinavian or European ones, even though I’m Norwegian.

rkirk (Metternich/Sellanraa)

I find this interesting, how another country’s politics can capture one’s imagination, since it’s happened to me too.  Ever since I heard about the French Revolution in high school, it’s been my one political reference point.  My ultimate question in every fight is, “Who are the Girondins, who are the Jacobins, and who are the Bourbon restorationists?”  This has remained constant even as I’ve moved to the Right and the French faction with whom I identify has changed.  Any political fight that I can’t fit into the French Revolutionary matrix, I tend to dismiss as unimportant, a distraction from the true contest for the fate of the world.  Everything important in the past two centuries has been an aspect of the revolution or the reaction to it.  I say “revolution” rather than “revolutions” because in my mind there is only one revolution.  It started in France, was beaten into hibernation, re-erupted in 1848, 1870, 1917, 1949, and on, covering France, Spain, Mexico, Russia, China, Cuba,…

In this, I’m like the Jews, for whom the battle between Nazis and communists is the real, paradigmatic fight, and for whom every year is 1932 Berlin, and the only question is “Who is the next Hitler?”  For me, every year is 1790 Paris.  Of course, I think my pet obsession is more reasonable (but, then, I would, wouldn’t I?) because the ideological heirs of the Jacobins have been active and powerful (never more so than today) ever since the Revolution, while German National Socialism looks to me for all the world like a freakish anomaly, an improbable and short interruption from the main event of Western history, namely the battle between Jacobin atheism and the Catholic Church.

What’s your politcal reference point?

10 Responses

  1. May I invite you to expand on your characterization of the groups.

    (I have a slightly similar background. The key year is 1968: there are the neo-stalinists, Catholics loyal to the magisterium, and those in between.)

  2. Whigs and Tories, 1688.

  3. I second Steve, I’ll go further and say without 1688 no 1789.

  4. Being born in an Anglo country (the United States), it seems sensible to identify political conflicts as bloody or bloodless continuations of the English Civil War.

    Non-violent leftists are godless Quakers, violent leftists are godless Diggers, some fundamentalists are still Puritans, and today’s Cavaliers and Catholics are, um…

    Oh dear.

  5. Isn’t it weird that I would never get riled up about English history?

  6. Henry VIII, Cromwell, and Charles II.

    Yes, I get they they are not contemporaries.

    Seconding Gneisenau, 1688 was a disaster almost on a par with the Spanish Armada.

  7. What is 1968 key to? This seems to me to be quite a long time after the West fell, which I can’t see how to date later than 1918.

  8. Isn’t it weird that I would never get riled up about English history?

    Well, England always (more or less) had a weak crown. It was only natural that Revolution would (eventually) break out there. Unfortunately, the English had an uncannily good combination of genes and social conventions, and thereby managed to take over the world. Tho’ Britainnia has faded, she still rules through her Anglophone (and infinitely more Whiggish) children.

    There is little doubt that 1688 is the seed of all revolutions, if in fact there are even more than one of which to speak.

  9. For me the reference is either 1790 Paris or 1918 Moscow. Since National Socialism is itself a form of socialism (as obvious from the title, or “as it says on the tin”), the leadership of which was adamantly atheistic, Nazism isn’t so much an aberration as a variant of the normal conflict.

    Fascism itself, a form of socialism that separated from Communism in 1918 with Mussolini, is not as dead as some image either, as is is the form of “soft socialism” we see in the West today. The core of it, corporatism, is the core of the Western “mixed” economy.

  10. Yes, England always had a weak Crown, which is why the crisis really broke, when it got a Scottish one, in the form of the House of Stuart.

    No people on earth are more devoted to abstract logic than the Scots, or more determined to apply it to practical affairs. It is emblematic of this that the Scotsman, John Mair, when he was teaching in Paris, was the tutor of both Jean Calvin and St Ignatius Loyola.

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