This Street Prophets Coffee Hour is brought to you by Timothy David Snyder. Today’s article, The Politics of Eternity, is part 2 of 15 in a series about figuring out just what is going on in American politics. It will be about how we got to where we are now. And hopefully present a story of where we should be going. Along the way we will take a look at Russia, the U.S. 2016 Presidential election, Memes and Fiction, Network Propaganda, soft warfare, and cyberwarfare.
This is an Open Thread and all topics of conversation are welcome. What is for dinner? How are you doing? What is on your mind. If you are new to Street Prophets please introduce yourself below in a comment.
For a introduction to Ilyin and links to articles about him see part one: Street Prophets Coffee Hour | Weaponizing Religion: Putin's Philosopher Ivan Ilyin - Part 1.
Religion, historically, has been a great organizer of human communities. When developed and followed on the local level it has given purpose and meaning to individuals that are immersed in it. And it has provided for these individuals social glue to hold the community together and promote cooperation between individuals. Now that the positive has been stated lets look at the negatives.
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Ilyin regarded fascism as the politics of the world to come. In exile in the 1920s, he was troubled that Italians had arrived at fascism before Russians. He consoled himself with the idea that the Russian Whites were the inspiration for Mussolini’s coup: “the White movement as such is deeper and broader than [Italian] fascism.” The depth and breadth, Ilyin explained, came from an embrace of the sort of Christianity that demanded the blood sacrifice of God’s enemies. Believing in the 10920s that Russia’s White exiles could still still win power, Ilyin addressed them as “my White brothers, fascists.”
From Timothy Snyder’s book: The Road To Unfreedom
Tightly woven into Ilyin’s thoughts and writing is vision of God’s will on earth. In part one we learned that Putin’s backers needed to add “spiritual resource” to the economic and military control they had. As it turned out Ilyin’s philosophy was exactly what they needed.
After a new Russian Federation emerged from the defunct Soviet Union in 1991, Ilyin’s short book Our Tasks began to circulate in new Russian editions, his collected works were published, and his ideas gained powerful supports. He had died forgotten in Switzerland; Putin organized a reburial in Moscow in 2005.
From Timothy Snyder’s book: The Road To Unfreedom
Sadly I could not find a English version of Ilyin’s. Here is a link to Powell’s Books for a Russian edition: Our Tasks.
Snyder introduces two new terms that helps us understand the importance of Ilyin to Putin and his backers. The Politics of Eternity and the Politics of Inevitability.
Timothy Snyder Speaks, ep. 14: Politics of Eternity, Politics of Inevitability
For this diary lets focus on the Politics of Eternity. Below is one picture that says it all. A rigid hierarchy where everything is eternally fixed in its place. And God’s will is interpreted and enforced by the state.
The world Putin and the 1% has planned for us.
This is a world that just “exists” no change and no future. A state of “being” and no action.
But add to that the following:
Ilyin’s philosophy is repugnant – not surprising given his open admiration for both Hitler and Mussolini. According to Snyder, it has three core features: “it celebrated will and violence over reason and law; it proposed a leader with a mystical connection to his people; and it characterised globalisation as a conspiracy rather than as a set of problems.” Revived in a modern context, Ilyin’s ideology serves as “a catalyst for transitions away from public discussion and towards political fiction; away from meaningful voting and towards fake democracy; away from the rule of law and towards personalist regimes”.
From New Statesman: Vladimir Putin’s politics of victimhood
Below in an article from the Guardian the authors called Putin a “eternity politician” and the article further describes how Putin implements his plans.
In power, eternity politicians manufacture crisis and manipulate the resultant emotion. To distract from their inability or unwillingness to reform, they instruct their citizens to experience elation and outrage at short intervals, drowning the future in the present. In foreign policy, eternity politicians belittle and undo the achievements of countries that might seem like models to their own citizens. Using technology to transmit political fiction at home and abroad, eternity politicians deny truth and seek to reduce life to spectacle and feeling.
From The Guardian: Vladimir Putin’s politics of eternity
And so, as Putin moved to remake Russia, he turned to Ilyin as both justification for and the hopeful promise of the direction in which he strove to take the country. Ilyin was most likely chosen because his works legitimized Putin’s authoritarian grasp on power, justified limitations on freedom, and provided an antidote to all Western criteria of freedoms, rights, and goals of the state. In essence, Ilyin gave a kind of legitimation for handing almost unchallenged power to the national leader—Putin—whose goal would be to strengthen the state and bring about its spiritual revival, promoting conservative values and norms.
From Foreign Affairs — Putin’s Philosopher By Anton Barbashin and Hannah Thoburn
Patriotism rooted in Christianity is the ideological solution that Putin has found to legitimize his authority and re-build the country. This probably does not mean that the president, a former KGB officer, has suddenly repented and became a Christian. It should rather mean that Putin proved to be a pragmatic politician, who re-discovered the potential and the power of the Russian Pravoslavie (the "right worship") with all related to it national mythologies: the Orthodox mysticism and spirituality, the idea of the Third Rome, the mystification of Russian geography, and the idea of the Euroasian civilization. It should be noted that in his politics, Putin did not (and could not) adopt the humanistic philosophy of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, nor the core principles of Christianity. He was not and will not become a Western type of "Christian democrat." He turned for inspiration and ideological support to more convenient sources, one of them: an obscure 20th century thinker and publicist, the Russian émigré Ivan Ilyin.
The Montréal Review — THE KREMLIN'S NEW IDEOLOGY