In our failing American Republic, Julius Caesar is, for many, a condensed symbol. He stands in for everything that might bring a final, formal end to institutions already dead, and he hints at what and who may open the door to something new. This broad symbolism derived from Caesar’s meteoric career, however, means that all the many details about what he actually did tend to get ignored, as do the other players in the complex political whirl of the 40s B.C. What results is, too often, comic book history, which usually is offered to buttress some facile claim about what is happening today. Lucca Fezzi’s book helps us look deeper; he offers us a detailed, balanced, and narrowly-focused political history of the end of the Republic.
If you know anything about Oliver Cromwell—and few do nowadays— you probably have an opinion about the man. Some vilify him; “A curse upon you, Oliver Cromwell, you who raped our Motherland,” the Irish rock band The Pogues sang. Others praise him as an enemy of arbitrary rule and a proto-republican. Ronald Hutton’s new biography of Cromwell’s early life and his climb to prominence makes no final judgment on the man, but it does offer a nuanced view of this complex historical figure. From Hutton’s excellent book we get not just history but the realization, in this desiccated age, that men such as Cromwell always emerge during great turmoil, rising as if from sown dragon’s teeth.
Is a Caesar, an authoritarian reconstructor of our institutions, soon to step onto the American stage? A betting man would say yes. The debilities of our society are manifold and will inevitably result in fracture and chaos. History tells us that such times call forth ambitious and driven men, who in the West usually aspire to reconstruction and dynasty, not mere extraction, what is usually featured in primitive societies. As Napoleon said of his accession to Emperor, “I came across the crown of France lying in the street, and I picked it up with my sword.” In human events, past performance is always a key predictor of future results. But neither you nor I is going to be Caesar, so this truth raises the crucial question for us—what to do when Caesar comes?
Dictatorship, in the form of Caesarism, is in the American air. I have recently written on what, in practical terms, an American Caesar would do; I will soon tell you how likely our Caesar is, and why. As it happens, I am at the same time working my way through all the books of Carl Schmitt, in their order of original publication, and his next book up, Dictatorship, published in 1921, clarifies the historical and legal-analytical part of what is unspooling before our eyes. We cannot be better informed, analytically at least, than by pondering this work of the peerless German, whose book, as always, puts to shame today’s mostly insipid political and constitutional analysis.
An article by me, “What to Do When Caesar Comes,” has been published in the new magazine Asylum, along with pieces from others, including Lord Conrad Black and Bronze Age Pervert. The theme of this first issue is the changes that may come, and my article is, no surprise, about what we can expect in the coming new dispensation. The first paragraph, and a link to the entire magazine, including my contribution, are below. (I encourage you to buy the print magazine; a free PDF is also available.) (Credit for the image of Gaius Julius Caesar to Daniel Voshart, whose photorealistic images of Roman emperors (and one proto-emperor), generated by computer-analyzing extant images, are very valuable and interesting.)]
My goal is winning the future, and to win, we must utterly and permanently defeat the Left. In this effort, we can learn many lessons from Spain in the years from 1930 to 1940 (and in the years beyond, but that is a discussion for another day). These lessons are not just about war, or just about kinetic politics. As The Victorious Counterrevolution demonstrates, winning requires those who lead a struggle for dominance to maintain a functioning economy that satisfies the average man. Nobody can go hungry, and to avoid that, ample production, orderly markets, and fiscal stability must be maintained. It is to Nationalist success, and Republican failures, in these areas that Michael Seidman ascribes Franco’s victory, and he makes a compelling and instructive case.
I suspect that very few people under forty know who Robert Gould Shaw was. Those older may remember the 1989 film Glory, which told his story. That movie could never be made today (and will probably soon be disappeared, as has been 1964’s Zulu). After all, Shaw’s is an out-and-out “white savior” story, and now that everyone has been educated that the African reality is actually Wakanda, we realize that black people don’t need, and have never needed, a man such as Shaw. Yet even though the Left has racialized all of American life and shrieks ever louder for a race war (something I failed to predict, silly me), I will only touch lightly on race in this review, and will focus on heroism, the traditional center of Shaw’s story. To race, we will return another day.
I recently wrote of the Finnish Civil War, where the Whites defeated the Reds. In the twentieth century, that pattern was unfortunately the exception, with the more common result being seen in the Russian Civil War of 1918–20, where the Russian Reds defeated the Russian Whites. That struggle, though not as forgotten as the Finnish Civil War, does not loom large in modern consciousness, and books on it are rare. This volume, the recently-reprinted war memoir of Pyotr Wrangel, probably the most successful and certainly the most charismatic of the White generals, addresses that gap. It also carries many lessons, including about what might occur in a twenty-first-century ideological civil war in a large country.
[Antifa is in the news again, with the denial of justice to Andy Ngo by a Portland jury, which our “justice” system allowed to be intimidated. A history lesson, and thoughts derived from it, is in order. Know your enemy. This article was originally published January 18, 2021.] More than twenty years ago, as a very young man, I traveled in Ukraine. In one place, the local authorities were excavating a mass grave from the 1930s. Hundreds of skeletons, men and women, many with flesh and clothes still attached, had been laid out on wooden platforms, for attempted identification before reburial. If you looked, it was easy to see the cause of each person’s death—a square hole in the head. Why square? Because the Communists had hammered in a railroad spike. Why does this matter? Because what screams from every page of this book of Antifa apologetics is that the author, Mark Bray, and his compatriots, today’s direct ideological successors of those murderers, want to do the same to you.
What will the future look like? Not much like our stupid present, certainly, but complaining about the present is easy, while offering a coherent positive vision of the future is hard—especially given the degradation of our present. Yes, the Age of Ideology is over, though its zombie corpse may stumble through the brambles of reality for a few more years, until someone shoots it in the head. But what will replace it will be an organic thing, its exact form hard to predict. In Retrotopia, John Michael Greer narrates an optimistic vision of a renewed America, or part of America. It’s fiction, but it inspires a variety of thoughts, among them a topic of great importance to both Greer and me: is technological progress the enemy of tomorrow’s human flourishing, or its ground?