Friday, November 21, 2014

‘Both/And’ Political Systems

On 29 Oct. 2014 we wrote about this kind of political system as being distinctive of a truly Christian society (that is, a kingdom and a folkdom existing together without destroying one another).  We thought it well to offer an historical ensample to bring the idea down from the realm of speculation into concrete reality, that the reader might know that there are alternatives to the snakepit of Big Business-controlled ‘constitutional republics’.  Tsarist Russia will serve as the ensample for today, though others could be cited (England, Ireland, and so on).

Fr Matthew Raphael Johnson has written this in his essay ‘The Peasant Commune in Russia’ (this is only a part of it; the whole thing really ought to be read, for it is all quite good):

 . . .

A powerful and seminal article by Boris Mironov, “The Russian Peasant Commune After the Reforms of the 1860s” (Slavic Review, Vol. 44, No. 3 [Fall 1985]), is extremely important for the understanding of the peasant commune. Its significance lies in the fact that it takes its data from the survey of 816 communes between 1878 and 1880, sponsored by the Russian Geographical Society and the Russian Free Economic Society. Its results were astounding, and largely supported the claims of the pro-agrarian and pro-monarchist elements in Russia, then and now. The average peasant had it better in Russia than likely anywhere else in Europe. This data proves it.

It is important to keep in mind the structure of the Imperial Russian state around the middle of the 19th century. The tsar’s power was limited to foreign policy and general taxation. He, of course, was the chief spokesman for the nation and the defender of the Orthodox Church. However, at the agrarian level, where 90 percent of the population lived, royal authority was virtually invisible. The peasant commune was the only relevant authority the peasant had to deal with. Therefore, it is accurate to say that Russia was not a single, unitary state, but rather a collection of thousands of independent agrarian republics, held together by rather weak cords to the central monarchy. Prof. Charles Sarolea, who visited Russia regularly, wrote in the 1925 issue of The English Review:

On closer examination we find the [Imperial] Russian state was a vast federation of 50,000 small peasant republics each busy with its own affairs, obedient to its own laws and even possessing its own tribunals of starotsas (elders). The Russian state was not undemocratic, on the contrary, if anything, there was too much democracy.

What makes the peasant commune such a unique institution is the power it had. Each commune was a completely selfcontained unit, answering to no other authority than its own body of elected elders. All police functions were discharged by the communal authorities. All legal matters were dealt with by the same. Any damage to property, any criminal offense whatsoever, was dealt with at the communal level. All public works were also within the jurisdiction of the commune. It maintained stores of grain during famines and assisted poorer members who suffered during the lean months of the spring. It controlled the cultural life of the people as well as all education. It even built its own parish churches and trained many of the rural clergy. The commune maintained all schools and hospitals. In short, it was absolute.

The state’s interest in this was clear. For the commune to be self governing, yet still loyal to the monarchy, it was necessary for it to be completely independent of the state. Mironov writes, “The government did not risk appointing its own people, who would have been independent of the peasant, to official positions in the commune; that would have been too expensive and ineffective at the same time.” (445)

However, to make sure any village executive (specifically its chief executive) was loyal, he could be removed by the royal-appointed district governor. This, however, rarely occurred, largely because irritating the peasants, the great bastion of loyalty in the country, would not be in the interests of the royal state. Mironov continues in this vein:

If, however, one analyzes how these officials actually functioned, it is clear that the government did not reach its goal: elected officials did not stand above the commune but operated under its authority, and all administrative and police measures in the commune were taken only with the consent of the village assembly. Only very rarely did elected officials become a hostile authority standing above the peasantry: they had to be periodically reelected, had no significant privileges, did not break their ties with the peasantry (elected officials were freed from taxes and other obligations, except those in kind, and continued to perform all forms of peasant labor), remained under the control of public opinion of the village (and in the event of malfeasance faced the threat of retribution), and shared the common interest of the peasants, not the interests of the state. As a rule the elected officials acted as the defenders of the commune, as petitioners and organizers. Frequently they emerged as leaders of peasant disorders despite the threat of harsh punishment. (445-6)

Many liberal Russia scholars might counter this by claiming that the elected village heads were required, after the 1860s, to faithfully carry out the will of the district authorities. However, though this is true, it was also true that no decree of the district authorities had validity in the commune unless it was approved by the village assembly.

According to the data collected by the Russian Geographic Society, the Russian peasant assembly consisted of all male heads of household. Decisions were not finalized until unanimity was reached, or, as Mironov has said, disagreement was brought to a level of silent sulking, which, at this level, was considered agreement. It is important to note, therefore, that each peasant had a specific stake in communal affairs as well as a corresponding voice. Any specific peasant, therefore, could not afford to be alienated from the community, as all decisions could be vetoed even by a relatively small group of disgruntled peasants.

 . . .

Ivan Solonevich adds some weighty thoughts of his own to this subject in his ‘The Force of Authority’ (trans. Mark Hackard).  A small sample:

 . . .

In Muscovite Rus, acts of regicide would have first of all been pointless, for the Tsar’s authority was only one of the components of a “system of institutions,” and they system could not be changed by the murder of one of its components. According to Aksakov: to the Tsar belonged the force of authority, and to the people the force of opinion. Or according to Lev Tikhomirov: monarchy derived “not from the arbitrary rule of one person, but from a system of institutions.” By the force of authority, the Muscovite Tsars realized the opinion of the Land. This opinion, organized into the Church, into ecclesiastical councils and Assemblies of the Land, and in its unorganized form represented by the population of Moscow, did not change over a regicide. Assemblies never claimed power (a completely incomprehensible phenomenon from the European point of view), and Tsars never went against the “opinion of the Land,” a phenomenon of a purely Russian order. Behind the monarchy stood an entire “system of institutions,” and all of this taken together presented itself as a monolith impossible to shatter through any regicide.

Therefore the Popular-Monarchist Movement sees in the “restoration of monarchy” not only the “restoration of the monarch,” but also a whole system of institutions from the Throne of All the Russias to the village assembly. It would be that system in which the force of authority belonged to the Tsar and the force of opinion to the people.  This cannot be achieved by any “written laws” or “constitution,” for both written laws and constitutions are followed by men only until that time when they gain the strength to NOT follow them. The Popular-Monarchist Movement is not engaged in publishing the laws of a future Russian Empire. It attempts to establish basic principles and ideationally compose the country’s future ruling class, which would be equally devoted to the Tsar and the people, a ruling class organized into a system of institutions to realize these principles in practice and truly become the bulwark of the throne, not visitors to prayer services who conceal in their boots the daggers of regicide.

 . . .

Source:, posted 4 Oct. 2014, accessed 7 Oct. 2014

In the current atmosphere following Pres Obama’s executive amnesty of millions of illegal immigrants, we understand that the term ‘king’ will bring forth plenty of negative reactions.  But this is to misunderstand what a king is.  A true king is the embodiment and expression (often the highest form of it) of a people’s history and praiseworthy traditions.  When he acts (passing a law, overturning a court ruling, etc.), it is always to uphold those traditions, for to do otherwise would undermine the foundation that his authority rests upon (as the Abbeville Institute’s Dr Donald Livingston has said).  (Such a figure would thus fit well in the tradition-loving South.)  This is the opposite of what Pres Obama has done, so he is not properly to be called a king but a tyrant, i.e., one who rules according to his will alone - with all thought of laws, traditions, and fear of God’s judgment cast out of his mind.

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