The shot that killed Old Russia

Today is the birthday of the revolutionary Vera Zasulich (1849-1919), whom a French magazine named “the most famous woman in Europe” in 1878 .

Raised in a provincial gentry family, Miss Zasulich was still in her teens when she got involved with a terrorist organisation People’s Reprisal led by Sergei Nechayev (its widely publicised trial inspired Dostoyevsky’s novel The Possessed).

Since Zasulich was only on the periphery of that gang, she spent a mere year in remand prison, followed by a short exile. In took her several more years to become an international star, but she got there in the end.

In 1878 Zasulich was tried for an attempt to murder Fyodor Trepov, Petersburg’s governor, and the case got a wide coverage throughout Europe.

Trepov was chosen for target practice because he had ordered that the prisoner Bogolyubov be flogged for insubordination (refusing to remove his cap when ordered to do so). This although the law banned corporal punishment for noblemen, which Bogolyubov was. That enraged the legally minded Miss Zasulich enough to pull the trigger. On second thoughts, perhaps she wasn’t as legally minded as all that.

More critically, neither was the court. The defence successfully turned the proceedings into a trial not of the terrorist but of Trepov, and the jury found Zasulich innocent on the grounds of her political, rather than simply criminal, motive.

That miscarriage of justice demonstrated the uselessness of jury trial in Russia, and from then on crimes with political implications were mostly tried by military tribunals. Those proved only marginally less lenient, at least until nihilist terror reached pandemic proportions in the early twentieth century.

Russian judges came to their senses then and, in return for the murders of 1,600 officials, including some members of the royal family, passed several thousand death sentences in 1905-1907. But by then it was too late. The country’s madness had flared up, and in a few years she’d go on a murderous rampage the likes of which the world had never seen.

That trial emphasised the brittleness of any political system that isn’t based on the rule of just law – something to which the Russians have been indifferent throughout their history. Characteristically, Nikolai Lossky’s The History of Russian Philosophy devotes 57 pages to the metaphysical thinker Vladimir Soloviov and only two to all the Russian philosophers of law combined.

Those with eyes to see will learn much about Russia from the concluding statement of Zasulich’s defence counsel. Here it is for your delectation (the emphases are mine):

“Gentlemen of the jury! It’s not for the first time that finding herself in this dock of agonising suffering is a woman tried for a bloody crime before the court of civic conscience. There has been many a woman here who punished her seducer by death; many a woman who spilled the blood of her unfaithful beloved or her lucky rival. Such women have left here acquitted. Those just verdicts echoed God’s judgement that takes into account not only the physical act, but also its inner meaning, the defendant’s underlying criminality.

“Yet by exacting bloody vengeance, those women fought for themselves only. Standing before you for the first time is a woman whose crime wasn’t motivated by personal interests, personal vengeance – a woman whose crime reflected her struggle for an idea, on behalf of someone who shared the misery of her young life.

“If the motive for this deed proves less weighty on the scales of civic truth, then her punishment will have to be considered just, a triumph of law, of society – and may your justice be done! Don’t think twice! Your verdict won’t add much suffering to this broken, smashed life. She will accept your decision without reproach, without bitter complaints, without offence, serene in the knowledge that her suffering, her sacrifice might have preempted the possibility that the incident causing her act will be repeated.

“However much one may decry her deed, it’s impossible to deny that it was motivated by an honest and noble impulse. Yes, she may leave here convicted, but she won’t leave shamed. One can only wish that there would be no more provocations causing such crimes, begetting such criminals.

That a country in which such a speech could produce an acquittal isn’t ruled by law is clear enough – moreover, such a country has no concept of what a law is. That makes her ripe for the advent of savage, unrestrained lawlessness, which duly arrived 37 years later and is still going strong.

Zasulich’s bullet fired into Trepov’s stomach didn’t kill him. But it did kill Old Russia, or at least proved she was moribund.

The failure of Russian courts to save the country from ideologically motivated outrages could have taught a useful lesson to posterity even in the West: institutions are only as good as the people who man them. Trial by jury, for example, can’t survive as an instrument of justice in the absence of a broadly based group of people who understand what justice means.

Today’s British criminals, expertly guided by their barristers, recite the mantra “it’s all society’s fault”, knowing that the twelve good men may well nod their assent. Yet no country can have real justice if such statements can be made, never mind accepted. Such a country has discarded individual responsibility – and therefore individual liberty.

Nevertheless, the argument that a criminal had an impoverished childhood has been known to produce mitigated sentences or even acquittals in British courts, race has been seen as an extenuating circumstance, and political motives have been viewed as being more noble than simple brutality.

As a result, courts are beginning to act as rubber stamps of egalitarianism, rather than agents of justice. Society predictably responds by a climbing crime rate that only statistical larceny can pass for anything other than a social catastrophe. One example: in 1954 there were 400 muggings in all of Britain; one month of 2001 produced the same number in Lambeth, a small South London borough.

So happy birthday, Vera. Thanks for the lesson. Shame it wasn’t heeded.


Kim’s slaves and Putin’s masters

Eight US senators have written to FIFA, expressing their “serious concerns about the exploitation of North Korean workers at a World Cup stadium site in Russia.”

Those workers, write the senators, “faced appalling work conditions that almost certainly amount to forced labour. Those conditions may have included inhumane working hours and living conditions, constant surveillance by North Korean agents, threats to workers’ families still living in North Korea, absence of freedom of movement, wage garnishment by the North Korean government, and other similar features. News reports further suggest that one North Korean worker has died… possibly due to overwork. Such working arrangements are completely inconsistent with FIFA’s human rights policy and international law.”

In other words, St Petersburg’s Zenit arena was built by slave labour generously provided by one criminal state to another. Yet again, Putin’s Russia finds herself in refined company, this time forming the new axis of evil with North Korea and Iran. One wonders how long before those North Korean slaves will inspire books like Uncle Soo’s Cabin and Loots.

What I find amusing is the reference to “FIFA’s human rights policy”. It ought to be remembered that, to paraphrase Lord Acton, all international organisations are corrupt, and international sports organisations are corrupt absolutely.

‘Absolutely’ means to the exclusion of everything else, including human rights. Those football chaps aren’t about back passes – they’re about backhanders.

Why do you suppose they awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 one to Qatar? I’ve been looking at the Qatar weather charts in June, when the World Cup is traditionally held, and the temperature there hardly ever drops below 45C.

Playing football in such conditions isn’t just uncomfortable, it’s life threatening. I can confidently predict that many players will suffer strokes and heart attacks. Some will probably die, and so will some fans, especially those unused to such cauldrons.

And some proposed sites for the Russian World Cup are 2,000 miles apart, with most places featuring antediluvian facilities and infrastructure. Conceivably the stadiums can be improved – there are more slaves where those North Koreans came from. But it would take millions of them to make places like Saransk fit for human habitation or indeed for hospitality expected by football fans from civilised countries.

So on what criteria was Russia selected ahead of the other bidders, Portugal/Spain, Belgium/Netherlands and Britain? Or Qatar ahead of the US, South Korea, Japan and Australia? Only one criterion comes to mind. It’s for a good reason that FIFA president Sepp Blatter was banned in 2015 following a corruption scandal.

As to slave labour, Russia in general and St Petersburg in particular enjoy a rich tradition of it, and the conservative in me rejoices at seeing it so lovingly upheld.

The great historian Vasiliy Klyuchevsky (d. 1911) probably exaggerated the human cost of building the city named after Peter’s patron saint when suggesting that more people died in the process than had ever been killed in any war. But modern historians cite a death toll close to 300,000, which is still fairly impressive by the demographic standards of the time.

Nor was it a one-off tragedy: at least another 60,000 were to die erecting Petersburg’s hideous St Isaac’s Cathedral in the mid-nineteenth century. By comparison, Putin’s slave masters look like humanitarians trying to get in touch with their feminine side.

After the revolution, whose centenary the Russians will be ecstatically celebrating later this year, forced labour became co-extensive with the country’s borders. Like Dante’s Inferno, that hell had different circles, of which GULAG proper was the innermost but far from the only one. The whole country was one giant slave camp.

Some of those slaves were imported from countries that fell under the Soviets’ sway during the Second World War, but not only from there. Many British, French and US POWs  were ‘liberated’ from Nazi camps only to find themselves in Soviet ones. At least in the German camps they could receive food parcels from the Red Cross, a privilege that didn’t exist in Russia.

Southeast Asians also experienced Soviet servitude, during and after the Korean and Vietnam wars. In both instances, the recipients of Soviet aid had to pay for it, just like the Spanish loyalists did in their Civil War. The Spanish paid with their entire gold reserves, shipped to Russia and never returned. The Koreans and the Vietnamese were poor in gold but rich in human fodder, which they offered to their Soviet benefactors in part payment.

As to corruption, that too has a fine tradition in Russia, as any reader of Gogol or Saltykov Shchedrin can confirm. When Nicholas I asked another great historian, Karamzin, how things were in the provinces, the latter replied laconically: “Thieving, Your Majesty” (Ils voles, sire).

That again was child’s play compared to what the modern historian Sean McMeekin calls “history’s greatest heist”, when the Bolsheviks looted Russia on a scale never before seen anywhere in the world. History’s second greatest heist came and is still going on after the so-called collapse of communism, with Lenin’s slogan “loot the looter” turned into “loot the looted”.

Russia’s corruption ratings are at the top of every international list, where the country finds herself next to places like Zimbabwe and Gabon. Yet even against the background of rampant corruption from top to bottom, the sports establishment can confidently claim pride of place.

Doping and bribery are rife in Russia’s sports, as witnessed by the wholesale international ban of her entire athletics team. Add corruption to a rich history of slavery, and one can’t think offhand of any moral or legal constraints that could have prevented the Russians from using slave labour – or indeed the North Koreans from providing it. As to FIFA shutting its eyes to this charming practice, that too is par for the course.

In this context, the senators’ appeal looks touchingly naïve. But at least they’ve drawn my, and vicariously your, attention to this outrage.









A propos Darwin

The other day, I questioned Richard Dawkins’s intellectual credentials as related to the issue of God. Not only is he ignorant of basic philosophy, but he can’t even think logically, routinely relying instead on the full complement of rhetorical fallacies.

One of them is argumentum ad populum: because many people believe something to be true, it is. Thus Dawkins never tires of citing “the overwhelming preponderance of atheists” among top scientists.

This betokens his belief that truth is democratic, like Western politics. A simple show of hands is sufficient to determine what’s true and what’s false. That’s nonsensical even in politics, and even more so in philosophy or indeed natural science.

In fact, all major discoveries started as minority propositions, held by few scientists or even one. That possibly apocryphal apple fell on Newton’s head only – it wasn’t a hail of apples bombarding the arithmetic majority of contemporaneous scientists.

Dawkins’s assertion would be irrelevant even if it were true. But it isn’t. I have this on good authority: Lewis Wolpert, as strident an atheist as Dawkins but a much more accomplished scientist, mournfully admits in one of his own agitprop books that over half of today’s scientists are believers.

And even those who aren’t still know that Darwin’s slapdash theory not only doesn’t “explain everything”, in Dawkins’s illiterate assertion, but in fact explains very little. Its principal attraction isn’t scientific but political.

Here’s a random selection of statements made by top scientists, most of whom believe in neither God nor Darwin:

Sir Fred Hoyle, astronomer, cosmologist and mathematician, Cambridge University: “The likelihood of the formation of life from inanimate matter is one to a number with 40,000 noughts after it… It is big enough to bury Darwin and the whole theory of evolution … if the beginnings of life were not random, they must therefore have been the product of purposeful intelligence.”

Dr Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize winner: “The pathetic thing is that we have scientists who are trying to prove evolution, which no scientist can ever prove.”

Dr A Fleishmann, Erlangen University: “The theory of evolution suffers from grave defects, which are more and more apparent as time advances. It can no longer square with practical scientific knowledge.”

Prof. R Goldschmidt , University of California: “It is good to keep in mind… that nobody has ever succeeded in producing even one new species by the accumulation of micromutations. Darwin’s theory of natural selection has never had any proof, yet it has been universally accepted.”

Prof. J Agassiz, Harvard University: “The theory of the transmutation of species is a scientific mistake, untrue in its facts, unscientific in its method, and mischievous in its tendency.”

Dr Ambrose Fleming, President, British Assoc. Advancement of Science: “Evolution is baseless and quite incredible.”

Gerald Aardsman, Ph.D., C-14 dating specialist: “It is possible (and, given the Flood, probable) that materials which give radiocarbon dates of tens of thousands of radiocarbon years could have true ages of many fewer calendar years.”

Dr Edmund Ambrose, evolutionist: “We have to admit that there is nothing in the geological records that runs contrary to the views of conservative creationists.”

Dr Pierre-Paul Grasse, evolutionist: “No matter how numerous they may be, mutations do not produce any kind of evolution.”

Dr Michael Denton, molecular biologist: “Is it really credible that random processes could have constructed a reality, the smallest element of which – a functional protein or gene – is complex beyond … anything produced by the intelligence of man?”

Lyall Watson, Ph.D.: “Modern apes … seem to have sprung out of nowhere. They have no yesterday, no fossil record. And the true origin of modern humans … is, if we are to be honest with ourselves, an equally mysterious matter.”

Dr N.H. Nilson, botanist: “My attempts to demonstrate evolution by an experiment carried on for more than 40 years have completely failed.”

Wolfgang Smith Ph.D.: “The evolutionist thesis has become more stringently unthinkable than ever before.”

David Kitts, Ph.D. Palaeontology and Evolutionary Theory: “Evolution requires intermediate forms between species, and palaeontology does not provide them.”

Dr Ludwig von Bertalanffy, biologist: “The fact that a theory so vague, so insufficiently verifiable, and so far from the criteria otherwise applied in ‘hard’ science has become a dogma can only be explained on sociological grounds.”

Dr Soren Lovtrup, Darwinism: The Refutation of a Myth: “I believe that one day the Darwinian myth will be ranked the greatest deceit in the history of science. When this happens, many people will pose the question: How did this ever happen?”

Dr Tom Kemp, Oxford University: “As is well known, most fossil species appear instantaneously in the fossil record.”

Dr Gary Parker, Biologist/palaeontologist: “In reality, fossils are a great embarrassment to Evolutionary theory and offer strong support for the concept of Creation. If Evolution were true, we should find literally millions of fossils that show how one kind of life slowly and gradually changed to another kind of life. But missing links are the trade secret, in a sense, of palaeontology. The point is, the links are still missing. What we really find are gaps that sharpen up the boundaries between kinds. It’s those gaps which provide us with the evidence of Creation of separate kinds. As a matter of fact, there are gaps between each of the major kinds of plants and animals. Transition forms are missing by the millions. What we do find are separate and complex kinds, pointing to Creation.”

And finally, Darwin himself: “Not one change of species into another is on record … we cannot prove that a single species has been changed.”

“To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”

When Dawkins says that “evidence is the only reason to believe anything”, he displays a deficit of intellect. And by shilling for a theory that’s contradicted by infinitely more evidence than there is to support it, he displays a deficit of integrity.

It’s most unfortunate that Lenin’s League of the Militant Godless is no longer in business. Dawkins could be its honorary chairman.

Liaisons dangereuses

Donald Trump is beginning to look, walk and quack like a lame duck barely eight months into his presidency.

First both houses of Congress imposed new sanctions on Russia, which Trump had no option but to endorse. Much as he might have wanted to veto the bill, he couldn’t do so for two reasons.

First, the bill passed both houses almost unanimously, rendering any subsequent veto an exercise in futility. Second, given the on-going investigation into his campaign’s alleged collusion with Putin’s junta, Trump couldn’t have vetoed the bill even had it passed by only a slender margin. Doing so would have played into the hand of his accusers, and they already seem to hold enough aces.

Even more critical was another congressional action: depriving Trump of the authority to repeal the sanctions in the future. The decision fires a constitutional shot at Trump’s presidency: Congress – including Trump’s own party – showed in no uncertain terms that it doesn’t trust the president to handle the most critical aspect of US foreign relations.

As part of the sanctions package, the bill calls for the US assets of the 180 sanctioned Russians, all Putin’s acolytes, to be made public within 180 days. The intention is clearly to impound those assets, which really got Putin’s junta to squirm.

Its whole raison d’être is to plunder Russia’s natural resources at home but to invest the loot in the West. For one thing, this gives them access to luxuries unavailable in Russia: those 300-foot yachts are intended for cruising in the Mediterranean, not in the Caspian Sea.

More important, assets sitting in Western banks are seen as a security blanket: members of the junta know that sooner or later they’ll have to run for their lives. Offshore assets are their way of turning a panicked flight into organised retreat.

In this they tread the path signposted by their typological ancestors, the first Bolshevik leaders. That gang too suspected that their days at the helm were numbered, and they too transferred vast amounts into Western banks.

In April, 1921, The New York Times reported that in 1920 alone 75 million Swiss francs were transferred into Lenin’s account in a Swiss bank. According to the newspaper, Trotsky had 11 million dollars and 90 million francs in his accounts; Zinoviev, 80 million francs; Dzerzhinsky, 80 million francs; Ganetsky-Fuerstenberg (Lenin’s financial agent), 60 million francs and 10 million dollars – and so forth, ad infinitum.

It’s likely that, when push comes to shove, the ousted junta won’t be allowed to enjoy their lucre (the Bolsheviks certainly weren’t), at least not all of it. But that moment still hasn’t come, whereas the US Justice Department may well impound their assets within six months.

Putin’s name doesn’t appear on any offshore accounts because the KGB colonel prudently operates through proxies, such as Gennady Timchenko, affectionately nicknamed ‘Gangrene’, or the cellist Sergei Roldugin who was found to have $2 billion in a Panama bank (take my word for it, orchestra musicians aren’t that well-paid).

All in all, Vlad is reported to have accumulated personal wealth variously estimated in the $40-200 billion range, most of it in offshore investments. So he too is squirming.

All in all, this swathe of sanctions strike at the very heart of Putin’s junta, and this is a blow Trump is powerless to soften. Hence he responded to the congressional bill with much gnashing of teeth. “I could,” said the president, “get a much better deal than Congress”.

That’s probably true: unlike most congressmen, Trump has spent a lifetime making deals. In property development a deal is the non plus ultra, and Trump is evidently good at wheeling and dealing.

But he should stop thinking of his current remit in terms of deals: they’re among many tools of a wise foreign policy, but certainly not its aim. The aim is to protect the country’s interests, and not all deals serve this purpose. Some are downright detrimental to it – just think of all those SALT deals that the Russians violated with monotonous regularity.

Immediately following that downturn in Trump’s fortunes comes the news that the Justice Department’s special counsel Robert Mueller has empanelled a grand jury to investigate Russia’s interference with the US elections, and Trump’s possible complicity in it.

This is bad news for the Trump retinue. For the grand jury has already issued a raft of summonses, and it can allow Mueller to depose witnesses under oath.

Thus, for example, if Donald Trump Jr. repeats the same lies he told journalists about his meeting with Putin’s agents, he may be charged with perjury. And since his original statement was dictated by his loving father, he too could find himself under criminal indictment.

Mueller and his people have emphasised that Trump personally isn’t under investigation, but that reassurance hasn’t fooled many people. If Trump’s entire team get in trouble, some of it is bound to rub off on the president one way or another.

He defended himself by suggesting that Mueller would be better off investigating Hillary Clinton and her missing e-mails. The president has a point: Hillary’s links with the Russians are as suspicious as Trump’s, possibly more so.

It’s likely that Russia’s junta, 85 per cent of which are professionally trained in KGB tradecraft, hedged their bets by cultivating both candidates in the presidential election and I for one would love to see Hillary on the rack.

However, that Hillary might be guilty doesn’t exculpate Trump. He might well find himself on the rack next to Hillary, provided he promises to keep his hands to himself.

Innocent until proven guilty and all that, but the situation is fraught in any case. Even if Trump is as pristine as Mother Teresa, the investigation has already jeopardised his ability to govern. In due course, it may render his job impossible to do.

This may have dire consequences not only for the US but for what’s left of the free world, such as it is. Since Western governments have finally identified Putin’s Russia as a serious threat, the US president shouldn’t be hamstrung to counteract it.

I’ll be surprised if Trump serves out his term – and even more so if he manages to pass through Congress any serious legislation, especially concerning foreign policy.

Supping with the devil is dangerous even for someone who remembers to bring a long spoon. I’m afraid that Trump may soon find this out the hard way.

A perfectly Christian burial

I’m beginning to worry about my friend Vlad Putin, the great leader so many putative British conservatives (otherwise known as ‘useful idiots’) wish we had.

That may still come about, though probably and regrettably not in my lifetime. However, if Vlad ever does find himself at 10 Downing Street, or perhaps Buckingham Palace, I hope his mental health doesn’t deteriorate beyond its present rapidly sinking level.

What gives me cause for concern is Vlad’s latest contribution to the debate about the future of the Lenin mummy. Actually, perhaps ‘debate’ is a wrong word: Vlad is such a strong leader that whatever he says goes (within Russia only, at this point).

So let’s call it discussion instead, and there are some people still extant in Russia who have reservations about Lenin’s role in history. They ungratefully mention the 15 million or thereabouts killed on Lenin’s watch.

Admittedly that only puts Lenin in the bronze medal position, behind Mao and Stalin, who managed to dispatch, respectively, 60 and 45 million. But Lenin still deserves an honorary first place.

First, he only had about five years to run up his score, as opposed to Stalin’s 30 and Mao’s 20. Second, and most important, he inspired the other two, showing them the way. It’s not for nothing that most of the thousands of Lenin statues adorning Russia show him with an extended right arm pointing to the future: way to go, comrades.

Yet some fossils in Russia are less than impressed with Lenin’s achievements. They point out that the great leader, his mind inflamed by syphilis, was consumed with hatred and bloodlust. Lenin, they claim, not just broadened the limits of the allowable but eliminated them.

The syphilitic maniac, they say, beggared the country with his wholesale looting of national wealth. In the process, he created the worst tyranny the world had ever known and even set the scene for the second worst one, by financing, arming and training the extremist and militarist elements in Germany (“the icebreaker of the revolution”, in Lenin’s phrase).

That’s why, insist those Russophobes (the term designating anyone whose position on anything differs from Putin’s), his mummy should be taken out of the Red Square mausoleum and reburied.

That ziggurat-like structure, incidentally, didn’t get off to a promising start when it was built in 1924. At first, while construction was going on, the mummy stayed in a temporary mausoleum. Alas, the builders carelessly punctured the sewer underneath, flooding the sacred remains and giving Patriarch Tikhon, then under house arrest, an opening for a witticism: “The incense fits the relics.”

His Holiness was understandably upset about some of the things the newly canonised saint had done. Lenin was even more atheistic than Richard Dawkins, or at least more prepared to act on his convictions. About 40,000 priests were murdered while he was in power, and God only knows how many lay parishioners.

In addition, Lenin ordered the plunder of church valuables when he felt the time was right, which is to say when the peasants were, in his phrase, “swelling from starvation… and reduced to cannibalism” and therefore too weak to resist.

But it was not all about money: Lenin never ignored the human factor. In his secret order of 19 March, 1922, he wrote that “…removal of valuables… must be carried out with merciless resolve and in the shortest possible time. The more representatives of the reactionary bourgeoisie and clergy we shall manage to shoot in the process, the better. It is now that we must teach that scum a lesson so that they will not even dare think of any kind of resistance for several decades.”

The lesson was taught, but some descendants of the original pupils still believe that the mummified teacher doesn’t belong in Red Square. And even those who are more ambivalent about Lenin still find the open sarcophagus a tad distasteful.

But Vlad has stopped them in their tracks, explaining, so far good-naturedly, that the plans to re-inter the mummy are barbaric. “While I’m sitting here, there will be no barbarism in Red Square,” said the current Strong Leader.

And he had something to say to the aspiring barbarians, those who have aesthetic and religious objections to what they call an obscene display (those who have moral objections aren’t worthy of a reply, not with words at any rate).

It’s this response that made me fear for Vlad’s psychiatric well-being. Citing the ancient Christian practice of cave burials, Vlad said that the tomb satisfied Russian Orthodox requirements for burial.

Personally, I wouldn’t invoke Christian rituals when talking about Lenin – for reasons that ought to be evident from some of his deeds I’ve mentioned. Christian burial is traditionally reserved for Christians only, isn’t it?

But the conservative in me rejoices: it’s time Russia reverted to her ancient burial rites. Some of them were described by the tenth century Arab envoy Ibn Fadlan in his book Risala.

In broad strokes, when a chieftain died, his numerous wives and concubines were asked to come up with a volunteer to be cremated with him. One would inevitably step forward, after which the lady, before she was incinerated, would be given wine and drugs. She would then, in her semi-conscious state, dance and have sex with all the male relations of the deceased.

It would please me no end to see this ancient custom revived, albeit with mummification replacing cremation to stay in tune with Christian practices. For example, when Vlad goes – and so many ‘conservatives’ pray it never happens – I for one would like to see a reassuringly conservative rite.

Ex-gymnast Alina Kabayeva, widely reputed to be Vlad’s secret wife, should get drunk and high, and then have sex with all of the hundred Russians whom Putin appointed billionaires. She could take her time but, being a fit young lady, she could probably manage the feat in one go. She should then be killed, mummified and placed into the Red Square mausoleum between two Vlads, Lenin and her beloved.

This would tally not only with Vlad’s take on Christianity, but also with the old Russian superstition that finding oneself between two namesakes is a good omen.

The idea may be a bit farfetched, but one should rejoice at the zeal with which Vlad protects the best in Russia’s heritage. He should also be complimented on the forthrightness with which he reminds the world of his political lineage.

Can an atheist be a thinker?

This question inevitably pops up every time Richard Dawkins makes the news. My answer remains the same: probably not. Dawkins certainly isn’t.

An atheist may be a clever chap, but a thinker picks up where a clever chap leaves off. He makes that critical next step from particular to universal thought, from analysis to synthesis, from empirical facts to the underlying causes.

Dawkins can’t think logically, thereby failing to qualify even for cleverness. Compile a list of logical fallacies, then read any chapter of any of his books and you’ll find illustrations of every fallacy on that list.

All Dawkins does is provide pseudoscientific non-arguments for strident atheism, which has proved to be quite lucrative. Our dumbed-down masses have replaced ideas with ideologies, of which strident atheism is either the sum total or a big part. Dawkins’s animadversions thus play back to them what they themselves feel, but can’t express for lack of the requisite jargon.

A recent article in The Times says that “Dawkins is, of course, one of Britain’s leading public intellectuals”. It goes on to commend “his clear thinking” and concludes that “he values the truth above false consolations. He is intellectually rigorous to a fault.”

As proof of that rigour, the article cites Dawkins’s maxim “evidence is the only reason to believe anything.” In other words, doubting Thomas was right when refusing to believe anything he couldn’t touch.

This is feeble for someone “intellectually rigorous to a fault”. Empiricism in general is the lowest form of cognition. Great thinkers from Aristotle onwards regarded empirical evidence as at best the first step of an intellectual quest, not its entirety.

Dawkins’s statement dismisses in one fell swoop things like inspiration, intuition, revelation and ratiocination, discarding in the process not only faith but also philosophy. In reality, faith is an indispensable form of knowledge. Even most scientific discoveries start from an act of faith, otherwise known as hypothesis. Einstein, for example, had been sure his theory was true years before it was supported by experimental evidence.

Empiricists, even those who are much cleverer than Dawkins (and I know a few), suffer from a singular lack of imagination, which is leavened with conceit. Their mental faculties don’t stretch to visualising the existence of things they haven’t touched, seen or heard.

Therefore, and this is where conceit comes in, they’re ready to deny the existence of such things a priori. It doesn’t occur to them that minds superior to their own may not suffer from the same limitations.

Our rigorous public intellectual blithely breaks an immutable law to which there are no known exceptions: Atheists must never, under any circumstances and whatever the provocation, talk about God, and especially argue against Him.

Even if their names are Dave (as in Hume) or Manny (as in Kant), whenever they broach this subject they sound as dumb as any old Tom, Dick or Harry. And not even Dawkins’s greatest admirers would, one hopes, put him into the same bracket as Hume and Kant.

His ignorance of this subject starts with the very concept of God, that is, to quote Pascal, “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and savants.” If he had even cursory understanding of this concept, he wouldn’t be uttering vulgarities along the lines of “Who created God?”

That’s like asking “Why do eagles fly and pigs don’t?” God is by definition the uncreated creator. The moment the word God is uttered, that definition comes into play. Anyone is entitled to disbelieve, but no one is entitled to pervert the definition of God to suit some nefarious purpose.

When Dawkins thinks he’s arguing against God, he’s actually talking about the pagan demiurge who gives order to the universe – not the infinite, self-differentiating, self-sufficient fountain of being that gives existence to everything else ex nihilo. That God doesn’t exist, Dawkins is right about that. It’s because of real God that everything else exists.

In common with many ignoramuses, Dawkins, who knows next to nothing of theology and philosophy, doesn’t hesitate to take on those who know next to everything. Thus he attacks Aquinas’s ‘Five Ways’ without understanding a single one of them.

For example, it’s possible to take issue with St Thomas’s arguments from causality, and some serious thinkers have done so. Aquinas argued that, since every motion and thing has a cause, then, going back in time step by step, we must logically arrive at an entity that is itself caused by nothing, a “first cause” (“and this we understand to be God”).

But Dawkins doesn’t argue, he perverts. Unaware of the difference between primary and secondary causality, he seems to think that by a ‘first cause’ Aquinas meant some kind of a domino that pushed a series of other dominoes into motion. This even though throughout his Summa St Thomas explicitly states that the first, primary cause is qualitatively different from all subsequent, secondary causes.

In general, the great mind seems to favour as his debating technique the ‘straw man’ fallacy, distortion of the opponent’s real position. Thus he repeatedly accuses Christianity of demanding mindless belief and discouraging science: “Religious faith is an especially potent silencer of rational calculation… because it discourages questioning, by its very nature”.

This is ignorant gibberish. In fact, natural science in any modern sense could only have appeared within Christendom.

It was thanks to Christian philosophy that mediaeval scientists realised something the Greeks hadn’t: nature obeyed universal laws because it was created by a universal law-giver. Moreover, those laws and indeed the world itself existed objectively, outside man’s senses.

Since God was rational, his laws were rationally knowable. The scientists’ job was understood as finding out what those laws were, and this understanding lies at the heart of every presupposition of modern research. (This regardless of whether the scientist has lost or preserved the original faith.)

That’s why science eventually became incomparably greater in the West than in any other civilisation – only Christendom possessed and cultivated the essential prerequisites. Why, even Dawkins’s own science, genetics, was founded by an Augustinian monk, Gregor Mendel.

But we must be grateful to Dawkins. He provides a clear, negative, answer to the question in the title.




EU lies on war and peace are getting tiresome

Sigmar Gabriel, the German foreign minister, is obviously not a very intelligent man – this goes without saying in a modern politician.

Modern governments can no more attract people endowed with intellectual rigour and integrity than an abattoir can attract vegetarians. To be sure, some politicians may have high IQs, but IQ measures not intelligence, but the potential to develop it.

Today’s governments are staffed with people who’ve left that potential unrealised, developing instead other qualities that are indeed essential for their profession: duplicity, perfidy, unscrupulousness and the ability to do whatever it takes to manipulate blocs of voters.

That being the case, when a politician utters a manifestly false statement it’s hard to say whether he does so because he’s mentally deficient, half-educated (at best) or dishonest. Most likely, all such qualities come together to form a homogeneous cocktail, where the individual ingredients are no longer distinguishable.

Herr Gabriel is a case in point. Speaking at the Passchendaele memorial service, he repeated the transparent lie peddled by all EU fans. The EU, he said, is “more than the single market”.

That much is true. It’s a giant political con designed to create a single tyrannical European state run by Germany, with her rear brought up by a neo-Vichy France. The single market is but a means to that end.

But that’s not how Gabriel meant it. He meant that it’s because of the EU that Europe has been spared “war and destruction” for 70 years: “Europe is a project of peace. Europe is our future. Only united can we succeed in protecting our interests and defending our values.”

The statement is mendacious on several levels, including factual. When German or French politicians say there have been no wars in Europe since 1945, they mean no wars between Germany and France.

This is an indirect proof of how the EU cookie really crumbles: all those Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Kosovars, Georgians and Ukrainians dying in their thousands simply don’t count. And as to the absence of an all-European war, the only threat of it since 1945 has come from Russia, and that threat has been kept in check not by the EU, but by Nato, mainly by the American nuclear umbrella.

It would be tedious to discuss such obvious facts at length. Suffice it to say that crediting the EU with preventing another world war takes either stupidity and ignorance, or else cynical (and probably justified) certainty that the dumbed-down masses will swallow any canard shoved down their throats.

As to “our values”, what would they be? Christian Europe was indeed united, brought together by dynastic ties and above all the Church. The guiding principle was “in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas” (in necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.)

It was the Church that was a factor of unity, and it was a sustained attack on the Church, adumbrated by the Renaissance, gathering speed with the Reformation and spinning out of control with that gross misnomer, the Enlightenment, that fractured European unity, bringing about the materialistic, progressivist and bloodthirsty modernity.

The third modifier naturally flows out of the first two: the newly hatched ‘enlightened European values’ combined to kill more people in the first wholly atheistic century, the twentieth, than in all the other centuries of recorded history combined. And it can be confidently predicted that the technological progress of which we’re supposed to be so proud will enable the twenty-first century to outscore its predecessor.

Another shameless lie flogged widely is that ‘our values’ are the same as those of Christendom: one hears all sorts of ignoramuses brazenly equating the EU with the Holy Roman Empire. In fact, they’re the same ‘values’ that produced the twentieth-century carnage, including the battle of Passchendaele, in which 500,000 had to die on both sides for the Allies to advance five miles.

All the political systems of modernity, including democracy, communism, fascism and national or international socialism, share the same ‘values’. They only differ in the methods they use to uphold and perpetuate them, and in the relative importance they assign to each.

All of them subordinate the individual to a vast collective entity, be it arithmetic majority, the largest class or the dominant race. They’ve all replaced aristocratic culture with that of the urban bourgeoisie, the lower reaches of it. They’ve all marginalised the Church. They’re all technocratic. They all enforce the primacy of the state over parents in children’s education. They’re all centralised. They all define their millenarian utopia in materialistic terms. They’re all atheist and utilitarian. They all promote a cult of mediocrity, to the accompaniment of assorted ‘fanfares for the common man’. They’re all anthropocentric. They all strive for uniformity, formed by ignorant popular tastes in everything, from art to food. They can all conscript the whole population at the drop of a hat (which fact contributes more than do technological advances to the apocalyptic body count of modern wars).

These are the ‘values’ that have destroyed history’s greatest civilisation, having produced instead so many ugly contrivances, such as Western ‘democracies’, Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany – and the EU.

It takes a combination of idiocy, cynicism and effrontery to tout such ‘values’ as a factor of lasting peace. In other words, it takes men like Sigmar Gabriel and his fellow EU shills, ably supported on the other side of the Atlantic by the neocons.