Mimicry run riot

Fr Pavel Florensky, the polymath philosopher murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1937, wrote a remarkable book The Pillar and Ground for the Truth.

Leonid Slusky, speaking at the memorial service for Darya Dugina

In it he argued that thinking in trinitarian categories is an ontological property of the human mind. The argument is long and involved, featuring things like the three spatial dimensions, three basic grammatical tenses, three phases of biological life, three movements of the sonata form and so forth.

I like to apply this argument to the observation that most political slogans of modernity are tripartite, consisting of three words or phrases rhythmically arranged. Since the wielders of such lines were intractably secularist (we are talking about modernity after all), they couldn’t have been accused of appealing to the religious feelings of their flock.

Of perhaps they did, cynically. But Florensky’s observation is more plausible. The one-two-three view of life – including political life – indeed has to be an intrinsic, innate property of the human mind.

Thus, American “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”, French “liberté, égalité, fraternité”, Russian “vsia vlast’ sovetam” (all power to the Soviets), German “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer!”. And even a less prominent modern regime came up with “work harder, produce more, build Grenada”.

Florensky’s argument was of course that this tendency was an unconscious mimicry of the Holy Trinity, and I am sure he was right. But some regimes consciously mimic not the Trinity but one another, as a way of establishing an ideological lineage.

This brings me to Leonid Slutsky, the Russian politician who is the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. That is one of those political misnomers that never cease to amuse me.

For rather than being either liberal or democratic, the party, whose founder Zhirinovsky died earlier this year, has been downright fascist from its first days. Zhirinovsky’s pet idea was for Russia to sprawl all the way to the Indian Ocean. Ever since the Ukraine proclaimed its independence, he agitated for an invasion, ideally facilitated by a nuclear barrage.

The party has always drawn about 20 per cent of the electorate, but until recently it was regarded as strictly loony fringe. Its function was to enunciate and promulgate extreme ideas that Putin’s ruling party felt too cautious to proclaim openly.

Now the Russian LibDems are in the ideological mainstream of Russian politics, which paradoxically makes them redundant. Who needs marginal parties when Putin himself has adopted the same ideas and put them into practice? Hence Slutsky has become, even more than Zhirinovsky was, strictly a Putin lackey, an underling to a boss.

Consequently, though Slutsky inherited the leadership of the party, he has little political weight of his own. It remains the same party, though, and that Slutsky emphasised the other day at the memorial service for Darya Dugina.

He delivered a speech of which both Vlads, Putin and Zhirinovsky, would have been proud. He ended it by shouting: “One country, one president, one victory!”

Fr Pavel Florensky vindicated. The tripartite form is very much in evidence, as is the implied mimicry. Yet I very much doubt, for a variety of reasons, that Slutsky’s inspiration came from the Holy Trinity. He took his cue from more secular antecedents.

Here I’d like to refer you to any documentary footage of Nazi rallies, especially Leni Riefenstahl’s masterly 1935 film Triumph of the Will. If you’ve seen it, you must remember Rudolf Hess screaming hysterically, “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer!” – one nation, one state, one leader.

It’s obvious that Hess, second only to Hitler in the Nazi party, is Slutsky’s role model. That raises an inevitable question: Who performs the same role for Slutsky’s boss?

3 thoughts on “Mimicry run riot”

  1. There’s a not-so good word in English “slut” which fits LS quite aptly. Sort of resembles some of DT’s supporters in this country.

    A decade or so ago, a different Russian pundit (Migranyan?) argued that had Hitler stepped down in the mid-30s he would have been recognized as a great German leader. I’m not sure about that, but the longer a despot remains in power, the bloodier his crimes. Like Macbeth, Putin has “Stepped in [blood] so far that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er.”

  2. “Zhirinovsky’s pet idea was for Russia to sprawl all the way to the Indian Ocean.”

    I hope he didn’t forget all the way down the Pacific coast of North America to what is now California. Sebastopol and Russian river and all that just north of San Francisco.

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