the imaginative conservative logo

Henryk Krzeczkowski - John mccain global wroclaw forumRussia is not a real country, intoned Senator John McCain during the recent Wroclaw Global Forum in Poland, but a gas station run by the mafia. John McCain is not an authority on either Russia or war, when compared with the military, diplomatic and intellectual experience of Henryk Krzeczkowski. Belligerent language like the Senator’s has been on the rise on all sides since the breakout of civil war in Ukraine. It is both an inevitable reaction to the fear of a wider war and the calculated inculcation of this fear in people who, unbeknownst to them, are being conditioned for war. Senator McCain can make such statements not because of his manly courage, but because of the relative safety which he and his country are assured in any eventual European war that may result from the present crisis. Poles invite and cheer this type of rhetoric at their own peril because Poland does not have a conventional army strong enough to stand one week against a potential attack.

Instead of listening to the likes of Senator McCain, Poles would be wise to listen to the council of their own countryman and War Hero, Henryk Krzeczkowski. Americans would also be wise to lend ear to the sage reflections of this man, who survived imprisonment in Stalinist Russia, fought on the Eastern front for the duration of World War II, and went on to write and advocate in favor of conservative political philosophy in the oppressive world of Communist Poland after working in the diplomatic corps in the Soviet Union. This man had the military and intellectual credentials of one who spent his entire life living and thinking about relations between Russia, Europe and the world. Today, he is ignored in Poland and unknown in the wider world. My purpose herein is to give voice to his reflections in the firm belief that ideas and facts might yet be victorious against bombastic rhetoric and primitive propaganda.

The essays which form the basis of these present reflections, titled Temptations & Admonitions, were written in 1974. Despite the fact that he wrote long before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Henryk Krzeczkowski saw clearly that the postwar order agreed to in Yalta was unsustainable, and therefore dedicated his unparalleled intellect to considering—in the 1970s—the geopolitical framework of a United Europe, of a diminished Soviet Russia, and of the foreign policy of a free and independent Poland. He was confident that the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact would undergo disintegration, that the various nations under Soviet domination would eventually be recognized as free and independent by a reduced Soviet Russia. He envisioned that “only a sovereign and free Poland could become the principle factor within a United Europe which could effectively halt all eventual tendencies to intervene in the internal affairs of Russia and any attempts to curtail the existence of Russia” by “the specter of a United Europe undertaking a crusade against communist Russia,” fomented by messianic American hegemony and American Manifest Destiny. How he came to conclusions about Russia, which turned out to be true, and about Poland, which turned out to be diametrically opposed to the present reality must be examined. Why he came to these conclusions is of equal importance.

Contrary to Senator McCain, Henryk Krzeczkowski knew that Russia was a country, and his comprehension of Russia was exceptional. He was not altogether blind to the differences between Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union, but he cautioned against the naivety of juxtaposing the two political entities for convenience, preferring to stick to strict historiography. Thus, insofar as the Bolshevik Revolution began as an ideological universalist movement which considered nations to be artifices and looked only at human beings and their economic class, Mr. Krzeczkowski recognizes that Stalin eventually came to the conclusion that Soviet Communism, in order to endure as state, required the concept of the Russian nation as the vanguard of the Global Communist Revolution. Thus, what Westerners often cannot comprehend: Stalin used Russian nationalism to advance the causes of Internationalist Communism. Russian nationalism was seen as serving international Communism because Stalin identified the historical moment of the Russian nation in 1917 as being at the forefront of a world revolution. That Stalin himself was Georgian is of little importance, beyond the fact that it is possible that his Georgian ancestry made it easier for him to murder Russian nationals who did not fit his vision of Russian nationalism as Revolutionary Communism (just as Mr. Khrushchev’s Ukrainian roots made it easier for him to give Crimea to the Ukrainian Soviet). That this is complex and does not admit of simple classification is a testimony to Mr. Krzeczkowski’s insistence that politics be free of childish oversimplification. An enemy of Cold War rhetoric to the last, Henryk Krzeczkowski insisted that political science in the tradition of Machiavelli and Aristotle did not disappear from the Earth to be replaced by the Empires of light and darkness.

Krzeczkowski viewed nations as organic wholes. Thus, Communism in Russia, like fascism in Germany, did not spring ex nihilo, but were the result of concrete processes and events interwoven within the historical fabric of Germany and Russia. This view is tentatively supported by Russophobes and Germanophobes in Poland, who like to use it as a justification for maintaining that Russia and Germany are evil nations. Yet the purpose of Mr. Krzeczkowski’s historical methodology is not to assign blame, which is politically ineffective, but to understand in order to better prepare for the future. To this end, Henryk Krzeczkowski uses the same approach with regard to the development of the Polish nation, and the trials and tribulations of the II Polish Republic. His criticism of Polish political thought and action is even harsher than his criticism of Russia. His methodology is comparable to that of the young Charles de Gaulle, writing in The Enemy’s House Divided, of the causes of German defeat in World War I; causes which would become the genesis for the French moral decay in World War II, and whose remedy was seen clearly by de Gaulle because he had observed the same disease in its inception amongst his German captors. The magnanimity of de Gaulle’s respect and honor for an enemy that tried to kill him, jailed him and subjected his beloved France to such great suffering is the magnanimity of Mr. Krzeczkowski’s respect and honor towards Russia, an enemy that likewise tried to kill him, jailed him and subjected his beloved Poland to such great suffering.

In Mr. Krzeczkowski’s view, Russia—as a nation—has always developed in accordance with the principles of aristocracy. As such, Russia’s negative predispositions have always been towards oligarchy because in the Aristotelian scheme of things, the corrosion of aristocratic institutions is called oligarchy. This basic foundation of Russian national identity was not altered by the creation of the Soviet Union and any politics which fails to understand this will fail to deal effectively with Russia. The Russian state, barring vast demographic changes, will always be governed by an elite of educated men and women who oversee a populace that exists in accordance with the poetry of Russian national identity and amongst whom the democratic forms of self-government prevalent in Britain or America will always be foreign. It would be a mistake to assume, however, that Mr. Krzeczkowski believed that Russia is somehow eternally doomed to “despotism”. To believe this would be the same as believing that America is eternally doomed to the democratic despotism of which Tocqueville wrote. Rather, Mr. Krzeczkowski’s point is only to say that however human liberty and virtue manifest themselves in Russia, it will not be along the lines that liberty and virtue have manifested themselves in other nations. Likewise, the regression of Russian liberty and virtue will not proceed along similar lines to the regression of liberty and virtue in other nations. In dealing with Russia, one immediately commits an error of judgment if one bemoans the fact that the Russian people are not universal members of a liberal democratic utopia. Russia must be understood as she is; only then is it possible to formulate policy. This is not a preference for realpolitik over ethics, but a recognition that to be ethical in the effective sense, politics must be realistic.

99d/46/huty/14009/46Subsequent to this view of things, Mr. Krzeczkowski notes that the paradox of Russian imperialism was that whenever the Russian Empire expanded to encompass other nations, it introduced foreign organisms into its body politic, which paradoxically diluted its’ Russian identity, and compelled Russian statecraft to become pre-occupied with managing a multitude of nations within an Empire, rather than nurturing Russian national interest. This is the paradox that eventually led to the Russian revolution and the collapse of the Tsar on account of the influx of non-Russian ideas such as Marxism, liberalism, socialism, democracy and the whole host of political movements originated in Europe. In light of this, it is no surprise that a reduced Soviet Russia, shorn of not only the “People’s Republics”, but even of many of its’ component Soviets, would restore a distinctly Russian nationalist political policy. No longer burdened by the Imperial tasks of managing conflicting national interests in its provinces, it would be free to focus on its’ own advance. Thus, when contemporary writers bemoan “Russian nationalism” as the root cause of the present Russian endeavor to “rebuild the Soviet Empire”—they only demonstrate their historical ignorance. It was the Empire—under both the Tsars and Stalin—which did the most to make the execution of Russian nationalist policies impossible, because the nature of Empire is internationalist, and the dominant imperial nation is forever pre-occupied with maintaining order amongst constituent parts, not upon the far more organic and comprehensible task of self-government.

That Western thinking fails to grasp this important point is a function of the Enlightenment. Mr. Krzeczkowski notes, in his critique of Metternich embedded in a separate work, that Metternich—an enlightenment mind—was not fond of thinking, only of “reasoning” about everything. A child of the Enlightenment, he saw only states and statecraft; never nations. Modern Western political thought erroneously qualifies Metternich as a Conservative statesman, and Metternich’s realpolitik is thought of as the antithesis of abstract reasoning. Not so for Henryk Krzeczkowski. Metternich was, in fact, the Austro-Hungarian embodiment of the vices of Lord Bertrand Russell. Though ostensibly different (the one embodying conservatism, the other liberalism), they were essentially reflections of the Enlightenment. Metternich’s failure to sustain his empire was largely a failure to understand the peculiar nature of nations as opposed to states. Nations are, indeed, artifices, but they are artifices that spring forth from common experience, language and culture – not from the mind of an enlightened raisonner constructing a state. The organic and intangible nature of nations makes their management by state administration uniquely problematic. The same flaws in Western thinking that infected Metternich, making him unable to preserve what was good in his empire because he did not see the good of the nations he ruled, also infect Western thinking on the subject of Russia. To fear Russian Imperialism as a result of Russian nationalism is a symptom of this flaw in Western thinking: Russian nationalism must be anti-Imperial; otherwise, it will only invite the very heterogeneous elements into its organism that created the conditions for Russian collapse or at least degradation; both under the Tsars and following Stalin. Conversely: the natural result of the dismemberment of Russian Imperialism is Russian nationalism. Nationalism and Imperialism are political antagonists.

That Stalin is today still remembered by Russians as both a nationalist and a Communist is merely a function of a moment in Soviet history when the internationalism of Communism was abandoned following the Revolution, when it became necessary to conduct actual policy in post-Tsarist Russia, which retained imperial structures and lorded over subject nations. None of those nations, contrary to Marxist historiography, was particularly enthusiastic about Communist revolution. Thus, logically, Stalin used Russian nationalism to consolidate power domestically and merged Russian nationalism with theories of Marxist Socialism in order to justify Russian Imperial rule over subject nations as having nothing to do with Imperialism, and everything to do with the Russian nation being a historical vanguard of Communist revolution. This explains the phenomenon which often baffles Western observers of Russian politics: how can Russians harbor sentiments for both Bolshevism and nationalism at the same time? It should not come as a surprise to any thinking European—after all—Europeans harbored similar sentiments under the nationalist socialist Hitler.

Yet the system that Stalin built, reaching its apex in Yalta, was untenable because no amount of terror or ideology could stop the continuation of natural, organic growth of national consciousness within the Soviet Union—particularly amongst the Russian people who were at its core. With the passing of Stalin, all of the nations of the Soviet sphere breathed a sigh of relief. With the war and its immediate concerns having passed, it was inevitable that a return to the organic, natural politics between the nations would reemerge—albeit veiled under ahistorical Communist orthodoxy. Mr. Krzeczkowski gives us an excellent, detailed analysis of this reemergence in Poland which runs contrary to the ideological fairy tales of the Cold War according to which Communism was always and everywhere a simple, abstract global ideology. The United States paid the price of adhering to this fairy tale in Vietnam, where it ignorantly went to war with a former American Ally; Ho Chi Minh, who had petitioned for Vietnamese independence at Versailles, rescued American pilots gunned down by the Japanese, fought against the Chinese Communists and aided the American war effort against Imperial Japan. Yet, under the silly pretense that Ho Chi Minh was a “Communist”, America embarked on the first war that it would ever lose erroneously believing that the man who modeled his nation’s Declaration of Independence on Thomas Jefferson’s was a threat to America because of a domino theory that bore no relation to reality. Americans who have retrospectively studied the Vietnam war understand that America turned its back on Ho Chi Minh, forcing him into the hands of the Soviets (just as the French had done in the early XXth century in Paris) on account of Cold War calculus according to which America required French allegiance more than it cared for Vietnamese liberty.

Signing of the Treaty of RigaMr. Krzeczkowski analyzes Poland’s post-war situation in a similar vein. Noting that Polish independence in the years from 1918 to 1923 was not won on account of Western idealism at Versailles, but on account of Polish military strength, which culminated in the Treaty of Riga establishing Poland’s Eastern border with the Soviet Union, he goes on to lament that Poland’s political elite in the 1930s lacked the military cunning and strength of their nationalist founders, and relied instead on diplomacy to secure Polish liberty. Regarding the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact as indicative that Stalin realized Soviet statecraft must abandon internationalist Communism in favor of the idea of the Russian Communist nationalist vanguard, Krzeczkowski argued that Stalin saw the pact as a means by which to regain the territories which now compose Western Ukraine from Poland, which had won them in military conflict in 1923. The Communist ideal of cooperating with international Communist parties thus gave way to the notion of Russian imperial aggression as a tool of Communist “regime change.” This “Russification” of the Communist revolution was also responsible for the various ethnic cleansings conducted by Stalin during the war, such as the murder of 20,000 Poles in Katyn. These Poles, being officers and intelligensia of an independent nationalist mindset would never, even had they been Communists, accepted Moscow as the center of Communist rule, much less any political rule. If all of this sounds eerily similar to the “Americanization” of the international global democratic revolution and the transformation of American nationalism from the idea that the nation must look to its’ own interests into the idea that the nation is the representative of the universal interests of Mankind, then this is not a coincidence.

Poles, who had saved Germany from Bolshevik revolution in 1920-1923 and saved the multi-national inhabitants of what is today Western Ukraine from the Holodomor massacre that was the fate of those on the other side of the border established in the Treaty of Riga, were unable to find common political ground with either the Nazis or Stalin, and had been severely weakened by German funding of Ukrainian nationalist terrorism, aimed at both Russians and Polish nationals in a gambit to weaken the Soviet Union and Poland on the eastern lands of the II Polish Republic. Mr, Krzeczkowski is also quick to note that Polish policy in the regions that would one day become Ukraine was imperialistic and detrimental to the peoples of that nation in many respects. Incapable of joining Hitler or Stalin, yet without arms of their own, ruling the multi-ethnic fringes of a recently disintegrated XIX century political order to the East and faced with a renewed German expansiveness to the West—Poland made the catastrophic decision to trust British and French war guarantees, which lost them their freedom. Mr. Krzeczkowski blames this on a lack of vision and character on the part of Poland’s pre-war political elite. He also notes that the Polish founders—Józef Piłsudzki and Roman Dmowski—were possessed of a XIXth century mentality, which was still applicable to warfare and statecraft in 1923, but no longer in 1939. Rather than elevating the national idealism of these two men in modern forms, Poland’s political elite failed to prepare the II Republic for the XX century and it ceased to exist. For Henryk Krzeczkowski—the only means of gaining and preserving independence were not pieces of paper, but military victory. Poland became a nation-state because of its’ superior army and Poland lost its’ nation-state because of its’ inferior army. Mr. Krzeczkowski had no tolerance for the romantic traditions of the Polish Uprisings—including the Warsaw Uprising in 1944—because their results are never romantic, always tragic, and the type of characters they produce are martyrs rather than free and strong men who understand war and statesmanship.

Part of the cause of this Polish weakness, according to Mr. Krzeczkowski, is that while Polish statehood was achieved by Polish nationals who had lived in Poland and patiently organized and prepared for it, Polish government was often the province of men who had been unduly influenced in their thinking by Western or Eastern concepts, and were intent on sharing their wisdom, whether acquired in London, Vienna or Moscow, with the Polish people, who themselves remained often oblivious to the political tumults of the II Republic as evidenced by the rather local nature of the melodramatically titled Polish Civil War of 1926. Mr. Krzeczkowski saw the same mechanisms at work in the midst of World War II, where the lack of a coherent unity amongst Poles led Great Britain to eventually consider the Polish government in exile in London to be merely one of many representative factions within Polish national life. This tendency came about as the result of Polish disillusionment with British and American statecraft, which, having already betrayed Poland, continued to deny Poland any assistance in liberating the homeland while happily using Polish soldiers to fight its own wars. This reality naturally drew a number of Poles to the conclusion, particularly following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, that Russia was Poland’s only reliable ally, since Russia had actually armed a massive Polish army and fought alongside Poland for the restoration of the Polish state (which, it should be noted, disappeared from the map between 1939 and 1945, becoming the III Reich to the west, the General Gubernature with a capital in Krakow in the center and the Soviet republics of Ukraine and Belarus and in the East).

Immediately following World War II, many Poles were convinced of the validity of Russian reliability on account of the simple fact that although Poland had no nominal sovereignty under Stalin, it retained formal statehood and thus the political ramifications within which to pursue sovereignty. As to this lack of sovereignty, Mr. Krzeczkowski sees the matter clearly: Western treason and Western invasion were to blame for Polish sovereignty passing from Warsaw to Moscow. The conditions which made this state of affairs possible was the naïve Polish belief that far off British and French war guarantees would absolve it of the difficult geopolitical choices demanded of mid-twentieth century European politics. Were he alive today, Mr. Krzeczkowski would no doubt notice the continuation amongst segments of the Polish political elite of a tendency to think in British or American terms (which is to say foreign, western terms) because of their attachment to London and Washington DC, rather than in Polish terms. Now, as then, he would also note the skepticism of the vast majority of Poles towards the enthusiasts of American or Russian benevolence and the lack of a strictly Polish-oriented national political elite. Poland, according to Henryk Krzeczkowski, constantly repeated a simple error during the XXth century: rather than following the Latin maxim of Do ut Des, Polish politics relied on others to preserve her statehood.

Insofar as the matter of the Cold War is concerned, Henryk Krzeczkowski maintained his characteristic realism: To Mr. Krzeczkowski, American and British rhetoric regarding iron curtains and anti-Communism was just that—rhetoric. In reality, just as the United States and its British protectorate silently agreed to the elimination of any remnants of anti-Communism in Eastern Europe during the 1950s, so too the Soviet Union agreed to the neutralization of Communist forces in the West. Where internal conflict raised the prospect of tactical gains, as in the case of Greece, the Superpowers engaged in the sort of proxy wars that would define the Cold War for its duration. The logic for this state of affairs was the birth of the nuclear age, which necessitated the consolidation of Imperial spoils of war by the world’s two super powers. Mr. Krzeczkowski compared the Stalinist show trials in Eastern Europe to McCarthyism in the United States and noted that both anti-Communist rhetoric in the West and anti-Capitalist rhetoric in the East served domestic ends of the consolidation of political power. The United States occupied Western Europe, the Soviet Union occupied Eastern Europe, and Europe itself became a redundant pawn in the hands of the ideological children of the Enlightenment, both of which were exponents of revolutionary universalist doctrines running roughshod over the ancient, traditional European modes and orders of the Continent. Henryk Krzeczkowski considered Cold War America’s democratic pretentions to be an extension of the XIXth century policy of Manifest Destiny, albeit carried from the New Continent onto the Old, with poisonous effect. This view is only incomprehensible to those who maintain that NAZI Germany was a totalitarian enemy of liberal democracy. It is clear to anything thinking person that Adolf Hitler was the final result of the alien liberal democratic modes and orders forced on Germany at Versailles. A man like Hitler, who was the embodiment of democratic populism, would never have come to hold political power in the Germany of the House of Hohenzollern. At worse, Germany might have come under the sway of a man like Ludendorff, but never Hitler—not without the leveling tendencies presented by American democracy and thrust upon a German nation with age old traditions of military honor and aristocratic hierarchy.

regencyThat Mr. Krzeczkowski was at once an avowed anglophile did not contradict this weariness towards democratic institutions of British and American origin, particularly towards what he called “messianic anti-Russian crusades” on the part of Europe. As a Tory, Mr. Krzeczkowski appreciated the virtues of British aristocratic culture. As a conservative, he admired writers like Evelyn Waugh and Robert Penn Warren. He was responsible for the publication of an anthology of British poetry in Poland. His view of American Cold War policy was not the view of a knee-jerk “anti-American”. He was the greatest source of knowledge on the subject of American and British literature in postwar Warsaw and to this day remains one of the premiere translators of the modern classics of British and American literature and theatre in Poland. He reportedly spoke English without a trace of a foreign accent and had even spent time in Oxford. Unlike so many of his countrymen who fled Poland over the years, Mr. Krzeczkowski never wanted to stay away. His dedication to the Polish question prevented him from being a political tourist, as some Polish citizens are wont to have been (and be). As a veteran of World War II and former prisoner of Stalinist terror, his views certainly did not spring from cowardice or pacifism. His views of American Cold War policy were the views of a man who had become a rare commodity in the postwar world: an educated, intelligent man, immune to ideology, living in the midst of Soviet Communism.

Henryk Krzeczkowski understood that American liberal democratic “values” in Europe were an equally foreign body as European socialism and liberalism were in Russia. His xenophobia was not, however, predicated on the idea of a race based nationalism, but on his conviction that European identity was rooted in Christianity and antithetical to modern, secular liberal democratic traditions. Thus the only sort of Universalism that Henryk Krzeczkowski’s political thought admitted of was Christian Universalism as manifested in the various cultures of Europe’s nations. The content of national patriotism could be judged as more or less ethical on the basis of its approximation of Christian ethos. At the core of this ethos was the notion that human institutions are inherently fallen, that government cannot be absolute, that Man—be he Ruler or ruled, is always beholden to God and that no human institution will ever succeed if it is built to change rather than temper human nature.

Reflecting on the destiny of post-Cold War Europe, he wrote that Europe would either break the bonds of American and Soviet occupation and return to the principles of Christianity in accordance with which the international order on the Continent would be maintained by a revitalized Vatican, and which would emanate Christian practice as an example to the world, or it would revert to national squabbles. The Yalta order, Mr. Krzeczkowski opined at the height of Detente, was destined to fail. This opinion, presented just as the Helsinki accords which seemed to be extinguishing the Cold War tensions and perpetuating Soviet-American co-existence were agreed, probably seemed improbable at the time. Today, we know that it has been partially vindicated by events.

The vindication of Mr. Krzeczkowski’s prognosis has nowhere been stronger than in his opinion, written in 1974, of what Russia should and would have to do in the immediate future. For Russia has done precisely what Henryk Krzeczkowski believed it would—and even more. It has withdrawn its military from the lands occupied during World War II, it has permitted the peaceful secession of components of the Soviet Empire. By dismembering its Empire, Russia has recovered its national identity and made possible the application of statecraft to the problems of the nation rather than to the problems of managing an international imperial order. It has even gone beyond what Mr. Krzeczkowski predicted by abolishing the Soviet Union and ultimately acquiescing to NATO membership for Poland and the Baltic states. Henryk Krzeczkowski believed Russian liberality would only be possible under the condition of a “free and strong Poland” guaranteeing Russian safety from Western designs on its security and national identity.

This has not come to pass. Poland is not free, and therefore it is not strong. Poland is not free because it slowly, consistently traded away the sovereignty it had won from Moscow to the European Union and NATO in exchange for Keynesian economic stimulus, lucrative posts for its political elite in Brussels and security guarantees from the United States which, even if they were to be honored, would be fulfilled under the full control and in the full interest of the American military and could not prevent the destruction of Poland in any large scale war. Poland’s economy, which grew at 7% per annum prior to joining the European Union, has now slowed to single digit growth. Millions of Poles, tired of waiting for the political elite to create conditions for growth, have fled to England. Just as in the 1930s, when the West was stagnating due to socialist interventionism while Poland grew under a policy of national market economics, so again the West is now in deep economic crisis while Poland’s economy grows (weakly) due to the realistic economic policies of those who freed the Polish economy from central planning in the 1990s. Rather than continue the hard work of building a strong and free Poland, the political class was seduced by the temptation of an easy path to prosperity and security within the European Union. With each passing year of EU membership, the growth of the Polish economy has slowed as it has been forced to adopt Western socialism. Meanwhile, the effectiveness of its political class at retaining power through artful public relations has also grown, as Western liberal democratic methods of political discourse and liberal democratic standards of education have slowly transformed the political dialogue in Poland from an amateur, but elevated discourse into a mirror image of the ignorant, childish partisanship of the Western “Tabloid democracies.” For these reasons, rather than prevent Western intervention in Ukraine and work with Russia to contain and settle a crisis brewing on their common border, Poland let itself be used as a launching pad for Western efforts to destabilize Russia because Russia has dared to support Syria. That Poles and Polish politicians are either blind to this fact, or accomplices to this process, is lamentable.

Poles really believe that the Ukraine crisis is about them, not about the American effort to destroy the regime in Tehran by way of Damascus. Syria is the only target of “regime change” since 2001 to have effectively resisted American efforts at toppling it. It did so because of staunch Russian support. Russia does not support Syria because it supports the political philosophy of the Assad government, but because Vladimir Putin believes that Islamic Fundamentalism and Al Queda thrive where legal states collapse. The United States, to a degree, believes this as well, thus American support for Saudi Arabia. But, a toxic mixture of messianic liberal democratic ideology, Israeli influence and jingoism has led American policy to invade or otherwise overthrow legal states and replace them with viral civil and religious wars in the Middle East. These religious wars are out of control and destabilize the entire geopolitical order. They serve America’s Imperial ambitions insofar as the instability weakens potential rivals or opponents of American hegemony.

Just as the price of the Soviet Empire was the subjugation of Russian national interest rightly understood, with periodic utilization of Russian nationalism for Imperial ends, so too the price of American Empire is a systematic impoverishment of the American people, and a government so busy trying to manage its’ provinces that it fails to serve its own people. Just as the Soviet and Tsarist Empire introduced foreign elements into the Russian body politic which paradoxically led to politically paralyzing inter-ethnic strife in the Soviet sphere, so American imperialism now has introduced over 11 million foreign elements into the American body politic; nations within a nation, which cannot and will not be assimilated, but which will forever change the political character of the United States and demographically erase the possibility of a restoration of American Constitutional republicanism—which is after all the defining characteristic of the American nation.

Ergo, instead of antagonizing Russia in order to punish Vladimir Putin for supporting law and order in Syria, instead of failing to see that law and order are preferable to the multiplication of Islamic fundamentalist strongholds, instead of setting the Middle East aflame and triggering mass Islamic migration into Western Europe, perhaps the statesmen of America and Poland should undertake the real work made necessary by the crises of our times: the restoration of limited, Constitutional republicanism in the United States and the establishment of a free and strong Poland which is independent of both East and West, serving to temper the ambitions and temptations of either side should they decide to breed Napoleons or Stalins in the future. These would be the conclusions that we would have to come to if we read and trust Henryk Krzeczkowski’s analysis of Russia. We could put our faith in the wisdom of this liberally educated Christian veteran of World War II who lived through Stalinist imprisonment, the battle of Berlin and Stalinism in Poland, or we could put our fate in the hands of Senator McCain and those who do what passes for thinking like him, who claim that Russia is “not a country.” As Americans, we will have to make up our minds very soon which of these views to trust and then live with the consequences.

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

Print Friendly
"All comments are subject to moderation. We welcome the comments of those who disagree, but not those who are disagreeable."
9 replies to this post
  1. Fascinating essay. Have long been intrigued by many of these obscure (to the world) “East” European (European) intellectuals who were, in fact, the prophets of their day. He strikes me as the kind of international “man of letters” who maintained a core “local“ identity while having a complete grip on the political mentality of both East and West at large. Thank you for the introduction. A pleasure to read.

  2. The seventh through ninth paragraphs of this piece constitute some of the best analyses on how the Soviet Union (Stalin) used Russian Nationalism to its advantage, that I have ever read–and I have read a lot on the topic.

    Reading those passages I thought of Trotsky’s famous depiction of Stalin raising his glass and announcing, “Death to the Russians!“ He didn’t give a damn, but knew that national feeling (and the Russian church) were good propaganda tools.

    The rest of the article was quite eye-opening. Very nice work.

  3. Absolutely fascinating essay. I have shared it with others who I think will appreciate it. Question – what are the 11 million elements you refer to in this statement? “so American imperialism now has introduced over 11 million foreign elements into the American body politic”

  4. The 11 million elements are illegal aliens living and working in the United States. I very much agree with Pat Buchanan and fear that these “nations within a nation” are transforming American government into an imperial arbitrator between diverse cultures rather than a coherent republican body, representing diverse factions within a common culture. I find this to be a result of Imperial ambitions – cheap labor is more important for the Empire than having good citizens, which Republics need. Just as Russian nationalism became something anti-Russian under Stalin, with its’ idea of Russia as the vanguard of internationalist Empire, so American nationalism is now effectively anti-American, “American intetest” is defined as international globalism and multiculturalism, things just as foriegn to the American identity as Communism was foriegn to the Russian identity. Not a perfect analogy, of course, but I think there’s something to it.

    • Sorry Peter, I posted an entirely new comment rather than continuing the thread. If you don’t mind, I’ll post here as well…

      Very interesting – never heard it put as you’ve said it, but I can definitely see the reasoning. To play devil’s advocate here, what would you say to the person who insists that our Republic has always been comprised of “nations within a nation,” and that such a vision is consistent with our founding values? Secondly, having become an established nation with a mature economy through immigration (albeit remarkably immature and greedy), would you advocate for tighter immigration policies so that we can better “tend to the home” and avoid the Empiric tendencies you’re referencing?

      Lastly, your perspectives on Russia are invaluable to me. I have fallen in love with Russian culture through Russian literature and their Christian Tradition. Additionally, from a political perspective in today’s environment, I side with Russia’s perspective on Syria, Ukraine, as well as their internal “homosexuality propaganda law” which states that homosexuality cannot be promoted to minors. Political situations are always changing; I can’t help but think that Russia has taken true steps in a good directions.

  5. Very interesting – never heard it put as you’ve said it, but I can definitely see the reasoning. To play devil’s advocate here, what would you say to the person who insists that our Republic has always been comprised of “nations within a nation,” and that such a vision is consistent with our founding values? Secondly, having become an established nation with a mature economy (albeit remarkably immature and greedy) through immigration, would you advocate for tighter immigration policies so that we can better “tend to the home” and avoid the Empiric tendencies you’re referencing?

  6. Well, these are difficult questions which deserve a seperate article on immigration. The very short answer is: A) I know of no Founding Father who had any “values”, I do however know of many who had principles. B) We need to distinguish between a debate about immigration and a debate about illegal immigration and C) No enlightening immigration debate is possible unless we first recover our understanding of Citizenship and look at immigration policy from the perspective of whether or not certain solutions contribute positively to the development of Citizenship and Civic virtues or whether they impact Citizenship negatively. So long as only economics or abstract human rights take priority over politics – and by politics I mean politics rightly understood as the art of Citizenship in a republic – so long the problem will get worse, not better.

    As for Russia; thank you for your kind words about my thoughts on Russia; but I think I am rather an amateur on the topic. I have never studied Russian history, and my passing appreciation of Russian literature is limited to enjoying Turgeniev and Dostoievski. My knowledge of Russian religious traditions is even smaller. My perspective on Russia is really animated by a personal quest to learn more about the country which happens to border Poland, since it is important to know about the world that surrounds us. It is also a gut reaction to the Russophobia I constantly encounter in Poland and honestly can’t stand. Everything is instinctively the fault of Russia, Russia is secretly responsible for every calamnity, Russia can never be trusted, Russia is the locus of evil – etc etc etc. The campaign of de-humanization of Russia and Russians that has taken place in Poland over the past 9 years has been unfortunate and many intelligent Poles who have a sense of historical proportions, decency and understand the dangers that such a narrow minded opinion could bring as sick and tired of it. I suppose I am one of the “sick and tired”.These “sick and tired” can be found on the Left and the Right; they are usually characterized by a desire to look at historical facts and not create wild mythologies.

    Finally, unlike all of those who fear Vladimir Putin, I have – I think – enough understanding of modern Russian history to be certain that things could have been MUCH WORSE. The real question is who will come after Vladimir Putin, and on what basis? The last thing anyone should wish for – and unfortunately many in Poland do wish for it – is a collapse of the Russian federation or a whithering away of the Russian nation. This would be catastrophic because the resultant chaos and warfare would destroy Eastern Europe. Insofar as Vladimir Putin has steered Russia from the brink of total collapse and anarchy, he ought to be praised and the West must continue to work with Russia and for a stable, strong and prosperous Russia. Russia, today, is an amazing success given the tragic and dramatic horrors it both endured and inflicted in the XXth century. The more we learn about Russia, the more we educate ourselves about it – the better we’ll be able to judge and conduct foriegn policy. I just worry that when Putin is gone, we might end up getting a far less diplomatic and reasonable man at the head of the Russian Federation. People should worry about that, not about Putin.

    Henryk Krzeczkowski seemed to also believe that we need to educate oureselves and understand Russia better rather than constantly make them out to be evil people, which is why he (amongst other things) translated Isaiah Berlin’s book “Russian Thinkers” into Polish. I have yet to pick it up, but from one amateur of Russia to another – you might like this book:

    http://www.amazon.com/Russian-Thinkers-Penguin-Classics-Isaiah/dp/0141442204

    • I appreciate the thoughtful response. Couldn’t agree more that things could be much worse in Russia, and like you, I’ve thought from time to time about Putin’s successor. I’ve heard that there is a significant percentage of the population who wants him back for yet another term, and personally, for the very reasons you’ve stated about the possibility of a far less diplomatic and reasonable man, I’d welcome it myself. Thanks for the book recommendation, I’ve made the purchase and should have it in a few days. I have several things in front of it, but there’s no doubt I’ll get to it.

      I’ve been to Poland; went there in 2010 and had a wonderful time in Krakow. I also went to Auschwitz, which was one of the most sobering and memorable experiences of my life. In your writings, I like how the axis is always centered in Poland. I find the perspective to be unique and informative. Please keep the articles coming, and if you regularly write any place else, please let me know.

Please leave a thoughtful, civil, and constructive comment: