August 6

Solzhenitsyn: constitutional monarchist

“The world owes a lot to the bravery of Solzhenitsyn,” declared the editor of The Australian on 5 August, 2008 (“ The voice of Truth”).

Who could disagree?  Sadly, too many in the West have. But before we come to that let us  continue with these fine words from The Australian.

“To the West, he was a hero. To his countrymen, he was an inspiration — living proof that the bravery of a single individual can be a match for the most ruthless and totalitarian of regimes. He was undoubtedly one of the most powerful writers of the 20th century.

“The death of Alexander Solzhenitsyn at the age of 89 brings to a close the life of man whose influence on shaping the destiny of the Soviet Union cannot be overestimated.

"Through his books, the Nobel laureate shed light on the most important ideological debate of the post-war era — the nature of the Soviet regime.

“The revelations about Joseph Stalin's concentration camps contained in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich ultimately helped undermine the moral and political legitimacy of the Soviet empire.

“His three-volume Gulag Archipelago, which detailed the network of labour camps that led to the deaths of up to 20 million people, was described by the American diplomat George Kennan as 'the greatest and most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever to be levelled in modern times' ".

…Western intellectuals turn against Solzhenitsyn …

But the standing of Solzhenitsyn has been  in decline in the West. 

This is because he dared to see the weaknesses of our civilization, and he saw the solution in traditional institutions and values which are  no longer fashionable among the elites.

Solzhenitsyn came to loathe the moral outrage which was communism.

But this did not mean he was prepared to give some sort of carte blanche to the West.

In fact he began to enunciate a position which  seemed too conservative, perhaps reactionary, to much of the Westen intelligentsia.

As Daniel J. Mahoney, the author of “Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Ascent from Ideology,” wrote:

"Contemporary intellectuals and journalists will not tolerate any serious challenge to the enlightenment or progressivist assumptions underlying modern liberty."

What this means, observed Robert P. Kraynak  in a review of Maloney’s book,  is that Western intellectuals are intolerant because they are hardly aware of decent alternatives to the secular theories of freedom and rights flowing from the Enlightenment. 

Kraynak says it is almost inconceivable to them that Solzhenitsyn could hold traditional beliefs about God, Orthodox Christianity, the mystical basis of the Russian nation, and the soul's eternal destiny while also being a spokesman for responsible political freedom (meaning constitutional limits on power, moderate nationalism, private property, and local self-government).

“Mahoney's analysis shows Solzhenitsyn to be a Burkean-style admirer of constitutional monarchy that gradually evolves toward ordered liberty while preserving his nation's distinctive traditions,”  he says.

“And yet this is the real Solzhenitsyn, according to Mahoney, not the demon of Western journalism.”

Australia’s constitutional monarchists, unlike those of say, Canada, will well understand this.

I remember after a 1999 referendum debate at Corowa, a large and imposing lady confronting me, throwing her eyes heavenwards, demanding “How could you possibly be a constitutional monarchist?”

I recall an icy  emphasis on the word "you".

In the world of the elites, it is incomprehensible that any apparently  intelligent, reasoning person could possibly be a monarchist, or against  this decade’s  received truth.

Something, they conclude, must be terribly wrong.



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