Betreff: W and Dostoevsky
Von: The Webfairy
Datum: Fri, 21 Jan 2005 21:48:34 -0600

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 	[ctrl] W and Dostoevsky
Date: 	Fri, 21 Jan 2005 20:33:13 -0600 (Central Standard Time)
From: 	Bill Shannon <>
January 21, 2005
W and Dostoevsky
George W. Bush is a man possessed
by Justin Raimondo


*M*idway through his inaugural address 
when the president proclaimed "the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in
our world," I wondered if Bush or his speechwriters knew or cared how
alien this ultra-revolutionary rhetoric would seem to conservatives of
the old school – and soon had my answer:

/"Because we have acted in the great liberating tradition of this
nation, tens of millions have achieved their freedom. And as hope
kindles hope, millions more will find it. By our efforts we have lit a
fire as well, a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its
power; it burns those who fight its progress. And one day this untamed
fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world."/

*A fire in the mind* – surely, I thought, Bush's speechwriters can't
have inserted this phrase without knowing its literary origin. It is
taken from Dostoevsky's novel, /The Possessed/
<>, a story set
in pre-revolutionary Russia in which the author chronicles the intrigues
of the emerging revolutionary movement: one of the main characters is
based on the infamous nihilist Sergei Nechaev
<>, whose aim is to
make a revolution
<> of such
destructive power that bourgeois society will be completely destroyed.
Their strategy is to provoke a violent crackdown on all dissent – which
will then spark an explosion of revolutionary violence. To this purpose
the nihilist Peter Verkhovensky worms his way into the confidence of
Lembke, a provincial governor, convincing him of the need to crush
rebellious workers who are distributing revolutionary leaflets and
generally agitating against the government. The result is an uprising of
murderous anger, a volcanic eruption of nihilistic violence that
consumes the provincial capital in a great fire. In the end, Governor
Lembke stands amid the crowd watching his mansion go up in flames

/"Lembke stood facing the lodge, shouting and gesticulating. He was
giving orders which no one attempted to carry out. It seemed to me that
every one had given him up as hopeless and left him. Anyway, though
every one in the vast crowd of all classes, among whom there were
gentlemen, and even the cathedral priest, was listening to him with
curiosity and wonder, no one spoke to him or tried to get him away.
Lembke, with a pale face and glittering eyes, was uttering the most
amazing things. To complete the picture, he had lost his hat and was

/"'It's all incendiarism! It's nihilism! If anything is burning, it's
nihilism!' I heard almost with horror; and though there was nothing to
be surprised at, yet actual madness, when one sees it, always gives one
a shock./

/"'Your Excellency,' said a policeman, coming up to him, 'what if you
were to try the repose of home? . . . It's dangerous for your Excellency
even to stand here.'/

/"This policeman, as I heard afterwards, had been told off by the chief
of police to watch over [Lembke], to do his utmost to get him home, and
in case of danger even to use force – a task evidently beyond the man's

/"'They will wipe away the tears of the people whose houses have been
burnt, but they will burn down the town. It's all the work of four
scoundrels, four and a half! Arrest the scoundrel! He worms himself into
the honor of families. They made use of the governesses to burn down the
houses. It's vile, vile! Aie, what's he about?' he shouted, suddenly
noticing a fireman at the top of the burning lodge, under whom the roof
had almost burnt away and round whom the flames were beginning to flare
up. 'Pull him down! Pull him down! He will fall, he will catch fire, put
him out! . . . What is he doing there?'/

/"'He is putting the fire out, your Excellency.'/

/"'Not likely. *The fire is in the minds of men* and not in the roofs of
houses. Pull him down and give it up! Better give it up, much better!
Let it put itself out.'"/

In Dostoevsky's novel, that fire in the minds of men is not a yearning
for liberty, but a nihilistic will to power that can only end in
destruction. Put in George W. Bush's mouth, those words are not a paean
to freedom, but a manifesto of pure destructionism. Like Governor
Lembke, President Bush has no dearth of hardline advisers who counsel
him in ways calculated to provoke a violent reaction: unlike Lembke,
however, there is little chance George W. Bush will learn his lesson,
even if it comes too late.

The fiery imagery that pervades the text of Bush's second inaugural
address is disturbing because it is so constant. He describes the course
of history in the last fifty years, and "the shipwreck of communism,"
followed by "years of sabbatical" that ended in "a day of fire." The
fiery prose heats up quickly, raising the rhetorical temperature to a
fever pitch:

"Hope kindles hope" – "By our efforts we have lit a fire, a fire in the
minds of men."

The flames leap up, as the mad Governor Lembke cries out.

"It warms those who feel its power," avers the President, "it burns
those who fight its progress."

The revolutionary nihilists in Dostoevsky's novel, and those real-life
nihilists in pre-revolutionary Russia on whom the characters were based,
believed themselves to be agents of progress, destined by History to
sweep away the old in the purifying flames of a great uprising that
would be the prelude to a new world. A similar messianic sense of being
on the right side of history pervades Bush's polemic:

/"History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible
direction set by liberty and the author of liberty."/

The Marxist and anarchist revolutionaries of Dostoevsky's day thought
they saw history's "visible direction," although they did not ascribe to
it an author. The Bushian innovation is to give his brand of
revolutionism a theological theme, substituting God for History – but
these are mere details. The central idea is the same: a worldwide
revolutionary upheaval is needed to put the world right, and some men
are anointed by history as redeemers.

Hegel <> and his followers
saw the Spirit of History in Napoleon as the French corporal liberated
great swaths of 19th century Europe, and today the philosophers of
regime change claim to see it in George W. Bush as he embarks on a
campaign to "liberate" the Middle East.

This is quite possibly the most worrisome and even frightening speech
ever delivered by an American president. Its imagery of a fire burning
up the world, coupled with the incendiary promise to aid "democratic
reformers" against "outlaw regimes" worldwide, evokes the spirit of
another murderous "idealism" – one that made the 20th century the age of
mass murder. As he ranted on and on – "the expansion of freedom in all
the world"; "Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our
nation"; "When you stand for your liberty we will stand with you." –
Bushed sounded more like Trotsky addressing the Red Army
<> than an American president addressing
his people. The militant, overtly ideological tone had about it a
distinctly Bolshevik air:

/"Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our nation. It is
the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent
requirement of our nation's security and the calling of our time. So it
is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of
democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with
the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. .../

/"America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains,
or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being
aspires to live at the mercy of bullies."/

You have nothing to lose but your chains.

All together now <>:

/"Arise, ye prisoners of starvation!
Arise, ye wretched of the earth!
For justice thunders condemnation,
A better world's in birth!
No more tradition's chains shall bind us;
Arise ye slaves no more in thrall.
The earth shall rise on new foundations,
We have been naught, we shall be all!"/

To be sure, Bush's militant internationalism is leavened with appeals to
"common sense" and national self-interest: "We are led by events and
common sense to one conclusion" because "America's vital interests and
our deepest beliefs are now one." It was that "day of fire," you see,
that launched us on our messianic quest, and now imbues us with a sacred
"mission" to "spread liberty" to the "dark corners of the earth."

What this means, in plain language and in practice, is a foreign policy
of perpetual war:

/"We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every
nation, the moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and
freedom, which is eternally right."/

Translation: We will continue to launch wars of aggression against
anyone who gets in our way. If you think Iraq is a big deal, you haven't
seen anything yet….

For all the talk of "freedom" and "liberty" – Bush used the former 27
times, and the latter on 15 occasions – this president and his fanatic
followers have been the very worst enemies of civil liberties
<> on the home front.
Bush has launched the most serious assault
<> on the rights guaranteed
by the Constitution since President John Adams imposed the Alien and
Sedition Acts of 1798
<>. And if Bush
is bad, his followers are far worse.

Tony Blankley, editor of the conservative – and party-line pro-Bush –
/Washington Times/, wrote an editorial
<> the other
day demanding that Seymour Hersh
<> be jailed for "espionage."
By publishing an article
<> that exposed the
American plan to invade and conquer Iran, now being bruited about in the
higher reaches of the Pentagon, Hersh is "aiding the enemy" by informing
them of American troop movements. Hersh reported that American agents
had already crossed into Iran to identify targets.

Blankley claims that since this is "wartime," Hersh should be prosecuted
and jailed, casually noting that the law provides for the death penalty
in some cases. Quite aside from being quite wrong
<> about the history and
application of the laws against espionage, I wonder: since when are we
at war with Iran? Although Blankley and his neoconservative comrades
would no doubt dearly love to witness that eventuality, it hasn't
happened yet. So the Iranians are not the "enemy," in spite of their
membership in the "axis of evil." As a supplement to the Bush doctrine
of preemptive war, Blankley has come up with a legal theory of
preemptive prosecutions for espionage and even treason – jail them
/before /war actually breaks out.

What Lew Rockwell perceptively characterizes as "red-state fascism
<>" is on the
march, singing songs to "freedom" –and planting the seeds of
authoritarianism in America. The ideas that drive Bush and today's
Republicans exhibit all the classic features of fascist ideology, with a
few homegrown innovations thrown into the mix: The cult of the Leader,
the militarization and marriage of political and economic power,
extensive surveillance of the citizenry, a strong tendency to
criminalize public debate – as in brother Blankley's case – and, most
important of all, a warlike foreign policy married to a messianic sense
of mission, often rooted in religious ideas.

This president believes that he, personally, has been assigned by God
<,12271,1076026,00.html> to perform
a great task: that much has been clear from the beginning. What we
didn't know for sure was whether he was going to turn back from the mad
course he's embarked on in Iraq, and modify his divine ordination along
more modest lines.

Alas, the disease of second-term presidents – hubris
<> – had infected this
president and his advisers throughout the first four years. The fever
shows no signs of subsiding: if anything, it is getting worse. George W.
Bush is a man possessed – and God help us all if we fail to restrain him.

– Justin Raimondo