Ő. ņ. Tyurenkov. Russian Orthodox Ethic and the Spirit of Solidarism

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Times when the standards of "the faithful and all-powerful doctrine" were taught to school children and The Communist Manifesto and Capital were included on university entrance exams seem to be but a distant memory. According to Article 13 of the current Russian Constitution, it is distinctly noted that "No ideology may be established as state or obligatory one" in Russia.

Mind you, this Constitution "devoid of ideology" was ratified at the end of 1993. I myself cannot remember the conditions and circumstances when this happened: people over the age of 30 remember the events of those days very well, times when our country once again teetered on the verge of civil war. But only after a handful of years, this very same person, under whom the new Fundamental Law was written, tasked political scientists and strategists with creating a state policy "to develop the Russian national idea" that "currently does not exist" in one yearís time.

Departing from the "leading and guiding" and armed with the all-powerful scientific theory, no one could anticipate that five years later subversives and gravediggers of Communism would have to quickly undertake the development of a new ideological platform for the state.

Personally, it makes sense that a national idea would not be developed in a yearís time, during or any other political era. For centuries, they have formed in the public mind and with luck historical circumstances have become the basis of the political ideologies. Not a stick in the craw of a few generations of Soviet thought (like some kind of quasi-scientific dogma, where any kind of digression from it is similar to heresy), but in a style of a distinct paradigm of national (although for Russia this includes civilizational) development.

I have noticed that in such a paradigm there is no need to have exact parameters of further socio-economic developments spelled out and even more so Ė its ultimate goal. But this goal should be a distinct system of social values, on which a specific government should establish as both domestic and external policies. We cannot forget that this very policy is not only a goal but a means. And this "means" again is not for the achievement of the end goal (this, in my opinion, cannot ever happen in real politics) but for solutions to concrete problems, the most important of which was formulated by Alexander Isaevich Solzhenitsyn: the preservation of the nation.

I might add that 19th century religious philosopher Vladimir Solovyov accurately formulated the Christian understanding of the national idea: "The idea of the nation is not what the nation thinks of itself at the time, but what God thinks of it throughout eternity." Solovyov is also credited with another aphorism: "A rightís task (nowadays this passage is misinterpreted, replacing "right" with "government," which, by the way, does not change its meaning in this instance Ė M.T.) is not to turn this evil world into the kingdom of God, but to make sure it has not gone to hell "(Solovyov Justification of the Good. Ch. 17).

In his 1905 book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber, the German sociologist and younger contemporary of Vladimir Solovyov, reasoned that any religion, in addition to its final (soteriological) goal, has very specific social challenges, starting with the fact that any religious-ethical complex has a direct impact on social relations, including the economy. Religious ethics are nevertheless preserved in the collective unconsciousness of the nation, even in a state of total secularization (resembling that which began in the Renaissance, while today, albeit at its peak, it is going through a serious crisis at the same time, the outcome of which is not so easy to predict.)

In his book, Weber perfectly demonstrated how the basic principles of the Protestant Ethic were the reason behind the rise of the Western Capitalist system. And in actuality, hard work, frugality, and prudence, coupled with the religious concept of individual salvation (as the basic foundation of modern Western individualism, it today has acquired truly anthropocentric neo-pagan features), were more than favorable for the formation and rise of the bourgeoisie, which during the Russian Empire was not fully realized until the beginning of the 20th century. I daresay that we are dealing with a kind of capitalist relationships in today's Russia; in reality, a medieval socio-economic system is largely preserved, a system that is modernized and secularized of course, but deprived of its basic foundation Ė that very Protestant Ethic.

But what is there in Russia? Curiously enough, there is Orthodox Ethics, which has faced numerous historical challenges: the Time of Troubles and Church Schism (Raskol) in the beginning of the 17th century, Peter Iís "Westernization" reforms, the Synodal Period, persecution of the Church in the 20th century, and finally, the notorious "dashing 90s" – and despite the fact that over the past quarter of a century the relative freedom of the Church as desired by the Russian Orthodox parishioners did not happen, and the same Russian women, alas, are far ahead of Europe in the number of infanticide (letís call a spade a spade, no loss of male responsibility in this crime) .

And so today the Orthodox Ethic is preserved in the collective unconscious. It has long not been reflected in the behavior of many of us, not in crowded public transport nor in the office imposed on us, "the corporate culture," or sometimes even in relationship to parish. Unfortunately, in everyday life, we are not usually guided by key ethical principles of Orthodoxy based on the soteriological principle of collective salvation. But the fact that Russian society still highly values ideals of social justice, mutual assistance and solidarity (even if not in a practical sense, but on axiological level) demonstrates that our nationís Orthodox Ethic has not eroded.

Moreover, if you donít think in terms of a communal apartment, but try to build social relations within the nation, it turns out that in addition to religious and ethical grounds there is nothing else that can regulate them. I venture to say that today there is no "Secular Ethic" and one has never existed and when trying to explain its qualities, it is no more than a simulacrum, a copy without an original. That is, this very Ethic could exist without reference to specific religious doctrines and structures, but its existence is impossible without correlation to dominants of spiritual and moral grounds in todayís society. Otherwise, it is not ethics, but only an ethical (and aesthetic, too) perversion – counterculture and counter-ethics (like radical nihilism of the 19th century, or the same punk culture in the late 20th – early 21st centuries).

And so it goes, but a clearly formed social doctrine based on Orthodox Ethics has never existed in Russia. Thus, an original state ideology never existed (if you donít consider the "Triad of Official Nationality", which boils down to a hierarchy of key public values – "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality" – but never had a clearly developed system of social and economic priorities). And this absence Russia definitely yielded to Western Europe, where the Catholic Church during the Protestant Reformation was able to mobilize and begin to develop its own social concept. In our conditions the Church has always been virtually inseparable from the state system, which never placed significance on social relations, but provided very reactionary answers concerning them.

And this is where the experience of Catholic social mapping could not have come at a better time, not only because it has long opposed the Protestant Ethic and the spirit of capitalism (which eventually took over almost everywhere, although in the "Weber" German conditions it was able to accommodate a much milder form of the bourgeois state, rather than the subsequent British or American bourgeois). The simultaneous oppositions of the socioeconomic Catholic came from two lines of the Protestant Ethic: liberalism and socialism. This led to the emergence of special teachings in the 19th century of solidarity, the original solution to the antinomy of the individual and society, avoiding extreme individualism and collectivism, based on the harmony within the Christian community.

I will not list all of the founders of Catholic solidarity in the last century, I note only that the most striking embodiment of this trend was the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on May 15, 1891 "Rerum Novarum", in which, inter alia, contains one very important statement:

The great mistake <...> made in regard to the matter now under consideration is to take up with the notion that class is naturally hostile to class, and that the wealthy and the working men are intended by nature to live in mutual conflict. So irrational and so false is this view that the direct contrary is the truth. Just as the symmetry of the human frame is the result of the suitable arrangement of the different parts of the body, so in a State is it ordained by nature that these two classes should dwell in harmony and agreement, so as to maintain the balance of the body politic. Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital. <...> Mutual agreement results in the beauty of good order, while perpetual conflict necessarily produces confusion and savage barbarity. Now, in preventing such strife as this, and in uprooting it, the efficacy of Christian institutions is marvelous and manifold. First of all, there is no intermediary more powerful than religion (whereof the Church is the interpreter and guardian) in drawing the rich and the working class together, by reminding each of its duties to the other, and especially of the obligations of justice.

Clearly from the perspective of secular socialists (Communists are just the same), such a position is "conciliatory" because it ignores the Marxist dogma of the "class struggle." But precisely because for Christians the inevitability of the last statement is not the truth, (or rather, it seems to me, such a struggle is inevitable, but only in conditions of a total spiritual and moral fall of the classes themselves), the primary social value is the removal of class conflict. Clearly, in the latter case, the inevitable concessions come from both sides, which shows this is truly a Christian (patristic, not Protestant) ethical ideal. Incidentally, one of the founders of Catholic solidarity of the 19th and 20th centuries was economist and priest Father Heinrich Pesch, who conceived that social harmony is achieved by appealing to the conscience. He believed that Christian love and not state laws and moral precepts should lead an individual in performing a public duty.

Without going into the historical analysis of Catholic solidarity, we can say that in the end it was Pesch who largely influenced the formation of the ideal of the welfare state in post-war West Germany (and, in particular, the ideology of the Bavarian conservative "Christian Social Union", which is included to this day in the ruling coalition of the CDU / CSU). And in light of recent history, other terminology applied to interpretations of solidarity is accepted – for example, "conservative Christian socialism" or "Christian social conservatism." However both possess rather cumbersome structures acceptable in political science, but that are hardly suitable for use in political journalism.

Russian solidarism formed very differently than Catholic solidarism. Its creation was due to the significant roles played by a number of Russian thinkers (often with very different beliefs, but combine on the absolute value placed on Orthodox and its ethical ideal): Vladimir Solovyov, Archpriest Sergius Bulgakov, Nikolai Berdiaev, Semyon Frank, Ivan Ilyin, Nikolai Lossky, Sergey Levitsky and others. The essential problem of updating this doctrine is that Russian Solidarism was adopted by a rather marginal political organization of the Russian émigré community – NTS (The National Alliance of Russian Solidarists). Recently, the NTS has suspiciously escaped situations tied with "unscrupulous political connections" – first with Nazis and then the CIA (although many of the worthiest representatives have appeared in its ranks – from writer and journalist Arkady Stolypin, the son of the famous Russian prime minister, and philosopher Sergei Levitsky to Gleb Alexandrovich Rahr, father of the famous contemporary German political scientist of Russian origin). So in the end, despite the fact that Russian heritage abroad in the last quarter of a century has survived in Russia as a kind of "renaissance", Russian social ideas of solidarity continue to be associated exclusively with NTSí practice of radical fighting with anything Soviet, despite the fact that these ideas in the most simplified sense were nothing more than a religious and national-oriented derivative of "socialism with a human face" (of course, not by Gorbachev, but by the Christian-humanistic understanding of this).

Apparently, the latter are well aware of the Russian Orthodox Church, while they do not directly advertise it. Thus, the ecclesiastical "Basic Social Concept," despite the fact that the term "solidarism" (and even "solidarity") is never used, are in parts actually just solidarism (in particular, see "Labor and its fruits "and" Property"):

Continuing on earth the service of Christ Who identified Himself with the destitute, the Church always comes out in defence of the voiceless and powerless. Therefore, she calls upon society to ensure the equitable distribution of the fruits of labour, in which the rich support the poor, the healthy the sick, the able-bodied the elderly. The spiritual welfare and survival of society are possible only if the effort to ensure life, health and minimal welfare for all citizens becomes an indisputable priority in distributing the material resources.

That is why the present church documents, unfortunately, are still not highly valued enough not only nationwide but by the internal church, which may as well serve as a prolegomena to the Orthodox solidarity of the 21st century. Its very name ("Fundamentals") speaks in favor that work in this direction should be continued (and as far as I know, it is slowly conducted within the framework of the World Russian People's Council, and, moreover, is supported at the regional level in the Belgorod region, where the local secular leadership today builds almost perfect relationships with the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy).

Finally, I would like to say a few words about what this new solidarism might include. In the first place, its main provisions should focus on the ideal social state (and the fact that Russia should be as such, since that for almost 20 years it has been documented in our less than perfect current Constitution). In my opinion, it is extremely necessary to avoid several extremes:

  • Extreme statism where the state-bureaucracy becomes a value in itself and imposes its will on society;

  • Extreme economic liberalism, where everything is governed by the alleged "invisible hand of the market", but in reality this is just the bourgeoisie often devoid of all ethical ideals;

  • Extreme nationalism, which will inevitably destroy Russian civilization.

Instead of these extremes the new solidarism could offer the following principles:

  • Subsidiarity, in which the decentralization of government functions does not entail the deprecation of the state's role in politics and economy, but only brings the power to society (at the level of the same broad local self-government, encouraging peripheral initiative, but excluding the possibility of excessive regional autonomy);

  • Social justice, a key regulator which should serve the state itself, but not so much by means of administrative allocation, to encourage small and medium-sized businesses in the tight control over business leaders and officials (including the possibility of export of capital abroad, in terms of dubious legal purchases of luxury goods, real estate abroad, and so on);

  • Imperial idea as the basis of existence of the Russian government and- civilization, which consists of saving "blossoming complexity" of both small peoples and cultures of our country, and the national development of Russian traditional culture (which, especially in today's environment, you need to draw from Solzhenitsynís principle of the "Narodosberzhenie" (sustainable development of culture and economy)).

Of course, each of these postulates must be clearly based on the Orthodox Ethic. Otherwise, all of the above will be only one of many utopian plans put on paper. But in order to apply these principles to real politics and our society, a detailed program of long-term state development needs to be outlined first. But this is a slightly different story.

Mikhail Tyurenkov