If some all-knowing, extraterrestrial school teacher sent out report cards on all the dictators who have flourished since World War I, we might be surprised to find the only one with straight A’s was a man most of the Western world has already half forgotten. I am referring to Kemal Atatürk, the fair-haired, blue-eyed Macedonian who transformed the Ottoman Empire (for centuries the “sick man” of Europe) into the streamlined modern state of Turkey, the strongest nation in the Middle East. — Wilmot Robertson, “Homage to Kemal Atatürk”
For as long as I’ve been a dissident, everyone in the sphere has been milling around, waiting for Caesar. If anything unites the entirety of the Dissident Right, from racist liberals to National Socialists, it’s that we are more or less trying to survive until such a time when Caesar arises and sweeps away the ruling regime by virtue of his world-historic significance. The Spengler readers imagine him breaking the money power’s back in a glorious orgy of violence and leading us into a comfortable civilizational retirement. The accelerationists imagine him breaking up the enemy’s death cult in a glorious orgy of violence and ushering in a new era of scientific advancement. The neo-primitivists imagine him burning down the cities in a glorious orgy of violence and allowing men to return to the land. Even outside the Dissident Right, the QAnon believers and plan-trusters hoped that Trump-Caesar would arrest the Satanic pedophile elites in a glorious orgy of sanitized violence and usher in a golden age of unlimited economic growth and ever-greater foreign aid to Israel.
I don’t begrudge people this belief. After all, to be part of the Dissident Right is to be, among other things, a recorder of the decline. This means two things.
First, we will necessarily assume that our civilization’s decline will trace the routes of other civilizations’ declines. There is an element of history-hobbyism in trying to find parallels between ancient Roman figures and modern politicians. Even the mainstream indulges in this. We have seen comparisons between George Washington and Cincinnatus, the Kennedy brothers and the Gracchi brothers, and the particularly delicious one between Donald Trump and Marcus Licinius Crassus. Sadly, unlike Crassus, Trump didn’t go to war with the Iranians of our day, so they weren’t able to plug his big mouth with molten gold, and as a result we will have to suffer his inanities for the foreseeable future. The most amusing one is from a guy I know on Twitter, who holds, among his sprawling table of analogues, that Osama bin Laden is our version of Flavius Stilicho. It’s very fun and very intellectually engaging, but, like Hesse’s glass bead game, that does not make it true or useful.
Secondly, we will necessarily look for anything to keep our spirits high. The most demoralizing notion is that all you’ve done to keep civilization afloat, all of your efforts to keep the fire burning, have been for nothing. Of course Caesar will come, of course he will take the torch from my hand and use it to lead our people into a glorious future. Just like he did in the old days, he will break the back of the senatorial class and establish an empire out of the ashes of the corrupt and decadent Republic. Our work will be vindicated — or so I’ve been told.
Far be it from me to dispute caesarism or Caesar himself. It’s a real thing, a phenomenon that arises towards the end of a civilization’s lifespan. We’ve seen it in Apollonian (Greco-Roman) civilization, and we’ve seen it among the Arabs, the Chinese, and the Indians. My chief objection to the Dissident Right’s Caesar myth, however, is that Caesar has already come and gone, we are living in a post-caesarian age.
Because the West is now entirely under American hegemony, I will focus on American Caesarism. Which populist figure in history broke the back of money power, putting the oligarchs in the service of the state, revitalized the decadent Republic, and refashioned it into an expansionist empire through military force? Take your pick. Four names come to mind: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Teddy and FDR are even of the same gens, as Julius Caesar and Augustus were back in Roman times.
That’s a bit of a shock, isn’t it? In all variations of the Caesar myth on the Dissident Right, he is on our side. The jury may be out on Lincoln and Teddy, but FDR and Wilson were definitely not on our side. But these four men were great, world-historic figures who presided over the centralization of America and its conquest of its near neighbors. Lincoln brought the aristocratic, yet narrow-sighted, South to heel (reading George Fitzhugh’s Sociology for the South dispels some of the romanticism about antebellum Dixie). The trust-buster Theodore Roosevelt brought low the neo-latifundian class of Gilded Age robber barons and was instrumental in the United States’ takeover of Spain’s last holdings on the continent in the Spanish-American War. Wilson presided over the beginning of America’s conquest of Europe and the financial enslavement of European nations to American capital, as well as establishing the first institutions of global governance. FDR consolidated the American economy into megacorporations, put an end to labor strife, oversaw the finalization of America’s conquest of Western Europe and the Pacific Ocean, and built the vast network of bureaus, agencies, universities, corporations, NGOs, and gentlemen’s clubs which house and employ the West’s ruling class. He and his cousin-wife Eleanor were also the patrons of the new, consolidated civilizational faith. The United Nations’ first meeting is here analogous to the First Council of Nicaea. I’d call him the true American Caesar, but in my own personal analogy tables, he is America’s Constantine. If the enemy had the balls to do it, they’d call him Emperor Franklin the Great.
But, for reasons explained earlier, the Dissident Right’s Caesar myth refuses to die. We are, as dissidents, convinced that we are on the right side of history, so to speak. There’s no shame in admitting it. It is a tenet of the modern faith, as inaugurated by the early prophets of the English Enlightenment and codified by Emperor Franklin’s learned retainers. We are heretics and apostates of that faith, but much like Julian the Apostate, our own faith, which is supposedly a revival of earlier beliefs, is morphologically and organizationally a mirror image of the faith we scorned. And since only myth can defeat myth, let me plant this seed in your head to go along with the worm of doubt about Caesar.
The header quote comes from an essay by Wilmot Robertson in Ventilations, first published in 1974. It contains a brief biographical account of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk that compares his career as a dictator (Robertson uses the word without the usual moral stigma usually attached to it) to the career of other well-known dictators. Some dissidents might take umbrage with his assessments of Hitler, Mussolini, and Salazar, and I note with some amusement that Robertson had enough foresight to notice the obvious fault lines in the Yugoslav project and poke some much-needed holes in the Tito myth. He has, however, nothing but praise for “the fair-haired, blue-eyed Macedonian” — his words, not mine — who built the Republic of Turkey up from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. He is in awe of the man who
did not, like Hitler, bite off more than he could chew, or suffer from the territorial itch that obsessed Stalin. He bit off less than he could chew. He was a retractor, not an expander of frontiers, giving up vast amounts of the Ottoman Empire to non-Turks. He did, however, cling violently to the old Turkish heartland of Anatolia and cleansed its western end of Greeks and its eastern end of Armenians.
Take what is yours, with blood and iron if need be, but do not be tempted by hubris. I don’t usually do the Balkan thing in front of outsiders, but let me indulge in it at least once. If Atatürk was indeed Macedonian, he’d be an elegant historical counterpoint to Alexander, who undid himself and his people through hubris. The genealogical evidence could go either way with Atatürk. He was almost definitely a Yuruk on his mother’s side, and they are proper Turks transplanted from the Turkish Urheimat. There has been speculation that he was Albanian or Jewish on his father’s side, and I’ve seen no conclusive evidence for or against this (the Ottoman Empire did not keep track of ethnicity, only of religion), but in my heart I still want to believe he is of one flesh with me and my people. Let’s leave that aside, however.
The Ottoman Empire was a vast and multinational entity. It staffed its civil and military administrative apparatus with Muslims, and Islam was the creed which had to be obeyed if one were to receive a state position. It was also tearing itself apart through ethnic strife, institutional sclerosis, economic subjugation to foreign powers, and simple civilizational age. The Ottoman Empire was the last of the Caliphates, the last bastion of Spengler’s Magian civilisation. Indeed, one could say that what Rome was to the Apollonian civilization, the Ottoman Empire was to the Magian: the expansionist, pragmatic civilizational stage of winter, glorying in military conquest but creatively sterile. The Ottoman Empire copied Arabs, Persians, Byzantines, and finally the West, but never found its own voice. Even the Rondo Alla Turca was written by Mozart. By the beginning of the twentieth century, it had been dying for some time and it was ready to die.
Mustafa Kemal was born and lived in the long shadows cast by men like Mehmed the Conqueror and Suleiman the Magnificent. He was forged in the crucible of Gallipoli and reborn as Atatürk, father of the Turks, after the Turkish War of Independence had secured the existence of his people and a future for Turkish children. The multicultural hodgepodge of the Ottoman Empire was consolidated into the Turkish nation, which was elevated to constitutive status in the new state. But if Atatürk is remembered for one thing in the West, it is for his secularization and anti-Islamism. He is revered for these things by all sorts of revolting people, from outright Leftists and globalists to jihad-watchers convinced Islam is the primary civilizational threat to the West. For my part, great believer in state religions that I am, I always saw it as a blotch on Atatürk’s record — but for the first time in my life, I think I understand why he did it.
The Muslim religion was the central organizing principle of the Ottoman Empire as well as of the Turkish people, who were its principal people for so long that it was no longer possible to disestablish it without dramatically changing Turkish society. The converse was also true: Turkish society couldn’t be dramatically changed without disestablishing Islam, and even discouraging it somewhat. There are no societies without state religions, however. The Republic of Turkey’s state religion was Kemalism. Islam had to be pushed aside in favor of this new faith. This happened for several reasons. Firstly, Islam is universalistic and expansionist, whereas the Republic of Turkey was conceived as a homeland for the Turkish people which would foreswear expansionism and foreign adventurism. Secondly, Islam is a religious form of the long-dead Magian civilization: It had to be abandoned, especially by Turkey, as its primary vector lest the civilization-death enveloped the Turkish people as well. Atatürk’s wisdom in replacing the Magian with Faustian forms just as Faustian civilization entered its winter stage can be debated, but the wisdom of jettisoning the old civilizational baggage cannot.
So, with all that in mind, let’s return to the American context. We have a vast, multiethnic hegemonic empire which is dying and ready to die. Its ruling class is incurably corrupt and degenerate. It has been a long time since it created anything culturally significant. It is economically subjugated by hostile foreign, international, and transnational powers. Its historically foremost people is demoralized and told it has no right to exist in its own homeland. Its central organizing principle is a decadent religion which keeps it anchored to a dying civilizational paradigm. It is territorially overstretched and can no longer protect its frontiers. New York in the twilight of 2021 does not look like Rome, recently evacuated by Pompey Magnus and the Senate and eagerly awaiting Caesar. It is Stamboul (officially still Constantinople) in 1920, occupied by hostile forces and run by degenerate merchants and servants posing as aristocrats, many of them recent converts to the Imperial cult, and many of them Dönmeh, Jewish false converts, passing themselves off as fellow Turks. Unlike Gotham, it is way past the point where its problems can be solved with an enema.
We are past the time of Caesar. There will be no civilizational second wind; it already came and went. There will be no restoration; we lack the stomach and heart for it. You will not follow Caesar to Gaul; he has already conquered and sacked Gaul (Germany) and executed Vercingetorix (Hitler).
There can, however, be survival. There can be ethnogenesis. There can be a nation which will claw its way out of the empire’s putrid corpse. And if there is a great man who will lead this process, he will not be the American Caesar. If he appears, he will be the American Atatürk. There is time for heroism yet. Young men will make their marks and live an exalted life in Gallipoli. They will forge a new religion to unite the new nation. Above all, the people will survive and have a chance to have their voice heard on the stage of history once again.
If this comes about, do not let the Caesar myth blind you to the greatness of American Atatürk. Venerate him, for he will be the great man who will define your future.
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