The ABC of traditional values: collectivism, mutual assistance and respect

Konstantin Malofeev: The final part of the 'ABC of traditional values' is dedicated to the letter 'K': collectivism, mutual assistance and mutual respect.

Protopriest Andrei Tkachev: The creed, in its conclusion, comes close to the formulation of the dogma of the Church, where it is defined as 'one, holy, catholic (in Russian 'sobornaya') and apostolic'. Similarly, at the end of our conversation we come to talk about collectivism. Collectivism saves us from loneliness. Loneliness in the sense of proud individualism in the modern Western sense prevents us from disappearing, from dissolving into the collective. It must be noted, however, that these are two alternatives, both negative. Collectivism in its extreme manifestations is scary, one can actually drown in it, and individualism is just a cancer. It is now showing us all its destructive power.

Then there is a term that few know: 'synodality' or 'catholicity'. It implies the complete preservation of the personalities and the insolubility of the personalities that make up the conciliar body. At the same time, it refers to the image of unity in an organic whole. According to the dogma of the Council of Ephesus, the two natures in Christ are neither merged nor separated. This means that all Christian dogmas can be applied to the social sphere.

For example, one of the contemporary Western Orthodox bishops, Metropolitan Calliste (Ware), said that our dogma of the social order is the dogma of the Holy Trinity. It is one and indivisible. Consequently, persons in society, as persons of the Holy Trinity, are not merged. The Father is never the Son and the Son is never the Spirit. They do not lose their individual attributes, but neither are they separated. The Trinity is one, indivisible, of one essence.

This is the property of catholicity in the Church, where persons form one body, where you are my brother and I am your brother, but Peter remains Peter and Paul remains Paul, they do not change places, they do not lose their identity, but they are not divided by the love that binds them. This is the meaning of catholicity, and this is not present in collectivism. Because collectivism is a cold and mechanical external category, it does not take into account the inner richness of human nature, it merely nestles these or other masses of people under a common goal, a common task. That is what collectivism is all about.

K.M.: So you think collectivism in the sense of traditional Russian spiritual values is sobornost?

A.T.: Yes, traditional Russian collectivism is sobornost. It is derived from the Church's understanding of the world. It is also complemented by organic brotherhood for survival and the achievement of common goals. When people live in peace, they solve their problems in peace. But no one will doubt that Stepan is not Semyon and Semyon is not Ivan.Everyone lives in their own backyard, but they solve their common problems in peace. And they do not feel free from the world, but feel included in one. This is more like collectivity than collectivism.

Collectivism is a kind of unity of an army in which everyone wears the same coat. Only during roll call are different names heard, but on closer inspection they are all the same. Sobornost implies variety and variety, it is not an array of soldiers, but a meadow in bloom. Where each flower blooms in its own way, but all form a single ecosystem. 'The people are incomplete without me,' said Andrei Platonov. That is, if you pick a cornflower or a daisy in a meadow, you impoverish the picture. It is necessary for everyone to be in their place. They are fine when they are all together.

Alexander Dugin: In terms of language, however, synodality and collectivism are the same thing. It is the verb to collect. So it seems to me that we should not pay attention to these secondary meanings of our traditional values. Collectivism is simply collectivity.

A.T.: That may be so.

A.D.: Having said that, father, it seems to me that 'collegiality' is also a word...

A.T.: Is it not without flaws?

A.D.: Yes. If we use the Greek word 'catholicity', καθολικός, we see what it means - καθ' όλου, κατά + ὅλος - that is, 'remaining in wholeness'. Our Church is whole, and without diminishing the importance of each individual, it represents precisely something whole, in Greek ὅλος. Here we are not talking about the gathering of something, but precisely about unity: that supreme unity in God, in the Spirit, that we achieve in the Church.

I believe that this notion of wholeness is extremely important as a traditional value, because Western thought, especially liberal thought, went in the opposite direction, started to see atomism, individuals, and wholeness, the 'catolikos' we are talking about, is an Aristotelian idea.

Aristotle taught that without name, without spirit, without eidos, without meaning, there is no thing in itself. An empty matter. In this sense, the idea of mutual help, of collectivity, of respect for the other is a property of traditional Russian holistic civilisation. Russians have always valued commonality, the world you speak of, where everything is common.
We started to divide 'world' as Cosmos and 'peace' as the absence of war and as community rather late. Initially, there was a common understanding of these two elements, starting with the common basis preserved in the word 'dear'. Community was the place where there was a relationship between sympathisers, hence the word 'dear', and so our conception of the world as community, as wholeness, as harmony, is what is projected in our work ethic, in our social ethic.

We thus arrive at the roots of the Russian worldview. In this unity, in this wholeness, we place our individuality, that is, we flower, as you put it very well, Father Andrei, to have a meadow, because we do not like to blossom, like daffodils, only for ourselves and be enchanted by our reflection. We are meadow flowers. The Russians are a spiritual meadow, a 'Limonar' (Λειμωνάριον).

A.T.: Catholicity leads the Apostle Paul to think of the body. It is the most vivid image of the Church, a single harmonious whole, where all are different, but each fulfils its own obedience. An eye cannot become an ear and a hand cannot become a foot, but each part can take its place in the unity of the whole and feel the pain of the other because if, for example, the hand suffers, the whole body suffers.

The body is the most beautiful thing, together with the immortal soul, God's creation. And it is the most suitable for the Church. And such a characteristic of the Church as catholicity gently transitions to the Russian ideal. This synodality, catholicity is the body. The people as the body, the people as the Church.

K.M.: The historical roots of collegiality or collectivism, which is the same thing, as we said, are the zemstvo monarchy of the 17th century. It is there that we reached the peak of collectivism because the state was restored and revived in 1613, after the Poles were seated in the Kremlin, after the oligarchy of boyars had already sworn allegiance to the Catholic prince Vladislav. The people, the Church and the young Tsar Mikhail, called from the monastery in Ipatiev, recreated our state and so ruled it all together.

There was the Zemsky monarchy. For every occasion, the zemsky sobors would gather, who, of course, were very far from parliamentarism. It was more like a Congress of Soviets. The voice of the land: when people from the black and white suburbs and Cossacks came from all over the land. Together they decided if we were ready to continue fighting the Poles: to tighten our belts, but to win back our brothers, who were suffering under the Catholic yoke and the tsar had the right to decide.

This synodality was lost under Peter, when everything became a hierarchical empire in which the voice of the people was not heard at all. If a breach was made, it was usually in an illegal, rebellious and bloody manner. As, for example, in the days of Yemelyan Pugachev. But it still opened a breach in the framework of our Russian monarchical thinking, even if it was no longer a Zemskian monarchy. Nevertheless, we were on our way to this zemstvo monarchy.

Not for nothing were the communes called 'zemstvo' during the reforms of Alexander II. It was an archaic word; there had been no zemstvos for 200 years. This word could be found in dictionaries, in history books. Because the Slavophiles had already brought out this ideal of government, when from below the voice of the earth was heard and from above there was a strict hierarchy and a strict and firm tsarist authority.

In Soviet times, all this 'power to the soviets' reminded a simple peasant, a soldier returning from the First World War, of the power of the Zemstvo. He thought that would be the case but then the Communist Party took over everything. In the end, there was no real Soviet power, but a strict party dictatorship, peppered with the KGB.

And, of course, for 300 years, synodality was our traditional value, we wanted to collectively make the decisions that needed to be discussed, it's not a party division of people who start to settle down and share something. It is the situation where the whole territory has a voice.

There are also those who think differently, but they have mutual respect for each other's opinions and do not vote with the majority, they communicate their opinion together to the person in power, to the one who has to make the decision, because the tsar's heart is in the hand of God and he alone makes the final decision. The unity and collectivism of the Russian people means that everyone shares equally in power and in the major decisions of the state, and this is what we finally have for the first time in 30 years. Formally and informally, for the first time since the 17th century. Because true collegiality and collectivism as a traditional value, accepted and recognised in public policy, last existed under Tsar Fyodor Alekseevich.

AT: I was very struck by what you said about this mechanism of the voice of the land and the monarch's right to power. The voice is characteristic of a living personality. When the people are voiceless, the personality vanishes, and then everything crumbles, collapses. "The prudent shall keep silence in this time, for it is an evil time" (Amos 5:13).

In short, the voice of the earth is the sign of catholicity, refracted in social and state life. That is, when the earth sounds, it shows that it is alive, personal and composed of intelligent living creatures who have their own voice, their own right, their own dignity before the Lord. The voice is a sign of catholicity.

A.D.: That is, in a certain sense, the earthly conciliarity is the soul, and the Ruler who decides is the Spirit, and it is really a hierarchy of spiritual empire, where everything gathers and everything unites for harmony and a higher purpose. It was no accident that the Zemsky Sobor established the monarchy. The Romanovs were the elected rulers. Because the Zemshchina realised it needed something different, something bigger. That is why collectivism does not naturally contradict the monarchical tradition of the Russian people, but on the contrary strengthens it, is its justification.

K.M.: It was the letter 'K'<. collectivism. We have finished our 'ABC of traditional values'. Father Andrei Tkachev, Aleksandr Dugin and I, Konstantin Malofeev, worked on it together.

Translation by Lorenzo Maria Pacini