Very few people outside of academia have ever read ‘The Proud Tower’ by Barbara Tuchman which is depressing given the fine account she renders of Europe twenty-five years before the cataclysm that was the Great War (WWI). Here we find a milieu of dynastic intrigue befitting Shakespeare, coupled with tyrannic regimes besieged by anarchists. A failed interstice animating the stability of the Medieval period birthed by populist desire embodied in the French Revolution.
Tuchman’s magnum opus was really a pastiche of historicism. Yet it remains unsurpassed! Here alone can we enjoy the world of Chaim Weizmann, Dostoevsky, Herzen, Pushkin, Tolstoy and Lenin. And that’s only the Russians! To survey this list of historical characters that dominated all of Europe and Russia we can look to Bodley Head’s latest ‘The World That Never Was: A True Story Of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists & Secret Agents.’
It is here we find the precursor to Pol Pot, bin Laden, Kaczynski, Fidel Castro, Chavez and Khomeini, the failed secular saviors of revolutionary regimes; for here we find the terrorist as moral superman. As Sergei Kravchinsky (a Russian anarchist living in London) once remarked ‘the anarchist and terrorist is noble, irresistibly fascinating, for he combines in himself the two sublimates of human grandeur: the martyr and the hero.’
Tuchman’s desire to unravel the world prior to the advance that was the Industrial Revolution is fitting today given the West’s entreaty towards militant nomads in Central/Western Asia. We had better fit ourselves to deeply ponder the desires of many deracinated unassimilated urbanites throughout North America and Western Europe who are Marx’s revolutionary proletariat; the very vanguard required to begin the onslaught in the name of ‘Allah’ or ‘the rights of man’.
Unless we are naive, the past is prologue.