December 5, 2008
By Matt Johnson
The state is an object of concern for all Orthodox. It’s role in salvation history, at best, is a highly mixed record. It has oppressed the Orthodox community as much as it has helped it. Furthermore, Orthodox groups throughout history have fought the state in the name of liberty and the faith, such as the Cossacks, the Serbian Haiduks, the Montenegrin clans and the Old Believers, all of which have rejected the modern state. More often than not, the state has been an enemy of the nation, as well as the Orthodox faith. As I have written elsewhere, the distinction between the nation/ethnos and the state is as following: The state is a hierarchic and bureaucratic organization that thrives on threats and open coercion. On the other hand, the ethnos is an organic reality, an extended family of persons bound together by a common tradition. Such commonalities, such traditions, are the reaction to periods of suffering. Hence, ethnic tradition exists because they are structures that have come into existence as a reaction to terror, genocide, occupation, colonialism and other dangers and evils. From this derives the moral importance of ethnic and religious tradition. They are not arbitrary statues or ideas, but are structures of survival that have developed in order to provide cohesiveness under a reign of suffering. Unfortunately, this kind of suffering, from Solomon to Peter I, has often come from the “Orthodox” state itself.
Being an ethno-anarchist is not a rejection of authority or order, but a rejection of the modern state and, more specifically, the rejection of the state as defined as a series of bureaucracies, interlocking, that live, parasitically, off of the accumulated tradition of a people, both religious and ethnic. If the state derives its legitimacy as the defense against internal enemies, Russian historians might do well to ask what protects the people from the state, which has been as violent towards its own people as have foreign invaders. The ethnos functions as a family does. As the family is a natural institution, existing prior to civilization, so is the ethnos, and they function in an analogous fashion. The state, however, represents the worst of civilization: the crystallization of elite authority and tradition into a series of coercive agencies. Tradition, religion and the ethnos exist not as the motive force for state action, but as excuses for state coercion. “Political theory” deals with various excuses for state power, rather than ideals to be realized in struggle.
As far as Russian history is concerned, the state has, with few exceptions, been the enemy of Orthodoxy. From Peter I on, the state has sought to control and dominate Orthodoxy, and destroy its monastic core. While there were substantial improvements after the reign of Nicholas I, the Orthodox church, as the hierarchic level, was distant and reserved. The Old Faith, as well as the Cossack host, alone, sought to preserve the medieval, communal and decentralized tradition represented by the notion of sobornost’. If the Roman-style monarchy is Orthodox, so is the free commune of Pugachev, or the krug of the Cossack Host. Thinking synodically is the diametric opposite of republicanism, which in reality is the rule of the wealthy under the appearance of “universal” values.
Old Russia was and is represented by the Old Faith and the Cossack uprisings under Bulavin and Pugachev. In short, their programs were identical: a popular monarchy, the free peasant commune and the Old Faith: the three ancient pillars of justice. In opposition is the “Egyptian” rule of technology, centralization and oligarchy, the three pillars of injustice. Such as view is echoed in early medieval Ireland and medieval Serbia. Society was divided up into self governing communes, who elected their clergy and were loyal to local custom. Local monastics offered spiritual guidance and sainthood, not to mention education and social welfare. The state, if it can be called such, was represented by a monarch with a tiny retinue of supporters. His role was purely to defend the faith from outside influences, as he had little role in the functioning of the mir or rod.
As an example, here is the largest statement of Pugachev’s program that had been preserved:
By this decree, with sovereign and paternal mercy, we grant to all hitherto in serfdom and subjection to the landowners the right to be faithful subjects of our crown, and we award them the villages, the old cross and prayers, heads and beards, liberty and freedom, always to be Cossacks, without recurring levies, soul tax or other money taxes, with possession of the land, the woods, the hay meadows, the fishing grounds, the salt lakes, without payment or rent, and we free all those peasants and other folk hitherto oppressed by the malefactor gentry and the bribe takers and judges of the towns from the dues and burdens placed upon them. We wish you the salvation of your souls and a peaceful life here on earth, for we too have tasted and suffered from the malefactor gentry much torture and hardship. Those were gentry in their lands and estates, those opponents of our rule and disturbers of the empire and ruiners of the peasants–seize them, punish them, hang them, treat them in the same way as they, having no Christian feeling, oppressed you, the peasants. With the extermination of these enemies, the malefactor gentry, everyone will be able to enjoy a quiet and peaceful life, which will continue for evermore. (July, 1774).
Had the Russian crown gradually brought this agenda to reality, the monarchy could have been saved. It is the difference between a bureaucratic and a popular monarchy. There is no biblical code that permits the slavery of one Israelite by another, and hence, the landlords were not members of the church, but schismatics. This quote from Pugachev is an excellent example of national, and Orthodox anarchism, and is the very statement of the Russian Idea on these matters. The Enlightenment brought Russia the bureaucratic state, serfdom and landlordism. Sobornost’ was eliminated from the church hierarchy, which itself was dominated by the state, the procurator and by the dominant urban hierarchs. To save medieval Russia, rebellion was the only option.
From the Sechem covenant in the Old Testament to modern ethnic populism, this is the model for Orthodox organization. It is as the center of the Ukrainian idea of sobornopravnist,’ as well as the Cossack krug. It will resurface again among the Cetniks and Haiduks of Serbia and in the mentality of some Eurasianists and the Irish organization Republican Sinn Fein. There is nothing new, therefore, about the nation, or the religio-ethnic idea, rejecting the state as such and opting for the rule of the people in the best sense, that of the rule of the faith and custom, the crystalized experience of the people.
There is certainly nothing contradictory in nationalism and populism, properly considered. It rests on the distinction between state and nation, with the latter as the origin, the former as the parasite. In eastern Europe, as well as in Celtic Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England, the idea of ethnic and religious belonging certainly predated the modern state. In Ireland, the state did not exist, but the Law did, under the Brehon code. How few political scientists have analyzed the notion that Law can exist without the state, and be fully accepted by all, but it was the case in Ireland and England, as well as in Serbia. The medieval idea is best represented by the free commune governed by experience, that is, custom.
The Old Believers, as well as the Cossacks, who often fought together in the unfortunate 18th century under the pseudo-tsars of the era, represented the highest development of paleo-nationalism and ethnic/national populism. As the Russian state began to take European forms, such as the domination of technology, coercion and violence as a regular way of dealing with problems and a captive and frightened church, rebellion was imminent. The notion of a popular Tsar, a tsar who ruled in the medieval form as the icon of piety and the defender of the church rather than as the task-master and tax-master. The Old Faith realized their life was dying, the life of sobornost’ and the common mind (represented by common movements during church services) and thus sought the protection of the forests and bogs (as did the Gaelic Irish), to preserve what was left of Old Russia. Old Russia died with Peter I, and was only revived, to a limited extent, under St. Nikolai the Martyr Tsar, who did not have time to fulfill his mandate.
Order exists through tradition and paternal authority. Decisions were taken by the sobor, where all needed to agree on a course of action. Mutual aid was at the center of the Old Rite, based on asceticism and the limitation of wants. Bothering with technology and money was viewed as involving the Orthodox faithful in the world of Satan, who, according to the Scriptures, controls all the states of the world. The Old Faith never had a modern state, nor do the Hasidic Jews or Amish in America, and yet order was maintained and a certain degree of prosperity and open displays of happiness were regular features of such communal lives. In addition, despite small numbers, the above groups all had an influence on their respective communal lives far out of proportion to any kind of traditional state power.
As the Orthodox faith exists outside of episcopal control, so does order and law outside of state systems, who, as always, are a law unto themselves. Traditionally, in the Orthodox faith, both east and west, bishops were servants, rather than masters of the Orthodox church, officially defined as the entire body of faithful struggling to live the monastic life dependent on their surroundings. The skete and hermitage was the spiritual center of the society, and, specifically in Ireland, the bishop was under the authority of the abbot, and existed solely to ordain priests, etc. There is certainly nothing sacred or “traditional” about bishops as dominating parishes and monastics, and certainly nothing sacred about the centralized state, something explicitly condmend in the Law of Moses.
As far as the nature of the state is concerned, here are a few quotes from an anonymous tract on Satan and the state:
The satanic nexus with “The State” is also described or implied in Daniel 10:13, Ezekiel 28:12-19, and Revelation 17:1-7. In these passages, Satan is called “the prince of kingdom of Persia” and the “King of Tyre”. Plus, the “kings of the Earth” are described as having an intimate and illicit relationship with Satan by way of his “scarlet beast” and the “woman” who is carried by it. So once again we find a direct link between Satan and the earthly rulers that God ordains. The devil certainly controlled these kings, assuming they were historical figures. Perhaps he even possessed them. Hence, we have more evidence to suggest that “The State” may credibly be considered part of the kingdom of Satan, and only ordained by God in the sense that the devil himself is ordained by God – to fulfill His purposes and to glorify Him.
The Scriptures indicate that “The State” is often a “minister” of judgment ordained by God ( cf. Isaiah 3:4-5, 12-15 ). To varying degrees, in each judgment situation, “The State” becomes “the rod” of God’s “anger” and “the staff” of His “indignation” ( Isaiah 10:5 ). It receives a “charge” from God to punish the people who are objects of His terrestrial “wrath” ( Isaiah 10:6 ). The Bible says that Lord himself brings “calamity” on people (Isaiah 45:7 ). “The State” is often a judgment against the people over which it rules (particularly outside of the theocracy of Judah ), although God has also used “The State” to judge foreigners during the Old Testament theocratic kingdom. Yet “The States” that serve God in this way are often at least as wicked as the ones they judge, showing that not all of God’s ordained servants ( cf. Romans 13.4 ) are upright in character. Casting aside popular myths to the contrary, “The State’s” evil nature and bad character are realities to be expected.
The church is governed not by synods, but by tradition and former examples of holiness. There is no synodal decision that can ever be considered valid that had not already existed in the hearts of the simple faithful. As a result, one is on solid ground in condemning Nikon (though not his followers), because, given the size of the rebellion against his reforms, his reforms were merely top-down commands, rather than part of the natural development of the Orthodox faith incarnated in the people via the Holy Spirit. At the same time, society is also so governed, as a family, through patriarchal authority that seeks to rule by example and exhortation rather than violence.
As Solomon takes the reins of Israel, he immediately uses his power to import foreign gods, multiply wives and engage in international alliances that also serve as examples of illegitimate ecumenism. It might be noted that the above three items are all the same. Making alliances with pagan states means taking some of their women as “wives.” At the same time, these women are permitted to bring their own gods to the temple, and hence, Solomon is expected to at least give some veneration to these pagan entities. Hence, Solomon died in heresy, and is the ultimate example of a heretical and illegitimate king, regardless of his other talents. Similarly, Peter I of Russia, upon taking power, confirms all the fears of the anti-Nikon resistance. He introduces extreme methods of tax collection, forced labor projects and an all out assault on religion and tradition. Peter I is in no manner distinct from the USSR, and serves to prefigure it. Tens of thousands died in peter’s forced labor camps in order to build his new capital and other industrial projects throughout Russia. Once he ties serfdom to industrialization, the demonic nature of the Russian tsardom in the 18th century is clear. While serfdom is an evil, it is not nearly as bad as the modern commentators claim. On the other hand, the rule of Mammon is made clear when Peter I decided to engage in the forcible enserfment of peasants and then attach them to modern industrial enterprises under appalling conditions. Old Russia rose against him in the revolt of Bulavin.
The uprisings of Razin, Bulavin and Pugachev were aimed at restoring an ethno-anarchist model of life, albeit in rather inarticulate ways. One element revolved around the organic nature of the Old Faith as opposed to the purely hierarchic model of Nikonian Orthodoxy. Another centered around the ethnic commune and Russian tradition over the cosmopolitan coercion of Peter, Anne (I and II) and Catherine (I and II). It centered around rural communalism and decentralization rather than the urban centralization of capital and foreign/heterodox control. It stood of happiness over utility. It stood for Russia over the west. When Bulavin and Pugachev were defeated, the Cossack autonomy was eliminated and the Old Faith butchered with even greater ferocity. Russia became a top-down coercive monarchy, rather than the New Israel. It became pagan rather than Christian for power was pursued for the sake of wealth and control, and the new, often non-Russian service class tormented their peasants to afford the latest European fads such as new carriages and their developing roulette addiction.
Romantic nationalism, in an ethno-communal sense, stands for the organic over the artificial. If this is true, than the abstract individual and untrammeled desires are the most modern and fraudulent of all. What is natural, what exists prior to civilization is the family, the ethnos and the proper worship of God in spirit and truth. Civilization does not need to exist for all three of these things to function. God is revealed in the symbols of nature, but is obscured in modern times where nature is merely raw material. The veneration of the ever perishing natural world is itself a product of the Enlightenment. Culture is the humanization of nature, bringing it into the symbolic world of belonging. Trees are not merely trees but symbols of a higher reality, as evidenced by the Russian veneration of the birch, and the Celtic veneration of the oak. Natural objects become sacramental objects in the Old Faith, they become markers of identity, as the Cossack sees the steppe, and the Montenegrin militiaman sees the mountains and crags. Nature itself becomes part of the language of life. Modernity sees it as either raw material to be exploited, or the suburban, tree-hugging sentimentality of fashionable environmentalism.
Herder and Rousseau show man living in accordance with nature and the tradition that such interaction helps to create. It is Hegel and Locke that sees rationality and utility over organic connection. Without the connection of community to nature and to custom (certainly no contradiction), alienation, ill-health and mental illness result. These are the result, not of biological processes, but of alienation; the masks that modern civilization forces people to wear given their various social roles. They are an exploited, subject people dominated by the whims of fashion and media control, from which their identity, clothing and even language derive. The ultimate reality of natural and organic living is the sobor, the peasant commune and the love of tradition. State/episcopal power exists not to guard tradition but to manipulate it according to the interests of power and utility. As James Billington writes in reference to the development of the Old Belief,
The defenders of the Muscovite ideal of an organic, religious civilization were being confronted in their own land with a sovereign secular state similar to those of western Europe. The year 1667 accelerated this trend through the formal transfer of Kiev from long years of Polish overlordship to Muscovite control and the promulgation of new decree insuring national control over all foreign trade. The process of freeing autocratic authority from any affective restraint by local or conciliar bodies had already been accomplished in the early years of Alexis’ reign by the crushing of town revolts and the abolition of the zemsky soborny. (Icon, 145).
A Dutch witness to Russian live under Alexis writes, (quoted in Averich’s Russian Rebels), that commoners petitioned the tsar
concerning the intolerable great taxes and contributions, whereby they were overburdened for some years. . . .so with their wives and children they were thereby ruined; besides which the great oppressions which the boyars did daily lay upon them and that they were not able to hold out any longer. Yea, they desired rather with their wives and children to undergo a present death than to suffer any longer in such transcendent oppression. (57)
And Paul Averich writes, dealing with Bulavin and the Old Rite,
They saw the deeds of Antichrist not only in Peter’s irreverent mockery of religious worship but also in the ruthless accumulation of power at the expense of the people. For them the centralized state was an artificial body forcibly grafted upon Russian society, an alien growth weighing heavily upon the poor and responsible for their suffering. . . .They [rebels] were particularly numerous among the Cossacks and streltsy, semi-autonomous groups which, threatened with the loss of traditional privileges and status, expressed their social grievances in religious dissent. The Old belief, paradoxically [sic] was a deeply conservative movement that simultaneously became a restless and even revolutionary force in Russian life.
And Nickolas Lupinin writes in his Religious Revolt in the 16th Century,
What the council of 1682 actually did was to structure a system of repression against the Old Believers. It was the first time in Russian history , as Kartashev notes, that the spirit of the western inquisition had been manifested. Over a half a century of continuous foreign influences had helped to foment the notion of counteracting any opposition.
The Old Faith, the Cossack krug and the medieval communal tradition rests on three ideas, that of the popular monarchy, the free commune and the ancient Faith. Each exists for the other, and none can exist without the other. There is no right action outside of right belief, and all right action depend on correct ideas of God and his relation to man.
The popular monarch is an icon of the Trinity, his job is to defend the Orthodox people from the heretics and schismatics from within and without. As God says to Moses concerning political virtue, “Thou shall not receive the voice of a lie; neither thou shalt bear false witness to the wicked. Thou shall not follow the multitude to do evil; neither thou shalt yield in judgement, to the majority opinion, that stray from the truth (Ex. 23:1-2). And again, in chapter 18:
Be thou to the people in those things that pertain to God, to bring their words to him, and show the people the ceremonies and manner of worship, and the right way to walk in God, and the work that they shall do. And to provide for all the people able men, such as fear God, in whom there is truth, and that hate avarice and appoint them rulers over thousands, hundreds fifties and tens.
And for kings who overstep their bounds and begin to worship their own power, God says to Jeroboam through Ahias, “For as much as I exalted thee among the people and made thee prince over Israel, and rent the kingdom away from David and gave it to thee, and thou has not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments and followed them with his whole heart, but thou has done evil in my sight, and has made strange gods to provoke my anger.” (3 Kings 14:7-9).
The monarchy is a symbol of Gods power, and the unity of the law. He does not dominate, as the Orthodox life knows no such institution, but acts in a mystic capacity rather than in a bureaucratic one. He is a living icon rather than a politician, a charismatic personality rather than a tax collector. His job is to defend the faith and oversee the communes. Ecclesiasticus writes, “Have they made thee ruler? Be not lifted up: be among them as one of them.”
The free peasant commune was always at the forefront of the Old Faith and the rebellions against bureaucratism under Bulavin and Razin. The free commune, as is traditional, should elect its leaders and law enforcers, all should be represented in the capacity of heads of households, for the economy is based on the natural institution of the extended family, of which both the parish, commune, ethnos and labor association is a natural outgrowth. This was largely the case in medieval Serbia, Ireland and the Cossack host, and remains part of their nationalist heritage even until today. Kingship and commune and based on law, which itself is based on custom, ethnic tradition and the canon laws of the church, all of which are, in turn, based on experience, survival and suffering. The commune (or labor association/artel in a more industrial capacity) should exist in coordination with the local parish and monastery for instruction and social welfare measures. Forming a web of institutions that serve both for the worship of God and for the fulfilling of natural needs.
J.J.Rousseau writes concerning this,
Iconceive that there are two kinds of inequality among the human species; one, which I call natural or physical, because it is established by nature, and consists in a difference of age, health, bodily strength, and the qualities of the mind or of the soul: and another, which may be called moral or political inequality, because it depends on a kind of convention, and is established, or at least authorised by the consent of men. This latter consists of the different privileges, which some men enjoy to the prejudice of others; such as that of being more rich, more honoured, more powerful or even in a position to exact obedience.
And concerning community in relation to the passions
It must, in the first place, be allowed that, the more violent the passions are, the more are laws necessary to keep them under restraint. But, setting aside the inadequacy of laws to effect this purpose, which is evident from the crimes and disorders to which these passions daily give rise among us, we should do well to inquire if these evils did not spring up with the laws themselves; for in this case, even if the laws were capable of repressing such evils, it is the least that could be expected from them, that they should check a mischief which would not have arisen without them.
But all of this must be based on the ancient Orthodox faith, for that which is foreign to it is the result of egocentric philosophizing and theorizing. Heresy exists due to the ego. God made it very clear to Moses that there was an immediate unity between justice and truth, between believing rightly and thus behaving rightly. Wants are not needs, and as the capitalist economy is drawing in debt and more and more people reject the system, the system of wants must be transformed into the system of needs. As capitalism functions by provoking wants into needs, wants that did not even exist yesterday, but are demanded today, as Ecclesitsticus says, “Watching for riches consumeth the flesh, and the thought thereof driveth away sleep. . . He that loves gold shall not be justified, and he that followeth after corruption shall be filled with it.” There is no love of gold without corruption, it is one and the same thing. And the prophet Jeremiah says, “If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith Jehovah, if thou wilt return unto me, and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight; then shalt thou not be removed; 4:2 and thou shalt swear, As Jehovah liveth, in truth, in justice, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.” (4:2). And again in chapter 7, “For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute justice between a man and his neighbor; if ye oppress not the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your own heart; then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, from of old even for evermore.”And again, “Hear ye the word which Jehovah speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: thus saith Jehovah, Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them.” And again, Jeremiah is commanded to say to the king,
Thus said Jehovah: Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and speak there this word, And say, Hear the word of Jehovah, O king of Judah, that sittest upon the throne of David, thou, and thy servants, and thy people that enter in by these gates. Thus saith Jehovah: Execute ye justice and righteousness, and deliver him that is robbed out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence, to the sojourner, the fatherless, nor the widow; neither shed innocent blood in this place. For if ye do this thing indeed, then shall there enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants, and his people. But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith Jehovah, that this house shall become a desolation” (22:1-5).
Economic production, worship and ethnic belonging all belong to the order of the permanent synodia, the connection of one man to another, and one family to another as being one in the Old Faith. All is to be decided by the synodal system, from agricultural duties to the ruling of a local parish or dioceses.
Nothing should be done by episcopal authority that is not already part of the local parish and monastic tradition. Such a vision, in the thought of the sobor, is applicable in the economic realm as the family as in the ethnos. Such a vision, however, is foreign to the modern, bureaucratic state. Rousseau is the center of synodal thinking, though not a believer in Christ himself. It is striking to what extent his famous idea of the General Will is similar to the idea of the synod. He writes, “There is often a great deal of difference between the will of all and the general will; the latter considers only the common interest, while the former takes private interest into account, and is no more than a sum of particular wills: but take away from these same wills the pluses and minuses that cancel one another,and the general will remains as the sum of the differences.” And again,
The first and most important deduction from the principles we have so far laid down is that the general will alone can direct the State according to the object for which it was instituted, i.e., the common good: for if the clashing of particular interests made the establishment of societies necessary, the agreement of these very interests made it possible. The common element in these different interests is what forms the social tie; and, were there no point of agreement between them all, no society could exist. It is solely on the basis of this common interest that every society should be governed.
I hold then that Sovereignty, being nothing less than the exercise of the general will, can never be alienated, and that the Sovereign, who is no less than a collective being, cannot be represented except by himself: the power indeed may be transmitted, but not the will.
This is the social ideal of the synodia, rather than “democracy” or “republicanism,” which stand at opposite poles from one another. Rousseau continues concerning law, “But when the whole people decrees for the whole people, it is considering only itself; and if a relation is then formed, it is between two aspects of the entire object, without there being any division of the whole. In that case the matter about which the decree is made is, like the decreeing will, general. This act is what I call a law.” In the Orthodox synod, it is the whole people, monks, clergy, bishops and the laity who are charged with ratifying canons and comparing them with established experience, i.e. tradition. Again, this is a synodal, rather than republican or democratic thinking, both of which only deal with the collecting of individual wills, doubtless manipulated by those who have the power to substitute appearance for reality.
God commanded to Moses that all the first fruits of one’s labor be dedicated to God. In other words, all labor, whether in the fields of factories, is Eucharistic and partakes of grace so long as it is done within the order of the synod. And hence, all social relations are brought under the concept of sobornost’ in the sense that all derive from the natural, extended family structure. For the corporate worship of God is familial in the parish organism, and is analogously related to the monastic synodia, as well as the council of the parish and the council of the diocese, as for the producer’s and farmer’s associations. All partake of the synodal structure, and this is stated by Moses, “All the children of Israel shall camp with their troops, ensigns and standards, and the houses of their kindreds, round about the tabernacle” (Numbers 2:2).
For the poor Moses is commanded, “If thy brother be constrained by poverty, sell himself to thee, he shall work with thee until the year of the jubilee, and afterwards he shall go out with his kindred and return to them and their possessions. For they are my servants, and I brought them out of the land of Egypt, let them not be sold.” Hence, the economics of the Orthodox church. Debts may not be accumulated for more than seven years, as all the extended families of Israel are equal. No one has the right to accumulate riches on the backs of others. Serfdom is condemned so long as it is more than seven years, where, according to God, all debts and profits are to be returned to their original owners. Land bought via speculation is to be returned and any serf is to be freed. Hence, the rebellions of Pugachev had the Law of Moses on its side, for the concept of the jubilee, central to Israelite economics, was forgotten and fellow Israelites were oppressed. Poverty is unavoidable, as is profits. But the Law makes it clear that such fruits are temporary, and are to be returned to the original family synodia after six years of enjoyment. As a result, no aristocracy or oligarchy can be formed according to law. This is nearly identical to the Brehon laws of ancient Ireland, where land was held by the tribal unit, including the parish and monastery. After a certain period of time, about six years, a client of a lord can be let go, taking the usufruct of his labors. As Celtic scholar Michael Ragan has written,
The land held by a tribe or clan was divided into holdings by the smaller groups (family and sept) in a more-or-less permanent arrangement. Each smaller group’s holdings were considered separate and was not interfered with by any other group of the tribe. Land held by an individual was under one of five arrangements.
1. The Tribe or Clan chief held a portion of mensal land for as long as he or she held office. In this case, mensal land means property set aside to support the additional responsibilities of rulership.
2. The portion of land held by the individual clan member or tuath.
3. A portion of individual clan member holdings assigned to a tenant. Such assignments were usually under a seven-year contract and could be sub-let to another tenant. However, the original tenant retained responsibility to the original holder. Fees were paid for such tenancy were usually in cattle, hogs and/or a share of crops grown.
4. The larger part of arable tribal territory was held in general trust. It belonged to the people in general and was normally allotted into sub-divisions for the various septs and families. None of this was considered “private property,” but was occupied by free members of the sept on more or less permanent basis. Every freeman had a right to a share. Land so held was not assigned for a fixed term, as it remained liable to occasional reassignment, usually every three or four years. It was also subject to gabhalaichean (Anglicized to gavelkind), a method whereby land held by a deceased tenant was redistributed. While these provisions may seem rather tenuous, individual rights were guaranteed. An individual could not be removed from his holdings until time of gaveling. Even then, each individual kept his crops and was compensated for unexhausted improvements. While the person might lose one farm, it was always replaced by another.
5. Non-arable or wastelands, such as bog, forest or mountain, was considered common land. It was not appropriated by individuals, but was available to all free citizens for grazing, hunting, procuring food and firewood etc. There was no need or desire to subdivide or fence the common land. All cattle grazed at will without distinction.
Every Tribesman was required to pay subsidies to the Chief according to individual means. Those who held tribe land and used commons-land for grazing paid such subsidies. However, this was not considered land rent. A tribesman under the protection of a chief and used commons-land was called Ceíle. Some Ceíle had stock of their own, but most did not. Those that did not own stock could receive such stock from the chief, Nemedh or Aíre at a designated rate of payment. This custom of receiving and taking stock on hire was universal in Ireland and regulated in great detail by the Law.
This rather lengthy citation merely shows that in Ancient Ireland, certain similarities between landholding rights, family law and that f the Mosaic tradition are made clear. This is much part of the medieval mind as the later developing feudalism.
According to Moses speaking in Leviticus, there is to be little work done every seventh year, as the land, as well as laboring families, need rest. This is a time for prayer and service to the poor and to the ethnic community (ch. 25). Whatever grows in the fields should he donated to the poor, as should anything left over, left in the fields, since the last harvest. Every fiftieth year all economic relations should be “reset,” according to the Law, and each family against starts out with what was theirs at the beginning. Exploitation, by state or by private actors, is explicitly rejected by the Old Testament. All that has been sold can be redeemed (cf. verse 29).
Hence, the remnant of Israel, the True Orthodox, in order to live proper lives, must form economic and social synodia, pooling resources to the extent each family can allow, and organize themselves in separate communities from the corrupt “Egyptian” society around us. The home should be a small monastery, as St. Nikolai Velimirovic states, tightly connected with the agricultural commune or labor association, seeking spiritual assistance as well as occasional financial assistance from the local monastery. This is the natural economy, the social life based on the cell of the extended family, and extending itself perfectly into the labor association, parish, and diocese, each under an elected synod, with elections based on holiness and truthfulness. Media and entertainments should also be based on such institutions, thus relieving Orthodox families from depending on the corrupt and oligarchic media system of the Regime.
As far as Putin’s Russia is concerned, the state has an important role. While far from ideal, the Russian state under Putin and his successor is important to destroy the power of the western-supported oligarchical and American/Israeli based Mafia. Decentralization makes little sense if such a procedure will merely give power back to organized crime groups. Hence, such power, preferably led by a popular militia such as the one led by Kuzma Minin during the Time of Troubles, is needed to cleanse Russia from its criminal element. Once that is done, and a popular and local Cossack-style militia is created, decentralization and re-ruralization can take place in a context of security. Thus, the Russian state is necessary to cleanse Russia from elements that the System of power in the west has helped to create. Any movement for decentralization and sustainable living needs to go through phases, with the cleansing phase the first.
This brief treatment of complex ideas is written solely to provide some form of theoretic foundation for the restructuring of Orthodox society no matter what country in which one finds himself. As the capitalist system shows tremendous structural weaknesses, such as debt, and contradictions, such as the frantic extension of credit to move inventory, shocks to the system may well bring its collapse. In such as case, a “plan” of sorts should be in place so that Orthodox people can live rational and holy lives outside of the mainstream society. Social Nationalism stands for the building of alternative sub-cultural communities that slowly but surely develop in such a way that the state is rendered irrelevant. It stands for statelessness, but also for community, and a community governed by tradition and canon law, which is merely a crystallization of tradition and the experience of Orthodox generations throughout history.
The institutions of such a society are not “revolutionary” in the sense that they are something new, but precisely in the sense that those, such as Razin, the Cossacks or the Irish Republicans, are reaching to reestablish something that had existed before. In medieval Ireland, Serbia, within the Cossack host, the Haiduks and the Old Believer communities, such an ethno-anarchist model has been in existence for centuries. Reestablishing it, based on the Law of the Old Testament, is a necessity for the creation of rational structures in an irrational world.