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Jack and Jill, or Why I Am Not a Conservative

He who has seen the present has seen everything, said Marcus Aurelius, and this is why the floor of my study is made concave by the aggregate weight of all the newspapers and magazines I have acquired since moving to Cambridge: I simply cannot bring myself to throw away a single page of newsprint. In this sense I am a conservative.

Let me reach into the moldering pile. "Our ideas have crossed the front lines and conquered our enemies' consciousness." Is this Enoch Powell, in the Spectator of June 25, 1988, hailing the national revival of the Russian Empire? I read on:

Let us suppose that the Reds only think they are fighting for the glory of the International . . . and in fact are shedding their blood, however unconsciously, for nothing other than the restoration of the Divinely Protected Sovereign State of Russia. . . . If this is the case, it means that the "White idea," having crossed the battle lines, has conquered their subconscious minds. . . . We have triumphed. . . . The White idea has been victorious.

No, this is not Enoch Powell but an intellectual forerunner of his, a Russian monarchist named Vasily Shulgin, writing in 1922. Shulgin was one of the founders of smenovekhovstvo, or the "changing landmarks" movement, of which the modern historians Michel Heller and Aleksandr Nekrich say in their Utopia in Power:

The...

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