As if to prove my point to myself, I read Cat's Theses & Aphorisms on Polish foreign policy last night. Any statesman who writes aphorisms on foreign policy is a rarity, and any civilization which creates such men is worth preserving. Sadly, Cat's writing remains nowadays more a literary curiosity than a serious political program in the eyes of Poles.
Despite his Polish imperialism, Cat Mackiewicz is a writer whose erudition qualifies him as one of the greatest literary minds of Europe. Polish imperialism, in Cat's view, was of course the process through which Latin civilization was carried east. This view is outdated to the extreme,particularly in light of the fact that Latin civilization is now lost, save its vibrant remnant in Poland, and the Eastern Orthodox civilization is in many ways superior, having preserved itself against the slow decay of Catholicism that now afflicts even its Polish variant (Western European Catholicism has been reduced to a corps or a comedy - I am still not sure which one is worse).
Cat's political philosophy is of course worth understanding, but not only is it impossible to understand his statesmanship without an appreciation of his penmanship, but it is in fact true that the form of his writing is the most enduring part of what he has to say. This is not a claim made on account of some sophism by which I wish to rescue Cat as a great writer from the perils of Cat as a muddle-headed thinker. Quite the contrary!
Cat's political thought is excellent. He accurately foresaw not only the course of World War II, but the dynamics of Franco-German relations that inevitably led to the creation of the European Union.Why it is not inaccurate to say that he even foresaw Brexit, because he recognized that England is and always will be opposed to any form of continental political order as a matter of British interest and ambition. Certainly then there can be no talk of any kind of apologia for Cat Mackiewicz rooted in the idea that he was a flawed thinker, but a great writer.
Rather, I quite literally believe that to understand Cat's political thought it is necessary to first appreciate his literary style. One sees it immediately in how he treats the Jewish question, or the nationalities question in Poland. He criticizes the nationalist press because he spies in their reactionary tendencies towards Jews, Belorussians and Ukrainians a content that is harmful to Poland to the same degree to which its form is favorable to Poland. Cat understands the precariousness of the Polish situation. He recognizes that Poland was Russia and thus inherited all of the problems which once plagued Russia. He insists Poland must deal with those problems with greater virtue than did imperial Russia, lest she suffer the fate of the Tsars.
Yet the modern reader will likely not see this, just as his writing on homosexuality would likely shock the Western mind today, so his writing on national and religious questions - so full of whit, good-natured humor and moral sensitivity - would likely first shock, then disgust the simpleton mind of modern Western man. For Cat, unlike Shakespeare, is a writer who cannot be explained away. One cannot abstract from his writing some "universal" principle and excuse the rest as reflective of the ignorance of the times. Cat was not the ignorant man of his times. Cat was the only sane and moral man of his times. To his east, Bolshevism. To his west, Nazism and Democracy. In Poland: the tyranny of the ignorant Colonels and the blind faith in British salvation. Only Cat had a clear and lucid picture of the world and a program that would have allowed Poland to survive and triumph.
And this triumph would have been the salvation of Russia and the West, rather than their downfall. Anyone who doubts this should likewise despise present-day Russia more than the Soviet Union. Yet in fact - judging the Western mind - this is exactly what they do. All of the Western voices who are heirs to apologetics for Communism (not political apologetics, but ideological) are critical of Russia (not political critics, but ideological critics). Cat's writing is not ancient and outdated - it is simply the work of a man defeated by his times.
That Cat could comprehend the world as he did in the 1920s and 1930s is a prelude to what the twentieth century could have been had men like Cat had the good fortune of winning it instead of men like Churchill, Stalin and Hitler. In this sense, Cat's work is fresh because despite the chaos of present times, the ultimate fate of Europe is still a work in progress which risks becoming a work in regress. It is all a matter of who defines progress. Cat styled himself a reactionary monarchist - but that is simply his politics. His literature has the fire of Nietzsche and takes a hammer to European history, which is the history of the progress of nihilism. Cat is a restoration of Hellenic and Roman tendencies to their rightful place in Europe. His Catholicism is firm because he has no need to write about it. Is there anyone left who can read him well?