The publishers of “Polonica Series” have decided to publish an English translation of the present book, because they believe that Koneczny’s investigations of the problem of civilisation are important and relevant to the crisis of the Western world: also that his principal work may prove useful and stimulating to the Western reader looking for spiritual and moral orientation.
For two reasons the whole heritage of the Western civilization is now endangered. First at all, the life of the Western world itself has become transformed by becoming more and more materialist. All the traditional spiritual values of the old Western civilization are now put in doubt and the illusory, external brilliance of Western life cannot conceal the restlessness, discontent and even despair of numerous and increasing sections of Western society; they “never had it so good” in a material sense, but are perfectly aware that this is insufficient and is sometimes even destructive to happiness. Clearly, the Western world now treads the path towards disintegration: ultimately it is impossible to live only for material aims, and a hedonistic society no longer aware of its spiritual foundations, cannot last.
Secondly, Western civilisation has taken and is still taking a wrong turn in directing the fate of European expansion throughout the globe. The colonial empires and the political influence of Europe in other parts of the world are rapidly breaking down, and this breeds in many strata of Western public opinion the suspicion that something was wrong with the basic political and cultural ideas of the West: that the comfortable belief of a historical mission and of a cultural superiority was mistaken, and that Europe did not perform the rôle of a civiliser and educator of the world, but on the contrary, only exploited it. This means a breakdown of faith in Western civilisation, its uniqueness and its universal value.
On the other hand, the whole world has been conquered and continues to be conquered by cultural forms which come either from Europe, or from other parts of the world inhabited by descendants of European colonists; though these forms are quite different from what for centuries was considered to be the essence of European civilisation. Throughout the whole world people now use the same or almost the same cars, telephones, television sets, machine guns, watches and fountain pens as are used in Europe. They wear the same clothes, sit and sleep on the same furniture, cook and eat the same food. They read the same news in similar newspapers, read also the same books, see the same plays and films, listen to the same music, paint similar pictures and construct similar buildings. They learn the same subjects in similar schools. They have the same manners and customs and often the same morality. They recognise to some extent the same basic principles of law, order, decency and politics. Often, even such things as the Christian era and calendar, the Christian week, the Christian Sunday are accepted in countries, which are otherwise quite opposed to Christianity. European ideas are thriving throughout the world. Communism is no exception here: this doctrine which is being so widely used as a tool for the destruction of European political and cultural influence is in fact a product of Europe.
But in this cosmopolitan uniformity of material existence, of social life and even of intellectual trends and moral ideas, the separateness of Western civilisation is being effaced. It is only the superficial side of Western culture, which has spread over the world. In consequence, even the notion of what really is and what in fact is not Western is beginning to be lost. There are many people nowadays who are inclined to consider Ankara and Tel-Aviv as belonging to the West, but at the same time to doubt if a poor and backward, but traditionally moral and orderly mountain village in Calabria or even in Old Castile can really be considered as Western.
For many people — those who speak about the “post-Christian era” and who view mankind in a biologistic manner as an incessant flow of change, in which there is nothing permanent and enduring — the civilisation of old Europe is a thing of me past, or at the best, of a present time which is quickly coming to an end. They have lost faith in Western civilisation; they accept its decline, and even more: they do not regret it. They believe in the advent of a new civilisation, materialist and cosmopolitan, which will be as different from the old civilisation of the Christian West as the Christian West was different from the antique world, or as the civilisations of Arab Islam are different from old Babylonia, Assyria and Egypt.
We do not share their views. And we are sure that millions of people in every country think as we do. We believe that the fundamental values of the Christian West have not lost and will not loose their validity. We believe that the Christian West need not die and we hope that it never will die. We believe that the material achievements of the Western civilisation are not its principal element but are only accessory, and that the real substance of this civilization consists in spiritual and moral principles. We believe that the uniqueness of Western Christian civilisation is not an illusion or a lie, and that this civilisation has truly achieved a height not yet reached by other civilisations; the disintegration, which is now destroying its foundations in many places, does not affect this truth. (Feliks Koneczny said: “do not let us suppose that Latin — or Western Christian — civilisation will fall; we shall fall”). We believe that the Christian West has not lost its historical mission in the world: it still has the duty to spread Christianity among other peoples, to disseminate Christian moral ideals and principles, and to help other civilisations to rise to a higher moral level and to become fundamentally transformed thereby. We believe in all this perhaps more firmly than others — because we are Poles. We did not share in the centuries of Western pride and wealth and we are not guilty of the Western sins towards the rest of the world, which were born from an abandonment of Christian moral principles. We knew only misfortunes, sacrifice and effort. But this allows us to see more acutely the essentials: we are not affected by the disappointment of the present Western political decline; we see nothing new and unusual in disasters and ruins. But we know that life continues to flow after the earthquakes, that moral and cultural values do not cease to be valid, and that we still have to perform our duties. We do not despair of Western Christian civilisation; on the contrary we believe that the West, purified by misfortune and repentant of its sins, will raise its forces for new efforts and will become more faithful than before to its obligations, and will again achieve great things.
Koneczny is a thinker who analyses the merits of existing civilisations and who rates Western Christian civilisation very high: — not in what is accidental in its achievements, but in what essential in its foundations. During his long lifetime he studied the problem of civilisations in all its aspects, and arrived by inductive, objective investigation to conclusions, which allow us to understand better what are the essential elements of the Western Christian, or, as he calls it, the Latin*) civilisation: what makes this civilisation to differ, not superficially, but organically from other civilisations, and what is indispensable to its survival, health, and strength. Koneczny’s work is interesting for two reasons. First, he invented a new method of investigating the life of human societies. He is an opponent of a priori judgements about civilisation and believes that problems connected with it should be weighed on the ground of accumulated facts taken from historical and social experience with the same impartiality and minuteness as in the problems of natural sciences. By the way, this inductive method, similar to the methods of investigation in natural sciences, has led him to the rejection of some social theories drawn by other thinkers by analogy from those sciences.
Secondly, he arrived at the conclusions which we mentioned above. He sees in the Latin (Western Christian) civilisation the highest achievement so far of the historical development of humanity; he states what the essential elements of this civilization are and he teaches us a lot about what we should do to protect this civilisation from disintegration or decline. His practical lessons — intended by himself for the Polish nation which was and is permanently endangered by disintegrating influences from alien spiritual and cultural worlds — are similarly valid and useful for the nations of Western Europe or of America, which are subject, sometimes in lesser, sometimes even in greater degree, to the same disintegrating influences and pressures as Poland is.
We hope that English and American readers will find Koneczny’s work interesting and valuable, and with this hope we hand this book in to them.
We asked a Western European admirer of Feliks Koneczny’s thought, Professor Anton Hilckman of the Mainz University in Western Germany, to be so kind as to introduce the present book to the English-speaking reader by evaluating Koneczny’s contribution to modern thought, and by summarizing his main ideas. We hope that Professor Hilckman’s introduction will stimulate the reader and attract him to read Koneczny’s book itself — and perhaps in future also other Koneczny’s books.