Peisistratos

In the late 7th and early 6th century BC, ancient Athens fell into crisis. As is often the case with the classical period, historians disagree about the particular causes. One issue upon which everyone agrees is that economics played a part. The wealthy families had become an oligarchy, owning the majority of the land. Debt-bondage was common in the classical period. The collateral for loans in that age was the person. This meant that if the Athenian tenant farmers did not pay their rents, they and their children could be seized as slaves.

The way it worked is the farmer would borrow to finance the operations of the farm. If the farm did not produce enough to pay the debt , he would fall into debt bondage. In theory, he literally worked off his debt, so it was a temporary status. There was a special status in the law for someone in bondage for a debt, versus the normal type of slave. The reality at this time was that debt bondage was becoming a permanent state for a large fraction of the population. The result was increasing social strife between the classes.

Rivalry between the leading families was also a problem. As is always the case when there is social unrest, some factions tried to take advantage of it and gain power for themselves at the expense of their rivals. An Athenian nobleman named Cylon, made an unsuccessful attempt to seize power in Athens in 632 BC. Many Greek city-states had seen opportunistic noblemen take power on behalf of sectional interests. Factions sought to gain control of the state, in order to gain an edge over rivals.

There were also regional rivalries that exacerbated the personal and economic turmoils of the age. The rural population had different interests than the urban population. Traders had different interests than farmers. Since most Athenians lived in rural settlements, and debt bondage was an increasing problem, Attika was increasingly resembling Sparta, where a small elite ruled over a large population of helots. This exacerbated the personal and economic rivalries convulsing Athens at the time.

Regardless of the causes, Athens was at a crisis point and fear of a tyrant rising up to impose order, led the Athenians to turn to the wisest man in Athens. That man was Solon, a statesman, lawmaker and poet. He was of noble birth, but he was sometimes described as a self-made man, suggesting his family was of modest means. In 595 BC Solon had led the Athenian forces against the Megarians, resulting in a heroic victory. Allegedly, it was the power of his poetry that inspired the Athenians to carry the day.

By the time the Athenians turned to Solon, he was rich, a famous poet and a famous military leader. Solon was awarded temporary autocratic powers by Athenian citizens on the grounds that he had the “wisdom” to sort out their differences for them in a peaceful and equitable manner. His task was to find a way to resolve the factional rivalries. The result was a series of economic, legal and moral reforms that are remembered to this day as the Reforms of Solon. Once instituted, Solon gave up his position and left Athens.

The Athenians agreed to abide by these reforms for a period of ten years, but within a few years the old problems and rivalries were back. In addition to the old problems, the defects in the reforms created new problems. Some officials refused to perform their duties as described, while other posts were left vacant. The reforms worked as long as Solon was around to to lend his name to them. Once Solon was gone, the result was worse than before the reforms. As a result, the people blamed Solon for the break down of order.

Eventually one of Solon’s relatives, Peisistratos, ended the factionalism by force, becoming tyrant and confirming what everyone feared would happen prior to Solon’s reforms. Solon was still alive and he mocked the Athenians for allowing Peisistratos to seize power, by standing outside his home, wearing his uniform. Despite being driven into exile twice, Peisistratos was eventually able to impose order on Athens and he ruled as tyrant until his death. His sons succeeded him and ruled until 510 BC.

Solon gets positive treatment from history for having tried to preserve Athenian democracy and for having some success at curbing the power of the aristocrats. On the other hand, Aristotle credited Peisistratos with laying the foundation for the eventual rise of Athens. He changed the economy to be based on trade and he reformed agriculture, away from grains to olives. He did this by offering loans to farmers so they could make the transition. He also built a water system capable of sustaining a large population.

The lesson here is that reform is rarely successful, unless it is imposed by force. The reason is the status quo will always be preferable to those in power. Any reform through mutual consent must involved trade-offs that do nothing to alter the fundamental power arrangements. That was the defect of Solon’s reforms. While they temporarily alleviated the results of the power arrangements in Athenian society, they never attempted to alter them. The result of Solon’s reforms was nothing more than a pause in the factionalism.

This is something to keep in mind in the current age. The problems we see are not caused by errors in voting or mistakes in public policy. There is an underlying systemic problem that cannot be voted away. At the end of the Industrial Revolution, similar problems existed, but the political class was strong enough to impose reforms on the industrial barons and alter the power relationships in American society. That was possible because politics was a power center, one with the monopoly on violence.

Today, the political class is composed entirely of hired men, speaking on behalf of the interests that back their political careers. In fact, most are just actors, hired because they fit the right profile and look good on television. They have no power. This is the problem Trump is confronting as he tries to push through reforms. It’s not that Congress opposes these reforms. It’s that their paymasters oppose the reforms. He’s dealing with flunkies and errand boys. We don’t need a Solon right now. We need a Peisistratos.

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NoTrueCatholic
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NoTrueCatholic

I am planning to read on debt bomndage aka usury during history. Any source to advice about Athens during this period?

joey junger
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joey junger

“Barren Metal” is a good book on the subject, though E. Michael Jones’ ken is a bit wider than you may be looking for.

Member

I think most really good info on this is probably buried in journals or subsumed within ponderous texts. One of the few books on Greek economics I’ve come across is Economic and Social History of Ancient Greece, M.M. Austin and P. Vidal-Naquet. Some decent coverage of the interplay between the division of labor and politics can be found in the first volume of Republics Ancient and Modern by Paul Rahe.

Andy Texan
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One hundred years of decay could be reversed if the President suspended constitutional order, banished enemies and imposed the MAGA agenda by force. I am all for it. How many times have we heard, “Trump is a tyrant” in the propaganda press. If only is my thought.

Member

If Trump was able to promote Article 5 amendments with the states, and we could get Levin’s slate of Liberty Amendments passed that way, it would be a lot healthier for all.

Member

You can’t. Look at the election results to see that there is no possibility of ratification of these type of amendments. None whatever.

james wilson
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james wilson

Consider how the 16th amendment got started. Conservatives, weary of hearing the prog bullshit eternally spewed, proposed the amendment to demonstate that it could never be passed.

Dumb Polish
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Dumb Polish

First, let the Democratic states leave the union. Then you’ll have the votes.

A.B. Prosper
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A.B. Prosper

Conservatism is not Libertarianism and in fact a Conservative state designed around encouraging larger families and a stable order may have to do a lot of taxing, regulating, controlling imports, controlling immigration ,spending and all that jazz as technology changes And while yes in theory there are nearly enough Republican controlled states to call an Article 5 , the results if called would probably end up in a civil war or national dissolution ala J.M. Greer’s Twillight’s Last Gleaming novel The divisions are far too great and the odds of ramrodding policy choices on speech, guns, abortion and a hundred… Read more »

Lugh
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Lugh

Yes, Nationalism is Fascism. We don’t have to use the word, but we have to understand and be ready for accusations: they are correct. To do this, we have to undo generations of propaganda from the Tribe whom we foolishly allowed to gain dominance over our beloved Nation.

joey junger
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joey junger

I guess one of the reforms that put Americans over the barrel was the destruction of small-holding and basic family farms (there’s a reason that Grant Wood, Andrew Wyeth, Norman Rockwell and other “Farm and Fireside” stuff is as important to the American imagination as the cowboy). It’s hard to imagine now, but traditionally rural people have been more averse to war, empire, and adventurism than city people for the simple fact that they could not abandon their lands and animals for any length of time (I recently read a letter from a Bavarian soldier to his wife on the… Read more »

Sidehill Dodger
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Sidehill Dodger

I’m not sure what to make of this, Mr. Z. You’re saying that reform is not enough, that a reformer is not enough…so we need a dictator? Maybe an ancient city state like Athens could work reasonably well under a competent dictator, but I think a modern state can’t be run by one man alone. Not successfully, not for any extended time. King Louis XIII needed a Richelieu to run his government, and the Cardinal was successful because he knew how to organize a bureaucracy. Sure, he put his personal stamp on French policy, but he knew that government was… Read more »

Troll King(-56)
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Troll King(-56)

Was Salazar all that bad in portugal? Franco in Spain?

Lorenzo
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Lorenzo

Or Pinochet in Chile, for that matter. But a dictator is always a difficult to take back roll of the dice.

Moran ya Simba
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Moran ya Simba

Picking a good dictator 101: first, make sure NOT to pick a leftie (Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, maybe even Hitler and Mussolini).

Second, do NOT pick a muslim either; islam always fucks it up.

Rightist dictators like Franco, Salazar and Pinochet have a better record, especially if you count the fuhrer as his own Alpine version of leftist.

Bill
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Bill

Lest we forget, the American Republic was imposed by force of arms. We remember that episode as the revolution.
I do agree that to be successful a reconstitution will be necessary to have a substrate of peoples, cultures and general view of life the universe and everything that is amenable to such a form of government.

Of course, isn’t that what the founders did in the beginning? We just need to replicate the process with a few tweaks here and there.

UltraPoz
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UltraPoz

Dictators aren’t much of a problem for a vigorously armed society of strong families.

Al from da Nort
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Al from da Nort

Side; You can only judge a leader’s success or failure by looking at their goals. While Hitler clearly failed drastically at his goals of re-establishing the semi-mythical Grossdeutchland (great (er) Germany, I’m not so sure you can say the same about Stalin. IOW, you seem to be saying that Stalin’s goals were mainly concerned with making Russia a nice place to live. One does not coldly kill off millions of your own people with that sort of objective anywhere near top-of-mind. So what were Stalin’s objectives_? According to his biographers, Stalin rarely said what he meant clearly or entirely meant… Read more »

Lugh
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Lugh

The Republic has failed. It’s either that or be ruled by the Corporations like we are now (Plutocracy). Or do you prefer the Corporations to take off the gloves and rule us via Communism (which they and the bankers funded). Fascism is a Philosophy of Man. Capitalism/Communism are philosophies of matter. Early and mid stage Capitalism contributed to the political freedom for the individual – but those stages are over now.

rich whiteman
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rich whiteman

Well that’s what many of us been thinking. We’re going to get a dictator, might as well be a guy like Trump instead of…well, I can’t think of any strongmen on the left at the moment.

Walt reed
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Walt reed

I have read, over the past 12 months, the Military intelligence apparatus supports the President and on the opposing side, CIA-Justice Department and FBI support the Democratic Party money people. A crude reductionism, but certain facts and actions remain after the distillation. Z, do you think this notion is far fetched?

Severian
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There it is. If the Revolution comes pre-collapse, the military and law enforcement apparatus will have to be involved as combatants somehow. What’s the army like these days? It’s colonels, captains, and corporals that lead revolts; how are they doing? (I wrote about this the other day, but few among our 7 readers wanted to discuss it). The army’s effective fighting units are all overseas; stateside, we have reservists, Millennial girls cosplaying as platoon leaderettes, and the fightin’ fightin’ 503rd Daycare Battalion. Unless Trump gets the real army home posthaste, or builds himself up some Brownshirts pronto, it’s hard to… Read more »

Dirtnapninja
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Dirtnapninja

We are going to a Peisistratos but he/she/it wont be from the right. We live in a turnkey totalitarian state. We have all the elements needed for a totalitarian system, but no one has turned the key yet. That’s why the left is so freaked out about trump..they recognise this and fear he will ‘turn the key’. But they are fortunate in that trump is not really a budding dictator. In addition trump is opposed by the system itself. The power elite oppose him. Eventually a Democrat is going to be elected. And when she is, The state. the institutions,… Read more »

Member

I disagree. The kind of person you just described is like an Obama or a Hillary. They are not the kind of people who impose reforms. It is usually a powerful outsider, which is what a Peisistratos, a Franco, a Mussolini, a Lenin, Hitler, etc., etc. is. The kind of person, or group of people, I’m thinking of the senatorial class in Rome leading to the dictators and the princeps here, whose level of corruption leads up to the kinds of transitions Z is talking about is what you describe. They are the ones who, in the words of Trump… Read more »

Whiskey
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Not at all. Imagine all deplorable White men made into slaves for Bezos and their property given to vibrants. That’s a reform Kanala Harris would mandate.

Saml Adams
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Saml Adams

First heard that term over lunch with Jacob Appelbaum, right after he got into a public knock down, drag out with the ex-NSA CIO at a cyber-sec conference down in Arlington. He felt that while it was “creeping”, more that a few people in government were simply waiting for another 9/11 like pretext to go whole hog. On a more positive note, need to grab a copy of George Gilder’s new book “Life after Google”…there may be some hope after all…

calsdad
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calsdad

Exactly. We have a turnkey totalitarian state. Built by progressive leftists. And this is likely a good part of the reason why they’re so freaked out about Trump. For probably a couple of decades now this has been getting pointed out by paleocons and *some* libertarians. Typically the mainstream conservatives and left winger Clinton/Obama supporters would pooh-pooh objections to power aggregating up to the Executive branch because of children, or war, or safety – or some other excuse. Many years I go I resorted to taunting left-wingers by telling them that their stupid endorsement of Executive power (in recent years… Read more »

Member

This is precisely what I was talking about. Reform is an outside phenomenon. Everyone has been trained to think the opposite in school, because the left has been in charge for over 100 years.

CAPT S
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CAPT S

Great essay. One additional consideration on the take-away lesson: A city-state (e.g. Athens) is a far different thing than a sprawling empire (modern America). What my rural county might happily accept under the Athenian model (force/fiat) would cause mayhem in urban counties. And the sovereign state of Wyoming will have differing socioeconomic policy needs than the sovereign states of Hawaii or Florida. In other words, ancient city states had a unified culture, language, history, ancestry. Those things are necessary for a bloodless “imposition by force.” (Key word – “bloodless.”) I’d personally welcome some tyrannical improvements, if and only if they’re… Read more »

Drake
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Drake

After factionalism caused a civil war in Rome, Sulla imposed order and much needed reforms. Those reforms lasted as long as Sulla lived. Once he was dead, the factionalism returned worse than ever. Crassus, Pompey, and Caesar exploited it to destroy the Republic for good.

Reform imposed by force rarely lasts.

Steven G Johnson
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Steven G Johnson

Sulla’s didn’t, but Augustus’ sure did. Agree we’re more likely to get a Sulla than an Augustus.

Severian
Guest

Augustus’s reforms worked because pretty much anything was better than another round of the nearly century-long civil wars. I’m sure the non-irradiated parts of ex-America will have their shit together when the fallout stops falling. I’d prefer not to get to that point. To get a Pinochet, we need a politically aware general. Do we have one of those? Or are they all too busy ordering Rangers to walk around in red high heels?

Drake
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Drake

My point is that they also worked because the guy who would enforce them vigorously (the Emperor), never went away. When Solon and Sulla went away, the trouble-makers went right back to ignoring the rules and making trouble. Same with Ataturk and Franco, the historical jury is still out on Pinochet.

Severian
Guest

I get you. I just wanted to point out that the “material conditions” for Augustus, as Marxists would say, also enabled him — he had far less challenges to his rule than he probably otherwise would have, given that the alternative was “another round of empire-wracking civil war.” Had Solon stayed on, he probably would’ve been assassinated — part of being the wisest man in Athens was knowing when to leave Athens. 🙂

Saml Adams
Guest
Saml Adams

And Sulla proscribed his enemies (or anyone he thought might become one) more aggressively than any other…and it was still not enough

Drake
Guest
Drake

He was talked into taking Julius Caesar off the list.

Member

So Reagan was our Solon. Got it.

Drake
Guest
Drake

Sure. And HW was the asshole who immediately threw out every reform.

Moran ya Simba
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Moran ya Simba

I hate to bust your chops here but I don t think Trump is that other Greek guy. Trump is a pop culture icon. I dont think he’s made of the real tough, hard-ass hemp fiber. Even if he would I dont think he could be dictator.

Dave smith
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Dave smith

So long solon. A good reference to the end game. Walker Percy’s, Lost in the cosmos

Tax Slave
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Who do we shoot first? Everyone that attends Davos?

Juri
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Juri

Why you want shoot anybody ? In the Russia, for example, nobody shoots anybody. Just sometimes white liberals known also as communists happen in the same dark gangway or remote place with Chechen muslim. Then white liberal commits racist assault, after that brave Chechen muslim launches nonviolent protest against racism and Islamophobia. And after that white liberal communist is gone. Probably feels great shame for enslaving blacks, taking the Indians Land or hating the gays. Police does not care because nonviolent protests are legal and because white race committed many crimes, it is normal that sometimes, somebody must held responsible.… Read more »

Tax Slave
Guest

So tell me, genius, what’s your plan to lure Jeff Bezos and George Soros into a dark alley?

Johnmark7
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Johnmark7

I’ve been telling my wife (and a few others) for years that Caesar is coming. Trump is not he. What Caesar will look like, where he comes from is something to wonder about. A military man would draw a lot of the Armed Forces to his side, sympathetically, not necessarily as his private army. But is there a military man today (or near future), a general, capable of having such will, force of personality, ambition, and a vision? That seems rather doubtful, for great generals are produced on the battlefield like Lee, Grant, Patton who can then command the respect… Read more »

Dupont Circle
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Dupont Circle

I liked your article but technically the period you are describing isn’t classical but Archaic transitioning into Classical. Classical Greece is considered to be from about 480 BC (the defeat of the Persians and rebuilding of Athens) to around 323 BC (the death of Alexander).

Member

Dupont, great example of how to be a bore. I mean, like, word-for-word pain in the ass perfection.

Member

One of the paradoxes of democracy, or any type of factionalism, is that most participants are aware that the factionalism is causing the system to break down, but will also fight tooth and nail to preserve it because concentration of power generally implies they’d end up with less of it. This applies all across the spectrum, from billionaires to their congressional errand-boys all the way down to the voters themselves.

Nobody can be objective about the status quo when their livelihood depends on the status quo.

CaptainMike
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CaptainMike

I work with a few DoD GS15’s. All in all, a pretty “conservative” bunch, mostly former military O-5’s and above. These are the guys who make the .mil function bureaucratically. They have a near universal hatred of “snowflakes”, SJW’s, and liberal democrats (but I repeat myself). Like the flag officers, most are hoping to coast into retirement without a major disruption of the status quo, but if/when the rubber hits the road, they would all take a Pinochet over a Felonia Pantsuit or Kamala Harrisment.

TomA
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TomA

A covert war is raging in DC and it is deadly serious. The artificial comfort of our current age of affluence has masked the effects of this war, but we will soon live in the world of the victor and all that goes with it. The only real difference you can make in the interregnum is to improve your personal strength and robustness, and be alert for new kinds of threats.

JoeofPA
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JoeofPA

Some of the political class may be hired men; but the ones in “power”, i.e., Republicans, are nothing so grand. They are merely terrified men. They would no doubt do the right thing if there were no consequence for their actions, but since there are consequences, they stand around shifting their weight from one foot to the other as they stare at their feet. And the “consequence” they so fear so greatly is nothing more than disapproval of their leftist-media overlords. Thus they are also pathetic men, unable to envision and bring about a social order where they do not… Read more »

Moran ya Simba
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Moran ya Simba

“We don’t need a Solon right now. We need a Peisistratos.”

Okay, I read that as ‘the nation/civilization cannot be saved within the confines of the system.’ So, translated from 6th century BC to 20th century terms, “someone page General P, the system can no longer be saved so the nation must be saved outside it.”

I suspect this is true. Imagine if a FUBAR case like Sweden had both decent armed forces AND a general w stones. How would he understand ‘patriotic duty’? Isn’t America just a 20 times bigger version of Sweden? Ergo…

Moran ya Simba
Guest
Moran ya Simba

Speaking of archeology, I just learned that the Bronze Age ended in a giant collapse. When the lecturer below, Eric Cline, talked about this I was prepared for someone trained in the CM age of American academia so when he drew possible parallels from then to today, and mentioned that migration played a role, and that the modern ‘Sea Peoples’, the ppl contemporary clay tablets blamed for the collapse, could be migrants swarming into Europe, I was impressed. The point here is, above Z illustrates how decadence, discontent, a corrupt system run by cruel, pampered, entitled sissies, seems to grow… Read more »

DWEEZIL THE WEASEL
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DWEEZIL THE WEASEL

It is still too early. Wait until after the mid-term elections. If the POTUS gets his butt handed to him by the “electorate” then he will have the choices of ruling by EO and running the risk of impeachment, or waffling on every promise which got him elected in the first place. Lose-lose, either way. Personally I have no dog in this fight. It has been stated over and over again at the WRSA site that we are not voting our way out of this mess. I live my daily life and order my personal and tribal priorities based on… Read more »

Juri
Guest
Juri

“””…Personally I have no dog in this fight….””

Well, I have cat who may die in the WW III with me when the cucked electorate votes for people who worship Israel and launch war with Russia and China and Iran and with the entire planet Earth.

DWEEZIL THE WEASEL
Guest
DWEEZIL THE WEASEL

Juri: My dogs, cats, and family will probably likewise be vaporized when the ignorant cucks endorse WW III because the Zionists and their useful idiots start it. I only try to deal with the things I can control. I give the rest to the Good Lord. It’s like Stonewall Jackson said: “…duty is ours. The consequences are God’s. Bleib ubrig, my friend.

Member

“We need a Peisistratos.” What you need is often not what you get, when it comes to politics. A small city state is easier for a Peisistratos to disrupt and lead than a sprawling empire with a very complex and vast military and “intelligence” apparatus. Alas, Trump is neither a Solon or a Peisistratos. He had never even fully made the transition from brash New Yorker taking to Twitter for social media wars to the most powerful man on the planet capable of forcing through an agenda if he so desires. When we do get a Peisistratos, it will be… Read more »

Sam J.
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Sam J.

There’s a way to re-balance interest without firing a shot, calling in a Dictator or any other such radical proposals. While I really could care less about the Whites being “Supreme” if someone is going to be Supreme it might as well be us. Better to crush them than they crush us. If we were to stop worrying about what the Left thinks of us, they will hate us no matter what so…, we could wrap this whole thing up in our favor in about 6 months and we should. They will use every bit of power they have to… Read more »

sirlancelot
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sirlancelot

/\ /\ /\
THIS !

Like the man says the left hates us anyways.

The time to be reasonable with them is over.