A HISTORY OF ARMENIAN CRITICAL THOUGHT... (Part 3) By Eddie Arnavoudian Part V: The Radical Democrats Let us open with a taster of the tradition we inherit from the Armenian mid-19th century. Stepan Oskanian (1825-1901) 'It is time that our common people came to realise that they are as capable of great things as any other people and that they can be as good as any other people in arming themselves against foreign or domestic tyrants.' 'The Armenian masses are treated as game by Ottoman officials... We miserable Armenians, we need gunpowder yet we dispense incense.' Krikor Chilingirian (1833-1923) `We live in an age when the rights of man are found at the tip of the sword. Where there is no sword rights will be trampled upon.' Haroutyoun Sevajian (1831-1874) `It is not an external hand that tortures us. We suffer and are tortured by our own. For their profit and wealth the rich sacrifice us. They will sell us for their profit.' Mikael Nalpantian (1823-1869) 'We have not devoted our life and our pen to the rich. Behind their barricades of wealth they are protected even from the worst tyranny. But that poor Armenian, that exploited, naked, hungry and pitiable Armenian who is oppressed not just by foreigners, but by his own elite, his own clergy and his own ill-educated intelligentsia, that is the Armenian who deserves and demands our attention.' Matteos Mamourian (1830-1901) `It is idiocy to believe that foreign liberators will arrive to free us of our shackles. The sole liberator of a wretched and enslaved people is themselves, their work, their labour, their inner strength, unity and will.' Rooted in Armenian life but in part also inspired by revolutionary democracy sweeping Europe in 1848, young Armenian firebrands took upon themselves the unfinished business of the 18th century bourgeois democrats. The bourgeois democrats had failed to dislodge the feudal Church-secular elite that so disastrously ruled over Armenian communities in Ottoman and Tsarist occupied Armenia. So by the mid-1850s as the radical democrats entered the fray the Armenian nation was in perilous crisis. All-devouring elites that collaborated with imperial states and often acted as their agents of control were driving Armenian communities in historic Armenia to an irreversibly bleak future. So the 19th century radical democrats undertook an overhaul of strategic thinking. As a guide to their action they redefined the concept of the nation. National development and national emancipation remained their ambition. But they refused to recognise the nation's wealthy elites as its representatives or as the driving force for its development. The common people, the majority, were the nation. The poor, the hungry, illiterate and uneducated masses living in their historic homelands were the foundation and the future of the nation. Such was to be the basis for the radicals' programme of action. Among the cluster of radicals, often inconsistent and backpedalling, Mikael Nalpantian and Haroutyoun Sevajian were summits in a broader democratic challenge to ossified elites. They were to become close collaborators. Born in 1831 to a poor family in Istanbul, from 1856 to 1872 Sevajian edited and wrote prolifically for `The Bee'. Nalpantian said of `The Bee' that `it was the clean voice of youth and of the living people'. Besides being a journalist Sevajian was an activist on the ground and helped launch an amazing educational movement that recruited hundreds in a major voluntary adult literacy drive. Sevajian and Nalpantian collaborated in underground work and Sevajian also contributed to preparations for the defensive battles of semi-autonomous Zeitun in 1862. Equally prolific, Nalpantian also born in the Diaspora in 1821, in what is now Rostov-on-Don, made outstanding intellectual contributions on political, educational, linguistic, aesthetic, philosophic, literary and economic questions. He is most popularly known as the author of the poem `On Liberty. Tsarist authorities made it a criminal offence for anyone to possess a photo of Nalpantian. Also a restless activist besides working with Sevajian in Istanbul Nalpantian maintained links with activists in London, Paris and Moscow and with revolutionaries such as Herzen and Bakunin. In the persona of these two we can celebrate the full richness of the 19th century Armenian radical tradition from which there is a great deal to appropriate. I. A perilous future - national crisis and disintegration From the late 18th into the 19th century a historically evolving dual process that had been shaping and dividing Armenian national life underwent further accentuation - while the Armenian Diaspora prospered hugely, historic Armenian homelands declined catastrophically. The Armenian Diaspora, in Istanbul, Smyrna, Tbilisi, Moscow and Petrograd experienced exponential growth. A new class of merchants often dealing in European manufactured goods built fortunes that nourished a Diaspora which lived something of a national cultural revival. Istanbul, with an Armenian population ranging from 250-300,000, emerged as a predominant Armenian urban centre concentrating vast wealth within as well as a substantial middle class and a budding intelligentsia. By the 1850s Armenian-Istanbul had 25 printing presses. It had 42 Armenian schools with 4376 male and 1155 female students. It also had growing social, welfare, cultural, theatrical and literary organisations among them the `National Society', the `Studies Society', the `Renaissance Society', and the `Armenian Museum' (HG392, 434 See Note 1). Falsifiers of Armenian history frequently refer to the flourish of Armenian-Istanbul and of Smyrna too as evidence that the Ottoman Empire was a paradise for Armenians. The truth of Armenian life under the Ottoman heel however was evident not so much in the Ottoman Diaspora as in Ottoman occupied historic Armenia, still home to the vast majority of Armenians. The truth was indeed also evident in the lower echelons of Armenian-Istanbul where tens of thousands of impoverished migrants crammed into hovels and slums as they fled the poverty and oppression they and their families were subjected to in their historic homelands (HG422-429; MN445-447 See Note 2). As the Diaspora flourished, in historic Armenian all the political, economic and demographic pillars of Armenian life and nationhood were being uprooted and destroyed through a ferocious Ottoman state and Turkish nationalist offensive. From the early 19th century on an Ottoman campaign to subjugate centrifugal forces within the empire also targeted semi-autonomous Armenian Zeitun in 1862 (HG65-78) and Armenian Sassoun in 1864. Both could have emerged as military and political bases for Armenian nation formation but were now being systematically reduced. In 1864 for the first time in centuries autonomous Sassoun at the core of historic Armenia suffered the presence of Turkish military forces on its territory (HG67-68). The offensive to destroy both regions was to continue up to the 1915 Genocide. This Ottoman offensive coincided with the equally damaging Tsarist dismantling of autonomous Armenian principalities in Garabagh that had been the 18th century focus for the liberation movement. Thus two hostile Empires uprooted powerful centres of Armenian politico-military organisation. These military-political blows were followed in Ottoman occupied Armenia by the bludgeon of a nascent Turkish nationalist capitalist class. Refusing to countenance Armenian economic development in historic Armenia that they intended to expropriate for themselves Turkish bourgeois nationalists fearful of a formidable competitor resorted to arson and pillage. These reached a notorious peak in the 1876 burning out of Armenian merchants and artisans in Van (HG300-301- 323, 324). The systematic destruction of Armenian economic life was to be a feature of the 1895-6 Ottoman slaughter of 300,000 Armenians and of the 1910 Adana massacres in Cilicia. Ottoman-Turkish blows to an Armenian national economy were compounded, as both Sevajian and Nalpantian among others noted, by the penetration of cheap European manufactures into the Ottoman Empire (HS133). Ironically many of the importers of European goods were Diaspora-based Armenian merchants (HG305 and Ashot Hovannissian `Mikael Nalpantian and His Times' Volume 1, 1955, Yerevan, p402). The common people in their native lands, the peasantry and the urban artisans suffered an unimaginable deterioration in their lives and communities. The pace of land grabbing, of plunder and brigandage against Armenian villages, of arbitrary violence and forced religious conversions was ruining entire Armenian communities. Already living at the mercy of savagely warring Kurdish elites that dominated historic Armenia, the post-1830s state centralisation aggravated the disaster. Ottoman state compromises to reign in Kurdish principalities gave their now more strongly consolidated landowning class license to plunder the local population without limit only on condition they paid taxes to the central government and supported the central state during any crisis. The national collapse was seen at its clearest in outward flow of the impoverished and the hungry (HS288). Noting how `day on day the masses are leaving their homeland' Mikael Nalpantian felt `unable to describe' the phenomenon because its `awfulness causes me terror (MN445).' In moving detail Ghazaryan describes a veritable process of desertification of historic Armenia (HG341-355; 412-436). `During the 1860s and 1870s not only did the number of emigrants not fall they multiplied at the least (HG415)'. `It was not just the peasantry that migrated. People from all social classes and groups left their homelands. Western Armenia was being reduced or emptied. Previously dense and prospering Armenian centres were now semi-ruins and were being populated... (by non-Armenians) (HG420).' Together with the massive emigration that had accompanied the 1828-30 Russo-Turkish war and almost emptied Erzerum and other urban centres of its Armenian population (HG145) these processes were destroying the demographic, economic and social grounds for Armenian national development. Sevajian was indubitably right: `Little thought or foresight is required to grasp that our wretched and semi-ruined nation is on the edge of the precipice (HS396 See Note 3).' So the radical democrats made action to save the Armenian people in their homelands their prime business. `Our vision' Sevajian insisted `must not be limited to Istanbul'. Armenians there `form only the smallest part of the nation...' `Our homeland is in the east where the majority of our compatriots live (HS240).' `Our strength is our brethren in Armenia... without them we have nothing to be proud of before the world (HS330). `Aside from Armenia everywhere else will be a burial ground for the Armenian nation (HS397).' II. Redefining the nation Living in an age of nation formation the radicals grasped that for their survival as a free people Armenians were also propelled to organise as a national force in their native lands. Indeed in the Ottoman Empire it was Turkish nationalism that drove Armenians and other oppressed nations to resort to the national struggle. With Turkish nationalism targeting the wealth, the land and the resources of Ottoman oppressed peoples Armenians had no choice but strive for national liberation as the only then available path for survival (See Note 4). But Nalpantian and Sevajian offered a new radical vision of national development and the national struggle that put the common people and not the elites at the centre. The Madras Troika had identified the nation with its elites - with a class of wealthy merchants and traders, as well as with what they deemed to be progressive sections of the Church and secular elites of the semi-autonomous principalities of Garabagh. In the Troika's plans these forces were assigned the leadership role in the national movement with Garabagh and to a lesser extent Sassoun considered as nucleus for independent statehood in the future. The radical democrats cast aside such templates. With Garabagh, Zeitun and Sassoun no more or in decline by the mid-19th century, the radical democrats put the question of independent statehood on the backburner and redefined the concept of the nation to present a new strategy for struggle and emancipation. The nation was the common people not its elites. The common people not the elites were to be the driving force of national development and liberation. The elites did not and could not represent or lead the nation. `It is necessary to understand that in the form they exist today our authorities, our rulers are not the nation and their interests have nothing to do with the national interest... By the term nation we understand the common people and not those few families who have enriched themselves with the blood and sweat of the common people (MN416).' A programme of national development and resistance had not only to be based in the homeland it had also to be framed by the demands of the common people. The nation and its independence are to be cherished, but only if they secure the 'real and essential' (MN) interests of the common people. Any judgement about the nation and the national interest had to have the needs of the common people centre stage. To serve the nation was to serve the common people. Abuse of patriotic sentiments about national freedom, national history, language or culture just to rope the majority into the service of the rich, was not to be tolerated. To this end the concepts of nation and patriotism and of freedom and justice too were infused with concerns for social and economic equality. There were substantial social and political grounds for such radical formulations. Within Armenian communities social, economic class relationships and divisions were pitting the established elites into sharper opposition to the mass of people. `Today' Haroutyoun Sevajian rages `the nation has many enemies, external ones and internal ones, enemies of both of progress and enlightenment (HS154).' Reminding us of our own 1% today he also put the point about `internal enemies' bluntly: `The Armenian nation seems to be formed by a very small number of rich people and a few members of the clergy, with the people existing solely as servants. The people have been denied all their rights. Today, finding a bag of gold in the street, or, and we fear not saying so stealing it, the Armenian thus enriched has rapidly become a tyrant over the nation (HS132) Sevajian continues passionately. `(The Bee) notes the people's hardship at the hands of the Armenian rich who have been assigned power in the provinces...The Bee notes how every burden, every pain, every misery weighs heavily upon the people while all goodness, all lightness, all well being sucked from the blood of the people goes to fatten the rich." Nalpantian too acts with the opposed interests of a selfish elite and the vast majority in mind: 'We have not devoted our life and our pen to the rich. Behind their barricades of wealth they are protected even from the worst tyranny. But that poor Armenian, that exploited, naked, hungry and pitiable Armenian who is oppressed not just by foreigners but by his own elite, his own clergy and his own ill-educated intelligentsia, that is the Armenian who deserves and demands our attention.' `Pity the nation... that up till now has been sacrificed to the profit of private individuals' exclaims Sevajian (HS269). Integrated into imperial structures collaborationist and prospering Diaspora elites had no interest in developing and were incapable of stemming the steady collapse of Armenian life at its core. Sevajian and Nalpantian ridiculed any idea that a Diaspora economy and its elite prosperity was testimony to Armenian national revival. `Even if as a result of' their `trade hundreds are enriched, hundreds receive a European education the state of the Armenian nation will remain paralysed and static' declared Nalpantian. Sevajian noted similarly that `all the wealth of our numerous rich will not enhance the nation or make it wealthier and happier.' III. Striking down internal enemies With their dedication to the common people the radicals shifted attention away from the Diaspora to historic Armenia where the majority of Armenians lived. There they brought into focus three critical questions - battle against Armenian elites that were a barrier to the progress of the national movement, independent Armenian economic development for all and struggle for democratic Armenian community governance. Before any direct challenge to Ottoman and Tsarist power, an Armenian democratic national movement had first to strike down its `internal enemies', the Church and secular elite, those `types who without conscience sacrifice the nation to their own private interest (HS269)'. These `internal enemies' were the main obstacle holding back, debilitating and sabotaging the building of a movement for national resistance and emancipation. As the first stage of national emancipation the radicals urged struggle against these internal elites. `Against self-proclaimed princes we defended the people; the exploited against the exploiters, the weak against the strong, the mass of the nation against the few! (HS63) War to expose the elites and subject them to the democratic will of the common people was the watchword of the radical democrats. With focus on homeland, they took aim at the brutish western-Armenia based establishment. At the end of 1861 Sevajian wrote: `The last year has not only halted national progress but thrown it back... In every town of every province the Armenian population is enslaved to one or two ambitious and profit-greedy individuals and so the people find themselves at the edge of despair. The old, women, girls and boys who need the care and protection of our national committee cry out in intolerable misery (HS236-7) Following a journey to historical Armenia he reports: `I entered deep into the life of the descendants of Hayk, into the depths of the monasteries and Churches. I examined and studied and there I saw every evil possible... In virtually every town ruthless exploiting authorities, leaders and heads of monasteries were tyrannising without conscience. Authorities repress and oppress the wretched people. The exploited scream out but there are none to listen or help (HS310).' Siege however must first be laid to the Church clergy that in the homeland was more powerful, more savage and greedier than the smaller secular segment of the elite. `If the people were to remain... subject... to the authority of the Church they will never be free of slavery and every Constitution or law would be a deception.' Sevajian's most combative writing exposes the clergy's `brutality and savagery' `The Bee notes the ignorance of the Church clergy... it notes among them a barbaric freedom, that is freedom to be slavish before the men of power... But in its relations to the people the clergy's barbaric freedom become acts of brutality and savagery." Shocking clergy crimes against the people ranged from uncontrolled greed, theft, murder, sexual abuse, plunder of livestock as well as the charging of exorbitant prices for religious ceremonies to the devout poor (HS293, 321-322, 324-325). This clergy treats the people `as its servants who are obliged to meet its every need without any recompense whatsoever (HS287).' Sevajian's revulsion is volcanic. Addressing the Bishop of Vasbourakan, a province in the very heart of historic Armenia he writes: `Even if your letter of self-exoneration is supported with thousands of signatures it will never cover up the endless suffering, the thefts, the murders and the abductions of women that... Armenian communities have been subjected to under your supervision... Will you ever be able to make amends for your destruction, your ruin and your pillage, will you ever be able to erase the stain of innocent blood... Will your priestly robes be able to conceal the dishonor you have subjected innocent and saintly women to?' `Monasteries were filled with useless, lazy, cheating and greedy men' who were not just `ruining the monasteries but impoverishing the people and destroying the nation too (HS289).' A power unto itself the Church was: `... answerable to no one for whatever it does or plans. The whole Armenian nation together, four million people... have no right to ask even one question' of the Church and its use of its resources (HS288). Without any democratic authority to scrutinise and monitor them: `These men plundered their own people with greater cruelty and ruthlessness than did foreign exploiters or tyrants' (HS289).' So severe was Church oppression that many abandoned their traditional Church to take refuge in Catholicism. `Hundreds of families send pleas for the Roman Catholic Church to accept them... Wearied and damaged by (Armenian Church) governance Armenians attribute their transfer to Rome solely to miseries and indifference suffered at your hands and those of your satellites (HS324)... In numerous places people having reached the limit of despair think of religious conversion as a refuge (HS328).' It was time to end the clergy's pillage of what was the property of the nation, of the people. Church `monasteries and its lands', its wealth and resources were all `gifts from the nation (HS285)'. The people's tithes, taxes and donations, as well as their labour and dedication had built the Church and worked its fields, its cattle and its orchards. This generosity was not however `intended to provide a home to the lazy or to those too old to indulge in excess'. It was in expectation of a return `for a public service', for the provision of education and welfare (HS285-286). In what was an effective call for the nationalisation of the Church Sevajian demands the subordination of its resources and personnel to the democratic will of the people! The people-nation must have the right to access Church accounts; it must have the right to sack useless, thuggish, thieving priests. The people must have the right to `replace the useless donkeys' that have misappropriated Church property `with men of their own choice (HS288).' IV. Democracy and constitution Grasping the corrupting and exploitative power of wealth and capital in the hands of `internal enemies' Nalpantian and Sevajian understood that unless the moneyed class generally and the Church in the homeland particularly was subjected to effective and vigilant democratic control the nation's, namely the people's future was bleak. For the Madras Troika democracy was designed primarily to consolidate the position of Armenian merchants, traders and businessmen. For the radical democrats it was an instrument to subject the corrupt and abusive elites, the wealthy and exploiting merchants and the feudal Church to the will of common people. Genuine democracy and the secret ballot were necessary to block `those who terrify the people by means of their wealth, authority and tyranny (HS82).' So as a first step of a broader strategic vision the radicals advocated a vigorous form of constitutional democracy. Ending his `Agriculture as the Way' Nalpantian asks: `What remains for us to do? Speak of the economic question, speak of the human being, speak of the nation, to the obscurantists speak to scandalise them, to the tyrants declare constitutional rule (emphasis in the original), and to the common people salvation (MN484).' For such democratic battles there were ready conditions in the 1860s. Armenian life at the time was marked by ceaseless demands for democratic internal Armenian community government through an elected `Armenian National Assembly' and an `Armenian National Constitution'. Already `the people are fed up with those who impose authority and rule by means of wealth alone'. They have had enough of those `who put money above right (HS89-90)'. Albeit within the ambit of imperial domination the radicals sought to stretch this national community constitutionalism to its limits. Active popular community democracy could limit and define the powers of the Patriarch heading the Armenian Church and subject Church, Clergy and secular elite too to a degree of popular democratic control. The formation of democratic assemblies was not however sufficient in itself to control the moneyed classes. `Everywhere the Armenian tyrant feels or has heard that the Constitution will be a huge obstacle, even a final sentence on its bottomless greed (HS310).' So the rich and powerful would `use every stratagem and spare no effort' to evade democratic control. The clergy in particular would resist `the new generation's intervening in affairs of the Church (HS308)'. `(The elites) have sworn to undermine every good order, every arrangement and every decision that benefits the nation. Destroying and annihilating all the good and beneficial they intend to enthrone their own will, their opinion, their faith and their profit (HS154) Endless vigilance was called for. In the absence of sternest control already `in many places gold has already found its tongue again' and `through the power of gold self-proclaimed tyrants once more have re-established their authority (HS373).' So the call for active democracy, for the rigorous imposition of constitutional law (HS223-234), for a vibrant free press (HS170) and freedom of speech and debate (HS209), all necessary to stop democracy and constitutional assemblies becoming rubber stamps for the reactionary powers (HS144). To secure popular democracy Sevajian protested vigorously against wealthy Istanbul being offered 160 assembly seats to represent 100,000 voting Armenians while the 1.9 million impoverished homeland Armenians were offered only 60 delegates (HS205). For effective popular participation in democratic life, to allow the people to seize control of their future popular enlightenment and education was of central even commanding importance for all trends of the radical and democratic movement. The urgency with which the radicals regarded this enlightenment and education of the people was their stubborn and unwavering battle to replace classical Armenian with a modern written vernacular spoken and understood by the common people. Sevajian insisted that as all their writing, as their entire battle was: `...primarily for the common people' (I will) use a language that the common people understand... the language they speak in their homes.' With optimistic tongue he adds: `Speaking with the people in their family language `The Bee' brought the people back from the edge of the abyss to which they had been condemned for eternity by the nation's rulers. It raised the people to a consciousness of their rights (HS134).' IV. The `economic question' In their struggle for an authentic and genuine democratic national development the radical democrats put the `economic question' at its centre. `Nationhood is nothing but an empty word without solving the economic question' proclaimed Sevajian. Nalpantian was as adamant: `If the issue of the economy does not feature at the very centre of nation-building, then nation-building has no foundation, is based on false premises and is bound to collapse.' The Madras Troika had also put the economic question at the centre and had taken the common people into account too. But their overriding drive was the security of Armenian wealth and business. For the radicals however the resolution of the `economic question' had to be determined by that which benefited not the `internal enemies' but the common people. With agriculture then the dominant form of producing social wealth, Nalpantian argued his views in 'Agriculture as the True Way'. The principles apply to whatever the form of wealth production. The first step in solving `the economic question' was securing an independent national economy in the homeland. No nation can be free if it is economically dependent on others. 'Only when the nation begins to cultivate its own soil (i.e. develop its own economy), can one speak of trade (and economy) that is genuinely Armenian and national.' Both Sevajian and Nalpantian were contemptuous of the dependent, comprador Armenian merchant and trading class. Trade for nations without their own independent economy: 'is not national in anyway whatsoever and has absolutely no relation to the national interest... Armenian merchants become servants of European interests... these people calling themselves traders and merchants are in reality only intermediaries for European powers. They do not serve the needs of the Armenian people.' `Those we know as merchants' echoed Sevajian `are nothing more than agents for the sale of European manufactured goods' in the Ottoman Empire (HS252). But with the conception of the nation as the common people an independent economy had to be shaped with a collective and egalitarian vision of development in historic Armenia (HS245, 250-254). After all Nalpantian exclaims `the people cannot be truly free if material need forces them to enslave themselves to another, just to obtain bread for their family (MN).' `Of what use are a few millionaires amidst starving millions' he ask (MN)? Nalpantian therefore proposes a system of economy which recognises that the nation's wealth 'belongs to the people as a whole' and that 'every member of the community has an equal right to enjoy in perpetuity' the fruits of that wealth. Albeit with less precision Sevajian is also clear that any genuine national development had to cater centrally for the common people's social and economic welfare (HS236, 238) Unless the economic question is solved thus with the nation, that is the common people as its prime beneficiaries, all talk of nationhood, of patriotism, of national history and culture is bombast. `You say to me let us preserve our nationality, our language, our traditions, etc, etc. Well and good... but preserve these for what... Abstract nationhood that by and large until now has been preached among Armenians cannot answer this question... That type of abstract preaching can never sink roots among the people that beyond and over and above the abstract are confronted by real, practical needs (MN474).' VI. The legacy The radical democrats were persecuted relentlessly. A heroic and tragic figure, a brilliant critic of a corrupt elite asphyxiating national life Sevajian remained in significant measure isolated. Many of his erstwhile comrades made their peace with the establishment whilst his closest political ally Mikael Nalpantian languished in a prison in Tsarist Russia. Isolated, impoverished and ill he was destined to die just turned 44. A similar fate befell Nalpantian. Attacked and persecuted by the Tsarist state and Armenian reaction he was starved, imprisoned and driven to an early death at 37. Near the end of his life he wrote: 'For a long while now I have learnt to suffer. On the pathway of my life I have never experienced any budding roses. My heart is a sea of blood. Yet I have so much strength than none could read my condition off my face.' A fuller evaluation of their thought would have to touch on important limits. Sevajian and Nalpantian envisioned Armenian development within the multi-national territories of Ottoman and Tsarist states that they believed would be reformed and revolutionised by the joint efforts of the peoples within these empires. But they are almost silent on the concrete and practical questions of relations between Armenian, Turks, Assysrians and Kurds in the territories they jointly inhabited. Not always seeing eye-to-eye Sevajian in contrast to Nalpantian appears largely indifferent to European colonial imperialism. Praising its civilisation, unlike in Nalpantian, we read no denunciation of its slave trade, genocide and global brigandage. For all this, their legacy must live! It contains a radical logic touching on all the central problems of our time. Their pamphleteering and their journalism is an inspiring reminder of a richer, broader, inclusive variant of 19th century democratic ambition as it flared in London and Paris and elsewhere during the days of Chartism and the 1848 revolutions. In an age of decayed democracy, of growing inequality, of the degradation of the environment their vision with its insistence on the good of the common people, their demand for subjecting money to social control still inspires. In our age of increasingly reactionary, sectarian and chauvinist nationalism their guide to internationalist, democratic and non-sectarian concepts of nationhood is urgent. Rejecting `abstract' `nationhood' among Armenians they also rejected the religious sectarian definition of nationality. Against the elites' and particularly the Church's insistence on making Armenian nationality conditional on membership of the established Armenian Church, Sevajian and Nalpantian argued a secular conception of nationality embracing all Armenians irrespective of religion. `We are all of one nation, religion is one thing the nation another... (HS105).' The radicals' democratic non-sectarian nationhood was extended to and indivisible from opposition to imperialism and from the principle of equality between all nations. Sevajian and Nalpantian opposed all claims of national and imperial superiority. `We are not at all happy' Nalpantian wrote `that one nation exploits another and imposes itself by force of arms.' He vehemently rejected `all blind fanatical nationalism' that `for the sake of a piece of stake for itself slaughters another nation's cattle (MN462)'. Mikael Nalpantian and Haroutyoun Sevajian were at once patriots and internationalists. Admiringly Sevajian writes of Nalpantian that he `was a free thinker, a lover of freedom who desired it not just for his own nation but for the whole of humanity (HS254)'. As they dedicated themselves to nation-building the two did not regard the nation as an eternal form. A historically specific stage of social organisation it would eventually be superseded they asserted by superior international forms (MN462; HS246). Nalpantian's and Sevajian's legacy throws down the gauntlet to elites in Armenia that have disgraced democracy and the nation condemning the vast majority to penury and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homeland for bread and butter to feed their families. Excavating the radical democratic legacy, using it as the intellectual brickwork for building a strategy for survival can help contribute to averting Armenia's and indeed the globe's apparently unstoppable slide into what Paryour Sevak aptly called 'the new dark-ages'. NOTES: Note 1: Haig Ghazaryan `Socio-Economic and Political Conditions of Western Armenia - 1800-1870', 670pp, 1967, Yerevan. Hereafter referenced as HG followed by page number thus HG123. This is a hugely valuable resource rich with data and quotes from sources of the period under study. Note 2: Mikael Nalpantian `Selected Works', 604pp, 1979, Yerevan. Hereafter referenced as MN followed by page number thus MN123 Note 3: Haroutyoun Sevajian `Journalism', 555pp, 1960, Yerevan. Hereafter referenced as HS followed by page number thus HS123 Note 4: Contrary to chauvinist falsifiers of Armenian history, the 19th century history of the Ottoman Empire provides plenty of evidence that Ottoman-era Armenian nationalism together with that of other small nations was a direct defensive reaction to the ruthless drive of Turkish bourgeois nationalism not the other way round. The tired old claim by these falsifiers that Armenian nationalism was an imperialist manufactured movement is easily rebutted. - Eddie Arnavoudian holds degrees in history and politics from Manchester, England, and is Groong's commentator-in-residence on Armenian literature. His works on literary and political issues have also appeared in Harach in Paris, Nairi in Beirut and Open Letter in Los Angeles.
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