Why Jeanne Hersch Matters


Swiss political and moral thinker Jeanne Hersch was, like Hannah Arendt, a student of the great philosopher Karl Jaspers. Her book about the conflict between ideology and reality remains one of the most profound attempts to deconstruct the ideological follies of modern times. I first heard Jeanne Hersch’s name in Radio Free Europe broadcasts by Monica Lovinescu, the indomitable anti-totalitarian cultural critic. When she passed away in June 2010, Czeslaw Milosz wrote a tribute to Jeanne Hersch, his intellectual soulmate, in which he summed up what he learned from her. Among other truly important things, he found out “that in our lives we should not succumb to despair because of our errors and our sins, for the past is never dosed down and receives the meaning we give it by our subsequent acts.” Milosz died in Cracow four years later, in August 2004.

“Enemy of the People”: Georgian poet Titisian Tabidze (1895-1937)


Georgian symbolist poet Titsian Tabidze, was a co-founder of the modernist movement “Blue Horn.” Born March 21, 1895, he was executed in Tbilisi on December 16, 1937. There is still a Stalin Museum in Gori…

Already in 1925, Titsian prophesied his own death in an elegy to his friend and fellow poet Sergei Esenin:

My friends, if our heads roll
somewhere into a deep pit, may
the world know: among the poets,
Esenin was the brother of us all.

Georgian security chief Lavrenty Beria put the screws to the Georgian Writers’ Association, driving fellow Blue Horns alum Paolo Yashvili to suicide when he was pressured to denounce Tabidze.

But of course the only difference that made was for Yashvili’s soul.

Arrested as a traitor a bare two months before his death, Tabidze defiantly betrayed to his interrogators the name of only a single fellow-traveler: 18th century Georgian poet Besiki.


Simtul realitatii


Sir Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997): “If there were a final solution, a final pattern in which society could be arranged, to rebel against which would be sinful, for it was ultimate salvation, liberty would become a sin. By refuting this sinister view, by furnishing perpetual examples of its falsity, philosophy serves the cause of liberty. (…) This is why all the enemies of freedom automatically round upon intellectuals, like the Communists and Fascists, and make them their first victims; rightly, for they are the great disseminators of those critical ideas which as a rule the great philosophers are the first to formulate. All others may be brought into conformity with the new despotism; only they, whether they want it or not, are in principle incapable of being assimilated into it. This is glory enough for human activity.” (“The Sense of Reality: Studies in Ideas and Their History”, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996, pp. 75-76)



Un îndrăgostit de libertate: Eternul eretic Panait Istrati


Motto: „Bunăstarea umanității nu mă interesează decât din clipa   in care incetează de a mai fi criminală și devine morală„ – Panait Istrati (1929).

Există în veacul XX destine absolut extraordinare. Să ne gândim, de pildă la un Malraux, plecat în anii ’20 spre Asia în căutarea comorilor unor imperii dispărute și a revoluției mondiale. Revenit în Franța din Indochina, devine campion al antifascismului și romancier de geniu. A luptat în Spania în tabăra republicană, a condus o escadrilă de aviație, a scris romanul „L’espoir”, a făcut parte din Rezistența antinazistă, apoi a devenit gaullist, chiar ministru al culturii. Mai aproape de noi, Panait Istrati, alt căutător de adevăruri absolute, un mare naiv, ar spune unii (inclusiv Ilya Ehrenburg, supraviețuitorul de profesie), un spirit nobil, ar zice alții.

In viziunea lui Malraux, pe care o impărtășesc, Istrati „considera revoluția ca fiind inseparabilă de o voință etică, de o voință de justitie”. Cand a constatat absența acestei dimensiuni, a denunțat dictatura bolșevică drept un stat terorist-polițienesc. Spre deosebire de prietenul sau Nikos Kazantzakis, rămas fidel utopiei leniniste și atras de liderii carismatici totalitari, Istrati și-a recunoscut eroarea despărțindu-se in chip sfașietor de o intreagă familie politică si spirituală. Cartea lui Istrati „Vers une autre flamme” (octombrie 1929)  a fost una primele mari confesiuni despre ceea ce s-a numit zeul care a dat greș (the God that failed).

Când a rupt cu stalinismul, aceiași oameni care îl adoraseră până atunci l-au acuzat că este vocea „lumpen proletariatului”, o categorie pe care se cuvine, dacă ești un marxist ortodox, să o disprețuiești fără rezerve. A încetat a mai fi „un Gorki al Balcanilor”, cum l-a numit, primind scrisoarea sa dintr-un spital în care era tratat după o eșuată tentativă de sinucidere, autorul lui „Jean-Christophe”, laureatul premiului Nobel pentru literatură, Romain Rolland.

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Tom Gallagher about Corneliu Vadim Tudor: Court poet to Nicolae Ceausescu who became an extreme nationalist figure after the fall of communism in Romania


In “The Independent” (London), political scientist Tom Gallagher wrote a most accurate and telltale obituary of the chief sycophant at Nicolae Ceausescu’s court. Vadim Tudor was also the main polluter of Romania’s recovered public space after 1990.

“In recent times, more politicians have been successfully prosecuted for corruption in Romania than in any other democracy. This is a tribute to the tenacity of reformers in the justice system but also a testimony to the scale of venality at the top of Romanian politics.

When the macabre and highly restrictive communist regime was toppled in 1989, Nicolae Ceausescu left a legion of ruthless and resourceful figures in the party and state apparatus determined to profit from new times. The demagogic politician Corneliu Vadim Tudor was instrumental in ensuring that they would shape the new democratic rules on a restricted agenda of change.

He went from being Ceausescu’s court poet in the 1980s to a serious contender for power in the election of 2000, when his Greater Romania Party won a quarter of parliamentary seats. In the 1990s he controlled a mass circulation newspaper in which politicians and intellectuals dedicated to genuine change were systematically defamed. Former and serving members of the intelligence services supplied him with information and resources to launch a movement in which minority groups, Jews and Hungarians especially, were singled out as enemies of the country.

Many poorly educated Romanians, traumatised by the abrupt switch from rigid egalitarianism to a chaotic form of capitalism that often benefited agile former communists, were taken in. But the ability of citizens to travel freely, especially after the arrival of EU membership in 2007, widened the horizons of many and Vadim’s power waned.

Born in 1949 to an ordinary family in Bucharest, he made his mark in journalism with writing that brought Ceausescu’s cult of personality to new depths of sycophancy. He was a mediocre literary critic but he enjoyed influence as a protégé of the talented nationalist writer Eugen Barbu. He dropped out of sight after the anti-communist uprising at the end of 1989, only to be swiftly rehabilitated by Ion Iliescu, President from 1990-96 and 2000-04, who had ordered the execution of Ceausescu. But Iliescu’s rule benefited many of the dictator’s supporters, who regrouped in the Social Democratic Party which rules today.

Vadim was given money, unlimited access to the media and immunity from prosecution to launch an ultra-nationalist movement. Nothing happened when his bodyguard beat up an opposition deputy in parliament in 1993, then on 18 December 2006 he took a mob to parliament, staging a riot as a report on the crimes of communism was formally presented (with the former Polish and Bulgarian presidents, Lech Walesa and Zhelyu Zhelev, in attendance).

Vadim’s defence of the communist regime struck a chord with lots of Romanians who failed to do well after 1989. He eventually felt strong enough to launch his own power bid, and in 1999 he called on the army to mutiny during a march on Bucharest by thousands of coal miners which almost overwhelmed the authorities, and in December 2000 he won a third of the votes in the presidential election. His staying power sprang from his talents as a polemicist and agitator, but a crucial element was undoubtedly the readiness of President Iliescu’s party to turn a blind eye to his excesses.

In December 2004, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Elie Wiesel, returned one of the country’s highest honours after Iliescu had bestowed the same one on Vadim. But by now, Vadim’s power was waning as his avarice and megalomania drove many followers from his movement. He lost his parliamentary seat in 2008, and though he was elected to the European Parliament the following year, a sign that his power was at last broken came in 2011 when a young female magistrate successfully evicted his party from the villa that had been its Bucharest headquarters, when a court restored ownership to the family from which it had been seized in the 1950s.

Once many Romanians ceased to be traumatised by the totalitarian past, Vadim’s brainwashing abilities faded and his intolerant views lost their appeal. Romania is now a European country in which anti-Semitism has dramatically fallen in intensity and relations between the large Hungarian minority and other Romanians are generally cordial. But Vadim lowered political standards in what should have been a time of democratic recovery, and provided cover for the looting of state resources by whipping up imaginary nationalist fears.

Some television stations (controlled by figures already influential before 1989), provided obituaries which described him as a showman, while overlooking his xenophobia and his anti-democratic record. But Vadim had become an embarrassment to most Romanians and the pressure of public opinion ensured that the request of his supporters for his body to lie in repose in the Senate was turned down.


Corneliu Vadim Tudor, writer and politician: born Bucharest 28 November 1949; married (two children); died Bucharest 14 September 2015.


Corneliu Vadim Tudor si poluarea climatului public


Nu mi-am ascuns niciodată opiniile legate de rolul nociv al lui Corneliu Vadim Tudor in viata publică din Romania. Decesul său provoacă necesare reflectii despre Romania comunistă si cea post-comunistă, despre manipulările cinice ale sentimentului national, despre xenofobie, despre populismul sovin si despre histrionism. Reiau aici un text de acum cativa ani pe tema ideologiei peremiste asa cum s-a configurat aceasta in retorica urii practicată ad nauseam de către Corneliu Vadim Tudor.

“Cuvintele au efecte indelebile si incontestabile in spatiul politic, pot duce la asanarea sau, dimpotrivă, la poluarea climatului public. Joaca de-a revolutia, incurajarea unor aventurieri iresponsabili, fraternizarea cu demagogi specializati in cultivarea urii sunt din nefericire tactici pe care unii politicieni le considera acceptabile, ba chiar recomandabile. Să-l consideri pe Vadim Tudor simbol al rectitudinii morale este o performantă ce tine de o Carte Guiness a recordurilor antifrastice.

Am citit cu stupoare zilele trecute că pentru Sorin Oprescu, recent revenit la matca pesedistă (dacă nu cu carnet , măcar cu onoruri si zambete galese), PRM, campionul campaniilor pestilential-xenofobe din ultimii peste douazeci de ani, ar reprezenta “o adevarată coloana vertebrală a acestei tari” si este caracterizat de curătenie morală, verticalitate si curaj: “Adesea cuvintele dumneavoastră au exprimat adevaruri, au avut continut si sens dar de multe ori au fost bagatelizate, răstălmacite pentru a li se minimaliza mesajul”. Bagatelizate si răstălmacite de cine? Isi mai aminteste Sorin Oprescu faimoasa invitatie a lui Vadim Tudor: „Lăsati securistii să vină la mine!” Oare nu-l nelinisteste aceasta reabilitare insolentă a tot ce-a avut Romania mai odios in a doua jumătate a veacului trecut? Se simte Primarul General al Capitalei solidar cu Vadim si oastea sa de ex-securisti?

Scriam intr-un articol transmis in 2001 la Deutsche Welle: “Nu este deloc sigur că doar retorica exclusivismului national l-a readus pe Vadim Tudor in centrul dezbaterilor politce . Este mai degrabă cazul să analizam cauzele fenomenului in esecul (partial, insa nu mai putin real) al fortelor democratice de a oferi viziuni coerente si credibile privind metodele, scopurile si sansele reale ale tranzitiei către economia de piată si societatea deschisă.

Vadim Tudor este in fond numele atator chestiuni rămase in suspensie, amanate sau pur si simplu negate de exponentii directiei liberale din cultura politică romanească: aliante stranii intre forte politice altminteri incompatibile; civismul de paradă in lipsa unor dezbateri autentice privind traditiile constitutionale ale statului roman; refuzul unor analize serioase privind rolul Securitătii in patru decenii de experiment leninist; combinatia dintre fascism si comunism in ideologia protocronismului ceausist; o privatizare anemică, un stat de drept calcand prea des cu stangul.

Să nu uitam faptul ca Vadim nu este decit virful acestui aisberg national-securist (a se citi atent listele mai vechi si mai noi de senatori si deputati peremisti): ideologia lor este mereu aceea a “patriei in pericol”, deci a colectiviăatii organice amenintate de invazia externă si de calul troian strecurat in chiar inima cetătii. In plan ideologic, ne intalnim cu acelasi prafuit, dezolant protocronism celebrat de Vadim, Mihai Ungheanu si amicii lor in perioada dictaturii.

Pe vremea cind eram student la sociologie, la inceputul anilor 70, am auzit de la colegii mei din anii mai mari urmatoarea istorie: se pare că la intrebarea profesorului Miron Constantinescu de ce a decis să urmeze aceasta profesiune, tanărul Vadim ar fi raspuns “pentru că doresc sa devin un Eminescu”. Nu stiu cit adevăr este in aceasta povestire, oricum rămane faptul ca articolul “Idealuri”, deci textul săptămanist care a facut din Vadim un caz celebru al “epocii de aur”, era tocmai unul care exacerba logica organicismului etnocentric din gandirea politică eminesciana. E bine sa ne reamintim aceest lucru, mai cu seama acum, cind se uita de către unii că polarizarile ideologice post-comuniste isi au originile, in mare masură, in conflictele culturale esopic exprimate, insă nu mai putin reale, ale perioadei Ceausescu.

Revenind la “idealul Eminescu”, pastrand evident proportiile, avem de-a face cu o situatie pe care candva Marx (si el studiat de junele Vadim, ca si de către noi toti, pe vremea aceea) o definea, pe urmele lui Hegel, astfel: “prima oară tragedie, a doua oară farsă”. Insa este vorba de o farsă la al carei actual trist succes au contribuit toti cei care au minimalizat fenomenul, sau l-au utilizat in scopuri politicianiste (mă gindesc la experienta “patrulaterului rosu” din perioada guvernării Iliescu-Vacaroiu).

Ascensiunea populismului, a ceea ce se poate numi viziunea etnocratic autoritaristă, ca si respectabilizarea lui sint este de fapt rezultatul ororii feseniste de disidenti, de renasterea societatiii civile. Originile peremismului, ca si ale fesenismului, sint inseparabile de ideologia national-stalinista. Să recitim lista “trădării nationale” propusă candva de “tribun”, si vedem clar impotriva cui, sau mai exact impotriva căror idei, se constituie peremismul ca miscare a disperăriii, furiei, revansei si invidiei istorice”.

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Povestea unui refugiat: Lectii ale secolului XX


Ahmad este prietenul meu. Este etiopian, musulman, suntem de-o varsta. A ajuns in Statele Unite cam tot atunci cand am ajuns si eu, la inceputul anilor 80. Mama sa. trecuta de 80 de ani, traieste in Etiopia. Sotia sa este crestina ortodoxa. Diminetile, Ahmad lucreaza ca sofer de taxi (asa ne-am cunoscut), dupa amiezile este concierge la un mare hotel de langa Dupont Circle, pe Massachussets Avenue. Locuieste in Silver Spring, o suburbie multietnica a Washingtonului. I-a placut la nebunie “Grand Budapest Hotel”. Mi-a spus ca pretuieste mult pozitia Germaniei in aceste zile cand sute de mii de oameni, inclusiv refugiati din Eritreea, sunt priviti, de multi, ca fiinte dispensabile. I-am povestit despre Hannah Arendt si conceptul de populatie superflua.

Ahmad asculta NPR (National Public Radio) si isi viseaza un singur lucru: sa gaseasca timpul spre a citi macar unele dintre cartile care il intereseaza. Stam de vorba des despre vedetele pe care le-a intalnit la acel hotel: Al Pacino, Gregory Peck (favoritul sau), Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Newman, Meryl Streep si lista e mult mai lunga. Am discutaty despre filmul “Teza”, despre prigoana intelectualilor in timpul dictaturii Derg-ului in Etiopia. Teza e numele personajullui principal, un fel de Iuri Jivago nimerit in malaxorul leninismului etiopian. Mi-a povestit despre soarta multor prieteni in acei ani intunecati, dar si despre imensa coruptie care a urmat prabusirii regimului Mengistu. Vorbim despre secolul XX, despre dictatori, despre Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Ceausescu, Castro, Mengistu. Vorbim despre Putin si Ucraina. Ahmad detesta orice forma de intoleranta. Fanatismul ii repugna. Este unul dintre cei mai decenti oameni pe care mi-a fost dat sa-i cunosc. A ajuns aici ca refugiat.

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