Ideological storms


The Counter-Enlightenment critique of liberalism was based partly on politics and partly on religion. With regard to politics, Counter-Enlightenment thinkers denied that it was possible to run a stable and tranquil spolitical order on the basis of liberal ideas. Implicitly and quite often explicitly, contemporary counter-Enlightenment votaries of what Albert Hirschman called the rhetoric of reaction draw from the tradition explored by Isaiah Berlin.


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Image: Sir Isaiah Berlin by Richard Avedon, 1993


In praise of Michael Ignatieff


He was among the first to predict, in a series of articles published in NYRB, the rise of the ethnocentric populist wave in Europe and not only there. As a Berliner (i.e., a disciple of Isaiah Berlin) he knows very well what the sources of nationalism are. He deserves our gratitude for the adamant resistance to Viktor Orbán’s efforts to get rid of the Central European University in Budapest. At this moment, when so many scoundrels compete for the limelight, Michael Ignatieff epitomizes what it means to be a good, honorable man, a mensch…

The Fate of Marxism in Russia


 Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov (1856-1918) was the patriarch of Russian Marxism. In 1917, he fiercely opposed the October Revolution. In 1922, his former disciple, Vladimir Lenin, wrote a paean to Plekhanov calling him the most influential Marxist of his lifetime. Yet, neither Lenin, nor Trotsky took seriously Plekhanov’s anguish regarding the birth of a totalitarian regime pretending to express the will of the proletariat. In 1924, Vagarshak Arutyunovich Ter-Vaganian (1893-1936) published a comprehensive biography, comprising almost 700 pages, specifically devoted to the development of Plekhanov’s socio-political views.

In 1920, Ter-Vaganian started to work at the Marx-Engels Institute , which was headed by one of the most authoritative scholars of the history of international social democracy and Marxism of his time—D. B. Ryazanov. Vaganian served as editor of the theoretical journal, “Under the Banner of Marxism.” Acknowledging the interest that Ter-Vaganian had shown for the works of Plekhanov, Ryazanov created a Plekhanov Department at the institute and employed Ter-Vaganian to prepare the 24-volume collected works of the founder of Russian Marxism. One intermediary result of the studies Ter-Vaganian undertook was his work “An Attempt at a Bibliography of G. V. Plekhanov,” which appeared in 1923. A new, expanded edition of this book was prepared in the early 1930s, but it was not published because, by that time, Stalin had adopted a hostile attitude toward Plekhanov. In 1936 Ter-Vaganian was among the defendants in the first Moscow Trial and was sentenced to death along with Zinoviev and Kamenev…

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Minima moralia: Cu derbedeii nu se stă de vorbă…


Constantin Noica a fost unul dintre cei mai urmăriți oameni din Romania dictaturii comuniste. Nu pentru fapte politice, ci pentru idei culturale. Cum foarte inspirat scria Andrei Pleşu: “Urmărit nu oricum, nu rutinier, ci ca un obiectiv militar, ca un personaj important şi primejdios. Securitatea il cunoştea mai bine decat adunătura de lătrători vigilenți din presa noastra contemporană”. În raport cu care, ispitiți fiind uneori a polemiza cu trimişii neantului, poate că n-ar strica să ne amintim cuvintele lui Noica, născute dintr-o cumplită experiență: “Cu derbedeii nu se stă de vorbă”.

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In Defense of the Central European University!


Will Viktor Mihály Orbán deliver? Will his zealots calm down? Can these individuals be trusted? Let’s wait and see. This strikes me as the wisest approach at this juncture. Without giving up the pressure in defense of academic freedom. On the contrary! Kudos to Michael Ignatieff for his dignified, determined, and tenacious stances throughout this critical period. His actions are exemplary for what political theorist Judith Shklar called the liberalism of fear. One which knows who the enemies of the open society are and acts accordingly…



Bethesda, Maryland, after seeing Pablo Larrain’s film “Neruda”: superb cinematography, great performances, amazing score, nothing about Neruda as a Stalinist intellectual…


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Mi-ai îndreptat şuviţa de pe frunte…


Un superb poem de Leonid Dimov (1926-1987): Rondelul semnului ceresc

Mi-ai îndreptat şuviţa de pe frunte
Şi gulerul cămăşii, auster,
Eram elev intr-un liceu de frunte
Iar tu croitoreasă în cartier.

Venisem să te duc la noi, la munte,
Unde domnea un împărat de fier
Mi-ai îndreptat şuviţa de pe frunte
Şi gulerul cămăşii, auster.

Ţi-am spus să-ţi pui ilicul prins în funte
Pantofii galbeni, mantia de jder…
Când am trecut apoi de burg, de punte,
Iar eu semnul l-am văzut pe cer,
Mi-ai îndreptat şuviţa de pe frunte.

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Imagine: Leonid Dimov cu Dumitru Ţepeneag

Moral clarity: Macron in Oradour


The battle for memory, the battle against historical revisionism, the battle against Holocaust negationists, the battle for dignity against infamy, the battle for liberal values against tribalistic xenophobia, Emmanuel Macron in the martyr-village Oradour-sur-Glane, Friday, April 28, 2017…


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Pentru memorie, impotriva barbariei…


Pietre care vorbesc, pietre care gem: La ceasul vandalizării unor morminte evreiesti, in chiar capitala tarii, un abominabil, scabros si repugnant sacrilegiu, recomand acest articol de o vibrantă actualitate…



Lenin’s Train…


One of the most fateful trains in history: It arrived in Petrograd’s Finland Station a century ago, in April 1917. And thus began the European, then the global Civil War: “The piratical imperialist war is the beginning of the civil war throughout Europe … Any day now tha whole of European capitalism may crash. The Russian revolution accomplished by you has prepared the way and opened a new epoch. Long live the worldwide socialist revolution!” (quoted by Catherine Merridale, pp. 218-219)


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