Cosmopolis: Leszek Kołakowski, CEU, and the Traditions of 1989…

 

On October 26, 2006, Polish philosopher Leszek Kołakowski, one of the main intellectual inspirers of the independent, self-governed movement Solidarność, an emblematic citizen of the European Republic of Letters, received the title of Doctor Honoris Causa from the Central European University in Budapest. I was invited to deliver the Laudatio. For personal reasons, I could not be there, but the text exists, I hope. A crisis had occurred regarding the status of a close friend of mine, a Romanian historian who had served as the CEU academic vice-rector. He was supposed to introduce both Leszek Kołakowski and me, but, the day before the event, he resigned. My book “The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century” came out from the University of California Press in 2012 (the paperback was published one year later). It is dedicated to the three scholars whose ideas have influenced me immensely: Tony Judt, Leszek Kolakowski, and Robert C. Tucker. The attack on CEU by the new Horthy and his minions is an onslaught on the values Kolakowski stood for–trust, truth, and tolerance. It is an aggression against the revolutionary tradition of the annus mirabilis 1989 and its legacies…

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