Multiple Identities

04/06/2017
If I were to say who I am, my first response would be that I’m a democratic intellectual. In other words, one opposed to any form of collectivistic and totalizing “group thinking.” I’m proudly a non-belonger and I abhor all forms of regimentation. I enjoy and practice eclecticism. I dislike stigmas, labels, straitjackets, Procrustean beds. I don’t identify myself with abstractions such as tribe, nation, class, race, etc On the contrary, I regard them as insuperably and insufferably fallacious, conducive to ideological and political follies. They surreptitiously invade and cynically enslave our loyalties, allegiances, and emotions. I love the Republic of Letters, increasingly beleaguered and absolutely indispensable. I don’t idealize Reason, but I know that without it we are lost in the forest of superstitions, lies, and prejudices. So, I take Settembrini’s side in his struggle with Naphta. I dedicate this post to the memory of S. N. Eisenstadt (1923–2010), a great Weberian scholar, a mentor and a dear friend, the author of a most insightful essay titled “Multiple Identities”. I learned from him what it means to defend open spaces. Meeting Shmuel was one of the luckiest moments of my intellectual life. Blessed be his memory…

 

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La Bookfest…

26/05/2017

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De la Marx, prin Lenin, spre Stalin…

18/05/2017

Nu încape îndoială, filosoful politic și economistul de secol XIX pe nume Karl Marx nu a fost strămoșul intelectual direct al lui Stalin. Filiația a fost mediată (vermittelt) de Plehanov, Lenin, social-democrații gruzini, până la un punct chiar de marxismul austriac. Și totuși, așa cum au arătat Leszek Kołakowski, Martin Malia și Andrzej Walicki, stalinismul a fost unul din principalele curente ale marxismului într-un secol al devastatoarelor furtuni ideologice. Stalin da, s-a perceput pe sine ca marxist și a acționat în consecință. Nu a fost vorba doar de simpla sete de sânge, vendetă compulsivă sau vreun apetit gargantuesc pentru putere printre factorii care i-au motivat operațiunile genocidare, dar, mai mult ca orice altceva, a fost vorba de convingerea sa fermă că era adevăratul discipol al lui Lenin. La rându-i, Lenin fusese convins că era singurul succesor apostolic al lui Marx…


Stalinism for all Seasons

08/05/2017

The Communist Party of Romania (section of the Third International) was founded on May 8, 1921. For all its existence, legal, clandestine, in power, it was deeply committed to the Stalinist mythology and viscerally opposed to any liberal temptation. In 1956, the Romanian communist leaders rejected de-Stalinization and embarked, first timidly, then openly in de-Sovietization without liberalization. Once Ceaușescu came to power in March 1965, succeeding Gheorghiu-Dej, he stimulated, manipulated, and exploited nationalist emotions, including anti-Semitism and Hungarophobia. In this respect, as we try to to demonstrate, Marius Stan and I, in a paper we are working on, there were significant features that defined what we call National Stalinism in Romania, Poland (Mieczysław Moczar and his Partisan faction), and Enver Hoxha’s Albania. 1968 was a crucial year in highlighting the major differences between Titoist national Communism, Dubček’s socialism with a human face, and the ethnocentric National Stalinism.

 

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Apostolic genealogies: From Marx, through Lenin, to Stalin

01/05/2017

Definitely, the 19th century political philosopher and economist Karl Marx was not Stalin’s direct intellectual forebear. The relation was mediated (vermittelt) by Plekhanov, Lenin, the Georgian Social Democrats, to some extent even Austrian Marxism. Yet, as Leszek Kołakowski, Martin Malia, and Andrzej Walicki have shown, Stalinism was one of the main currents of Marxism in a century of fierce ideological storms. Stalin conceived of himself as a Marxist and acted accordingly. It was not sheer lust for blood, compulsive vindictiveness, and a Gargantuan appetite for power that motivated his genocidal undertakings, but, more than anything else, his unshatterable belief that he was Lenin’s true disciple. In turn, Lenin was convinced that he was Marx’s only apostolic successor…

 

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May 1: The Dreams Betrayed…

01/05/2017

On May 1, thinking of the Spanish Civil War, the Stalinist confiscation of the internationalist dream, the liquidation of POUM, George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia”. The Spanish tragedy was both a civil war (lost by the loyalists and won by the Fascists supported by Hitler and Mussolini) ) and a libertarian revolution (strangled by the Stalinists)…

 

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Image: POUM poster, World War II Museum, Gdansk


Ideological storms

30/04/2017

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