De la Marx, prin Lenin, spre Stalin…


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…

Slavoj Žižek’s delirium…


I will not give a link to Slavoj Žižek’s latter-day anti-liberal delirium. The man is out of control. He ridicules, disparages, and besmirches all the values some of us cherish. He shares Lenin’s contempt for “parliamentary cretinism.” There is no real difference between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen? Maybe for you, Slavoj. For us it exists and it bears upon the survival of a democratic world threatened by populist xenophobes and Fascist mountebanks. Will you call me and my friends the liberal canaille? We will proudly accept what you think it’s an insult and what we take for a compliment… Remember, Slavoj, John Gray’s NYRB review of one of your most recent books. It ended with its title: “Less than nothing.” This is your legacy: irresponsibility, anger, intolerance. Very few people these days know as well as you the history of the Weimar Republic. You are aware that the refusal to see the difference between Fascism and what the Stalinists denounced as “social Fascism,” i.e,, Social Democracy, was tragically crucial for Germany not to fall into the abyss. People like you, Slavoj, contributed to the destruction of a problematic liberal democracy, yet one which would have never, absolutely never, built concentration camps…

Sapere aude!


In our dark times, let’s remember Immanuel Kant’s enlightening words, a manifesto for moral and political autonomy: “Enlightenment is the human being’s emergence from his self-incurred minority. Minority is inability to make use of one’s own understanding without direction from another. This minority is self-incurred when its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! [dare to be wise] Have courage to make use of your own understanding! is thus the motto of enlightenment.

It is because of laziness and cowardice that so great a part of humankind, after nature has long since emancipated them from other people’s direction (naturaliter maiorennes), nevertheless gladly remains minors for life, and that it becomes so easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians. It is so comfortable to be a minor! If I have a book that understands for me, a spiritual advisor who has a conscience for me, a doctor who decides upon a regimen for me, and so forth, I need not trouble myself at all. I need not think, if only I can pay; others will readily undertake the irksome business for me. That by far the greatest part of humankind (including the entire fair sex) should hold the step toward majority to be not only troublesome but also highly dangerous will soon be seen to by those guardians who have kindly taken it upon themselves to supervise them; after they have made their domesticated animals dumb and carefully prevented these placid creatures from daring to take a single step without the walking cart in which they have confined them, they then show them the danger that threatens them if they try to walk alone. Now this danger is not in fact so great, for by a few falls they would eventually learn to walk; but an example of this kind makes them timid and usually frightens them away from any further attempt.” (Immanuel Kant, “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?”, 1784)

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Opium for the Intellectuals…


The author of “Das Kapital” was born almost two centuries ago, on May 5, 1818. He died on March 14, 1883. As a political religion, Marxism became the “opium of the intellectuals” (Raymond Aron). For Marx, the revolution is an apocalyptical act of liberation, a return to a long-forgotten state of unity of the human species. Marxism is an eschatology (a doctrine about the death and its aftermath, a vision of post-apocalyptical resurrection): a doctrine of ultimate rediscovery of human identity and liberty. It is also a millenarianism (it announces t the advent of the classless millenium), a chiliasm—a belief in the coming utopian age, the advent of Messianic time (Walter Benjamin),created through revolution.

Historical materialism is a phihilosophy of action: Marx refused mere philosphical speculation and contemplation. He considered ideas as means to change the world. The 11th Thesis on Feuerbach gave full voice to this belief: „Philosphers have only interpreted the world. The issue is to change it”. In this respect, Leninism (Bolshevism) was the loyal heir to Marx’s orginal doctrine. It fulfilled the three main postulates in the original doctrine: the postulate of revolution; the postulate of universalism; and the postulate of an anthropological mutation.

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JFR (1924-2006)


This book came out 25 years ago. Its author was one of the most lucid political thinkers of our times. I was privileged to be friends with him. I visited him many times in his appartment on Ile St Louis. I remember my first visit when I saw the names on the bell downstairs: Revel, Sarraute, Tzara. His wife, the journalist Claude Sarraute, was the daughter of novelist Nathalie Sarraute and the former daughter-in-law of poet Tristan Tzara, one of the founders of the Dada Movement. “Le regain” is dedicated to Branko Lazitch, a democratic socialist historian, disciple of Boris Souvarine, Panait Istrati’s and Victor Serge’s great friend. I re-read yesterday chapter 8, “How Utopias Perish.” It reads as if written today. The epigraph is from St Augustine’s “Confessions” and speaks about man’s invincible love for truth…

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Between past and future: On Karl Mannheim


Hungarian-Jewish born sociologist Karl Mannheim (March 27, 1893, Budapest, Hungary–January 9, 1947, London, United Kingdom) was one of the founders of the discipline known as the sociology of knowledge. His “Ideology and Utopia” has endured as a classic of social science. Mannheim’s contributions to the understanding of generations as social, political, intellectual phenomena are utterly timely. The transmission of cultural constructs, memories, and significant reference points (what Mannheim called “the accumulated cultural heritage”) is the guarantee that humanity can overcome oblivion and amnesia. Each generation has its differentia specifica, yet none is totally devoid of visible or invisible links to the previous ones.

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Anamnestic archeology…


“Memory is not an instrument for surveying the past but its theatre. It is the medium of the past experience, just as the earth is the medium in which dead cities lie buried. He who seeks to approach his own buried past must conduct himself like a man digging. Above all, he must not be afraid to return again and again to the same matter; to scatter it as one scatters earth, to turn it over as one turns over soil.”–Walter Benjamin, “Berlin Childhood”

Anamnesis: A recalling to mind…


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Images: WB (July 15, 1892, Berlin, Germany–committed suicide, September 26, 1940, Portbou, Spain); WB in Paris; WB by David Levine (NYRB)