Gaudium in veritate: It is my pleasure to recommend in superlative terms this book by my friend and U-MD colleague, Piotr Kosicki. Superbly written and truly illuminating, this is comparative intellectual history at its very best! Congrats, Piotr, see you on Thursday and Friday at our conference on “One Hundred Years of Communist Experiments.” Thanks for the great inscription!
A century after the Bolshevik revolution: Raymond Aron was, as Allan Bloom wrote shortly after the philosopher’s death in 1983, “the man who for fifty years . . . had been right about the political alternatives actually available to us. . . . [H]e was right about Hitler, right about Stalin, and right that our Western regimes, with all their flaws, are the best and only hope of mankind.”
Understanding the twentieth century is mandatory for grasping the meanings of the twenty-first: Special thanks to Krisztina Kós and Central European University Press. It’s been a wonderful collaboration and I look very much forward into the next projects. These volumes owe a lot to the conferences organized in Washington, DC by the Romanian Cultural Institute and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars with support from the University of Maryland, Georgetown University and the Embassy of Romania (2007-2012).
The twentieth century was dominated by Lenin’s institutionalized inventions: vanguard party, agitation and propaganda (Agitprop), secret police (Cheka), censorship (Glavlit), central state planning (Gosplan), state controlled unions (Profsoyuz), Communist Youth Union (Komsomol), Communist International (Comintern), Political Bureau (Politburo), collective farms (kolkhoz), concentration camps (Gulag) etc The precondition for all these to operate was the moral blindness and the absolute commitment of the party cadres to the sacralized cause. Lenin’s officers were professional revolutionaries, they dedicated their lives to the Party 24 hours a day, 365 days a year…
Minima moralia: “August 14, 1982. Dear Olga, Orientation toward Being as a state of mind can also be understood as faith: a person oriented toward Being intrinsically believes in life, in the world, in morality, in the meaning of things, and in himself. His relationship to life is informed by hope, wonder, humility, and a spontaneous respect for its mysteries. He does not judge the meaning of his efforts merely by their manifest successes, but first of all by their ‘worth in themselves’ (i.e., their worth against the background of the absolute horizon).”– Václav Havel, “Letters to Olga,” 1982
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…
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…