Meanings of the twentieth century…

08/09/2017

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).

 

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Secolul lui Lenin…

05/09/2017

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…

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Hope, wonder, humility…

14/08/2017

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

 

Václav Havel a Olga Havlová

 

 


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…


Slavoj Žižek’s delirium…

05/05/2017

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!

05/05/2017

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…

05/05/2017

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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