Even in darkening days…

22/07/2016

At Hannah Arendt’s funeral, December 8, 1975, her close friend for decades, philosopher Hans Jonas, spoke about the immense biographical significance of her coming to the US. True, her politicization had started in Parisian exile, but ti was here, in the US, that she developed her vision on what “beginning anew” means: “Still, what would have become of that, had she not come to these shores–who knows? It was the experience of the Republic here which decisively shaped her political thinking, tempered as it was in the fires of European tyranny and catastrophe, and forever supported in her grounding in classical thought. America taught her a way beyond the hardened alternatives of left and right from which she had escaped; and the idea of the Republic, as the realistic chance for freedom, remained dear to her even in its darkening days.” (Quoted by Richard H. King, “Arendt and America,” University of Chicago Press, 2015)

 


Dialectica desvrajirii: Imre Lakatos si Cercul Petőfi (Budapesta, iunie 1956)

09/07/2016

Dialectics of disenchantment: In the spring of 1956, Imre Lakatos joined the Petőfi Circle where he delivered a vitriolic, devastating attack on Stalinism. In fact, his speech went further than the self-limited revisionism embraced by Georg Lukács. In the aftermath of the revolution’s crushing, he left Hungary and taught philosophy of science at the London School of Economics. He is widely regarded as as one of the most influential epistemologists of the twentieth century. Lakatos died suddenly in 1974 of a heart attack at the height of his powers. He was 51.

“The very foundation of scholarly education is to foster in students and postgrads a respect for facts, for the necessity of thinking precisely, and to demand proof. Stalinism, however, branded this as bourgeois objectivism. Under the banner of partinost [Party-like] science and scholarship, we saw a vast experiment to create a science without facts, without proofs.

… a basic aspect of the rearing of scholars must be an endeavour to promote independent thought, individual judgment, and to develop conscience and a sense of justice. Recent years have seen an entire ideological campaign against independent thinking and against believing one’s own senses. This was the struggle against empiricism [Laughter and applause].”


Totalitarismul sub lupa: Hannah Arendt si Sigmund Neumann

21/06/2016

On his FB page, political scientist Marius Stan publishes a picture with two major students of totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt and Sigmund Neumann, accompanied by an excellent commentary: “Neumann’s groundbreaking book “Permanent Revolution: The Total State in a World War” (1942) deals with the structural framework which distinguishes modern dictatorship from the 19th century state. He was among the first scholars to discuss the role and the figure of the political lieutenant (or, in his own words, “the forgotten man”). SN was fully committed to the comparative study of politics (His credo: “To know thyself, compare thyself to others.”)  Nowadays, the city of Dresden, this powerful symbol of destruction and war, has the privilege to host two important institutions: Hannah Arendt Institute for the Research on Totalitarianism & Sigmund Neumann Institute for the Research on Freedom and Democracy. Neumann tackled the concept of “totalitarianism” quite early (“always on a march that never ends, incessantly at war with a world that it can not possess,” therefore its character of “permanent revolution”), Arendt added a much needed philosophical touch and turned it into a key-concept for the modern political science…”

Hannah Arendt and Sigmund Neumann, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT.


Noblete si generozitate: In Memoriam Mihnea Berindei

19/06/2016

I mourn here here the loss of a dear friend, historian and public intellectual Mihnea Berindei (1948-2016). I have known Mihnea since 1985, we have been involved in numerous anti-totalitarian activities. He was the soul of the democratic exile in Paris, closely linked to Soviet and East European dissident circles. He invited me to contribute to journals such as “La nouvelle alternative” and “L’autre Europe.” He organized solidarity campaigns with Paul Goma, Vasile Paraschiv, Doina Cornea, Mihai Botez, Radu Filipescu, Dorin Tudoran and other dissidents. He arrived in Bucharest immediately after the fall of the Ceausescu regime and participated in the creation of the Group for Social Dialogue and its weekly, “22.” He co-authored an impressively documented and immensely illuminating book about the June 1990 state-backed violent repression of Romania’s emerging civil society. In 2006, Mihnea served as a member of the Presidential Commission for the Analysis of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania. Words cannot describe his total commitment to the writing of the Final Report.

A few years ago, in Paris, Mihnea accompanied Horia Patapievici, Mircea Mihaies, and me to Monica Lovinescu’s and Virgil Ierinca’s house on Rure Francois Pinton. Graciously, he gave us permission to choose, each of us, one book from the late couple’s legendary library. I chose Boris Souvarine’s “Staline” with Monica’s annotations. Two features merged in Mihnea’s marvelous personality: noblesse and largesse. I was the beneficiary of both. In May 2012, when the ten PM Victor Ponta fired Ionan Stanomir and me from the leadership of the Institute the Investigation of the Crimes of Communism, Mihnea resigned from the Sceintific Board, together with all the other members. Mary Sladek and me extend our deepest sympathy to Catherine and Vlad. Mihnea Berindei’s name belongs to the history of honor in Romania. May he rest in peace!


Totalitarismul și cultul terorii

06/04/2016

Marele roman al dezintegrării modernității liberal-burgheze, “Muntele vrăjit” de Thomas Mann, a apărut in noiembrie 1924. Personajul Leo Naphta, iezuitul fanatic, a fost inspirat de Georg Lukács cu al său bolșevism gnostic. Iată pasajul din Mann evocat de Marius Stan in dialogul care deschide cartea noastră “Dosar Lenin. Vraja nihilismului”, in curs de apariție la Curtea Veche Publishing:

„Dacă este nevoie, mă pot lipsi de contra-argumentele tale – sunt la curent cu ideologia politică a burgheziei. Țelul tău este un imperiu democratic, statul-mondial, apoteoza principiului statului-națiune într-un plan universal. Iar împăratul imperiului tău? Îl cunoaștem. Planul tău este o înfiorătoare utopie și totuși – tocmai asupra acestui punct ne aflăm mai mult sau mai puțin în acord. Pentru că există ceva transcendent în această republică a ta mondială capitalistă –, într-adevăr, republica mondială este statul secular transcendent, iar noi împărtășim amândoi aceeași credință, anume că, într-un orizont îndepărtat, o condiție finală perfectă așteaptă omenirea și că ea va corespunde condiției sale originare perfecte. Încă din vremea lui Grigore cel Mare, fondatorul Cetății lui Dumnezeu pe pământ, Biserica a crezut că menirea ei este să readucă omenirea înapoi pe calea legii divine. Pretenția sa papală la autoritate temporală nu a apărut doar așa, de dragul ei însăși; dictatura prin împuternicire a fost, mai degrabă, un mijloc, o cale de a atinge un țel redemptiv, o fază de tranziție de la statul păgân la împărăția cerurilor. Ai vorbit cu elevii noștri aici despre faptele sângeroase ale Bisericii și impaciența ei disciplinată – dar asta a fost foarte nesăbuit din partea ta, pentru că zelul dumnezeiesc prin definiție nu poate fi pacifist. Și Grigore însuși a zis: ‚blestemat fie omul care-și ține sabia departe de vărsarea de sânge’. Știm că puterea este demonică. Dar dacă împărăția va să vie, dualitatea dintre bine și rău, dintre această lume și următoarea, dintre putere și Spirit, trebuie să fie temporar abrogată și transformată într-un principiu ce unește ascetismul și dominația. Asta este ce numesc necesitatea terorii.”


In memoria lui Mircea Ivanescu: Despre Hannah Arendt, Sf Augustin si problema libertatii

26/03/2016

Lecturi esentiale:”Originile totalitarismului” de Hannah Arendt, traducere din engleza de Mircea Ivanescu si Ion Dur, in colectia “Istorie contemporana” pe care o coordonez la Humanitas impreuna cu Cristian Vasile. Aceasta este cartea de baza daca vrem sa intelegem natura dominatiei totalitare, raportul dintre ideologie si teroare, problema Raului radical, afinitatile si convergentele dintre cele doua incarnari ale Diavolului in Istorie, comunismul si fascismul.

In pofida legitimului pesimism generat de experientele infernale ale veacului XX, cartea se incheie cu o adiere de speranta. Hannah Arendt, care si-a sustinut doctoratul cu Karl Jaspers despre conceptul iubirii la Sf Augustin, reia, in 1952, ideea ca “Beginning is the supreme capacity of man . . . initium ut esset homo creatus est” ‘that a beginning be made man was created,’ said Augustine. This beginning is guaranteed by each new birth; it is indeed every man.”, odata cu venirea pe lume a fiecarui om, se mai naste o data sansa libertatii (citez din memorie). Pe 26 martie 2016, marele poet Mircea Ivanescu, care a trait in doua totalitarisme si le-a detestat in egala masura, ar fi implinit 85 de ani…


Understanding Castro-Guevarism: In Memory of Carlos Rangel

21/03/2016

In the picture below, Borges, Carlos Rangel, Sofia Imber: I owe my understanding of Castro-Guevarism to the great Venezuelan political thinker and commentator, Carlos Rangel. Together with his wife, Sofia Imber (my father’s fist cousin), Carlos ran for many years one of the most influential talk shows in Latin America, “Buenos dias, Venezuela.” His book, “Del buen salvaje al buen revoluticonario” is a classic of lucid interpretation of the love-hate relationship between Latin America and the giant in the North. Sofia founded the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Caracas which carried her name until Hugo Chavez decided to drop it off as a retatiation against her staunch criticisms of his demagogic policies, including support for Castro, PLO, Iranian theocrats etc Born in 1929, Carlos passed away in 1988. Sofia is still alive and, at over 90, active in the struggle for democracy. The photo is from the Sofia Imber collection donated to the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas.

 


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