Why does Michnik matter?


It is not my intention to offer here a biography of my close friend Adam Michnik. I just want to offer some responses, hopefully informed, to the following question: Why does Adam Michnik matter? He matters because in times of infamy, he raised his voice and suffered for this. He matters because he has a moral compass and some of us regard it as persuasively indispensable. He matters because he does not yield to nativism, tribalism, clericalism, militarism, Orbanism, Putinism, LePenism, Trumpism, populism, and other political pathologies. I dedicate this thext to the memory of Leonidas Donskis.

Adam Michnik in Vilnius, Lithuania



Not to sink into the mass of the depraved: Adam Michnik at 70


Minima moralia: In “Shadows of the Forgotten Ancestors,” one of his most influential essays–and also one of my favorites–, Adam Michnik wrote about Piisudski, but in fact about himself: “…his is not simply a national but also a very human perspective. It is not patriotic and political concerns but my own concerns, my own good that inspire me to fight. This will rescue me from sinking into the anonymous, shapeless mass of the depraved, captive, and obedient.” (“Letters from Prison,” University of California Press, 1985, p. 210)

Image: Adam Michnik, Warsaw, December 1981

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Despre onoare in timpuri sumbre: Adam Michnik la 70 de ani


Cosmopolis: “By his actions, always nonviolent, Michnik established the unity of his premises and conclusions. I would draw your attention to a hypothesis: capable of seeing greatness in the past in people like Gandhi, we may fail to see what takes place in the present. If this hypothesis is correct, Michnik is one of those who bring honor to the last two decades of the twentieth century, even if a film on his life will not be produced soon.” (Czesław Miłosz, Foreword to Adam Michnik, “Letters from Prison and Other Essays,” translated by Maya Latynski, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985, p. XV)

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Heroes: Václav Havel and Adam Michnik


One would have turned eighty on October 5. The other will turn seventy on October 17. One wrote “The Power of the Powerless,” the other one “The New Evolutionism.” These two essays defined the goals of East European dissident movements, their vision of liberty, and their ethos. They both deserve our gratitude. Their names: Václav Havel and Adam Michnik.


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Sadism social: Acum 50 de ani, “Marea Revolutie Culturala Proletara”


Fifty tears ago, the Red Guards were engaged in ferocious beatings, shavings, and other humiliations of school teachers, university professors, writers, artists, accused of “counter-revolutionary crimes.”

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On July 28, 1966, Madame Mao (Jiang Qing), head of the Cultural Revolution Group, appeared at Peking University, telling the hysterical crowd “we do not advocate beating people, but what’s so special about beating people anyway? When bad people get beaten by good people, they deserve it. When good people get beaten by bad people, the credit goes to the good people. When good people beat good people, it is a misunderstanding that should be cleared op.” (see Frank Dikotter , “The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976,” Bloomsbury Press, 2016, p. 74).

In Memoriam Leonidas Donskis (1962-2016)


My close friend of soul, ideas, and values, Lithuanian political philosopher Leonidas Donskis passed away in a sudden, absurd, totally unexpected way. But is there any death expected? “Death transforms life in destiny,” wrote Malraux. In this case a noble, generous, altruistic destiny. We have been friends for many years. I can’t write details now, I am speechless. Below, a concise summary of a rich and inspiring life. A few months ago, Leonidas and I signed the contract with Brill Publishers in Netherlands for a book of dialogues in English to come out in their series “Value Inquiry.” The title is: “Demons: Metapolitics, Nihilism, and Radicalism in a Century of Ideological Passions.” We completed the first chapter. My plan was to work these days for the next one. Destiny decided otherwise. I extend my warmest feelings of compassion to his wife, Jolanta Donskienė. He will be immensely, irreplaceaby missed by all the friends of liberty.


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Leonidas Donskis, Ph.D., (August 13, 1962 – September 21, 2016) was Member of the European Parliament (MEP, 2009-2014), a philosopher, political theorist, historian of ideas, social analyst, and political commentator, Professor of Politics and Head of “VDU Academia Cum Laude” at Vytautas Magnus University and Honorary Consul of Finland in Kaunas.

As a public figure in Lithuania, he acted as a defender of human rights and civil liberties. In 2004, Donskis has been awarded by the European Commission the title of the Ambassador for Tolerance and Diversity in Lithuania. He has always been opposed to all extreme or exclusionary attitudes and forms of violent politics, and, instead, has been leaning to liberalism with its advocacy of individual reason and conscience, ability to coexist with democratic programs of other non-exclusive ideologies, and moderation.

He died on September 21, 2016, of an apparent heart attack.

Infamy Revisited: My Secret Police File


 Graduate seminar today on human rights, truth commissions, and memory. I shared with my students my secret police file which I received from the National Council for the Administration of the Securitate Archives in the summer of 2006. Hundreds of pages with often distorted information about my pre-1981 Romanian life, reports from infomers in the US about my whereabouts, including a lecture I gave at the Wilson Center, with Ken Jowitt as discussant, in October 1989. The agents and their handlers were quite nervous, it was in full East European upheaval. They had given me the code name “Cain,” Radio Free Europe was “Cobra.” Many “strictly secret” notes were signed by general Aristotel Stamatoiu, the chief of Romania’s Foreign Inrelligence Directorate.

Lots of anti-Semitic innuendo in those scurrilous notes. Code name for Jews: “tunareni.” A former Bucharest colleague’s report of his phone conversations with me during his 2006 Fulbright fellowship in New York: mission accomplished, he managed to reach me!

I was deeply moved re-reading a copy of my mother’s letter to me from 1984. It conveyed her sense of fear, for me, for my sisters. Writing that letter must have been imposed on her by the Securitate officers. The way the letter starts, with an unfamiliar way of her addressing me, was a signal that it was not her desire to write it. Altogether, a disturbingly revealing experience. But an instructive one for those who want to grasp the ramifications of evil under totalitarianism.