Can Europe Make It?

Perception and politics – the case of Poland: coping with political apparitions

Is there a gap between conservative neoliberalism and conservative nationalism, within which emancipatory ideas could come to life again, albeit embraced in a perverse dialectics?

Adam J Chmielewski
1 October 2019, 12.46pm
Polish historian, essayist, former dissident, public intellectual, and editor-in-chief of the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza Adam Michnik in Gdansk, November 2017.
NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.

Like all countries with the real-socialist past, Poland is grappling with many political apparitions. In the twentieth century it became commonplace to say that Poland was governed by two coffins: those of the pre-war authoritarian socialist-leaning Marshall Józef Piłsudski and the leader of the anti-Semitic nationalist Roman Dmowski. Present Polish politics continues to be haunted by ever new spectral embodiments of these two apparitions.

Ghosts of the past, spectres of the future

Two of them seem particularly important nowadays: the ghosts of the past and the spectres of the future. Slavoj Žižek took Poland as his example in order to suggest a possible way of dispelling both daemons. He wrote:

“How to escape this double ghost, the ghosts of the historical past as well as the ghosts engendered by swift capitalist modernization itself? Far from providing the answer, an anecdote about Poland is perhaps at least instructive as to this point, proving that we in Slovenia have a lot to learn from Poland. About a year ago, I heard the rumour that Adam Michnik and General Jaruzelski became personal friends. Sceptical as to this story, I asked Michnik himself about it when I met him at a party in New York – and, to my surprise, he confirmed it. Although – to avoid a misunderstanding – I have no great sympathy for the argumentation of those who endeavour to justify Jaruzelski's imposition of martial law by some ‘patriotic’ reasoning, I found this story extremely touching: this is what I would have called civility as the very basis of civilization, and a friendship like this is what is totally unthinkable in Slovenia, where we remain caught in ridiculous petty personalized struggles”.[1]

Žižek’s idea of national reconciliation and forgiveness between the former communist victims, personified by Michnik, and the former oppressors, incarnated by General Wojciech Jaruzelski, is much overidealized. There is, however, some comfort to be had from the news that in other countries things political may be even worse than at home. At the same time the anecdote which elicited Žižek’s approval is misleading as to the true nature of Poland’s political life. Also, it conveys a simplified view of Adam Michnik’s role in this. For this reason, following Žižek’s example, I address here the problem of Poland’s post-communist political apparitions through reference to some of Michnik’s other opinions, some of them made in private. The opinions coming from the leading figure of the secular left and democratic liberalism in Poland are not only symptomatic of certain mutual prejudices which made cooperation between the liberals and the left difficult, but they also intimate how such cooperation might be possible.

The key problem facing Polish politics is to answer the question how to fight off threats symbolized by the two ghosts, particularly important in the context of the mutual relations between liberalism and the left. The difference between these two political ideologies are related to their alternative visions of the political order. For liberals, the overall social order is supposed to emerge spontaneously from the individual pursuit of diverse aims in free and unhampered ways, whereas leftist movements aim to create a social order according to an egalitarian vision implying emancipation from various forms of oppression and exploitation. These differences, usually insurmountable when it comes to the role to be assigned by those formations to central government, lead to a number of alternative policies which are no less difficult to merge or reconcile.

However, hopes for their possible cooperation may be built upon a belief that the affinities between them are also non-negligible. First of all, both of them are future-oriented political formations and do not perceive history as a source of a paramount political and moral obligation. Moreover, where countries are coping with the real-socialist past, a liberal non-interventionist approach does not seem to be a viable option, for the economic challenges and public expectations in those countries are just too overwhelming to leave them to the unconstrained capitalist forces and mechanisms: the condition of the economy pushes them towards political interventionism, thereby bringing them closer to the leftist agenda. Finally, both these formations have a common political enemy in the nationalist and xenophobic formations for whom history and the past is a vital source of self-identification. The issue is then not so much about directly targeting the spectres of the past which fuel nationalist ideologies, but rather a possible cooperation between these formations in jointly addressing the challenges of the future, hoping that in so doing the ugly apparitions of past will have little to subsist upon and in this way be dispelled or put to rest.

This way of posing the problem, and the associated hopes, may now appear rather misplaced both in contemporary Poland, as well as in other countries of the Central Europe. Liberal formations are now seriously weakened, while the left has almost disintegrated; the adjectives “left-wing” and “liberal” ceased to be commendable as they were in the not-so-distant past and have nowadays become insults. Despite these difficulties, or actually just because of them, it is worth considering possible areas of cooperation between liberalism and the left if not at present, then at some unspecified future.

Identity and equality

The present global politics is informed by two novel phenomena. One of them is the re-emergence of identity politics: the other may be called the detoxification of egalitarianism. Both these processes are different responses to the effects of the neoliberal policies implemented over several recent decades. The most general term which may help to characterize the economic and social effects of neoliberalism is the category of exclusive universalism. Neoliberalism strives toward a universal imposition of a uniform economic model which abolishes the social tissue of solidarity, disregards local traditions, and eliminates socio-cultural differences. Growing social inequalities and ever deeper division into winners and losers is a result of its universalizing and uniformizing influence.

Growing social inequalities and ever deeper division into winners and losers is a result of its universalizing and uniformizing influence.

One way of counteracting these effects is the intensification of the particularistic policies which nowadays assume the form of identity politics. Identity politics is a natural self-defence of local communities against economic and political exclusion. It usually involves a revival of the ideology of the ​​sovereign nation state, associated with exclusivism, xenophobia and racism, often boosted by leaders and ideologues seeking power. What is both interesting and disturbing in these processes is that the ideology and politics of identity turns out to be politically effective, at least in the short run. Even more disturbing is that such slogans take root not only in peripheral regions of the world, as in the post-communist countries, but also in countries recognized as driving forces and beneficiaries of globalization. In view of the public vote in the established and new democracies, identity politics now affects the stability of the world system that evolved after the Second World War and the demise of -the case of really-existing socialism.

Another reaction to the consequences of neoliberal policies is the detoxification of egalitarianism. Just like the politics of identity, it is also a natural self-defence against the exclusion and inequality resulting from globalization and the effects of the demise of the welfare state. The detoxification of egalitarianism takes place on two levels, intellectual and practical-political. On an intellectual plane, scholars like Thomas Piketty[2] and Anthony Atkinson[3] argue that the greatest danger to stability and growth of any social system are severe and growing inequalities in the economic status of their citizens. In this way they attempt to dispel the bad name which stuck to the idea of egalitarianism for several decades. The very publication of these and similar books, as well as the acclaim with which they were received, suggest that after a few decades of ridicule, the idea of ​​equality is returning as a legitimate category of economic and political discourse.

Equality also comes back into political practice. It inspires the Alterglobalist movements in underprivileged and exploited countries of the southern hemisphere. As neoliberal policies affect also the countries of the northern hemisphere, Jeremy Corbyn's successful bid for the leadership of the Labour Party against his neoliberal post-Blairite opponents may be read as a political reaction to their impact and consequences. An even more spectacular example of the detoxification of egalitarianism has been the tremendous, though squandered success of Bernie Sanders in the contest for the presidential candidacy in the United States in 2016.

An even more spectacular example of the detoxification of egalitarianism has been the tremendous, though squandered success of Bernie Sanders in the contest for the presidential candidacy in the United States in 2016.

For the first time in the history of the US an abashedly socialist programme won significant support. More evidence of the revival of egalitarianism in political practice is to be found in the rise of the Greek Syriza, the pan-European movement DIEM led by Yanis Varoufakis, as well as the Spanish movement Podemos, all born in protest against the anti-democratic and neoliberal policies of the European Union.

The political dynamics in Poland, a country riven by political paradoxes, diverges from the above pattern. The process of detoxification of egalitarianism in this country is carried out not by left-wing parties but by a nationalist conservative and xenophobic movement which presents a textbook example of a populist authoritarianism. Its version of identity politics draws its strength not only from deeply rooted, skilfully executed and exploited, exclusivist instincts, but also from the idea of ​​equality which neoliberal parties have discredited and eliminated from the public discourse. The conservative populist movement owes its success also to the post-communist left which, seeking absolution from the sin of their “illegitimate” post-communist origin, largely abandoned it, while new leftist parties are too weak to make any difference.

In other words, the idea of ​​equality and social justice, rejected by neoliberals and discarded by the left, has been intercepted and harnessed to further the aims of political particularism. The key to the astounding success of contemporary forms of exclusivist politics in Poland is that its proponents learned how to attract support simultaneously from two sources, i.e. from the idea of ​​equality and social justice, together with the slogans of national identity and sovereignty. The conglomerate of ideas similar to these exploited by the Polish party Law and Justice has also opened a way to Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and fuels the agenda of numerous exclusionary movements in Europe.

The conglomerate of ideas similar to these exploited by the Polish party Law and Justice has also opened a way to Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and fuels the agenda of numerous exclusionary movements in Europe.

The thus emerging political hybrid of exclusive egalitarianism presents the most serious challenge both for the left and liberalism.

Taking freedom seriously

The present Polish political condition is shaped to a significant extent by the self-perception of the liberal parties and their understanding of their social tasks. They seem not to take seriously enough the moral and political obligation stemming from the imperative of freedom advocated by them. For, from the very beginning of socio-political transformation of the country, they have deliberately limited their political tasks to the creation of a middle class and disregarded the cultural and political condition of wider social strata.

This policy has eventually brought about their political marginalisation. Similarly, the Polish political left, though claiming a leftist label for themselves, in fact pursued a neo-liberal agenda, and suffered an analogous fate. The public space has been filled by radical, nationalist and fundamentalist political parties. Below I outline some elements of the history of these political developments and argue that the grave error committed by Polish liberals and the left, which led to their political marginalisation, was to disregard the idea of social equality. What needs to be stressed, however, is that the hegemonic dominance of the neoliberal view of society and economy which followed the demise of communism, was universally perceived as historically inevitable by both liberals and the Left themselves, and it is this perception which left them with very little or rather no choice in designing their political agendas during the first decades of the comprehensive transformation of the post-communist state and society.

Moreover, the perception of the leftist parties became an unsurmountable barrier to their recognition as legitimate political forces. The negative perception of the leftist ideologies affected the post-communist parties, which were presented in public discourse as tainted by the sin of their illegitimate communist origin; the same applied to the new socialist-leaning formations. The de-legitimation of political egalitarianism in any form inhibited any pragmatic cooperation between the left-leaning parties and the liberals, which eventually marginalized left and liberals alike. This was the vacuum filled by the nationalist extremist movements.

In view of these developments, and in view of the detoxification of the concept of social equality, can the left re-appear on the political scene if it manages to find a way to reclaim the idea of equality stolen from it by the new form of political particularism? The attainment of this goal may be possible only if liberalism were able to perceive the revival of the left as a way of safeguarding its own role in future local and international politics, while the left saw an alliance with liberalism as a way towards implementing their agenda. In other words, both liberals and the left should dispel the political apparitions which blur their perception of social realities and stand in the way of their collaboration. A first major step in this direction should be dispelling the ominous aura through which liberals perceive the ideals of social equality.

Disillusioned with socialism

Each meeting with Adam Michnik is invariably a stimulating and instructive occasion. So it was in Žižek’s encounter with him quoted above, but also a private dinner during which he was toasted by a Polish businessman as the greatest Polish capitalist. The toast was justified by reference to the (genuine) fact that Michnik had significantly contributed to the overthrow of “really-existing socialism” in Poland, as well as by the (dubious) assumption that Michnik had been the head of the first, largest and genuinely Polish business corporation. The businessman had in mind the corporation that publishes Poland’s leading daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza of which Michnik is the editor-in-chief. Overcoming the understandable embarrassment caused at the table by this grossly inaccurate compliment, Michnik’s wit as usual did not fail him, and he promptly responded: “Well, you know, to tell you the truth, I am actually a socialist who cannot forgive socialism for not working”.

This witticism, though hilarious, is obviously false. Yet it is interesting as a symptom of the attitude Polish liberals adopt towards all kinds of emancipatory ideas. It is evident that Michnik continues to be haunted by the apparition of the really-existing socialism he knew all too well from his struggles against it. His opinion can be interpreted as a belief that the all-embracing socialist project eventually failed due to the grave mistakes of the doctrine by which it was inspired. As a result, the purportedly universal emancipatory project led to deeply flawed social or economic practice and, consequently, to an unprecedented oppression, thus belying its professed emancipatory intentions. In Michnik’s opinion, it irrevocably vanquished any hopes of a non-liberal road to emancipation.

One may grant the obvious: the disaster brought about by the system of really-existing socialism had to do with its irremediable errors in understanding human nature and society. One error was the overoptimistic belief that human beings will be capable, if not of completely renouncing their possessive instincts, then at least exercising self-control over them. Another mistake, related to the previous one, was the failure to understand that the efficient organization of productive efforts capable of satisfying human needs cannot be achieved through an administrative suppression or the eradication of human possessiveness. Examples of successful egalitarian economies suggest, however, that not all rational interventions in economy are doomed to fail and that it is possible skillfully to harness human greed for the advancement of societal aims. This suggests that a middle way between complete control over human freedom and the lack of any restraint is a viable option.

The middle ways, however, may be found between various extremes. When Tony Blair arrived in Washington to one of the famous seminars where the concept of the so-called Third Way was forged, he was allegedly unsure which way to go in the huge building where the meeting was to be held. He asked the doorman: “In which room is the meeting on the third way?” and got the following reply: “Sir, there is no third way here. There is only one way here, and it leads straight ahead”. Blair himself told this anecdote to justify his political decision to take the middle way between socialism and liberalism. It meant giving up the idea of the social-liberal welfare state and accepting the neoliberal, though misleading belief about the harmful effect of political interference in the economic sphere. This anecdote is symptomatic of the mode of thinking which spread among left-wing formations in many countries. They seem to have concluded, like Michnik, that a search for alternative ways to the neoliberal way is no longer possible.

A decade after the collapse of the really-existing socialism Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder unanimously ushered in the political agenda known as the Third Way. It consisted of a new set of values and aims which were to supersede slogans of liberty, equality, and fraternity, perceived as antiquated. They were to be replaced by values of Community, Opportunity, Responsibility, Accountability, or CORA.[4] It boiled down to a conviction that if any social democratic agenda were to be implemented, it would have to rely on the liberal free-market arrangement of society, assumed as incontestable. According to widely held opinion, however, the Third-Way design for the New Left initiated a political practice which turned out to be perilously similar to her older sinister sister TINA. Despite considerable differences between Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher, the ideology of the Third Way as well as the manner in which it was presented, did not differ significantly from the idea that symbolized Thatcher’s earlier liberal neo-conservatism, to which allegedly there was no alternative. The proponents of the Third Way acted as if they have forgotten that the virtue of liberal democracy is not that it guarantees the avoidance of mistakes, but that it facilitates their identification and elimination.[5] This made the Third Way barely distinguishable from Thatcherite liberalism. It is probably for this reason that, so far at least, it has failed to excite a support matching the persuasiveness of liberalism itself. Yet left-wing and social-democratic formations in many countries, especially in Great Britain and Germany, found the idea compelling.

So did their Polish comrades. One of the stereotypes about the Polish political spectrum was that the Left was monolithic, while the Right was internally divided. The left-wing monolith, however, meant not only a despotic way of ruling the party by its leaders, who thought they knew better than the rank and file, but also the imposition of an ideological uniformity. Their adoption of the ideology of the Third Way drove from their agenda all remains of the emancipatory substance. Eventually it was reduced almost exclusively to the liberal pragmatism as a result of which the Democratic Left Alliance, like Schröder’s SPD or Blair’s Labour Party, turned into a business club for entrepreneurs. Traditional, already archaic working-class content and postulates were eliminated from its ideology, while the new social problems were pushed out of sight.

Traditional, already archaic working-class content and postulates were eliminated from its ideology, while the new social problems were pushed out of sight.

Moreover, in order to secure recognition and approval from the American administration, the leadership of the Democratic Left Alliance decided to join the coalition of the willing to take part in the war in Iraq, even though Poland’s decision antagonised their European Union partners who, in their majority, abstained from the war. Public opposition to the decision was disregarded and the internal critical voices were silenced. Eventually, the Democratic Left Alliance paid the political price for endorsing neoliberal policies and the ill-advised military intervention in Iraq, while individual members of its leadership faced accusations of complicity in the unlawful and immoral practice of renditions and torture.

Dividend in division

According to another of Michnik’s opinions, although the American Republicans represent the interest of only 15 percent of the US population, they speak the language that appeals to 85 percent of voters. The Democrats, on the other hand, who represent the interest of 85 percent of the American population, speak the “language of lesbians and queers”. After the decline of a monolithic post-communist left and the growth of a variety of leftist movements and ideologies, this observation also became relevant in the Polish context.

Probably nowhere in the world was it possible to consolidate different ideas and social tasks into a consistent programme which would unite diverse groupings left of the centre. Alterglobalists, feminists, environmentalists, anti-racists, advocates of the neutrality of the state with respect to religions and worldviews, supporters of the equal status of people with different sexual orientations, exemplify various trends of the contemporary left. They are, however, represented by such diverse political formations that they are difficult to unite. Nor, despite the possible long-term gains, do they wish to unite. Their unwillingness to enter any substantial cooperation with each other may be explained by means of the political dividend expected from division.

The dividend in question has to do primarily with the capital of public recognition in each political grouping, as assessed especially by leaders who, blinded by their political narcissism, hope to gain traction through exposing themselves to electoral choice, irrespective of the realistic calculation of their actual chances. A political party that would put all these ideas on its banners could not count on popular support in Poland. Nor is there anything exceptional about this. It would be rather unusual if any of the existing parties decided to fight openly for the rights of the homosexual minority, because in this way they would become the butt of right-wing ridicule, which easily wins plaudits among the homophobic social strata. In Poland’s paternalist society, it is unreasonable to hope for popularity by advocating feminist ideas; the bad name associated with feminism is responsible for the fact that even Polish women themselves do not want to be perceived as feminists.

Similarly, placing hopes on winning public support through pursuing ecological and alterglobalist ideas seems unreasonable because the Polish public is deeply convinced that their country needs more globalization and more energy-consuming jobs. The common belief is that since Poland is unable to create them by itself, it should seek them in other countries, or bring them home by opening its economy to the foreign capital. This is only possible, however, provided that the wages of Polish workers are kept at a competitively low level. The problem is that young and talented Polish workers do not want to waste their youth working for competitive, i.e. meagre wages; but foreign venture capital will not offer them higher remuneration because if it did, the rationale for its operation in Poland would evaporate.

At present, the problem has become even more complicated because young people do not want to wait until the liberal economic regime decides to raise wages in this country: thanks to the European Union they have already found better-paid employment abroad. Those who have stayed home are not enthusiastic about the jobs created in Poland by foreign investors, nor about the workers from China, Ukraine, Korea, and even North Korea imported to perform them. The growing gap between the drive toward modernization at the lowest cost possible and legitimate social expectations may become a positive discouragement for foreign investors who, initially tempted by cheap Polish labour, would be unable to make the Poles work for extortionate wages. For the above reasons the future Polish left, if it were to pull itself together again, will face tremendous challenges: very few Polish politicians would like to be regarded as a representative of the unemployed, queers, lesbians, feminists, alter-globalists, or ecologists. The political aesthetics which nowadays play the hegemonic role in Polish society make it virtually impossible to compose and sincerely advocate such a comprehensive emancipatory agenda.

The political aesthetics which nowadays play the hegemonic role in Polish society make it virtually impossible to compose and sincerely advocate such a comprehensive emancipatory agenda.

Liberal self-limitation

Upon hearing about my somewhat monastic involvement in attempts toward the restoration of left-wing politics Adam Michnik responded: “I bet you are going to come up with the problem of abortion as the main political issue! God forbid! You can’t make politics against the Church in Poland!”

This response was in keeping with Michnik’s consistent attempts to establish a lasting alliance of the secular liberal left with the altar of the Roman Catholic Church. His position, however, was a great disappointment, because it once again testified to the fact that the left fighting for women’s rights would hardly find an ally in the leading Polish exponent of a secular liberal democracy. It was also discouraging to hear that Michnik should continue to believe that in Poland no one should even think of opposing the entrenched Church, even if this was tantamount to accepting policies targeting women’s rights. Michnik’s unyielding stance on this issue was soon undermined by two political events. The Women’s Party, though ephemeral, made unrestrained access to abortion a part of its agenda. It had done so without seeking Michnik’s approval, though his “Gazeta Wyborcza” supported this party with considerable publicity. The other event was the campaign by the Roman Catholic Church, supported by the radical Right, aimed to tighten even more the existing anti-abortion law. Despite Michnik’s efforts to arrange an alliance between the secular Left and the Catholic Church, the Church authorities also did not ask for his consent in its campaign because that is how the Church always imagined an alliance with anyone, pro-Church secular leftist intellectuals included.

The above-mentioned, privately communicated opinion by Michnik may be interpreted as one of the numerous symptoms of the conscious self-limitation of liberalism in the carrying out of social emancipatory tasks. His words also exemplify how liberal doctrine in confrontation with Realpolitik generates compromises which undermine the political power of any idea. Polish liberals had a very limited understanding of the emancipatory potential of liberalism. In the economic sphere, they advocated freeing the economy from state interventionism, but very few other freedoms appeared on their agenda. For example, they rarely suggested that being liberal required implementing the policy of the state’s neutrality in matters of religion, regarding this a minor issue. This attitude became apparent in the signing of the concordat with the Vatican, critically assessed by secular-liberal circles; or in connection with religion in state schools, introduced in a non-constitutional way by the first non-communist government; or in hanging crosses in schoolrooms and in the Parliament. It is apparent that the degenerative evolution of liberalism has resulted from the desire of its exponents to preserve the existing political order without regard to its social consequences.

It is apparent that the degenerative evolution of liberalism has resulted from the desire of its exponents to preserve the existing political order without regard to its social consequences.

Moreover, however, the acknowledgement of the ideological domination of neoliberalism in Poland by the new “liberalized” Left has expunged from public discourse those emancipatory tasks which liberals themselves were not willing to raise. By refusing to address them as possibly divisive, liberals have effectively prevented themselves and their potential allies from placing those issues on the political agenda.

Liberal hypocrisy

Bertrand Russell spoke with irony about the nineteenth-century French freethinkers who readily took advantage of all liberal freedoms but sought their wives among religious women, treating their faith as a guarantee against being cuckolded.[6] The attitude of Polish liberals is strikingly similar. One of their leaders said that “Although we, Polish liberals, were sporadically at odds with the traditions, we respected the stabilizing Christian values”. He went on: “We – the liberals – actually like [the elements of Western culture, including eroticism], but we believed that in the declining years of communism, it was nevertheless an instrument of the devil.” As regards religion in state schools, he declared: “Personally, I was not in favour of religion taught in state schools. The paradox is that religion is not an obligatory subject, but pupils attend this class under the pressure of custom. Nevertheless, I do not think that religious instruction in public schools was the main problem of Polish liberalism. The main problem for me was that the revival of the free market required state intervention.”[7]

Most people in Poland believed that the political and economic transformation of the country was possible only with the support of the Roman Catholic Church. Winning the Church to the transformation of the country seemed in fact not a difficult task because in its struggle with communism, the post-Council Church adopted many liberal ideas. For example, it accepted the idea of human rights, repudiated and infringed by the communist totalitarian regime; the idea of freedom of religion, violated by the former system; the ideas of freedom of speech and publication, restrictions on which made it difficult for the Church to fulfil its mission in the previous period, and even the idea of religious toleration, highly important in the postmodern multicultural world, the absence of which under real socialism was regarded by the Church as a sign of persecution. What was obviously overlooked, however, was that the Church accepted these liberal ideas only as instruments in its struggle against communism.

What was obviously overlooked, however, was that the Church accepted these liberal ideas only as instruments in its struggle against communism.

Once communism collapsed, however, the Church abandoned them as no longer useful, and thoroughly redefined its positions towards increasingly popular liberal values in the political and social spheres.

The work of redefinition began with an attack on human rights which led to a dramatic infringement of the freedom of choice of men and women in planning their families. The Church has skilfully instrumentalised political parties in order to expunge the liberal idea of the neutral state, enforcing in an unconstitutional way the introduction of religious instruction in state schools. By exerting moral pressure, it forced school authorities to hang crosses in the classrooms. Representatives of the Church challenged the right of other denominations to freely practice their own religion by employing the deprecatory term “sects”, thereby violating freedom of conscience and freedom to profess a religion, something which it itself had demanded not so long ago. In stark conflict with the liberal idea of freedom of speech, the Church condemned the media for popularizing harmful lifestyles, incorrect political and moral ideas, pornography and blasphemy, even though it demanded freedom of expression for itself when it was restricted. It then established its own media network, forcing the liberal-democratic state to lend its political, administrative and financial support to this initiative, which was naturally granted.

The trap of fundamentalism

According to Hegel, medieval Christianity was an unhappy form of consciousness. He argued that the more relentlessly it tried to achieve its unity with God, the more it made it impossible for itself to do so. He observed that while striving towards an ascetic ideal, Christian consciousness fell victim of an obsessive focusing of its attention precisely on what it intended to escape from. Thus, the Church, founded upon desire to subdue the bodily aspect of men in order to bring them to spiritual salvation, through its very effort towards asceticism forced it to be preoccupied with the animal aspects of human nature which it wanted to eradicate in the first place, and to fix its attention not on the spirituality it aspired to, but on something it perceived as the main obstacle to salvation. In this way the very undertaking undermined and indeed annihilated itself.[8] The Church in Poland and its fundamentalist supporters fell into a similar trap that awaits every fundamentalism. An instance of this is its relentless anti-abortion position which prevented it from attaining its ideal in the form of an all-out ban; or the activities of the ministry of education aimed to root out any instruction in sexuality from school. The insistence on these issues did more to excite interest in sexuality and pro-choice attitudes among the young than did all the feminist, gay and lesbian associations put together.

The present attitude of the Catholic Church in Poland is in fact directed against the liberal worldview as such because, after the demise of communism, it is the only opponent left on the scene capable of undermining the Church’s strength and its influence over society which, though declaratively Catholic, increasingly departs in its lifestyles from its moral injunctions. Moreover, under the pontificate of Francis, the Paulinian-Benedictine mission of the Roman Catholic Church, formulated by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and focused primarily on bodily matters and sexuality, is now being superseded by the Romerian-Franciscan one, with its stress on social and ecological issues. The chief reason for this transformation is the bankruptcy of the former mission, prompted by revelations of the hideous, massive and systemic crime of paedophilia in the Catholic Church. The Church in Poland, however, continues its idolatrous attitude towards John Paul II, and is immune to these changes. It persists in the defunct mission and, against the loving message of Christ, draws its strength from exciting fear of Muslims, gender, sex, homosexuals, the European Union, and magic.

It also tries to absolve its guilt by propagating the view that responsibility for the crimes of paedophilia falls not on its cassocked offenders but on the sexualisation of children by contemporary liberal culture. It seeks immunity from persecution in a collusion with the politics, while its priests and bishops unabashedly display their greed for mundane wealth. The Church’s political entrenchment and intransigence is not so much the result of its actual power as rather of the weakening of religious fervour among the faithful. The Church owes its public and political strength to political and financial support from the constitutionally neutral state. As such, the support is hardly a spiritual aid, for it usually boils down to a material contribution viewed by the impoverished faithful with an increasing dislike.

Thanks to this political and financial support, the Church is becoming an impressive but increasingly empty edifice. What is important is that the Church does not work to secure an alliance between its altar and the throne but aims to subordinate the throne to its own altar. Under these circumstances, the liberal demand that the state should continue to support the Church is no longer justified, for it is all too apparent that such a policy is a step towards the self-destruction of both liberalism and the Church.

Complacency and exclusion

At the beginning of the transformation of the Central-East European countries, a liberal Hungarian parliamentarian expressed a belief that a liberal party should be an exclusive club with high admission fees. This belief is symptomatic of the liberal understanding of their political tasks in countries coping with the post-communist legacy. It also suggests an explanation as to why liberalism has failed to secure for itself a firm political ground in the region as well as in other places in the world. Its failure stemmed from the fact that various liberal formations, following their partial political success, became complacent, sunk into elitist exclusivism and conveniently forgot about the deterioration of the living conditions of many social groups. As soon as liberals become entrenched in their privileged position, they disregard the plight of the rest of the society. Limiting the scope of their political agendas, liberals have squandered the emancipatory and political potential of their ideology and neglected the social expectations they could tap into. As a result, the political scene in post-communist countries has become crowded by doctrines and movements which voice the discontent of large segments of their societies.

One of these movements was a rebellious peasant’s party Samoobrona [Self-Defense], established by a strong anti-elitist leader Andrzej Lepper. In 2001-2005 it garnered political support through blocking the country’s roads. At that time Adam Michnik spoke in his public lectures about what kind of democracy Poland needed. During one such occasion I asked him whether he did not think that democracy in Poland was no longer threatened by the political heirs of Wincenty Witos,[9] rightly criticized for their political rapacious greed, but rather by the heirs of Jakub Szela.[10] Responding to this question Michnik initially joked that Waldemar Pawlak, then Prime Minister hailing from the peasant’s party, resembled Wincenty Witos to the same extent as Andrzej Lepper resembled Jakub Szela. Then he added, more seriously, that there was no cause for concern in Poland because populism is a common occurrence in the majority of stable democracies: after all, France has its Jean-Marie Le Pen, Italy – Gianfranco Fini, Germany – Gerhard Frey, and Belgium its Vlaams Blok. I regarded his response as a prime example of liberal complacency. I still do.

Particularly symptomatic was the attitude of the Polish liberals towards Jörg Haider, leader of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) who in the year 2000 won significant electoral support on a nationalist, anti-immigration, and anti-EU platform.

Particularly symptomatic was the attitude of the Polish liberals towards Jörg Haider, leader of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) who in the year 2000 won significant electoral support on a nationalist, anti-immigration, and anti-EU platform. One of the prominent Polish liberal politicians said that Haider was neither left- nor right-wing; he was entirely outside the political spectrum, and propagated views running entirely counter to the European heritage. It was indeed a novel contribution to the history of Nazism. Did not the Nazi ideology, to which Jörg Haider subscribed, originate on the European continent after all? Another Polish champion of freedom appealed to the Europeans not to go to the Austrian skiing resorts; he reasoned that if Europeans refused en masse to go to Austria, its economy would collapse which would have a salutary effect on Austrian society. So much for the liberal faith in philosophical rationalism and a sense of political responsibility, not to mention the curious liberal dogma of the need to separate the economy from politics. Populism continues to spread across Europe unabated and most likely will do so for the foreseeable future

Although in the first decade of the twenty-first century Haider and other European populists suffered electoral defeats, nationalism and populism has not been wiped out from European politics, on the contrary. The star of Gerhard Frey in Germany was soon overshadowed by the successes of the previously excluded PDS and subsequently by the Alternative für Deutschland; the Belgian Vlaams Blok, after an order to disband, underwent reorganization and consistently gains increasing political support. After the assassination of Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands on 6 May 2002, his nationalist party received an additional boost. Vladimir Zhirinovsky in Russia and Andrzej Lepper in Poland were soon joined by Istvan Csurka in Hungary, Jan Slota and Vladimir Meciar in Slovakia, and Miroslav Sladek in the Czech Republic.

Current European politics is now coping with xenophobic movements not only in those countries, but also in Germany, Hungary which is in the grip of the Victor Orban’s illiberal democracy, and Italy which is being dragged to the right by Matteo Salvini. It is impossible to overestimate the role played by Michnik himself and his newspaper in the struggle for democracy. But some of his opinions aptly illustrate a dangerous liberal complacency in dealing with the early stages of populism which paved the way in Poland to the rise of the radically anti-liberal forms of government. These have succeeded in driving liberalism onto the periphery of public life, branding it with an ugly label, and transforming the formerly honourable term “liberalism” into an insulting epithet. At that time an irresponsible populism throughout Central Europe was only beginning its slow but systematic work of undermining the position of moderate and liberal parties.

Both hands free

In the elections of 2005, the nominally leftist post-communist Democratic Left Alliance suffered a defeat. In the run-up to the elections, the Alliance was relentlessly presented by nationalist and conservative groupings not only as a descendant of traitors from the past but also as greedy and corrupt. The liberal party was only happy to join in this propaganda. It soon turned out that in its arrogance, the right-wing government turned out not only greedier and more corrupt than the post-communists, but also much less competent in running the state.

In the aftermath of the defeat of the Democratic Left Alliance, a liberal commentator dared to voice a timid opinion that some sort of political equilibrium is salutary for democracy and for this reason Polish politics did need a leftist party. In response to this innocuous remark his right-wing opponent responded: “But whatever for!?” The conservative and nationalist movements, having arrogated for themselves the image of the true victor of the strife against communism, are driven by a belief that the glory of the communism slayers gives them complete immunity from any public scrutiny and criticism. The Polish nationalist conservative movement does not need any leftist parties indeed; having eliminated them from the public sphere, they had both hands free to destroy what is left of the liberal party and to snatch the entire public space for itself. It found it all the easier to achieve this because in its doctrinal fundamentalism and political doggedness it arrogantly ignores and disregards any critical opinions. In fact, any unfavourable opinion about itself, especially voiced from the liberal standpoint, it regards as additional confirmation that it had rightly chosen its anti-liberal way, which only strengthens its relentlessness.

Many bad things might be said of the post-communist party members of that period, but at least their political arrogance was moderated by the awareness of the “sin” of their “illegitimate” communist ancestry. The arrogance of the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance was also moderated by its desire to be recognised as a legitimate political actor not only in the country, but also by the international community of established democracies. It desperately failed on both counts. It is true that the post-communist leader Leszek Miller promised that he could make pigs fly with his decree, this was not so much an expression of his faith in the power of his post-communist party as an act of impudence for the benefits of the media and his electorate. Although he led the Democratic Left Alliance to take over thousands of state jobs for his party members, he at least never talked about it openly as his right-wing opponent shamelessly did. Although a supporter of the leftist party indeed attempted to extort from Michnik a multimillion bribe, he was immediately put in prison even though no money passed any hands. However, when large sums of the public money were actually appropriated by the right-wing party leadership, no one was sent to prison or even charged. Petty corrupt social democratic politicians meekly went to prison to serve long terms, in marked contrast to the right-wing party offenders who successfully ran away from justice. Memorably, one of them escaped from the country on the last day of his parliamentary immunity like a thief, which he allegedly was, and found shelter in a Catholic cloister in Slovakia. He sought impunity under the cover of the priestly robe which in Poland all too often serves as an inviolable immunity for many dishonest and dissolute people.

Two populisms

Ivan Krastev has listed several characteristics of contemporary populist movements: genuine anger; dislike of elites; vagueness of proposed politico-economic solutions; economic egalitarianism; cultural conservatism; nationalism; xenophobia, Euroscepticism; anti-capitalism; and anti-corruption rhetoric.[11] Populism, in Poland and elsewhere, broke away from its roots in the leftist ideologies and movements which was its traditional hotbed, and moved entirely to the nationalist and conservative parties. Although some movements in Poland were regarded as specimen of leftist populism, they never won any substantial leverage. Populism in Krastev’s sense has become a major problem for Polish, European and indeed global politics, but it is overwhelmingly a nationalist-conservative phenomenon.

In today’s Poland the populist ideology is indeed anti-elitist, aiming to overturn the table at which politicians, businessmen, former secret service members, and corrupt journalists are playing their game. It promotes socialist policies, but only as a means of winning popular support for their most fundamentalist religious and nationalist agenda. The anarchism, the inseparable element of the former, left-wing populism, has been replaced by the right-wing repressive ideology of law and order, accompanied by grotesque attempts to militarize the public space, justified by the appeal to the alleged eternal enmity of Polish neighbours Germany and Russia.

The only serious alternative to the contemporary nationalist populist rhetoric is something which already deserves the name of neoliberal populism. It appeals to neoliberal values, invariably substantiated with compelling, logical and irrefutably rational arguments. These values include the idea of sanctity of private property, economic freedom and especially freedom from state intervention: in other words, a trimmed down version of social neo-Darwinism, free-market populism pure and simple, ornamented for populist purposes with the ideas of inalienable human rights, inviolability of individual autonomy and the rule of law protected by the minimal state. This ideology appeals predominantly to the young enterprising employees of western corporations and to freshers in political science departments, both prone to this simplistic conglomerate of libertarian ideas. They usually give up on it as soon as they face the challenge of finding a secure and well-paid job. The ideology is also known in its more elegant form from the economic journalism propagated, among others, by the journalists writing for Michnik’s Gazeta Wyborcza. The problem is that even if the ideology seems logical, rational and thus irrefutable, it does not appeal to those who cannot afford to buy this paper every day. When I told that to Michnik, he admitted that sometimes he also has an argument with his neoliberal writers. But he also added, rather disingenuously: “But you must admit: they are superb columnists!”

There cannot be any room for agreement between these two kinds of populisms: they talk at cross-purposes. The present-day clash of these two forms of politics, supported by well-defined political ideas, appears to be a modern form of class struggle. In other words, what we are dealing with is an instance of the return of the repressed. The present fundamentalism, populism, irrationalism, and the religion-cum-nation-based tribal instincts, the phenomena liberals once regarded as incompatible with liberal values, having been driven out from the public space, reappear with a vengeance. Unable to find its place in the present regime of the political discourse dominated by the liberal rhetoric, which describes them exclusively in terms of an outright denial, patronizing condescension or utter condemnation, they return with redoubled force, marginalizing and repressing liberalism itself in revenge.

The return of the repressed is also the return of the political. In this confrontation, however, liberals who understand politics as a procedural, strictly regulated law-making activity, are losing their political steam. Trying to curb the awoken and now raging force by means of a powerless web of laws, they present a spectacle of powerlessness.

Disillusioned with liberalism

Liberalism is a diverse doctrine, or rather a vast family of doctrines and values, linked by a common reference to the variously understood idea of ​​freedom. The variety of liberalisms has its origin in the fact that its emancipatory potential was informed through social struggles against various forms of iniquities, mainly in the economic sphere, but also in the moral, private and intimate spheres. Thus, despite its variety, liberalism was and is being perceived as a comprehensive vision of a free and just society that offers the widest range of opportunities for implementing individual life projects open to all members of a society, though guaranteeing no success in the process.

Despite the above, John Rawls devoted some space to the discussion of the idea of ​​the comprehensiveness of a political doctrine. He insisted that his own theory of justice as fairness[12] was not such a comprehensive doctrine and argued against transforming it into an overall Weltanschauung. He presented his theory of justice not as an all-embracing worldview, capable of offering answers to all possible questions to its followers but as an independent, free-standing module, containing a specific political solution. In this respect, his political liberalism differs from moral and religious conceptions striving towards such a generality. It differs also, significantly, from the ideology of Marxism which was designed as a comprehensive doctrine in the above sense. Yet Rawls’s shunning of comprehensiveness, understandable in the case of his theory, may be read as a symptom of a more general liberal attitude. The problem is that in its political practice it tends to degenerate into an exclusive elite liberalism, belying its universalist message.

In this way it tends to become the ideology of the well-to-do middle and uppers classes who all too often pursue their noble aims only to the point when their interests are secured, resting their case as soon they are satisfied. Despite the universalism of their doctrine, they have no qualms in leaving the plight of other classes outside the scope of their interest. This degenerative tendency, however, has its consequences. Since, as a rule, only the upper social strata benefit from the implementation of liberal policies, the partial realization of liberal postulates in the past has often provoked other social groups to undertake emancipatory ideas which liberalism formulated but has not pursued in a comprehensive manner. Several examples will illustrate the point.

First of all, by elevating the concept of property to the status of liberal dogma, liberals have been unable properly to understand and appreciate the role of the working classes in the process of the creation of wealth, and, even less so, to recognise their property rights to created wealth. Thus, the working classes, far from being amongst the beneficiaries of liberal political aspirations and transformations have become their chief victims. That is why nineteenth century socialists demanded that all people are to be emancipated from their material misery, believing that this would bring about their emancipation in other spheres, superstructured on the economic “base”. Most versions of liberalism focus on the economy; for Karl Marx, similarly, human emancipation was achievable through a focus on the economic sphere. In this sense Marxist social philosophy closely resembles the liberal one: Marxism was, just like liberalism, an emancipatory doctrine, and had a similar structure; the difference being that is was far more ambitious, because egalitarian. In other words, socialist and communist movements were the unwanted children of liberalism which did not pursue its agenda far enough. Leftist thought took over the emancipatory potential disregarded by liberalism and radicalized it by attempting to restore it to its originally declared universality.

In other words, socialist and communist movements were the unwanted children of liberalism which did not pursue its agenda far enough. Leftist thought took over the emancipatory potential disregarded by liberalism and radicalized it by attempting to restore it to its originally declared universality.

Secondly, the liberal ideology of individual freedom, presented as a universal postulate, initially did not include women. That is why women organised themselves into the women’s movement. Interestingly, their activities and appeals did not have much effect until John Stuart and Harriet Taylor Mills turned this issue into one of the chief problems of the liberal doctrine[13]. One should stress, however, that despite tremendous progress in the area of women’s liberation, many liberals continue to have a problem with a full recognition of women’s political and social rights. For example, the former champion of the Third Way, Tony Blair, in his attempts to formulate yet another version of a progressive agenda to which he could subscribe, argues that there is no point in “appearing obsessive on issues like gender identity”[14].

Yet another example may be found in the activities of intellectuals assembled in the Bloomsbury group who were discontented with only partial fulfilment of liberal emancipatory promises. Encouraged by Lytton Strachey and his scandalous and influential book Eminent Victorians,[15] they rebelled against the hypocrisy of the Victorian age, for being as liberal in economy as it was conservative in morality. The Bloomsberries fought successfully not only against moral hypocrisy, but also with the British law system which repressed homosexuality. Thanks to them, the law under which Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for his homosexuality was amended.

More generally, it is a historical truth that both early and mature socialist emancipatory doctrines were formulated after the initial political and economic successes of liberalism. The concepts of freedom, social equality, rights of women to self-determination, the state’s neutrality, separation of Church and State were first formulated in political practice by liberalism. Paraphrasing one of the above anecdotes one may say that the people of the left were liberals who could not forgive liberalism that it did not work: that it forfeited on the promise of universal freedom.

That is why the leftist emancipatory agendas were in fact very often aimed against what liberals themselves viewed as their own success. This has been so not because they did not approve of the liberal ideas but rather because they thought their undisputable achievements did not go far enough. The traditional left strove for emancipation in all areas which were neglected by liberals who rested upon their oars, became dogmatic, ossified and exclusionary, and transformed the universality of their freedoms into an exclusivist particularity. It is not surprising that both early and mature socialist emancipatory doctrines were formulated after some initial political and economic successes of liberalism, and were aimed against what liberals viewed as their achievement. In other words, the radicalism of the left-wing agenda consisted in the extension of the scope of freedoms and goods onto those social groups which were neglected and/or excluded by liberals: leftist ideology is liberal ideology restored to its original universality. In other words: a man of the left is a liberal, but much more so than liberals themselves.

In other words: a man of the left is a liberal, but much more so than liberals themselves.

Needless to say, any attempt toward practical universalisation of liberal promises was regarded by liberals themselves in the past, like today, as an irresponsible populist radicalism. The extrapolation of emancipatory aspirations, postulated by the left, was directly proportional to the degree of complacency of the liberals, who, after their initial successes, fell into exclusivism and elitism. The same patterns of self-limitation can now be felt across Central and Eastern Europe where, after the initial successes of the local variety of liberalism, which was – and continues to be – a particularly virulent version of neo-liberalism, the region has been repeatedly shaken by tremors of social discontent and populist extremities. The egalitarian populists do not call for a return of the “really existing socialism” of the past but they expect the state to protect them from the consequences of untamed market mechanisms, while the neoliberal market-populists argue that in the free market economy everyone has a chance of becoming rich too, so long as the market is allowed to reign unrestrained and unobstructed by any sort of regulation.

The modern left

Is there any alternative to the exclusivist authoritarian populism and the dogmatic neoliberal populism? Is there a gap between conservative neoliberalism and conservative nationalism, embraced in a perverse dialectics, within which emancipatory ideas could come to life again and ally themselves with the ideals of democratized liberalism? Is there, then, any niche in which the left could be reborn?

There appears there is such a possibility and it could be sought in the same place where radical emancipatory thought first appeared as a political force in the nineteenth century. In the reconstruction of the modern left it cannot ignore liberalism and its emancipatory potential in economic, political and moral spheres, while learning from the errors in its liberal implementation. In other words, the niche should be sought in the defeats suffered repeatedly by liberalism at its own behest.

Liberal ideas should be taken over by the new left in order to harness them to work, especially economic liberalism, in the service of democratic and egalitarian values. Partial concurrence of their respective political agendas suggests that the left cannot ignore liberalism and its emancipatory potential in the economic, social, political, and moral spheres. The modern left, having gotten rid of its class character, should replace it with its concern about the common good of all people inhabiting a modern state, and beyond.

The modern left, having gotten rid of its class character, should replace it with its concern about the common good of all people inhabiting a modern state, and beyond.

For in view of the fact that the difference between domestic and foreign policy has now become blurred, the advocacy of freedom and equality with one state cannot be isolated from international issues.

One may claim that Marxist ideology is now defunct. However, at least some of the problems which Marxist-inspired practice failed to solve, did not disappear with the demise of the communist system. Much to the contrary. Injustice and social inequality, violation of human rights, political exclusion, xenophobia, racism, nationalism, etc., are problems which nowadays pose a challenge both to modern liberalism and the modern left. These problems not only were not eradicated by the market, but are permanently reproduced by its “imperfections”, undermining the very ideology of the free market and weakening its political advocates. At least some of the challenges are problems which both liberalism and the left must face if they do not want to be wiped out by populist authoritarianism. Since solving most of these phenomena is in the interest of liberalism, the left and the preservation of liberal democracy itself, it is natural to think of these two political forces as partners rather than enemies.

The radicalism of the old left has been extinguished by the futility of its own impatient ambitions; the new left has thus to acknowledge at least some truths of the liberal understanding of society. Also, the new social democracy, as the old one, has to continue the struggle for the aims which follow from a universalist understanding of liberal freedom. And vice versa: just like contemporary leftist movements cannot ignore liberal emancipatory ideas, the liberals must understand that justice is either universal or is not at all. The Scandinavian economic and social model strongly suggests that socialism does not have to be in conflict with liberalism. Also, both liberals and the left should bear in mind that:

“liberty means more than freedom from the arbitrary power of Government. It means freedom from economic servitude to Want and Squalor and other social evils; it means freedom from arbitrary power in any form. A starving man is not free, because till he is fed, he cannot have a thought for anything but how to meet his urgent physical needs: he is reduced from a man to an animal. A man who dare not resent what he feels to be injustice from an employer or a foreman, lest this condemn him to chronic unemployment, is not free”[16].

These aims defined the tasks of social-democratic politics in the past and should continue to do so in the future. There is ample evidence that they are not in conflict with liberal ones too. These are the challenges that both liberalism and left-wing movements must stand up to. They might succeed if they did this together.

[1] Slavoj Žižek, foreword to the Polish edition of The Plague of Fantasies [Przekleństwo fantazji] transl. by A. Chmielewski, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego, Wrocław 2001, p. 13.

[2] Thomas Piketty, Capital in the 21st Century, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., London, England 2014.

[3] Anthony Atkinson, Inequality. What can be done, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., London, England 2015.

[4] Hale Sarah, Leggett Will, Martell Luke (eds.), The Third Way and beyond. Criticisms, futures and alternatives, Manchester University Press, Manchester 2004.

[5] Fred Eidlin, “Popper’s Social-Democratic Politics and Free-Market Liberalism”, Critical Review, Vol. 17, Nos. 1-2, p. 36.

[6] “Even in the 19th century, many French freethinkers liked their wives to be believers, in the hope that it would keep them chaste”; Bertrand Russell, The Value of Free Thought: How to Become a Truth-Seeker and Break the Chains of Mental Slavery, Haldeman-Julius Publications, Girard, Kansas, 1944, p. 22.

[7] Wolność, nie równość [Freedom, not equality], interview with Janusz Lewandowski „Gazeta Wyborcza”, 15–16 January 2000.

[8] “Consciousness is aware of itself as this actual individual in the animal functions. These are no longer performed naturally and without embarrassment, as matters trifling in themselves which cannot possess any importance or essential significance for Spirit; instead, since it is in them that the enemy reveals himself in his characteristic shape, they are rather the object of serious endeavour, and become precisely matters of the utmost importance. This enemy, however, renews himself in his defeat, and consciousness, in fixing its attention on him, far from freeing itself from him, really remains forever in contact with him, and forever sees itself as defiled; and, since at the same time this object of its efforts, instead of being something essential, is of the meanest character, instead of being a universal, is the merest particular, we have here only a personality confined to its own self and its own petty actions, a personality brooding over itself, as wretched as it is impoverished”; G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, transl. A. V. Miller, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1977, §225, p. 135-136.

[9] Prime Minister of Poland in the early 1920s;

[10] Early-19th-century peasant rebellion leader;

[11] Ivan Krastev, The new Europe: respectable populism, clockwork liberalism, „Open Democracy”, 21 March 2006.

[12] John Rawls, Political Liberalism, Columbia University Press, New York, 1993, p. 13; 175;

[13] John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor Mill, Subjection of Women, Floating Press, London 2009.

[14] Tony Blair, “Against Populism, the Center Must Hold”, New York Times, March 3, 2017.

[15] Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians, Harcourt, Brace and Co., San Diego-New-York-London 1918.

[16] William Beveridge, Why I am a Liberal, Herbert Jenkins, London 1945, p. 9.

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