US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Polish philosopher and MEP Ryszard Legutko, in his latest book, analyzes the recent changes in liberal democracy and comes to the conclusion that it has many frightening similarities with communism. Freedom is losing ground, since in the Western world, pluralism exists only in words.
Atlantico: L’Artilleur has published your book The Devil in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations at the Heart of Free Societies. You have lived for many years under communism. Still, after two decades in a liberal democracy, have you realized that these two political systems have much more in common than you think? Could you explain your point of view about the amazing similarity of the two systems that you cover in the book? Why has liberal democracy over the years set itself on the same goals as communism?
Ryszard Legutko: I pay a lot of attention to this topic in the book, but, to put it simply, the fact is that both systems are very strongly politicized and ideologized. In the communist regime, there were very few spaces that could be left out of communism: family, Catholic Church, classical art. At the same time, the communist authorities did everything possible to impose their influence everywhere, to make the family and culture communist.
In addition, there was tremendous pressure to silence religion or even eliminate it. Today, there are very few, if any, spaces that can be illiberal and undemocratic. After the sexual revolution and the feminist and homosexual movements, the private / public dichotomy was abolished. Everything became political and ideological: family, marriage, sex, even toilets. The places where you can hide from this quickly disappear.
The very fact of the existence of a phenomenon called “political correctness” and its development by leaps and bounds speak of political and ideological monopoly. If there was no monopoly, there would be no political correctness. This monopoly is different from the one that existed under communism. The current monopoly is shaped by a dominant movement that embraces the majority of left and right parties, although the agenda is set exclusively by the left. The European right has surrendered. This probably happened after the events of 1968, which led to a sharp shift in European politics to the left. Only the name remained of the European Christian democracy. Just look at the European People’s Party, which by definition should include European conservatives. Their program is left through and through. They always take the side of the socialists,
An illustrative example of this is in particular the law on same-sex marriage, which was introduced by conservatives in Great Britain, socialists in France and Christian Democrats (with socialists) in Germany. The European Union has become an excellent example of monopoly or even tyranny of the majority. If you do not belong to the dominant stream, then you are not an opposition, but a hostile force. There is no legitimate opposition. There are only Eurosceptics, populists, fascists, fanatics, etc. The list of accusations against those outside the mainstream is endless.
– You say that communism and liberal democracy are united by the existence of obstacles regarding language, democratic discussion and freedom of speech on many topics such as “tolerance”, “democracy”, “homophobia”, “sexism”, “pluralism”, etc. They become weapons against those who do not want to follow the dominant ideology in society … Why is freedom losing ground so quickly in modern liberal democracy? This can be clearly seen in the Covid-19 pandemic.
– Freedom is losing ground for the reasons I just indicated: one political and ideological force dominates in the Western world. This fact is hidden behind a language imposed on us, which is becoming more and more deceitful. Concepts like “pluralism”, “tolerance”, “openness” and “diversity” take on the opposite meaning from the original. My favorite example is “pluralism” and “gender”. From time immemorial, it was believed that humanity was divided into men and women. Now this truth has been denied, and it is argued that there are not two genders, but many genders.
The question arises: which statement ensures greater pluralism in the world? Usually the answer is that the second is: “a lot” is more than “two.” In fact, this is not the case. Since any culture is built on the concept of two sexes, the introduction of multiple genders is tantamount to mass social engineering, indoctrination from primary school, censorship, intimidation, ideological control of how people speak, write and think. All this is reminiscent (of course, in certain proportions) of the French Revolution, when freedom was supposed to triumph, and all people became citizens, but for universal citizenship it was required to eliminate classes, get rid of the aristocracy and behead the king and queen.
Today, being a pluralist means not that you live yourself and let others live, but that you support the right ideology. The same goes for diversity, tolerance, openness, etc. The question arises: have we really become so pluralistic, tolerant, open, etc.? Where then did we get such a long list of enemies and thought-crimes, which even the communists did not have? Our list really makes an impression: misogyny, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, Eurocentrism, phallocentrism, logocentrism, ageism, binarism, populism, anti-Semitism, nationalism, xenophobia … It is supplemented almost every day. Does it sound like the language of pluralism, diversity, tolerance and openness? Or is it all the same in the language of a furious dogmatic ideology, which is obsessed with the pursuit of imaginary enemies?
– How can the situation be changed? Can an “exorcism” be carried out to save liberal democracy from its demons, the devil mentioned in the title of your book?
– Nothing lasts forever in history. The Roman Empire collapsed, and sooner or later the current monopoly system will also collapse. Communism fell apart, but I remember the times when it seemed to us that it was eternal. Now there is a difficult situation, but do not give up. One should start by assessing the current situation in order to understand what it is: this is a new type of despotism that de Tocqueville described in the last chapters of Democracy in America. All discussions about pluralism, tolerance, democracy and diversity are just a smokescreen behind which lies political and ideological monopoly. This should be talked about publicly, over and over again.
Thus, the first point of the strategy is to unmask the system. The second is organization. We should not believe in the existence of a respectable political movement with many worthy people and groups included in it, disagreeing with which means undermining our own legitimacy. The dominant current must be challenged politically. It is very important to form a powerful political force, including at the European level. Unless a viable counter-movement emerges, the dominant current will not back down and abandon its aggressive policy. The process has already started: there are groups, parties and organizations that defend the same ideas, and it is time for them to cooperate more closely.
The third point is to lay down the basic principles of the alternative program and offer a clear option to all those who are not satisfied with the current state of affairs. Considering that now in Europe and in the Western world as a whole, the program is dictated and implemented by the left, the alternative should be anti-left in a positive sense: conservative, open to the wealth and wisdom of European traditions, recognizing the importance of the nation state, family, Christian and classical roots of our civilization. It is necessary to abandon social engineering and political correctness. In other words, the only way to save modern liberal democracy is to give it true pluralism. Otherwise, the problems will only get worse.
– What do you think about the political views and approach to the management of Emmanuel Macron in France? What thoughts does his vision of Europe lead you to and how he “uses” the European Union?
– President Macron tried to elevate France to the rank of the country that leads the European Union together with Germany. At certain moments, France was indeed part of such a duo and even played a leading role in it. Nevertheless, Macron is a staunch supporter of orthodox views on the EU, accepts all its principles (even the most absurd ones) and the main message about the need to continue European federalization and centralization. There is no contradiction between the pro-French and pro-European strategies.
The EU institutions themselves have very little democratic legitimacy and power, no matter what the treaties say. Their power comes from outside, not from treaties. A simple example: all the powers of the European Commission are limited to what key players like Germany and France are ready to give it. Thus, the European community and other institutions cannot really go against these players, because without them they simply would not be able to work. The same applies to the Court of Justice of the EU, the European Council, the Council of the EU. There is no contradiction between these two strategies, because the key players pursue their own policies, including through European institutions.
Thus, the more the EU is integrated, the more it depends on Germany and other big players, including France. And the less power remains in the weaker ones, in particular in the countries of Eastern Europe. In the federal EU, weak countries will practically lose the ability to influence European politics. The federal EU would become an oligarchic structure, and its oligarchic inclinations are perfectly visible even now. From the point of view of French society, Macron’s European policies can be beneficial and promising. But from the point of view of my country and Eastern Europe, it is extremely dangerous. The threat is that part of the continent may find itself under conditions of new colonization.
– The EU made a lot of mistakes during the sanitary crisis, in particular on the issue of vaccines. In the book, you argue that Europe’s blunders are related to the bureaucracy, the Maastricht Treaty, the Lisbon error, the lack of opposition in the European Commission, the fact that its members were not elected by citizens … What is the reason for this situation? One gets the impression that it reflects the illusory nature of democracy.
– We are talking about two questions: what did not work in Europe and what did not work in the EU. The problem with Europe, primarily Western, is that it has severed ties with most of the European traditions. The 1968 revolution was a formative event for the modern European elite. She has influenced education, public space, culture, language and politics. If we add here the rapid secularization (it turned into militant anti-Christianity) and the complete disappearance of classical education, we get a new European mind, which was completely created according to the current ideological patterns. This is a closed mind, which does not even realize that there may be other points of view, different from those that are now widely promoted. At the same time, he considers himself open and ultra-modern.
Now let’s talk about the European Union. I think the EU has two fundamental flaws. I have already mentioned the first: a completely opaque power structure. In fact, there are two of them. The first is spelled out in treaties, while the second is more specific and relies on the real power of the countries. Therefore, the statement that each country transfers part of its sovereignty to a common European pool is wrong. When Romania relinquishes some of its sovereignty, it becomes more dependent on two power structures. But when Germany does this, they only get stronger in these structures. Germany today has more influence in Europe than before the Treaty of Lisbon and even more so before the Maastricht. It is difficult to say if the same applies to France.
The second problem with the EU is the principle of an increasingly close union. This means inevitable and unavoidable integration, for which all means are good, including the politics of a fait accompli. As a result, institutions with the EU, with the blessing of the most influential European players, have consistently violated the letter and spirit of treaties. Imagine a similar principle in a nation state: that would mean that the constitution is an open and fluid draft that can be easily interpreted in the direction the state wants. It may sound absurd and intimidating, but for some reason it is tolerated and even welcomed at the European level.
If we combine both shortcomings, an opaque power structure and an increasingly close alliance, an unpleasant conclusion is obtained: the EU does not observe any of the basic principles of the nation state, such as the separation of powers (the European Commission is simultaneously a government, legislator and judge), the presence of political opposition (some parties and governments were isolated), adherence to constitutional rules (legal services twice rejected the convention mechanism as contrary to treaties, but they accepted it anyway) and democratic responsibility (the European Parliament makes decisions for societies that did not elect deputies, and they do not need to report to citizens – this is completely unthinkable in democratic practice).
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