An Open Letter to an Enemy of Liberalism in My Native Land

Dear Professor Legutko, Early this year, when Russians were positioning their troops along Ukraine’s borders and liberal democracies were debating what it all might mean, I started reading your books. I have heard that they are influential in Poland, and I am concerned about the weakening of liberal democratic commitments in our native land and more broadly in East Central Europe. Would their political identity, their liberal commitments, prove strong enough in what seemed like a new confrontation with Russians authoritarianism? It is a rather disturbing question to ask about Poland and Hungary, and to a lesser degree about other former Soviet satellites, only thirty years after the fall of communism. A lot has been written lately about the possible reasons for this weakening, and for the contemporary appearance in the West of “post-liberalism,” but I decided to explore the issue by studying the work of Ryszard Legutko, your work, the work of a declared Polish anti-liberal, a philosopher, an educator, a former minister of education, a politician of the ruling illiberal Law and Justice party, and a member of my own generation. In our lives we have witnessed the same events — the student protests in 1968, the Prague Spring, the workers’ protests of the 1970s, Solidarity and martial law. We have read the same books, we have heard the same people. I was exhilarated by Poland’s, and the region’s, attainment of democracy in 1989, a benevolent revolution that I considered a perfectly natural and logical development. You, on the other hand, believe that adopting democratic liberalism was our homeland’s gravest mistake. You also claim, provocatively and rather counterintuitively, that liberalism, or liberal democracy, which has always been rightly regarded as communism’s eternal enemy, is in fact communism in disguise. Liberalism, in your view, is communism that is actually

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