By Alexander S. Kirshner
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Extra resources for A Theory of Militant Democracy: The Ethics of Combatting Political Extremism
I was fully convinced that a revolution that seeks historical justice consistently and wishes to execute it properly nevertheless ends up with the execution of a monarch, as in Britain; with the guillotine, as under the Jacobins; or with simple terror, as under the Bolsheviks. ”12 Persuasive evidence that engaged pursuit of a defensible ideal could lead to the perversion of that ideal was not hard for Michnik to light upon. Idealistic antiheros are the outstanding figures of his writing. The partisans of the French Revolution, the classic examples of idealism gone cannibalistic, are recurring subjects of analysis.
Fourth, I assume that among the competent, there is considerable and endemic disagreement about how to characterize and to respond to the vast majority of political issues they face. The political issues to which reasonable disagreement extends include most matters of moral and political import. 21 If these assumptions do not hold, then the conclusions I reach are necessarily suspect. It is trivial but true that if one accepts the preceding assumptions, one is well on one’s way to acknowledging both that democratic political systems can be legitimately authoritative and that other forms of political organization generally cannot (there may be exceptions during moments of state failure, natural disaster, and the like).
The partisans of the French Revolution, the classic examples of idealism gone cannibalistic, are recurring subjects of analysis. But Michnik also found more immediate exemplars of self-defeating and corrupted idealism. These local precedents included the Polish national icon General Józef Piłsudski. The general, a hero of the First World War and a onetime social democrat, helped found Poland’s democratic Second Republic in 1918. Piłsudski eventually grew tired of the republic’s ineffectiveness, its instability, and its right-wing governments.
A Theory of Militant Democracy: The Ethics of Combatting Political Extremism by Alexander S. Kirshner