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Populist movements are a threat not because they raise the issue of direct democracy, but because they advocate nationalist mobilisation based on xenophobia, writes Antony Todorov. Given the failure of the leftist projects of the twentieth century, it is telling that far-right populism is more anti-democratic in the new democracies of central and eastern Europe than in western Europe. Is populism identical to the crisis of democracy or rather a symptom of it?

Questioning authority

Nietzsche's gift to Derrida

Be it the moral-theological tradition, God, or his own status as author, Nietzsche’s refusal to legitimate authority remains constant. As Alan D. Schrift writes, Nietzsche’s deconstruction of authoritarian subjectivity shares much with Jacques Derrida’s post-modern critique of the subject as a privileged centre of discourse.

Among reactionaries

Ferenc Fejtö (1908-2008)

When, in 1989, Ferenc Fejtö payed a fleeting visit to Hungary after fifty years of exile, the eighty year-old found the time to meet a great many of the intellectual founders of the nascent democracy. Ágnes Széchenyi, his secretary at the time, pays tribute to a man “unwavering in his principles, but flexible and open in his practice”.

A clear head

Ferenc Fejtö (1908-2008)

Renowned Hungarian-French intellectual Ferenc Fejtö died on 2 June. Ferenc László recalls how well into his nineties, Fejtö remained an unassumingly honest thinker whose refreshing common sense and European viewpoint made him a matchless figure on the Left.

An amorphous society

Lithuania in the era of high post-communism

The period of “high post-communism” in eastern Europe is defined by efforts to control collective memory, political discourse dominated by abstract concepts, dilettantism, and the cult of entertainment. Writing from the Lithuanian perspective, Almantas Samalavicius finds society caught in between the extremes of hysterical activity and blind resignation.

Literary perspectives: Austria

Anything but a "German appendix"

Though still routinely referred to as Germans, Austrian novelists have experienced a recent run of critical and commercial success. The “difficult” prose of the past has been replaced by a focus on story-telling, with women writers producing no less interesting work in the genre than the new male “narrative miracles”. Yet experimentalism is by no means out: darkly humorous and self-referential “writer’s novels” are also booming. In the latest essay in Eurozine’s series “Literary perspectives”, critic Daniela Strigl surveys a contemporary Austrian scene at the top of its game.

You need balls to play football. So it is obvious that being a girl just won’t do as far as the guys are concerned, says Gerd von der Lippe in a devastating critique of the state of affairs in the reporting and support of women’s football in Norway.

Beaches and graveyards

Europe's haunted borders

“It is more arduous to honour the memory of the nameless than the renowned.” The epigram on Walter Benjamin’s memorial in Portbou, Catalonia, leads Les Back to reflect on the fate of the African migrants found dead on the coasts of Spain today.

Cover for: Years of ‘68

To Polish ears, the language of the Western revolutionaries of ’68 “carried the burden of oppression”, recalls Aleksander Smolar. Western ’68ers were often hostile to supporters of the Warsaw March revolt and indifferent towards the subsequent “anti-Zionist” purges. Yet the events were disastrous for Polish Jews at the time and are still relevant forty years later, writes Aleksander Smolar.

When Belarusian journalist and editor Aliaksandr Zdvizhkou reprinted the Danish Muhammad cartoons in the opposition newspaper “Zhoda” he was sentenced to three years imprisonment for inciting religious hatred. Purportedly acting in the interests of the 30 000 strong Belarusian Muslim population, the authorities were clearly attempting to intimidate what little remains of an independent media in Belarus. Zdvizhkou has since been released, but the affair has brought to light another disturbing phenomenon: Islamophobia amongst the Belarusian opposition. Rashed Chowdhury reports.

Well-funded creationists are on the march in Europe, writes Peter C Kjærgaard. The Council of Europe recently issued a resolution warning against the rise of creationism, based on a report that documented not only the existence of a strong Christian creationist lobby in Europe, but also the rise of Muslim creationism.

Cover for: How I became a Czech and a Slovak

Mykola Riabchuk recalls how the politics of the Prague Spring filtered through to the Ukraine until the crackdown on ‘Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism’ in 1972-73; and how, during perestroika, the roles were reversed and he was able to bring banned literature to friends in Czechoslovakia.

Cover for: The misunderstanding of 1968

The misunderstanding of 1968

One of the last interviews with Rudi Dutschke

In an interview conducted a year before his premature death, Rudi Dutschke explained to Jacques Rupnik the reasons for the German Left’s failure to understand what was at stake in Czechoslovakia in 1968. “In retrospect, the great event of ’68 in Europe was not Paris, but Prague. But we were unable to see this at the time.”

Cover for: 1968: The year of two springs

Parallels between May ’68 and the Prague Spring are largely the result of the simultaneity of the events; in important respects, the political goals of the two movements were antithetical. Nevertheless, central European dissent had a significant impact on the French anti-totalitarian Left after 1968, argues Jacques Rupnik.

The failure of the German extra-parliamentary opposition to reflect upon its gradual slide towards violence led to the leftwing terrorism of the 1970s, writes Christian Semler. It was only with the ecological movement that pacifism came back onto the agenda. For the Left today, the question of the state monopoly on the use of force remains as central as ever.

Just as Russia’s economic growth has obviated talk of democracy, the media’s financial successes leave no place for ethical debate. While market imperatives often do the censors’ work for them, counter-examples exist, reports Maria Eismont.

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