Ideologies, Goals, and Values

By Feliks Gross | Go to book overview

Introduction

La dernière chose qu'on trouve en faisant un ouvrage, est de savoir celle qu'il faut mettre la première. (The last thing one finds--while working on a book--is what should be put at the very beginning.)

Pascal, Pensées

By the end of 1940, respect for the dignity of man and human rights disappeared from the entire, immense continent. Totalitarian states covered the old world from Gibraltar to Vladivostock. Two and a half thousand years earlier, whenever Greeks and their culture moved, they built theaters and agoras, symbols of intellectual freedom and dialogue. In 1940 this immense stretch of earth was dotted with concentration camps. Slavery made a comeback.

Back in November 1936, historian, Elie Halévy, argued at the French Philosophical Society that a new era of tyrannies began in 1914. It began--I suppose--later. But by 1940--this, at time slow, at time violent, change came to its fruition.

Hardly any territory free from totalitarian tyranny was left on the Continent. Somewhere, on the outskirts of Europe, isolated islands of free men survived for a price of humiliation. Then the network of concentration and forced labor camps stretched for thousands of miles, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. There were of course symbols, there was the Right and the Left and different flags. The line was drawn through the middle of Europe--West was on the Right, East with its symbols of liberation was on the Left, but concentration camps were on both sides of this dividing line.

Nationalism and socialism, the two ideologies which met here originated once as the great hope of nineteenth-century mankind. Nationalism was an ideology of liberation of the peoples; socialism was a vision of a society free of exploitation, of an emancipated working class.

-xxi-

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