Excellent work. What is going on in Poland should make everyone weep.

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Jan 29·edited Jan 29Liked by N.S. Lyons

"These decisive, if heavy-handed, actions come at a time when democrats globally are searching for strategies to deal with populists."

Once again, the EU confuses democracy and liberalism. "Liberal democracy" sounded so good, but it was always an oxymoron. There is an innate conflict between the democratic (law should reflect popular will) and the liberal (law should reflect universal principles regardless of popular will). We're seeing this play out throughout the West today with Orwellian comments like that above.

The time for choosing is now. Are you a democrat first or a liberal first? To put democracy ahead of liberalism, you must be willing to accept the legitimacy of popularly supported policies even that you despise. Putting liberalism before democracy may promote your definition of "good", but it still makes you an authoritarian.

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Jan 29Liked by N.S. Lyons

Excellent article. Sad for Poland, sad for the West. Hope this article inspires more people to awaken and take action to conserve our foundational values.

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It seems to me that we have lost track of what “liberalism” actually means and it is time to take it back.

James Lindsay has done some great work on that front, particularly in this essay and the related podcast episode. https://newdiscourses.com/2023/11/basis-of-classical-liberalism/

The opening line alone clearly differentiates classical liberalism from the utopian progressivism that is masquerading as liberal democracy: “We are not God. We cannot become God, make God, or speak with the authority of God. This is axiomatic and the beginning of wisdom and prosperity.”

I think Lindsay clearly captures what classical liberalism is about and it looks nothing like the thing that calls itself “liberal democracy”, but should more accurately be described as progressivism (with maybe some neoconservatism thrown in for good measure). Leftism and progressivism destroyed their own brand and repackaged themselves by stealing the term “liberalism”. This has become so entrenched that we just accept their usage of the term. The danger is that by misidentifying the voluminous shortcomings of progressivism and leftism as being the shortcomings of “liberalism” we don’t leave ourselves anywhere to turn. It can make it seem like we are left with only three choices - leftism, fascism, or this evil progressivism which calls itself liberal democracy but isn’t. If we allow ourselves to see the world through that lens, then the authoritarians have won.

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I do follow your articles meticulously and find them quite informative and interesting.

However, your description of the situation in Germany (admittedly only mentioned very briefly) is not correct.

There are parts of the current German coalition who suggested a ban of the AfD, but trying to ban the party is certainly not consensus in German mainstream political circles, and is certainly not contemplated by the German state (in toto). The people who suggested so also received quite a bit of critique. Let alone that it is quite difficult to do so as one has to surmount high hurdles.

Also, I dispute the assertion that AfD is the only real opposition party; the CDU (under a new leadership) is the main opposition party and is clearly presenting an alternative to the current government. I rest here as I do not want to go too deep into German politics, but as written the characterisation of the German political situation is in my view no accurate

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Jan 29·edited Jan 29

It is Gnosticism all the way down, as says this author.

Professor Patrick Deneen of the post-liberal substack refers it to it as “the political gnosticism of the liberal imperium.”

Gnosticism - special knowledge - is the mobilization of our fear, it is our education, turned into arrogance, turned into action, sans limitations, and because we are special, just like mommy said, we charge forth and calamity ensues in the name of our faith. Our annual ritual, November 11, we commemorate the lives lost, vowing to “never forget” but we commit the same errors that precipitated the old war which is to say, of course, WE ALWAYS FORGET!

Eventually your little Gnostic self will push me too the brink and I won’t take it so I take action and then it begins again, we return to our alma mater, and we learn anew: no atheists in a fox hole.

The thing that has me down is Curtis Yarvin’s concept of the cathedral . He says the engine of all human polity is the “selective advantage of dominant ideas, and the inability of recessive ideas to compete.” I call it the intersection of practical consideration and human ambition.

Depressingly it appears we must cycle through war because we simply cannot manage ourselves. That’s why he’s a monarchist. Our psychological reality does not allow for collective action that doesn’t become grossly distorted. We are a self destructive species.

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What the West (EU and the Anglosphere) need is 1848 with yellow vests. However, it is likely to end in failure since the populists like the revolutionaries of 1848 are fractured. What we need is a Populist Manifesto. The populists are outraged by the activities of the ruling class but unfocused and unable to prioritize. Such a document would come up with a specific and positive program and also allow us to identify fake populists which are in abundance not only in the US but throughout the West.

Populism has always had a Right aspect and a Left aspect but the last person who could unify those aspects was William Jennings Bryan. Not a perfect man by any means but was able to identify the Cross of Gold and serve as a prosecutor in the Scopes trial. While we are waiting for that a document that codifies our position would be helpful.

My own preferences would be to focus on the control of the levers of power by the ruling class. Many of these levers are economic and breaking the ruling class could involve leftist ideas as well as rightist ideas. The Canadian experiment in using the banking system is far more dangerous to us than the brown shirts of yesteryear.

I think N. S. Lyons is the right person to write such a document, if he is willing.

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First of all, again a very interesting piece of work, and I fully agree liberalism has degraded to "woke", with characteristics as well described by Legutko and yourself.

But as a west european, now living in Poland, I disagree with some statements in the article. PiS is not the noble voice of people against the dictature of the liberals. PiS stopped the "Shock Dictrine" of the ninetees, based on fear and traditional obedience to teacher and priest . Without offering any alternatives, just defending old structures that could not survive... policies of PiS caused a lot of damage and delay for many people, who want Poland to be equally prosperous as its western neighbours who worked, or still work within the EU, and made money to build a house at home, and nice clothes for wife and kids, and feel indepedent.... a life completely different to the socialist and catholic times, when all this was forbidden..... Most of the economic development of Poland is based on European integation. PiS was actively blocking this integration, forbidding non-traditional life styles, but using the growing economy, tax base and EU fundings to strengthen former bureaucrats following priests. Many people felt it as the old prison, and as some kind of theft (of their work and energy) ... And PiS did not really enter into a discussion.. PiS was the moral teacher. Many Poles are sick and tired of this policy.... Ofcourse, as critical west european citizen, I question the golden promises of the free economy. I understand its hypocrisy. But I had 50 years or more to come to this understanding, and most of the Poles have not had this luxery. And I also agree, this does not justify repeating the wrong doings as revenge... The overall picture you describe, how "DEMOCRATS/LIBERALS" claim to have the moral right, and are doing everything to defend their power, is certainly true in most west european countries. In the Netherlands, 20 years of liberalism is now doing everything to block alternative voices. In Germany, the isolation of the AfD, promoted by most political parties, is scary. Forbid AfD and millions of Germans are outlaws...Hopely it wont happen. However, it must be said, AfD is sometimes expressing opinions that seem close to former fascists, which ofcourse is an absolute "no go" for most Germans. Remembering pre WW2, they are scared... So, also here, the reality is more nuanced than you state... Still, overall your reaction to the woke liberalism is a healthy alternative voice, which I wholeheartedly support. thanks..

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Jan 30·edited Jan 30

Douglas Murray once remarked about Eastern Europe, and I am paraphrasing, "the East retains a tragic sense of life." He made the comment in the context of commentary about Western Europeans' disdain for the works of their ancestors and embrace of migrants as a form of redemption (e.g., expiating the guilt of colonialism). But I can't help but think that he had an optimistic view of the durability of Eastern Europe's immunity to the totalitarian impulse in modern liberalism - its hatred of any and all limits, from national borders to human biology. Eastern Europe will remain (comparatively) sane for as long as those who lived under and remember Communist rule are still alive and active in public life.

Poland is the proverbial canary in the coal mine. If a country with a national identity rooted in resistance to foreign powers and their alien ideologies cannot effectively push back against managerial liberalism, then I shudder to think of what the future holds for countries where the managerial revolution is farther along.

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Reading Legutko helped me better understand the Russian liberal opposition. Their hatred of Putin (just in case, not a fan of his) is less about wanting freedom for the Russian people, whom they despise anyway, and more about being denied the power they feel entitled to.

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It is frustrating that we don’t have a common definition or understanding of terms like democracy, liberal, conservative, Nazi, communist, socialist, etc. When someone claims that XYZ is a threat to democracy, what do they mean? That non-citizens will be allowed to vote? That people don’t have to verify their identity to vote? Or the Executive Branch will choose which laws it wishes to enforce or which “laws” it will create without legislative authority?

We see “democracy” as good, so a threat to democracy must be stopped. Just like “Nazi” is bad, so someone labeled as a Nazi must be stopped. No definitions required.

The US is a constitutional republic constructed with checks and balances to protect the minority from democracy’s majority rule (aka mob rule). The whole argument about “threat to democracy” is a smokescreen to take control of the voting process by any means necessary to secure power. Arguing about the label given to the ideology behind the power play is a fool’s errand, since the label will be redefined or co-opted by the power-seekers. The enemy to our way of life is standing before us, call them what you will, they must be stopped.

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If they'd only read Aristotle at University instead of chugging down on Plato.

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Great article. I wasn't aware of the situation in Poland. As a subscriber from Brazil, the similarities to what is happening here are striking [1,2]. It seems that International Socialism gave rise to International Progressivism, and with technological and communication advances, the managerial class is able to work in tandem across country boundaries like never before.

[1] https://environmentalprogress.org/big-news/2024/1/10/the-rise-of-censorship-industrial-complex-in-brazil

[2] https://environmentalprogress.org/big-news/2024/1/21/brazils-authoritarian-rise

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Demon in Democracy is an amazing book that really opened my eyes when I read it 6-7 years ago. Legutko has a rare set of life experience (communist dissident, Polish MP, philosophy professor) with which he makes connections that others miss. And the succeeding 8 years have born out his predictions.

He wrote a second book a couple of years ago called The Cunning of Freedom that I believe is underrated but equally good. I'm surprised Lyons didn't mention it.

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Legutko's book is excellent and brings a much needed European perspective to the question. For a similar look at these issues from a U.S. viewpoint see James Kalb's 'The Tyranny of Liberalism' (2008).

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Very good. Yeah the stuff going on these days is perplexing, and it makes me wonder about all of the people who buy into this stuff about democracy being in danger, far right, etc. How credulous can one be? Do you not realize that someone can lie? Someone can claim to be inclusive, but not be? Fighting fascism, but actually acting fascistic?

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