With Lenin it was always a substantial commitment. I always have a certain admiration for people who are aware that somebody has to do the job. What I hate about these liberal, pseudo-left, beautiful soul academics is that they are doing what they are doing fully aware that somebody else will do the job for them.
This proletarianization of the lower salaried bourgeoisie is accompanied by an excess in the opposite direction: the irrationally high pay of top managers and bankers, a level of remuneration that is economically irrational since, as investigations in the US have demonstrated, it tends to be inversely proportional to the company's success.
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Confucius was not so much a philsopher as a proto-ideologist: what interested him was not metaphysical Truths but rather a harmonious social order within which individuals could lead happy and ethical lives. He was the first to outline clearly what one is tempted to call the elementary scene of ideology, its zero-level, which consists in asserting the (nameless) authority of some substantial Tradition.
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What is the Absolute? Something that appears to us in fleeting experiences--say, through the gentle smile of a beautiful woman, or even through the warm caring smile of a person who may otherwise seem ugly and rude. In such miraculous but extremely fragile moments, another dimension transpires through our reality. As such, the Absolute is easily corroded;it slips all too easily through our fingers and must be handled as carefully as a butterfly
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When we are shown scenes of starving children in Africa, with a call for us to do something to help them, the underlying ideological message is something like: "Don't think, don't politicize, forget about the true causes of their poverty, just act, contribute money, so that you will not have to think!
Friends told me that the latest trend, at least in Europe, is public sex. They showed me some clips, and they're terrifying. A couple enters a streetcar, half-full, simply takes a seat, undresses, and starts to do it. You can see from surprised faces that it's not staged. It's pure working-class suburb. But what's fascinating is that the people all look, and then they politely ignore it. The message is that even if you're together in public with people, it still counts as private space.
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If the secret core of potlatch is the reciprocity of exchange, why is this reciprocity not asserted directly, why does it assume the 'mystified' form of two consecutive acts each of which is staged as a free voluntary display of generosity? Here we encounter the paradoxes of forced choice, of freedom to do what is necessary, at its most elementary: I have to do freely what I am expected to do. (If, upon receiving a gift, I immediately return it to the giver, this direct circulation would amount to an extremely aggressive gesture of humiliation, it would signal that I refused the other's gifts - recall those embarrassing moments when elderly people forget and give us last year's present once again ...) ... the reciprocity of exchange is in itself thoroughly ambiguous; at its most fundamental, it is destructive of the social bond, it is the logic of revenge, tit for tat. To cover this aspect of exchange, to make it benevolent and pacific, one has to pretend that each person's gift is free and stands on its own. This brings us to potlatch as the 'pre-economy of the economy, ' its zero-level, that is, exchange as the reciprocal relation of two non-productive expenditures. If the gift belongs to Master and exchange to the Servant, potlatch is the paradoxical exchange between Masters. Potlach is simultaneously the zero-level of civility, the paradoxical point at which restrained civility and obscene consumption overlap, the point at which it is polite to behave impolitely.
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In Kant's description, ethical duty functions like a foreign traumatic intruder that from the outside disturbs the subject's homeostatic balance, its unbearable pressure forcing the subject to act 'beyond the pleasure principle, ' ignoring the pursuit of pleasures. For Lacan, exactly the same description holds for desire, which is why enjoyment is not something that comes naturally to the subject, as a realization of her inner potential, but is the content of a traumatic superego injunction.
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I like to search for class struggle in strange domains. For example it is clear that in classical Hollywood, the couple of vampires and zombies designates class struggle. Vampires are rich, they live among us. Zombies are the poor, living dead, ugly, stupid, attacking from outside. And it's the same with cats and dogs. Cats are lazy, evil, exploitative, dogs are faithful, they work hard, so if I were to be in government, I would tax having a cat, tax it really heavy.
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The socioeconomic impact of such a minor outburst is due to our technological development (air travel)-a century ago, such an eruption would have passed unnoticed. Technological development makes us more independent from nature. At the same time, at a different level, it makes us more dependent on nature's whims.
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There is a contradiction between market liberalism and political liberalism. The market liberals (e.g., social conservatives) of today want family values, less government, and maintain the traditions of society (at least in America's case). However, we must face the cultural contradiction of capitalism: the progress of capitalism, which necessitates a consumer culture, undermines the values which render capitalism possible
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On the 'Celestial Seasonings' green tea packet there is a short explanation of its benefits: 'Green tea is a natural source of antioxidants, which neutralize harmful molecules in the body known as free radicals. By taming free radicals, antioxidants help the body maintain its natural health.' Mutatis mutandis, is not the notion of totalitarianism one of the main ideological antioxidants, whose function throughout its career was to tame free radicals, and thus to help the social body to maintain its politico-ideological good health?
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We do not get to vote on who owns what, or on relations in factory and so on, for all this is deemed beyond the sphere of the political, and it is illusory to expect that one can actually change things by "extending" democracy to ple's control. Radical changes in this domain should be made outside the sphere of legal "rights", etcetera: no matter how radical our anti-capitalism, unless this is understood, the solution sought will involve applying democratic mechanisms (which, of course, can have a positive role to play)- mechanisms, one should never forget, which are themselves part of the apparatus of the "bourgeois" state that guarantees the undisturbed functioning of capitalist reproduction. In this precise sense, Badiou hit the mark with his apparently wired claim that "Today, the enemy is not called Empire or Capital. It's called Democracy." it is the "democratic illusion" the acceptance of democratic procedures as the sole framework for any possible change, that blocks any radical transformation of capitalist relations.
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The fact that a cloud from a minor volcanic eruption in Iceland-a small disturbance in the complex mechanism of life on the Earth-can bring to a standstill the aerial traffic over an entire continent is a reminder of how, with all its power to transform nature, humankind remains just another species on the planet Earth.
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Alain Badiou was once seated amongst the public in a room where I was delivering a talk, when his cellphone (which, to add insult to injury, was mine - I had lent it to him) all of a sudden started to ring. Instead of turning it off, he gently interrupted me and asked me if I could talk more softly, so that he could hear his interlocutor more clearly... If this was not an act of true friendship, I do not know what friendship is. So, this book is dedicated to Alain Badiou.
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We don't really want to get what we think that we want. I am married to a wife and relationship with her are cold and I have a mistress. And all the time I dream oh my god if my wife were to disappear - I'm not a murderer but let us say- that it will open up a new life with the mistress.Then, for some reason, the wife goes away, you lose the mistress. You thought this is all I want, when you have it there, you turn out it was a much more complex situation. It was not to live with the mistress, but to keep her as a distance as on object of desire about which you dream. This is not an excessive example, I claim this is how things function. We don't really want what we think we desire
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[T]his readiness to assume the guilt for the threats to our environment is deceptively reassuring: We like to be guilty since, if we are guilty, it all depends on us. We pull the strings of the catastrophe, so we can also save ourselves simply by changing our lives. What is really hard for us (at least in the West) to accept is that we are reduced to the role of a passive observer who sits and watches what our fate will be. To avoid this impotence, we engage in frantic, obsessive activities. We recycle old paper, we buy organic food, we install long-lasting light bulbs-whatever-just so we can be sure that we are doing something. We make our individual contribution like the soccer fan who supports his team in front of a TV screen at home, shouting and jumping from his seat, in the belief that this will somehow influence the game's outcome.
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This is the paradox of public space: even if everyone knows an unpleasant fact, saying it in public changes everything. One of the first measures taken by the new Bolshevik government in 1918 was to make public the entire corpus of tsarist secret diplomacy, all the secret agreements, the secret clauses of public agreements etc. There too the target was the entire functioning of the state apparatuses of power.
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How do we account for this paradox that the absence of Law universalizes prohibition... The psychoanalytic name for this obscene injunction for this obscene call, ENJOY, is superego. The problem today is not how to get rid of your inhibitions and to be able to spontaneously enjoy. The problem is how to get rid of this injunction to enjoy.
For the multiculturalist, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants are prohibited, Italians and Irish get a little respect, blacks are good, native Americans are even better. The further away we go, the more they deserve respect. This is a kind of inverted, patronising respect that puts everyone at a distance.
Happiness was never important. The problem is that we don't know what we really want. What makes us happy is not to get what we want. But to dream about it. Happiness is for opportunists. So I think that the only life of deep satisfaction is a life of eternal struggle, especially struggle with oneself. If you want to remain happy, just remain stupid. Authentic masters are never happy; happiness is a category of slaves.
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The cliche about prison life is that I am actually integrated into it, ruined by it, when my accommodation to it is so overwhelming that I can no longer stand or even imagine freedom, life outside prison, so that my release brings about a total psychic breakdown, or at least gives rise to a longing for the lost safety of prison life. The actual dialectic of prison life, however, is somewhat more refined. Prison in effect destroys me, attains a total hold over me, precisely when I do not fully consent to the fact that I am in prison but maintain a kind of inner distance towards it, stick to the illusion that 'real life is elsewhere' and indulge all the time in daydreaming about life outside, about nice things that are waiting for me after my release or escape. I thereby get caught in the vicious cycle of fantasy, so that when, eventually, I am released, the grotesque discord between fantasy and reality breaks me down. The only true solution is therefore fully to accept the rules of prison life and then, within the universe governed by these rules, to work out a way to beat them. In short, inner distance and daydreaming about Life Elsewhere in effect enchain me to prison, whereas full acceptance of the fact that I am really there, bound by prison rules, opens up a space for true hope.
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The 'pursuit of happiness' is such a key element of the 'American (ideological) dream' that one tends to forget the contingent origin of this phrase: 'We holds these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.' Where did the somewhat awkward 'pursuit of happiness' come from in this famous opening passage of the US Declaration of Independence? The origin of it is John Locke, who claimed that all men had the natural rights of life, liberty, and property- the latter was replaced by 'the pursuit of happiness' during negotiations of the drafting of the Declaration, as a way to negate the black slaves' right to property.
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In a traditional German toilet, the hole into which shit disappears after we flush is right at the front, so that shit is first laid out for us to sniff and inspect for traces of illness. In the typical French toilet, on the contrary, the hole is at the back, i.e. shit is supposed to disappear as quickly as possible. Finally, the American (Anglo-Saxon) toilet presents a synthesis, a mediation between these opposites: the toilet basin is full of water, so that the shit floats in it, visible, but not to be inspected. [... ] It is clear that none of these versions can be accounted for in purely utilitarian terms: each involves a certain ideological perception of how the subject should relate to excrement. Hegel was among the first to see in the geographical triad of Germany, France and England an expression of three different existential attitudes: reflective thoroughness (German), revolutionary hastiness (French), utilitarian pragmatism (English). In political terms, this triad can be read as German conservatism, French revolutionary radicalism and English liberalism. [... ] The point about toilets is that they enable us not only to discern this triad in the most intimate domain, but also to identify its underlying mechanism in the three different attitudes towards excremental excess: an ambiguous contemplative fascination; a wish to get rid of it as fast as possible; a pragmatic decision to treat it as ordinary and dispose of it in an appropriate way. It is easy for an academic at a round table to claim that we live in a post-ideological universe, but the moment he visits the lavatory after the heated discussion, he is again knee-deep in ideology.
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What one should add here is that self-consciousness is itself unconscious: we are not aware of the point of our self-consciousness. If ever there was a critic of the fetishizing effect of fascinating and dazzling "leitmotifs", it is Adorno: in his devastating analysis of Wagner, he tries to demonstrate how Wagnerian leitmotifs serve as fetishized elements of easy recognition and thus constitute a kind of inner-structural commodification of his music. It is then a supreme irony that traces of this same fetishizing procedure can be found in Adorno's own writings. Many of his provocative one-liners do effectively capture a profound insight or at least touch on a crucial point (for example: "Nothing is more true in pscyhoanalysis than its exaggeration"); however, more often than his partisans are ready to admit, Adorno gets caught up in his own game, infatuated with his own ability to produce dazzlingly "effective" paradoxical aphorisms at the expense of theoretical substance (recall the famous line from Dialectic of Englightment on how Hollywood's ideological maniuplation of social reality realized Kant's idea of the transcendental constitution of reality). In such cases where the dazzling "effect" of the unexpected short-circuit (here between Hollywood cinema and Kantian ontology) effectively overshadows the theoretical line of argumentation, the brilliant paradox works precisely in the same manner as the Wagnerian leitmotif: instead of serving as a nodal point in the complex network of structural mediation, it generates idiotic pleasure by focusing attention on itself. This unintended self-reflexivity is something of which Adorno undoubtedly was not aware: his critique of the Wagnerian leitmotif was an allegorical critique of his own writing. Is this not an exemplary case of his unconscious reflexivity of thinking? When criticizing his opponent Wagner, Adorno effectively deploys a critical allegory of his own writing - in Hegelese, the truth of his relation to the Other is a self-relation.
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Recall Marx's fundamental insight about the 'bourgeois' limitation of the logic of equality: capitalist inequalities ('exploitation') are not the 'unprincipled violations of the principle of equality, ' but are absolutely inherent to the logic of equality, they are the paradoxical result of its consistent realization. What we have in mind here is not only the wearisome old motif of how market exchange presupposes formally/legally equal subjects who meet and interact in the market; the crucial moment of Marx's critique of 'bourgeois' socialists is that capitalist exploitation does not involve any kind of 'unequal' exchange between the worker and the capitalist-this exchange is fully equal and 'just, ' ideally (in principle), the worker gets paid the full value of the commodity he is selling (his labor-power). Of course, radical bourgeois revolutionaries are aware of this limitation; however, the way they try to counteract it is through a direct 'terroristic imposition of more and more de facto equality (equal salaries, equal access to health services...), which can only be imposed through new forms of formal inequality (different sorts of preferential treatments for the underprivileged). In short, the axiom of equality' means either not enough (it remains the abstract form of actual inequality) or too much (enforce 'terroristic' equality)- it is a formalistic notion in a strict dialectical sense, that is, its limitation is precisely that its form is not concrete enough, but a mere neutral container of some content that eludes this form.
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Liberal attitudes towards the other are characterized both by respect for otherness, openness to it, and an obsessive fear of harassment. In short, the other is welcomed insofar as its presence is not intrusive, insofar as it is not really the other. Tolerance thus coincides with its opposite. My duty to be tolerant towards the other effectively means that I should not get too close to him or her, not intrude into his space-in short, that I should respect his intolerance towards my over-proximity. This is increasingly emerging as the central human right of advanced capitalist society: the right not to be 'harassed', that is, to be kept at a safe distance from others.
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But what about the apparent absurdity of the idea of dignity, freedom, and reason, sustained by extreme military discipline, including of the practice of discarding weak children? This 'absurdity' is simply the price of freedom-freedom is not free, as they put it in the film . Freedom is not something given, it is regained through a hard struggle in which one should be ready to risk everything. Spartan ruthless military discipline is not simply the opposite of Athenian 'liberal democracy, ' it is its inherent condition, it lays the foundation for it: the free subject of Reason can only emerge through ruthless self-discipline. True freedom is not a freedom of choice made from a safe distance, like choosing between a strawberry cake and a chocolate cake; true freedom overlaps with necessity, one makes a truly free choice when one's choice puts at stake one's very existence-one does it because one simply 'cannot do otherwise.' When one's country is under foreign occupation and one is called by a resistance leader to join the fight against the occupiers, the reason given is not 'you are free to choose, ' but: 'Can't you see that this is the only thing you can do if you want to retain your dignity?
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I believe in clear-cut positions. I think that the most arrogant position is this apparent, multidisciplinary modesty of "what I am saying now is not unconditional, it is just a hypothesis," and so on. It really is a most arrogant position. I think that the only way to be honest and expose yourself to criticism is to state clearly and dogmatically where you are. You must take the risk and have a position.
I planted some jokes in my wedding. Like, the organizers asked me to select music. So when I approached wife at the ceremony, they played the second movement from Shostakovich's 10th Symphony, which is usually known as the "portrait of Stalin." And then when we embraced, the music that they played was Schubert's "Death and the Maiden." I enjoyed this in a childish way! But marriage was all a nightmare and so on and so on.
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I hate writing. I so intensely hate writing -- I cannot tell you how much. The moment I am at the end of one project I have the idea that I didn't really succeed in telling what I wanted to tell, that I need a new project -- it's an absolute nightmare. But my whole economy of writing is in fact based on an obsessional ritual to avoid the actual act of writing.
Think about the strangeness of today's situation. Thirty, forty years ago, we were still debating about what the future will be: communist, fascist, capitalist, whatever. Today, nobody even debates these issues. We all silently accept global capitalism is here to stay. On the other hand, we are obsessed with cosmic catastrophes: the whole life on earth disintegrating, because of some virus, because of an asteroid hitting the earth, and so on. So the paradox is, that it's much easier to imagine the end of all life on earth than a much more modest radical change in capitalism.
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Zionism itself has paradoxically come to adopt some antisemitic logic in its hatred of Jews who do not fully identify with the politics of the state of Israel. Their target, the figure of the Jew who doubts the Zionist project, is constructed in the same way as the European antisemites constructed the figures of the Jew "" he is dangerous because he lives among us, but is not really one of us.
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This, then, is the truth of the discourse of universal human rights: the Wall separating those covered by the umbrella of Human Rights and those excluded from its protective cover. Any reference to universal human rights as an 'unfinished project' to be gradually extended to all people is here a vain ideological chimera - and, faced with this prospect, do we, in the West, have any right to condemn the excluded when they use any means, inclusive of terror, to fight their exclusion?
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The ultimate goal of radical politics is gradually to displace the limit of social exclusions, empowering the excluded agents (sexual and ethnic minorities) by creating marginal spaces in which they can articulate and question their identity. Radical politics thus becomes an endless mocking parody and provocation, a gradual process of reidentification in which there are not final victories and ultimate demarcations
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I think Kafka was right when he said that for a modern, secular, nonreligious man, state bureaucracy is the only remaining contact with the dimension of the divine; the impenetrable omnipotence of bureaucracy harbors is divine enjoyment. It is the performance of its very purposelessness that generates an intense enjoyment, ready to reproduce itself forever.
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The only 'realistic' prospect is to ground a new political universality by opting for the impossible, fully assuming the place of the exception, with no taboos, no a priori norms ('human rights,' 'democracy'), respect for which would prevent us from 'resignifying' terror, the ruthless exercise of power, the spirit of sacrifice ... if this radical choice is decried by some bleeding-heart liberals as Linksfaschismus, so be it!
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[A]t the beginning of November 2001, there was a series of meetings between White House advisers and senior Hollywood executives with the aim of co-ordinating the war effort and establishing how Hollywood could help in the "war against terrorism" by getting the right ideological message across not only to Americans, but also to the Hollywood public around the globe the ultimate empirical proof that Hollywood does in fact function as an "ideological state apparatus.
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On the information sheet in a New York hotel, I recently read: 'Dear guest! To guarantee that you will fully enjoy your stay with us, this hotel is totally smoke-free. For any infringement of this regulation, you will be charged $200.' The beauty of this formulation, taken literally, is that you are to be punished for refusing to fully enjoy your stay.
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In a democracy, every ordinary citizen is effectively a king--but a king in a constitutional democracy, a monarch who decides only formally, whose function is merely to sign off on measures proposed by an executive administration. This is why the problem with democratic rituals is homologous to the great problem of constitutional monarchy: how to protect the dignity of the king? How to maintain the appearance that the king effectively makes decisions, when we all know this not to be true?
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Liberal democracy - as you know, in the old days, we were saying we want socialism with a human face. Today's left effectively offers global capitalism with a human face, more tolerance, more rights and so on. So the question is, is this enough or not? Here I remain a Marxist: I think not.
The problem with kitsch is that it is all too profound, manipulating deep libidinal and ideological forces, while true art knows how to remain at the surface, how to subtract it's subject from it's deepest context of historical reality. The same goes for contemporary art, where we often encounter brutal attempts to return to the Real, to remind the spectator or reader that he is perceiving a fiction, to awaken him from a sweet dream.
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Obama has already demonstrated an extraordinary ability to change the limits of what one can say publicly. His greatest achievement up to now is that, in his refined non-provocative way, he has introduced into public speech topics which had hitherto been de facto unsayable: the continuing importance of race in politics, the positive role of atheists in public life, the necessity to talk with "enemies" like Iran or Hamas, and so on. This is just what US politics needs today more than anything, if it is to break out of its gridlock: new words which will change the way we think and act.
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There is an old joke about socialism as the synthesis of the highest achievements of the whole human history to date: from prehistoric societies it took primitivism; from the Ancient world it took slavery; from medieval society brutal domination; from capitalism exploitation; and from socialism the name.
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What Americans don't want to admit ... is that not only is there not a contradiction between state regulation and freedom, but in order for us to actually be free in our social interactions, there must be an extremely elaborated network of health, law, institutions, moral rules and so on.
[T]aking the Third into account does not bring us into the position of pragmatic consideration, of comparing different Others; the task is rather to learn to distinguish between false conflicts and the true conflict. For example, today's conflict between Western liberalism and religious fundamentalism is a false one, since it is based on the exclusion of the third term which is its truth: the Leftist emancipatory position.
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For me, Stalinism was even a greater philosophical problem than Nazism. Under Nazism, if you were a Jew, you were simply killed, no questions asked, you had nothing to prove. Under Stalinism, of course, most [victims] were on trial for false accusations; most of them were not traitors. There is one interesting feature: that they were tortured or through some kind of blackmail forced to confess to being traitors.
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What if the Soviet intervention was a blessing in disguise? It saved the myth that if the Soviets were not to intervene, there would have been some flowering authentic democratic socialism and so on. I'm a little bit more of a pessimist there. I think that the Soviets - it's a very sad lesson - by their intervention, saved the myth.
The fact that a cloud from a minor volcanic eruption in Iceland""a small disturbance in the complex mechanism of life on the Earth""can bring to a standstill the aerial traffic over an entire continent is a reminder of how, with all its power to transform nature, humankind remains just another species on the planet Earth.
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