To Rearm Minds: Some Reflections On Opposition

I read with great attention and interest the essay on opposition, by Ryszard Legutko, the testimony of a man who lived and suffered for decades the horrible “communist paradise.” Obviously, I share his analyses and concerns. I would only like to add a few comments based on my personal experience in France, as an academic, then as an international civil servant, and as an entrepreneur, before enjoying an independent and peaceful semi-retirement.

Not without some naivety, Professor Legutko confesses “… it never occurred to me that the Western world may produce a society and a state of mind where the opposition as a permanent constituent of political and social life may disappear or become unwelcome.” It is probably this sentence that touched and saddened me the most.

In my childhood and during my student life, I knew the French Fourth Republic and then the Fifth Republic. Under De Gaulle, there was a presidential majority (a mixture of non-Marxist, liberal and nationalist lefts and rights) and a mostly socialist-communist opposition; but also an Atlanticist right (both moderate and radical). The communist unions were omnipresent and omnipotent at that time, whereas today they play only a marginal or residual role. The Catholic Church was still dynamic and powerful, the faithful were relatively numerous, whereas nowadays only 2% of the population is still practicing and 51% of the French do not believe in God. A society that loses its religion, sooner or later loses its culture, said Donoso Cortés almost two centuries ago.

In the years 1960-1980, the French university and the world of culture were infiltrated and even dominated by Marxism (those of the militants or sympathizers of the pro-Soviet PCF – but even more so, those of the leftists, Maoists, Castroists, Trotskyists and libertarians/anarchists). Since the end of World War II, French culture had been largely dominated by the extreme left (it was the time of Sartre and Beauvoir, who had been former collaborators under Vichy; later that of the Franco-German leftist Cohn-Bendit, defender of pedophilia, etc.).

At the end of the 1940s, the PCF represented 25% of the electorate; and from the beginning of the 1960s (a decade marked by Vatican II and May ’68) Marxist leftism was rampant in the university and the mainstream media. There were some brilliant anti-communist figures such as Raymond Aron, Thierry Maulnier or Bertrand de Jouvenel, but the political and cultural pluralism was still very relative.

The Marxist or crypto-Marxist neo-inquisitors watched over and locked down the debate for the most part. Anyone who wanted to make a career in the intellectual or academic world had to give guarantees and, above all, not to confront opponents openly. Examples abound of academics and intellectuals who were victims of official Marxist and leftist-Marxist censorship – the historian Pierre Chaunu, for denouncing abortion and the demographic collapse of Europe; sociologist Jules Monnerot, for dissecting the Marxist Revolution; writer Jean Raspail, for prophesying savage or mass immigration; political scientist Julien Freund, for his defense of realism in politics; sinologist Simon Leys, for denouncing Maoism; later, the sociologist Paul Yonnet, for analyzing the causes of the French malaise; the specialist of slavery, Olivier Petré Grenouilleau, for revealing the extent of the Eastern and intra-African slave trade and not only the Western one; the medievalist historian Sylvain Gouguenheim, for having destroyed the myth of a West that would never have existed without Islam, etc.

The complete list of pariahs and outcasts would be long, very long. One should not be fooled either – censorship existed well before the 1990s, well before the beginning of the grip of political correctness.

Censorship has even always existed, in all places and at all times under religious, moral, social or political forms (Tocqueville evoked it, largely in the case of American conformism). The problem is that in the liberal “representative or pluralist” democracies of Europe and America of the 21st century, the relative political-social consensus has completely exploded.

Censorship, which used to be exercised by the state (whether aristocratic, monarchical or republican, dictatorial or democratic), is now practiced by private entities, by large multinational companies, and by NGOs specialized in the defense of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities and the protection of illegal immigrants. These private entities benefit from the tacit or express support of the majority of the political-economical-media oligarchy, which, in order to preserve its privileges, has chosen to allow large private companies and NGOs to replace the state more and more openly in the doctrinal and arbitrary limitation of freedom of expression.

Moreover, liberal-libertarian and social-liberal self-righteousness has imposed itself in the journalistic and academic world because of a way of being, a general disposition, a habitus in both professions. Added to this is the weight of self-censorship and mutual surveillance, and the pusillanimity of journalists and academics who are concerned about securing their professional future and promotion. As a result, only a third of citizens believe that the media provide credible information. Hannah Arendt knew and said that the virtue of courage is not very widespread among intellectuals.

Professor Legutko denounces in severe terms the danger of homogeneity that threatens Europe and America. We can only agree with him. In France, more and more intellectuals are echoing him. They are still a minority, but their number is growing and continues to grow over the years. A good part of the citizens finally feels represented on the cultural level. In his work, Théorie de la dictature (Theory of Dictatorship, 2019), the Proudhonian, Gaullian, materialist and atheist philosopher, Michel Onfray echoes Mr. Legutko and completes his diagnosis. Onfray identifies seven main stages in the establishment of the new type of totalitarianism that threatens to stifle us and against which he invites us to react – destroying freedom; impoverishing language; abolishing truth; erasing nature; propagating hatred; aspiring to the Maastrichtian Empire; and, of course, instrumentalizing, erasing, denying and suppressing history. It is a shocking fact!

Actually, all history refutes the “progressive” optimism based on the postulate that “our Western civilization is indefinitely perfectible.” The truth is precisely the opposite – a civilization, that is to say, a great politico-cultural unit built by a group of peoples more or less close to each other, cannot avoid reaching a certain degree of exhaustion at which it begins to deteriorate or decompose. A nation (or the people who compose it) rests both on its history and on its will to maintain its being, to develop and to regenerate itself. This is why one cannot believe in the value and richness of the diversity of peoples and nations without fighting globalization, or political-cultural homogenization.

Professor Legutko concludes: “The crucial question that one has to ask oneself today is whether this Goliath can be stopped and some kind of plurality returns, particularly whether Western conservatism will revive to the degree that it can prevent the Left’s march to a brave new world.” I will put the question in more radical terms: Is the depression, the decline, the fatigue, the sleep, the anesthesia, the decomposition, the dormitio, or, to put it bluntly, the decadence of Europe and the West still reversible or inevitable and fatal?

To remain optimistic, let us reread these words from Toynbee’s A Study of History (1972):

“Breakdowns are not inevitable and not irretrievable; but, if the process of disintegration is allowed to continued, I find that it seems to follow a common pattern in most instances. The masses become estranged from their leaders, who then try to cling to their position by using force as substitute for their lost power of attraction. I trace the fragmentation of society into a dominant minority, an internal proletariat, and external proletariat consisting of the barbarians on its fringes; and I sketch the social reactions of these diverse groups to the ordeal of disintegration. I also find a corresponding psychological schism in the souls of people who happen to have been born into this unhappy age. Discordant psychic tendencies which are perhaps always latent in human nature now find free play. People lose their bearings, and rush down blind alleys, seeking escape. Greater souls detach themselves from life; still greater souls try to transfigure life into something higher than mere life as we know it on Earth, and sow the seeds of a fresh spiritual advance.”

God willing, Toynbee is right. But since ideological war has been declared, it is high time to take up the challenge, to organize resistance, to rearm minds. The task is immense and the forces of the adversary considerable, not only in Poland or in Eastern Europe, but in all of Western Europe and in the entire West. Only future generations will be likely be able carry out this struggle. But the struggle can mitigate the catastrophe, and the struggle is above all a duty for us.


Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECDHe is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left – all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés.


The featured image shows, “Portrait of a Knight,” by Vittore Carpaccio; painted in 1505.

It’s Party Time!

The most compelling argument for democracy is that it is a system of government which enables the representation of different points of view, based upon different life experiences, having the chance to be publicly expressed. It is no cure-all for all our problems, but at least it is a form of government which potentially provides a forum for the very different interests and insights pertaining to those interests that accompany the classes and division of labour that make up large scale industrial societies. Like everything important, democracy is built upon faith and hope – the hope that this might mitigate against not only our innate limitations and ignorance, but the hope that it might overcome the tendency that elites have to bully people into accepting their authority without question.

Unfortunately, democracy in any meaningful sense is now dead, and it has been replaced by an administrative corporatist state which sets the agendas and narratives that political parties must comply with, if they wish to have any chance of electoral victory. While many Western states still give the appearance of allowing for at least two competing parties, the extent and scale of administrative and policy decisions, which have never been put to the electorate, dictate the shape and development of the nation.

In the United States, it was resistance to this elite, and its habitat – “the swamp” – that led to the election of Donald Trump. His election – by way of vehement reaction – has resulted in what, at least federally, is a de facto one-party state whose “members” preside over every major institution of governance, legislation, policy, information, entertainment, and, in an expanding number of industries, even employment.

That party has succeeded in recruiting a significant percentage of the population who not only manage the major institutions of political, social, and economic organization, but who fabricate, cultivate, and protect the narratives of their own political and economic enrichment and empowerment.

Membership of the party does not require any paid-up due, but the acceptance of and willingness to enforce others to accept two kinds of narratives. One kind that divides the world into oppressors (those who are enemies of the party) and emancipators (the party). The other kind is crisis narratives. Acceptance of the truth of these narratives requires crisis response; and that involves the expansion of the state and its emergency powers, as well as its cooperation with corporate interests, along with control of all information production and flow.

COVID has been the last in the long line of these crises. The others include climate change, white supremacy, and the cruel and inhuman torturing that occurs by not letting children choose their sexual organs.

All these crises require that democracy must yield to the wise decisions of those who are the incarnation of the true, the good, and the beautiful, who have solved all the moral conundrums of the species, who have science on their side, and who know how to save the planet. Likewise, it requires complete control of what we can read, watch and say, so that the various crises will be overcome under their leadership. The crises can only be solved if we drastically reduce the population of the planet, dismantle the systems of energy which have given the Western world its military and economic advantages, eliminate the nation state, educate everyone to understand the ways and wisdom of the party, provide a universal income, and eliminate cash so that all private resources can be subject to surveillance, and reduce any recalcitrant who hold opinions that threaten the party to penury.

The ideas that hold this one-party state together, like the ideas that held the Nazi and Communist one-party states together, are of the kind that children and teenagers, and ambitious, lazy-minded and loquacious people can easily grasp. Although the academics who teach these ideas often spend time rhetorically puffing them up to make them look as if they are complicated, they are tailor-made for people who can be easily convinced that any alternative diagnosis, account, or analysis of a subject that has received the imprimatur of the party is to be condemned as originating in bad faith. Although these ideas have been fabricated by intellectuals, “refined” and taught in universities and schools and now enforced in the public sector and private corporations, it is because they are so intellectually shabby that so much energy and resources must be devoted to inculcating them, and protecting them, and punishing anyone who disagrees with them. The crazier and untrue an idea is, the more it needs to be violently protected – manifestly true ideas can stand on their own legs. I doubt if one person in history anywhere was ever killed, imprisoned, sacked or denounced for thinking or saying that “ice-cream is yummy,” which is not much of an idea, but, among people who like ice-cream, it is palpably true. Unfortunately, the reach and policing of what now constitutes politically harmful speech is such that it is pretty well only statements as innocuous as the one about ice-cream that may be publicly aired without fear of reprisal or punishment. As of yet, little forums like this magazine are too small to bother with.

All political opposition must also be extinguished.

The party currently faces two kinds of opposition: one is domestic. And while domestic opposition refuses to die completely, the strategy of elimination of that opposition is the elimination of it having any access to any public space. It also involves creating a social credit system, which is already operating in the West in a manner that differs in no significant way from what the CCP.

The centerpiece of domestic opposition is simply calling out the stupidity of the ideas that enrich and empower the present ruling elite. It may take the form of learned lectures, tomes etc., or comedy (Steven Crowder and Co. for example). This may not succeed in the short or even medium term, and it may well mean struggling to find places to express one’s point of view, or even earning a living – but it least one can retain one’s sanity, and one’s soul.

The second opposition is geo-political. And any success the contemporary anti-democratic elites in the West have is pyrrhic in so far as they lack the numbers, not to mention sheer wherewithal, to deal with those enemies – especially the Chinese, pan-Islamists and aspirational geo-political hegemons among the Islamic nations – who not only view the world the West is making with disgust and disdain, but find before them all manner of opportunities for exploiting the tensions generated by identity politics that have empowered the contemporary Western elite – especially the racial tensions which presently devour the world’s former hegemon.

For those in the West who would rather retrieve the virtues of the West, this opposition gives no consolation. We are now living in a time where consolation is in short supply. All we can do, is do what each of us must – and that is simply be part of a great refusal to be part of what is openly and widely touted as “the great reset.” And pray.


Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen books.


The featured image shows, “Perfect Garden,” by Pawel Kuczynski; painted in 2017.

Opposition As Remedy Against Insatiable Error

As long as man expects to be upheld by the world, to live a life of the gentleman simply because he is post-modern, he dooms himself to conversation with the prowling mind that doesn’t actually speak, but only feeds itself. The warmth and luxury, the intrigue of wild ideas that do not disclose their danger or demands, this is the life that is nourishment for the waking dead (not to be confused with the woke – they too are food). The world envisioned as a safe space where every need satisfied is actually life inside of Dracula’s castle. What a terrible irony, that ultimately and too late one sees that self-preservation (self-possession) requires opposition and abstinence. As Christian tradition has known since the first sparks of memory, fasting is a mark of fearlessness in the face of evil. Opposition parallels this ancient remedy against evil in the realm of human political and social action.

Culture is now reaching a global moment. What we mean when we say “freedom” and “well-being” and “happiness” is subservient to the expectations that the world will turn for us, and the fear that it may run out of anything to give us. Is the global project indeed one of rewriting culture to replace tradition with a soothing (horrifying) interlocutor? The image of the future, then, is Dracula’s table. Some have already begun to perceive that this host is looking a bit seedy and ever less entertaining and more disregarding. For many, however, this host now simply observes his “host,” and from behind the curtains. The price of a seat at that table awards the revelation that one is not the champion, but the chow.

It is time for small independent presses to remain alive, and to resist all temptations to survive. In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, the warning speaks to us: “A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer; I see his filthy face! And it my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud––God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!” Those who quail are everywhere and on all sides. When books are written and produced by such quailing men, we collectively are inclined to acknowledge that it might be better to live forever and under any kind of name than to live once and with personal triumph (because we know triumph needs redemption).

It was always important that books be truthful; but as global culture is fast becoming the Truth it is now imperative that books be oppositional. This characteristic will be remembered in the literature of this decade like it has been at different times in the past. Our color of opposition is not simply rejection, but also one of steadfast adherence to reality, even if it does not always know how to address the lurking source of maleficence. The battle of the good book is to promote what is real instead of fixating on the bodiless shadow. The idea that we must win here is not natural––that this world is the kingdom was ever a deception. The idea that we must live well here and never just for ourselves––this is what must live on. The bad idea can only live forever here, in the world. One bite, one bad book, never killed anyone, but it grants enough youthfulness to a guile that will outlive you and drain your children.

In this spirit of opposition and adherence to what is real, St. Augustine’s Press announces the revival of the Dissident American Thought Today Series, which challenges the comfortable thinking and speaking of the quailing; and the emergence of The Weight of Words Series which, with historian Jeremy Black, remembers and preserves the genius of conservatism in the Western literature and literary mind. These two particular collections seek to jostle the reader and publisher alike – for it is better to shake a man awake then let him drown as woke. And it is better to be burned by the flicker of insult and disdain than be licked by the flames of judgment–or infinitely worse, the fires of conscience.


Catherine Godfrey-Howell is associate editor of St. Augustine’s Press (South Bend, Indiana) and adjunct professor of canon law at the University of Notre Dame. She holds a doctorate in canon law summa cum laude from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome), and is author of the unromantic history of canonical marriage jurisprudence in the United States, Consensual Incapacity to Marry (July 2020).


The featured image shows, “Woman Holding a Balance,” by Johannes Vermeer; painted ca. 1664.

Nicholas Capaldi: Liberalism And The West

In this wide-ranging interview, Nicholas Capaldi, shares his ideas on liberalism and its many “fruits.” This is a riveting discussion of the current state of the world – and more importantly what can be done about it. Leading the discussion is Harrison Koehli.



The featured image shows, “Feestvierende boeren (Celebrating farmers),” by Adriaen Brouwer; painted ca. ca.1605-1638.

Western Civilization Must Be Affirmed

Gerson Moreno-Riaño recently stated, “American colleges and universities have always positioned themselves as the bastions of knowledge and truth for the moral formation of their students. Regardless of intellectual debates surrounding the meaning of such terms, universities in America have never rejected implicit commitment to moral formation.”

By simply using the word “moral,” President Moreno-Riaño is already sending a message that he stands against the trend in modern institutions of higher education. The word “moral” connotes right and wrong within a Judeo-Christian matrix of understanding. The Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, and loving one’s neighbor as oneself are increasingly portrayed by the apostles of heteronormative reality as covers for a hidden malignancy of exploitation and rejection that is unbecoming of civilized persons.

Instead, we are increasingly told by campus pundits and other self-proclaimed prophets of post-modernism that LGBT+Q (a couple of hundred varieties of sexuality come under the “Q”), feminism, anti-racism, and anti-white, male gender hegemony, are hallmarks of needed change in society.

To this crowd of miscreants – many of whom hold PhDs and teach at leading institutions of higher education – our entire society is living a lie. Our legal system is infected with racism from top to bottom which is why we see proportionally so many more African-Americans and Latinos in prisons than white people. The promotion of whiteness is the historical essence of American society, according to the proponents of the 1619 Project. These non-historians want to claim that the very founding of the USA was to glorify whiteness and to heap contempt on the non-white people of the Earth. We were not founded on true Christian or democratic principles like the furthering of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut that was the first constitution of Connecticut (1642) did not, according to those intent on demonizing whiteness, define the principles of government by which a people living in a state might enjoy self-government. Rather, that constitution like all the mores of colonial America, was a cover for a more sinister cover-up of an inherent, cancerous white supremacy. The underlying motive was not as might appear to be the case: “We deserve to rule ourselves because the principles of self-government are Biblical, and the affirmation of freedom is part of God’s plan for the universe;” but, according to the 1619 Project, that we are only claiming these goods because we are white and based on our racial superiority can and ought to claim them.

Everything we have been and are as a society is merely a rationalization to cover the sense of racial superiority and macho sexuality that underlies anything and everything we have done and achieved, anything and everything we take pride in having accomplished – politically, educationally, economically, medically, scientifically, socially, and legally. Straight male white society has built this monolith called the USA on the suffering of people of color, the oppression of women, the cruel suppression of non-heterosexual persons, and the rejection of Marxist ideology, even though, according to its proponents, that ideology would bring about the betterment of the greatest number of people in our society.

President Moreno-Riaño in the same article quoted above recommends, “the re-integration of the true, beautiful, and good within a context of pervasive and consistent open inquiry.” He also recommends the removal of funding from colleges that fail to do this. This writer found his shift to this position surprising since his article acknowledges that the teaching of Western Civ courses in colleges and universities has been decimated. Instead, this writer would cry out for a re-institution of those courses.

Western Civ encompasses the powerful traditions of Reason, beginning with ancient Greece and Rome; the power of Love via the great Christian commandments of loving one’s neighbor as oneself and loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength; the love of Beauty and Truth in our great literature and art works (John Keats’ “Ode To A Grecian Urn” says it better than this writer); and the great trans-racial and supra-racial achievements of Science, such as humankind has enjoyed since the 16th century. Without acknowledging the highest ideals embodied in Western Civ as being valued above all other ideals, we are doomed to demoralization, disruption, and decay.


Jeffrey Ludwig is presently a lecturer in philosophy and has taught ethics, introduction to philosophy, American philosophy, and philosophy of education. He also spent many years teaching history, economics, literature, and writing. For ten years he served as pastor of Bible Christian Church; and his theological focus is on the five solae. He has published three books, the most recent, The Liberty Manifesto, being a series of essays about the importance of reasserting liberty as a social, political, economic, and theological value. His other two books are The Catastrophic Decline of America’s Public High Schools: New York City, A Case Study, and Memoir of a Jewish American Christian.


The featured image shows, “The Architect’s Dream,” by Thomas Cole; painted 1840.

The Necessity Of Opposition

Under communism, the political system in which I spent the first four decades of my life, there was no political opposition. This statement requires a short explanation. After WWII ended and Poland found herself under a de-facto Soviet occupation, there were anti-communist soldiers who continued their struggle for independence. During the entire communist period, occasional protests broke out against the regime’s economic policy, censorship, religious persecution etc. When the system became less brutal over time, there appeared small groups whom Western journalists called “the dissidents” and who protested against the regime and demanded its democratization. At one point, a powerful Solidarity Union emerged but soon was crushed by martial law imposed in 1983.

There was, of course, the Catholic Church, which in my country was and had been for a long time a place of refuge, a carrier of historical and cultural continuity, and a source of spiritual life for the believers and non-believers. But within the system, as the communist constitution constructed it, there was no place for the official opposition. This does not mean there was only one political party. Obviously, the communist party had a constitutionally inscribed “leading role.” But there were other parties, for instance, the Peasants’ Party, but they were not the opposition to the communists, rather their allies or, to be more precise, their satellites.

The communists had a justification for such a political construction. The argument was as follows. The communist revolution made a historical change. Poland was on the road to a system where there would be no exploitation, and everyone would receive everything according to his needs. The Communist Party leads the way to a better world. Who needs the opposition? Everyone who accepts communism and wants to work for a better communist world is welcome. The opposition to this process would be absurd and dangerous: absurd because the process, as Marx et al. had proved, is inevitable, and dangerous because it would mean turning us back to the world of exploitation, inequalities, injustice, colonialism, racism, imperialism, class struggle, etc.

Many people accepted this argument, not on its merits, but because challenging it was risky. One could lose one’s job, be imprisoned, or suffer other unpleasant consequences. When a larger group challenged this, as the Solidarity Union did, it became even riskier for the entire country because the communists always had the last word – the Soviet tanks.

Living in a society with no opposition was a peculiar experience. For one thing, it was extremely boring: a monotonous repetition of the same phrases and slogans, which did not serve communication, or if it did, it was in a limited way. The purpose of the political language was mostly ritualistic. The language was a major tool in performing collective rituals whose aim was to build cohesion in the society and close it, both politically and mentally, within one ideological framework.

Another feature of the system was an omnipresent sense of the enemy. The official ideology and its rituals were telling us that the nation is more and more united by and attracted to communist ideas. Still, at the same time, we had to be more and more aware of the enemies who wanted to destroy this harmony and plotted against our communist fatherland. I remember a teacher warning the high-school students before they went to a West-European country that they could become a possible object of the foreign intelligence agents. She advised them not to answer any questions regarding their school or families. And the teacher’s behavior was not considered extravagant.

One of the joys of being a dissident or joining a non-communist movement, such as the Solidarity Union, was that one could have access to a different language and talk to people who did not treat language as a repetitive ritual but as a tool of communication. Also, the problem of the enemies disappeared or rather was reversed. It was now the communists that were the enemies. Apart from them, the world did not look threatening.

At that time, it never occurred to me that the Western world may produce a society and a state of mind where the opposition as a permanent constituent of political and social life may disappear or become unwelcome. The assumption of my confidence in the vibrant state of the Western world was that its societies were pluralistic, that is, that the Left, the Right and the Center continued to be in a dynamic equilibrium, not only politically, but also culturally; that is, that they have grown out of and cherish different traditions, have different sensibilities, use a slightly different language and employ a different cultural idiom. But the assumption turned out false.

The danger of homogeneity has been looming over Europe and America for several centuries. The inherent tendencies of the Western world – egalitarianism, democratization, spectacular progress of technology, internationalization of the economy, the weakening of boundaries and measures – could not but lead to homogenization. All these processes had to undermine social diversity and were bound to make the societies more and more alike. This might be a paradox: the more accessible the world we live in, the more homogeneous it becomes. In other words, the larger it becomes, the smaller it is.

The problem of the opposition is a tricky one. On the one hand, the existence of opposition indicates that a large part of the society is represented, that it may influence its development, and that its voice contributes to a better grasp of the problems with which every society has to grapple. On the other hand, when the division between the government and the opposition is too big, it may not only destabilize the system but may prompt one of the conflicting sides to eliminate the other, not necessarily physically, but to marginalize them – intimidate, impose severe legal restrictions targeting them, and ostracize them, etc. – so that they practically disappear as a political and cultural opponent. This will generate the same results as a society without opposition – the destruction of language and an excessive sense of the enemy.

The communists, in their logic, were right in undertaking a crack-down on the Solidarity Union because there was no way these two sides could find some modus vivendi and modus operandi. The differences were too basic, and the objectives – sharply contradictory. Therefore, the communists found it necessary to present the Solidarity Union as an enemy and obliterate the language and symbols the Union used and equipped the Poles with.

How does this apply to a current situation? Suppose my diagnosis is correct and the Western world is sliding into deeper homogeneity, being reflected in the ideological proximity of the major political forces. In that case, it means we nowadays face a similar problem and should expect similar consequences. The political Left has dictated the agenda for the Western world: Socialists, Liberals, neo-Communists, Greens. The erstwhile conservative parties such as Christian Democrats have capitulated and have either incorporated the Left’s main points into their program or decided not to oppose and remain non-committal (which, in practical terms, is also a capitulation).

Today’s Left may differ from the Left of old in particular objectives and policies, but the frame of mind is similar: it aims at a radical restructuring of the society. Economic experiments of the old Left fizzled out, so there is no nationalization of industry and agriculture; no five-year plans are being considered. But the restructuring is equally radical: the Leftist governments, organizations, and movements have started waging war against a family based on the union of two sexes and in favor of multiple “gender” configurations; against the nation-state and in favor of what they call a multicultural society; against religion in the public square and in favor of radical secularization; against nationalisms and in favor of a united Europe; and in favor of a green world with zero-emission; in favor of ideological purity in art and education; against all forms of thoughtcrimes in history, literature, etc.

These and other items of this program meet with no opposition, that is, no legitimate opposition; those who question them are the dissidents, freaks, fascists, populists, and notorious troublemakers. This sweeping program of recycling our societies has been accepted by a tacit consensus of all major and not-so-major forces and institutions in the entire Western world. Why should there be any opposition, given that everybody who is somebody is in favor? The program leads to a better world without discrimination (who can object to this?), with harmonious coexistence of races, genders, and what-not (likewise), with a clean green environment (fantastic), with people’s minds freed from harmful stereotypes and prejudices (as above), with brotherly relations among groups (at last), etc. The opposition would only harm what looks like a beginning of a new promising stage in human history, superseding all previous ones in grandeur, justice, and human flourishing.

When the then president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, spoke in the European Parliament several years ago and told the MEPs, in rather delicate wording, how important the existence of the opposition was, the deputies felt offended and walked out of the hemicycle. Klaus’s words were considered offensive and foolish. In their opinion, modern European parliamentarianism represents a higher form: no longer a Hobbesian dog-eat-dog world, but consensual, dialogical cooperation of the people of goodwill. And this higher form is being jeopardized by irresponsible national firebrands who want to turn us back to an unpleasant world of partisanship and national egoisms.

Whoever, like myself, remembers the political system without opposition immediately recognizes the entire package, perhaps wrapped differently, with different details, but otherwise quite similar. The degree of linguistic rituals is so high that it almost becomes nauseating. When sometimes I have to spend too much time during the plenary in the Brussels or Strasbourg hemicycle, I feel I desperately need some detoxing to clean my speaking and thinking faculties of the EU gobbledygook.

The behavior of the MEPs confirms the second observation. The Left majority of Communists, Socialists, Liberals, Greens, and (former) Christian Democrats, an alliance that composes about seventy-five or eighty percent of the entire Parliament, looks at a minority with growing hostility. They do not treat these remaining twenty percent of their colleagues as opponents but as enemies that can be bullied, lied to, insulted, and kept in check by a cordon sanitaire. Their views are not legitimate views that can be debated, but absurd opinions that are, on the one hand, inconceivable, and on the other, odious and contemptible.

And the EU is just pars pro toto. In today’s Western world, the list of enemies increased and the number of possible crimes far surpassed those in the communist system. Today one can be accused of racism, sexism, eurocentrism, euroscepticism, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, binarism, hate speech, logocentrism, patriarchy, phallocentrism, misogyny, ageism, speciesism, white supremacy, nationalism, illiberalism – and the list tends to grow. Some of the concepts – such as gender – have been particularly fecund in generating enemies: the more genders we have, the more enemies appear as each gender must have its own enemy.

Language has become loaded with these expressions, which are no longer qualified as invectives but have acquired the status of descriptive concepts. No wonder that the language of political exorcism has gained such popularity. One can insult at will in the belief that one describes. “The right-wing nationalist government in Warsaw, known for its homophobic and populist policies fueled primarily by the Catholic bigots, has launched another offensive of hate speech with clear racist undertones against the European values of openness, diversity, and the rule of law.” Perhaps the sentence is slightly exaggerated, but this is roughly what one usually finds in all major media in the Western world, from FAZ to NYT, from CNN to Deutsche Welle. The maxim audiatur et altera pars has been abandoned: there is no altera pars, so there is no point in giving it a hearing. Needless to say, the Poland they depict is not a real Poland.

This monotonous and deafening drumbeating spills over the entire society and penetrates all layers of social life. Among other things, it unleashed verbal and not only verbal aggression against the dissenters, which over the last decade has got out of control. And since the mainstream groups believe themselves to represent the enlightened world in its entirely, the dissidents are, by the same token, an inferior kind of people with inferior minds, and therefore, no foul word is too abusive to give them what they deserve. The fact that those inferior creatures can win elections or receive an important position or award seems not only unacceptable; it is a blasphemy that triggers an impetuous reaction of radical rejection and puts a protester in a state of frenzy. A massive hysteria and furious verbal aggression against president Trump were perhaps the most visible example of this. But such aggression can be directed against a university professor, an athlete, an actor, a priest, if their dissenting voices are heard.

No country is a better place to observe this than Poland. One of the few conservative governments in the Western world found itself outside the mainstream even before the party that composed it succeeded in winning the election. The Polish opposition to this government is, as they called themselves, “total,” which also expresses itself in the language it uses: escalation of insults, threats, wild accusations, physical attacks, all foul words one can think of shouted out loud in the face of those who are believed to be despicable puppets of Jarosław Kaczyński, that dangerous psychopathic despot – as they say – not really different from Hitler cum Stalin. No opposition in my country behaved like this before, not even when the neo-communists won the elections and ruled Poland for one parliamentary term. Whence this wild fury?

The answer is simple. One can easily imagine what goes on in the minds of the enemies of the conservative government. They believe they represent the world at large, and in a way, they do. They represent the real majority – the European Union, Hollywood, the Council of Europe, rock stars, international and national courts, TV celebrities, the United Nations, Ikea, Microsoft, Amazon, Angela Merkel, the new American administration, universities, media, governments, top models, parliaments. It is difficult to find any institution, corporation, or organization in the world that would not support them directly or indirectly. The “total” opposition knows they can do and say anything, and they would get away with it. When one looks at the Polish government from this perspective, it no longer presents itself as a legitimate government having a democratic legitimacy, trying to reform the system that had been inefficient, but as a villainous usurper, cancer on the healthy body of European politics. This is the government that, by its sheer existence, is a slap in the face of the European civilization. It had no right to come into being, and it has no right to exist. Insulting it and subverting it is a service to humanity.

The Polish government and its supporters are not powerful despots. They more resemble a David defending himself against an aggressive Goliath. But the problem is more general, and a reaction to Poland is just a symptom. The crucial question that one has to ask oneself today is whether this Goliath can be stopped and some kind of plurality returns, particularly whether Western conservatism will revive to the degree that it can prevent the Left’s march to a brave new world.


Ryszard Legutko is a philosopher and member of the European Parliament. He is the author of the well-known works, the Demon in Democracy and The Cunning of Freedom, as well as, Society as a Department Store: Critical Reflections on the Liberal State.


The featured image shows David and Goliath, in the Maciejowski Bible, or the Shah Abbas Bible, ca. 13th century.

Listening To Eastern Europe

The difference between the two regions of Europe, Western Europe and Central Europe, is profound. It is less a question of the dross of recent history, of the difference in the tempo of progress, than of two forms of humanism, or if one prefers, two interpretations of European humanism.

The countries of Central and Eastern Europe are indeed authentically European, in the sense that their Greek, Latin and Christian sources are the same as ours. And it is not abusive to claim this affiliation. However, their way of thinking differs from ours. If we want to risk a simple statement to begin with, they are not Cartesians in the same way. The cold and rational clarity of the logico-deductive thought, which seems to be enough for us, seems to them very abrupt. To understand the world, they give importance to the poetic and the spiritual as much as to the rational. The influence of German Romanticism is certainly felt here.

Many consequences follow from this. For example, their cultural vision of the nation, as opposed to ours, which is mainly contractual. And the fact that, in one way or another, depending on the geographical and cultural area, modernity has not blossomed in the same way as it has here. To understand Central Europe, one must appeal not only to the logos and to well-handled Western reason, but also to the abysmal mysteries on which every culture feeds, to the myths and to the symbols that carry their meanings. Thus, Central Europeans often have the impression that Westerners are missing a slot, so to speak, the one that connects to the sacred.

Resistance And Culture

Political oppression naturally gives rise to an uprising and resistance of cultural identity – culture becomes power and names the identity that politics can no longer name. In this process of surviving under totalitarianism, Central European writers come to believe that they are, in the end, the guardians of European culture – for Western Europe has abandoned culture in favor of economic ends alone.

Kundera set the tone in his now classic essay, “A Kidnapped West” (1983). In this work, which succeeded in making the French intelligentsia aware of the fate of Central Europe, he recalled the major role of European culture and thought. He accused the Western part of the continent of having lost the sense of its own cultural identity, of no longer feeling its unity as a cultural unit (but only as a political and economic unit). Kundera was a precursor at that time. The life of the spirit in Central-Eastern Europe plays the role of sentinel and guardian of the temple: “All the great Central-European creations of our century, up to our time, can be understood as a long meditation on the possible end of European humanity.” It is well in this precise point that there emerges the incomprehension from which is woven, for the two Europes, the common life of today.

A Severe Criticism Of The West

Central European writers are severe towards the West. I would like to point out these criticisms, which partly explain, what can be called today, a clash between the two Europes, a quarrel that is well concretized in the emergence of “illiberal democracies” and Western commentaries on this subject.

Indeed, many of the most important authors describe Western economism as the entry into a form of soft totalitarianism – in any case a kind of avatar or twin of communism. Communist totalitarianism and Western economism are the two monstrous faces of modernity – and they look alike.

I only understood later,” writes Milan Kundera, “that communism showed me, in a hyperbolized and caricatured version, the common features of the modern world. The same omnipresent and omnipotent bureaucratization. The class struggle replaced by the arrogance of institutions towards the user. The degradation of artisanal know-how. The imbecilic juvenilia of the official discourse. The vacations organized in herds. The ugliness of the countryside where the traces of the peasant’s hand are disappearing. The uniformity. And, of these common denominators, the worst of all – the disrespect for the individual and for his or her private life.”

For Vaclav Havel, the totalitarian society of the 20th century would represent “a magnifying mirror of modern civilization in its entirety,” “the extreme point,” “the frightening fruit of its expansion”, “a vanguard of the global crisis of this civilization”, a “possible prospective portrait of the Western world”, “the most advanced reef of dehumanized power.”

We can only benefit from meditating on this comparison.


Chantal Delsol is a French philosopher, essayist, novelist and university professor. Her work has been translated into 15 languages. Her essentials include, Icarus Fallen: The Search for Meaning in an Uncertain World, Unjust Justice: Against the Tyranny of International Law, and The Unlearned Lessons Of the Twentieth Century: An Essay On Late Modernity. This articles appears through the very kind courtesy La Nef.


The featured image shows, “Autumn,” by František Dvořák; painted in 1912.

Political Ponerology And The Rise Of Totalitarianism In The West

Seventy years ago, the thankless task of ideological indoctrination in Polish universities fell upon the communist leadership and their approved instructors. The people would learn what was best for them, even if it killed them. Today, by contrast, the students seem perfectly happy to indoctrinate themselves. No government coercion necessary. Things have a way of coming full circle, and then some! “The Legutko Affair,” covered in last month’s issue of The Postil should demonstrate that. But before discussing the present state of affairs, we must return to the past. The time is 1951, just a few years after the imposition of communism. The place: the gothic lecture hall at Jagiellonian University, Professor Legutko’s alma mater.

Previously, students had heard lectures here by scholars like Roman Ingarden, a student of Husserl. But when the students were herded into the hall that year to attend the recently introduced Marxist-Leninist indoctrination lectures, a new man appeared at the lectern, informing them he was to be their new professor. This particular class of students—soon to graduate with degrees in psychology—were about to learn some important lessons about the nature of totalitarianism. In a twisted way, these were actually lessons in psychology, though that certainly was not their professor’s intention.

First of all, the man spoke nonsense unfitting of a university, and the students immediately recognized this—or at least most of them did. Second, he wasn’t even a real professor. The students soon discovered that he had attended high school, but it was unclear if he had ever actually graduated. Third, this new “professor” treated the students with contempt and barely concealed hatred. His tyrannical teaching style mirrored that of the communist party leadership—whom he had to thank for his new, “socially advanced” position.

The students’ encounter with the new professor may not have succeeded in swaying many of them over to communism—communist indoctrination efforts were embarrassingly ineffective—but it was a crash course in the personalities and psychological processes at the heart of the communist system. One of the students in that class, Dr. Andrzej Łobaczewski (1921–2007), who would go on to study the psychology of totalitarianism and write the most important book on the topic, credits that professor as his first instructor in this brutal new reality.

John Connelly has studied this stormy period been in his book, Captive University: The Sovietization of East German, Czech, and Polish Higher Education, 1945–1956. Regarding the template for this ideological takeover established in the USSR, he writes:

“After universities had been emptied of enemies, they had to be filled with ostensible supporters: students from underprivileged social strata who would reward the regime with loyalty for upward social mobility. During the early breakthrough periods in Soviet history, preference was given to students of ‘worker and peasant background’” (p. 3).

The communists instituted a program of what we in the West call affirmative action, actively seeking to enroll students from the “worker-peasant” class, the underprivileged who were numerically underrepresented in the education system. Remedial courses were set up to prepare such students for university. In the Czech lands, for instance, the party had to enforce downward mobility on middle-class aspirants in order to make room for working-class students (a policy that would be familiar to many Asian Americans today). While a success in many regards—worker students performed on par in many subjects, and excelled at others—in a reflection of affirmative action today, many of these students found themselves in over their heads, especially in technical fields, and dropped out at higher than average rates, many suffering nervous breakdowns from the stress.

But quotas must be met. So Polish and East German functionaries solved this problem by simply lowering standards and graduating students early. Predictably, this gave students a sense of power: “at a January 1952 meeting of representatives of Poznan University with Vice-Minister of Education Krassowska, Rector Ajdukiewicz told the audience that there had been cases of ‘improper behavior’ among students who felt that the authorities ‘have no choice but to graduate us, because otherwise they won’t fulfill the plan’” (p. 275). (While this was to the advantage of dissident students, one wonders if these students ever reached the obnoxious levels of entitlement displayed by those of Evergreen State College, Washington, in 2017.)

In a section titled “Professors vs. Professors,” Connelly describes what was perhaps “the most demoralizing experience” for faculty in those early years: the personal and professional attacks by some professors on their colleagues, leading to involuntary leave, early retirement, or dismissal. University administrations “voided the teaching qualifications of professors who had demonstrated a ‘hostile attitude toward the People’s Democratic regime’” and “voted to exclude fellow members who had been identified as politically untrustworthy” (p. 192). Others used this new political climate to “settle old scores.” In East Germany the “practice of voting against one’s colleagues was also widespread”; sometimes professors voted to send a colleague to the state security services for ideologically incorrect remarks, in one case for remarks critical of “distinguished leaders of the working class” (p. 193). The communist system depended on its ability to find examples of thoughtcrime, punish the offenders (whether guilty or not), and thus maintain a modicum of compliance and ideological consensus enforced by terror.

Flash forward to today, seventy years after Dr. Łobaczewski’s experience of political indoctrination at Jagiellonian University and the dawn of the politicization of higher education in Poland. In the summer of 2021, Polish conservative politician Ryszard Legutko, a professor emeritus of philosophy at Jagiellonian, sent a letter to the university rector decrying the creation and operation of an office of “Safety and Equal Treatment” at the school. According to the website of JU, the objectives of the “Department of Security, Safety and Equal Treatment,” are the “coordination of steps to ensure the personal safety and equal treatment of members of the JU community” and “providing support to victims of conduct that is discriminatory in nature or violates their personal safety.” Anyone with a passing familiarity with similar departments of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” in American universities will see the similarities, and the dangers.

The fact is, social justice ideology, with roots in “gender theory,” “critical race theory,” and the ever-growing list of unscientific “studies” departments, is a Trojan horse. On the surface level it promotes “diversity,” but enforces strict ideological conformity; “equity,” but only for its believers; and “inclusion,” but only of those who agree with them. If you have the temerity to disagree with them, you will be found guilt of “discrimination” (i.e., thought crime) and of endangering the “safety” (i.e., hurting the feelings) of “historically marginalized groups.” You will have proven yourself not diverse enough to be included, all in the name of equality or equity. Its logic is Kafkaesque and its morality is Orwellian.

In his letter of protest Legutko correctly noted that “in the last few decades, universities have become a breeding ground for aggressive ideology—censorship, control of language and thought, intimidation of rebellious academics, various compulsory training sessions to raise awareness, disciplinary measures and dismissal from work.” He added: “If we create a structure that is paid for and specially programmed to look for inequalities and discrimination, it is obvious that it will find them quite quickly to prove the reason for its existence, and sooner or later it will take steps that are taken at hundreds of other universities.” All but two of the thirty-plus faculty members of the department of philosophy then penned a response attacking Professor Legutko for his “grotesque” “attacks” on the university. “The Students” (a nameless collective reminiscent of the ubiquitous but mostly imaginary “The People” of communist fame) joined in on the action, responding to Legutko’s “discriminatory actions” and “words that violate the dignity of another human being,” thus demonstrating the truth of his argument. The students, after all, were “raised in a spirit of tolerance and respect for others.” As if that were relevant to Legutko’s concerns.

Łobaczewski, who died in 2007, must be turning in his grave. He warned about this over thirty years ago, but had been hopeful that Poland would escape a repeat of the mass madness that led to the communist revolutions, hostile takeovers, and infiltrations of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, his work remains obscure, and the window of opportunity in which it may have helped stave off disaster may already have passed. So who was Łobaczewski, and how can his ideas help to make sense of the madness we see taking over the Western world today?

The History of Political Ponerology

In the years after the imposition of communism on the countries of Eastern and Central Europe in the late 1940s, a group of scientists—primarily Polish, Hungarian, and Czech—secretly collaborated on a scientific study of the nature of totalitarianism. Blocked from meaningful contact with the West, their work remained secret both from the wider public in their own countries as well as from the outside scientific community.

Before his death in 2007, Andrzej Łobaczewski was the last known living member of this group. His book, Political Ponerology, contains the conclusions he formulated over his decades of experience living and working in communist Poland, and whatever other data he was able to gather from the other members of this group. An expert on psychopathy, he chose to christen their field of study “ponerology”—a synthesis of psychological, psychiatric, sociological, and historical studies on the nature and genesis of evil. Upon his request, two monks of the Benedictine Abbey in the historic Polish village of Tyniec provided the name. Derived from poneros in New Testament Greek, the word suggests an inborn evil with a corrupting influence, a fitting description of psychopathy and its social effects.

Practically all of what we know about this research comes from his book, though hints of it can be found elsewhere. Łobaczewski’s sole contact with the other researchers was through Stefan Szuman (1889–1972), a retired professor who passed along anonymous research summaries to members of the group. The consequences for being discovered were severe; scientists faced arrest, torture, or even “an accident at work,” so strict conspiracy was essential. They safeguarded themselves and their work by adopting the mode of operation learned during the past decade of resistance to Nazi and Soviet occupation. (Łobaczewski himself had been a member of the Home Army.) This way, if any were arrested and tortured, they could not reveal the names and locations of their confederates.

Łobaczewski only shared the names of two Polish professors of the previous generation who were involved in some way in the early stages of this work—Stefan Błachowski (1889–1962) and Kazimierz Dąbrowski (1902–1980). Błachowski apparently died under suspicious circumstances and Łobaczewski speculated that the state police murdered him for his part in the research. Around this time, Dąbrowski emigrated and, unwilling to renounce his Polish citizenship in order to work in the United States, took a position at the University of Alberta in Canada, where he was able to retain dual citizenship.

A close reading of Dąbrowski’s published works in English shows the theoretical roots of what would eventually become ponerology.
Like Łobaczewski, Dąbrowski considered psychopathy to be “the greatest obstacle in development of personality and social groups.” He warned: “The general inability to recognize the psychological type of such individuals causes immense suffering, mass terror, violent oppression, genocide and the decay of civilization… As long as the suggestive [i.e., hypnotic, “spellbinding”] power of the psychopath is not confronted with facts and with moral and practical consequences of his doctrine, entire social groups may succumb to his demagogic appeal” (The Dynamics of Concepts, pp. 40, 47). In one of the first explicit mentions of political psychopathy, he remarked that the extreme of ambition and lust for power and financial gain “is particularly evident in criminal or political psychopathy:”

Methods are developed for spreading dissension between groups (as in the maxim “divide et impera” [divide and rule]). Treason and deceit in politics are given justification and are presented as positive values. Principles of taking advantage of concrete situations are also developed. Political murder, execution of opponents, concentration camps and genocide are the product of political systems at the level of primary integration [i.e., psychopathy].“(Multilevelness of Emotional and Instinctive Functions, pp. 33, 153)

In a passage decades before its time, Dąbrowski observed that less “successful” psychopaths are to be found in prisons, while successful ones are to be found in positions of power (i.e., “among political and military national leaders, labor union bosses, etc.”). The concept of corporate or “successful” psychopathy only took off in the West in the last couple decades. He cited Hitler and Stalin as two examples of leaders characterized by this “affective retardation,” who both showed a “lack of empathy, emotional cold¬ness, unlimited ruthlessness and craving for power.”

Dąbrowski and Łobaczewski experienced this horror firsthand. In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland, after which they instituted a regime of terror that resulted in the deaths of an estimated six million Poles. As part of a larger goal of destroying all Polish cultural life, schools were closed and professors were arrested, sent to concentration camps, and some murdered. Psychiatry was outlawed. According to Jason Aronson of Harvard Medical School, the Nazis murdered the majority of practicing psychiatrists. Only 38 survived out of approximately 400 alive before the invasion (preface to Dąbrowski, Positive Disintegration, pp. ix–x). During this tumultuous time, Łobaczewski volunteered as a soldier for the Home Army, the underground Polish resistance organization, and his desire to study psychology grew.

The school that he would later attend, Jagiellonian University, suffered greatly during the war years as part of a general program to exterminate the intellectual elite of the city of Kraków. On November 6, 1939, 138 professors and staff were arrested and sent to concentration camps. They had been told that they were to attend a mandatory lecture on German plans for Polish education. Upon arrival, they were arrested in the lecture hall, along with everyone else present in the building. Thankfully, due to public protest, the majority were released a few months later.

Despite the university having been looted and vandalized by the Nazis, survivors of the operation managed to form an underground university in 1942. (Błachowski taught at one such underground university in Warsaw.) Regular lectures began again in 1945 and it was probably soon after that Łobaczewski began his studies at Jagiellonian, under professor of psychiatry Edward Brzezicki, and met Stefan Szuman, a renowned psychologist who taught there. As mentioned above, Szuman later acted as Łobaczewski’s clearinghouse for secret data and research in later years.

While Jagiellonian and the other Polish universities enjoyed a few years of freedom, this largely ended with the establishment of the Polish Democratic Republic in 1947 and the consolidation of power under Bierut the year after. Poland became a satellite state of the Soviet Union, the Party took control of higher education, medical and psychiatric services were socialized, and clinical psychiatry was completely hollowed out. Thus the “Stalinization” of Polish education and research picked up where Hitler left off. Connelly writes:

“Perhaps because of the strength of the old professoriate there, the breaking down of universities went furthest in Poland. … Restructuring shifted academic resources away from the humanities and social sciences. Previously, one could study philosophy at any university in Poland, save the state university (UMCS) in Lublin. Now, studies in philosophy, psychology, or pedagogy were possible only in Warsaw” (pp. 60–61).

Łobaczewski’s class was thus the last one to be taught by the old psychology professors in Kraków, who were considered “ideologically incorrect” by the powers that be. As Łobaczewski tells it, it was only in their last year of schooling (1951), described above, that they fully felt the reach of the party into university life. This experience of the inhuman “new reality” was to inspire the course of Łobaczewski’s research for the rest of his life, just as the war had inspired his interest in psychology.

Born in 1921, Łobaczewski grew up in a modest manor house in the Subcarpathian Province of Poland, “among old trees, dogs and horses.” He practiced beekeeping, working on the farm during summers. After the war, he graduated from a mechanical high school and earned a living as a builder. During the three decades he spent living under communism after graduating, he worked in general and mental hospitals and as an industrial psychologist in the mining industry. While he was not allowed to pursue a career in academia, the intensified conditions of life in Poland provided ample opportunities to conduct his own research and to improve his skills in clinical diagnosis—skills he found to be essential for coming to terms with this new social reality. He was also able to give psychotherapy to those who suffered the most under such harsh rule.

Soon after the secret research project began in the late 1950s, the group tasked Łobaczewski with researching the various mental disorders contributing to the phenomenon. Originally, he only contributed a small part of the research, focusing mostly on psychopathy. The name of the person responsible for completing the final synthesis was kept secret, but the work never saw the light of day. All of Łobaczewski’s contacts became inoperative in the post-Stalin wave of repression in the early 1960s and he was left only with the data that had already come into his possession. All the rest was lost forever, whether burned or locked in some secret police archive.

Faced with this hopeless situation, he decided to finish the work on his own. Despite his efforts in secrecy, the political authorities came to suspect that he possessed “dangerous” knowledge. One Austrian scientist with whom Łobaczewski had corresponded turned out to be an agent of the secret police, and Łobaczewski was arrested and tortured three times during this period. While working on the first draft of his book in 1968, the locals of the village in which he was working warned him of an imminent secret police raid. Łobaczewski had just enough time to burn the work in his central heating furnace before their arrival. Years later, in 1977, the Roman correspondent for Radio Free Europe, to whom Łobaczewski had spoken about his work, denounced him to the Polish authorities. Given the option of a fourth arrest or “voluntary” exile to the United States, Łobaczewski chose the latter and made his way to the USA. He left the country with practically nothing.

Upon arrival in New York City, the Polish security apparatus utilized their contacts in the city to block Łobaczewski’s access to jobs in his field. In the case of scientists living abroad, the Polish secret police’s modus operandi was to use dupes and “useful idiots,” suggesting certain courses of action to American Communist Party members who then gullibly carried them out. Łobaczewski was thus forced to take a job doing manual labor, writing the final draft of his book in the early hours before work. Having lost most of the statistical data and case studies with his papers, he included only those he could remember and focused primarily on the observations and conclusions based on his and others’ decades of study, as well as a study of literature written by victims of such regimes.

Once the book was completed in 1984 and a suitable translation made into English the following year, he was unable to get it published. The psychology editors told him it was “too political,” and the political editors told him it was “too psychological.” He enlisted the help of his compatriot, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who had just previously served as President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser and who initially praised the book and promised to help get it published. Unfortunately, after some time spent corresponding, Brzezinski became silent, responding only to the effect that it was a pity it hadn’t worked out. In Łobaczewski’s words, “he strangled the matter.” In the end, a small printing of copies for academics was the only result, and these failed to have any significant influence on academics and reviewers.

Suffering from severely poor health, Łobaczewski returned to Poland in 1990, where he published another book and transcribed the manuscript of Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes onto his computer. He eventually sent this copy to the editors of Red Pill Press, who published the book in 2006. His health once more failing, he died just over a year later, in November of 2007.

What Is Ponerology?

In the opening of Chapter V of his book, Dr. Andrew Łobaczewski asks the reader to picture himself in a large, gothic university building: the lecture hall of Jagiellonian University mentioned above. He thus places us, his readers, in his own place, to experience for ourselves what he experienced. He then proceeds to recount the experiences catalyzed by the “new professor,” which would determine and inspire the rest of his personal and professional life, and ultimately, the conclusions contained in his book. His hope is that we will thus learn what he came to learn only after many years of suffering and effort, and possibly avoid a fate similar to that of all those who suffered under one of the worst tyrannies of human history.

It is an apt literary conceit, because within this recollection are all the essential features of his subject: the nature of that phenomenon most often called totalitarianism. Though he didn’t know it at the time, his encounter with the new professor and the effect of that professor on a small percentage of the student body represented a microcosm of the phenomenon then metastasizing in Poland. This phenomenon would go on to characterize the nations within the sphere of the Soviet Union’s influence for the next forty years.

The tyranny of an entire empire played itself out in that lecture hall. The new professor played the role of petty tyrant, a Dolores Umbridge–type figure spewing ideological drivel with the self-certainty of a revolutionary zealot, ruling with an iron fist, and enforcing rules that violated all prior norms of common decency and scientific respectability. The reaction among most students was one of psychological shock. Social and emotional bonds were broken, and the class quickly became polarized along somewhat mysterious lines. Not all students were repulsed by the professor’s personality, boorish behavior, and nonsensical ideas. Some 6% were swayed to his side, aping his manner, adopting his ideology, and turning on their former friends and colleagues. For some this was only temporary, but others joined the Party, becoming petty tyrants themselves. But only ever 6%. There was a natural limit to the number of recruits the professor could fish out of student body.

The odd thing about this new division was that it replicated itself at every social level. Whether in the village or the city, among the rich or poor, religious or atheist, educated or not, the new division sliced straight through all prior social divisions. And for the next forty years, this 6% formed the core of the new leadership, as if they were individual iron filings attracted by the pull of some invisible magnet, the criteria for which bore no resemblance to those which had previously obtained, like talent, merit, virtue, wealth, or experience.

Łobaczewski argues that communism was not just a “different” political or economic system. Those categories cannot adequately explain its inhuman brutality and mendacity. (Nor can they adequately explain the periods of madness that precede such systems coming into being.) Rather, he and his colleagues were convinced that communism represented a “macrosocial pathological phenomenon,” a social disease and a pathologically inverted social system. The Bolsheviks didn’t just take over the Russian Empire; the revolution was not just a coup, as if one political party was violently kicked out and another moved in to take its place, one that just happened to have different policy objectives and plans for the empire. No, there was something fundamentally different about the Bolsheviks that distinguished them from other political groups, something in addition to, and behind, their ideology. In the decades following the revolution, the Soviets proceeded to completely destroy the existing social structure and replace it with something fundamentally new and different. For Łobaczewski, the only thing that came close to providing an adequate description of the nature of this phenomenon was the language of psychology, specifically the field of psychopathology.

The radical restructuring of society during these years—helped along by violent purges at all levels—was in reality an enforced psychological selection process. In a normal and healthy society, social relations and status are governed by certain psychological criteria based on human nature, like talent, competence, and virtue. A computer programmer should be able to program. His boss should be competent. And people in positions of power and influence should have a degree of personal virtue and good character. Those caught up in legitimate scandal—for corruption, breaches of basic morality, and criminal activity—lose their good standing in society. Those who grossly violate basic social norms are penalized, like psychopaths, who make up something like 20% of the American prison population.

No society is perfect in this regard, but on the whole, this is how humanity tends to self-select in ideal conditions, and the degree to which a society’s individuals are well suited to their occupation and social position is a good measure of the health of said society. By necessity this society will be stratified. Some will always be richer than others, smarter, more talented and successful, and there will always be criteria (some more arbitrary than others) for inclusion in the higher classes.

The revolution and its reproduction in Eastern Europe, as a great leveler, destroyed all this. It tore down the previous social strata and their foundations (like merit, education, wealth), and replaced them with deviant psychological criteria. Like a criminal gang in which one must “prove oneself” by participation in violence, the criteria for inclusion in the “new class,” to use Milovan Djilas’ phrase, were distinctly psychopathological. As Gary Saul Morson writes:

“Lenin worked by a principle of anti-empathy, and this approach was to define Soviet ethics. I know of no other society, except those modeled on the one Lenin created, where schoolchildren were taught that mercy, kindness, and pity are vices. After all, these feelings might lead one to hesitate shooting a class enemy or denouncing one’s parents. The word ‘conscience’ went out of use, replaced by ‘consciousness’ (in the sense of Marxist-Leninist ideological consciousness).”

It should come as no surprise that a system that promoted the absence of conscience came to be dominated by those without conscience: psychopaths. In fact, Łobaczewski’s “new professor” wasn’t just an uneducated Communist Party hack. He was also a psychopath.

The science of psychopathy was still in its infancy at the time of the Russian Revolution, and the first scientific works that would go on to shape the course of future research would only be published decades later in 1941 (Cleckley and Karpman). Łobaczewski, lacking access to these and future developments from the West, came to similar conclusions about the subject independently, finding confirmation of his own thinking only after moving to New York.

But he was well prepared for a study of what was happening in the years to come. Jagiellonian at that time boasted a formidable psychology and psychiatry department—until the new political leadership ideologically neutered it (relevant textbooks were soon “memory-holed” and subdisciplines banned). No one educated from that point on had the necessary facts at their disposal, and the totalitarian nature of the new social and political system meant that research not only couldn’t be procured from abroad; it couldn’t be shared within the country without the risk of arrest, torture, or death.

Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by a range of interpersonal-affective traits and antisocial behaviors. Psychopaths are manipulative and charming. They’re also ruthless and completely self-centered. They don’t feel emotion the way other people do. They feel no guilt, shame, or fear. They’re the type of person to sell out their own mother, all while convincingly assuring others of what great, loving sons they are. The most widely used assessment tool is Robert D. Hare’s Psychopath Checklist-Revised. Here are its items: glibness/superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, conning/manipulative, lack of remorse or guilt, shallow affect, callous/lack of empathy, failure to accept responsibility, need for stimulation, parasitic lifestyle, no realistic long-term goals, impulsivity, irresponsibility, poor behavioral controls, early behavioral problems, revoke conditional release, criminal versatility.

In a normal society, a substantial number of psychopaths are in prison or part of the criminal class. Making up an estimated 1% of the general population, researcher Kent Kiehl argues that the vast majority (over 90%) of adult male psychopaths are either in prison or otherwise caught up in the American criminal justice system, e.g., on parole or probation. A substantial number of “successful” psychopaths can be found working for temp agencies. Needless to say, they make for poor employees.

However, the most gifted successful psychopaths—more intelligent and less impulsive than those found in prison—may con their way into positions of influence and prestige (though, as with the gifted generally, they will be outnumbered by their more mediocre counterparts).

Canadian psychologist Robert D. Hare, the world’s leading expert on psychopathy, once remarked that if didn’t study psychopaths in prison, he would do so at the stock exchange. Such “snakes in suits” may be overrepresented in such places, he writes, “on the assumption that psychopathic entrepreneurs and risk-takers tend to gravitate toward financial watering-holes, particularly those that are enormously lucrative and poorly regulated.” Conning comes naturally to psychopaths: even experts with years of experience interacting with them are regularly fooled. Cleckley called this expertise in impression management a “mask of sanity” (also the title of his classic book on the subject).

In communism, by contrast, Łobaczewski found this reality reversed. Practically all of society’s psychopaths integrated into the new system; the number approached 100%. It was their presence and influence that was responsible for alien, brutal, and anti-human nature of totalitarian regimes, their methods, and the surreal quality of the new system. Imagine a system of government where all of these individuals—career criminals, irresponsible freeloaders, incompetent egotists, and savvy manipulators—find themselves in positions of influence within every social institution: at all levels of government, the military, federal and local police, the courts, education, business, factories, homeowners’ associations, youth groups.

A resident of Lijiang, Yunnan, described how this looked in practice during Mao’s revolution: “All the scamps and the village bullies, who had not done a stroke of honest work in their life, suddenly blossomed forth as the accredited members of the Communist Party, and swaggered with special armbands and badges and the peculiar caps … which seemed to be the hallmark of the Chinese Red” (quoted in Frank Dikötter, The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945–1957, p. 197). This process, which took place over decades in China and the USSR, was artificially reproduced in Eastern Europe over the course of about a decade after WWII.

One of the primary questions ponerology seeks to answer is what gives totalitarianism its defining “flavor,” in all its varieties. Though Nazi Germany, the USSR, Mao’s China, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia all had important and sometimes profound differences, the similarities were significant enough that political scientists have tended to classify them all as “totalitarian.” But while the classic studies of totalitarianism have important insights, one can’t escape the feeling that they are missing something important, that they haven’t grasped the crux of the matter. It is like trying to focus on an object that remains forever in your peripheral vision—you know it is there, but can’t quite make out the details.

The common factor, according to Łobaczewski, is psychopathy, which shapes the motivations, goals, and practices of the new system (other personality disorders also play a role). Just as a personal encounter with a psychopath can leave one bewildered, terrorized, and demoralized (and broke)—especially when one does not know what exactly one has just experienced—so too does an encounter with psychopathy on the macrosocial level.

Psychopaths see and experience the world differently. They think the world owes them something—or everything—and they have zero qualms about using any and all means necessary to get what they want and keep it, whether terror, torture, murder, or extermination. If conditions don’t permit those means, they’re happy standing over the ruins of your reputation or your career. The type of world they dream about is the one where they’re in charge, not “normies” with their naïve morality, religion, tradition, and virtue. Those are for suckers. They want “freedom,” “liberation,” “equality,” “utopia,” but not in a form any normal reasonable person would imagine.

In the last century, political psychopaths used convenient ideologies like communism, fascism, and Islamism to achieve absolute power in multiple countries—ideologies with wide appeal and enough public support to carry them to the top, often unbeknownst to the naïve true believers caught up in the madness and clearing the way for them. (When the time comes, it is the true believers’ turn to be purged.) Social justice is just such an ideology. This is why it is a Trojan horse. To its critics, it is bad enough on the surface, as the ideologies themselves are simplistic, destructive, and often just plan wrong. But it’s worse than even they imagine. Such ideologies are the means by which social structures are completely destroyed and replaced by pathological caricatures.

While Łobaczewski’s description of this social disease (pathocracy, rule by the diseased) and the role of psychopathy is groundbreaking and essential for understanding totalitarianism, another feature of his work is even more important for Western society to understand at this moment: how pathocracy develops in the first place. Łobaczewski’s own initiation into the mysteries of pathocracy was unwittingly facilitated by the “new professor.” As he writes:

“He spoke with zeal, but there was nothing scientific about it: he failed to distinguish between scientific concepts and popular beliefs. He treated such borderline notions as though they were wisdom that could not be doubted. For ninety minutes each week, he flooded us with naive, presumptuous paralogistics and a pathological view of world and human affairs. We were treated with contempt and poorly controlled hatred. Since scoffing and making jokes could entail dreadful consequences, we had to listen attentively and with the utmost gravity” (Political Ponerology, ch. 5, forthcoming).

Describing the students who fell under the sway of the new professor, he writes: “They gave the impression of possessing some secret knowledge  We had to be careful of what we said to them.” Unfortunately, these descriptions are not far off from what is experienced today by students in university classes across the Western world, first within the various “studies” departments and now increasingly university-wide. The ideology of “social justice” has moved from the unscientific fringes of the academy (like feminist, gender, queer, and race studies) into the mainstream: corporations, media, entertainment, politics, the military. “Diversity, equity, and inclusion” are current ideological buzzwords of the day.

Something is happening in the Western world—something eerily familiar to the events which took their course (with variations) in the various revolutions of the twentieth century, from the Russian Revolution of 1917 to Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

While seeds of this process can be traced back to weaknesses and contradictions inherent in the philosophies that form the bedrock of our current sociopolitical systems, the intellectual lineage of the current social justice ideology tracks back to the postmodernism and critical theory/New Left of the 1960s and 1970s. In their book, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity – and Why This Harms Everybody, Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay describe these ideological “mutations” as follows:

“[T]hese ideas mutated, solidified, and were made politically actionable in a set of new Theories that emerged in the late 1980s and 1990s [“applied postmodernism”].  [B]eginning around 2010, [the second evolution of these ideas] asserted the absolute truth of the postmodern principles and themes [“reified postmodernism”].  This change occurred when scholars and activists combined the existing Theories and Studies into a simple, dogmatic methodology, best known simply as ‘Social Justice scholarship’” (p. 17).

Eastern Europeans living in or visiting the United States experience a troubling sense of déjà vu. Łobaczewski writes about the social climate of the USA during the 1980s: “Grey-haired Europeans living in the U.S. today are struck by the similarity between these phenomena and the ones dominating Europe at the times of their youth [i.e., pre-WWI].”

But whereas Europeans in the 1980s saw conditions in America as similar to turn-of-the-century Europe, today they see America as increasingly totalitarian and resembling life under communist ideology. In his book, Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents, journalist Rod Dreher writes: “I spoke with many men and women who had once lived under communism. I asked them  Did they also think that life in America is drifting toward some sort of totalitarianism? They all said yes—often emphatically” (p. xi). The same can be said for Chinese immigrants.

Professor Ryszard Legutko’s 2016 book, The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies (originally written in 2012) was one of the first to identify these tendencies in democratic countries. His first inkling came on a visit to the U.S. during the ’70s upon witnessing the “extraordinary meekness and empathy coward communism” among several liberal-democratic friends. These thoughts were renewed in the wake of 1989, when Polish anticommunists were seen as a threat to liberal democracy; and further in the ’90s through his experience working in the European Parliament—“a stifling atmosphere typical of a political monopoly.”

In philosophy professor Zbigniew Janowski’s Homo Americanus: The Rise of Totalitarian Democracy in America, he writes:

“Only few Americans seem to understand that we, here in the United States, are living in a totalitarian reality, or one that is quickly approaching it. Any visitor from a country formerly behind the totalitarian Iron Curtain quickly notices that the lack of freedom in today’s America is, in many respects, greater than what he had experienced under socialism  the behavior of today’s Americans is painfully reminiscent of the old Homo Sovieticus, and even more of the Chinese man of the period of the Cultural Revolution” (pp. 1, 12).

And on the current political climate, Dreher writes:

“In the West today, we are living under decadent, pre-totalitarian conditions. Social atomization, widespread loneliness, the rise of ideology, widespread loss of faith in institutions, and other factors leave society vulnerable to the totalitarian temptation to which both Russia and Germany succumbed in the previous century” (p. 93).

Over the last few years, observers from all parts of the political spectrum have made similar observations about the increasingly totalitarian nature of Western (particularly North American) politics and culture. Several, like Janowski, have been published by The Postil, including sociologist Mathieu Bock-Côté, political scientist Wayne Cristaudo, and humanities professor Paul Gottfried. Others include professor of international relations Angelo Codevilla, political scientist Gordon M. Hahn, mathematician James Lindsay, liberal scholar Michael Rectenwald, and feminist author Naomi Wolf.

What they are seeing is not just the emergence of totalitarianism in the West, though it is certainly that. Whether our future more resembles Huxley’s Brave New World or Orwell’s 1984 remains to be seen. Our gulags may simply be social credit house arrest. Or it may be the case that Huxley must necessarily transform into Orwell. Reading Łobaczewski suggests the latter, unless a society’s social structure, norms, religion, traditions, and institutions are strong enough to repel the assault. Unfortunately, one look at the state of such things in the West doesn’t leave much room for hope.


Harrison Koehli is a collector of obscure ideas, co-host of the MindMatters podcast, and Canadian by birth. He is currently editing a new, revised and expanded edition of Andrew Łobaczewski’s book, Political Ponerology.


The featured image shows the “Allegory of Bad Government,” by Ambrogio Lorenzetti; painted ca. 1338-1340.

A Letter From The Women Of Afghanistan: “Please Do Not Forget Us!”

An Introduction To The Letter

In February 2020, the U.S. and the Taliban signed an agreement, in which it was agreed that the U.S. and NATO forces would leave Afghanistan, the Taliban would reduce violence, cut ties with Al-Qaeda and engage in peace talks with the Afghan government. The Taliban have not been committed to any reduction in violence or cutting ties with other terrorist groups in the region, nor have the peace talks resulted in peace. In April 2021, president Biden announced the withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Afghanistan, a decision that made other NATO members also withdraw their forces. The withdrawal of the American and NATO forces is almost complete. This further emboldened the Taliban.

Since April, Afghanistan has seen an alarming rise in conflict and violence, the result of which has been mass displacement, unprecedented civilian casualties, and severe economic damage to the already struggling country. After seizing about half of all the 420 districts, the Taliban advanced towards the city centers, attacking areas near airports. Now, of the 34 city centers, six have fallen to the Taliban. Herat and Kandahar airports have remained closed for several days, making travel from these zones to Kabul impossible.

Previously, Afghan forces had the support of the US and NATO forces. But now they continuously face shortage of water, food, ammunition, and the necessary logistic support they need to carry on the fight against the Taliban. As the Taliban rapidly took over districts and revived their harsh Islamic Sharia, civilians left their homes and moved to the major cities, such as Herat in the west, Kabul in the center and Mazar-e Sharif in the south. The families internally displaced into the big cities are facing a food shortage, as they cannot go back to their original provinces, neither can they continue to live in bigger cities where they have ended up living in the streets and temporary tents.

The UN reported in July a 47 percent increase in civilian casualties in the first six months of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020. Women, girls and children are the ones paying the highest price of the ongoing war. The same UN report indicates an 82 percent increase in women casualties in the first six months of 2021. According to the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, 176 schools have been destroyed in the last few months, depriving more children from getting an education.

In the areas currently captured by the Taliban, the group’s fighters have not only banned women and girls’ access to education, work and health services, but have also subjected women and girls to inhumane and degrading treatment. There are reports by Kabul-based newspapers that in the non-Pashtun areas, Taliban fighters have used sexual violence and jihad-ul Nikah – a phrase apparently used first by ISIS fighters in Iraq— referring to sexual violence and abuse of women and treating them as property and reward for jihad. There are dozens of videos circulating on social media showing the Taliban fighters flogging women in public for not wearing a Burqa and not being accompanied by a male member. Many of the displaced families say the reason for their fleeing their homes is the fear that their female members could be treated in a degrading way by the Taliban or even being taken away by the jihadist fighters. Some feared the Taliban would force their male children to be recruited as Taliban fighters, which is yet another reason thousands of families left their original districts and moved to the cities.

As the situation is getting worse in Afghanistan, a number of women and girls, mostly from or currently based in Herat City, under attack by the Taliban, spoke about their worries and fears when the Taliban return, and what they think the international community could do to protect women and their rights in Afghanistan. To safeguard their identities, the names of those who participated have been changed to pseudonyms.


We are a group of women writing from Herat, a very ancient city, founded by Alexander the Great, and famous for its beauty, its monuments and parks, which will turn into a prison to us. The Taliban control all the districts of our province. They have closed the border with Iran, and so we can escape neither by road nor by air because the airport is closed.

All the cities of our country are besieged by the Taliban who control the rest of the territory. Many people want to escape from the cities, because of the gunfire and the bombardment. But they cannot escape; and [those who came from districts and villages to the cities in search of safety] must now live in the streets and in temporary tents. The people will soon run out of food supply, and the army out of food and ammunition.

In the Taliban-controlled áreas, 176 schools are already closed. The Taliban have prohibited girls’ education, and many of those over 15 have been subjected to forced marriage. The Taliban distribute women as war loot, violate and flog them in public. The boys are forcibly recruited as child-soldiers. This will be the destiny that await us if our city falls into their hands.

Therefore, before our voices go silent and our faces disappear, we want to send you these messages, hiding our real names, so that we not disappear into oblivion forever.

Sara from Bamyan, “I am worried about my three daughters. We have nowhere to go. People say, ‘When the Taliban took the Saighan and Kahmard districts of Bamian, they forcibly entered people’s homes and searched for women’s clothing to find out about the number of females in each home.’ They [the Taliban] have been reported to take women and young girls forcibly with them. I wish rather that my daughter die in a dignified way, than to be taken into the hands of the Taliban.”

Amina, 28, journalist from Herat, who escaped Afghanistan to Europe in 2020, “I am in Europe safe, but with every bad news I am deeply shaken. I cannot sleep, neither can I focus on anything. I am neither alive nor dead. I feel ashamed and useless.”

Roya, 23, student at Herat University, “The only thing the Taliban were remembered for was violence and inhumane treatment of women. Once again, the Taliban are today becoming part of our painful realities of life. The international community needs to realize that if the Taliban are not stopped now, there will come a moment the international community will regret.”

Marjan, 19, student of fine arts, Herat, “Recently, I have read the book, The Last Girl, by Nadia Murad [the Yazidi human rights activist and co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize]. What Nadia has narrated about the horrible crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq is quite similar to the way the Taliban fighters are evolving, particularly the Taliban’s enslaving of women and girls, which the Islamists call, ‘jihad-ul Nikah.’ I think the international community, particularly the US and other free countries who value women rights, should rethink the Taliban and decide between a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and enslavement of around 16 million women and girls, or stopping the terrorist group of the Taliban.”

Elham, 21, student of economics at a private university, Herat “A Taliban return would damage the already poor economy of the country. The Taliban are skilled in committing atrocities, but they don’t know how to run a country. The international community must not leave Afghanistan on its own; the least they should do is put all possible pressure on the Taliban and stop them, before they establish themselves as a state. Because then the world will have to deal with one more terrorist state.”

Tamana Begum, 24, school teacher, Herat, “If the Taliban are not stopped, I fear I might have to take all my dreams with me to the grave. The world must know that Afghan women have not been responsible for conducting any wars, but have always been victims of war, conflict and violence carried out by men.”

Sahar, 26, “With the Taliban advancing towards the cities, and hearing about the group’s degrading treatment of women, I can barely fall asleep. If the terrorist group enters the cities, I fear they might kill a family member, they might flog me in public for wearing sport shoes or for not wearing a burka. I don’t know what to ask the world to do for Afghanistan.”

Safia, 26, Bamyan, “I have been studying for over 16 years. I have the dream of becoming a university professor someday, but a Taliban return would mean I would have to be imprisoned inside the home and die gradually. The world must not ignore the threat the Taliban pose for women.”

Hava, 25, Herat, “I kindly request the decision-makers of the countries who supported Afghanistan in the last two decades, those who value human rights and women rights to watch the documentary ‘Behind the Veil’ [ ] by Saira Shah and think of each of the number of the civilian dead as a human worthy of a life of dignity, just like their own citizens. Then decide what to do with the Taliban. We know the Afghan state is paying the price of its two decades of flexibility with the terrorist group of the Taliban. But think of the many millions of women who have not had any role in waging this meaningless war and violence, but are affected by it the most.”

Angela, 18, high school student, “Every day when I wake up, the first thing I think of is doing my taekwondo exercise to one day represent Afghanistan in the Olympics. Thousands of other girls have similar dreams similar to mine, and I want the world, particularly the Secretary-General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, to imagine a situation in which a group enters his city by force and makes announcements on radio, TV and the internet that from a certain date on, his children cannot go to school, neither can they follow their dreams of becoming someone they want. What would you think would be best thing to do with such a group?”

Khatera, 26, “I am a woman. I am a Hazara. I run a small business. I hold a degree in sociology. Each of what I am is a problem, a sin and a crime according to the Taliban. That is the case with millions of other women. As I have to take care of my old mother and cannot leave Afghanistan, a Taliban takeover would mean the end of all my dreams and plans, and even my life. What I want the international community, and the countries who value women and human rights, is that they rethink everything about Afghanistan and the Taliban. I want the international community to think of the situation in which they say, ‘We could have prevented all these atrocities and crimes perpetuated by the Taliban, but we walked away.”

Fatima, 30, history teacher at a school, Herat, “After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country experienced a bloody civil war, and when the Taliban took power from 1996-2001, thousands of men were already killed, leaving thousands of women widowed. The Taliban banned work for women. Poverty and hunger forced many women to engage in prostitution under the most inhumane conditions. Those involved in prostitution were arrested and stoned in public spaces, mostly on Fridays in stadiums. I am afraid this history will repeat. I think the Taliban must be stopped before it is too late.”

We are Sara, Amirna, Roya, Marjan, Elham, Tamna begum, Sahar, Safia, Hava, Angela, Khatera, and Fatima.

We are somehow sure that no one can help us – but, please, remember that we too were living once. When we have disappeared into silence, please, reread what remains of our thoughts and out feelings.

Herat, Afghanistan, August, 2021.


The featured image shows an untitled piece by an Afghan woman artist. The name on the painting is illegible. If anyone knows the identity of this piece and its painter, please let us know.

What Really Happened In Afghanistan?

Early in 2021, Afghanistan once again found itself in a situation similar to the early 1990s, when the Soviet Army withdrew from the country. The then president, a technocrat educated in the Soviet Union, was head of the government in the communist system, installed by the USSR. Poverty, war and violence were widespread. The opposing forces wanted to establish an Islamic system.

The result was an end of support from the Soviet Union, overthrow of the communist government by the mujahideen (the Arabic term for those carrying out jihad; the term also means “strugglers”), civil war between different ethnic groups of mujahedeen, and later the Taliban regime’s takeover of the country and their hosting of Al-Qaeda, which planned the 9/11 attacks from inside Afghanistan – which made the international community and the US intervene in Afghanistan. The Taliban regime was toppled.

There were significant changes in the ensuing 20 years, particularly valuable achievements were made in the cities. But despite all the achievements, Afghanistan remained a poor, violent, corrupt, and one of the worst countries for women, children, and religious and ethnic minorities. As in the 1990s, at the start of 2021, the Afghan president was a technocrat – but this time educated in the US and president of a government backed by the US and the liberal West. The opposing forces, however, were still the same, claiming that they wanted to establish a pure Islamic emirate, in which they would apply their Islamic Sharia.

After the withdrawal of the Soviet Army from Afghanistan in 1989, the Afghan government fell under the mujahideen. There was a bloody civil war in the country, and finally the Taliban took power. Between the years 1996-2001, the Taliban carried out massacres against ethnic and religious minorities, such as, the massacres of the Hazaras in Mazar-e Sharif and Bamyan provinces. As part of the application of their Islamic Sharia, the Taliban flogged and stoned hundreds of women publicly, punished thousands of people for simple things, such as, shaving the beard, having a “western” hair style, having books in foreign languages, listening to music or watching films. As part of their foreign policy, they established close ties with Islamic fundamentalist states such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan (the only three states that recognized the Taliban) and some other Arab states.

Moreover, the Taliban provided shelter to Al-Qaeda, the most dangerous terrorist organization of the time, which planned the 9/11 attacks. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the United States used its right to Self-defense, a right ensured to States by article 51 of the UN Charter. At the same time, the United States requested its allies to join the war on terror and use their right to “collective defense” given by the same article of the UN Charter. As a result, NATO countries for the first time invoked their article 5, which provides that an “armed attack against one NATO member is an attack against all members and so they will take actions to assist their Ally.” That was how the war against terrorism in Afghanistan started. Primarily, the military camps of Al-Qaeda and Taliban were destroyed and then the Taliban regime was ousted from power.

After the Taliban was toppled, the US also got engaged in nation-building in Afghanistan. The Bonn Conference was held in Germany, which paved the way for an interim government to be formed by representatives of different ethnic and religious groups in an inclusive manner. The interim government, as part of its duties, held a loya jirga (traditional grand council) to make a new constitution, which was ratified in 2004, and in theory, guaranteed some freedom, as long as said freedom did not contravene any religious teaching of Islam. Although some form of religious freedom could be inferenced from the constitution, Islam was established as the official religion of the state.

The main issue with the new constitution was that, as in the last century, it centralizes the power to the center, something that alienates different peoples, as they cannot even select their province and district governors. However, one of the most important thing about the new constitution is that, in theory, it allowed women and girls to enter schools and universities, and the social and political arena.

State institutions were built from scratch. Universities and schools were opened for both women and men, although in many provinces women could never attend schools and universities in large number. Operations against terrorism were carried out, along with development projects in many parts of the country; and despite widespread corruption in the Afghan government a lot of progress was made in communication, media and many other areas. All that progress came at a huge human and financial cost, both for the international Community and for the people of Afghanistan.

Despite all the hard-won achievements and changes, many things did not go well. And so on August 15, 2021, Afghanistan fell and a serious human tragedy began. To understand why things ended the disastrous way they did, there is a need to carefully delve into the past. One of the reasons why things did not go well was because the US, NATO and the Afghan government did not pay attention to how the Taliban transformed itself over time. Thus, the US and NATO always had a static, monolithic understanding of the Taliban, while the Taliban and its strategy kept evolving.

The Greek historian Thucydides explained that war was waged for three reasons: honor, fear and interest. In the case of Afghanistan, many argued it was honor (in both religious and tribal context) for which the Taliban continued to wage war, after they were toppled by a US-led coalition in 2001.

Others argued that the irrational Taliban continued the war simply because they were manipulated by a charismatic leader (Mullah Omar), were indoctrinated in religious madrasas, were closely tied to the Pashtunwali culture that valued avenging dead relatives and blood vengeance. However, these arguments were only partly true. While culture had a significant role in shaping the Taliban’s way of war, the group and its war were explicable within familiar strategic concepts both classical and more contemporary. The Taliban had developed a strategy to succeed and ultimately became winners.

Afghans are more generally survivalists. In that sense, the Taliban, formed primarily by Pashtuns, are no different than the rest of the people. Despite the fact that religiously the Taliban believe in the other world and praise martyrdom, in the battle ground, their top priority is not directly going to paradise, but to survive and succeed. The same survivalist nature is the key to explaining why, in the conflict areas, people change sides, always siding with the expected winner, or playing both to avoid recrimination by the possible top-dog.

In 2001, the Taliban was toppled by the US-led coalition in the course of just a few weeks and by 2006 many American and NATO authorities counted the Taliban as ultimately defeated. However, some historians and military analysts were skeptical of the narrative that said the Taliban were dead. Some years later, the skeptics were proven right. The Taliban, who were pronounced dead several times, refused to die, and went through a process of transforming into the “neo-Taliban” – they gradually adapted to changes that could help them reach their strategic objective of becoming the winner.

Thus, after being toppled, the Taliban gradually emerged and secretly started spreading their handwritten messages in the form of “night letters,” face-to-face warnings, and in some cases, radio broadcasts, emphasizing the narrative that time was on their side and the infidels would have to leave. The Taliban leader Mullah Omar had said, “…the Americans and NATO have all the watches, but we [the Taliban] have all the time…”

As the Taliban positions were being bombed since 2001, they exploited territorial bases in Pakistan to survive, and replenished their manpower with fresh recruits of stateless, transnational jihadists with expertise, money, and weapons, but also with Pashtun, Arab, Uzbek, Chechen and other volunteers. Then the Taliban carried out periodic offensives, mobilized Afghan riots among civilians alienated from the state because of food shortage and the state’s great corruption and failure.

While in power, the Taliban practiced and imposed strict Sharia and “pure” Islam. On the battlefields, the Taliban started to sacrifice their culturally and religiously-rooted beliefs and taboos for survival and success. For example, despite the religious and cultural emphasis on human remains to be buried, the Taliban fighters usually left the bodies of their dead behind and did not risk removing them from the battleground. The “neo-Taliban” resorted to Al Qaeda-style tactics – roadside explosives, kidnappings. That was well-calculated – because the international and Afghan forces were not affected as much by five days of fighting as much as they were affected, for example, by a suicide attack or a roadside bomb.

The Taliban are mainly formed by Pashtuns, but as part of their evolving policy to gain popularity, the group tried to include the rival groups such as Tajiks and Uzbeks in their movement. They were very successful in that. For instance, provinces such as Badakhshan, Takhar, and Kundoz, which are Tajik and Uzbek dominated respectively, fell to the Taliban very easily this year. It was partly because the Tajik and Uzbek locals were divided and many became vulnerable to Taliban ideology.

The Taliban even tried to recruit Hazaras —a group different from the Taliban ethnically, linguistically, and religiously— but were unsuccessful simply because Hazaras remember the Taliban’s ethnic cleansing and massacring of thousands of Hazaras in Mazar-e Sharif and Bamyan and thus still fear their return.

While in power, the Taliban were known for technophobia. The Taliban’s Sharia police were breaking devices such as television and computers. But in the recent years, the “neo-Taliban” have vastly been using every means of technology to spread their propaganda. By 2006, the Taliban had representatives in Iraq to learn video production from Al-Qaeda, so that they could use produce videos and publish them on the internet.

Considering the fact that the Taliban considered depiction of humans as evil, the use of new technology was revolutionary. Similarly, when in power, the Taliban punished people for listening to music; but in the last few years the group has used music with religious content as a way to spread their propaganda, strengthen the morale of their fighters and deliver their message in the most suitable way to the illiterate people. Like modern fascism, the Taliban hates modernity, but wants the benefits of its technology.

The coalition and the Afghan government destroyed opium fields, but the Taliban offered protection and defense of the opium fields, which made the group more attractive to the Pashtun locals in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, in which the largest percentage of the world’s opium is produced. The Taliban’s protection of the opium fields and its direct involvement in the drug industry, although in opposition to their religious beliefs and their leader Mullah Omar’s fatwa in 2001 to ban poppy cultivation, was strategically calculated, and provided the Taliban with an annual income of around $420 million.

The Taliban also used the time during which the US was engaged in Iraq and allocated much of its manpower, spending and political capital to the war in that country, and during which time, Afghanistan was not the priority. For example, in 2007 there were 27000 American troops in Afghanistan, while in Iraq the number was around 155000. This neglect helped the Taliban to strengthen even more.

As part of their evolving policy to gain popularity, they relaxed their restrictions on social behavior. For instance, while in power and even many years later, the Taliban only allowed religious schools for boys and totally forbade girls’ education. Between 2001-2006, the Taliban destroyed over 200 schools, killing tens of students and teachers. Years later, they allowed schools for boys in their territory; but this never meant the Taliban were ultimately sincere or committed in the long term to change their education policy.

Another stereotype which is mainly promoted by the Taliban themselves is that the Taliban are very much tied to martyrdom and going to paradise, which is true, but at the same time, while in wartime, the Taliban have proved to be more subtle operators. There is a famous case in which Taliban leaders trimmed their beards —shaving the beard was punished under the Taliban— to avoid being captured.

Innovation of suicide bombers, an affront to popular understanding of Islam in Afghanistan, came with a utilitarian justification by the Taliban leaders; meaning that as it was proved effective, so it was allowed and justified by their version of Islam. A suicide bomber’s dream might have been paradise, but to a Taliban leader that was an important way to reach their objective.

The Taliban sacrificed dogma for popularity. They sacrificed religious belief for success. They shifted from technophobia to using technology and cyberspace to spread their message and propaganda. They sacrificed the Pashtunwali code, for example, to attack pro-government Pashtuns, again for their ultimate success. The Taliban gradually formed a parallel government and virtual state aiming to become the real government and state over time.

Part of the Taliban success was because of the willingness of the Western media to broadcast the Taliban claims. The Taliban have always used human shields, occupied small towns to maximize collateral civilian deaths caused by Afghan and international forces, and blamed everything on the government and NATO. All their claims were broadcast by the Western media. The Taliban were particularly good at exploiting audience perceptions of the media. For instance, the Taliban removed weapons from the corpses of their dead fighters and made them appear as non-combatant and then showed the bodies to the media.

Some argued the Taliban’s center of gravity was their leader, but they were proved wrong. Because when their leader died, the Taliban could successfully keep it secret for months and finally overcome the leadership issue. In recent years, the Afghan government tried to create divisions among the Taliban by supplying and creating smaller factions,; but that only empowered the Taliban and endangered the Afghan government. As one Taliban faction leader described it once: “…we don’t depend on government, the government depends on us. They think they use us, but no, it is we who are using them and their equipment to advance our own goals…”

What was interesting about the Taliban factions receiving supply from the government is the significant change in their view of the issues. In their propaganda, the Taliban always refer to the Afghan government as “the puppet of the West,” and to those working for the government as “slaves of the slave;” while in wartime, the Taliban received support from the Afghan government without any hesitation, but then cleverly used it against the Afghan government.

While it is not clear how much the Afghan government and its intelligence services have infiltrated the Taliban, it is crystal clear that the Taliban had many sympathizers and infiltrators in the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police; but probably not on a serious scale in the Afghan National Directorate of Security.

In early 2021, the Taliban had around 80,000 full-time fighters and had significant income sources, such as, illegal mining and opium money. In the peace deal with the US, in February 2020, the Taliban guaranteed the freedom of their prisoners —many of them accused of committing serious crimes.

A great many of the reasons why Afghanistan fell so rapidly are related to the Afghans and many of them date back to 2014 when Ashraf Ghani became president, after a fraudulent election, in which he was announced the winner, while his rival, Abdullah, who did not compromise, became Chief Executive Officer, after mediation by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry.

During his time as president, Ghani alienated other groups, by depriving them of any real role in decision-making, and surrounded himself exclusively with Pashtuns. In the multi-ethnic Afghan society, monopolizing power has always been one of the main issues why the nation-building process fails and the governments collapse.

In his election campaign, Ghani promised that he would eradicate corruption. But when in power, he failed to address the issue. Ghost schools and ghost soldiers, for which Afghan authorities were paid, were just a small part of the endemic corruption in the country.

What further demoralized people about the democratic system was the moral corruption of those in power, including the people very close to Ghani. The scale and the level of corruption was incalculable. Even widows of Afghan soldiers had to sexually gratify officers to get pensions; and there were allegations that members of the Afghan administration offered posts in exchange for sexual favors.

There has always been ethnic division and ethnic tension among different groups in Afghanistan. Larger groups usually gained power, with the help of external sources, and in some cases committed atrocities and victimized smaller groups – and they have never been held accountable for what they did, which goes in explaining why there has been so much hatred and so little trust. However, after the new constitution was ratified in 2004, there was hope that a nation would be built from the different ethnic groups.

But people have remained divided, up to the point that even at schools and universities, students of different ethnicities have made ingroups, so that even inside the classrooms the interaction was mainly by way of groups.

If anything ever was national, in the real sense of the term, in the last two decades and probably in the last century, that was the Afghan National Army. For the most part, it was because it was largely trained by the US-led NATO forces, in which ethnic composition, as primarily set by the US, was inclusive, in which all ethnic groups could see themselves as belonging. In the Afghan National Army, soldiers developed profound friendships, bonds, trust and loyalty. Even though while the whole country and institutions were drowning in corruption, the national army maintained some positive motivation, and even gradually gained the trust and respect of ordinary people.

Nevertheless, since 2014, when Ashraf Ghani became the president, the Afghan National Army gradually became an instrument in the hand of the populist president who was accused of ensuring Pashtun domination, even if it came at the cost of ethnic and social division of the country, or strengthened the terrorist group, the Taliban. Since 2014, non-Pashtun generals and officers have continuously been fired or sent to the frontline and killed. Politicizing the Afghan National and Defense Security Forces further weakened it.

Late in 2016, Ghani and, as sarcastically described by some, his “three-man republic” started a campaign to engage the Taliban in peace talks. This campaign, in which apparently millions were spent to spread the idea that the Taliban had changed and it was time to negotiate with them, was flawed. The campaign was not launched after a military gain over the Taliban; but rather it begged and bribed the Taliban to start peace talks. As part of the campaign, in 2018, Ghani offered a careless ceasefire to the Taliban. This miscalculated ceasefire paved the way for the military presence of the Taliban in major cities, including the capital, Kabul, which the Taliban had never left. The Taliban’s presence in the cities gave them the opportunity to campaign for their group by exploiting the mullahs who already sympathized with them.

The idea that Afghanistan did not have a military solution also became attractive in the US. “Peace entrepreneurs” like Khalilzad, who was later appointed as the US Especial Envoy to Afghanistan, took advantage of that idea. Khalilzad emphasized that there was no “military solution” and took the lead mediating peace negotiations on behalf of the US with the Taliban.

Regardless of how much the US authorities lied to the American public about the war in Afghanistan and what had been achieved, Khalilzad’s efforts to make peace or find a way out for the US from Afghanistan were deceitful and irresponsible. His negotiations with the Taliban did not end in peace, led to the emboldening and strengthening of the terrorist group which the US fought for its harboring of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. While the Taliban has never denounced its cooperation or ties with Al-Qaeda, Khalilzad kept assuring everyone that the Taliban had changed and was sincere in its talks, and that the group could become a partner of the US, in fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and the region.

While Khalilzad was selling the idea of a “changed Taliban” and that political settlement was possible, the UN reported that the Taliban continuously violated the conditions of the peace deal signed on 29 February 2020, which included a ceasefire, reduction in violence, and engagement in peace talks with the Afghan government. The report indicated that the Taliban, in fact, had increased their attacks, violence and target killings. Most of the five thousand Taliban prisoners, who were released from Afghan government prisons, rejoined the war.

In addition, the Taliban continued applying their Sharia in the territories under their control. Considering all that, it was foreseeable that the withdrawal of the United States and NATO forces would have serious consequences for Afghanistan, particularly for women, and ethnic and religious minority groups.

At the same time. according to the study “Women, Peace and Security Index 2019/20” carried out by Georgetown University, in cooperation with Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Yemen and Afghanistan were the worst countries for women among 167 countries that were studied. Such was the situation when the international forces were – still – in Afghanistan, supporting the Afghan government and the Afghan Army. None of this was taken into account by Khalilzad, who was searching for a way out and very soon.

In effect, Khlilzad was negotiating with his eyes closed. For instance, according to different reports, since last year, the political elite and civil society activists, journalists, and in some cases university professors and intellectuals with clear points of view against the Taliban ideology, fell victim to Taliban targeted killings —which were unclaimed or denied but probably in most cases carried out by the Taliban.

There were various other disturbing signs. Young Taliban sympathizers spoke of a “great revenge” on those who in one way or another were against the Taliban ideology. What that indicated was that the Taliban would have no respect for any commitment they made with the United States, or whatever they said in front of the cameras of the international media. The group was deceiving the whole international community and buying more time. That is why, as soon as the foreign forces left, the Taliban continued to take control of the country by force.

In February 2020, the US and the Taliban signed an Agreement in the Qatari capital of Doha, but with the absence of the Afghan government. Based on this agreement, the Taliban was to stop its offensives against the US and NATO forces; end its ties with Al-Qaeda; not allow Afghanistan’s soil to be used by other transnational terrorist groups to attack the US and its allies; reduce violence and begin intra-Afghan peace dialogue. On the other side, the US would withdraw forces from Afghanistan and guarantee the release of 5000 Taliban fighters.

Months after the agreement was signed, 5000 Taliban prisoners were released, most of whom were reported to have rejoined the Taliban in their Jihad. The Taliban indeed remained committed to not attacking the US and NATO forces after the agreement; but its relation with al-Qaeda continued to exist and even strengthened, and its offensives against the Afghan forces also increased.

In April 2021, US president Biden announced the end of the “forever war” in Afghanistan and the total withdrawal of US troops from the war-torn country. Despite some NATO members, for example, Germany’s approval on extending its military mission in Afghanistan for one more year, the US withdrawal plan consequently led to the withdrawal decision of all NATO forces from Afghanistan. While the date set for the total withdrawal was 11 September, most NATO members had already brought their troops home by early July.

Since the announcement of the withdrawal, violence has surged, peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government did not have any result, and the Taliban continued to rapidly overrun a significant number of districts. In June alone, Afghan government forces lost more than 700 military vehicles and other equipment —of course donated to the Afghan army by the US— to the Taliban. The continuous loss of territory and military equipment gave the Taliban fighters’ momentum, and impacted negatively on the Afghan security forces, who no longer had air support from the US forces.

By ending its military presence, the US not only lost its most significant leverage with the Taliban, but also emboldened the group to claim victory by means of jihad. What the international community and the US must take note of is that a Taliban victory in Afghanistan sends a strong signal to other Islamist jihadists in other parts of the world that they too can become winners. Most importantly, the US and the international community should realize that what happens in Afghanistan does not stay in Afghanistan. When terrorism takes stronger roots in Afghanistan, it will pose a threat to the rest of the world.

Now the situation seems pretty similar to when the United States left Iraq, and when ISIS gained strength and started massacring Yazidis and other minorities. The U.S. went back and took part in destroying the ISIS. But in the case of Afghanistan, going back is much more difficult and more costly. What is clear now is that those who were vulnerable before have become even more vulnerable; and as human rights defenders and workers are targeted by the Taliban, the worst fear is that ethnic and religious groups such as the Hazaras could silently face ethnic cleansing or even a genocide in Afghanistan.

As for ethnic minority groups, the Hazaras who make up about 15-20 percent of the country’s estimated 36 million population – but they face a greater danger. Since 2014, they have been targeted several times. First, it is impossible for this Shiite group to adopt to the Sunni Taliban rules. Secondly, they belong to different ethnic groups, possess different physical characteristics, speak different languages, and most importantly, the Hazaras have changed very much in the last two decades.

For example, according to the survey “A Survey of the Afghan People: Afghanistan in 2019,” conducted by The Asian Foundation, “Hazara respondents (92.3%) are more likely to strongly or somewhat agree with women’s equal access to education.” That is the highest level in the country.

Education for girls almost became a universal phenomenon among the Hazaras. But now with the Taliban in power, Hazaras are much more under threat of the Taliban, ISIS-K and other terrorist groups than they were before. Different UN reports indicate that there have been several cases of targeted attacks against the Sikh minority and the Hazara community in the last few years. The last remaining Sikh and Hindus left Afghanistan for India, meaning there is no Hindu left in Afghanistan.

Some groups are preparing for resistance against the Taliban. Compared to other groups, Hazaras have less access to arms, as they handed in their arms as part of the process of Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR), administered by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 2003.

What really happened? Corruption and tribalism among the Afghan elite, and the inability of the US and NATO to understand the enemy. How could the Taliban not win?


Gabriel Vilanova is the pseudonym of a young Afghan scholar whose memoirs, Afganistán: Una república del silencio. Recuerdos de un estudiante afgano, have recently been published in Spain.


The featured image shows the work of the graffiti artist, Shamsia Hassani, in Kabul, ca. 2013.