洛克.自由主義.私有產權.階級社會

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一.

早陣子讀 C.B. Macpherson 的 The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism 論洛克 (John Locke)的一章,覺得極為精彩。Macpherson 這本書是六十年代英語政治哲學界的名著,我其實一早已想讀讀,但因為自己由讀書到研究都是在七十年代打後的當代英美分析政治哲學裡打轉,又望文生義覺得 Macpherson 在書裡談的是洛克和霍布斯(Thomas Hobbes),是談古典自由主義,就覺得和自己的「主業」無關,甚至隱隱覺得書中的理論已過時,它就一直在書單中排得很後。直至早一陣子兩位朋友先後推薦,我於是找了洛克一章認真一讀,又再找了 Macpherson 好些其他文章一讀,才知自己大錯特錯。Macpherson 對洛克的分析,可能是左翼的對自由主義最深刻的政治哲學批判。

當代自由主義經常強調,自由主義的內核是平等,或將所有人視為平等而自由的公民。在這個基礎上,公民應該受到國家的平等對待,應該有一視同仁的公民與政治權利,社會資源的分配上則講求公平,而公平的理念就在於人人都應該在一個公平的分配制度中,有平等的待遇。在政治與公民權利上,自由主義者之間爭議不大(某些權利如文化或族群權利上有爭議,但核心的權利如言論自由、宗教自由、政治自由等則已無爭議)。當代的自由主義政治哲學爭議的焦點是所謂分配正義的問題,也就是哪一種公平分配資源的原則,才是真正體現將公民視為平等的自由人。但至少公民之間的道德平等是他們的共同立足點,也就是所謂「平等的高地」,所有爭論爭奪的只是在於如何詮釋平等的理念。

但是,如果 Macpherson 對洛克的詮釋正確,那麼洛克的政治哲學對自由主義其實有著劃時代的意義,尤其在分配正義方面。因為洛克其實最早奠定了自由主義理論的真正結構:如何從人人自由而平等出發,證成一個實際上資源分配極不平等的社會制度;也就是說,自由主義不錯是擁抱平等,但真正的理論內核或野心,其實是用道德平等來證成社會不平等。實際上的作用,則是用自由主義的理念來調和人們對人人皆是平等的自由人的這個屬於現代性(modernity)的道德意識,和正在興起的資本主義社會的張力。這正是其劃時代意義:自由主義是資本主義對現代性在觀念或意識形態上的回應,而洛克則為這個理念提出了基礎的架構。往後的自由主義者自然都不必同意洛克實質的政治和經濟主張,但他們都繼承了這個架構,而資本主義所需要的意識形態,其實就不過是這個架構而已。其中的關鍵,便是洛克有關私有產權(right to property)的論證。

二.

洛克的自由主義理論的起點是這樣的:我們都一樣是神的兒女,因此都應該一樣可以擁有生存的權利、自由行動的權利,沒有誰可以對誰有所限制。這導出兩個結論:首先,所有人都有權利在大自然取得足夠維持生命的資源;其次,因為人皆平等,所有人都有責任留給他人「充足而且同樣地好的資源」(at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others),這是因為他人也有平等的生存權利。甚至更進一步:人可以就自己手上的資源進行流通交換,但沒有人可以屯積,因為屯積等於把資源閒置,這有違神把資源交給人類使用、過豐盛人生的原意。在這裡,洛克亦提出了他那有名的「勞動產權」理論(labour theory of property):人只可以佔有自己勞動過的產權,也就是自己勞動的成果,其他以外的一切屯積和佔有,都是道德上不允許的。

根據 Macpherson 的講法,這些其實都不是洛克原創:這其實多少是當年那個基督教社會的共識。洛克真正原創性的,是他如何一步一步把這些由「平等的自由人」的理念出發對私有產權的限制消除,令資本累積、也就是不平等,和這套基督教自然法的教義相容。而其中的關鍵,就是金錢(money),或更準確來說是商品市場經濟。

他的論證是這樣的:自然資源屯積會放到壞,但金和銀,或者錢,卻不會。累積金銀,或者錢,並沒有把資源扣起來不給其他人用,因此錢的累積沒有問題。那麼,為什麼原本好端端人們各取所需的自然狀態,會多了一個商品市場經濟,會有錢存在,而且人們會想儲起錢?洛克這裡相當清楚,而且驚人地現代:因為錢是資本,只有當所有資源都變成商品,於是能夠以資本的形式累積起來,才是最有效率的生產,而這樣因市場經濟增加了的生產力,將會連那些因此而減少了甚至沒有資源的人都受惠。事實上,即使是那些沒有資本的人,他們也還有自己的勞力(labour),而勞力既然是每個個體所天賦有權擁有的,那自然也可以作為商品賣給他人,來換取自己生存所需的資源。對洛克來說,錢因此不只是首先作為交易媒介而存在,錢的存在最重要的角色是作為資本,背後其實預設了一整套商品市場經濟的法權。

更重要的是,洛克將這個商品市場經濟秩序,視為他那有名的「自然狀態」(state of nature)的一部分,也就是先於公民社會和國家出現的。因此這是人們的天賦自然權利的一部分,這個秩序並不待人們的任何「認同」(consent)而被賦與正當性,因為那是由人都是平等地是神的兒女、有生存和自由的權利這個前提出發的邏輯結果。公民社會和國家的成立其實只是為了建立最有效的組織來保障這些天賦權利,也就是這個商品市場經濟秩序。

因此,從人皆為平等的自由人出發,透過引入商品市場經濟最有助促進生產力的概念,洛克證成了兩件事:首先,人不單有權以資本的形式擁有比自己所需更多的資源,而且這樣的佔有(appropriation)是沒有上限的——甚至不只是沒有上限的,而是愈多愈好,只要這能促進經濟不斷增長、「做大個餅」的話,而無止境的競爭和資本累積,正是資本主義商品市場經濟的根本動力所在。其次,僱佣勞動關系的存在是正當的,固然沒有人可以剝奪他人的生存和自由的權利,但人有自由可以出售自己的勞力換取生存的必需品,也就是說工人和無產階級為了填飽肚子,而令自己需要對資本家老闆言聽計從、毫無自由可言,都是正當的,因為工人有權「出售」自己的勞力,而通過自由交易「買」了工人勞力的老闆,自然有權自由使用這些勞力,一如他能正當地有權自由使用自己其他的財產。當然,他不能用這些財產不經他人同意下去侵犯他人的財產和人身自由,這是公民自由所保障的。

不僅如此。 Macpherson 指洛克其實走得更遠。他其實借此進一步界定了何謂理性,並進而把無產階級劃出完整公民權的擁有者之外。只有擁有充份理性的人才配有完整的公民和政治權利,有權參與政治。那麼,怎樣才叫理性?理性就是那些在資本主義商品市場經濟勝出的人的特質。因為商品市場經濟促進生產力,而這個經濟秩序的動力是無限制的累積,因此無限制的累積就是理性的:因為它能最大限度地促進生產力也就是資源的有效運用。這背後預設的是人有不斷累積財富的欲望,而服從於這個欲望是理性的,那累積得最多的自然就被視為這樣的一個理性的制度中最理性的人。既然如此,洛克就可以進一步推論,那些沒有財產的,就是不夠理性的,也就是不夠能力實踐公民和政治權利的,他們也不配有,因此參與政治的權利只有有財產的人才有資格。他們擁有出賣勞力的自由,以及由此引伸的一些公民權利,但也僅此而已,如果最後這樣也找不到足夠的資源生存,那就是無產階級自己的問題,他們本就有責任自己好好照顧自己,一如其他人一樣——這叫「平等」。資產階級有革命的權利,但無產階級沒有罷工的權利,更別說佔據資本家資產的權利,因為市場的自由交易是天賦人權;而且,進一步,國家有權且必需介入鎮壓這些「不理性者」對資本家那些「天賦人權」的侵犯。

洛克的劃時代貢獻並不在於他提出了人生而自由且平等;他真正的貢獻,是在於由這個高度平等主義傾向(egalitarian)的前提出發,證成了資本主義的私有產權制是道德上正當的。 Macpherson 的講法是他 turned the tables on all who derived from this assumption theories which were restrictive of capitalist appropriation。洛克為冒起中的資產階級提供了最好的道德辯護,洛克之後,為了提倡平等而反對資本主義的,都要面對自由主義理論這一關。

三.

但這些和當代重視經濟平等的自由主義有甚麼關係?洛克在思想史上再有劃時代的意義也好,我們畢竟今天也不再覺得工人或無產階級「不理性」,並因此沒有平等的公民及政治權利;自由主義者也不會再同意私有產權是如洛克主張般絕對,也不會同意國家只有保障公共秩序和私有產權的責任。當代自由主義會支持公平的機會平等,主張普及教育和全民醫療及退休保障,反對跨代貧窮,糾正因階級背景不同引起的經濟不平等。有些自由主義者甚至會走得更遠,主張更進一步的社會保障,不單止大家在社會背景上要有相同的起跑線,連天賦才能不同的引起不平等也應糾正。自由主義者已經自我糾正,提出了對公民的道德平等更豐滿的理解,離洛克的主張已經很遠了,不是嗎?

但細讀 Macpherson 對洛克的解讀,我們不難發現當代自由主義者其實仍然繼承了洛克式自由主義的理論架構,而我認為這其實正是當代自由主義的縫隙,或內在矛盾所在。當代自由主義繼承了甚麼呢?首先,一如洛克,當代自由主義理論的問題意識,與其說是重視平等,不如說是如何調和人們道德平等和事實上的經濟不平等的張力。其次,調和這個張力的關鍵,在於由道德平等推論出公平但允許結果不平等的分配機制,在洛克這是人們自由交易的商品市場經濟,在當代自由主義之中,這是一個國家有一定干預的商品市場經濟。其三,公平的理念的關鍵,在於每個個體需要為自己的選擇的經濟後果負主要責任,國家一視同仁保障這個權利,是為平等;在洛克,這等於國家不問財富多寡有無,保障每個人的私有財產的權利,而當代自由主義則以此作為國家提供社會保障的道德基礎。其四,每位公民應該得到甚麼,有決定性影響力的並不是他們的需要(Need),而是由公平的制度所界定的財產。

其五,因此,財富累積(accumulation)依然是道德上正當的,只要那是跟據公平的制度的所得,而這和他人有甚麼的需要並不相關,和「何謂公平」相關的,只有機會平等——這是平等的賽局,國家對所有公民的成功與否是中立的,個體要為自己的生命的每一個選擇負責,這是重視「自由」的體現。其六,因此,資本累積是正當的,人有對財富理論上無窮的欲望也是正當的(不能用來進一步投資賺錢的財富,累積來幹嗎?),同時出賣自己的勞力也是正當的,於是僱佣關係也是正當的。最後,也比較隱含、但從以上幾點不難推論出的,是以私有產權為主體的資本主義商品市場經濟是道德上正當的,既是因為它保障了人們的自由、平等,更是因為它促進生產力,連最弱勢的的人也會得益——一如洛克所主張的。

而這樣一來,一個階級社會就是必然的結果,而且是道德上正當的:既然財富累積和僱佣關系的存在是道德上正當的,社會上存在資產階級和無產階級,也是正當的。他們在生活享受上、在社會地位上的不平等,只要是在「公平」的框架之內,只要不是國家政策有意傾斜向某一些公民的結果,因此也是無問題的,是自由的社會的自然生成的現象。邏輯上,當代自由主義仍然可以、甚至需要接受一些公民的關鍵需要,會因他們所能得到的經濟資源或社會尊重不足,而不被滿足,而同時其他公民可以有遠超乎他們需要的財富和地位:只要制度是公平就可以了。

而當代自由主義者的公平的理念,一是依然和個體的具體需要脫勾的,二是不外乎保障每個人不因為社會背景甚至才能的差異而受到不平等對待。但普及教育以及全民退休和醫療保障等一系列社會權的立法以外,當代自由主義者依然容許資本主義市場的競爭結構,有winners 有losers,而更多的財富就是勝利者的獎品,通向的是更好的生活享受和更高的社會地位,經濟成就是歸於個人的,這是社會承認個人成就的主要基礎,而私有產權——或,更準確地說,累積的權利——就是這個社會肯認(recognition)的結構的基礎,亦同時反過來強化了這個肯認結構的正當性。而且,更重要的是,在競爭誘因下對資本累積出於貪婪(greed)與恐懼(fear)的無限追求,仍是社會經濟發展的動力。我們其實離洛克不遠:對財富無限累積的欲望依然是正當的,資本累積也是正當的,所以不平等可以被平等所證成,他的自由主義理論的基本架構,以至最重要的元素,還存在於當代自由主義之中。

四.

馬克思曾經說過,他的主張可以總結為一句話:消滅私有產權。這聽來好像很難接受。不少論者為他辯護,指出他在不少著作中明確主張,要消滅的只是生產工具,也就是資本的私有產權,個人財產並不在討論之列。不少當代自由主義者因此也接過話頭,指出:我們也同意呀,我們也不主張無限制的私有產權,我們甚至可以同意對資本的嚴格限制,這是有助國家平等尊重公民作為自由人的理念的,自由主義不必反對。但在 Macpherson 的對洛克的分析之下,我們也許得重新思考:馬克思也許是對的,社會主義需要消滅的,的確是私有產權本身,或者說是財富累積這個制度本身,其實也就是整個資本主義市場制度的根本所在。

當個人的生存權利是以需要為基礎,我們需要的就僅是我們的需要而已,累積額外的財富的意義何在?社會主義的理想在於各盡所能,各取所需,而這並不需要有神聖不可侵犯的財產權(哪怕只是資本以外的財產權)。或者說,對左翼或社會主義者來說,即使是個人財產的權利,也只是工具性的:我們一時還未構思到既不保障財產權亦又不侵犯個體的自由的制度。

另外一個有趣的地方是,如果 Macpherson 是對的,那麼馬克思和恩格思對「平等」的反感也是對的:更準確點說,他們其實有理由反對表現為「公平」的平等的理念。因為經濟上強調公平,其實就是預設了物質上的不平等,預設了一場競爭,而勝利者將比失敗者過得好。這樣就把社會因為競爭而分化了兩個階級:勝利者和失敗者。資本主義—自由主義則把這樣的分化合理化,資本家是勝利者,而無產階級就是失敗者,或曰讓勝利者成為資產階級,讓失敗者成為無產階級。但人與人之間的關係,本來是不必預設這樣的分化的:為什麼人與人之間必然需要競爭?為什麼人與人之間必然要有利益衝突?難道不可能每個人的需要都可以得到充分的滿足,而不再有衝突的必要和理由?

所以,資本主義之所以不合理,不在於不平等不公平,而在於預設了利益衝突和競爭,讓每一個體都把他人當成潛在的對手,而自由主義恰恰是把這種衝突的存在正當化:因為人可以有無限的對財富的欲望,這是對自由人的平等尊重所蘊含的。這是洛克的自由主義與當代自由主義的共通點,是自由主義的內核所在。自由主義可以進一步修正這一點嗎?我很懷疑:如果不假設人與人不會有利益衝突,而接受所有人的需要都可以得到滿足,也許,那就不再是自由主義了;至少,那也是和馬克思一起,要求消滅私有產權、各盡所能各取所需的「自由主義」了。

 

 

 

The Lightness of Nation

十一月初,這邊政治哲學研究生的讀書組,讀David Miller 一篇新發表的文章 Justice in Immigration

Miller 在文章中主張對難民所有國家都有提供保障基本人權的責任,如保護人身安全、安排 decent 的暫住地方,提供維持生活基本需要的經濟援助(註:水平一定高過綜援),只是難民沒有要求保護國公民身份的權利。如何安置難民應該由國際協調處理,他亦沒有仔細講。至於非難民的移民,主要是因經濟理由的移民,Miller 則主張國族國家也就是nation state 有權自決,只要接受移民的要求不違反公平原則(即不是arbitrary 決定誰人可以入境)以及不是建基於種族主義、性別歧視等即可;保護本國的文化,Miller 認為可以是限制移民的理由。

我覺得 Miller 這篇文章寫得清晰有力,我挺同情他的立場(是否認同得再仔細想,未有定論)。但意外地,我竟然是十多人的讀書組中,唯一嘗試為 Miller 辯護的人。同場幾乎沒有人同意 Miller 國家自決的立場,於是也就完全不能接受 Miller 提出的對移民條件所設的限制。

簡單來說, 他們認為即使所謂的國族認同真的存在,也不是證成國家邊界、證成國家有權決定誰可成為公民、誰不可成為公民的理由。一個原因是因為現存的所有國家的邊界都是不公義的:哪個國家有多些資源哪個少一些,都沒有道理可言,於是一國因為資源的優勢而有較良好的經濟環境,而其他國家經濟較差,就是一種不公義,因此較富有的國家根本不應該有權把自己國境內的經濟成果視為屬於自己的,並自視為有權拒絕經濟移民於門外。即使經濟較好的那些國家本身相對民主、經濟平等,因此國家的決定準確反映「國民」的意願也好,國民(根據自身文化、身份認同而來)的意願本身就不構成國家限制移民的道德理由。

這是在中文或至少香港語境內很radical 的看法,但他們似乎 take for granted。讀書組後我和幾個同學再繼續談,他們對Miller 的說法更harsh,近乎覺得整篇文章是 bullshit,我卻竟然是場內最同情國族主義的人了。我說,我也不是無條件的 defend 國族主義,但因為香港近來的政治爭論,我感受得到身份認同的力量,尤其在政治壓迫下反彈的力量。

我的這些同學,不少是克羅地亞和塞爾維亞人。對當代史稍有認識都知道,九十年代這些前南斯拉夫的國族之間,爆發了一場連綿多年的血腥內戰,我的同學不少更是親歷戰爭。當然他們的學術立場未必和他們的國族背景和個人經歷相關,但我還是不免想得更(太)多:為什麼他們好像比我還不 take nationalism seriously 呢?是不是因為,正正是經歷過以國族之名的戰爭,他們才明白所謂國族認同其實不但危險,而且 groundless?就像經過三十年戰爭之後的基督教不同宗派之間發展出來的宗教寬容一樣?只有當戰爭令激情消退,於是我們才有進入「後」國族主義/宗教寬容的情感基礎嗎?可是,如果是這樣,他們應該比我更了解國族主義的內在理路、缺憾吧?應該更敏感於自由民主制度如何可以小心地處理和限制這種激情吧?但這種深刻好像不見於我的年輕同學身上;我見到的,只有國族之輕。

這篇筆記原寫於十一月十七日,所謂的足球港中大戰(好像是世界盃外圍還是分組賽?)我沒有睇波,但在這國族主義的狂歡節的晚上,突然記起這些少少想法,就寫這篇筆記。國族主義是民主運動的搖籃,還是血腥仇恨的先聲,還是兩者兼有?我還未想通。

My Correct Views on Everything, by Leszek Kolakowski

(一直有讀近來那些自由主義和左翼的爭論,各方都有很多我同意和不同意的地方,更多我同情還有不同情的地方。幾次想落筆寫點甚麼,都不得要領,一來是因為兩套理念兩套思考,於我都很「埋身」,自己太Emotionally charged,二來是因為一旦介入,就有太多話要講,要鑽一些我自己都不太想糾纏的技術支節。然後就想起 Leszek Kolakowski 這篇有名的文章。對照今日的爭論,竟然發覺他提出的一些左翼爭論的問題,仍是很中 (也很狠)。文章網上有得免費下載pdf,花了一點時間edit 貼了上blog,當是一澆心中塊壘。)

MY  CORRECT  VIEWS  ON  EVERYTHING

–A Rejoinder to Edward Thompson’s “Open Letter to Leszek Kolakowski”
by Leszek Kolakowski

From Socialist Register, 1974, Vol. 11.

Dear Edward Thompson,

Why I am not very happy about this public correspondence is because your letter deals as much (at least) with personal attitudes as with ideas. However I have no personal accounts to settle either with Communist ideology or with the year 1956; this was settled long ago. But if you insist,

Let us begin and carry up this corpse

Singing together. . . .

In a review of the last issue of Socialist Register by Raymond Williams, I read that your letter is one of the best pieces of Left writings in the last decade, which implies directly that all or nearly all the rest was worse. He knows better and I take his word. I should be proud to having occasioned, to a certain degree, this text, even if I happen to be its target. And so, my first reaction is one of gratitude.

My second reaction is of embarras de richesses. You will excuse me if I make a fair choice of topics in my reply to your 100 pages of the Open Letter (not well segmentated, as you will admit). I will try to take up the most controversial ones. I do not think I should comment on the autobiographical pages, interesting though they are. When you say, e.g. that you do not go to Spain for holidays, that you never attend a conference of Socialists without paying a part of the costs out of your own pocket, that you do not participate in meetings funded by the Ford Foundation, that you are like Quakers of old who refused to take off their hats before authorities, etc., I do not think it advisable to reply with a virtue-list of my own; this list would probably be less impressive. Neither am I going to exchange the story of your dismissal from the New Left Review for all the stories of my expulsions from different editorial committees of different journals; these stories would be rather trivial.

My third reaction is of sadness and I mean it. Incompetent though I am in your field of studies, I know your reputation as a scholar and historian and I found it regrettable to see in your Letter so many Leftist cliches which survive in speech and print owing to three devices : first, the refusal to analyse words -and the use of verbal hybrids purposely designed to confound the issues; second, the use of moral or sentimental standards in some cases and of political and historical standards in other similar cases; third, the refusal to accept historical facts as they are. I will try to say more precisely what I mean.

Your letter contains some personal grievances and some arguments on general questions. I will start with a minor personal grievance. Oddly enough, you seem to feel offended by not having been invited to the Reading conference and you state that if you had been invited you would have refused to attend anyway, on serious moral grounds. I presume, consequently, that if you had been invited, you would have felt offended as well and so, no way out of hurting you was open to the organizers. Now, the moral ground you cite is the fact that in the organizing Committee you found the name of Robert Cecil. And what is sinister about Robert Cecil is that he once worked in the British diplomatic service. And so, your integrity does not allow you to sit at the same table with someone who used to work in British diplomacy. O , blessed Innocence! You and I, we were both active in our respective Communist Parties in the 40s and 50s which means that, whatever our noble intentions and our charming ignorance (or refusal to get rid of ignorance) were, we supported, within our modest means, a regime based on mass slave labour and police terror of the worst kind in human history. Do you not think that there are many people who could refuse- to sit at the same table with us on this  No, you are innocent, while I do not feel, as you put it, the “sense of the politics of those years” when so many Western intellectuals were converted to Stalinism.

Your “sense of politics of those years” is obviously subtler and more differentiated than mine, I gather this from your casual comments on Stalinism. First, you say, that a part (a part, I do not omit that) of responsibility for Stalinism lies upon the Western powers. You say, second, that “to a historian, fifty years is too short a time in which to judge a new social system, if such a system is arising”. Third, we know, as you say, “times when communism has shown a most human face, between 1917 and the early 1920s and again from the battle of Stalingrad to 1946”.

Everything is right on some additional assumptions. Obviously, in the world in which we live, important events in one country are usually to be credited in part to what happened in other countries. You will certainly not deny that a part of the responsibility for German Nazism lay upon the Soviet Union; I wonder how this affects your judgement on German Nazism?

Your second comment is revealing, indeed. What is fifty years “to a historian”? The same day as I am writing this, I happen to have read a book by Anatol Marchenko, relating his experiences in Soviet prisons and concentration camps in the early 1960s (not 1930s). The book was published in Russian in Frankfurt in 1973. The author, a Russian worker, was caught when he tried to cross the Soviet border to Iran. He was lucky to have done it in Khrushchev’s time, when the regrettable errors of J. V. Stalin were over (yes, regrettable, let us face it, even if in part accounted for by the Western powers), and so, he got only six years of hard labour in a concentration camp. One of his stories is about three Lithuanian prisoners who tried to escape from the convoy in a forest. Two of them were quickly caught, then shot many times in the legs, then ordered to get up which they could not do, then kicked and trampled by guards, then bitten and torn up by police dogs (such an amusement, survival of capitalism) and only then stabbed to death with bayonets. All this with witty remarks by the officer, of the kind “Now, free Lithuania, crawl, you’ll get your independence straight off !” The third prisoner was shot and, reputed to be dead, was thrown under corpses in the cart; discovered later to be alive he was not killed (de-Stalinization!) but left for several days in a dark cell with his festering wound and he survived after his arm was cut off.

This is one of thousand stories you can read in many now available books. Such books are rather reluctantly read by the enlightened Leftist elite, both because they are largely irrelevant, they supply us only with small details (and, after all, we agree that some errors were committed) and because many of them have not been translated (did you notice that if you meet a Westerner who learnt Russian you have at least 90% chance of meeting a bloody reactionary? Progressive people do not enjoy this painful effort of learning Russian, they know better anyway).

And so, what is fifty years to a historian? Fifty years covering the life of an obscure Russian worker Marchenko or of a still more obscure Lithuanian student who has not even written a book? Let us not hurry with judging a “new social system”. Certainly I could ask you how many years you needed to assess the merits of the new military regime in Chile or in Greece, but I know your answer: no analogy, Chile and Greece remain within capitalism (factories are privately owned) while Russia started a new “alternative society” (factories are state owned and so is land and so are all its inhabitants). As genuine historians we can wait for another century and keep our slightly melancholic but cautiously optimistic historical wisdom.

Not so, of course, with “that beast”, “that old bitch, consumer capitalism” (your words). Wherever we look, our blood is boiling. Here we may afford to be ardent moralists again and we can prove-as you do- that the capitalist system has a “logic” of its own that all reforms are unable to cancel. The national health service, you say, is impoverished by the existence of private practice, equality in education is spoilt because people are trained for private industry etc. You do not say that all reforms are doomed to failure, you only explain that as long as reforms do not destroy capitalism, capitalism is not destroyed, which is certainly true. And you propose “a peaceful revolutionary transition to an alternative socialist logic”. You think apparently that this makes perfectly clear what you mean; I think, on the contrary, that it is perfectly obscure unless, again, you imagine that once the total state ownership of factories is granted, there remain only minor technical problems on the road to your utopia. But this is precisely what remains to be proved and the onus probandi lies on those who maintain that these (insignificant “to a historian”) fifty years of experience may be discarded by the authors of the new blueprint for the socialist society (In Russia there were “exceptional circumstances”, weren’t there? But there is nothing exceptional about Western Europe).

Your way of interpreting these modest fifty years (fifty-seven now) of the new alternative society is revealed as well in your occasional remarks about the “most human face of communism” between 1917 and the early ’20s and between Stalingrad and 1946. What do you mean by “human face” in the first case? The attempt to rule the entire economy by police and army, resulting in mass hunger with uncountable victims, in several hundred peasants’ revolts, all drowned in blood (a total economic disaster, as Lenin would admit later, after having killed and imprisoned an indefinite number of Mensheviks and SRs for predicting precisely that) ? Or do you mean the armed invasion of seven non-Russian countries which had formed their independent governments, some socialist, some not (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia; O God, where are all these curious tribes living?) ? Or do you mean the dispersion by soldiers of the only democratically elected Parliament in Russian history, before it could utter one single word? The suppression by violence of all political parties, including socialist ones, the abolition of the non-Bolshevik press and, above all, the replacement of law with the absolute power of the party and its police in killing, torturing and imprisoning anybody they wanted? The mass repression of the Church? The Kronstadt uprising? And what is the most human face in 1942-46? Do you mean the deportation of eight entire nationalities of the Soviet Union with hundreds of thousands of victims (let us say seven, not eight, one was deported shortly before Stalingrad)? Do you mean sending to concentration camps hundreds of thousands of Soviet prisoners of war handed over by the Allies? Do you mean the so-called collectivization of the Baltic countries if you have an idea about the reality of this word?

I have three possible explanations of your statement. First, that you are simply ignorant of these facts; this I find incredible, considering your profession of historian. Second, that you use the word “human face” in a very Thompsonian sense which I do not grasp. Third, that you, not unlike most of both orthodox and critical communists, believe that everything is all right in the Communist system as long as the leaders of the party are not murdered. This is, in fact, the standard way of how communists become “critical”: when they realize that the new alternative socialist logic does not spare the communists themselves and in particular party leaders. Did you notice that the only victims Khrushchev mentioned by name in his speech of 1956 (whose importance I am far from underestimating) were the Stalinists pur sang like himself, most of them (like Postychev) hangmen of merit with uncountable crimes committed before they became victims themselves? Did you notice, in memoirs or critical analyses written by many ex-communists (I will not quote names, excuse me) that their horror only suddenly emerged when they saw communists being slaughtered? They always are pleading the innocence of the victims by saying “but these people were communists”! (Which, incidentally, is a self-defeating way of defence, for it suggests that there is nothing wrong in slaughtering non-communists, and this implies that there is an authority to decide who is and who is not a communist, and this authority can be only the same rulers who keep the gun; consequently, the slaughtered are by definition non-communists and everything is all right.)

Well, Thompson, I really do not attribute to you this way of thinking. Still I cannot help noticing your use of double standards of evaluation. And when I say “double standards” I do not mean indulgence for the justifiable inexperience of the “new society” in coping with new problems. I mean the use, alternatively, of political or moral standards to similar situations and this I find unjustifiable. We must not be fervent moralists in some cases and Real-politikers or philosophers of world history in others, depending on political circumstances. This is a point I would like to make clear to you if we are to understand each other. I will quote to you (from memory) a talk with a Latin-American revolutionary who told me about torture in Brazil. I asked: “What is wrong with torture?” and he said: “What do you mean? Do you suggest it is all right? Are you justifying torture?” And I said: “On the contrary, I simply ask you if you think that torture is a morally inadmissible monstrosity.” “Of course,” he replied. “And so is torture in Cuba?”, I asked. “Well, he answered, this is another thing. Cuba is a small country under the constant threat of American imperialists. They have to use all means of self-defence, however regrettable.”

Then I said: “Now, you cannot have it both ways. If you believe, as I do, that torture is abominable and inadmissible on moral grounds, it is such, by definition, in all circumstances. If however there are circumstances where it can be tolerated, you can condemn no regime for the very fact of applying torture, since you assume that there is nothing essentially wrong with torture itself. Either you condemn torture in Cuba in exactly the same way you do for Brazil, or you prevent yourself from condemning the Brazilian police for the very fact of torturing people. In fact, you cannot condemn torture on political grounds, because in most cases it is perfectly efficient and the torturers get what they want. You can condemn it only on moral grounds and then, necessarily, everywhere in the same way, in Batista’s Cuba or in Castro’s Cuba, in North Vietnam and in South Vietnam.)’

This is a banal but important point which I hope is clear to you. I simply refuse to join people who show how their hearts are bleeding to death when they hear about any, big or minor (and rightly condemn-able) injustice in the US and suddenly become wise historiographers or cool rationalists when told about worse horrors of the new alternative society.

This is one, but not the only one, reason of the spontaneous and almost universal mistrust people from Eastern Europe nourish towards the Western New Left. By a strange coincidence the majority of these ungrateful people, once they come to or settle in Western Europe or in the US, pass for reactionaries. These narrow empiricists and egoists extrapolate a poor few decades of their petty personal experience (logically inadmissible, as you rightly notice) and find in it pretexts to cast doubts on the radiant socialist future elaborated on the best Marxist-Leninist grounds by ideologists of the New Left for the Western countries.

This is a topic I will pursue somewhat further. I assume that we do not differ in accepting facts as they are and that we do not get knowledge of the existing societies by the deduction from a general theory. (Again, I will quote my talk with a Maoist from India. He said: “The cultural revolution in China was a class struggle of poor peasants against kulaks.” I asked: “How do you know that?”, and he replied: “From Marxist-Leninist theory.” I commented: “Yes, that is what I guessed.” He did not understand, but you do.) This is not enough, however, for, as you know, any properly vague ideology is always able to absorb (meaning: to discard) all facts without giving up any of its ingredients. And the trouble is that most people are not dedicated ideologists. Their shallow minds work in such a way as if they believed that nobody has ever seen capitalism or socialism but only sets of small facts they are incapable of interpreting theoretically. They simply notice that people in some countries are better off than in others, that in some of them production, distribution and services are much more efficient than in others, that here people enjoy civil and human rights and freedom and there they do not. (I should rather say “freedom” in quotation marks, as you do; I do realize that this is a part of the absolutely obligatory Leftist spelling, to use the word “freedom” in quotation marks when applied to Western Europe; what a “freedom”, indeed, enough to burst one’s sides with laughter. And we, people without sense of humour, do not laugh.)

I do not try to make you believe that you live in paradise and we in hell. In my country, Poland, we do not suffer hunger, people are not being tortured in prisons, we have no concentration camps (in contrast to Russia), in the last couple of years we have had only few political prisoners (in contrast to Russia), and many people go abroad relatively easily (again, in contrast to Russia). Still, we are a country deprived of sovereignty, and this not in the sense Mr Foot and Mr Powell fear that Britain could lose her sovereignty because of joining the Common Market, but in a sadly direct and palpable sense: in that all key sectors of our life, including the army, foreign policy, foreign trade, important industries and ideology, are under tight control of a foreign empire which exerts its power with a considerable meticulousness (e.g. preventing specific books from being published or specific information from being divulged, not to speak of more serious matters). Still, we appreciate immensely our margins of freedom when we compare our position with that of entirely liberated countries like the Ukraine or Lithuania which, as far as their right to self-government is concerned, are in a much worse situation than the old colonies of the British empire were. And the point is that these margins, important though they are (we can still say and publish significantly more than people elsewhere in the rouble zone, except for Hungary), are not supported by any legal guarantees at all and can be (as they used to be) cancelled over-night by a decision taken by party rulers in Warsaw or in Moscow. And this is simply because we got rid of this fraudulent bourgeois device of the division of powers and we achieved the socialist dream of unity, which means that the same apparatus has all legislative, executive and judicial power in addition to its power of controlling all means of production; the same people make law, interpret it and enforce it; king, Parliament, army chief, judge, prosecutor, policeman and (new socialist invention) owner of all national wealth and the only employer at one and the same desk-what better social unity can you imagine?

You are proud of not going to Spain for political reasons. Un-principled as I am, I was there twice. I t is unpleasant to say that this regime, oppressive and undemocratic though it is, gives its citizens more freedom than any socialist country (except, perhaps, for Yugoslavia). I am not saying this with Schadenfreude, but with shame, keeping in mind the pathos of the civil war. The Spaniards have the frontiers open (never mind the reason which is, in this case, thirty million tourists each year) and no totalitarian system can work with open frontiers. They have censorship after, and not before, publication (my own book was published in Spain and then confiscated, but after one thousand copies had been sold; we all should like to have the same conditions in Poland) and you find in Spanish bookshops Marx, Trotsky, Freud, Marcuse etc. Like us, they have no elections and no legal political parties but, unlike us, they have many forms of organization which are independent of the state and the ruling party. They are sovereign as a state.

You will probably say that I am talking in vain because you clearly stated that you are far from seeing your ideal in the existing socialist states and that you were thinking in terms of a democratic socialism. You did, indeed, and I am not accusing you of being an admirer of the socialist secret police. Still, what I am trying to say is very relevant to your article for two reasons. First, you consider the existing socialist states as (imperfect, to be sure) beginnings of a new and better social order, as transitional forms which went beyond capitalism and are heading towards utopia. I do not deny that this form is new but I do deny that it is in any respect superior to the democratic countries of Europe and I defy you to prove the opposite, i.e. to show a point in which the existing socialism may claim its superiority, except for the notorious advantages all despotic systems have over democratic ones (less trouble with people). The second, and equally important, point is that you pretend to know what democratic socialism means to you and you do not know. You write: “My own utopia, two hundred years ahead, would not be like Morris’s ‘epoch of rest’. I t would be a world (as D. H. Lawrence would have it) where the ‘money values’ give way before the ‘life values’, or (as Blake would have it) ‘corporeal’ will give way to ‘mental’ war. With sources of power easily available, some men and women might choose to live in unified communities, sited, like Cistercian monasteries, in centres of great natural beauty, where agricultural, industrial and intellectual pursuits might be combined. Others might prefer the variety and pace of an urban life which rediscovers some of the qualities of the city-state. Others will prefer a life of seclusion, and many will pass between all three. Scholars would follow the disputes of different schools, in Paris, Jakarta or Bogota.”

This is a very good sample of socialist writing. It amounts to saying that the world should be good, and not bad, and I am entirely on your side on this issue. I share without restrictions your (and Marx’s, and Shakespeare’s, and many others’) analysis to the effect that it is very deplorable that people’s minds are occupied with the endless pursuit of money, that needs have a magic power of infinite growth, and that the profit motive, instead of use-value, is ruling production. Your superiority consists in that you know exactly how to get rid of all this and I do not. Why the problems of the real and the only existing communism which Leftist ideologists put aside so easily (“all right, this was done in exceptional circumstances, we won’t imitate these patterns, we will do better” etc) are crucial for socialist thought is because the experiences of the “new alternative society” have shown very convincingly that the only universal medicine these people have for social evils-state ownership of the means of production- is not only perfectly compatible with all disasters of the capitalist world, with exploitation, imperialism, pollution, misery, economic waste, national hatred and national oppression, but that it adds to them a series of disasters of its own: inefficiency, lack of economic incentives and, above all, the unrestricted role of the omnipotent bureaucracy, a concentration of power never known before in human history. Just a stroke of bad luck? No, you do not say exactly so, you simply prefer to ignore the problem and rightly so, because all attempts to examine this experience lead us back not only to contingent historical circumstances but to the very idea of socialism and the discovery of incompatible demands hidden in this idea (or at least demands whose compatibility remains to be proved). We want a society with a large autonomy of small communities, do we not? And we want central planning in the economy. Let us try to think now how both work together. We want technical progress and we want perfect security for people; let us look closer how both could be combined. We want industrial democracy and we want efficient management: do they work well together? Of course they do, in the leftist heaven everything is compatible and everything settled, lamb and lion sleep in the same bed. Look at the horrors of the world and see how easily we can get rid of them once we make a peaceful revolution toward the new socialist logic. The Middle East war and Palestinian grievances? Of course, this is the result of capitalism, just let us make the revolution and the question is settled. Pollution? Of course, no problem at all, just let the new proletarian state take over the factories and no pollution anymore. Traffic jams? This is because capitalists do not care a damn about human comfort, just give us power (in fact, this is a rather good point, in socialism we have far fewer cars and correspondingly fewer traffic jams). People die from hunger in India? Of course, American imperialists eat their food, but once we make the revolution, etc. Northern Ireland? Demographic problems in Mexico? Racial hatred? Tribal wars? Inflation ? Criminality ? Corruption ? Degradation of educational systems? There is such a simple answer to everything and, moreover, the same answer to everything!

This is not a caricature, not in the slightest. This is a standard pattern of thought of those who have overcome the miserable illusions of reformism and invented the beneficial device for solving all problems of mankind, and this device consists in a few words which, when repeated often enough, start looking as if they had a content: revolution, alternative society, etc. And we have in addition a number of negative words to provoke horror, for instance “anti-communism” or “liberal”. You use these words as well, Edward, without explanation, aware though you must be that the purpose of these words is to mingle many different things and to produce vague negative associations. What is, in fact, the anti-communism you do not profess? Certainly, we know people who believe that there are no serious social problems in the Western world except for the communist danger, that all social conflicts here are to be explained by a communist plot, that the world would be a paradise if only sinister communist forces did not interfere, and that the most hideous military dictatorships deserve support if only they suppress communist movements. You are not anti-communist in that sense? Neither am I. But you will be called anti-communist if you do not strongly believe that the actual Soviet (resp. Chinese) system is the most perfect society the human mind has invented so far, or if you wrote a piece of purely scholarly work on the history of communism without lies. And there is a great number of other possibilities in between. The convenience of the word “anti-communism”, the bogey-man of the leftist jargon, is precisely to put all of them in the same sack and never to explain the meaning of the word. The same with the word “liberal”. Who is a “liberal”? Perhaps a 19th-century free-trader who proclaimed that the state should forbear from interfering in the “free contract” between workers and employers and that workers’ unions were contrary to the free contract principle? Do you suggest that you are not “liberal” in this sense? This is very much to your credit. But according to the unwritten revolutionary OED you are “liberal” if you imagine in general that freedom is better than slavery (I do not mean the genuine, profound freedom people enjoy in socialist countries, but the miserable formal freedom invented by the bourgeoisie to deceive the toiling masses). And the word “liberal” has the easy task of amalgamating these and other things. And so, let us proclaim loudly that we spurn liberal illusions, but let us never explain what we exactly mean.

Should I go on with this progressive vocabulary? Just one more word which, I emphasize, you do not use in this sound sense, the word “fascist” or “fascism”. This is an ingenious discovery, with a fair range of applications. Sometimes fascist is a person I disagree with but, because of my ignorance, I am unable to discuss with, so I will better kick him. When I collect my experiences, I notice that fascist is a person who holds one of the following beliefs (by way of example): 1) That people should wash themselves, rather than go dirty; 2) that freedom of the press in America is preferable to the ownership of the whole press by one ruling party; 3) that people should not be jailed for their ovinions. both communist and anti-communist ; 4) that racial criteria, in favour of either whites or blacks, are inadvisable in admission to Universities; 5 ) that torture is condemnable, no matter who applies it. (Roughly speaking “fascist” was the same as “liberal”.) Fascist was, by definition, a person who happened to have been in jail in a com-munist country. The refugees from Czechoslovakia in 1968 were sometimes met in Germany by very progressive and absolutely revolutionary leftists with placards saying “fascism will not pass”.

And you blame me for making a caricature of the New Left. I wonder what such a caricature would be. Still, your irritation (this is one of the few points where your pen flares up) is understandable. You quote an interview I gave to the German Radio (and later translated from German into English and published in Encounter) where I said two or three general sentences expressing my disgust with New Leftist movements, as I knew them in America and Germany and-this is the point-I did not specify which movements I meant and I said instead vaguely “some people” etc. This means, I did not specifically exclude the New Left Review in 1960-3 when you were associated with it or even I tacitly included you in my statement. Here you got me. I did not specifically exclude the New Left Review in 1960-3 and, I admit, I did not even keep it in mind when I was talking to the German journalist. I thought that to say “some new leftists” etc. is rather like saying, e.g., “some British academics are drunkards”. Do you think that many academics would be offended by such a (admittedly not very ingenious) statement, and if so, which ones? My comfort is that if I happen to say publicly such things on the New Left, my socialist friends somehow never feel that they could be included even if they are not specifically excluded.

But I cannot delay any longer. I hereby solemnly declare that in an interview to the German Radio in 1971, when I was talking about leftist obscurantism, I was not thinking of the New Left Review in 1960-63, with which Edward Thompson was involved. Will that be all right?

You are right, Edward, that we, people from Eastern Europe, have a tendency to underestimate the gravity of the social issues democratic societies face and we may be blamed for that. But we cannot be blamed for not taking seriously people who, unable though they are to remember correctly any single fact from our history or to say which barbaric dialect we speak, are perfectly able instead to teach us how liberated we are in the East and who have a rigorously scientific solution for humanity’s illness and this solution consists in repeating a few phrases we could hear for thirty years on each celebration of the 1 May and read in any party propaganda brochure. (I am talking about the attitude of progressive radicals; the conservative attitude to the problems of the East is different and may be summarized briefly: “This would be awful in our country, but for these tribes it is good enough.”)

When I was leaving Poland at the end of 1968 (I had not been in any Western country for at least six previous years), I had a somewhat vague idea of what the radical student movement and different leftist groups or parties might be. What I saw and read I found pathetic and disgusting in nearly all (still: not all) cases. I do not shed tears for a few windows smashed in demonstrations, that old bitch, consumer capitalism, will survive it. Neither do I find scandalous the rather natural ignorance of young people. What impressed me was mental degradation of a kind I had never seen before in any leftist movement. I saw young people trying to “reconstitute” universities and to liberate them from horrifying, savage, monstrous, fascist oppression. The list of demands, with variations, was very similar all over the world of campuses. These fascist pigs of the Establishment want us to pass examinations while we are making the revolution; let them give all of us A grades without examinations; curiously enough, the anti-fascist warriors wanted to get their degrees and diplomas in such fields as mathematics, sociology or law, and not in such as carrying posters, distributing leaflets or destroying offices. And sometimes they got what they wanted, the fascist pigs of the establishment gave them grades without examinations. Very often there were demands for abolishing altogether some subjects of teaching as irrelevant, e.g. foreign languages (these fascists want us, internationalist revolutionaries, to waste time in learning languages, why? To prevent us from making world revolution!) In one place revolutionary philosophers went on strike because they got a reading list including Plato, Descartes and other bourgeois idiots, instead of relevant great philosophers like Che Guevara and Mao. In another, revolutionary mathematicians pass a motion that the department should organize courses on the social tasks of mathematics and (this is the point) each student should be able to attend this course as many times as he wanted and each time get credit for it, which meant that he could get the diploma in mathematics exactly for nothing. In still another place, the noble martyrs of the world revolution demanded to be examined only by other students they would choose themselves, and not by these old reactionary pseudo-scholars. Professors should be appointed (by students, of course) according to their political views, students admitted on the same grounds. In several cases in the US, the vanguard of the oppressed toiling masses set fire to University libraries (irrelevant pseudo-knowledge of the Establishment). Needless to say, you could hear that there is no difference, no difference at all, between the life in a California campus and a Nazi concentration camp. And all were Marxists, of course, which meant they knew three or four sentences written by Marx or Lenin, in particular the sentence “the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it” (what Marx wanted to say in this sentence, it is obvious to them, was that it made no sense to learn).

I could carry on this list for pages but this may suffice, the patterns are always the same: the great socialist revolution consists, first of all, in giving us privileges, titles and power for our political opinions and in destroying the old reactionary academic values like knowledge and logical abilities (but these fascist pigs should give us money, money, money).

And what about the workers? There are two rival views. One (pseudo-Marcusian) says that these bastards were bribed by the bourgeoisie and one cannot expect anything more from them, now the students are the most oppressed and the most revolutionary class of society. Another (Leninist) says that workers have a false consciousness and do not understand their alienation, because the capitalists give them wrong papers to read, but we, revolutionaries, store in our heads the correct consciousness of the proletariat, we know what the workers should think and, in fact, do think without knowing it; consequently we deserve to take power (but not in this stupid electoral play which, as has been scientifically proved, is just for deceiving the people).

You say complacently “revolutionary farce”. All right, it is. But to say this is not enough. This is not a farce capable of turning upside down the society but it is capable of destroying the university and this is a performance worth worrying about (some German universities look already rather like party schools).

And let us go back to the more general question we discussed earlier in private letters. You defend the movement I just described by saying “but there was a Vietnam war”. Very much so, indeed, to put it elegantly. And many other things, no doubt. Traditional German universities had some intolerable features. Italian and French universities had others of their own. There are many things in any society and in any university to justify protest. And- this is my point- you will find no political movement in the world which has no good and well justified claims. If you look at mutual accusations of parties vying for power you always find some well chosen and well grounded points in their claims and attacks, and you do not take it as a reason to support all of them. Nobody is altogether wrong and you are right, of course, in saying that those who joined the communist parties were not altogether wrong. When you look at Nazi propaganda against the Weimar republic, you will find a great number of well justified points : they said that the Versailles Treaty was a shame, and it was; that the democracy was corrupted, and it was; they attacked aristocracy, plutocracy, the power of bankers and, incidentally, the pseudo-freedom, irrelevant to the real needs of the people and serving dirty Jewish newspapers. And this was not a good reason to say “all right, they do not behave very decently and some points in their ideas are rather silly, but they are not wrong in many questions, so let us give them a qualified support”. At least, many people refused to say so. And in fact, had the Nazis not had many good points in attacking the existing regime, they would not have won, there would not have been such a phenomenon as the ranks of Rotfront passing with unfolded colours over to the SA. This is the reason why, when I saw movements imitating the same patterns of behaviour and imitating a part of the same ideology (viz. in all points concerning “formal” freedom and all democratic institutions, tolerance and academic values) I could not be strongly impressed by the saying: “but there was a Vietnam war”.

You say that we should help the blind to recover their sight. I accept this advice with a slight restriction: it is difficult to apply when you have to do with people who are omniscient and all-seeing anyway. I do not remember having ever refused a discussion with people who were ready to have it, the trouble is that some were not, and this precisely because of their omniscience, which I lacked. True, I was almost omniscient (yet not entirely) when I was 20 years old but, as you know, people grow stupid when they grow older, and so, I was much less omniscient when I was 28 and still less now. Nor am I capable of satisfying those who look for perfect certainty and for immediate global solutions to all the world’s calamities and misery. Still, I believe that in approaching other people we should, as far as we are able to do so, follow the Jesuit, rather than the Calvinist, method; this means, we ought to presuppose that nobody is totally and hopelessly corrupted, that everybody, no matter how perverted and limited, has some good points and some good intentions we can catch hold of. This is admittedly easier to say than to practise and I do not think that either of us is a perfect master in this maieutic art.

Your proposal to define yourself (and myself) by the allegiance to the “Marxist tradition” (as opposed to the system, the method, the heritage) seems to me elusive and vague. I am not sure of the meaning you confer on this attachment unless you simply find it important to be called “Marxist”; but you say you do not. Neither do I. I am not interested at all in being “a Marxist” or in being called so. There are certainly only few people working in the human sciences who would not acknowledge their debt to Marx and I am not one of them. I readily admit that without Marx our thinking about history would be different and in many respects worse than it is. To say this is rather trivial. Still, I think that many important tenets of Marx’s doctrine are either false or meaningless or else true only in a very restricted sense. I think that the labour theory of value is a normative device without any explanatory power whatsoever; that none of the well-known general formulae of the historical materialism to be found in Marx’s writings is admissible and that this doctrine is valid only in a strongly qualified sense; that his theory of class consciousness is false and that most of his predictions proved to be erroneous (this is admittedly a general description of what I feel, I am not trying to justify here my conclusions). If I admit nevertheless to keep thinking, in historical (yet not in philosophical) matters, in terms inherited in part from the Marxian legacy, do I accept an allegiance to the Marxist tradition? Only in such a loose sense that the same statement would be equally true when I substitute for”Marxist”-“Christian”, “sceptical”, “empiricist”. Without belonging to any political party or sect, to any Church, to any philosophical school, I do not deny my debt to Marxism, to Christianity, to sceptical philosophy, to empiricist thought and to a few other traditions (more specifically Eastern and less interesting to you) I have in my background. Neither do I share the horror of “eclecticism” if the opposite of eclecticism is philosophical or political bigotry (as it usually is in the minds of those who terrify us with the label of eclecticism). I n such a poor sense, I admit to belong to the Marxist tradition, among others. But you seem to imply more. You seem to imply the existence of a “Marxist family” defined by the spiritual descendance from Marx and to invite me to join it. Do you mean that all people who in one way or another call themselves Marxists form a family (never mind that they have been killing each other for half a century and still do) opposed as such to the rest of the world? And that this family is for you (and ought to be for me) a place of identification? If this is what you mean, I cannot even say that I refuse to join this family; it simply does not exist in a world where the great Apocalypse can most likeIy be triggered off by the war between two empires both claiming to be perfect embodiments of Marxism.

There are in your letter several points which I should broach not because of their importance but because of the unpleasantly demagogic way you discuss them. I will take up two of them. You quote an article of mine containing a remark which I thought was rather a trivial platitude: that exploited classes have not been allowed to participate in the development of spiritual culture. And then you appear as a spokes-man of the insulted working class and you explain to me, with indignation, that the working class developed a sense of solidarity, loyalty etc. In other words: I said this rather to deplore than to exalt the fact that the exploited were denied access to education- and you show disgust at the fact that, in my view, the working class has no moral! This is not a misreading but a sort of absurd “Hineinlesen” which makes any discussion impossible. And then, when I stigmatized as obscurantist the idea of a new, socialist logic or science (again, a truism, as I saw it), you explain that the point is not to change logic but that Marx did want to change the property relations. Did he, really? Well, what can I say except that you opened my eyes? And if you think that the question of a “new logic” or “new science” as opposed to “bourgeois logic” and “bourgeois science” was not at issue, you are entirely wrong. This was not an extravagance but a current pattern of thinking and talking among the Marxist-Leninist-Stalinists and these patterns were inherited intact by dozens of Lenins, Trotskys and Robespierres you could find in any American or German campus.

The second point is your comment on one sentence I uttered in the same interview you quoted; it said that “men have no fuller means of self-identification than through religious symbols” and that “religious consciousness . . . is an irreplaceable part of human culture.” Here, you explode. “By what right (you say), what study of its tradition and sensibility, may you assume this as a universal in the heart of an ancient Protestant Island, doggedly resistant to the magic of religious symbolism. . . .” I am sorry for many reasons. First, that I gave my interview to the German journalist in the heart of the ancient Protestant Island instead of doing this on German soil. Second, that I failed to explain- which I assumed, wrongly, to be known- that “religious symbol” is not necessarily, contrary to what you obviously believe, a picture, a sculpture, a rosary etc., but everything people believe gives them a way of communicating with the Supernatural or conveys its energy (Jesus Christ himself is a symbol, not only a crucifix). I did not invent this use of the word .but, since I did not explain it in my interview, I offended your iconoclastic English tradition. Does this lexical explanation appease somewhat your Protestant conscience hurt by a superstitious Ultramontanist? And you accuse me- that beats everything- of not proving, in this interview, my belief in the permanence of the religious phenomenon. I was really reckless in not quoting entirely, in this interview, all the books and articles I have written on the subject to support this view. You had no reason whatsoever to read these books (one of them, over eight hundred dense pages, and dealing mostly with sectarian movements of the 17th century, is so boring that it would be rather inhuman to ask you to wade through it)-at least you had no such reason as long as you were not trying to criticize my views on the subject. Therefore your indignant “By what right . . .” seems to be more appropriate when retorted to you.

Unfortunately, your article teems with such cases when you shift the subject and you try to make yourself believe that I said something you think I should have said on the basis of some general beliefs you attribute to me. I am sure you do this unconsciously, according to a peculiar logic of beliefs which has always been very characteristic of dogmatic communist thinking, where the difference between those reasonings which are truth-functional and those which are not entirely disappeared; however even if it were true that A entails B, it would not follow that if someone believes A, he believes B. (The wilful rejection of this rather unsophisticated distinction has always allowed the communist press to give its readers information constructed approximately in this way: “The American President said that, in defiance of the protest of the whole peace-loving mankind, he would carry on with the genocidal war in Vietnam” or “Chinese leaders declare that their jingoist, anti-leninist policy aims at the destruction of the socialist camp in order to help imperialists”.) There is a consistence in this grotesque Wonderland logic and I rather dislike your reasonings echoing it. But there is more than that. Since you think about society in categories of global “systems”-capitalism or socialism-you believe that: 1) socialism, imperfect though it is, is essentially a higher stage of mankind’s development and this superiority of the “system” is valid irrespectively of whether or not it can be shown in any particular facts related to human life; 2) all negative facts to be found in the non-socialist world-apartheid in South Africa, torture in Brazil, hunger in Nigeria or inadequate health service in Britain-are to be imputed to the “system”, while similar facts occurring within the socialist world have to be accounted for by the “system” as well, yet not socialist, but the same capitalist system (survival of old society; impact of encirclement etc.) ; 3) whoever does not believe in the superiority of the socialist system” so conceived is bound to believe that “capitalism” is in principle admirable and to justify or to conceal its monstrosities, i.e. to justify apartheid in South Africa, hunger in Nigeria etc. Hence your desperate attempts to force me to have said something I have not. (True, since you consider my case not entirely lost, you try to wake up my conscience and you explain, e.g., that there are spies and bugging devices in Western countries. Really? Are you not joking?) Needless to say, this peculiar way of reasoning is absolutely irrefutable, because it is able to neglect all empirical facts as irrelevant (whatever bad happens within the “capitalist system” is by definition the product of capitalism; whatever bad happens in “the socialist system” is by the same definition the product of the same capitalism). And socialism is defined within this “system-thinking” as total or nearly total state ownership of the means of production; you obviously cannot define socialism in terms of the abolition of hired labour, since you know that if empirical socialism differs in this respect from capitalism, this is only in restoring direct slave labour for prisoners, half-slave labour for workers (abolition of the freedom to change one’s place of work) and the mediaeval glebae adrcriptio for peasants. So, within this construction it is consistent to believe that with the private title of ownership the roots of evil, if not all actual evil, on earth are eradicated. But these three statements I mentioned are nothing else but the expression of an ideological commitment, incapable of being either validated or dis-proved empirically. You say that to think in terms of “system” yields excellent results. I am quite sure it does, not only excellent, but miraculous; it simply solves all problems of mankind at one stroke. This is why people who have not reached this level of scientific consciousness (like myself) do not know such a simple device for the salvation of the world, as is known to any sophomore in Berlin or Nebraska, viz. the socialist world revolution.

*    *   *

I have obviously not exhausted the topics of your text, which restores the dignity of the vanishing art of epistolography. But I believe I have touched on the most controversial ones. The gulf dividing us is at the moment unlikely to be bridged. You still seem to consider yourself as a dissident communist or as a sort of revisionist. I do not, and this for a very long time. You seem to define your position in terms of discussions of 1956 and I do not. This was an important year and its illusions were important, too. But they were crushed just after they had appeared. You probably realize that what was labelled “revisi~nisrn’~in the people’s democracies is virtually dead (possibly with the exception of Yugoslavia) which means that both young and old people in these countries stopped thinking about their situation in terms of “genuine socialism”, “genuine Marxism” etc. They want (more often than not in a passive way) more national independence, more political and social freedom, better life conditions-but not because there is anything specifically socialist in these claims. The official state ideology is in a paradoxical position. I t is absolutely indispensable, for it is the only way in which the ruling apparatus can legitimize its power; and it is believed by nobody-either the rulers or the ruled (both well aware of the unbelief of the others and of their own). And in Western countries, virtually every intellectual who considers himself socialist (and even communist) will admit in private talk that the socialist idea is in a deep crisis; few will admit this in print, here buoyant jauntiness is obligatory and we must not sow do”;ts and confusion “in the masses” or supply our foes with arguments. I am not sure if you agree that this is a self-defeating policy, I rather think you do not.

In the meantime some traditionally socialist institutions seem to creep’in capitalist societies in a rather unexpected way. Even the most short-sighted politicians realize now that not everything can be bought for money, that a moment might come when no money will buy us clean air, clean water, more land or wasted natural resources. And so, “use value” comes back, slowly, into the economy. A paradoxical “socialism” resulting from the fact that mankind does not know what to do with garbage. The result is growing bureaucracy and the growing role of power centres. The only medicine communism has invented-the centralized, beyond social control, state ownership of the national wealth and one-party rule-is worse than the illness it is supposed to cure; it is less efficient economically and it makes the bureaucratic character of social relations an absolute principle. I appreciate your ideal of the decentralized society with a large autonomy for small communities and I share your attachment to this tradition. But it is silly to deny powerful forces resulting from the technological develop-ment itself, and not from the fact of private property, and leading toward greater and greater power of the central bureaucracy. If you pretend to know simple means to cope with this situation, if you imagine to have found the solution in saying “we will make a peaceful revolution and socialism will reverse this trend” you delude yourself and you fall victim to verbal magic. The more society depends on the complex tech-nological network it created, the more problems have to be regulated by central powers, the more powerful state bureaucracy is, the more political democracy and more “formal”, “bourgeois” freedom is needed to tame the ruling apparatus and to secure individuals their shrinking rights to remain individuals. There will never be and there cannot be any economical or industrial democracy without political (“bourgeois”) democracy with everything it entails. We do not know how to harmonize the contradictory tasks contemporary society imposes upon us, we can only try an uncertain balance between these tasks, we have no prescription for a conflictless and secure society. I will repeat what I wrote once elsewhere: “In private life there is the attitude of those who think about how they could gain at one blow the capital that would allow them to spend the rest of their life without worries, in peace and security; and there is the attitude of those who must worry about how to survive until tomorrow. I think that human society as a whole will never be in the happy position of a rentier, living on dividends and having the guarantee of the secure life to the end, thanks to the capital once acquired. Its position will be rather similar to that of a journeyman who must care about how to survive until tomorrow. The utopians are people who dream about ensuring for mankind the position of rentier and who are convinced that this position is so splendid that no sacrifices (in particular no moral sacrifices) are too great to achieve it.”

This does not mean that socialism is a dead option. I do not think so. But I do think that this option was emptied not only by the experience of socialist states; it was emptied by the silly self-complacency and self-confidence of its adherents, by their inability to face both the limits of our efforts to change society and the incompatibility of demands and values which made up their creed; briefly, that the meaning of this option has to be revised entirely, from the very roots.

And when I say “socialism” I do not mean a state of perfection but rather a movement trying to satisfy demands for equality, freedom and efficiency, a movement that is worth trouble only as far as it is aware not only of the complexity of problems hidden in each of these values separately but also of the fact that they limit each other and can be implemented only through compromises. We make fools of ourselves and of others ifwe think (or pretend to think) otherwise. All institutional changes have to be treated entirely as means at the service of these values and not as ends in themselves and be judged correspondingly, taking into account the price we pay in one value when we reinforce another one. Attempts to consider any of these three values as absolute and to implement it at all costs not only are bound to destroy two others but they are self-defeating-a discovery of venerable antiquity. Absolute equality can be set up only within a despotic system of rule which implies privileges, i.e. destroys equality; total freedom means anarchy and anarchy results in the domination of the physically strongest, i.e. total freedom turns into its opposite; efficiency as a supreme value calls again for despotism and despotism is economically inefficient above a certain level of technology. If I repeat these old truisms this is because they still seem to go unnoticed in utopian thinking; and this is why nothing in the world is easier than writing utopias. I wish we could agree on this point. If we do, we can agree on many others, even after exchanging a few caustic remarks which, I hope, we will be generous enough to forgive each other. Such an agreement will be much less likely if you keep believing that communism was in principle an excellent contrivance, somewhat spoilt in less than excellent application. I hope to have explained to you why, for many years, I have not expected anything from attempts to mend, to renovate, to clean or to correct the communist idea. Alas, poor idea. I knew it, Edward. This skull will never smile again.

Yours in friendship,

Leszek Kolakowski

Hannah Arendt 與匈牙利的1956(及香港)

10月23日是匈牙利的公眾假期,為的是紀念匈牙利在1956年爆發的革命。這次被鎮壓的革命對匈牙利人有極為深遠的意義,甚至比1989年共產黨政權倒台更重要。事實上,這次革命在二十世紀的世界史也有相當的重要性,因為那是二戰結束以來,蘇聯和整個東歐共產主義陣營面對的第一次重大政治挑戰;這次挑戰不是來自外國勢力、不是來自「反動勢力」--這次革命之所以具挑戰性,正正是在於,這次的挑戰,是真正的來自「人民」。

當年10月23日,大批大學生、作家和民眾在布達佩斯街頭遊行,要求蘇聯紅軍撤出匈牙利,匈牙利社會主義工人黨(即匈牙利共產黨)立即結束一黨專政、開放自由選舉、建立民主社會主義。當晚,匈共第一書記透過電台發表強硬聲明批評示威者,示威者被激怒,拉倒斯大林的銅像、摘下匈共的國旗,並包圍布達佩斯的廣播電台大樓,保衛大樓的匈共秘密警察向示威者開火和發射催淚彈。示威者沒有被驅散,反而布達佩斯大批民眾和工人迅速加入示威,並攻擊警察及取得武器。匈共政府召喚軍隊協助,軍隊卻倒戈支持示威人民,本來的和平示威正式演變成革命,匈共領袖先後逃往莫斯科,政府瓦解。

在10月24日,蘇聯紅軍開入布達佩斯,和民眾對峙。匈共內的改革派的領袖伊雷姆.納吉和蘇聯的代表周旋,要求紅軍停止軍事行動。到10月27日,納吉宣佈成立新的聯合政府,開放黨禁,蘇聯也釋出善意,指尊重社會主義友好國家的主權和領土完整。11月1 日,納吉宣佈退出蘇聯控制的衛星國組織華沙公約國組織(蘇聯用來和美國主導的北約抗衡的組織),要求聯合國介入;當晚,蘇聯決定再次出兵,11月4日紅軍再次開入布達佩斯,和民眾爆發街頭戰,至11月10日,匈牙利革命被鎮壓,匈共重新建立一黨專政的政權,納吉被捕,兩年後被秘密處決。布達佩斯有超過一千五百名平民被殺,匈共在其後大規模清算參與革命的示威者,有約二萬六千人被捕,其中有數百人被處決,其他多數均被判刑;同時有超過二十萬匈牙利人逃往外國。

Hannah Arendt 有一篇相對冷門的文章 “Totalitarian Imperialism: Reflections on the Hungarian Revolution“,就是分析這場革命的意義,發表在1958年的Journal of Politics 之上,後來曾收錄在 The Origin of Totalitarianism 第二版作為 Epilogue,但之後的版數又抽起了,她稍後出版的文集也好像不見有收錄。這其實十分可惜,因為這實在是一篇十分精彩的政治分析,談政治不談哲學的Hannah Arendt 觀察依然犀利,分析平實而層次分明;她在這篇文章也扣連了她的極權主義理論和她後來(1963)在《論革命》(On Revolution)一書進一步開展的對「革命」的理解;匈牙利的1956 年革命,其實可視為觸發她開展對「革命」的思考的事件。

匈牙利的1956年革命為什麼會吸引到Hannah Arendt 的注意呢?為什麼會觸發了她對革命的思考呢?她在文章中引用了一位匈牙利教授在聯合國委員會為這次革命的報告作證時的一句話,這句話今天的香港人應該會很有共嗚:

「這是在歷史上獨一無二的--匈牙利的革命沒有領袖、沒有組織、沒有人從中統籌;每一個行動,都是由追求自由的意志所推動的。」

真的嗎?真的,匈牙利1956年革命的其中一個最令人深思的特點,正是它真的是沒有領袖的。據Hannah Arendt 的報導,當大批民眾和軍隊加入示威學生、匈共政府倒台之後,民眾迅速自發組織了各色各樣的自發組織--所謂的委員會 Councils。其中有作家委員會、學生委員會、公務員委員會--基本上走在一起就可以成立自治組織。然後這些民眾進一步組成的革命委員會 (Revolutionary Councils)接管了政府的權力,工人委員會(Workers’ Councils)則接管了工廠,沒有政黨也沒有革命黨主導,也沒有主導的意識形態,委員會內的選舉並不管參選者是否共產黨人,只在乎那個人只否可信、是否會濫權,而無論如何因為民眾的主動和活躍參與,他們也不可能濫權。這些委員會組織迅速由布達佩斯向全國擴散,而大大小小的委員會也取得了連繫,成立了最高國家委員會(Supreme National Council)。根據我所能接觸到的資料(包括這篇),她的記述雖然有溢美(如委員會之間的連結其實並不強),但大抵符合事實。

Hannah Arendt 對這樣的自發組織極為褒揚,視之為在歐洲大陸上「惟一在政黨和議會制度外的民主選項」。更重要的是,她認為匈牙利革命其實正好透視了蘇聯作為「極權帝國主義」的本質:極權主義因為一切以政治鬥爭先行,真相、規範、制度都是為當權者的政治鬥爭服務,既使講「法治」也不過是一紙空言,從來不能建立穩定的機制(如黨國領導人的更替方法),更是藉限制人的思想自由、政治自由,而任意扭曲摧殘人性。匈牙利的自發革命正是和極權主義針鋒相對:只要人們得到自由,所有極權主義的詭辯都會不攻自破--自由就是思想自由、言論自由、集會自由、政治自由;民主就是無限制的多黨制的自由普及而平等的選舉,所有人所有政黨都應該有被選的權利,就是由下而上的積極、民主參與和決策,都是指向反抗外來者、當權者的壓迫。這些訴求是自發的,卻清淅而實在,因為這就是事實上所有人都會追求的美好事物,同時也是極權主義極力希望扭曲的人性。匈牙利的1956年革命,它的自發與自治,正正就是打了極權主義一記耳光,證明了極權主義極力希望掩蓋和扭曲的有關人性的真相。

而當時的蘇聯,作為「極權帝國主義」,其實就是極權主義魔爪伸向國外的「最高階段」:和老舊的帝國主義(如大英帝國)不同,極權主義的帝國主義並不把其他國家和民族視為本國、本民族的附庸:極權主義一視同仁,對它的衛星國和對本國一樣,都是踐踏人權、踐踏自由,甚至是有意把衛星國的情況拉到和本國一樣差(如把原來尚有一點現代資本主義色彩的匈牙利拉到和斯大林大屠殺之後的俄羅斯一樣的政治和經濟情況)。更為重要的是,老舊的帝國主義重視掠奪殖民地的經濟利益,但極權帝國主義追求的卻是帝國的領土延伸,因此往往更重視地緣擴張,把所有人民都臣服到「中央」之下。因為這個原因,極權帝國主義多半會有極端民族主義做底子:如納粹的泛日耳曼主義、以及蘇俄的泛斯拉夫民族主義。事實上,之所以蘇聯沒有吞併衛星國,更多只不過是因為和美國和西歐對抗之下的妥協和折衝--因此甚麼尊重主權和領土完整只會是空話,極權主義並不可能有甚麼原則性的堅持,一旦情況有變,一切條約對極權主義的蘇聯都是沒有意義的,因此蘇聯說入侵匈牙利就會入侵匈牙利,並成為了他們鎮壓其他衛星國反抗運動的先例,如後來1968年的布拉格之春。

有意思的是,Hannah Arendt 在文章結尾的預測:極權主義政權因為以政治鬥爭和意識形態的語言偽術取代一切原則性的堅持,因此每一次的領導人更替都會是一次危機,而所有的自上而下的漸進改革都是不可能成功的,因為建立秩序和規範正正就是和極權主義的運作原理相違背。極權主義政權的垮台,只會是突然的崩潰。三十年之後的東歐巨變,似乎可說是證實了她的預見。

無論如何,根據Hannah Arendt 的看法,匈牙利1956 年革命的歷史意義正是在於它是自由的人民和極權主義的一次英勇較量。雖然革命只持續了十二天,但「它要比蘇聯十二年來對匈牙利的控制更有歷史意義」。事實上也是如此:匈牙利的 1956 年革命成了匈牙利人的民族創傷。1989年,受波蘭的團結工會運動波及,匈牙利共產政權開始和民主反對派談判,同年六月宣佈恢復納吉的名譽,重新安葬,逾十萬人走上街頭慶祝;同年十月,正正就是 1956 革命33 周年的前夕,共產黨改組成匈牙利社會黨,通過一系列立法建立了民主選舉和保障公民權利的制度,正式轉型為民主國家,並立即就把10月23日定為國家紀念假期。革命被鎮壓和噤聲了三十年,人民並沒有忘記。

(當然,後來匈牙利的民主化還有曲折的發展--或,更貼切的說法是倒退,這卻是後話了)

(當然,也不應該忽略的是,匈牙利在二戰前夕曾積極排猶,倒向納粹,二戰時也一直是納粹德國的同盟。公平點說,蘇聯紅軍二戰後「解放」匈牙利,有其歷史正當性,匈共的不少老黨員也是積極的反納粹戰士,也在戰後一度建立了多黨制的民主政府。不過後來匈共迅速走向一黨專政,緊跟斯大林的路線,激得民怨四起。於是斯大林一死,匈共即有改革派和強硬派的分裂。)

第一次讀到Hannah Arendt 這篇文章是在去年,當時並沒有甚麼很深的印象。今年翻看文章,卻不由得大有感觸。香港這一個月來發生的一切,突然使她文章中和我彷彿很遙遠的分析、思考和判斷變得親切,然後就不得不佩服Hannah Arendt 那穿透歷史的洞察力。她對自發自治的謳歌和浪漫想像我仍有保留(我認為她忽視了太多的制度細節可能面對的問題和陰暗面),但她對極權帝國主義的考察,即使蘇聯倒下了,今天看看香港和中共的對峙,卻彷彿仍然十分精準;她透過匈牙利革命對人性與自由的考察,更是在56年後的今天,居然再一次在香港的抗爭者之中得到證實。

謹以這篇文章紀念匈牙利1956年革命 58 周年。也希望還在街頭上、還在不同崗位為民主抗爭的香港人能感到自豪:和一個新世紀的極權帝國主義國度周旋,你們正在、甚至已經為世界史寫下重要的一頁。在這一天,1956年的匈牙利和今日的香港,時間上和地理上都分隔那麼遠,卻又像是這麼的近。

香港:未完成的自由主義?──讀周保松《政治的道德:從自由主義的觀點看》

香港專門討論政治思想的論著不多,以公眾作為目標讀者群的更少,大眾接觸到的政治思想討論,大多也只是偶然見諸報端的文章。周保松的新著《政治的道德:從自由主義的觀點看》以整本書的篇幅去闡述自由主義的理念,既面向公眾、少用專技性哲學術語,也不乏深刻的學理探討,是道德書寫介入政治論爭的難得作品。但這本書的意義不僅在於為自由主義理念辯護;這本談政治思想思考中國未來的書,背後那個香港的影子,其實也值得我們深思。

思考.香港.邊城

《政治的道德》內大多的文字都曾在內地時事雜誌《南風窗》作為專欄文章發表,對一系列政治哲學概念如平等、自由、民主、人權、市場等,作概念分析和道德證成;用周保松自己在自序中的話來說,就是以當代自由主義、或「左翼自由主義」的視角,「賦予這些價值特定內涵,再將它們系統地整合起來,形成完整的思想體系,並將之應用於制度」(頁xiv-xv),而書寫的語境也是內地的政治和社會狀況。但有趣的是,香港的形象卻恰恰出現在整本書、也就是周保松整個左翼自由主義論述的核心位置,即圍繞市場與自由的討論之中。

在書中的第四部分〈左翼之於右翼〉,周保松提出了一個在內地知識界引起了連番爭議的論點:政府愈少干預市場,並不如那些「小政府大市場」論者所言,人們就愈多自由。因為所謂的自由市場並不能自足地存在,「市場的遊戲規則,由國家制訂,並由它以強制性法律保證其有效運作。私有財產制,以供求決定商品價格及工資水平,低稅率和少監管,都是制度的結果」(頁139-140)。譬如說,某公園如果是私人財產,人們沒有擁有者的批准就不能內進;但如果是國家營運向公眾開放,則每個人都有自由使用公園,這個分別完全是相關法律和制度的結果(頁140)。我們因此無法簡單判斷把大部分的社會資源劃為私人財產,然後由市場供求決定資源分配的這一套制度,必然會賦予最多的人最多的自由。

而有趣的是,這裡正是香港的形象在書中首次出現的地方。香港連續十九年被美國右翼智庫傳統基金會評為最自由經濟體,但貧富懸殊嚴重,過百萬人活在貧窮線以下,因貧窮而沒有大部分的自由,是周保松帶出整個討論的引子(頁137、150);緊接著,香港也被用來論證適度的社會福利開支如十二年免費教育、收費低廉的公共醫療、公共房屋、綜援等,其實並不損害我們的自由,反而能令更多公民過上更有尊嚴的生活、活出更有意義的自由(頁166-167)。周保松由此進一步指出,值得憲政和法律保護的一些最為重要的「基本自由」,如人身自由、良心自由、言論自由、結社自由、參與政治的自由,都各自需要論證其道德基礎;而支撐這些自由受到各種制度保障的道德基礎,在於人的個人自主、過自己的人生,對個體的幸福而言是不可或缺的(頁42-43、 55-56)。正因為這個對自由的理解,他才批評私有產權和不加限制的自由市場所引發的巨大不平等,使貧窮者無法成為有尊嚴的公民、無法有效參與公共生活,是大大限制了他們的自由。這是他所揭櫫的「左翼自由主義」最核心、也最受爭議的論點。

周保松以自由批判放任市場,固然借重了不少當代英美分析政治哲學的理論資源,但同時香港的經驗也構成了他在內地引證這些理論資源的參照。這其實可圈可點:香港從來都不是典型的福利社會,西歐和北歐的福利社會制度其實才是討論社會保障不會有礙、還會增加公民自由的常用例子。那為什麼偏偏要提香港呢?

我想,這固然可能有書寫策略上的考慮──香港可能是內地讀者心理上最接近的奉行不同體制的地方;但更深一層的原因也許是:香港並不僅是周保松隨便的一個「例子」,反之那正是是他反思的起點。在周保松的理論建構之中,香港這個和內地異質的「邊城」所面對的困局,以及在體制實踐中所透視出來的改革潛力,成為了思考者反思中國進步、變革方向的重要思想資源。在這個意義下,我們不難見到「香港」經驗之於「中國」的中心位置:制度差異正是培養新銳、進步政治想像的重要條件。無論這是否周保松的實際想法,這個獨特的「邊城」位置,我想,其實是香港一個不應被輕視的歷史角色。

自由:在市場與左翼之間

這當然不是說香港就已經是一個合格的自由主義社會──事實上,香港不單未有普選,公民自由的保障也不充分,社會保障度更遠未足夠。周保松的左翼自由主義,其實也同時構成了一個對香港經驗重要的批判視角。

香港主流價值意識怎樣理解自由?在冷戰格局之下,港英殖民者出於對中共的策略需要惟持一定的公民自由(但也遠未充份:嚴重限制集會自由的公安條例就是港英時代的惡法),我們遂以為可以無民主但有自由;而另一方面,自由的意義則為放任市場論述──以及據說因放任市場而來的經濟繁榮(當然現實是金融業和地產商不斷擴張、監管和調節不斷減少,一般香港人只是在投資泡沫中坐了一轉順風車)──所壟斷,於是我們對自由的理解,往往只是市場上自由交易、互不干涉大家「搵食」、在資本泡沫中分一杯羹的自由。但周保松的左翼自由主義,卻正面挑戰這樣的社會想像:從重視個人自主這一道德標準來看,香港主流價值意識對自由的理解,其實有所偏差。

因為事實上自由的實踐不能脫離一個公正的政治社群。只有在一個公正的社會,我們才能實踐我們和其他人公平地合作、互相信賴這一道德能力(頁 34-37);也只有在公正的社會合作之中,我們才能共同生產豐厚的社會和文化資源,並使人性不至於為不公的制度所扭曲,能夠和他人建立不同的關係,實踐各種倫理能力(如親情、友情等)(頁4-5);在這個意義下,自由、平等和民主不能割裂來理解,因為,

「…作為獨立自主的個體,對於活在其中的政治世界,如果完全沒有參與權,完全被排斥在外,我們將強烈感受到屈辱和疏離。…政治參與的重要,並不在於我的投入客觀地令世界變得更好,而在於我因此有一份「在家」的感覺。「在家」之意,是說這個世界我也有份,我可以和其他人在平等權利下,一起改變和塑造屬於我們的政治共同體。…在這過程中,我們不僅體會到平等參與的可貴,同時也在發展人之為人的種種能力,感受公共生活的美好。民主制度有分與爭的一面,但在分與爭的背後,公民之間同時有很強的道德和政治紐帶。這些紐帶的基礎,是對自由公民的平等尊重,以及在此之上形成的政治共同體。」(頁90)

受限於過往的發展軌跡,香港的主流價值意識並不把香港視為一個需要公民共同參與建構的政治社群,因此忽略了建構一個公正的政治社群,即保障公民自由、適度限制市場、落實周全的社會保障和實踐政治民主,也是我們發展種種能力和人性、過上自主人生的重要條件。我認為,在最深的層次,正是因為重視「(公正)社群之於自由」的重要性,周保松的自由主義有著「左翼」性格──以區別視個人在放任市場中追逐自利為社會秩序基礎的右翼;這正和香港的主流價值意識有最深刻的對比。

香港之為政治想像

這篇書評旨在梳理周保松在《政治的道德》中開展的左翼自由主義主張背後那些香港的影子,希望指出這本書如何同時也為香港開啟了對中國、對自身一些不同的價值與政治與想像。這幾年來,所謂左翼與本土思潮的論爭方興未艾,而民主運動也隨著政改和佔中逼近,進入白熱化的抗爭階段;我想,在香港這個前路未卜、思潮湧動的大時代,周保松對民主、自由、社群的價值反思,也是一把我們思考香港未來時,所不應忽略的聲音。

(原發表於 星期日明報,2014年8月3日)

後記:因為定稿時正在忙其他事,結尾有點草草下筆,如果可以重寫,我想我應該會更強調:冷戰格局結束,中共全面和資本主義世界接軌,港英殖民者退場,金融資本主義泡沫爆破,支撐著香港主流價值意識對自由的理解的整個社會架構已經崩解。我們應該追求一個怎樣的新制度?這個新的社會-政治制度背後指向甚麼的價值共識?香港的思想論爭應該在這個層面開展,而周保松的左翼自由主義則是一把值得重視的聲音。主張本土者要建立一個相對獨立自主的城邦,那麼難道這個城邦能不以公正作為道德紐帶?那麼這個道德紐帶的內容是甚麼?是狹隘的仇外,還是開放的公民合作?左翼批判資本主義,訴諸的理由又和自由主義有何不同?左翼自由主義是論爭對手還是同盟?這些都是值得想清楚的問題,而有不少,其實我也還沒有清楚的答案。

議會

2014-03-30 15.19.49

匈牙利的國會大樓是歐洲最古老的國會大樓之一,也有說是歐洲大陸上最宏偉的國會。國會大樓於1873年決議興建,1904年才竣工,建了足足三十年。

匈牙利人對國會的建設如此隆重其事不是沒有原因的。國會從來都匈牙利民族自主和抗爭的象徵,匈牙利近代最早的獨立運動就是始於爭取原來被奧地利哈布斯堡皇室操控的議會,可以有更大的自主權,決定匈牙利本土的事務。1848 年的匈牙利民族革命,其前奏就是之前二十多年一連串的爭取議會更大權力的抗爭;引爆1848革命的,就是民眾所提出的「十二點宣言」,其中的第三點就是開常設的、自主的國會 (以往國會是由奧地利皇帝召開才會開會)。1848年的革命被奧地利和沙俄軍隊聯合血腥鎮壓告終。到了1867年,奧地利因為在對普魯士的普奧戰爭中失利,被迫和匈牙利國會中的溫和派領袖 Ferenc Deák 妥協,於是成立了史上有名的「奧匈(二元) 帝國」,匈牙利王國除了外交、軍事和財政大臣是和維也納的奧地利帝國共享以外,其他一切都有相當的自主權,國際地位也大幅提升。

但這其實某程度上只是慘勝。1867年的妥協方案雖然建立了二元帝國,但其實匈牙利真正的自主權比1848年前爭取回來的還要少,而且作為交換條件,還要承諾負擔奧地利相當一部分的國債。但因為1848年的革命引來血腥鎮壓,國會也被奧地利瘋狂打壓,整個匈牙利直到1867之前基本上都是處於軍事獨裁統治之下。作為中間派,Ferenc Deák 也許已經盡了力折衷 (目前佩斯市中心的一個廣場,也是交通樞紐,就是以他為名。比他年代早一點的議會激進派領袖、保障少數民族權益的先行者Lajos Kossuth,則成為了國會廣場的名字)。而這樣以優待匈牙利人的地位、滿足匈牙利人的虛榮心而不是給予匈牙利實質權力的妥協,也有曲折的代價,就是加劇了匈牙利人在本土內和其他少數民族的矛盾。這是因為對少數民族的保護都是奧地利皇帝作為匈牙利國王而主張的,而匈牙利人不少就覺得1867年的妥協根本就是強加於他們;同時少數民族卻覺得只把匈牙利視作匈牙利人的地方、只把匈牙利人而不是一視同仁把其他民族也視為帝國共同體的一員,是對同樣生活在那片土地上的他們不尊重。

但無論如何,有自己的國會,由自己選出來的議員,透過規範的會議討論、用公共理性凝聚社會公意,決定自己土地上的政策和未來,這不是虛無飄渺的理論構想或道德幻覺;這對匈牙利十九世紀的抗爭者們,有真實的價值,匈牙利的國會史,是人民用長久的抗爭、甚至用鮮血和犧牲寫出來的。一個地方民眾的自主,首先要爭的,是一個自主的、真正屬於人民的、不受外力操縱的議會。然後這個地方才可有真正屬於自己的、不是由外力強加的法律和政策。自己的議會,是自主的象徵,是一地民眾的公共意志的象徵;所以它得宏偉,所有它的議事需要理性、莊嚴。

香港的議會,剛剛過了黑暗的一天。香港的未來,也許將和十九世紀的匈牙利同樣動盪,只知當權者步步進迫,卻不知道抗爭終會走向何處。自主、抗爭、妥協、犬儒──要如何對抗邪惡?當年和今日也許同樣糾結,終或引向許許多多不可預計的事態發展。幫不了甚麼,只能希望香港和匈牙利,議會內外的抗爭者,也都不忘議會之為議會本來的意義,勿忘初衷。