On the Abolition of All Political Parties (NYRB Classics)
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An NYRB Classics Original
Simone Weil—philosopher, activist, mystic—is one of the most uncompromising of modern spiritual masters. In “On the Abolition of All Political Parties” she challenges the foundation of the modern liberal political order, making an argument that has particular resonance today, when the apathy and anger of the people and the self-serving partisanship of the political class present a threat to democracies all over the world. Dissecting the dynamic of power and propaganda caused by party spirit, the increasing disregard for truth in favor of opinion, and the consequent corruption of education, journalism, and art, Weil forcefully makes the case that a true politics can only begin where party spirit ends.
This volume also includes an admiring portrait of Weil by the great poet Czeslaw Milosz and an essay about Weil’s friendship with Albert Camus by the translator Simon Leys.
role of fools in Shakespeare's plays, she says: ' In this world only human beings reduced to the lowest degree of humiliation, much lower than mendicancy, not only without any social position but considered by everybody as deprived of elementary human dignity, of reason - only such beings have the possibility of telling the truth. All oth ers lie.' And on herself: 'Ravings about my intelligence have for their aim the avoidance of the question: Does she tell the truth or not? My position of
God of Durkheim).' Her stand in politics is summed up in a metaphor she used often, taken from Plato. Plato compares society to a Great Beast. Every citizen has a relationship with that Beast, with the 51 CzE S L AW MrL osz result that asked what is the good, everyone gives an answer in accordance with his function: for one the good consists in combing the hair of the Beast, for another in scratching its skin, for the third in cleaning its nails. In that way men lose the possibility of know
little man with shiny boots and a rid ing crop. They copulate in public, on a small bit of ground surrounded by barbed wire - their last home on Earth." After the war, like many Polish intellectuals who hoped that, by collaborating with the Communist regime, they might help it to reform itself, Milosz became a diplomat and was sent as cultural attache, first to Washington and then to Paris. He understood 2 Milosz, Milosz's ABCs. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 2001, 'Anus mundi,' pp. 39
by no means far-fetched). Only what is just can be legitimate. In no circumstances can crime and mendacity ever be legitimate. Our republican ideal was entirely developed from a notion originally expressed by Rousseau: the notion of the 'general will.' However, the true meaning of this notion was lost almost from the start, because it is complex and demands a high level of attention. Few books are as beautiful, strong, clear-sighted and articulate as Le Contrat social (with the exception of some
But then this need is evil, and one must put an end to it by abolishing political parties. A man who has not taken the decision to remain exclusively faithful to the inner light establishes mendac ity at the very centre of his soul. For this, his punishment is inner darkness. It would be useless to attempt an escape by estab1 ish i ng a distinction between inner freedom and external discipline, for this would entail lying to the public, towards whom every candidate, every elected representative,