Adam Michnik’s introspective and witty “Gray is Beautiful” characteristically possesses broader significance than its putative subject, the shift from “tests of captivity” to “tests of freedom” in postcommunist Europe. He scrutinizes the limits of the civil-society-oriented dreams of his fellow dissidents in the political rough and tumble after 1989 and grapples with the responsibilities that come with democratic politics. He challenges the children of 1968, including himself, to reconsider our ideological heritage and develop a keener awareness of the dangers of fanaticism and the burdens of liberal democracy.
Michnik addresses as “the source of many arguments with my American friends” his refusal to define himself, as he and fellow opposition leaders once had, as “socialists and people of the left.” He has turned instead to a framework of “radical democracy.” I find myself in agreement with most of what he has written, but wish to raise a gentle “internal protest” of my own about one or two aspects of his piece....
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