Mexican writer and thinker Enrique Krauze visited Santiago in November to present his autobiography Spinoza in Mexico Park (Tuschi). The book of over 700 pages is the result of a series of conversations, which began in 2015, with the Spanish writer José María Lasalle. Through these, the historian recounts how he shaped his thinking about philosophy, history and politics, and how this intersects with aspects of his personal life.
“This is not a novel, but a novel of reality, of intellectual formation”, as Krauze defines his book.
The historian and essayist was born in Mexico City in 1947, near Parque México, the neighborhood that gives the work its title. He is an industrial engineer from UNAM (1969) and a PhD in history from El Colegio de México (1974). In 1977 he entered the magazine Tour together with the poet Octavio Paz and, in 1981, he became its deputy director, a position he held until December 1996. In 1991 he founded Editorial Clío and in 1999 he launched, as director, the magazine free letters.
In 1990 he entered the Mexican Academy of History. In 2003 the Spanish government awarded him the “Grand Cross of the Order of Alfonso X el Sabio”. Since April 2005 he has been a member of El Colegio Nacional.
“As I was writing it, I realized that what I wanted was to understand the twentieth century. I was a reader, I’ve always been a reader before a writer. I wrote afterwards to try to understand. And, then, what did I want to understand? I wanted to understand the totalitarianisms of the 20th century,” says Krauze.
The influence of Baruch Spinoza
In Enrique Krauze’s book he speaks of the influence that the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) had on his thinking and defines him as a mentor of liberalism.
“I’m not the only one nor the first to believe it. My grandfather believed it when, in those conversations and walks in Parque México, which is an emblematic place in Mexico City, we walked and he preached Spinoza’s Gospel to me. What I call Spinoza’s Gospel, is actually Spinoza’s philosophy and his example of life”, says the author.
Krauze, like Spinoza, is of Jewish origin, therefore for the Mexican historian the life of the philosopher defined an important part of his thinking.
“As something natural, before regretting and fighting, before understanding them. Well, there is a liberation. And then there is freedom, as he defended it from his solitary, heterodox position, like the fact that the individual and the human person It cannot be. Ideas or thoughts cannot be imposed on the human person. Moreover, the nature is such that not even the person himself can decide what to think. It is like deciding dreams. There is no night. dream this No one can master dreams. No one can master what they think. What they think is something natural. So if it is natural, what I think must be natural; my ability to believe and express myself, as long as it is, does not damage the harmony elemental of a society, they are liberal thoughts, liberal in the best sense of the word. Of course, he was not a forerunner of economic liberalism, nor of the minimal state, nor of libertarians, or anything like that, “he explains.
“This book covers the thought of Hannah Arendt, of Isaiah Berlin, of George Orwell, great thinkers of the twentieth century who illuminate the century. But above all the influence of Spinoza. I am not a philosopher by profession, but I have read it and I think there are elements to agree with Spinoza’s idea”, he adds.
The thinker claims that he comes from a family of Jewish and socialist immigrants from Poland.
“I always believed that socialism was possible, but without such a gigantic and oppressive state; with freedom and democracy. I was never enthusiastic about Cuba, or Che Guevara, or Castro, or Lenin. I had a certain illusion that Trotsky was I was a figure, the loser of the Revolution, a figure of liberal socialism. But then, when I read his biography, I understood that he was authoritarian or totalitarian like Lenin or Stalin. So I became, shall we say, properly liberal. Very soon, thank you to the influence of important teachers in my life, like Daniel Cosío Villegas and like Octavio Paz. And, well, being a liberal in particular is being against abusive power and, of course, absolute power,” he argues.
Democracy and populism
His curiosity for politics led him to the Southern Cone in the late 1970s, during the dictatorships in Chile and Argentina, where he met the poet Enrique Lihn.
“I came to Chile and Argentina in 1979, during the dictatorships, and I wrote a report. I was 30 and that report led to the closure of the magazine, which could no longer circulate here”.
In this sense, throughout his career he has been critical of populism, a phenomenon which he defines as “a form of domination” and one of the most important risks in today’s democracies.
“Populism is the abusive use of the microphone by one person, the cult of personality, the continuous mobilization of the masses who believe in the charismatic leader. Populism is a mutation of fascism. And, of course, both are ideologies which, in addition communism, seem to promise various forms of national, racial, social or economic redemption, but what they really want and seek is power,” he underlines.
A reading of Boric’s government
A few months ago, the Mexican author said in an interview that President Gabriel Boric just had to pay attention to populism. Today, eight months after taking office, the thinker does not see him as a populist ruler.
«Chile has many problems and the scenes of violence a few years ago worried me a lot. Of course, the wounds of those of 1973, of that atrocious blow, perhaps some are still open, I have no doubts. real. But Chile does not have a populist president. I don’t consider him a populist,” he says.
In this sense, he enthusiastically evaluates the first months of government of the current Chilean president: “I rate him better than the Chileans”, he declares.
“He made demarcation statements with respect to Nicaragua and Cuba, which is extremely valuable, because there it is clear that above all he respects the rules of democracy. This is the most important thing. You can be for or against the measures he took after the exercise constitutional… But, well, that’s one thing. Chile has a curriculum, a republican, democratic, law, debate, freedom history, I trust it won’t give it up. And, well, I think Chileans have realized that this goes far beyond what we want. The mandate was very clear and Boric came out saying ‘good’. If you elaborate on the issues on the agenda, the measures and I’m sure it would be against many of his policies, but that What I want to emphasize is that there is an alternation of power and a healthy public debate,” he says.