Mario Vargas Llosa: “Political correctness is the enemy of freedom”
Besides writing prize-winning fiction, the Nobel Laureate has fought tirelessly for civil liberties. With his new book, ‘The Call of the Tribe,’ he promotes liberal thought and pays tribute to seven authors who embrace it. We talk to him about liberalism, intellectual blindness and the dangers facing democracy today
liberalism defends some basic ideas: freedom, individualism, the rejection of collectivism and nationalism – in other words, all the ideologies or doctrines that limit or annihilate freedom within society.
Nationalism is present, but my impression is that, as with Catalonia, it’s a minority and the strength of democratic institutions is going to gradually undermine it until it’s derailed.
I wanted to be a communist. I thought communism represented the antithesis of a military dictatorship, corruption and, above all, inequality.
But the communism in Latin America was pure Stalinism, with parties subject to the Comintern in Moscow.
Fidel invited myself and a dozen other intellectuals to speak to him. We spent the whole night, 12 hours, from eight in the afternoon to eight the next morning, basically listening to him speak. It was impressive, but not very convincing.
Blindly, intellectuals have always seen democracy as a mediocre system that lacked the beauty, perfection and coherence of the big ideologies. And this blindness is not incompatible with great intelligence. How could Heidegger, perhaps the greatest philosopher in recent times, for example, be a Nazi? The same happened with communism. It attracted writers and poets of great stature who applauded the Gulag. Sartre, the most intelligent French philosopher of the 20th century supported the Cultural Revolution in China.
In Latin America, if you weren’t a left-wing intellectual in the 1970s, you simply weren’t an intellectual. You were shut out. Culture was controlled by a left that was very clannish and dogmatic and that had a profound warping effect on cultural life
In the case of misinformation and manipulation, communism was incredibly clever at distorting things, undermining honest people and masking lies with false truths that came to substitute reality.