141 CHRONICLESnON LIBERTY AND THE GRAND IDEAnby Negovan RajicnFor a long time I thought I knew how to evade thendiscourse of the Grand Idea. It began when I was in thenYugoslav People’s Army. The war was barely over, butnvictory brought no greater liberty to those who had sufferednthe Nazi occupation, and the brainwashing in the barracksngrew more and more obsessive. I consoled myself that, oncendemobilized, I would no longer be forced to listen to thisnnonsense. In 1945, there were many of us in Yugoslavia (asnin other Eastern European countries) who had realizednwhat a chasm lay between the arguments we were hearingnand the reality around us.nWhen I did return to civilian life, I quickly had tonabandon hope there, too. Everyone around me bandiednaround the same depressing arguments so that any genuinenthought naturally became subversive.nYouth, however, is incurably optimistic. I was 22 andnclung to the hope of somehow avoiding the Grand Idea.nAfter all, I had never been especially interested in politics ornin the humanities, and by enrolling in the technical faculty Inthought that as an engineer I would not have to endurenthese ideological arguments. I believed that, simply by thennature of things, the laws of physics would always remainnexempt from this discourse. But I was wrong.nOne April evening in 1946, after classes, as I was crossingnthe hall of the austere building that housed the technicalnfaculty, a message on a poster stopped me in my tracks. Thenposter announced the inaugural lecture of a professor D.I.,nthe title of whose talk was “Dialectical Materialism andnNegovan Rajic is professor of mathematics at the Collegenof General and Professional Education of Trois-Rivieres,nQuebec. This article has been translated from the Frenchnby Judith Cowan.nnnBohr’s Atomic Theory.” I suddenly understood: nothingnand no one could escape the Grand Idea.nIt was barely two months later, on July 8, 1946, that mynlifelong friend Milenko and I swam the river that marks thenfrontier between Yugoslavia and Austria. As the sun rosenbehind the mountains the next morning, we set out alongnthe road with our bundles. We had become pilgrims innsearch of liberty.nUpon arriving in the West, I believed that I had at lastnescaped the discourse of the Grand Idea. Unfortunately, Inwas once again to discover I had been mistaken. Sugarednand diffused by its adaptation to the conditions of a freencountry, assuming the airs of a certain objectivity, the GrandnIdea reigned supreme amongst the Parisian intelligentsia,nthe brave souls repeating its precepts like the chorus in anGreek tragedy. Its insidious character was highlighted by thisnmilieu, where it was becoming more and more difficult tondistinguish it from an authentically humanitarian debate.nBy the end of the 40’s, however, I had finally realized thatnit was pointless to try to escape, and that I was going to havento confront it with reason. It was Goethe who said thatnliberty must be won over and over again every day. Neverndid his words ring truer in my ears.nIf ideology, in the modern sense of the term, is anninvention of the 18th century, totalitarian ideology appearednonly in the 19th, as a radically new phenomenon. NeithernRicardo nor Adam Smith ever suggested that an existingnsociety should be swept aside to give way to a fundamentallynnew society. Why did Marx then want to begin with thentotal destruction of the existing order?nPerhaps it was because Marx, being an educated man,ncould not escape the influence of the sciences of his time.nAfter the initial faltering steps taken by the exact sciencesnduring the Century of Reason, the first half of the 19thncentury saw the establishment of science as an edifice withnunquestionable, impervious foundations. (There remainednmuch to be discovered in physics, chemistry, and biology,nbut at the time what was known seemed solidly defined,nforever.) Thermodynamics, mechanics, electricity, and opticsnincreasingly appeared to be the branches of a singlenphysical science conforming to a few basic laws. Then,nduring the second half of the 19th century, Mendeleev’snperiodic table of the elements seemed to sweep away anyndistinction between chemistry and physics in favor of anunified, materialistic vision of the cosmos. The temptationnto apply to society laws analogous to those observed in thenexact sciences was considerable. To break down the tissue ofnhumanity to its component elements, in order to erect a newnstructure of justice, seemed only logical to Marx, Engels,nLenin, and Pol Pot.nIt seemed, also, that almost 2,000 years of Christiannpreaching had not brought us very far along the path ofnrighteousness. Appealing for the voluntary conversion ofnman, Christianity had proved inefficient, whereas history hasnshown that man, left to himself, was prisoner of his passionsnand instincts. This was why it was necessary to create newnsocial structures which would take man in hand and obligenhim to accept the Good. After adhering to the Good for an