55 Voices for Democracy: Francis Fukuyama

55 Voices for Democracy: Francis Fukuyama

I’m very delighted to be asked to
participate in this “55 Voices” series in honor of Thomas Mann and to be in Thomas Mann’s house in Pacific Palisades. I think that Thomas Mann is particularly
relevant to the present moment in a couple of respects. I think that the role
that he played as an exile from Nazi Germany, his “Listen, Germany!” lectures that
were delivered into Nazi Germany during the war, in a way set a important
precedent for how you dissent against tyranny, against authoritarian regimes. To
me it makes a particular difference because I am the director of something
called the Center on Democracy Development and the Rule of Law at
Stanford University. We run a number of programs for people who want to promote
democracy around the world. Most of them are civil society activists some are
journalists some are actually in governments that are seeking to become
democratic and I think very tragically in our period we are facing some of the
same kinds of authoritarian governments that Thomas Mann
faced in his day and a number of the people that have gone through our
programs have, liked him, been able to to to resist those regimes only from the
outside and to try to speak from the outside to their own fellow citizens. I
would actually like to just mention a few of them by name because they are
real people in their struggles I think are very similar to Thomas Mann’s. Nancy Okail had worked for the National Democratic Institute in Egypt at the
time of the Arab Spring she was jailed eventually freed, she went to Washington
to form the Tahrir Institute and spoke out against the dictatorship of
General Sisi. Saeid Golkar had to flee his native Iran and since then has
been working as an academic writing about the Iranian regime. Zhanna Nemtsova is the daughter of Boris Nemtsov the famous Russian dissident politician.
She can no longer live in Russia but has to work as a journalist from from
Germany. David Smolansky had been a mayor in an opposition party in
Venezuela and now is in Washington and finally Audrey Lee a journalist a
Chinese journalist that I think no longer finds it safe to be back in China.
All of these people are following in Thomas Mann’s tradition. I think that the
fact that these people cannot safely travel in their own countries where they
were born is an indication of the shifts in global politics that have occurred in
the last few years unfortunately. You have the consolidation of authoritarian
regimes like China or Russia that are now self-confident and are trying to
project their influence into the outside world and you also have the rise of
populism. You have the rise of politicians in established democracies
beginning with two of the most well established democracies, the United
States and Britain, who’ve used their popular mandate to try to undermine some
of the democratic norms that exist in a real liberal democracy: the rule of law,
the separation of powers, the independence of courts and the
importance of independent journalism as pillars of what it means to be in a real
democratic society and unfortunately, in many countries all of these institutions
with help from outside powers like China and Russia have been dealing a setback
to global democracy. I think we are in a crisis of global democracy where the
forces that support an open and tolerant society are under
tremendous pressure and we’ve gone backwards in that struggle. I think that the
example of Thomas Mann should be an inspiration to all of those people
currently struggling as he struggled back in the 1940s. I think that it’s
important to realize that there’s hope at the end of this process that people
do not want to live under tyrannical regimes. They do want to have the freedom
to think and write and act. And I think that we need to be on guard from another
thing that Thomas Mann suffered from in his career which was his dealings with
the House Un-American Activities Committee and the kinds of prejudices
against dissident opinions that can occur even in the most well-established
democracy. And unfortunately we are seeing some of that trend reappear in
the United States, in Europe in other countries that should be the bastions of
free society. So thank you very much for your attention. I congratulate the Thomas
Mann house for this event and I look forward to further discussions along
these lines. Thank you very much.

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