Tradition And Modernity In The 1920s (IV)

excerpts Chapter IV. What path shall we choose for our evolution? 1 The history of modern Romania has registered, periodically, a phenomenon that might seem strange at first glance. That is the discussion, every two or three decades, concerning the development of the country up to that moment, and the suggestion of new solutions and new roads to follow. Re-discussing these issues is, however, so violent, that the participants seem not to be able to come to terms in any way. This phenomenon is only apparently strange. If we try to go beyond the surface, things become perfectly explicable. Ours is a country where capitalism developed relatively late and where a feudal type of society continued to survive especially in rural areas. In 1900, the great landed properties (over 500 hectares) still represented 33% of the farmland of the country, to which an additional 10% must be added, representing properties between 100 and 500 hectares. A very brief historical examination of our main trends of thought before 1918 proves the fact that the agrarian question was at the centre of all these theories. Consequently, they all tried to offer solutions to the problem as well as a wider perspective on the evolution of the country in general. That is why the history of modern Romania records what Ştefan Zeletin called a "sociological paradox". In spite of the social laws that imposed well defined dynamics to the evolution of Romania, the most important trends of thought that were at the centre of ideological debates in all these periods were actually hostile to this historical necessity. After World War I this type of controversy becomes radical to an extent never witnessed before. The war had fundamentally changed the situation. For the first time after the short-lived unification of the Romanian Principalities in 1600 by Michael the Brave, the Romanian territories were part of the same national state and the Romanians were proud of their new status of a great nation in the Balkan and Central Europe area, as these had been shaped by the peace treaties signed after the war. The major social and political reforms for which several generations had fought since 1848 had been achieved. After the war, six and a half million hectares of farmland had been expropriated and given to those who had fought during the war, a reform that benefited one and a half million peasants. The other reform, which involved the universal right to vote, suddenly brought peasantry at the center of political life. Another essential element should be added to this, namely that the country had become much richer by annexing territories that more than doubled its initial surface. This represented a huge economic potential that created favorable premisses for the industrialization of the country. The new Romania offered all grounds for hope that its economy would be reshaped. Firstly, the possibility for the industrialization of the country and for the abandoning of the entirely agrarian structure of the economy became real. Irrespective of their political persuasions, Ştefan Zeletin, Vintilă Brătianu, H. Sanielevici, E. Lovinescu, the young people grouped around Cuvântul liber (The Free Word) all advocated with one voice the necessity of the industrial development of the country. Fragments of what was later to become Ştefan Zeletin's study The Romanian Bourgeoisie, published in 1926, are first published in various reviews starting with 1921 and raise fierce controversy. From this perspective, of a theory that proved the necessity of the industrial development of Romania, did E. Lovinescu write his History of Romanian Modern Civilization. According to Lovinescu, everything in Romanian society proved that the country necessarily evolved towards an industrialized type of civilization. 2 So far, we have tried to very briefly sketch the two-colored map of interwar Romania to emphasize the problems that concerned the intellectuals of the country in the years immediately after World War I. In the newly created conditions after the ideal of national unity was achieved and the national Romanian united state was created, the country went through a period of transition from a predominantly rural society to an industrial one. It was a process of dramatic confrontation that involved drastic changes of customs and traditions that were, in many cases, two thousand years old. The obsessive idea of extreme traditionalism, later converted to Orthodoxy, was that work in an industrialized society was not suitable for national spirituality. As, they believed, national spirituality actually meant Orthodoxy, the idea they were supporting was that Orthodoxy, a contemplative weltanschauung, did not go well with work in an industrialized society, which presupposes a collective, rational effort. Industrial development and the philosophy associated with it were considered to be a typical Western phenomenon, a consequence of the Reformation and Protestantism or, even worse, of the Jewish spirit. The economist and sociologist Werner Sombart had claimed in his Der Moderne Kapitalismus and, particularly, in his Les Juifs et la vie économique that capitalism was directly linked to the Jewish spirit. Max Weber, one of the greatest sociologists of Germany, believed that industrialization was the very destiny of the modern, capitalist world. He even proved the rational character of this phenomenon. The definition of reason acquires even, with Weber, a "material" character, the industrial spirit becoming a consequence of this conception. The supporters of Orthodoxy in our country thus rejected not only the Protestant mentality, but also its rationalism that derived from industrialism. The anti-industrialist position assumed the status of a philosophical stance. The mystic, Orthodox spiritualism confronted the rationality of Protestantism. Nae Ionescu wrote in 1924: "Max Weber believes that the spirit and industrial production of capitalism are the work of Calvin. To establish such a connection seems risky to me. Maybe we should rather say that the spirit of capitalism and Calvinism have the same structure."[1] In 1927 he wrote: "Protestantism means several things; it can mean a denomination, of course… but it also means, it primarily means a certain attitude and metaphysics towards reality."[2] Now everything was clear, the target was unmistakably defined: "The new Orthodox movement, which is, in fact, only a response to the secular spirit that dominates metaphysics must have as target – with the help of neo-scholastics – the neutralization of the Protestant spirit of the Renaissance on which the present European civilization and – in an artificial way – even the Romanian one were built.[3]" It would be certainly a mistake to ignore the reality of the differences in mentality between the nations of Western and Eastern Europe. This is an undeniable reality, largely based on the confessional differences (Catholicism and Protestantism in the West and Orthodoxy in the East). This phenomenon was discussed by Mircea Florian in a remarkable essay of 1926 in which he made a distinction between the two types of culture, as differentiated by religion. Florian maintained that modern culture is a creation of the West and that, on a certain historical level, Orthodoxy and modernity are incompatible.[4] The problem was, as Florian, a rationalist, understood it, if this original incompatibility was permanent, fatal and unavoidable, or if bridges could be built to bring Orthodoxy and modernity together. Consistent in their refusal of modernity, the supporters of the Orthodoxist movement did not look for such a way out. As they were trying to find a doctrinal basis for Orthodoxism, they changed it into an insurmountable barrier against the modern mentality (which included, in a causal succession, rationalism, industrialism, democracy). The works of Zeletin and Lovinescu are indeed very important as they represented the first attempt in our culture to explain the sociological motivations that led to the making of modern Romania. 1848 and, as a continuation of it, the legislation of 1866 were analyzed as inaugural moments in the making of capitalism in our country. They both considered (like Gherea and Ibrăileanu before them) that the modern evolution to capitalism of our country was due to its becoming a part of the sphere of influence of the Western European powers. Like Gherea, Ibrăileanu and Sanielevici, the two sociologists considered the external factor to be the decisive one. (Only Lucreţiu Pătrăşcanu would claim, in 1945, in his study A Century of Social Unrest, that the beginnings and development of Romanian capitalism were influenced primarily by internal conditions). From this point on, the two theories are different. Zeletin studied the genesis of Romanian capitalism as being triggered by sociological and economic causes: the fact that the Romanian Principalities had become a partner of the Western countries and acquired the right to have economic relations with them after the peace of Adrianople of 1829 between Turkey and Russia. Lovinescu on the other hand, like Ibrăileanu in 1909, approached this subject from the perspective of the sociology of culture.[5] Both our authors start from the necessity of this accomplished process. In his preface to Burghezia română (The Romanian Bourgeoisie), Zeletin declared that the purpose of his work was to scientifically study the social development of modern Romania, and to thus prove the historical necessity from which our modern institutions were born. Lovinescu, in his History of Romanian Modern Civilization, said pretty much the same thing, considering that the social sphere is governed by laws that are outside the freedom of choice. However, he differed from Zeletin as the following polemic quotation proves: "Without denying the importance in certain respects of economic factors, we will prove that, in the process of our becoming as a nation, social ideology anticipated the influence of Western capitalism. The economic process was not surpassed by the ideological process only through the latter's anteriority in time, but also through its means of penetration: the power of penetration of ideas is much greater."[6] 3 The inter-war period did not only fuel an atmosphere that was hostile to rational thought. It was also hostile to everything that meant modernity and renewal. The widely spread theory was that the ideal for us was to remain within the traditional framework of the Romanian village, while the chimera of industrialization had to be rejected as a useless and inappropriate target. A widely promoted theory was that the ideal solution for Romania was the rejection of the "chimera" of industrialization, an inadequate and useless target, and the preservation of the traditional rural structures: "The mirage of industrial prosperity seems to have lured us for a moment," Cezar Petrescu wrote in 1925. "But to forcefully choose the path of industrialization at a time when the whole Europe is in crisis… is undoubtedly an artificial strategy… if we do that, the shaping of our national civilization which stems from the tradition of the past and has been polished and tempered in the heat of Western civilization, will turn into a dead fetus in its mother's womb. And thus we will lose everything that is peculiar to our national civilization, all the mysterious fermentation through which a civilization becomes ethnical."[7] Naturally Nechifor Crainic sang to the same old tune, embracing Cezar Petrescu's views (or rather the latter had borrowed the ideas of the former), insisting again and again that to adopt the industrial rhythm of industrial development in Romania would be a great error. He believed that if we did we would put our ethnical, cultural and spiritual tradition in great danger. Traditionalism was seen by him as a shield against this cataclysm. Almost daily the supporters of this point of view anathematized "the Babylonian cities of the Western civilization" (Dragnea would have liked to see our modern state shaped "in the spirit of the 18th century"). These people preached an escape from the clutches of modern history and from its sociological determinism and a return to an ideal moment in the past that was considered characteristic of our nation and perennial. Those who advocated the preservation of our rural society ignored the fact that capitalism was massively influencing the rural areas of Romania already and that the agrarian reform had significantly altered the economic and social relations within the traditional Romanian village. Aware of this reality, Lovinescu repeatedly pointed out that the universe of our village had been changed and its realities had been transformed by the ideology of the new age that had dissolved the previous economic relation, and had "reshaped them in accordance with the requirements of modern capitalism"[8]. This was what Şerban Cioculescu, too, wrote in a very critical comment on Constantin Rădulescu-Motru's Personalismul energetic (The Energetic Personalism): "Nothing is eternal and nothing is immutable. There is no exception to this rule. Our villages today, with all their chaotic administration, are in reality very advanced if compared to the troglodyte ones that we had centuries ago, at the beginnings of our rural civilization. No matter what their shortcomings might be, we should not forget that they were capable of evolving and changing into the towns and cities of today. The Romanian city is only the end of a rapid evolutionary process."[9] The controversy around the answer to be given to the question "What path shall we choose for our evolution?" was to become unprecedentedly fierce in the years 1924-1926. This was, of course, the consequence or the culmination of the heated polemic started immediately after the war. The debate will continue to the end of the decade and, occasionally, into the 1930s, but it will never reach the climax of those years in the mid-1920s. The protagonists of the confrontation – and this detail is worth mentioning – were young people of the generation that made itself known just after the war (Nechifor Crainic, Pamfil Şeicaru, Mihai Ralea, Tudor Vianu, E. Filotti, Tudor Teodorescu-Branişte, Felix Aderca, Cezar Petrescu) and took place mainly in a number of new reviews that had been initiated by these young men themselves: Gândirea (The Thought), Hiena (The Hyena), Cuvîntul liber (The Free Word), Mişcarea literară (The Literary Movement), Cetatea literară (The Literary Fortress). They were supported by representatives of the older generations, personalities such as Eugen Lovinescu, Garabet Ibrăileanu, Constantin Rădulescu-Motru, who sometimes contributed themselves to the debate in their own publications: Viaţa românească (Romanian Life), Ideea europeană (The European Idea), etc. It is now (October 1924) that the first volume of E. Lovinescu's History of Romanian Modern Civilization is published (to be followed by the second in February 1925 and the third in November 1925). The courage with which E. Lovinescu approached the subject and dealt with it triggered a terrible clash between his supporters and his adversaries. Ibrăileanu, Rădulescu-Motru and the young people who had newly entered the arena of the cultural life soon joined them. The four most substantial chapters of Zeletin's The Romanian Bourgeoisie, a work published in 1926, are strongly in favor of the structural renewal of the Romanian civilization. Before being published in the above-mentioned volume, they were published in 1921-1922 in four issues (2-3 and 4 in 1921 and 5 in 1922) of the extremely important publication of D. Gusti, Arhivă pentru ştiinţă şi reformă socială (An Archive for Science and Social Reform). Zeletin's study had a great echo and triggered significant reactions. Mention should be made of some of the most important participants in the anti-Zeletin polemic. Virgil Madgearu, the theorist of the ruralist trend, published in 1923 in D. Gusti's Archive… his response under the form of the study Revoluţia agrară şi evoluţia clasei ţărăneşti (The Agrarian Revolution and the Evolution of the Peasant Class) and in Independenţa economică (The Economic Independence), issue 3-4 of 1925, the study Formarea şi evoluţia burgheziei române (The Forming and the Evolution of the Romanian Bourgeoisie). In 1923 Constantin Rădulescu-Motru polemicizes with Zeletin in his conference Concepţia conservatoare şi progresul (The Conservative Theory and Progress) that was later to be published in Archive… and in the collective volume Doctrinele partidelor politice (The Doctrines of the Political Parties). Also in 1924 (and also in response to Zeletin s study), the socialist theorist Lothar Rădăceanu publishes, naturally in Archive… a study entitled Oligarhia română. Un studiu asupra capitalismului în România (The Romanian Oligarchy. A Study on Capitalism in Romania). Within the series of conferences on the doctrines of the political parties, organized by The Romanian Social Institute in 1923, Madgearu, Marghiloman, Nicolae Iorga, Nae Ionescu, Constantin Rădulescu-Motru, I. G. Duca, I. N. Anghelescu, Mircea Djuvara, Ilie Moscovici presented the motivations of the then political parties and expressed their own opinions on the captivating issue of the path that the evolution of the country should follow. We should not forget then Viaţa românească, which played an active role in this debate, both in 1921-1922 when it unfavorably commented Zeletin's studies published in Archive… and mostly in 1924-1926, when Garabet Ibrăileanu fiercely polemicized with Eugen Lovinescu on the latter's book The History of Romanian Modern Civilization. The various issues of this literary review published in Iaşi abound in articles, studies, notes, reviews that are all linked to the polemic with Lovinescu in the first place, but also with the new extreme, traditionalist tendencies. Ibrăileanu himself is naturally the main contributor, but he is sometimes seconded by Mihai Ralea, and also by I. C. Filitti and D. V. Barnovschi, the latter even claiming that many of the important ideas of Lovinescu's book had been tacitly borrowed from their own previously published studies. We should say that Ibrăileanu himself had no other objection to Lovinescu's book. He only wanted him to admit the elementary reality that the main sociological theory of his book (synchronism) had been previously presented by him (in 1909) in Spiritul critic… and by Gherea in Neoiobăgia (in 1910). (And Ibrăileanu was right.) The important thing to them was that Lovinescu should acknowledge their paternity of the idea of synchronism. As Ralea pointed out, in this debate Viaţa românească is placed halfway between Europeanism and modernity or, in our terms, between modernity and traditionalism. Nowadays, almost six decades after the events, when all passions have died out and the protagonists have been long dead, we can only notice how surprisingly close the positions of Lovinescu and Ibrăileanu were as far as the main debate of the time was concerned. In fact, these adversaries were allies. The subject of the dispute in which the younger generation was involved was the choice between a Europe-oriented evolution and traditionalism, in fact a choice between renewal (modernity) and conservatism. We should not be misled by the terms. The confrontation had already lasted for almost a century. The apparently new dilemma was actually an old one. Are we going to follow the path of radical and multilateral renewal or should we rather stick to the traditional structures? This was to a certain extent a false problem since the very structures that the traditionalists were claiming that we should preserve had started to alter after 1829, when the Romanian Principalities had entered the European trade circuit, and the new capitalist relations had been changing the face of traditional Romania. On the other hand, in the postwar years the term of Europeanism, designating the other option, was an equally improper term. It actually referred to a Europe-oriented evolution, an evolution towards modern civilization, against the tendency, supported by the other camp, to consider our country exclusively placed in an "Oriental" universe, therefore traditionalist. Some of them (Zeletin, Lovinescu, Drăghicescu, Vintilă Brătianu, Sanielevici, the group of young people at Cuvîntul liber) considered that this tendency was linked to industrialization. Others (such as the group of Viaţa românească) had opted for a more advanced type of ruralism that did not exclude industrialization. For the rest, however, they shared the views of the former group, which was also in favor of a European course, that is, in favor of modernization. The term of Europeanism was, however, an unhappy choice since it was ambiguous and allowed their adversaries to misinterpret it. Thus they were often accused of being unpatriotic, of denying the national character and of advocating an adaptation to Western values that would wipe away the local traditions. Nothing could be falser than that. Many (if not most) of the so-called Europeanists (for instance, the group of Viaţa românească) were staunch supporters of national specificity and did not in any way despise the real tradition. The problem was what kind of tradition had to be preserved and, consequently, if there was no way in which the gap between tradition and modernity could be bridged. The first statement of principles of what was later to be called Europeanism was due to Eugen Filotti, who was the director of the second series of Cuvîntul liber. And it was made in the first issue of the publication in an essay that also represented the program of the new review. Filotti first expressed his views on the concept of traditionalism, which he naturally disliked: "Under the sign of Orthodoxy and tradition, some people are preaching the static ideal, frozen in the patterns of the Byzantine and Muscovite tradition, of a primitive culture that cannot evolve and can have no horizon. Our own ideal of culture is dynamic, thirsting for increase, renewal, fecundity. We can see no purpose in sticking to a sterile tradition, a tradition often imaginary, we can see no purpose in excessively exalting the autochthonous element. This is not the commandment that we can hear coming from every corner of this country, recently rounded like a loaf of leavened bread." The set of principles guiding his generation followed, presented in contrast to those he was combating. "The purpose of our culture, as we preach it, is European. Our light comes from the West. We can see our redemption only in the Westernization of this country many of whose vital organs are already rotten before reaching maturity. All the gangsters that blocked the political purification of our country and its escape from the cultural cloaca where our people are struggling, all these hoodlums, I say, have sought a shelter, a refuge and excuses in our Balkanism, in our idealized, pampered Orientalism that was so often clothed in pseudo-aesthetic formulae. If we really need to assert our values we can only do it in an active and productive way: we must assert our genius and our specific nature in forms of culture that are European and in the harmonious and glamorous framework of Western culture. We are not pleading in favor of wiping out of everything that is specific to us, of everything that represents the charm and the value of our national soul, but we are advocating the integration of these values in contemporary culture, their orientation towards the west to which we belong and to which we are connected… Let other people be charmed by the rustic smell of fermentation, let them wail by the fiddle of Lae the Gipsy. Firmly convinced that soap, comfort, urban development, the telegraph and civil law do not threaten in any way the purity of our race, we write a new word on our flag: Europeanism." As far as politics is concerned, Filotti's review is consistent with its program and declares itself a partisan of democracy, while as far as art is concerned, without supporting extravagance "we are in favor of modern art."[10] This was certainly a well designed program, a fact proved by Lovinescu's embracing it as well as by the support it got from Viaţa românească. This was indeed the program of the Europeanists or, better said, of those who were in favor of the renewal and modernization of the structure of Romanian society and culture. The traditionalists' reaction followed immediately and continued uninterruptedly for several years; it was then renewed after the publication of Lovinescu's History of Romanian Modern Civilization, and reached another climax after 1926, when traditionalism converted to Orthodoxism. As Rebreanu wrote against this program in the paper Romania of Cluj, which was the official paper of the Romanian National Party, Filotti felt the need to explain his point of view again. "For us," wrote Filotti to defend himself, "there is no antagonism, no incompatibility between Europeanism and Romanianness. Our sacred wish is only to harmonize Romanianness and the pulse of contemporary life. We want our life to be separated from Balkanism, from Asianism, from archaism and rustic simplicity, from an existence that oscillates between the porch of the village church and the pub of the village. We have a better opinion of our people than all the traditionalists together, and that is precisely why we want to see our nation finally joining Europe. From the Atlantic to our borders there are quite a few nations that managed to be European without losing anything of the specificity of their ethnic soul. Why should we, of all people, be isolated from the others in a senseless and useless way? And why would be our risks higher, if we become European, together with the French, the Germans, the Czechs or the Hungarians, than the risks that all these nations only theoretically ran, as we can very well see that by becoming European they have not ceased to be what they had been before?"[11] Among the reactions of the members of the group of Gândirea, we mention to begin with an article by Pamfil Şeicaru, published in Hiena, that mocked at his colleagues of Cuvîntul liber and Viaţa românească, accusing them of being the followers of the Frenchified fops, the exiles and traitors of the national spirit of the 1848 Revolution. Şeicaru believed that the effort of synchronizing our country with the industrially developed countries of Western Europe endangered our national spirit. "For a century now we have jumped and galloped and panted, trying to catch up with the vanguard of humanity. We demolished our old households and we erected in their stead the new dwellings of European civilization. Without any transition we joined the ranks of the nations having high rhythms of development, we borrowed the most modern forms of social life." It is a useless effort, Şeicaru believes, against all evidence. To repeat this mistake now, he argues, is even more dangerous, as it will take us along a path that will ruin our ethnic characteristics. "It is here that lies the mistake of the old and new bonjurişti (indiscriminate supporters of adopting Western forms of civilization); in the fact that they failed to understand the connection between the culture of a nation and that nation's history on the one hand, and its soul as it has been shaped by centuries of slow increase in moral strength."[12] Şeicaru's objection would have been justified in principle had it not tried to change tradition into a barrier against modernity. It is not useless to add that Şeicaru's objection is also vitiated by his rigid understanding of national sensitiveness. The sensitiveness of any nation is not a phenomenon outside history. To understand it as an immutable factor is the same as saying that history is useless and void. Filotti then replied adding new arguments to support his point of view. He was proud to be considered a follower of the 1848 generation of revolutionaries and he rejected the statement that his theory endangered the national spirit. "What we believe is that the national soul needs impulsions that the contemplation of the past and stubborn isolation cannot provide. What we know, before many others that will have to acknowledge it tomorrow is that these impulsions can only come from… the European civilization and culture."[13] The debate triggered by the daring program of Cuvîntul liber was to find an unexpected echo in the pages of Gândirea. What sparked off the polemic in Gândirea was Crainic's essay, Parsifal, published in January 1924. The idea of the essay which started from Spengler's decline of the Occident was that our young nation had not reached the phase of mortification through civilization as Western Europe had. Industrial development and the introduction of machines were practically non-existent in our country, where a patriarchal type of society still prevailed. Our literature was exclusively rural and thus it should remain. If this reality was perpetuated, then the danger of culture being ruined by modern civilization would be avoided. The duty of the new generation was to firmly reject any attempt at modernizing our society through dangerous contacts with the west of Europe. "The problem of our young culture today lies between the Western civilization, whose limits have been allegedly reached, and the East, in whose Christian chaos we can foresee the future. We have with us a nation that is pure and enigmatic as to its creative potential; we also have our Orthodoxy whose divine powers have been preserved. Fused in an evangelical demophilia, they can mean for our future culture the road that took Parsifal to the endangered seat of the Holy Grail." [14] The response came in the very pages of Gândirea from the young philosopher of culture Tudor Vianu. The only way to follow that was possible and necessary for the destiny of this country was modernization, and as far as culture was concerned, the mature and balanced contact with Western European culture. "We are approximately at that moment of history when a patriarchal society passes to a stage when the state assumes control. In two generations this change has become obvious. The suppressing of the great landed properties will accomplish it… this transformation will take place even against our will… this transformation will be achieved in a much easier way because of the new factors that have been introduced into the life of the people that are meant to guide them along the paths of a modern state. If, however, by some strange accident, the program of ethnic culture were to prevail in the future, Romanian culture would decline to the undignified status of a province."[15] The supporters of ethnic culturalism had, however, their plans, so they did not lay down their arms. Vianu was answered, promptly and sharply, in the very next issue, by Pamfil Şeicaru. In his article, Şeicaru eulogized Crainic's Parsifal, which he considered to have the importance of famous moments in the history of Romanian cultural debates, such as the polemic between Gherea and Maiorescu or Iorga and his opponents while the former was editing the well-known literary review Semănătorul. Then he got back to his theory that he had presented in his article of Hiena, on the moral crisis of the Romanian soul and culture, which he considered to be the consequence of our forced relation with the Western civilization and culture. Vianu's suggestion that the state should assume the mission of guiding the Romanian modern life seems to him to be inadequate: "How can the state guide our culture when it is itself a recent addition, and a superficial one, to our existence; when between the state, seen as the champion of social discipline, and our people there is still a silent hostility?" On the contrary, Crainic's theory that ethnic culture is the only one that is useful for the country, seems to him well-founded[16], even if this could make our culture a provincial one and could perpetuate our patriarchal society. Vianu replied in a dignified way, as a man who was sure of his beliefs. He rejected the idea of ethnic culture and the support for patriarchality, in which he saw a dangerous barrier in the way of progress: "The evolution that has made us the members of a powerful political structure is of a nature capable to transform both our human feelings and the consciousness of our cultural duty in a direction of a more fruitful participation in the activity of our continent."[17] Unfortunately, the ideas of Crainic and Şeicaru were to prevail at Gândirea, not those of Vianu. The point of view of Viaţa românească is made public under the signature of its representative of the new generation, Mihai Ralea. This happens at the very climax of the heated debate presented above and hosted by publications such as Cuvîntul liber, Hiena, Ramuri, Drum drept, Gândirea: "We are against raising any Chinese Wall. We want a permanent contact with the light of the west from which we have a lot to learn. We believe that everything that is good and generous in this country has come from abroad, by means of those wonderful Frenchified exiles of the 1848 revolution who did not forget about the suffering at home while they were partying abroad… pure traditionalism means actually the megalomania of precariousness." Ralea's idea was that the generation of the 1848 revolution had tried to adapt our civilization to the then European standards. However, many of his colleagues misinterpreted his article and chose to understand it literally instead of looking for its deeper meaning. One of them was Cezar Petrescu, who signed a long polemical article in Gândirea. He had the feeling that the national spirit in art, proclaimed as an axiom by Viaţa românească, excluded modernity. Mostly European modernity, baptized Europeanism. "We have objected against the type of Europeanism that has provided us in our social and political life with the ready-made forms before preparing the content, and even made this content superfluous. The mismatch between form and content is indeed an old refrain." After he develops this theory that was almost fifty years old, he rejects the idea of modernity opting for ethnic culture and patriarchality. "To think of this country as a testing ground for Western forms of culture, which, to be honest, have been compromised even there under the pressure of events, seems to us to be a stupid abdication from our destiny as well as an offense to our national life." The confrontation lasted for many years and it did not completely end even towards the late 1920s. The same question was asked again and again: what was the path that our country should follow? At the same time, Romanian society evolved along its natural course. Slowly, certainly too slowly, Romanian society came out from the stage of patriarchality, to use Vianu's expression. It was, after all, the only possible outcome. The supporters of the modernization of the country were then right, and they were the people who had the lucidity and courage to express their convictions in fierce confrontations with the supporters of an outdated and immobile type of traditionalism. Tradition and Modernity in the 1920s, Eminescu, 1980
[1] Nicolae Ionescu, Individualismul englez (English Individualism), Gândirea, IV, issue 2, November 1, 1924, p. 36.[2] Nae Ionescu, Dumineca (Sunday), Cuvîntul, III, issue 884, October 3, 1927.[3] Nae Ionescu, De la "Semănătorul" la noul stat românesc (From "Semănătorul" to the NewRomanianState) Cuvîntul, August 13, 1930. Apud Roza vânturilor (The Wind Rose), p. 192.