Bratislava, April 26, 2024, UPF Slovakia held a lecture entitled “War or Peace? Lessons learnt from the Past.” Among the audience was a member of the Military History Institute, a famous diplomat and expert for the Balkans, as well as a university professor for philosophy.

The journalist Barbara Grabner outlined the characteristics of the current struggle between Russia and the West. “Today, it is often said that again a cold war is raging. Why? But who won the Cold War? Not a superior ideology, but the greater economic power.  The winner was capitalism, neither democracy nor truth or love,” she said.

In times of crisis calls for a “strong man” arise and authoritarian leadership seems acceptable.
Accordingly, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler came to power through democratic elections. Their voters hoped that strong leaders will restore social peace.  The lecturer warned against that fallacy, “Autocratic leadership is in vogue again.  But radical parties, dictatorship cannot bring lasting solutions.” Both Putin and Xi refer to their governments as “managed democracy". First, individual freedoms are abolished and second, armed aggression follows.

“The desire to keep peace often paralyze efforts to fight the aggressor,” said Barbara Grabner. She quoted an example from her homeland: In March 1938, Adolf Hitler annexed Austria. “The Austrian army was ready to fight Hitler but chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg resigned fearing that thousands of soldiers could die. He wanted to prevent that. Did Schuschnigg save Austria? Quite the opposite happened.”  During the Second World War about 1.2 million Austrian soldiers fought in the German Army, about 247,000 were killed, almost 490,000 were taken prisoner, hundreds of thousands were wounded and died prematurely. Some 2,700 Austrians were executed as resistance fighters. “The price paid was far greater than a battle for freedom in 1938 would have cost.”

She ended her lecture quoting the famous historian Arnold Toynbee, “History repeats itself - until people learn from it.”

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