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CIUDAD DE MÉXICO – El papel del intelectual políticamente comprometido tiene una historia larga y ubicua. El novelista y guionista hispano-francés Jorge Semprún, que murió recientemente, fue durante muchos años miembro del Comité Central del Partido Comunista español, y luego se desempeñó como ministro de Cultura en el primer gobierno socialista post-Franco de España. Disidentes como Václav Havel tuvieron un impacto decisivo en la caída de los regímenes comunistas de Europa del este.

Y, hace apenas unos meses, el activismo de un intelectual francés fue crucial para iniciar el hasta ahora infructuoso intento de derrocar al coronel Muammar Qaddafi de Libia. Ya que fue Bernard-Henri Lévy quien convenció al presidente francés, Nicolas Sarkozy, de reunirse con los líderes rebeldes de Libia -un encuentro que derivó directamente en que Francia asumiera un rol protagónico a la hora de persuadir al Consejo de Seguridad de las Naciones Unidas y al presidente estadounidense, Barack Obama, de respaldar una intervención militar.

Sin embargo, tal vez nadie ejemplificó mejor la tradición del intelectual comprometido (intellectuel engagé) que Jean-Paul Sartre. Su punto de vista era bastante diferente del de los artistas y pensadores en la tradición liberal, como Octavio Paz e Isaiah Berlin. Para Sartre (y para muchos de sus contemporáneos), los intelectuales no sólo deben expresar posturas políticas, sino que también deben comprometerse activamente en la política y luchar por las causas justas (fuera lo que fuese que esto implicara).

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