I didn't know much about Kolakowski before this week, but reading about him has made me want to track down his magnum opus, Main Currents of Marxism, which in Hitchens' words 'constitutes one of the most searching investigations of the worldview that had dominated his youth' (i.e. Communism) and which Andrew Murphy claims 'did more to kick in the doors of the wretched Soviet Union than given credit for.'
These tributes to Kolakowski appeared around the same time that I was reading Slavoj Žižek's article in the London Review of Books, which I quoted in this post yesterday. Unfortunately, the remainder of the piece doesn't live up to the promise of that excerpt, consisting as it does of a tedious analysis of the current global situation from a pessimistic (not to say Manichean) Marxist perspective. In Žižek's view, any apparently positive characteristics (democracy, liberty) in present-day western societies are simply a sham, an illusion concealing an unreformable capitalist monolith. Reading Žižek (and about Kolakowski) brought home to me that I am no longer (if I ever really was) a Marxist - or at least not that kind of Marxist.