[Marxism] Russell Jacoby on BHL

farmelantj at juno.com farmelantj at juno.com
Tue Jan 13 10:19:29 MST 2009

I don't think we have yet seen a comprehensive
and honest account of the history of the
French intellectuals during the period of
the mid-1970s through the early 1980s
when Marxism lost a lots its hold among
them.  Like Richard, I am not convinced
that the French intellectuals were unaware
of the gulags before Solzhenitsyn came along.
The basic facts had already been available
for decades already.  Nor is true that leading
French intellectuals hadn't discussed and debated
the issue before.  Back in the early 1950s, people
like J-P Sartre,Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Raymond Aron
had all debated the issue.  A few years laters, every 
well informed person in France was quite aware of
Nikita Khrushchev's "de-Stalinization" speech
and so forth.

I suspect that one major factor in the downfall
of French Marxism was the May 1968 events and
their aftermath which did considerable damage
to the prestige of the PCF, especially among
the younger generation. And since in France,
Marxism for most people was closely tied to
the PCF (or to its Maoist offshoots), the
decline in the prestige of the PCF also
undermined the prestige of Marxism.

Jim F.

-- "Lenin's Tomb" <leninstombblog at googlemail.com> wrote:
On Tue, Jan 13, 2009 at 2:45 PM, Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> wrote:

> http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/2009%20-%20Winter/full-Jacoby.html

Jacoby isn't quite right about either BHL or the French Left: it's a
received narrative, namely the idea that everyone was jolted into
recognition of Soviet crimes by Solzhenitsyn.  But, a) BHL was initially
haughtily dismissive of the "gaffeur" Solzhenitsyn when his book first
emerged, only later recanting when he saw the way the intellectual wind was
blowing, and b) most of the French left had been fully apprised of the
crimes of Stalinism by the time The Gulag Archipelago emerged, thanks to
Rousset, Ciliga and Serge, among others.  Certainly Louis Althusser, BHL's
intellectual p�re at the time, knew that the gulags were not mere
'education' camps as the PCF had tried to pretend.

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