Archive for the 'Marxism' Category
Tags: #foucault, Althusser, antisemitism, DoctorsPlot, PCF
Foucault approached the final hurdle of the agrégation in spring 1950. This was also the year in which he finally joined the PCF. The Parti Communiste Français [PCF] had emerged from the war as the single most important political grouping in France, and was able to win five million votes in 1945. By the middle of 1947, its membership reached a high point of 900,000. Authoritarian, highly centralised and disciplined, the Party was a classic Stalinist formation, complete with a somewhat absurd personality cult dedicated to its secretary-general, Maurice Thorez. It was also highly patriotic and still enjoyed and exploited the reputation it had won in the wartime Resistance; this was le parti des fusillis—the party which had lost more members than any other to German repression. …
This was the party which Foucault chose to join in 1950. He took out his Party card at the urging of Althusser, who had taken the same decision two years earlier. In subjective terms, Foucault’s newfound commitment was largely a reaction to the apocalyptic despair he had felt as an adolescent living through a disastrous war. Politics had little meaning when the only choice available was one between Truman’s America and Stalin’s Russia. …
Many of those who joined the PCF at roughly the same time as Foucault left it after only a few years. Mass resignations followed the revelations about Stalin’s Russia made in Khrushchev’s ‘secret report’ to the Twentieth Party Congress of the CPSU [Communist Party of the Soviet Union] in 1956, and Soviet intervention in Hungary that same year led to many more departures. In Foucault’s case, the disaffection set in earlier. At the beginning of 1953, Pravda announced the arrest of nine doctors on very serious charges. They had allegedly murdered Zhdanov, had planned to murder a number of Soviet marshals and had plotted against the life of Stalin himself. Immediately after Stalin’s death from natural causes on 3 March, Pravda announced that the nine had been released and rehabilitated; they had been the victims of a machination. Seven of the nine were Jewish. In. France, the PCF’s press covered the ‘doctors’ plot’ in slavishly pro-Soviet terms, commenting that the security services of the USSR had ‘picked off the murderers in white coats, the secret agents recruited among the Zionists and Jewish nationalists’ and implying that the entire plot had been hatched in Tel Aviv.
Foucault attended a meeting at which André Wurmser attempted to justify the arrest of the nine. Wurmser laid down the Party line, and his audience of normaliens did their best to believe the unbelievable. For Foucault, believing the unbelievable was a way of existing within the Party: continued membership was the source of such tension that it became an exercise in ‘dissolving the ego’. After the death of Stalin, the PCF let it be known that there had been no plot, that it had been pure invention. The ENS [École Normale Supérieure, where Foucault was a student] cell wrote to Wurmser to ask for an explanation, but received no reply. Shortly afterwards, Foucault quietly left the PCF. The incident left a ‘bitter taste’ in his mouth, and resulted in both a life-long loathing for the PCF and a distinctly jaundiced view of the USSR.
The ‘doctors’ plot’ had revealed the existence of an ugly strand of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. The French Party press was not to be outdone in the matter of anti-Semitism. According to Annie Besse, writing in Cahiers du communisme, ‘Hitler…refrained from harming the Jews of the big bourgeoisie… Who will ever forget that Leon Blum, his wife at his side, contemplated from the windows of his villa the smoke from the ovens of the crematoria!’ Zionism was ‘a mask behind which to conceal espionage operations against the Soviet Union’. Whether Foucault ever read these statements is not known, but in 1953 he was already denouncing the ‘odious’ attitude taken towards Israel by both the superpowers. His pro-Israeli sentiments were as unswerving as his dislike for the PCF, and it is difficult to believe that there was no connection between the two.
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from David Macey, The Lives of Michael Foucault: A Biography (NY: Pantheon Books, 1993), pages 37-38, 39-40.
Tags: continental philosophy, counterculture, freud, marx, nietzsche
“Probably most of us fix the dawn of our modern culture in the trinity Nietzsche-Freud-Marx. And it is of little consequence that the world was unprepared for them in advance. Now, Marx and Freud, perhaps, do represent the dawn of our culture, but Nietzsche is something entirely different: the dawn of counterculture.”
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Gilles Deleuze, “Nomad Thought,” in David B. Allison, ed., The New Nietzsche: Contemporary Styles of Interpretation (New York: Delta/Dell, 1977), page 142. Translated from the French by Allison; original is “Pensée nomade,” in Nietzsche aujourd’hui (Paris: Union Générale d’Editions, 1973).
Tags: ClassWar, EPThompson, IanBone, PennyRimbaud, punk
[Ian Bone describes how Class War is being confrontational towards speakers at a CND rally in Hyde Park in October, 1983]
Next up is silver-mained EP Thompson, author of The Making of the English Working Class, a book we all hold in great esteem and whose mob traditions we even feel we’re part of. But no matter—[Class War’s] Doc Whelan’s limited patience threshold has well and truly been breached. He has a glass cider flagon which he was reserving for Kinnockio [Neil Kinnock] but decided ‘some fucking professor’ will do just as well for a target. He has a sighting heave with a piece of concrete which whistles past EP Thompson’s locks on a still rising trajectory. He starts to spin like a hammer thrower with the flagon as the hammer. EP Thompson’s health is seriously at risk, and I’m doing fuck all to protect one of my favorite writers from decapitation. Thankfully, others aren’t so paralyzed. A firm arm grabs Doc’s wrist—a move usually likely to incur the dreaded Whelan forehead crunching down on the bridge of your nose. Doc recognizes the owner of the arm as Penny Rimbaud. ‘He’s not the one that deserves that,’ says Penny, ‘save it for later.’ Wise words and Doc concurs.
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Ian Bone, Bash the Rich: True-Life Confessions of an Anarchist in the UK (Bath, UK: Tangent Books, 2006), pp 139-40.
Tags: AngelaDavis, DorothyHealey, PoliticalPrisoners
The Angela Davis defense campaign had been the biggest [U.S. Communist] Party-initiated movement of the entire decade, and it was the one occasion on which the Party was really attuned to the political mood of the younger Left. It had a big effect on the Party and brought in a number of young recruits. Indeed, whatever political credibility the Party had to draw upon from the early 1970s was largely a product of that campaign. Certainly nothing else it has done since compares with the importance of Angela’s defense campaign in terms of image and the ability to interest outsiders. Angela Davis, not Gus Hall, has been the most attractive public face the Party has had to offer. But one of the sadder aspects of the whole episode was the impact it had on Angela herself. She felt that it was the Party and the Soviet Union which saved her life. She became unwilling to consider any criticisms of those she regarded as her saviors. When she was released from prison, the first thing she did was embark upon a tour of the Soviet Union, eastern Europe, and Cuba to thank them for supporting her during the trial.
Miss Charlene Mitchell, a close friend of Angela Davis, the black militant, said today that Miss Davis would not be responding to the appeal for help from Mr. Jiri Pelikan, one of the leading figures in the “Prague Spring” now living in exile.
Miss Davis, she said, did not think that people should leave socialist countries to return to the capitalist system. This was a retrograde step, and even if such people said they were communists they were still acting in opposition to the “socialist system,” objectively speaking.
In his appeal, which was published in The Times today, Mr. Pelikan asked Miss Davis to call for the release of political prisoners in Eastern Europe as well as in capitalist countries.
Miss Mitchell, who said she was acting as a spokesperson for Miss Davis, took the line that people in Eastern Europe got into difficulties and ended in jail only if they were undermining the government. —(Manchester) Guardian, July 29, 1972.
While Angela was on her tour and not always available to western reporters, Charlene and other Communist leaders sometimes put words in her mouth, denying that there was any political repression within the Soviet bloc. Not that Angela was willing to do anything to challenge that view. In fact, within the next few years, she accommodated herself to the stalest clichés in the Party’s outlook. She remains to the present an important public figure, able to attract larger audiences than any other Party leader. But rarely if ever in her speeches and writings today will you see evidence of the kind of fresh thinking of which she was once capable. Whether she is capable of breaking free from the Party orthodoxy is a question still to be answered.
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Dorothy Ray Healey and Maurice Isserman, California Red: A Life in the American Communist Party (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1990/1993), pages 220–21.
Brilliant stuff. Click on link above to view as a single PDF.