French Intellectuals against the Left: The Antitotalitarian Moment of the 1970'S

By Michael Scott Christofferson | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
DISSIDENCE CELEBRATED
Intellectuals and Repression in Eastern Europe

By 1977 the shifts in intellectual politics induced by the debate over the Union of the Left and manifested in the emerging critique of totalitarianism became plainly visible to even the most casual of observers. The year 1977 was a year of dissidence in French intellectual politics. At the 21 June reception for Soviet dissidents at the Théâtre Récamier in Paris, and at the Biennale de Venise on East European dissidence of 15 November to 15 December, the leading figures of the noncommunist French intellectual Left visibly and firmly manifested their support for their persecuted confreres beyond the iron curtain and in exile in the West. Committees mobilizing support for dissidents proliferated. Further, French intellectuals began to theorize a politics of dissidence that would be applicable in France itself. It was also the year of the new philosophers, notably Bernard-Henri Lévy, author of La Barbarie à visage humain, and André Glucksmann, author of Les Maîtres penseurs. Although their books offered rather simplistic and extraordinarily pessimistic political philosophies, they were enormously successful and sparked an important debate about intellectual politics and the Union of the Left that clearly revealed the widening gulf between the politics of French intellectuals of the noncommunist Left and that of the communist and socialist parties. Finally, 1977 was the year of the crisis of Marxism. Although clearly visible in the debates over the new philosophers, themselves dubbed “magnificent Marx-haters” by the liberal British weekly The Economist, it became undeniable once Louis Althusser, France’s premier Marxist philosopher, announced its arrival at Il Manifesto’s conference on “Power and Opposition in Post-Revolutionary Societies,” held concurrent to and in competition with the Italian socialists’ Biennale de

Notes for this section begin on page 179.

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