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

By Michael Scott Christofferson | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE AND CONCLUSION

Between 1977, the year of the new philosophers, and the Left’s coming to power in 1981 the critique of totalitarianism made further progress in French intellectual life, recasting intellectual politics and the lines of demarcation between the different currents within it. For one, the critique of tiers-mondisme, which had emerged in 1976 and 1977, took off in 1978 and 1979. Critiques of revolutionary tiers-mondisme, such as Gérard Chaliand’s Mythes révolutionnaires du tiers monde (1976) and the Deuxième retour de Chine (1977) of Claudie Broyelle, Jacques Broyelle, and Evelyne Tschirhart, were followed by the mea culpas of Jean Lacouture (Survive le peuple cambodgien!) and Jean-Claude Guillebaud (Les Annèes orphelines: 1968–1978), both of which were published in 1978 in Jacques Julliard’s Interventions series at Éditions du Seuil.1Tiers-mondisme came under further fire in Le Nouvel Observateur’s summer 1978 public debate on it, launched by Julliard. As the 1977–80 French debate over Noam Chomsky’s criticism of Western press coverage of Khmer Rouge atrocities in Cambodia as an effort to rehabilitate American imperialism revealed, not only tiers-mondisme, but also anti-imperialism had few adherents among French intellectuals—focused on the threat posed by “totalitarian” communism— by the end of the 1970s.2

The critique of tiers-mondisme became a matter of intellectual engagement with the November 1978 founding of the committee Un bateau pour le Vietnam, which had the explicitly humanitarian and implicitly anticommunist mission of sending a boat to Southeast Asia to save the Vietnamese boat people and highlight the alleged totalitarianism of the Vietnamese régime. Bringing together former gauchistes (like Jacques Broyelle, André Glucksmann, and Alain Geismar), other left-wing intellectuals (like Michel Foucault, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Lacouture, Olivier Todd, and Yves Montand), liberal anticommunists (like Raymond Aron and Jean-François Revel), and East European dissidents in exile, it—and especially the apparent reconciliation of Sartre and Aron within it—came

Notes for this section begin on page 275.

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