The Thought and Art of Albert Camus

By Thomas Hanna | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
THE POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY OF REVOLT

IN THE spring of 1953 Albert Camus delivered an address before the Bourse de Travail of Saint-Etienne,1 in the course of which he made the observation that the protagonists and guardians of freedom have always been the oppressed. The towns and bourgs of the Middle Ages, under pressure of the feudal society, became centers of ferment for liberty, whose demand was to find a fleeting triumph during the French Revolution. The inheritors of this tradition in the 19th century were the laboring groups, who, under the oppression which they experienced in a bourgeois society, became the defenders not only of freedom, but also of justice. The tragedy of the Marxist movement has been that, in condemning this bourgeois conception of freedom, they condemned all freedom, relegating it to the end of time, and became uniquely concerned with the attainment of justice. "And the dynamic intellectuals announced to the worker that it was bread alone that interested him and not freedom, as if the worker did not know that his bread depends as well on his freedom."2 Faced with the conflicting values of freedom and justice, the revolutionary movement chose the latter. It was through this choice that the world's most hopeful revolution in 1917 was soon transformed into the world's most efficacious dictatorship, sustaining its power through state police. The result has been that our world today is divided by the cynical opposition of a society of injustice to a society of enslavement. But, in either case, the victim is the same, and it is his justice and his free-

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