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The September executions were at one and the same time an act of war against internal enemies, a political act against the manipulations of those in power, and an act of vengeance against the oppressive classes. Was this not — during a period of violent revolutionary struggle — at least an approximation to an act of popular justice; a response to oppression which was strategically useful and politically necessary?

In Foucault's eyes, spontaneous mass action possessed the added advantage of transcending the "bourgeois" division of labor between judge and executioner. Henceforth, the masses would assume both functions. In terms of the logic of revolutionary one-upmanship, Foucault won the debate hands down.

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Victor was unused to being ideologically outflanked. He could hardly believe his ears and retreated in shock. Back in Bruay, journalists throughout France descended upon the depressed little mining town, which could have served as the setting for Zola's Germinal. A miner's life expectancy was short.

Black lung disease was widespread, and the living conditions squalid. In a mine collapse at a nearby pit had cost 1, lives. Miners told gruesome stories of coworkers who had been trapped in cave-ins. One was decapitated. The bosses demanded that the miners keep working rather than pay their respects to the deceased. Many of the accidents in question were avoidable, the result of placing profits above worker safety. As one miner explained: "In the mines, only one thing counts: your ability to work and the state of your health.

You're in a situation where the older you become, the less you earn. When your health deteriorates and you lose the ability to work, you're placed at the bottom of the scale. You can make 70 francs a day for ten years and then 30—40 for the next twenty. The Journal de Dimanche claimed it was inconceivable that someone of Leroy's educational background and social standing could have committed so heinous a crime. For France's newspaper of record, the injustices of class were inconsequential.

Instead, Brigitte's murder was trivialized as a fait divers, a "human interest story. The GP leadership, along with fellow travelers such as Sartre and Foucault — known as "democrats," since despite their "pro-Chinese" sympathies, they stopped short of becoming full-fledged Maoists — traveled to Bruay in full force. If the French justice system, in collusion with the local bourgeoisie, failed to mete out just retribution for Brigitte's brutal slaying, GP activists would ensure that the people's will was carried out.

The GP inclination toward militancy had been stoked by the February slaying of a young Maoist, Pierre Overney, at a Renault factory on the outskirts of Paris. Weeks earlier, factory officials had uncovered several Maoist militants who had infiltrated the plant for organizing purposes. Once they were discovered, the undercover Maoists were promptly dismissed. A wave of violent confrontations and protests ensued.

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Richard Wolin | The Wind from the East

The Maoists outfitted themselves in riot gear. Victor himself could often be seen leading the charge. Overney's death, at the tender age of twenty-three, precipitated a major crisis among the Maoists. For years, in keeping with their self-understanding as militants, they had glorified the virtues of revolutionary violence.

This ethos of uncompromising revolutionism in part distinguished the Maoists from the reformist orientation of the French Communists not to mention the openly reformist Socialists who, since the Liberation, had enjoyed a comfortable niche in the French electoral system.

But with Overney's senseless murder, the Maoists were forced to face up to the political implications of their own rhetorical excess. They realized that their own doctrine of violent class confrontation was indirectly responsible for the young worker's senseless death. According to some reports, the intrepid Victor was observed leaving the Renault factory scene convulsed with tears.

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Continues… Excerpted from "The Wind from the East" by. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. Showdown at Bruay-en-Artois, 2. France during the s, 3. May The Triumph of Libidinal Politics, 4. Who Were the Maoists?

Tel Quel in Cultural-Political Hell, 7. Foucault and the Maoists: Biopolitics and Engagement, 8. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Read an excerpt of this book! Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Explore Now.


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Buy As Gift. His books, which include Heidegger's Children and The Seduction of Unreason both Princeton , have been translated into ten languages. His articles and reviews have appeared in Dissent, the Nation , and the New Republic. Show More. Average Review. Write a Review.

Related Searches. The less these normaliens knew about contemporary China, the better it suited their purposes. Cultural Revolutionary China became a projection screen, a Rorschach test, for their innermost radical political hopes and fantasies - which in de Gaulle's France had been deprived of a real world outlet. China became the embodiment of a "radiant utopian future.

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Thereby, they would rid themselves of their guilt both as the progeny of colonialists and, more generally, as bourgeois. Increasingly, the "real" China ceased to matter. Instead, at issue were questions of political eschatology. The "successes" of Chinese Communism - or its imagined successes - would magically compensate for the abysmal failures of the communist experience elsewhere.

The wind from the east : French intellectuals, the cultural revolution, and the legacy of the 1960s

The young gauchistes viewed themselves as pur et dur - as true believers who refused to compromise with the sordid realities of contemporary France. In their eyes, there could be no going back to the faded glories of French Republicanism - a tradition that, in their view, had been fatally compromised by the legacies of colonialism and Gaullist authoritarianism. One senses that if the Cultural Revolution didn't exist, the gauchistes would have had to invent it. Mao's China offered the students a way to perpetuate the intoxications of the French revolutionary tradition - the glories of the Bastille, of Valmy, and of the Paris Commune - in an era when oppressive nature of "really existing socialism" had reached undeniably grotesque proportions.

Were it not for the political maladroitness of the Pompidou government, which in spring abruptly arrested the Maoist leaders and banned their newspaper, their story, when set against the overall tapestry of the May events, would probably rate a minor footnote. None other than Jean-Paul Sartre took over the Maoist newspaper, in bold defiance of the government's arbitrary and brutal political sweep.

It began attracting prominent intellectuals - Michel Foucault as well as Tel Quel luminaries Philippe Sollers and Julia Kristeva - who perceived in Maoism a creative solution to France's excruciating political immobilism.

After all, the Socialist Party was in total disarray. The Communists had become a "party of order. Yet, here was a left-wing groupuscule active in the Latin Quarter that, in many respects, had become the heir of May's '68's emancipatory quest. It was at this point that French intellectuals learned to follow as well as to lead. As a result of the May events and their contact with the Maoists, they bid adieu to the Jacobin-Leninist authoritarian political model of which they had formerly been so enamored.

They ceased behaving like "mandarins" and internalized the virtues of democratic humility.