Christophe Bourseiller. L’Histoire generale de “l’ultra-gauche”. Paris, Ed. Denoel, 2003.
One might be a bit suspicious of any author, such as Christophe Bourseiller, who publishes 25 books, some of 500 pages and more, in 15 years. But logorrhea by itself does not necessarily mean falsehood. Bourseiller’s 1999 biography of Guy Debord already showed that historical accuracy is not the author’s strong suit. People mentioned there, as in the book at hand, have said often enough that everything Bourseiller wrote specifically about them was false, casting serious doubt on the rest. Before turning his hand to writing books, Bourseiller tried a number of venues in the media, including a stint at the pulp weekly Paris-Match. He is neither of the far-left or ultra-left(1) . Once again, these are not automatic disqualifications, and serious and useful books about the revolutionary left have often been written by people who are only observers: one need only think of Burnett Bolleton’s The Spanish Revolution. Nonetheless, the appearance of Bourseiller’s book in France unleashed a furor, and gave rise to a series of reviews taking apart his treatment of various currents(2), to the point that there has been talk of assembling the “counter-book” that would be required to correct all his mistakes and falsifications. Others have accused him of doing the work of the police in abundantly publishing names of living people linked to obscure organizations still in existence or only recently defunct.
All of this is unfortunate, since Bourseiller’s book, obviously intended to be a coffee-table conversation piece for the “with it” crowd among the French middle-class moderate left, is the only one in existence, in any language, that attempts to treat the history of the ultra-left in its entirety. Unless it is definitively and widely discredited, it stands a chance of also becoming a work of reference for young militants who heretofore have never heard of Anton Pannekoek, Karl Korsch, Herman Gorter, Amadeo Bordiga, Otto Ruehle, Paul Mattick, Maximilien Rubel, Daniel Guerin, Grandizo Munis, Guy Debord or the early Cornelius Castoriadis and Claude Lefort (3) and who for that reason associate “Marxism” with the defunct Soviet bloc or the still-existing “workers’ states” (as Trotskyists gamely call them) China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba.
At first glance, prior to a careful reading, L’Histoire generale de l’ultra-gauche might seem a superficial telephone directory of a (still) little-known tradition, but like a telephone directory, perhaps useful for its references and its bibliography (unfortunately, for readers lacking French, almost entirely in that language). But a closer look shows Bourseiller to be anything but an innocent voyeur. His first distortion is the loose use of the term “ultra-left”, which originated as an epithet of derision going back at least to Lenin’s 1921 pamphlet “Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder”. The more appropriate and less demagogic term, which has been revived with the historical recovery of various defeated currents and their theoreticians (most of them from the 1920’s), beginning in 1968 and above all since 1989-1991, is “left communist” (though that term in turn would be rejected by the former members of Socialism or Barbarism, or the Situationists, or anarchists, or councilists, or libertarian communists , who appear in Bourseiller’s book). The most concise, brief definition, whatever the ultimate term used, is quite simply: self-declared revolutionary currents who situate themselves to the left of Trotskyism (about which more in a moment). This is a better definition than “anti-Leninist”, as there are left communists who insist they are Leninists.
But before getting into a critique of Bourseiller, it is necessary to delineate the historical currents he is discussing, and distorting.
The two historical groups to which the term “left communist” unequivocally applied, and which, in contrast to all their various libertarian successors (with the single important exception of Spanish anarchism) actually constituted mass-based currents with tens of thousands of working-class members, were the German-Dutch council-communist left and the Italian Communist Left of the 1910’s and 1920’s. (The latter group is widely known as Bordigist, in spite of its own best efforts to reject the label as reflecting a cult of personality and as a transgression of revolutionary anonymity.) Complications of course begin immediately, since neither of these currents accepts any assimilation to a term including the other: the German-Dutch left, and their successors the council communists, consider the Bordigists to be authoritarian Leninists, and the the Bordigists in turn hurl the epithets from Lenin’s “Left-Wing Communism” at the German-Dutch left, deriding them as everything from Proudhonist to syndicalist to anarchist to anti-Marxist.
Be that as it may, what both the German-Dutch and Italian Lefts have in common is a questioning of the generalization of the Russian revolutionary model to western Europe immediately after World War I, a generalization which was in fact the bedrock assumption of Lenin’s 1921 pamphlet, and of early Third International policy. Despite their later reputation, based on the anti-party councilism for which they became known after 1930, much of the German-Dutch left in the early 1920’s was quite in favor of a communist party, even if they rejected the Leninist party as articulated in What Is To Be Done? and as transmitted by the emissaries of the Comintern. Both the German-Dutch and Italians, particularly after the Comintern’s right turn of 1921 (following the Anglo-Russian trade agreement, the crushing of Kronstadt, the failure of the German March Action and the implementation of the NEP) rejected Lenin’s arguments for tactical alliances with non-revolutionary groups. In Herman Gorter’s 1921 “Open Letter to Comrade Lenin”, he makes the simple (and correct) point that, in contrast to Russia, where the working class could ally with the peasantry in the “dual revolution”, in western Europe the proletariat stood alone.
The Italian Left, which has always presented itself as orthodox Leninist, takes a different tack. They rejected the united front strategy adopted by the Comintern’s 1921 Third Congress. They argued against accepting the Serrati left (which, like the left Social Democrats of other countries who were accepted into their respective CP’s, included many people who had been pro-war in World War I, and who became Stalinist zealots after 1924) of the Italian Socialist Party into the newly-founded PCd’I, and criticized the 1921 application of the united front in the creation of a Communist-Socialist ruling alliance in the German state of Thuringia. The Bordigists have always insisted that these disagreements with Lenin were merely tactical, and that the PCd’I of the early 20’s constituted far and away the most rigorous Leninists of the western European Communist parties.
The German-Dutch and Italian Lefts were the product of the worldwide revolutionary surge following World War I, the extent and depth of which have never been seen since. In the brief period (up to 1921) when foreign communists could openly debate the Bolsheviks as rough equals within the Third International, before the prestige of the Russian Revolution (not to mention less exalted realities) marginalized and silenced them, they represented, whatever their shortcomings, a genuine working-class current confronting the problems of revolution in advanced capitalist countries where the working class stood alone, in contrast, once again, to Russia’s “dual revolution” based on a worker-peasant alliance. The left communists had counterparts in Russia, such as the small Democratic Centralist group or the Workers’ Group of Miasnikov, but these latter were never anything but isolated sects fighting a losing battle against the ebb of the world (and hence Russian) revolution. The historical experiences which produced the German-Dutch and Italian “ultra-lefts”, as indicated, involved, if not exactly masses, then important working-class minorities coming out of rich traditions of mass strikes and anti-war actions before and during the world war, not to mention in the potentially revolutionary situation thereafter(4). Bourseiller, focused as he is on the history of sects, totally omits this larger social history (without which the evolution of these currents, and that of their later offshoots, are incomprehensible). Until quite recently, the dominance of Trotskyism as the best-known international left-wing opposition to Stalinism, particularly in the “core countries” France, Britain and the U.S. (but also in Latin America), has buried the memory of this experience, and most militants have never looked beyond Lenin’s 1921 pamphlet.
Bourseiller presents himself as an observer “fascinated by microhistory”. He begins his book by describing the ultra-left as the “other communism”, the communism that never built Gulags or Berlin walls. But his fascination with his subject is mixed with a less edifying agenda that runs as a leitmotiv through much of the book, and then emerges as the real “lesson” toward the end. That agenda is simple and straightforward: Bourseiller wants to show that anyone with an internationalist or “Third Camp” perspective on World War II, of “turning the inter-imperialist war into civil war” on the model of the Zimmerwald left of World War I, not to mention any subsequent heir to such a view, is a forerunner or partisan of the bizarre “negationist” affair that erupted in the French ultra-left milieu in the ebb period of the 1980’s and 1990’s (5). (As a corollary to this, those with a left critique of “anti-fascism” find themselves under the same cloud.) Already in Bourseiller’s historical treatment of the left communists of the 1920’s, the “National Bolsheviks” (“linke Leute von rechts”, “left-wing people of the right”, as they have been called) who emerged in the Hamburg workers’ councils(6) are given a treatment all out of proportion to their importance for the German-Dutch ultra-left, then or later. He also underscores some of the Italian Communist Left’s early 1920’s formulations (with which one can agree or disagree) which saw fascism as merely another face of capitalist rule, or even as the culmination of bourgeois democracy. In so doing, he is setting the stage for his potted conclusions hundreds of pages later.
With this agenda in mind, let us return to Bourseiller’s subject.
By the late 1920’s, the German-Dutch left had ebbed, in both Germany and Holland, into small sects, and its subsequent history is the history—however interesting—of such sects (the Bordigists did briefly constitute a mini-mass party just after World War II). In the case of the Italians, it is little known (and Bourseiller never mentions) that Antonio Gramsci was the key figure implementing Stalin’s policy of purging the Bordigist majority from the apparat of the Pcd’I in 1924-25, and also helped fix the vote against that majority at the party’s 1926 Lyons conference in exile(7). It was not until the 1970’s that the postwar (slightly renamed, for nationalist accommodation) PCI could bring itself to even admit Bordiga’s leading role in the early years of the party, and it never took the step of admitting Gramsci’s pro-Stalin machinations, undoubtedly sparing consternation to the many innocents in the refined heights of academic “Western Marxism”. Bordiga lived until 1970, and wrote brilliant theoretical works (whatever their problems) on Marx’s 1844 manuscripts, on the capitalist nature of Russia, as well as 1960’s texts on capitalism’s destruction of the environment that are only being rediscovered today.
For historical reasons, the subsequent legacy of the 1920’s ultra-left had more resonance in France than in Holland, Germany or Italy. (Fascism of course took a heavy toll in the latter two countries.) Many militants escaping totalitarian (fascist or Stalinist) or reactionary regimes of the interwar period found refuge in France, and even after the Nazi occupation of 1940, were able to relocate to the unoccupied zone (above all to Marseilles) and either regroup or, later, survive in the U.S. and Mexico until 1945. In this milieu, Trotskyists, anarchists, Bordigists, and council communists, particularly in the Gauche communiste de France and the Revolutionaere Kommunisten Deutschlands (RKD), a group mainly of exiles in France(8) survived both Gestapo and Stalinist repression during the war in uneasy associations imposed by the harshest necessity(9).
These groups and individuals had precisely the unabashed internationalist orientation toward World War II, based on a rejection of bourgeois-democratic “anti-fascism”, that Bourseiller is tracking throughout his book. But Bourseiller never mentions that the internationalist viewpoint—“the main enemy is at home”– was a commonly-held view of Stalinists, left-wing Social Democrats, and Trotskyists, as well as of ultra-leftists, both during the 1939-1940 “phony war” and beyond because of the Stalin-Hitler pact. Hitler’s invasion of Russia in June 1941 pushed the first three groups into outright or critical or military support for the Allied side(10). Thereafter, any militant organizing for such an internationalist view in France (or anywhere else in occupied Europe) was risking his or her life, and one veteran of the RKD said later that when distributing leaflets at the Renault-Billancourt factory in Paris, its members were more afraid of the Stalinist-dominated Resistance than of the Gestapo. While most of these groups, like the Trotskyists, expected a deeper world revolutionary wave following World War II than had occurred in 1917-1921, nothing of the kind took place. There were many reasons for this, but one of them was that the Allies had studied history too, and did everything in their power to militarily preempt any repetition of the post-World War I insurgency. Bourseiller , howling with the wolves of post-1989 “triumph of democracy” fashion, is totally opaque to this aspect of the war. Allied bombing of Germany targeted working-class residential areas and infrastructure rather than factories(11); the Red Army stopped its advance at the eastern edge of Warsaw long enough for the Nazis to wipe out the 1944 uprising there prior to Soviet capture of the city, thus eliminating any unwanted independent liberators; Bourseiller mentions the strike wave in northern Italy in the spring of 1943, which toppled Mussolini, but he does not mention that one week later, similar Allied bombing of Milan and Turin began, as if on cue. Despite the perilous existence of the internationalist groups, they survived, and in one of the first important strikes of the postwar period (at the same Renault-Billancourt plant, contributing to the French Communist Party’s May 1947 departure from the government) several of their members, including a founding member of Lutte Ouvriere, a Bordigist and a future member of Socialisme ou Barbarie, were on the strike committee.
Having brought his narrative into the postwar period, and surveyed the regroupments of the (greatly reduced) currents which had survived, Bourseiller turns to the history of Socialisme ou Barbarie. In 1945, the Greek Trotskyist Cornelius Castoriadis, escaping from murderous Stalinist and “Truman doctrine” repression in the Greek civil war of 1944-1947, arrived in France (Castoriadis in turn had been decisively formed by the remarkable Greek revolutionary Aghis Stinas (12)). By 1949, Castoriadis and a group of collaborators had broken with the Fourth International and with Trotskyism generally, asserting that the Soviet bloc was state capitalist and also rejecting the Leninist vanguard party. A few months later, Castoriadis and Claude Lefort, along with a number of others, founded the group Socialisme ou Barbarie (Socialism or Barbarism, widely known as S ou B), which was already in touch with international counterparts such as the Johnson-Forest (CLR James-Raya Dunayevskaya-Grace Lee) tendency in the U.S., and in the course of its existence also had ties to the British group Solidarity, and the surviving Dutch and German council communists, including Pannekoek, Canne-Meier, and Paul Mattick.
From 1949 to 1965, (and initially in the extremely tense international and domestic atmosphere produced by the Cold War) Socialism or Barbarism attempted to think anew the revolutionary project. Its real merit was its attunement (like that of the American Johnsonites) to the wildcat struggles that increasingly came to the fore throughout “advanced capitalism”, but above all in France, the U.S., and Britain in the 1950’s in the postwar period. This allowed the “Social Barbarians”, as they called themselves, to see, more lucidly than the Trotskyists, the limits of the supposedly “reformist” Stalinist, Social Democratic and Labourite mass parties, and above all of the Trotskyist perspective of “capturing the unions” for revolution. Less perspicacious was Castoriadis’s outright rejection of the Marxian critique of political economy, and an increasing tendency to see capitalism mainly or entirely as a system of “order givers and order takers”, as opposed to a system shaped by the Marxian law of value, as well as one subject to classic forms of crisis (This is most apparent in Castoriadis’s 1959-62 series, and later widely-diffused pamphlet “The Revolutionary Movement in Modern Capitalism”.(13) Some key developments that had an impact on S ou B’s evolution were the East German workers’ uprising of 1953, the “events” of 1956 (the 20th Congress of the CPSU, the Hungarian Revolution, Polish worker unrest, the Suez crisis), the French defeats in Indochina and Algeria, the collapse of the Fourth Republic and the return of DeGaulle at the head of the Fifth, and decolonization generally. By its openness, its refusal to “choose its camp” in the Washington-Moscow world condominium, and its refusal to be petrified in the proliferating variants of Trotskyist “orthodoxy”, the “Social Barbarians”, whatever the limitations of their theoretical production and their (very modest) interventions in the working class, created a space for younger figures who passed through it on their way to later important contributions of their own, such as Guy Debord, Gilles Dauve (aka Jean Barrot) (14) and the founders of Informations et Correspondances Ouvrieres (ICO). Some of these limits are shown by S ou B’s 1967 statement announcing its dissolution (the journal had ceased to appear in 1965), saying, one year before the six-week wildcat general strike of May-June 1968, that it expected no revolutionary upsurges in the working class in the years just ahead. But the “councilist idea” that S ou B diffused during an historical low ebb of such a conception of revolution, also helped to theorize the subsequent working-class tempest that continued (as in the U.S. and Britain until 1973, and in Italy, Spain and Portugal until 1977).
Bourseiller (as mentioned, author of a problematic biography of Guy Debord) could hardly have omitted the Situationist International from his narrative. The Situationists, and the 1967 books of Debord and Raoul Vaneigem, anticipated the “spirit” of May 1968 better than any other current.(15) Many people repelled by the austerity of the more visible Marxist left, including the pre- (and post-) 1968 ultra-left, discovered in Debord a Marx they never knew existed in The Society of the Spectacle, and could connect that Marx to the daily life they were living in modern capitalism in a way the previous ultra-left never approached. Be that as it may, the Situationists were never a group seeking members on a programmatic basis, and formally dissolved in 1972, so their texts often served as gateways to the discovery of Marx, of the historical role of workers’ councils, and other currents of the ultra-left (16) for people who went on to other things. (Other roads to the ultra-left included the famous (and later infamous(17) Vieille Taupe bookstore, and the books and pamphlets published by the Editions Spartacus collective around Rene Lefeuvre.)
The May-June general strike in France in 1968, in which Maoist and Trotskyist and even anarchist currents were more prominent, had the medium-term effect of pulling the ultra-left out of virtual historical oblivion.(18), As the James/Castoriadis/Lee book Facing Reality (19) had prophetically put it in 1958, “The French workers will move, and when they do, they will leave the French Communist Party hanging in the air”. But the French May, however deep and far-reaching, was in turn only part of the worldwide surge of 1968, and beyond, which saw “radicalization” of workers and other social strata (above all students) in Germany, Italy, Britain, the U.S., Japan, China, Mexico, Brazil, Poland, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, to name only the most pronounced cases. It seemed no accident that the deepest movement with the most global resonance happened in exactly the country where the ultra-left tradition had had the most complex, relatively unbroken continuity. Suddenly the old refrain “when France sneezes, Europe catches cold” was radically made anew.
In terms of mass action by the French working class, May 1968 was in fact a peak never approached since. The “creeping May” in Italy from 1969 to 1977 and the Portuguese upsurge of 1974-75 were arguably as deep or deeper working-class moments (20), but did not achieve anything like the international impact of the French events. May “decanted” the councilist idea, as developed by the historic German-Dutch left, S ou B and then the Situationists, to the point that by the early 1970’s even the Socialist Party had to talk about “self-management”. But as the mass movement ebbed away and above all after the beginning of the world economic crisis in 1973 (something about which neither S ou B or the Situationists had anything to say) (Bourseiller has nothing to say about it either) other currents moved to the fore. Initially some Maoists, and over the longer haul the three dominant Trotskyist groups (21) seemed to be the main organizational beneficiaries of May in France. But caught as they were in repetition of the frayed theoretical framework they inherited from Lenin and Trotsky, little that they have written since 1968 gets beyond the ephemera of political tracts or at best books and pamphlets of the political season.
Some of the richest contributions to a theoretical understanding of the present (if not in any mass political expression to date) came from currents attempting to synthesize the best of the German-Dutch and Italian Communist Lefts. The most important figures in this ferment were Jacques Camatte (22) and his journal Invariance, and Gilles Dauve, (who for many years wrote under the pseudonym Jean Barrot). In an atmosphere dominated (and not merely in France) by interminable debate over “forms of organization” (the party, the council) their contribution was concisely to connect historical forms of organization to the categories of the Marxian critique of political economy, and in particular to the “Unpublished Sixth Chapter” of vol. I of Capital. It is characteristic of the superficiality of Bourseiller’s book that he says nothing whatsoever about this development. He mentions Jacques Camatte, whose writing has a wide influence, all of three times, and says nothing about either his books or about the evolution of Invariance (23). He is in such a hurry to get to the “negationist” affair, in which Gilles Dauve/Jean Barrot was implicated (without himself being a negationist, but by some accounts being complacent toward negationists) that he says nothing of substance about Dauve’s early writings (24), which, with some of the 1970’s writings of Camatte, are among the few theoretical expressions of the post-1968 period in France still worth reading (and still being read) today.
One figure in the backdrop of this ferment was Mark Chirik (1907-1990). Having had one of the most interesting lives of any figure in this narrative (and having therefore been a main character in Malaquais’ roman a cle (25)) Bourseiller can only dwell on Chirik. Born in Russia in 1907, Chirik was a founding member of the Palestinian Communist Party in 1919, and after emigrating to France in the 1920’s, had passed through Trotskyism before encountering the influence of the ultra-left. He survived World War II in France, but in 1952 had left for Venezuela in anticipation of World War III. He stayed there until 1968, developing a small current of students, then returned to France, where he and some of his Venezuelan recruits launched Revolution Internationale (RI), the only French ultra-left group after 1968 that attempted to systematically build an organization in the shadow of the larger gauchiste groups, though beginning in the ebb of the 1980’s, and particularly after Chirik’s death in 1990, it suffered a series of splits.
Mass struggle was ebbing in France after the early 1970’s, and took as much of a toll on the ultra-left as among the gauchistes. Many small groups and publications disappeared. This ebb set the stage for the “negationist” episode, which flared up on several occasions between 1979 and 1996, and poisoned the atmosphere of a significant part of the ultra-left milieu. The convolutions of this episode, centered on the “revisionist” (26) denial of the existence of the Nazi gas chambers and of a concerted plan to exterminate the Jews, cannot be recounted here (27). But it is necessary to underscore Bourseiller’s outrageous assertion (culminating many asides throughout the book) that “three-fourths of the militants who emerged from the “social-barbarian” milieu were won over to the “revisionist” theses within a few months” in 1979 (28).
At the center of the entire affair was Pierre Guillaume, the founder of the Vieille Taupe bookstore (and who today, after being repudiated by the virtual entirety of the ultra-left, continues in the same vein, increasingly frequenting circles of the far right.) Guillaume and the ultra-left elements who initially followed him in the negationist affair seized on the theses of Robert Faurisson (29), with the idea that if they succeeded in unmasking the “myth” of the Nazi gas chambers, they would bring down the entire edifice of bourgeois ideology, built around the triumph of democracy over fascism in World War II. None of the other internationalist currents from the war and thereafter ever felt the need to take this step, starting with the ultra-leftists who had lived through it. This included the Bordigists, whose article “Auschwitz or the Great Alibi”, while in no way denying Nazi genocide, gave a very mechanistic analysis of it. (The republication of this article as a pamphlet by La Vieille Taupe in 1979 can be seen as the public beginning of the negationist affair in the ultra-left milieu). My own sense is that, in a period of downturn of mass struggles which lasted over two decades, negationism and the serious media attention it attracted seemed to give new life and a sense of motion to small marginal coteries numbering at most a few hundred. It also gave the ideologues of the dominant society (hence Bourseiller’s book), particularly after the events of 1989-1991, an excellent pretense to pounce on currents rejecting anti-fascism and “democracy” with the old saw that the radical left and the radical right converge, with ex-Stalinist apologists such as Didier Daeninckx sensing an excellent opportunity to redeem themselves as demystifiers.
500 pages on, Bourseiller announces in conclusion that “the ultra-left as such has never existed”. Such an assertion demonstrates once again that this insect collector of “microhistory” is blind to the social history that gives rise to his subject, particularly of the early 1920’s when the German-Dutch and Italian Lefts were the expression of tens of thousands of workers, or of 1968 and its fallout when the ideas Bourseiller has been tracing shaped thousands of militants. He offers no explanation why, since 1989-1991, it is precisely the “other communism”, from the American IWW to CLR James to the German-Dutch and Italian Lefts, that is attracting the attention of theoretically-minded militants, and why more people today, in a number of languages, are reading Camatte, Debord, Dauve/Barrot, Bordiga, Munis, and Gorter than when many of their works were originally published. Bourseiller’s book is in the genre of Stephane Courtois’ Black Book of Communism (30) , piling it on with the refrain that “there is no alternative” to the downward spiral of conditions under world capitalism. One senses in this ideological production that they doeth protest too much.
1-Despite the inadequacies of the term “ultra-left” (as explained momentarily) this review will keep the distinction (more clear in French) between “gauchisme”/ “extreme gauche”, or far left, which since 1968 has referred primarily to Trotskyists and Maoists, and “ultra-gauche”, or ultra-left currents for which Trotskyism and Maoism are the “left wing of capital”.
2-Two quite useful reviews are in A Contretemps, April 2004, particularly that of Enrique Escobar, former member of Socialisme ou Barbarie, taking apart Bourseiller’s assertion that “three-fourths” of the ex-members of that group were won over to the sordid “negationist” theses (cf. below). The Bordigist critique is in Le Proletaire, No. 470, Jan-Feb. 2004.
3-A wide variety of texts of these figures are available online at http://www.plusloin.org; an even more comprehensive site, with texts in 10 languages, is http://www.left-dis.nl
4-Two excellent histories of the German-Dutch and Italian Lefts are by Philippe Bourrinet, La gauche communiste germano-hollandaise des origines a 1968 and Le courant bordiguiste, both published by Editions left-dis. They are also available on line at http://www.left-dis.nl . An English translation of an earlier version of the German-Dutch book has been published by the International Communist Current.
5-Cf. V. Higounet, Histoire du negationnisme en France (Paris, 2000); also (coll.) Libertaires et ultra-gauche contre le negationnisme. (Paris 1996).
6-Cf. On National Bolshevism, cf. Jean-Pierre Faye, Langages totalitaires (Paris, 1973).
7-John Chiaradia, “Antonio Gramsci: The Dark Years”, unpublished manuscript.
8-Pierre Lanneret, Internationalists in France during the Second World War. London, n.d. See also the journal Dissidences, Nos. 12-13, Oct 2002/Jan. 2003 “Revolutionnaires en seconde guerre mondiale”
9-The famous cooperative packing plant in Marseilles that allowed many of these people, including briefly Andre Breton, to eke out a living in the early years of the war is featured in Jean Malaquais’ roman a cle about this milieu, Planete sans visa. Paris 1999.
10-The Workers Party in the U.S. was one group, emerging from classical Trotskyism and in no way to be construed as ultra-left, which maintained an internationalist stance during the war.
11-80% of German industry was left intact by Allied bombing with an eye to enlisting a resurgent Germany in an anti-Soviet alliance after the war. James Stewart Martin, All Honorable Men (New York, 1950), lays out Anglo-American-German business collaboration during the war; Joao Bernardo, Labirintos do Fascismo (Porto, 2003), pp. 339-343 describes the same collaboration at the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) in Basel.
12-A. Stinas, Mémoires: un revolutionnaire dans la Grece du XXe siecle, Montreuil, 1990. Portions of this memoir are now available online at
13-Reprinted in Castoriadis, C. Capitalisme moderne et revolution. Paris, 10/18, 1979.
14-Jean Barrot, Communisme et question russe (Paris, 1972); Le mouvement communiste (Paris, 1972); Barrot et al. La legende de la gauche au pouvoir: le front populaire (Paris, 1973). Multiple writings of Barrot/Dauve in several languages are available online.
15-Guy Debord, La societe du spectacle, (Paris, 1967) and Raoul Vaneigem, Traite de savoir-vivre a l’usage des jeunes generations (Paris, 1967). Both books are available in English translation. A comprehensive site of Situationist texts in English is http://www.bopsecrets.org
16-A broad collection of texts in English is in K. Knabb, ed. Situationist International Anthology, Berkeley 1981; a corrective to Bourseiller’s account of the S.I. is in Anselm Jappe, Guy Debord, Berkeley 1991.
17-Cf. La Vieille Taupe (Old Mole) bookstore, from 1966 to 1972, was a major resource for ultra-left texts in Paris in those years; it later underwent an unfortunate metamorphosis, about which more below.
18-Initially, it was the German-Dutch and S ou B councilist wing which had influence; the Bordigist influence became important a few years later.
19-CLR James et al., Facing Reality, Detroit 1958.
20-Cf. N. Balestrini L’orda d’oro, Milan 1988; P. Mailer Portugal: The Impossible Revolution, London 1977.
21-The three main Trotskyist factions, (which, for what it is worth, received a combined vote of 11% in the 2002 presidential elections) are Lutte Ouvriere, the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire, and the Lambertistes, currently known as the Organisation Communiste Internationale. One survey is Christophe Nick, Les trotskystes, Paris 2002.
22-Above all Capital et Gemeinwesen: Le 6eme chapitre inedit du Capital et l’Oeuvre Economique de Marx. Paris, 1978; also J. Camatte (ed.) Bordiga et la Passion du Communisme (Paris 1975);
23-Beginning in the mid-1970’s, Camatte (first systematically declared in his Wandering of Humanity (Detroit, Black and Red, 1975) moved away from what he called the “theory of the proletariat” (i.e. Marx).
24-Cf. Footnote 14 above. Barrot/Dauve’s most-widely circulated text in English (with Francois Martin) is Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement, first published in 1973 and available at various sites on the Internet.
25-Cf. Footnote 9 above.
26-The word preferred by Holocaust deniers across the political spectrum.
27-Cf. V. Higounet, op. cit. .
28Bourseiller, pp. 439-440; Escobar reply
29-His main statement is R. Faurisson, Mémoire en défense : contre ceux qui m’accusent de falsifier l’histoire : la question des chambres à gaz . This was published by La Vieille Taupe in 1980.
30-S. Courtois et al. The Black Book of Communism. Cambridge (Ma), 1999. One must cite, as an exception to the overall tendentious quality of these essays, the study of Nicolas Werth on the Soviet Union, particularly his treatment of the 1917-1921 period.