Sunday, August 27, 2006

Castoriadis conference March 1.-3. in Paris

Check out this very interesting conference, hosted by the Paris VIII University and L'université de Cergy-Pontoise, March 1.-3 2007, "Réinventer l'autonomie" . I assume that it's open and will try to attend.
Ingerid S.


At 8:29 PM, Anonymous Ditto said...

Interestingly enough, Daniel Bensaid, leading ideologist for the Ligue Communiste Revolutionaire, is one of the speakers at this conference. This party in turn is the French section of the 4th international; heir to the trotskyist party PCR from which Castoriadis and Claude Lefort once made their famous sortie, to form SouB. Time heals all wounds, or ... what?

At 1:06 PM, Blogger Anders Ramsay said...

I'm not sure the question is about healing wounds. Since the Chaulieu-Montal tendency's split from the PCI (Parti Communiste Internationaliste) in 1949, none of the numerous trostkyist groups and tendencys has shown any interest in the ideas of Socialisme ou Barbarie, even less in the later writings of Castoriadis. SouB never understood itself as trotskyist (several members actually came from other political backgrounds, such as bordigism) and their ideas found much more response in what is known as the libertarian left (council communists, anarchists, syndicalists). Attempts at practical cooperation were made between Daniel Mothé and trotskyist militants in the Renault factory at Bellancourt. The problems in this work has been recorded in the important study om SouB by Stephen Hastings-King.

Bensaid is typical: One of his later works, "Marx for our times", is an attempt to renew marxism. No mention can be found in it of the critique of marxism raised by Castoriadis, which, although it may not be totally embraced, certainly deserves discussion. Another case is the world famous brittish trotskyist and historian Perry Anderson. In his widely read "Considerations on Western Marxism", neither SouB, nor any of their associates, such as the american Johnson-Forest-tendency or the brittish Solidarity-group are mentioned. The ignorance of some of the most learned trotskyites toward SouB is monumental. I only, know of one, Alex Callinicos, who in his "Trotskyism" (the whole book is available on the web) , has a longer , though dismissive, chapter on CC.

However, the fundamental political contradiction between SouB and trotskyism can be learned from a small booklet by Bensaid, "Les Trotskysmes", published in the Que sais-je?-series in 2002. Here (I quote and translate from a german translation) it is said that "he [C.C.] searched for an alternative in the praxis of councils and self-management ... instead of the dialectic of needs and the dynamics of social contradictions." I'm not sure whether there has to be a contradiction betwen self-management and awareness of social contradictions and what a dialecitic of needs might be, but below Bensaids formulation there might lay the kind of traditional marxist belief in the pseudo-religious salvation of History, quite rightly criticized by CC, which leaves no room for the self-activity of any class of human beings whatsoever. Also, Bensaid in his book claims that SouB never came out of its "shattendasein", its existence in the shadows, without mentioning the influence of its ideas on the movement of -68 in France.

Marxism is definitely more than the kind citicized by CC and today a lot more can be said about Marx than what was possible in the fifties. But trotskyism has for long been one of the more sterile and traditionalistic variants, and if CCs critique of marxism is valid for any particular brand, trotskyism surely is one. (An excellent critical study is Peter Beilharz' "Trotsky, Trotskyism and the Transistion to Socialism", 1987, probably inspired by CC, but surely a work in it's own.) The politics practised today in France by the LCR, otherwise an open, non-sectarian and not wholly unsympathetic group, can actually be criticized in the same way as the PCI after WWII was criticized by the Chaulieu-Montal-tendency. The whole plan is basically still to draw the old stalinist party, the PCF, today much weaker than sixty years ago, towards the left. Ironically, the cooperation between LCR and PCF is today closer than ever. Here, there really are wounds that need healing, considering how many trotskyites during the last century have been persecuted and killed by stalinists in Russia, France, Greece, Spain, Vietnam, China, ....

Of course, history aside, it will be interesting to see what Bensaid, who certainly seems to be one of the more self-reflective and probably honest trotskyists, has to say on CCs political thinking. It would, however, be surprising if we will be wittnessing any radical moves away from traditional trotskyist politics towards a politics for individual and collective autonomy. But of course, stranger things have happened.


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