This document is an excerpt of the Book called « Trotskyism and Maoism in France and in the United States ». Here is the part about maoism in France. It is of course kind of formal, as it is an analyze « from outside », but it provides a lot of informations and an overview about the movement in France at that time. In this sense, it is very useful. The document was scanned and put on line by the « Maoist Document Project » on a website that does not exist anymore.
In the last chapter, we saw that the evolution of French Trotskyism over the past half century has led to a point where there are now three major Trotskyist organizations in the country. On a number of dimensions, including the organizational, they represent a continuum. But as the dimension or issue shifts, the organizations do not always occupy the same position on the continuum. For example, while Lutte Ouvrière is closer to the OCI than to the Ligue on the organizational issue, it is closer to the Ligue than to the OCI in its approach to electoralism. This means that there is a certain fluidity in the distinctions between the currents of French Trotskyism which is reflected in their concrete interactions with each other.
In this chapter on French Maoism we are going to see a very different phenomenon. Maoists are fond of saying that things must be divided into two in order to be understood dialectically. At least from 1968 to the mid 1970s the major characteristic of French Maoism was indeed a clear cut dualistic cleavage, with the groups on each side of the cleavage having virtually nothing to do with one another. I shall refer to the two kinds of Maoism reflected in this dichotomy as hierarchical Maoism and anti-hierarchical Maoism.
If French Maoism is divided into two varieties, equal attention is not given to each of them in this chapter. For several reasons, more is given to the anti-hierarchical variety. First, the major movement within this current, the Gauche Prolétarienne (Proletarian Left or GP) was, during its heyday, the most dynamic movement on the French Far Left. Second, even during the period that it was outlawed, it felt that the success of its actions depended upon giving them the widest possible publicity. Its openness and its extensive written records and self-criticisms made it possible to collect more data on GP Maoism than on the more cautious hierarchical groups. Third, because there have been only intermittent signs of life on the part of people trying to keep GP Maoism going since 1974, and because much of the written documentation is no longer available, any research and writing on the movement by people who were not themselves participants would be very difficult. I thus see the research which I did on the movement in 1972 as particularly valuable in establishing an historical record, as well as in making possible the analysis of a fascinating current of Maoist expression in France.
This brings me to the last reason for devoting so much attention to this current in France. As we shall see in Chapter 5, there has been nothing like it in the United States. Elements within the French context encouraged the development of this kind of Maoism whereas it was not encouraged in the United States. Although the full dimensions of this will not be spelled out until the Conclusion of this book, the phenomenon of anti-hierarchical Maoism presents us with perhaps the most interesting case of the relationship between aspects of a theory and elements within concrete contexts of application.
Let us now turn to an examination of the history of French Maoism, from its beginning to the point where it experienced the cleavage which we have just been discussing.
FRENCH MAOISM UP TO 1968
Because of the relatively recent nature of the Sino-Soviet split, Maoism as a distinct ideological current has a much shorter history than does Trotskyism. As might be expected, the first stirring of a Maoist current separate from the French Communist Party came within the Franco-Chinese Friendship Association. Prior to the Sino-Soviet split, there was no incompatibility between membership in both the party and the association. However, as the conflict between the Soviet and Chinese parties intensified and the French party began to accept gradually the de-Stalinization decided upon by the Soviet party, some of those in the Friendship Association began to form « Marxist-Leninist Circles. » Among these people were the most diehard Stalinists within what was one of the most Stalinist parties in Western Europe.
In 1964, the « Circles » were formally grouped into a national organization, the Federation des Cercles Marxistes-Léninistes. A second group, founded by an expelled former Communist Party member named Claude Beaulieu, was also created in 1964.  This was the Centre Marxiste-Léniniste de France. It, however, never attained the importance of the first group. It was badly discredited by its support for de Gaulle in the 1965 presidential elections, a support which it justified by de Gaulle’s hostility toward American imperialism. It was the only Maoist group not dissolved by decree of the Gaullist government after the 1968 uprising. Beaulieu’s group was denounced as the French followers of Liu Shao-shi by the other Maoists, and very negatively viewed by the non-Maoist Left for its support of Gaullism. On the other hand, the Federation, which changed its name to the Mouvement Communiste Français (MCF) in 1967, received official recognition as a fraternal organization from the Chinese and Albanian parties. 
Both of the above groups came out of the « adult » Communist Party. However, within the student group of that party, the Union des E’tudiants Communistes (UEC), there was a dynamic taking place which would eventuate in the creation of a different set of Maoist structures. It will be recalled that from 1963 to 1965, the parent party virtually lost control over the UEC. Krivine and his fellow Trotskyists were practicing « entrism » within the UEC. However, the UEC also served as the womb for an important part of the Maoist movement, much the same way that the SDS would serve as a womb for American Maoism.
Perhaps because for the Trotskyists the UEC was a foster home while for the Maoists it was the womb, it was much more difficult for the Maoists to accept a clear break than it was for the Trotskyists. Indeed, in their incipient stage, they were less fully convinced followers of Mao than were those older party members who had split off in 1964. They tended rather to accept the criticisms of theoretical sterility made by Professor Louis Althusser against the party. Althusser, a professor at the E’cole Normale Supérieure where this current was initially centered, was a party member who did not make the transition to Maoism the way many of his younger followers within the UEC did.
But they moved more slowly and more cautiously than the Trotskyists because they had no preconceived plan like « entrism. » Even though they thought that the Communist Party’s support for Mitterrand’s 1965 presidential candidacy was an error–perhaps not as great as support for de Gaulle, but an error nonetheless–they did not openly take a hostile position as the Trotskyists did. And they drew a distinction between the « leftist » Trotskyist entrists and « honest militants » in the UEC.  They felt that the Trotskyists deserved to be purged, but that in doing so the parent party had also excluded some « honest » militants who were not practicing « entrism » but who were simply expressing different views from the party leadership’s. They thus created a structure called the Parisian Collective in which those « honest militants » (mainly themselves) whose cells had been abolished could continue to participate.
The Parisian Collective, however, proved to be a stepping stone to the creation of an organization which was to rival the UEC. In February of 1966, while some of the militants were still in the UEC, they created the Union des Jeunesses Communistes (marxiste-léniniste), which is sometimes referred to as the UJC (m-l) but which I shall refer to hereafter simply as the UJCML. In March, Althusser’s positions were officially denounced by the Central Committee of the Communist Party.[6<] In April, the UJCML retaliated by distributing at the UEC’s Ninth Congress a tract entitled « Must We Revise Marxist-Leninist Theory? ». This was a direct attack on the position of the Central Committee. The Communist Party had had enough from the UJCML. Members of the UJCML were expelled from the UEC the year after the Trotskyists’ expulsion. After that expulsion, the UJCML clearly identified itself as Maoist in ways that it had not previously. It has been estimated that there were approximately 1500 militants in the UJCML at this point.
Aside from Beaulieu’s largely discredited group, there were thus two Maoist organizations in France with quite different social compositions prior to the 1968 revolt. The UJCML was almost entirely, if not entirely, composed of students. While there were also some intellectuals in the MCF, the dominant tone was set by older and non-intellectual former members of the Communist Party–the most uncompromisingly Stalinist to boot. They had little patience with the UCML, which they viewed as an elitist organization of young intellectuals who knew nothing about the working class and who placed pseudo-theorizing above practice. The following passage is the conclusion of a document adopted by the Central Committee of the MCF. In this case, it was drafted by an intellectual himself, who had joined the Communist Party in 1940, the year that France was invaded by the Nazis, whom Stalin was to fight.
It is thus supposed [by the UJCML] that youth constitutes the very basis of an independent and autonomous organization capable of finding its way as an isolated detachment in the capitalist world. And, in consequence, priority is here given to youth as a class based upon age above that of the proletariat as a social class as the carrier of the future of the world. Let us add that within youth itself it is the students who appear, not only as the initiators, but also as the masters of thought, as the designated leaders.We always come to the same conclusion: we must let the students, the intellectuals, constitute themselves as an autonomous theoretical detachment. When they have grasped the truth–acquired outside of the workers’ experience and verified only by « theoretical practice »–they will present themselves before the masses who do not have access to the theoretical basics but to a defective translation of Marxist theory: the ideology of the workers.
The contention of the MCF was that a youth group can only serve as an appendage of an ongoing party. The UJCML was, however, not about to submit itself to the discipline of an « adult » party. It argued that through a method referred to as the enquête–going out to the people and learning from them the UJCML could come to know and understand not only the workers but also such « secondary categories » as students, the bourgeoisie, and small and tenant farmers. In other words, what the UJCML does not know it must ask. To maintain this kind of openness to input from the masses, the UJCML contended that the centralized form of organization adopted by the MCF was an impediment. The party was too closed a structure and, in that sense, at least at the present stage of the struggle, the MCF itself was elitist. The creation of a true centralized party would have to be based upon preparatory work such as that being done in the enquête.  It was, in other words, a long-range goal of the UJCML. Up to that point a more decentralized and fluid movement seeking input from exploited people in various sectors of the population was more appropriate.
While the majority of the MCF and the UJCML were doing battle over the desirability of a centralized party at a given point in time, the leaders of the MCF had to contend with a dissident wing in their group. Largely composed of intellectuals, referred to by their opponents sarcastically as the « groupe de ‘professeurs’, » these dissidents argued against a disciplined party form of organization and for a « grand alliance » of all of the Maoist groups in France, something which the UJCML also favored.
The leadership of the MCF was thus facing precisely the same problem with its intellectuals that the Trotskyists faced after the Second World War. Then, too, a number of intellectuals called for more fluid patterns of interaction, which many viewed as a virtual call for the destruction of the party. The Maoist intellectuals were now doing the same thing, and this general pattern of behavior was not lost on the majority of the MCF:
This fractional anti-Party group, group of « professors, » can be characterized as intellectualist and dogmatic. It was rooted in petit-bourgeois ideology and seriously believed in its superiority over the authentically proletarian elements in the Mouvement.
In criticizing the UJCML, a member of the majority of the MCF recalled the words of Lenin:
On the subject of these elements [the Maoists expelled from the UEC], that we in no way view as enemies, we simply shall recall what Lenin said in One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward in regard to bourgeois intellectuals who feared proletarian discipline and organization: « No one would dare deny that what, in a general fashion, characterizes the intellectuals as a particular social stratum in contemporary capitalist societies is precisely their individualism and inaptitude for discipline and organization. »
In late 1967, the anti-party intellectuals were presented with the hard choice. The majority faction of the MCF decided on a formal conversion of the Mouvement into a more highly structured party, the Parti Communiste Marxisie-Léniniste de France (PCMLF).
The generational and intellectual/non-intellectual cleavages which divided the UJCML and the PCMLF manifested themselves in differences over specific substantive questions. The PCMLF was critical of the decision of the UJCML to hold off criticism of the Communist support of Mitterrand while the UJCML was still part of the Communist student organization. By the spring of 1968, before the massive revolt took place in France, two other fairly clear issues divided the two organizations.
The first involved relations with labor unions. The UJCML had adopted a policy similar to the « entrism » of the Trotskyists (and for which they had been critical of the Trotskyists) but they applied it to the Communist-dominated labor confederation, the CGT, rather than to the Communist Party itself or its student affiliate. The UJCML argued that the CGT is an important confederation (it is the largest in France) in that some sections of it are « revolutionary » despite a « revisionist » national leadership and that, in the minds of most workers, it is the CGT which is associated with the class struggle.
Thus the major strategy of the UJCML was to go into the factories to join the CGT, and to engage in both open battle against the employers and clandestine political organization. The PCMLF, at this point in time, felt that the CGT was a lost cause. It argued that the Maoists would be purged from the CGT, which was very tightly under the control of the « revisionist » Communist Party-oriented leadership. The PCMLF favored letting their members remain in or join whichever unions they preferred. Its priority was clearly not the penetration of unions, but the construction of a vanguard political party.
A second interesting, if more symbolic, difference developed over support of the struggle of the Vietnamese against the U.S. and the regimes which it sustained in the South. The two organizations had their own NLF support organizations. The PCMLF’s organization adopted the slogan, « No new Munichs! » If this meant something to the older members of the PCMLF, it was completely lost on the younger generation for which « Munich » (i.e., the concessions made by the French and British to pacify Hitler) was out of the range of direct experience. By March of 1968, the PCMLF itself recognized the limitations of its slogan and dropped it, contending that it was not understood by the Vietnamese.
Not surprisingly, the PCMLF inherited the Chinese and Albanian recognition from the MCF, and an important element within the UJCML was dissatisfied with the progress of their own organization and began to hope for a merger. Thus in the spring of 1968 the UJCML split, with a group from Lyons taking the initiative in self-criticism. There were admissions that « we persisted in an intellectualist and sectarian attitude, » that the UJCML has criticized the MCF « without seeing that our youth could learn from their experience, » that the UJCML exhibited « petit-bourgeois sectarianism, our desire to keep ourselves distinct at any price. » It was further contended that « while several comrades of the UCML have not been able to rid themselves of a certain petit-bourgeois aestheticism, the PCMLF dares to lead the Marxist-Leninist struggle on the cultural front through its publication, l’Opposition Artistique. »
The revolt of May and June thus exploded at a very difficult time for the UJCML. The ideas of the group from Lyons, called the « liquidationist current, » found wide-range acceptance within the organization. The current was so named because the logical outcome of these ideas was the liquidation of the UJCML as an organization and the incorporation of its militants within the party structure of the PCMLF.
The UJCML was caught off balance by the revolt. Mainly preoccupied with its own internal problems, it argued against the erection of the barricades in the student district of Paris. On the eve of the battle known as the « Night of the Barricades, » May 10, the UJCML took a position similar to that of the Lambertist Trotskyists (the tendency now represented by the OCI and its youth group, the AJS). It argued that a true revolution must be made by the workers and that confrontations without them were meaningless. It urged students to go out to the factories and the working class neighborhoods rather than mounting the barricades in the Latin Quarter. Members of the organization did not participate in the battle that night.
Ironically, the PCMLF, the Maoist organization which had been arguing that youth should not be considered a separate revolutionary class or a group which would give direction to the workers, was more supportive of the students. Some of their members or sympathizers were on the barricades. However, once the labor unions began to demonstrate support for the students and workers began to conduct massive strikes and plan occupations to the point of creating the spontaneous general strike which paralyzed France, then the UJCML joined forces with the broader movement by organizing « long marches » out to the factories in support of the workers.
This attempted reintegration into the broader movement, however, did not save the organization. The pro-discipline party faction argued that the regime survived 1968 because there was not a disciplined party willing and capable of giving any direction to the tremendous energy unleashed by the revolt. By this time they were clearly a majority. The UJCML people who had taken jobs in factories were called out and the majority withdrew from the practical world to seek guidance in the basic texts. It was a massive retreat. The UJCML was put to rest permanently.
The 1968 revolt proved to be a watershed. After it, French Maoist groups proliferated. But they went in one of the two directions indicated in the introduction of this chapter. Those whom I call the hierarchical Maoists accepted the Leninist concept of a centralized and highly disciplined party and attempted to build organizations along those lines. While differing among themselves over specific issues or even theoretical points, they have not offered any terribly new or unorthodox interpretations of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. As already indicated, the anti-hierarchical Maoists went in a different direction, which was more interesting for comparative purposes. The French signify the distinction between the two currents by referring to the first as Marxiste-Léniniste and the second as les Maoïstes or simply les Maos.
The prototype of hierarchical Maoism is the PCMLF itself. Most of the other hierarchical Maoist organizations have resulted from splits within the PCMLF, which continues to be the officially recognized Chinese organization. Not surprisingly, it defended the position of the Chinese regime right down the line.
Like most of the Far Left organizations, the PCMLF was banned by the government after the 1968 revolt. It became a clandestine organization which made its positions public under the name of its paper, l’Humanité Rouge (HR). The party continued to operate, but feared to even permit its Central Committee to meet together in one place. In the summer of 1970 seven or eight of its leaders were arrested for reconstituting a banned organization, and these arrests continued sporadically right up through 1976, when one of their leaders, Roman Le Gal, spent five-and-a-half months in a prison without even being convicted.
Both the caution necessitated by the clandestine posture and repression were having debilitating effects upon the party. Its membership dropped from between two and three thousand to approximately a thousand. Moreover, a group of younger members objected to the clandestine posture insisted upon meetings of the full Central Committee, and left the party when their demands were refused. They formed a paper called Le Travailleur (The Worker) in the summer of 1970. They did a self-criticism and were readmitted back into the party as individuals in 1973. However, a second group of young people, many of them having come from the UJCML, took the same position but did not quit the party. In an attempt to compromise with these people or pacify them, five of their number were given responsibility for editing the paper and were attached to the Central Committee. They used the paper to criticize the party’s leadership, and were stripped of their posts. They refused to accept the sanction or to do a self-criticism
This group was expelled, and it established a paper called Front Rouge. It published this paper from the time of its explusion in 1970 to 1974. However, all during this period it refused to recognize the legitimacy of its expulsion. Like the Trotskyists when they were initially expelled from the Communist parties, the people of Front Rouge insisted that they were just as legitimately a part of the PCMLF as were those who purged them. This was the only way to make a continued appeal for Chinese and Albanian recognition.
In 1974, they gave up the attempt and formed their own legal party, the Parti Communiste Révolutionnaire (marxiste-léniniste) or PCR (m-l). It was a younger party, lacking the older former Communist Party members at the top which the PCMLF had. It was much more open in its activities, since it was not working under the constraint of a ban. And it joined in common demonstrations and other activities with non-Maoist groups on the Far Left, including Trotskyist organizations. In the eyes of the PCMLF, the latter was a particularly serious error and it viewed the PCR (m-l) as an ultraleftist organization attracted to spontaneous action. The PCR (m-l) viewed the PCMLF as a structure ossified by its preoccupation with clandestinity and totally isolated from every other group on the Far Left.
The fortunes of the PCMLF, which had begun to decline in 1970, continued to decline until 1976. The attractiveness of the PCR(m-l), which was growing in size, which was able to publish a daily newspaper just like the PCMLF, and which was much better integrated into the larger Far Left milieu, was not helping the PCMLF.
After 1976, two factors pushed these two largest Maoist French organizations closer together. One was a severe self-criticism which the PCMLF made against itself in 1976. It criticized itself for the following errors made at its 1975 Congress: (1) arbitrarily declaring that a war between the two superpowers was imminent; (2) viewing the French Communist Party as a direct agent of the USSR; (3) focusing exclusively on the superpowers as its target while ignoring the everyday problems of the French working class; (4) veering toward an alliance with the bourgeoisie in defense of French national independence; (5) thusly hesitating to attack the nuclear policy of France, or to side with the peasants protesting the construction of nuclear plants in their regions; (6) thusly seeing the GCT and the Communist Party as the major targets in their factory work; and (7) refusing to support the soldiers in the French armed forces, who were organizing and pressuring just demands, under the pretext that they were led by Trotskyists and used by the revisionist Communist Party. This is the most basic self-criticism that this writer has ever seen any Marxist-Leninist group make of itself. While focusing on specific issues, it basically agreed with the charge of sectarianism levied by the PCR(m-l).
The second factor was the upcoming French legislative elections of 1978. It attests to the tremendous impact which those upcoming elections had upon the entire Left in France that both the PCMLF and the PCR(m-l), neither of which had ever run candidates before, took an electoral turn. The self-criticism of the PCMLF made the PCR(m-l) much more willing not only to enter into a joint electoral pact with the PCMLF but to do so as an act which would be considered a step in the direction of an attempt to actually reunite the two organizations.
In the first Maoist participation in national elections  the two parties ran 114 candidates and received approximately 28,000 votes. While this was a positive experience, some problems still remained in terms of future unification. From the perspective of the PCMLF, there were three problems which had to be resolved before the two groups could unify. First the PCMLF felt that the PCR(m-l) emphasized the concept of the mass line to the point of virtually denying the leadership role of the party. The PCMLF placed its emphasis upon the directive role of the party. This did not concern the internal dynamics of the party, but rather the relationship between the party and the masses.
Secondly, the PCMLF felt that Maoist groups should deal only with each other. The PCR(m-l) entered into discussions with the Ligue-OCT-CCA coalition prior to its 1978 electoral agreement with the PCMLF. It was also attracted to the position that Far Left groups should urge their voters to vote for the Communist or Socialist parties on the second round. The PCMLF felt that Maoist groups should not be involved with Trotskyist groups. And it made complete abstention on the second round a condition of its alliance with the PCR(m-l).
Third, while the PCR(m-l) condemned the Gang of Four and criticized the Albanians for their position on the Theory of the Three Worlds, the PCMLF was still not completely at ease with the appreciation which the PCR(m-l) had of that theory and with its response to concrete situations. Shortly after the legislative elections of 1978, when president Giscard d’Estaing felt emboldened to send French paratroopers into Zaire, the two organizations took completely contrary stands. The PCMLF, alone among the French Left, accepted the Chinese position that a Second World country was countering Soviet social-imperialism. The PCR(m-l) took the position that every other group on the Left did, namely that the French were practicing good old-fashioned capitalist imperialism.
During this period of attempted rapprochement, both parties continued their daily work. This involved publishing rather short daily newspapers and selling them either by subscription or through the comprehensive Maoist bookstore, the Librairie Norman Bethune. The PCMLF also ran its own bookstore which handled the paper. Both parties were heavily engaged in work within the factories. This work was conducted through the union structures. Like the Ligue, they had in the past found it easier to work within the autogestionnaire CFDT than within the Communist-dominated CGT. But with the loosening of internal controls within the CGT, the PCMLF developed an increasing taste for working therein. Although not liking its close ties with the Socialist Party since 1974, the PCR(m-l) adopted a more positive view of the CFDT than of any other labor confederation and seemed more content than the PCMLF to make its major investment there.
Neither of the Maoist parties has emphasized youth to the extent that the Ligue has. In fact, while the PCMLF contended that between 15 and 20 per cent of its members were teachers in 1978, (mainly at the primary and secondary levels), it readily admitted that as opposed to 1968, a decade later it had almost no students in its ranks. The PCR(m-l), which had a lower average age at both the leadership and general membership level, has made a major attempt at recruiting younger people, including students, through its Union Communiste de la Jeunesse Révolutionnaire. This closer similarity in age and student distribution has made it easier for the PCR(m-l) to interact with the rest of the Far Left, while the PCMLF has remained isolated.
Similar to their positions on youth, both of the Maoist parties have expressed concern over the oppression of women, but neither has been willing to go to the extent that the Ligue has in terms of organizational commitment or of supporting the autonomous women’s movement. For about a year (1974-75) the PCMLF published a little newspaper on women, and at one time they experimented with women’s commissions within the party. These attempts were terminated. But this writer was assured that in 1978 much more attention was being devoted to placing women in leadership positions. One leader estimated that while only about ten per cent of the Central Committee was female, about 30 per cent of the emerging leaders coming up through intermediate levels were women. He also estimated that women comprised somewhere between 35 and 40 per cent of the entire party. The party has no position at all on homosexuality, and has been claiming to be concerned uniquely with the effectiveness of its militants’ work regardless of their sexual preferences.[28<]
Finally, both parties have rejected the nuclear power program of the government and any nuclear power program under capitalism. They thus have shared the views of the Trotskyist OCI and Lutte Ouvrière, but do have not accepted the unequivocal rejection of nuclear power by the Trotskyist Ligue. As reflected in its 1976 self-criticism, this issue has been a difficult one for PCMLF. Up to 1976, its willingness to support any program which strengthened « Second World » France and thus rendered it less dependent on the United States–including both its own nuclear power program and its own nuclear strike force aimed primarily at the USSR–precluded any critical posture vis-à-vis the nuclear policies of the French government. This separated the PCMLF from the growing anti-nuclear movement and from the massive demonstrations against the installation of specific plants which usually displaced farmers in the countryside. In 1976, the PCMLF decided that it could eat its cake and have it, too; that it could support the deployment of nuclear weapons aimed at the Soviet Union but oppose non-military aspects of the nuclear program. That position was questioned by others on the Far Left, including other Maoists.
The Maoist group to raise the sharpest questions about the PCMLF’s self-criticism, which it called a « phoney self-criticism, » was the Groupe pour la Fondation de l’Union des Communistes de France Marxistes Léninists. The first five words of the name are usually omitted and the organization is commonly referred to as the UCFML. It is probably the third largest Maoist organization in France.
Most of the Maoist organizations in France have emerged as splits from the PCMLF. This was the origin of the PCR(m-l). The UCFML is an exception. This organization goes back to 1970, when it was founded by Alain Badiou, a philosophy professor at the Faculty of Vincennes (this faculty was itself a concession or an attempt to appease and isolate the Left after 1968), and a leader of the pro-Chinese tendency within the Parti Socialiste Unifié (PSU).
The UCFML has made no claim to be a party, as have the other two organizations. In fact, it has not even claimed to be a « union » yet, but a « group » for the formation of a « union. » It has readily admitted that it does not yet have a mass base which would entitle it legitimately to refer to itself as a party. It also questions the legitimacy of the PCMLF and the PCR(m-l) so doing.
Despite the fact that it is smaller than the two parties, the UCFML has been a very active group and has exhibited some quite different characteristics from them. A great proportion of its energy has been invested in the support of the struggles of the immigrant workers. In its very first year of existence it directed its efforts at trying to assist the immigrant workers who were still locked into the shantytowns known as bidonvilles. 
The UCFML has been viewed by the other Maoists as being highly intellectual and theoretical. This is because the organization has insisted upon doing its own independent assessment and analysis of problems which it encounters, and of what is issued as a political line by the Chinese. They have been very blunt in stating that as it has been formulated by the Chinese the Theory of the Three Worlds is designed to serve the interests of the Chinese state, but that that is not the function of the UCFML. They have been particularly adamant in insisting that the USSR is no more dangerous than the United States, that the NATO alliance must be opposed without equivocation, and that French foreign policy is imperialist and must be strenuously opposed, even if that foreign policy is anti-Soviet and if France does have certain disagreements with the United States. Unlike a tiny group which split off from the PCMLF in 1976, the Organisation pour la Reconstruction du Parti Communiste de la France, the UCFML has not raised the Albanian banner when it has presented its positions. They are very similar, but the UCFML has insisted upon independent analysis and avoided going out of its way to bait the Chinese.
The UCFML has taken a similarly frank but not unnecessarily baiting attitude toward the « Gang of Four, » whom both the PCMLF and PCR(m-l) have resoundingly denounced. The UCFML was frank in saying that it found the charges launched against the Gang–charges of Trotskyism, among other things–deficient. Moreover, it found that those levied against Mao’s second wife, who was unfavorably compared with his highly subservient first wife, contained strong elements of sexism. The UCFML refused to denounce the Gang of Four on the basis of the evidence submitted by the Chinese regime.
Finally, two tactical differences have separated the UCFML from the two Maoist parties. First, while they have had people working within factories, they have been absolutely against working within the unions. They have taken an even harder line on this than the Trotskyist Lutte Ouvrière, which has emphasized committees outside of the union structures but which still has worked within the unions. The UCFML has worked exclusively through groups which it has created, called the noyoux communistes ouvriers, or communist workers’ cells. Secondly, while the PCMLF and the PCR(m-l) succumbed to electoralism by running candidates in the 1978 legislative elections, the UCFML retained a strictly non-electoralist posture, and urged people to abstain from those elections.
As was pointed out before this discussion of hierarchical Maoism, despite the differences which have existed among the PCMLF, the PCR(m-l) and the UCFML, none of these organizations or any of the other smaller hierarchical Maoist splinter groups have offered any radically new interpretations of Marxism, Leninism, and/or Maoism. For major tactical and theoretical innovations, one must turn to the anti-hierarchical Maoists.
In September 1968, while the « liquidationist current » of the UJCML was in seclusion–studying, among other texts, Lenin’s What Is To be Done?–a current of the non-liquidationists called Mao-spontex (« spontex » referring to spontaneity, a very non-Leninist concept) created a new movement called La Gauche Prolétarienne (The Proletarian Left, or GP). Simultaneously, a newspaper called La Cause du Peuple (The Peoples’ Cause, or CDP) was started. The GP was to become the most potent action arm of the anti-hierarchical Maoist movement. The CDP was its public and information arm. The impact of this group was so strong that when in France one said « les Maoïsts », it was usually assumed that one was referring to the GP.
While a very small number of militants created these structures in September (not more than forty started the paper, the CDP), the movement received a shot in the arm when some of the militants from the Nanterre-based Mouvement du 22 Mars came in in February and March of 1969. The 22 Mars played a crucial catalytic role in the 1968 revolt on the Nanterre campus of the University of Paris. Although it was a coalition which included people inclined toward Maoism as well as JCR Trotskyists (like present Ligue leader Daniel Ben-Said) and Trotskyist sympathizers, the dominant tone and public image was set by Daniel Cohn-Bendit (« Danny the Red ») and his anarchist comrades. Also, some of those who had been fence straddlers in the dispute between the « liquidationists » and the « Mao-spontex » decided to enter. The GP was very careful to screen out those who had taken any kind of leadership position in the « liquidationist » movement so as to avoid bringing the dispute which had destroyed the UJCML into the new organization.
While these people were going into the GP, a second anti-hierarchical Maoist group was being created. This was Vive la Revolution (VLR). Nanterre was a stronghold of the VLR and, like the GP, it attracted some of the former 22 Mars people. But it also attracted some of the « liquidationists » who had gone into the PCMLF and who were very quickly alienated by both the hierarchical nature of the organization and what they perceived to be clandestine caution to the point of inactivity. This anti-hierarchical group led a short life, terminating in the summer of 1971. But it had a significance which transcended its own existence.
Vive la Révolution
VLR was smaller than the Gauche Prolétarienne. In 1970, their relative sizes were estimated at « several hundred » and « about fifteen hundred. »  In social composition they were similar, as might be expected from what has been said about their origin. Like the GP, VLR entered a Parisian automobile plant and attempted to do political work with co-workers.
The special target operation was the Citroen plant in Paris’ 15th Arrondissement. They also worked in approximately twenty factories in the Parisian suburbs. Finally, as I have noted, the VLR was similar to the GP in being a non-Leninist and anti-hierarchical organization.
Ideologically, however, the VLR differed from the GP in centering its criticism of bourgeois society around a concept developed by the French Marxist or neo-Marxist sociologist Henri Lefebvre, that of « everyday life. » As this concept was developed within the VLR’s paper, Tout, greater and greater emphasis was placed upon that aspect of everyday life stressed by Wilhelm Reich, the libidinal. Tout, which appeared every two weeks during its sixteen number existence, was the first widely distributed, French political publication to stress problems of sex, women’s liberation, and gay rights.
Despite the fact that a minority of the total number of articles in Tout dealt with sexually related topics, the attempt to add this dimension to the revolutionary struggle resulted in the early demise of the organization. Issue number 12 alienated the members of the VLR who were attempting to do factory organizing, other groups on the Far Left, and the government. Two four-page articles, one dealing with women’s liberation and the other with homosexuality, resulted in factory organizers declaring the publication useless for distribution to workers, in the Norman Bethune Maoist Bookstore refusing to handle the paper, and in the government banning and seizing the issue–as well as bringing an obscenity charge against Jean-Paul Sartre, who had agreed to serve as the nominal editor of the paper.
The four final issues of Tout, which was dissolved in July 1971, engaged in an analysis of the puritanical attitudes of the Far Left, of its inability or unwillingness to see that a truly liberating revolution must break the sexual repressiveness of bourgeois society as well as the economic and hierarchical repressiveness. It was the first group on the French Far Left to make this point. While the VLR itself fell apart, it was helping to set the stage for the entrance of the counter-cultural phenomena which were so visible by the mid 1970s. According to Hess, both the women’s liberation movement (the Mouvement de Liberation des Femmes, MLF) and the gay movement in France (the Front des Homosexuels Revolutionnaires, FHR) grew out of the VLR experience, and were initially led by former VLR people.
La Gauche Prolétarienne: Initial Offensives & State Response
The Gauche Prolétarienne and its newspaper, La Cause du Peuple, continued to thrive and to engage management, the regime, and even the CGT in constantly escalating confrontations. It stole the thunder of the hierarchical PCMLF, which had been leading a very cautious, clandestine existence since its 1968 banning. When the government decided to go after the GP, it was because its dramatic and daring tactics were perceived as a threat to political stability, and not for reasons of sexual morality, as in the case of the VLR.
Most Maoist organizations, indeed most Marxist-Leninist organizations generally, begin with a relatively loose pre-party structure. The party stage represents a tightening up of the hierarchical order. It was quite the opposite in the case of the Gauche Prolétarienne. The first two years of the life of GP Maoism, from the fall of 1968 to the fall of 1970, represented the high point of organizational structure of the Mao-spontex current. During this stage there was a committee structure at the national, regional, and local levels. These committees called and coordinated periodic « general assemblies of workers » which were supposed to make the real decisions. While some people came to be known as « leaders, » the people within the GP at least told themselves that they were fighting against the importance of distinctions between leaders and non-leaders in the making of decisions. The general assemblies were supposed to maximize political equality. This was a conscious goal, but some people emerged as more influential than others. The influentials were disproportionately male.
The thrust of the GP was to create a new « autonomous » workers’ movement by uniting « the anti-authoritarian aspirations as they were expressed and continue to be expressed by youth and the new forms of battle in the working class, anti-despotic forms of battle. » The new forms of battle referred to a wide variety of tactics employed by workers during and after 1968 which included occupying plants, holding bosses hostage until they gave into demands, resisting the para-military CRS when it attempted to recapture the plants, and sabotage.
The first step in the implementation of the strategy of developing an autonomous work force was the scrapping of the UJCML’s practice of attempting to work within the CGT, the Communist-dominated union. This step was taken early in the game, at a national general assembly of workers which the GP called in January 1969, in an attempt to pull people operating in different plants together so that they could compare notes. This was even a month or two before the people from the 22 Mars came into the movement. In April, the GP issued the first number of its own review, Les Cahiers de la Gauche Prolétarienne, in which the relationship between the « anti-authoritarian revolt » of youth and the proletarian revolution was explicated. The major field of confrontation at this time was the Renault plant at Flins, which again erupted into combat with the police in June 1969. There was also considerable effort placed in the spring of 1969 upon reaching secondary school students.
After confrontations and battles with the police at Flins, a second workers assembly was held. At this assembly ideas were proposed for gaining control over the speed of production lines and directing the battle clearly against oppressive bosses and foremen. There were some experiments with tactics during the summer of 1969, including the introduction of sabotage techniques to interrupt the assembly line in a factory in Roubaix-Tourcoing
The second issue of Les Cahiers de la Gauche Prolétarienne, dated September-October 1969, introduced a new concept which increased the intensity and spread of the battle– »the non-armed but violent battle of the partisans. » University and high school students were encouraged to go into the factories, slums, or working class suburbs « to lead the resistance, to lead the violent struggle. »
From the very beginning, the Maoists faced opposition within the factories. On the one hand, they had to contend with the militants of the CGT when they entered plants where the CGT had any strength. The CGT did not appreciate the attempts of the Maoists to break their control over the channelling of demands within the work setting. At times, this led to violent confrontations.
On the other hand, engaging in any kind of « political » work in the plants was regarded as grounds for dismissal. In some plants this extended to conversations between workers and to putting political tracts, publications, or clippings on the bulletin boards. In plants such as Renault, the work of the CGT was not considered by management to be « political » and thus was not proscribed. In the sense that the CGT stresses bread and butter demands and tries to accomplish them through accepted channels, it is different from the Maoists, and the Maoists were the first to point out the distinction. In some plants, such as those of Citroen, management deals with even more easily controlled « independent » unions.
However, whether or not the CGT is active in a plant or there is an « independent » union, management has not left it to the unions to enforce discipline within the factories. In many of them there has been a virtual police force under the command of the personnel department charged with patrolling the plant floor and looking for political trouble. The French call these milices patronales or the boss’ police. And, on top of these people, there have been informants among the immigrant workers who could cause considerable grief upon the immigrants’ return home. This was a particularly serious problem for Portuguese workers under the Salazar regime and for Spanish workers under Franco. Deportation for participating in radical action in the French plants could entail very serious consequences.
In March 1970, the French government decided that letting the plant police deal with the militants once they were on the plant floor was too defensive a strategy. There had been some arrests, but not so many that the Maoist movement felt seriously threatened. In March, however, the government decided to strike at the only visible heart of the GP movement. It went after La Cause du Peuple. The two editors of the CDP, Le Bris and Le Dantec, were arrested and arraigned for trial. And the police began to seize the newspaper and attack and/or arrest the vendors. It came to a point where simply selling the newspaper could get one a year in prison and perpetual loss of civil rights.
At about the same time, the movement made the decision to go public beyond merely attempting to sell the CDP. It was during that spring that Alain Geismar became the major spokesperson for both the GP and the CDP. Geismar had been a junior faculty member at the Faculty of Science in Paris before the 1968 revolt broke out. He had been active within the university teachers’ union affiliated with the large National Federation of Education. By the time the revolt broke out in 1968, he had become the president of the union. Under his leadership, the union was very supportive of the revolt. But Geismar moved well beyond where most of the membership was willing to go politically, and he resigned his union post during the revolt. He was one of the three most prominent personalities involved in the revolt, along with Daniel Cohn-Bendit of the 22 Mars and Jacques Sauvageot, the Vice-President but actual leader of the student union, UNEF. After the revolt Geismar moved closer to the 22 Mars and was one of those who merged with the GP in early 1969. Since he was a publicly known figure with considerable public appeal, and since he had already been identified as trouble by the government–which had fired him from his teaching job because of his participation in the 1968 revolt–Geismar seemed like a good person to present the public image of the movement. He certainly could not be slipped into an industrial plant.
Although Le Bris and Le Dantec were arrested in March 1970, Le Dantec did not go to trial until May. Geismar filled the gap at the CDP. Two days before the trial of Le Dantec, Geismar addressed a protest meeting called by a number of groups. He was one of eight speakers. He delivered a very short statement within which included the following message:
In order to break the manoeuvre of the bourgeoise, to break its attempt to encircle and destroy the popular movement, we must intensify the resistance. For the bourgeoisie May 27 will be the day of the trial of Le Dantec. For all revolutionaries it will be the day of resistance, the beginning of an intensification of the resistance. There will be no social peace; there will be no social truce….We support all popular initiatives which will take place May 27. We support the meetings and we call upon all those who want to go further, all those who want to make of May 27 a day of resistance, to organize themselves around militants and tomorrow, in each college of the university, meetings will be held in the afternoon to prepare for the organization of the struggle in the streets on May 27.
Because it is in the street that anger will be expressed against the hordes of police which are occupying the streets of Paris. The popular resistance will grow.
Protest demonstrations had been called for the day of the Le Dantec trial. The police banned the demonstrations, a regular practice going back at least as far as the Algerian War, and usually justified on the basis of avoiding traffic disruption. The police charged the demonstrators. Along with the physical injuries inflicted there were approximately 490 arrests in the streets. A police agent with a tape recorder hidden in a brief case had attended the talk given by Geismar two days earlier. On the basis of the portion cited above, Geismar was tracked down and arrested for incitement of the acts for which the demonstrators were charged. While Le Dantec was sentenced to one year in prison for editing the CDP, and Le Bris subsequently to eight months, the state was preparing its case against Geismar.
Like Le Dantec and Le Bris, Geismar underwent a long pre-trial detention. Arrested on June 25th, Geismar waited in prison for this trial until October 20, 1970. Thus–as in the case of Angela Davis in the United States– even if the regime should lose its case in the courts it inflicts some punishment against its adversaries by forcing them to expend resources in their own behalf and by obliging them to remain in prison prior to trial.
From the point of view of both the prosecution and the defense, Geismar’s trial was a political trial. The closing argument of the prosecution began as follows:
The arguments presented before this court have shown the clash of two conceptions of democracy: the classic, positive conception which orients and around which are organized the institutions of most liberal countries such as ours, and the conception of the ex-Gauche Prolétarienne which claims to speak for the people but which has no real massive support among the citizentry.They promise us proletarian dictatorships. They promise us a system favorable to the people, but they ignore the will of the people. Well, our modern conceptions of democracy give a wide place to liberty of expression. Liberty of expression exists. There is a press, there is the possibility of writing, of meeting of speaking. A law almost one hundred years old guarantees a broad freedom of writing and of speech because the infractions, as you know, are extremely limited in this law when it comes to the press and there are all sorts of formal regulations which protect this freedom of the press.
The Gauche Proletarienne declares this system to be formal, esteems that this legal formality does not guarantee real rights, and does not serve at all to defend the cause of certain people.
In truth, it is a question of the interest of tiny groups without any serious popular base.
Like the trial of the Chicago Seven, growing out of the confrontations at the 1968 Democratic Convention, this one raised basic issues. The prosecution in two different breaths argued that Geismar and his group had no popular support and, on the other hand, that, as in the case of the editors of La Cause du Peuple, the imprisonment of the Maoists meant the difference between the regime’s succumbing or surviving:
When we tried the case of the Cause du Peuple here I made the point that to this fundamental opposition there must be presented a firm attitude, because the fundamental problem is to know if we wish to succumb or to survive.
The prosecution further argued that Geismar exerted a particular hold over young students because of his position as a teacher at the Faculty. Geismar responded that the police records themselves show that not even ten per cent of those arrested for protesting the trial of Le Dantec were students. This statistic is interesting not only as a refutation of the proposition of the prosecution but also as some indication of the broadening base of support of the Maoists.
Several other arguments were revealing. The prosecution argued that the fact that Geismar had co-authored a book in 1969 entitled Vers la Guerre Civile (Toward Civil War) indicated that freedom of the press was in existence. Geismar responded that the book, written in intellectual terms and selling for quite a bit more than a newspaper, posed no threat at all to the regime. On the other hand, La Cause du Peuple was written in language that workers could understand and relate to and, if the worker could afford the price, sold for one franc. If not, it was free. It was thus the distribution and the effectiveness of CDP that frightened the regime, and the lack of effectiveness of the book that permitted the regime to be more libertarian. But even more basically, Geismar argued that bourgeois regimes have never willingly granted rights to their opponents, and that what civil liberties exist in practice have been the result of struggles waged by those who have been oppressed. He portrayed the GP Maoists as continuing that historical struggle.
The prosecution claimed that Geismar’s words were responsible for injuries inflicted upon seventy-nine police officers. Yet no medical records were produced to substantiate injuries. The defense asked that Minister of Interior Marcellin be obliged to appear to explain the police complaints. He was not, and the judge ruled that his testimony was not required. The defense asked whether or not the injuries incurred by the police officers could not have been incurred on the unsafe steps of police stations or in the unsafe police wagons. For the police often explained the injuries suffered by people in their custody–particularly by young political dissidents or demonstrators, who claimed that they had been beaten by the police–by declaring that their prisoners had fallen down the stairs in the stations or fallen when they were being transported in the vans. If these explanations were true, the defense argued, the facilities of the police must be terribly unsafe. Thus medical depositions should be submitted to make sure that the police officers had not fallen victim to the same fate as their prisoners. The judge ruled that such submissions were unnecessary.
Geismar, who had declared that his conviction was a foregone conclusion, was indeed convicted. He was sentenced to and served eighteen months in prison, five of which were spent in solitary confinement. But that was not the only achievement of the government. The Gauche Prolétarienne was banned by ministerial decree during the trial and, to continue the spiral of repression, at least three hundred young people who had defied the ban on demonstrations and the show of force (which consisted of 5,000 police officers around the court and in the Latin Quarter) had been arrested by the evening of the first day of Geismar’s two-day trial.
Despite the fact that the Gauche Prolétarienne was formally banned and that an ever increasing number of its members and leaders were in prison, the movement was not destroyed. On the contrary, it took some dramatic new turns and simply referred to itself as the ex-GP. Those in prison conducted hunger strikes for recognition of their status as political prisoners (regime spokesmen had claimed that there were no political prisoners in France) and for recognition of basic rights of all prisoners. This was coordinated with campaigns for prisoners’ rights led on the outside. The Cause du Peuple did not cease publication. On the contrary, after Geismar’s arrest, following those of Le Dantec and Le Bris, Jean-Paul Sartre assumed the nominal directorship of the CDP. And the publisher, François Maspero, went out on the streets to hawk the paper. This was clearly a challenge to the government to arrest personalities with world-wide reputations and to try them for the same acts for which lesser-known, younger militants had been imprisoned. Maspero was arrested, but charged only with vending without a proper license, a very minor misdemeanor, while no action at all was taken against Sartre.
The Anti-Organization of the Ex-Cauche Proletarienne
The GP militants were convinced that there was an inner dialectic at work so that the movement « naturally » arrived at certain stages at certain points in time. Neither they nor the government could completely control this dialectic. Thus, while committed to a highly voluntaristic conception of the « politics of the act, » the movement also had a strong element of non-voluntarism. For example, the reaction to the government’s banning of the GP was that the underground stage was the next « natural » one anyway. Even if the government had not banned the GP, this stage would have been dictated by other factors in the environment and the internal, ineluctable dynamics of the movement. The timing of the regime’s crack-down was a surprise; they thought they probably had a little more time to operate more openly. But this only meant an acceleration of the timetable.
One militant, a twenty-six-year-old former math major who came from a working-class background and went back into the factories to do political work, clearly demonstrated both the affirmation and the negation in the GP’s attitude toward its structure and dynamic:
It is often said: « Marcellin (the Minister of Interior and thus chief police officer of the regime) destroyed the Gauche Prolétarienne. » But no, Marcellin. We destroyed the Gauche Prolétarienne. It is a glorious organization but it has seen its time. Our task is to destroy the Gauche Prolétarienne or what has replaced it and to build the party. The party for me is the capacity to elaborate a consequential revolutionary politics, that is to say to tie the particular to the general, the immediate to the long-term program, and to truly mobilize the masses. A party is always a minority. But the difference between our party and the other parties is that our permanent objective is not only the construction of the party, it is its destruction. We are building the party in order to destroy it.
In fact, the next stage was not one of party construction, not even party construction for party destruction. The theme for 1970-71 became « Widen the Resistance » and emphasis was placed upon action through local, decentralized groups. Some of these groups were already in existence; a number had to be created from scratch.
In the factories there were already the numerous Comités de Base (the base committees) which the Maoists had helped to organize but which were not completely Maoist in composition. In the spring of 1971, more militant strike forces called Groupes Ouvriers Anti-Flics (GOAF), or anti-cop workers’ groups, were created. The primary function of these groups was to deal physically with the attempts to suppress the work of the base committees and to punish individual bosses or management personnel who abused workers.
Secondly, there was a renewed effort made to mobilize young people in the schools, particularly at the secondary or Iycée level. Third, there were the support groups for the Vietnamese fighting the United States and, more importantly at this stage, for the Palestinians seeking to regain their homeland.
Finally, a wide network of GP support groups was established. There was Secours Rouge (Red Assistance), which enjoyed the directorship of the publisher François Maspero and the active support of a number of groups and intellectuals on the Far Left, including Sartre. It was the most important of the GP support groups and its primary function was to come to the aid of those who felt either oppressed by the regime or that their needs were not being met. The gamut of activity went from organizing demonstrations in order to protest political trials to digging mountain towns out of the snow when the government did not respond to appeals. Like another support group, Les Amis de la Cause du Peuple (Friends of the CDP) which sold papers and gave other support to the newspaper, Secours Rouge would defy the government’s legal definitions. A third set of structures, the Comités Vérité et Justice (Truth and Justice Committees), did not engage in illegal activity. Their function was to investigate and publicize specific cases in which bourgeois legality was unjustly twisted to the detriment of the deprived and the benefit of the wealthy and powerful. All of these subsidiary groups created by the GP Maoists opened up possibilities of broad contacts for an outlawed movement.
By this time, GP Maoism was indeed beginning to conform more to Kenneth Keniston’s definition of a « movement » than to a normal organization. Writing about the young people attending a Vietnam Summer Project in the United States in 1967, Keniston said:
It is significant that these young men and women consider themselves part of a movement, rather than a party, an organization, a bureaucracy, an institution, a cadre, or a faction. The term « movement » suggests a spontaneous, natural, and non-institutional group; it again points to their feeling that they are in motion, changing, and developing….Finally, « movement » summarizes the radical’s perception of the modern world, a world itself in flux, unstable, continually changing. 
Of course the difference between the people Keniston was talking about and the GP Maoists is that the Maoists were moving from a more structured ideological and organizational configuration to a more fluid one, while the American students were still at a very early stage in their radicalization. If those who had passed through the various stages of this current of Maoism from the UJMCL to this decentralized « Widen the Resistance » stage could understand the movement both psychically and politically, it was quite confusing to people on the outside whom the movement was trying to touch. Unless one is part of the inner core, it is not easy to orient oneself to something in a constant state of flux.
This becomes evident in the many testimonies and interviews on record with workers who have at least « sympathized » with what the GP Maoists were doing in specific situations. There is considerable confusion in the minds of some of these workers as to whether they themselves are « Maoists. » But the uncertainly in terms of identification existed on the part of those who were more distant or even hostile to the movement, as well as those who were sympathetic. Some of this confusion is reflected in an interview with three workers who were at least sympathetic with Maoism, however it is understood:
Patrick (25-year old Maoist militant at Renault): When one is a Maoist in a factory, one is made responsible for everything that happens at the doors, even if it is a completely different group which comes and does who knows what. They tell me: « Your buddies have distributed a tract, » even if they are Trotskyist tracts. Anything that’s not CP is gauchiste [a generic term for the Far Left as a whole, by which Patrick means that the workers are not getting the distinctions].Marcel (44-year old militant coal miner): That is a real problem for French Maoism.
Germain (58-year-old miner, Resistance fighter and long-time member of the CP, who explains that he was always a Maoist but not of the « 1968 variety » because he does not have long hair): So long as the necessary explanatory work has not been done, there will be mistrust. Contacts must be multiplied; there must be discussion and education. The Maoist spirit must be made to come out. There is no concealment among the Maoists. On the contrary, all true communists are Maoist; but they don’t know it yet. There is just a lack of information.
Actions and Attractions of the GP and ex-GP
Despite the problems caused by the fluid nature of the movement and its post-1970 outlaw status, the GP Maoists were the most dynamic group on the French Far Left. Their actions were usually dramatic. They were sometimes even the stuff that movies were made of, particularly in the hands of Maoist or Maoist-sympathizing directors such as Jean-Luc Godard, who directed La Chinoise, or of Godard and his collaborator Jean Pierre Gorin, who directed the even more widely known film Tout Va Bien. Add to this the support of Sartre and Maspero, the personality of Geismar, and the aura of 1968, and one can begin to understand the drama, and not just glamour, which surrounded GP Maoism.
I shall briefly discuss the actions of the GP Maoists, both prior to and after the banning, in four different areas.
(1) The Assault on Renault
The most daring and dangerous of the movement’s activities was its factory work. While the GP and then the ex-GP operated in a number of plants and work settings throughout France–including Brandt and Berliet in Lyon, Batignolles in Nantes, the shipyards in Dunkerque, and the coal mines in the North–the Renault automobile plant at Billancourt, right on the perimeter of Paris, was a special target.
First, the GP Maoists wanted to pick up on and generalize the sabotage which was already going on inside the plant, and which was part of an overall increase in worker militancy at that time. Secondly, they wanted to pass from the stage of clandestine sabotage to a more open campaign against what they called « the terrorism of the administration. » This brought the Maoists into open and direct conflict with the CGT, which was trying to keep the focus on bread and butter issues. The GP Maoists were thus following in the path of Barta’s Trotskyist followers who, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, directly challenged the power and authority of the CGT in its stronghold.
After encouraging the organization of approximately a dozen decentralized comités de lutte (committees of struggle, patterned after the 1968 action committees), the Maoists engaged in their first major battle which incurred the wrath of the CGT. In response to an increase in the metro fares, the Maoists organized workers into large groups which jumped over the metro turnstiles and refused to pay any fares. When eight metro police officers attempted to intervene, they were roughed up and chased away. The CGT attacked the Maoists for beating up public employees. The Maoists refused to recognize police of any nature as normal employees with whom they had a proletarian bond. Massive deployments of police were then sent to the station near the plant, and the police sought their own violent revenge.
The Maoists also ran afoul of the CGT in a campaign against an increase in meal prices in the plant restaurant, an increase in which the CGT was directly complicit because it dominated the Comité d’Établissement that administered the restaurant. The Maoists distributed tracts against the increase and called for action. Some workers took food without paying in a tactic similar to that applied in the metro. Fights broke out in the canteen between Maoists and CGT militants. The Maoists claimed to enjoy the support of a good number of immigrant workers, and accused the CGT of bringing in members of the Communist youth movement to help them battle the Maoists. While the Maoists won neither the metro nor the meal price issue, they felt that they had unmasked the CGT as a bureaucratic structure which was not looking after the interests of the workers.
After these initial campaigns, the Maoists turned their attention to the work process itself. They adopted a task rotation strategy to challenge pay differentials based upon the hierarchical division of labor. Each worker in a particular unit would teach every other worker how to perform his or her task. When every worker could perform every task, all of the workers demanded the pay of the highest paid among them on the grounds that all were equally qualified.
They also encouraged the direct confrontation of supervisory personnel. Workers began timing themselves rather than accepting the word of the supervisors. Supervisors who complained about the quality of the work were forced into the pits to do the work themselves. And what was regarded as grossly arbitrary behavior toward any worker, or demonstrations of racism toward immigrant workers, was punished violently by the Groupes Ouvriers Anti-Flics (the GOAF or Anti-Cop Workers’ Groups). Some supervisory personnel were beaten up, and at least one foreman in the painting section had a bucket of paint turned over on his head.
As the violent resistance against the management increased, so did conflict with the CGT. But even one Maoist rival group, the hierarchical UCFML, attacked the GP Maoists for being so indiscriminate in their tactics that on two occasions they attacked anyone who came into range wearing the white smock characteristic of lower management and supervisory personnel in the plant.
More and more plant police were brought into the factory. Firings for political activity, violent or nonviolent, accelerated. Some of the fired workers were handed over to the regular police stationed at the factory gates and were charged with crimes. Others, who were just fired and ejected from the plant, went on a hunger strike. Two important sources of moral support came from Sartre–whom the GP Maoists managed to smuggle into the plant for an inspection trip, but who was quickly ejected by plant police–and from actress Simone Signoret–who paid supportive visits to the hunger strikers.
The confrontations reached their peak in February and March 1972. Pierre Overney, a twenty-three-year-old ex-GP Maoist Renault worker who had been fired along with a number of his politically active comrades, returned to the factory gates on Friday, February 25. He and the others were distributing tracts to the workers as they entered and left the gates. He got into a verbal dispute with one of the heads of the security section at the plant, a M. Tramoni. Tramoni pulled a gun and killed Overney, who was unarmed and standing a good distance from Tramoni.
The next Monday, Renault workers found the plant completely surrounded by the para-military CRS. They checked the papers of all the workers. Seven workers who had known of the killing on Friday and who participated in a demonstration against it were fired. On Tuesday the CRS circled the plant in convoys, and four more workers were fired. On Thursday, eleven workers who had been dismissed before or after the killing managed to get into the plant and issue a public call to resistance. They were attacked by Tramoin’s security personnel and turned over to the police. Five were charged under the Anti-Cassure (« Anti-Wrecker »)Law.
But the Maoists did not rest content with a protest over the killing of one of their own and the firings of their militants and supporters. An ex-GP commando group, the Groupe Pierre Overney de la Nouvelle Resistance Populaire, seized and held in an undisclosed location the chief personnel officer at Billancourt, Robert Nogrette. The Maoists had previously engaged in holding bosses prisoner in the plants until they granted concessions (or were freed by the police) and in a plant of a subsidiary of Renault they had « fired » a boss by kicking him out of the plant and obliging him to remain out for several days. But the Nogrette action was one which was perceived as being of a more serious order, serious enough to attract the personal attention and denunciation of President Pompidou.
The commando group demanded, in return for Nogrette’s release, that criminal charges be dropped against the workers who had been turned over to the police and that all workers fired after Overney’s death (the total had reached about twenty) be reinstated. There was never a threat to kill Nogrette. And, despite the fact that the police were not able to find him and that the concessions were not made, he was released unharmed after approximately forty-eight hours. The Maoists had expected the labor unions, including the CGT and the CFDT, to denounce the action, and they did so. But it is not so clear that they had expected pressure from another source, i.e., the negative reaction of most of the other Far Left groups, which had declared their solidarity with the ex-GP in massive demonstrations after Overney’s killing. Even the Trotskyist Ligue–the most confrontation-oriented of the Trotskyist organizations, which had good relations with the GP Maoists–joined with most of the other Far Left organizations in publicly criticizing the operation. The Ligue, which at the time was a major supporter of guerrilla-warfare tactics in Latin America, felt that the act made no sense given the French political context and the fact that the Maoists clearly had no intention of killing Nogrette if their demands were not met. Indeed, those demands were not met, Nogrette was released unharmed, and it became virtually impossible to do political work at the Renault plant after this affair.
(2) Work with the Immigrants
A major thrust of the work of the GP and ex-GP Maoists was directed at the large immigrant worker population. These workers are disproportionately clustered at the lowest job classifications and hence at the lowest wage rates–sometimes at variance with their actual skills or with the tasks which they actually perform. They are also the least able to absorb increases in such costs as metro fares, food prices, and rents. The Maoists thus hoped that their work in protesting the price increases, in adopting the task rotation tactic, and in physically punishing supervisory personnel who exhibited racist behavior against Arab or Black African workers, would garner the support of the immigrant workers and trigger off greater militancy on their part.
An additional tactic–designed to appeal to the Arab workers from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia–was the creation of the Palestine Support Committees in the plants. Initially, the GP Maoists gave considerable attention to the war in Indochina. Their own Comités Vietnam de Base (Vietnam Committees at the Base) extended uncritical support to the efforts of both the PRG in the South and the government of North Vietnam, while the Ligue was critical of some elements of the programs of both of them. Moreover, the Maoists were even more militant in their tactics than the Ligue. While the latter concentrated on demonstrations, the Maoists engaged in a number of violent clashes with the police. One occurred after they had taken over the South Vietnamese embassy and had flown the flag of the National Liberation Front over it. However, in the ex-GP stage, these Maoists shifted the emphasis of their work away from Vietnam and to the Palestinian issue. It simply had more appeal to the immigrant worker population that they were trying to reach. Moreover, support for the return of the Palestinian Arabs to their homeland was virtually the only non-French issue to which the ex-GP devoted substantial attention.
However, the Maoists did not limit their attempt to reach the immigrant worker population to agitation within the plants. From its formation in 1968, GP Maoism directed its attention to the plight of immigrant workers who were forced to live in the shantytowns (bidonvilles) which were spread across France but which were more numerous in the Parisian region. The word bidon means a drum, such as an oil drum, and the huts were made of any such materials which could be stuck together. Heating, sanitation, or running water were luxuries not to be found in these make-shift structures.
The Maoists were active on several fronts in the bidonvilles. While denouncing their existence, they insisted that acceptable alternative housing be provided before the bidonvilles were destroyed. They thus attempted to avoid urban renewal American-style. The GP Maoists fought this battle particularly strenuously in Argenteuil, a Parisian suburb in which the Communist Party controlled city hall. Secours Rouge, the GP support group, attempted to supply services which were supplied inadequately or not at all by public authorities. In one of the more highly publicized actions of a Maoist commando group, the fashionable luxury item and food shop Fauchon was raided and the food was taken out and distributed in the bidonvilles. While the hierarchical Maoist UCFML, after its creation in 1970, also worked in the bidonvilles, the GP Maoists were there first. Together they called national and international attention to the existence of these abysmal conditions, and this activity undoubtedly played a major role in the French government’s determination to dismantle the bidonvilles in a remarkably short period of time. By 1975, almost all of the bidonvilles were gone.
The GP and ex-GP Maoists also worked within the regular immigrant ghettos in the larger cities as well as within the residences constructed specifically to house immigrant workers. In the former, they attempted to organize around the issues of police harassment, violent racist attacks by whites, and the irresponsibility of landlords. Particularly favored tactics were rent strikes, resistance to eviction, and squatting in vacant housing.
In 1972, the ex-GP Maoists aided French families in working-class suburbs who were engaging in the same tactics. In the residences constructed for single immigrant workers or those who come to France to spend eleven months out of the year without their families, the GP Maoists encouraged and supported the immigrants’ attempts to fight against the racism of some of the residence managers (many of whom were former military people in the colonial service), to gain control over the governance of the houses, to insist upon proper physical maintenance, and to resist the rent increases which were levied against the residents at rather regular intervals. This early work on the part of the GP Maoists–as well as the continuing work of some of its former Arab members and of the UCFML–was an important encouraging and supportive element in a process of conflict which led to a four-year national rent strike within the residences.
(3) Work Outside of the Urban Context
All of the above actions took place within the urban areas. However, the GP and ex-GP Maoists broke out of the urban context to a much greater extent than both the Trotskyists and the hierarchical Maoists. They did so in three ways. First, a year after their creation, the GP Maoists mounted the barricades set up by rural and small-town merchants to protest what they felt to be unfavorable legislation in 1969. Some on the Left, including Sartre, criticized the Maoists for fighting the police alongside petit-bourgeois merchants. The GP was accused of aiding not a progressive movement but a more likely resurgence of right-wing Poujadism.
Secondly, the GP and ex-GP Maoists supported nationalistic movements in two areas of France, Brittany in the West and Occitanie in the South. While in the late 1970s Corsican nationalism attained very violent levels of manifestations, in the early and mid 1970s the strongest expressions of a desire for cultural and political separatism came from the populations of Brittany and Occitanie. While the GP and ex-GP Maoists supported the struggle of these movements against the status quo, the complexities of the question were not any easier for them to handle than the question of racial separatism has been for American Marxists.
After the GP admitted in 1971 that its thoughts on the question of « nationalities » were still in an embryonic state, the following year a GP writer attempted to put the separatist struggle in Occitanie within an acceptably Marxist framework without at the same time attempting to impose upon it any specific form or structure. Stating that the struggle was « for decolonization, against the pillage of material and human resources, and against the deportation of the young, » the article then goes on to state, that:
The question then is not « Occitan nationalism, » « European federalism, » or « regionalism, » but the destruction of the French capitalist state and the role of the popular Occitan movement in the destruction; the installation of a new government by the proletariat and oppressed people and the role that the Occitan popular movement will play in this: the abolition of the imperialist system by the international of proletariats and oppressed people and the place that the popular Occitan movement will make for itself in this International.Transcending the structure of traditional nations, the present struggles are carving in the world new frameworks within which will be exercised the power of workers through their control over means of production and distribution and over everything which is involved with the creativity of peoples and individuals. It is not excluded that each framework will reflect an ethic reality. It is up to the workers then to decide upon their form of organization and coordination. This choice will be conditioned more by the development of the struggles in the Hexagon [France], in Europe, and in the world than by any preestablished will. This development being uneven, we cannot predict the forms of political organization that people will adopt.
The French GP Maoists thus adopted the same kind of flexibility toward separatist movements within France that Mao adopted toward revolutionary movements in countries other than China. Each one will cut its own path.
The most active attempts made by the GP and ex-GP Maoists to reach out beyond the urban environment, however, were two summer campaigns conducted in 1971 and 1972 in the Loire-Atlantique, the Southeastern portion of Brittany. This was an area in which militant farmers had driven their crops into the cities and dumped them in the street, erected barricades on the roads, occupied processing facilities, and, in 1969, even held the visiting Minister of Agriculture captive until he was freed by the police. A number of the above activities entailed physical combat with the police.
While the GP Maoists had made ad hoc attempts to establish contacts with the rural population prior to this, in 1970 and 1971 they organized an actual program in which students and other young people from the cities were recruited to go out and live with farming families. There were two very precise political motives. One was to counteract the propaganda campaign that the government had been conducting against the Far Left since 1968. The young revolutionaries wanted a chance to show the farmers that, despite what they saw and heard on television regarding the uprising and the government’s enactment of the « Anti-Wrecker Law » in 1970 they were not simply people intent upon delivering havoc upon France. This was a public relations task.
On the other hand, most of the young people were from the cities, and they knew rural life and the rural population as poorly as the farmers knew them. They wanted to come to know that life and the feelings of the farmers first-hand, by living and working with them. Thus, summer programs were also designed to serve the same purpose as the enquêtes conducted in the factories. On the basis of this experience, they came to the conclusion that small and tenant farmers had been subjected to tremendous pressures by inflation and the European Common Market. Under the pretended justification of technological efficiency, the capitalists were exerting pressure which was seen as a simple attempt to get the small farmer off of the land and that land into the hands of those who had the wealth to work it more « efficiently. » The dominant capitalist economic organization of Western Europe thus was seen as being totally insensitive to the farmer’s relationship with the land, and the Maoists strove to demonstrate a respect for that relationship:
Among the poorest farmers, there are many who possess a patch of earth on which they survive miserably. And they cling to that earth. There is no question of telling them that « property is theft » and tearing it away from them. Certain problems require time before their resolution. We are told that in China, in order to prove the merits of land collectivization, those who want to work individually are permitted to do so until they see for themselves that they are wrong. There is no other way of persuasion.And then, what endears the earth to the farmer is not primarily money but what the earth represents, the investment of soul. In the cities, in the factories, work is not humane. One works for someone else, a boss, in the heat and according to the pace of the assembly line. One makes a piece of a car, of a machine. One does not see the result. One does not have a feeling of control over one’s work. The farmer’s love of the earth is also the love for a labor by which one creates something that one controls, something living.
The present battles for survival of the small farmers are not like the « selfish demands of the petite bourgeoisie » that can be managed by capitalism’s offering of higher prices and represented in Parliament. They are becoming more and more democratic struggles of a new type turned toward a progressive future, conforming to the development of humanity. Aiming more and more at the same enemies as the mass of the people, the farmers, in this epoch of a general wave of worker contestation, are discovering that they are not alone.
The feeling for the relationship between the farmer and the land and the generally high value placed upon agricultural life are much more characteristic of the writing of Rousseau and Proudhon than of Marx or Engels, and certainly of Trotsky. The GP Maoists did not make the distinction between usufruct and ownership, a distinction which Proudhon took from Rousseau in the hope of permitting that special relationship with the land to be preserved under conditions of greater equality. In contradistinction to Proudhon’s attempt to preserve rural individualism through a national credit system available to small-scale farmers, the GP Maoists did see collectivization, on the model of the Chinese agricultural communes, as the optimal answer. But they felt that it was a viable answer only if the landless and small farmers came to it themselves. They shared the anarchist Proudhon’s revulsion at the thought of bureaucratic compulsion in the form of forced collectivization, and they rejected Trotsky’s pessimism over the capability of the peasantry to determine their own destiny.
(4) Prisoners’ rights
Many of the above actions of GP Maoism involved illegal activity. Thus, it is not surprising that many of the 1,035 Far Leftists, who Minister of Interior Marcellin claimed were sentenced to prison between June 1, 1968 and March 20, 1972, as well as others who were held in pre-trial detention but not convicted, were GP and ex-GP Maoists. The prisons, however, provided the Maoists with yet another arena for agitation.
The tactic of the Maoists was to claim the status of « political prisoners. » Such a status would entitle the Maoists to certain rights under French law. Once their claim was recognized, the Maoists intended to claim that all prisoners should be extended the more humane treatment just by virtue of being human beings. The government was denying that there were any political prisoners in France, and calling the demands a publicity stunt.
The prisoners’ claims were supported outside the prison walls by demonstrations organized by Secours Rouge and families of the imprisoned militants. In some cases, these demonstrations brought further arrests and confinement. Trials were taken advantage of as forums where parents of people presently detained or former detainees could talk about prison conditions. On September 1, 1970, thirty Maoist prisoners began a hunger strike to demand: recognition of their status as political prisoners; an end to the common practice of putting the Maoists in solitary confinement from the very beginning of their stays; a common location where all of the political prisoners could meet; a more liberal visitation system; and a general improvement in the conditions of detention, including an end to tormenting on the part of prison guards.
As the hunger strike and the supportive demonstrations continued, the government gave in on some of the points in regard to pre-trial detainees. By September 22, all of the strikers in pre-trial detention–except Geismar–were transferred to prison hospitals. And, on September 28, a court accorded the status of political offense to the writing of a slogan on a wall, which had earned its author three months of solitary confinement up to that point. The changes in the treatment of prisoners, however, seem to have been limited to pre-trial detainees, as Geismar himself served more time in solitary after his conviction in October.
The two most important sources of public information on the conditions of prisoners and on their revolt were the Maspero publishing house and La Cause du Peuple. Maspero published the pamphlet entitled The Political Prionsers Speak, which publicized the hunger strike, and also published extracts from Geismar’s testimony at his trial during the following month. The materials received wider distribution than they would have if the Maoists had published and distributed them through their own press, Editions Liberté-Presse. An additional source of publicity for the struggle of the imprisoned Maoist militants was obtained during the September 24 concert of the Rolling Stones in the Palais des Sports in Paris. Before the huge audience the lights were dimmed and the group turned the microphone over to a Maoist militant to explain why the Maoists were in prisons. The Rolling Stones then sang « Street Fighting Man. »
Approximately a year after the hunger strike, in the winter of 1971-72, France experienced a surge of general prison revolts. While it is impossible to establish a certain causal relationship between Maoist agitation in the prisons and those revolts, the fact is that the GP Maoists were still circulating through the prisons, and that the movement and its newspaper were supportive of the revolt against the general conditions prevailing in the French prisons which they had come to know so well.
THEORY OR JUST PRACTICE: WHAT WAS GP MAOISM?
At least on the part of some of the militants, considerable thought was given to the direction of the movement. This resulted in three texts which are important for an understanding of the theoretical basis of GP Maoism. The first is the book by Geismar, July, and Morane, Vers La Guerre civile (Toward Civil War), which was published in 1969 and which served as the early theoretical guide for the movement. The second is a special issue of Sartre’s review, Les Temps Modernes, which Sartre turned over to the GP Maoists in 1972. The third is On a raison de se révolter (It is Right to Revolt) which was published in 1974 and which contains transcripts of conversations between GP Maoist leader Pierre Victor, Sartre, and Phillippe Gavi of the Left newspaper Liberation. Despite the changes over time which are revealed in these texts, there were three constants in GP theory which were its root-definitional characteristics: (1) the emphasis upon action and events; (2) the rejection of hierarchy; and (3) the rejection of dichotomous class conflict.
(1) The emphasis upon action and events
Traditional Marxist-Leninists, regardless of the specific variety, are committed to two propositions. First, Marxism-Leninism must be made to fit the concrete conditions in which one is attempting to apply it as a guide to action. Second, there are limits to the degree of acceptable adaptation to meet those concrete conditions. The disagreements between and among Marxist-Leninists of Maoist, Trotskyist, and Soviet-oriented variety can be seen largely as disagreements over what those limits are. This means that somewhere there is a sacred core which must not be tampered with.
GP Maoism, on the other hand, viewed the relationship between theory and practice as much more reciprocal than traditional Marxist-Leninists. And the balance was tilted toward action. They drew theoretical lessons from actions and events. Vers La Guerre civile attempted to draw theoretical-strategic lessons from two events in which the GP Maoists themselves played no role or a minimal role. The violent campaigns in the factories and streets were seen as analogous to the violent resistance of the partisans to Nazism.
But even more important than the Resistance, in which none of the GP Maoists could have participated themselves (it was an « appropriated experience, » to use Mannheim’s term), was the uprising of May and June 1968. In fact Vers La Guerre civile was largely a reflection on the refusal of the UJCML to become involved in the initial conflict. As a result of this experience, this error, the GP Maoist movement felt that it learned several important lessons.
First, it had underrated the importance of fighting in the streets when it urged people to get off of the barricades and to march out to the factories. This reflected too much of a class-versus-class analysis. It failed to recognize the revolutionary potential of students and the lumpenproletariat whose terrain was the streets rather than industrial plants. Revolutionary activity could not be confined to any one terrain.
Second, some of the occupations of the university facilities, and particularly that at the School of Fine Arts in Paris, were seen as models for liberating and creative work. Passive occupations were rejected as contributing little to the spread of revolutionary consciousness. Under such conditions, time was on the side of the regime and such perceived counter-revolutionary forces as the Communist Party and the labor confederation in which it is the dominant force, the CGT. But active and creative occupations like that at the Fine Arts School were seen as prototypes for workers’ occupations of plants in which the structure of work had to be changed.
Third, illegal action was crucial. Respect for the bounds of legality was capitulation to the bourgeois capitalistic state without extracting any cost from that state. Illegal action was crucial because it forced the state to demonstrate blatantly its repressiveness and declining legitimacy. Creative illegality raised the revolutionary consciousness of those who engaged in the action as well as those who observed it. Active participation in such activity was thought of as an example for others, who would either join the immediate action or be potential actors in the future actions. Thus any refusal to capitulate, any act of revolt against the power of the state, whether on the part of merchants, farmers, immigrants, young people, or nationalists, was to be supported and encouraged.
(2) The rejection of hierarchy
The GP’s unwillingness to accept the Leninist conception of a vanguard party, or indeed any permanent organization with leadership functions, has already been discussed. This represented not only a difference between GP Maoism and the more hierarchical Maoist organizations in France, but also went well beyond what was preached or practiced by the Chinese Communist Party, even at the height of the Great Cultural Revolution. Moreover, the GP Maoists were bothered by another manifestation of hierarchy which they perceived in China, a cult of the personality surrounding Mao. For a time, La Cause du Peuple went so far as to drop the little picture of Mao from its masthead. Geismar explained to me that this was because it was too « foreign » for the workers to relate to. Finally, while the GP Maoists tried, they had difficulty accepting and defending Chinese foreign policy. This was especially true in regard to the war over Bangladesh. In a 1975 interview which I had with Geismar, two years after he himself had left the movement, he reflected, « Maoism was not a religion for us. »
What did attract the GP movement to Maoism and led to their self-identification as Maoist was the « mass line. » This they saw as the essential ingredient of the Cultural Revolution. While they perceived the masses as being cut off from any role in policy determination in the Soviet Union, where everything was resolved in a top-down fashion within the hierarchical party, they saw Mao as appealing to the masses to take an active role in the direction of society.
This they tried to emulate in France with their resistance to the conception of a permanent structure, and through the heavy reliance upon the enquête as the means of coming to know what people in specific contexts were thinking. This is why they also directed their efforts to contexts in which people were already beginning to take action to protest or to change their circumstances. They resented charges that they parachuted people in to initiate conflict. They claimed only to provide skills and shock troops on the side of those who were already in revolt. And they differentiated their own concept of a libertarian revolt (liberté-révolte) from that of hierarchical groups which engaged in « revolutionary » action only to seek power for themselves over the workers (liberté-pouvoir). They saw as examples of the latter both the Communist-Socialist electoral coalitions of the 1970s and what they perceived to be a « putschist » power grab by the Parti Socialiste Unifié (PSU) in 1968. In the GP’s eyes, the PSU attempted simply to use the 1968 events, the student union which it controlled (UNEF), as well as the labor union in which it had many many members and supporters (CFDT), to put former Premier Pierre Mendes-France (the « French Kerensky ») back in power. And they did not hesitate to attack the Trotskyist Ligue’s predecessor organization, the Jeunesse Communiste Révolutionnaire (JCR), for supporting this attempted seizure of state power (liberté-pouvoir).
Another interesting aspect of the GP’s attack upon hierarchy is their view of its relationship to division of labor and technology. In Vers La Guerre civile, Geismar and his comrades wrote that the basis of hierarchical structure and authority is the division of labor. This position is consistent with that of Marx and Engels in their 1846 essay, The German Ideology.
However, unlike Vive La Revolution, these GP Maoist writers completely ignored what Marx and Engels pointed to as the earliest manifestation of the division of labor–the sexual act–and the earliest structural manifestation of hierarchical authority and exploitation–the family. Indeed, in the domain of sexual relations the GP Maoists exhibited a blind spot. The leaders who emerged at the national level were overwhelmingly males; the question of sexual relations was not openly examined within the movement; and, according to one woman informant, women within the movement on at least two occasions felt driven to confront the males over what they regarded as improper treatment.
Ignoring the possibilities left open by Marx and Engels’ work in The German Ideology and Engels’ follow-up work on sexual exploitation in The Origins of The Family, Private Property and the State, the GP Maoists traced the detrimental effects of the division of labor only back to the gap between manual and intellectual labor. It is this division of labor which they saw as the root cause of hierarchical structure and authority. And it is this gap which they saw as the particular job of revolutionary students to close.
This position, enunciated in 1969 in Vers La Guerre civile, is still not a terribly unorthodox position. It served as the basis for much of the Cultural Revolution in China. What is original is that the position was subsequently developed into a broader attack in which capitalism, hierarchy, division of labor, and technology become fused. In an attack on the French labor organization which has pushed the concept of worker self-determination (autogestion) the furthest–the Confédération Fran,caise Democratique du Travail (CFDT)–GP Maoist Philippe Olivier wrote the following in the pages of Les Temps Modernes in 1972, three years after the Vers La Guerre civile had contented itself with a denunciation of the distinction between mental and physical labor.
But then the question remains: why does the CFDT say that it is fighting against the structure of authority in the workshops, against hierarchy? You are not doing that at all: the CFDT is fighting against « the methods of governance » in the workshops. The power of the bosses, the authority in the workshop, these are « methods of governance. » But no… the power of the bosses does not lie in the methods of governance, it lies in a system of organization of work of which one of the effects are the « method of authoritarian governance. »
To fight against « authority » in the workshop is to fight against the capitalist hierarchical system; and, in particular, against one of its ruses, « technology. »
Olivier accused both the Trotskyists and the French Communist Party of being insensitive to this dimension of the problem. Criticizing this neglect in the program of the Communist Party, which also then rejected autogestion, Olivier wrote:
The criterion for evaluating the position of the classes is not only or even principally the number of nationalizations in their program. The crucial criterion is their position on the division of labor, on the kind of « hierarchy » in the enterprise and thus on their general conception of social relationships.
In the view of GP Maoism, Soviet-Eastern European socialism, which GP Maoism like all other variants of Maoism views as a form of « state capitalism, » is just as susceptible to this kind of criticism as are the overtly capitalist Western societies. There, too, technology and division of labor are used to stratify and control workers, stratification being merely a control mechanism. It is pretended that some people are more capable than others of performing certain tasks which are more highly remunerative. « Capability » is usually based upon imputed intelligence. « Knowledge » is then rationed according to a predetermined, stratified hierarchical plan. The system of education plays a key role in this rationing pattern. It selectively feeds its students into the other social hierarchies, and it visibly stamps on them the level of knowledge of which they are capable.
Technical knowledge thus becomes a mystification, a technique of control, not a search for truth or human emancipation. What is unusual about the analysis of the GP movement is its tendency to fuse technology with division of labor. Whereas Marx saw technology as the phenomenon which would make possible the release of humanity from the detrimental effects of division of labor, the GP Maoists at least implied that technology and division of labor were necessary correlates which together served as the basis of both inequality and alienation. This analysis came closer to that of some earlier utopian writers, such as Fourier, or to contemporary anti-technological writers such as Jacques Ellul and Theodore Roszak, than to that of any other Marxist group known to this writer.
(3) The rejection of dichotomous class conflict
The analysis and structure of Vers La Guerre civile was modeled after two works in which Marx attempted to analyze events in France: The Class Struggles in France, dealing with the Revolution of 1848 and its aftermath, and The Civil War in France, dealing with the Commune of 1871.
In Vers La Guerre civile there is an almost Sorelian insistence on a clear separation between the workers and the bourgeoisie. « Hatred » of the bourgeoisie was a necessity. And when the GP Maoists entered the factories, the line of demarcation was drawn at the lowest management level. Foremen on the shop floor were made examples of. Security personnel and police were not treated as workers–as the unions and the Communist Party were wont to treat then–but as agents of the oppressors who had to assume responsibility for their acts.
But even in this early work, a reflection on the events of 1968 and a theoretical-strategic projection, there was one important and conscious deviation from Marx’s position. Marx viewed the « lumpenproletariat »–the unrooted, unskilled, hopeless, and often criminal poor who were not a part of the industrial proletariat–as being thoroughly unreliable and ready recruits as security forces and goons to be used against the industrial proletariat. Vers La Guerre civile, however, maintained that at least some of the lumpenproletariat were ripe for revolutionary activity.
These were the young who were under-educated and usually unemployed–the young rebels, to go back to « James Dean » terminology, lacking a conscious cause but spontaneously fighting in the streets against state authority in 1968. Rather than let those people remain on the constant border between restlessness and criminality, the GP Maoists were convinced that their consciousness could be raised and that they could be turned into reliable fighters for the revolutionary cause. The GP Maoists viewed the young people and the immigrant workers–who were given the lowest wages, most unpleasant and dangerous tasks, and the least desirable living conditions–as the most harshly treated victims of France’s political structures.
In practice, the GP Maoists deviated even further from a clear dichotomous conflict between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. In 1969, the very year that Vers La Guerre civile was published, they mounted the barricades and fought the authorities side by side with small-town merchants, who were protesting what they felt was disadvantageous government policy. And they did this despite criticism–by Sartre himself in this instance–that the cause they were aiding could hardly be considered progressive.
The defense was adaptation to the superstructure of France to the point of aiding virtually any illegal and violent confrontation with the hierarchical regime. This is also what led them into the rural campaigns in western France, which have been discussed. Until the 1972 strike at Joint Français, they saw little industrial worker militancy in that region. But the farmers were hurting and taking action, and this was giving added impetus to a nationalistic movement. If this was where the people were, if they were prepared to do battle on these fronts, then this was where the Maoists felt that they belonged.
Two events which had a very profound effect upon GP Maoism’s conceptualization of the struggle were the 1973 Lip strike and the overthrow of the Allende government in Chile by a brutal right-wing junta. The Lip strike–in which the workers of the Besançon watch factory took over the plant and produced and marketed the watches themselves–convinced most of the older GP Maoists that they were no longer needed within the industrial setting. The workers had demonstrated that they were quite capable of conducting their own battles.
From the Chilean coup they learned a lesson which was just the contrary of that of the Ligue. The Ligue’s analysis was that the Chilean coup proved the necessity of revolutionary governments coming to power without bourgeois participation but with the support of an armed working class.
The GP Maoists, however, were convinced by the coup that the bourgeoisie could not simply be written off as an enemy to be controlled. They concluded from the Chilean experience chat unless an important segment of the middle class was included in work for social change, it would destroy any such attempts.
The combined impact of Lip and Chile was the attempt by the older group of militants in the ex-GP and CDP to disband the final semblance of organizational coherence and to cease publishing the paper. They advocated emphasis upon « cultural work » spread very widely across social issues and milieux–from environmental issues, in which engineers and managers would be expected to take an interest, to concern for the problems faced by small shopkeepers.
Thus a « liquidationism, » similar to that of the UJCML in 1968, was attempted in 1973 and 1974. While most of the older militants who had formed the movement did disperse themselves, a number of younger militants saw no reason to disband because of Chile or Lip. If the older militants were simply burned out by the intensity of the activity and the repression, some of the younger recruits were not. The latter held together enough to continue publishing and distributing La Cause du Peuple on an irregular basis for at least four years after its founders left the paper.
Those older militants spread a bit all over, in a multitude of national, decentralized, and individual contexts. Some of the more militant and violently inclined among them probably joined with younger people in the formation of the Autonomes, a group devoted to property destruction and street fighting which made its formal appearance in 1977 and which subsequently turned its wrath on other groups on the Left. Some might also have been in the specific commando group which executed Tramoni, the killer of Pierre Ovenney, after Tramoni had been released from a two-year prison sentence in 1977.
It should be pointed out, however, that when that act was committed, and while it was applauded by La Cause du Peuple, it was an isolated event in direct retaliation for the killing of a comrade. In France during this period, even with the appearance of the street-fighting Autonomes, there was nothing like the systematic killings and maimings that were being conducted by the Red Brigades in Italy or by the less-centralized anarchist groups in Germany. For most of the older militants, the GP and ex-GP experience led them in nonviolent, reflective directions.
Geismar and some of the comrades with whom he was closest started a commune. They seem to have taken to heart the message of the old VLR and began experimenting with changes in family structure and living and work arrangements. They were revising Marx by taking him back in the direction of utopian socialism, particularly of the Fourierist variety.
Further, approximately half of the staff of the Left counter-culture daily newspaper Libération, which was begun at the end of 1972 under the omnipresent formal editorship of Sartre (who was also called upon to declare himself editor of Tout and La Cause du Peuple during periods of severe repression), was composed of former GP and ex-GP militants. Here too, as Remi Hess points out, these people were involved in an endeavor which has a striking similarity to what Vive la Revolution attempted in its paper Tout.By a different and much more arduous route, these people became part of a much larger counter-culture which the VLR attempted to introduce into France from 1969 to 1971, but which destroyed the group in the process.
Still other former GP Maoists went into the arts, the women’s movement, the gay and lesbian movements, the environmental movement, or more nationally or ethnically specific movements. Some of the former Arab members have transferred their efforts to a completely Arab group which worked with immigrant workers, the Mouvement des Travailleurs Arabes. Former CDP editor Le Dantec has attempted to find a new political orientation in the historical thought and folk-culture of his native Brittany, wherein he believes lies an appropriate blend of concern for the collectivity and respect for the individual.
But the former GP members who soon were to get a brief flurry of publicity in the West were those who belonged to a group referred to as the Nouveaux Philosophes, or the « New Philosophers. » Former GP Maoists such as Andre Glucksmann and Michel Le Bris (also a former CDP editor, along with Le Dantec) went from their modifications of traditional Marxism-Leninism as GP activists to more systematic criticisms of Marxism itself–as intellectuals detached from and reflecting upon their past practice. This, of course, was somewhat infuriating to others on the Left who had long felt that both their theory and practice were wrong in the first place, and that their own sudden realization of this would prove very useful to conservative forces in the Western world. Many came to see this as a vindication of Lenin, and as an ultimate proof of the petit-bourgeois nature of the movement all along. This is certainly one of the few things that Trotskyists, hierarchical Maoists, and the French Communist Party would all agree upon.
But whatever evaluation one might make of the whole phenomenon of GP Maoism, it is striking how distinctively French it was. In its refusal to fetter the workers with a hierarchical political organization, and in its emphasis upon action and clear cleavages within the industrial plant itself, it resembled the thought of the French anarcho-syndicalist theorist Georges Sorel. In the value which it placed upon rural life and the relationship between the land and the people who worked it, it shared the sentiments of the Genevan Rousseau and the French anarchist Proudhon. It shared both Proudhon’s distaste for hierarchical authoritarianism and the negative view of the division of labor held by the French utopian thinker Fourier.
Both the various Trotskyist groups and the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist groups have been universalistic in their theoretical orientations, and most have attempted to maintain or establish ties with the outside world. The GP movement represented a melange of early Marxism and Maoism with French utopianism and anarchism as well as with the French experience. Even the older generation of contemporary theorists who had an impact upon its origins, development, and termination (Althusser, Sartre, Foucault) were all French. And with the exception of the Chilean coup, all of the events which served as theoretical points of reference as the movement progressed were French. GP Maoism had virtually no ties with the outside world. Even the symbolic tie of the little picture of Mao on the masthead of La Cause du Peuple was removed for a while because it was too foreign.
GP Maoism was the most distinctively French movement within the French Far Left. Perhaps that is why it was able to strike the imagination of French people who were not even sure of what it was. It was a synthesis of their own radical heritage presented by a new generation.
The most interesting impact of the French political context on the Maoist movement is the one that I have just discussed, i.e., the impact which the non-Marxist radical heritage in France had upon the development of an anti-hierarchical variation of Maoism. This resulted in a dichotomous Maoist movement in France. Aside from contributing to this variant of Maoism and the resultant dichotomy, the French political context has also had important and divisive effects upon the Maoist groups in France in a number of tactical areas.
First, the Maoists have differed among themselves on the question of if and how to relate to the various labor confederations on the Left. Although the PCR(m-l) was tempted to push for second ballot support of the coalition of the Left in the 1978 elections, it backed down from that position when faced with the refusal and the ultimatum of its own coalition partner, the Maoist PCMLF. As of these elections, no Maoist group in France had given support to the major parties on the Left the way Trotskyists have in second ballot run-offs. At least some of the Maoists, however, have differentiated between parties and labor organizations, even if members of certain parties dominate certain unions. And we have seen a variety of attitudes adopted toward these structures. The « officially » (Chinese) recognized PCMLF–which used to write off the Communist-dominated CGT as too difficult to penetrate and not worth the effort–turned around on the issue in 1976, and began attempting to work from within it. The PCR(m-1), on the other hand, preferred to work within the CFDT. The UJCFML has taken an even harder anti-union position than the Trotskyist Lutte Ouvrière. Like Lutte Ouvrière it has created its own groups within the factories, but unlike the Trotskyist group it has refused to work in the unions at all. The GP, which grew out of an organization which had attempted to work within the CGT, turned against working within the established labor structures, and even engaged CGT militants in physical combat in their strongholds.
The strength of the major parties of the Left and the good possibility that they might win the 1978 elections had a severe impact upon the Maoists’ behavior vis-à-vis elections. Prior to 1978, one could have contended that, with one minor regional exception, a defining characteristic of French Maoists, whether they were hierarchical or anti-hierarchical, was their total lack of interest in elections. But the attention and the level of excitement which was commanded by the prospect of the Communist and Socialist parties coming to power made it impossible for the two largest Maoist organizations to resist entry into the electoral fray. While the UJCFML refused to become involved in the political processes so attractive to the bourgeois parties, and to what it and the other Maoists viewed as revisionist parties on the Left, the PCMLF and the PCR(m-l) dove right in.
Finally, the tactic of violence and the emphasis upon illegality of the Gauche Prolétarienne was clearly influenced by the revolutionary heritage of France. The GP was, after all, born out of the latest of those major upheavals, the 1968 revolt. It seemed to feel a special responsibility to make up for the Maoist UJCML’s refusal to participate in the revolt. Its actions were considerably more violent than those of Maoists who did not feel that they had to live down the fact that they had some association or lineal tie with an organization which had opposed the latest event in France’s revolutionary heritage.
The orientation toward China has also been very divisive among French Maoists, and France’s position as a militarily active power upon which China looks favorably has not made the situation any easier for French Maoists. The PCMLF, having been recognized as an official party of sorts by the Chinese, has given 100 per cent support to whomever is in control of the Chinese regime, and has accepted their position on French foreign policy. The PCR(m-l) has really tried to be loyal to the Chinese, but when the Chinese supported the French invasion of Zaire in 1978, it was just too much for the organization to bear. The UCFML, however, has been forthright in saying that its role is not to support the Chinese regime when it thinks that the regime is wrong. That hierarchical Maoist organization has rejected the Theory of the Three Worlds’ contention that the USSR is more dangerous than the United States, has opposed NATO without equivocation, and has denounced French imperialism whether the Chinese approve or not.
The anti-hierarchical GP–which at the international level really only interested itself initially in the war in Indochina, and then shifted its major attention to the Palestinian issue–did derive some inspiration from what it thought were Chinese practices in the Cultural Revolution and in the organization of agriculture and industry. But the GP militants admittedly did not really know very much about China, and they were very eclectic in what they thought might be learned from the Chinese experience. In fact, what the Chinese actually were or were not doing or saying was much less important for the GP Maoists than what they thought might work in France. The Chinese revolution was, at best, « inspirationally suggestive » for them; the major inspiration was the mass line, regardless of whether or not that aspect of Maoism was being stressed in China. Of course, this entire question of orientation toward an actual regime or its external policies is one with which Trotskyists simply do not have to deal.
If French Maoists have been heavily affected by the French context, I would argue that they also have made an impact on that context in two specific areas. First, it was the GP initially and then the UCFML which took the lead in calling national and international attention to the plight of immigrant workers in France and in encouraging and supporting militancy among these workers. Secondly, the short-lived Vive la Révolution was in the vanguard in raising the sexual dimension of politics, and it produced militants who persisted in this direction through other feminist and gay structures.
Length of survival is not always a good indicator of the impact of a group. As the anti-hierarchical Maoists were fond of pointing out, their movements were mortal, and what mattered was how they used that scarce resource called time. In their own hyperactive way, they did manage to cram a lot into a relatively short period, and they did leave an imprint.
1. Bernaid Kouchner and Michel-Antoine Burnier, La France sauvage (Paris: Editions Publications Premieres, 1970), p. 174.
3. Ibid., pp. 174-175.
4. « ‘La candidature Mitterrand,’ extrait de ‘Comment est née l’Union des Jeunesses (Marxistes-Léninistes)!,’ supplement du no. 8 de Servir le Peuple, 15 octobre 1967, (Troisième Partie), » in Patrick Kessel, ea., Le Mouvement « Maoïste » en France, I: textes et documents, 1963-1968 (Paris: Union Generale d’Éditions, 1972), pp. 143-144.
5. It would be most convenient just to use the initials UJC. However, this would not distinguish between the UJCML and the UJCF, another group of the Communist Party. So the initials unfortunately become long.
6. Kouchner and Burnier, France sauvage, p. 176.
7. Ibid., p. 177.
9. « ‘Arborer le drapeau rouge pour lutter contre le drapeau rouge’ (juin 1967), texte interne du MCF, » in Kessel, Le Mouvement, p. 269.
10. « ‘E’difions en France un Parti communiste de l’epoque de la Revolution Culturelle,’ Garde Rouge, no. 6, mai 1967, » in Kessel, Le Mouvement, pp. 250-257.
11. Quoted from the minutes of the Central Committee of the MCF. See « La creation du Parti Communiste Marxiste-Leniniste de France, » in Kessel, Le Mouvement, pp. 315-316.
12. Jacques Jurquet in a political report presented to the first Congress of the PCMLF in 1968. See « ‘Créons le Parti Communiste de France, Parti authentiquement marxiste-léniniste, Parti de l’époque de la pensée de Mao Tsé-toung,’ extrait du ‘Rapport politique du camarade Jacques Jurquet presenté au 1er Congrès du PCMLF,’ I’Humanité Nouvelle, no. 88, 8 février 1968 et no. 89, 15 février 1968, » in Kessel, Le Mouvement, p. 328.
13. It is interesting that U.S. decision-makers made allusions to Munich and the Second World War in an attempt to sell their Vietnam war policies to the U.S. public. The younger generations of Americans could relate to this about as well as French youth could relate to the slogan of the PCMLF. Both sides could have benefitted from a lesson in Mannheim’s distinction between appropriated and personally acquired memory. See Karl Mannheim, « The Problem of Generations, » in his Essays on the Sociological Problem of Knowledge (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1952), pp. 276-320.
14. « ‘Pour la grande alliance avec le PCMLF,’ extrait de Contre l’anarchisme petit-bourgeois, édifions dans notre pays un Parti de l’époque de Mao Tsé-toung, Lyon, printemps 1968, » in Kessel, Le Mouvement, p. 423.
15. Ibid., p. 426.
16. The role of the PCMLF is a matter of some dispute. Roland Biard writes that « During the ‘events,’ the PCMLF did not involve itself much. The student movement is analyzed [by the PCMLF] as a petit-bourgeois self-interested movement and, as such, only ancillary to the workers’ struggles. » Roland Biard, Dictionnaire de l’Éxtrême Gauche de 1945 à nos jours (Paris: Belfond, 1978), p. 270. Richard Johnson lumps the attitudes of the UJCML and the PCMLF together. « The official Maoist party, the PCMLF was equally displeased with the spontaneous tactics of the students….The UJCML and the PCMLF refused to enter the student struggle because (1) petit-bourgeois revolts were inevitably ‘pseudo-revolutionary;’ (2) insurrectionary activity was inappropriate at that particular strategic stage; and (3) when violence is used, it has to be conscious, controlled, and directed. » Richard Johnson, The French Communist Party versus the Students (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), pp. 165-166. While no one would argue that the PCMLF was as integral to the fight on the barricades as JCR students, the PCMLF supported the students before and after that night. On May 6, the PCMLF’s Central Committee stated that « the student revolutionaries must resolutely rejoin the combat of the working class and place themselves under its political direction. The students struggling against the monopolies will only be able to win under that condition. That is why the militants of the Parti Communiste Marxiste-Léniniste de France are participating elbow to elbow in the student demonstrations and why they are fighting resolutely at the students’ sides against the government of the monopolies. » The day after the Night of the Barricades, on May 11, the Central Committee issued a supportive statement which contained the following: « The heroic struggle of the students which unfurled with a violent force demands the admiration of the French people. In the night of the 10th to the 11th of May 1968 in particular, Parisian students joined by numerous workers fought back against the violent repression of the reactionary forces with courage and determination….The Marxists-Leninists of the Parti Communiste Marxiste-Léniniste de France have confidence in the youth and are participating in all its revolutionary actions. » Jacques Jurquet, ea., Arracher la Classe ouvrière au révisionnisme (Paris: Centenaire, 1976), pp. 273-275. A leader of the PCMLF whom I interviewed told me that, although it was before he had become a formal member, he was on the barricades and there were others that he knew of The evidence is that while the PCMLF certainly felt that spontaneous activity had its limitations, it did not take the negative attitude toward the students taken by the Communist Party, the Lambertist Trotskyists of the OCI, or the Maoist UJCML.
One Maoist group has come up with a count of 21 hierarchical and non-hierarchical Maoist organizations in France as of the summer of 1977. Not all were national groups, some were confined to one city or region, most were tiny. « Les Marxistes-Léninistes en France aujourd’hui, » Le Marxiste-Léniniste, double issue, no. 18/19 (juillet-aôut 1977), p. 19. This is a publication of the UCFML which will be discussed shortly.
Precise numbers are difficult to come by in the case of the Maoists since they have not divulged current membership figures the way some Trotskyist organizations have. The PCR (m-l), the PCMLF’s major hierarchical Maoist rival, which will be discussed shortly, claimed to have brought together 3,000 people at the meetings in which it prepared the transition to a party. Alain Jauber et al., Guide de la France des luttes (Paris: Stock, 1974), p. 294. In 1970, Kouchner and Burnier contended that l’Humanité Rouge « grouped several thousand sympathizers » (p. 182). Since the party had been banned, there were technically no members–at least none that could be admitted to. Biard places the number at between 2,000 and 3,000 in 1970 and, after the 1971-76 decline, thought that the party regained its 1970 membership level by 1978 (p. 272).
The PCMLF’s daily was l’Humanité Rouge and the PCR(m-l)’s was Le Quotidien du Peuple (The People’s Daily). They were both much thinner and less substantial efforts than the Ligue’s Rouge. They were also not distributed on newsstands as was Rouge. Only approximately 2,000 of the 15,000 l’Humanité Rouge run off each day were actually sold.
The self-criticism only became « official » at the Third Congress of the PCMLF which was held just before the legislative elections of 1978.
This is the position of the French Trotskyist OCI.
« Resolutions du 3e congrès du Parti Communiste Marxiste-Léniniste de France: autocritique du PCMLF concernant son 2e congrès, » I’Humanite’ Rouge, no. 25 (16 fevrier-2 mars 1978), pp. 13-14. This is a special supplementary issue to the daily paper.
A Maoist group based in Brittany, the Organisation Communiste Française (marxiste-léniniste), ran candidates in Rennes during the 1977 municipal elections.
« Les voix de l’UOPDP: un potentiel pour l’action, » I’Humanité Rouge, no. 27 (16 mars-13 avril 1978), p 8. This is also a special supplementary issue to the daily paper.
PCR(m-l), « A propos de la Théorie des 3 Mondes, » Front Rouge, n.s., no. 2 (novembre-décembre 1977), pp. 7-8. Very interestingly, this article terminates with a summary defense of the theory, « up to the point that we have examined it » (p. 10). More was promised on the theory, particularly its meaning for the First and Second Worlds. Six months later, as of the end of May 1978, the next number of their theoretical journal, Front Rouge, with the promised continuation of the discussion, had not appeared.
See PCR(m-l), Programme et statute (Paris:PCR(m-l), 1976), pp. 37-38 and Biard, Dictionnaire, pp. 273-274.
Interview with a PCMLF leader, June 8, 1978.
« Les Marxistes-Léninistes en France anjourd’hui, » p. 20.
Its own account of this year is in UCFML, Premiere Année d’existence d’une organisation maoïst (Paris: Maspero, 1972).
UCFML, Une Étude Maoïste: la situation on Chine et le mouvement dit de « critique de la bande des Quatre, » (Paris: Editions Potemkine, 1977).
Kouchner and Burnier, France sauvage, pp. 187 and 159.
Ibid., p. 187.
Remi Hess, Les Maoïstes Français (Paris: Anthropos, 1974), p. 151. See Henri Lefebvre, Everyday Life in the Modern World, trans. Sacha Rabinovitch (New York: Harper and Row, 1971).
Tout was usually printed at the rate of 50,000 copies per issue. One issue was run off at 80,000. Hess, Maoïstes, p. 160.
Hess, Maoïstes, pp. 163-167. Sartre would later agree to serve as nominal editior of La Cause du Peuple and Liberation as well.
Hess, Maoïstes, p. 167.
Michèle Manceaux, Les Maos en France (Paris: Gallimard, 1972), p. 201.
Ibid., p. 203.
Minutes du procès d’Alain Geismar (Paris: Editions Hallier, n.d.), p. 24.
See my Student Politics in France (New York: Basic Books, 1970), chapter 3.
Minutes du procès d’Alain Geismar, p. 149.
Ibid., p. 150.
For much supporting data for this argument in the U.S. experience, see Sidney Lens, Radicalism in America (New York: Apollo Editions, 1966).
Manceaux, Les Maos, pp. 211-212.
Ibid., p. 65-66.
Kenneth Keniston, Young Radicals (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1968), p. 217.
Manceaux, Les Maos, p. 94.
Julia Lesage, « Tout Va Bien and Coup pour Coup: Radical French Cinema in Context, » Cinéaste 5, no. 3 (Summer 1972), p. 45. Tout Va Bien stars Jane Fonda and Yvès Montand. Paramount, which had originally contracted for the film, refused to distribute it for obviously political reasons. The attraction which this brand of Maoism held for people involved with the cinema is also attested to by the fact that two French journals of film criticism, Cahiers du Cinéma and Cinéthique, adopted Maoist perspectives, with Cahiers turning itself into a Maoist writing collective (Lesage, p. 43).
The number of disputes in industrial settings increased from 2,942 in 1970 to 4,318 in 1971 and the number of working days lost due to industrial conflict increased from 1,742,175 to 4,387,781. Yearbook of Labour Statistics (Geneva: Intemational Labor Organization, 1976), p. 831.
Pour l’Union des comités de lutte d’atelier, Renault-Billancourt: 25 regles de travail (Paris: Editions Liberté-Presse, supplement a La Cause du Peuple, no. 11, 1971), p. 31.
UCFML, A Propos du Meurtre de Pierre Overney (Paris: Maspero, 1972), pp. 13 and 18.
Signoret apparently brought some other prominent people along with her on some of her visits. Someone whom she did not bring was her husband, Yves Montand. At the time Montand was occupied making the Godard and Gorin film Tout Va Bien with Jane Fonda. See Jean-Pierre Le Dantec (the former CDP editor who made contact with Signoret), Les Dangers du soleil (Paris: Les Presses d’Aujourd’hui, 1978), pp. 239-240.
La Cause du Peuple, no. 20 (11 mars 1972), p. 4. Only a small portion of the workers who worked near windows which overlooked the gate knew what had happened. The word spread to a limited extent right after the event and the CDP claimed that between 1,000 and 1,500 workers participated in a demonstration of sorrow within the plant.
The first demonstration in response to the killing was held on February 28. Le Monde estimated the number of participants at 30,000. The same paper estimated that approximately 120,000 people participated in Overney’s funeral procession on March 4. Le Monde, 7 mars 1972, p. 8. La Cause du Peuple estimated the latter at 250,000. I witnessed all of the major demonstrations in Paris between July 1963 and January 1965 and the second wave of demonstrations from June 10 to July 10 in 1968. The funeral procession was the largest demonstration that I have seen in Paris.
La Cause du Peuple, no. 20 (11 mars 1972), p. 10.
For more on that rent strike, see my « The Battle of SONACOTRA: A Study of an Immigrant Worker Struggle in France, » New Political Science 3, no. 1/2 (Summer/Pall 1982), pp. 93-112.
Centre d’Action Paysarme, Où En Sont les Paysans? (Paris: Editions Liberté-Presse, 1971), pp. 20-21.
« Occitanie: ‘des luttes paysannes a la révolte d’un peuple, »‘ Les Temps Modernes, no. 310 Bis (1972), p. 169.
Centre d’Action Paysanne, Où En Sont les Paysans?, pp. 6-7. (Italics in the text).
The figures are from Le Monde, 21 mars 1972, p. 32.
Les Prisonniers politiques parlent: le combat des détenus politiques (Paris: Maspero, 1970), pp. 28-29.
Geismar told this author that he spent five of his eighteen months in prison in solitary confinement.
Les Prisonniers politiques parlent, pp. 12-13.
The December 9, 1971 and January 15, 1972 issues of La Cause du Peuple carried informational and supportive articles on revolts in the prisons of Toul, Nancy, Nîmes, Amiens, Loos, Fleury, and Ré..
Hess, Maoïstes, p. 219. Hess reports that the CDP was not as straightforward as VLR’s paper Tout was in its attack on this policy, and sometimes even tried to justify it. This conforms to Sartre’s reflections on his relations with the GP Maoists in 1972. After criticizing Chinese foreign policy in Ceylon, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, as well as China’s reception of President Nixon, Sartre remarked that the GP Maoists « would not like what I say about China’s foreign policy. » See Pierre Bénichou, « What’s Jean-Paul Sartre Thinking Lately? An Interview, » Esquire 68, no. 6 (December 1972), pp. 208 and 280.
Interview of May 27,1975.
In fact, Mendes-France did indeed give every appearance that he was available to assume the reins of power by appearing before a massive crowd at the Charléty Stadium on the evening of May 27.
At the time, the student group of the Lambertist Trotskyists in the OCI was attempting to take over UNEF, something which it subsequently succeeded in doing. PSU students controlled the national offices and the JCR allied with them to prevent the Lambertists, who had opposed the barricades in May for the same reasons as the UJCML, from taking control in 1968. It is also interesting to note that Pierre Victor, in a disagreement with Sartre, attempted to defend Geismar’s participation in the attempt to convince Lip strike leader Piaget to run as a candidate for the Presidency in 1974 by arguing that it was a farce since Piaget would have had no chance of winning. It was thus presumably still within the realm of liberté-révolte rather than liberté-pouvoir. See Philippe Gavi, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Pierre Victor, On a Raison de se révolter (Paris: Gallimard, 1974), Conclusion.
Alain Geismar, Serge July, and Erlyn Morane, Vers la Guerre civile (Paris: Editions et Publications Premieres, 1969), p. 371.
For a retrospective self-criticism of this shortcoming by a former male leader, see Le Dantec, Dangers pp. 213 and 234-235.
It is true that in The German Ideology Marx and Engels write: « Division of labor becomes truly such only from the moment when a division of material and mental labor appears. » Lewis S. Feuer, ea., Marx and Engels: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy (Garden City: Anchor Books,1959), p. 252. However, Engels was prompted to push further into a detailed analysis of the sexual dimension in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.
Geismar, July, and Morane, Guerre civile, p. 379.
Philippe Olivier, « Après la Bataille de Renault, » Les Temps Modernes no. 310 Bis (1972) p. 29.
Philippe Olivier, « Syndicate, comité de lutte, comités de chaine, » Les Temps Modernes, no. 310 Bis (1972), p. 46.
See Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society, trans. John Wilkinson (New York: Vintage, 1964) and Theodore Roszak, The Making of a Counter Culture (Garden City: Anchor, 1968).
Gavi, Sartre, and Victor, On a Raison de se revolter, chapters 14, 15, and 16.
La Cause du Peuple, no. 15 (mai-juin 1977), p. 3.
Former CDP editor Dantec does, however, think that the GP through its writings and actions in the earlier part of the decade had an unfortunate influence upon later German and Italian terrorist groups. He also criticized the killing of Tramoni and the new group of people putting out La Cause du Peuple for supporting the act. Le Dantec, Dangers, pp. 246-248.
In 1971, the year prior to the appearance of Libération, ex-GP Maoists worked with others in the production of a publication called J’Accuse! Libération grew out of that experiment.
Hess, Maoïstes, pp. 177-181.
See Andre Glucksmann, Les Maîtres Penseurs (Paris: Grasset, 1977) and La Cuisinière et le mangeur d’hommes (Paris: Seuil, 1975) and Michel Le Bris, L’Homme aux semelles de vent (Paris: Grasset, 1977). Both writers have been heavily influenced by the late French thinker Michel Foucault.