Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sartre on the French Resistance

Talking With Sartre, conversations with Jean Paul Sartre edited and translated by John Gerassi (Yale University Press, 2009), is an interesting book,  although not worthy of being read again.  In some ways, it tells us more about Sartre the man than we wanted to know,  but little about his philosophy.   One interesting comment by Sartre concerns the purpose of the French resistance to the German occupation of France during World War II.  According the Sartre. the resistance

" was really unimportant.  I mean, when you put it in context, what did it accomplish?  Did we force Germany to keep forty divisions in our country, like the Yugoslav partisans did?  OK, so we blew up a few trains and shot a few officers.  In the scheme of the war, it was nothing.  Nor, now this is the important point, was it meant to.  The purpose of the resistance was to tell all the French that we were united against the Germans.  That they may win the war, but they will never win the peace, because we are all united against them. . . . our job was to tell all the French, we will not be ruled by Germans.  That was the job of the resistance, not just a few more trains or bridges blown up here or there.  Those acts of sabotage roused our morale, and that's what the real purpose of the resistance was. . . . " (p. 208).

Elsewhere we learn of Sartre's support for the Maoist ultra-leftist group la Gauche proletarienne, mostly through his contributions to their newspaper.  Incidentally, this French revolutionary group was led by some Frenchmen with rather unusual names:  Benny Levy, Andre Glucksmann,  Alain Geismar, etc.   Levy later quit Marxism and became a rabbi.  Glucksmann became something close to what in America is known as a neoconservative.

Sartre made an ominous prediction in 1972 regarding an American economic collapse:  " . . . . the capitalist economy no longer produces real stuff.  Germany and Japan still do, and unfortunately China is feeding your and our, consumer needs, but the United States?  Does it produce anything that we need?  Except war material, of course.  It will collapse, and then, perhaps, a form of humanism will reemerge.   But not in my lifetime, nor in yours" (p. 208).

No comments:

Post a Comment