To begin with

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To begin with

1

We would like to take a look back at an experiment: the "Socialisme ou barbarie" ("SouB") movement which lasted from 1948-1949 to 1967. In remembering this revolutionary group, we thought we might borrow Jean-François Lyotard’s apt expression concerning Pierre Souyri, partisan of a Marxism that "was not academic." [1]  Jean-François Lyotard, "Mémorial pour un marxisme:...[1] Moreover, we should probably speak of "Marxisms," as "SouB"’s approach was far from an unyielding sectarianism: there was room within it for disparate voices and varied readings of Marx that confronted each other. It was not a party, but rather a laboratory where different schools of thought tried their hand at coordinating theory and practice. The group thus participated in the "return of the political question" [2]  Miguel Abensour, La Communauté politique des "tous...[2] in its revolutionary form that left its mark on the 1960s and followed the end of the Algerian War. This introduction’s only purpose is to summarize, or serve as a reminder of, the milestones in the life of the group, a few dates and other lines of force in its project.

2

This presentation is often supported by analyses taken from the work of Jean-François Lyotard: this is a result of our predilection for his thinking, and an attempt to make up for the absence in this issue of any contribution concerning his itinerary within "SouB." We also regret the absence of any text on Daniel Mothé, but these gaps, we hope, will be compensated by all of the original perspectives offered here. The authors were interested in the specific contributions of some of the protagonists of "SouB" as well as in certain key issues of the movement’s journal, also called Socialisme ou Barbarie, such as the issue covering the Hungarian revolution. They examined the intellectual sources of the movement – what was their relationship to Merleau-Ponty? – as well as its legacy. They looked into the debates that marked its history, the debate between Lefort and Sartre for example, as well as the question of the relevance of the group’s project today. They explored the other theoretical frameworks and practices that seem comparable to "SouB," as well as the kinds of rereadings of Marx that some carry out, or the way the resulting activism is put into practice, etc.

3

There are those who have noted the contrast that exists between two aspects of "SouB." On the one hand, there is the current acknowledgment of the movement and its arguments: the spread of these ideas, and the prestige and the "posthumous recognition" that "SouB" enjoys, involving an assimilation or appropriation of its themes (autonomy, the non-socialist character of the USSR, etc.). On the other, Socialisme ou Barbarie languished in relative obscurity at the time it was published: [3]  Philippe Gottraux, "Socialisme ou barbarie": Un engagement...[3] the veterans of the movement have emphasized that despite 40 published issues, the group and its journal remained nearly invisible during their existence. The responsibility for this lay with the censors, as well as the marginalization of leftist criticism of the USSR – whether this criticism was Marxist or anarchist – of criticism of the USSR in general, and of criticism of the Communist parties of Western Europe along with their associated organs and auxiliaries. [4]  Sébastien de Diesbach, "Préface," in "Socialisme ou...[4] The recognition of the group after the fact is especially connected with the celebrity of some among them, but also with its reinstantiation as a precursor of the denunciation of communist totalitarianism in the 1970s. This retroactive highlighting modifies and distorts the group’s reality. Nevertheless, in our view, the publicity surrounding "SouB" today did not seem to preclude a reexamination of the group’s concerns. Furthermore, although it is not at all our intent to reduce "SouB" to the views of some of its better-known protagonists (Castoriadis, Lefort, Lyotard, etc.), we note that they are read and studied far less than their widely recognized contemporaries (Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida). So we did not find it pointless to look back here on their roles and their actions within the group.

Some dates [5]  See P. Gottraux, ibid.[5]

4

In 1946 some of the members of the French section of the Fourth International (Trotskyist), including Cornelius Castoriadis and Claude Lefort, formed a grouping on the basis of a critique of orthodox Trotskyism: this was the "Chaulieu-Montal tendency." With the formation of "SouB," history repeated itself to some degree: just as Trotsky had founded the Fourth International in 1937 to fight against the Stalinist bureaucracy and its criminal policies, a group of militants left it some ten years later, turning part of its own diagnosis against it. This group criticized Trotskyism for its economism, its inability to correctly define the class nature of communist societies, its lack of attention to the specific nature of the struggles in advanced capitalist societies – struggles that foregrounded demands for autonomy – its lack of interest in the organizational creativity of struggling workers, and its inability to produce an analysis of the transformations of capitalism. [6]  J.-F. Lyotard, "Note: Le nom d’Algérie," in La Guerre...[6] In short, "SouB" cast doubt on Trotskyism’s ability to carry out either the practical or the theoretical critique of the society of exploitation. [7]  J.-F. Lyotard, "Mémorial pour un marxisme," 118 ["A...[7] The journal’s editorial in its first issue (March-April 1949) underlined Trotskyism’s powerlessness to truly grasp the essence of Stalinism: "The question of the nature of Stalinism is the point where the superficiality of Trotskyist conceptions is most clearly apparent."

5

After leaving the Trotskyist organization, Lefort and Castoriadis developed a project for a journal, Socialisme ou Barbarie, whose first issue was published in March 1949. [8]  See "Socialisme ou barbarie" – Anthologie: grèves ouvrières...[8] The group that was formed that same year was composed of roughly twenty people and took the journal’s name. At first a bimonthly journal, later quarterly, it ceased publication after its fortieth issue in June 1965. The group then dissolved itself in 1967. The journal published theoretical reflections, but it also gave workers the chance to speak directly for themselves. The first issue contained the first part of a French translation of Paul Romano’s text, "The American Worker"; the journal then published Mothé’s text on his experience as a worker for Renault. It also covered the major political events of the times: the Algerian War, but also Hungary. The December 1956 issue made its mark in this respect, presenting quite original critical analyses on the Hungarian revolution in October in opposition to the analyses of the young communists who defended the Soviet intervention in that country. Claude Lefort attacked the "totalitarianism without Stalin" behind that endorsement. While the mainstays of the group were Castoriadis (under the pseudonyms Chaulieu and Cardan) and Lefort (under the pseudonym Montal) – with Lyotard also playing an important role (under the pseudonym François Laborde), as did Souyri (Pierre Brune) and Daniel Mothé – there were other active or transitory members of "SouB," including Hubert Damisch, Guy Debord, Vincent Descombes, Gérard Genette, Jean Laplanche, Edgar Morin, Benjamin Péret and many others.

6

Lefort, who questioned the reconstitution of a revolutionary party within the group, left "SouB" in 1958 and founded the "Informations et Liaisons ouvrières" (ILO) group with Henri Simon. In 1960, this group changed its name to "Informations et correspondances ouvrières." The split was due to "SouB"’s politics and the question of organization. While Lefort and Simon denounced the risk of bureaucratization inherent in any form of organization (which was therefore contrary to the objective of the proletariat’s selforganization in its struggles), Castoriadis and Albert Masó (who used the pseudonym Alberto Véga in "SouB") emphasized the need for a structured organization, one that was democratic and focused on self-organization. Castoriadis would always be sensitive to this need for (non-partisan) organization. It was one of the themes of his text analyzing May 1968, "The Anticipated Revolution": the "need for an organized revolutionary movement." "One cannot overcome bureaucratic organization by refusing all organization." [9]  Cornelius Castoriadis, "La révolution anticipée" (1968),...[9] To this was added an opposition between Lefort and Castoriadis on the nature of the post-revolutionary regime and an original analysis by Lefort, marking himself off from the rest of the group, on the last days of the Hungarian insurrection.

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In 1963-1964, there was a second split between a "tendency" led by Castoriadis and Mothé, who retained the name "SouB" as well as the journal, and a heterogeneous grouping that took the name "Pouvoir Ouvrier." This movement, notably including Véga, Philippe Guillaume, Lyotard (who resigned in 1966) and Souyri, published a monthly bulletin, also called Pouvoir Ouvrier: they ceased activity in 1969. The main cause of this second split was a set of arguments put forth for discussion by Castoriadis that refocused the ways of describing the modern world and taking an active role within it. At issue was how to interpret the neutralization of the social and economic effects of revolutionary activity by the workings of modern capitalism. Was this consolidation of capitalism a tendency destined to come up against new contradictions, as Souyri thought? Or would it be necessary, as Castoriadis started to believe, to abandon the economistic contradiction as Marx expressed it in Das Kapital? [10]  J.-F. Lyotard, "Mémorial pour un marxisme," 112-114...[10] According to Castoriadis, one had to try and understand the attachment to modern capitalist society. After 1968, he would add: "We must understand what modern capitalism is, and go beyond a moribund traditional Marxism, which continues to dominate the minds of many living beings." [11]  C.Castoriadis, "La révolution anticipée," 195 ["The...[11]

The "SouB" Project

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1. This group, defined as an "enterprise of ’revolutionary critique and orientation,’" [12]  J.-F. Lyotard, ibid. 95-96 [Ibid., 47].[12] completely occupied with "combatting exploitation and alienation," [13]  J.-F. Lyotard, "Touches," Pérégrinations, 40 ["Touches,"...[13] had a clear point of departure: there would either be socialism or barbarism. The expression is Rosa Luxemburg’s: this was how she and the Luxemburgists saw the alternative facing humanity. If the action of the masses did not succeed in bringing about socialism in due time, society as a whole would regress to barbarism. [14]  Pierre Souyri, Le Marxisme après Marx (Paris, Éditions...[14] As a side note, we should wonder about the exact meaning of this reference to Rosa Luxemburg. And the group’s operative definition of "socialism" also remained to be defined. Initially, it seemed to all that socialism should be considered in terms of an alternative: it could not, therefore, be understood as the result of a functional improvement in the economy or society, or as the fruit of an improvement in living conditions, etc. Whatever capitalism’s development, the alternative would remain unaffected. In this case, socialism seems associated with (or is the name of) the transformation of the organization of labor that is the only way to overcome the exploitation of that labor: "there is no other alternative to exploitation than socialism." [15]  J.-F. Lyotard, "La situation en Afrique du Nord," in...[15] But we also find other conceptions within "SouB," even different ones from the same thinkers. The position of that alternative, socialism or barbarism, led to reflection on the redefinition of socialism, a socialism that differed from existing historical forms. Merleau-Ponty had expressed this alternative, this imperative, a few years earlier, in August 1945:

9

If the class struggle once again becomes the motivating force of history and, definitely, if the alternative of socialism or chaos becomes clearer, it is up to us to choose a proletarian socialism – not as a guaranty of happiness, since we do not know whether man can ever be integrated into co-existence or whether each country’s happiness is compossible with that of the others, but as that unknown other future which we must reach, or die. [16]  Maurice Merleau-Ponty, "Autour du marxisme," in Sens...[16]

10

2. The intellectual orientation seemed to be one of critique, of "the emancipation of the critical capacity," [17]  J.-F. Lyotard, "Mémorial pour un marxisme," 118 ["A...[17] of a critique that spared no one (clinging to principles or dogmas was out of the question), of the acknowledgment that the class perspective should likewise spare no one. The group, as Lyotard put it, elaborated "a class point of view without blinders." [18]  J.-F. Lyotard, ibid., 117 [Ibid., 62].[18] In this capacity as critics, they saw an unwavering form of resistance that would remain untouched: "Everything can be coopted – save one thing: our own reflective, critical, autonomous activity," [19]  C. Castoriadis, "La révolution anticipée," 180 ["The...[19] Castoriadis wrote.

11

3. The group worked on a critique of existing socialist practices and discourses, a critique of the perversion of the organs that the workers’ movement had given itself, and the fact that Marxism had become "the dominant idiom" in Russia and "the genre of discourse of the bureaucracy." [20]  J.-F. Lyotard, ibid., 117 [Ibid., 62].[20] The journal’s first issue presented the nature of the "’working-class’ bureaucracy," particularly in its Stalinist form, as "the fundamental problem of our time" [21]  C. Castoriadis (unsigned), "Présentation," in Socialisme...[21] for a revolutionary activist. "SouB" raised the question of the social nature of the USSR. They saw themselves as representing the recognition that the Trotskyist critique of the USSR had its limits, and that it needed to be redone from scratch. Castoriadis’s text, "The Relations of Production in Russia," [22]  C. Castoriadis (as Pierre Chaulieu), "Les relations...[22] is an example of this. Similarly, Lefort undertook the critique of the notion of the "workers’ state," the Trotskyist idea that the Soviet Union could be analyzed as a workers’ state suffering from a bureaucratic deformation, as a "degenerated workers’ state" (i.e. as the temporary result of the struggle between the forces of the proletarian revolution and those of the counter-revolution). [23]  See Claude Lefort, Éléments d’une critique de la bureaucratie...[23] In his view, the USSR was not a workers’ state deformed by a bureaucratic excrescence, but rather a new form of society. Neither was it a regime in decline; on the contrary, all signs were that that state had not only survived the war and was growing stronger, but that its social model was now spreading.

12

This called for an examination of the bureaucratic phenomenon. According to "SouB" and unlike what Trotsky thought, the bureaucracy was not merely an epiphenomenon, a parasitic formation to be eliminated, but had become the dominant class in relation to the proletariat. Because of this, the USSR could not be called socialist. [24]  See C. Castoriadis, "Les rapports de production en...[24] Lefort proved that the bureaucracy had political origins, emphasizing the difference between how the bureaucracy and the bourgeoisie were formed. [25]  C. Lefort, Éléments d’une critique de la bureaucratie....[25]

13

The theoretical consequences of this analysis of the bureaucracy are considerable, for the definition that Marx had given of the dominant class is changed as a result. That class is not so much identified with the ownership of the means of production as with the management of those means. Moreover, the opposition between owners and proletarians is replaced by the opposition between directors and executants. [26]  Sébastien de Diesbach, "Préface," 11.[26]

14

4. "SouB"’s activity has sometimes been reduced to a critique of the existing communist regimes, whereas the group also conducted critiques of Western liberal societies, taking as their object the rationalization of capitalism – which no longer seemed destined to collapse – a rationalization also motivated by the economic growth of the 1960s. In addition, unlike many far-left groups, "SouB" became interested in protest movements in developed countries and in the originality of their content. For example, the group paid close attention to what was taking place in the United States, in sharp contrast to the anti-Americanism of some Marxist organizations. The break with the strictly economic and productivist explanations of orthodox Marxism allowed the group to see the class struggle in operation everywhere, and to become aware of all the struggles against domination (an awareness inherited from the anarchists): those of women, students, currently or formerly colonized countries, etc. If students or populations benefiting from technical advances were driving the struggles against domination in place of the proletariat, this required further study. [27]  C. Lefort, "Le désordre nouveau," 45-81, in Edgar Morin,...[27]

15

5. "SouB" saw itself as a revolutionary group. The objective of their theoretical work was therefore to have an impact on the political and social level, in the tradition of Marx. This work has thus been described as "theoretical-practical activity." Collective action by the masses was the only way to overcome the contradictions of the real. The group’s decisions were based on political motives, not intellectual ones: as a group whose self-image was of an organization working toward worldwide proletarian revolution, their goal was the transformation of social relations. Philippe Gottraux has emphasized in this respect that the contemporary reception of "SouB" is biased, as it limits their work to the sphere of intellectual journals, [28]  P. Gottraux, "Introduction," 9.[28] obscuring their criterion of praxis. The aim of "SouB"’s theoretical output, then, was to incite action, a line of intervention. Nevertheless, one must not associate the group with any anti-intellectual tendencies. For them it was not an either/or choice between the intellectual and the political domains: their theoretical work was in no way contingent. Castoriadis often reiterated this, in particular as a warning to the student movement in 1968: "One cannot overcome […] the sclerosis of dead dogmas by condemning true theoretical reflection." [29]  C. Castoriadis, "La révolution anticipée," 181 ["The...[29]

16

6.There was a form of spontaneism that characterized "SouB," which is why the reference to Rosa Luxemburg was crucial. This "organ of critique and revolutionary orientation" presented itself as an instrument intended for "the avant-garde of manual and intellectual workers." [30]  C. Castoriadis, "Présentation," 2 ["Presentation of...[30] But these internationalist reflections on the guiding ideas for the emancipation of workers did not give the group any desire to lead these struggles. The role "SouB" gave itself was to be attentive to the workers’ own inventiveness, "to provide them with the means to deploy the creativity that is at work in them and the means to become aware of that creativity so as to direct themselves." [31]  J.-F. Lyotard, "Note: Le nom d’Algérie," 34 ["The Name...[31] If one wished to know what the proletariat was doing and what it wanted, one had to seek out the answer within the workers’ struggles, in their workshops. The purpose of the ideas was to encourage creations by the working class itself, through its experience of self-management and direct democracy. A term at the school of workers’ struggles was required. More exactly, to borrow an expression from Lyotard, "the inventive quality of the immediate practice" was "already emancipation." [32]  Ibid.[32]

17

It was a matter of regenerating the framework of the workers’ own guiding ideas, without outside intervention. This was the source of the group’s conflict with Jean-Paul Sartre, but also of their opposition to the classical concept of the "party." The articles on "SouB" in this issue will enable a look back at the all-encompassing alternative theory that Claude Lefort developed on the autonomy of the working class (self-education) in "Proletarian Experience." [33]  C. Lefort, "L’expérience prolétarienne" Socialisme...[33] We must also, of course, turn to the way in which Castoriadis, with "SouB," gradually elaborated his thinking on autonomy, which led him to the idea of the society’s self-institution. But the members of the group were divided on this as well. In particular, the stance of Souyri, "SouB"’s specialist on China, was marked by doubts concerning the emancipatory spontaneity of the masses and political spontaneism in general, for he felt that "the evil done by exploitation" went deep. As Lyotard wrote, "[t]o place confidence in the spontaneity of the masses was, in [Souyri’s] eyes, a bit like counting on the unconscious alone for emancipation from neurosis." [34]  J.-F. Lyotard, "Mémorial pour un marxisme," 128 ["A...[34] This is why Souyri thought that the imperative to listen to workers’ struggles needed to be complemented by the imperative to defend those struggles against the forces that threatened to distort them from within.

18

7. "SouB"’s proposition, then, was to shake up classical Marxism while maintaining a Marxist analytical framework. We may wonder, however, if their rejection of academic Marxism still relied upon Marxist principles or if, in fact, it often required detours beyond Marxism, thereby paving the way for the break some members made with the Marxist analysis of history and society. "SouB"’s work does not constitute a contiguous whole. While the group’s activity from its beginnings to 1958 seems to take place within a Marxist analytical framework, things are much less clear after 1958: there were already signs that some members were preparing to abandon Marxism.

The issues concerning the dissolution

19

The question of the end of the journal’s publication must be distinguished from the theoretical reasons behind the various splits and the motives of those members who simply decided to leave "SouB." In June 1967, more than a year after the last issue (June/August 1965), subscribers received a letter explaining that as a result of the changes in social conditions brought about by the stifling of political conflicts that accompanied De Gaulle’s rise to power, the revolutionary overthrow of society now seemed far off. As "[n]othing allows one to count on a rapid change in this situation," [35]  C. Castoriadis, "The Suspension of Publication of Socialisme...[35] the members therefore chose to put an end to the group and the journal. The protagonists of "SouB" had different ways of expressing their growing suspicion of Marxism: Castoriadis implicated the transformation of Marxism into an ideology, [36]  C. Castoriadis, "Marxisme et théorie révolutionnaire,"...[36] but never gave up on a revolutionary perspective. Lyotard, for his part, diagnosed the end of the grand Marxist narrative of emancipation after distancing himself from any discourse on alienation.

20

Of course, the work of some of "SouB"’s members after the dissolution or their departure from the group, and the discourse they used, probably encourage a distorted view of what "SouB" was. Philippe Gottraux has thus maintained that Castoriadis, Lefort and Lyotard’s later status as intellectuals misrepresents "SouB" by placing the group and the journal in an intellectual context, obscuring the "hands-on" and activist dimensions of their work. But the authors here do not share his interpretation of the group’s dissolution as a political "renunciation" or "disengagement" resulting from the collapse in donations from activists, [37]  P. Gottraux, "Introduction," 163.[37] specifically the "disengagements" of the most famous protagonists of "SouB" who, according to this view, took the "careerist" [38]  P. Gottraux, "Conclusion," 367.[38] route from the group. The interruption of "SouB"’s activism cannot be denied, but in this diagnosis there is often the conclusion that its members abandoned political issues entirely, which is debatable.

21

To put this in perspective, we should remember that Castoriadis never abandoned the revolutionary outlook. In his view, revolution was an integral part of the modern democratic project, to such an extent that giving up on revolution meant giving up on democracy as a historical dynamic. [39]  "De l’autonomie au commun – Sur Cornelius Castoriadis:...[39]

22

Furthermore, we are skeptical of portraying Lefort as someone who turned his back on the revolutionary viewpoint to devote himself to the democratic question. [40]  P. Gottraux, "Introduction" 15.[40] He may indeed have reoriented his perspective toward a critique of totalitarianism. But his critique of bourgeois democracy during his "SouB" period already went hand in hand with a reflection on an alternative form of democracy, as a social form rather than a political one. The concept of "insurgent democracy" designates this challenge toward the omnipotence of power, precisely as it concerns a power in continual search of its foundations.

23

Finally, the idea that Lyotard withdrew from politics or gave up on it appears equally debatable. He put an end to his activism and the Marxist conception he had of it, but the philosophy that he subsequently developed seems eminently political. He saw himself as carrying on the resistance "by other means, on other terrains." [41]  J.-F. Lyotard, "Note: Le nom d’Algérie," 34 ["The Name...[41] If there has been a "depoliticization," Lyotard explains, it is only in the sense that political practice and thinking can no longer take their cues from the grand alternative schemes, the grand narratives of emancipation (such as Marxism). "The task that remains is to work out a conception and a practice completely different from the ones that inspired ’classical’ modernity." [42]  Ibid.[42] This is why he presents his journey as peregrinations "in the space-time of the political." [43]  J.-F. Lyotard, Pérégrinations, 12.[43]

Heirs

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This handful of people who never aligned themselves with a party and who kept their distance from power nevertheless exerted a strong power of attraction. We may discern different kinds of heirs, consequences or legacies of "SouB." First, the spirit of the journal has perhaps been kept alive through other publishing experiences like Libre. [44]  A journal published from 1977 to 1980 whose editors...[44] There should also be an analysis of which political groups were later willing to identify themselves with the spirit of "SouB" or model themselves on it, and also which contemporary theoreticians claim the heritage of "SouB." For example, the fine interview that Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval gave to the journal Vacarme in 2016, "De l’autonomie au commun" ("From Autonomy to the Common") clarifies the sense of the renewal of Castoriadis’s political thought that they put into practice in Common. [45]  Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, Commun: essai sur...[45] In it they demonstrate how the experience of "SouB" inspired their project to "invent, during social movements, places and methods for co-constructing critical knowledge…" [46]  Amador Fernández-Savater, "De l’autonomie au commun:...[46]

25

The question of "SouB"’s relationship to the events of May 1968 must also be addressed. Indeed, to a certain degree, May 1968 marks the flowering of the revolutionary thought of which "SouB" was one of the milestones. Lyotard noted that May was an exception with regard to the group’s stance as silent witnesses. In most cases, "SouB" sought to stay in the background, behind the voices of the workers, except during May 1968: it then appeared on the political stage when the student movement foregrounded some of its concerns, as if to summon and interpellate the group. [47]  J.-F. Lyotard, "Note: Le nom d’Algérie," 36 ["The Name...[47] It is true that May 1968 marked a turning point in the reception or the public awareness of "SouB"’s ideas. As Philippe Gottraux has indicated, the retroactive recognition of the group has experienced two different readings: first, when a segment of the left who had grown more radical in the wake of 1968 highlighted "SouB," then with the spread of their ideas to a wider sphere, though this was a more selective take in a new context, "one promoting ’antitotalitarian thought’…" [48]  P. Gottraux, "Conclusion," 367.[48] When we read the analytical texts of May 1968 written by Morin, Lefort and Castoriadis and compiled in Mai 1968: La brèche [49]  Edgar Morin, Claude Lefort, Cornelius Castoriadis,...[49], we are in fact struck by the convergence between the themes advanced by the student movement and some of the earlier concerns of "SouB," but the authors do not emphasize this (e.g. the desire of the student leaders to be anything but party figureheads, the critical autonomy, self-management, the critique of bureaucracy, parties, unions, etc.) Lyotard did emphasize this convergence in October 1972:

26

To put things in a historical context, the drifting started for me in the early 1950s when I boarded the ship of those fools who published the review Socialisme ou barbarie and the journal Pouvoir Ouvrier, a ship that sank or came to port in 1964-1966 after some fifteen years of navigating the high seas. As is always the case, our ramblings were most wise: we found ourselves, each in their way, on a more or less equal footing with the movement of 68, which seemed to do and say on a grand scale what we had sketched out with words and actions in miniature and through premonitions, and which invented many more beautiful things than we had ever thought of. [50]  Jean-François Lyotard, "Dérives" [October 1972], 5-21,...[50]

27

And yet it is not so easy to identify the spirit of "SouB" with the spirit of May. Or perhaps we could highlight the intrinsic ambivalence of both. In the "Foreword" (December 1979) with which Lyotard precedes the second edition in 1980 of Des dispositifs pulsionnels (1973), which collected texts from 1970 to 1973, Lyotard says a few words about that latent period, stressing the ambivalence of May 1968: "’68 remained suspended on the razor’s edge." [51]  J.-F. Lyotard, "Avertissement," in Des dispositifs...[51] On one side, the event seemed to reawaken the grand modern political narrative of emancipation. But on the other, it was already slipping from the grasp of the grand narratives, pointing the way to a postmodern condition. For Lyotard, "SouB" seemed caught between both, between the continuation of the grand Marxist narrative and the "postmodern" sensitivity to the "intractable."

Retrospections

28

Interestingly, many former activists in "SouB" have taken a look back at that activism. And so we not only have critiques from outside the movement, but also elements of self-criticism from the protagonists themselves. One thinks in particular of the way in which Lefort and Castoriadis each revisited the "SouB" experience in their interviews with L’Anti-Mythes. There are also the texts written by Morin, Castoriadis and Lefort in 1988, 20 years after 1968, published under the title Vingt ans après as a postscript to Mai 1968: La brèche. While they do not discuss "SouB" directly, the comments involve reflections on what a revolutionary movement can be, must be, or has been. We could also mention the texts in which Lyotard recalls his time with "SouB," such as "A Memorial of Marxism" – the text dedicated to Pierre Souyri – or "The Name of Algeria."

29

Regarding "SouB," we may speak of a "retrospection": the expression comes from Jean Hyppolite’s text "Hegel’s Phenomenology and Psychoanalysis," in which he writes that through a "retrospection," one may assert the paradoxical idea of a retroactive influence by Freud on Hegel. But the retrospection undertaken personally by the former protagonists of "SouB" raises difficulties. For example, in "A Memorial of Marxism," first published in 1982, Lyotard emphasized that to pay true homage to Souyri, one had to "write the history, in Marxist terms, of the radical Marxist current to which he belonged, and in particular the history of the group which published in France the journal Socialisme ou Barbarie, and subsequently the newspaper Pouvoir Ouvrier." [52]  J.-F. Lyotard, "Mémorial pour un marxisme," 91 ["A...[52] But the language in which to write that history was no longer his, as he had long suspected "Marxism’s ability to express the changes of the contemporary world." [53]  J.-F. Lyotard, ibid., 49].[53] If he made the attempt, he would not want to "add a useless political imposture to the inevitable betrayal by memory." [54]  J.-F. Lyotard, ibid., 95 [Ibid., 47].[54] The question of how to express the content of "SouB" remains relevant today.

Notes

[1] Jean-François Lyotard, "Mémorial pour un marxisme: à Pierre Souyri," in Pérégrinations (Paris, Éditions Galilée, 1990), 121 ["A Memorial of Marxism: For Pierre Souyri," trans. Cecile Lindsay, in Peregrinations (New York, Columbia University Press, 1988), 65].

[2] Miguel Abensour, La Communauté politique des "tous uns," Entretien avec Michel Énaudeau (Paris, Éditions des Belles Lettres, 2014), 14.

[3] Philippe Gottraux, "Socialisme ou barbarie": Un engagement politique et intellectuel dans la France de l’après-guerre (Lausanne, Éditions Payot, 1997), 7, 16.

[4] Sébastien de Diesbach, "Préface," in "Socialisme ou Barbarie": Anthologie (La Bussière, Acratie, 2007).

[5] See P. Gottraux, ibid.

[6] J.-F. Lyotard, "Note: Le nom d’Algérie," in La Guerre des Algériens, Écrits 1956-1963 (Paris, Éditions Galilée, 1989), 33 ["The Name of Algeria," in Political Writings, trans. Bill Readings and Kevin Paul Geiman (London, UCL Press Limited, 1993), 165].

[7] J.-F. Lyotard, "Mémorial pour un marxisme," 118 ["A Memorial of Marxism," 62].

[8] See "Socialisme ou barbarie"Anthologie: grèves ouvrières en France (1953-1957) (Mauléon, Acratie, 1985).

[9] Cornelius Castoriadis, "La révolution anticipée" (1968), in La société française (Paris, Éditions 10/18, 1979), 181 ["The Anticipated Revolution," in Political and Social Writings, Volume 3, 1961-1979Recommencing the Revolution: From Socialism to the Autonomous Society, trans. and ed. David Ames Curtis (Minneapolis / London, University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 133].

[10] J.-F. Lyotard, "Mémorial pour un marxisme," 112-114 ["A Memorial of Marxism," 58-60]. See C. Castoriadis, "Marxisme et théorie révolutionnaire," in L’Institution imaginaire de la société (Paris, Éditions du Seuil, 1975), 26 ["Marxism and Revolutionary Theory," in The Imaginary Institution of Society, trans. Kathleen Blarney (Malden, MA / Cambridge UK, Polity Press, 1987), 18-19]. The text was first published in SouB from April 1964 to June 1965, in issues 36 to 40.

[11] C.Castoriadis, "La révolution anticipée," 195 ["The Anticipated Revolution," 141].

[12] J.-F. Lyotard, ibid. 95-96 [Ibid., 47].

[13] J.-F. Lyotard, "Touches," Pérégrinations, 40 ["Touches," Peregrinations, 17].

[14] Pierre Souyri, Le Marxisme après Marx (Paris, Éditions Flammarion, 1970), 22.

[15] J.-F. Lyotard, "La situation en Afrique du Nord," in La Guerre des Algériens: Écrits 1956-1963 (Paris, Éditions Galilée, 1989), 46 ["The Situation in North Africa," in Political Writings, trans. Bill Readings and Kevin Paul Geiman (London, UCL Press Limited, 1993), 174].

[16] Maurice Merleau-Ponty, "Autour du marxisme," in Sens et non-sens [1948], (Paris, Éditions Nagel, 1966), 218 ["Concerning Marxism," in Sense and Non-Sense, ed. and trans. Hubert L. Dreyfus and Patricia Allen Dreyfus (Evanston IL, Northwestern University Press, 1964), 124].

[17] J.-F. Lyotard, "Mémorial pour un marxisme," 118 ["A Memorial of Marxism," 62].

[18] J.-F. Lyotard, ibid., 117 [Ibid., 62].

[19] C. Castoriadis, "La révolution anticipée," 180 ["The Anticipated Revolution," 132].

[20] J.-F. Lyotard, ibid., 117 [Ibid., 62].

[21] C. Castoriadis (unsigned), "Présentation," in Socialisme ou Barbarie 1 (March/April 1949): 1 ["Presentation of Socialisme ou Barbarie: An Organ of Critique and Revolutionary Orientation (1949)," in The Castoriadis Reader, ed. and trans. David Ames Curtis (Malden MA / Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 35].

[22] C. Castoriadis (as Pierre Chaulieu), "Les relations de production en Russie," in Socialisme ou Barbarie 2 (May/June 1949): 1-66 ["The Relations of Production in Russia," in Political and Social Writings, Volume 1, 1946-1955From the Critique of Bureaucracy to the Positive Content of Socialism, trans. and ed. David Ames Curtis (Minneapolis / London, University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 107-158].

[23] See Claude Lefort, Éléments d’une critique de la bureaucratie (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1971) [partly translated in The Political Forms of Modern Society: Bureaucracy, Democracy, Totalitarianism, ed. John B. Thompson, trans. Thompson, Alan Sheridan, and Terry Karten (Cambridge MA, MIT Press, 1986)].

[24] See C. Castoriadis, "Les rapports de production en Russie" ["The Relations of Production in Russia"].

[25] C. Lefort, Éléments d’une critique de la bureaucratie. See also Bernard Flynn, La Philosophie politique de Claude Lefort (Paris, Éditions Belin, 2012), 298.

[26] Sébastien de Diesbach, "Préface," 11.

[27] C. Lefort, "Le désordre nouveau," 45-81, in Edgar Morin, Claude Lefort, Cornelius Castoriadis, Mai 68: La brèche, suivi de Vingt ans après (Paris, Éditions Fayard, 2008), 49.

[28] P. Gottraux, "Introduction," 9.

[29] C. Castoriadis, "La révolution anticipée," 181 ["The Anticipated Revolution," 133].

[30] C. Castoriadis, "Présentation," 2 ["Presentation of Socialisme ou Barbarie," 36].

[31] J.-F. Lyotard, "Note: Le nom d’Algérie," 34 ["The Name of Algeria," 166].

[32] Ibid.

[33] C. Lefort, "L’expérience prolétarienne" Socialisme ou Barbarie 11 (November/December 1952): 1-19 [“Proletarian Experience (1952),” trans. Stephen Hastings-King, viewpointmag.com, n.p., 26 September 2013, Web, 11 November 2019].

[34] J.-F. Lyotard, "Mémorial pour un marxisme," 128 ["A Memorial of Marxism," 69].

[35] C. Castoriadis, "The Suspension of Publication of Socialisme ou Barbarie," in Political and Social Writings, Volume 3, 120. [The scan of the original letter may be downloaded from soubscan.org]

[36] C. Castoriadis, "Marxisme et théorie révolutionnaire," 15 ["Marxism and Revolutionary Theory," 11].

[37] P. Gottraux, "Introduction," 163.

[38] P. Gottraux, "Conclusion," 367.

[39] "De l’autonomie au commun – Sur Cornelius Castoriadis: Entretien avec Pierre Dardot et Christian Laval," Vacarme (June 2016).

[40] P. Gottraux, "Introduction" 15.

[41] J.-F. Lyotard, "Note: Le nom d’Algérie," 34 ["The Name of Algeria," 166].

[42] Ibid.

[43] J.-F. Lyotard, Pérégrinations, 12.

[44] A journal published from 1977 to 1980 whose editors included Castoriadis and Lefort as well as Pierre Clastres and Miguel Abensour [translator’s note].

[45] Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, Commun: essai sur la révolution au XXIe siècle (Paris, Éditions La Découverte, 2014) [Common: On Revolution in the 21st Century, trans. Matthew MacLellan (New York / London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2019).

[46] Amador Fernández-Savater, "De l’autonomie au commun: Sur Cornelius Castoriadis," interview with Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, vacarme.org, n.p., 10 June 2016, Web 12 November 2019.

[47] J.-F. Lyotard, "Note: Le nom d’Algérie," 36 ["The Name of Algeria," 167].

[48] P. Gottraux, "Conclusion," 367.

[49] Edgar Morin, Claude Lefort, Cornelius Castoriadis, Mai 68: La brèche, suivi de Vingt ans après (Paris, Éditions Fayard, 2008). See also the analysis of May 1968 that Lyotard offered 20 years later, "À l’insu" [1988], Moralités postmodernes (Paris, Éditions Galilée, 2005) ["Unbeknownst," trans. James Creech and Georges van den Abbeele, in Community at Loose Ends, ed. the Miami Theory Collective (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1991)].

[50] Jean-François Lyotard, "Dérives" [October 1972], 5-21, Dérive à partir de Marx et Freud (Paris: Éditions 10/18, 1973), 11.

[51] J.-F. Lyotard, "Avertissement," in Des dispositifs pulsionnels (Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1980), 1 [Translator’s note: a translated excerpt from the foreword can be found in the translation of Herman Parret’s preface to Lyotard’s L’assassinat de l’expérience par la peinture, Monory. See "Preface," trans. Peter W. Milne, in The Assassination of Experience by Painting, Monory (Leuven, Leuven University Press, 2013), 30].

[52] J.-F. Lyotard, "Mémorial pour un marxisme," 91 ["A Memorial of Marxism," 45].

[53] J.-F. Lyotard, ibid., 49].

[54] J.-F. Lyotard, ibid., 95 [Ibid., 47].

Outline

  1. Some dates5
  2. The "SouB" Project
    1. The issues concerning the dissolution
    2. Heirs
    3. Retrospections