Éric Aeschimann's interview with Sophie Wahnich was first published in L'obs on 23 March. Translated by David Broder.
From Danton (1983).
The last time that the French Revolution was the object of real public discussion was in 1989, with the bicentennial ceremonies staged by François Mitterrand, Jack Lang, and Jean-Paul Goude. Since then, there has been silence. Who today still refers to the Tennis Court Oath, the night of 4 August, the vote on the "Declaration of the Rights of Man" in 1793? At the Elysée [presidential place], 14 July has become the occasion for a presidential chatter where we speak more of political rehashes than of any revolutionary vision. And when leaders or intellectuals refer to the nation’s history, they cite the Resistance, the Popular Front, the Third Republic’s laws on laïcité and schooling, or even the Enlightenment. Rarely 1789. One exception was Manuel Valls’s allusion… to Marianne’s naked breasts. But things are starting to move. In autumn the philosopher Jean-Claude Milner published Rélire la Révolution, where he rehabilitates the project of universal justice asserted by the Revolution by way of the 1793 "Declaration of the Rights of Man." At the Amandiers theatre, Joël Pommerat has staged Ça ira (1) Fin de Louis, first part of a far-reaching depiction of the Constituent Assembly, which has encountered quite an echo around France. In June the film-maker Pierre Schoeller (L’Exercice de l’Etat) will shoot a film on this subject.
Most importantly, the Arab revolutions and the square occupations à la Indignados have shown that the time of popular movements may return. And together with this, crucial questions: how to avoid one-upmanship, chaos, violence? How to avoid returning to a worse state than before? The men of 1789 confronted these dilemmas already; it might be useful to see how they responded to them.
Sophie Wahnich argues we need to expand the notion of civil war to include the whole set of social and political practices that destroy the social bond. Since market relations destroy sociability, we must unfailingly turn our attention to those who are falling through the cracks. First published in Libération. Translated by David Broder.
Eddie Constantine as Lemmy Caution in Alphaville (1965).
In Alphaville — imagined by Jean-Luc Godard in 1965 — the city’s all-powerful master Professor von Braun has abolished human feelings. A computer, Alpha 60, governs the whole city. The secret agent Lemmy Caution is charged with "destroying Alpha 60...and saving those who weep."
Stendhal wrote cela [that] with a double l, which got him in trouble when he was working as a functionary at the War Ministry. In fact, he was no good at literature when he was studying, and his goal was to enter the École polytechnique — like Octave in his Armance, as well as his Lucien Leuwen. His whole life, he wrote in an unreadable spidery scrawl with countless errors – so much so that he had to dictate The Charterhouse of Parma. He did so in seven weeks, which is pretty quick for what is not a thin volume. Sainte-Beuve found Stendhal’s novels "frankly detestable." He could not stand Balzac, to the point that he refused to attend a dinner where he risked meeting him. He really liked Baudelaire, however, finding him a to be "nice boy, fine in his language and entirely classical in form." Balzac would have loved to be in the Académie française, but when he presented himself as a candidate he only got four votes, and it was instead the Duke of Noailles who was chosen to replace Chateaubriand. Baudelaire had also thought of putting himself forward, and when he withdrew his candidacy, Sainte-Beuve congratulated him on having left "a good impression."
Before Marx, there was Blanqui; born 212 years ago today. Below, historian Doug Enaa Greene — author of the forthcoming Specters of Communism: Blanqui and Marx — surveys the life and thought of the French radical. In Spring 2018, Verso will publish a collection of Blanqui's writings.
Karl Marx claimed that Louis-Auguste Blanqui was the “man whom I have always regarded as the brains and inspiration of the proletarian party in France.” Although largely forgotten today, there was a time when revolutionaries throughout the world viewed this nineteenth century French political prisoner as a central figure and hero of revolutionary socialism. In this time of so much political backsliding and compromise, it is worth looking at the life of Blanqui.
227 years ago today the people of Paris stormed the gates of the Bastille and in doing so starting one of the most momentous occasions of the French Revolution. To celebrate Bastille day, we bring you this short extract from Eric Hazan's People's History of the French Revolution in which Eric discusses the events of July 14th 1789.