Bensaid_-_impatient_life-max_221 more images image

An Impatient Life: A Memoir

“France’s leading Marxist public intellectual.” –Tariq Ali

A philosopher and activist, eager to live according to ideals forged in study and discussion, Daniel Bensaïd was a man deeply entrenched in both the French and the international left. Raised in a staunchly red neighbourhood of Toulouse, where his family owned a bistro, he grew to be France’s leading Marxist public intellectual, much in demand on talk shows and in the press. A lyrical essayist and powerful public speaker, at his best expounding large ideas to crowds of students and workers, he was a founder member of the Ligue Communiste and thrived at the heart of a resurgent far left in the 1960s, which nurtured many of the leading figures of today’s French establishment.

The path from the joyous explosion of May 1968, through the painful experience of defeat in Latin America and the world-shaking collapse of the USSR, to the neoliberal world of today, dominated as it is by global finance, is narrated in An Impatient Life with Bensaïd’s characteristic elegance of phrase and clarity of vision. His memoir relates a life of ideological and practical struggle, a never-resting endeavour to comprehend the workings of capitalism in the pursuit of revolution.

Reviews

  • “France’s leading Marxist public intellectual.”
  • “Daniel’s death is like a wound, not a sadness. A loss which leaves us heavier. However, this weight is the opposite of a burden; it is a message composed, not with words, but with decisions and acts and injuries.”
  • “Daniel Bensaïd was my ‘distant companion’ ... With his disappearance, the intellectual, activist, political, and what we might call, even though the adjective is today obscure in meaning, ‘revolutionary’ world has changed.”
  • “His ideological fervour comes through in the memoir. Part autobiography, part activist’s logbook, and part political treatise, it’s the story of how a working-class boy went on to co-found a party that twice participated in French presidential elections, and became a leader of the Fourth International, the global organisation of Trotskyist followers.”
  • “This absorbing, affecting memoir is a beautiful testament to a richly productive and dignified life...this is an energising book, a book that reminds us of the rightness of refusing the inevitability of capitalism and war, of the promise of international solidarity and socialism, of our responsibility to all those who have made sacrifices in this struggle.”
  • “Bensaïd crafts each chapter with a painter’s hand, stroke by stroke, offering us musings, vignettes, and reflections that are intricately argued, sometimes speculative, and always subtly insightful.”
  • “From love to Leninism, journalism to Jewishness, Bensaïd always has something interesting and original to say.”
  • “An honest, and often moving, chronicle of a revolutionary life in unrevolutionary times.”

Blog

  • Philosophy and Revolution: from Kant to Marx — an interview with Stathis Kouvelakis

    To mark the publication of La Fabrique's new edition of Philosophy and Revolution: from Kant to MarxRévolution Permanente spoke with Stathis Kouvelakis about his 2003 book. Translated by David Broder.  


    Stathis Kouvelakis, 2015. via Youtube.

    Stathis, could you introduce yourself to those who do not know you already? What is your experience as a militant?

    Stathis Kouvelakis: Since 2002 I have taught political philosophy at King’s College London, but my own university education was in France. In terms of my militant record, since my high school days I was active in the anti-capitalist radical Left in Greece and then in France. In 1981 I joined the youth organisation of what was called the Greek Communist Party "Interior," a current that subsequently participated as one of the components that founded Syriza. I also took part in Syriza’s leadership bodies between 2012 and 2015, and then left that party, together with thousands of other militants and cadres, when Alexis Tsipras shamefully capitulated to the diktat from the lenders’ Troika. Subsequently I participated in the foundation of Popular Unity — a formation I am still part of — which rallies the forces that came out of the left wing of Syriza and part of the far-Left coalition Antarsya.

    Continue Reading

  • Tariq Ali: 'A Letter from Atlantis'

    Today marks the sixth anniversary of the death of Daniel Bensaïd, one of the most gifted French Marxists of his generation. In this extract from the foreword to Daniel's autobiography, An Impatient Life, Tariq Ali reflects upon his life and thought.



    Successful revolutions always try to reproduce themselves. They usually fail. Napoleon carried the Enlightenment on the end of a bayonet, but English reaction, Spanish nationalism and Russian absolutism, finally defeated him. The triumphant Bolsheviks, disgusted by social-democratic capitulation at the advent of the First World War, orchestrated a split within the working class and formed the Communist International to extend the victory in Petrograd to the entire world. They were initially more successful than the French. Premature uprisings wrecked the revolution in Germany, destroying its finest leaders – Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht and many others – and driving the German landed and bourgeois elite into Hitler’s embrace. In Spain, a united front of the European fascist powers (passively assisted by Britain and France) brought Franco to power. In France and Italy, the Communist platoons grew into huge battalions during the Second World War and excercised an unchallenged hegemony within the working class for three decades, but without any meaningful strategy to dismantle capital- ism. Here the close alliance with the narrowly defined needs of the Soviet state precluded any such possibility. Communists in China and Vietnam proved more successful, for a while. The Cuban revolution, the last till now, was no exception. Its leaders, too, were convinced that careful organisation and a handful of armed cadres could succeed anywhere in South America. It was a tragic error, costing the lives of Che Guevara and hundreds of others across the continent.

    Continue Reading

  • Keeping the faith: Bensaïd's An Impatient Life reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement

    For Sudhir Hazareesingh, Daniel Bensaïd's An Impatient Life represents both a lucid overview of the French intellectual and political scene since the 1960s, and a tribute to the qualities that defined Bensaïd throughout his life: "an unflinching internationalism; a sensual libertarianism ... and a quasi-mystical faith in the redemptive potential of revolutionary action." This review was originally published in the Times Literary Supplement (20 May 2015).


    Continue Reading

Other books by Daniel Bensaïd Translated by David Fernbach Foreword by Tariq Ali

Other books of interest