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Sartre Against Stalinism
Ian H. Birchall
256 pages, bibliog., index
ISBN 978-1-57181-621-4 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (June 2004)
ISBN 978-1-57181-542-2 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (June 2004)
eISBN 978-1-78238-973-6 eBook
"…this is a worthy analysis of the dangerous and ambiguous political liaisons of an important twentieth-century thinker. The argument is persuasive in showing that the subject of this book was separate and apart from what E.P. Thopson stigmatised as the 'shambles' of the 'tenacious posthumous Stalinism of the French Communist intelligentsia'" Labour History
"... an outstanding contribution to Sartre studies. There is nothing quite like it, and Birchall's scholarship is formidable ... The author has an impressive mastery of his topic, the deep intellectual and political background needed for this study, and has gone into the many sources needed to answer his questions." Ron Aronson, Wayne State University
"Th[e] understanding and separation of different elements of the French left is one of the strengths of Birchall's book ... [It] provides a useful and accessible historical analysis of Sartre's writing and politics, and offers a full, convincing and critical account of why Sartre should be reclaimed to an anti-Stalinist position…As a clear outline of Sartre’s relation to the French left Sartre Against Stalinism is an interesting and informative read." International Socialism
"The question of what kind of politics and what kind of organisation the movement needs is practical and urgent. [This] account of Sartre as a fighter for freedom – however flawed a fighter – is timely and invaluable.” Socialist Review
Most critics of the political evolution of Jean-Paul Sartre have laid emphasis on his allegedly sympathetic and uncritical attitude to Stalinist Communism due, to a large extent, to their equation of Marxism with Stalinism. It is true that Sartre was guilty of many serious misjudgements with regard to the USSR and the French Communist Party. But his relationship with the Marxist Left was much more complex and co tradictory than most accounts admit. This book offers a political defence of Sartre and shows how, from a relatively apolitical stance in the 1930s, Sartre became increasingly involved in the politics of the Left; though he always distrusted Stalinism, he was sometimes driven to ally himself with it because of the force of its argument.
Ian H. Birchall, formerly Senior Lecturer in French at Middlesex University, is now an independent writer. His books include The Spectre of Babeuf (1997). He has written numerous articles and reviews in academic and political journals, especially on French literature, Sartre and on the history of socialism, and has translated works by Victor Serge and Alfred Rosmer. He is a member of the Socialist Workers Party.