2 files

Old Left against New Left: the internal debates about the future of Marxism in the radical Left periodicals Socialisme ou Barbarie and Pouvoir Ouvrier (1958-1969)

posted on 30.11.2020, 14:08 by Christophe Premat

It might be irrelevant to associate periodicals like Socialisme ou Barbarie or Pouvoir Ouvrier to the expressions of New Left movements in the 1950s and the 1960s. In fact, these periodicals (Pouvoir ouvrier was a published as an additional periodical that completed Socialisme ou Barbarie) contribute to a diversity of movements that criticized Marxist ideologies and regimes. It is why they could be considered as expressions of the New Left in a radical perspective. Furthermore, these periodicals promoted early the ideas of self-organization that would be important in the French Left organizations in the seventies. This presentation is a part of a conference that was organized the 27th of November 2020 and whose topic was "L'Europa radicale - Riviste e intellettuali tra Sinistra e Nuova Sinistra 1958-1968"

The revolutionary group and periodical Socialisme ou Barbarie was created as dissident group inside the Fourth International in 1948. Founded by Cornelius Castoriadis and Claude Lefort, they deeply criticized the development of USSR that they perceived as a bureaucratic State that contradicted the Proletarian Revolution. For the members of Socialisme ou Barbarie (called « sociaux-barbares » in French), the Trotskyist diagnosis (The USSR as a degenerated worker State) misinterpreted the deep nature of the Soviet Union. The left libertarian periodical existed until 1965 whereas the group continued to exist in 1967. Two splits had an impact on the existence of the group Socialisme ou Barbarie, the first one happened in 1958 about the interpretation of the meaning of the Algerian war. Claude Lefort left the group with a few comrades (Henri Simon) and created the periodical Informations et Liaisons Ouvrières that became Informations et Correspondances Ouvrières. In 1959, a parallel periodical, Pouvoir ouvrier, was initiated by some members of Socialisme ou Barbarie. The second split was made in 1962 with the debate between two tendencies, the Tendency around Castoriadis who wanted to accentuate the rupture with Marxism and the Antitendency that wanted to focus on the future of the Proletarian Revolution. The split resulted in the departure of Jean-François Lyotard in 1964. Our hypothesis is that the deep debate between the Tendency/Antitendency was on the nature of the revolutionary language to adopt. This debate is all the more interesting as it explained the self-dissolution of the group Socialisme ou Barbarie in 1967. Is it possible to create a new language of the Left outside references to Marxism ? We will compare the outlines of the periodicals Socialisme ou Barbarie and Pouvoir ouvrier to analyze the details of this misunderstanding.


Original language


Affiliation (institution of first SU-affiliated author)

165 Romanska och klassiska institutionen | Department of Romance Studies and Classics