Sartre & God (was Re: the mature Marx?)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Dec 25 08:50:19 MST 2000

George wrote:
>thanks for this information on Sartre for some reason, I could not access
>the link in your message.
>i am trying to write an article on Sartre's interviews during the 1970s,
>including the interviews with Benni Levi. after Sartre lost his ability to
>edit what he had written in  1973 because of his blindness, he thought that
>the interview might serve as a new form of writing. this experiment ended
>with Hope Now, the interviews with Levi. I should say that this book is a
>fraction of the interviews they did together. these interviews should be
>read in relation to his other interviews of the 70s.

We had an extremely bright graduate student named Daniel O'Connell who used
to be subbed here until the pressures of philosophy course work and
dissertation got in the way (I'd like to think that school work got in the
way of the discussions taking place here, which are much more useful in the
long run.) He came to Marxism in the most unusual fashion. During the war
in Kosovo, he came to the conclusion that western propaganda was filled
with lies. In a desperate attempt to try to understand how such things were
possible (my own experience mirrored his, except it was the war in
Vietnam), he read a popular pamphlet by Sartre on the need for socialism.
Although his Marxism evolved into a more classical version, he never
stopped admiring Sartre as this post from the archives should indicate. It
was prompted by an earlier crossposting of the Said piece that Yoshie just


The Said article is interesting but, ultimately, it's criticisms strike me
as rather  fatuous: Since he was visiting Sartre in 1979, the year before
his death, Said's  leveling of criticisms vis-a-vis Algeria/Palestine seems
like visiting one's somewhat-  senile grandfather in a nursing home when
you are 25 and then badmouthing him to  anyone who will listen because he
didn't take you on his knee and explain the world to  you like he did when
you were 8.

Like it or not, in 1979, Sartre (still the Sartre of "Anti-Semite and Jew")
couldn't  have cared less about the Palestinians: If you were a person of
his generation in  France (born in 1905 as he was, and having lived through
WWII), you would be inclined  toward the Zionist position, whether out of
guilt or because of a subtle (seperatist)  racism.

What is more, at that time in his life, I doubt there was much he cared
about. He was  pretty far gone, and it sounds like Benny Levy and the
others organized the conference  and, through the help of de Beauvoir and
Elkaim-Sartre, secured Sartre's totemic  presence at it. It would have been
better if Said would have simply related his  experience of meeting Sartre,
perhaps lamented his condition and the way he was so  obviously being
manipulated by those around him, and refrained from criticizing him
directly for matters in which any observer could have told you he bore no
(or very  little) responsibility.

After all, that's the real story of the last few years of Sartre's
life---the extent  to which he was manipulated by those around him. Perhaps
that's why it's taking Tito  Gerassi so long to write volume II of his

I would eagerly welcome some substantive discussion of Sartre as a Marxist
(though  I'll have to hold off for a week or so while I finish up a paper
I'm working on, the  deadline for which is June 5.) Where would you want to
start? I haven't read "The  Critique of Dialectical Reason" all the way
through, but we might start with his early  article in Les Temps Modernes
called (if I remember rightly) "Marxism and Materialism"  or something like
that. I'll look up the reference on that at the library this  afternoon.

If there is to be a discussion, I think it might help to get it off the
ground if we  either looked at a specific passage in his work or posed a
very pointed question that  could be answered by reference to his writings
and speeches. What did you have in mind  as a starting point, Jim? Could
you be more specific?



Louis Proyect
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