[Marxism] A biographical memoir of Ernest Mandel during the second world war

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Wed Aug 11 16:18:29 MDT 2004

Thought I would post this historical reference for interested people:

Jan Willem Stutje, "Ernest Mandels kleine oorlog. Revolutionaire socialisten
in bezettingstijd, 1940-1945" (The Little War of Ernest Mandel. Socialist
revolutionaries during the Occupation, 1940-45) in: Cahiers d'Histoire du
Temps présent (CHTP) / Bijdragen tot de Eigentijdse Geschiedenis (BEG) N°
12, 2003. Article in Dutch - Summary in English

This article sheds light on one aspect of the obscurity which has hitherto
surrounded the life of Ernest Mandel (1923-1995). It explains the origins,
youth and adolescence of a man who as an activist and as an academic figure
became one of the most widely-read Marxist authors of the second half of the
twentieth century. Mandel, became an icon for the generation of the 1960s,
whose influence extended far beyond the Fourth International, the Trotskyist
tendency to which he had belonged since his youth, and which was both
scorned and opposed by the conservative rulers in the West and by their
equivalents on the others side of the Iron Curtain.

In his old age, Mandel liked to describe himself as "a Flemish
internationalist of Jewish origins", a self-definition which fitted well
into Isaac Deutscher's famous paradigm of the non-Jewish Jew and which
expressed the attitude of a non-conformist who existed on the frontier lines
of different civilisations and national cultures and whose ideas transcended
those of his own personal circumstances. This article describes how his
parental milieu, and that of the Jewish political emigres with whom he came
into contact at the end of the 1930s, contributed to the political and
intellectual formation of this non-conformist figure, who combined within
himself "comrade Shylock" and "comrade Uilenspiegel".

In addition, this article also contributes to an understanding of the
development of the Trotskyist resistance during the years of German
occupation of Belgium. Despite his young age, Mandel played a leading role
within this resistance, which is worthy of attention, less perhaps on the
basis of its small numerical size, than because of its ideas and
political-intellectual debate. This account enables one to appreciate how
Mandel and Abraham Léon gave a new impetus to the Trotskyist movement in
Belgium, and how they strove to integrate it into a broader national
resistance. Moreover, the article seeks to measure the significance of their
contribution to the debate about war and revolution, issues that were also
being debated by Trotskyists elsewhere in Europe.

But Mandel and his colleagues had an impact not only through their ideas,
but also through their acts of organisation and resistance. Many were
arrested, tortured and deported during the occupation. Mandel shared this
fate. Twice he escaped from imprisonment, but each time the police succeeded
in recapturing him. As a Jew, a Communist and a Trotskyist, there were three
reasons to kill him; and yet he survived. This article seeks to explain how
what seems impossible was in fact possible.

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