France mourns anti-com­mu­nist philoso­pher Glucks­mann

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

PARIS: French philoso­pher An­dre Glucks­mann, a for­mer Maoist who veered to the right af­ter con­demn­ing the crimes of com­mu­nism, has died at the age of 78, his son said yes­ter­day.

The pas­sion­ately po­lit­i­cal thinker rose to promi­nence in the 1970s along­side Bernard-Henri Levy as one of France’s “New Philoso­phers”, who broke with Marx­ism af­ter street protests brought the coun­try to the brink of rev­o­lu­tion in 1968. “My first and best friend is no more,” wrote Raphael Glucks­mann on Face­book, de­scrib­ing his fa­ther as “a good and ex­cel­lent man”.

Strongly in­flu­enced by the Rus­sian dis­si­dent Alexan­der Solzhen­it­syn’s ac­count of his time as a po­lit­i­cal pris­oner in “The Gu­lag Ar­chi­pel­ago”, Glucks­mann railed against Soviet to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism in his book “The Cook and the Can­ni­bal” (1975), set­ting him on a col­li­sion course with left-wing ex­is­ten­tial­ist in­tel­lec­tu­als led by Jean-Paul Sartre.

But de­spite their dif­fer­ences, Glucks­mann man­aged to per­suade Sartre to join with France’s then lead­ing right-wing thinker Ray­mond Aron in cam­paign­ing for the Viet­namese “boat peo­ple” as they fled its com­mu­nist regime in their thou­sands in 1979.

His friend, the writer and philoso­pher Pas­cal Bruck­ner, who has fol­lowed a sim­i­lar path from left to right, told French ra­dio that Glucks­mann would be re­mem­bered for “de­liv­er­ing the stag­ger­ing blow against com­mu­nist think­ing in France.

“At the time he had an enor­mous num­ber of en­e­mies, of peo­ple op­pos­ing him, but he held on,” he said. “His ideas weren’t just pass­ing thoughts, they were real en­gage­ments which he phys­i­cally stuck to every day.” Levy, known in France as BHL, said he had been shaken by his death. “He was the only one of my con­tem­po­raries with whom I had the feel­ing of shar­ing the same fears about the world,” he told AFP.

Sur­vived Nazi oc­cu­pa­tion

Hav­ing sur­vived as a Jewish child in Nazi-oc­cu­pied France-a trauma which he re­counted in his 2006 book “A Child’s Rage”Glucks­mann be­came an ad­vo­cate of in­ter­na­tional mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion, ac­cus­ing the West of of­ten “de­lib­er­ate blind­ness” to the evils around it. He later sup­ported USled in­va­sions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and lob­bied on be­half of Chechen Mus­lims dur­ing their war with the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment in the 1990s, later warn­ing against Euro­pean ap­pease­ment of Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

“Reck­less­ness and for­get­ful­ness cre­ate the con­di­tions for new catas­tro­phes in both the econ­omy and politics,” he said. French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande paid trib­ute to Glucks­mann, who died on Mon­day, de­scrib­ing him as a man who “car­ried in him all the dra­mas of the 20th cen­tury... and spent all his life and in­tel­lec­tual train­ing in the ser­vice of lib­erty.”

With his pud­ding-bowl hair­cut, he was an in­stantly rec­og­niz­able face on France’s late-night tele­vi­sion dis­cus­sion pro­grams, and one of the coun­try’s most promi­nent pub­lic in­tel­lec­tu­als.

But ill with can­cer, he ap­peared less and less in pub­lic af­ter the pub­li­ca­tion of “The Novel of the Uni­ver­sal Jew” in 2011. “He had sev­eral can­cers, and he re­ally bat­tled,” one of his pub­lish­ers said yes­ter­day. De­spite still claim­ing to be “of the left”, Glucks­mann pub­licly sup­ported Ni­co­las Sarkozy’s suc­cess­ful bid for the French pres­i­dency in 2007. Sarkozy said yes­ter­day that he had been “hon­ored by his friend­ship” and said the philoso­pher had never al­lowed his “think­ing to be pris­oner to ide­o­log­i­cal dic­tats”.

For­mer socialist cul­ture min­is­ter Jack Lang said that while he of­ten dis­agreed with Glucks­mann, as the son of Cen­tral Euro­pean refugees who had fled to France, he was al­ways a fear­less de­fender of the weak. “The way a good part of West­ern so­ci­ety is now be­hav­ing to­wards the mi­grants is sim­i­lar to what he at­tacked with re­gard to the boat peo­ple,” he said. — AFP

French writer and philoso­pher An­dre Glucks­mann. — AFP

HAM­BURG: Picture taken on Oc­to­ber 26, 2007 shows for­mer Ger­man chan­cel­lors Ger­hard Schroeder and Hel­mut Sch­midt dur­ing the first day of the So­cial Demo­cratic Party (SPD) congress in Ham­burg. For­mer West Ger­man chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Sch­midt died yes­ter­day aged 96, his doc­tor told news agency DPA. — AFP

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