Alain Badiou, the Maoist Investigation, and the Party-Form

in Historical Materialism
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As scholarly interest in the experience of French Maoism has been undergoing something of a renaissance, it is unsurprising that the Maoist practice of investigations has elicited varying degrees of attention in recent years. But this attention has tended to be subsumed within, if not overshadowed by, much broader historical and exegetical undertakings. This paper seeks to redress this limitation in the literature by focusing on the lengthiest and most detailed summary of Maoist investigations among peasants in the French countryside, The Book of Poor Peasants, published by Alain Badiou’s Group for the Foundation of the Union of Communists of France Marxist-Leninist (ucfml) in 1976. This book vividly demonstrates the difficulties and limitations associated with the practice of investigations. It thus affords a more critical appreciation of this practice. The book also casts Badiou’s shift toward a ‘politics without party’ in a new light.

Alain Badiou, the Maoist Investigation, and the Party-Form

in Historical Materialism

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References

ArtièresPhilippe ArtièresPhilippeBertJean-FrançoisGrosFrédéricRevelJudith ‘Militer ensemble: Entretien avec Danielle Rancière’ Michel Foucault 2011 Paris Éditions de l’Herne

BadiouAlain Théorie de la Contradiction 1975 Paris François Maspero

BadiouAlain HallwardPeter Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil 2001a [1998] London Verso

BadiouAlain ‘Politics and Philosophy: An Interview with Alain Badiou’ 2001b Badiou 2001a.

BadiouAlain Peut-on penser la politique? 2008 [1985] Paris Seuil

BadiouAlain MaceyDavidCorcoranSteve The Communist Hypothesis 2010 London Verso

BadiouAlain BosteelsBruno Theory of the Subject 2013 London Bloomsbury Academic

BosteelsBruno ‘Post-Maoism: Badiou and Politics’ Positions 2005 13 1 575 634

BosteelsBruno ‘Translator’s Introduction’ 2013 [2009] Badiou 2013

BourgJulian CookAlexander C. ‘Principally Contradiction: The Flourishing of French Maoism’ Mao’s Little Red Book: A Global History 2014 Cambridge Cambridge University Press

FanonFrantz PhilcoxRichard The Wretched of the Earth 2004 [1961] New York Grove Press

FieldsA. Belden Trotskyism and Maoism: Theory and Practice in France and the United States 1988 New York Autonomedia

GuhaRanajit Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India 1999 [1983] Durham, NC. Duke University Press

HallwardPeter Badiou: A Subject to Truth 2003 Minneapolis University of Minnesota Press

HoffmanMarcelo ZurnPerryDiltsAndrew ‘Investigations from Marx to Foucault’ Active Intolerance: Michel Foucault the Prisons Information Group and the Future of Abolition 2015 Basingstoke Palgrave Macmillan

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LeninVladimir Ilyich What Is To Be Done? Burning Questions of Our Movement 1999 [1902] New York International Publishers

LeninVladimir Ilyich State and Revolution 2002 [1917] New York International Publishers

LihLars T. Lenin 2011 London Reaktion Books

ManceauxMichèle Les maos en France 1972 Paris Gallimard

MaoTsetung ‘Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan’ Selected Readings from the Works of Mao Tsetung 1971 [1927] Peking Foreign Language Press

MarxKarl CarverTerrell ‘The Civil War in France’ Marx: Later Political Writings 1996 [1871] Cambridge Cambridge University Press

MarxKarl ‘A Workers’ Inquiry’ 1997 [1880] available at: <https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/04/20.htm>.

Rigaudias-WeissHilde Les Enquêtes Ouvrières en France entre 1830 et 1848 1975 [1936] New York Arno Press

RobcisCamille ‘“China in Our Heads”: Althusser, Maoism, and Structuralism’ Social Text 2012 30 1 51 69

RossKristin May ’68 and its Afterlives 2002 Chicago University of Chicago Press

SmithJason E. ‘From Établissement to Lip: On the Turns Taken by French Maoism’ Viewpoint Magazine 2013 3 available at: <https://viewpointmag.com/2013/09/25/from-etablissement-to-lip-on-the-turns-taken-by-french-maoism/>.

ToscanoAlberto BidetJacquesKouvelakisStathis ‘Marxism Expatriated: Alain Badiou’s Turn’ Critical Companion to Contemporary Marxism 2008 Leiden Brill Historical Materialism Book Series

ucfml [L’Union des communistes de France marxiste-léniniste] Le Livre des paysans pauvres: 5 années de travail maoïste dans une campagne française 1976 Paris François Maspero

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3

Bosteels 2005pp. 580–1; Ross 2002 pp. 109–13; Wolin 2010 pp. 18 131–2 138 159 303 305–7 323 330 338. Ross offers a synopsis of crucial aspects of the investigation in her analysis of social amnesia about May 1968 in France. Bosteels dwells briefly on the investigation in his dialectical interpretation of the later Badiou. Wolin devotes a few pages of his lengthy book to the popularity of investigations among organisations concerned with the struggles of traditionally marginalised groups such as prisoners gays and women.

7

Badiou 2010pp. 52–4.

8

Bosteels 2005pp. 629–30 n. 50.

9

Fields 1988p. 98.

10

Bosteels 2005p. 585.

21

Bosteels 2005p. 579.

22

Mao 1971pp. 23–39.

23

Marx 1997.

25

Rigaudias-Weiss 1975pp. 158–70.

26

Wright 2002pp. 24–5.

27

Wolin 2010pp. 330–1.

28

Hoffman 2015.

29

Smith 2013. For the recollections of a ujcml militant who conducted investigations among peasants in the Vosges region of northeastern France only to then take up a position in a factory see Manceaux 1972 pp. 54–7.

31

Artières 2011pp. 53–4.

56

Badiou 2001bpp. 95–6.

57

Toscano 2008p. 535.

59

Hallward 2003p. 41.

60

Hallward 2003p. 43.

61

Badiou 2008pp. 85–6.

62

Badiou 2008p. 15.

63

Badiou 2008p. 12.

64

Badiou 2008p. 87.

65

Badiou 2008p. 67.

66

Badiou 2008p. 108.

67

Badiou 2008p. 109.

68

Badiou 2010pp. 181–2.

69

Badiou 2010pp. 179–80. Marx criticised the Communards for failing to attack the government of Adolphe Thiers in Versailles at its moment of greatest vulnerability (Marx 1996 p. 178). V.I. Lenin echoed a more general variation of this criticism in Lenin 2002 p. 37.

70

Badiou 2010p. 182.

71

Badiou 2010pp. 113–4 155–6.

73

Badiou 2001ap. 67; my italics.

74

Hallward 2003p. 126.

75

Badiou 1975p. 110.

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