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.
SmithJason E.‘From Établissement to Lip: On the Turns Taken by French Maoism’Viewpoint Magazine20133available at: <https://viewpointmag.com/2013/09/25/from-etablissement-to-lip-on-the-turns-taken-by-french-maoism/>.
Bosteels2005pp. 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.
Bosteels2005pp. 629–30 n. 50.
Smith2013. 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.
Badiou2010pp. 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.