Daniel Bensaïd was a Marxist philosopher and author of an extensive body of works about political strategy. His writings combine a diversity of singular influences, such as Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and Che Guevara on the one hand, and Benjamin, Péguy and Blanqui on the other. In his work, religious heresies, Marranos, moles and emblematic figures of the resistance to oppression such as Joan of Arc meet with the classic figures of Marxism. The non-linear concept of time and messianic reason support a strategic reading of history and an understanding of political commitment, following Goldmann’s interpretation of Pascal’s Wager as a wager of uncertain outcome.
Bensaïd’s interest in Marranism is part of his broader interest in Jewish mysticism, read in a profane and secularised way, and of his search for new theoretical paths with which to renew revolutionary Marxist theory. ‘Marrano’ refers to the Spanish–Portuguese Jews who were forcibly converted to Christianity in the fifteenth century and who were suspected of judaising in secret. The term has been increasingly used by many authors, including Bensaïd, in a broad sense, often as a metaphor that goes beyond the study of actual Marranos to acquire a broader meaning. Bensaïd uses Marranism to think about some aspects of political strategy and, at the same time, strategically uses Marranism to approach certain debates. The Marrano is the metaphorical and metonymic figure through which he tries to think a new internationalism that simultaneously transcends both an abstract universalism that legitimates inequalities and oppression and an anti-universalist communitarian withdrawal.