Julia Kristeva — renowned​ literary theorist and spy

26 May, 2019 at 16:35 | Posted in Politics & Society | Comments Off on Julia Kristeva — renowned​ literary theorist and spy

1522338237488Throughout the recent, highly public exchange of claims and counterclaims, accusations and counteraccusations, Kristeva has expressed concern that her reputation as an engaged intellectual would be unfairly and permanently harmed. In truth, however, the damage had been done long ago, the cumulative effect of her uncritical support, as a member of the Tel Quel circle, for left-wing dictatorships during the 1960s and 1970s: the Soviet Union, from 1968 to 1971; and Cultural Revolutionary China, from 1971 to 1976. What makes Kristeva’s partisanship for those regimes and their draconian practices so hypocritical and so objectionable is that Kristeva, as a young woman, had experienced firsthand the ultra-repressive nature of Soviet-style, bureaucratic socialism in her native Bulgaria, where, from 1954 to 1989, First Secretary Todor Zhivkov of the Bulgarian Community Party ruled with an iron fist.

In 1968 the Tel Quel ensemble — which, in 1967, had myopically allied itself with the political fortunes of the French Communist Party (PCF) — endorsed the Soviet Union’s military invasion of Czechoslovakia: an act of tyranny that succeeded in crushing the last vestiges of hope for “socialism with a human face” embodied by the Prague Spring. Aping the ideological rationalizations of the Stalin era, the Telquelians argued that those who criticized Soviet ruthlessness were merely providing aid and comfort to the bourgeoisie …

The decision to endorse Soviet brutality in Prague was merely one among many political blunders that the Tel Quel group committed during this period. During May 1968, Sollers, Kristeva, and company sided with the PCF’s condemnation of the French student uprising. Echoing the official party line, the Telquelians dismissed the student revolt due to its “insufficiently proletarian character.” In mid-May, when a group of prominent French literati — Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Genet, Nathalie Sarraute, and Marguerite Duras — sought to form a new writers’ union in support of the student strike, the Tel Quel “salon Bolsheviks” expressed their disapproval by demonstratively walking out of the assembly. As Sollers, who, as it turns out, hailed from a family of wealthy Bordeaux industrialists, pontificated at the time: “All revolution can only be Marxist-Leninist!”

Richard WolinThe Chronicle of Higher Education

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