Elleinstein and Althusser : intellectual dissidents in the French Communist Party, 1972-1981
This thesis examines the role played by intellectual dissidents in the French Communist Party from 1972 to 1981, focusing primarily on the philosopher Louis Althusser and the historian Jean Elleinstein, whose ideas in relation to the FCP were closer than previously thought. The introduction sets the background out in which the FCP evolved after the Second World War and brings us to the 1970s, the decade during which the FCP lost its steam against most expectations - as the thesis demonstrates it. The first chapter deals with the perception communist intellectual dissidents had of their Party’s internal organisation – an organisation which was deemed too rigid and too inflexible to encompass the plurality of opinion of its members. This rigidity was demonstrated by the Leadership’s refusal to recognise the right to create tendencies within the Party, as the second chapter of this thesis shows. In this context, the third chapter argues that communist intellectual dissidents felt suffocated by a Party which did not give them enough leeway, even more so since it claimed to be the Party of the working class – a position which threatened the Party’s adaptation to social change and which is developed in chapter four. However, this thesis also puts the criticisms expressed by Althusser and Elleinstein into perspective. Indeed, if these intellectual dissidents were free to express des idées libérales et avancées, this was not the case for the FCP leadership. The Soviet Union and its KGB had too strong a grip over the Party and its General Secretary, Georges Marchais, for the FCP leadership to be able to act freely. In that sense, if the FCP gave up the concept of dictatorship of the proletariat in 1976, as the fifth chapter shows, it could not criticise the Soviet Union too much, as chapter six demonstrates, nor get too close to the French Socialist Party as chapter seven shows, nor let its dissident intellectuals go on expressing des vues trop dérangeantes, as chapter eight concludes. Each chapter is set against the Party’s historical background and brings us to the modern times, which have seen the French Communist Party transform itself – a transformation which would have been welcomed by Althusser and Elleinstein back in the 1970s.