French Intellectuals and Communism

French Intellectuals and Communism

There are many who will view Tony Judt’s Past Imperfect as a rearguard action. After all, the moral condemnation of French intellectuals for their utter credulity about communism in the late 1940s and the early 1950s is about as challenging as shooting fish in a barrel. There are also many who will accuse Judt’s rather prosecutorial study of seeking to promote a type of “lustration” of long-dead French intellectuals—the intellectual equivalent of the ban on ex-communists from political life in the states of Eastern Europe. Of course, there are important distinctions to be kept in mind. For where Eastern European intellectuals abetted a lawless regime, their Western equivalents—fortunately spared the responsibilities of power—can only be accused of gross naivete and incredibly poor judgment.

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Lima