A Real Marxist, Georges Labica, Passes Away.
Georges Labica: Real Critical Marxism.
Georges Labica (1930 – 2009), one of France’s most important independent Marxist writers and theorists, passed away on the 12th of February (See: here). During an extremely productive life (bibliography here) he wrote important studies of Marxist theory, from editing the Dictionnaire Critique du Marxisme (1982, 1984, 1989), to short accessible works, such as Le marxisme-léninisme, Eléments pour une critique (1984). He worked with, amongst many others, the theoretical review, Marx Actuel and L’Utopie Critique (homages here) . Politically engaged throughout his life Labica-operated with the non-establishment left, notably self-management political organisations, such as the Alternatifs. His last published work, Théorie de la violence (2007) attempted to explore the conditions of legitimate violence (as opposed to ‘substitutions’) in the South, and the synthesis of democracy and Marxism (Review)
Georges Labica had a long engagement with the left. A member of the Parti Communiste Français from the 1950s to 1981, he was was conspicuous for his anti-colonial activism (from his time teaching in French Algeria), and was prominent enough to be threatened by the OAS. Academically his research continued in the line of Louis Althusser, though he never adhered to the Althussarian ‘school’. After leaving the PCF (as it drifted aimlessly in the first blush of Mitterrand’s Presidency) Labica continued to describe himself as a Communist (in the democratic Marxist tradition). He produced critical works on Marxism-Leninism, from a Marxist prospective. In general he researched into the fundamental problems of Marxist theory and practice, producing a string of studies as a result. Without ever creating a grand ‘Theory’, in the vein of Foucault, Negri or Guatteri, Labica’s importance lay in sustaining the independent critical spirit on the left. His writings have influenced generations of socialists and Marxists. Above all he kept alive the kind of First International democray of Marx himself.
Largely unknown to the left in the English speaking world (where the academic left tends to live cloistered from the kind of activism Labica represented), he was recognised by the German, Spanish and Italian ones, to cite but a few.
Labica ‘s death is a great loss.
I need hardly add that I have been influenced by Labica – or that I was once due to meet him at a TMR meeting. But he was delayed at his work.