France mourns anti-Communist philosopher Glucksmann

10th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

French philosopher Andre Glucksmann, a former Maoist who veered to the right after condemning the crimes of Communism, and a tireless campaigner for Vietnamese boat people, has died aged 78, his son said Tuesday.

The passionately political thinker rose to prominence in the 1970s alongside Bernard-Henri Levy as one of France's "New Philosophers", who broke with Marxism after street protests brought the country to the brink of revolution in 1968.

"My first and best friend is no more," wrote Raphael Glucksmann on Facebook, describing his father as "a good and excellent man".

Strongly influenced by the Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn's account of his time as a political prisoner in "The Gulag Archipelago", Glucksmann railed against Soviet totalitarianism in his book "The Cook and the Cannibal" (1975), setting him against left-wing existentialist intellectuals led by Jean-Paul Sartre.

But despite their differences, Glucksmann persuaded Sartre to join with France's then leading right-wing thinker Raymond Aron in campaigning for the Vietnamese as they fled its Communist regime in their tens of thousands in 1979.

Thanks in part to Gluckmann's campaigning, France opened its doors to more than 128,000 boat people from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos -- four times the number of refugees it has agreed to accept from Europe's latest migrant crisis.

His friend, the writer and philosopher Pascal Bruckner, who has followed a similar path from left to right, said Glucksmann would be remembered for "delivering the staggering blow against Communist thinking in France.

"At the time he had an enormous number of enemies, of people opposing him, but he held on," he told French radio.

"His ideas weren't just passing thoughts, they were real engagements which he physically stuck to every day."

Levy said he had been shaken by his death. "He was the only one of my contemporaries with whom I had the feeling of sharing the same fears about the world," he told AFP.

- Survived Nazi occupation -

Having survived as a Jewish child in Nazi-occupied France -- a trauma he recounted in his 2006 book "A Child's Rage" -- Glucksmann became an advocate of international military intervention.

He supported US-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and lobbied on behalf of Chechen Muslims during their war with Russia in the 1990s, later warning against European appeasement of President Vladimir Putin.

"Recklessness and forgetfulness create the conditions for new catastrophes in both the economy and politics," he said.

French President Francois Hollande described Glucksmann as a man who "carried in him all the dramas of the 20th century... and spent all his life and intellectual training in the service of liberty."

With his pudding-bowl haircut, he was an instantly recognisable face on late-night television discussion programmes, and one of France's most prominent public intellectuals.

But ill with cancer, he appeared less and less in public after the publication of "The Novel of the Universal Jew" in 2011.

Despite still claiming to be "of the left", Glucksmann publicly supported Nicolas Sarkozy's successful bid for the presidency in 2007. Sarkozy said Tuesday he had been "honoured by his friendship".

Former Socialist culture minister Jack Lang said that while he often disagreed with Glucksmann, as the son of Central European refugees who had fled to France, he was always a fearless defender of the weak.

"The way a good part of Western society is now behaving towards the migrants is similar to what he attacked with regard to the boat people," he said.

© 2015 AFP

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