Was JP Sartre blind to Stalin's excesses prior to converting in 1967?

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,562
Las Vegas, NV USA
The well known French existentialist was a Marxist and an admirer of the USSR. He was willing to tolerate some problems believing it would eventually develop into some kind of ideal society. It was only when the USSR invaded Hungary that he lost his "faith". He remained a "Marxist" until his death but was vague about how such a society would actually function. His best known work is "Being and Nothingness" which comports to my personal view of the content of his work. Then again, who am I to challenge the great philosopher? Given that he somehow slept through the late 1930s but woke up in 1956 (at least partially), why should I respect this man''s work. What would Sartre think of Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela today.

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/sartre-renounces-communists
 
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Futurist

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May 2014
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Is 1967 a typo? Did you mean to write 1956?

Anyway, I always viewed it as bizarre for various Western intellectuals to support Communism in spite of its brutal, dictatorial, and totalitarian nature.
 
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stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
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Las Vegas, NV USA
Is 1967 a typo? Did you mean to write 1956?

You're on top of things! I was thinking Czechoslovakia. I changed the text but can't change the title. Anyway if Hungary didn't change his mind, maybe Czechoslovakia might have done so. :oops:
 
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Futurist

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May 2014
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You're on top of things! I was thinking Czechoslovakia. I changed the text but can't change the title. Anyway if Hungary didn't change his mind, maybe Czechoslovakia might have done so. :oops:
Czechoslovakia was in 1968, though--not 1967. You were off by one year.
 

tomar

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Jan 2011
13,913
The well known French existentialist was a Marxist and an admirer of the USSR. He was willing to tolerate some problems believing it would eventually develop into some kind of ideal society. It was only when the USSR invaded Hungary that he lost his "faith". He remained a "Marxist" until his death but was vague about how such a society would actually function. His best known work is "Being and Nothingness" which comports to my personal view of the content of his work. Then again, who am I to challenge the great philosopher? Given that he somehow slept through the late 1930s but woke up in 1956 (at least partially), why should I respect this man''s work. What would Sartre think of Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela today.

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/sartre-renounces-communists
I think this is a case of "the end justifies the means" thinking... Most people (or perhaps almost all people) are willing to overlook certain "incidents" and rationalize them as unfortunate side effects of striving to reach a noble end... this is in particular why most religions endure despite all the associated violence
 
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Jun 2019
61
St.Petersburg
Is 1967 a typo? Did you mean to write 1956?
Anyway, I always viewed it as bizarre for various Western intellectuals to support Communism in spite of its brutal, dictatorial, and totalitarian nature.
It's so easy to promote an abstract idea without being personally involved in its practical implementation.
 
Jun 2017
519
maine
There was more than one Marxist at that time and more than one Marxism. I think that he was adhering to a more original Marxism--not to what Stalin called Marxism.
 
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stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,562
Las Vegas, NV USA
My point here is Sartre was appalled by the 1956 invasion of Hungary but his admiration of the USSR dates from his youth (he was born in 1905). The Holodomor occurred in the early 1930s and the purges dominated the late 1930s. I find it difficult to believe Sartre was ignorant of these events. Yet they didn't seem to discourage his admiration of the Stalinist state whereas the invasion of Hungary did. As bad as that was, it doesn't compare with the humanitarian disaster of the Holodomor or the impact of the purges on the political and security structure of the the USSR.

Holodomor - Wikipedia
 
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Mar 2019
1,956
Kansas
T Given that he somehow slept through the late 1930s but woke up in 1956 (at least partially), why should I respect this man''s work. /QUOTE]

Perhaps this was the trigger

On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences - Wikipedia

It was a widespread belief in Stalin's time that all the excesses of the regime were occurring without Stalin's knowledge. And if he knew he would certainly put a stop to it. Once Khrushchev spilled the beans in his speech, people began to realize exactly what Stalin was.
 
Jul 2019
665
New Jersey
Some people may not like this sentiment, but it never ceases to amaze me how dumb intellectuals can sometimes be. I'm reminded of William F Buckley's line that he would rather be governed by the first 200 names in the Boston telephone directory than by the first 200 names of faculty at Harvard University. Or for the more left-leaning, George Orwell's famous line to the effect that "Some things are so absurd that only an intellectual could possibly believe them."
 
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