Sunday, June 24, 2018

Julia Kristeva Responds to Slander

I have refrained from commenting on the slanderous accusations recently thrown at French intellectual luminary Julia Kristeva. She is an old and dear friend, as is her husband. I am strongly biased in her favor and reject any culture that attempts to destroy reputations on the basis of half-truths and lies. Especially, those produced by a state run on propaganda.

Kristeva now stands accused of having spied for the Bulgarian Secret Police during some of her time in Paris. You have to stretch credulity to imagine that such an eventuality, if it did occur, turned the tide in the Cold War.

Dare I say, most of those who have happily embraced the defamation did so without benefit of Kristeva’s own response to the accusations. They did not cover themselves in glory. In order to sustain their slander they even noted that Kristeva and her husband threw their support behind Chairman Mao during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

They fail to note that when Richard Nixon went to China in 1972 the American media elite was all gaga over the wonderful accomplishments of the Red Guards. Kristeva was not alone in being duped by Mao Zedong.

And dare we mention, that France itself was not a major player in world affairs at the time in question. One hates to say this, but a great deal of French intellectual politics was more show than substance, more drama than political action.

If you ask yourself what consequences were suffered by anyone over the political positions taken by Kristeva and Co. you will come up short.

For some reasons, Michel Foucault—also a personal friend—comes out of all this smelling like a rose. After all, Foucault reveled in the acts of Weatherman terrorists, and in the last stages of his life became a gay activist who embraced the regime of the ayatollahs in France. Of course, Jean Paul Sartre—France’s modern philosophical genius—happily supported the Baader Meinhof gang of terrorists who were operating in Germany.

No one much cared, because such support did not exert very much influence. If one wanted to see whichFrench philosopher exercised true political influence, one would look to Bernard Henri Levy, the presiding genie over the American policy of overthrowing the government of Muammar Qaddhafi. Recall that BHL persuaded French president Sarkozy to intervene on the side of the Qaddhafi opposition and that Sarkozy persuaded Obama and Clinton to lead from behind. The catastrophic consequences of this intervention are well known. No one really cares about the philosopher behind the curtain.

The real issue for the French intelligentsia after World War II was living down the ignominy of having chickened out of the fight. And, the real problem was living a great historical lie. France, for having sat out the war, declared itself one of the winners. De Gaulle barely ever acknowledged the American role in liberating France from the French. France turned away from the Anglosphere out of shame. It did not embrace the East as much as it sought an alternative to Anglo-American hegemony.

That, sad to say, was the only real issue in politically driven French intellectual life.

A Bulgarian immigrant to Paris in the 1960s, Kristeva supposedly became a spy for the Bulgarian Secret Police. Apparently, the Bulgarian Secret Police was overwhelmingly concerned about the doings of the Parisian intellectual scene. It takes very little intelligence to know that French intellectuals spoke openly and honestly about everything that passed through their minds. Thus, it was the last place you needed to put a spy.

Richard Wolin—a fine intellectual historian who saw fit to attack Kristeva for being pro-communist-- and Kevin Williamson—a fine writer who denounced Kristeva for being anti-capitalist both failed to note that Kristeva and the Tel Quel group she was associated with renounced Maoism and even Communism. They were among the first of the French intellectual elite to embrace capitalism in the late 1970s.

Now, to set the record straight, Kristeva tells her side of the story in great detail in the French Vanity Fair. The presence of the long detailed article in this magazine tells you that she is the subject of popular interest. I trust that Kristeva is telling the truth about what really happened and about how this calumny took root. I will not go into the details, though I regret that some of you will not be able to read the French.

Among Kristeva’s targets is the media. She points out, astutely, that today’s media, obsessed with the privacy of the personal information people share on Facebook, has no problem projecting your personal communications on the world screen. The media does not ask, Kristeva continues, whether a dossier put together by a Communist Secret Police might have been distorted to promote the careers of those who drew it up. Why did serious thinkers trust the word of a regime that was dedicated to propagating propaganda? Could it be that it was happy to smear the reputation of a woman who had renounced it.

[Addendum: Herewith a link to a commentary, offered in French and English, by a Bulgarian editor.]


David Foster said...

I put up a related post a couple of days ago: Denouncing the Deviationists

dfordoom said...

The real issue for the French intelligentsia after World War II was living down the ignominy of having chickened out of the fight.

To be fair to them they did join the Resistance in huge numbers from 1946 onwards. By the end of the 40s every single Frenchman and Frenchwoman had become a courageous Resistance fighter.

The problem with the French is the same as the problem with the British. They just could not accept that they were no longer major powers but destined to be American vassals, and that their own folly had led them to that situation. The moral of the story is don't start a war you can't win.