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Le marxisme

The main editors of the Cahiers pour l’Analyse were students of Althusser before they came to be followers of Lacan, and their conception of theory, science and ideology was profoundly marked by Althusser’s anti-humanist reading of Marx. The distinctive lines of inquiry explored by the Cahiers pour l’Analyse need to be understood in relation to a slightly earlier Althusserian project at the Ecole Normale, the Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes (1964-1968).

In the early 1960s mainstream Marxism in France, as defended by the French Communist Party (PCF), was coming under increasingly forceful attack. Support for the PCF had dropped in the wake of Khrushchev’s revelations concerning Stalin’s crimes, and as a result of opposition to Soviet repression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956; it dropped further as a result of its broadly pro-imperialist positions during the wars in Indo-China and Algeria. At the same time, many militant members of the party grew more and more dissatisfied, the more it left behind the wartime legacy of direct resistance to fascism in favour of a ‘moderate’ parliamentary strategy, one based on gaining the largest possible share of the popular vote. Similar reformist priorities, together with loyalty to the Soviet Union, help to account for the strongly anti-Maoist inflection of the PCF. These priorities led the party to adopt an inclusive and fraternal ‘humanism’ as its guiding ideology, propounded over the course of the 1960s by the leading PCF intellectual Roger Garaudy in terms of a celebration, partly neo-Feuerbachian, partly Christian-socialist, of ‘the whole man’. The main Marxist student organisation, the Union of Communist Students (UEC), adhered to a mainly pro-PCF line throughout this period.1

For the students who arrived at the elite Ecole Normale Supérieure in the 1960s there were two main philosophical alternatives to this dominant view, represented by Sartre and Althusser. Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist version of Marxism defended a more militant conception of self-emancipation, and was consistent with a more principled affirmation of anticolonial resistance. His Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960) received careful attention at the Ecole Normale,2 and both Alain Badiou and Jacques-Alain Miller began the decade as committed readers of Sartre. Miller’s first published text is an enthusiastic interview with Sartre (1960),3 and as he notes in the preface to a collection of his early writings, in 1964 ‘I could never have entered into the discourse of Lacan with the ease that surprised by contemporaries if [four years earlier] I hadn’t studied Being and Nothingness with application and delight. The root is the same: it is Kojèvian. The “lack of being [manque d’être]” by which Sartre defines the for-itself anticipates the “lack in being [manque-à-être]” of the Lacanian subject. The process of retroaction, i.e. the priority of the future, that allows Lacan to illuminate the Freud après-coup [Nachträglichkeit, or “afterwardsness”], is already there in Sartre’s conception of a project’.4 Sartre’s well-known association of existentialism and humanism, however, and his relative proximity to PCF positions in the 1950s, blurred distinctions that had appeared particularly significant before the Algerian War finally came to an end, in 1961. Sartre’s influence in the ENS largely came to an end along with it.

Althusser (1918-1990) had been teaching at the Ecole Normale since 1948. In 1960-61, remembers Badiou, he still maintained a fairly low profile: his aversion to Sartre and to phenomenology more generally was well known, but ‘he was often absent, and didn’t intervene much’.5 However, spurred in part by his own sharp break with the Marxist Catholicism he had espoused during the previous decade, Althusser had already begun to develop a trenchant and uncompromising critique of Marxist humanism, culminating in his article ‘Marxisme et humanisme’ (1964).6 For Althusser the ‘new’ humanism was less an alternative to Stalin than simply ‘Stalinism with a human face’, or as G.M. Goshgarian summarises it, a ‘theoretical supplement’ of Stalinist economism, which by ‘putting a ghost in the economic machine, cast it as the motor of the continuous self-realisation of a universal “human spirit”, thus tending to the same end, “negation or attenuation” of class struggle.’7 What was required, Althusser argued, was a new engagement with the revolutionary theoretical principles of Marx’s scientific understanding of the mechanisms of historical change, achieved at the cost of a radical break with bourgeois pre-scientific and pre-Marxist ideology, i.e. with humanism.

For students at the time, the critique of humanism had more than an exclusively political significance: education and culture were the most immediate sites of confrontation. As Julian Bourg observes, in the 1960s the critique of humanism and the critique of a conservative or establishment classicism were intimately connected, and the affirmation of a ‘theoretical practice’ uncoupled from the stifling authority of tradition was as much a matter of pedagogical as of political liberation.8 In this context, Bourg continues,

the project of ‘theoretical education’ caught on, the ideas of Althusser and his students showing up in the schools of theory [that] were set up in almost all the universities of Paris. Althusserianism became a veritable phenomenon among left-leaning students who […] were stuck with a [French Communist] Party whose mythical role in the Resistance paled before its pitiful response to the Algerian War and its seeming abandonment of the world revolutionary cause. PCF rapprochement with the Fifth Republic meant a rapprochement with bourgeois and even religious culture. The return to Marx, the priority of theory to practice, and the appeals of anti-humanism—these added up to a common language with which to re-found the revolutionary project.9

Althusser’s own investigations were deepened and radicalised in tandem with his new students. Badiou entered the ENS in 1957, and Pierre Macherey in 1958; Etienne Balibar, Jacques Rancière and Yves Duroux followed in 1960, and then Jean-Claude Milner (1961), François Regnault (1962), Jacques-Alain Miller (1962), and Robert Linhart (1963). As Althusser later recalled,

I only read Capital in 1964-65 for the seminar which was to lead to Lire ‘Le Capital’. If I remember correctly three individuals, Pierre Macherey, Etienne Balibar, and François Regnault, came to see me in my office in January 1963 to ask if I would help them read Marx’s early works. So it was not my initiative which led me to talk about Marx at the École but rather a request on the part of a few students. This initial collaboration gave rise to the Seminar of 1964–1965, which we set up in June 1964. Balibar, Macherey, Regnault, Duroux, Miller, and Rancière, etc., were there. Miller was the one with the most fixed ideas on the subject, but he dropped out completely in the course of the year.10

(Jacques-Alain Miller, recalling his early years at the Ecole Normale, remembers that he only joined the Union of Communist Students [UEC] because ‘Althusser asked him to, as he did several others. [I] didn’t have time to be Marxist, [I] was already Lacanian’).11

That same year, the participants in the Lire le Capital seminar, along with other communist members of the Ecole Normale branch of the UEC (the ‘Cercle d’Ulm’), established a new journal, Les Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes.12 The first issue came out in December 1964, on the topic ‘Science and ideologies’, with contributions by Miller, Milner, Rancière, and Linhart; the first edition of 1000 copies sold out in a matter of days. A total of 17 issues of the Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes would appear over the next three and a half years, through to May 1968, on topics including Algeria and India (issue 2), agriculture (issue 3), revolutionary perspectives in Latin America (issue 4), Leninism (issues 9-10), ‘Art, language and class struggle’ (issues 12-13). Althusser contributed at least two articles, including his ‘Matérialisme historique et matérialisme dialectique’ in issue 11, published in April 1966. Most articles in the Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes were unsigned (apart from reprints by figures like Lenin, Stalin and Mao), and presented as contributions to a collective scientific endeavour, one effectively grounded, as Frédéric Chateigner notes, in the authority of the ENS itself.13 Like their teacher Althusser, the contributors to the Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes initially hoped to gain influence on the PCF from the inside, via the UEC, and through to late 1966 avoided any direct reference to the divisive topic of China.

Jacques-Alain Miller’s initial contribution to these first Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes was substantial. He proposed the quotation from Lenin which appears on the cover of each issue of the journal: ‘Marx’s theory is all powerful because it is true.’ He also drafted the ‘présentation’ of the inaugural issue, entitled ‘Fonction de la formation théorique’. ‘Marxist-Leninist theory’, he begins,

requires a form of teaching that is not reducible to the communication of a set of statements and bits of information constituted as knowledge [savoir]. This is because Marxist-Leninism provides the principle of a new organisation of the conceptual field, which breaks with the most constant but less obvious references of our intellectual moment – to teach it is to engage in the enterprise of changing those who receive it. We propose to call the process of this transformation: theoretical training [formation théorique].14

What most members of the UEC need, says Miller, is not to learn about Marxism but to become Marxists, to be trained and prepared [formé] as Marxists, in somewhat the same way that one might become a missionary or evangelist. The first and most important step in this ‘combative’ training or formation is to break with ideology. Ideology is the ‘primary’ concern, because ‘in the structural system through which a specific mode of production is articulated, the sphere in which the subject moves [l’aire du déplacement du sujet] – insofar as it draws on the level of the actual, i.e. insofar as the structure concedes to the subject the perception of his state (of his apparent movement) while concealing its system – is defined as illusion.’ Such illusion is preserved in the form of ideology to the degree that ‘the subject reflects it, signifies it, in brief redoubles it.’ The level of the economy, by contrast, since it is determinant in the last instance, and thus serves as the ‘reference of all the manifestations of social practice’, is ‘radically foreign to the dimension of the actual, and is only accessible through its effects.’ This ‘absence of cause’ ensures that what is experienced at the level of individual consciousness is the ‘inversion of structural determinations. Inversion as perception is illusion. As discourse, inversion is ideology.’ Thus the primary ‘task of theoretical training is to convert perception and reform discourse.’ This task, Miller continues, should be carried out by a ‘particular commission’, in close and unceasing connection with communist militants. Non-communists are condemned to remain ‘on the threshold of science.’ By the same token, although Marxist theory has political economy as its primary field, it exceeds it insofar as ‘it involves a general theory of science’, i.e. the theoretical elements required for ‘the analysis of the constitutive process of science as such, and thus for an understanding of the difference between science and ideology.’15

Tensions soon developed within the editorial team of Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes, between those who (like Miller and Milner) sought to privilege this more general theoretical agenda, via an increasingly marked reference to Lacan, and those who (like Rancière or Roger Linhart, joined in 1965 by Benny Lévy) prioritised political struggle. Over the course of 1965, as Miller and his friends participated in Lacan’s seminar at the ENS, the general political inflection of the Cercle d’Ulm became increasingly militant and increasingly pro-Maoist; Linhart emerged as a leading force. Things came to a head at the end of the year, in a row over the eighth issue of the Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes, prepared by Miller, Milner, and Macherey, on the ‘Powers of Literature’, with articles on experimental works by Borges, Gombrowicz and Aragon. Miller’s introduction to the issue announced its concern with what ‘literature can do on its own and upon itself,’ at the level of pure ‘signification’ or of ‘the treatment of language by its structure’, without reference to Marx or any ‘outside’ reference.16 Linhart was appalled by such an apolitical and academic use of the Cahiers, and after apparently accusing Miller of seeking only to secure a ‘bourgeois position of authority’ he suppressed its publication.17 Miller, Milner and Grosrichard immediately resigned from the journal, and in January 1966 founded the Cahiers pour l’Analyse as a less ‘dogmatic’ forum in which to continue the project of a general ‘theoretical training’. Inspired by the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution in China, Linhart’s circle went on to adopt an openly Maoist position and finally broke with the PCF and the UEC, so as to form in December 1966 (still within the structure of the Ecole Normale) L’Union des Jeunesses Communistes Marxistes-Léninistes (the UJC(ml)), thereby contributing to the more general association, in a French context, of the term ‘Marxist-Leninist’ with a pro-Maoist and anti-PCF position.18 Although not a member himself, Badiou remembers the UJC(ml) as ‘a thoroughly unique phenomenon, one that brought together all that was most “modernist”, so to speak, most concentrated, in the French intelligentsia.’19

The split between the two sets of ENS Cahiers became increasingly marked with time: whereas the final issues of the Cahiers pour l’Analyse are concerned with logic, science and formalisation, three of the last four issues of the Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes (issues 14, 15 and 17) are dedicated to the ‘Grande Révolution Culturelle Prolétarienne’, and abandon talk of ‘theoretical training’ in favour of Mao’s call for concrete and detailed ‘investigations’ [enquêtes] of the socio-political terrain, leading to the établissement of students among factory and agricultural workers. Although Althusser contributed an unsigned article on the Cultural Revolution to issue 14 of the Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes, as Bourg explains ‘the Althusserian-inspired intellectualism of the 1965 to early 1967 period—theory before practice—was subverted by the method that gave entry to praxis—the “investigation”. Once liberated from behind the walls of the rue d’Ulm, theory was forced to consider the facts, with all their inevitable inconveniences, of French farms and factories.’20 Chateigner confirms that as a result of the unresolvable ambiguities of their Althusserian inspiration, the Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes had run out of steam a little before the events of May 1968 – events which, rather like the PCF itself, the UJC(ml) initially failed to appreciate or understand.21

May 68 terminated publication of both the Cahiers pour l’Analyse and the Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes, but its consequences also triggered a final re-convergence, via the brief but ardent triumph of French Maoism and its enquêtes. Consumed by self-criticism, the UJC(ml) dissolved in the autumn of 1968; Miller, Milner and Grosrichard then joined Linhart, Benny Levy (a.k.a. Pierre Victor) and other veterans of the UJC(ml), together with members of the March 22 Movement and other revolutionary student groups, in the most prominent of the French Maoist groups: Gauche Prolétarienne (1969-1974).22 Opposed to the ‘terroristic’ and left-wing-deviationist ‘movementism’ of Gauche Prolétarienne, Badiou and his comrades Sylvain Lazarus and Natacha Michel founded an alternative Maoist organisation, the Union des Communistes de France – Marxistes-Léninistes (which in 1985 was re-launched as the Organisation Politique).23

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse

In the article that effectively provided the Cahiers pour l’Analyse with their inaugural programme (‘Action de la structure’, written in 1964 but only published in CpA 9.6), Jacques-Alain Miller stakes out the theoretical terrain of the journal in terms of the twin contributions of psychoanalysis and Marxism to a general theory of science, discourse, and signification. ‘Psychoanalysis, like Marxism, provides the principle for a new organisation of the conceptual field […]. For our part, we understand ourselves as subscribing to this reorganisation and attempt to assess its cost’ (CpA 9.6:93). Since psychoanalysis has been ‘liberated by Jacques Lacan from the interpretation of the individual as psychological subject’ (103), while Marxism has been ‘liberated by Louis Althusser of the encumbrance [l’hypothèque] that burdened it with a conception of society as historical subject […] we think that it is now possible to join these two discourses. We maintain that the discourses of Marx and Freud might communicate with each other via regulated transformations, and might reflect one another in a unitary theoretical discourse’ (103).

In the opening article of the journal, ‘La Science et la vérité’, Lacan develops the point evoked by Miller (himself no doubt influenced by Lacan) in his ‘Formation théorique’ (Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes, see above). Science devotes itself to the study of effects, and divorces the domain of truth from the field of cause. Like psychoanalysis, Lacan says, Marxism distinguishes ‘the truth as cause […] from knowledge put into operation’. Revolutionary subjectivity cannot be understood as a mere effect of the formulation and transmission of objective knowledge. ‘An economic science inspired by Capital does not necessarily lead to its utilization as a revolutionary power, and history seems to require help from something other than a predicative dialectic’. Science tends to forget or repress the process whereby it comes into being; as with any other scientific endeavour, the dispassionate analysis of the capitalist mode of production is itself motivated by causes which cannot be reduced to the effects of the knowledge gained through such analysis. Marxism, along with psychoanalysis, thus ‘seriously puts to work’ a dimension of subjective truth that science tends to forget, since science, once it has been constituted, neglects ‘the circuitous path by which it came into being’ (CpA 1.1:20).

In his follow-up ‘Réponses à des étudiants en philosophie sur l’objet de la psychanalyse’ (CpA 3.1), Lacan addresses the role psychoanalysis might play in both reproducing capitalist society, and contributing to its revolutionary overthrow. To a question concerning the possible relationship between the subject of alienated labour and the subject of alienated desire, Lacan insists that there is, for him, no subject of desire, only that of fantasy, a subject ‘stopped up’ by the object-cause of desire (objet petit a). Contrasting the subject of dialectical materialism with the subject of psychoanalysis, Lacan emphasises the externality and objectality of the cause of the subject’s desire, an external, partially autonomous object that ‘scores a goal on its own’. In response to a question concerning Marxism’s theory of language, Lacan insists on the importance of his own theory of language for Marxism, even if his insights might introduce a ‘defect’ into Marxist theory. Lacan insists that, while posing a challenge to dialectical materialism, his theory of language is nonetheless materialist; the signifier, he claims, is ‘matter transcending itself in language’ (CpA 3.1:10).

In ‘Le Concept freudien de “Représentant”’, Michel Tort briefly contrasts the speculative evolutionary approach of Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle with Marx’s attitude towards Darwinism. Whereas Marx was able to distinguish the field of historical materialism from that of Darwinian evolution, Freud was not so successful. However, this is largely due to his field being that of the drives, whose borderline status between the biological and mental is more acute than in historical materialism. ‘In Marx’s case, biological ideology is in a much looser relation to the theory of history than is possible in the psychoanalytic theory of the drives’ (CpA 5.2:66).

In his ‘La Pensée du Prince’ (CpA 6.2), François Regnault considers some of the reasons that help to account for the resistance of classical philosophy (represented here by Descartes) to the constitution of the new field of ‘historical materialism’, a field which had to ‘await Marx to find its place’ (CpA 6.2:33-34). Building on the assumption that psychoanalysis allows us to ‘substitute for the distorting historicisation of conscious discourse a true history’ (i.e. one that allows the subject of that history to appropriate the contingencies of the past as so many ‘necessities to come’), Regnault extends this Lacanian logic to history and the question (via Marx and the critique of ideology) of a collective prise de conscience, and a fortiori to ‘politics, which, as action, presupposes a freedom and a goal, and which, more than anything else, makes the truth emerge in the real’. In this perspective, conscious or ‘secondary’ historicisation tries to affirm an illusory ‘ideal’ or impose an ‘imperative’ – Lacan gives the example of the ‘presumed laws of history’, insofar as they serve to portray historical development on the model of biological genesis or pedagogical progress. A genuine science of history, on the other hand, will interrupt the illusions of secondary historicisation so as to analyse, ‘without censorship or distortion’, the ‘primary historicisation of the censored ideas (all the stronger for being censored) of subjects and peoples’ (CpA 6.2:42-43).

In his extended study of ‘La théorie du droit naturel “réel” de Fichte’, Jacques Bouveresse acknowledges his ‘exceptionally lucid and generous social conscience’, his critique of the ruinous effects of capitalism, and his contribution to a proto-Marxist philosophy that seeks ‘to change the world more than it seeks to understand it’, while condemning his utopian proto-socialism as an arrogant and ominous ‘failure’ (CpA 6.7:130, 137-138).

In line with Althusser’s teaching, Thomas Herbert’s ‘Remarques pour une théorie générale des idéologies’ blames the failure of Marxism to achieve the ‘“methodical reproduction” of the object of [its] science […] in the strictly scientific sense of the term’ for ‘the immense repression of historical materialism’s scientificity, a repression still exercised against it “from without”, and too often, “from within”’(CpA 9.5:76). And yet, since all science must emerge from an ideology, this must apply to the science of ideologies as well. The science of ideologies will take as its object ‘an ideological theory of ideology’, which is precisely what functions as the ‘ideological obstacle’, both ‘within’ and ‘without’ the field of Marxism itself, preventing the efflorescence of a truly Marxist science.

Following on from Jacques-Alain Miller’s comparison of psychoanalysis and Marxism in ‘Action of the Structure’ (CpA 9.6:93-103), in his article on ‘Freud et la science’ Jacques Nassif observes that ‘sciences’ such as psychoanalysis and Marxism share the common feature of ‘only passing into the real once they have been rejected in the symbolic’ (CpA 9.10:149). They belong to those sciences that are first rejected by the savants of the time, under the aegis of norms of ‘objectivity’ and ‘universality’ which themselves, according to Nassif, conceal ‘that ideology of ideologies which is the project of the constitution of a “universe of discourse”’ (147).

Select bibliography

  • Althusser, Louis. Pour Marx. Paris: Maspero, 1965. For Marx, trans. Ben Brewster. London: New Left Books, 1969.
  • Althusser, Louis. Lire le Capital, Tome 1 & 2, with Étienne Balibar, Roger Establet, Pierre Macherey, and Jacques Rancière. Paris: Maspero, 1965. Reading Capital, trans. Ben Brewster (contributions of Establet, Macherey, and Rancière omitted). London: New Left Books, 1970 .
  • Althusser, Louis. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. New York: Monthly Review, 2002.
  • Althusser, Louis. The Humanist Controversy and Other Writings, ed. François Matheron, trans. G.M. Goshgarian. London: Verso 2003.
  • Althusser, Louis. L’Avenir sure longtemps, ed. Oliver Corpet and Yann Moulier Boutang. Paris, Stock & IMEC, 1993. The Future Lasts Forever: A Memoir, trans. Richard Veasey. New York: New Press, 1994.
  • Bourg, Julian. ‘The Red Guards of Paris: French Student Maoism of the 1960s’. History of European Ideas 31:4 (2005), 472-490.
  • Bourseiller, Christophe. Les Maoïstes: la folle histoire des gardes rouges français. Paris: Plon, 1996.
  • Chateigner, Frédéric. ‘D’Althusser à Mao: Les Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes (1964-1968)’. Paris: École Normale Supérieure – École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, October 2004. 72 pages.
  • Elliott, Gregory. Althusser: The Detour of Theory. London: Verso, 1987.
  • Fields, A. Belden. Trotskyism and Maoism: Theory and Practice in France and the United States. New York: Autonomedia, 1988.
  • Geerlandt, Robert. Garaudy et Althusser: Le débat sur l’humanisme dans le Parti communiste français et son enjeu. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1978.
  • Kessel, Patrick, ed. Le Mouvement ‘maoïste’ en France: textes et documents, vol. 1, 1963–1968. Paris: Union Générale d’Éditions, 1972.
  • Linhart, Robert. L’Établi. Paris: Minuit, 1981.
  • Miller, Jacques-Alain. Un Début dans la vie. Paris: Gallimard, 2002.
  • Rancière, Jacques. La Lécon d’Althusser. Paris: Gallimard, 1973.
  • Rancière, Jacques. La Nuit des prolétaires. Paris: Fayard, 1981. The Nights of Labor: The Workers’ Dream in Nineteenth Century France, trans. John Drury, introduced by Donald Reid. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989.


1. For background information see ‘L’Union des Étudiants Communistes’, Wikipédia,

2. See for instance Duroux interview.

3. Jacques-Alain Miller, ‘Entretien avec Jean-Paul Sartre’, Cahiers Libres de la Jeunesse 1 (January 1960), reprinted in Un Début dans la vie, 11-27.

4. Miller, ‘Préface’, Un Début dans la vie, ix.

5. Badiou interview.

6. Louis Althusser, ‘Marxisme et humanisme’, Cahiers de l’Institut des Sciences Économiques Appliquées 20 (1964), 109-133, reprinted in Pour Marx (Paris: Maspero, 1965); ‘Marxism and Humanism’, trans. Ben Brewster, For Marx (London New Left Books, 1969).

7. G.M. Goshgarian, ‘Introduction’, in Althusser, The Humanist Controversy, xxiv.

8. Cf. Julian Bourg, ‘The Red Guards of Paris: French Student Maoism of the 1960s’, 483.

9. Bourg, ‘The Red Guards of Paris’, 482. As Donald Reid puts it, in his introduction to the translation of Jacques Rancière’s La Nuit des prolétaires, ‘Althusser became a leading intellectual in the Parti Communiste Français (PCF) in the late 1960s by maintaining a distinction between “science”, the province of intellectuals, and politics, the Party’s responsibility. But whereas Althusser sustained his balancing act with respect to the Party – offering the requisite autocritique when necessary – his students did not. They conceived of Althusserianism as offering the chance for “real participation, as intellectuals, in the transformation of the world” [Jacques Ranciere, La Lécon d’Althusser (Paris: Gallimard, 1974), 89]. This will to act led them to identify themselves as “pro-Chinese”. Such a stance was antithetical to the neo-Stalinists who headed up the PCF. Not surprisingly, the Althusserian Maoists of the Cercle d’Ulm were kicked out of the Union des Étudiants Communistes. Galvanized by the news of the Cultural Revolution in China, they founded the Union de la Jeunesse Communiste (marxiste-leniniste) late in 1966’ (Donald Reid, ‘Introduction’, in Rancière, The Nights of Labor, xvi-xvii).

10. Althusser, The Future Lasts Forever, 208.

11. Miller, ‘Préface’, Un Début dans la vie, x.

12. The most detailed study is Frédéric Chateigner’s unpublished DEA dissertation, ‘D’Althusser à Mao: Les Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes (1964-1968)’, Paris: École Normale Supérieure – École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, October 2004. 72 pages. An abbreviated version was published as ‘D’Althusser à Mao. Les Cahiers marxistes-léninistes’, in Dissidences 8 (2010): 66-80.

13. Frédéric Chateigner, ‘D’Althusser à Mao’, 17-18.

14. Jacques-Alain Miller, ‘Fonction de la formation théorique’, présentation des Cahiers marxistes-léninistes, reprinted in Un Début dans la vie, 86.

15. Miller, ‘Fonction de la formation théorique’, 87-89.

16. Miller, ‘Les Pouvoirs de la littérature’, Cahiers Marxistes-Léninistes 8 (1966), reprinted in Un Début dans la vie.

17. According to the testimony of Dominique Lecourt, cited in François Dosse, History of Structuralism I, trans. Deborah Glassman (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 281.

18. ‘The new organization—the UJC(ml)—was formed on 16 December 1966 by a hundred people. The founding text of the UJC(ml) stressed the immediate theoretical struggle against revisionist “theoretical fools"; the need for a Leninist form of organization stressing “unity of thought and action”; and the link between Chinese and French Marxist–Leninists: ’For the world Proletarian revolution, the red base of the People’s Republic of China is the fulcrum. The advanced front of the Proletarian Revolution in France are the Marxist-Leninists who struggle and organize themselves everywhere [… A] revolutionary force, lead justly and solidly founded, is invincible’ (Bourg, ‘The Red Guards of Paris’, 485-486). For more information see ‘Union des Jeunesses Communistes Marxistes-Léninistes’, Wikipédia,, and the set of UJC(ml) documents posted at ‘UJC(ML) (1966-1968)’,

19. Badiou interview.

20. Bourg, ‘The Red Guards of Paris’, 488; cf. A. Belden Fields. Trotskyism and Maoism, 90-91. Nevertheless, Bourg notes, ‘The influence of Althusser, who had not left the PCF, continued to be important, since a number of militants at the time held out hope for an eventual return into the PCF fold. The “covert" Maoism of Althusser continued to be disseminated, for example, at a July 1967 colloquium at Cerisy held on the centennial anniversary of the publication of the first volume of Das Kapital, which fell into a dialogue of the deaf between Althusserians and followers of Raymond Aron. And yet, Althusser’s refusal to leave the PCF was a dividing line that became more and more permanent in 1967. Althusser himself was distressed over the founding of the UJC(ml): “[T]he group in the rue d’Ulm and their friends took the initiative of breaking with the Party which clearly gave them a great deal of pleasure. I gave them a real rocket and said they were behaving like children, not engaging in political action. But they had taken the step” (Althusser, The Future Lasts Forever, 353). He accused his students, as he would some participants of May 1968, of “infantile leftism.” Nevertheless, one immediate consequence of founding the UJC(ml) was that Althusser began to criticize his own exclusive emphasis on theory alone: “I was led to formulate that excessively celebrated definition of philosophy as: ‘The Theory of theoretical practice’ […] but quickly abandoned it as a result of the criticism of Régis Debray and especially Robert Linhart, both of whom really knew what political action was and its primacy” [ibid, 215, 357]. To some degree, in breaking with their teacher, some of Althusser’s students slid into the pedagogical driver’s seat’ (Bourg, ‘Red Guards’, 486).

21. Chateigner, ‘D’Althusser à Mao’, 58.

22. See ‘Gauche Prolétarienne’, Wikipédia,, and the set of GP documents posted at ‘Gauche Prolétarienne (1968-1972)’,

23. See ‘Union des Communistes de France Marxiste-Léniniste’, Wikipédia,; ‘L’Organisation Politique’, Wikipédia,, and the set of UCFML documents (including several early works by Badiou) posted at