Segments in this Video

French Intellectuals' Stalinism (01:56)


Many leftist intellectuals, euphoric after the victory over Fascism, were blind to Stalin's concentration camps. Boris Souvarine, France's first communist, became the first to denounce Stalin.

Trotskyism (00:35)

Trotsky had no standing to lecture on democracy, but his charisma made his name a banner for dissident communists.

Congress for the Defense of Culture (01:55)

At the pro-Moscow 1935 Congress for the Defense of Culture, in Paris, some intellectuals expressed dissent. Musil was almost shouted down for condemning Stalinism. Crevel may have been driven to despair.

Nizan (01:47)

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact stunned many communist intellectuals. Nizan's wife recalls his decision to resign from the Party.

Retracing Gide's Travels (02:28)

Andre Gide's book about his USSR travels caused an uproar. See the sights he saw in Leningrad and Moscow; to this point, his account mostly idealizes the Russian people and society.

Gide at Sochi (01:10)

At Sochi, Georgia, Gide was shocked by ill-treatment of workers. He visited Stalinist author Ostrovski, who dictated writings through immobility and blindness.

Gide's Disillusionment (01:38)

As Gide dictated a telegram to Stalin, the postal employee told him he must give Stalin an honorary title. At Moscow, on collective farms and at a town for rehabilitated criminals he found much that fell short of his ideals.

Failure of Post-War Intellectuals (00:34)

The intellectuals of the French Resistance might have taken their anti-totalitarian heritage with them, but they abandoned it in the euphoric post-War years, Bernard Henri Levy says.

Communist Post-War Prestige (02:56)

Jean Paulhan worried about a Party takeover of the spirit of the shared struggle. Aragon had great moral authority. See clips of a Stalinist film directed by Eluard.

Communists and Peace Movement (00:47)

Amid worries about the atomic bomb, Communists got themselves associated with the peace movement.

Intellectuals Submit to Party Doctrine (03:14)

Communist intellectuals backed socialist realist painting and Lysenko's doctrine of proletarian science. Communists disliked Picasso's portrait of Stalin and demanded self-criticism from Aragon. Sartre turned toward Moscow.

Anti-Communism Emerges (00:48)

Amid intellectuals' indifference to Stalin's horrors, a few men emerged as critics and were subject to widespread slander.

Malraux and Aron (01:38)

Malraux became anti-Communist and Gaullist, making the same anti-totalitarian arguments he had deployed against Fascism. Aron broke with Sartre to found the anti-communist Liberte De L'Esprit.

Kravchenko Trial (01:31)

Kravchenko fled Stalin and revealed the truth about his regime and was attacked by Les Lettres Francaises. He sued for libel; at trial, he called gulag survivors to the stand.

Camus (01:36)

The Algerian Camus was an outsider standing against orthodoxies. He thought history was not moving toward a goal; he favored piecemeal humanitarian actions over definitive solutions.

Camus Becomes Major Figure (01:26)

"The Rebel" reflects Camus' understanding of contingency and rejection of definitive solutions. He was for a time strongly identified with Sartre and seen as an opponent of Gerard Philippe.

Jeanson Attacks Camus (01:27)

Sartre got his disciple Francis Jeanson to write an attack on Camus over "The Rebel." Jeanson says he objected to Camus' interpretation and evaluation of Marx and his detached "indifference" to the French working class.

Hungary and Doubts about USSR (02:26)

Communist suppression of rebellion in East Berlin and then Hungary vindicated Camus and filled pro-Moscow intellectuals such as Aragon with doubt. Foucault talks about the influence of Hungary 1956 on intellectuals.

Algerian Independence Movement (00:36)

As French intellectual Marxism crumbled with East European uprisings, the Algerian War also has a surprising place in the intelligentsia's divorce from Communism.

French Torture Chamber in Algeria (03:01)

The French army waged a savage war in Algeria. We visit a building where the French tortured those with suspected FLN connections; a man talks about being tortured.

French Left and Algerian War (01:45)

Leftist governments, under pressure from white colonialists, took harsh stances in Algeria. The Communist Party abstained from a vote granting Molet special powers. Many intellectuals opposed the government.

Camus and Algeria War (01:44)

Camus was torn and uncertain as he prepared to take his position on the Algerian War; under pressure from the crowd, he held his tongue. His 1957 Nobel Prize speech was interpreted as a renunciation of unconditional principle.

Intellectuals Turn Against France (02:57)

Some intellectuals fought with or provided support to the Algerians, but opposed the slaughter of French civilians. The atmosphere of rebellion was similar to the WWII resistance.

Intellectuals, Communists and Algeria (00:54)

French intellectuals were disappointed with the French Communist Party's unwillingness to support Algerian independence.

Third Worldism (00:58)

With their emancipation from Communist ideology, French intellectuals formulated an ideology of Third Worldism, drawing on the tradition of the surrealists, who believed Africa represented the future of humanity.

Genet's Rejection of the West (01:22)

Jean Genet repudiated Europe all his life, from juvenile delinquency on. In a 1982 interview, he says his whole life has been a rejection of the white man's rules, and he celebrates the French defeat in 1940.

Zionism (00:38)

The creation of Israel excited intellectuals such as Sartre.

Anti-European Enthusiasm (01:17)

The 1955 conference of Third World nations in Indonesia excited intellectuals as the uprising of proletarian nations and the death knell of Europe. Debray talks about the millenarian anticipation of Europe's ruin and redemption.

Fanon (01:54)

Fanon exemplifies intellectuals' desire for "return to the source" in the Third World. He liberated mental patients from straitjackets and advocated listening to them- his psychiatric practice is linked to his revolutionary political views.

Revolutionary Visions of Purity (02:02)

Lanzmann says Fanon and other intellectuals saw anticolonial revolution as the path to European regeneration. He admits this sounds strange in our non-idealistic age.

Credits: Lost Illusions: French Intellectuals in the 20th Century (01:49)

Credits: Lost Illusions: French Intellectuals in the 20th Century

For additional digital leasing and purchase options contact a media consultant at 800-257-5126
(press option 3) or

Lost Illusions: French Intellectuals in the 20th Century

Part of the Series : French Intellectuals in the 20th Century
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



This program covers the following topics: the French Communist Party and anti-Stalinism; the Algerian War; Jean Genet; Franz Fanon; Sartre; and the cause of Third World revolution. A part of the series French Intellectuals in the 20th Century. (Portions in French with English subtitles, 52 minutes)

Length: 52 minutes

Item#: BVL53623

ISBN: 978-1-61753-900-8

Copyright date: ©1990

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Only available in USA and Canada.