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Jean-Paul Sartre 1947

The Historical Process


Source: Michel Contat and Michel Rybalka, Les crits de Sartre. Galliard, Pari!, 197"#
$ran!lated: %or ar&i!t!.or' by Mitch (bidor, )""*#
Co+y,e%t: Creati-e Coon! .(ttribute / Share(like0 ar&i!t!.or' )""*.
(! e&i!tentiali! !1e+t the 1orld in the iediate +o!t-1ar year!, Sartre 1a! !ub2ect to -iciou! attack!
by both the 3rench Couni!t Party and the 1orld Couni!t o-eent. (on' tho!e 1ho attacked
hi at -ariou! tie! 1ere o%%icial +hilo!o+her! like Ro'er Garaudy, 4enri ,e%eb-re and Geor'e ,ukac!. (
certain 5. 6a!la-!ki 1rote a -iciou! attack on Sartre in Pravda on January )7, 1947, 1hich de%ined
e&i!tentiali! a! %ollo1!: 83ro the 3rench: e&i!tence. $eache! that any hi!torical +roce!! i! ab!urd and
%ortuitou!, any orality a %al!ehood. 9t i! the doctrine o% !+iritual e+tine!!. (! %ar a! it i! concerned there
are not, there cannot be, either la1! or nor!. $here i! no hi!tory, only :hi!tori%ication;. $here i! no
orality, only a :li%e!tyle;. $here are neither +eo+le! nor !ocietie!, only +er!onal intere!t and +ro%it, by
-irtue o% the +rinci+le: carpe diem.< (! a 1ay o% ridiculin' it, Sartre +ubli!hed the +iece in Les Temps
Modernes in May o% that year, but he 1rote a re!+on!e to it that a++eared in the Gazette de Lausanne on
3ebruary *, 1947.
8=&i!tentiali! i! una1are o% the hi!torical +roce!!.<
.Pra-da January )7, 19470
9 ha-e e&+ected an attack o% thi! kind %or !oe tie. 9n y re-ie1, Les Temps Modernes, 9 had +o!ed a
%e1 >ue!tion! to Couni!t intellectual! and they 1eren;t able to an!1er. ?hat i! ore, M. 9lya
=hrenbur', u+on hi! return %ro (erica, !e-erely critici@ed y book!, and 9 had %orced hi to adit that
he hadn;t read the, 1hich he did 1ith 'ood 'race and 1ithout bein' the lea!t bit %lu!tered. 9t 1a!
ob-iou!ly nece!!ary that an encyclical be i!!ued to ake thin'! clear. 9t 'oe! 1ithout !ayin' that M.
6a!la-!ki had no ore read e&i!tentiali!t 1ork! than did M. =hrenbur'. Ae he !+eak! o% the %ro e-en
hi'her and %arther a1ay. 9 a ebarra!!ed to an!1er hi: 1e an!1er !oeone, but M. 6a!la-!ki i! no
one. Pro-i!ionally he i! the editoriali!t o% Pravda, and it i! the 8hi!torical +roce!!< . to u!e hi! 1ord!0 that
e&+re!!e! it!el% thou'h hi! outh. $oorro1, +erha+!, the hi!torical +roce!! 1ill turn a1ay %ro hi and
he;ll be a nuber in Siberia and e-eryone 1ill ha-e %or'otten hi. 4e 1ill ne-er ha-e been a +er!on# 9
re'ret thi! %or hi! !ake and ine. 9t reain! %or e then to addre!! the 8hi!torical +roce!!< and to e&+re!!
y re'ret! to it that it cho!e !o bad an inter+reter. 9t could doubtle!! not %ind any other!. $he hi!torical
+roce!! al1ay! ha! rea!on!. Aut it 1ould ha-e been de!irable that M. 6a!la-!ki, 1ho hau'htily declare!
that 8e&i!tentiali! i! the ne'ation o% all o% +hilo!o+hy,< +ro-e, at lea!t in hi! article, that he 1a! hi!el% a
+hilo!o+her. (la!, in thi! hate%ul and !tu+id a!! there i! not a !in'le !en!ible 1ord. 9 1ill liit y!el% to
+ointin' out the %ollo1in' error!:
1. 9% M. 6a!la-!ki 1ere a +hilo!o+her and i% he had read the book! he !+eak! about he 1ouldn;t ha-e
treated a! a 8%atali!< a +hilo!o+hy 1ho!e !ole do'a i! the a%%iration o% huan %reedo, and 1hich
ne-er cea!e! re+eatin' that an;! de!tiny i! in hi! o1n hand!. $he Mar&i!t! ha-e o%ten enou'h +rote!ted
and cried out becau!e the hi!torical dialectic i! a!!iilated to %atali!. 9t i! re'rettable that M. 6a!la-!ki,
the cho!en one o% the 8hi!torical +roce!!,< ha! %allen into the !ae error concernin' e&i!tentiali!. Ay hi!
+en 1ord! !o chan'e their eanin' that he call! e a %atali!t becau!e 9 don;t belie-e that the couni!t
re-olution i! %ated.
). M. 6a!la-!ki re+roache! e&i!tentiali! it! 8total ab!ence o% !+irituality.< Aut i% he kne1 the (AC;!
o% Mar&i! he 1ould kno1 that a ateriali!t ake! hi!el% ridiculou! by re+roachin' hi! ad-er!arie! %or
their lack o% !+irituality. $here i!, in %act, !+irituality 1hen 1e a++eal to the !+irit, a !ub!tance di!tinct
%ro atter. Aut ateriali! reco'ni@e! only one +rinci+le, that o% atter, and it i! in +rinci+le ho!tile to
any recour!e to the !+irit. 9t 1ould ne-er ha-e occurred to e to con!ider Me!!r!. $hore@ and 5uclo!
!+irituali!t!. 9 1ill hence%orth !tri-e to do !o. 9%, thou'h, M. 6a!la-!ki had at lea!t o+ened Being and
Nothingness he 1ould ha-e !een there that each indi-idual;! con!ciou!ne!! i! irreducible to atter. Aut
+erha+! he kno1! thi! and he de+lore! our lack o% !+irituali! +reci!ely becau!e 1e aren;t ateriali!t!.
7. 9 ha-e 1ritten a! o%ten a! +o!!ible that a !ociali!t re-olution 1a! huanity;! !ole ho+e. $hi! i!
doubtle!! 1hy M. 6a!la-!ki declare! that 9 a backed by the $1o 4undred 3ailie!. 9 -ery uch
di!+lea!ed a 'ood nuber o% (erican! in 1ritin' a +iece on the condition! o% black! in the Bnited State!#
that i! doubtle!! 1hy he !ay! 9; an a'ent o% (erican +ro+a'anda. 9t i! true that 9 li-ed %or a lon'er tie
than M. =hrenbur' in the Bnited State!, and that 9 don;t !hare hi! %ooli!h +re2udice! a'ain!t that 'reat
country. Aut u!t one conclude that 9 1ant to ake ine a 8colony o% (erican i+eriali!C< 9! it
ab!olutely nece!!ary to in!ult (erica to +re!er-e the 'ood 'race! o% the 8hi!torical +roce!!< and M.
6a!la-!kiC Dne o% y collaborator! on Les Temps Modernes 1rote that the 81hole 1orld i!, in %act , the
hi!torical herita'e o% the Bnited State!.< M. 6a!la-!ki conclude! %ro thi! that 1e 1i!h %or BS he'eony
o-er the entire 1orld. 9% he kne1 ho1 to or 1anted to read the 1hole article, he 1ould ha-e inter+reted the
!entence di%%erently. My collaborator eant, in %act, that i% there 1a! to be an (erican culture the
(erican! had to take in and a!!iilate the hi!torical tradition! o% all continent!. 9n any e-ent, 1hat M.
6a!la-!ki under!tood doe!n;t count. $he only thin' that count! i! 1hat the 8hi!torical +roce!!< dictate! to
hi. (! %or the 1ealthy (erican bour'eoi!ie 1ho, it !ee!, 8'reeted in e the eney o% Mar&i!,< 9
can a!!ure the editoriali!t o% Pra-da that it could care le!! about e and doe!n;t e-en kno1 y nae. $he
talk! 9 'a-e in (erica took +lace be%ore intellectual! and !tudent!, and they dealt 1ith 3rench literature
under the Dccu+ation.
4. M. 6a!la-!ki accu!e! e o% 8denyin' any orality.< 9 recall the e&+re!!ion o% ,enin: 89 call oral
any an 1ho contribute! to the couni!t re-olution, and ioral any an 1ho atte+t! to +re-ent it.<
9% M. 6a!la-!ki under!tand! the 1ord! oral and ioral in thi! !en!e, then it i! true that 9 a not oral.
9 don;t belon' to the Couni!t Party. Aut 9 belie-e in the e&i!tence o% an autonoou! orality. 9 belie-e
that 1e ha-e +reci!e obli'ation!, aon' the that, 1hate-er the deand! o% the 8hi!torical +roce!!,< 1e
!+eak the truth. (nd !o, in the !ae 1ay that M. 6a!la-!ki accu!e! e o% bein' a %atali!t becau!e 9 belie-e
in %reedo, and o% lackin' in !+irituality becau!e 9 a not a ateriali!t, he accu!e! e o% iorality
becau!e 9 a not a +arti!an o% Machia-elliani! and reali! in +olitic!. Pra-da;! ex cathedra
condenation coe! at the -ery oent that the Church +laced y book! on the 9nde&. $hi! i! not by
chance# 9 1ill be e&cu!ed i% 9 !ee in thi! !iultaneou! dual condenation nothin' but a +reciou!
encoura'eent. ?hen 1e !eek to ha-e en con%ront their %reedo it i! natural that 1e %ind be%ore u!
tho!e 1ho ha-e an intere!t in hidin' it %ro the.

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