Post-Maoism: Badiou and Politics

Bruno Bosteels
The Red Years
In “So Near! So Far!” the nrst section in his polemical Deleuze: The Clamor
of Being, Alain Badiou brieny recalls the tense ideological situation in the
late sixties and early seventies in which he once went so far as to boycott his
older colleague’s course at the recently created University of Paris VIII at
Vincennes:
Then came the red years, ·o(8, the University of Vincennes. For the
Maoist that I was, Deleuze, as the philosophical inspiration for what we
called the “anarcho-desirers,” was an enemy all the more formidable for
being internal to the “movement” and for the fact that his course was one
of the focal points of the university.
1
In the original French version, published in ·oo-, this passage—like the
remainder of the brief introduction in which it appears—is actually written
positions ·::: © .cc: by Duke University Press.
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 576
in the present tense. Pour le maoïste que je suis, Badiou thus writes, literally,
“For the Maoist that I am.”
2
Of course, the French usage merely represents
a sudden shift to the narrative present; technically speaking, we are still in
the past, and, in this sense, the English translation is by no means incorrect.
Nevertheless, something of the heightened ambiguity attached to the use of
the narrative present is lost in the passage from one language to the other, as
the overall image of a potentially discomforting past replaces the suggestion
of an ongoing loyalty, or at the very least a lingering debt, to Maoism.
By way of framing my translation of Badiou’s talk “The Cultural Revolu-
tion: The Last Revolution?” I want to argue that Badiou’s relation to Mao-
ism, which amounts to a form of post-Maoism, can in fact be summarized
in the ambiguous use of the narrative present. If we were to spell out this
ambiguity, we could say that Badiou was and still is a Maoist, even though
he no longer is the same Maoist that he once was. Badiou himself says at the
beginning of his talk, quoting Rimbaud to refer to his red years: ”J’y suis,
j’y suis toujours” (“I am there, I am still there,” sometimes translated as “I
am here, I am still here”). And yet we also sense that an impression of past-
ness undeniably overshadows the past’s continuing presence in the present.
What seems so near is also exceedingly far; and what is there is perhaps not
quite here. By the same token, we should not overlook the possibility that
a certain inner distancing may already denne the original rapport to Mao-
ism itself. In fact, Mao’s own role for Badiou will largely have consisted in
introducing an interior divide into the legacy of Marxism-Leninism. “From
the Jinggang Mountains to the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong’s thought
is formulated against the current, as the work of division,” Badiou sum-
marizes in his Théorie de la contradiction (·o-:), before identifying Mao’s
logic of scission as a prime example of dialectical thinking: “Rebel thinking
if there ever was one, revolted thinking of the revolt: dialectical thinking.”
3

Maoism, then, in more strictly philosophical terms will come to mark an
understanding of the dialectic as precisely such a thinking through inner
splits and divided recompositions. As Badiou would write several years later
in an article for Le Perroquet, one of the periodicals of his Maoist group: “At
stake are the criteria of dialectical thinking—general thinking of scission,
of rupture, of the event and of recomposition.”
4
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 577
Working Hypothesis
We could begin by pondering some of the more unfortunate consequences
of the fact that Badiou’s vast body of work, standing nearly as tall as its
author, has only recently begun to attract serious critical attention. This is
true not only in English-speaking parts of the world, where several books
have now been translated or are being translated, but even in his home
country of France. In fact, to nnd a long-standing tradition of critical com-
mentary and concrete analysis informed by this thinker’s work, I often insist
that we should turn to Latin America, especially to Argentina, where the
journal Acontecimiento: Revista para pensar la política for over a decade has
made specinc interventions inspired by Badiou about such situations as the
Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina or the Zapatistas in Mexico.
Most of Badiou’s publications, together with a considerable number of docu-
ments still unedited even in French, have also long been available in Spanish
and Portuguese. By contrast, not even the two major texts, Théorie du sujet
(·o8.) and L’Etre et l’événement (·o88), are published as of today in English.
Many Anglo-American readers thus almost by default limit themselves to
the later and shorter books, starting with the ·ooo edition of Manifesto for
Philosophy (·o8o) all the way to the deceptively simple .cc. edition of Eth-
ics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil (·oo:), while others have come to
Badiou’s philosophy only from neighboring traditions, by focusing on his
Deleuze or on the “event” of Christianity as addressed in Saint Paul: The
Foundation of Universalism (·oo-).
What is often lost along the way in these readings are precisely Badiou’s
long-standing debts to Maoism and to the political sequence ofncially
known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Badiou explains in
his Ethics that this Maoist period actually involved a double allegiance, a
ndelity not to one but to two events, referring to “the politics of the French
Maoists between ·o(( and ·o-(, which tried to think and practise a ndelity
to two entangled events: the Cultural Revolution in China, and May ’(8 in
France.”
5
Many readers are of course aware that during those tumultuous
years, while never being strictly speaking “pro-China,” the author was a
staunch defender of the ideas of Chairman Mao. Badiou himself makes suf-
ncient references throughout his work to suggest how formative this expe-
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 578
rience was, and still continues to be, for his thinking. But knowledge of
this fact rarely leads to a sustained inquiry into the substance of Badiou’s
Maoism.
Furthermore, the commonly accepted wisdom among Badiou’s readers
now holds that, by the mid- to late eighties, we are witness to a clean break
away from all dialectical forms of thinking—including a break away, there-
fore, from the thought of Mao Zedong. At least Peter Hallward has the
virtue of outlining the possibility of a much more painstaking investigation
into the continuing legacy of Badiou’s Maoism. This legacy involves not just
an unninching ndelity to forms of political commitment but also a whole
series of theoretical and philosophical invariants.
6
If this is indeed the case,
though, should we not at the very least be wary of drawing too quick a line
in the sand between the “early” and the “later” Badiou?
The Maoist Investigation
Even today Badiou’s concept of politics as a procedure of truth remains to a
large extent inseparable, despite the apparent self-criticisms, from the theory
and practice of his vision of Maoism. To give but one symptomatic indica-
tion of this continuity, all procedures of truth, and not just the political
one, involve a sustained “inquiry” or “investigation” into the possible con-
nection or disconnection between the various aspects of a given situation
and that which will have taken place in this situation under the sign of
an event. As Badiou writes in L’Etre et l’événement: “In the end, therefore,
we can legitimately treat the inquiry, nnite series of minimal observations
[constats], as the truly basic unity of the procedure of ndelity” and, thus,
through “the subtle dialectic between knowledges and postevental ndelity”
that is at stake in such procedures, as part of “the very kernel of the dialectic
between knowledge and truth.”
7
Badiou certainly must not have forgotten
that the task of undertaking such “inquiries” or “investigations” (enquêtes)
in many parts of the world was one of the most important lessons drawn
from Maoism.
A whole chapter in The Little Red Book is dedicated to this very ques-
tion under the title “Investigation and Study.”
8
And one of the earliest con-
crete examples of this method of study can be found in Mao’s own ·o.-
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 579
Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan, the main topic
of which—the revolutionary role of the peasantry that already sounded a
strong note of dissonance in comparison with orthodox Marxism and Lenin-
ism—he would later revisit among other places in his ·o.· Rural Surveys
(again, in the French editions, the same term, enquête, is used to translate
the concepts that appear as “investigation” and “survey” in English). In the
preface to this last text, Mao reiterates the principle of the investigation as a
form of concrete analysis of a concrete situation, so to speak, going against
the abstraction of pure and unconditioned theory:
Everyone engaged in practical work must investigate conditions at the
lower levels. Such investigation is especially necessary for those who know
theory but do not know the actual conditions, for otherwise they will not
be able to link theory with practice. Although my assertion, “No investi-
gation, no right to speak,” has been ridiculed as “narrow empiricism,” to
this day I do not regret having made it; far from regretting it, I still insist
that without investigation there cannot be any right to speak.
9
Serge July, a leading member of the soon-to-become ex–Gauche Prolé-
tarienne, by far the most famous French Maoist group, and a subsequent
cofounder of the daily Libération, would later go on to observe that “the
investigation is the theoretical key to French Maoism.”
10
In fact, the prin-
ciple of the investigation, or enquête, together with the so-called assessment
of experience, or bilan d’expérience, was a fundamental feature of Badiou’s
own Maoist organization, the UCFML, or Union of Communists of France
Marxist-Leninist.
The investigation is precisely that which enables any given militant pro-
cess to continue moving along in the spiral between the various political
experiences and their effective theoretical concentration. Thus, in a collec-
tion of texts summarizing the achievements of the UCFML’s nrst year of
existence, we read: “The Maoist investigation is not a simple observation of
facts [un simple constat], not even the enthusiastic observation of the conse-
quences of our interventions. It solves a problem. Which problem? That of
the takeover of the effects of the intervention by the workers,” and later on,
in another document: “The investigation must not only bear on the search
for a new objective in the struggle, it must propose the putting into place of
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 580
lasting practices, set off the ideological struggle. Before and after the strug-
gle, something has changed, we must know how to make this live on.”
11

Following Mao, moreover, the UCFML sees an urgent task in carrying out
investigations not just in the urban working class but also among the poor
peasants: “In particular, it is of prime importance to lead militant investiga-
tions on the great revolts of poor peasants, especially in West and Central
France.”
12
To a large extent, this last task is taken up in the UCFML’s Le
livre des paysans pauvres, a collective and local equivalent to Mao’s Rural Sur-
veys, that sums up the organization’s militant activity in the countryside in
the seventies in France. Finally, we may also mention the even more recent
survey performed in China, in March and April ·o8o, by Badiou’s close
friend and collaborator Sylvain Lazarus together with his Italian comrades
Sandro Russo, Valerio Romitelli, and Claudia Pozzana, part of whose joint
follow-up discussion was subsequently published in the UCFML’s newsletter
Le Perroquet.
13
If I have gone into this much detail on the question of the investigation,
raised anew in the context of L’Etre et l’événement, my reason for doing so is
merely to showcase the pivotal role of certain Maoist concepts and principles
including in the so-called later works by Badiou. However, the point is not
just to underscore the mere fact that these concepts and principles persist but
also and above all to grasp how, where, and to what purpose they are put to
work. In L’Etre et l’événement, I would argue that they tend to come into the
picture precisely where truth and knowledge are articulated in what is still
called a dialectic—even though the book’s introduction seems to suppose
that we are to leave behind the “stillborn” tradition of dialectical material-
ism with the decisive turn to mathematics. As Badiou explains:
This is to say that everything revolves around thinking the couple truth/
knowledge. This means to think the rapport—which is rather a disrap-
port—between a postevental ndelity, on the one hand, and, on the other,
a nxed state of knowledge, or what I will call the encyclopedia of a situ-
ation. The key of the problem lies in the way in which a procedure of
ndelity traverses the existing knowledge, starting from the supernumerary
point that is the name of the event.
14
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 581
We can see at which point in the overall theory concepts such as the
investigation are operative: there where a truth “traverses” knowledge and
subsequently opens the way to “force” the available encyclopedia of a given
situation, so as to change the old into the new. Without any explicit mention
of its Chinese sources, even for Badiou’s later work the investigation is that
which ensures the possible connection of certain elements in the existing
situation to the break introduced by a rare event.
Thus the dialectical rapport between truth and knowledge is precisely
the place of inscription of most of Badiou’s debts to Maoism. At the same
time, the process of ndelity and the sequence of investigations in which
such ndelity nnds its most basic organized expression also keep the dialec-
tic of truth and knowledge from turning into an inoperative, quasi-mysti-
cal or miraculous duality of the kind that so many critics seem to want to
stick on Badiou’s own work. This would seem to connrm the fundamental
hypothesis that I wish to lay out in the following pages, namely, that only
an understanding of Badiou’s ongoing debts to Maoism can give us insight
into his proposed renewal of the materialist dialectic while, conversely, a
miraculous and antidialectical understanding of the relation between truth
and knowledge is often the result of a failure to come to terms with the Mao
in his work.
Rather than having become a self-confessed post-Marxist, following a
career path parallel to that of authors such as Ernesto Laclau, Badiou is
indeed better described as a post-Maoist. This can be said to be the case,
however, only if we are able, despite so much backlash in the wake of the
postmodernism debate, to retain the active, almost psychoanalytic meaning
of the prenx so as to signal a critical attempt to work through the lasting
truths as well as the no less undeniable blind spots of Maoism. “Post-Mao-
ism,” in other words, not as that which comes simply after the end of Mao-
ism, or even more simplistically after the death of Mao Zedong, the trial
of the Gang of Four, and the coming into power of Deng Xiaoping, but as
the name for a peculiar historical connguration in which critical thought
returns, even if subreptitiously so, to the half-forgotten and half-repressed
lessons of Maoism. Needless to say, this connguration is largely international,
with contemporary varieties of post-Maoism existing not only in France but
also in Argentina, Chile, the Basque country, or even the United States—to
name but a few cases beyond the more obvious instances of Peru, Nepal, or
the Philippines.
Finally, in some ways the current conjuncture in political philosophy can
be said to suffer the consequences of a failed or incomplete passage through
Maoism. Indeed, some of the best-known political thinkers of our time,
including those who otherwise consider themselves loyal to a certain Marx,
become caught in the trappings of a conceptual framework that might have
benented from a more sustained confrontation with some of the Maoist les-
sons taken up by Badiou. I am thinking, for instance, of the pivotal role
attributed to “antagonism” in the writings on radical democracy by Laclau
and Chantal Mouffe, or even in the collaborative work by Antonio Negri
and Michael Hardt—with the latter duo swearing off any pretense to a
dialectical interpretation of the concept, which they otherwise wield with
surprising ease, and the former more generally showing little or no theoreti-
cal appreciation at all for the author of “On Contradiction.”
15
As a result,
these political philosophers seem to call for a recognition of the structural
or even ontological fact of antagonism in general as being constitutive of the
social neld, rather than working through the peculiar nature of antagonistic
contradictions, or their blurring, in the global situation today. The painful
irony, however, is that in so doing, these political thinkers may very well
give themselves an irrefutable air of radicalism while foreclosing the pos-
sibility of actually changing a particular situation—of changing the old into
the new, which is precisely what always was to have been thought according
to Badiou. “The true dialectical question is never in the nrst place: what
happens that is important?” he writes in Théorie de la contradiction: “The
true question is always: what happens that is new?”
16
Or, in a more recent
version: “My unique philosophical question, I would say, is the following:
Can we think that there is something new in the situation, not the new
outside the situation nor the new somewhere else, but can we really think
through novelty and treat it in the situation?” Badiou says in an interview:
“But, of course, to think the new in the situation, we also have to think
the situation, and thus we have to think what is repetition, what is the old,
what is not new, and after that we have to think the new.”
17
This struggle
between the old and the new, as the effect of lasting contradictions among
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 582
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 583
the people, was precisely one of the more famous universal lessons of the
Cultural Revolution.
Serving Truths
Even a quick survey of Badiou’s work supports the thesis of an ongoing
and sustained debt to Maoism. Not only do his nrst publications, the short
books Théorie de la contradiction (·o-:) and De l’idéologie (·o-(), together
with his running commentary on Zhang Shiying’s interpretation of Hegel
in Le noyau rationnel de la dialectique hégélienne (·o-8), offer a systematic
account of Mao’s thought innected by French theory and philosophy, but
his recently published lecture series, Le Siècle (.cc:), also includes a long
lecture, ”One Divides into Two,” in which Badiou returns to some of the
most violent events and debates of the late sixties, at the height of the Cul-
tural Revolution, especially over the formal distinction between antagonistic
and nonantagonistic contradictions, in an attempt to think through their
possible relevance today. Between these two moments, Badiou’s relation to
Maoism may seem to have been mostly critical, as can be gleaned from his
brief remarks, both in conferences from Conditions (·oo.) and in his Ethics
(·oo:), about the “disaster” provoked by the Red Guards. Finally, in his lec-
ture on the Cultural Revolution, Badiou once more confronts Mao’s legacy,
this time by linking the sequence of events in China between ·o(( and ·o-(
(or, in its most reduced version, between May ·o(( and September ·o(-) to
his own concept of “politics without a party” as practiced by an offshoot of
the UCFML, the Organisation Politique (OP).
18
The different steps in this evaluation of Maoism immediately raise a
series of questions. A nrst question obviously concerns the precise extent to
which Badiou would have abandoned the principles of his youthful Mao-
ism. After his seminar on Théorie du sujet, which was still strongly over-
determined by his Maoist experience, has he perhaps fallen in line with
the contemporary trend that, whether euphoric or melancholy, declares the
historical end, if not also the utter doctrinal demise, of Marxism and cer-
tainly of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism? A second question regards the extent
to which Badiou’s logical and ontological inquiries, principally in L’Etre et
l’événement and in the new book Logiques des mondes, would obliterate the
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 584
role of dialectical materialism. Has he all but abandoned this last tradition,
which was the starting point of his work with, and soon afterward against,
Louis Althusser? Third, we might want to ask ourselves how innovative
and far-reaching Badiou’s recent criticisms of the Cultural Revolution and
of the disastrous role of the Red Guards really are. In particular, do these
criticisms actually amount to an attempt at self-criticism of the excesses in
his earlier works? Finally, the question also remains to what extent the idea
of a politics without a party, which Badiou now nnds to be already partially
at work in the Cultural Revolution, would really undermine his earlier,
strongly party-oriented, accounts of Maoism. In other words, how much
change has really taken place in his concept—not to mention his actual
practice—of the organization of politics?
“Learn from the masses” and “investigate conditions at the lower levels,”
Mao had said, and more famously: “Serve the people.”
19
For Badiou, once
he seems to abandon the Maoist vocabulary, the aim is to learn from truths
produced outside philosophy, in the actual conditions of art or politics or sci-
ence, so as to investigate what would be needed, in terms of conceptual tools,
to register and concentrate the effects of certain events within philosophy.
Painful though it may be to admit that philosophy itself does not produce
any truth, the philosopher’s task thus consists in serving the truths that are
occasionally produced elsewhere. Badiou concludes:
A philosophy worthy of this name—that which begins with Parmen-
ides—is nonetheless antinomical to the service of goods, insofar as it
strives to be at the service of truths, because it is always possible to strive
to be at the service of that which one does not constitute oneself. Philoso-
phy is thus at the service of art, of science, and of politics. Whether it is
also capable of being at the service of love is more doubtful (art, on the
other hand, as a mixed procedure, upholds the truths of love).
20
From “serving the people” to “serving the truths” thus could sum up the
trajectory behind Badiou’s post-Maoism. In both cases, a materialist philoso-
pher is one who begins by listening to, and in thinking ultimately serves,
that which conditions thought from the outside.
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 585
Maoism as Post-Leninism
As I mentioned before, Badiou’s openly Maoist years are specincally tied
up with a group of militants gathered under the banner of the UCFML,
sometimes referred to simply as the UCF, or (Group for the Foundation
of) the Union of Communists of France Marxist-Leninist. The futurity of
this small organization, oriented toward a unincation of communists yet to
come, as well as their loyalty to a Mallarméan principle of restricted action,
is perhaps not foreign to the ambiguity that surrounds the main political
objective of its participants, namely, to found a “party of a new type.”
21
The
ambiguity lies in the fact that the party of a new type is also already a type
of organization that no longer seems to be much of a formal party at all: for
example, there are no strict rules of afnliation, no membership cards, and
no party secretaries. Maoism, in this sense, is foremost an effort to come to
terms with the party-form, that is, with the form of the party as the van-
guard of class-consciousness in the strict Leninist sense: “What is called
Maoism has developed for our time a deepening of the Leninist concep-
tion of the party.”
22
Badiou’s Maoism, despite its apparent synonymy with
Marxism-Leninism, is thus already a post-Leninism: both a step away from
and a renewed inquiry into the party-form of emancipatory politics. This
is summed up in a retrospective statement of the UCFML, published in
·o8·: “Our conviction that Maoism is a stage of Marxism—its post-Leninist
stage—dates back to our foundation. It is rooted in the experience, the uni-
versal bearing and the assessment of the Cultural Revolution.”
23
In ·o(o Badiou had attempted an innovation from within as a dissident
founding member of the Unined Socialist Party (PSU), by coauthoring the
pamphlet Contribution au problème de la construction d’un parti marxiste-
léniniste de type nouveau together with Emmanuel Terray, Harry Jancovici,
and D. Ménétrey. This proposal eventually would be rejected by the end of
the same year, at the PSU’s national convention held in Dijon. In the mean-
time, however, Badiou joined with his fellow militants Natacha Michel and
Sylvain Lazarus, among a few others, to give birth to the UCFML. Despite
sharing many ideological interests, not to mention an almost identical name,
this group should not be confused with the UJCML, or UJC(ML), the Union
of the Communist Youths (Marxist-Leninist), which likewise drew many
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 586
members from the student body of the École Normale Supérieure at rue
d’Ulm—including many fellow Althusserians such as Jacques Rancière and
Jacques-Alain Miller, the latter of whom would soon move over to Lacan’s
camp. Formed in February ·o(( and led most famously by Robert Lin-
hart until the latter’s total personal breakdown two years later, at the exact
time when barricades were everywhere going up in the streets of Paris, the
UJC(ML) was ofncially dissolved in the wake of the May ·o(8 uprising and
as a result of the perceived failure to establish any lasting alliance between
the student movement and the struggles of the working class. The UCFML,
by contrast, reaches the peak of its activism in the early to mid-seventies
precisely as a result of the self-imposed task to continue interrogating the
events of May–June ·o(8, in terms of both their unintended backlash and
their belated consequences for the political situation in France.
As Badiou and Lazarus indicate in the editorial comment included in
almost each volume of their Yénan series, published in the seventies by
the same editing house owned by François Maspero that also supported
Althusser’s famous Théories series, there is only one vital question: “What
is, here and now, the road to follow so that Marxism and the real workers’
movement fuse?”
24
Even several years later, while openly acknowledging
the crisis of Marxism, Badiou continues to view Maoism as an unnnished
task, rather than as a lost cause or a past accomplishment to be savored with
historiographical nostalgia. “To defend Marxism today means to defend a
weakness. We have to do Marxism,” Badiou proposes in his Théorie du sujet,
and on the same page he continues: “That which we name ‘Maoism’ is less
a nnal result than a task, a historical guideline. It is a question of thinking
and practicing post-Leninism. To measure the old, to clarify the destruc-
tion, to recompose politics from the scarcity of its independent anchorings,
and all this while history continues to run its course under the darkest of
banners.”
25
If there is a shift in this regard in Badiou’s ongoing work, it is the slight
but signincant displacement from the idea of politicizing history, which still
assumes a relatively external anchoring of politics in history understood
at the level of social and economical being, to that of historicizing politics,
which remits a purely sequential understanding of politics to its own intrin-
sic history. For Badiou, it is precisely the Maoist experience that runs up
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 587
against the impossibility of fully accomplishing the nrst idea, whereas his
recent talk on the Cultural Revolution, together with the talk on the Paris
Commune from the same cycle, offers a good example of the second: “This
cycle of talks, proposed by the Organisation Politique, is meant to clarify the
links between history and politics at the start of the new century. Here, in
light of this question, we will examine various fundamental episodes in the
historicity of politics. For example, the Russian Revolution, the Resistance,
the Cultural Revolution, May ’(8, and so on.”
26
In other words, it is not just
by chance that this debate, over the historicity of politics, happens to serve as
a backdrop against which we can hear or read Badiou’s talk on the Cultural
Revolution. But Maoism and the Cultural Revolution, to which the UCFML
pledges half of its allegiance in the aftermath of May ·o(8 in France, also
constitute key events themselves in the shifting articulation between politics
and history that calls for such readings or investigations in the nrst place.
Politics, Culture, Ideology
Accounts of French Maoism, caught up as they are in an effort to explain
the contradictory alignment, or lack thereof, with the events of May ·o(8
and their aftermath, typically draw a clear distinction between ideology
and politics, or between culture and politics, whereby the perceived inef-
fectiveness of the overall movement as a political phenomenon paradoxically
receives a positive twist insofar as it would open up a much wider space for
cultural and ideological freedom.
Christophe Bourseiller, in Les maoïstes: La folle histoire des gardes rouges
français (·oo(), completely limits the impact of his subjects to the realm of
culture, where they indeed played the role of an important trigger for femi-
nist and gay rights struggles in France. Politically, however, the many French
Maoist groups would have entailed little more than a poorly thought-out
combination of left-wing populism and kneejerk third worldism, forever
oscillating between authoritarianism and anarchy in terms of their own
internal organization, and bound to disappear for good with the death of
Chairman Mao. In Bourseiller’s eyes, nnally, the UCFML appears as little
more than a “sect” caught somewhere in between the spaces of culture,
which would be a fantasy screen worthy of further projections, and that of
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 588
politics, which according to him ends up having been completely misguided.
Thus the group continues to rely on random and seemingly absurd acts of
violence, such as the raiding of supermarkets or the interruption of movie
screenings perceived to be reactionary or fascist, aside from suffering from
the cult of personality surrounding a small number of university intellectu-
als, foremost among them Badiou himself.
For A. Belden Fields, in his much more scholarly analysis in Trotsky-
ism and Maoism: Theory and Practice in France and the United States (·o88),
French Maoism likewise can be divided into two tendencies, which he calls
not so much “political” and “cultural” but rather “hierarchical” and “anti-
hierarchical”: “At least from ·o(8 to the mid-·o-cs the major characteristic of
French Maoism was indeed a clear-cut dualistic cleavage, with the groups on
each side of the cleavage having virtually nothing to do with one another.”
27

At one extreme of the divide we thus nnd the strict discipline and austerity
of the PCMLF, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of France, while at
the other extreme a much more favorable light is shed on the spontaneous
and slightly anarchistic acts undertaken by the GP, or Gauche Prolétari-
enne, which arose sphinxlike out of the ashes of the UJC(ML) in October
·o(8, only to become the most renowned and media oriented of all groups
of French Maoism. In Fields’s account, too, the UCFML appears as a group
that somehow sits astride the opposition between “hierarchical” and “anti-
hierarchical” Maoism—two adjectives that in the end are little more than
code words to describe two opposing attitudes toward the Leninist party.
Like the PCMLF, Badiou’s organization thus continues to stress the need
for an organized form of politics, albeit a future one, while intervening in
the situation of illegal immigrants, for example, with nexible tactics and ini-
tiatives comparable to those much more publicized ones used by GP mem-
bers and sympathizers.
Fields in part derives the split in his account of French Maoism from a
comparable, this time tripartite, division proposed by Rémi Hess in his much
earlier work, Les maoïstes français: Une dérive institutionnelle (·o-.). Hess,
who in an explicit attempt at sociological self-renexivity explains how he
nrst became interested in Maoism in ·o((–(- thanks to Badiou’s philosophy
course “Marx, Nietzsche, Freud” in Reims, would later become active in the
same city in a Maoist splinter group inspired by Badiou’s thought. Eventually,
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 589
however, he comes to favor a kind of Maoist cultural politics, closely related
to the critique of everyday life that was being formulated around the same
time by Henri Lefebvre and by the Situationist International. Thus, when
he draws a line of demarcation between three moments in French Maoism
that he calls “organizational,” “ideological,” and “libinidal,” it should come
as no surprise that to the blind discipline and bureaucratic dogmatism of the
nrst, epitomized by the PCMLF, Hess clearly prefers the libertarian spirit of
the third, embodied by groups such as those gathered around the journals
Tout and Vive la Révolution, groups that effectively were among the driving
forces behind the MLF, or Movement for the Liberation of Women, and
the FHAR, or Homosexual Front of Revolutionary Action. In this over-
view, the UCFML appears, together with the UJC(ML) and its successor
the (ex-)GP of La Cause du Peuple, as an intermediate group between the
organizational and the libidinal, on the level of ideological struggles outside
the framework of strict party bureaucracy.
28
For Hess, what is particularly
interesting and even uncanny about this development of French Maoism,
from hard-line party discipline through open ideological struggle to libidi-
nal drift, is that it occurs in a chronological order that seems to be the exact
opposite of the intuitive ABC of Leninist party-organization.
The Party and Political Autonomy
Even from this quick survey of some of the existing literature on French
Maoism, two recurrent issues stand out that are directly relevant for our
understanding of the role of Maoism in Badiou’s work. I am referring to
the autonomy of politics and to the status of the party. As for the nrst issue,
few commentators fail to recognize the astonishing expansion to which the
political playing neld is subject in the late sixties and early seventies, with the
result that “cultural revolution” becomes a generic term to a large extent cut
loose from its concrete moorings in the sequence of events in China. “Now
it is a question of investing culture as much as politics,” Bourseiller observes:
“Maoism, then, becomes more and more nuid, less and less ideological, more
and more ‘everyday-ist’: it is a question of struggling on a day-by-day basis
and of opening up new fronts everywhere, even in everyday life.”
29
Badiou,
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 590
however, has always been unwavering in his insistence on the autonomy of
politics as a practice that would be irreducible to purely cultural questions.
Thus, in his lecture “Politics and Philosophy” from Conditions, he concludes:
“The thing itself, in politics, is a-cultural, as are all thinking and all truth.
Comical, purely comical, is the idea of a cultural politics, as much as that
of a political culture.”
30
Nothing could of course seem more contradictory,
coming from someone with such openly declared loyalty to the events of the
Cultural Revolution!
In fact, the UCFML insists in the nnal pages of its founding document:
“One of the great lessons of the revolutionary storm of May is that the class
struggle is not limited to the factory. Capitalist oppression touches on all
domains of social life,” and the same text goes on to conclude: “The front of
culture and art is also very important. The historical experience of the Great
Proletarian Cultural Revolution teaches us that, in certain circumstances,
it can even become a decisive front of the class struggle.”
31
The UCFML
even formed a special section, the Groupe Foudre starting in ·o-. and led
primarily by Natacha Michel, to intervene precisely in art and culture at
the level of what were to be specinc contradictions in propaganda—that
is, contradictions in forms of consciousness between the old and the new.
Ultimately, then, Badiou and his comrades were not so far removed from
the idea of a “revolution of everyday life,” as the UCFML’s founding docu-
ment had already suggested: “The revolution is in life and transforms life.”
32

In fact, in a retrospective assessment, the organization’s central journal, Le
Marxiste-Léniniste, openly rejects the opposition between politics and every-
day life that constitutes such a common assumption in most readings of the
post-·o(8 period: “Our politics is new because it refers to the everyday. After
·o(8, the will to change everyday life is seen in opposition to spectacular and
politicist politics. But what the noyaux express through everyday politics in
the factory is the afnrmation that there is no outcome other than political.”
33

Understood in this way, no culture is ever truly apolitical, just as there can
be no political truth that somehow would not touch on culture as well.
Even at the start of the Cultural Revolution, as Badiou is quick to point
out in his talk, the “Sixteen Points” were exceedingly vague, even waxing
metaphysical, when it came to explaining the signincance of the concept
translated as “cultural.”
34
On the other hand, following Mao’s notion that
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 591
“there can be no art above the class struggle,” the UCFML’s Groupe Foudre
also by no means accepted “art” or “culture” as sociologically denned spheres
or domains that would somehow be separate from politics, even while
upholding its conndence in the specincity of art.
35
Badiou himself, nnally,
in recent years has come to admit that a full understanding of the sequence
of events from the late sixties and early seventies of course cannot leave the
conditions of politics, art, science, and love utterly and completely disjoined
according to a typically modernist bias of their self-declared autonomy.
Thus, after seeing how the four conditions of truth are to be separated as
clear and distinct ideas, most notably in Manifesto for Philosophy, he invites
us to reconsider how historically they are most often intertwined, forming
mixed combinations such as “proletarian art” or “courtly love.”
When pressured on this topic in the interview already quoted above,
Badiou even went so far as to accept the notion that “culture,” rather than
merely being a version of “art” emptied out of all truth, as he claims in the
introduction to his Saint Paul, might actually be an appropriate name for
the “networking” (réseau) or “knotting” (nouage) among the various truth
conditions that could be newly theorized as “culture,” if “we can consider
culture to be the network of various forcings, that is, at a given moment
in time, the manner in which the encyclopedic knowledge of the situation
is modined under the constraints of various operations of forcing which
depend on procedures that are different from one another.”
36
In my eyes,
what matters in this proposal is the suggestion that once again, with the
different operations that “force” the available knowledge of a given situation
after its “investigation” from the point of view of the event, we are sent back
to a dialectic between knowledge and truth—now including a “network”
among multiple truths that eventually might serve to formalize the con-
cept of “culture” itself—through a notion taken from the Maoist legacy and
inspired by the Cultural Revolution.
The second issue, on the role of the party, is potentially even more polem-
ical. We know that for the openly Maoist Badiou, as late as in his Théorie du
sujet, “subject” means political subject and that the party is the only mate-
rial embodiment of such a subject. “Every subject is political. Which is why
there are few subjects, and little politics,” Badiou writes, and further on:
“The party is the body of politics, in the strict sense.”
37
From this point
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 592
of view, very little seems to have changed since the concept of the party
was nrst reformulated by the UCFML’s founding document to adapt to our
times. And yet, we would be wrong to ignore the distance that separates the
UCFML itself from the party of the new type. The opening text is quick
to remark:
The UCFML is not, in turn, the party. It does not pretend to know in
advance and to propagate what will be the living reality of the party. It
is the noyau that promotes and carries the question of the party into the
midst of the masses, it centralizes experiences in light of this project, it
formulates directives, it verines them, and it rectines them, in the practice
of the masses.
38
Badiou’s organization considers it unilateral and premature to pretend that
there could be an authentic communist party of a new type at this time in
France and, in fact, rejected the claims of the ex-PCMLF to be this party
even after it was forced to become clandestine: the UCFML insists that “at
the present moment, it is groupuscular and un-proletarian to want to cre-
ate, purely and simply, the party.”
39
These statements should not be brushed
aside as being superncial cautionary tales that would hide an unshakeable
conndence in the vanguard party. Rather, what is at stake is already to some
extent the form of the party itself.
Clearly, the momentary postponement of the party’s actual foundation,
as well as the repeated insistence on merely being the harbinger, or noyau
promoteur, of a future organization that is yet to come, highlights a crisis in
the traditional party-form. They are the signs of an unsolved problem—of
a question that becomes a problem and an open task precisely as a result of
the Cultural Revolution: “An open problem, therefore, in the two senses of
the expression: nrst, as something that is not solved, and second, as some-
thing of which the masses must take hold.”
40
Badiou’s Théorie du sujet, sup-
posedly dominated by a classical Marxist-Leninist type of politics, could not
be clearer in this regard. Marx, Lenin, and Mao appear in the periodization
of this book as three stages—three episodes according to the intrinsic his-
toricity of politics—in the progressive putting into question of the party as
an open task. “The subjective question (how did the Cultural Revolution,
mass uprising against the new bourgeoisie of the state bureaucracy, come up
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 593
against the rebuilding of the party?) remains in suspense as the key question
for all Marxist politics today.”
41
I would argue that this kind of critical sus-
pension of the party-form of political organization introduces an irreducible
inner distance, or a dialectical scission, into the latter, making it at the same
time a form of post-Maoism.
Whereas Marx would have subordinated politics to the course of history
as class struggle, and Lenin would propose the party to absorb the widen-
ing gap between history and politics, Badiou and Lazarus claim that with
Mao the concept of history (or History) as an external referent is absented
altogether, in favor of a strictly conjunctural grasp of the laws of politics and
their changing situations. “Thinking no longer takes the form of thinking
the adequation between politics and History. No hope of fusion is ever pres-
ent,” we read, and further on: “The dialectical mode dehistoricizes.”
42
After
Mao, politics can no longer be transitive to an overarching sense of history,
and not even the party can overcome this gap. In other words, the break
with the transitivity of politics is not a break away from the tradition of
Marxism-Leninism that would include Maoism as well but a break internal
to the Maoist mode of politics itself.
To use Badiou’s words from Théorie du sujet that apply to the third stage
of his periodization of Marx, Lenin, and Mao: “The working class is not
able ever to resorb the scission, which gives it its being, between its social
immediacy and its political project. Of such a political subject—nnally
restricted to the action of its placeholder, the party, a body made up of an
opaque and multiple soul—we will never say that it constitutes history, not
even that it makes history.”
43
Clearly, we are several steps removed from
an orthodox understanding of the dialectic between history and politics,
between social being and consciousness, or between masses and classes, with
the party as vanishing mediator or third term. The opposite almost seems
to be true: only when the rapport between history and politics is dennitively
broken, or gives way to the rapport of a nonrapport, only then do Badiou
and Lazarus in these texts speak of a “dialectical” mode of politics.
If dialectical thinking still involves a third term, it is only the process of
the scission of the nrst two that constitutes the tenuous unity of the third.
We should not be totally surprised, then, to be confronted with a similar
dennition of the dialectic in the preface to Badiou’s Logiques des mondes:
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 594
“Let us agree that by ‘dialectic,’ following Hegel, we should understand that
the essence of all difference is the third term that marks the gap between the
two others.”
44
Badiou’s vacillations in this regard—now calling for a renewal
of the dialectic and then arguing that the age of the dialectic is over—are
no doubt symptomatic of precisely the type of problems left unsolved by the
Cultural Revolution.
Finally, on a more empirical note, if we compare the two political orga-
nizations in which Badiou has been active, the UCFML and the OP, one
calling for a “party of a new type” and the other for a “politics without a
party,” should we not conclude by saying that they propose forms of militan-
tism that on the whole and in actual practice are nearly identical? Whether
this is then seen as a practical shortcoming of the earlier organization or as
a theoretical inconsistency of the later one, the fact of the matter is that the
organizational form of politics remains fairly constant for Badiou. This may
very well be a key lesson to be drawn from the suspension of the party-form
accomplished during the Cultural Revolution: not the anarchist or adventur-
ist response of jettisoning all forms of organization, but the need for politics
to be organized at all—in noyaux, committees, communes, or a generically
called “political organization.”
45
It is also in this regard that we should consider Badiou’s commentary, in
his talk on the Cultural Revolution, about point o from the Sixteen Points
decision. Indeed, if politics is to be more than a short-lived mass uprising or
manifestation, what the idea of the party is meant to add, even if its name
disappears, is precisely the question of material consistency and durability,
that is, the question of organization. “Without organized application, there
is no testing ground, no verincation, no truth,” as we already read in Théorie
de la contradiction: “ ‘Theory’ can then engender only idealist absurdities.”
46

Or, as Badiou concludes in Peut-on penser la politique? (·o8:), a book written
after the supposed break away from his earlier Maoism: “Political organiza-
tion is necessary in order for the intervention’s wager to make a process out
of the distance that reaches from an interruption to a ndelity,” even if no
organized practice will ever be able completely to close the gap torn open by
the event in the nrst place: “In its propagating ndelity, as a stacked-up series
of interventions by way of wagers, the organization leaves open the point
where the suture of the One fails to seal the Two.”
47
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 595
Maoism and the Logic of Deviations
If now, before interrogating the consequences of Badiou’s Maoism for his
overall philosophy, we take a closer look at how the UCFML positions itself
in the particular context of French Maoism, what should immediately strike
the reader is the overwhelming abundance of materials available, even though
they are rarely ever taken into account. Nine books, close to two dozen pam-
phlets totaling over six hundred pages, two periodicals running for over a
decade, and countless nyers, tracts, and circulars: many of them signed col-
lectively, under a pseudonym, or not signed at all, these materials in terms
of quantity of course far exceed the individual production of Badiou’s entire
oeuvre as a philosopher. Broadly speaking, these publications cover four
major areas: the group’s own history and assessment of its militant activity;
the theory and philosophy of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism; the concept and
crisis of so-called monopoly state capitalism, criticized as a revisionist notion
in light of the Marxian critique of political economy; and international pro-
letarianism. In addition, the group’s two periodicals: Le Marxiste-Léniniste
(·o-.–8.) and Le Perroquet (·o8·–8o), are comparable in function and style
to La Distance Politique (·oo·–today), which constitutes the newsletter of the
UCFML’s successor, the Organisation Politique.
Far more important than the sheer quantity of Badiou’s contributions to
this mass of information is the question of conceptual rigor in relation to
actual experience. By this I mean to draw attention to an often-calumniated
principle of the dialectical method, that is, the identity or at the very least
the cobelonging between concept and experience, between the logical (or
onto-logical) and the historical (or phenomenological). Against common
textbook variations on the theme of the real and the rational, Lenin was
after all fond of underscoring the importance of this principle for his own
reading of Hegel’s Science of Logic, writing in shorthand notation in his
Philosophical Notebooks: “Hegel as a genius guessed the dialectics of things,
phenomena, the world (nature), in the dialectic of notions.”
48
Theodor W.
Adorno, many years later, would reiterate this basic principle in his own
Hegel: Three Studies by arguing painstakingly for the need to recapture the
concrete experiential content, particularly in terms of human labor, behind
Hegel’s most abstract logical formalism: “Hegel has to be read against the
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 596
grain, and in such a way that every logical operation, however formal it
seems to be, is reduced to its experiential core.”
49
This is also how we should
strain to read Badiou. Every logical and ontological operation, however for-
mal it may well seem to be, must thus be related against the grain to the
experiential core that conditions it, and vice versa. One particularly useful
way of doing so involves an analysis of the exact content behind the notion
of “leftist” and “rightist” ideological deviations, as they are typically being
redenned under the innuence of Chairman Mao.
In keeping with some of Mao’s own assertions, most notably in “On Prac-
tice” and “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People,”
about the alternating risks of left-wing adventurism and right-wing dogma-
tism, the UCFML’s argument about twin ideological deviations begins to
function as a means to formalize a certain logic of revolt at a distance from
the specinc cases of both the (ex-)GP’s antirevisionist violence and the ex-
PCMLF’s blind defense of established doctrines.
50
Ultimately, the measure
of success for avoiding these two extremes depends on the specinc links that
in any situation tie a given political organization not just to the masses in
general but to their most advanced sectors: “Without a mass alliance, there
is no mass line. Without a mass line, the only alternative is between practices
that are either dogmatic and opportunistic on the right, or else putschist and
adventurist.”
51
Time and again, this is how the argument over deviations
from the just line will be reiterated. Beyond strictly organizational matters,
however, the important point not to be missed in this context is how this
argument at the same time can help us better understand the place and
force of Maoism in Badiou’s philosophy as a whole.
In the following pages, I cannot recount in detail every twist and turn
to which the logic of “leftist” and “rightist” ideological deviations becomes
subject both in the many publications of the UCFML and in Badiou’s own
work. Sufnce it to track a few representative steps in the forceful conceptual
elaboration that turns this logic from a primarily tactical and political ques-
tion into an issue with profound philosophical consequences. In his short
didactic books on Maoism, Théorie de la contradiction and De l’idéologie,
books to which a third volume, planned under the title Antagonisme et non-
antagonisme: Les différents types de contradiction, unfortunately would never
come to be added, Badiou concentrates his critique of ideological deviations
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 597
on the alternative between Deleuzian anarchism and Althusserian structur-
alism—with the (ex-)GP enthusiast André Glucksmann, now turned New
Philosopher and anti-Marxist critic of the gulag, undialectically combining
both extremes in living proof of their deep-seated complicity.
Badiou nrst of all reproaches his former teacher for reducing the logic
of Marx’s Capital to a combinatory of places and instances in the mode of
production. Althusser’s later theory of ideology likewise dennes an invariant
mechanism by which individuals come to be interpellated and function in
any given social system, whether class based or not. Even if the dominant
role is allowed to shift from one structural instance to another, there is no
place in this overall picture for a contradictory transformation of the struc-
ture itself: “The displacement of the terms from one place to another leaves
intact the underlying structure of exchange. The mobility of appearances
refers to a closed system. The essential conservatism of all structural think-
ing risks on this point to change dialectics into its opposite: metaphysics.”
52

This risk of a metaphysical outlook is especially poignant in the use made
out of the concept of the mode of production, the radical scientincity of
which lies at the core of the original Althusserian project: “The concept
of ‘mode of production’ is an inexhaustible goldmine for deviations of the
structuralist type. Taken in isolation, it is only all too easy to give a purely
combinatory version of it and to expulse from it the dialectic of forces in
favor of the articulation of places.”
53
Althusser’s scientincist deviation would
thus have consisted in limiting the dialectic, which was famously said to be
critical and revolutionary in principle, to a conservative and even metaphysi-
cal articulation of instances and hierarchies.
Whether this is a fair assessment of Althusser’s writings in For Marx and
Reading Capital should not concern us here. There are certainly elements in
the concepts of over- and underdetermination, if not in structural causality
itself, that would bring Althusser much closer to Badiou than the latter in
general, except for a few occasions, seems willing to admit. But what should
be clear is the fact that this former student seeks to take the work of his old
teacher still one step further in the direction of articulating structure and
history, as well as being and existence, from the point of view of loss and
destruction that unhinges the structure from within: “The structure has its
being in a hierarchical combination, but its existence, that is to say its his-
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 598
tory, fuses with that of its destruction. The structure has no other existence
besides the movement of its own loss, and each term of the contradiction
renects this transitory mode of existence by its division in its being-for-the-
structure and its being-for-the-dissolution-of-the-structure.”
54
In Badiou’s
later work, this tendency toward loss, impasse, and dissolution inherent in
the structure—this dialectic of lack and excess between a structure and its
impossible metastructure—will come to mark the site of the immanent
break within the structure that is then called an event.
If an overemphasis on the structural logic of places marks a “right-wing”
deviation, then conversely an exclusive emphasis on the logic of forces will
quickly push us into the wide-open arms of “left-wing” anarchists. Or at least
this is how Badiou in his Maoist years responds to the “anarcho-desirers”
who nock to Deleuze’s courses in Vincennes. What becomes evident in this
harsh response, however, is the fact that anarchism and structuralism make
for surprisingly good bedfellows. “In truth, anarchism is merely the nipside
of conservative structuralism. The drift is the shadow of the combinatory,”
Badiou asserts: “Structuralism and the ideologies of desire are profoundly
coupled to one another. Far from being opposed, they are confused, in their
common contradiction of the dialectic.”
55
The difncult task of a properly
materialist dialectical mode of thinking would thus consist in thinking a
split correlation of structure and history, of states and tendencies, of combi-
natories and differentials—without allowing either side of the articulation
to deviate and lapse back into a unilateral hypostasis. “The dialectic brings
to life the contradiction of the structural and the qualitative, of the combi-
natory and the differential evaluation of forces,” Badiou proposes in a series
of variations on the same theme: “The complete dialectical intelligibility
of what is principal must thus apprehend not only the state of things but
their tendency.”
56
Most important, as Marx already hinted when he spoke
of the essentially revolutionary nature of dialectical reason, it is a ques-
tion of grasping the tendency, whether toward blockage and loss or toward
transformation and change, within the present state of affairs: “In order to
envisage things from the point of view of the future within the present itself,
we must seize hold of this present as tendency, as increase or decrease, as
accumulation of forces, as rupture, and not only as state, or as ngure.”
57

This combination cannot take rest in a quiet complementarity between two
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 599
symmetrical poles. Instead, the resulting articulation should give way to the
divided unity of a process of scission, which is to be applied to every term in
the analysis: “Each term, precisely because it has no existence except as part
of a process of scission, is itself torn apart between its qualitative subordina-
tion to the scission taken as process, that is, as unity, and the movement of
transformation of this very quality itself, the source of which is the uninter-
rupted struggle between the two terms and the incessant modincation of
their rapport.”
58
Such is, nnally, the logic of scission that would denne the
complete trajectory behind the proposal for a renewed understanding of the
materialist dialectic as the torn articulation between structure and history,
between being and existence, or between ngure and tendency.
Using the terms put forth in Théorie de la contradiction and De l’idéologie,
we can now resummarize how Badiou’s Maoist recasting of the material-
ist dialectic also allows us to denne the problem of ideological deviations.
All such deviations ultimately slip into a form of idealism insofar as they
disavow what Badiou describes as the dialecticity of the dialectic: “The dia-
lectic, if I can say so, is itself dialectical, insofar as its conceptual operators,
which renect reality, are all equally split.”
59
In their mirroring relationship,
the two types of ideological deviation, in other words, neglect the extent
to which structure and tendency, or place and force, must be articulated
through the scission of each one of the two terms.
In the case of “leftism,” it is the structural element inherent in every ten-
dency that is neglected in favor of a viewpoint of pure, unlimited, and afnr-
mative becoming. Here, as a typical example, Badiou mentions the adventur-
ist tendencies fostered by May ·o(8: “If, indeed, one neglects the structural
element, one takes the tendency for an accomplished state of affairs.”
60
Every-
thing then fuses into the being of pure becoming.
In the case of “rightism,” it is the possibility of radical change that is
foreclosed in the name of a purely objective analysis of the structure. Here,
Badiou unsurprisingly mentions the economism of the Second Interna-
tional: “If one neglects the tendential element, one inevitably represses the
new in the name of the old, one supports the established order. One becomes
installed in an opportunistic attitude of waiting.”
61
Everything then is made
to depend on the pure state of the existing situation.
In each case, whether by precipitously jumping over one’s own shadow or
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 600
by pusillanimously staying put until the crisis has matured, the unilateral
hypostasis of one side of the divided articulation to the exclusion of the other
is what prevents the unfolding of a properly dialectical investigation.
It is of course true that every instance or contradiction in society must be
seen as part of a structure in dominance, complete with its nnally determin-
ing instance. In this regard, Badiou argues that reason is certainly on the
side of Althusser. “In fact, everything comes down to the following: seized
in a given state of things, or all along a particular sequence in its develop-
ment, every contradiction assigns a determinate place to its terms, a place
which is itself denned by its relation to the place of the other term,” Badiou
sums up in Théorie de la contradiction: “In this sense the dialectic is a logic
of places.”
62
On the other hand, it is no less true that every structure of
assigned places is constantly being transformed as a result of inner splits,
breaks, and changes. In this regard, he holds, reason is also on the side of
Deleuze. “Seized in its uninterrupted movement in stages, by contrast, every
contradiction confronts forces whose nature is differential: what matters in
the evaluation of force from the viewpoint of the movement of the contra-
diction is no longer its transitory state of subordination or domination but
its increase or decrease,” Badiou continues: “In its tendential or properly
historical aspect, the dialectic is a logic of forces.”
63
Even if both these views
have reason partially on their side, however, each one taken in isolation is
clearly insufncient. For Badiou, the real difnculty lies rather in nnding a
way to overcome the apparent complementarity between the two, without
having recourse to the mediation of a synthesis: “The central dialectical prob-
lem is thus the following: how can the logic of places and the logic of forces be
articulated—without fusion?”
64

In Badiou’s reading, the case of Deleuze furthermore may give us an
idea of how place and force can even become combined—as in fact they
usually are—within a “leftist” deviation. In moral terms, this traditionally
comes down to the presupposition of a stark dualism of necessity and free-
dom. In “The Party and the Flux,” a contribution to La situation actuelle
sur le front philosophique (·o--) published by the Yénan-Philosophy Group
of the UCFML, Badiou thus cites an extensive passage from Gilles Deleuze
and Félix Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia in which
all the book’s well-known dualisms, from the molar versus the molecular
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 601
all the way to subjugated-groups versus subject-groups, against all expec-
tations seem to nnd their driving principle in a thinly disguised version
of Kant’s autonomy versus determinism argument. “Deleuze and Guattari
do not hide this much: return to Kant, here is what they came up with to
exorcise the Hegelian ghost,” Badiou charges: “It is pure, unbound, generic
energy, energy as such. That which is law unto itself, or absence of law. The
old freedom of autonomy, hastily repainted in the colors of what the youth
in revolt legitimately demands: some spit on the bourgeois family.”
65
Over
and against the sheer energy of this unconditional freedom, there is only
the blind necessity of a paranoid order that like a vampire feeds on the sheer
energy and creativity of freedom, which is then but another name for life
itself.
Of this radical dualism of pure force and pure place within “leftism” we
can also formulate a political variant, in addition to the moral one. This
typically comes in the guise of a direct and unmediated opposition between
the masses and the state, or between the plebes and the state—dualities to
which today I would add the explicitly undialectical or even antidialecti-
cal antagonism between the multitude and Empire. Power and resistance
then perennially seem to oppose the same vitally creative masses to the same
deadly repressive system. “In this regard, the ‘massist’ ideology that came
out of ·o(8 excels in nattening out the dialectical analysis,” Badiou remarks:
“Always the same exalted masses against the identical power, the invariable
system.”
66
Not only does this view of politics fail to take into account how
concretely no movement proceeds as a whole except by the inner splits that
dislocate and revoke the totality: “It is never ‘the masses,’ nor the ‘movement’
that as a whole carry the principle of engenderment of the new, but that
which in them divides itself from the old.”
67
But, what is more, far from
signaling a radically new and untimely discovery, all this fascination with
“massism” or “movementism”—and again today I would add “multitudi-
nism”—was already a prime target of urgent attacks, more than a century
ago, in the eyes of Marx and Engels:
That the “movement” would be a desiring push, a nowing nux; that
every institution would be paranoid and in principle heterogeneous to
the “movement”; that nothing is done against the existing order but only
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 602
according to the afnrmative schizze that withdraws from this order; that
therefore it is necessary to replace all organization, all hideous militantism,
with self-management—or with association, there are quarrels going on
about this in certain cottages—of pure movement: All these daring revi-
sions, which are supposed to raise the striking novelty of the marginal
and dissident masses up against “totalitarian” Marxism-Leninism—
are word for word that which Marx and Engels, in The German Ideology,
had to tear to pieces—around ·8.:!—in order to clear the terrain for
a nnally coherent systematization of the revolutionary practices of their
time.
68
Cutting diagonally across the inoperative dualisms of masses and power,
movement and organization, or dissidence and totalitarianism, one should
thus think politics through the complete arsenal of concepts implied in the
logic of scission, which is still most succinctly encapsulated in the Maoist
formula: “One divides into two.” Badiou explains:
We are in favor of “one divides into two.” We are in favor of the increase
by scission of the new. We want neither the sanctined and obscure, inop-
erative and repetitive, ultraleftist masses nor the revisionist union, which
is but the facade of a sinister dictatorship. What is proletarian, especially
today, divides and combats the smallest fractures that are internal to the
“movement” and makes them grow to the point where they become what
is principal.
69
The collectively signed introduction to La situation actuelle sur le front
philosophique actually charges that all revisionist tendencies in French
thought of the seventies, not only in the trend of New Philosophers such
as Glucksmann but also among Deleuzians, Althusserians, and Lacanians,
can be seen, politically speaking, as presupposing categorical oppositions
that seek to stamp out any possible diagonal term—whether class, party,
or organization—between the masses and the state. “Everywhere to sub-
stitute the couple masses/state for the class struggle: that’s all there is to it,”
the introduction reads: “The political essence of these ‘philosophies’ is cap-
tured in the following principle, a principle of bitter resentment against the
entire history of the twentieth century: ‘In order for the revolt of the masses
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 603
against the state to be good, it is necessary to reject the class direction of the
proletariat, to stamp out Marxism, to hate the very idea of the class party.’ ”
70

The result of such arguments is then either the complete denial of antago-
nistic contradictions altogether or else the jubilatory recognition of a mere
semblance of antagonism. “They dream of a formal antagonism, of a world
broken in two, with no sword other than ideology,” whereas a complete
understanding of emancipatory politics would involve not just the joy and
passion of short-lived revolt but the disciplined labor of a lasting transfor-
mation of the particular situation at hand: “They love revolt, proclaimed in
its universality, but they are secondary in terms of politics, which is the real
transformation of the world in its historical particularity.”
71
One urgent task
for the authors of this polemic therefore involves precisely the need to strug-
gle against such revisionist tendencies on the philosophical front. “Everyone,
including the Maoists, is after all called upon today, after the Cultural Revo-
lution and May ’(8, to take a stance, to discern the new with regard to the
meaning of politics in its complex articulation, its constitutive trilogy: mass
movement, class perspective, and state,” the introduction continues: “Such
is clearly the question of any possible philosophy today, wherein we can read
the primacy of politics (of antagonism) in its actuality.”
72
In the compact series of footnotes to Le noyau rationnel de la dialectique
hégélienne Badiou makes explicit the need to develop a full-blown philo-
sophical concept of deviation. Signincantly, such a concept cannot be found
in Hegel’s idealist dialectical system: “Hegel’s idealism also manifests itself
by the absence of all positive theory of deviation.”
73
Hegel’s Science of Logic
in fact remains caught in the false problematic of an absolute beginning, or
to be more precise—but this is already symptomatic of a disavowed split
that hints at a rational core within the idealist dialectic—in the searching
alternative between two absolute beginnings: Being and Nothing. Badiou,
by contrast, may seem to be in tacit agreement with Adorno when the latter
argues that a truly materialist dialectic must always start from something
rather than from either Being or Nothing. “ ‘Something’—as a cogitatively
indispensable substrate of any concept, including the concept of Being—is
the utmost abstraction of the subject-matter that is not identical with think-
ing, an abstraction not to be abolished by any further thought process,”
Adorno tells us, and in a footnote of his own he adds: “Yet even the minimal
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 604
trace of nonidentity in the approach to logic, of which the word ‘something’
reminds us, is unbearable to Hegel.”
74
For the Maoist in Badiou, however,
every something must always be split—split between itself and something
else, namely, the system in which something stands as this something rather
than as an other.
While the logic of scission borrows heavily from other early segments in
the Science of Logic, especially from “Something and Other” and “Deter-
mination, Constitution, and Limit,” Badiou systematically reformulates the
basic principles of this logic in his own, now familiar, vocabulary; insisting
that every entity be split between that part of it that can be understood
according to the logic of places and that part that cannot be accounted for
without resorting to a logic of forces. The whole aim of this detailed and
sometimes hermetic discussion is not to put forces and places in an orderly
rapport of complementarity that would leave each pole unaffected in its
purity, but to push forward in the search for a divided correlation between
the two as split—each one being determined and exceeded from within by
the other. Every force, then, is necessarily determined by a space of assigned
places, but conversely no system of places is complete without some force
being excluded out at the limit.
Determination, by which a force is placed, and limit, by which a place is
exceeded by a force capable of acting back on its own determination, are
the fundamental operators that in their absence or disavowal allow us to
grasp the logic of deviations as well. “The deviations, the backlashes, and
so on, are fully thinkable only in dialectical correlation with the determina-
tion and the limit of a movement,” insofar as both “right-wing opportun-
ism” and “left-wing opportunism” merely reconvoke one of the terms of the
original contradiction in its isolated purity, that is to say, “the nrst one only
repeats the dominant term,” whereas “the second, by arguing from a state
of original purity prior to all determination, will assign to itself the task of
nnding the other.”
75
Already during his Maoist years, however, Badiou is acutely aware of
the fact that the most advanced theoretical and philosophical developments
in the late sixties and seventies, for instance in Lacanian psychoanalysis,
if not already in Althusser and Deleuze as well, cannot be reduced to the
slight caricatures of “structuralist” and “leftist” deviations. Thus we must
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 605
trace the line of demarcation elsewhere, or in the same place but with
greater precision. One way to do so is by recognizing the extent to which
an accomplished form of structuralism not only posits the divided nature of
both structure and subject but also reconceives of their relationship in the
uncanny terms of an internal exclusion. As we have come to expect in more
recent years thanks to the work of Laclau or Slavoj Žizek, this doctrine also
entails a complete reworking of the topology of inside and outside—with
every idealist or humanist inside being denned in the paradoxical terms of
its constitutive outside.
In Le noyau rationnel de la dialectique hégélienne, Badiou still seems to
reproach structuralism as much as “leftism” precisely for ignoring the topol-
ogy of the constitutive outside:
The root of the failure of all Marxist structuralism, as well as of the “left-
ist” current, lies in claiming to organize thought and action from an abso-
lute understanding of oppressive society as System, and then to launch
the guideline of dissidence, of exteriority. However, there is no exterior,
which by no means implies an insurmountable constraint of the interior
(“recuperation”), because there is no interior either.
76
Badiou knows of course that Lacan, especially in his later seminars, was to
become a veritable master of these inside/outside topologies. And, I might
add, a comparable logic of internal exclusion, based on the notion of an absent
cause, can be found not only in Althusser’s canonical writings but also in
Deleuze’s Logic of Sense, no doubt his most structuralist book. Would this
not satisfy the requirements for a materialist dialectic according to Badiou’s
own strongly Maoist version?
One answer to this last question, which will not be fully developed until
Théorie du sujet, is anticipated in Le noyau rationnel de la dialectique hégéli-
enne. Lacan, like Mallarmé before him, Badiou argues, ultimately reduces
the topology of the constitutive outside to the mere recognition of a struc-
tural given. Mallarmé and Lacan, in this sense, certainly can be considered
dialecticians. But insofar as all their virtuosity in displaying the vanishing
cause of the real, of the drive, or of a sunken ship, and so on, nevertheless
remains bound by the constraint of an overarching order of places, such as
an ocean or a neld, Mallarmé and Lacan’s work would nonetheless give us
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 606
the clues only for a structural, as opposed to a properly materialist, dialectic.
This is why the topology of the constitutive outside, which is the culminat-
ing point of the articulation between place and force as well as between
structure and subject, must in turn be divided into a structural and a ten-
dential understanding:
The historical fate of this topology is its inevitable division. We can
indeed conceive of this topology in a purely structural fashion: exterior
and interior then are discernible on every point, but indiscernible in the
Whole, which is supposed as given. This is the path followed by Lacan
(but already by Mallarmé) in the way he uses nonorientable surfaces, such
as the Möbius ring. . . . But, in fact, we can and we must conceive of the
split exterior/interior correlation as a process, whereby the fact that the
real is simultaneously at its place and in excess over this place, both inside
and outside, is due to its unfolding as a qualitative force.
77
In the end, then, what is proposed is a symptomatic torsion that cannot
remain merely on the structural level of recognizing an outside within, as
in a traumatic kernel of the real, but that must pass over into the destruction
or disqualincation of the old inside the new.
Based on this more precise demarcation from structuralism, Badiou’s
Théorie du sujet can then once again lay out the logic of twin ideological
deviations. He thus connrms how the dialectical process in a typical back-
lash risks to provoke two extreme types of fallout, or Rückfall in Hegel’s
own terms: the nrst, drawn to the “right” of the political spectrum, remits
us to the established order and thus obscures the torsion in which something
new actually takes place, while the second, pulling to the “left” instead, vin-
dicates the untouched purity of the original force and thus denies the per-
sistence of the old in the new. What is thus blocked or denied is either the
power of determination or the process of its torsion in which there occurs
a conjunctural change: “But the true terms of all historicity are rather the
determination and the limit, terms by which the whole afnrms itself with-
out closure, and the element is included without abolishing itself.”
78
The complete deployment of this dialectic also provides us with a key
to understand the perceptions of failure and success that put such a heavy
stamp on the aftermath of May ’(8. In fact, both the provocative accusations
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 607
by outside observers such as Lacan and the contrite turnabouts by ex-Mao-
ists such as Glucksmann remain caught as if spellbound in the inert duel
between the established order of places and the radical force of untainted
adventurism. The world-famous picture of Daniel Cohn-Bendit during one
of the protests of May ’(8, with the student leader smiling denantly in the
face of an anonymous member of the French riot police who remains hid-
den behind his helmet—a picture that Miller eventually will pick for the
cover of Lacan’s seminar L’envers de la psychanalyse given during the follow-
ing year—might serve to illustrate this point. Indeed, the contagious appeal
of this image depends entirely on a limited structural scheme in which there
appears no scission in the camp of the ironic and free-spirited students or
any torsion of the existing order of things beyond a necessary yet one-sided
protest against the repressive state. Althusser’s much-discussed example of
the police ofncer hailing a passerby in the street remains bound to this dual
structure, as might likewise be the case of the dennition of politics in oppo-
sition to the police in the later work of Rancière. For Badiou, however, this
view hardly captures any specinc political sequence in its actual process.
“There is not only the law of Capital, or only the cops. To miss this point
means not to see the unity of the order of assigned places, its consistency. It
means falling back into objectivism, the inverted ransom of which consists
by the way in making the state into the only subject, whence the antirepres-
sive logorrhea,” Badiou warns in Théorie du sujet: “It is the idea that the
world knows only the necessary rightist backlash and the powerless suicidal
leftism.”
79
Lacan’s accusation that the students in revolt are but a hysteric
bunch in search of a master thus merely reproduces a face-off between the
extreme outcomes of the dialectical process, without acknowledging the
true torsion of that which possibly takes place in between the two.
Finally, in L’Etre et l’événement, long after the author is supposed to have
outgrown his Maoist fury, Badiou almost seems to preempt those criticisms
that will nnd in his work only a rigid, if not miraculous, opposition between
being and event, knowledge and truth, the human animal and the immortal
subject. Badiou’s most systematic work to date in fact includes a staunch
critique of “leftism” and “statism,” equivalent to what in his youthful days
he would have called “left-wing” adventurism and “right-wing” dogmatism.
Thus, in a pivotal meditation from L’Etre et l’événement on “The Interven-
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 608
tion,” Badiou warns against the temptation to put the event in a set all by
itself, as a singleton utterly disjoined from the situation at hand. Such would
be the temptation of what he now proposes to call “speculative leftism,”
which is still nothing but a mirror image of “statism,” that is, the way in
which the state systematically tries to reduce the erratic novelty of a political
event, for instance, to the rabble-rousing discontent of the mob, of foreign
agitators, and so on. “The terms that are registered by the state, guarantee
of the count-for-one of the parts, are nnally the site and the putting-into-one
of the name of the event,” Badiou claims: “This is certainly a Two (the site
as such counted as one, and a multiple put into one), but the problem is that
between these two terms there is no relation whatsoever.”
80
The connections
between an event and its site remain an enigma from the point of view of
the state, with the result that both are merely juxtaposed as being essentially
unrelated in their duality. However, we do not fare much better at the other
end of the ideological spectrum when the event, rather than being foreclosed
by the state, is hypostasized into a radical beginning. “Speculative leftism
imagines that the intervention is authorized only by itself, and breaks with
the situation with no other support than its own negative will,” Badiou con-
cludes: “Speculative leftism is fascinated by the ultra-one of the event, and
thinks it is possible in its name to deny all immanence to the structured
regime of the count-for-one. And since the ultra-one has the structure of the
Two, the imaginary of a radical beginning inevitably leads, in every range of
thought, to a Manichaean hypostasis.”
81
If Badiou’s philosophy indeed falls
prey to either or both of these two positions, then the least his critics should
recognize is the fact that his entire work seems to have included a prolonged
struggle against such deviations.
Mao as Vanishing Mediator
The role of Maoism for Badiou’s overall philosophy, as I have tried to show
through the logic of twin ideological deviations, ultimately consists in allow-
ing him without separation or fusion to articulate place and force, state and
tendency, structure and subject, or being and event. Of course, the diagonal
crossing of dualisms that operate in a metaphysical system can be seen as
a constant throughout the history of philosophy. As Badiou writes in one
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 609
of his most recent texts: “The notion that thought should always establish
itself beyond categorical oppositions, thereby delineating an unprecedented
diagonal, is constitutive of philosophy itself,” so that, to capture the singu-
larity of this or that philosophy, we have to see what specines the concep-
tual recourse to one diagonal as opposed to another: “The whole question
consists in knowing what value to ascribe to the operators of this diagonal
trajectory, and in identifying the unknown resource to which they sum-
mon thought.”
82
Maoism is certainly one such resource, which even today
is still fairly unknown or underappreciated, in Badiou’s own trajectory as a
philosopher.
Badiou’s Théorie de la contradiction could not be clearer about the philo-
sophical implications of the materialist dialectic as a traversing of oppo-
sites—above all, in this case, the opposites of subject and object. “The prob-
lem is to renect both and at the same time the scission and the reciprocal
action of the two categories (subject and object) in the general movement of
a process, without excluding that the subjective factor may be the key to this
movement,” Badiou sums up with a reference to Hegel by way of Lenin’s
Philosophical Notebooks: “For Lenin, it is a question of nnding support in
Hegel so as to put an end to the unilateralism of the categories of subject and
object, whether one separates them (metaphysical operation) or one annuls
one of them (absolute idealism or mechanicist materialism).”
83
What Badiou
adds to Lenin’s argument then in a way consists in suggesting that Mao is
the spitting image of this materialist Hegel whose praise is so loudly sung
on every page of the notebooks by Lenin. But then this suggestion also has
profound consequences for Badiou’s personal genealogy in relation to the
principal philosophical schools or trends in existence at the time in France.
In Peut-on penser la politique? Badiou remembers how nercely the French
philosophical scene was divided in the sixties and seventies by the last battle
of the giants, the polemic between Sartre and Althusser: “When the media-
tions of politics are clear, it is the philosopher’s imperative to subsume them
in the direction of a foundation. The last debate in this matter opposed
the defenders of liberty, as founding renective transparency, to the defend-
ers of the structure, as prescription of a regime of causality. Sartre against
Althusser: this meant, at bottom, the Cause against the cause.”
84
Hegel, whose shadow hangs over this debate at least as much as Marx’s,
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 610
is often little more than a code name in this context to denounce the per-
sistence of humanist and idealist elements in the early Marx, even if the
antihumanist trend is not wholly incompatible with a return to Hegel of its
own, provided that we abandon the Phenomenology of the Spirit in favor of
the Science of Logic.
Sartre, on one hand, found inspiration for his critique of Stalinist dogma
by turning to the arch-Hegelian topics of alienation and the struggle for
self-consciousness whose innuence can be felt so strongly in the Marx of the
Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of .°... For Badiou, however, Sartre’s
effort, though heroic in many regards, in the end betrays both Hegel and
Marx:
In the Critique of Dialectical Reason (but after the young Lukács, after
Korsch), Sartre in a single movement greeted Marxism as the insurmount-
able horizon of our culture and undertook to dismantle this Marxism by
forcing it to realign itself with the original idea that is most foreign to
it: the transparency of the cogito. . . . Both this Marx and this Hegel are
equally false, the nrst for being reduced to the second, and the second for
being separated from that part of himself that precisely cleared the path
for the nrst: the Great Logic.
85
Althusser, on the other hand, wanted to reclaim Marx’s radical discovery of
an unheard-of type of structural causality, as the basis for a new dialectic
already implied in the analysis of Capital, by stripping it of all Hegelian
elements: “Althusser restituted a kind of brutal cutting edge to Marxism,
isolating it from the subjectivist tradition and putting it back in the saddle
as positive knowledge. At the same time, Marx and Hegel, even though
in opposite terms, found themselves as much foreclosed as in the previ-
ous moment: the materialist Hegel of the Great Logic is equally mute for
Althusser and for Sartre.”
86
It is this grandiose but also debilitating alternative between Sartre and
Althusser that Badiou seeks to cross by way of a divided recomposition, all
the while remaining loyal to the two major referents of his Maoism: “What
the Cultural Revolution and May ·o(8 made clear on a massive scale was the
need for something entirely different from an oscillation of national intel-
lectual traditions (between the Descartes of the cogito, Sartre, and the Des-
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 611
cartes of the machines, Althusser), in order to reinvest Marxism in the real
revolutionary movement. . . . The Maoist aim was to break with this alter-
nation, with this avoidance.”
87
But Maoism, as the primary resource to trace
a diagonal across the Sartre/Althusser debate, also means a return to the
connict of interpretations surrounding Hegel.
Hegel’s division seems to Badiou to be the only remedy against the temp-
tation to submit his work to either a positivist or an idealist reductionism:
“Hegel remains the stake of an endless connict, because the belabored
understanding of his division alone is what prohibits, in thinking the rela-
tionship Marx/Hegel, both the idealist-romantic deviation and the scien-
tist-academic deviation, as well as, nnally, the hatred pure and simple of
Marxism.”
88
Perhaps, though, we are not bound solely by the need to return
to the rational kernel in Hegel’s Logic, understood as a logic of scission,
determination, and limit. In all fairness to Sartre and Althusser, perhaps
we should add that their works also unmistakably contain many of the ele-
ments necessary for their division, which for Badiou seems possible only on
the prior condition of passing through the matrix of Maoism.
89
One never ceases to divide itself into two. But then, I would insist, the
logic of scission and divided recomposition must likewise be applied to
the notions of being and event in Badiou’s later work. Otherwise we miss
the singularity of the diagonal operators (site, ndelity, investigation, forcing,
and so on) that link a purely mathematical ontology to the theory of an
intervening subject. This diagonal is the one that Maoism makes effectively
possible, both on a philosophical level and on a political level, according to
Badiou:
Thus, Maoism, in the end, has been the proof for me that in the actual
space of effective politics, and not just in political philosophy, a close knot
could be tied between the most uncompromising formalism and the
most radical subjectivism. That was the whole point. In Maoism, I found
something that made it possible for there to be no antinomy between
whatever mathematics is capable of transmitting in terms of formal and
structural transparency, on the one hand, and on the other, the protocols
by which a subject is constituted. These two questions were no longer
incompatible.
90
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 612
The unity of opposites at this point reaches the climax of complexity. Mao-
ism, genealogically speaking, allows Badiou to be an Althusserian without
ceasing to be a Sartrean, but also without forgetting to what extent his read-
ing of Hegel via Mao is profoundly Lacanian.
Sartre, Althusser, Lacan: these are, in sum, the three master thinkers behind
Badiou’s philosophical apprenticeship. But the Borromean knot between
all three, to use a category that was dear to the last, would not have been
possible without the unifying thread of the experience of Maoism.
The Beautiful Soul
In many ways, the Maoist-inspired critique of ideological deviations, par-
ticularly of the “ultraleftist” variety, can also be read as a critique of the
melodramatic scenarios enacted by the “beautiful soul” in the famous analy-
sis passed on from Hegel to Lacan. Maoism, it would then seem, ought in
principle to put an end to the notion of a good moral conscience whose inner
beauty is merely inversely proportionate to the sordidness that it projects
onto the outside world. In the aftermath of the ofncial Sino-Soviet split, was
not the whole aim in formalizing the logic of so-called contradictions among
the people precisely to avoid opposing the “good” communist subject to the
“bad” totalitarian system, so as to displace the split, through self-criticism
and reeducation and so on, onto the inner subject itself—whether this sub-
ject is called the people, the masses, the proletariat, the party bureaucracy,
or the intelligentsia?
What if Mao and Lin Biao, though, wittingly or unwittingly allowed the
widespread nourishing of so many “beautiful souls”? What if the Cultural
Revolution contained the scenario for a melodrama of gigantic proportions?
Such is, roughly put, one of the guiding questions with which two former
militants of the Gauche Prolétarienne in France, Guy Lardreau and Chris-
tian Jambet, seek to address and come to terms with their Maoist past. Of
course, this would be only modestly relevant for our purpose, if it were not
for the fact that it is a similar question that many readers raise anew in the
conclusions to their critical analysis of Badiou’s philosophy.
In L’ange, the nrst volume of a projected Ontologie de la révolution that
would never be completed, Lardreau and Jambet explicitly compare the
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 613
generic notion of a cultural revolution, which they contrast with an ideologi-
cal revolution, to the ngure of the beautiful soul: “The soul of the cultural
revolution is the ‘beautiful soul’ in the way in which Lacan describes it after
Hegel; insofar as, by assuming what it knows to be its madness in the eyes
of this world, it also knows that this is the wisdom of the other world, and
that it is this one, in truth, that is mad.”
91
Lardreau and Jambet openly seem
to want to embrace this melodramatic ngure. Any true cultural revolution
in its purity thus would mark a radical break with the entire corrupt system
of work, family, sexuality, and egoism, whereas its ideological perversion
always consists in recuperating and subordinating the revolutionary spirit in
the name of those very same corrupt values. Like Nietzsche, Lardreau and
Jambet too want to be dynamite: they want to break the history of the world
in two. Or rather, and this literally makes all the difference, they dream of a
revolution that would produce two worlds, by making a clear break with the
existing one. But then, of course, from the perspective of the existing world,
the purity of this break cannot fail to disappoint, as no slate can ever prove
to be clean enough and no grand exit can sufnciently leave behind the world
from which it seeks to escape—whence the openly angelic appearance of a
true cultural revolution, which can never be a kingdom of this world but
must rather open the gates to a radically other one. Disappointment and
corruption once more seem to be not merely accidental but structural com-
ponents in the constitution of a cultural revolution’s beautiful soul.
Particularly in the chapter “Lin Biao as Will and as Representation,”
Lardreau reveals how he has become painfully aware of the law of history
by which every rebellion seems to revert to the search for a new master.
“Should we admit then that the indisputable maxim: where there is oppres-
sion, there is resistance, should be doubled with this one so as to say, is it
not?, the truth of the nrst: where there is revolt, there is submission?”
92

Every cultural revolution thus is bound, as if by an unforgiving inner neces-
sity, to be co-opted by an ideological one. For Lardreau and Jambet, how-
ever, the way out of this blight conundrum paradoxically lies in aggravating
the underlying opposition with an even fuller embrace of the latter’s Man-
ichaeanism. What they posit is thus not a weaker messianic force but an ever
stronger will for absolute purity in the struggle between the Master and the
Rebel, so as to prepare the return of the latter in the form of the Angel.
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 614
It is fascinating to observe how Daniel Bensaïd, in “Alain Badiou and
the Miracle of the Event,” seems to replay the scenario staged by Lardreau
and Jambet in order this time to attribute its angelic and near-mystical fea-
tures to Badiou’s philosophy. This proximity is all the more telling in that
Bensaïd’s criticisms sum up a viewpoint that over the last few years seems to
have become a commonplace among a growing number of critics, and even
a few admirers, of Badiou’s work—with the latter including among other
less prominent readers, Slavoj Žižek and Peter Hallward.
Bensaïd opens with a fairly typical summary of the entire trajectory fol-
lowed by Badiou’s thinking:
Initially, Badiou’s thought remained subordinated to the movement of
history. But truth has become more fragmentary and discontinuous
under the brunt of historical disasters, as though history no longer con-
stituted its basic framework but merely its occasional condition. Truth is
no longer a subterranean path manifesting itself in the irruption of the
event. Instead, it becomes a post-evental consequence. As “wholly sub-
jective” and a matter of “pure conviction,” truth henceforth pertains to
the realm of declarations that have neither precedents nor consequences.
Although similar to revelation, it still remains a process but one which is
entirely contained in the absolute beginning of the event which it faith-
fully continues.
93
Leftism is now a charge leveled against the form of politics that can be
thought in the terms of Badiou’s philosophy. Because of our constant tempta-
tion as mere mortals to give in to the status quo, this philosophy is constantly
upset by the guilt of its own sinful impurity. Not unlike in the case of the
beautiful soul, any instance of free decision would be threatened by this cor-
ruption: “Holy purincation is never more than a short step away from volup-
tuous sin,” Bensaïd declares and, again, with reference to some of the more
pedestrian proposals of the Organisation Politique: “This sudden conversion
to realism is the profane converse of the heroic thirst for purity.”
94
Now what is particularly striking in Bensaïd’s reading, though perhaps
not surprising, is the place attributed to Badiou’s Maoism—to be more
precise, to Badiou’s failure to come to terms with his Maoist past, which
is quickly equated with Stalinism.
95
What I have argued in the previous
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 615
pages, however, leads to a quite different conclusion, perhaps even one that
is the radical opposite of Bensaïd’s. Maoism, for Badiou, precisely involves
an ongoing settling of accounts with the kinds of leftist, mystical, or oth-
erwise miraculous dennition of the event as an absolute beginning—espe-
cially, I might add, when such leftism is used to pretend that one has thereby
avoided the wide-open traps of Stalinism. That this settling of accounts in
turns involves “the still unresolved difnculty of holding together event and
history, act and process, instant and duration” is true enough, but then this
is also very much the difnculty tackled by all of Badiou’s work.
Plainly put, what happens in Bensaïd’s as in many other critical readings
of Badiou consists in setting up a dogmatic divide between being and event,
or between history and event, only then to plead in favor of a more dialecti-
cal articulation between the two—one that would be capable of taking into
account where and when an event takes place in a specinc situation, to what
effect, and so on. On closer consideration, Badiou nowadays actually seems to
stand accused of being not so much a Maoist but rather a Linbiaoist. Lardreau,
from this point of view, still had the virtue of admitting his undying loyalty,
which he confessed was without concern for historicity, to Lin Biao. But our
contemporary critics can no longer ignore the fact that Badiou wrote a stun-
ning critique of precisely the kind of mystical politics that, before being attrib-
uted to him, was openly embraced in Lardreau and Jambet’s L’ange.
Indeed, in “Un ange est passé,” published under the pseudonym of
Georges Peyrol, Badiou had in fact taken issue with the whole idea of the
cultural revolution as the invariant form of an absolute beginning, or an
inviolable break. This criticism at the same time offers us another percep-
tion of the complete debacle not only of the Red Guards but also of the
Gauche Prolétarienne in the aftermath of the Chinese Cultural Revolution,
particularly because of the encounter of many of its French ex-enthusiasts
with Lacan: “The turning trick with the Angel consists in the following: to
interrogate the Cultural Revolution from the point of its (Lacanian) impos-
sibility, and thus as that which, by raising the question of its existence, leads
one to establish this existence in inexistence: another world, a beyond, the
kingdom of Angels.”
96
The notion of a radical two, despite the appearance
of ndelity to the principle of antagonistic scission, is actually the exact oppo-
site of Mao’s lesson—at least according to Badiou.
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 616
L’ange, by presenting a hyperbolic, properly metaphysical version of two
worlds, merely reproduces, according to Badiou’s critique, Lin Biao’s “ultra-
leftist” will of absolute purity and genius. “What Lardreau and Jambet, as
decided Linbiaoists, call ‘cultural revolution’ is the absolute and imaginary
irruption of the outside-world, the dennitive eradication of egoism,” Badiou
charges: “It means ‘breaking the history of the world in two.’ It is the ideolo-
gism of the remaking of oneself, fascist in its sectarian ambition of absolute
purity, of absolute simplicity, of starting anew from scratch.”
97
Even when the
desire for purincation is applied with much rhetorical pomp and violence
to the spectacle of the intellectual’s imaginary self-annihilation, the whole
picture remains metaphysical—yet another example of speculative leftism
in which the scission of the one is replaced by an eternally Manichaean Two.
As Badiou concludes: “What to say, except that nothing, especially not the
revolt, authorizes the pure Two of metaphysics? The revolt in an exemplary
way is that which splits—so not the Two, but the One dividing into Two
and thus revealing what the One has always been, the becoming of its own
scission.”
98
Lardreau and Jambet, on postulating the inevitable nature of the
One, are obliged to afnrm, outside and beyond the nrst, another One. In sum,
Badiou writes: “Their maxim, against ‘one divides into two,’ is ‘two times
one.’ ”
99
From his earliest accounts of the logic of scission, Badiou has always
warned against the perils of seeking a complete break, a total reeducation,
or an absolute beginning. “This is because the idea of the simple begin-
ning is a typically metaphysical, that is to say, a conservative presupposi-
tion,” he writes in Théorie de la contradiction, and further on he continues:
“The speculative concept of the Beginning—of which Hegel himself gave
an unnnished and divided criticism—serves to suture the dialectic to ideal-
ism.”
100
Critics who claim that Badiou in recent years has become increas-
ingly vulnerable to the charge of speculative leftism might also want to con-
sider those numerous passages in the recent work in which an exceedingly
bivalent logic is rejected in the name of a certain Mao!
In the end, we are sent back to a diagonal crossing of “leftism” and “right-
ism” alike:
Mao himself—and God knows there was a great deal of violence in the
Chinese Revolution—developed a fairly complicated doctrine regarding
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 617
the difference between contradictions among the people and antagonis-
tic contradictions, and the existence in any process of left, centre, and
right wings. He never stopped insisting that in the movement of a process
there is always a considerable plurality of nuances, and that if we don’t
grant some space to this plurality, we are nnally driven back to the break-
up of the process, more than anything else. It is true that some politi-
cal sequences did adopt as the internal rule of their development a very
severe bivalent logic, but we need to ask in each case how this bivalence
was linked to the singularity of the sequence. It is not a general problem
of truth-processes.
101
Since it is not a general problem of truth-processes but in each case a local
and specinc one, the strictly ontological framework of L’Etre et l’événement
by dennition is insufncient to account for this plurality of nuances by which
the process of an event is linked to the situation. Perhaps even the logical
framework of Logiques des mondes will be unable to give a complete answer
to this question. But the least we can say is that Badiou’s work, from the
logic of scission all the way to the still-unnnished logic of the site, has tried
to open up a contradictory space for the articulation—the scission and the
reciprocal action without fusion or deviation—between a given situation
and its truthful transformation.
From Destruction to Subtraction?
At this point some readers may wonder whether there is any hyphen or
break at all left in Badiou’s work. By resisting the stark opposition between
an “early” and a “late” stage, marked by the supposed abandonment of the
dialectic, have I not forced my interpretation of this philosophy beyond rec-
ognition, this time in the direction of a blind continuism? Is there then no
need at all to add the slight distance of a prenx to Badiou’s Maoism? Or
else, how should we interpret the gap that warrants the invocation of a post-
Maoism? Badiou, after all, organizes his talk on the Cultural Revolution
around the hypothesis that its series of events marks the end of an era—
precisely, the end of the revolutionary era. What are we to make of this
hypothesis in light of Badiou’s lasting debts to Maoism and, more generally
speaking, to Marxism?
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 618
In “Communism as Separation,” Alberto Toscano provides us with what
is no doubt one of the most lucid and sophisticated readings of the imma-
nent break with Marxism-Leninism that would seem to occur in Badiou’s
work. For Toscano, this break becomes dennitive around ·o8:, particularly
in Peut-on penser la politique? through a peremptory deconstruction of the
metaphysical and classist understanding of politics. Prior to this point, the
idea of communism would have involved a politics of transitivity, driven by
the motor of antagonism between the dominant structure of representation
and the unrepresentable subject who, while being foreclosed, nevertheless
can be expected to be an antecedent to itself. As Toscano writes:
What is deserving of the epithet “metaphysical” in these doctrines is the
idea that politics is somehow inscribed in representation, that what is
foreclosed by domination is nevertheless endowed with a latent political
force; which is to say, that the political subject which emerges out of the
labor of the positive, whether this be the appropriation of production or
the limitation and destruction of place, is its own obscure precursor.
102
After Peut-on penser la politique? which in militant terms means after the
recomposition of UCFML in the guise of the OP, Badiou’s understanding
of politics would have shifted from a class-based logic of antagonism, includ-
ing in its most vehement and terminal version as destruction and terroriz-
ing self-purincation, to a logic of subtraction wholly intransitive to any prior
social, economical, or otherwise obscurely consistent substance: “What is
certain, above all, is that the abandonment of class antagonism as the dialec-
tical support of communist subjectivity affects it with a radical intransitivity
to representation as well as with a discontinuity in its manifestations.”
103

By abandoning the transitivity of political subjectivity to the structure of
antagonism, no matter how tenuous and aleatory the latter is made out to
be, Badiou would have dennitely abdicated the basic underlying principle of
all Marxism-Leninism.
Toscano’s careful analysis nonetheless seems to waver somewhat in the
attempt to draw a neat conceptual boundary between the operations typi-
cal of the transitive mode of politics (reappropriation, destruction, purinca-
tion), and those that presuppose a certain deconstruction of the metaphysics
of transitivity (subtraction, avoidance, distance). On several points of the
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 619
description, these operations from before and after the break come to resem-
ble one another much more so than the notion of a dennitive linear break
would seem to justify. At the same time, I should add, such resonances do
not necessarily signal an inaccuracy in Toscano’s account of Badiou’s overall
philosophy. In fact, many of the operations that were pivotal actually do
continue to be important today, albeit in a different way or with a different
emphasis. Thus, in his more recent statements, Badiou’s supposedly linear
shift from destruction to subtraction, or from purincation to the play of
minimal difference, gives way to the complex reordering of a simultaneity.
An event, thus, would at the same time bring about a subtraction of being
and a destruction of a regime of appearing. Toscano’s hesitation would bear
witness to the possibility of such a combination, which only recently has
become a reality for Badiou.
On the other hand, the supposition that something—an unrepresent-
able force, the energy of the masses, or the antagonistic system of produc-
tion—always already constitutes the dark precursor of the subject who will
subsequently come to overdetermine its own structure of representation:
this supposition, which is supposedly unique to Badiou’s early works, in fact
could be rephrased in terms that are consistent with the later ontological
meditations as well. In fact, the idea of a wild being of pure presentation
that would precede its capture in the order and deadlock of representation
is one of the reproaches by means of which Žižek accuses Badiou of being
more profoundly Deleuzian than Badiou himself would like to admit.
104

Conversely, the notion that only a completely mathematized ontology takes
away the ground from under the temptation of transitivity, by arguing for
a strictly immanent localization of the event in terms of the excess of rep-
resentation over presentation, of inclusion over belonging: this notion too
strikes me as an odd reduplication, in mathematical form, of the antinomies
of representation that are central to the early theory of ideology in Badiou.
Badiou’s Maoism, once again, seems to have a symptomatic function in
this context. In fact, what the notion of a deconstruction of the “nction” of
transitivity between the political and the social in Marxism-Leninism seems
to forget is the extent to which such a deconstruction was already a lesson
learned from Maoism. Badiou’s readers, in other words, all too often seem to
want to infer that what he says of “classical” or “orthodox” Marxism, or of
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 620
Marxism-Leninism, for instance in Peut-on penser la politique? and in L’Etre
et l’événement, automatically applies, by way of an immanent self-critique,
to his own Maoism as well. But this means to downplay the signincance
not only of Mao’s own critical notes between ·o:8 and ·o(c on Stalin’s Eco-
nomic Problems of Socialism in the USSR and on the ofncial Soviet Manual of
Political Economy, but also of the critique of so-called workerism, as a prime
example of the politics of transitivity, on the part of Badiou and his Maoist
comrades in the UCFML.
“Workerism” (ouvriérisme), which the UCFML sees as a constitutive
ideological defect of the Gauche Prolétarienne, lies in connating the social
being of the working class with its political capacity. In practice, the result
of this connation often entails a limitation of the militant struggle to purely
economical demands and their possible convergence, occasionally intensined
in a violent upping of the ante as a way to provoke the existing authorities.
But for the UCFML, politics cannot be reduced to a series of economical
demands or revindications, not even if they are eventually inserted into a
chain of equivalences. Nor can the workers be seen, in a falsely populist but
otherwise typically moralizing and paternalistic fashion, as being endowed
with an innate or automatic political capacity. “It is completely false to think
that any social practice of any worker, no matter which one, is revolution-
ary, proletarian,” the UCFML insists in an early circular letter: “We must
nrmly combat these orientations which, despite the “left-wing” air that they
may try to put on, are in reality from the right. They indeed reject the mass
alliance and the materialist analysis.”
105
This also means that the moment
of politics cannot be subordinated to purely economical demands along the
lines of typical trade unionist revindications. In fact, only a clear distinction
between the socioeconomical substance of the category of the workers and
its organized subjective capacity is capable of preserving the autonomy of
politics. “Workerism, the cult of the worker, which did so much damage
and which was, much more so than leftism, our infantile disorder, from the
point of view of politics this means the inability really to handle the ques-
tion of the party as the leading noyau of the people as a whole,” another spe-
cial issue of Le Marxiste-Léniniste also reads: “Workerism and unionism, as
ideologies, the nrst among certain militants and the second among certain
workers, that means the refusal of proletarian political independence.”
106

Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 621
From a Maoist perspective, ultimately, there exist no classes prior to their
demarcation in the struggle. Or, to use Badiou’s more concentrated phil-
osophical expression of the same principle, in Théorie de la contradiction:
“A class does not preexist before the class struggle. To exist means to be
opposed. The existence of a term is entirely given in its contradictory cor-
relation with the other term of the scission.”
107
For Badiou the real break,
in terms of the transitivity of politics, happens within Marxism-Leninism as
a result of Maoism.
Another way to describe the break in Badiou’s work revolves around the
notion of the effective and intrinsic historicity of politics itself. “To be a
Marxist means to be schooled by history,” the UCFML posits in a brochure
distributed after Mao’s death, but then this principle must also be applied to
the study of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism: “We have to study contemporary
history and practice historical materialism with regard to Marxism itself.”
108

Marxism is not a doctrine or a theory, whether economical or philosophi-
cal, but it is also not an ideology, and even less a worldview; instead, it is a
politics, the politics of communism, the different stages of which, according
to a history that is internal to them, can at most be said to be concentrated
in the theories of Marx and Engels, Lenin, and Mao.
Marxism, in other words, is indissociable from a series of referents that
give it the power of its effectivity and without which it would be a dead
body of academic knowledge and dust-gathering dissertations. We know
that in Peut-on penser la politique? Badiou enumerates three such historical
referents: the workers’ movement, the successful formation of socialist state
regimes, and the anticolonialist national liberation movements. All three
of these overarching referents, by the early eighties, would have exhausted
their effective power to sustain the political historicity of Marxism. Indeed,
to describe the long historical sequence that goes from the Cultural Revolu-
tion in China all the way to Solidarity in Poland, a sequence to which we
might add later moments such as the Zapatista uprising from the nineties
in Chiapas, Badiou borrows an untranslatable expression from Lazarus and
speaks of “événementialités obscures” to suggest that these are only possible
events the nature of which as events is still relatively obscure, because of a
general lack of conceptual tools to think through their political historicity.
Thus he concludes: “All the political referents endowed with a real work-
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 622
ing and popular life are today atypical, delocalized, and erratic with regard
to Marxism,” but this does not bespeak the sense of an ending so much as
the need for a renewed beginning: “If Marxism today is indefensible, it is
because we must give it a beginning.”
109
Similarly, when UCFML militants write up a balance sheet of their
group’s trajectory in a ·o8· special issue of Le Marxiste-Léniniste titled .c
ans de maoïsme, they too begin by acknowledging the ultimate failure, or the
complete depletion of historical power, of what from the start were their two
main points of reference, the Cultural Revolution and May ·o(8: “These
referents are today without power of their own. We carry their questions
rather than their outcomes.”
110
The failure of referentiality does not mean
that we are done with the double legacy of Maoism. On the contrary, the
questions that are left unresolved in its wake now constitute the stakes for a
bold rebeginning of Marxism:
Against May ’(8, we know that what is needed is politics, the party, the
break; and that the working class as political reality is a task rather than
a given.
With regard to the Cultural Revolution, we know that it has failed,
and that the center of Maoism is this failure rather than that which took
place.
We who began at the crossover between May ’(8 and the GPCR, we
are conscious that we lasted for other reasons: the political tenacity, and
the certitude that communism is a process rather than a result. A process
whose material and stakes are the party of the new type, the party of the
post-Leninist era, which barely begins, and which is itself caught in the
general beginning of this enormous civilization that bears the name of
Marxism.
Our ndelity to our origin enjoins us to hold a second beginning. Those
who know the period and the risk of their history have the consistency of
that which can win and last.
111
In other brochures from the same period, the anonymous authors of the
UCFML even go so far as to posit that to be a Marxist one must in a sense
become a post-Maoist. Armed with the historical knowledge that the failure
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 623
of a revolutionary project such as the Paris Commune was perhaps no less
instructive for Marx or Lenin than a victory would have been, they call for a
sustained inquiry into the obstacles and contradictions that ultimately would
explain the failure of the Cultural Revolution—a failure symptomatically
exposed in the trial against the Gang of Four. “The failure of a revolution
universally sets the task of specifying what it has stumbled up against; what
internal political question kept it, in positive mass conditions, from reaching
its principal conscious goals,” we read in Questions du maoïsme: De la Chine
de la Révolution Culturelle à la Chine des Procès de Pékin: “Today a Marxist
is someone who, within the framework of an organized politics, makes an
effort to resolve for him or herself the PROBLEMS left hanging by the ini-
tial Maoism, the Maoism of Mao Zedong, the Maoism that is contemporary
to the Cultural Revolution. There is no other Marxism except this one.”
112

But, since the fundamental problem left unsolved by the Cultural Revolu-
tion is the one of the party, to resolve this problem at the same time means
to devise the means to constitute a party of a new type, the party of post-
Leninism. It is this problem that represents the stumbling block hit upon
early on during the Cultural Revolution.
Badiou’s central hypothesis in his talk on the Cultural Revolution thus
reiterates several of the arguments adopted by the UCFML during the
late seventies and early eighties, when the group was producing a renewed
assessment of its militancy in terms of the concept and practice of post-
Leninism. The Cultural Revolution would have been unable to resolve
the tension between the framework of a single party-state and the massive
mobilizations called on to unhinge this whole framework from within. As
we read in a brochure of the UCFML published after Mao’s death:
The Cultural Revolution did not radically transform the political thought
of the leaders of the Maoist Left on questions of organization. It is largely
within the context of the party that, from ·o(o until today [·o-(], political
battles have raged over the fundamental orientations in the construction
of socialism. Indeed, it seems that a contradiction has subsisted between
an overall political orientation that was widely renovated by the Cultural
Revolution and an organizational frame the reality and theory of which
remained essentially unchanged.
113
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 624
Or, to use the excellent summary by Paul Sandevince (pseudonym for Syl-
vain Lazarus), in his Notes de travail sur le post-léninisme:
Maoism marks a break with regard to Leninism. Rather, it opens the
necessity of a break, without constituting the conceptual arrangement for
this break. There is a relative silence in the Cultural Revolution and from
Mao himself on the question of what would be the pronle of the party
of the new stage. Mao and the GPCR open the era of post-Leninism by
clearing new paths on questions of the masses, on the proletariat, but not
on proletarian politics, or on the politics of the party. Mao opens post-
Leninism in terms of mass politics, but for the moment we cannot say
that the principle of unity between mass politics and class (party) politics
has been found.
114
In other words, if the Maoism of the Cultural Revolution was a heroic
but failed effort to give new organizational shape to a post-Leninist mode
of politics, then the task after the failure of the Cultural Revolution is with
the aid of a series of militant investigations to prepare a new Maoism, or
post-Maoism.
We can thus begin to see why Badiou, even while acknowledging the
closing of an era, would feel neither remorse nor embarrassment before
using a narrative present to talk of “the Maoist that I am,” or why he admits
to feeling an “incoercible nostalgia” for those years marked by the Cultural
Revolution, even including the “cult of Mao” in which he also participated:
“I buy neither the posthumous revenge of Camus over Sartre, nor even
the immoderate praise for Raymond Aron, on the grounds that he would
have been ‘less mistaken,’ which indeed is something that is easily achieved
when one takes no risks other than to follow the pedagogy of the world as it
goes.”
115
For Badiou, by contrast, Maoism and the Cultural Revolution con-
tinue to pose problems for which only a bold and painstaking investigation
can begin to formulate possible answers.
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 625
Notes
· Alain Badiou, Deleuze: The Clamor of Being, trans. Louise Burchill (Minneapolis: Univer-
sity of Minnesota Press, .ccc), ..
. Alain Badiou, Deleuze: “La clameur de l’Etre” (Paris: Hachette, ·oo-), 8. Unless otherwise
indicated, all translations in the following pages are my own.
: Alain Badiou, Théorie de la contradiction (Theory of Contradiction) (Paris: Maspero, ·o-:),
:c–:·.
. Alain Badiou, “Les . dialecticiens français: Pascal, Rousseau, Mallarmé, Lacan,” Le Perro-
quet: Quinzomadaire d’opinion .. (March–April ·o8:): ··. Much of this text, but not the pas-
sage quoted here, is integrated in Alain Badiou, “Généalogie de la dialectique,” in Peut-on
penser la politique? (Can Politics Be Thought?) (Paris: Seuil, ·o8:), 8.–o·. It seems to me
that “il y a des critères” should read “il y va des critères,” which is how I have translated the
French original, but the nrst option of course would only connrm my thesis further.
: Alain Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, trans. Peter Hallward (London:
Verso, .cc·), ... See also “Les deux sources du maoïsme en France,” in Le maoïsme, marx-
isme de notre temps (Maoism, Marxism of Our Time) (Marseille: Potemkine, ·o-(), -–8. An
English translation of this pamphlet published originally by the Groupe pour la Fondation
de l’Union des Communistes de France Marxiste-Léniniste is included in this special issue.
Incidentally, this double allegiance brings up the problem of how two events can become
entangled in the nrst place, when Badiou does not even entertain this as a possibility in
L’Etre et l’événement (Being and the Event). Mao’s legacy thus time and again will bring us
face to face with problems of articulation as entanglement or mixture, in stark contrast with
the more miraculous and absolutist interpretations of Badiou’s major concepts.
( Peter Hallward, Badiou: A Subject to Truth (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,
.cc:). “What should be stressed is that Badiou’s properly decisive concepts—concepts of the
pure, the singular, and the generic—are themselves at least relatively constant,” Hallward
writes, and he continues: “Certainly, for every disclaimer of ‘early excesses’ there have been
many suggestive symptoms of a global continuity, at least from May ’(8 to the present” (:c).
Jason Barker, even while recognizing the persistence of Maoist themes in Badiou’s more
recent ontological inquiries, seems to reduce the lasting impact of Maoism to little more
than a form of “militant vitality.” See his Alain Badiou: A Critical Introduction (London:
Pluto, .cc.), .:. “Today the legacy of Maoism has all but disappeared,” Barker writes, but
later on he adds: “Badiou’s avowed aim in Being and the Event is to leave behind the ‘still-
born’ legacy of dialectical materialism. However, the traces of Marxism—and Maoism—
arguably persist, here and there, despite the introduction of this radical, ‘post-Cantorian’
variety of what Badiou names ‘subtractive ontology’ ” (8.).
- Alain Badiou, L’Etre et l’événement (Paris: Seuil, ·o88), :(:.
8 Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, ·o-.), .:c–:(.
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 626
o Ibid., .:c. In French, the word used for “investigation” is precisely enquête. Jason Barker
translates the term as “inquest” and Peter Hallward as “investigation.” For Badiou’s own
dennition of the concept, see L’Etre et l’événement, :(:–-.. Among French Maoists, interest
in the investigation was to become both systematic and widespread. In April ·o(- Garde
Rouge, the central journal of the Maoist UJC(ML), or Union of Communist Youths (Marxist-
Leninist), publishes its nfth issue with a cover that reproduces the original assertion, “No
investigation, no right to speak,” nrst made in a ·o:c text by Mao, “Against the Cult of
the Book”: Qui n’a pas fait d’enquête n’a pas droit à la parole. Christophe Bourseiller, in his
anecdotal history of French Maoists, explains: “The investigation is another idea from the
Chinese. Its concept is luminous: in order to know the working class and peasantry well,
one must proceed with a systematic and objective investigation by going on location. It is
a matter of leaving behind the universities in order to go there where exploitation is most
ravaging. Of practicing concrete analysis. This foregrounding of the investigation will be
one of the principal features of the Maoist movement” (Christophe Bourseiller, Les maoïstes:
La folle histoire des gardes rouges français [The Maoists: The Mad History of the French Red
Guards] [Paris: Plon, ·oo(], 8c). See also François Marmor, “Les livres et les enquêtes: Pour
un ‘marxisme concret,’ ” in Le maoïsme: Philosophie et politique (Maoism: Philosophy and
Politics) (Paris: PUF, ·o-(), .-–:·.
·c Quoted in Bourseiller, Les Maoïstes, ·(·.
·· Groupe pour la Fondation de l’Union des Communistes Français (marxiste-léniniste), Pre-
mière année d’existence d’une organisation maoïste, printemps .cyc/printemps .cy. (First Year
of Existence of a Maoist Organization, Spring .cyc/Spring .cy.) (Paris: Maspero, ·o-.), ·cc,
·(o.
·. Groupe pour la Fondation de l’Union des Communistes Français (marxiste-léniniste), La
révolution prolétarienne en France et comment construire le Parti de l’époque de la pensée de
Mao Tsé-toung (The Proletarian Revolution in France and How to Build the Party of the Era of
Mao Zedong) (Paris: Maspero, ·o-c), .(.
·: See Dialogue autour de Tien An Men (Dialogue on Tienanmen), a special issue of Le Perro-
quet: Quinzomadaire d’opinion 8(–8- (March ·ooc). Parts of the survey in Guanzhou have
also been published in Sylvain Lazarus, L’anthropologie du nom (Anthropology of the Name)
(Paris: Seuil, ·oo(), .::–.o, and in Lazarus, Chercher ailleurs et autrement: Sur la doctrine
des lieux, l’économie, l’effondrement du socialisme (Looking Elsewhere and Differently: On the
Doctrine of Places, the Economy, the Collapse of Socialism) (Paris: Les Conférences du Per-
roquet, ·oo.).
·. Badiou, L’Etre et l’événement, :(·. On the “still-born” legacy of dialectical materialism, see
the introduction (·c). For a more detailed commentary, see my contribution “On the Subject
of the Dialectic,” in Think Again: Alain Badiou and the Future of Philosophy, ed. Peter Hall-
ward (London: Continuum, .cc.), ·:c–(..
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 627
·: See, for example, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy:
Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (London: Verso, ·o8:), o:; Michael Hardt and Anto-
nio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, .ccc), (:–(..
·( Badiou, Théorie de la contradiction, ·co–·c.
·- See Bruno Bosteels, “Can Change Be Thought? A Dialogue with Alain Badiou,” in Alain
Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions, ed. Gabriel Riera (Albany: State University of New
York Press, .cc:), .:.–::.
·8 Because of my focus on Badiou’s Maoist years, I will not deal in detail with the later activi-
ties of the Organisation Politique. The interested reader can nnd an excellent discussion of
these activities in Hallward’s Badiou, chap. ·c.
·o Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung, ·-c–-..
.c Badiou, L’Etre et l’événement, :-:–-(.
.· La révolution prolétarienne en France, ·c-–.8.
.. “Maoïsme et question du Parti,” in Le Maoïsme, special issue of Le Marxiste-Léniniste: Jour-
nal Central du Groupe pour la Fondation de l’Union des Communistes de France Marxistes
Léninistes ·. (fall ·o-(): .c.
.: “Le maoïsme: Une étape du marxisme” (“Maoism: A Stage of Marxism”), in .c ans de
maoïsme: Une histoire, un bilan, une politique (Ten Years of Maoism: A History, A Balance
Sheet, A Politics), special double issue of Le Marxiste-Léniniste: Journal Central du Groupe
pour la Fondation de l’Union des Communistes de France Marxistes Léninistes :c–:· (spring
·o8·): -. The complete text of this article is translated in this special issue. See also Paul
Sandevince [Sylvain Lazarus], Notes de travail sur le post-léninisme (Working Notes on Post-
Leninism) (Paris: Potemkine, ·o8c).
.. See also the introduction to La révolution prolétarienne en France: “If we commit ourselves
to fusing the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism, the highest and entirely new stage of
which is Mao Zedong’s thought, into the concrete practice of the revolution in France, the
latter will for sure be victorious. This fusion requires that Mao Zedong’s thought really be
considered a guide for action” (o–·c).
.: Alain Badiou, Théorie du sujet (Paris: Seuil, ·o8.), ·o8.
.( Alain Badiou, La Révolution Culturelle: La dernière révolution? (Paris: Les Conférences du
Rouge-Gorge, .cc.), :·.
.- A. Belden Fields, Trotskyism and Maoism: Theory and Practice in France and the United States
(New York: Praeger, ·o88), available online at www.maoism.org.
.8 Rémi Hess, Les maoïstes français: Une dérive institutionnelle (The French Maoists: An Institu-
tional Drift) (Paris: Anthropos, ·o-.), .c-–·..
.o Bourseiller, Les Maoïstes, ·:c, ·:c.
:c Alain Badiou, Conditions (Paris: Seuil, ·oo.), .:c.
:· La révolution prolétarienne en France, ·.(. As in the case of Mao on determination by the
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 628
infrastructure, practice, or politics over the superstructure, theory, or ideology, here too
this question is a conjunctural one: “There is no absolute priority of the struggle in the
factories over the struggle in the housing projects, but the inverse is not true either” (·.().
Though without absolute priority, nevertheless in modern historical circumstances the fac-
tory retains a symptomatic function with regard to other sites. Those comrades who would
consider this argument too a leftover of Badiou’s bygone dialectical period would do well to
consider an extraordinary text, “L’usine comme site événementiel” (“The Factory as Event-
Site”), which was originally meant for inclusion in L’Etre et l’événement but appeared only
in Le Perroquet (.–(: (April ..–May ·c, ·o8(): ·, .–(.
:. La révolution prolétarienne en France, ··o.
:: Le Marxiste-Léniniste :c–:· (spring ·o8·): ·-. The noyaux, or noyaux communistes ouvriers,
were “kernels” or “cells” of communist workers and militants that for some time constituted
the model of the “party of the new type” according to the UCFML. For a discussion, see Les
noyaux communistes ouvriers: Forme actuelle de l’avant-garde, piliers de l’édi/cation du Parti
de type nouveau (The Communist Workers’ Cells: Current Form of the Vanguard, Pillars of the
Construction of a New Type of Party) (Marseille: Potemkine, ·o-8).
:. Badiou, Révolution Culturelle, ··. For an excellent philological interpretation of the four
Chinese characters that are translated as “Cultural Revolution” in most Western languages,
including French and English, see Guy Brossollet, “Ce que veut dire ‘Révolution cul-
turelle,’ ” in “Mao: Culture et révolution,” special issue, Magazine Littéraire :c (·o(o): -–·:.
:: “L’art et la culture: Un groupe maoïste, le groupe FOUDRE,” Le Marxiste-Léniniste :c–:·
(·o8·): .c–.·.
:( Bosteels, “Can Change Be Thought?” .:o–(c.
:- Badiou, Théorie du sujet, .(, :c(.
:8 Ibid., :.
:o Ibid., (:. A. Belden Fields observes, in his Trotskyism and Maoism (chap. :): “The UCFML
has made no claim to be a party, as have the other two organizations [Parti Communiste
Marxiste-Léniniste de France (PCMLF) and Parti Communiste Révolutionnaire (marxiste-
léniniste) (PCR[m-l])]. In fact, it has not even claimed to be a ‘union’ yet, but a ‘group’ for
the formation of a ‘union.’ It has readily admitted that it does not yet have a mass base which
would entitle it legitimately to refer to itself as a party. It also questions the legitimacy of the
PCMLF and the PCR(m-l) for so doing.”
.c UCFML, “Commentaire préliminaire,” in Sandevince, Notes de travail sur le post-léninisme, ..
.· Badiou, Théorie du sujet, (:. For the full periodization, see the fragments from Théorie du
sujet translated in this special issue.
.. “Le mode dialectique,” La Distance Politique : (·oo.): :. A complete English translation of
this text is also included in this special issue.
.: Badiou, Théorie du sujet, .c:.
.. Alain Badiou, “Democratic Materialism and the Materialist Dialectic,” trans. Alberto
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 629
Toscano, Radical Philosophy ·:c (.cc:): .·. This text reproduces the nrst half of the preface
to Badiou’s Logiques des mondes. I am thankful to Peter Hallward for reminding me of this
dennition.
.: For an overview of the different forms of organization associated with the UCFML, see Le
Marxiste-Léniniste :c–:· (·o8·).
.( Badiou, Théorie de la contradiction, .c.
.- Alain Badiou, Peut-on penser la politique? (Paris: Seuil, ·o8:), ··..
.8 Lenin, Philosophical Notebooks, vol. :8 of Collected Works, trans. Clemence Dutt (Moscow:
Foreign Languages Publishing House, ·o(·), ·8c, ·o(. To the theory of renection or of the
mirroring relationship between notions and things, however, we should add the notion of
an asymptotic approach, which is precisely why Hegel’s genius can never be more than a
guess: “Cognition is the eternal, endless approximation of thought to the object. The re/ec-
tion of nature in man’s thought must be understood not ‘lifelessly,’ not ‘abstractly,’ not devoid
of movement, not without contradictions, but in the eternal process of movement, the arising
of contradictions and their solution” (·o:). See also Badiou, Théorie de la contradiction, .c;
and Badiou, Théorie du sujet, .c(–·(.
.o Theodor W. Adorno, “Skoteinos, or How to Read Hegel,” in Hegel: Three Studies, trans.
Shierry Weber Nicholson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ·oo:), ·:o.
:c From the moment of its foundation onward, the UCFML situates itself polemically in
opposition to the two major Maoist organizations still in existence in the early seventies
in France: the ex-PCMLF, forced into semi-clandestine existence around the journal
L’Humanité Rouge; and the GP, or Gauche Prolétarienne, led by Benny Lévy (pseudonym
Pierre Victor) and most famously organized around La Cause du Peuple. It is worth consid-
ering the tactics used in this polemical self-positioning because they consistently follow a
logic of twin deviations, overcome by the just middle, which will serve us further to under-
stand the persistent role of the Maoist dialectic in the overall philosophy of Badiou.
In the UCFML’s founding document, we see the logic of twin ideological deviations
appear from the start: ”The national organizations that vindicate Marxism-Leninism and
Mao Zedong’s thought are irreparably engaged either in a rightist-opportunistic and neo-
revisionist political line or in a leftist-opportunistic and putschist line” (La révolution pro-
létarienne en France, .). The militants and sympathizers of La Cause du Peuple, on the one
hand, are said to fall prey to a “leftist” deviation, insofar as they combine an overly narrow
concept of politics, limited to mere “agit-prop,” with an almost terrorist appeal to spectacu-
lar violence. The noisy vindication of anti-authoritarianism as sheer cop bashing (“casser
du nic”), the physical confrontation with the factory “bosses,” or the mediatic kidnapping of
famous CEOs, together with the journal’s purely descriptive retelling of isolated and short-
lived episodes in the history of the workers’ movement, thus become poor substitutes for
the patient work of actual political organization. Without concrete directives, without the
assessment of experience, and without a systematic practice of investigations, the undeniable
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 630
air of radicalism exuded by La Cause du Peuple is often little more than an abstract call to
revolt, quickly tilting over into a militarized plea for violence as an end in itself: “Putschism
comes in the place of the investigation, of the systematization, and of the directive” (ibid., :().
An adventurist call to pure activism for its own sake would thus form the “leftist” extreme
of the ideological spectrum, represented by the GP. In a later study published in ·o--, nnally,
the UCFML would take advantage of the lessons learned from the criticisms against Lin Biao
during the latter days of the Cultural Revolution, to redenne its own stance in opposition to
the GP after the latter’s autodissolution in November ·o-:: “When the emphasis was put on
the masses, the ex-GP’s thinking was purely democratic, and pretended to dissolve itself in
spontaneous movement. Just as Lin Biao unilaterally exalted the self-liberation of the masses.
But when the ex-GP put the emphasis on organization, it was the complete opposite: the
armed, clandestine, and purely putschist nucleus, subtracted from all political control by the
people. Just as Lin Biao had wanted to an excess to militarize the Revolutionary Committees,
and nnally attempted a coup.” See Groupe pour la Fondation de l’Union des Communistes
de France Marxistes-Léninistes, Une étude maoïste: La situation en Chine et le mouvement dit
de “critique de la bande des Quatre” (A Maoist Study: The Situation in China and the Movement
of the “Critique of the Gang of Four”) (Marseille: Potemkine, ·o--), o.
The ex-PCMLF and the various circles around L’Humanité Rouge, on the other hand,
appear as a “rightist” ideological deviation, insofar as they proclaim to be already the authen-
tic communist party in France, all the while referring the events of the Cultural Revolution
to a distant historical “stage” in the edincation of socialism, that is, the internal ideological
struggle that can only follow the takeover of power. Once again, this leads to a general
absence of positive guidelines and directives—all matters of organization that in this case
are replaced by an unconfessed and purely nostalgic yearning for a return to the long-lost
grandeur of the ·o.cs and ·o:cs PCF. At the same time, consistent with their denial of the
novelty of the Cultural Revolution, the circles that emerge from the ex-PCMLF end up
becoming paralyzed by a fearful overestimation of the new repressive apparatuses of the
state: “This spirit is particularly evident in their analysis of the alleged ‘ fascization’ of the
power of the state after May. This analysis has led the militants of L’Humanité Rouge to
their semi-clandestine existence, their lack of initiative, and their semi-paralysis” (La révo-
lution prolétarienne en France, (8). I should add that, insofar as the GP, too, will increasingly
become obsessed with the “fascist” turn of the state apparatus in France, the militants of
this organization are also sometimes described in the writings of the UCFML in terms of a
“rightist” deviation, similar to that of the ex-PCMLF.
:· UCFML, La révolution prolétarienne en France, ·c8.
:. Badiou, Théorie de la contradiction, -·.
:: Alain Badiou and François Balmès, De l’idéologie (Of Ideology) (Paris: Maspero, ·o-(), .o
n. .c.
:. Badiou, Théorie de la contradiction, 8c.
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 631
:: Ibid., -:.
:( Ibid., -(, -8–-o.
:- Ibid., -o.
:8 Ibid., 8c.
:o Ibid., 8·.
(c Ibid.
(· Ibid., 8·–8..
(. Ibid., 8..
(: Ibid.
(. Ibid.
(: Alain Badiou, “Le nux et le parti (dans les marges de l’Anti-Oedipe),” in La situation actuelle
sur le front philosophique (The Current Situation on the Philosophical Front) (Paris: Maspero,
·o--), :·–:.. For an English translation of this text, see “The Flux and the Party: In the
Margins of Anti-Oedipus,” trans. Laura Balladur and Simon Krysl, Polygraph: An Interna-
tional Journal of Culture and Politics ·:/·( (.cc.): -:–o.. I have tried to extend this argument
to include the work of Hardt, Negri, and Žižek in my contribution “Logics of Antagonism:
In the Margins of Alain Badiou’s ‘The Flux and the Party,’ ” included in the same special
issue of Polygraph (o:–·c-).
(( Badiou, Théorie de la contradiction, (o.
(- Ibid.
(8 Ibid., -..
(o Ibid., (o. Now, if all this were to come down to recovering the notion there can be no power
without the constituent force of resistance, as we can hear from Mao to Negri today, then
someone like André Glucksmann might well seem to lead the way. At the outset of La cui-
sinière et le mangeur d’hommes (The Cook and the Man Eater), one of the books, together with
Les maîtres penseurs (The Master Thinkers), with which he nrst achieved nationwide fame as
a former editor of La Cause du Peuple turned New Philosopher, Glucksmann indeed posits
a principle worthy of his youthful Maoist years: “In the beginning there was resistance.” See
André Glucksmann, La cuisinière et le mangeur d’hommes (Paris: Le Seuil, ·o-:), .·. From
this radical, almost ontological priority of resistance, however, all the attention quickly
turns in awe to the overwhelming power of repression displayed by the state. In fact, the
antirepressive obsession ultimately contradicts the initial pledge of allegiance to the wildly
creative force of popular resistance. Only a short step is then needed, based on the false
opposition between masses and the state, to go on to applaud the intrinsically democratic
tendencies of the former, even if only by default, this being the only remedy to avoid the
totalitarian excesses of the latter, made infamous by the gulag. And this step, we know, was
swiftly taken by most of the New Philosophers.
-c Groupe Yénan-Philosophie, “Etat de front,” in La situation actuelle sur le front philosophique,
·.. In addition to Deleuze, Lacan, and Althusser, a fourth interlocutor—Michel Foucault—
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 632
is mentioned in a footnote as the subject of a future discussion, but this polemic never actu-
ally was to take place. Incidentally, this lacuna can still be felt in Badiou’s current work, in
which certain readers might want to see a more sustained confrontation, particularly with
Foucault’s nnal seminars at the Collège de France.
-· Ibid., ·c. The mention of Nietzsche’s archpolitical attempt “to break the history of the world
in two” anticipates a future version of this same polemic, in which Badiou will once again
reject the radical-anarchic ngure of antagonism, or the two as such, as part of Nietzsche’s
problematic legacy. See Alain Badiou, Casser en deux l’histoire du monde? (Paris: Les Con-
férences du Perroquet, ·oo.). Compare also with Alenka Zupancˇicˇ’s recent book, deeply
inspired by Badiou’s views, The Shortest Shadow: Nietzsche’s Philosophy of the Two (Cam-
bridge, MA: MIT Press, .cc:).
-. Groupe Yénan-Philosophie, “Etat de front,” ·.–·:.
-: Alain Badiou, Joël Bellassen, and Louis Mossot, Le noyau rationnel de la dialectique hégé-
lienne: Traductions, introductions et commentaires autour d’un texte de Zhang Shiying, Pékin,
.cy: (The Rational Kernel of the Hegelian Dialectic: Translations, Introduction, and Commen-
taries on a Text by Zhang Shiying, Beijing, .cy:) (Paris: Maspero, ·o-8), -:, see note “(k) Le
concept philosophique de déviation.”
-. Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. E. B. Ashton (New York: Continuum, ·ooc),
·::. Paradoxically, then, nonidentity, or the presupposition that something must precede the
process of pure thought, is not an obstacle but a precondition for the identity between being
and thinking, between logic and history.
-: Le noyau rationnel de la dialectique hégélienne, -:–-..
-( Ibid., .c.
-- Ibid., :o.
-8 Badiou, Théorie du sujet, :c.
-o Ibid., (c, :c.
8c Badiou, L’Etre et l’événement, .:c.
8· Ibid., .:.–::.
8. Badiou, Theoretical Writings, ed. and trans. Alberto Toscano and Ray Brassier (London:
Continuum, .cc.), (o.
8: Badiou, Théorie de la contradiction, :(.
8. Badiou, Peut-on penser la politique? ·c. Insofar as Lacan’s psychoanalysis now prospers
ofncially in the Ecole de la Cause, just as Sartre’s Cause echoes La Cause du Peuple, we
might also add Lacan to the polemic between Sartre and Althusser. The question being, of
course: on which side? Or perhaps we should ask ourselves whether a Lacanian logic of the
Cause (as Chose) does not interrupt the possibility of being loyal to a political Cause, just as
Althusser’s structural causality may have kept him from joining Sartre’s Cause on the side
of the Maoists.
8: Le noyau rationnel de la dialectique hégélienne, ·:–·..
Bosteels XX Post-Maoism 633
8( Ibid.
8- Ibid., ·:.
88 Ibid., ·-.
8o Thus we could show how in some of Althusser’s formulations, the systematic study of over-
determination under certain formal conditions, which he himself also calls events, pin-
points a symptomatic blindness, or incompleteness, the presence of which already seems to
presuppose the inscription of a subject in a nonideological sense, while conversely we can
always expect to nnd remnants of the opacity and counternnality of the structure, or what
Sartre calls elements of the practico-inert, in the midst of the subject’s ongoing efforts at
reaching the transparency of self-consciousness.
oc See Bosteels, “Can Change Be Thought?” ..:.
o· Guy Lardreau and Christian Jambet, L’ange (The Angel), vol. · of Ontologie de la revolution:
Pour une cynégétique du semblant (Ontology of Revolution: For a Cynegetics of Semblance)
(Paris: Grasset, ·o-(), o(.
o. Ibid., ·(-.
o: Daniel Bensaïd, “Alain Badiou and the Miracle of the Event,” in Hallward, Think Again,
o:. In Bensaïd’s eyes, the price to pay for this radical distancing from history would be
exorbitant. The result in fact is “a philosophy of majestic sovereignty, whose decision seems
to be founded upon a nothing that commands a whole,” a philosophy haunted by the episte-
mological cut between event and history, the effect of which would be politically deadening:
“The absolute incompatibility between truth and opinion, between philosopher and soph-
ist, between event and history, leads to a practical impasse. The refusal to work within the
equivocal contradiction and tension which bind them together ultimately leads to a pure
voluntarism, which oscillates between a broadly leftist form of politics and its philosophical
circumvention” (·c·, ·c:).
o. Ibid., ·c:.
o: Ibid., ·c:–..
o( Georges Peyrol [Alain Badiou], “Un ange est passé,” in La situation actuelle sur le front phi-
losophique, (o.
o- Ibid., -..
o8 Ibid., -:.
oo Ibid.
·cc Badiou, Théorie de la contradiction, ::, ::.
·c· Badiou, Ethics, ··8–·o.
·c. Alberto Toscano, “Communism as Separation,” in Hallward, Think Again, ·.:.
·c: Ibid., ·.:.
·c. For a more detailed discussion, see Bosteels, “Badiou without Žižek,” in “The Philosophy
of Alain Badiou,” ed. Matthew Wilkens, special issue, Polygraph: An International Journal
of Culture and Politics ·- (.cc:): ..·–...
positions 13:3 Winter 2005 634
·c: “Circulaire sur quelques problèmes idéologiques” (September ·o-c), republished in Première
année d’existence, .c.
·c( Le Marxiste-Léniniste ·. (fall ·o-(): .·.
·c- Badiou, Théorie de la contradiction, -c.
·c8 UCFML, Sur le maoïsme et la situation en Chine après la mort de Mao Tsé-Toung, ·–..
·co Badiou, Peut-on penser la politique? :(.
··c “Introduction,” Le Marxiste-Léniniste :c–:· (spring ·o8·): ·.
··· Ibid.
··. UCFML, Questions du maoïsme: De la Chine de la Révolution Culturelle à la Chine des Procès
de Pékin, ·c.
··: UCFML, Sur le maoisme et la situation en Chine, ·(–·-.
··. Sandevince, Notes de travail sur le post-léninisme, o.
··: Badiou, Théorie du sujet, :·8.

positions 13:3

Winter 2005

576

in the present tense. Pour le maoïste que je suis, Badiou thus writes, literally, “For the Maoist that I am.”2 Of course, the French usage merely represents a sudden shift to the narrative present; technically speaking, we are still in the past, and, in this sense, the English translation is by no means incorrect. Nevertheless, something of the heightened ambiguity attached to the use of the narrative present is lost in the passage from one language to the other, as the overall image of a potentially discomforting past replaces the suggestion of an ongoing loyalty, or at the very least a lingering debt, to Maoism. By way of framing my translation of Badiou’s talk “The Cultural Revolution: The Last Revolution?” I want to argue that Badiou’s relation to Maoism, which amounts to a form of post-Maoism, can in fact be summarized in the ambiguous use of the narrative present. If we were to spell out this ambiguity, we could say that Badiou was and still is a Maoist, even though he no longer is the same Maoist that he once was. Badiou himself says at the beginning of his talk, quoting Rimbaud to refer to his red years: ”J’y suis, j’y suis toujours” (“I am there, I am still there,” sometimes translated as “I am here, I am still here”). And yet we also sense that an impression of pastness undeniably overshadows the past’s continuing presence in the present. What seems so near is also exceedingly far; and what is there is perhaps not quite here. By the same token, we should not overlook the possibility that a certain inner distancing may already de ne the original rapport to Maoism itself. In fact, Mao’s own role for Badiou will largely have consisted in introducing an interior divide into the legacy of Marxism-Leninism. “From the Jinggang Mountains to the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong’s thought is formulated against the current, as the work of division,” Badiou summarizes in his Théorie de la contradiction ( ), before identifying Mao’s logic of scission as a prime example of dialectical thinking: “Rebel thinking if there ever was one, revolted thinking of the revolt: dialectical thinking.”3 Maoism, then, in more strictly philosophical terms will come to mark an understanding of the dialectic as precisely such a thinking through inner splits and divided recompositions. As Badiou would write several years later in an article for Le Perroquet, one of the periodicals of his Maoist group: “At stake are the criteria of dialectical thinking—general thinking of scission, of rupture, of the event and of recomposition.”4

Bosteels Post-Maoism

577

Working Hypothesis

We could begin by pondering some of the more unfortunate consequences of the fact that Badiou’s vast body of work, standing nearly as tall as its author, has only recently begun to attract serious critical attention. This is true not only in English-speaking parts of the world, where several books have now been translated or are being translated, but even in his home country of France. In fact, to nd a long-standing tradition of critical commentary and concrete analysis informed by this thinker’s work, I often insist that we should turn to Latin America, especially to Argentina, where the journal Acontecimiento: Revista para pensar la política for over a decade has made speci c interventions inspired by Badiou about such situations as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina or the Zapatistas in Mexico. Most of Badiou’s publications, together with a considerable number of documents still unedited even in French, have also long been available in Spanish and Portuguese. By contrast, not even the two major texts, Théorie du sujet ( ) and L’Etre et l’événement ( ), are published as of today in English. Many Anglo-American readers thus almost by default limit themselves to the later and shorter books, starting with the edition of Manifesto for Philosophy ( ) all the way to the deceptively simple edition of Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil ( ), while others have come to Badiou’s philosophy only from neighboring traditions, by focusing on his Deleuze or on the “event” of Christianity as addressed in Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism ( ). What is often lost along the way in these readings are precisely Badiou’s long-standing debts to Maoism and to the political sequence of cially known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Badiou explains in his Ethics that this Maoist period actually involved a double allegiance, a delity not to one but to two events, referring to “the politics of the French Maoists between and , which tried to think and practise a delity to two entangled events: the Cultural Revolution in China, and May ’ in France.”5 Many readers are of course aware that during those tumultuous years, while never being strictly speaking “pro-China,” the author was a staunch defender of the ideas of Chairman Mao. Badiou himself makes sufcient references throughout his work to suggest how formative this expe-

despite the apparent self-criticisms. we can legitimately treat the inquiry. therefore. should we not at the very least be wary of drawing too quick a line in the sand between the “early” and the “later” Badiou? The Maoist Investigation Even today Badiou’s concept of politics as a procedure of truth remains to a large extent inseparable. though. nite series of minimal observations [constats].6 If this is indeed the case. As Badiou writes in L’Etre et l’événement: “In the end. as the truly basic unity of the procedure of delity” and. the commonly accepted wisdom among Badiou’s readers now holds that. thus. At least Peter Hallward has the virtue of outlining the possibility of a much more painstaking investigation into the continuing legacy of Badiou’s Maoism. all procedures of truth.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 578 rience was. But knowledge of this fact rarely leads to a sustained inquiry into the substance of Badiou’s Maoism. by the mid. from the theory and practice of his vision of Maoism. for his thinking. and still continues to be.”8 And one of the earliest concrete examples of this method of study can be found in Mao’s own . To give but one symptomatic indication of this continuity.”7 Badiou certainly must not have forgotten that the task of undertaking such “inquiries” or “investigations” (enquêtes) in many parts of the world was one of the most important lessons drawn from Maoism. we are witness to a clean break away from all dialectical forms of thinking—including a break away. from the thought of Mao Zedong. therefore. through “the subtle dialectic between knowledges and postevental delity” that is at stake in such procedures. as part of “the very kernel of the dialectic between knowledge and truth.to late eighties. involve a sustained “inquiry” or “investigation” into the possible connection or disconnection between the various aspects of a given situation and that which will have taken place in this situation under the sign of an event. and not just the political one. This legacy involves not just an un inching delity to forms of political commitment but also a whole series of theoretical and philosophical invariants. Furthermore. A whole chapter in The Little Red Book is dedicated to this very question under the title “Investigation and Study.

or enquête. the main topic of which—the revolutionary role of the peasantry that already sounded a strong note of dissonance in comparison with orthodox Marxism and Leninism—he would later revisit among other places in his Rural Surveys (again.” to this day I do not regret having made it.9 Serge July. “No investigation. by far the most famous French Maoist group. the principle of the investigation.” has been ridiculed as “narrow empiricism. for otherwise they will not be able to link theory with practice. enquête.” and later on. in a collection of texts summarizing the achievements of the UCFML’s rst year of existence. it must propose the putting into place of . so to speak. Such investigation is especially necessary for those who know theory but do not know the actual conditions. the UCFML.”10 In fact. The investigation is precisely that which enables any given militant process to continue moving along in the spiral between the various political experiences and their effective theoretical concentration.Bosteels Post-Maoism 579 Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan. Thus. and a subsequent cofounder of the daily Libération. the same term. not even the enthusiastic observation of the consequences of our interventions. was a fundamental feature of Badiou’s own Maoist organization. In the preface to this last text. I still insist that without investigation there cannot be any right to speak. It solves a problem. going against the abstraction of pure and unconditioned theory: Everyone engaged in practical work must investigate conditions at the lower levels. in the French editions. or bilan d’expérience. no right to speak. together with the so-called assessment of experience. or Union of Communists of France Marxist-Leninist. Which problem? That of the takeover of the effects of the intervention by the workers. far from regretting it. in another document: “The investigation must not only bear on the search for a new objective in the struggle. a leading member of the soon-to-become ex–Gauche Prolétarienne. Although my assertion. we read: “The Maoist investigation is not a simple observation of facts [un simple constat]. is used to translate the concepts that appear as “investigation” and “survey” in English). would later go on to observe that “the investigation is the theoretical key to French Maoism. Mao reiterates the principle of the investigation as a form of concrete analysis of a concrete situation.

14 . or what I will call the encyclopedia of a situation. starting from the supernumerary point that is the name of the event.”12 To a large extent. a xed state of knowledge. by Badiou’s close friend and collaborator Sylvain Lazarus together with his Italian comrades Sandro Russo. The key of the problem lies in the way in which a procedure of delity traverses the existing knowledge. in March and April . that sums up the organization’s militant activity in the countryside in the seventies in France. it is of prime importance to lead militant investigations on the great revolts of poor peasants. Valerio Romitelli. and to what purpose they are put to work. I would argue that they tend to come into the picture precisely where truth and knowledge are articulated in what is still called a dialectic—even though the book’s introduction seems to suppose that we are to leave behind the “stillborn” tradition of dialectical materialism with the decisive turn to mathematics. on the one hand. moreover.”11 Following Mao. and. In L’Etre et l’événement. where. part of whose joint follow-up discussion was subsequently published in the UCFML’s newsletter Le Perroquet. something has changed. raised anew in the context of L’Etre et l’événement. Finally. This means to think the rapport—which is rather a disrapport—between a postevental delity. and Claudia Pozzana.13 If I have gone into this much detail on the question of the investigation. As Badiou explains: This is to say that everything revolves around thinking the couple truth/ knowledge. my reason for doing so is merely to showcase the pivotal role of certain Maoist concepts and principles including in the so-called later works by Badiou. this last task is taken up in the UCFML’s Le livre des paysans pauvres. we must know how to make this live on. the point is not just to underscore the mere fact that these concepts and principles persist but also and above all to grasp how. we may also mention the even more recent survey performed in China. However. the UCFML sees an urgent task in carrying out investigations not just in the urban working class but also among the poor peasants: “In particular. set off the ideological struggle. a collective and local equivalent to Mao’s Rural Surveys. especially in West and Central France. on the other.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 580 lasting practices. Before and after the struggle.

almost psychoanalytic meaning of the pre x so as to signal a critical attempt to work through the lasting truths as well as the no less undeniable blind spots of Maoism. Badiou is indeed better described as a post-Maoist. Thus the dialectical rapport between truth and knowledge is precisely the place of inscription of most of Badiou’s debts to Maoism. This would seem to con rm the fundamental hypothesis that I wish to lay out in the following pages. to retain the active. only if we are able. despite so much backlash in the wake of the postmodernism debate. or even more simplistically after the death of Mao Zedong. with contemporary varieties of post-Maoism existing not only in France but . At the same time. a miraculous and antidialectical understanding of the relation between truth and knowledge is often the result of a failure to come to terms with the Mao in his work. conversely. even if subreptitiously so. This can be said to be the case.” in other words. not as that which comes simply after the end of Maoism. namely. following a career path parallel to that of authors such as Ernesto Laclau. Rather than having become a self-confessed post-Marxist. the trial of the Gang of Four. to the half-forgotten and half-repressed lessons of Maoism. even for Badiou’s later work the investigation is that which ensures the possible connection of certain elements in the existing situation to the break introduced by a rare event. Needless to say.Bosteels Post-Maoism 581 We can see at which point in the overall theory concepts such as the investigation are operative: there where a truth “traverses” knowledge and subsequently opens the way to “force” the available encyclopedia of a given situation. Without any explicit mention of its Chinese sources. however. “Post-Maoism. the process of delity and the sequence of investigations in which such delity nds its most basic organized expression also keep the dialectic of truth and knowledge from turning into an inoperative. this con guration is largely international. quasi-mystical or miraculous duality of the kind that so many critics seem to want to stick on Badiou’s own work. but as the name for a peculiar historical con guration in which critical thought returns. that only an understanding of Badiou’s ongoing debts to Maoism can give us insight into his proposed renewal of the materialist dialectic while. so as to change the old into the new. and the coming into power of Deng Xiaoping.

and the former more generally showing little or no theoretical appreciation at all for the author of “On Contradiction. Nepal. for instance. become caught in the trappings of a conceptual framework that might have bene ted from a more sustained confrontation with some of the Maoist lessons taken up by Badiou. in some ways the current conjuncture in political philosophy can be said to suffer the consequences of a failed or incomplete passage through Maoism. or the Philippines. not the new outside the situation nor the new somewhere else. to think the new in the situation. including those who otherwise consider themselves loyal to a certain Marx. The painful irony. and thus we have to think what is repetition. of course. is the following: Can we think that there is something new in the situation. is that in so doing. I would say. these political thinkers may very well give themselves an irrefutable air of radicalism while foreclosing the possibility of actually changing a particular situation—of changing the old into the new. of the pivotal role attributed to “antagonism” in the writings on radical democracy by Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. or even the United States—to name but a few cases beyond the more obvious instances of Peru. or their blurring. the Basque country. rather than working through the peculiar nature of antagonistic contradictions. but can we really think through novelty and treat it in the situation?” Badiou says in an interview: “But.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 582 also in Argentina. however. what is not new. some of the best-known political thinkers of our time. Indeed. I am thinking. in the global situation today. in a more recent version: “My unique philosophical question. Finally. what is the old. or even in the collaborative work by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt—with the latter duo swearing off any pretense to a dialectical interpretation of the concept. as the effect of lasting contradictions among .”15 As a result. these political philosophers seem to call for a recognition of the structural or even ontological fact of antagonism in general as being constitutive of the social eld. we also have to think the situation. “The true dialectical question is never in the rst place: what happens that is important?” he writes in Théorie de la contradiction: “The true question is always: what happens that is new?”16 Or.”17 This struggle between the old and the new. and after that we have to think the new. Chile. which they otherwise wield with surprising ease. which is precisely what always was to have been thought according to Badiou.

Le Siècle ( ). would obliterate the . Badiou once more confronts Mao’s legacy.18 The different steps in this evaluation of Maoism immediately raise a series of questions. whether euphoric or melancholy. both in conferences from Conditions ( ) and in his Ethics ( ). Serving Truths Even a quick survey of Badiou’s work supports the thesis of an ongoing and sustained debt to Maoism. of Marxism and certainly of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism? A second question regards the extent to which Badiou’s logical and ontological inquiries. if not also the utter doctrinal demise. Finally. Badiou’s relation to Maoism may seem to have been mostly critical. but his recently published lecture series. at the height of the Cultural Revolution. the Organisation Politique (OP). together with his running commentary on Zhang Shiying’s interpretation of Hegel in Le noyau rationnel de la dialectique hégélienne ( ). Not only do his rst publications. in an attempt to think through their possible relevance today. Between these two moments. offer a systematic account of Mao’s thought in ected by French theory and philosophy. between May and September ) to his own concept of “politics without a party” as practiced by an offshoot of the UCFML. the short books Théorie de la contradiction ( ) and De l’idéologie ( ). especially over the formal distinction between antagonistic and nonantagonistic contradictions. about the “disaster” provoked by the Red Guards. in its most reduced version. declares the historical end. in his lecture on the Cultural Revolution. principally in L’Etre et l’événement and in the new book Logiques des mondes.Bosteels Post-Maoism 583 the people. this time by linking the sequence of events in China between and (or. which was still strongly overdetermined by his Maoist experience. After his seminar on Théorie du sujet. also includes a long lecture. was precisely one of the more famous universal lessons of the Cultural Revolution.” in which Badiou returns to some of the most violent events and debates of the late sixties. A rst question obviously concerns the precise extent to which Badiou would have abandoned the principles of his youthful Maoism. has he perhaps fallen in line with the contemporary trend that. ”One Divides into Two. as can be gleaned from his brief remarks.

. do these criticisms actually amount to an attempt at self-criticism of the excesses in his earlier works? Finally. Painful though it may be to admit that philosophy itself does not produce any truth. once he seems to abandon the Maoist vocabulary. a materialist philosopher is one who begins by listening to.20 From “serving the people” to “serving the truths” thus could sum up the trajectory behind Badiou’s post-Maoism. Whether it is also capable of being at the service of love is more doubtful (art. as a mixed procedure. the aim is to learn from truths produced outside philosophy. insofar as it strives to be at the service of truths. Philosophy is thus at the service of art.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 584 role of dialectical materialism. that which conditions thought from the outside. which was the starting point of his work with. Louis Althusser? Third.”19 For Badiou. in terms of conceptual tools. Badiou concludes: A philosophy worthy of this name—that which begins with Parmenides—is nonetheless antinomical to the service of goods. In particular. which Badiou now nds to be already partially at work in the Cultural Revolution. would really undermine his earlier. accounts of Maoism.” Mao had said. the philosopher’s task thus consists in serving the truths that are occasionally produced elsewhere. and soon afterward against. how much change has really taken place in his concept—not to mention his actual practice—of the organization of politics? “Learn from the masses” and “investigate conditions at the lower levels. Has he all but abandoned this last tradition. so as to investigate what would be needed. to register and concentrate the effects of certain events within philosophy. and more famously: “Serve the people. strongly party-oriented. the question also remains to what extent the idea of a politics without a party. because it is always possible to strive to be at the service of that which one does not constitute oneself. of science. on the other hand. In both cases. In other words. in the actual conditions of art or politics or science. and of politics. upholds the truths of love). and in thinking ultimately serves. we might want to ask ourselves how innovative and far-reaching Badiou’s recent criticisms of the Cultural Revolution and of the disastrous role of the Red Guards really are.

there are no strict rules of af liation. Badiou’s openly Maoist years are speci cally tied up with a group of militants gathered under the banner of the UCFML. in this sense. or (Group for the Foundation of) the Union of Communists of France Marxist-Leninist. Maoism. is foremost an effort to come to terms with the party-form. Badiou joined with his fellow militants Natacha Michel and Sylvain Lazarus.”23 In Badiou had attempted an innovation from within as a dissident founding member of the Uni ed Socialist Party (PSU).”21 The ambiguity lies in the fact that the party of a new type is also already a type of organization that no longer seems to be much of a formal party at all: for example. is thus already a post-Leninism: both a step away from and a renewed inquiry into the party-form of emancipatory politics.”22 Badiou’s Maoism. It is rooted in the experience.Bosteels Post-Maoism 585 Maoism as Post-Leninism As I mentioned before. not to mention an almost identical name. is perhaps not foreign to the ambiguity that surrounds the main political objective of its participants. to found a “party of a new type. the Union of the Communist Youths (Marxist-Leninist). however. or UJC(ML). and no party secretaries. This proposal eventually would be rejected by the end of the same year. Harry Jancovici. which likewise drew many . Ménétrey. with the form of the party as the vanguard of class-consciousness in the strict Leninist sense: “What is called Maoism has developed for our time a deepening of the Leninist conception of the party. The futurity of this small organization. as well as their loyalty to a Mallarméan principle of restricted action. and D. to give birth to the UCFML. at the PSU’s national convention held in Dijon. sometimes referred to simply as the UCF. namely. despite its apparent synonymy with Marxism-Leninism. published in : “Our conviction that Maoism is a stage of Marxism—its post-Leninist stage—dates back to our foundation. In the meantime. Despite sharing many ideological interests. no membership cards. oriented toward a uni cation of communists yet to come. among a few others. This is summed up in a retrospective statement of the UCFML. this group should not be confused with the UJCML. the universal bearing and the assessment of the Cultural Revolution. by coauthoring the pamphlet Contribution au problème de la construction d’un parti marxisteléniniste de type nouveau together with Emmanuel Terray. that is.

the UJC(ML) was of cially dissolved in the wake of the May uprising and as a result of the perceived failure to establish any lasting alliance between the student movement and the struggles of the working class. which still assumes a relatively external anchoring of politics in history understood at the level of social and economical being. the latter of whom would soon move over to Lacan’s camp. reaches the peak of its activism in the early to mid-seventies precisely as a result of the self-imposed task to continue interrogating the events of May–June . For Badiou.” Badiou proposes in his Théorie du sujet. here and now. it is the slight but signi cant displacement from the idea of politicizing history. It is a question of thinking and practicing post-Leninism. a historical guideline. at the exact time when barricades were everywhere going up in the streets of Paris.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 586 members from the student body of the École Normale Supérieure at rue d’Ulm—including many fellow Althusserians such as Jacques Rancière and Jacques-Alain Miller.”25 If there is a shift in this regard in Badiou’s ongoing work. As Badiou and Lazarus indicate in the editorial comment included in almost each volume of their Yénan series. by contrast. to recompose politics from the scarcity of its independent anchorings. “To defend Marxism today means to defend a weakness. We have to do Marxism. it is precisely the Maoist experience that runs up . the road to follow so that Marxism and the real workers’ movement fuse?”24 Even several years later. to clarify the destruction. Badiou continues to view Maoism as an un nished task. in terms of both their unintended backlash and their belated consequences for the political situation in France. rather than as a lost cause or a past accomplishment to be savored with historiographical nostalgia. published in the seventies by the same editing house owned by François Maspero that also supported Althusser’s famous Théories series. there is only one vital question: “What is. The UCFML. which remits a purely sequential understanding of politics to its own intrinsic history. Formed in February and led most famously by Robert Linhart until the latter’s total personal breakdown two years later. and on the same page he continues: “That which we name ‘Maoism’ is less a nal result than a task. and all this while history continues to run its course under the darkest of banners. to that of historicizing politics. To measure the old. while openly acknowledging the crisis of Marxism.

together with the talk on the Paris Commune from the same cycle. or between culture and politics. whereas his recent talk on the Cultural Revolution. however. the UCFML appears as little more than a “sect” caught somewhere in between the spaces of culture. completely limits the impact of his subjects to the realm of culture. with the events of May and their aftermath.Bosteels Post-Maoism 587 against the impossibility of fully accomplishing the rst idea. Christophe Bourseiller. caught up as they are in an effort to explain the contradictory alignment. we will examine various fundamental episodes in the historicity of politics. But Maoism and the Cultural Revolution. or lack thereof. in Les maoïstes: La folle histoire des gardes rouges français ( ). where they indeed played the role of an important trigger for feminist and gay rights struggles in France. Ideology Accounts of French Maoism. proposed by the Organisation Politique. nally. the Resistance. it is not just by chance that this debate. Politics. and so on. forever oscillating between authoritarianism and anarchy in terms of their own internal organization. typically draw a clear distinction between ideology and politics.”26 In other words. Politically. For example. to which the UCFML pledges half of its allegiance in the aftermath of May in France. the Cultural Revolution. Here. Culture. happens to serve as a backdrop against which we can hear or read Badiou’s talk on the Cultural Revolution. the Russian Revolution. over the historicity of politics. and bound to disappear for good with the death of Chairman Mao. which would be a fantasy screen worthy of further projections. offers a good example of the second: “This cycle of talks. In Bourseiller’s eyes. May ’ . the many French Maoist groups would have entailed little more than a poorly thought-out combination of left-wing populism and kneejerk third worldism. whereby the perceived ineffectiveness of the overall movement as a political phenomenon paradoxically receives a positive twist insofar as it would open up a much wider space for cultural and ideological freedom. is meant to clarify the links between history and politics at the start of the new century. and that of . in light of this question. also constitute key events themselves in the shifting articulation between politics and history that calls for such readings or investigations in the rst place.

division proposed by Rémi Hess in his much earlier work. such as the raiding of supermarkets or the interruption of movie screenings perceived to be reactionary or fascist. albeit a future one. In Fields’s account. Thus the group continues to rely on random and seemingly absurd acts of violence.”27 At one extreme of the divide we thus nd the strict discipline and austerity of the PCMLF. which according to him ends up having been completely misguided. Fields in part derives the split in his account of French Maoism from a comparable. Freud” in Reims. with exible tactics and initiatives comparable to those much more publicized ones used by GP members and sympathizers. Hess. with the groups on each side of the cleavage having virtually nothing to do with one another. Badiou’s organization thus continues to stress the need for an organized form of politics. this time tripartite.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 588 politics. aside from suffering from the cult of personality surrounding a small number of university intellectuals. who in an explicit attempt at sociological self-re exivity explains how he rst became interested in Maoism in – thanks to Badiou’s philosophy course “Marx. Nietzsche. For A. too. Les maoïstes français: Une dérive institutionnelle ( ). would later become active in the same city in a Maoist splinter group inspired by Badiou’s thought. the UCFML appears as a group that somehow sits astride the opposition between “hierarchical” and “antihierarchical” Maoism—two adjectives that in the end are little more than code words to describe two opposing attitudes toward the Leninist party. Belden Fields. or Gauche Prolétarienne. while at the other extreme a much more favorable light is shed on the spontaneous and slightly anarchistic acts undertaken by the GP. while intervening in the situation of illegal immigrants. French Maoism likewise can be divided into two tendencies. which he calls not so much “political” and “cultural” but rather “hierarchical” and “antihierarchical”: “At least from to the mids the major characteristic of French Maoism was indeed a clear-cut dualistic cleavage. . the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of France. foremost among them Badiou himself. only to become the most renowned and media oriented of all groups of French Maoism. for example. which arose sphinxlike out of the ashes of the UJC(ML) in October . Like the PCMLF. in his much more scholarly analysis in Trotskyism and Maoism: Theory and Practice in France and the United States ( ). Eventually.

groups that effectively were among the driving forces behind the MLF.”29 Badiou. he comes to favor a kind of Maoist cultural politics. The Party and Political Autonomy Even from this quick survey of some of the existing literature on French Maoism. becomes more and more uid. and the FHAR. more and more ‘everyday-ist’: it is a question of struggling on a day-by-day basis and of opening up new fronts everywhere. from hard-line party discipline through open ideological struggle to libidinal drift. Hess clearly prefers the libertarian spirit of the third. is that it occurs in a chronological order that seems to be the exact opposite of the intuitive ABC of Leninist party-organization.” Bourseiller observes: “Maoism.Bosteels Post-Maoism 589 however.” it should come as no surprise that to the blind discipline and bureaucratic dogmatism of the rst. on the level of ideological struggles outside the framework of strict party bureaucracy. as an intermediate group between the organizational and the libidinal. less and less ideological. together with the UJC(ML) and its successor the (ex-)GP of La Cause du Peuple. I am referring to the autonomy of politics and to the status of the party. what is particularly interesting and even uncanny about this development of French Maoism. then. In this overview. or Homosexual Front of Revolutionary Action.” “ideological. As for the rst issue. . Thus. when he draws a line of demarcation between three moments in French Maoism that he calls “organizational. “Now it is a question of investing culture as much as politics.” and “libinidal. the UCFML appears. even in everyday life. embodied by groups such as those gathered around the journals Tout and Vive la Révolution. or Movement for the Liberation of Women. with the result that “cultural revolution” becomes a generic term to a large extent cut loose from its concrete moorings in the sequence of events in China. epitomized by the PCMLF. closely related to the critique of everyday life that was being formulated around the same time by Henri Lefebvre and by the Situationist International. two recurrent issues stand out that are directly relevant for our understanding of the role of Maoism in Badiou’s work.28 For Hess. few commentators fail to recognize the astonishing expansion to which the political playing eld is subject in the late sixties and early seventies.

”33 Understood in this way. openly rejects the opposition between politics and everyday life that constitutes such a common assumption in most readings of the postperiod: “Our politics is new because it refers to the everyday. when it came to explaining the signi cance of the concept translated as “cultural. has always been unwavering in his insistence on the autonomy of politics as a practice that would be irreducible to purely cultural questions. in certain circumstances.”34 On the other hand. The historical experience of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution teaches us that. the will to change everyday life is seen in opposition to spectacular and politicist politics. After . the Groupe Foudre starting in and led primarily by Natacha Michel. But what the noyaux express through everyday politics in the factory is the af rmation that there is no outcome other than political. in his lecture “Politics and Philosophy” from Conditions. is the idea of a cultural politics. then. Ultimately. Thus.”30 Nothing could of course seem more contradictory. contradictions in forms of consciousness between the old and the new. the UCFML insists in the nal pages of its founding document: “One of the great lessons of the revolutionary storm of May is that the class struggle is not limited to the factory. to intervene precisely in art and culture at the level of what were to be speci c contradictions in propaganda—that is. in politics.”32 In fact. Comical. following Mao’s notion that .” and the same text goes on to conclude: “The front of culture and art is also very important. Capitalist oppression touches on all domains of social life. as Badiou is quick to point out in his talk. Badiou and his comrades were not so far removed from the idea of a “revolution of everyday life.” as the UCFML’s founding document had already suggested: “The revolution is in life and transforms life. as are all thinking and all truth.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 590 however. just as there can be no political truth that somehow would not touch on culture as well. in a retrospective assessment. coming from someone with such openly declared loyalty to the events of the Cultural Revolution! In fact. it can even become a decisive front of the class struggle. Le Marxiste-Léniniste. he concludes: “The thing itself. is a-cultural.”31 The UCFML even formed a special section. the “Sixteen Points” were exceedingly vague. purely comical. the organization’s central journal. as much as that of a political culture. even waxing metaphysical. no culture is ever truly apolitical. Even at the start of the Cultural Revolution.

as he claims in the introduction to his Saint Paul. is potentially even more polemical. Badiou even went so far as to accept the notion that “culture.” rather than merely being a version of “art” emptied out of all truth.” When pressured on this topic in the interview already quoted above. what matters in this proposal is the suggestion that once again.35 Badiou himself. most notably in Manifesto for Philosophy. and love utterly and completely disjoined according to a typically modernist bias of their self-declared autonomy. Which is why there are few subjects. Thus. “subject” means political subject and that the party is the only material embodiment of such a subject. after seeing how the four conditions of truth are to be separated as clear and distinct ideas. he invites us to reconsider how historically they are most often intertwined. in recent years has come to admit that a full understanding of the sequence of events from the late sixties and early seventies of course cannot leave the conditions of politics. as late as in his Théorie du sujet. at a given moment in time. The second issue.” Badiou writes.Bosteels Post-Maoism 591 “there can be no art above the class struggle. and further on: “The party is the body of politics. even while upholding its con dence in the speci city of art. We know that for the openly Maoist Badiou. forming mixed combinations such as “proletarian art” or “courtly love. “Every subject is political. with the different operations that “force” the available knowledge of a given situation after its “investigation” from the point of view of the event. that is. and little politics. science.” the UCFML’s Groupe Foudre also by no means accepted “art” or “culture” as sociologically de ned spheres or domains that would somehow be separate from politics.” if “we can consider culture to be the network of various forcings. in the strict sense. on the role of the party. we are sent back to a dialectic between knowledge and truth—now including a “network” among multiple truths that eventually might serve to formalize the concept of “culture” itself—through a notion taken from the Maoist legacy and inspired by the Cultural Revolution.”37 From this point . might actually be an appropriate name for the “networking” (réseau) or “knotting” (nouage) among the various truth conditions that could be newly theorized as “culture. the manner in which the encyclopedic knowledge of the situation is modi ed under the constraints of various operations of forcing which depend on procedures that are different from one another. nally.”36 In my eyes. art.

and Mao appear in the periodization of this book as three stages—three episodes according to the intrinsic historicity of politics—in the progressive putting into question of the party as an open task. what is at stake is already to some extent the form of the party itself. in the two senses of the expression: rst. or noyau promoteur. supposedly dominated by a classical Marxist-Leninist type of politics. And yet. It does not pretend to know in advance and to propagate what will be the living reality of the party. highlights a crisis in the traditional party-form.38 Badiou’s organization considers it unilateral and premature to pretend that there could be an authentic communist party of a new type at this time in France and. They are the signs of an unsolved problem—of a question that becomes a problem and an open task precisely as a result of the Cultural Revolution: “An open problem. the party.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 592 of view. of a future organization that is yet to come. therefore. it veri es them. Lenin. it centralizes experiences in light of this project. as something of which the masses must take hold. it is groupuscular and un-proletarian to want to create. and it recti es them. in turn. as well as the repeated insistence on merely being the harbinger. purely and simply. and second. mass uprising against the new bourgeoisie of the state bureaucracy. It is the noyau that promotes and carries the question of the party into the midst of the masses. it formulates directives. very little seems to have changed since the concept of the party was rst reformulated by the UCFML’s founding document to adapt to our times. we would be wrong to ignore the distance that separates the UCFML itself from the party of the new type. in fact. the party. in the practice of the masses. Marx. come up .”39 These statements should not be brushed aside as being super cial cautionary tales that would hide an unshakeable con dence in the vanguard party. Rather. could not be clearer in this regard.”40 Badiou’s Théorie du sujet. as something that is not solved. “The subjective question (how did the Cultural Revolution. Clearly. rejected the claims of the ex-PCMLF to be this party even after it was forced to become clandestine: the UCFML insists that “at the present moment. the momentary postponement of the party’s actual foundation. The opening text is quick to remark: The UCFML is not.

a body made up of an opaque and multiple soul—we will never say that it constitutes history. into the latter. or gives way to the rapport of a nonrapport. and Lenin would propose the party to absorb the widening gap between history and politics. The opposite almost seems to be true: only when the rapport between history and politics is de nitively broken. between its social immediacy and its political project. No hope of fusion is ever present. we are several steps removed from an orthodox understanding of the dialectic between history and politics. or between masses and classes. in favor of a strictly conjunctural grasp of the laws of politics and their changing situations.”41 I would argue that this kind of critical suspension of the party-form of political organization introduces an irreducible inner distance. the break with the transitivity of politics is not a break away from the tradition of Marxism-Leninism that would include Maoism as well but a break internal to the Maoist mode of politics itself. We should not be totally surprised. If dialectical thinking still involves a third term. then. Lenin. or a dialectical scission. it is only the process of the scission of the rst two that constitutes the tenuous unity of the third. between social being and consciousness. Badiou and Lazarus claim that with Mao the concept of history (or History) as an external referent is absented altogether. which gives it its being. To use Badiou’s words from Théorie du sujet that apply to the third stage of his periodization of Marx. the party. and not even the party can overcome this gap. and further on: “The dialectical mode dehistoricizes. In other words.”43 Clearly. to be confronted with a similar de nition of the dialectic in the preface to Badiou’s Logiques des mondes: .”42 After Mao. Whereas Marx would have subordinated politics to the course of history as class struggle. with the party as vanishing mediator or third term. only then do Badiou and Lazarus in these texts speak of a “dialectical” mode of politics. making it at the same time a form of post-Maoism. not even that it makes history. “Thinking no longer takes the form of thinking the adequation between politics and History.Bosteels Post-Maoism 593 against the rebuilding of the party?) remains in suspense as the key question for all Marxist politics today. politics can no longer be transitive to an overarching sense of history. and Mao: “The working class is not able ever to resorb the scission.” we read. Of such a political subject— nally restricted to the action of its placeholder.

one calling for a “party of a new type” and the other for a “politics without a party. if politics is to be more than a short-lived mass uprising or manifestation.”44 Badiou’s vacillations in this regard—now calling for a renewal of the dialectic and then arguing that the age of the dialectic is over—are no doubt symptomatic of precisely the type of problems left unsolved by the Cultural Revolution. what the idea of the party is meant to add. we should understand that the essence of all difference is the third term that marks the gap between the two others.”47 .’ following Hegel. that is. about point from the Sixteen Points decision. the fact of the matter is that the organizational form of politics remains fairly constant for Badiou.” as we already read in Théorie de la contradiction: “ ‘Theory’ can then engender only idealist absurdities. “Without organized application. in his talk on the Cultural Revolution. as a stacked-up series of interventions by way of wagers.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 594 “Let us agree that by ‘dialectic. even if its name disappears. but the need for politics to be organized at all—in noyaux. Finally. no veri cation. the UCFML and the OP. if we compare the two political organizations in which Badiou has been active. there is no testing ground.” should we not conclude by saying that they propose forms of militantism that on the whole and in actual practice are nearly identical? Whether this is then seen as a practical shortcoming of the earlier organization or as a theoretical inconsistency of the later one.”46 Or. no truth. as Badiou concludes in Peut-on penser la politique? ( ). the organization leaves open the point where the suture of the One fails to seal the Two.” even if no organized practice will ever be able completely to close the gap torn open by the event in the rst place: “In its propagating delity. committees. is precisely the question of material consistency and durability. a book written after the supposed break away from his earlier Maoism: “Political organization is necessary in order for the intervention’s wager to make a process out of the distance that reaches from an interruption to a delity. or a generically called “political organization. communes. Indeed. This may very well be a key lesson to be drawn from the suspension of the party-form accomplished during the Cultural Revolution: not the anarchist or adventurist response of jettisoning all forms of organization. the question of organization. on a more empirical note.”45 It is also in this regard that we should consider Badiou’s commentary.

we take a closer look at how the UCFML positions itself in the particular context of French Maoism.”48 Theodor W. Against common textbook variations on the theme of the real and the rational. By this I mean to draw attention to an often-calumniated principle of the dialectical method. Nine books. the group’s two periodicals: Le Marxiste-Léniniste ( – ) and Le Perroquet ( – ). two periodicals running for over a decade. the Organisation Politique. or not signed at all. the theory and philosophy of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. the concept and crisis of so-called monopoly state capitalism. tracts. what should immediately strike the reader is the overwhelming abundance of materials available. Adorno. are comparable in function and style to La Distance Politique ( –today). many years later. under a pseudonym. the identity or at the very least the cobelonging between concept and experience. In addition. writing in shorthand notation in his Philosophical Notebooks: “Hegel as a genius guessed the dialectics of things. particularly in terms of human labor. in the dialectic of notions. before interrogating the consequences of Badiou’s Maoism for his overall philosophy. close to two dozen pamphlets totaling over six hundred pages. between the logical (or onto-logical) and the historical (or phenomenological). and countless yers.Bosteels Post-Maoism 595 Maoism and the Logic of Deviations If now. these publications cover four major areas: the group’s own history and assessment of its militant activity. these materials in terms of quantity of course far exceed the individual production of Badiou’s entire oeuvre as a philosopher. Far more important than the sheer quantity of Badiou’s contributions to this mass of information is the question of conceptual rigor in relation to actual experience. that is. and circulars: many of them signed collectively. the world (nature). behind Hegel’s most abstract logical formalism: “Hegel has to be read against the . would reiterate this basic principle in his own Hegel: Three Studies by arguing painstakingly for the need to recapture the concrete experiential content. Lenin was after all fond of underscoring the importance of this principle for his own reading of Hegel’s Science of Logic. criticized as a revisionist notion in light of the Marxian critique of political economy. and international proletarianism. even though they are rarely ever taken into account. which constitutes the newsletter of the UCFML’s successor. Broadly speaking. phenomena.

”49 This is also how we should strain to read Badiou. One particularly useful way of doing so involves an analysis of the exact content behind the notion of “leftist” and “rightist” ideological deviations. and vice versa. however formal it may well seem to be. or else putschist and adventurist. In the following pages. there is no mass line. In keeping with some of Mao’s own assertions. Suf ce it to track a few representative steps in the forceful conceptual elaboration that turns this logic from a primarily tactical and political question into an issue with profound philosophical consequences.”51 Time and again.50 Ultimately. and in such a way that every logical operation. as they are typically being rede ned under the in uence of Chairman Mao. the UCFML’s argument about twin ideological deviations begins to function as a means to formalize a certain logic of revolt at a distance from the speci c cases of both the (ex-)GP’s antirevisionist violence and the exPCMLF’s blind defense of established doctrines. the measure of success for avoiding these two extremes depends on the speci c links that in any situation tie a given political organization not just to the masses in general but to their most advanced sectors: “Without a mass alliance.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 596 grain. however formal it seems to be. planned under the title Antagonisme et nonantagonisme: Les différents types de contradiction. the only alternative is between practices that are either dogmatic and opportunistic on the right. Without a mass line. unfortunately would never come to be added. is reduced to its experiential core. the important point not to be missed in this context is how this argument at the same time can help us better understand the place and force of Maoism in Badiou’s philosophy as a whole. books to which a third volume. Every logical and ontological operation. most notably in “On Practice” and “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People. Théorie de la contradiction and De l’idéologie.” about the alternating risks of left-wing adventurism and right-wing dogmatism. must thus be related against the grain to the experiential core that conditions it. this is how the argument over deviations from the just line will be reiterated. Badiou concentrates his critique of ideological deviations . Beyond strictly organizational matters. I cannot recount in detail every twist and turn to which the logic of “leftist” and “rightist” ideological deviations becomes subject both in the many publications of the UCFML and in Badiou’s own work. however. In his short didactic books on Maoism.

Taken in isolation. Whether this is a fair assessment of Althusser’s writings in For Marx and Reading Capital should not concern us here. Badiou rst of all reproaches his former teacher for reducing the logic of Marx’s Capital to a combinatory of places and instances in the mode of production. but its existence.”52 This risk of a metaphysical outlook is especially poignant in the use made out of the concept of the mode of production. The mobility of appearances refers to a closed system. seems willing to admit. whether class based or not. that would bring Althusser much closer to Badiou than the latter in general. undialectically combining both extremes in living proof of their deep-seated complicity. Althusser’s later theory of ideology likewise de nes an invariant mechanism by which individuals come to be interpellated and function in any given social system. from the point of view of loss and destruction that unhinges the structure from within: “The structure has its being in a hierarchical combination. which was famously said to be critical and revolutionary in principle. except for a few occasions. There are certainly elements in the concepts of over. if not in structural causality itself.Bosteels Post-Maoism 597 on the alternative between Deleuzian anarchism and Althusserian structuralism—with the (ex-)GP enthusiast André Glucksmann. But what should be clear is the fact that this former student seeks to take the work of his old teacher still one step further in the direction of articulating structure and history. the radical scienti city of which lies at the core of the original Althusserian project: “The concept of ‘mode of production’ is an inexhaustible goldmine for deviations of the structuralist type. that is to say its his- . it is only all too easy to give a purely combinatory version of it and to expulse from it the dialectic of forces in favor of the articulation of places. to a conservative and even metaphysical articulation of instances and hierarchies. now turned New Philosopher and anti-Marxist critic of the gulag. Even if the dominant role is allowed to shift from one structural instance to another. The essential conservatism of all structural thinking risks on this point to change dialectics into its opposite: metaphysics. as well as being and existence.and underdetermination. there is no place in this overall picture for a contradictory transformation of the structure itself: “The displacement of the terms from one place to another leaves intact the underlying structure of exchange.”53 Althusser’s scienti cist deviation would thus have consisted in limiting the dialectic.

What becomes evident in this harsh response. as increase or decrease. anarchism is merely the ipside of conservative structuralism.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 598 tory. of combinatories and differentials—without allowing either side of the articulation to deviate and lapse back into a unilateral hypostasis. Or at least this is how Badiou in his Maoist years responds to the “anarcho-desirers” who ock to Deleuze’s courses in Vincennes. is the fact that anarchism and structuralism make for surprisingly good bedfellows. whether toward blockage and loss or toward transformation and change. or as gure. The drift is the shadow of the combinatory. within the present state of affairs: “In order to envisage things from the point of view of the future within the present itself. impasse. we must seize hold of this present as tendency.”55 The dif cult task of a properly materialist dialectical mode of thinking would thus consist in thinking a split correlation of structure and history. as rupture. this tendency toward loss. it is a question of grasping the tendency. as Marx already hinted when he spoke of the essentially revolutionary nature of dialectical reason. then conversely an exclusive emphasis on the logic of forces will quickly push us into the wide-open arms of “left-wing” anarchists. of the combinatory and the differential evaluation of forces.”57 This combination cannot take rest in a quiet complementarity between two .” Badiou asserts: “Structuralism and the ideologies of desire are profoundly coupled to one another. “In truth. however.”56 Most important. “The dialectic brings to life the contradiction of the structural and the qualitative. as accumulation of forces. The structure has no other existence besides the movement of its own loss.”54 In Badiou’s later work. in their common contradiction of the dialectic. and dissolution inherent in the structure—this dialectic of lack and excess between a structure and its impossible metastructure—will come to mark the site of the immanent break within the structure that is then called an event. and each term of the contradiction re ects this transitory mode of existence by its division in its being-for-thestructure and its being-for-the-dissolution-of-the-structure. Far from being opposed. of states and tendencies. and not only as state. they are confused.” Badiou proposes in a series of variations on the same theme: “The complete dialectical intelligibility of what is principal must thus apprehend not only the state of things but their tendency. fuses with that of its destruction. If an overemphasis on the structural logic of places marks a “right-wing” deviation.

”60 Everything then fuses into the being of pure becoming.” it is the possibility of radical change that is foreclosed in the name of a purely objective analysis of the structure. whether by precipitously jumping over one’s own shadow or .”61 Everything then is made to depend on the pure state of the existing situation.Bosteels Post-Maoism 599 symmetrical poles. Here. the source of which is the uninterrupted struggle between the two terms and the incessant modi cation of their rapport. is itself dialectical. as a typical example. insofar as its conceptual operators. precisely because it has no existence except as part of a process of scission. which re ect reality. indeed. that is. as unity. In the case of “leftism. must be articulated through the scission of each one of the two terms.”59 In their mirroring relationship. Badiou mentions the adventurist tendencies fostered by May : “If. the logic of scission that would de ne the complete trajectory behind the proposal for a renewed understanding of the materialist dialectic as the torn articulation between structure and history. one neglects the structural element. one takes the tendency for an accomplished state of affairs. if I can say so. unlimited. and the movement of transformation of this very quality itself. or place and force. Here.”58 Such is. the resulting articulation should give way to the divided unity of a process of scission. is itself torn apart between its qualitative subordination to the scission taken as process. one supports the established order. Badiou unsurprisingly mentions the economism of the Second International: “If one neglects the tendential element. one inevitably represses the new in the name of the old.” it is the structural element inherent in every tendency that is neglected in favor of a viewpoint of pure. In each case. Using the terms put forth in Théorie de la contradiction and De l’idéologie. neglect the extent to which structure and tendency. or between gure and tendency. Instead. All such deviations ultimately slip into a form of idealism insofar as they disavow what Badiou describes as the dialecticity of the dialectic: “The dialectic. are all equally split. and af rmative becoming. in other words. which is to be applied to every term in the analysis: “Each term. the two types of ideological deviation. nally. between being and existence. we can now resummarize how Badiou’s Maoist recasting of the materialist dialectic also allows us to de ne the problem of ideological deviations. In the case of “rightism. One becomes installed in an opportunistic attitude of waiting.

or all along a particular sequence in its development. each one taken in isolation is clearly insuf cient. the unilateral hypostasis of one side of the divided articulation to the exclusion of the other is what prevents the unfolding of a properly dialectical investigation. this traditionally comes down to the presupposition of a stark dualism of necessity and freedom.” a contribution to La situation actuelle sur le front philosophique ( ) published by the Yénan-Philosophy Group of the UCFML. every contradiction confronts forces whose nature is differential: what matters in the evaluation of force from the viewpoint of the movement of the contradiction is no longer its transitory state of subordination or domination but its increase or decrease. complete with its nally determining instance.”62 On the other hand. the dialectic is a logic of forces. every contradiction assigns a determinate place to its terms. It is of course true that every instance or contradiction in society must be seen as part of a structure in dominance. “In fact.”63 Even if both these views have reason partially on their side.” Badiou continues: “In its tendential or properly historical aspect. it is no less true that every structure of assigned places is constantly being transformed as a result of inner splits. a place which is itself de ned by its relation to the place of the other term. the case of Deleuze furthermore may give us an idea of how place and force can even become combined—as in fact they usually are—within a “leftist” deviation. by contrast.” Badiou sums up in Théorie de la contradiction: “In this sense the dialectic is a logic of places. breaks.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 600 by pusillanimously staying put until the crisis has matured. however. from the molar versus the molecular . In “The Party and the Flux. For Badiou. In moral terms. he holds. In this regard. Badiou thus cites an extensive passage from Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia in which all the book’s well-known dualisms. “Seized in its uninterrupted movement in stages. the real dif culty lies rather in nding a way to overcome the apparent complementarity between the two. Badiou argues that reason is certainly on the side of Althusser. and changes. without having recourse to the mediation of a synthesis: “The central dialectical problem is thus the following: how can the logic of places and the logic of forces be articulated—without fusion?”64 In Badiou’s reading. In this regard. everything comes down to the following: seized in a given state of things. reason is also on the side of Deleuze.

that every institution would be paranoid and in principle heterogeneous to the “movement”.”67 But. “Deleuze and Guattari do not hide this much: return to Kant. what is more. hastily repainted in the colors of what the youth in revolt legitimately demands: some spit on the bourgeois family.” Badiou remarks: “Always the same exalted masses against the identical power. in addition to the moral one. or between the plebes and the state—dualities to which today I would add the explicitly undialectical or even antidialectical antagonism between the multitude and Empire.”66 Not only does this view of politics fail to take into account how concretely no movement proceeds as a whole except by the inner splits that dislocate and revoke the totality: “It is never ‘the masses. but that which in them divides itself from the old.’ nor the ‘movement’ that as a whole carry the principle of engenderment of the new. all this fascination with “massism” or “movementism”—and again today I would add “multitudinism”—was already a prime target of urgent attacks. energy as such. The old freedom of autonomy. “In this regard. or absence of law. unbound. This typically comes in the guise of a direct and unmediated opposition between the masses and the state. which is then but another name for life itself. more than a century ago. Of this radical dualism of pure force and pure place within “leftism” we can also formulate a political variant. generic energy. here is what they came up with to exorcise the Hegelian ghost. against all expectations seem to nd their driving principle in a thinly disguised version of Kant’s autonomy versus determinism argument. in the eyes of Marx and Engels: That the “movement” would be a desiring push.Bosteels Post-Maoism 601 all the way to subjugated-groups versus subject-groups. far from signaling a radically new and untimely discovery. there is only the blind necessity of a paranoid order that like a vampire feeds on the sheer energy and creativity of freedom. that nothing is done against the existing order but only .” Badiou charges: “It is pure. Power and resistance then perennially seem to oppose the same vitally creative masses to the same deadly repressive system. the ‘massist’ ideology that came out of excels in attening out the dialectical analysis.”65 Over and against the sheer energy of this unconditional freedom. That which is law unto itself. the invariable system. a owing ux.

Althusserians. We want neither the sancti ed and obscure. can be seen. or dissidence and totalitarianism. in The German Ideology. with self-management—or with association. ultraleftist masses nor the revisionist union. had to tear to pieces—around !—in order to clear the terrain for a nally coherent systematization of the revolutionary practices of their time.69 The collectively signed introduction to La situation actuelle sur le front philosophique actually charges that all revisionist tendencies in French thought of the seventies.” the introduction reads: “The political essence of these ‘philosophies’ is captured in the following principle. especially today. “Everywhere to substitute the couple masses/state for the class struggle: that’s all there is to it. politically speaking.” Badiou explains: We are in favor of “one divides into two. What is proletarian. all hideous militantism. which is still most succinctly encapsulated in the Maoist formula: “One divides into two.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 602 according to the af rmative schizze that withdraws from this order. as presupposing categorical oppositions that seek to stamp out any possible diagonal term—whether class. that therefore it is necessary to replace all organization. not only in the trend of New Philosophers such as Glucksmann but also among Deleuzians. party. which is but the facade of a sinister dictatorship. movement and organization.” We are in favor of the increase by scission of the new. or organization—between the masses and the state. inoperative and repetitive.68 Cutting diagonally across the inoperative dualisms of masses and power. there are quarrels going on about this in certain cottages—of pure movement: All these daring revisions. divides and combats the smallest fractures that are internal to the “movement” and makes them grow to the point where they become what is principal. one should thus think politics through the complete arsenal of concepts implied in the logic of scission. a principle of bitter resentment against the entire history of the twentieth century: ‘In order for the revolt of the masses . which are supposed to raise the striking novelty of the marginal and dissident masses up against “totalitarian” Marxism-Leninism— are word for word that which Marx and Engels. and Lacanians.

after the Cultural Revolution and May ’ . including the Maoists. proclaimed in its universality.”73 Hegel’s Science of Logic in fact remains caught in the false problematic of an absolute beginning.”72 In the compact series of footnotes to Le noyau rationnel de la dialectique hégélienne Badiou makes explicit the need to develop a full-blown philosophical concept of deviation.”71 One urgent task for the authors of this polemic therefore involves precisely the need to struggle against such revisionist tendencies on the philosophical front. is after all called upon today. wherein we can read the primacy of politics (of antagonism) in its actuality. or to be more precise—but this is already symptomatic of a disavowed split that hints at a rational core within the idealist dialectic—in the searching alternative between two absolute beginnings: Being and Nothing. by contrast. which is the real transformation of the world in its historical particularity. but they are secondary in terms of politics. with no sword other than ideology. its constitutive trilogy: mass movement.’ ”70 The result of such arguments is then either the complete denial of antagonistic contradictions altogether or else the jubilatory recognition of a mere semblance of antagonism. to hate the very idea of the class party. including the concept of Being—is the utmost abstraction of the subject-matter that is not identical with thinking. to take a stance. to stamp out Marxism. and state. Badiou. “ ‘Something’—as a cogitatively indispensable substrate of any concept. “Everyone. “They dream of a formal antagonism.” whereas a complete understanding of emancipatory politics would involve not just the joy and passion of short-lived revolt but the disciplined labor of a lasting transformation of the particular situation at hand: “They love revolt.Bosteels Post-Maoism 603 against the state to be good. Signi cantly. of a world broken in two. and in a footnote of his own he adds: “Yet even the minimal . an abstraction not to be abolished by any further thought process.” the introduction continues: “Such is clearly the question of any possible philosophy today. class perspective. such a concept cannot be found in Hegel’s idealist dialectical system: “Hegel’s idealism also manifests itself by the absence of all positive theory of deviation.” Adorno tells us. may seem to be in tacit agreement with Adorno when the latter argues that a truly materialist dialectic must always start from something rather than from either Being or Nothing. to discern the new with regard to the meaning of politics in its complex articulation. it is necessary to reject the class direction of the proletariat.

then. While the logic of scission borrows heavily from other early segments in the Science of Logic. however. will assign to itself the task of nding the other. are the fundamental operators that in their absence or disavowal allow us to grasp the logic of deviations as well. of which the word ‘something’ reminds us. Every force. but to push forward in the search for a divided correlation between the two as split—each one being determined and exceeded from within by the other. by which a place is exceeded by a force capable of acting back on its own determination. Badiou is acutely aware of the fact that the most advanced theoretical and philosophical developments in the late sixties and seventies. the system in which something stands as this something rather than as an other.” whereas “the second. “The deviations. that is to say.” insofar as both “right-wing opportunism” and “left-wing opportunism” merely reconvoke one of the terms of the original contradiction in its isolated purity. however. namely. especially from “Something and Other” and “Determination. is necessarily determined by a space of assigned places. Thus we must .” Badiou systematically reformulates the basic principles of this logic in his own. Determination.”74 For the Maoist in Badiou.”75 Already during his Maoist years. the backlashes. and so on. The whole aim of this detailed and sometimes hermetic discussion is not to put forces and places in an orderly rapport of complementarity that would leave each pole unaffected in its purity. insisting that every entity be split between that part of it that can be understood according to the logic of places and that part that cannot be accounted for without resorting to a logic of forces. by which a force is placed. is unbearable to Hegel. cannot be reduced to the slight caricatures of “structuralist” and “leftist” deviations. and Limit. Constitution. for instance in Lacanian psychoanalysis. by arguing from a state of original purity prior to all determination. “the rst one only repeats the dominant term.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 604 trace of nonidentity in the approach to logic. vocabulary. but conversely no system of places is complete without some force being excluded out at the limit. every something must always be split—split between itself and something else. if not already in Althusser and Deleuze as well. and limit. are fully thinkable only in dialectical correlation with the determination and the limit of a movement. now familiar.

or in the same place but with greater precision. As we have come to expect in more recent years thanks to the work of Laclau or Slavoj Ži ek. I might add. lies in claiming to organize thought and action from an absolute understanding of oppressive society as System. or of a sunken ship. and so on.Bosteels Post-Maoism 605 trace the line of demarcation elsewhere. of the drive. certainly can be considered dialecticians. which will not be fully developed until Théorie du sujet. Badiou still seems to reproach structuralism as much as “leftism” precisely for ignoring the topology of the constitutive outside: The root of the failure of all Marxist structuralism. no doubt his most structuralist book. However. of exteriority. Badiou argues. can be found not only in Althusser’s canonical writings but also in Deleuze’s Logic of Sense. in this sense. based on the notion of an absent cause. Mallarmé and Lacan’s work would nonetheless give us . Would this not satisfy the requirements for a materialist dialectic according to Badiou’s own strongly Maoist version? One answer to this last question. which by no means implies an insurmountable constraint of the interior (“recuperation”). nevertheless remains bound by the constraint of an overarching order of places. like Mallarmé before him. is anticipated in Le noyau rationnel de la dialectique hégélienne. Mallarmé and Lacan. was to become a veritable master of these inside/outside topologies. a comparable logic of internal exclusion. One way to do so is by recognizing the extent to which an accomplished form of structuralism not only posits the divided nature of both structure and subject but also reconceives of their relationship in the uncanny terms of an internal exclusion. In Le noyau rationnel de la dialectique hégélienne. But insofar as all their virtuosity in displaying the vanishing cause of the real. ultimately reduces the topology of the constitutive outside to the mere recognition of a structural given. there is no exterior. because there is no interior either. such as an ocean or a eld. this doctrine also entails a complete reworking of the topology of inside and outside—with every idealist or humanist inside being de ned in the paradoxical terms of its constitutive outside. Lacan.76 Badiou knows of course that Lacan. as well as of the “leftist” current. and then to launch the guideline of dissidence. And. especially in his later seminars.

. as opposed to a properly materialist. both inside and outside. vindicates the untouched purity of the original force and thus denies the persistence of the old in the new. but indiscernible in the Whole. is due to its unfolding as a qualitative force. What is thus blocked or denied is either the power of determination or the process of its torsion in which there occurs a conjunctural change: “But the true terms of all historicity are rather the determination and the limit. but that must pass over into the destruction or disquali cation of the old inside the new. Badiou’s Théorie du sujet can then once again lay out the logic of twin ideological deviations. pulling to the “left” instead. .77 In the end. .”78 The complete deployment of this dialectic also provides us with a key to understand the perceptions of failure and success that put such a heavy stamp on the aftermath of May ’ . such as the Möbius ring. both the provocative accusations . We can indeed conceive of this topology in a purely structural fashion: exterior and interior then are discernible on every point. dialectic. terms by which the whole af rms itself without closure. which is the culminating point of the articulation between place and force as well as between structure and subject. drawn to the “right” of the political spectrum. and the element is included without abolishing itself. This is why the topology of the constitutive outside. we can and we must conceive of the split exterior/interior correlation as a process. whereby the fact that the real is simultaneously at its place and in excess over this place. must in turn be divided into a structural and a tendential understanding: The historical fate of this topology is its inevitable division. This is the path followed by Lacan (but already by Mallarmé) in the way he uses nonorientable surfaces. In fact. as in a traumatic kernel of the real. But. then. what is proposed is a symptomatic torsion that cannot remain merely on the structural level of recognizing an outside within.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 606 the clues only for a structural. in fact. or Rück fall in Hegel’s own terms: the rst. while the second. which is supposed as given. He thus con rms how the dialectical process in a typical backlash risks to provoke two extreme types of fallout. remits us to the established order and thus obscures the torsion in which something new actually takes place. Based on this more precise demarcation from structuralism.

if not miraculous. To miss this point means not to see the unity of the order of assigned places. The world-famous picture of Daniel Cohn-Bendit during one of the protests of May ’ . knowledge and truth. It means falling back into objectivism. however. For Badiou. as might likewise be the case of the de nition of politics in opposition to the police in the later work of Rancière. Indeed. long after the author is supposed to have outgrown his Maoist fury. in L’Etre et l’événement.”79 Lacan’s accusation that the students in revolt are but a hysteric bunch in search of a master thus merely reproduces a face-off between the extreme outcomes of the dialectical process. Badiou almost seems to preempt those criticisms that will nd in his work only a rigid. with the student leader smiling de antly in the face of an anonymous member of the French riot police who remains hidden behind his helmet—a picture that Miller eventually will pick for the cover of Lacan’s seminar L’envers de la psychanalyse given during the following year—might serve to illustrate this point. “There is not only the law of Capital. Althusser’s much-discussed example of the police of cer hailing a passerby in the street remains bound to this dual structure. its consistency.” equivalent to what in his youthful days he would have called “left-wing” adventurism and “right-wing” dogmatism. the human animal and the immortal subject. without acknowledging the true torsion of that which possibly takes place in between the two. or only the cops.” Badiou warns in Théorie du sujet: “It is the idea that the world knows only the necessary rightist backlash and the powerless suicidal leftism. this view hardly captures any speci c political sequence in its actual process. the inverted ransom of which consists by the way in making the state into the only subject. Thus. whence the antirepressive logorrhea. the contagious appeal of this image depends entirely on a limited structural scheme in which there appears no scission in the camp of the ironic and free-spirited students or any torsion of the existing order of things beyond a necessary yet one-sided protest against the repressive state.Bosteels Post-Maoism 607 by outside observers such as Lacan and the contrite turnabouts by ex-Maoists such as Glucksmann remain caught as if spellbound in the inert duel between the established order of places and the radical force of untainted adventurism. Badiou’s most systematic work to date in fact includes a staunch critique of “leftism” and “statism. opposition between being and event. Finally. in a pivotal meditation from L’Etre et l’événement on “The Interven- .

positions 13:3 Winter 2005 608 tion.”80 The connections between an event and its site remain an enigma from the point of view of the state. rather than being foreclosed by the state. and breaks with the situation with no other support than its own negative will.” that is. is hypostasized into a radical beginning. for instance. ultimately consists in allowing him without separation or fusion to articulate place and force. of foreign agitators.” Badiou concludes: “Speculative leftism is fascinated by the ultra-one of the event. state and tendency. As Badiou writes in one . are nally the site and the putting-into-one of the name of the event. or being and event. And since the ultra-one has the structure of the Two. to a Manichaean hypostasis. Of course. “Speculative leftism imagines that the intervention is authorized only by itself. as a singleton utterly disjoined from the situation at hand. the diagonal crossing of dualisms that operate in a metaphysical system can be seen as a constant throughout the history of philosophy. and thinks it is possible in its name to deny all immanence to the structured regime of the count-for-one. to the rabble-rousing discontent of the mob.”81 If Badiou’s philosophy indeed falls prey to either or both of these two positions. as I have tried to show through the logic of twin ideological deviations. Such would be the temptation of what he now proposes to call “speculative leftism. Mao as Vanishing Mediator The role of Maoism for Badiou’s overall philosophy.” which is still nothing but a mirror image of “statism. we do not fare much better at the other end of the ideological spectrum when the event. “The terms that are registered by the state. and so on. the way in which the state systematically tries to reduce the erratic novelty of a political event. with the result that both are merely juxtaposed as being essentially unrelated in their duality. in every range of thought. However.” Badiou warns against the temptation to put the event in a set all by itself. and a multiple put into one). structure and subject. then the least his critics should recognize is the fact that his entire work seems to have included a prolonged struggle against such deviations. guarantee of the count-for-one of the parts. but the problem is that between these two terms there is no relation whatsoever.” Badiou claims: “This is certainly a Two (the site as such counted as one. the imaginary of a radical beginning inevitably leads.

Badiou’s Théorie de la contradiction could not be clearer about the philosophical implications of the materialist dialectic as a traversing of opposites—above all. the opposites of subject and object. it is a question of nding support in Hegel so as to put an end to the unilateralism of the categories of subject and object. In Peut-on penser la politique? Badiou remembers how ercely the French philosophical scene was divided in the sixties and seventies by the last battle of the giants. whose shadow hangs over this debate at least as much as Marx’s. as prescription of a regime of causality.Bosteels Post-Maoism 609 of his most recent texts: “The notion that thought should always establish itself beyond categorical oppositions. “The problem is to re ect both and at the same time the scission and the reciprocal action of the two categories (subject and object) in the general movement of a process. without excluding that the subjective factor may be the key to this movement. Sartre against Althusser: this meant. which even today is still fairly unknown or underappreciated. whether one separates them (metaphysical operation) or one annuls one of them (absolute idealism or mechanicist materialism). the polemic between Sartre and Althusser: “When the mediations of politics are clear.”82 Maoism is certainly one such resource.”84 Hegel. to capture the singularity of this or that philosophy. thereby delineating an unprecedented diagonal. is constitutive of philosophy itself. The last debate in this matter opposed the defenders of liberty. the Cause against the cause. as founding re ective transparency. at bottom. and in identifying the unknown resource to which they summon thought.” Badiou sums up with a reference to Hegel by way of Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks: “For Lenin. we have to see what speci es the conceptual recourse to one diagonal as opposed to another: “The whole question consists in knowing what value to ascribe to the operators of this diagonal trajectory. it is the philosopher’s imperative to subsume them in the direction of a foundation. in Badiou’s own trajectory as a philosopher. in this case. . to the defenders of the structure.” so that.”83 What Badiou adds to Lenin’s argument then in a way consists in suggesting that Mao is the spitting image of this materialist Hegel whose praise is so loudly sung on every page of the notebooks by Lenin. But then this suggestion also has profound consequences for Badiou’s personal genealogy in relation to the principal philosophical schools or trends in existence at the time in France.

Marx and Hegel. For Badiou. after Korsch). even if the antihumanist trend is not wholly incompatible with a return to Hegel of its own. on one hand. and the second for being separated from that part of himself that precisely cleared the path for the rst: the Great Logic. and the Des- . Sartre in a single movement greeted Marxism as the insurmountable horizon of our culture and undertook to dismantle this Marxism by forcing it to realign itself with the original idea that is most foreign to it: the transparency of the cogito. all the while remaining loyal to the two major referents of his Maoism: “What the Cultural Revolution and May made clear on a massive scale was the need for something entirely different from an oscillation of national intellectual traditions (between the Descartes of the cogito. though heroic in many regards. At the same time. Sartre. Sartre. by stripping it of all Hegelian elements: “Althusser restituted a kind of brutal cutting edge to Marxism. as the basis for a new dialectic already implied in the analysis of Capital. the rst for being reduced to the second. even though in opposite terms. on the other hand.”86 It is this grandiose but also debilitating alternative between Sartre and Althusser that Badiou seeks to cross by way of a divided recomposition.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 610 is often little more than a code name in this context to denounce the persistence of humanist and idealist elements in the early Marx. however. wanted to reclaim Marx’s radical discovery of an unheard-of type of structural causality. found themselves as much foreclosed as in the previous moment: the materialist Hegel of the Great Logic is equally mute for Althusser and for Sartre. . provided that we abandon the Phenomenology of the Spirit in favor of the Science of Logic. Both this Marx and this Hegel are equally false. Sartre’s effort. . found inspiration for his critique of Stalinist dogma by turning to the arch-Hegelian topics of alienation and the struggle for self-consciousness whose in uence can be felt so strongly in the Marx of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of . in the end betrays both Hegel and Marx: In the Critique of Dialectical Reason (but after the young Lukács. .85 Althusser. isolating it from the subjectivist tradition and putting it back in the saddle as positive knowledge.

a close knot could be tied between the most uncompromising formalism and the most radical subjectivism. understood as a logic of scission.Bosteels Post-Maoism 611 cartes of the machines. In Maoism. in thinking the relationship Marx/Hegel. in the end. because the belabored understanding of his division alone is what prohibits. has been the proof for me that in the actual space of effective politics. This diagonal is the one that Maoism makes effectively possible. according to Badiou: Thus. the hatred pure and simple of Marxism. the protocols by which a subject is constituted. Maoism. though. which for Badiou seems possible only on the prior condition of passing through the matrix of Maoism. forcing. The Maoist aim was to break with this alternation. in order to reinvest Marxism in the real revolutionary movement. These two questions were no longer incompatible. Otherwise we miss the singularity of the diagonal operators (site. also means a return to the con ict of interpretations surrounding Hegel. with this avoidance. Althusser). determination. That was the whole point. investigation. and so on) that link a purely mathematical ontology to the theory of an intervening subject. . we are not bound solely by the need to return to the rational kernel in Hegel’s Logic.”87 But Maoism. as well as. both on a philosophical level and on a political level. . and limit. perhaps we should add that their works also unmistakably contain many of the elements necessary for their division. the logic of scission and divided recomposition must likewise be applied to the notions of being and event in Badiou’s later work. I found something that made it possible for there to be no antinomy between whatever mathematics is capable of transmitting in terms of formal and structural transparency. as the primary resource to trace a diagonal across the Sartre/Althusser debate. both the idealist-romantic deviation and the scientist-academic deviation. and on the other. and not just in political philosophy. nally.89 One never ceases to divide itself into two. Hegel’s division seems to Badiou to be the only remedy against the temptation to submit his work to either a positivist or an idealist reductionism: “Hegel remains the stake of an endless con ict.”88 Perhaps. on the one hand. But then.90 . I would insist. In all fairness to Sartre and Althusser. . delity.

But the Borromean knot between all three. through self-criticism and reeducation and so on. Lardreau and Jambet explicitly compare the . can also be read as a critique of the melodramatic scenarios enacted by the “beautiful soul” in the famous analysis passed on from Hegel to Lacan. the three master thinkers behind Badiou’s philosophical apprenticeship. if it were not for the fact that it is a similar question that many readers raise anew in the conclusions to their critical analysis of Badiou’s philosophy.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 612 The unity of opposites at this point reaches the climax of complexity. ought in principle to put an end to the notion of a good moral conscience whose inner beauty is merely inversely proportionate to the sordidness that it projects onto the outside world. Of course. the party bureaucracy. genealogically speaking. wittingly or unwittingly allowed the widespread ourishing of so many “beautiful souls”? What if the Cultural Revolution contained the scenario for a melodrama of gigantic proportions? Such is. but also without forgetting to what extent his reading of Hegel via Mao is profoundly Lacanian. The Beautiful Soul In many ways. In L’ange. in sum. Maoism. Sartre. the Maoist-inspired critique of ideological deviations. would not have been possible without the unifying thread of the experience of Maoism. was not the whole aim in formalizing the logic of so-called contradictions among the people precisely to avoid opposing the “good” communist subject to the “bad” totalitarian system. seek to address and come to terms with their Maoist past. it would then seem. roughly put. Lacan: these are. particularly of the “ultraleftist” variety. so as to displace the split. one of the guiding questions with which two former militants of the Gauche Prolétarienne in France. the rst volume of a projected Ontologie de la révolution that would never be completed. this would be only modestly relevant for our purpose. Maoism. In the aftermath of the of cial Sino-Soviet split. or the intelligentsia? What if Mao and Lin Biao. to use a category that was dear to the last. Althusser. onto the inner subject itself—whether this subject is called the people. the masses. the proletariat. though. Guy Lardreau and Christian Jambet. allows Badiou to be an Althusserian without ceasing to be a Sartrean.

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generic notion of a cultural revolution, which they contrast with an ideological revolution, to the gure of the beautiful soul: “The soul of the cultural revolution is the ‘beautiful soul’ in the way in which Lacan describes it after Hegel; insofar as, by assuming what it knows to be its madness in the eyes of this world, it also knows that this is the wisdom of the other world, and that it is this one, in truth, that is mad.”91 Lardreau and Jambet openly seem to want to embrace this melodramatic gure. Any true cultural revolution in its purity thus would mark a radical break with the entire corrupt system of work, family, sexuality, and egoism, whereas its ideological perversion always consists in recuperating and subordinating the revolutionary spirit in the name of those very same corrupt values. Like Nietzsche, Lardreau and Jambet too want to be dynamite: they want to break the history of the world in two. Or rather, and this literally makes all the difference, they dream of a revolution that would produce two worlds, by making a clear break with the existing one. But then, of course, from the perspective of the existing world, the purity of this break cannot fail to disappoint, as no slate can ever prove to be clean enough and no grand exit can suf ciently leave behind the world from which it seeks to escape—whence the openly angelic appearance of a true cultural revolution, which can never be a kingdom of this world but must rather open the gates to a radically other one. Disappointment and corruption once more seem to be not merely accidental but structural components in the constitution of a cultural revolution’s beautiful soul. Particularly in the chapter “Lin Biao as Will and as Representation,” Lardreau reveals how he has become painfully aware of the law of history by which every rebellion seems to revert to the search for a new master. “Should we admit then that the indisputable maxim: where there is oppression, there is resistance, should be doubled with this one so as to say, is it not?, the truth of the rst: where there is revolt, there is submission?”92 Every cultural revolution thus is bound, as if by an unforgiving inner necessity, to be co-opted by an ideological one. For Lardreau and Jambet, however, the way out of this blight conundrum paradoxically lies in aggravating the underlying opposition with an even fuller embrace of the latter’s Manichaeanism. What they posit is thus not a weaker messianic force but an ever stronger will for absolute purity in the struggle between the Master and the Rebel, so as to prepare the return of the latter in the form of the Angel.

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It is fascinating to observe how Daniel Bensaïd, in “Alain Badiou and the Miracle of the Event,” seems to replay the scenario staged by Lardreau and Jambet in order this time to attribute its angelic and near-mystical features to Badiou’s philosophy. This proximity is all the more telling in that Bensaïd’s criticisms sum up a viewpoint that over the last few years seems to have become a commonplace among a growing number of critics, and even a few admirers, of Badiou’s work—with the latter including among other less prominent readers, Slavoj Žižek and Peter Hallward. Bensaïd opens with a fairly typical summary of the entire trajectory followed by Badiou’s thinking: Initially, Badiou’s thought remained subordinated to the movement of history. But truth has become more fragmentary and discontinuous under the brunt of historical disasters, as though history no longer constituted its basic framework but merely its occasional condition. Truth is no longer a subterranean path manifesting itself in the irruption of the event. Instead, it becomes a post-evental consequence. As “wholly subjective” and a matter of “pure conviction,” truth henceforth pertains to the realm of declarations that have neither precedents nor consequences. Although similar to revelation, it still remains a process but one which is entirely contained in the absolute beginning of the event which it faithfully continues.93 Leftism is now a charge leveled against the form of politics that can be thought in the terms of Badiou’s philosophy. Because of our constant temptation as mere mortals to give in to the status quo, this philosophy is constantly upset by the guilt of its own sinful impurity. Not unlike in the case of the beautiful soul, any instance of free decision would be threatened by this corruption: “Holy puri cation is never more than a short step away from voluptuous sin,” Bensaïd declares and, again, with reference to some of the more pedestrian proposals of the Organisation Politique: “This sudden conversion to realism is the profane converse of the heroic thirst for purity.”94 Now what is particularly striking in Bensaïd’s reading, though perhaps not surprising, is the place attributed to Badiou’s Maoism—to be more precise, to Badiou’s failure to come to terms with his Maoist past, which is quickly equated with Stalinism.95 What I have argued in the previous

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pages, however, leads to a quite different conclusion, perhaps even one that is the radical opposite of Bensaïd’s. Maoism, for Badiou, precisely involves an ongoing settling of accounts with the kinds of leftist, mystical, or otherwise miraculous de nition of the event as an absolute beginning—especially, I might add, when such leftism is used to pretend that one has thereby avoided the wide-open traps of Stalinism. That this settling of accounts in turns involves “the still unresolved dif culty of holding together event and history, act and process, instant and duration” is true enough, but then this is also very much the dif culty tackled by all of Badiou’s work. Plainly put, what happens in Bensaïd’s as in many other critical readings of Badiou consists in setting up a dogmatic divide between being and event, or between history and event, only then to plead in favor of a more dialectical articulation between the two—one that would be capable of taking into account where and when an event takes place in a speci c situation, to what effect, and so on. On closer consideration, Badiou nowadays actually seems to stand accused of being not so much a Maoist but rather a Linbiaoist. Lardreau, from this point of view, still had the virtue of admitting his undying loyalty, which he confessed was without concern for historicity, to Lin Biao. But our contemporary critics can no longer ignore the fact that Badiou wrote a stunning critique of precisely the kind of mystical politics that, before being attributed to him, was openly embraced in Lardreau and Jambet’s L’ange. Indeed, in “Un ange est passé,” published under the pseudonym of Georges Peyrol, Badiou had in fact taken issue with the whole idea of the cultural revolution as the invariant form of an absolute beginning, or an inviolable break. This criticism at the same time offers us another perception of the complete debacle not only of the Red Guards but also of the Gauche Prolétarienne in the aftermath of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, particularly because of the encounter of many of its French ex-enthusiasts with Lacan: “The turning trick with the Angel consists in the following: to interrogate the Cultural Revolution from the point of its (Lacanian) impossibility, and thus as that which, by raising the question of its existence, leads one to establish this existence in inexistence: another world, a beyond, the kingdom of Angels.”96 The notion of a radical two, despite the appearance of delity to the principle of antagonistic scission, is actually the exact opposite of Mao’s lesson—at least according to Badiou.

Badiou has always warned against the perils of seeking a complete break. outside and beyond the rst. according to Badiou’s critique. especially not the revolt.’ ”99 From his earliest accounts of the logic of scission. properly metaphysical version of two worlds.”97 Even when the desire for puri cation is applied with much rhetorical pomp and violence to the spectacle of the intellectual’s imaginary self-annihilation. In sum.’ is ‘two times one. As Badiou concludes: “What to say. “What Lardreau and Jambet. Lin Biao’s “ultraleftist” will of absolute purity and genius. the becoming of its own scission.’ It is the ideologism of the remaking of oneself. that is to say. by presenting a hyperbolic. as decided Linbiaoists. authorizes the pure Two of metaphysics? The revolt in an exemplary way is that which splits—so not the Two. we are sent back to a diagonal crossing of “leftism” and “rightism” alike: Mao himself—and God knows there was a great deal of violence in the Chinese Revolution—developed a fairly complicated doctrine regarding . the whole picture remains metaphysical—yet another example of speculative leftism in which the scission of the one is replaced by an eternally Manichaean Two.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 616 L’ange. except that nothing. a conservative presupposition. call ‘cultural revolution’ is the absolute and imaginary irruption of the outside-world. “This is because the idea of the simple beginning is a typically metaphysical. a total reeducation.”100 Critics who claim that Badiou in recent years has become increasingly vulnerable to the charge of speculative leftism might also want to consider those numerous passages in the recent work in which an exceedingly bivalent logic is rejected in the name of a certain Mao! In the end.”98 Lardreau and Jambet. of absolute simplicity. and further on he continues: “The speculative concept of the Beginning—of which Hegel himself gave an un nished and divided criticism—serves to suture the dialectic to idealism. on postulating the inevitable nature of the One. against ‘one divides into two. of starting anew from scratch. are obliged to af rm. but the One dividing into Two and thus revealing what the One has always been.” Badiou charges: “It means ‘breaking the history of the world in two. Badiou writes: “Their maxim. another One. the de nitive eradication of egoism. fascist in its sectarian ambition of absolute purity. merely reproduces.” he writes in Théorie de la contradiction. or an absolute beginning.

how should we interpret the gap that warrants the invocation of a postMaoism? Badiou. the strictly ontological framework of L’Etre et l’événement by de nition is insuf cient to account for this plurality of nuances by which the process of an event is linked to the situation.Bosteels Post-Maoism 617 the difference between contradictions among the people and antagonistic contradictions. from the logic of scission all the way to the still-un nished logic of the site. more generally speaking. organizes his talk on the Cultural Revolution around the hypothesis that its series of events marks the end of an era— precisely. From Destruction to Subtraction? At this point some readers may wonder whether there is any hyphen or break at all left in Badiou’s work. What are we to make of this hypothesis in light of Badiou’s lasting debts to Maoism and. to Marxism? . By resisting the stark opposition between an “early” and a “late” stage. after all. Perhaps even the logical framework of Logiques des mondes will be unable to give a complete answer to this question. and the existence in any process of left. has tried to open up a contradictory space for the articulation—the scission and the reciprocal action without fusion or deviation—between a given situation and its truthful transformation.101 Since it is not a general problem of truth-processes but in each case a local and speci c one. we are nally driven back to the breakup of the process. He never stopped insisting that in the movement of a process there is always a considerable plurality of nuances. marked by the supposed abandonment of the dialectic. It is not a general problem of truth-processes. have I not forced my interpretation of this philosophy beyond recognition. and that if we don’t grant some space to this plurality. but we need to ask in each case how this bivalence was linked to the singularity of the sequence. But the least we can say is that Badiou’s work. It is true that some political sequences did adopt as the internal rule of their development a very severe bivalent logic. this time in the direction of a blind continuism? Is there then no need at all to add the slight distance of a pre x to Badiou’s Maoism? Or else. and right wings. more than anything else. the end of the revolutionary era. centre.

puri cation). For Toscano. whether this be the appropriation of production or the limitation and destruction of place. above all. distance). or otherwise obscurely consistent substance: “What is certain. and those that presuppose a certain deconstruction of the metaphysics of transitivity (subtraction. that the political subject which emerges out of the labor of the positive. including in its most vehement and terminal version as destruction and terrorizing self-puri cation. this break becomes de nitive around . destruction. driven by the motor of antagonism between the dominant structure of representation and the unrepresentable subject who. On several points of the . particularly in Peut-on penser la politique? through a peremptory deconstruction of the metaphysical and classist understanding of politics. avoidance. As Toscano writes: What is deserving of the epithet “metaphysical” in these doctrines is the idea that politics is somehow inscribed in representation. Prior to this point. the idea of communism would have involved a politics of transitivity. Badiou’s understanding of politics would have shifted from a class-based logic of antagonism. is its own obscure precursor. nevertheless can be expected to be an antecedent to itself.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 618 In “Communism as Separation. to a logic of subtraction wholly intransitive to any prior social. while being foreclosed.102 After Peut-on penser la politique? which in militant terms means after the recomposition of UCFML in the guise of the OP. Badiou would have de nitely abdicated the basic underlying principle of all Marxism-Leninism.”103 By abandoning the transitivity of political subjectivity to the structure of antagonism. which is to say. Toscano’s careful analysis nonetheless seems to waver somewhat in the attempt to draw a neat conceptual boundary between the operations typical of the transitive mode of politics (reappropriation. no matter how tenuous and aleatory the latter is made out to be.” Alberto Toscano provides us with what is no doubt one of the most lucid and sophisticated readings of the immanent break with Marxism-Leninism that would seem to occur in Badiou’s work. that what is foreclosed by domination is nevertheless endowed with a latent political force. economical. is that the abandonment of class antagonism as the dialectical support of communist subjectivity affects it with a radical intransitivity to representation as well as with a discontinuity in its manifestations.

would at the same time bring about a subtraction of being and a destruction of a regime of appearing. I should add. Thus. or from puri cation to the play of minimal difference. many of the operations that were pivotal actually do continue to be important today. An event. In fact. of inclusion over belonging: this notion too strikes me as an odd reduplication. seems to have a symptomatic function in this context. the idea of a wild being of pure presentation that would precede its capture in the order and deadlock of representation is one of the reproaches by means of which Žižek accuses Badiou of being more profoundly Deleuzian than Badiou himself would like to admit. In fact. the notion that only a completely mathematized ontology takes away the ground from under the temptation of transitivity. albeit in a different way or with a different emphasis. Badiou’s readers. which is supposedly unique to Badiou’s early works. or of . what the notion of a deconstruction of the “ ction” of transitivity between the political and the social in Marxism-Leninism seems to forget is the extent to which such a deconstruction was already a lesson learned from Maoism. these operations from before and after the break come to resemble one another much more so than the notion of a de nitive linear break would seem to justify. Badiou’s Maoism. once again. gives way to the complex reordering of a simultaneity. of the antinomies of representation that are central to the early theory of ideology in Badiou.104 Conversely. Toscano’s hesitation would bear witness to the possibility of such a combination. in other words. Badiou’s supposedly linear shift from destruction to subtraction. In fact. such resonances do not necessarily signal an inaccuracy in Toscano’s account of Badiou’s overall philosophy. in mathematical form. thus. which only recently has become a reality for Badiou. or the antagonistic system of production—always already constitutes the dark precursor of the subject who will subsequently come to overdetermine its own structure of representation: this supposition. At the same time. in his more recent statements. in fact could be rephrased in terms that are consistent with the later ontological meditations as well. by arguing for a strictly immanent localization of the event in terms of the excess of representation over presentation. the supposition that something—an unrepresentable force. all too often seem to want to infer that what he says of “classical” or “orthodox” Marxism.Bosteels Post-Maoism 619 description. On the other hand. the energy of the masses.

as a prime example of the politics of transitivity. “It is completely false to think that any social practice of any worker. the rst among certain militants and the second among certain workers. for instance in Peut-on penser la politique? and in L’Etre et l’événement. the cult of the worker. which the UCFML sees as a constitutive ideological defect of the Gauche Prolétarienne. “Workerism” (ouvriérisme). the result of this con ation often entails a limitation of the militant struggle to purely economical demands and their possible convergence. despite the “left-wing” air that they may try to put on. which did so much damage and which was. much more so than leftism. in a falsely populist but otherwise typically moralizing and paternalistic fashion. “Workerism. to his own Maoism as well. occasionally intensi ed in a violent upping of the ante as a way to provoke the existing authorities. as ideologies. as being endowed with an innate or automatic political capacity. lies in con ating the social being of the working class with its political capacity. proletarian. is revolutionary. by way of an immanent self-critique.” another special issue of Le Marxiste-Léniniste also reads: “Workerism and unionism. politics cannot be reduced to a series of economical demands or revindications.” the UCFML insists in an early circular letter: “We must rmly combat these orientations which. on the part of Badiou and his Maoist comrades in the UCFML. But this means to downplay the signi cance not only of Mao’s own critical notes between and on Stalin’s Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR and on the of cial Soviet Manual of Political Economy. but also of the critique of so-called workerism. automatically applies. But for the UCFML. from the point of view of politics this means the inability really to handle the question of the party as the leading noyau of the people as a whole.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 620 Marxism-Leninism. In fact. only a clear distinction between the socioeconomical substance of the category of the workers and its organized subjective capacity is capable of preserving the autonomy of politics. are in reality from the right. that means the refusal of proletarian political independence. They indeed reject the mass alliance and the materialist analysis.”106 . In practice. not even if they are eventually inserted into a chain of equivalences. our infantile disorder. Nor can the workers be seen.”105 This also means that the moment of politics cannot be subordinated to purely economical demands along the lines of typical trade unionist revindications. no matter which one.

the different stages of which. Badiou borrows an untranslatable expression from Lazarus and speaks of “événementialités obscures” to suggest that these are only possible events the nature of which as events is still relatively obscure.Bosteels Post-Maoism 621 From a Maoist perspective. Marxism. would have exhausted their effective power to sustain the political historicity of Marxism. and even less a worldview. happens within Marxism-Leninism as a result of Maoism. We know that in Peut-on penser la politique? Badiou enumerates three such historical referents: the workers’ movement. instead. a sequence to which we might add later moments such as the Zapatista uprising from the nineties in Chiapas.” the UCFML posits in a brochure distributed after Mao’s death. Thus he concludes: “All the political referents endowed with a real work- . Indeed. there exist no classes prior to their demarcation in the struggle.”108 Marxism is not a doctrine or a theory. The existence of a term is entirely given in its contradictory correlation with the other term of the scission. but it is also not an ideology. Or. “To be a Marxist means to be schooled by history. in other words. and Mao. the politics of communism. in Théorie de la contradiction: “A class does not preexist before the class struggle. because of a general lack of conceptual tools to think through their political historicity. ultimately. in terms of the transitivity of politics. to describe the long historical sequence that goes from the Cultural Revolution in China all the way to Solidarity in Poland. it is a politics. is indissociable from a series of referents that give it the power of its effectivity and without which it would be a dead body of academic knowledge and dust-gathering dissertations.”107 For Badiou the real break. according to a history that is internal to them. can at most be said to be concentrated in the theories of Marx and Engels. and the anticolonialist national liberation movements. but then this principle must also be applied to the study of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism: “We have to study contemporary history and practice historical materialism with regard to Marxism itself. to use Badiou’s more concentrated philosophical expression of the same principle. by the early eighties. Lenin. All three of these overarching referents. the successful formation of socialist state regimes. whether economical or philosophical. Another way to describe the break in Badiou’s work revolves around the notion of the effective and intrinsic historicity of politics itself. To exist means to be opposed.

we are conscious that we lasted for other reasons: the political tenacity. We carry their questions rather than their outcomes. With regard to the Cultural Revolution.111 In other brochures from the same period. and that the working class as political reality is a task rather than a given. they too begin by acknowledging the ultimate failure. On the contrary. of what from the start were their two main points of reference. and erratic with regard to Marxism. and that the center of Maoism is this failure rather than that which took place. the questions that are left unresolved in its wake now constitute the stakes for a bold rebeginning of Marxism: Against May ’ . the party. Our delity to our origin enjoins us to hold a second beginning.” but this does not bespeak the sense of an ending so much as the need for a renewed beginning: “If Marxism today is indefensible. A process whose material and stakes are the party of the new type. the Cultural Revolution and May : “These referents are today without power of their own. we know that it has failed. Armed with the historical knowledge that the failure . it is because we must give it a beginning. and which is itself caught in the general beginning of this enormous civilization that bears the name of Marxism. We who began at the crossover between May ’ and the GPCR. Those who know the period and the risk of their history have the consistency of that which can win and last. the anonymous authors of the UCFML even go so far as to posit that to be a Marxist one must in a sense become a post-Maoist. we know that what is needed is politics. or the complete depletion of historical power. the party of the post-Leninist era. the break.”109 Similarly. which barely begins.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 622 ing and popular life are today atypical.”110 The failure of referentiality does not mean that we are done with the double legacy of Maoism. delocalized. and the certitude that communism is a process rather than a result. when UCFML militants write up a balance sheet of their group’s trajectory in a special issue of Le Marxiste-Léniniste titled ans de maoïsme.

to resolve this problem at the same time means to devise the means to constitute a party of a new type. makes an effort to resolve for him or herself the PROBLEMS left hanging by the initial Maoism. “The failure of a revolution universally sets the task of specifying what it has stumbled up against. when the group was producing a renewed assessment of its militancy in terms of the concept and practice of postLeninism. Indeed. since the fundamental problem left unsolved by the Cultural Revolution is the one of the party. There is no other Marxism except this one.Bosteels Post-Maoism 623 of a revolutionary project such as the Paris Commune was perhaps no less instructive for Marx or Lenin than a victory would have been.”112 But. It is largely within the context of the party that. Badiou’s central hypothesis in his talk on the Cultural Revolution thus reiterates several of the arguments adopted by the UCFML during the late seventies and early eighties. from reaching its principal conscious goals. political battles have raged over the fundamental orientations in the construction of socialism. As we read in a brochure of the UCFML published after Mao’s death: The Cultural Revolution did not radically transform the political thought of the leaders of the Maoist Left on questions of organization. in positive mass conditions. they call for a sustained inquiry into the obstacles and contradictions that ultimately would explain the failure of the Cultural Revolution—a failure symptomatically exposed in the trial against the Gang of Four. within the framework of an organized politics. the Maoism that is contemporary to the Cultural Revolution. from until today [ ]. It is this problem that represents the stumbling block hit upon early on during the Cultural Revolution. the party of postLeninism. The Cultural Revolution would have been unable to resolve the tension between the framework of a single party-state and the massive mobilizations called on to unhinge this whole framework from within. what internal political question kept it.113 .” we read in Questions du maoïsme: De la Chine de la Révolution Culturelle à la Chine des Procès de Pékin: “Today a Marxist is someone who. it seems that a contradiction has subsisted between an overall political orientation that was widely renovated by the Cultural Revolution and an organizational frame the reality and theory of which remained essentially unchanged. the Maoism of Mao Zedong.

114 In other words. even while acknowledging the closing of an era. on the grounds that he would have been ‘less mistaken. or post-Maoism. Mao opens postLeninism in terms of mass politics. but not on proletarian politics.’ which indeed is something that is easily achieved when one takes no risks other than to follow the pedagogy of the world as it goes. would feel neither remorse nor embarrassment before using a narrative present to talk of “the Maoist that I am. Rather. We can thus begin to see why Badiou. if the Maoism of the Cultural Revolution was a heroic but failed effort to give new organizational shape to a post-Leninist mode of politics. to use the excellent summary by Paul Sandevince (pseudonym for Sylvain Lazarus). nor even the immoderate praise for Raymond Aron. There is a relative silence in the Cultural Revolution and from Mao himself on the question of what would be the pro le of the party of the new stage.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 624 Or. but for the moment we cannot say that the principle of unity between mass politics and class (party) politics has been found.” or why he admits to feeling an “incoercible nostalgia” for those years marked by the Cultural Revolution. . by contrast. even including the “cult of Mao” in which he also participated: “I buy neither the posthumous revenge of Camus over Sartre. in his Notes de travail sur le post-léninisme: Maoism marks a break with regard to Leninism. Mao and the GPCR open the era of post-Leninism by clearing new paths on questions of the masses.”115 For Badiou. or on the politics of the party. Maoism and the Cultural Revolution continue to pose problems for which only a bold and painstaking investigation can begin to formulate possible answers. then the task after the failure of the Cultural Revolution is with the aid of a series of militant investigations to prepare a new Maoism. it opens the necessity of a break. on the proletariat. without constituting the conceptual arrangement for this break.

” See his Alain Badiou: A Critical Introduction (London: Pluto. However. An English translation of this pamphlet published originally by the Groupe pour la Fondation de l’Union des Communistes de France Marxiste-Léniniste is included in this special issue. but later on he adds: “Badiou’s avowed aim in Being and the Event is to leave behind the ‘stillborn’ legacy of dialectical materialism. – . Unless otherwise indicated. in stark contrast with the more miraculous and absolutist interpretations of Badiou’s major concepts. marxisme de notre temps (Maoism. . .” Barker writes. “What should be stressed is that Badiou’s properly decisive concepts—concepts of the pure. ). – . trans. “Généalogie de la dialectique. the traces of Marxism—and Maoism— arguably persist. “Today the legacy of Maoism has all but disappeared.” in Le maoïsme. ). Lacan. Mallarmé. Louise Burchill (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. for every disclaimer of ‘early excesses’ there have been many suggestive symptoms of a global continuity. ). Théorie de la contradiction (Theory of Contradiction) (Paris: Maspero. Peter Hallward (London: Verso. It seems to me that “il y a des critères” should read “il y va des critères. ). – . . trans. but the rst option of course would only con rm my thesis further. and the generic—are themselves at least relatively constant. ). ‘post-Cantorian’ variety of what Badiou names ‘subtractive ontology’ ” ( ). ). Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. Peter Hallward. Incidentally. when Badiou does not even entertain this as a possibility in L’Etre et l’événement (Being and the Event). Alain Badiou. Rousseau. all translations in the following pages are my own. Badiou: A Subject to Truth (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Much of this text. . . Alain Badiou.Bosteels Post-Maoism 625 Notes Alain Badiou. “Les dialecticiens français: Pascal. seems to reduce the lasting impact of Maoism to little more than a form of “militant vitality. See also “Les deux sources du maoïsme en France. ). Marxism of Our Time) (Marseille: Potemkine. here and there. Mao’s legacy thus time and again will bring us face to face with problems of articulation as entanglement or mixture. is integrated in Alain Badiou. Alain Badiou. ). even while recognizing the persistence of Maoist themes in Badiou’s more recent ontological inquiries. the singular. – . Alain Badiou. this double allegiance brings up the problem of how two events can become entangled in the rst place.” in Peut-on penser la politique? (Can Politics Be Thought?) (Paris: Seuil. and he continues: “Certainly.” which is how I have translated the French original. despite the introduction of this radical. .” Hallward writes. Deleuze: The Clamor of Being. ).” Le Perroquet: Quinzomadaire d’opinion (March–April ): . L’Etre et l’événement (Paris: Seuil. Jason Barker. Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil. Deleuze: “La clameur de l’Etre” (Paris: Hachette. but not the passage quoted here. at least from May ’ to the present” ( ). Alain Badiou. ).

Première année d’existence d’une organisation maoïste. ). Badiou. L’anthropologie du nom (Anthropology of the Name) (Paris: Seuil. l’effondrement du socialisme (Looking Elsewhere and Differently: On the Doctrine of Places. Parts of the survey in Guanzhou have also been published in Sylvain Lazarus. printemps /printemps (First Year of Existence of a Maoist Organization. in his anecdotal history of French Maoists. Its concept is luminous: in order to know the working class and peasantry well. Peter Hallward (London: Continuum. ). see L’Etre et l’événement. Groupe pour la Fondation de l’Union des Communistes Français (marxiste-léniniste). or Union of Communist Youths (MarxistLeninist). “Against the Cult of the Book”: Qui n’a pas fait d’enquête n’a pas droit à la parole. interest in the investigation was to become both systematic and widespread. Les maoïstes: La folle histoire des gardes rouges français [The Maoists: The Mad History of the French Red Guards] [Paris: Plon. In April Garde Rouge. “No investigation. ).” For Badiou’s own de nition of the concept. Groupe pour la Fondation de l’Union des Communistes Français (marxiste-léniniste). See Dialogue autour de Tien An Men (Dialogue on Tienanmen). . ). explains: “The investigation is another idea from the Chinese.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 626 Ibid. and in Lazarus.” in Think Again: Alain Badiou and the Future of Philosophy. . see my contribution “On the Subject of the Dialectic. – .. the Economy. Quoted in Bourseiller. Of practicing concrete analysis. “Les livres et les enquêtes: Pour un ‘marxisme concret. publishes its fth issue with a cover that reproduces the original assertion. See also François Marmor. ). . ). On the “still-born” legacy of dialectical materialism. no right to speak. It is a matter of leaving behind the universities in order to go there where exploitation is most ravaging. Les Maoïstes. one must proceed with a systematic and objective investigation by going on location. Among French Maoists. . Spring /Spring ) (Paris: Maspero. a special issue of Le Perroquet: Quinzomadaire d’opinion – (March ). – . the central journal of the Maoist UJC(ML). l’économie. see the introduction ( ). In French. . This foregrounding of the investigation will be one of the principal features of the Maoist movement” (Christophe Bourseiller. – . ed. . L’Etre et l’événement.” rst made in a text by Mao. Christophe Bourseiller. La révolution prolétarienne en France et comment construire le Parti de l’époque de la pensée de Mao Tsé-toung (The Proletarian Revolution in France and How to Build the Party of the Era of Mao Zedong) (Paris: Maspero. Chercher ailleurs et autrement: Sur la doctrine des lieux. For a more detailed commentary. ). .’ ” in Le maoïsme: Philosophie et politique (Maoism: Philosophy and Politics) (Paris: PUF. – . the Collapse of Socialism) (Paris: Les Conférences du Perroquet. ]. the word used for “investigation” is precisely enquête. Jason Barker translates the term as “inquest” and Peter Hallward as “investigation.

. “Le maoïsme: Une étape du marxisme” (“Maoism: A Stage of Marxism”). ). Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (London: Verso. La révolution prolétarienne en France. La révolution prolétarienne en France. See Bruno Bosteels.” in Alain Badiou: Philosophy and Its Conditions. in ans de maoïsme: Une histoire. chap. L’Etre et l’événement. – . Les Maoïstes. – . available online at www. “Can Change Be Thought? A Dialogue with Alain Badiou. Théorie de la contradiction.org. ). . Les maoïstes français: Une dérive institutionnelle (The French Maoists: An Institutional Drift) (Paris: Anthropos. See also Paul Sandevince [Sylvain Lazarus]. . Bourseiller. Because of my focus on Badiou’s Maoist years. Badiou.” in Le Maoïsme. The interested reader can nd an excellent discussion of these activities in Hallward’s Badiou. – . A.maoism. Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung. A Balance Sheet.Bosteels Post-Maoism 627 See. Alain Badiou. This fusion requires that Mao Zedong’s thought really be considered a guide for action” ( – ). ). . . La Révolution Culturelle: La dernière révolution? (Paris: Les Conférences du Rouge-Gorge. – . for example. Trotskyism and Maoism: Theory and Practice in France and the United States (New York: Praeger. A Politics). ). . into the concrete practice of the revolution in France. Badiou. Belden Fields. un bilan. “Maoïsme et question du Parti. . Rémi Hess. ). ed. Théorie du sujet (Paris: Seuil. See also the introduction to La révolution prolétarienne en France: “If we commit ourselves to fusing the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism. I will not deal in detail with the later activities of the Organisation Politique. As in the case of Mao on determination by the . Gabriel Riera (Albany: State University of New York Press. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. the highest and entirely new stage of which is Mao Zedong’s thought. special double issue of Le Marxiste-Léniniste: Journal Central du Groupe pour la Fondation de l’Union des Communistes de France Marxistes Léninistes – (spring ): . ). Alain Badiou. ). Conditions (Paris: Seuil. Empire (Cambridge. MA: Harvard University Press. special issue of Le Marxiste-Léniniste: Journal Central du Groupe pour la Fondation de l’Union des Communistes de France Marxistes Léninistes (fall ): . – . Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. the latter will for sure be victorious. une politique (Ten Years of Maoism: A History. Notes de travail sur le post-léninisme (Working Notes on PostLeninism) (Paris: Potemkine. . ). – . The complete text of this article is translated in this special issue. – . ). Alain Badiou.

. see the fragments from Théorie du sujet translated in this special issue.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 628 infrastructure. Bosteels. “Ce que veut dire ‘Révolution culturelle. but a ‘group’ for the formation of a ‘union. Théorie du sujet. Théorie du sujet. . ): “The UCFML has made no claim to be a party. as have the other two organizations [Parti Communiste Marxiste-Léniniste de France (PCMLF) and Parti Communiste Révolutionnaire (marxisteléniniste) (PCR[m-l])]. which was originally meant for inclusion in L’Etre et l’événement but appeared only in Le Perroquet – (April –May . or noyaux communistes ouvriers. Though without absolute priority. Badiou. Alain Badiou. For a discussion.. A.” Le Marxiste-Léniniste – ( ): – . . Le Marxiste-Léniniste – (spring ): . or politics over the superstructure. see Guy Brossollet. Those comrades who would consider this argument too a leftover of Badiou’s bygone dialectical period would do well to consider an extraordinary text. “Can Change Be Thought?” – . “Democratic Materialism and the Materialist Dialectic. “Commentaire préliminaire. Révolution Culturelle.” UCFML. Belden Fields observes.” special issue. it has not even claimed to be a ‘union’ yet. practice. “L’art et la culture: Un groupe maoïste. Badiou. Théorie du sujet. Badiou. nevertheless in modern historical circumstances the factory retains a symptomatic function with regard to other sites. Badiou. or ideology. It also questions the legitimacy of the PCMLF and the PCR(m-l) for so doing.. were “kernels” or “cells” of communist workers and militants that for some time constituted the model of the “party of the new type” according to the UCFML. For an excellent philological interpretation of the four Chinese characters that are translated as “Cultural Revolution” in most Western languages. In fact. ): . Pillars of the Construction of a New Type of Party) (Marseille: Potemkine. La révolution prolétarienne en France. but the inverse is not true either” ( ). Alberto . “Le mode dialectique. A complete English translation of this text is also included in this special issue. in his Trotskyism and Maoism (chap.’ It has readily admitted that it does not yet have a mass base which would entitle it legitimately to refer to itself as a party. here too this question is a conjunctural one: “There is no absolute priority of the struggle in the factories over the struggle in the housing projects. . Ibid. Notes de travail sur le post-léninisme. For the full periodization. including French and English.” trans. Ibid. .” La Distance Politique ( ): . ). Magazine Littéraire ( ): – . – . .” in Sandevince. see Les noyaux communistes ouvriers: Forme actuelle de l’avant-garde. piliers de l’édi cation du Parti de type nouveau (The Communist Workers’ Cells: Current Form of the Vanguard.’ ” in “Mao: Culture et révolution. le groupe FOUDRE. . theory. The noyaux. “L’usine comme site événementiel” (“The Factory as EventSite”). . .

. I am thankful to Peter Hallward for reminding me of this de nition. of Collected Works. Badiou. “Skoteinos. Theodor W. and without a systematic practice of investigations. . overcome by the just middle. trans. the UCFML situates itself polemically in opposition to the two major Maoist organizations still in existence in the early seventies in France: the ex-PCMLF. . This text reproduces the rst half of the preface to Badiou’s Logiques des mondes. Théorie de la contradiction. The re ection of nature in man’s thought must be understood not ‘lifelessly. ). thus become poor substitutes for the patient work of actual political organization. Lenin. Shierry Weber Nicholson (Cambridge. not without contradictions. MA: MIT Press.’ not ‘abstractly. without the assessment of experience.Bosteels Post-Maoism 629 Toscano. Alain Badiou. The militants and sympathizers of La Cause du Peuple. are said to fall prey to a “leftist” deviation. the physical confrontation with the factory “bosses. we see the logic of twin ideological deviations appear from the start: ”The national organizations that vindicate Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong’s thought are irreparably engaged either in a rightist-opportunistic and neorevisionist political line or in a leftist-opportunistic and putschist line” (La révolution prolétarienne en France. and Badiou. however. led by Benny Lévy (pseudonym Pierre Victor) and most famously organized around La Cause du Peuple.’ not devoid of movement. Théorie de la contradiction. vol. – . but in the eternal process of movement. It is worth considering the tactics used in this polemical self-positioning because they consistently follow a logic of twin deviations. or Gauche Prolétarienne. In the UCFML’s founding document. Clemence Dutt (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. together with the journal’s purely descriptive retelling of isolated and shortlived episodes in the history of the workers’ movement. ). forced into semi-clandestine existence around the journal L’Humanité Rouge. . and the GP. To the theory of re ection or of the mirroring relationship between notions and things. Adorno.” with an almost terrorist appeal to spectacular violence. or How to Read Hegel. . The noisy vindication of anti-authoritarianism as sheer cop bashing (“casser du ic”). Radical Philosophy ( ): . limited to mere “agit-prop. Peut-on penser la politique? (Paris: Seuil. which will serve us further to understand the persistent role of the Maoist dialectic in the overall philosophy of Badiou. the arising of contradictions and their solution” ( ).” in Hegel: Three Studies. From the moment of its foundation onward. Philosophical Notebooks. Théorie du sujet. see Le Marxiste-Léniniste – ( ). on the one hand. which is precisely why Hegel’s genius can never be more than a guess: “Cognition is the eternal. we should add the notion of an asymptotic approach. Without concrete directives. insofar as they combine an overly narrow concept of politics. For an overview of the different forms of organization associated with the UCFML. ). endless approximation of thought to the object. See also Badiou. .” or the mediatic kidnapping of famous CEOs. the undeniable . trans. ).

Une étude maoïste: La situation en Chine et le mouvement dit de “critique de la bande des Quatre” (A Maoist Study: The Situation in China and the Movement of the “Critique of the Gang of Four”) (Marseille: Potemkine. on the other hand. will increasingly become obsessed with the “fascist” turn of the state apparatus in France. the UCFML would take advantage of the lessons learned from the criticisms against Lin Biao during the latter days of the Cultural Revolution. clandestine. In a later study published in . ). and nally attempted a coup. This analysis has led the militants of L’Humanité Rouge to their semi-clandestine existence. Once again. consistent with their denial of the novelty of the Cultural Revolution. . similar to that of the ex-PCMLF. ). The ex-PCMLF and the various circles around L’Humanité Rouge. Alain Badiou and François Balmès.. I should add that. quickly tilting over into a militarized plea for violence as an end in itself: “Putschism comes in the place of the investigation. Badiou. represented by the GP. of the systematization. Just as Lin Biao had wanted to an excess to militarize the Revolutionary Committees. and of the directive” (ibid. ). insofar as the GP. De l’idéologie (Of Ideology) (Paris: Maspero.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 630 air of radicalism exuded by La Cause du Peuple is often little more than an abstract call to revolt. appear as a “rightist” ideological deviation. the ex-GP’s thinking was purely democratic. the militants of this organization are also sometimes described in the writings of the UCFML in terms of a “rightist” deviation. and pretended to dissolve itself in spontaneous movement. subtracted from all political control by the people. it was the complete opposite: the armed. nally. An adventurist call to pure activism for its own sake would thus form the “leftist” extreme of the ideological spectrum. Just as Lin Biao unilaterally exalted the self-liberation of the masses. Théorie de la contradiction. that is. too. to rede ne its own stance in opposition to the GP after the latter’s autodissolution in November : “When the emphasis was put on the masses. and their semi-paralysis” (La révolution prolétarienne en France. this leads to a general absence of positive guidelines and directives—all matters of organization that in this case are replaced by an unconfessed and purely nostalgic yearning for a return to the long-lost grandeur of the s and s PCF. the circles that emerge from the ex-PCMLF end up becoming paralyzed by a fearful overestimation of the new repressive apparatuses of the state: “This spirit is particularly evident in their analysis of the alleged ‘ fascization’ of the power of the state after May. Badiou. Théorie de la contradiction. . n. At the same time. their lack of initiative. insofar as they proclaim to be already the authentic communist party in France. . all the while referring the events of the Cultural Revolution to a distant historical “stage” in the edi cation of socialism. La révolution prolétarienne en France. But when the ex-GP put the emphasis on organization.” See Groupe pour la Fondation de l’Union des Communistes de France Marxistes-Léninistes. and purely putschist nucleus. ). . the internal ideological struggle that can only follow the takeover of power. UCFML. . .

– . Ibid.Bosteels Post-Maoism 631 Ibid. Lacan.’ ” included in the same special issue of Polygraph ( – ). Ibid.. ). Negri.. Ibid. In fact. “Le ux et le parti (dans les marges de l’Anti-Oedipe). Badiou. Ibid. was swiftly taken by most of the New Philosophers. At the outset of La cuisinière et le mangeur d’hommes (The Cook and the Man Eater). Alain Badiou. .. even if only by default.” in La situation actuelle sur le front philosophique. – . all the attention quickly turns in awe to the overwhelming power of repression displayed by the state.. Polygraph: An International Journal of Culture and Politics / ( ): – . see “The Flux and the Party: In the Margins of Anti-Oedipus. For an English translation of this text. Ibid. – .” in La situation actuelle sur le front philosophique (The Current Situation on the Philosophical Front) (Paris: Maspero. Ibid. . Ibid. I have tried to extend this argument to include the work of Hardt. In addition to Deleuze. this being the only remedy to avoid the totalitarian excesses of the latter... . ). Ibid. we know. the antirepressive obsession ultimately contradicts the initial pledge of allegiance to the wildly creative force of popular resistance. Ibid. then someone like André Glucksmann might well seem to lead the way.. . however. Now.. almost ontological priority of resistance. Laura Balladur and Simon Krysl. From this radical. Only a short step is then needed. Ibid. La cuisinière et le mangeur d’hommes (Paris: Le Seuil.” See André Glucksmann.” trans. . Théorie de la contradiction. one of the books. . Ibid. And this step. as we can hear from Mao to Negri today. made infamous by the gulag. . “Etat de front. . if all this were to come down to recovering the notion there can be no power without the constituent force of resistance. Glucksmann indeed posits a principle worthy of his youthful Maoist years: “In the beginning there was resistance. and Althusser.. a fourth interlocutor—Michel Foucault— . and Žižek in my contribution “Logics of Antagonism: In the Margins of Alain Badiou’s ‘The Flux and the Party. . . Ibid. with which he rst achieved nationwide fame as a former editor of La Cause du Peuple turned New Philosopher. to go on to applaud the intrinsically democratic tendencies of the former. Groupe Yénan-Philosophie. based on the false opposition between masses and the state. together with Les maîtres penseurs (The Master Thinkers). .

nonidentity. The question being. Le noyau rationnel de la dialectique hégélienne. or the presupposition that something must precede the process of pure thought. in which Badiou will once again reject the radical-anarchic gure of antagonism. Alberto Toscano and Ray Brassier (London: Continuum. see note “(k) Le concept philosophique de déviation. Peut-on penser la politique? . Ibid. Alain Badiou. Beijing. but this polemic never actually was to take place. trans. Théorie de la contradiction. Groupe Yénan-Philosophie.. B. Adorno. . Ibid. Ibid. Pékin. of course: on which side? Or perhaps we should ask ourselves whether a Lacanian logic of the Cause (as Chose) does not interrupt the possibility of being loyal to a political Cause. Le noyau rationnel de la dialectique hégélienne. Ibid. “Etat de front. ). .” – . (The Rational Kernel of the Hegelian Dialectic: Translations. between logic and history. just as Sartre’s Cause echoes La Cause du Peuple. particularly with Foucault’s nal seminars at the Collège de France. Paradoxically. . . . as part of Nietzsche’s problematic legacy. L’Etre et l’événement. . Ibid. E. Insofar as Lacan’s psychoanalysis now prospers of cially in the Ecole de la Cause. Badiou. Theoretical Writings. Badiou. Incidentally. See Alain Badiou.. The Shortest Shadow: Nietzsche’s Philosophy of the Two (Cambridge. ). Le noyau rationnel de la dialectique hégélienne: Traductions.. – . ) (Paris: Maspero. or the two as such. . we might also add Lacan to the polemic between Sartre and Althusser. . Théorie du sujet.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 632 is mentioned in a footnote as the subject of a future discussion. ). just as Althusser’s structural causality may have kept him from joining Sartre’s Cause on the side of the Maoists. – . Negative Dialectics. this lacuna can still be felt in Badiou’s current work. . in which certain readers might want to see a more sustained confrontation. ).. Compare also with Alenka Zupancic’s recent book. . Ashton (New York: Continuum. Introduction. ). . – . then. MA: MIT Press. ed. and trans.. Joël Bellassen. introductions et commentaires autour d’un texte de Zhang Shiying. deeply ˇ ˇ inspired by Badiou’s views. Badiou. Casser en deux l’histoire du monde? (Paris: Les Conférences du Perroquet. The mention of Nietzsche’s archpolitical attempt “to break the history of the world in two” anticipates a future version of this same polemic. Badiou. and Louis Mossot.” Theodor W. is not an obstacle but a precondition for the identity between being and thinking. . and Commentaries on a Text by Zhang Shiying. Badiou.

between event and history. In Bensaïd’s eyes. . “Alain Badiou and the Miracle of the Event. See Bosteels. Thus we could show how in some of Althusser’s formulations. “Communism as Separation. The refusal to work within the equivocal contradiction and tension which bind them together ultimately leads to a pure voluntarism. “Un ange est passé. Polygraph: An International Journal of Culture and Politics ( ): – . Daniel Bensaïd. Badiou. The result in fact is “a philosophy of majestic sovereignty. which he himself also calls events. Théorie de la contradiction. Badiou. Ibid. special issue. whose decision seems to be founded upon a nothing that commands a whole. the price to pay for this radical distancing from history would be exorbitant. see Bosteels. . or what Sartre calls elements of the practico-inert.. – .. which oscillates between a broadly leftist form of politics and its philosophical circumvention” ( . Georges Peyrol [Alain Badiou].” a philosophy haunted by the epistemological cut between event and history. leads to a practical impasse. the systematic study of overdetermination under certain formal conditions. Guy Lardreau and Christian Jambet. Ethics. of Ontologie de la revolution: Pour une cynégétique du semblant (Ontology of Revolution: For a Cynegetics of Semblance) (Paris: Grasset. “Badiou without Žižek.Bosteels Post-Maoism 633 Ibid. . vol. . . . in the midst of the subject’s ongoing efforts at reaching the transparency of self-consciousness. Alberto Toscano. For a more detailed discussion. Ibid. Ibid. “Can Change Be Thought?” . ). Think Again. L’ange (The Angel).” in La situation actuelle sur le front philosophique.” in Hallward. while conversely we can always expect to nd remnants of the opacity and counter nality of the structure. Ibid. between philosopher and sophist. Ibid.. Ibid. ). .” in Hallward. Ibid.. .” ed. or incompleteness. Think Again. Ibid. pinpoints a symptomatic blindness. . . Ibid.” in “The Philosophy of Alain Badiou. . .. Matthew Wilkens. the presence of which already seems to presuppose the inscription of a subject in a nonideological sense. . – .... . the effect of which would be politically deadening: “The absolute incompatibility between truth and opinion.

– . . UCFML. Théorie de la contradiction. . Badiou.” Le Marxiste-Léniniste – (spring ): . UCFML. Théorie du sujet. Ibid. . – . Questions du maoïsme: De la Chine de la Révolution Culturelle à la Chine des Procès de Pékin. . Sandevince.positions 13:3 Winter 2005 634 “Circulaire sur quelques problèmes idéologiques” (September ). . “Introduction. UCFML. Badiou. Sur le maoisme et la situation en Chine. Peut-on penser la politique? . Le Marxiste-Léniniste (fall ): . Badiou. Sur le maoïsme et la situation en Chine après la mort de Mao Tsé-Toung. . Notes de travail sur le post-léninisme. republished in Première année d’existence.

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