Georges Politzer

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Georges Politzer (French: [pɔlidzɛʁ]; 3 May 1903 – 23 May 1942) was a French philosopher and Marxist theoretician of Hungarian origin, affectionately referred to by some as the "red-headed philosopher" (philosophe roux). He was a native of Oradea, a city in present-day Romania (then Nagyvárad, Hungary).

Biography[edit]

Politzer was already a militant by the time of his involvement in the Hungarian insurrection of 1919. He went into exile at age seventeen following the failure of the repressive Hungarian Soviet Republic led by Béla Kun, when the country fell under the rule of the repressive government of Austro-Hungarian Admiral Miklós Horthy.

He settled in Paris in 1921 after meeting Freud and Sándor Ferenczi in Vienna. He joined the French Communist Party somewhere between 1929 and 1931.

At the beginning of the 1930s, the Communist Party founded the Workers University of Paris (l'Université Ouvrière de Paris) which lasted until dissolution by German occupation in 1939. During his tenure at the university, Politzer was entrusted with and given charge of a course on dialectical materialism.

A disciple of Marx and Lenin, Politzer was very interested in psychology, preaching the concrete aspects of this field, in relation to which he qualified traditional psychology as abstract. He also took a lively interest in nascent Freudian theory and its uses before eventually distancing himself from it. In this same period, he occupied the post of professor of philosophy at Lycée Marcelin Berthelot in Saint-Maur-des-Fossés.

Mobilized to Paris in 1940, he remained on the side of the French Communist Party secret command. Demobilized in July 1940, he oversaw the edition of a clandestine bulletin. After his comrade and friend Paul Langevin, a physicist of world renown, was arrested in October 1940, Politzer published the first edition of The Free University (L'Université Libre), which told of the imprisonment of scholars and denounced the extortions committed by invading fascists during World War II. He worked with other writers like Jacques Decour, Jacques Solomon or Valentin Feldman. All were executed by the nazis in 1942.

In February 1942, Politzer's operations were stopped; he was arrested along with his wife Mai (also a Communist and a Resister) for violating the law banning the Communist Party. He underwent torture, being turned over to the Nazis on 20 March 1942 and undergoing execution by firing squad at their hands on 23 May of that year, just after having secretly published a French academic journal. His wife was transported to Auschwitz, where she died in March 1943.

Contribution to philosophy[edit]

His posthumous work, Elementary Principles of Philosophy (Principes Élémentaires de Philosophie) based on notes taken by his followers, was the first work banned by the fascist military regime established in Turkey in 1980.

Quotations[edit]

As much as one might say: there are, in the history of philosophy, philosophies without subject and philosophies which exhaust themselves in a debuachery of honest or pharisean artifice, with perfect unawareness of being without substance, one will not discuss more than the dates; as much as one might say: the rebirths of the spirit correspond to the discovery of a new subject and the nuances are then swept away because one poses problems in grander terms; they will congratulate us on the ingeniousness of our designs. But when one will say: forthwith, the problems will be posed in great terms; forthwith, the nuances will be swept away, because we see here the new substance: from here on we will not be more than the simple-minded and ignorant and as part of the bargain, ranters [1]; And all the good disposition that one could have for our ideas will evaporate, suddenly, from the mere fact that we want to convey the precision that they entail. For that is the law of the situation. The philosophers of philosophy without substance are unaware and the comedy brought to bear on them is that they know from science certain that they have had philosophers unaware of being without substance, and that they are perfectly incapable of diagnosing in themselves the ills that they recognize in others.
Tant qu'on dira: il y a dans l'histoire de la philosophie des philosophies sans matière et des philosophies s'épuisant dans une débauche d'artifices honnêtes ou pharisiens, avec l'inconscience parfaite d'être privés de matière, on ne discutera plus que sur les dates; tant qu'on dira : les renaissances de l'esprit correspondent à la découverte d'une matière nouvelle et les nuances sont alors balayées parce qu'on pose les problèmes en grands termes, ils nous féliciteront de l'ingéniosité de nos vues. Mais quand on dira : il faut que dès maintenant les problèmes soient posés en grands termes; il faut que dès maintenant les nuances soient balayées, car voici la matière nouvelle: alors nous ne seront plus que des simplistes et des ignorants et par-dessus le marché, des énergumènes. Et toute la bonne disposition qu'on pouvait avoir pour nos idées s'évaporera, tout de suite, du seul fait que nous voulons leur donner la précision qu'elles comportent. Car telle est la loi de la situation. Les philosophes de la philosophie sans matière sont inconscients et le comique qui pèse sur eux c'est qu'ils savent de science certaine qu'il y a eu des philoosophes inconscients d'être privés de matière et qu'ils sont parfaitement impuissants à diagnostiquer chez eux la maladie qu'ils reconnaissent pourtant chez les autres. -drawn from The Mind (L'Esprit), Notebooks (Cahiers), May 1926

Supporters posit that all that was new, upsetting the house of Politzer, has been repudiated, riduculed; and all of that was not upsetting to the official dominant philosophy has been favored.

And it is necessary to acknowledge that, for the new philosophy, there can not be dualism between certainty and security, since speculations connect those who extol it to those who one calls the enemies of society. And they find themselves therefore, happily, in discord with the state. The new philosophers will have nothing more than mere certainty. Truly, philosopher will become anew a dangerous occupation, as it was in heroic times. The philosophers will anew be the friends of the truth, but by the same turn, enemies of the gods, enemies of the state, and corrupters of youth. Philosophy will, anew, involve a risk. A selection will then take place. They will not arrive at the truth but who love it to the point of daring to transform spiritual ventures into material ones.
Et il faut avouer que, pour la philosophie nouvelle, il ne peut pas y avoir de dualisme entre la certitude et la sécurité, puisque les spéculations rattachent ceux qui la préconisent à ceux qu'on appelle les ennemis de la société. Et se trouvant ainsi, heureusement, en désaccord avec l'État, les nouveaux philosophes n'auront plus que la certitude. Philosopher véritablement sera de nouveau une occupation dangereuse comme dans les temps héroïques. Les philosophes seront de nouveau amis de la vérité, mais par là même ennemis des dieux, ennemis de l'État et corrupteurs de la jeunesse. La philosophie comportera de nouveau un risque. Une sélection se produira donc. Ne viendront à la vérité que ceux qui l'aiment au point d'oser transformer les aventures spirituelles en aventures matérielles. -(ibidem)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ - des énergumènes, per the translation source

Works[edit]

  • Critique of the Foundations of Psychology (Critique des Fondements de la Psychologie), 1928
  • Bergsonism, a Philosophical Hoax (Le Bergsonisme, une Mystification Philosophique), Éditions Sociales
  • Blood and Gold (Sang et Or) or Gold Vanquished by Blood (L'Or Vaincu par le Sang), November 1940
  • Revolution and Counter-revolution in the 20th Century (Révolution et Contre-révolution au XXè Siècle), Éditions Sociales, March 1941
  • Elementary Principles of Philosophy (Principes Élémentaires de Philosophie), notes taken in the course taught at l'Université Ouvrière from 1935–1936
  • Writings 1 Philosophy and Myths (Écrits 1 La Philosophie et les Mythes), Éditions Sociales, 1973
  • Writings 2 The Foundations of Psychology (Écrits 2 Les Fondements de la Psychologie), Éditions Sociales

See also[edit]

References[edit]