31 janvier 2017

Faith and revolution. 2/4 The premiss of transcendence (Roger Garaudy)

THE ECUMENICAL REVIEW –  1973 - JANUARY - pages 59 to 79

 A lecture, transcribed from a recording, given at the Ecumenical Centre, Geneva, in
October 1972 on the occasion of an exhibition of books and journals in French (see
Ecumenical Diary , below). ROGER GARAUDY is Professor of Aesthetics in the University
of Poitiers, France. His books include From Anathema to Dialogue (English édition :
London, Collins and Co. and New York, Herder and Herder, 1966) and L'Alternative

(Paris, Robert Laffont, 1972). The lecture was translated from the French by the WCC
Language Service. The original is published in the Bulletin du Centre Protestant d'Etudes,
Geneva, 1973.
A Paris le 29 mai 1989 Roger Garaudy avec Dom Helder Camara. Getty Images/Pierre Verdy

II/ The premiss of transcendence

As I said just now, if the revolutionary outlook is not simply a reflection
of the already existing world but the vision of a social order which does
not yet exist, it follows — and this is a provisional statement of the
first premiss I wish to discuss — that the goals of revolutionary action
cannot be deduced simply from the past or the present. Man is always
something other and something more than the sum of the conditions
which have produced him. This is what distinguishes him from ail
other kinds of animal. Otherwise we should be relegated to an existence
determined solely by instinct. Echoing the Italian philosopher Vico,
Marx pointed out in Das Kapital that man was not responsible for the
evolution of nature but for his own history. Unlike natural evolution,
human history is of man's making.
This first premiss is no more than a premiss. We cannot here disguise
our assumptions and claim that we are revolutionaries by some sort of
rational argument or inescapable necessity. We posit the premiss that
it is possible for us to liberate ourselves from a given natural order and
to shape our own future. It is, if you like, a radical break with positivism.
Nothing is more conservative than positivism. By confining
human thought within the limits of the given, positivism necessarily
restricts human action to the limits of the established order, unless some
vision or plan emerges. If the empirical world of tangible data is selfcontained,
as the eighteenth century French materialists believed, man
is left with no room to make his own history. He is simply one element
in a purely physical process. It was Kant's Critique which rescued us
from precisely this impasse. The world of empirical experience is not
self-contained, not self-sufficient. Contemporary epistemology appears
to confirm this. Rejecting any naïve realism we have come to recognize
that every proposition concerning nature, history, or God, is a human
utterance. You can find this formula in Karl Barth applied to statements
about God, but I believe it is indeed the basis of ail critical thought.
You can find it in Kant, in Husserl and in Bachelard as well as in Barth.
Man's activity is creative activity, not least when he thinks, when he
conceives and elaborates possibilities, when he formulates hypotheses,
scientific models, ideals, utopias and visions. This activity is part of
I believe this to be one of the important ideas which we must hold to,
as against the positivism of Hegel and Marx. The possible, provided
we do not exclude man from it, is part of the real. Man must not be
arbitrarily excluded from reality, as he is in positivism — for positivism
means not only a world without God but also a world without man, a
world from which man has been abstracted. But if man belongs to
reality, then reality does not only consist of what already exists but also
of ail that does not yet exist, ail that is still lacking, ail that can still
become. As Fichte said long ago : 'The ideal is more real than the real.'
For the real is itself fashioned in accordance with the possibilities which
our minds conceive. If this possibility, this hypothesis, this vision, are
not already written into the past or the present, if the future is more than
simply the extrapolated extension of the past and the present, if something
new emerges, then we are compelled to recognize this other dimension
of reality, this constant possibility of surpassing the present, and
to recognize this as the most normal fact of daily experience. To give
it its proper name, transcendence is a fondamental dimension of
Transcendence is the dimension of reality which cannot but appear when
man's présence and créative activity are included in our definition of
reality. I go so far as to say that transcendence is man's chief attribute
inasmuch as he alone, unlike animals confined within the cycle of
repetitive behaviour, is a being who can take stock of his purposes
beforehand and by his efforts achieve something new.
This transcendence is an everyday experience, present in every creative
act : whether in the artist's creation, or in the research of the scientist
and technologist, or in love, sacrifice, or revolution ; in everything, that
is to say, where we break out of the circle of positivist knowledge and
rise above purely utilitarian actions designed to satisfy needs that belong
to the past.
If we fail to give this dimension its full weight, we end up in some form
or other of positivism ; the positivism of those who try to camouflage
their assumptions. Some will tell us that reality consists only of 'chance
and necessity'. Others will say that man is a puppet manipulated by the
'structures'. In both cases there is a denial that man is a real factor in
I realize that the term 'transcendence' poses certain problems, which
explain why Marxists have often been reluctant to use it. One difficulty
in using it is to avoid the irrational and supernatural connotations with
which it has been loaded and, above ail, the dualistic images which it
suggests. Certainly, if we are to use the word in a mature way, we cannot
entertain a pre-critical conception of transcendence. In other words,
we must never forget that what Barth said in a theological context is
also true of nature and history, namely, that everything I say is a human
This is vital even from a practical standpoint. For once this element of
self-criticism in ail human thinking is ignored, once we claim proprietary
rights over reality so as to be able to declare what it is, once we
claim to be the interpreter, the spokesman and even the agent of the
absolute, we are on the direct road to the Inquisition or to Stalinism.
For these are the logical and practical consequences of any assurance
that one possesses complete and final truth. Thereafter, when confronted
with people who disagree with us, we can only interpret this as evidence
of their sickness or ill-will, for which the only remedy is the psychiatric
ward or even the final exclusion of such people from society. Dogmatic
premisses seem, indeed, to allow no other solution, whether in the
Church of earlier centuries or more recently in Stalin's Russia.
A mature concept of transcendence cannot overlook the, to my mind,
permanent contribution of Marx's historical materialism. This may be
put very simply by saying that Marx has taught us to look for the driving
force of history within history itself. History is not made from outside,
neither by a destiny such as Greek thought posited, nor by a providence
extrinsic to human activity, nor by Hegel's 'absolute Spirit', nor by
progress in the naïvely optimistic, eighteenth century sense, nor even in
the sense of a dialectic of nature in which the human dialectic would
only be a special instance of a general rule, as Stalin and his followers
—myself once included — believed.
Pre-Marxist historians believed that history was ruled from outside.
Marx explored the possibility that the driving force was within human
history, arguing on the basis of the inertia of nature and the alienations
of society, but also of the initiatives of men creating their own history.
We can perhaps set alongside the dictum : 'Every statement made about
nature, history, or God is a human utterance' a parallel dictum summarizing
Marx's thought as follows : 'Everything which is done is done
by a man.' This means that we are fully responsible for our own history ;
a point of great practical consequence.

30 janvier 2017

Faith and revolution. 1/4 A crisis of hope. By Roger Garaudy

THE ECUMENICAL REVIEW –  1973-January - pages 59 to 79

 A lecture, transcribed from a recording, given at the Ecumenical Centre, Geneva, in
October 1972 on the occasion of an exhibition of books and journals in French (see Ecumenical Diary , below). ROGER GARAUDY is Professor of Aesthetics in the University of Poitiers, France. His books include From Anathema to Dialogue (English édition : London, Collins and Co. and New York, Herder and Herder, 1966) and L'Alternative (Paris, Robert Laffont, 1972). The lecture was translated from the French by the WCC Language Service. The original is published in the Bulletin du Centre Protestant d'Etudes, Geneva, 1973.

Acheter le livre

I/ A crisis of hope

In an age like our own, when we are experiencing what may be described as a 'crisis of hope', on what may we base, if not our assurance, then at least our hope of possible change ? For, on the face of it, we are at the mercy of certain disastrous currents which may be summed up by saying
that we are witnessing today the bankruptcy both of the dream of Descartes and of the dream of Faust.  Descartes's dream took the form of a programme : to develop a science which would make us lords and masters of nature. This was the ambition of the Renaissance, the ambition of Goethe and of the eighteenth century with its concept of
progress ; and it is still operative in new forms in our own age with its
optimistic attitude towards 'growth'.
Science was to make man lord and master of nature. So far as this
mastery of nature is concerned, I think it may safely be said that in
actual fact the results of science have turned out to be the very opposite
of such mastery. What we are witnessing today is, above ail, the destruction
of nature, the détérioration of the environment, the upsetting of
balances essential to life, and ail manner of pollution. So far as man's
own nature is concerned, what we are witnessing is both its physical
destruction, by the arms race and the wars to which this inevitably
leads as well as by the hunger of the Third World, and also its moral
destruction by the nervous diseases which are the counterpart in the
so-called developed countries of the famine which ravages the Third
World and by the manipulation and conditioning to which we are ail
subject. It could even be said that it is not only nature and man which
are being destroyed but also the future itself. I recently attended one
particular congress of futurologists where we were treated to the spectacle
of people assigning us a future controlled by heaven knows whom
and heaven knows what, and whose method of arriving at such predictions
was virtually confined to the use of technological extrapolations. We
were told of the resources which would be available to meet our needs
in the year A.D. 2000. Here I am not personally concerned : in all
probability I shall not have any needs in the year 2000. I am thinking
rather of my two-year-old grand-daughter, by then a young woman of
thirty. Will she not then be having needs and desires quite different
from those I have today ? Must we not focus our attention — not our
'futurology' — on research into the ends which will be sought thirty
years hence and not on the 'means' of satisfying what are in fact today's
needs, even when projected into the future, and these anyway largely
the result of manipulation. This point is of the greatest importance
since otherwise what we shall be doing is moulding the future for a
couple of generations in accordance with present-day needs instead of
trying to think what their future needs will be.
In fact it is an exaggeration to say that anyone is moulding the future.
What we see in our countries today is the curious spectacle of a complete
absence of any decision-making about ultimate goals, not to mention
more immediate ones, even though technological means to do so are
not wanting. Everything is still seen in terms of catching up with and
getting ahead of others. When President Kennedy gave the all-clear for
the moon landing programme, for example, he did so because of the
profound anxiety provoked by the first Soviet space exploits of the
astronaut Gagarin. But the Russians themselves had only initiated the
programme which culminated in Gagarin's exploit because they too had
been well and truly alarmed by the consequences of the bomb dropped
on Hiroshima and felt it necessary to close the gap. In other words,
in each case there is a reaction to a reaction, but no one determines the
ends in view, except those which are inherent in the system itself—a
system which is based on profit for profit's sake and growth for growth's
sake, and which produces a society shorn of human goals. This sort
of society has been magnificently defined in Galbraith's comment —
well worth quoting because it goes so close to the bone — that everything
that happens in our society seems to presuppose that when St.
Peter meets us at the gates of heaven to direct us to paradise or to hell,
his only question to us will be : 'What did you do on earth to increase
the gross national product ?'
It is precisely this absence of human goals which was called in question
by young people ail over the world in 1968. So much so that we are now
led to ask ourselves : if we are caught up in a disastrous drift, if in fact
no one is thinking about the goals, the overall direction of our societies,
on what can we base our hope ? On the bland optimism of the Enlightenment
philosophers, the eighteenth century prophets of progress ?
On a sort of secularized theology, a doctrine of providence which
dispenses with God, which today takes the form of the worship of
growth for growth's sake as the solution to ail problems ? Unfortunately
the experience of the last thirty years has shown that anarchic
growth of this kind solves no problems. Can we base our hope on some
unimaginable dialectic in which poverty would beget anger and oppression
revolt? This is equally incredible ; Marx himself never based the
possibility of revolution on such premisses. Marx showed that poverty
was not a revolutionary force. Indeed he demonstrated that extreme
poverty, the degradation of what he called the Lumpenproletariat —
the ragged proletariat, the sub-proletariat — was in fact a counterrevolutionary
force. Nor can we put our trust in any form of economic
determinism. It is true that the inherent contradictions of capitalism
are becoming more acute, but they are no longer the same contradictions
as fifty years ago. It may indeed be that since the strictly economic
crisis of 1929 the various forms of State intervention in the economy
have led to contradictions which are much more profound even than
the economic contradictions. So that we cannot count either on some
sort of destiny operative in the economy which would necessarily lead
to the overthrow of the capitalist system simply by the force of its
inherent contradictions.

29 janvier 2017


Au Théâtre de l'Apollo (1958)

- Une œuvre d’art c’est l’homme projeté en avant.
- Comme une révolution.

(« Prométhée », Roger Garaudy, Acte I, Scène 3)

L'auteur en discussion avec le metteur en scène, Raymond Hermantier
Comprendre ! Quand ils disent « comprendre », cela signifie invariablement accepter, et, finalement, se rendre complices. C’est cela, comprendre. Comme on dit d’un chien qu’il est intelligent quand il vient, au sifflet, se coucher aux pieds de ses maîtres. Comprendre ! Choisir ! Ils en ont des mots pour dire : ramper !
(Acte III, Scène 1)

J’accepte qu’on me détruise mais je n’accepte pas qu’on me salisse. J’agis au grand jour, selon ma conscience.

(Acte IV, Scène 6)