Daniel Bensaïd

Daniel Bensaïd (25 March 1946 – 12 January 2010[1]) was a philosopher and a leader of the Trotskyist movement in France. He became a leading figure in the student revolt of 1968, while studying at the University of Paris X: Nanterre.

Daniel Bensaïd
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Bensaïd at a conference in Barcelona in April 2008
Born 25 March 1946
Died 12 January 2010 (aged 63)
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Trotskyism

Life and career

Bensaïd was born in Toulouse, France, to a father who was a Sephardic Jew from Algeria, and who had moved from Oran, where he met Bensaïd's mother, to Vichy Toulouse.[2] In response to the 8 February 1962 Charonne massacre of Algerians in Paris, Bensaïd joined the Union of Communist Students. Irritated by the party orthodoxy he swiftly became part of a left opposition within the union, and was among the dissidents expelled from the party in 1966.[2]

In 1966 Bensaïd began studying at the École normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud, where he helped found the Jeunesse Communiste Révolutionnaire, which became the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR).[2] With Daniel Cohn-Bendit he helped to found the Mouvement du 22 Mars (Movement of 22 March), which was involved in the protests of May 1968 in France.[2]

Bensaïd became a leading theorist of the LCR and the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, and a professor of philosophy at the University of Paris-VIII. He was also a Fellow at the International Institute for Research and Education. Upon his death, Tariq Ali described him as "France's leading Marxist public intellectual, much in demand on talkshows and writing essays and reviews in Le Monde and Libération."[2] Bensaïd was known for his studies of Walter Benjamin and Karl Marx, and a recent analysis of French postmodernism.

He died of cancer arising from the side effects of drugs used to treat AIDS, which he had had for the previous 16 years.[2]

Criticism and debate

Bensaïd and the current of Trotskyism represented by the Unified Secretariat of the Fourth International have come under attack from more orthodox Trotskyists for the strategy they have advanced of entering the "new social movements"; in particular, for seeing reform and revolution as a false dichotomy, and proposing the formation of "broad parties," rather than forming parties of the traditional Leninist type. In one such critique, Luke Cooper criticised Bensaïd for arguing that—in certain specific circumstances—it maybe permissible to enter a capitalist government, and seek to use the existing state as an instrument of revolutionary transformation.[3] Bensaïd also debated revolutionary strategy with other Fourth International members, and the British Socialist Workers Party's International Secretary Alex Callinicos.[4]


  • with Henri Weber: Mai 1968: Une répétition générale (François Maspero, 1968)
  • La revolution et le pouvoir (Penser, 1976)
  • "In Memory of a Rebel". Telos 44, Summer 1980.
  • Walter Benjamin: sentinelle messianique (Plon, 1990)
  • La discordance des temps: essais sur les crises, les classes, l'histoire (Editions de la Passion, 1995)
  • Marx l'intempestif: Grandeurs et misères d'une aventure critique (Fayard, 1996); English translation: A Marx for Our Times: Adventures and Misadventures of a Critique (Verso, 2002)
  • Le pari mélancolique (Fayard, 1997)
  • Le sourire du spectre (Michalon, 2000)
  • Qui est le juge? (Fayard, 1999)
  • Contes et légendes de la guerre éthique (Textuel, 1999)
  • Eloge de la résistance à l'air du temps (Textuel, 1999)
  • Une lente impatience (Stock, 2004) - his autobiography; English translation: An Impatient Life: A Memoir (Verso, 2014)
  • Les irréductibles (Textuel, 2001)
  • Fragments mécréants. Mythes identitaires et république imaginaire (2005)


  1. ^ Laure Equy, "Le théoricien de la LCR, Daniel Bensaïd, est mort", Libération, 12 January 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Tariq Ali, "Daniel Bensaïd obituary", The Guardian, 14 January 2010.
  3. ^ Daniel Bensaïd and the “Return of Strategy”
  4. ^ "Hegemony and the United Front"; "The Return of Strategy".

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