Sunday, May 07, 2006

Revel dies

Jean-François Revel died on 30 April at the age of 82. Revel had been a Leftist, even running as a Socialist for parliament in 1967 and he wrote speeches for the socialist François Mitterrand.

But in 1970 his book Without Marx or Jesus appeared on the scene marking an ideological shift for Revel. He argued that the true progressive force in the world was American individualism not Marxist collectivism. In spite of this Revel still saw himself as a socialist for several more years.

But he also believed that individual rights and freedom were moral absolutes and this brought him in constant conflict with the Left. He eventually concluded that communism and it’s variants could not be reformed. He wrote: “The only way to improve communism is to remove it.”

French journalist Henri Astier wrote of Revel: “Revel was always uncomfortable with the conservative label that was attached to him from the late 1970s. Many of the libertarian values he had always championed had indeed migrated to the intellectual right. But he was never close to the Gaullists, whom he knew to be worshippers of the state. Revel’s natural political home was the shrinking space in the centre, where France’s liberal misfits from both the right and the left tend to converge.”

Revel felt that the West had lost the will to defend itself from the various onslaughts from the Left, totalitarians and Islamic extremists. On that he was right. And while a friend of the United States he also said “the necessity to contain the real or eventual excesses of the American superpower call for a critical vigilance on the part of the rest of the world, and the demand of participating in decisions that concern all countries.”