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New Left Review I/104, July-August 1977

Louis Althusser

On the Twenty-Second Congress of the French Communist Party

I should like to thank the Sorbonne Philosophy Circle of the Union of Communist Students for inviting me to participate in this discussion. [*] I here present the text of remarks made on 16 December 1976, in a lecture theatre at the Sorbonne, as an introduction to a public discussion. I have endeavoured to retain the limits and the theses of my original argument, doing no more than to make certain passages either simpler and clearer, or more explicit. 6 May 1977. l.a. I was left free to choose my own subject. I felt that in France today, not only for Communists but also for all who want to get rid of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, its exploitation, its oppression, its cynicism and its lies, there was no subject more important than the 22nd Congress of the French Communist Party. I shall therefore present a series of brief comments on the import of the 22nd Congress. To make my position clear, let me say that I regard this congress as a decisive event, a crucial ‘turning-point’ in the history of the Communist Party and the French workers’ movement. The reservations I may formulate on any particular point should be seen within this perspective from the start. If what is in question is indeed an event of such importance, then it is clearly impossible for us to restrict ourselves to French political history, the details of the Congress and its proceedings, or to the letter of its decisions and formulations alone. It is essential to go beyond these immediate manifestations and examine under what conditions the 22nd Congress took place: from what history it was trying to emerge, and what history it was attempting to make.

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Louis Althusser, ‘On the Twenty-Second Congress of the French Communist Party’, NLR I/104: £3

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