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New Left Review 41, September-October 2006

Gregory Elliott on Michael Scott Christofferson, French Intellectuals Against the Left. Pathbreaking revisionist history of French liberalism’s ‘anti-totalitarian’ awakening.



A paradoxical consequence of the end of the Cold War in the peaceful implosion of ‘real socialism’ was a widespread restoration of confidence in the original ideological currency of the Free World. ‘Totalitarianism’ became the de facto gold standard of commentary on the Communist experience. Unsurprisingly, it was pervasive in Eastern Europe and the ex-ussr, where no less a figure than Mikhail Gorbachev (sometime General-Secretary of the cpsu, subsequently hawker for Pizza Hut) had recourse to it. Further West, it and its analogues (e.g. ‘ideocracy’) supplied the master-key of such signal interventions as Martin Malia’s The Soviet Tragedy (1994), François Furet’s Passing of an Illusion (1995), or Stéphane Courtois et al’s Black Book of Communism (1997).

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Gregory Elliott, ‘Parisian Impostures’, NLR 41: £3

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