Special issue of ANZJES
Editors: Cat Moir and Bronwyn Winter
Assistant Editor: Robert Boncardo
In the German-speaking world, the memory of the Reformation has often been closely connected to the theory of German historical exceptionalism, the idea that Germany’s historical development took a ‘special path’ (Sonderweg) to modernity. Yet considering how much attention has been paid to the question of a German Sonderweg and the significance of Weimar as a turning point in the story, scholars have paid little attention to the ideology of exceptionalism in the Weimar Republic itself. This article contributes to the historiography of the Sonderweg debate by examining the complex ways in which the poet Hugo Ball (1886-1927) and the philosopher Ernst Bloch (1885-1977) traced a narrative of German exceptionalism back to the Reformation era. It argues that these writers appealed to the intellectual and political legacies of the Reformation in an attempt to explain the formative events of their own time: the First World War, and the Russian and German Revolutions. The divergent ideological conclusions they drew reveals much about the conflicted atmosphere of Weimar thought, in which German intellectuals struggled to bridge the gap between crisis and tradition.
The Russian revolution was the defining episode of the twentieth century. It led to the transformation of Russia into one of the superpowers on the globe, but one that exhibited a development model that was both different from and a challenge to the predominant model in the West. The Soviet experiment offered a different model for organising society. This was at the basis of the way in which international politics in the whole post-second world war period was structured by the outcome of the Russian revolution. But in addition, that revolution helped to shape domestic politics in the West in very significant ways. All told, the revolution was of world historical and world shaping importance.
This paper explores a polemic between André Breton and Georges Bataille around the question of the politics of the avant-garde. Focussing on texts composed in the late 1920s, principally Breton’s Second Manifesto of Surrealism and Bataille’s ‘The “Old Mole” and the Prefix Sur in the Words Surhomme and Surrealist’, this paper argues that in examining this debate around matter and material, it is possible to extract two distinct conceptions of the places of subjectivity and revolution in avant-garde aesthetics. While Breton wishes to separately define the idealist aesthetic projects of Surrealism and the materialist project for revolution, Bataille argues that a commitment to that materialist project requires a similarly materialist aesthetics.
The immediate post-World War Two period was marked by the consensus across the major French political parties that the retention of the empire was a vital component in the nation’s bid to recover its role in the world. This consensus extended to the French Communist Party (PCF) that had emerged as the largest post-war party and participated in the tripartite governments of the IVth Republic until May 1947. The support or lack of support that the PCF gave to independence movements in the French colonies has been widely studied in relation to Indochina and Algeria. However very little has been published on its role in the UN Trust Territory of French Cameroon, where a widely supported independence movement, the Union des populations du Cameroun (UPC) sought to free the territory from French control. The focus of this article is on the evolution of PCF policy towards the colonies and on the relations between the UPC and the PCF in the crucial years 1947-57 that led up to the independence of Cameroon, through an analysis of articles in the communist press, correspondence between the two ‘fraternal’ parties, and reports by French authorities. The path that led to the suppression of the UPC in Cameroon must be understood in the context of the role of the other major players in this Cold War confrontation: the USSR and the US, the UN and the international community more broadly, and successive French governments.
Alain Badiou’s Maoism has long been the subject of controversy. In this paper, we approach the topic of Badiou’s Maoism by way of the references he and his erstwhile Maoist group, the UCFML, made to the 1967 Shanghai Commune. We argue that Badiou and the UCFML’s invocations of Mao and Mao’s writings are subordinate to their interpretation of the political stakes of the Shanghai Commune as a privileged episode in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. We proceed by comparing Badiou and the UCFML to two of the most prominent French Maoist groups, the PCMLF and the GP, before situating Badiou’s use of Mao’s name within the conceptual terms of his 1982 work Theory of the Subject.