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“The ultra-left knew, against all odds, to renew itself and acquire a notorious influence”

Actor, journalist, writer, historian, Christophe Bourseiller specializes in the study of political extremisms as illustrated Extremism: a great contemporary fear (CNRS Editions, 2012) or even General history of the ultra-left (Denoël, 2003). The regeneration of this current has also led him to offer a new opus with New history of the ultra-left (Editions du Cerf, 392 pages, 24 euros).

Your new book takes up the matrix of “General history of the ultragauche”, published in 2003. What has changed in twenty years?

In 2003, I mistakenly thought that the ultra-left was a phenomenon specific to the XXe century and that it would die out in the XXIe century for two reasons: first because the ultra-left was built with reference to the Soviet Union, by asserting that it was not a question of a “degenerated workers’ state” but of a dictatorship, of state capitalism. As the USSR had disappeared, this landmark no longer had any reason to exist.

“More to the left than the ultra-left, there isn’t. They see themselves as the ultimate enemies of this world ”

On the other hand, this current had been seriously “damaged” by the engagement of some of its actors in negationism from the end of the 1970s. On this basis, I thought it was on the verge of extinction. I was seriously wrong. It turned out that, during the last twenty years, several generations have emerged and the ultra-left has known, against all odds, to renew itself and acquire a notorious influence.

There is often a confusion between ultra-left and extreme left. What are the differences ?

The ultra-left is absolutely not the extreme left. If we had to schematize, the ultra-left is a current that is included in the extreme left. The term extreme left covers a set of political currents, groups, which fight for a radical change of society, and which want to achieve it by violence, to lead to the communist revolution. In these groups, there are those who are authoritarian, like the Maoists or the Trotskyists, and others who are anti-authoritarian, the ultra-left. It thus schematically embodies the anti-authoritarian pole of the far left.

But there is more. Those who are classified in the ultra-left are also distinguished by a kind of outbidding: more to the left than the ultra-left, there is not. They see themselves as the ultimate enemies of this world, and do not feel the need to establish political strategies, they want to destroy it, by striking the symbols of the State, of capitalism or of authority.

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