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Jachec, Nancy

Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz, Jean-Paul Sartre, and the ‘Search for a Method’: a Case Study of Intellectual Exchange and Ideological Revision in the First Phase of the Cold War

‘Search for a Method’ is widely regarded as a watershed in Jean-Paul Sartre’s political thought, the point at which he began to effectively synthesise Marxism and Existentialism using the individual as an historical agent. Generally treated as a more accessible prelude to Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason, the implications of its challenge to scientific Marxism, particularly for leftist thinkers in France, have also been much remarked upon. The fact, however, that ‘Marxism and Existentialism’, the first chapter of ‘Search for a Method’, was written for the Polish cultural periodical Tworczosc has only been noted in passing. Likewise, its reception by the many Polish intellectuals who would respond to Existentialism in their own critiques of scientific Marxism during the thaws of the 1960s has received comparatively little scholarly attention. The bibliography, at least in English, for the rise of Marxist Humanism in Eastern Europe out of this period of revision, is modest.

Both Sartre and Tworczosc’s editor,the celebrated writer Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz, however, were active in several of the many, now largely forgotten intellectual exchange organisations that maintained contact between Eastern and Western Europe, and the CCF, the World Peace Council and the Société Européenne de Culture brought them regularly into direct contact between the late 1940s and mid 1960s. Using the origins of ‘Marxism and Existentialism’ as a case study, this paper will consider the nature and importance of the activities of these organisations in maintaining intellectual discussion between Sartre and Iwaszkiewicz, and between the two Europes, in the first phase of the Cold War, and the opportunities they presented for ideological revision and eventual political change.

Saturday 31 Oct 9.30 -11.30 SESSION 7
Panel: Intellectual and Dissident Activism