Régis Debray

intellectual, journalist, official, professor

Jules Régis Debray (born 2 September 1940) is a French philosopher, journalist, and political figure. Debray was most prominent in the 1960's composing numerous revolutionary texts and participated in guerilla warfare alongside Che Guevara.

Régis Debray in 1970



Révolution dans la révolution? (1967)

  • We are never completely contemporaneous with our present. History advances in disguise; it appears on stage wearing the mask of the preceding scene, and we tend to lose the meaning of the play. Each time the curtain rises, continuity has to be re-established. The blame, of course is not history's but lies in our vision, encumbered with memory and images learned in the past.
    • p.17
  • One may well consider it a stroke of good luck that Fidel Castro had not read the military writings of Mao Tse-Tung before disembarking on the coast of Oriente: he could thus invent, on the spot and to of his own experience, principles of a military doctrine in conformity with the terrain. It was only at the end of the war, when their tactics were already defined, that the rebels discovered the writings of Mao.
    • p.20
  • All decisive revolutionary processes must begin and have begun with certain missteps for the reason that we have mentioned: because the existing points of departure are those left by the preceding historical period, and they are used, even if unconsciously.
    • p.23
  • In each country that has experienced a revolution a confrontation has taken place between revolutionaries on one side and reformists and future renegades on the other.
    • p. 23
  • Today, self-defense as a system and as a reality has been liquidated by the march of events.
    • p. 27
  • In Vietnam above all, and also in China, armed self defense of the peasants, organized in militias, has played an important role as the foundation stone of the structure of the armed forces of liberation-but self-defense extended to zones already militarily liberated or semi-liberated; in no way did it bring autonomous zones into being. These territories of self defense were viable only because total war was being carried out on other fronts, with the regular and mobile forces of the Vietminh. They permitted the integration of the entire population into the war without resting the principal weight of the struggle upon it. By dispersing the French expeditionary force, these zones lightened the task of the regular and semi-regular forces and permitted them to concentrate a maximum of troops on battle fronts chosen in accordance with the strategic plans of the General Staff. Even less than in Vietnam can self-defense be self-sufficing in Latin America-at least not if one aims to avoid the elimination of the civilian population.
    • p.30
  • In order to destroy one army, another army is necessary, and this ipmlies training, discipline, and arms. Freternity and bravery do not make an army. Witness Spain, and the Paris Commune.
    • p. 35
  • We know that Trotskyism flies in the face of common sense, in that its strength lies in its division. It is everywhere and nowhere. It exposes itself by hiding itself. I is never what it is, Trotskyist. The Trotskyist ideology has reappeared today from several directions, taking as its pretext several transitory defeats suffered by revolutionary action, but always propositions the same "strategy for taking power".
    • p. 36
  • Condemned to exist in the present within the categories of the past, Trotskyism withers on the vine.
    • p. 36
  • We know that Trotskyism flies in the face of common sense, in that its strength lies in its division. It is everywhere and nowhere. It exposes itself by hiding itself. It is never what it is, Trotskyist.
    • p. 36
  • At bottom Trotskyism is a metaphysic paved with good intentions.* It is based on a belief in the natural goodness of the workers, which is always perverted by evil bureaucracies but never destroyed. There is a proletarian essence within peasants and workers alike which cannot be altered by circumstances. For them to become aware of it themselves, it is only necessary that they be given the word, that objectives be set for them which they see without seeing and which they know without knowing. Result: socialism becomes a reality, all at once, without delay, neat and tidy.
    • p.39

Quotes about

  • The international disputes which united and divided Luxemburg, Lenin, Lukács, Gramsci, Bordiga or Trotsky on these issues represent the last great strategic debate in the European workers’ movement. Since then, there has been little significant theoretical development of the political problems of revolutionary strategy in metropolitan capitalism that has had any direct contact with the masses. The structural divorce between original Marxist theory and the main organizations of the working class in Europe has yet to be historically resolved. The May-June revolt in France, the upheaval in Portugal, the approaching dénouement in Spain, presage the end of this long divorce, but have not accomplished it. The classical debates, therefore, still remain in many respects the most advanced limit of reference we possess today. It is thus not mere archaism to recall the strategic confrontations which occurred four or five decades ago. To reappropriate them, on the contrary, is a step towards a Marxist discussion that has the—necessarily modest—hope of assuming an ‘initial shape’ of correct theory today. Régis Debray has spoken, in a famous paragraph, of the constant difficulty of being contemporary with our present. In Europe at least, we have yet to be sufficiently contemporary with our past.
    • Perry Anderson, "The Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci", New Left Review (1976)
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