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The French Anti-Stalinists

In response to:

A Different ‘Darkness at Noon’ from the April 7, 2016 issue

To the Editors:

Michael Scammell notes that the French translation of Darkness At Noon sold four hundred thousand copies in immediate postwar France [NYR, April 7]. He declares that the book was widely credited with contributing to the defeat of an attempt by the French Communist Party to amend the constitution in 1946. The influence of the Koestler text is undeniable. However, France had a deeply rooted anti-Stalinist culture of the left and authors like Victor Serge and Boris Souveraine, with their firsthand descriptions of the deformations of the Soviet Revolution, were widely read. Additionally, the large French Socialist Party was firm in its adherence to democratic socialism and a socially critical segment of French Catholicism with a distinctive approach to Marxism was very influential. Koestler’s book was but one factor in the failure of the French Communist Party to achieve the intellectual hegemony it sought.

Norman Birnbaum
Professor Emeritus
Georgetown University Law Center
Washington, D.C.