generation, which he refers to as thenmocassins, were opposed to the Algeriannwar and went on a car-burning andnstreet-barricading rampage during then”Red May” of 1968. The third andnyoungest generation — which Pfisterndubs that of the baskets (i.e., those whonlike to walk around in the kind ofnsneakers used by basketball players) —nare the most uncertain and disorientednof them all.nPfister’s book is peppered with witheringnremarks about the glib opportunismnof French Socialists — the “caviarnLeft” as he terms them — and thenhollowness of their political verbiage.nAnd equally luminous is Pfister’s explanationnof why, after voting in anconservative majority in 1986, thenFrench electorate (or at any rate annappreciable number of them) did annabout-face and voted in a supposedlyn”leftist” government in 1988. Mitterrand’snvictory, he claims, was a victorynof conformism, as opposed to then”dangerous” experiments whichnFrench economic “liberals” (led by thenminister of industry, Alain Madelin)nwanted to introduce in order to reducenthe crippling power of the state andnalso the control of labor unions overnFrench industrial concerns. “An anxiousnFrance, sensitive to the reafhrmationnof its traditional values, preferrednto assure its acquisitions rather than anliberalism which, by menacing knownnreferences, was disquieting. Mitterrandnwas the president-elect of the pause,nthe elect of state conformism and ofnsocial conservatism.”nThe most ferocious pages in thisncaustic appraisal of what is going on innthe upper echelons of French governmentnare those of the conclusion, innwhich he boldly compares Mitterrandnto a “presidential vampire” who needsnto regenerate his own aging blood withnthe fresh blood of a younger generation.n”This man kills what he embraces.”nIn the 1970’s he embraced thenFrench Communist Party, and afternten deadly years he dropped it, like anlimp “bloodless rag.” In 1986 he reluctantlynembraced Jacques Chirac andnhis colleagues of the opposition, and innjust two years he had sucked them dryn”like a totally devoured fruit.” “Andnwho,” he concludes in the same ferociousnvein, “will the vampire of thenElysee presently embrace? Socialistsnand Centrists are the next victims.nChoice ones too. One need only watchnthem advancing, as though under hypnosis,ntowards the executioner, to realizenthat the process is well on its way.nAnd doubtless irreversible.”nIt is Pfister’s belief that French leftistsncan remain true to their ideals onlynwhen out of power and in opposition.nIn power, they find themselves confrontednby a more or less immovablenbureaucracy and having to administer anpopulation which over the years hasngrown increasingly property-consciousnand conservative.nOf a strikingly different tone is RegisnDebray’s severe critique. An impassionednapologia of the French Republic—nits title is Que vive la Republique!n— it is the work of a one-timenstudent of philosophy and selfappointednThird-World revolutionarynwho went off to join Che Guevara innthe mountain jungles of Bolivia, andnwhose subsequent capture by Boliviannarmy forces was soon followed (somensay as a result of indiscretions committednwhile under interrogation) by thentrapping and killing of his hero.nAn unrepentant Third-WorldnMarxist, or at any rate an impenitentnfollower of Frantz Fanon, Debray hasnan essentially militant view not only ofnFrench history but more specifically ofnthe French Republic, which he sees asn”not a regime among others, but annideal and a struggle.” Like Pfister, henhas no use for the tepid “consensus”nnow dominating French political lifenand which has found recent expressionnin a deliberate attempt to reduce thenbicentennial commemoration of thenFrench Revolution to its tamest possiblendimension. An unabashed admirernof Robespierre, Debray doesn’t hesitatento make an apologia for violence,nwithout which revolutions cannot succeed.nIt is no accident that the twon”bards” of the French Revolutionnwhom Debray most admires are thenhistorian Jules Michelet and the poetnVictor Hugo.nThe trouble, according to Debray, isnthat the French left has quietly soldnout, not simply to the stockbrokers andnthe financiers but no less perniciouslynto the purveyors of the mind-numbingnand hypnotic TV image and the “mediaticnGolden Calf” The very oppositenof a cold rationalist, Debray is a ferventnbeliever in the strength and value ofnmyths; and the decline, not to say thennndeath, of the revolutionary-collectivistnmyth that was born in 1789 and triumphantlynprolonged throughout then19th century by various forms of socialismncan only, he claims, leave annideological void, which a new and farnmore terrifying fanaticism (Islamicnfundamentalism?) may seek to fill.nMore than once, while reading thisnbook, I was reminded of Stendahl’snLucien Leuwen^the novel in whichnhis critical portrayal of the “moneygrubbing”nFrance of Louis-Philippen(I830-I848) was wistfully contrastednto the “old-fashioned” virtue he mostnadmired: witty conversation. The virtuesnRegis Debray admires are of andifferent sort, beginning with revolutionarynverve and militancy (whichnalways means against some obstacle ornadversary); but he shares the samencontempt for the chrematistic ethosnwhich Louis-Philippe’s austere premier,nFrangois Guizot, once summednup in this simple exhortation: “Enrichissez-vous”nGuizot’s regime pridednitself on being that of the juste milieu,nthe perfect middle ground between thentwo reactionary and revolutionary extremes,nwhile today Frangois Mitterrand’snFrance seems destined to repeatnhistory by becoming what the historiannFrangois Furet has called “la republiquendu Centre.” But such abject moderationnis enough to make Debray’snblood boil, simply because, as he putsnit, “there is no Republic that cannrepose solely on the riches of spectaclenor on the spectacle of riches.”nSome twenty years ago, after thenshock of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia,nthe French Communist Party’snleading philosopher, RogernGaraudy, was so soul-shaken to find hisnvisionary dreams reduced to dust thatnhe finally took refuge from the horrorsnof the present by embracing Islam. Becausenthe circumstances today are radicallyndifferent, nationally as well as internationally,nI doubt that RegisnDebray would ever take such a desperatenstep. But given his mystic streak (“Inam convinced that a socialist policyncannot survive for long after the disappearancenof a socialist mystique”) andngiven his thirst for the absolute, there isnno telling in which direction his philosophicalndismay may take him next.nCurtis Cate is a historian andnbiographer who lives in Paris.nOCTOBER 1989/49n