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Debray, a young French philosophy student and theorist of guerrilla war, was jailed in Bolivia around the time of Che Guevara's murder in 1967 and released in 1970. These writings on politics and political theory have that French combination of abstract scholasticism and the chatty informal style which never quite concludes anything. Debray discusses the Bolivian situation -- not, however, the reasons for Guevara's failure. Gravely weighing the dangers of ""opportunism"" versus ""adventurism,"" he remains vague about what revolutionary strategy he proposes. He believes there is Good nationalism as well as Bad, Reactionary nationalism, but which comes out on top seems to be a matter beyond human intervention. Partly, no doubt, because of his prison situation, he takes a highly passive view of ""crises"" and ""balances of forces"" instead of exploring how to build a true mass movement. He points out that ""in social affairs we cannot judge men, political regimes or periods of history according to their idea of themselves, still less according to the idea they would like to give of themselves to others,"" a lesson he relearned after his initial hopes for the ""progressive"" faction of the Bolivian army. Perhaps the best thing in the book is his memoir of life at the Sorbonne and Communist Party rallies. ""It was hard to distinguish between what had too little meaning and what had too much"". . . a difficulty some readers will have with this nevertheless striking book.

Pub Date: Aug. 20th, 1973
Publisher: Random House