In the following we publish the obituary of Guy Sabatier, written by a companion of his, which has been published in French, Italian and English on the ICT’s website. It relates his lifetime engagement as an internationalist in the milieu(s) of the communist Left since the end of the 1960s in France. We have accompanied this by a provisional list of titles from his works that tries to demonstrate their scope, versatility and depth.
We have become acquainted with Guy through his participation in the Forum for the internationalist communist Left (Controverses), and express our condolences to his family members, close friends and companions for the loss of this remarkable person and militant.
Henry Cinnamon, January 14, 2023.
A Militant in Social Struggles
Guy Sabatier left us on 4 January 2023. He remained a revolutionary militant of the working class throughout his life.
In 1968-9, during those years of important struggles of the working class (the decade of wildcat strikes which descended on the world), he co-founded the ‘Movement for Spontaneous Revolutionary Action’ (Mouvement d’action révolutionnaire spontané, MARS), then the ‘Councilist Group of Clermont-Ferrand’ (Organisation conseilliste de Clermont-Ferrand, OCCF), at the age of 19-20 years. (1) He was born on 23 October 1947 [in the Cévennes region, southern France].
From July 1971, he participated with the OCCF, ‘Council Communist Notes’ (Cahiers de communisme de conseils) and ‘International Revolution’ (Révolution internationale, RI), in a series of discussions which supposedly led to a revolutionary regroupment that gave birth to RI (new series). (2)
From December 1972 to January 1974, he was part of RI. In February of the same year he then founded the journal ‘Young Mole’ (Jeune Taupe), (3) believing RI to be a group of “theoreticians” and that it was necessary to intervene to a greater degree in the working class. The name of the group was ‘For a Communist Intervention’ (Pour une intervention communiste, PIC). PIC existed from February 1974 to October 1981, subsequently evolving into ‘Communist Will’ (Volonté communiste), which published Révolution sociale until February 1983, before undergoing a severe internal political crisis. (4)
But like so many of those who were politicised by the social struggles in the 1960s, it was difficult for him to understand that the political situation had changed and that the working class had experienced a profound defeat. A political crisis of the revolutionary milieu followed. Only those groups with relevant politics and political continuity survived.
Previously, in 1977, PIC and Guy had taken part in the Conferences of the Communist Left called by the ‘Internationalist Communist Party’ (Partito Comunista Internazionalista, PCInt), who published the journal Battaglia Comunista. At the time, PIC refused to participate in the second conference of November 1978 for two basic reasons: the invitations were too broad (notably the various “Bordigist” “international communist parties” were no longer seen to be part of the Communist Left), and the conditions for joining were too vague (see for example the commentary on the different points of membership in their letter). (5)
The “Terrible Years”, the Political Desert
Guy never let go despite the unfavourable conditions; he always remained in the struggle for the cause of the working class. He began to write articles for the journal Spartacus, launched by René Lefeuvre and published from 1975 to 1979 in collaboration with other revolutionaries.
In 2007, Guy immediately responded favourably when there was talk of translating and publishing the journal Kommunist. We had presented the plan to Cahiers Spartacus first, but they declined the offer, and in the meantime the Éditions Smolny was created and accepted the project. I involved him since he had been the first among us to emphasise the Left Bolsheviks at the time of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. In September 2010 he took part in the conference in Moscow “On Post-Soviet Capitalism in the Current Context”. At the same time, he always paid attention to the political meetings of the groups of the Communist Left; notably, he participated in the launch of the book Bordiga Beyond the Myth by Damen, presented by ‘Bilan et Perspectives’ and the IBRP (now the ICT) on 18 December 2011 in Paris.
Since the journal ‘Controverses’ started operating in June 2009, (6) he wanted to participate. He did so with all his typical passion and as much as he was able to. But then he fell seriously ill from a grave stroke; yet he never ceased political discussion, and would always light up when we met with him.
The Lives of Guy
Guy always had a passion for theatre: most notably, he created the troupe Théâtre du Sens. He worked hard to give life to this troupe, which was well regarded in the milieu as very professional. He was also interested in 19th Century theatre, having written a great work in two volumes, The Melodrama of the Social Republic and the Theatre of Félix Pyat (Le mélodrame de la république sociale et le théâtre de Félix Pyat).
He was also part of the Jean Malaquais Society, (7) since he had a keen interest in the four old comrades whom he had known: Robert “Musso”, Jean Malaquais, Marc Chirik and Henri Chazé – the “Four”, as they were known. He was working on a play about these four comrades.
He also worked on another play on the death of Rosa Luxemburg: The Eden Hotel in the Mists of Time (L’hôtel Eden dans la nuit des temps). (8) He did not want to leave his work unfinished!
Guy will forever remain alive in our thoughts … despite our political disagreements and his sudden outbursts, as an old member of PIC, Alain R., reminded me yesterday.
Guy was an indefatigable militant of the working class during difficult times, but also a friend. All our sympathy goes to his partner Catherine, who accompanied him in courage for several years.
Guy was a comrade and a communist, and we shall continue his fight!
M.O. – Bilan et Perspectives, January 8th, 2023.
Notes by the Author
The above text is not a biography of Guy Sabatier, but a tribute to an internationalist militant; others will no doubt take up the task of writing a more rigorous one.
However, we could not omit to mention the “Faurisson Affair” concerning the gas chambers and Holocaust denial. At the time, we and others roundly condemned this drift by PIC and Guy. We will be content to quote a letter by Henri Chazé criticising PIC at the time.
“The Faurisson Affair – even before that infamous tract, I had written repeatedly to G.S. [Guy Sabatier] … They were all really caught with their pants down [“se sont eux-mêmes accrochés une drôle de casserole au cul”] … This debacle of the gas chambers is unbelievably stupid! … And I had reminded G.S. of my own testimony (not from Sachsenhausen) … as I wrote to G.S., this affair will destroy all their credibility… and it’s a shame because they are publishing interesting things … amongst which an article on the question of organisation which shows that all the key thinkers have screwed up like everyone after them …” Letter from Henri Chazé, 19 January 1981. (9)
[We, of course, differ from Chazé on the question of organisation.]
Source: Guy Sabatier, un internationaliste, Friday, January 13, 2023, translated and published by the CWO with the same date: Guy Sabatier, an Internationalist.
Minor linguistic changes; the footnotes have been made more specific and have been extended.
The editor, January 14, 2023.
Some Titles of Guy Sabatier’s Works
1 The political platform of the OCCF, July 1971 (pdf).
2 Cf.: Révolution Internationale, issue #5, July 1971 (pdf).
3 Cf.: P.I.C., Jeune Taupe, issue #1, February 1974 (pdf).
4 A history of P.I.C. which merited clarification. Cf. : Histoire : les groupes PIC et Volonté communiste.(‘Échanges’ n° 105 – 106 – 107; Summer – Winter 2003).
5 Cf.: P.I.C.’s letter of refusal, September 1978 in Jeune Taupe issue #25, March-April 1979, p. 11 ff. (pdf).
6 Web site: Controversies, organ of the Forum for the Internationalist Communist Left (English language section).
7 Web site: Société Jean Malaquais.
8 In Controverses nº 5, May 2018 (French language)
9 Source : Correspondence between Gaston Davoust (Henry Chazé) and Guy Sabatier (1975–1984), International Institute of Social History (IISH/IISG), Amsterdam, “Guy Sabatier Papers“.