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  • Revolution as Redemption: Daniel Guérin, Religion and Spirituality

    David Berry

    Chapter from the book: Christoyannopoulos A. & Adams M. 2020. Essays in Anarchism and Religion: Volume III.

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    The contribution of Daniel Guérin (1904-1988) to the ‘rehabilitation’ of anarchism in the 1960s is well known, as is his commitment to anticolonialism and gay liberation. Based on biographical research on Guérin’s early years examining the reasons for his ‘conversion’ to revolutionary politics (given his social origins in the Parisian grande bourgeoisie), this chapter asks to what extent we can say that his political commitments from 1930 onwards were motivated or underlain by religious or spiritual ideas, or represented some kind of political or secular religion. Using unpublished archival sources as well as Guérin’s autobiographical and fictional writings, I examine the various childhood influences on his ethical and spiritual ideas, especially his discovery as a teenager of Tolstoy and his close friendship during the 1920s with the novelist François Mauriac, as evidenced in their correspondence, which makes clear the spiritual crisis Guérin struggled through as he sought to reconcile his concern with sexual liberation, his evident fideistic tendencies, and the reactionary stance of the Catholic church. Moral outrage and guilt over his own privileges led him to seek redemption through a Gandhian ‘religion of service’, putting himself at the service of the Revolution (with a capital R) in order to help the oppressed and exploited achieve liberation. Love (‘fraternity’, ‘mana’) was central to his thinking and to his responses to others’ suffering; for him it was constitutive of what it is to be human and therefore enabled self-realisation through ‘merging with the people’. This faith in Revolution is an aspect of what Gentile calls a ‘religion of humanity’, and of what Aron referred to as a ‘secular religion’ – a doctrine that promises ultimate salvation, but in this world.


    French history 

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    Berry, D. 2020. Revolution as Redemption: Daniel Guérin, Religion and Spirituality. In: Christoyannopoulos A. & Adams M (eds.), Essays in Anarchism and Religion. Stockholm: Stockholm University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16993/bbb.e

    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    Published on June 11, 2020


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