August 14, 2004
Just A Coincidence, I Hope

InstaPundit points us to this note in The American Thinker:

The current issue of the Hoover Institution's Policy Review has the first English translation of a remarkable document ("Outline of a Doctrine of French Policy") written in 1945 by French philosopher Alexander Kojève, and given to Charles de Gaulle. This appears to have become a guiding light to French diplomats and politicians over the last 60 years.

'Ed' continues with a brief summary of the document, which is on-line here. (Thanks, Policy Review!) Elsewhere in the same issue, Robert Howse provides a longer analysis, "Kojève’s Latin Empire".

What neither InstaPundit, nor Ed, nor Robert Howse mentions is that Kojève was apparently a Soviet agent for 30 years, including when he wrote the article. At least so says The New Criterion (18.3, November 1999, 2-3), and they don't seem to be in the habit of making stuff up. They attribute the discovery to "Daniel Johnson . . . in the London Daily Telegraph", but I have been unable to find the original article on the Telegraph's website with their irritatingly unhelpful search function. The New Criterion's site seems to be down for maintenance today, so I don't know whether their story is on-line either. In any case, it does not give the evidence for Kojève's career as an agent of Stalin and his successors.

I've only read bits of Kojève's "Outline" so far, but did run across one amusing and (I'm sure) unintentional pun. He refers to the Soviet Union more than once as the "Slavo-Soviet Empire". Is that "Slavo-" with a short A, referring to Slavs, or with a long A, referring to slaves? Surely the former, and the pun must not be there at all in the French, where Slavs are 'Slaves' but slaves are 'esclaves'. However, it sounds right to me both ways.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at August 14, 2004 01:53 PM

The Times got it from one of the French newspapers. I don't remember which one but I don't think that it was Le Monde.

Posted by: David on August 16, 2004 11:12 AM

About the pun: oui et non...
Slavs have been slaves for a long time... French slave (Slavic) and esclave (slave) are both from the Med. Latin sclavus, which as far as I know started out as Slav and, because most Slavs were, became slave. That the Latinophones discarded or modified servus, indicates they took the Slav/slave thing pretty seriously. The connection was explicitly pointed out in a class I took in France some years back, but I'm not sure whether French schoolchildren are given the same information. My guess is that the pun is not only unintentional, but would pass unnoticed by those who weren't hyperlinguistically-conscious language mavens. That said, rather than wonder whether Kojčve was up to something - probably not - we should content ourselves with the curious ways that the truth will out.

Posted by: Geoffrey Barto on August 18, 2004 06:05 AM

Contrary to the suggestion of Dr. Weevil I did mention the rumor or assertion that Kojeve was a Soviet agent in my article.

Rob howse

Posted by: rob howse on September 25, 2004 09:26 AM