1946 – 2010 • France
Trotskyist • Internationalist
Bensaïd’s Jewish father’s two brothers were killed during the German Occupation. In his autobiography he reproduced the official document certifying his mother’s “non-membership of the Jewish race”. Without it, he noted, he would never have been born. He joined the Communist Party at the age of sixteen. But he soon became a dissident.
In 1966 with Alain Krivine [b. 1941] he helped found the Trotskyist Jeunesse communiste révolutionnaire (JCR – Revolutionary Communist Youth).
During the 1968 general strike he became prominent as a speaker and activist in the student movement. When the JCR was banned in 1968 he helped to found what became the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR – Revolutionary Communist League).
Bensaïd became part of the leadership of the new organisation, which grew rapidly in the aftermath of 1968. Krivine ran for the presidency twice, in 1969 and 1974, and the organisation launched a weekly paper, Rouge (red), which between 1976 and 1979 became a daily (Bensaïd was heavily involved in this).
He also took responsibility, as part of the Ligue Communiste‘s leadership, for the military-style attack on an anti-immigrant meeting of the far right Ordre Nouveau at the Mutualité in Rue Saint Victor on June 21 1973. The attack was a serious error of judgement that led to the Ligue communiste and Ordre Nouveau both being banned a week later..
Bensaïd also became a leading figure in the Fourth International, and took particular responsibilities for Latin America. He was a university lecturer in philosophy, and wrote copiously; he was the author of around forty books, on topics ranging from the history of Trotskyism to Joan of Arc.
He survived AIDS for some sixteen years before dying of cancer as a result of the drugs he had been obliged to take.