Well known in Italy, Girard is a figure in much need of a reappraisal in the anglophone world. LMX Unlimited—in the course of unrelated inquiry—discovered a partial archive of Girard’s then-obscure Detroit work, a series of manuscripts and articles from the mid 70’s, mostly published by various radical presses in Ann Arbor and Detroit. An influential figure in certain strains of Post-Marxism, we began visiting the continental archives and contacting fellow researchers with the aim of reconstructing Girard’s time in Detroit. These products are the result of that research: a unique collaboration in absentia between Girard, Carhartt and LMX ULTD. A rebranding of secondhand clothes with—for the first time publicly displayed since its creation—the image of Girard’s Third Republic of Detroit flag, an icon meant to adorn his conception of the liberated self-sufficient city-state qua ‘community.’
While several texts in English exist online, we would like to present some brief biographical notes on Maurice Girard’s life and work up to this project’s intersection with his thought:
Maurice Girard (b. 1949)
Maurice Girard’s early life remains a subject in conflict. The author himself maintained his Corsican birth as an a fundamental quality going so far as to claim, in his confessional roman à clef Behind the Edge of the Spear (2008), that: “My being is but an extension of the struggle of Corsica, my birth a simple reflection of that great updraft of national potential. I am nothing with it, nothing without.” Despite this lifelong vehemence, recent archival evidence uncovered and generously shared with us by Paul Griet, Girard’s biographer, dates his immigration to the island at the age of nine.
The researcher further claims that his parents were forced into exile in the late 50’s, not as the typical pieds-noir rightists, but as odd and obstinate Gaullists apparently at deadly odds with their expanded social circle, an esoteric group of intellectuals with strong ties to the Italian fraternal salons: Evola, et al. A tremendous and illuminating claim, if one that is less well sourced. Presumably this revision of Girard’s life and work will be explicated in Griet’s long awaited and presumably definitive biography.
A gifted, if difficult, student, Girard was a combatant both intellectually and martially in the factional struggles of the then thriving institutions of independence on Corsica. A figure of prominence in multiple reading groups and salons, he published several pamphlets as a young man demanding the Italian reconquest of the island on the basis of ‘national dialectics’ a slightly inchoate but compelling understanding of the construction of the liberated individual as the social unit of national coherency via the erection of borders—if only provisionally. In some form or another these insights would serve as the motor of all his subsequent thought.
Fluent in Italian, French and Corsican, he made the typically contrarian decision to continue his education in France, where his nascent organizing was entirely untenable politically. Indeed his work struck many cadres of the boisterous left intellectual scene of Paris as essentially fascistic, while he understood most of his new interlocutors to be vulgar Trotskyists. At first only Maoist presses would publish his work and his first two incendiary didactic novels The Crooked and Straight (1962) and The Alligator (1964) were edition by the now infamous but then marginal ‘Ligne de Masse Ecrits.’
These initial publications ignited a productive period for Girard who took part in various campus raids and protests in the internecine conflicts of the Parisian radical set. At a feverous pace he produced several collections of poetry as well as copious amounts of pamphlets and articles, many published and republished with extensive revisions, evidence of a developing mind. After 5 years in France he made the then shocking turn to follow a comrade to Italy to join the International Communist Party (ICP) after a long correspondence with Bordiga himself.
His Italian years produced The Body Who I am Not (1972) perhaps Girard’s most well known and most orthodox contribution to the Post-Marxist canon. Well read and commented to this day, it is his following less understood and even less discussed itinerant period that interests us.
Leaving Italy after the collapse of the federated module of the party to which he had true fealty, Girard traveled to Ethiopia by way of various Italian connections, apparently living in a community of exiled intellectual nobility from Mussolini’s nascent academic court. While of course speculative, a later fictionalized segment in his novel Speedboats (1993) appears to reflect on this incident, depicting an odd coterie of ex-fascists for whom all conventional concern over realpolitik had atrophied, replaced with endless competition in paper war games (a genre of which they kept diligently updated, receiving various trade magazines and continually shipping in new game manuals) inside a compound supposedly constructed from a series of architectural sketches by none other than Bendetta Cappa.
Following this evocative period we know Girard spends time in Cairo, Zug and Libson before a brief period of manic production in New York City (the infamously viscous and exculpating treatise on Italian Communism, Principle without Method (1973) was written in this period but his contentious encounters with both the cities old and new lefts would waylay its printing and publication) before settling in Detroit. Working with fellow travelers disenchanted with Marxism but elementally set in a Marxist dispotif, Girard embarks on his first project of micronational liberation: ‘the mode of physical coup.’
Detroit for Girard was a perfect parallel to Corsica, in his mind the city was primed to release itself from the United States, from the state of Michigan, and become a city state which could actualize its true productive capacity best within its own borders, responding to internal inputs and signals. Based on a heterodox reading of Marx’s ‘Fragment on Machines’, Girard predicted—and perhaps overestimated—the potential of automation within late-capitalist real subsumption. This period of his organizing is poorly documented, with almost all material coming from various radical presses and papers in and around Kalamazoo, Detroit and Ann Arbor, each with its own arcane ideological commitments, making untangling fact from fiction from agitprop difficult. His “revolt to free the unleash the serpent, to become the ultimate prey for the eagle” (animals taking a special place in his work, especial his ‘pedagogical novels’ which continually reintroduce his various themes though specific creatures) did not fully succeed by the measure of his ambition.
Special thanks to Genoa based curator Giulia Mazzi for the most complete and probable overview of a contentious biography. This project would not have been possible without the many long conversations and extreme generosity she shared with LMX Unlimited.