Hector Benoit

Photo by Graciela Rodriguez


Hector Benoit was a genius. And like all geniuses, temperamental, explosive and always very self-aware

Fate wanted a man tormented by anguish and despair in the face of life's paradoxes and miseries to die unexpectedly and in peace. This is how Hector Benoit passed away in the early hours of this Monday, December 05, 2022, sleeping and with no time for goodbyes and lamentations. His Uruguayan temperament, Hector Benoit was proudly Basque-Uruguayan, he certainly would not tolerate us crying on his deathbed.

Hector Benoit was a professor of philosophy at Unicamp. Graduated in philosophy at USP in the 1970s, to circumvent military censorship of Marxist studies, he dedicated himself to the study of ancient dialectics and the works of Plato. Between 1982 and 1990 he became a master and doctor of philosophy under the guidance of the late and renowned professor José Cavalcante de Souza. He learned Greek and read the Platonic dialogues directly in his mother tongue. From this reading emerged an original and revolutionary interpretation of the Platonic dialogues, the opposite of the French readings led by the structuralism of Victor Goldschmidt.

At the same time, he learned German and studied Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche and Heidegger also in the original. In the 1990s, he became a professor of philosophy at Unicamp, where he retired in 2015. He was leader and founder of the GTs Plato e o Platonismo e Marx e a Tradição Dialectic at Anpof in the 2000s. He was Director of the CPA (Centro do Pensamento Antigo) and a member of CEMARX (Center for Marxist Studies) at Unicamp. He was a member of the Editorial Board of the journals Marxist Criticism e October and founder of the defunct magazine added value.

However, Hector Benoit, although he may be recognized as a Platonist, Hegelian, Nietzschean or Heideggerian, was never actually one. Hector Benoit was a Marxist. Trotskyist Marxist. Benoit was a Trotskyist militant from his youth and throughout his political life. He died criticizing the post-Lenin Soviet experience and the bureaucratic Marxism that grew out of it. He died believing and defending the classic theses of Marxism, the proletariat as the vanguard of the revolution, the need for a revolutionary party, a rigorous intellectual, dialectical and philosophical formation of the militants and the organization and international solidarity of the proletariat.

His experience with the Socratic dialectic and the other philosophers studied allowed him to go beyond the canonical reading and interpretation of certain dominant inspirations in Brazilian Marxism about the work of Karl Marx, and to revolutionize certain consecrated and dogmatic interpretations about the dialectic, of The capital, history, class struggle, Engels' role in interpreting the work of Marx, the party, Lenin, Trotsky, the Soviet Revolution, the Brazilian revolution and the central role of the Brazilian proletariat in the international revolution.

His ruthless Trotskyist-inspired criticisms of the Stalinist experience did not, however, lead him to close his eyes to the history of Trotskyism itself, international and Brazilian, to its theoretical and political deviations, to its abandonment of Trotsky's own classical and internationalist Marxism, to its anti-proletarian vacillations, their nationalist adherences and their opportunistic entanglements and, especially, the avant-garde and degenerative disease of leftism and sectarianism that affects a large part of Trotskyist political organizations.

Hector Benoit was a genius. And like all geniuses, temperamental, explosive and always very self-aware. But, Benoit was not just any genius, Hector Benoit was like one of those geniuses announced by Socrates in the Phaedrus, of those geniuses taken by a madness and an inspiration so divine and so profound that only to them would the truths and beauties brought by the Muses be revealed. Hector Benoit was one of those irrational madmen illuminated by a truth so clear and luminous that it could not be easily understood by our modern-inspired rationalism and our schematic and bureaucratized Marxism.

Due to his rich intellectual and philosophical background, Hector Benoit wanted to be a poet and playwright, due to the rigor of his studies on the dialogues of Socrates and Plato and his crazy, restless and anti-bureaucratic Dionysian genius, Hector Benoit was leagues and leagues away from a good part of this soulless, lifeless, repetitive and monotonous Brazilian Marxism, which refuses to recreate itself, to renew itself and to revolutionize itself intellectually and politically.

Hector Benoit lived in anguish and sadness. He couldn't stand the intellectual and spiritual poverty of Brazilian Marxism. He couldn't stand life and our mediocrity. He lived sunk in crises and dissatisfied. Despite this life, Hector Benoit had beautiful moments of joy when he spoke of Socrates, Plato and Marx, of his adventures and misadventures, love, football, Palmeiras, which he considered unfair not having a World Cup, and the Uruguayan national team. He wept when Luis Suárez, the Uruguayan anti-hero, was expelled from the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 for having rashly bit the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.

But Hector Benoit now died in peace and we are intellectually poorer. We can only hope that new enlightened madmen like him will emerge and take us out of this intellectual and political quagmire that has taken over Marxism and Brazilian society!

*Anderson Prado

*Carlos Prado

*Christiano Tortatto

*Eduardo Ferreira Chagas

*Fabiano Joaquim da Costa

*Fabio Sobral

*Gerson Pereira Filho

*Gustavo Machado

*Jadir Antunes

*Jair Antunes

* Joanir Fernando Ribeiro

* Julia Lemos Vieira

* Paulo Denisar Fraga

* Pedro Tarozzo

*Pericles Ariza

*Rafael Padial

*Ricardo Pereira de Melo

*Rodrigo O. Antonio

* Thais Andre

*Zaira Rodrigues Vieira

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