Marc Ferro: history as a way of life



An approach to the life and work of the French historian

To Johildo Athayde, in memory, teacher and friend who introduced me to the world of Annales,
to Sylvie Dallet and Kristian Feigelson, friends from the beginning,
to Nadja Vuckovic, Marc's secretary and friend until the end,
to Marcos Silva and José d'Assuncção for their fruitful collaboration,
to Chris, in memoriam.

Approaching the life and work of someone as impressively multifaceted as Marc Ferro's is not an easy task. The difficulty only grows when this someone is a recently deceased friend with whom I have been able to communicate directly, by correspondence or by telephone, for the last 26 years. What follows thus mixes my memory of that period with what he told me and what I read about his life and work. It's a quick approach to a record time, in response to demand from the A Terra é Redonda website.[I]

I tried to emphasize here much more Marc's life experience and the human side, in what is, above all, his trajectory before becoming Ferro, a public man, known worldwide, which he became more effectively from the 1980s onwards. This essay is, therefore, a tribute to everyone who with me – or in other networks, shared Marc Ferro's inspiration and labored by fully or even partially adopting his theories. Once, in a conversation, I asked him if he believed there was an “Iron School”. The answer was yes there was, more or less, but not that I had looked for it. And with regard to cinema and images – which highlighted the originality of his contribution with more impact -, he said that from the 2000s onwards, he wanted to deal with other issues, even because his former students and collaborators already worked better than he did. about the relationship between cinema and history. He believed he had already said what he wanted to about the interrelationship of languages.

The life and work of this thinker are intertwined to such an extent that I could not find a more appropriate subtitle for this essay: History as a Way of Life. Marc became the historian Ferro because, as he said of himself, it couldn't have been anything else. He had the opportunity to work in newspapers and at one point he even believed he could be a journalist, but soon after he saw that his path was different. He worked in television for 12 years or more, but to convey his and others' reading of 80th-century history. And it was as a thinker and producer of knowledge of the historical processes of his greatest century that he lived for more than XNUMX years of consciously critical life, until his recent death. Long before that, the history of the process had definitely captured him.

I met Ferro before I met Marc. It was in the 1980s, when he was doing his doctorate in France and I was able to watch some of his programs on television. Then, in 1987, I elaborated a project that would become, at the Federal University of Bahia, at Oficina Cinema-História and at the magazine The Eye of History[ii] (both founded with the participation of Cristiane Carvalho da Nova), very inspired by what he thought. When in 1996 we decided to hold the International Colloquium on The War in Spain and its Representations in Cinema in 1936, Ferro had already become Marc for us. He agreed to give the opening and two lectures at the event, in which José Carlos Bom Meihy (USP), Bernard Berleyne (University of Cologne), Pierre Broué (University of Grenoble), Enric Mompó and Rafael de España (University of Barcelona) also participated. and brought some films that he helped compose, such as the series of 1-minute films in which he shows, without words, the unfolding of XNUMXth century history and the one more focused on the War and the Spanish Revolution.

This created a vibrant environment with students and colleagues from different institutions and new friendships were also formed. Marc enchanted everyone and the many fruits that the Colloquium yielded, in addition to the exchange between Marc and Pierre Broué (who was invited to participate in a special episode of the Program directed for 12 years by Marc Ferro, the Side Stories from the prestigious Canal Arte)[iii], earned me a postdoctoral degree with his interlocution. It also made possible the doctorate of Cristiane Nova, who elaborated a brilliant doctoral thesis (and unfortunately still unpublished) on Time and history in Glauber Rocha.[iv] Long before that, our conviction was so great about the epistemological legitimacy of the relationship between cinema and history that we founded the Cinema-History Workshop with a dash of union between the last words. Among other issues, we considered that the cinematic language was as legitimate as the speeches and written narratives to address historical phenomena and social processes.

That's why it's hard now to know where to start this tribute to Marc Ferro. The memory is confused all the time with the analysis disturbed by the impact of the disappearance of someone for whom we develop great admiration, the author of a lifetime of combat for history, for historiographical knowledge, for the theory of history, for the history of the present, for the use of all documents and cinema in particular, not only as a source and representation, but as an “instrument” and special language for approaching historical problems. For Marc and in his perspective, no matter how distant his object was (World War I, 1917 Revolution, Decolonization, etc.), he always approached them from current issues, engaged in the present and always much more than interested in the future of humanity . Not by chance, probably the last text that Marc wrote in mid-2020, “A world without horizons: societies were already running out without Covid-19”, was for our book The Alarm sounded. The Crisis of Capitalism beyond the Pandemic. The title of the article already says almost everything and right at the opening of the book, it sentences:

“It must be noted that today humanity lives with the fear of contagion from Covid-19. The speed with which his virus spread around the world and the number of deaths it produced in a short period of time had a profound impact on populations in all corners of the planet. Who would be able to foresee such a change in our behavior? How could one imagine that, at the beginning of the XNUMXst century, more than half of the planet's population could apply themselves 'voluntarily' to a 'social confinement'? In the face of the new coronavirus pandemic, it has become clear that, inevitably, the crisis of the world system that humanity has constituted over at least the last five centuries has deepened enormously”.[v]

His commitment was renewed immediately after finishing this article, because he decided to write what would be his last book, which could have had the title of Catastrophe, or Apocalypse, according to Kristian Feigelson[vi], friend and common collaborator. Yes, without a doubt, his engagement was not partisan, but ethical and humanist. Marc Ferro was a republican democrat, not in the current American fashion, but in the heritage of the best of the Enlightenment and the tradition opened by 1789, which was reproduced throughout the XNUMXth century in various ways through the ideal of a secular and social republic. He was never a communist, nor a Marxist, but without being an anti-communist, he considered Marx's legacy to history[vii], without confusing it with determinist teleology, nor the vulgarized dichotomy in the base/superstructure duality of traditional Marxism, particularly that which prevailed in the first half of the XNUMXth century. He took a critical view of such characteristics, inherent in the works of most Soviet historians, and in those of most Western historians and social scientists linked to the CPs. Collaborated with Eric Hobsbawm[viii] among other foreign and French Marxist historians. But his critical eye did not spare even a figure like Fernand Braudel, who was decisively important for his entry into the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, the most prestigious in the field of human sciences in France. Braudel, was for all “the great boss of Annals and he knew how to make everyone see this”. What wasn't the surprise of his choice to act as secretary for the Annales, when there were others that Marc considered more “brilliant” than him (Jacques Le Goff among others, wanted the post), who did not even have the famous title of “agrégation”. Possibly, this may have been exactly one of the reasons that imposed the choice of Marc Ferro. An experienced man, Braudel knew how to distinguish the ability to work and the ability to add partnerships, one of Marc Ferro's characteristics, even though the jealousy aroused by the secretariat ended up preventing friendships from developing for more than a decade. Perhaps for other reasons, a figure like François Furet passed through the corridors of the EHESS and simply did not say hello to Ferro.

Out of duty and practice – much more than a “duty of memory”, Marc Ferro was absolutely aware that the production of historical knowledge does not follow the same process as that of politics. Although he recognized the political dimension of all other sciences, he was aware of the original particularities between them and politics. One of the things that strongly attracted Marc Ferro's personality - and immediately impressed his newest interlocutors, was his passion for history and his second great passion, images. Marc Ferro was a passionate man, as we highlighted in issue 31 of Revista Theorem[ix] all dedicated to his audiovisual work. Right at the opening of the article we highlight an excerpt from a series of interviews he gave us throughout 1997 in which he defines himself:

I have multiple identities. I'm essentially a historian, but I've changed fields several times, because I think that ultra specialization sterilizes. We must not be a simple generalist because we have become superficial. You have to be a generalist specialist, but several times a specialist. I was first an expert on the Russian Revolution. I am also an expert on Algeria, because I lived in Algeria as a teacher, although I never wanted to write about this country, as I didn't want to write about what I had experienced there. (...). However, I wrote a history of colonization, because it allowed me to compare the history of Algeria with that of other countries. To be a historian, you need distance. That's why I dedicated myself more to Russia, since I wasn't a communist. (…) I was a simple citizen. It so happens that it was through Russia that I became interested in cinema, image, news, since it was the time of the Great War. I was asked to collaborate on a film about the Great War, which I did in 1964. I found my second passion: the image. It was born because of the images in the war news, which I saw were different in nature from what I read in books. I found that the images had a discourse about society, different from the discourse of official leaders, soldiers, diplomats, politicians and gave me the idea that each social group represents its history. The images revealed to me facts that were not said in the books and that, therefore, write a counter-history to the official history. Cinema became my second “wife” after Russia. I wanted to confront the different ways of writing history (the image being different from the official history) of different societies. I realized that the Arabs didn't tell the story of Algeria like the French, the Indians didn't tell the story of Peru like the Spaniards. (...)[X]

In fact, the greater originality of his effective entry as a historian and theorist of history in the elite platoon of the movement of Annals took place through images and cinema. Ferro embodied, so to speak, the transition between the second generation of that historiographical movement that had Fernand Braudel and Ernest Labrousse as its best known expressions, and its continuity in the so-called “third generation of the Annales”, which constituted the so-called New History. Chosen by Braudel to be the secretary of Revista dos Annals will become co-director. Consciously, he said that it was by chance that he arrived at images, a chance provided by the images of the First World War and, later, by the 1917 Revolution, through his participation in the production of a television series on the history of medicine with Jean-Paul Aron.[xi] Sometimes he attributed his first attraction to images as the result of a combination of several factors. But if we look closely – and the memory of conversations with him helps us to understand this – his reasoning was always composed with images, even when he spoke of subjects that had no direct relationship with cinema, painting, photography, etc. Perhaps, unconsciously, it was the way he found to pay homage to his mother, a haute couture designer at Worth, the first of its kind in France, of whom he always spoke with admiration, he who lost his father at the age of five.

Likewise, passion could describe one of your antinomies. Yes, I had them. Who doesn't? Even as a grounded and experienced man, even as a critical and disciplined historian, he too had his antinomies. Even though he was one of the protagonists of the most important movement to renew the conception, methods and way in which history could and should be written, he also used one of the greatest fetishes of social science researchers in France – which also exists in the training of historians from different countries. In his phrases every now and then, the formula of “retreat” appears. Anyone who wants to explain historical events and social processes must know how to distance himself from his object of study and research it without passion. Very good! But what does such behavior mean? In journalism, it is sometimes said, being necessary in impacting issues, “letting the dust settle”. Some historians of previous generations said that to achieve impartiality, the object of study of the historian should be circumscribed in a domain of space and time located at least 50 years before. How could this be possible, if everything or almost everything is interrelated in the context of the social processes of a globalized history? The most curious thing is that all of us still don't know exactly how to produce such distancing, or “prendre du récule” as the French say. The impression that remains is that it is a figure of style that does not resist the power of criticism and not just the documental one. Creating such a distance with the so-called retreat – certainly a pretentious legacy of positivism, would be something like managing to be “neutral”, “impartial”, in the expectation of being, as much as possible, “objective”. But Marc did not believe that such an axiological neutrality was possible.

Every social scientist ethically committed to the “search for historical truth” tries to do everything (as much as he can) not to mix, for example, his political position in relation to a certain issue and the study that is produced of it, so that the result is not a juxtaposition of policy over research carried out. in your book L'histoire sous surveillance (the guarded history)[xii] gives numerous examples, particularly when analyzing the relationships between the so-called Annals School and the historiography of Communist Party historians or those in the US who invented a postmodern history, which he also criticized. In the chapter titled The Marxists and the Annales, exposes the following:

Originally in France, during the years 1890-1920, if there was a vulgate that expressed a revolutionary vision of history, it was much more socialist than Marxist; subsequently, historians' positions were defined much more in terms of the October Revolution than in relation to an explicit knowledge of Marx's views on history, or his methods. Jean Bruhat, Vilar and Labrousse estimate that neither Marxist history nor Marxist theory of history existed in France before the 1930s, when Jean Baby defined the principles. Under these conditions, the founders of Annals they would not be able to place themselves in relation to Marxism, because they ignore it: they reject Mathiez's “absence of positive knowledge” – geographic, economic, etc.-, more than his sympathies for Robespierre and Lenin; Lucien Febvre criticized Mathiez, especially the fact that he was not even open to materialism.

Leftist historians of the 1930s – Bruhat, Vilar, Labrousse, G. Lefebvre – showed no less sympathy for the Annals, where Friedmann incarnates the Marxist shorts of the Magazine, “because it was closer to its conception, however distant it was”. They were in favor of the new history since it privileged the economy and chose a way of classifying phenomena apparently of the same type as the distinction made between infrastructure and superstructure.

But this good mood changes after the War, from the moment that the historical project of the Annals uses procedures foreign to the practice and project of Marxists. Then begins the era of excommunication and suspicion. It coincides with the time when young CP historians claimed to embody, Stalin's leftover, absolute knowledge and the future of society. According to them, those who collaborated with the Annals they were either agents of US imperialism, or old survivors of an outdated way of knowing. In fact, research into structures, the prerogative attributed to long duration, the study of mentalities, the analysis of events observed no longer as facts, but as “symptoms”, in fact excluded all theoretical assumptions, such as determinism. ; the experimental vocation of Annals it also excluded a priori isolation, as a sort of independent variable, such as the mode of production.[xiii]

Marc Ferro highlights the positivist heritage of the historiography of Albert Mathiez (a scholar of the French Revolution) and other so-called Marxist scholars, which is surpassed by the Annales. This historiographical movement remains heir, however, to a totalizing conception of history opening the way out of the problematic tied exclusively to politics and/or economics and to the elaboration of the transdisciplinary paradigm.[xiv] Therefore, he is someone who was absolutely attentive to the deformations that political ideologies produced, in all latitudes and longitudes when the historian faithfully subordinates himself to them or produces historiography with the purpose of serving politics. The understanding that it was a worldwide phenomenon always reappears in his reflections, for example, in the book Comment on raconte l'histoire aux enfants à travers le monde entier (How we tell the story to children around the world)[xv]. In the Preface it writes this:

Make no mistake: the image we have of other peoples, or of ourselves, is associated with the story we were told when we were still children. It marks our entire existence. On this representation, which is also for each one, a discovery of the world, of the past of societies, is then mixed with opinions, fleeting or lasting ideas, like a love..., remaining indelible, the traces of our first curiosities, of our first emotions.

It is these first traits that we need to know, that we need to rediscover, ours and those of others, in Trinidad as in Moscow or in Yokohama. (…) Not only is the past not the same for everyone, but for each one, its memory changes over time: these images change as knowledge and ideologies change, as the role of society changes. of history.

It is therefore urgent to confront all these representations, since with the enlargement of the world, with its economic unification, but also with a profound political crisis, the past of societies is more than ever the object of disputes between States, between nations, between cultures and ethnicities. Controlling the past helps to dominate the present, legitimize domination and question it. Now, it is the dominant powers – States, churches, political parties or private interests – that own and finance the media or their reproduction devices, school books or comic books, films or television programs. More and more it is a uniform past that is released to everyone. Also, the deaf revolt for those to whom History is “forbidden”.[xvi]

Therefore, if axiological neutrality is not possible for the social scientist, experience does not prevent me, quite the contrary, from questioning the feasibility of a surgical separation between passion and reason. There are two distinct moments, on which the theory of history or the epistemology of the human sciences needs to highlight as a problem brought to the fore, already in the reflections of the pre-Socratics and in Aristotle, even closer, by Spinoza, who has been accompanying history from western thought to the present day. From philosophy to psychoanalysis and neuroscience[xvii], today we have all the evidence that reason and emotion feed indissolubly, the entire time of an existence. It is an insurmountable “contradiction” in relation to which scientists are forced to balance, just as they are “impotent” to control it, however rationalistic they may be, and it constitutes a condition sine qua non of human survival.

Marc: A trajectory in history

One of Marc's most endearing facets was his ability to tell vivid stories. Stories of his childhood, adolescence, youth and all phases of his life. He loved to tell stories about his relationships with his peers and with his students as well. Since the early 1990s, in addition to his visits to Brazil, whenever we went to France, it was imperative to visit him, whether at the École or at his home in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, we always managed to see him again. For someone who has always liked, since he was a little boy, hearing stories told and for someone who was born for history, that was, as they say in northeastern Brazil, joining “hunger with the desire to eat”. The conversation hardly ended with Marc asking, “do you have time for me to tell you one more story?”. When asked if it never crossed his mind to become a novelist, he replied that no, that he didn't see himself as an artist, although he knew a little about music. It makes it clear that he treated cinema as a language of representation, or discourse, or a document of history. However, his ability to tell stories orally, in writing or through the cinema, was not far from art.

Throughout his career, Marc Ferro has put his many professional talents at the service of interpreting history, writing it and disseminating it. But he also became responsible for the adhesion of many of the current researchers around the world. This is the strength of his passion, of his charisma! He loved a full auditorium, people listening to him, he loved the buzz before conferences and even more after them with so many people wanting to talk to him. How could it be different for a man who entered life through the tragedies it produced, but also fighting for a better, more humane future, in which he was a great winner? Born on December 24, 1924, he consciously entered history in the anti-Nazi Resistance at the age of 17. However, his suffering begins much earlier, when he lost his father who died prematurely when he was 3 years old. At the end of 1940, his mother was kidnapped by the Nazis and died in Auschwitz in 1943. His mother was Ukrainian of Jewish origin by birth, a fact that was never given importance. Reality came crashing down when they were summoned to the town hall like all French people of “Israeli confession”. They had their documents tamponaded as Jews. The director of a right-wing newspaper, the father of family friends, told them they shouldn't stay in occupied areas. By profession, Marc's mother could not leave Paris. Marc is saved by these friends, who shelter him in a free zone and get him a new identity card, without the “Jew mark”.

There are those who say that every chance has its necessity. Was it an accident that Marc had been amazed, as a teenager, by following Merleau-Ponty's philosophy classes? Another chance records that he had Claude Lefort as a colleague. Merleau-Ponty develops his philosophy as a phenomenology of perception, criticizing the Cartesian paradigm. Already in the 1940s, he defended the thesis that ideas do not arise separated from the sensible, from sensitivity.[xviii] They are born and sprout together. And it will be precisely Ponty who will recommend his colleagues to take refuge in the free zone. Marc preferred to hear more advice in this direction. He crossed the danger line three or four times, like many people, not knowing exactly where to go and what to do. When he headed south, one last time he chose Grenoble as a free zone. There lived a geographer, for whom he had a lot of admiration, named Raoul Blanchard, disciple of Vidal de la Blanche. It was in Grenoble, in early 1941, that he learned of his mother's arrest and disappearance. In the south of France, people felt safer, until the arrival of the Germans in September 1942. At the Liceu, he attended preparatory classes for the big schools and it was there that he forged relationships with one of the resistance networks. He thus joined the anti-Nazi Resistance at the age of 17. He refused financial help from Blanchard because he could rely on his mother's former employer during 1941.

After the War, the idea developed in certain quarters that the majority of the French population were collaborators. Marc Ferro does not consider this hypothesis to be true. It is true that a good part looked at the resisters with distrust since they were stigmatized as “terrorists”. However, subjectively, about 80% of the population was against the occupation. There were also supporters of Pétain, collaborators and resistance fighters who were a mixture of various currents (nationalists, Gaullists, communists, socialists, non-party libertarians). At the University, the dominant mood was in favor of resistance and, participating in it, he realized that no one questioned the political positions of the other. Perhaps this explains the thought that communists were few in Grenoble. Although Marc did not leave, he will later learn that the first network he was a part of, the civilian one, was run by Annie Kriegel.[xx] (two years younger) who was in the French Communist Party from 1942 to 1956. She devoted herself to the history of the French labor movement and was an editorialist for Figaro, a center-right newspaper.

However, in early 1943 Grenoble is no longer a safe zone. The Germans arrived in 1942 in the south. They carried out raids and summary executions, ending up dismantling civilian networks of resistance fighters. Marc, who had been seduced by the resistant ideal of the civilian sectors, due to the fact that he knew German and as a result of the dissolution of several nuclei of resistant civilians, is one of those indicated to move towards the Maquis of Vercors[xx]. In July 1944, he was assigned to a militarized unit in this mountainous region of the Western Alps.

There are many adventures to get there. The Vercors will be the object of the biggest German offensive, as an attempt to maintain a strategic position. The Normandy Landing of June 1944 had already taken place, but it did not seem to produce consequences in the south of the country. The Germans reorganize, including in Grenoble. The military unit occupying the Vercors was dominated by World War I Armistice veterans who had engaged in the Resistance. We managed to gather something around 4 resistance fighters. Its most important leader, who became its greatest hero and martyr, was named Jean Moulin.[xxx] who was appointed by De Gaulle to unify all the resistance groups, not an easy task because, above all, there was a controversy surrounding the pretense of the British who wanted to detain control of the Resistance leadership. Jean Moulin, wanted by the Gestapo and the Vichi services, will be arrested and tortured by Klaus Barbie possibly to death. The Vercors was within the liberated zone. The flag of the French Republic flew in every village and town. Many who fled to the liberated zones gathered at Vercors, which also concentrated many Spanish republicans, Israelis, Jews, Poles and many young people from high schools in the occupied regions and Paris.

One of the most impressive things, in a situation of war and resistance to a more heavily armed invader, lies in the fact that many criteria used in normal times are subverted. Due to his age and his knowledge of geography (the first subject to which he became passionately attached), Marc, a simple private soldier, was in charge, above all, of helping the resistance fighters in their research on the theaters of operations and, for this purpose, he was installed in the pavilion where the General Staff was housed. He also took care of telephone communication. It is amazing to what extent his responsibility grew at just 17 years old, in the short period he spent in the mountains, between July and September 1944:

It was impressive! He was the first to know all the decisions made. He asked me to call Hervieux, the military chief, Chavant, the civil leader, or Goderville, that is, Jean Prévost, the great writer turned captain in the undergrowth. I wrote down everything: one asked for weapons, the other needed so many grenades… All the orders came from there. I also received all the messages from the companies that acted in the field of struggles. The Military Command was installed in a beautiful village from the 1930s where the officers worked, Huet (Hervieux), Tanant (Laroche)… There were a lot of people. They installed me in the bathroom and I slept in the bathtub. During the day I worked on the maps and the phone on a board covering the bathtub. I was the first to know about the arrival of the Germans on July 20th. The bell kept ringing. In moments of direct struggle, it was a real hive[xxiii]

Due to his knowledge of the German language, he was also assigned to spy operations in places such as the nearest Railway Station to find out if the soldiers were German, from which region, what they were doing, or if they were Polish or Czech. When he was taken to the Vercors, “dressed like a bourgeois”, he walked past a group of Germans carrying grenades in a sack. Upon arriving at the military headquarters of the Resistance of Vercors, they believed that he could be a collaborationist spy and was subjected to an interrogation, being saved by the resistant who took him there. At another moment, already under orders to disperse, he is saved by peasants, who realized that he would come across a company of Germans. They accompanied him, not without first forcing him to change his clothes, giving him his own. He served several times as a “scout”, going ahead of his group in dispersion. It was rotated and Marc counted the minutes because, like the goats, he was being used to divert the resisters from the mines they had buried everywhere on the mountain, but without having a map of them. He was also preferred to try to get food in the guarded villages. His short stature and his “young teenager” features helped with the aforementioned tasks that he shared with a few. The most traumatizing experiences provoked in the intimacy some questions that glossed over in the small circles of resisters, all bowed, however, to hierarchical discipline.

However, whenever he referred to his general unit in Vercors, Marc would describe the military, with whom he lived, as courageous and determined people in the struggle to expel the invader. There were important divergences between military and civilian resisters, for example. Civilians wanted violent and spectacular actions, while the military was against it, because they feared reprisals, which in fact happened. Although from memory, Marc repeated that the Germans mustered something like 25 soldiers at Vercors, it seems that there were between 10 and 15. They carried out massacres, shootings, etc.[xxiii] Data do not always match, but the German offensive of July 1944 was the most important one carried out against resistance.[xxv] As a private, Marc didn't voice his opinions. Perhaps that is why he believed that his real political experience would take place in Algeria. However, military discipline did not prevent him from forming opinions on controversial issues. He was in agreement with his military unit and against the spectacular events, which ended up killing many hostages.

On the 13th of July, the eve of the disembarkation in the south, he received a coded message and hurried to pass it on to the Chief of Staff. Screams of protest from the site call De Gaulle a traitor. General Hervieux – Commander-in-Chief of the military troops in the Vercors, was furious at the supposed postponement of the Southern Landing. In fact, it will be known later that there was a mismatch of information, because early, on the morning of the 14th of July, thousands of paratroopers descended into the Vercors Alps. The disembarkation yes, was postponed, but the sea coast. The Germans saw the paratroopers who had spread out for many kilometers and the imminence of the attack on the Vercors unit, forced the high command to give the order to disperse, in groups of 30 through the forest. Difficult experience in a scenario of land mined all by themselves. The units had little food, drink and could not light a fire. There is a key moment which is when Marc saw the German gliders. In his heart, he understood that Vercors Maqui had come to an end. Not to mention the population of the region, only of the resistant were more or less 700 who managed to survive. Considering the various situations of great danger he experienced, Marc estimates that his group of 30 fighters, in escaping, was very lucky. He considered the same for himself, who also got to play the role of "minesweeper", going in front of his platoon, taking turns with a few others every two hours.

The controversies about the Vercors experience to this day are many. Each group tends to build its own version. For Marc, the Germans had already penetrated the front of the Maqui de Vercors when the gliders arrived. But an official history does not want to accept this version, attributing the defeat to the arrival of German gliders. There is the controversy about the reinforcement that should arrive from the Algerian capital. Sometime after arriving in Grenoble, he rejoins his unit and is assigned secretary, but he declines. He preferred to go with his unit, help liberate Lyon. Arriving there, they realized that the Germans had left.

From then on, your questions begin. He experiences his first disappointment when the “Mothball Officers” (who had left their uniforms in storage, waiting for Liberation) took over the command posts, supported by General De Gaulle, to the detriment of the Vercors soldiers, who were valiant combatants. The War seemed to never end and had become a civil war of disputes and accusations. Each of the groups, parties, categories wanted to get the best recognition with material counterparts. Marc Ferro understood then why De Gaulle had been unfair to the Resistance military: he wanted control in the unity of the troops and was afraid of a civic-military revolt in the post-war period. Even today, part of historical memory seems to reinforce the idea that De Gaulle was against the Resistance. Others treat it ambiguously, when they say that 80% of the armament sent to the Resistance ended up in the hands of the Germans.

Entry into life: 5 years in France and 10 years in Algeria

Interestingly, at Vercors Marc had no sense of danger. He was going to say later that his political experience actually began in Algeria. It is difficult to accept this conclusion, since politics appears in several situations, both in Grenoble and in Vercors. Back in Paris, the problem is how to support yourself. He had already found his lifelong companion, who was finishing her courses in the south. He goes back and forth on the Paris-Grenoble circuit. To support himself, he manages to teach history and English at a Catholic school. History becomes his great passion and geography is subsumed. With Vonnie he will tour Germany. Why then Germany? Will clarify in his latest book. He wanted to be able to face life. The two young newlyweds, when crossing the border in one of those minicars that the French called “Quatrelle”, the tire goes flat. They go to a rubber shop and a teenager of about 12/14 years old appears. Marc asks:

- "Where is your father?".
And the boy replies:
– “he and my mother died”.

Then Marc says:

– “Let me talk to an adult who was in charge of the rubber shop”.
And the boy replies:
– “Didn’t stay with anyone. Just myself”.

I reproduce this dialogue entirely from memory. Orally said it was like a shock. A whirlwind of ideas comes to mind and he thinks about how difficult it was to “enter that boy's life”, possibly much more difficult than his. He realizes that wars do not serve any people or anyone. It is as if it were clear that there could be no winners.[xxiv] This led him – similarly to what happened to other historians, such as Edward Palmer Thompson (this one due to the policies of the English Labor Party)[xxv], to engage in the struggle for peace among peoples. In fact, neither national nor political rivalries calmed down with the end of World War II.

Being a high school teacher will alleviate one of Marc Ferro's biggest frustrations, since he never managed to pass the exam for the “agrégation”. It is France's most prestigious competition for recruiting secondary and higher education teachers. Extremely difficult, requires the “maîtrise” diploma.[xxviii] The number of vacancies established annually by decree and those approved can be “aggregated” to university education. Louis XV, when ending the Society of Jesus, instituted this competition to constitute a qualified faculty, aiming to replace the Jesuit teaching. Those who pass the “vestibular” of the aggregation get a job for life, which they will lose if they leave teaching.

Vonnie, like Marc, also missed the maîtrise for health reasons. Between 1946-47 they saw each other regularly and both became lyceum teachers. Until the end of the 1940s, there was still a great charm in being a teacher, a tradition in France. But from the 1960s onwards, the situation was no longer the same as the “métier” began to be watched over by the Ministry of National Education and by families. The case of De Gaulle's position in relation to the resistant military had already placed him under his reservations in relation to the new times, a problem that he felt comfortable dealing with for the first time only in the late 1980s – when it had already become a world-renowned personality - in his book on Pétain, which will be dedicated to the memory of Fernand Braudel.[xxviii] The film, but rather the book itself, is interested not in producing a summary judgment, but in explaining, understanding, how human characters could secrete an inhuman, abject regime. The leitmotif of the book is not to reduce it to the political analysis of political discourse and the acts of men in State power, but to confront all this with the reactions of the “petit-peuple”, of the “João-Todo Mundo”. History is approached like this, as Marc did during the Resistance and then, in his early years as a high school teacher, living it daily as a simple citizen, but also by that mature historian Ferro.

In any case, at the end of the War he was displeased to see some former members of the Resistance wanting to obtain privileges, titles, posts, he who understood their engagement as a civic duty. Before the German occupation, he had never been concerned about his Jewish origin, after the end of the war, he started to be careful and reserved also in relation to the fact that the resistance began to be mistreated by the right-wing press. As shown in the footage of the “retake” of Lyon, many of his former colleagues wanted to know how he survived the occupation. However, – he who had lived in Maqui de Vercors from the beginning of late June to the beginning of September, felt that the “unhealthy curiosity” left him without ground and helped to undermine his job possibilities. Even some family members did not look favorably on the “Resistance”. As appointments separated the couple, they agreed to go to Oran, Algeria.

Vonnie, Marc and a baby named Éric – the couple's first child, headed to Algeria and there they lived a rich and remarkable experience in several fields, in addition to the human one. Except for a few clichés, Algeria was a completely unknown country for Marc, who felt the reigning tension when unloading his bags on Oran in 1948. In addition to the anti-colonial issue, the issue of “pieds-noirs” (French people born in Algeria or Africa French, descendants of Europeans), the question of the Berbers, the Spanish and the Jew, the possibility of a war against the metropolis made the environment charged, tending to explode. As it was a city that served as a refuge for republican Spaniards, there were many Spaniards who went to live in it and discussions about history and politics inevitably flowed.

Colleagues helped them settle in. They became friends with the family of journalist Pierre Kalfon, who wrote one of the best biographies of Che Guevara.[xxix] But they also had a lot of help from their students' parents, as was customary in these countries and not just from the teachers. Added to the shock at the division between male and female high schools was the indignation of seeing that Muslims did not allow their daughters to attend high school. There were few Arabs who became teachers. But like most professors of European origin, they demonstrated that they were in favor of Arab students having the best education. This was frowned upon by Europeans in Algeria, who did not want Arabs to have formal education and be cultivated. In class, as in France, Marc tried not to evoke politics, particularly partisan politics. Somehow in Algeria they lived in a minefield, like during the Resistance. Even so, he used expressions condemned by Europeans, such as, for example, arabic civilization, which highlighted its greatness, while calling attention to the fact that no empire lasted forever in history. As history is an “explosive” science, even without being a communist, Marc was treated as such, precisely because he gave his reading of the various other readings of history an acutely critical view, which would accompany him throughout his life.

In the same way that the metropolitan governmental vision did not consider the existence of this reality that discriminated against and oppressed the Arabs, in addition to exploiting their wealth, a good part of Algerian Europeans simply denied that such problems existed. In several interviews, Marc Ferro recalls that in Algeria he began to study history in order to teach it to his students. It was not exactly his most original and independent moment of reflection, an attitude that life will impose on him and he will willingly accept to follow. There, he was driven to take sides again. His memories led him to try to understand the ethnic, cultural (Berbers, Jews, metropolitans, etc.) and political disputes, which included the relationship between Muslim nationalists (which are divided into several organizations), the National Liberation Front ( party that will be dominant throughout the struggle for independence), the communists (who lost many troops to the FLN) and those who were looking for a democratic alternative, in addition to those who were already in power.

In the early 1950s, the situation worsened, particularly with the Cold War, without forgetting that the colonial question ended up mixing with those of the XNUMXth century revolutions (Russian, Spanish, and, most recently, Chinese). . If the Resistance marks Marc's entry into history, his career as a teacher in Algeria marks the sharpening of his political awareness. He will collaborate with the Journal Republican Oran and ends up engaging in political issues. There were union meetings of the category in which he began to participate. Colleagues, not just those of European origin, demanded his intervention. As he did not agree with the policies of the FLN, the Algerian PC, or those of the nationalist Muslims – despite trying to carry out activities with all of them, he decided, with colleagues and companions of greater political affinity, to create the movement Algerian Fraternity, a kind of third way. There is a certain affinity with movements of metropolitan alternative socialism, critical of the Socialist Party and the Communist Party at the same time. Through this political organization, he possibly experienced his moment of greatest militancy and was even chosen as a candidate for elections. After consulting all Algerian organizations, he will be the main writer of a series of articles published in that republican newspaper, on what the project for Algeria should be written.

Between 1952 and 1954, the nationalist movement in several countries (Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco) gave an extraordinary impetus to the Algerian movement. The French defeat at Dien Bien Phu reinforces the will to fight. The year 1954 ends up constituting a true watershed and, in truth, the values ​​of European integration still existed in a large number of adherents to Islamo-nationalism. However, violent actions contrary to this perspective had already begun, affecting the Muslim population itself. Despite this persistent contradiction, all the confused trends unite in the struggle for independence, which ends up embracing large sections of the population in an endless surge. However, divisions occur forming what will be, from then on, the leadership of the National Liberation Front. A kind of xenophobic cult began to promote exemplary massacres, which would follow the murders of nationalist leaders and militants and those who did not publicly join the movement, which was particularly driven by the FLN. Ferro recalls that,

FLN that is instituted in any case, in the embryo of the Algerian State that will come with the prerogatives and functioning of a nameless government: demand for obedience, by terror if necessary: ​​monopoly of decisions, terrorism as a means of consolidating its own power and, finally, internationalization of the problem thanks to the support of Nasser and the Arab-Islamic bloc.

In this context, the PCA would have managed to unite with the principle of the Algerian Democratic Republic, since it was completely outdated; in addition, the FLN's loyalty to the Arab-Islamic bloc kept it a prisoner of its former reticence; not to mention the resistance that its supporters could offer to an apparatus that felt the earth disappearing under its feet, since its troop was essentially made up of Europeans and that simultaneously the FLN demanded it, as well as the other parties, to dissolve.

Therefore, it would be illusory to imagine, a posteriori, that the “revolution” of November 02, 1954 was felt and lived as such throughout the country. True, this date legitimately became historic: but it was the FLN apparatus that instituted it. For the population at the time, European and Arab, who in their mass did not really know about the FLN, the 2nd of November goes unnoticed, once the attacks are known, which give rise to the armed struggle.[xxx]

Even today, many views of the foreign and Arab population are, almost always, compressed into a watertight ideological compartment that does not correspond to reality. Many foreigners integrated positively into the country, respected and assimilated the culture and history of its population in its heterogeneity. They had married, constituted an offspring of descendants. And that was true even for several soldiers who refuse to return to the metropolis. A documentary film directed by Jean-Pierre Bertain-Maghit, based on his book Lettres filmées d'Algerie (1955-1962), allows us to glimpse the drama of this population of soldiers, who went to serve the metropolis in the process of colonial domination.[xxxii] The contrast is stark with the tragedy experienced by the country's population (Arabs and Berbers) depicted in Gillo Pentecorvo's film, The Battle of Algiers[xxxi], also very real. The brutality of the French troops with their torture laboratory described by Frantz Fanon in his The Damned of the Earth[xxxii], makes any good will towards the troops of the colonial occupation difficult. Jean-Paul Sartre, who will preface the book, will perhaps be even more incisive in demolishing the colonial system with all its ideological justifications. Both the book and the film, full of legitimate revolt, do not erase the reality of the drama and tragedy of the existence of many of European origin who adopted those lands as their own. Ferro will narrate this in a chapter of his book about the colonizations and in one of his films, Algeria 1954, the revolt of a colonized[xxxv]. This anti-colonialist libel presents the narrative of an Algerian Arab telling about his childhood and adolescence and his insurgency and fight against colonialism. Apparently, the process of the struggle for Algerian independence, compared to that of Vietnam, is much more tragic in terms of internal struggles between competing tendencies, as well as in dealing with foreigners and Europeans, as Wilfred Burchett described in his celebrated book on the Vietnam War.[xxxiv] Ferro's description was preceded by a nausea that lasted for years, for him to decide to talk about it.

In Algeria, the resurgence of struggles for independence led to an unprecedented fratricidal war in the country's history. Also because the Muslim organizations remained discreet about their real objectives, the European population found itself very far from realizing what was being gestated. The movement Algerian Fraternity achieves some actions that feed the possibility of avoiding tragedies. He manages to unite a good part of the communists and nationalists, two thirds of the Europeans and one third of the Muslims of Oran around a Manifesto, signed with enthusiasm on the night of December 17, 1955, which, in essence, was probably written by Marc Ferro , in the sense of putting an end to the war, which had already started with the landing of 8 paratroopers from French troops. In the wake of accumulated hopes, at the beginning of February 1956, the Algerian Fraternity got a front of all the political forces, for a meeting that its members proposed to the Government of Algiers with the metropolitan representative, the socialist Guy Mollet. Of the five formations, although it had given its agreement to send a representative, the FLN did not fulfill the commitment without giving any explanation. Historian Ferro reproduces the conclusion he drew at the time much later. The solution of the Government of the metropolis by the absurd voice of Mollet is to “ensure free elections”, which revealed “a total ignorance of the reality of the Algerian problem. With the retreat of the government, on February 6, 1956, the whole idea of ​​negotiation between Algerian Europeans and Arabs was buried”[xxxiv]. But the “internal war” itself divides Algerians themselves with a violence never seen before. In France, between FLN and MNA militants there were 12 attacks and 4 deaths. In Algeria “the figures far exceed this balance”.[xxxviii]

As a consequence, the disputes, the maneuvers, the lack of perspective and the manipulations of the different organizations make Marc Ferro tired. What's more, political assassinations put the whole family in fear of the worst. Vonnie spoke of students of European descent who, terrified, dreamed of being beheaded. One of his colleagues learned that he was part of a list of personalities to be liquidated, because he had considered co-sovereignty. With his family, Ferro experienced French colonization on the other side of the Mediterranean, which motivated him to write far-reaching works such as The black book of colonization.[xxxviii] It is a moment in which he begins to reflect on the official history and those that will feed the “counter stories” involving the memories of ordinary citizens. His “Black Book” is nonetheless a critical counterpoint to the Black Book of Communism, from your friend Nicolas Werth[xxxix], since he could say: “I understand mate, but don't forget that 'our sins' lasted at least five centuries…!”.  

At that moment, Ferro is already on the other side of the Mediterranean. In Algeria, he accumulated vivid historical material that will stay with him for a lifetime. He could see the common Arab people's kindness and, at the same time, their violence. Same thing with the “pieds-noirs”. He saw two peoples who reciprocally loved and hated each other, to the point of killing each other over little things. He has not forgotten the views of the left, nor the ideologies of the right, nor, much less, that of the common people, of the colonized. There he returned twice and made friends, some of whom belonged to the Algerian Fraternity, such as Jean Cohen, who in 1966 published structure of poetic language,[xl] what Ferro, in the dedication he offers him in his Histoires des colonisations, considers himself to be a chef-d'œuvre.

From a teacher to a major historian

Returning to France in 1958, 10 years later, brought him new challenges. What to do to earn a living, doing what you like and believe in? The story, nothing but the story…!!! Still in Algeria, they are informed of their new appointments. Ferro will be a professor at the Lyceum Montaigne and then at the Lyceum Rodin, one of the most prestigious, but he will look for Pierre Renouvin, whom he explains wants to do his doctorate, on how the Russian Revolution was interpreted in the West. He believed, as in the case of Algeria in France, that the Russian process had arrived in the West full of false ideas. He convinced Renouvin, who in 1960 facilitated his entry into the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research), even without an “agrégation” diploma. After publishing two important articles in the magazine Cahiers du Monde Russe et Soviètique, Ferro is invited to be his secretary.

Not bad for such a short time. When attending an important debate on the national question, at the École des Hautes Études in Sciences Sociales, where he will become professor and thesis director, Ferro felt obliged to take from his “Algerian trunk”, the reflections that life in Algeria made him learn about the national question. Ruth Fisher, who chaired the debate and was the leader of the Third International (aligned with Rosa Luxemburg's position), praises her enormously for Ferro's original reflection on the national question. Its connection with Eastern Europe and the USSR was building. A huge field of research and reflection thus opened up in the middle of the Cold War, in which the contortions of politicians to manage the crises of capitalism and the processes of “really existing communism” were perceived.

Throughout the 1960s, he managed to further assert his career and his training as a historian. He will be able to go to the USSR to research his thesis and will participate in several documentary cinematography experiences that will definitely mark him.[xi] In 1964, Marc Ferro co-authored a film about the First World War. The film would be by Frédéric Rossif, but for reasons of incompatibility with the producer, co-direction was instituted. Ferro operates in this process, selecting archival images and analyzing them, one definitive finding: almost always, archive images and films told a story quite different from that found in history books, especially those that reproduced official or unofficial history. That's what he saw in the making of the film about the First World War. The images did not correspond to the idea I had of the War. The contradiction between visual documents and historical narratives requires, therefore, the elaboration of an external and internal critique, but, even more, the very rereading and reinterpretation of historical processes. These experiences will form the cornerstone of his theory on cinema and images as a counter-analysis of history.

In relation to his doctoral thesis, this discovery will give extraordinary consistency and even greater originality to his reading of the Russian Revolution of 1917. Traditionally, written narratives placed the workers as the vanguard and the leaders of the demonstrations, protagonists in every line. . But the films that Ferro found showed, mostly women, men, especially soldiers, the Bund (Jewish Socialist Party). The workers never showed up. Ferro had to put together a jigsaw puzzle to discover that they preferred to occupy the factories in the self-management process. He further discovered that the images revealed that the manipulations were in fact taking place. Characters were taken from historical photos. They revealed, therefore, the practice of censorship just like in the West. Not everything figured out on its own. The archivist who served him in the film deposits (his name was Axerold), helped him fill in the “empty holes”. When his thesis was published, a scandal ensued.[xliii] He was “excommunicated” by the leaders of the bureaucracy, made persona non grata in the USSR and banned from returning there for 10 years. He only managed to return already in perestroika.

Nevertheless, even Marc Ferro's least sympathetic critics are obliged to recognize that the mass of documents he used was unprecedented and reliable. The most sympathetic recognize that it is fabulous and that Ferro never denied the important action of the workers, although his analysis acquires originality, precisely because it opposes the reading of written documents, images and others, to the vulgarization of the manuals that placed the workers as the main protagonists together to the Bolshevik Party. In Chapter IV, he deals precisely with the working class, peasants and soldiers. Chapter XV, entitled Labor against capital, is dedicated to the working class, the self-management they built, the relationship of unions and plant committees, the defeat of factory committees and their self-management. Chapter XVI, entitled The State: From the Soviets to the Bureaucracy, coincides a lot with the appreciation of the study by Oskar Anweiller, probably the most important on the issue, still completely unknown in Brazil.[xiii] As Alexander Rabinowitch[xiv], many historians ended up confirming Ferro's assessments over the past five decades.

We cannot forget that Ferro clearly detected that the “civilized nations” came together against the right to self-determination of a people, of its councils (the soviets that emptied in a short time, it is true), a revolution of men and women, of soldiers, peasants and workers who could no longer support an absurd war, planned by the most industrialized power of the time and accepted by the stupidity and arrogance of a decadent monarchy. With his doctoral thesis on 1917, Ferro puts down the Stalinist myth of the locomotive of history, which would be taking the peoples of the world to paradise on earth, a teleological eschatology that had already been demolished by Walter Benjamin, among others, with his manifesto- alarm About the concept of the story, a true libel for the anti-evolutionist dialectic and against barbarism, which was already parading under fascinated eyes, also in western Europe.[xlv] For Ferro, when a party that wants to be emancipatory subordinates the most democratic political bodies, which had been invented by the population, this same party first replaces the popular transformation and then decomposes it into a dictatorship against the people. His narrative reconstructs a process that places the great mass of the population, with all its popular layers, as transforming agents – more or less aware of their own historical conditions. From fields to cities, all social strata are analysed. The main characters, but also the common people, make up his fresco of more than a thousand pages dedicated to his eternal Vonnie.

Some readers of this work, originating from the French extreme left, believe that Ferro does not consider “the foreign pressure to minimize and relativize his criticism of the Bolsheviks”. Is it to be asked whether, in the face of foreign aggression, one should not seek to unite all progressive political forces against it? The historian must still ask what provokes and what is the logic of the fierce struggle for power that occurred in this experience?[xlv] The left in the world continues to prefer to look at October as a myth and deny the even more legitimate experience of democracy in February. That the specific conditions of October explain authoritarianism legitimized as a dictatorship of the proletariat replacing the self-organization of women and men, of workers, peasants, teachers, students, fails to satisfy many historians. If the Mexican Revolution offers an analogy, the War and the Spanish Revolution have at their center a struggle between self-managers, emancipationists and internationalist libertarians, against the performance of an apparatus that finds its roots in the authoritarianism of the one-party dictatorship under the allegation of pressure of Western countries and the Army of the Whites. The historiographic look to demolish myths does not need to destroy everything. The historian only needs to want the free and critical integrity of his gaze.

Marc Ferro had already experienced something similar in Algeria, hence his criticism of the attacks on the soviets, the January 1918 Constituent Assembly, Kronstadt and the violent process of police bureaucratization of life that would grow with the “accelerated industrialization” and the “forced collectivization of lands”. Some others consider him anarchist or self-governing, and still others a liberal. As a historian, Ferro rejected labels and prejudices, but he also criticized ideologies. He considered that the historian's métier needed to be exercised with independence and criticism. It will also be for this reason that he will join the movement headed by historian and friend Pierre Vidal-Naquet[xlv] released in December 2005 titled Liberté pour l'histoire getting the adhesion of 600 people who repudiate judicial processes against thinkers and historians. The petition says that “history is not a religion. The historian accepts no dogma, respects no prohibitions, and recognizes no taboos. (...) In a free State, it is not for Parliament, nor for the judiciary to establish the historical truth”. He considered that these principles were violated by articles of successive laws that, in addition to the legitimate recognition of some historical processes such as the slave trade, the Armenian genocide, wanted to institute what should or should not be researched and disseminated, the methods that should be used and what the historian should find threatening them with punishment. The movement won the day, having mobilized a large part of French public opinion.

A factory and a laboratory in permanent boiling

The 1970s marked the affirmation of the New History movement. From mentalities to ideology, the body, psychoanalysis and the unconscious, from demography to archeology and anthropology, from parties to myths and religions, from social history to the history of peoples and acculturation, from quantification with the computer to a return to fact and conceptual history, etc., etc., their historians do not accept private domains for their research. Jacques Le Goff and Pierre Nora gathered in 1974 a sample in a collection of articles that became three demonstrative books with the general title faire de l'histoire and soon published in Brazil.[xlviii] Ferro will contribute to the aforementioned collection with the text he had written in 1971, which he will give the title The film. A counter analysis of society. This study will appear as an opening chapter of his book Cinema et Histoire[xlix]. In the elaboration of the theory of this relation, he coined one of his most repeated syntheses: “the film, image or not of reality, document or fiction, authentic intrigue or pure invention, is history”. The formula went around the world and became a kind of “flag” against traditionalism, among historians and today, even though there are recalcitrant ones, we know that cinema – and the image in general, definitely entered the arsenal of the craft.

The use of cinema as a document, representation, discourse, narrative, also enabled the constitution of a epistemological laboratory, what I call in our practice, poetic or sensitive reason. Among the many windows that Ferro opened, some of which he didn't realize, I think this is one of the most fertile and important in the relationship between cinema and history, which I try to develop by also continuing Ferro's theories. It faces the crisis of paradigms in the sciences in general and in the humanities in particular, seeking to overcome Cartesian rationalism without falling into postmodern relativism. This is what I have tried to demonstrate in studies such as Cinématographe. Laboratory of poetic reason and “new” thought.[l] From this thought, not only is it impossible to separate reason from emotion, but it is necessary to assume in the scientific démarche, for better or for worse, this impossibility with all its consequences.

Cinema, more than any other language, has demonstrated this. When seeking to represent, interpret or translate the complexity of reality, film images can capture a phenomenon like no other extension of the human brain. But they also “lie”, “betray”, however much the gaze of the researcher, documentarian or fictional filmmaker seeks the opposite. It has already been said so many times – and the very etymology of the word instructs us, to translate is, to some extent, “to betray”. However, what can the “betrayal” of any document mean? Would it be conceivable to the historian, nowadays, the existence of a pure, neutral document? Could the social scientist claim that his reconstruction of the process of a phenomenon is exactly as the positivists believed and intended? Should this be the claim of a historian? On the other hand, would there be no use even for documents that are proven to be “liars”, deceivers, manipulators or, in terms of their origins, simply false? One of the things that Ferro taught us is this: manipulation was not just a western practice and it was reinvented in various experiences in world history. The same phenomenon was observed in the process of the rise of the Nazis to power. The rich leaders of social democracy or those prominent in the German CP, as well as the country's rich, never sat down at tables with the poor and the miserable. The Nazis organized the popular soup kitchens and did the opposite of the rich, out of sheer populism, of course. They were the first to take direct measures of direct contact with the “populace” and the images clearly show this. This constituted a paradigm of the political behavior of the populist. Behold, at worst, if it does not have anything to teach us about the object of its “lie” or forgery, the images of filmic documents produced by the Nazis will have something to teach us about why the intentions and actions of the “liar” ” who produced them. Ferro helped, therefore, to completely revolutionize the positivist conception of the traditional, written document. And as he himself states, “the content of a document always exceeds the intentions of the one who sought to register it[li], be it an image, sound, written or oral document. In fact, each and every scientific or artistic production carries more than its author intentionally wanted to reveal. The dialectic between the visible and the invisible, between the apparent and the latent, between the conscious and the unconscious both in society and in filmic representation needs to be analyzed by the researcher. In many of his works, these questions appear that he had advanced in the book organized by Nora and Le Goff.

At the outset, as Marc Bloch, another great theorist of history, founder of the Revista dos Annales said, “the historian is a child of his time”.[liiii] We can extend this methodological assumption to any and all science. There is no research that is not presentist, that is not somehow, in many ways, conditioned by the density of the present in which it was elaborated.[iii] How many scientists and thinkers in history have paid the price of their crafts with their lives? How is it possible to be passionate and maintain a disciplinary distance from your object of study if, for better or for worse, passion is the most powerful motive in defining choices in life and, without a doubt, in science? How to study such controversial topics, with passion and distance at the same time? Anyway, this is what we are given to see as possible in Marc Ferro! The goddess Clio forged her personality, but also her feelings. He was really a passionate man, but, he pretended to have told us, how he managed to master his passions while reflecting on the questions of his research on history, on cinema, on Russia, on the teaching of history, on the history of medicine, of colonialism , wars, etc.

In fact, it was always the passion he exuded for history that made him a man of great charisma! His good humor at work, but also his sometimes acidic irony, quickly won over those who listened to him, be it an individual, a large amphitheater audience, or an international congress! If it was more difficult to identify people crying, moved when Ferro told a passage he witnessed, it was always very easy to observe entire audiences laughing at his anecdotes. Some testimonies told us that he managed to laugh and make people laugh in his last days, despite all the difficulties. He already had little vision, was undergoing three hemodialysis a week, lost his wife two months before he died, and finally, the contamination with the new coronavirus. It is not known exactly whether it was Covid-19 that took him, because doctors had declared him victorious over it at the age of 96. Maybe sequels accelerated his departure.

Ferro couldn't finish the book he told us he was writing. He told us he wouldn't know if he could. Director of the most prestigious scientific journal of theory, social sciences and history in France Les Annales (Economies, Societes, Civilizations), did not think about honors – he who had a very atypical trajectory for the French academy. He worked until his last days, for a very simple reason: he couldn't do otherwise. He was born and "entered into life" as the son of Clio and Khronos. His generosity and the ethics he built put him in favor of a better future for life on the Planet. The last books he wrote were steeped in the certainty that they would be his last and show how much he was absolutely concerned about the future of humanity. By simply reading the titles of his latest works[book]  You can see his concern for the future. It was not a mise-en-scène with the aim of selling books, or accumulating academic points that led him to write so much, but rather the historian's desire to draw attention, to help in his own way, to seek the best possible ways to the way out of the general crisis.

The book he left half written should have been titled « The Catastrophe » or something similar, it would deal with the acceleration of the crisis in a world without horizons. He did not succeed, but what he wrote in his last text serves to give you an idea of ​​the framework he would give it:

“(…). Globalization is continuous, from crisis to crisis. The leaders were on the brink of abandoning the liberal creed, while their European allies, particularly Germany and France, were applying it. (...). The left and right, of course, expected an inevitable resumption of growth, believing in the permanence of economic cycles. But both fail to notice that they act in a world of changing contours. The crisis of subprime, which triggered the financial crisis that remains, surprised everyone, when in fact it is a continuation of a series of crises, such as the Internet bubble, the Asian bubble and others.

(...). The fate of Greece in 2015 reflected the restrictions that the European Union can impose on its members. Due to the level reached by its debt, Athens and this small country were given an ultimatum for them to accept the political and financial control imposed by the “troika”, that is, by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), by the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Commission. A question arises: wouldn't the troika have seized European sovereignty? This was very clear from the crisis in Greece. The troika speaks of giving order to all and in the name of all. In turn, each nation-state that renounces its sovereignty to ensure the common good, begins to live the experience of the regions that were colonized, supposedly, as the colonizers said, for their own “good”. The difference comes from the fact that today it is the national States themselves that act in the direction of this “self-colonialism”. The resentment that these facts produce in peoples subjected to this type of humiliation, demands that one think about the revolts that can ferment. It is necessary to remember that the process of US ascension was accompanied by the globalization of resentments against its State. (...)

(…) Unfortunately, there is a denialism that persists in the face of global warming. This phenomenon is largely due to greenhouse gas emissions. Its progression must be stopped so that the Earth's global temperature does not rise by more than 1,5 degrees. (...). Promoting solar and wind energy and stopping the deforestation of the remaining forests on the planet, especially in the Amazon, would make it possible to further reduce the amount of greenhouse gases.

(...). These environmental concerns, however, should not make us forget about human suffering. In the XNUMXst century, two billion people still suffer from malnutrition. (...). Not a year goes by without some drama: (…) tsunamis in Asia and unexpected earthquakes, the worsening of climate disasters in the southern United States, the Caribbean and Latin America, the fires in the Amazon, etc. In addition to everything and the crisis of the world capitalist system, today, the whole world is faced with the unexpected action of the new coronavirus. These disasters are linked both to the action of human societies and technical progress, and to nature's reactions to certain innovations. (...). The disorder and fear they cause interact with those caused by other aspects of the crisis.”[lv]

This is the historian engaged with the future. Marc liked to remember what his mother used to say, when he saw a customer in crisis and unable to choose a dress: «try to get the dress that fits you, not the one that looks the prettiest!». And Marc translated for himself that “we need to do the best with what our talents allow us!” Writing books, making films, interpreting history, thinking about history, was the good fight he was able to carry out. And he did it very well!

Jorge Nóvoa He is a professor at the Department of Sociology at UFBA. Author, among other books, of Carlos Marighella: The man behind the myth (Unesp).


[I] The parts of this text written in the first person singular will seek to highlight that the thought expressed is mine. When I use the first plural, I try to point out that what I write involves collaborators, or Marc Ferro. I would like to thank Soleni Biscouto Fressato for her attentive reading, who for circumstantial reasons was unable to participate in its editorial staff, who played a fundamental role in publishing the magazine O OLHO DA HISTÓRIA in its online phase and in the structuring of the ANPUH Cinema-History Working Groups and SNHC, largely based on Marc Ferro's theories, particularly those focused on the relationship between cinema and history. We remember with pleasure and grateful satisfaction that we shared the coordination of these Groups with Professor Marcos Silva from the Department of History at USP (University of São Paulo), for more than 10 years.

[ii] A Cinema-History Workshop and the Magazine THE EYE OF HISTORY were founded at the Federal University of Bahia, in its former Department of History at the Faculty of Philosophy and Human Sciences. Both the Workshop and the Magazine had an institutional life until my retirement, but not without producing 27 issues that can be consulted at the address

[iii] Marc Ferro helped produce and hosted over 630 episodes of the show Parallel History which, by itself, is an inexhaustible source for the study of the twentieth century. Undoubtedly, this program was a pedagogical agent in and of history, in terms of the theory developed by Ferro. The originality of the program helped to develop the French taste for history, reaching between 10 and 13% of the audience on Saturdays at 19 pm. It sought to show sources and archives from different nations, forcing citizens to reflect, without trying to conduct this process through their prior selection. Nazi films mixed with chauvinist “liberals” with bombing justification speeches. He did this in complete independence and invited historians of differing opinions to debate at the end.

[iv] NEW, Cristiane Carvalho.  Our story en Trance. Le temps et l'histoire dans l'œuvre by Glauber Rocha. University of Paris III – Sorbonne Nouvelle. (Supervised by Michèle Lagny), June 23, 2003. Michèle Lagny was another important scholar of the relationship between cinema and history who also became our collaborator.

[v] FERRO, Marc. A world without horizons: societies would run out without Covid-19. In: FRESSATO, Soleni Biscouto and NÓVOA, Jorge (org.). SOUND THE ALARM. THE CRISIS OF CAPITALISM BEYOND THE PANDEMIC. São Paulo, Perspectiva, 2020, pp-25-44.

[vi] Kristian Feigelson followed Marc Ferro's seminar at the École des Hautes Études in Social Sciences and became one of his most beloved and assiduous former students, even in the last two months of his life. Feigelson is a professor at the Department of Cinema et Audiovisual at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, author of several books in which he makes extensive use of Ferro's theories.

[viii] SCHVARZMAN, Sheila. L'image en question: Jean-Luc Godard et Eric Hobsbawm sur le plateau L'Histoire parallèle. In: Théorème n. 31, op. Cit. pp.251-258.

[ix] NÓVOA, Jorge and FRESSATO, Soleni Biscouto. Les formes filmiques de l'histoire. De la passion de l'histoire à celle des images. In: Théorème n. 31. Paris, IRCAV, Sorbonne, 2020, pp. 61-70.

[X] Testimony by Marc Ferro to Jorge Nóvoa and Cristiane Carvalho da Nova, at the École des Hautes Études in Sciences Sociales on February 05, 1977.

[xi] FERRO, Marc. A history of medicine (with JP Aron), 52 min., 1980

[xii] FERRO, Marc. L'histoire sous surveillance. Science et conscience de l'histoire. Paris, Calmann-Levy, 1985.

[xiii] Same, pp. 172-173

[xiv] DOSSE, François. L'Empire des sens. L'humanisation des sciences humaines. Paris, La Découverte, 1997.

[xv] _________. Comment on raconte l'histoire aux enfants à travers le monde entier. Paris, Payot, 1986.

[xvi] Ditto, p.7.

[xvii] DAMASIO, Antonio. Descartes' error. Emotion, reason and the human brain. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 1996.

[xviii] MERLEAU-PONTY, Maurice. Phénoménologie de la perception. Paris, Gallimard, 1945.


[xx] maquis is a term that designates French Resistance groups during World War II that hid in mountainous areas with forest vegetation (or maquis) to attack by surprise the Nazis as well as the places where the Resistance were hiding. Maquisards was the generic name for these resisters. for the work of sapa os guerrillas they played an important role in demoralizing the occupying troops, a large role in informing the French government in exile, and in destroying the railroad on Nazi transport. Due to the geographical centrality in French territory and also the proximity to the city of Grenoble, the first and what would become the most important of the 30 movements in France was the maquis du Vercors.


[xxx] See

[xxiii] VERCORS, Nounours du. Dans les pas du maquisard Ferro. 23 de abril de 2021.



[xxiv] IRON, Mar. L'Entree dans la vie. Amour, travail, famille, révolte. Ce qui change un destin. Paris, Tallandier, 2020.

[xxv] PALMER, Brian D. Edward Palmer Thompson: Objections and Oppositions. Rio de Janeiro, Paz e Terra, 1996, p. 176

[xxviii] After the third year of a degree, one more year can be done with the defense of a monograph, which gives the right to the title. It belongs to the teaching career, unlike the Master, which is a title in the university curriculum. The Lincence constitutes the first cycle and the Maîtrise a national diploma of the second cycle of higher education, therefore higher than the Lincence.

[xxviii] FERRO, Marc. Petain. Paris, Fayard, 1987. This book served as a screenplay for the film of the same title, thanks to the perseverance of Jacques Kirsner. There were five attempts passing by Alain Corneau, Jean-Pierre Marchand, to end up being held by Alain Riou and Jean Marboeuf. Historian Marc Ferro will make several films with historical motivation and historiographical objective, as was the case with the film about World War II and the History of Medicine.

[xxix] KALFON, Pierre. Ernesto Guevara, a legend of our siglo. Barcelona, ​​Plaza & Janés Editores, 1997.

[xxx] FERRO, Marc. History of colonizations. Des conquêtes aux indépendences XIII ê – XX è siècle. Paris, Seuil, 1994, p. 371.

[xxxii] BERTAIN-MAGHIT, Jean-Pierre. Lettres filmées d'Algérie (1954-1962). Des soldats à la camera, Paris, Nouveau monde éditions/ministère des armées, 2015. By the same author, see the documentary Des Soldats à la Caméra – Algérie 1954-1962, (France, 2018) 52 min.

[xxxi] PENTECORVO, Gillo. The Battle of Algiers. (Italy, 1966), 2h1'. Among others, he received the United Nations award in 1972.

[xxxii] FANON, Frantz. Les damnés de la terre. Paris, Maspero, 1961.

[xxxv] DERRIEN, Marie-Louise and FERRO, Marc. Algérie 1954, la revolte d'un colonisé. Paris, 1970/1973.

[xxxiv] BURCHETT, Wilfred G. The Vietnam War. Madrid, Editorial Era, 1967.

[xxxiv] IRON, op. Cit., pp 371-373.

[xxxviii] Same, p. 376

[xxxviii] _____Le livre noir du colonialisme. XVI è – XXI è siècle: de l'extermination à la repetition. Paris, Robert Laffont, 2003. Recently published Colonization is explained to everyone. Paris, Threshold, 2016.

[xxxix] COURTOIS, Stéphane, WERTH, Nicolas et al. Le livre noir du communisme : crimes, terreur, répression. Paris, Robert Lafont, 1998.

[xl] COHEN, Jean. Structure du langage poetique. Paris, Flammarion, 1968.

[xi] The Great War 1914-1918 (in 1964), Indochine 45-46. Un combat, un inconnue resistance (1965) Chronique d'une paix manquée : la remilitarisation de la Rhénanie (1966) 1917 year (1967) 1918 year (1968)

[xliii] FERRO, Marc. The revolution of 1917. Paris, Albin Michel, 1997. It constitutes the most extensive and most important that he wrote on the subject. This work was preceded by less extensive articles, films and books. In Brazil, Editora Perspectiva first edited, in 1974, a small study entitled The Russian Revolution of 1917. There is also a small book by him that was brought by Editora Brasiliense entitled The West before the Soviet Revolution. History and its myths. São Paulo, Brasiliense, 1984.

[xiii] ANWEILER, Oskar. Les soviets en Russie (1905-1921). Marseille, Agone, 2019.

[xiv] RABINOWITCH, Alexander. The Revolution of 1917 to Petrograd. Paris, La Fabrique, 2016.

[xlv] Benjamin, Walter. Theses on the concept of history. In: Selected Works, vol. 1, Magic and Technique, Art and Politics. São Paulo, Brasiliense, 1994.

[xlv] DARDOT, Pierre, LAVAL, Christian. The October Shadow: The Russian Revolution and the Specters of the Soviets. São Paulo, Perspective, 2018.

[xlv] Naquet specialized in ancient Greece and played an active role in various fields of French politics and culture. During the Algerian War, he fought against torture, against the dictatorship of the Greek colonels, for the end of the Israeli Arab conflict, defending since 1 the need for a Palestinian state alongside Israel. His last period of life was devoted to the fight against denialism.

[xlviii] LE GOFF, Jacques and NORA, Pierre. History: new problems, new approaches, new objects. Rio de Janeiro, Francisco Alves, 1976.

[xlix] IRON, MARC. Cinema et Histoire. Paris, Gallimard, 1993. In the Brazilian edition, the article appears as Chapter XI. Film and History. Rio de Janeiro, Peace and Land, 1992.

[l] NEW, Jorge. Cinématographe. Laboratory of poetic reason and “new” thought. In: Jorge Nóvoa, Soleni Biscouto Fressato, Kristian Feigelson. Cinématographe. A look at history. Salvador, EDUFBA, Sao Paulo, Ed. From UNESP, 2009. This book, the result of extensive international and Brazilian cooperation, received the Year of France in Brazil Award. At an international level, our collaboration was more assiduous with Sylvie Dallet and Kristian Feigelson. In Brazil, we developed with Marcos Silva (Dept. of History at USP) and with José D'Assunção (History at UFRJ and UFRRJ). With Assunção we published the book Cinema-History. Theory and social representations in cinema. Rio de Janeiro, Apicuri, 2012. With Marcos Silva, we participated in several books that he organized and vice versa, in addition to having conceived a Working Group that met at the ANPUH and SNHC Congresses, which remained in operation for over 10 years. We also publish with Soleni Biscouto Fressato Sensitive eyes. The beauties of cities and their barbarities. Curitiba, Prisms, 2018.

[li]FERRO, Marc. AND PLANCHAIS, Jean. Les media et l´histoire : le poids du passé dans le chaos de l'actualité. Paris, CFPJ Éditions, 1997, p.28

[liiii] BLOCH, Marc. Apologie pour l'histoire ou métier d'historien. Paris, Armand Collin, 2018.

[iii] SCHAFF, Adam. History and truth. São Paulo, Martins Fontes, 1986

[book] ___. Le ressentiment dans l'histoire. Understand notre temps. Paris, 2008; Le retournement de l'histoire. Paris, Robert Laffont, 2010; L'aveuglement. Une autre histoire de notre monde. Paris, Tallandier, 2015; Les russes de l'histoire. Le passé de notre actualité. Paris, Tallandier, 2018.

[lv] FERRO, Marc. A world without horizons. Op. Cit, In: FRESSATO, Soleni Biscouto and NÓVOA, Jorge (org.). SOUND THE ALARM. THE CRISIS OF CAPITALISM BEYOND THE PANDEMIC. São Paulo, Perspective, 2020, pp-29-36

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