Jean Birnbaum's profile of Enzo Traverso first appeared in Le Monde. Translated by David Broder.
The leftist ferment of the 1960s–70s is unthinkable except in the context of a certain Communist "bath water." Often the generation becoming alive to politics at that moment had been radicalised in response to their Communist parents — parents that "not everyone was lucky enough" to have. Later, in 1989, the old ‘68ers who had revolted against their "Stalinist" mums and dads would see it all disappear — not only the bath water but its babies and even the babies of its babies… In the moment that they were themselves meant to take over responsibility as parents, they found themselves orphaned twice over. Both their revolt and the world they had railed against were no more.
With the recent passing of Germany's most acclaimed revisionist historian Ernst Nolte, the question of how we assess the revisionist moment has reappeared. Why did the revisionist historians gain such fame in the 1980s and '90s? What is the place of historical scholarship today? And how do we reconstruct a Marxist historical scholarship after revisionism?
In this essay by Enzo Traverso (taken from History and Revolution: Refuting Revisionism), he takes aim at Nolte, Furet and a host of other revisionists who studied Communism in the twentieth century. Traverso sees that these historians placed the conflict between fascism and communism as the central conflict of the twentieth century - yet the ultimate aim of this was to remove communism as a force from the present day. How, then, do we reclaim the tradition of communism after revisionism? As Traverso says, "the Stalinist legacy, made up of a mountain of ruins and dead, did not erase the origins of communism in the tradition of the Enlightenment and eighteenth-century rationalist humanism."
Alan Wald's review of Fire and Blood: The European Civil War, 1914-1945 was first published in Against the Current.
(German and Italian troops round up civilians on the Via Rosella following the Partisan ambush of an SS march, March 1944. Via Wikimedia Commons.)
Enzo Traverso has pulled off the rare reconstruction of a past epoch that pulsates with electric immediacy. Fire and Blood fashions events happening seventy-five-to-one-hundred years ago to feel as lively and pertinent as political debates taking place at present. His principal topic is the hell that was the center of Europe’s two world wars climaxing in a deluge of totalitarianism and genocide, and the devil is back today.
This appeal denouncing the police violence and the abuses that have become generalized since the state of emergency came into effect in France was produced by a collective made up of more than three hundred academics, activists, and artists. Translated by David Broder.
(Outside the Saint-Lazare train station, April 12, via Libération.)
Since last November and the proclamation of the state of emergency, the decomposition of the social-regression and police-truncheon state has massively accelerated. This state has dropped any inhibitions about its submission to capital — a capital that stamps its feet, impatient to be able to exploit and cast aside whomever it likes, whenever and however it pleases. Those who refuse to roll over — fighting for their dignity, their future, or simply their everyday lives — are being brought in ever-greater numbers before tribunals, treated as terrorists and, like the Goodyear workers, sentenced to prison terms. Developing in tandem with this has been the most methodical police violence.