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."
This essay first appeared in Public Seminar.
(via Friedemann W.-W. on Flickr)
The process of European unification is undergoing a deep crisis, certainly the deepest since it started at the beginning of the 1950s. In less than a year, the EU faced two major tests — first the Greek quarrel, then the refugee crisis — that revealed its true face: a mixture of impotence, unwillingness, egoism, arrogance and cynicism. It is not a pretty spectacle. No illusions can remain about this entity that, far from embodying the federal ideal, has become an empty shell, an object of shame and deserved sarcasm. Those who still ritually proclaim its virtues are the representatives of a highly discredited political elite who seem to no longer have any culture or values. The more they assert their belief in the EU, the more they disqualify it, even in the eyes of the millions of people who have never felt any sympathy for conservatism, nationalism and xenophobia.
On the 27th January 1945, the Soviet army entered the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau liberating the remaining 7,000 inhabitants. The massive scale of the killing at Auschwitz, estimated at over 1 million, made its liberation a decisive moment.
In this extract from Enzo Traverso's recently published account of the "European Civil War" of 1914 to 1945, Traverso situates the origins of the "final solution" in the longue durée of European and German history. As he states, "despite its specific features, the Nazi war against the Jews belonged to this European and global civil war". This, Traverso points out, is not to dilute the horrors of the Holocaust, but rather an attempt to discover its particular conjunctural origins. It is only in this way that we can we think through Auschwitz while avoiding the twin dangers of placing outside of history, or as merely a regressive moment on the long march of enlightened progress.
In this essay originally delivered as a lecture at the Nicos Poulantzas insitute in Athens on the eve of Syriza's historic victory in the Greek general elections, Enzo Traverso, author of the recently published Fire and Blood: The European Civil War 1914-1945 and one of Europe's premier historians of the twentieth century, reflects on the legacy of the historic left. In it, Traverso reflects on the legacy of the twentieth century and it's "memorial landscape".
There is something paradoxical in delivering a lecture on left memory, in Athens, in this particular moment. But I am very happy for this paradox, or this dialectical contrast. We are on the edge of a possible victory of Syriza at the next elections, an event that would represent a historical turn in this country and also, because of its inevitable consequences, in Europe. This could start a process of rebuilding the European left and open new perspectives for the future of the continent. After decades of defeats and regressions, a left alternative to neoliberalism and the domination of financial capitalism finally becomes visible, and this change is beginning here, in Greece (at the margins of Europe, if we think in geopolitical terms; at its heart, if we think in terms of civilization).