With the death of Ernst Nolte on the 17th August, we have seen the passing of one of the most famous revisionist historians. His work on twentieth century history and comparative studies of Nazism and Communism reduced the Nazi genocide to merely a subplot in a supposed "asiatic" horror—Communism—to which the Nazis were just reacting. It is this supposed origin of the violence of the early twentieth century in the ur-horror of the Russian Revolution which sparked the Historikerstreit (historians' dispute) in Germany in the late '80s.
In this extract from Domenico Losurdo's War and Revolution, Losurdo charts the development of Nolte's thought. Losurdo argues that as Nolte moves closer to historical revisionism, he increasingly denies the horrors of both the Nazi genocide and colonialism, in a political move to discredit Communism as both a historical reality and a theoretical idea.
Ross Wolfe and Pam Nogales of the Platypus Affiliated Society recently interviewed Domenico Losurdo about issues present in his intellectual history, Liberalism: A Counter-History. Losurdo argues that the “dialectic between emancipation and de-emancipation is the key to understanding the history of liberalism.” Reviewing Locke as a “champion of slavery” and Mandeville as a zealous advocate of the death penalty, Losurdo demonstrates how 17th century defenses of liberty belied an affirmation of the power of property-owners while legitimizing, even celebrating, the subjugation of wage-laborers as “work machines.” When pressed on the (seemingly progressive) liberal project of de-emancipating the serfs that subsequently created an urban proletariat of revolutionary potential, Losurdo elaborates:
[T]his possibility of liberation was not the program of the liberals. The struggle of this new working class needed more time before starting to have some results. In my view, the workingmen of the capitalist metropolis were not only destitute and very poor, they were even without the formal liberties of liberalism.
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Can truth really be stranger than fiction? If anyone can answer that question definitively, it is Thomas Friedman, who occupies pride of place in the Counterblasts series in The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work by Belén Fernández.
Starting today, to celebrate the publication of Verso's new Counterblasts series, we will be posting three quotations every day relating to each of these three neoliberal defenders of empire and capital. All you need to do is spot the real one from among the fakes.
The prize is the full set of Counterblasts - Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil? by Derrick O'Keefe, The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work by Belén Fernández and The Impostor: BHL in Wonderland by Jade Lindgaard and Xavier de la Porte - AND Britain's Empire by Richard Gott and Liberalism: A Counter-History by Domenico Losurdo.