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War and Revolution: Rethinking the Twentieth Century

Author of the acclaimed Liberalism: A Counter-History dissects the revisionist attempts to expunge or criminalize revolutions
War and Revolution identifies and takes to task a reactionary trend among contemporary historians, one that’s grown increasingly apparent in recent years. It’s a revisionist tendency discernible in the work of authors such as Ernst Nolte, who traces the impetus behind the Holocaust to the excesses of the Russian Revolution; or François Furet, who links the Stalinist purges to an “illness” originating with the French Revolution.

The intention of these revisionists is to eradicate the revolutionary tradition. Their true motives have little to do with the quest for a greater understanding of the past, but lie in the climate of the present day and the ideological needs of the political classes, as is most clearly seen now in the work of the Anglophone imperial revivalists Paul Johnson and Niall Ferguson.

In this vigorous riposte to those who would denigrate the history of emancipatory struggle, Losurdo captivates the reader with a tour de force account of modern revolt, providing a new perspective on the English, American, French and twentieth-century revolutions.

Reviews

  • “A brilliant exercise in unmasking liberal pretensions, surveying over three centuries with magisterial command of the sources.”
  • “Stimulatingly uncovers the contradictions of an ideology that is much too self-righteously invoked.”
  • “A book of wide reference and real erudition.”
  • “The book is a historically grounded, very accessible critique of liberalism, complementing a growing literature critical of liberalism.”

Blog

  • Revolution — still the stuff of dreams? A conversation with Sophie Wahnich

    Éric Aeschimann's interview with Sophie Wahnich was first published in L'obs on 23 March. Translated by David Broder.


    From Danton (1983).

    The last time that the French Revolution was the object of real public discussion was in 1989, with the bicentennial ceremonies staged by François Mitterrand, Jack Lang, and Jean-Paul Goude. Since then, there has been silence. Who today still refers to the Tennis Court Oath, the night of 4 August, the vote on the "Declaration of the Rights of Man" in 1793? At the Elysée [presidential place], 14 July has become the occasion for a presidential chatter where we speak more of political rehashes than of any revolutionary vision. And when leaders or intellectuals refer to the nation’s history, they cite the Resistance, the Popular Front, the Third Republic’s laws on laïcité and schooling, or even the Enlightenment. Rarely 1789. One exception was Manuel Valls’s allusion… to Marianne’s naked breasts. But things are starting to move. In autumn the philosopher Jean-Claude Milner published Rélire la Révolution, where he rehabilitates the project of universal justice asserted by the Revolution by way of the 1793 "Declaration of the Rights of Man." At the Amandiers theatre, Joël Pommerat has staged Ça ira (1) Fin de Louis, first part of a far-reaching depiction of the Constituent Assembly, which has encountered quite an echo around France. In June the film-maker Pierre Schoeller (L’Exercice de l’Etat) will shoot a film on this subject.

    Most importantly, the Arab revolutions and the square occupations à la Indignados have shown that the time of popular movements may return. And together with this, crucial questions: how to avoid one-upmanship, chaos, violence? How to avoid returning to a worse state than before? The men of 1789 confronted these dilemmas already; it might be useful to see how they responded to them.

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  • Post-fascism: a mutation still underway

    This interview with Enzo Traverso was first published in L'humanité. Translated by David Broder. 


    June 2015 press conference of far right 'Europe of Nations and Freedom' bloc within European Parliament. 

    In his Les Nouveaux Visages du Fascisme, historian Enzo Traverso analyses the mutations of the European far Right movements that have emerged from "the fascist matrix."1 According to Traverso, the Left has to "offer political perspectives again" in order to occupy "the immense void" that is today being filled by both jihadism and a "post-fascism" that excludes Muslims.

    Are Europe’s far-Right movements (the AfD in Germany, the Front National in France, Jobbik in Hungary…) adopting the same codes as fascism or Nazism?

    Enzo Traverso: First of all, these movements do share common traits, including their rejection of the European Union, their xenophobia and their racism, in particular in its Islamophobic dimension. Beyond these markers, we can see notable differences. There are clearly neo-fascist or neo-Nazi movements, like Golden Dawn in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary, etc., whose radicalism is often linked to the extent of the crisis, even if in Greece the rise of Syriza did put a lid on this dynamic. As for France, the Front National does have a fascist matrix, and there are certainly neo-fascists in the party, but its discourse is no longer fascist. After all, it has made a considerable effort at ideological mutation, and that is one of the keys to its success. If it still advanced neo-fascist arguments it would not get a hearing, and could certainly not hope to reach the second round of the presidential election.

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  • The Landing: Fascists without Fascism

    This post first appeared at Research & Destroy.



    We can imagine a person slowly becoming aware that he is the subject of catastrophe. The form of consciousness might be likened to someone peering out the window of a plane. They have been aboard for a long time, years, decades. From cruising altitude the landscape below scrolls past evenly, somewhat abstracted. The stabilizing mechanisms of eye and brain smooth the scene. Perhaps they are somewhere above the upper midwest. Their knowledge of the miseries that have seized flyover country hovers at the periphery of a becalmed boredom. Steady hum of the jet engines, sense of stillness. Borne by prevailing winds the first balloonists detected no wind whatsoever. So this flight. Though the passengers will never travel faster than this they scarcely feel any motion at all.

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Other books by Domenico Losurdo Translated by Gregory Elliott

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