Domenico Losurdo

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Domenico Losurdo
Losurdo (cropped).png
Born(1941-11-14)14 November 1941
Died28 June 2018(2018-06-28) (aged 76)
NationalityItalian
Alma materUniversity of Urbino
Notable work
Stalin: History and Criticism of A Black Legend
Liberalism: A Counter-History
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolMarxism, Marxism–Leninism
Notable ideas
Political-moral and naturalistic despecification

Domenico Losurdo (14 November 1941 – 28 June 2018) was an Italian Marxist philosopher better known for his critique of anti-communism, colonialism, imperialism, the European tradition of liberalism and the concept of totalitarianism. For the latter, he has been criticised for relativising Joseph Stalin's rule and Stalinism, being often characterised as a neo-Stalinist as a result.

Biography[edit]

Born in Sannicandro di Bari, Losurdo obtained his doctorate in 1963 from the University of Urbino under the guidance of Pasquale Salvucci with a thesis on Johann Karl Rodbertus.[1] He was director of the Institute of Philosophical and Pedagogical Sciences at the University of Urbino, where he taught history of philosophy as Dean at the Faculty of Educational Sciences.[2]

Since 1988, Losurdo was president of the Hegelian International Association Hegel-Marx for Dialectical Thought. He was also a member of the Leibniz Society of Sciences in Berlin (an association in the tradition of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's Prussian Academy of Sciences) as well as director of the Marx XXI political-cultural association.[3]

From communist militancy[4] to the condemnation of American imperialism[5] and the study of the African-American and Native American question,[6] Losurdo was also a participant in national and international politics.[7]

Losurdo died on 28 June 2018 at the age of 76 due to throat cancer.[8][9]

Thought[edit]

A trained Marxist, described as both a noncomformist[10] and heterodox Marxist[11] as well as a communist militant,[4] Losurdo's work ranged from contributions to the study of Kantian philosophy (the so-called self-censorship of Immanuel Kant and his political nicodemism),[12] the revaluation of classical German idealism, especially by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel,[13] in an attempt to re-propose the legacy (in the wake of György Lukács in particular)[14] and the reaffirmation of the interpretation of German and non-German Marxism (Antonio Gramsci and the brothers Bertrando and Silvio Spaventa),[15] with incursions into the sphere of Nietzschean thought (the reading of an aristocratic radical Friedrich Nietzsche)[16] and Heideggerian[17] (in particular the question of Martin Heidegger's adhesion to Nazism).[18]

Losurdo's philosophical-political reflection, attentive to the contextualization of philosophical thought in his own historical time, moved in particular from the themes of radical criticism of liberalism, capitalism and colonialism as well as the traditional conception of totalitarianism in the perspective of a defense of Marxist dialectics and historical materialism, devoting himself to the study of anti-revisionism in the Marxist–Leninist sphere.[7] Losurdo included his works in the history of ideas and concerned the investigation of questions of contemporary history and politics, with a constant critical attention to historical revisionism and the controversy against the interpretations of Hannah Arendt, François Furet, Karl Popper and Ernst Nolte. In particular, Losurdo has criticised a reactionary tendency among contemporary revisionist historians such as Nolte (who traced the impetus behind the Holocaust to the excesses of the Russian Revolution) and Furet (who linked the Stalinist purges to a "disease" originating from the French Revolution). According to Losurdo, the intention of these revisionists is to eradicate the revolutionary tradition as their true motivations have little to do with the search for a greater understanding of the past, but rather he claims it lies in both the climate and ideological needs of the political classes and is most evident in the work of the English-speaking imperial revivalists such as Niall Ferguson and Paul Johnson. His 2015 book War and Revolution provided a new perspective on the English, American, French and Russian revolutions, among other 20th-century revolutions.[19]

Losurdo also turned his attention to the political history of modern German philosophy from Kant to Karl Marx and the debate that developed in Germany in the second half of the 19th and in the 20th century as well as a reinterpretation of the tradition of liberalism, in particular starting from the criticism and accusations of hypocrisy addressed to John Locke for his financial participation in the Atlantic slave trade.[20] Taking up what Arendt stated in her 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism, Losurdo argued that the 20th century's true original sin was the colonial empire of the late 19th century, where totalitarianism and the internments manifested for the first time.[21]

Historical revisionism[edit]

According to Losurdo, despecification is the exclusion of an individual or group from the civilian community. There are two types of despecification:[6]

  • Political and moral despecification in which the exclusion is due to political or moral factors.
  • Naturalistic despecification in which the exclusion is due to biological factors.

For Losurdo, the naturalistic despecification is qualitatively worse than the political-moral one. While the latter offers at least one escape through the change of ideology, this is not possible in the case of a naturalistic despecification since it is irreversible as it refers to biological factors that are in themselves unchangeable.[22][23] Unlike many other thinkers, Losurdo thought that the Holocaust of the Jewish people is not incomparable and therefore was willing to admit in this case a tragic peculiarity. Losurdo stated that the comparisons he offers about this did not want to be a relativisation or a belittlement of the Holocaust, but that to consider the Jewish Holocaust as incomparable meant to lose the historical perspective and to forget about the Black Holocaust (i.e. the holocaust of black people) or the American Holocaust (i.e. the holocaust of Native Americans in the United States through the continued deportation to the west and diffusion of smallpox) as well as other mass exterminations such as the Armenian genocide.[6]

Losurdo was a strong critic of the equation between Nazism and communism made by scholars like François Furet and Ernst Nolte,[22][24] but also by Hannah Arendt and Karl Popper.[25] Likewise, Losurdo criticised the concept of a Red Holocaust.[22] He argued that in the Nazi concentration camps there was an explicit homicidal intention as the Jew who entered was destined not to get out of it (there is a naturalistic despecification) while in the Gulag there was not (it is political-moral despecification). In the first case, the Nazis imprisoned those whom they regarded and called Untermensch (subhuman) while in the second case (in which he claimed only a part of the dissidents ended up to) dissidents were locked up to be re-educated and not to be killed. Despite being a practice to be condemned, Losurdo stated that "the prisoner in the Gulag is a potential "comrade" [the guard was required to call him this way] [...] and after 1937 [the beginning of the two years long Great Purge following the murder of Sergey Kirov] he is [...] a potential "citizen".[22][26]

Taking up the opinion of Primo Levi (who was interned at Auschwitz, according to whom the Gulag was not morally equivalent to the Nazi concentration camps)[27][28] and against Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (who was interned in Siberia and asserted the equalisation of the exterminationist intent in both the Gulag and the Nazi concentration camps),[29] Losurdo maintained that although it was a disgrace that a socialist country born to abolish exploitation retorted to imperialist and capitalist systems and methods, the Gulag was more analogous to many Western concentration camps (whose governments have supported and claim to be champions of freedom) which in some ways were more akin to the Nazi concentration camps as a death camp and not a re-education one, taking up the history of the Indian genocide. He also argued that British concentration camps and penal colonies were worse than any Gulag, accusing politicians such Winston Churchill and Harry S. Truman of being guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity just like—if not worse—those attributed to Joseph Stalin.[22] As such, Losurdo also stated his belief that communists suffer from autophobia (that is, fear of themselves and their own history), a pathological problem that according to him—unlike healthy self-criticism—must be faced.[30]

In excerpts from a conference organized in 2003 to re-evaluate the figure of Stalin fifty years after his death, Losurdo harsly criticised the revelations contained in Nikita Khrushchev's "Secret Speech". According to Losurdo, Stalin's bad reputation derived not from the crimes committed by the latter which he compared to others of his time, but from the falsehoods present in the report that Khrushchev read as General Secretary during the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in February 1956. He also gave credit to one of the main accusations that were at the base of the bloody Stalinist repression against the opponents, i.e. the existence of the "full-bodied reality of the fifth column" in the Soviet Union ready to ally with the enemy.[31] Losurdo reiterated that he did not want to rehabilitate Stalin, but put him in the historical context and present a more neutral analysis of the facts, implementing a revisionism of the general experience of real socialism,[24] considered a past yet useful study to understand the future dynamics of socialism.[22][24][32]

Work[edit]

Liberalism: A Counter-History[edit]

In Liberalism: A Counter-History (2005), first published in English in 2011, Losurdo argued that while purporting to emphasise the importance of individual liberty, liberalism has long been marked by its exclusion of people from these rights, resulting in racism, slavery and genocide. Losurdo asserted that the origins of Nazism are to be found in what he views as colonialist and imperialist policies of the Western world. He examined the intellectual and political positions of intellectuals on modernity. In his view, Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel were the greatest thinkers of modernity while Friedrich Nietzsche was its greatest critic.[21] It received a number of positive reviews from critics.[33][34]

Stalin: History and Criticism of A Black Legend[edit]

In Stalin: History and Criticism of A Black Legend (2008), Losurdo stimulated a debate about Joseph Stalin, on whom he claimed it is built a kind of black legend intended to discredit all communism.[22] Opposed to the comparison of Nazism and Stalinism, Losurdo criticised the concept of totalitarianism, especially in the works of Hannah Arendt, François Furet, Karl Popper and Ernst Nolte, among others. He argued that totalitarianism was a polysemic concept with origins in Christian theology and that applying it to the political sphere required an operation of abstract schematism which makes use of isolated elements of historical reality to place Nazi Germany and other fascist regimes and the Soviet Union and other socialist states in the dock together, serving the anti-communism of Cold War-era intellectuals rather than reflecting intellectual research.[35][36]

Reception[edit]

A review written in April 2009 by Guido Liguori in Liberation (the official organ of the Communist Refoundation Party) of Losurdo's 2008 book Stalin: History and Criticism of A Black Legend in which Losurdo criticised the demonisation of Stalin carried out by majority historiography and tried to remove it from what he calls "the black legend about him", was at the center of a controversy within the drafting of the aforementioned review. A storm of protests ensued when around twenty editors sent a letter of protest to the editor of the newspaper in which they criticized both Losurdo's attempt at Stalin's rehabilitation in his book and Liguori's review (judged to be too positive with respect to the book) as well as with the choice of the director of the newspaper to publish this review.[37]

While the book has been criticised for its claims and the methodology used,[38][32][39] Losurdo's work has been praised by Grover Furr, who has been called "a 'revisionist' on a career-long quest to exonerate Stalin" and has written the book Khrushchev Lied on the "Secret Speech",[40] starting a mutual friendship with Losurdo, whom Furr praised especially for his 2008 book on Stalin.[41] His book also caused controversies internationally, especially in Germany, with critics labelling Losurdo a neo-Stalinist.[42][43][44]

Losurdo continued to actively cooperate with Furr, introducing him to an Italian publisher who published the Italian translation of Furr's book Khruschev Lied in 2016, with Losurdo's introduction.[45][46] Additionally, Losurdo wrote a back-cover to Furr's 2013 book The Murder of Sergei Kirov and an introduction to the book which remains unpublished.[47][48]

Political views[edit]

Ideologically a Marxist–Leninist, Losurdo supported the interpretation that Mao Zedong gave the plurality to the class struggle by paying attention to the process of female emancipation and colonised peoples.[49] Losurdo also took a highly critical view of the European intellectual tradition of liberalism.[21]

Close first to the Italian Communist Party, then to the Communist Refoundation Party and finally to the Party of Italian Communists, confluited in the Communist Party of Italy and in the Italian Communist Party, of which he was a member,[50] Losurdo was also director of the Marx XXI political-cultural association.[51]

Strongly opposed to American interventionism and its foreign policies, imperialism and NATO,[4][7] Losurdo contested the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, stating that Liu is an open supporter of Western colonialism.[52]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Losurdo Domenico" (in Italian). University of Urbino. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  2. ^ "Faculties: Faculty of Education". University of Urbino. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  3. ^ "Cordoglio per la scomparsa di Domenico Losurdo" (in Italian). Il Metauro. 1 July 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  4. ^ a b c "A militant and a scholar. Remembering Domenico Losurdo (1941-2018)". Verso. 29 June 2018. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  5. ^ Losurdo, Domenico (2007). Il linguaggio dell'Impero. Lessico dell'ideologia americana (in Italian). Roma-Bari: Laterza. ISBN 978-88-420-8191-3.
  6. ^ a b c Losurdo, Domenico (1999). L'ebreo, il nero e l'indio nella storia dell'Occidente (in Italian). Urbino: Quattro venti.
  7. ^ a b c "Domenico Losurdo" (in Italian). Blogger. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  8. ^ "PCI Ancona: cordoglio per la scomparsa del Compagno Losurdo" (in Italian). Italian Communist Party. 28 June 2018. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  9. ^ "Scienza e militanza. Un ricordo di Domenico Losurdo" (in Italian). MicroMega. 28 June 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  10. ^ Liguori, Guido (29 June 2018). "Domenico Losurdo, il filosofo marxista controcorrente". Il manifesto (in Italian). Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  11. ^ Renda, Rosalinda (7 July 2018). "Domenico Losurdo, un marxista eterodosso". La Città Futura (in Italian). Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  12. ^ Losurdo, Demonico (1983). Autocensura e compromesso nel pensiero politico di Kant (in Italian). Naples: Bibliopolis.
  13. ^ Losurdo, Domenico (1992). Hegel e la libertà dei moderni (in Italian). Rome: Editori Riuniti. ISBN 88-359-3571-7.
  14. ^ Losurdo, Domenico; Salvucci, Pasquale; Sichirollo, Livio (1992). Gyorgy Lukacs nel centenario della nascita, 1885-1985 (in Italian). Urbino: Quattro venti.
  15. ^ Losurdo, Domenico (1997). Dai fratelli Spaventa a Gramsci. Per una storia politico-sociale della fortuna di Hegel in Italia (in Italian). Naples: La città del sole. ISBN 88-86521-73-1.
  16. ^ Losurdo, Domenico (2002). Nietzsche. Il ribelle aristocratico (in Italian).
  17. ^ Losurdo, Domnico (1991). La comunità, la morte, l'Occidente. Heidegger e l'ideologia della guerra (in Italian).
  18. ^ Losurdo, Domenico (19 March 2014). "Heidegger's black notebooks aren't that surprising". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  19. ^ Losurdo, Domenico (2015). War and Revolution: Rethinking the Twentieth Century. Verso. ISBN 978-1781686164.
  20. ^ Losurdo, Domenico (2003). Dalla teoria della dittatura del proletariato al gulag? (in Italian). In Marx, Karl; Engels, Friedrich. Manifesto del partito comunista. Translation and introduction by Losurdo. Bari: Editori Laterza. p. XL.
  21. ^ a b c Losurdo, Domenico (2011). Liberalism: A Counter-History. Verso. ISBN 978-1844676934.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g Losurdo, Domenico (2008). Stalin: History and Criticism of A Black Legend. Rome: Carocci. ISBN 978-8843077007.
  23. ^ Brignoli, Maurizio (1 May 2005). "Losurdo, Domenico, Il linguaggio dell'impero. Lessico dell'ideologia" (in Italian). Archived 10 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ a b c Losurdo, Domenico; Giacomini, Riggero, ed. (1999). URSS: bilancio di un'esperienza. Atti del Convegno italo-russo. Urbino, 25-26-27 settembre 1997. Urbino: Quattro venti. ISBN 88-392-0512-8.
  25. ^ Losurdo, Domenico (1998). Popper falso profeta (in Italian). Armando Editore. p. 158.
  26. ^ Klinestiver, Matthew. "Excerpts from Domenico Losurdo's Stalin: History and Criticism of a Black Legend".
  27. ^ Levi, Primo (1947). If This Is a Man. Turin: Einaudi.
  28. ^ Levi, Primo (17 February 1986). "Primo Levi's Heartbreaking, Heroic Answers to the Most Common Questions He Was Asked About "Survival in Auschwitz". The New Republic. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  29. ^ Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr (1973). The Gulag Archipelago. Paris: Éditions du Seuil.
  30. ^ Losurdo, Domenico (1999). Fuga dalla storia? Il movimento comunista tra autocritica e autofobia (in Italian).
  31. ^ Giacomini, Ruggero (2005). Stalin nella storia del Novecento (in Italian). Teti Editore. p. 139.
  32. ^ a b Evangelisti, Valerio (14 April 2009). "Domenico Losurdo: Stalin. Storia e critica di una leggenda nera" (in Italian). Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  33. ^ Peter Clarke (13 May 2011). "Locke, stock, and barrel". Financial Times. Retrieved 5 May 2017. It is a brilliant exercise in unmasking liberal pretensions, surveying over three centuries with magisterial command of the sources
  34. ^ Pankaj Mishra (25 November 2011). "Books of the year 2011". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 May 2017. Liberalism: A Counter-History stimulatingly uncovers the contradictions of an ideology that is much too self-righteously invoked.
  35. ^ Losurdo, Domenico (2014). "Towards a Critique of the Category of Totalitarianism". Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  36. ^ Broder, David (2 July 2018). "Domenico Losurdo (1941–2018)". Jacobin. Retrieved 20 March 2019. While he recognized the exorbitant, paranoid aspects of Stalin's leadership, his efforts to relativize it were often governed by a polemical zeal unjustified by the evidence marshaled. This made his reframing of Stalinism more "interesting" than necessarily persuasive.
  37. ^ Liguori, Guido (10 April 2009). Lettere su Stalin (in Italian). Archived 2 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  38. ^ Pianciola, Niccolò. "Stalin. Storia e critica di una leggenda nera, con un saggio di Luciano Canfora" (in Italian). Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  39. ^ Romano, Andrea (11 November 2011). "Losurdo, Canfora e lo stalinismo che non fa male" (in Italian). Retrieved 23 May 2019.[permanent dead link]
  40. ^ Young, Cathy (31 October 2015). "Russia Denies Stalin's Killer Famine". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  41. ^ Furr, Grover (1 July 2018). "In Memoriam Domenico Losurdo". Montclair State University. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  42. ^ Jünke, Christoph (August 2000). "Auf zum letzten Gefecht? Zur Kritik an Domenico Losurdos Neostalinismus" (in Germany). Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. Retrieved 18 May 2019.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  43. ^ Jünke, Christoph (2007). Der lange Schatten des Stalinismus. Sozialismus und Demokratie gestern und heute (in German). Köln: ISP. p. 123. ISBN 978-3-89 900-126-6.
  44. ^ Jünke, Christoph (2014). "Zurück zu Stalin!? Domenico Losurdos Feldzug gegen die Entstalinisierung". Emanzipation (in German). 4 (2): 57–73.
  45. ^ "In Memoriam Domenico Losurdo". Msuweb.montclair.edu. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  46. ^ Furr, Grover (2016). Krusciov mentì (in Italian). La Città del Sole. ISBN 9788882924751.
  47. ^ "In Memoriam Domenico Losurdo". Msuweb.montclair.edu. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  48. ^ Furr, Grover (2013). The Murder of Sergei Kirov: History, Scholarship and the Anti-Stalin Paradigm. Erythros Press and Media, LLC. ISBN 9780615802015.
  49. ^ Losurdo, Domenico (25 June 2016). "Domenico Losurdo: "Una teoria generale del conflitto sociale" (in Italian). Sinistra in Rete. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  50. ^ Losudro, Domenico (30 October 2011). "Intervento al 6° Congresso Nazionale del PdCI" (in Italian). Blogger. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  51. ^ "Il Consiglio Direttivo dell'associazione MarxXXI" (in Italian). Marx XXI. Archived 1 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  52. ^ Losurdo, Domenico (10 October 2010). "Il Nobel per la pace a un campione del colonialismo e della guerra" (in Italian). Blogger. Retrieved 18 May 2019.

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  • Dalla teoria della dittatura del proletariato al gulag?, in: Karl Marx - Friedrich Engels, Manifesto del partito comunista, traduzione e introduzione di Domenico Losurdo, Editori Laterza, Bari 2003.
  • Controstoria del liberalismo, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2005. ISBN 88-420-7717-8.
  • La tradizione filosofica napoletana e l'Istituto italiano per gli studi filosofici, Napoli, nella sede dell'Istituto, 2006.
  • Autocensura e compromesso nel pensiero politico di Kant, Napoli, Bibliopolis, 2007. ISBN 9788870885163.
  • Legittimità e critica del moderno. Sul marxismo di Antonio Gramsci, Napoli, La città del sole, 2007.
  • Il linguaggio dell'Impero. Lessico dell'ideologia americana, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2007. ISBN 9788842081913.
  • Stalin. Storia e critica di una leggenda nera, Roma, Carocci, 2008. ISBN 9788843042937.
  • Paradigmi e fatti normativi. Tra etica, diritto e politica, con altri, Perugia, Morlacchi, 2008. ISBN 9788860742247.
  • La non-violenza. Una storia fuori dal mito, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2010. ISBN 9788842092469.
  • La sinistra assente. Crisi, società dello spettacolo, guerra, Carocci, 2014. ISBN 9788843073542.

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