Caetano Veloso and Domenico Losurdo

Image_Stela Grespan


What bothers Caetano's interview is that the liberal consensus was questioned and now there are socialists who don't just have a relationship of denial and hatred of their own history

The repercussion surrounding Caetano Veloso's interview is impressive. He only stated two things: i) he is no longer liberal; ii) he has a greater respect for the history of socialism than he had in the past. These two orientations result from the reading of Domenico Losurdo, according to him. This was enough for a whole fuss involving the issue of Stalin, a historical character absolutely absent in Caetano's account.

Moral indignation reveals three things: i) it is forbidden to recall the link existing in the history of liberalism with racism, slavery, colonialism, etc.; ii) the only tolerable view on the history of socialism is the one that assesses that everything boils down to barbarism, therefore, the rejection must be unanimous and unilateral; iii) Losurdo is a prohibited author.

The frisson generated, incidentally, failed, promoted a debate around the merits of the works read by Caetano, in particular the “Counterhistory of Liberalism”. Summarizing everything as “liberalism = good” x “socialism = evil” is the most that some critics have achieved, in general, demonstrating an abysmal ignorance of the very history of the ideological current they defend.

It is important, first, to note that Losurdo is not new in the Brazilian cultural milieu. It has been published in Brazil for a long time, it has participated in lectures and debates — including with Trotskyists —, its work has even been published in large circulation newspapers, such as the Folha de São Paulo (just search). Why, during all this time, has there not been this wave of moral hysteria against the Italian's work? Why has there not been this effort at “ideological correction” (ironically, quite Stalinist) in the past, if we are talking about such a perverse revisionism? In a way, this reveals the lack of intellectual seriousness of his opponents. What matters is not a historiographical or theoretical discussion, but a pure political combat. What is disturbing is that the liberal consensus has been questioned and now there are socialists who do not just have a relationship of denial and hatred of their own history.

The manifestation of Pablo Ortellado, ex-anarchist and ex-media critic turned sycophant of the big communication groups — a good sign of the disgrace that an individualist vision of anarchism can lead to — is just one more example of the superficiality that surrounds the discussion . An intellectual delinquent quite well adapted to current journalism, every day more superficial and hostage to common sense.

The proof that they don't care about an honest assessment of the past is the fact that relevant historiographic works, which appeared after the opening of the Soviet archives, some even coming from liberals, such as the biography of Stalin written by Stephen Kotkin, published by Cia. das Letras, or the work of the French historian – this one is a communist – Anne Lacroix-Riz, do not arouse any interest. They are best left ignored, as they confirm many of Losurdo's views.

About all this, it is worth making a few comments.

Domenico Losurdo is not a mere propagandist, agitator or manual follower, whether we like him or not. His work forms a very coherent whole, involving a philosophical analysis of authors of modernity, sometimes in a positive view (Hegel), sometimes in a critical posture (Nietzsche, Heidegger) and a balance of the history of liberalism that highlights the theme of colonialism.

In a way, he has a very particular Marxism, which many could accuse of being excessively Hegelian, which makes him commit some heresies for a Marxist, such as saying that the “disappearance of the State”, a decisive theme in Marx’s work, should be disregarded as a utopian deviation. One could relate his historicist and pro-State Hegelianism to the cultural environment of Italy, known both for post-Machiavelli political realism and for an influential Hegelian school, present in some canonical authors of Italian liberalism, such as Benedetto Croce. These two influences manifest themselves, not by chance, also in Antonio Gramsci.

Within the philosophy of Losurdian History, the great merit of socialism throughout its history involved both the expansion of democracy to popular sectors, women and “people of color” and the process of dismantling the colonial and racist legacy that marked the apogee of Europe liberal.

Based on this view, which strongly emphasizes anti-colonial nationalism as a progressive element in the post-Second World War, it is not difficult to understand the reasons for a more positive assessment of the history of the USSR. Not only was it the first nation to criminalize racism, but this issue played a prominent role in the ideological conflict with the US — often represented as the land of KKK white supremacy in Soviet propaganda — during the Cold War.

While blacks were lynched in the USA until the mid-60s, while apartheid in Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) and South Africa was supported by the USA and England, while “democratic” nations promoted massacres in the colonial world (only the way France dealt with with the independence of Algeria is enough for anyone to question a total difference between totalitarianism and liberalism), the USSR promoted decolonization in the world, trained and financed blacks, Asians, Arabs, Caribbeans, Latin Americans, in search of independence. There was, for example, the Patrice Lubumba University (Congolese leader assassinated by the CIA) training anti-colonial leaders free of charge who would return to their nations to act politically or to learn tasks of engineering, administration, etc. necessary for newly independent Third World republics.

This explains why Stalin's image could serve so many nationalist movements throughout the XNUMXth century. A figure like Nelson Mandela read Stalin and Mao to think and act for the liberation of his people, the North American black movement developed close relations with Maoism and with other third-worldisms (including North Korea), Albert Einstein could overlook the crimes associated with Stalin because he valued the state that most liberated Jews in the world, to the point of creating an autonomous republic for Jews within its borders at the height of anti-Semitism and "scientific racism" in vogue not only in Germany but throughout the world western.

What a part of Domenico Losurdo's work seeks to demonstrate is that both the cult image of Stalin, quite in vogue even in the West after the victory against the Nazis — Stalin became “man of the year” of the Time, some of the best poets in the world, such as Paul Éluard, dedicated chants to his name, Roosevelt praised him in a very decorous way as the most decisive statesman not only for the victory against Nazism but also for the construction of the world order that emerged after this feat — as the demonized and caricatured image, typical after Khrushchev's condemnation of his predecessor at the XNUMXth Congress of the CPSU and even more after the West's victory in the Cold War, are symbolic constructions filled with historicity.

If the apology for all of Stalin's actions is something absurd, if we can — and should — criticize forced collectivization (whose best critic is Mao Zedong, which must cause enormous confusion in the minds of our theorists of “totalitarianism”) , to violent purges, to judicial farces against opponents in 1937-38, at the height of the Great Terror, it is also wrong to disregard concrete historical factors, such as the threat of Nazi-fascism, openly aimed at destroying and enslaving the Slavic world, and more it is still stupid to rely entirely on Khrushchev's “secret report”, as this was the result of a political struggle against opponents representing Stalin's closest circle (Malenkov, Molotov). In a way, Khrushchev represented the sectors of the party and state bureaucracy most uncomfortable with Stalin's policy of pressure and total mobilization, demanding more comfort and stability.

It is interesting to note that Losurdo, contrary to the caricatures, has opinions that are far removed from any Stalinist stereotype: he defends liberalizing measures in the Chinese style (of Deng Xiaoping) and defends the need for a socialist rule of law, based on legality. Losurdo, contrary to the vulgate, defends that, despite the history of racism, liberalism has teachings. He can be criticized from many points of view, but to reduce his vision to "Stalinism" is simply stupid when we are dealing with someone who follows opinions similar to those of Bukharin, an enemy of Stalinism (but also of Trotskyism), formulator of "socialism". market”, killed by repression.

Seeing worship and uncritical defense in Losurdo, someone who calls the Stalinist period a “terrorist and developmentalist autocracy”, is the result of this unquestionable and lowered consensus, more characteristic of the 70s and 80s, from the period of Soviet decay onwards. Thus, Foucault, the same intellectual who cried after learning of Stalin's death (a fact described in François Dosse's “History of Structuralism”), transitions to anticommunism throughout the 70s. Between one and the other, the ideological victory of the Cold War . This fact allows completely incoherent statements to be assumed as unquestionable facts, such as believing both that Stalin was an incompetent idiot and his dominion over the breath of every citizen of the USSR, which makes the victory of a country completely inexplicable. seen as late and medieval compared to the most powerful war machine ever created on the planet.

To be fair, revisionism is much less in Losurdo than in the European Union, which recently produced an astonishing document equating Nazism and Communism and saying that the origin of the Second World War lies in the agreement between Stalin and Hitler. It ignores, therefore, all the action of the liberal world “passing the cloth” for Hitler's policy, in search of the isolation of the USSR, as the very fact that continental Europe was easily dominated by Nazism. If we depended on the action of France, where conformism reigned even in liberal and “democratic” circles, the whole world would be speaking German. However, few denounced this revisionism in the press. “Intellectuals” like Pablo Ortellado are only brave enough to attack easy targets.

Incidentally, much of what has become customary about Soviet history involves taking seriously the theses of Nazi collaborationists — such as the followers of Stepan Bandera and Ukrainian nationalism —, spread mainly through the action of ideological warriors from the West, such as Richard Pipes (an enthusiast of the military arch-reactionary Kornilov in the history of the Russian revolution) and Robert Conquest, the historian we now know to have been — the very obituary of the The Guardian confirm — agent of the British secret service. The talk about Holodomor, the “Ukrainian genocide”, for example, was never triggered, outside Nazi circles and against the US entry into World War II, until recently, even by virulent oppositionists such as Trotsky.

Anyone on the left who thinks that they will get dividends by combating a supposed “neo-Stalinism” will break their faces. For the predominant narrative in liberal circles, there is not even room for Lenin. Our rightists have a certain coherence: political violence did not just start with Stalin, despite its intensification. The defense of a pacifist and abstract humanitarianism certainly does not speak in favor of the relentless commander — terror of the anarchists — of the Red Army, Leon Trotsky, nor does he manage to have a favorable view of processes such as the first successful anti-slavery black revolution in history (the Haitian revolution, famous for its violence) or the struggle of republicans in Spain against Franco's troops — anyone who has read anything about the Spanish Civil War is amazed at episodes of brutality committed by the “right side” of the war, especially against the clergy Catholic.

Describing the entire history of revolutionary struggles as a barbaric and senseless sequence of bloodshed is standard procedure in any Restoration, as the views of the Jacobins present in France after 1815 attest—which lasted until post-War communist historians “restore” Robespierre—or the reactions of Latin American oligarchies against the uprising of black Haitians. Losurdo is startling because he proposes a real balance of the history of socialism, with its mistakes and crimes, but also with its successes and fundamental victories. Our ideologues don't want any balance sheet, just moral condemnation. This is already expected by liberals, conservatives and all apologists for order. That socialists fall for this only demonstrates the current ideological mess we are in.

* Diogo Fagundes is a law student at the University of São Paulo (USP).



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