Colonialism and anti-colonial struggle: challenges of the revolution in the XNUMXst century

Rubens Gerchmann, Scar Ecuador, 1974.


Presentation of the recently released book by Domenico Losurdo

Reconstruction of the communist proposal and revolution in the XNUMXst century

The title given to this volume, Colonialism and anti-colonial struggle: challenges of the revolution in the XNUMXst century, underlines what is the center of his reflection. It is not a work organized by Losurdo, but a selection of writings, some unpublished in Portuguese, some already known to the public, others retranslated or revised. What unifies them is the centrality of the colonial question in the history of bourgeois modernity and the importance of anti-colonialism in the struggle for socialist revolution in the XNUMXst century.

Rethinking the history of modernity and social conflicts in the light of the colonial question is a central element of Losurdian production. It is not “only” a historiographical and philosophical question in terms of the battle of ideas, but a burning theme of practical-political conflicts in Brazil and in the world.

The book is divided into four parts. The first is “Colonialism and Neocolonialism”, and consists of three writings: “Panama, Iraq, Yugoslavia: the United States and the colonial wars of the 1989st century”; “Zionism and the tragedy of the Palestinian people”; and “The dominance of manipulation is understood: what happens in Syria?”. Losurdo shows in these writings that the 1991-48 counterrevolution provoked a rehabilitation of the colonial tradition at all levels – from the cultural to the military – and that the end of the Cold War did not mean the establishment of peace, but a resurgence of the militarism of imperialism. in the form of neocolonial wars – under Bill Clinton alone, the United States engaged in XNUMX military actions.

In addition to debating the rehabilitation of the colonial tradition, Losurdo points out elements of classic colonialism that were never overcome. In the case of Palestinians, Zionism operates a type of classic domination: military occupation, regime of racial segregation, despotic control over natural resources, dehumanization of the dominated people and all other determinants of the long historical duration of colonialism.

Pointing out, however, the permanence of the classic forms of colonialism does not mean that “nothing has changed”. The Italian theorist also works on the role of social networks and the internet in neocolonial wars, large-scale psychological operations and “regime change” actions. He traces a long history of the role of institutional lying and manipulation in imperialism's foreign policy and shows how the internet age, far from being a realm of horizontal communication and freedom of opinion, has enhanced America's ability to subjugate other peoples.

In the second part of the book, entitled “Imperialism, war and the struggle for peace” and composed of the writings “Palmiro Togliatti and the struggle for peace yesterday and today”, “Why it is urgent to fight NATO and rediscover the meaning of political action” and “The lie industry as an integral part of imperialism's war machine”, the focus is the struggle for peace, against wars and for the self-determination of peoples. As a good communist, Losurdo could not only think about denouncing the problem, or interpreting the world, after all, the essential thing is to transform it.

The philosopher makes the debate from a more abstract theoretical level to a higher level of practical-political concreteness. In the first article, using Palmiro Togliatti's reflections, he shows the importance of reflecting on the historical dimension of politics and not thinking of praxis as a mere re-enactment of past forms. Many could not understand, at the time, the differences between the first and second world wars (tending to repeat tactics of action, slogans, etc.) and between the Second World War and the Cold War. Losurdo seeks to present a theoretical-methodological framework to carry out a “concrete analysis of the concrete situation” in the fight against war.

The second writing, to a lesser degree of abstraction, deals with the problems faced in building a campaign against NATO in Italy. The philosopher is faced both with the difficulty of some sectors to accept the broader character – beyond communists and Marxists – of a campaign for peace and against NATO and with the difficulty of those who think that slogans read as “pacifists” they are not revolutionary enough. The author's reflection, although linked to the Italian context, is useful for the Brazilian left, especially for those sectors that refuse to defend Venezuelan national sovereignty and fight against the war due to antagonisms with the Nicolás Maduro government, or that remain silent about the daily massacres in Colombia over historical disagreements with the FARC.

In the third writing, once again resuming the debate on institutional lies and manipulation as a weapon of war and domination, Losurdo seeks to theorize about the ways in which the left could escape these actions. Resisting the manipulations of imperialism is not easy. When George W. Bush tried to invade Iraq, stirring up the lie of “weapons of mass destruction” in the country, the few critical voices that were raised were accused of sympathy for the Iraqi dictator and for the barbarities committed by his regime, such as the massacre of Kurds, brought into the picture to imply that anyone who doubted the need to overthrow Saddam Hussein was flirting with these atrocities on some level.

Losurdo contributed decisively to the examination of resistance to these operations of psychological terrorism, of annulment of critical thinking, moving away from the liberal-based dichotomy – and always instrumentalized by imperialism – of thinking geopolitics as a global confrontation of “authoritarianism versus democracy” – justification officer to destroy Libya, attack Syria, encircle Venezuela, etc.

The third part of the book, “US imperialism, the main enemy”, is perhaps the most controversial. In the two essays that compose it – “The Bush doctrine and planetary imperialism” and “The United States and the political-cultural roots of Nazism” –, the Italian thinker recovers the thesis dear to the Bolshevik tradition that, in the multiplicity of contradictions, there is always a main enemy, the focus of political action. When I say that the thesis is controversial, I am referring to the counterpoint to the current tendency to think of the world as a network of inter-imperialist conflicts of equal tactical and strategic dimensions.

Not a few speak of “Chinese and Russian imperialism”, or are outraged by what, supposedly, would be a minimization of the role of French and German imperialism in the world. What Losurdo argues, without denying the multiplicity of contradictions and the complexity of global power structures, is that Japan, France, Germany and other countries of lesser geopolitical weight – such as Italy itself – are subordinated to the economic and political-military power of the world's only superpower: the United States.

In his understanding, US imperialism is the main enemy to be isolated and fought with concentration of forces. If Losurd's analysis is right, it conditions a whole process of tactical reconfiguration of the left's action in Europe and in the world. Allied to this, and also against the current, he does not understand China's action in the world as a rival US imperialism, but as a counterpoint to Yankee domination, with an anti-colonial and third-world horizon.

At this point, I have doubts whether I fully agree with Losurdo's reflection. It would be difficult, however, in this short space, to discuss in depth my possible disagreements. I would say, more generally, that your analysis tends not to consider in all its depth the center-periphery relationship that China establishes with most countries of dependent capitalism, including Brazil. And even if this relationship does not have, until now, traces of militarism, interventionism and neocolonialism, it continues to be a relationship of appropriation of value produced in peripheral economies. However, when going through the covid-19 pandemic and observing the difference in behavior between China and the United States, in addition to the repercussions of the virus in Europe, I tend to look more sympathetically at this author's thesis.

To conclude, the last part, entitled “Critique of liberalism, democracy and the reconstruction of Marxism”, is composed of four writings: “Marxism and communism in the 200th anniversary of Marx's birth”; “October Revolution and Democracy in the World”; “Critique of Liberalism, Reconstruction of Materialism: Interview by Stefano G. Azzarà)”; and “Interview with Novos Temas magazine: Interview by Victor Neves)”. They offer a broader panorama of Losurdian work, but do not lose sight of the central theme of the book: colonialism and the anti-colonial struggle. The first reproduces Losurdo's last lecture: in it he takes stock of the Marxian legacy, highlighting his interpretation of the work of the founder of historical materialism. Marx de Losurdo is an anti-racist thinker, concerned with the anti-colonial struggle and the various forms of denial of the humanity of the dominated operated by capitalism. This innovative and daring interpretation of Marx's work and its central category, the class struggle, directly dialogues with all the vital issues of our time. [1]

The second essay is a small example of a dear and fundamental theme in the production of our philosopher: political democracy and the so-called “formal freedoms” are not a product of the simple development of capitalism and liberalism, but an expression of the class struggle and an imposition on the bourgeois world that reached its maximum development with the retreat of the “three great discriminations” (against the working class, women and black and colonized peoples). And it is impossible to tell the history of criticism – theoretical and practical – of the “three great discriminations” without mentioning the political cycle opened with the October Revolution.

The last writings are two interviews with different theoretical weights and functions. The first, as the title indicates, is centered on the critique of liberalism. It is a beautiful example of Losurd's criticism of the liberal ideology that has been so commented on in recent times. The second interview, much longer and denser, explores a multitude of topics and offers an overview, albeit with some limitations, of Domenico Losurdo's Marxism. For a preliminary contact with the production of the Italian communist, it is a precious material.

Therefore, you, the reader, have in your hands a book that helps you to think about the fundamental themes of the contemporary class struggle: against war, imperialism, neocolonialism and racism, to the disputes around the history of the communist movement and the battle of ideas against the dominant ideology. Consider this book an introduction to the monumental Losurdian production. I wish you a good reading and a lot of disposition for clashes, following the recommendation of another universal Italian, the also communist Antonio Gramsci: “Pessimism of reason and optimism of will”.

*Jones Manuel He is a historian, Master in Social Work from UFPE, educator and popular communicator. He edited, among other books, The African Revolution – An Anthology of Marxist Thought (Literary autonomy).


Domenico Losurdo. Colonialism and anti-colonial struggle: challenges of the revolution in the XNUMXst century. Organization and presentation: Jones Manoel. Prologue: Caetano Veloso. Translation: Diego Silveira, Federico Losurdo, Giulio Gerosa, Marcos Aurélio da Silva, Maria Lucilia Ruy, Maryse Farhi, Modesto Florenzano and Victor Neves. São Paulo, Boitempo, 2020, 204 pages.


[1] This interpretation is given at greater length in The class struggle: a political and philosophical history (transl. Silvia de Bernardinis, São Paulo, Boitempo, 2015).

See this link for all articles