Domenico Losurdo on Europe, US foreign policy and Latin America
This past spring, left-wing Brazilian journal Revista Opera published a four-part interview with famed Italian Marxist thinker Domenico Losurdo. Losurdo took time from promoting the Portuguese release of his book, War and Revolution: Rethinking the Twentieth Century, published in English by Verso Books, to discuss modern-day anti-colonialism, US foreign policy, revolution and Hegel.
With the permission of our colleagues at Revista Opera, we will be publishing all four parts of the interview in English for the first time. This week, we continue with a translation of the second part in the series, 'The US Never Officially Renounced the Monroe Doctrine.' You can find the original in Portuguese here.
And with regards to Europe, professor? Let’s talk about the political future of Europe. Now that we have the immigration crisis and the rise of the far-right, what is your outlook for a turn to the Left for Europe?
Maybe it would be better to clarify certain concepts. I polemicize against a certain Left… If we consider the First World War and the Second World War, we’ll see a big difference. It’s clear that in both cases imperialism played an important role. However, Lenin described the First World War as a struggle between colonial slaveholder and colonial slaves. And the colonial slaves, during the First World War, were passive.
The Second World War was very different. During the Second World War, the colonial slaves played an important, even decisive role. We can’t understand the result of the Second World War without first considering the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, which was the struggle of the Soviet people against enslavement by the Third Reich. It was an anticolonial war as well, led by the Communist Party.
And what Hitler tried to do in Eastern Europe was what Japanese imperialism tried to do in Asia. Japanese imperialism tried to colonize and enslave China–Korea as well, but particularly China–and what happened in Asia was a war of resistance by the Chinese people against the Japanese invasion. These were two colonial wars. Of course, we later saw Vietnam, Cuba, Algeria; in other words, after the defeat of the Third Reich, we witnessed a global anti-colonial revolution.
Unfortunately, immediately after the War, the Trotskyists said: “They are all imperialists.” That is, [they argued] that no national war is possible [laughs], they didn’t understand that the Third Reich and fascist Italy, as well as Japanese imperialism, represented an attempt to radicalize the colonial tradition.
Now, there are some who say yes, the Americans are imperialists–there are even some idiots who say that China is imperialist, as well… but I won’t speak of China. In my opinion China, led by a great Communist Party, has a very important role to play in the struggle against imperialism, but I’ll set aside China for now.
Europe. Europe isn’t the same as the United States. We can’t forget that in Germany and in Italy there are American military bases. Italy isn’t a completely sovereign state; there are [US] military bases, and these bases, which even have nuclear weapons, are completely controlled by Washington. So for a country like Italy–and the same applies to Germany–there is the danger of the country being thrown into a war by a decision made in Washington. Of course, were we to see a war against Russia in Europe today and the US bombed Moscow, Russia would respond. And now I speak as an Italian: I don’t like the idea of being cannon fodder for American imperialism.
How great is the danger of a Third World War? We need to think concretely. The danger is not that Merkel wages war against Washington, or that Italy does. The great danger is that the U.S. declares war on Russia or China–or both, and the danger is that the US tries to push Germany, Italy, France and other European countries against China and Russia. That is, in Europe it’s necessary to carry out a struggle for peace not only because peace is a great cause, but because we should defend the independence of Italy and of Germany against American imperialism.
I wrote an essay that was translated by the PCdoB [the Communist Party of Brazil] about [Palmiro] Togliatti, who during the Cold War argued that the struggle against the dangers of the Cold War, the danger of a Third World War, was at the same time a struggle for national independence against US imperialism. Today, the situation is very different. In the past, for example, immediately after the First World War, and even after the Second, there were different opposing military alliances. Today, there is only NATO, which wants to expand.
In the past, these military alliances criticized each other, accusing one another of building up their armies. Today it’s the opposite; the US criticizes Germany, Italy and other European countries for spending too little. Washington wants to pressure Europe to build-up its military capacity against Russia and China. So we must say that the principal enemy is obviously the US, and I quote the great Italian communist leader Palmiro Togliatti, who said that the primary quality of a Communist Party is its identification of the main enemy and concentrating all of its energies against it. That is the situation today. The primary enemy is the US, and we can even separate Europe from the United States. Europe isn’t destined to follow the US; there are many forces in Europe which, perhaps, would prefer to follow an independent path in their foreign policy.
Now, in how it relates to the Left and Right in Europe, there’s a certain Left that says: “Marine Le Pen is from the Right”–well, she’s clearly not from the Left. But is [ex French President François] Hollande to the left of Marine Le Pen? I have my doubts. Because the Right is for war and, in this case, Hollande is more favorable to war in Syria than Marine Le Pen. I will not be a follower of Le Pen, but I also see no reason to follow Hollande. And we can make similar considerations in how it relates to Italy. If we want to try to distinguish between the “Right” and the “Left,” we should consider two great problems: the position on neoliberal austerity, the destruction of the social welfare state–that is one point. The other point is the question of the risk of a world war, of neocolonial war, like the wars against Libya, Iraq, Yugoslavia and Syria. These are neocolonial wars. And if a party defends these wars, it cannot be of the Left—it is of the Right.
During an interview with the magazine Princípios in 2015, you said that a return to power of the Right in Brazil would be a tragedy. Today we have widespread attacks on workers’ rights under the government of Michel Temer. What is your outlook on this question, and of the “right-wing resurgence” in Latin America, with [President Mauricio] Macri in Argentina, for example?
Yes, well, I believe I already spoke of a second global colonial counter-revolution, the first of which was carried out by Hitler. The second colonial counter-revolution isn’t only being carried out in the Middle East, but in Latin America as well, with the aim of restoring the Monroe Doctrine. To be sure, there was a left-wing movement in countries like Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, etc. And now we see a new US offensive, and this offensive is an integral part of the second colonial counter-revolution.
The United States never officially renounced the Monroe Doctrine, and it’s clear that in certain periods they were unable to impose it. I believe they are trying to reinstate the Monroe Doctrine now.