The New Irrationalism

John Bellamy Foster

Monthly Review | 2023Volume 74, Issue 09 (February)

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, forty-third etching in Francisco Goya’s satirical Los Caprichos (1799). Cover design dedicated to John J. Simon.

More than a century after the commencement of the Great Crisis of 1914–1945, represented by the First World War, the Great Depression, and Second World War, we are seeing a sudden resurgence of war and fascism across the globe. The capitalist world economy as a whole is now characterized by deepening stagnation, financialization, and soaring inequality. All of this is accompanied by the prospect of planetary omnicide in the dual forms of nuclear holocaust and climate destabilization. In this dangerous context, the very notion of human reason is frequently being called into question. It is therefore necessary to address once again the question of the relation of imperialism or monopoly capitalism to the destruction of reason and the ramifications of this for contemporary class and anti-imperialist struggles.

In 1953, Georg Lukács, whose 1923 History and Class Consciousness had inspired the Western Marxist philosophical tradition, published his magisterial work, The Destruction of Reason, on the close relation of philosophical irrationalism to capitalism, imperialism, and fascism.1 Lukács’s work set off a firestorm among Western left theorists seeking to accommodate themselves to the new American imperium. In 1963, George Lichtheim, a self-styled socialist operating within the general tradition of Western Marxism while virulently opposed to Soviet Marxism, wrote an article for Encounter Magazine, then covertly funded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in which he vehemently attacked The Destruction of Reason and other works by Lukács. Lichtheim accused Lukács of generating an “intellectual disaster” with his analysis of the historical shift from reason to unreason within European philosophy and literature, and the relation of this to the rise of fascism and the new imperialism under U.S. global hegemony.2

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Capital Hates Everyone: Fascism or Revolution

Maurizio Lazzarato

Semiotext(e), South Pasadena, 2021. 247 pp., $15.95 pb
ISBN 9781635901382

Reviewed by Conor Bean

Marx & Philosophy Review of Books | June 11, 2022

For a decade now Maurizio Lazzarato’s analyses have been swiftly translated into English after a period of relative lag in uptake in the anglophone world, a case of missed connection in the flurry of importing French and Italian radical thought. His reception has picked up speed because he writes passionately in a polemical tenor that makes for quick and punchy reading, although much of the analysis relies on technical terminology from contemporary European philosophy that renders accessibility elusive at times. The rapidity of translation via the Semiotex(e) Intervention Series has resonated with the conjunctural nature of Lazzarato’s writing, as he has moved swiftly to make sense of a shifting political terrain in theory and providing assessments of radical political movements. Capital Hates Everyone: Fascism or Revolution offers a political intervention in the sense of taking stock of contemporary tendencies and putting forth a set of strategic concerns animating a politics for the moment of its writing. As such, Capital Hates Everyone might be best read as a historical appraisal of a particular conjuncture in which the threat of ascendent fascist tendencies in global politics meets the continuing dominance of neoliberalism, while protest movements like the Gilets jaunes in France struggle to find a footing. In the book’s introduction, the ‘yellow vests’ movement roiling France at the time of the book’s writing is instructive in multiple ways. First, far from being a model of future organization, the yellow vests movement demonstrates some of the weaknesses and temptations found in what Lazzarato describes as ‘68 thought’, the proliferation of leftist political theories and organizational models in Western Europe since the failed pre-revolutionary moment of 1968. More than this, however, the response of the French state to these protests has laid bare the depth of ‘class hatred’, the affective revulsion of capitalism’s managers for any insurgent activity, along with the strategic lengths they will go to erase political possibilities beyond the neoliberal consensus (9-10). Hence the title, Capital Hates Everyone. For Lazzarato, anti-capitalists must reckon with the intensity of reaction that capitalists can rouse among themselves and in new fascist movements that seek nothing less than the liquidation of dissent.

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The Danger of Fossil Fascism

Understanding the growing combination of racism, climate science denial, and fossil fuel promotion

Andreas Malm and the Zetkin Collective
On the Danger of Fossil Fascism

Verso Books, 2021

reviewed by Martin Empson

Climate and Capitalism | March 26, 2022

As regular readers of my blog will be aware, I think that Andreas Malm, even where I disagree with key points of his argument, is one of the most stimulating Marxist authors on environmental politics. So it was with eager anticipation that I looked forward to this new publication “one the dangers of fossil fascism” that Malm has co-authored with the network the Zetkin Collective, a group of scholars and activists “working on the political ecology of the far right.”

The book does multiple things. It opens with a study of the far-right and fascist movements and looks at their “anti-climate politics” and asks “what would it mean to live in a world both hotter and further to the right” than it is today. It argues that the far-right’s fixation with anti-climate views is closely tied to its anti-immigration perspective and the way that developing capitalism associated technology (and particularly fossil fuel technologies) with white supremacy. The authors argue in the introduction:

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Ukraine’s decommunization and the rise of fascism

Nikos Mottas

The process of the so-called “decommunization” in Ukraine was introduced during the first years of the restoration of capitalism in the USSR and included the slandering and erasing of anything related to the Soviet period and the construction of socialism.

This term was also used by the President of today’s capitalist Russia, Vladimir Putin, in his anti-communist statement prior to the invasion, saying characteristically that “we are ready to show you what genuine decommunization means for Ukraine”. It is not a coincidence that anti-communism is a common feature of both the neo-Nazi regime in Kiev as well as the leadership of capitalist Russia, at a time when the two sides are waging a bloody war against the people on behalf of their bourgeois classes.

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84-year-old Indian political prisoner Father Stan Swamy dies

Peoples Dispatch | July 05, 2021

Father Stan Swamy

84-year-old Indian activist, priest and political prisoner Fr. Stan Swamy died at a hospital on Monday, July 5. He died shortly before his plea for medical bail was heard by the Bombay High Court. Swamy, who was arrested on October 8, 2020 in the controversial Elgar Parishad case, had been admitted to the Holy Family Hospital in the city of Mumbai on May 28 after his health deteriorated. Swamy had spent decades working for the welfare of tribal communities in India.

A special court had denied him bail in March 2021. Incidentally, last month, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the case,  had filed an affidavit before the High Court opposing Swamy’s bail plea. It had said that there did not exist “conclusive proof” of his medical ailments.

Swamy was arrested under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act which renders chances for bail very difficult. During his time in jail, his health deteriorated drastically, a fact which was repeatedly stressed by his lawyers and well-wishers. In November, Swamy, who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, had to approach the courts to even access a straw and a sipper. Shortly after being admitted to Holy Family Hospital at the end of May, Swamy reportedly contracted COVID1-19.

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Ukraine: Fascism’s toe-hold in Europe

Francis Lee

Saker Blog | April 21, 2021

Stepan Bandera statue in Lviv.

Politics in the Ukraine can only be understood by reference to its history and ethnic and cultural make-up – a make-up criss-crossed by lasting and entrenched ethnic, cultural and political differences. The country has long been split into the northern and western Ukraine, where Ukrainian is the official and everyday lingua franca, and the more industrialised regions of the east and south where a mixture of Russian speaking Ukrainians and ethnic Russians reside. Additionally, there has long been Hungarian and Romanian settlement in the west of the country, and a particularly important Polish presence, whose unofficial capital, Lviv, was once the Polish city of Lwow. The Russian Orthodox Church is the predominant form of Christianity in the East, whilst in the west the Christian tradition tends towards Roman Catholicism.Read More »


‘Five Days, Five Nights’: Flight to Freedom from Fascist Portugal

Michael Berkowitz

People’s World | September 16, 2020

‘Five Days, Five Nights’: Flight to freedom from fascist Portugal

Álvaro Cunhal, right holding a white flower, led Portugal’s Communist Party for half a century and became a national hero after the overthrow of the country’s dictatorship. Here, he is embraced by supporters during a rally amidst Portugal 1974 ‘Carnation Revolution.’ Cunhal, who spent nearly 35 years underground or in jail for his role in building the Communists into the only well-organized opposition to the dictatorship of Antonio Salazar and then Marcelo Caetano, was secretly an author of fiction. One of his novels, ‘Five Days, Five Nights,’ written under the pseudonym Manuel Tiago, has just been published in English for the first time by International Publishers. | Acacio Franco / AP

Álvaro Cunhal had a little secret. It was a good thing that he did. Living under the fascist Salazar dictatorship of mid-20th-century Portugal for the first half of his life, Cunhal needed secrecy. After all, for decades he was a leader and ultimately the Secretary General of the Portuguese Communist Party, which waged a life-and-death struggle against the fascist regime.

So, Álvaro Cunhal was forced to go underground into hiding. After he was caught, he was imprisoned for 11 years, eight of them in solitary confinement. He was routinely tortured and starved. After his daring 1960 escape from Forte de Peniche Prison, this revolutionary was driven into exile from his native land, where he served the cause from abroad. He returned in 1974 after the revolution that finally, after almost half a century, overturned fascism, and that immediately led to the independence of the Portuguese colonies.Read More »

Against fascism and war: The Communist Party USA’s third decade

by Norman Markowitz

People’s World | August 19, 2019

Against fascism and war: The Communist Party USA’s third decade
A CP-sponsored rally in support of Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteers fighting for democracy against fascism in Spain. | People’s World Archive

As the Communist Party USA’s second decade ended, World War II, the greatest war in human history, began. In all major capitalist countries, the mass media blamed the war on the Soviet Union’s signing of a non–aggression pact with Nazi Germany and condemned Communist Parties’ support for the Soviet Union. Was there truth to the allegation that Communists—both in the Soviet Union and around the world—had helped Hitler start the war?

The first question to ask should be: What were Communists in the U.S. and throughout the world supporting and working for in the 1930s?

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Remembering 1945: No compromise with fascism, whatever form it takes

by Samuel Sillen

People’s World | May 08, 2019

Remembering 1945: No compromise with fascism, whatever form it takes

U.S. and Soviet soldiers meet on the Elbe River, April 25, 1945, effectively cutting Nazi Germany in half. Within days, Hitler would be dead and his Third Reich in ruins. | U.S. Army Photo

The following article appeared in the May 8, 1945 issue of the Daily Worker under the headline “The Worst Crimes in History.” It was printed on the day that the Nazis surrendered in Germany, thus ending World War II in Europe. In the piece, author Samuel Sillen says the best memorial to the millions killed in the fight against fascism is to make sure that fascism never returns.

Millions—many millions—did not live to share this hour of triumph. Millions were hounded, twisted, strangled, starved. Their ashes heaped in German ovens. Their skeletons clumsily piled in shallow ditches.

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The Values of April: 45 years since Portugal overthrew fascism

by Diana Ferreira

Peoples’ World | Apirl 25, 2019

The Values of April: 45 years since Portugal overthrew fascism

Street scene from the 25th of April Revolution in Portugal. | Alfred Cunha / Public Record

April 25, 2019, marks the 45th anniversary since the April Revolution in Portugal when a mass democratic uprising overthrew the fascist dictatorship that had ruled the country for nearly five decades. What started as a coup by anti-fascist army officers quickly morphed into a revolt of the whole Portuguese people. As she walked the streets of Lisbon that day, restaurant worker Celeste Caeiro started placing red carnations into the barrels of soldiers’ rifles and tanks, giving the 25th of April its other name—the Carnation Revolution. Below is an excerpted speech delivered today in the Assembly of the Republic, the country’s parliament, by Portuguese Communist Party member Diana Ferreira.

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