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Domenico Losurdo

Toward a Critique of the Category of Totalitarianism

Translated by Marella and Jon Morris
1. A Polysemous Category
Already in 1951, when Hannah Arendts The Origins of Totalitarianism was
published, the concept of totalitarianism had been debated for decades. And yet, the meanin
of the term still lac!s a proper definition. "s it possible to find a way throuh what appears to
be a ma#e$ "n this article, " shall not e%amine the e%amples in which the ad&ecti'e
(totalitarian,) e'en more than the noun that deri'es from it, bears a positi'e connotation. "n
other words, " shall not concentrate on the positi'e use of the term (totalitarian) with
reference to the capacity, attributed to a reliion or to any ideoloy or world 'iew, to posit
solutions to all of the many problems that arise from a dramatic situation, or e'en to answer
the *uestion on the meanin of life, a *uestion that concerns humans in their totality. "n 195+,
thouh re&ectin (leal totalitarianism,) that is, totalitarianism imposed by the law, ,arl -arth
e%tols the uni'ersalistic impulse and the all encompassin effecti'eness of the .hristian
(messae/) (The free race of the 0ospel, too, is 1totalitarian, because it aims at the whole, it
demands all human beins, and demands each of them totally for itself.)
Here, instead, " shall focus on the political debate. "n Dialectic of Enlightenment,
Hor!heimer and Adorno hardly discuss the 2334. -esides dealin with the Third 4eich, they
analy#e (totalitarian capitalism/) (5re'iously only the poor and sa'aes had been e%posed to
the untrammeled force of the capitalist elements. -ut the totalitarian order has ranted
unlimited rihts to calculatin thouht and puts its trust in science as such. "ts canon is its
own brutal efficiency.)
Hor!heimer and Adorno consider the staes that pa'ed the way to
7a#ism to be not only the 'iolence perpetrated by the reat 8estern powers aainst the
"n 5ombeni, 1999, pp. :6;<5. My italics.
Hor!heimer<Adorno, 6==6, pp. ;: and >9<+.
colonial peoples, but also the 'iolence perpetrated, in the 'ery heart of the capitalistic
metropolis, aainst the poor and outcasts loc!ed in the wor!houses. 3imone 8eil, another
author who was in a way influenced by Mar%ism, holds a similar perspecti'e. Thouh 8eil
occasionally compares Hitlers 0ermany to 3talins 3o'iet 2nion, when she denounces the
horror of total power, of totalitarianism, she is referrin primarily to colonialism and
imperialism/ (The similarity between Hitlers system and ancient 4ome is so astoundin that
one is tempted to belie'e that, two thousand years later, only Hitler was able to faithfully
copy the 4omans.)
-etween the 4oman ?mpire and the Third 4eich, we find @ouis A"Bs
unbridled and unscrupulous e%pansionism/ (The reime he established already deser'ed, for
the first time in ?urope after 4ome, the modern epithet of totalitarianC) (the dreadful
destruction of the 5alatinate Dcarried out by the Erench con*uerin troopsF was not e'en
&ustified by the circumstances of a war.)
Mo'in bac!wards from ancient 4ome, 8eil i'es
a proto<totalitarian interpretation to the biblical e'ent of the con*uest of .anaan and the
annihilation of its people.
.onsider some liberal thin!ers. "n tracin the enesis of (totalitarian democracy,)
Ja!ob Talmon comes to the followin conclusion/
"f DGF empiricism is the ally of freedom, and the doctrinaire spirit is the friend of totalitarianism, the
idea of man as an abstraction, independent of the historic roups to which he belons, is li!ely to
become a powerful 'ehicle of totalitarianism.

.learly, Talmons tarets are the Declaration of Human Rights and the Erench
re'olutionary tradition as a whole Hnot only 4ousseau, but also 3ieyIsJ.
As for Haye!, (the tendencies that culminated in the creation of totalitarian systems
are not confined to the countries that later succumbed to them,)
and they are not limited to
the .ommunist and 7a#i<Eascist mo'ements. 8ith reards to Austria in particular/
8eil, 199=, pp. 61+<19.
8eil, 199=, pp. 6=; and 6=>.
Talmon, 19>=, p. ;.
Haye!, 19+>, pp. +<9.
"t was not the Eascists but the socialists who bean to collect children from the tenderest ae into
political orani#ations to ma!e sure that they rew up as ood proletarians. "t was not the Eascists but
the socialists who first thouht of orani#in sports and ames, football and hi!in, in party clubs
where the members would not be infected by other 'iews. "t was the socialists who first insisted that the
party member should distinuish himself from others by the modes of reetin and the forms of
Haye! can therefore conclude/ (The idea of a political party that encompasses all of
the acti'ities of an indi'idual, from the cradle to the ra'e,) and that radiates a eneral
Weltanschauung, this idea is associated first of all with the socialist mo'ement.
-ehind this
mo'ement is a much older tradition that can be found, as Haye! <<the father of neo<laisse#<
faire<< will obser'e later on, in (1social or totalitarian democracy.)
At any rate, (economic
control and totalitarianism) are strictly connected.
Therefore, if on the one hand colonialism and imperialism are the main Hthouh not
the e%clusi'eJ tarets of criticism, on the other hand, the principal Hthouh not e%clusi'eJ
taret is the re'olutionary tradition that from 19+9 leads to 1919, passin throuh the 1+;+
demand for the riht to wor! and the (1social or totalitarian democracy.)
At this point, a further distinction can be made. The so<called (leftist) totalitarianism
can be critici#ed from two *uite different perspecti'es. "t can either be rearded as the
product of the unfortunate oranicistic ideoloy attributed to Mar%, 4ousseau, or e'en 3ieyIs
Hthis is Talmons and Haye!s approachJC or it can be discussed by e%aminin the material
characteristics of the countries in which communist totalitarianism has pre'ailed. This is the
method used by ,arl 8ittfoel/ the (comparati'e study of total power) Kreads the subtitle of
his boo!Lshows that this phenomenon manifests itself especially in the ?ast, in a (hydraulic
society) characteri#ed by an attempt to achie'e total control o'er the necessary hydraulic
resources for the de'elopment of ariculture and for the actual sur'i'al of the people. "n this
Haye!, 19+>, p. +5.
Haye!, 19>=, p. 55.
Haye!, 19+>, .h. B"".
conte%t, far from bein the forefather of communist totalitarianism, Mar% is its critic ante
litteram, as emeres from his analysis and denunciation of (oriental despotism,) to borrow a
cateory used by 8ittfoel in the 'ery title of his boo!.
Howe'er, the implication is that (total power) is not e%clusi'ely lin!ed to the 6=

century, and therefore a further distinction is necessary. 8hile Arendt insists on the no'elty of
the totalitarian phenomenon, 5opper comes to an opposite conclusion. Accordin to 5opper,
the conflict between the (open society and its enemies) seems to be eternal/ (what we now
call totalitarianism belons to a tradition which is &ust as old or &ust as youn as our
ci'ili#ation itself.)
Mne final remar! on this/ we ha'e seen that totalitarianism can be denounced from the
riht or from the left. Net, in some cases the denunciation comes from circles and fiures
associated with 7a#i<Eascism, and it is directed e%clusi'ely to its enemies. "n Auust 19;1,
durin the campain, or rather, the war of e%termination aainst the 3o'iet 2nion, faced with
a relentless and unforeseen resistance, the 0erman 0eneral Halder e%plains such resistance
with the claim that the enemies ha'e carefully prepared for the war (with the absolute lac! of
scruples typical of a totalitarian 3tate.)
Thouh without usin the term (totalitarianism,)
0oebbels e%plains the une%pected, unprecedented resistance that the in'adin army
encounters in the ?ast in a similar manner/ by erasin e'ery trace of free personality,
-olshe'ism (transforms men into robots,) (war robots,) (mechani#ed robots.)
accusation of totalitarianism can e'en taret the 8estern enemies of the A%is. "n 19:9, the
aspiration of Eascist "taly to form a colonial empire of its own clashes aainst the hostility
that comes first of all from ?nland, and thus ?nland is condemned for its (cold, totalitarian
discrimination aainst all that is not simply ?nlish.)

8ittfoel, 1959.
5opper 19>>, 'ol. 1, p. 1.
"n 4ue<3chumann, 1999, p. +6.
0oebbels, 1991, 'ol. 6, pp. 1>: and 1+:.
3carfolio, 1999, p. 66.
2. The Turn of the Col War an Hannah Arent!s Contribution
3ince the publication of The Origins of Totalitarianism, the polysemies of the debate
we ha'e briefly discussed ha'e tended to dispel. "n May 19;+, Arendt denounced the
(de'elopment of totalitarian methods) in "srael, referrin to (terrorism) and the e%pulsion
and deportation of the Arab population.
Mnly three years later, no room was left for
criticism directed aainst the present<day 8estern world. And now more than e'er, the only
politically correct position is the one that tarets e%clusi'ely Hitlers 0ermany and the 3o'iet
This position has triumphed since and durin the .old 8ar. Mn March 16, 19;9,
Harry Truman proclaimed the (doctrine) named after him/ after the 'ictory in the war aainst
0ermany and Japan, a new phase in the strule for freedom beins. The menace now comes
from the 3o'iet 2nion/ (totalitarian reimes imposed on free peoples, by direct or indirect
aression, undermine the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the
2nited 3tates.)
The point is clearly indicated here/ one should not mo'e bac!wards from the 6=

century. -esides, it would ma!e no sense to attac! the socialists alonside the communistsC
howe'er serious their past faults miht ha'e been, the socialists are now usually allies of the
8estern world. And to use an approach similar to the one that will later be proposed by
8ittfoel would be misleadin for two reasons. The cateory of (Mriental despotism) could
hardly leitimi#e a 2.3. inter'ention, for e%ample, in the ci'il war that bro!e out in .hina
Hwhere, immediately after the proclamation of his doctrine and precisely in the name of the
strule aainst totalitarianism, Truman pleded to support .hian ,ai<she!.J
Mn the other
Arendt, 19+9, p. +9.
"n .ommaer, 19>:, 'ol, 6, p. 565.
3ee Maos arument aainst the American 3ecretary of 3tate, Oean Acheson Hthe speech is dated Auust 6+,
hand, insistin on the actual conditions, which would e%plain the affirmation of (total
power,) would ma!e the condemnation of communists more difficult and less aressi'e. Eor
this reason, the deducti'ist approach ends up pre'ailin. The .old 8ar ta!es on the shape of
an international ci'il war, one that tears apart all countries trans'ersally/ the best way for the
8estern world to face this war is to establish itself as the champion in the strule aainst the
new totalitarianism, which is labeled as the necessary and ine'itable conse*uence of the
communist ideoloy and proram.
8here does Arendts contribution fit in this conte%t$ "mmediately followin its
publication, The Origins of Totalitarianism is harshly critici#ed by 0olo Mann/
The first two parts of the wor! deal with the prehistory of the total 3tate. Here, howe'er, readers will
not find what they usually encounter in similar studies, that is, researches on the peculiar history of
0ermany, "taly, or 4ussia DGF "nstead, Hannah Arendt dedicates two thirds of her wor! to anti<
3emitism and imperialism, especially ?nlish<style imperialism. " cannot follow her DGF Mnly in the
third part, which represents the oal of the whole boo!, does Hannah Arendt really seem to tac!le the
8hat Mann considers to be essentially off<topic are the paes dedicated to anti<
3emitism and imperialism. And yet, the point was to e%plain the enesis of a reime li!e
Hitlers, which o'ertly aimed at creatin, in .entral and ?astern ?urope, a reat colonial
empire based upon the dominion of a pure, white, Arian race, once the Jewish erm of
sub'ersion, which fueled the re'olt of "ntermenschen and inferior races, had been
e%terminated once and for all.
Howe'er, 0olo Mann rasps an actual problem. How can the last part of Arendts
boo!, which e%clusi'ely tarets 3talins 2334 and the Third 4eich, coe%ist harmoniously
with the first two parts, where Arendt critici#es Erance Hfor its anti<3emitismJ and particularly
?nland Hfor its imperialismJ$ ?nland is the country that played a central and ruinous role in
the strule aainst the Erench 4e'olution/ ?dmund -ur!e did not limit himself to defend the
Mann, 1951.
feudal nobility on an internal le'el, but he enlared (the principle of these pri'ilees to
include the whole ?nlish people, establishin them as a !ind of nobility amon nations.)
This is where the enesis of racism, (the main ideoloical weapon of imperialistic politics)
must be souht.
2nderstandably, then, these unsettlin ideoloies ta!e root particularly in
?nland, where they feed off ?nlands obsession with (inheritance theories and their
modern e*ui'alent, euenics.) Oisraelis position is not 'ery different from 0obineaus/ both
are (de'oted defenders of 1race,)
thouh only Oisraeli succeeds in securin positions of
such power and prestie. Eurthermore, it is abo'e all in ?nlish colonies where a power free
of the limitations of the capitalistic metropolis beins to be theori#ed and e%perimented
aainst (sub&ect races.) Already within the ?nlish ?mpire there emeres the temptation to
use (administrati'e massacres) as instruments to maintain supremacy.
This is the startin
point to understand the ideoloy and practice of the Third 4eich. Arendts portrait of @ord
.romer is rather similar to the one she will later i'e of Adolf ?ichmann/ the banality of e'il
seems to find its initial feeble embodiment in the -ritish (imperialist administrator) who, in
his (indifference and aloofness, in DhisF enuine lac! of interest in DhisF sub&ects,) de'elops a
(philosophy of the bureaucrat) and (a new form of o'ernin,) (a more danerous form of
o'ernin than despotism and arbitrariness.)
Arendts criticism of .romer is *uite harsh,
but it mysteriously disappears in the third part of The Origins of Totalitarianism.
The fact is that Arendts boo! is actually made up of two different layers, which were
written durin two different periods, and are separated by the momentous mar! constituted by
the outbrea! of the .old 8ar. 3till in Erance, Arendt 'iewed the boo! she was writin (as a
comprehensi'e wor! on anti<3emitism and imperialism, and a historical in'estiation on
what she then called (racial imperialism,) the most e%treme form of the suppression of
Arendt, 195+, pp. 19> and 1>=.
Arendt, 195+, pp. 19> and 1+:.
Arendt, 195+, pp. 1:1, 1::<;, and 61>.
Arendt, 195+, pp. 611, 616, and 61:.
minority nations by the rulin nation of a so'erein state.)
At that moment, far from bein a
taret, the 2334 was rather a model. "t must be credited Kas Arendt obser'es in the fall of
19;6 Hafter mo'in to the 2nited 3tates and followin, from there, Hitlers Mperation
-arbarossaJ K with ha'in (simply eliminated anti<3emitism) by means of (a riht and *uite
modern solution to the national *uestion.)
"n (Pionism 4econsidered,) written in Mctober
19;5, Arendt ma!es an e'en more sinificant remar!/
8hat e'ery political and national mo'ement in our times should i'e its utmost attention to with
respect to 4ussia Knamely, its entirely new and successful approach to nationality conflicts, its new
form of organi#ing different peoples on the basis of national e*uity< has been nelected by friends and
foes ali!e.
" ha'e chosen to use the italics to emphasi#e the o'erturnin of position that will ta!e
place a few years later, when 3talin will be accused of purposely dis&ointin the e%istin
orani#ations in order to artificially produce the amorphous mass that constitutes the basis for
the ad'ent of totalitarianism.
Accordin to the third part of The Origins of Totalitarianism, what characteri#es
communist totalitarianism is the sacrifice, inspired and stimulated by Mar%, of morals on the
altar of the philosophy of history and its (necessary) laws. "n January 19;>, howe'er, Arendt
had e%pressed herself in 'ery different terms/
"n the country which made Oisraeli its 5rime Minister, the Jew ,arl Mar% wrote Das $a%ital, a boo!
which in its fanatical #eal for &ustice, carried on the Jewish tradition much more efficaciously than all
the success of the (chosen man of the chosen race.
As a theorist of &ustice, Mar% is seen here *uite positi'ely, and in sharp contrast to an
?nlish 5rime Minister who formulates theories which will later be inherited and radicali#ed
by the Third 4eich.
Noun<-ruehl, 19+;, p. 15+.
Arendt, 19+9, p. 19:.
Arendt, 199+ c, p. 1;9.
Arendt, 199+ a, p. 11=.
Ourin the passae from the first two parts of the boo!, which still possess the
'ehemence of the strule aainst 7a#ism, to the third, which is instead tied to the outbrea!
of the .old 8ar, the cateory of imperialism Ha cateory subsumin first of all 0reat -ritain
and the Third 4eich as a sort of hihest stae of imperialismJ is replaced by the cateory of
totalitarianism Hwhich subsumes 3talins 2334 and the Third 4eichJ.
The s%ecies of the genus of imperialism do not coincide with the s%ecies of the genus
of totalitarianism. ?'en the s%ecies that apparently remains unchaned, that is 0ermany, is
*uestioned in the first case startin from 8ilhelm "" at the earliest, and in the second case
startin from as late as 19::. At least with reards to formal coherence, the initial plan
appears to be more riorous. After clarifyin the genus of (imperialism,) in tracin the
specific differences of this phenomenon, the initial plan mo'ed on to analy#e the s%ecies of
(racial imperialism.) -ut how can the cateories of totalitarianism and imperialism now
blend toether into a coherent whole$ And what relationship connects them both to the
cateory of anti<3emitism$ Arendts answers to these *uestions seem to see! an artificial
harmoni#ation between two le'els that continue to be hardly compatible.
4ather than bein one sinle boo!, The Origins of Totalitarianism consists in reality
of two o'erlappin boo!s which, despite the ad&ustments later made by Arendt, fail to achie'e
any substantial unity. 4enowned historians and historians of ideas H.arr and 3tuart HuhesJ
re'iewed the wor! with respect and occasionally with admiration, but they immediately
noticed the disproportion between Arendts actual and thorouh !nowlede of the Third
4eich, and her inaccurate understandin of the 3o'iet 2nion. "n particular, they emphasi#ed
the difficulties in Arendts attempt to adapt the analysis of the 3o'iet 2nion Hassociated to the
outbrea! of the .old 8arJ to the analysis of the Third 4eich Hassociated to the years of the
reat coalition aainst fascism and 7a#ismJ.

0leason, 1995, pp. 116<: and 659, note :=.
:. The Col War an the &ater A'ustments of the Category of Totalitarianism
"n The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt spea!s of concentration camps always and
e%clusi'ely in relation to the 2334 and the Third 4eich. 8hat is particularly stri!in is the
fact that Arendt does not e'en mention her own direct e%perience of this total institution/
toether with many other 0ermans who had fled 7a#i 0ermany and had become suspicious
after the outbrea! of the war because they were citi#ens of an enemy 3tate, Arendt had been
confined for some time in 0urs. The li'in conditions must ha'e been *uite harsh/ the
common feelin KArendt writes in 19;:Lwas that (we had been shipped there 1pour cre'er
Dto croa!F in any case,) to the point that some of the inmates briefly considered the possibility
of (suicide) as a (collecti'e action) of protest.
8hen The Origins of Totalitarianism was published, concentration camps were a
sinisterly 'ital institution in Nuosla'ia, as well, thouh inmates were in that case the
communists who remained loyal to 3talin. More in eneral, in the -al!an country,
dictatorship was certainly no less strict than in ?astern ?urope. Howe'er, in the case of
Nuosla'ia, which had sided with the 8estern world after the brea! with the 2334, (many
aspects of despotism) could be reconi#ed, but nothin more than that, as 3ecretary of 3tate
John Eoster Oulles affirmed in 195:.
Oulles position is somehow confirmed by Arendts
silence with reards to this point.
Eurther proof of the impact of the .old 8ar can be brouht forth/ (Mussolini, who
was so fond of the term 1totalitarian state, did not attempt to establish a full<fleded
totalitarian reime and contented himself with dictatorship and one<party rule.) Arendt
compares Eascist "taly to Erancos 3pain and 3ala#ars 5ortual.

The accusation of totalitarianism spares 3pain, 5ortual, and Nuosla'ia itself, but it
stri!es or ra#es e'en une%pected countries/
Arendt, 199+ b, p. 59.
"n Hofstadter, 19+6, 'ol "", p. ;:9.
Arendt, 195+, pp. :=+<9.
The chances for totalitarian rule are frihteninly ood in the lands of traditional Mriental despotism, in
"ndia and .hina, where there is almost ine%haustible material to feed the power<accumulatin and man<
destroyin machinery of total domination, and where, moreo'er, the mass mans typical feelin of
superfluousness Kan entirely new phenomenon in ?urope, the concomitant of mass unemployment and
the population rowth of the last 15= yearsLhas been pre'alent for centuries in the contempt for the
'alue of human life.
"t is worth pointin out the fact that, despite its parliamentary reime, "ndia was at the
time allied with the 2334Q
Accordin to Arendt, what characteri#es communist totalitarianism is the sacrifice,
inspired and stimulated by Mar%, of morals on the altar of the philosophy of history and its
(necessary) laws. The same arument presented in The Origins of Totalitarianism reappears
in a contribution, dated March 19;9, by Oean Acheson, the 2nited 3tates 3ecretary of 3tate
durin the Truman administration/ 7ATM is the e%pression of the Atlantic and 8estern
community, a community united (by common institutions and moral and ethical beliefs)
aainst a world that wont hear!en to the reasons of morals, indeed, a world inspired by the
(.ommunist belief that coercion by force is a proper method of hastenin the ine'itable.)
7e'ertheless, despite the substantial concessions to the ideoloical atmosphere of the
.old 8ar, somethin of the oriinal plan for The Origins of Totalitarianism continues to
sur'i'e e'en in the third part of the boo!. 8hat is immediately noticeable here is the
distinction between @enins re'olutionary dictatorship and 3talins strictly totalitarian reime.
-rea!in off with the c#arist politics of oppression aainst minority nations, @enin orani#ed
as many nationalities as possible, promotin the rise of a national and cultural awareness
e'en amon the most bac!ward ethnical roups, which for the first time succeeded in
orani#in themsel'es as autonomous cultural and national entities. 3omethin similar
occurred with the other forms of social and political orani#ation, as well/ trade unions, for
Arendt, 195+, p. :11.
"n Hofstadter, 19+6, 'ol. "", p. ;6+.
e%ample, achie'ed an orani#ational autonomy they had ne'er possessed in c#arist 4ussia.
All of this represents an antidote to the totalitarian reime, which presupposes a direct,
immediate relationship between a charismatic leader on one side, and an amorphous,
atomi#ed mass on the other. The articulated structure built by @enin was systematically
dismantled by 3talin, who, in order to establish his totalitarian reime, had to disorani#e the
masses, so as to ma!e them the ob&ect of the charismatic, undisputed power of the infallible
How can the shift from @enin to 3talin be e%plained$ And why was the articulated,
orani#ed society that had emered out of the re'olution unable to oppose the systematic
tactics of disarticulation and disorani#ation that led to the imposition of the totalitarian
reime$ Accordin to Arendt, (there is no doubt that @enin suffered his reatest defeat when,
with the outbrea! of the ci'il war, the supreme power that he oriinally planned to
concentrate in the 3o'iets definiti'ely passed into the hands of the party bureaucracy.)
shift toward a totalitarian reime, then, was not the ine'itable result of an ideoloical oriinal
sin HMar%s history of philosophyJC it was, first and foremost, the result of specific historical
circumstances which directly *uestioned the responsibility of the 8estern powers, of the
countries that had a consolidated liberal tradition and that were committed to fuelin, in any
possible way, the anti<-olshe'i! ci'il war. "ncidentally, it is unclear how the association,
made by Arendt in the third part of her boo!, between -olshe'ism and 7a#ism can still hold/
it was @enin, not 3talin, who founded the -olshe'i! party. And abo'e all, the accusation
aainst Mar% is hardly &ustified. Net, accordin to Arendt, in his political stratey @enin was
uided more by his instinct as a reat statesman than by Mar%ist ideoloy as such. "n reality,
the steps ta!en to emancipate national minorities were preceded by a lon, comple% debate
that re'ol'ed precisely around the national *uestion e%amined from a Mar%ist perspecti'e.
Arendt, 195+, pp. :1+<19.
Arendt, 195+, p. :19.
The chane between the initial pro&ect and the actual composition of The Origins of
Totalitarianism in'ol'es a fluctuation on a methodoloical le'el, as well. Mn the one hand,
Arendt indules in a deducti'ist interpretation of the totalitarian phenomenon, one clearly
similar to that of the liberal authors we ha'e already mentioned/ she interprets 3talins
totalitarianism as the loical, ine'itable conse*uence of Mar%ist ideoloy. Mn the other hand,
Arendt is forced to ma!e reference to the peculiar historical conditions that e%plain the ad'ent
of 3talins totalitarian reime/ ci'il war, international aression by the ?ntente powers
Hthouh Arendt does not mention itJ, the undoin of orani#ational structures, etc. The
distinction between @eninism and 3talinism, between re'olutionary dictatorship and the
subse*uent totalitarian reime, interrupts the strict, merely ideoloical line of continuity
established by Haye! and Talmon in order to connect Mar% to totalitarianism.
7ot by chance, this distinction is one of the tarets of 0olo Manns criticism. Another,
e'en more rele'ant, taret is represented by the first two parts of The Origins of
Totalitarianism in their entirety. -esides the reser'ations Mann e%presses in his re'iew, his
con'ersation with ,arl Jaspers Hwhich Mann *uotes in Erinnerungen un (ean)enJ is
particularly elo*uent. Here, Mann ures Jaspers to mo'e away from the heretical positions
held by his disciple/
(Oo you belie'e that ?nlish imperialism, and especially @ord .romer in ?ypt, has somethin to do
with the totalitarian 3tate$ Mr Erench anti<3emitism, the Oreyfus case$) ("s that what she wrote$)
(.ertainlyC she de'otes three chapters to it.) -lindly trustin his dear friend, he DJaspersF had
recommended her boo!, which he himself had only read briefly.

0olo Mann is riht. 8ith reards to totalitarianism, Jaspers is un*uestionably more
orthodo% than Arendt. And Arendt herself ends up yieldin to the influences of the criticism
directed aainst her, as emeres particularly in her essay, On Re*olution. Here, Mar% is
rearded as the author of the (most pernicious doctrine of the modern ae, namely that life is
Mann, 1991, pp. 6:6<:.
the hihest ood, and that the life process of society is the 'ery center of human endea'or.)
The result is catastrophic/
This de'elopment led Mar% into an actual surrender of freedom to necessity. He did what his teacher in
re'olution, 4obespierre, had done before him and what his reatest disciple, @enin, was to do after him
in the most momentous re'olution his teachins ha'e e'er inspired.
(The fanatical #eal for &ustice) which Arendt wrote about in 19;> and which had for
the most part disappeared only fi'e years later has now completely 'anished, and not only
with reards to Mar%. The most rele'ant shift is another/ the line of continuity that leads from
Mar% to totalitarianism Hpassin throuh @eninJ is now smooth and e'en. -ehind Mar% is the
influence of the Erench 4e'olution, which Arendt condemns as well, thus mo'in further
away from The Origins of Totalitarianism.
The chane in Arendts position, now atrophied into Talmon and Haye!s deducti'ist
approach, is now clear, as is the triumph achie'ed by 0olo Mann. -eyond the concessions
ranted to Mann by Arendt, what pre'ails today is a readin of The Origins of
Totalitarianism that seems to ta!e into account the ideoloical preoccupations he e%pressed.
"ndeed, concernin the debate on totalitarianism, is there anyone today who still remembers
@ord .romer and his (new form of o'ernin,) (a more danerous form of o'ernin than
despotism)$ 8ho mentions the temptation to use (administrati'e massacres,) a temptation
that follows the history of imperialism li!e a shadow$ 8ho discusses the cateory of
imperialism anymore$ Mf the two parts that ma!e up Arendts boo!, the one commonly used
and e%amined is the less 'alid section, the one more burdened by immediate ideoloical and
political preoccupations. "n his re'iew of The Origins of Totalitarianism, 0olo Mann
summari#es his criticism as such/ ("t is all too subtle, too intellient, too artificial DGF "n
short, on the whole we would ha'e preferred a more 'iorous, more positi'e tone.)
Arendt, 19>:, pp. 5+<59.
Mann, 1951.
the theory of totalitarianism later became less (subtle,) more ('iorous) and more (positi'e,)
fully meetin the needs of the .old 8ar. A product of oranicism, or of riht<win or left<
win holism, and somehow inferable a priori from this poisoned ideoloical source,
totalitarianism Hin both its opposite confiurationsJ e%plains all of the horror of the 6=

century/ such is today the predominant *ulgata.
;. The Theory of Totalitarianism an the +election of 2,
Century Horrors
This *ulgata does not e'en attempt to in'estiate some of the ma&or catastrophes of
the century, thouh it ne'ertheless insists on e%plainin them. @et us mo'e bac!wards from
the Mctober 4e'olution, which is supposed to constitute the startin point of the totalitarian
era. How, then, should 8orld 8ar " be rearded, with its total mobili#ation, its total
reimentation, its e%ecutions and decimations e'en within ones own camp, its ruthless
collecti'e punishments that included, for instance, the deportation and e%termination of the
Armenians$ And e'en earlier, how should the -al!an wars and their massacres be 'iewed$
And still proceedin bac!wards, what interpretation should be i'en to the traedy of the
Herero, who were &uded to be unfit as a ser'ile wor! force and who, in the early 6=

century, were sentenced by an e%plicit order to be annihilated$
7ow, rather than bac!wards, let us mo'e forward from 8orld 8ar " and the Mctober
4e'olution. Just o'er two decades later, concentration camps appeared in the 2nited 3tates,
as well, where, in compliance to an e%ecuti'e order issued by E.O. 4oose'elt, all American
citi#ens of Japanese oriins, includin women and children, where loc!ed in concentration
At the same time, in Asia, the war led by the ?mpire of the 4isin 3un too! on some
particularly horrifyin aspects. 8ith the rape of 7an!in, massacres became a !ind of sport
and pastime/ who will be fastest and most efficient in beheadin the prisoners$ The de<
humani#ation of the enemy now reaches a rare and perhaps (uni*ue) le'el/ rather than on
animals, 'i'isection e%periments are conducted on the .hinese, who also ser'e as a li'in
tarets for Japanese soldiers trainin for bayonet attac!s. Oe<humani#ation e%tends also to the
women who, in the countries in'aded by Japan, suffer a brutal se%ual sla'ery/ they become
comfort women, forced to (wor!) at frantic pace to pro'ide pleasure to the war<e%hausted
occupyin army, and often eliminated as they become worn<out or sic!.
The war in the Ear ?ast, where the Japanese torture their ?nlish and American
prisoners and e'en use bacterioloical weapons aainst the .hinese, comes to an end with the
bombin of Hiroshima and 7aasa!i, carried out despite the fact that Japan has reached the
end of its resources and is preparin to surrender/ for this reason, some American authors
ha'e compared the annihilation of the ci'il population in the two helpless Japanese cities to
the e%termination of the Jews carried out by the Third 4eich in ?urope.
7one of this is present in Arendts boo!. Japan hardly appears in the analytical inde%/
the war in Asia is only briefly mentioned to denounce .hinas totalitarianism, and not e'en
limited to the .ommunist party, but e%tended to the whole country, behind which, as we ha'e
seen, Arendt sees the influence of (Mriental despotism.) -eyond the impact of the .old 8ar K
in the meantime Japan has &oined the anti<totalitarian frontLall the limits of the cateory of
totalitarianism emere here.
And the said cateory can pro'ide no plausible e%planation e'en for the traedies it
directly discusses. The (final solution) is immediately preceded by two steps. Ourin 8orld
8ar ", it was c#arist 4ussia Ha country allied with the ?ntente powersJ that promoted the mass
deportation, from the borderland, of the Jews, who were suspected of bein disloyal to a
reime that oppressed them. After the collapse of c#arism and the outbrea! of the ci'il war, it
was the white troops Hsupported by the ?ntenteJ who unleashed the hunt aainst Jews, labeled
.f. .han, 1999C ,atsuichi, 1999C Hic!s, 1995.
as the secret inspirers of the (Judaic<-olshe'i!) re'olution/ the massacres that ensued Kas
historians emphasi#eLseem to foreshadow precisely the (final solution.)

5. An Arbitrary- .nconclusi*e Deucti*ism
"f the omissions that characteri#e the modern<day theory of totalitarianism are
astoundin, what is clearly untenable is the deducti'ist approach to which this theory appeals.
"n the communism proposed by Mar%, 3tate, nation, reliion, social classes, all of the
elements that constitute a meta<indi'idual identity disappearC it ma!es no sense to spea! of
oranicism and to deri'e, from this supposed oriinal sin, the annihilation of the indi'idual
within the totalitarian system. And with reards to the sacrifice of morals on the altar of the
philosophy of history, this motif had pre'iously been refuted or at least drastically
problemati#ed in January 19;> by Arendt, who had portrayed Mar% as a sort of Jewish
prophet with a thirst for &ustice.
The deducti'ist approach re'eals itself to be arbitrary and inconclusi'e e'en in
reference to the Third 4eich. "f we leaf throuh the enealoical tree of 7a#ism as it is
commonly 'iewed by the most authoritati'e historians, we ine'itably encounter Houston
3tewart .hamberlain/ accordin to ?rnst 7olte, .hamberlain is a (ood liberal) who (wa'es
the fla of indi'idual freedom.)
"ndeed, we are dealin with an author who maintains that
0ermanism Hwhich in the final analysis is synonymous with the 8estern worldJ is
characteri#ed by the resolute re&ection of (monarchic absolutism) and any 'iew of the world
that would sacrifice the (indi'idual) for the sa!e of the community. 7ot by chance, @oc!e is
seen as the (one who re<elaborated the new 0erman WeltanschauungC) and as for pre'ious
e%amples, one would be 8illiam of Mc!am, and another, e'en before him, Ouns 3coto, who
held that the (indi'idual) constituted the (only reality.)
Eor the eneral o'er'iew of the 6=
century, see @osurdo, 199>, and @osurdo, 199+.
7olte, 199+, p. :51.
A historical reconstruction of the (cultural oriins of the Third 4eich) cannot inore
Arthur de 0obineau, either/ the author of .ne/uality of Human Races celebrates the (liberal
traditions of the Aryans,) who lon resisted aainst the (.anaanean monstruosity,) that is, the
idea of (homeland.) And if in this conte%t we also include Julius @anbehn, as 0eore Mosse
amon others suests,
we can notice his e'en stroner profession of indi'idualistic faith, or
rather, his celebration of the (Holy 3pirit of indi'idualism,) the (0erman principle of
indi'idualism,) this (stimulatin force, fundamental and oriinal of e'ery 0ermanism.) The
countries that represent a model for this are for the most part the classic countries of the
liberal tradition. "f 0obineau dedicates his boo! (to His Ma&esty, 0eore B,) Julius @anbehn
celebrates the ?nlish people as (the most aristocratic of all peoples) and (the most
indi'idual of all peoples.) Analoously, 0usta'e @e-on Han author *uite admired by
0oebbelsJ contrasts, in a constant and positi'e manner, the Anlo<3a%on world to the rest of
the planet.

-ut why should we o so far, after all$ @et us read 0ein $am%f. Hitler harshly
critici#es a 'ision of the world which insists on attributin a (creati'e, culture<creatin force)
to the 3tate, and not only belittles the 'alue of race, but it is also uilty of (underestimation of
the indi'idual,) or rather, of (indi'iduals.)
The (proress and culture of humanity) rests
first and foremost (on the enius and enery of ones personalityC)
thus, we must ne'er lose
siht of (indi'idual men,) of the (indi'idual ) HEin#elwesenJ in their irreducible peculiarity,
in their (thousands of the finest differentiations.)
Hitler proffers himself as the authentic,
coherent defender of the 'alue of (personality,) of (sub&ect,) the (creati'e power and ability
of the indi'idual personality,) the (idea of personality) in constrast to the (democratic mass
Mosse, 19>;, %assim.
Eor the analysis of 0obineau, @anbehn, .hamberlain, and @e-on, see @osurdo, 6==6, ch. 65 R 1.
Hitler, 1991, pp. :+6<:.
Hitler, 1991, p. :;5.
Hitler, 1991, p. ;61.
Hitler, 1991, p. ;;6.
idea,) which finds its most ob'ious and repulsi'e e%pression in Mar%ism.
"f Mar%ism denies
(the 'alue of personality,) the 7a#i mo'ement (must promote respect for personality by all
meansC it must ne'er foret that in personal worth lies the worth of e'erythin humanC that
e'ery idea and e'ery achie'ement is the result of one mans creati'e force.)
Mf course, 7a#ism also appeals to choral unity in the strule aainst the enemyC but
this is a motif used, for ob'ious reasons and in 'arious manners, by the ideoloy of war in all
of the countries in'ol'ed in the 3econd Thirty Nears 8ar. "t would be necessary to e%amine
the staes throuh which the celebration of the (indi'idual,) (personality,) and the (sinle) is
transformed, in a conscious or surreptitious way, in order to e%tol a culture or a people truly
capable of raspin these 'alues, and conse*uently hierarchi#in peoples and condemnin
(races) considered to be intrinsically and irremediably collecti'istic.
Howe'er, this dialectic
also manifests itself within the liberal tradition, and at any rate it cannot be described by
means of the cateories of oranicism or holism.
"n the best of hypotheses, to insist on e%plainin totalitarianism throuh oranicism or
throuh the sacrifice of morals for the sa!e of the philosophy of history is e*ual to e%plainin
the soporiferous effect of opium by referrin to its *is ormiti*a.
>. Totalitarianism an One1Party Rule
@et us now put aside the cultural oriins of totalitarianism and concentrate on its
characteristics. These should consists of a (D3tateF ideoloy, a sinle party typically led by
one man, a terroristic police, a communications monopoly, a weapons monopoly, and a
centrally directed economy.)
Mf the last two characteristics Kas the authors of this definition
admitLthe first is perhaps associated to the nature of the 3tate as such, and the second can
Hitler, 1991, pp. ;;:<5 and %assim.
Hitler, 1991, pp. >5 and :56.
.f. @osurdo, 6==6, ch. ::, R 6.
Eriedrich<-r#e#ins!i, 19>+, p. 61.
also be found in 0reat -ritain, which at the time Hin 195>J was profoundly mar!ed by
nationali#ation and labor social reforms. 8e should therefore concentrate on other
characteristics. "s a communications monopoly e%clusi'ely lin!ed to a (totalitarian
dictatorship)$ As it is perhaps well !nown, durin 8orld 8ar ", 5resident 8oodrow 8ilson
created a .ommittee on 5ublic "nformation that pro'ided 66,=== news columns to the press
each wee!, withholdin e'erythin that was considered susceptible of fa'orin the enemy. "s
it a (terroristic police,) then, what peculiarly defines totalitarianism$ "t almost seems as if the
two authors of Totalitarian Dictatorshi% an Autocracy were unaware of the history of the
country to which they mo'ed. The Es%ionage Act of May 1>, 191+, states that a person can
be sentenced to up to twenty years in prison for usin (any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or
abusi'e lanuae about the form of o'ernment of the 2nited 3tates, or the .onstitution of
the 2nited 3tates, or the military or na'al forces of the 2nited 3tates, or the fla DGF or the
uniform of the Army or 7a'y of the 2nited 3tates.) 4enowned American historians ha'e
hihlihted the fact that the measures launched durin 8orld 8ar " aimed (at eliminatin
e'en the slihtest traces of opposition.) And 'iolence from abo'e minles with 'iolence from
below, a 'iolence tolerated and e'en encouraed by authorities which consists in a ruthless
hunt for anyone who may be suspected of insufficient patriotism.
As for the (sinle party typically led by one man,) what we witness here is the
parallelism and confusion between two problems which are considerably different. 8ith
reards to the role of the leader, a comparison may be interestin. "n 195=, at the outbrea! of
the war in ,orea, while 5resident Truman does not hesitate to inter'ene independent of
Mao is instead forced to confront and defeat a stron opposition from the
5olitburo, an opposition aainst which he is initially in the minority.
The fact remains that,
unli!e the 2nited 3tates, .hina is led by a one<party rule, and that such characteristic is
.f. @osurdo, 199:, ch. 5 R ;.
.hace, 199+, p. 6++.
.hen, 199;, pp. 1+1<+>.
typical of totalitarian reimes. -esides holdin the monopoly of political action, the one<party
is an army<party and at the same time, especially in the case of communists, a .hurch<party.
"s this enouh to confirm the 'alidity of the theory of totalitarianism$
Mn the contrary, if this theory e%clusi'ely tarets communism and 7a#ism, it was
already refuted by Haye!, who rihtfully included the socialist parties into the confrontation.
"ndeed, in deprecatin the incapacity of the boureois press to influence the (lare masses,)
and in declarin that a lesson should be learned from the insurrection campains launched by
(Mar%ism,) Hitler ma!es reference first of all to (3ocial Oemocratic press) and to the
(aitators) Hpublic spea!ers and &ournalistsJ of 3ocial Oemocracy.)
Howe'er, Haye! too is uilty of remainin tied to empirical obser'ation, without
*uestionin the reasons for the phenomenon Hthe army<party and the .hurch<partyJ he has
reconi#ed and critici#ed. The socialist parties aim at brea!in the boureois monopoly of
communications, and therefore they promote the publication of party orans, the orani#ation
of schools for the trainin of officials, etc. This problem does not concern the boureoisie,
since the latter can count on the control of the school apparatus and the reat information
orans, as well as on the direct or indirect support from the .hurches and other associations
and branches of ci'il society. The anti<socialist leislation launched by -ismarc! forces the
party to adapt to the conditions of illeality, and brins about the aspiration to brea! the
boureois monopoly of 'iolence. This dialectic had already de'eloped durin the Erench
4e'olution. The boureoisie tries to maintain the monopoly of 'iolence by imposin
censorial clauses e'en reardin enlistment in the 7ational 0uard. Thus, on the opposite side,
parties also become orani#ations for strule.
This dialectic reaches its hihest point with c#arist 4ussia. "n de'elopin his party
ideoloy, @enin has in mind the model of 0erman 3ocial Oemocracy, but he strenthens its
centrali#ed structure e'en more in order to contrast c#arist autocracy and a police reime that
Hitler, 1991, pp. 56+<69.
is particularly watchful and brutal. 2nderstandably, then, the -olshe'i! party re'eals itself to
be, more than any other, prepared for the permanent e%traordinary circumstances that, from
8orld 8ar " on, characteri#es 4ussia and ?urope. Eor this reason, the -olshe'i! party
becomes a model not only for the communists, but also for their antaonists. As 7i!olai
-u!harin obser'es at the A"" .onress of the -olshe'i! 5arty in April 196:/
More than the representati'es of any other party, the Eascists ha'e embodied and put into practice the
e%perience of the 4ussian 4e'olution. "f we consider them from a formal perspecti'e, that is, from the
perspecti'e of the stratey of their political methods, we see a perfect application of -olshe'i! tactics,
and specifically, of 4ussian -olshe'ism, in the form of a rapid concentration of forces and a 'iorous
action carried out by a steady and compact military orani#ation.
The pro%imity which for Haye! was synonymous with ideoloical and political
closeness is here synomymous with antaonism. To the attempt, on the part of labor parties,
to brea! the bourois monopoly of 'iolence, the boureoisie responds by brea!in the
socialist and communist monopoly of the re'olutionary parties/ this is -ucharins
After all, the time se*uence established by Haye! is schematic and inaccurate. "n
other circumstances, it was the socialists who had to learn from their antaonists. "n "taly,
while the trade unions and political orani#ations of the wor!in classes were systematically
crushed by the fascist assault Hon the e'e of the March on 4ome, that is, of the cou% !etat by
the !in and MussoliniJ, in an attempt to orani#e a defense, 0uido 5icelli Hthen a socialistJ
felt the need to brea! away with the leal tradition/
8e now need new methods. To contrast the armed forces we need armed forces too. Therefore, we need
to form, in "taly, the (proletarian red army.) 2nfortunately, e'ents ha'e pro'ed enouh, and the few of
us had maintained this from the 'ery beinnin/ fascism can be beaten on the same round of 'iolence
upon which fascism itself draed us first. The .hristian resination ad'ocated by the leaders of the
reformist method ha'e made the enemy bolder, and undone our orani#ations DGF 5roletarians need a
"n 3trada<,uleso', 199+, p. 5:.
new method of defense and battle/ (its army.) Mur forces must orani#e and discipline themsel'es
'oluntarily. 8or!ers must become soldiers, proletarian soldiers, but (soldiers) nonetheless DGF "n order
to attac! us, the boureoisie did not create a party that would ha'e been inade*uate, but an armed
oran, its army/ fascism. 8e must do the same.
Abo'e all, what is arbitrary is the point of departure indicated by Haye!. 8e can
easily mo'e bac!ward from the startin point he indicated Hthe formation of socialist partiesJ.
Mnce aain, we are in the presence of a dialectic that had already emered durin the Erench
4e'olution/ if the peoples Jacobinic sections represented the answer to boureois, land<
ownin monopoly of the 7ational 0uard, the 'euness or2e was the boureois, land<ownin
response to the peoples monopoly of the orani#ed re'olutionary party. Erom this clash, the
dominant class that professed liberalism was only apparently absent/ the proto<fascist
orani#ation that formed in Erance in the early 6=
century ser'ed as (au%iliary police) for
the power and the dominant class.

A similar dialectic de'elops also with reards to the trade unions. Mb'iously, the
capitalists Kas Adam 3mith had already notedLdo not need it.
And yet, the trade unions
inspired by Mar%ism and more or less radical opposition mo'ements are followed by trade
unions inspired by the .hurch and, later on, by others still, inspired by the fascist and 7a#i
mo'ement. Einally, e'en the (unions) of capital are born.
"n its drawin toether and assimilatin two (facts) Hthe socialists and communists
appeal to the army<party and the .hurch<party on the one hand, and the same appeal by the
fascists and 7a#is on the otherJ, Haye!s interpretation re'eals itself to be affected by
positi'istic superstition. And it is precisely this superstition that, in the final analysis,
constitutes the foundation of the current theory of totalitarianism. Eollowin Haye!s loic,
"n Oel .arria, 199=, 'ol 6, p. 66;.
7olte, 199+, pp. 119 and 1;><;+.
3mith, 19+1, p. >9 H-oo! ", ch. B"""J.
we could e'en draw 4oose'elt and Hitler toether/ indeed, the (fact) is un*uestionable that
both resorted to tan!s, war planes and shipsQ
Mn the other hand, in forin his weapons for strule Hitler did not limit himself to
obser'in the socialist and communist parties. As he denounces the incapacity of traditional
boureois parties to influence the people, who are thus helplessly e%posed to sub'ersi'e
influence and uprisins, Hitler resol'es to learn not only from 3ocial Oemocracy, also from
the .atholic .hurch which, in spite of e'erythin, he admires for its ability to sweep the
masses and for recruitin cadres e'en from the poorest social classes.
8hat the EShrer
especially praises is a reliious order/ ("t was with Himmler that the 33 became this
e%traordinary militia, de'oted to an idea, faithful unto death. "n Himmler " see our "natius of
Already celebrated by Joseph de Maistre as the only orani#ation capable of
standin up to re'olutionary freemasonry,
and later used as a model by .ecil 4hodes for his
imperialistic idea of (rule throuh secrecy)
Kas Arendt points out<<, the Jesuit order is
finally 'iewed as the orani#ation of capable, disciplined, and committed cadres needed by
the counterre'olutionary ci'il war of the 6=
century. 3hould we then associate masonic
lodes, +ocietas 3esu, and +chut# +taffeln$
9. Racial +tate an Eugenics4 The "nite +tates an the Thir Reich
8e would be pro'idin a 'ery poor definition of the Third 4eich if we limited
oursel'es to hihlihtin its totalitarian character, ma!in particular reference to the
phenomenon of the one<party rule. 8ith reards to leaders of a one<party dictatorship, it
would not be difficult at all to put Hitler side by side with 3talin, Mao, Oen, Ho .hi Minh,
7asser, Atatur!, Tito, Eranco, etc., but this pedantic e%ercise is *uite inade*uate as a concrete
Hitler, 1991, pp. ;+1<+6.
Hitler, 1956<5;, 'ol. ", p. 1>;.
Maistre, 19+;, p. 6=5.
Arendt, 195+, p. 61;.
historical analysis. And e'en if we separate the two (totalitarian) leaders 3talin and Hitler
from the (authoritarian) Mussolini, whose power was limited by the presence of the Batican
and the .hurch, we still wont ha'e made much proress. More than an actual ad'ancement,
this arument would represent a drift/ from ideoloy we ha'e inad'ertently mo'ed to a
completely different sphere, to realities and facts that are independent and pree%istin from
the ideoloical and political choices of fascism.
8ith reards to the Third 4eich, it is *uite difficult to ma!e a definite and concrete
statement on it without mentionin its racial and euenic prorams. And these prorams lead
us to a 'ery different direction from the one proposed by the cateory of totalitarianism.
"mmediately after his rise to powe, Hitler made sure he clarified the distinction, e'en on a
&uridical le'el, between the position of the aryans and those of the Jews and the few Mulattos
who still li'ed in 0ermany Hat the end of 8orld 8ar ", colored troops belonin to the Erench
army had ta!en part in the occupation of the countryJ. "n other words, a ma&or point of the
7a#i proram was that of buildin a racial 3tate. And what were, at the time, the possible
models for a racial 3tate$ ?'en more so than 3outh<Africa, the first e%ample was the
3outhern 2nited 3tates. 3till in 19:9, Alfred 4osenber made e%plicit reference to 3outh<
Africa/ it should well remain (in the hands of northeners) and whites Hthan!s to appropriate
(laws) not only aainst (indians,) but also (blac!s, mulattos, and Jews)J, and it should ser'e
as a (solid bulwar!) aainst the menace of a (blac! awa!enin.) Howe'er, the main point of
reference was represented by the 2nited 3tates, this (wonderful country of the future,) which
had the merit of formulatin the well<thouht<out (new idea of a racial 3tate,) an idea that
should now be put into practice, (with youthful 'ior,) by e%pellin and deportin (the
blac!s and the yellows.)
8e only need to ta!e a loo! at the 7urnber leislation to
reconi#e analoies with the situation that was ta!in place on the other side of the Atlantic/
clearly, in 0ermany it was first of all 0ermans of Jewish descent to occupy the place of
4osenber, 19:9, pp. >>> and >9:.
African<Americans. ("n the 2nited 3tates,) K4osenber writes in 19:9L(the 7ero *uestion
is on top of all crucial *uestionsC) and once the absurd principle of e*uality has been
eliminated concernin the blac!s, there is no reason why they should not reach (the same
resolution for the yellows and Jews, as well.)
?'en for his plan to build a 0erman
continental empire, Hitler has in mind the 2nited 3tates model, which he praises for its
(e%traordinary inner strenth/)
0ermany is called upon to follow this e%ample, e%pandin to
?astern ?urope as to a sort of Ear 8est and treatin the (indienous people) in the same way
as the reds!ins were treated.
8e come to the same conclusion if we e%amine euenics. As is well !nown, with
reards to this new (science) the Third 4eich is indebted to the 2nited 3tates, where
euenics, which was in'ented durin the second half of the 19
century by Erancis 0alton Ha
cousin of OarwinsJ, became 'ery popular. 8ell before Hitlers rise to power, on the e'e of
8orld 8ar ", a boo! is published in Munich, Die Rassenhygiene in en 5ereinigten +taaten
*on 6orameri)a H4acial Hyiene in the 2nited 3tates of 7orth AmericaJ, which, already in
its title, points to the 2nited 3tates as a model for (racial hyiene.) The author, 0T#a 'on
Hoffmann, 'ice<consul of the Austro<Hunarian ?mpire in .hicao, e%tols the 2.3. for the
(lucidity) and (pure practical reason) it has demonstrated in confrontin, with the necessary
enery, a 'ery important problem that is instead so often inored/ to 'iolate the laws that
forbid se%ual intercourse and interracial marriaes could be punished with up to ten years in
prison, and not only the people responsible for the act, but also their accomplices, can be
?'en after the 7a#i rise to power, the ideoloues and (scientists) of race
continue to claim/ (0ermany, too, has much to learn from the measures adopted by the
7orth<Americans/ they !now what they are doin.)
"t should be added that this is not a
4osenber, 19:9, pp. >>+<>9.
Hitler, 1991, pp. 15:<5;.
.f. @osurdo, 199>, ch. 5, p. >.
Hoffmann, 191:, pp. "A and >9<+.
0Snther, 19:;, p. ;>5.
unilateral relationship. After Hitlers rise to power, the most radical followers of the
American euenic mo'ement loo! up to the Third 4eich as a model, and e'en tra'el there on
an ideoloical and research pilrimae.

"t is now necessary to as! oursel'es a *uestion/ 8hy, in order to define the 7a#i
reime, should the arument of the one<party dictatorship be more 'alid than that of racial
and euenic ideoloy and practice$ "t is precisely from this sphere that the central cateories
and !ey terminoloy of the 7a#i discourse deri'e. This is the case with Rassenhygiene, which
is essentially the 0erman translation of eugenics, the new science in'ented in ?nland and
successfully e%ported to the 2nited 3tates. -ut there are e'en more sensational e%amples.
4osenber e%presses his admiration for American author @othrop 3toddard, credited with
coinin the term "ntermensch, which already in 1965 stands out as the subtitle of the 0erman
translation of his boo!, The Re*olt against Ci*ili#ation4 The 0enace of the "ner 0an
published in 7ew Nor! three years earlier.
As for the meanin of the term he coined,
3toddard clarifies that it indicates the mass of (sa'aes and barbarians) who li'e inside or
outside the capitalist metropolis, who are (essentially unci'ili#able and incorriibly hostile to
ci'ili#ation,) and who must necessarily be dealt with once and for all.
"n the 2nited 3tates
as in the rest of the world, it is necessary to defend (white supremacy) aainst (the risin tide
of color/) what incites the colored people to re'olt is -olshe'ism, (the reneade, the traitor
within the ates) which, with its insidious propaande, reaches not only the colonies, but
e'en (the 1blac! belts of our own 2nited 3tates.)
The e%traordinary success of these
theories is *uite understandable. ?'en before recei'in 4osenbers enthusiastic comments,
3toddard had already been praised by two American presidents HHardin and Hoo'erJ, and he
was later welcomed and honored in -erlin, where he met not only the most renowned
.f. ,Shl, 199;, pp. 5:<>:.
4osenber, 19:9, p. 61;.
3toddard, 1965 a, pp. 6:<;.
3toddard, 1965 b, pp. 66=<61.
representati'es of 7a#i euenics, but also the hihest officials of the reime, includin Adolf
who had already beun his campain to decimate and sub&uate the "ntermenschen.
Mne more term should be e%amined. 8e ha'e seen how Hitler loo!s to the white
e%pansion in the Ear 8est as a model. "mmediately after in'adin 5oland, Hitler proceeds to
dismember it/ one side is directly incorporated into the 0reat 4eich Hand the 5oles are
e%pelled from itJC the rest constitutes the (eneral 0o'ernatorate,) within which, as 0eneral
0o'ernor Hans Eran! declares, the 5oles li'e as in (a sort of reser'ation) Hthey are (sub&ect
to 0erman &urisdiction) without bein (0erman citi#ens)J.
The American model is copied
here in an almost pedantic manner.
At least in the beinnin, the Third 4eich planned to also establish a 3uenreser*at, a
(reser'ation for the Jews,) once aain based upon the model of the reser'ations where
7ati'e<Americans were sereated. ?'en when the e%pression (final solution) first emered,
it was not in 0ermany, but in the 2nited 3tates, thouh it was referred to the (7ero
*uestion) rather than the (Jewish *uestion.)

"n the same way as it is not surprisin that (totalitarianism) found its most
concentrated e%pression in the countries in'ol'ed in the 3econd Thirty<Nears 8ar, so it is
not surprisin that the 7a#i attempt to build a racial 3tate drew its inspirational motifs, its
cateories and !ey terminoloy, from the historical e%perience that possessed the richest
heritae of these elements, namely, the historical e%perience accumulated by white
Americans in their relationship with 7ati'e Americans and African Americans. .learly, one
should not lose siht of all the other differences, in terms of o'ernment, law, limitation of
state power Hwith reards to the white communityJ, etc. The fact remains that the Third 4eich
represents the attempt, throuh total war and international ci'il war, to create a reime of
Mn all of this, see ,Shl, 199;, p. >1C 5resident Hardins flatterin comment is *uoted at the beinnin of the
Erench translation of 3toddards te%t, 1965 b.
"n 4ue<3chumann, 1999, p. :>.
3ee @osurdo, 199+, pp. +<1=.
world<scale white su%remacy under 0erman heemony, by resortin to euenetic,
sociopolitical, and military measures.
8hat constitutes the heart of 7a#ism is the idea of Herren*ol), which is associated to
the racial theory and practice carried out in the 3outhern 2nited 3tates and, more in eneral,
to the 8estern colonial tradition. "t is precisely this idea that the Mctober 4e'olution attac!s/
not by chance, in fact, the re'olution calls upon the (sla'es in the colonies) to brea! their
fetters. The common theory of totalitarianism concentrates e%clusi'ely upon the similar
methods attributed to the two antaonists, and besides, it ma!es them deri'e uni'ocally from
a supposed ideoloical affinity, without ma!in any reference to the actual situation or to the
eopolitical conte%t.

+. Towar a Reefinition of the Category of Totalitarianism
The main flaw of the cateory of totalitarianism is that it transforms an empirical
description tied to specific characteristics into a eneral loical deduction. "t is easy to
reconi#e similarities between 3talins 2334 and 7a#i 0ermanyC startin from those, it is
possible to construct a eneral cateory HtotalitarianismJ and to hihliht the presence of this
phenomenon in the two countries. Howe'er, to transform this cateory into a !ey to e%plain
the political processes that too! place in the two countries is an un&ustifiable leap. The
arbitrariness of this mo'e should be e'ident, for two main reasons. 8e ha'e already
discussed the first/ surreptitiously, the analoies between the 2334 and the Third 4eich with
reards to one<party dictatorship are considered to be the decisi'e ones, whereas the
analoies on the le'el of euenics and racial politics Hwhich would lead to 'ery different
associationsJ, are inored or eliminated.
@et us now concentrate on the second reason. ?'en if we focus on the one<party
dictatorship in the two countries, why should we ma!e reference to the two ideoloies rather
than to the similarity between the political situation Hthe permanent e%traordinary
circumstancesJ or the eopolitical conte%t Hthe peculiar 'ulnerabilityJ that the two countries
are forced to face$ " stronly belie'e that the totalitarian phenomenon is determined not only
by ideoloies and political traditions, but also, and *uite powerfully, by the ob&ecti'e
"n this respect, it may be useful to reflect on the oriin of the term (totalitarianism.)
Two years after the outbrea! of the Mctober 4e'olution, in the aftermath of 8orld 8ar ", the
criticism of (re'olutionary totalism) Hre*olution7rer TotalismusJ emeres.
The use of the
ad&ecti'e seems to imply a different !ind of totalism from the re'olutionary one. 8hile it
points directly to a s%ecies H(re'olutionary totalism)J, the genus HtotalismJ calls to mind,
thouh indirectly, a different s%ecies, that of warli!e totalism. "ndeed, the noun used Hwhich
precedes the later term, (totalitarianism)J is placed immediately after an ad&ecti'e which,
from 191; on, beins to resound in an obsessi'e way. There is tal! of (total mobili#ation)
and, a few years later, of (total war) and e'en (total politics.)
(Total politics) is the politics
that can face up to (total war.) "snt this, too, the actual meanin that should be attributed to
the cateory of (totalitarianism)$ -oth Mussolini and Hitler e%plicitely declared that the
mo'ements and reimes they led were born out of warC and war ine'itably determines the
re'olution that bro!e out aainst these mo'ements, as well as the political reime that
resulted from it.
"f this is the case, to associate the 2334 and Hitlers 0ermany as the e%pressions %ar
e8cellence of totalitarianism becomes e'en banal/ where else should the political reime that
corresponds to total war ha'e re'ealed its fundamental characteristics if not in the two
countries that were at the center of the 3econd Thirty<Nears 8ar$ "t is not at all surprisin
that the institution of the concentration camp too! on a much more brutal shape here than, for
5a*uet, 1919, p. 111. 7olte H19+9, p. 5>:J drew attention to this.
@udendorff, 19:5, pp. :5 and %assimC clearly, the motif of total mobiliti#ation is particularly tied to ?rnst
e%ample, in the 2nited 3tates, which was protected by the ocean from the threat of in'asion,
and which suffered losses and de'astations that were much less sinificant than those
suffered by the other countries in'ol'ed. About one<hundred<and<fifty years earlier, on the
e'e of the launch of the new federal constitution, Ale%ander Hamilton had e%plained that the
limitation of power and the establishment of the o'ernment of laws had been successful in
two insular<type countries which were protected by the sea from the threat of ri'al powers. "f
the 2nion were to fail and a system of 3tates similar to the one in ?urope were to emere
from its ruins Kwarned HamiltonL, in America, too, a permanent army, a stron, central
power, and e'en absolutism would ha'e appeared. "n the 6=
century, e'en thouh it
continues to represent an element of protection, the insular position is no loner an
insurmoutable obstacle/ followin the total war aainst the reat ?uropean and Asian powers,
the 2nited 3tates, too, witness the rise of totalitarianism, as demonstrated by the terroristic
leislation that aims at crushin any and all oppositions, and abo'e all, by the emerence of
the most typical institution of totalitarianism, the concentration camp.
"t could be arued that, in comparison to the 3o'iet 2nion and the Third 4eich,
concentration camps in Erance and in the 2nited 3tates were much tamer Hthouh it would be
superficial and irresponsible to see them as a mere trifleJ. 4eardless of this, the fact remains
that, in order to be ade*uate, a theory must be able to e%plain the emerence of this institution
in all four countries, includin those that en&oyed a liberal system, and it must clarify to what
e%tent the differences are due to a di'ersity in the ideoloy or to a di'ersity in the ob&ecti'e
situation and in the eopolitical conte%t. A truly ade*uate theory must also e%plain the
concentration camps in which the liberal 8estern world as a whole sereated nati'e people
in the colonies Hfor centuries the taret of total warJ. And, in more eneral terms, it must
e%plain why, since the outbrea! of 8orld 8ar ", e'en in liberal countries, the 3tate was
endowed, in 8ebers own words, with (a 1lawful power o'er the life, death, and freedom) of
its citi#ens. Ear from pro'idin an answer, the current theory of totalitarianism cannot e'en
formulate the problem.
9. Performati*e Contraiction an the .eology of War in the Current Theory of
Mar% sowed the seeds of the communist totalitarianism he influenced/ this theory is
present in Arendts wor! e'er since the .old 8ar, and it has now become an interal part of
the current theory of totalitarianism. Howe'er, to paraphrase a famous e%pression used by
8eber with reards to historical materialism, the theory of the non<innocence of theory is not
a ta%icab one can et in and out of at will. 3o, what role did the common theory of
totalitarianism and the banner of the strule aainst totalitarianism play in the massacre that
in 19>5 too! the li'es of hundreds of thusands of communists in "ndonesia$ And with reards
to @atin Americas contemporary history, its dar!est moments are not tied to
(totalitarianism,) but to the strule aainst it. Just to i'e an e%anple, a few years ao, in
0uatemala, the Truth .ommission accused the ."A of ha'in stronly helped the military
dictatorship to commit (acts of enocide) aainst the Mayas, who were uilty of
sympathi#in with the opposers of the reime supported by 8ashinton.

"n other words, with its silence and eliminations, hasnt the common theory of
totalitarianism itself turned into an ideoloy of war, of total war, one that has helped to
increase the horror it supposedly condemns, thus fallin into a traic performati'e
7owadays we constantly hear denunciations, directed toward "slam, of (reliious
or of the (new totalitarian enemy that is terrorism.)
The lanuae of the
.old 8ar has reappeared with renewed 'itality, as confirmed by the warnin that American
7a'arro, 1999.
Eriedman, 6==1.
3pinelli, 6==1.
3enator Joseph @ieberman has issued to 3audi Arabia/ beware the seduction of "slamic
totalitarianism, and do not let a (theoloical iron curtain) separate you from the 8estern
?'en thouh the taret has chaned, the denunciation of totalitarianism continues to
function with perfect efficiency as an ideoloy of war aainst the enemies of the 8estern
world. And this ideoloy &ustifies the 'iolation of the 0ene'a .on'ention, the inhuman
treatment of prisoners in 0uantanamo -ay, the embaro and collecti'e punishment inflicted
upon the "ra*is and other peoples, and the further torment perpetrated aainst the
5alestinians. The strule aainst totalitarianism ser'es to leitimi#e and transfiure the total
war aainst the (barbarians) who are alien to the 8estern world.
"n Oao, 6==6, p. ;.
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HPer una critica della categoria di totalitarismo, in Hermeneutica, 2002 ([in]Attualit del
politico), pp. 131-166; ripreso in Manuela Ceretta (a cura di), Bonapartismo, cesarismo e crisi
della societ. Luigi Napoleone e il colpo di Stato del 1851, Olschki, Firenze, 2003, pp. 167-196; tr.
portoghese nella rivista brasiliana Crtica marxista, n. 17; 2003, pp. 51-79; tr. spagnola in
Deus mortalis (Buenos Aires), n. 2; 2003, pp. 265-296 e ripresa anche in Dialctica
(Puebla, Messico), n. 36, inverno 2004, pp. 59-91; tr. fr. in Actuel Marx n. 35 (primo
semestre 2004), pp. 115-146; tr. inglese in Historical Materialism, n. 12, 2 (2004), pp. 25-55;
tr. russa in corso di pubblicazione)