A Unity of Opposites: The Dengist and the Red Guard / by Douglas E. Greene

Mao Zedong

According to Mao Zedong, the principal law of materialist dialectics is the unity of opposites. Thus, it is quite fitting to observe that we can find the unity of opposites on display in evaluations of Mao himself as represented by Domenico Losurdo and Alain Badiou. For Losurdo, Mao is praised for his realism, nationalism, and attention to economic modernization. By contrast, Alain Badiou sees Mao as an eternal rebel, a symbol of the communist idea, and a universalist. These positions could not be more opposed. Even in their judgements of what Mao did wrong in the Cultural Revolution, both provide different answers. On the one hand, Losurdo condemns Mao for going too far with mass rebellion; while on the other, Badiou faults Mao for not going far enough. Yet as we shall see, even though Losurdo and Badiou form a yin and a yang, they both end up short when it comes to Mao.

Domenico Losurdo

The late Domenico Losurdo (1941–2018) was one of the foremost Marxist writers of his generation. He was the author of acclaimed studies on liberalism, Antonio Gramsci, G. W. F. Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Karl Marx. Losurdo was not simply an academic, but a militant in the Italian Maoist movement of the 1960s. When it came to Marxist-Leninism, Losurdo was forthright about his allegiance: “This is the tradition in which I recognize myself.”1 By the 1980s, Losurdo hard joined the Italian Communist Party. After its dissolution in 1991, he was a member of the Communist Refoundation Party, followed by the Party of Italian Communists. The last organization that Losurdo joined was the anti-revisionist Communist Party of Italy (PCI). At the sixth congress of the PCI in 2011, Losurdo wrote: “It is the coexistence of promising prospects and terrible threats that makes the construction and strengthening of the communist parties urgent. I sincerely hope that the party we are rebuilding today will be up to its tasks.”2

In order to situate Losurdo’s view of Mao, we need to grasp how he understood the different camps of “Western” and “Eastern” Marxism. According to Losurdo, Western Marxism was born as a reaction against imperialism, the slaughter of the First World War, and the aura of the Bolshevik Revolution: “In the West, the radical, indeed apocalyptic, historical turning point is undoubtedly represented by the outbreak and flare-up of the First World War. The tiredness, the disgust, the indignation at the interminable carnage, all this promotes the rapid spread of the communist movement.”3 Furthermore, he argues that Western Marxism was shaped not only by material circumstances, but also the cultural tradition of “Judeo-Christian messianism.” Early Western Marxists like Ernst Bloch, Georg Lukács, and Walter Benjamin all viewed the Russian Revolution through an apocalyptic lens as a utopian and universalist event that would deliver humanity from all the vices of bourgeois society. In the ranks of Bolshevism, Losurdo singles out Leon Trotsky as the embodiment of this messianic spirit of Western Marxism: “If one can ever speak in Russia of Western Marxism, this is represented by Trotsky.”4

However, Western Marxists were bound to be disappointed once their hopes of achieving a classless society did not come to pass in the USSR. Losurdo argues that Western Marxism could not comprehend the mundane need to develop the productive forces and reckon with so-called realism. Since figures like Trotsky refused to deal with this reality, they condemned efforts to do so by “realists” like Stalin as betrayals of the revolution: “Any political programme that fell short of demanding a social order without a state and military apparatus seemed wholly inadequate.”5

Losurdo claims that since Western Marxists were detached from the material realities of imperialist encirclement and economic backwardness, they made a virtue of poverty and authenticity that was akin to a religious belief:

In the eyes of these “Communists,” the imperialist encirclement of “real, existing socialism” and the socialist revolution are simply as irrelevant as the Roman siege of Jerusalem and the Jewish national revolution were for the assembly of Jewish early Christians. From this perspective every effort to analyze the concrete historical conditions is a distraction and immoral; the only thing that really matters is the authenticity and the purity of the gospel of salvation.6

In turn, this leads Western Marxists to disavow the experience of “actually existing socialism” as inauthentic. Losurdo argues that this position plays into anticommunist prejudices and makes Western Marxism acceptable to the bourgeoisie: “They passionately deny the accusation that they are in any way connected to the history of ‘real, existing socialism.’ At the same time they reduce this history to a simple series of horrors in the hope that this will lend them credibility especially in the eyes of the liberal bourgeoisie.”7

Instead of taking this approach, Losurdo argues that socialism must purge itself of the “abstract utopianism,” messianism, internationalism that are the hallmarks of Western Marxism. In its place, he advocates the embrace of “realism” which includes normalizing the market, nationalism, the bureaucracy, the rule of law, and the promotion of material incentives. According to Losurdo, twentieth-century socialism failed because it was too permeated with Western Marxist abstractions, as a result, it was unable to connect with its material environment:

What has been defeated, in the Third World and in the “socialist camp” itself, is a Western Marxism that, having failed to take into account the national and religious identity-religion is often an essential constituent element of national identity-of the countries in which it operated, has failed to orientalize itself, so to speak.8

By contrast, Losurdo says that Marxism’s counterpart in Asia had much different concerns than Western Marxism. In contrast, it was the reality of colonialism that provided the immediate environment that shaped the reception of Marxism after 1917. As Losurdo says, what spoke loudest to Marxists such as Mao was the Leninist theory of imperialism: “Marxism-Leninism is the truth finally found after a long search; the ideological weapon capable of putting an end to the situation of oppression and ‘contempt’ imposed by colonialism and imperialism, the ideological weapon which ensures the victory of the revolution in China.”9

While Western Marxists were cosmopolitans separated from reality, Marxists like Mao both understood and integrated into national life. Losurdo praises Mao’s efforts to “nationalize” Marxism, arguing that the “Sinification” of Marxism was the unification of “East and West, general characteristics and national peculiarities.”10 In other words, Mao (along with Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh) fused together internationalism with patriotism: “they never contradicted patriotism and internationalism, indeed, they always saw in the struggle for the liberation of oppressed nations an essential moment in the march of internationalism and universalism, of what Gramsci defines as ‘integral humanism.’”11 He notes that Western Marxism, with its “pure vision of the universal,” could only view these national liberation struggles with utter contempt.12

In addition, Mao’s thoughts on the productive forces were markedly different from those found in Western Marxism. Losurdo observes that the Long March and the anti-Japanese resistance was an “epic endeavor.” During the war, the Japanese targeted the whole population for subjugation, which meant that the “class struggle and national resistance tended to merge in China.”13 To fight Japan, the Communist Party of China (CPC) sought to build a united front that included not only workers and peasants, but also the national bourgeoisie. In this fight for national survival, the CPC’s commitment to production became inseparable from the greater war effort:

From this moment [at the beginning of the Anti-Japanese War], the commitment to the production and development of the economy becomes, especially in the liberated areas controlled by the Communist Party, at the same time an integral part of the national class struggle. It is clear then why, even in the midst of the war effort, Mao called communist leaders to pay close attention to the economic dimension of the conflict.14

Unlike Western Marxists, with their grand disdain for “vulgar” productive forces, Marxists in Asia saw the economic front as even more important than the class struggle and national liberation.15

According to Losurdo, this focus on increasing production did not change after the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. For one, China endured embargos and economic attacks from the United States, which made no secret of its efforts to overthrow the new regime. China might have secured national unity, but it faced the continued threat of imperialist aggression and neocolonial subjugation. Therefore, China’s economic development had the twin tasks of social transformation and modernization.16

Recognizing the economic problems of the Soviet Union, but still wanting to continue the revolution, Mao turned to a “Western Marxist” solution. As Losurdo observes: “Mao Zedong believed that these problems could be solved through the uninterrupted mobilization of the masses. This led to the Great Leap Forward, followed by the Cultural Revolution. A new stage of the revolution was called upon to guarantee both economic development and progress in the direction of socialism. This new stage of socialism had the mission of liberating the initiatives of the masses from all bureaucratic obstacles, even from the bureaucratic obstacles of the Communist Party and the state that it controlled.”17 In other words, Losurdo senses in Mao the same Western Marxist abstract universalism found in figures such as Trotsky.18

Losurdo believes that both the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution created unrealistic millenarian moods to mobilize the people. In these campaigns, Mao undermined the authority of both the party and state. Since these two institutions could no longer ensure stability, this meant that China was only held together by the prestige and power of Mao’s personality, buttressed by the army:

Because the mediating roles of the Party and the state had been swept away, there really only existed, on the one hand, the immediate relationship to the charismatic leader, and on the other hand, the immediate relationship to the masses (though these were in fact manipulated and fanaticized by means of the news media and controlled by an army prepared to intervene in emergencies). These were truly the years of a triumphal Bonapartism.19

For Losurdo, Mao’s fundamental mistake was relying on mass mobilization and revolutionary utopias. This was completely at odds with the requirements of realism: “The ‘Great Leap Forward’ and the ‘Cultural Revolution’ took no account of the need to normalize the process of transformation. No one can call upon the masses to be heroes all the time, to endure being continuously and eternally mobilized, always ready to sacrifice, to do without, to deny oneself. The call to heroism must always remain the exception and never become the rule.”20 Despite Mao’s desire to increase productive forces and overcome inequality, Losurdo concludes that his efforts were unsustainable in the long-term.

After Mao’s death, the leadership of China passed to Deng Xiaoping. A noted “realist” in the CPC, he was not interested in ideological purity, but increasing production through any means. As Deng famously said in 1962: “It does not matter if it is a yellow cat or a black cat, as long as it catches mice.”21 Under Deng, the Cultural Revolution was formally ended and politics were “normalized.” Market socialism was introduced, leading to the rapid increase of productive forces, along with inequality, corruption, and a degradation of social solidarity.

Losurdo believes that China’s return to the realism of “Eastern Marxism” is something to be celebrated. He argues that Deng’s policies were successful in advancing the cause of socialism: “And even with the attendant high costs, the outcomes of undertaking this new course are generally visible: a rapid expansion in the development of productive forces; an economic miracle of European proportions; access like never before to economic and social opportunities for hundreds of millions of Chinese. All of this adds up to a liberation process of enormous proportions.”22 It is safe to assume that Losurdo believes Deng’s governance proves the superiority of Chinese Marxism over Western Marxism, with its focus on organizing the mechanisms of normalcy, and not utopian dreams.

Yet this does not mean Losurdo completely repudiates Mao’s legacy. Deng changed course by rejecting Mao’s radicalism, but without repeating Nikita Khrushchev’s approach to Joseph Stalin, “demonizing those who preceded him in holding power.”23 Deng himself bluntly acknowledged this: “We will not do to Chairman Mao what Khrushchev [sic] did to Stalin.”24 He knew that Mao was a source of legitimacy in China who could not be dismissed in one blow without irrevocably harming the CPC: “Comrade Mao Zedong was not an isolated individual, he was the leader of our Party until the moment of his death. When we write about his mistakes, we should not exaggerate, for otherwise we shall be discrediting Comrade Mao Zedong, and this would mean discrediting our Party and state.”25 This led China to adopt a formal verdict on Mao of being 70 percent good and 30 percent bad. Ironically, this was the same verdict Mao had on Stalin.

In 1981, the CPC approved a resolution on Mao’s historical role. Ultimately, Mao was praised for his correct version of Marxism before 1956, but afterward, he pursued the incorrect “Western Marxist” policies of the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution: “Chief responsibility for the grave ‘Left’ error of the ‘cultural revolution,’ an error comprehensive in magnitude and protracted in duration, does indeed lie with Comrade Mao Zedong. But after all it was the error of a great proletarian revolutionary.”26 For Losurdo, Deng and CPC’s defense of the “realist” as opposed to the “utopian” side of Mao successfully preserved the validity of socialism in China and allowed for its continued advance: “The procedure chosen by the new Chinese leadership, in any case, avoided a delegitimation of revolutionary power. Above all, it made possible a genuine debate about the conditions and characteristics of the construction of a socialist society, because it did not shift all the difficulties, uncertainties, and objective contradictions onto one person as scapegoat.”27

Alain Badiou

Alain Badiou appeared destined for a quiet career as an academic and a writer, but became politically active during the 1960s. Originally a member of the leftist Parti Socialiste Unifié, the student-worker protests of May 1968 transformed Badiou into a Maoist revolutionary. He describes this moment of political awakening as a religious conversion: “I admit without any reticence that May 68 was for me, in the order of philosophy as in everything else, a genuine road-to-Damascus experience.… It is the masses who make history, including the history of knowledge.”28 Afterwards, Badiou was active in the Maoist organization Union des communistes de France marxiste-léniniste (UCFml) and then the non-Maoist L’Organisation Politique. In addition, Badiou has combined his political activism with a prodigious output of plays, philosophical works, literature, and political polemics. He is currently one of the most prominent public intellectuals in France.

Before explaining how Badiou views Mao, we must discuss his understanding of communism. According to Badiou, communism is a Platonic idea that has existed since the emergence of class society: “Every historical event is communist, to the degree that ‘communist’ designates the transtemporal subjectivity of emancipation, the egalitarian passion, the Idea of justice, the will to break with the compromises of the service des biens, the deposition of egoism, an intolerance of oppression, the wish to impose a withering away of the state.”29 For Badiou, communism itself is an idea that is not connected to any specific class, whether workers, serfs, peasants, or slaves. Instead, communism possesses an invariant and transhistorical character: “The communist invariants have no defined class character: they synthesize the universal aspiration of the exploited to topple every principle of exploitation and oppression.”30

Since all communist invariants emerge from similar political events, they take on shared characteristics. In Logics of Worlds, Badiou lists four common traits found in any political truth that aims at communism:

All these truths articulate four determinations: will (against socio-economic necessity), equality (against established hierarchies of power or wealth), confidence (against anti-popular suspicion or fear of the masses), authority or terror (against the ‘natural’ free play of the competition). This is the generic kernel of a political truth of this type.”31

The communist invariants not only share these four attributes, but they are also symbolized by proper names. Among those names highlighted by Badiou are Spartacus, Louis Auguste Blanqui, Maximilien Robespierre, Marx, V. I. Lenin, Che Guevara, and, of course, Mao. As Badiou says, for the unnamed masses who fight for emancipation, these proper names stand for the idea and truth of communism:

The anonymous action of millions of militants, rebels, fighters, unrepresentable as such, is combined and counted as one in the simple, powerful symbol of the proper name. Thus, proper names are involved in the operation of the Idea, and the ones I just mentioned are elements of the Idea of communism at its various different stages.32

While communism is an eternal idea, Badiou—at least in his more Marxist days—argued that the proletariat was not doomed to simply go through the same past struggles repeatedly. Rather, the proletariat is a universal class through which the communist program can finally be realized: “With the proletariat, ideological resistance becomes not only the repetition of the invariant but also the mastery of its realization.”33 This is true because Marxism is the accumulation of knowledge from all the past popular struggles carried out by other communist invariants. For the proletariat, Marxism now becomes the key instrument to its ultimate victory: “We must conceive of Marxism as the accumulated wisdom of popular revolutions, the reason they engender, and the fixation and precision of their target.”34 When Badiou wrote these words in 1976, he undoubtedly saw Maoist thought as the highest synthesis of Marxist knowledge for the proletariat. However, since the 1980s at least, Badiou has retreated from an identification of the proletariat as a universal class.

Badiou sees communism as a political truth which undergoes periodic sequences of emergence, growth, and exhaustion: “I will begin by saying that a political truth can, after all, be described in a purely empirical way: it is a concrete, time-specific sequence in which a new thought and a new practice of collective emancipation arise, exist, and eventually disappear.”35 According to Badiou, there have been two separate sequences of modern communism. The first came with the French Revolution in 1792 and lasted until 1871. He argues that the major characteristics of the first sequence were combining a mass movement of workers with the conquest of power: “This sequence combined, under the sign of communism, the mass popular movement and a thematic of the seizure of power. The object was to organize the popular movement, in multiple forms—demonstrations, strikes, uprisings, armed actions, and so on—in preparation for an overturn, evidently meaning an insurrectional overturn such as went by the name of ‘revolution.’”36 This sequence ended with the Paris Commune, which Badiou identifies as “the supreme form of this combination of popular movement, working-class leadership and armed insurrection.”37

The second sequence lasted from the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 to the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. Badiou argues that this sequence was dominated by the question of how to escape the defeat of the Paris Commune and achieve victory. Lenin’s vanguard party provided these answers: “This obsession with victory and the Real was focused on problems of organization and discipline, and entirely contained, from Lenin’s What is to Be Done? of 1902, in the theory and practice of the centralized and homogeneous class party.”38 While the vanguard party allowed communists in the second sequence to take power, it created the new problem of the terroristic and bureaucratic party-state. As Badiou put it:

The party, in fact, appropriate for insurrectionary or military victory over weakened reactionary powers, proved ill-adapted for the construction of a state of proletarian dictatorship in Marx’s sense, in other words a state organizing the transition towards a non-state, a power of non-power, a dialectical form of the withering away of the state. The form of the party-state, on the contrary, involved an experiment with an unprecedented form of authoritarian or even terroristic state, one that in any case was entirely separate from people’s practical life.39

The main attempt to break out of the party-state impasse was made by Mao. Badiou argues that Mao was opposed to the depoliticization and ossification of the Stalinist state:

Similarly, Mao rises up against Stalin’s objectivism. He argues that Stalin ‘wants only technology and cadres’ and only deals with the ‘knowledge of the laws’. He neither indicates ‘how to become the masters of these laws’, nor does he sufficiently illuminate ‘the subjective activism of the Party and the masses’. In truth, Mao indicts Stalin for a veritable depoliticization of the will…This depoliticization must be envisaged in terms of its most remote consequences: the transition to communism, the only source of legitimacy for the authority of the socialist state. Without a political break, without the will to abolish ‘the old rules and the old systems’, the transition to communism is illusory.40

For Mao, the way out of the Stalinist deadlock was the politicization of the masses and an assault on the party-state. This took the form of the Cultural Revolution and the resurrection of the Paris Commune: “We can therefore say without fear that, in the current phase of revolutionary politics, the Cultural Revolution plays the role that the Paris Commune played in its Leninist sequence. The Cultural Revolution is the Commune of the age of Communist Parties and Socialist States.”41 For Badiou, the Cultural Revolution was a historic attempt to break through the deadlock of the party-state and renew the idea of communism.

Yet Badiou identifies a contradiction in the Cultural Revolution between the needs of order and rebellion:

On one hand, the issue is to arouse mass revolutionary action in the margins of the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat, or to acknowledge, in the theoretical jargon of the time, that even though the state is formally a ‘proletarian’ state, the class struggle continues, including forms of mass revolt. Mao and his followers will go so far as to say that under socialism, the bourgeoisie reconstitutes itself and organizes itself within the Communist Party itself. On the other hand, with actual civil war still being excluded, the general form of the relation between the party and the state, in particular concerning the use of repressive forces, must remain unchanged at least in so far as it is not really a question of destroying the party.42

While Mao and his supporters told the masses that it is “right to rebel” against the party-state, there was also the need to maintain stability. Despite the Cultural Revolution’s invocation of a new state based on the Paris Commune, Badiou notes that Mao wanted to maintain the party-state, insisting that most cadres were basically good.

For Badiou, the seizures of power—particularly the Shanghai People’s Commune of 1967—reveal the failures of the self-imposed limits of the Cultural Revolution. Mao ended up retreating from the commune form, instead supporting the creation of “three-in-one” revolutionary committees composed of cadre from the party, army, and mass organizations. This amounted to the restoration of the party-state’s power and authority. Furthermore, the workers’ movements and Red Guards were disbanded. Badiou concludes that the Cultural Revolution proved that the party-state cannot serve as a means to reach communism:

[The Cultural Revolution] marks an irreplaceable experience of saturation, because a violent will to find a new political path, to relaunch the revolution, and to find new forms of the workers’ struggle under the formal conditions of socialism ended up in failure when confronted with the necessary maintenance, for reasons of public order and the refusal of civil war, of the general frame of the party-state.43

In terms of Mao himself, Badiou says that he played a contradictory role in the Cultural Revolution as both a rebel and a restorationist:

We can clearly see that Mao, by bringing in the workers, wanted to prevent the situation from turning into one of ‘military control.’ He wanted to protect those who had been his initial allies and had been the bearers of enthusiasm and political innovation. But Mao is also a man of the party-state. He wants its renovation, even a violent one, but not its destruction. In the end he knows full well that by subjugating the last outpost of young rebellious ‘leftists,’ he eliminates the last margin left to anything that is not in line (in 1968) with the recognized leadership of the Cultural Revolution: the line of party reconstruction. He knows it, but he is resigned. Because he holds no alternative hypothesis—nobody does as to the existence of the state, and because the large majority of people, after two exalted but very trying years, want the state to exist and to make its existence known, if necessary with brute force.44

Ultimately, Badiou claims that the Cultural Revolution proves that the next sequence of communism must dispense with the vanguard party: “We know today that all emancipatory politics must put an end to the model of the party, or of multiple parties, in order to affirm a politics ‘without party,’ and yet at the same time without lapsing into the figure of anarchism, which has never been anything else than the vain critique, or the double, or the shadow, of the communist parties, just as the black flag is only the double or the shadow of the red flag.”45 Despite his denials, Badiou’s communism is effectively a form of speculative anarchism, with its celebration of miraculous “events.” However, his concept of the invariant allows Badiou to avoid disillusionment like other former Maoists. Instead, he can argue for the revival of communism since it will always exist as a form of mass rebellion:

I maintain the expression [of communist invariants], against that of the ‘death of communism.’ And that—at the very moment in which a monstrous avatar, literally disastrous (a ‘State of communism’!) is falling apart—it thus be a matter of the following: any event which is foundational of truth exposes the subject it induces to the eternity of the equal. ‘Communism,’ in having named this eternity adequately serve to name a death.46

Even now, Badiou refuses to disavow Mao. On the fiftieth anniversary of the Cultural Revolution in 2016, Badiou upheld Mao as a representative of the communist idea: “You might say that what I first saw in Mao and the Chinese Communist Party was a ‘left’ critique of Soviet politics. Mao’s major grievance was as follows: Stalin’s vision isn’t dialectical. He represents congealed, immobilized state socialism, whereas Mao, as is clear in all his great texts, thinks in an almost infinite way.”47 In the end, Badiou holds true to his youthful Red Guard beliefs by affirming Mao as an eternal rebel.

Two Halves that Don’t Make a Whole

What would Losurdo and Badiou say about each other’s views on Mao? Losurdo would likely consider Badiou to be infected with Western Marxist abstractions and anarchism in his celebration of mass rebellion and disregard for the needs of realism. By contrast, Badiou would no doubt consider Losurdo to be a Stalinist cop, with his defense of order, normalcy, and the bureaucratic party-state. Between them, no resolution could be possible. Yet this contradiction does not add up to a coherent picture of Mao.

In Mao, there is an antinomy without resolution between the opposed dialectic of the Dengist and the Red Guard. The source of this unresolvable conflict is built into Mao’s dialectics since he rejects any reconciliation or negation of the negation. Instead, there is an eternal struggle between opposites. According to Mao, there are always rival positions in politics representing different roads such as bourgeois and proletarian, capitalist or socialist, or Dengism and the Red Guard. Depending on the requirements of the situation at hand, Mao himself oscillates between opposed positions. This ambiguity was most clearly on display during the Cultural Revolution where Mao was the source of both ultimate authority and rebellion. In religious terms, it could be said that Mao was both God and Lucifer. Ultimately, the Dengist and Red Guard fail to understand Mao, since neither are willing to conclude an identity between their unity of opposites.

  1. Domenico Losurdo, “Domenico Losurdo interviewed by Matteo Gargani (2016),” Red Sails.
  2. Domenico Losurdo, “Intervention at the 6th PdCI National Congress,” Domenico Losurdo (2011).
  3.  Domenico Losurdo, Il marxismo occidentale Come nacque, come morì, come può Rinascere (Bari: Laterza2017), 33, translation mine.
  4.  Domenico Losurdo, Antonio Gramsci dal liberalismo al “comunismo critico” (Rome: Gamberetti, 1997), 242, translation mine.
  5.  Domenico Losurdo, Class Struggle: A Political and Philosophical History (New York: Palgrave, 2016), 229.
  6.  Domenico Losurdo, “Flight from History? The Communist Movement between Self-Criticism and Self-Contempt,” Nature, Society and Thought 13, no. 3 (2000): 461.
  7.  Losurdo, “Flight from History? The Communist Movement between Self-Criticism and Self-Contempt.” For a thorough refutation of Losurdo on Stalin, see the appendix of Doug Greene, The Dialectics of Saturn: On the Question of Stalinism (forthcoming).
  8.  Losurdo, Antonio Gramsci dal liberalismo al “comunismo critico,” 242, translation mine.
  9.  Domenico Losurdo, “World War I, the October Revolution and Marxism’s Reception in the West and East,” in Cataclysm 1914: The First World War and the Making of Modern World Politics, ed.  Alexander Anievas (Boston: Brill, 2015), 263.
  10.  Losurdo, Antonio Gramsci dal liberalismo al “comunismo critico,” 242, translation mine.
  11.  Domenico Losurdo, “Como Nasceu e como Morreu o ‘Marxismo Ocidental’,” Marxists Internet Archive, translation mine.
  12.  Domenico Losurdo, “Como Nasceu e como Morreu o ‘Marxismo Ocidental.’”
  13.  Losurdo, Class Struggle: A Political and Philosophical History , 160.
  14.  Losurdo, “World War I, the October Revolution and Marxism’s Reception in the West and East, 266–67.
  15.  Losurdo, “World War I, the October Revolution and Marxism’s Reception in the West and East, 266–67.
  16.  Losurdo, “Flight from History? The Communist Movement between Self-Criticism and Self-Contempt,” 494.
  17.  Losurdo, “Flight from History? The Communist Movement between Self-Criticism and Self-Contempt,” 494–95.
  18.  It is absurd for Losurdo to compare Trotsky with Mao as falling under the same species of voluntarism. For more on Trotsky’s anti-voluntarist politics, see The Dialectics of Saturn.
  19.  Losurdo, “Flight from History? The Communist Movement between Self-Criticism and Self-Contempt,” 495.
  20.  Losurdo, “Flight from History? The Communist Movement between Self-Criticism and Self-Contempt,” 495.
  21.  Deng Xiaoping, “Restore Agricultural Production,” in Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping – Volume I (1938–1965) (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1992), 318.
  22.  Losurdo 2000, 497.
  23.  Ibid. 496.
  24.  Deng, “Answers to Fallaci,” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, vol. 2, 344.
  25.  Deng, “On Drafts of Resolution on CPC History,” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, vol. 2, 300.
  26.  Communist Party of China, “June 27, 1981- Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China,” Wilson Center, p. 16.
  27.  Losurdo, “Flight from History? The Communist Movement between Self-Criticism and Self-Contempt, 497.
  28.  Quoted in Peter Hallward, Badiou: A Subject to Truth (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 33.
  29.  Quoted in Hallward, Badiou: A Subject to Truth, 241.
  30.  Quoted in Bruno Bosteels, Badiou and Politics (Durnham: Duke University Press, 2011), 277.
  31.  Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds: Being and Event, 2 (New York: Continuum, 2009), 27.
  32.  Alain Badiou, The Communist Hypothesis (New York: Verso, 2010), 250-51.
  33.  Quoted in Bosteels, Badiou and Politics, 279.
  34.  Quoted in Bosteels, Badiou and Politics, 280.
  35.  Badiou, The Communist Hypothesis, 231.
  36.  Alain Badiou, The Meaning of Sarkozy (New York: Verso, 2008), 106.
  37.  Badiou, The Meaning of Sarkozy, 106.
  38.  Badiou, The Meaning of Sarkozy, 108. By “passion for the real,” Badiou is referring to a term from Lacanian psychoanalysis that refers to a desire for what can be done in the here and now in a sense of immediate material urgency. In terms of politics, Badiou views the Real as making the impossible possible: “And in particular, this conception of the real as being, in a situation, in any given symbolic field, the point of impasse, or the point of impossibility, which precisely allows us to think the situation as a whole, according to its real. Part of what I said a moment ago could be resaid as follows: emancipatory politics always consists in making seem possible precisely that which, from within the situation, is declared to be impossible.” Peter Hallward and Alain Badiou, “Politics and philosophy: an interview with Alain Badiou,” Angelaki 3.3 (1998): 124; Alain Badiou, The Century (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2007), 32.
  39.  Badiou, The Meaning of Sarkozy, 109.
  40.  Badiou, Logics of Worlds: Being and Event, 22.
  41.  Badiou, The Communist Hypothesis, 278.
  42.  Badiou, The Communist Hypothesis, 113–14.
  43.  Badiou, The Communist Hypothesis, 155.
  44.  Badiou, The Communist Hypothesis, 148.
  45.  Badiou, The Communist Hypothesis,155.
  46.  Alain Badiou, Infinite Thought: Truth and the Return to Philosophy (New York: Continuum, 2003), 131.
  47.  Alain Badiou, “Mao thinks in an almost infinite way,” Verso Books, May 16, 2016.

Douglas Greene is an independent Marxist historian living in the greater Boston area. He is the author of two biographies: Communist Insurgent: Blanqui’s Politics of Revolution and A Failure of Vision: Michael Harrington and the Limits of Democratic Socialism.

MR Online, August 19, 2022, https://mronline.org/