Monday 16 January 2012
The Department of English, University of Delhi
invites you to a talk by
Professor Jairus Banaji
Retotalizing Fascism: Reading Arthur Rosenberg through Sartre’s Critique
on Wednesday January 18th, 2012
at the Arts Faculty, Room 56, at 3 pm. [University of Delhi]
Arthur Rosenberg (1889–1943) was a major historian and Communist Reichstag deputy who left the KPD (the German Communist Party) in disgust at the Comintern’s increasing interference in German affairs. Today he is best known for books like The Birth of the German Republic 1871–1918 (1928) and A History of Bolshevism (1932). Much less well known is his remarkable essay Fascism as a mass movement written in exile in 1933, soon after he fled Germany. Rosenberg argued that in Germany at least fascism emerged against the background of a powerful Nationalist Right, that ‘the ideology which is today called “fascist” was already fairly widespread throughout Europe before the War’, and that fascism succeeded as a mass movement, one where the extreme Right could mobilize a mass base, in the 1920s, less through its pathological hatred of Jews than through the growing pessimism about democracy, the relentless attacks on it and fabricated visions of national redemption. The lecture sums up the main arguments of Rosenberg’s essay (because of their obvious relevance to us in India today) and then relates some of those arguments to key concepts in Sartre’s major work Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960) to show how these throw light on a crucial issue. If, as Rosenberg argues, fascism succeeds only by creating a mass base, what is the nature of that base? By this I do not mean ‘what is its class character?’ but what does it mean for a fascist movement or a fascist state to have or control a mass base? How is that ‘mass’ intelligible in strictly dialectical terms?
Jairus Banaji studied Classics, Ancient History and Modern Philosophy at Oxford in the late sixties and Modern History at JNU in the early seventies. His most recent book Theory as History (Haymarket Books) won the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Prize for 2011. He is affiliated to the Department of Development Studies, SOAS, University of London and engaged in a full-scale translation of Henryk Grossmann’s classic work on crisis theory The Law of Accumulation and Breakdown of the Capitalist System and in writing a short book called Marxist Theory and Contemporary Capitalism.
Professor Banaji is Visiting Fellow at the Department in January, 2012.