Marxism and the Holocaust

Marxism and the Holocaust Alan Milchman Marxism and the Holocaust In this essay, I want to make, and elaborate on, three claims. First, that the Holocaust is a transformational event, 1 a qualitative break in the historical trajectory of capitalist civilisation; indeed, a break so great that, as Enzo Traverso has argued, the Nazi genocide ‘requires us to rethink the twentieth century and the very foundations of our civilisation’. 2 Second, that as a qualitative break in the trajectory of capitalism, the Holocaust poses a fundamental challenge to Marxist theory, such that, for Alex Callinicos, ‘[n]o human phenomenon can put a stronger demand on the explanatory powers of Marxism’. 3 However, it seems to me that orthodox Marxism, at any rate, has been inadequate to that challenge, has failed to provide us with a coherent or persuasive explanation of the ‘Final Solution’. Third, no explanation of the Holocaust, of its origins or unfolding, that does not Historical Materialism , volume 11:3 (97–120) © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2003 Also available online – www.brill.nl 1 The concept of the Holocaust as a transformational event was Žrst articulated by Alan Rosenberg, and subsequently elaborated by the two of us in a series of essays, http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Historical Materialism Brill

Marxism and the Holocaust

Historical Materialism, Volume 11 (3): 97 – Jan 1, 2003

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© 2003 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
1465-4466
eISSN
1569-206X
DOI
10.1163/156920603770678328
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Alan Milchman Marxism and the Holocaust In this essay, I want to make, and elaborate on, three claims. First, that the Holocaust is a transformational event, 1 a qualitative break in the historical trajectory of capitalist civilisation; indeed, a break so great that, as Enzo Traverso has argued, the Nazi genocide ‘requires us to rethink the twentieth century and the very foundations of our civilisation’. 2 Second, that as a qualitative break in the trajectory of capitalism, the Holocaust poses a fundamental challenge to Marxist theory, such that, for Alex Callinicos, ‘[n]o human phenomenon can put a stronger demand on the explanatory powers of Marxism’. 3 However, it seems to me that orthodox Marxism, at any rate, has been inadequate to that challenge, has failed to provide us with a coherent or persuasive explanation of the ‘Final Solution’. Third, no explanation of the Holocaust, of its origins or unfolding, that does not Historical Materialism , volume 11:3 (97–120) © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2003 Also available online – www.brill.nl 1 The concept of the Holocaust as a transformational event was Žrst articulated by Alan Rosenberg, and subsequently elaborated by the two of us in a series of essays,

Journal

Historical MaterialismBrill

Published: Jan 1, 2003

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