follow url A new edition of the Communist Manifesto , on the th anniversary of its original publication, quickly became a global bestseller. Perry Anderson's essays on world politics, the trajectory of intellectuals, and the decline of Europe—in A Zone of Engagement and English Questions —became important reference points, not just for the Left.
On the ground reporting from the new war zones has come from Patrick Cockburn and Gideon Levy, while Joshua Phillips has documented the effects of torture on US Army protagonists as well as civilian victims. Ellen Wood has moved back in time from The Origin of Capitalism to the groundbreaking social history of political thought in Citizens to Lords. Benedict Anderson has explored the long history of nationalism and anarchism in Under Three Flags , and Sheila Rowbotham has recast the history of feminism in Dreamers of a New Day.
As part of this project, Verso is proud to undertake the publication of the complete works of Rosa Luxemburg—one of the most gifted theorists and activists of the early twentieth century, brutally murdered in by the forebears of German fascism—in collaboration with the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung and Karl Dietz Verlag.
The political nature of the Marxist understanding of class had been lost in the deterministic readings of the Second International period. Class is something that happens :. The long history of radical, popular politics was essential to the development of class consciousness. The lesson to take from this is not that objective conditions do not matter, but that what we do matters and can shape the context in which class consciousness is formed, or fails to form.
We should:. The white-coated workers and the rest.
Thus there is no turn away from class in Thompson, but rather a re-discovery of the dialectics of class and class-consciousness; its dynamic and active character. Many academic followers of Thompson and other figures of the New Left may have gone down this root later on, but in so far as this turn was directly related Thompson, it was necessarily based on a misapprehension of the dialectic between the objective and subjective poles of class that he was attempting to revive, against mechanical readings.
The problem of the formation and reformation of class has been a perennial one for the socialist movement, as capitalism itself continually changes form, and breaks up old social formations as it forms new ones. The objective nature of the working class has changed many times since capitalist social relations became dominant, but the experiences and traditions of labour and socialist movements are essential to the continuity or even re-foundation of class consciousness. Yet there is no disguising the fact that in its initial terms the New Left failed to form a cohesive new movement, and while Thompson himself is hardly to blame for this, there is an important lacuna in his thinking which points to a wider problem that is also relevant today.
This is the issue of organisation, which, it should be plain, is crucial to the continuities that working-class politics need. In the context of the New Left, for those who left the Communist Party in , it was clearly a natural reaction to question the form of organisation they had left behind. At points like this, the parallels with the problems of our own time seem very clear.
It is apparent how questions of revolutionary organisation became tangled up with the analysis of the nature of the Soviet Union. Consequently, it seems, there was a failure to distinguish Leninist principles of organisation from the degenerated nature of the party which had come to rule state-capitalist Russia see p. The identity-based movements of the left have been extraordinarily effective at changing American culture, and the alt-right clearly hopes to copy their success. By claiming the mantle of rebellion, the alt-right can take to the streets in protest as if anticolonialism in the classroom were a new Vietnam War.
They can argue that their ability to spew hate is in fact a civil right, and that their movement is simply a new version of the Free Speech Movement of Lewis notes that the conservative activist Candace Owens rose to YouTube fame after she posted a humorous video on her channel, Red Pill Black, that revealed her political beliefs to her parents. Pundits on the left are fond of reminding us of how Trump storms and fulminates, the White House itself unable to contain his petulance and rage.
What they fail to understand is that Trump has mastered the politics of authenticity for a new media age. Trump is not only true to his own emotions. He is to his political base what Hitler was to many Germans, or Mussolini to Italians—the living embodiment of the nation. Here, the identity-centered liberalism that has dominated so much of public life since the Second World War has come full circle.
Its victories have been many, from civil rights to legalized abortion and gay marriage, and they have dramatically changed American life for the better. Fifty years ago, the New Left marched on the Pentagon, hoping to undermine the military-industrial complex behind the Vietnam War.
Today, those hierarchical institutions are all that stand between us and a cult of personality. I f the communes of the s teach us anything, they teach us that a community that replaces laws and institutions with a cacophony of individual voices courts bigotry and collapse.
Without explicit, democratically adopted rules for distributing resources, the communes allowed unspoken cultural norms to govern their lives. Women were frequently relegated to the most traditional of gender roles; informal racial segregation was common; and charismatic leaders—almost always men—took charge. Even the most well-intentioned communes began to replicate the racial and sexual dynamics that dominated mainstream America. For all their sophistication, the algorithms that drive Facebook cannot prevent the recrudescence of the racism and sexism that plagued the communes.
On the contrary, social-media platforms have helped bring them to life at a global scale. And now those systems are deeply entrenched. Social-media technologies have spawned enormous corporations that make money by mapping and mining the social world. Like the extraction industries of previous centuries, they are highly motivated to expand their territories and bend local elites to their will.
Without substantial pressure, they have little incentive to serve a public beyond their shareholders. Companies such as Facebook and Twitter are coming to dominate our public sphere to the same degree that Standard Oil once dominated the petroleum industry. They too should be subject to antitrust laws. We have every right to apply the same standards to social-media companies that we have applied to other extraction industries.
We cannot allow them to pollute the lands they mine, or to injure their workers, nearby residents, or those who use their products. As Columbia law professor Tim Wu has argued, social-media companies are enabling a new form of censorship by allowing human and robotic users to flood the inboxes of their enemies in an effort to keep them quiet, and there are little-used provisions of the First Amendment that could radically slow these processes.
We also have alternatives to traditional private or stockholder ownership of our social media. An international community of scholars and technologists has looked for some time at creating cooperatively owned online platforms. Since the Second World War, critics have challenged the legitimacy of our civic institutions simply on the grounds that they were bureaucratic and slow to change. Yet organizations such as hospitals demonstrate the value of these features. They remind us that a democracy must do more than allow its citizens to speak. It must help them live.
Above all, it must work to distribute our wealth more equably and to ensure that every member of society has both independence and security. This is work that requires intense negotiation among groups with conflicting material interests, and, often, deep-seated cultural differences. It requires the existence of institutions that can preserve and enforce the results of those negotiations over time. And it requires that those institutions be obliged to serve the public before tending to their own profits.
The Black Lives Matter and MeToo movements have taught us that social media can be a powerful force for liberating us from the fiction that all is well just as it is. But the attention these activists have brought to their causes will mean little if the changes they call for are not enshrined in explicit, enforceable laws. Even though the American state can be inefficient, unfair, corrupt, and discriminatory, the logic of representation that underlies it remains the most effective engine we have for ensuring the equable distribution of our collective wealth.
Over time, as new media have saturated our public lives, and as the children of the s have grown into the elites of today, we have learned that if we want a place on the political stage, we need to make our interior lives outwardly visible.
We need to say who we are. We need to confess. When Richard Spencer calls himself a member of a victimized minority, or when Donald Trump bares his anger on Twitter, they are using the same tactics once deployed by the protesters of the s or, for that matter, by participants in the MeToo movement today. To make this observation is not to say that their causes are in any way equivalent—far from it.
But whether they are lying like Trump or revealing long-buried truths like the members of MeToo, those who would claim power in the public sphere today must speak in a deeply personal idiom. They must display the authentic individuality that members of the Committee for National Morale once thought could be the only bulwark against totalitarianism, abroad and at home. Speaking our truths has always been necessary, but it will never be sufficient to sustain our democracy.
For much of the twentieth century, Americans on both the left and right believed that the organs of the state were the enemy and that bureaucracy was totalitarian by definition. Our challenge now is to reinvigorate the institutions they rejected and do the long, hard work of turning the truths of our experience into legislation. You are currently viewing this article as a guest.
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Editorial Reviews. About the Author. Antony Loewenstein is an independent Australian Left Turn: Political Essays for the New Left - Kindle edition by Antony . Left Turn: Political Essays For The New Left. Melbourne University Press, Left Turn: Political Essays for the New Left Purchase. The financial crisis.