Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Histomat Exclusive: Nick Cohen's next book

Fast on the heels of writing 'What's Left?: How Liberals Lost Their Way', reviewed here and by Ian Birchall here, Histomat can exclusively reveal that Nick Cohen is in the process of writing a follow up work. Provisionally entitled simply Who's Right?: Why I Am Always Right About Everything, we have secured exclusive permission to publish the preface from an early draft of the work. While what follows is certainly not in keeping with the editorial line of Histomat, we decided that it was nonetheless important enought to warrant putting on the blog:

Who's Right? Why I Am Always Right About Everything by Nick Cohen.


All my best ideas always come to me after spending a day in the pub, and the decision to write this book was no exception to the rule. My friend, the famous Marxist Professor Norman Geras and I had been hard at work planning how we could best mark the first anniversary of the launch of the Euston Manifesto, an anniversary that was fast approaching. After the ninth round, we had come up with various ideas (my suggestion of organising a pub crawl around Euston was proving the most popular idea with us both), but as we staggered out from our favourite tavern, Norm was still trying to come up with something more imaginative and inspired. 'We are the vanguard of a fucking world movement, Nick...we are making fucking history...we may all be in the gutter now but we are looking to the fucking stars...'

Old Norm had a point. He may have now been literally staring up at me from an actual gutter, but I thought he really had put his finger on something important there. I was a 'fucking star', even if the world had yet to look upon me as one yet. Norm was now grinning inanely, and began mumbling something about frightful hobgoblins and the two of us being like Marx and Engels, but I was now deep in my own thoughts. Wasn't I the greatest satirist in the English language since Jonathan Swift? Hadn't my polemics been compared in prophetic power to George Orwell? I turned to ask Norm to confirm that all this was indeed the case, but he looked as if he had now fallen asleep on the pavement. No matter.

It was at this point that my mind went back to what Socialist Worker had said of What's Left?: '363 pages of tedious, self-righteous diatribe and monotonous whining'. They were hardly going to say anything else, of course. I thought back to the time I had been invited to debate with the SWP at their 'Marxism' festival a few years back. I accepted the offer and turned up after spending the day preparing my arguments in a nearby bar, something I slightly regretted when I urgently needed to relieve myself on mounting the stage. Nevertheless, despite this self-inflicted injury, I decided to press on and get the whole thing over with as fast as possible. I began, and bravely told them straight out exactly what I thought of their chilling totalitarian Leninist organisation. After about ten minutes into my speech, the Chair complained that the supposed topic of the particular debate was not 'Leninism' or 'the SWP' but 'Should fascists should have the right to free speech?' Oh, well. Like I was bothered.

Still there was, I reflected with hindsight, a grain of truth in the argument that my book had been a 'diatribe'. What's Left? was all about things I was against - I now needed to write about what my alternative was, what I was for. The Euston Manifesto was supposed to be about what we we stood for, a sort of updated Communist Manifesto, but alas it had been written by a collective rather than me alone and accordingly, in terms of literary style, it had suffered somewhat. What was needed was a statement about what I thought - but written solely by me and solely about me. Hence the idea for Who's Right? was born.

At this point I felt Norm's hand on my shoulder. He looked sad, but he seemed to have sobered up somewhat. 'Let's face fucking reality, Nick, it's you and me against the fucking world now. Euston's fucked, Iraq's fucked, its all shot to shite, my academic credibility is in tatters and everyone hates us. Even if we organised a pub meet up to celebrate the fucking anniversary of the fucking Manifesto the only people who would turn up would be us, and a few journalists who had come to take the fucking piss. Maybe its time, you know, to wind the whole thing up.' I was staggered. 'What, and let the totalitarian Islamists and Leninists triumph?' I fired back. 'What happened to "Stormin' Norman"?' Besides, I said, 'I have had a revelation...' After telling him of my cunning plan to write a book all about me and how brilliant I am, Norm seemed enthusiastic but had questions. 'An autobiography? Your last book told us more about yourself than it did about the War on Iraq, and now you want to write even more about yourself?' Yet Who's Right? aims not simply to be an autobiography. It aims to be nothing less than a new manifesto for the movement that was born a year ago in Euston...



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