Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Monday, February 08, 2010

E.P. Thompson Today

Over at Reading the Maps, the author of the forthcoming work The Crisis of Theory: EP Thompson, the New Left, and Postwar British Politics contributes a defence of the relevance of the Marxist historian and activist EP Thompson for socialists today. This is an extract:

It seems to me that, in the twenty-first century, everyone committed to the politics of the left faces the predicament the young EP Thompson chose for himself in 1956. The collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites between 1989 and 1991 and the decline of Western social democracy into the neo-liberalism of the ‘Third Way’ have meant that the old sources of left-wing orthodoxy have vanished. For a generation that has grown up in the era of Putin and Blair, claims about the inevitable triumph of socialism, or even the inevitable amelioration of the worst features of capitalism by social democracy, seem absurd. The once-orthodox belief that socialism could save humanity by massively increasing the planet’s industrial output also seems anachronistic to a generation aware of the dangers posed by global warming, deforestation, and other side-effects of industrialism. Like EP Thompson, today’s leftists are forced to search in diverse places for alternatives to the dogmas of both Stalinism and old-fashioned social democracy.

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