The New Left, National Identity, and the Break-Up of Britain (Historical Materialism Book)

The New Left, National Identity, and the Break-Up of Britain (Historical Materialism Book)

Wade Matthews

Language: English

Pages: 324

ISBN: 160846377X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In this insightful work Wade Matthews considers the views of Britain's major New Left thinkers—E.P. Thompson, Raymond Williams, Perry Anderson, Stuart Hall, and Tom Nairn —on various 'national questions'. From decolonization to the nationalist implications of Thatcherism, this work charts the continuities and fissures between various New Left perspectives and what has been called 'the break-up of Britain.'

Red Book. Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung











national question in the early part of the twentieth century, as Paul Ward has demonstrated in Red Flag and Union Jack: Englishness, Patriotism, and the British Left, 1881–1924. They were also features of socialist intellectual’s encounter with nationalism and national identity in the 1930s and 1940s. Here, though, Britain’s socialist intellectuals were not just confronted with imperialist adventure, world war and revolution but also with the rise of fascism, with anti-colonialist nationalisms in

nationalists and MacDonald’s Labour government, his view changed.43 ‘To the degree that we refuse India what is essential in statehood for her national freedom’, he wrote in 1932, ‘we impoverish the spiritual well-being of the world’.44 He was, however, not a consistent anti-imperialist. Indeed, he endorsed Jewish colonialism in Palestine, despite knowing what that meant for the Arab population. Here he joined the majority of British socialists who believed that Jewish settlement would promote

of discontent with international communism and social democracy, and, on the other, as a response to ‘old’ and ‘new’ imperialisms and transformations in the capitalist mode of production. Constituted at the interface of these currents, the New Left in Britain reflected and reflected upon a fractured and uneven geography of politics, culture and interest throughout its history. In truth, 1956 was not a ‘Year Zero’. Like all political movements, the New Left drew selectively on the past.3 The

But rebellion in these historically constricted terms was not without sense. The Making of the English Working Class explained that the Industrial Revolution was not imposed on raw material, ‘but upon the freeborn Englishman’.185 Much of Thompson’s eighteenth century studies reconstructed this culture of dissent, struggle and opposition, whether in terms of Blacks in Hampshire’s forests, the writers of seditious letters, the moral economy of the crowd or the participants in rough music. Dissent

56. Ibid. 57. Hall et al. 1958, p. 4. 58. Hall et al. 1958, p. 37. 59. Hall 1957, p. 24. 60. Hall 1960a, p. 3. 61. Hall 1958, p. 87. Stuart Hall’s Identities • 165 was the same thing. Hall championed populism in its ‘narodnik’, rather than its ‘nationalist’, sense.62 From this ‘narodnik’ perspective, Hall understood populism as the strategic endeavour to construct a constituency for socialism from the lived experience of ‘the people’. Populism, Hall believed, implied the recognition that

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