“The only starting point for a realistic left today is the lucid registration of historical defeat” – Perry Anderson, New Left Review 2000
Why did I find reading this quote in the Guardian Review over a second pint of London Pride this evening so comforting? I think the most honest answer would be ‘nostalgia’.
It was nostalgia for the ideas and the time that the New Left Review represent for me that drew me to the article in the first place – lost afternoons in the Poly library sitting on the floor of a neglected periodicals aisle with a stack of old NLRs flicking through the page sucking it all up, young and hungry for knowledge. The late eighties, when the journal’s guiding principle of “the refusal of any accommodation with the ruling system…” didn’t seem as antiquated in its language as it does to most people today. That was the beginning of the end of all that.
So, had I read Perry Anderson’s statement in 2000, I would have heartily concurred (no doubt over a fourth or fifth pint then). But it is unlikely that I would have been reading NLR in 2000 as the politics had started to shift away from it natural centres of gravity at the poles of the established left or right.
But here nostalgia and sentiment kicks in again on a very simple level. I’m far more at home in a corduroy jacket than a black hoody (I have both in my wardrobe). I found myself reading Stefan Collini’s article pining to be back in 1989 – not 18 again but back in a time of left and right, us and them, leather patches on worn sleeve elbows.