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New Left Review I/4, July-August 1960

Sol Encel

Forward from Marxism

it would, I think, be a pity if Edward Thompson’s discussion of the possibility of social revolution were to be taken as the authentic voice of the New Left—as right-wing critics of Out of Apathy already seem to be doing. In attempting to avoid the danger of falling between the stools of reformist Fabianism, whose intellectual shoddiness he deplores, and cataclysmic Marxism, whose sterility he rejects, he has had little more success than his numerous predecessors in this difficult enterprise. Mr. Thompson clearly believes in revolution, but in condemning the “explosive negatives of class antagonism” he is cutting the ground from under his own feet. The only really plausible theory of social revolution is precisely the one that depends inextricably on class antagonism. Mr. Thompson is, of course, aware of this central difficulty, but the best he can do is the not very convincing device of a “breakthrough” which, once achieved, will generate its own dynamic. What, then, is to provide the dynamic for the breakthrough?

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Sol Encel, ‘Forward from Marxism’, NLR I/4: £3

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