Susan Watkins on Francis Wheen, Karl Marx. The latest biography—a man for postmodern times?
THE NINE LIVES OF KARL MARX
For all his posthumous fame, Marx has so far defied any attempt to write a definitive version of his life. Each political period has found something different to say about him. It was the mud and mustard gas of World War One that spurred Franz Mehring to write the first biography in 1918. The work was dedicated to his fellow SDP members, Rosa Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin, whose friendship, Mehring wrote, ‘has been an incalculable consolation to me at a time when blustering storms have swept away so many “manly and steadfast pioneers of socialism” like dry leaves in autumn winds.’ The importance of Marx’s life for Mehring—a witty and independent-minded Berlin editor and bon vivant—was political: a salutary message for the party that had so calamitously failed to oppose the war, in which ‘lifelong followers of Marx, men who had brooded for three or even four decades over every comma in his writings’ he wrote, ‘failed utterly at an historical moment when for once they might and should have acted like Marx.’
’My institution subscribes to NLR, why can't I access this article?’
By the same author:
The American anti-discrimination paradigm, generated in the 1960s to neutralize the threat of radical black protests, has provided the palimpsest for global feminism for the past twenty years. How will it be challenged by the eruption of new gender protests, from Buenos Aires to Warsaw, Washington to Rome?
How to assess the latest set-back for the European Union: the vote to leave by its second-largest state? Complex determinants of the Brexit protest—party-political contingencies played out against topographies of class and sub-national disaffection—met by single-minded condemnation of it by the global elite.
After years of economic crisis and social protest, the cartel parties of the extreme centre now face a challenge to their dominance from outside-left forces in a number of Western countries. Contours of the emergent left oppositions, their platforms and figureheads, from Tsipras to Corbyn, Sanders to Mélenchon, Grillo to Iglesias.
The Political State of the Union
Debt, deflation and stagnation have now become the familiar economic stigmata of the EU. But what of its political distortions? A survey of the three principal—and steadily worsening—imbalances in the outcome of European integration: the oligarchic cast of its governors, the lop-sided rise of Germany, and the declining autonomy of the Union as a whole in the North Atlantic universe.
After decades of connivance with territorial seizures from Palestine to East Timor, the West rediscovers the principle of state sovereignty in Crimea. The actual record of 20th-century land grabs, and the cross-cutting geopolitical pressures bearing down on Ukraine.
Another Turn Of The Screw?
Beneath the roiling surface of the Euro-crisis, a further chapter of the EU integration project is underway. Susan Watkins on the institutional machinery Berlin is imposing across the Union, and the political stakes—and hypocrisies—laid bare by the struggle.
Presentism? Reply to T.J. Clark
Responding to Clark, Susan Watkins questions the adequacy of a perspective built upon man’s propensity for violence, and defends a historicized politics of social transformation against the cramped horizon of the present.
Remembering the watercolourist, typographer and writer—resident art critic at the London Review of Books—who redesigned NLR.
Anatomy of the UK’s new crossbreed government, and the uneven electoral geography that produced it. Amid the ruins of New Labour’s economic model and spreading Euro-turbulence, what prospects for resistance to austerity’s impending axe?
What remains of the neo-liberal order after the implosion of 2008—with what implications for a journal of the left? Notes for a future research agenda, as NLR enters its quinquagenary year.