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New Left Review 114, November-December 2018


perry anderson

THE MISSING TEXT

Introduction to ‘The Future of Marxism’

By common consent, the two most commanding intellectual figures in the New Left that emerged in Britain at the turn of the sixties were Raymond Williams (1921–88) and Edward Thompson (1924–93), theorist of culture and historian of the working class. Close contemporaries, each joined the Communist Party as a student at Cambridge, both serving in tank regiments during the Second World War and graduating after it. Thompson was a member of the cpgb from 1942, when he first joined, until 1956, when he broke with the party over the Hungarian Revolt; Williams, not rejoining it after demobilization, remained organizationally unaffiliated. During the Cold War, both worked in adult education, Thompson in the industrial north, Williams in the coastal south. Williams published a study of drama from Ibsen to Eliot (1952), Thompson a biography of William Morris (1955). In the summer of 1957, after resigning from the party, Thompson and his fellow historian John Saville created The New Reasoner—subtitled ‘A Quarterly Journal of Socialist Humanism’—drawing on other, now former, Communist intellectuals and independent Marxists like Ralph Miliband.

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