“It is a new Society that we are working to realise, not a Cleaning up of our present tyrannical muddle into an improved, smoothly-working form of that same “order”, a mass of dull and useless people organised into classes, amidst which the antagonism should be moderated and veiled so that they should act as checks on each other for the insurance of the stability of the system.”
William Morris, Commonweal, July, 1885
NLR is a development of Universities and Left Review and The New Reasoner. The political discussion which those two journals have begun, and the contacts they have made are the basis of the New Left. Whatever we are able to do in the journal will, we believe, be an organic growth out of the two different traditions from which we began. In particular, we are anxious to maintain the wide scope of NLR. We are convinced that politics, too narrowly conceived, has been a main cause of the decline of socialism in this country, and one of the reasons for the disaffection from socialist ideas of young people in particular. The humanist strengths of socialism—which are the foundations for a genuinely popular socialist movement—must be developed in cultural and social terms, as well as in economic and political. What we need now is a language sufficiently close to life—all aspects of it—to declare our discontent with “that same order”.
The purpose of discussing the cinema or teen-age culture in NLR is not to show that, in some modish way, we are keeping up with the times. These are directly relevant to the imaginative resistances of people who have to live within capitalism—the growing points of social discontent, the projections of deeply-felt needs. Our experience of life today is so extraordinarily fragmented. The task of socialism is to meet people where they are, where they are touched, bitten, moved, frustrated, nauseated—to develop discontent and, at the same time, to give the socialist movement some direct sense of the times and ways in which we live.
At the same time, the traditional task of socialist analysis will still remain. The anatomy of power, the relationship of business to politics, the role of ideology, the analysis of transitional programmes and demands, are all central to that discussion of the state, without which there can be no clarity, either of theory or practice.