since the appearance of NLR 3, the first of the New Left Books, Out of Apathy, has been published by Stevens & Co. Although the cost is relatively high (15/-), we hope that readers of the journal will buy and discuss the book: several Left Clubs have already arranged launching meetings. If the series goes well, there is a chance that Stevens will put through paper-back editions, which will bring them within the price-range of most of our readers.
The book has been—mistakenly—taken as a statement of New Left policy. It is, rather, an attempt to analyse in depth the conditions and circumstances of post-war political apathy, and to suggest—no more—points where a breach has been made in the wall of political indifference. Some of the later books in the series will fill out the analysis, and work through to concrete proposals and policies.
It was not an auspicious moment to launch a book which took, as its starting point, the revival of capitalism and its values in Britain since the war, and the confining ideology of NATO and the Cold War. Well-bred critics will accept the revival of capitalism when it is souped up in sociological terms, but feel that a breach of good taste has been committed by anyone who discusses it in political terms. Moreover, the book appeared in the very fortnight when there had occurred a significant closing of ranks, in intellectual circles as well as political, around the well-tramped positions of the Cold War, following the Summit. It took one back to 1953 to have Mr. Gould, in The Observer, reminding us that ex-communists had been wrong before! He even went so far as to suggest that Edward Thompson had attributed the Cold War to Auden and Orwell—a truly significant feat (and David Marquand, in The Guardian, rebuked us for going back to the “conspiracy theory of history”): whereas Edward Thompson, on several occasions, made it plain that he was discussing a “drift of sensibility”, not a planned sell-out by the intellectuals, organised by the Pentagon. After all, there was a drift: Auden did revise his poem on Spain, and in a most unexpected and illuminating way. Simply because one rejects the concept that ideas are merely the reflection of the economic “base” doesn’t mean that there aren’t connections, all the way through, between the books that get written (and some that don’t) and the intellectual-political climate of the time. Auden’s lines—
For the fears which made us respond To the medicine ad. and the brochure of winter cruises Have become invading batallions;
And our faces, the institute-face, the chain-store, the ruin