This is the final Chapter of Out Of Apathy , a collection of New Left Essays, edited by E. P. Thompson, and the first of a series of books to be published by us. Out Of Apathy will be out at the end of May. The next number of NLR will carry a series of comments based on this Chapter.
at every point the way out of apathy leads us outside the conventions within which our life is confined. Out of NATO. Out of the “mixed economy”. Out of the acquisitive ethos.
It is because the conventions themselves are being called in question, and not the tactical manoeuvring which takes place within them, that the gulf which is opening between the young socialist generation and traditional Labour politicians is so deep.
It is a gulf as deep as that which opened in the 1880s between the Lib-Lab politicians and the new unionists and socialists. “Mr. Gaitskell, if he read it, would certainly not obtain a clear idea of what, in detail, he was supposed to do”—this is Mr. Antony Crosland’s comment, when reviewing Dennis Potter’s The Glittering Coffin in the Spectator. Mr. Howell or Mr. Broadhurst, if they had picked up a copy of Commonweal or Justice, would have been faced with similar difficulties.
Of course it is generally agreed (as Mr. Crosland remarks in the same review) that “the Labour Party badly needs a dose of iconoclasm at the present moment.” Even psephologists can see that the Party requires “an influx of Youth” if it is “to present itself to the electorate in a mid-20th-century guise.” And since there is no choice, Transport House Grundies, who have won past battle-honours by decimating Youth, are now prepared to encourage angry radical noises in jazz clubs or coffee bars on the periphery of the movement.
But the ikons which the Aldermaston generation is breaking are the very ones before which Mr. Gaitskell and Mr. Crosland bow down: the permanent Cold War: the permanent dependence of Labour upon “affluent” capitalism: the permanent defensive ideology of defeatism and piece-meal reform.
What lies beyond these conventions? Where is the point of breakthrough? Breakthrough into what?