WAS MARX A POSTMODERNIST?

Comedy After Postmodernism: rereading comedy from Edward Lear to Charles Willeford by Kirby Olson (Texas Tech University Press, Lubbock 2001).

Walter Benjamin: overpowering conformism by Esther Leslie (Pluto Press, London 2000).

Due to the differing perspectives of their authors, Leslie’s book on Benjamin which is written from an explicitly Marxist perspective, can be read very productively alongside and against Olson’s avowedly anti-Marxist text on comedy. Both writers combine political and aesthetic positions that would be viewed by many as incompatible. Olson is in many way an old-fashioned liberal with vague anarchist leanings who is attempting to retrench the ways in which the humanities have traditionally been taught by adapting the theories of the post-68 French left figures Deleuze and Lyotard to somewhat unlikely ends. Leslie is an activist in the British Socialist Workers Party who hopes to reclaim Benjamin not just for Marxism, but quite explicitly for Trotskyism too. While Leslie correctly identifies certain similarities between Benjamin’s and Trotsky’s aesthetic positions – a state of affairs that is not entirely surprising to anyone familiar with Trotsky’s writings on art and literature – she certainly faces an uphill struggle if she hopes to make Benjamin a respected figure among the SWP rank-and-file.

Leslie has to defend Benjamin on a number of fronts, both from those who would rewrite him into philosophy, postmodernism and/or cultural studies, and others who claim there are similarities between his thought and that of German revolutionary conservatives (i.e. the strand of German fascism that disdained the Nazi Party as being too plebeian for its aristocratic tastes). Likewise, Leslie sharply criticises the cult that has grown up around Benjamin including the inappropriate use of his image [Read more →]

Local Elections in England and Wales and the failure of the Left

The results are out and so is the mainstream analysis (and sorry for posting this a little bit late – you may have already forgotten). As a result of the May 1st elections, England and Wales have gone through a right wing shift, Boris Johnson has been elected mayor of London, and the Tories are on a roll to win the next General Election.
So what, you may think after the transformation of the Labour Party into “New Labour” there surely is very little difference between the two main parties in Britain. Many aspects of Thatcherism have been perpetuated by the Blair government, nothing whatsoever has been retracted or turned back. The poll tax fell when the Tories were still in power, the council tax was not abolished by Labour, nor were the amendments to the Criminal Justice Act 1994 revoked. Of course not. [Read more →]

An overview of the British radical left party press.

An overview of the British radical left party press.

The radical press in Britain still consists largely of the papers of the various organisations that situate themselves in the left radical milieu.
A visit in Housmans Bookshop in King’s Cross can easily yield a mostly depressing collection of papers by the saddest of organisations. What exactly is their purpose in this world? We try to find out by reading their publications. [Read more →]

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