The New Left, National Identity, and the Break-Up of Britain (Historical Materialism Book)
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their beliefs to Stalinism, long after he broke with the CPGB in 1956. Thompson joined a communist movement that believed it was ‘making history’,26 whether ‘in the sierras and on the banks of the Ebro’,27 or alongside partisans in Bulgaria and Serbia. This was not nostalgia, since Thompson would also see much that was wrong with that generation, not just its innocence but also its complicity with mendacity. However, he would always recommend their heroism, and he refused to second-guess their
Warwick would yield a number of influential historical essays, an edited book with former students on eighteenth century crime, and Whigs and Hunters, a book that mined the field of class-relations in the 1720s. Unlike The Making of the English Working Class, much of this was written with an academic audience in mind, though it was no less irreverent and oppositional for that. By the late 1970s, Thompson was master of two historical fields, and a social historian with a genuinely international
Eagleton believed, miming their conception of ‘organic society’ (community) and their conservative – for Eagleton the Salford-born Irishman there was no other – interpretation of Englishness.90 A ‘systematic inattention to the reactionary character of the tradition with which it [Culture and Society] dealt’,91 claimed Eagleton, rehearsed a ‘romantic populism’ and reconfirmed workingclass labourism.92 As Thompson had put it, without the obloquy of populism, ‘the function of bourgeois culture is
neglected’.176 Manifesto decided that the socialist response to such nationalism would be ‘ambivalent’.177 In circumstances where Powell was mobilising the British people for a nationalism directly opposed to socialism, such hesitation was arguably a luxury that could not be afforded. 169. Williams 1967, p. 33. 170. Williams 1967, p. 32. 171. Williams 1967, p. 22. 172. Williams 1967, p. 42. 173. Williams ed. 1968, p. 64. 174. Williams ed. 1968, p. 133. 175. Williams ed. 1968, p. 140.
blackness and their Britishness.275 Nairn, however, would have agreed with Williams, suggesting that the propagation of Britishness, no matter in what cause, was simply a way of denying other sorts of identity. In the spirit of his rejection of the nation-state, and in concert with his support for the European Union, indeed with his own sense of himself as a Welsh European, Williams evoked ‘self-governing societies’ as socialism’s proper social location. ‘We’ve all noticed’, he remarked to his