Thursday, February 18, 2010

NEW LEFT REVIEW is at 50; Stefan Collini's tribute

What a marvelous article is this? 
Sobering articles are supposed to be the least exciting. See this piece to know how wrong such belief is. 
What an inspiring story told so modestly!
Great thing about the this article is the values the later New Left Review has self-consciously advocated and came to embody are maintained in this piece about the great journal,  probably the greatest we have. 
If you are unaware of Collini's other work and read it casually, you may mistake him to be an ordinary journalist by reading this profile and miss the analytical depth achieved through calm rigor, traces of which are carefully erased from the prose.
Well-deserved praise Collini denies to the NLR, a journal he loves passionately and assesses objectively. Because, he takes the lesson of NLR's manner seriously, perhaps too seriously.
Respect and respect alone and no celebration, jubilation, nostalgia, good-wishes, settling personal scores, writing autobiography in the name biography, none of such familiar constants of profile-writing are present here. Collini's attitude towards NLR is similar to the polite indifference and unfussy distance we can afford towards the seniors whose continued availability is secure. Over the top statements, moving portraits are possible only if what is described is lost. In this way, Collini pays the greatest tribute to NLR: its continued, may be enhanced, relavence and importance for today as guide to future.
It comes as a surprise that NLR's circulations no more than 10,000!! while New Yorker sells in Millions.
Still, what a connector of the world NLR is!
What a "dialectic of defeat" the NLR expresses and exposes and fearlessly prepares the process that hopefully overcomes it.

Stafan Collini’s piece is not a particularly flashy story. No memorable lines, stunning formulations, nor even this piece tries to make a show of being simple and down-to-earth. Its point is, come what may, we need tough-minded analytical rigor and there is no point in falling to the temptation of shunning the rigor in the time of retreat. In this sense, NLR is a form of true Leninist practice. More discipline is needed during the retreat than in times of victorious advance. There is no remotely comparable rival and or assistent or comrade among the journals to NLR in providing such discipline in the world of Leftist ideas. Eclectic libearl journalism may not understand the difficulty of being open while knowing too much about the workings of the world. NLR's inclusiveness plus global perspective plus quality plus principledness are a unique combination. Any one of these virtues are so difficult to maintain. NLR has managed and continues to be so.
I have always thought it is obscene to see eagerly sought articles on NLR website are not open to non-subscribers. I always wanted to see NLR's content free to at least in the unfortunate parts of the world. But, seeing that it's circulation is so less, I tone down my aversion to this sad limitation.

Well, not all is well with NLR. For example, its reliance on party apologists like Aijaz Ahmed, though a towering intellect, activists like Achin Vanaik whose passion and jeal are not matched by intellectual capacities, to report on India has definitely diminished scope for greater understanding, among the activists of the world, of dynamics of leftist movements in India.
Here, a word about Perry Anderson is in order. Though it is not much remarked upon, he is the most influential organiser of leftist discourses in the world. Not just through his writings or simply the kind of influence one gains by being the editor of a magazine. He and his successive teams seem to have perfected a method of mobilising the ablest thinking on the most important things in the world under the condition of an unlikely combination of freedom and commitment. Anderson does it without any airs of being an intellectual kingmaker. His background presence is not one of those celebrated and curiousity-inspiring withdrawals or humility. He is a prolific writer and keeps writing.
I don't know of anybody who is so actively engazed from the Left yet so near-universally respected. Not even Hitchens seems to be interested in attacking Perry Anderson. Nor you can find any committed Marxist without an itch to hurt political opponents like him. He is not just an organiser of high-quality leftist thinking on global scale but also an artist of mobilising the best thinking of the poltical opponets to enrich the understanding the Left. He performs all these improbable feats without compromising his Marxism or falling into the illusions of non-partisan truths of things political. I think of no other Marxist who so consistently refuses to pretend to claim Marxists know better about everything every time. Perry Anderson is that improbable Marxist who is escapes delusions and dilutions yet remains relevant without being silent. His 'pessimism of the intellect' is one of the greatest resources of hope of our times! 
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