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! 
Link to New Left Review:

Worst thing that can happen in Telangana

Telangana students are walking into a trap cynically crafted by the media and government. The police are just getting impatient with what they forgot decades ago in Telangana: taking orders from and reporting to, the government. The police are unhappy with two things they eliminated in Telangana for decades before the present bout of movement for Statehood changed it: 1. spectacular mobilization of people with relatively less repression 2. A severe dent in the police autonomy (autonomy very often means unaccountability and with it, arbitrariness).
It is the media which convinced the effectiveness of using the "logic of provocation" to justify police highhandedness in handling Osmania students. Eenadu, biased news papar, but very rarely distorts publicly available facts, experimented and demonstrated the success of this argument. Government picked it up. Yesterday, the Home Minister said students provoked the police. And, the Opposition did not fight it back, if not reinforced it. While the point is that the police were illegally (courts repeatedly ruled that the security forces must get out of the campus) present on the campus, now student protest against it will increasingly be projected as ‘provocation.’
Alas, one expects that Osmania student leadership is wise enough to change the strategy and invent some agitational forms that go beyond the emphasis on protest and demand for justice. They could have done so had the police not systematically destroyed any possibility of stable, planned conduct of agitation. The police kept on arresting student leaders and even any student with leadership qualities. This created a bizarre situation in which Osmania students could afford only spontaneous, unplanned outbursts. This crooked plan designed to destroy discipline, expansion of the student agitation and degenerate it. Though this police plan successfully prevented Osmania struggle remain spontaneous, leadership-less, without stable Joint Action Committees and collective decisions the campus is known for, it failed to degenerate it. Mind-boggling achievement of Osmania students in continuing protests yet remaining peaceful deserves our deference and defense. Yet, they need to change strategy to frustrate the government's barely-disguised plan to force the students to do something which the media-government combine can use to justify the worst- what the police have been arguing for and government is not yet ready for- shooting down some students.
TRS, actually a marginal force in terms of appeal but media, governments and opponents bent on seeing as the leader of movement, or even the ‘instigator’ is cynical enough to see some more of martyrs.
Actually, the real gain of the movement for statehood has already been achieved. It is the restoration of democratic, public and large-scale protests in Telangana. With killings we not only lose the invaluable lives of some young men but also the restoration of democratic right to protest, mass mobilization for achieving demands.
This must be avoided by all means. It is necessary but not enough to assert that actual provocation was the government’s own. Even if students don’t provoke but are only provoked, still victims will be students.  If the ‘right to protest without risking life’ is retained, Statehood could be achieved later. If it is lost, even a separate State is not going to much good for Telangana people.