In the 1980s, E.P. Thompson dedicated much of his intellectual and political labor to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and other anti-nuke causes. First published in New Left Review in 1980, "Notes on Exterminism" was Thompson's thoroughgoing effort to account for the challenges to socialist politics posed by the peace movement and the Second Cold War, and occasioned Exterminism and Cold War, which collected it alongside responses from Mike Davis, Noam Chomsky, Raymond Williams, and others.
US President elect Donald Trump's recent invitation of a renewed arms race, and the belligerent nationalism that animated his campaign (not to mention Democrats' desperate efforts to revive anti-Russian hysteria), make it worth revisiting Thompson's conception of "exterminism" today.
Comrades, we need a cogent theoretical and class analysis of the present war crisis.* Yes. But to structure an analysis in a consecutive rational manner may be, at the same time, to impose a consequential rationality upon the object of analysis. What if the object is irrational? What if events are being willed by no single causative historical logic ("the increasingly aggressive military posture of world imperialism," etc.) — a logic which then may be analysed in terms of origins, intentions or goals, contradictions or conjunctures — but are simply the product of a messy inertia?
Continued from "Notes on Exterminism, The Last Stage of Civilization" part one.
Annihilation and Security
Let us attempt to assemble these fragments.
I still believe in the old values of the 18th Century Enlightenment; in Reason, in education, in the improvement, if not the perfectability, of human beings, and in the attempts, at any rate, to establish "liberty, equality, fraternity", or "life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness" or any other these other marvellous slogans which we owe to the late 18th Century.
BBC's Archive on 4 special feature on historian Eric Hobsbawm opens with his own words, spoken to Desert Island Discs in 1995. The programme, an hour-long profile of the outspoken Marxist historian, was presented by Simon Schama and laid out the story of Hobsbawm's colourful life: a life which has traced a line alongside the great fissures and faults of 20th Century. The esteemed author, who celebrates his 95th birthday this year, also talks about the life-changing effect that reading The Communist Manifesto had upon him at an early age. That influence continues to this day: eighty years after first picking up Marx's text in his school library, Hobsbawm has written the introduction to a new, modern edition of the Manifesto.