British politics at the moment seem curiously provisional. The failures of the present government are so gross and obvious that hardly anyone, even its nominal supporters, attempts to defend it ideologically. Yet at the same time hardly anyone believes that Labour will really win the next election, or that it could cope even if it did. There is also a strong sense that the re-ordering of continental Europe, whose outcome is itself indeterminate, has rendered our political life even more provisional: it has obliterated the old landmarks but made it quite unclear where we now go. This collection of essays, occasional pieces and personal and poetic reflections is thus intended to suggest new paths. The Alternative is a product of Samizdat, a journal founded late in 1988 when any alternative seemed rather unlikely. It hoped to create a 'popular front of the mind' - a kind of intellectual tactical voting - which would dispute what was widely perceived to be a right-wing ideological hegemony. The contributors to Samizdat, whose founding editor, Ben Pimlott, is one of the editors of this book, were adherents of the Labour Party, the old Alliance, the Communist Party and of no party at all. Many of the contributors still are these things, though some, like Michael Young, have returned to the Labour Party de jure and others de facto. It was a measure both of the successes of the Conservative Party in the Eighties and the apparent decay of the social-democratic and Marxist alternatives that such a popular front was possible.
LRB 30 August 1990 | PDF Download