From a reader:
Dear Mr. Goldberg:
The interesting thing I noted about the review was the standard of “a
rejection of the past” as the criterion for the Left. He compares it to the
“atavism” of the Right — which includes looking back to pre-Christian times.
But if that’s what marks out a movement as Right, what movement is Left?
Karl Marx thought the _first_ stage of humanity was “primitive communism.”
Feminists have believed in all sorts of “golden age” prehistoric matriarchies –
Marija Gimbutas is an obvious example.
Probably not all members of the movements agree with or attach the same
importance to such mythical pasts. Then probably, not all Fascists attached the
same importance to the Roman Empire.
Me: I think the reader is right. This struck me somewhat as Warby’s own theorizing posing as a response to my argument. I do agree that the Left has serious problems with the importance and relevance of history, but history and “the past” are different things. The Left does not reject the past per se, it rejects the reigning tradition which they often treat as merely a creature of the past, an oppressive vestige of a “wrong turn” in human development etc.
The reader is absolutely right. Black nationalists, feminists, environmentalists et al have all sorts of weird ideas about, and uses for, the past (as I discuss in the book). Again, Warby’s free to hold to his criteria, but he needs to then explain why black nationalists are rightwingers, not leftwingers.