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The State of the Left: Responses to Paul Berman

Announcing a series of responses to Paul Berman’s opus on ‘The American Left’ from writers across the political spectrum

Jacob Siegel
November 27, 2018
Illustration: Tablet Magazine
Illustration: Tablet Magazine
Illustration: Tablet Magazine
Illustration: Tablet Magazine

For decades, Paul Berman has been tracing the pathways of the emancipatory political tradition we call “the Left.” Berman belongs to one part of this lineage but is well aware, as he has explicated in the course of many searching articles and essays, and in books like A Tale of Two Utopias and Power and the Idealists, that there are other branches hostile to his own. Some of those competing factions (fractions) of “the Left,” starting from the same historical origins, have followed a path that has diverged so greatly as to place them on either side of an unbridgeable divide, guns drawn. The sexy terrorists of Baader-Meinhof are only the most lurid, literal example.

Over the past month, in the course of a three-part essay series that concluded yesterday, Berman has developed what amounts to an address on the state of the American left, the choices it faces, and the consequences of those choices for Jews, for America, and for liberal democracy—three interlinked facets of “the modern condition” that are, at the moment, in a state of some precarity.

Berman’s essays deserve the widest possible audience and we at Tablet felt they also merited intelligent responses from critics and intellectuals engaged in these questions.

The first of these responses, by British Leftist James Bloodworth, will appear this afternoon and takes up the theme of Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing Third Worldism that was explored in Berman’s essay on “The Left and the Jews.” In his response, Bloodworth enumerates the critical differences that separate Corbynism from the political vision of Bernie Sanders.

Over the weeks to come, more responses will follow written by authors of different political bents but each addressing, in some way, the contemporary political landscape and the themes raised by Berman. Look out for essays by libertarian writer and Russian emigre Cathy Young on the contemporary American left’s revival of Stalinism had its good points-style Communist apologia; The Nation’s Aaron Maté‏ on Jews and the left; conservative writer Alex Zubatov on the truth about “cultural marxism”; and more.

Jacob Siegel is Senior Editor of News and The Scroll, Tablet’s daily afternoon news digest, which you can subscribe to here.