Nine days after Donald Trump is elected president of the United States, Social Text Online is relaunched. The timing couldn’t be better. Or worse. What to say in times like these, and so soon?
Or even, how to phrase the question: what is the meaning of the present juncture? What are the origins of the present crisis? The left has asked, and tried to answer, these questions many times. Haven’t we been here before? queried Stuart Hall in 1988.
When Hall posed this question to the readers of Marxism Today, the Tory government’s onslaught on state provisions for social equality was in full swing. By here, he meant the miserable now of Britain at the end of the 1980s. By before he meant the revolutionary struggles of the past. Quoting Antonio Gramsci, he pointed out that the time had arrived in which politics appears “as a ‘relentless war of position.'” Crisis presents itself now, Hall wrote, as “a God-sent opportunity to radically restructure society.”
So yes indeedy, here we are again. But can we say the situation ever went away? Have things changed since Hall wrote this in 1988? God-sent radical restructuring has been on the Right’s agenda since the New Deal.
Hall’s point, however, was that this opportunity should fall to the Left. He challenged progressives to study Thatcher’s strategy, not simply to expose its evils in our own defense, and certainly not to copy it, but rather to understand its appeal to those whose interests it spoke for without serving. And, importantly, to come up with alternative rhetorics, perhaps equally stark and florid, that would sustain systematic, full-bore resistance.
When members of the Social Text Collective met on the Friday after the election, we had the same desire, the same intuition that this is a moment of opportunity. Maybe all there is to say now is that these are times for preparing. As the Social Text Collective rolls out this website in the next few weeks, you’ll see the forensic theoretical analysis that the journal is known for. But you should also expect to see posts on how to prepare for things to come.
Some of us on the Social Text Collective have lived through violent, revolutionary times. Several have lived through Thatcherism. All have lived through Reagan. None of us, however, were ready for the results of the US elections. This website is a place to regroup and rebuild–one of many public spaces in which collectives on the Left plan for a future, one that intersects, we hope, with the ones imagined by other collectives. Ones like ourselves, and ones that are–that must be–very different indeed.