A Serge/Sontag footnote, or an excuse for defending the anti-Stalinist tradition

Victor Serge Susan Sontag

Three years ago, in a post on Victor Serge, I linked to a blogpost  by Nick at Churls Gone Wild which attacked Susan Sontag. I called Nick’s post “petty, mean-spirited, Stalinoid”. Those are quite extreme and intemperate and probably unfair words, for which I should apologise, prompted by a comment last month from the author of the post. However, I kind of think I wasn’t totally wrong. I am not a big fan of Sontag, but I have often been struck by the attacks on her from a particular leftist tradition, attacks which echo those made from the same tradition on other anti-Stalinist leftists, such as Serge, Arendt, Orwell, Shachtman and the New York intellectuals or, later, figures such as Walzer and Hitchens. I wouldn’t call these attacks Stalinist, exactly, but I don’t think Stalinoid is too wrong a word. Here’s why.  (more…)

From the archive of struggle, no.77: Encounter

Taking a break from my well-behind trawl through MIA, UNZ, a website of free periodicals, has uploaded loads of back issues of Encounter. For those of you who think I’m a neocon, my pleasure at this will be further evidence.  For those of you less well versed in all of this, here’s Wikipedia:

Encounter was a literary magazine, founded in 1953 by poet Stephen Spender and journalist Irving Kristol. The magazine ceased publication in 1991. Published in the United Kingdom, it was a largely Anglo-American intellectual and cultural journal, originally associated with the anti-Stalinist left. The magazine received covert funding from the Central Intelligence Agency, after the CIA and MI6 discussed the founding of an “Anglo-American left-of-centre publication” intended to counter the idea of cold war neutralism. The magazine was rarely critical of American foreign policy, but beyond this editors had considerable publishing freedom

Here’s just some of the material in the amazing first issue from 1953:

Interesting global range, and a larger number of female contributors than many other cultural journals of the day (though still not many).

Here are other things that jumped out at me. From 1953:

From 1954:

From 1955:

Then, fast forwarding to the late 1960s, the mood has not changed one bit, with just the slightest sense of the cultural revolution at large in the world. Here’s some stuff from 1967:

Other periodicals available from the site:





The anti-Stalinist left: some notes from the literature. Part II: The New York intellectuals

Part II in a short series of notes from the academic literature on the anti-Stalinist left.


In this edition, we focus on the American anti-Stalinists, especially the New York scene around James T Farrell, Dwight Macdonald and the Partisan Review. (more…)


Leon Trotsky and the annihilation of classical Marxism. A Tomb for Boris Davidovich by Danilo Kiš. Generations – Partisans. The Twilight of the intellectuals. Pilgrim of doubt. Remembering Irving Kristol: Lexington Green, Robert Kagan, J Podheretz, Joe Leiberman, Alan Wolfe, and in his own words. [Added: more from TNC and But I Am.]  A nation of commentators. Frankfurt on the Hudson.