Internationalism and Beyond

Internationalism and Beyond

One of the signs of left internationalist commitment is a strong interest in the politics of other people’s countries. For many years, internationalism required a steady focus on the Soviet Union. Other countries lived in the shade. But Russia today looks more like it did in czarist than in soviet times. So now internationalism is more egalitarian: we pay our respects to everybody. • But France still commands special attention—because it is the country of 1789 (and 1830 and ’48), of the Paris Commune, of the Dreyfusard struggle, of Léon Blum and the Popular Front—and because of the panache (and sometimes also the serious work) of its leftist intellectuals. It is also, of course, the country of the Terror, the Napoleonic wars, the Restoration, the court-martial of Captain Dreyfus, the Vichy regime, the Algerian War—and the most famous intellectual defenses of Stalinism. Well, that is what makes it so interesting. We were lucky to have an editor in Paris this past spring and summer, but we would have written about the precedent-breaking candidacy of Ségolène Royal and the triumph of Nicolas Sarkozy, a Hungarian immigrant who exploited popular discontent with more recent arrivals, ran what looked like a classic right-wing campaign, and then filled his government with Socialists—we would have written about that from any distance. And it still seems necessary, when analyzing a French election, to tell readers how the leading intellectuals lined up. Would anyone bother to do that in a report on an election in Britain, say—or in the United States, for that matter? • Alan Howard’s excellent piece on organizing workers across national borders, from Mexico to China, reinstates the older internationalism of class rather than country. The labor movement won’t fully succeed anywhere, Howard argues, unless it becomes a global movement of workers everywhere. • The Arguments section of this issue is also strongly internationalist. It includes an exchange on the effort to boycott Israeli academics (initiated by the strangely powerful British Trotskyists). We are opposed to all academic boycotts; Martha Nussbaum’s position, developed at length in the Summer issue, is our own; but we publish here a piece by Mohammed Abed, who dissents, together with Nussbaum’s quiet reply. The debate over Nick Cohen’s book What’s Left? is more heated—we did not anticipate the heat when we published Johann Hari’s review (Summer 2007). Cohen’s book has not yet been picked up by a U.S. publisher; few of our readers are likely to have seen it. We recommend its prompt publication. It is a lively contribution to the debate about what leftism means today, which draws on earlier arguments in Dissent.

M.W.


Duggan | University of California Press Gardels