rating: 4 of 5 stars
i had given this book two stars from memory – what had stuck in my mind was Churchill’s conflation of what happened to the Jews during the Holocaust and what might befall the American New Left, and what i remembered as being his dismissal of prefigurative politics.
However, upon rereading it i think this was a case of the good fading from memory with time, while the bad became larger than it really was. i still think Churchill’s “Jews being led to the slaughter” argument is a red herring – it had nothing to do with pacifism, just with inadequate politics – but it always strikes me a somewhat cruel to look back in retrospect and sneer at people for not having had their crystal balls polished enough. Plus, while there may be no hard and fast dividing line between “regular people” and “revolutionaries”, comparing repression which is visited upon self-declared activists and violence that is visited upon people regardless of their political or cultural self-identification is just mixing apples and oranges.
But these are side-issues, in what is indeed a wonderfully concise and well argued appeal to reject pacifist ideology. i appreciate it all the more with Churchill’s new introduction (i had only ever read the essay in its original form as an article in New Studies on the Left) and Mike Ryan’s piece, which is nice for me in particular as he’s talking about debates that happened here in Montreal that i remember from my years as an anarcho-brat.