THE PERIOD FROM THE FIRST WORLD WAR to the Cold War belies easy classification. Unlike the single decade associated with the New Left, this extensive and historically dense period, that of the “Old Left,” has to be broken up into decades. Indeed, this is done even in the popular imagination, in which the 1930s were a time of economic collapse and union radicalism; the 1940s, a time of “the common enemy,” fascism; and the 1950s, a time of refrigerators and consumerism, of complacency and automatic dishwashers. The 1920s are willfully neglected, or else acknowledged only with respect to the “Lost Generation,” an historical touchstone that, while important, draws us away from America, back to the Old World of Europe. But, as is often the case, actual history cuts against the grain of popular storytelling.
LIFE IN CONTEMPORARY PAKISTAN is marked by a sense of despair and helplessness. A report commissioned by the British Council based on research conducted by the Nielsen Company recently found that only a third of the Pakistanis surveyed thought democracy was the best system for the country, a ratio roughly equal to that preferring sharia. The findings amounted to what David Martin, director of the British Council in Pakistan, called “an indictment of the failures of democracy over many years."
GIVE THE MAN full points for timing. Released less than a year after the onset in the summer of 2008 of the global economic crisis, and now available on DVD, Michael Mann’s Public Enemies captures perfectly, if unconsciously, the political condition of our time. The film tells the story of John Dillinger, a bank robber who was elevated by the desperation of the Great Depression into an iconic outlaw and an enduring American folk hero. A brilliant filmmaker, Mann must be an economic genius, if not an outright clairvoyant, to have successfully planned his film to coincide with this recent summer of American discontent. Or, if this sounds like too much, then certainly Mann was awfully lucky. For otherwise adverse conditions conspired to produce a most receptive climate for Public Enemies.
CHRIS CUTRONE WRITES, “What the usual interpretive emphasis on Lukács occludes is that the Frankfurt School writers grappled not only with the problem of Stalinism but with that of ‘anti-Stalinism’ as well.” This statement is well founded, considering how Korsch’s troubled relationship with Adorno and Horkheimer was paralleled by Sohn-Rethel’s with those two during the same period; not to mention the later dialogues Dunayevskaya had with Marcuse and Fromm.