Velocities of Change: Perry Anderson's Sense of an Ending

in Historical Materialism
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Abstract

In Considerations on Western Marxism, released in 1976, Perry Anderson stated and vindicated an affiliation to the Trotskyist tradition long apparent from the pages of New Left Review under his editorship. Central to this tradition, in its orthodox forms, was a historico-political perspective which regarded the Soviet Union (and cognate regimes) as ‘degenerate’ or ‘deformed’ ‘workers’ states’ – post-capitalist social formations whose complex character dictated rejection of Stalinism and anti-Sovietism alike. In Anderson's case, this orientation received a Deutscherite inflection: abroad, no less than at home, Soviet power was a contradictory phenomenon, by turns reactionary (Czechoslovakia) and progressive (Vietnam, Angola). The potential regeneration of the Russian Revolution and its sequels, whether via ‘proletarian revolution’ from below (Trotsky), or bureaucratic reformation from above (Deutscher), remained an article of faith among Marxists of this observance to the end. Accordingly, the debacle of Gorbachevite perestroika proved a profoundly disorientating experience for many who lent little or no credence to the mendacious claims of ‘actually existing socialism'. Amid capitalist euphoria at Communist collapse, what was to be said – and done? Anderson's displaced answer was forthcoming in 1992 in ‘The Ends of History’

Velocities of Change: Perry Anderson's Sense of an Ending

in Historical Materialism

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