THE HEAVY DANCERS: Writings on Wars, Past and Future by E.P. Thompson

THE HEAVY DANCERS: Writings on Wars, Past and Future

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A collection of articles, essays, ruminations and refutations by the leading spokesman of the European peace movement in which he lays out his view of the causes and possible solutions for cold war in the nuclear age. Thompson's political stance can be described as ""a plague on both your establishments,"" referring to the US and the USSR. Caspar Weinberger's debating opponent at the Oxford Union, he is a self-described polemicist and he clearly enjoys an argument. He is good at it, too. His style is robust and has the flavor of the spoken word, more specifically that of a skilled speaker of an older style of political rhetoric than is fashionable today. There is little sotto voce here: ""I suppose that I do really know what makes both lots of them [US-USSR] so cross. First, it is essential to their world view (and to their arms procurements) that they should uphold a binary Us-versus-Them definition of world politics. The very notion that there might be alternative ways is threatening to them both. Second, neither lot likes being called the 'ideological look-alikes' of the other. This is deeply wounding to their self-esteem. It might also give the game away--a game in which they are partners as well as antagonists."" Though conservatives are his sworn enemies, he is nearly as scornful of liberals, viewing them as prisoners within the status quo and therefore incapable of changing the international system, as he feels is imperative. Thompson believes radical change is necessary: a quick end to the arms race, with a nuclear freeze as the indispensable first step. Though his basic assumptions about the nature of the superpower crisis of mistrust and hostility may be off the mark, he is an intelligent man and his arguments from those assumptions are closely reasoned. Presented well, they are easy to follow. Both supporters and critics will find here much to mull. Anyone who loves an old-fashioned, loud, give-no-quarter, take-no-prisoners style of political debate will have a ball. The Heavy Dancers of the title, Thompson says, "". . .are the image-conscious public persons who crowd the media of the world, summoning up the ancient spirits of the tribe as they prepare us for the ultimate war.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1985
Publisher: Pantheon