HOPE IN THE DARK by Rebecca Solnit


Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities
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Writer/activist Solnit (Wanderlust: A History of Walking, 2000, etc.) argues that things are not as bad as they seem for the Left.

“Born the summer the Berlin Wall went up,” the author reminds us that in 1961 the Cold War seemed never-ending, civil rights for African-Americans a long way off, equal pay for women laughable, and laws to protect the environment a fantasy. “We are not who we were not very long ago,” she asserts; the Left has won more victories than it remembers, and new ways of organizing and thinking can build on them. It's true, Solnit acknowledges, that the massive peace marches in the spring of 2003 failed to stop the Bush administration from invading Iraq, but the movement's democratic, essentially leaderless, Internet-based organizing drew on strengths that were formed during the 1994 Zapatista uprising of indigenous peoples in Mexico (on the day that NAFTA went into effect), demonstrations against the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, and the conflict at the September 2003 WTO talks in Cancún, which collapsed when representatives of the globe's impoverished nations walked out rather than make further concessions to free trade. This kind of activism rejects the late-’60s New Left's apocalyptic extremism: either you change the world or you've failed. Change also comes in increments, Solnit avers: “This is earth. It will never be heaven.” Writing with her customary elegance, the author embodies the most attractive features of undogmatic turn-of-the-millennium progressivism. She's short on concrete solutions, and when she approvingly quotes her brother's contention that “the notion of capturing positions of power . . . misses the point that the aim of revolution is to fundamentally change the relations of power,” battered survivors of the government repression that decimated both the Old and New Left may find her naïve. Then again, who thought Nelson Mandela would ever leave Robbins Island?

A pamphlet more than a sustained analysis—but progressives can always use a good cheerleader.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2004
ISBN: 1-56025-577-3
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Nation Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2004


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