It is the way our sympathy flows and recoils that really determines our lives. This opening sentence from Stuart Hall’s 1960 review of Lady Chatterley’s Lover belongs to DH Lawrence. The critic had unearthed it from deep inside the novel. It could serve as an epitaph for Stuart himself. His own sympathies and aversions played a huge part in determining his political makeup. It is not easy to sum up what he leaves behind in a few words. Soon, one hopes, that the conversation his colleague and friend, Bill Schwartz had been conducting with him over several years will be edited and published in book form.
He was, first and foremost, a political person. Politics mattered to him and enabled him to develop his skills as a mesmerising orator.
He was a 1956-er. The twin crises that erupted that year – the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt and the Soviet intervention in Hungary – created a dissidence that spanned Europe. In Britain this led to the emergence of the first wave New Left, which resulted in magazines, the creation of New Left Clubs all over the country, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Alongside Stuart, EP Thompson, Ralph Miliband, Raymond Williams, Doris Lessing and many others played their parts. When Stuart became the first editor of the New Left Review, with a strongly interventionist and activist approach, his message was clear. If you want change, get off your backsides and challenge the existing order, but also think, argue, debate as to best way forward. This remains an important legacy. Read more