This week marked the twentieth anniversary of the death of Andrew Kopkind, beloved friend of and contributor to The Nation and one of the gutsiest, most talented, most radical journalists the United States has ever seen. Kopkind started at Time, The New Republic and The New Statesman in the 1960s, wrote for Ramparts, the Village Voice and The New York Review of Books in the 1970s—though, rather outrageously, he is not mentioned (to my recollection) in the recent documentary about the Review, The 50-Year Argument—and began writing for The Nation in 1980. Mostly as associate editor and briefly as film critic—but, most importantly, as a roving correspondent and commentator—Kopkind wrote well over 100 articles for The Nation until his death in 1994.
If you don’t already have a copy of Kopkind’s collected writings, The Thirty Years’ Wars, well, I don’t know what you’re doing. Perhaps it suffices to say that when it comes to recent American history and the possibilities of leftist journalism, all your fallacies are wrong (to paraphrase the philosopher). For old Kopkind fans and younger Nation readers who (like myself) never had the chance to read him week to week, here is a selection of his ten best—or at least most lasting—pieces published in our pages.—Richard Kreitner
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“The Return of Cold War Liberalism,” April 3, 1983
A new chill is in the air. The powerful producers of the plays of history have opened a sequel to their old cold war hit, and many of the cultural props that supported the first run are coming back into style. There’s a retro look to the political landscape, the feel of the Dulles days. Rebellion, utopias and tender-mindedness are out; conformity, realism and hard-heartedness are in. Liberals—who always manage to mediate the terms of discourse—are out of high office and high fashion; and once more many of them have enlisted in a cold war, with their familiar postures and attacks….
At the core of the process is war—the militarization of American society, the obsession with national security, the preoccupation with loyalty, patriotism and power. War, Orwell said, is the engine that drives society. It is certainly the motivation for neoconservatism, the New Right and, now, cold war liberalism. The issue of war and peace has shaped every aspect of American policy in this century, from highway construction to education to economic strategies to the preservation of civil liberties. If the country moves toward war, the pressure will increase on all the forces in the land that seek to open institutions to popular participation, change and equality. If we move toward peace, the space for freedom will begin to expand again.