The editor writes that the demise of the Soviet Union was "an almost apocalyptic event" that "left a sense of desperation and angst" among Arab Marxists. Given this state of misery, Post-Marxism and the Middle East has the feel of a project inspired by therapeutic goals as much as scholarly ones: the fifteen contributors all being at least sympathetic to the Left, their collective book offers a chance to find a way out of that "desperation and angst." The contributors are "well-known academics, practicing politicians, or both," and one third of them hail from the Middle East.
Whatever its inspiration, the volume—or at least the first third that deals specifically with the Middle East (the rest offers a fairly routine review of international issues)—serves up a wealth of candid insights. In perhaps the most interesting essay, Fred Halliday of the London School of Economics pronounces himself content for Marxism to define the political debate in Arab countries, without necessarily providing the answers, though even that minor achievement fades as Halliday sadly acknowledges that "the greatest success of Marxism in the Middle East may have been to provide the Islamists with much of their political vocabulary." And in one passage, obvious to most of us but dramatic for a radical leftist, he flat-out admits that "Not everything can be ascribed to imperialism." Jabar's essay usefully reviews the changes made so far by Communist parties (everything from their names to their theories) and even finds a silver lining in the Soviet collapse (less enmity from the United States and more freedom to experiment without risking Moscow's wrath). Even he, however, does not quite seem convinced that this will suffice to revive a movement once confident of its inevitable ascent and now so uncertain of its future.