Against the kingdom of the beast: E.P. Thompson, the critical conscience of the cold war

José Ángel Ruiz Jiménez. Contra el reino de la bestia: E.P. Thomson, la conciencia critica de la guerra fría. Universidad de Granada, 2009.

The world's most frequently quoted historian in the twentieth century is still little-known in Spain, and his work as an activist for peace is even less so. That is why reading this book on Edward Palmer Thompson is worthwhile. At a time when models and extraordinary individuals are lacking, we can find inspiration in the man who was probably one of the most lucid and influential critical consciences of the Cold War.

Despite analysis of Thompson's pacifist and political thought being a complex task due to his prolific historiographical output, José Ángel Ruiz Jiménez succeeds in the undertaking. Over 400 pages of quotes, figures and analysis, we learn about the thoughts of the author of The Making of the English Working Class and his ideas for a political transition to socialism, how to respond to the threats to civil rights and liberties, the need for a nuclear-free Europe, etc. These subjects tie in with many modern debates on security and peace, such as the role of the military-industrial complex, the (non-)existence of the clash of civilisations, the resistance to pensée unique and star wars and the anti-missile shield as an (in)effective means of collective security.

In 2010, when negotiations for nuclear disarmament are once again in the news, it is worth remembering the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, European Nuclear Disarmament and their demand for a Europe free of nuclear weapons from Poland to Portugal. This British lecturer and activist participated in the campaign for the NATO referendum, leaving his mark on many of the people and institutions that today make up the fabric of the Catalan peace movement.

Intellectual life and the desire to participate in the creation of a better world are not mutually exclusive. E.P. Thompson was well aware of that, and put it into practice. José Ángel Ruiz Jiménez explains this clearly and in detail, with great care and thoroughness, and with affection. In my opinion, we are indebted to both men. The good news is that we are able to repay them by reading this book.