‘Don’t Tread on Me’: the other side of Thompson's critique

Scott Hamilton

in The Crisis of Theory

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780719084355
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702338 | DOI:
‘Don’t Tread on Me’: the other side of Thompson's critique

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Like George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, ‘The Poverty of Theory’ was a work that was intended as an attack on important parts of the right, as well as swathes of the left. Orwell believed that the world of the near future would be divided between mutually reinforcing totalitarian power blocs of the left and right. The coiled snake and the motto ‘Don't Tread on Me’ were made famous by Christopher Gadsden. John Saville and Ralph Miliband were keen for Edward Palmer Thompson to contribute something to the 1976 issue of the Socialist Register but, as usual, Thompson found it hard to submit a text promptly. The 1980 ‘Preface’ is probably the most widely circulated corrective to the view that ‘The Poverty of Theory’ is no more than a one-sided attack on a section of the left.

Keywords: The Poverty of Theory; Edward Palmer Thompson; Don't Tread on Me; Christopher Gadsden; John Saville; Ralph Miliband; George Orwell

Chapter.  3454 words. 

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