Friday, 5 September 2014

Remembering the far left press

Back in the days before this new fangled Internet thingy came along, the only way to get hold of the left press was to go out and purchase a copy. Not easy if you came from the leafy suburbs of Surrey, where the most left wing organisation around were the Young Liberals. In the seventies they made the Labour Party look quite conservative in many ways, but I digress.

The first left paper I ever came across was Red Weekly published by the long gone International Marxist Group, then led by Tariq Ali. At the time I was only just out of school and at catering college in London so the statement by the long haired chap selling it that “they were to the left of the Communist Party” astounded me. I didn’t come across another lefty paper until someone appeared outside the Technical college I was at with the Workers Press. I discovered this was published by the Workers Revolutionary Party.

The obvious question I posed to the young lady selling this publication was to enquire what the difference was between the WRP and the IMG since they seemed to stand for the same thing. In her apoplectic reply I discovered the meaning of the term “sectarian”. I’m sure readers can imagine the bile thrown at the “right-wing”, “Pabloite” “traitors” that the IMG apparently were. To be honest some of what she said went right over my head having little knowledge of Trotskyism at the time.

It was a while before I found out what “Pabloism” was, and only because when I went on my first demonstration I picked up a number of publications from different groups to find out more. Some were more interesting than others. Socialist Challenge was a favourite and the Spartacist a sort of “guilty pleasure” due to its insane madness. Others were deadly boring. Militant was dire, Socialist Worker to simplistic and the Morning Star a complete bore. Most of the newspapers from those days have long gone.

Only two survive. Socialist Worker, the Islamists friend and the Morning Star, though in both cases the organisations behind these publications have declined and split asunder. The SWP’s recent history is well known, but the Communist Party of Britain (no longer has the Great in it) is a pale reflection of its former self. Even the Star is no longer formally the “Party’s paper” even though the politics are .

The old CPGB started declining in the late fifties with many leaving the party over Hungary, the Socialist Labour League (forerunner of the WRP) being the main beneficiary. However they retained a base in the union through the sixties and seventies and survived a split with Sid French whose followers went on to form the New Communist Party and although minute to the extreme still manages to publish the pro North Korean New Worker. It was the rise of “Euro communism” that was the CPGBs downfall.

Fascists smashed in east Ukraine

Enter the revisionists like Martin Jacques, David Arronovitch and others, the Party’s journal Marxism Today lead a charge towards modernity making itself redundant in the process. A short lived organisation called the Democratic left appeared and then disappeared leaving a rump of old fashioned Stalinists around the Star. Combined with the collapse of Stalinism under Gorbachev the Morning Star faced further decline.

No longer subsidised by Russia or the other Eastern European states that had now freed themselves from the yolk of Communism, the Star had to fall back on the remaining “left” trade union bureaucrats. Hence its recent refusal to countenance any investigation into the Hedley affair in the RMT.

The Morning Star is not a paper I would normally take much notice of, but since Andrew Coates speculates on what may or may not be a potential split over ISIS, I picked up a lonely copy of the Star in Waitrose at lunchtime.

Still boring. Not even thick enough to line the cat litter tray with. A quid wasted. I won’t be in hurry to pick up a copy again any time soon.

The Stars time has long gone. It has no place in the modern world. Neither does the Communist Party.

The left press is a pale reflection of what existed back in the day. They still squabble though, just check out the Weekly Worker, but the old left does still carry on with just enough influence to do some damage, like the remnants of Militant (now called the Socialist Party) in PCS.

It is a political cul-de-sac though, they’re going nowhere. Even the “paper sale” seems to have had its day.

But then Marxism has had its day and been found wanting. Time to move on comrades.

1 comment:

  1. The Communist Party did not lose the Great as they were already 2 different parties since the 1980s. The Morning Star ceased to be the "Party's paper" in 1945 when it was still the Daily Worker ( ownership was passed to the PPPS). Its circulation probably halved after the fall of the USSR (for reason beyond the subsidy) but it continued to publish despite the difficulties and it now seems to be doing quite well at a time when the print media is in terminal decline.