Radical Left-wing politics in student days consisted in slogans and programmes. There were pamphlets that detailed the steps necessary for the revolutionary transformation of society; all that was needed was to ensure that the process began. It was never quite clear what the catalyst to initiate the revolution, there was talk of people being conscientised and organised so that they would launch a general strike. Political activity seemed chiefly about demonstrations against those things that were disliked and meetings to repeat the lines regarding what was favoured. It was obvious, even to the most ardent enthusiast, that the overwhelming majority of people did not embrace such perspectives, the explanation for this was that they suffered ed from a “false consciousness,” caused by a Right-wing press that pursued an anti-working class agenda.
Certainly, the press were very partisan, the Daily Mail, which shouted “Hurrah for the Blackshirts” in 1934 had never been a friend of the Left, whilst The Sun simply engaged in ad hominem attacks.. Nevertheless, the problem also lay with the Left itself, it did not have the capacity to reach a wide audience with reflective writing, there was no shortage of Left-wing journals, but none of them reached a readership larger than tens of thousands.
Buying this weekend’s edition of the Financial Times for £3.80, the Morning Star at £1.20 neatly rounded up the cost to £5. A feature on this week’s Labour Party conference attempts to engage with the question that has dogged the Left for decades. Nathan Akehurst writes:
“Somewhere, difficult though it may be, our movement needs to invest time, effort and combined resources into developing its own organs that can produce serious critical journalism as well as more light-hearted output, that can reach people on whatever channels they are engaging with. It’s one thing to get a soundbite hurtling around social media, and it is another entirely to have communications that can form the backbone of the political culture we are slowly building.”
Organs for such political reflection are more possible now than at any time previously; the reason why the Morning Star is so upbeat is that the 2017 British general election brought the eclipse of the political power of the press that so vilified the Left in former times. Printed newspapers no longer possess power to influence younger people, despite their attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, the support for Labour showed a huge unanticipated increase.
The obvious place for critical reflection, including writing from journalists who do not share similar perspectives, is online. It demands a website that has serious writing and not slogans and that allows for antagonistic voices that are not shouted down in howledand jeers. Sadly, it probably means a site where comments from passing readers are not possible, for anyone who looks at the comment columns of even papers like the Financial Times will know that Internet trolls quickly take over discussions and casual readers quickly become disinterested. Discussion means courtesy and accepting that no-one is infallible; it means rejecting the immaturity that often marks student politics. Repeating slogans persuades no-one – it was the failure of the 1970s.