Green Left Weekly: 10 years of refusing to toe the line

Green Left Parramatta glparramatta at SPAMgreenleft.org.au
Wed Jan 17 04:50:00 MST 2001


The following article appeared in the latest
issue of Green Left Weekly
(http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2001/432),
Australia's radical newspaper.

*****************************************************

Green Left Weekly: 10 years of refusing to toe the line

BY SEAN HEALY

This week, Green Left Weekly celebrates its 10th
birthday. Through a decade of tumult, of wars, revolutions and
counter-revolutions, we've lived long and prospered.

Our first issue actually appeared on February 28, 1991 but, such
was the urgency of the time, the first thing published under the
Green Left masthead hit the streets six weeks earlier. It was a
four-page broadsheet, entitled “Gulf War: myths and realities”,
which denounced the US's murderous war on Iraq and aimed to
inform and build the movement against it.

That urgent desire to leap straight into the trenches, on the
side of those struggling against injustice and for democracy and
socialism, has stayed with this newspaper ever since.

Our advocacy of the heroic struggle of the East Timorese people
was passionate, early and often. As was our backing of the
Indonesian people's fight against dictatorship, of Aborigines'
rejection of cynical government offers of “reconciliation” even
as Canberra snuffed out native title, of refugees' bitter battles
for freedom from the detention centres they'd been consigned to
and of many other causes.

The editorial policy from the very beginning was
summed up, rather typically, in a fighting fund promotion slogan
in our first issue: “Green Left Weekly won't toe the line”.

Refusal to follow the rules

Our refusal to toe the line was what was supposed to consign this
newspaper to an early grave — after all, how many independent
publications successfully stand up to the giant bludgeons of the
corporate media for very long? But this refusal to follow the
rules has proved the very secret of our success.

The rules for establishing an “alternative” newspaper go
something like this: employ a large and well-paid staff
preferably all with “respectable” mainstream credentials;
sprinkle your editorial board with famous intellectuals and print
their names on the inside front cover; start out with a war-chest
of hundreds of thousands of dollars; fund yourself with
advertising revenue from corporate clients (big or small); rely
on distribution and publicity through commercial channels; always
maintain journalistic detachment and “objectivity”.

In short, follow as closely as possible the model of the
corporate media.

This is what a host of independent publications over the 1990s
did: the Independent Weekly, Broadside, Modern Times, Australian
Left Review, The Eye. All have now folded.

We've done exactly the opposite: our articles are written by
activists who volunteer them, rather than observers paid for
them; we're not backed by big names or big bank accounts; we only
accept advertising from progressive community organisations; our
distribution is done the traditional left-wing way, through
subscriptions and face-to-face sales on the street; our revenue,
similarly, comes from fund-raising, donations from supporters and
money made at various political events we host; and our
journalism takes sides (and still does a better job of presenting
the truth than the “objective” corporate media).

We've defied the model, the structure, the atmosphere of the
corporate media just as much as we've defied its propaganda.

Our defiance of the usual mold began before even that first
broadsheet appeared, in the very purpose the newspaper's founders
set for it.

Yes, it would seek to inform its broad left and green
constituency, but it would also seek to build it into a movement.
Yes, it would seek to house debates and discussions within the
left, but it would also seek to nudge them along the path towards
a reanimated, revitalised and resurgent revolutionary, democratic
and socialist left.

What I'm saying is that Green Left Weekly was always a lot more
than an alternative newspaper; it is a cause.

This is what has allowed us to get over all the considerable
hurdles in our way: newspapers promote informed discussion and,
if they're good, a loyal readership; causes inspire dedication
and commitment.

What's made the difference between our success and failure is
you. It's your support which has kept us going.

What we've lacked in advertising revenue, for example, we've made
up through our supporters making large donations from their own
pockets and organising constant rounds of fund-raising dinners,
barbecues and film screenings. What we've lacked in wide-scale
distribution through newsagents, we've made up through our
supporters getting out onto the streets to sell direct.

In particular, Green Left Weekly's nature as a cause, and not
just a newspaper, has solidified the commitment to it shown by
its two major organisational backers, the socialist youth
organisation Resistance and the Democratic Socialist Party.

The two organisations have backed the project since the very
beginning, even folding their newspaper Direct Action at the end
of 1990 in order to fully throw their support behind Green Left
Weekly. Since then, DSP and Resistance members have taken on the
lion's share of keeping this newspaper on track: writing many of
the articles and features, raising most of the funds, selling it.

Their backing for Green Left Weekly has been crucial and is now
even acknowledged in our introductory blurb on page 2, as it
should be.

The same, but different

So it's been 10 years and the world around us is, well, the same,
but different.

In the year after we first appeared in January 1991, then US
President George Bush (senior) was to declare that a “New World
Order” would arise from the ashes of Iraq; the Soviet Union was
to dissolve and the IMF, the mafia and Boris Yeltsin were to take
over Russia; and Paul Keating was to become prime minister.

Ten years later, US President George Bush (junior) will try to
start a new arms race with his National Missile Defense plan; the
IMF, the mafia and Yeltsin-like “strong men” will try to take
over more countries; and John Howard will seek a third term as
prime minister.

So much is the same: the tentacles of injustice still grow ever
longer. We still have powerful enemies.

The thing that's different is our side of the struggle.

In 1991, there were signs of new hope, it's true: the collapse of
the Soviet Union was forcing many on the left to return to its
democratic and humanist origins; revolutionary Cuba had declared
it would do whatever it took to maintain its socialist choice; an
upsurge of interest in environmental issues was leading to new
questioning and new struggles; and a young generation was coming
into political action, unbowed by the defeats of the past.

But the left faced a bitter choice: to give it up or to keep it
up. Too many, unfortunately, chose the former and oblivion — the
Communist Party of Australia, for example, dissolved in 1991. But
many others, us included, chose the harder way, of struggle,
believing that, with our help, those signs of new hope could
become much greater.

As a result of that choice, and as a reward for all of us who
made it, the signs of new hope are now far greater than they were
ten years ago: whole peoples have gained a taste for struggle, in
Indonesia, in East Timor, in Latin America; Cuba has weathered
the storm and, somehow, through it all, grown stronger; a new
anti-corporate movement is on the rise in the first world, in
Seattle, Prague and Melbourne, connecting together all the
disparate resistances to all the disparate oppressions and
challenging the foundations of global capitalism; and the numbers
of rebellious youth have grown enormously.

Capitalism no longer seems invincible and socialism no longer
seems impossible.

The revolutionary, democratic and socialist left, and Green Left
Weekly, comes out of this past decade, and faces the new one,
firmer and more confident in the path it took, the choice it
made. From here, our self-belief can only grow every day.

And the changes we will all bring in the next decade will remake
the world.

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