Replacing _The Nation_?

Gilles d'Aymery aymery at ix.netcom.com
Mon Mar 3 12:04:59 MST 2003


Thanks, Louis, for your post on “The Nation.” That people would rely 
on this paper as representing the Left in the U.S. has always puzzled 
me. Then again Howard Dean is being touted as the new champion of 
the Left
of the Democratic Party! What else to say? Have Marxmail 
members heard about the Nation’s fundraising techniques? In 
particular, the cruises in the Caribbean and other lofty seas, where for 
a few thousands dollars, over French Champagne, toasts and petit-
fours, guest a la Molly Evans debate the future of the Left? Please!

I hope this discussion on the merits, the need and the nuts and bolts of 
having a publication that would not “replace” the Nation” but offer a 
different perspective altogether won’t dwindle too quickly (if it’s not 
already dead!). This is a much needed discussion that I would like to 
pursue (on or off line) and very much welcome. Here are a few 
comments following the exchange between Lou and Louis, taking into 
consideration Yosie’s:

[Lou]
>(c) Is there some existing entity, Counterpunch for example (on
>conflict-of-interest grounds I am not mentioning swans.com), that 
>could be 'boosted' into a more prominent role?  Or would it be 
>better to start fresh?

[Louis]
Counterpunch and swans.com are both good, but what I have in mind 
is something that would feature on-the-spot coverage from activists 
like Jon Flanders in the Albany trade union movement or Derek 
Seidman from the student movement. Counterpunch and swans.com 
are more like the equivalent of a journal of opinion rather than an 
activist-oriented "what is to be done" forum.

[Gilles]
Opinions and activism are not mutually exclusive. You can have both, 
particularly on a Web-centric publication. However, activism requires 
a daily input. It’s a much faster moving environment. In depth 
opinions, as related by Yoshie, call for bi-weekly or monthly editions. 
The combination of both would be quite potent.

(For the benefit of the list, here is what Yoshie wrote as a follow-up 
on Louis comments above: Quote _War Times_'s target audience, 
Max Elbaum says, is "soft supporters" 
of the anti-war movement.  It would be great to have a clearly 
left-wing (weekly or biweekly or even monthly) journal that 
specifically targets "principled participants" in the movement, 
especially its "organic intellectuals" (those who often function as 
activist intellectuals/informal leaders/trend-setters in their own 
local areas, who may or may not be Marxists -- more likely 
non-Marxists -- but are not averse to Marxist analysis and may 
welcome creative introduction to it).  In other words, a publication 
that aims for a layer of readership between readers of _War Times_ 
and those of _Monthly Review_ and the like, with an analysis more in 
depth than what _Z Magazine_ or _Counterpunch_ can provide, with 
politics much to the left of _The Nation_, etc.  This is the layer of 
readership in the anti-war movement that first needs to be won to 
theory and practice against capitalism and imperialism, not just 
against _this_ war (provided that the anti-war movement won't fizzle 
out when the war on Iraq begins. Unquote)

[Lou]
>(d) If it were better to start fresh, how to deal with the following
>contradiction: if one or two editors with a vision in mind get it up and
>running, then they won't be representative, accountable, etc.; but if 
>some big left committee gets it up and running, it will be like a 'typical
>committee product' and won't print opinionated stuff.

[Louis]
I am of the opinion that all viewpoints within Marxism should be 
expressed in such a publication, where they can contend with each 
other before the working class and its allies. This, to remind 
comrades, was Lenin's goal for Iskra.

[Gilles]
I think the audience or the target should reach beyond the working 
class and its allies, at least on the opinion side of the publication. Two 
reasons for my thinking: First, by focusing on the ‘working class and 
allies’ one would quickly run the risk of walking into the quicksands of 
sectarianism. Second, talking to ourselves (and within a fragmented 
movement, how do you define ‘ourselves’?) would make it much 
harder to reach out and bring in people who are willing to entertain 
other ways and ideas (they are out there. We simply do not reach out 
enough.)

In addition, Lou’s question is well taken. Should the site/publication 
be controlled by editors or by a committee? From my experience with 
Swans, I must say that committees do not work, unfortunate as it may 
be. How would Marxmail be handled by committee? See the 
recurring posts on the list each time Louis decides to unsub a 
member
 I’ve tried the committee approach and ended up shooting 
myself in the foot each time (and each time losing contributors).

[Lou]
>(e) How important is the paper side of it all?

[Louis]
I think it could be web-based, as long as there is an Acrobat version 
that can be used to print multiple copies for people who don't have 
computers.

[Yoshie]
Considering how much time it may take to make many copies, I'd 
prefer magazines in print, though it would cost a lot more in 
distribution. It would be great if we could make a kind of socialist 
alliance, fold existing socialist news weeklies in print, pool the money, 
and get one spiffy weekly out.

[Gilles]
I strongly favor a Web-centric publication. Not just because of cost 
and paper waste (though they are important considerations) but 
because a Web publication can be international, worldwide indeed, 
with contributors from all continents, representing many currents AND 
cultures. Furthermore, such a publication could easily and should be 
mirrored so that when the main site is down (for whatever reason) the 
publication would go on; and it would permit to have the activist part 
of the site handled locally. The Internet is an extraordinary powerful 
tool – we should all thank DARPA!!! But it’s a tool we are not using 
to its full potential (hypertext, hyperlinking, etc
).

In addition, here are three (among other) practical questions 
prompted by my own situation/experience:

- How do you fund a post-capitalist site/publication? How does one 
pay the bills, make a living (even a modest one)?

- How do you bring people (volunteers?) to work in the trenches, day 
in and day out (HTML formatting, technical stuff like site maintenance, 
upgrade to PHP, work indexing, etc.)?

- Legal issues: Ever received a letter from an attorney representing an 
aggrieved party? 

I’d be glad to flush those out.

Gilles d’Aymery

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