Editors' Letter

EDITION: Bad New Times.

Keeping our comrades up to date with New Socialist.

Dear comrades,

Since the election, we have lost one editor and gained another. Rhian E. Jones, very sadly, was unable to fit her work with New Socialist around writing a book on community wealth building and becoming Co-Editor of Red Pepper. As well as her role in commissioning and editing much of New Socialist’s Culture section and helping build our particular strength in coverage of Welsh politics, Rhian’s work in New Socialist— including but not limited to her review of Joe Kennedy’s Authentocrats (without a doubt the best review of that important book), her essays on the history of protest, and her nourishing, energising talk, given at TWT2019, on remembering and rebuilding socialist culture—have been crucial in developing our understandings of the world- and history-making powers of working class people, especially working class women, and in expanding our ideas of how a contemporary project of cultural democracy might look, and what it might draw on. Although Rhian has left us as an editor, we hope she will continue to contribute to New Socialist. In ‘Bad New Times’, we are lucky to have her analysis of “Johnsonism”, which pays particular and valuable attention to “Boris” as a cultural construction, set within a recurrence of pre-democratic protest forms as a mark of our current tendency towards post-democracy.

We have also gained an editor. Tom Williams has already written for us on the importance of socialist pedagogy to Southampton Transformed 2019 (of which he was a co-organiser), the affirming solidarity of the election campaign (which, as we argued in our introduction to this edition, captures beautifully why, even though we lost so decisively, the period of Corbynism did matter and can continue to matter), community organising, and— in a piece which has been entirely vindicated, and rather more quickly than we might have expected— the dangers of Keir Starmer and the Labour Right. Whilst we didn’t conceptualise Tom as a direct ‘replacement’ for Rhian (an impossible notion!), he is one of very, very few people in whom we can find a similar mixture of a deeply felt commitment to cultural democracy, an equally profound commitment to the creative, intellectual and ethical capacities of every single person that underpins any cultural democracy worth anything, and a startling theoretical rigour. Tom’s involvement also brings up the number of Saints fans in the editorial group, which can only be a good thing. (“no comment”—josie)

These shifts in the composition of our editorial group have meant that the gender balance is not what it should be; likewise, we are aware that our current editorial group is predominantly white, and mostly abled and Londoncentric. Once we have worked out the scope of editorial roles with the new structure, we will be recruiting two new editors both to try to remedy this, and to open New Socialist up to a wider set of experiences and ideas.

The last few months have seen the publication of Abolish Silicon Valley, a wonderful book by another of our former editors, Wendy Liu. We’re very happy to be publishing Tom Gann’s interview with Wendy in this edition. We’d also like to thank Wendy for her support with the rebuild of our website, which found josie hugely out of her depth at certain points (what even is “Python”?). Wendy’s assistance, patience, and reassurance has been invaluable: she’s a true comrade, and we are so grateful.

We’d also like to thank everyone who has written for us for ‘Bad New Times’. Although we pay all our writers, nobody got paid what we would have liked to pay them, or what we feel their work deserves. We’re working on this. We apologise to our writers for the delay in publishing ‘Bad New Times’, especially those who, in the face of a rapidly changing political situation, had to edit and rework pieces as a result of the delay. We’re so grateful to all of you for your patience—and for your wonderful work, without which we would be so much the poorer.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge that nothing we’ve done would have been possible or necessary without the emergence of ‘Corbynism’. We’d like to thank the movement that made this possible, and we’d particularly thank Jeremy Corbyn and our contributors John McDonnell and Diane Abbott.

A special mention must go out to our radical publishing comrades: Repeater, Verso and Pluto. We are grateful for the extracts they have allowed us to run and the discounts they have offered to our subscribers—and, most of all, for their role in sustaining and extending the capacities of radical movements. Given the theoretical needs of the current situation, we’d particularly like to acknowledge Pluto’s role in making accessible Black—and particularly Black feminist—thought.

Finally, we’d like to thank our subscribers. Without your support none of this would be possible. Thank you so much, comrades.

Reading the editor’s letter in the second issue of the New Left Review, we were unursprised to be confronted once again by the problem of sustainability. For Stuart Hall, the seeking of more subscribers amounted to a “socialist tax”, which

represents a tax on yourself for something which you want to support. After all, most of us are paying a little something towards the Missile Programme, but we have all been a little light-hearted about making a regular contribution in some form to keeping and maintaining a socialist press… If ‘Tory Freedom’ is working in your part of the world just now, how about letting us in too?

Well, indeed. However, we recognise that the bad new times mean that, whilst one still contributes towards missiles, the disposable income of many comrades may be less than in the age of “you’ve never had it so good.” We eagerly await the introduction of a socialist media fund, as argued for convincingly by Leo Watkins. In its absence, however, we too have to ask for more subscriptions to keep going, and (hopefully) to achieve what we could be capable of.

Getting this edition together was only possible because our General Editor Tom Gann was furloughed (we should offer a further thanks to Corbyn and McDonnell, as well as to the trade unions, for their pressure on this issue) under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. However, with the scheme remaining within the limits of the reproduction of dependency on the wage relation, and with redundancy looming (so much for “job retention”!), Sunak’s (new) socialist subsidy of is unlikely to last beyond the end of September. It is not going to be possible to put out an edition of this scope and seriousness every two to three months if we are only paying two General Editors £250 a month. We remain reliant on substantial unpaid work by our General Editors in excess of what the £250 a month covers, as well as unpaid work by our other editors, and the underpaid work of our writers.

We currently have around 15,000 Twitter followers, but only 400 subscribers. We understand that many readers will not be able to afford to subscribe—indeed, there would be something wrong if the social basis of a radical socialist magazine was those with substantial disposable income! We are and will remain committed to keeping all our work freely available. Nevertheless, we look enviously at the Patreons of various reactionary “socialist” US podcasts and see them clearing vast sums—from £2,700 to £25,000 a month. A fraction of this amount would be decisive for us: if every Twitter follower subscribed at the £1 rate, we’d have far too much money! But as things stand, we barely have enough to keep going. Sustainability remains a real, pressing problem.

If you’ve enjoyed this edition, please consider subscribing if you can, so that we can continue producing editions of this scope and quality. With 600 subscribers, which feels a very reasonable target, we could pay each of our general editors £500 a month and pay for Dan Frost’s tireless work on the Activists’ Inquiry. We could also cover the costs of further editorial work and run two more regular culture columns. With 800 subscribers, we could pay for more editorial work, pay writers more, and commission more pieces (including more regular columns). There’s more information on what we could do with each bit more money on our subscribe page.

We are very proud of this edition, and hope you enjoy it.

In Solidarity,

The New Socialist Editors