When the International Socialists met for our national conference over Queen’s Birthday weekend, we had an opportunity to reflect on how exciting, but also how difficult, the past years have been.
Exciting because, finally, after decades of low levels of class struggle, our side is on the move again: there have been strikes and struggles by pulp and paper workers; firefighters; nurses and health workers; university staff; big union wins in supermarkets; talk across the business media of renewed industrial battles. 2022 has already joined the spikes of 2019 and 2012 in strike action, and suggests a new period of class combativity. Exciting, too, in more worrying ways: the reactionary occupation at Parliament, and the revival of the far right, show the urgency of building a real socialist alternative.
Difficult, however, for the same reasons everyone else has found the past three years difficult. COVID, and the necessary health steps of 2020 – 2021, severely interrupted our political work. Socialist organising, put basically, needs you to leave the house: to engage in mass gatherings; to seek out strangers to talk to and campaign amongst; to talk, debate, mingle, argue, agitate. Lockdowns and restrictions made all of that impossible. And then this year the Omicron variant made organising all the more difficult, as we fell sick and found our routine hard to sustain.
All of this sharpened debates we have been having for some time now about the role of our print media. We have been producing Socialist Review for twenty-five years, and are proud of the work that represents. We have found, even in the era of digital media, value in a print publication: it presents our ideas as a coherent package, each individual article building a fuller case for socialism; it acts as an organiser, giving us a chance to talk to people as we sell it and to link our campaign work (petitioning, demonstrating, collecting lockout donations and so on) to promoting our group and our cause; and it disciplines us to provide a record, in writing, of our developing analysis. Our print ecology is not the big daily newspapers, legacy media for many under forty, but the proliferation of zines, small magazines, and print journals flourishing, not declining, in the era of the internet. A website, and articles shared on social media, can get lots of attention, fleetingly; a magazine allows more lasting connections.
And yet. The pandemic made street sales impossible, and then its long, as yet unfinished, aftermath hastened slower changes around us. Many stores are now cashless; food and vegetable markets often have EFTPOS now; the wider street culture we were a part of has changed. Our own ranks have felt the strain of the pandemic, and the work involved in bringing out a magazine regularly has been difficult. Socialist Review has, as a result, fallen between stylistic stools: too theoretical and untimely for an interventionist magazine, too topical for a theoretical journal.
It’s time to try something new.
From this spring, we will be reimagining Socialist Review as a theoretical magazine, published bi-annually, aiming to gather our longer analyses together and aimed at a readership already engaging with our ideas and with wider discussions on the left. We are also experimenting with a new publication. Tide aims to come out monthly, or as close to monthly as we can manage, and will offer analyses and arguments for socialism that are more interventionist, immediate, improvisatory. It will be a bridge between our website and our theoretical magazine. It will be free, too, a hand-out offering first thoughts on the world and our struggles.
Why? More is happening, from our side’s strikes to the threat of the right to rebellions abroad like the freedom struggle in Iran. We want a publication that can support these, and intervene with analysis. Has our view of our tasks changed? No. Tide will not be a mere newssheet, and will still aim to present, as Socialist Review does, arguments. It will stay, in the jargon of our tradition, a “propaganda” vehicle.
Why Tide? We feel a rising tide of struggle around us, for one thing:
He tai timu
He tai pari
He tai ope
He tai roa
He tai nui
Socialist politics need to be a part of that tide, offering solidarity, drawing links, making connections, engaging in clarifying debate.
But also having a sense of urgency. The tide metaphor reminds us too that the other side is organising, and ascendent: neo-fascists in Italy and France; alliances of far-right racists globally; anti-vaccination networks here offering dark tidal pools in which conspiracist forces could spawn; the mainstream right newly confident with its agenda of cuts, austerity, clawbacks:
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures. It’s more important than ever to try and build a fighting socialist alternative. Tide is an additional tool in that project.