Mike Davis, editor, on Chartist past, present and future
Chartist celebrates its 300th edition. Produced as a bi-monthly for over 40 years we continue to stand on the shoulders of the pioneering radical democratic movements of the past: the Levellers and Diggers, the 19th century Chartists, the suffragettes, anti-colonial movements and more.
The original Chartists also argued for ‘The Charter and something more’. It is both the democratic spirit that animated these pioneers and the necessity for something more that inspired the founders of the current Chartist back in the late 1960s. That something more was a form of democratic socialism in the face of statist social democracy and authoritarian Stalinism. Sidetracked for a few years in the mists of critical Trotskyism, whilst still fighting through the Labour Party, the magazine was born (following almost ten years of tabloid format) in 1978 in an effort to provide some greater theoretical insight and political reflection on the troubled state of the socialist movement. Inspired by third wave feminism and gay liberationists, the insights of the emerging ecology movement and the civil rights movements against racism and for equal rights, and new initiatives from workplaces and trade unions, the magazine has sought to plough a course for libertarian socialism, democracy, internationalism, equality and social justice.
Through the dark days of Thatcherism and Major and into the sunny uplands of Blairism, with its continuing neoliberal economic policies but more progressive, if limited social reforms, we have championed core socialist values whilst seeking to flesh out the contours of a relevant C21st alternative to capitalism. We have sought to be pluralist, transparent and open minded. We continue to see the Labour Party as a primary vehicle for the transformation of Britain – though without vibrant, active extra-parliamentary social, cooperative and trade union movements, real sustainable change will be impossible. Without bottom-up democracy in our movement the quest for a progressive Labour government will see bureaucratic patterns and power cliques reproducing themselves.
The 2015 Corbyn election was a huge boost, opening doors to a new approach and a more radical inclusive socialist politics. We have maintained a critical friend stance, though the early openness and pluralism seems to have considerably weakened. The Brexit vote has created new fault lines on the left. We have nailed our colours to the ‘remain and transform’ mast, recognising that internationalist socialists must work through all democratic institutions – local, regional, national and supranational, including the EU, however limited by capital – if we are to overcome the divisions of class, wealth and power in this era of globalised capitalism.
The left stands at a critical juncture with a right-wing Johnson Tory government seeking to implement a no-deal Brexit. Any form of departure from the European Union will represent a major defeat for progressive anti-racist, internationalist, human rights champions let alone the dire economic consequences in this world of menacing authoritarian nationalist rulers and mounting trade war.
Aside from an irregularly produced Tribune, Chartist is probably the longest standing left-Labour journal in production. We aim to continue to provide a forum for cutting edge ideas, debate, analysis, criticism and actions to transform our society and the world, for the many not the few, at this critical time. We hope you’ll continue to read it in print and online.