Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tony Cliff on the publication as organiser

"As it is, the paper is divided among various writers, each of whom is very good, but collectively they do not permit workers to penetrate to the pages of the Appeal. Each of them speaks for the workers (and speaks very well) but nobody will hear the workers. In spite of its literary brilliance, to a certain degree the paper becomes a victim of journalistic routine. You do not hear at all how the workers live, fight, clash with the police or drink whiskey. It is very dangerous for the paper as a revolutionary instrument of the party. The task is not to make a paper through the joint forces of a skilled editorial board but to encourage the workers to speak for themselves. A radical and courageous change is necessary as a condition of success ...
Trotsky, quoted in Tony Cliff - The use of Socialist Worker as an organiser (April 1974)

"The question of workers’ writing for the paper raises the question of the identification of workers with the paper. In bourgeois journalism the hierarchical concept in which a small bunch of the people from the centre supply the consumption needs of the millions is the prevailing one. For a workers’ paper the question of the involvement of the “consumer” is central. The abolition of the abyss between producer and consumer is central.

"It is important that workers should write, not only about strikes in their place of work but about their children and their education, about everything that is relevant to their life. To a large extent the paper must become a workers’ diary. Now of course workers find it difficult to write. When they speak quite often they are incomparably better than when they write because their concreteness, their colourfulness, their individuality comes through – and after all, for Marxism it is always central that the truth is always concrete. When workers write quite often they adapt their style to what they think the style should be and therefore it becomes dull and jargonised. Therefore the use of a tape recorder and then editing the story while keeping the flavour intact is very, very important and should be used."

"Therefore a story written by a worker that perhaps will interest directly only a few tens of workers directly next to him at his place of work is of fantastic importance. This is the way the paper becomes rooted deeper in the class. "

"it will not be beyond our reach if we aim to, say, have 50 items a week written by workers in the paper. For them we need not only perhaps more effort put in by the editorial board of the paper and the organisers, but above all a clear decision that items written by or told by workers have to find a place in the paper in one way or another. (Of course even to this we must have exceptions.)"

Tony Cliff - The use of Socialist Worker as an organiser (April 1974)

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