I never thought I'd write in praise of Socialist Worker - but here goes! It was, in its heyday - yes, that's rather a long time ago - the most effective and successful political paper the British far left has ever produced.
I've just bought as assortment of early copies of the paper - from San Francisco! (and full disclosure as to why on request) - which reminds me what a punchy, accessible paper it once was.
For several years in the early and mid Sixties, the International Socialists - they became the Socialist Workers Party in 1977 - published a paper called Labour Worker. It usually came out monthly and reflected the group's focus on working within the Labour Party and the Young Socialists.
And at the inception of the remarkable year of 1968, it sold just a few hundred copies an issue. But then, the IS only had a few hundred members, many of them students!
In March 1968, reflecting a change of approach, Labour Worker became Socialist Worker - and in September it turned weekly with a print run of 8,000.
Its editor was Roger Protz - who later edited CAMRA's even more successful Good Beer Guide - and he steered the paper towards a more demotic, vivid style of journalism aimed at the workers the movement hoped to recruit.
At first the weekly had just four pages and was priced at two pence - that's two old pre-decimal pence ... you could buy 120 copies for a pound. Even then, that was cheap!
The paper was sold in shopping centres and at factory gates. By 1974, following an upsurge of industrial militancy, it reached a peak print run of 46,000.
Just as the paper was achieving real success, it fell victim to a faction fight. Tony Cliff, the IS guru, wanted the paper to develop worker correspondents who wrote about their own lives and struggles, based in part of Lenin's pre-1917 Pravda. Roger Protz was forced out - Paul Foot, an accomplished campaigning journalist with the Daily Mirror, took his place.
But as the political temper subsided, so did sales. The paper survives - and there are not many left-wing titles which keep going for more than half-a-century - but its sales are probably no more than a few thousand.
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