Close Encounter: Come on, You Reds Joanna Briscoe Joins the Giants of the Left at the Marxism Today Party, the Photographers' Gallery, London

By Briscoe, Joanna | The Independent (London, England), October 24, 1998 | Go to article overview
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Close Encounter: Come on, You Reds Joanna Briscoe Joins the Giants of the Left at the Marxism Today Party, the Photographers' Gallery, London


Briscoe, Joanna, The Independent (London, England)


Since Reds under the Bed have now taken to lounging on bateaux lits, the image of the barnstorming Marxist is somewhat mildewed, a feebly raging dinosaur lumbering through the choppy waters of capitalism. Remember those aching Eighties benefits beloved of unpleasant Trots? Remember the class struggle? Remember, er, the revolution? Remember anger?

Probably not.

This is, after all, the Age of Consent. We've had 18 months of cosy let- down lubricated by crates of perfectly licensed champagne socialism. But finally, in the face of imminent global recession, comes the voice of dissent. In the spirit of the pamphlet, in a glossy counterblast, back trundles a one-off issue of Marxism Today, that notorious lefty organ which closed in 1991. An unfortunate cover photo of Tony Blair resembling the offspring of a Tory and a rat bears the legend "Wrong". To launch this bold critique, Marxism Today hosted a party at the Photographers' Gallery, a classy venue bearing no relation to the embittered self-righteousness of the crumbling town hall one might have expected in the name of cliche. I felt somewhat self-conscious. What exactly is one supposed to wear to a Bolshevik debate? Red is conveniently the colour of the season, but red and its variants only suits San Yassins, blazer wearing matrons and television presenters. I settled for black, the old black. Of course, even in its heyday, Marxism Today was hardly a threat to national security, but the possibility of dreary Apparatchik discourse is guaranteed to inspire panic, guilt, and the odd Tsarist sentiment. I was uneasy. When I arrived, the joint was already jumping with the giants of the Left. The historian, Eric Hobsbawm, who has declared Tony Blair's Government "Thatcherism in trousers", explained: "We figured it was just about coming to the time when what's called the market fundamentalism was coming to an end. We figured that now it's possible to say, right, you can't go on following the old economical orthodoxy: it's changing, it's time for a rethink." I ran around speaking to the people who think. Susie Orbach, a psychotherapist, on New Labour: "It's in danger of missing engagement with the largest mass of people who are very much on its side and who very much want to be players." Martin Jacques, the editor of Marxism Today: "No-one does a one-off gig. There's a perverse pleasure in doing the unusual ... It's not that the Blair Government isn't doing some good things, and it's a lot better than the Major administration, but that's only part of the point." All right, enough of the politics.

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