Magazine article Dissent

From Democratiya to Dissent

Magazine article Dissent

From Democratiya to Dissent

Article excerpt

777e online journal Democratiya launched in 2005. Sixteen issues, one book, and a quartermillion readers later, Democratiya is being incorporated into Dissent.

Why? Well, when Dwight Macdonald closed Politics, his "one-man magazine," in 1949, he cited the relentless demands of producing a little magazine: the lack of time it gave him for reflection; his growing sense of ignorance; and, of course, the bleak political climate that descended on every intelligent anticommunist and democratic socialist in the late 1940s. Not to mention the demands of fundraising for little magazines. As the late Dissent editor Irving Howe put it, "You have to smile when you want to sulk. ...But [you] can never be self-supporting, [so] it's stick in one hand, cup in the other, and off you go."

In June 2008, with these gloomy thoughts in mind, I sat down in McSorley's on East 7th Street, with Dissent board member Paul Berman. In the oldest continuously operating bar in Manhattan, we discussed this infant journal. And we hit on an idea: could Democratiya join forces with Dissent! Discussions continued with the Dissent editors and were concluded in the summer of 2009.

The attraction to the "one-man operation" was overwhelming. (Of course, no journal is ever really a "one-man" or "one-woman" business. Hell, Dwight Macdonald had Irving Howe as an assistant! I had many people to lean on, not least Jane Ashworth, Anthony Julius, Eve Garrard, and Brian Brivati.)

The political center of gravity of Democratiya was to be pro-democracy and antitotalitarian in foreign policy and social democratic in domestic policy. Not exactly a crowded political space, but one that Dissent had long occupied with distinction.

Democratiya had taken as its central intellectual problem the anguished question posed by Dissent co-editor Michael Walzer: "Can there be a decent Left?" We had tried to answer in the affirmative by exploring what it might mean to renew what Paul Berman calls the "third force" tradition of Léon Blum, George Orwell, and Irving Howe. (That's what the Euston Manifesto of 2006, signed by many editors of the two journals, had been all about, for me at least.)

In launching Democratiya I had taken Howe's creation of Dissent as a model. Actually, I had taken Howe as a model. By my lights he showed how one could move from the revolutionary Marxist Left to the social democratic Left to good purpose, and without "cancelling one's experience," as he put it. He had tried to remain "devoted to some large principle or value, modulated by experience and thought, but firm in purpose." I had decided to try to follow him in that.

There was a mutual regard between the two journals from the start. …

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