Thursday, June 19, 2008

Working Class Publishing


by Robert Laurie

Radical Footnotes: periodical for the narrative of working class-publishing. ISSN 1757-4803 Published by Carl Slienger, PO Box 4ST, London W1A 4ST. The British subscription rate is £6.00 for four issues. Overseas rates from publisher.

THE HISTORY of working class publishing is a fascinating and important part of working class history which is reflected in this new specialised periodical. The ability to maintain a publishing programme is a vital necessity for any working class organisation.
This has often been carried out in the face of immense difficulties. Bailiffs hammering at the printer’s door are the least of the problems afflicting the left press. Boycotts by advertisers and commercial distributors have been the norm rather than the exception.
Formal censorship is not normally employed by bourgeois democratic states, they often employ subtler means such as banning radical publications from the postal system. In Hitler’s Germany the Communist Party courageously circulated political pamphlets printed to look like recipe books to avoid detection by the Gestapo.
The first issue of this small publication opens with three short articles. The first is a general article on the importance of publishing for the working class movement. The editor contributes an account of the jobbing printing carried out by a Yiddish speaking group of anarchists in the east end of London between 1908 and 1923.
The issue concludes with a fascinating account from the pen of Sebastian M Puckzis of works clandestinely published by the Carbonarists, a group who fought for the unification of Italy in the 1820s. For security reasons these pamphlets were published without any details of when and where they were printed. Much work on unravelling their history remains to be done.
Future issues promise articles on the problems of translating early Comintern writings, fine printing by Anarchists and radical publishing in recessions. The only regret this reviewer has is the modest size of the periodical. Hopefully the editor will be able to expand it in future.