When Tribune launched in 1937 its adverts encouraged readers to “subscribe to the socialist weekly.”
The inaugural editorial board was determined to provide regular coverage that might orient the Left in an era of historic economic crisis and rising threat from the far-right. The first copies sold for twopence – so, at least some things have changed.
In his biography of Aneurin Bevan, Michael Foot describes the arrival of his bulletins each week in the earliest days of Tribune
They were delivered every Wednesday to the Tribune courier (usually myself), to the accompaniment of violent curses against the task-master Mellor by a dishevelled Bevan who had often been up all night at his typewriter in his room in London. But the copy was never late.
Today we debut ‘The Cause,’ a return to weekly publishing. It will land in your inbox every Wednesday, hopefully with fewer violent curses on our part.
Taking its name from the magazine’s motto – the cause of labour is the hope of the world – The Cause will have a special focus on the workers’ movement, keeping our readers informed about its latest developments.
But it will also provide an outlet for us to keep in touch with you more regularly, with content ranging from political analysis and news commentary to what our editors are reading, a roundup of our weekly content and the latest news from Tribune itself.
Since our relaunch in September 2018, we have worked hard to restore the house that Bevan built. We recently passed 12,000 paying subscribers, a landmark which makes Tribune the largest socialist magazine in Britain in decades. We couldn’t have done it without your support.
In the coming year, we have plans to expand – from our new podcast with Grace Blakeley to the launch of Tribune Clubs. The Cause is part of our ambitions to build a real socialist alternative to Britain’s right-wing media landscape. We hope you’ll stay with us.
These are not easy days for the labour movement, but we refuse to give in to cynicism or despair. There is a new world to be built – and we intend to keep laying foundations.
… of labour is the hope of the world
Tony Benn once famously remarked that working people could tune into the breakfast news and find out more about the FTSE 100 than the millions of workers represented by the TUC.
This was not always the case. Only a few decades ago, any serious news outlet would feature an industrial correspondent on its staff. The decisions of union conferences were followed the press, while the TUC was broadcast on live television.
But since the onslaught of neoliberalism, the media increasingly feels comfortable ignoring trade unions. And this, in turn, has diminished public awareness about their activities – especially among younger people.
The coming months are set to be stormy ones for the labour movement. High-profile internal elections are taking place in the three largest general unions, while huge numbers of workers face layoffs due to the government’s bungled response to the pandemic.
In this deepening class struggle, The Cause will be a regular dispatch on industrial strife – from the workers’ perspective.
This, once again, is an effort to revive some of Tribune’s oldest traditions. In the very first Tribune (when, as the above image suggests, the magazine’s name carried the definite article) it had two industrial correspondents writing collectively under the pseudonym Judex.
These were Michael Foot, who would later become the magazine’s editor, and Barbara Castle, or Betts as she was then known.
In May 1937, Michael Foot took a detour from his early columns about miners’ strikes to cover the invitation extended to four working men and women to the coronation of George VI. ‘Four Honoured Guests at a Rich Man’s Festival,’ he wrote.
On pursuing these guests, Foot had discovered that only one of the four – a tinplate worker – was paid a liveable wage. The rest – a Derbyshire miner, a Birmingham assembly line worker, and a Glasgow carpet weaver – lived in poverty. Foot’s column read,
Follow these four back to their homes and you will see what a cheap piece of deception the whole thing was. You will realise something of the vulgarity of a ruling class which takes delight in flaunting its power in the faces of the poor… The majesty of monarchy and the glory of empire are founded on the economics of the sweatshop… When we ask for bread, they give us a circus.
In this bulletin, we’ll be demanding bread. Sign up today.
Here’s the latest…
The coming weeks will see a bonfire of jobs as the government winds down its furlough scheme without investing in new employment.
Grace Blakeley demolishes the myth that billionaires like Jeff Bezos – who added £10bn to his fortune in just one day – deserve their wealth.
Writer and academic Gary Younge speaks to Tribune about the Black Lives Matter movement and racism in Britain.
A movie premiering this week tells the story of Builders Crack, a radical workers’ magazine which helped organise building sites in the 1990s.
Faced with a victory for Evo Morales’ MAS party, Bolivia’s government has postponed elections– another victory for democracy in the wake of the coup.