An everyday story of leftwing folk

Thursday, 1 April 2010


Thought I’d take you back in time.  It really is a long, long time now.  A different world, when I think of it.  But yet, but yet…

As you can see below, the first picture is the cover of Solidarity for Social Revolution 8, dating from 1979.  The role of “editor” of this journal was passed between the various small groups here and there around the country that made up Solidarity.  A bunch of us based in Coventry, Birmingham and Oxford volunteered to take on the editorship for this issue.  People descended on our house in Hollis Road, Coventry armed with the requisite paper, Letraset, glue, scribbled articles and a borrowed electric typewriter.

SFSR was the result of a merger between two groups, Solidarity and Social Revolution.  It was not entirely a happy merger.  The group was rent with internal strife, much of it carried forward from pre-merger days, but also some new conflict as the two parts tried to come to terms with each other.

The cover you see here was my work.  It’s rough and ready, for sure. I did the work through the last night before the deadline for print.  It illustrates a general critique of the left that we were formulating at the time that was given extra edge by plenty of internal finger-pointing, too.  It went something like this.  Leftism was increasingly being used as a personal therapy by largely guilt-ridden, middle-class hangers on, who were wallowing in a swamp of their own “issues” as we would say nowadays.

A valid critique, I still think, but in the end we lost the argument.  Lots of reasons why, but our own sectarianism was a big contributing factor.  Looking back, the “swampies” were the precursors of an approach to life that is quite widespread now.  Look at all those “fix-yourself” programmes on TV. Look at all the “culture and values” organisation therapy being sold to public and private sector alike.  Look at single-issue politics.  Look at the widespread individualisation of structural problems.

Anyway.  It’s an early piece of my work.  Collage.  A kind of surrealist pop-art aesthetic.  And a kind of everyday satire, targeting the behaviour of people around me.  And I’m still doing it.

Here’s another one of mine from inside SFSR8.  It’s a Brassai photograph with a speech bubble. Essentially I’m filling in some leftover space at the end of an article.  The article was a rather bad-tempered attempted critique of feminism.  The author was going through a messy divorce at the time, and it showed.  I guess what I was trying to do here was to lighten the mood a bit while reminding people about how predatory some purportedly leftist men could be. It was a condensed version of a three-frame cartoon I had drawn but not published.  It was an idea for a series called “The Marchers: an everyday story of leftist folk.”  Never went any further and the original appears lost.  Pity.  Anyway, people liked this one.  I got a number of appreciative comments at the time.

Finally, another space-filler.  This time I’ve cut together a longish quote from Raoul Vaneigem’s Revolution of Everyday Life with some illustrations from a William book. William Carries On, I seem to remember.  Looking at it now, it reads like a personal manifesto.  In its own little way, it kind of explains so much of what I’ve done since, this stuff included.  It’s a little bit of advice on keeping your sanity in the face of the routine defeats of life. "Throw in ... your wit, your tranquility..", yep, that's me.  And it says if maybe you can get just one person to see what you mean, then that’s OK.

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