By Charlie Kimber
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1845

Paper with a difference

This article is over 18 years, 9 months old
While the bulk of the press is 'embedded' with the US and British forces fighting in Iraq, Socialist Worker is proud to be 'embedded' in the anti-war movement. That's one reason why it is different
Issue 1845

THE ANTI-war movement is everywhere, hundreds of millions strong worldwide. It has changed the face of politics. What yesterday seemed impossible is today commonplace. Just look at Britain. During the last six weeks we have been part of the biggest demonstration ever, followed by the largest demonstration during a war. The Labour Party is in its deepest crisis for over 70 years.

Socialist Worker has tried to rise to this challenge of a transformation in how masses of people think and behave. The warmongers rely on the BBC, broadcasts from Tony Blair and papers like the Sun.

On our side are tens of thousands of activists in Britain, confident and well informed enough to win arguments with the people around them. These networks of people swap ideas, discuss the way forward and help organise demonstrations and protests.

Our intention is to make Socialist Worker the paper which is read regularly among these networks, and which develops them further. Socialist Worker can play that role because it is completely different in every important aspect from the normal newspapers. Giant media firms own all the main newspapers. Their motives are profit and pushing the views of rich men.

This does not mean that they only print material which totally supports the ruling class view of the world. For their own commercial and political reasons it is risky to be completely and permanently out of tune with what the majority of people think. But the vast majority of coverage across the media has a deadening similarity. From San Francisco to Sydney, every newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch has the same position in support of the war.

You can sense this media uniformity even in ‘normal’ times. It is much sharper during a war. On Wednesday of last week the headlines from the Mirror, Mail, Times, Express, Telegraph, Record and Independent were as follows: ‘Saddam forces face uprising in city’, ‘Basra rebels rise against Saddam’, ‘Rebels rise against Saddam’. ‘Iraqis rise up against Saddam’, ‘Bloody uprising in Basra’, ‘Uprising: Iraqi rebels turn on Saddam’, and ‘Basra ‘rises up’ against Saddam’. They were all the same. They were all wrong.

The source of the story was an ITN reporter called Richard Gaisford, who admitted, ‘Everything I said about the rising came from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.’

Socialist Worker is entirely different. Our reports are not based on press handouts from the media suites of corporations or US Central Command. Our most important source is our readers and our supporters. While the rest of the press is embedded among the British and US forces, we are embedded in the anti-war movement.

At best a portion of the rest of the press is a sympathetic observer of the movement. Socialist Worker is part of it, reporting from the inside. On the day that war started Socialist Worker received (within 12 hours) 121 e-mailed reports about protests in Britain and 17 other countries. In addition we had 22 sets of pictures sent to us.

This meant we could produce a special edition of the paper that had direct reporting from the protests. We could write political analysis that rested on the scale and strength of the global movement.

You could not find this breadth of coverage anywhere else in the world. Perhaps you could trawl internet sites for several hours looking for information. But, even if you have the equipment to do this, you are unlikely to do it after working for eight hours and then putting the kids to bed.

And you would receive a confusing array of different figures and analyses. Socialist Worker pulls together the reports from people you can trust. We don’t just print any old rubbish that appears in the media.

Socialist Worker does not accept the figures for demonstrations supplied by the Metropolitan Police or the Madrid Civil Guard. We get the truth from the people on the marches. Nor do we print claims that seem to help the anti-war case if we suspect them to be false.

We aim to do more than all this. We want to help clarify ideas inside the movement. Socialist Worker has argued and explained how this is a war for oil and US power.

We said again and again that the United Nations would not stop war. We insisted, against people like the Liberal Democrats, that just because war starts does not make it more justified. We have tried to show that the greater the resistance to the US and British attacks, the harder it will be for the US to carry out its programme for ‘the American century’.

Of course, we were not the only people who argued these positions. But we helped to carry then into the network of activists and to shape the movement in a particular way.

In your anti-war group it is important to know that the global movement is still strong. So we tell you about all the protests that are taking place. It is important to know about the turmoil in the Middle East. One page of Socialist Worker focused on that last week with a report from Egypt you would find it very hard to read anywhere else.

Socialist Worker also argues to link issues. Even in the midst of war we highlight the importance of the firefighters’ dispute and of defending refugees. We find space to carry reports about struggles by low-paid workers and campaigners against racism.

Socialist Worker is written with a different aim to other newspapers. It does not exist to boost a share price or attract advertisers or make careers. It is written to help win political battles.

We write for people like the postal worker who will argue with his mates at 7.30am when they come in from their round, the student who debates with the people on her course, the NHS domestic who has ten minutes on a smoke break in a nine hour shift to win people to opposing the war. Everyone involved with the production of Socialist Worker knows that if they make mistakes then we let these people down.

The Guardian has made a feature of its errors with its volumes of ‘corrections and clarifications’. For us, mistakes are ammunition handed to the enemy.

Our aim is to make people aware of the lessons of the past, make resistance as effective as possible today, and to argue further for socialism and revolution. The Mirror has had some brilliant coverage against the war. It is not going to argue for the links between capitalism and war or call for a systematic battle against imperialism.

We want Socialist Worker to be an organiser, both in terms of telling people what is happening and also politically. When this works properly it creates circles of sellers and readers who can change the direction of events in their area.

Esme from Manchester says, ‘We heard on Sunday night last week that an asylum seeker in Eccles who has been involved in the Greater Manchester Stop the War Coalition was going to be evicted from her home the following day. ‘Because we have been building a network of Socialist Worker readers over the last few months, we were able to get 20 local people to her house at 10am the following morning to stop the eviction.’

We want many more examples like that, and on a bigger scale. So we have to widen the circulation of the paper. Socialist Worker is not sold like ordinary newspapers. We sell some copies through newsagents, but most are sold by supporters.

People take a few copies and sell them at work or to friends and neighbours. It is easier to sell Socialist Worker like this than at any time for years. But it depends on people having the paper to sell.

So we are making a big effort to strengthen the distribution of the paper. It is a great opportunity missed if 10,000 people buy Socialist Worker on a big demonstration but two-thirds never see the paper again because there is no mechanism to get it to them.

Liz Wheatley, a council worker from Camden, explains how the paper is distributed in her area: ‘We’re lucky that we live in London and therefore can get the paper earlier than most people. Early on a Wednesday morning two of us go to where the paper is dropped off in Camden and then take it to other sellers. I take 30 papers to people who sell in a particular council building, for example. By lunchtime on Wednesday 12 or 15 people who are prepared to sell the paper have the copies they need at a time when the news is fresh.’

Phoebe Watkins is one of the council workers who gets the paper on Wednesday morning. She can sell up to 14 papers – if she gets them in time. She says, ‘People are very interested in the paper, seeing the other side of the war. The article in the special issue ‘Ten reasons why this war is wrong’ was very well received. It matters that I get the paper early because it gives me the extra time to sell – three lunchtimes rather than one or two and perhaps to visit other buildings where there are readers.’

The great movement against the war needs a socialist paper reflecting and engaging with the arguments inside it. Now, not in a few months time, we have to take the paper to a much wider audience.

Socialist Worker has played a pivotal role in leading the struggle against this war. For all those committed to ending the war and fighting globalisation it’s a must read.

‘The special issue for the 22 March demonstration was really useful. We are at a crucial time. Socialist Worker is a tool for every anti-war activist.’
Asad Rehman, Stop the War Coalition officer and chair of the Newham Monitoring Project

‘I think the international and anti-racist coverage in Socialist Worker is excellent. I also think the critique of the class society we live in is excellent. The reviews page is often stimulating.

‘However, I think the coverage of industrial disputes is often simplistic and assumes people can go on strike forever. Despite this, if you want to know where people are on strike Socialist Worker is excellent. I think every trade union office should receive it every week.’
Paul Mackney, Natfhe lecturers’ union general secretary

‘I take Socialist Worker to a lot of picket lines. People welcome you. They know they will get support from Socialist Worker. It’s a great thing when I see my pictures published in Socialist Worker.

‘You take it back to the picket lines and people identify with it. The paper turns up in all sorts of places. I went into a rest room in a Tyneside fire station and Socialist Worker was pinned up on the notice board.’
Ray Smith, Socialist Worker photographer and Amicus union member

‘Socialist Worker is a great tool for school students. It helps us keep right on the ball when things are moving so fast. It gives us the political arguments needed to make decisions. It updates us of anti-war actions across the country really quickly. When Socialist Worker runs pages of anti-war reports from all around the country it is really useful. It lets us see what other school students and groups of people are doing.’
Hannah Kuchler, north London school student

‘I like to read about the global issues. I agree with a lot of things that Socialist Worker says. I am a member of the Labour Party but I don’t believe everything they tell me. I have recently stood down as the chair of Gloucester Labour Party. Socialist Worker is very good at linking all the issues.’
Richard Price, Unison union member

‘People are organising themselves and taking initiatives. Socialist Worker has been central to this. Where else would you get the arguments from? It makes the connections between the IMF, the WTO, the war and the firefighters clear. People are so proud of the paper. It is absolutely crucial.’
Gary Duke, Salford university student


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