Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

100 issues of the Dean’s fourth emergency service: SOCIALISM

In C.Spiby on September 7, 2012 at 1:15 pm

It would be impossible to sum one hundred issues of our Clarion into a single, short article. The best I can offer the ‘only Socialist Paper in the Dean’ in such little space is the merest flavour of its varied and inspiring content, in hope that you, dear reader support it for a hundred more. In issue #24 Bob Seabrook wrote to us saying that the Clarion was a ‘breath of fresh air’. It is only our readers, supporters and contributors that will ensure our paper remains fresh, relevant, informative and as inspiring as it was back over a decade ago to Bob and his wife, stalwarts of the Bromley pensioners’ movement.

For his part, Jack Jones was ‘delighted’ with his copy of issue #1 stating that it was ‘the clear call of Labour in these difficult times and recalls past struggles’. Perhaps not as clear as we’d like 100 issues later, but the call remains the same. That voice, however, was never that of an elite bunch of hacks in the back office but always that of our readers and contributors. Indeed, that very same issue went on to challenge readers to ‘define’ socialism. The argument would run through all 100 issues in one way or another like a deep, proud red blood pumping through the veins of all those in need of an antidote to the rightward shift of Labour. But The Clarion was also a safe place to land for all those left politically bereft.

It may have been borne of this wayward wandering of the then pre-governmental New Labour, but The Clarion was spurred into physical manifestation by the march of trade unionists having been expelled from GCHQ in Cheltenham. That year, 1996, the number swelled to 6,000.

Since then, there have been many constants in the Clarion, most of the important ones survive: Dinosaur, reviews, guest features and our Editorial Comment but also endorsement or articles of peers like Tony Benn, CND’s Kate Hudson, Kim Howells, Barbara Castle, Baroness Royall, or Ken Coates. Perhaps more poignant, though, are those that contributed but who are no longer with us. The likes of Bill Punt or Ralph Anstis will always be part of the Clarion. Yet even greater are the number of silent readers, occasional contributors, friends and supporters who have passed on. Our thoughts go out to them and their families, as do our thanks.

But there are also the memories and words of local voices remembering. This is where Ralph excelled, but there were others too: Tania Rose talking of her father, Morgan Phillips Price MP for the Dean from 1935 until 1959; David Preece’s fascinating range of interviews with our senior voices of the Forest; Stafford Cottman who fought in Spain during the civil war at only 17, the cycling Turner’s and many, many more.

The Clarion is living political history both nationally and locally. You can read it in its letters and articles from the likes of regulars John Wilmot, Ruth Richardson, Alan Mowatt, Claude Mickleson, or Glynn Ford (our former MEP) again to name but a few repeat offenders. Then there’s the reports from Tolpuddle; the local and national elections (including the election of Labour in 1997 and Diana Organ in the Dean); the disruptive treks around Britain’s atomic weapon factory in Aldermaston or individual reports from the Stop the War marches; both times they tried to sell-off our forests; the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh; a series on 100 years of Labour; the innumerable times they tried to destroy our NHS; a visit to Auschwitz and, of course the victory for trade union rights at GCHQ.

My personal favourite? That would be Bill Punt’s piece on terrorism and Palestine in issue #46. In eight short paragraphs you get all that is wrong about the conflict between Israel and Palestine and, more widely, answers the question of its title: ‘What makes a terrorist?’.

By way of spot-check, that same issue feature articles on GM, the health service, regeneration in the Forest, the expulsion of George Galloway from Labour, a report of a Forest community voices project, a poem by Ron Todd, our editorial comment (also on GM but alongside that a piece on the nature of work in modern times), plus a review of Mark Curtis’ book ‘Web of Deceit’. Such is the variety of the Clarion, as I am sure you’re aware.

Nonetheless, The Clarion has never been afraid to let readers make up their own minds. Our letters section is normally where the real debate happens, not the articles. Now we have our website (www.theclarion.org.uk) and a Facebook page, but back in issue 21, for example, we gave the centre pages to readers’ varying views of the NATO bombing of the Balkans that would see the death of Yugoslavia.

More than any other topic though, we analyse the nature, success and failures of socialism – but always in our shared goal of helping one another achieve it. The road may differ, but the destination remains the same. That place is best described by our ‘aims and objectives’ which adorn the back page of every issue. These first appeared in issue 4 and probably remain our Editor-in-Chief’s, Alistair Graham’s, greatest moment in and for The Clarion.

We have seen Labour come and go locally and nationally; but we remain united, through co-operative initiatives like The Clarion, in our shared belief of a better world for all. It might take another 100 issues – but we’ll be here, knocking down the right, trying to unite the left and keeping it on track when it strays.

Support us. Support 21st century democratic socialism, peace and social justice.

CARL SPIBY
Clarion Editorial Committee Member

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