Explaining ourselves

Submitted by Anon on 18 May, 2007 - 5:58

Izzy Turnball asks (Solidarity 3/111) can the AWL, in this paper and at events, make its political language simpler, so that people such as herself with particular disabilities (dyslexia) or a lack of political background feel more at home. The answer is yes, in some particular ways, but not necessarily through the medium of the paper alone.

We do strive to have a mix of articles, so that there is always at least some things that are accessible to everyone. We can and should weed out jargon. Comrades should not “talk in initials”. If there is an obscure historical event or personality written about we should explain what we are talking about. We should investigate getting large print editions of the paper on our website (it is beyond our resources to do hard-copy versions).

We can do better in all these things.

However we cannot tailor all of the content of our articles towards people who are new to politics. Why not?

The AWL is different to other socialist groups not just in the particular positions we take on particular issues.

We feel that the basic socialist ideas of the last 150 years or more have, at the start of the 21st century, been eroded, damaged, lied about and buried. We see our job as unearthing and re-explaining those ideas. Necessarily that involves a lot of debate and discussion, some of it very complex indeed. It is not a job that we would necessarily have chosen for ourselves! I for one would much rather the simpler job of attacking capitalism and “preaching” socialism.

Yet we need to explain all our ideas, these complex ones included, to everyone.

Any socialist who knows their history will know that many working class people had to struggle to become acquainted with socialist ideas, not least because they had very little formal education. Working-class people today, who are still failed by the education system, are in a similar position.

In the past working class socialists would use public libraries.They would take what books they could get hold of and read and re-read until they understood. Should that be what we ask of people, their own “self-improving” effort? No. Although no one who wants to be a socialist can avoid “book reading” entirely, there are other ways to learn and these must be especially important for people in Izzy’s situation.

In the past, above all else, new socialists would absorb ideas from the “educated” socialists around them.

Solidarity will never be a “talking newspaper”. A paper is not something that its readers can ask questions of, or argue with, on the spot! It is up to us in the AWL to talk through, explain and listen to the people we sell the paper to. And if anything is not clear, we should be prepared to explain, encourage and introduce comrades to the many other different kinds of socialist material.

Cathy Nugent, editor

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