The history of the old Labour left weekly Tribune was not a glorious one. In its early years, which were also the time of the Moscow Trials, it supported Stalin’s regime in the USSR uncritically.
Between 1947 and 1950 it was firmly on the side of the USA and NATO in the Cold War.
From the mid-1980s, under Nigel Williamson and then Phil Kelly as editors, its politics dissolved into soft-leftist alignment with Labour’s establishment, and its last 30 years were a slow but dismal slide into extinction.
But in its best years, with Michael Foot in the 1950s, and to some degree even in its not-so-good years under Richard Clements’ long editorship, 1960 to 1982, it had the merit of giving some forum for ideas and debate. Notoriously, readers turned to its lively letters pages first, before the straight articles.
Now Tribune has been relaunched as a bimonthly magazine. The new magazine shares with the old newspaper a propensity for soft leftism, and with some of its phases a propensity for deference to Stalinism; but the better side of the old paper is missing.
Not only no letters. No debate. And an extraordinary price. Presumably to cover the costs of the tricksy graphic design, the new Tribune costs £6.95, though really none of its articles are more substantial than the old newspaper’s. The old Tribune of 1941 cost the equivalent then of 60p now; the Tribune of 1990 (having to inflate its price to compensate for shrinking circulation) the equivalent of £1.55, still cheap enough for a lower-paid worker to buy regularly.
A pity. Let’s hope it finds ways to improve.