Tuesday, 8 March 2011

A year of Counterfire

Here's a brief retrospective on the first year of the Counterfire website, to which I contribute regularly, prompted by realising that today is our 1st birthday. Counterfire is of course more than just a website - it is a revolutionary organisation, with the site as its political hub.

We launched on 8 March 2010. International Women's Day seemed an apt occasion -and in our opening week we carried Lindsey German's succinct Feminist Manifesto.

In terms of news coverage - which I'm giving little attention to here, due to its ephemeral nature  - we had a coup in the first week, with the election of Counterfire founder member Clare Solomon as president of University of London Union. She is now standing for re-election, with online voting by ULU students starting tomorrow.

Neil Faulkner's A Marxist History of the World series has been an undoubted success, and is due to be turned into a book. There have now been 29 installments in this hugely ambitious project. Neil has been, to put it mildly, prolific - he also wrote an 11-part series on arguments about the cuts (also available as a pamphlet) and a number of theoretical articles.

There have been forays into publishing. As well as Neil's cuts pamphlet and a couple of pamphlets collating articles from the site, Counterfire's first two short books were published last September. 'Strategy and tactics' by John Rees and 'Lukacs: capitalism and class consciousness' by Chris Nineham are designed to summarise the best of the marxist tradition for a new generation.

Lukacs, the great Marxist philosopher, has been a recurring presence on the site. We've also published Tony McKenna's essay on reification and class consciousness and my own 'Lukacs after Leninism' .

As well as new theoretical articles there's been a series of archive pieces, several of which I edited and introduced. These archive items include Alexandra Kollontai on class and women's oppression, Tony Cliff's 'Democratic revolution or socialist revolution?'  and, to mark the 70th anniversary of Trotsky's death in August, a chapter from The Lessons of October.

One of the most innovative things we've published was the Stitched Up series, in which Tansy Hoskins analysed the politics and economics of fashion (the first time I've seen this topic analysed in any real depth from a marxist perspective).

A regular feature is the weekly book review, overseen by the site's reviews editor Dominic Alexander. One of Dominic's own reviews has been very widely-read: his excellent 'Arguing Socialism' surveys three introductions to socialist thought.

The student protests triggered a number of debates. The many interventions by Counterfire activists included Kate Connelly's timely article on lessons from the Suffragettes , Elly Badcock's 'Students call for Aaron Porter to resign' and James Meadway's invaluable 'Where next for the student revolt?'

In many ways Counterfire came into its own with the emergence of popular revolution in the Arab world. Joseph Daher's numerous articles, beginning with reports of revolution in Tunisia, deserve a special mention - see this piece for example.

There are loads of other things I could mention, but that will do. Ady Cousins continues to work exceptionally hard as editor, supported by the editorial team and regular contributors. I look forward to our second year...


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