Eclectics in Perspective|
Perspectives, available from Transeuropa, BM 6682, London W.C.1 Subscription: œ10 for 4 issues (œ11 outside Europe). Sample copy œ2 10/ inc. postage. Fourth World Review, available from 24 Abercorn Place, London N.W.8 Subscription: œ0 to œ220 depending on status. Sample copy œ1 5/ inc. postage.
ON SUPERFICIAL INSPECTION, both these periodicals have a similar flavour: eclectic, at times eccentric, greenish, serving similar worthy causes. In the case of Perspectives, "European identities, autonomies and initiatives", in that of 4WR, "small nations, small communities and the human spirit". Indeed, both have a similar purpose, to offer, now that Marxist Communism is apparently in eclipse, an alternative to the all pervading global engulfment by what Professor J.R.R. Tolkien memorably termed "Americo-cosmopolitanism", an alternative founded not, as Communism was, on the creating of a rival planet-spanning homogenous monolith of centralised power, but on fostering the springing up everywhere and empowerment of diverse, locally based communities. In seeking such an alternative both periodicals range more or less widely. 4WR features articles from, or about, E.F. Schumacher, Professor Leopold Kohr, Peter Cadogan, and sundry factions within European and American Green Parties. Its list of patrons ranges from Sir Richard Body M.P. to the "radical deschooler" Ivan Illich, from self-sufficiency guru John Seymour to science-fiction and fantasy writer Ursula K. LeGuin, from Princess Natalie d'Arbeloff to ex-Labour leader Michael Foot's wife Jill Tweedie.
Perspectives traverses an even broader terrain, from J.R.R. Tolkien to electronic rockers Kraftwerk; from Proudhon to Wyndham Lewis; from Marco Tarchi of the Italian New Right to the Green anarchist Richard Hunt; from Basque culture to Modernism in art, to the Gulf War, to the significance of the Spaghetti Western, to European separatist struggles from Scotland to Silesia. Both publications lapse at times from eclecticism into sheer eccentricity. For 4WR this is largely a reflection of the personality of its editorial driving force, John Papworth. Thus half a page is devoted to canonising the first reader to renew his subscription, whilst subscription rates themselves appear to depend on the possession or otherwise by the putative subscriber of shirts, false teeth, dishwashers and wall-to-wall carpets. Several pages of each issue are also devoted to a discussion of Mr.Papworth's recent social activities, with notable name dropping and rather "luvvieish" anecdotes of how simply charming it was to share nut-cutlets with so- and-so at such-and-such a worthy function.
Perspectives is less personally idiosyncratic; it is produced by a writers' collective, who refrain from sharing with us a list of the people they have met and pubs they have drunk in (Perspectives is, I think, more real ale than nut-cutlet in its authorial flavour). But it too has on occasions wandered into curious byways and peculiar digressions. In neither cases do the eccentricities do more than add a touch of spice to the broth of ideas these two periodicals serve up, broths that, although both nourishing enough in their way to those starved by the bland intellectual Big Macs served up by the Americo- cosmopolitanist prevailing orthodoxy, differ significantly, despite superficial similarity. It is a difference in some ways arising out of the vintage and provenance of the cooks serving them. 4WR, although itself founded in 1984, traces its origins back to 1966, and the launch by then peace campaigner Mr. Papworth of the still existent similar journal Resurgence. Indeed, Mr. Papworth seems to have accumulated the ingredients of his ideological recipe in the 1960's and early '70's (Schumacher, Illich, Rachel Carson, Leopold Kohr, "Small is Beautiful", Seymourist "The Good Life" self-sufficiencyism alas without Felicity Kendal etc.) and to have changed them little since. In particular, it retains the Sixties woolly internationalist do-goodery, sharpened into a Nineties Political Correctness with which Mr. Papworth has chosen intellectually to geld himself. He pays lip-service to the reawakened sense of ethno-cultural identity which the end of the Cold War has fostered, and rejoices in the break up that has induced of artificial states such as Yugoslavia and the USSR, but although he talks of "the need to rethink national boundaries in terms of ethnic and bioregional realities", when confronted with any serious discussion of such realities he prefers to bolt back into his safe Sixties liberal burrow. So did he memorably in his now infamous "sewer rat" epistle in issue 11 of this magazine, a magazine he once praised but now condemns to the Orwellian memory hole because it has dared print letters from the Politically in-Correct. Instead he plays safe, prattling of having had interesting discussions with bodies of Sikhs in East Ham and of having his "Fourth World Assembly" symposia opened by his good friend "Jagdish Dhillon Singh of Coventry", despite the questions about their and their host communities' continuing ethnic/cultural identities posed by their presence in such places. These are questions he prefers not to ask, lest, one presumes, the answers disquiet him and lose him his much trumpeted invites to lavish buffets at the Zambian Embassy. The result is that 4WR is essentially static. Mr Papworth reached the end of his intellectual journey a quarter of a century ago, and now is content simply to re-heat the same old, if not unnourishing, fare and serve it up every other month.
Perspectives came from somewhere very different and is still en route to a destination as yet to be clearly discovered. The magazine, founded in 1989, traces its origins, as the authorial collective acknowledge in their interesting self-interview in issue 6, to the mid- Eighties cultural group IONA, with which The Scorpion jointly hosted symposia at the time. IONA itself largely comprised former British Nationalists in process of emancipating themselves from what they saw as the outdated concept of "Britain" and seeking to advance beyond a "Nationalism" to which clung, in their view, much that was out- dated, discredited and overtaken by events. They began a quest which continues to this day in the pages of Perspectives for a "rooted radicalism": "Radicalism" in springing from an utter rejection of the planet devouring greed and homogenising sterility of the global Americo- capitalist socio-economic machine, whose present unchallenged advance the "Right" trumpets as triumph. "Rooted" in contrast to the rootless cosmopolitan internationalism which doomed its Marxist, anarchist and Green adherents of the "Left" to failure and irrelevance. In this quest they have been joined by others from a diversity of backgrounds: Trotskyite, Stalinist, Anarchist, Green, Regionalist, Celticist, in these islands and, increasingly, across Europe, similarly seeking a new dream, a new hope, a new vision to hold aloft in the face of the all- devouring darkness of the global multi-national midnight. It is this quest, this sense that, as the Perspectives collective put it, "all positions are provisional", that makes the magazine so exciting. Whilst each issue of 4WR, like so many other magazines is largely predictable in its reaction to events, each issue of Perspectives must be eagerly awaited to see what new ideas have bubbled up from the fertile brew of the authorial think-tank, ideas influenced by others, but often very much their own.
Perspectives is not, as it makes clear, the "English language voice" of the "European New Right/New Culture", (although it sprang from and still broadly and critically sympathises with that intellectual current) or indeed of anything but itself. So it takes its own road. On Maastricht, for example, whilst Mr. Papworth could only offer a Letter to Her Majesty the Queen bewailing the erosion of Lizzie Battenberg's "sovereignty". a letter worthy of "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells", thereby taking the standard line of most groups on this wave-length, Perspectives supported the treaty, not because the collective agreed with it in itself but because they felt that opposing it was to encourage British isolation at the expense of any European dimension. One may disagree, but at least someone has clearly thought for themselves here. Similarly, whilst Romanticism has been widely championed amongst opponents of internationalism, Perspectives has espoused the early 20th Century Modernist movement (albeit manifesting itself for a while in a somewhat absurd crusade against capital letters in its pages!) It has also introduced to a wider audience the Italian Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci's concept of cultural hegemony and his valuable analysis of how the System uses the media and culture to maintain and reinforce its grip upon the people. This reappraisal of long neglected, or altogether neglected in certain quarters, ideas and thinkers in search of new insights into our present plight is an especially valuable service which this journal performs. It is a constant ferment of fresh ideas and insights, and therein lies its worth. One need not agree with every step in Perspectives progress to wish it well and share the excitement and adventure of the journey, a journey which, if it succeeds in transcending the stale negativistic bigotry and PC auto-lobotomy which have for so long divided the opponents of the present world System, if it succeeds in uniting them around a vision and a purpose and an alternative to "Americo- cosmopolitanism", will at last offer a real chance of saving our peoples and cultures and ethnic identities from homogenisation into bland burger-filling sludge by the global Capitalist mincing-machine into which they are being inexorably fed. Even if it fails, the journey will have been worthwhile and those who followed it will have learned much on which much may yet be built.