Tribune magazine to close

Democratic socialist magazine to cease publication after 75 years, leaving website feed behind.

It's with great sadness that the New Statesman has learned of the imminent closure of Tribune, the left-wing weekly founded in 1937.

During its early years, Tribune campaigned for a second front against Hitler's Germany, hired George Orwell as literary editor and deemed itself "the official weekly of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament".

It will leave behind an unstaffed website with "automated feeds" coming from other left-of-centre publications. A statement to be published in the magazine later this week says:

Tribune is to cease publication in its 75th year. Unless arrangements can be found for new ownership or funding within days the last edition will be next week, 4 November. The decision has been made by Tribune Publications 2009 Ltd after a substantial cash injection failed to raise subscriptions and income to target levels.

The Company intends to maintain a Tribune website, which will carry automated feeds from other left of centre sources and will require no staff. All six full-time and part-time staff are to be made redundant.

Owner Kevin McGrath has indicated to staff that if they wish to continue to run Tribune as a co-operative he is prepared to transfer the Company and the archive of 75 years editions to them free of any historical debt, which he has committed to honouring. In collaboration with senior officials from the National Union of Journalists, the Editor and staff are exploring the possibility of setting up a co-operative to keep the title alive but with a deadline of Friday 28 October, time is regrettably short. Talks are taking placed in advance of a crunch meeting on that date at which new arrangements will be agreed or the Company will be closed. Among the options under review with experts in co-op models of management is an appeal for short-term donations from readers and supporters on the basis that these funds would be converted into capital in a jointly-owned worker-reader co-op, with representation on a new Board. The staff have agreed to continue working in order to get out a final edition and allow some time, short as it is, for an alternative to be found.

Mr McGrath, who rescued the paper after a consortium of trade unions relinquished ownership in March 2009, said: "The newspaper format of Tribune has, in a changing world of electronic communications and economics, become unsustainable. We are, however, determined to keep the Tribune brand alive by moving all publication to its web site and through the continued maintenance of the archive of the paper's 75 years.

"This means that the Company has safeguarded the history of Tribune and will keep the brand alive through the web site which will run on an automated basis feeding off other left of centre political and arts web sites and will offer immediate, up-to-date news coverage. It is a positive and exciting move into the 21st century.

"I would personally like to thank all the staff for their hard work and commitment to Tribune over the years. I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank all our loyal readers for their support and hope they will stay with Tribune at tribunemagazine.co.uk and archive.tribunemagazine.co.uk "

"Since its launch in January 1937 Tribune has been a renowned journal of intellectual, literary journalistic and artistic merit. As a weekly, independent journal of the labour movement it is needed now more than ever."

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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Erdogan’s purge was too big and too organised to be a mere reaction to the failed coup

There is a specific word for the melancholy of Istanbul. The city is suffering a mighty bout of something like hüzün at the moment. 

Even at the worst of times Istanbul is a beautiful city, and the Bosphorus is a remarkable stretch of sea. Turks get very irritated if you call it a river. They are right. The Bosphorus has a life and energy that a river could never equal. Spend five minutes watching the Bosphorus and you can understand why Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s Nobel laureate for literature, became fixated by it as he grew up, tracking the movements of the ocean-going vessels, the warships and the freighters as they steamed between Asia and Europe.

I went to an Ottoman palace on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, waiting to interview the former prime minister Ahmet Davu­toglu. He was pushed out of office two months ago by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he appeared to be too wedded to the clauses in the Turkish constitution which say that the prime minister is the head of government and the president is a ceremonial head of state. Erdogan was happy with that when he was prime minister. But now he’s president, he wants to change the constitution. If Erdogan can win the vote in parliament he will, in effect, be rubber-stamping the reality he has created since he became president. In the days since the attempted coup, no one has had any doubt about who is the power in the land.

 

City of melancholy

The view from the Ottoman palace was magnificent. Beneath a luscious, pine-shaded garden an oil tanker plied its way towards the Black Sea. Small ferries dodged across the sea lanes. It was not, I hasten to add, Davutoglu’s private residence. It had just been borrowed, for the backdrop. But it reminded a Turkish friend of something she had heard once from the AKP, Erdogan’s ruling party: that they would not rest until they were living in the apartments with balconies and gardens overlooking the Bosphorus that had always been the preserve of the secular elite they wanted to replace.

Pamuk also writes about hüzün, the melancholy that afflicts the citizens of Istanbul. It comes, he says, from the city’s history and its decline, the foghorns on the Bosphorus, from tumbledown walls that have been ruins since the fall of the Byzantine empire, unemployed men in tea houses, covered women waiting for buses that never come, pelting rain and dark evenings: the city’s whole fabric and all the lives within it. “My starting point,” Pamuk wrote, “was the emotion that a child might feel while looking through a steamy window.”

Istanbul is suffering a mighty bout of something like hüzün at the moment. In Pamuk’s work the citizens of Istanbul take a perverse pride in hüzün. No one in Istanbul, or elsewhere in Turkey, can draw comfort from what is happening now. Erdogan’s opponents wonder what kind of future they can have in his Turkey. I think I sensed it, too, in the triumphalist crowds of Erdogan supporters that have been gathering day after day since the coup was defeated.

 

Down with the generals

Erdogan’s opponents are not downcast because the coup failed; a big reason why it did was that it had no public support. Turks know way too much about the authoritarian ways of military rule to want it back. The melancholy is because Erdogan is using the coup to entrench himself even more deeply in power. The purge looks too far-reaching, too organised and too big to have been a quick reaction to the attempt on his power. Instead it seems to be a plan that was waiting to be used.

Turkey is a deeply unhappy country. It is hard to imagine now, but when the Arab uprisings happened in 2011 it seemed to be a model for the Middle East. It had elections and an economy that worked and grew. When I asked Davutoglu around that time whether there would be a new Ottoman sphere of influence for the 21st century, he smiled modestly, denied any such ambition and went on to explain that the 2011 uprisings were the true succession to the Ottoman empire. A century of European, and then American, domination was ending. It had been a false start in Middle Eastern history. Now it was back on track. The people of the region were deciding their futures, and perhaps Turkey would have a role, almost like a big brother.

Turkey’s position – straddling east and west, facing Europe and Asia – is the key to its history and its future. It could be, should be, a rock of stability in a desperately un­stable part of the world. But it isn’t, and that is a problem for all of us.

 

Contagion of war

The coup did not come out of a clear sky. Turkey was in deep crisis before the attempt was made. Part of the problem has come from Erdogan’s divisive policies. He has led the AKP to successive election victories since it first won in 2002. But the policies of his governments have not been inclusive. As long as his supporters are happy, the president seems unconcerned about the resentment and opposition he is generating on the other side of politics.

Perhaps that was inevitable. His mission, as a political Islamist, was to change the country, to end the power of secular elites, including the army, which had been dominant since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk created modern Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman empire. And there is also the influence of chaos and war in the Middle East. Turkey has borders with Iraq and Syria, and is deeply involved in their wars. The borders do not stop the contagion of violence. Hundreds of people have died in the past year in bomb attacks in Turkish cities, some carried out by the jihadists of so-called Islamic State, and some sent by Kurdish separatists working under the PKK.

It is a horrible mix. Erdogan might be able to deal with it better if he had used the attempted coup to try to unite Turkey. All the parliamentary parties condemned it. But instead, he has turned the power of the state against his opponents. More rough times lie ahead.

Jeremy Bowen is the BBC’s Middle East editor. He tweets @bowenbbc

This article first appeared in the 28 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Double Issue