“Posh ladies came in to dust the bust of Lenin in the basement.” Photo: Getty
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When I worked at Marxism Today, my desire to earn a living proved to be somewhat déclassé

The left has a strange relationship with its workers. Love, not money, counts.

I had never had a job interview like it – rather, two interviews of two hours each for working part-time on a small magazine. There were four of them and just one of me and by the end of the first interview I was talking nonsense about post-structuralism, as they hadn’t even given me a cup of tea.

The magazine was Marxism Today, which never considered itself small. I wanted to work there as it was the locus of ideas that interested me. Its influence was huge not because it represented the left but because the right thought that it did.

The sticking point when it came to giving me a job seemed to be that I wasn’t in the Communist Party. “We are worried about your commitment to the project,” the interviewers said sternly. It was the first time I’d heard that word – “project” – used in this way, though it was taken up later by the ex-Communist Party people who moved straight into Tony Blair’s No 10.

“What project is that, then?” I asked. They seemed nervous.

“Revolution,” someone said, quietly.

“Oh, that. Yeah! I’m really into that.”

My not being in the party had repercussions, such as what happened when the phones were cut off after the managing editor forgot to pay the bill. Everyone was sent home and they weren’t paid, as they were “in the party” – but I was. My attitude to being paid was problematic. It was seen
as a betrayal.

Elderly trade unionists grumpily manned the reception. Posh ladies came in to dust the bust of Lenin in the basement. The actual workings of the party remained mysterious. Mostly, people shouted at me. I’d phone up someone to write a piece and they would start yelling at me about Czechoslovakia.

“Tankies?” said everyone, nodding.

We were – and I write “we” loosely – Eurocommunists. This, to me, was embodied by a stylish Italian woman who floated around smoking vigorously and who would talk about hegemony with a cashmere cardigan perched just so on her shoulders.

We never paid writers. You did it for the glory. I persuaded the likes of Angela Carter, David Hockney, Linford Christie and even Jean Baudrillard to give their time for free. When someone ordered thousands of pounds’ worth of the wrong paper for a print run, I imagined that this would close it all down – but no. Apparently lots of people had left money to the party in their wills.

My preoccupation with earning a living was somewhat déclassé. The left has a strange relationship with its workers. Love, not money, counts. They paid me £50 a week and were indeed right about my commitment to the project. Bizarrely, my personal project involved a living wage. Years later the story about Moscow gold financing the party came out. If only I had some of it!

Suzanne Moore is a writer for the Guardian and the New Statesman. She writes the weekly “Telling Tales” column in the NS.

This article first appeared in the 22 July 2015 issue of the New Statesman, How Labour went mad for Jeremy Corbyn

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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