Tribune: After 74 years, is the voice of the literary left about to fall silent?

The weekly of George Orwell and Michael Foot faces closure

The left-wing weekly magazine Tribune's turbulent, 74-year history looks set to end this Friday, when its wealthy and politically ambitious owner, Kevin McGrath, meets the staff and their union representatives.

Last night, a statement on the website of the publication, which counts George Orwell and Michael Foot among its former staff, said: "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, November 4... 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 run automated feeds from other left-of-centre sources and will require no staff. All six full-time and part-time employees are to be made redundant."

Their one hope of survival is to persuade Mr McGrath to pay off all the magazine's debts and fund it until the end of the year, while they set up a co-operative which will produce the paper less frequently, and back it up with an online magazine.

"It's a viable alternative, and the labour movement must be given a chance to make it work," says the head of publishing at the National Union of Journalists, Barry Fitzpatrick.

Most people will conclude that Mr Fitzpatrick is whistling in the dark, though it would not be the first time Tribune has escaped from a seemingly hopeless position.

Most magazines start because someone perceives a gap in the market. Tribune was founded in 1937 because the wealthy barrister Stafford Cripps wanted an organ for the campaign to get the main left-wing factions, the Communists, the Independent Labour Party and Mr Cripps' own Socialist League to work together.

Left-wing unity was dead within two years; Tribune outlived it.

In 1956, Tribune sent a Dick Clements, later its longest-lasting editor, to cover the Communist Party conference, and he told me how their leader, Harry Pollitt, growled at him: "You may think Tribune is the organ of Nye Bevan and Michael Foot, but really it's the organ of Trotsky and [Trotskyite leader] Gerry Healy." Mr Pollitt knew no worse insult.

By that time, Mr Foot and Mr Bevan had made Tribune the voice of the Labour Party left. Mr Bevan became editor in 1941, unpaid because the paper was in financial crisis, and scoured Fleet Street for journalists with, as he put it, "good information and bad consciences" who would write and provide stories without payment.

Even Mr Bevan fell foul of the paper in the end. It never forgave him for his desertion of unilateral nuclear disarmament in 1957.

Mr Clements edited it from 1960 to 1982, giving Tribune its longest period of stability and security, sustained by advertising from left-wing trade unions.

After Mr Clements, there was a Bennite candidate, Chris Mullin, and a Kinnockite – soft left – candidate: I was Kinnock's candidate, and not getting the job was a lucky break, for I would have faced a staff united in bitter hostility.

Mr Mullin swung the paper sharply behind Tony Benn and Arthur Scargill, and the paper was nearly destroyed by a bitter legal battle with older shareholders who believed he had no right to do so.

After his departure in 1984, Tribune swung between left-wing factions as editors changed five more times up to its current leadership under Chris McLaughlin.

The paper nearly went bust again in 1988, and again in 2002 when a consortium of trade unions financed a rescue package. In 2004 this started to fall apart, and the new super-union Unite talked of making it a wholly-owned subsidiary – thereby cutting out its other union backers. It had to be rescued again in 2008, this time by Mr McGrath.

Within the Labour Party and the trade unions, Tribune has always had a symbolic importance which goes well beyond its generally small circulation.

Whether it survives is not yet clear, but the statement by the magazine's editorial board last night concluded on a defiant note: "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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Guru Careers: Sales Director / Business Development Manager

£35 - 45K + COMMISSION (NEG): Guru Careers: A Sales Director / Business Develo...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Manchester - Urgent Requirement!

£30000 - £35000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Sauce Recruitment: Senior Management Accountant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for a independently owne...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system