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Direct Action: a blast from the past.

by Dave Riley

I'm not one for too much nostalgia but the new Direct Action archive on the web takes me back thirty seven years.


By publishing standards today, DA was a crude put together -- composed on a IBM ball typewriter that was driven by --of all things -- electricity!

Nonetheless, the publishing venture that began way back then continues its momentum today in the aegis of Green Left Weekly.

I can think back and cringe at the sort of crude journalism I was capable of then. But for guts and boldness, DA was a major step forward in the sort of political cutting edge that was then on offer.

I came to Direct Action after a year long stint selling the Communist Party's newspaper, Tribune --
"Tribune! Tribune! The only paper your boss doesn't own or print!"
So I was not a newbie to flogging the left press when I started flogging DA #2.

But Direct Action sold in a way that Tribune did not. Tribune no doubt -- being a weekly at that time when DA was not -- sold many more copies that Direct Action. But among the radicalising layer of young people, DA soon garnered its own special niche and became a marker of a certain political attitude and advocacy.

You could indeed yell out with abandonment:
"Direct Action! New socialist newspaper! Ten cents!"
And people would listen...and buy your political wares.

Many thousands of papers have been sold since then within the ambit that was the DA/GLW trajectory. So many that today, Green Left Weekly is the best asset the left can lay claim to in this country -- and the Green Left Weekly story is probably unique internationally.

Nonetheless there are many on the left who simply don't comprehend the point of the exercise -- or understand why a publishing venture can be so important to what you do politically.

In the era of blogs and social media on the web it may seem a retarded shibboleth to persist with a hard copy newspaper. But then you'd miss the core process that is involved in editing, writing for and distributing a weekly journal such as this. The effort has a consistent logic that Lenin was so very articulate in exploring.

In fact the more I explore the vagaries of what's on offer from the web, the more I recognise the core underpinnings of hard copy journalism. While I think more integration of on line and offline content needs to be engineered -- I cannot imagine a way to replicate Direct Action's or Green Left Weekly's relevance or experience than by the writing, publication and distribution by the means that have been the core practice these last 37 years.

DA was born in the street and today GLW still lives there. That's an iron political rule because each seller is a protest unto themselves. And each seller is a political animal you can relate to and engage with in real time.

This is all about putting your politics up front and out there. The web in contrast can be very shallow in comparison despite all the pretense to interactivity.

That's because, I think, only off the web and in the street can politics become real.




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