Report on Green Left Weekly

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[Simon Butler co-edits Green Left Weekly. This article is based on a speech to the 8th Socialist Alliance National Conference on January 22.]

Very soon, Green Left Weekly turns 21 years’ old. That’s not a bad achievement for a radical left news source in a fairly conservative, stable country like Australia.

Throughout that time, GLW’s style, tone, look and the emphasis of its coverage have changed many times. If it is to stay a useful tool in the fight for social justice and human dignity then it will surely need to change some more in the future too. This applies most of all to GLW’s online presence.

Some people have raised ideas to change GLW and we very much welcome the discussion. How to make GLW better should always be an open question.

I also want to thank all those who have called, emailed or walked into our office over the past year to give their honest feedback and advice. GLW is different from most media in that it depends on the volunteer efforts of hundreds of people each week. That so many supporters worry about how GLW can best reach a wider audience is a real plus, and makes for a better website and newspaper.

In the past 21 years, despite all the changes, GLW has kept making several arguments about the problems we face and the solutions to them.

One of these is an argument about injustice. The class system we live under breeds it, but things don't have to be this way. We think those who learn to accept injustice as natural or inevitable will themselves never truly be free. GLW supports all struggles against injustice and exploitation.

GLW is unashamedly biased in this respect. It tries to draw the links between the different issues. It seeks to convince people that their own freedom is tied up with the freedom of others.

GLW has also made an argument about solidarity. Any likely alternative social system to capitalism will have to be based on the notion of human solidarity, not profit and self-interest. The reason capitalism has lasted as long as it has, despite all the poverty, wars and pollution it creates, is because it is also such an effective system of divide and rule.

GLW celebrates examples of solidarity wherever they can be found. Each case is a glimpse of what the future could be like.

For 21 years, GLW has put an argument about revolution. Revolutions happen. Fundamental social change is not a dream: it's possible. There are revolutions taking place right now in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Revolutions are those beautiful times when people at the bottom of society realise they are powerful if they join together and struggle for change. Revolutions are the only way we'll ever get to see a world based on justice and solidarity. We'll never get there as long as corporations, bankers and armies run the planet.

But revolutions are also messy. They are never perfect. They never match up neatly with anyone's theory of social change. They are not singular events, but processes. Revolutions are unfolding struggles between contending social forces. The forms these struggles take can be unpredictable and surprising. Sometimes they go forwards, sometimes they stall and sometimes they go backwards.

GLW puts a lot of effort into covering the rebellions, uprisings, protests and revolutions that take place around the world. We try to avoid a simplistic approach to world affairs, where events become mere projections of how we think things should be. Rather, our goal is to build awareness, encourage solidarity and learn as much as we can for our own struggles at home.

Since it was founded, GLW has also made an argument about organisation. There is no way to change society without it. GLW exists to support independent class organisation. It supports groups that are independent from the top 1%, who control the economy, the media and governments.

GLW supports the Socialist Alliance, and Socialist Alliance members make the key contributions that keep GLW afloat. But GLW is not a narrow party publication. It is open to all those who are struggling to make the world better, safer, more just and more humane. The political organisations capable of challenging the system will be built out of these living struggles.

At the beginning of 2012, we live at a time when 1 billion of the world's people don't have enough to eat, while the 1% amasses ever more wealth. The Earth's fragile ecosystems are being pushed past points of no return and the world economy is in its greatest crisis since the Great Depression. The system is broken. It does not work.

If we thought a publication like GLW was important 21 years ago, then it’s doubly important now.