Saturday, December 7, 2013

All About Me

It's time for that annual, self-indulgent post celebrating the first anniversary of this blog. On December 6th, 2012 I posted About This Blog, where I laid out my mission. Short, civil, critical pieces about American Trotskyism were what I promised, with columns appearing every week or so. I use the word column advisedly, because that's the model I'm emulating. These aren't tweets, but neither are they books. If Paul Krugman and Tom Friedman can live with a 1200 word limit, then so can I. Brevity is clarity.

I promised that my blog would be exclusively about Trotskyism. This is a promise I have not been able to keep--instead half my posts are about other topics altogether. There are several reasons for this. First, I'm interested in other things, and since I can't support multiple blogs, it all ends up here. 

Second, the Trotskyist newspapers are explicitly designed as political propaganda. Trotskyists are out to change the world, and not interpret it. Their papers read more like press releases, unlike most publications that are a forum for ideas and discussion. That means they tend to be repetitive and not very substantive. There just isn't that much to write about.

I started by covering four publications all produced by some of my former comrades in the Socialist Workers Party. These are The Militant, Socialist Action, Socialist Viewpoint, and Solidarity (links all on right). Of these, the best by far is The Militant. This is a bit surprising given the supposed insanity of Jack Barnes, along with accusations of cult-like behavior. But in terms of writing quality, reporting, cogency and professionalism, The Militant has them all beat.

Socialist Action, by comparison, is shrill and bombastic. The writing is much more uneven. There is less original reporting, and they believe anything vaguely Leftish, no matter how outlandish. At its worst, it reads like something printed up in the middle of the night by the Occupy movement.

Socialist Viewpoint isn't really a newspaper, but rather a bi-monthly magazine. It's edited rather than reported, and so isn't really in the same league as the other two. I usually find something interesting here, though I gotta say the November-December issue has let me down.

Solidarity is not really Trotskyist any more (I'll have to post a column about that). Not that that's a sin--I'm not much of a Trotskyist myself--but they've evolved into something that is just not that interesting to me. Still, they are doing a superb job covering Detroit. I'll keep them on my blogroll.

To keep myself busy, I've added two other publications. One is Louis Proyect's Unrepentant Marxist. Like me, Mr. Proyect is a former comrade who has left the Trotskyist movement. But he remains a Marxist, at least in name. His interests are mostly orthogonal to mine--he writes about the arts, history, and Marxist theological philosophical debates. My concerns are more economics, science, politics, and higher education. Still, his blog is my aspirational goal--I one day hope to have a site that is as widely read as his.

Most recently I've added Counterpunch, which looks to be a bigger, better funded version of Socialist Viewpoint. I'm still learning about them.

I do have some people to thank. First and foremost is Mr. Proyect, who has very graciously and generously let me advertise my blog in his comment section. My first readers were from among his audience, and at least on relevant posts, they remain readers today.

Similarly, Joel Kotkin at New Geography and Walter Russell Mead at via Meadia have extended the same courtesy. I am similarly appreciative, and in all cases I have tried not to abuse the privilege.

Looking back of the past year, I think these are my three best posts:
  • My most imaginative post was entitled Food Network And The New Normal. Not many people can turn Chopped into political commentary. 
  • The best explication of a complex idea is Getting Richer While Feeling Poorer. It's my optimistic take on the new economy. Admittedly, it's a bit longer than 1200 words.
  • The best written article is Viva Poverty! If I could produce writing like that twice a week, then I'd have a job at the New York Times.
When my son was in kindergarten, he'd ask preschooler questions like "Daddy, what's the tallest mountain in the world?" That was easy. But then would come the stumper: "What's the shortest mountain in the world?" So, in deference to your inner child, here are a few of the worst things I've posted over the last year. These are the reasons why I definitely am not working at the New York Times.
  • I did read David Leonhardt's book, Here's the Deal. But if this review makes any sense, please let me know what it is.
  • This one is just incoherent. Combining Zimmerman and Syria into one post is dumb.
  • Canaries in the Coal Mine is a great headline. Unfortunately, the article isn't really about that. It's true bait and switch. Click here and you will be--bored to tears.
These, and maybe a few more notwithstanding, I'm generally happy with the quality of my output. I have a day job and other demands on my time--it is impossible for me to produce consistently tightly-crafted work. For an amateur I'm doing OK. Obviously, I find the topics I write about intensely interesting, and it appears there are a few readers out there who share some of those interests. If you're reading this, you're probably one of them. Thank you.

Further Reading:

1 comment:

  1. Just bumped into your comment on a conservative blog. What an interesting project you gave yourself!