23 August 2019
This was going to be my editorial for Lumpen, but I changed my mind and am writing something else. Nonetheless I’m sharing it here.
In all honesty the journal in your hands probably only exists because I am a football hipster. I’d like to pretend I’m now, after all admitting to be a football hipster is akin to admitting to being a right knob head. Given that I’m a product of council estates, state interventions and institutions, have lived the life that meant I wrote ‘Chav Solidarity’, it’d be easier for me to act like I’m just a right proper football fan. But I’ve got a subscription to the Athletic, my favourite you tube channel is Tifo Football and I think Julian Naggelsmann is the bees knees. More importantly I love the Blizzard. In the football world loving the Blizzard is akin to saying that J Dilla is the most important hip hop artist of all time, or only listening to the Mountain Goats albums that were recorded on a boom box. It’s basically being into the nichest thing of a pretty niche thing that’s actually part of the wider social and political landscape. It’s basically a way to highlight your cleverness to yourself and others. Maybe it’s like being in Plan C.
I’ve had a subscription to the Blizzard since it began, it was the brainchild of the brianiest of football historian’s and Sunderland fan Jonathan Wilson. He’s a bit of a big noise in football writing and he wanted to create football publication where long form football writing that didn’t really fit in anywhere else could come to rest. The Blizzard comes through my door four times a year, and it’s great. Most of you would be bored silly, by it. But we all have hobbies, and esoteric football stories is mine. It pleases me aesthetically as well. I’ve got all the issues in a nice row on a book shelf in my office/spare room/storage space.
This is relevant because originally Lumpen was going to be a one off book, and over the months where folks submitted essays, I kept glancing up those pretty copies of the Blizzard and I began to think fuck the book, this shouldn’t be a book. It should instead be quarterly journal, that could sit on someone elses book shelf. The difference, hopefully, is that this not a fucking hobby. The politics of poor and working class people, their ideas, their lives, their blood are to me the most important thing. And one of the reasons Lumpen or something like it needs to exist is because those politics, ideas and lives have been over time shunted over time out of the political discourse. Room has been left for them to teach, to enter into dialogue with one another in a space where they can take their time, where they can share reflections and hear from others with similar stories to tell and ideas to put forth.
Why call it “Lumpen: A journal for poor and working class writing”? Why does poor need to be in their? How are you defining working class? Why “Lumpen”? A dry, barely used term to describe a bunch of people Marxists get snooty about. Well we chose Lumpen ’cause we liked it, liked how it sounded, but more importantly because it’s supposedly the Marxist term that describes the communities we come from. Those who are apparently wrapped up in a culture of dependency, who are uninterested about political advancement. Lumpen proletariat are the part of the working class that much of the left turn their noses up at, it is in many ways the same group of people who were called Chav’s. This also speaks to why we say “poor and working class”, we’re not to interested in laborious conversations about what constitutes working class, we’ll go with the idea that it’s those of us who have to sell our labour to survive, and leave it at that. What matters is that the working class is socially fragmented, stratified and atomised. Many of those who dominated left leaning political discourse are from the working class, they’re in their trade unions, they’re in their local activist groups, they’re battling for better pay and conditions, they’re fighting the good fight yada, yada, yada. But really, due to the social fragmentation of our class they’re lives are radically different to those that have lived lives of poverty, that might be or have been described as lumpen or chavs. That’s why it’s poor and working class, we’re making space for those who have been situated at the economic bottom of the working class. Whether that be the minimum wage worker, the street corner dealer, the agency worker, the sex worker, the benefit cheat, the asylum seeker, the football hooligan, the three generations unemployed, those of us who could have been invited on Jermey “he’s a piece of shit” Kyle.
Plenty of the writers in this first issue are no longer in those economic margins, a couple of them even have pretty reasonable buffers stopping them from getting pushed down into that situation again. But their experiences remain valid, the lessons they have maintain relevance.
When the original call out for submissions we said “The essay can be on anything, but of particular interest. 1) Experiences in radical social movements when coming from poor and working class backgrounds. 2) What is the state of the world, what’s your analysis of it? Are there any problems with how the left in all it’s forms have acted over the last 50 years? What strategies can be effective?3) Anything you like about your experiences, politics and class. Most submissions will be accepted, unless they start shitting on more marginalised people.” And to a large extent this promise was kept. Many of the writers who submitted their work, have a piece in here. Those that don’t might have one in the future, and others were shitting on more marginalised people. In future we’ll probably be more selective, try and keep it a little more focused. Dunno, maybe we won’t.
The Lumpen journal is not intended to stand alone, we’re going to try and start knocking together podcasts where we chat with poor and working class organisers. We’re looking to publish some books, support other writers whose work we get a kick out of to get there work out there. And over time we hope to get good at publishing, spreading the work of poor and working class writers far and wide. Because, and I say this in the spirit of candour. The world of publishing, writing and books is a classist, and racist, crock of shit. And I don’t just mean Penguin, Pelican and Pecan, whatever the fuck, and I don’t just mean Waterstones or Blackwells, and I don’t just mean Amazon. Although obviously something should obviously be done about Jeff Bezo’s little fiefdom. I mean almost all of it.