we finally managed to get most of our 9,000 copies of the first issue distributed. It was something of a small miracle performed almost entirely by voluntary help during the last month or so. To say that we—and in particular Janet Hase—are grateful would be to commit the understatement of the year. Without a hundred willing hands, ready to address labels, type stencils, fold single copies and hike round bulk orders, this letter would still be typed on top of an imposing pile of copies. As it was, we managed to secure an ancient addressograph just in the nick of time—a primitive machine and brother to the typewriter which a salesman offered to buy off us for the Typewriter Museum—seriously! So the new subscribers are now all on stencils, as well as on duplicate cards, distributed “up and down the country” to keep them safe from inquisitive fingers. For the next five issues, all we have to do (in theory) is to turn the handle. But the response to our appeal for Subscriptions was better than we expected—about 1,500 new subscribers to date, and they are still coming in, and have to be filed and sorted, and we would still be grateful if . . . Need I go on? Perhaps it’s a messy and inefficient way to push out a new Review, but when people knock on the door and ask, “Is there anything to do this evening?” we suddenly get some sense of why we are doing this at all.
Subscriptions: so far, good. This is the only stable base for the journal, and so long as we continue to draw in new readers, willing to commit themselves over six issues, we can guarantee to keep putting NLR out. We still, however, have (on a guess) the highest “readership” on the lowest circulation of any of the more popular, serious monthlies or bi-monthlies. Many people borrow rather than buy, and we have had several requests for extra copies from groups who want to pass the thing round. Of course, the main job is to get the journal read and discussed. But if you can manage to buy a copy for yourself, or take out a subscription, or persuade the local library or JCR or TU branch or Local Labour Party or whatever to take a copy as well—remember, it would be an enormous help to us. We have a sales chart on the wall which goes off into space after about 11,000 copies, and if we could strike that figure and hold it by NLR 3 or 4, we would be singing.
Sales on the first issue are very encouraging: donations and Banker’s Orders are not. We are up to about £900 in donations, which is really very good going—until you think of our target, which is £2,000. We really have to get there, you know, so there’s no point holding on to your cheque book hoping we’ll shut up about it. No journal breaks even just like that: the point of a donation is that it gives us a stable foundation on which to build. It’s better in the form of a Banker’s Order—even if it’s 5s. a month. At least it’s regular, we know it’s coming (most of the time: we have had one or two funny conversations with Bank Managers) and can budget for it. And it represents a tax on yourself for something which you want to support. After all, most of us are paying a little something towards the Missile Programme, but we have all been a little light-hearted about making a regular contribution in some form to keeping and maintaining a socialist press. At present our Socialist Tax is worth about £300 in guarantees a year—which is about half the cost of printing a single issue (not counting distribution, postage, salaries and overheads). If ‘Tory Freedom’ is working in your part of the world just now, how about letting us in too?
Most people seemed to like the first issue. Most people seemed to have read the first issue—I mean, right through, picking up what they liked, and arguing through the rest: without that look of glazed embarrassment which sometimes used to meet our enquiries about ULR (“Oh, that piece. . . . Was that in the last issue? . . .!”) People seemed to find NLR readable, approachable: it looked as if it was meant to be read, not just dropped behind the telly. Of course, no one issue will ever be just as we want it, and no reader will ever be interested in every item. But one of the jobs we do have to do, if a common sense is ever to come out of the New Left, is to draw readers into fields where they are not naturally at home, and hold their interests. We should like to know whether the economists read Wesker’s play, and whether the people who like Colin MacInnes’s piece in this issue, saw the relevance of the piece on Piccadilly, or read through Chuck Taylor’s article on priorities: and that sort of question. It has to do, above all, with the development, around the Review of a genuinely common readership.
No one, thank God, liked everything. But the objections and criticisms passed on were very helpful indeed, and we should welcome more of them. One or two people missed the serious, theoretical article which the New Reasoner did so well: but so did we, and we have taken some trouble to repair this omission in future issues. The series on What’s Wrong With Capitalism is one strand: our articles on different industries beginning with the Motor Industry in NLR 3 is another: we have been prodding several contributors to their typewriters on the whole thorny concept of Workers’ Control and Participation, and, when the lines are a little less clogged, we shall come through with some new thoughts on Imperialism. So . . .
Some readers wanted to take up points with Clancy Sigal about his Open Letter—and we have directed them towards Dinlock. One or two contributors wanted to quarrel with Ralph Miliband: an American friend put in a skeleton attack which might be described as “doing in Miliband”—and if he sends us the full text by next issue, we shall print it—no doubt with a withering, Robespierrean counteroffensive from the revolutionary portals of the LSE. Revan Tranter pointed out that, “If the leadership of the Party is doubtful—to use a netural term—about what we believe in, then so are the vast majority of the Labour movement, let alone the millions outside it, and our task is made no easier by the assumption that the struggle is simply one of personalities”. Miss Helen Ross objected to Paul Rose’s definition of the “socialist square”: “For me”, she wrote, “the whole range of activities are important in the struggle for a better life: nevertheless, I am a ‘square’, and resent the suggestion that this makes me less of a socialist. Must we all involve ourselves in the coffee-and-cigarette, footballand-Light-Programme culture?” Many readers seemed to feel that Ralph Samuel’s “Deference Vote” was dead right—in our view, a true and sobering judgment. Otherwise—where the hell was the potted version of Capital, vol. 3 (at the front), and where was the Lenin of the New Left with a 1960’s What Is To Be Done? (in the middle), and why not a miniature Sight and Sound at the back? (at the back?) Patience.
Layout. The ‘black line’ achieved a certain spurious distinction in the weeks before Christmas, comrades falling too hastily on one side or the other of it.