Royal College of Art, UK
The collective production of radical politics in print, London in the 1970s
The encyclopaedic guide Alternative England and Wales (1975), draws the basic differences across the groups to the left of the labour party at the time. The final paragraph, after distinguishing between Trotskyist, Communist, Maoist, and non-aligned groups, advances the following conclusion:
‘having joined any of these traditional left groups, your main task will be street and pub selling the party’s newspaper, trying to recruit new members, going on demonstrations and engaging in topical discussions. The most immediate and practical way to get to know these groups and their ideas is to buy their newspapers, most of which are available in left bookshops.’
This quote highlights the importance of the press to all the political groups on the left, and it suggests a network of producers and readers around the fabrication, distribution and consumption of political literature. My paper proposes to examine the interplay between print and radical politics in order to look at the social history of production embedded in the medium. In particular, the context of the 1970s facilitates the blooming of the radical press at a time when lithographic printing becomes more affordable and social conflict around factories escalates. I am going to analyse the organisational structure of the group, as well as a number of publications issued by three independent collectives who shared socialist and feminist ideas: the investigative magazine The Leveller, the photography journal Camerawork, and the political group East London Big Flame. I am also going to propose that the political orientation of the groups, reflected and enacted through their democratic and non-hierarchical structure, is a form of prefigurative politics; and that we can then think of the process of producing the publications as a way of prototyping political ideas into a physical object.
Guglielmo Rossi is a second-year History of Design student at the V&A/RCA. His current research focuses on the production of radical politics in print in the 1970s, and on the long tradition of socialist strategies of communication. Before studying History of Design, Guglielmo worked as a graphic designer on editorial and books design projects, exhibition design, visual identities and signage, with a particular focus on typography and language. Guglielmo was a visiting practitioner on the MA Communication Design at Central Saint Martins, where he worked with students on exhibition designs, he was born and grew up in Genoa (Italy), and moved to London in 2006 in order to study Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins.