Introducing the New Format of 1917

31 May 2020

“We take our name from Year One of the proletarian revolution, the year the Russian working class smashed the chain of world imperialism at its weakest link. The October Revolution was not primarily a Russian event in its significance—it was the beginning of the international struggle for power by the proletariat.”
—“Introducing 1917: The Necessity of Revolutionary Organization,” 1917 No.1 (Winter 1986)

Longtime readers of 1917 will notice that the print edition of the journal now has a different format and aesthetic. Beginning with this issue (No.42), the journal of the International Bolshevik Tendency will have the dimensions of a book, with articles appearing as separate chapters. The journal’s masthead has been redesigned and the cover now uses bold graphics instead of photos, showcasing revolutionary art from earlier periods such as the work of Soviet artist Kazimir Malevich.

The adoption of the new look for 1917 completes a transformation that began several years ago, when we let go of the concept that the journal was primarily a print publication (whose articles we later posted on our website) for the view that it would be an online journal, with articles first appearing on our website and later collected in print. For well over a decade, the reality has been that most people access our material on, often via our social media presence—many of our readers have never seen a physical copy of 1917. As the emphasis has shifted online, the culture of buying and selling print publications has also changed, and even many activists we meet on demonstrations would rather read our material on the internet.

So why the new format? We often called 1917 a “newspaper” but, as the main publication of a very small propaganda group, it had to fulfil multiple functions that in a larger organization would be carried out by different publications of varying frequency and format. In fact, it always stood somewhere between a theoretical journal and a magazine, and it was usually our primary point of contact with people on demonstrations. We now envision that point of contact will be made via leaflets on topical issues and 1917 will mainly be available on literature tables and via online ordering for those who wish to collect paper copies of our major writings. It will thus look and feel more like a journal—substantial and of lasting interest and duration. Each issue will also be available as an ebook.

1917 was launched in 1986 as the journal of the Bolshevik Tendency (BT), a group created by former members of the Spartacist League/U.S. and the Trotskyist League of Canada. Four years later, it became the journal of the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) when the BT fused with the New Zealand-based Permanent Revolution Group, and soon after with the Gruppe IV Internationale of Germany. The IBT’s reach has both grown and contracted over the ensuing years, and it has shifted geographically as we have recruited and lost comrades in different countries for a variety of reasons. One thing that has remained constant is the role of 1917 as a weapon in the fight to build a revolutionary socialist party on a genuine Trotskyist program. Alongside the other means we have to publish our views, the journal will continue to serve in that struggle. As we noted when we introduced the first issue of 1917:

“The revolutionary vanguard is distinguished above all by the fact that it is the bearer of the historically derived programmatic knowledge necessary to advance the struggle for workers power. This is not something which can be announced or proclaimed, it must be proven by the responses of the organization to the events of the class struggle. Centrists scoff at those who carefully check the historical record in evaluating an organization's revolutionary credentials. To them this is all so much 'bookkeeping.' But the best test of what an organization will do in the future is not what it promises today but rather what it did at critical junctures in the past.
“The importance of a revolutionary organization in the workers movement in periods of ebb in the class struggle is primarily to serve as an ideological pole to which to recruit and train the cadres necessary to lead the inevitable struggles to come. A revolutionary vanguard cannot be improvised on the spur of the moment. It will not emerge semi-spontaneously in the 'process' of the class struggle. It must be forged in advance in political combat between revolutionary Marxism and the entire panoply of working-class misleaderships from social democrats to fake-Trotskyists. It is to this struggle that 1917 is dedicated.”