Out with the old and in with the new.
After a silence of some seventy years, Gateway is back with us. I don’t claim it is improved and it is only ‘new’ in some respects. In its original form Gateway was published in the middle of each month as a 3d (threepenny) pamphlet. It contained an average of 24 pages per edition and ran to some 360 editions over 30 volumes. It was the work (and life) of James Leatham. Gateway began in April 1912 and the last edition covered the period of July-December 1945. Leatham died on 14th December of that year, just a few days shy of his 80th birthday. Today Gateway is free, will still come out in the middle of each month and is available online. The articles still feature and focus on Leatham’s writing while adding some other content both from the past and present.
I am aware that stepping into Leatham’s shoes gives me some big boots to fill and my intention is to remain true to the spirit of the original Gateway, which is to offer up personal thoughts on culture and politics. Leatham first published in the 1880’s and over his lifetime we may see that he could exercise some level of hindsight. The world and his relationship to it certainly changed over 60 years – years he described as ’60 years of World-Mending’ – but his fundamental beliefs in social justice and freedom of speech remained undimmed despite the vicissitudes of a life spanning High Victorian through the Boer War, then First and Second World Wars.
We are all to some extent created and limited by our experience, the times and circumstances in which we live. I have an additional level of hindsight to Leatham, in that I can look back at his writing and offer some updated criticism or contextualisation – though it is not always wise to transpose attitudes across centuries. However, all too frequently when reading Leatham’s writing (and I am barely a beginner in this endeavour) I find myself thinking that if only more people had read, and listened to – and acted on - his analysis of the world, we might not be in the state we are now. This is perhaps no more than to say, if we had not pursued the path of capitalism instead of socialism, Scotland, and Britain, might not be as they are today.
Whether your interest is culture, history, politics or social justice; and particularly if you have an interest in the reality underpinning the competing ideologies of capitalism and socialism and want to make sense of a country which can adopt neo-liberalism and ‘Red Toryism’ then you may find this new Gateway of interest. Jeremy Corbyn could learn a lot from James Leatham. As could we all if we are prepared to read with an open mind. While many see Mr Corbyn as a ‘new’ broom – others dismiss him as a ‘throwback’ to a past which is out of step. Neither of these is strictly true. Jeremy Corbyn, and David Cameron exist as firmly in the ‘now’ as Leatham did in his own time. All remind us of the long way Scotland still has to travel before returning to the status of an Independent nation.
Perhaps all that we really learn from historical writing is how little the fundamentals change. How firmly those who wield power hold on to it and how chameleon like they may seem while really being leopards. The same spots are there if you look hard enough. And perhaps all we have to contribute as living writers is the testimony of a personal perspective regarding our particular piece of the jigsaw. If so, the only good justification for personal writing might be said to be to offer honest testimony.
I was here. This is how I see it. This is what I believe. These are all valid reasons for writing – and when they invite others to share an opinion or question an ideology or belief system – they are the basis of a true form of propaganda. It is a propaganda above lies and untruth; a purer form which seeks to give voice to the minority, those on the margins and reminds us all that we should take any and all ‘facts’ from the mainstream of culture and political elite with a very large grain of salt. It is in this respect that Leatham describes his writing as propaganda. And in this respect that I continue to use a word which has now become redefined to suggest it as the purveyance of deliberate untruths.
In one of his earliest publications Leatham wrote: ‘as a Socialist I hold that this world will never be a tolerable place for the mass of mankind to live in so long as they allow the landlord and capitalist to monopolise the means of production.’
This is a belief he held on to for his entire life. It is one I share. It is with that in mind that I dare to tread where Leatham trod, dare to hope that by sharing his words and adding some of my own, I might encourage others to the pursuit of ‘world-mending’ to which he dedicated his life.
In a world where the soundbite and tweet are fast becoming the de rigueur means of communication, Gateway unashamedly champions the ‘long form.’ Where possible we make articles and essays available in downloadable formats so that you can read at leisure, even away from the screen. I hope you will enjoy Gateway in its new form and open yourself to the fusion of old with new which it offers.
To find past articles please use monthly archives.