Volume 53, Issue 1: Summer 2019

Turning the page: CD goes digital

Illustration by Jason Reed

With this issue of Canadian Dimension, we draw the curtain on 56 years in print.

This decision – the result of perpetual penury due to debt, shrinking grants, a decrescent subscriber base, and the pressures of the contemporary media environment – would be more heart-rending than it is, were it not for the promise of eternal life in cyberspace. So, in fittingly dialectical terms, this is at once a demise and a transcendence of English-speaking Canada’s longest-lived radical left magazine published in Winnipeg for the last six decades.

This defiant and scrappy periodical for people who want to change the world was launched at a historical moment when changing the world, or at least bringing about some sweeping changes in Canadian society, seemed a more distinct and immediate possibility than it does now. But the very first issue to see the light of print reminds us that the false promises of capitalism and the threat of nuclear war weighed heavily on the generation of the New Left. Introducing the magazine, Cy Gonick wrote “Despite the terrifying (and terrified) world in which we were born, we are not without hope for a better future. We have not become so disillusioned, so swamped by commercialism, so paralysed by the bomb that we have halted the search for ‘the good society’ and the use of reason as a guide to action.”

Those sentiments resonate today as the still terrifying possibility of nuclear war is now coupled with the existential threat of ecocide, making the quest and struggle for a post-capitalist, ecologically sustainable “good society” more imperative than ever. And while the New Left emerged in the United States in part from a struggle against white supremacy, today’s Left faces its resurgence throughout the Global North together with the recrudescence of fascism, as we bear witness to the blurring of boundaries between the assurgent populist right and the extreme right.

But fascism was scarcely a major preoccupation of the New Left of the 1960s, having been defeated – very temporarily, as it turns out, only some 15 years earlier. In Canada as in so many other places across the globe “There was music in the cafés at night and revolution in the air,” to borrow a lyric from Bob Dylan. And young people had a thirst for change that Dimension channeled.

Founded in 1963, it was an oasis in what was then a largely bleak media landscape for the Left. The only independent left publication of note in English speaking Canada was the anarchist monthly Our Generation, published in Montreal. Dimension preceded The Last Post, Briarpatch, In These Times and many other periodicals that emerged to satisfy the need for radical left analysis of Canadian politics, economy and culture.

However, the kind of radical movement of which Dimension was a reflection and an integral part has ebbed over the decades. The organized labour movement is a shadow of its former self, having mostly retreated into corporatism and futile rear-guard action against the assaults of neoliberal capitalism, when what is needed is mobilization for massive class struggle. The peace movement too has flagged. Outside Québec, where students were the advance guard of the popular movement known as the Printemps érable in 2012, the student movement hardly exists. The NDP has moved steadily rightward in spite of periodic efforts to infuse it with some semblance of fighting spirit – this at a time when socialism, however vaguely defined, is inspiring a new generation of young people in the United States.

Nevertheless, the struggle in English Canada, although diminished is not defeated. It takes different forms, and most significantly it finds expression in solidarity with the inspiring Indigenous resistance to the settler colonialist state that has burgeoned on Turtle Island in the last two decades. Moreover, with the mean-spirited and willfully blind right-wing leaders coveting and gaining power across the country with an agenda of demolishing the social state and facilitating colonialist extractivism, a resurgence of revolt is a reasonable bet.

Canadian Dimension’s raison d’être therefore remains intact. And although CD is a political project that first found expression in print, that project is not tethered to a specific medium. Our aim has always been to give voice to left ideas and to spark discussion. Today, with the irrevocable rise of the Web, the conversation to which we want to contribute is taking place principally online. And we plan to continue speaking our piece in that vital virtual space.

CD has already made a home and a name for itself in the digital village. Our website and our Facebook page receive thousands of visitors every day. In fact we have a bigger readership in the digital realm than we have, or have ever had, in print. And we are buoyed by the encouraging feedback we get from online readers.

So we’ll take our cue from Joe Hill: rather than mourn the demise of the print magazine, we are embracing CD’s digital platform as a springboard to a lively role in the 21st century resurgence of radical socialist thinking and organizing.

We will still offer the in-depth analytical pieces that have been our hallmark for more than half a century, but going digital will enable CD to be more responsive to the fast pace of left debate and intervene more quickly in ongoing discussions.

We invite our readers and supporters to join us online as we make this transition, and we look forward, in the months and years ahead, to engaging with a new generation of people who want to change the world.

As we bow out of the tangible world of print, we want to thank our subscribers – both the stalwarts and the relative newcomers to CD – for their sustaining solidarity. ¡Hasta la victoria siempre!

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