Why I am cancelling my Nation magazine subscriptionSince this is being circulated on the Internet, where there are many non-USA participants, a word or two about the Nation would be helpful. The Nation was established in 1865 by a group of abolitionists and is the authoritative voice of left-liberalism in the US. During the 1930s and 40s, it was sympathetic to the views of the CPUSA and has often included Marxist contributors and editors. Doug Henwood, for example, is on the editorial board.
Long-time editor Victor Navasky was being interviewed on public television's Open Mind a month or so ago and was explaining why long-term subscribers were important to the magazine. When you consider that a year's subscription to the weekly costs $52, somebody who has been subscribing for five years, let's say, has put up over $250 for the production costs of the magazine, which actually runs a deficit on a regular basis (no tobacco ads, etc.). Since I have been reading the magazine every week since early 1980 either on the newsstand or through subscription as is currently the case, this qualifies me as a long-term subscriber. In addition, I was responsible for first placing weekly ads in the Nation for my organization Tecnica over a 3 year stretch in the 1980s. Each ad cost $50 as I recall. At 50 issues or so a year, this represented $7500 in revenue, if my math is correct.
Like many people who began reading the Nation in the early 1980s, I was a socialist who had broken with sectarianism. Peter Camejo, a good friend of mine who had been thrown out of the SWP for questioning sectarianism, turned me on to the Nation. Many of the people he had been networking with at the time were contributing to the Nation on Central American politics, including George Black. The Nation remained important to Camejo even after he became more interested in the securities business than in changing society. When his company Progressive Assets Management hit the big time, he took out a full page ad in the nation including his oversized picture. He wore a "swallow the canary" grin on his face, since he wanted to show Trotskyists and ex-Trotskyists how he had "made it." I was underwhelmed.
During the Reagan and Bush years, the Nation was an important source of anti-government analysis. This overlapped with the left-liberal perspective of the wing of the Democratic Party that had been marginalized. It seemed that the most powerful anti-Republican prose was coming from sources with a Marxist background, so I read those issues with great satisfaction and was happy to be a subscriber.
Once Clinton was elected, everything changed. The magazine was transformed into a critical supporter of the government in power. Since most Marxists have no use for the Clinton-Gore team, nearly every issue has contained something that can prove offensive. For example, the lead editorial in the current issue (Nov. 16) states that "Domestically, Clinton's achievement as statesman will probably not make much difference in the coming midterm elections or with regard to impeachment hearings in the fall." STATESMAN? Are you people out of your minds? Clinton is as much of a "statesman" as Bush was. The only reason that US foreign policy has not been as violently adventuristic as the previous administration's is that most radical governments have already been beaten into submission. With the collapse of the USSR, the US has not seen the need to use gunboat diplomacy on such a promiscuous basis. But this is not "statesmanship", just "realpolitic".
Beyond that, there are some other things that I find completely alienating such as your choice of Eric Alterman as regular columnist. This twerp is no different than the sort of wet-behind-the-ears Harvard graduate who ends up working for Marty Peretz at the New Republic. His latest column takes a swipe at the magazine for publishing John Hess's "dishonest" attack on Paul Berman. For god's sake, we get 10,000 of Alterman's words to everyone of somebody like Hess's, so what is this creep complaining about? (Hess had taken Berman to task for falsifying Spanish Civil War history. My own experience with Berman on the Nicaraguan civil war of the 1980s convinced me that he wouldn't be able to tell the truth about such conflicts if his life depended on it.)
Also, John Leonard has turned your book review section into a swamp that mirrors his own post-modernist agenda. We don't need the Nation to find out about some obscure novel that describes the journey of a neurotic novelist into some Oedipal trauma. There's dozens of literary journals that do this and they don't include the obnoxious name-dropping characteristic of Mr. Leonard's prose "style".
Oddly enough, I finally decided to stop purchasing the Nation when a particularly boneheaded article by Alex Cockburn showed up in the NY Press recently. As you may or may not be aware, this article attacked Ward Churchill for lamenting the genocide of the American Indian. Alex told him to "get over it" because gambling casinos were thriving. When I read this idiotic article, it dawned on me that the reason Cockburn is included in the Nation is to offer people like me some kind of sop. This may have been true in the past, but nowadays the only constituency that Cockburn would appeal to is middle-aged cranks having trouble with the IRS who enjoy driving around in vintage automobiles. Keep your sop.