Devon Radical History
Devon Radical History: Exeter Left & Red Rag

Exeter Left and Red Rag (1996-1998)

Red Rag newsletter of the Exeter Left

Organising the Left in Exeter

This newsletter has come about due to a meeting of lefties in Exeter in October. More meetings and newsletters are planned and hopefully some activity too! Anybody on the left is invited to attempt to join this highly centralised and disciplined revolutionary organisation! (Joke). Come to the next meeting if you want to speak, organise or listen. No previous experience probably an advantage! People with meeting phobias also very welcome. Any help with producing this rag gratefully accepted. Address for letters, articles etc see page 3.

The above statement appeared on the first edition of Red Rag which appeared in Nov/Dec 1996. At this time the Left was in a dreadful low and the current author was approached by a comrade with the idea of setting up an Exeter Claimants Union in response to the threats to the unemployed. This was a great idea except for the fact both of us were already the core of numerous campaigning groups and we were both over worked activists. I suggested what we needed was an organised general group that could decide these things and so the Exeter Left was born. From the outset it involved both socialists and anarchists.

The newsletter of the Exeter Left had the snappy title of Red Rag and five editions were produced. The editorial in the last edition explained that Red Rag was to be replaced by a new regional publication Red South West magazine. The Exeter Left group itself had a similiar fate being replaced by something bigger and better. In the year 2000 the Exeter Left and the Exeter SWP branch jointly launched the Exeter Socialist Alliance which replaced the Exeter Left.

Linking & Organising the Left in the SW - editorial

The crisis in East Asia and the recent brink of war in the gulf demonstrate that capitalism is inherently unstable. The Welfare Reform threatened by New Labour is being put in place in this context. The assumptions is that people are out of work due to lack of enthusiasm or lack of help - as if dire poverty wasn't a great enough incentive to get off benefit. This all assumes there are actually jobs to go to and all the evidence is that the economy is heading for zero growth or possibly worse. This could well be compounded by the crisis in East Asia in which case we are talking about a new recession and a rapid increase in unemployment. The poor need an end to the economic system that condemns millions to live in poverty - they do not need attacking for being the victims of this system.

This requires a strong organised and active Left which is almost entirely absent at the moment. The collapse of the Stalinist bloc at the start of this decade has thrown the Left into crisis internationally. In Britain this has been compounded by the Thatcher years and the success of the anti-trade union laws. However, there are signs that the fortunes of the Left are starting to turn around. In recent elections in France the far Left received over 5% of the vote - a massive increase on previous showings. In Britain numerous initiatives are underway to regroup the Left and shed the sectarianism that has plagued the Left in the past. The Socialist Labour Party has been one false start on this road but there are other initiatives that whilst small hold much promise. A few groups like the Exeter Left group are forming around the country with the aim of bringing militants together whether socialist, anarchist or green.

We need to encourage unity in action where there is agreement and debate where there are differences. We also need to encourage the healthy cross-fertilisation that has been occurring recently as demonstrated with the co-operation between the Liverpool Dockers and the Reclaim The Streets direct action environmentalists.

To this end we are pleased to be working on a project with comrades from the Somerset Socialist (formerly Clarion) to produce a regional paper with hopefully the involvement of groups in Bristol and Plymouth. The first edition should be launched appropriately on May Day.

Red Rag

Red Rag newsletter of the Exeter Left
Red Rag newsletter of the Exeter Left
Red Rag newsletter of the Exeter Left
Red Rag newsletter of the Exeter Left

Page last updated 12/01/20