Explosion in sales of left-wing literature accompanies Corbyn’s rise

Jeremy Corbyn colouring book

The winds of change are turning through the publishing industry, as bookstores across the UK report huge spikes in the sales of socialist and left-wing literature.

It is believed the increase in sales is linked to the rise of Jeremy Corbyn – the left-wing leader of the UK’s opposition Labour Party.

Books like Karl Marx’s Capital used to be the preserve of politics students, political theorists and veteran activists; but not anymore. Andrea Butcher, of Bookmarks, a socialist bookshop at the heart of Bloomsbury, central London, said: “We’re already out of Capital, Volume I, because people have been buying it so much. For other people, it’s books like The little rebel’s guide to Marx – which we’re having to reprint because we’re almost out of it.”

And Ms Butcher is clear that she believes the rise in sales is linked to Jeremy Corbyn’s ascent to leader of the UK’s main opposition party.

“I think one of the things that the Jeremy Corbyn victory has done is that it’s given people a shot in the arm; it’s building up confidence and people are now looking to the books that can help them in the fights they are facing,” she said.

“Those fights could be around housing, or increased private debt due to government austerity measures – and we have books on housing and austerity that are flying off the shelves,” she added.

But it’s not just niche bookstores registering a spike in sales of Marxist and other left-wing literature.

Vivian Archer, manager of Newham Bookshop, which stocks a wide variety of literature, says that interest from consumers has clearly shifted to the left.

“Basic things like the Communist Manifesto have been the biggest sellers,” Ms Archer said. “It’s people trying to find out about the history of the Labour movement; the trade union movement; and there are also a lot of new books on the NHS and the NHS has been a major issue. And, of course, anything on austerity.”

The publishing industry at large has clearly recognised the shift toward left-wing ideals, too, and bookstores across the UK are now eagerly awaiting the arrival of a much-anticipated Jeremy Corbyn-themed Adult Colouring Book.

The book, the creation of illustrator James Nunn, features images of Jeremy Corbyn sitting down for tea with the queen, and squaring off with David Cameron in the boxing ring.

On his creation, Nunn says he came up with the idea based on the fact that “Corbyn is a massive part of our cultural consciousness at the moment.”

“I’m trying to reach out to everyone across the political spectrum,” Nunn added. “So if you want to pick one up and draw horns on Jeremy, that’s fine; but there’s this centre-right zeitgeist that is currently trundling on that has not previously been checked with proper opposition, and I think it’s important to have a voice on the left that Jeremy provides that can hold these right-wing ideas to account. I think these differences of opinions are good.”

Nunn also admitted that Corbyn was an illustrator’s “dream” to draw, noting that “his eyes hold you, and he has these great laughter lines. The beard helps you shape things […] he’s so much easier to draw than David Cameron with his big dough face who has no markings, no sign of life on his face.”

“Of course I’m a fan of Corbyn,” Nunn said. “He’s been making people’s lives better for 40 years rather than being an overprivileged ball of dough.”

And it’s not just people over voting age getting caught up in the literary Corbynmania: sales of left-wing children’s books, like Click Clack Moo are also on the rise. These books include cows going on strike when the farmer refuses to improve working conditions, with support from the chickens, who get involved with secondary picketing.

Analysis

Professor Wu says: “At a time when the mainstream media is continually trying to paint Corbyn in a negative light – as Paul Myerscough excellently details here – it’s great to see this isn’t impacting real public perception of a man who inspired hundreds of thousands of people over the summer with his honesty, his integrity, and his popular policies, such as support for the arts and creative industries, and his resistance to austerity – which has been shown time and time again to be, simply, the worst way to deal with an economic crisis caused by an over-reliance on an unregulated financial sector.”

“Just because many bookshelves of bookstores are now dominated by the latest memoir of your premier league footballer, or other minor celebrity, doesn’t mean that British readers don’t still demand – and in fact actively crave – intellectual literature. The ideas of Marx and other left-wing philosophers haven’t disappeared, and are actually perhaps more relevant today than they have ever been. As we wrote in a recent article, books have the capacity to break down walls and help us better understand the world around us – and so this explosion in sales of left-wing books is testament to the innate human curiosity in ideas, and an intrinsic willingness to learn about life and question the authority of those in power, who, because of self-interest, would rather we didn’t have exposure to any alternative ideas, and seek to suppress creativity and original thought with every attempt.”

“It was the printing press that first helped spread the ideas of Marx and other left-wing philosophers, so it is fitting that the new revolution will not be televised; but will be printed on the page.”

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The role of the creative and our place in culture

'Inside the Rainbow: Russian Children's Literature 1920-35'

‘Inside the Rainbow: Russian Children’s Literature 1920-35’

Creatives of all forms remain in a constant, symbiotic tango with human nature and culture. All of human thought remains distinctly entwined with that strange, living thing we call culture. Literature, art, music, photography – these strands of culture both reflect who we are, in our values, our hopes, fears, ideals, and shapes who we become by influencing us and immersing us in what becomes an agreed upon notion of how we define ourselves. Culture mythologises certain values, while negating others – shaping our perceptions of the world, and in turn leading us to create – through writing and art, etc – our own culture.

This is rather succinctly summed up by E.B White, co-author of the must-have book for all aspiring writers ‘The Elements of Style’. In considering the responsibility of the writer, White asserts: “Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.”

In nuce, then, what we have is a constant dialogue between our nature and what we come to believe is our nature. A notion captured by physicist Dave Bohm in a 1977 lecture: “Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe… what we believe determines what we take to be true.”

The role of the creative

Within these constructed realities, then, creatives find themselves in a curious position of being at once channellers of a culture they did not create, and simultaneously being creators of that same culture. For writers and creatives, then, such a position comes with much responsibility. As White notes:

“A writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down […] The writer’s role is what it has always been: he is a custodian, a secretary. Science and technology have perhaps deepened his responsibility but not changed it. In ‘The Ring of Time,’ I wrote: ‘As a writing man, or secretary, I have always felt charged with the safekeeping of all unexpected items of worldly or unworldly enchantment, as though I might be held personally responsible if even a small one were to be lost. But it is not easy to communicate anything of this nature.”

“A writer must reflect and interpret his society, his world; he must also provide inspiration and guidance and challenge. Much writing today strikes me as deprecating, destructive, and angry. There are good reasons for anger, and I have nothing against anger. But I think some writers have lost their sense of proportion, their sense of humor, and their sense of appreciation. I am often mad, but I would hate to be nothing but mad: and I think I would lose what little value I may have as a writer if I were to refuse, as a matter of principle, to accept the warming rays of the sun, and to report them, whenever, and if ever, they happen to strike me. One role of the writer today is to sound the alarm. The environment is disintegrating, the hour is late, and not much is being done. Instead of carting rocks from the moon, we should be carting the feces out of Lake Erie.”

The creative custodian

Creatives, then, can see themselves as custodians, or secretaries, or interpreters, of culture. There is an ideal at the heart of this notion: that the role of the creative is to shine a light on the meaningful, to frame for the reader or viewer what matters in the world and why.

Yet, in a digital world of easy blogging and clickbait headlines, there must surely be a concern that the responsibility creatives have for maintaining standards and baked-in accountability has fallen away, replaced by journalistic laziness that would never have been acceptable in White’s heyday. The easy, instant gratification of Tumblr and other mediums also perhaps denigrate the creative integrity of photography and art – as writer and photographer Mike Dodson opines in an interview with Nothing in the Rulebook: “The great thing about technology now is that it has made everyone a photographer. The problem with technology now is that it has made everyone a photographer.”

There is an implicit accountability instilled within the heart of the creative that must, therefore, be recognized. A kind of truth standard that should be adopted before putting pen to paper, paintbrush to easel, finger to iPhone camera and Instagram upload. Ultimately, of course, the choice is ours as to which standards and expectations we adopt in creating whatever art we use to define ourselves. But it should be remembered that these choices will, fundamentally, “inform and shape life.”

Jeremy Corbyn passionately backs the arts and creative industries

Man of the moment Jeremy Corbyn has written a passionate article in The State of the Arts, arguing what we here at Nothing In The Rulebook have always known: that there is creativity in all of us and, as such, government should be supporting the arts with funding – rather than slashing art council budgets left right and centre.

In an attack on the increasing inequality of opportunities within the arts and creative industries, the Labour Leadership frontrunner argued that “every child deserves the chance to learn a musical instrument, act on stage, and develop their creative imagination.” He also pointed out that “the arts and creative industries are the backbone of much of our cultural heritage” and, as such, would be protected and defended under a Corbyn-led opposition Labour party (and, of course, under any future Corbyn-led government).

“It is my firm belief that the role of government must be to work alongside arts communities and entrepreneurs in widening access to the arts, and for this broader engagement to stimulate creative expression, as well as support us in achieving our social objectives,” Mister Corbyn wrote.

Corbyn argued that the Government was using the guise of a misguided – and economically illiterate – austerity programme to make savage, ideologically driven cuts to the UK artistic industries – and was following on from the moves of Thatcher in the 1980s, which, Mister Corbyn noted, “sought to disempower the arts community, [in an attempt] to silence the provocative in favour of the populist.”

In a rousing call to arms, Corbyn wrote: “Beyond the obvious economic and social benefits of the arts is the significant contribution to our communities, education, and democratic process they make. Studies have demonstrated the beneficial impact of drama studied at schools on the capacity of teenagers to communicate, learn, and to tolerate each other, as well as on the likelihood that they will vote. The greater involvement of young people in the political process is something to be encouraged and celebrated.”

“Further, the contribution and critique of our society and democracy which [the arts have] the capacity to offer must be protected. To quote David Lan, “dissent is necessary to democracy, and democratic governments should have an interest in preserving sites in which that dissent can be expressed,” The Labour Leadership frontrunner said.

Analysis

“While it is as yet unclear what Jeremy Corbyn would personally make of Nothing In The Rulebook, both myself and my esteemed accomplice, Billy the Echidna, believe he would be firmly in favour of our project, and would like to take this opportunity to invite him to contribute to our site any time – alternatively, he can always pop by and say hello at our residences at London Zoo or the Natural History Museum,” Professor Wu says.

“Jeremy Corbyn has worked with and for the arts sector throughout his time in parliament, and his most recent article demonstrates why he is winning the hearts and minds of people throughout the country, and across the political spectrum,” Professor Wu adds. “For too long, funding of the creative industries have been slashed, and creative individuals from poorer or less fortunate backgrounds have been denied the opportunities to express themselves that they deserve. We can’t all be Benedict Cumberbatch, you know.”

Billy the Echidna agrees: “The devastating £82 million in cuts to the arts council budget over the last five years is repealing creativity and increasing callous commercialism, as priceless community programmes, art galleries, operas and other artistic and creative organisations are targeted by a neoliberal ideology that places value on currency, rather than human beings.”

“It is heartening to see the levels of support Mister Corbyn is currently experiencing, as the government needs MPs like him who are able to offer an alternative programme for the arts – which supports their ability to enrich the cultural lives of hundreds of thousands of people, while also promoting a feeling of community ownership and spirit, from which we all benefit,” Billy adds.

Both Billy and Professor Wu noted that the Government cuts to arts funding seemed driven by a vehement, ideological drive to attack the artistic industries, which appear to frighten conservative minds, due to their propensity to foster original thought and promote ideals at odds with neoliberal ideology.

“Faced with the challenges ahead, we both firmly support Mister Corbyn,” they said. “To use a popular social media hashtag, let’s just say, in Jez we can!”