On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Bhaskar Sunkara and Eden Haythornthwaite about one set of practices through which ideas for transformative social change get circulated – radical publishing (as with Sunkara’s Jacobin magazine) done in relation with radical reading groups (as with Haythornthwaite’s group in small-town British Columbia).
In an era characterized by a veritable flood of information, including much that we can send skittering around the planet with a few swipes of a finger, it may sound peculiar to wonder about how ideas circulate. It becomes much more interesting and, indeed, urgent when you think specifically about ideas of struggle, of resistance, of social transformation. Because while there are sometimes ways we can usefully hitch a ride on the great vortex of information that is driven by the immense amounts of energy and labour directed in the service of the capitalist impulse to profit, very often the circulation of radical ideas happens only because people deliberately and actively choose to do the work to make it possible. And this kind of circulation matters because – well, Talking Radical Radio itself is in part premised on the conviction that creating opportunities to share experiences, ideas, and practices of struggle across various kinds of difference has the potential to contribute, at least in a small way, to our movements and our communities-in-struggle.
On today’s show, we talk about one concrete example of how that can happen. Eden Haythornthwaite is a long-time activist who lives in the small community of Cowichan, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island. Bhaskar Sunkara is the founder, editor, and publisher of Jacobin, a still relatively young print and online publication that is based in New York City and that has rapidly become one of the leading sources of left analysis and ideas in the United States. It is not a publication that follows a single political line, but rather it houses a range of left analyses of and debates on politics, economics, and culture. In the last year, Haythornthwaite has been involved in a monthly reading-group in Cowichan, where a range of people with backgrounds in various sorts of social justice work get together and collectively discuss recent Jacobin articles, taking up what is useful and applicable to them, discussing it all in the context of their own political circumstances and struggles, and moving forward with new tools, new ideas, and new possibilities. Through the labour of Sunkara and the many others who produce Jacobin, and through the work of Haythornthwaite, the others in the reading group in Cowichan, and the other 70+ Jacobin reading groups in North America and around the world, a rich menu of non-sectarian left ideas is circulated. And this is not just as passive content for passive consumption, but as part of active uptake and reflection and application to local circumstances that are as divergent as New York City and Cowichan, BC. We talk about the publication and the reading group, and about the circulation of radical ideas.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.
Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.