Bhaskar Sunkara, who edits news outlet Jacobin, hopes to run self-sustaining publication
Tribune, the historic publication of the Labour left, will be revived next month by a US journalist who hopes to benefit from the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and run a financially sustainable leftwing print magazine.
Bhaskar Sunkara bought Tribunes assets on behalf of his not-for-profit US news outlet Jacobin, which describes itself as a leading voice of the American left. He founded Jacobin at university in 2011 and the publication quickly rose to prominence, benefiting from the increased interest in socialist ideas which accompanied the rise of Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Democratic primary campaign.
By contrast, Tribune was established in 1937 by two wealthy Labour MPs and was the home of the anti-Stalinist Labour left. Its previous editors include the NHS founder Nye Bevan; Michael Foot, who went on to become Labour leader; and Chris Mullin – the future Labour minister and author of A Very English Coup. Other contributors include the author George Orwell, who worked for the publication during the 1940s. In recent years, however, it has fallen into obscurity.
We hope that itll be self-sustaining from the get-go, said Sunkara of his relaunched edition, while acknowledging that Tribune had not made any money in decades.
A publication like this can be sustainable and doesnt have to rely on wealthy benefactors, he said. You can find 10,000 subscribers willing to pay for quality, critical journalism and long-form analysis. Our goal is to make money so that its self-sustaining.
Were self-funding it through Jacobin but theres very little up front needed for this. I think theres some benefit for incumbents because you dont have to start from scratch.
Sunkara, 29, said his team drew heavily on the traditions of Tribune, which will become a subsidiary of his existing organisation. A lot of my own politics came from engagement with the British left Ralph Miliband is a lodestar for Jacobin and were all very familiar with Tribunes contributions to the Labour left.
Tribune has already lined up staff as part of its comeback, which is due to happen in September, with a print edition due out around the time of Labours annual conference. The takeover was first reported by BuzzFeed News.
Although Corbyns rise has led to a boom in political activity, the most prominent outlets to have emerged from the movement have largely been new websites, such as the Canary and Evolve Politics. Other sites such as the New Socialist and Skwawkbox, which has close links to the Labour leaders office, have also built a leftwing audience in recent years.
Despite Tribunes strong pedigree, the publication has been plagued by financial weaknesses in recent decades. Originally a newspaper, it switched to a magazine format in the early 2000s but circulation remained below 5,000 copies. It was subsidised by trade unions for many years before being taken over by the Labour-supporting property investor Kevin McGrath who struggled to make the website work in the face of the growth of online blogs.
More recently Tribune was owned by the millionaire businessman Owen Oyston, a convicted rapist. Last year the high court found thatOyston and his son had illegitimately stripped Blackpool football club of 26m as a result of their brief stay in the Premier League.
Jacobin paid Blackpool FC directly for the assets of Tribune, according to Sunkara. Staff attended meetings at their Bloomfield Road ground as part of the takeover process and the final deal was approved by a judge as part of Oystons ongoing legal issues.
The publication has been effectively dormant for most of 2018, after the longstanding editor, Chris McLaughlin, announced the publication would be taking a short break, undertaking a fundamental review of most aspects of the paper based on new sources of funding.