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Radical Perspectives: Two New Leftfield Magazines

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There has always been an abundance of radical magazines whose publishers are prepared to invest their time and money to fight the good (and often unacknowledged) fight that keeps the rest of the mainstream from resting on its laurels. Earlier even than the emergence of names like Oz in the early 1960s or even Blast - Wyndham Lewis's short-lived literary venture that lived and died in 1914 - the origins of the today's dissident journals can be seen conceived in the pamphlets of Thomas Paine, or even his predecessor the Dutch tarpot Witte de With.

One new hopeful throwing its hat into the publishing ring this winter is the haphazard fiction periodical Draft Magazine. Posters showcasing the magazine's first issue cover will already have caught the eye of commuters in London's East End where placards have exploded on walls and in doorways with such speed that many dare not stop to tie their shoelaces for fear of a flyer being pinned to their backside.

At times Draft's layout recalls the brand of portentous chutzpah that once characterised the the old print editions of Avant Garde magazine. Readers will often do well to get there hands on a capital letter - I spotted seven on my first reading - whilst at other points page after page is packed with asinine imitations of symbolist poetry or rudimentary cut-up techniques.

As far as I gather, no one has had the chance to examine the psychopathology editor Reinhard Schleining, yet his choice of illustrations shows a predilection towards the near dissolute salaciousness of Aubrey Beardsley's visuals. These are the kind of puerile sketches conceived by randy school boys on the inner sleeves of their geography workbooks. Beware! If teacher had caught you reading this, it would have been straight to the Headmaster's Office for a dozen sturdy lashes.

Draft aside, if you prefer a magazine not intent on coaxing curled lips and mockery from those who open its pages then, elsewhere, another new imprint is busy chasing its readership in the shadow of the fallout from the 2009 financial crisis.

The brainchild of editors Jonathan Gordon-Farleigh and Abby McFlynn, Stir denotes everything that the current generation of disillusioned students, Occupy activists, or even aging socialists need to be looking towards. Less a diatribe of anti-establishment murmurings than an assemblage of poignant and astute critical observations, Gordon-Farleigh and McFlynn's magazine is a summons to revolutionary but also rational thinking, its contents including articles on subjects as diverse as permaculture, the commons, and practical philosophy.

Stir has been appearing bi-monthly online since June., yet a first print edition, published thanks to a windfall of crowd sourced funding, was launched this month in London. Before a choice crowd at Bloomsbury's Firebox café (where it is not unknown to see firebrand of the left, Tony Benn, entertaining from the floor) Gordon-Farleigh tipped his hat to a quotation from the Israeli-based academic Shlomo Sands: 'Books don't change the world, but when the world begins to change people look for different books'. 'I really hope,' remarked the editor, 'that this is one of those that people start to look for.'

What is most impressive about the magazine is the crowd of common, popular and intellectual support that has already stood behind its publication, seeking to publish essays, donate funds and, in the case of the American academic and activist David Bollier, fly half way across the world to pick up a copy.

Bollier has also written a six-page article on the state of commons for the magazine's first print edition - no light endorsement from this year's recipient of the Berlin Prize in Public Policy. The organisation - On The Commons - that Bollier helped set up in 2008 has since blossomed into global showcase for those invested in sustainable (and serious) social initiatives.

Stir, however, is still a long way from expanding outside of the UK, not least as it still relies heavily upon its online fan base in a market where so many radical journals have been forced to move digital. But, where Gordon-Farleigh and McFlynn's magazine already has a head start is in the strength of the print alternative the team behind Stir has delivered. The layout is slick and easy to navigate; the content, heavy but never overwhelming, to the extent that readers will be forgiven if they forget that this is still an independent start-up. And, if they log on to the internet, then they'll no doubt realise the website isn't half bad either.