OVER THE PAST several years, there have been few magazines more hostile to the concerns of transatlantic liberals and leftists than the glossy, in-your-face British political monthly LM. In recent months, for example, LM has accused environmentalists of peddling "phony health worries, hollow compassion, and cod-socialist proposals" and of harboring a desire to purge humanity from the earth in a redemptive act of "environmental annihilation." The magazine attacked a proposed gun-control policy in Britain as one of a series of "authoritarian measures" based on "a knee jerk reaction to a climate of hysteria and fear." And it has savaged those who claim that global capitalism is in crisis: "This outlook can only serve to frustrate the development of economic and human potential."
One might think that such a magazine was backed by a pro-business think tank or a right-wing media baron. But the truth could not be more different: LM is an outgrowth of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), a small Trotskyite splinter group; for most of its life, the journal was known as Living Marxism. Now in its eleventh year of publication, with a circulation of barely fifteen thousand, the magazine dropped the word "Marxism" from its name two years ago and completed its strange trip from the dour, sectarian world of the far left to a Day-Glo-colored, rave-music-inspired cyberlibertarianism that involves a peculiar, and sometimes creepy, mixture of unfettered capitalism, scientist worship, and even pro-Serb apologetics.
One thing is certain: LM has never looked like the typical publication of a British Trotskyite sect. It has always been a glossy and smartly put-together monthly review rather than a drab party newspaper. But looking good was always a priority for the RCP; after new recruits passed an exam, which tested them on "correct" party ideology, they received a clothing allowance. For a time, the RCP was known in left circles as the "Socialist Workers Party with hair gel."
Living Marxism hit newsstands in 1988, under the stewardship of Mick Hume, who previously edited the party weekly the next step. Soon it was publishing a dyspeptic series of articles on fin de siècle culture, grandiosely titled "The Midnight in the Century Thesis." "We live in an era of reaction, an essentially dark hour for those who support human liberation," intoned a 1992 article by Frank Richards (the nom de plume of many LMcontributors, including Frank Furedi, LMs main theoretician and a sociologist at the University of Kent). Abandoning traditional Marxist beliefs in class struggle, Richards lamented the failure of "dynamic forces" to emerge, though he never identifies what shape these new forces might take. Meanwhile, Living Marxism was endorsing an eclectic blend of causes. The magazine has taken aim at animal rights: "enough of this monkey business," one writer inveighed. "A critical defense of humanism and the human potential is long overdue." And in 1992, it stridently opposed Western intervention in the Bosnian war, jeering that "many of the erstwhile liberal critics of western colonialism have now become the loudest supporters of the West invading other countries in pursuit of its bogus humanitarianism."
LM ENDORSES A DAY-GLO-COLORED, RAVE-MUSIC-INSPIRED CYBERLIBERTARIANISM.
In 1995 the magazine defined a new enemy. "Relativism," it declared, "provides the intellectual underpinning for the new authoritarianism." Castigating ruling elites for their "avant-garde cynicism," and "liberal anti-extremist sentiment," Living Marxism adopted some of the language of right-wing cultural critique. The shift in emphasis was ratified by Living Marxisms "manifesto for our times," The Point Is to Change It. As Hume characterized the tract, "It bears little resemblance to a manifesto from the familiar radical tradition. It is not a book of complaints about the problems of exploitation, unemployment and poverty created by the problems of capitalism."
And indeed, the manifesto sounded more like Ayn Rand than Karl Marxa harbinger of things to come. In 1996 the RCP folded, and the project lost its Trotskyite mooring. At that time, Living Marxism metamorphosed into LM. Turning to a high-tech, rave aesthetic and an editorial tone that owes more to the cyberanarchism of Wired and Mondo 2000 than to the earnest leftism of The Nation, the magazine took on a new motto. No longer a party organ, LM now "takes to the stand in defense of life, liberty and having it all." Appropriately, the magazine sports a lively alt.culture section, which surveys the books, styles, music, and technology of the moment: In recent issues, former Face editor Sheryll Garatt praised club culture, and "dissident technologist" Nigel Burke defended Microsoft CEO and "global hate figure" Bill Gates. A section called Futures celebrates scientific progress in all its forms, including animal research and genetically altered food.
In 1997 LM made a considerable stir in Britain when it defended Bosnian Serbs against charges of running prison camps. In "The Picture That Fooled the World," Thomas Deichmann, a German freelance journalist and a longtime defender of the Serbian cause, accused the British television network ITN of falsely representing a Serbian camp in Trnopolje as a detention center. He argued that "there was no barbed wire fence surrounding the Trnopolje camp. It was not a prison, and certainly not a concentration camp, but a collection center for refugees, many of whom went there seeking safety and could leave again if they wished." (ITN has since sued LM for libel, defending its groundbreaking reporting as accurate.)
So where does this magazine stand? There is speculation in Britain that the magazine, with its well-maintained Web site, its slick production values, and its right-wing affinities, receives funds from a shady, white South African millionaire or from corporations sympathetic to the magazines anti-environmental line. None of this has been proven conclusively, and Hume has offered to pay double LMs stipend to anyone who can find out where it comes from. "What amuses me," he says, "is that people dont seem to be able to work out for themselves exactly what our hidden agenda is. One month Im this kind of Stalinist Serbo-maniac, and then the next month Im this neofascist tool of business."
If no one seems to know where the magazine gets its money, neither does anyone seem to know what LM now stands for. Living Monopolists? Lapsed Marxists? Lost Marbles? Hume asserts simply that the new title "is a concession to cool Britannia: The trendy thing in the British magazine world was for everybody to reduce their title to initials."