Workers’ Playtime was written and edited by a small group of revolutionaries who had got together through the London Workers Group (LWG) in the early 1980s, although it never aimed to be the journal (theoretical or otherwise) of the LWG.
It is of interest because it provides detailed analysis of some of the most important workers’ struggles which took place in the UK in this period – notably the miners’ strike (1984-85), but also strikes in the printing industry, the docks, oil rig construction, car factories, railways, hospitals, sewage works etc.
The analysis is combined with an absurdist style of humour all its own, which the WP collective tried to develop as a kind of “trademark” of the journal. Don’t worry if you don’t think it’s funny! You’re not the only one. WP’s attempt to be the Private Eye of the ultra-left didn’t always meet with success… or even comprehension. Several of the articles were written as pure satire and not intended to be taken seriously, but some people did take them seriously and wrote outraged letters to the WP collective! There are numerous references to 1980s popular culture, tabloid journalism, political sex scandals… Again, don’t worry if you don’t “get” it all – it’s really not necessary.
Here, for your reading pleasure, are all ten editions! The WP articles relating to the 1984-85 miners’ strike have been scanned properly and will be made available separately on libcom. In addition there is a copy of Printers’ Playtime, which is a collection of all the articles in WP relating to the print industry, put together by Dark Star & Phoenix Press some time in 1987.
For those really interested in the origins of WP, here’s a brief description which appeared in the last issue (it should be pointed out that the WP collective didn’t regard it as the last issue at the time…).
Workers Playtime, the revolutionary answer to The Face, is collectively edited, typeset, designed and printed by a tiny clique of rich, talented and extremely glamorous people.
After the long illness and death earlier this year of the London Workers Group (LWG), to which most of us belonged at one time or another, Workers Playtime began to take on the functions of a fully-autonomous fifth-generation political life-support system (a group).
What happened to the LWG, which at its best was a vehicle for transsectarian discussion and activity, showed the present tendency for revolutionary circles to fragment into a series of separate activist or ideological “rumps”.
Apart from anything else, this issue of Playtime should reflect our dissatisfaction with this state of affairs. For us, corresponding with and talking to like-minded people becomes at the same time more difficult and more important than ever. Up to now, we have relied almost entirely on informal contacts for criticism and a wider discussion of what we were doing. Even so, there was very little useful feedback from those people who claimed to read the paper. This is one reason why we seize on almost any response as an excuse for a lengthy reply (see Nationalism Today and What is Playtime Standing In?), and why the paper sometimes seems like a gigantic wind-up, as we try harder and harder to provoke our reader to retaliate.
So the appeals for comment, criticism and contributions are not just a libertarian ritual. We are repeating it now. It makes a lot of difference to our desire and ability to continue (and no, we will not take an empty postbag as a clear signal that you want us to pack it in). In return, we promise to try and deal properly with the letters and publications we receive. Also, we’d be happy to meet people face-to-face, formally or informally, in London or wherever you are – drop us a line.
In the near future we plan to have a readers’ meeting which we hope you’ll try and come to (there aren’t many of you). It will not be just another boring political meeting if we can help it. Get in touch if you’re interested.
If you do write an article or letter for publication, please try and make it as long or as short as it deserves to be, and that doesn’t necessarily mean following the example of past and present Playtimes. We don’t have an editorial line or political code for contributions – but that doesn’t mean we won’t know what’s wrong with you, and we don’t guarantee to print anything (you think this stuff’s bad? You should see some of the things we wrote and threw in the bin.) It doesn’t have to be about workplace struggle or capitalist politics either – that’s just been the majority fetish of Playmates in the past. We don’t regard these as the only sites of struggle, or as being more important than its appearance elsewhere. In future we hope that the content of Playtime will show this more clearly. We would particularly like to get accounts of struggles that people are themselves involved in, or close to.
We promise to interfere with contributions as little as possible, but please be prepared to discuss them before they are printed, and maybe make changes. That means letting us know how we can contact you, after you’ve sent us something.
This is the first issue of Workers Playtime for six months. Reasons/excuses are hinted at elsewhere – dare you doubt them? To our certified and committed readers, we apologise for the delay; to the rest, sorry for reappearing. By way of compounding the crime on both sides, this is a bumper double issue.
After being off the streets (well, the shelves of lefty bookshops) for so long, we’ve come up with what we regard as a class issue – this glossy stuff fell off the back of a bankrupt printshop. The articles, though, are the usual collection of space-fillers, and next time it’ll be back to the usual bog-standard paper.
We aren’t assisted by the GLC, CIA, or South American millions as far as we know (but thanks to Aldgate Press, 01-247 3015, for help.) You on the other hand could do a lot by:
Subscribing (£3.00 inland and overseas surface mail, £4.00 air mail).
Taking a bundle of 5 or more copies, at a discount of 25% on the cover price. Pe pay postage and packing.
Buying a complete set of 9 back issues. £2.00.
Sending us all your money.
Please don’t make out cheques or money orders to “Workers Playtime”, because we still don’t have a bank account. Instead, leave the name of the payee blank. Send them, together with letters, articles, graphics, complaints, ideas, recruits, death threats etc. to us at this address:
Workers Playtime, c/o 84b Whitechapel High St., London E1.