Leftist Journal Looks for New Beginnings

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Chief Editor Fawwaz Traboulsi says that “the outbreak of the Arab revolutions” encouraged the “adventure” of publishing such a magazine. (Photo: Al-Akhbar)

By: Hussein Bin Hamza

Published Friday, March 30, 2012

Inspired by the change sweeping the region, Fawwaz Traboulsi’s new publication aspires to influence the direction revolts in the region are taking.

Is there a place for intellectual and cultural print magazines in the era of the internet and social media? Is there any need to publish a leftist magazine? Is it useful to revisit the ideas and ambitions of the remains of the Arab Left?

These are the questions raised by Bidayat (Beginnings), a quarterly journal that will be launched on Friday in Beirut.

Chief Editor Fawwaz Traboulsi says that “the outbreak of the Arab revolutions” encouraged the “adventure” of publishing such a magazine.

Undoubtedly, the events in the Arab world prompted the need for a discussion on the role of intellectuals, particularly as leftist and Marxist organizations found themselves lagging behind the course of developments.

The left and liberals participated in the Arab Spring (especially in Tunisia and Egypt) but they did not reap any of its fruits.

The new magazine is an intellectual attempt to radically transform the weak outcomes of the Arab revolutions, which are increasingly being taken hostage by Islamists and the military, or undermined by foreign interests.

It is as though the magazine submits to the primacy of the expression “the people want the fall of the regime.”

But at the same time it attempts to locate within this phrase a space for its ambitions and ideas based on a desire to reinvigorate these ideas with modern youth culture.

Bidayat’s cultural writings are unexpectedly free of elitist theorisation and traditional ideological quarrels.

It is like reading the opinion sections of daily newspapers, but written with a deeper literary effort and a nimbler tone.

The lack of purely theoretical writings also reduces its elitism. It becomes a space for diverse opinions. It experiments with practice and language.

Leftism and Marxism are present, but they are – with few exceptions – dissipated and diluted in wider contexts.

The first issue is divided into sections that might change later. The section on the Arab revolutions is the biggest. It tackles the different angles of the revolutions through theoretical articles and personal accounts.

Traboulsi delves into the possibility of “The Left in Revolutionary Times” and Nahla Chahhal tackles the idea of “A New Feminism.”

Khaled Fahmy speaks about the “Revolution of the Body” and Sahar Mandour uses the nakedness of Alia Mahdi to talk about “Revolution...within Accepted Standards.”

Mohsen Bouazizi analyses the sociological underpinnings of the Tunisian revolution, while Ethel Adnan discusses the revolutionary potential in Arab protests.

Elias Khoury eulogises Beirut that watches the revolutions from afar and continues its “Sad Winter.”

Under the title of “Revolutions Are Their Youth,” there are the personal accounts of Mohammad Kheir from Egypt, Jamal Gibran and Bushra al-Maqtari from Yemen, Mohammad Dhanoun from Syria, and Ali al-Diri from Bahrain.

In the section titled Ya Ein are words and pictures that protesters painted on their faces and hands, in addition to paintings by Syrian artists Randa Maddah and a short story by Syrian director Oussama Mohammad about a young man from Deraa who is forced to kiss the boots of a military officer.

A section entitled “Presence of the Absence” celebrates friends who could have published in the magazine if they were still alive.

In it, one can find Mahmoud Darwish’s “We Have on This Land That Which Makes Life Worth Living” in his own handwriting, an old article by Joseph Samaha about “Muammar Gaddafi and Desert Peoples’ Awareness,” and Samir Kassir on “The Resistance Momentum in South Lebanon.”

This is in addition to the screenplay of “The Most Beautiful of Mothers” by Maroun Baghdadi and the caricatures of Mohieddine al-Labbad.

The remaining parts include a book review section and another on “memory” containing files by the US state department about military intervention in Lebanon.

Also included are selections by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, articles by Noam Chomsky, Waddah Charara, and Ece Temelkuran.

There is also an outstanding study of the Sem Terra (landless) movement in Brazil by Jacqueline Atoui.

The design and layout of the magazine are remarkably attractive and serve to provide a lightness and dynamism. It is modern and appropriate for its time and ambitions.

Walimat Wardeh Restaurant in Hamra, Beirut will host the launching of Bidayat between 6pm and 8pm, Friday, March 30.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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