The Current Affair at Current Affairs Is That Everyone Has Been Fired
For trying to form a workers co-op
The majority of the staff at Current Affairs magazine, the leftist bimonthly magazine started by colorful suit fan Nathan J. Robinson, has been fired by their boss, a man who wears cravats and allegedly has a fake British accent. They announced the news in a public statement Wednesday morning. Here’s how it starts:
We, the former full and part-time staff, write to you with deep sadness and disappointment about recent events that have occurred at Current Affairs, On August 8th, editor-in-chief Nathan J. Robinson (author of Why You Should Be A Socialist) unilaterally fired most of the workforce to avoid an organizational restructuring that would limit his personal power. Yes, we were fired by the editor-in-chief of a socialist magazine for trying to start a worker co-op. (emphasis theirs)
The statement, which you can read in full here, goes on to describe how the staff gathered for a Zoom meeting on Aug. 7 to discuss the new work model. At the meeting, the staff writes, there was a “palpable shift” in Robinson’s “demeanor and he behaved in a hostile manner throughout the rest of the conversation.” The next morning, he started removing people from the company slack and sent letters “requesting resignations, eliminating positions and in some cases, offering new ‘honorary titles,’ which would have no say in governance.”
In a foot note, the staff clarify that Robinson “technically asked most staff members to resign,” rather than directly fire them. But following the editors’ removal from Slack and an announcement from Robinson that he would “hire new staff members to replace” them, Managing & Amusements Editor Lyta Gold asked if he was firing her. He replied: “Yeah.”
Editor-At-Large Yasmin Nair, who spoke to Gawker earlier this week and is not a salaried member of the staff, claimed that the magazine had been operating as a workers co-op “but not formally.” Mainly, she said, all salaried members were paid the same amount: $45,000 a year.
“It's an organization that is co-op-y and not to formally instituted as a co-op,” Nair said, “but I think that is something that we're all working on — trying to understand how do co-ops work exactly? You know, Current Affairs became very successful, much to our surprise. We did not go into this with a structure that said ‘this is what we are’ and ‘this is who's in charge’ and so on.”
But when pushed to make that informal co-op model more formal, Robinson — who once wrote a critique of convenient liberalism titled “I Support Unions, Just Not This One” — sent this email:
The organization has been heading slowly for some sort of reckoning where it was going to have to be made clear once and for all what kind of authority I wanted to have over it. And I was in denial about the fact that the answer is I think I should be on top of the org chart, with everyone else selected by me and reporting to me. I let Current Affairs build up into a sort of egalitarian community of friends while knowing in my heart that I still thought of it as my project over which I should have control.
In a Twitter thread, Gold said that Robinson told her in particular “that he wanted a managing editor who did what he said rather than pushing back.”
The statement goes on to explain that the magazine’s board stepped in and attempted to figure out an appropriate severance, but that Current Affairs’ assets are “reserved to fulfill the obligations to [their] subscribers and creditors.” Instead, the board placed the publication on hiatus for one month, so that both Nathan and the former staff could remain on payroll through September. “Current Affairs may come back the way it once was, or it may not,” Gold wrote. “The employees are paid through the end of September, but no income or severance is guaranteed after that.”
In the meantime, the staff has set up a Google group for updates on their next moves. It is called Past.Affairs2021.
This is a developing story and will be updated.