Martin Jacques (born 1945) is a British journalist, editor, academic, political commentator and author.
Martin Jacques (2012)
|Born||1945 (age 72–73)
Coventry, England, Great Britain, U.K
|Education||King Henry VIII School, Coventry|
|Alma mater||University of Manchester (B.A.)
University of Cambridge (PhD)
|Occupation||Editor, academic, author|
Jacques was born in October 1945 in the city of Coventry (then in Warwickshire, now in the West Midlands), the son of Dennis Jacques and Dorothy Preston, a mathematics undergraduate at Royal Holloway College, University of London in the late 1930s. Both parents worked in an aircraft factory during the war and during this period joined the Communist Party of Great Britain. They subsequently both became school teachers. He was brought up in Coventry.
Jacques was educated at King Henry VIII School, a direct grant grammar school in Coventry, followed by the University of Manchester, where he graduated with a first-class Honours degree in economics in 1967 and stayed on to take an MA (Econ) in 1968. He then went on to King's College, Cambridge, where he studied for a PhD on ‘The emergence of "responsible" trade unionism , a study of the "new direction" in TUC policy, 1926-1935’, accepted in 1977.
Between 1969 and 1971 Jacques tutored undergraduates in economic history and economics at King’s College, Cambridge. From 1971 to 1977 he was a lecturer in social and economic history at the University of Bristol.
Jacques joined the Communist Party of Great Britain at eighteen, and at both Manchester and Cambridge universities was very active in student politics. In 1966 he was one of the prime movers behind the Radical Student Alliance, a left-of-centre cross-party organisation of around 400 students from 108 universities and colleges which sought to build a students' movement 'able to take collective action on matters of general social concern'. At Cambridge he was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge University Students’ Union. By 1967 he was a member of the Communist Party's Executive Committee, "probably the youngest member ever at about twenty-two", and he remained a member until 1991. Profoundly affected by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the May events in Paris in 1968, which he described as his ‘political birth’, he was one of the early leaders of the Eurocommunist or reformist wing of the party, particularly influenced by the work of Antonio Gramsci. In 1976, in a report to the Executive Committee of the Communist Party, he argued that 'class struggle is not confined to economic struggle ... but is also ideological and cultural'. Later the same year he was chosen, with the traditionalist George Matthews, to finalise an updated version of The British Road to Socialism (the Communist Party's programme) to present to the Party's 35th National Congress in 1977. He later described the process as a 'Mexican stand-off', but the influence of Gramscian ideas was evident in the final draft, which called for a 'broad democratic alliance' and asserted that the progressive movement needed 'not only ... to be an association of class forces ... but of other important forces in society which emerge out of areas of oppression not always directly connected with the relations of production'.
In 1977 Jacques was chosen to succeed James Klugmann as editor of Marxism Today, the theoretical magazine of the Communist Party, to which he had contributed for a number of years. He remained editor until its closure in 1991.
As editor of Marxism Today, Jacques presided over the golden age of the magazine, when its articles received national attention and helped to shape many debates on politics. In a long feature article in the Financial Times in November 1982, its chief political commentator Malcolm Rutherford reported that 'One of the most interesting developments in current British politics is taking place in the Communist Party or, more particularly, in the pages of Marxism Today .... The issue at stake is whether the British Left will continue to disintegrate or whether, partly through Marxism Today, it can re-establish itself on a new basis'. The well-known right-wing columnist Peregrine Worsthorne commented in The Sunday Telegraph seven years later that Jacques had 'transformed Marxism Today into a publication which has appeal outside the narrow, coffin-like, confines of the party': he increased the readership from 3,500 to 15,600, at the same time as the membership of the Communist Party declined from 26,000 to 7,500. Neal Ascherson described the magazine as 'the most serious single focus for political discussion' in the late 1970s and 1980s, adding that 'Few read it, but a whole generation chewed over its ideas'. John Birt characterised it as 'open-minded and curious, and respectful of ideas, wherever they have been encountered'. For Ralf Dahrendorf it was 'one of the few forums of intellectual debate at a time at which there is a great silence in many other places'.
The transformation of Marxism Today under Jacques's leadership did not please everyone in the Communist Party, and in September 1982 Mick Costello, the party's industrial organiser, attacked Marxism Today in the pages of the party's daily newspaper, The Morning Star, after Marxism Today had carried an article by Tony Lane which was critical of some shop stewards. Kevin Halpin, another senior party figure, declared that 'The conclusion that I draw is that Martin Jacques is not a fit person to be the editor (of Marxism Today) and I shall so move'. Jacques survived censure by the party's executive committee but many have seen this episode as triggering the process which led to the eventual split in the Communist Party between hardliners and reformists. The enmity lasted, and in 1987 Tony Chater, editor of the (by then struggling) Morning Star, dismissed Marxism Today as 'pure, revisionist, right-wing gimmickry', adding that 'Real Communists can't stomach Marxism Today'.
Two of Jacques's closest collaborators were Eric Hobsbawm and Stuart Hall, and it was in Marxism Today that Hobsbawm published his article on 'The Forward March of Labour Halted' (Marxism Today, September 1978, pp. 279–286) and that Hall published his on 'The Great Moving Right Show' (Marxism Today, January 1979, pp. 14–20). Through these and other articles, including his own editorials, Jacques and Marxism Today were influential voices in critiquing the failures of the Labour Party and of postwar UK corporatist politics, and in understanding the rise of 'Thatcherism' (a term which Marxism Today defined and helped to shape - though it did not coin the term - at a time when most analysts regarded Thatcher as no different from previous Conservative prime ministers).
In 1981, with Francis Mulhern, Jacques edited The Forward March of Labour Halted?, a collection of essays analysing the crisis on the left, and in 1983 Jacques extended the analysis in a book co-edited with Stuart Hall, The Politics of Thatcherism (1983). In the same year, Jacques conceived the idea of a 'People's March for Jobs', which took place in May–June 1981 (and was repeated in April–June 1983). At around this time Tony Benn noted in his diary that Jacques 'came to collect my corrected proofs .... He's one of the new young thoughtful communists, and he certainly has made a great success of Marxism Today - very imaginative.
Under Jacques's editorship, Marxism Today organised a series of influential events and conferences including three weekend-long conferences in London, 'The Great Moving Right Show' (October 1982), 'Left Alive' (November 1984), and 'Left Unlimited' (October 1986), attended by 1700, 2500, and nearly 4000 participants respectively.
Marxism Today also became known for its innovative designs and marketing strategies, which included the introduction of advertisements, and even a line of branded goods such as mugs, t-shirts, and boxer shorts. In 1982 Malcolm Rutherford noted that 'you can buy it at W.H. Smith .... It is well-written, well-edited and brightly presented', and characterised by an 'attractive lay-out'. In 1987 the American journalist James M. Perry identified a new fashion trend in London: 'Call them "yummies" - young, upwardly mobile Marxists. Their favourite magazine is Marxism Today, slick and sharply written .... In the current issue, crammed with goodies for these yummies, readers are urged to send in their "hard-earned kopeks" to buy "the latest consumer indulgences" .... This month's special is a quilt cover "exclusively designed for Marxism Today by a leading fabric designer".' It was perhaps inevitable that Jacques himself should be described as 'the couturier of designer Marxism'.
In October 1988, through the pages of Marxism Today, Jacques launched the 'New Times' project, which sought to understand a post-Fordist and increasingly globalised world. This again resulted in a book co-edited with Stuart Hall, New Times: The Changing Face of Politics in the 1990s (1989).
Jacques moved the authorship as well as the readership of Marxism Today way beyond the shrinking confines of the Communist Party, and among those who wrote for the magazine were Michael Heseltine, Chris Patten, Edwina Currie, Gordon Brown, and Tony Blair. Regarding the latter, Jacques recalled, 'He rang me one day ... He said, "I'd like to write for Marxism Today - would that be possible?" I worked on what he wrote with him; it went through several drafts. What's the lightest boxing division? Featherweight, It was lighter than that'. (The article was entitled 'Forging a New Agenda', and published in Marxism Today in October 1991.) Among the journalists who cut their teeth at the magazine were Bea Campbell and Suzanne Moore. Throughout Jacques's editorship, contributors were not paid for their articles, and Jacques himself, like other employees, only received the 'party wage'.
Jacques decided to close the magazine at the end of 1991, when it was still riding high. By then he had negotiated the financial independence of the magazine from the Communist Party, but declared that 'I have always hated institutions that don't know when to call it a day'.
In April 1997 Jacques and Stuart Hall analysed the Blair phenomenon, of which they were deeply critical, arguing that the ‘fundamental point of departure [of New Labour] is that the last 18 years of Conservative government constitute the new natural law’. A subsequent article for the New Statesman further underlined the extent to which Blair had merely accepted rather than challenged the Thatcherite response to post-Fordism and globalisation. In November 1998 Marxism Today returned for a one-off special issue edited by Jacques which extended this critique, with contributions by Eric Hobsbawm, Stuart Hall, Will Hutton, Richard Wilkinson, Suzie Orbach, Tom Nairn, Suzanne Moore, Anatole Kaletsky and others. Its cover featured a picture of Tony Blair, with the single headline, 'Wrong'. With sales of over 30,000 it proved to be the best-selling issue ever.
While at Marxism Today Jacques increasingly saw the need for an independent cross-party think tank and in 1993 he, with the Marxism Today contributor Geoff Mulgan (later director of policy at 10 Downing Street under Tony Blair) and others co-founded Demos. This was ‘founded as a self-conscious imitation of (and tribute to) the Institute of Economic Affairs’, which had set much of the agenda for Thatcherism, but in this case to ‘chart the course for a new kind of politics’. Jacques was the first chair of its advisory council (1993-7) and a trustee (1993-2000).
From 1987 to 1994 Jacques was a columnist for The Sunday Times, and from 1990 to 1992 he also wrote a weekly column for The Times. In 1994 he joinedThe Independent as deputy editor, remaining until 1996. For the next two years he was a regular columnist for The Observer. Since then he has been a columnist for The Guardian and the New Statesman, and has continued to write extensively for a range of other newspapers and magazines in the UK and elsewhere, including The Financial Times, The Economist, The Times Higher Education Supplement, The Times Literary Supplement, the London Review of Books, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the International Herald Tribune, New Republic, La Stampa, Corriere della Sera, L'Unita, Il Mondo, the People's Daily, the South China Morning Post, China Daily, World Link (journal of the World Economic Forum) and the Global Times.
Jacques also scripted and presented the BBC Television programmes Italy on Trial (1993), The Incredible Shrinking Politician (1993), The End of the Western World (2 parts, 1996), and Proud to be Chinese (1998).
Jacques’ interest in east Asia began in 1993 during a holiday there, and thereafter 'found every reason or excuse he could' to visit the region and write newspaper and magazine articles about it. In 2009 he published When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order, which in its UK edition was sub-titled The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World. With China’s GDP projected to overtake that of the US by 2027, he argued that far from China becoming like the West it would remain highly distinctive. He suggested, indeed, that there was not one modernity but many modernities, and that we had now entered the era of competing modernities. Contrary to the conventional wisdom in the West, he asserted that China’s economic transformation would continue long into the future and similarly its political system, which, he argued, enjoyed deep roots and growing legitimacy. He believed that one of the reasons why most Westerners got China wrong was that they tried to understand it through a Western prism: it had to be understood in Chinese rather than Western terms. So, for example, China could not be regarded as a conventional nation-state but was primarily a civilization-state. Westernisation, he suggested, had peaked and that China’s rise would lead to a growing process of sinicisation in the world and the end of a Western-dominated international order.
From the outset, Jacques's book attracted a great deal of attention in the UK and the US and around the world, most notably in East Asia and especially China. Many reviews were favourable but some were critical. Perry Anderson described it as representing 'a belated meeting of Yesterday's Marxism with Asian Values'. David Pilling, on the other hand, thought it 'a useful corrective to those who assume that emerging superpowers, principal among them China, will recreate themselves in America's image', while Joseph Kahn praised the book's 'exhaustive, incisive exploration of possibilities that many people have barely begun to contemplate about a future dominated by China'. Although the initial Chinese reaction was cautious, and not infrequently critical, by 2017 there was widespread acceptance of Jacques’s views and he came to be regarded as something of a prophet. The journalist Andrew Moody described Jacques as 'the man of the moment in China'.
When China Rules the World has been translated into Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Bhasa Malaysia, Burmese, Hebrew, Arabic, Portuguese, Turkish and Mongolian. A revised edition was published in 2012 and has been translated into Japanese and Bhasa Malaysia. A third edition, with a new introductory chapter, was published by China Citic in 2016. By November 2017 the book had, in all editions, sold more than 400,000 copies.
Jacques's talk at TEDSalon in London in 2010, on 'Understanding the Rise of China', had received more than 2.5 million views by March 2018.
Jacques met Harinder Kaur (Hari) Veriah, a Malaysian lawyer of Indian descent, while on holiday on the island of Tioman in Malaysia in 1993. He later credited her with teaching 'me to see the world from a non-Western perspective [and] ... see my country from an outsider's perspective'. They married in England in 1996 and had a son, Ravi. In 1998 they moved to Hong Kong, where Harinder had a posting with her law firm, Lovells. While celebrating the new millennium with Jacques and their friends Eric and Marlene Hobsbawm, Harinder suffered an epileptic fit and was taken to Ruttonjee Hospital. She died there on 2 January 2000, aged 33, after suffering respiratory failure and cardiac arrest. After obtaining a copy of her medical records and consulting medical professionals in the UK, Jacques and Ravi, who was aged 16 months when Harinder died (and whom Jacques subsequently raised as a single parent), subsequently sued the Hospital Authority for clinical negligence. In 2002 the London coroner recorded an open verdict and noted that 'there are questions as to the level of care given ... during her short stay in hospital'. While Harinder was in hospital she complained to Jacques: 'I am bottom of the pile here ... I am Indian and everyone else here is Chinese'. During her stay in Hong Kong, she had suffered a great deal of racial prejudice. Harinder's death led to the first-ever major public debate on racism in Hong Kong, which was to continue for many months in the columns of the South China Morning Post. Stephen Vines described it as 'Hong Kong's biggest dirty little secret'. In response to her death, a campaign was launched in support of a law against racial discrimination, which was eventually introduced in July 2008 as a direct result of Harinder’s death. After refusing for a decade to accept any culpability for her death, the Hospital Authority finally agreed to settle the case in March 2010, just before it was due to go to the High Court.
Jacques is chair and founder of the Harinder Veriah Trust, which supports girls from deprived backgrounds with their education at Assunta Primary School and Assunta Secondary School in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. It has also sponsored young Malaysian lawyers from under-privileged backgrounds to work for two-year stints at Hogan Lovells in London.
From 2003 to 2008 Jacques was a visiting research fellow at the Asia Research Centre of the London School of Economics, and from 2008 to 2012 he was a visiting senior research fellow at IDEAS at the same institution. Since 2013 he has been a senior fellow at the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge.
Jacques has also held visiting fellowships or professorships at Aichi University, Nagoya (2005), Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto (2005), Renmin University, Beijing (2005-6), the National University of Singapore (2006 and 2015), the Transatlantic Academy, Washington DC (2010–11 and from 2013), Tsinghua University, Beijing (2011, 2015 and 2016–17) and Fudan University, Shanghai (2017).
Most of Jacques's writings have appeared in the form of magazine or newspaper articles, editorials in Marxism Today, and lectures.
When China Rules the World was shortlisted in the United States for the Asia Society’s annual Bernard Schwartz Book Award in 2010, while the UK edition was shortlisted, and was the runner-up, for the Bristol Festival of Ideas Book Award, the second most valuable UK non-fiction prize.
An essay by Jacques entitled ‘The End of Politics’ that appeared in The Sunday Times on 18 July 1993 was short-listed for the David Watt Memorial Prize in 1993. Another essay entitled ‘The Shame in Spain’, on racism in Spanish and English football, which appeared in The Observer on 8 May 2005, received an award at the Commission for Racial Equality’s ‘Race in the Media Awards’ in 2006.
|Editor of Marxism Today
|Deputy Editor of The Independent