The Prison Letters of George Jackson
Chicago Review Press, new edition 1994
This is a book about courage. The writer showed tremendous guts by writing it. There is a black man in the White House, yet mostly black men in prisons in the USA. George Jackson was sentenced from one year to life for stealing $72 from a gas station. He spent ten years inside (seven years in solitary confinement), and was eventually killed in a prison riot. His writings are an articulation of isolation and determination not to be chained to his past, teaching himself the language of his ancestors and expressing his love for his family and friends.
The Essential Lenny Bruce
edited by John Cohen, Ballantine 1967
This made me laugh out loud. It’s a book that uses humour like no other; before reading it I never knew laughter could be so serious. Lenny Bruce is dead. Long before ‘alternative comedy’, he broke taboos. Charged with obscenity, he wouldn’t give in. Here was proof that we could sit with those we loved and lie to them. Another death in the custody of convention.
Olaf Stapleden, Secker & Warburg 1944
This is science fiction as it’s supposed to be. I loved sci-fi books in my teens and Olaf Stapleden uses this genre like no other. A British scientist bioengineers a dog of human intelligence and raises it as one of the children. Sirius’ relationship with his human sister, Plaxy, has all the elements of family life, yet he is isolated from his kind. Loneliness, pathos and instinct over thought, a very human story.
Coming Up For Air
George Orwell, Penguin Classics, new edition 2001
This is Orwell’s forgotten classic. Despite some of his funny ways, Orwell is one of the best and clearest writers I’ve ever come across. In this book, George ‘fatty’ Bowling decides, because of a bit of luck, winning on a horse, to visit Lower Binfield. He tries to recapture the days of his youth. Set in 1938, war was approaching. Orwell foresaw that war was inevitable with Hitler in power. He captures the childhood feeling of not being in a hurry, the warmth, happiness and security, but he finds that there is no going back physically or emotionally; we are prisoners of the present, hemmed in by our memories.
Ursula Le Guin, Harper & Row 1974
Trying swearing without using profanities or sex being dirty – one of the thoughts that have stuck with me since reading the book. Le Guin was attempting to work out how an anarchist society would function, inspired by the work of the anarchist and pacifist, Paul Goodman. I’ve read this book at least four times and I learn more every time.
The Invention of the Human
Harold Bloom, Fourth Estate 1998
Croxteth was a great place to be in the 1960s; St Swithen’s didn’t do culture for us ‘Bash Street Kids’. Alf Riley led me to Shakespeare’s plays. Bloom suggests that Shakespeare invented the human character. Alf would have loved it. A raw egg, a banana, a cup of tea ‘says he was ambitious, if it were so, it was a grievous fault …’ Alf’s quotes from Shakespeare led me to this. Shakespeare wrote for everyone, he was a man for every person.
The Art of Loving
Erich Fromm, Harper & Row 1956
Despite the title this is a book not about sex but about the human condition. Coping with disappointment, the biggest of which is that we die before or after those we love. Every impulse and action trying to escape the prison that is self. We search for oceanic feelings. Love is the active – we find our being through what we do, not how we feel.
Revolution in the Head
Ian McDonald, Fourth Estate 1994
A book that will tell you about an aborted revolution. It made me love the Beatles more than I already did. Two sisters going to the Cavern meant nothing. The Beatles at Shea stadium switched me on to the soundtrack of the 1960s. McDonald’s book analyses every Beatle song in detail. Music matters, and is more precise than words. He gives an overview of the 1960s, how the right triumphed and what the music meant. All art is discovery.
Billy Hayes is general secretary of the Communications Workers Union, and his selections can be purchased here.
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Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
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In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
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From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
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The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry