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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.
A portion of the sales from purchases made through Red Pepper/Eclector’s book store contribute money to Red Pepper. Not all titles are available.
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun