Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
What do you get if you cross a political rally with a football match? The answer could be found at Manchester’s Apollo Theatre this May bank holiday, when nearly 2,000 Manchester United fans crowded in for crisis talks about the future of their team.
The emergency meeting was organised by the Not For Sale Coalition, a group formed to oppose the club’s takeover by US business tycoon Malcolm Glazer, who last month tightened his grip by taking control of more than 75 per cent of Manchester United’s shares.
Part anti-corporate protest, part Man United get-together, this was a red meeting in every sense. But missing from the anxious crowd was the club’s trademark red strip, normally typical bank holiday wear for dedicated fans. Why weren’t the troops in uniform?
‘As long as our club’s owned by Glazer, I’m not wearing any official kit,’ vowed one young speaker, to cheers of support. Outside the theatre, fans handed in their old replica strips and trainers as part of a ‘Nike amnesty,’ a charity collection of clothing made by the club’s official kit manufacturer, which as its biggest corporate partner is a major target for the anti-takeover campaign.
Boycotting official merchandise is a key strategy for the activists, who have begun making their own anti-Glazer range, including black wristbands and skull-and-crossbones t-shirts. Some are making the ultimate sacrifice of not renewing their season ticket, a wrench likened by one supporter to going through a painful divorce.
Those who can’t bear to give up their United habit are planning to do their bit by eschewing the traditional half-time refreshments, a big earner for the club. ‘When you’re at Old Trafford, if you see someone buying a pie, just say to them: “You’re paying Glazer’s debts there, mate,”‘ urged one coalition leader to the packed theatre.
This was a grassroots event for football lovers rather than full-time political anoraks, and the dozens of banners on display had been recycled from the terraces rather than the latest Stop the War march. Even a prominent ‘Hasta la victoria siempre’ banner, with the Cuban flag hanging above it, was in United’s black and red colours.
Andy Walsh, who chairs the coalition, said that it brings together a full cross-section of supporters:
‘Its rooted in ordinary people coming together to do something about what’s happening to their club. Some of the most fervent campaigners would describe themselves as Thatcherites, while others are socialists. The campaign isn’t party political at all. Even amongst the leadership, most are not really political activists.’
But the campaign is inevitably politicising the fans, says Walsh: ‘People are getting a harsh exposure to what football has become. Their eyes have been opened to the way that things work, and the role of business in all this.’
Fans seem to be taking to direct action with ease. One member of the audience urged a campaign of stink bombs on the terraces, while a woman’s suggestion of a topless protest was met with the kind of enthusiasm normally reserved for an injury time equaliser. For the fans who haven’t given up their tickets already, next season at Old Trafford could be a lively one.
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
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
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