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His writing, his speaking and his friendships were constant reassertions of a radical socialism based on cooperation, equality and genuine democracy. His life illustrated the way in which the culture of socialism from below is radically distinct from parliamentary socialism. As he never failed to insist, truly revolutionary socialism, in contrast to what he called “resolutionary socialism”, rejects the notion of delegating responsibility to others (be they MPs, party leaders or whoever else) to bring about change.
Paul revelled in the detailed process of strikes and campaigns – not only because of the demands to be won, but also because of the way that people gain through collective action “a new confidence in themselves and the people around them& Prejudices which had been grafted into them like barnacles [are] suddenly blasted away. The change in themselves is quickly translated into changes in the way they [behave] towards one another”. With these particular words he was referring to the 1984-85 miners’ strike.
His own self-confidence was unusual and infectious, in that it was not associated with any sense of superiority. Though he was proud of his books, his articles and his speeches, he never behaved as if he was in any way exceptional or apart. On the contrary, he assumed others were equally capable, and would encourage them to become so.
There are many lines from his beloved Shelley that express Paul’s approach to life and politics, lines that he constantly quoted so as to refresh and enliven the way we think about socialism. “We are many; they are few” was his regular reminder that even though the labour movement doesn’t have the funds or the police forces,
we do have our own sources of strength: we have each other, if only we could get organised, work together, and share information, ideas and skills for our common purpose. He was particularly fond of Shelley’s “Epipsychidion”. At first sight the poem appears to be about romantic relationships, but I think it had a wider relevance for him and was expressive of his love of comradeship and the openness and creativity that shaped his political vision:
“True Love in this differs from gold and clay,
That to divide is not to take away.
Love is like understanding, that grows bright,
Gazing on many truths, ’tis like thy light,
Imagination! which from earth and sky,
And from the depths of human fantasy,
As from a thousand prisms and mirrors, fills
The universe with glorious beams, and kills
Error, the worm, with many a sun-like arrow
Of its reverberated lightning. Narrow
The spirit that creates
One object, and one form, and builds thereby
A sepulchre for its eternity.”
For me these lines express Footie’s distinctive approach to political loyalty. He was completely loyal to the SWP. It was his way of being permanently connected to the struggle for socialism, and was vital to anchoring him as a socialist so that he didn’t drift towards the complacent right in the way of MPs and many a disengaged leftie. But he wasn’t loyal to the SWP as an exclusive sect. His vision of the ideal political party, and of political action generally, was broad and diverse: he hoped for something that was able to “gaze on many truths”. So, he despaired when the SWP went through phases of narrowness or showed signs of sectarianism. He did, however, idealise the SWP, in my opinion, and was too dismissive of the arguments of those critics who it expelled or who left it in disillusion.
His funeral brought together an amazing range of people in a way that would have pleased him: between them, those people believed in “many truths” and in constantly contesting them. If we could have the imagination, generosity of spirit and skill of strategic organisation to bring most of these people together in one effective force for socialism, we would do Paul justice. We will miss him. I’ve rarely felt an absence so palpably. But he will continue to be an inspiration.
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
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Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
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The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
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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
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Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
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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
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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
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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
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There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
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Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook