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.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
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While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
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In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
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The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
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Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill