Nearly three years ago, when many Americans were plastering the Stars and Stripes on their windows and mounting it on their cars, a free national anti-war newspaper was conceived by a handful of San Francisco Bay activists who were grappling with the US government’s frightening response to 9/11.
The idea behind War Times/ Tiempo de Guerras is to provide the public, especially working-class, ethnic and immigrant communities who would be worst affected by George W Bush’s zealous jingoism, with a full picture of the war on terror. “If you were in the anti-war loop, you were filled with anti-war information,” says co-editor Max Elbaum. “But it was invisible in broader society, where we were being fed pro-war propaganda. We needed to give people the information, rather than requiring them to come to us.”
War Times distribution coordinator Jan Adams adds: “Much anti-war conversation goes on the internet. But the trouble with that medium is that if you aren’t looking for an anti-war perspective, you won’t find one. You can’t hand someone a website.”
And so the US’s largest anti-war paper was first put together in a warehouse in West Oakland, California, on 16 February 2002. From the outset the venture was endorsed by notable heavyweights like Noam Chomsky and radical historian Howard Zinn, and was supported by labour organisations and peace groups. Although only 7,500 copies of the pilot issue were planned, the demand was so great that now 100,000 copies of the free, eight-page, bilingual (Spanish and English) tabloid are distributed to every state in the US and also Puerto Rico roughly every six weeks. Says Elbaum: “People could take the paper to co-workers or relatives, which gave them a sense that they weren’t alone.”
The paper is active in the massive US campaign coalition United For Peace and Justice, and War Times managing editor Bob Wing sits on the coalition’s steering committee. But War Times claims its only political agenda is to draw attention to the injustices of Washington’s “permanent war”. Although the stories touch on a number of left-wing causes – from civil liberties to anti-racism campaigns – it’s designed to break out of the left ghetto. “For one thing, it’s too thin and the articles too short to be aimed at the left,” jokes Elbaum (articles never exceed 800 words). “It’s an entry-way – for people who were open to our message but weren’t already convinced.”
The pilot issue featured an interview with Hollywood actor Danny Glover, who denounced the 2001 bombing of Afghanistan and “the idea that the US is the judge, the jury and the executioner”. A more recent edition profiled both an American mother whose two sons were deployed to Iraq and a Baghdadi woman who lost her husband and children when they were shot dead by a US military patrol. “We put a human face on events,” says one contributor.
You”d be hard-pressed to find War Times in newsagents, and more likely to spot it at work, on a train – even at your dentist’s. It’s distributed in a novel way: willing volunteers send an email requesting the number of bundles (each containing 25 copies) they want. Many of them attach a cheque ($7.50 per bundle) to help cover printing and shipping costs, and individuals” donations make up two thirds of the $450,000 War Times has received so far. (But with an annual budget of $175,000, funding is a constant struggle.) A third of the 700 distributors are well-known peace groups, but a good proportion are “highly motivated individuals” who circulate the paper in their universities, unions, food cooperatives or churches. The paper is also enthusiastically used by Spanish and English teachers as an inspiring educational resource. To ensure that all copies printed get used, volunteers are emailed when a new edition is in production and asked if they want another bundle. “It’s not a huge commitment,” says Elbaum. “If you don’t want it, you don’t have to answer your email.”
Through its publication and distribution, the tabloid has built new networks and strengthened existing alliances. But it’s not a stand-alone effort. “War Times lends credibility to anti-war organisers by showing that it’s possible to produce something left and anti-racist without screeching about it,” says Elbaum. “But we”re dependent on the strength of the anti-war movement.” Although much stronger than in 2001, the movement in the US is still in its infancy. “Local initiatives are very important,” says Adams. “They use War Times because it is beyond their capacity to produce their own materials. We provide a tool in a situation where the political infrastructure is completely undeveloped.”
The 30-strong volunteer staff – predominantly 1960s activist veterans (“our biggest weakness,” says Elbaum) – are currently putting together issue number 18. They work from various parts of the country: there’s no permanent “office”, and not all the regulars have met. In the run-up to the presidential elections, they are determined to keep peace and justice in the public eye without backing any particular candidate, but they believe there will be a need for an anti-war and anti-racist movement whoever is elected.
War Times” job has been made a little easier by the shift in the US media inspired by Abu Ghraib, Falluja, US casualties and the non-appearance of WMD in Iraq. Even the founder of the conservative daily USA Today published an indictment of Bush, asking the cowboy president to “ride off into the sunset”. “To print ‘Bush lies’ is no big deal anymore,” says Elbaum.
The paper’s staff remain pretty low-key about their impact: with only one copy per 3,000 population, no single community gets blanketed. And owing to the limitations of its resources and the movement, War Times hasn’t been able to cross the 100,000-circulation threshold. But it’s got reason to celebrate. A distributor from a small, conservative town in North Carolina has just emailed for his next bundle. “We need our regular 25 copies. Amazing how sentiment in our neighbourhood has changed in the last year& War Times has certainly helped.”
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
Greece’s heavy load
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
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
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