The US humourist Tom Lehrer famously greeted the news that Henry Kissinger had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 by declaring that satire was dead. The sponsorship of the 2012 Paralympic Games by Atos provokes a similar sentiment. For this is the very corporation that has been responsible for throwing hundreds of thousands of people with physical and mental impairments into the trauma of a compulsory ‘work capability assessment’ with the clearly political objective of slashing the benefits bill.
Terminally ill? What kind of excuse is that? Get to work. Tragically, the callous and frequently incompetent assessments have resulted in a spate of suicides. Welcome to the Paralympics, in association with the people who are making the lives of disabled people a living hell.
No doubt the Games will see a chorus of fatuous right-wing commentators saying that it shows what the disabled are capable of doing when they put their minds to something (with the pig-ignorant implication that most disabled people are just too lazy to work or live independently). Competitors from across the world will be coming to a country where disabled people are facing a media-fuelled climate of hostility that has seen disability hate crime reach record levels and an unprecedented series of government attacks, the latest of which include the plan to scrap the disability living allowance and the closure of at least half the Remploy factories, throwing thousands of disabled people out of work.
While the rich reward themselves with tax cuts and the banks carry on as normal, the people most in need of assistance from the state are punished for a crisis they had nothing to do with creating. It really is enough to make you scream. (Ironically, a version of Munch’s iconic painting parodied on our cover has just been sold for $119.9 million to a billionaire New York financier.)
But the scream is only the beginning. Because although they might be in a vulnerable position, the role played by disabled groups, far from being one of passive victims, is exemplary for the forceful and innovative forms of activism – both online and offline – and for the ability to lead collective resistance and direct action against the cuts. As we go to press, plans are in preparation to make the experience of disabled people in Britain visible to the international media coming over to cover the Paralympics. So, too, disabled activists will be an important constituency in mobilising for the TUC‑organised demonstration in October. This will be a key opportunity to demonstrate the breadth of popular opposition to the policies of a government that is failing so manifestly, even on its own terms.
David Cameron and George Osborne will be praying that a ‘good’ Olympics distracts everyone’s attention from the incompetence and divisions of the coalition government, which, following the defeat of the Lib Dems’ timetable for Lords reform, appears to be fracturing. Another satirist, Juvenal, mocked the politics of his day for consisting of little more than ‘bread and circuses’. Well, we’ve certainly had our share of circuses in 2012, starting with the queen’s diamond jubilee.
With the likes of Boris Johnson centre stage, all the world can see that Britain is a gold medallist at putting posh buffoons into positions of power. But beneath the fake union-jack-and-beefeaters image of Britishness beloved of the tourist industry (and how much ownership will Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and even the English regions feel towards the Olympics?), the reality of life in many parts of 21st-century Britain is grim. How many tourists will make it to those parts of the capital that saw an eruption of rioting, arson and looting this time last year? And how many people from the estates that border on the Olympic Park will have been able to afford a ticket to get inside? This corporate circus clearly isn’t meant for the likes of them.
This is the London the world isn’t meant to see. Families on housing benefit in the capital are being forced out of their homes, some of them out of the city entirely, to places where they have no connections whatsoever. Others are dependent on food parcels to feed themselves. Unemployed young people are forced to work without pay for corporations with turnovers running into billions just to retain their benefits. Cheek-by-jowl with child poverty, unemployment and homelessness sits the extreme affluence of city traders and mega-rich Russian oligarchs. And let’s not forget the Square Mile, international home of corrupt banking and the ‘wild west’ of deregulated financial services.
Of course, Britain is far from alone in experiencing the brutal effects of austerity. If things are bad here, how much worse is it for the Greek people, many of whom can’t even get vital medicines on prescription, while fascists openly threaten violence to immigrant communities? Despite the election of the conservative New Democracy party, the rise of Syriza shows that it is possible to build popular support for an alternative to austerity through active community organising and practical solidarity initiatives. It means challenging assumptions and self-consciously seeking to empower and involve groups who lie beyond the reach of traditional structures of workplace representation, just as the Unite union is tentatively attempting in the UK. As the example of disability activism shows, what at first sight might seem like barriers to effective action can in fact provide the stimuli for creative and innovative forms of resistance.
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
Greenwald speaks Trump, War on Terror, and citizen activism
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn