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The Road to Wigan Pier
First published 1937
It’s mostly remembered as a classic account of the northern working class in the 1930s, but it had a major impact on me for two other reasons. Orwell ferociously scrutinises the prejudices of his own class, reminding us how the absurdities of the class system are, so often, sustained by fear and hate. ‘A middle-class child is taught almost simultaneously to wash his neck, to be ready to die for his country, and to despise the “lower classes”,’ as he wonderfully puts it. And he looks at how socialists fail to win over working-class people because of a failure to communicate clearly, revelling in their own eccentricities and avoiding bread-and-butter issues. Something for us to think about, no?
Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World
British commentators rightly assail other countries for failing to come to terms with the barbarism of their past, like Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide. But Britain has yet to even begin acknowledging the crimes it committed in the dark days of empire. Davis reveals how a fatal combination of the El Niño weather phenomenon, imperialism and laissez-faire dogma led to the deaths of tens of millions of people across what we now know as the ‘third world’. It is still a national myth that British imperialism was somehow more humane than elsewhere, but this book reveals otherwise.
Brother in the Land
Robert E Swindells
Oxford University Press (1984)
If you want to guarantee your child is committed to nuclear disarmament for life, this book is your best shot. I was nine when I read this story of a boy growing up in post‑apocalyptic northern England, and frankly it had a devastating impact on me. It might be a children’s book, but it doesn’t shy away from the horrors of the bomb: it is totally uncompromising and lacking in sentimentality as it looks at a civilization in meltdown.
The Working-Class Majority
Levison punctured the then-hegemonic idea of ‘affluence’, and the widespread myth that the American working class had vanished. But this was also an assault on the new type of liberalism that had emerged in the 1960s, and he particularly directs his fire on liberals’ dismissal of workers as reactionary ‘hard-hats’. Levison argued that the Democrats no longer appealed to working-class America, leaving many of them to defect to the welcoming arms of a new populist right. It was a lesson that needed to be learned then but it’s even more relevant today.
King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism
Africa still suffers dearly from the legacy of imperialism. I’d bet that few today have even heard of King Leopold of Belgium, but Hochschild unmasks him as one of the great tyrants of human history. After conquering the Congo in the late 19th century, Leopold’s forces raped the country of its rubber, copper and other natural resources. In the process, up to 10 million people – half the population – perished. Imperialism has never been held to account for the crimes it committed in this period. Thankfully we have the likes of Hochschild to keep reminding us.
The Communist Manifesto
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
First published 1848
It has become almost a cliché for right-wing commentators in the past few years to ask: ‘Maybe Marx was right?’ To the surprise of first-time readers, Marx and Engels almost eulogise the revolutionary role capitalism once played, arguing it ‘has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts and Gothic cathedrals’. But above all, there is something strikingly prophetic about their manifesto: it very accurately describes the forces of capitalist globalisation we see today. Capitalism has changed a lot since 1848, but the foundations of any understanding of the system we still – tragically – live under begins here.
The Making of the English
E P Thompson
First published 1963
Thompson was determined to stop the working class being seen as a static, homogenous, inhuman bloc, including by the left. Instead, he saw class as a process, looking at how working-class identity emerged as bonds of solidarity, forged in opposition to ‘other men whose interests are different (and usually opposed to) theirs’. The sheer humanity of this book shows how creative Marxism can be, in contrast to the turgid, stale way it has often been applied.
Homage to Catalonia
First published 1938
I don’t think I get more emotional reading about any historical episode than the Spanish civil war. Orwell brings it alive with his unique honesty: the boredom, the heroism, the dirt, the occasional amateurishness, and of course the betrayal. A chilling reminder of the shadow cast by Stalinism over the left in the 20th century.
Owen Jones is the author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, which will be published in June by Verso. www.owenjones.org
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
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
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
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
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
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
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
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
‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali
Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.
Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent
Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art
Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs
Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite