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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
Trans prisoners often face a 'double-punishment', which heaps abuse and isolation on top of their incarceration.
The police spend little of their time making arrests, and most crimes are not solved, writes Alex Vitale – their real purpose is social control
Many important things happened on conference floor, reports Alex Nunns – but you wouldn’t know it from reading the newspapers
Radhika Desai says Capital by Karl Marx is still an essential read on the 150th anniversary of its publication
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
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
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain.’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition.
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes
Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference
Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
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