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The Prelude (1805 version)
Oxford University Press
For me, this is the greatest poem in the English language: a long, compelling account of Wordsworth’s own life and growth, charting the development of his mind and soul and their interaction with the natural world and with the tumultuous political events of the time – all told in rolling, lilting poetry that takes your breath away. Wordsworth was the first great environmentalist, who saw clearly how interdependent the worlds of humanity and of nature are. It’s the early 1805 version that has to be read, though: it is full of freshness and vitality, which were lost by the time he revised it all for publication in 1850.
R H Tawney 1931
This book, probably more than any other, made me realise what democratic socialism meant and why it was important. It’s a marvellous account of the intellectual and philosophical underpinning of the European left over the past 80 years. And its central thesis is that the ‘freedom from’ is a necessary precondition for the exercise of the ‘freedom to’: the freedom from want, disease, hunger, poverty, idleness or discrimination having to be secured before the freedom to do things, seize opportunities or achieve successes can be delivered. It’s a book I would prescribe as required reading for anyone aspiring to be a progressive MP.
No Ordinary Time
Doris Kearns Goodwin 1994
Doris Kearns Goodwin has become an indefatigable chronicler of American politics and history, and this is her best book – an account of the life, challenges and decisions of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House. It’s a fascinating story of the noble ideals and grubby compromises that combine together in any great political endeavour. It shows us exactly what torments and triumphs Barack Obama is enduring, right now.
Ring of Bright Water
Gavin Maxwell 1960
I loved this book when I first read it as a teenager. I still do. It’s the tale of someone who renovates a tumbledown cottage by the sea on the west coast of Scotland and shares his life there with two otters. Its evocation of the land and seascape, the rhythm of the seasons, its perceptions about the natural world, its empathy with the lives of animals, its hilarious stories of adventure and accident and tragedy, are perfectly done. Maxwell quotes a Louis MacNeice poem at the end that says ‘thank you … for making this life worth living’; and it is indeed a book infused with the spirit of life.
W H Murray 1951
Bill Murray was one of the formidable group of mid-20th century Scottish mountaineers. He wrote his first book, Mountaineering in Scotland, in a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany and after it was confiscated had to write it all over again. This is the sequel, and for someone like me, who has spent a lifetime tramping the hills and glens of Scotland, it is a perfect gem. It is passionate about the beauty of the hills and mountains; it captures the sense of the infinite that lies beyond the landscape; it reminds us, deep down, why we love this wild and wonderful country.
William Shakespeare 1608
Methuen (Arden Shakespeare)
Lear is the darkest of Shakespeare’s tragedies. The play tears at our hearts, brings rage and pity, exposes the elemental forces of all our natures, renders us baffled and exhausted by folly and cruelty alike, and does it all in words that are unsurpassed. We emerge from the play feeling as if our emotions and understanding have been wrung dry. A critic once wrote that the catharsis at the end of Lear doesn’t come because we know that good has triumphed over evil – it hasn’t – but because we know ‘that it is better to have been Cordelia than to have been her sisters’.
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
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
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
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
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
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