Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Gerry Conlon wouldn’t want to be remembered only as a victim of injustice but as a fighter against injustice. His last campaign was for freedom for the Craigavon Two.
Many readers won’t know of the Craigavon Two. Gerry’s last wish, at a time when he knew he had but weeks left, was that his passing wouldn’t diminish the campaign for their release. It is a measure of the man and of the extent to which his own experience had fuelled not bitterness only – although he seethed with bitterness too – but a passion for freedom for the many suffering injustice today.
‘Hardly anybody believed in us either until the evidence was pushed right their faces. Muslims are going through the same thing today,’ he said.
The Craigavon Two are Brendan McConville and John-Paul Wootton, convicted by a no-jury court of murdering PSNI officer Stephen Carroll in Craigavon in 2009 and sentenced to a minimum of 25 and 14 years respectively. At the time, there were widespread fears that the Carroll killing and that of two soldiers at a barracks in Antrim heralded a return to all-out violence. Pressure was intense on the police and the courts to find and jail the culprits – the same as the pressure to make somebody, anybody, pay for the Guildford and Woolwich bombings.
It has been widely canvassed since Gerry’s death that the convictions of the Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six, the Maguire family, Judith Theresa Ward and others can simply be put down to the conditions of the 1970s – a regrettable sign of times that are gone.
But while hysteria, racism, and political corruption provide the context, they don’t offer any excuse. The cops knew at the time they charged the Four that they were innocent. It was they who verballed them, concocted the evidence and lied under oath.
The judges at the trial and the appeal cannot have believed the yarn presented by the prosecution. Leading for the prosecution was Sir Michael Havers, attorney general no less, the highest law officer in the land. The conspiracy went to the top. It is highly likely prime minister Thatcher knew in detail what was afoot. The trial was a political event.
Understanding this, Gerry understood too that cases like his were not specific to Britain, that his ordeal was shared by victims of imperialism and capitalism around the world and that his role must be to encourage the fight, even when the odds seemed impossible.
None of this is to suggest that he was a saint before he went in or after he came out. He freely confessed he had been a petty thief in his youth – ‘Couldn’t keep my hands to myself.’ On occasion, later, he could be an awkward customer. The first time I met him, at a rock festival in Tramore, he took a swing at me over an entirely imagined offence. But we managed alright after that.
He was a big fan of music, a good friend of Peter Doherty and of the Pogues. He had huge admiration for his lawyer Gareth Peirce. He didn’t have a lot of time for the Provos or their political associates. He was closer to the SDLP than to Sinn Fein.
Most of all, he had an unquenchable thirst for justice. He campaigned for Mumia Abu Jamal in the US – a toxic subject for peace-processers craving US backing – and for the Guantanamo internees, the Muslim victims of war‑on‑terror racism, the Aboriginal people of Australia, the countless confused, abused, misused.
He didn’t find it easy, but he conquered everything they threw at him. He was a survivor, his spirit lives on. He gave heart to all who fight for justice. He was a great man.
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
#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
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