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Life and Fate
Vasily Grossman (First published in Switzerland, 1980)
The first chapter left me in a cold sweat: it’s 1942 and an engine driver is shunting a train of empty cattle trucks out of a prison camp – but is it a German camp or a Russian one? It’s not immediately clear. Grossman, the Red Army’s star journalist during Stalingrad, sees the battle from the point of view of those trapped within the Soviet system who just can’t stop fighting for freedom. He died in 1964 with the book unpublished and believing every copy of the manuscript was in the KGB vaults, but photos of the pages were later smuggled to the west.
Red Virgin: the memoirs of Louise Michel
Louise Michel (University of Alabama Press, 1981)
Michel’s memoir of radicalisation, the Paris Commune and transportation to New Caledonia reads like magic realism – except much of the magic is going on inside her head. One transcendental experience after another turns her from slum teacher into revolutionary icon. She gathers shattered cherry blossom under shellfire, rescues a cat from a barricade and heckles her prosecutors: ‘If you are not cowards, kill me.’ A story of human greatness.
Thomas Pynchon (Little, Brown, 1990)
If you sat down and free-associated the history of American popular culture, while simultaneously trying to explain the defeat of the 1968 generation and the fatal attraction of the Washington elite, smoking dope and watching a DVD box set of the early Star Trek, you would be in the place where Pynchon begins this book. I am haunted by his satire of idealism and betrayal, kung fu, postmodernism and grief.
My Country Right or Left, 1940-1943
George Orwell (Secker & Warburg, 1968)
‘As I write, highly civilised human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.’ Orwell’s collected non-fiction documents his political journey from pacifist to social patriot. Alongside the journalism are his diaries: he wanders through bomb-torn London, sees working-class drinkers switch off vital BBC news bulletins in the pub because the voices are too posh, and flings acid cynicism at the pro-Nazi wing of the British elite as the ‘people’s war’ begins.
The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck (Viking Press, 1939)
I don’t know why the Salesians of Don Bosco put this on our sixth form reading list: after reading it, a large number of my schoolmates went fruit picking during their summer holidays and promptly went on strike. I, meanwhile, was working in a factory, where the main topics for discussion were socialism and the coming winter of discontent. By the time we put our school blazers on for the upper sixth, life – and Steinbeck – had taught us everything we needed to know. We were uncontrollable.
Jules Vallès (First published in France, 1886)
Vallès was the first gonzo journalist, and here, in razor-sharp first person paragraphs of action and introspection, he tells his barely-fictionalised life story – from abused kid to starving student to hounded newspaper hack in second empire Paris. Elected to the Commune of 1871 as its final fate becomes clear, he writes of ‘a cloak of silence over everything. It lasted long enough for everyone to say goodbye to his life.’
Michael Herr (Knopf, 1977)
When I was about seven years old I saw a Vietnamese man on TV news burning to death with napalm. A few years later I picked up Michael Herr’s account of being a journalist in Vietnam. I won’t say it’s what made me decide to be a journalist, but when I did, it’s the kind of journalist I wanted to be. I don’t mean the adrenaline – I mean the unflinching truthfulness of his gaze, like when he meets the American colonel with a plan to drop piranhas into the rice paddies: ‘He was talking fish but his dreamy eyes were full of mega-death.’
Ten Days That Shook The World
John Reed (Boni & Liveright, 1919)
Sometimes, as a mental exercise, I imagine how the modern media would have covered the Russian revolution. Then I read a page from this book at random. It’s always a great cure for complacency.
Paul Mason is BBC Newsnight‘s economics editor. His book Live Working or Die Fighting: how the working class went global is published by Vintage.
His selections can be purchased here.
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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