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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 He died in 1964 with the book unpublished and believing every copy of the manuscript was in the KGB vaults, but photos of the pages were later smuggled to the west.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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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Across Britain, hundreds of thousands of people have now taken part in mass rallies for Corbyn's Labour. Eli Regan soaks up the atmosphere in Warrington
The under-30s could be decisive in the general election. Frances Grahl meets young people hit by Tory austerity and looks at what's driving their support for Labour
“To them it’s just another number, someone else being sent back. But when you’ve got three children being left without their dad … it’s quite major,” writes Rebecca Omonira-Okeykanmi.
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe
How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency
Empire en vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy
Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network
Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker
In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing
After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry
Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again
Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood
7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.
After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani
If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945
On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.
Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow
The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite
Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally