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The Prison Letters of George Jackson
Chicago Review Press, new edition 1994
This is a book about courage. The writer showed tremendous guts by writing it. There is a black man in the White House, yet mostly black men in prisons in the USA. George Jackson was sentenced from one year to life for stealing $72 from a gas station. He spent ten years inside (seven years in solitary confinement), and was eventually killed in a prison riot. His writings are an articulation of isolation and determination not to be chained to his past, teaching himself the language of his ancestors and expressing his love for his family and friends.
The Essential Lenny Bruce
edited by John Cohen, Ballantine 1967
This made me laugh out loud. It’s a book that uses humour like no other; before reading it I never knew laughter could be so serious. Lenny Bruce is dead. Long before ‘alternative comedy’, he broke taboos. Charged with obscenity, he wouldn’t give in. Here was proof that we could sit with those we loved and lie to them. Another death in the custody of convention.
Olaf Stapleden, Secker & Warburg 1944
This is science fiction as it’s supposed to be. I loved sci-fi books in my teens and Olaf Stapleden uses this genre like no other. A British scientist bioengineers a dog of human intelligence and raises it as one of the children. Sirius’ relationship with his human sister, Plaxy, has all the elements of family life, yet he is isolated from his kind. Loneliness, pathos and instinct over thought, a very human story.
Coming Up For Air
George Orwell, Penguin Classics, new edition 2001
This is Orwell’s forgotten classic. Despite some of his funny ways, Orwell is one of the best and clearest writers I’ve ever come across. In this book, George ‘fatty’ Bowling decides, because of a bit of luck, winning on a horse, to visit Lower Binfield. He tries to recapture the days of his youth. Set in 1938, war was approaching. Orwell foresaw that war was inevitable with Hitler in power. He captures the childhood feeling of not being in a hurry, the warmth, happiness and security, but he finds that there is no going back physically or emotionally; we are prisoners of the present, hemmed in by our memories.
Ursula Le Guin, Harper & Row 1974
Trying swearing without using profanities or sex being dirty – one of the thoughts that have stuck with me since reading the book. Le Guin was attempting to work out how an anarchist society would function, inspired by the work of the anarchist and pacifist, Paul Goodman. I’ve read this book at least four times and I learn more every time.
The Invention of the Human
Harold Bloom, Fourth Estate 1998
Croxteth was a great place to be in the 1960s; St Swithen’s didn’t do culture for us ‘Bash Street Kids’. Alf Riley led me to Shakespeare’s plays. Bloom suggests that Shakespeare invented the human character. Alf would have loved it. A raw egg, a banana, a cup of tea ‘says he was ambitious, if it were so, it was a grievous fault …’ Alf’s quotes from Shakespeare led me to this. Shakespeare wrote for everyone, he was a man for every person.
The Art of Loving
Erich Fromm, Harper & Row 1956
Despite the title this is a book not about sex but about the human condition. Coping with disappointment, the biggest of which is that we die before or after those we love. Every impulse and action trying to escape the prison that is self. We search for oceanic feelings. Love is the active – we find our being through what we do, not how we feel.
Revolution in the Head
Ian McDonald, Fourth Estate 1994
A book that will tell you about an aborted revolution. It made me love the Beatles more than I already did. Two sisters going to the Cavern meant nothing. The Beatles at Shea stadium switched me on to the soundtrack of the 1960s. McDonald’s book analyses every Beatle song in detail. Music matters, and is more precise than words. He gives an overview of the 1960s, how the right triumphed and what the music meant. All art is discovery.
Billy Hayes is general secretary of the Communications Workers Union, and his selections can be purchased here.
A portion of the sales from purchases made through Red Pepper/Eclector’s book store contribute money to Red Pepper. Not all titles are available.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
How can the heavily-armed Israeli state claim to be victimised by one teenage activist? By Richard Seymour.
Governments are manufacturing a new 'enemy within', write Yasser Louati and Malia Bouattia
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism