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‘Don’t trust, don’t fear, don’t beg’ are six words of advice passed on by prisoners held in Russian jails. This page-turner tells the story of 30 unlikely inmates: a group of Greenpeace activists from around the world who attempted to stage a peaceful protest at a Russian-operated oil platform in the Arctic ocean. The following day Russian special forces abseiled onto their ship and detained the activists at gunpoint.
Thanks to a huge international campaign for their release, the treatment of the Arctic 30 was not typical of that of their fellow inmates, but the book gives an interesting insight into life behind Russian bars. In the face of severe oppression there are ingenuities such as ‘the road’, a rope network connecting cells that allows prisoners to pass notes and exchange goods, like a physical micro-internet.
Conviction rates hover around 99 per cent in Russia, Vladimir Putin’s success depends to a large extent on fossil fuel extraction and he does not like to bow to western pressure, so the campaign was certainly tough. Although the author represents Greenpeace’s media team he does not hide the panic the organisation experienced as they navigated geopolitics to fend off sentences of up to 15 years.
One of the activists is the grandson of Soviet author and dissident Lev Kopelev, providing a subplot that is a welcome break from the breathless pace of the main story. But the main thrust of the book reminds us that the Arctic ice is melting, the planet is warming and we can’t afford to burn more fossil fuels. That is why the activists ventured on such a risky expedition – they see that civil disobedience and public pressure could be our only hope for tackling climate change.
There was a media storm around the Arctic 30 campaign and you can expect to hear more about it now that veteran producer Lord Puttnam is working on a film. We can also expect to see actions for climate justice increase in frequency and scale as the stakes rise along with the sea levels. Coordinated events to shut down fossil fuel sites are being planned around the world for May this year.
Marienna Pope-Weidemann explains why decades of occupation and oppression have led some people to call Israel an apartheid state.
International Women's Day is set to be marked by strikes from "paid work in offices and factories, or unpaid domestic work in homes, communities and bedrooms."
Laurie Laybourn-Langton writes that measuring the economy is political - and economic measurement dominates politics.
David Scott argues that our prison system represents a human rights disaster, and reformist solutions can't tackle the root problems.
A deeper engagement with culture can strengthen our democracy, taking political projects beyond electoral impact and festival memes into a whole new world of radical, lasting change.
Ruth Tanner writes that revelations about Oxfam's behaviour in Haiti are shocking, but not surprising.
The actions of Oxfam officials are horrendous - but gutting foreign aid funding just puts more people at risk, writes Daniel Gibson.
Dr Laura Basu explains that the media allowed politicians to re-write history, erasing the true causes of the economic crisis.
Outsourced cleaners are on the front lines of the battle for workers' rights. By Emiliano Mellino
Power to our beloved comrade and friend, Mehmet Aksoy, a hero of Kurdistan and the internationalist struggles against capitalism, colonialism and fascism. This tribute was authored by Mehmet’s family and friends.
For All, By All
The latest issue of Red Pepper asks - how do we invite, support and nurture greater public participation so that our cultural capabilities are empowered beyond the crushing logic of market fundamentalism?
‘We are hungry in three languages’: The forgotten promise of the Bosnian Spring
Ruth Tanner looks back at a wave of protests which swept through Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.
It’s time for a cultural renewal of the left
Andrew Dolan writes that we need to integrate art, music, films and poetry into our movement, creating spaces where political ideas are given further room to breathe.
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