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The cover image of this issue comes from a painting created in 1979 by Eddie Chambers. At the time he saw the anti-migrant rhetoric of Thatcher merging with the street violence of the far right, stoking an atmosphere of nationalist imperialism across the UK. Called The Destruction of the National Front, it’s widely considered the foundation piece of the Black Art movement of the 1980s.
That group’s vision of empathy, DIY autonomy and creative solidarity with anti-racist struggle around the world has been central to the work of Red Pepper’s new race section in its formative months. It is also at the heart of this issue, since today, as in 1979, we find ourselves on the threshold of a new era of empire.
As Walden Bello indicates in his essay ‘How Empire Struck Back’, the Keynesian promise of the Obama administration ended in ruins. The reassertion of neoliberal financial systems has in turn paved the way for the petty nationalism of Trump and Brexit, a new age of imperialist rivalry between the USA and China (and with it the threat of nuclear war with North Korea), and the ascendancy of autocrats the world over, from Erdogan to Modi, from Duterte to Kabila.
Empire 2.0, as the future has been dubbed by anonymous Whitehall hacks, is a world where governments sell us dreams of imperial nostalgia, spectacles of border-violence and MOAB massacres, as though all of this could keep us safe from the inequality and fundamental instability of a broken political system.
Nostalgia is all this future has to offer – and for a past that never even happened because, as Nadine El-Enany and Yasser Louati argue, empire was never the benevolent, civilising force – nor the flag-waving glory – we are invited to believe in.
Empire was horror. It still is. And that same system of violence – of torture, genocide and rape – that kept rubber and other raw materials coming from the Congo in the 19th century to feed the new industrial European appetite is, today, nurtured in part by the rising global demand for consumer electronics.
It’s the same system that is driving global displacement on a massive scale; the same nightmare, of both a horde against the border and an enemy within, that feeds the populist reaction in the west; and it’s the same system that in turn curtails our liberty, that spends on nuclear defence but not on schools or national health, that sees democracy as grounds for the extraction, like coltan, like gold, like uranium ore, of power.
Empire will eat itself. It already does. But the lure of nostalgia may see it coming back to bite us again and again until we face up to the fact of how deep its roots run through all we know – of race, of class, of sexuality and gender, of nature itself. This is the understanding that lies at the heart of the intersectional solidarity that Peninah Wangari-Jones outlines, and it’s this way our future lies.
Thanks to all who gave to the Black Journalism Fund crowdfunder
Michael Coates reviews a new film revealing the shocking state of housing inequality in the UK.
The vicious media campaign against trans people is part bigotry, part strategy, writes Roz Kaveney
Jon Trickett MP reports on 'Dickensian' levels of poverty and hardship felt across the UK.
Natasha King busts some myths around the No Borders debate
He was once a radical icon, but now he's a mouthpiece for racism and nationalism. Time to get off stage, writes Michael Calderbank
Consensus seems to have shifted, but austerity is far from over. The chancellor has committed us to yet more years of misery while the rich get richer, writes Richard Seymour.
Frustrated at the idea of another royal wedding? You're not alone. Joana Ramiro argues we should stop idealising a fundamentally undemocratic institution.
Liberal elites are using Russian interference to minimise their own political failures, writes Matt Turner
Nick Dearden from Global Justice Now argues that after years of colonial domination and dodgy trade deals, the UK must make amends and support Zimbabwe in this uncertain time.
Last month's mass far right demonstration can be linked to a toxic mix of government tolerance of fascism and neoliberalism on steroids. Ewa Jasiewicz investigates.
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
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#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
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