Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
In the age of the Arab Spring and austerity politics, the ability of political systems worldwide to effectively redress the grievances of the people they purport to serve is more than ever in doubt. Militant protest has become a familiar feature of the global political landscape and the UK is no exception.
Yet largely absent alongside the recent surge in protest has been adequate analysis and debate of its merits. It is into this partial vacuum that Stephen D’arcy’s utterly convincing Languages of the Unheard makes a welcome appearance. The purpose of D’arcy’s book is to develop a normative theory of ‘sound militancy’ that is not only defensible but also a civic virtue. In doing so he draws on the writings of Martin Luther King, an admirer of the ‘marvellous new militancy of the 1960s’. D’arcy, however, discards King’s separation of sound from unsound militancy on the basis of a distinction between violence and nonviolence and instead proposes that the crucial contrast is between democratic and undemocratic.
The ‘democratic standard’, as D’arcy terms it, asserts that sound militancy should create new opportunities to resolve grievances when reason-guided public discussion cannot; it should encourage agency among those most directly affected; it should enhance the power of people to govern themselves; and it should limit itself to acts that can be defended ‘publicly, plausibly and in good faith as duly sensitive to the democratic values of common decency and the common good’. Darcy’s most controversial but nonetheless persuasive argument is that, providing it satisfies the criteria of the democratic standard, violent militancy can be justified.
The second half of the book is devoted to the application of this standard to examples of militant action, ranging from black bloc to armed insurrection. It further illustrates not only the theoretical soundness of the standard but, more importantly, its utility. For as much as Languages of the Unheard is a valuable contribution to an increasingly expanding body of social movement scholarship, its true value lies as a tool with which militants can better design their strategies to reflect the democratic and political values they seek to defend.
Connor Devine writes that whilst Brexit might be a car crash, we can't just side with an institution responsible for enforcing austerity.
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.
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