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I am thrilled to join the Red Pepper editorial collective. A new resident of Durham, I am originally from the Detroit area and have also lived on the US West Coast. There, I became passionately involved in my postgraduate labour union, which added not only to my paltry teaching wages, but also to the conversation about the need for democracy in higher education. In the past, I’ve contributed to student anti-sweatshop activism, Occupy and the founding of an IWW branch, which has helped to unite a broad spectrum of workers in my former community, Corvallis, Oregon. I hold a MFA in creative writing, and in addition to rabble-rousing, I write fiction that depicts women characters pushing against the bounds of gender roles.
Part of my excitement about joining Red Pepper comes from my view that this is a critical time for people on the left to get to know each other. I grew up with the narrative that ‘civilisation’ marches steadily toward progress, discovering more humane solutions to the world’s troubles thanks to new technologies and the benevolence of our leaders. In my youth, I became terrified that this was a lie. Gradually, I understood that as banks, corporations and drones cross borders, power consolidates its assets; elites worldwide are exchanging ‘best practice’ in organised oppression. Bitter-sweetly, disparate people find ourselves, more than ever, stuck together—fighting similar degrading laws and official lies—even if the differences remain vast among us. Austerity, poverty, rape, state surveillance and so much else are global phenomena.
And yet, I’m encouraged, because the truth never works in the favour of those who would abuse and control us. Such people need to purchase every newspaper and airwave; it takes constant effort to justify an unjust status quo and to deaden people’s spirits. By contrast, there is permanence to radical consciousness. It outlives the news cycle, because what we see, we cannot unsee. In 1971, discussing how patriarchy had influenced Western literature, poet Adrienne Rich said, ‘We need to know the writing of the past, and know it differently than we have ever known it; not to pass on a tradition but to break its hold over us.’ She was advocating for ‘re-vision’: changing the dominant narratives and re-casting ourselves in meaningful roles that have yet to be fully imagined. Only then, I think, can we head toward a better future than the one capitalism has charted for us.
What are the counter-narratives we can use? What are the alternatives to stories of an undeserving poor or the supposed necessity of nuclear arms? As we work, organise our communities and care for each other, how do we understand what we do every day and where we’re headed? The thread, I think, can only be discovered when we habitually speak across borders, not just the borders of political states but of age, life experience, separate households and separate uniforms.
For me, Red Pepper has provided such a space for cross-border learning. I’ve read it from one corner of the world and seen how the dot of my own work connects to other dots on the map. That knowledge makes me a better organiser: more equipped to explain to my neighbours how our groundwork is part of a living, breathing thing. Our progress, our solidarity, will never be reflected back to us by the corporate media, perhaps in part because that would fuel our motivation to keep going. But the void they leave, through their exclusion of the stories of poor and working people, cannot be left as a void. We need to see our own stories and talk about them in order to shape a future.
I hope to continue Red Pepper’s history of asking honest questions and bringing the left together to debate the way forward. I hope, also, to connect with readers in the north of England and learn about the challenges, interests and desires of my new neighbours in the UK. Thanks for reading.
– Michelle Zellers
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