Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
What is most remarkable about UKUncut’s protests at tax dodgers like Philip Green and Vodafone is how easy it is to explain them to passers-by – and see them not only agree with you, but join in.
In the aftermath of today’s successful day of action, right wingers are trying to whip up a predictable panic about lefties standing in the way of shoppers on the last Saturday before Christmas.
“The main victims of this form of protest are the people trying to buy Christmas presents for their loved ones,” cries arch school privatiser Toby Young at the Telegraph.
And if you’d never been to one of the protests, as I’m sure those retweeting such sentiments haven’t, you might think that was the reality.
But at the protest in London today, inside the Oxford Street Topshop, what I witnessed was in fact a spontaneous outpouring of solidarity, or at least sympathy, from ordinary ‘shoppers’ who had known nothing about the cause.
The initial sit-in, in the jewellery section of the store, attracted lots of attention from passers-by. Most took leaflets. Many discussed the cause with the occupiers. And some – to my, to be honest, near-disbelief – proceeded to sit down and join the protest.
Again and again, I came across people who knew nothing of Twitter or direct action, but had simply come across the sit-in and decided it looked like a good idea. “Where did all the money go? He sent it off to Monaco,” chanted a young woman who admitted to being dressed head-to-toe in Topshop clothes.
“It’s only fair, isn’t it,” one elderly man said to me. “The rich should pay their tax like anyone else. I’m just glad someone’s doing something.”
And it wasn’t just the hardcore activists who started booing when security guards started manhandling people out of the store.
“What are you doing?” shouted someone who was queuing to pay. “They’re not doing anything. Stop it!”
Later, after I’d been thrown out of the shop myself, a woman ran up to me, holding shopping bags from several other stores. “What’s this all about?” she asked excitedly.
I searched around for a leaflet, before just explaining that Philip Green had avoided paying any tax on a £1.2 billion payout to his wife in Monaco, and we were here to make the point that if the rich paid their tax there’d be no need for cuts.
“Brilliant!” she replied. “You’re absolutely right.” She almost jumped into the crowd, suddenly joining in the chants: “Pay your tax! Pay your tax!”
Are these isolated incidents? No. Every activist who was on one of the protests today will have stories like these.
What I’m yet to come across, though, is any tale of someone coming up to the protest and being annoyed that it’s stopped them from doing their sacred Christmas shopping.
In the right wingers’ imagination, the masses are outraged that some “a bunch of red-faced students” (Toby Young again) would come between them and the great temples of consumerism.
But in reality, the vast majority really do want the rich to pay their damn tax.
UK Uncut: www.ukuncut.org.uk
Grace Blakeley investigates the curious case of Carillion: how the company’s slow decline and abrupt liquidation reveals the nature of modern capitalism.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
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
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