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1792: This is what revolution looks like

Contending for the living Red Pepper, October-November 2012 In France, 1792 was the year of “the second revolution.” On 10 August, the King was overthrown, bringing to an end three years of uneasy “constitutional monarchy”. For months the Legislative Assembly had been locked in conflict with Louis XVI, while at the same time fighting a… Read more

Politics, our missing link

Contending for the Living Red Pepper, August-September 2012 The word comes down to us from ancient Greece, where polis was used to describe the city-states that emerged in the sixth century BC. This polis was more than a community or concentration of individuals. It was a self-conscious unit of self-administration (independent of empires) and from… Read more

Olympic icons

Contending for the Living Red Pepper, June-July 2012 In a world where the words ‘iconic’ and ‘icon’ have been cheapened by gross overuse, it’s salutary to recall their original meanings. In a religious context, an icon is a representation that is more than a representation, an image that contains a power beyond itself. It’s not… Read more

Looking at 2012: negations and affirmations

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, Feb-March 2012 2011 has been hailed in the media as a year of “protest” in the abstract, but it’s been more challenging and concrete than that. In defiance of received political wisdom, mass action in the streets returned with undeniable impact. Contests over space and the public domain became… Read more

Riots, reason and resistance

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD The Hindu “Criminality pure and simple” was Prime Minister David Cameron’s initial verdict on the rioting. From the right came the mantra, “Down with sociology! Up with water cannon!” Don’t think but do act – harshly, punitively, peremptorily. In the wake of the riots, a powerful vested interest has been at work… Read more

What I’ve learned from cancer

The Guardian, 27 July [A longer version of this article will appear in the August issue of Red Pepper.] Now entering my fifth year of living with multiple myeloma, a haematological cancer, I reflect back on a roller-coaster ride of symptoms, treatments and side effects. Whatever else this experience has been, it’s been an education…. Read more

Time to talk utopia

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, June-July 2011 In 1818, Shelley visited his friend Byron in Venice, where his Lordship was camped out in a decaying palazzo, ruminating on the city’s faded glories. Their conversations – on human freedom and the prospects for social change – formed the basis for Shelley’s poem Julian and Maddalo,… Read more

Cuts get personal

The Guardian 19 February 2011 As a long-term patient at St Bartholomew’s hospital in London I read this week’s news of cuts with trepidation. In order to meet the government’s £20bn NHS “savings” target, the trust that runs Barts and the Royal London in Whitechapel is to cut 635 jobs, including 258 nursing posts –… Read more

Bible bashing (lessons for the rich)

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, February-March 2011 A body of antiquated dogma and myth, a source of repression, paean to patriarchy, bulwark of hierarchy. That’s how many would summarise the Bible, and there are more than enough juicily quotable Biblical passages to justify that view. But there’s much more to this book – or… Read more

UK government threat to cancer patients

Red Pepper, December-January, 2010-2011 Politicians of all stripes feel obliged to genuflect before the altar of cancer, so it’s not surprising that the government has made strenuous efforts to cast itself as a defender of cancer patients. Some of its measures are genuinely beneficial. Innovative bowel screening procedures will save thousands of lives and extra… Read more