Red Pepper #189 reviewed.

Red Pepper April/May 2013

The tl;dr – Plus ca change (as in, here’s a review of the last one) – a mix of the worthy, the tedious, with flashes of real insight.

The big problem with Red Pepper is the lack of money to pay writers, who therefore deliver under-worked first drafts.

Here’s the opening two sentences from the editorial, entitled “Furthering the fightback” (1)
“The (non) affordability of housing has been at the centre of the financial crisis and the regime of austerity it has provoked. The immediate trigger, let’s not forget, was the banks exposure to the sub-prime lending in the US, where large mortgages were lent to indebted low-income families who were never in a position to repay.”
Wow, that REALLY makes me want to read on. Not.
How about: “People desperate to buy houses were conned into signing up for mortgages they couldn’t afford.(2) The banksters who conned them gambled on not getting caught. The bankers won that bet handily. Meanwhile the poor are -as usual – picking up the tab, their benefits and services shredded.”

In the letters page someone cites Owen Hatherley on local government getting rate-capped in 1987. Good point.

Here are the highlights of the rest of the issue.

Steve Platt
“Anyone who thinks that lasting structural political, economic or social change is going to brought about by consensus decision making at ad hoc assemblies a la the Occupy movement is not just living in a political fantasy world. They are fantasising about one in which democracy becomes activist democracy – attritional decision making of the kind that used to characterise the worst of labour (and other) movement activism, whereby the last person standing wins the vote. And anyone who thinks that this sort of ‘transparent’ decision making is some sort of adequate safeguard against sexual harassment, rape and misogyny needs to gen up a lot more on the experience of some women in various radical movements in recent years.

Fight the invisible power by Zoe Stavri
Yet the invisible power structures of a kyriarchical system – a structure of overlapping oppressions – are replicated within anti-capitalist groups, anti-war groups, anarchists circles and all those of us who are, nominally at least, fighting the power.

The awesome Lynne Segal is highlight of the whole issue, for me anyway.

Today, as vulnerable people everywhere are devastated by welfare cuts, we are in an even worse moment, and the obstacles we face have grown formidably.

There is a point to growing old: we have a past. So one thing I can say at once is that the imaginative excitement often unleashed in direct action against perceived injustice , simply being on the scene when you hope, rightly or wrongly, that this moment of collective resistance might leave its mark on history, often permanently changes consciousness….

The second thing I know is that, sadly , ideas do fade. In different ways and for a multitude of reasons, in changed contexts dissident ideas are accommodated, distorted or muted completely. Certainly the priority individuals give to activism, along with the fighting spirit of a movement shifts – especially, perhaps, a movement as volatile, diffuse and vulnerable to attach as the Occupy movement, once the sanctioned forces of law and order move against it….

Of course it is tiresome to hear, even to say, but to succeed movements like Occupy or the Indignados must manage to reach out not just in the heat of action, but to build coalitions that survive and have impact upon government policies once reality bites and fragmentation and exhaustion set in. With or without jobs, a myriad of personal and shared responsibilities take their toll on rebellious spirits. Beyond spontaneous sites of struggle, the question shifts to whether or how ‘democracy in action’ can be preserved to form a coherent and intelligible opposition….

… the lack of prescribed structures of leadership in no way precludes certain controlling individuals, or simply the most charismatic, sharp or ebullient of people, from becoming dominant figures, whether they wish to or not….

The public mood shifted, gradually becoming more aligned with Thatcher’s (and then New Labour’s) increasingly hegemonic anti-welfare, market-driven culture. The level of political activity that grass roots struggle demands usually withers in unfavourable conditions, and this certainly happened to the confidence needed for initiatives at left unity….

Review of Gangsters, TV sow from 1970s by Frank Carney
Naturally, gangsters are at the heart of the drama, but mercifully, it’s practically cop-free, everybody knew they were beyond redemption, hence they were excluded. The thrust of the programme was to characterise crime as a business. The hoods of the Consortium, with an “MD” supervising “board-meetings”. The language is administrative. “We’ll foreclose on his option to breathe.” There are endless discussions about despatching (sic) rivals, which, like routine matters of detail in any profession, acquire a baroque, bureaucratic dullness by constant repetition.
Compare with “M” by Fritz Lang

The book K by Bernardo Kucinski seems interesting…

Basically, Red Pepper continues to punch below its weight, full of problems and short on solutions, short on practical advice and case studies that activists and campaigners could find useful.

(1) Furthering? Really? Where has it started and actually kept going? All I’ve seen is a series of spasms…

(2) See that John Lanchester book. Also, this –

The lawsuit said that Countrywide, the California-based mortgage lender that BofA bought in 2008, implemented a process called the “hustle” and “high speed swim lane” to deal with loans rapidly without checking their quality.
Under the “hustle” Countrywide removed bonuses linked to the quality of loans and paid them solely on volume, the lawsuit claims, while cutting experienced underwriters and allowing “data entry clerks” to manage the process.

US sues BofA for more than $1bn over faulty mortgage procedures
Tom Braithwaite
Financial Times, page 1
October 25 2012



About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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