I have been away in Turkey and have only just managed to get hold of a copy of the revamped Red Pepper magazine.[Oct/Nov 2007] I am very impressed, for me the design of the magazine is a step up from the original and is streets ahead of its left of centre UK rivals such as The New Statesman, Progress and Tribune, it also has a solid feel about it which I like very much. Red Pepper has always been ahead of the pack with its front page art work and the new incarnation on the magazine does not disappoint.
As to the contents it is a mixture of the best of the old and the new, the letters page is much the same and like all such sections depends on the magazines content provoking comment., Steve Platt has a new blog/diary type piece Plattitudes, which sets a nice tone. This is followed by a very interesting photo story about the first Red Pepper which turns out to have been a Soviet satirical journal that first appeared in 1923 as a supplement in Rabochaya Moskva, the newspaper of the Moscow Soviet and Communist Party organization.
There’s an article about the small left-wing outfit the Independent Working Class Association [IWCA] which is spot on, I know one of the IWCA members Zoe Jewell mentions in her piece and she captures the calibre of the IWCA cadre perfectly. Speaking for myself I found them to be an impressive bunch of dedicated comrades; and Zoe really does portray this group in a fair and honest manner. Unlike far to many on the left, instead of concentrating on demonstrations and meetings that proclaim the coming revolution; the IWCA believe the coal face is on the Council estates. Carrying out hard often repetitive work which will bring about small improvements in the lives of working class people by encouraging them to take matters into their own hands. In many ways they take their inspiration from the way Sinn Fein organized their core constituencies in the north of Ireland. Their hard work is beginning to pay off for as the Red Pepper article points out, the IWCA now have a number of local Councillors.
I enjoyed the piece entitled ‘What Became of the Labour Left,’ in which a number of leading left-wing LP members argue their case for remaining in the party, although I tend to agree with Liz Davies reply to them, which basically boils down to the fact that the half inch of political space that once allowed left socialists to work productively in the LP is no longer available, having been closed down by the Blairites, this is especially true of the parliamentary LP.
Naomi Klein talks to co-editor of RP Oscar Reyes and as always she has much of interest to say. There is a column called ‘The Other America’ which I hope will become a regular feature, as it is great to hear the viewpoint of progressive America. As someone who has always gone slow if not easy I’m glad others are catching up, so I immensely enjoyed the piece that went under that header, again great art work. Im in the process of reading the Gypsies Tramps and Thieves article but I like what I have read so far as it looks at the history of the discrimination against gypsies and travelers.
What else, well the photos and illustration in the revamped Red Pepper make it stand out from the pack, they really do jump out at one from the page. The photo essay Black Bold and British is just wonderful as the black and white photos are startling in their clarity. Slightly disappointed with the Review section as for me, like its old equivalent it still has far to much of the feel of the university common room about, but it is early days. I wish more people on the left realized that it is not a sin to review populist culture, whether TV Books or Movies. This is not to say there is no place for less popular subjects, but the trick is to get a mix of the two. I felt Martin Jacques when he edited Marxism Today was one of the few leftists to get this about right, although on the politics front he went to far to the right.
There are a host of other interesting articles including a piece about EU/US targets for Agro-fuels, which quotes Fidel Castro’s warning against the “sinister idea of converting food into fuel” Which if you think about it is absolutely correct, the more so when people are still starving in the world.
Mark Perryman and Anne Coddington feature in the ‘Guerrilla Guides’ section and their article ‘Pitch Battles’ came as a surprise but an enjoyable one and it is well worth a read. Booktopia, Asylum Watch and Natural Born Rebel make up the tail end of the magazine which finishes off with Rear View which was the Pièce de résistance for me, again due to the photographs which accompanied it.
To sum up, the new Red Pepper is so much better than I ever imagined it would be when I first heard about the relaunch. There is a breadth of stories that make it well worth the cover price. Even though we now have the internet it is still a joy to read a good radical magazine. At one time not that long ago there was a plethora of left wing publications to choose from, not any more and the fact that Red Pepper is still published on a regular basis is a tiny miracle in itself. At times I used to buy the old RP out of solidarity, but not any more for with this revamp I will look forward to reading the Dec/Jan edition of Red Pepper when it hits the streets.