Stuart Hodkinson. Here's one for you. Last week, as Red Pepper's heroic volunteer press officer Alex went through the monthly motions of pestering the grandees of Britain's media to read our latest collection of brilliant articles, something rather strange happened: the press started to ring him! And not just any old newspaper hacks, oh no - we were courted and then chased by none other than the scourge of the radical left itself, the Sunday Torygraph.
Excited by the prospect of some juicy revelations about Make Poverty History, the Torygraph wanted to base a news story on our exclusive look inside the murky world of the celebrity-led campaign. For us, this posed a bit of a moral dilemma. Our aim from the beginning has been to get across the idea that both the policies and methods of Make Poverty History are not only counter-productive in the fight against global poverty, but also run contrary to the demands and visions of large numbers of social movements and civil society groups across the Global South. In so doing, we have tried to give activists in this country some useful resources with which to take on the reformist agenda. The Torygraph, in contrast, was undoubtedly looking to shaft Make Poverty History - and with it the notion of international solidarity - from the conservative right.
In the end, we decided to suck it and see. If the Torygraph used our information in an informative way (and inspired the Duke of Bedford to become a Red Pepper supporting subscriber) then we could live with it. If, however, they did a complete hatchet job and make us complicit in a far right attack on the global justice movement, we'd use the opportunity to show how the mainstream press, particularly the right, work.
On Sunday, the paper printed its story. I've pasted it below - with all the bits of my original article (edited or verbatim) highlighted in bold. Why not email to tell me who got shafted: Bob, Make Poverty History, the Wombles or Red Pepper? ;-)
This time it's not just poverty he's fighting
By David Harrison
Back then, on that hot, heady day in July 1985, it was all so simple. Freddie Mercury did sex, Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt did drugs and they and Britain's other leading musicians did rock 'n' roll to raise money for Africa's poor. This Saturday, when Live Aid's successor, Live 8, is performed in London, it will all be so much more complicated - and not only because concerts will also be held in Berlin, Paris, Philadelphia, Rome, Tokyo and Barrie in Canada.
On the surface, it looks like a spectacular exercise in global nostalgia, with Bob Geldof as the embodiment of the continuity between the two events. In 1985, he was telling 1.5 billion viewers to hand over their "f***ing money". Yesterday, Geldof appeared on stage at the Glastonbury Festival and told the crowd: "I want you to grab the hands of the person beside you. Not as some big hippy rock festival thing, but because you want this to happen. Lift your hands and say together: 'Make poverty history'."
But there is a difference. This time, he will be imploring people to urge the leaders of the G8 countries meeting at Gleneagles from July 6 to July 9 to hand over their money to change the condition of, as he put it yesterday, "the most put-upon and beaten-down people on this planet".
The change in the event's name illustrates the shift in purpose. Live Aid was about feeding the world with the £40 million raised in donations from individuals moved by heart-rending television footage, Geldof's blunt exhortations and a big concert at Wembley. Live 8 is more openly political, aimed at pressurising governments to radically shift policy to end what Geldof calls the "obscenity" of world poverty.
There is another important change. In 1985, the surge of charitable donations to Live Aid was a simple outburst of collective philanthropy. Since then, however, Third World poverty has become embroiled in the emergence of a new form of political radicalism, usually described as the "global justice movement".
The movement has its distant origins in the environmentalism of the late 1980s and 1990s, but it has been given sharp focus in recent years by three factors: the sense that the end of the Cold War left international capitalism and global corporations free to do what they liked; hatred of President George W. Bush and the belief that he is the creature of international business; and opposition to the Iraq war.
The majority of those who align themselves with the "global justice movement" believe in peaceful protest. But not all. The past few years have witnessed the growth of the "black bloc", masked activists who aim to cause disruption and destroy property.
Most anti-capitalism campaigners are happy to read Michael Moore, Naomi Klein and George Monbiot, all of whom advocate peaceful change. But others turn to such thinkers as the controversial Native American writer, Ward Churchill, who, in books such as Pacifism as Pathology, has urged protesters to learn how to use weapons, and described the financier victims of 9/11 as "little Eichmanns".
This is not to say that everyone who plans to march in Edinburgh on Saturday advocates violence: far from it. But it illustrates how broad is the spectrum of opinion on how to deal with questions of "global justice", compared with the simplicities of 1985.
One group, called Dissent, which is promoting "radical resistance" to the G8 summit, has set up a camp in a condemned Glasgow factory where hundreds of militants can stay during the gathering. Dissent has spent months planning every aspect of its protest, from catering and communications, to fund-raising, logistics and legal and medical support. It has even drawn up maps showing "back routes to the summit" for those wanting to avoid being spotted by the police. "Blair and Brown do not want a repeat of Seattle or Genoa, or any of the other summits that have been accompanied by acts of mass disobedience," a spokesman for the group said.
"They want a stagemanaged, benign spectacle, and so they play along with Live 8 and Make Poverty History, -creating the world's first 'embedded' mass protest."
Dissent said that Mr Blair's wearing of the Make Poverty History wristband and Brown's debt-relief programme were "carefully manipulated spectacles designed to obscure the fact that the G8's policies are at the very core of the world's problems". The group urged protesters "to join with those from around the world taking direct action by blockading the summit, while demonstrating real alternatives to the way in which we live".
Police said that one anarchist group likely to turn up was the Wombles, whose tactics of trying to breach police barriers led to running battles at the 2001 May Day rally in London. Senior officers said they had prepared what was described as "the biggest security operation ever mounted in the UK". The operation to secure Glen-eagles, a five-star golfing resort, is being led by Tayside police, supported by the security services and the Army, at a reported cost of £100 million.
A five-mile steel fence, with CCTV cameras, will cordon off the hotel, and there will be a second barrier inside the grounds. Roads near the hotel will be blocked and local people will be issued with photographic identity cards. Up to 10,000 police will be on call and officers may use stop-and-search powers.
The 450 charities, trade unions and churches who formed the Make Poverty History coalition in 2003 to coincide with this year's UK presidency of the G8 summit and the EU, and the 20th anniversary of Live Aid, do not condone violence or any form of civil disobedience. Many do, however, argue that the Government has tried to "hijack" and distort the anti-poverty "message" - and are furious that Geldof, Bono and Richard Curtis, the film director and co-founder of Comic Relief who has masterminded Live 8's public image, have become too close to Mr Blair and Mr Brown.
Twenty years ago, Geldof was seen unambiguously as a pop-star rebel. Now, many who share his passion to end Third World poverty feel that he has sold out to the politicians. One senior charity official told The Sunday Telegraph: "Geldof has been fantastic at raising awareness, and mobilising celebrities and ordinary people to join the protest march, but he has fallen right behind the Government when it is refusing to make the changes that will truly have a chance of ending poverty. The result is that the message has been diluted to suit the Government's agenda. The whole trade justice issue - where change really could end poverty - is being ignored.
The charities' main complaint is that Mr Brown's recent "coup" in persuading G8 countries to cancel £22 billion of debt for 18 "poor but well-governed countries" was inadequate because it was tied to cuts in aid and, more significantly, it was conditional on Western companies having unlimited access to the markets of those countries.
John Hilary, the campaigns and policy director of War on Want, said: "That is a sure way to keep those countries in poverty because their own industries will not be allowed to grow. They need protectionism, just as Taiwan, South Korea - and the US, Britain and the rest of Europe before them - used protectionism to develop their own economies."
Last week, Department of Trade and Industry officials told senior charity figures that the Government's policy was to strive to open up all other markets to British companies - the opposite of what it pledged in its manifesto. "That is real hypocrisy and deceit at the heart of the Government," said Mr Hilary. "The Government is very adept at co-opting the message but not the substance. It is getting good PR for not changing its policies."
Red Pepper, the radical Left-wing magazine, will this week highlight similar concerns about a campaign "high on celebrity octane but low on radical politics". One member of a group that is part of Make Poverty History tells the magazine that there is a divergence between the agreed message of the campaign and the spin that reaches the outside world. "Our real demands on trade, aid and debt, and our criticisms of UK government policy in developing countries have been consistently swallowed up by white bands, celebrity luvvies and praise upon praise for Mr Blair and Mr Brown. When our policies are relayed to a public audience, they become all but indistinguishable from those of the UK government."
It is also true that Geldof's abrasive, often dogmatic personality has not endeared him to many of the more sensitive, softly-spoken souls in the aid agencies. "He can be a bit self-righteous and rubs a lot of people up the wrong way," said one senior charity official. "Some people resent him because they feel they do the donkey work and he grabs the limelight.
"But it is also true that there is a grudging respect for the sheer force of his personality, which ensures that things get done. We know that he is the driving force behind so much of this and without him we would all be spending a lot more time in committees talking about it rather than doing it."
Certainly, the London Live 8 line-up is impressive, thanks largely to Geldof's efforts. Performers will include Sir Elton John, Dido, Joss Stone, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Ms Dynamite, Sir Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox, Pink Floyd, REM, Robbie Williams, Scissor Sisters, the Stereophonics, Sting, Travis, U2, UB40 and Geldof. Many celebrities will also join the anti-poverty rally in Edinburgh. Among them will be Daniel Bedingfield, the pop singer, Pete Postlewaite, the Oscar-nominated actor, Billy Bragg and Bianca Jagger.
Richard Curtis also comes in for criticism. While most Make Poverty History members say that his role in fund-raising and enlisting celebrity support has been central to the campaign's success, his opponents are concerned about his closeness to New Labour, particularly Gordon Brown. "Richard believes that we should support the efforts of the Government to bring other G8 countries into its line on aid and debt, and is adamant that Brown and Blair should not be criticised," one said.
Curtis's supporters dismiss the criticism as "ridiculous carping". Curtis declined to comment on the attacks. "I an concentrating on making sure that we get as much support as we can for the G8 protest,"
he said. "We have the unique opportunity to be the generation to say that enough is enough. Every person forming the white band around Edinburgh will be playing their part in what will be remembered as the day when the world cried out for justice."
The charities are also fighting among themselves. Some have accused Oxfam of being "too cosy" with the Government and allowing it to co-opt the campaign "as a front for New Labour's own questionable anti-poverty drive". Last month The Sunday Telegraph revealed that large numbers of the white Make Poverty History wristbands had been sourced from Chinese sweatshops with Oxfam's blessing - provoking bitter recriminations from other aid agencies.
As for Geldof, he tends to ignore any criticism of himself. "When I get involved in something like this, I stop reading the papers or looking at the news," he said. "I just get on with it, otherwise I would get bogged down and it would come to a halt."
He is a broad-brush man, he says. His objective is getting the message out there, encouraging people to talk about the issues, go to the concerts and join the protests. He leaves the details to others.
"This country is so alert to the whole African situation now, and that's the value of it - positive or negative, people are taking a view," he said. "The gig will happen anyway, it will be mega, it'll push the political agenda, and that's all that matters."