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That’s the easy part – the almost euphoric initial phase of a new movement. I remember the same exhilaration at the first conferences of the women’s liberation movement. Then comes the difficult bit. The second ESF in Paris must provide a launch pad from which this new Europe-wide social justice movement (hugely reinforced by the 15 February protests against the war) can transform itself into a material force for resistance and change.
There’s a need for strategic thinking to exploit the present contradictory moment. On the one hand, as anyone in Cancun will bear witness, EU institutions are pursuing neo-liberal economics to globally Dickensian conclusions. On the other, in Italy and the UK – the homelands of the European right in all its dubious forms – a popular awakening to the damaging consequences of neo-liberalism has already begun.
We must clear the ground by challenging the beguiling rhetoric, attractive to most Europeans, that a united Europe will counter the US. Equally plausible is a future of European multinationals competing with US rivals for cheap labour and plentiful markets in the South, or for any public sector deals that the US and EU connive to “free up”. There could be a military build up in a “Fortress Europe”, and a strengthening of European monetary policy not only against the dollar but also against the pressures of democratic accountability.
What is needed is an anti-imperialist, anti-neo-liberal alternative to US dominance. Rigorous policy proposals should be high on the list of what the next ESF stimulates. We need policies that bring us towards egalitarian economic relations with the South, towards a non-military security policy, towards democratic control over financial institutions, towards a just peace in the Middle East.
But policies are not enough on their own. We know that from the non-deeds of governments whose radical policies are subverted by the vested interests they supposedly set out to challenge.
We need to build new kinds of democratic power to reinforce the vote. We need workers” power that reaches out to citizens to improve public services and resist the global pressures to privatise. We need the power of an international peace movement backed by radical municipalities and able to open up inter-governmental contradictions. We need the strength of a movement for the free passage, and dignity, of people – built through solidarity between refugees and the labour and community movements.
To build these new kinds of power requires ways of organising that will be new in two respects. First, we will have to move beyond traditional electoral power. And second, we must make sure that whatever centralised power we put in place is accountable. We do not yet know the appropriate forms of political organisation for creating democratic and socially just alternatives at all levels – local and global. But most of us are involved in practical experiments and know of hundreds and thousands of organisations, networks and campaigns that share our values and goals. It makes sense to come together and exchange experiences. Together we can see more precisely where we want to go. And that is the point of the social forum.
The overriding concern must be to open up for all those resisting injustice a space conducive to the full exchange and thoughtful cross-fertilisation of ideas and action. Each organisation must come away from the ESF and similar forums strengthened in its capacity to resist and achieve positive change. This is especially important given the likelihood that next year’s ESF will be in London.
What is needed is a real shift in culture throughout the left, so that we can engage wholeheartedly in building an infrastructure for supporting and connecting a diverse array of organisations and movements whose independence is integral to their strength. We need to labour in a process of social change that will be led in ways we cannot predict or control.
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun