Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
The catalyst was Mumbai – the 2004 WSF. Out of necessity, the Indian Organising Committee had to look to the resources of the movements, to voluntary labour and the social economy rather than buying in services or using public infrastructure as they had been able to do in Porto Alegre -governed as it then was by the Workers Party, one of the instigators of the WSF.
It was radical, environmentally conscious architects who turned an old industrial site on the outskirts of Mumbai into an extraordinary Forum village of old warehouses and hessian tents. It was Mumbai’s extensive social economy who provided the cheap and delicious food round every corner. It was techno-activists and committed journalists who set up and organised the Forum’s media centre. This fusion of ends and means, a consistency between the values of the Forum and the way its physical and social infrastructure was organised, also opened up the organisation of the Forum. The architects, social economy providers, and techno-activists were all respected and involved as full participants.
Mumbai exemplified another innovation: a programme which was the result of extensive consultation. In Mumbai, the Indians brought a constructively questioning approach to the International Council (IC) of the WSF. The result is dramatic in every way. Physically: instead of taking over the big Catholic University in the suburbs of Porto Alegre, creating a little town of its own separate from the local people, WSF delegates will talk and plan alongside local participants in tents by the side of the river Guaiba that runs through the heart of the city. Politically: the programme is being decided through a six month process of consultation with all the campaigns, networks and projects who have participated in the WSF. Over 1,500 organisations have responded with the themes around which they want the Forum’s activities to be organised. Groups have then registered their seminars under 11 themes which came out of the consultation. The IC has agreed around six facilitators for each theme whose job it is to identify gaps (important topics for the theme not covered by seminar proposals), encourage mergers, identify cross-cutting or ‘transversal’ issues across the themes, and ask groups to spell out what outcomes they are planning for – in order to ensure that seminars lead to activity of some kind. The method is one of co-ordination without centralisation. The overview is a widely shared one rather than the monopoly of small organising groups. Much depends on the political integrity and nous of the facilitators but they are part of a team and nominated from an organisation affiliated to the IC.
There will be very few officially organised events, beyond those organised through the facilitators and participating groups which will introduce each theme. The whole process has a relevance beyond the WSF. Certainly we can learn from it for the Europe Social Forum. It would imply very much more emphasis on pan-European co-ordination and a continent wide process of consultation on the programme which could only strengthen a process of European convergence from below.
Behind the energy and enthusiasm there is still a little apprehension, a fear of chaos, but that’s inevitable with any experiment. It is reinforced by the absence of a supportive municipal government. At the municipal elections last month the PT, after over 15 years of being in government, was defeated by a motley alliance of parties of the left and the right. The new mayor has committed himself to the WSF and the participatory budget – a sign of how deeply rooted they are in the city’s political life. But the new leadership is technocratic, lacking any real belief in the importance of either initiative. It looks like the WSF started to innovate its way out of dependence just in time. What will it take for the ESF to do the same?
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
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
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
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook