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With so much of this, Red Pepper’s Christmas issue, examining the financial crisis, it doesn’t look like we are exactly bringing yuletide good cheer. But the holiday is also a time to reflect, recharge and prepare for the New Year. So we’re unashamedly adding to your seasonal menu some tough food for thought! We want to convey both the sense of a historic opportunity for egalitarian change, and the real and evident threat to millions of people’s livelihoods if we do not grasp it.
We have to think and act strategically: refusing those solutions from above that attempt to solve the bankers’ crisis at the expense of people entirely innocent of the crime, and campaigning from below for constructive solutions. That may not bring down capitalism, but it can begin to force decisions on the basis of social need.
There’s a lot of mental pollution to clear away first, like the idea of the ‘credit crunch’ itself – as if we’re all in it together, rich and poor. As if this financial crisis is some great equaliser: we’re all going to feel the pinch but if we swallow this wholesome ‘credit crunch’ breakfast cereal we’ll soon get better.
The solutions on offer that go beyond ‘grin and bear it’ still go nowhere near the kind of change that the depth of the crisis requires (see Hugo Radice). Read the Guardian and you sense a palpable sigh of relief at the idea of going back to Keynes, as if somehow the policies associated with past prosperity represent firm ground. The nostalgia for Keynes also represents a yearning for definitive schemes and new supermen to guide us through the global economic maze. Every minor rearrangement of the global financial deckchairs is greeted as ‘new architecture’, while Gordon Brown is confidently refashioning the role of a contemporary Keynes to fit his more clunky conservative persona.
But Stuart Holland witnessed the breaking of Keynesianism while a young adviser to Harold Wilson in the 1960s, as its once-sharp instruments of managing demand came up against two obstacles that rendered it almost powerless: the growth of the multinational corporation with inordinate power over the market, including international trade, and the re-established power of the City and finance capital after years of financial stability.
Both, ironically, were the product of the success of Keynesianism – along with the economic consequences of the second world war – in kick-starting a further phase of capital accumulation and in re-establishing the international financial system so that once again financial institutions flourished.
The growth of the corporate giants shattered Keynes’s assumption that the state needed only to influence the level of demand (through lowering taxes and/or increasing public spending) and the market could be left to itself. And the increasing power of the City created a powerful enemy of the welfare state and any attempt by the government to intervene in industry or significantly to borrow to expand.
The financial crisis that has its roots in those years is surely the moment to begin to tackle these two unaccountable sources of economic power. With the banks visibly dependent on the government and the taxpayer it becomes a logical step to turn the banks into public utilities (see Leo Panitch). To make money the servant not the master of the public, going well beyond the non-voting (and temporary) shares that the British government has taken as part of the rescue package.
Public control over the banks would give the government power to radically influence the real economy. Through its control of lending it would have real bargaining power over multinationals, to tackle the recession and require ecologically driven investments; through its capacity to create social funds (see Robin Blackburn) it could give huge support to the social and co-operative economy and the development of new forms of peer-to-peer production (see Michel Bauwen).
The key to such possibilities is democracy and movement-building, locally and globally. There is an appetite for this: for democratic control over money, to end the gross inequalities now revealed to all, to end the waste and destruction of war, to meet the housing, health and education needs of all.
The worldwide excitement over Barack Obama’s election is an expression of these long-suppressed desires. Whether we can build globally on his victory depends on our ability to tap previously hidden sources of power, to scale up the alternatives we have been developing or trying to develop on the ground, as we resist.
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