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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.
'Docs Not Cops' write that we must resist attempts to make our NHS any less universal
Louis Mendee explains the real human costs of climate change for the global south.
From climate change to automation to demographic shifts, Mathew Lawrence explains the challenges our economy will face in the coming decade.
Fifty years after the Abortion Act, women are still dying from being denied basic services, write activists from Feminist Fightback
We need to tackle the patronising ideology that lets Tory think-tanks sneer at social tenants, writes Emma Dent Coad
Acid Corbynism allows people to imagine a future beyond the paltry offerings of capitalism, writes Keir Milburn
'We wanted to use a shared love of the beautiful game to stand in solidarity with those living under occupation', writes Kate Hadley.
Priti Patel's shady deals are business as usual. Enough is enough, writes Eleanor Penny
Boris Johnson is a local disaster and a national embarrassment. He must go, writes James Clouting
The global elite have been stealing from society on an unprecedented scale, writes Tom Walker
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum