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.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill