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If we are honest, many of us have been slow to put together an alternative to the post-cold war, new global order. Almost uniquely, it is a world order with a single superpower. That superpower faces a growing insurgency – not from armies or guerrillas, but from an indiscriminate and deeply rooted terrorism. But there is another growing insurgency – a rainbow coalition of activist and peace groups inspired by the new sweep against civil liberties and democracy.
This presents both a challenge and an opportunity to the left. The left, too long influenced by apologists for Stalinism and by narrow sects that claimed they spoke for an increasingly atomised working class, has failed to live up to the promise shown by the movement’s pioneers. They understood that broad alliances were always needed to persuade enough people to think for themselves to bring about change. Hilary’s article addresses this need; a lot more collective work and debate is required – especially on the question of alternative visions for giving such alliances the ability to reach beyond the left.
Protest has been loud and grows. Veterans of the 1960s’ anti-Vietnam War demonstrations will tell you that they never marched directly against the evils of capitalism as today’s generation has. But they will also tell you that the modern movement, loud and diverse as it is, is also defined by ideological confusion. Today’s anti-capitalists know that they want to scrap the IMF, and much more besides, but there is little agreement as to what should replace it.
The immediate future will be increasingly dominated by the fightback against militarism, fundamentalism and authoritarianism. The left is in a powerful position to advance the case for democracy and a new internationalism based on peaceful co-existence, secularism and the rule of international law.
To campaign for these ideas effectively, we’ve got to get beyond the rituals of trying to make the ever-diminishing democracy of the Labour Party work for us. There’s a danger we’ll end up talking to the same people in smaller and smaller numbers. At present the Labour Party is not where the dynamic initiatives are taking place. We on the Labour left need to reach out. The labour movement needs to appeal to the growing numbers of radical activists to work together on the basis of resisting militarism and authoritarianism. The movement has the power to regenerate itself, but only if it reaches outwards. Hopefully, the Campaign Group conference on 5 July (see Bulletin board) will be an opportunity to drive this process forward.
Mark Seddon is the editor of Tribune and a member of the Labour Party national executive.
My experience of winning the Wrexham seat in the Welsh Assembly as an independent socialist contains lessons for the debate opened up by Hilary in the last issue of Red Pepper.
A sizeable part of my vote came from disillusioned Labour voters and trade unionists who were unhappy with Labour moving to the right or who felt unable to vote for a party that started the Iraq war.
They and many young, first-time voters want to see a credible, left-of-centre party. Wrexham was the only Welsh constituency with an increased turnout in May. I believe this happened because there was a credible radical alternative to the mainstream parties.
Some of us are looking north of the border to the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) for a lead as to how to make progress in Wales. On a recent visit, we were impressed with the unity and tolerance of different views shown by delegates at the SSP’s national council. We believe there is a case for forming an equivalent party in Wales – a nascent Welsh socialist party providing a credible alternative to Labour, which has turned its back on working people.
That party would have a mix of principled and practical left policies. It would defend public services, be against the private finance initiative, work for a publicly owned railway, repeal anti-trade-union laws and be anti-racist and anti-militarist. We would also look at what makes us different from Scotland, such as the significance of the Welsh language or the fact that the Welsh Assembly doesn’t have primary powers – something that we would work to change.
We have been delighted with the support from local trade unionists – especially the firefighters. We have worked closely with anti-incinerator, environmental campaigners and community activists, and I’ve been actively supporting the anti-war movement. A conference on 9 August will bring many of these people together.
Wales has not seen the same cohesion on the left that there has been in Scotland. Any initiative to form a Welsh socialist party would have to involve other socialist groups – still small and disorganised – so as to develop a common platform and agree priorities for Wales and for Europe.
We will also talk to the Greens and Plaid Cymru about campaigns and issues that unite us; there will be mutual respect.
Without unification of left views the possibility for socialists to be represented and have influence will continue to be diminished. It is still early days, but we hope to come to a definite conclusion by the autumn and have a party before the New Year. Our aim is that in eight years’ time we will have a truly left government.
John Marek was elected as the independent Welsh Assembly Member for Wrexham in May. He had previously held the seat for Labour, but was deselected by the party in February.
As Hilary said, now is the time for widespread discussion about what is to be done. Why? Because there is clearly a crisis of electoral representation. There are millions of people in England and Wales who lack any party that they can vote for at local elections. This theme dominated the Socialist Alliance (SA) annual conference on 10 May.
The consistent grassroots campaigning of SA members has born fruit with the election of Michael Lavalette in Preston and a series of good results in Wigan, Walsall and elsewhere. Last year the SA emerged as a serious political player in east London when we outpolled the Greens by some distance and beat the Liberal Democrats in Hackney’s mayoral elections. In Lambeth, Southwark and other London boroughs we receive respectable votes, too.
This may be, as Hilary put it, a “limited electoral success”, but success it is – especially in a system that is not proportional. The current limitation is more due to the newness of the SA as a viable national electoral alternative (we first stood nationally in 2001) than Hilary’s misperception of a failure to engage in sustained local campaigning. It is self-evident, however, that the socialist electoral challenge needs to put on weight.
It is for this reason that the SA’s conference voted overwhelmingly for a resolution to campaign for a broader alliance in preparation for the 2004 European and Greater London Assembly elections. We aim to have a socialist candidate in every constituency for the next general election. How this can be organised is very much up for debate and discussion; how it might change the SA is also in the mix.
The SA has an open mind about the organisational form that could emerge from such discussions. It could be the SA as it is, a relaunched SA or a new organisation entirely. We would insist only that it is open, inclusive, democratic and, of course, socialist.
Will McMahon is a member of the Socialist Alliance national executive
Ever since the creation of the Scottish Parliament and the emergence of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), the Scottish left has faced a choice: realign into a single new party, or create individual cross-party coalitions on an issue-by-issue basis.
Developments in Scotland have a wider relevance. In 2000 Tommy Sheridan succeeded in creating an impressive cross-party coalition to abolish poindings and warrant sales. For the Scottish left this could have been the prototype for future cooperation, but the Labour machine soon re-imposed discipline on the left of the party.
Today the Scottish left faces the same choice: a single new party or coalition across party lines? Scotland now has a rainbow parliament in which all the parties are minorities and where there is huge potential for creating shifting coalitions around individual issues.
The problem is that the big parties are acutely aware of this. Holyrood’s Labour/Lib-Dem coalition requires backbench loyalty. And the SNP, spooked by the emergence of rival nationalist parties on its left, is not going to do these parties any favours. Cross-party cooperation will be even more difficult in this parliament than it was in the last one.
This does not mean that such cooperation is impossible. But, if it is to succeed the Labour left in particular will have to reach out to the left in other parties. As Hilary argued, we have to abandon the claim that the only legitimate left is the one inside the Labour Party. The trade-union link is the great strength of the Labour Party. But when an Amicus poll reveals that 90 per cent of the union’s members are not interested in party politics, it’s time for the party to show a little humility about its trade-union roots.
Scotland’s biggest political success over the past four years has been the Scottish Coalition for Justice not War. The left could show the same cross-party leadership on campaigns against privatisation, racism, poverty and a range of other issues. A left that cannot work across the party divide will never form a single cohesive party. Let us learn to walk together before we even consider running together. We still have a long way to go, but we are together and we are on the same road.
John McAllion is convenor of the Campaign for Socialism and former Labour MSP for Dundee East
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
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
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
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
‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali
Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.
Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent
Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art
Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs
Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite