Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
After their victory in the 7 November elections, Democrat leaders in the US Congress seem to recognise that they have a mandate from voters to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq. But even if they express resolve now, action won’t be easy: George Bush controls more levers of power than they do as legislators. Though they have the power of the purse, top Democrats in the House and Senate indicate that they are unwilling to cut off funds for the war. They fear being accused of endangering US soldiers. Moreover, Democrats are not unified on a single plan, and divisions are likely to remain over the key issue of whether to set a clear date for final withdrawal.
Anti-war groups are optimistic. ‘There is jubilation by the major groups organised against the war,’ says Judith LeBlanc, national co-chair of United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of 1,400 groups that has called for another demonstration against the war shortly after the new Congress convenes in January. ‘There are high enough expectations for the movement to exercise its muscle right away. There will be no honeymoon.’
Many pundits have portrayed the election as a victory for centrism, even conservatism, arguing that Republicans lost because they had become corrupt and abandoned conservative principles. But despite the views of some of the newly elected Democrats – such as supporting the gun lobby or opposing abortion – nearly all of them ran as sharp critics of the war.
Most also ran on a platform of what Americans call ‘economic populism’ – that is, government action to protect working- and middle-class living standards. Real income has been flat or declining for all but the top fifth of earners over the past six years, and job growth has been anaemic despite low official unemployment figures.
On the war and economic issues, voters were both repudiating Bush and the Republicans and tilting in a more progressive direction. In 2004, Bush was narrowly re-elected because in key states enough voters believed that he was preferable on issues of national security and fighting terrorism.
But the deteriorating course of the war in Iraq and the growing sense that the war is not being fought to increase security combined to undercut Bush’s credibility. This allowed voter unease over economic issues to come to the fore. The Democrats have a basic plan that they hope to push through quickly, including raising the minimum wage (now $5. 15 an hour and last raised a decade ago). The popularity of this move is demonstrated by the very strong referendum votes in six states to raise their own minimum wages above the federal level.
Democrats also plan to roll back oil company subsidies, pass new ethics legislation and change a Republican prescription drug plan for the elderly that actually prohibited the federal government from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies over the price of drugs.
There will be other clashes on economic issues, including the continuation of Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, new trade deals (which growing numbers of Democrats insist must include protections for labour and the environment) and the expansion of public health insurance to cover some of the 46 million Americans lacking it.
On Iraq, both the Senate Democrat leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and Michigan senator Carl Levin, who is expected to head the armed services committee, announced after the election that they would push for starting a ‘phased withdrawal’ of troops within the next four to six months. In the House, Jim McGovern from Massachusetts has proposed tying funding for Iraq (which has already cost $500 billion and for which the administration is prepared to request $160 billion for the coming year) to troop withdrawal and reconstruction.
The anti-war movement will be focused on withdrawing troops. Its credibility in making that demand has been bolstered by support from growing numbers of war veterans and a surprising group of 200 active duty soldiers in Iraq. But campaigners will also argue that the US should pay for war damage to Iraq, a proposition that may be much harder to sell to American voters.
Democrats are divided, and as a party they are vulnerable to political blackmail from senator Joe Lieberman. A pro-war Democrat who was defeated by an anti-war candidate in the primary election, Lieberman nevertheless won re-election in Connecticut as an independent with heavy Republican support. If Lieberman – still an ardent defender of the war – switched to the Republicans, as he has hinted he could consider, Democrats would lose control of the Senate.
With discontent about the war growing steadily, Democrats will need to deliver on getting the US out or risk repudiation by voters in two years time. But all the signs are that those same voters want progress on solving their own pocketbook issues – including health care, stagnant incomes and growing insecurity – as much as on ending the war.David Moburg writes for In These Times www.inthesetimes.com
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
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
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced
India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya