Back in April, Vince Cable said of public spending cuts: ‘Cutting too soon and pushing the economy back into recession will make the deficit worse, as tax receipts fall and benefit payments rise. The Conservatives’ so-called efficiency savings are particularly dangerous. They have no clue where or how these “efficiencies” will be made, making it likely they will be nothing more than a smokescreen for job cuts.’ Now he is part of a government forging ahead with £6 billion of cuts this year.
But public spending cuts are not just unwise policy, as Cable was right to point out; they are deeply unjust too. At the heart of the financial crisis that triggered the increase in the public spending deficit was an economy fuelled by consumer debt. This debt was due in part to the defeat of the trade union bargaining power that had maintained workers’ level of consumption throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Corporations wanted to both pay workers less in real terms, but also have them consume more in order to sustain growth and profits. Credit was the only way to square this particular circle, and of course offering credit was itself highly profitable.
With this critique missing from the public discourse across Europe (perhaps with the exception of Greece), governments from Latvia to Portugal are making ordinary people pay for a crisis of capitalism, with the firm hand of the International Monetary Fund or the credit ratings agencies (see page 54) at their backs. This would have been the UK’s fate whoever had won the election, but with the Conservatives in control we don’t even get the anaesthetic with the amputation.
An imminent emergency budget will soon act as a statement of intent. By the autumn, a comprehensive spending review will undoubtedly demand an attack on public sector pay and pension provision, as well as ‘efficiency savings’ across the board. How deep these cuts are, and how much they are diluted and offset by increases in taxation, depends largely on the level of popular pressure between now and then.
We have a matter of months, therefore, to create an unprecedented movement against public spending cuts. It must be a movement like we have never seen before, rooted in local workplaces and communities, but with national trade unions supporting local initiatives to stop the cuts. Thanks to ‘efficiency savings’ introduced by Labour since its 2007 spending review, scores of campaigns to stop the closure of daycare centres, care homes, libraries, hospital wards, university departments and schools already exist up and down the country.
These campaigns, and the many more that will have to spring up, will need to have ways to relate to each other, to learn from each other and to take strategic action together. Alongside the organising, we will also need to win the arguments. The consensus amongst the main parties during the election has created a sense of inevitability about public spending cuts. No matter how hard any particular campaign fights, without an alternative narrative making the case that cuts are both unjust and unnecessary, the left will remain isolated.
Such a movement can also learn from initiatives such as Climate Camp that have captured the public imagination with creative and radical tactics. This doesn’t mean that every threatened hospital ward needs to see patients locking on to their hospital beds, but rather that a movement is stronger with a diversity of tactics, and that direct action and the reclamation of public space can help create a dynamic movement alongside marches, rallies, sit-ins and strike action.
Red Pepper aims to assist with the process of organising, networking and developing an alternative narrative, both in future issues and via our website. We will also continue to argue, as we have in the past, for a pluralist movement. A progressive coalition of Labour, Liberal Democrats and smaller parties to keep out the Tories may never really have been on the cards, but a ‘rainbow alliance’ is now needed to fight the cuts. This could and should include those on the Lib Dems’ left who are unhappy with Clegg’s ‘orange book’ alliance with the Tories.
It is also a moment for the Greens to take the responsibility of their higher public profile seriously. Caroline Lucas has a brilliant record here, but for the Greens, having an MP elected on a platform of opposing the cuts puts the onus on them to be leading actors in the non-parliamentary sphere too.
Most importantly, though, a critique of capitalism must take root in the struggles to defend our public services. Despite anger at the bankers, our unjust economic system got off lightly when the financial crisis hit. Stopping the cuts is first and foremost about defending the poorest and most vulnerable. But if that struggle mobilises people in a new and more powerful way, we might just be able to halt and even reverse the backward shuffle the left has been doing for the past 30 years.
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Across Britain, hundreds of thousands of people have now taken part in mass rallies for Corbyn's Labour. Eli Regan soaks up the atmosphere in Warrington
The under-30s could be decisive in the general election. Frances Grahl meets young people hit by Tory austerity and looks at what's driving their support for Labour
“To them it’s just another number, someone else being sent back. But when you’ve got three children being left without their dad … it’s quite major,” writes Rebecca Omonira-Okeykanmi.
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
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
Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker
In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing
After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry
Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again
Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood
7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.
After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani
If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945
On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.
Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow
The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite
Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.
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
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below
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