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I am constantly struck by the failure of the radical left to explicitly seize the moral high ground. The right (especially the evangelical right) are not averse to doing so when it suits them, yet socialism, internationalism, ecological sustainability, feminism, anti-imperialism all have very strong ethical foundations. Appealing broadly on key issues to a very basic humanity and compassion potentially connects us to audiences that for some years have been removed from radical left politics- the many people in various religious and moral camps.
This may cause some on the left to question long-held beliefs, such as on the use of violence, but that’s no bad thing. The enormous success of the London Citizens movement in bringing together trade unions and religious groups should be a lesson to us all. We tend to focus too much on detail and not enough on the big ethical issues underlying our politics. For example, half the world’s GDP is routed through tax havens which means half the potential tax revenues are lost. This is so grotesquely unfair to people who pay their taxes that it allows us to explain to them that there is enough money in the world- it’s just who’s got it and the tax systems set up to protect them that’s the problem.
Identify the issues
We need to identify the issues where there is real possibility of a broad anti-capitalist, anti-establishment consensus emerging in the UK (and internationally) and focus on these.
It is possible to change mass consciousness on certain issues in a relatively short space of time. They key then is to turn this into a permanent (or near to permanent as possible) step forward, ideally framed in law as well as in the popular consciousness. It’s been noted in other contexts how social attitudes to drinking and driving changed dramatically in a generation to one of outright hostility to such selfish and dangerous behaviour. The same is now happening on global warming and living within environmentally sustainable limits. Radical left activists must build the broadest possible unity around such issues and be at the heart of arguing for such transformations, using them to explain the links to other social, economic and political issues.
Respond rapidly and create permanent resources
Insufficient time and effort goes into translating successes into permanent acquisitions, not just ideologically but also physically and virtually. To be able to respond rapidly and effectively, the radical left needs embedded resources and infrastructure. This will take many forms such as resource centres, websites, socio-political networks and funding sources. Rather than forming another party or newspaper a shrewder investment may be to create and sustain permanent resources for the range of needs the radical left needs for its activities.
Remove the barriers
There are some structural issues that are critical barriers to progress for radical left politics. The most obvious is the electoral system. Proportional representation is no panacea but crucial if radical left politics is to enter the mainstream electoral and political arena. Another barrier is the party system and elections. The party system, especially in local elections, is a major barrier to making radical breakthroughs at a local level. The radical left needs to develop proposals and campaign to make it much easier for independent candidates and small parties to stand in local, national and European elections.
As Hilary Wainwright hints in her article it is also crucial to seize any opportunities to create and sustain forms of local democratic debate and accountability as ongoing spaces. For example, for its own reasons this government has decided to promote participatory budgeting but is it just a panacea? No, current developments in Porto Alegre show this.
To incorporate local processes of structured debate and discussion about what needs to be done and how money should be spent locally would represent a huge step forward for the UK. Potentially it could raise debate about the need for structured discussion of the national budget and priorities, weaken the power of the traditional local parties to have exclusive access to this discussion and help reawaken interest in politics.
The crucial thing is for the radical left to recognise such opportunities when they arise and to seize them rather than sneer from the sidelines at the government’s motives.
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
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
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
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