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.
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry