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It was five years ago that my frustrations with mainstream parties prompted me to get involved in party politics. At the time I felt that the political process simply did not reflect the broad values of most people I knew – and especially those engaged in the anti-war movement.
These values were reflected in an opposition to imperialism and neo-liberalism, although most people I came into contact with very rarely, if ever, used these words to express their concerns.
Instead they asked why our foreign policy could not be based more on cooperation instead of conflict. They wanted a better quality of life for them, their friends and families, and felt people in other parts of the world were entitled to the same as well. Instead what people see today is war and instability abroad, and increasing discontent at home despite an apparently wealthy society. People are worried about the future of their children. They are concerned at widening inequality, the increase of stress and depression, the record levels of binge drinking, drug abuse, violence and vandalism. How could it be that after a decade of uninterrupted economic growth our society could feel more fractured, unequal and unhappy? Why are our kids reported to be the unhappiest in Europe?
The answers to these concerns lie in a critique of the way the way free market fundamentalism has increasingly invaded and distorted our lives, and the need for society to be protected from its all consuming appetites.
The challenge for those of us who aspire to live in a more humane and just society is to be able to explain the source of people’s everyday concerns in a language they immediately understand, and point to solutions that are immediately realisable.
There is a lot of talk in government circles about the need for a ‘national conversation’ about what ‘Britishness’ means in the 21st century. If we are to have such a conversation, it would be well served by looking back to the future.
The ideas of universal healthcare; a living wage; participatory democracy; public services that are accountable to the people who use them; food, medicine and shelter as a human right; these are not particularly radical ideas. They are common sense ideas enshrined in the UN Charter.
Add to that list a foreign policy that places a premium on diplomacy, and international cooperation, plus more decisive action on climate change, and there is the basis of a manifesto a sizeable slice of the British public would sign up to.
Why are these ideas so radical today? At one stage most would have been regarded as the bread and butter of social democracy. They appear radical now only because of the way neo-liberalism has shifted political discourse to the right over the last 20 years. All the while the gap between what the politicians do, and what people want, has widened.
The challenge of building political organisations that can bridge that gap is best realised and tested through day-to-day engagement in the practical struggles and frustrations of people’s everyday lives. Electoral politics, despite its pitfalls, forces such an engagement. Effective campaigning does likewise. Engagement with politics of a mass character is essential. It forces you to absorb the experience of the people you aim to represent, and it puts your views to the test.
It is also essential that we practise what we preach. How we build is as important as what we build. Our political organisations must embody the values that we wish to see reasserted in broader society. Our culture should be one in which disagreement is not seen as disloyalty and where inclusivity is not confined to those who sympathise completely with your own views. Whatever our forms of political organisation they must be places where we bring the best out of people, where the instincts that brought them into politics are raised to a higher political and moral plane.
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