Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
They say whoever you vote for, the government gets in. Certainly the time between celebrating Tory defeats in one general election and being told to shut up to avoid a Tory victory in the next one is very short. There has been little to celebrate in New Labour’s second term: privatisation continues relentlessly in different disguises, tuition fees will be tripled, pensions are in crisis, and we are unable to extend trade union rights. We are told the economy is healthy and that unemployment is very low, but too many of the new jobs are transient, casualised and low-paid.
Not surprisingly, Labour Party membership is plummeting. There are valiant campaigns afoot to revive it, such as the Labour Representation Committee (see “Labour against neo-liberalism”, on page 23 of the print magazine), but many disaffected voters are now vulnerable to the virus of fascism (see “Nul points for the BNP”, page 24). And any victories for unions in the internal Labour Party political process have, so far, been defensive, failing to achieve real change in the party’s direction.
We should have seen major progress on the skills agenda, but New Labour refuses to require firms to contribute to the training of their employees. This same deference to business is leading New Labour to dismantle health and safety legislation to an extent that Mrs Thatcher did not dare (See “Danger: people at work”). The government’s support for the Iraq war and occupation has proved to be the last straw for many Labour loyalists. Now an assault led by Blair and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on workers’ rights in Europe is making it hard for even Europhile trade unionists to generate support for the proposed EU constitution.
In this political climate, trade unions, together with social and community movements, are playing an increasingly political role to create the impetus for change from below. Whether or not they are affiliated to the Labour Party, modern unions are recognising that they have to work in alliance with other trade unions, students, equality campaigns, international bodies, social movements, NGOs, and so on.
Indeed, it is from the social movements that the new generation of trade-union activists is likely to emerge. This is already happening, and not just at the national level, but internationally (witness the trade-union movement’s support for the European Social Forum) and locally (see the rebirth of community trade unionism), too. The workplace-safety Hazards campaign, a lasting and growing product of connections established between social movements, intellectuals and trade unions in the 1970s (see “Danger: people at work”), is exemplary of the radical but practical kind of trade unionism required.
Similarly, the role unions can play in confronting fascism is critical. In “Nul points for the BNP” two union-backed organisations – the magazine Searchlight and the coalition to get out the anti-fascist vote Unite Against Fascism – present differing assessments of how to take on the British National Party (BNP): Searchlight editor Nick Lowles explains the magazine’s emphasis on local campaigning among the communities to whom the BNP is making its appeal; Unite Against Fascism demonstrates the importance of developing a national campaign and appealing to young people. The two approaches can be seen as complementary, and the BNP would have done much better in June’s local and European elections without them. Through supporting both, unions released political energy and resources for a social movement without throttling its spontaneity.
The Stop the War Coalition mobilised the largest demonstrations the UK has ever seen, but we are now moving into a new phase of campaigning, which involves unions building solidarity with the labour movement in Iraq. The Natfhe motion to this month’s TUC conference calls for an end to the occupation, urges support for the country’s newly emerging free trade union and women’s movements, and encourages twinning, material support and other help as the Iraqis form their own resistance to the privatisation of their country.
Across the Atlantic, the growing US Labor Against The War movement has linked opposition to the occupation with the reasons for removing Bush, stressing that the promotion of corporate interests and the attacks on workers’ rights in Iraq are part of the same process that is causing suffering to the US poor. The response to Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11 illustrates the unease among ordinary Americans that is well captured in “GIs against the war”.
All these issues will be central to the debates on how to build another Europe as part of a better world when the European Social Forum comes to London in October. Be there.
The police spend little of their time making arrests, and most crimes are not solved, writes Alex Vitale – their real purpose is social control
Many important things happened on conference floor, reports Alex Nunns – but you wouldn’t know it from reading the newspapers
Radhika Desai says Capital by Karl Marx is still an essential read on the 150th anniversary of its publication
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
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain.’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition.
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes
Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference
Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers
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