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.
Labour's 1983 election campaign has long been used to say it is impossible for a leader like Jeremy Corbyn to win any election from the left. Alex Nunns digs out the truth
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
2 May open meeting for artist-led poster campaign: End Tory Rule
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play
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
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform