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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.
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A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
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The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
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.
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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
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The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
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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
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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
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook
‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali
Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.
Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent
Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art
Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs
Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
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Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead