Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
I’ve been struck by the lack of analysis on the Labour left as to what went wrong in the recent Labour leadership elections. This is the first attempt to provide such an analysis and I welcome it. All I’ve seen before now is the Labour left congratulating themselves on the campaign itself and then bemoaning ‘we was robbed’. All of us who want to challenge the bipartisan approach of the two major parties were robbed. But what does that mean and why did it happen?
John McDonnell ran an exemplary campaign. It reached out to the grassroots, was based on transparency and accountability, and put forward a manifesto of principled, pragmatic socialist strategies. A contest between him and Gordon Brown would have meant that trade union and Labour Party members had a real political choice – a neoliberal warmonger against a democrat and a socialist. It’s a contest that Brown would have hated and that’s why MPs were mobilised to prevent McDonnell standing.
In comparison, Jon Cruddas’s bid for deputy leader was a pale imitation. His vote reflected the fact that a certain proportion of Labour Party members (and a much higher proportion of trade union members) don’t support New Labour. But Alan Simpson is right to point to Cruddas’s poor voting record. Compass – his main base – was one of the building blocks of New Labour. Cruddas’s response when asked on Question Time which piece of legislation passed under Blair he would repeal – he couldn’t initially think of anything – showed his loyalist instincts.
I don’t believe, as Alan Simpson suggests, that the Labour left declined because of the Chesterfield conferences 20 years ago or because we were too fragmented. The Labour left lost because New Labour won, building on the right-wing shift started by Neil Kinnock. New Labour capitalised on the party’s despair after the 1992 election defeat and convinced too many party members that only New Labour would make the party electable – and that becoming electable required shutting down the party’s democratic structures (such as they were), preventing the left having a voice in the party, and promoting neoliberal values.
Many party members – and many Labour voters in 1997 – believed that this was a smokescreen to get into power. But Tony Blair was speaking the truth when he said ‘We were elected as New Labour and we shall govern as New Labour.’ Since his election as party leader in 1994, the Labour Party has become the party of privatisation, authoritarianism, war and racism. Thatcher’s greatest achievement has been to re-mould the Labour Party in her own image. Gordon Brown was as much an architect of New Labour as Blair, and the ideology of New Labour continues under his premiership.
When New Labour shut down the democratic structures, it ended any chance of socialists in the Labour Party being able to make a difference. No matter how many party members are horrified by war, privatisation, the assault on civil liberties and so on, their voices aren’t heard, and they certainly can’t change the policies. The leadership’s iron grip prevents any real challenges – just as it did with McDonnell’s bid for leadership.
It’s not surprising, then, that the party membership has changed. Jon Cruddas’s vote showed that it’s now predominantly trade union members – not Labour Party members – who are dissatisfied with the leadership. Given that McDonnell’s exemplary campaign couldn’t even get the left off the starting-block, the question must be asked: what can the Labour left possibly achieve by staying in the party?
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
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
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
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
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
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
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
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
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
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced