On 30 November ten years ago, I was taking part in a relatively small but somewhat riotous assembly in London, demonstrating my solidarity with the protests against the World Trade Organisation in Seattle. The Seattle protests in 1999 were by no means the first outing for the new movement that was then being built, but they represented a qualitative leap forward. Here, in the heart of Empire, were protests inspired by many issues, but targeted together against an attempt by the global elite to give free reign to corporations.
Well-prepared direct action played a part in the victory for the movement that Seattle turned out to be. So too did mass protest. The resistance exposed the fissures in the negotiating position of the world’s rich countries, while WTO delegates from the global South drew confidence from the movement on the streets and walked out.
As the branches of Starbucks that littered the city became the focus of some protesters’ anger at the colonisation of our world by corporations, it was clear that a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the triumph of global capitalism was not so settled after all.
Ten years on, capitalism’s future seems even more uncertain, while the success of the anti-capitalist movement (or global justice, or alterglobalisation movement, as our authors variously describe it) has been mixed. Seattle was a victory and as John Hilary explains, it has been followed by successive victories against a new World Trade Organisation agreement.
Social forums, an inspiring new invention of this movement, have helped to give sometimes insular activists a better sense of the global, and a determination not just to look at the problems but to elaborate alternatives.
As Marianne Maeckelbergh argues, the forms of democratic decision-making used in the movement have also been a real and valuable innovation with applicability beyond the confines of activism.
Yet at the same time, we are still very far from that ‘other world’ that we asserted with such anticipation was possible. Beyond the usual roll call of exploitation, oppression, war and starvation, climate change now threatens to render some parts of the planet uninhabitable. You only have to consider that a sixth of the world’s population depends on meltwater from fast-disappearing mountain glaciers to start to realise what suffering this could cause.
Neoliberalism may have taken an intellectual battering of late but its legacy still dominates global decision-making, limiting the horizons of what people believe to be possible. In such circumstances, the Keynesian model of state investment in green jobs and infrastructure, which trade unions and others are starting to pursue (see Chris Baugh, page 22) is a welcome step forward.
Yet Keynes himself was at pains to point out that his model was about maintaining capitalism, a system that has at its heart a dynamic of accumulation and unstoppable growth that now threatens the planet.
We need to find new economic models, which take forward the idea of ecological conversion to its thoroughgoing end.
Nothing like this is on the table at the UN talks in Copenhagen. In fact, as Tim Jones demonstrates in our essay this month (page 24), the global North’s response to the climate crisis threatens to pile yet more injustice on the world’s majority as it seeks to maintain our current economic system and adapt it to the demands of climate change. Should the world manage to strike any deal at all, corporate-friendly market mechanisms such as carbon trading are likely to remain centre-stage.
A previous era of global revolt, and specifically its French incarnation in 1968, produced a slogan of continuing significance in this context. We should, they said, ‘be realistic, demand the impossible’. Thirty years of neoliberalism may have rendered a world beyond capitalism a conceptual impossibility to many, but it could be that this ‘impossible’ demand is actually our only realistic chance of avoiding dangerous climate change.
Despite it being dubbed ‘anti-capitalist’, many of those involved in the movement from Seattle onwards have had no clear idea of what moving beyond capitalism means. Yet one of the strengths of the movement was that it brought that question to the fore, and continues to do so in the forms it takes today, including, for example, Climate Camp in the UK.
Activists in their tens of thousands will be in Copenhagen to demand real and just solutions to the climate crisis. We should remember that they are able to mount the kind of rich protest and radical political challenge that is being planned precisely because of the movement around Seattle and what it achieved.
I am proud to be editing a magazine which took, and continues to take, the alterglobalisation movement seriously, with all its mistakes and confusions, its desperate hopes and beautiful dreams. Copenhagen marks its tenth anniversary. As well as an occasion for protest and the elaboration of alternatives, Copenhagen should be a celebration.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Across Britain, hundreds of thousands of people have now taken part in mass rallies for Corbyn's Labour. Eli Regan soaks up the atmosphere in Warrington
The under-30s could be decisive in the general election. Frances Grahl meets young people hit by Tory austerity and looks at what's driving their support for Labour
“To them it’s just another number, someone else being sent back. But when you’ve got three children being left without their dad … it’s quite major,” writes Rebecca Omonira-Okeykanmi.
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell
Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths
Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe
How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency
Empire en vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy
Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network
Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker
In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing
After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry
Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again
Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood
7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.
After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani
If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945
On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.
Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow
The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite
Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
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