Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
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.
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
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
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