I have a right to express my anti-capitalist views, said a schoolboy arrested in the anti-WTO, anti-Railtrack fracas at London’s Euston station. Thanks to the audacity of thousands of diverse activists like him, being ‘anti-capitalist’ is back on the mainstream agenda again. Newscasters no longer say it with a sneer. What is needed now is practical thinking about alternatives, starting with a form of democracy that resists being co-opted and corrupted by capitalism.
It was revealing to see the grotesque paramilitary-style effort to keep the World Trade Organisation completely sealed off from public access, symbolising dramatically the extent to which governmental institutions have become separated from the people they are supposed to represent. While on the other hand we have witnessed the persistence of popular support for Ken Livingstone against some of the most determined manoeuvres this government has ever engaged in. This proves that ordinary people are doggedly determined to win back some power for themselves. That these two events coincided served as a vivid reminder that it is no longer enough to ‘think global and act local.’ We need to both think and act at both levels simultaneously.
Social movements are doing that already. The Brazilian landless movement occupies local land, marches on the federal capital and sends a mass delegation to international summits to block further deregulation of trade. The Exodus collective organises locally while also hosting activists from around the world at its Luton farm. But what about governmental and parliamentary institutions – the institutions of representative democracy, as distinct from the participatory democracy of DIY social activists? Do we even want or need such institutions? After Seattle, one is tempted to agree with the anarchists that state institutions have so thoroughly discredited themselves that we can no longer rely on them for anything.
One problem unresolved by anarchism is distribution. We need government institutions of some kind, both globally and nationally, because they are necessary for a massive redistribution of wealth if the majority of the world’s people are to enjoy real autonomy and self-determination. For example, a massive transfer of resources is the only way to unite the legitimate concerns of US trade unionists over child labour and the immediate needs of poor families in India and Africa.
Official OECD aid, for instance, has declined in recent years from 0.7% to 0.3% of GDP; merely raising it to the modest Development Decade target of 1% could provide families in the South with a basic income, in exchange for which they would promise to send their children to school – as has already been done in the Brazilian cities governed by the Workers Party. In the EU, a very significant move towards transnational redistribution was taking place; shamefully, the British government is forcing a compromise. The original European tax plan shows the way to what is needed globally.
But institutions with the power to redistribute on the sort of scale that is necessary will need to be strong; how can they be kept genuinely democratic and accountable? How do we avoid having state institutions that claim to act for the people but exclude us from effective control? This is where participatory democracy is so important. We need co-government, a sharing of decision-making and responsibility between representative and direct democracy.
Experiences across the world show that where radical social movements converge with left parties – or sections of left parties – with a foothold in power, a new effective democratic government is possible. Democratic institutions with a participatory base can have the necessary moral authority to call concentrations of wealth and power to account, and the necessary administrative capacity and political clout to carry out redistributive reforms of real scope and bite. Such sharing of power between parliamentary and direct democracy locally and globally is surely one alternative for ‘anti-capitalists’ to explore.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
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
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
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
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
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
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