‘Turn away from the mob. Ignore the angry brigade. Let their spittle run down the walls. This is the moment for the coalition to rise above the yells of the left.’ This advice, dripping with contempt for ordinary people, was dispensed not by some populist reactionary like Richard Littlejohn or Jon Gaunt, but by Julian Glover in the Guardian.
Such has been the political elite’s goodwill towards the agenda of the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government that we are now told that popular resistance to their plans is tantamount to collective insanity. Clearly, the ‘rational’ thing to do is to lose your job, see your pension slashed, give up benefit entitlements, pay VAT at 20 per cent, get into more debt and stand idly by as all your local services are stripped to the core. After all, aren’t we ‘all in this together’, and isn’t everyone going to have to make sacrifices if the country isn’t to be brought to its knees? Presumably this is the ‘non-ideological’ approach that Tony Blair claims is necessary in government.
Yet even from the point of view of capitalist interests the ferocity of the proposed cuts to public spending is utterly illogical. The idea that in the midst of a very tentative and fragile recovery the best way to secure growth is to engineer a substantial contraction in the economy is manifestly absurd. Economists have spelt out with alarming clarity the dangers of a double-dip recession increasing the costs of unemployment benefit and lowering the tax take.
As our ‘cuts mythbuster’ shows (page 22), the received wisdom is a tissue of mystifications designed to legitimise a quintessentially political project. It is clear that the motivation for the cuts has little to do with prudent management of the economy and everything to do with an ideological attack on the public sector and welfare state, which are to be both scaled back and cracked open to let the private sector take over.
While in terms of civil liberties and democratic reform the coalition has taken some steps forward, on economic policy the Lib Dems are playing the role of useful idiots for Cameron, giving a ‘moderate’ gloss to proposals that are clearly inspired by the free-market right. As Robert Taylor (page 14) and Anthony Arblaster (page 16) outline, the historical tradition of social liberalism played an important role in laying the foundations of the British welfare state now under attack from the modern-day Liberal Democrat ministers – a situation that at least a section of the party is already beginning to find acutely uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, the Labour party is clearly breathing a sigh of relief at not being responsible for implementing cuts. But as it debates which of the Milibands it wants as its leader, there is as yet precious little evidence that it will be able to comprehend the reasons for the collapse in its vote between 1997 and 2010.
Yet while Labour lacks the credibility to lead opposition to the government’s cuts, the coalition could be making a massive mistake if it believes that resistance will be confined to an isolated rump of beleaguered union activists and ‘usual suspect’ protesters. Millions of British people who have hitherto had little interest in party politics will find themselves at the sharp end of attacks on jobs, pay, pensions and services. We can’t hang on the word of the next Labour leader or wait for the slow cogs of the trade union bureaucracy to turn; nor can we allow sectarian divisions to fracture the building of a broad alliance against the cuts.
We need to be open, outward-looking and imaginative in the ways we organise. Where class struggle might once have suggested the big (male) battalions of industrial militancy, today it has to mean something different: united community action with (mostly female) public sector workers standing in solidarity with all those who rely on local services.
As Tim Hunt and Siobhan McGuirk show (page 28), the budget hits women particularly hard, since they are disproportionately represented in the public sector workforce and among the low paid. Moreover, they will be expected to shoulder the burden – without pay – of essential caring duties, and are more dependent upon benefits and services as a result.
Too often today the mainstream coverage of feminist politics is dominated by a narrow range of ‘women’s issues’ (such as reproductive rights, the rise of lap-dancing clubs and sexual commodification more generally). Though important in their own right, these do not necessarily open out towards a global vision of systemic change in the way that, for example, the anti-nuclear struggles of the women at Greenham Common or the women organising in defence of mining communities did for a previous generation.
So the special focus on the revival of grass-roots feminist organisation in this issue is intended as part of our continuing support for a new generation of activists in contesting their marginalisation, and in demonstrating that feminist perspectives remain central to the future of emancipatory politics.
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry