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‘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.
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
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
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
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