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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.
Louis Mendee explains the real human costs of climate change for the global south.
From climate change to automation to demographic shifts, Mathew Lawrence explains the challenges our economy will face in the coming decade.
Fifty years after the Abortion Act, women are still dying from being denied basic services, write activists from Feminist Fightback
We need to tackle the patronising ideology that lets Tory think-tanks sneer at social tenants, writes Emma Dent Coad
Acid Corbynism allows people to imagine a future beyond the paltry offerings of capitalism, writes Keir Milburn
'We wanted to use a shared love of the beautiful game to stand in solidarity with those living under occupation', writes Kate Hadley.
Priti Patel's shady deals are business as usual. Enough is enough, writes Eleanor Penny
Boris Johnson is a local disaster and a national embarrassment. He must go, writes James Clouting
The global elite have been stealing from society on an unprecedented scale, writes Tom Walker
Richard Murphy says that the appropriate political will and understanding of tax can put an end to offshore avoidance and evasion
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes