It’s rare to find a weekend when there isn’t a conference convened to co-ordinate some element of the struggle against the coalition’s austerity programme or to launch another specific anti-cuts campaign. Activists’ diaries are filled with meetings, rallies, demos, pickets and marches. And just when the scale of resistance activity may appear to recede, it springs back into dramatic life again, often around a new issue or in a new form.
The emergence of the disability movement and the direct action campaigns by DPAC and Black Triangle against Atos, chaining wheelchairs together to block city centres, and the unions’ cleaners’ charter campaign, setting up soup kitchens outside the offices of low pay employers, are just further recent inspirational examples.
For the anti-capitalist left, however, all this activity must have a purpose beyond simple oppositionism.
When the economic crisis hit five years ago, the traditional, organised left initially concentrated on analysing and explaining its causes and likely consequences. Its lumbering mechanisms and sectarian divisions meant that very soon it was overtaken by new social movements like Occupy and UK Uncut.
This focus on activism or movementism, combined with a deep scepticism of past vanguardist or social democratic organisational strategies, has meant there has been little if any serious discussion about a long term political anti‑capitalist strategy. The horizontalism of the new social movements is a welcome challenge to stultifying hierarchies but also brings with it the potential for stifling long term strategic discussion and decision making.
The time for strategy has now urgently come. This year’s Socialist Register specifically addresses ‘The Question of Strategy’ by surveying the lessons to be learnt by the left from the experience of the struggles across Europe, Latin America and South Africa.
Positively, the SR editors point out that the crisis and the emergence of the social movements have put both capitalism and class back on the political agenda. The slogan ‘We are the 99 per cent’ profoundly inserted the language of class back into public debate and, as Greg Albo demonstrates, a number of core positions have come to the fore as a distinctive socialist contribution on how to exit from the economic crisis. They include a default and the restructuring of debt, nationalisation and democratic control of the banks, ending the cuts and the adoption of a green economic transition.
Nevertheless, although capitalism remains in economic crisis, so far it is politically secure. In Europe in particular, no political force has emerged that has been successful in maintaining a consistent challenge and securing political office to provide a serious anti-capitalist alternative to neoliberal austerity programmes. Increasingly the left is being forced to accept that to rise to this challenge it needs to build a new infrastructure, based upon new forms and principles of organising and mobilising.
There are plenty of examples in SR 2013 of what to avoid. Steve Hellman charts the catastrophic tactical mistakes and organisational failings of the Italian Communist Party, once the largest such party in western Europe. And Christoph Spehr demonstrates through the history of the German left that the time for vanguardist parties has passed.
It is also hard to read the description by John S Saul of the capitulation to capitalism by the ANC and what he calls the jettisoning of the dreams of a socialist future for South Africa. Even here, though, he reports on South Africa becoming a world leader in grassroots protest.
Syriza in Greece has been the most successful in mobilising popular and electoral support for an anti-capitalist alternative. It is described by Michalis Spourdalakis as a ‘mass connectivity party’ in contrast to the old conception of a mass party. The difference, he explains, is that while a mass party sought to unite all within it to support the leadership’s challenge for or management of state power, the mass connectivity party seeks to connect diverse movements into a stable federation to develop political capacities as much as changing state policies.
The challenge Syriza has set itself is to build upon the experience of the social movements while moving beyond their indifference to party organisation. Johanna Brenner and Nancy Holmstrom suggest that vital lessons can be learnt from the commitment of socialist-feminist theory and practice to organisational structures that are non-hierarchical, democratic and more inclusive.
The electoral dominance of the Labour Party in UK politics, and the repeated failed attempts to launch an electoral alternative to its left, mean that questions of electoral politics are even more complex here. But that should not prevent those of us on the anti-capitalist left from coming together to discuss political strategy, especially if Labour returns to power and seeks to implement its own austerity programme. If and when that happens, it will have been worth reading SR 2013 beforehand.
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
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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
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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
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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