Beyond the usual fragments

Red Pepper has always been about more than radical journalism. Our origins lie in the extraordinary movement that converged across parties, movements, identities and geography to support the mining communities. The Chesterfield Socialist Conferences, and then the Socialist Movement, attempted to realise the potential of this convergence. As its limits became apparent, we created Red […]

March 29, 2009
5 min read


Hilary WainwrightHilary Wainwright is a member of Red Pepper's editorial collective and a fellow of the Transnational Institute. @hilarypepper

Red Pepper has always been about more than radical journalism. Our origins lie in the extraordinary movement that converged across parties, movements, identities and geography to support the mining communities. The Chesterfield Socialist Conferences, and then the Socialist Movement, attempted to realise the potential of this convergence. As its limits became apparent, we created Red Pepper as a fexible, open and modest contribution

towards the same goal.

This movement of the 1980s, with its roots in industrial trade unions and the

Labour left, can never be recreated. Mrs Thatcher and Neil Kinnock saw to that. But an equivalent movement of resistance and alternatives has to be built, able to stand up to the consequences of both global depression and the environmental crisis with convincing alternatives – but in the context of a fragmented working class, and in the absence of any adequate political voice.

People are recognising the urgency of this challenge – see the Green New Deal, the People’s Charter launched last month, the No Going Back debate initiated by Compass and the continuing work of the Convention of the Left, to name just a few.

It has become clear that, apart from bringing forward a few infrastructural

projects, government policy is focused ruthlessly on strengthening and

rationalising the private banking system and sitting out the social

consequences of the recession, as if it is some natural disaster for which trauma therapy and advice is all that politicians can provide (see David Harvey).

The kinds of policies we need – an expansion of public services, turning the

banks into public utilities and a radical green conversion programme – require a radical shift in the balance of social and economic power towards working people, constraining capitalist elites and requiring governments to respond to the needs of the majority. !is was the condition for the Keynesianism of the postwar years.

The problem now is to build a new sources of power for egalitarian and

democratic politics in the wake of the destruction of so many of the traditional – and emerging – sources of collective leverage for such values. !e fundamental question, then, is what are the social forces and configuration of social forces on which a new left politics can be based?

Thus the issue for the left at this moment is not only one of political

representation. There is a crisis of political representation. The gulf between the political class and public opinion has grown dramatically. But to be an effective instrument of social change, a political organisation of the left – whether a part of the Labour Party, the Green Party, nationalist parties or some new hybrid political organisation – needs to be connected to social forces rooted in the struggles of daily life against oppression and injustice. To illustrate the point: the Labour Party was founded as a party of

the trade unions, and the Workers Party of Brazil emerged from an alliance of

industrial unions, the landless movement and urban social movements.

Trade unions will clearly be central to any new configuration of social forces

underpinning a new politics. But they will play a different, more intrinsically political role, requiring a wider range of allies. This is partly a result of the transformation of labour, as the mobility of capital and deregulation has enabled employers to break up union organisation, casualise the labour market and use new technologies to intensify exploitation. This process

has led people to create new, including global, forms of organisation, new allies beyond the workplace and new strategic thinking.

It’s also a matter of a different approach to society-wide policies – on

public services, international issues, industrial strategy and so on. Historically,

on all but employment issues, unions delegated matters to the parliamentary

Labour Party, via conference resolutions and ‘beer and sandwiches’. As this

relationship is reduced to ritual, activists engaged in real change are building alliances through which trade unions themselves take responsibility, with others, for alternative policies and seek out new, direct sources of political leverage.

These kinds of social foundations for a new politics are beneath the mainstream radar – and too often the radar of the left. A focus on bringing together those already politically active is therefore not enough. We need rather to be engaged with the day-to-day disaffection in working class communities and with the ways in which activists not even born at the time of the miners’ strike are experimenting with a radical and egalitarian politics, whether or not they call it socialism.

It is here that Red Pepper, as means of communication and inquiry, should

be useful. But we need your help: first your reports on experiences of resistance and alternatives (e-mail resistance[at]redpepper.org.uk); secondly your becoming a supporting subscriber and helping us promote the magazine and thereby the new politics that you, our readership, are trying to create.


Hilary WainwrightHilary Wainwright is a member of Red Pepper's editorial collective and a fellow of the Transnational Institute. @hilarypepper


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

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'

Confronting Brexit
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

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility