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‘My priority is a new political party and movement in this country that wants to stand up for the interests of ordinary people.’ These were the words of UKIP’s grinning frontman, Nigel Farage, on the BBC the weekend after UKIP won 139 new council seats in the local elections. During the interview, the man who so dislikes immigrants, the EU and wind turbines presented himself as genuinely anti-establishment, distinguishing his party from the elite and remote Westminster vacuum by emphasising the working-class background of some candidates and describing himself as ‘someone who wants to do something’ rather than ‘someone who wants to be something’.
Of course, Farage would love to be part of the Westminster elite every bit as much as the next grey-suited, privately-schooled City trader. His own background is about as establishment as you get. And it didn’t take much by way of dirt-digging to uncover some UKIP candidates as the knife-in-teeth baring holocaust deniers that are so familiar to sub-cultures of the right. It’s clear that UKIP is sprinkling the kind of people who might have flirted with the BNP a few years ago with Farage fairy dust and providing them with a place of amelioration.
Right-wing Tories are using UKIP’s election success as a convenient reason to advance their own anti-EU, anti-immigration agenda, but there are other elements of Farage’s success that are worth reflecting on. In particular, UKIP’s focus on issues that affect people’s daily lives; Farage’s frequent citing of class; and the way he has separated himself from the austerity-obsessed political mainstream. While this can all be dismissed as a cynical bandwagon hitch, Farage is adept at making it look sincere. In doing so he is occupying space that should be the terrain of the left.
The insipid ‘one nation’-ism Ed Miliband took from the Tories will go no way to establishing Labour as a party that can challenge the elite; it is just a bland endorsement of a slightly less painful cuts agenda. The Green Party is articulating something different: a vision of social and environmental justice that challenges the market economy, rather than being co-opted by it. Yet despite this, its councillors have still acted as austerity enforcers at the local level, albeit unwillingly.
Recently in Brighton and Hove, where a minority administration runs the first Green-led council in Britain, a dispute over low-paid council employees’ wages caused a rift between the local Green Party and Green council leader Jason Kitcat. The experiences in Brighton have not so far provided an inspiring example of the difference a Green council could make, especially when compared with the resistance of some Labour councillors during the 1980s battles over rate-capping (see Mike Marqusee, page 14).
Many parts of the left have sought to offer an anti-establishment alternative outside party political spheres. The Occupy movements formed in an explosion of popular energy that was directed against a corporate co-option of politics. Other campaigns, such as Boycott Workfare and Fuel Poverty Action, begin with people’s lived experiences (either of unemployment or the inability to heat their homes) and offer sharp critiques of the corporate capture of the state. Last year, Fuel Poverty Action held a demo with about 50 members of the Greater London Pensioners’ Association. The group, along with No Dash For Gas, recently attended the pensioners’ AGM, where a motion was passed that condemned both the deaths of thousands of people every year from fuel poverty and the extortionate profits of the big six energy companies.
Such grounded struggles are seen by many on the UK left as the foundation for wider change. With attacks on every front, local struggles are making links and, at least informally, see themselves as engaged in a wider, systemic resistance. Too often, though, there is a gulf between these groups and national initiatives that do not always pay enough attention to the transformative potential of what is emerging from grassroots groups.
Hilary Wainwright urges us to pay more attention to the strategic importance of the local. Potentially it is where the forces for radical and egalitarian change are able to reach out to a wider public, including some of the people UKIP appeals to. It is here that there is an underestimated potential for the left to challenge dominant ideas. But these struggles need support and wider platforms.
Farage only talks of taking on big business, but groups like Boycott Workfare and Fuel Poverty Action actually do so. When the People’s Assembly gathers on 22 June, the organisers would do well to make sure it is a space in which the demands of working-class communities are heard and where the people assembling are able to plan a resistance that challenges the day-to-day impacts of capital. That would be a real anti-establishment politics.
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
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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
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
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
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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
‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali
Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.
Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent
Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art
Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs
Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite