‘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.
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Across Britain, hundreds of thousands of people have now taken part in mass rallies for Corbyn's Labour. Eli Regan soaks up the atmosphere in Warrington
The under-30s could be decisive in the general election. Frances Grahl meets young people hit by Tory austerity and looks at what's driving their support for Labour
“To them it’s just another number, someone else being sent back. But when you’ve got three children being left without their dad … it’s quite major,” writes Rebecca Omonira-Okeykanmi.
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
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
Contagion: How the Crisis Spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe
How Empire Struck Back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency
Empire en Vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy
Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network
Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker
In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing
After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry
Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again
Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood
7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.
After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani
If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945
On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.
Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow
The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite
Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.
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
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below
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