December is the month of plastic baubles and technological must-haves, when politicians look to boost flagging growth figures with consumerist intemperance. It is always a fitting month to host the ‘conference of procrastinators’, as Patrick Bond has dubbed the UN climate talks. On this occasion the tired gaggle of government and business negotiators assembled in Durban, South Africa.
2012, the year when the first phase of the Kyoto agreement ends, is upon us. Instead of replacing it with more ambitious targets, the principle of mandatory emission reductions seems about to be abandoned. Climate change is rapidly falling down the list of political concerns, replaced by the crisis of finance – the integral role of capitalism in the climate disaster is conveniently ignored. As always, the vested corporate interests of northern countries will be a major stumbling block. Increasing consumption is the only logic that will hold any sway in Durban.
Richer countries also have the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ in their sights. The now infamous US state department negotiator Todd Stern, whose bullying tactics at Copenhagen 2009 were revealed in the Wikileaks diplomatic cables, expressed his contempt for any claim that there is historic responsibility for climate change. He stated: ‘The sense of guilt or culpability or reparations – I just categorically reject that.’
The facts are, still, terrifying. In 2010, carbon emissions rose by a record amount. We must start to reduce carbon emissions by 2017 if we are to avoid water shortages and mass migration. Current pledged cuts would put us at a 5 degrees celsius temperature change. This would mean large parts of the planet becoming uninhabitable.
Our political elites are so in thrall to private finance that they will not act to save their own citizens. Nowhere is this democratic deficit clearer than South Africa itself. One in six South Africans live in shacks (see our interview with Bandile Mdlalose this issue). Some 2.5 million homes do not have electricity, and companies predict a 125 per cent price increase in the coming years.
Yet despite its energy-poor majority population, South Africa is the world’s 13th-largest carbon emitter. It is part of a bloc of rapidly industrialising countries that have skilfully, if cynically, set up their economies to make carbon trading work for them. You won’t see South Africa fighting for binding emissions targets.
Of course, most of South Africa’s carbon emissions are created by mining and manufacturing commodities for the global North – only 16 per cent of South Africa’s total energy consumption is used by its residents. Both the products and the profits are syphoned off for northern countries, leaving the nation’s citizens with depleted and polluted resources.
This is a government that is failing its people. The ANC, as Vishwas Satgar argues this issue, have become overseers of Afro-neoliberalism. Accompanying this is a narrowing democratic vision: opposition voices are marginalised, politicians are market servants and participation is limited to voting – a particularly inadequate option in a de-facto one party state.
The campaigns of the African climate justice movement find themselves oddly disjointed from the climate negotiations – their demands on jobs, energy poverty and extraction will not even be discussed at a summit concerned with quantitative targets. The climate discussions have always been framed in terms that suit northern elites, though even within these narrow parameters an adequate solution evades them.
The domination of politics by corporate interests extends far beyond the climate talks, as neoliberalism brings its limited market democracy to every arena. In Europe, the IMF, assisted by Europe’s ‘inner core’, is once again asserting its right to dictate national polices. Some solutions politicians refuse to discuss: taxation on the rich, significant losses to banks or credit easing for the poor.
But there is a rising tide of resistance. The largest UK strike of my lifetime took place on 30 November – one organised by unions that are starting to address the dual crises of economy and environment by demanding the creation of one million climate jobs.
And from Romania to Peru, the Occupy movement has spread to 82 countries. Beginning with the indignados in Spain and Greece, the reclaiming of public space for debate and deliberation has been a crucial aim. The participatory politics practised by protesters is far removed from our tick‑box democracies.
In a political system dominated by corporate finance, creating more participatory forms of democracy, although crucial, will not be enough. We also need economic democracy. The challenge to Occupy activists and trade unionists alike is to begin a move towards a democratic economy by collectively organising our own productive forces and striving for cooperative workplaces. To become a regenerating force that creates real democracy, we must also create real economic change.
Hilary Wainwright argues against reclaiming populism for the left and for a leadership that supports people’s capacity for self-government
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
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
Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
#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
How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
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
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
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant