Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
The (non-)affordability of housing has been at the centre of the financial crisis and the regime of austerity it has provoked. The immediate trigger, let’s not forget, was the banks’ exposure to sub-prime lending in the US, where large mortgages were lent to indebted low-income families who were never in a position to repay. In turn, the politics of austerity has meant that across Europe too, people are now struggling to keep a roof over their heads.
In the UK, with the ‘bedroom tax’ and other benefit cuts beginning to bite, thousands of families will find that their homes have become ‘unaffordable’ as a direct result of government policy. This is especially worrying at a time of high unemployment and poverty pay. Unless they relocate into a cheaper area – often miles from workplaces and family or friends – or accept a move to a smaller, often over-crowded home, increasing numbers will fall further behind on their rents, and face court fines or even eviction.
The situation has certain parallels with the anti-poll tax struggle, which saw thousands of families chased through the courts for non-payment of bills. At that time, local campaign groups were able to provide practical advice, legal representation and direct solidarity action at community level to prevent bailiffs entering properties. Through the national anti-poll tax federation, community groups were linked up into a national structure, which enabled people to share experience and expertise on how best to defend each other. It also helped to join up local groups of community activists to further the political fightback and advance a campaign strategy that ultimately helped to overturn Thatcher’s hated policy.
Mirroring the development of US Occupy – where activists from the big set-piece demonstrations have become engaged in a wave of direct actions against repossessions – we are beginning to see local anti-cuts groups and housing campaigns across Britain discussing the need for concrete solidarity action, as Izzy Koksal’s roundup highlights. Pressure is also being brought to bear on councillors, now faced with direct choices over whether to send in bailiffs to evict families who have fallen behind on the rent as a result of the policy. Local initiatives are aiming to provide sources of low-cost lending to worried people as an alternative to the super-exploitative payday loans companies. There are signs that practical solidarity is beginning to transform an initial response of anger and fear into a willingness to stand and fight.
At the same time, it remains uncertain whether this emerging movement will be able to coalesce into a vehicle capable of offering a viable alternative to the current mainstream political discourse. With UKIP’s recent breakthrough in the polls offering a populist right-wing repository for opposition, it is easy to see why calls for a new party of the left, such as that made recently by the veteran film director Ken Loach, can sound attractive. Of course, bringing such an alternative any closer to realisation is more difficult.
Similarly, in planning for its potentially important ‘People’s Assembly’ later this year, the Coalition of Resistance should be careful to avoid a Field of Dreams model of organising (‘build it and they will come’). Even the most inspiring speeches can get us only so far. What is needed is attention to how the existing campaigns on the ground can be reinforced to maximise the involvement of all political, union and community groups serious about taking practical steps to defend families under attack.
The success of Syriza in Greece, another key development influencing recent thinking on the left, holds lessons here. Syriza developed as a coalition with the very specific priority of giving practical support to the movements emerging in the streets, local communities and workplaces. This meant that it did not appear as an external force forever pushing its own line but as a positive, enabling influence in the various struggles. Only now, nearly 10 years on, is it beginning to slowly, carefully develop the structures of a party.
Of course there is no single template for success, and it remains to be seen whether Syriza will be able to make good on the enormous burden of expectation and responsibility placed on its shoulders. Nevertheless, its methods have helped to build the organisational capacity of the anti-austerity movement in Greece in new and important ways from which we can learn.
The question of what new formation is possible or necessary must always begin from the daily experience and needs of working class communities. It is possible that, in bringing together community organisers, tenants’ groups, legal experts and trade unionists, we might begin to consolidate a national anti‑evictions network, enabling experiences and practical tips to be shared. Such unity in action might in time begin to find electoral expression too.
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
’We believe in you. We are with you. We will never forget.’ Grenfell solidarity sweeps East London in mass banner drops from housing estates
Michael Calderbank profiles Jeremy Corbyn's new supporters in parliament
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
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
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
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced
India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya
North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero
The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava
France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati
This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help
PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank
Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media
I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to
We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS
Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank
Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland
Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones
The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya
The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.
An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now
The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee
Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell
Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths
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