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.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
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
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
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
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'
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