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Could Europe have reached a turning point? Syriza, the coalition of the radical left, may not have won the second round of elections in Greece, but they got an even bigger vote this time around. Across Europe the anti-austerity movement is posing an increasing challenge to the parties of austerity. The new president of France was elected on a platform pushed to the left by the Front de Gauche’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon. In the Netherlands, the left-wing Socialist Party is running ahead of the centre-left Labour Party in the polls.
Outside the electoral arena, the Spanish 15M movement proved it has not gone away, with impressive reoccupations of a number of Spanish plazas. April saw a major protest in the Czech Republic against austerity and corruption, while Romania has seen mass popular protest against an increase in sales tax and the slashing of public sector pay.
The Blockupy Frankfurt protests are also important for a number of reasons. They represent an unprecedented attempt at pan-European protest against austerity; they are targeting in particular the European Central Bank, one of the pillars of European anti-democracy; and they are taking place in Germany, a country so far absent from the revolt.
Yet for all this, we still have some way to go. The advances for the left have been patchy, and importantly have lacked pan-European co-ordination, including commonly-produced alternatives and converging actions. From 2002 until it dwindled, the European Social Forum was an important, vibrant and well-attended space for this kind of internationalist organising, building relationships and sweeping away much parochial dust, even if it also suffered from an excess of rhetoric and political infighting.
We need to learn some lessons from that process, both positive and negative, while recognising that, ironically, the ESF never developed a strong enough focus on Europe itself in order to challenge its closed, technocratic institutions and its powerful elites.
A modest but useful ‘EU in Crisis’ anti-austerity conference in Brussels at the beginning of May proved that useful legacies of the ESF remain. This was evident from the presence of pan-European campaigning networks, for instance around the movement against water privatisation and for ‘remunicipalisation’. There was a determination to work together to better co-ordinate the movement across Europe. Now this initiative urgently needs to establish itself and incorporate significant social forces and grassroots activists, not just movement grandees and bureaucrats. Only then will it be able to call widely supported cross-border actions and raise the kind of solidarity that Greece will undoubtedly need in the coming months.
The need for common alternatives must also be worked on, even if it is no easy task. On the one hand some basic demands will have wide resonance and support: defence of public services and the social wage; taxing the rich and the financial sector; opposition to any racist backlash. On the other hand, significant areas of controversy remain. Stimulating economic growth through industrial policy is a key demand for many, but others have fingered growth as the culprit for the climate crisis and demand another solution.
The European radical left remains split over whether staying in or leaving the euro is the least-worst option. And at a more fundamental level, even those social democrats not chained to the neoliberal yoke propose merely to reformulate the class compromise that formed the original European welfare states. In doing so they ignore the fact that this post-war settlement was made possible only by the super-exploitation of the global South and the unwaged work of most of the female population. It was also a settlement which, though moderately redistributive, did not base its reform programmes on a challenge to the dominant organisation of production.
It is surely possible to overcome these differences to formulate some kind of united demands. But all the evidence suggests that this crisis of capitalism will not be short-lived. Opening up new areas for capital accumulation remains a vital goal for the 1 per cent, both through the privatisation of European public services and through the commodification of natural resources previously held in common, dispossessing the many people who depend on them.
We’re in this for the long haul, and to go beyond the current crisis, we need more than a hodgepodge of basic democratic demands and Keynesian economic management. Our movements need to start extending the experiments in assembly democracy that are taking root in neighbourhoods of Spanish cities. We must also spread the practice of creating alternatives as we resist – occupying and then transforming in all the areas of society we need to reproduce our lives, from food to free software. In this way, at least part of our common agenda can be that which emerges from our common resistance.
There is no crisis in the capacities and creativity of humanity. Thanks to the growth of movements including Occupy and the indignados, the last year has seen the limits of the possible expanded beyond the depressing confines of market fundamentalism. Now it’s time to blow those limits wide open.
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
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
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
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
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
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