It’s official: the Libyan government is now the “Libyan regime.” The US and NATO are once again “the Allies.” Numerous war planes have been sent to sortie around a “no-fly zone.” And the bombs they are dropping are, invariably, “humanitarian.”
The script for the latest instance of Western military adventurism follows the tried-and -tested pattern. So it’s hardly surprising that the media commentariat is trotting out its familiar lines too: those in favour of bombing talk up the “responsibility to protect”, where questions of sovereignty should play second fiddle to our duty as globalised citizens. This sounds awfully like the Blair doctrine of humanitarian intervention, although the B- word is best not mentioned in polite conversation about Libya, when our beloved ex-leader went out of his way to rehabilitate Gaddafi.
The left’s response, more often than not, gives prominence to cries of hypocrisy. Why a no-fly zone for Libya and not Bahrain? Or Palestine? Why act now, when we were arming Gaddafi a matter of weeks ago in exchange for oil deals and anti-immigration favours? This strikes me as being simultaneously true and irrelevant. Governments are not consistent in their actions – nor, in every circumstance, should they be. If the UK government backed a dictator who served its interests, and had now realised the error of its ways, that should in theory be a good thing. And if the hypocrisy is one of unequal treatment, wouldn’t the right response then be to impose more no-fly zones elsewhere?
The left should do everything it can to resist the Libyan intervention, but calling out Western governments on their hypocrisy is one of the weakest reasons for doing so. Sure, they’re hypocrites, but a more fruitful approach to the same issue would be to unpick the rhetoric of war. We might ask: by what means is a simple imperative to act – the desire of all right-thinking liberals, when viewing atrocities – channelled into a bombing strategy? There’s linguistic trickery at work here, but also a series of military-industrial interests as long as a Lockheed census form.
More importantly, constructing a broader opposition to the bombing would require “flipping the script” on the war – instead of a focus on the motives, it would be worth talking about the likely outcomes. Restating the history of failed “humanitarian interventions” from Kosovo through Afghanistan to Iraq is part of this picture, but the facts need convincing explanations.
In closing, I’d offer the bare bones of such an explanation. Appeals to a generalised humanitarian imperative tend to recast political disputes in a moral register (good versus evil). The resulting simplification abstracts from the local context, which is invariably a far messier reality. That, in turn, has consequences on the ground, the most obvious of which is that it elevates the intervening force into the position of kingmaker. They’ll find new leaders who’s perspective coincide with their own strategic objectives. This is not an accident, but a performative act: for a Western government to recognise you as a leader, you must start to act in ways that conform to Western governments’ norms of leadership in client states. This fundamentally alters the power balance of the situation in Libya, eclipsing the right to self-determination, and claims to democracy that spurred the protests in the first place. Put more simply: there is still no way to bomb a country into democracy.
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
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
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’