Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Margaret Thatcher’s most potent legacy has been an economy dependent on the City of London: a driving force of ‘disaster capitalism,’ an earner of levels of private wealth that beggar belief and a rapacious pressure on scarce resources.
Tackling this legacy is now possible. The reason why is that the formula of the New Labour project (Gordon Brown’s formula, to be precise) – free market economics as a means to create the wealth to fund social policies – has rebounded, intensifying social and environmental problems. This has highlighted the consequences of the increased dominance of the City: unacceptable levels of inequality – in education as well as in income; inflated house prices; pensions uncertainty; deepening divisions between north and south. As a result, the foundations of the new government are deeply riven.
The left in the Labour Party may be in an uncertain state (see ‘What became of the Labour left?‘) but the intellectual and political arguments coming from across the left – scrutinising privatisation, exposing inequality, proposing democratic reform – have had an effect, at least on public opinion. They make sense, connecting with people’s experience. Now the challenge for the left is to work on alternatives to the driving force behind all that it has been challenging.
Tackling the City involves at least three levels of strategy. First, there must be policies, national and international, for tax justice to halt the systematic offshore tax evasion, control other sources of the grotesque levels of private wealth, and in the process provide funds for radical social policies, including a massive programme of public housing.
Second, we need to rediscover industrial strategy, using public action at every level and building on popular desire for ethical investment and consumption to encourage and support a thriving real economy. The idea would be both to break the UK’s dependence on the City and at the same time to speed up a transition to the kind of environmentally-friendly economy we need for a good life (see ‘It’s a Pleasure’ by Kate Soper and Temperature Gauge in our Oct/Nov 2007 issue). This includes alternatives to the attempts of the rich to protect their lifestyles ecologically at the expense of the poor (see ‘Agro-fooling ourselves’ by Oscar Reyes).
Finally, we need internationally co-ordinated action to control financial flows. It was done to Al Qaeda after 9/11; it can be done to the City now.
Essential to all of these is a vision of genuine democratic control over the public institutions and resources necessary to such strategies, from local government through to the UN.
Gordon Brown just does not seem to get democracy. Take local and regional government (see Stuart Weir’s new column on democracy). On the one hand he makes regional government, where so many big economic and social decisions are taken, into an even more shadowy, unaccountable arena; and on the other hand Hazel Blears announces a toytown model of participatory budgeting (see ‘Power to Which People?’). Moreover, the government refuses even to consider reform of the way that it acts in our name in international bodies, taking decisions that frame what are now the micro decisions of the nation state without people even knowing, let alone having the chance to deliberate.
The government says its aim is to build up people’s trust in politics, and in politicians. But isn’t democracy the other way round: is it not about government trusting the people? This involves sharing power, letting go. And that means measures like more autonomy for local government and real pluralism through electoral reform, not building a big tent round the chief.
It also means democracy in people’s everyday interactions with the state. Here, government ministers talk of ‘co-production’ of services between the state and the public. But it’s an empty promise so long as state workers are treated as hired hands (see ‘Are you Listening Ed?’). High quality working conditions are a necessary condition – though not a sufficient one – a for high quality services.
Finally, genuine democratic control requires a political culture of robust debate, with no ‘no go areas’, no fear of ‘hostages to fortune’. The new-look Red Pepper and website marks a renewal of our commitment to promote such a culture. Milton’s remark on the importance of argument has always been our compass here: ‘Where there is a desire to learn, there will be much writing, much argument, many opinions; for argument is but knowledge in the making … It is this that makes for the best harmony, not the forced and outward union of cold, and neutral and inwardly divided minds.’
Please let us know if we come anywhere near these ambitious goals – and suggest how we might do so! Join the discussion on our new Red Pepper forum or write to us direct: hilary [at] redpepper.org.uk or oscar [at] redpepper.org.uk
The police spend little of their time making arrests, and most crimes are not solved, writes Alex Vitale – their real purpose is social control.
Many important things happened on conference floor, reports Alex Nunns – but you wouldn’t know it from reading the newspapers
Radhika Desai says Capital by Karl Marx is still an essential read on the 150th anniversary of its publication
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
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
Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes
Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference
Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
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