Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
I arrived at the Coalition of Resistance (COR) conference into a crowd of energy, anger and passion. The 1000 capacity venue was packed out, with an estimated 1200 delegates filling the hall and overflow rooms. What I saw started to make sense of disparate meetings and conversations I had been having with friends, colleagues and acquaintances since the election of a hung parliament and the establishment of the coalition government.
In the months leading up to Saturday, friends of mine have become increasingly worried about their personal situations in work and out of work. Those in work were worried about their jobs, their colleagues and the people they served. Those out of work were becoming stressed, depressed and withdrawn after sending tens of applications per month and being met by silence. What actions like the student demonstrations, Vodafone closures and the COR conference have provided is a way to make the personal, political.
The delegates listened with anger as the dismantling of the welfare state was laid out before them; and in silence when one of the school students kettled by the Metropolitan Police spoke from the platform. In many ways this was an educational rather than a policy or strategy-making event. In the workshops, delegates heard from speakers (including myself) and debated matters around political strategy, organising methods, and specific issues around women, benefits, and climate change. What was clear to me was that the movement was understandably pulling in many directions to face the broad attack on social welfare, but where it needs to go is to support specific struggles at the local level against cuts and privatisations, picking its targets well and building a successful movement.
In the workshop I was speaking at (‘What Should Political Representatives do?’) the conversation ranged widely between altering the nature of political representation by campaigning for AV, the individual commitment of MPs such as Caroline Lucas, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, and my own contribution which touched on the dilemmas of local government. What I tried to push and to impress upon the audience was that there are ways of resisting and opposing cuts in local government, but they will suffer the same fate as previous struggles unless it is part of broad and coordinated action such as with resistance to the poll tax.
Of course our movement, like any other, can improve itself. The workshop on women and the cuts produced a resolution asking for the national committee to be at least 50 per cent women, which seems only fair given that it is estimated that women will shoulder 75 per cent of the burden of the cuts. Similarly, despite the support of BARAC and great speeches by Lowkey and Lee Jasper, the movement needs to improve its links with ethnic minority communities. Hopefully in the time between now and the policy making conference being called for Spring 2011, these links can be developed along with building up a network of local campaigns
The elephant in the room was that, despite being united in opposition, we have yet to move towards a clear alternative. There was the start of such a programme in speeches calling for green jobs, in calls for a progressive taxation system and a welfare system which was about providing good jobs and training. Housing was barely mentioned in the sessions I attended – the delay to changes in Housing Benefit could well be the second point of weakness in the coalition after tuition fees. Civil society could draw upon the example of other European countries to propose and perhaps start a wide-ranging package of reforms to enable more social housing and to improve tenant rights in private rented housing. Once we have a programme then we can start to work with progressive politicians to bring it about. Above all, the message which came out from the conference was that turning the clocks may to before May 2010 will not be good enough. What we are seeking is beyond a change in government, it is a change of policy away from greed and towards justice.
Deregulation and tax loopholes are justified by saying that they 'protect growth'. But really, they just protect the wealthy, writes James Fox
Inequality is often treated as a law of nature - but really, it's the result of conscious political choices. It's time to choose equality, writes the IPPR's Carys Roberts.
Tom Palmer, aka Agent Kingfisher, was the 'messiah' of London's squatting scene until his death last year. But who was responsible for his fate? MI5, late capitalism or simply a drug overdose? Matt Broomfield investigates.
'Docs Not Cops' write that we must resist attempts to make our NHS any less universal
Louis Mendee explains the real human costs of climate change for the global south.
From climate change to automation to demographic shifts, Mathew Lawrence explains the challenges our economy will face in the coming decade.
Fifty years after the Abortion Act, women are still dying from being denied basic services, write activists from Feminist Fightback
We need to tackle the patronising ideology that lets Tory think-tanks sneer at social tenants, writes Emma Dent Coad
Acid Corbynism allows people to imagine a future beyond the paltry offerings of capitalism, writes Keir Milburn
'We wanted to use a shared love of the beautiful game to stand in solidarity with those living under occupation', writes Kate Hadley.
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
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