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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 Those out of work were becoming stressed, depressed and withdrawn after sending tens of applications per month and being met by silence.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.
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
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
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
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