Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Although the Labour Party has existed for over a century, only once have we actually come from opposition to win a convincing parliamentary majority.
No, it was not in 1945, when Labour had been part of the wartime coalition government for 5 years already.
The only time we have won a convincing mandate from opposition was in 1997.
In order to secure that victory, we had to win over the press and many powerful corporate allies, by promising to implement a programme which would never fundamentally challenge their interests.
And so once in government, we did just that.
Yes, it’s great that we introduced the minimum wage, Sure Start and built new schools. But we did it largely through PFI deals that handed power and profit to the private sector where once we had enjoyed universal public services.
In the meantime we let the inequality gap grow while the industrial regions rusted, because anything else would have been too expensive, and would have challenged the agenda of the City.
Now we can see where that has led: Brexit, and a 20-point poll lead for the Tories.
Let’s be clear what that means today. We have lost Scotland. The Tories are dominant and UKIP or a successor organisation pins us back in a swathe of seats.
The boundary review is going to deprive Labour of another 40 seats. There is simply no hope of a parliamentary majority for Labour under these circumstances.
Those of us advocating a progressive alliance strategy for Labour are responding to this stark reality.
The initial proposition of the progressive alliance strategy is simple.
There are literally dozens of Tory-held parliamentary seats wherein the combined vote for Labour, Green, Liberal Democrat and Plaid is significantly larger than the Conservative vote.
There are many key target seats for Labour where the Lib Dem/Green/Plaid vote is significantly higher than the Tory majority.
There are also many constituencies where Labour has no hope of ever taking the seat.
In many of those, the Labour vote is higher than the Tory majority over one of those other parties.
Under these circumstances, it makes sense to try to work towards local agreements which would see Labour and other parties of the left and centre stand down in each other’s favour.
This would only be in situations where those standing down have no hope of winning. It would only be in places where local party members supported the idea.
The most common objection to this proposal is that it would mean co-operating with the Liberal Democrats, who are “are not progressive” or are “no different from the Tories”.
These kind of claims simply miss the point. The issue is not whether the Liberal Democrats are cool enough to be our best friends. The question is only whether we can work with them to beat the Tories.
The Liberal Democrats are what they are. They are not conservatives or socialists but centrist liberals, mild social democrats and social-liberals.
The Liberal party and the Liberal Democrats formed coalitions with the Tories in the 1930s and the 2010s, but they also supported minority Labour governments in the 1920s and the 1970s.
Indeed, the Labour Party only came into existence as an effective force in British electoral politics as a result of the anti-conservative alliance and pact of 1906, which saw Labour and Liberal candidates stand down in each other’s favour in key seats.
So what we are proposing is nothing new, but in fact the most normal way for Labour to achieve progressive goals.
An objection which one often hears to the idea of a progressive alliance is that doing deals with Liberals or even Greens amounts to “crossing class lines”.
Even in strict Marxian terms, this is daft.
The Labour Party is hardly a pure workers party, but includes significant elements which are closely tied to key sections of capital (finance, defence, energy etc).
By contrast, the Liberal Democrats and Greens do not represent or have the backing of any significant section of the capitalist class, having their main social base among well-paid professionals and the more socially liberal and egalitarian sections of the commercial middle classes.
In strictly Marxian terms, it must be clear that the British working class is currently too weak, disorganised and demoralised to have any hope of mobilising autonomously against its enemies for the foreseeable future.
Without some form of coalition with the more progressive sections of the middle classes at least, there is no hope of defending what remains of the social democratic settlement or challenging the right’s desire to turn Britain into the world’s biggest offshore tax haven.
Supporters of the progressive alliance idea want Labour to retain a clear identity as the party of organised labour and the public sector.
But we are also realistic about the fact that in Britain in 2017, a party with a strong radical identity has no hope of winning an election without co-operating with other potentially sympathetic parties.
Our aim is not to drag Labour to the right, but to allow it to lead a progressive coalition from the left.
In fact this has almost always been the only way that Labour has been able to operate as a successful, reforming electoral force.
The sooner we remember that fact, the better.
Jeremy Gilbert is Professor of Cultural and Political Theory at the University of East London and a member of the Compass Management Committee. @jemgilbert
The Progressive Alliance: Why Labour need it can be viewed here.
'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.
Priti Patel's shady deals are business as usual. Enough is enough, writes Eleanor Penny
Boris Johnson is a local disaster and a national embarrassment. He must go, writes James Clouting
The global elite have been stealing from society on an unprecedented scale, writes Tom Walker
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
‘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