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The super-storm that ravaged Haiti, Cuba and much of the East Coast of the United States two weeks ago, just ahead of the U.S. elections, may finally be recognised as the ‘shock and awe’ phase of climate change’s permanent war against the United States.
Certainly the devastating effects of climate change have been visible elsewhere in the world much earlier. Hurricane Sandy may bring even the most ideologically blinded in the U.S. to join the awareness of the rest of the world, as the reality of climate chaos becomes irrefutable. Some argued that the storm’s ferocity was the great equalizer, because rich as well as poor were left without power for days and weeks, luxury townhouses were swept aside along with seaside shacks and derelict public housing buildings. But that claim ignores the stark reality of the dramatic wealth-poverty divide in this country—laid newly bare by the storm.
In New York, probably the most unequal city in this country, the collapse of infrastructure under the relentless pounding of hurricane-force wind and rain was not an equal opportunity catastrophe. Who will be able to rebuild—and who will not? Whose lives will be permanently destroyed—and who will ultimately walk away with some frightening memories? Who had insurance coverage for their houses – and who lived in uninsured rental apartments? Without the subways, people of means could join the endless lines for crowded taxis—poor people walked. When banks and finance companies and the stock market closed, their salaried employees continued to collect their pay checks—poor people, who couldn’t get to their low-wage hourly-paid jobs, didn’t get paid at all. Do we really think that the rebuilding of the opulent high-rises of Manhattan’s Battery Park City will take as long, and leave their residents as desperate, as the reconstruction—or even repair—of the huge public housing projects in Red Hook, Brooklyn, demolished by the raging floods?
Its proximity to the U.S. elections means this storm provides a broad test for the capacity and the legitimacy of government: will its response be able to provide for despairing people’s most basic needs, or will government failure lay bare, as did Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the racism, poverty and disempowerment that still shape so many lives in this country? Hurricane Sandy posed an immediate choice in the presidential election as well, with voters choosing a campaign and a candidate acknowledging the moment demanded full mobilisation of every facet of public and government capability. Supporters of the defeated Mitt Romney had called instead for FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to be defunded and urged victims of the storm to rely on the largesse of the private sector and church-based charity.
In the longer term, of course, the super-storm’s challenge goes way beyond the election to the far more important question facing our movements: how to fight with renewed urgency to realise Rachel Carson’s vision of the human right to a safe environment for the entire planet.
In the meantime, for those of us in this country unaccustomed to the immediacy and implacability of war, the massive destruction in much of New Jersey and New York City gives us a hint of what it must have been like in Iraq, almost ten years ago, when George W. Bush’s ‘shock and awe’ destroyed power generators, electrical plants, water treatment facilities and more—suddenly rendering the once-modern city of Baghdad, with its skyscrapers and highways, silent and dark. For those on the twentieth floor of urban apartment buildings, the struggle to find clean water and a way to lug it upstairs without elevators could not have been so different than that faced by Iraq’s high-rise dwellers.
Understanding this storm’s impact in the context of our on-going struggles against climate change AND against inequality and war, may turn out to be one of the most important outcomes of this long and toxic election season.
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