Our history has paralleled that of Tony Blair’s. His New Labour has failed as a project for the centre left. In the process it has destroyed, or almost destroyed, the Labour Party, and undermined all popular trust and belief in politics. We have a prime minister who is a law unto himself – and his fellow traveller George W Bush.
Blair and his British neo-cons have used the past 10 years to cut the strings of democracy tying down the hot air balloon of the political elite. Their first step was to pitch “ordinary people’ against “activists’ to establish a centralised grip over the Labour Party. Step two was to use the beleaguered party traditionalists to kill proposals for reform of the electoral system; thus, the political monopoly of the prime minister was preserved, and a more pluralist politics was deferred. Their third move was to play efficiency against democracy in the drive to privatise public services.
Then came 11 September as the revolt against privatisation was at its peak. Quick to pick up the cue from across the Atlantic, and ever eager for a global crusade, Blair attempted to use the war against terror to make himself invulnerable. But the ritual with the UN was too transparent, the lies too flimsy, the deal with Bush too blatant. Popular wariness built up into popular rebellion. Now, the balloon having lifted off almost entirely (swept off in a transatlantic wind), the prime minister suddenly discovers that he needs “the people’ and makes an appeal: the belated referendum on the European constitution.
Britain – with its all-powerful executive, the takeover of common goods and spaces by the market, and the yawning gulf between national political institutions and people’s daily concerns – provides the model of the worldwide degeneration of politics in liberal democracies. Even South Africa, where 10 years ago people queued for miles to cast their votes and the ANC just completed a record landslide, the signs of disillusionment are apparent (see South Africa\’s faded rainbow).
But over the past 10 years Red Pepper has found itself documenting something more hopeful: the invention of new kinds of power (local, regional, global) as people defend their rights against the invasive, competitive pressures of global capital and the national governments that act as its agents.
The direction of this movement was set in 1994 by the Zapatistas in Mexico, who have used political poetry, the net, grass-roots action and guerrilla organisation to inspire an international revolt against US-imposed “free trade’. That revolt has illustrated the possibilities of bringing about change while remaining autonomous from conventional politics.
We have seen the growth of myriad experiments in which relationships between electoral, social, cultural, economic and sometimes military power have been completely transformed and rethought. From Reclaim the Streets using carnivals to take back public space to Brazilian participatory budgets using direct democracy to distribute public money more equally and openly, people are inventing new principles of politics.
These activities are simultaneously locally rooted yet globally mobile in a way that left political parties are institutionally incapable of being. When it comes to effective strategies for transmitting this counter-power through to electoral politics, these movements, new and old, are just beginning to find their feet (see Scotland\’s brave new world).
In the next 10 years Red Pepper will focus especially on encouraging, reporting and debating the development of these new principles at every level. Europe presents us with a special challenge. On the one hand, we need to break out of the confines of national politics; on the other, the promised European constitution simply strengthens the centre and keeps in place undemocratic national structures. Against this we should be guided by an appeal from the Italian left: “The global campaign for peace has expressed a widespread ethos not easily corrupted by the rhetoric of Western patriotism. We must use this new “mindset” as a call to arms for social, political and institutional change across Europe.’
We should make London’s European Social Forum in October the public launch of an alternative politics for strengthening the horizontal connections between struggles and movements across the globe – connections that are bringing about change independently of existing political institutions. One question could then be asked from a fresh standpoint: what’s left for political parties?
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry
Airport expansion is a racist policy
Climate change is a colonial crisis, writes Jo Ram
Momentum Kids: the parental is political
Momentum Kids is not about indoctrinating children, but rather the more radical idea that children have an important role to play in shaping the future, writes Kristen Hope
New Cross fights new wave of housing privatisation
Lewisham residents object to a new trend in local authority housing developments
Stand-off with prison profiteers at the Tower of London
Marienna Pope-Weidemann reports on disruption at the European Custody and Detention Summit