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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?
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