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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?
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
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
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
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook