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In November 2015 the government announced a proposal to block local councils in England and Wales from deciding how to invest their pension funds. This attempt to restrict councils made a mockery of any claim the government had to supporting local decision making and human rights. This move by the government was also a clear threat to our right to organise divestment campaigns to stop councils from investing in human rights abusing companies.
When the government’s new policy was put out to public consultation, the response was extraordinary. There was a massive public outcry to what people saw as a clear attack on local democracy. Some 98 percent of respondents, including over 23,000 members of the public and several hundred trade union branches (including UNISON which represents local authority pension holders) rejected the government’s anti-democratic plan. Yet instead of being applauded for caring about human rights, they were ignored and treated with contempt by the government.
The new regulation came into force on 1 November 2016. The government now had the power to veto investment decisions it didn’t like in relation to human rights, arms trade, fossil fuels and much else.
This case went to court because no other option was left. Our friends at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign filed a Judicial Review and War on Want alongside Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and Quakers submitted witness statements. We made it clear how important divestment campaigns had been in getting companies like G4S to end their complicity in Israel’s violations of international law. Last week the judge handed down his verdict: the government had acted unlawfully.
The regulation was an explicit attempt to clamp down on the growing strength of the grassroots Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which aims to end government and corporate complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. The Conservative Party revealed as much when its press release, announcing the plan, labelled it a response to the “spread of militant divestment campaigns against UK defence and Israeli firms.”
The government tried to pass this through using technical language and complicated regulations that would have made it hard to fight. Yet this cynical attack on local democracy would have slipped through the net if it were not for a coalition of groups coming together and working tirelessly to shine a light on an arrogant, anti-democratic government playing the public for fools.
In a time of increasing public engagement in politics, this shows how important it is to scrutinise political decisions and pressure the government to be accountable.
Opponents of BDS have tried hard in the past few years to depict BDS as unlawful, and they’ve done this using trumped up legal cases and media spectacles to achieve a chilling effect. This is the second court win for BDS in the High Court in a year. It proves again that BDS tactics are totally legitimate. They are legal ways to hold government and companies to account, and they are being fought so hard because they are so effective.
Indeed, in the 1980s, local councils across the UK took part in the anti-apartheid movement, divesting from companies which continued to do business with South Africa’s apartheid regime. At the time, Margaret Thatcher tried to stop them too, using the same arguments and tactics used against the BDS movement today. But the local councils stood firm and played a major part in helping to topple the apartheid regime. When it comes to taking on abusive regimes, it is clear that local council divestment works.
This victory will give new energy to our movement to stand up for human rights and justice.
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
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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
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A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
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Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
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Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
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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