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I am constantly struck by the failure of the radical left to explicitly seize the moral high ground. The right (especially the evangelical right) are not averse to doing so when it suits them, yet socialism, internationalism, ecological sustainability, feminism, anti-imperialism all have very strong ethical foundations. Appealing broadly on key issues to a very basic humanity and compassion potentially connects us to audiences that for some years have been removed from radical left politics- the many people in various religious and moral camps.
This may cause some on the left to question long-held beliefs, such as on the use of violence, but that’s no bad thing. The enormous success of the London Citizens movement in bringing together trade unions and religious groups should be a lesson to us all. We tend to focus too much on detail and not enough on the big ethical issues underlying our politics. For example, half the world’s GDP is routed through tax havens which means half the potential tax revenues are lost. This is so grotesquely unfair to people who pay their taxes that it allows us to explain to them that there is enough money in the world- it’s just who’s got it and the tax systems set up to protect them that’s the problem.
Identify the issues
We need to identify the issues where there is real possibility of a broad anti-capitalist, anti-establishment consensus emerging in the UK (and internationally) and focus on these.
It is possible to change mass consciousness on certain issues in a relatively short space of time. They key then is to turn this into a permanent (or near to permanent as possible) step forward, ideally framed in law as well as in the popular consciousness. It’s been noted in other contexts how social attitudes to drinking and driving changed dramatically in a generation to one of outright hostility to such selfish and dangerous behaviour. The same is now happening on global warming and living within environmentally sustainable limits. Radical left activists must build the broadest possible unity around such issues and be at the heart of arguing for such transformations, using them to explain the links to other social, economic and political issues.
Respond rapidly and create permanent resources
Insufficient time and effort goes into translating successes into permanent acquisitions, not just ideologically but also physically and virtually. To be able to respond rapidly and effectively, the radical left needs embedded resources and infrastructure. This will take many forms such as resource centres, websites, socio-political networks and funding sources. Rather than forming another party or newspaper a shrewder investment may be to create and sustain permanent resources for the range of needs the radical left needs for its activities.
Remove the barriers
There are some structural issues that are critical barriers to progress for radical left politics. The most obvious is the electoral system. Proportional representation is no panacea but crucial if radical left politics is to enter the mainstream electoral and political arena. Another barrier is the party system and elections. The party system, especially in local elections, is a major barrier to making radical breakthroughs at a local level. The radical left needs to develop proposals and campaign to make it much easier for independent candidates and small parties to stand in local, national and European elections.
As Hilary Wainwright hints in her article it is also crucial to seize any opportunities to create and sustain forms of local democratic debate and accountability as ongoing spaces. For example, for its own reasons this government has decided to promote participatory budgeting but is it just a panacea? No, current developments in Porto Alegre show this.
To incorporate local processes of structured debate and discussion about what needs to be done and how money should be spent locally would represent a huge step forward for the UK. Potentially it could raise debate about the need for structured discussion of the national budget and priorities, weaken the power of the traditional local parties to have exclusive access to this discussion and help reawaken interest in politics.
The crucial thing is for the radical left to recognise such opportunities when they arise and to seize them rather than sneer from the sidelines at the government’s motives.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
How can the heavily-armed Israeli state claim to be victimised by one teenage activist? By Richard Seymour.
Governments are manufacturing a new 'enemy within', write Yasser Louati and Malia Bouattia
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
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