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Red Pepper has always been about more than radical journalism. Our origins lie in the extraordinary movement that converged across parties, movements, identities and geography to support the mining communities. The Chesterfield Socialist Conferences, and then the Socialist Movement, attempted to realise the potential of this convergence. As its limits became apparent, we created Red Pepper as a fexible, open and modest contribution
towards the same goal.
This movement of the 1980s, with its roots in industrial trade unions and the
Labour left, can never be recreated. Mrs Thatcher and Neil Kinnock saw to that. But an equivalent movement of resistance and alternatives has to be built, able to stand up to the consequences of both global depression and the environmental crisis with convincing alternatives – but in the context of a fragmented working class, and in the absence of any adequate political voice.
People are recognising the urgency of this challenge – see the Green New Deal, the People’s Charter launched last month, the No Going Back debate initiated by Compass and the continuing work of the Convention of the Left, to name just a few.
It has become clear that, apart from bringing forward a few infrastructural
projects, government policy is focused ruthlessly on strengthening and
rationalising the private banking system and sitting out the social
consequences of the recession, as if it is some natural disaster for which trauma therapy and advice is all that politicians can provide (see David Harvey).
The kinds of policies we need – an expansion of public services, turning the
banks into public utilities and a radical green conversion programme – require a radical shift in the balance of social and economic power towards working people, constraining capitalist elites and requiring governments to respond to the needs of the majority. !is was the condition for the Keynesianism of the postwar years.
The problem now is to build a new sources of power for egalitarian and
democratic politics in the wake of the destruction of so many of the traditional – and emerging – sources of collective leverage for such values. !e fundamental question, then, is what are the social forces and configuration of social forces on which a new left politics can be based?
Thus the issue for the left at this moment is not only one of political
representation. There is a crisis of political representation. The gulf between the political class and public opinion has grown dramatically. But to be an effective instrument of social change, a political organisation of the left – whether a part of the Labour Party, the Green Party, nationalist parties or some new hybrid political organisation – needs to be connected to social forces rooted in the struggles of daily life against oppression and injustice. To illustrate the point: the Labour Party was founded as a party of
the trade unions, and the Workers Party of Brazil emerged from an alliance of
industrial unions, the landless movement and urban social movements.
Trade unions will clearly be central to any new configuration of social forces
underpinning a new politics. But they will play a different, more intrinsically political role, requiring a wider range of allies. This is partly a result of the transformation of labour, as the mobility of capital and deregulation has enabled employers to break up union organisation, casualise the labour market and use new technologies to intensify exploitation. This process
has led people to create new, including global, forms of organisation, new allies beyond the workplace and new strategic thinking.
It’s also a matter of a different approach to society-wide policies – on
public services, international issues, industrial strategy and so on. Historically,
on all but employment issues, unions delegated matters to the parliamentary
Labour Party, via conference resolutions and ‘beer and sandwiches’. As this
relationship is reduced to ritual, activists engaged in real change are building alliances through which trade unions themselves take responsibility, with others, for alternative policies and seek out new, direct sources of political leverage.
These kinds of social foundations for a new politics are beneath the mainstream radar – and too often the radar of the left. A focus on bringing together those already politically active is therefore not enough. We need rather to be engaged with the day-to-day disaffection in working class communities and with the ways in which activists not even born at the time of the miners’ strike are experimenting with a radical and egalitarian politics, whether or not they call it socialism.
It is here that Red Pepper, as means of communication and inquiry, should
be useful. But we need your help: first your reports on experiences of resistance and alternatives (e-mail resistance[at]redpepper.org.uk); secondly your becoming a supporting subscriber and helping us promote the magazine and thereby the new politics that you, our readership, are trying to create.
Grace Blakeley investigates the curious case of Carillion: how the company’s slow decline and abrupt liquidation reveals the nature of modern capitalism.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
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
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