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While so much has changed over the past two decades, the Labour Party has remained obstinately static. In embracing the market and ‘professionalising’ the party, Tony Blair was able to claim the mantle of modernity for Labour. But this was a hollow transformation. New Labour was not as new as its supporters liked to claim.
Fast forward to 2015 and change may have come to Labour in the most unlikely of guises: the flat-capped Jeremy Corbyn. Appearances can of course be deceiving. Corbyn has long been one of the few Labour MPs to embrace a more modern socialism, grounded in popular democracy and political pluralism. Already there are signs that he and his supporters are trying to spread these values throughout the party and turn Labour into an organisation that practices collaboration over paternalism and that seeks to learn as well as lead.
The new grassroots organisation Momentum could be central to this process and form the basis of an ‘open, citizen politics’, as Anthony Barnett called for in Open Democracy and as has emerged in Spain (see page 22). It is worth reminding ourselves, however, that those trying to turn Labour towards the new politics will not only face the hostility of the Labour right and an oppositional press, but also a Labour left in part characterised by a dogmatic loyalty to the party and a mistrust of ‘outsiders’. So too will the imperatives of electoral politics reduce the space in which democratic experiments can flourish, as we have seen with Podemos, who are just weeks away from contesting their first general election.
Perhaps the first real test of how much Labour has changed will be the referendum on UK membership of the EU. If Labour is known primarily for its involvement in campaigns such as Stronger In – seemingly a remake of the disastrous Better Together campaign in Scotland – then any claim to have broken from politics as usual will carry little weight.
As Luke Cooper argues, it is essential that progressives who support Britain’s membership of the EU separate themselves from those who make the ‘business case’ and appeal to British nationalism. At stake is the possibility of a social Europe, ‘based on human, social and environmental rights, and founded on the basis of real, substantive democracy’.
This is desperately needed, whether achieved through or beyond the EU. The experiences of refugees passing through Europe are acutely traumatic, a consequence of over-militarised borders and underfunded services, and a negation of the most basic principles of human solidarity. The situation is untenable and may become even more so as the effects of climate change accelerate – even if, as Alex Randall informs us, the impact of climate change on migration is more complicated than we may think.
Connor Devine writes that whilst Brexit might be a car crash, we can't just side with an institution responsible for enforcing austerity.
Michael Coates reviews a new film revealing the shocking state of housing inequality in the UK.
The vicious media campaign against trans people is part bigotry, part strategy, writes Roz Kaveney
Jon Trickett MP reports on 'Dickensian' levels of poverty and hardship felt across the UK.
Natasha King busts some myths around the No Borders debate
He was once a radical icon, but now he's a mouthpiece for racism and nationalism. Time to get off stage, writes Michael Calderbank
Consensus seems to have shifted, but austerity is far from over. The chancellor has committed us to yet more years of misery while the rich get richer, writes Richard Seymour.
Frustrated at the idea of another royal wedding? You're not alone. Joana Ramiro argues we should stop idealising a fundamentally undemocratic institution.
Liberal elites are using Russian interference to minimise their own political failures, writes Matt Turner
Nick Dearden from Global Justice Now argues that after years of colonial domination and dodgy trade deals, the UK must make amends and support Zimbabwe in this uncertain time.
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
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