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The general election in May presents the usual Hobson’s Choice for the left. We certainly won’t shed any tears if we see the back of a vicious Tory-led government and their hapless Lib Dem allies. Their attacks on the welfare state (including the notoriously punitive bedroom tax, the workfare and sanctions regime and the malicious targeting of disabled people) have helped to fuel the emergence of food bank Britain, where even people in work are forced to rely on charity to feed their families.
Add to that the stealthy privatisation of the NHS, the contempt for ‘green crap’ like the catastrophic change in the planet’s climate, the tax cut for millionaires, the axing of a million public sector jobs… The list goes on. And on.
The only viable alternative to a government led by the Tories is one led by Labour. Incredibly, given Cameron’s record, the prospects of this still hang very much in the balance. But how much change an Ed Milband premiership would offer is a matter of debate. True, the bedroom tax would go, and a mansion tax is a positive step. But Labour goes into the election committed to the Tory spending plans to the end of 2017. People can be forgiven for not exactly racing to the ballot box.
This has created a space for parties claiming to offer a radical alternative. The SNP appears to have maintained huge momentum from the mobilisation around the Yes vote in last year’s referendum. The Greens, too, are riding high in membership terms at least, as Andrew Dolan considers. Yet what are the chances of the Greens fulfilling the expectations they have inspired? Their record elsewhere in Europe is not encouraging, as former Green member Joseph Healy discovers.
With a perverse electoral system, even a substantial vote for smaller parties won’t guarantee them any more representation. And insofar as these votes might otherwise have gone to Labour, they may well benefit the Tories.
It is difficult to assess the likely outcome of a further hung parliament. A number of different scenarios could play out here, as Hilary Wainwright reflects, and a new progressive dynamic could yet come into play. One thing seems certain: if Labour was to rely on Tory votes to get through its programme – or still worse form some sort of ‘grand coalition’ – it would be set for a British equivalent of ‘Pasokification’.
Not even the most favourable electoral outcome is likely to deliver the social and economic overhaul that would be needed to eliminate the housing crisis, radically reduce inequality and protect spending on public services. So the extent to which politicians are forced to listen will depend on the scale of what goes on outside the electoral cycle – in direct action, workplace militancy and grassroots solidarity. If a new electoral formation giving expression to these movements is ever to emerge – a British equivalent of a Syriza or Podemos – it may not come in response to the initiatives of the traditional far left structures but from a new generation of activists for whom the very concept of ‘doing politics’ must be reinvented.
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