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Editorial from the latest issue of Red Pepper. Subscribe now for more news, views and cutting-edge culture.
It’s hard to recall now the doom that much of the left foresaw when Theresa May called the snap general election last April. But the six weeks that followed changed our sense of what is possible, and all our subsequent victories will follow on from there.
The picture of how that change happened is complex. You can talk about the strength of Corbyn’s campaign leadership, or the fragility of May’s. You can talk about the Labour manifesto that, for the first time in decades, saw a mainstream political party present a genuine alternative to neoliberal government. You can talk about the Brexit bounce and tactical voting that saw greens, liberals, socialists and social democrats combining their efforts – sometimes with the support of their parties, sometimes without.
You can talk, above all, about the voter turnout, higher than it has been for 25 years. Powered by grassroots voter registration drives and significant interventions through social media by cultural actors like Stormzy, Lowkey, Akala and JME, it saw the people most maginaslised by 40 years of neoliberal rule – young and BAME voters – rise up and make a difference.
Writing in 1962, Milton Friedman, one of the chief architects of neoliberalism, said that ‘only crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change’. Responding to the twin crises of austerity and Brexit, self-organising and mobilising for so many reasons and in so many ways, we, the people, in all our glorious plurality, re-discovered our power in 2017 and perhaps a new paradigm. Because, if a singular lesson was revealed by that milestone, it was the power of participation: the power that is unleashed when our diverse and distinct creative potentialities are enabled and inspired into collective action, not orchestrated from above.
The question of how we continue to disrupt and ultimately overthrow this neoliberal system, built on exclusion and the extraction of wealth and power, is the question of how we deepen and strengthen this space for mass participation so that it lives, not as something that comes around only at election time but as past of the fabric of our lives.
Our latest issue of Red Pepper is devoted to exploring that question, which, put another way, is also the question of how a social movement lives and dies. Framed as a Manifesto for a Cultural Democracy, we ask, how do we invite, support and nurture greater public participation so that our cultural capabilities are empowered beyond the crushing logic of market fundamentalism?
We draw on stories from Jackson, Mississippi, from Ecuador and Greece, from the front lines of utopian technologists and cultural activists and the civil society campaigners who are resisting the border regimes of the UK and the EU and the corporate power of multinational mining companies in Columbia, Uganda and the Philippines.
We uncover strategies that work and pitfalls to avoid and we shed light on the urgency of the message, expressed by our co-editor Hilary Wainwright in her new book A New Politics from the Left, that a world that works for us all is a world that is, very simply, shaped by us all.
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Marienna Pope-Weidemann explains why decades of occupation and oppression have lead some people to call Israel an apartheid state.
International Women's Day is set to be marked by strikes from "paid work in offices and factories, or unpaid domestic work in homes, communities and bedrooms."
Laurie Laybourn-Langton writes that measuring the economy is political - and economic measurement dominates politics.
David Scott argues that our prison system represents a human rights disaster, and reformist solutions can't tackle the root problems.
A deeper engagement with culture can strengthen our democracy, taking political projects beyond electoral impact and festival memes into a whole new world of radical, lasting change.
Ruth Tanner writes that revelations about Oxfam's behaviour in Haiti are shocking, but not surprising.
The actions of Oxfam officials are horrendous - but gutting foreign aid funding just puts more people at risk, writes Daniel Gibson.
Dr Laura Basu explains that the media allowed politicians to re-write history, erasing the true causes of the economic crisis.
Outsourced cleaners are on the front lines of the battle for workers' rights. By Emiliano Mellino
Power to our beloved comrade and friend, Mehmet Aksoy, a hero of Kurdistan and the internationalist struggles against capitalism, colonialism and fascism. This tribute was authored by Mehmet’s family and friends.
For All, By All
The latest issue of Red Pepper asks - how do we invite, support and nurture greater public participation so that our cultural capabilities are empowered beyond the crushing logic of market fundamentalism?
‘We are hungry in three languages’: The forgotten promise of the Bosnian Spring
Ruth Tanner looks back at a wave of protests which swept through Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.
It’s time for a cultural renewal of the left
Andrew Dolan writes that we need to integrate art, music, films and poetry into our movement, creating spaces where political ideas are given further room to breathe.
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