Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Jeremy Corbyn speaks from the top of the FBU’s fire engine to supporters who couldn’t get in to the oversubscribed rally.
It’s a cliche of the left press to describe meetings as ‘packed’. But the rally in support of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership bid held last night at the Camden Centre was really something else. Not only was the main hall packed to (and beyond) capacity, but so were both overspill rooms. Corbyn addressed hundreds left queuing outside from the FBU’s campaigning fire-engine. Similar scenes had been witnessed at the weekend in Liverpool, Preston and Birmingham. No wonder the Blairites are panicking. A genuine popular movement is beginning to coalesce around the bid to get Jeremy elected, and it senses that – for the first time in a generation – real change is possible.
The rally – chaired, significantly by PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka, not himself a Labour party member – had more of the flavour of a People’s Assembly gathering than your usual Labour party meeting. It’s clear that the campaign is successfully appealing to a generation of activists whose political consciousness was shaped by the experience of New Labour in government – introducing student fees, deregulating the banks, invading Iraq. Most feel they have never been represented in the political process, but now see a chance to change all that. Corbyn was one of only a handful of MPs who really gave expression to their ideas then, and has been a rare voice in support of radical opposition to the austerity agenda ever since.
They are joined by an older layer of activists who recognise Corbyn’s ongoing commitment to internationalism, anti-racism, peace, and in defence of LGBT rights which were routintely depicted as ‘loony left’ in the 1980s, but which seem far from marginal or extreme today.
It’s also a revolt from below of the long-suffering Labour grassroots. Such has been the centralisation of power – with the manifesto being essentially the product of the leader and their special advisers with a cursory nod in the direction of the largely toothless National Policy Forum – that the opportunity to elect a new leader is pretty much the sole way that members have of trying to influence the political direction for the party. For years, the MPs acted as gatekeepers to keep the left challenge posed by John McDonnell off the menu. The pent up anger and frustration is finally getting expression. In his address to the rally, Corbyn pledged to end the culture of policymaking in the private surrounds of luxury hotels where debate was placed in the straitjacket of ‘consensus’, and talked about mass participation in genuine political debate. It was a breath of fresh air.
This is an insurgency from both within Labour – a revolt from below of the grassroots – and without. The Collins reforms which turned the Labour’s internal election into a semi-open primary has unexpectedly created an opportunity to crack the ossified politics of the Westminster establishment wide open. If Owen Jones’ tubthumping rhetoric can sometimes seem a little bit forced, last night it really hit the mark. Win or lose, something significant is being expressed in the huge wave of support for Corbyn.
The challenge will be to allow this spontaneous movement to coalesce into a political force which is organised, genuinely rooted in communities at local level and properly democratic in its structures. But with registration closing on August 12, the immediate priority is to encourage friends, neighbours, family and work colleagues to sign up and make sure that our voices are heard.
To sign up to get a vote visit supporters.labour.org.uk or text SUPPORT to 78555.
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