Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Red Pepper 126

A late Red Pepper (126) covers Dec 2004 to Jan 2005. I always wonder about the purpose of Red Pepper except give the people who produce it and write it something to produce and somewhere to write.

But there are some very good things here.
The cover feature on Latin America promises a discussion on 'When the left wins office , how do the people win power?' One Pablo Navarette starts us off with 'A continent at the crossroads'; Alfredo Saad-Filho and Sue Branford discuss Lula and Brazil, and Jonah Gindin looks at Venezuela in 'The revolution within the revolution'.

Pablo Navarette's introduction is useful, talking about the pattern of resistance to neo-liberalism, asking what lessons can be drawn from it, but saying it's not just a question of reform vs. revolution. Pablo also draws attention to further features on the Red Pepper web-site. (Hard to find!)

Sue Branford and Alfredo Saad-Filho both give useful background information on the trajectory of the Workers Party and then the disappointments of the Lula government in Brazil. They have an important difference in perspective. Sue acknowledges the lack of delivery on promised and hoped-for reforms, but thinks thinks that the PT had no choice but to adapt to the conditions it finds itself in. Alfredo is more critical, especially of the strategy of forming 'vertical' alliances with 'privileged social groups' instead of 'horizontal' alliances, and of being so focused on winning elections in the short-term rather than 'building alternative power structures on the ground that would challenge the monopoly of economic power in Brazil', like the Landless Workers Movement (MAST). Sue is critical of the actual policy choices of Lula, especially around the limitations on the 'Zero Hunger' campaign, lack of agrarian reform, and opting for (neo-liberal) 'economic orthodoxy'; but despite all this thinks the government has some achievements and that the PT shouldn't be written off. Alfredo thinks it's time for the left to ditch the PT, but doesn't see much hope in the alternative Party of Socialism and Freedom (P-Sol). The argument is fascinating, left me wanting more. See International Viewpoint 362 for a useful debate between different positions on the question, with more material added in January .

Jonah Gindin's article provides a useful update on events in Venezuela that take us into some of the grassroots Chavismo movements. See also Venezuelanalysis.com for more news and analysis.

Naomi Klein and Haifa Zangana discuss 'Killing democracy in Iraq' (Haifa has also been in The Guardian (Dec 22nd) with an article called 'Quiet or I'll call democracy' ). Haifa talks about the Iraqi National Foundation Congress as the political wing of armed resistance. Naomi raises the criticisms of the anti-war movement that have got her into trouble elsewhere, including not supporting democratic resistance inside Iraq and notmaking demands over the issue of the Paris Club (of creditor nations) locking Iraq into structural adjustment until 2008. For Naomi Klein the election is a 'weapon of war'.

Red Pepper's contribution to the debate on the US election result is a piece by Van Jones of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights which argues that the grassroots movement of US progressives came close to unseating President Bush and that 'We Will Prevail'. Everyone else is depressed or arguing why you shouldn't be depressed as Bush is more constrained than you think, but Van sees a renewed outburst of activist energy.

There's an interview with Mark Serwotka of the PCS, which looks forward to future campaigns for public services and speaking personally says; "At the moment I see no credible alternative to Labour rooted in communities in England and Wales. In Scotland, however, I think the success and rapid development of the SSP is very exciting", before going on to talk about the importance of PR. Serwotka is open to work with anyone who wants to participate in 'constructing a new positive agenda', including the Labour Representation Committee (but telling them to look outwards), Greens, Plaid Cymru and Respect: "I have an open mind about Respect and have welcomed the opportunity to speak on its platforms. I am concerned that it shouldn't mirror some of the the problems that Labour has had in the past, like an attitude of 'if you're not with us you're against us'."

There are also a series of contributions on the London ESF in the debate that will go on. Katherine Haywood's journalistic piece raises some problems before affirming the positive and speculating about the future of the movement. Stuart Hodkinson and Julie Boeri give a longer and more critical account based on the Babels experience. Hilary Wainwright in 'Coordination without centralisation' focuses more on developments in the WSF after Mumbai and looks forward to a changed Porto Allegre WSF in January 2005. Incidentally the collection of Blogs provided at the Red Pepper site are still well worth looking at.

Martin McIvor in 'Reclaiming the market for the left', looks at Gareth Stedman Jones' recent book An End to Poverty , which sets out to provide a 'post-socialist social democracy' for today seemingly based on older traditions of 'civil republicanism', namechecking Tom Paine and French philosophe de Condorcet and invoking an Adam Smith who was a 'revolutionary' champion of commercial society. This, of course, drifted into the 19thC liberal defence of property and dealing with the poor as a moral problem, and socialism and Marxism arose with agendas of egalitarianism and hostility to Marxism. Stedman Jones seems to imply after the end of the cold war, collapse of 'Soviet communism', 'tightening siege of West European social democracy' the way forward is for 'republican activism' and 'economic dynamism' that engage with the mixed economy. Hmmm, interesting intellectual history, but I'm suspicious and unconvinced. Martin McIvor is director of the Catalyst think-tank, famous for the role played by Roy Hattersley.


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