Wainwright is a socialist feminist and political activist and is currently editor of Red Pepper. A sociology researcher at Durham University and then the Open University, Wainwright co-authored the Workers Report on Vickers with Hugh Benyon and then the Lucas Plan with David Elliot in 1980. She was co-author of Beyond the Fragments.
In 1982, she became deputy economic adviser to Ken Livingstone, the leader of the Greater London Council, and founded the Popular Planning Unit. A member of the International Marxist Group, Wainwright was married to the philosopher Roy Bhaskar, who was also involved in IMG. After the abolition of the GLC in 1986, Wainwright was attached to a number of research institutions including the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute, the LSE, Bradford Universities Peace Studies and the University of California. She was on the editorial board of New Left Review. In 1987, she wrote Labour: A Tale of Two Parties.
After writing Arguments for a New Left, which is subtitled ‘Answering the free market right’ and draws significantly on Eastern European experience, Wainwright wrote a number of books on popular democracy and public service reform. She convened the new economics working group of the Helsinki citizens assembly from 1989 to 1994. Wainwright’s most recent book, published in 2018, is A New Politics from the Left.
“The networks of this new left aspire to be international: after all, they have developed out of efforts to track down and understand the new powers of multinationals and inter-governmental institutions, and to share common experiences of struggle and organisation for which there are no national models.
“The sources of power that the movements could draw on in the early 1980s can only under special circumstances be mobilised. Frequently this new left politics is marginal and sometimes self-marginalising. The absence of a pan-European political framework contributes to their invisibility… The result is not so much a democratic deficit, to be remedied over time, but a dangerous kind of democratic vacuum which is especially threatening at a time of growing economic insecurity for a large proportion of the population, who are therefore actively, and incoherently, seeking remedies but finding none within the existing political system. The far right in Western Europe has rallied its popular support under banners which invoke European Community institutions as well as foreign workers as threats to the future.
“The commitment which is common to the Western new left and those Eastern opportunists who have remained outside the state-namely, the commitment to democratic civic movements as necessary though not sufficient agencies of social change-has a unique importance in filling the democratic vacuum and undermining popular support for the far right. Such movements have the power to create the social associations of daily life by which people gain some power to shape their futures and a source of identity that is not defined by its hatred of others. The growth of such democratic civic associations, rooted amongst the most powerless and frustrated of society, will be a base from which the new authoritarianism and popular racism spreading across Europe could be countered. At present, however, the social base of democratic social and radical trade union movements is limited. There will need to be a concerted effort to extend that base from that of a minority counter-culture, to a political force for democracy and social security.
“The politics of democratic social and trade union movements provides a basis. If they were to develop they would represent a new kind of left; in which a liberalism that had moved beyond individualism, co-operated and contested with a form of socialism that no longer relied primarily on the nation state.”