Organise to make the future safe and equal for all

Submitted by AWL on 24 June, 2020 - 8:09 Author: Editorial
BLM protest sign

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The great wave of street protests after the killing of George Floyd on 25 May still continues, but the pace looks like slowing. Activists will be thinking about how they can continue their efforts over the months and years needed to win and consolidate change.

That this killing has generated so broad a protest must be partly because a pandemic which has hit the worst-off hardest everywhere, and a wave of job cuts which has done similar, especially in the USA, are in everyone's minds.

Slogans like "jobs and homes for all" have spoken to those "hidden" factors.

In some ways the wave of protests has been unique. It has been very heavily a movement of young people.

Many demonstrators have told us that they were on the streets to protest for the first time in their lives. They were too young to join the big demonstrations against cuts between 2010 and 2015.

The big Brexit demonstrations, or the school student climate protests, maybe seemed to them less urgent.

The protesters have been receptive to left activists joining them, but the labour movement (and often even the left, apart from Workers' Liberty and the Socialist Party) has been mostly absent, preoccupied or subdued by the virus lockdown.

It has been a united multi-ethnic movement, including many young white and Asian people as well as Black. It has had few specific demands. Its keynote ideas have been equality, solidarity, unity. Calls for aid to black-owned businesses and the like have been marginal.

Workers' Liberty proposes to the new young activists that they join us in the work, over months and years, to transform the labour movement and win it to develop demands of a "levelling-up", class-unifying, and anti-capitalist character.

Against the pandemic, the demands agitated for by the Safe and Equal campaign. Full isolation pay for all. Requisitioning of industry for PPE and other medical supplies. Bring care homes into the public sector, and care home workers into public sector pay and conditions.

A public health test-trace-isolate operation, run by local public health officials with properly-employed public sector staff, not the current cheapskate operation, contracted out to Serco for the tracing and Deloitte for the testing.

Provide special accommodation for people required to self-isolate who live in crowded conditions. Start a crash campaign to build new social housing, or convert buildings to social housing, so that everyone can gain the right to good, affordable, and uncrowded housing.

All these are, in the actual conditions, anti-racist demands, as "civil rights" were in the USA of the 1960s an anti-racist demand.

Against the job cuts which began at the start of the lockdown and are now escalating: a shorter work week with no loss of pay. Shift to a standard working week of four days or 32 hours. Expand public service jobs in health care, in social care, and elsewhere.

Take the giant manufacturing and aviation firms declaring job cuts into public ownership, and reorganise their equipment and workforce skills towards green and socially-useful production.

Against the Tories, and against their planned "hard Brexit" and reorientation to a trade deal with Trump's USA, renovate the labour movement. Allow local Labour Parties to meet and decide politics, revive trade union activity to fight for workers' rights.

In the Labour Party in the Corbyn years we failed to win a revitalisation and democratisation of Young Labour or of Labour Students. Labour's Black and Minority Ethnic sections also remain weak.

This means that local unions and Labour Parties must think about creating special youth and anti-racist campaign bodies accessible to the sort of young people who have joined the Black Lives Matter protests.

In Britain, Asian and Black African students do better at getting to university than white British students, and white British students have a higher school exclusion rate than any group of Asian students or than Black African students. That provides levers to combat racism in schools and universities, rather than suggesting it has vanished (across history, as for example Jewish migrants even in many countries with heavy antisemitism have shown, young people of immigrant background often do better in education than the stay-at-home population, despite prejudice and economic disadvantage, unless the disadvantage is overwhelming. That helps them fight discrimination for those coming after them).

Afro-Caribbean or "mixed heritage" students have a still higher exclusion rate. Non-white students on average do worse at university, and in jobs after university, than the white students (a middle-class minority) alongside them there.

The GCSE history curriculum of the biggest exam board, Edexcel, includes options on medieval English history, US history, China, the USSR, the Middle East, and the rise of the Nazis in Germany, but nothing about the slave trade, slave revolts, the British Empire, India, Africa, the French revolution, or labour history.

We now have levers to bring such issues into the labour movement, to renovate it to become more powerful and unifying, and to win increasing sections of the labour movement as vehicles for continuing and effective activity for the new young activists.

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