Solidarity 545, 28 April 2020

Safe and equal

Government and employers are hoping to avoid further concessions on workers’ rights in the crisis: evidently their idea is that outpourings of patriotic rhetoric in the media and weekly clapping sessions will create a chorus of national unity that can drown out workers’ demands for equality and safety. The Safe and Equal campaign is trying to amplify those workers’ demands, by reporting on, lobbying around, and drawing together the many issues and fights arising among frontline workers. This week our supporters in the NHS have highlighted the duty of the Chief Nurse (and indeed all nursing...

A platform for Momentum

As the Momentum National Coordinating Group (NCG) elections approach , debate is building on the left over the future direction for Momentum. Supporters of the campaign group Labour for a Socialist Europe have put out a platform to set out an idea of how Momentum could change direction. They will be looking to stand and support candidates for the NCG who endorse all or most of this platform. It is based around three themes of democracy, class struggle and internationalism, and its key planks are: • a labour movement response to the Covid-19 crisis; not putting off our activism until things...

The labour movement and easing the lockdown

Starting with Austria reopening small shops on 14 April, almost all European countries have now begun easing their pandemic lockdowns, or announced plans to do so (Italy from 4 May, France from 11 May). Iran has reopened the bazaar in Tehran. Schools have restarted in Beijing and Shanghai. The World Health Organisation, however, has declared that “the worst is yet to come”. Its worry is not so much about a second wave in Europe, as first waves elsewhere. Africa so far shows 1,428 deaths, far fewer than Europe or the USA, and concentrated in Algeria and Egypt (over half that total between them)...

Ease the lockdown on Labour debate!

Labour Party general secretary Jennie Formby has sent round a letter instructing local Labour Parties that any online meetings they hold cannot take votes and decisions. But many activists report meetings starting up again, particularly branch meetings. We have reports of Constituency Labour Parties or branches holding online meetings across the country – in Newark, Mid-Worcestershire, Sheffield Central, Islington North, Islington South, Croydon Central, Edinburgh Southern, Newcastle East… Others report that their CLPs are not meeting or active at all. Regional officials generally say that...

Immigration Bill shelved - now bin it

The Tories have pulled their Immigration Bill from the House of Commons order paper, ahead of its second reading. Unfortunately the Liberal Democrats have been clearer and more vocal on opposing the Bill’s core thrust of ending EU-UK freedom of movement than the Labour leadership. The labour movement should fight for the Bill to be not just suspended but completely withdrawn. It should campaign for the Labour Campaign for Free Movement policy passed at Labour conference last year, to extend free movement and migrants’ rights not curtail them.

The inequalities are glaring

Katrina Faccenda is a Labour Party activist in Edinburgh and Labour candidate for the Scottish parliamentary seat of Edinburgh Northern and Leith. She talked with Sacha Ismail. This crisis has starkly highlighted all sorts of inequalities and made them glaring. Vulnerable people are now much more vulnerable – people in poverty, women, BAME communities. It’s an indicator not so much of how awful the pandemic is, as how dysfunctional our society was even before. At the same time, we’ve seen the power trade unions can have when they actually put their mind to it, winning victories and concessions...

Time to be combative

A left member of the PCS civil service union’s national executive talked with Sacha Ismail. There’s going to be a vast amount of social turmoil created by this. The economic and social fallout is going to be enormous. The benefits system needs thoroughly transforming so it actually supports people. In the short term that might involve some form of a Basic Income to get money to people fast, but there are much wider issues of how the system works and treats people. Under a bit of pressure but fundamentally because they were worried about their system collapsing, the government has resorted to a...

The USA in the pandemic

As the US currently leads the world with nearly one million cases, the death rate is particularly high in New York and New Jersey, and cities like Seattle, where the population is more concentrated and the culture is more cosmopolitan. The virus has come to rural states, like mine in Vermont, later. The majority of deaths in Vermont have come in nursing homes. The staff in those homes, in this state anyway, are entirely non-union and very low-paid. There are also a lot of deaths in the prisons, and in the meatpacking plants, where the workers are primarily low-income and undocumented. 26...

Face masks a factor?

Martin Thomas’s article “Can we get R<1?” ( Solidarity 544, 21 April) was useful and insightful. However, he is too quick at one point to evaluate and attribute causality in successful strategies for limiting the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus which causes Covid-19): “China seems to have exited lockdown, and South Korea to have avoided it. That is hopeful. But that has been done by measures of state control and surveillance which European states could not equal. Even France, which many more police per head of population than the UK, and has imposed 100 times more fines for breaches of...

Slump after the slump?

57% of US university chiefs say they will be cutting jobs in the coming months. Many US universities are expected to shut down altogether. In Britain, councils say they will face an unpayable ÂŁ5 billion debt as they move out of the lockdown. Some are already planning cuts, and some are threatening to declare themselves bankrupt. Workers in some elderly care homes have been told that their jobs may disappear as the lockdown eases, since the homes will have fewer old people to look after. In Britain already, one and a half million people have claimed Universal Credit. Those who have lost jobs,...

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