Solidarity 557, 22 July 2020

Diary of an engineer: Pipe bending

As the Outage begins [the plant’s annual 14-day shutdown for maintenance that can’t be carried out while it is running], I team up with A and T from Sulzers, a hydraulic systems contractor. A is tall, slender and bald, with a big gap in his teeth and a really expressive face. T is very young, chatty and capable – both are great to work with, despite the fact they dislike each other. We’re fitting lengths of stainless steel pipe to a cooling system for the turbine lubricant. Oil is pumped into the turbine to support the shaft, and if it becomes too hot it looses its lubricating properties. The...

Ballot for action on job cuts

We’re balloting our members working across the four Tate galleries, in London, Liverpool, and St. Ives, for industrial action to resist job cuts. The ballot runs from 22 July to 3 August. A consultative ballot of members has already returned a 93% vote in favour of action on a 99% turnout. The employer wants to cut 200 jobs, as part of a cuts package aimed at saving £1 million this financial year. That’s part of a wider picture in the culture sector, which has taken a significant financial hit in the pandemic, which bosses will be looking to recoup via cuts. Our reps and branches have done...

Stand with Hong Kong!

Over mid-July, Hong Kong has been in a stand-off. The Chinese regime’s National Security Law (NSL) is now in force in Hong Kong. Its powers far exceed the Extradition Bill that was thrown out last autumn after street protests. Yet radicals in the democratic camp won the unofficial primaries in which over 600,000 Hong Kong people took part. Those who won say they will resist the NSL. So far, despite threats, the democratic candidates have not been arrested, nor have they been barred from standing in September’s elections. That was the background to the online rally of Labour Movement Solidarity...

A critique of identity politics

Mistaken Identity is a concise six-chapter exposition and critique of “Identity Politics” from a broadly Marxist perspective. It a reasonably accessible text with a bit of effort made by the author, Asad Haider, to write in a not-too-academic style, using autobiograpy or biography, analysis, commentary and historically relevant episodes to make the arguments. The first chapter, “Identity Politics”, draws on a host of socialist references – the Combahee River Collective, The Black Panthers, C L R James and others – in order to excavate the obscured history of class-based racial struggles. It...

Momentum and the pandemic: left-wing demands or "Strong Leader" talk?

Despite the new regime in Momentum, the "pinned tweet" on its its Twitter account is still one from 6 May (under the old regime) which indicated that the answer to the virus is that favourite of demagogues, "strong leadership", and hints strongly (though surely inadvertently) that the "strength" should be exerted primarily against migrants. It has a video which cross-cuts between floundering statements from Tory ministers - no shortage of those! - with words from New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern. New Zealand has done well in the pandemic. The virus arrived there six weeks or more...

Push for factory-universities

The Government has published a "Restructuring Regime" for universities that need emergency funds in the wake of Covid-19. It's clear the Tories want to use the virus as an excuse to force through major cuts and reorganisation in the sector. Any university in need of a bail-out will be required to show that it has "strong graduate employment outcomes in areas of economic and societal importance, such as STEM, nursing and teaching". This effectively treats universities as factories pumping out graduates suited for capitalist bosses, rather than as critical individuals able to think for...

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