Solidarity 562, 9 September 2020

Rebuild the NHS for winter

In mid-July, the government received a report commissioned by its Chief Scientific Officer which warned that July and August were likely to be a lull in the pandemic followed by new spikes over the winter. Even if this virus is not “seasonal” in the way some others are, the fact of people spending more time indoors in winter will boost infections. The usual seasonal rise of flu will make it harder to trace chains of SARS-Cov-2 infection, and put pressure on the NHS. The report urged the government to use the July-August lull to get preparations in place for the winter. At first, it seems, the...

Victory in Korea: teachers' union wins seven year fight for recognition

Almost seven years ago — in October 2013 — the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) came to LabourStart with a problem. The national government had given the union an ultimatum: either it would change its rules to prohibit dismissed or retired teachers from being members of the union, or the union would be deregistered. At issue were just nine teachers who, according to the government, were illegally members of the 60,000 member union. Facing the prospect of being outlawed, the union stood its ground. Working together with its national trade union centre, the militant Korean...

Abolish GCSEs!

Last year, Ken Baker, the Tory education minister responsible for introducing GCSEs and the national curriculum, said, “I am the author of GCSEs. I established those exams back in the 1980s, bringing together two exams” [O Levels and CSEs]. Baker claimed tests at 16 were then necessary “because lots of youngsters left school at 16,” but he went on to say, “Now with the leaving age going on to 18, you don’t need to test youngsters at 16. [GCSEs] are redundant.” (February 2019). Head teachers from the Girls’ Schools Association — academically selective girls’ schools — have slammed GCSEs as...

Union battle over New York school re-opening

The USA currently has a much higher rate of infection than the UK, with a Covid-19 death rate about 120 times bigger (proportional to population) than the UK, and a proportion of tests showing positive about 10 times bigger. In most big cities in the USA, schools are restarting online-only. New York was the hardest-hit area early on, but now has a lower rate of infection than many areas in the USA: about three times as many confirmed infections and deaths per day as the UK, relative to population. New York City’s schools are due to reopen to students on 21 September, with workers going into...

Belarus: calculation or confusion?

The Morning Star is usually clear-cut on international issues: for them (and their political masters, the Communist Party of Britain), the world is divided pretty neatly into goodies and baddies. The goodies are the “anti-imperialist” forces (Hamas, Hezbollah, etc.) and regimes like Cuba, Iran and Venezuela. The baddies are the US (with or without Trump), the EU and all liberal democracies. Putin doesn’t quite fit into the Morning Star’s neat division of the world, but it’s pretty obvious that on the whole, they reckon he’s more sinned against than sinning. First and foremost amongst the...

Jiři Menzel: 1938-2020

One of the great European “auteurs”, Jiři Menzel, has died aged 82. He is one of the last of a generation of film directors the likes of which will never be seen again. They included his fellow Czechs Miloš Forman and Vera Chytilova, the Hungarians Miklós Jancsó, Marta Mészáros and István Szabó, and, from Poland, Andrzej Wajda. From the Soviet Union, Andrei Tarkovsky and Elem Klimov. From other parts of Europe: Theo Angelopoulos from Greece, the doyens of the French New Wave such as Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and Agnes Varda, Germany’s Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Margarette von Trotta...

When "free thought" turns against science

Over the months there have been a number of anti-mask demonstrations, most of them fairly small, and certainly well on the fringes of public opinion about the Covid-19 pandemic. On 29 August that shifted up a notch. A number of larger demonstrations were held in Europe. In London, several thousand of people, at least, crowded into Trafalgar Square to hear speakers including David Icke and Piers Corbyn. As Levente Zékány reported in Solidarity 561 there is a crossover between these demos and the wider-ranging QAnon and “Save our Children” demonstrations. Within the milieu are people committed...

"This attack on capitalism"

As I write on 7 September, Extinction Rebellion (XR) UK’s latest rebellion has just finished its first week, with a few days still to come. Every day, in many locations across the country, hundreds of protesters have turned out for often bold actions to urge action on the climate crises. XR has rightly denounced serious and increasing police repression. Hundreds have been arrested, including mass arrests following kettling. Protestors have been taking Covid-safety seriously, yet the police have threatened them, including those wearing face-masks, with fines using Coronavirus police powers...

TUC report reveals racism but offers no answer

A TUC report, Dying on the job: racism and risk at work, has revealed the deep-seated racism that underlies the higher impact of Covid-19 on black and minority ethnic (BME) people, but its proposals fall well short of what is needed. In the early days of the pandemic, it became clear that BME people were dying at a significantly greater rate. Compared with white people, black people are more than four times as likely to die from Covid-19, Bangladeshi and Pakistani people more than one-and-a-half times as likely. While the government tried to portray this as a mystery requiring medical study...

Singapore: birth of a new left

After three weekends of fantastic discussions on issues like climate change and migrant workers’ rights, Activism in Crisis (AIC) — a huge activism festival in Singapore, 3 to 23 August — has wrapped up triumphantly. The freedom to speak and to organise in Singapore is quite stifled. Yet, in many ways, AIC is a model for organising and hosting events online — a model not just for organising under repressive regimes but a model for organising in the time of Covid. The festival took place over Zoom with extensive measures to keep the conversation going and to grow a coalition of activists in the...

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