Solidarity 565, 30 September 2020

What the Overseas Operations Bill vote means

Recent books on the Corbyn project have highlighted the disorganised chaos that plagued Labour in the run-up and during the 2019 election. The new Labour leader, Keir Starmer, does not appear disorganised, but he is using the chaos of the pandemic to mould Labour in a more conservative image. His Leader’s Speech to Labour Connected [Labour’s online mini-conference, 19-22 September] made it clear that the Starmer of just a few months ago, with his 10 pledges, his commitment to Labour’s more radical manifestos, and his campaign video starting with his support for the miners’ strike, might as...

Jobs or retraining on full pay!

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn. About three million workers are still on furlough, on government-supported temporary pay while their work is suspended by the pandemic Furlough is due to end on 31 October. If it does, and is replaced by the Tories’ new “Job Support Scheme” (JSS), many of those three million will be thrown out of work. With the JSS, the boss who thinks trade will be poor for the next six months but revive later will be better off sacking half their workers than keeping them all with half-pay plus JSS...

Belarus workers press for strikes

Belarusian workers with a banner saying "Strike" in Russian Belarus’s dictator Lukashenko held his inauguration for a new term as president on 23 September, but protests continue. Universities had resumed and many students had joined demonstrations and sit-down protests held throughout the week. The weekend demonstrations were slightly smaller in Minsk on 26-27 September, but they continue to spread and grow outside the capital. The police response gets increasingly violent and threatening. In Grodno, shots were fired over the heads of demonstrators. Sub-machine guns were brandished by police...

Bail out universities and students

It is hard to imagine a more chaotic start to the university term than the one that’s now unfolding. After Covid-19 outbreaks in Glasgow and Manchester hundreds of students are confined to halls of residence with flatmates they have known for barely a fortnight. At Leeds, security staff have been patrolling with dogs on the look-out for breaches of household mixing rules. Manchester Metropolitan University had to apologise after locked-down students were told to take down protest messages displayed on hall windows, and is facing legal action after students in lockdown were apparently prevented...

Scottish students set rent strikes

Student tenants across Scotland have begun to act after the botched return to Scottish universities. Despite the clear signs of a second wave, many universities have made students sign in to crowded rental accommodation. Predictably, this has led to outbreaks at universities, which are being dealt with by lockdowns and punitive measures against students. Aberdeen Student Tenants Union (@AberdeenTenant), Stirling Students Tenants Union (@StirlingTenant), and Glasgow Uni Rent Strike (@UofGRentStrike) have started to organise for student action. On Thursday 1 October at 5:30pm the National Union...

It depends who's saying it

The Morning Star (and the Daily Worker before it) for years survived thanks to a subsidy from the Russian leadership: Moscow paid it £3,000 a month in the 1960s (equivalent of £60,000-plus today), and in the 1970s and 1980s purchased 12,000 copies a day. When the order was cancelled in 1992, the paper was saved by the leaders of several British trade unions pumping money in. Union funding continues to ensure the paper’s survival via bulk orders, generous payments for advertising, and subsidised special editions for union conferences, Tolpuddle, the Durham Miners’ Gala, etc. Paradoxically, this...

Letters: Exam algorithms, QAnon antisemitism, School shutdowns?

Scrap exams Patrick Yarker ( letters, Solidarity 564) defends “personal judgement” in exams. According to recent reports, when English Literature, Drama, Art or History A level papers are re-marked, some 40-odd per cent end up with a changed grade. I’d say the answer is just not to have school exams (or, probably, university exams) in those subjects. “ Diagnostic testing” in schools is useful. It can be reported to the student as the teacher’s judgement, subject to being queried by the student (I don’t mean “appealed”, I mean queried in advance of being recorded) and it being clear to both...

US unions warn Trump: don't even think about it

A few days ago, the president of the AFL-CIO (the US’s national trade union centre) issued a powerful statement. The federation “categorically rejects all threats to the peaceful transition of power” said Richard Trumka, a former leader of the mine workers’ union. “The labour movement,” he said, “simply will not allow any breach of the US Constitution or other effort to deny the will of the people.” Trumka’s comments came in response to increasingly threatening noises being made by Donald Trump in which he threatened that regardless of the results of the election on 3 November, he would not be...

New threats from online abuse

Online abuse of women is widespread in the UK, with one in five women having suffered online abuse or harassment, according to research from Amnesty International. Almost half of women said the abuse or harassment they received was sexist or misogynistic, with a worrying 27% saying it threatened sexual or physical assault. And it affects the left more now. With physical distancing measures and continuing lockdown, much of political activity has moved online. Zoom meetings have become the new normal, with forgetting to unmute and poor connection now routine in our political discussions. Worse...

Climate disaster is already with us

See a reply to this here. A few pages into David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth, I realised with a shock that for many years I’d engaged in a soft form of climate change denial. Not the full throttle petrodollar-backed conspiracy theory-type denial but just simply not paying much attention. I have been involved in the environmental movement for most of my adult life. But I regarded climate change as some unthinkable, apocalyptic event in the future that we would hopefully avoid, rather than a process already underway and accelerating. Wallace-Wells calls climate change a “‘hyperobject’...

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