Solidarity 569, 28 October 2020

Against poverty, against the virus: social support

At last, Labour has begun to speak out against the Tories on the pandemic, though only to demand free school meals in school holidays and to back the scientists’ idea of a new brief “circuit-breaker” lockdown. On 21 October the Labour left began, mildly also, to speak out against the leadership on the issue. An appeal coordinated by the big trade union Unite demanded: • an extension of the job retention scheme with 80% wage support • action to support incomes • helping people to self-isolate by increasing the level for statutory sick pay and enabling all to claim it, and • equipping our public...

Brexit: make Labour speak out

As we go to press on 27 October, talks between the UK and EU for a deal for Brexit are continuing in London and are due to move to Brussels on Thursday 29 October. Brexit is due to happen on 31 December. The Tories bluster about being happy to settle for “no deal”, and may yet lurch us into that, but will probably prefer to get some sort of deal, at the last minute, which can be rushed through with the minimum of scrutiny and the maximum of us all being distracted by other concerns. Labour and the trade unions are still not speaking out, or even demanding a pause on Brexit until virus-chaos...

Lara McNeill pledges to restore socialism and dignity to Young Labour

Lara McNeill has written a pitch for Young Labour’s NEC [National Executive Committee] Rep seat in Tribune. I rate her chances of getting the seat highly, given that she is the incumbent and the only left candidate on the ballot paper, and, after all, Momentum’s National Coordinating Group endorsed her without a vote! One passage reads “When young people are protesting for social justice, standing up to exploitative bosses, or striking against their landlords, I want them to know that Young Labour will be on their side”. That would certainly be a welcome step. But a question arises. What steps...

Let Music Live!

On 6 October the Musicians’ Union organised a 400-strong protest in Parliament Square about musicians’ jobs. The union is calling for the government to expand the self-employed “furlough” scheme so that more musicians can qualify. At present 38% of musicians are ineligible. It wants the Arts Council to be able to distribute money to help individual musicians in England, as is being done in Wales and Scotland. And it wants the government to fund local government to make municipal venues available for live performances with suitable covid-distancing. Another measure that could make a difference...

Nick Wright and "the powerful intellect"

Nick Wright is a member of the Communist Party of Britain and frequent contributor to the Morning Star — often writing on Labour Party matters. Two themes recur in Wright’s articles: that Labour’s changed position on Brexit (no longer promising “to honour” the referendum outcome) was the “fatal surrender” that cost it the 2019 election and that allegations of antisemitism within Labour under Corbyn were “manifestly untrue and malicious” — the work of “not only British and Israeli state actors but an unscrupulous assembly of reactionary forces of all kinds”. Those particular quotes turn up in a...

Left slate and drawbacks

The ballot for constituency rep, youth rep, disabled rep, and local government rep places on Labour’s National Executive opened on 19 October and closes on 12 November. Many members will have voted already. We’ve supported the official left slate, because even a poor left slate getting weight on the Executive will widen democratic openings compared to having a strongly leadership-compliant Executive. But we didn’t like the way the official “left slate” was put together — worsened by short deadlines imposed by the Labour leadership — or the slate itself. Instead of deciding first on a basic...

Democracy in the labour movement: CLP AGMs

Local Labour Party ward and constituency Annual General Meetings are being held (via Zoom) in many areas in November. Constituency Labour Parties mostly have a choice between doing those meetings in November, or doing them before end-July 2020 but after the May 2021 local elections (which in fact will be a combination of those polls due in May 2020 but postponed, and those due in May 2021 anyway). It may also be possible to fit in AGMs in February or March. Many CLPs have been slow restarting since Labour’s National Executive licensed local decision-making meetings again, post-lockdown, on 15...

Poland's fight for abortion rights

Thousands of people have marched in cities across Poland in protests against a near-total ban on abortion. Poland already has some of the strictest abortion laws in the world. There are fewer than 2,000 legal abortions a year in Poland, and the vast majority take place because of malformed foetuses, which would be illegal following the court ruling such abortions were unconstitutional. The new ruling restricts abortions to circumstances of rape, incest, or if there is a threat to the woman’s life. Women’s groups estimate that as many as 200,000 procedures are performed illegally or abroad each...

Belarus: solidarity and "imperialism"

A few days ago, following up on a suggestion I made to LabourStart’s mailing list that people try out the secure messaging app Telegram, I received an interesting question. I had mentioned that pro-democracy protestors in Belarus and Hong Kong were using the app intensively. The question I received was: “Is Telegram also being used in Bolivia?” When I replied that I didn’t know, my correspondent replied: “It’s just that it’s used in two places where the imperialist states are very much involved against the government.” Leftists who see Belarus and Hong Kong as countries under some kind of...

Not yet general strike, but bigger protests

On 13 October Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya made an ultimatum on behalf of the oppositional Coordinating Council. If Lukashenko didn’t resign, she would call for a peaceful nationwide rejection of his rule and a general strike from 25 October. The strike call gave a boost to the protests against Lukashenko. The weekly Sunday demonstration in Minsk on 25 October was larger than it had been for over a month, probably close to 100,000. It was met at the intersection of Orlovskaya and Novovilenskaya in Minsk with the most brutal attack yet from Lukashenko’s security. Stun...

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