Solidarity 574, 2 December 2020

Sunak plans for mass poverty

The New Economics Foundation says the percentage of people getting less than the Minimum Income Standard is set to grow from 30% in September to 34% in April 2021. The percentage on less than 75% of the MIS will grow from 16% to 19%. Labour’s metro-region mayors are demanding the government expands its income support schemes. The mayors are working with the NEF to call for a “Minimum Income Standard”, ensuring everyone gets at least £320 a week, or £227 excluding rent and childcare. The mayors’ demands are not radical, focusing on “plugging holes” in the furlough and self-employment schemes...

Labour must oppose a Tory Brexit deal!

The more-than-rumour is that Keir Starmer’s leadership will impose a parliamentary whip to force Labour MPs to back the Tory Brexit deal possibly coming soon — even a high-pressure “three-line whip”. There is no good Brexit. But any possible deal will fall at the hard, economically destructive, socially regressive end of the Brexit spectrum. The left and labour movement should oppose this big, convulsive step backwards. We should refuse responsibility for the Tories’ disastrous plans, and loudly tell the truth about what they represent. We should demand the Parliamentary Labour Party votes...

In the bleak midwinter

Three blows are likely to hit us in the first months of 2021: Brexit, a new pandemic lockdown, and a new wave of job cuts and closures. Lockdown pushes down many people who fall through the furlough net, or were looking for new or first jobs. Back in spring it looked like the biggest job cuts among previously well-established workers would come as lockdown eased. Companies which had stuck it out through lockdown with furlough money and government loans would then shut down or shrink, and those shutdowns would be magnified through their supply chains. Now we have a second lockdown, and a third...

"Whataboutery" on China and the Uyghurs

“Whataboutery” is an old trick much favoured by Stalinists whenever difficult questions about human rights under “socialist” regimes are raised. Apparently the correct term is “tu quoque” — a debating technique based upon the perceived hypocrisy of the opponent rather than the merits of their argument. Some of the most blatant cases you’ll come across involve the Morning Star and its increasingly desperate efforts to deny or justify the Chinese state’s treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. This began with a number of articles earlier this year, attacking the findings of Adrian Zenz, a...

200 protest in Havana

Over 200 young artists and activists protested outside Cuba’s Ministry of Culture in Havana on 27 November, demanding the release of a jailed rapper and freedom of expression (video here). This came after Cuban police, the day before, had broken down the door of the San Isidro Movement ( MSI) artists’ collective and detained around 14 people, several of them on hunger strike for the same reason. The stated motivation for the raid was violations of Covid-19 restrictions. Most detainees were later released, but that the government blocked access to Facebook and Instagram across the island during...

Fight job cuts in retail

Arcadia, the owner of Topshop, Burton, and Dorothy Perkins, has gone into administration, putting 13,000 jobs at risk. In retail, 85% of Arcadia employees are women, while at head office 71% are women. It is also a young workforce. 75% of the retail workforce is under 35 while at head office 63% of the workforce is under 35. The company said the pandemic had had “a material impact on trading across our businesses”, and in fact it was already in difficulties due to a chunk of its traffic moving to competitors more adroit about going online. Hospitality and retail are the foremost sectors for...

Flogged for demanding reinstatement

On 26 November, Iranian trade unionist Davoud Rafii was flogged 74 time for “insulting” Iran’s former Labour Minister. Rafii was sacked from the Pars Khodro car plant in 2012 for union organising, and since then has campaigned insistently to demand reinstatement — including by picketing the Labour Ministry with placards denouncing then Labour Minister Ali Rabii. He has been arrested repeatedly. The Shahrokh Zamani Action Campaign says: “There have been many cases of workers in Iran receiving flogging sentences in the past few years. The SZAC strongly condemns this medieval punishment for...

Against Leviathan, a workers' plan

Zack Muddle’s review of Climate Leviathan is right to point out the eclectic list of thinkers who shape the analysis of the authors, Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann. That eclecticism masks a major blind spot. Despite writing elegantly about Gramsci and Marx, the authors do not appear to have noticed the world is separated by competing classes. They appear oblivious to the structural divide between capital and labour that was at the animating idea of Gramsci and Marx’s life work. That crucial part of our reality and the idea of working-class agency is missing fromClimate Leviathan. Despite this...

Suspend "thousands and thousands"?

“If I have to suspend thousands and thousands of members, we will do that", declared Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner on 29 November, following a new message from Labour Party general secretary David Evans that local Labour Party officials can be suspended for allowing debate on restoring the Labour whip to Jeremy Corbyn. Local Labour Party discussions on suspensions or expulsions from the party were already barred by a March 2019 instruction from the previous, "Corbynite", general secretary Jennie Formby. Officials of at least one local Labour Party (Islington South) had been told in mid...

"Labour councils should be fighting the government for more money"

Croydon council, in South London, has issued a Section 114 notice. This means the council will now only provide a bare legal minimum of services, ie make even more drastic cuts. A local union activist spoke to Josh Lovell and Sacha Ismail about the possibilities of a fightback in the borough. Like other local authorities, Croydon is the victim of ten years of cuts. It has lost 76% of its central government funding. The Labour administration has also invested in some dubious ventures, a number of which have not worked out – but the fundamental frame is these dramatic cuts to its funding. Covid...

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