Solidarity 575, 9 December 2020

Tell the truth against Brexit!

As we go to press on 8 December, it seems to hang in the balance whether the Tories will conclude a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU. The Tory leadership is cultivating an image of being not too bothered either way. We will have either “No Deal” (which means a lot of short-term disruption, followed by a scramble to get some sketchy deal in the next years) or a bodged Brexit deal. The bodged last-minute Tory deal will leave many issues to be resolved, but will include the closing of borders to free movement from Europe and probably license systematic reduction over time of social provision...

A dozen or more rent strikes

In the last week of the first term, groups from more universities are joining the wave of rent strikes. They will withhold rent payments due in January 2021. Students at a dozen universities, possibly more, are now involved. On Wednesday 2 December, a London demonstration, called by the cross-capital Liberate the University group and backed by the National Union of Students (NUS), was attended by 150 or more, with Goldsmiths, UAL (University of the Arts, London), and King’s students leading the mobilisation. In Manchester, the same week, where there are two ongoing rent strikes at Manchester...

Johnson: not anti-EU enough?

As the time runs out for a post-Brexit trade deal, the Morning Star is worried: Boris Johnson “is not ideologically anti-EU, let alone pro-No Deal” (all quotes from Morning Star editorial, 5-6 December). Yes, that’s the trouble with Johnson — he just can’t be trusted to take a hard line against Johnny Foreigner, even over fishing rights, which he “would sell... to France and Spain in order to ensure the City of London’s continuing unfettered access to Europe’s financial markets.” Meanwhile, the “intransigent” EU claims to have “fears — whether bogus or not — that Britain could engage in unfair...

A socialist-feminist take on Xmas films

It’s my last column of the year, so time for our socialist feminist Christmas film review. Muppets Christmas Carol: Like many Muppets movies this shows the Muppets experiencing and expressing the misery of capitalism. This is ameliorated not by working-class struggle but by benevolent capitalism, which had been faced with its own horrific reflection. This is the most liberal of the Muppets movies. The Muppet canon contains working class resistance to capitalism whilst ultimately accommodating to the power of capital. Why? In part due to the leadership of Kermit, who constantly curtails the...

Vaccination and the frontline workers

Following the approval of the first Covid-19 vaccine last week came the announcement that the government will be rolling out a vaccination programme for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to care home residents and healthcare workers first, followed by tiers according to age and vulnerability. Mass vaccination roll outs are intended to get the pandemic under control, prevent deaths, hospitalisations and infections. But each of these come with trade-offs in terms of who is vaccinated first, so which should be prioritised when considering public health vaccination strategies? Currently, the government...

Racism behind the deportations

On Wednesday 2 December, a charter flight intended to deport 50 Jamaican nationals from the UK back to Jamaica went ahead, though with thirteen rather than 50. There had been a campaign with many high-profile celebrities such as Naomi Campbell fronting it. Home Secretary Priti Patel was heavily critically of the Labour MPs and celebrities such as Thandie Newton who protested, referring to them as “do-gooders”. She claimed people seeking to halt the deportation risked the safety of British people by allowing criminals to reside on British soil. To what extent are “British” people in danger from...

No longer hating Brexit?

A group of Labour MPs previously associated with the “Love Socialism Hate Brexit” project have relaunched it as “Love Socialism”. (See the article by Clive Lewis, Rachael Maskell, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Alex Sobel here, and their Twitter @lovesocialism.) Love Socialism flags up critical struggles like migrants’ rights, structural racism and climate change. The MPs driving it have a generally honourable record on such issues, and in that sense the initiative is welcome. So is their call to “confront suppressive forces, not to pander to this authoritarian national government. Call it out… Then...

Belarus revolt: stalled, but will revive

At the beginning of 2020, Belarus was in a different crisis. Then, it was about oil and President Lukashenko’s relationship with Putin. During that crisis from January to March of this year, oil supplies to Belarus from Rosneft, one of the two giant Russian oil companies, were reduced to a trickle. Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin thought Russia was not getting enough for the heavily subsidised oil provided to Lukashenko. Sechin is not just an oil oligarch. He is a leading figure in a circle close to Putin, the Siloviki, with roots in the former KGB. He is considered Russia’s second most powerful...

GCSE chaos: abolish the grades!

Across the UK different regional governments have taken different approaches to the sitting and grading of school exams in the summer term of 2021. In Scotland the National 5 (GCSE equivalent) exams have been cancelled and grades will be determined by “teacher judgement supported by assessment”. Scotland Education Secretary John Swinney declared that going ahead with exams was unfair given Covid-related disruption in schools. In Wales the Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, has announced that GCSEs and A-level exams are to be cancelled, with grades based on classroom assessments. However...

Democracy and the labour movement

On 7 December, the Labour Party National Executive (NEC) adopted a “draft plan” in response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) report of 29 October finding that Labour had dealt with antisemitism inadequately. The vote, according to LabourList, was unanimous. The draft plan will not be published: only, after some time, the plan finally agreed with the EHRC. The plan is likely to set out new disciplinary processes for Labour. They can hardly be worse than the present mess. The plan won’t include a political offensive, through debate and education, against the antisemitism in...

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