Solidarity 577, 13 January 2021

A trade union at Google

“We are the workers who built Alphabet. We write code, clean offices, serve food, drive buses, test self-driving cars and do everything needed to keep this behemoth running." The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) was launched on 4 January by 226 workers at Google and its parent company Alphabet, in partnership with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Within their first week they trebled their membership and denounced YouTube for “its insufficient response” to the storming of the Capitol on 6 January. In 2018 Google deprioritised the motto “don’t be evil”. The company’s main business is...

Turkish university rejects stooge rector

Since 4 January, students and staff at Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University have been protesting against the imposition of a new university rector. Traditionally university faculties in Turkey have the right to elect their own rectors, but Professor Melih Bulu was appointed to the position by President Erdoğan himself. Bulu was previously a parliamentary candidate for the AKP, Erdoğan’s ruling party, and is accused of plagiarising his doctoral thesis. According to a joint statement from students and staff, this is the first time a university rector has been externally chosen since the military junta...

Speedy vaccines: money, political will and technologies

One of the few positives that emerged from the bin fire of 2020 was the speed at which not one, but three, effective and safe vaccines were developed, trialled and approved in the UK. They offer hope for a more optimistic 2022 and a route out of the pandemic. However, as with other projects involving big pharma and national governments, many people are skeptical about the speed at which vaccines have become available. In non-plague times, vaccine development is a long process. It is multi-staged and complex, involving scientific research, preclinical trials, three phases of clinical trials...

Help sex workers organise!

The key and simple question at the heart of debate around sex work is: what best empowers sex workers to fight for themselves? The answer is unequivocally recognising their work as work and giving them the rights and means to organise: against the bosses in brothels and clubs, for better pay and safer conditions. The answer is not, no matter which way you look at it, to make their work more dangerous and make it more difficult for workers to seek help or exit the industry, which is precisely what the Nordic Model does. In her article “No to the Swedish Model”, Apsi Witana makes this point well...

Workers' control and school safety

From 5 January all secondary and primary schools moved to being physically open only to vulnerable children and the children of key workers. Learning for other students is being offered online. There continue to be struggles over the specifics of this. Firstly, the government has tried to widen the definition of children who can come in to these schools, to the point where head teachers and school leaders’ unions have sounded the alarm. On Saturday 9 January the government was forced to clarify that key workers should send their children only if they cannot work from home. The numbers in...

Grades in 2021

The government has said GCSE and A level grades for 2021 will be done on teachers’ assessments. That may be better than the botched algorithm attempted in 2020. But every school will seek to report results a bit better than 2020 or 2019. A student’s grades will depend as much on their school management’s talents as chancers as on anything real. There’ll also be “grade inflation” (an A or a 9 in 2021 not the same as in 2019), but that, I think, is a lesser problem. For GCSE, the answer is just to scrap GCSE grades. Let 16 year olds go on to what they want, A levels, apprenticeships, whatever...

An Open Letter to my fellow Labour councillors

Dear colleagues, The past decade in local government has been defined largely by one thing: cuts. And if this government has their way, this will be the story for the next decade too. Rishi Sunak has heaped yet more misery on councils. His budget provided £5bn less than the Tory leadership of the Local Government Association said is necessary just to “stay afloat”. Following the disastrous impact of the pandemic on councils’ finances, we are facing a new wave of cuts. Although the impact may not have kicked in across the country yet, cases like Luton (where £22m of emergency cuts were...

Today farce, tomorrow tragedy?

This [6 January] was a “coup” as social media spectacle. In their pseudo-Viking gear and Confederate patches, the far-right rebels were a distinctly unappealing lot. And their rebellion utterly lacked a coherent plan beyond smashed windows and selfies. Rather than a coup, it was a pathetic right-wing putsch attempt and was put down remarkably swiftly. It was given the green-light by Trump and his inner circle. But it was overwhelmingly condemned by the spokespeople of the capitalist class: the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce, the CEOs of most major corporations...

Will Trump pay for his crimes?

According to iconic jazz poet Gil Scott Heron “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. The same can’t be said for 6 January’s counter-revolutionary attempt, when a delusional and demented far-right mob stormed the Capitol building. Cameras rolled to record the invasion of the legislature by a rabble of fascists and crazed believers in conspiracy theories who trashed the building in the hope of overturning the Presidential election result. Some participants in the ransack wore costumes as bizarre as their QAnon beliefs. Others raised the Confederate flag. In all his attempts to capture...

The USA needs to be made a proper democracy

The woman, in her late 20s, has been maced. Recovering slowly, she looks a bit sorry for herself, and complains indignantly. “As soon as I went into the Capitol, they maced me, right in my face.” Interviewer: “Yes, but why did you go in?” “Go in? For the revolution, of course.” Not since fascists wielding cut-throat razors tried to invade the French Chamber of Deputies in February 1934 has there been, in a functioning bourgeois democracy, anything like the occupation of the Senate and Representatives chambers in Washington on 6 January. A large crowd rampaged through the building looking for...

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