Solidarity 582, 17 February 2021

Release Nodeep Kaur and Shiv Kumar!

The Modi government’s repression against Indian farmers’ protests (Solidarity 581) could signal the Hindu-nationalist regime’s panic-stricken weakening and decline, or the onset of an even more consolidated authoritarianism. The repression is harsh and escalating. About two hundred farmers have died as a result of protracted living in protest camps over the winter, and about twenty have committed suicide. A smaller number have been directly killed, including a 27-year-old who lost control of his tractor after it was hit by a bullet when troops attacked the peaceful mass protest in Delhi on...

Forde Inquiry is stalled

On 11 February the Labour Party’s National Executive was told that the report of the inquiry led by lawyer Martin Forde into the 860-page internal report on Labour’s HQ workings leaked in May 2020 would be indefinitely postponed. Forde said in a letter that the government Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) “has indicated it is making inquiries” about the “security breaches” involved, and “the publication of our report could prejudice those inquiries”. This is a setback. The Labour Party will not be able to act in unity until we know whether allegations in the leaked document are true and...

Non-meeting in Bristol West

After Labour suspended some members of the Executive of Bristol West Constituency Labour Party, and cancelling our December Annual General Meeting, regional office staff ran that AGM on 11 February. We had to login before 7 pm, so they could verify our membership. Ballots were then sent out by email. There was no discussion, no speeches by candidates, no way to interact with or see the other participants. It was in no meaningful sense a meeting. We stared at a blank screen, refreshing our emails, while ballots came through in dribs and drabs. Broken up only by a talking head apologising for...

Workers' control, not reliance on HSE

The official Health and Safety Executive has had 179,873 Covid-related cases since the start of the pandemic, but has brought not a single prosecution against an employer. It has issued only 218 “enforcement notices” (“please fix this within 21 days” type things). HSE inspectors are pretty much unable to halt work activities because the HSE classifies the virus only as a “significant” risk, not a “serious” one. Back in the spring 2020 lockdown, the HSE stopped workplace inspections altogether (until 20 May 2020), with the mind-spinning rationale that the workplaces it might inspect were too...

Letter: When we don't know

As the World Health Organisation puts it, “No substantive data are available related to impact of [the AstraZeneca vaccine] on transmission or viral shedding”. Or other vaccines. There are theoretical reasons to hope that the vaccines reduce transmission a fair bit. Getting to know definitely will be difficult. Solid studies of transmission require good knowledge about where each new infected person got the virus. That’s why we still don’t know how much less never-symptomatic people transmit than eventually-symptomatic ones, and how small a factor transmission via surfaces is, rather than...

New research on mental health

New research into the mental-health toll of the pandemic suggests a divergent effect depending on social status and income. A small minority (8.5% in the study) report improved mental well-being. A larger minority (28.5%) report worsening mental health. The worst off suffer the most. Richard Bentall and his co-workers report: “the economic threats associated with the pandemic were most linked with [mental illness] symptoms, whereas exposure to the virus seemed to have little effect”. They warn, though, that very few of the people they studied had Covid so badly as to be hospitalised, and the...

SOAS starts a fees strike

Students at SOAS [a university in London centred on the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East] are refusing to pay fees as leverage to win their demands on the university management. Close to 1000 students (out of around only 5000 “campus” students, i.e. students who would be on campus in usual conditions, as distinct from those online-only anyway) signed a petition supporting the call for a bailout, pledging solidarity with staff against insecure contracts and “restructuring”, and further demanding that the university does not comply with the government’s Prevent and Hostile...

Regulating social media

Two previous articles in Solidarity (579 and 580) have examined censorship on social media. I argued that social media is a breeding ground for right-wing and far-right ideas. The current moves by both states and the social media corporations mainly aim to check right-wing incitement and misinformation, and it is difficult to oppose such moves as Twitter banning Trump. But then what? Many on the left see unrestricted access for all to the social-media megaphones as a free speech issue, on the supposition that the left will be the main targets of censorship. But in fact the issue now is the far...

Gun clubs, churches, unions

As Matt Cooper describes (Solidarity 579 and 580), social media has been a prime vehicle for the far right. So much so that mainstream bourgeois institutions want curbs. How do we find an answer from the left? I don’t know. A further bit of diagnosis may help us along the way, though. Why do so many people believe such off-the-wall ideas? As Matt reports, false conspiracy theories and “secret scandal” stories spread faster on social media than truth because they are more emotive and more adhesive to “continuous partial attention”. But why are they then believed enough to motivate people to...

Crisis? What crisis?

Unite the Right far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, 2017 Part of an ongoing debate: see here for all the contributions Diamonds are apparently forever, yet the same can’t be said of political systems. Lenin said he’d never see the end of Tsarism mere weeks before the Russian Revolution broke out. Similarly few imagined at the start of 1989 that the USSR would collapse so swiftly, though some supposed leftists still haven’t come to terms with it. Likewise the political project known as the United States of America won’t be around forever. Though close to being finished off during the...

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