Solidarity 585, 17 March 2021

Women's Fightback: Why we went to Clapham Common

On 3 March, Sarah Everard went missing from the streets near my house. The route that should have taken her safely home intersects with my walk to work, and passes the homes of my friends. Police knocked on doors in the area looking for more information and advising women to stay at home, or only go out accompanied. The call sparked an immediate reaction, with women complaining it amounted to de facto curfew and chaperone restrictions on women. At the same time, there was an outpouring of experiences, first locally and then nationally, of indecent exposure, harassment, and assault. These...

End violence against women - fight for equality

In the UK one woman in four experiences domestic violence at some point in their life, and one in four experiences rape or attempted rape. Yet in the face of this, refuges, rape crisis centres, counselling and advocacy services, which were already stretched, are being cut further. Other attacks, such as on housing benefit, will make it harder for women to leave violent relationships as they are priced out of housing. Stigma around the issue of violence against women means that much of it goes unrecognised. Reactionary, victim-blaming attitudes are still widespread, including in the very...

Morning Star applauds UK vaccine nationalism

In the run-up to the EU referendum and throughout the Brexit negotiations that followed, the Morning Star vied with the Telegraph and the Mail to be Britain’s most anti-EU newspaper. Not only did it use many of the same arguments as the right wing press (most shamefully, calling for greater curbs on immigration), it also used the same rhetoric: “Brussels bureaucrats” (of course), and denouncing pro-EU forces as “a ‘fifth column’ in British political, media and business circles”, who would run up the “white flag” in negotiations with the EU (these are all genuine quotes). Happily, this rank...

Pay NHS workers 15%!

The government’s recommendation of a measly 1% pay rise for NHS workers has been widely seen as a kick in the teeth. Protests across the country were sparked following the announcement, reigniting the activists who organised sizeable street protests last July-September. Nurses United (a group inside RCN) and others in Healthworkers Say No to Pay Inequality have for months spearheaded campaigning for a 15% pay rise (with a £3,000 minimum). The GMB and Unite are following this demand. The RCN calls for 12.5%. Unison has a £2,000 flat rate demand, which looks like it’s copied from the flat-rate...

Lessons from Texas

As a blizzard of snowstorms tore across Texas in February 2021, many faced energy bills of sixteen thousand dollars for only a few days. And they were the lucky ones. Countless others found themselves without power, having to burn whatever they could to keep warm, having to boil water to sterilise it. While Hell, Michigan was literally freezing over, an earthly hell was created in Texan prisons. Power was lost, toilets overflowed, food and medicine shortages added to the fear prisoners experienced of falling asleep, lest they didn’t awake, ice-cold air flowing through broken windows into their...

Virus test workers denied isolation pay

In response to an enquiry from Emily Thornberry MP, G4S have confirmed that many of their staff operating virus Test Centres are employed on zero hours contracts and have no rights to company sick pay. If these staff have to isolate, then at best they would be paid £95.85 a week Statutory Sick Pay. Stuart Jordan from the Safe and Equal Campaign explains: “Many Test Centre workers are employed on super-spreader contracts without occupational sick pay or job security. If they have suspected infection they are in an impossible situation: either isolate and face severe financial hardship or go to...

Life-saving branded a crime

Dozens of activists from NGOs including Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières are facing up to 20 years in prison in Italy on “human trafficking” charges after they saved thousands in the Mediterranean. Italian prosecutors claim that rescue ships arranged direct transfer of refugees from smugglers before returning the boats for further use. “Saving lives is never a crime…,” Francesca Cancellaro, lawyer for the crew of the Iuventa (a former fishing vessel, operated by a German NGO), told the Guardian. “While the EU turned away from the Mediterranean, transforming it into a mass grave...

Myanmar: "We need international solidarity"

Khaing Zar Aung, President of the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar and a member of the executive of the Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar, spoke to us about the situation there.

Defend the right to protest

Police action to disperse the Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard on 14 March (with violence) and a health workers’ pay protest in Manchester on 7 March (with a £10,000 fine) has sparked a wave of street protests. These protests have won a first victory, just by taking place with large numbers. Police have been largely compelled to back off. The next aim is to defeat the new Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which the Tories announced on 9 March and are trying to rush through. The Labour front bench first planned to abstain on the Bill, but has now been pushed into opposing it...

Activist agenda: Labour Party conference motions and Momentum

Campaigns usually featured in this column such as the Labour Campaign for Free Movement, the Uyghur Solidarity Campaign, the Hong Kong campaign LMSHKUK, and Free Our Unions, have put motions into the “policy primary” being run by the left-Labour group Momentum. Momentum is due to publish its “shortlisted motions” on 18 March, and then ballot members on them Wednesday 24 March to Monday 29 March. The Momentum National Coordinating Group decides which ones to prioritise in early September. Labour’s deadline for motions for its conference (25-29 September) is 13 September, but the deadline for...

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