Solidarity 596, 9 June 2021

An easy excuse for anti-leftist clampdown in Russia

“This whole story feels as if suddenly, a truck drove into you on the street,” said Svetlana Gordienko, a resident of Russia’s far-eastern Khabarovsk. “Except imagine if it turned out that having a truck driven into you was something totally normal, and legal.” The situation Svetlana is now in began in May 2021, when a squad of 11 officials swarmed her apartment, where she lives with her partner Maksim Smolnikov, and her two children. “They had already started to break down the door, but I managed to open it,” Svetlana recalled. “The riot policemen burst into the house and pushed Max up...

The first time planes bombed a US city: Tulsa, 1921

Second of a series of articles on the Tulsa Massacre of June 1921. Part one here. “The night of the massacre, I was awakened by my family. My parents and five siblings were there. I was told we had to leave and that was it. “I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home. I still see black men being shot, black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams. I have lived through the massacre every day.” That was Viola Fletcher, 107, the oldest survivor...

Good wind for malaria vaccine

Vaccines have been prominent during the course of the Covid pandemic, with the development of several highly efficacious ones (over 90% protection) in less than a year. Even though much preparatory work had already been done, this was an outstanding achievement. Contrast this with the case of malaria, a scourge for thousands of years. After 200 years of vaccination techniques (one of the first examples of doctors actually preventing illness), and 50 years of research into a malaria vaccine, only in the last few weeks have we heard of one, R21, which is 75% effective against malaria (the WHO...

Plutocrat philanthropy and workers' rights

Andrew Forrest is an Australian mining magnate and billionaire who set up a foundation with the seemingly benign purpose to “end modern slavery in our generation”. But as with Bill Gates and his philanthropic foundation, all is not what it seems. In spite of his lobbying for patents and intellectual property, Bill Gates has actually helped some people in the global south get vaccinated. Forrest’s advocacy does very little to alleviate the material conditions which make modern slavery, namely poverty. Within Australia, Forrest’s chief lobbying has been for controls and limits on welfare...

Vampire juice

I’m not sure if the retinol serum makers know that when they push a face-cream I’m immediately put in mind of Bulgakov’s Margarita smearing her face with the stuff before becoming a witch. In this case art trumps science. The pot of cream isn’t going to make you become a witch, it’s designed to give you vampire skin instead — much better. It doesn’t matter which face-cream it is, even picking up a more ethical brand the words of this literary master hang in the air. It is worth wondering if it is a very male view of an ageing woman that these products should have such an occult inference. But...

Israel-Palestine: after the ceasefire

This is the speech given by Gateshead Labour councillor Denise Robson at the Palestine solidarity demonstration in Newcastle on 22 May. Thanks to Denise for allowing us to republish. "Comrades, brothers and sisters, I am delighted to address you today. We are all here, I think, because we want to see lasting peace. This weekend, let’s hope the truce is holding. I hope this pause in violence lasts long enough for meaningful talks to get under way. We know that true and lasting peace can only be secured when both Israelis and Palestinians live with dignity, respect and security in their own...

BT: take the dispute off hold

The Communications Workers Union’s (CWU’s) ballot for industrial action in the telecoms sector is currently paused. The CWU previously stated its intention to ballot all its members who work for BT group (BT, EE and Openreach) in response to job cuts and site closures and the breaking of long standing agreements with the union. At the heart of the dispute is whether the company’s future strategy will include job security and consultation with the union or not. BT group remains a highly profitable firm in a growing sector. Employees have the right to expect job security and assurances about the...

Gary Smith wins GMB election

GMB Scottish Regional Secretary Gary Smith has been elected as the union’s new General Secretary. The election turnout was only 10.6%. But this marks an improvement on the 2019 election (8.5%), the 2015 election (4.2%), and earlier elections which were not even contested. Smith won a fraction more than 50% of the vote. Rehana Azam (right-wing full-timer) got 28%. Giovanna Holt (Senior Organiser, and only candidate with a proven track record of challenging GMB bullying and misogyny) got 22%. As Scottish Regional Secretary Smith has built a reputation for himself as someone prepared to take on...

Join the 26 June protest

The People’s Assembly (PA), an anti-cuts group, has called a demonstration in London for 26 June, noon from Portland Place. The PA was formed in 2013, is financed by trade unions including Unite, and now has “Corbynite” former Labour shadow minister Laura Pidcock as its secretary. The small socialist group Counterfire is important in its backroom workings. The protest is supported by several unions besides Unite (NEU, PCS, RMT, FBU...), and by Extinction Rebellion, which plans additional protests of its own on the weekend 26-27 June. Awkwardly, the protest, planned months ago, has accumulated...

Diary of a firefighter: First day on the watch

My first priority when starting work at a large London fire station was nothing to do with being an operational firefighter, but to get to know the station culture. It’s a pretty unusual working environment, where you eat, sleep and work in close proximity for sometimes gruelling 12-hour shifts, and shared lives, danger and trauma can create strong bonds. It can be an intimidating environment to join, and I’d heard stories from our trainers and others about some pretty tough beginnings. A firefighter, O, has volunteered to be my mentor and support me with settling into station life and...

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