Solidarity 598, 23 June 2021

Back NHS workers to win 15%

Nursing Times reports that the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendation on NHS workers, is due “sometime this month” (June), despite delay. The PRB was originally supposed to report in May. The Tory government has already said in its evidence to the PRB that 1% is all that is “affordable” — it uses the word 16 times in its submission — and it is the government that makes the final decision. The system of supposedly independent pay review bodies in the public sector — replacing actual collective bargaining between unions and employers — is a farce, designed to shift power further from workers to...

Regroup the left to revive Labour

Labour did very badly in the 17 June Chesham and Amersham by-election — down from 12.9% to 1.6%, 622 votes, about the same as the number of Labour members in the constituency. There is precedent. The 2016 by-election in Richmond Park, South West London was also won by the Lib Dems on a huge swing from the Tories, and Labour’s share fell from 12.3% to 3.6%. The difference is that in 2016-7 there was a sizeable and mobilised Labour left, which is now much more demobilised. Labour did badly in the polls (up to 20% behind) right up until the Tories called the election in mid-2017, and the Lib-Dems...

Why Labour may lose Batley and Spen

On 1 July we will see a crucial by-election for Labour in Batley and Spen, coming soon after Labour lost the Hartlepool by-election and did poorly in the May council elections. The by-election is happening because the sitting Labour MP, Tracy Brabin, won the West Yorkshire mayoral election. At the last election Labour won with 42% of the vote, and a narrow-ish majority of 3,000-odd the Tories. But right-wing pro-Brexit parties - the Tories, the Brexit Party and the Heavy Wollen District Independents - won over 50% of the vote between them. The Heavy Woollen District independents grew out of...

How can there be "surplus" vaccines?

In mid-June, state officials in Michigan warned of over half a million doses of Covid-19 vaccines that were set to expire between then and early August. Around the same time, an Ohio governor warned of 200,000 vaccines due to expire on 23 June. This problem likely faces every state, with over ten million doses of J&J delivered but not administered across the country. An extension to J&J’s shelf-life by the USA’s FDA only provides temporary respite. At a time when fewer than 1% of people in low income countries have received at least one dose, these figures in themselves provide a sharp...

Unite general secretary: Beckett pulls out

For more on the Unite General Secretary election, see here. On 18 June Howard Beckett pulled out of the contest for election as the next Unite the Union General Secretary. (Balloting begins on 5 July). Despite his posturing in recent months as the only candidate worthy of election, this was no surprise. Of the three left-of-centre candidates, Beckett got the lowest number of branch nominations (328). Nearly half (143) came from Scotland alone, thanks to the union’s Scottish bureaucracy and its "Progressive United Left Scotland" delivering nominations from a myriad of small and inactive...

Materialism and neuroscience reductionism

John Cunningham’s review of The Idea of the Brain in Solidarity 597 asks “Is there a Marxist analysis of the Brain?” Although John answers “probably not”, we need to be much clearer. Marxism is not a-theory-of-everything but a rigorous (scientific, if you like) understanding of human society, its history and progress, conjoined with the value-driven (non-scientific) wish for a complete human existence in an imminent fair and free society. As such Marxism has something to say about scientific method. Certainly, Marxists have much to say on the impact of class society, gender and racial...

Barbarossa and the left after 80 years

This week marks the eightieth anniversary of the Nazi German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. It was one of the most successful military operations of modern times. German forces advanced deep into Soviet territory and accepted the surrender of literally millions of Soviet troops. The responsibility for this defeat rests squarely on Stalin’s shoulders. Not only did Stalin kill off practically the entire leadership of the Red Army in the run-up to the war, but his policies — particularly in Ukraine — guaranteed that many Soviet citizens would welcome the Nazis as liberators. This...

By revolution, not statues

Eric Lee in his for recent opinion column for Solidarity took issue with Gary Younge’s piece in the Guardian in which Younge advocates removing all statues, regardless of whether they are slave traders or revolutionaries. Eric says how “Socialists should not agree. There are statues that need to come down because they honour people or causes that should not be honoured, full stop... But there are also statues that should go up, in remembrance of people — and causes — which we should honour.” He goes on to name revolutionaries such as Andreu Nin, Rosa Luxemburg and others who should have...

Workers' plans for climate adaptation

Climate scientists are beginning to panic. According to a new report from the government-commissioned Climate Change Committee the UK is even worse prepared for climate change than we were five years ago. The latest and third CCC report was released with some provocative statements “designed to elicit a response” from government. So far no response has been forthcoming. For decades now scientists have been raising the alarm about the threats of climate change. For the almost entire time that humans have been on Earth, the planet’s climate has been extremely erratic, with repeated ice ages and...

Care workers and vaccinations

There is a real sense of anger among care and support workers following the government’s announcement to force compulsory vaccinations on the workforce. It has been a bitter pill to swallow. We have spent the past 18 months risking our lives in unsafe workplaces, following ever changing government guidelines and trying to stay on top of the science to keep those we support safe. At Care and Support Workers Organise! we encourage every care worker to have the vaccination. However, we agree with the British Medical Association, who have warned compulsion is “a blunt instrument that carries its...

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