Solidarity 604, 1 September 2021

Open door for Afghan refugees!

More on Afghan refugees here. The Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan threatens the rights and lives of millions. The most immediate duty for the left and the workers’ movement in Britain is to fight to force open the borders for every refugee who wants to come here. By the time we go to press, the US, UK and allies will have pulled out of Kabul airport. Their shoddy operation has left behind even many of the Afghans they had promised to help, after their work with Western militaries or embassies put them at risk. Not only those workers, but millions more will face violence and curtailed...

Oppose Labour's new wave of purges! Defend due process!

On 13 August the Labour Party started sending out letters threatening people with "Automatic Exclusion from Membership of the Labour Party" under the terms of the "ban" on four groups decided by Labour's National Executive (NEC) on 20 July. The recipients were given seven days to show they weren't associated with any of the four groups. The well-known film director Ken Loach refused to attempt to show that, and has been expelled. Labour HQ responded that it would "not comment on individual cases". In other words, there is no due process. Imagine a legal system under which you could be jailed...

Step up the fight against Police Bill

The Tories’ Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has not, so far, been substantially amended in Parliament. It still constitutes an assault on the right to protest, on workers’ rights to strike and picket, on migrants and on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. The Bill’s second reading in the House of Lords has been set for 14 September. Yet the latest round of protests against the Bill, on 21 August, was small and weak, with hundreds rather than thousands in London. There are multiple reasons why that is the case. One is that the labour movement has failed to mobilise against the Bill...

NatWest privatisation: why is the labour movement silent?

The government still owns a majority of one of the UK’s biggest banks. Instead of using that stake to impose any kind of public accountability or social responsibility on NatWest, the Tories are pushing ahead with the sell-off of the government’s stake – at a massive loss to taxpayers. Yet the labour movement is silent. Despite a majority of its shares being owned by the government, in the last four years NatWest Group has provided over $13bn of funding for fossil fuel projects, 46th worst of all the many thousands of banks in the world. It recently announced plans to distribute £3bn to its...

Two Labour left rallies

Two online rallies of the left have been organised in the run-up to Labour conference: by Arise (Labour Assembly Against Austerity and others) on 11 September, and by Don’t Leave Organise, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Fire Brigades Union, Bakers’ Union and others on 18 September. We understand the second may also include a physical meeting. The DLO-CLPD meeting is announced with a joint statement negotiated over a period between 16 groups of the Labour left, and seems to be aimed at producing a better mechanism than the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance for agreeing “left slates” for...

All over the place on Afghanistan

The Morning Star (unlike some other left wing publications) did not hail the fall of Kabul and the Taliban takeover as any kind of “triumph” or “victory” for “anti-imperialism”. In fact the Morning Star of 16 August described the situation as a “disaster unfolding” and quoted a member of the Afghan diaspora now living in Norway saying: “Dark times are ahead as women and ethnic groups like the Hazara will face the same fate as they did in the 1990s”. But it has been completely incoherent on the underlying politics. The Morning Star claimed (editorial 17 August) that any suggestion that the Stop...

Trumka weak on BLM, coup and more

Much of what Eric Lee writes for Solidarity is very good, such as last month’s article on the LGBTI movement’s struggle in Georgia, but his contributions on US politics sit very strangely on the pages of a revolutionary socialist publication. Lots of good articles for the price of a bit of rubbish every so often isn’t an awful deal, but it shouldn’t go unchallenged. In his obituary (Solidarity 603) for American union bureaucrat Richard Trumka, he laments that this death received less coverage in the British press than that of “Barry the barred owl”. Thankfully the Morning Star has answered Lee...

Science, rockets and space

John Cunningham (Solidarity 603) points out that the USSR space programme was primarily geared to developing missile technology for the Cold War. He still cherishes his framed photo of Yuri Gagarin. Gagarin was surely brave and resourceful. But what cause were those qualities made to serve? Since 1972 no government has found sending humans (rather than scientific instruments) beyond low Earth orbit worthwhile even for prestige or possible military spin-offs. And on the International Space Station, the astronomer Martin Rees says: “The scientific returns have been meagre. We have learned a bit...

Command-economy growth

Environmental devastation in the Soviet Union Tony Southwell (Solidarity 603) is right that calling on capitalist states to reduce our consumption for climate reasons is hopeless. And he’s right that a socialist planned economy could dampen the drive for people to own more “stuff” (more cars, etc.) He suggests, though, that Stalinist-type planned economies could also avert the “more stuff” compulsion. I can’t believe that the growth-target focus of those economies was just coincidence that the individual choices of the bureaucrats all went that way. Their system was organically tied to...

In the age of Scylla and Charybdis

You will no doubt be familiar with the expression “between a rock and a hard place”. That phrase, apparently, has its origins in labour history. According to one online source, “the phrase originated in America in the early 1900s to describe a dispute between copper miners and the mining companies in Bisbee, Arizona”. Maybe. It’s a modern take on the myth of Scylla and Charybdis, described by Homer as two immortal and irresistible monsters who controlled the narrow waters through which Odysseus needed to pass. I thought about Scylla and Charybdis the other day while I listened to a relative in...

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