Solidarity 537, 4 March 2020

Build unions, not borders

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 12:20


The Tories have threatened to abandon talks with the European Union in June and spend the second half of the year preparing for a No Deal Brexit.

No expert thought it would be easy to get a UK-EU trade agreement even by the end of the year, when the transition period is due to end and Brexit really kicks in. Getting an agreement largely sorted by June will be that much more difficult. It looks like the Tories are trying to bluff the EU into concessions by a game of brinkmanship which could easily end in No Deal anyway.

The Tories have abandoned their earlier promises to maintain a “level

Covid-19: the case for public spending and public ownership

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 11:58

Covid-19 is spreading. Spreading even faster, in the last week of February, was financial panic.

The Dow Jones share-price index in the USA went down 12% in the week ending 27 February, its biggest drop since 2008.

The first economic effects from a pandemic are in some ways the opposite of the usual beginning of a capitalist slump.

That usually begins with "overproduction" - when capitalists, vying each to outstrip the other in a boom, find they've increased capacity way beyond available market demand, and suddenly cut back on new investment.

With a pandemic there is instead a "supply shock",

Bernie Sanders' Cuba problem

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 11:53

Eric Lee

As the possibility grows of Bernie Sanders winning the Democratic nomination for President, his opponents are looking for vulnerabilities that can be exploited.

This shouldn’t be difficult, as Sanders has been politically active for some six decades. Surely he has written or said something embarrassing during that period.

But after trawling through the various archives, they have found very little to work with. Until now.

Last week, the attention of the mainstream media focussed on things that Sanders had said about Cuba in the past.

It seems that many years ago, Sanders made reference to two

Behind the Rutnam case

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 11:48

Luke Hardy

On a basic trade union level we should be against the bullying of even a very well paid civil servant like Philip Rutnam, head of the Home Office, who resigned on 29 February, complained that many of his staff had been bullied, and said he would sue the government for "constructive dismissal".

There clearly is a turf-war element here, as in the resignation of Chancellor Sajid Javid over prime minister Boris Johnson's insistence on replacing Javid's staff by staff under Johnson's control. Or the case of Javid's adviser Sonia Khan, who was marched off the job last September by armed police

Green New Deal, not airport expansion!

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 11:43

Misha Zubrowski

Existing plans for Heathrow airport to be expanded with a new third runway have been ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal, in the latest move in a battle stretching back the best part of two decades.

On 27 February the court ruled that in June 2018 Chris Grayling, then the transport secretary, was acting unlawfully by not taking into account the government's commitment - under the Paris agreements - to tackle the climate crisis. The Government said it would not appeal, though Heathrow airport itself will.

Air travel is extremely emissions-intensive, releasing a much higher quantity of

For Two States and Equal Rights

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 11:33

On Thursday 27 February, activists responding to a call "For Two States and Equal Rights" protested near the Israeli Embassy in London against the Trump Plan and the threats by Israeli political leaders to annex large areas of the 80%-Palestinian West Bank.

The planned annexations would reduce the residual autonomy of the Palestinian cities, towns, and villages to that of disjointed patches of land surrounded by and completely dominated by areas claimed permanently for Israel.

We thought it urgent to get onto the streets before Israel's elections on 2 March, because annexation is likely to

Morning Star welcomes end of free movement

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 11:28

Jim Denham

It is scarcely a secret that the biggest problem the Morning Star has with the Johnson government is that, on so many issues, they fundamentally agree.

On Brexit (preferably “no deal”), nationalism, hostility to “liberalism”, “human rights” legislation, the “metropolitan elite” and “finance capital”, the Star (and its ideological masters, the Communist Party of Britain) sing from much the same hymn-sheet as Johnson and Cummings.

Yes, of course, the Star ritualistically denounces Johnson’s cruder forays into outright racism and warns that the Tories can’t be trusted with workers’ rights; but

Letters: HS2, Democrats' history

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 11:18

No strong case for HS2

There is a lot to agree with in Mark Catterall’s letter in Solidarity 536 - but I am less optimistic about the capacity argument for HS2.

High speed direct rail services between major cities could help to free up congestion, but at this rate the second stage of HS2 could be completed somewhere between 2035 and 2040, far too late to have significant impact on carbon emissions and reduce the amount of freight and commuters moved by road.

And where will capacity will be freed up? As I read it HS2’s congestion relief to the WCML is compromised by the failure to provide

Selina Todd and the Twitter storm

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 11:12

A social media storm broke out after a feminist conference in Oxford on 29 February asked Oxford University historian Selina Todd to hand over her two-minute opening address to a colleague, following threats by some speakers to boycott the event.

Todd is associated with Women’s Place UK, which was set up to oppose progressive reform of laws on transgender rights.

In a strange twist, WPUK types demanded the AWL immediately denounce the "disinvite". But none of us even knew about the event, let alone had involvement in it!

And our position on such things is clear: we support trans rights, but

Salford, Liverpool and Tower Hamlets

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 11:06

Martin Thomas

On 26 February, Paul Dennett, the Labour mayor of Salford, announced that "for the first year since 2010/11… Salford Council has managed to set a no cuts budget after nine debilitating years of Tory-Lib-Dem and Tory cuts, which have taken £211 million or 53% of central government funding out of Salford".

This is surely a good move, and some of the credit must go to campaigning over years by unions and community groups in Salford.

Steve North, Salford branch secretary of the local government workers' union Unison, writing in a personal capacity for Socialist Alternative, says: "The most

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