Solidarity 568, 21 October 2020

Priorities to curb the virus

Because the Tories bungled and wasted the summer virus-lull, Britain is heading for new lockdowns. Solidarity defers to majority scientific opinion that some sort of new lockdowns will be needed. We insist, too, that sustainable control of virus-spread, and escape from having both infections and lockdowns hit the worst-off hardest, requires social measures to underpin greater social solidarity. It’s not impossible. Some countries, and not just those with the advantage of being remote islands, have kept fairly low death rates (Finland, Norway, Denmark, Germany). If we develop measures to keep...

Social care needs changes now

The public body which inspects and regulates care services in England has warned the social care sector is “fragile” in this new wave of Covid infections and called for the government to make changes “now – not at some point in the future”. As the Care Quality Commission published its annual State of Care report, its chief executive Ian Trenholm challenged the government by declaring that the coming months may turn “faultlines into chasms”. Strong words from someone in Trenholm’s position. The CQC report suggests or nods towards higher pay, better training and more funding. What is striking is...

Start of a new fightback in Labour?

After a parliamentary rebellion over the Tories’ Overseas Operations bill, the Labour leadership has faced a larger one, in parliament and outside, over its failure to oppose the “Spycops Bill”. Where the Overseas Operations Bill seeks to ease human rights abuses by British forces abroad, the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill would allow undercover police and other agents inside Britain to commit crimes in the course of their work. Murder, torture and sexual violence are not ruled out, and the frameworks to authorise criminal activity are very widely drawn. Given the...

Murdered by fascists

The French socialist group Lutte Ouvrière has responded to the murder on 16 October of school teacher Samuel Paty, targeted because he let students view the famous “Mohammed cartoons” in a lesson on freedom of expression. “An 18-year-old fanatic, influenced by the fascists of the Muslim world (called Islamists), has killed a school teacher who had displayed the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. Because of those lowlifes who want to impose their moral order on us, Muslims will be singled out. Dividing us is their ultimate goal. These types feed on each other. Other fascists have been seen attacking...

Teach anti-capitalism, but get it right

Very little happens by accident or oversight at the Morning Star (despite the paper using that excuse whenever their periodic lapses into blatant antisemitism provoke complaints from leading CPers). So it was, I’d submit, no accident that a quite good article by NEU activist Robert Poole (7 October, electronic edition), protesting at government guidelines banning anti-capitalist materials in schools, was accompanied by this picture. The slide that the teacher is showing his pupils contains the following text: “The main difference between Marxism and Leninism is that, while Karl Marx believed...

Letters: Marsha de Cordova and the Equalities Act; On-the-spot strikes

My article last week referred to a tweeted comment by Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Marsha de Cordova, and her failure to respond to calls to apologise. It’s worth spelling out the detail. The Law Society had published some good guidance on how to support gender-transitioning employees. A transphobic response was published by a blog called “Roll on Friday”. It criticised the Law Society for saying transitioning employees should be able to use the toilet that they are comfortable using, saying that it meant abolishing “single sex spaces” and implying that it went against the Equality...

Belarus: strike plans from 25 October

On 13 October, following increasing attacks and imprisonments on protestors in Belarus, exiled oppositionist Svetlana Tikhanovskaya gave her “People’s Ultimatum” to president Lukashenko. Tikhanovskaya was the challenger to Lukashenko in the rigged 9 August election. She declared that if political prisoners (now running into thousands, including leaders of the liberal opposition, are not released); if Lukashenko doesn’t stand down; and if the attacks on protesters on the streets don’t stop, then she would call on Belarusians to “paralyse the life of our country” from 25 October. The following...

Sea levels will rise. How do we save our cities?

Residents of Miami, Florida are bracing themselves for their next king tide on 14-17 November. In recent years, due to rising sea levels, autumnal tides advance into town washing through the streets and houses, and turning one of the most glamorous cities on earth into an open sewer. These sunny-day flooding events are also common on the Marshall Islands. Last month President David Kabul called for the recovery from the pandemic to involve a rapid transition to zero carbon emissions. This island nation - home to a substantial US military base and nuclear test site - will sink beneath the waves...

Democracy in the labour movement: Stop unjust expulsions

Hundreds of Labour and union activists have signed the appeal to reinstate expelled Broadland (Norfolk) CLP member David Heywood. We also have reports of many other Labour members suspended or expelled without due process. Very few have mounted any campaign against exclusion. We should challenge the growing acceptance that members suspended, often without precise charges, must keep quiet about it.

How transport workers beat the colour bar

This story of colour bars in the UK railway and bus industries begins after the Second World War, when Britain had a labour shortage and people moved to Britain in increasing numbers from Caribbean countries and elsewhere. The National Union of Railwaymen (NUR, predecessor of the RMT) declared in 1948 that: “we have no objection to the employment of coloured men in the railway industry” and that “coloured men had been satisfactorily employed on the railways over a long period”. But although the top of the union was getting it right, in some areas the grassroots was not. In 1950, white workers...

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