Solidarity 400, 13 April 2016

France takes to the streets

Published on: Wed, 13/04/2016 - 10:57

“A reawakening of political discussions”. That is how revolutionary socialists in France describe the events of the last month.

Since 9 March, a series of big demonstrations and strikes have hit the Socialist Party government’s attempt to revise the labour law and workers’ conditions on the railways. Mobilisations have been wider than the 2010 strikes against pension cuts or other campaigns of recent years. They are compared more to the 2006 movement which defeated a move by the then right-wing government to introduce a new, worse-conditions contract for younger workers, or to the 1995

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 13/04/2016 - 10:54

Gareth Davenport and Peggy Carter

The UK rail industry, supported by the Department for Transport, plans to move most or all passenger trains to Driver Only Operation (DOO) — meaning trains operate with only the driver on board, no guards or other staff. This method of working is already in place across London Underground and on some parts of the main line (National Rail).

Any increase in DOO will have negative consequences for jobs and passenger safety and pile more stress and responsibility on those staff who do keep their jobs. Rail worker unions ASLEF and RMT issued a joint statement at the end of last year which

Labour excludes another socialist

Published on: Wed, 13/04/2016 - 10:47

Janine Booth

I joined Labour as a teenager in the 1980s and was expelled in 2003 for standing against Labour when the local Labour council was privatising housing and closing nurseries and other services.

I applied to rejoin last year. My CLP (Hackney South and Shoreditch) objected on the grounds that (a) I (allegedly) support TUSC and (b) I’m a member of Workers’ Liberty. I appealed, and had a hearing in late March in front of a panel of three members of the Regional Board. Thank you to David Osler for giving evidence in support of my application.

I explained that the first objection is not true and

Momentum launches membership

Published on: Wed, 13/04/2016 - 10:39

Jill Mountford

The third meeting of Momentum’s Steering Committee took place on 5 April. Things are taking shape around the membership structure and drive. This will not only firm up the supporter base for Momentum but will also generate a much needed income for staff wages and campaigning. As I write thousands of people have already signed up to become full members.

I plan to write a longer report which you will be able to find on my new blog, but for now want to let you know about the three motions I submitted to the Steering Committee to be discussed on the fight against academisation of schools, on the

Women who changed the world

Published on: Wed, 13/04/2016 - 10:32

Les Hearn

Women are notoriously under-represented in science, but the situation seems worse because such women scientists as there are tend to be misunderstood, misinterpreted, under-rated or ignored.

Out of the 52 in Rachel Swaby’s book, the general reader might only have heard of Mary Anning (fossil hunter), Rachel Carson (author of Silent Spring), Rosalind Franklin (the “dark lady of DNA,” played by Nicole Kidman in the West End play, Photograph 51), Ada Lovelace (Byron’s daughter and pioneer of computing), Florence Nightingale (famed for nursing in the Crimean war), and Hedy Lamarr (celebrated

Railworkers and students mobilise against French "Labour Law"

Published on: Wed, 13/04/2016 - 10:24

Charlotte Zalens and Marine Dageville

In France, public service workers (“fonctionnaires”, 21% of the country’s whole workforce) have since 1946 had work conditions protected by special laws, for example giving them some job security. Although the French rail industry (SNCF) is still publicly-owned, rail workers are not “fonctionnaires”. However, they too have a special legal regime.

The current government’s long-term plan is to erode those protections, to replace them by a new collective agreement, to level down SNCF workers’ conditions towards those of the few workers in privately-run corners of the rail network, and to open

France: fighting to win

Published on: Wed, 13/04/2016 - 10:11

Martin Thomas and Michael Elms

The Paris demonstration on 9 April against the “Socialist” government’s new “Labour Law” was livelier, noisier, and more colourful than official trade union marches are in Britain.

The nine friends of Workers’ Liberty who went to Paris were near a truck from SUD, the most radical of France’s nine or so trade union confederations (equivalents of the TUC). Its slogans included: “Share more, work less”; “A society of sharing”; “Not amendable, not negotiable: trash the ‘Labour Law’”; and “General Strike!”

The march ended at the Place de la Nation, not with windy speeches from trade union

Get the Tories out!

Published on: Wed, 13/04/2016 - 09:26


Back in 2012, the Daily Telegraph, a Tory paper, reported research which had found that two-thirds of the then Tory/Lib-Dem Cabinet were millionaires. It reckoned the total wealth of 29 Cabinet members at £70 million, and David Cameron’s at £3.8 million.

Since the Panama Papers scandal broke, Cameron has been been trying to present himself as no more than a moderately well-off middle-class person. His father’s Blairmore firm was established in Panama. It made a show of being controlled by puppet directors based there, though the actual bosses were in London, so it would pay no tax. Oh, say

Letter: Proud to be a Zionist

Published on: Wed, 13/04/2016 - 09:22

Eric Lee

Jeremy Corbyn’s brother recently made headlines by tweeting that “#Zionists can’t cope with anyone supporting rights for #Palestine”. That the tweet took place in the context of a heated discussion about how the Labour Party is coping with increasing allegations of anti-Semitism is not the point.

The point is that the word “Zionist” has become toxic on the British Left, and I have a problem with this. On one of the Sunday morning radio shows, Jonathan Freedland was asked about this. He quoted the Israeli author Amos Oz who said that “Zionist” was like a family name. There always needs to be

Kick out the Blairites?

Published on: Wed, 13/04/2016 - 09:17

Sacha Ismail

On the 9 April demonstration against library closures in Lambeth on 9 April, the Socialist Party had placards saying “Kick out the Blairites”. This is a classic example of a slogan being a dishonest, pseudo-militant self-advertising.

What does “Kick out the Blairites” mean? It could mean joining or getting more active in Labour to push forward the fight against the Blairites in the party — as many on the demo will have done (Lambeth Momentum and other left Labour activists have been central to the libraries campaign). But the SP opposes people joining Labour, and opposes left unions like the

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