News

Facts and figures of the election

The Tories have condemned Labour’s plans as “eye-watering”, “wild”, “reckless”, “unaffordable” and set to “bankrupt the country”, with much of the press singing in tune.

Just after Labour’s 2017 election manifesto came out, Solidarity estimated that its proposals would “take some tens of billions of pounds — John McDonnell estimates £50-odd billion — out of the £1,000 billion a year which currently goes to the rich and the very well-off, or to enterprises under their control”.

Right wing on the rampage in Bolivia

After two weeks of protests Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, in power for the last 14 years, has been forced by the armed forces to resign his post.

The unrest was a result of accusations of electoral fraud in Morales’s latest election (October 2019), as well as the Supreme Court (November 2017) overruling the referendum result which denied Morales the right to run for his fourth re-election.

Doorstep comments

The printed paper carries an abridged version

Best campaigning moment so far yesterday. We were handing this out on a stall in Edinburgh. A woman took one, read it as she walked away. Turned around, came back and asked more about it. She told me she worked in a nearby fast food place. She is now a Labour voter and will be telling her fellow workers which party they should vote for!

- Katrina Faccenda, Edinburgh

Hong Kong: the crackdown and the future

The conflict in Hong Kong has further escalated and has reached a critical point as I write on 19 November.

The escalation began last week with the first casualty of the protest, a university student falling fatally from a multi-story car park in a conflict zone. Since then, policeman have fired live rounds seriously injuring a number of protesters, a man was doused in petrol and set alight by protesters, a pro-Beijing legislator was stabbed, a pro-democracy legislator had his ear bitten off, and there have been many other individual violent acts.

Repeal all anti-union laws!

The High Court injunction won by Royal Mail to block strikes by postal workers in the Communication Workers Union (CWU) highlights the undemocratic nature of Britain’s anti-trade union laws, and the urgent need for the whole labour movement to renew our fight for their abolition.

Royal Mail claimed that the union’s social media campaign, and its encouragement for members to bring ballot papers to work and write their votes there, breached the 1984 Trade Union Act, which requires that members be able to vote in ballots without “interference” from the union.

Unis out from 25 November

Members of the University and College Union (UCU), the national union for academic staff in the UK, are set to strike at 60 universities for eight days between 25 November and 4 December 2019.

This follows a highly successful pair of strike ballots among UCU members in higher education: one on pensions, the other on pay, equality, casualisation, and workloads.

The pensions strike continues the long-running dispute over proposed cuts to the United Superannuation Scheme (USS), the main pension plan in the “pre-92” universities.

General election leaflets, stickers, posters, briefings, and more from Labour for a Socialist Europe

Labour for a Socialist Europe (L4SE) has produced leaflets, stickers, posters, and briefing papers for use in the General Election campaign.

You can order them via the L4SE website.

Also coming soon:

• "Socialist Internationalist" scarves to wear in winter campaigning.

Vote Labour then Remain

Eleven years on from 2008, inequality is spiralling, the signs are that we’re heading for another crash, and mainstream ruling-class politics is veering away from neo-liberalism only towards the nationalist right.

The working classes of the world need a political movement which fights for socialism as working-class self-emancipation, as a full-scale change of society to social ownership and democratic control of productive wealth.

The split in SDS

Across the world large and radical student movements came into prominence in the 1960s, fighting on their campus and against university administrators but raising wider political questions: opposition to the Vietnam War, opposition to the police, and opposition to capitalism. Their politics were often muddled and contradictory.

The Unwomanly Face of War

Kantemir Balagov’s film 'Beanpole' follows two female ex-Red Army soldiers working in a hospital in Leningrad after the siege, painting a striking and intimate picture of the febrile lives of Russians after World War Two.

The film’s titular character is Iya, nicknamed “Beanpole” for her long and lanky build. She is awkward and quiet and periodically suffers from fits of catatonic shock. Early in the film, her friend Masha returns from the front to join her working in the hospital.

The general election in Scotland

Speaking at last Saturday’s #indyref2020 rally in Glasgow, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon pledged that there would be another referendum on Scottish independence in 2020.

This was the first pro-independence rally to have been addressed by Sturgeon since the run-up to the 2014 referendum. But it was not the first time that she has promised another referendum.

Sturgeon first promised a second referendum immediately after losing the 2014 one. She has been promising one ever since.

The Berlin Wall and socialism

See a printable election briefing based on this article.

Thirty years ago, on 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall came down.

It was a wall built through Berlin by the rulers of East Germany, which called itself socialist, to prevent people escaping to West Berlin, which was capitalist and linked to West Germany.

Over its 28 years, about 5,000 people managed to escape over the Wall, and somewhere between 100 and 200 were killed by East German border guards while trying to escape.

Johnson’s Trump-Brexit

According to the most thorough study so far, Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal will reduce average income per head in Britain by 6.4%. It will cost you about £1300 a year if your income is £20,000.

That’s not as bad as “no-deal” (8.1%). It is worse than Theresa May’s deal (4.9%), and of course a lot worse than Remain.

The bad economic impact comes from the barriers to trade and the barriers to immigration. Immigration, which mainly brings in young and energetic workers, boosts economic growth.

A socialist Green New Deal

Global climate change, caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, poses the greatest threat to humanity.

The evidence is overwhelming, as are the stark warnings of dire risks if we don’t act urgently to limit it. Yet fossil fuels are being burned at an ever faster rate, accelerating us towards more and even more severe catastrophe.

Labour for a Socialist Europe publishes election leaflet

Labour for a Socialist Europe has published a big-circulation leaflet for the general election campaign. It will also be producing briefing papers, stickers, posters, and other materials (maybe beanies and scarves?)

You can get large quantities of the leaflet by sending the pdf to a printer to order them, for example to Solopress, who will do next-day delivery. Click here for the pdf

Lorry deaths show: borders kill

As the news broke on Wednesday 23 October that 39 people had died in a refrigerated shipping container while attempting to reach Britain, the anti-immigration spin machine sprang into action.

Taking to the press, they insisted that the tragedy must be laid entirely at the feet of the smugglers and traffickers – and the “lax” borders enabling them.

The xenophobic Migration Watch think tank explained that protecting migrants meant more deportations and more resources to tighten the border against migration. The Mail demanded “added checks on vehicles entering Britain”.

Back Labour, fight for Remain!

In backing the dissolution of Parliament and an election, Jeremy Corbyn promised: “We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen.”

Every socialist, every labour movement activist, everyone who cares about equality and human rights, should throw themselves into the fight to kick out Boris Johnson and win a Labour government. We should simultaneously organise to hold Corbyn and the Labour leadership to that pitch.

Far right and soft left advance in Germany

The 27 October election in the German federal state of Thuringia saw Die Linke (a merger of the post-Stalinist PDS and a breakaway from the SPD) emerge as the biggest party, with 31% of the votes.

The far right AfD came second with just over 23%, and the CDU (German Tories) third with just under 22%. The SPD (roughly the German Labour Party) came a poor fourth with just 8% of the vote.

The FDP (German Liberal Democrats) managed to just scrape past the 5% hurdle, which parties must achieve to win any seats. It passed the hurdle by just five votes.

The left and the climate movement

This article is a second excerpt from a document on climate change to be discussed by the forthcoming Workers’ Liberty conference.

On paper, almost all trade unions recognise climate change as a grave danger, and demand state action to combat it, with workers having a role in “a just transition”.

For the most part, the policies are close to those of the “One Million Climate Jobs” (OMCJ) project of the “Campaign Against Climate Change” (CACC), from about a decade ago.

CACC often functions to “outsource” climate activism from the labour movement itself.

The world of online hate

In 2013, the Australian journalist Ginger Gorman became the subject of an online hate campaign.

In 2010, she had interviewed two gay men, seemingly an ordinary couple, about their adoption of a young boy. Three years later the men were convicted of child sexual exploitation; they had been involved in an international paedophile network.

No “safety” for Kurds in Syria

As far as the foreign powers involved are concerned, the ceasefire in northern Syria has shakily held up for the most part. For people on the ground, it is a very different story.

In the talks between Russia and Turkey last week, Putin agreed to preside over the withdrawal of the Syrian Democratic Forces from northern Syria, allowing Erdoğan to establish a Turkish “safe zone” between Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad.

Official report damns fracking

On 23 October, the National Audit Office (NAO) has released a damning report into the future of fracking in the UK, showing that even in the terms it has been justified by, it will fall short.

NAO is an independent Parliamentary body which scrutinises spending and policy of other government departments and bodies.

Fracking, short for Hydraulic Fracturing, refers to particular methods of extracting natural gas.

Bev Laidlaw for PCS General Secretary!

The nomination period for the post of General Secretary in the civil service trade union PCS has now opened. PCS branches should be organising to debate which candidate they wish to support in the actual elections, which will open on 7 November.

Bev Laidlaw, a DWP rank and file activist and NEC member, will be contesting the election as a PCS Independent Left candidate. All serious socialists and PCS activists who yearn for a departure from the many years of failed, bombastic, top down bureaucratic leader leadership should campaign to nominate and vote for Bev.

Second victory at BEIS

On 21 October our members working for the contractor ISS at BEIS (the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy) won a complete victory in their dispute.

This follows a victory for catering staff at BEIS, employed by another contractor, Aramark, on 4 October.

Now porters, security, post room, cleaners and receptionist staff have also won the London Living Wage, improved sick pay, and a number of other conditions.

The victories can be put down to one factor: all-out indefinite strike action, which isn’t that common these days.

A workers’ answer to climate change

Workers’ Liberty’s conference this year will be discussing and debating maybe amending a document, “Fighting Climate Crises”. This article is a section from it. A future issue of Solidarity soon will carry the second and final instalment of the climate document going to conference this year. It discusses: the trade union movement; the new climate movement from the Youth Strikes to Extinction Rebellion, and beyond; the broader revolutionary left, and; Workers’ Liberty’s traditions in climate activism, and our next steps.

Johnson’s deal and Ireland

Sinn Féin has welcomed Boris Johnson’s new Brexit formula as a “least worst” option.

It expresses a “cautious welcome for the perceived maintenance of the all-Ireland economy provided by the [new] Brexit deal”.

At first sight that seems an odd about-turn. Although in the 1970s Sinn Féin was vehemently against the EU, it long ago changed that position, and in 2016 and since has been strongly against Brexit.

It still says “there is no such thing as a good Brexit”.

Bernie Sanders: The road to Iowa

Bernie Sanders has 100 days to change American politics forever.

In a little more than 14 weeks, the voters of the small, largely rural, state of Iowa will choose who they want to be the Democratic Party’s candidate to run against Donald Trump in November 2020.

This is the first of a series of primary elections to choose delegates for the Democratic National Convention which will be held in Milwaukee in July.

Democracy vs Johnson

As we go to press on Tuesday 22 October, the Tory government has been voted down, 308 to 322, on its plan to bounce its Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament at panic speed.

MPs have insisted on the right to debate amendments. These may include amendments which will make the government drop its deal, or make the deal conditional on a new public vote.

Self-determination for the Kurds!

A temporary ceasefire for five days in Turkey’s invasion of majority-Kurdish areas of Syria was negotiated by the USA on 17 October.

The American delegation to Ankara, headed by Vice President Mike Pence, agreed a 120-hour period for the Syrian Democratic Forces (the Kurdish-led forces in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria) to withdraw from a 20-mile deep area which Turkish president Erdoğan has decreed as a “safe zone”. In reality, this is a zone which has been designated for occupation and ethnic cleansing.

Morning Star admits it backs Johnson's deal

As some of you may know, when I write this column, covering the antics of the Morning Star and its political masters, the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) I generally try to maintain a jocular tone. But it can be difficult: sometimes I'm just too despairing and/or angry.

For some time I've been telling people that it's obvious that the Morning Star and CPB supported May's deal and now support Johnson's; if they had MPs that's how they'd be voting.

Whistle-blowers: the real villains?

On Monday 7 October, the Morning Star carried another article by Zoltan Zigedy (pen-name of Greg Godels, American blogger and regular contributor to the website “Marxism-Leninism Today – The Electronic Journal of Marxist-Leninist Thought”).

The article first appeared on Godels’ own blog and then on the “Marxism-Leninism Today” website before making it into the pages of the Morning Star.

“Two states” is the only road to equality

John Strawson disputes the argument that the “two states” policy in Israel-Palestine — self-determination for both nations there — has become “unviable”. John Strawson is a professor of law at the University of East London, a former visiting lecturer at Birzeit University in the West Bank, and a former activist (in the 1970s) in the International Marxist Group. He develops his argument in polemic with Perry Anderson, who is now a professor at University of California Los Angeles, and who has been a leading figure in the New Left Review editorial team since 1962.

American democracy at a crossroads?

As impeachment inquiries unfold, a nagging question plagues American democracy with renewed urgency: Can Trump in fact be removed from office, either electorally or procedurally?

Lest anyone dismiss such apprehensions as an indulgence in left paranoia, consider this. In the 2016 presidential debate, Trump refused to say whether he would accept defeat. “I’ll keep you in suspense, “ he declared and stoked anticipatory fears in his supporters that the election could be “rigged.”

The island, the refugees, and the yachts

I started coming to Symi, a tiny Greek island in the Aegean, closer geographically to Turkey than the Greek mainland, 30 years ago.

Missing a few years in the middle, I resumed coming five years ago. In these five years, the island has seen many refugees being washed up on its harbour side; mainly from Syria plus some from Afghanistan, Iraq, and sub-Saharan Africa arriving from Turkey just across the water.

Hong Kong: more repression, more defiance

Hong Kong has witnessed a further week of protests in defiance of the passing of the emergency regulation to ban masks.

The Government’s attempts to split the radical activists away from the mainstream have so far failed, because once again they have totally underestimated people’s angry reaction to the use of emergency powers.

The use of such powers has touched on a raw nerve – the thin end of the wedge that is perceived by many as leading to curfews, the use of detention without trial and even the transporting of detainees across the border.

Make Labour stop Brexit!

Boris Johnson’s new Home Secretary, Priti Patel, declares her intention to end free movement “for once and for all”.

For once and for all! From now to eternity, she wants to see higher and higher barriers between peoples, more and more national rivalry and strife, more and more closed-mindedness and narrowness.

Labour can stop Johnson’s gang from getting away with it.

Boris Johnson is floundering in the Brexit swamp he made for himself. It will be a scandal if Labour, or Labour “Brexit” rebels, allow him to scramble out onto dry ground this week.

Sixth form colleges strike

We’ll be striking in 25 colleges on 17 October, and then again on 5 and 20 November.

The feeling I pick up is that oversized classes, workload, management bullying, interpretation of directed time agreements are the big issues, exacerbated by issues of funding and pay.

Sixth Form teachers’ pay has fallen behind school teachers’ pay. We probably need a 15% rise to get us back to the relative level of 2008.

Smear campaign against McDonnell

The Skwawkbox, a blog that frequently voices the opinions of the Labour leader’s most senior office staff, has started an attack on John McDonnell.

The start seems to have been a now-deleted post which included the entire letter of resignation from the Leader’s Office of Andrew Fisher, a former worker in McDonnell’s MP’s office.

The charge against McDonnell is that he is now attempting a coup, alongside the Labour right or so-called “centrists”, against Corbyn.

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