Solidarity with women, LGBTIQ people, minorities in Poland!

Andrzej Duda of the radical right Law and Justice party has been re-elected as Poland’s president. Activists in London and beyond are showing solidarity with people persecuted and attacked by the Polish hard-right regime; for human rights, freedom, and dignity; and with those resisting and fighting back. See more information about a protest here: Saturday 15, 1pm, Polish Embassy in London.

Organising home care workers

In April, deaths of those receiving domiciliary care services were 2.7 times higher than the three-year average, an excess only slightly lower than in care homes. Yet there has been little focus on this sector during the pandemic.

The infection control issues reported by workers, lack of PPE and inadequate sick pay, are common across social care. The neglect from government has been even starker for home care workers than for care homes.

Hong Kong faces direct rule

On 2 August it was announced that after the term of the last LegCo councillors expires, the power to decide who will rule Hong Kong over the next year will be handed over to 5 to 7 members of the Chinese Communist Party’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee meeting in Beijing.

Current LegCo members opposed to the National Security Law (NSL) will likely be removed. They had already been barred from standing again for LegCo. Hong Kong faces thinly-veiled direct rule from the CCP in Beijing.

School history and Black Lives Matter

A good historian and history teacher is a blend of detective, lawyer, and story-teller. At its simplest history is story-telling with evidence, though for many years history in schools was simply the story of rulers, of so-called great men. The stories of the little people, often far more interesting, were neglected. And the more oppressed the people, the more likely that their story remained untold in history books.

Sea could rise 2 or 3 metres soon

New research has narrowed the predicted likely range of global warming for a given increase of CO2. Previously, a doubling of CO2 above pre-industrial levels would have been predicted to increase global surface temperatures by 1.5‐4.5°C, a measure of “climate sensitivity”. The new research, assessing available evidence, places climatic sensitivity within the middle or upper part of this range: 2.6‐4.1°C.

Expand jobs, boost pay!

Article and video. On 8 August, NHS workers and supporters across the country will demonstrate to demand a 15% pay rise, something like but better than what France has already paid its health workers.

The Labour Party would help on jobs more by backing these protests than it is doing by its “jobs, jobs, jobs” campaign launched on 31 July.

In the coming months, millions of furloughed workers are set to lose their jobs. And even more if it proves necessary to shut pubs and cafés again, as it may do. Over half a million young people leaving school and university are searching for jobs which aren’t there.

The article sketches what we need.

Syria: Assad, Iran, Russia, no democracy

Elections were held on 19 July in regime-controlled areas of Syria, now over 70% of the country. Assad has been in power for over 20 years.

This, the third election since the start of the protests in 2011, was postponed because of Covid-19. As in all the others, there was no real opposition to Assad’s Ba’ath party. Even the opposition that is tolerated by Assad boycotts the elections.

Anti-Netanyahu protests grow

Mass demonstrations against Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's hard-right prime minister, have continued, as the country lurches towards its fourth election in two years.

Following a previous wave of anti-Netanyahu protests which highlighted the corruption allegations against him, due to come to court in January, the latest mobilisations have focused on his mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic, where a precipitous easing of lockdown measures and inadequate social provision has seen both infections and unemployment spike massively.

Health and social care must both be public

Article and video. The Guardian reports a Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson saying there is “no foundation” to claims that the government plans to bring social care under the umbrella of the NHS. But rumours are widespread enough that the denial comes at the end of a longish article on the claims. The Guardian has since covered the possibility fairly extensively, as have other media outlets.

We want social care made a free public service, publicly-owned and provided, with its staff on secure public-sector pay and conditions.

Health and care campaigners are divided on the general issue of NHS/care integration. Last year’s Labour conference voted both that “our publicly-owned NHS needs to be fully integrated with Social Care systems which should all… be public”; and that “consequences of marrying social care to the NHS include medicalisation, isolation, indignity, maltreatment; bringing social care under a struggling NHS umbrella is not the answer.”

Most campaigners are to one degree or another sceptical, at least on the basis of what it would mean when social care is extensively privatised, radically fragmented and in a partial state of collapse. “We have to say that the state of social care, its fragmentation and privatisation, means that at present there is nothing acceptable for the NHS to integrate with”, as Keep Our NHS Public’s John Lister put it at a recent conference on social care.

We need more debate in the labour movement about the relationship between social care and the NHS, going beyond undefined buzzwords like “integration”. But no relationship will work well unless on the basis of the kind of policy Labour Party conference has called for – comprehensive public ownership of care.

Stand with Hong Kong!

Over mid-July, Hong Kong has been in a stand-off. The Chinese regime’s National Security Law (NSL) is now in force in Hong Kong. Its powers far exceed the Extradition Bill that was thrown out last autumn after street protests.

Yet radicals in the democratic camp won the unofficial primaries in which over 600,000 Hong Kong people took part. Those who won say they will resist the NSL. So far, despite threats, the democratic candidates have not been arrested, nor have they been barred from standing in September’s elections.

Unionising black workers in the USA

African Americans who maintained train engines had to sue the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen to gain admission to the union in 1944. Outside the court.

The Memphis, Tennessee, bin workers’ strike of 1968 is now mainly remembered as an event that provided the backdrop for the assassination of Martin Luther King. King had made a turn, with his Poor People’s Campaign, towards fighting against poverty.

NHS workers' day of action 8 August

Over thousand nurses, other health workers, and supporters joined a protest on 29 July which marched from St Thomas's Hospital to rally outside Downing Street.

Speakers highlighted support for Black Lives Matter, and the demonstration "took the knee" to mark that support. The main theme was the demand for a pay rise for NHS workers.

The protest was organised by the Unite branch at Guy's and St Thomas's, with Nurses United UK and Keep our NHS public, but drew contingents from other hospitals too.

The pandemic from further back

Since the start of the pandemic there have been almost daily warnings of the effects that this natural disaster will have on our mental health. The impending mental health crisis has even been given a name: the “shadow pandemic”.

However, beneath the headlines, there is surprisingly little hard evidence. Many surveys have found people increased levels of stress and anxiety, but that is not the same as mental illness.

Tower Hamlets workers can win

Members of the public services union Unison in Tower Hamlets council, East London, had good support again for a strike on 15-17 July, following another on 3-6-7 July.

We understand that the local Unison branch is pressing the union nationally to approve a longer strike, and a reballot if the council will not concede before the validity of the current ballot expires on 22 August.

Tower Hamlets Unison’s adult social care convener Amina Patel told us:

Free movement shouldn't be a privilege for the rich

Despite the length of the Tories’ 13 July document on post-Brexit immigration rules, it does not significantly expand on the proposals released earlier this year.

It will be mandatory for visa applicants to speak English and have an offer of a job on an “eligible occupations” list, which will “earn” them 50 points.

There will be a £20,480 minimum salary requirement. Visa applicants will “earn” extra points if they have a job offer in a “shortage occupation”, hold a PhD relevant to the job in question, or earn more than the “general salary threshold” of £25,600.

Netanyahu under fire

Mass protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the coronavirus crisis have continued in Israel, with one protest converging on Netanyahu’s residence on Saturday 18 July. Demonstrators blocked roads and built barricades before being dispersed with water cannons. Netanyahu’s trial for corruption has now resumed, with the case expected to last years. Polling by the Israel Democracy Institute suggests just 29.5% of the Israeli public trusts Netanyahu’s handling of the pandemic.

Living income push in Australia

In Australia, between now and September, the income support schemes will end or be severely cut, along with the moratorium on eviction of tenants and banks’ deferral of mortgage repayments.

Unemployment has already nearly trebled to 14.8%, and around 9.7% of the workforce want more hours. When the JobKeeper scheme [something like furlough] ends in September, more workers could get the sack.

Remobilise the left!

The Black Lives Matter protesters, still on the streets eight weeks after the killing of George Floyd, are a new wave of young leftists. Video and article.

As we said back in Solidarity 551, they deserve "more than the hurried reforms now offered here and there in the USA. Reforms can stick, deepen, become a lever for more, but only through the work of a movement which works and educates week by week, year after year".

Row over Labour slate

The new leadership of the Labour left group Momentum has faced criticism for endorsing all six candidates on the “Centre Left Grassroots Alliance” left slate for the Constituency Labour Party seats on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC), despite failing to get a statement on trans rights supported by the slate as it said it would do.

The elections are for 18 of 39 seats on the NEC, and are now in the nominations stage. That closes on 27 September, and balloting will be 19 October to 12 November.

Brexit, bluster and borders

“UK’s new start – Let’s get going” say the government ads portraying Brexit as a wonderful opportunity. More instructive is the government’s emergency purchase of a 1.2m square feet site in Kent, 20 miles from Dover, to create a giant customs clearance facility for the ten thousand lorries that come through the port every day.

Particularly if there is a No Deal Brexit, and even with the kind of hard-Brexit deal the government wants, the UK faces major economic and social destruction when the transition period ends on 31 December.

"We're showing them we're not weak" - Tower Hamlets workers strike again

After strikes on 3, 6 and 7 July, Tower Hamlets council workers will strike again 15-17 July to overturn the “Tower Rewards” scheme attacking their terms and conditions. Tower Hamlets Unison’s adult social care convener Amina Patel spoke to Sacha Ismail about their fight. For ways you can support the strike, including picket lines, donations and solidarity messages, see the Tower Hamlets Unison website.

Protests mount in Israel

The Israeli government’s plan to annex Palestinian territories remains stalled, with Israel coming under increasing pressure from other countries to change course. Egypt, France, Germany, and Jordan have all told Israel that pushing ahead with annexation would have “consequences” for diplomatic relations between the countries.

Opposition from within the far-right settler movement, parts of which feel the annexation plan doesn’t go far enough, is also holding back government efforts.

Labour's NEC election: what does the left stand for?

The “Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance” is actually a collection of organisations on the Labour left, dominated by Momentum and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. It has just agreed a single slate of six candidates for the nine CLP reps on Labour’s National Executive Committee.

Only six, because this will be first NEC election run under Single Transferrable Vote, and it is now inconceivable the left could win all nine.

The UK has the lowest sick pay of all rich countries

On average, across all the 34 OECD (richer) countries, workers receive about 70% of their last wage as statutory (or mandatory) sick pay (SSP). It is as high as 100% in a significant number of countries.

This sick pay has to be paid by employers for a period of time. In the UK it is up to 28 weeks. But the UK’s £95.85 per week statutory level is now the lowest, as a percentage of earnings, of all OECD countries. In the UK as elsewhere some workers are covered by agreements with employers which provide much better sick pay, but the low level of statutory sick pay is a scandal.

Isolation pay for all!

To suppress Covid-19, and avoid or minimise a resurgence, we need to win decent isolation pay and sick pay for all workers. Protect your workmates; public health test-and-tracing; work or full pay for all! Editorial article and video.

In the Ministry of Justice, the United Voices of the World union has won an agreement with the contractor OCS for full sick pay for workers covering time taken off since April, for a period of up to 14 days.

In care homes, after months of campaigning, some 40% now give isolation pay; the government has set up a fund explicitly designed to allow isolation pay for all workers; and a government report has recognised officially that absence of isolation pay increases the Covid-19 death toll.

The BLM protests after six weeks

In London, Black Lives Matter protests continue every weekend, six weeks after the protests sparked by George Floyd’s killing on 25 May first spread to the UK. Although smaller than the first June protests, they are still getting from 500 to 2000 people. In Brighton on Saturday 11 July, 5000 joined the protest after a video circulated of a man shouting “I can’t breathe” while being restrained by Sussex Police.

Left voices in Singapore's election

With the pandemic still raging within the migrant worker dormitories, Singaporeans will go to the polls on 10 July 10. Despite migrant workers' inhumane living conditions making world news last month, it has become a non-issue in the elections. In fact, parties such as the Singapore Democratic Party have continued to deploy Malthusian narratives of Singapore being overrun by foreigners in order to win votes.

The New Jim Crow

Police violence in the USA is only a shore of a whole continent of racial oppression and marginalisation, so Michelle Alexander argues in her 2010 book, now a “classic”, The New Jim Crow.

Alexander is a civil rights lawyer by trade. Chunks of the book are lawyerly, dissecting a string of Supreme Court rulings. She says herself that she wouldn’t have got to a “fancy law school” without affirmative action rules.

Under the Sign of the Beylis Affair (1913)

Under the Sign of the Beylis Affair [1913], an article by Leon Trotsky translated by Stan Crooke. The case of Menahem Mendel Beilis, a Russian Jew framed for the "ritual murder" of a Ukrainian boy who disappeared in 1911 and was later found dead, triggered a great international outcry against the notoriously antisemitic Tsarist regime in Russia. Eventually, in 1913, Beilis was acquitted by a jury in Kiev.

Fabrication not antisemitic?

No one, I think, now denies that the story of Minneapolis cops learning neck-kneeling from Israel was a fabrication. But, in the wake of Rebecca Long Bailey’s sacking from the Shadow Cabinet, some still suggest — for example, in Momentum’s 1 July Zoom report-back from Labour’s National Executive — that it wasn’t antisemitic.

Denunciations of Israel (so the argument goes) can’t be antisemitic, because only antisemites can identify Jews with Israel and consider a denunciation of the Israeli state as an attack on Jewish people.

Make Labour fight for “grand schemes”!

Both the government and the scientists who criticise it say that finding people with Covid-19 symptoms, testing to confirm, tracing their close contacts, and getting sufferers and contacts to self-isolate, is central to controlling the virus.

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds told the Marr show on Sunday 5 June: “I’m not going to say to you that Labour is going to be advocating some massive grand scheme right at this moment when social care is in crisis”.

But we need grand schemes exactly at this time of crisis! The Tories’ floundering has imposed a massive grand Covid-19 death toll, threatens a massive grand risk of a whole new second wave of the virus, and is generating massive grand job cuts.

Hong Kong under the gun

The slogans of the long-running democracy movement in Hong Kong (above) are now declared to be crimes punishable by ten years or more in jail

The Chinese National People’s Congress passed the Hong Kong National Security Act on 30 June. It was then gazetted and enacted as Annex 3 of the HKSAR Basic Law at 11 pm the same day. It came into effect on 1 July 1st, the day Hong Kong was handed over by the UK to China exactly 23 years ago. 1 July is a public holiday in Hong Kong, and the day when anti-Government demonstration marches are held.

British Airways threatens to fire and rehire

British Airways has seized on the pandemic crisis to attack the terms and conditions of its entire workforce. Using the claim that they need to impose redundancies, they are attempting to fire and re-hire every BA worker.

Only weeks into the furlough scheme, with the state picking up almost the whole wage bill for BA staff, the company issued redundancy notices to 42,000 staff, with a deadline of 14 June to accept a wholescale change to their contracts and pay.

Nationalise social care!

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, has called for politicians to “decisively answer” how social care can be reorganised to deal with the problems exposed by the Covid-19 crisis.

Stevens is no left-winger. He spent the best part of a decade as Chief Executive of US private healthcare corporation United Health. He has defended and promoted privatisation in the NHS. But so glaring is the problem of a radically fractured and privatised social care system that in his interview with the BBC he hinted at some kind of public ownership:

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