News

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.

Brighton, Labour, and the left

An interview with Kelly Rogers, a committee member of Labour for a Socialist Europe (L4SE), Another Europe is Possible, and the Labour Campaign for Free Movement, about Labour Party conference.

Q. What picture did the motions booklet give before conference?

A. The bulk of anti-Brexit motions were sent to conference as a result of work by our coalition, comprising Another Europe is Possible, Labour for a Socialist Europe and Open Labour.

Trump’s shift puts Rojava at risk

Donald Trump has announced the withdrawal of American troops from Northern Syria, and given effective consent to President Erdoğan’s plan to invade.

This marks a slight shift from Trump’s previous stated position. Back in December he announced that American troops would leave Northern Syria within the medium-term future, but that it was conditional on guarantees from Turkey regarding the safety of the Kurds.

Those guarantees have now ceased to be a consideration, and the United States is perfectly content to leave Rojava to the mercy, or lack thereof, of the Turkish army.

Hong Kong youth defy “emergency” law

On Thursday 4 October, the Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to introduce a ban on wearing face masks.

The ban came just before a long weekend. Monday 7 October was Chung Yeung Festival, a public holiday. From Thursday evening, protesters staged incessant and widespread attacks on MTR stations, Chinese banks, and pro-China businesses, and conducted violent clashes with the police in many parts of the city.

Defeat Johnson’s Trumpery!

Force Boris Johnson to send the “delay Brexit” letter to the EU. Bring down his government and get a general election.

Make Labour fight hard in that election for its policy of “new public vote with option to Remain”.

Push for a manifesto which integrates that with the left-wing policies adopted at Labour’s Brighton conference, and for a combative left-wing Labour campaign to convince voters, not the limp complaints about “not enough money for the police” to which the Leader’s Office has reduced Labour’s message in recent times.

Uprising sweeps Iraq

A joint report by the Iraqi interior and defence ministries has confirmed that 104 people are dead and 4000 injured; but according to other sources more than 150 people have been shot dead in the recent protests, and 6000 injured. Hundreds are in jail.

It's a very brutal response to the peaceful protests of the people in the cities of Iraq, and it was executed according to a plan.

China: 1949-1989-2019

The Maoist regime began not in 1949, with the declaration of the People’s Republic of China, but twenty years earlier, with the defeat of the Chinese working class movement at the hands of Chiang Kai Shek.

Masses of communist workers were slaughtered by the White Terror. After the Canton uprising of December 1927, the Chinese working class remained prostrate under the heel of Chiang. But it was still alive and capable of reviving – at least until the full-scale Japanese invasion of 1937 crushed political life in the cities.

The Irish border and Brexit

One crucial aspect of Brexit, the impact on the Irish (or, rather, British-Irish) Border, was comprehensively ignored in the British media during the 2016 referendum campaign itself.

It is fitting, then, that it has threatened to unravel the whole Brexit process, in the form of the “backstop”, a set of guarantees against the imposition of a hard border which have been written into the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU.

Hong Kong cops shoot 18 year old school student with live rounds

On October 1st, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong was rocked by a huge wave of protests. Huge numbers of protestors took to the streets in many parts of the city even though the police had refused to grant permission to any demonstration and had declared all protests that day as illegal assemblies.

Williamson the book

In February of this year Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North, complained about the Labour Party’s response to criticisms of antisemitism:

“I’ve got to say I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion we’ve backed off far too much, we’ve given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic. What have we got to apologise for?”

*Bad News for Labour – Antisemitism, The Party and Public Belief* (by Greg Philo and others, Pluto Press) is the literary version of Williamson’s claim.

A sticky time for Teflon Don

Donald Trump is such an obvious crook that he’s been a prime candidate for impeachment from the minute he assumed office.

There has been such a substantial menu of grounds for impeachment that it’s difficult to know what to choose.

Soliciting help from Putin’s secret services to win the election itself? Illegal election payments to porn stars?

Trump’s various businesses benefiting from his presidency? As of last week, there were 30 separate investigations into Trump being conducted by Congressional, Federal or State authorities.

Make Labour fight Johnson!

As Parliament reconvened on 25 September, Boris Johnson declared:

“This Parliament is gridlocked, paralysed, and refusing to deliver on the priorities of the people. It is not just unable to move forward...

“The Leader of the Opposition and his party do not trust the people. The Leader of the Opposition and his party are determined to throw out the referendum result, whatever the cost….

A lazy day in the office

Life isn’t always easy for Steve Sweeney, International Editor of the Morning Star. Earlier this year he was detained and interrogated by Turkish police when he landed at an Istanbul airport.

Thoughts of what had happened to Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate six months before in the same city flashed through his mind.

The Morning Star – quite rightly – is highly critical of the Erdoğan regime in Turkey.

Lessons of “Heathrow Pause”

Attempts were made to fly toy drones in Heathrow’s “restricted zone” from Friday 13 September for most of a week.

This action, “Heathrow Pause”, was part of a protest against climate change, by a split from Extinction Rebellion (XR).

Measured by its stated aims and objectives, the action was not particularly successful. There was some publicity for the plans in advance, but very little media coverage over the week of the action itself. No planes were grounded, which was part of the aim, as an end towards media coverage.

Five things progressives need to know about the Israeli elections

This article was originally published in The Nation magazine, and is republished here with permission. Read the full text of Hannah's article here.


No one yet knows the final result of the Israeli elections—the country’s second in six months. Attempts to build a governing coalition will likely stretch out for months. But the returns show significant shifts that deserve to be understood.

Lukács: another view

According to John Rees and the Counterfire group (a splinter from the SWP), Georg Lukács was "the most important Marxist political philosopher since Marx".

He was "the great theorist of revolution in the 20th century", and his writings were "the most sophisticated development of the classical Marxist tradition that anyone has developed".

PCS to back Labour in England and Wales

The coming period will be a vital one for the PCS as sometime in the next few weeks the General Election will be called.

My union now has a clear position on what we will say during that. The NEC [National Executive] has decided that in England and Wales we will be calling for a vote for the Labour Party.

In Scotland we will emphasise the union’s position on supporting for a Corbyn-led Westminster government whilst recognising the particular political situation there, and so will urge members to vote to “Get the Tories out”.

Back Bev Laidlaw for PCS General Secretary!

The election for general secretary of the civil service union PCS is now well into the branch nomination phase.

Nominations close on 14 October. Voting will run from 7 November to 12 December.

There are three known candidates: Mark Serwotka, the existing General Secretary; Marion Lloyd, the candidate of the Socialist Party (SP), a current PCS NEC [National Executive] member Marion Lloyd; and Bev Laidlaw, candidate of the Independent Left (IL), and also a current NEC member.

Labour Conference: debating a Green New Deal, Brexit and free movement

The process of “compositing” (merging a large number of similar local Labour Party motions into a manageably small number of options for debate) at Labour Party conference on the Green New Deal was long drawn out and arduous.

Eventually, however, the delegates agreed to send forward three options. One motion, supported by the GMB union, included some radical bits but, crucially, no target for suppressing carbon emissions.

Labour blocks democratic selections

It looks as if Labour’s NEC [National Executive Committee] is deliberately rigging the situation so that it can impose the candidates it wants in a dozen or so constituencies across the country.

Selections were only recently started in many of the constituencies where MPs had defected, like Chuka Umunna or Chris Leslie.

The selections were started close to two months ago. Now they have been put on hold in Nottingham East, Ilford North, Enfield North and elsewhere.

For Labour, for Remain, for socialism

As we go to press on 24 September, the Supreme Court has ruled Boris Johnson's shutdown (“prorogation”) of Parliament unlawful and invalid.

Parliament will reconvene on 25 September. In fact, since the Court decision was the shutdown was “of no effect”, strictly speaking Parliament is resuming a session which was never validly suspended.

Boris Johnson has been pushed back again. But he still says he may shut down Parliament again.

Millions protest to save the planet

The numbers on the student climate strike demonstration in central London on 20 September were estimated by organisers at up to 100,000.

Similar huge crowds filled the streets in many cities across the world. In Sydney, Australia, for example, the turnout was also estimated at 100,000.

The protests were made up of school students, university students, people who took or already had days off work on the Friday, plus a significant minority of workers joining the protest, generally with the consent or support of their employers.

Johnson threatens war on Iran

Boris Johnson, on a visit to the USA, has offered to go in with US Donald Trump in a military attack on Iran.

“The Americans are proposing to do more to help to defend Saudi Arabia, and we will be following that closely.

“And clearly, if we are asked, either by the Saudis or by the Americans, to have a role then we will consider what way we could be useful.”

He was asked whether that meant UK military force. “We will consider in what way we can be useful, if asked, depending on what the exact plan is”.

Anger over mail workload

Postal workers’ union CWU is preparing to ballot its members in Royal Mail for strikes.

The dispute is over a range of issues arising from what the union says is Royal Mail bosses’ failure to implement an agreement reached in 2017, for which strikes planned then were suspended. A key plank of the agreement was a commitment to reduce the working week, which has been reneged upon.

Netanyahu renews West Bank grab threat

In advance of new elections due to take place on 17 September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced new plans for the annexation of Palestinian territory, pledging to annex a big chunk of the West Bank to Israel.

Prior to elections in April, he announced plans to formally annex 60% of the land area of “Area C” of the West Bank. The new proposal would cut off the Palestinian Territories’ border with Jordan, and leave cities like Jericho as enclaves entirely surrounded by Israeli territory.

Labour: oppose Brexit

Boris Johnson is still trying to do his “poundshop Mussolini” act and push through decisions against the duly-voted will of Parliament and against majority opinion in the electorate.

He has been pushed back. He can be stopped.

That calls for a Labour Party and a labour movement with a clear voice for workers’ rights, for migrant rights, for free movement, for social and ecological levelling-up across Europe, against Brexit, for Remain and Transform.

Not for mumbling, triangulation, and equivocation.

Morning Star “actively foments antisemitism”?

A letter from Andrew Northall in Solidarity 515 takes issue with Sean Matgamna’s claim (in Solidarity 509) that the Morning Star “actively foments antisemitism.”

Comrade Northall describes the claim as “completely disgraceful” and something that “any reader” of that paper will know to be “completely untrue.”

As a daily reader of the Morning Star, I’d say Sean’s description is fully justified.

The Morning Star has, by its own admission, published at least one clearly antisemitic article:

Lessons from McStrike

Last year the “McStrike” campaign got an enthusiastic response from many labour movement left and labour movement activists.

But now, for a long time, there haven’t been any local branch meetings for fast food workers, any meetings for workers in the “McStrike” campaign, or meetings with organisers about the direction of the campaign. What went wrong?

Over the last year or so I’ve worked in Wetherspoons, and before that in Brixton McDonalds. Another worker previously involved in cinema worker organising was already working at Brixton when I started there.

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.

Amazon fires threaten the Earth

Fires are sweeping the Amazon rainforest. They are facilitated by global warming to date and also fuel future climatic catastrophe.

They have been driven by deforestation and sparked further deforestation. Brazil’s president Bolsonaro and politicians internationally have responded with empty words and little action.

August saw a spike in fires across the world’s largest rainforest. In 2019 so far Brazil’s space agency has recorded over 40,000.

How Labour should end austerity

Since 2010 austerity has ground down working-class living standards for the benefit of the ultra-rich. Life has been made meaner and more insecure.

Boris Johnson now says he will end austerity. But that is all a matter of previously-budgeted money being “recycled” and called expansion, and random promises to try to win a general election after which he will be free to do his right-wing worst for five years.

When leftists argue that Labour should have voted with Johnson

Since the big vote in Parliament on 3 September, most of the left press has made its chief call for Labour to back Boris Johnson’s call for a super-early snap election.

The arguments, or the arguments on the face of it, are odd, at least.

Labour and the other opposition parties do not want to give Johnson an easy get-out from implementing Parliament’s instructions to avoid a no deal Brexit. They want to “hold his feet to the fire”, as they put it, and make him comply with the law.

Make Labour fight Brexit

So far, so good! — as we go to press, on Wednesday 4 September. Britain’s poundshop Mussolini, the lying public-school bully-boy prime minister Boris Johnson, has been decisively beaten in two House of Commons votes.

There will be almost surely a request to the European Union for an extension of the leaving date to 31 January 2020. Johnson does not have enough support in the House of Commons to carry out his threat to get round the decision by calling an instant general election.

Violence in Lewisham Momentum

A further series of unpleasant attacks on left activists aligned with Workers’ Liberty took place at the Lewisham Momentum meeting held on Wednesday 14 August.

The most serious incident at this Momentum meeting was that Bill Jefferies of Ladywell ward, Lewisham Deptford CLP, physically attacked me. He hit me on the chin and grabbed my throat, in the hall outside the meeting room as the meeting was breaking up. He is 10cm taller and 40kg heavier than me.

I’m okay, as always. But my chin still hurts and there’s a mark on my neck.

Self-determination for Kashmir!

By revoking Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution that provide special autonomous status and residency rules for Jammu and Kashmir, and preparing to break up the state, Narenda Modi’s far-right, Hindu-supremacist government has effectively declared war on the Kashmiri people.

It has virtually declared a literal war too, with tens of thousands of troops invading the state, mainstream political leaders under house arrest, a total communications blackout, and reports of widespread human rights abuses. An already bad situation has got much worse, fast.

A premier for all seasons

The former provincial lawyer, Giuseppe Conte is once again premier-designate of another Italian government. He has already set out his rhetorical stall for his second term of office.

Without a blush he describes himself as “The Premier of the New”, while a little over a year ago, as he assumed the same role in the Lega Nationale — 5 Star government, he presented himself as the “Minister of Change”.

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