Chile: how to build on two years of left-wing revolt to defeat the far right?

Boric and Kast

In the days after the first round of Chile’s presidential election, the mood amongst left activists in Santiago is bleak. José Antonio Kast, candidate for the far-right Christian Social Front received the largest share of the vote on Sunday, with almost 28%, while Gabriel Boric, candidate for the left coalition Apruebro Dignidad, received almost 26%. They will face each other in a second round run-off on 19 December. Polls predict a knife-edge result.

It’s not 30 pesos, it’s 30 years

Developing carbon drawdown via algae

Franziska Elmer is a marine biologist working on a project to boost the growth of algae in the oceans as a carbon draw-down technique. She spoke to Stuart Jordan from Solidarity.

We are working on a research and development project that investigates how the macroalgae Sargassum fluitans and natans can be grown in parts of the ocean that have very little nutrients in the surface water. A few hundred metres below the surface there is very nutrient-rich water that is currently not used by any organisms as there is no light for photosynthesis.

Bernie Sanders slams USA’s huge military budget while social spending stalled

While the US administration labours to squeeze a now-much-reduced social-spending plan through Congress, on 17 November the Senate voted by a big bipartisan majority to expedite procedure on a huge military budget. That budget has already gone through the House of Representatives by a big majority, with Cori Bush, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others from the “squad” voting against. In the Senate, Bernie Sanders spoke out against the budget and for at least a reduction.

A good time for strikes

Sometimes workers and unions have to strike at times we would not have chosen. The bosses pick a time when they feel secure and can afford a risk of idling their business to victimise union reps or impose worse conditions.

Sometimes we win strikes even when the bosses have done the best of calculations.

This is a time when the chances of winning strikes are better than usual.

Against Fortress Europe and Fortress Britain

At least thirteen people trapped on the Belarus-Poland border have died, the most recent a one-year-old child. Given the magnitude of the barbarism inflicted on these people, it could easily have been many more.

Belarus’ noxious regime, which funnelled refugees to the border in order to exert pressure on the European Union over economic sanctions, is undoubtedly in large part responsible for this crisis. But so, equally, are the EU governments (and the UK’s, which has backed them up, including with troops!)

Abolish GCSEs, turn the tide on toxic testing

Over the last ten years Workers’ Liberty school workers have been at the forefront of pushing the debate about testing in schools in the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and in its successor the National Education Union (NEU).

In 2019 we wrote a motion passed at the NEU’s national conference which committed the union to an indicative ballot of members to boycott the statutory tests in primary schools. The ballot result was strong, but sadly not built upon. Last year, we wrote a motion, passed with amendments, that committed the union to call for the abolition of GCSEs.

Sudan: resistance committees reject junta deal

The Sudanese military leadership has released political prisoners and reinstated deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to office.

In a sense the junta is retreating. But in another sense they have simply put some window dressing on their coup.

Hamdok has declared there will be elections by July 2023 — exactly what the coup-leaders was already saying. He has agreed a technocratic cabinet likely to be highly compliant with the military. And the military still has the control of the country’s governing “sovereignty council” it took after the coup.

"A bright chapter in the history of class struggle" - Indian farmers humble Modi

“Mr Modi, you apologised when you withdrew the farm laws – when will you apologise for killing 700 farmers?

“… The farm law is a glimpse, now for the CAA and labour code”

(From a graphic circulating among Indian activists. The CAA is the anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Act)

A year-long mass movement of India’s farmers, with strong working-class support, has defeated Narendra Modi’s far-right government.

On the morning of 19 November Modi announced that the three farm laws passed in September 2020 would be repealed soon.

Poland: let the refugees in!

Speaking about the thousands of refugees stranded without shelter on the Poland-Belarus border, a Polish comrade told us:

“There was a pregnant refugee, I think from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Polish border guards took this woman by her hands a legs and threw her back over the border like a sack of potatoes. She lost the pregnancy. The border guards have been made like gods, with power of life and death over people.

Support the university strikes

On 4-5 November, the University and College Union (UCU) announced the results of two national ballots. Higher Education (HE) sector members were balloted on two disputes: the long-running “USS” pensions issue, and the “Four Fights”: pay, workload, casualisation, and inequality. Most of the workers involved are are insecure jobs, with long hours and modest pay.

Women's Fightback: Moral panic over advice to sex workers

Durham University has come under fire for organising safety training for students also working as sex workers. The university brought in the external “Students Involved in the Adult Sex Industry” in response to calls to ensure students who may be at risk “are protected and have access to the support to which they are entitled”.

To save the climate, push back the bosses!

“System change, not climate change”, and similar slogans, were prominent on the 6 November demonstrations for the COP26 summit. Yes, we need to change the whole economic, social and political set-up, not just reduce emissions personally. What new system should we seek? And how?

“One solution, revolution”, chanted the Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Appeal on the London demonstration. That doesn’t help: who are they asking to do that? How?

Time to turn round Unison

Almost five months after the left, under the banner Time for Real Change, won a clear majority on the National Executive (NEC) of the public services union Unison, on 2 November the left won a one-seat majority on the Labour Link National Committee.

Unlike other affiliated unions, Unison has a parallel (though very opaque) structure for its political activity related to the Labour Party, with its own national committee and conference. Perhaps a quarter of Unison’s members pay into the affiliated political fund and can take part in that structure.

The NHS emergency, Covid, and the coming winter

The NHS is already packed to capacity. The Tories' stonewall on NHS pay (3% offer, when inflation is nearing 5%), and accumulated stress, keep the NHS staff shortage acute.

Flu rates are still low, but then flu usually takes off only from December. A flu spike, on top of the Covid stress and the backlog from lockdowns, could overflow NHS capacity.

Since 21 October, soon after some five weeks of rising counts pushed NHS bosses and scientists to call for restoration of mild Covid restrictions, Covid case counts have been falling in Britain.

Remembering Kristallnacht

Synagogue in Hanover, Germany, set ablaze during the Kristallnacht pogrom

On 9-10 November 1938, Germany and Austria were swept by vicious pogroms against Jews and Jewish property.

The day was called “Kristallnacht” (crystal night) for the way it covered the streets with broken glass. It signalled a shift in Nazi anti-semitism beyond legal and administrative discrimination, and towards mass, violent assaults on the Jewish population.

For social foresight against profit priorities: workers’ climate action!

The COP26 talks (Glasgow, 31 October to 12 November) are an embarrassment for the capitalist class. On the one hand they cannot simply ignore the reality of climate change. On the other hand, they are aware of years of failure, the fossil fuel industries’ current plans for a multi-trillion dollar expansion, and the complete absence of a carbon drawdown infrastructure.

Attacks on Sheffield "Girls Night In" spiking protests

Alexandra is a member of the Student Solidarity Group in Sheffield. She talked with Solidarity about the Girls Night In protests in Sheffield and when one was attacked by angry men.

Freshers’ week started, and a lot of reports of spiking started to trickle in. People were talking about it online. Then you started to see stories about injections too. I started to hear about things happening in Sheffield. The next thing I know, Sheffield Night In is set up and I see them on Instagram. I discover that this is a nationwide thing, planning a boycott of nightclubs.

China, climate and 2030

In 2019 China’s greenhouse gas emissions passed the total of the richer countries (OECD and EU) to reach 27% of the world total (USA 11%, India 7%, EU 6%).

Proportional to population, China’s emissions are still much lower than the USA’s (though now higher than the UK’s). And its historical total emissions are much lower.

To get from here to a world with average temperature rise limited even to 2C, China will have to cut emissions.

Sudan: unions take lead in fight for democracy

Military coups are, sadly, a fairly regular occurrence in Africa. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen the military seizing or attempting to seize power in Mali, Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon and Sudan. What makes the recent military coup in Sudan of particular interest to us is the extraordinary role played by the country’s trade unions in the fight to defend democracy.

Expropriate the banks!

The world’s biggest 60 banks have provided in the order of $4 trillion of finance for fossil fuel companies and projects since the 2015 Paris Climate Deal.

The UK’s Barclays is the worst European culprit. In 2020 it provided $27 billion (£19.4 billion) of fossil fuel funding.

Four other UK banks are in the list of 60, including Natwest, still majority government-owned.

"Striketober": strikes spread in US private sector

The recent flurry of strikes taking place in the US, dubbed “Striketober” is perhaps not yet a wave, but definitely a noticeable stream.

Of about 190 strikes up to 22 October, 40 took place in October.

So far the number of strikers is smaller than the almost half a million in 2018 (and almost as many in 2019), which were the highest figures since 1986. In 2020 there were many small strikes and workplace actions, often over safety in the pandemic, but striker-numbers were way down.

The Warsaw Ghetto uprising: a desperate last stand against the Nazis

In April 1943 the Nazis began their final assault on the Warsaw Ghetto, where 40,000 Jews were making a last desperate, heroic stand against Nazi barbarians determined to annihilate them. A mere remnant of Warsaw's once-large Jewish population, they had decided that it is better to die on your feet, fighting, than to die on your knees, unresisting. The Warsaw Ghetto was the first instance of an uprising by "civilians" in occupied Europe during the Second World War. Joan Trevor tells the story.

Girls Night In calls for club safety

Calls to boycott nightclubs in towns and cities across the UK are being made between 25 October and 4 November following a recent increase in drink and injected spiking in clubs, under the banner of “Girls Night In”.

Girls Night In groups have formed in over 30 locations so far, with each specifying boycott dates, and are predominantly being coordinated via Instagram.

They are making a range of demands, for more thorough searches on entry, improved training for nightclub staff, anti-spiking devices to be made available, and increased CCTV in bars.

Sally Rooney and BDS

On 24 October, the Israeli Land Authority posted tenders for 1,300 new Jewish-settlement houses to be built in the Palestinian West Bank. This is the first big new settlement plan under the current coalition government. The housing minister declared that he also planned to double the settler population in the Jordan Valley, on the side of the West Bank furthest from Israel. Other building projects are being mooted which would cut off the Palestinian village of Beit Safafa and block Palestinian traffic between north and south of the West Bank.

Local government and health pay: build the campaigns!

Members of GMB and Unite have voted to reject the local government pay offer, with similar percentages to Unison members, who voted by 79% to reject a 1.75% pay increase (2.75% for those on pay point 1).

Ballot papers are scheduled to go out to Unison members in early December, asking whether they want to strike to secure an improved pay offer.

The union will be asking members to vote yes. Meanwhile, the Joint Trade Union Side have written to the Employers’ Side, asking them to return to the negotiations and make an improved pay offer.

Sage workers boosted by GOSH win

Workers at the Sage care home in north London struck from 20-22 October, as part of their ongoing fight for higher wages and improved conditions. The workers are demanding a pay increase to ÂŁ12 per hour, as well as parity with NHS staff terms on sick pay and annual leave. They also want paid breaks on night shifts, and unsocial hours pay for weekend and night working.

The strike saw a lively picket at the workplace, as well as a demonstration outside the head offices of Freshwater, the property conglomerate whose owner, Benzion Freshwater, is on Sage’s board of trustees.

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