Beating the Tories after the 6 May disaster

The Tories’ narrative about where they are taking UK politics and society is dishonest and incoherent. But it is a narrative, one strongly honed and consistently argued for. In contrast the leadership of Keir Starmer’s Labour Party seems to have pretty much nothing to say about the kind of society or even the policies it wants. That is surely why Labour had such a dire set of elections on 6 May 2021.

Ideas for Freedom 2021

Around the weekend 10-11 July 2021.

A festival of socialist ideas and leftwing discussion, hosted by Workers' Liberty, Ideas for Freedom is an opportunity to explore, through talks, film showings, workshops and debates, ideas about how our world works, and how we can fight for a better one.

You can buy tickets in advance now: either for in-person attendance (first panel below) or online participation (second panel).

Highlights at the weekend (11 to 6, Saturday; 10 to 4:30pm, Sunday):


Stakes and outcomes on 6 May

On 6 May across the UK Labour faces not only its first electoral test since the defeat in the 2019 election, but a major test on a number of fronts.

There are Scottish Parliamentary elections, Welsh Assembly elections, A number of Mayoral Elections, a London Assembly election, and elections across 143 councils that cover the majority of England, with maybe 5,000 seats up for grabs. On the same day there is also a parliamentary by-election in Hartlepool.

Left schadenfreude

Occupying to win our demands: an interview with a Sheffield Hallam rent striker

Workers' Liberty spoke to James C. from the Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) occupation.

This is an escalation of the rent strikes that have been going on all term. The uni have refused to meet with the rent strike. They’ve ignored us. So this is an attempt to get their attention and force them to meet with us.

Workers’ inquiries: knowledge for power

A swirl of billions, and a trickle of pennies. A great effort of science to control Covid, with wildly uneven vaccine supplies and patents and production gripped by profiteering billionaires. Huge subsidies for some in the pandemic, while others lose jobs or have to try to self-isolate with no or little pay and in crowded housing.

Where are the billions going? Who’s left with pennies? We need to know. We need to inquire.

6 May: Vote Labour, push for a fighting policy

The English and Welsh local elections on 6 May have featured a lack of discussion about policies and politics.

The virtual destruction of local government is continuing at speed; but there is little mention of it in the election campaign, let alone real debate. The vote is mainly being treated as a national referendum on the parties’ popularity, but with little discussion of their national policies on local government or anything else.

Reject the 4% sop!

Nurses United, an activist group within the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), is campaigning for rejection of the 4% pay offer made to NHS workers in Scotland. Like the NHS Workers Say No group, it is campaigning for a 15% rise.

The GMB union is balloting in Scotland between 12 April and 5 May, Unison between 15 April and 7 May, and the RCN between 16 April and 6 May. Unison has called on members to accept the 4%, GMB and RCN to reject. The Royal College of Midwives and Unite are putting the deal to their members with no recommendation.

Activist agenda: Demand sick pay for all

The Safe and Equal campaign is running another “selfie campaign” in the first week of May, asking for people to take a photo of themselves and their workmates calling for full sick pay for all. Since spring 2020, Safe and Equal has been active in efforts to win or keep isolation pay in hospitals, in care homes, among Tube cleaners, and in virus Test Centres, with some wins but much ground still to be covered. With lockdown-easing, the Uyghur Solidarity Campaign is back to its regular 5th-of-the-month protests at the Chinese Embassy on Portland Place, London. Next: 5 May.

Xinjiang: the UN report that wasn’t

Even by the standards of the Morning Star — a publication whose coverage of anything to do with China is now little more than Beijing propaganda — Kate Woolford’s article on 13 April was an extraordinary exercise in dissembling whataboutery.

Woolford is, apparently, a member of the Southampton Young Communist League and social media editor of Challenge, the Young Communist League magazine. Her article is entitled “Xinjiang: staying afloat in a wave of disinformation” and claims to be an examination of “what is really going on in north-east China.”

Target Beijing's big-business allies!

Trade union leader Lee Cheuk Yan, socialist Leung Kwok Hung (“Long Hair”), and media mogul Jimmy Lai were given prison sentences of 14 months, 18 months and 14 months respectively, on 16 April, from their trial as leaders of the broad-based Civil and Human Rights Front.

Some other defendants, including 82-year-old former barrister and moderate democrat Martin Lee, were given suspended sentences.

British Gas workers confront deadline

British Gas engineers who have not agreed to new, inferior, contracts face dismissal on 14 April, as their battle with their bosses' “fire and rehire” offensive reaches its culmination.

The engineers, who are members of the GMB union, will strike again on 14 April, the day the new contracts are set to be imposed. The union plans mass pickets at various locations throughout the country. A survey of members returned an 86% majority for a renewed dispute around specific issues in the new contracts. When the contracts were announced, GMB said they would lead to:

Starting conversations and rethinking justice for Singapore’s Death Penalty Laws

Long-drop hanging on Friday at dawn. In the modern metropolis of Singapore, with its gleaming skyline, wealth, and a regional and international reputation for travel, accessibility, and thriving business opportunities, this is how inmates are killed under the sovereign state’s harsh laws: the death penalty.

BT workers prepare for ballot

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) says it is going “full steam ahead” towards an industrial action ballot in BT Group, which includes BT, Openreach, and EE.

BT bosses plan a restructure that could lead to compulsory redundancies, as well as worse terms and conditions for remaining workers. CWU says the restructure will mean:

Mass closure of many sites

A potential threat to voluntarism in leaving the business

A piecemeal approach to closure which lessens the chance of re-deployment

Victory for Test Centre workers

Cross-posted from Safe and Equal,

For the past few months Safe and Equal has been working with Labour MPs to demand full sick and isolation pay for all frontline Test Centre workers. Yesterday [29 March 2021], we received a letter from Sodexo confirming that Test Centre workers will now be entitled to full isolation pay and that this provision will be written into new Test Centre contracts when the government puts them out to tender in July 2021.

Israel: Islamists or ultra-Orthodox as "kingmakers"?

Israel’s fourth general election in two years has resulted in a deadlock. A fifth election seemingly the most likely outcome. Freakishly, though, an Islamist party could be "kingmaker".

The right-wing bloc of parties supportive of incumbent prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu won 52 seats, nine short of the 61 required to form a government. Parties opposing Netanyahu won 57 seats.

NHS pay protests across the country

NHS workers across the country held hospital-gate protests on Thursday 1 April, calling for a 15% pay rise (with a ÂŁ3,000 floor) instead of the government's recommended 1%.

St Thomas's hospital in London (pic above) held two protests, at two shift-change times, and University College London Hospital and Lewisham Hospital had lively protests (UCLH pic below). The London Transport Regional Council of the rail union RMT sent solidarity delegations to St Thomas's and UCLH.

Scottish NHS pay: where's the other 11%?

On 24 March the Scottish Government announced a pay offer of 4% for NHS workers.

Staff on the lowest Agenda for Change pay point would get a 5.4% increase. The pay rise would be backdated to last December. And it would come on top of the ÂŁ500 "thank you" payment already made by the Scottish Government.

As the Scottish Government press release inevitably pointed out, the pay offer was much better than the pay rise of 1% proposed by the Tories to the Pay Review Body for NHS workers in England.

Abuse in football: more reckoning to come

On 17 March, Clive Sheldon QC reported on the investigation he chaired into the sexual abuse of boys in football between 1970 and 2005. Five days later, the BBC began broadcasting its three-part documentary on the subject. Both the report and the documentary revealed the horrifying extent of abuse, the authorities’ failure to protect the boys, and the long struggle for justice.

Another sort of anti-fascism

The 43 Group has long held a strange place in Jewish and anti-fascist memory. On the one hand, the story of a group of Jews who violently beat the fascists off the streets of post-war Britain has an obvious romantic appeal. On the other hand, there has been remarkably little serious history written about what was, at its peak, a very well-organised fighting organisation of anti-fascists with a regular newspaper, democratic structures, a substantial headquarters and hundreds of active members.

Bristol and the police

At perhaps 10,000 people, Sunday 21 March's Kill The Bill protest was one of the largest demonstrations I've been to in Bristol. Heading there from my home, it was as if the whole city was coming alive, people coursing through its otherwise quiet streets, all heading in the same direction, and to stand up for the right to protest. This is even more impressive given that it had to be organised “under the counter” due to current anti-protest regulations. The demonstration was energetic and angry, but with a buoyant and creative atmosphere.

No to offshoring asylum-seekers!

The Tories’ latest anti-migrant move — suggestions of removing asylum-seekers to camps in remote locations, hundreds or thousands of miles away, while their claims are processed — has now been condemned by numerous humanitarian and migrants’ rights organisations, by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and, though in fairly timid terms, by the Labour Party.

“Zero Covid” and “Build back fairer” – two motions, two approaches

Workers’ Liberty recently held a public debate with a comrade from the Zero Covid campaign. You can read Martin Thomas’ speech at the meeting here. We have criticised Zero Covid's focus on demanding - and having unrealistically high hopes from - police measures like lockdowns, and vagueness on promoting workers' struggles for measures of social solidarity in and against the pandemic. At the same we have proposed working together on building such struggles.

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