Lenin on economic crisis measures and "the next step forward"

World War One, like the Covid-19 pandemic, pushed capitalist governments into "socialistic" measures of public control of economic life.

World War Two would do so even more. And by then governments in Britain and the USA, having to deal with stronger labour movements and sorely remembering the revolutionary tumults at the end of and after World War One, conceded a stronger "social" element and more liberties in their state control of economic life.

No coalition government!

The Guardian reports discussions among “senior Conservatives” about a national unity government or some other form of cross-party political collaboration during the Covid-19 crisis.

It suggests there is widespread sympathy for this idea at the top of the Labour Party. Socialists should argue and rally the labour movement against it. Taking responsibility for the Tories’ policies is the opposite of what we need.

Covid-19 and socialist organising: update 2 April 2020

Expanded write-up from the introduction to our regular Thursday "Covid-19 and socialist organising" Zoom meeting of 2 April 2020.

In the Thursday 8pm "clapping for the NHS" on 2 April 2020, many people chanted "Test! Test! Test! PPE!"

Health workers are pressing the government on its failure to meet its promises to expand testing hugely, to make PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] available to all, and to agree adequate PPE guidelines for health workers.

Students launch rent strikes

Universities have been among the worst offending employers of the crisis so far.

Sussex University has effectively sacked all staff on temporary contracts. King's College London, despite an easy "do what you can, don't worry" attitude to its academic staff, has sacked cleaner and UVW activist Percy Yunganina for missing a hearing that he didn’t attend due to government social distancing guidelines.

Covid-19: fight for workers' control

1. Requisition (in other words, take into emergency public ownership)
• private hospitals, as Ireland and Spain have done
• the pharmaceutical and medical-supplies industries, so that production can be ramped up in a coordinated way to meet the crisis
• high finance, so that the epidemic is not compounded by a snowballing economic slump resulting from an implosion of credit
• and other sectors where coordinated mobilisation is necessary.

Italy: where did the 37 billion euros go?

As the coronavirus tightens its deadly grip across the country, Italy's media has documented on a daily basis the wretched state of the country's public health system - the shortage of beds, of medical and paramedical personnel, of ventilators, of laboratories, of tampons - of everything!

The high rate of death before arriving in intensive care is a reflection of this state of affairs - like the chance discovery in Bergamo of 1800 seriously ill people at home utterly beyond the radius of any personal or institutional detection.

Mutual aid and politics

Our Labour Branch got its (left wing) council candidate and our Campaigns Committee to set up a Facebook group for people in our neighbourhood who were interested in a mutual aid group.

This group now has 600 members on Facebook. We have divided the ward into its polling station areas and set up a WhatsApp group for each one. The co-ordinators of those groups and the leading people in our Branch Labour Party are in a central “co-ordinators’ chat”.

The politics of "war"

Since 12 March, so for two and a half weeks now as we write on 30 March, the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths has been increasing exponentially both worldwide and in the UK.

Worldwide the numbers of cases and deaths are both doubling about every week. In the UK, the number of cases is doubling about every three and a half days, the number of deaths about every three days.

"Our union is an essential service": statement from members of RMT

The following statement has been put out by members of rail union RMT

During the Covid-19 crisis, workers need strong unions more than ever. Many employers are placing workers in danger, with unsafe working practices and refusing to pay wages to people who stay away from work under government guidance. Workforces need collective action, workers need reps, reps need union support.

NHS: full isolation pay, PPE, carers

By an NHS worker at ELFT

At my workplace, the East London NHS Foundation Trust, we’ve been putting together information on pay for workers following public health advice.

There are many zero-hours and contract workers in NHS buildings, and it wasn’t clear what they would get. We did a couple of weeks’ agitation among all the workers in my workplace — of all grades — and had a prolonged to-and-fro with senior management.

Keynesianism and COVID-19

With every major crisis capitalism has faced since the Second World War, we have seen Keynesianism rear its head. Either in the form of actual policy enacted or in the realm of ideas that come to the fore at these times. Our current situation with COVID-19 is no different. It is as the American monetarist economist Robert Lucas Jr. succinctly put it: “I guess everyone’s a Keynesian in a foxhole”, when capital sees itself in major crisis, Keynesianism reemerges in order to offer a solution. However, there is a widespread ignorance about what Keynesianism actually means.

Don't let Tories push through anti-migrant law

The Conservative government’s new Immigration Bill would grant sweeping “Henry VIII” powers to the Home Secretary to make up immigration rules with limited oversight or accountability to Parliament.

The Johnson government’s new post-Brexit border policy ends free movement with the EU. It extends to EU migrants the brutal anti-migrant regime that is already imposed on non-EU migrants, while also changing that regime in new ways.

The virus (diary of an engineering apprentice)

“You know that Corona sales have plummeted? They’ve lost millions.”
“Yeah you can get a crate on special offer in Morrisons – we should throw a barbecue.”
“The beer! You plant-pot...”

For the last few weeks the conversations at work have been about trivialising:
“It’s only old people and sick people who’re at risk; and they die of the flu every year anyway but no-one cares – everyone here will be fine”
(“Except you D, you’re basically at death’s door.”)

NHS England policy says full pay for all if off for Covid-19: make managers comply!

A document from NHS England dated 4/3/20 says all workers on NHS premises should be fully paid to comply with public health advice.

Yet mostly it hasn't been made public or used by workers and unions. Managers are keeping it quiet or don't know about it.

Each day that passes that workers don't know about this provision puts the NHS workforce and NHS patients under greater risk of infection.

Spread the news:!

Workers' rights in the pandemic

A “joint statement”, published in the name of the Department for Transport (DfT), eight individual unions organising in the transport sector, and the TUC, appeared online on Wednesday 19 March.

It reports the “first in a series of Ministerial calls” between the DfT and transport unions, and ends with an affirmation that “Transport Ministers have pledged to work tirelessly with the unions to support staff in the transport industry through not only the immediate challenges but also the issues that will affect the sector once the country has overcome this pandemic.”

Covid-19 and capitalism

Despite many predictions over the years by the World Health Organisation that a new pandemic was fairly certain, fairly soon, capitalist governments and businesses failed to do the research and development in advance that could have provided us with medical capacity to limit its effect, or environmental measures which might even have prevented the outbreak.

Sanders' socialist plan for the pandemic

The mainstream media has already written off Bernie Sanders and crowned Joe Biden as the Democratic candidate to challenge Donald Trump (despite the primaries being far from over). But that hasn’t silenced the Vermont senator.

Sanders has long seen himself as more than just a conventional politician and acts as the voice for a movement. This last week, he laid out a socialist programme for the pandemic.

C-19: override private profit! Fight for workers' control!

In this epidemic, Workers’ Liberty fights for the labour movement to make itself an essential service.

The labour movement, as yet, lacks the capacity to take over society and reshape it so as better to minimise and control epidemics. Neither we as Workers’ Liberty, nor the labour movement generally, has the depth of expertise to qualify us to second-guess the established bourgeois public health experts.

In praise of Mega2

The Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (Mega) is a project to publish a complete critical edition of the publications, manuscripts and correspondence of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The project is still incomplete after almost a century. However as more materials are published, we get a far deeper understanding of the origins and development of Marxism. For anyone interested in working class self-emancipation, the Mega should be an irreplaceable referent.

Sanders, Biden, and the movement

The movement around Bernie Sanders' bid for the US presidency represents an opportunity to advance socialist politics in that country in a way not seen for a generation or more. The ongoing detoxification of the word and idea of “socialism” in American political life, to the extent that one 2019 poll showed that 61% of Americans aged between 18-24 preferred “socialism” to “capitalism” [], is both a consequence of, and a catalyst for, the Sanders phenomenon.

Expand public transport, not the airport

A serious campaign is picking up momentum against the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA).

The private owners of LBA want to build a new passenger terminal that will increase the number of passengers from 4 million a year to 7.1 million a year by 2030, and 9 million by 2050.

In March 2019, in response to pressure from youth climate strikers and XR, Leeds City Council declared a “Climate Emergency” – committing Leeds to carbon neutrality by 2030.

Profit drive has stalled vaccines

In capitalist society we are encouraged to believe that our health and wealth depend on individual endeavour. The market can meet all of society’s needs.

Society is set up so that the only organisations capable of producing vaccines for Covid19 are privately-owned and run pharmaceutical companies.

In fact, with more public investment and research there might have been at least partially effective treatments already available when Covid-19 was identified.

McCoy Tyner, 1938-2020

The jazz pianist, composer and bandleader McCoy Tyner has died aged 81. Best known as a member of the “classic” John Coltrane Quartet between 1960 and 1965, in a career of over 50 years Tyner developed one of the most influential styles of modern jazz piano and produced a wide range of varied yet distinctive music.

Tyner grew up in Philadelphia where there was a thriving jazz scene in the 50s. He started learning piano when he was 13 and had some classical training.

Israel poll impasse gives a little more time

The bad news from Israel’s election on 2 March is that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s right-wing prime minister since 2009, increased his score slightly in this third poll since Israel hit electoral deadlock in April 2019.

Netanyahu openly trades on hostility to Israel’s 20% Palestinian minority, and, in line with Donald Trump’s “plan”, pledges to formally annex to Israel much of the 80%-Palestinian West Bank. He also talks of “transferring” some Palestinian-majority areas of Israel into the patchwork quasi-semi-demi-autonomous “Palestinian state” which the Trump plan promises.

A left opposition to Starmer

Barring a surprise, Keir Starmer will be elected Labour leader on 2 April by a big margin.

How will the left respond? The signs are that Starmer will want to not marginalise left MPs, but rather “incorporate” them, as Harold Wilson “incorporated” the left MPs in his day.

Although the 2019 Labour Party conference showed that at constituency level the Labour Party is much more left-wing, in a general way, than it was before 2015, the actual organised Labour left is weak. Momentum has a big membership, but does not even aspire to discuss and campaign for left-wing policies.

Clive Lewis on the left after Corbyn

Clive Lewis talked with Sacha Ismail

What Corbynism started to talk about in 2015 was an end to austerity, and trying to return to a sort of 1945 moment, trying to recapture a Keynesian economic approach — redistribution of wealth, trying to use social democracy to move us towards a more socialist economy in stages.

But also at the beginning it was about democratising the party, which I think is what attracted so many of us. The idea of democracy and membership engagement and members having a real say over policy really resonated.

Political revolution in the age of pandemics

The decision by the AFL-CIO to cancel the planned candidates’ forum in Florida this week is bad news for Bernie Sanders.

This would have been the perfect opportunity for Sanders to challenge his sole remaining rival for the Democratic nomination, former Vice President Joe Biden, on the issues which divide them. On all those issues – social security, Medicare for all, trade deals like NAFTA and TPP – Sanders’ views are much closer to those of the unions. Biden’s neo-liberal agenda would have been exposed.

For Two States and Equal Rights

On Thursday 27 February, activists responding to a call "For Two States and Equal Rights" protested near the Israeli Embassy in London against the Trump Plan and the threats by Israeli political leaders to annex large areas of the 80%-Palestinian West Bank.

The planned annexations would reduce the residual autonomy of the Palestinian cities, towns, and villages to that of disjointed patches of land surrounded by and completely dominated by areas claimed permanently for Israel.

Green New Deal, not airport expansion!

Existing plans for Heathrow airport to be expanded with a new third runway have been ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal, in the latest move in a battle stretching back the best part of two decades.

On 27 February the court ruled that in June 2018 Chris Grayling, then the transport secretary, was acting unlawfully by not taking into account the government's commitment - under the Paris agreements - to tackle the climate crisis. The Government said it would not appeal, though Heathrow airport itself will.

Open the borders for Syrian refugees!

For a long time, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been "threatening" to open Turkey’s western borders, and allow the millions of refugees to travel to Europe.

Now he is upping the threats and raising the stakes. His aim is not to get better conditions for the refugees. It is to force Europe into greater support of Turkey.

Yet, with the renewed attacks on migrants, it is the responsibility of socialists all across Europe to challenge the racist anti-immigration laws being put forward by our governments.

Covid-19: the case for public spending and public ownership

Covid-19 is spreading. Spreading even faster, in the last week of February, was financial panic.

The Dow Jones share-price index in the USA went down 12% in the week ending 27 February, its biggest drop since 2008.

The first economic effects from a pandemic are in some ways the opposite of the usual beginning of a capitalist slump.

That usually begins with "overproduction" - when capitalists, vying each to outstrip the other in a boom, find they've increased capacity way beyond available market demand, and suddenly cut back on new investment.

Build unions, not borders

The Tories have threatened to abandon talks with the European Union in June and spend the second half of the year preparing for a No Deal Brexit.

No expert thought it would be easy to get a UK-EU trade agreement even by the end of the year, when the transition period is due to end and Brexit really kicks in. Getting an agreement largely sorted by June will be that much more difficult. It looks like the Tories are trying to bluff the EU into concessions by a game of brinkmanship which could easily end in No Deal anyway.

Class struggle environmentalism

A day of workshops on how capitalism is the driver of environmental crises and what we can do to fight it.

Workshops on Marxist ecology for beginners; building local, changing the global; how to fight the fossil fuel industry; climate struggles in Australia; socialist strategies; food, forests, fighting climate catastrophe.

Tickets: £15 waged, £8 low waged/full time students, £3 unwaged. £1 for school students from Eventbrite and on the door.

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