China and the Uyghurs

The Morning Star has a problem. How does a newspaper claiming to stand for “Peace and Socialism” defend a regime that denies basic democratic rights and has incarcerated an estimated million Muslims in what look very much like concentration camps?

An article by one Carlos Martinez (MS July 14) denounced “increasingly hysterical and absurd” criticisms of China, citing “four main lines of attack being pushed on a daily basis by the US and British ruling classes”:

HSCA 2012 eight years on

The scrapping of Public Health England (PHE) and a new government health task force point to the Tories using the background of the pandemic to make radical changes to the NHS.

The abolition of PHE is seen as an early attempt to cast blame for the devastating Covid-19 response away from Boris Johnson. It may also be the first step to bringing the NHS into increased central and political control.

Free to move, free to stay, free to live!

A new start towards redoubling work by the pro-free-movement left was made at a protest at the Home Office on Wednesday 19 August, bringing together a wide range of socialist groups and migrants' rights campaigns, including Labour Campaign for Free Movement, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, Southall Black Sisters, Mutiny, Socialist Resistance, Red Flag, RS21, Momentum Internationalists, Workers' Liberty, and many others.

NHS mobilisation can break low-pay trend

It seems unlikely that health workers will get a pay rise without strikes or at least the threat of strikes. Other public sector workers have got small pay rises, but no public sector workers have got good pay rises. Millions of key workers - our colleagues who risked their health and lives working alongside us through the lockdown - still survive on poverty pay, without sick pay, annual leave, pensions or in many cases without even guaranteed hours.

Putin's poisoners strike again

The great revolutionary Leon Trotsky was assassinated on 21 August 1940 by an agent of the Stalinist regime. Almost to the day, 80 years later came an attempted assassination of Alexei Navalny, a leading anti corruption activist and critic of Putin.

The intended method of dispatch these days is not an ice pick or a gun, but some form of poison. The intention of the exercise remains the same though - elimination of all opposition to a corrupt police-state regime.

Belarus: support the left and the workers!

Belarus has been gripped by protests and strikes following the fraudulent “re-election” of dictator Alexander Lukashenko on 9 August. On 22 August Another Europe Is Possible held a meeting with voices from the frontline of Belarus.

Lizaveta Merliak, International Secretary of the Belarusian independent trade union of miners and chemical workers, told us strike committees are now being formed all across Belarus. This is in spite of the fact that Belarus’ repressive strike laws prevent trade unions from putting forward political demands or striking for political reasons.

Who's lying about the Uyghurs? Socialist Action covers for repression in China

The Socialist Action group has republished an article by Max Blumenthal, a US “left-wing” conspiracy theorist and apologist for Stalinism, seeking to undermine the idea the Chinese state is committing human rights abuses against the Uyghur people in Xinjiang/East Turkestan. They praise Blumenthal and his article in an introductory article which is itself quite extensive.

Back to school: workers' control to make it safe

The government has a campaign to persuade parents that it will be safe to send children back to schools in England in September, following the return in Scotland on 11 August.

Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Advisor to the UK government, says, reasonably, that it is important that all children are in school and that “the chances of children dying from Covid-19 are incredibly small.”

Government should bail out universities

The A-levels fiasco will have perverse effects on universities.

High-tariff universities have had their limits on student numbers lifted, and been pushed to accept more students than they've planned for. Some are offering money to students who will defer their places for a year.

They will probably try to shift more of their increased teaching load onto casualised, insecure, low-paid staff.

GCSE and BTEC chaos: now redesign the system

The fiasco of A Level results on 13 August was followed by a week of government crisis leading up to 20 August when GCSE grades were announced. BTEC results, due to be released at the same time as GCSEs, were delayed at the last minute.

Following a series of protests and government stumbles A Level grades were eventually, overall, boosted by allowing “teacher assessed grades” to count (in fact Centre Assessed Grades, CAGs, which are signed off by Head Teachers and are far from being simple teacher assessments).

GCSE results (in England) were notable by a sharp increase in the pass rate (Level 4 and above), by 9%, to 76%. Awards of top grades (Level 7 and above) went up by 5% from last year to 25.9%.

BTEC results are now due on 28 August.

80 years after a Stalinist agent murdered Trotsky

Leon Trotsky was murdered by a Stalinist agent 80 years ago. He was attacked with an ice-pick on 20 August 1940, and died in hospital the day after, 21 August 1940.

Trotsky was one of the chief leaders of the Russian workers' revolution of October 1917, and the foremost leader of the revolutionary socialist resistance to the Stalinist reaction and counter-revolution which followed that revolution and eventually killed it.

His legacy is still central to the fight for working-class socialism, and against Stalinism of all shades.

Unite: run the contest now

While Unite members face job losses and attacks on terms and conditions, General Secretary Len McCluskey and Head of the Legal Department Howard Beckett have a different priority: ensuring that the Beckett succeeds as General Secretary.

In May McCluskey proposed to the chair and secretary of the United Left (UL), the “Broad Left” in Unite, that they hold hustings to select the UL candidate for the next General Secretary election.

"I May Destroy You"

The big hit of the summer, in the gloom of the pandemic, and coincidentally amid a global wave of inspiring Black Lives Matters protests, is a show about rape, consent and justice.

It is described by the BBC as a comedy-drama. Race, gender and class are central themes. Drugs and alcohol flow freely and social media acts as judge and jury on matters small and large.

"Black youths were able to bring along the rest"

Robert Cuffy (above) is a member of the Socialist Workers Alliance of Guyana, currently based in New York, where he is a public sector worker, trade unionist, and member of the Democratic Socialists of America. He spoke to Daniel Randall from Solidarity.

DR: What’s your assessment of where the Black Lives Matter movement is at, and what perspectives and ideas class-struggle socialists involved in it should be advocating and building for?

Combat antisemitism - and oppose Labour's gag orders!

The Labour Party's new General Secretary, David Evans, has written to all CLP [Constituency Labour Party] secretaries with a gag order.

It's less than a month since the Labour Party's NEC [National Executive] allowed CLPs to meet again (online) and debate motions. Previously, and ever since March, CLPs had been allowed to run only social and educational online events, with pandemic precautions being cited as the excuse.

Now Evans writes:

From e-campaigns to street campaigns

Article and video. “You’ve got to give all employees in the country the ability to self-isolate on full pay and it’s only that approach, in my view, that will really get this Test and Trace system working properly”, said Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham on 10 August.

With Liverpool mayor Steve Rotheram and the TUC, and with the backing of the unions Unison, GMB, Usdaw, Unite and CWU, he has launched a new website calling for all workers to get full pay, guaranteed by the government, when they self-isolate because they have Covid-19 or are identified as contacts of someone who has it.

Since early in lockdown, Solidarity has been promoting the Safe and Equal campaign, whose leading demand is exactly that: full isolation pay for all. It’s great to have another website spreading the message.

Resonances from the 70s

Mrs America is a mini-series charting the battles in the 1970s between the rising feminist movement in the United States and its enemies over the Equal Rights Amendment (an amendment to the Constitution which still hasn’t been ratified by enough states to become law).

It shows us well-known figures from the American women’s movement at that time, like Gloria Steinem (played by Rose Byrne) and Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), but focuses also on the woman who set out to defeat them, Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett).

Arts under threat

Workers at the Tate galleries in London and at the South Bank Centre have organised union-backed protests against big job cuts. 200 jobs in the cafés, shops, etc. at the Tate galleries are threatened (these jobs are in Tate Enterprises, the profit arm of Tate, which passes its profits to the charitable arm of Tate), and 400 (two-thirds of the total) at the South Bank Centre.

There is more to it than the lower ticket sales for exhibitions or shows, or even than café revenue being down.

Lebanon in revolt

Joey Ayoub is a Lebanese writer and activist. He spoke to Daniel Randall from Solidarity about the protest movement in Lebanon in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion.

For a previous interview with Joey about the Lebanese protests, from November 2019, click here.

DR: What are the implications of the recent resignation of the government? How has this been received by the protest movement?

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.

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