News

Is Minneapolis abolishing the police?

Three-quarters of Minneapolis’ city council members have pledged publicly to disband the city’s police department and introduce new systems of “public safety”.

This is good news in that it shows the impact of anti-police protests and their success in shifting the political narrative.

Minneapolis demonstrators booed and heckled mayor Jacob Frey when he refused to commit to “abolishing” Minneapolis PD. He deserves booing for his double-dealing attitude to the anti-police movement.

Call Starmer to account on anti-racist struggle

Momentum Internationalists has launched an open letter calling for Keir Starmer to withdraw his criticism of protesters who pulled down statue of slave-trader Edward Colston in Bristol and instead back their action.

Please add your name: bit.ly/starmercolston

The issue with Starmer is wider. Beyond the Colston remark and a few anti-racist platitudes, he has been largely silent in this crisis.

Cut the roots of racism

The Office of National Statistics compile statistics on the number of Hate Crimes reported each year. They have more than doubled since 2012 to 103,000 in 2018-19. Of those, nearly 79,000 were race hate crimes.

Between April 2018 and March 2019 the police made 376,000 stop and searches In England and Wales, a rate of 7 per 1,000 people. The rate for white people, however was 4 per 1,000 and for Black people 38 per 1,000.

Say her name

The murder of George Floyd has sparked a global movement against racism and police brutality. The discussion of racist violence and police repression have again shone a spotlight on how dangerous it is to be a black man in America.

But by viewing the criminal justice system as the frontline of structural racism and men as the primary participants, we risk ignoring the violence which is a day to day reality for black women.

Hong Kong defies ban on Tiananmen commemorations

On 4 June, the 31st anniversary of Tiananmen was remembered in a very different way here in Hong Kong. The Government had refused the organisers permission to hold the annual event in Victoria Park, insisting that no more than eight people can gather together because of the virus.

The organisers responded by defying the ban and still gathered in their thousands in Victoria Park. They also for the first time initiated dozens of other gatherings in different parts of the city.

Children at risk

The Observer (7 June) relayed reports from charities that “trafficked and unaccompanied children are going missing in ‘significant’ numbers from the UK’s care system” during lockdown.

It says that it is “too early” to estimate figures, but that the government’s move under the Coronavirus Act (via Statutory Instrument 445, 23 April) to remove or weaken councils’ legal obligations on vulnerable children is probably a factor.

Unions in the pandemic

Workplace activists in Workers' Liberty met via Zoom on Saturday 30 May 2020, for a joint meeting of Workers' Liberty's industrial “fractions”, groups of members in particular industries and sectors.

Workers' Liberty currently has four industrial fractions – school workers; civil servants; higher education workers; and rail workers – and two cross-industrial union fractions – Unison, covering local government and health; and Unite, covering a range of industries and sectors.

Not just Cummings

Not just the unelected Dominic Cummings. Boris Johnson should go.

In fact, the whole Tory cabinet should go. But Johnson going would be a good start.

Cummings’ trip to Durham, and Johnson’s endorsement, have disgusted millions who think: we made sacrifices, followed the rules so we didn’t see loved ones who were ill, lonely, dying — and you people don’t bother.

Momentum Renewal and class politics

Just by scanning its founding supporters list, you can see that Momentum Renewal is a version of “continuity Momentum”, supported by the bulk of those responsible for the organisation’s trajectory over the last three and half years.

In some respects MR is almost certainly worse than "continuity". It seems to represent not just the existing Momentum office faction, but a particular wing of it - by and large, the worst wing of it.

Tories dig in for hard Brexit

New polling commissioned by liberal anti-Brexit campaign Best for Britain and anti-far right campaign Hope Not Hate says 59% expect the Brexit transition period will be extended.

Unfortunately that may be naive. The government is digging in further and further, saying it will not under any circumstances apply for an extension. The deadline for applying is 30 June — less than five weeks. Labour and the unions remain silent at best, with Keir Starmer saying he is “not calling for an extension”.

Organise against university cuts

Coronavirus is intensifying the fault lines in UK higher education, and huge cuts are coming to our universities.

Universities are announcing job cuts and hiring freezes to mitigate the huge predicted loss of income from international students’ fees. Staff on casual, fixed-term or hourly paid contracts will be the hardest hit, and their workloads will be pushed onto permanent staff. Lots is still unclear.

Push Johnson backwards

The Conservatives’ Immigration Bill passed its second reading in parliament on 18 May. It will proceed to committee scrutiny, expected to run until 25 June.

The Bill would end free movement with the EU and write a blank cheque for the Home Secretary, who will be able to create a new immigration regime with limited oversight. Plans published so far indicate an extension to EU migrants of the existing regime’s barriers and hostile treatment of “unskilled” (i.e. low-paid) workers. “Guest worker” schemes will facilitate hyper-exploitation and abuse by employers.

Make the schools safe!

The government’s aspiration to partially open schools on 1 June is likely to be largely unrealised. While we all want children back in schools, as soon as safe enough, that is good. Success in resisting unsafe reopening is dependent on union strength on the ground. We must fight for rank-and-file school worker control over the strategy, locally and nationally.

Fight the coming job cuts

JCB, a big company making mechanical diggers, has sent out letters beginning the consultation legally required when declaring more than 100 redundancies.

The required 45 days consultation will end on 2 July, just after the end of the current phase of the “furlough” scheme under which the government covers 80% of the wages of workers sent home for the lockdown.

JCB plans to cut 950 from its permanent workforce, and 500 agency-worker jobs.

Quarantine, not border closure

It’s Friday 13 March 2020. The UK has 789 confirmed cases of Covid-19. It is still 10 days away from a national lockdown that will stay in place for seven weeks, effectively shuttering large swathes of society.

And the government has just removed the Foreign Office advice that travellers from Wuhan, Northern Italy, and other “hotspots” for Covid-19 should self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in the UK. The country now has no advice or restrictions on international arrivals to contain the pandemic.

Brazil in the pandemic

Brazil is now one of the epicentres of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The number of confirmed cases is over 200,000, and deaths over 15,000, making it the fourth largest outbreak in the world.

The still almost-exponentially-increasing number of cases has, however, not been enough to convince Jair Bolsonaro to establish any sort of federal social distancing policy. The president was instead interviewed at a floating barbecue party (!) as the number of deaths reached 10,000.

Tim Roache and the cabal system

On Tuesday 28 April, Tim Roache, general secretary of the big GMB union, which organises in many different sectors, stepped down, just months after his re-election.

He cited ill-health. On Wednesday, following the circulation of an anonymous letter to press outlets, GMB issued a statement: “GMB received an anonymous letter, last Wednesday, in which a number of allegations have been made about Tim’s conduct whilst he held the office of general secretary.”

"An ethos of equality is our only firewall"

Hannah Pollin-Galay (above right, in the white t-shirt, on a protest she helped organise blocking the entrance to the headquarters of Netanyahu's Likud party) is a supporter of Omdim B'Yachad (Standing Together), a left-wing Arab-Jewish social movement in Israel. She spoke to Daniel Randall from Solidarity.


DR: The formation of a new coalition government is obviously a hugely worrying development in terms of the threat of annexation. What's your assessment of it?

Slump after the slump?

57% of US university chiefs say they will be cutting jobs in the coming months. Many US universities are expected to shut down altogether.

In Britain, councils say they will face an unpayable £5 billion debt as they move out of the lockdown. Some are already planning cuts, and some are threatening to declare themselves bankrupt.

Workers in some elderly care homes have been told that their jobs may disappear as the lockdown eases, since the homes will have fewer old people to look after.

The labour movement and easing the lockdown

Starting with Austria reopening small shops on 14 April, almost all European countries have now begun easing their pandemic lockdowns, or announced plans to do so (Italy from 4 May, France from 11 May).

Iran has reopened the bazaar in Tehran. Schools have restarted in Beijing and Shanghai.

The World Health Organisation, however, has declared that “the worst is yet to come”. Its worry is not so much about a second wave in Europe, as first waves elsewhere.

Wake up Labour

Parliament is set to reopen virtually on 21 April, as Labour leader Keir Starmer among others has demanded.

That’s a good: it will subject the Tories to more, badly needed, scrutiny. But if Parliament can meet, why can’t the Labour Party start having meetings again too?

Singapore in the pandemic

Of the 728 new COVID-19 cases reported in Singapore on 16 April, 654 were linked to migrant worker dormitories.

In a statement that best captures the racism against foreign workers in Singapore, Cabinet Minister Lawrence Wong said: “We are already having to deal with a foreign worker dormitory cluster.

“Let’s not have more clusters emerge outside of that in our own community as well.”

Inequality kills

This virus threatens the worse-off much more than the rich. Neither the scientists nor we know exactly how to combat the virus in general terms, but we do know what can and must be done to shield the worse-off.

In some countries, the first cases of Covid-19 were among better-off people who’d travelled as tourists to early-affected countries. But everywhere, as the pandemic proceeds, the worst-off are hit hardest.

Leaked Labour report shows two scandals

Much comment on the leaked 850-page Labour Party report leaked on 12 April has focused on its extensive and vivid documentation of the already-known fact that from 2015 the hold-overs from the Blair-Brown era in the Labour Party machine were viciously and unscrupulously hostile to - indeed out to sabotage - the Labour Party's new elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and to more or less anyone "left" or Corbyn-supporting. But the report is entitled “The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014-2019”, and that, too, deserves analysis.

What we demand

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 of tests, PPE, ventilators, etc.
• 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.

Women's Fightback: workers hit by café and pub shutdown

Young workers and women are likely to be the hardest hit by the coronavirus shutdown of businesses such as restaurants, hotels, pubs and retailers.

Low earners are seven times as likely as high earners to work in a business sector that has shut down, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Their analysis found a third of the bottom 10% of earners worked in the worst-hit sectors, against one in 20 (5%) of those in the top 10%.

In the pandemic, the labour movement must fight to make us all: Safe and Equal!

The “Safe and Equal” campaign (safeandequal.org), publicly launched on 13 April is for equal rights to full self-isolation pay for all workers regardless of their employment status.

In too many workplaces, agency staff are getting short shrift and being obliged to choose between going down to £94/week statutory sick pay, or coming into work sick or potentially contagious.

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