Malaysia deports 1086 to Myanmar

On 23 February, the Malaysian government deported 1,086 people back to Myanmar. This was against the orders of the Malaysian High Court, which ruled on the same day that the Myanmar nationals should be allowed to stay temporarily.

There are millions of exploited migrants in Malaysia, and over a hundred thousand Burmese refugees. The government announced plans to deport 1,200 people, including children. 114 people are unaccounted for by the government as they were not handed over to the Myanmar navy.

Workers' control and the Chicago model

On 6 February, the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) issued a “framework... relating to resumption of in-person instruction” to its membership, and their vote to ratify was reported on 10 February.

That framework included familiar features. Every CPS (Chicago Public Schools) facility must have sufficient hand sanitiser, disinfectant wipes, “sneeze guards”, medical grade face coverings, and PPE.

Genocide denialists at the Morning Star

TheDaily Worker had a shameful record of justifying or denying the Stalinist show trials of the 1930s and the systematic denial of basic human rights in the USSR and Eastern Europe after the war. It had nothing to say against Stalin’s mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars and other peoples during World War 2, or against China’s treatment of the people of Tibet.

You could argue, however, that it never sunk so low as to attempt to justify or deny genocide. Its successor, the Morning Star, is doing just that.

Myanmar: general strike against the coup!

At least two people were killed by Myanmar’s military over the weekend of 20 February, as it was confronted by fresh mass protests to overturn the coup it launched on 1 February. There is now a steady flow of confirmed killings, as well as unconfirmed reports of significantly larger numbers of deaths.

The army’s claims that it is only using rubber bullets have been categorically disproved.

"Pre-bunking" and debunking conspiracy theories

Readers of the “Diary of a Tube Worker” in Solidarity will have noticed that since the beginning of the pandemic I have spent a lot of my time arguing against Covid-19 conspiracy theories in my workplace. More recently the shift is to anti-vaxx conspiracies and vaccine-hesitancy.

I don’t think I have been entirely successful in my endeavour. I have been a known sceptic about “nonsense” since I started on the job, being the first to say vocally, I don’t believe in any God, I don’t take notice of any horoscopes, I don’t believe in juju or ghosts, etc.

After the Napier fire: close these camps!

29 January saw a fire in Napier army barracks, in Kent, which is being used to house several hundred asylum-seekers. Simultaneously the site was in the middle of a Covid-19 outbreak, with over 130 positive cases. Clearly the poor, cramped living conditions are driving waves of deadly infection.

Home Secretary Priti Patel’s response? Assume the fire was a deliberate act of arson (without evidence) and rubbish claims that the accommodation was at all sub-standard (because it was fine for soldiers, despite having been uninhabited for ten years).

£20,000 by 10-11 July

We raised £19,420 from our 2020 fund drive, enabling us to employ a new temporary part-time office worker and a new part-time staff organiser working "remotely", and to make our current special cheap subs offer. Still, we need more fund-raising, particularly to support a good "return to the streets" when that becomes possible and to give us options when looking for a new office.

We're aiming for £20,000 by 10-11 July.

The USA in the light of the impeachment hearing

Part of an ongoing debate: see here for all the contributions

To an outsider, or to this outsider, anyway, the most striking thing about American political life is the saturation-level, all-pervasive, complacent chauvinism.

It’s almost innocent-seeming, almost endearing, like the boasting of a five year old. The Stars and Stripes everywhere. The custom of always, in public life, referring to any state that has to be mentioned as “the great state of Wyoming”, or whatever.

Workers' control, not reliance on HSE

The official Health and Safety Executive has had 179,873 Covid-related cases since the start of the pandemic, but has brought not a single prosecution against an employer.

It has issued only 218 “enforcement notices” (“please fix this within 21 days” type things). HSE inspectors are pretty much unable to halt work activities because the HSE classifies the virus only as a “significant” risk, not a “serious” one.

Tories back new coal mine

The government has come under attack from its own climate change advisors about the decision to allow a new deep coal mine to be built in Cumbria.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) cited the projected 0.4Mt of annual CO2 emissions from the mine as contradicting the already wildly insufficient commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. It would be the first new deep coal mine in 30 years in the UK, bucking the recent trend against coal, and particularly damaging to attempts to greenwash the Tory government ahead of hosting COP26.

Return of the Anti-Monopoly Alliance

The “Recapitulation Theory” in biology claims that the human embryo in the womb passes through every evolutionary stage from amoeba to fish to invertebrate, etc. etc., up to primitive human form. As a biological theory “recapitulation” is long discredited, but theMorning Star does seem to do something like “recapitulation” of Stalinism.

“Third Period” Stalinism of 1928-34 was an ultra-left line that held that social democracy and liberalism were the last obstacles in the way of socialist revolution and that their destruction by fascism might even hasten the revolution.

Drop Walney's inquiry!

Fighter against "extremism" John Woodcock (Lord Walney), with two far-right Turkish politicians

On 7 February, the former right-wing Labour MP John Woodcock — now Lord Walney, a Tory supporter, and the government’s official for “countering violent extremism” — announced via the Daily Telegraph that the government had asked him to do a new “inquiry” into “extremism”.

The labour movement and Covid: a debate

This is a tidied-up transcript of a speech in a discussion with Emma Runswick of ZeroCovid at the Workers' Liberty Zoom forum on 14 February 2021.

I'm not an epidemiologist, and the labour movement is not a university faculty of epidemiology. So we don't think we can second-guess the scientists about the science of the pandemic.

We try to educate ourselves in the science, and we try to make intelligent judgements and comments where the scientific opinion is divided, as it often is, but we understand our limits.

Vaccinations and transmission

Overall arguments made in “Requisition Big Pharma!” (Solidarity 580) are important and good. The implicit rejoinder to demands to bump school workers up the queue is apt. Yet the article imbalances further than justifiable, or necessary.

It notes “[t]he carefully-reasoned elderly-first vaccination schedule designed by scientists. (They explain its advantages over “no, vaccinate me first” cries from rival younger groups).

Solidarity subscription offer, and sub-plus-pamphlet offer

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Regroup Labour's internationalists!

Every now and then on Twitter, users will post about their distress at being diagnosed with a terrible illness. The replies to these posts are almost always full of people making “helpful” suggestions: to forego meals and subsist off fistfuls of turmeric; to subscribe to expensive and miraculous yoga courses; homeopathy.

The illnesses are very real; but the remedies often tell you a lot more about the people proposing them than about how to get well again.

Students challenge Erdoğan

Some 600 people have been detained in Turkey since 4 January after protests against the government’s appointment of Melih Bulu as head of Boğaziçi University spread in Istanbul and Ankara. Most have been released, despite repeated statements from officials that the protesters are “terrorists”.

Boğaziçi University students have sent an open letter to Turkish President Erdoğan. Excerpts:

The Perfect Candidate

I’ve been wanting to watch The Perfect Candidate ever since watching Wadjda, by the same director Haifaa al-Mansour, last year. For far too long, the former was not readily available online: it finally is now.

Haifaa al-Mansour is Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker, and one of the countries most well-known and controversial. Both films are set in Saudi Arabia; both follow outspoken, confident female protagonists, living within and struggling against the misogynist society they find themselves within.

Gas engineers will strike through February

British Gas engineers continued their strikes against their bosses’ “fire and rehire” threat from 5-8 February. Their union, GMB, has announced further strikes on 12-15, 19-22 February, and 26 February to 1 March.

There have been 17 strike days so far, leading to a backlog of over 170,000 boiler repairs and more than 200,000 delayed service visits. The strikes have remained solid throughout, with well-supported pickets and demonstrations taking place on a safely-distanced basis throughout the country.

Beware new "security" powers!

“Our history is littered with examples of initiatives sold as being necessary to fight extremism that quickly devolve into tools used for the mass violation of the human and civil rights of the American people”, write Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and nine other representatives, opposing the call from leaders of both US political parties for expanded “national security” powers in response to the 6 January far-right attack on Congress.

John Brown through different eyes

Many in the Abolitionist movement to destroy US slavery were originally pacifists, militantly anti-slavery but hoping to convince slaveowners to abandon the institution. Many of the growing number of black Americans who joined the movement opposed such ideas, and events would severely test even those Abolitionists most committed to non-violence. When the Civil War finally came in 1861, the vast majority backed the Northern war effort.

Civil service: oppose the HMRC pay deal!

HMRC bosses have now announced their long-awaited pay "deal" to staff. The deal presented was the consequence of 15 months of secretive negotiations with union officers and full-timers. Not even the union’s democratically elected HMRC Group Executive Committee was given any details of the deal until late last month.

The deal gives above inflationary pay rises in exchange for a bonfire of terms and conditions, including selling weekends to the employer, sacrificing holiday entitlement and ripping-up previous standing agreements protecting call centre workers, among other things.

Myanmar's dictators break cover

Having governed since 2015 and won a landslide in November’s general election, Myanmar’s National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, has been ousted by a military coup. Taking a leaf from the Trump playbook, the generals are claiming election fraud.

The NLD won 58.6% for the lower chamber and 61.6% for the upper chamber, versus 5.9% and 3.1% for the military front party USDP.

Victory at BMA

Cleaners outsourced by the British Medical Association have prevented 30 redundancies there.

The cleaners, employed by CWS, were furloughed since the first lockdown, with the BMA topping up the 20% of their salaries not covered by HMRC. In October 2020 the BMA suspended this, citing lost rental and event income. The cleaners’ union CAIWU appealed to CWS to continue the furlough arrangement — costing the company just £1,741. CWS instead dismissed the cleaners from 31 January.

Points and immigration

In the 2016 Brexit referendum, the very much anti-migration “Leave” side of debate talked a lot about “taking back control of our borders” and controlling the influx of migrants “taking our jobs”.

The new “points-based” immigration system is supposed to deliver on those promises and, as Priti Patel puts it, “only allow the real talent” into Britain.

How will the points be awarded?

Polish cops face protesters

Polish Women’s Strike reports that 14 people were detained Thursday 29 January, on the second night of protests against Poland’s near total ban on abortion, held despite a prohibition on public gatherings due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Poland’s constitutional court ruled in October to ban abortions in cases of foetuses with fatal abnormalities. The implementation of the court ruling was delayed by the October-November wave of protest. The ruling finally became law on Wednesday 28 January, triggering a new wave of protests.

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