Solidarity 591, 5 May 2021

Boom for the rich, job cuts for the many

In the USA, job vacancy postings are now 21% above their level in January 2020. The employment rate for well-off workers (on the equivalent of £43,000 a year or more) is now only 2% down on January 2020. The Dow Jones share-price index continues to rise, as it has done since a drastic fall bottomed out in late March 2020. According to Google Mobility reports, US workplace traffic is still down by 28% (more than Germany’s 22%), as many still work from home. But retail traffic is down only 8% on the pre-Covid baseline. The New York Times estimates that businesses are now “mostly open” (though...

Social solidarity still needed to curb Covid

An all-party committee of MPs has called for border checks and quarantine requirements on Covid to be retained. They have a strong case. Cautious step-by-step lockdown-easing, checking each step before moving to the next, can ease the bad social effects of lockdown. If the labour movement continues our efforts to win full isolation pay for all, to establish workers’ control of workplace safety, and to bring social care into the public sector with workers on NHS-level pay and conditions, we may be able to edge towards a set of restrictions which is socially sustainable fairly long-term and yet...

Switch off the pump!

Billions have been handed out by the Tories to friends and associates on Test and Trace and PPE contracts, and for poor results. Yet the “Tory sleaze” row has come to focus on Boris Johnson’s redecoration of his Downing Street flat. He gets £30,000 a year public money for redecorating his rent-free accommodation; he scrabbled for more only because he chose especially expensive redecoration; and he may well have broken political-donations law in doing so. There’s nothing unfair about him being pilloried. But his tens of thousands should not overshadow the billions, handed out sleazily but...

Police Bill: organise for a long haul

Thousands turned out in London on May Day to oppose the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, and there were demonstrations all over the country. Workers’ Liberty supporters were there in London and many other places, selling Solidarity and other literature, arguing for a push to bring the labour movement into the Police Bill fight, and to overturn the anti-union laws and other earlier restrictions on the right protest. The London protest was a welcome change from the usual London May Day, which tends to be smaller, older, and with banners of Stalin and the like, which were completely...

After 6 May, renew fight against Tories and cuts

Thursday 6 May sees elections for 143 councils covering the majority of England; the Scottish and Welsh parliaments; the London mayor and assembly; a number of other mayoral and police and crime commissioner positions; and the parliamentary by-election in Hartlepool. The local elections are for seats last contested in May 2016 (when Labour did poorly) or in May 2017 (when Labour did very poorly, though it recovered quickly between then and the June 2017 general election). So it shouldn’t be hard for Labour to show some gains. Yet Labour’s campaigns have been deeply uninspiring. A focus on NHS...

Loyalist violence means advance?

When loyalist violence erupted in Northern Ireland in April, the Morning Star responded with an article (15 April) by one Lynda Walker that concluded: “The cause of the problems which the unionist and loyalist communities have cited, the border and policing, must be solved politically. In addition to those orchestrating the violence, the British and Irish governments, the EU and the DUP should be held responsible for this situation.” The words “statement” and “bleedin’ obvious” spring to mind. At least Walker’s article includes the British government in its roll-call of those to blame. Back in...

Don't make a fetish of Andreas Malm

Zack Muddle (Solidarity 588) eulogises Andreas Malm’s book Fossil Capital (2016) as an original analysis of the climate crisis. I think Zack exaggerates Malm’s contribution, overgeneralises from it and ignores big flaws with Malm’s politics. Malm’s central insight is that early nineteenth century English textile manufacturers adopted steam power from coal burning, when waterpower was a viable alternative. As Malm puts it, steam “gained supremacy in spite of water being abundant, cheaper and at least as powerful, even and efficient”. Malm argues that these capitalists adopted steam power...

The roaring twenties

Increasingly, big business leaders and bankers are talking about the possibility of an economic boom in the next few months. Earlier projections of economic stagnation and talk of the worst economic results in centuries have faded. Vaccines and lockdowns seem to have worked. The worst has been averted. Now, some are even speaking about another “roaring twenties” — harking back to the third decade of the last century. What does that mean for the left? Obviously, economic recovery is a good thing for everyone, so things like low unemployment are welcome news. But the 1920s were not exactly a...

Cookie-cutters and lockdowns

It seems an easy and “left-wing” “cookie-cutter” frame for understanding the pandemic: “capitalists... resist lockdowns”, “workers’ direct action has forced more effective lockdowns” (Stuart Jordan, letters, Solidarity 590). Stuart rejects the full-on equation: “most left-wing” = “harshest, longest lockdowns” = “best pandemic control”. But even his more careful version of the “cookie-cutter” is not true. Capitalist governments everywhere have imposed lockdowns. Trump, Bolsonaro, Lukashenko, Magufuli are outliers even within the right. Competent lockdowns “work” (with heavy costs). There is no...

Tackling bias in justice

The topic of justice and in particular social justice has rightly been a big subject for discussion since the Black Lives Matter protests of last summer 2020. Vast portions of the population were newly educated as to the damage the so-called justice system does to the Black and Brown communities. What is less seen is the inherent solidarity that neurodivergent people have with the Black and Brown communities, how both communities with their respective intersections are treated in engagements with the police on the street and in the justice system itself. To understand this connection, it is...

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