Solidarity 600, 14 July 2021

Make unions fight for workplace safety!

The Tory government is setting England on course for a gamble with Covid-19. The labour movement is not well-placed to second-guess scientists. But we must step up our fight for the social measures we’ve long been campaigning for, and which are known to alleviate the spread of Covid. On 1 July the editor of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) responded to the appointment of Sajid Javid as health minister with a list of demands. Those included: • Proper financial support for those who need to isolate. • Invest in ventilation. • Make FFP3 masks mandatory for all staff treating patients with...

“Definitely misguided... a bit absurd”

Some scientists very critical of the Tories, like Allyson Pollock and Alasdair Munro, are cautious about condemning the 19 July restriction-easing plans. Whatever we do, Covid will continue to swirl around the world on one level or another for a long time. Lockdowns have social and medical costs, cannot be continued forever, and may even make later virus-surges worse. Sustainable long-term mitigation will be reached only by vaccinating and revaccinating the elderly and vulnerable, and developing and refreshing broad immunity among the younger by us getting the virus, probably, several times...

Starmer's feeble Big Idea on jobs

On 3 July Rachel Reeves and Keir Starmer launched their new economic Big Idea: “ask every public body to give more contracts to British firms big and small”. So far this feeble Big Idea (only “asking”) has been saved from the derision which overwhelmed the “I’m backing Britain” campaign of then Labour prime minister Harold Wilson in 1968, but only by attracting little comment of any sort. In any case, what is a “British” firm? One owned by a British boss? What if most of its production chain is overseas? Yet a non-British-owned firm has most of its workforce in Britain? Should we expect other...

Ethiopia, democracy and minority rights

Tigrayan forces retook Mekelle, the region’s capital, on 28 June, seven months after Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister, occupied the city with federal troops. Initially, the government claimed it had complete control over Tigray province, and that it was just mopping up sporadic resistance. Evidently not, but contradictory accounts make it difficult to ascertain what exactly is happening. This reversal of Tigray’s fortunes came after initial losses following a brutal invasion by both Ethiopian federal forces and the Eritrean army. The invaders committed severe and numerous human right...

The Morning Star’s not-so-secret support for Galloway

The Morning Star appeared to welcome Labour’s victory (albeit a narrow one) in Batley and Spen: “Labour activists are breathing a sigh of relief... The result is a welcome sign that Tory advances across northern England are not unstoppable... it also shows the importance of locally rooted politics...” I say “appeared to welcome” the result because those words come from an editorial published in the 3-4 July edition — two days after the result. Before then, there was nothing to indicate that the paper was supporting Labour and a lot to suggest that it didn’t. In fact, even that editorial went...

Complexities of vaccine policy

Unite, Unison and GMB leaders’ opposition to compulsory vaccination for care home workers, echoed by Ali Treacher’s article (Solidarity 598), has me in two minds. At the very least, it’s more complicated than presented. It is undoubtedly a cynical and hypocritical move by a government that has demonstrated extreme disdain for the lives of both workers and care home residents, refusing the most obvious and far more important measures like universal 100% sick pay. However, that hypocrisy doesn’t mean the labour movement should necessarily campaign against the policy itself, or its extension to...

What we mean by socialist feminism

This is an excerpt from a speech at Ideas for Freedom, 10-11 July 2021 In Workers’ Liberty, we believe that the liberation of women can only happen with the emancipation of humanity as a whole, through the socialist transformation of society through class struggle. The working class is the vast majority of people — immensely diverse, but united by our dependency on waged labour to survive. Men and women both have this dependent relationship to waged labour, but it is differentiated by women’s historic and current role in childbearing, our ability to stitch together childcare, and the gendered...

Cuba: time for real solidarity from the British left

If you’re a British trade unionist or a member of the Labour Party, where might you go to find news about Cuba? An obvious choice is the Morning Star, a newspaper largely funded by trade unions, which regularly runs articles about the island nation. Another is the website of the trade union-backed Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC). You would learn that in recent weeks Cuba has developed its very own Covid vaccine that is over 90% effective with three doses. You’d also learn that the Biden administration continues with the vicious U.S. embargo, which is one of the reasons why Cuba needs to develop...

Understanding what was at stake in the GMB election

This discussion article has been sent to us by a group of GMB activists and officers who have worked with Workers’ Liberty. Dale Street’s article on the GMB General Secretary election (Solidarity 596) is testament to the author’s outstanding talent for missing the wood for the trees. To paraphrase Eric Morecambe: “He has all the right knowledge, but not necessarily in the right order”. To help Solidarity readers make sense of the GMB election we want to take a step back from the matters Dale focuses on and instead look at the big picture. The first point to grasp, is that for anyone in the GMB...

Letter: Office doesn't equal power

I agree with Eric Lee (Solidarity 599) that trying to win public elections should be a part of socialist activity. Workers’ Liberty has in print a pamphlet, How to Fight Elections, based on our comrade Lol Duffy’s campaign as Labour candidate in Wallasey in 1987. But Eric’s article switches to and fro between “power” and “elected office” as if they are the same thing. They’re not. In fact, a dogmatic over-valuation of seeking electoral office can lead to socialists adapting to the constraints of office, sacrificing real political power from agitation in workplaces and neighbourhoods. Momentum...

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