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Howie Hawkins interview, part 2: "We need a left party that organises in the unions"

Howie Hawkins, a socialist running in the US presidential election on the ticket of the Green Party, spoke to Stephen Wood from Solidarity. Part 1 of this interview was in Solidarity 567. Workers’ Liberty backs Hawkins in the election.

Bernie Sanders, during the Democratic primaries, was clear about his policies. But it looks like now he’s making almost no demands on Biden?

Bernie Sanders is saying if we get Joe Biden in there, we can push him. But in the course of this campaign, he’s compromised on his signature issue, Medicare for All.

Make the NHS open to all!

Research from the group Doctors of the World UK illustrates how anti-migrant policies implanted in the NHS over years were causing serious suffering, even before the pandemic hit.

Their report found migrants waiting much longer to access the health service than non-migrants, with an average wait of 37 weeks. For those requiring “urgent” or “immediately necessary” treatment, the average was 36 weeks. Delays of years were not uncommon, with one respondent with a serious heart complaint waiting four years.

Build student rent strikes

At Manchester University a total of 171 students have pledged to withhold £307,000 in rent. At Bristol 850 students have pledged to strike. Students at many other places are discussing taking such action after being signed up to move into halls of residence and pay rent and then finding almost no teaching other than online.

There are many issues besides lack of support over Covid. At Manchester student accommodation is unsafe, in poor repair, and pest-infected.

Lesser-evilism in the 2020 US elections

If there is one proposition that most anti-Stalinist socialists should agree on it is this: capitalism does not need democracy and democracy does not require capitalism. Only socialism does.

Socialists in every struggle are the left-wing, the revolutionary wing of democracy. This is what distinguishes us from the left-wing of capitalism and why, in comparison to the small gaps that separate the conservative from the liberal wing of capitalist democracy, we as socialists stand a mile apart from both in irreconcilable opposition.

Priorities to curb the virus

Because the Tories bungled and wasted the summer virus-lull, Britain is heading for new lockdowns.

Solidarity defers to majority scientific opinion that some sort of new lockdowns will be needed.

We insist, too, that sustainable control of virus-spread, and escape from having both infections and lockdowns hit the worst-off hardest, requires social measures to underpin greater social solidarity.

Brexit: break Labour's silence

As the threats posed by the Tories’ Brexit policy become more serious and more imminent, the labour movement is not speaking up but saying even less.

In the first half of the year, supporters of Keir Starmer argued his refusal to call for a delay to Brexit, despite the chaos caused by Covid-19, was savvy tactics. “Keir” would speak out at an appropriate time. Now, with the end of the Brexit transition ten weeks away, and a No Deal Brexit a strong and growing possibility, Labour is pretty much silent.

Deliveroo workers strike again

Deliveroo workers in the IWGB union in Sheffield have voted to take two days of industrial action on 14-15 October, as they continue to push Deliveroo nationally on pay and unfair sackings.

Following several weeks of boycotts and organising in Sheffield, the union is continuing to grow. And now, workers from nearby towns have reached out to the Sheffield union branch.

Belarus: crackdown and gestures

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, opposition candidate in Belarus’s rigged 9 August election, declared on Telegram on 13 October:

“The regime has 13 days to fulfill three main requirements: 1. Lukashenko must leave. 2. Street violence must stop completely. 3. All political prisoners must be released. If our demands are not met by 25 October, the whole country will peacefully take to the streets with the People’s Ultimatum.” Evidently the opposition assesses that it is strong enough at least to have a chance of this “ultimatum” having at least some force.

Wave of wildcats

Since the start of March there have been over 1,000 strikes in the US, many related to the Covid-19 crisis and some to the Black Lives Matter struggle. Most are wildcat strikes, without formal vote or official union endorsement. In some cases they have taken place in workplaces where there is no union.

The crowd-funded website Payday Report has put together a map tracking these strike. It argues that its tracker probably underestimates the actual numbers.

Nagorno-Karabakh: too complex?

The Morning Star editorial of Monday 5 October was entitled “Nagorno-Karabakh: a complex conflict that must be seen in context”. In fact the editorial gave little factual information and no political steer whatsoever on the dispute.

After an initial, inconclusive, section on Nagorno-Karabakh, the rest of the editorial was a rambling discourse on internationalism in general, often virtually indecipherable.

However, I suspect that the following gives a significant clue as to the true meaning of the editorial:

Keeping schools as safe as possible

Schools are large institutions which are fully open. In most there is little possibility of social distancing and the wearing of face-coverings is impossible during lessons and difficult at other times. The virus is being spread in schools, albeit at possibly a lower rate than other institutions.

Last week in my London borough there were around 15-20 schools where Year Group bubbles had been closed, the majority with more than one Year Group closed. We have had already had two schools in the borough closing entirely for two weeks.

Lessons from Spain

“I really enjoyed working in the NHS”, said a Spanish nurse quoted by the Financial Times on 7 October.”You get longer holidays, more breaks. And workers’ rights are much better”.

His comment tells us less about excellences in the NHS and more about problems in Spain. Those led big protests on 19-20 September about virus measures in Madrid to demand “More healthcare, fewer police”, and are a factor in why Spain’s hospitals have had great trouble coping with the pandemic, and an exceptionally high number of health workers infected.

To curb the virus, reverse the cuts

The UK’s virus infections are now rising faster than France’s and Spain’s, and are at a higher level (relative to population) than Spain’s.

The government’s measures, since infections started rising fast again in early August, have had little effect. The Tories are set to close bars and cafés again, in large areas at least, and maybe soon for a new lockdown similar to spring’s. In Ireland, which has a lower rate of infection increase than the UK, the government’s scientific advisers have already proposed a new general lockdown, not yet implemented.

Howie Hawkins interview: "A stronger vote against Trump"

Howie Hawkins is a socialist running in the US presidential election on the ticket of the Green Party. On 12 October he talked with Stephen Wood from Solidarity. Workers’ Liberty backs Hawkins in the election.

The invective of Trump is what is worse than previous incumbents. Egging on the vigilante militias. Calling the election as being fraudulent before it is even run.

Different in two ways

This US presidential election is different in two ways.

It narrows down to a contest between a fascistic demagogue with a militant and part-militarised mass base, and a standard-issue neoliberal.

And recent years have seen a sizeable though diffuse new US socialist current round Sanders’ campaigns and the Democratic Socialists of America.

At the same time, the International Socialist Organization has wound itself up, and Solidarity sees itself more as an “educational centre” than an activist group.

Scrap GCSEs for 2021 now!

The conference on 10 October of the Socialist Educational Association decided to call on the government to stop SATs and other high-stakes primary assessments this year. It also demanded that moderated teacher assessment be used instead of examinations for GCSE and A levels in 2021, and that the Labour front bench take up that policy.

The Scottish government has already decided to replaced Scotland’s equivalents of GCSEs with moderated teacher assessment.

Universal Credit blights women's autonomy

Some women claiming welfare benefits are finding that the system compromises their financial autonomy.

If a woman claims benefits, and lives with a partner who also claims benefits, then the system requires them to make a joint claim. Because this is a new claim, she is moved onto Universal Credit. Both her and her partner have individual ‘claimant commitments’, and if her partner doesn’t fulfil his or her ‘claimant commitment’ correctly then the partner will be sanctioned. But because this is a joint claim, she will also lose money, up to half of their joint income.

Trump: not fascist, maybe pre-fascist

Thomas Carolan’s article in Solidarity 565 started “The President of the USA is a fascist”. The body of the article backtracked from that assertive opening, suggesting that Trump’s government is not fascist although it has strengthened those elements that may be quickly assembled by Trump into a fascist force, particularly the mobilisation of “a mass movement to beat down its enemies” in stealing the coming US election.

Social solidarity to slow the virus

The "local lockdowns" aren't working. The Tories' helter-skelter mess of virus-control measures may do more harm, by disrupting social solidarity, than good.

Despite the Tories paying vast amounts to private contractors, and achieving high total test numbers, the virus test-and-trace system is nowhere near doing what it needs to do: identify infections and contacts promptly and get efficient quarantining.

NHS workers are weary and resentful, denied the 15% pay rise which they have demanded. Elderly-care workers are mostly still denied isolation pay.

A socialist vote for Biden

Trump’s defeat in the election is, as of now, likely. It is by no means certain. A lot can happen in the coming weeks.

It is of fundamental importance to the US working class that he does not win.

The US left is divided. Some see it as overriding principle not to back Biden — they tend to favour a vote for the Green Party presidential candidate, Howie Hawkins, who is a socialist. Others work within the very big tent around the Democratic Party for Biden’s election.

Making anti-racism a union issue

Two years ago, activists in the Lambeth branch of the public services union Unison launched a campaign to fight institutional racism at Lambeth Council.

We knew our employer had a huge race pay gap. We were hearing from our members that they were experiencing more racism at work, since the Brexit vote. We launched a survey and our black workers told us about their experiences of discrimination at work.

Back student rent strikes!

With numbers of university students testing positive for Covid rising dramatically — 400 at Nottingham University, nearly 500 at Sheffield University, over 700 at Northumbria — student action is beginning to get off the ground.

The rising Covid infection has destroyed university bosses’ claims that face-to-face teaching was sustainable and campuses were “open for business”. Thousands of students are now in lockdown in crowded halls. Given a choice, many students would now prefer to go back to their home town to study online or defer their degrees.

A win for Osime Brown

On 7 October, Osime Brown, a young man jailed under “joint enterprise” law, will return to his family home on his release from prison, rather than being taken to an immigration detention centre. This win follows many street and online protests demanding his freedom. But Osime’s fight is still on: the order to deport him to Jamaica (which he left at the age of 4, and where has no support network) still stands. No date has been announced, but Osime still has this threat looming.

US unions warn Trump: don't even think about it

A few days ago, the president of the AFL-CIO (the US’s national trade union centre) issued a powerful statement.

The federation “categorically rejects all threats to the peaceful transition of power” said Richard Trumka, a former leader of the mine workers’ union. “The labour movement,” he said, “simply will not allow any breach of the US Constitution or other effort to deny the will of the people.”

Southbank workers fight 70% cuts

Southbank Centre [in London] is cutting its staff headcount by 70%, but this will only reduce the payroll by an estimated 38%. The lowest-paid staff with minimum hours contracts in the Visitor Experience and Ticketing teams are to be cut entirely, as there is no prospect of the Royal Festival Hall fully reopening to the public until April 2021.

The Exhibition Hosts at the Hayward Gallery, who’ve spent the past month reopening the gallery in a new Covid-secure way, have also been told that they will be made redundant when the current exhibition closes on 31 October.

New protests for Breonna Taylor

On 23 September it was announced that a grand jury in the US state of Kentucky had indicted only one of the three police officers — Brett Hankinson, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove — involved in the murder of healthworker Breonna Taylor in March.

And, surreally, Hankinson was indicted not for shooting Taylor but for firing at a neighbouring home.

Protests demanding justice have flared across the country.

Deliveroo action spreads

On Thursday 24 September, Sheffield Deliveroo drivers stepped up their campaign of action on low pay and unfair sackings. They hit one of Deliveroo’s biggest exclusive national partner restaurants, Wagamama, with a 24-hour boycott. Meanwhile, Deliveroo are preparing to further immiserate their workforce with a mass hiring drive.

Belarus workers press for strikes

Belarusian workers with a banner saying "Strike" in Russian


Belarus’s dictator Lukashenko held his inauguration for a new term as president on 23 September, but protests continue.

Universities had resumed and many students had joined demonstrations and sit-down protests held throughout the week. The weekend demonstrations were slightly smaller in Minsk on 26-27 September, but they continue to spread and grow outside the capital.

Donald Trump is a fascist

The President of the USA is a fascist who is trying to steal the 2020 Presidential election. You can soften that down to saying Trump is an “authoritarian”, or a delusional psychotic would-be king of the USA, but fascist is better: a fascist is what Trump is in his opinions and in his actions where he is free to act as he likes.

Tories put lid on transgender rights

The Gender Recognition Act became law in 2004. It allows transgender people to apply for a “Gender Recognition Certificate”, and that allows a replacement birth certificate to be issued with the correct gender. But the process is lengthy and requires a medical report to confirm a diagnosis of “gender dysphoria”. If the applicant is married they also require consent from their spouse.

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