News

Labour suspensions spread

Following the suspension of multiple members of Bristol West Constituency Labour Party (CLP) Executive (EC) from the Labour Party for allowing a motion to be discussed, the regional office has postponed the CLP’s Annual General Meeting with two days’ notice, because of alleged “problems” with communication about it happening. It has been postponed until February, and our CLP meetings banned during the same time period.

"Whataboutery" on China and the Uyghurs

“Whataboutery” is an old trick much favoured by Stalinists whenever difficult questions about human rights under “socialist” regimes are raised. Apparently the correct term is “tu quoque” — a debating technique based upon the perceived hypocrisy of the opponent rather than the merits of their argument.

Some of the most blatant cases you’ll come across involve the Morning Star and its increasingly desperate efforts to deny or justify the Chinese state’s treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Fight job cuts in retail

Arcadia, the owner of Topshop, Burton, and Dorothy Perkins, has gone into administration, putting 13,000 jobs at risk. In retail, 85% of Arcadia employees are women, while at head office 71% are women.

It is also a young workforce. 75% of the retail workforce is under 35 while at head office 63% of the workforce is under 35.

The company said the pandemic had had “a material impact on trading across our businesses”, and in fact it was already in difficulties due to a chunk of its traffic moving to competitors more adroit about going online.

In the bleak midwinter

Three blows are likely to hit us in the first months of 2021: Brexit, a new pandemic lockdown, and a new wave of job cuts and closures.

Lockdown pushes down many people who fall through the furlough net, or were looking for new or first jobs.

Back in spring it looked like the biggest job cuts among previously well-established workers would come as lockdown eased. Companies which had stuck it out through lockdown with furlough money and government loans would then shut down or shrink, and those shutdowns would be magnified through their supply chains.

Win for Manchester students

Following protests, a still-ongoing rent strike and a two-week occupation, Manchester University students have won a 30% rent reduction for semester one. This will cost the university around ÂŁ12 million, making it the biggest win for student rent strikers in the UK.

The student union will now hold a vote of no confidence in Vice Chancellor Nancy Rothwell, and the rent strike will continue next term.

Labour must oppose a Tory Brexit deal!

The more-than-rumour is that Keir Starmer’s leadership will impose a parliamentary whip to force Labour MPs to back the Tory Brexit deal possibly coming soon — even a high-pressure “three-line whip”.

There is no good Brexit. But any possible deal will fall at the hard, economically destructive, socially regressive end of the Brexit spectrum.

The left and labour movement should oppose this big, convulsive step backwards. We should refuse responsibility for the Tories’ disastrous plans, and loudly tell the truth about what they represent.

"Love jihad": why Hindu fascists are attacking Netflix

The Hindu nationalist far right in India and beyond is waging a campaign against Netflix for showing the BBC TV series A Suitable Boy (adapted from Vikram Seth’s novel, set in India in the 1950s).

Their objection is to a romantic relationship between a Hindu woman and a Muslim man (though it's clear they object to other aspects of it too). They have minimally dressed up their bigotry by saying they are offended by the lovers kissing by a Hindu temple.

Fight the cuts, fight the pay freeze!

Chancellor Rishi Sunak claims he is not “returning” to austerity. This while:

• All public sector workers outside the NHS get a pay freeze. And the government will not confirm that NHS workers will get a pay rise! It also seems it will cancel the planned 49p rise in the minimum wage in favour of something more like 19p.

• Councils are saying they need billions more just to avoid yet another round of even deeper cuts.

• The government refuses even to make its measly £20-a-week increase to Universal Credit permanent; it will be withdrawn in April.

Fighting Covid: the police or workers' control?

A new campaign was launched on 14 November, called ZeroCovid. It takes up full isolation pay and public-sector Test and Trace, two of the demands raised by campaigns like Safe and Equal, and it is backed by a number of left-wingers, notably in and around the SWP.

Yet its chief demand is a “full” and indefinite lockdown of everything which is not “absolutely essential” until we get to zero or “near-zero” infections.

Virus: getting through the months

The news is good on vaccines for Covid-19. But, as every expert says, it will be several months at least before vaccination shrinks the need for covid-distancing and quarantining. Longer, if the vaccines block symptoms but not the virus itself or transmission. (We don’t yet know).

As of 24 November, infection rates have been edging down in Europe since 8 November. They look like plateauing worldwide, after rapid growth since mid-October, but are rising sharply in the USA.

Betterment without emancipation?

Marie Stopes International (MSI) has changed its name in recognition of the need to break association with the pro-eugenics views of Marie Stopes. The abortion and contraception provider will go by the name MSI Reproductive Choices. There had been debate in the organisation for some time about a name change, and they were spurred to action by the Black Lives Matters movement and subsequent discussions.

Four points from NEC poll

Four points to take away from the Labour Party National Executive (NEC) election results announced on 13 November.

• The balance between broadly-left and broadly-right in the membership is not much changed. The left slate (not a good left slate, in our view, but the left slate) did better than it expected, winning five constituency seats. The “old” right won three, and the ninth place was taken by Ann Black, an NEC member on the “centre-left” slate from 2000 to 2018 but now seen as definitely “centre”.

Court win for "gig" workers

The IWGB union has won a legal battle over the rights of gig-economy workers, and couriers especially, during the pandemic. A judgment issued on 13 November means that workers in the “gig economy” are entitled to the same EU-derived health and safety rights as employees. Key rights are:

• To be provided with Personal Protective Equipment by the business they are working for and

• The right to stop work in response to serious and imminent danger.

The UK Government must now urgently take steps to ensure that workers have the same protection as employees.

Right to picket

On 6 November, the police dispersed a covid-distanced picket line over pay at the Optare bus factory in Sherburn-in-Elmet, near Selby in North Yorkshire. They warned strikers they would be issued with penalty notices for breaking lockdown rules if they returned.

Video: After the US election, which way for the left? Debate

Intro speeches — Video and audio — from 15 December on "After the US election, which way for the left?" by Ruth Cashman, Workers' Liberty; Thomas Harrison, New Politics Editorial Board (personal capacity); and Robert Cuffy, Guyanese socialist based in New York, member of DSA and the Socialist Workers Alliance of Guyana.

A discussion on the results of the US election and tasks facing class struggle socialists.

Trump and the Republican Party continue to resist the result of the US election; what impact will they have?

We heard about what the left and social movement activists are doing to defend US democracy and develop class struggle responses to the pandemic, jobs and social crisis.

Fighting Trumpism: the next four years

Donald Trump’s press secretary claimed a million “Stop the Steal” protesters on the streets of Washington on 14 November to block Biden becoming US president.

It was more like 10,000-20,000, organised by far-right activists, but supported, tacitly or explicitly, by Republican Congress people.

It looks harder and harder for Trump to pull any sort of “coup” between now and 20 January, but that 86% of his voters believe his denunciation of the election count bodes ill for the next four years.

Thirteen murdered working-class women

The death of the killer of thirteen women has elicited an apology from the police for the methods and the language they used during their investigation. The role of the press and they way that they portrayed the victims has also come in for some heavy criticism.

Which is right. When you hear their language in the context of today, it is shocking. But in the context of the time it was happening, the police and press fitted right in with the culture that affected all women.

More student battles brewing

In the week starting 16 November, groups of students are organising workshops, banner drops, and email campaigns to highlight high rents, draconian lockdowns, and general lack of support at UK Universities. The National Union of Students (NUS) is promoting and encouraging local events, but has stopped short of calling for a national campaign of rent strikes.

Orban targets LGBT people

On 10 November, Hungary’s Minister of Justice Judit Varga unveiled a bill that will almost certainly become the ninth modification to the Basic Law of Hungary adopted in 2011.

This reactionary piece of legislation adds to the already shameful article which defines the state’s conception of “the family” that “the mother is a woman, and the father is a man”.

A further amendment proclaims that “Hungary protects children’s right to identify as the sex they were born with, and ensures their upbringing based on our national self-identification and Christian culture”.

Reorganise the Labour left

The political and economic aftershocks of the coronavirus pandemic are likely to be severe. Johnson’s government is already signalling that it will follow the 2008 script: yes, when disaster strikes you have to carry out a little “socialism” — state intervention, doling out money to bosses as much as you can and workers as much as you have to. But so that no-one gets the wrong idea, after this half-”socialism” the bill must be presented and paid through austerity.

Chile votes for new constitution

On 25 October in Chile, around 7.5 million people voted in a historic referendum on whether to write a new constitution to replace the current one — enacted in 1980 during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet — and on the democratic mechanism to write this new constitution.

The option of crafting a new constitution won, with an overwhelming majority of nearly 80%. A similar percentage supported a constitutional convention — a group completely composed of citizens democratically elected for this purpose — as the mechanism to write the new constitution.

RMT: democracy needed

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash has announced his retirement, only a year into his second term. The announcement was made during a chaotic Annual General Meeting, conducted online. Many delegates and union activists had criticised various aspects of AGM proceedings, including a decision by the union’s National Executive to curtail its length once the national lockdown had been announced, and a decision not to allow motions relating to any event later than June 2020, the date at which the AGM was initially scheduled to take place.

Strike vote pushes care bosses to talk

Workers in the United Voices of the World union at the Sage Nursing Home in North London are demanding ÂŁ12ph, parity with NHS annual leave and sick pay, pay for unsociable hours, and recognition of UVW.

Following a 100% vote for strikes, energetic campaigning by UVW, and strong support from local labour movement activists and the wider community, the Sage bosses have just agreed to negotiate.

Rolls-Royce workers strike for jobs

Workers at a Rolls-Royce plant in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, began a three-week programme of strikes on Friday 6 November, in a bid to resist the loss of 350 jobs.

Rolls-Royce, which intends to cut 9,000 jobs throughout the UK, plans to outsource the work of the Barnoldswick site to Singapore.

The industrial action is rolling through the three-week period and will see workers in different roles and departments strike at different times, but with Covid-distanced picket lines throughout. The strike ends on 27 November.

Israel demolishes Palestinian village

B’ Tselem, the Israeli campaign for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, reports: “On 3 November 2020, with the eyes of the world on the US elections, Israel demolished an entire Palestinian community in the Jordan Valley. A convoy of bulldozers drove up to the tiny shepherds’ community of Khirbet Humsah and razed it to the ground”.

You can see a video of the demolished village here.

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