Solidarity 607, 22 September 2021

Rally the left in Labour!

In early September a couple of opinion polls showed Labour level with the Tories or slightly ahead. That is better than in June, when the Tories had a poll lead of 10% of more, but poor when the Tories are setting records for U-turns, scandals, fumbles, and looming cuts. Keir Starmer’s “personal approval” ratings, good until late 2020, are still wretched. Back in early 2020 Starmer made ten pledges. They included taxing the rich, ending the Tory sanctions regime on benefits, abolishing tuition fees, “common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water; end outsourcing in our NHS, local government...

Why care workers are striking

Julia Veros Gonzalez (below) is a worker at the Sage nursing home in Barnet, North London, where members of United Voices of the World (UVW) have been striking and campaigning over pay, sick pay and holiday parity with NHS workers, and union recognition (see their campaign website here). She spoke to Sacha Ismail. Key workers – care workers, people sweeping the streets, drivers – getting up early in the morning or working at night, doing long shifts – sometimes as care workers we do twelve hours – we don’t mind doing it, we want to help people, we’re doing it the best we can, but we should be...

Turn back Patel, not the boats

France’s right-wing government, whose leader Emmanuel Macron has called for Europe to “protect itself from waves of Afghan immigration”, has opposed Priti Patel’s plans to forcibly turn back migrant boats in the Channel as incompatible with “safeguarding human lives”. The MP for Calais, from the even more right-wing Les Republicains, calls it a violation of human rights “that should not be tolerated in a modern society”. Of course right-wing French politicians do not want more migrants kept in France. Still, the Tories are putting themselves in the vanguard of European anti-migrant politics...

Care and a shorter working week

The editorial in Solidarity 606 highlights well the need to fight for a bold programme for social care, funded by taxing the rich. There is a further area worth considering in the fight for liberatory and humanistic social care, wider carework, and society. Nancy Fraser, in After the Family Wage: A Postindustrial Thought Experiment, argues persuasively for welfare states geared towards a “universal caregiver” model: “to induce men to become more like most women are now, namely, people who do primary carework... a welfare state[‘s] employment sector would not be divided into two different...

Yes, celebrate Gagarin!

Rhodri Evans (Solidarity 604) quotes Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, who described the advances provided by the International Space Station as “meagre” to support his opposition to increased human space flight. Quoting this, whilst ignoring Rees’s belief in humanity’s expansion into the Galaxy on the basis of discovery and adventure, is however remarkably short-sighted. Rees rightly believes that the durability of robots makes them better suited to certain aspects of space flight, but has never ruled out human involvement in, nor humanity’s desire to explore space. Whilst probes have been flung...

Attack on trade union political action

One aspect not covered in the article in Solidarity 606 on the Elections Bill is the specific attack on trade union funding in elections. A provision in the bill would further restrict campaigning by non-party groups. It would also affect initiatives like Labour for a Socialist Europe (or Vote Leave), but would have a larger impact on the affiliated unions. It would mean joint campaigns require the declaration of spending by all groups involved, both reducing the total amount available and creating further bureaucracy. Currently non-party groups are allowed to spend up to £390,000 in an...

Pouliopoulos and "return"

Greek refugees from Turkey, 1922 The debates about “return” as the redress-slogan for the Palestinian people (Dale Street, Solidarity 606) echo the aftermath of the 1919-22 war between Greece and Turkey. The centuries-old Ottoman Empire collapsed in and after World War 1. Britain and France sought to scoop up most of its territories. Turkey was fighting to establish itself as an independent state. Greece, backed by Britain, went to war. Sections of the Greek ruling class aspired to a “Greater Greece” including the three great Greek city-populations of the time, in Smyrna (now Izmir)...

Hong Kong: silence is not an option

When the question of trade unions in China would come up, some of us were fond of saying that there is an independent, democratic trade union movement in the country. It is called the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions. This is no longer true. In the last week, news has come out of a move by the HKCTU to disband. This is an enormous blow to the Chinese working class and to the international labour movement. It appears that the HKCTU is the latest victim of a Chinese government crackdown not only on the unions, but on all of civil society. The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, one of...

Beijing pushes HK revolt underground

Hong Kong’s Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) is being forced to disband in the face of a brutal offensive by the Chinese government. The HKCTU is the only body coordinating independent unions in Hong Kong. It has long supported universal suffrage against the rule of Hong Kong by the pro-CCP and tycoon-dominated Legislative Council and the Beijing-appointed Chief Executive. At its press conference on 13 September, the HKCTU announced that it was recommending disbandment to a general meeting of its affiliates on 3 October. Vice Chair Leo Tang, one of the three remaining Executive Committee...

More cows will mend soil, will mend climate? No!

David Walters (Solidarity 586) highlights important environmental considerations concerning soil. The destruction, degradation, depletion of soil through intensive mono-cropping; the nitrogen run-off and energy use of artificial fertilisers; the numerous destructive impacts of chemical pesticides. Yet his key claim that “we need more ruminants (grass eaters) not less” does not follow and is untenable. In the first section I contend that Walters overstates the potential for soil to be used to offset historic industrial emissions, by implication underplaying their dangers, and by extension the...

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