Social and Economic Policy

Bernie Sanders slams USA’s huge military budget while social spending stalled

While the US administration labours to squeeze a now-much-reduced social-spending plan through Congress, on 17 November the Senate voted by a big bipartisan majority to expedite procedure on a huge military budget. That budget has already gone through the House of Representatives by a big majority, with Cori Bush, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others from the “squad” voting against. In the Senate, Bernie Sanders spoke out against the budget and for at least a reduction. Day after day, here on the floor and back in their states, many of my colleagues tell the American people how deeply concerned...

To save the climate, push back the bosses!

“System change, not climate change”, and similar slogans, were prominent on the 6 November demonstrations for the COP26 summit. Yes, we need to change the whole economic, social and political set-up, not just reduce emissions personally. What new system should we seek? And how? “One solution, revolution”, chanted the Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Appeal on the London demonstration. That doesn’t help: who are they asking to do that? How? We are for a workers’ socialist revolution, in which the global working class replaces the power of capital with a new system based on collective...

For social foresight against profit priorities: workers’ climate action!

The COP26 talks (Glasgow, 31 October to 12 November) are an embarrassment for the capitalist class. On the one hand they cannot simply ignore the reality of climate change. On the other hand, they are aware of years of failure, the fossil fuel industries’ current plans for a multi-trillion dollar expansion, and the complete absence of a carbon drawdown infrastructure. In 1992, when the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was established, leading to the COP process, 78% of primary energy generation was from fossil fuels. In 2019, twenty-four COP summits later, it was 79%. And 79% of a 60%...

How to really "level up"

The government’s “levelling up” bluster is vacuous – but also dangerous. It is dangerous because it functions to hide the reality of levelling down for swathes of the working class, in all areas of the country, and of reinforced regional inequality intertwined with that. The labour movement needs clear demands to “level up” the living standards and rights of as many workers and working-class people as fast as possible, combined with tackling regional inequality. As former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has rightly said, in the run up to the government’s Spending Review, the starting point...

If not more police and stiffer sentences, what will tackle violence against women?

In March this year, the news broke that Sarah Everard had been snatched when walking home in South London, and murdered by a serving police officer. People came together, in person and online, to mourn her death and to share their own stories of fear and of anger, of harassment and abuse. At Clapham Common, her local park, thousands gathered for a vigil and protest that was violently broken up by the police. The history of how gendered violence has been treated in law tells us a lot about how sexist our society is. In 1857, a man was able to beat his wife, so long as the implement he used to...

High wages? Start with strong unions

The Tories want to present anti-migrant policies and the labour shortages caused by those by policies, by Brexit and by poor wages and conditions in key industries like road haulage and social care as a boon for workers. That was the pitch of Boris Johnson’s speech to Conservative Party conference, promising a “high-wage, high-skill, high-productivity economy” in place of “the same old broken model with low wages, low growth, low skills, and low productivity, all of it enabled and assisted by uncontrolled immigration.” The Tories are being aided in this misdirection by the lack of serious...

Interview with Billy Hayes: Time for socialism, time for PR

At Labour Party conference, a motion supporting proportional representation was defeated 42-58, with constituency votes heavily for but union votes heavily against. Billy Hayes is a member of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform (LCER) executive and former Communication Workers' Union general secretary. He spoke to us in a personal capacity; these views are his alone. A cut down version was published in the print version of Solidarity 608 with the headline "We need socialism, but democracy helps". The CLPs voted 80% for PR. What we've yet to do is convince the bulk of the unions. Only four...

Common ownership is key for climate

On 13 September, BBC Newsnight asked shadow business and energy secretary Ed Miliband about Labour for a Green New Deal’s Labour Party conference motion calling for public ownership in energy, water, transport and other sectors: “We’re in favour of common ownership… Keir Starmer said in his leadership campaign he was in favour of public ownership in those areas. We haven’t changed that commitment... And why is that? Let me just explain this to you. Because in particular, in relation to natural monopolies, if we’re going to make this green transition, then public ownership is the right way to...

Increase pay, training, and open borders

The Confederation of British Industry is concerned about labour shortages, especially in areas that could impact on food supply. They want the government to make it easier for migrant workers to come to those jobs in the UK. The government’s response is that they should hire British workers. But, even leaving aside the nationalism here, the work talked about most in the press is HGV drivers. The other jobs the CBI identifies labour shortages in are butchers, construction workers, engineers and IT specialists. None of those jobs can be done by someone immediately. Some jobs listed as having...

Tax the rich for social care, pensions, benefits

Care and Support Workers Organise protest in Manchester on their day of action, 4 September TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady is right to respond to the talk of National Insurance increases by arguing that “it’s time to raise taxes on wealth to fund social care properly”. A section of the right is are using phrases like “intergenerational fairness” to justify removing the triple lock which guarantees substantial increases in the basic state pension (by average earnings, inflation or 2.5%, whichever is higher). Others say that social care should be funded by squeezing older people more...

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