Like all the processes in society speeded up by the Covid-19 crisis, the consequences of the defeat of Corbynism within the Labour Party framework for working class political representation are being revealed more acutely by the day.
As discontent with Boris Johnson’s leadership grows inside the Tory party at his inept handling of the pandemic – and amongst wider circles of the ruling class for his reckless Brexit talks brinkmanship – the Keir Starmer New Labour-retread leadership becomes ever more determined to prove itself a reliable alternative for capitalism.
“A new poll has suggested that 58% now say that they would vote Yes in another independence referendum” in Scotland, noted the elections analyst professor John Curtice, writing for the BBC website on October 14. “No previous poll has put ever support for independence so high. More importantly this is the ninth poll in a row since June to put Yes ahead”, he went on. “It is the first time in Scottish polling history that support for independence has consistently outstripped backing for staying in the Union”.
The Scottish parliamentary elections, Covid permitting, are due to take place in May 2021. All the current indications point to a landslide win for the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) who are riding high at 58% support.
When the Covid-19 virus first broke in Northern Ireland, workers were once again told that ‘we are all in this together’. It is no more true today than during the 2008 bankers’ crisis where capitalist governments attempted to push the cost of the crisis onto our backs.
Working-class people are paying the price for capitalist governments who seek to prioritise profit over public health. North and South the authorities were refusing to follow the recommendations of the medical professionals, despite having asked for impartial advice.
Climate Strike: the practical politics of the climate crisis
By Derek Wall
Published by Merlin Press, 2020, £10
Reviewed by Clive Heemskerk
Derek Wall was a founder of the Association of Socialist Greens grouping that existed within the Green Party in England and Wales in the 1980s and, later, a leading figure in the Green Left.
In 2006 he became the Greens’ co-Principal Speaker, the closest role to that of leader within the party before it changed its structure to include a formal leader position in 2008 (which was won by the then MEP Caroline Lucas).
Given this background his new book, as would be expected, provides a good summary of the climate crisis, including in an early chapter a sober assessment of challenges to the science of climate change.
While not formally triggered, an election contest is under way for the leadership of Unite, the pivotal trade union in Britain both industrially and politically. ROB WILLIAMS examines the key issues at stake.
Over the next 18 months, and perhaps sooner, the three biggest unions in Britain – Unite, Unison and GMB – will have elected new general secretaries. Being the largest affiliates to the Labour Party, these elections will have particular significance for Sir Keir Starmer as he looks to consolidate his leadership victory over Corbynism. As it desperately looks to navigate out of the Covid crisis, the capitalist establishment is closely monitoring these events. In particular, it will be assessing whether Len McCluskey’s successor as the general secretary of Unite is capable of maintaining the union’s challenge to the Blairites in Labour. As the BBC’s Iain Watson said, “The result of that contest will determine whether the union works closely with Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership, or is willing to be openly critical”. (19 August)
Racism and homophobia are intrinsic to the role of the police under capitalism. The experience of an individual officer fighting to challenge discrimination is the subject of a recent book, reviewed by SARAH SACHS-ELDRIDGE.
Forced Out: A detective’s story of prejudice and resilience
By Kevin Maxwell
Published by Granta Books, 2020, £14-99
Forced Out is a personal account of a black gay police officer who experienced systematic and persistent racism and homophobia within the police. Kevin Maxwell recounts the sustained and high-level attempts to silence him when he challenged discrimination. As a child he says he was “obsessed with, seduced by, the police force”. But just over a decade after joining up, his experience made him ill and he was forced to resign.
Maxwell’s is not a wholly unique experience in terms of black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) and LGBT+ police officers in Britain. In 2008, as he points out, the Secret Policeman Returns Panorama documentary found that 72% of Black Police Association (BPA) members had experienced racism at work and 60% felt their career had been hindered by their ethnicity. He says that most officers who are BAME, women and/or LGBT+ and make it to the top of the police do so by not challenging discrimination, to the extent of denying the reality of racism, sexism, and homophobia, and even hiding their sexuality.
TONY SAUNIOS, secretary of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), asks, which forces will gain from the Covid crisis?
More than six months of the Covid-19 pandemic and global crisis have exposed everything that is rotten in this era of capitalist decline. Global capitalism is in a putrefying prolonged death agony, which is inflicting misery on millions of people on a scale not seen for an entire historical era.
Humankind’s productive forces stagnate, and the technological leaps forward made in recent years are failing to raise the material conditions of the mass of the global population. The environmental crisis reflected in recent fires and floods is causing additional suffering and dislocation. Internationally, an economic, political and social crisis not witnessed since the 1930s is unfolding at breakneck speed. The horrific consequences have demonstrated the crucial necessity for the working class to build mass socialist parties that offer an alternative to capitalism. “The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by an historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat”, wrote Leon Trotsky in 1938, words that are apposite to the situation we face today.
Council House Britain
A TV series on Channel Four
Available to watch at channel4.com
Reviewed by Elizabeth Gallagher
As a lifelong resident of Southwark, growing up in a council flat on the eleventh floor, and still living in a council property, you would think that the recent series on Channel Four, Council House Britain, would have been of interest to me.
I received an email from Southwark advertising the show and having a quick look at my local paper, I found an article by councillor Kieran Williams, Southwark council cabinet member for housing, saying that the council was committed to the documentary.
It is now over six months since the World Health Organisation declared the Covid-19 outbreak to be a global pandemic, and two weeks later, that Britain went into lockdown.
After retreating from his government’s original ‘let them get herd immunity’ strategy – the existence of which was confirmed in August by Jeremy Corbyn reporting Cabinet Office briefings he attended in the spring on Privy Council confidentiality terms – Boris Johnson initially benefited from a rally round the prime minister mood as the public health crisis escalated.
The enforced government U-turns over the grading of this summer’s school exams has shone a spotlight on the inbuilt class inequality inherent in education under capitalism.
The disputed algorithm at the heart of the grading controversy had inequality programmed into it. With school students unable to sit written examinations because of the Covid crisis, schools were asked to provide estimated grades for their GCSE and A-level students based on their knowledge of the students’ work. But the exam authorities decided that these predictions then had to be processed through an algorithm that prioritised the previous overall exam performance of the school, rather than that of an individual student.