Is the Liverpool road still possible?

Keir Starmer launched the Labour Party’s campaign for the May local and mayoral elections in England on March 11 by majoring on Boris Johnson’s plan for a 1% rise-but-real-terms-pay-cut for nurses and other NHS workers.

This line of attack on the Tories was chosen even though, as the BBC report archly put it, “NHS pay for England is decided nationally, rather than by councils”.

Yet even then, on his chosen field, Starmer avoided media questions about whether he would join nurses on a picket line or what he felt would be an appropriate pay rise, other than saying that the 2.1% previously agreed in 2019 would be ‘a good starting point’.

But what about the council elections? A National Audit Office (NAO) report had been released the previous day showing that 94% of English local authorities expect to cut spending in the year ahead after the hit to their finances from the Covid pandemic. Yet nothing was said on what Labour-led councils would do under Starmer to resist the coming turbo-charged austerity against local public services.

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Scottish Blairism is back

As expected the Blairite, right-wing candidate Anas Sarwar was elected leader of the Scottish Labour Party when the results were announced on February 27. The outcome, allied to Starmer’s increasing grip on the UK Labour Party, marks the end of the Corbyn left’s challenge to the dominant capitalist wing of the Labour Party. Indeed Jeremy Corbyn himself is still excluded from the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and is no longer a Labour MP. The millionaire tendency are definitively back in the driving seat.

That the Corbyn ‘revolution’ has ended with the same Blairites back in charge was only possible because of the political and organisational compromises made to the right by the Labour left during the four and a half years of Corbyn’s leadership. Rather than use the mass enthusiasm for Corbyn, reflected in the hundreds of thousands who joined Labour, to create a genuine workers’ party and drive out the pro-capitalist elements this opportunity was squandered. 

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Catalonia ferment undimmed

Weeks of protests against the jailing of rapper Pablo Hasél have rocked Catalonia and other parts of the Spanish state, becoming a lightning rod for the anger of a generation whose lives have hit a dead end. These social explosions are just a taste of the revolutionary confrontations that lie ahead.

The Mossos (Catalan police) finally arrested Hasél on February 16, after he had barricaded himself in the University of Lleida with supporters, refusing to comply with attempts by state forces to jail him after he was convicted under the hated Citizen Safety Law.

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Global Warning: The dark side of clean energy

The Rare Metals War: the dark side of clean energy and digital technologies

By Gullaume Pitron (translated by Bianca Jacobsohn)

Published by Scribe, 2020, £16.99

Are ‘green’ and digital technologies environmentally friendly? The transition to green and digital technologies is portrayed as the way to move to zero carbon emissions and a clean environment by reducing our dependency on nuclear power and fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources are promoted as clean, environmentally friendly and sustainable. Renewable energy sources are an increasing proportion of the energy we use. Digital technologies maximise the efficiency of renewable power production and consumption. The full story is, however, more complex.

Guillame Pitron’s book fills in some of the gaps in this green and digital technology story. Pitron is a French investigative journalist and documentary film maker. The book is the result of six years of research in a dozen countries. It was written in 2018 and translated into English and published in 2020.

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A new Diana moment?

Following Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s incendiary interview with Oprah Winfrey, comparisons have been made with previous royal crises. PAULA MITCHELL looks at the events surrounding the death of Princess Diana in 1997 which rocked the capitalist establishment and asks, what is the significance of this new royal drama?

On 7 March, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey in which they accused the royal family of racism, of lying about Meghan in their briefings, and ignoring her pleas for help with her mental health. Over twelve million people in the UK watched the interview and many more have watched and discussed it since. #AbolishTheMonarchy trended on social media. Tabloids described the impact as “utter devastation”. The Palace was reported to be in “meltdown”. Harry “used the atomic bomb”; it was a “declaration of war”.

The front page of the Mirror newspaper described the consequences of the interview as the worst crisis for the monarchy in 85 years, referring to the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936. Lots of people have pointed out that this comment overlooks the Prince Andrew sex scandal, a potential powder keg. But importantly it also overlooks the enormous events that engulfed the monarchy following the death of Princess Diana in 1997. 

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Liverpool’s real legacy of struggle

Liverpool is in the news with the desperate situation facing the city’s public services behind the meltdown of the council’s Blairite Labour leadership. Once again the example of the 1983-87 city council’s refusal to implement austerity is posed. Edited extracts from an article by PETER TAAFFE first published in the spring 1986 edition of Militant International Review, No.31, the predecessor magazine of Socialism Today, give a real time defence of the city that showed how to fight.

The British ruling class have been shaken to their foundations by the magnificent struggle of the Liverpool city council and working class. In the miners’ strike and in Liverpool are to be found the germs of the mass conflicts which will convulse Britain on a national scale in the future. There can be no other explanation for the vile and unprecedented campaign of slander and of personal vilification of the leaders of the city council and District Labour Party. A new Tower of Babel, of lies, misinformation and half-truths has been constructed by the hirelings of capital in Fleet Street and the media.

Both nationally and local­ly the ruling class and their organs are determined to smash Liverpool as a symbol for workers everywhere mov­ing into struggle. Like with the miners, Margaret Thatcher wanted to ensure that ‘militancy does not pay’. She describ­ed the miners as ‘the enemy within’. She reserved the same venomous class hatred for the working class of Liver­pool: “They do not have enough respect for my office… these people must be put down”. (Quoted in Liverpool On The Brink, by Michael Parkinson)

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A history of struggle for workplace safety

Workplace safety has been a key battleground for unions during the pandemic, alongside job losses and attacks on the pay and conditions. JIM HORTON places current struggles for workplace safety into historical context.

Covid-19 is a class issue, no more so than in the workplace where the pandemic has exposed capitalism’s innate disregard for workers’ health and safety. Workplace infections account for a significant proportion of all Covid cases, with 40% of people testing positive for Covid-19 reporting prior ‘workplace or education’ activity.

According to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) over ten thousand workers have died of the virus from workplace infections, on average 200 a week. Countless more are suffering the health complications of long covid, yet the media has given scant attention to the bosses’ failure to keep workers safe in their workplaces, with serious implications for the wider community. This is not new, with pre-pandemic cases of workplace deaths, injuries, and ill-health rarely reported by the mainstream media.

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The struggle needs an electoral arm

After the defeat of Corbynism within the Labour Party HANNAH SELL looks at the vital question of the struggle for working-class political representation, and the approach currently been taken by different elements of the workers’ movement and left.

In the wake of Starmer’s election as Labour leader there is growing anger among trade unionists at his consistent defence of the interests of the bosses. Ian Hodson, the president of the Bakers’ Union (BFAWU), for example, has reported that a consultation of his unions’ members on disaffiliation from the Labour Party has found that only 9% think that Labour is serving their interests at the present time. In this situation the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) – involving the Socialist Party, the RMT transport workers’ trade union, ex-Labour MP Chris Williamson and others – has agreed to relaunch its electoral activities. However, at this moment TUSC’s stance is alone on the left, with most other forces failing to even pose the question of how to fight for workers’ interests at the ballot box.

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Could a London Mayor challenge start the fight back?

The London Mayoral elections are just round the corner. As is stands the current right-wing Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan has a 20-point lead over the Tory candidate Shaun Bailey. But what does this really mean for working class people in London?

Many Sadiq Khan supporters in his first election campaign in 2016 used the meme, Sadiq Can, but if the recent Mayor’s Question Time is anything to go by, we are stuck with Sadiq Can’t. There was a constant list of things he ‘wouldn’t and couldn’t’ do and nothing about what he would be doing to challenge the Tories. This means the offer before Londoners in May is between who wields the axe in the coming post-Covid austerity offensive.

Working class Londoners deserve an alternative. That’s why the Socialist Party alongside others in the RMT transport workers’ union have been calling on Jeremy Corbyn to put himself forward as a fighting socialist candidate for Mayor. It would mean stepping outside the confines of the Keir Starmer-controlled Labour Party which removed the Labour parliamentary whip from Corbyn last year.  

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Covid crisis one year on

The first UK death from Covid-19 was recorded on 2 March 2020. Twelve months and over 120,000 deaths later, most people have been through greater upheavals than since the second world war. The UK has been one of the worst hit countries in the world.

Fear rapidly grew – an unknown illness, highly infectious, no known treatment, a high fatality rate among the elderly but even fit younger people sometimes dying or left with life-changing after-effects. Lockdown and lost income as sectors of the economy ground to a sudden halt magnified feelings of stress. Boris Johnson’s reckless determination to prioritise capitalist business crashed after ending up in intensive care himself.

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