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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New START – new hope for peace?

The Biden administration’s January 26 joint agreement with Russian president Vladimir Putin to sign ‘New START’, a five year extension to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, was greeted with some relief.

After the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, START was the only remaining international agreement limiting the number of nuclear weapons Russia and the US have, in this case to 1,550 each.

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Scotland and the national question today

The coming Scottish parliament elections are poised to open up a new crisis for the Johnson government, with the break-up of the United Kingdom a possible ultimate outcome. In edited extracts from the opening chapter of a recent new book from Socialist Party Scotland, PHILIP STOTT explains the Marxist position on Scotland and the national question today.

Forty years of increased capitalist ‘globalisation’ has delivered two of the most devastating economic crises in world history. The 2007-08 world financial collapse and the subsequent decade of austerity has now been followed by the Covid catastrophe.

These world changing events have underlined the utter incapacity of capitalism to repair the decaying edifice of their system. The increased economic stagnation and soaring levels of inequality – seared into the DNA of capitalism – has brought untold misery for the global working class and the poor.

The reaction to this will, on the one hand, provoke mass struggles and even uprisings of the masses that will shake the bourgeoisie and threaten their rule. Not least will this be the case around issues of national, ethnic and religious oppression. The struggle for basic national democratic rights is likely to reach untold levels of intensity in the years ahead.

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Trouble on the High Street

Retail has felt the full impact of the Covid pandemic but the resulting heightened struggle between different capitalist interests within the sector, and between big business and retail workers, reflects longer-term trends. IAIN DALTON reviews a new book on the retail industry.

Retail Therapy: Why the Retail Industry is Broken

By Mark Pilkington

Bloomsbury Business, 2020, £12-99

The past few years have seen carnage in the UK retail industry. After annual shop closures had grown by a thousand or so for the past few years, the outbreak of the Covid pandemic saw 11,120 chain store outlets closing between January and June 2020.

The US, the other epicentre of the current crisis in retailing, has faced a similar landslide of store closures and job losses. One particular feature is the widespread closures of shopping malls, which had been perhaps the most iconic symbol of American consumerism. Pilkington cites figures of 454 malls in the US which have closed or gone into serious decline, a significant proportion of the around 1,500 malls built between 1956 and 2005. He also cites Credit Suisse who suggest that only around 250 will still thrive in coming years.

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Global Warning: Not adapting, won’t survive

The United Nations Adaption Gap Report 2020 investigates the world’s increasing vulnerability to climate change disasters and measures how countries are adapting to mitigate them – the gap between what is needed, and what has been achieved. It concludes that progress is insufficient and that the necessary money has not been forthcoming. The gap is widening.

The warnings are stark: “2020 was not only the year of the pandemic, it was also the year of intensifying climate impacts”, the report says. “Floods, droughts and storms affected over 50 million people. Wildfires devastated forests and communities. Plagues of locusts devoured vital crops in East Africa”.

“We have not heeded these warnings. Based on current pledges under the Paris Agreement, the world is heading for at least a 3°C temperature rise this century. If this happens, 2020 will seem like a walk in the park”.

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The War on the Uighurs

The War on the Uighurs: China’s campaign against Xinjiang’s Muslims

By Sean R Roberts

Published by Manchester University Press, 2020, £20

Reviewed by Clare Doyle

The struggle against oppression by the Muslim Uighurs of Xinjiang, China’s westernmost province, is nothing new. Their homeland has been fought over for centuries and the particular suppression of national rights by Han Chinese regimes long predates the present regime in Beijing. Nor have governments outside China been unaware of the vicious persecution of Uighurs and other minorities in China or the denial of basic trade union and democratic rights across the vast, rapidly industrialising country for that matter. But for some time these inconvenient truths were swept under the carpet during negotiations over trade deals that benefitted the money-makers on both sides of the table.

Now, in a climate of increasing enmity between China and its competitor rivals, once again the questions of oppression and democratic rights in China are being highlighted. The plight of the eleven million Uighurs in Xinjiang, along with that of the three million plus ‘imprisoned’ Tibetans, have been raised more than once at international gatherings of United Nations bodies taking up human rights issues. But nothing much will come from this. The big power rivals use the UN and other such bodies as platforms to attempt to give a ‘democratic’ cover to their actions or to hypocritically attack each other. It does not mean that the accusations are always false, but that often it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

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