No Ceasefire No Vote conference debates what sort of left we need

Posted on: April 13th, 2024 by TTE
A panel of 5 at the no ceasefire no vote conference

Speakers at the No Ceasefire No Vote conference

People from across Britain gathered in Blackburn, Lancashire, on Saturday for the No Ceasefire No Vote (NCNV) conference. It was designed to build a stronger political challenge to the mainstream parties at the local and general elections over Gaza and other issues.

For much of the day, although there were some excellent contributions, the meeting was rather aimless with about 150 people present. But then George Galloway MP arrived and, because he was crystal-clear about his way forward, he shifted the atmosphere. He rallied much of the room behind him—with all the dangers that represents.

The conference was united by fury and disgust at the way the Tory and Labour parties have backed Israel’s genocide against the Palestinians.

Suleman Khonat, deputy leader of the Blackburn independent group of councillors, said, “It’s time to ditch Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems.”

There were repeated calls to keep building support for the Palestinians and to expose the main parties’ refusal to break from Israel and its Western backers. And there was widespread insistence that the campaigning movement has to be sustained and not put aside because of the elections.

Sabba Shah, a member of Friends of Al Aqsa, urged the movement to learn how to build new networks from the structures created during solidarity with Palestine. 

Activists from Leicester, Pendle, Wigan, Manchester and Merseyside spoke of their enthusiasm for launching an election challenge. 

Lotte Collett from the Independent Socialist Group in Haringey, north London, said that even if there is a ceasefire in Gaza there can be “no meek return to Labour.” She described how “our left bloc on the council fell victim to the strong arm, right wing Labour thugs run on behalf of Starmer”.

But there was also debate about the politics that must shape any pro-Palestine offensive at the polls.

Galloway said his Workers Party of Britain was “with the occupied against the occupier”. “We unequivocally support the right of Palestinian people to resist in whatever way they decide. That’s what solidarity means,” he said. 

He said a vote for any Labour candidate, was a “vote for genocide”. He added that when people say “some Labour candidates aren’t so bad, ask whether that car park for the mosque matters more than the dead children of Gaza”.

He added that he knew some people in the room didn’t much like him and disagreed with him about trans rights, trade unionism or net zero environment policies. But he said they should consider the value of the WPB logo marked people out from other independents. He said it meant they could be part of a challenge by “hundreds of candidates” at the general election.

Galloway didn’t mention the revelations about some of the candidates the WPB is putting forward. They include Billy Howarth, an “anti-grooming” campaigner who has been involved with numerous far right groups. 

The WPB’s readiness to ditch the oppressed in the search for votes offers no way forward and will divide the working class. It reinforces the right wing scapegoating that deflects from the crimes of the rich and imperialism.

It says, for example, that it “offers a migration policy that reflects the anxiety about an influx of migrants which appears to be out of control”. It adds, “People are not wrong to worry about undue burdens being placed on local services and about the cost of hosting escalating numbers of asylum seekers.”

But Galloway doesn’t pull everyone. Earlier in the day at the NCNV conference, there had been hints and references to a different approach to Galloway’s.

Palestinian Mohammed Ghalayani spoke of how the places he knew in Gaza were now all destroyed. He argued that freedom for the Palestinians was inseparable from a wider campaign for liberation. He was applauded when he called for support for “an end to the oppression of women and support for LGBT people too”. 

Michael Lavalette, who is set to run in Preston at the general election as an independent socialist, said, “Independent often means a Tory in disguise. But for us we mean independent of the parties and the establishment that has supported Israel. We are part and parcel of the movement on the streets for Palestine and we are accountable to this movement.”

He added that it was crucial to “put Palestine on the ballot paper” but that the approach needed to be “Palestine plus”—taking up issues such as inequality and anti-racism.

Alan Gibbons from the Liverpool Community Independent councillors said, “We have never seen mobilisations like the ones over Gaza. We’ve had 22 marches in Liverpool.” 


But he too wanted an electoral challenge to take up wider working class concerns such as cuts and austerity. He added that anyone encouraging “anti-migrant feeling is not my brother, is not my sister”. 

Socialist Worker editor Charlie Kimber said, “We’re united by Gaza—but we will be divided unless we also confront all forms of oppression.” He asked WPB supporters in the room to “get rid of Howarth” and to “push for politics that can genuinely fight for liberation in Palestine and more broadly”. 

Many of those in Blackburn felt torn between their wish to punish Labour and uncertainty about the WPB. Ayesha, a Palestine campaigner from Leicester, told Socialist Worker, “I can see the attraction of the Workers’ Party, but I also feel George Galloway won’t in the end set up a movement for everyone. I’d like Jeremy Corbyn to come forward and stand against Labour.”

It’s important to remember that the movement on the streets and in the workplaces is more important than any election challenge. And we need a break from Labourism and its obsession with councils and parliament, not just Starmer. 

NCNV has been a useful forum for debate and a focus for people breaking from Labour. If it is dominated by the politics of the WPB, that will be a disaster.

London Palestine protesters say movement has politicised them

Posted on: April 13th, 2024 by TTE
People hold a ceasefire now banner on the Palestine march in London

On the Palestine march in London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Tens of thousands of pro-Palestine protesters again took over the streets of central London on Saturday—this time for a regional, city-wide demonstration.

Marchers were furious at the way the West continues to back Israel’s genocidal war. And many also expressed their loathing of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

But they were buoyed by yet another big turnout for the march from Russell Square. The protest end point, Parliament Square, was completely packed for a final rally.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign said that over 80,000 people had joined the march.

The demonstration was overwhelmingly young and militant. Some marchers said it was the angriest Palestine protest they’d been on this year, with loud chanting from beginning to end.

Protesters chanted, “Starmer and Sunak sitting in the tree, K I L L I N G.” And across Britain, there were many local Palestine actions and marches too, with some 500 people marching in Leeds.

Seasoned activists and new marchers in London told Socialist Worker the movement must now be ready to fight against Israel’s expansion of the war across the Middle East.

Ayesha, who has been on three demonstrations since January, worries about the “potential of the war to widen” into a fight against Iran. But, she says, “the very vocal support for Palestine from the movement has educated lots more British people”.

David, an administration worker from Edinburgh, took up the same theme. He said that despite Biden’s calls for a ceasefire, he is “still committed to having Israel as a docking station and launch pad for US imperialism”.

He slammed Labour’s complicity in Israel’s genocide, arguing that it’s because “Labour is a political party within a capitalist system”. The writing is on the wall. It’s not possible to describe Labour as a socialist party,” he said. 

Angray, a member of the UCU union, agrees. He said he “left the Labour party in October” over its support for Israel.

“I tore up my card and cancelled my subscription,” he said. “I can never see myself voting Labour again. I can’t tell the difference between Tory and Labour—they both support genocide and austerity.

“Starmer is trying to cultivate the Tory vote and he’s forgotten about working people. He’s offering them nothing.”

Atiyya, on her fourth demonstration this year, was one of many who said that Palestine had politicised them.

She attacked the US for its role in Israel’s war. “Joe Biden has made it clear that there is no ‘red line’ for Netenyahu. Even with aid workers killed there isn’t a stopping point,” she said. 

And Atiyya said that the struggle for Palestine had opened her eyes. “I’m more aware of lots of issues now having realised that everything is political,” she said.

Kitale said the war made her understand that those in charge always ignore ordinary people.

“That’s been a good wake-up call,” she said. “It’s prompted me to learn more, to read more and really educate myself about not only Palestine, but also about imperialism and colonialism.”

Several protesters said they had tried to talk directly to their local MPs and councillors but had got no response. “I emailed my MP about stopping the sales of arms to Israel,” Stephanie explained.

“I got this rubbish generic email back. It makes me think, what’s the point of having MPs that say they represent us when they don’t listen to what their constituents say?”

Frustration at the political system was shown also by interest and some support for new group Youth Demand. It emerged from the climate movement, but now also takes up the Palestine issue.

The group had recently daubed Whitehall’s Ministry of Defence building—which marchers passed by—in blood red paint.

Protester Georgia said that targeting politicians such as Keir Starmer, as Youth Demand did earlier this week, was right.

“I’m for going to MPs’ homes if the protest is peaceful,” she said. “These things get more media coverage than even our demos. They send a message that we know who’s responsible for the killings.”

And a member of Youth Demand told Socialist Worker that, although those at the top aren’t changing, “The people are changing”. They said mainstream “politics has failed us”, before adding, “Youth are demanding something new. We want real democracy through people’s assemblies.”

Many people shared the feeling that the system is working against ordinary people. Dominika, a student from the University of Arts London, said it’s vital to keep protesting. “It’s “people going out on the streets that pressures the government to shift its position,” she said. 

“We need to stop sending arms and funding to Israel.” She explained, “I’m on the streets partly because the Labour Party isn’t doing anything. They sit in parliament, and they don’t care.”

And, she added, regardless of what those at the top do, “we must continue doing what we have been doing since 7 October.

“Unless the genocide stops, we have to be out on the streets or nothing will change. Protest, protest, protest.”­­­


New direct action group Youth Demand speaks out

Posted on: April 12th, 2024 by Thomas Foster
Police arrest Youth Demand activist after the group sprayed Labour HQ with red paint, an activist explained to Socialist Worker in an interview

Police arrest Youth Demand activist after the group sprayed Labour HQ with red paint

“The real question for ordinary people now should not be whether we vote for Labour or Tories. It should be about whether we’ll have a revolution.” These are the words of Chiara, an activist in the group Youth Demand. She explained to Socialist Worker that the new group has two simple demands. 

The first is for the government to stop handing out oil and gas licences to the bosses, especially in the North Sea. The second is for a complete ban on all exports and imports of Israeli arms. On Tuesday last week, the group visited the home of Labour Party leader Keir Starmer. 

It laid out a line of shoes on his doorstep to represent the Palestinian families that are being wiped out by the Israeli state and held a banner that said, “Starmer, stop the killing”. Politicians and the mainstream media rushed to defend Starmer and condemn the group. Chiara hit back at the criticism and explained that those in power have pushed ordinary people to do things those at the top might deem “uncomfortable”. 

“We aren’t in normal circumstances. A genocide is going on. The media and politicians shake their fingers and say that we did something threatening and violent when we targeted an MP. But they don’t apply the same empathy when it comes to the two million people who are under siege in Gaza. We targeted Starmer because he has a job to be the opposition to our current government. Labour is are the government in waiting.” 

Chiara explained that Youth Demand was established to further unite the climate movement in the fight against all forms of oppression, imperialism, and war. 

“The idea took off quickly. We went from discussing it around the kitchen table to making a Google document, and then, within a few days, we started planning direct action. Most of us in the group started as being in the student branch of Just Stop Oil (JSO). So most of us have done a lot of civil disobedience before.”

Alongside Palestine Action, the group targeted the Ministry of Defence, coating its walls with red paint. Chiara added that, importantly, this action was accompanied by a hundred-strong rally of those supporting the direct action. “We want mass direct action,” she explained. “Brave people have to stand up and take part.” In March this year, JSO launched a new organisation, Umbrella, which it described as an “organisation of coordinated projects that are designed to bring about a revolution”.

“Umbrella has an explicit revolutionary aim. We want to change our current regime. That’s our longer-term project,” said Chiara. “We need to combine a street movement with People’s Assemblies to bring about real democracy. I think that means ordinary people sitting around and having meaningful discussions about how things are run. I believe that a revolution is inevitable one day,” she added. “It’s for us to try to shape what that revolution will look like.”

Youth Demand is right to target the institutions and politicians that are complicit in Israel’s genocide of the Palestinians and the destruction of our planet. Socialists should join them when they call protests and actions. But inevitably, like other direct action groups, it will face mounting repression from the state that is already seeking to crush it.

This means that Youth Demand and other groups cannot stand alone. Only by building a movement strong enough to smash the capitalist state can we halt both imperialist wars and climate catastrophe. The only way to do this is to build a climate and Palestine movement where workers, who have the power to shut down society, are central. The success of any revolution ultimately rests in their hands.

Famine is ‘already occurring’ in Gaza admits US official

Posted on: April 12th, 2024 by TTE
Joe Biden and Binyamin Netanyahu illustrating an article about famine in Gaza

Joe Biden is still supporting Binyamin Netanyahu as famine in Gaza sets in

The much-hyped US pressure on Israel has produced precisely zero change in Israel’s starvation regime in Gaza.

Even the Guardian newspaper had to report, “A promised surge in aid into Gaza that Benjamin Netanyahu promised Joe Biden a week ago has so far failed to materialise, aid workers say, as the US aid chief confirmed that famine is beginning to take hold in parts of the besieged coastal strip.” 

The increase in the number of trucks crossing into Gaza claimed by Israel conflicts with UN records.

The New York Times reported, “Facing international condemnation after an Israeli airstrike killed seven workers for an international aid group, Israel said it would reopen the Erez crossing between Israel and northern Gaza for aid delivery. 

“But satellite imagery taken on Tuesday shows that the road leading to Erez on the Gaza side remains blocked by rubble from a destroyed building, a crater and other damage.”

On Wednesday Samantha Power became the first US official to confirm publicly that famine had already got a grip in at least some parts of Gaza. She’s the head of the US humanitarian and development agency, the USAID. 

Power told a congressional committee that her officials had analysed an assessment by food insecurity experts in mid-March. It said that a famine could set in between later the same month and mid-May, and had found that judgment to be “credible”.

“So famine is already occurring there?” Democratic congressman, Joaquin Castro, asked her. “That is—yes,” she replied.

And the US has redoubled its support for Israel if there is an escalation to war with Iran after Israel murdered Iranian officials in Damascus, Syria, recently.

Biden said this week, “As I told prime minister Netanyahu, our commitment to Israel’s security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad, ironclad.

That wasn’t just a slip of the tongue. US defence secretary Lloyd Austin also told Israel’s war minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday of the “ironclad US support for Israel’s defence in the face of growing threats from Iran and its regional proxies”. 

It’s urgent to be on the streets for Palestine and against a spreading and even more terrible war.

  • London demonstration: Saturday 13 April, 12 noon, assemble Russell Square WC1B 5LF for a march to Parliament Square.
  • For details of mobilisations outside London go here or to tinyurl.com/demos1304
  • For Scottish events go here or to twitter.com/scottishpsc

Toll of Israeli assaults

On Friday the Gaza health ministry said Israeli attacks had killed at least 89 Palestinians and injured another 120 in the past 24 hours.

This means Israel has killed at least 33,634 Palestinians and injured 76,214 since 7 October.


Huge support to stop arms to Israel

NGO Action For Humanity projected slogans it projected onto Tower Bridge in London alongside the Save The Children charity last night.

The projection read, “Over 14,000 children killed in Gaza. What are you waiting for? Stop arming Israel. Ceasefire NOW.”

The charity commissioned polling from YouGov, which shows increasing support from the public for an end to exports of arms and parts to Israel. 

Results showed the percentage who think Britain should stop exporting arms or parts to Israel rose from 56 percent to 62 percent between 27 March and 7 April. Now only 16 percent back continuing the arms sales.

Port Talbot steel workers show the way with strike vote

Posted on: April 11th, 2024 by TTE
Tata Steel workers on the march in Port Talbot against Job cuts with Unite the union

Trade unionists on the march against Tata Steel job cuts in Port Talbot (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Around 1,500 steel workers in Port Talbot and Llanwern, South Wales, have voted for strikes over Tata bosses’ plan to close blast furnaces and destroy 2,800 jobs.

If they take action, it will be the first time in over 40 years that Port Talbot steel workers have gone on strike.

Workers in the Unite union backed action despite Tata threatening the workers with the loss of enhanced redundancy pay if they did.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “In the crucial weeks to come, Tata’s workers and Unite will put up picket lines to prevent the company from taking this disastrous path.”  

The union promised that strike dates “scheduled to cause maximum impact will be announced soon”.

It is important to start the action as soon as possible. Recently Tata announced the immediate closure of its coke ovens. These ovens create the fuel that ultimately powers the blast furnaces.

As Unite announced the strike vote, Community, the biggest steel union at last said it would begin its own ballot. It has been hesitating to do this for weeks. It may now fear it will lose members to Unite unless it does so.

The Community vote goes on until mid-May. If that vote is for action, then the whole workforce could stop. But in any case, if Unite calls action no workers should cross the picket line.

It will take real action to win. Bosses have presided over a catastrophic fall in steel jobs, and union leaders have failed to challenge them effectively. 

In the early 1970s, the industry employed around 320,000 people, excluding those employed in steel processing and in supply chains. By 1978 this figure had fallen to 271,000, and by 1991 it had plummeted to just 44,000. 

In 2020, the steel industry employed a workforce that was less than 10 percent of the size of its 1971 workforce.

Labour nationalised steel in 1951, Winston Churchill’s Tories reversed that in 1953, Harold Wilson’s Labour nationalised it again in 1967 and Margaret Thatcher privatised it again in 1988.

But the key issue was less the formal ownership but the fighting capacity of workers. The 13-week national strike over pay in 1980 was betrayed by union leaders and the wider union movement. Even before privatisation, the workforce fell from 142,000 in 1980 to 52,000 in 1988.

As a stream of private firms grabbed sections of the steel industry and tried to make quick profits, the unions responded with slogans about “national security” and demands for more state cash to keep the corporations running the industry on board. 

Workers have to push for a complete break from that approach.

Cass Review will ‘perpetuate systemic injustices’ say health workers

Posted on: April 11th, 2024 by TTE
A picture of the Tavistock illustrating an article about the Cass Review

After Cass’s interim report was published, NHS bosses shut the gender identity development service at the Tavistock centre (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Dr Hilary Cass’s review into trans children’s healthcare is deeply flawed and full of misunderstandings.

The report, published on Wednesday, concludes that the evidence for using puberty blockers is “weak”.

But Christabelle, who does child educational psychology work for a London council, told Socialist Worker, “The evidence base of the report and analysis of the evidence is awful.” She explained that Cass’s “main rationale for not taking into account research that pointed towards using puberty blockers as positive was because it didn’t use a ‘double blind’”.

A “double blind” study is where one group of patients receive the drug and another group a placebo, with the participants unaware of which one they’ve received.

This meant the literature review, which the report’s conclusions are based on, “excluded hundreds of studies, particularly, international studies”. These show that “puberty blockers and hormone treatments lead to positive outcomes for mental health and social outcomes for young trans people”.

Christabelle explained that “double blinds don’t happen in every piece of medical research”. “You can’t have a double blind study when the medicine relies on stopping physical changes,” she said.

“You don’t do double blinds for a vaccine trial. Why would you do a double blind for something as important as a gender identity, when putting gender dysphoria at bay when it has such a big impact on mental health.

“It would be unethical. You would be telling people that you are providing a medicine that will stop the process of puberty and support their transition when it’s just a placebo.”

The Cass Review’s proposals for a more “holistic” approach to care delivered across England sound harmless—or even positive. But, on top of its flawed research, the Tories will use it to undermine trans healthcare.

Monica, a worker in child and adolescent mental health services, said, “I think the report calling for a holistic service for people with gender dysphoria is a good thing.”

But she argued, “The report has a poor characterisation of an affirmation model of gender identity services—it’s overly simplistic. It characterises gender affirmation services as agreeing with the young person and nothing else”.

“But when you look at what clinicians say, that isn’t how affirmation works in practice. In practice, clinicians accept what young people are saying to us but are also open to these things being fluid. Gender affirmation services still accept that children are developing.

“Clinicians in gender affirmation services talk about young people having a subjective gender experience but also remain open to changes over time.” She said the report’s right about the need for “more research into gender identity child services, but that shouldn’t be used to stop access to medical support”.

The report acknowledges that children’s mental health and paediatric services “are stretched across Britain”. But it implies trans children miss out because they’re on waiting lists for gender services. “Gender-questioning children and young people appear to be disproportionately disadvantaged because they are frequently bypassed by local services once on a waiting list for gender services,” it said

“Being trans can have nothing to do with mental health difficulties,” Monica said. “The difficulties can come from bullying from students or teachers at school. But gender dysphoria can cause mental distress. For example, menstruation for young trans people can be a monthly reminder that their body is betraying them.

“We of course need a way to help people with any mental health difficulties, but that shouldn’t block them from getting support with their gender issues.

“You have other young trans people, who in a different world where they’re  accepted for who they are, wouldn’t have any issues with their mental health.

“It’s much more about how society impacts on people that leads to mental health problems, and a convergence between their body and their gender identity.”

Christabelle added, “I’m also worried about the challenge of supporting the mental health of trans young people. If young trans people in schools don’t have access to gender affirming health care, how are we going to support them? The report falls short on that.”

What we need instead is healthcare “centred on children’s rights and listening to children and people making decisions on their own healthcare, within reason”.

Maggie, a healthcare worker from south London, told Socialist Worker that the report has “fundamental problems”. “The Cass report implies that ‘trans ideology’ took over the Gender Identity Clinics (GIDS) and that puberty blockers are part of this ‘trans ideology’,” she told Socialist Worker. “I completely disagree with that.

“The GIDS service was clear that puberty blockers are about giving people time to think, about putting puberty on hold.”

Puberty blockers help “young people who reach puberty and find it unbearable—that was driving the use of the blockers,” Maggie said.

“The closing of the Tavistock clinic has meant we’ve lost all expertise that was at the GIDS clinic. They had maybe 30 to 35 staff and something like 5,000 young people on the waiting list. Whatever dysfunction about the GIDS service, they were completely overwhelmed.”

After Cass’s interim report was published, NHS bosses shut the gender identity development service at the Tavistock centre in east London in 2023. The Tories pledged to open eight regional clinics delivering “a different model of care”—but only one has opened.

Maggie said the government “needs to be putting more money into both gender and Camhs services” but will do the opposite.

Maggie said, “The government is going to move on to a report on adult gender services. But in the research that the University of York did for Cass’s report, seven out of eight adult gender services refused to comply with the research.”

She said services “aren’t putting up blocks or barriers—they didn’t trust the process given how young trans people are being attacked”.

We need a fightback against the attacks on trans people—and for self-identification now, a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy and health care.

As Christabelle said, “The report is going to perpetuate systemic and sustained injustices and add to the cumulative stress that trans young people go through.

“Healthcare and educational workers need to coordinate a response against this anti-trans rhetoric, including pressuring trade unions. We need to coordinate how we can provide meaningful support that affirms trans identity.”

A group of young trans people have organised a “Trans Strike Back” protest against the NHS England ban on hormone blockers. Saturday 20 April, 11.30am, Parliament Square, London

Why is Unison’s leadership silent on the Wilma Brown racism scandal?

Posted on: April 11th, 2024 by TTE
One of the comments retweeted by Wilma Brown's personal account @WilmaBrown19

One of the comments retweeted by Wilma Brown’s personal account @WilmaBrown19

A racism scandal is tearing through the Unison union after reports that one of its most senior figures liked and shared offensive posts on Twitter/X.

Wilma Brown, the chair of the union’s health executive, is said to have endorsed posts linking Scottish first minister Humza Yousaf to Hamas—calling him “Hamas Youseless”. The same account “liked” a message that suggested that Scottish government aid to Gaza would be used to fund Hamas.

Other liked posts included criticism of a man wearing a turban saying the St George’s Cross was his flag. It was retweeted with the comment, “You’re literally Indian. It is not your flag. You will NEVER be an Englishman.”

Brown also appeared to endorse anti-trans Tweets. All of the posts were liked on her personal account @WilmaBrown19, with her candidate account @wilmabrown4lab being locked and protected and unable to be viewed by the public.

Brown was until Wednesday a Labour candidate for one of its key Westminster target seats—Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy.

Scottish Labour suspended her as soon as news of the racist tweets emerged. But shamefully there has so far been no word from Unison.

The union is a key force in the Labour Party and strongly backs its most right wing elements. As an MP, Brown was to be another well-placed link between the Unison bureaucracy and Keir Starmer’s machine.

And with her background as a nurse and health trade unionist, Starmer would have found her very useful when selling Labour’s NHS privatisation policies.

Alarm bells about Brown started ringing at this week’s Unison health conference. As chair of the health executive, she was expected to play a leading role at the meeting, shaping the union’s policy for the year ahead.

Also important for the conference was supposed to be Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting. He had on Monday written a column in the hateful Sun newspaper which talked up plans to hand the private health companies control of parts of the NHS.

Those who opposed health service privatisation were just “middle class lefties”, he sneered. He also claimed he was up for a fight with the health unions over the issue.

Fury at Brown, and the Unison leadership’s refusal to suspend her, has led many union activists to sign a letter of no confidence in her.

Addressed to the union’s general secretary, it states that the chair of the health executive “is the most senior lay member post in the health sector of Unison”.

“Racism, Islamophobia and transphobia have no place in our union, and are especially damaging in the health sector which is proudly so diverse,” it continues.  

“We no longer have any confidence in Wilma Brown as the chair of the Health Service Group Executive of Unison, nor any other union position she may hold.

“We call on her to resign and for Unison to act immediately in line with its long-stated principles of anti-racism and anti-transphobia. It is time for change at both government level and in our union.”

The letter, initiated on Wednesday, already has the signatures of over 80 Unison activists—and should be spread widely.

Unison cannot proclaim itself to be an anti-racist union, and to be fighting for equality for all working in the health services, while Brown remains in post. So Unison leaders must move quickly to remove her.

But the episode ought to provoke a wider reflection in the union about its relationship with Labour.

The party’s failure to defend Palestine, its eagerness to promote NHS privatisation, and its endorsement of racist immigration policies, all run contrary to Unison policy.

Unison leaders should stand up for the union’s principles, not those that the Starmer gang would like to impose on them.

The Communist Manifesto: the ‘most important political document in history’

Posted on: April 11th, 2024 by TTE
Karl Marx, illustrating a story about The Communist Manifesto

Karl Marx’s and Frederick Engels’ Communist Manifesto was published amid a revolutionary wave in 1848

For many, there may never seem to be the right time to sit down and digest The Communist Manifesto. And besides, is a book written by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in 1848 even relevant today?

Phil Gasper grapples with this question head-on in the latest edition of this book, The Communist Manifesto—A Roadmap to History’s Most Important Political Document. It is an accessible read which makes clear its audience—the masses.

To call the Manifesto “history’s most important political document” is no exaggeration. If ever there were a time to pick up this book, it would be today. Horrors around the world seem not to be ebbing, but rather accelerating.

Marx and Engels explain that capitalism is a system based on infinite accumulation of capital. They write how the “need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases” the capitalists “over the entire surface of the globe”.

And, because of these dynamics, the system has a tendency to crash and for crises to occur. The working class—those who have to sell their labour power, their ability to work, for a wage—will have to pay the price for such crises.

Whether it be through cuts to wages, benefits, healthcare and education or war and climate crisis, it’s us—the majority—that are worst affected by capitalism.

But there is hope. Marx and Engels identified the working class as a force able to bring down capitalism and transform society for the better.

People can become radicalised and their ideas change during struggle. Working class people can come to understand their collective power as those who create capitalists’ profits. It is for this reason Marx says that “capitalism creates its own gravediggers”.

This edition of The Communist Manifesto is abundantly annotated and allows the reader, whether new to this text or not, to navigate it with ease. It locates the historical context Marx and Engels wrote it in—the era of the 1848 revolutions—helping us to understand the nuances of the language in the original text.

It makes no presumptions, and consequently it is hard to put the book down without feeling compelled to delve deeper into Marxist politics. Dotted throughout are sections such as, “Marxism in a Nutshell,” which strip Marxism back to its most basic foundational elements of working class self-emancipation.

The Manifesto is still a reference point today in our efforts to tackle this rotten capitalist system, the same system that was in its infantile stages when Marx put pen to paper to write it.  

When Marx and Engels ended the Manifesto with the call to action, “Workers of the world unite!”, the working class was 2 to 3 percent of the world population. Today, wage workers are a global majority with a huge potential to bury this rotten system.

The Communist Manifesto: A Road Map to History’s Most Important Political Document by Frederick Engels and Karl Marx, edited by Phil Gasper (Haymarket Books, Second Edition, March 2024)