Electric picket lines in Coventry as black cab makers strike

Posted on: June 13th, 2024 by TTE
a crowd shot of the picket line at the Coventry electric black cab taxi strike

Workers who make electric black cabs in Coventry strike (Picture: Sean Leahy)

Workers at the London Electrical Vehicle Company (LEVC) had big picket lines on Thursday.

The Unite union members, who make electric black cab taxis and other cars at Ansty Park in Coventry, are demanding a pay rise. They also began an overtime ban this week. 

Paul, who works at LEVC building electric cars, told Socialist Worker, “We’ve never had a decent pay rise in the eight years we’ve been at the factory in Ansty Park. 

“Pay has gone down and down past where it should be. The union ran some numbers and found that it was almost 20 percent below the industry average. Our pay is now only about £2 or £3 more than the hourly minimum wage. 

“We are asking for a 5 percent pay rise and a £1,000 lump sum. At first the bosses offered us a 3.5 percent rise and a £350 taxable lump sum. Workers rejected the offer. 

“Then they offered us an extra £50 lump sum. The workers thought this was insulting—what’s an extra £50? It’s not even a weekly food shop for a family. It wouldn’t even pay a bill. 

“Finally, we got offered a 4 percent rise with a £500 lump sum, but the bosses said this wouldn’t be back-paid to January and we’d only get back pay from April.

“They said this was their final offer. Workers rejected again and voted to strike.” 

Paul explained that years of stagnating pay have pushed workers to get organised. He said they recently elected new union reps and started having much bigger union meetings. Union membership at the factory rose from 30 to around 100. 

“People joined the union to be part of this action,” he said. “Now when we have a union meeting the shop floor shuts down. 

“Managers made fun of us saying there weren’t enough union members to make a difference. But now when we stop working, production stops.”

Paul added that unity among the workforce meant the picket lines on Thursday were big. “The mood inside the factory has been bad. We feel like the bosses have taken us for granted,” he said. “But the picket lines were great. Everyone felt good. We’re more united than ever.” 

He said that workers are sick of bosses who blame them for bad sales. “But even though they can’t sell the cars, the top bosses are still getting bonuses,” he said. “The bosses want us to accept less because the business is struggling.

“What they don’t seem to understand is that we’re struggling. Many of us can’t afford to run a car to get to work every day.” 

After just one day of strikes, the bosses at LEVC said they would sit down for negotiations starting next week. But Paul said that workers are ready to keep striking if they don’t get the offer they want. 

Aberdeen student encampment for Palestine finishes on a high

Posted on: June 13th, 2024 by TTE
A crowd shot of students at the Aberdeen encampment for Palestine, one has an orange flare

Students at the Aberdeen encampment for Palestine

The Palestine encampment at Aberdeen university packed up on Wednesday after five weeks of action, with management making concessions.

Student Fiona praised the encampment “for bringing a community together, the university to the table and holding the university to account”. She added the lesson from the encampment is that “there needs to be an escalation to do something about it” if a university is complicit in Israel’s genocide.

The university management has committed to reviewing its investments with the aim of extending the scope of its ethical investment policy. It would cover the entire arms sector and companies which are involved in the illegal settlements in Palestine.

Management has committed to reviewing its contract with HP computer systems, which provide computer hardware to the Israeli army and maintain data servers for the Israeli police.

It has confirmed that there will be no institutional or academic ties between it and any Israeli universities in the future. And it has committed to joining the Higher Education Scholarships for Palestinians scheme.

The management has put out a statement “demanding an immediate cessation of military offensive in Rafah”. It calls for “the protection of the Palestinian communities in Gaza from genocidal acts and the opening of channels for basic and humanitarian supplies”.

After receiving the university’s pledges, which were announced last Thursday, students at Aberdeen decided to remain at the encampment. This was until management took initial steps towards making the commitments.

On Tuesday, the students met with management and confirmed deadlines for it to take action on the commitments.

The students then decided to begin to decamp. Students at the encampment posted on social media, “We know this is not the end of the struggle.

“Continued engagement with the university is essential to ensure that it follows through on its commitments in the long term.”

Rory, a student at Aberdeen university, told Socialist Worker that the encampment resisted pressure to decamp earlier until they secured more assurances. He said, “After we saw management’s statement for the first time, we told them we wanted more concrete timelines to be in place. On Tuesday they provided a timeline of events.

He said that students have a plan for re-escalating in September. “We will be back in September to hold them to their word,” he added.

Fiona said, “It was hard to get concessions in any form.” But she said, “We have got the university to not engage with Israel in any form, amounting to essentially an academic boycott—although they don’t want to call it that.”

Rory said that the students are ready for more action. “If things don’t happen by the dates they have given us, then we will take action. The timeline allows us to hold them to account,” he said.

Rory said, “Students are much more up for direct action and prepared for further action. It’s been a training ground to prepare for the future. And people see the university management as not on our side too.”

Fiona agreed, “It took away any optimistic view of what the university is. The way senior management spoke to us was disgraceful and that changed perceptions.”

Rory said the plan for September is “for us to go in very hard”. “We want to jump start momentum by starting political activity as soon as we get back. There are more people ready to disrupt and more events to disrupt next year.

“If management doesn’t comply with divestment, then we will head straight back into political activity whether that is encampment or something else.”

Students fighting for Palestine “are stronger now than when we were” before the encampment, Fiona added. “The encampment brought together a lot of different activists. People are ready to fight for Palestine in whatever way they can,” she said.

It shows that action can win concessions and build up the Palestine movement on campus.

Former Tory donor cheers as Starmer launches the Labour manifesto

Posted on: June 13th, 2024 by TTE
Keir Starmer and a crowd of Labour shadow minister hold the Labour manifesto at the launch

Keir Starmer and the shadow cabinet at the Labour manifesto launch (Picture: Labour Party)

Keir Starmer launched Labour’s manifesto on Thursday to praise from bosses—and heckles from climate campaigners.

Starmer said Labour is “pro-business” and the “party of wealth creation”. Iceland supermarket chief executive Richard Walker—a former Tory donor—gushed that Labour has “the most pro-growth, pro-business treasury we have ever seen”.

But the start of Starmer’s speech was interrupted by Alice, a protestor from Green New Deal Rising, shouting, “Same old Tory policies.”

Starmer didn’t announce any new policies—instead, he reiterated Labour’s pro-business stance. The centrepiece of the Labour manifesto is “economic stability”, which means no policies that might upset bankers, bosses and the rich.

 “You cannot play fast and loose with the public finances,” Starmer said in his speech.

Spending pledges in Labour’s manifesto are minimal. They include a promise to set up Great British Energy (GBE) and the National Wealth Fund.

GBE will create a publicly-owned power company that will compete with private corporations. It will receive only £8.3 billion of funding over the next five years—and there are no plans for nationalising utilities to run them as a public service.

The manifesto’s green pledges are a similar story. Labour’s National Wealth Fund will invest in green energy, but it amounts to just £7.8 billion over the next parliament.

The National Grid’s operating profit was £4.8 billion from 2022-23, but again the Labour manifesto leaves private profit untouched.

Labour isn’t even going to raise taxes on the rich or corporations to pay for GBE or the wealth fund. It will cap the rate of corporation tax at 25 percent for the entire parliament. And there will be no increases to capital gains tax, which is levied on rich people’s profits from selling shares and second homes.

Instead, Labour would fund infrastructure through the current windfall tax on oil and gas companies. It talks of a “crackdown” on people who dodge tax through “non-domiciled” status, when the rich live in Britain but are legally registered elsewhere.

Alice, the protestor, said that, “We need better, the climate can’t wait. The climate can’t wait we need a green new deal now.”

Labour’s “New Deal for Working People” is tenuous. It includes banning fire and rehire practices, ending zero hour contracts and repealing the 2016 Trade Union Act that placed turnout thresholds on strike ballots.  

But Labour has given big business an effective veto. The manifesto states, “We will consult fully with businesses, workers, and civil society on how to put our plans into practice before legislation is passed.”

Starmer made clear a Labour government would build on the Tories’ attacks on migrants—rather than taking on the racist lie that immigration is a threat.  Labour’s new Border Security Command would ensure “failed asylum seekers can swiftly be sent back” in a continuation of the Tories’ scapegoating of migrants.

The manifesto says Labour wants to reduce net migration. Its commitment to get the “NHS back on its feet” forgets how reliant the health service is on migrant workers.

And Labour won’t give a huge injection of cash to the NHS or kick out the private companies that leach off the health service. Instead, it wants health workers—who are already overstretched through understaffing—to do more.

The party’s commitment to 40,000 more NHS appointments each week will be achieved “by incentivising staff to carry out additional appointments out of hours”. It has also removed the words the NHS “is not for sale” from its manifesto.

Despite Starmer’s claims that this is “a plan to change Britain”, he’s committed to not upsetting the rich and bosses.

Millions will vote Labour on 4 July to boot out the hated Tories and in the hope of seeing change after 14 years of attacks on working class people. It’s right that many people expect more from Labour Party. But we’ll have to fight a Starmer government from day through strikes, protest and mass mobilisations to win the changes we need.  

Environmental Warfare in Gaza by Shourideh C Molavi review: How Zionism causes climate catastrophe in Palestine

Posted on: June 13th, 2024 by TTE
Environmental Warfare in Gaza by Shourideh C Molavi

Environmental Warfare in Gaza by Shourideh C Molavi

Settler colonialism and environmental destruction interact in devastating ways in Palestine.

The extraction of oil and gas in the Middle East is a major source of the hydrocarbons, which are causing climate change. And the water-stressed region is in the front-line of the impact of that change.

Until relatively recently, there hasn’t been much written about the environmental impact of Zionist military occupation and settler colonialism, even by those who support the Palestinian cause.

In this important new book, Shourideh Molavi has amassed a wealth of research to address this neglected but vital issue. As she points out, “The Nakba has also a lesser-known environmental dimension.”

The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians—known as the Nakba, which began in 1948—is “a process of colonially imposed climate change”. It saw “the complete transformation of the environment, the weather, the soil, the loss of the indigenous climate, the vegetation, the skies”.

This book exposes the Zionist myth that Israeli settlers made “let the desert bloom”. It documents the wholesale destruction of Palestinian agriculture, from the once lush citrus groves of towns such as Jaffa to the now desert-like Gaza perimeter.

One of the objectives of this type of settler colonialism is to actively deny and destroy what existed before.

A recurring theme of the book is the engineered water scarcity created by Zionist occupation. It includes damming groundwater for the benefit of the Israeli settlements surrounding Gaza.

Molavi points how Zionism has tried to “greenwash” the occupation—with NGOs claiming it’s helped the environment—to erase the memory of Arab villages and agriculture.

One NGO, the Jewish National Fund, planned and financed many pine plantations, but this meant the uprooting of Palestinian olive groves. This process explains why the pine has become a hated symbol of Zionist occupation and why many Palestinians counter it by identifying with the olive tree.

The book’s focus is the situation in Gaza, which was grim even before the recent Israeli onslaught.

Gaza is a creation of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). Molavi gives a blow-by-blow account of the creation of the Gaza perimeter, starting in 1970 with general Ariel Sharon’s “Pacification of Gaza”. Repeated assaults by the IOF have extended this perimeter security zone on numerous occasions.

The IOF used bulldozers as a tool of military domination and environmental destruction. They constructed watch towers which required clear lines of site for snipers and CCTV. They sprayed military grade herbicides which often spread into Palestinian agricultural land.

The IOF has created a lifeless moonscape, a killing zone that was once covered in orange groves.

In 2018, we witnessed how Israel used this infrastructure to kill and maim hundreds of unarmed Palestinians marching peacefully for the right of return to their land.  And we have seen it again since the Palestinian assault on the hated perimeter wall on 7 October 2023.

Molavi rightly emphasises Palestinian resilience to this multilayered onslaught. She concludes, “As long as this desire, conscious and tacit, to create a settler ecology out of the ecology of Palestine continues, novel and subversive frontiers of resistance to confront it will also continue to blossom.”

The climate justice movement is becoming an increasingly visible presence in the Palestine solidarity movement. This book is an invaluable tool to those climate justice activists who want to strengthen these growing links.

Over 90 percent of wrongly convicted receive no compensation

Posted on: June 12th, 2024 by TTE
Sam Hallam with his mother Wendy Cohen illustrating an article about compensation for wrongly convicted people

Sam Hallam, who lost his claim for compensation after being wrongly convicted, with his mother Wendy Cohen outside the Supreme Court in central London when he began his legal battle (Picture: Alamy)

If the courts wrongly convicted you of a crime but you fought for justice and eventually won freedom, you might expect to be given compensation. Think again.

A shocking judgement on Tuesday highlighted that 93 percent of those who apply for compensation in such circumstances don’t receive it. Even when the system has to admit it has failed, it continues to act brutally towards its victims and to sneer at their innocence.

Victor Nealon and Sam Hallam took their case to the European Court of Human Rights. Between them, they spent more than 24 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. After that they were denied any form of compensation.

The British government argued that the law only allowed payouts if they could show “beyond reasonable doubt” that they were innocent and had not committed the crimes. The Ministry of Justice maintained that the evidence that cleared the two men was not sufficient to show they were “fully innocent” and refused to grant them compensation.

But Nealon and Hallam argued there had been a breach of their human rights under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). This says that “everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law”.

The court said it would not seek to intervene to change the present situation.

In response to the judgment, Hallam said, “For 20 years, the whole of my young adult life, I have been fighting a murder case of which I am entirely innocent.

“Still today I have not received a single penny for the seven and half years I spent in prison. The brutal test for compensation needs to be abolished.”

A previous—slightly more liberal—scheme, which allowed more payouts, was arbitrarily abolished by Labour home secretary Charles Clarke in the 2000s. The Tories then toughened the requirements for compensation.

Hallam’s conviction for murder was quashed at the Court of Appeal on 17 May 2012. The previous day the prosecution declared they did not oppose the appeal.

Nealon’s conviction was quashed at the Court of Appeal on 16 December 2013. He spent 17 years in prison. In May 2014 the Criminal Cases Review Commission apologised to Nealon for failing to investigate his case properly. This included not commissioning DNA tests which could have cleared him ten years earlier.

Nealon said that more than a decade after he was freed “I have not received any compensation from the government for the life I lost, nor the mental agony inflicted on me”. “This is not justice, and I am appalled by the decision of the court,” he said.

Over the last 20 years there has been an average of 21 quashed convictions a year and in the last five years almost 200 victims of wrongful convictions have applied to the Ministry of Justice for compensation. However, the number of successful compensation claims has “plummeted”, law reform group Justice reports.

Matt Foot is co-director of Appeal, a charity and law practice dedicated to challenging wrongful convictions. He said, “The brutal compensation scheme for miscarriages of justice cases is the aspect of our criminal justice system of which I am most ashamed.

“We urgently need to find a mechanism to compensate those victims.”

He added that wrongfully convicted people needed “love and care”. “They’re left on the scrapheap with no one to look after them,” he explained. “They are damaged people, the experience lives with them forever.”

Lessons from the fascist murder of Italian socialist Giacomo Matteotti

Posted on: June 12th, 2024 by TTE
Giacomo Matteotti

Giacomo Matteotti

On the 30 May 1924, firebrand socialist MP Giacomo Matteotti rose to make a speech in the Italian parliament condemning the fascists’ widespread election fraud and political violence.

Benito Mussolini had been appointed prime minister by the Italian king in 1922, following his “March on Rome”. He rigged the law to make sure the fascist candidates got many more seats per vote in the 1924 election.

Fascist gangs, the “blackshirts”, roamed the country, intimidating voters and even murdering one opposition candidate.

When he rose to speak, Matteotti was constantly interrupted by heckling and threats of violence from the fascist benches. In the end, he spoke for around an hour and a half, denouncing the Mussolini regime.

Eleven days later the notorious fascist gang, the Ceka, kidnapped him in broad daylight, bundled him into the back of a car and stabbed him to death in the back seat. His corpse was found later near Riano, 23 kilometres north of Rome, on 16 August 1924.

Matteotti’s heroism was remembered this year at a free exhibition, Enduring Tempest, in London’s Charing Cross Library. Charing Cross Library was once the headquarters of the Italian fascist party in London from 1936 to 1940. Matteotti’s political nickname was Tempesta. Streets can be found all over Italy commemorating Matteotti for speaking out against fascist terror.

The exhibition panels illustrated episodes from Matteotti’s life and the fight against fascism. In April 1924, for example, he made a secret journey to London to seek the support of Britain’s first Labour government in April 1924.

The Women’s International Matteotti Committee, set up by Sylvia Pankhurst, tried to rescue his wife, Velia, from persecution and house arrest by Mussolini.

The “Matteotti Affair” became a huge scandal for Mussolini. A number of witnesses came forward readily identifying the kidnappers—even the car’s numberplate.

Mussolini’s own press secretary, Cesare Rossi, denounced his boss for his responsibility in organising the murder. The Italian papers took up the public outcry. Fascist badges disappeared from lapels.

For a moment, there was talk of a general strike—on 27 June, across Italy, many workers abstained from work for about ten minutes. But by 1924, the left had been beaten and bullied into political submission by the fascist terror. They were unable to organise sufficient rank and file resistance in workplaces or on the streets.

Tragically, socialist MPs chose to follow the liberals, opting for a form of passive “moral” resistance. They decamped from the parliament to the Aventine Hills in a traditional, theatrical show of disgust. They thought that this would be enough to force the king to sack Mussolini. The royal dismissal never came.

Mussolini would ride out the crisis and swiftly move to the destruction of all the remaining democratic trappings of his regime. He would not be challenged again until the 1940s.  

Mussolini initially attracted support from conservatives and reactionaries all over Europe. The political descendants of Mussolini are led by Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni.

Once more, they are courted by established politicians across Europe, such as Rishi Sunak who spoke at a far right conference hosted by Meloni in Italy in December. They are helping to rehabilitate  fascism in Italy and at home.

It is no accident that Nazi Tommy Robinson has resurfaced from obscurity onto the streets of London with up to 5,000 supporters.

We must learn the lessons of the Matteotti assassination—before it is too late, as it was for him. Even Matteotti opposed physical self defence against the fascist thugs in 1921. “Stay home! Do not respond to provocations,” he wrote. “Even silence, even cowardice, are sometimes heroic.”

We should celebrate the brave defiance of Matteotti’s speech in May 1924, but also avoid the disastrous strategy of respectable, passive opposition. That led to his murder and the consolidation of Italian fascism.

European elections are a warning—help stamp out racism

Posted on: June 11th, 2024 by Daire Cumiskey
Leader of Reform UK Nigel Farage milkshaked while rallying supporters in Clacton-on-sea (Picture: Alamy)

Leader of Reform UK Nigel Farage milkshaked while rallying supporters in Clacton-on-sea (Picture: Alamy)

At first sight Britain looks very different from the rise of the fascists and the conservatives across Europe at the European elections last weekend.

But there is no room for complacency. It’s true that broad anti-racist campaigning has held back the far right in Britain.

But that doesn’t mean the politics of racism and Islamophobia aren’t powerful here too.

The Tories have rammed through round after round of anti-migrant laws. They whip up Islamophobia against the Palestine movement.

And Nigel Farage’s racist Reform UK is rising in the polls—with some speculation it could match the Tory numbers.

At present Keir Starmer attracts many of those revolted by the Tories. But the poverty of Labour’s politics is clear as it bends to the racism of the Tories.

Its concessions allow far right rhetoric to seep into the working class. Anti-racists in Britain must show that racist, far right politics are not welcome here.

And we need to offer a fighting set of socialist politics that offer people a real way to deal with low pay, bad housing, a crumbling NHS and all the issues that racists try to use against migrants.

Join the actions of Stand Up To Racism around the election and back the fight against our real enemies—the rich, the bosses and the politicians who support them. Go to standuptoracism.org.uk

Prepare a fight for more than the manifestos

Posted on: June 11th, 2024 by Daire Cumiskey
Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, and David Lammy, shadow foreign secretary in Normandy for 80th anniversary of D-Day (Picture: Keir Starmer on Flickr) elections manifestos

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer and David Lammy, shadow foreign secretary in Normandy for 80th anniversary of D-Day (Picture: Keir Starmer on Flickr)

The Tories, Labour and Lib Dems were set to release their manifestos this week—so many politicians, so little inspiration.

The manifestos will be full of empty promises, mild-mannered reforms and pro-corporate pledges. They won’t all be the same.

The Tory manifesto will be full of racist attacks, while Labour’s is set to promise some mild improvements to workers’ rights.

But they don’t offer any substantial break from the past. Instead, all continue the situation where ordinary people suffer.

A glance at Britain in 2024 shows the urgent need for real change. Over the last decade, the richest people and corporations in Britain have plundered more and more wealth.

The richest 52 families in Britain have more wealth than the poorest half of the population—33 million people.

Yet public services, like the NHS and social care, continue to crumble. But there will be no pledges of taxing the rich and going after the corporations hoarding huge profits.

There are no serious plans to inject funds into key public services on the scale that’s needed. Instead it will be tax cuts funded by a squeeze on the public sector or statements about how there’s no money left, while pledging more military spending.

Soaring rents and rising prices push people into hardship and homelessness.

But no party presents a bold plan for building hundreds of thousands of council houses. Every year more and more climate records are broken, as we barrel towards an existential climate catastrophe.

Yet Labour and the Tories continue to backpedal on climate policies, watering them down for even more timid targets.

Meanwhile Israel is carrying out a genocide in Gaza, murdering 35,000 Palestinians.

The Tories and Labour are presenting no real opposition to Israel’s apartheid, remaining deeply complicit in its atrocities.

The result is the Tories and Labour offering similar versions of pro-boss and pro-imperialist policies.

Labour’s criticism of the Tory manifesto was that it was “Jeremy Corbyn-style” with “anything you want”.

That’s why Socialist Worker is backing independent left alternatives who stand with Palestine and support all the oppressed and exploited.

We need an open confrontation with the broken system that implements racism and wrecks lives, services, wages and jobs.

But the focus of that resistance shouldn’t be in parliament. We need to fight on the streets and in the workplaces.

Whether it is striking to fight cuts or protesting for Palestinian liberation, struggle is how we can really change politics.

We must greet whoever wins the election with a fightback from day one.