Tax and price rises detonate mass protests in Kenya

Posted on: June 22nd, 2024 by Charlie
Group of young people in Kenya smiling and looking defiant. They have raised fists.

Protesters in Kenya are defiant and determined despite repression (Picture: @Honeyfarsafi on Twitter)

Protests exploded onto the streets of Kenya in east Africa this week against tax increases and the rule of Western-backed president William Ruto.

Anti-riot police, some on horseback, fired volleys of tear gas and then bullets at protesters in the capital, Nairobi. Protesters, mainly young people, also came out in other cities and major towns including Nakuru, Eldoret, Kisumu and Nyeri.

Deep anger over repression is accelerating the demonstrations. On Thursday police killed 29-year-old protester Rex Kanyike Masai in the centre of Nairobi. He died of gunshot wounds.

“He was shot in the upper middle part of the thigh. It appears he bled to death before being brought to our facility,” a doctor told Kenya’s Nation news website.

MPs have now passed a tax bill that will hit the poor. But it still must pass further stages—and protesters plan more actions. Activists called for a national shutdown on Tuesday 25 June and for occupations and road blocks on Thursday 27 June.

Earlier revolts this week forced the government to drop a proposed 16 percent tax on bread and an annual 2.5 percent tax on vehicles. But protesters say this is not enough.

Pressure to keep squeezing workers and the poor comes from bankers and international finance institutions.

Ruto has spent his first two years as president ramming through a slew of unpopular taxes on everything from gasoline to wheelchair tyres to sanitary pads. He triggered mass protests last year. 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the stock exchange think he’s a model ruler. Ordinary people don’t.

The IMF says, “the authorities have taken decisive steps towards fiscal consolidation”. But “Kenya is not the IMF’s lab rat,” read a placard on the Nairobi demonstration.

When he won elections in August 2022, Ruto promised “bottom-up” economics. He boasted that he would stand for the “hustlers”—the poor majority— against the “dynasties”—the wealthy and politically influential elite that have ruled since independence 60 years ago.

Kenya’s rulers are the loyal servants of US imperialism. They have offered police to quell the opposition in Haiti in the Caribbean and stop refugees heading to North America.

As a reward, United States president Joe Biden dubbed Kenya a major non-Nato ally, the first in sub-Saharan Africa. This will allow its military to buy US weapons and anti-riot technology.

The demonstrations have seen a new generation of protesters on the streets in a country of 56 million people.

“We are the Gen Zs, we were able to mobilise ourselves. We use TikTok as a space to be able to not only have young people come to protest but to educate them on the why,” protester Zaha Indimuli told journalists.

Many of them were demonstrating for the first time.

Mutuma Mathiu, a veteran journalist, said this week’s events had shifted the dynamics of Kenyan politics. “Protest politics found a new fulcrum and a new and different generation of Kenyans found their rather loud voice.”

Dr Willy Mutunga, a former chief justice, said young people across the world had a common enemy in “their respective ruling classes”. He added, “The uprising is on the horizon.”

Many believe he is right. “We are not scared and this is only the beginning of the revolution,” said Indimuli.

Unison union conference: delegates don’t trust Labour

Posted on: June 21st, 2024 by Arthur T
Unison delegates at the 2024 National conference (Photo: twitter/@tfrc_unison)

Unison delegates at the 2024 national conference (Photo: twitter/@tfrc_unison)

Day two of the national conference of Britain’s biggest union—Unison—was dominated by discussion of Palestine, the prospect of a Labour government and how to fight for workers’ rights.

Conference on Wednesday saw debates over a national care service, domestic abuse and experiences of black workers and Tory racism.

Union bureaucrats had instructed delegates to not say “from the river to the sea”. But one delegate from Wales, Nelly, defied the order and used the phrase in a speech on the conference floor.

“There is a genocide happening in Gaza,” she told Socialist Worker afterwards. “As a taxpayer I don’t work to save lives for my taxes to be used to fund a monster regime killing children.

“Saying from the river to the sea shouldn’t be banned—it means liberation for all Palestinian people.”

In her speech to conference, general secretary Christina McAnea called on delegates to support an incoming Labour government. Her tone was very different to speeches the day before.

“Over 14 years the Tories have broken our public services and threatened all our futures,” she said.

“The Tory legacy will be an economy on its knees, a country more divided than ever and a society more unequal than it has ever been. It’s a big ask to change things and it will take time.

“But with a Labour government we have a place at the table. Election day can’t come soon enough for me.”

After the speech, Martin, the Capacity Scotland branch secretary, told Socialist Worker that he won’t be supporting Labour.

“I want a national care service, which we’ve already taken steps towards in Scotland, but I don’t trust Keir Starmer’s Labour to follow through on this.

“And because of devolution I won’t get the type of government I want. I support independence so I’m likely to vote SNP.”

Nelly said, “No one wants the Tories in anymore—the Tories don’t understand poverty or oppression.

“But Labour has lost my vote. As long as Starmer is leader, I will not be supporting it.”

It showed the thirst for change but also the obstacles to an effective fightback.

“He has the same values as the Tories when it comes to Palestine—he couldn’t even call for a genuine ceasefire,” Nelly added.

Martin said he was “really glad” that Palestine had dominated the conference. “It’s the biggest issue in the world right now,” he said.

“Palestine has to be at the forefront of the election and after, and we need to make sure any new government knows that. I’ll definitely be seeing what more we can do in our workplace and branch.”

Medina is a striking adult mental health social worker from Barnet in north London. “I’m looking forward to the discussion on Friday about strikes and fighting to win,” she told Socialist Worker.

“As a newly qualified social worker it’s not an ideal start to be out on strike. But we’re giving a platform to the issues in social care.

“We’re not the only council struggling with retention and recruitment. And our Labour council is scabbing on our strike to try and undermine it—this doesn’t give me much hope in a Labour government.”

The motion to back more budgets to increase police numbers passed. But some delegates highlighted cops’ institutional racism.

Shanty, a disabled members’ officer from Lewisham in south London, said, “The insinuation that police are integral to community safety is concerning.

“Unions stand in favour of secure jobs for all workers but that doesn’t stop us questioning the role of the police in society as a whole.

“Refunding a broken and institutionally sexist and racist organisation doesn’t lead to black people feeling safer and less targeted. As a young, black disabled woman, I do not feel safe when I see a police officer.”

Delegates’ clear distrust of Labour doesn’t chime with the union’s leaders’ full backing of Starmer. After the election, Unison members have to continue to pressure and challenge Labour over every issue—and not let their union simply fall behind.


Days four and five: Thursday and Friday

On Thursday at the National Delegates Conference, Unison members discussed Palestine and supporting funding to Ukraine.

The Palestinian ambassador Dr Husam Zomlot addressed conference before a debate on the union’s stance on the Israeli war in Gaza. The room was filled with Palestine flags and chants of, “Free, free Palestine” rang out.

Delegates also held up placards reading, “Ceasefire now”. Union leaders kept to their rule banning, “From the river to the sea”—but multiple speakers defied it.

Liz Wheatley, the chair of the International Committee, said, “None of us will ever forget the sights and sounds that came out of Rafah.

“For weeks the IDF and Israeli government talked about a Rafah offensive. They knew an invasion was not a red line for many world leaders.

“They knew Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak would still send arms—they’ve made it clear over the last eight months that Palestinian lives don’t matter.

“Sunak and the Tories only care about their friends in the arms industry who are making a profit from death. But we’ve made it clear that we will continue to fight for an end to the bombing and the occupation.

“The students in encampments can inspire us to organise divestment in our workplaces. As public sector workers we have to say that every penny spent on death could be spent on our hospitals, schools, public services, international aid and the climate emergency.”

Glen from Sefton, north west England, said Unison needs to “get our own house in order”. “We need to send a clear message that we will never use the Grand Hotel or Leonardo’s again.

“These are owned by Israeli companies making massive profits from our union. We also need to serve notice on the Liverpool conference centre who stage international arms fairs every year.

“We need to take action in our branches, regions and nationally. We need to be serious about taking action to divest our pensions.”

Rana from west London said the attack on Gaza “affects everyone”. “When you turn up to national demonstrations with your Unison banners, when you hold your workplace day of action, when you wear your keffiyeh—these are actions not cheap words

“I have no faith in a Labour government to do the right thing.

“And over a half million chanting, ‘From the river to the sea’ is not hate speech. It’s about civilians including Jews living with equal rights in one state.”

A Jewish delegate said, “Starmer and Biden are talking about a ceasefire but we have to remember a ceasefire is not the same as peace. We cannot get peace without justice.

“We need a movement for a better future—a democratic future where people live side by side. Not one where Jews are tied to an ethno-state carrying out ethnic cleansing and genocide.”

One motion said Unison should support Ukraine and its labour movement and “actively support Ukraine’s struggle for liberation from Russian imperialism”.

Delegates in favour argued that the way to end Russia’s war is to support Ukraine’s fightback.

Despite the motion passing by two-thirds, many delegates spoke against supporting war in Ukraine.

Jon from Portsmouth City branch said, “I condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign is pro-war and pro-Nato. It’s a front for imperialism.

“The working class cannot oppose Russian imperialism by backing Western imperialism.”

Helen from Barnet in north London said, “Most parts of the world do not experience Western dominance as some cuddly democratic force for good.

“When I see tweets of the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign celebrating more military spending by the West, which only prolongs the war and risks it spreading, I cannot vote for this organisation.

“If we voted for a ceasefire in Gaza, we should vote for a ceasefire in Ukraine.”

Delegates also debated how to fight the council cuts and how to get back to pre-Tory government funding levels. 

Branch chair Nick Ruff talked about fighting redundancies in Kirklees, west Yorkshire. “Where I work the Labour council announced in November last year that it had a deficit of £26 million for the rest of that year and a further £47 million for 2024-25,” he said.

“They said that meant 250 compulsory redundancies in the first year and 750 the following year.

“We immediately as a branch organised a consultative ballot arguing to strike at the announcement of the first redundancies.

“Unfortunately the turnout wasn’t big enough. But we negotiated a strategy so that in every section where compulsory and proposed redundancies were likely we would organise ballots in that area.

“That worked—there has not been one compulsory redundancy in Kirklees. We know the attacks and cuts are coming. We have to continue to organise among our membership.”

On Friday, delegates celebrated strikes by Unison members, from health care assistants to NSL parking wardens in Camden in north London and school workers from Ash Field in Leicester. And they discussed how to organise to win, the right to strike and winning ballots and disputes.

Carrie from Dorset Health talked about members in her branch and region who had won.

“Workers in North Devon and Exeter Health branch took action because their employer Sodexo refused to pay the lump sum of the 2023 NHS pay award.

“One of our members was active for the first time after being in the union for 35 years. Sodexo gave £80 million to shareholders but couldn’t fork out £130,000 to pay their staff correctly.

“They voted 97 percent in favour of action and 75 percent of them refused the first offer because it wasn’t enough. They stuck for two days with 130 on the picket line, and some who went in came back out because Sodexo brought in agency workers to cover the strikers.

“When people see a fighting union, they want to be part of that. That’s the best organising tool we have.”

Unison’s members must take the lessons of successful strikes back to their branches—fighting, striking and organising is the best way to raise the stakes under a new Labour rule, and protect and extend workers’ pay and conditions.

Why Starmer fears talking about class

Posted on: June 21st, 2024 by Thomas Foster
Keir Starmer, Labour Leader, in a class room

Keir Starmer needs a lesson in class politics (Picture: Flickr/Keir Starmer)

When the Labour Party  steamrollers the Tories into oblivion at the 4 July general election—as it is universally predicted to do—it will be the culmination of years of class rage. In their millions, working class people will vote with a gut hatred of everything the Tories stand for—their riches, their corruption and their arrogance.

They will contrast Rishi Sunak’s helicopter lifestyle with those of their own family and friends, including those seven million people languishing in pain while waiting for vital NHS treatment. They will think about how rising bills forced people like themselves into ever growing debt.

And they’ll be sickened by the knowledge that so many ordinary people are forced to depend on charity to survive. The vote on 4 July will partly reflect “them versus us” Britain.

In truth, every Labour victory is based on such class feelings. But don’t expect Keir Starmer to acknowledge the furious forces that will put him in Number 10.

Instead, the Labour leader will talk endlessly about the popularity of his party’s economic growth plans, its City of London-friendly policies and the appeal of Labour’s patriotism. When Starmer—who describes himself as working class—was asked by LBC radio this week to expand on his definition of class, he collapsed into a heap of meaningless phrases and muddled words.

The best he could come up with was that working class people were “families that work for their living and earn their money through going out to work every day”. “Working class families have the ordinary hope to get on in life,” he spluttered.

But the car-crash interview was not just the result of Starmer’s robot-like confusion. Rather, it reflects a paradox for Labour.

On the one hand the party relies on class sentiment for votes, and for its very existence. But on the other, it seeks to mollify, tame and deny class anger so as to stabilise the system.

Labour’s commitment to capital and nation has always trumped any appeal to class. Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair, the last Labour leader to win a general election, went further.

Two years after entering Downing Street, he declared, “The class war is over.” But by 2002 Blair was knee-deep in a bitter national fight with the firefighters, and many other strikes would soon follow to prove him wrong.

Starmer in his LBC panic may have been grappling towards the ideas of German sociologist Max Weber who defined class as a series of “life chances”. Weber’s starting point was the way people dress and speak, the character of the jobs that they do and the degree to which they are held in esteem or are forced to live in poverty.

But this way of categorising class is vague and stereotypical. For example, teachers were once regarded as professionals and part of the middle class, but few today think of them as members of a privileged caste.

In fact, many white collar workers that Weber would have added to his box marked, “middle class,” have been on picket lines in recent years. They include nurses, civil servants, social workers and junior doctors. Marxist theory provides a more objective way of defining class.

Its starting point is that the fundamental divide in society is between those who control the means of production—offices, factories, schools, hospitals and essential infrastructure—and those who work for them. There is a small minority of people who have enough wealth to live a life of leisure, and there is the vast majority that can only survive if they work for this minority.

Under this definition, around 75 percent of people in Britain are working class. All differences in lifestyle, dress, income, patterns of consumption and life chances flow from this division and are not its cause.

The fact that an office worker and the owner of a firm might both wear suits does not bridge the gap between them. A thin layer of people stands between the bosses and the working class—the middle class.

This isn’t well-off workers, but people who don’t themselves own the means of production yet act as intermediaries between the two main classes in society. The existence of this middle layer—which includes managers and supervisors, headmasters and also small business owners—is vital to capitalism for two reasons.

First, managers and their ilk dish out the routine discipline of hiring, firing and telling-off of workers that the system requires. Second, it serves to obscure that the central division in society is between the ruling class and the working class.

Though heavily overrepresented in popular culture, the middle class makes up only between 15 and 20 percent of society. This way of understanding class reveals it as a relationship to the means of production, rather than a vague category.

As the Marxist historian Geoffrey de Ste Croix put it, “Class (essentially a relationship) is the collective social expression of the fact of exploitation, the way in which exploitation is embodied in a social structure.” Marx says that the rich exploit the working class and that this process results in “surplus value”.

This, he explains, is the sole source of profit. “Profit rises to the extent that wages fall—it falls to the extent that wages rise…The interests of capital and the interests of wage labour are diametrically opposed,” he wrote in 1847.

Superficial understandings of the class system tend to see workers as perpetual victims, people driven towards poverty and rendered powerless. For them, class is just another form of oppression to be counted alongside ethnicity and gender.

But Marx saw things differently. He said that workers were the revolutionary class. He insisted they had enormous power because they are the sole source of profit, and that capitalism depends on profit for its existence.

Most of the time, a lot of workers are completely unaware of their power. The ruling class has a whole ideological apparatus—from schools and universities, to the mass media—that it uses to convince people that exploitation is a “natural” state of affairs.

Those institutions insist that resistance is futile, and most workers’ life experiences tend to back up the point. Sometimes, however, even relatively small struggles reveal capitalism’s weaknesses, and show how different aspects of the system are connected.

Strikes, protests and social movements show workers that collectively they have power—and can lessen the divisions that exist between them. As Marx wrote, “Every class struggle is a political struggle.”

And when one group of workers struggles successfully over pay, conditions, pensions and so on, millions of people watch and draw lessons for themselves. If those acts of resistance combine into what the revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg called a “mass strike,” a truly transformative process can begin.

Workers acting as a class, in the interests of that class, mark the arrival of a new political force in society. The mass strike is a way for workers to fuse economic and political power, while at the same time drawing in millions of other exploited people under their banner.

In 1906 Luxemburg wrote, “As if for the first time awoke class feeling and class consciousness in millions upon millions as if by an electric shock. The proletarian mass, counted by millions, quite suddenly and sharply came to realise how intolerable was that social and economic existence which they had patiently endured for decades in the chains of capitalism.

“Thereupon there began a spontaneous general shaking of and the tugging at these chains.” Understanding class as power turns workers from oppressed creatures into the authors of their own destiny.

It makes real Marx’s phrase from the Communist Manifesto, “The emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself.” The revolutionary implication of the class system continues to terrify Labour today.

Its leaders have always known that their main job is to harness and dissipate class anger. So, when Starmer fluffs his lines on the class question it is not merely a reflection of his vacuous personality and politics.

Rather it demonstrates the way class remains a contradiction at the heart of the party he leads.


  • Was Marx wrong about the working class? by Matt Vidal tinyurl.com/MarxClass
  • Karl Marx and the politics of social classes by Hal Draper, £20
  • Classes by Erik Olin Wright, £14.99

Buy your books at Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop. Phone 020 7637 1848 or bookmarksbookshop.co.uk

Socialist Nandita Lal is challenging David Lammy in Tottenham

Posted on: June 21st, 2024 by Daire Cumiskey
Tottenham candidate Nandita Lal (Picture: Dave Gilchrist)

Tottenham candidate Nandita Lal (centre) (Picture: David Gilchrist)

“We have to give ourselves a voice and write our own narrative.”

This is Nandita Lal’s aim—an independent socialist candidate for Tottenham in north London. Nandita is standing against Labour Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy after receiving endorsement from Tottenham Palestine Action and other groups.

“We are really unhappy about the way Lammy has abandoned Palestinians and is complicit in their dehumanisation and genocide. He does not represent Tottenham—we are proudly anti-racist,” said Nandita.

The Tottenham seat was once held by Bernie Grant, “who was a black radical pan-African and that is the spirit of Tottenham we want to keep alive,” Nandita explained.

Lammy is a resolute defender of the Labour Party’s anti-worker politics—he has previously said it’s wrong for workers to demand a pay rise from their Heathrow airport bosses.

And the people of Tottenham have recognised the poverty of Lammy’s politics. “There is definitely an appetite for change and Lammy is very unpopular in Tottenham,” says Nadita.

Nandita described how “this opposition to workers by the Labour leadership and party in general has made so many people unhappy.

“Lammy got a lot of votes in 2017 and 2019, but that was the Jeremy Corbyn effect and how pro-worker Corbyn is.

“And Lammy’s been so disappointing on other fronts. He hasn’t said anything…about the treatment of Diane Abbott.”

Nandita stands on “pro-working class, socialist, anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist” ground. She highlighted how imperialism and the arms trade hurt ordinary people in Britain.

“So much money goes into warmongering instead of bettering the conditions of people here. We don’t support the expansion of Nato, it’s just not in our interests,” she added.

Nandita pointed out how continued war and imperialist expansion contribute to the climate crisis.  “To keep global warming in check there has to be a massive decrease in military spending.”

She said, “The effects of climate change will be felt particularly in the Global South.

“We want a safe and secure future where the spending on war is put towards tackling climate change and the housing crisis.

“Homelessness is on the rise in Tottenham and people complain about accommodation not being fit for purpose.

“There have been years of austerity cuts. But it doesn’t seem that Lammy wants to reverse any of those.

“The only interest being perpetuated by the Labour Party and the Tories is the interest of the ruling class,” Nandita explained.

In Tottenham, Nandita has had “a very positive campaign”. “Many people have said ours is the only leaflet they have seen.

“We want to show the rise of the right is not going unchallenged. We are here and here is our voice.”

The Palestine movement has affected Tottenham.

“We’ve seen the building of a mass movement. We have been able to build a lot of solidarity and establish relationships with other grassroots communities,” Nandita said.

Nandita stands firmly for the people of Tottenham. But her campaign is broader—it points to the systemic failure of our current capitalist system.

“We are in a global capitalist system which is driven by profit, that’s the only motive,” she argued.

“It’s really important to draw attention to the connections and why all our sufferings are linked.

“That’s why the young have so much to say about Palestine, because they see all these connections. They see that capitalism isn’t offering them a future.”

Sound the alarm: racism and Reform UK on the rise

Posted on: June 20th, 2024 by Arthur T
Nigel Farage has seen a rapid rise in the polls (Photo: flickr/Gage Skidmore)

Reform UK, lead by Nigel Farage, has seen a rapid rise in the polls (Photo: flickr/Gage Skidmore)

It’s time to sound the alarm louder—the growth of the far right and Nigel Farage’s Reform UK threatens to become a seismic shift.

And in response, sections of the trade union and “left” movement are making compromises with the devil. Anti-racists need to react urgently.

Several opinion polls have now shown Farage’s party level with or ahead of the Tories nationally. And they confidently predict Farage will win in Clacton, Essex, where he’s running to be MP. We can’t know if the polls are reflecting reality or whether at least some of them are simply expressing the wishes of those who want to boost Reform UK.

Because of Britain’s electoral system, that doesn’t mean Reform UK will necessarily surpass the Tories’ number of MPs. But it does mean the poison that Farage pumps out will be injected even deeper into political debate.

The far right, and the fascists who cluster around them, could be on the verge of a breakthrough.

Years of state racism and Islamophobia from the Tories, unchallenged by Labour, is the crucial background to Farage’s growth. And the Tories, in an ever more desperate situation, have reached even deeper into the racist cesspit.

On Thursday they unveiled an advert purporting to believe that Labour would roll out the red carpet to “illegal immigrants” and write “welcome” in the sand on British beaches to attract them. And Labour began its election campaign with Keir Starmer’s declaration, “Read my lips—I will bring immigration numbers down. I will control our borders and make sure British businesses are helped to hire Brits first.”

Farage is taking that further with calls for “freezing non-essential immigration”, and parts of what passes for the left are following his politics eagerly.

After his manifesto launch this week, George Galloway of the Workers Party of Britain was asked about migrants and refugees coming across the Channel. Instead of kicking back against racism and pointing out that many were fleeing the devastation caused by Western imperialism, Galloway demanded more vicious measures that the Tories have dared to propose.

“Where were the ships?” he said. “The ships were in the Red Sea, in the Black Sea, in the South China Sea. The Royal Navy’s principal purpose and duty is to defend the shores of His Majesty’s realm, but they’re not doing so.

“They’re in every sea except our own sea. They are not involved in turning back illegal departures from France,” he said.

“Illegal arrivals in England, which then cost £80 a night per person, and potentially forever to the British taxpayer. We’ve got all these Royal Navy assets—the problem is they’re deployed everywhere except defending our own shores.”

Galloway claimed the French authorities are “watching migrants leave their shores”. He added, “We certainly wouldn’t allow them to leave unmolested from the beaches of France.”

He is disgustingly echoing Farage’s filth—and the language of the fascists in France.

RMT union leader Mick Lynch told an election event, “There’s a problem on the left. If working class people say there’s a problem in my town, we haven’t got enough resources to deal with an influx of people, you’ve got to deal with that. You can’t say that’s not true.”

He argued that there must be “a left response” to “the migration issue”. “If that upsets some people or is anti-woke, I don’t care.”

Organised workers and trade unions have been and must again be central to the anti-racist response we need. We need clear class politics.

How about an answer that doesn’t pander to the idea that migrants are the problem and instead targets the class enemy—the rich and the corporations. Let’s rage against the chief executives who live in obscene luxury and the billionaire class that is looting society.

A working class divided by racism will never fight effectively against the bosses and the ruling class. That means we must confront racism.

Our sisters and brothers are workers from anywhere in the world, however they come to Britain. And our enemies are those who sit at the top of society, living off the work of the rest of us.

There’s plenty of money for housing, the NHS and everything else we need if we tear down the system of profit.

These are urgent times. We need mass resistance to racism and revolutionary socialist politics at the heart of that fightback.

Join Stand Up To Racism’s campaigns, and make sure there is a mass turnout on Saturday 27 July when the fascist Tommy Robinson seeks to profit from the growth of racism during the election. And build a principled socialist opposition for now and after the election. As racism rises, no section of Labour—left or right—will be enough to deal with it.

Blame the rich, not migrants

The richest 52 families in Britain have more wealth than the poorest half of the British population—33 million people. The 52’s combined wealth is £795 billion—roughly the equivalent of giving every family in Britain £41,000.

It’s more than all the goods and services produced each year in Poland, a country with a population of almost 37 million people. Over the last 35 years, the wealth of the 200 richest families has grown from £42 billion to £711 billion, a 15 percent annual increase in real terms.

There are now 165 billionaires in the UK—there were 11 in 1989.

  • For Stand Up To Racism campaign materials and details of the days of action on 22 and 29 June and the demonstration on 27 July go to standuptoracism.org.uk

Strike—new film shows heroic miners’ struggle

Posted on: June 20th, 2024 by Sarah

Strike—An Uncivil War

Forty years ago the British state declared war on a group of workers fighting for their future.

On one side stood 160,000 miners, their families and supporters, striking back to defend their jobs and communities. On the other stood Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the whole of the ruling class, determined to crush the most powerful group of workers in the country.

Yet the miners, as this film triumphantly shows, defied police brutality, media lies and all kinds of injustice for 12 months—one of the longest mass strikes in trade union history. If you want irrefutable evidence of the force the state is prepared and willing, to use to try and crush resistance, go see this new film. 

It graphically exposes the truth that strikers and those engaged in building solidarity already knew. Mostly told in their own words by striking miners, including Ian Mitchell and Jim Tierney. 

It is a vivid, scary, moving account of the bravery of ordinary working people standing up for a better world. Clearly still traumatised, the hurt and injustice still burn in the accounts from strikers from Yorkshire, Kent, Scotland, North East and Wales. 

None more so than in Nottingham, where only a minority came out. Thatcher wanted revenge for humiliating defeats for then-Tory prime minister Ted Heath at the hands of the miners in 1972 and 1974. 

The Ridley plan to take on the National Union of Mineworkers was the result. However, as the film depicts, more was to be exposed, while other documents have yet to be released.

At the centre of director and producer Daniel Gordon’s film is the Orgreave coking plant in Rotherham a few miles from Sheffield. As the miners focus shifted from trying, and failing, to picket out Nottinghamshire pits, steel was the key. 

And Orgreave was key to supplying coke to the Scunthorpe steel mills. Steelworkers had revealed that production was near normal levels despite an agreement merely to keep furnaces ticking over. 

Saltley Gates, a coke works in Birmingham, had been where the Tories were defeated in 1972 as tens of thousands of engineering workers walked out and engulfed the plant.

In the film new archive evidence reveals the police were by this time run by Thatcher in Downing Street. A secret manual, tested in Northern Ireland and British colonies, unleashed new vicious tactics. 

Journalist Morag Livingstone describes how her faith in policing was shaken forever when she saw the previously hidden archive documents. It was the first time the use of illegal short batons and shields in “snatch squads” was sanctioned at the highest level. 

Orgreave on 18 June 1984, three months into the strike, was when a battle came to a head. Thatcher and her “boot boys” saw an opportunity and planned to, literally and figuratively, beat the miners. 

It resulted in cracked skulls and bloodied bodies of innocent pickets. Riot-clad police and cavalry were given a free hand to do whatever they liked to attack pickets. 

Miners in T-shirts and plimsolls on a scorching hot day were baton-charged. Pickets fought back and a few stones were thrown. But the BBC news that night claimed the opposite. Miners’ “violence” was condemned by Tories and Labour. Strikers knew the truth.

Gordon—a Bafta award winner for a documentary on the Hillsborough disaster—shows without a doubt the violence at Orgreave on 18 June was started by the police. This is despite media accounts and BBC clips being reversed for news bulletins. 

A trial of 95 miners charged with rioting carrying life imprisonment collapsed in a heap of lies and cover-ups.

Gordon, from Sheffield, whose mum grew up in the mining village of Thurcroft in Rotherham, wanted to make the film for more than a decade. He was determined to go beyond the lazy headlines and revisit the period.

“There were so many similarities between Hillsborough and Orgreave —-the cover-up, the shifting of blame by the government and other instruments of the state,” he explained.

The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign still demands a full inquiry into Orgreave. No police officers have ever been brought to trial.

This is a powerful, important film. It illuminates how the strike demonstrated that ordinary people can fight those who rule our world – and how they change in the process.

The biggest cheer in the Q&A that followed the premiere came when Ian drew a comparison between the miners in 1984 and the Palestine protesters today. 

The film’s focus is on exposing the brutality and corruption of an undemocratic state. It does not address how the strike could have won, the failings of the TUC union federation, or Labour’s treachery. For that the film (Still), The Enemy Within is the best account, but Strike is a fine companion piece of work.

Mining families made a magnificent stand and, at crucial moments, came close to winning. Nine years after the strike, Thatcher herself admitted, “We were in danger of losing everything,” and that the strike “could indeed have brought down the government”. 

‘The two party system is broken’—Birmingham independent candidate speaks out

Posted on: June 20th, 2024 by Sarah
Kamal Hawwash at a Palestine protest

Kamel Hawwash (centre in scarf), marching for Palestine

“The two-party system is broken. In parliament, I want to be a real voice for ordinary people,” says Kamel Hawwash, who is running to be an independent MP for Birmingham Selly Oak. 

He’s standing for Palestine and opposes Labour’s and the Tories “business as usual” politics.

Kamel spoke about how he broke from Labour. “I was a member of Labour until October last year. When Keir Starmer agreed that Israel had the right to cut off water and electricity from the Palestinians—I resigned,” he said.

“I’m of Palestinian heritage—my parents were born in Jerusalem. I couldn’t stay in a party whose leader supported war crimes.” The current Labour MP, Steve McCabe—who chairs Labour Friends of Israel—announced he wasn’t standing for re-election in May.

Instead, Labour has “parachuted in an army colonel with absolutely no connection with the area”. “His CV is winning an award for bravery in Afghanistan. Depending on your starting point, people will interpret that differently.”

Speaking about the impact of Israel’s genocide in Gaza, Kamel said, “Gaza triggered in people’s mind the detachment of the political class from the people.

“People think what Israel is doing is atrocious but at the same time they look at their politicians and find that they’re standing with Israel, which is the occupier,” he said.

People are recognising that “politicians aren’t listening, even on issues to do with the cost of living crisis and the NHS”.

Kamel argued the Palestine protests were leading to a wider shift in perspective, saying, “It will be remembered that what triggered people to think about a change in political system was Gaza.

“People then look at how the government is dealing with refugees. There’s no celebration of the contributions that migrants have made.

“If migrants weren’t here, the NHS would be poorer, and we would be worse off.” And Kamel slammed the failures of both Labour and the Tories over many decades. “What happens is you have ten years or so of the Tories, then ten years of Labour, then ten years of Tories, then ten years of Labour. Neither party has delivered.”

And he pointed out that “the 20 point lead that Labour has over the Tories isn’t because of Labour’s policies, but because of how poor the Tories are—they are disintegrating as we watch”.

He reported that many people on the doorsteps say, “We’re not voting Tory, we can’t vote Labour so we’re not going to vote. No—go and vote for an alternative. And if there’s a good independent candidate, question them and quiz them.

“If I win, I will hold the Labour government accountable on behalf of my constituents”.

“The most needy in our society are being denied basic services,” he said.Whether it’s the closure of libraries or day centres, or the mistreating of children with special educational needs.”

Kamel argued that this must stop. A first step is to “nationalise water and railway companies, introduce a wealth tax and end tuition fees that are burdening students with debt”.

“The two-party system is broken. People used to go into the booth and just put an ‘X’ against the logo of the party, sometimes not even knowing anything about the potential MP.

“It’s time for a change—electing an independent MP is a start.” Left alternatives that fight for Palestine and stand up for all oppressed people are popping up across Britain—activists should get stuck in.

SNP manifesto reflects a timid and exhausted party

Posted on: June 19th, 2024 by Charlie
Man in suit (John Swinney) uses a sewing machine.

SNP leader John Swinney campaigning in Oban. He won’t be able to sew together an independence deal with Westminster.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) launched its general election manifesto on Wednesday with what was seen as a firmer emphasis on independence.

But the first-page declaration “Vote SNP for Scotland to become an independent country” is a complete illusion. SNP leader and Scottish first minister John Swinney said the election gave voters a chance to “intensify the pressure” to secure independence.

“If the SNP wins a majority of seats in this election in Scotland, the Scottish government will embark on negotiations with the UK government to turn the democratic wishes of people in Scotland into a reality.”

But he made clear this means begging for a second independence referendum from the Westminster government. The Tories always refused that, and so would Labour unless prime minister Keir Starmer faced massive social revolt.

Previous SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon had suggested that this election itself would be treated as a vote on independence—although she never said how that would overcome Westminster’s obstinacy. But even that talk has now gone.

The crisis-ridden SNP is an even more timid, more institutional party.

The SNP is facing a big loss of seats at the election—and a major source of its funds. So it is talking about independence to cement its core supporters to the party.

Swinney’s speech sounded a bit more adventurous than Starmer’s Labour—which is the SNP’s major competitor.

He said, “Lift the two-child benefit cap not the cap on bankers’ bonuses. Bairns not bombs. And, investment not cuts.”

The SNP touches on some more radical policies, although it always has a “balancing” element to calm the rich and the corporations.  

“For Scotland’s workers we will support the end of exploitative zero hours contracts, the unacceptable practice of fire and rehire, and we will fight to scrap the so-called Minimum Services Level Act which is an attack on the right to strike.”

Note the limits—“exploitative” zero hours contracts only must go.

The manifesto says the SNP will “Scrap Trident and invest the money into conventional defence and public services” That’s already one pro-military lean—no nukes but more machine guns, missiles and flesh-shredding bombs. 

And then just to add another layer of cover, on the second mention the money saved from Trident is switched from “conventional defence and public services” to the other way round—public services and conventional defence.

In any case, although the manifesto doesn’t mention it, the SNP wants to support the Nato nuclear-military alliance. And it does say “We will continue to back military support from the United Kingdom to Ukraine and will press the UK Government to ensure the sanctions regime against Russia is effective.”

Some imperialist-backed wars are fine

The party will however “demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, release of hostages and ending arms sales to Israel. We call on the UK Government to immediately recognise Palestine as an independent state.”

The SNP hopes it can fend off Labour, but its tiny elements of radicalism won’t be enough to make it seem like an insurgent threat to the British state.

We need a much more militant challenge.