Trump—number 45, yet first US president on trial

Posted on: April 16th, 2024 by Daire Cumiskey
Former President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with attendees at the 2022 Student Action Summit at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida. (Picture: Gage Skidmore)

Former President of the United States and 2024 candidate Donald Trump (Picture: Gage Skidmore)

The most shocking thing about Donald Trump’s “hush money” trial is not what went down in the courtroom.

It’s that Trump is the first serving or former United States president to appear before a court on a criminal charge.
 
This seems extraordinary considering that every modern US president has taken part in war crimes, corruption, interventions against democracy, sanctioning of torture, environmental destruction and more.
 
But of course, to the US ruling class, none of these things are considered off limits. Instead, the willingness to front imperialist slaughter and defend the US’s rule are regarded as key requirements of the job.
 
Regrettably the present case won’t raise such issues—or bury Trump.
 
Instead he will seek to manipulate the trial to boost his fake claims of opposing the elites.

Escalate to beat back widening war with Iran

Posted on: April 16th, 2024 by Daire Cumiskey
Palestine protesters in central London last Saturday (Picture: Richard Bayfield)

Palestine protesters in central London last Saturday (Picture: Richard Bayfield)

Everyone who has marched for Palestine should also push back against a war on Iran.
 
A Western-supported Israeli assault on Iran will mean the escalation of imperialist war—and death and destruction for ordinary people.
 
Britain and the US sent planes last weekend to help defend Israel against Iran’s retaliatory drone attacks.
 
Such actions demonstrate that when push comes to shove, the West’s support for the Israeli regime remains fundamental.
 
As long as Israel continues to do the West’s dirty work in the Middle East, this won’t change.
 
It was only recently that Biden was saying Israel invading Rafah would cross a US “red line”. But after Iran’s retaliation, the US may clear the way for the Rafah ground offensive.
 
The threat of regional war with Iran—a state that the West sees as an enemy—has shored up British and American support for Israel.
 
If Israel launches an attack on Iran that escalated into a wider war, the West would throw everything it could behind the Israeli state.
 
These are the two faces of imperialism—a genocide in Gaza and a war on Iran.
 
And Western rulers will do what they always do when there is a possibility of war with a country that has a Muslim population—ramp up Islamophobia.
 
This is a racist strategy as ruling classes use Islamophobia to demonise their enemies.
 
Politicians and the media will wheel out lies and made-up horror stories about Muslims to justify any imperialist murder that does take place.
 
Ordinary people need to do everything they can to resist ruling classes carrying out even more slaughter. In this struggle there is hope.
 
Freedom for workers, women and minorities in Iran won’t come from imperial interventions.
 
It is ordinary people who have the power to transform society and bring down the current system of relentless rivalry and war.
 
You see glimpses of the power for real change in the many millions of people who have taken to the streets protesting for Palestine.
 
Workers are the cogs that make the wheels of our current system turn.
 
So we have the capacity to make the wheel stop—and bring this rotten imperialist system to a halt. 

Ramsis Kilani on how Palestine activists in Germany are resisting repression

Posted on: April 16th, 2024 by TTE
Ramsis Kilani illustrating an article on the Palestine congress

Ramsis Kilani is a revolutionary socialist in Germany

“Palestine activists here are divided in their response to the state’s shutdown of the congress. Some see it as a victory because of the amount of international publicity it generated. Some think we should attempt to re-run the event.

But the feeling on the ground after this new level of state repression is generally one of defeat and frustration. So, there is a sense of disorientation in the movement.

Some other activists draw on that feeling. They think the state crackdown on the congress shows we should now stick to organising street demonstrations. Cops have found them harder to break up since the demo bans have been defeated.

There is also a minority of activists, of which I am part, that sees an opportunity in the growing number of groups here—including some sizeable human rights organisations—that want to protest against German arms sales to Israel.

I think moving in this direction would give us a chance to work with wider forces and generate mass activity. It would help the Palestine movement to break out of its comparative isolation.

So, there is room for a strategic debate about the future, especially among activists.

After the police broke up the physical conference, it was made available online. Some of us organised a mass screening that around 100 people came to the one in Berlin. Comrades organised similar events in Hamburg, Cologne and Leipzig.

Here we had a chance to talk through some of the ideas.

One thing is clear though. The state sees the smashing of the congress as a turning point and now wants to go on the offensive. After attacking the congress, it sent the police to break up the Palestine camp outside the Bundestag parliament building. 

The task now is to build a movement capable of standing up to that pressure.”

General strike in Argentina sets up battle against far right government  

Posted on: April 16th, 2024 by Thomas Foster
A photo of Javier Milei, the leader of Argentina, of which the general strike is called against

Javier Milei, far right president of Argentina, has called for a crackdown on protests (PICTURE: Mídia Ninja)

Argentina’s main trade union federation, the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), has announced a general strike against the government of far right president Javier Milei for 9 May. Milei won the presidency last December vowing to smash up the welfare system and “liberate” big business.  He shut nine of 18 government ministries including those responsible for education, the environment and women, gender and diversity.

But he has faced waves of opposition. A general strike in January involved 1.5 million workers, brought tens of thousands on to the streets and triggered four days of mobilisations. It forced Milei to withdraw his repressive Omnibus Bill that tried to ram through widespread privatisations, public sector job cuts and attacks on workers’ organisation.

And on 24 March big protests demanded justice for the victims of the country’s military dictatorship that ruled from 1976 to 1983. Milei identifies with that dictatorship. The grandfather and uncle of vice president Victoria Villarruel took part directly in the crises carried out by the military rulers.

But despite the opposition, Milei continues with his assaults. In just a few months the poverty rate has soared from 45 percent to 57 percent as inflation slashes the real value of wages.  Milei’s response is to slash jobs, push for a 20 percent cut in pensions and to renew the privatisation programme beginning with the state airline and the state news agency.

The general strike call wouldn’t have happened without pressure from below. Bus drivers recently staged a major strike over pay that shook the Buenos Aires metropolitan area.  In several cities, metal workers organised big marches.

Sacked airline workers and civil service workers marched last week over job cuts but also against the wider attacks from Milei. Teachers, other school staff and university workers plan mass protests on Tuesday of next week. Such strikes and protests give hope that the far right can be confronted. But the union leaders are at best half-hearted in their response. The CGT refuses to call for a strike on the days when the new Omnibus Law will be discussed in the parliament. But building from below can stop Milei.

And in the course of these struggles workers are also asking how Milei was able to win the election. That is largely the responsibility of the Peronists, named after army officer Juan Peron, who took power in the mid-1940s. From 1946 to 2023, ten out of 13 presidents were Peronists. They promised to look after workers and the poor but failed them, and as disillusion spread, the far right grew.

Election in India begins amid wave of Islamophobia

Posted on: April 16th, 2024 by Thomas Foster
Modi has signed off on laws that ramp up Islamophobia as election in India is set to begin

Modi has signed off on Islamophobic laws (Picture: MEAPhotoLibrary)

Voting in the mammoth Indian general election was to begin this week amid a wave of Islamophobia and right wing intimidation. The election will be held in seven phases until 1 June with all votes counted on 4 June. Hard right prime minister Narendra Modi is desperate for a third term in office so he can continue his “Hinduisation” of India.

When abroad Modi talks about India as the “world’s greatest democracy”. He boasts that under him it remains a secular and inclusive nation. But the story at home is very different. His BJP party and the National Democratic Alliance it leads have been busy since 2019 doing all they can to stir up hatred of Muslims and other minorities.

They have passed laws that threaten to revoke the citizenship rights of millions of Indian Muslims and talk constantly of Muslims as an “enemy within”. And while politicians provide the language and justification, right wing mobs provide the violence.

The murder of an Iman and firebombing of a Mosque in the northern state of Haryana last year is just one example of how the right now functions. Violence broke out after a thousands-strong procession organised by the far right Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which is associated with the BJP. Right wing politicians told their social media followers that they would be there, and they should come too.

The crowd attacked Muslims while shouting the slogans of the right and burnt down homes and businesses. But they faced fierce resistance from locals. Fighting then spread to neighbouring areas, including Gurugram, on the outskirts of the capital New Delhi. There the mob torched a mosque and murdered the Iman. Such incidents are something of an international embarrassment to the BJP but it hopes that at home the party will benefit from the atmosphere of violence.

Here it is helped by the passivity of the mainstream liberal Congress party. Congress was once the preferred party of the Indian ruling class. It ruled for most of the country’s post-independence years. But now it and its India alliance is a rump desperately trying to cling on to its past glory days.

The left is represented by a variety of Communist parties, led by the once electorally powerful Communist Party of India (Marxist).  It would stand a better chance in the polls if it channelled the widespread anger at government policy in the countryside and united it with the frustrations of millions of young people. A serious fight could pull young people to the left, rather than leaving them as fodder for the right and its gangs.

But Communists have abandoned this terrain, presenting themselves as people who can deliver “good and efficient government”. The weakness of the opposition enables Modi and his followers to carry on with their Hinduisation plans.


Backstory

Modi and his hard right BJP party have been in office since 2014. BJP and its electoral alliance are currently polling at 46 percent of the vote. The main opposition party Congress and its electoral alliance are polling at 34 percent of the vote. In the last election in 2019, the BJP-led electoral alliance won 353 seats compared to the Congress-led alliance’s 91 seats, out of a total of 545 seats in Indian parliament.

Barnet social workers restart their pay fight

Posted on: April 16th, 2024 by Daire Cumiskey
Striking social workers out in force on Monday (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Striking social workers out in force on Monday (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Mental health social workers employed by Barnet council in north London returned to picket lines on Monday this week.

The strikers were set to be out until Friday this week, as well as Monday to Friday of next week.

They returned having beaten the council’s use of agency workers to break the strike.

The local authority’s director of adult social care informed the Unison union branch that he had engaged the services of strike-breaking agency workers supplied by Flex 360.

Last year the high court ruled that legislation allowing employers to use agency workers to be unlawful.

Barnet Unison joint branch secretary John Burgess said, “In 28 years of being a Barnet Unison rep I have never before this experienced the amount of anti-union rhetoric coming from senior management.

“My message to the council is stop the bullying and come back with an offer which our members would be prepared to accept.”

After pressure from the strikers and their supporters, Barnet council announced days just before the strike was set to restart that it would no longer be using Flex 360.

The workers have already struck for 27 days since the end of September as they fight for a recruitment and retention payment to reduce staff turnover and patient waiting lists.

Social workers who work with children get up to 25 percent extra pay.

Meanwhile Barnet council has offered just 2.6 percent extra to social workers within the mental health social care service.

After a call for a picket on its first day, Unison and TUC union federation representatives were joined by MPs and trades council members.

Lewisham Unison in south London brought £1,000 collected for the strike fund to the pickets.

 Back the action

  • Strike 1: 15-26 April
  • Strike 2: 13 May to 1 June
  • Strike 3: 17 June to 12 July
  • Messages of support to [email protected]
  • Visit picket lines between 8-10am at 2 Bristol Avenue, Colindale, London NW9 4EW

Drive home the campaign success over healthcare assistants’ grading

The Question of pay dominated the Unison union health conference last week.

But proposals from its leadership failed to set out a strategy to win a better deal than last year.

Delegates unanimously passed a motion saying that the union should prepare to leave the government’s Pay Review Body (PRB).

It recommends pay offers for most NHS workers, including for hundreds of thousands of workers on the Agenda for Change contract.

The PRB has made derisory annual pay offers while sticking ruthlessly to the government’s “pay envelope”. And no wonder—it is led by bosses from big firms.

The conference was unified in its opposition to the government’s ongoing consultation on a separate pay scale for nurses.

Delegates rightly saw this as an attempt at divide and rule.

The highlight of the conference was the discussion of the battle to upgrade Health Care Assistants HCSs), and other similar roles.

Here the union could point to some significant victories.

Care Since 2022 some 35,000 HCA have been moved from band 2 to band 3 after proving that they do clinical work in addition to personal care.

An HCA from Luton told the conference that after the union there submitted a grievance to trust bosses, a meeting was held with its chief executive.

“I think they had expected about 30 of us to turn up, we had this little room, but there were actually 650 of us,” she said.

When management still refused to budge, Unison organised two days of strikes before bosses caved in.

Another HCA, from Bedford, said she now wanted to see the campaign picked up in other areas.

More than 1,000 HCAs at seven sites in Teesside are already heeding that call.

They walked out on strike over the issue for three days last week and are planning further action.

This is the union’s second set of strikes action, following a 24-hour walkout last month.

This week HCAs at three hospitals in Leicester walked out on Monday of this week and are set to strike again on Thursday 25 April and Wednesday 1 May.


Send school workers back strikes over conditions

NEU union members at two special schools in Redbridge, east London, have voted for strikes against inadequate and unsafe provision for their Send (special educational needs and disabled) students.

Some 173 NEU members at Hatton primary and Little Heath secondary have secured 98 percent Yes votes for strikes on a 75 percent turnout.

This comes after years of seeing rising student numbers crammed into increasingly inadequate space.

In a sign of how resistance builds unions, over 70 members have joined the NEU since January as anger has built over what they regard as inadequate plans to address this.

Staff feel that the conditions are becoming increasingly poor and that the stresses this places on them, the children and their families are becoming intolerable.

Redbridge council agreed to talks this week to look at improvements to the plans.

This may resolve some of the issues. But in the wider picture strikes are clearly needed over the lack of funding from central government.

Following these talks members will decide whether to notify for strikes.

by Ben Morris


Headache for Mindspace

Cleaners who work for Mindspace, a co-working space provider, are planning to strike over the bosses’ plan to cut their hours and after the sacking of a worker.

Management suddenly told workers, who are outsourced to Key Enviro Solutions, that their hours would be drastically cut.

One worker, Delfina, stood up to the bosses and said she wouldn’t have her hours cut from four hours a day to two.

She was sacked by management for taking a stand.

Bosses also sent an email to the Caiwu cleaners’ union saying that asking members to strike could be a “breach of their contractual terms and conditions”.

But workers won’t back down. They said that unless Key Enviro Solutions meets their demand, they will strike on 1 May.

‘They want to make life miserable’—refugee speaks out

Posted on: April 16th, 2024 by Sophie
racism Bibby Stockholm

The Bibby Stockholm barge where the refugee was held (Picture: Ashley Smith)

“Being here has made me question if I even have human rights.” 

That’s how Taylor, a young refugee from Saudi Arabia who identifies as queer, feels about claiming asylum in Britain. “My choices were staying in the closet my entire life and pretending to be religious. 

“Or, I could be me and die there. That’s why I came over.” Taylor lived in a hotel room in west London for 15 months before being moved to the prison barge, the Bibby Stockholm.

Taylor argued with the Home Office that she shouldn’t be moved and sent videos of her being abused “for being queer” to them. 

“The Home Office said I submitted the evidence too late. On the barge I was sexually harassed a few times and I had multiple roommates at once.

“Eventually the Home Office agreed I was right about not belonging there,” she explained. “But it’s frustrating. It didn’t need to happen.”

When she was moved off the barge, Taylor was given just one hour’s notice and wasn’t told where she’d be going. Taylor said being on the barge “sucked”. 

“No one was my age. I couldn’t leave at any time, which was disturbing and made me feel claustrophobic.

“When sleeping, showering, changing, you’re always around people. It’s really hard, especially when you’re young and queer. I was really uncomfortable.”

Taylor added, “It’s airport-style security every time you come and go from the barge, even when you just want to smoke. You’re not allowed to bring in alcohol either or keep food in your room. It’s all a deterrent to stop people seeking asylum.”

Taylor says one of her biggest issues is that she’s not been allowed to work or study. 

“I’m not moving forward in my life,” she explained. “I get £8 or £9 a week, so I can’t work, but I can’t travel either. I’m in limbo.” 

Taylor says the system is set up against refugees “on purpose”. “They want to make your life as miserable as possible. Being queer is hard enough in society at large. I’m constantly avoiding being a victim of a hate crime. Then there’s being an asylum seeker on top of everything with the added racism and unfamiliarity,” she added.

Taylor says the asylum system is “exhausting”. “People are traumatised, tired and scared. Instead of being dealt with sensitively, we’re treated with disbelief. 

“We need more productive things to encourage us to find work or access psychiatric support. This stuff is important.

“But we’re not encouraged to live here. We’re made to suffer through the process. Once we’ve survived that, we’re left without any energy to be functioning members of society.

Rishi Sunak says being a woman isn’t a good enough reason to seek asylum or that queer people shouldn’t classify. If your life being at risk isn’t a reason to have asylum, then nothing is.

“I’m an outcast in two different ways. It’s isolating and difficult. It could easily be changed, but people aren’t willing to.”

Industrial round-up: Hopeful signs in PCS national pay ballot

Posted on: April 16th, 2024 by Isabel
PCS members on 15 March national strike (Picture: Guy Smallman)

PCS members last year on 15 March national strike (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The PCS union strike ballot across the civil service in Britain—launched on 18 March—continues. A national survey had seen workers vote overwhelmingly in favour of continuing the campaign for better pay and conditions. The dispute involves nearly 150,000 PCS members across 171 employers in the civil service and related areas.

The union’s pay claims are for an above inflation rise, pay equality across departments and a minimum wage of £15 per hour. Union members made last Saturday a day of phone banking. This involved contacting members across the civil service as a reminder to vote. According to the union reps’ own analysis, this initiative has helped the PCS branch for DWP Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders to reach a 74 percent turnout.

Other branches are using these tactics as a template for how they can surpass the anti-union law thresholds. Workers who join the PCS by Sunday this week can be included in the ballot—which is set to close on 13 May.

  • Around 600 PCS union members at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have voted by 73 percent to strike. The dispute is over the imposed policy of a 40 percent return to the office. The PCS has not yet released strike dates

Sanctuary workers strike to repair pay

London Sanctuary Housing repair and maintenance workers have announced more strikes. Strikes took place on Friday last week and were planned for Monday, Wednesday and Friday of this week and Monday, Wednesday and Friday of next. The 50 workers based in Hackney, east London, are members of the Unite union. They are fighting against a 4 percent rise imposed in April 2023.


Easy solutions to shift allowance cuts

Around 100 workers from Dnata, including HGV drivers and warehouse workers, are set to strike. They plan to walk out from Friday next week to 29 April, 3 May to 6 May and 10 May to 13 May. Dnata caters for all easyJet flights from Gatwick airport. The company removed a shift allowance for all staff last April leading to pay cuts for workers between £1,500 and £2,000 each.


Bosch bosses refuse to fix workers’ pay

Some 240 workers at Bosch Rexroth in Glenrothes, near Fife, are voting on strikes. The company proposed just a 1.25 percent pay rise. Bosch Rexroth, a subsidiary of the giant Bosch corporation, makes parts including gears and brakes, and parts for forklift trucks.


Strike threat win for tanker drivers

The Unite union called off an indefinite strike due to begin on Tuesday this week by JW Suckling tanker drivers in London, Essex, Middlesex and Grangemouth in Scotland. The union agreed to a 6.3 percent uplift in pay and an improvement to the company’s pension contributions. The drivers will also get an increase in annual leave and an unconditional annual bonus.


Strike delayed at CrossCountry rail

The RMT union suspended a planned strike on CrossCountry trains last Saturday, after management agreed to “intensive talks to resolve the dispute”. Bosses had refused to recognise RMT for all grades in the company and had opened talks with other unions.