Over 800 million go hungry due to war, climate chaos and economic crisis

Posted on: July 6th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
an orange bowl of food such as root vegetables and corn cobs, highlighting the needs of people who are going hungry due to a profity hungry system

Food security threatened by war, climate and economic crisis due to a profit hungry system (Picture: Wikimedia Commons)

The number of people going hungry in the world has rocketed by 150 million since the outbreak of Covid due to war, climate chaos and economic crisis. A new United Nations (UN) report, released on Wednesday, found that as many as 828 million people faced chronic undernourishment in 2021.

This staggering increase amounts to 46 million more people from a year earlier and 150 million more from 2019. Around 2.3 billion people in the world—almost 30 percent—were “moderately” or “severely food insecure” in 2021.

Overall that’s an increase of 350 million compared to just two years before. And nearly 934 million faced the “severe” situation—which happens when people run out of food or go days without any whatsoever.

The increase in global hunger means 45 million children under the age of five suffer from wasting. It’s the deadliest form of malnutrition, which increases a child’s risk of death by up to 12 times.

The UN report says the war in Ukraine is already having devastating implications for food security, particularly for people in the Global South. It explains the conflict “involving two of the biggest global producers of staple cereals, oilseeds and fertilizer, is disrupting international supply chains” and pushing up prices.

But the roots of the food crisis go much deeper than the Russian invasion. As the report explains, “This comes as supply chains are already being adversely affected by increasingly frequent extreme climate events.”

Ending world hunger by 2030 would cost £253 billion, according to a report by the UN and other research groups two years ago. The US military budget alone stood at £650 billion in 2021—and Nato members’ combined arms budgets were a staggering £1.5 trillion.

A small proportion could wipe out world hunger. Yet the US, Nato and other imperialist states are increasing military spending as rivalries increase in Ukraine and south east Asia.

One week ago a report from Wealth-X found there were 3,331 billionaires by the end of last year, up from 3,204 in 2020. Their combined wealth had surged by 17.8 percent to a record £9.9 trillion.

Wealth X said that the “the disruptive impact of the pandemic on the global economy” had in fact “reinforced many of these trends” to the concentration of wealth.

These are just two examples of how the priorities of the system aren’t shaped by human need. They’re driven by the interests of capitalist states and corporations, which compete to maximise profits and divide countries and markets in spheres of influence.

And the factors causing world hunger are getting worse. The report says it “repeatedly highlights the intensification of these major drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition—conflict, climate extremes and economic shocks, combined with growing inequalities”.

To stop these cataclysmic crises means breaking with the system that puts profit before the needs of people and the environment. Hope lies with the revolts that we’ve seen in recent years challenging our rulers and imposing socialist solutions.  

Over two million miss bill payments as inflation soars—it’s time to fight back

Posted on: July 6th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
Boris johnson sitting at table in 10 downing street with a notebook, and a hand on his face, not dealing with the cost of living crisis

Boris Johnson’s polling figures aren’t seeing any inflation (Picture: Number 10)

More than two million people have missed or defaulted on at least one bill, rent or mortgage payment in the last year. The new research from consumer group Which, published on Wednesday, is another sign of the social emergency facing working class people.

Almost 60 percent of people surveyed said that their household had to make cutbacks or dip into savings to cover essentials last month. It’s a significant hike on the 40 percent a year ago—and the poorest workers are paying a heavy price.

Some 64 percent of people in households with an income of up to £21,000 said they’d had to make cutbacks. One woman on a low income of under £21,000 says “the prices of everything are rising so steeply”. “But wages and benefits are not,” she told the researchers from Which.

“My wages have gone up by about £10 a week yet my petrol has gone up by £40 a week. And the cost of a food shop feels extortionate! There’s no extra money coming in but the amount going out is increasing at an alarming rate.”

The cost of living crisis is hammering working class people’s living standards across the board. Another worker on a middle income of £28,000 to £34,000 added that the “value of personal savings is being eroded by inflation”.

At the same time as inflation rises, British capitalism remains stagnant after the shock of coronavirus and the war. A report from the Bank of England on Wednesday warned that the “economic outlook for Britain and globally materially”. This means households will “become more stretched over coming months” and “they will also be more vulnerable to further shocks”.

But the Tory government, the Bank of England and bosses have only one answer to this deepening cost of living crisis.

The Tories’ new chancellor Nadhim Zahawi has said he’s “determined to do more” to slash taxes. “I want to be one of the most competitive countries in the world for investment,” he said.

For the Tories, being “competitive” means a race to the bottom that only benefits the corporations and more attacks on working class people. 

Meanwhile, Bank of England chief economist Huw Pill said on Wednesday that the central bank will “act forcefully” to push down inflation to 2.2 percent. He hinted that this “faster pace of tightening” would likely mean far steeper interest rate rises. Such a move would help push up unemployment—in the hope of disciplining workers into accepting lower wages.

Pill—who worked at banking giant Goldman Sachs—had previously said workers had to suffer a real-terms pay cut this year to get inflation under control. He claimed that if workers “try to maintain real wages, the more likely it is that domestically generated inflation will achieve its own self-sustaining momentum”.

Yet this upsurge in inflation is driven by higher profits—not a mythical “wage-price-spiral”—and the war in Ukraine. The Russian invasion sent shockwaves through the world economy, disrupting gas and food supplies. And then, in order to protect or even boost their profits, bosses have tried to hike their prices.

The new figures underline the need to build on the success of the RMT union’s three days of strikes on the railways last month. The RMT should call more strikes, and other union leaders should mobilise for a fightback to win inflation-busting pay increases. And, if they don’t, rank-and-file activists have to push them into action.

The party’s over for Boris Johnson, the Tories are weak and divided, the bosses fear workers’ anger—now is the time to strike.

Sunak and Javid go—drive out Johnson and all the Tories

Posted on: July 5th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
Sajid Javid, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak stand on a podium

Boris Johnson flanked by Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak (Picture: Flickr/Downing Street)

The party’s over for Boris Johnson. In a likely fatal blow to the scandal-ridden squatter in Downing Street, Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid resigned from the cabinet on Tuesday night. The question isn’t if Johnson goes—but when.

Everyone who hates the Tories, the cost of living crisis and all their foul policies needs to seize on this opportunity to drive them all out.

As Johnson apologised over the Pincher harassment scandal, Chancellor Sunak and health secretary Javid quit, saying, “We cannot continue like this”. Immediately after publishing their resignation letters came talk of more ministers quitting. 

Tory vice chair Bim Afolami MP resigned live on TV. “I just don’t think the prime minister any longer has, not just my support, but he doesn’t have, I don’t think, the support of the party, or indeed the country any more,” he said. “I think for that reason he should step down.”

Solicitor general Alex Chalk quit on Tuesday night and Robin Walker resigned as schools minister the following morning. So did children’s minister Will Quince—who just days ago defended Johnson over the Pincher scandal on news shows.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen has said more cabinet ministers will resign and Johnson “will be shown the door”. “I guess Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid finally got where much of the party got weeks if not months ago,” he said. “That we just can’t carry on like this. What a shambles. It has been a shambles.”

Several other ministers have so far refused to say whether they back the prime minister. 

The resignations follow months of partygate lies and revelations, two disastrous by-election defeats, and a raging cost of living crisis. And, they came after senior ministers were forced to defend Johnson over the latest scandal to engulf Downing Street.

Former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher—a key Johnson ally—resigned last Thursday after allegations that he groped two men in a club. Johnson claimed he knew little about Pincher’s behaviour when he appointed him, despite previous allegations against Pincher having been formally investigated.

However, last weekend former Downing Street official Dominic Cummings recalled that Johnson called the MP “Pincher by name, pincher by nature”, but still went on to promote him. Then Sir Simon McDonald, a top civil servant, bulldozed through Johnson’s defences, insisting it was “not true” that the prime minister was unaware that Pincher had been subject to a formal complaint.

The ministerial resignations come after Johnson narrowly survived a vote of no confidence among his own MPs. While he’s formally protected from another vote for a year, some backbenchers are pushing for the rules to be changed. 

The numbers of Tory MPs moving against Johnson shows how they fear growing anger against the government, which goes beyond the scandals to include the cost of living crisis and more. 

A snap poll by YouGov showed 69 percent of people think Johnson should resign—and 54 percent of people who voted Tory in 2019 do too.

Javid’s resignation letter said, “We may not have always been popular but we have been competent in acting in the national interest.” He warned that some are “concluding that we are now neither”. 

There are splits within the Tories about how to deal with the economic crisis. One pundit, Steve Richards, said Sunak’s letter was revealing because it “focuses on differences in economic policy rather than integrity”. Richards says we should “expect a more ‘fiscally conservative’ economic policy from Johnson’s successor whoever that is”.

Shortly after being appointed, new chancellor Nadhim Zahawi said he’s “determined to do more” to slash taxes. “I want to be one of the most competitive countries in the world for investment,” he said. For the Tories and bosses, being “competitive” means a race to the bottom that only benefits the rich and corporations and more attacks on working class people. 

Meanwhile, Labour offers no real alternative. Party leader Keir Starmer said, “After all the sleaze, the scandals and the failure, it’s clear that this government is now collapsing. Tory cabinet ministers have known all along who this prime minister is. Only a real change of government can give Britain the fresh start it needs.”

But Labour under Starmer has failed to show any real opposition to the Tories. It offers no solutions to the social emergency facing working class people. Starmer prefers to present Labour to the bosses as a competent pair of hands in a crisis. 

Instead of waiting for a change of government, everyone should build on the success of the recent rail strikes—of which there must be more. And, we should fight to spread strikes to our own workplaces and industries. There needs to be a massive increase in the tempo of the fightback.

Working class struggles could become the focal point for resistance—and derail whichever Tory comes to replace Johnson.

Sexist Tories are no surprise

Posted on: July 5th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments
an image of a crowded vigil, some holding placards that are anti-police, after the death of Sarah Everad who died because of the sexist system

Vigil for Sarah Everard that was attacked by police in south London in March 2021 (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Parliament is a cesspit of sexual harassment— and it’s no accident. Tory MPs walking the corridors of Westminster personify the system they serve. The bigotry that soaks society flows from the top, and the way MPs act in the corridors of power can filter down to ordinary people.

Boris Johnson employed Chris Pincher as his deputy chief whip despite knowing Pincher had been formally investigated for inappropriate behaviour while a foreign office minister. Two by-elections last month were the result of more Tory filth—child abuse and watching porn in the House of Commons. David Warburton MP is under investigation over three allegations of sexual misconduct.

Another Tory MP was arrested on suspicion of rape last month, and MP Rob Roberts is also under investigation for sexual harassment. These are just the Tories we know about. Yet they still have the audacity to instruct us on how we should live.

They judge single mothers and attack Muslim women, and Johnson wants us to think that problems come from sharing same-sex spaces with trans women. The real threat is the army of Tories who sexually assault, harass and bully and think their elevated status will protect them.

It’s not new MPs—Tory or otherwise—that will stop parliament from being a den of decay. Instead it’s ripping apart their entire system, which pumps sexism and oppression.

Jermaine Baker inquiry—‘failure to hold police to account breeds impunity’

Posted on: July 5th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
The family of Jermaine Baker joined a march to demand justice for those who've died after police contact, a crowd shot with people carrying placards

The family of Jermaine Baker joined a march to demand justice for those who’ve died after police contact

A 28 year-old unarmed black man was lawfully killed by police in 2015 despite a “catalogue of failings”, a public inquiry has found.

Jermaine Baker was shot dead on 11 December 2015 by Metropolitan Police in north London during Operation Ankaa. He was one of three people in a car attempting to free Izzet Eren, who was being transported to Wood Green Crown Court from HMP Wormwood Scrubs.

Jermaine’s mother Margaret Smith said, “Jermaine was dead before he got in that car. His life was taken for no good reason—as I have always said he should have gone to prison like the rest of the men in the car.”

Margaret added that she “cannot agree with the judge’s conclusions that Jermaine did not die as a result of these failures”. “That is a conclusion that I cannot understand and the judge has not explained why he has drawn that conclusion,” she said. “After seven years of waiting and two months of evidence we deserved more.”

The inquiry report identified at least 24 failings by the Met from the start of the operation, its planning and implementation. But it did not find that the failures contributed to Jermaine’s death.

Judge Clement Goldstone QC said these were a “loud wake-up to a newly appointed commissioner”. But he added that “that race or colour played no part in the fatal shootings” and the failures would be under less criticism if Jermaine hadn’t been killed.

The officer who shot Jermaine, known as W80, was cleared of unlawful killing. Operation Ankaa’s commander DCI Williams was also cleared for gross negligence manslaughter.

Michael Oswald, the family’s solicitor, said, “Given the extend of these failings and the obvious role they must have played in Jermaine’s death, the family is at a total loss to understand how the judge can have come to the conclusion that Jermaine did not die as a result of those failures.

“The judge’s findings in relation to W80 are ones which cause the family acute concern. They cannot comprehend how in the face of the expert evidence and common sense the judge can have found that Jermaine was moving his hands towards his bag when W80 shot him.

“In light of this extraordinary finding the family can only conclude that the judge wanted to do all he could to exonerate W80.”

Jermaine was in the front of an Audi that had an imitation Uzi gun in. W80 told the inquiry he acted in self-defence because Jermaine moved his hand upwards to what they thought was a firearm in his bag across his chest.

Jermaine’s legal team said he was raising his arms to surrender. W80 claimed he repeatedly told Jermaine to place his hands on the dashboard—something Jermaine’s team said was a lie.

A transcript says the police shouted, “Get your hands up.” The time between this and the shot was five seconds. W80 opened the passenger door and the bullet hit Jermaine in the neck and left wrist which was raised above the neck’s entry wound.

The report criticises those in command for deciding to allow the prison van to take Eren to Wood Green Crown Court, so that cops could intercept those trying to free him.

“Whatever lip service may have been paid to considering other options, there was never in reality more than one,” the judge said.

Cops also failed to inform other bodies of the plan, including the prison, Wood Green Crown Court and security firm Serco. This conduct “was indicative of an arrogant, dismissive attitude towards formality and a failure to appreciate the importance of accountability.”

“The planning of operation Ankaa fell short of that which would have been reasonable.” Examples of “institutional defensiveness” also attempted to justify “what others might see as a blurring of roles or an extensive level of incompetence”.

The control room managing the operation was also “not fit for purpose”. The key reason being that the audio equipment placed in the bugged Audi was not properly installed. It should have heard that the occupants were discussing being in possession of an imitation firearm. Instead, the message relayed to officers was that they definitely were armed with a real firearm.

Keen to let the operation go ahead, senior officers failed to recognise that they had enough evidence to make arrests before firearms officers intervened. Goldstone also criticised the lack of disciplinary proceedings on officers involved.

Inquest charity’s head of casework Anita Sharma said, “It’s difficult to comprehend how such catastrophic failings were not assessed by the judge to have contributed to Jermaine’s death.” She added that, on top of the Met being put into special measures, the findings are “yet more evidence of the systemic failures of this force”. And evidence of “harmful policing practices nationally.”

“We must see accountability for those involved in Jermaine’s death, to send a message to police leadership and officers that they are not above the law,” Sharma added. “The failure to hold police to account breeds impunity which ultimately allows deaths and harms to continue.

“Scrutiny of previous fatal police shootings has revealed serious failings in firearms operational planning, intelligence and communication. There has been an institutional failure to enact change, which cannot continue.”

In June 2017 the Crown Prosecution Service said it would not prosecute W80. But in May 2018 the Independent Office for Police Misconduct (IOPC) directed the Met to hold gross misconduct proceedings.

The public inquiry was announced by home secretary Priti Patel in February 2020, and ran from June 2021 to September 2021. W80 is challenging the IOPC decision to push for gross misconduct, which will be heard in the Supreme Court in October.

Crisis continues—but one spark could lead to revolt

Posted on: July 5th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments
image of Boris Johnson sitting with other Tory party members at a meeting

There can be a bigger fightback against the Tories and the bosses

Britain is a tinderbox. Millions of people are struggling with rising bills, low benefits and wages, and fuel and food poverty. Any sustained fightback could set off explosive wider struggles. There are lots of reasons to be angry at the Tories.

Inflation at 11.7 percent hits people on benefits and the minimum wage hardest. But the pain goes much wider. Petrol and diesel prices are going through the roof, even as the oil giants make obscene profits. On 11 July 2008 Brent crude oil prices hit their highest ever level of $147.02 a barrel.

Petrol in Britain was 119.4p a litre. On 29 June 2022 this year Brent crude was $115.20 a barrel. Petrol was 191p a litre. Last month we saw the rail strikes, a brilliant example of the best way to resist the Tories.

This week groups of car and HGV drivers held “slow down” protests on British motorways to demand lower petrol and diesel prices. In total 13 people were arrested across Devon and near the Prince of Wales bridge between England and Wales.

The Yellow Vest revolt in France that began in November 2018 was triggered by a rise in the price of fuel. It was a battleground between right and left as to which direction it would go in. It ended up as major challenge to the rule of president Emmanuel Macron.

It was a spur to strikes led by rank and file workers and embraced a broad range of working class interests. It also clashed head-on with the cops. The blockades we saw this week are not yet like that. But the mood for resistance in Britain today can also be drawn in different directions.

The task for trade unionists, campaigners and socialists is to build and strengthen collective, left wing focuses and not leave the stage to the right. We want a militant movement against the social emergency of rising prices. It needs to be one that is anti-racist, demands radical action over climate change and directs its rage at the Tories and the bosses.

We need more strikes to follow the rail workers’ action because they are the best way to defend living standards. But we also need them because they can be the beacon for everyone who wants to see action.

On the rail picket lines and the support rallies there was a sense of unity which could bring together people who are rightly bitter at how the system wrecks their lives. If strikes are held back or defeated then rotten right wing politics can emerge as an alternative.

This is an urgent moment to be the boldest in boosting the fightback, to break from routine, to back everyone who hits back, to beat the Tories, and argue hard for socialist change.

The story of Pride as told by Channel 4

Posted on: July 5th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
an image of Olly Alexander singing on a stage with draping curtains and pride colours at The Royal Vauxhall tavern

Olly Alexander performing at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern to celpbrate the release Freedom—50 Years Of Pride (Picture: Channel 4)

In this feature-length documentary, Channel 4 looks back at the origins and development of a remarkable movement.  

It features contributions from people with a close relationship to Pride from across the decades—including Olly Alexander, Bimini, Lady Phyll, Ian McKellen, Holly Johnson, Cat Burns, MNEK, Tom Robinson, and Lucia Blayke. And it weaves interview testimony and archive material with a series of specially‑shot performances at London’s Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

The film explores the battles fought and the shifts in attitudes that have characterised LGBT+ activism over the last half-century.  It explores the ways in which these changes have been influenced by and reflected at Pride.  And it tells some remarkable personal stories of courage, love, support, anger and determination that have defined 50 years of Pride in Britain.

The danger is that Channel 4 gives us a sanitised version of the movement, as told by the great and the good who feature heavily here.

There may not be such a focus on the criticism from the more radical end of the LGBT+ movement of where Pride today has ended up. Channel 4 describes Pride as only “Part protest, part party, part performance.” In reality, Pride began with protest at its core.

But Channel 4 is at least right that “Pride has been and remains a vital, political, celebratory part of the ongoing battle for LGBT rights”.

  • Freedom—50 Years Of Pride, available now on All4


Rubikon

All they can do is watch as the world burns. The emergence of an extinction event on Earth leaves the inhabitants of a space station in horror, as they witness the end of humanity unfold before their very eyes.

Does the crew risk their lives to get back home during the global catastrophe and search for survivors or remain safe and watch as life as they know it comes to an end?

The film begins with an intriguing—if somewhat familiar—premise. It’s the not too distant future—2056 in this case—and we’re just past environmental collapse. “Only the rich can afford to live in ‘air domes’ which filter the contaminated outside air.

“Big corporations have replaced governments and states. Conflicts over resources and territorial borders are resolved by their corporate armies.”

There’s a lot going on in the first minutes of the film. Everyone on the station seems as if they’ve something to hide—but it does mean the plot—at least intially—isn’t so clear. Some of the acting feels a little wooden too.

But the sight of a giant dust cloud engulfing the Earth from afar is still pretty evocative. It’s a vision of apocalypse that’s both standbackish and manages to capture the enormity of it. 

  • Rubikon, available now on digital platforms

A clear expose of how profit threatens climate collapse

Posted on: July 5th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
A photograph of an oil rig in the middle of the north sea, an example of an industry which puts profit before climate

The Oil Machine exposes how the system puts profit before climate (Picture: Gary Bembridge)

The Oil Machine acts as a warning of a heating planet where oil and gas are entwined with ­government and finance.

The first scene forces us to acknowledge that oil as a commodity is everywhere. The film goes on to show the terrifying reality of North Sea oil taken from public control and sold to corporations.

The search for oil in the North Sea cost millions, even before anybody thought it likely to find oil there. The documentary goes on to explain how links between finance and oil keep society tied to fossil fuel use. 

An expert describes North Sea oil as an “engine” driving forward Britain’s finance sector. Increasingly large parts of the economy are reliant upon future North Sea profits. In 2000 30 percent of any given pension fund in Britain was directly invested in BP or Shell. An economist explains there’s “3.5 degrees of heating locked into the London Stock Exchange” and “pensions savings and investments are invested in financing a future no one wants to see.”

The film features oil bosses, who shirk responsibility and fake concern—Nonsense. But young activists, experts and ­scientists pick apart the nonsense. With some North Sea rigs extracting 1.7 million barrels a day one of them points out the impossibility of ­“decarbonising the oil and gas sector.”

The film explains in easily ­understood terms what fossil fuels are and the role they play in ­warming the planet. Young people and children will feel the worst end of a heating planet. Some of those interviewed worry about food shortages and where people will be able to live.  Others suffer “eco-anxiety.” Experts explain in blatant terms the reality we face if action isn’t taken. 

Shots of the ferocious ocean ­surrounding the rigs sit like a ­warning of what’s to come if the globe heats by 1.5 degrees, let alone 2 degrees or more.

The ­documentary also raises one of the most important questions that faces everyone today—the clash between business and the climate. As one young activist asks, “How could you know about such a massive issue and still worry more about profit?”

It’s a stark question—but one that also points to an answer. If the problem is a society that prioritises profit above all else, the answer is to fight for a new society.

  • The Oil Machine is set for theatrical release later this year