‘We’re turning our backs on Labour—after Labour turned its back on us’

Posted on: August 7th, 2022 by Nick No Comments
Hundreds of Coventry council HGV2 bin workers behind a banner reading "Labour councillors, stop union busting".

Coventry HGV2 drivers, betrayed by Labour, on strike earlier this year (Picture: Unite West Midlands)

As Keir Starmer responds to a rising tide of strikes by accelerating his shift to the right, trade unionists and even party members are increasingly turning their back on him too.

For workers and union activists, Starmer’s demands that leading MPs stay away from picket lines—and his refusal to back above inflation pay rises—is a betrayal. Meanwhile, many Labour members, and those who have recently left, question what the party is even for.

For HGV2 drivers in Coventry, their eight month strike against the Labour council was a sign of things to come. While they fought for—and eventually won—a pay rise, the Labour council, backed by Starmer, set out to break them.

 “We had the door slammed squarely in our face by the council who made up lies, suspended our rep and provided scab labour,” Unite union convenor Haydn Jones told Socialist Worker. “The intention was to intimidate and bully us to show they have the capability to make other strikers fall in line.

“Labour needs to hang its head in shame—it’s a party of despair for workers and it will never be united. Anybody that says Labour is there to represent working people is absolutely delusional.”

Haydn ripped his Labour ­membership up on the picket line. None of the 73 strikers were members by the end of the dispute. He thinks Starmer wants to prove that Labour is not a party that represents workers or unions.

“I’ll never forget eight months of being sneered at by Starmer,” he said—pointing to how Starmer laughed at the idea that Unite could cut its ­funding for the party over the dispute.

Labour MPs were cautious about joining Coventry’s picket line, including the left wing Zarah Sultana. “She chose to be a Labour MP rather than standing up for our rights,” Haydn said.

“They don’t stand by their convictions. For me there’s little or no hope for the Labour Party. That’s been demonstrated by the vicious barrage of lies and attacks on us.”

Haydn added that Starmer is “forgetting how Labour was set up through subs and donations of workers.” “It takes millions from hard working people through union affiliation fees,” he said.

“Unite must disaffiliate from Labour and there’s a strong urge for this. No more payments should go to Labour.”

Labour activists are also starting to question whether the party deserves their money and support. Alex joined the Labour Party just before the 2017 general election, encouraged by previous leader Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to abolish student debt.

“I joined because it was not just about being against the Tories, it felt like something I could actually get behind,” he told Socialist Worker. Yet Alex’s enthusiasm started to dip as the Labour right attacked and defeated Corbyn’s leadership in the run up to the 2019 general election.

When Starmer replaced Corbyn and the pandemic hit, Alex let his membership expire. “Going into the Covid lockdowns Starmer backed up the Tories,” he said. “Meanwhile capitalism collapsed in on itself and couldn’t cope without being backed up by workers—that radicalised me.”

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP John McDonnell shake hands with RMT assistant secretary Eddy Dempsey on a picket line

Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell joined picket lines last week—but can they lead an alternative? (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Is an alternative possible—and what would it have to do to be different?

For the thousands—or tens of thousands—who’ve left Labour under Starmer, the big question is what fills the gap, and where to place their activity. Many feel that an alternative party to Labour—one that matches what they hoped for under Jeremy Corbyn—would be a step forward.

Haydn has called on Labour’s left MPs to quit the party and join a new parliamentary organisation representing workers. “We need a new party that believes in socialism to make things fair and equal for all,” he said. “We need to gather around people such as Corbyn.

“And we need a majority within parliament to change rules. I think a socialist government could run the country quite successfully, and they would have to make people pay their fair share.”

With the funding pulled from Labour, Haydn says this should go towards sponsoring Unite members and socialist councillors. “Starmer has changed the rules so much that it’d be impossible to get anyone that resembles Corbyn in,” he said.

“But we have two years to do something.” He added, “We need a process—that I hope isn’t too slow—of getting socialist councillors elected then supporting them as MPs.”

Yet even a new party would face the same difficulties as Labour under Corbyn. His MPs didn’t rebel against him simply because they were right wing. It was because they hated that his leadership didn’t look like what they call a “responsible party of government.”

That’s a party that promises to manage the economy and the British state in a way that ensures bosses’ profits. So Labour MPs pushed Corbyn into compromise.

The experience dispirited many activists such as Alex. “There was such fundamental contrast in the party that meant Corbyn couldn’t put his platform forward,” Alex said.

“It showed me even if he was in power, Corbyn would’ve had to compromise. Not even because of public pressure, but because his own party would’ve imploded.”

Constant compromise isn’t just the great failure of Labour—it’s the nature of parliamentary politics to fall into the demands of the right and big business. A new party would have to face up to that challenge, as well as the pressure to fall in behind Labour in parliament against the Tories.

Any alternative mustn’t simply try to repeat the Corbyn project—but build a new one that puts the power of struggle and resistance, not parliament, at its heart.

New film raises questions about legacy of Holocaust

Posted on: August 7th, 2022 by Sam No Comments
A still from the animated film 'Where is Anne frank' views two girls sitting on a bed facing each other. The girl on the left is wearing a green jumpsuit and has red hair, the girl on the right has dark black hair and is wearing a red shirt and brown skirt with a diary in hand

Where Is Anne Frank animated film directed by Ari Folman

Where is Anne Frank imaginatively retells the well-known story of the teenage girl who wrote a diary while in hiding from the Nazis in occupied Amsterdam from 1942-44. 

Anne Frank’s diary, published in 1947, and the story of her and her family, humanised the immense human cost of the HolocaustIt was a period that saw six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. 

Anne and her family hid for two years in the attic of Otto Frank’s office. They were eventually discovered and taken to Auschwitz and then Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. There Anne, her mother and her sister were killed. 

Where is Anne Frank retells Anne’s story through the eyes of Kitty, her imaginary friend who she often addresses in her diary. Kitty is reanimated in contemporary Amsterdam and finds herself in the Anne Frank House museum as ­tourists and security guards poke through it. 

She begins a search for Anne through the streets of Amsterdam. Through flashbacks of Anne ­speaking with Kitty we relive the creeping persecution faced by Jewish people following the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

We see the effect this had on Anne, a popular and social young girl, as her family were forced out of most parts of public life until they were hidden completely. 

The film is pitched for children and young adults with elegant animation and simple dialogue which enables the depiction of Anne’s lively character to shine through. Anne’s world in the attic is shaped by her imagination, her relationships and the increasingly scary news of Nazi-occupied Europe and extermination camps. 

The petty grievances and conflicts with those that she shares close quarters with while in hiding give dimension to the stuffiness and tragedy of her captivity. 

Anne’s interest in film and popular culture form her imagination. There’s a memorable dream sequence where an army of Greek gods and film stars—including Clark Gable—go into battle with Nazi armies.

Kitty’s journey through the ­contemporary world attempts to draw similarities between the ­persecutions faced by Jews in Nazi Germany and the persecution being faced by refugees in Europe today. 

Dutch police round up shivering families of refugees on the snowy streets outside the museum and bundle them into the back of border patrol trucks. The friends that Kitty makes while searching for Anne are poor youths who’ve been repeatedly arrested for stealing food and other means of subsistence. 

The film powerfully asks if Anne’s memory and lessons of the Holocaust has changed the world for the better when racism, poverty and injustice are still so much a feature of contemporary Europe. 

Bus workers won’t stop pay battle

Posted on: August 7th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments
bus strike strike picket

Workers on picket lines (Picture: Unite North West)

Bus workers’ all out and indefinite strike across north west England is a symbol of the new readiness to fight over pay. And it’s another sign that more and more workers either have to fight back or accept being pushed into poverty.

Around 1,800 bus workers employed by Arriva began their third week of a walkout this week and they are even more determined to win than they were when they began on 19 July. Workers at the 11 depots are furious that Arriva’s parent company Deutsche Bahn has made billions in profit while workers struggle to afford energy bills, petrol and food.

“Some people think we get paid mega money, but that’s just not true,” said Chris Jones, the Unite union rep and bus worker in Birkenhead. “The truth is a lot of us here are struggling. We worked throughout the pandemic, most of us got Covid, and two of our lads died. Any money we had saved has now gone. 

“All we got was a box of chocolates—that I delivered—and a three minute thank you video.” The workers struck after they voted 96 percent in favour of strikes. They have remained out with not one worker crossing picket lines after rejecting an 8.5 percent pay offer. 

This offer was no improvement on the original proposal—and wasn’t even put to a vote. Dave Roberts, the Unite regional officer for the north west, told Socialist Worker, “The company asked for a meeting last Monday, suggesting an improved offer would be tabled, only to turn up and offer the same percent. 

“It is an insult to our members and just caused confusion to the public who were under the impression we would get an improved offer.” Pickets are happy this was rejected, with a large number explaining how they need an above inflation pay rise. 

Others think that forcing the bosses to concede a double-digits rise will be hard. But this won’t stop workers fighting for one. Dave, a bus worker also at Birkenhead, told Socialist Worker, “Morale is high, public support is good. Even the food on the picket line is great.

“We’ve been pushed into a corner and have to fight back to defend our rights.” The north west Arriva workers’ battle could set a benchmark for bus workers everywhere. “The issue is that if Merseyside ­workers get, say, 10 percent it would be a benchmark for the other Arriva ­workers balloting to get more. Bosses don’t want that to happen,” says Dave.

Chris explained how the issues facing workers are about more than just pay. “The buses aren’t a public service anymore,” he said. They’re run for profit, not people, and the public knows that. “All the ­workers here have seen is cuts. There’s been pretty much no investment, but we are saying that you have to invest in staff.

“Buses used to go as far as Chester but now they just run around this area. Around 80 buses in Merseyside were lost in the past year and more will be cut in September.”

The mood on the picket lines is buoyant. Unite union flags and posters cover the walls near the depot entrance as the pickets receive support from passing cars and pedestrians.

The pickets talked about how all workers are going through massive hardships. Dave hopes their strike “will inspire other workers to walkout—there’s no better time to strike.”

Chris added, “We went to the BT picket line, and I took seven drivers to the RMT picket line.” Striker Alan added, “This could end up in a general strike. The posties might walk out, and there are three other strike ballots among Arriva bus workers.

“The situation is so bad it’s ­something we should be thinking about—striking together.” Dave Roberts said, strikes “are important now, especially with the corporate greed crisis we all find ourselves in”. 

John who works at the Bootle depot told Socialist Worker, “We’re fighting for pay but we’re also telling the government that people working full time don’t deserve to be poor.

Like the workers in Birkenhead, John hopes the strikes will spread and be an inspiration to other Arriva bus ­workers and rail workers. “I believe we are at the closest to a general strike we’ve ever been.

“No wonder the government talks about limiting strikes. Trade unionists really need to think about the situation we’re in and how we can make sure the bosses don’t cut our pay or conditions anymore.”

  • Tweet solidarity to Unite North West @Unite_NorthWest GMB North West @GMBShoutNW 

*Alan and John are pseudonyms


Unite a bus-t up with the bosses 

Arriva bosses are struggling to maintain a wave of discontent and strikes among bus workers in Britain. Strike ballots are underway at Arriva depots in Essex, Kent, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and north London which could see a further 3,100 workers walk out.

These ballots and the action currently being taken by Arriva North West workers follows strikes by 1,000 Arriva bus workers in south London and 650 in Yorkshire. As the struggle among workers grows, there are lessons to be learnt. 

Deutsche Bahn, the parent company of Arriva is the biggest and one of the most profitable public transport companies in the world. In just ten years the firm raked in a profit of £5.9 billion with the majority of the cash—£4.3 billion—paid out in dividends.

The firm is sitting on piles of cash whilst workers stare down poverty during the cost of living crisis. For the 1,800 Arriva North West workers they have a monumental task to hit back at the multi-billion pound company. Unity and continuous action are the strikers’ strongest weapons. South London Arriva workers struck first in May and were forced to vote on an improved offer. 

They narrowly accepted a 3.5 percent “pay rise” and a £250 lump sum—far below the 11.1 percent RPI rate of inflation recorded in April. They rejected previous offers of 3 percent and a £300 lump sum. 

But unfortunately the workers’ isolated action and desperate financial situations of many meant a narrow majority lost hope. Arriva workers in Yorkshire fared somewhat better. Unlike the south London bus workers they took continuous action for four weeks.

The escalated action won an average pay increase of 9 percent. The strikers accepted this after rejecting a 4.1 percent offer—but 9 percent is still far below inflation, making it a real terms pay cut. More militant, escalated action has potential to win bigger pay offers to combat the cost of living crisis and smash inflation.

If the strike ballots taking place across Essex, Kent, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and north London pass, united action will hit bosses harder than the two completed strikes. And some 1,600 London United bus workers in Fulwell, Hounslow, Hounslow Heath, Park Royal, Shepherd’s Bush, Stamford Brook, and Tolworth depots are set to strike on Friday 19 and Saturday 20 August.

The first of those days is during a Tube strike, the second during a rail strike. Bus strikes alongside rail strikes would be powerful. Strike coordination and joint marches and rallies are the way forward. Bus workers in the North West remain optimistic they will win a significant offer. 

They look to other Arriva fights but also the Merseyside bus drivers employed by Stagecoach who voted to strike and before walking out won an above inflation pay rise. They also won the agreement that their wages will rise alongside the RPI level of inflation or by 2 percent—whichever is higher—from March next year.

Deutsche Bahn bosses are sitting on piles of money that was taken from the backs of workers. It’s time Arriva bus workers stood up in unison against the bosses and grabbed it back.


Fight to save London buses

Bus workers and passengers in London last week stormed the Transport for London (TfL) headquarters, demanding the firm doesn’t cut 16 bus routes and change 78 more to save money.

After gathering in Waterloo, central London, the protesters organised by the Unite union marched to the headquarters on Blackfriars Road, south London. They held banners reading, “Stop the London bus cuts,” and “Save our London buses, stop making Londoners pay for the Pandemic.”

Chants of “Save our buses,” echoed around the building as the workers waved flags and placards. Unite regional officer John Murphy said, “The people of London depend on a good properly funded and supported transport network, especially with the escalating cost of fuel. These people and the bus workers, who we all applauded through Covid, need to be given proper consideration, rather than used as a political football.”

TfL is looking to attack workers and passengers as it scrambles to make £730 million savings after taking subsidies from the government during the Covid pandemic. These bus cuts would save just £35 million.

Axing routes would see bus drivers and depot workers lose overtime working—which many are relying on during the cost of living crisis. It would also force passengers to turn to more expensive and environmentally damaging modes of transport. 

The danger is immediate with the first routes being axed by the end of the year and the remainder going by the end of next year. 

Rage against the Tories at Eastbourne leadership hustings

Posted on: August 6th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
Tory hustings protest in Eastbourne with protestors holding placards which read never truss a tory, and defy tory rule

Eastbourne protests at the hustings united different groups and individuals (Picture: John Hesse)

Over 200 protesters confronted the Rishi Sunak-Liz Truss hustings roadshow on Friday in the Sussex coastal town of Eastbourne.

Speaking to camera outside the venue a bemused-sounding BBC journalist struggled to be heard above chants of “Tories out” and “Refugees welcome here”.  “It seems that every protester in East Sussex is here,” he said.

Meanwhile inside the event half a dozen young people from Green New Deal Rising and Just Stop Oil had blagged their way into the Centre to successfully disrupt the event to call for climate action.  Typically rather than address the climate emergency Liz Truss vowed to crack down on protests and strikes.

Local protesters had gathered at Eastbourne station to welcome groups arriving from Hastings, Lewes, Brighton, Newhaven and Seaford. Then they marched to the hustings venue behind the East Sussex RMT Coastway union banner.

Eastbourne Trades Council and Eastbourne Stand up to Racism (SUTR) initiated the protest. Organiser Louise Walton from SUTR said, “Once we called the protest we immediately reached out to environmental groups and refugee support groups across East Sussex including Extinction Rebellion (XR) groups and the local Bespoke campaign which fights for improved cycle facilities in the town.

“We didn’t wait until the venue was known before putting the call out.”

Rachael from the local XR group said “Some good connections were made with different groups. Working together is how we win!”

Chelsea heard about the protest from a friend. She said “I went straight to the Welcome Centre, the hustings venue. There was just me and small groups of right-wing people. I felt very alone but then I heard the protest coming round the corner. What a wonderful sight. I wasn’t on my own anymore.”

When the march arrived at the centre protesters took over the concourse which was the entry point to the hustings. They drowned out and sidelined small numbers of conspiracy theorists and UKIP supporters.

Tories attending the event had no choice but to make their way past the protest while the crowd chanted “Welcome every refugee, throw the Tories in the sea”, “Sunak, Truss hear us say—tax the rich and make them pay” and “What do we want? Climate justice.”

At one point a visibly shaken Caroline Ansell, the local Tory MP, emerged to remonstrate with police saying “this is unacceptable”.

After an hour or so of chanting, protesters held a short rally. Keith Mitchell from the RMT received a rousing reception and warned of Tory plans to outlaw effective strike action. Other speakers condemned the government’s Rwanda deportation policy and the support of both candidates for fracking.

  • Future Tory hustings are: Tue 9 August Darlington, Thu 11 August Cheltenham, Tue 16 August Perth, Fri 19 August Manchester, Tue 23 August Birmingham, Thu 25 August Norwich, Wed 31 August London

‘Pay was the tip of the iceberg’—Amazon striker writes

Posted on: August 6th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
Amazon striker in an organge high visibility vest with a placard demanding pay rise

Amazon workers fight back in a series of wildcat strikes (Picture: twitter/@walkout20201)

I am one of the workers that walked out on Thursday at BHX4 in Coventry. The pay is only the tip of the iceberg of the issues we face at our fulfilment centre, and discontent has been brewing for a while. 

We worked through the entire Covid pandemic, including the lockdowns, with little to no thanks for doing a dangerous job.

All we wanted was the £2 more than they paid us in the first lockdown. We get told that we are breaking records with how fast we work, but we don’t get any thanks.

The day they announced the pay rise, we were told to buy tickets for a summer party for which Amazon had hired an event centre. Of course, they didn’t ask us if that was what we actually wanted. 

Managers are constantly watching us for drops in productivity or idle time. If anyone is caught using a phone, even if it’s an emergency or for a medical reason, we are automatically put into investigation meetings. 

This is especially frustrating as we see management using their phones and laptops while walking around machinery with no punishment whatsoever.

When we walked out on Thursday, we did so peacefully and with a valid reason. The site manager came into the canteen area with a megaphone and told us we had 30 minutes to come up with the reasoning and send someone to him. We refused to do this as we were standing united. 

He returned later, and we told him that the pay was our main issue. We were then told he would “take it away and try to get an answer” and “other sites have the same issue but can’t tell us when we are getting any answer back”. 

After that we heard that if we refused to go back to work, we would be clocked out and would not be paid for the time we didn’t work. 

On Friday morning about 100 associates walked out and protested outside. All of these associates have been told they will be sacked for this action.

Amazon made over £20 billion in profit in the last year while our bills continue to increase. In the four years I have been at BHX4, my pay has only gone up by £1 in total.

All we want is fair pay for our work, and the sooner Amazon management realises it, the better. Amazon uses the principle of “have backbone, disagree and commit.” Well, Amazon has tried to break our backbone, we disagree with the pay rise and commit to being heard. 

  • On Friday the GMB union said Amazon workers’ protests where workers slow down their work to one package an hour were taking place at Tilbury, Dartford, Belvedere, Hemel Hempstead and Chesterfield. This is in addition to walkouts and stoppages at sites including Tilbury, Coventry, Bristol and Rugeley.
  • Dave is a pseudonym

Is it true that the 1970s are back?

Posted on: August 6th, 2022 by Isabel No Comments
Women on the picket line outside the Yardley cosmetics factory during struggle in the 1970s

Women on strike for equal pay at Yardley cosmetics factory in 1977 in Basildon

Do soaring inflation and the growing number of strikes mean we’re going back half a century to an era of flared trousers and flare-ups in society? Inflation is taking off as it did from the late 1960s onwards, peaking at over 24 percent a year in 1975. But this time the acceleration of price rises is far quicker even if it hasn’t hit such heights—yet.

And again, as last week’s interest rate rise signals, ­spiralling prices could be combined with a recession where growth dies and people lose their jobs. That’s what happened between 1973 and 1975. But it’s the return of strikes that most want to analyse. 

The Sun’s front page ­headline recently read, “We regret to announce that this country is returning to the 1970s.” And it went on—in its usual lying mode—“Teachers and binmen threaten to join railway workers’ strike—causing chaos not seen since the 1970s.” The message is that the 1970s was a squalid decade of mayhem imposed by ­bullying trade unions who wrecked everyone’s lives in pursuit of their selfish demands. Everyone should try to prevent any return to this abyss.

In fact, there is a lot to celebrate about the 1970s. The greatest wave of strikes since the 1920s massively boosted workers’ confidence and terrified the ruling class. National miners’ strikes defeated the Tory government. An openly political strike freed the imprisoned Pentonville Five union activists and smashed anti-union laws.

There was the biggest ­building strike ever with 300,000 people out over 12 weeks. At the Saltley Gate coke works in Birmingham during the 1972 miners’ battle, strikers won a victory that became a symbol of workers’ power. Tens of thousands of striking miners and other workers who had walked out to join them defeated the police and shut down the depot.

Tory MP Douglas Hurd was then parliamentary private secretary to prime minister Edward Heath. He recorded in his diary that the government was “vainly wandering over the battlefield looking for someone to surrender to, and being massacred all the time”. By the end of 1973 Tory industry minister John Davies told his family, “We must enjoy this Christmas for it may be our last one.”

The number of strike days rose from fewer than five million in 1968 to 13.5 million in 1971 and 23.9 million in 1972. For comparison, the 2018 figure was 273,000. Millions of workers won pay rises that matched or beat inflation and stopped job cuts. 

The fantastic high points of struggle encouraged fights by groups of women workers, the very low paid and those who had never been in unions before. They included cleaners, care workers, ambulance drivers, school meals workers, nurses, food workers and more. A powerful example came in January 1970 as the wage revolt spread to clothing ­workers in Leeds. 

The mainly women workers at one firm, John Collier, struck and then pulled out other firms until 25,000 were on strike. Vince Hall, writing in Socialist Worker, reported, “I went along with 300 marching people down to the Woodhouse area of Leeds. They were singing ‘We shall overcome’. The demonstrators, mostly women, surrounded the small factory of H Spender Ltd and swarmed round it shouting ‘Out, out, out’. 

 

“They banged on the windows and pushed open the doors.” Women “rushed in screaming ‘Support us’, ‘Don’t be blacklegs’, ‘Stop scabbing’. The place was shut down inside ten minutes. The demonstrators moved on, blocking traffic and taking over the whole street while nervous policemen looked on.”

Next the “incensed” women tackled the Hall Schiller Ltd factory. Here workers were unsure about joining in for fear of the sack. But “the continuous uproar and singing and shouting ­outside proved too much. Several ashen-faced men walked out nervously into the crowd. Later the rest of the women ran out.”

Such glorious moments weren’t because of left wing union ­leaders. The John Collier strikers’ demand for an extra shilling (5p) an hour for all workers was denounced by the national union officials. They were asking for far less, and for bigger increases for men than women. But that didn’t hold back the strikers who described a sense of fighting for each other and for young people.

It wasn’t just that there were lots more strikes. Strikers developed the tactic of “flying pickets”. These moved from workplace to workplace shutting down those still working and stopping the movement of goods linked to the strike. Militant methods became normal—between March and May 1972 there were 57 separate sit-ins going on. 

Unions of teachers, civil service workers and hospital workers were blooded in struggle and became real class organisations. Who—apart from bosses, Tories, union bureaucrats and Labour politicians—wouldn’t want this to return? But there are big differences. Today one in four workers are in a union. In 1979 it was twice as many. So far we have seen only glimpses of the confidence of the early 70s.

It’s great to see more strikes, but there will be sharp battles to win more big unions to join the fight and to hold hard-hitting action. Union leaders hold back from defying the anti-union laws, and most activists go along with them.

We have to build on the signs of hope. Looking at the videos of the Amazon workers’ unofficial walkout last week in Tilbury, what shines through is the ­confidence of those involved. They don’t care what ­management says. They’re angry over pay and want action. Ralph Darlington has ­written extensively on workers’ struggles of the 1970s. 

He told Socialist Worker last week, “One of the big differences from then to now is the absence of an organised network of rank and file workers who had at least some independence from the national union officials. “In the 1970s the Communist Party (CP)—for all its faults—and its Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade Unions (LCDTU) were very important.  

“Although they sought official support, they were ­prepared to initiate unofficial action against the anti-union laws put forward under both Labour and Tory governments. There was a powerful ­network of shop stewards created during 25 years of economic boom after the Second World War, and the Communist Party provided a political glue for those people.”

That goes to the issue of politics. The CP did call independent actions, and the LCDTU could itself organise strikes which half a million workers joined. But the CP also hobbled the strike movement. It glued together a network of militants but also stuck them to people who would liquidate the strikes.

It had no vision separate from left wing union leaders such as Hugh Scanlon of the engineers and Jack Jones of the Transport and General Workers’ Union. So, when these leaders decided to turn against unofficial strikes, the CP went along with them. From as early as 1973 Jones and Scanlon were urging Chrysler car workers to abandon solidarity and work alongside contractors ­scabbing on a strike by Chrysler electricians.

The election of a Labour government in 1974 also saw these union leaders agree to pay cuts for workers to help out “their” government. Labour, as committed as the Tories to “modernising” British capitalism, forced through a wage-slashing social contract. And the union leaders went along with it, encouraging strike-breaking as they went. 

The Labour government cut real wages, succeeding where the Tories failed. And the recession sapped the confidence of some of the militants who had earlier led strikes. A revival of action in 1977 and then the Winter of Discontent in 1978-9 weren’t based on the sense of class unity. 

Nor did they have the exuberant hope that had marked the earlier period. That means there was a general drift rightwards. What was missing was to link the workplace struggles to other political issues of the time—British oppression in Northern Ireland, anti-racism, the reason why Labour fails. 

Today, rediscovering the verve and assurance of the best of the 1970s can resonate with anti-racists, climate campaigners and fighters against oppression who won’t bow down to Labour. That doesn’t mean going back to the 1970s. It means going forward to something better.

Activists oppose far right attacks on Drag Queen Story Hour

Posted on: August 5th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
image of protestors outside portsmouth library

Counter-protest to push back the far right bigots outside Portsmouth library (Picture: Stand Up To Racism)

Activists are organising counter-protests to far right attacks on Drag Queen Story Hour events at libraries.

Supporters of Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) are mobilising in several towns and cities, including Leeds on Saturday.

Drag Queen Story Hour events with drag queen Aida H Dee are story-telling sessions for parents and children. But the far right wants to shut them down. This includes the fascist party Patriotic Alternative—led by Mark Collett, the former leader of the Nazi British National Party’s youth wing,

SUTR said, “We condemn the attempts by some on the far right to foster the pernicious myth that drag is a kind of ‘child grooming’ or in some way sexual, leading to accusations of paedophilia.”

Aida H Dee said her performances aimed at 3–11-year-olds have no sexual language. It comes as a survey by Just Like Us showed that 55 percent of LGBT+ 11 to 18-year-olds are anxious about their mental health on a daily basis. In comparison, 26 percent of non-LGBT+ people feel the same.

Three confrontations took place in Brighton on Thursday. Steve Guy, a local socialist activist, reports that some 150 to 180 supporters of the drag queen faced off around 35 opponents at the central library.

They were armed with video cameras and broadcasting equipment, with around eight outright fascists among them. The rest were a mix of conspiracy theorists, religious activists and anti-vaxxers, including Piers Corbyn “whipping them up to provoke violence”.

“There were clashes, but because of the numbers they were containable,” Steve said. “When the parents finally emerged from the reading session, we cheered and applauded them.”

Some SUTR and trades council banners joined the counter-protests. “But the majority of the pro-drag queen forces were young people,” Steve says. “The second confrontation at Hove library was a slightly less well-attended affair, on their side as well as ours.

He added, “There was a noticeable absence of hardcore Nazis.

“But the narrow pavement which we shared with them meant that intermingling was inevitable. When the clashes came there were two arrests.” This involved one from each side.

A library in Woodingdean outside of Brighton cancelled the event as the bigots intercepted the drag queen, harassing her.

Steve says overall the counter-mobilisations were a success “as without it the right wing would have succeeded in intimidating the parents attending these events”.

Weyman Bennett, SUTR national co-convenor, said fascists, the far right and bigots are attempting “to stir up hatred against LGBT+ communities”.  

“It’s clear that the bigotry expressed in the Tory leadership contest is giving confidence to the far right to go on the attack,” he said.

“Stand Up To Racism stands with LGBT+ communities and will be helping to build support events in coming weeks to oppose attempts to intimidate children, parents and LGBT+ people.”  

Join anti-racist and anti-fascist groups on solidarity protests, in Leeds on Saturday, Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales next Tuesday, Cardiff on 12 August, Rochdale on 16 August, Bolton on 17 August and Oxford on 23 August.  

Amazon striker speaks out

Posted on: August 5th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
Picket line with a crowd of workers in orange high visibility vests outside an amazon fulfillment centre

Wildcat strike at Coventry Amazon fulfilment centre (Picture: twitter/@Walkout20201)

An Amazon striker says “everyone stayed out” after bosses tried to intimidate them back to work.

Ben, who works at the BHX4 fulfilment centre in Coventry, is one of the hundreds of Amazon workers who’ve joined wildcat strikes at sites across Britain since Wednesday. “Yesterday was the main event,” he told Socialist Worker. “We had people on the day and night shift walk out.

“We had over 300 people that stopped working. We only planned to strike two hours before it actually happened. When we did, the managers said we wouldn’t get paid unless we returned to work. But everyone stayed and didn’t go back.

“Today we had around 30 to 40 people who went on strike and walked out and marched into town.”

Ben added that he and other workers were inspired by the action in Tilbury. On Wednesday workers in the fulfilment centre in Tilbury, Essex, stopped working after being offered a tiny pay increase of 35p an hour.  

Videos on social media showed workers sitting in the canteen after downing tools. When a manager tried to persuade workers to get back to work, they responded with anger and made it clear they would not be going back. 

A manager is heard on social media saying that it “wasn’t safe to be gathered in the canteen”. To this, workers shouted back, “We are fine.” Amazon bosses also withdrew catering services and threatened to sack workers if they left the premises.

Ben explained why Amazon workers in Coventry decided to strike. “We were told on Wednesday that we would only get a 50p pay rise,” he said. “Of course people have been complaining about bills going up, then they offer us just 50p. 

“We worked through the pandemic and have made the company so much money. But in three years we’ve only received a 75p pay rise—including the 50p the bosses have just offered.”

Meanwhile, workers in the Rugeley Amazon warehouse in Staffordshire walked out on Wednesday after also being offered a pay increase of just 50p an hour. A worker at the warehouse told Staffordshire Lives, “Amazon Rugeley announced a 50p wage increase citing the local Rugeley pay rate average. 

“The news didn’t sit well with the associates, and more than 100 people walked out in the canteen as a protest, which affected a lot of customer shipments. It’s an embarrassment of an announcement that comes as a mockery towards current employees.”

The bosses were worried about action spreading to a warehouse in Bristol. They posted a sign outside that read that there would be no more “distribution of literature.” 

Poor pay and terrible conditions are pushing, often non-unionised workers, to organise themselves and take part in wildcat strikes and sit-ins. Around 100 workers at Cranswick Continental Foods in Pilsworth, Greater Manchester, launched a wildcat strike last Thursday.  

All of these strikes show a new mood of anger—and resistance—in the working class as the cost of living crisis deepens. Socialists, trade unionists and campaigners should go down to their nearest fulfilment centre to send solidarity to Amazon workers. 

  • Ben is a pseudonym