Cost of living crisis hits, so Tories attack unemployed people

Posted on: January 27th, 2022 by Charlie No Comments
Chancellor Sunak visits Soke on Trent where there is a wall sign "levelling up" during the cost of living crisis

Levelling-up? Don’t make me laugh. Chancellor Rishi Sunak (right) visited Stoke-on-Trent last week (Pic: HM Treasury on Flickr)

The cost of living crisis is hitting hard even before the scheduled tax rises and energy price surge set for April. Around 2.5 million households in Britain missed payments such as a mortgage, rent, loan, credit card or utility bills in January.

This was a big increase from 1.7 million in December last year according to the latest findings from Which?’s consumer insight tracker.

Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said they had recently been affected by increased food prices, and well over half said they had been affected by energy price rises. Some 51 percent of those polled said they had been putting the heating on less often due to energy price rises, and nearly as many had reduced their usage of lights or appliances around the home.

Sandra, who works at a food bank in east London, told Socialist Worker, “We’re seeing new people coming to us who have been just about getting by but now can’t cope. 

“It’s not that they have had a great blow-out over Christmas, it’s because their benefits and low wages can’t cover rising prices. It will be an avalanche of need when the fuel costs go up.”

But instead of controlling prices and boosting wages and benefits, the government is attacking unemployed people. People on Universal Credit (UC) will have to look for jobs outside their chosen field after just one month under plans to push more people into low paid work.

Ministers want 500,000 jobseekers in work by the end of June, with a campaign targeted at those on UC. This would also lessen pressures that can force employers to offer higher wages to recruit staff.

Under the “Way to Work” scheme, claimants will be forced to widen their job search outside their area of work after four weeks, rather than three months. So a skilled building worker will be told she has to go for a minimum wage job rather than keep looking for better-paid jobs.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said, “Helping people get any job now, means they can get a better job and progress into a career.”

In fact it will spread fear and lock people into poverty wages. Coffey is infamous for saying that people facing a £20 a week cut in UC would only have to work an extra two hours a week to make it up. But because of the way benefits are deducted, An extra £20 would require £50+ worth of hours.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said Way to Work will “support employers to fill vacancies”. A fight for higher wages and against scapegoating of people on benefits is more urgent than ever 

Mobilise against environmental collapse in 2022

Posted on: January 26th, 2022 by Charlie No Comments
Huge number of young people with placard 'You're burning our future'

The Fridays for Future mobilisations in September 2019 were huge (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Climate group Fridays for Future has declared the next global climate strike for 25 March. 

It will be based around the slogan “people not profit”. 

At the high point in September 2019 the school strikes—and wider support—saw 4 million people take part in the global strike in 155 countries on a single day. That was repeated a week later when a similar number in different countries came out.

Crucially the strike brought workers and students together.

The pandemic has hit mobilisations in the last two years. But now there is a chance to reignite the climate movement in a mass response to the failure of Cop26 and the lack of action from politicians.

The group has outlined on its website how this March’s strike will carry an even more radical anti-capitalist message than before. 

It wrote, “The catastrophic climate scenario that we are living in is the result of centuries of exploitation and oppression through colonialism, extractivism and capitalism, an essentially flawed socio-economic model which urgently needs to be replaced.

“A system where rich nations are responsible for 92 percent of global emissions, and the rich one percent of the world population are responsible for double the pollution produced by the poorest 50 percent.” 

It goes on to make explicit that “climate struggle is class struggle”. 

Extinction Rebellion (XR) has also revealed its plan for 2022 with its next rebellion set to begin on 9 April in Hyde Park, London. 

It will carry three demands— no new fossil fuel investment, no new fossil fuel licences and an end to fossil fuel licences. 

In a new video, XR revealed a more radical plan for what needs to happen to combat the climate crisis. 

“We are in an unprecedented situation, one that our political system both created and is unable to deal with,” it says. 

“We need a political system that isn’t beholden to short term thinking or corrupted by fossil fuel interests.” 

“To do this we must put ordinary citizens at the heart of our democracy XR is planning to organise the largest act of civil resistance in British history.” 

The group added that it wants to support a minimum of 3,000 people taking part in non- violent civil disobedience. And it said activists must pile the pressure on local councils who have already declared a climate emergency to turn words into action. 

All these mobilisations are important and need support.

Every day that passes sees more evidence of systemic environmental collapse, and the links to profit. This week it was revealed that major corporate land grabbers have dropped pesticides from planes and helicopters to clear remote areas of the Amazon rainforest.

As Fridays for Future says, the capitalist elite must be confronted because “their profit is our death. Their profit is our suffering.”

Bloody Sunday—state terror used to crush dissent

Posted on: January 26th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments

British troops killed 13 people on Bloody Sunday in Derry on 30 January 1972. A 14th person died later

In a deliberate act of mass murder, ordered from the top, British ­paratroopers massacred unarmed civilians in Derry in Northern Ireland 50 years ago.
 
The Tory government wanted to crush the Civil Rights Movement, which had flourished in the late 1960s in protest at the second class treatment of Catholics.
 
British troops were sent into Northern Ireland in August 1969. The armed sectarian police force in the North could no longer ­contain an effective insurrection in Derry, the province’s second largest city.
 
People were fighting back against a system where access to jobs, housing, and effective votes depended on whether you were Catholic or Protestant.
 
The Labour government acted to prop up a Unionist government that ran Northern Ireland as a sectarian, one party state.
 
Just five months before the 30 January massacre, ­internment without trial was introduced. Hundreds of Catholics were rounded up, detained and tortured. A march was organised in opposition to internment—and was deemed illegal. 
 
It was scheduled to begin in the Creggan area of Derry and to weave through the Bogside before proceeding to Guildhall Square in the city centre. 
 
It never got that far. Soldiers went into the Bogside and opened fire. Thirteen died on the day and one more shortly after. A month earlier, General Harry Tuzo, the army commander in Northern Ireland, told the then Tory government it had to make a choice.  
 
It was “between accepting that Creggan and Bogside were areas where the army was not able to go or to mount a major operation which would involve, at some stage, shooting at unarmed civilians.”
 
On 7 January 1972 General Robert Ford declared in a memo to Tuzo, “I am coming to the conclusion that the ­minimum force necessary is to shoot selected ringleaders.”
 
Four days later prime ­minister Ted Heath told his cabinet, “A military operation to reimpose law and order would be a major operation necessarily involving numerous civilian casualties.”
 
Bloody Sunday meant the end of the Civil Rights Movement. The massacre drove young men and women to join the Provisional IRA. 
 
Within weeks of Bloody Sunday the government replaced the Unionist Stormont parliament with direct rule from Westminster.
 
The British ­government tried to cover up the truth of its butchery from the moment the last shot was fired. The army claimed it fired because it was shot at by the IRA and that demonstrators were armed with nail bombs. This was a lie.
 
Former head of the British Army, Sir Michael Jackson, was second in command in Derry on Bloody Sunday. He wrote entirely false reports of what the soldiers did on the day, including a number of alleged personal accounts of senior officers and a shot list. It describes unnamed people firing an inaccurate number of bullets at people who, in ­reality, were in completely different places.
 
Apparently bullets went through entire buildings. Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, the highest judge in Britain, headed an inquiry. It was a whitewash. Successive governments continued to cover up the truth about Bloody Sunday.
 
It took long campaigning by relatives of the murdered to get their names cleared. Finally in 1998 the Labour government set up a new public inquiry under Lord Saville.
 
In 2003 Jackson gave ­evidence to it. He could remember next to nothing and could not explain why none of the shots described in his list appeared to match any actually fired.
 
Jackson agreed that he must have been ordered by someone to write down his fiction—but couldn’t remember who. But he said, “The ­requirement may have been instigated in London”. 
 
Jackson’s documents were at the time of the massacre used in press releases, in ­parliament and at the first inquiry to prove the army’s version of events.
 
But Saville concluded, “We have found no evidence that anyone involved in military information falsified any Army or government document relating to Bloody Sunday, nor any evidence that anyone involved in military information disseminated to the public anything about Bloody Sunday, knowing or believing that information to be untrue.”
 
The reality, was that ­evidence Saville showed revealed that the orders for the massacre of civilians came from the top of the British establishment with, at least, the connivance of the British government. 
 
Jackson ended up head of the British army.Bloody Sunday exposes the brutality at the heart of the British state. And it also shows that if anything critical of the state emerges, our rulers will try to convince us that it was an aberration.
 
Importantly there was a wave of revolt immediately after Bloody Sunday in both the north and south of Ireland. There were strikes, ­protests and riots across Northern Ireland. In every major town thousands stopped work, marched, and occupied British‑owned businesses. 
 
A week after Bloody Sunday, 50,000 defied a ban and marched in Newry. In Southern Ireland ­thousands immediately gathered in angry protest outside the British embassy in Dublin. Thousands of workers joined a general strike.
 
Marched
 
In Cork for three days ­running 10,000 people marched. Irish prime minister Jack Lynch was forced to declare 2 February, the day of the ­victims’ funerals, a public holiday. 
 
Some 100,000 people marched, burning the British embassy to the ground. Some 15,000 people marched in London.
 
Bernadette Devlin, now McAliskey, the socialist and Westminster MP, punched the Tory home secretary Reginald Maudling in the face.
At a protest afterwards she said, “Maybe you felt better after I had hit Maudling in the House of Commons. But if you think my fist is going to bring down the Tory ­government, you’ve got another think coming. 
 
“The Labour Party certainly isn’t going to do it, and the only people who can do it is you. Look around Britain today and you will see the miners being kicked on their picket lines. 
 
“It is not our function in life to die for Ireland. It is our ­function to live, work and ­struggle for a ­workers’ republic. 

“It is not sympathy or ­feelings of frustration that are needed now. You must go away ­determined to organise and act.”


‘It is what happens to people in a class society’
Eamonn McCann was one of the organisers of the civil rights march in Derry in 1972. He has campaigned for the truth to come out about the massacre ever since. He spoke at a rally organised last week by People Before Profit in Derry. This is an excerpt from his speech.
 
“The people who refuse to come clean about Bloody Sunday—the ruling class, the establishment, whatever you want to call them—are the same people who won’t complain about any other aspect of life.  
 
These are people who swear that they are in favour of equality and yet entrench the rotten rich above us all and concentrate on making the poor poorer.  
 
The people swearing that they were committed to the environment go round the next day with investments in fossil fuels, fuelling the fires that scorch the earth. Bloody Sunday is not just a discrete thing that happened in Ireland back in 1972. 
 
Remember 1970 in Kent State after Richard Nixon ordered the bombing of Cambodia. Students protested, and the National Guard killed four people.  
 
Eleven days later, protesting black students at Jackson State College were killed by the cops. Those things are connected. They are coming from the same root. They are all examples of what happens to people living in a class divided society. 
 
If they rise up, their lives count for nothing.  The Bloody Sunday committee produced a poster that said Jail Jackson. Michael Jackson was a captain on Bloody Sunday.  His career afterwards rose like a rocket. Eventually he was appointed Chief of the General Staff—number one soldier, right at t
he very top.
 
What he did on Bloody Sunday was to cover up murder and to tell lies about it. And he lied when he gave evidence at the Saville tribunal in London.  Saville rightly exonerated all the dead and the wounded. But Saville also exonerated Jackson, and that was part of the cover-up too.  
 
It was a triumph that the dead were declared innocent. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that it was based upon exonerating the British Army.  What Bloody Sunday illustrates is the way in which the state can murder its own. Bloody Sunday shows that the class which rules over us is rotten to the core.”

 
For more, go to pbp.ie and bloodysundaymarch.org
 
Hear Eamonn McCann speak on Bloody Sunday at a Socialist Worker online meeting on Tues 1 Feb, 7pm, details here

East London NewVic college strikers determined to beat academisation

Posted on: January 26th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
A group of strikers at NewVic college

‘Principles, not CEOs’—strikers don’t want privatisation in education (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Workers at Newham Sixth Form College (NewVic) in east London returned to picket lines for the eleventh day of strikes on Wednesday. 

It marked the second day of a three-day walkout in the NEU union members’ battle over academisation, workload and bullying. And more strike days are planned from Tuesday to Thursday of next week if management doesn’t finalise a deal. 

Simon, a teacher at NewVic, told Socialist Worker, “The local school here has been academised so NewVic is very important. Students from lower socio-economic backgrounds deserve better provisions. Academisation will never bring those to these students.”

Academies put profit before pupils’ education and school workers’ conditions. They bring the market into education—and demand schools prove they are “economically viable”.  

Many NewVic workers fear that, if their battle is lost, it’ll open the floodgates to more academies across Newham.

Simon explained that they’re willing to join the picket line for weeks to come because it’s such as important battle. “Privatisation affects those at the bottom of society much more than those at the top,” they said.

Jane, a teacher, told Socialist Worker, “We are getting close to an agreement. Management has said they’re going to hold off academising until 2025, but that gives them the go-ahead to do it then.” 

Picket lines are full of placards and banners. Last weekend the strikers leafleted the local market where Jane said they had “great feedback”. 

Parents and relatives supported the picket lines and have researched the dangers of academisation. “One woman who lives locally has two nieces and nephews at the college,” said Jane. 

“She saw our large picket line and asked what was happening. We gave her a leaflet and she went home, photocopied it and spread it around.”

Jane and Simon say management face a simple choice. If they don’t want strikes, they must stop academising.

Solidarity has boosted strikers’ morale on the picket line. “Listening to students explain why they support us and listening to our colleagues’ frustrations and passion at the rally’s has really lifted us up,” said Jane. 

Students have joined the picket lines, taken and shared leaflets and a handful have refused to enter the college. 

The determination and strength of NEU members at NewVic can lead them to victory. They should continue to strike and refuse watered-down deals until bosses dump academisation and guarantee students and workers proper conditions. And every trade unionist and campaigner should build solidarity for their fight. 


Workers’ names have been changed.

Reports round-up: more strikes at Preston school as academisation nears

Posted on: January 25th, 2022 by Nick No Comments
A redbrick primary school building

St Matthew’s Church of England primary school in Preston

Workers at St Matthew’s Church of England Primary school in Preston have completed nine days of strikes against academy plans.

The members of the NEU union are set to strike again for three more days from Tuesday of next week—the day the academisation begins.

Over 40 of the 65 workers have struck holding picket lines on the school gate and outside academy trust Cidari’s headquarters in Blackburn.


Messages of support to NEU rep Julie Copeland at [email protected]


Teachers at Abbots Hill School in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire struck for two days over pensions and against the threat of fire and rehire.

NEU and NASUWT union members were set to walk out again on Tuesday and Thursday of this week.

Teachers are angry at the school governors for removing their pension scheme and using fire and rehire tactics to achieve it.

Teachers at Gordano School in Portishead, Somerset, are set to strike from Thursday of next week over workload after an overwhelming vote for action.

NEU union regional officer Ian McCann said the workload level is “having a detrimental effect on our members’ welfare”.


Messages of solidarity to [email protected]


Strike threat gets results on pay

Vehicle technicians at Mercedes Benz Retail Group have won a 13 percent pay increase for 2022 after threatening strikes. Bosses previously offered no pay rise—effectively a pay cut.

The 185 Unite union members had planned four days of strikes this week before accepting the offer.


Workers show true grit to get new offer

Workers that grit roads in Carmarthenshire have suspended strikes after council bosses made a new offer.

The gritters struck for two days earlier this month over bad treatment by bosses.


Hospital cleaners hold off action

Security guards at Great Ormand Street Hospital in central London suspended strikes last week after members of the hospital’s boards announced improvements to terms and conditions.

Members of the UVW union want to be brought in house and receive the same benefits as staff directly employed by the NHS.

Workers say if they don’t receive a clear proposal from the hospital, they will strike for six weeks from Wednesday of next week.


Protesters support scaffolders’ fight

Supporters of the Scunthorpe scaffolders in their pay dispute protested on Monday.

The scaffolders are employed by Actavo. They were set to begin a continuous strike from Wednesday of this week.

The workers are being paid up to 15 percent below the nationally agreed rate for the job. One Unite member, Dayne,  told Socialist Worker, “We’re putting our message across that we’re not happy with what they are doing.

“All the other companies on the site are getting paid the rate that we want.”

He added, “We’ll be escalating things a bit more this time.

“We got a lot of support off a lot of people, but standing there waving a flag wasn’t getting the message across.


Coalition to fight cuts in Wirral

Wirral Council has proposed £19 million of cuts to services. It is set to make its final decision on 28 February.

Wirral trades council, and public sector unions are preparing opposition. A grassroots organisation Wirral Needs Action is also spearheading a broad campaign of activists to fight back.

Norman Meddle

Train cleaners across Britain fight for higher pay

Posted on: January 25th, 2022 by Nick No Comments
Striking cleaners in the RMT union picketing in Crewe

Atalian Servest cleaners picketed across Britain (Picture: RMT)

Outsourced train cleaners employed by Atalian Servest Limited are taking to picket lines in widespread strikes for higher pay.

Despite working throughout the Covid-19 pandemic many receive just £9.68 an hour and have no sick pay.

So far only workers outside of London have been offered a measly pay rise of 2p an hour. Bosses refuse their demands for £9.90 an hour.

Workers held picket lines between Thursday and Saturday in several towns and cities including Carlisle, Liverpool and Wembley, north London.

Strikers know there is money for pay. Their union the RMT, revealed that the company paid £10.8 million to its parent company last year.

This money would be able to give 300 cleaners £15 an hour three times over.

Another pay battle among hundreds of cleaners is brewing across the south east of England. Workers on four separate services provided by outsourcing company Churchill are balloting.

The cleaners work on Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern, Southeastern, High Speed 1 and Eurostar services.

Many of the cleaners are paid only £8.91 per hour. But Churchill paid a £12 million dividend last year which would be enough to rise all wages to £15 per hour.

“We’re having to literally fight with them when they could easily give a pay rise to us,” Churchill cleaner Bella told Socialist Worker.

“It comes from pure greed and they’ve got away with it for so long. Attacking our terms and conditions, keeping us on minimum wage and minimum everything, including uniform standards.”

Alongside pay Churchill cleaners are fighting for free transport, “It’s the guys in London I feel sorry for”, said Bella. “A lot of them are paying about £240 a month just to get to work.”


Hit hard to win on Tube

Workers on the London Underground have begun a work to rule against attacks on jobs, pensions and working arrangements.

Yet the workers—members of the RMT—voted by 94 percent to strike in a ballot that ended earlier in January. Bosses want to make workers pay for the fall in income from passengers during the pandemic.

The workers showed clearly they’re ready to strike. RMT should call strike dates immediately.


The RMT union has written to London mayor Sadiq Khan over suggestions that strikes could have forced a retreat over Night Tube working. Members of the RMT union are striking every weekend against plans to make every worker take at least one Night Tube shift a year.

Yet at a London Assembly committee, deputy mayor Seb Dance said, “It is not the case that drivers will have to work a night shift.” Strikes should not be suspended until the attacks are fully withdrawn.

Muslim hate flows from top

Posted on: January 25th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments

At a protest against the fascist Tommy Robinson

Middle and upper class people are more likely to hold prejudiced views about Muslims than working class people.

A detailed survey about racism in Britain revealed that 23.2 percent of people from “upper and lower middle class groups” held prejudiced views about Islam.
 
In comparison 18.4 percent of people from “working class groups” had those views. The University of Birmingham survey, carried out with analytics firm YouGov, was based on interviews with 1,667 people between 20 and 21 July 2021.
 
Overall, people in Britain are three times more likely to hold racist views of Muslims than other religions. Muslims are the second “least liked” group, after Gypsy and Irish Travellers, with over a quarter of people feeling negatively towards them. 
 
Those behind the survey suggest that negative stereotypes of Islam in society cause these ideas.
 
The report cites the example of Tory minister Nadine Dorries supportively tweeting racist remarks made by fascist Tommy Robinson as one reason why Islamophobia was so widespread.
 
And the normalisation of hatred towards Muslims—what it described as “dinner table prejudice”—also comes from people who know little about Islam. 
 
What this study also shows is that racism doesn’t come from the supposed bigotry or ignorance of ordinary people. It come from the top to keep workers divided and create scapegoats. 

Tory crisis must be a call to action for the left

Posted on: January 25th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments

Anti-Tory protests earlier this month

The Tory crisis should be the gift that keeps on giving to the Labour Party, the left, the trade unions, and everyone who hates the Tories.
 
Every fresh revelation of yet another Downing Street party is another opportunity to put the boot in. Yet Labour just won’t accept the gift. Its leader Keir Starmer is nowhere to be seen.  And its leading politicians are so careful not to go too hard they seem scared of their own shadows.
 
In a BBC interview on Tuesday, Labour’s chosen spokesperson MP David Lammy wouldn’t even say if he thought Boris Johnson’s birthday party was a party.
 
For Labour, the big scandal is not that the Tories partied while many ordinary people were still separated from their families.  It’s that the revelations are a distraction from the government’s warmongering in Ukraine.
 
The consequence of all this is that Labour is now frightened that, when Johnson does go, the Tories will recover. One anonymous Labour shadow minister told the LabourList website they want to keep Johnson in place for as long as possible.
 
“It’s a nice and unusual feeling to be ahead of the polls,” they said. “I suspect it may evaporate once Johnson goes.”
 
Solution
 
The solution to this is to turn Johnson’s crisis into a crisis for the whole of the Tory party. But Labour is frightened to do that.
 
It would mean hammering away at how the Tories put the interests of big business ahead of the lives of ordinary people.
And just as bosses are pushing up prices to protect their profits, the Tories plan to hit us with a national insurance increase and a massive rise in energy bills.
 
Labour insisted on supporting the Tories throughout the pandemic because it also wants to prove itself the friend of big business. 
 
So Labour won’t attack the bosses for jacking up the cost of living.  And it won’t oppose lifting the energy price cap because it doesn’t want to upset the Big Six energy companies. 
 
All of this means that, amid the biggest crisis for the Tories—and the system—in years, the left isn’t playing a part.  The working class are left as spectators. 
 
The trade union leaders that could do something about this take their cue from Labour. 
 
They could organise the mass demonstrations and strikes that could make the Tories’ crisis about much more than birthday parties. But they would rather sit on their hands and wait for a Labour government.
 
In reality, that means waiting for a Labour government that won’t do much for working class people either. We need more resistance urgently. Anything else means giving the Tories’ gift back to them.