Resist the Tories’ attack on Trans Rights!

Photo: Steve Eason

Statement from The Anticapitalist Platform

According to recent reports, the Tories are about to scrap promised reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) which would have allowed people to self-identify their gender, despite 70% of respondents to a high-profile public consultation expressing their support for the change.

The leaked paper also suggests that the government plans to introduce ‘protections’ which would ban trans women from using women’s refuges and public lavatories. While the details are not clear, this could represent a significant roll-back of existing rights under the Equality Act, which places a duty on public bodies to guarantee equal access to services for trans people. If carried out, these proposals would represent not only a failure to take trans rights forwards, but a calculated attack on the trans community, throwing the struggle for trans rights backwards by more than a decade.

Shamefully, despite his pledge earlier this year to “campaign to reform the Gender Recognition Act to introduce a self-declaration process”, Keir Starmer has signalled that he wants to “avoid being dragged into the debate”, and will stand back as the government stokes bigotry against one of the most oppressed groups in the country and further heightens their misery. This is just one more example of the Labour Leader’s betrayal of progressive causes as part of a wholesale shift to the right in the name of “electability” as defined by the tabloid press. We stand in solidarity with our trans brothers and sisters and call on the Labour leadership to  reconsider this reversal.

The proposed reforms to the GRA seek to remove the bureaucratic barriers trans people face to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). Currently, it is only possible to legally change one’s gender after a gruelling two-year process to convince a faceless medical panel. This process medicalises trans identity, requiring a diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” before a Gender Recognition Certificate is granted. In a bizarre Catch-22 scenario, it also forces trans people to live as their ‘acquired gender’ for 2 years before receiving their certificate, forcing trans people to conform to stereotyped behaviour and dress in order to ‘prove’ that they live as the gender they are transitioning to.

For many trans people this is a humiliating and traumatic experience which discourages many from applying in the first place, exacerbating the issue and furthering their suffering. Reforming the GRA to allow for self-ID will let trans people achieve legal recognition of their gender status through a much simpler process and without the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

We unequivocally support trans rights, including the right to self-ID. Trans women and men in our society suffer systemic exclusion from housing and work, the threat of sexual violence, and physical aggression in the household and on the street, which often leads to murders.

According to Stonewall’s 2017 Trans Report

  • 1 in 4 trans people have experienced homelessness
  • 2 in 5 trans people (41%) have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity
  • 1 in 8 trans workers have been physically attacked by a colleague or customer in the past year
  • Almost half of young trans people have attempted to commit suicide

As the Tory government allies itself with far-right causes, promotes tub-thumping nationalism and a return to “faith, flag, and family” as part of its campaign to shore up support for a hard Brexit, hate crimes against LGBT+ people are on the rise.

Trans people have also suffered disproportionately under the impact of Tory austerity, with LGBT+ services often among the first forced to slash staff and facilities.

In the case of women’s refuges, extensive research of such services in England and Wales has found they have already been supporting trans women for some time. Many of these services are already trans-inclusive and have said that GRA reform would not change how they deliver their services.

With regards to “cis imposters” who may take advantage of self-ID to access women-only spaces, these cases are vanishingly rare. More broadly, we reject the use of exceptional examples as a justification for a general curtailment of rights. Additionally, a study carried out in the US showed that allowing transgender people to access spaces of their choice did not increase assault or voyeurism crimes.

The law already states trans people can access single-sex spaces that match their gender and should not be discriminated against, this is protected under the 2010 Equality Act and self-ID would not change this. Attempting to gain access to changing rooms and toilets to spy on or assault women is already illegal, and women’s refuges already operate security measures and screening procedures to protect clients against violence. Anyone who is a threat to women, regardless of gender identity, must be excluded.

The entire Labour and trade union movement must organise to resist the Tories’ attack on existing, inadequate, rights and fight to extend trans rights to include self-ID. Not only is there no conflict between trans rights and women’s rights, but they are part of the same struggle against gender and sexual oppression which structure capitalist society. Trans women should be welcomed into the labour movement with access to women’s caucuses, shortlists and reserved places. We also call for additional funding to reduce inequality of access to NHS services, counselling, and housing for trans people.

The rise of the populist right reminds us that despite the progress we have won, reforms can always be reversed as long as the social system in which gender oppression is rooted remains. Conservative governments around the world, like Viktor Orban’s in Hungary, have shown that transphobia and misogyny are inextricably linked, and often come alongside wider attacks on democratic, labour and human rights. For socialists, the defence of socially oppressed groups is essential to the struggle to overthrow the entire unjust, exploitative social system which relies on a repressive sexual morality in order to sustain itself.

From pandemic to economic crisis: the fight for workers control

By Rebecca Anderson

Britain is facing the worst economic crisis in modern history. The economy was already heading into recession when the pandemic hit, causing an unprecedented fall in economic activity. The government delayed lockdown and ended it prematurely, sacrificing thousands of lives in a desperate bid to reboot the flow of profits and avoid falling behind its European and US competitors.

Hundreds of medical professionals, carers, construction workers, bus drivers and postal workers have lost their lives, as a result of inadequate PPE and social distancing measures. Women and BAME people have been hit harder by the pandemic as they are more likely to be keyworkers and the aggravating effects of structural racism.

The restrictions on retail, bars and restaurants remain in place for now, though the government has suggested they would be lifted as early as July. For workers, the service sector is one of the most precarious, accounting for over half of the two million jobs estimated to have been lost in the pandemic. If restrictions are lifted, those still employed in these sectors will be faced with a stark choice: comply, quit or resist.

Unemployment is at the highest level since 1996, having risen by 70 per cent in April. This rise was the highest monthly increase in unemployment since records began in 1972. The furlough scheme currently protects the jobs of 7.5 million workers, but the government’s announcement that bosses will have to contribute at least 20 per cent, has already triggered a further round of job cuts.

A leaked Treasury note suggests renewed and intensified austerity – another two-year public sector pay freeze, an increase to the basic rate of taxation and potential increases to flat taxes like VAT. The rhetoric of ‘benefit scroungers’ will doubtless be deployed against those unable or unwilling to work in dangerous conditions. Despite all the pseudo-patriotic ‘we’re all in it together’ propaganda, we must prepare our answer to the Tories’ attempts to make workers pay the cost of the crisis: we won’t pay!

The workers’ veto

Throughout the pandemic there have been examples of workers vetoing unnecessary or dangerous work.

In March, food production workers in Ireland walked out, demanding social distancing and infection control measures. Bus drivers in Detroit and Alabama struck, demanding PPE and sanitation. Municipal workers in Pittsburgh walked out over hazard pay and PPE. Globally, Amazon warehouses have been hit by a series of strikes demanding safer working conditions.

In early May, postal workers defeated Royal Mail’s attempt to use the pandemic to impose shift changes aimed at restructuring the business and cutting jobs. When Royal Mail announced, with government backing, that only parcels would be delivered on Saturdays, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) instructed its members to ignore the shift changes, effectively vetoing Royal Mail’s decision. In face of solid resistance and the likelihood of mass walkouts, Royal Mail backed down.

The contradiction between the interests of bosses and workers has been exposed by this crisis. For all the talk of a “blitz spirit” and keyworker “heroes”, when profitability is at stake, workers are treated as expendable.

Rebuild the unions

Only 23 per cent of workers are members of a trade union, only 4.4 per cent are aged between 16 and 24 and 39 per cent are aged 50 or over. Unions are more likely to represent those in professional occupations earning higher wages, the most common wage bracket is £500-£999 per week. The private service sector, where most of the job cuts have been and which faces a dangerous return to work in July, is largely un-unionised.

The British trade union movement is highly bureaucratised and has been shackled by authoritarian anti-union laws after a succession of defeats. It is focussed on negotiating on behalf of its existing members rather than organising the working class as a whole against austerity, falling wages and the rise of zero-hour contracts. It is ill-prepared for the challenge posed by the coming crisis. It is time the trade union movement reached out to the unorganised with a mass unionisation drive across all sectors of the economy, starting with those most at risk from the pandemic and recession.

The service sector urgently needs a unionisation drive that recruits, organises and empowers the next group of workers facing a return to work. This sector faces another wave of job cuts when lockdown restrictions are lifted. The imposition of government restrictions allows businesses to claim on their insurance for the loss of income but once those are eased the businesses will be forced to open and try to stay afloat. It’s hard to imagine many pubs or restaurants serving enough customers to make a profit whilst also maintaining social distancing. A unionised service sector (which accounts for 80 per cent of the British economy) is crucial to protect the workers who will face the consequences of this.

The TUC has published proposals for a safe return to work, focusing on issues like public transport, schools, nurseries, PPE and social distancing. It has posed these as demands on the government but it should go further than that by encouraging workers to get organised, draw up their own list of conditions for the return to work and impose them through industrial action where necessary. This should be demanded of the TUC and at the same time organised from below, with control of the campaigns, negotiations and decisions firmly in the hands of the workers themselves.

From lockdown to economic crisis

The Tories want to force us back to work so they can end the furlough scheme and in the hope they can minimise the effects of the recession on business. Nevertheless, the crisis of profitability will be severe, sending many businesses into free-fall. As they try to avoid bankruptcy, they will try to force through pay freezes, reduced hours and redundancies.

At the heart of the resistance to such attacks, through strikes and occupations, is the question “who rules here – the bosses or the workers?” If they say they must make redundancies we should demand that work is shared out with no loss of pay and that they release their accounts for inspection.

Where businesses truly are failing, they should be follow the lead of engineering workers at Visteon and Vestas who occupied their factories against closures and job cuts at the start of the 2008-9 recession. We should demand the government nationalise such companies, without compensation, under workers control. The crisis has shown that it is the workers who are essential to the functioning of society, not the bosses or their hoarded wealth.

Video: Momentum must join the struggle for police abolition

Momentum must join the struggle against racist police oppression

We are in the midst of a global uprising against racism and police oppression. Our London candidate Urte Macikene speaks from a #BlackLivesMatter demo about how Momentum and the Labour left must stop hailing cops as heroes and join the fight to abolish the police.Socialists in Labour are calling for:✊ Cops off our streets✊ Disband the TSG/TSU riot squads, armed units (i.e. SO19) and secret police✊ Organised community self-defence against state violenceTo find out more and get updates on our campaign go to https://anticapitalistplatform.org/get-involved

Posted by Anticapitalist Platform on Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Across the United States, people are taking to the streets to demand justice for George Floyd and dozens of other black people murdered by the police.

We stand in absolute solidarity with these protests.

The truth is these crimes are not the exception, not the actions of a few ‘bad apples’.

In Britain as well as the US, the police are the paid defenders of capitalist exploitation. Their job is not to protect us but to protect private property and the power of the rich.

And racism is stitched into the very foundations of capitalism, a system built by systematic plunder and enslavement of black and brown people.

A disproportionate number of those killed in police custody are from black, Asian and ethnic minority communities.

Black people are nearly 10 times more likely to be subjected to stop and search than white people.

And while Dominic Cummings drives to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight, BAME people are targeted for minor infringements of the lockdown rules.

Yet instead of fighting to build a mass anti-racist movement, in the past Momentum and the Labour Party have promoted a promise of 10,000 more bobbies on the beat and suggested more police could be the solution to knife crime.

It’s time to draw a line in the sand and stop hailing the police as heroes.

From the violent suppression of the miners in the 80s, to Hillsborough, to the spy cops who invaded left-wing organisations and exploited activists, the police have shown they are enemies of the labour movement.

When the Labour left falls into the trap of supporting increased police numbers and police powers in the name of law and order, it is supporting an institutionally racist organisation that inflicts daily injustices on BAME communities.

The only way to end this racialised oppression and murder is to fight for a world where the police no longer exist.

We have to resist the racist policy of stop and search and attempts to turn the police into border guards with mass fingerprint scanning.

We must support the right of black and working class communities to self-defence against police violence.

Momentum must go beyond statements of solidarity and commit to actively mobilising our industrial and political strength to fight alongside the oppressed against institutionalised racism.

Starmer’s comments are everything wrong with Labourism

By Simon Hannah

Many of you will be familiar by now with Keir Starmer’s comments on LBC radio (8 June) about the protests in Bristol that tore down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston and threw it into the harbour. 

“It shouldn’t have been done in that way, completely wrong to pull a statue down like that” he told the presenter.

Naturally people who are supporting the global anti-racist uprising against police and state violence were shocked. But really all that Starmer said is what any Labour leader would have said. I don’t really blame him, he is speaking for the Labour tradition. 

This is because for too long Labour has been dominated by parliamentary cretinism, electoralism, constitutionalism and gradualism. 

Labour is a party that has spent its political life firmly opposed to extra-parliamentary action. It has a fetish for parliament, a dogmatic obsession. Its parliamentary cretinism means that all true and good things must happen through the hallowed halls of Westminster. It isn’t concerned with empowering people or building up democracy in our communities and workplaces, indeed to do so takes away from the importance of Labour MPs, who are elected to do things on your behalf. 

And in order to win a parliamentary majority it fixates on electoralism – the obsession with focus groups, opinion polls, on neutralising radical politics in case they don’t “play well” with the electorate. Labour is not really a democratic party, it is a machine for elections. You can tell because motions passed at party conference often aren’t worth tuppence compared to what the party’s electoral strategists decided should be in the manifesto. If Starmer thinks that throwing Colston’s lifeless statue into Bristol harbour doesn’t ‘look good’ with his target demographics, he will have to speak out against it. 

Labour is also wrecked by its constitutionalism, the idea that the only just authority derives from law. The Labour right often castigate the Labour left (who might occasionally flirt with direct action or refusing to implement one law or other in local government) for ‘breaking the law’ because if Labour wants to be a party that governs and passes laws then it must be a party that respects laws even when they are wrong. Yet anyone with their head not buried in a copy of Hansard will know that some laws are plain unjust, and some governments can ‘legally’ kill people or make their lives miserable. Socialists have always understood that under capitalism the laws governing property and wealth are class laws that benefit the rich and powerful. The African National Congress, the freedom riders, the Stonewall riots, Suffragettes – all broke the law. Does history say they were wrong to do so?

So was it illegal to tear that statue down and throw it in the water? Yes. But was it right? Absolutely.

The final reason why Labour will always be wrong on questions like this is its gradualism. When faced with an insurgent mass movement taking direct action and willing to take on the police to make the world a better place (because in nearly every instance where the world has been a terrible place, the police are the first line of defence) Labour is at best lukewarm and at worst totally opposed to it. Because Labour sees its role as gradually making things better using the parliamentary machinery, it becomes a block to radical, revolutionary change. But its links the unions and its working-class membership mean that, particularly in times of social upheaval, the contradiction between the interests of its membership and those of its leadership comes to the fore.  

Whether it is the fight against the Black shirts in the 1930s, the Poll Tax, the Iraq war or this new anti-racist movement, the message from the Labour party is clear – we don’t really want anything to do with it. Corbyn backed the XR protests in as much as he didn’t condemn them, but even under its most left-wing leader Labour would never call on its social forces to really build a social movement. Many members on the other hand, whether through their Labour branches or outside of them, mobilised in support of all those causes as they have the Black Lives Matter movement.

A genuine anticapitalist strategy has to start from a serious and considered criticism of all these problems. They are the problems of Labourism and they date back to the inception of the party in 1900. Starmer’s comments are only the latest in a long line of bad positions the Labour Party has taken that you most notice when they happen in the context of a mass movement. 

We need something better. Instead of celebrating police officers, Momentum should be fighting to generalise the protest movement, mobilise the trade unions and party members, and move from tearing down the symbols of racism to uprooting the institutional economic, social, and political racism which is built into the foundations of capitalism itself. Under a new anticapitalist leadership Momentum can start to offer this revolutionary perspective and ambition.

Solidarity with US rising against police terror

By Lydia Humphries

On Monday 25 May, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was arrested outside a convenience store in Minneapolis for allegedly paying with a counterfeit note. He was then murdered by police.

His death, the latest in a ceaseless campaign of state murders of black people in the US, has sparked a nationwide uprising against racism and police terror.

On Thursday night, protestors breached Minneapolis’s third police precinct, where officers responsible for Floyd’s death worked, and burned it to the ground.

Across the US, people are taking to the streets to fight the institutional racism of law enforcement and demand real justice for those killed.

In California, protestors have shut down freeways; in Atlanta, the CNN headquarters was attacked; in Louisville, Kentucky, where a sleeping Breonna Taylor was murdered by police earlier this year, the Hall of Justice building has been set alight.

Workers have turned to their trade unions, both for solidarity with the revolt and as a means of disrupting and resisting state violence. Bus drivers in Minneapolis and NYC have refused to transport protestors to jail. A petition from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, which represents workers in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, states:

“ATU members face racism daily. Our members live in and work in neighborhoods where actions like this happen, and where this took place, now watched in horror across the globe. (…)  We say ‘NOT ONE MORE’ execution of a black life by the hands of the police. NOT ONE MORE! JUSTICE FOR GEORGE FLOYD.”

Repression

State responses have been violent and repressive. Police and the paramilitary National Guard militias have attacked demonstrators with tear gas, batons and rubber bullets. At least 1400 people have been arrested.

Donald Trump has predictably supported repressive ‘peacetime emergency’ measures, threatening to send in the military if governors don’t adopt more brutal methods to suppress the uprising. In a cynical attempt to whip up his far right base, he has sought to hold antifa responsible – declaring it a terrorist organisation.   

The President’s incendiary rhetoric, describing protesters as ‘thugs’, has encouraged fascist vigilantes to attack the protests directly. Calvin L. Horton Jr was shot dead in Minneapolis on Wednesday night, allegedly by the owner of a nearby store. A 19-year-old man in Detroit was also killed by people shooting into crowds of protestors.

No one can dispute the correlation between these murders and Trump’s declaration that ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’. This quote, lifted directly from US segregationist George Wallace and Miami police chief Walter Headley, who called for repression of black protestors and ‘slum hoodlums’ in 1967, so violently echoes the country’s racist past that even Twitter, notoriously slow to censor racist agitation, flagged his tweet for ‘glorifying violence’.

The system

Trump’s readiness to use force and sacrifice lives to defend property exposes the origins of the US police and National Guard as a force created to protect colonial wealth through repressing the enslaved black and free poor white population. His solution doubles down on the institutional racism that led to the killing of George Floyd and so many others.

As protestors are arrested and brutalised, those on the left must act boldly in solidarity. We must move beyond calls for peaceful protests, to supporting the right and necessity of black and working class self-defence against state violence. Black Lives Matter and other anti-racist groups have organised peaceful protests for years and these murders continue. As one protestor shouted, “we were here six years ago with Eric Garner, we were peaceful then and no one fucking listened – well now they’re gonna listen.”

We must also push beyond petitions to charge individual officers or call for police reform. Body cams and more diverse officers will not stop state murder. As the London Campaign Against Police and State Violence writes, “a boot on the neck feels no less painful if it belongs to someone who looks like us”.

Relying upon the legal system has also rarely led to convictions of culpable officers, only serving to bolster the same structures of ‘justice’ that repeatedly sanction racist murder. Further, such petitions give credence to the idea that these murders were caused by a few ‘bad apples’ – but police racism is institutional – because the police and justice system exists to defend the institution of US capitalism that is predicated on the oppression and super-exploitation of its black population. The explosion of resistance detonated by the murder of George Floyd is a reaction to the daily violence and indignity metered to out in working class and predominantly BAME neighbourhoods that is involved in enforcing this inequality.

Fundamentally, the police are the internal apparatus of repression of a state that exists to defend the rule of a numerically tiny exploiting class. As socialists our objective is not reform of their monopoly of violence – but its overthrow, replaced by our own monopoly of force, a workers’ militia not a bosses’ militia.

300 years of struggle teach us that only organised movements from below can achieve real systemic change for the most oppressed in society. As activist and writer Derecka Purnell argues, even the firing of the police officers who killed Floyd was only made possible by years of pressure from grassroots anti-police collectives in Minnesota, which grew in response to the murder of Philando Castile in 2016. We should be supporting those fighting on the ground to upturn existing systems of power and justice, a struggles symbolically captured in the flames of the Minnesotan police precinct.

The British case

We must also remember that racist police brutality is not just an American phenomenon. Both the brutalisation of black people and the state’s use of ‘emergency’ procedures to repress protests should force us to reflect on the current situation in the UK.

Of the 1741 people killed in custody in the UK since 1990, a disproportionate number have been from black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) communities.

Black people are routinely profiled under stop and search laws at a much higher rate than white people, despite forming a much lower percentage of the UK population.

Such state racism has only heightened during coronavirus. The current pandemic has been used as justification to give police further ‘emergency’ powers, which could last for 2 years under the Coronavirus Act.

This has, predictably, resulted in racist arrests. The first conviction under the Act involved a black woman from York, whom police admitted to having wrongfully charged. In May, a video also emerged of a white police officer citing ‘COVID-19 situations’ as a reason to suspect, detain and arrest a black man, later revealed to be an ambulance driver, who was sitting outside his home with friends. Data analysis from Liberty and the Guardian also shows that BAME people are 54% more likely to be fined than white people during lockdown.

It is no coincidence that the same communities are disproportionately likely to both be admitted to hospital with, and die of, COVID-19[xv]. This reality is particularly frightening considering the police’s new power to detain those suspected of being “potentially infectious” and not investigate deaths in custody if potentially related to coronavirus.

The blatant inequality of the application and enforcement of these laws is staggering, and lays bare the institutional racism that has long been embedded into our state. While people of colour are penalised for minor infringements of lockdown rules, senior advisors to the government are freely permitted to take family trips to Northern castles to do eye-sight tests. New police powers do not exist to protect us from the virus. If that was the case, Dominic Cummings would be under arrest. They exist, as they always have, to create a differential of privilege between black and white working class people, and ultimately, to control protest and protect the property and power of the rich.

As socialists, we must channel our efforts towards organising a world in which the police and the prison industrial complex no longer exist. We must support those protesting in the US for real justice for those murdered at the hands of the police. We must continue to spread the message that these protests are a justified reaction to the violence exerted against the working class to protect the wealth of the rich and powerful. From afar, we can support radical organisations that are helping to keep protests alive, including the Minnesotan Freedom Fund, posting bail for arrested activists, Reclaim the Block, an anti-police force mobilising in Minnesota, and Unicorn Riot, the worker-controlled non-profit media platform creating radical on-the-ground coverage of the riots.

Under the same rubric, we must agitate for police in the UK and beyond to be stripped of their current powers under coronavirus ‘state of emergency’ laws. The public are waking up to the glaring hypocrisy of the Cummings debacle – now is the time to emphasise the deeply repressive and unequal nature of policing.

We must also fight to support and organise alternative media platforms that can offer a clear account of such inequality, as mainstream, millionaire-owned media outlets create biased reports driven by desires to protect their wealth and status.

Socialists should also organise within our own communities, to act in solidarity with those fighting in the US and to challenge the same systems of power within the UK. We must mobilise the industrial and political strength of the labour movement to fight alongside the black, brown and working class communities on the frontline of state racism and police violence.

We must organise, protesting against lockdown rules if necessary, to protect those most at risk from detention and arrest. Now more than ever, we must stand together in the fight against police brutality.

Video: Momentum must oppose Imperialism

Oppose Imperialism – Anticapitalist Platform

Momentum must oppose British imperialism and Labour’s traditional support for British foreign policy. It should stand with oppressed peoples and minorities around the world fighting against imperialist exploitation and for democratic rights.Read more at https://anticapitalistplatform.org/platform

Posted by Anticapitalist Platform on Monday, June 1, 2020

Momentum must oppose British imperialism and Labour’s traditional support for British foreign policy. It should stand with oppressed peoples and minorities around the world fighting against imperialist exploitation and for democratic rights.

  • Commit the party to nuclear disarmament and withdrawal from NATO.
  • Withdraw all British troops from foreign bases.
  • Cancel the debts and treaties that bind hundreds of millions to British imperialism.
  • Support the justified resistance of the Palestinians to occupation and colonisation.
  • Stand unwaveringly in solidarity with those resisting military occupation, repressive governments, and imperialism, whether in Palestine, Syria, Kashmir, Uyghuristan, Hong Kong or anywhere else.

Resisting austerity: lessons from the last recession

By Simon Hannah

From day one of the Coalition government we knew that it would be a generational fight over the austerity agenda. It was clear the Con-Dem coalition wanted to make the poor pay through suppressing wages, cutting much-needed public services and continuing the privatisation agenda of the Blair era.

The government attacks came thick and fast, at times it seemed there were too many to fight. Everything from crippling university tuition fees cuts to benefits to attacks on the disabled, the ‘bedroom tax’, privatisation of Royal Mail, 50% cuts to local government funding, pension reforms; the list goes on and on.

Protests were inevitable, and we saw some huge ones, starting with the students in 2010 followed by mass TUC demonstrations, two huge one day public sector strikes (over pensions and then pay) and protests outside council chambers. Groups like UK Uncut highlighted the basic but essential truth that major corporations paid almost zero corporation tax, demanding the government start start taxing them rather than cut the public sector to shreds. We had the Occupy movement outside St Paul’s making similar points, raising radical anti-capitalist slogans in their temporary autonomous zone.

Despite all this the movement against austerity failed. Labour capitulated to the austerity agenda in 2012 and the unions kept a lid on any real resistance.

Now we have to learn some important lessons from that experience because we are facing potentially even worse economic and social crises as the global economy starts to tank.

This is not definitive but is a useful starting point:

  1. We need resistance not just protest. Protests are useful, demonstrations help raise demands, but it is resistance that can work. Frustrating the operations of government (as we did in the Poll Tax movement) and the economy is going to be crucial. The reason why police crack down so hard on direct action environmental campaigners is because they know these actions are effective.
  2. Grassroots trade union organisation. We had two public sector ‘general strikes’, one in 2011 and one in 2012. They were huge, but also only one day actions called by the union leaders that went nowhere. Socialists spent too much time ‘building the actions’ and not enough time building networks to push the actions further. That is why the call by the Anticapitalist Platform to democratise the unions is so important.
  3. Another crucial demand of the Anticapitalist Platform is the importance of a sustained campaign against the anti union laws which mean workers are fighting with both hands tied behind their backs.
  4. We need genuine democratic forums to organise resistance, not fronts controlled by some sect or other. Too much of the anti cuts movement before was spent in tired conferences with hundreds of top table speakers.  The Anticapitalist Platform calls for Councils of Resistance to help coordinate the struggle.  Momentum needs to be at the centre of that.
  5. We have to organise the unorganised – if we see massive unemployment then movements must be built to provide hope and a platform for resistance to demand work and wages for all.

We cannot spend the next 5 years fighting internal battles in Labour, or focusing only on democratic reforms at the expense of everything else. We can’t just fight for policies for a possible Labour government in 2024 – the fight has to start now and Momentum can either be part of that or it will be utterly irrelevant. We are in the fight of our lives.

Momentum should organise live online hustings to give the movement a chance to debate its future

By Urte Macikene, London region candidate

In an announcement of the timeline for its leadership elections, Momentum sates that on Friday 12th June it will host “candidate videos and Q&A”.

While it’s not clear what form this will take, the wording appears designed to offer a chance for top-down engagement – perhaps pre-recorded videos – while stopping short of an online hustings that would provide room for a live debate.

As candidates standing on the Anticapitalist Platform, we fully back the call by Forward Momentum for live online hustings as part of the NCG election.

The labour left is currently at a crossroads – our defeat at the ballot box and within the party poses existential questions about how we should define our political goals and organisational strategy.

The decisions we make now about how to organise ourselves in the years ahead will determine our capacity for action in generation-defining struggles, as we fight to avert climate catastrophe and mitigate the economic crisis.

With a hard-right government in power and no election on the horizon, we can’t wait five years for our next chance to change the world – the resistance has to start now.

The methods of organising available to us have already been drastically curtailed by the pandemic. We need to use every tool at our disposal to put our movement on a fighting footing.

We start from the premise that mass mobilisation should be the bedrock of a socialist government, so a socialist movement is only as strong as the collective commitment of its members.

Democracy is not just an abstract moral good but an essential prerequisite to ensure an organisation represents and fights for the interests of its members.

A live hustings with an opportunity for back-and-forth debate would deepen members’ understanding of the different approaches being proposed by candidates and set the scene for re-founding Momentum as a movement of resistance under full control of its members.

To win the fight against unsafe reopening of schools, we need a more militant approach

By a school union rep

The Tory government is pushing ahead with its plans to re-open primary schools from 1 June despite widespread opposition. Parent and teacher support charity Parentkind, the National Education Union, the British Medical Association and a growing list of Labour Councils are among those demanding schools stay closed until it is safe.

The reason for the outrage is the obvious and undeniable fact that this measure, alongside the premature easing of the lockdown currently being forced on millions of workers, will produce a new spike in Covid infections and deaths. The first wave has only just passed its peak, but we are now staring down the barrel of a second wave which could far surpass it.

Despite the devastating public health implications of the government’s decision, it is determined to force the plan through, because reopening schools is an integral part of its plan to restart the capitalist economy, thereby putting millions of workers and their families at risk. This makes this fight a class-wide issue.

There are still 3,500 new Covid-19 cases every day in the UK; the daily death toll remains at around 500. To put this into perspective, when Denmark partially re-opened its schools, it had a death toll of just 93 per million population; whereas the UK figure is over 500. Denmark’s daily count was in single figures; ours is 500.

Action at last

It has been refreshing to see a union take up the cudgels and say: “Our members’ lives are worth more than profits – your economy can wait.” The NEU has led a coalition of nine education unions to refuse to cooperate with the plans until these five tests are met:

1 Much lower numbers of Covid-19 cases

2 A national plan for social distancing (PPE, far fewer students, cleaning, etc.)

3 Testing, testing, testing (including of asymptomatic children and staff)

4 Whole school strategy (to shut it down and test all if Covid case found in a school)

5 Protection for the vulnerable (including right to work from home)

The government has met none of these tests. Crucially they are nowhere near having a contact tracing and testing system in place – and this is one of their own “tests”. Mark “F” for fail.

The nine unions held a meeting with government scientists on 15 May, including members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), but it has left all unions with questions unanswered.

Since then eleven Labour Councils have indicated that they will not follow Johnson and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s strict timetable, ranging from Liverpool, Bury and Calderdale, who are telling their maintained schools not to open more widely on 1 June, to Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham, who are leaving it up to individual schools to decide. More councils have motions lined up for the next meeting – although, shamefully, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has only voiced concerns about the increased use of public transport.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the national and provincial governments are also refusing to follow Boris Johnson’s ruling. This is an unprecedented degree of discord at the highest level.

If one tots up the number of local, regional and national authorities in opposition to this dangerous government gambit, adds in the number of teaching and support staff unions vehemently opposed, along with the parents and pupils who won’t follow the ruling, you can see this is a winnable battle.

How can we win?

Unfortunately this is where the NEU’s plan is in danger of failing. They are relying on a useful but limited piece of legislation, initially drafted for use by construction workers: Section 44 of the Employment Act (1996). This enables workers to walk away from any workplace they consider unsafe and not to return until it is rendered sufficiently safer. But it leaves every teacher, school, and union branch to decide their own approach to taking action.

The NEU has also issued a new set of 12 steps for risk assessing the reopening of schools, which are designed to minimise transmission risks, accepting that reopening in current circumstances could be permissible. Locally, reps have been trying to tell members to go through both sets of hurdles, aware that some schools, especially secondary schools – which are being asked to accept far fewer students – will pass the second set of “tests”.

What we need is national, i.e. all England unity. One out, all out. That can only be achieved by forcing all the education unions to call for strike action. Obviously, ballots would have to be held electronically but the 20,000 members who turned up to a national NEU zoom call on 18 May shows the potential to engage with hundreds of thousands of union members in this time of emergency.

To win a strike vote and defy the anti-union laws would also mean going on the offensive to organise parents and older students. We will have to stand firm against the vicious right-wing press and their orchestrated attempts to demonise teachers and parents who simply do not want to see more infections and death in their communities.

This will necessarily mean setting up new rank and file organisations to unite members across all the different school unions. This will be instrumental in planning joint campaigns and ensuring we remain united, should one or more of the unions suddenly break ranks – as tends to happen with union united fronts which are only cemented at the top.

Successfully defying Johnson’s call for the re-opening of schools is, however, only half the battle. We need to organise joint union, parent and student meetings to discuss the crisis and form Covid Watch Committees so there is no backsliding after any strike or successful action causing a jump in the infection rate (the R number), or the school decides to take new risks with our lives.

This battle will be ongoing until a vaccine is found. We need to be vigilant throughout the next academic year. It is a battle for workers’ control – something we’ll need to stop redundancies and closures as the cuts continue to bite during the recession.

It is also a battle in a wider class war. School trade unions in the USA, Europe, Latin America and across the world are facing the same insane demands on them as we are here. We should use the modern technologies of zoom calls and webinars to link up with rank and file fighters across the world so we can fight together with a common strategy and goal.

A victory for teachers and support staff would be a victory for our class, something we could build on in the struggles ahead.

Why Momentum Needs the Anticapitalist Platform

The Anticapitalist Platform for Momentum

Why have we launched the Anticapitalist Platform, and what do we stand for?Watch this video introduced by Urte Macikene, standing for the Momentum NCG in the London region.To get further updates on our campaign go to https://anticapitalistplatform.org/get-involved

Posted by Anticapitalist Platform on Thursday, May 28, 2020

The economy is in meltdown. The pandemic is killing tens of thousands. And the clock is ticking on the climate emergency.

But governments around the world are racing to save their crisis-ridden system and make us pay for it.

The Labour left faces two questions: how will we fight back and what is our alternative?

For five years, Jeremy Corbyn opposed the neoliberal consensus and fought for a chance to manage the system in the interests of the many, not few.

But those whose immense wealth and power depends on this unequal system would not allow their rule to be questioned.  

If we are serious about confronting the capitalist crisis – we need to get serious about the obstacles in our way.

That means recognising that time after time, the strategy of gradual, parliamentary reform of the capitalist system has failed.

Labour and trade union bureaucrats see the party as an instrument for governing within the limits imposed by the establishment.

Yet what this crisis demands is a fundamental and irreversible break with the British state which exists to defend the power, privileges and property of the billionaires.  We can’t afford to wait for the next election.

To fight back against the crises of the capitalist system, we need an anticapitalist opposition that fights for international socialism – with our official leaders where possible and without them where necessary.

As the government tries to drive us back to work to save the bosses’ economy, we need to organise workers to say – no return to unsafe work.

We need community activists to work with trade unions and Labour councils to draw up people’s budgets that reverse austerity and provide for all.

As millions lose their jobs, we need an unemployed workers’ movement to fight for guaranteed work, oppose racist scapegoating, and combat the far right.

The crisis is global – and so is its solution. We need to organise social movement assemblies to coordinate the new movements of climate justice, women’s liberation, and international solidarity.

That’s why we’ve launched the Anticapitalist Platform – because we believe that armed with a clear strategy that links resistance to the current crisis to the socialist goal, Momentum can put itself at the heart of these struggles and lead movements of protest to the struggle for power.