Trotskyist Faction Adopts Constitution

On 21 May the Trotskyist Faction formally adopted a constitution to guide our present and future political work. It is available as a separate page on this site here. Obviously it is based on the constitution of the now defunct unitary SF group that was wrecked in the early part of this year, but it has been adjusted to remove some rather grandiose features that were out of proportion to the modest size of that group.

We adopted it as a sign of our seriousness about building a revolutionary working class organisation with a dynamic, democratic method of functioning. We consider that revolutionaries should take pride in adhering to the norms that we advocate, of party democracy, and of full and reasoned political debate for the purpose of formulating effective revolutionary responses to the complex problems we face today.

Statement for May Day

On this first of May, the working class faces the terrible pandemic conditions of Covid-19 which has unleashed a latent world capitalist crisis. This situation has causes the worst death toll since World War 2.  Its causes are linked to the antagonistic relationship with nature that capitalism has imposed upon humanity through its drive for profit above all considerations of sustainability and rationality, which has so destabilised the climate as to threaten human existence. As well as the immediate danger of large numbers of the vulnerable, the sick, the disabled and the aged dying  or being incapacitated from the disease, workers and the oppressed  face an unprecedented danger of loss of livelihood and in many places even mass starvation from the huge economic crisis of capitalism that the pandemic has crystallised.

 In the imperialist countries, economies are being kept afloat by massive government borrowing which will be a source of acute economic convulsions even after the pandemic for many years to come. After the credit crunch and near financial collapse of 2007-2010, the poor were victimised by a decade of savage austerity and attacks on the social wage to an unprecedented degree.  After this crisis similar things will be posed and the ruling class will likely again come for the working class to make them pay for the crisis. Though this will be more dangerous for the ruling class as it is increasingly clear to the masses that the cause of the massive weakness in health systems that have made the pandemic so much worse for the population is rooted in the previous vicious austerity attacks. That gives hope that militant working class resistance can emerge to confront the entire logic of capitalist profit that stands behind this crisis.

In oppressed and semi-colonial countries the situation is much worse and more threatening, as the public health systems are much poorer, when they exist at all, than in the imperialist countries.  In Africa, in much of semi-colonial Asia, in Latin America and Oceania, quarantines and lockdowns have often been harsher and enormous numbers are suffering huge hunger and deprivation as the meagre benefits that many survive on in the imperialist countries simply do not exist.  Huge numbers of workers in the informal or black economy have no income at all during the quarantine and are struggling to avoid starvation. As well, semi-colonial countries face imperialist aggression which continues despite the pandemic, as with Trump’s continuing attacks and threats against Iran, the bombing of the population in Somalia, recently resumed, and the sending of US warships to threaten Venezuela amid phoney allegations of drug trafficking from the US narco-lords. A particularly frightening example is occupied Palestine, where the Israeli occupiers have brazenly attacked medical facilities set up to treat Palestinian victims of the pandemic. Thus the Israeli genocidal drive against the Palestinian people is intensified, exploiting the pandemic as a weapon.  

The Trump threats of aggression against China, the pretext being the preposterous lie that Covid-19 was produced in a Chinese laboratory, is another example of imperialist aggression against nations from the Global South that do not fit in with imperialisms world domination. We call for defence of underdeveloped and non-imperialist capitalist nations such as Iran, China, Venezuela, Somalia against imperialism as well as defending the remaining workers states of Cuba and North Korea against imperialism and counterrevolution.

Argentina

In Argentina, the “progressive” Peronist government of Alberto Fernández, who took a series of statist measures in the face of the pandemic. Today he is surrounded by right-wing governments, some directly of coup origin. In the name of its economic protectionism, the Alberto Fernandez government unilaterally distances Argentina from Mercosur, which is hegemonized by neoliberal economic trends, while seeking to negotiate the issue of debt inherited from Macrismo that the Alberto Fernandez government itself assumed. even without investigating it. This also includes the possibility that in the face of an unpayable debt, Argentina will definitely go into default. Today, in front of quarantine, workers face the blackmail of the employers on the reduction of wages to keep their jobs with the complicity of the union bureaucracy. It is in this context that Alberto Fernandez has managed to agree on governance – and in some cases co-opt – to the bureaucracy of the trade union centrals. All in a context where the pseudo-Trotskyist left is unable to advance in an independent regroupment of the working class.

Brazil

Bolsonaro’s neo-Nazi government leads the Brazilian population to their deaths. The coronavirus became an incidental ally in the class war. The phenomenon of Bolsonarism is a type of colonial Nazism, born in the country with the deepest slave tradition of the bourgeois era. The government is supported politically by generals and socially by bankers, benefiting them from positions and capital like no other in history. Bolsonaro will only fall if one of these two powerful social actors drops his thumb. But all fractions of capital agree with the economic policy inspired by the Pinochet dictatorship. Brazil’s military summit organizes, organically and officially, the Southern Command of the US Army. The government also relies on the police and police forces (militias), which are more numerous than the armed forces. The country has a long tradition of death squads that acted even during the PT governments against landless, homeless and indigenous people.

Bolsonarism does not exist as a national, centralized and partisan force, but the militiaman leads a Nazi movement without a party, assisted by the Trump administration and strategists like Steve Bannon. The mass base of Bolsonarism, which articulates their social consensus, is the sectors linked to the informal economy, where petty bourgeois tendencies, even with consumption levels below the proletariat, are enhanced by individualization and entrepreneurship. There, the ideology of prosperity and neo-Pentecostalism, the Universal Church and other sects that are associated with the governing Bolsonarist sect develop from the ideological instance. But the aspirations of the governing nucleus have not yet converted the Brazilian state into a fascist state. Workers’ organizations have not been wiped out. The unions did not suffer state intervention. The proletariat has not been physically repressed on a large scale, mass arrests, tortures and deportations are not taking place as in times of classical fascism. A system of administration that is profoundly dominant of the masses has not yet been imposed to prevent independent action and organization by the proletariat.

Thus, the social force capable of overthrowing the militia president would be the numerous Brazilian working class. But the hegemonic political directions of the proletariat are deeply conciliatory and bourgeois for 15 years of class collaboration. The leaderships of the PT, PCdoB, PSOL, CUT, MST, MTST support their conciliation policy in the fact that the working class is on the defensive, due to the economic recession (unemployment) and now by the pandemic. Among these contradictions lies the strength of the Bolsonaro government. Without popular resistance at the height of the capital’s offensive, the Planalto Palace became the headquarters of a laboratory of the world extreme right. Not by chance, it was in Brazil and not in Mexico or Indonesia, equally populous semicolonies, where the coronavirus exploded with the greatest mortality among backward and dependent capitalist countries. All of this leads us to believe that in Brazil the government is not mistaken, but it would have already consciously assumed the massacre of the population. Against this government and this tragedy we defend an anti-fascist workers’ united front policy that brings together its mass organizations for the struggle. The immediate fight is in defense of broad labor rights, by guaranteeing jobs and wages in the quarantine that is economically guaranteed by the State and employers.

Bangladesh

In Bangladesh the working class are those minimally educated people who engage in “manual labor” with little or no prestige. Unskilled workers in the class— dishwashers, cashiers, maids, and waitresses— usually are underpaid and have no opportunity for career advancement. They are often called the working poor. Garment workers are often forced to work 14 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. During peak season, they may work until 2 or 3 am to meet the fashion brand’s deadline. Their basic wages are so low that they cannot refuse overtime – aside from the fact that many would be fired if they refused to work overtime.

Minimum Wages in Bangladesh is expected to reach 8000.00 BDT/Month by the end of 2020, according to Trading Economics global macro models and analysts expectations. In the long-term, the Bangladesh Minimum Wages is projected to trend around 10000.00 BDT/Month in 2021, according to our econometric models. on the other hand The tea garden workers of Bangladesh lead a poor life due to their low income (less than US$1 for a day’s work from sunrise to sunset), which is much lower than that of the Indian tea garden workers. As a result, the workers are not able to consume sufficient food and nutrition.

Health safety condition of labour class in Bangladesh is not so good It is estimated that over 11,000 workers suffer fatal accidents and a further 24,500 die from work related diseases across all sectors each year in Bangladesh. It is also estimated that a further 8 million workers suffer injuries at work – many of which result in permanent disability. Although little research has taken place in Bangladesh, it is internationally recognized that most occupational deaths and injuries are entirely preventable, and could be avoided if employers and workers took simple initiatives to reduce hazards and risks at the workplace.

 Britain

In Britain workers  are facing a right-wing populist Tory government, led by Trump-ally Boris Johnson that has become a byword for cavalier disregard of public health, initially boasting of a strategy of promoting ‘herd immunity’ through allowing the disease to rampage through the population. The Prime Minister even managed to infect himself as a result of this strategy. They have been forced to partially retreat by intense popular pressure, and to institute a widespread lockdown with school and shop closures and an incomplete state-funding of the wages of some laid off workers and underwriting of small businesses, though this was done reluctantly and is full of holes. The Labour Party’s former left social-democratic leadership was recently ousted after an election defeat that was in part engineered from within, by its own neo-liberal right-wing, and is now in practice an echo of the ruling Tory party over most issues. The workers movement needs to regroup around a revolutionary programme by means of political clarification within the large layer of disillusioned Labour supporters who may well regroup around expelled left figures like Chris Williamson, and to prepare to fight against a likely renewed austerity once the pandemic is over.

In light of the above, the following revolutionary groups of the working class send greetings to the exploited classes and their organizations internationally, as well as to all the oppressed peoples and strata of the population on the occasion of May 1, on this international day workers of protest and resistance this year 2020, as part of the strategic struggle for the international socialist revolution.

Frente Comunista dos Trabalhadores (Brazil)

Socialist Fight (Great Britain)

Socialist Party (Bangladesh)

Socialist Workers League (United States)

Tendencia Militante Bolchevique (Argentina)

Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight (Great Britain)

Defend Steve Hedley, defend Trade Union democracy!

Steve Hedley

The Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight gives full support to Steve Hedley, Assistant General Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), against the vicious attacks by the Tories and the Murdoch press propaganda machine.

Steve Hedley has been suspended from his position after he recently made ‘offensive’ remarks on Facebook. Replying to another comment on a Facebook post, he said: “I don’t want to offend you, but if Bojo pops his clogs, I’m throwing a party.” He later added: “I hope the whole Cabinet and higher echelons of the Tory party have been touching various bits of him.” These remarks followed Johnson’s admission into St. Thomas’s Hospital on 5th April after his Covid-19 symptoms worsened.

The Murdoch press, who have been fawning over themselves in their support for Johnson for years, described Steve Hedley’s comments as ‘vile’. These attacks from these gutter rags are not new. The propaganda against the RMT has been going on for years with attacks on Bob Crow who always confronted the government and its media lackeys, simply because the RMT is one of the last remaining militant trade unions representing its workers. As a direct result of this attack on him in the Murdoch Press, the bureaucrats in the RMT have capitulated to this right wing attack suspending Steve from his position pending a disciplinary investigation.

In a joint letter/statement on 10th April sent to  the RMT membership, President Michelle Rodgers and General Secretary Mick Cash said: “Steve Hedley’s comments do not represent the views of this trade union and are wholly unacceptable.” He added: “The comments have attracted widespread negative media coverage which has led to an extraordinarily large volume of complaints, from both RMT members and the public, through social media and also directly to the union and our staff with unprecedented levels of hostility.” A spokesman for the RMT said: “Following a meeting of the union’s National Executive a decision has been made to suspend senior assistant general secretary Steve Hedley with immediate effect while a formal investigation takes place into his conduct.” We suspect that the majority of members actually support Steve Hedley, and it is they alone who should democratically decide who represents them, not the right wing establishment and the union bosses kowtowing to pressure from Murdoch et al.

Some people may have mixed views on the remarks made by Steve Hedley, as to whether his personal remarks in a personal social media post were ‘offensive’ and in keeping with someone in his position as a representative of a trade union. What is offensive are the Tories attacks on the working class. Where is the outrage about someone who is homeless dying on the streets every 19 hours, the reliance on food banks and 4 million children languishing in poverty in the fifth richest nation, the cut in 17,000 hospital beds since 2010, or deliberately allowing people to succumb to COVID-19 with lack of testing and adequate provision of PPE to frontline NHS staff? These are the issues that should animate people, not this faux outrage against someone who expressing his personal views on someone that has been a champion for the ruling class with their attacks against the poorest in society.

The attacks on the working class in this country are integral to the class project of the Tories, this is not new. When Nye Bevan delivered his most famous speech, on the eve of the creation of the NHS at the Belle Vue Rally in Manchester on 4th July 1948, he said “So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin,” he went on. “They condemned millions of people to semi-starvation. I warn you young men and women, do not listen to what they are saying, do not listen to the seductions of Lord Woolton. They have not changed, or if they have they are slightly worse.” His own bitter experiences growing up in Wales led him to have a deep hatred of the Tory party; a party that consistently objected to the forming of the NHS and the ‘Welfare State’ in the first place.  Bevan was not wrong then and Steve Hedley is not wrong now. We do not give sympathy to those that are waging war, an ideologically driven class war, against the workers and poor of this country.

These recent attacks from the right wing and the gutter press come on the back of a deliberate targeting of the RMT, which has been brewing for some time. It was no coincidence that Steve Hedley was violently attacked outside a London pub on 14th July 2018 by fascist Tommy Robinson supporters. Steve and his kind of union militancy represent organised labour, and also have a history of fighting racism and homophobia. These attacks from the right on the RMT have been drip fed in the media, whether it was Bob Crow going on holiday, which incidentally came from Boris Johnson himself when he wrote an article for the Telegraph in 2014, or the attack on Steve Hedley accusing him of anti-Semitism in November 2019 with calls for him to resign when a video surfaced of him berating Richard Millett – a hardened Zionist, in a speech attacking the oppression of the Palestinians in 2011.

Johnson’s dislike of the RMT has been simmering since last November when there were calls for action to be taken against the union for its planned 27 day strike against South Western Railway in December over safety concerns in operating trains without guards with the imposition of driver only operations.  The government’s response after its December election win was to deliver a Queen’s speech that contained 30 bills, which included further anti-strike legislation. The proposed legislation will ensure a minimum level of service on various modes of public transport, including trains and buses, has to be maintained during strikes. The Tories have a majority of 80 MPs, which allows them to continue their full frontal attacks on the working class, an extension of where Thatcher and Major left off. The speech includes for the first time ever new legislation that effectively bans strike action. The upholding of the right of workers to withdraw their labour and the improvement of conditions in the workplace is an abomination for the Tories, who see it as something to be crushed. 

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, stated that “It is a basic right for workers to be able to get to work,”….. “The ability of a few people to prevent everyone from being able to earn a living has to come to an end. The new law will prevent London being brought to a standstill, with all the additional environmental damage done by people reverting to cars. There will be a bare-bones service provided, preventing ordinary workers being effectively held to ransom.” The safety of the public and workers is being used as a subterfuge to smash the union under a pretext of the environment and the rights of other workers. This attack on the last vestiges of union and worker militancy is in keeping with the  Tories’ drive towards the Singapore model come post Brexit, which this Queen’s speech was all about.

Support for Steve Hedley has been widespread amongst comrades on the left, who can see that this is another step on the journey by both the Tories and the neoliberal Blairites who have now reclaimed the Labour Party as their own. The attacks on Steve is part of a concerted attack on the left by Tories and Blairites, and their capitulators and agents in the unions. An open letter has been submitted to the Morning Star, which has been refused publication by its editor, Ben Chacko. This can only be interpreted as further capitulation to right wing pressures and shows how the trade union bureaucracy, even the ‘lefts’, act as agents of the bosses in the workers movement when the chips are down.  Indeed Steve Hedley is being punished by the ‘left’ bureaucracy – whose house organ is the Morning Star – not for the first time – for going further than worthies like Cash and Rodgers are prepared to go in opposing the bosses.

 The letter can be seen here:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdvzYZoJnvfuNCqu42bQTYtQlbmcZqoHSc6cDWWlM_cPPY6Aw/viewform?fbclid=IwAR3sKHfE7oqT_XqIXr3hSM0KJdyZZEsKF0N7V1ewdavO0fauUsRBci8Eq4c

We demand the lifting of the RMT’s executive’s suspension of its Assistant General Secretary and the full reinstatement of Steve Hedley.

Solidarity with Donbass Anti-Fascists: Letter and Reply

We reprint below the response by Ukrainian Anti-Fascists and Communists to a 3 April letter of solidarity from Communists and and Anti-Fascists from the UK and elsewhere.

Below that we reproduce the joint letter itself. It was addressed to the Communist Party of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Borotba as a jointly signed letter by all those who have supported the Solidarity with the Fascist Resistance in the Ukraine campaign in London in recent years

It was initiated by the New Communist Party through the umbrella campaign , and endorsed by our international tendency, the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International (LCFI). Our British LCFI Section, the Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight, signed this, together with our sister British LCFI section, also currently known as Socialist Fight, as well as three overseas sections of the LCFI, from Brazil, Argentina and the United States. Also signing were the UK Posadist group.

It is a source of pride that our small currents stand out as those who have kept the flame of solidarity alive on this important political struggle against reaction in this period.


From: Редакция сайта “Вперед”
Sent: 13 April 2020 06:02
To: New Worker
Subject: Re: Solidarity with Ukrainian anti-fascists 

Thank you comrades for your solidarity!  

http://wpered.su/2020/04/13/kommunisty-velikobritanii-latinskoj-ameriki-i-ssha-podderzhali-obrashhenie-kpdnr-v-svyazi-s-neprekrashhayushhimisya-boevymi-dejstviyami-na-donbasse/ — 

С уважением, редакция сайта “Вперед” 


Dear Comrades

We send solidarity greetings from the UK to all those living under a fascist-infested illegitimate government in Ukraine, defending and building the anti-fascist people’s republics in the Donbas, and to the hundreds of thousands forced into exile by political repression, attacks by fascist gangs and economic austerity.

Although we have had no recent Ukraine anti-fascist solidarity actions, we have by no means forgotten your struggle and the sacrifices you are making.

We were intending to begin organising another Ukraine anti-fascist solidarity protest in London in the near future, but unfortunately events in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic have overtaken us.

All of us have been working hard on other political issues, including helping to organise a very successful meeting attended by 400 people in central London on March 3rd which exposed the lies, tampered and falsified evidence being presented at the current MH17 trial in The Hague.

Ever since the February 22 2014 Ukraine coup we have been aware of the illiegal nature of that regime change, the open involvement of actual fascists in the government, police and armed forces, the complete suppression of democratic rights and freedoms in Ukraine, and the physical attacks on political parties, trade unions and even the courts.

We have not forgotten the heinous crime at the Odessa Trade Union House on 2nd May 2014 and the many other outrages perpetrated by the fascist bands, and we have not forgotten the criminal, barbaric ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ launched in April 2014, unleashing all-out war against civilian anti-fascist protestors in Donetsk and Lugansk.

We know that the fighters of the people’s Donbas and Lugansk People’s Militias are making daily sacrifices in the front-line trenches, and that civilians – women and men, children and the elderly – are being killed and injured every day in attacks by the Ukraine armed forces and the fascist brigades.

In our solidarity work for the anti-fascists in Ukraine we are also faced with confronting the lies and whipped up hysteria against the Russian Federation and Vladimir Putin, which have continued for almost a decade.

We have no illusions about the capitalist, oligargic nature of the Russian Federation, but we reject the attempts to portray it as totally undemocratic, and we call for an end to the trade sanctions the constant western interference designed to economic instability and provoke protests. And this coming from governments which kiss the feet of the reactionary fuedal monarchs of the Middle East, and instigate coups and regime change from Brazil and Bolivia to Hong Kong.

Above all we are aware of the vital support given by the Russian Federation to the Donbas people’s republics, the generous hospitality extended to large numbers of Ukrainian exiles, and its open condemnation of the fascists in Ukraine.

We also applaud the the sacrifices made by the Russian volunteer fighters in the Donbas, by the Russian Federation’s armed forces to defend the popular front government in Syria, and the strong support the Russian Federation has extended to Cuba and Venezuela.

This anti-Russian hysteria has created a poisonous atmosphere in which anyone challenging the lies and false flag operations of of US-EU-NATO imperialism risks being labelled as a Russian asset, in a repeat of the anti-communiist witch-hunts of the 1950s.

Unfortunately many progressives, social democrats, trade unionists, and even the anti-fascist and anti-racist organisations on Britain, have fallen for this demonisation, even though it is clearly a repeat of the lies and fake news used against Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gadaffi and Hafez al Assad. This has prevented them from even discussing the most dangerous revival of fascism in the whole of Europe.

Once again we renew our support and solidarity with your organisations, which will continue as long as it takes until democracy has been restored throughout Ukraine, and communists, socialists and anti-fascists are allowed to operate freely again.

Andy Brooks
New Communist Party of Britain

Ian Donovan
Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight

Gerry Downing
Socialist Fight

Bridget Dunne
Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU)

George Shaw
Posadists in Britain

As well as:

Frente Comunista Dos Trabalhadores (Brazil)

Tendencia Militante Bolchevique (Argentina)

Socialist Workers League (USA)

“A pro-imperialist twist of the ultra left”

A CONVERSATION WITH FRANK FITZMAURICE

We reproduce excerpts from the first conversation between comrade Humberto Rodrigues (FCT-Brasil) and Frank Fitzmaurice (SF-Great Britain) on 02/09/2017. Frank passed away on April 7, 2020. In the expression above, which headlines this piece, Frank summarizes the turn that affected the International Workers League, an international current of which the PSTU is the Brazilian section. The conversation also addresses the WRP, ISL, Nahuel Moreno, “democratic revolutions” in Libya and Syria, …

This is also published in Portuguese by our Brazilian comrades here

“That’s how I want to be 106 years old. I may not be so comely, but I wish I had the same attitude. This was an Armenian woman who guarded her home in 1990, at the age of 106 [the image is part of Frank’s mural on Facebook and was published by the same a few days before the conversation below]”

Humberto Rodrigues: Hi Comrade.

Frank Fitzmaurice: Hello Humberto.

Humberto Rodrigues: For a long time, I want to talk to you, we need to strengthen our bonds of friendship. Forgive me for my confused use of the English language.

Frank Fitzmaurice: Your English is fine. How are you? A lot better than my Portuguese, which is non-existent.

Humberto Rodrigues: No problem. What is your political origin?

Frank Fitzmaurice: I was in the WRP with Gerry [Downing, head of Socialist Fight]. After we expelled Healy, our group started talks with the LIT [International Workers League] and joined that organization in 1988 and became the English section, the ISL [International Socialist League, in Portuguese]. [After 2011] Some of us left after disagreements over the policy on Libya.

Humberto Rodrigues: Very progressive the rupture of you. It is truly a dialectical rupture. While the LIT followed a path, you went the opposite way.

Frank Fitzmaurice: It was more the way the debate was handled in our branch. Would have stayed in but could not debate properly

Humberto Rodrigues: Why?

Frank Fitzmaurice: Think the LIT has regressed really badly. Don’t think they got over the death of Moreno

Our branch was suffering because our leader, Bill Hunter was getting very old, in his nineties, and his faculties were declining, so differences came out.

Humberto Rodrigues: Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Brazil, … in all these countries, the LIT supported the policy of imperialism. In all the LIT supported the coup against the bourgeois ruler who was pro-BRICS.

Frank Fitzmaurice: they have fallen off a cliff.

Humberto Rodrigues: In my view, I believe that support for the “democratic counterrevolution” against the “Stalinist dictatorships” in the USSR and Eastern Europe had already pointed out the morenismo in favor of a pro-imperialist policy, but what happened after the crisis of 2008 was amazing. Stalinophobia of the 1980s and 1990s became “dictatorophobia” that followed the democratic public opinion of imperialism.

Frank Fitzmaurice: Yes, Bill [Hunter] wrote some good stuff against this view of “democratic revolutions”. We joined because we thought that their split with Unified Secretariat was based on principles and we liked Moreno’s anti- guerillaist platform. Above all, we agreed that we should join organizations in struggle and not be afraid to be in a minority.

Humberto Rodrigues: Undoubtedly, in the 1980s, Morenism was more progressive than Mandelism (and the USFI’s capitulations to foquismo, social democracy and, finally, Perestroika). But, from 1989 to 1991, Morenism evolved to increasingly pro-imperialist positions. Like supporting UN blue helmets in the Balkans.

Frank Fitzmaurice: Yes “an ultra-left pro-imperialist twist” sums them up. We gradually came to realise that the discussion had become one way. They sent some very good comrades over in the early days.

Humberto Rodrigues: Good. But, in any case, I consider it a non-materialistic stupidity to believe that the blame for any degeneration after Nahuel Moreno is to be attributed to NM and to his legacy. There was, without doubt, a leap in quality in the LIT program, particularly from Libya.

Frank Fitzmaurice: If Moreno had lived things may have turned out differently. We put into practice going into movements and we learned a lot and it certainly developed us.

Humberto Rodrigues: To assert that LIT’s current policy is NM’s fault is a spirited conception, of Allan Kardec and not of Karl Marx.

Frank Fitzmaurice: Yes there was a further degeneration, could not be blamed on Moreno

Will try to send some of Bill Hunters stuff to you, think you will like it.

Humberto Rodrigues: Okay … In Brazil, the PSTU lost more than half of its militants for supporting the coup against the PT.

Frank Fitzmaurice: That is a qualitative degeneration. The developement of the capitalist crisis, especially since the crash of 2008 has thrown all the left into turmoil. The LIT are by no means alone in giving in to the humanitarian interventionalism, in fact the majority have.

Humberto Rodrigues: Yes. I agree.

Frank Fitzmaurice: Off to bed now. Will write something for you tomorrow on that. Goodnight

Humberto Rodrigues: Good night, comrade.

Frank Fitzmaurice

We are sorry to announce the passing of Frank Fitzmaurice, a member of Socialist Fight and the LCFI, and formerly part of the originally pro-Moreno International Socialist League in Liverpool, a component of which fused with the old Socialist Fight in 2018. This grouping, of which Frank was a part, had its roots in the old Workers Revolutionary Party, and the grouping which Frank led was one of those that struggled out of that appallingly deformed organisation and attempted to re-found an authentic Trotskyist and Bolshevik tradition. We hope to publish more on Frank in due course but right now we express our condolences to all his family, friends and also all fellow comrades.

The King is dead….. long live the King!

Keir Starmer

On 4th April the result of the Labour Party leadership election was announced and true to form and the prediction of the bourgeois press, Sir Keir Starmer was announced as the new leader of the opposition.  Starmer, the establishment stooge, has hammered the final nail into the coffin of the Corbyn project.

Corbyn’s leadership success in 2015 paved the way for the Labour Party to be dragged, albeit kicking and screaming, from the Blairites and over to the left of the political spectrum. The Party attracted a membership of over 560,000, making it the largest political party in Western Europe. These members brought in both class consciousness and hope of reform of the bourgeois political system in the interests of ‘the many, not the few’, which at one point seemed to promise real change. The political landscape in Britain had and still has changed, despite those hopes within the Labour Party being snuffed out by the bureaucratic layer at the top and within the trade unions, protecting ruling class interests. This hope suffered terminal damage with the devastation of the general election defeat in December 2019.

Corbyn’s capitulation to the Zionist smears by constantly apologising and throwing principled anti-racist comrades under the bus on spurious accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’, the adoption of the IHRA, and the treachery of Lansman, Hodge et al, doomed the Corbyn project.  It exposed him as unprincipled and weak and was a major factor (amongst others) in Labour’s disastrous general election result.

A Neoliberal Stooge

The general election defeat was a major blow to the left, and it has left many members and voters completely disillusioned and looking for a new political home. Many of these people are left in the wilderness and considering their Labour Party allegiance, as the natural establishment heir to the throne emerges to be crowned. Starmer, a Knight of the Realm, was involved in the 2016 ‘chicken coup’ attempt to oust Corbyn. His establishment credentials include being in the role of Director of Public Prosecutions during the period (2003-2009) when infiltration of environmental and leftist groups was being carried out by the state, and in 2011 when a trial of environmental activists collapsed due to the CPS (of which he was the Head of and was present in court) covering up vital evidence.

He has been responsible for overseeing the criminal activity of his imperialist paymasters, including in 2012, when he announced that MI5 and MI6 agents would not face charges of torture and extraordinary rendition during the Iraq war, concluding that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. As an MP, he voted against an investigation into the Iraq war. He also fast tracked the extradition of Julian Assange, who as part of Wikileaks exposed imperialist crimes against the people of Iraq. He disregarded legal precedents by advising Swedish lawyers not to question Assange in the UK, and in so doing prolonged Assange’s legal purgatory, denied closure to his accusers in Sweden, and essentially ensured Assange would face the threat of extradition to a show trial in the US.

Starmer’s crowning is just a continuation of protecting the establishment under the pretext of being the leader of the ‘opposition’ in a ‘socialist’ party. His immediate olive branch to Johnson to work together in a ‘time of national crisis’ obfuscates his real purpose. Starmer immediately signed up to the Board of Deputies of British Jews’ 10 demands and declared his sympathy for Zionism. In February of this year he told the Jewish News that “I support Zionism without qualification.”  He declared in his victory speech, “Anti-Semitism has been a stain on our party” vowing to “tear out this poison by its roots.”

This is code for a purge of the left, of anti-racist campaigners and pro-Palestinian activists and supporters, on the basis of the far-right, Goebellsian blood libel that to condemn the racism of Zionism and the Israeli state is in some way a racialised attack on Jews. In fact Labour is now dominated by anti-Arab, Zionist racism and under Starmer’s leadership and the dictatorship of the IHRA fake-definition, should be considered an anti-Arab, racist party.

Starmer grovels to racist Jewish-Zionist groups, promises to purge Palestine supporters. Labour is now an anti-Arab racist party

At all points of his career Starmer has put his ‘left credentials’ to use to ensure that the bourgeois state is protected at all costs, such as: altering legal guidelines so that those improperly claiming benefits could be charged under the Fraud Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years; removing the financial threshold for such cases, allowing the government to waste endless resources arresting and incarcerating people who had claimed minimal amounts of money; drawing up rules that gave police officers more power to arrest demonstrators, including vague guidelines allowing scarfs to be classed as ‘masks’ and placards classed as ‘weapons’; being found by a Parliamentary Select Committee to have restricted the scope of the tabloid phone hacking investigation; and having abstained on the Tory Welfare Bill in 2015, which introduced a series of drastic cuts to social spending that disproportionately affected women, children and the disabled.

He replaced ‘leftists’ Barry Gardiner and Ian Lavery and brought the likes of Rachel Reeves into the Shadow Cabinet. The same Reeves, who in 2013 as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, claimed that “Labour will be tougher than the Tories on benefits” and earlier as a Blairite minister called for the eviction of the unemployed from council housing. Expecting these careerists to have any sympathy with the working class in the current economic crash would be like inviting a fox into a hen house and hoping it will behave itself.

Tactics and Strategy Toward the Labour left

For all the crowing of the right wing, the fact is that Keir Starmer has a much flimsier mandate as Labour leader than Corbyn had in 2015 and 2016. His supporters claim he has 56% of the vote, whereas in both earlier leadership contests, Corbyn received just shy of two thirds. Equally importantly, more Labour members did not vote at all in the 2020 leadership election than voted for Starmer. This has created a situation where a Scottish socialist, Sandy McBurney, who is often quite close to our comrades in terms of tactical understanding of the nuances of the Labour Party and its politics, projected:

“I think a future split of the Labour left is very much on the horizon. Sir Keir will be expelling many on the left and anyone who tries to organise against the expulsions. So we will have de facto an organisation that is mainly outside the Labour Party. Will our perspective just be to try to get back in? Or will it be trying to build a socialist current that stands for a mass socialist party and that calls a spade a spade i.e. that the Labour Party is led by an anti-socialist and the PLP is dominated by anti-working-class servants of capital. Look what has happened to social democracy in Europe? Should socialists be fighting to be in the French Italian, German or Spanish social democratic parties?

“Obviously not. Take the blinkers off. It is highly unlikely that the left will ever win over the Labour Party to socialism. Things are a lot later and have moved on from that. The Labour right and the capitalist class has shown it won’t accept even a mild left leadership of the LP. Are we not going to learn from that? A socialist takeover of the Labour Party is now ruled out. The right won’t make the same mistake again. But you can be sure that the Labour right is going to expel those socialists who won’t kowtow to their anti-working-class politics. They will try to integrate some as long as they keep their mouths shut but the right is out to purge the hard left with slanders about antisemitism etc.”

This has to be the tactical approach of Marxists to the radicalised and alienated, and quite massive Labour left, of maybe 200-250,000 militants or so. We need a lifeboat, an organising centre for the creation of a genuinely anti-capitalist, anti-Zionist mass workers party, and revolutionaries need to be sharpening up their programmatic approach to create a bridge between the alienated, but still to a very large degree left-reformist consciousness of this advanced layer, and the objective need for a revolutionary anti-capitalism, i.e. the programme of socialist revolution. This may involve blocs with principled left socialists of reformist or centrist consciousness, such as Chris Williamson and others, but our overall aim as revolutionaries must be to fight for a revolutionary programme among these vitally important vanguard layers of working class and allied militants.

The British road to socialism through the bourgeois parliamentary system is an illusion. The capitalist class will use all bureaucratic means necessary to frustrate, divert energy, and where necessary corrupt means with the support with their lackeys in the capitalist press to prevent any real change in the interests of workers. Crumbs will be given piecemeal here and there, some minor reforms, some concessions, but nothing substantial, to ensure that the working class are kept subdued and the protection of capital in the hands of the ruling class is kept in place.

The Labour Party has a track record of leading workers down a dead end and some of the most terrible of British imperialist crimes have happened during times of having a Labour government in power. However, the Tories response to the current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that the ruling class fear the class consciousness again developing within the masses. The majority now understand the importance of cleaners, nurses, delivery drivers, supermarket and factory workers and not the CEOs of large corporations that are now squealing to be bailed out.

The likes of Branson, the multi billionaire who evades taxes living on his own island, requesting government assistance while he lays off his workers is causing resentment amongst the masses, who now see the stinking hypocrisy very clearly. To placate the majority, financial promises and concessions have been made by Johnson and his Chancellor. The ruling class fear people on the streets as they have seen in France, the emergency powers rushed through Parliament, which were supported by Labour, show this.

If they believe that another round of austerity will solve the financial hole that they have now dug themselves into they are sorely mistaken. The genie will not go back into the bottle. The crisis has shown neoliberal economics has to be pulled out by its roots and the trunk and branches of capitalist system completely destroyed for humanity to have any chance of survival, and to realise its true potential to live in a more just and equal world; a world where capitalist class dictatorship is overcome and replaced with the class dictatorship of the working class and the oppressed, the great majority of humanity, as a bridge to a rational, sustainable and egalitarian world order, or world socialism to put it straightforwardly.

The Covid-19 Pandemic and the World Capitalist Crisis – Statement

The undersigned revolutionary working-class groups demand the protection of all workers and oppressed people from the dangers caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is a very dangerous threat to the health and lives of the oppressed. Particularly older workers, the retired, the disabled, those with underlying health conditions, to prisoners, the impoverished, those in nations such as Iran, occupied Palestine and Gaza, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea who are targeted for starvation sanctions and barbaric deprivation of basic medical supplies and services by imperialism and its allies, and particularly also many oppressed people who live in impoverished semi-colonial nations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania.

This pandemic crisis has produced the most serious economic and political crisis for capitalism since the Second World War, or earlier crises that led to that war such as the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression. The fundamental contradiction facing world capitalism is that the prolonged strategy of saving capitalist profitability over the last several decades has involved savage attacks on social benefits, including healthcare benefits, for workers and the poor around the world, both in the imperialist countries, going hand in hand with globalisation and the export of jobs to poor, low-wage countries, this putting pressure on the working class in the imperialist countries to accept a serious decline in living standards and benefits.

The imperialist drive to capitalist restoration in the former USSR and much of its sphere of influence was initially the driving force of these such attacks, but they have become a generalised phenomenon throughout the capitalist world, part of neo-liberalism, the dominant creed of capital today, which is seen by the ruling classes of the world as their saviour from the spectre of Communism and the Russian Revolution.

A similar, parallel thing has been done also in poorer, semi-colonial countries, where the rise of exported capital and the increase in jobs has led to the rise of free market economics and attacks on already meagre healthcare and social welfare systems there also, through such things as IMF ‘structural adjustment’ programmes to attract imperialist investment.

Now that neo-liberal capitalism is itself in terminal decay, we see the grotesque spectacle of the rise of right-wing populism with a stern, fascist tendency, put in power in part as a result of the disillusionment of backward sections of the working class in many countries, which has given rise to leaders such as Trump, Johnson , Bolsonaro and Modi, who make light of and mock a deadly pandemic that threatens to decimate the victims of capitalism, those who are considered surplus population by much of the ruling class.

At the same time we see that under mass pressure and fear of an eruption of the rage of the masses at the huge death toll that is threatened, and the obvious fact that healthcare has been deliberately undermined for decades as part of neo-liberal asset stripping and privatisation, many bourgeois regimes are attempting to stave off disaster by imposing a necessary measure of quarantine on the population.

We support the quarantine and demand effective measures of public health. We will also support agitation to force recalcitrant neoliberal regimes to carry out such measures where they a playing with obscenities like Johnson’s injunction to the British population to ‘take it on the chin’. While there is no vaccine or cure for this new disease the working class is in a defensive, backs-to-the-wall situation and needs to be extremely cautious about protecting its most vulnerable and frail components. We must seize on the weapon of quarantine to protect ourselves, and fight for the nationalisation of health provision and its supply chain, housing for the homeless, and protections for workers sacked because of the pandemic. We defend the international solidarity efforts of the workers’ states and peoples oppressed by imperialism against the pandemic, as Cuba has been doing.

But this situation is causing the capitalist system to totter economically, and we must demand of the bourgeois states every possible measure to negate the ruinous impact of capitalism and neo-liberalism on the masses. We demand the expropriation of private healthcare and the privileges of the rich to save as many working class people as possible from the pandemic. We demand the expropriation of failing industries in the economic crisis, and that all workers, in regular and ‘casual’ employment of all kinds, be paid in full for the duration of the pandemic. We demand economic planning to handle the economic needs of the masses under quarantine; the idea that market economics and neoliberalism can be any kind of solution to any of this is poisonous rubbish, too preposterous for words. Such is the international nature of this human crisis that this must be on a world scale if a terrible death toll is to be avoided in the poorest parts of the world.

At the same time we must be vigilant against attempts by far right and fascist forces to exploit the need for a quarantine to attack the democratic rights of the masses, to attack our freedom to criticise, to institute a dictatorship. An ominous example is the demand of Orban in Hungary for the right to rule by decree for the duration of the pandemic. There are similar dangers from Trump in the US, from Johnson in Britain, and in many other places. We must be on our guard.

Above all we demand and seek the world revolution, as the only way to save the working class, and the planet on which we live, which is being degraded and polluted, particularly through capitalist mode of production induced climate change, to the point where human extinction is on the horizon. Capitalism has caused a devastating Climate Change that in combination with systematic destruction of nature have caused unprecedented degradation of nature throughout the world. This allows deadly viruses such as the coronavirus to evolve, adapt, and jump from animals to humans. While we are facing such a deadly threat it may appear unrealistic to talk of world revolution, but the root causes of this calamity, and others to come, dictate political and economic tasks that only the world proletariat in power can solve. This particular disaster will end at some point and there must be a reckoning with its causes. We need worldwide economic planning, we need an end to the destruction of the ecosphere, we need the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism worldwide.

Signed:

Frente Comunista dos Trabalhadores (Brazil)

Tendencia Militante Bolchevique (Argentina)

Socialist Workers League (United States)

Socialist Fight (Britain)

Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight (Britain)

The above groups who endorse it are part of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International.

Mohammad Basir Ul Haq Sinha, President, Inter Press Network, Dhaka – Bangladesh

Fernando Gustavo Armas, physician, militant of Socialismo Revolucionario – Argentina

Akhar Bandyopadhyay, non-partisan Political Activist — India

Ady Mutero, Revolutionary Internationalist League – Zimbabwe

Akash Mirza, chair, Bangladesh Revolutionary Socialist Union – BRSU

Nigel Singh, independent left militant, Oxford, UK

Curtis T, youth and socialist activist, Monrovia, Liberia

The above groups and militants also endorse the statement.

New Marxist Journal Communist Fight. Issue #1 out now

Issue #1 of Communist Fight, journal of the Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight, out now:

Articles on Coronavirus crisis

Turkey’s incursion in Syria

Our Platform

Zionism and the capitulation of former revolutionaries: why we take on the mantle of the old Socialist Fight

Due to the Covid-19 crisis this is not currently available in hard copy, though it will be ASAP. This issue is downloadable as a PDF from here however.

Covid-19 and the Plague of Neo-liberalism

Demands for the Covid-19 Pandemic crisis

We have an imbecilic Prime Minister and a Government behaving like a rabbit in the headlights. Now Johnson claims he can resolve this crisis in twelve weeks. As one wag in the media noted, this slogan could be painted on the side of a bus.

They are lurching from one U-turn to another, reacting to events clearly overtaking them. Much of their policy-making has been in response to what others have already decided. Advising self-isolation and staying away from pubs, clubs and theatres were measures that the public and even some businesses had already decided for Johnson and the Government.

The same could be said about the closure of schools, which already had large numbers of pupils and teachers missing. The Government then found itself having to respond likewise after devolved Scotland and Wales announced schools would close from Friday. The largest teachers’ union, the National Education Union, had already called for this.

The government has been dragged reluctantly toward implementing some of the advice of the World Health Organisation, ‘a day late and a dollar short’, and is still dragging its feet.  A Tory government that has almost wrecked the NHS since 2010 with austerity; deliberate underfunding that has overseen the cutting of 17,000 beds; savage cuts to social care services; operations delayed and cancelled; and a decline in staffing resulting in a shortage of 100,000 NHS staff; the Tories tried to destroy the NHS and cannot care less about healthcare for the poor and the working class.

Already two London hospitals are at crisis point with a chronic lack of beds. Northwick Park Hospital has declared this critical requesting help from other hospitals. One senior doctor described the situation as “f***ing petrifying.” The same can be said of the Tories’ complete disdain of workers who have been treated with utter contempt, seeing their real wages decline year on year since 2010.

The Chancellor’s ‘rescue package’ was just a public relations exercise, a headline grabber, which soon unravelled. The £330 billion package is simply a money printing exercise by the BoE, a bail out with a loan package that would be underwritten by the taxpayer. Small businesses and workers, already finding themselves in difficulties are being ‘supported’ by saddling them with even more debt and interest added to boot, albeit after a 12 months interest-free period.

The government have since announced further measures, such as its job retention scheme: employees unable to work are paid 80% of their wages, stopping employers making them unemployed; tax breaks such as  VAT deferral for three months; and raising benefits. While welcome to a degree, these people cannot be trusted. This must be implemented without delay and be accessed easily. There is ambiguity around protecting those in the ‘gig economy’ on zero hours contracts and workers need vigilance and organisation through unions etc. to stop employers taking advantage.

This pandemic has exposed the Tories catastrophic economic programme and the crisis within the capitalist system, which has not recovered from the economic crisis in 2008. The system is convulsing, and workers are in danger of yet again paying the price for the failures of the capitalist class. We need a workers’ government to put the needs of the working class before the needs of people like the billionaire Richard Branson, who are yet again demanding bailouts. We are witnessing a major shock and upheaval to the system, small businesses going to the wall and workers being laid off.

We, the Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight, recognise the bankruptcy of the capitalist system and as Marxists we understand that it needs to be overcome, i.e. overthrown and abolished root and branch. While we demand reforms in the here and now, under the present bourgeois ‘democratic’ system such changes can only be forced upon capitalism through fear of working-class people below.  With the public health crisis unfolding we must hold the Government to account, we must put forward a simple set of demands to defend the interests of workers who now find themselves in difficult circumstances.

HEALTHCARE

We demand immediate requisition and nationalisation of all private hospitals, facilities and staff, as the Spanish government has done. Sickness should not be profited from. We see no reason why the government (i.e. the taxpayer) should pay £2.4 million a day for additional beds during a national crisis.

NHS staff are having to share masks, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) out of date, and in some cases none. We demand that all front-line NHS staff are fully protected.

Testing for COVID-19 must be increased without delay following WHO guidelines; the government’s increase from 4,000 per day to a target of 25,000, while welcome, is nowhere near enough. Testing must be available to all who need it. Despite claims of improvement and upgrading the numbers, at present ionly 6,000 per day are being carried out. We have seen elsewhere how testing is crucial and the ability it provides the authorities to have adequate information to contain the virus.

Private testing is cos ting £300, while NHS staff are unable to get tested. Tests must be free, and top priority for NHS staff.

The government must immediately commence large scale production of ventilators and other essentials required for the NHS, and must commandeer industry to do this.

WORKERS

Workers are already losing jobs, facing reduced hours, or unpaid leave. They must not be made unemployed; there must be no redundancies, no loss of pay during this public health crisis. No attacks on workers’ rights, or jobs, should be permitted or tolerated.

While we welcome the workers retention scheme, no worker should lose 20% of their wages. We demand full pay for those affected. This should include workers from the gig economy, on zero-hour contracts and the self-employed.. We must demand the abolition of zero-hours contracts and fake self-employment. Workers must have legally-binding hours with sick pay, holiday pay, paid maternity and paternity leave etc. as of right. If the employer cannot provide hours workers should be paid anyway. This is a basic minimum.

While the government has offered a ‘mortgage holiday’ of three months (which has not been guaranteed by the lenders), we demand mortgage, rents and utility bills be paid by the government in full during the pandemic which threatens workers and their families. Banks and corporations are bailed out and supported;  government must do the same for workers, whose exploitation is the basis of capitalist economy.

Coronavirus disease COVID-19 infection medical. China pathogen respiratory influenza covid virus cells. New official name for Coronavirus disease named COVID-19, pandemic risk background, illustration

SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION

We welcome the closure of schools, and the plan to temporarily convert them to child care facilities for the children of essential workers, such as nurses, doctors,, other healthcare staff, emergency services personnel, delivery drivers, essential manufacturing sector staff, essential public service staff, etc.  

Testing must be available to staff and children for safety. Parents who look after children must get paid leave for the duration and compulsory job security, enforced by the state.

Children unable to take examinations must not be disadvantaged. Marking on previous mock exams and work throughout the school year is subjective and ignores students who may ‘perform’ during a real examination. We demand provision for students of all ages whose education is disrupted to re-sit course years at the state’s expense as an exceptional measure.

Schools now have online learning platforms for homework, which can be utilised for lessons. However, disadvantaged children from poorer families may not have access to the internet or a computer. Facilities for these must be provided free.

Food must be provided to vulnerable children who no longer find themselves at school and having access to a nutritious meal. Over 4 million children live in poverty and being fed at school is their only chance of a decent meal. This needs to be co-ordinated with local authorities.

THE HOMELESS

The government must ensure that the homeless are given immediate protection with a roof over their head. Statistics published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) put empty homes in England in October 2018 at 634,453. Shelter showed that there were 320,000 homeless for the same period. With one person dying on the streets every 19 hours, individuals vulnerable to exposure to the virus, we demand that these people are housed.

PRISONS

This week (18 March) a prisoner was diagnosed as being positive with COVID-19. The prison system is extremely overcrowded and as such would be an ideal environment for a rapid outbreak of infection. Under the Ministry of Justice’s own definition of safety and decency, the prison estate should not hold more than 74,954 people. There are currently 8,759 men and women held above this level.

Overcrowding is not evenly distributed, which results in some prisons holding many more than they are designed for. We demand those held for low level crimes, or due to be released within 12 months are released to ease pressure on the system.

DETENTION CENTRES

There are 12 in the UK. Many of them overcrowded with refugees detained in appalling conditions. There are no restrictions on how long people can be detained in these centres. We demand refugees, many escaping conflict zones, and all detainees are not treated like criminals and caged but released. These detention centres, just like prisons, are ideal hubs for the virus. They should be closed down, and removals stopped, as the possibility of migrants and refugees dying of disease just underlines that they are in fact concentration camps.

PANIC BUYING AND RATIONING

The government really need to get a grip with panic buying, and ensuring that the supply chain is able to keep up with demand to enable stores to have adequate stock so the elderly and healthcare workers (many who are working long shifts) are able to put food on their table. Many supermarkets are seeing large queues, which presents a huge health risk, and empty shelves after just a few hours trading.  

If this crisis deepens there will be a serious risk of anti-social manifestations, such as the riotous pushing in that took place at a London Aldi branch with hundreds defying attempts at rationing. According to the government, there is a shortage of delivery drivers. If so, coach drivers should be redeployed to drive delivery vehicles.

A proper rationing system must be put in place by the government for foodstuffs and sanitary-related goods, just as a basic necessity for health and hygiene. This should be overseen and supervised by rank-and-file trade unionists at local level who must seek to draw in the poor and those most at risk from this crisis. We need collective organisation not ‘dog-eat-dog’ and lumpen violence among those at risk. We cannot depend on the ‘goodwill’ of chains like Tesco and Sainsbury’s to bring about a fair rationing system. There needs to be workers inspection of profiteering and businesses that abuse the shortages to raise prices must be expropriated.

GOVERNMENT POWERS AND THE CORONAVIRUS BILL

The government are set to give police sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspected coronavirus sufferers, and stop all public assemblies, which would remove the right to protest. The police will have powers to take blood and swab tests, demand personal information (which at present people arrested have the right to withhold). Refusal will be a criminal offence.

The bill extends the validity of warrants under the Investigatory Powers Act of 2016 and relaxes protections for those cared for under mental health acts. It cancels local elections in England this spring; and empowers government to potentially cancel other elections, should the crisis continue into 2021.

The pandemic must not be allowed to be used as an excuse to trample over civil liberties. While we acknowledge the need for the quarantine to protect public health, there are serious dangers with the new law. Labour are correctly opposing it being on the statute books for two years, without any control by parliament, who ought to have the duty to expire it if the threat from the pandemic is overcome.

This crisis signals the total discredit of Thatcher’s neoliberal economics. Working class people of this country, seeing a second bailout in 12 years are now starting to see through the lies being told, they will not easily buy the austerity agenda a second time around. The public health crisis and the impoverishment of the working class is a permanent issue. Now a pandemic has forced even this Tory government to back-peddle and make a show of saying they will put this right, to avoid huge unrest and struggles that would follow inevitably from their allowing hundreds of thousands of deaths from COVID. This is the result of a fundamental push from the bottom up.

Once the pandemic and quarantine recedes, this crisis has the capacity to develop on the streets like the Gilets Jaunes movement in France. This is the last thing that the capitalist class want. The virus is not man-made but the public health crisis it has exposed was made by neoliberalism. This may well turn to anger and a working class that has again become conscious of its power. We on the left need to promote a correct programmatic perspective to point the working-class masses towards the need to take power and abolish the root cause of the neo-liberal attacks: capitalism itself.

Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight