Since Jeremy Corbyn resigned as Labour leader, hundreds of thousands of people who supported him and his programme have had to question what the way forward is for socialist ideas. When Jeremy was suspended from Labour, this question rose to the fore again, and again when he launched the Peace and Justice Project.
Here you can find a response to the Peace and Justice Project by the Socialist Party’s General Secretary, Hannah Sell:
Below is a report from the protest in Coventry after Corbyn’s suspension.
Coventry Corbyn Solidarity Protest: stay and fight, or a new workers party?
By Michael Morgan, Coventry Socialist Party
On Tuesday the 3rd of November members of Coventry Socialist Party attended a protest organised by Coventry Labour Left in solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn, following his suspension from the Labour Party. The protest was relatively small with around 30 in attendance, many of whom were members of left wing organisations involved.
Two approaches to the issue arose at the protest. All were in agreement that no, Jeremy Corbyn was not an anti-Semite, and that the capitalist media and the right wing of the Labour Party had led a concerted effort to smear him as such. Jeremy Corbyn was indeed one of the country’s most ardent fighters against racism.
However, some on the Labour left, as well as some from other left wing organisations that operate within the labour party, argued for their ‘stay and fight’ position. This included members of Coventry Labour Left, Zarah Sultana in the form of a message read on her behalf and others. These speakers argued that the Labour Party is a mass organ of the working class, and that the lefts best course of action would be to petition the general secretary of the party (right winger, Starmer backed David Evans) and even to vote in National Executive Committee elections to fight for Corbyn’s reinstatement!
The Socialist Party argues that these measures do not go nearly far enough. In effect this argument is one of continuing to feed the mouth that bit you. To plead to the functions of the Labour Party and its officialdom to right a wrong they committed regardless of the actual findings of the EHRC report or of the Labour party’s rules is a strategy doomed to fail; if Starmer cared for the rules Corbyn would still be in the party!
This is why the Socialist Party argues for a new workers’ party through the Trade Union Socialist Coalition, a political party made up of local campaigners, activists and trade unionists. Labour is not a party of the working class. Jeremy Corbyn presented a great opportunity to democratise the party’s structures, to institute mandatory reselection and to reform Labour councils like the one in Coventry, which charges SEND pupils up to £600 per year to get to school. Yet this opportunity was not taken, and at some point that goes from being a political mistake to being politically disastrous as Corbyn has seen.
We need real working people to take political control and believe this is better done through a mass workers’ party than through Starmer’s Labour. We spoke at the protest to outline this message and handed out leaflets and sold several papers to passers by who took an interest in our ideas.
Help us bring the challenge to Starmer’s Labour and build a new mass workers’ party!
You might be thinking about joining the Socialist Party, and the best step towards that is clicking below for a sign up form.w
Or at the moment you might be more interested in helping real anti-cuts campaigners challenge pro-austerity Blairite councillors in the May elections. The best step towards that is supporting TUSC!
On Tuesday, Coventry Socialist Party held a public meeting over zoom on the issue of housing. This was in commemoration to the 9th anniversary of the passing of Rob Windsor, a former socialist councillor in the city who amongst many other hard-fought campaigns also campaigned against the privatisation of Coventry’s council housing which has proved to be such a disaster for the city.
We were joined by Suzanne Muna, formerly the secretary of a Unite housing workers branch (and still on the committee), communications officer for SHAC (a network of tenants, residents, and workers in housing associations and cooperatives) and formerly a member of Unite the unions executive also.
She described how the privatisation of former council homes, as well as the role of housing associations in the lack of comfortable, genuinely affordable accommodation in the city. She also raised the issue of homelessness – pointing to the massive amounts of empty homes across the UK which go empty whilst accruing value for landlords who let them go empty.
The best way to solve these issues of empty houses and a lack of affordable accommodation is for affordable council housing to be made on a mass scale again.
With the relaunch of TUSC (Trade Union Socialist Coalition) the Socialist Party will work with trade unionists and community activists, such as those in tenants’ associations, to put housing at the forefront of our programme in the May elections. After the second world war housing was built on a mass scale to the needs of the community, and in Liverpool in the 1980s the Militant-led Labour city council built housing in a similar fashion. Not only were houses built, but community centres and halls to ensure communities could grow around new housing developments.
The discussion following from Suzanne’s talk was also important. With attendees talking about personal experiences of low quality and unaffordable housing. New developments in Coventry south were also discussed— where 1300 homes will be made – as attendees criticised the lack of affordable housing which will be mad available in the development.
Coventry Socialist Party will soon be posting an article on homelessness following this meeting, and will take the issues forward into the May elections through TUSC.
As millions face a housing crisis hear how a socialist housing policy could solve the problem.
To celebrate and pay tribute to the memory of one of our leading members, Rob Windsor, we have organised a special meeting on this topic that was a prime motivator for Rob.
Since his passing 9 years ago, the problems that he and Coventry Socialist Party fought so tenaciously have only become worse as the ‘market’ proves increasingly unable to provide a basic human right – that of a decent, secure home.
We have invited another prominent housing campaigner to speak to a meeting on 26 January
Suzanne Muna was formerly a member of Unite the union’s executive, is secretary of Unite Housing Workers branch and communications officer for SHAC (a network of tenants, residents, and workers in housing associations and cooperatives)
9 Years Since The Passing Of Rob Windsor
January 2021 marks the 9th anniversary of the passing of former leader of the great Anti Poll Tax struggle and Coventry City Socialist councillor, Rob Windsor.
Rob’s passing was a tremendous loss to the Socialist Party. He had been an inspiring spokesperson and organiser for our Party, a man who had literally helped thousands and was loved by his active colleagues and comrades.
He was a national leader of the Anti-Poll Tax campaign that brought down Thatcher, he was an extremely hard working and effective councillor, but he was also our leader of the campaign in Coventry to stop the privatisation of Coventry’s council housing – a policy of the Labour council that has only worsened the housing problem in our city.
TORIES LEAVE IT LATE AGAIN – BUT THEIR HAND IS FORCED BY EDUCATION WORKERS ACTION!
While the government has yet again taken far too long to face up to the loss of control of coronavirus, tens and tens of thousands of education workers have said enough is enough.
Boris Johnson and his shower of incompetents have been forced, belatedly, to take further action to combat coronavirus. On Sunday he insisted all schools open, by Monday they’re all shut!
Johnson’s failures are having such serious consequences for so many people, and while it may be some consolation to know he has egg all over his face, it’s not just consolation we need, but to take confidence from the workers’ action, to learn from the people who know best and fought back.
Johnson was forced to retreat not by the science, but by the action of teachers and support workers.
Teachers by the tens of thousands refused to continue to work in unsafe conditions, and only to return when it was made safe. Not that you’d know about this from the media. Teachers’ mobilisation, involving up to 400,000 in union discussions about lack of safety and refusing to work in those conditions, closed hundreds of schools but was largely ignored by the media.
Johnson was forced to admit that schools are ‘a vector’ in the virus spreading. Something that while the government tried to deny it, the world and its auntie have known for months!
But he was forced to act because the public were aware the situation was getting very dangerous and that as teachers refused to work in such conditions and local authorities were closing schools anyway that it would leave him in London in control of nothing. Workers action has now given a clear lead.
We see in this the importance of a union for working people, giving workers the confidence to write in with Section 44 letters (that declare the worker believes the workplace to be unsafe.)
Below are some reports to ‘The Socialist’ newspaper of how education workers organised.
Local Officers, reps and members have been working flat out since the call was made by the NEU (National Education Union) that staff should assert their contractual right not to attend an unsafe place of work. As well as school, District and Regional meetings, the NEU estimate as many as 400,000 people may have watched this morning’s National Union ‘Zoom’ call – either directly or through social media broadcasts.
Union activists have been so busy talking to members, answering queries and building the campaign that there has been little opportunity (to report) the work being carried out. These brief reports hopefully give you a flavour of what’s been happening right across the Union:
As Headteacher, I have received 50 Section 44 letters from teachers and support staff today.
Some staff were already either shielding or self-isolating in any case. I have obviously responded by informing parents that the school will be closed tomorrow. It looks like a number of Southampton schools are closing. Support from the leader of the council has helped.
* UPDATE ON MONDAY MORNING – 31 Southampton primary schools closed = about two-thirds of them!
Liz Filer, Southampton NEU
Lots of primaries will be closed in Bristol.
My own school was up to 22 staff on a Section 44 letter when it was announced it will be closed to everyone tomorrow and then there will be remote learning for at least the rest of the week. I’ve also had 10 new names appear on my membership list, including several support staff who have never been unionised before.
Sheila Caffrey, Bristol NEU
Coventry saw over 300 members join an online meeting.
We have recruited more reps and members have grown in confidence. A number of schools are fully closed and more are partially closed. This is a great start to the campaign. The response of the Local Authority has angered many members, being told that schools are safe whilst the data on Covid cases has increased by over 50% in a short period of time.
Jane Nellist, Coventry NEU
I have spoken to eight Multi Academy Trust CEOs. All bar one were very supportive of our stance.
Over 100 members attended our District ‘Zoom’ meeting this afternoon. We also invited the UNISON convenor to attend and that helped to strengthen the resolve of our members. We’ve already gained 27 new members since the union came out fighting.
Mike Whale, Hull NEU
Responding to a growing anxiety about the return to school, I worked as part of the senior leadership team to review and tighten up our risk assessment. However, given the growing risks (we) felt this would be insufficient to guarantee staff safety. After the national NEU rep’s briefing on Saturday, our school rep organised a members meeting. All 17 of our members (including 3 former NASUWT members) agreed tosign the S44 letter. We decided to contact and share the letter with all school staff. Within an hour we had 50 names on it!
Staff were keen to sign, given confidence by the union taking a stand. Our Head, fully respected the views of the staff and the school has moved to online learning as per NEU recommendations for the next 2 weeks at least. Even Tory-led Norfolk Council has now issued advice saying that “as a head teacher you may find it difficult to be certain that you will have sufficient staff to open safely on Monday”. At the latest count, I already know of over 50 local primary schools who will not be opening – and the list is being added to all the time!
From a NEU member in Norfolk
Why we supported the education workers: A fuller explanation of the education workers view….
Organise a mass refusal to attend unsafe schools on Monday
Full classrooms provide an environment where the new variant will quickly spread. No member of staff and no pupil should have to work in such dangerous conditions. That’s why, to protect their safety, and the safety of their wider school community, school union groups should boldly make clear this weekend that they are not prepared to return to work until safety can be assured.
For months, the Government has been ignoring growing evidence that school aged children have high levels of infection and that poorly ventilated, closely packed, schools have been an important factor in the spread of Covid-19.
Keeping schools fully open has nothing to do with keeping children safe. Instead it has put more lives in danger, more pressure on an overwhelmed NHS, more chaotic disruption in schools.
Before Christmas, even their own scientific advisers warned Ministers that “accumulating evidence is consistent with increased transmission occurring amongst school children when schools are open”. Yet the Department for Education still insisted on bullying Councils like Greenwich into keeping their schools open. Now these bullies have to be faced down.
With the full opening of secondary schools delayed by a week, the immediate battleground is in primary, nursery and special schools. With the new, more contagious, variant of the virus spreading quickly amongst young people in particular, even this Government has been forced to concede that primary schools in London and some other South-East authorities do not open fully at the start of term. But, as things stand, most school staff still face entering an unsafe workplace on Monday – and the virus doesn’t respect geographical boundaries.
Insisting workers enter an unsafe workplace, and without risk assessments in place that address the new dangers from the new variant, is a breach of Health and Safety. That’s why the National Education Union met in emergency session today (Sat 2nd Jan) and agreed it will be calling on members in primary and special schools to exercise their rights under “Section 44” and that the Union will support them in doing so, including through balloting for industrial action if necessary. Letters will be sent to all employers by the Union.
Members will be advised to insist on a new risk assessment and that they are available to work in school to teach key worker and vulnerable children only or, otherwise, work from home to support remote learning.
This is a very significant step and one that now needs to be fully backed by the trade union movement. It should also be replicated by UNISON, GMB, NASUWT and other school unions.
By failing to act earlier in this decisive manner, the NEU has left itself with a very short timescale to get this message across to its members and to give them confidence to act. Nevertheless, it is a stand that has to be taken given the serious dangers facing all of us.
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