Black and Asian Covid-19 deaths: an indictment of capitalist inequality

This analysis from Jim Hensman [Coventry Socialist Party] of the Socialist Party BAME group was published in issue #1088 of The Socialist newspaper.

The figures for Covid-19 coronavirus deaths broken down by ethnicity caused widespread shock and anger when they were released on 7 May by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

After adjusting for age, black men were 4.2 times more likely to die than white men. The equivalent figure for Bangladeshi and Pakistani men was 3.6, and for Indian men 2.4, with similar proportions for women.

Figures for other black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups paralleled this to different extents.

The first ten doctors to die from the coronavirus were all BAME. The government was forced to promise that Public Health England would provide a report by the end of May.

There has been pressure for an independent inquiry, and the Labour Party has also launched its own investigation.

We may find out more through these investigations. But it is vital for socialists to understand what key factors lie underneath the grim statistics now, to determine how to fight back and rectify them.

The government’s general approach is to divert attention from its failures by peddling the line that it has done the best that was possible – in the circumstances.

The Tories attempt to shift any remaining blame and responsibility onto the individual.

With regard to disproportionate BAME death rates, the government points to supposed genetic factors particularly. This idea was taken up by a University College London epidemiologist, Professor Nishi Chaturvedi. “There’s no evidence that genes explain the excess risk of Covid susceptibility. It’s important to put a nail in that one because it feels as if we can abdicate any responsibility for sorting this out, and this really isn’t the case.”

In the US, attempts to put responsibility on the individual have reached farcical proportions. Jerome Adams, the (black) surgeon general appointed by Donald Trump, stated that to avoid the virus, “African Americans and Latinos should avoid alcohol, drugs and tobacco”!

 

Inequalities key

But as the pandemic has developed, the key factors that have emerged as responsible for inequalities in death rates are inequalities in society as a whole.

Consider poverty. The government uses a measure called the Index of Multiple Deprivation to help allocate local spending. ONS figures showed that in England and Wales, the most-deprived areas on this index had twice the coronavirus death rate of the least deprived.

Deaths, in general, are not recorded by ethnicity. But the connection can be inferred. Government figures from 2019 found black people were 56% more likely than the national average to be in the ‘persistent low income’ category. Asian people were twice as likely.

Occupation statistics are another indicator. A higher proportion of BAME workers are in ‘low-skilled’ jobs than the average. ONS figures showed men in ‘low-skilled’ jobs were four times more likely to die from the coronavirus than men in professional jobs.

Similarly, they found that women working in ‘low-skilled’ care jobs were twice as likely to die from the coronavirus as those in professional and technical jobs. In London, 67% of the adult social care workforce is BAME.

Overcrowded housing is yet another key risk factor. According to a 2018 government survey, 2% of white British households experienced overcrowding according to their definition. This compared to 15% of black African, 16% of Pakistani, and 30% of Bangladeshi households.

General health is an important consideration too. Existing health problems are significant contributors towards coronavirus fatalities. But the capitalist establishment states this as if it is a given, caused either by bad luck or an individual’s bad ‘lifestyle choices’ – frequently brought up in relation to ethnic minorities.

However, general health too is linked to the inequality of class-based society. In February 2020, a team led by the distinguished academic Michael Marmot published its latest Health Equity in England report. Using life expectancy as a general index of health, Marmot found there had been no improvement in the last decade – something unprecedented in over a hundred years.

The report highlighted the role of austerity in this. Among women in the most-deprived areas, life expectancy had actually fallen! The time people spent suffering poor health had increased since 2010 – directly increasing vulnerability to the coronavirus.

How this particularly affected BAME individuals was highlighted in a report from the British Heart Foundation. “Before the outbreak of Covid-19, BAME populations were already more likely to suffer ill health, including heart and circulatory diseases and their risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and from a younger age. Much of this is linked to social and economic inequalities rather than genetics.”

 

Other factors?

But do social inequalities explain all the discrepancy in BAME death rates? The ONS carried out an analysis which tried to measure how social conditions impacted on BAME deaths – so it could adjust the figures to take this into account. It is worth looking at this in detail.

ONS statisticians constructed a model for predicting coronavirus deaths in general. It used factors like location and the deprivation index associated with it, housing and other information, and indications of individual health and disabilities.

What they were effectively asking was: if you were white, but lived in the same area, had the same type of housing, and so on – would you still have died?

They found this reduced the discrepancy in the numbers. For black men and women it was now 1.9 times the white figure, and for Bangladeshi and Pakistani men 1.8 times – so the figure had roughly halved. This is a direct indication that class inequality drives up coronavirus deaths.

But what about the remaining half of the discrepancy that was still unexplained? To get an idea of what might account for this, we need to examine what the statisticians were doing a little more closely.

The government often tries to hide behind the claim that it is “driven by the science”. This is untrue; it is driven by the defence of the profit system, and its own political survival. But even if it was true, science always has to be seen in its context, so in a case like this it is important to dig deeper.

Let’s start with a simple example. Overcrowding is one of the factors the ONS tried to take into account. At any time, this can clearly have a detrimental effect on health. However, with the coronavirus, it takes on another dimension.

Everyone would have been deeply touched by the tragic stories of families in accommodation who share toilet and bathroom facilities with other families. This makes it almost impossible to self-isolate, despite desperate attempts to do so, often with the result that the infection spreads between families.

This situation will particularly be experienced by the poor. So it will be reflected to a higher extent in BAME people, including groups such as asylum seekers and refugees living in hostels and similar accommodation.

The problem is that general indications of overcrowding, which the ONS and others have to rely on, would not reflect the more specific situations that may affect ethnic minorities in cases like these.

Overcrowding can negatively impact on other factors known to influence coronavirus mortality. This includes intergenerational family groups living together – a situation with a higher prevalence among certain ethnic minorities.

And the ONS itself released numbers on 14 May showing that black people in England were nearly four times as likely as white people to have no outdoor space at home. Especially when the weather is warm and sunny, as it has been, people will need to make more use of outdoor spaces.

The ONS actually produced statistics showing average distances people would have to go to do this. But crowded parks can become hotspots for coronavirus transmission. Councils around the country have even closed parks, sometimes counterproductively.

Information like this about the different factors that can individually affect health, but also interact with each other, is clearly relevant. But it is not necessarily measured, and in some cases can be more difficult to quantify or record. Therefore, it may not be taken into account.

There is a technical point relating to this which illustrates how science is not a single objective representation of reality, but rather is influenced by many considerations. The methodology used by the ONS in this study on BAME deaths is called ‘logistic regression’. This method is not intrinsically suited to representing interactions between causative factors in general – which, as we have seen, could be relevant.

 

Health workers

Deaths among health workers have rightly received a lot of publicity. They can perhaps provide us with the best indication of what is going on, because of the greater detail available.

The figures for BAME deaths are stark. Taking the NHS as a whole, about 21% of staff are BAME. But figures released at the end of April showed that, up to then, they had accounted for 64% of NHS staff deaths from the coronavirus. So the huge discrepancy in society generally is also reflected here.

But how could this be? These were people working for the NHS, not a cross-section of all society. Doctors, for example, could hardly be said to sit at the bottom of the socioeconomic tree.

In mid-May, ITV News released a survey of more than 2,000 NHS staff, and broadcast interviews with a number of them. A key thing this showed was that there were many more BAME staff in frontline roles – with higher exposure to the virus. The reasons appear to be a combination of two factors.

The first factor is that, within each given health role such as doctor or nurse, all staff at lower grades have higher death rates. This is one expression, on a smaller scale, of some of the economic inequalities in class society generally. And within each given role, BAME staff are more likely to be in the lower levels.

According to one health charity, The King’s Fund: “On average, black doctors in the NHS earn £10,000 less and black nurses earn £2,700 less annually than white colleagues. Minority ethnic-group staff are systematically over-represented at lower levels of the NHS grade hierarchy, and under-represented in senior pay bands.”

This helps explain the situation in what would seem to be a relatively privileged group, the doctors. One BAME consultant cardiologist explained it like this in the ITV survey: “Many of the white doctors are in management positions, leaving more BAME at the coalface.”

This differentiation occurs at every level. NHS information shows it is mirrored with junior and senior doctors, and junior and senior manager grades.

The second factor is clearly direct racism and discrimination. Half of the respondents in the ITV survey felt that this played a part in the high death rate, and 20% said they had experienced it personally.

One BAME doctor reported that “suggestions from the BAME group are not taken by hospital management. The concerns or comments are ignored. Not a single BAME member was included in the Covid response team.”

A number of workers, including a Filipino nurse who appeared on the programme, stated they were scared to speak out about concerns like the shortage of PPE, because they feared losing their jobs.

In some cases, visa regulations and other measures made staff even more vulnerable to this.

Both socioeconomic factors and racism are thus responsible for the higher number of BAME deaths. But these causes are not independent. They interact with each other: discrimination is obviously the key factor in BAME workers tending to be among the staff in harder-hit lower grades.

 

Class and race

What can we conclude overall about BAME death rates? It is possible that much more of the discrepancy between white and BAME deaths is based on class inequalities than officially estimated. But racism is nevertheless also a very important factor.

Although it’s not ruled out that other factors may play some subsidiary role, class inequality and racism are undoubtedly the main problems. The key question is: how can they be addressed?

The struggle against racism and institutionalised racism must be a priority. BAME workers will need to play a central part in this. But racism cannot be separated from issues of class inequality.

The struggles against each must be combined. Inadequate PPE, for example, may impact on BAME workers to a higher extent – but it still affects all frontline workers, and must be fought against as part of a general struggle by all workers.

There are many ways to fight, but crucial will be trade union and political action. If existing workers’ institutions in these fields do not prove adequate for the task, they must be transformed or replaced.

The workers’ movement must also be careful not to be diverted into playing off one section against another. BAME workers are particularly affected in many areas, but not alone, and not necessarily in all areas.

For instance, 95% of care home residents are white. But obviously, a campaign against the care home deaths scandal is not just a ‘white issue’.

The traditional motto of the workers’ movement – an injury to one is an injury to all – must be central to all struggles.

There are lessons from a previous disaster. On 14 June 2017, a fire broke out in Grenfell Tower in west London. Over 75% of those who died had a BAME background. This was definitely a BAME issue.

So how could the campaign make sure this atrocity is not repeated? Undoubtedly, BAME workers are disproportionately residents of similar, unsafe working-class accommodation. But the only guarantee would be eliminating unsafe housing in the population as a whole.

In one sense, we can consider the Covid-19 death toll, at its peak in Britain, equivalent to 15 Grenfell Towers a day.

There are more lessons from Grenfell. One is on public inquiries. These can be used by campaigns to apply pressure and get information, so they shouldn’t be disregarded.

But the abject failure of the Grenfell inquiry, nearly three years after the fire, is a warning not to place too much reliance on anything similar with regard to coronavirus deaths.

Neither, if something is a BAME issue, can we rely on BAME politicians for support simply by dint of their being BAME. We only need to consider Priti Patel and Rishi Sunak.

The failure of a strategy which looks to individual racial representation rather than class politics is underlined by the tragic situation in the US today. Many of the worst-affected cities with large black populations have had black mayors – as well, of course, as the country having had a black president.

The excessive rate of coronavirus BAME deaths is important and highlights several aspects of what is wrong with society under capitalism.

What is required is taking up the fight against this scandal as part of the wider class struggle, and linking it to the fight for a socialist society that will eliminate the inequalities and irrationalities of the current economic and social system.

Coventry Says Justice for George Floyd! Report from Tuesday 2nd June Demo

Read the reports from across the country here: Early June anti-racist demonstrations across Britain

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On Tuesday 2 June members of Coventry Socialist Party proudly joined several hundred people at Coventry’s ‘Justice for George Floyd’ protest.

Black youth led the protest on a spontaneous peaceful march across the city centre, rallying outside the police station twice. Protesters were furious at George Floyd’s murder, the brutal response of US police, and the ongoing racism and police violence black people face in the US and here.

Chants of “no justice, no peace!” and “I can’t breathe; black lives matter!” rang through the city as the huge demonstration blocked roads.
Speakers called for justice for other victims of police violence including Darren Cumberbatch, a black man from Coventry who died in 2017 after police punched him 10-15 times and used a taser on him.

Some also spoke about the fight for black lives across Africa, where they pointed to the mass exploitation of black people across the continent at the hands of imperialism.

Socialist Party members brought leaflets, posters, and petitions calling for a mass movement to smash racism. We pointed to capitalism as the cause of racism and the need for socialist change and a united fight of all workers to end it.

And our message was popular – we sold out of copies of the Socialist and ran out of our 300 leaflets before the protest ended!

Socialists oppose congestion charge

Socialists oppose congestion charge

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Coventry Socialists have launched a petition opposing a levy on motorists in the city.

The petition, which is available on the city council’s website, opposes what it calls “the Government imposition” of a congestion charge.

Coventry Council has been ordered by the Government to establish a Clean Air Zone. This could mean motorists being charged to enter the city, alongside buses, coaches, lorries, taxis and other vehicles whose engines are not clean enough.

The Council has been given a deadline of June 14th to respond to the government direction.

Speaking today, former councillor Dave Nellist said:

“We want to see determined action to improve air quality, protect people’s health and tackle climate change, but this isn’t the way to go about it.

“Responding to these problems should be a collective responsibility not a personal cost.

“The best solution to reduce transport-related air pollution, as our petition argues, would be by introducing free public transport in Coventry.

“This is radical, but not impossible. In fact, it was the West Midlands Labour Party policy until 1986.

“And today dozens of cities around the world have some form of free transport – including cities of a similar size to Coventry, like Dunkirk in France, and Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.”

Free public transport using environmentally-friendly powered vehicles would do far more to cut air pollution, argue the socialists, than either redirecting traffic, through closing the Coundon Road rail crossing, or making travel more costly via a congestion charge.

“The measure would help everyone” argues Mr Nellist, “but especially those on lower incomes.

“If introduced on a wider basis, reduced emissions would also have a major impact on greenhouse gases, and therefore climate charge”, he says.

Coventry Socialist Party wants increased public investment into publicly owned, democratically managed, integrated bus and train services.

It hopes the petition will gain hundreds of signatures and be discussed by the city council in the coming weeks.

The petition can be viewed and signed here.

 

Coventry and Nuneaton join global protests against climate change

Coventry and Nuneaton join global protests against climate change

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Outside Coventry City Council

Friday 15th March saw students across the world take part in a strike to protest against environmental damage and climate change. This follows the recent release of a report by the UN which claims that we have 12 years to cut down on carbon emissions before we reach the planets carbon limit, the point of no return.

Global protests involving young people have started to take place in reaction to this. Young people today look forward to a bleak future and will face the harshest consequences of the capitalist systems systemic exploitation of the earth. Capitalism is a profit-driven system. The logic of profit that drives big business and the system as a whole has led to the exploitation of the earths natural resources, such as oil, gas and rare minerals, to return a quick buck for the capitalist class whilst the rest of us have to deal with the consequences. This is evident by the fact that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions (Guardian, 2017: Just 100 Companies Responsible for 71% of Global Emissions, Study Says).

Students locally, in Coventry and Nuneaton, have been protesting to raise awareness of this and the long-term effects this profit driven environmental race to the bottom will have on future generations. Chants such as ‘Say no to climate change, we need system change’ reflect the anger faced by many young people at the planets future prospect. This also points towards the solution.

As environmental destruction and capitalism are completely entwined, we will not be able to tackle climate change without a systemic change in the way society is organised. We need to take the power out of the hands of big business and the Trumps of the world, who their balance sheets over the environment. Instead we need a socialist society, one where ordinary people have control over their communities and how society is run.

Take housing for example, we are in dire need of more affordable housing, especially here in Coventry. A democratically controlled house-building programme would allow our community to have a say in how we build the homes for those who need them now and future generations. We could ensure that all houses built were energy efficient and not reliant on fossil fuels but instead utilised renewable energy and the technology we have available to build a green economy. This however won’t be done by private business or business friendly politicians, we have seen with the Grenfell tragedy that for them only profit talks.

To do this we need to build effective organisations rooted in the working class, who have the power to change society. Students should seek to organise effective student unions in their schools and on their campuses, which can link with the wider trade union movement. The power to change society lies within our hands, but only if we use the tools at our disposal to make that change happen by building a socialist society.

If you agree with this then contact the Socialist Party to learn how you can join the fight against climate change, capitalism and for a socialist future.

Complete the form below for more information, and we will be in touch!

Lively Coventry protest in solidarity with the mass uprising in Sudan

Lively Coventry protest in solidarity with the mass uprising in Sudan

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A large protest took place today organised by the Sudanese community in Coventry and Warwickshire in solidarity with the protests taking place in Sudan. Socialist Party members attended to show our support.

Broadgate was filled with men, women and children showing their anger against the brutal regime of Omar al-Bashir. His government have overseen attacks on protestors with many killed and even more injured.

As we wrote in a recent article, Sudan has been rocked by extensive anti-government protests since 19 December.

People in the diaspora have come out in large numbers outside Sudanese embassies to show their solidarity. In contrast, most media outlets in neighbouring countries have been silent.

State subsidies on flour have been removed in River Nile state, tripling the bread price overnight, and provoking the biggest protests in this part of Sudan for years.

After school meal costs were more than doubled, school students and hundreds of other people marched in Atbara. Protesters set fire to the main office of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and local government headquarters and ransacked the offices of the notorious NISS security services.

Protests continued into the night and spread to other towns. A state of emergency and curfew was declared in Atbara and all schools were shut down in the city.

On the second day, demonstrations continued in all River Nile towns, despite the state of emergency, and spread to the far east of the country. By 21 December, five states had declared night time curfews.

The government banned all social media apps, shut down the internet, suspended classes, and closed all universities and schools. From the next day, western parts of the country started to rise up in protest

Iman Elkhatim, a lawyer from Coventry gave us this message

Dear Friends from all around the world. My country Sudan is uprising against the dictatorship, massive protests are happening, death tolls increasing, social media had been suppressed by telecom companies. Please, help us to highlight the regime’s awful practices against demonstrators. Pass our voices to your media. #Sudan_towns_uprising.

The Socialist Party and the Committee for a Workers’ International pledges our solidarity to this movement and we urge working class people in Coventry and across the world to do the same.

To read more about the situation in Sudan, click here for an article in the current issue of The Socialist newspaper.

Photos from the protest will be posted in our Facebook page

If you would like to find out more about what where we stand on the situation in Sudan, and other issues, please fill in the form below!

 

 

An invite to Socialism 2018! A weekend of socialist discussion and debate

An invite to Socialism 2018! A weekend of socialist discussion and debate

Socialism 2018

Coventry Socialist Party would like to invite you to a very important event – Socialism 2018. Organised by the Socialist Party and taking place in London in November, there will be rallies, debates and discussions about how to fight back against the capitalist crisis and how we can strengthen the global movement for socialist change.

It is a weekend event, with cheap accommodation available on the Saturday night. It is also possible (as some do) to come for either just the Saturday or Sunday. Ticket prices, including where you can buy, timetable for the event, and find out more are here. There is currently 10 per cent off tickets (discount shows when they are purchased)

There will be international speakers, including Kshama Sawant, elected socialist representative from Seattle, who will talk about the movement against Trump, racism and building an independent political alternative for working class people in the USA.

The event is not to be missed. There will be many of us travelling down from Coventry. Please respond to this email if you want to come, have more questions, or want to get your tickets.

So why should you come and what are we going to discuss? 

Austerity is destroying lives, driving down our living conditions while the rich get richer. The Tories aim to continue it forever. Can we get rid of the Tory government? Can councils actually set a no-cuts budget? Do they have any power to resist?

Women are rising up across the world against sexism. But how can liberation from oppression be won? How does the fight for trans rights connect? Can we build a movement to fight for all?

Brexit has split the Tories down the middle. Does the EU single market act as an obstacle to implementing socialist policies? Is a socialist Brexit possible? What will Brexit mean for Northern Ireland? Can the EU ever act in workers’ interests?

Trump is hated – but how can he be stopped? What will be the consequences of Trump’s America First policy? Will we go from trade war to military war? Will he cause a new world economic crisis?

Marxism says that philosophers have interpreted the world – but the point is to change it! 200 years after the birth of Karl Marx does Marxism still help us in the fight for socialism?

Corbyn was raised to the Labour leadership by people hungry for an end to austerity. And yet every step he takes is blocked by the right-wing in the Labour Party. Can the Labour Party be transformed into a party of the working class?

Racism must be countered whenever it emerges. But how? What kind of organisation is the Football Lads Alliance? How can they be stopped? Why did Malcolm X come to the conclusion that you can’t have capitalism without racism?

Trade unions have over six million members but what can they do to defend workers in the gig economy, zero-hour contract workers in retail and hospitality, refugees? What is their role in Austerity Britain? Is there a crisis of leadership?

These and just a taste of some of the topics. There will be large bookstalls, a social event, and much more.

Make sure you are part of the debate, in order to build a strong socialist movement!
Get your tickets here

If you want further information, please contact us using the form below.

Ahed Tamimi addresses Coventry meeting “It is true that suffering is high. But we are not victims. We are freedom fighters”

Ahed Tamimi addresses Coventry meeting 

“It is true that suffering is high. But we are not victims. We are freedom fighters”

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Ahed Tamimi speaks to Coventry meeting

The following report was written by a Coventry Socialist Party who attended the meeting with Ahed Tamimi. An edited version appears in the current issue of The Socialist, the weekly Marxist newspaper of the Socialist Party.


“It is true that suffering is high. But we are not victims. We are freedom fighters”

These were the words of 17 year old Ahed Tamimi, the young Palestinian arrested and imprisoned by the Israeli military who rose to worldwide prominence as a symbol of resistance against oppression and occupation.  Ahed spoke via Skype to a recent enthusiastic meeting of Coventry Friends of Palestine, organised around the issue of the treatment of Palestinian child prisoners.

Horrendous treatment of children

Karen, a member of the National Education Union (NEU) in Coventry and regular visitor to Palestine, and Mahmoud, a Palestinian living in Coventry and member of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, explained in detail the situation facing Palestinians with regard to how the occupying Israeli military treats children.

It was explained how between 500 and 700 Palestinian children are prosecuted each year according to UNICEF. Reports have stated that ill treatment of prisoners is “widespread, systematic and institutionalised”.

Night time arrests

The whole process was described in graphic detail – 40 to 50 per cent of children are arrested between midnight and 5am, with the arrestees being blindfolded and tied. They are rarely informed of the reasons for their arrest with parents not being allowed to accompany their children when they are taken without warning by the military.

After arrest they are transferred which can take hours, often being kept at military bases in the West Bank, being denied access to food, water, toilets and other basic human rights.

Mahmoud reported how child prisoners are not informed of their rights, are denied access to legal counsel, suffer solitary confinement and are ‘encouraged’ to sign confessions written in Hebrew.

When in court it may be the first time they have had access to legal support or the first chance to see their parents since being arrested.

Long term effects

Punishments include prison terms, fines, suspended sentences, with 60 per cent transferred to prisons inside Israel – an act which is against the Geneva convention. The average fine is the equivalent of around £300, a huge sum of money for a people often denied the right to earn a living.

But it is not just the immediate effects of military detention, which include dropping out of school. There are long term psychological effects such as repressed memories, sleeping problems, bed wetting – no one let alone a child should have to suffer these things.

All of this needs to be put in to the context of the Occupation, it is not a separate issue but a direct consequence.

Ahed Tamimi – a symbol of resistance

Ahed began by saying that “The most difficult thing for a human to lose is their freedom”

She explained how she had suffered verbal and sexual harassment at the hands of the authorities in an effort to break her. Despite her formal education being interrupted by her arrest and detention, she had continued her education within prison with other Palestinian prisoners including arrested teachers, who organise regular classes for their comrades.

After a battle with Israeli authorities to be allowed out of the country, she and her family had spoken around Europe to large rallies to explain what is taking place and to help increase the solidarity movement.

Ahed went on to explain that in her view “It is true that suffering is high. But we are not victims. We are freedom fighters”

She urged the Coventry meeting to “keep up the solidarity and to put pressure on the government to end the occupation”.

The way children are treated is a direct result of the occupation and is a brutal consequence of this nightmare. As speakers pointed out, this is taking place in the context of the 1948 Nakba, with the forced expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their land with now millions living outside historic Palestine in refugee camps.

Fight for socialism

Ahed, along with all Palestinians resisting the Occupation, are inspiration to millions around the world.

We need to build a mass movement of ordinary people here in the UK to show solidarity with the Palestinian masses – capitalist governments around the world, with the EU and United Nations, are part of the problem not the solution, only the solidarity of working class people can be relied upon.

The continuation of capitalism in the region means war, instability and oppression. We support the fight to build a revolutionary socialist movement across Israel-Palestine with our sister organisation the Socialist Struggle Movement, and the wider Middle East. Mass struggle can put an end to racism, insecurity and the nightmare of occupation. Socialism would guarantee the right to self-determination of all national groups, as part of a voluntary, socialist confederation of the Middle East.

If you are interested in discussing the ideas contained in this article, and want to find out more about the work of the Socialists in Israel-Palestine and the fight for revolutionary change across the Middle East, please fill in the form below.

People’s Vote or General Election? An open letter to all who want to see an end to Tory rule

We publish here an open letter from Dave Nellist and Coventry Socialist Party, as a response to the calls for a ‘People’s Vote’ on the EU, where we argue that the focus across the trade union movement should instead be on a general election to sweep the Tories out of power.

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist, National Chair of TUSC

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Tories are in trouble. There is open civil war in the ranks of the government. Recent months have seen high profile resignations from the Cabinet, including Boris Johnson. It is clear to everyone that Theresa May is weak – and that the entire government is in crisis.

This should be of interest to everyone who has experienced the terrible effects of austerity promoted by the Conservatives – whether that be the bedroom tax, the tens of thousands in our city who have had to use food banks, workers in the private and public sector who have not had a proper pay increase, the many on zero-hour con-tracts to name just a few of the pitiless policies that have been introduced.

Key issues facing our movement

The question as a movement we have to ask ourselves is this: how do we get the Tories out of office as soon as possible, and a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government in with socialist policies?

At the time when the Tories are teetering on the edge, unfortunately much of the talk from the recent meeting of the TUC, from some union leaders, and from generally right wing Labour MPs has not been about getting the Tories out.

The main focus for them has been to support a “People’s Vote” regarding Brexit. We want to explain why we think this is a mistaken and indeed dangerous approach to adopt.

Firstly, we want to be clear: a People’s Vote, despite pretences of being democratic, is an attempt to have a second referendum and to overturn the original vote. Its supporters want to see us re-main signed up to the European Union, with all that involves, including the Single Market – the key mechanism for corporations to maximise profits across the continent.

Who are the main forces pushing for a People’s Vote?

Although some celebrities are promoting a People’s Vote, the key movers promoting the campaign are right-wingers such as Tony Blair, Chuka Umunna, various other Blairites, the Liberal Democrats and others. The majority of the British and European Establishment are also supporting this campaign.

George Soros, one of the richest people in the world, has also donated funds (£70,000) to groups such as Another Europe is Possible, who act as the left-wing appendage of this coordinated ruling elite drive. Of all the aforementioned people and organisations – since when have they been champions of ordinary people to have a real say? It was Tony Blair who gutted the Labour Party of virtually all democratic channels – the Liberal Democrats propped the Tories up in government between 2010-2015. How much did Blair want to listen to the people when 2 million marched through London in 2003 against his crazy war in Iraq? None of this motley crew are interested in the democratic rights of working-class people. They act in the interests of the class they represent – ruling elites here in the UK and abroad.

Trade unions and the People’s Vote

The leaders of the unions, particularly the likes of the TUC general secretary and Dave Prentis of UNISON, are completely wrong to support the call for a People’s Vote. When the Tories are on the edge of the cliff, it is the job of the unions not to rescue them (wittingly or unwittingly) with this diversion of the People’s Vote, but to campaign for a change of government and specifically to get Jeremy Corbyn in on a radical socialist programme. It would be a disaster for the unions if they were seen in the eyes of millions of people to attempt to undermine and frustrate the original referendum result.

The danger of the far right

If the unions prevaricate on this and sections of the Labour Party continue to campaign for a second referendum it will aid not just the Establishment, but also the far right in this country. We can’t allow a situation where the unions and the Left abandon the ground to Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson, who will not hesitate to take their divisive and racist politics to working class people who voted Leave. A boost to Theresa May is not ruled out if our movement is seen to be trying to keep us in the EU.

If you support the PV, who will you be uniting with?

It is best to be concrete about this. The People’s Vote campaign is an Establishment operation. Advertised speakers at the Coventry meeting of PV are Anna Soubry MP of the Conservatives and Beverley Neilson, former Liberal Democrat candidate for West Midlands mayor. These two parties were in government together for 5 years, helping to decimate the lives of working-class people in our city. We would urge any trade unionist, any person who is against austerity and wants change, to consider whether uniting with these parties is the way forward.

The capitalist crisis requires socialist policies

Jeremy Corbyn has been at his best when he has pushed back against the policies that enrich the 1%. The call for a general election can unite working class communities, whether people voted Leave or Remain, in an effort to bring a government to power on socialist policies. By contrast, the call for a PV is divisive and is a recipe for disaster. The labour and trade union movement does best when we fight the establishment, not tie ourselves to large sections of it.

We think the movement should fight for a general election to get rid of the shambolic Tories, and for a socialist Brexit in the interests of ordinary people. The crisis and inequality ridden system that is only working for the top 1% and not the 99% needs system change. In or out of the EU they’ll continue their attacks on our services and living standards. But if things are to be changed it will have to be done outside of and independently of the EU, but together with the working and young people of Europe.

The root of the problems facing working class people is the capitalist system of exploitation of the majority by the tiny minority. The EU does, however, act to facilitate that exploitation through the Single Market, its policy of undermining national collective trade union rights, and its favouring of corporations over working class people. It is Thatcherism on a continental scale. We only have to look at the example of Greece, where the Greek people suffered a form of collective punishment from the EU – enforcing privatisations, poverty and anti-trade union laws.

We need genuine international solidarity and co-operation

We are not ‘Little Englanders’ but we do not think we should outsource the valued and necessary internationalism of the working class to international capitalist institutions like the EU.

For example, the Socialist Party is part of a revolutionary international organisation which is present in nearly every single country on the continent, and in nearly 50 countries around the world. We need international solidarity, but it needs to be on our terms, through workers’ organisations such as the trade unions and other campaigns. A Corbyn government introducing radical socialist policies of public ownership, for example, will come under intense pressure from the capitalists.

In doing so our movement should appeal not to Macron and Merkel, but the millions of workers around Europe who will see our fight as their fight. That is the international co-operation that will be vital, not an international capitalist club designed to aid exploitation. These are key questions that our movement faces:
• No to a People’s Vote – Yes to a General Election
• Tories Out now! Labour to power on a socialist programme
• Break with capitalism, fight for a Socialist Europe and a Socialist world

In solidarity,
Dave Nellist and Coventry Socialist Party

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Build the fight against austerity – get the Tories out now! A contribution to the debate

Build the fight against austerity – get the Tories out now! A contribution to the debate

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Marching against cuts to youth clubs in Coventry

A Coventry Socialist Party member and active trade unionist in the city responds to the letter supported by local Labour MPs and Jeremy Corbyn


Anyone walking through Coventry will see the impact of austerity. Empty shops, a visible increase in people being forced to sleep in doorways and under bridges. Public services stretched almost to breaking point. An NHS in crisis. Students taking on tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt just to get an education.

It seems like a long time since George Osborne said “we’re all in this together”.

It is very welcome that local Labour MPs are supporting the letter to Prime Minister Theresa May highlighting the damage being done by cuts to local government funding. Any and all pressure that can be put on the Tories is a step forward.

At the same time, we need to think about what is the way forward in the fight against austerity, and what our MPs and local councillors can be doing to put the maximum pressure on this weak and divided government to force them out of office at the earliest opportunity.

With the Tories in such a crisis, we think if even a small number of Labour councils said to the government that they would not continue to implement austerity cuts, it would add to the pressure immensely. As we have consistently argued, we think it was mistaken that since the formation of the Conservative – Liberal Democrat Coalition in 2010 and then the Tory government of 2015, our Labour council has consistently passed on local government cuts to the people of Coventry. This has seen school transport charges levied on families of children with disabilities, cuts and closures in youth services, thousands of jobs lost at the Council, attacks on the terms and conditions of staff that provide vital services in our city to name but a few.

Our elected representatives should work with the people of Coventry, the trade unions, local communities, anti-cuts campaigns, and all those affected by Tory austerity to demand more money for our city. Letters will not be enough. The Labour council, with the support of the MPs, where possible linking up with other Councils doing the same, should say to the Tories we demand the restoration of all funding stolen from our city. The reserves that the council have built up, more than doubling since 2010 to over £90 million could be used as a temporary measure to set legal no cuts budgets to “hold the line” to allow time for a mass campaign to be built. And with May teetering on the brink, a future Labour government should pledge to restore all funding as soon as it was elected.

It is timely that at both Labour and Tory conferences, the spectre of Liverpool City Council was raised. Labour MP Dawn Butler invoked a frenzied response from the Blairites for remembering in a positive fashion that conference was taking place in the city where in their 1980s battle with Mrs Thatcher, the councillors said it is “better to break the law than break the poor.” Esther McVey of the Tories in her conference speech compared the left-wing group Momentum to Militant.

Liverpool City Council won back the equivalent of £60 million in today’s terms from the Tories. Despite the lies of the right wing, not a single worker was made redundant. Decent housing, leisure facilities and public parks were created.

We need our public representatives to show some of the audacity and determination of the Liverpool councillors.

To build on the letter sent to the Tories, words should be turned to action. Our MPs should call mass public meetings in conjunction with trade unions in the city which would bring together union members, campaigners and all those hit by austerity to hammer out and discuss the tactics and strategy needed for us to win.

The trade union movement also needs to discuss what demands we should be fighting for.

For example the letter that MPs and councillors across the West Midlands signed finishes by demanding “complete reform of local government funding to make councils more sustainable and more accountable to the local electorate. Local authorities should be given the power to set local taxes and retain local revenue, allowing the proceeds of growth to be kept locally“. The letter doesn’t actually specifically call for the cuts of the last eight years (which now amount to over £100 million a year in Coventry) to be refunded, but for “government to reverse the disastrous policy of austerity” which is not quite the same.

Without a restoration of national government funding then “the power to set local taxes and retain local revenue” might be okay for some richer boroughs, but not for poorer.

We think mass meetings organised by our public representatives would take the struggle forward in terms of the fight for public services, but also help build the movement that can drive the Tories from office, and bring Jeremy Corbyn to power. Socialist policies are what are needed to end austerity, which is a direct result of the capitalist crisis triggered by the collapse of the banks. We are still paying for it. Working class people have paid enough. Time to stop all the cuts, get the Tories out and fight for socialism.

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Coventry rallies against Trump’s visit

Coventry rallies against Trump’s visit

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The demo begins in Friargate

Donald Trump finally visited the UK on Friday 13th July after months of delays over fears of mass protests. While Theresa May and other Tory ministers welcomed him, the British public turned out in hundreds of thousands in London and other cities across the country to oppose his visit and his politics of hate and division.

In many cities across the country, the Socialist Party and Socialist Students joined protests over Trump’s policies, as well as to stand in solidarity with those whom his administration poses the greatest threat: LGBT+ people, women and ethnic minorities as well as the organised working class more widely.

Here in Coventry we played a significant role in building support for the Friday demo, campaigning for hours at midday in the city centre and explaining to members of the public why this demonstration was important to them. Part of this involved trying to counter the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, right-wing populist agenda he represents and is trying to sell to working class people, though it is clearly against their interests.

The afternoon demo began at Friargate, with chants such as “2,4,6,8, no to Trump and no to hate!” to build up enthusiasm in the crowd and attract interest from passers-by at the train station. We marched through the city centre to Broadgate, where we heard from local activists about the need to fight back against Trump, his politics and his agenda.

Socialist Party members and trade union activists spoke about the Trump administration’s attacks on rights in the US, and the threat they posed to migrants, to women, to LGBT+ people, and to all workers. But speakers also referred to the incredible resistance against Trump in the US, and the great victories by trade unions and socialist campaigners, despite the hostile establishment.

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Socialist Party member and Coventry UNISON Young Members officer (personal capacity) Dan Crowter speaking at the demo

Coventry Socialist Party members were there with leaflets explaining why we had called for national demonstrations against Trump; these were vital to engage with members of the public walking by who took an interest in the protest.

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Socialist Party member and NEU National Executive member (personal capacity) Jane Nellist speaking at the demo

As the march stopped at Broadgate for the main rally, our material helped us reach shoppers, school students, and commuters returning home from work who would otherwise not have taken part. This included a 12-year-old asked by his friends to speak for all of them on why Trump had to be opposed – one of the main highlights of the whole rally!

Theresa May might not be brave enough to call Trump a racist and a sexist, but a 12-year-old attending his first protest certainly was!

They were brave enough to stand and tell the truth about Trump and his policies – it’s a shame that May and her cabinet couldn’t do the same!

There was a clear fighting message from this rally; one very timely given the clear weakness of May’s government following recent events.

Trump’s visit highlighted further divisions in a Tory party already in chaos; trying to both gain a Brexit deal which will serve business interests when it comes to trade, as well as looking to placate the pro-EU wing of the party who oppose Brexit.

With this party in crisis, and with May hand-in-hand with a US president facing huge opposition represented by the protests, the possibility to topple this government and replace them with a Corbyn-led, anti-austerity Labour government clearly exists.

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