Archive | July 18th, 2020

Palestine: US and the Nazi regime will reap a bitter harvest

Deal of the century: US and Israel will reap a bitter harvest

One unintended consequence of the ‘deal’ is a new impetus toward a united front of Palestinian organisations.

Lalkar writers

Trump’s pushing of his ‘deal of the century’ is an attempt to end the resistance to Israeli occupation of Palestine for good. It is likely to prove a catastrophic (for imperialism) miscalculation, driving the Palestinians toward ever-greater unity of action and fragmenting their enemies. The day is not far off when the Israeli Ozymandias finds itself collapsing back into the desert.

US president Donald Trump’s ‘deal of the century’, supposedly a lasting peace deal between Palestine and its zionist occupiers, breathlessly flagged up back in the summer, was finally officially launched on 28 January this year.

The announcement came at a press conference shared jointly between the US president and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with ambassadors from Gulf statelets United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman and Bahrain pulled in to make up the numbers. No Saudi representative showed up, perhaps suggesting that Riyadh preferred to let its satraps take the flak for lending support to such a toxic plan.

Right from conception to birth, it has been clear that this deal was written in Tel Aviv and rubber-stamped in Washington. It is not a plan for peace but a declaration of war. But it is a war in which neither Israel nor the US can count on many staunch allies.

There turned out to be few surprises in the deal. Israel is to be given a free hand in annexing all the Palestinian territory on the West Bank illegally grabbed by armed settlers; the jewish state is to be granted full sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem, which is to be accorded the status of Israel’s capital; the right to return for the Palestinian diaspora, recognised by the UN, is to be ditched; and those Palestinians exiled in neighbouring Arab states are to be stripped of their refugee status, and hence will no longer qualify for support from the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unwra).

In exchange for all this and much more besides on Israel’s wish-list, what is offered to the Palestinians? A demilitarised state in nominal charge of the remaining dismembered bits of the West Bank and Gaza, connected by a tortuous network of roads, bridges and tunnels – a mock homeland that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas aptly characterised as resembling a “Swiss cheese”.

Such a state, a state that is not even in control of its own borders, would be a state in name only, with or without international recognition, shiny new ministerial portfolios and a hallowed seat at the United Nations.

For even the most moderate Palestinians, as represented by President Abbas, such a mangled form of statehood is intolerable.

US/Israeli pariahs

There was a certain symmetry in the parallel situations in which Trump and Netanyahu found themselves. Trump needed to focus public attention away from the impeachment farce at home, whilst Netanyahu was faced with a national election on 2 March at a time when he was under investigation on corruption charges. Both leaders were in need of a high profile distraction.

But more is involved here than just short-term electoral chicanery. The botched on-again, off-again US withdrawal from Syria, the clumsy handling of US allies (alienating Turkey and dumping the Kurds), the underlying failure to make its writ run in the middle east and the corresponding ascendency of Russian diplomacy in the region, all point to the growing isolation of Washington – an isolation for a long time experienced by Israel, imperialism’s guard dog in the region.

Seen in this light, this ‘deal’ is a desperate gamble on the part of the US to regain the initiative in the region, relying heavily on its most loyal of allies, zionism.

The problem is that when the deal fails, as it must surely do, it will not be Israel alone that pays the price but also the USA. Washington seems fated to remain locked in an ever-tightening dead man’s embrace with Israel as history rolls over them both.

The deal of the century went down like a lead balloon at the UN security council, with only Israel and the US voicing support.

As well as being denounced by RussiaChina, Vietnam and South Africa, the deal also came under fire from GermanyFrance and Belgium, amongst many others.

In these circumstances, the attempt by Israel’s UN envoy Danny Danon to bang the drum for regime change, accusing President Abbas of being unrealistic and declaring that peace could not come so long as the president remained in power, fell flat on its face.

Of course, it is not any enthusiasm for the Palestinian cause that motivates such as France and Germany to step away from the US plan. Rather, it is the fact that Trump’s trampling approach to diplomacy threatens to tear away the veil of hypocrisy and deceit upon which imperialism – and not just US imperialism – relies to maintain the status quo in the region.

By casting this veil aside, Washington is making it harder for the comprador regimes of the Gulf to go on paying lip service to the Palestinian cause whilst continuing to act in the predatory interests of the west and assist in holding back Arab social progress.

The French envoy warned the security council that the US plan “cements despair for young people” in Palestine, joining other European Union voices in criticising the deal. (Deal of the century makes ‘Swiss cheese’ of Palestinian territory by Sheren Khalel, Middle East Eye, 11 February 2020)

But this is not like the good old days when all the great and the good came to the UN, had a good talk, passed yet another high-minded resolution reprimanding Israel for ‘excesses’ and then went home again, secure in the certainty that the latest resolution would join all the others gathering dust on the shelf whilst nothing fundamental would change.

No, Trump is calling everyone’s bluff now, brazenly asserting that might is right and telling the world to put up or shut up. All those previous logic-chopping exercises to determine how many dead resolutions can dance on the head of a pin, the stock-in-trade of international diplomacy, are unceremoniously bundled out.

And whilst the EU measures out its mild reproofs in coffee spoons, the Palestinians are left to draw their own less polite conclusions about the way ahead.

In truth, it is not really the ‘despair’ of Palestinian youth that truly concerns France and the rest, but rather their anger, and the anger of the masses right across the middle east and beyond.

Even Britain, the most slavish of Washington’s imperialist allies, is getting cold feet. Whilst vacuously hoping that the US plan might be the basis for opening up dialogue, the British envoy to the UN tacked on a nervous caveat, asserting that Britain would condemn unilateral action “by any parties”, referencing London’s stated opposition to the annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Whilst such ‘principled opposition’ is as much use as a chocolate fireguard, it gives us a clue just how alone ‘America First’ is getting to be on the world stage when even toady number one is threatening to hop off.

Reactions in the middle east

The ambassadors from Oman, the UAE and Bahrain voted with their feet by dutifully turning up at the Netanyahu/Trump press conference, and Qatar also voiced its approval in absentia. Egypt, too, has given token support.

But across the middle east these lukewarm words of praise for the US initiative are being drowned out by a furious tsunami of criticism.

TurkeySyria and Iran have all denounced the deal. Syria’s denunciation comes as no surprise, given that it has done more to support Palestine over the years than has any other Arab country, not only in words but in deeds.

Likewise, given Iran’s long-standing record as a key player in the axis of resistance, it is not to be wondered at that it has expressed nothing but contempt for Trump’s ‘vision’.

And on the realpolitik side, it suits Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to join in the chorus of denunciation, looking to buff up Turkey’s credentials as a mover and shaker in the muslim world and happy to put the boot into its erstwhile imperialist master.

Meanwhile, some of the most biting criticism of the deal has been coming from some seemingly unlikely quarters, as witness some candid remarks that Kuwaiti parliamentary speaker Marzouk Al-Ghanim made to a session in Amman of the Arab Parliamentary Union.

Addressing a score of parliamentary speakers from across the Arab world, he symbolically dumped a copy of the Trump deal into a bin, a gesture that was greeted with a warm ovation. He denounced the plan in the most vigorous terms, saying that it “was born dead” and “should be thrown in the dustbin of history”.

After he had declared that “the timing of the deal of the century is immature, and it denotes strange naivety and a ridiculous rashness”, the meeting went on unanimously to denounce the deal. The session included speakers from Syria and Iraq, but also from Egypt, Qatar and Oman, who one must presume were swept along by the tide!

Al-Ghanim went on to comprehensively rubbish the deal, claiming that it was “rejected by the Arab leaders, governments, elites and peoples, and is islamically refused from Rabat to Jakarta”, adding for good measure:

“The Europeans are not enthusiastic, and realise that the deal is unrealistic, unacceptable, unimplementable, and the irony this time is that so many American and Israeli voices expressed their rejection of this project. No one supports this mutant formula of a funny hypothetical settlement.” (Speaker of Kuwaiti parliament throws ‘deal of the century’ in the bin, Middle East Monitor, 10 February 2020)

The fact that both the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, neither regarded as hotbeds of anti-imperialism, have denounced the deal confirms the breadth of the revolt.

It is clear that any leadership in the Arab world that ignores the mass popular backlash provoked by Trump’s deal will be heading for choppy waters ahead. Such are the fruits of US diplomacy.

Great Fajr campaign

The single most provocative part of the deal, and the issue that has sparked one of the biggest spontaneous movements of revolt so far, is the plan to grant Israel sovereignty over all the holy places in Jerusalem and Hebron.

Having stolen the country, zionism wants now to steal the country’s cultural identity, and wants to enforce that theft through the barrel of a gun.

“‘The collective dawn prayers started in Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque in November, at the initiative of the city’s families and young activists protest the Israeli incursions to the holy sites. Before long, several other families and citizens joined in as a reaction to the Israeli attempts to undermine the Palestinian presence and take over the mosque,’ Hafzi Abu Sunainah, director of the Ibrahimi mosque, told al-Monitor.

“He noted that the campaign soon spread to various mosques in the West Bank, including Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, urging Palestinians to defend their holy sites that are constantly attacked by Israel.

“In September 2019, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Hebron and entered the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Netanyahu also pledged in September to annex the settlement of Kiryat and the jewish areas in Hebron, including the Ibrahimi mosque.

“‘Al-Haram al-Ibrahimi is the heart of the city of Hebron and is under constant Israeli attack. This prompted the Palestinians to attend the mass dawn prayers, regardless of the cold and rain, the military checkpoints and the harassment by Israeli soldiers,’ Abu Sunainah said.

“The Ibrahimi mosque was divided to accommodate jewish worshippers following a 1994 massacre at the hands of a settler who murdered 29 muslims – 45 percent of the mosque’s area was dedicated to muslims and 55 percent to jews.

“On 10 January, Palestinians in Hebron went in droves to Al-Aqsa mosque for the Friday dawn prayers, as they were urged by Jerusalemites, in response to a 2 January attack by the Israeli police on worshippers at Bab al-Rahma (Gate of Mercy), the eastern gate of Al-Aqsa mosque compound. The police used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

“On 25 January, the Israeli police also stormed the house of former grand mufti of Jerusalem and head of the Supreme Islamic Council Ekrima Sabri and ordered him not to enter Al-Aqsa mosque compound for four months. He was accused of inciting hatred against Israel during his Friday sermons.

“The Israeli decision came after Sabri, who is seen as the highest islamic figure in the city, defied a 19 January Israeli police order barring him from visiting the mosque for one week. On 24 January, he entered the compound with dozens of worshippers who carried him on their shoulders …

“The campaign, which is expended to grow larger in the coming weeks, received political support from both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

“‘We support the Great Fajr campaign in the face of the Israelis who fear the large Palestinian crowds during the dawn prayers. We urge all Palestinians to join hands at Al-Aqsa to protect it from the judaisation policies, along the lines of what happened at the Ibrahimi mosque that was divided and turned into a synagogue,’ Nayeb Jabour, a deputy for Hamas in the dissolved Palestinian Legislative Council, told Al-Monitor.

“Adnan Ghaith, governor of Jerusalem and a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, told Al-Monitor: ‘The deal of the century carries a clear threat to Jerusalem and its holy sites. The deal is a message for jews to perform their prayers at Al-Aqsa and for the temporally and spatial division of the mosque.’

“He added: ‘The Palestinians will not tolerate any undermining of Al-Aqsa and are capable of defending it, and the campaign is proof of that’.” (Dawn of protest: Palestinians stand against ‘deal of century’ at prayers by Ahmad Melhem, Al-Monitor, 7 February 2020)

It is clear from this testimony that, far from despairing, the Palestinians are a mighty and courageous nation requiring only a unified leadership to mobilise for the struggle.

Of all the unintended consequences the ‘deal of the century’ brings in its train, the most uncomfortable for imperialism must be the sight of Fatah, Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine marching shoulder by shoulder through Gaza, on the very day that the deal was announced.

The leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, phoned President Abbas to support the stance taken by the Palestinian Authority, and urged the formation of a united front. Long may this unity prevail!

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Palestine: US and the Nazi regime will reap a bitter harvest

Palestinian lives matter

Ahmed Eriqat of Abu Dis was the latest victim of senseless murder by Israeli soldiers in occupied Palestine.

Proletarian writers

In 2003, people from the London borough of Camden started to make links with Palestinians living in a suburb of Jerusalem called Abu Dis, and this led eventually to the twinning of the two places. This happened at a crucial time for Abu Dis, as Israel was in the process of building its apartheid wall right through the town.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that this was a serious violation of human rights, in breach of international law. In response, the Camden/Abu Dis friendship association (Cadfa) was formed to promote solidarity, and over the years many British volunteers have visited Abu Dis.

So it was with a special poignancy that members of Cadfa learned that one of the latest victims of psychotic Israeli aggression was a young man well-known to Cadfa volunteers, a man remembered with great affection and respect. Cadfa broke the news to its members:

“We are writing to you all with some horrible news. A few days ago in a Palestine for Beginners session (Cadfa Zoom event), the Cadfa co-ordinator in Abu Dis told people: ‘Checkpoints are very dangerous for Palestinians. A number of people have been killed at Container checkpoint in the past few years.’

“It wasn’t clear if the western people who had not been to Palestine had any idea what a checkpoint would be like, or what danger there might be there. Today saw the sort of real horror that hangs over the word ‘checkpoint’ for Palestinians: those heavily-armed military places that interrupt normal life, manned by soldiers to whom Palestinian life is of no consequence.

“For a lot of time in Palestine, people are just getting on with their normal lives. The sun shines (or it doesn’t), families cook, clean, work (if they have work), play sport, visit friends, whatever. Arrangements are made for marriages. Then, out of the blue, the fault lines and the chaos of the underlying situation are shown up by a sudden horrible incident.

“Today, the young man who lost his life, shot by an Israeli soldier and left to bleed to death, was Ahmed Eriqat from Abu Dis. He was 27, young, healthy and full of life: he was due to be married soon. (His wedding, set for May, was postponed because of corona.) Ahmed did a degree at Al Quds University in graphic design and had a small t-shirt printing business in Abu Dis.

“Today was his sister Iman’s wedding day. Ahmed had rented a car, dropped his sister and their mother at a hair salon to have their hair done for the wedding, and set out to get the car decorated ready for the evening wedding.

“The road to Bethlehem from Abu Dis is now a main road in Palestine, since Israel has blocked the old roads that went via Jerusalem. There is no main road in Palestine without an Israeli checkpoint, and there is no checkpoint in Palestine at which Palestinians have not been killed.

“On the Wad an-Nar road to Bethlehem, there is a major checkpoint known as Container after the original sea container that used to be a tea shop near the bus stop in Sawahreh, on the Jerusalem road. Now it is a military point that has become increasingly fortified with a watchtower and heavily armed soldiers.

“Then, this afternoon, the peace was shattered suddenly by army shooting. A small witness video was released with someone upset saying: ‘They just shot him in front of us …’ We don’t know exactly how it happened, but Ahmed was shot by Israeli soldiers and died there.

“No one in Abu Dis gives a minute’s credence to the excuse they saw given by the Israeli military. ‘He was not about to run his car into soldiers,’ wrote a friend. ‘He was going to pick up his mother and sister on a happy occasion, and he had a lot going for him: he was about to get married himself.’”

Cadfa put this completely pointless tragedy into context: “We wish it were the first time or even the second that we have to write to you about the Israeli army killing a Palestinian. But over the years since Cadfa was started, this has shockingly happened again and again.

“Just as we have to say ‘Black lives matter’ because of systemic racism and violence against black people that has happened before and also since the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, so too do we have to say ‘Palestinian lives matter’ for reasons that relate to systemic racism and violence against Palestinians in their own country at the hands of the Israeli military and settler movement.

“If we raise our eyes from Abu Dis to look at Palestine as a whole since Cadfa started 16 years ago, there have been over 6,000 killings at the hands of the Israeli army and settler movement (from Wafa, Palestinian press agency), six of these in Abu Dis.

“A reporter from local television (Qanat al Ghad) said that 25 young people have been killed in the West Bank since the beginning of 2020, and 11 of them in cars in the way that Ahmed was.” (Rest in peace Ahmed Eriqat: the cccupation is deadly, Cadfa, 23 June 2020)

Although Israel continues to enjoy impunity for its many crimes, protected from international retribution by its imperialist sponsors in the USA and Britain, the court of international public opinion long ago made up its mind, and the masses everywhere support the right of the Palestinian people to use whatever means are available to them to gain their freedom.

As Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu formalises the theft of territories that were declared by the United Nations 50 years ago to be illegally occupied Palestinian territory, he is only underscoring what has been obvious to all sane observers for some years already: that there is no possibility of negotiating with these rabid zionists, that the two-state solution is dead, and that the only possible future is a single state on the whole territory of historic Palestine, encompassing all who live there on an equal basis.

In killing the two-state solution, far from ensuring Israel’s security, the Israelis are in fact killing Israel. And in their brutal murder of so many innocent Palestinians, they are ensuring that the zionist state will have plenty of gravediggers.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Palestinian lives matter

Nazi tightens the screws on Palestine

Under cover of Covid-19: Israel tightens the screws on Palestine

Israel’s violent suppression and annexation of Palestine continues unabated, but with it so grows the just resistance of the Palestinian people.

Proletarian writers

With water more essential than ever in limiting the spread of Covid-19, the IDF sociopaths have taken up the inhuman sport of shooting at the water tanks on Palestinian roofs.

Kafr Qadum in the West Bank has seen weekly protests since 2011, denouncing the closure of the eastern exit of the village that connected it to the city of Nablus. This was blocked by the Israeli military in 2003 following the expansion of the nearby illegal settlement of Kedumim.

The village, like all of occupied Palestine, has been the scene of many disgusting war crimes committed by the so-called Israeli ‘Defence’ Force (IDF).

Deliberate disruption to water supply

Through the years, residents of Kafr Qadum have endured vicious attacks by army assault-dogs, campaigns of intimidation against local children and the use of bulldozers to disperse gathered residents – to name but a few of the many atrocities. Such heinous acts, though largely unreported in the imperialist media, are distressingly common occurrences in the lives of Palestine’s long suffering population.

While the world has been distracted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic crash, the sadistic IDF have taken the opportunity to carry out an utterly sickening plan.

Palestinians living in the West Bank suffer from a highly irregular supply of water, leading to regular and severe shortages, as a result of Israel’s policies of apartheid and blockade. With residents encouraged to wash their hands, shower and wash their clothes more frequently to slow the spread of the virus, they are thus in more need than ever of this precious commodity.

In this context, the IDF sociopaths have taken up the inhuman sport of shooting at the water towers that are located on top of Palestinian homes.

During the weekly protests, bands of cowardly IDF ‘soldiers’ have been taking up positions on the hills surrounding the village, and opening fire on the roof-top towers. Residents trapped inside their homes dare not venture onto their roofs for fear of being shot, and so must sit listening to the excruciating sound of their precious litres flowing onto the ground.

Only when they can be sure the soldiers have left are they able to tend to the damage, doing their best with screws and adhesives to temporarily patch the holes. (Even during a pandemic: soldiers shoot holes in water tanks at Kafr Qadum, B’Tselem, 27 May 2020)

Making the most of a crisis: increasingly violent settler expansion

There has been a similarly vile up-tick in the rate of violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians during the coronavirus pandemic.

Armed with clubs, axes, metal poles, attack dogs and firearms, settlers have, with full support from the Israeli state, ramped up their brutal assaults on Palestinian residents and their homes, smashing and setting fire to vehicles, stealing livestock and destroying crops.

Palestinians out enjoying a walk alone or in pairs have been savagely beaten by bands of settlers. Upon witnessing the attacks or their aftermath, soldiers of the IDF have at best turned a blind eye, or at worst joined in with the settlers’ barbarism, routinely dispersing with tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets Palestinians who attempt to protect their families and land. (Israeli settlers exploit coronavirus to take over West Bank land with military backing: violent attacks spike in April, B’Tselem, 23 April 2020)

Pasture and farmland belonging to Palestinian shepherds and farmers continues to be attacked by the settlers, who act as the unofficial wing of Israel’s armed forces, stealing away land plot by plot, field by field, acre by acre, in a deadly war of attrition.

Resistance grows

Unsurprisingly, these myriad acts of terrorism are only adding fuel to the fire burning in the hearts of the Palestinian people, who long for freedom from the Israeli occupiers and refuse to give up the struggle to regain their homeland.

Notorious Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to bring yet more Palestinian land under the sovereignty of Israel by annexing further swathes of the West Bank as of 1 July. Embroiled in a corruption scandal, and facing prison if he loses office, Netanyahu is attempting to steal ground from even harder-line zionist maniacs in order to grab votes and keep himself out of jail – all at the expense of the Palestinian people’s right to life and land. (Netanyahu tells lawmakers he stands by July target date to launch West Bank annexation by Noa Landau, Haaretz, 25 May 2020)

This move has caused unease in European ruling circles, and even prompted the notoriously hawkish US secretary of state Mike Pompeo to express some hesitation, calling for ‘coordination’ of the move with Washington. The Israeli zionists are well aware that a further outright annexation will result in a wave of global anti-Israel feeling and an upsurge of local resistance, which will inevitably inflict casualties amongst Israeli civilians and military, but this does not appear to concern the Israeli elite. To them, all life except their own is so much fodder in the drive for domination.

In the final analysis, only armed resistance will stop the onward march of the fascistic Israeli regime. We offer our full and unequivocal support to the courageous people of Palestine in their just war against Israel, and to any and every form that their resistance may take.

An unlikely ruling from the European court of human rights

In an uncharacteristic move on 11 June this year, the European court of human rights (ECHR) dealt a blow to the war against solidarity with Palestine by ruling unanimously against the 2015 decision of the criminal division of the court of cassation to reject the appeals of activists from the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement regarding their arrest, and subsequent conviction, for participating in peaceful boycott actions in France back in 2009 and 2010.

The activists, part of Collectif Palestine 68, a branch of the Palestinian-led BDS movement, used trolleys to display Israeli products in a supermarket, while handing out leaflets and inviting shoppers to sign a petition demanding the supermarket stop selling items of Israeli origin. They were charged with “incitement to economic discrimination”. (European court of human rights deals major blow to Israel’s war on Palestine solidarity by Palestinian BDS national committee, Global Research, 11 June 2020)

Only in the capitalist world will you find yourself with a criminal conviction for rightfully and lawfully decrying and taking action against a totally illegal, anti-human project such as the creation and continuance of the state of Israel. Naturally, no charges are being brought to bear against the zionist regime for its own “economic discrimination”, not to mention all the other forms of discrimination perpetrated against the people of occupied Palestine.

Israel provides the imperialist powers, led by the US and backed up by its faithful supporters in Europe, with a foothold in the middle east that can be used to wage war against the Arab peoples, to stoke religious tensions and to destabilise the region, ultimately facilitating the plunder of their lands, rewarding the imperialist powers with yet more oil and riches to be put to use in propping up their decrepit rule and launching yet more wars of aggression all over the globe.

Communists must be staunch internationalists, we must comprehend that our struggle for emancipation from capital is bound up with the nation-liberation struggles of the oppressed, including that of Palestine. We must therefore link our struggle with theirs and offer all possible fraternal support.

In the immortal words of Karl Marx: “No nation can be free if it oppresses other nations.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human Rights, PoliticsComments Off on Nazi tightens the screws on Palestine

British Gas and SPS are latest to announce big job losses

As the economic crisis bites, employers are looking to cut not only jobs but also pay, pensions and everything else.

Proletarian writers

Centrica, the owner of British Gas (privatised by Thatcher) plans to cut 5,000 jobs in Britain. It plans to slash its labour costs by outsourcing its call centres and back-office operations to ‘offshore’ providers in South Africa and India, whilst its in-house engineers will be replaced by outside contractors.

Under already intensifying competition in the crowded energy supply market, now aggravated by the covid lockdown, British Gas is struggling to hang on to its customer base, last year losing 286,000 of its customers. Since the lockdown, things have got even worse, with industrial customers shutting up shop and domestic customers deferring payment.

Centrica employs 27,000 workers globally, of whom 20,000 are in Britain. The 5,000 faced with redundancy represent 25 percent of the British workforce.

Particularly badly hit will be Yorkshire, with hundreds of jobs under threat as the company moves to close its regional training academy in Leeds.

SPS Technologies

SPS Technologies, meanwhile, which makes aerospace parts, is also using the excuse of the lockdown to justify aggressively slashing labour costs through redundancies and the imposition of inferior employee contracts at its plants in Nottingham, Leicester and Rugby.

The company is planning over 420 redundancies across the Midlands, while workers who remain face the prospect of reductions to pay grades, sick pay, shift premiums, paid breaks – and anything else that SPS can dream up to shave down labour costs.

In Nottinghamshire, the company is planning to get rid of about 100 of the 300 workers at its Annesley plant and another 40 out of the 100 workers at its Mansfield plant, whilst in Leicester it wants to consign another 100 workers out of 480 to the scrap heap. And in Rugby there are nigh on another 100 losing their jobs.

Posted in Health, UKComments Off on British Gas and SPS are latest to announce big job losses


Stalin uncovered: How dictator was 'bullied' over horrifying ...

The absurd lie that Stalin plucked a live chicken to an audience to demonstrate his supposed dictatorial power has been doing the rounds on many platforms of social media lately. It has taken the form of a poorly executed meme. This sloppy piece of propaganda has been resurrected and is supposed to teach us something about the ‘lockdown’.

Of course the story is a complete fabrication, even in the words of its author, but that hasn’t stopped it being passed off as truth.

For many sites, and publications would like to propel this story into the stratosphere for all the world to see. They would use it as an example of a megalomaniac, crazed tyrant intent on showing his power of control, the extent of his evil. Therefore, we take a moment to deal with this crazed, ludicrous rumour, scraped truly from the bottom of the barrel. 

What is it that Stalin supposedly did?

The tale follows as thus:

“Stalin once ripped all the feathers off a live chicken as a lesson to his followers. He then set the chicken on the floor a short distance away. The chicken was bloodied and suffering immensely, yet, when Stalin began to toss bits of wheat toward the chicken it followed him around. He said to his followers “This is how you govern stupid people, they will follow you no matter how much pain you cause them, as long as you throw them a little worthless treat once in a while”. 

Where does this story come from?

The tale can be traced back to the pen of anti-Stalin, revisionist scribbler Chingiz Aitmatov. Aitmatov is well remembered for his literary works, as well his role in helping Mikhail Gorbachev in the passing of ‘Perestroika’. Aitmatov was known for his particular “style” of writing that combined fact with fiction and in the preface to his most famous work wrote:  

“As in previous works, here I also draw on legends and myths [Ed: unsubstantiated slander] handed down to us from former generations; together with these, for the first time in my writing career I also use fantasy to form part of the story. But, for me, neither is an end in itself, simply a method of expressing thoughts, a means of identifying and interpreting realities.”

The Truth

From such a literary “style” comes this tale of Stalin plucking a chicken alive is exactly an example of Aitmatov’s writing that blends very little fact with a heap of fiction, indeed in this case there is no fact to be found!  The tale is part of the tradition of anti-Stalin slander that was brought in under Khrushchev in the Soviet Union, as part of the ‘de-Stalinization’ [asnti-communist] process. Apart from Aitmatov’s confession to passing off fantasy as fact, this fable has no further evidence or source for being true and if we are bearing into mind that this type of tale was typical of Aitmatov, and there are no other original sources for the tale other than Aitmatov, then we discover that the tale can be categorically ruled out as false, a cheap flight of fancy paid for by the Gorbachev era press. All other sources for this tale come from bourgeois and Christian newspapers, repeating with minor variations this ludicrous garbage. All in all, the tale reeks of falsity and is found from time to time, to be found bobbing along in the sewage of the revisionists and bourgeois press. 


Usually, debunking myths around Stalin can be a more serious affair. However, this tale is so laughable and so easily uncovered as a categorical lie that it merely requires a scratch and the obvious falsity is revealed. Here we have a tale from a revisionist writer adding to the canon of anti-Stalin propaganda no more, no less. 



Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

In celebration this week of the 99th birthday of the Communist Party of China, we are publishing a special issue of China Insight to mark the anniversary. Red Youth was sent this special issue directly by the Communist Party of China and we publish it in solidarity.



In February of 2020 a video titled ‘Everything You’ve Ever Seen About Cuba Is A Lie’ was posted to YouTube and made the rounds on various social media platforms. Across these platforms, it has been viewed -at the time of writing this article- around 703,625 times in total. The description of the video outlines its basic premise, in which there is no attempt whatsoever of hiding its obvious bias:

“The Turning Point USA travelled to Cuba to investigate the true realities of what a generation of full Socialism has done to the once-thriving Cuban population.

What did we discover? Everything you have ever seen about Cuba is a lie. #CommunismKills”

The incredibly questionable title insinuates that the video that follows is going to be a series of ‘truths’ about Cuba; an unveiling of the ‘scary reality’ behind the supposedly popular and common ‘Utopian view’ of Cuba. The creators suggest that before taking their trip to Cuba, their research of the country gave them nothing but sunshine and roses.

I don’t know where they have been looking but a quick general search of Cuba on any news platform currently brings up not one positive or at least objective article until page 3. So, it is clear to see that from the very outset of this showcase, that we are in for a treat, a platter of pure and unadulterated, bias, drivel.

Just from their opening comments, their agenda is quite clear:

“to know that this is a socialist country…the pieces didn’t quite add up to me…we’re supposed to say socialism sucks…but how’re we gonna show that, if socialism doesn’t actually suck”

The agenda is even clearer with just a quick Google search of the content creators.

Turning Point USA is an American non-profit organisation with many affiliate groups such as Students for Trump. It was founded by Evangelical Christian, Charlie Kirk, whose track record of false statements sets the bar extremely low for the reliability of any material produced by the group. They state three main beliefs on their official web page which should highlight exactly why this video on Cuba was made:


  • The United States of America is the greatest country in the history of the world.
  • The US Constitution is the most exceptional political document ever written.
  • Capitalism is the most moral and proven economic system ever discovered.

So, of course, they hate Cuba, they are Americas and Capitalisms number one fan club. Their open mission is “to educate students about the importance of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government.

The organisation has been involved in multiple controversies, including potential illegal involvement in the 2016 presidential election, members making racist comments and even links to several White Supremacists.

The men that take part in the making of the video range from an ex-editor at Buzzfeed who was fired for plagiarism to a producer and owner of


As previously stated, one of the first lies in the video is that there are only positive things and only positive perceptions of Cuba when one searches ‘Cuba’ on the internet. Indeed, if one searches Cuba into Google Images beautiful Caribbean views will pop up, gorgeous Spanish buildings, the old vintage cars, as well as the rustic decaying buildings that have now become so solidly equated with the public image of Cuba. This is partly because these views are real. Cuba truly does have beautiful golden beaches; it truly does have beautiful buildings such as in Old Havana or the National Capital building. However, to state:

“Nothing in American establishment or corporate media

will prepare you for what you’re about to see. It’s all

lies, it’s Communist propaganda what you see”

It is an outright lie. For years we have been bombarded with propaganda against Cuba from such capitalist zealots as these. It was only on the 28th February that the Wall St Journal was telling us that ‘The Real Cuba is a land of extreme deprivation’. In reaction to Bernie Sanders support of Cuban healthcare, we were swarmed with anti-Cuba articles by fat cat bourgeois journalists. Needless to say, for as long as Cuba has been socialist there have been socialists defending it against these apologists of capitalism who still mourn the fall of the brutal dictator Batista. Furthermore, their claim is preposterous for the very fact that if one searches for Jamaica in Google images a beautiful tropical paradise pops up. Is this capitalist propaganda? To call pictures of beauty in a country, communist propaganda is McCarthyite and plain ridiculous.


One of the first dramas the gang of TPUSA find themselves breaking down over is their containment at the airport over bringing a drone into Cuba. If they had bothered to look, Cuba has banned drones entering the country and will confiscate them at customs. Cuba is open about this and did not target the fools of TPUSA just because they felt like it but because they had specifically gone against this policy.


It is no secret that Cuba and the USSR held close economic relations. In fact, from 1976-1980 the Soviets invested $1.7 billion on the construction and remodelling of Cuban factories and industry. It is also no secret that this was a lifeline to Cuba after the massive embargo imposed by the U.S.A against Cuba in 1962. Therefore, after the Soviet Union fell, Cuba was dealt a severely harsh blow and entered what Fidel Castro called, ‘The Special Period’. Due to the embargo and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Cuba has had to undergo restrictions on things such as fuel. However, one of the allies to Cuba has been Venezuela especially in relation to fuel. Cuba and Venezuela made a bilateral pact in 2000 allowing Cuba to pay for oil through such things as medical services. This deal had sufficed until 2015-17 when the U.S.A had turned their sanctions onto Venezuela whilst they were once again pushing for power changes in South America. Faced with sanctions from all sides, Cuba has had to cope with many shortages of goods and equipment, these shortages were imposed by the U.S.A. Therefore, the bare-faced cheek of these Americans to visit Cuba and mock the long lines for fuel without ever once mentioning the American embargo and sanctions is ignorant and unintelligent. Cuba has had to cut public street lighting and air conditioning usage in some state institutions in order to deal with the embargo and the sanctions that the U.S.A are directly responsible for. We know that if the U.S.A ever faces shortages of fuel and oil they’ll have boots on the ground securing their supply through rivers of blood. Look no further than the Iraq War where a million innocent civilians died for U.S. share in oil. Look no further than the U.S relations with the head-chopping corrupt regime of Saudi Arabia, all for U.S wealth and oil.


In order to understand what it is that the cast of this show want Cuba to be like, we must return to Cuba’s past. Fulgencio Batista had been a figure in Cuban politics since 1933 when he had taken part in The Sergeants Revolt. He had also taken the role as President in 1940 in which he had played a reformative role in Cuba. However, in 1952 Batista launched a coup and became a military dictator. In Batista’s Cuba, corruption was rife, and many households went without running water and many were unemployed. However, what Batista’s Cuba signified more than anything was the contrast between the rich and poor that capitalism creates wherever it goes. Mass prostitution, casinos and drugs ran rife through the streets of Cuba, all encouraged by Batista. Arthur Miller described it as ‘hopelessly corrupt, a Mafia playground, (and) a bordello for Americans and other foreigners”. Indeed, Batista’s deal and connections ran deep, and many were devastated to see him go, so devastated that many of them helped American forces in assassination attempts on Castro. Of course, where there is illicit money and profits to be had the vultures of American imperialism are never far behind. JFK himself revealed information about American involvement in Cuba in 1959, “At the beginning of 1959 United States companies owned about 40 per cent of the Cuban sugar lands—almost all the cattle ranches—90 per cent of the mines and mineral concessions—80 per cent of the utilities—practically all the oil industry—and supplied two-thirds of Cuba’s imports.” And on the despotism in Cuba under Batista, Kennedy had this to say “I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the Batista regime. I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will even go further: to some extent, it is as though Batista was the incarnation of several sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins.” So, would the capitalist worshipping members of TPUSA wish for the return of that ‘developed’ regime, a regime that even their U.S President described as corrupt, exploitative and evil. Batista was also ruthless and cracked down hard on any opposition especially amongst the young. It is suspected that 20,000 people were killed under Batista’s reign of suppression. When Castro, Che Guevara and the Rebel Army led their revolution in 1959, they undoubtedly changed Cuba for the better. The first things the revolutionaries did was reinstate all the workers who had been fired in the Batista years, drastically reduce rents, kicked the Mafia out of Cuba, redistributed the land stolen by the U.S.A back to the people, nationalised their healthcare (and as a result, it is one of the best in the world today, compared to those dying in their homes in America due to the prices of U.S private healthcare), and raised their literacy rates to 100%. Cubans today can boast of a longer life expectancy than that of the average American and a lower infant mortality!


In the video, we see them mock and sneer at the standard and availability of food in Cuba. The truth of the matter is this, Cuba has a rationing system. This means that Cubans use a ration book, supplied to them through a government office that establishes the goods they can buy and the frequency. It also accounts for how many are in the family and their dietary requirements. The goods are then sent to the ‘bodegas’ which are the stores that specifically distribute the rationed goods, and meat is available at meat stores. The stores that are shown in the clip are the rationed stores. What they failed to show was the vegetable markets in Cuba where there are bountiful amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables. Even the World Bank has shown that Cuba is one of the most well-fed countries in the world and have some of the lowest malnutrition death rates. The long lines that were shown are once again the consequence of the U.S sanctions and blockades. In 2019, rations grew stricter, but this was done under the severe new conditions set by Trump and his lackeys, a decision that was vastly supported by the Cuban people. However, as the COVID 19 crisis has shown, the priorities of the Cuban government and the U.S capitalists could not be wider. Whereas the Cuban government has tried to make sure everybody is fed and nobody can selfishly profit off others misery, the U.S will let whoever hasn’t got the cash starve, or just increase its food bank numbers, to the point where 1 in 3 rely on them for food.


There are decaying buildings in Cuba, this is true. However, what they failed to show was the beautiful buildings that often lay right across the street, renovated and refurbished in sleek Cuban style. Furthermore, many buildings may look downtrodden but inside are wonderful and renovated as well. Cuba is trying to rebuild as many of these buildings as they can, but it is a task made difficult with sanctions on equipment and the resources needed to do so.

Homelessness in Cuba is also extremely low due to the cheap housing provided by socialism, which creates a large percentage of homeownership. Cubans will never have to worry about a private bank repossessing their homes for profit. However, this is not to say that there is plenty of housing, in fact, there is a housing shortage due to economic sanctions limiting construction materials. Despite this, the Cubans are very resourceful and often share housing with their family and friends and there are no longer any shantytowns and slums as seen in the time of Batista. “A 2002 Harvard study found that the percentage of urban housing units in bad condition decreased from 47% before the revolution to just 13% 40 years later”. Nevertheless, Cubans precisely because of socialist values, would prefer this situation to one where a large percentage of the population lives on the streets. The latter is in fact, the exact situation in America. In 2014 1.5 million sheltered homeless people were counted. In New York alone there are 114,000 homeless children and on Skid Row volunteers have estimated that there are 275 homeless people in only eight square blocks. These grotesque figures are even harder to read when we know that there are millions of vacant properties in America.

Cuba is economically a poor country, but this is misleading. Despite sanctions, blockades and natural disasters Cuba has provided its citizens with a roof over their heads, free healthcare (one of the best in the world), free education for all and enough nutritious food for everyone. Whilst in America, the richest country in the world, cannot provide a single one of these things and has subjected half of all Americans to a life of poverty, whilst making war zones out of other countries as it goes along.


One of the most ignorant things about the video is the condescending way in which it approaches the Cuban people. In the same breath that they applaud the people of Cuba as the nicest people they’ve ever met, they soon suggest that if they support the country they live in, they must also be the least intelligent. The video portrays the people as kind but passive victims of the cruel regime that they are subjected to live under. They are kind, but ultimately, it is suggested that they live a life of misery. To perpetuate this grotesque representation of the Cuban people, the guys from TPUSA purposefully refrain from documenting the vast array of wonderful Cuban culture that exists in all corners of the country. From music to dance, the Cuban people have no shortage of their own culture, entertainment and cuisine. One of the remarkable things about Cuba is how it provided free training for ballet, an art form usually restricted to the elite in the West which provided black citizens, previously the poorest and subject to racism, with many opportunities and a way to engage in culture that they never had access to before. Free art and education and free public performances have also ensured mass public engagement in Cuban culture. Daily in Cuba, you can find music in the streets, shows, great nightlife and so on and so forth. There are struggles in Cuba but to assume that the people are miserable is not only patronising but also inaccurate. The vast amount of people that live in Cuba realise that any difficulties that occur in their country are not because socialism does not work but are because socialism is being suppressed directly by embargos and sanctions from the Capitalists outside.


How ironic it is to have to talk about troublesome or brutal police forces in Cuba, after the murder of George Floyd, an African American who was publicly lynched by American police forces in broad daylight. This kind of police brutality is commonplace in America. So common that we have seen weeklong riots and protests against police forces. The crew of TPUSA film (or stage) police forces evicting them out of their lodging. However, it is so absurdly obscure, there are so many questions as to how if the police were there with arms, they suddenly disappeared 2 minutes later, the utter ridiculousness of the scene is astounding and the only merit the scene has is that it will provoke a good chuckle. We are told there are a dozen men brandishing weapons, and our narrator explains over some highly ominous music that they were obviously about to be faced with confrontation. However, no such confrontation occurred and absolutely no more is said about the armed guards whatsoever. The cast simply packs their bags and leaves the building without any trouble…perhaps the guards were just a figment of their imagination. It is SO convenient that out of all his accusations about how they were treated this encounter is the only part of the trip they failed to have captured on camera.


The video concludes with a sweeping statement that their time in Cuba has shown them that “this is what happens when you live outside of the American Constitution”. This statement is entirely meaningless! The audacity they have to talk about the denial of human rights when capitalism and America have made a joke out of the notion ‘human rights’ as it cannot even provide the basics of healthcare, housing and employment. Nothing highlights this fact more than the events sweeping the country at this current time. Why is it that we never see these people going to countries that have been exploited and infected with the disease of Capitalism and Imperialism, where poverty is rampant, hunger is a widespread crisis and basic human rights such as water, health care are not accessible to the masses? You wouldn’t even have to step outside of America to find nearly all these conditions, but they can also be found in almost every capitalist country on the Globe. This is not an accident; it is not a broken system. This is the way Capitalism was designed and how it survives. These bourgeois demagogues at Turning Point USA are not anti-poverty, they are not pro-human rights, they are not pro-liberty, all they are is pro-capital. The poor are a burden to the elites at TPUSA, they are a nuisance and yet an integral part of the machine they need to keep turning. In the richest country in the world where not even healthcare is guaranteed unless you’ve got the cash, you will see the homeless, the decaying buildings, unprecedented police brutality all for the sake of capital. If TPUSA can sit there and accept this, love this, then you may be proud to be an American TPUSA, but you haven’t the foggiest of what it means to be human. This organisation is openly anti-worker, it is openly biased, it is openly ignorant. So why have they found themselves in Cuba? The truth of it all can be summed up as thus; in the crumbling world of the American Empire, the bourgeoise are beginning to tremble, “Let the ruling class tremble at a Communist Revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains” (Marx) Cuba makes the ruling class tremble! Let them tremble! Viva la revolucion!



Socialist Cuba shows real international solidarity during Covid-19 outbreak

Reflections on a first-time visit to Cuba


Boris’s chapter of accidents

As the covid emergency progresses, the prime minister is jumping from one fiasco to another, exposing his many inadequacies to full public view.

Proletarian writers

Footballer Marcus Rashford’s Twitter campaign amplified widespread public anger, forcing the government to scrap its proposal to stop providing free school meals over the summer break.

With his own backbenchers starting to panic at his government’s failure to get a grip on the social crisis, the past few weeks have seen prime minister Boris Johnson becoming increasingly prone to PR gaffes and U-turns.

In particular, Tory MPs who recently won traditionally Labour seats in working-class constituencies (on the back of public anger about Labour’s renegacy over Brexit) will now be feeling the heat from their unaccustomed new constituents, who, having successfully given the Labour turncoats the boot, are now turning to demand that the Tory government act decisively in handling the worsening social and economic crisis.

Three recent social policy zig-zags sum up the weak and indecisive nature of the leadership on offer.

Health surcharge U-turn and benefits gaffe

When it was revealed that tax-paying NHS and care home staff from overseas, whose hard and risky work is in the frontline against Covid-19, were being stung for a further £400 health surcharge, there was a wave of condemnation – including from some Tory MPs.

Boris Johnson was forced to do a U-turn, announcing the abolition of the surcharge for said workers.

Then came the gaffe over the rule, in place for the past ten years, which says that migrant workers who have been given the status of ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) as a condition of their being granted leave to remain, cannot claim state benefits, including universal credit, employment support allowance, housing benefit or help with council tax payments.

Tackled on this rule by Labour MP Stephen Timms in front of the Commons liaison committee, a flustered Johnson revealed his gross ignorance of the whole matter. The dialogue was priceless.

Boris Johnson: “Hang on Stephen. Why aren’t they eligible for universal credit or employment support allowance or any of the other [benefits]?”

Stephen Timms: “Well, it’s a very good question. It’s because they have ‘no recourse to public funds’. That’s a condition that’s attached to their leave to remain. They’ve been here for years, their children have been born in the UK but, because for a ten-year period, we have this no recourse to public funds, at the moment they can get no help at all.”

Boris Johnson: “I’m going to have to come back to you on that Stephen. Clearly people who have worked hard for this country, who live and work here, should have support of one kind or another. But you’ve raised a very, very important point. The condition of their leave to remain is that they should have no recourse to public funds.

“I will find out how many there are in that position and we will see what we can do to help.” (Boris Johnson hints at U-turn on universal credit ban for thousands of migrants after ‘jaw-dropping’ committee grilling by Matt Honeycombe-Foster, Politics Home, 27 May 2020)

But a week later, the promise to review the NRPF rule was summarily ditched as the prime minister sought to muddy the waters, muttering that, after all, those affected were not excluded from all public funds.

“They may be eligible for coronavirus job retention scheme funds or self-employed income support scheme funds. Indeed if they have paid into the benefit system, they may be eligible also for certain benefits.”

When journalists cornered a Downing Street spin doctor and asked if Johnson’s remarks meant effectively that it was “case closed”, with no review of NRPF in the offing, he replied in the affirmative, saying: “That is his answer, as far as I know.”

As the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) pointed out, anybody classified as NRPF who managed to “jump through the hoops” and access some support by proving “actual destitution” would still have to wait another 10 years to win a permanent settlement. (Boris Johnson quickly drops pledge to explore extra help for migrants left destitute by benefit rules by Rob Merrick, The Independent, 3 June 2020)

Free school meals U-turn

The third own goal came over the government proposal to end free school meals over the summer break, confronting thousands of families with the prospect of real hunger.

This callous move naturally sparked widespread public anger, further boosted by a Twitter campaign launched by Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford. Prominent amongst the critics, again, were Tory backbenchers nervous about the mood of their own constituents.

Initially, the government seemed to dig its heels in and brazen it out, with ministers drawing straws over who was going to go out and publicly defend the indefensible. But then came the U-turn.

“In an embarrassing about-face, the prime minister said that on Tuesday he had called the England and Manchester United striker to explain the reversal, and made the remarkable claim that he had only become aware of Rashford’s interest in the issue earlier in the day.

“Yet 24 hours before, No 10 had rejected the footballer’s plea for it to keep paying for the £15-a-week vouchers over the summer, and ministers had been sent out to defend the government’s position. But with Conservative MPs threatening to rebel against the government, Downing Street retreated and announced a new £120m ‘covid summer food fund’ for 1.3 million pupils in England.”

As the children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, pointed out, whilst the continuation of the voucher system over the holidays was welcome, “There will still be four million children living in poverty, a number that could increase following the covid crisis.” (Johnson makes U-turn on free school meals after Rashford campaign by Rajeev Syal, Heather Stewart and Helen Pidd, The Guardian, 16 June 2020)

Any halfway competent capitalist government should have found it child’s play to dress up this paltry measure as a humanitarian triumph. Instead, it got the worst of all worlds, turning a potential minor PR win into another own goal.

This sorry tale of multiple prime ministerial cock-ups, following on the heels of public disillusionment over the too-little-too-late lockdown and its chaotic easing, not to mention the deadly PPE and testing fiascos, puts a big question mark over the PM and his ability to command even the respect of his own MPs, let alone the rest of the country.

For the ruling class, the problem is who the hell to put in his place.

Posted in Health, Politics, UKComments Off on Boris’s chapter of accidents

Covid couriers sacked for requesting PPE and social distancing

Workers responsible for transporting covid test samples from hospitals to labs are being victimised for requesting basic safety measures.

Proletarian writers

Another group of workers whose efforts are assisting in the battle against the pandemic are the medical couriers charged with the vital task of transporting Covid-19 samples from hospital wards to pathology labs – at some personal risk. The couriers work for TDL (The Doctors’ Laboratory), a subsidiary of an Australian company called Sonic Healthcare.

When the couriers asked that TDL should observe some basic health and safety guidelines to safeguard their welfare, the company flatly refused. Worse, the company made ten of the couriers redundant – a group that just ‘happened’ to include all those who had been trying to get something done about health and safety or had their cards marked as whistle-blowers.

The couriers’ demands are hardly excessive, including such basic requirements as: giving full pay to workers who need to self-isolate because they have pre-existing medical conditions that put them at particular risk if they contract Covid-19; regularly testing medical couriers for Covid-19; providing proper PPE to medical couriers; and implementing social distancing where possible within the company’s loading bay.

When it became clear that, far from agreeing to consider the workers’ demands, TDL just tried to make its critics redundant, the couriers voted to strike on Wednesday 10 June. Solidarity messages were received from activists in other countries, and the IWGB has filed a trade union victimisation and whistleblower victimisation claim.

It has been revealed that senior management frequently referred to union members as ‘troublemakers’ and recruited a ‘head of logistics’ specifically to undermine union activity at TDL. Members are also now reporting harassment by managers in relation to the strike, which was the first by key workers since the pandemic began.

The couriers’ union, the IWGB (Independent Workers of Great Britain) noted: “TDL has more than enough money to cover the costs of extensive safety measures if it wanted to. The company’s profits have steadily increased from £6m in 2008 to over £28m last year, yet couriers who put their health on the line have barely seen a fraction of this money.

“Instead, the company has paid a total of £75m in dividends to Sonic Healthcare between 2014 and 2018.” (Covid-19 couriers vote to strike following victimisation by NHS contractor TDL, IWGB, 28 May 2020)

Posted in Health, UKComments Off on Covid couriers sacked for requesting PPE and social distancing

Leicester sweatshops keep their heads down despite covid panic

Fashion industry gangmasters are riding out the storm, safe in the knowledge that it will be business as usual before long.

Proletarian writers

A second wave of Covid-19 infections in Leicester, leading to the reimposition of lockdown in the city, has momentarily drawn public attention to the city’s flourishing sweatshop industry – an industry that serves several major clothing brands.

Most of the time the gangmasters can get on with the business of superexploiting sweated labour uninterrupted, safe in the knowledge that there will always be an insatiable demand for their cheap-labour product from the ‘respectable’ end of the fashion market.

After all, several exposes in the British media, including a detailed investigation in the Financial Times two years ago, have signally failed to lead to any change in the situation, which sees workers being paid anywhere from £3 to £5 an hour for long hours in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Indeed, the FT article made it clear that all the relevant authorities (councillors, MPs, health and safety bodies, HMRC etc), both locally and nationally were well aware of what was going on but consistently turned a blind eye.

And so, the long and winding supply lines that stretch anonymously from slave-labour hellholes in Leicester and Burnley to the shelves and catalogues of premium fashion retailers are, for most of the time, successfully shrouded in mystery. Now, though, fears that the overcrowded, overworked and underpaid sweatshop workers could, in addition to generating fabulous profits for fashion giants, also be incubating and spreading disease, have suddenly sparked panic in the slumbering regulators and complicit fashion houses.

In the nineteenth century the overcrowded and unsanitary hovels housing the wage-slaves of capital were of little concern to the authorities, until it transpired that cholera did very well indeed in these conditions – a disease which did not spare even the ‘great and good’ further up the hill. This fact wonderfully concentrated the bourgeois mind and added impetus to the movement for housing and hygiene reform.

Similarly in the present case, the working conditions of migrant workers aroused little interest or sympathy before suspicions arose of a link between the sweatshops and the spread of covid, throwing a scare into fashion retailers and public regulators alike.

Boohoo, online purveyor of eccentric and disposable fashion tat, froze in its tracks when suspicions were voiced about its dependence on dubious sweatshop production lines. Retailers like Next, Asos and Very hastily suspended their relationship with the company, which saw its valuation shrink by £1.5bn in two days – all of them happy enough to find a scapegoat to distract attention from their own supply lines.

And for a brief moment the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) went into overdrive, visiting more than 20 factories and companies.

But as a GLAA source told the Guardian: “It’s quite difficult. We need to have evidence of a crime to get through the door.” The source added that every one of the site visits conducted by the body since the story broke had been with the prior consent of the factory owner.

Moreover, it seems that as one sweatshop vanishes, two more pop up, making a mockery of regulation. The Guardian notes: “Sixty-eight clothing companies have been registered in Leicester since the first lockdown began, many of which appear to have links to existing or defunct manufacturing firms in the city.” (Leicester factory put lives at risk during lockdown, claims garment worker by Archie Bland, The Guardian, 11 July 2020)

And even after the regulators cracked down, some sweatshops just carried on regardless, as revealed in the testimony of a whistleblower cited by the newspaper.

“When the garment factory where Anil worked learned that the risk of coronavirus meant it couldn’t do business as usual, it didn’t shut up shop. Instead, it locked the doors. ‘It was always going,’ said Anil, not his real name. ‘They wrote on pieces of paper: ‘The factory is closed because of coronavirus.’ But they locked the doors, and inside, people were working.”

Anil went on to reveal that when the hue and cry began, the factory in which he worked for about £5 an hour actually speeded up production, running the machines till six in the morning and forcing people to work all night in unsanitary conditions, with rats and mice scurrying across the floor. No hand sanitiser was provided and there was no soap in the gents’ toilet.

Other whistleblowers told the paper that sweatshop bosses even confiscated workers’ employment or identity documents, thereby preventing them from seeking alternative employment.

The reality is that the gangmasters and sweatshop bosses will continue to dodge the rubber-toothed regulators so long as fashion retailers provide a lucrative market for the cheap-labour commodities they produce. And as cut-throat competition between rival retailers hots up, the pressure to push down labour costs is inexorable, guaranteeing the survival by hook or by crook of the cheap-labour forcing houses.

As a GLAA official told the newspaper, factories are just planning to ride out the storm. “You’ve got people exploiting people, thinking: give this a couple of weeks and it’ll blow over. The message will be: ‘Keep your heads down.’”

Posted in Human Rights, UKComments Off on Leicester sweatshops keep their heads down despite covid panic

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