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Volume 50 Number 40, November 7, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Teachers' Concerns Both over Safe Conditions and over the Future of Education

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

Teachers' Concerns Both over Safe Conditions and over the Future of Education

For Your Information:
Close Schools in National Lockdown

Care Homes and Covid-19:
Irresponsibility of Government Instructions to Discharge Covid Patients into Care Homes

Underlining the Necessity for People's Empowerment and Democratic Renewal:
The Suspension of Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party

Black History Month:
Parliamentary Debate on Black History Month

The Mitting Inquiry into Undercover Policing:
Opening of the Undercover Policing Inquiry

Responses to the US Election:
ONLINE MEETING - What Now for Cuba?


Teachers' Concerns Both over Safe Conditions and over the Future of Education

The government is posing a binary dilemma for teachers in the lockdown, and generally during the Covid-19 pandemic, in a form of blackmail: either you keep schools open and jeopardise your health, or you close the schools and jeopardise the children's education.

This cannot be how the issue poses itself. The government is posing it in this way, saying there is a "moral duty" to keep schools open, because they are keeping the teachers and their views out of the equation, while it is the teachers who are doing everything in their power to take care of the children's education and maintain a safe environment. Compounding the problem is a lack of resources, both human and material, with many schools declaring a freeze on recruitment when the opposite is what is required. Enormous loads are being placed on the teachers, which the government refuses to recognise, or simply pays lip-service to. Even then, teachers are not regarded as front-line workers by the government. Instead, the rhetoric argues that teachers are just the unfortunate sacrificial lambs on the altar of the economy, and that "needs must". At the same time, schools do not have access to the funds required to completely guarantee a safe environment, not to mention IT equipment for staff and children. In many cases, teachers are dipping into their own pockets to provide hand sanitisers and the like.

It is true that the majority of teachers do not favour full school lockdowns. But this concern is taken out of context by the government. Of course, teachers love education and do care passionately for the future of the children. But as time goes by, more and more teachers are concerned over the safety issues, over the impossibility of being able to fulfil the government's guidelines, and of the refusal of the government to acknowledge the danger of schools as spreaders of the coronavirus.

Schools are assiduously maintaining the class and year group "bubbles" of the children. However, most staff teach a number or all of the different age groups and travel between these "bubbles" on a daily basis. Therefore, with growing evidence that schools are facilitating the spreading of the virus, the health of teachers is being compromised by these contradictory arrangements. In turn, this compromises the health of the whole society as staff and children spread the virus throughout the school, and then go home to their families. Furthermore, what is missing in the guidance is any provision for equipment for carrying out testing for coronavirus in schools or indeed the resources to cover this. Instead, teachers are being left to test themselves, and on an individual basis rather than as the school's responsibility. This is compromising the health of everyone concerned.

And there is no method of teachers holding the government accountable for its stand. When the teachers speak out through their teaching unions and on their own behalf, the government poses the issue as a conflict between concerned educationalists, which the government is supposed to be following, and the teaching unions, which are cast in the role of a special interest group, interested in their "members" and not society at large. This is far from the case.

Indeed, the situation brings into focus the whole question of the future of education and what society demands of schooling. The pernicious influence of "deliverology" is present, as evidenced in the rolling out of league tables, even within these constrained Covid times, of success or failure of the children's progress and development measured purely and only by exam results, of a conception of getting on in the world which is based on grasping opportunities and fending for oneself, and a complete absence of any real care or discussion as to how schools might change their approach at this time to look after the well-being of the young people in the teachers' care. What is education if it takes no account of all aspects needed for the healthy development of children and young people?

As in the health service, the influence of a corporate-led direction guiding priorities is felt. In contrast, the teachers aspire to cast themselves as the decision-making authority, and put the welfare of all above the privilege of a few.

As a further stressful and complicating factor, the government has decreed that as from October 22, schools have a legal requirement to provide equal education to pupils both at school and those forced to remain home due to the coronavirus, offering the so-called "blended learning" that teachers have come to dread. There are ways to provide online teaching and resources for children and ones that would be effective during this pandemic. However, they require enormous resources and funding, and the employment of many more teachers who can devote themselves to the online teaching whilst those who are delivering the "live" lessons in the schools can properly focus on their teaching.

Solutions suggested by the teachers and their unions have received short shrift from the government. They are regarded simply as "stakeholders", rather than thinking people voicing their concerns and solutions. For example, chair of the Commons Education Select Committee Robert Halfon said that closing schools would "damage children's life chances". No account is taken of the alienating conditions.

How can this be overcome? The way forward rests in teachers continuing to interact to discuss and work out solutions for themselves. Teachers are best placed to decide what is needed at this time, and their views and solutions need to be taken account of. This is the new perspective in which the initiative of the teachers is released rather than being suppressed. And they need to be given the space and time in which to operate. It is the case that right now teachers' proposals must be at the centre of the solutions not only to the health and safety issues but to the education issues also, taking account of and summing up their experience. And more teachers are needed to handle the crisis. This is how teachers can exhibit their responsibility and concerns as against the irresponsibility and arrogance of the government.

Proposals of Teaching Unions

The National Education Union (NEU) has called for schools to be closed to all but the most vulnerable pupils and the children of keyworkers during the lockdown.

The union has pointed to Office for National Statistics data, which shows that 1 per cent of primary school-age pupils and 2 per cent of secondary school-age pupils have the virus, with older teenagers. The ONS has warned that infection rates "appear to be steeply increasing among secondary school children".

The NEU's campaign has, it is reported, the backing of 150,000 teachers and support staff who called on the government to include schools and colleges in the November lockdown in England.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, told the BBC's World At One that the union is being led by the science. She said: "There's a real problem particularly with secondary schools now. If you look at the ONS data [it shows] the age range of 11 to 18, the rate of infection is now 50 times what it was on the first of September. It's the fastest growing increase in [infection] rate of Covid of any age group. On current trajectory that rate will double every two weeks."

She said in a month's time the infection rate in secondary schools will be eight percent. "This is a government which is very good at doing too little too late. We are arguing schools take part in this four week lockdown, and we use that time to create much better conditions for stable education. The reality is for our most deprived pupils, in the most deprived areas of the country, they are not getting into schools."

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has called for the government to rapidly update guidance, particularly on what teachers should do if they are clinically vulnerable and are now being advised to work from home.

A union source said: "It is right to prioritise keeping pupils in school. No-one is more committed to ensuring that children do not lose out during this time than those that have dedicated their working lives to education. Neither though does anyone want to see pupils or staff put in harm's way. We are particularly concerned that, once again, there is considerable ambiguity about whether it is safe for those who are clinically vulnerable or extremely vulnerable to continue to work in a school. The government can back schools by confirming full reimbursement of Covid costs, the continued suspension of routine inspection in January, cancellation of statutory testing and clarification on arrangements for awarding GCSE, AS and A-levels in summer 2021."

The NEU has introduced an app for teachers to voice their concerns. Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU alongside Mary Bousted, said: "For as long as schools and colleges remain open, they have to be as safe a working and learning environment as possible. Our new app allows reps to keep a real-time record of concerns and the progress of efforts to tackle them. Most problems can be resolved at school or college level, but when they are not, the NEU Escalation App will enable members to quickly seek outside help."

Unite the Union, the National Education Union (NEU) and NASUWT threatened to put forward pathways for possible strike action or tell members to refuse to work if schools do not have adequate safety measures. Unite, which represents school support staff and nurses, has warned today that if safety concerns are identified, it will be telling its members to exercise their legal right to withdraw their work until proper safeguards are implemented. The union also issued a list of measures that were needed to keep schools safe over lockdown, including funding for personal protective equipment, regular risk assessments, proper access to testing and full pay for self-isolating staff.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: "It is vitally important that children are able to access education but if schools are to stay open, then all workers, including support staff and nurses, must be fully protected at all times. Unite will not tolerate the health of our members being compromised and if there is an immediate threat to their well-being we will instruct them to withdraw from work... The bottom line is that the safety of the whole school community, children, their families and staff must not be compromised."

NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roache warned of the risks to staff after concerns were raised about the enforcement of safety rules and said the union "will not hesitate to take appropriate action" if problems were not resolved. He said: "It is reckless for the government to assume that the publication of national guidance is sufficient to ensure that schools and colleges remain safe whilst the rates of coronavirus transmission in the wider community continue to escalate."

He added: "Fewer than one in five education settings have been contacted by telephone by the Health and Safety Executive and fewer than 300 of 23,000 schools have been visited by the HSE since the start of September. This is simply not good enough... The NASUWT will not hesitate to take appropriate action in order to protect members whose safety is put at risk as a result of the failure of employers or the government to ensure safe working conditions in schools and colleges."

Justifiable Safety Concerns

According to the NASUWT, more than one in three teachers (36%) reported that their schools had not updated or reviewed their Covid-19 risk assessments since the start of the autumn term. In addition, 38% of teachers said that they had not been consulted on any revisions to their employer's risk assessments. More than two thirds (68%) said they did not know if their school plans to update its risk assessment and nearly a third (29%) said their school does plan to update it. More than a quarter of teachers (27%) said appropriate measures had not been put in place in their schools to ensure adequate ventilation in classrooms.

NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: "In light of the widespread evidence of increased Covid-19 transmission levels in schools and colleges, employers have a duty to review and update regularly their Covid-19 risk assessments and control measures. Despite the latest government guidance which makes clear that employers should now take steps to maximise control measures in place, the government now needs to confirm how it will ensure that employers take all the steps necessary to limit the spread of Covid-19.

"The government must take tough action against those school and college employers that breach health and safety requirements or guidelines.

"The publication of new advice by the government will not be enough to prevent the continued spread of the virus in primary, secondary and special schools or in colleges. Fewer than one in five education settings have been contacted as part of the Health and Safety Executive's spot checks and only 200 schools have been visited by the HSE since the start of September. This is simply not good enough. More needs to be done to secure public confidence and to provide reassurance to teachers and other staff who are working hard to support children's learning and well-being during the pandemic.

"Employers cannot continue to keep schools and colleges open on the basis of outdated risk assessments that were produced when Covid-19 transmission levels were significantly lower."

NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: "The government have issued important guidance less than eight hours before national lockdown measures come into force, putting schools into a very difficult position. The NASUWT has been calling for guidance and other measures to keep staff and pupils safe during what is an unprecedented time for schools.

"Ministers now need to go further and issue more robust measures to protect all staff, including clinically vulnerable, pregnant, disabled and BAME teachers. There is widespread evidence of rising Covid-19 transmissions within schools and colleges which need to be tackled as part of a credible national plan from the government to ensure the safety of staff and pupils.

"If ministers are to secure the trust of parents and staff throughout the autumn and winter, they must come forward urgently in the coming days with a robust and comprehensive plan to ensure that all schools and colleges are safe whilst they remain open to all children and young people."

NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: "With grating familiarity, the government has once again delivered new guidance to schools at the eleventh hour. The growth of virus cases in secondary schools is shocking, with cases 50 times higher on October 23 than at the start of September. Cases were also nine times higher in primary schools. The virus levels are leading to many children being sent home as bubbles close.

"Clearly the government needs to find ways to break transmission networks in schools and colleges. It must prioritise schools for access to rapid turnaround tests like those being trialled in Liverpool, and should be making plans for secondary schools and sixth form colleges to move to a rota operation where children are taught every lesson but are at home some of the time.

"It is absolutely right for the government to say that clinically extremely vulnerable staff and students should be working at home. Requiring face coverings when moving around secondary schools is welcome, but their use more widely must be considered and other measures must be taken on social distancing. Much more needs to be done to make schools and colleges safe.

"We cannot afford this government's constant slow responses. The opportunity for a circuit-break at half term was squandered. Now we have this second lockdown, which will not work if schools and colleges stay open without the safety measures needed to prevent the steady rise in cases which ultimately spreads to the wider community. We need more extensive solutions and in particular a plan for rota operations after we emerge from this late lockdown."

Article Index



For Your Information

Close Schools in National Lockdown

NEU calls for schools and colleges to be closed during four-week national lockdown


NEU joint General Secretaries Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted

Regarding the four-week lockdown announced by the Prime Minister, the National Education Union called for schools and colleges to be included in any such lockdown - and for rotas to be introduced at the end of the lockdown period. The NEU says that schools should remain open to the children of key workers and vulnerable children during such a general closure period.

Pointing to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics [1], Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

"It is clear from ONS data that schools are an engine for virus transmission. It would be self-defeating for the government to impose a national lockdown, whilst ignoring the role of schools as a major contributor to the spread of the virus.

"Such a lockdown would impose pain on the whole community - but not be as effective as it could be if schools were included. Ignoring the role of schools and colleges in the spread of the virus is likely to lead to the need for even longer lockdowns in future.

"The latest figures from the ONS estimate that 1% of primary pupils and 2% of secondary pupils have the virus and that these levels have increased dramatically since wider opening in September. NEU analysis of ONS figures shows that virus levels are now nine times higher amongst primary pupils and an astonishing 50 times higher amongst secondary pupils.

"The National Education Union called for a two week circuit break over half term to include schools, which the Wales government and the Northern Ireland assembly have done - but the government in Westminster has ignored this call. More severe measures are now called for as a result, the government should not make this mistake again.

"The government should include all schools in proposals for an immediate national lockdown and as a minimum be preparing for school rotas at the end of that period, including by actually meeting its promise to deliver broadband and equipment to those children who do not have them.

"It is also vital that the government ensure proper financial support for all those affected by lockdown including crucial supply teachers and other staff."

(31-10-2020)


Note

1. Latest ONS figures at time of going to press are available at:
https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19infectionsurveypilot/6november2020

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Care Homes and Covid-19

Irresponsibility of Government Instructions to Discharge Covid Patients into Care Homes

The experience of those involved in the health workers' movement, in the campaigns to save and protect services, shows that the government and many of the health and local authorities have been unwilling to learn the lessons of discharging Covid-19 patients into care homes.

On October 27, it was reported [1] that Reading Council had refused such a government request. Councillor Tony Jones, the council's lead member for Adult Social Care, announced the decision. He said: "Reading Council will not be complying with the government instruction to identify care homes where Covid-19 positive patients can be discharged from hospital. We fundamentally disagree that this is the best approach for those patients or, indeed, for existing care home residents."

Tom Surrey, Director for Adult Social Care Quality at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had sent a letter as late as October 21 to all directors of adult services saying that "anyone with a Covid-19 positive test result being discharged into or back into a registered care home setting must be discharged into appropriate designated setting (i.e. that has the policies, procedures, equipment and training in place to maintain infection control and support the care needs of residents) and cared for there for the remainder of the required isolation period." [2] The deadline for every local authority to have access to at least one CQC designated accommodation was the end of October, only nine days later.

In a reply to the DHSC, Reading Council [3] expressed its disappointment at the request to local councils. The letter, signed by Seona Douglas, Reading Borough Council's executive director for Social Care and Health, alongside other adult social care directors, states: "In Berkshire West we consider that it is not acceptable to ask care homes to take new admission patients who are tested positive for Covid-19 and are potentially infectious. This is based on our experiences earlier in the pandemic, which have left many care settings very worn down with the impact that this has had for the residents and their families, some suffering significantly. Many of our care homes would struggle to convert their premises to accommodate safely such patients without this affecting others, despite the measures many have put in place to manage the risks."

The letter goes on to say: "The 'Home First' principle is embedded in our system as the most appropriate way to encourage independence and well-being for our residents, hence we wish to consider alternatives to those proposed in your letters in order to manage Covid-19 positive discharges." The council's Home First policy enables patients to return home with a tailored package of "wrap around" support and re-ablement. Reading Borough council says it will, along with West Berkshire Council and Wokingham Borough Council, work with health partners on the basis of the Home First principle.

Reading Council's is far from being an isolated opinion. For example, at the May Board meeting of the South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group, Paul Cuskin, a lay member of the board, whilst acknowledging the statistics presented, put forward that warranted conclusions must be drawn from analysing these trends, rather than simply following what are said to be the national guidelines. He said that "the care workers were doing extraordinary things in coping with patients going into care homes and that was at the cost of 'protecting the NHS', which is in my opinion a flawed strategy, because if you have 70% capacity free in the NHS and the mantra is to discharge people into care homes, who have got Covid, or who are asymptomatic then shouldn't we be using those facilities such as the Nightingale Hospital which has capacity to be utilised to help these individuals convalesce and recover from Covid. The issue I have is we put the most poorly people among the most vulnerable in societ y."

Similarly, in another area where the same questions were put to the council, the response admitted that, while untested patients were discharged into the care homes, "however, the practice occurred in many care homes within England, up until the government declared on April 15, 2020, that all service users would be tested for coronavirus, prior to being discharged from hospital to care homes (but that they must self isolate for 14 days on admission)". It has to be recognised that the April government guidelines still meant no actual change in the practice of discharging patients. As one care home nurse put it: "Many patients are confused on admission and sometimes acutely, due to and infection, or chronically due to dementia and it is not possible to stop them wandering. Also, many elderly patients become anxious and depressed when isolated which makes them more vulnerable to illness and this can often cause confusion and indeed that is what happened, all helping to spread the viru s among the patients in our care home." The outcome has been disastrous.

For instance, Amnesty International director Kate Allen said: "The discharge of Covid-19 patients into care homes full of vulnerable residents is widely regarded as one of the biggest and most devastating mistakes of the government's handling of the pandemic. Yet the same deadly policy is being pursued despite the knowledge of how disastrous it was."

In the case of Reading, care home providers and care leaders have also said that they are "highly concerned" about the scheme and are calling for "more clarity", and this is true for care home providers and care leaders in general [3]. But the government has not thought to consult at all with the health and care workers, or their trade unions, on what is the best way forward, even given the fact that the government was fully aware of the position in April. They were unwilling and unable then to make changes to the privatised and capital-centred system in health and social care, which has reduced bed capacity and human resources in health and social care to such a disastrous level that they focused on "protecting the NHS" rather than the welfare of all the people, the NHS and social care staff and the vulnerable in this pandemic. In this case, "protecting the NHS" means that the crisis of health care is such that the NHS is struggling not to be overwhelmed by the pandemic.

Since May, the government has continued down its criminal and arrogant path that does not admit the need to learn these lessons, or even to claim to be dealing with them itself. There have been no major statements from Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, even in face of the condemnation by Amnesty International UK in its Report As If Expendable on October 4 [4]. The top-down instructions, issued in the name of the DHSC rather than directly from the government, appears to be a last-minute attempt to deflect the blame onto the health and local authorities, when it is the government and state that are responsible.

Many things are being revealed about our society as a result of the Covid pandemic, such as the fact that the old normal of a corporate-led health and privatised social care system attempts to wreck the outlook of the health workers and people and attempts to stop them being involved in sorting out the difficult problems to be solved. The elite then demands that everyone follow their system, a system that cannot sort out the problems and has such disastrous consequences for the people. People speaking out and acting in their own name against such criminal negligence is a starting-point in bringing into being a new human-centred system of health and social care.


Notes

1. Reading Council had refused government request to send Covid patients into care homes - The Reading Chronicle
https://www.readingchronicle.co.uk/news/18825076.reading-council-refuses-government-request-send-covid-patients-care-homes/

2. Winter discharges: designated settings
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/designated-premises-scheme-letter-to-directors-of-adult-social-services/winter-discharges-designated-settings

3. Carehome.co.uk - Sue Learner
https://www.carehome.co.uk/news/article.cfm/id/1635984/reading-council-government-request-covid-patients-care-homes
4. Amnesty Report - As if Expendable: Report on the Government's Shockingly Irresponsible Decisions Which Abandoned Care Home Residents to Die
http://www.rcpbml.org.uk/wwie-20/ww20-38/ww20-38-03.htm

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Underlining the Necessity for People's Empowerment and Democratic Renewal

The Suspension of Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party


Jeremy Corbyn speaking against the warmongers. Corbyn is particularly well-known in the anti-war movement - not least as chair of the Stop the War Coalition from 2011 to 2015

Jeremy Corbyn was suspended from the Labour Party on October 29 by General Secretary David Evans. The reason given was that of failing to retract his reaction to a recent report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). This report alleged that the Labour Party under Corbyn's leadership had breached the 2010 Equality Act through a combination of "inappropriate involvement" and harassment in complaints procedures relating to antisemitism, and inadequate training provision for those handling the complaints. Corbyn was suspended, it was said, for refusing to accept all the EHRC report's conclusions and for claiming that "the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents". In response, Corbyn declared his intention to "strongly contest the political intervention to suspend" him.

Corbyn's response to the report read: "Anyone claiming there is no antisemitism in the Labour Party is wrong... Jewish members of our party and the wider community were right to expect us to deal with it, and I regret that it took longer to deliver that change than it should. One antisemite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media. That combination hurt Jewish people and must never be repeated. My sincere hope is that relations with Jewish communities can be rebuilt and those fears overcome. While I do not accept all of its findings, I trust its recommendations will be swiftly implemented to help move on from this period."

Aiming at Corbyn, current Labour Leader Keir Starmer stated: "If you're antisemitic, you should be nowhere near this party... And if after all the pain, all the grief, and all the evidence in this report, there are still those who think... it's all exaggerated, or a factional attack... you are part of the problem too. And you should be nowhere near the Labour Party either."

A joint statement made on October 31 by the general secretaries of the Labour-affiliated unions ASLEF, BFAWU CWU, FBU, NUM, TSSA and Unite condemned the suspension as "ill-advised and unjust".

Turning truth on its head


Jeremy Corbyn speaking in Falmouth

Any insinuation that attempts to implicate Jeremy Corbyn with antisemitism turns truth on its head. All along the line, he has stood in favour of the rights of all, from an anti-fascist organiser in the seventies to a prominent anti-war campaigner in the present [1].

Not only did he clearly stand against austerity, but also his election represented the growing demand for a new kind of politics. His own campaign stressed the need for fundamental change of approach to politics expressed in the call at that time to build a social movement consistent with the right of the electorate to participate in political affairs, to elect and be elected, for their will to be transformed into the legal will through a political system that serves their interests. This was reflected in Corbyn's campaign slogan for a new "people powered politics".

Consistent with these features of Corbyn's platform was his characteristic readiness to take a stand on the important problems facing society, rather than follow the path of expediency or the outlook that the ends justify the means that characterises the neo-liberal consensus.

In short, what Corbyn represented was an aspiration to break from the cartel-party system, albeit incomplete and unrealised. Implicit in his vision was that people, not parties, should capture political power. This vision was necessarily compromised in the conditions in which Corbyn was operating, but even the slightest hint of that vision expressing itself in the official Opposition was never going to be acceptable to the ruling elite.

Corbyn's election had captured the imagination of many. The Labour Party experienced a growth in membership unprecedented in recent times, particularly amongst young people, democratic, peace-loving and anti-racist people, who joined the party in the hope of occupying the space that had opened up for discussion on serious issues facing the polity and of turning things around.

When elected, on the first ballot with 59.5% of the vote, he said: "We are a party organically linked together between the unions and party membership and all the affiliated organisations. That is where we get our strength from." The possibility of any space opening for the independent programme of the working class was an equally unacceptable threat to the status quo.

For these reasons, Corbyn has been under constant attack since his Labour leadership election campaign. Furthermore, before leading the Labour Party, Corbyn was particularly well-known in the anti-war movement - not least as chair of the Stop the War Coalition from 2011 to 2015 - an important aspect of which has been to uphold the right to be of the Palestinian people.

In that context, constant allegations have been propagated to associate Corbyn with antisemitism, when nothing could be further from the truth. The progressive movements of which Corbyn is a part and which his leadership of the Labour Party represented have always upheld the rights of all, without exception. The manipulation of the issue of antisemitism to divert and disorient these forces, and to wreck public opinion to block people from forming an independent outlook, is itself abhorrent.

Jewish Voice for Labour, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jewish Socialists' Group, Jewdas and Independent Jewish Voices have all rejected the charge of antisemitism, and in February last year, two hundred Jewish Labour Party members and supporters praised Corbyn's consistent support for "initiatives against antisemitism".

The Vision for the Future

The issue goes beyond Corbyn and the Labour Party. The Big Lie technique is in operation to paint the "hard left" as an extreme, equivalent to the "far right", equated in every way including antisemitism. The "centre ground", meanwhile, is identified with the neo-liberal status quo. But this official centre ground so defined is in total crisis, and increasingly overtly dictatorial, reorganising the state around rule via police powers, governed by a small clique wielding those powers, and criminalising all thought that is opposed to an official way of thinking.

Such allegations have been used to generate an atmosphere of hysteria in a generalised campaign to discredit and sow division amongst the progressive movements, to cover the reality that the so-called centre is itself in essence of the extreme right, where everything is put in the service of the most powerful monopolies. The burden of the economic crisis is shifted onto the working population through austerity measures and rights are not recognised. People are denied a say in these most important matters that affect their lives, such as the direction of the economy, while political problems are made problems of law and order. Police are given further powers to act with impunity under the spurious theory of balancing rights against security, as opposed to the modern conception that security lies in the defence of the rights of all. Legislation is passed that violates the right to conscience and attempts to establish an official set of "British values" around the notion that all should line up behind national-chauvinistic aims, aims which are increasingly pursued through intervention and war.

Jeremy Corbyn was seen to represent opposition to this direction.

Under the banner of returning Labour to electability and making it a "broad church", Keir Starmer represents the return to cartel-party politics. To this end, it is not enough that Corbyn be defeated. Corbyn was never to be permitted to assume the role of Prime Minister, and all he upheld was blocked at every turn. No alternative is permitted within the present arrangements. Now that he has been removed, all vestiges of his legacy are to be eradicated, and his character itself is to be slandered, all with the aim of preventing such a phenomenon as Corbyn from ever appearing again. The ultimately futile aim is to wipe thought of an alternative from the minds of the party and the public at large.

The forces of the establishment would seek to expunge the Labour Party of all elements that strive for the New. It is to remain a party firmly of the Old, a cartel party that acts as part of the arrangements of state and acts as a gatekeeper barring people from decision-making power.

Further, the clearing out of the Labour Party is part of clearing out the opposition in parliament, ensuring that there are no representatives of the people in parliament.

These attacks on Corbyn and his supporters expose the whole party system. They serve to underline how people cannot put their faith into some other force, but must rely on building their own forms of organisation to enable them to speak and act in their own name, that confers authority to themselves directly as they strive for empowerment and democratic renewal. Try as it might, the ruling elite cannot kill off this vision.


Note

1. For example, Corbyn organised a demonstration against a 1970s National Front march through Wood Green; spoke on the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, noting that his mother was a protester signed numerous early day motions condemning antisemitism; in 1987, campaigned to reverse Islington Council's decision to grant the planning application to destroy a Jewish cemetery; and in 2010, called on the UK government to facilitate the settlement of Yemeni Jews in Britain. He also took part in a ceremony in his Islington constituency to commemorate the original site of the North London Synagogue and visited the Theresienstadt Ghetto, calling it a reminder of the dangers of far-right politics, antisemitism and racism. (Source: Wikipedia.)

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Black History Month

Parliamentary Debate on Black History Month


In Bristol on June 7, the statue of Edward Colston was torn down by protesters and thrown in the harbour. Colston was a notorious human trafficker in the late 17th century who was associated with Bristol, one of the main ports connected with trans-Atlantic trade in enslaved Africans.

This year witnessed an unprecedented upsurge of opposition to racism and Eurocentrism in all forms, in what was popularly known as the Black Lives Matter movement. Initially horrified by the police killing of George Floyd and other events in the US, throughout the country people of all nationalities demanded an end to state racism and police violence in Britain too, an end to all forms of inequality, as well as an end to the public glorification of slavery and colonialism and those who carried out crimes against humanity. However, in the face of this unprecedented upsurge, the government has continued to resist the call of the times and set itself against any meaningful change. It has made attempts to criminalise those who protested earlier in the year, demanded that museums should respond negatively to public demands for change and the removal of statues glorifying crimes against humanity, attacked those who it labels as seeking to "rewrite" history, while at the same time attempt ing to sow confusion about the nature and source of racism and inequality in society. In addition, it has recently demanded that schools should follow government directives as to how they teach certain subjects. The government has declared that schools should refrain from using teaching resources from organisations which, it is asserted, "take extreme political stances" including "a publicly-stated desire to abolish" capitalism.

The partisan political approach of the government was most notably displayed during the recent "Black History Month" debate in parliament, although it was also very clear that history was being presented in a partisan way by many of those MPs who spoke. Although there was often reference to the BLM movement by those who opposed it, or claimed to support it, there was little that addressed the source of racism in society, nor the solution to the other widening inequalities in society.
The History of African and Caribbean Communities in Britain is the only children's book on African & Caribbean people in Britain. It has been subject to resistance to publication since its first publication in 1995. Now being reprinted after a campaign this year led by Tayo Aluko, Writer & Actor Member, Black and Asian Studies Association.
There is ample evidence that problems find their source in the capital-centred system and an economy geared to paying the rich, as well as the fact that the people are disempowered from exercising any meaningful decision-making in society. Much of the debate centred on how history is taught in schools, a debate which has been ongoing for many decades, whichever government is in office. However, the demand for a modern education system, which, in terms of its curriculum and other characteristics, places the people's needs in first place, has never been brought about by debates in parliament. Rather it has advanced by the struggles of educationalists, parents, students and all those concerned organising themselves to make advances. This important history was conveniently ignored by those pontificating about such matters in parliament.

Not surprisingly there was often a great ignorance about history in general, parliamentarians mainly championing various historical personalities that they felt might add weight to their own partisan political views. There was also a significant lack of an enlightened outlook on other important questions on display: one MP even went so far as to speak about the existence of "races" in Britain.

During the debate, Kemi Badenoch, the Minister for Equalities, spoke on behalf of the government, stating that it was opposed to the "Black Lives Matter" movement because it was "political", and warning schools not to support it because they had "a statutory duty to be impartial". The Minister went further, maintaining that any school "that promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police," which the government finds objectionable, "without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law." The Minister also accused those who "campaign against racial inequality" of importing "a narrative and assumptions" from the United States. However, it appeared that her own attack on various dubious theories that originate in the United States was simply importing an approach most recently adopted by the president of that country, who has also attempted to attack the entire movement for the rights of all by focusing on those who allegedly preach "divisive conce pts" and "race and sex stereotyping". By such means the governments of both countries attempt to divert attention from people's demands that Eurocentrism and racism in all the forms perpetuated by the state must be brought to an end, whether in the education system, asylum and immigration acts, police violence, attacks on the rights of citizens as witnessed recently during the so-called Windrush scandal, the glorification of slavery and colonialism, or the disproportionate effects of Covid-19. What is being demanded is that the entire economic and political system which has given rise to such features in society must be brought to an end, as contrary to the needs of the people, and an anachronism completely out of place in the 21st century.

The parliamentary debate on Black History Month has mainly been commented on because of the government's assertion that teachers and schools might be accused of breaking the law for their teaching methods and the content of the curriculum. However, the debate itself, the first in five years, was clearly the result of the demands raised by the masses of the people in the unprecedented upsurge that occurred throughout the country. What is required is that this struggle for a new world is further developed, with the clear orientation that it is the people themselves who must continue to develop the forms of struggle, the outlook and the mechanisms necessary to end racism and all forms of inequality. What is required is a struggle to defend the right of all and bring about the empowerment of the people.

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The Mitting Inquiry into Undercover Policing

Opening of the Undercover Policing Inquiry

The Mitting Inquiry into Undercover Policing, commonly known as the #spycops inquiry, began its proceedings on November 2. [1] The opening session will be a three week set of hearings, divided into two parts. The first half will be the presentation of Opening Statements from the core participants. The second will be the start of the actual hearing of evidence. The Inquiry will examine the actions of around 140 undercover officers who acted as activists in political groups since 1968. These first hearings cover the earliest period, from 1968-72.

Workers' Weekly will report on the Inquiry in future issues.

A full daily summary of the proceedings can be found on the website of the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS), at http://campaignopposingpolicesurveillance.com/

Under the heading "Statement from Victims" as of October 30, the COPS website carried this statement, supported by 85 non-state core participants in the Undercover Policing Inquiry:

Ahead of the Undercover Policing Inquiry hearings beginning next week, many people are dismayed by the Inquiry's prioritising of the protection of perpetrators' privacy above the right of victims and the public to know the truth. There seems to be little hope of the Inquiry providing the level of transparency and accountability that we all deserve.

A significant proportion of the 200 victims designated as core participants have signed this general statement on the issue of undercover political policing, calling attention back on to the key issues:


1. In 1968, following huge demonstrations in London's Grosvenor Square (and around the world) against the widely-condemned Vietnam War, British police set up a Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) to monitor and undermine such street protests.

Since that time, over 1,000 groups campaigning in the UK for a better society and better world have been systematically spied upon, infiltrated, or otherwise targeted by secret and unaccountable political police units.

2. This targeting has included over 140 highly paid police spies living long term as 'activists' engaging in the everyday activities of groups and campaigns for equality and justice, for environmental protection, for community and trade union empowerment, and for international solidarity; for rights for women, black and ethnic minorities, workers, LGBTQ people, and for animals; and also targeting those campaigning against war, racism, sexism, corporate power, legal repression, and police oppression and brutality.

Such groups and movements have comprised many millions of people throughout the UK who want to make the world better, fairer and more sustainable for everyone. Thanks to their efforts, many of the ideas spread by such groups have now become mainstream opinion and some campaigns and rights sought eventually resulted in legal and other formal recognition by society.

3. Yet it appears that almost any group that stood up to make a positive difference in questioning or challenging the establishment has been or could have potentially been considered a legitimate target by the UK's secret political policing units. Any claims that the UK police are a non-political institution are therefore clearly incorrect.


Police spies out of our lives

4. These secret policing activities went far beyond investigating what was said in meetings. Individuals within or associated with those campaign groups - most of which had an open membership and active involvement based on trust and co-operation - were subjected to intrusions into their personal lives. Thousands of fake 'friendships' were developed, exploited and abused by secret police who continuously lied for their own political ends. Many people, especially women, were deceived into intimate and abusive relationships.

Children have been fathered then abandoned, and the identities of deceased children stolen to provide 'cover' names. Police spies took part in and actively influenced groups and activities, and there have been very many arrests and victims of miscarriages of justice as a result. Family campaigns, people seeking justice for loved ones killed by police, were deliberately undermined by these units.

5. To bug a phone is recognised as a controversial breach of someone's human rights and so police have to apply for a warrant. We're generally opposed to that and note the public outrage over the phone-hacking scandal a few years ago. However, to hack people's LIVES is infinitely worse and should be totally unacceptable to everyone.

6. Much of the State response to public anger over these tactics has been to present the spying and the abuses that came with it as an aberration, a mistake, or the fault of rogue officers. We disagree. Based on the evidence, this spying was established and conducted with the full sanction of the State and supported by its apparatus and taxpayer funding. As stated by one of the women deceived into a relationship with a police spy, it was not just a single undercover policeman in her bed but also all those who put the officer in the field and supported them there.

7. No decision about all this was taken in isolation. The Government, senior managers and the handlers may have tried to turn a blind eye to the abuses, or deemed them politically 'necessary', but the reality is they were complicit in all of it. They readily accepted the 'intelligence' provided, they funded, tasked and oversaw the spycops units, and they set the agenda and ethos according to which these units operated.

8. This had nothing to do with responding to genuine public concern over any real and imminent serious violent threats to public safety and lives. The groups represented in this Inquiry were not terrorist organisations, but were groups pushing for positive social change in an overwhelmingly public and open way. By targeting these groups the police were demonstrating unacceptable and ongoing institutional discrimination, racism, sexism and anti-democratic action, including industrial-scale breaches of laws and charters that protect basic human rights and the right to protest.

9. Over 100 of the Inquiry's Core Participants summed up the problem here in a previous Collective Statement on 17th October 2017: 'For us, this Inquiry is about political policing to undermine groups and organisations campaigning for a better society and world.'

10. This police bias was clearly sanctioned at the highest level. We know of no effort to show 'balance' by police infiltration or secret targeting of powerful establishment bodies to investigate their crimes and threats to social peace and society.

Such organisations not targeted include greedy and unethical financial corporations, tax-avoiding hedge funds, military elites and their development of weapons of mass destruction, and power-mad establishment political parties. This is despite their continuous and widespread promotion of systematic institutional violence (such as wars, poverty, exploitation of workers, colonialism and environmental destruction) and discrimination on the grounds of race, sex and class, reinforced by Public Relations and manipulation of society for these institutions' own power and profit.

11. Following the exposure of this undercover policing scandal in 2010, it took five years of investigation, publicity and campaigning by victims and survivors of police infiltration, reinforced by police whistleblowers, for the Government to decide to act. Even then it took the shocking revelations that the family and surviving victim and close friend of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence had themselves been targeted by undercover policing.

12. In July 2015 following widespread public outrage, then-Home Secretary Theresa May tasked the current Undercover Policing Public Inquiry with getting to the truth about this scandal and who authorised it, and recommending action to prevent future police wrong-doing.

13. Since then we have had to suffer five more years of police delays and obstruction. These tactics have resulted in a refusal to release most of the names of the 1,000 organisations spied and reported on, refusal to release the names and photos of most of the police spies, and refusal to release most of the relevant documentation generated by political policing units.

Throughout these five years we and other core participants, despite an imbalance in resources and almost zero access to the documentation held by the police for decades, have worked hard to get the information and justice that we and the wider public are entitled to. We have worked hard and remain determined to bring the whole murky secret political policing operation and its unethical, unacceptable practices into the public spotlight where it belongs.

14. This is supposed to be a public inquiry, but it seems more like a police damage-limitation exercise or cover-up. The hearings are not yet publicly-accessible and nor will they be live-streamed, which is the only way to ensure that the millions of members and supporters of the targeted groups and movements have the opportunity to follow the proceedings as they happen.

15. We call for the Inquiry to recommend that police units targeting campaigners seeking a better society should never have been set up, and should be disbanded in their entirety. We call for full transparency, and release of all the names of the groups targeted, all the names of the police spies, and the full political files police have amassed on such campaign groups.

Only in a spirit of openness and transparency can the grievous police crimes of the past be acknowledged, those responsible at all levels be held accountable, and the many victims start to move forward with the answers they have consistently called for - and are entitled to.

16. When the SDS was formed they aimed to undermine the movements they were spying on. But despite the disgusting police tactics employed, movements for positive change to benefit the public good are still here and growing, and have had many successes on the way. Such movements are needed more than ever in order to address the cumulative and deepening crises into which humanity is being plunged by the current system and its policies. A better world is possible and it's up to all of us, whoever we are, to ensure support for - and not the undermining of - such movements for positive change.

We endorse the 13 Recommendations discussed and agreed at the People's Public Inquiry into Secret Political Policing, Conway Hall, London in July 2018:

1. Full disclosure of all names - both cover and real - of officers from the disgraced political police units, accompanied by contemporaneous photographs

2. Release of the names of all groups suspected to have been spied upon

3. Release of all the police's personal files on activists

4. Extension of the inquiry to all countries where the British spycops are known to have operated

5. The appointment of a diverse panel with experience relevant to victims to assist the chair in making decisions and judgements

6. Inclusion of children and young people who had contact with spycops as Core Participants in the Inquiry

7. Urgent and immediate review of convictions where spycops had involvement in the cases and who misled courts - 50 wrongful convictions have already been overturned and this is likely to be a fraction of the true total

8. The Inquiry must extend its scope to understand political policing and its impact on democracy. This must include a thorough investigation into racist, sexist, anti-working class, anti-democratic behaviour on behalf of the spycops and those that instructed them to operate in this manner. Such political policing and political policing units must be abolished

9. An urgent review into all undercover police activities to investigate whether the bad practice exposed by this Inquiry has been extended to other areas of undercover operations

10. Make available the necessary resources of the judge to be able to do their job in the available time

11. Equalising of resources, the police are spending millions on stonewalling the inquiry, victims have almost nothing

12. Increase the severity of penalties for [police] non-compliance with the Inquiry

13. Investigation into collusion between police and corporate spies


Note

1. See also article on police powers and civil society:
http://www.rcpbml.org.uk/wwie-20/ww20-39/ww20-39-01.htm

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Responses to the US Election

ONLINE MEETING - What Now for Cuba?

Cuba Solidarity Campaign

Presidential election: Hear the reaction of Cuba's ambassador to the United States direct from Washington D.C. this Monday 9 November at 6.30pm, UK time (1.30pm EST)

José Ramon Cabanas became the first Cuban ambassador to the US for 50 years in 2015. He began his mission in the US capital in 2012 and has witnessed the détente between the US and Cuba under President Obama and the complete reversal in policy under Donald Trump.

He will discuss the impact of the US election results and what they might mean for the Cuban people on Monday, together with British MPs Paula Barker and Navendu Mishra who will talk about Cuba-UK relations and the Nobel Peace Prize for Cuban medical brigades.

BOOK YOUR TICKETS TODAY [https://www.eventbrite.com/e/responses-to-the-us-election-what-now-for-cuba-tickets-127176236547]

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