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Volume 50 Number 36, September 19, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Pensions Are a Claim on Society, A Hallmark of Caring for the Older Generation

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

Pensions Are a Claim on Society, A Hallmark of Caring for the Older Generation

The Fight to Safeguard Pensions:
Once Again, the State and Courts Attack Women's Rights

Nurses Upsurge Against Pay Injustice:
Support Health Workers in their Ongoing Campaign for Safe Working Conditions and Pay Equality

Workers' Forum:
Serious Concerns with the Reopening of Schools

Justice For Palestine:
Stand with the Palestinian People
Palestine Action Occupy Elbit Systems Company, Again

Made in Cuba:
Soberana - Cuba's Covid-19 Vaccine


Pensions Are a Claim on Society, A Hallmark of Caring for the Older Generation

September 14-18 was Pension Awareness Week, with Pension Awareness Day on September 15. Pensions giant Aegon, a major sponsor, states that the campaign "aims to help the nation get to grips with their retirement savings".

Rather than posed this way as an individual matter of "saving", pensions pose themselves as a claim on the social product by the retired working class necessary for guaranteeing their right to a livelihood. Setting the context this year is an overall attack on pensions, particularly at this time of unfolding crisis precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Aegon itself recently intervened in the uncertainty that has been fostered over the state pension triple lock, which is being threatened with cancellation.

The pension triple lock states that the state pension must increase each year by the whichever is the higher figure that year out of the growth in average earnings, price inflation, or a minimum level of 2.5%.

In May, it was reported that Chancellor Rishi Sunak was considering abandoning the triple lock, in the wake of launching the furlough scheme and various forms of Covid-19 support for individuals, businesses and other enterprises.

However, maintaining the triple lock was promised in the 2019 election manifesto. Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently told the Liaison Committee that the government will stick to its manifesto pledges, while Parliamentary Under Secretary for Pensions Guy Opperman talked around the question, saying that the government is "committed to ensuring that older people are able to live with the dignity and respect they deserve, and the state pension is the foundation of state support for older people".

At the same time, the ruling elite have been using their network of "think tanks" to further press for dropping or suspending the lock next year to prevent a supposedly unreasonably large rise in the state pension.

The prediction of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is that average earnings will fall this year by 7.3% due to the lockdown during the first wave of the pandemic, with a quarter of workforce placed onto furlough. The OBR then predicts that earnings will rise by 18% next year as recovery begins. On the basis of these highly uncertain predictions, the triple lock rules would then mean a rise in the state pension of 2.5% this year, followed by a rise of 18% next year.

Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, told a Treasury select committee meeting on June 9 that the triple lock "was going in its current form, at least temporarily":

"We're not going to increase the state pension by 18% next year. So the triple lock is going in its current form at least temporarily next year, unless [MPs] are considering giving very generous increases to pensioners next year. However, I expect we will not be increasing it by nearly a fifth."

Dr Gemma Tetlow, chief economist at the Institute for Government, said: "The 2.5% rule is in there for the entirely arbitrary reason that some years ago, when inflation and growth was very low, the 2.5% was thrown in to make sure the pension went up by something each year. It does not relate to the costs of living or replacing previous earnings - it is completely arbitrary."

More recently, Aegon has put the case for a "smoothing" of state pension rises over the next two years to even out "artificial distortions".

Speaking in August, the monopoly's pensions director Steven Cameron said: "The state pension triple lock has met its aim of making sure state pensioner incomes have at least kept pace with both inflation increases and earnings growth with a guaranteed underpin of 2.5% each year. But the formula was set in a very different pre-Covid-19 age when price and earnings growth tended to be relatively stable year on year. Blindly following that formula now as we move through and out of the coronavirus crisis with huge distortions to average earnings expected could create bizarre results which were never intended and which would fail any test of intergenerational fairness."

Their proposed formula is that the increase in April 2021 would be based on the current triple lock formula, while that in April 2022 would be given as the triple lock applied over the past two years, minus the 2021 increase.

On the above OBR figures, the current formula would mean a 21% state pension increase over two years. On the Aegon suggestion, that would come down to 11%. Over those same two years, average earnings will have risen by 9.4%, if the OBR predictions come true.

To bring the state pension rise down to the level of the average salary increase is what is meant by "fairness". The aim is to sow intergenerational division and block people from defending the right to a decent state pension.

The reality is that the state pension - at a current maximum level of £175.20 per week - is so low that pensioners who rely upon it for the majority of their income invariably live in poverty. For comparison, a full-time minimum wage job (over the age of 25) pays nearly twice as much at £327 per week.

Closely related to the divisive issue of "fairness" is the idea that rises under the current rules would be "very generous". Completely absent from such talk is any consideration for the impact on senior citizens during the pandemic, which has been especially brutal.

The threat to the state pension triple lock is part of the overall attack on pensions that has been going on for many years, itself part of the all-sided anti-social offensive.

Occupational schemes in the public sector and defined benefit pensions in the private sector have also been under attack, as the shift is made across the economy at large to defined contribution private pensions, which are properly speaking not pensions at all but personal savings plans. In this way, government and businesses wash their hands of responsibility and make provision for retirement an individual matter, a matter of fending for oneself.

From the narrow perspective of the competing private owners of capital, any claims, including pensions, that reduce capitalist profit are labelled costs - costs to be cut regardless of consequences or social responsibility.

Looked at without this capital-centric prejudice, various claims are made on the new value workers produce in the socialised economy: owners of capital claim profits in various forms, the government makes its claim via taxes, and active and retired workers claim wages, benefits and pensions.

Pensions are not a cost. They are claims by retired workers on new value produced by workers over their lifetime.

To be properly called pensions, their funding must be built up out of, and continue to be maintained by, a portion of workers' production of new value. This puts an onus on government and business to ensure this value contribution is made. They cannot be replaced by personal savings plans, which place no such onus, and present the right to a livelihood as if it were a matter of choice.

Pensions must be viewed as a necessary modern social programme, a just claim by workers on the value that they themselves have contributed to producing. As a social programme, pensions should be provided as of right, linked to earnings and with a national standard minimum.

Pensions are a claim on society, a hallmark of caring for the older generation. They cannot be made a private matter of fending for oneself.

Proposals and decisions are being made over the top of those who will be most affected. These decisions violate the rights of people to a decent livelihood in retirement. The triple lock was not some "entirety arbitrary" rule: it has been fought for and defended. Any change being mooted raises the crucial issue of who decides.

The need is to organise in defence of our interests and for decision-making power over the direction of the economy, so that claims on the social product in the form of wages, pensions and social programmes are guaranteed.

Note
See the two articles by Imogen Tew for the FT Adviser:
"Triple lock 'will have to go' as earnings set to jump", June 9, 2020 https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2020/06/09/triple-lock-will-have-to-go-as-earnings-set-to-jump
"'Smoothing triple lock' could solve state pension problem", August 24, 2020 https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2020/08/24/smoothing-triple-lock-could-solve-state-pension-problem

Article Index



The Fight to Safeguard Pensions

Once Again, the State and Courts Attack Women's Rights

The Court of Appeal on the morning of September 15 ruled against the BackTo60 group over pensions. Up until 2010, women received their state pensions at the age of 60, but since that time, the government has been raising the pension age. BackTo60 has been campaigning to have compensation paid to 3.8m women born in the 1950s. The Court of Appeal has now backed a previous High Court judgment and rejected claims that the increase in the state pension age affecting women born in the 1950s was discriminatory.

The senior justices said: "Despite the sympathy that we, like the members of the Divisional Court (High Court), feel for the appellants and other women in their position, we are satisfied that this is not a case where the court can interfere with the decisions taken through the parliamentary process."

They said that "in the light of the extensive evidence" put forward by the government, they agreed with the High Court's assessment that "it is impossible to say that the government's decision to strike the balance where it did - between the need to put state pension provision on a sustainable footing and the recognition of the hardship that could result for those affected by the changes - was manifestly without reasonable foundation".

UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: "For a generation of women, this is nothing short of a disaster. Raising the state pension age with next to no notice has had a calamitous effect on their retirement plans.

"Those on lower incomes have been left in dire straits, struggling to make ends meet with precious little support from the government. It's now time MPs intervened to give them the financial help many so desperately need."

In July, DWP lawyers lost a legal bid to declare the case unlawful. The campaign has been supported by trade unionists who, during the summer, crowd-funded a film to raise money.

Julie Delve and Karen Glynn, the two claimants who originally brought the case, were in court last June when they told a judicial review that when they had not received their state pension at the age of 60, their lives had been affected disproportionately. They argued that when the government had introduced the increase of the pension age, it was discriminatory. The workplace was less equal for many of this generation who were taking time out to raise children, they could not save very much in occupational pensions, so the change has hit them hardest.

The women's judicial review took place in June 2019 but a High Court found against the claimants in October 2019 and the two women have now had their case rejected at the Court of Appeal.

The complementary campaign Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) is preparing for future human rights legal battles in Europe.

Once again women in their long battles for justice must continue with their struggle. Campaigners say their fight is not over. Joanne Welch, founder and director of BackTo60, said she would now consider taking the case to the Supreme Court and would also draft legislation to bring a women's Bill of Rights.

Women are standing firm and with courage and conviction aiming to push forward to a favourable conclusion against the discriminatory ruling and judgement, as part of the fight to safeguard and defends the pensions of all.

Article Index



Nurses Upsurge Against Pay Injustice

Support Health Workers in their Ongoing Campaign for Safe Working Conditions and Pay Equality


Protest march in Brighton

As well as health workers demonstrating their determination to win pay equality with other public service workers, as they did on August 8 and September 12 [1], Unison is taking up a campaign for an across the board £2,000 pay rise for health staff.

The campaign involves health workers, including including nurses, paramedics, cleaners, domestics and porters. The demand is for an early, significant pay rise of at least £2,000 for every worker in the NHS. Staff in Unison branches based in NHS hospitals, ambulance stations and clinics themselves took part in a two-day campaign of action, using social media and participating in socially-distanced events. No matter how much applause that health workers have received for their efforts during the pandemic, the fact is that they are considered as and treated like a cost to the system by the government. This itself is a major factor in causing stress and illness among the health workers, as their voices are raised to demand safe working conditions and a pay level commensurate with their workload and their dignity.


The main London rally began with a silence for health workers who have lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic

Unison's pay claim was delivered to Downing Street last month. It is a claim that every NHS employee receive an increase of at least £2,000 by the end of the year. Now is the time for health workers' worth to be recognised by the government, now is the time for an end to the attack on their rights and livelihoods, and to demand that their experience and expertise be heeded.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: "Infection rates are rising in care homes and out in the wider community, and hospital admissions are on the up. The pressure on staff is beginning to build again, as the NHS tries to open services shut earlier in the year and deal with the backlog of cancelled appointments and operations. That's why now would be the perfect time for the Prime Minister and Chancellor to show they can do more than clap for NHS staff, and demonstrate their appreciation in a much more practical way."

Sara Gorton further pointed out: "Boris Johnson's pie in the sky plans for any time, any place, anywhere 'moonshot' testing would cost a mind-boggling £100bn. An early pay rise for NHS staff would be a tiny fraction of that and would make a huge difference to individuals and the services they help provide. Investing in the NHS and its incredible workforce is a must for the government. It would help the health service tackle the mounting staff shortages that were already causing huge problems even before the virus hit."

Many health workers are also discussing and taking stands against the ongoing privatisation of the NHS. More and more health contracts are being awarded to private sector organisations, taking nursing, medical and other direct health care away from the NHS and putting it into the hands of profit-making companies.

A particular scandal is the Test and Trace system itself. Two private firms, Serco and Sitel, were awarded contacts worth £84m and £108m respectively. The system has proved disastrous and shambolic. It would be farcical if it were not so serious. Yet the contracts for both companies include clauses that would protect the firms from any penalty even if failing targets set by ministers.

Despite including an obligation to deliver a set minimum quality and performance, it adds: "For the avoidance of doubt, service penalties are not applicable." And even in the event of what is described as a "critical service level failure" the companies would be offered a "remedial plan" to allow them to continue. "The performance review meetings and reports shall be used to identify a Critical Service Failure," the contract states. [2]

This insidious privatisation is not helped by the new "Integrated Care System", which fails to address the problems created by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act and the market economy. The long-term threat is obvious - this new mega "Integrated Care System" which spans from Cumbria across to the North East and down to Whitby will prove very attractive to multinational corporations.

The voice of the workers must be heard. Instead, as has been the case in education where the concerns and solutions of teachers, support staff and their unions was ignored and trampled on by the government, health workers are being treated in practice with contempt. This is being further shown by the fact that, in the reckless move to abolish Public Health England (PHE) [3], the creation of a new National Institute for Health Protection that would bring together PHE, NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre under the interim leadership of Baroness Dido Harding, is being undertaken without reference to health unions and professional bodies. [4]

There is ongoing concern among health workers about their jobs and the services they provide, particularly how the safety of staff and patients alike are safeguarded and that their own well-being is looked after. Health workers have made so many sacrifices to provide the best possible health care under the circumstances of the pandemic. They are determined that solutions be implemented that can alleviate the crisis for the benefit of all. Health workers also require the time and space to exchange views on the situation, speak in their own name and assess what can be done to block the attacks on workers and the public and to provide a new direction to the NHS.

Notes


1. On September 12, campaigners in central London, many wearing scrubs or other NHS uniforms, held banners which read "stop clapping, start paying", "priceless yet penniless" and "640 healthcare workers dead, blood on their hands" alongside images of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Demonstrators began a march to Trafalgar Square after a two-minute silence in honour of 640 healthcare workers who have died during the pandemic.
The protest comes after nurses were excluded from the wage increase for around 900,000 public sector workers announced in July because they are in the final year of a three-year agreement. The pay increase does not apply to junior doctors after they agreed a four-year deal last year. Nurses on the march questioned why the government promoted the "clap for carers" events but left them out of the public sector pay rise, despite many of them leading the line in the continuing fight against coronavirus.
Protests calling for a 15% increase in pay for NHS workers were also held in Manchester, Sheffield, Brighton and Bournemouth.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sent his support to "all of our wonderful NHS workers", saying: "NHS staff are absolutely brilliant but have suffered a pay freeze, under-funding and under-staffing. Yet when the coronavirus crisis comes along, they are all there working hours and hours more than they were paid to do - care workers doing exactly the same. Now is the time to pay them properly and secure jobs for the future in the NHS."
Grassroots groups including NHS Workers Say No to Public Sector Pay Inequality, NHS Staff Voices, Keep Our NHS Public campaign, Nurses United UK and Unite Guy's and St Thomas Hospital Branch have backed the protest.
Rachel Harrison, national officer for the GMB union, said: "Loyal and dedicated NHS workers have been let down in the three-year NHS pay deal - which GMB union opposed. Their pay, terms and conditions have been driven down for years. Many staff have worked throughout the coronavirus pandemic and now their efforts need to be recognised with a pay award that reflects their commitment and the real-terms losses they have suffered during a decade of austerity."
Unite the union said that NHS workers should receive a pay rise of 15% or £3,000, whichever is greater. The union said the claim would "restore the pay that NHS workers have lost in the decade of austerity since 2010".
National officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: "Hundreds of health and social care staff have lost their lives in the continuing battle against Covid-19 which has heightened the deep appreciation that the public has for the NHS and those who work in it. This public esteem for NHS workers should be reflected by the government which needs to respond by opening pay discussions, following our claim and those of our sister unions."
(ITV report)

2. Source: Health Service Journal as reported in PoliticsHome

3. See "Government Goes from One Reckless Decision to Another": http://www.rcpbml.org.uk/wwie-20/ww20-32/ww20-32-05.htm

4. Eleven unions and professional bodies representing workers in Public Health England (PHE) have written to Health Secretary Matthew Hancock expressing alarm at the lack of consultation in the creation of new body the National Institute for Health Protection.
The letter says: "We are alarmed by the creation of the National Institute for Health Protection without properly consulting expert staff and without a clear plan for the future of large swathes of PHE."
The letter warns that abolishing PHE and creating a whole new body at this time could distract from vital pandemic work. The letter seeks assurance that workers in PHE will be: "supported at this time and can focus on the vital public health work they are undertaking".
The unions also ask for guarantees on funding and independence: "We urge you to ensure that we have an adequately resourced national public health system (including laboratories) with sufficient capacity, resilience and access to data, research and analysis over the long-term to address all domains of public health effectively."
"We seek a binding commitment to the independence of the National Institute for Health Protection and public health professionals and their vital ability to speak truth to power and to the public at a national, regional and local level."
Finally, the letter seeks commitments from the health secretary that jobs, skills and capacity will be protected, there will be no compulsory redundancies, and that staff will be free to move from PHE into the new body with protected terms of employment.
(Union News report)

Article Index



Workers' Forum

Serious Concerns with the Reopening of Schools

Teachers, support staff and other education workers are facing huge challenges as schools have re-opened. They have been rising to face these challenges with honour, but they are doing so in the face of great difficulties caused by the government's recklessness and irresponsibility. The government is constantly trying to negate the human factor, while the teachers have been doing their utmost to welcome back pupils into a safe environment and act with the utmost social responsibility. They have been obliged to cover for absent teachers, learn new teaching methods with online learning or hybrid teaching, all the time under great strain from the inconsistent and often contradictory "guidelines" handed down from on high. The teachers are in the main holding their heads up high, and are rebutting in action any accusations that their concerns are harming the children's education. We reproduce below some reports of the difficulties and challenges.

NEU accuses Johnson of failing staff, parents and young people on school safety

The National Education Union (NEU) on September 11 accused the Prime Minister of failing staff, parents and young people on school safety.

On the day the Office of National Statistics announced that Covid-19 cases had risen by 60% in the previous week, the union's joint general secretaries have written to Boris Johnson and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson demanding that schools are safe for pupils and staff.

In June, they wrote to Johnson outlining their proposals for an Education Recovery Plan. Britain was at the height of lockdown and the plan provided a route map for safe wider reopening of schools and colleges in September. They did not receive a reply.

Joint general secretaries Kevin Courtney and Dr Mary Bousted said: "Boris Johnson has had three months to get a grip on the practical realities of getting schools and colleges open and keeping them safe. He has failed staff, parents and young people. His wilful disregard for advice offered to him, matched with his regular displays of blind optimism, are an insult to everyone in the community.

"School and college leaders, teachers and other staff are worried about access to tests, with many being advised to travel hundreds of miles to obtain one. This is not a sustainable way of coping with outbreaks. Schools and colleges must have quick access to trace, track and test, and not be continually confronted with obstacles that should have been resolved months ago.

"It is vital government does everything in its power to permit schools and colleges to remain open, for as many young people as possible, for as long as possible.

"We want schools to be open, and to stay open. But we also want them to be safe. Our plan gives the nation the best chance of achieving that aim."

In the letter to Boris Johnson, the NEU highlights the following most critical measures needed to be taken by government to ensure schools and colleges operate as effectively as possible through national, regional or local Covid-19 spikes.

(Union News)

Teachers Say the Testing Crisis Is Already Hitting Schools So Hard They May Have to Close Down

Teachers have described the chaos of the coronavirus testing crisis now hitting schools, with some saying the diffculties caused by those unable to get tests is already so severe they may have to shut their doors.

Testimony sent to the National Association of Headteachers by school staff, seen exclusively by PoliticsHome, has revealed the impact of children and their parents missing up to 10 days of school as they self-isolate after struggling to get tests.

Teachers say they are now having to consider whether to keep schools open as testing options become increasingly limited and people are being directed hundreds of miles from their homes to test centres.

Emily Proffitt, head of Cooper Perry Primary in Staffordshire and who sits on the national executive of the NAHT, told Politics Home: "My big concern is the sporadic nature of learning now. It will be disjointed. We are doing the best we can in a very challenging situation that we have no control over.

"I've had children off for five days as their parents try and get them a test. Another parent came to get their child at the gate and said their dad is presenting symptoms and it doesn't look like they can get a test, so she said I'll just have to see you in two weeks. So a child that's just come back to school, [...] is now missing two weeks.

"I've also got a real concern parents are going to get fed up with this. So far they are brilliant, reporting symptoms and taking their children out of school but if they can't get tests they are obviously missing work as well, so will they send in their children with symptoms?"

She said many children may have coughs and colds which typically happen in the autumn term but she has to suggest parents get their children tested, and added that some of her staff had been able to get tests done over a weekend at the start of the month. She worries that if they cannot be screened in the future they might also be absent because of isolation.

Schools have been issued with ten testing kits from the government but they are only to be used in an absolute emergency and reserved for the most vulnerable children whose parents or carers may not take them for tests.

One head teacher in Birmingham told the union: "I am beginning to need to use my emergency test kits - two given out so far, some schools I have spoken [to] are already down to their final one. I've heard that there is no plan to issue schools with any more.

"As the re-opening of schools relied on the availability of rapid test and trace, I am considering our position on the safety of keeping my school open once I am down to the last few test kits, especially when parents are being directed to Scotland or Oldham currently as their 'nearest test centre'."

A head teacher from a primary school in Northern Ireland told the union that they are now struggling to staff classes.

"One of our teachers presented with symptoms and has still not been tested, two days later. Two of our special needs assistants have also been waiting several days for a test. As they both support very vulnerable pupils, these children are being disadvantaged with learning as we have not been able to employ replacements."

(PoliticsHome)

NAHT, 4 in 5 Schools Have Pupils Isolating Because of Lack of Tests


Paul Whiteman, NAHT General Secretary

Headteachers have reported that pupils at more than four in five schools are isolating because they can't get access to a Covid test.

A survey of 736 school leaders by the leadership union NAHT found that 82 per cent of schools have children currently not attending because they cannot access a test to rule out Covid-19, while 87 per cent have children not in attendance because they are waiting for their test results. Meanwhile, 45 per cent of schools report they have staff currently not at work because they cannot get a test to rule out Covid.

The survey also found that 14 per cent of respondents have had confirmed cases of Covid-19 in their schools since the start of term.

The Financial Times reported that scientists advising the government have proposed a two-week national lockdown in October to coincide with the half-term break.

The number of new confirmed coronavirus cases in England has risen sharply in the past few weeks from less than 2,000 on September 1 to over 3,000 last week.

Paul Whiteman, the NAHT's general secretary, said "chaos is being caused by the inability of staff and families to successfully get tested when they display symptoms".

"Tests for covid-19 need to be readily available for everyone so that pupils and staff who get negative results can get back into school quickly," he added.

Whiteman last week wrote to the Prime Minister with mounting concerns about the impact the lack of access to covid-19 tests is having on schools.

There is growing unrest over the government's handling of a recent spike in demand for tests, which test and trace boss Baroness Harding claimed had been unforeseen.

Schools Week has revealed how a coding glitch caused by the government's "failure" to carry out proper software testing is further hampering attempts to get tests.

The NAHT warned that the lack of testing capacity is also affecting staff - with 45 per cent of schools reporting they had staff currently not at work because they cannot get a test to rule out Covid, and 60 per cent with staff staying home awaiting the results of a test,

Overall, 94 per cent of schools have children who have had to stay at home due to suspected or confirmed cases of covid-19 this term, and 78 per cent have staff who have had to self-isolate at all this term.

The survey also found that when pupils have suspected or confirmed cases of Covid, most schools (70 per cent) have sent home individual pupils only, while only 7 per cent have had to send home whole classes. Five per cent reported sending home whole year groups, and 4 per cent sent home small groups of pupils. Just 0.3 per cent reported having to close their school.

(Schools Week)

Article Index



Justice For Palestine

Stand with the Palestinian People


The Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign organised an action in Brighton's city centre on August 8.

Justice for Palestine! is the demand of people around the world. The resistance of the Palestinian people to colonisation, annexation and occupation and their struggle for justice, return and liberation throughout Palestine, from the river to the sea, has support throughout the world.

The Days of Resistance for Palestine between August 7 and 9, for example, brought together many thousands in support of the Palestinian people and their right to resist.

In London, The Days of Resistance kicked off with a powerful direct action on August 6, organised by new British network Palestine Action at the office of Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems in London. Activists covered the reception area and outside the Elbit offices on the 6th floor in paint, using stencils and spraying graffiti stating "Shut Elbit Down", "Tested on Palestine, used in Kashmir" and "We will be back". They declared, "Your profits are covered in Palestinian blood!" Elbit supplied 85 per cent of the Israeli military's drones used in the bombardment of Gaza in 2014 and markets them to the world based on their "success" in use against Palestinian civilians.


In London, The Days of Resistance kicked off with a powerful direct action on August 6.

"We will not stop, and we will continue to escalate our actions until Elbit Systems' complicity in war crimes and apartheid here in the UK are shut down," Palestine Action organisers declared.

On August 8, Protest for Palestine and Victory to the Intifada organised a demonstration in Kensington as part of the Days of Resistance. Protesters also expressed solidarity and support for fellow liberation struggles, with speakers from the West Papua movement showing solidarity with Palestine and building joint struggle at the protest.


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! protest and stand highlighting solidarity with the Palestinian resistance, especially the Palestinian prisoners in Glasgow.

In Manchester, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! organised a protest and stand highlighting solidarity with the Palestinian resistance, especially the Palestinian prisoners. Activists gathered in Piccadilly Square to distribute information, highlight anti-imperialist struggle and build solidarity with the Palestinian people, including campaigns to boycott complicit British corporations like Marks and Spencer.

In Liverpool, they organised a stand and protest action in a busy area of the city, joining the Days of Resistance with a call for freedom for Palestine and all revolutionary political prisoners around the world. In Glasgow, participants cheered: "Long Live Palestine! Victory to the Intifada! Freedom for all Palestinian political prisoners! Zionism is racism!" They highlighted the cases of Palestinian prisoners, including Ahmad Sa'adat and Georges Ibrahim Abdallah. The action also highlighted the struggle of Irish political prisoners and those being persecuted by British imperialism in Ireland, demanding justice for Liam Campbell, Ciaran Maguire and Zack Smyth.

In Brighton, the Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign organised an action in Brighton's city centre on August 8 for the Days of Resistance. Participants carried massive Palestinian flags and banners declaring: "No Annexation, No Occupation" and "Justice for Palestine". They highlighted the cases of Palestinian political prisoners and human rights defenders jailed by Israel, calling for freedom and justice for Palestine.

Several additional actions also took place on August 8, with XR Peace organising a workshop on annexation and resistance in Palestine as part of a peace and solidarity fast remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Knighton, Wales.

Open Letter

More recently, British Palestinians sent an open letter to the Labour Party, signed by many distinguished Palestinians in Britain. The letter reads in part:

We write as British Palestinians. Many of us are members of the Labour Party, some are not.

We have previously expressed our fears of how the space to publicly bring the facts of the Palestinian people's history and ongoing dispossession into the public domain was under severe threat.

Then, as now, our concerns were rooted in a clear opposition to anti-semitism believing that, alongside all forms of racism, it should not be tolerated within the Labour Party, the Palestinian solidarity movement, nor broader society.

[...]

We believe that an internationalist Labour Party has a special responsibility to redress the ongoing injustices against the Palestinian people, denied their right to self-determination during the British Mandate because of the role Britain played as a colonial power leading up to the 1948 Nakba, when Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes.

We welcome commitments made by the party, at recent party Conferences, including rejection of Trump's so-called "deal of the century" and any proposed solution not based on recognition of the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and to return to their homes as enshrined in international law.

We welcome the call by the Leadership team for a ban on settlement goods in response to Israel's proposals to annex further swathes of Palestinian lands, including illegal settlements.

[...] Respect for Palestinian rights is not incompatible with the struggle against racism and anti-semitism; in fact, it is integral to that struggle.

We are extremely concerned by any conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-semitism. Zionism is a political ideology and movement that has led to our dispossession and that sustains a state that discriminates against us and denies us our collective rights whether as victims of military occupation, unequal citizens of the Israeli state or living in exile as refugees denied the right of return to our homeland. Benjamin Netanyahu recently described the proposed annexation of further swathes of the West Bank, a proposal rightly condemned by the Labour Party, as " another glorious chapter in the history of Zionism". We cannot but reject this ideology and to deny us the right to do so is a form of anti Palestinian racism

[...]

In 2018 the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the British Palestinian Policy Council made submissions to the NEC that called upon the Labour party to confirm its unequivocal commitment to the principles of freedom of expression as outlined in Article 10 of the Human Rights Act. They called upon the party to recognise the right of Palestinians to legitimately describe their experiences of oppression including by reference to terms such as settler-colonialism or apartheid. These submissions joined warnings of the threats posed by the IHRA examples to core Palestinian rights and to freedom of expression from Palestinian civil society as well as over 80 BAME organisations, including Black Lives Matter UK, prominent members of the Jewish community, leading lawyers and academic experts on anti-semitism and the Institute for Race Relations.

We reiterate our call that the right of Palestinians to accurately describe our experiences of dispossession and oppression, to criticise the nature and structure of the state that continues to oppress us and to openly criticise the ideology of Zionism which informs the actions, policies and laws of that state, be upheld both as a right of a people under oppression and as a right of freedom of expression respected and supported by the Labour Party leadership. Furthermore, the rights of other British citizens to respond to calls for action including via the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement to address that oppression, should also be supported and upheld.

Signed,

Dr Hafiz Alkarmi - Chairman of the Palestinian Forum in Britain
Iyas Alqasem - Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) exec and founder and trustee of Hope and Play charity for Palestinian children.
Omar Al-Qattan - Businessman and Philanthropist
Sawsan Asfari - Executive director of the Galilee Foundation
Tamara Ben-Halim - Human Rights Advocate
Zaher Birawi Chairman - Europal Forum
Selma Dabbagh - Author
Professor Izzat Darwazeh - UCL
Professor Kamel Hawwash - University of Birmingham
Feras Abu Helal - Editor-in-chief, Journalist
Nadia Hijab - President, Palestinian think tank
Ben Jamal - Director PSC
Dr Ghada Karmi - Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter
Dr Ahmad Khalidi - St Antony's College, Oxford
Chris Khamis - Labour International
Omar Mofeed - Ealing central and Acton constituency Labour Party ( CLP)
Adnan Sabbah - Lawyer
Atallah Said OBE - Former Chair, British Palestinian Policy Council
Ali Saleh - President of the (Association of the Palestinian Community in the UK (APCUK)
Kareem Samara - Composer/Musician
Aimee Shalan - Humanitarian and human rights advocate
Professor Suleiman Sharkh - University of Southampton

For full letter, click here: https://medium.com/@britishpalestinians/open-letter-to-the-labour-party-91653f381569

Article Index



Justice For Palestine

Palestine Action Occupy Elbit Systems Company, Again

Following on from more than a dozen direct action protests against Elbit Systems in the past few weeks, Palestine Action's occupation of the "UAV Engines" plant (one of Elbit's subsidiaries) in Shenstone, Staffordshire is the most disruptive yet.

Elbit's UK factories make parts for Israeli drones which are used, say the campaigners, in war crimes against civilians in Gaza. The drones are also sold to India for use in Kashmir.

Despite serious disruption and damage at Elbit's factories and offices, there has not yet been a single prosecution. After some actions, police told protesters they were free to leave, and on the occasions when there were arrests, prosecution cases were mysteriously dropped before going to court.

Campaigners believe this is because Elbit has a complex relationship with the UK and Israeli governments and that the scrutiny of their arms exports licenses and other documents in court might uncover illegal and criminal activity.

To test this theory, this network of existing groups and individual campaigners have embarked on an escalating series of actions, culminating in the occupation at UAV in the early hours of Monday morning, September 14.

Three people locked on in front of gates were eventually cut free and arrested by the evening, but despite smashing windows, CCTV cameras, lighting, air conditioners and other building infrastructure within sight of police, the five remaining activists continued their protest overnight and throughout today.

So the factory is closed for a second full day, and some of the damage may mean that it has to remain non-operational for some time. Will Elbit face the protesters in court, or will this action be effectively ignored as before? Real Media contacted Elbit for comment but have yet to receive any response.

More info at PalestineAction.org

(Real Media)

Article Index



Made in Cuba

Soberana - Cuba's Covid-19 Vaccine

Gerardo Szalkowicz

If not for the unwritten premise of the imperialist media that anything good about Cuba is not to be reported, it would be striking that this piece of news has gone practically unnoticed: that in recent days the vaccine "Soberana 01" ["Sovereign" in English - Ed Note] began clinical trials in humans and became the first in Latin America - and in the entire so-called underdeveloped world - to advance to this second phase.

So far there are 167 potential vaccines registered for Covid-19. The Cuban one joined 29 others that the WHO has already approved for clinical studies, six of which are in phase 3 that involves large-scale human testing. In Latin America there are another dozen national vaccines in development but, except for the Cuban one, all are in the preclinical phase.

The candidate vaccine that the island is producing is advancing steadily. Since clinical trials began on August 24, "it has reported zero serious adverse events after the injection of the first 20 volunteers" tweeted Dagmar García Rivera, director of research at the Finlay Institute, the Cuban state scientific centre that is directing the project. The sample will include 676 people between the ages of 19 and 80 with the results expected on February 1. In the event there is a happy ending, Cuba will have its own vaccine available to the population in the first quarter of 2021.

Things are moving at a steady and accelerated pace. "What normally takes years has been achieved in just under three months," says Finlay's Director Vicente Vérez Bencomo. "In the phase of pharmaceutical development and preclinical studies in animals it presented low risks, few uncertainties and encouraging results." Based on these initial indicators, on July 28 the vaccine was tested on three of its researchers, who also presented a high immune response.

That Cuba is marching, once again, at the forefront in the scientific-health field is the result of long accumulated experience in preventive medicine, mass immunisation and the development of a biotechnology industry of undeniable international prestige. Since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, professional training was promoted by the universities and a Scientific Hub was created with the aim of combining research with production.

The development of vaccines is one of its most significant achievements: Cuba produces eight of the 11 vaccines used in its national immunisation programme, which has over 98 per cent coverage and, of course, is free and universal. The first vaccination campaign was carried out in 1962, resulting in Cuba becoming the first country to eradicate polio. Another of its milestones was to achieve, in 1990, its own vaccine against Hepatitis-B which led to the practical disappearance of the disease. A noteworthy fact is that the Cuban medical research platform, consisting of 32 state companies with more than 10,000 workers dedicated to the production of medicines and vaccines, is made up mostly of women.

Sovereignty, the Byword

Achieving a 100 per cent national vaccine in a country with great economic limitations - mainly due to the United States blockade - is of vital importance. President Miguel Díaz-Canel highlighted the concept that distinguishes "Soberana 01" and for which it is named:

"The name of the vaccine reflects the feeling of patriotism and the revolutionary and humanist commitment with which the work embodied in it was carried out. Exploits like these reaffirm our pride in being Cubans."

The policy of producing and applying vaccines is only one leg of a comprehensive health system that is an example for the world. In 1959 Cuba had just 6,000 doctors and today it has more than 100,000, the highest number per inhabitant in Latin America and one of the highest globally. It is also the only country in the region that has eliminated severe child malnutrition: none of the 146 million underweight children living in the world today are Cuban.

The emphasis on preventive medicine has also been key to controlling the coronavirus. After almost six months of a pandemic, Cuba registers just over 4,000 infections and 100 deaths - one of the lowest mortality rates in the world, with eight deaths per million inhabitants (the highest is Peru with 871).

The island's health education has as its universal bastion the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM), which has graduated 7,248 doctors from 45 countries in 20 years, including about 200 from the United States.

That internationalist solidarity is perhaps the main hallmark of the Cuban model. The medical brigades, which have been deployed around the world for six decades, have put heart and soul into all the natural disasters and epidemics (from the 1960 earthquake in Chile to Ebola in Africa). Before the pandemic, there were about 30 thousand health workers providing services in 61 countries. They were joined by 46 brigades that left this year to collaborate in the fight against Covid-19. So the proposal that has been gaining momentum, to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the "army of white coats" - as Fidel Castro called them - does not sound off-base at all.

(Cubadebate, September 3, 2020. Translated from the original Spanish by TML Weekly.)

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