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Volume 50 Number 38, October 10, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Problems of Supply and Demand in the Car Industry

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

Problems of Supply and Demand in the Car Industry

Workers' Forum:
Birmingham Against the Cuts Responds to Covid-19

Amnesty Report - As if Expendable:
Report on the Government's Shockingly Irresponsible Decisions Which Abandoned Care Home Residents to Die

Letter to the Editor:
In Conditions of the Pandemic, Teachers' Concern for Education Shines Through

Professional Musicians Speak Out:
Let Music Live

Black History Month:
Black History Month and Contested History

Online Meeting of Newcastle Stop the War:
Stop the Massacre in Yemen! No More Arms for Saudi Arabia!

Venezuela's Right to Self-Determination:
Important Legal Victory in Effort to Recover Gold Seized by British Government
VSC Statement on Appeal Court Gold Ruling

Problems of Supply and Demand in the Car Industry

Workers picketing at the Cowley, BMW owned Mini production plant.

When BMW announced its decision to change its shift patterns and make hundreds of agency staff redundant in August [1], the company's human resources director at Mini Plant Oxford, Bob Shankly, said: "The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a substantial impact on customer demand and, like other automotive manufacturers, our volume forecasts for 2020 have had to change accordingly."

The move "will give us the flexibility we need to adapt our production in the short to medium term, according to developments in global markets," he said. "We have sought to protect as many jobs as we can, while also taking the necessary steps to ensure the stability of our business in light of this current period of volatile and unpredictable market conditions." [2]

At the same time, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reported that, after a minimum in April when it was virtually zero at the height of the lockdown, car production had rebounded to nearly 80% of its normal levels by July [3].

The car industry was experiencing problems before the Covid crisis. Production levels had been falling year on year from a peak in 2016, when over 1.7 million vehicles were produced. This fell to below 1.7 million in 2017, 1.6 million in 2018, and less than 1.4 million in 2019. As a result, coming into 2020, production already was down nearly 20% from its 2016 level, even before the pandemic began to bite [4].

Britain's leading manufacturers, according to figures compiled by Statista in April this year, are Jaguar Land Rover followed by Nissan [5]. JLR reported a 42% fall in sales of Jaguar models between January and March, while sales of Range Rovers and Land Rovers declined 25%. The company's total 2019-20 sales were down 12% at just over 5 million vehicles [6]. Industry-wide, exports of passenger cars had falling from 1.35 million in 2016 to 1 million in 2020 [7].

Workers at the Nissan Sunderland plant demonstrate to protect their pension.

The drop in 2017 was the first decline in some eight years. SMMT said of that year: "A -9.8% fall in output for the domestic market drove the overall decline, as the market responded to declining business and economic confidence and confusion over government's policy on diesel. Exports also fell, though at a much lower rate, by -1.1%. Overseas demand continued to dominate production, accounting for 79.9% of all UK car output - the highest proportion for five years. The EU remained the UK's biggest trading partner, taking more than half (53.9%) of exports, while the appetite for British-built cars rose in several key markets, notably Japan (+25.4%), China (+19.7%), Canada (+19.5%) and the US, where demand increased 7.0%." [8]

Meanwhile, an article by Autocar, written as vehicle production began to restart, speculated that demand for new cars would outstrip supply in the short to medium term following lockdown, with people queuing up to buy cars and "inevitable price rises", citing various factors such as the prevalence of personal contract purchase deals, with renewal cycles that were extended over the shutdown, and a survey suggesting a backlog of demand.

"Manufacturers", they say, "are having to adjust to slower production rates due to social distancing and other new health and safety rules," and they estimate that "a typical 12-week waiting time for a factory-order car pre-crisis will now be around 26 weeks."

"Supply is therefore expected to fall short of demand initially," they argue. "As a result, it's widely expected that previously negotiable discounts will rapidly be reduced, and that the hard-hit manufacturers and sellers will look to recover some of their lost trading year by shoring up profit margins - at least until the balance shifts." [9]

Are workers to accept that such massive productive forces as those associated with the car industry are to be destroyed, or that they themselves are treated like a pool to grow or shrink at will, subject to the changing wind?

The assertion that these things are a matter of supply and demand is an anti-conscious rendering of things. It leaves out any conscious decision-making over what is produced and what happens to the product. It is just taken as read that, if demand is down, production will have to "adapt, according to developments in global markets": cut production, lay off workers, and force concessions on pay and conditions.

Commentators are well-practised in describing the ups and downs of the market, often in conflicting ways [10]. One day one thing is said, and a short time later, quite the opposite. What is constant is that there is allegedly no control over any of this. The whole issue is of control, control over how much is produced, the prices paid for the product, what happens to the product, what happens to the realised new value of what is produced. What determines what it is that is demanded and supplied, and how much?

The work done by those employed in the automotive industry creates a massive amount of value. In 2019, roughly £19 billion-worth of new value was created by workers in the industry and realised in sales, amounting to about 20% of turnover [11].

Car production is highly socialised. As well as the large plants owned by the major monopolies, there are all kinds of small to medium-sized firms along the supply chain, forming a network of many different businesses all integrated together in this industry. The large factories themselves are huge, and operate with the highest levels of sophistication.

The combined productive forces of this integrated system are immense, yet they cannot be rationally controlled, as what holds sway is something in contradiction with the nature of those forces: the private profit motive, and the division of the industry into competing parts. Buried in talk of supply and demand is the narrow interest of maximising the profits of these individual enterprises, especially of the monopolies such as JLR (itself owned by the giant Tata) and BMW. Monopolies do exercise power over supply and demand, either individually in their state of mutual competition, or combined, but all in narrow private interest.

To be of any good to the owners of capital, social product, such as cars, has to be sold for the new value it contains, and specifically the source of profit, added-value, to be released. Unsold cars are no good at all to the owners of capital who, as such, cannot use the product itself.

This unconcern with the product itself, the sole drive to produce in order to sell with the aim of maximising private profit, the fragmentation of the socialised economy into competing parts, are fundamental problems of the system giving rise at the present time to profound crisis. The disequilibrium between supply and demand, between production and consumption, is such that it cannot be glossed over as "the business cycle". Mass layoffs and closures will cause lasting economic damage. Unplanned anarchy in car production also brings an inability to seriously solve the environmental damage associated with cars.

These problems point to the need for conscious planning over production and distribution by the actual producers, those who do the work, who need a guaranteed livelihood, an income, a standard of living, all of which is dependent upon protecting and humanising the natural and social environment, including the socialised economy. Whether or not product is sold, the workers are people, human beings, not a pool of machines to be grown and shrunk, or switched on and off. It is not the workers who should suffer the consequences.

On the contrary, if the working class had control over the direction of the economy, motivated instead to produce things for their use, they would be able to realise the potentially unlimited demand for the kind of production that can be carried out in the car industry. Pursuing the general needs of society, these productive forces can be put to a useful purpose, eventually eliminating the need for sale. Despite this unlimited potential demand, productive capacity is being destroyed, is underutilised, or existing product is unsold.

The attempt to return to business as usual is the continuation of layoffs and economic damage presented as the only option. Workers are faced with the need to change the direction of the economy so that it is aimed at meeting the needs of all.

1. See "BMW Announces Hundreds of Agency Job Losses", Workers' Weekly, August 29, 2020
2. "BMW bosses at plant in Oxford explain reason behind job cuts", Oxford Mail, August 26, 2020
3. UK Car Industry Back to 80% Production, Lighthouse FX economic bulletin, August 27, 2020
4. Figures: Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)
5. "The automotive industry in the United Kingdom - statistics & facts", Statista Research Department, June 30, 2020
6. "Tata Jaguar and Other Car Manufacturers to Restart Production", Workers' Weekly, April 25, 2020
7.“The automotive industry in the United Kingdom - statistics & facts”, Published by Statista Research Department, Jun 30, 2020
8. "Industry Topics: Economy", SMMT
9. Jim Holder, "Demand for new cars set to outstrip supply", Autocar, May 14, 2020
10. Writing mainly on the state of the US car industry, where the situation has parallels, but is not the same, John Paul MacDuffie, a professor of management at the Wharton School said in February this year:
"The auto industry is very cyclical and we're in the middle of a downturn cycle in terms of sales. The cycles are always affected by many things, but there also seems always to be some built-in boom and bust periods in the industry's history.
"The global financial crisis was a huge and unusual and certainly unprecedented dent in sales - a 40 or 50% drop for most major automakers. And then there was a period, an unusually long period, surprising to many, of years that sales were way up. Basically, to compensate for the fact people were postponing their purchase decisions during the Great Recession.
"So, sales grew dramatically in the U.S. from 2010 (low of 10.4 million) to 2016 (high of 17.4 million). 2017 to 2018 was relatively flat, but 2019 is down somewhat to just under 17 million. Bear in mind that there are only two other years in U.S. history with sales higher than 2019-2000 and 2001. How much of the 2019 drop is because of tariffs and trade tensions, how much is the slowing of the Chinese economy - because China has been one of the high-growth bright spots in auto sales for many years - is a little hard to say. We're certainly seeing profit announcements from automakers reporting losses and drops in sales
"The other big thing to say is that the challenges the traditional auto industry faces are pretty huge. Some are exciting, too, but [it's a balancing act] to keep the legacy business going, which is still about 100 million cars sold per year worldwide, while also investing in all these new technologies and new products and services - electric, yes, but also connected, and autonomous, and mobility services, so they're not left entirely to tech startups."
Brandon Baker, "The state of the auto industry in the 2020s", Penn Today, February 13, 2020
11. An estimated £18.6 billion of so-called "value added" was contributed by the sector in 2019. Not to be confused with added-value, the portion of new value produced by workers above their reproduced-value, "value added" is a capital-centric term that roughly approximates in monetary equivalent the whole new value that has been realised through sale.
I. Wagner, "Motor industry economic contribution in the United Kingdom 2009-2019", Statista, September 1, 2020

Article Index

Workers' Forum

Birmingham Against the Cuts Responds to Covid-19

"Skills, Training and Employment in the Economic Recovery from Covid-19" was the focus of the Economy and Skills Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Birmingham City Council on October 7. There are several reports on the Council website, including the Skills And Employment Update. [1]

Birmingham Against the Cuts (BATC) [2], in a post of October 8, underlines that what is needed is a fundamental transformation of economic policy in Britain. At the same time, as part of creating the conditions for such a change in the direction of the economy, BATC asks what measures can be taken in Birmingham.

BATC points out that the current Covid-19 pandemic has meant that the City's jobs and skills support programmes are even more vital to meet the rising unemployment rate. It is clear that those working in sectors in decline, those with no/low skills, and young people working in the gig-economy have been adversely impacted and as a result have joined the unemployment register. Job Centre Plus is doubling work coach capacity and focussing on young people, but the support provided to individuals under the auspices of the City Council is limited by the magnitude of the situation.

What Does the Data Tell Us? [2]

Economic Sector Impact

An indication of which sectors have been most impacted by the pandemic is demonstrated by the take up of the government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) in each sector. Hospitality related businesses, manufacturers, construction and retail are the biggest users of the furlough scheme. [3]

The sectors that are forecast to show the largest contraction in output are travel and hospitality related sub sectors. Transport manufacturing and other manufacturing subsectors are also amongst some of the most heavily affected sectors with output forecast to be around 10% lower than in 2019 over the next two years.

In terms of which sub sectors are forecast to be more resilient in the medium-term retail, banking and financial services, postal services and telecoms, electronics and R&D are all forecast to show growth over the next two years.

What Is Being Done in Response to Covid-19?

The Birmingham City Council report details that since the beginning of April to date, 561 young people have started their Youth Promise Plus (YPP) journey, with 268 fully registered (registration process is slow due to remote working but support is provided during this time). The project has provided support from food parcels and emergency housing support, to transport passes and advice, and online mentoring, with face to face meetings (often outdoors or at doorsteps) when needed.

The YPP gives extended support to young people, and the report details that over 14,000 young people have been supported by the project, with over 500 since the start of lockdown. The young people supported by YPP live across Birmingham (and Solihull), particularly in the most deprived areas.

The report also details measures for encouraging young people to continue education to "weather the storm" of recession.

1. The reports can be read at
2. Birmingham Against The Cuts, supported by Birmingham TUC, is a group formed by trade unions, service groups, user groups and campaign groups in Birmingham to oppose the cuts being made by the government and their implementation by the council.
3. BCC's internal September Unemployment Briefing providing an update on unemployment (figures for August) and other sources
4. KPMG's September UK Economic Outlook shows how output is forecast to be affected at a sectoral level by the pandemic over the next two years.

Article Index

Amnesty Report - As if Expendable

Report on the Government's Shockingly Irresponsible Decisions Which Abandoned Care Home Residents to Die

On October 4, Amnesty International UK released a report titled As if Expendable [1] condemning the British government's "failure to protect older people in care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic" and as "cases of coronavirus are rising again in the build-up to winter, the government must learn lessons from its disastrous decisions and not repeat the same mistakes".

In addition, the current experience of those involved in the health workers' movement, in the campaigns to save and protect services, shows that the government and the health authorities have not learnt these lessons. Current protocols do not fully address the practice of discharging patients who are untested, or who have Covid-19 from hospitals into care homes, or where other vulnerable residents live. Their measures are incoherent and, as Amnesty points out, do not protect the vulnerable and "notably their right to life, their right to health, and their right to non-discrimination" and not to be isolated from their families. On this, Amnesty said that "regular testing can help break the isolation that is so damaging to people's physical and mental health and could mean the difference between families being torn apart for months again".

In launching the report, Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said: "The government made a series of shockingly irresponsible decisions which abandoned care home residents to die. ... The appalling death toll was entirely avoidable - it is a scandal of monumental proportions."

Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Response Adviser, said: "It is as if care home residents were seen as expendable. Despite thousands of empty beds (in hospitals), they were de-prioritised when it came to getting access to hospital care and had blanket do not resuscitate orders imposed on them without due process. Such abuses are deeply disturbing."

Care home managers reported to Amnesty International that they were pressured in various ways to accept patients discharged from hospital who had not been tested or who were Covid-19 positive. Also, under the privatised care home system, and with block-purchased beds in care homes, and under government direction, managers stated that they had no choice but to honour their care home companies' contractual obligations to accept patients in these unsafe circumstances, a system which continues to date.

The report says that between March 2 and June 12, 18,562 residents of care homes in England died with Covid-19, including 18,168 people aged 65 and over, representing almost 40% of all deaths involving Covid-19 in England during this period. Of these deaths, 13,844 (76%) happened in care homes themselves; nearly all of the remainder occurred in a hospital. During the same period, 28,186 "excess deaths" were recorded in care homes in England, representing a 46% increase compared with the same period in previous years. These excess deaths likely include undiagnosed Covid-19 deaths, but also "underscore the broader impact of the pandemic on older people in care homes" from inability to access hospital and GP treatment services and to the devastating impact of long term isolation of residents on their physical and mental health.

The report says that since January, when the National Health Service (NHS) declared a Level 4 National Incident, the highest level of emergency, a number of decisions and policies adopted by authorities at the national and local level in England increased care home residents' risk of exposure to the virus. This violates their right to life, to health, and to non-discrimination. Furthermore, it is contrary to the claim by the secretary of state for Health and Social Care that a so-called "protective ring" was put around care homes "right from the start". These decisions dangerous and reckless decisions have notably included [1]:

The report then presents evidence, on among other important questions, of the denial of access of patients to hospital and other medical services, misuse of DNAR forms, inadequate access to testing, insufficient PPE and poor and late guidance, failure to respond to gaps in staffing, the suspension of visits and failure of oversight, and the devastating impact of long term isolation of residents on their physical and mental health.

The report also condemns the government for withholding information, saying that "to date, the government and responsible public bodies, including NHS England and the CQC, have failed to make public crucial data and information relating to the spread of Covid-19 in care homes. This information will be crucial to assessing the impact of their decisions on the human rights of care home residents, as well as to ensure that failures are identified and addressed, that lessons are learned, and that as the pandemic continues the correct measures are taken to avoid the recurrence of past mistakes."

Withholding and hiding crucial information has been the government's hallmark throughout the pandemic crisis. In April, the government admitted for the first time that the figures of the deaths of people in care homes and the community from Covid-19 were false [2]. Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, confirmed that the figures had been "substantially underestimated" as he appeared before the Commons Select Committee. He admitted that the share of deaths taking place in homes was higher than so far reported.

As part of the research, the report notes the significance of the background to the failure of the privatised and fragmented care system in England. It says: "Private companies own and run 84% of beds in care homes for older people, while 13% of beds are provided by the voluntary sector and 3% by local authorities. Care home places can be funded by local authorities, the NHS or privately. Around 41% of residents in care homes fund themselves (self-funders)." It further notes that "care homes have been hit hard over the years by UK government austerity measures, and cuts have continued even recently. Spending per person on adult social care fell by some 12% in real terms between 2010/11 and 2018/19, while the number of older people in England who were estimated to have an unmet need for social care had grown to 1.5 million by 2019. Unmet need places significant pressure on England's 5.4 million informal care givers, many of whom provide over 50 hours of care per week."

In July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to an independent inquiry on the pandemic "in the future". The report calls in its response for a full, independent public inquiry, which "must be set up without further delay, with an interim phase to commence immediately and report its findings and recommendations by November 30 - so that lessons can be learned and measures swiftly taken to ensure older people in care homes are protected. Certain disproportionate restrictions on care home visits which are causing so much distress to residents must be urgently addressed, including by making testing available to visitors."

Yet since the report was published, the government has continued down its criminal and arrogant path and does not intend to learn these lessons, or even to claim to be dealing with them. It was reported that the only response from Health Secretary Matt Hancock was to claim that "the situation in care homes is improving" and that government pandemic policy has meant care homes have been "offering a better service".

The truth for the working class and people is that many things have been revealed about our society as a result of the Covid pandemic, things which make it impossible for any thinking person to want a return to this old normal of a corporate-led health and social care system, which has led to such tragic outcomes for the most vulnerable in society during the pandemic. The "new normal" is pointing the people towards the necessity that not only are those responsible for these reckless decisions which abandoned care home residents to die are brought to account, but that a new human-centred system of health and social care is brought into being. A modern public health and care system is required, provided as of right and that meets the needs of all, and that is capable to dealing with such health emergences as the coronavirus pandemic.

[1] As if Expendable - the UK government's failure to protect older people in care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic - Amnesty International, UK.
[2] The Outdated and Unacceptable Arrangements As Government Ignores People Who Die in Care Homes - April 18, Workers' Weekly

Article Index

Letter to the Editor

In Conditions of the Pandemic, Teachers' Concern for Education Shines Through

Since the outset of the lockdown and its commensurate shutdown of all schools throughout England, Wales, Scotland and the North of Ireland, the debate has raged as to whether this was the correct decision. The government has essentially maintained the line that there has to be a balance maintained between safeguarding the well-being of the people and the need to protect the economy, as though the two concepts are in opposition to each other.

As a teacher, I feel at the sharp end of this debate. The government, having decided that all schools should go back and that all children throughout England should return to school from September 1, simply declared that this would happen and that schools would have to put in place whatever measures are necessary to ensure that their declaration was carried out. However, it has meant that teachers, support staff and all those who enable schools to run, were not only just told they must go back to work but have, en masse, been thrust into a most exhausting and stressful environment and situation. We are only six weeks into the first term of this academic year and already many teachers and education workers are wondering how long they can work in these conditions.

The National Education Union, along with all the education unions, has been at pains to say that there cannot be business as usual in the schools. Just to have children able to come into school has necessitated so much extra work, rewriting of schemes of work, learning to use often new and involved technology, sorting out problems of laptops or IT support, and a raft of measures to ensure that we, as teachers, provide the environment to maintain the necessary social distancing and hand sanitising, and to provide the children in our care what they need in order to do the work required of them.

Indeed, most schools speak the rhetoric of understanding. Our own management reiterates the need for teachers to take care of their own well-being and health, and not to feel pressured to deliver the same curriculums we were doing before the pandemic.

However, almost in the same breath we are being told, for instance, that the current Years 11 and 13 must sit their delayed end-of-year exams and must follow the schedule as set out by the government, that schemes of work must be followed as before, and it has recently been announced that, as of October 22, schools will have a legal duty to provide remote education for state-funded, school-age children unable to attend school due to coronavirus (Covid-19). This means that teachers will be required by law to provide so-called "blended learning" where they must concurrently teach the children in front of them in the classroom and the children at home via the online systems of Teams and Zoom and other forms. Having struggled with this myself this term, I know just how exhausting and discombobulating this can be! So many teachers are saying it is the final straw for them.

The whole language being used is of the necessity of "catching up" and ensuring that the programme as determined by the education department must be adhered to whatever the conditions. It the same pernicious rolling out of "deliverology". In other words, it flies in the face of what all the education unions have been warning, and it is in fact "business as usual" as far as the government is concerned.

But this is a craziness!

The reality on the ground is that there is no normalcy. Our school has been very assiduous in trying to implement the suggested Year group and Class group bubbles. Already, whole Year groups, as well as smaller groups and individuals, have been sent home and been told to isolate. Staff, too, have had to self-isolate. The principle followed by the school is, as the government instructed, that if any person tests positive for the virus, then they and all their contacts are sent home. However, we do not offer any testing at the school. Some schools have managed to acquire their own testing units; however, these cost in the region of £38,000 to buy. And even then, there is an additional cost per test. So needless to say, most schools cannot afford to buy such equipment.

As a consequence, many staff are shielding because they are worried about contracting the virus, especially those who are pregnant or vulnerable for various reasons. The lack of testing and the onus on staff and pupils to pay for their own tests, along with the difficulty of getting a test and the length of time it takes for test results to be known, have also impacted on the working conditions in schools. It has caused real strain on departments already very stressed trying to cover for those staff who are absent. In a nutshell, teaching in these conditions is just exhausting.

The greatest irony and frustration for us as educationalists is that our main joy in life is Education. I am sure I speak for most teachers when I say that it has been a joy to be back teaching the children, and that I recognise the importance for every child to be back at school and in the school environment. We all recognise the importance of the social structure and the playing and being with friends, of the ensemble of human relations that sees the development of the young human being through education; of being and nurturing cultured people, and the next generation of society. As teachers, as educationalists, we recognise perhaps more than most the necessity of guaranteeing young people a right to an education. However, the way in which we are being forced to deliver this education is not only putting lives at risk, but it is not actually giving the education that people want and need.

It is not right, nor fair, nor reasonable to ask teachers and support staff and schools to have to work as many hours and provide whatever the government says is necessary. There is and has been no coherence to the decision making and it feels very much as though the conditions within schools are spiralling out of control. Instead of the government's enacting legislation to force teachers to do more and more for less, the teachers should themselves become the decision-makers! Education is not simply a set of informations that teachers must deliver at all costs. Education is a precious thing and is as much about the social relations and, indeed, about the ensemble of human relations, as it is about giving rise to the next generation of leaders and workers in our society. It cannot be treated as a giant hamster wheel that enslaves everyone and, within these strained conditions of Covid-19, has us all running faster and faster to deliver what amounts to an edifice that does nobody any good.

Teachers should be the authority in education and should have the backing and resources to exercise this authority.

Signed (Teacher and trade union rep)

Article Index

Professional Musicians Speak Out

Let Music Live

Musicians united in London's Parliament Square and in Birmingham on Tuesday, October 6, at 12:00 noon to speak out on the value of music professionals, as well as others in the arts culture sector.

Leading musical figures including Nicola Benedetti, Raphael Wallfisch and Tasmin Little joined, supported and united with 400 freelance professional musicians from all parts of the music industry to perform in Parliament Square.

The musicians performed a segment of Holst’s The Planets before taking a minute's silence to reflect the current blackout in many of the Britain's venues and festivals at the present time.

The organisers pointed out that Covid restrictions have disproportionately impacted the music and live events industries, resulting in an almost total loss of opportunity to work. "We are musicians who are currently stripped of our community, our identities and our income," they say, on behalf of all musicians throughout the country.

According to Musician's Union research, 70% of musicians are unable to undertake more than a quarter of their usual work. Two-thirds of musicians face severe financial hardship.

The £1.57 billion government Fund for Culture looks unlikely to reach the majority of freelancers who make up the music sector, even though self-employed musicians also account for more than 80% of all contracted orchestral players. Offering support
Musicians united in London's Parliament Square and in Birmingham on Tuesday, October 6.
at only 20% of monthly income - for those lucky enough to qualify - whilst keeping restrictions in place for another six months, may deprive a large proportion of skilled cultural workers of their future livelihoods.

On behalf of freelance musicians, violinist Jessie Murphy said: "We want to show that our profession is viable, and valuable. Freelancing can be misunderstood, we play in the O2 one day, a small wedding the next, and a film recording session the day after. Each one of us is a small business that contributes both to the economy and the wellbeing of the country."

Horace Trubridge, Musicians' Union General Secretary, said: "We know from the Union's recent research just how many musicians are struggling financially and at real risk of leaving music for good. In better times, our members drive a £5bn music industry with their talent. One artist's gig will create a domino effect of jobs, from lighting technicians to ticket sellers. If one musician is out of work, you can be sure many others will be affected too." He called on the government not to abandon musicians. He said: "With social distancing measures still in place, venues can only sell at around 30% of usual capacity. We are calling on the government to implement a seat-matching scheme, which would take venues' potential revenue to 60%, providing a lifeline to musicians and the wider industry. Getting musicians back to work is the priority."

The Incorporated Society of Musicians' Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said: "The ISM is proud to back this important campaign which calls on the government to provide support for the thousands of self-employed musicians that have not been able to work since March and are now facing desperate financial hardship. The government must introduce a measure similar to the Self Employment Income Support Scheme so that self-employed musicians can keep going until they can work again. The UK music industry is known for its world-leading talent which makes a huge contribution of over £5bn annually to our economy, so it is vital that musicians are not forgotten. These are dynamic entrepreneurs who will be back on their feet as soon as the sector can reopen and any support measures need only last until the necessary safety precautions are eased."


Article Index

Black History Month

Black History Month and Contested History

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been speaking a lot about history recently. October has become by tradition "Black History Month" and it has become customary for the Prime Minister of the day to make some pronouncement.

That there should be the need for such a month reflects the fact that history has too often been rewritten in a Eurocentric manner to glorify the white men of property and their criminal deeds, the human traffickers and imperialists of the world, not only immortalised in history books, but presented to everyone in the form of statues and other public history displays. The fact that the history of African and Caribbean people in Britain is only formally recognised in one month of the year is also a reflection of this wider Eurocentrism, which finds its expression throughout the education system, the media and the entire society. It is a reflection of the racism and Eurocentrism that has been the preferred policy of the powers that be in Britain for many centuries, emerging from the fact that the rulers of Britain were the world's leading human traffickers, enslavers and imperialist robbers. The presentation of history has therefore always been contested, reflecting a wider struggle that goes on in society between the powers that be, the defenders of the status quo, slavery, colonialism, racism and the capital-centred system, and the vast majority striving to make history by empowering themselves and ridding the world of all forms of exploitation and oppression.

Cover of the opera "Alfred" written by Thomas Arne containing the aria "Rule Britannia"
Boris Johnson referred to the rewriting of history in his speech to the Conservative Party conference this week, boasting of his pride in "this country's culture and history and traditions", while condemning those who "want to pull statues down, and to rewrite the history of our country, to edit our national CV to make it look more politically correct". The Prime Minister did not elaborate greatly on which aspects of this culture, history and traditions he was proud other than to reiterate his well-known defence of "Rule Britannia", a composition written in 1740 for an opera designed to stir up belligerence and chauvinism. This theme, of course, is very much in keeping with successive governments' ambitions to make Britain "great" again, as well as their defence of the criminal history of the British empire, which based itself on human trafficking and other crimes against humanity throughout the world.

That Johnson should make such remarks was hardly surprising since his own racist views are well-known. His remarks come just a few weeks after the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport sent a reiteration of the government's policy on what it refers to as "contested heritage" in a letter to publicly-funded museums, archives, and the Heritage Lottery Fund. In short, the government "does not support the removal of statues or other similar objects", however offensive they may be. It is not just opposed to the removal of statues glorifying human traffickers and crimes against humanity by the democratic will of the people, as occurred in Bristol in June earlier this year, but also any actions by museums themselves which are "motivated by activism and politics". It appears that the government does not view its own actions as similarly motivated. It has already put pressure on the Museum of the Home in London not to remove a stature glorifying another human trafficker an d former Lord Mayor of London, even after a public consultation showed overwhelming support for its removal. There is already a requirement for museums to notify the government "in advance of any actions or public statements in relation to contested heritage or histories".

The government has already faced strong criticism for its approach to museums and "contested heritage and histories", but it has recently also attempted to strengthen directives on what should be taught in schools. The Department for Education has recently issued guidelines for the statutory teaching of the new relationship curriculum requiring that schools "should not under any circumstances use resources produced by organisations that take extreme political stances on matters". Such extreme political stances include:

In addition, schools "should not under any circumstances use resources produced by organisations that take extreme political stances on matters. This is the case even if the material itself is not extreme, as the use of it could imply endorsement or support of the organisation. Examples of extreme political stances include, but are not limited to:

These guidelines have already provoked strong opposition from teachers' organisations and educationalists. They demonstrate that the government is increasingly interfering in all aspects of society to promote partisan political views, even though at the same time it acknowledges that there are alternative views, which are being suppressed and more often reflect the reality, experience and interests of the majority.

Johnson's comments on "Black History Month" suggesting that "black history and British history are one and the same" is therefore a complete nonsense, since whose presentation of the past is he referring to? The history of most African and Caribbean people in Britain over the last five hundred years has been a struggle against human trafficking and slavery, against colonialism and racism, against unjust laws and all the economic, social and political consequences of the capital-centred system both in Britain and abroad. It has been a struggle against the glorification of crimes against humanity and Eurocentrism in all forms. In short, it has been a struggle against everything that Johnson, his government and successive governments represent. In this context it is not surprising that the government is doing everything to suppress and distort that history of struggle, which has also been the history of the majority of people in Britain, and to promote and glorify whatever can deprive the majority of an outlook which favours their interests.

The struggles of people of all nationalities for an end to racism and Eurocentrism are continuing and demonstrate the urgent need for people to empower themselves and become the decision makers.

History Matters
has launched a new online history journal. See:

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Online Meeting of Newcastle Stop the War

Stop the Massacre in Yemen! No More Arms for Saudi Arabia!

On Tuesday, October 6, Newcastle Stop the War held its second online meeting attended by activists and friends in a discussion that focused on building the opposition to Britain's support for Saudi Arabia's war on Yemen where hundreds of thousands of people have been killed since 2015 and where 85,000 children have died and millions have been displaced and in need of assistance.

The meeting was chaired by Roger Nettleship and he introduced firstly Kirsten Bayes, Local Outreach Coordinator of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), who gave a detailed overview of of Britain's arming of the worlds' conflicts undertaken by and in the interests of the US and Britain, Britain's arming and support for the Saudi war and CAAT's recent High Court success in blocking the export of arms to Saudi Arabia for a year before the government ignored their own laws! But the resistance continues!

The Chair then introduced David McAllister, Newcastle Stop the War, who spoke about the war's exposure of what Britain and the US had done in the region and that the massacre in Yemen was only possible because of that Anglo-US support for Saudi Arabia, driven by their corporate imperialist interests. He outlined the actions of the British government as well as the opposition of the people.

The talks were followed by discussion and there were a number of important contributions on how to continue the resistance to this and other wars in the current conditions. The need is to put the working class movement and people in control of the decisions and not the corporate interests of the war industries. The need is also to transform the economy so that it meets the needs of the people and not the present dominance of arms production.

At the end, after announcements, the chair and speakers encouraged people to join further in discussions and activities.

Visit website to hear audio files of the speakers Kirsten Bayes and David McAllister:

(Newcastle Stop the War Coalition)

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Venezuela's Right to Self-Determination

Important Legal Victory in Effort to Recover Gold Seized by British Government

Demonstration demanding the return of Venezuelan gold outside the Bank of England

On October 5, the Court of Appeal granted the Venezuelan government's appeal of a decision handed down in July by the High Court that "unequivocally recognised opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the president of Venezuela". The decision that was overturned effectively blocked the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela from accessing the country's 31 tonnes of gold reserves stored in the vaults of the Bank of England. The Venezuelan government's intent is to use part of the reserves, currently valued at around $1.8 billion, for humanitarian purposes by exchanging gold for funds that will be channelled through the United Nations Development Programme to import food, medications and other supplies which the government cannot obtain directly because of the criminal US blockade.

The appeal was launched by the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) against what it called the "absurd" and "unusual" decision by the High Court rejecting its right to repatriate the country's gold and denying the Venezuelan people access to the means they urgently need to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

The perversity of the British government's legal-political operation in this case is revealed in the recently published memoir of former Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton who said that in 2019 Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt expressed enthusiasm about participating in the US economic war against Venezuela, offering to assist "for example [by] freezing Venezuelan gold deposits in the Bank of England".

In 2018, and again in 2019, the Venezuelan government asked the Bank of England for access to its gold for humanitarian purposes and was denied both times. The second request - made after the US, supported by the Lima Group, put Juan Guaidó up to proclaiming himself president - was refused on the basis that Britain recognised the imposter and not Nicolás Maduro as the legitimate head of the country. It was in response to this spurious and illegal action of Britain that the BCV launched its legal battle on May 14.

The October 5 decision of the Appeal Court calls on the British government to clarify who exercises the de facto powers of head of state and head of government in Venezuela before a decision is made on who is entitled to have access to the country's gold reserves. The court has directed the British Commercial Court to establish this before any decision on the disposition of the reserves is taken.

The BCV applauded the Appeal Court's decision, saying in a statement on October 5 that it trusts the court's investigation will confirm its argument that while Britain may have recognised Guaidó as head of state in 2019 in words it in fact still recognises Nicolás Maduro as the person who exercises that role. Evidence of this is that the British government has not broken diplomatic relations with the Maduro government; both governments continue to maintain regular consular relations with ambassadors in each other's capitals. According to the Venezuelan legal team, the initial ruling ignored "the reality of the situation on the ground" in which the Maduro government is "in complete control of Venezuela and its administrative institutions".

The BCV said it would continue taking all actions necessary to safeguard its "sovereign international reserves and the sacred patrimony of the Republic, which belong to the people of Venezuela".

While it is premature to declare victory in this fight, winning the appeal is an important step in dismantling the imperialist fraud by which the US puppet Guaidó is recognised as the "legitimate" president of Venezuela by the US and a shrinking handful of other countries.

During the past week another blow was struck against the regime change operation. The new Ambassador to Venezuela from the Swiss Confederation, Jürg Sprecher, presented his credentials to President Nicolás Maduro in a televised ceremony held in Miraflores Palace. Switzerland had been one of the first countries to recognise Guaidó after he proclaimed himself "interim president" on January 23, 2019.

(TML Weekly)

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Venezuela's Right to Self-Determination

VSC Statement on Appeal Court Gold Ruling

Venezuela Solidarity Campaign applauds the ruling by the Appeal Court overturning the earlier judgement of the Commercial Court that had endorsed the British Government's recognition of Juan Guaidό, the self- proclaimed "interim president", as the leader of Venezuela rather than the elected president Nicholas Maduro.

The Commercial Court's decision, if allowed to stand could have allowed the Bank of England to release from its vaults the 31 tons of Venezuelan gold worth more than $1bn gold to Guaidό.

In returning the case to the Commercial Court for reconsideration, the Appeal Court has reopened the possibility of success for the Venezuelan Central Bank's attempt to force the Bank of England to release the funds to the United Nations Development Programme for the purchase of much-needed supplies of food and medicines.

The Appeal Court ruling reopens the argument that whatever Guaidό claims about his position as "interim president", the British Government is currently recognising President Maduro as the person who exercises some or all of the powers of the President of Venezuela and therefore it is President Maduro entitled to claim custody of the 31 tons of gold for the Central Bank of Venezuela.

The Appeal Court has therefore ordered that a detailed investigation is required into the diplomatic relations between Venezuela and the UK to determine if the British Government does in fact recognise that President Maduro continues to exercise de facto powers as head of state.

Venezuela's battle to reclaim its gold from the Bank of England vaults began back in 2018. At the time, the Trump administration was using all means at its disposal to cut the Venezuelan government off from its overseas assets, as part of its drive to achieve "regime change" in the country.

In rejecting the Central Bank of Venezuela's claim on the gold, the Bank of England showed the political nature of its decision to break its contract with the Central Bank, a position in effect upheld by the Commercial Court in May 2020.

The Commercial Court's judgement rested largely on a hasty decision by the UK in January 2019 to issue a statement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office recognising the minor politician and self-described "interim president", Juan Guaidό.

The Government's recognition of Guaidό has not been withdrawn despite his involvement in not only a series of corruption scandals but also failed coup attempts against the Venezuelan government, including a plan to assassinate President Maduro.

The refusal by the Bank of England to give Venezuela back its gold and the government's persistence in supporting Guaidό have nothing to do with concerns about the welfare of the Venezuelan people.

As Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London, said at the time of the original court judgement, "This decision on Venezuela's gold is about slavishly following Trump's illegal 'regime change' agenda and nothing else", adding that "the decision not to let Venezuela use its gold resources to fight the Covid-19 pandemic lacks any sense of humanitarianism at this time of global crisis."

Commenting on today's judgment, he said: "Welcome news from the Court of Appeal. Now is the time to step up campaigning to give Venezuela back its gold.

"The Bank of England's continued withholding of financial resources from Venezuela, in the context of Trump's criminal sanctions and the pandemic, denies the country the wherewithal to purchase food, medicines and other vital medical supplies. This is seriously affecting ordinary Venezuelans, especially the poorest and most vulnerable."

Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, October 2020

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