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Private care homes put profit before people
The privately run care home my wife and daughter work at stopped having visitors to see residents the week before lockdown happened on 23 March. However, the care home owners' response with PPE and testing was quite abysmal.
At the start of lockdown, staff were given the option to wear face masks, but were encouraged not to as they were in short supply at the time.
PPE was made compulsory for all staff at the start of April. But Covid-19 testing was only made available to staff and their families in mid-April.
Since the beginning of September, staff have been tested once a week and residents once a month. Fortunately, so far, there have been no cases of Covid in the home, but other care homes in Worcester haven't been so lucky.
During lockdown, visitors could see their relatives at the home via a glass door and an intercom system. Garden visits began again in July, with visitors being temperature tested and questions asked about their general health. As of last week, visits are back to lockdown door visits.
The home has 49 beds. Once during lockdown they had seven empty beds, so they cut staff, meaning that the company were putting profit before the residents. And, of course, as the beds filled up again they didn't take on any more staff.
This time of year, with flu, chest infections, the pandemic, and lack of staff, I fear the worst. Staff morale is at an all-time low. Visits from the care home bosses are putting management at the home under pressure to keep the beds full. Staff work 12-hour shifts, with two-and-a-half-hour breaks. But this could be shortened if a resident falls or a member of staff needs a hand.
The home charges its 'service users' - the vulnerable - over £700 to live there. The majority of the staff genuinely love their job, and the people they look after. But it's profit over people, profit over people's lives.
Calvin Fowler, Worcestershire Socialist Party.
Tories tell schools not to use anti-capitalist material
The Tory government has ordered schools in England not to use material in teaching that is anti-capitalist, which they class as an 'extreme political stance¯.
On the one hand, this is very concerning. An authoritarian attempt to increase control over education and the ideas that young minds can encounter.
Teachers should not push their political beliefs on students - we are there to guide and give students the tools to come to their own conclusions.
However, as a history teacher it is my job to expose my students to a wide variety of ideas about the world, and that includes anti-capitalist thought, events and individuals. Should I just pretend that since the industrial revolution there has been no opposition to capitalism?
The idea that being pro-capitalist is somehow a neutral or non-political stance is laughable. How many millions die each year from avoidable starvation or disease while the super-rich grow ever more wealthy? That seems pretty political to me.
On the other hand, this shows how scared the ruling class are about the possibility of socialism. The fact that they feel the need to pass laws like this shows deep insecurity.
More people than ever are questioning the way society is run, and that wouldn't change even if I started every lesson with a prayer to Richard Branson! It's not 'loony-left teachers' that are making young people increasingly turn to the ideas of socialism, it's the obvious inadequacy of the failing capitalist system.
A history teacher
Overseas Operations Bill should be opposed
On Thursday 24 September, three Labour MPs - Nadia Whittome (Nottingham North), Beth Winter (Cynon Valley) and Olivia Blake (Sheffield Hallam), were removed from their parliamentary positions. This was directly after they, along with 15 other Labour MPs, including former leader Jeremy Corbyn, voted against the Overseas Operations Bill.
Labour MPs had been ordered to abstain on the vote by current leader Kier Starmer.
All three of the MPs are left-leaning Corbyn hopefuls, elected last year on the more social-democratic programme he offered. This move underlines the Labour Party's growing authoritarianism and abandonment of the working class under its current leadership.
The bill itself is controversial for several reasons. Firstly, it offers potential protection to service people from being prosecuted for acts committed while on active duty. We should recall the huge numbers of unlawful detentions that occurred during the aftermath of the Iraq war.
Giving cover to individuals is a way of hiding systemic injustice: if a soldier is prosecuted, it threatens to reveal the dark, cruel underbelly of the capitalist, imperialist system.
But prosecutions should reach much higher - to the commanders who overlook or endorse these acts, and to the capitalist politicians who sanction 'whatever means necessary' in pursuit of their ambitions.
However, the problems with the bill go far deeper than this. Despite being dubbed 'the Veterans' bill', it actually reduces the support that veterans are able to access - creating a six-year limit on claims for conditions like PTSD. That only benefits the MoD.
Soldiers are not heroes. Neither are they monsters. They are people, often put into brutal situations. They should be held to account, yes - but when a government who treats them like disposable tools fails them, we should not turn our back on them.
This bill was never fit for purpose and these MPs were right in their decision to vote against it.
Pixel Moore, Nottingham Socialist Party
Capitalism or the planet
I'm a 19-year-old university student who has always been an advocate for helping the climate and looking after our world. However, it is only in the last year or so that I've really noticed how much capitalism - and all the processes involved within such a system - really exaggerates our ecological crisis.
During lockdown we saw countless reports of cleaner air, healthier rivers, and an increase in the number of insects.
There has also been a halt in movement, consumerism and production. Of course, the capitalist system wants a large sum of products for the smallest price, which causes huge unethical and non-environmental companies to become extremely popular.
Primark, for example, is one of the largest fast fashion stores in the UK. A recent study stated how the colouring and bleaching of our clothes is very chemically intensive. This process becomes increasingly more damaging when it comes to the cheapest possible option, as the more artificial our clothes are, the less likely they are to decompose.
As a student from a low-income, working-class background, I know how tempting cheap clothes are and that it is the only option for many! However, we can try charity shops or secondhand stores such as Depop or Vinted when buying new clothes and discarding old ones.
There are many more processes that have led to the rise in carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that contribute to climate change.
Many people feel insignificant. The system brainwashes us into thinking this is the only way and, in the words of Margaret Thatcher, there is no other choice. But we are not powerless. We can use our power to object, protest and make our voices heard!
We can either save capitalism or the planet, but we cannot save both.
Alice Willis, Caerphilly Socialist Party
Starmer's smoke and mirrors
Keir Starmer's first conference speech as leader repeated the age-old myth of 'national interest'.
That completely ignores the vast division in Britain today! We all know there is a world of difference between the opportunities and protections made available to the rich elite, and the way in which working-class people have been exploited and sacrificed.
Starmer avoided detail or any sort of reasoning. Instead, he opted for emotive subjects, themes like family values and constant cliches about decency and fairness.
While the speech did land a few jabs on Boris Johnson's record in government, they were very weak! He is critical of the government's record, but simply will not speak out against the ideology and private interests which underpins every move the Tories have made. In other words, he won't speak out against capitalism and all the failures that come with it.
Instead of programme points or any substance, Starmer developed his speech into a patriotic ramble, talking about making Britain 'the best country to grow up in, and the best country to grow old in'.
There is a significant amount of mistrust and anger in society right now, and much of it is not aimed in the right direction. With that in mind, it is highly irresponsible for a Labour leader to use borderline-jingoistic slogans, aimed at grasping on to a sense of 'Britishness' that has never existed!
We know Covid has hit Britain hard because of the deliberate underfunding of services, because of disastrous sell-offs, and because of the conditions which constantly force workers into precarious situations. These are all symptoms of capitalism. We have no use for knighted individuals who want to use the smoke and mirrors of patriotism to mask the underlying cause of hardships! We need a real opposition to the establishment, we need a party for the workers!
Alex Brown, Sheffield Socialist Party
Ukraine miners' battle
Since 3 September, Ukrainian metal ore miners have been staging an heroic strike for improved pay and conditions. They have occupied the mines to prevent the bosses replacing them or using scabs to try and break the strike.
The mine bosses have already been forced to concede 10-25% pay rises.
90% of the Ukrainian mines were privatised when the Soviet Union collapsed and are now run by billionaire oligarchs. The wealth and privilege of the mining oligarchs is backed up by the Ukrainian state which is happy to give the mine owners stimulus packages (i.e. funding) while not appearing to care a jot about mine safety and the standard of living of the mine workers.
The mine workers have put forward a four-point programme of demands which include an immediate and adequate wage increase, sacking the mine managers who have allowed the mines to deteriorate to an unsafe state, lowering the pension age for miners and improved health and safety regulations.
The mine owners have used every tactic to try and defeat the strikers. This has included physical threats to the families, including children of the strike leaders.
Letters of protest can be sent to local Ukrainian embassies and via the emails below:
- With copies to CWI@worldsoc.co.uk
Mick Whale, Hull
The government has dropped its plans for gender self-identity. The only change is that the existing process will be cheaper. But the existing process is absolutely not good enough for trans people.
Legal gender change demands a 'diagnosis' as well as living as your acquired gender for over two years. An obscure panel decides if you have been doing this.
Some trans people are rejected by this panel and then have to reapply, paying costs each time. Some doctors will not give that medical 'diagnosis' either, meaning the person then has to find another doctor. The BMA has declared its support for self-identity, saying that someone's gender is not related to medical diagnosis.
It's clear that reform of the Gender Recognition Act, and greater freedom and safety for trans people, will not be achieved in parliament by appealing to the goodwill and reason of the Tory party. Only pressure from below will do that.
We need protests and support from the trade unions and workers' organisations which can unite workers and have the potential power to challenge the government and fight for rights and resources for all.
Adam Harmsworth, Coventry
In the UK prisoners know where their next meal is coming from, get clean bedding and clothing, and don't have to pay rent for their prison cells.
It seems universities aren't treating their prisoners, sorry students, as well!
Elaine Brunskill, Gateshead
In The Socialist 30 September 2020:
What we think
Black History Month
Campaigns and party news