March 21 2020
Labour Transformed have launched an online Covid19 solidarity resource the ‘Virtual Social Centre.’ The idea behind the website is to bring together the different campaigns and initiatives emerging in response to the triple threat of Covid19, the financial crisis and authoritarian governance into one place. Our hope is, by doing so we will introduce people from different groups to new ideas, acting as a bridge between the different campaigns emerging in response to these threats. We have also included information and links to health and benefit advice, as well as a list of radical education projects and online content designed to overcome isolation and boredom.
If you have any suggestions for content then please contact us at https://virtualsocialcentre.org.uk/suggested-resources/
March 12 2020
On the Coronavirus and the social crisis
An open letter to the Trade Union movement from Labour Transformed.
Labour Transformed are extremely concerned about the situation presented by the Coronavirus and the inadequate responses from both the Conservative government and the organised Labour/Union movement. We appreciate a lot is going on, ‘behind the scenes,’ but believe a collective response from the union movement is long overdue. Hopefully such a response can help to quell social anxiety and provide the leadership necessary to deal with the crisis as it unfolds over the coming weeks.
All current modelling regarding the spread of the coronavirus suggests that the UK is currently two weeks ‘behind’ Italy in terms of infection rates, although some modelling has already suggested the UK will suffer a larger number of cases given the current rate at which the virus is spreading here. If we end up with a 20% infection rate in the UK, with only 5% of those needing ICU care – we would need 600,000 ICU beds.There are only 4000 ICU beds across the whole of the NHS, and these are already 90% occupied.
The slow incubation period attached to Covid19, the moment between infection and displaying symptoms will in no doubt, contribute to the spread of the virus. Without a generalised program of ‘social distancing/ self-isolation’, the risk of the disease spreading further and developing into an unprecedented social crisis remains extremely likely.
The Conservative government’s response to this crisis remains wholly inadequate: instead of implementing the appropriate measures – social distancing, closing non-essential workplaces, schools, universities etc. – measures essential to limit the spread of the disease, the Tories have chosen to put the needs of the economy (and the interests of the capitalist class) before public safety.
Let’s not forget that this crisis will fall hardest upon those who can least afford to cope with it – the working class. In Italy, where all non-essential services have been suspended, food courier companies are still allowed to operate in the centre of the epidemic. Workers without union representation or adequate sick pay are forced into a difficult choice, starve or go to work. Working during a pandemic, because of the threat of no sick pay, is not only cruel but incredibly dangerous for those who they come in contact with. Companies like Deliveroo see an opportunity to make huge profits while people are quarantined and unable to get food themselves. Capital will profit from this crisis at our expense. Here, too, it is workers who will be coerced into endangering themselves and others as they cannot afford to self-isolate themselves unilaterally.
We, the working class, cannot afford to sit back and wait for the government to impose self-isolation in two weeks time, we need to act collectively and now, so we can head the spread of the disease ‘off at the pass’. Trade unions and the Labour Party should be calling on their members to do just that – ‘stay at home.’
Staying at home and self isolating is an act of social solidarity, one that ensures that the burden of ill bodies falling onto the shoulders of our brothers and sisters in the NHS is someway manageable. We demand all trade unions call for an immediate stoppage of non-essential work. We ask that union funds be made available to members taking this course of action, and that donations be made to support community initiatives like food banks and other services, which are essential for working class survival.
We can limit the spread of this virus, but only if the labour movement acts fast and in solidarity with the whole of the working class, not just the workers they represent.
We encourage all our friends and comrades to think about what they can do to protect the most vulnerable over the coming weeks, particularly the homeless, the incarcerated and the elderly. Self-organised initiatives are already showing another way to deal with the virus, as in the example of Queercare, LGBTQ activists who are organising inside their community to provide practical solidarity to vulnerable members.
The trade union movement needs to act also, throwing their resources and their collective power into this struggle for life. Unions need to create a social solidarity ‘pay,’ akin to strike funds, payments made available to workers to ensure they aren’t tempted out of their homes by the threat of unpaid bills, overdue rents or rising debt..
Instead of an authoritarian ‘self isolation’ imposed from above, let us create a collective response predicated on solidarity ‘from below’.
As such we demand the trade union movement call for:
- An immediate cessation of all non-essential work.
- A strict policy of social distancing for those who must remain in work.
- Union funds to be made available to cover the financial losses incurred to workers who elect to support ‘self isolation’ solidarity if needed.
- Union funds to create a ‘solidarity fund’ that can provide financial support to non-unionised workers, food banks and other services necessary for working class survival.
Furthermore we call on the trade unions to demand of the government to:
- Fund wage level sick pay to all employees who do not go into work in order to self-isolate.
Bring all private hospitals into emergency public ownership.
- Begin a mass testing program.
- Emergency funding for social services
Give the public the best possible information about the pandemic at all times.
- Empower Ofcom to significantly penalise any regulated media found to be spreading fake news about the pandemic.
- Compel medical manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies to sign planning agreements that direct research and production towards public health rather than profit, in return for public financing.
- Guarantee full sick pay for the employed and self-employed without any thresholds or waiting periods.
- Temporarily suspend all mortgage, rent and bill payments.
- Immediate halt of all non-essential work.
- Make provision for pandemic response in prisons for prisoner health.
- End deportations, immigration detention.
- Remove all NHS surcharges to make access to healthcare universal.
- Ensure families in receipt of school meals are fed over the duration of the crisis.
If the government does not agree to support mass self-isolation by the middle of next week and agree to the demands listed above, the trade union leadership and movement must call a strike of all non-essential services.
March 9 2020
Apologies for our recent ‘radio silence’, our server and all its back-ups crashed a little over a week ago taking all the content with it, which has set us back slightly. We are working hard to get it back up and running and hopefully the website will be live again by the end of the coming week. The revitalised website will now include union and community organising pages, hosting a series of leaflets and draft motions for members to download, as well as a calendar of upcoming events (pickets, conferences etc) that we encourage all Labour Transformed members to attend.
In the meantime those of us who make up the provisional organising group, have been busy planning activities and laying a foundation for a more open organising structure. Here is an update on recent activity:
Wednesday 19th February – London.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the publication of ‘In and Against the State’, activists from Labour Transformed gave a talk at Housmans Bookshop. Recently, this short text has had something of a revival of interest, due in part to the overton window opened by Jeremy Corbyn’s successful challenge for Labour Party leadership in 2015. It would be fair to say, ‘In and Against the State’ has haunted the political imagination of a growing current within Corbynism that has become increasingly hegemonic among younger corbynite activists; providing a theme for 2018’s The World Transformed festival, as well as generating a variety of articles, from authors as diverse as John McDonnell, Hilary Wainwright and more avowedly extra-parliamentary communist groupings. While the original text spoke to the direct experiences of revolutionary socialists working within the public sector, more recently ‘In and Against the State’ has come to take on a wider conceptual meaning, talking to a growing and ‘international tendency’ of anti-authoritarian activists, who now find themselves engaged in parliamentarian or municipal projects that seek to incorporate the sensibilities, organisational methodologies and principles of the extra-parliamentary and anti-authortrain left. How we can make sense of this apparent contradiction was the purpose of the talk. Addressing ‘class composition,’ and other lessons drawn from autonomist Marxism, Labour Transformed activists made a call for a regroupment of revolutionaries within the shadow of the Labour Party.
For further reading on these ideas see – For a Party, For Autonomy.
Saturday 7th March- Bristol.
This coming Saturday at Bristol Transformed Archie Woodrow and James Meadway, members of Labour Transformed, will be discussing strategy for the contemporary moment alongside Sarah Jaffe and Kulsoom Jafri. This talk will take place at 12 noon.
Blurb from the Bristol programme- ‘There has been a resurgence of leftwing organisations, think tanks, activists, politicians and ideas in recent years, and in America it seems the left is on the brink of power. But all of this happened almost accidentally, and without serious strategic thought. In this session we ask activists from the UK and the States how the left can coordinate with effective strategy to win power.’
If you are currently taking UCU strike action, you can get subsidised tickets for Bristol Transformed – please contact them if you want these sort of tickets.
Tuesday 10th March- London.
This coming Tuesday, activists from Labour Transformed’s Union Working Group will be running a ‘teach out’ and public discussion at 1.45pm outside the History of Art Department at UCL–address- 20 Gordon Square. Picket lines will be running from 8am if people wish to arrive earlier and show their solidarity which we encourage. The proposed discussion is themed around ‘where next for the movement after the defeat of December the 12th?’ We welcome all LT members who have the time to come and attend and contribute to our discussion.
Opening up organisation.
At present Labour Transformed’s provisional organising group meet every week. We want to expand the participation of these meetings and have recently proposed that every second of these organisational meetings should also be attended by members from the working groups (ideally two members from each) in order to propose and develop campaigns, coordinate activity and check in with one another. At our last meeting, delegates from both the Trade Union Working Group and the Race and Anti-Imperialism Working Group were able to attend. Ideas were discussed to produce forms of direct action and solidarity for two ongoing struggles in London.
Each working group should ensure that delegates are able to attend moving forward. The provisional organising group will continue to remind members in advance of meetings via our WhatsApp channels.
Working groups are organising for action.
Part of the motivation for establishing Labour Transformed was to incorporate the lessons and sensibilities of the ‘new’ rank and file community and workplace unions into the organisational repotorie of Labour Party activists. With this in mind we are planning two upcoming open meetings in order to devise campaigns, solidarity and direct action in support of upcoming union struggle and in defence of Haringey’s Latin Village. We invite all members to attend. Dates for these meetings will follow shortly.
Further Working group news.
A proposed reading group is being set up by the race and anti-imperialism group, further details will be forwarded as and when dates have been set.
Looking ahead to July, Labour Transformed is planning a one (possibly two) day conference of culture and politics which will draw together different sections of the international ‘class compositional left’ in order to assess the continued utility of the Labour Party for revolutionaries. We also hope to have a massive fuck off party in the evening as well as an interesting cultural programme running throughout the day (you lucky philistines). Keep an eye out for updates and ways to get involved, help set the agenda and contribute as the weeks unfold.