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Why Solidarity Between Generations Matters

By Julie Ward

I am proud to stand on a platform with extraordinary motivated and articulate young people. Too often people of my generation dismiss the youth voice, forgetting that we were all young once with important views, relevant ideas and a fresh perspective that can cut through the layers of waffle and bluster that so many politicians choose to employ.

Malala Yousuf and Greta Thunberg have been challenging perceptions and ruffling feathers for a few years now, particularly amongst the elite whether it be war lords or presidents. And in their wake come people like Abel Harvey-Clark and Robbie Scott, inspired to act and not simply to join in the adulation. Both Robbie and Abel are members of the highly organised UKSCN which I have been supporting from the outset since before my re-election to the European Parliament in 2019.

More on Earth Strike here

Abel and Robbie are also members of Momentum Internationalists, an outward-looking socialist movement that understands the need for a global system change. We pledge solidarity with workers and oppressed people everywhere, including indigenous people who are often the guardians of unique but fragile eco-systems.

UKSCN is the UK’s network of climate activists, mostly under 18, and with an impressive record of organising school strikes. I was pleased to be invited to speak at the UKSCN Climate March in Leeds last summer, but I also went to listen because it’s the years of continually being ignored, dismissed, belittled and patronised that make young people so angry. If you have done your homework, as Abel, Robbie and millions of other climate strikers have, you know that if atmospheric CO2 levels exceed 1200 parts per million (ppm) it could push the Earth’s climate to a tipping point with deadly and irreversible consequences. In fact we may already be too late as scientists reported last year.

More on the tipping points.

Every major crisis has profound consequences for the next generation. The financial crisis resulted in mass youth unemployment, Tory austerity decimated the youth service, Sure Start centres and child and adolescent mental health services, whilst hiking up university fees and creating mass unsustainable student debt. Covid19 has put education on hold and the climate crisis is an existential threat. Why wouldn’t you strike? Why wouldn’t you lie down in the corridors of power? Why wouldn’t you demand that politicians tell the truth and polluters stop polluting? I and a growing number of terrified older people are thankful that young people at least are not afraid to speak truth to power.

In March 2019 I was in the European Parliament when Greta Thunberg spoke to a packed room. Her words made uncomfortable listening precisely because she speaks the truth, not only about what will happen if we don’t act, but about large-scale political failure.

In the UK Thunberg was flatly refused an audience with the government although Jeremy Corbyn and Caroline Lucas met with her and huge crowds mobilised at meetings in Bristol and elsewhere in solidarity across the country. Trump, the Tories and the ultra libertarians (many of whom are climate-change denying Brexiteers) are dismissive and mocking of Thunberg precisely because she is young, as if youth has no agency and child rights were not an actual thing despite 30 years of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

An example of this right wing hate campaign in the UK

These are the same people who don’t want young people vote. The same people berating youth for being idle and feckless. The same same people encouraging you to join the army and learn some discipline. Indeed, in the UK, we may be in danger of something akin to National Service as part of the recovery programme post-coronavirus whereas EU Member States are rolling out a new youth initiative aimed at environmental action, projects to help refugees, and other social projects.

Read about the Solidarity Corps

So let’s plan ahead, build the resistance by building solidarity between all generations and all people’s. Let’s act locally whilst being outward-looking. Let’s be internationalists.

For more information about how to sign up and join the global action whatever your age here are some links:

UKSCN

Parents for Future

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Democracy in Labour: what do we want?

The left, including Momentum, has not done very well in fighting to democratise the Labour Party. Some of that has been a matter of being defeated. A lot of it has been a matter of not trying very hard. The left missed many opportunities on this, as did the Corbyn leadership.

With a new leadership that is less sympathetic to the left and left policies, winning thorough democratisation of the party is more urgent than ever.

What should the left and Momentum fight for? Here are some ideas. We encourage people to submit replies and further contributions.

1. Of course, open selections for parliamentary candidates. It is a disgrace that Momentum did not fight for this elementary democratic demand. Equally, some on the left seem to think it is a silver bullet. It isn’t. In the 1980s there were open selections and relatively few MPs were replaced. In 2019, many right-wing MPs won trigger ballots by large majorities, including in CLPs where the left has won control of the structures. We need to make progress on democratisation without waiting to replace large numbers of MPs. And on the other hand, just having different parliamentary representatives is not the be-and-end-all of democracy – not least because even the best representatives can of course go astray or drift. Much wider democracy and accountability is necessary to guard against that, and to make MPs genuinely representatives of the movement. By itself open selection is a very blunt tool.

2. A democratic national conference must be Labour’s sovereign decision-making body. Conference should set the policy agenda, pass motions that determine policy and what is included in the manifesto, and decide the party’s direction. Motions should be published as they are submitted, with regular updates. More conference time for policy debate, and contributions from delegates.

CLPs should have the right to submit both a policy motion and a rule change to each conference. The NEC should be allowed to submit rule changes only with the same deadlines as everyone else, not at the last minute as currently.

Party bodies, representatives and leaders must recognise and implement conference policy and decisions. Abolish the National Policy Forum. Conference decisions should be published, easily accessible, and advertised.

As in the past, there should be a rolling programme passed by conference each year as the basis for the manifesto and campaigning.

Establishing the sovereignty of conference is a matter of rule changes but also changes in political culture, from bottom to top.

Policy-making in the labour movement should be the property of conference and duly-elected committees, not of a designated “Leader” and their “Leader’s Office” handing down announcements.

Even when the announcements-from-on-high are left-wing — as they have been sometimes under the Corbyn leadership — that they are announcements from on high tells against the chances of the labour movement mobilising sufficiently to convince the electorate of the policies, or to get them enforced against ruling-class resistance.

3. Establish a clear right to diversity of opinion and organisation within broad Labour values. Establish the right to organise political groupings within the party. Amend rule 2I4(b) to remove the confused and damaging inference that groupings that are not official party bodies are a problem, which obviously will never be implemented consistently but allows the targeting of those the machine does not like.

4. Expulsions should be only for opposing Labour in elections; for gross anti-worker, racist, sexist, or otherwise discriminatory behaviour; and for abuse of power or sabotage of party functioning – and only after a hearing, with prior notice of charges, with the National Constitutional Committee. All those penalised should have a proper right to appeal. Cases should not be rushed or allowed to drag on without prompt resolution.

5. Ensure adequate notice of and accessible information about all democratic party meetings. All conference documents, including reports, policy documents, motions, records of decisions, votes and proceedings, should be published as far in advance of/as soon after meetings as possible. NEC agendas, papers and minutes should be published, outside exceptional cases. The NEC should return to taking questions and comments on its annual report at conference; delegates should vote whether to approve it, with the right to refer back any part of the report.

6. Maintain and strengthen the union link. Revive and expand the link at local level by getting more genuine union delegates to CLPs, rooted in functioning branches and workplaces. Support a drive for democracy in the unions.

7. A drive to establish CLP-level Young Labour branches/groups – with representation in CLPs, but autonomous, with freedom to discuss, campaign and recruit new members. Give Youth Officers access to data for young members in their area.

8. Move as fast as possible towards a national Young Labour conference based on delegates from local groups, and affiliates; and not made inaccessible by cost. Let YL have its own democratic constitution, decided by its conference, and control the staff and administrative support it gets nationally and regionally.

9. Re-establish Labour Students, with its own democratic constitution decided by its conference. A conference based on delegates from Labour Clubs, not made inaccessible by cost.

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Social care: in dire need of public ownership

By Kas Witana

“Read the website of any of the big care companies and you could be forgiven for thinking that their mission was one of pure altruism. In fact, they are bringing in profits on the back of their undervalued workforce and government subsidies. Many do not recognise trade unions. The entire sector is carried by its overwhelmingly underpaid, hyper-exploited and exhausted workforce. These workers are overwhelmingly women and many are migrants, who spend their leisure time being told they are a burden on public services… 

“[The crises in care] require a reckoning with decades of underfunding, fragmentation and privatisation, and deep change in how our health and social care systems are run… a huge injection of public money, and a model based on democratic public ownership, so that local people, workers and service users can have a say in how it is run.” 

– Nadia Whittome MP, sacked from her care job for speaking out over PPE 

Activists in trade unions, the Labour Party and across the left must step up discussion and campaigning around social care. 

The media has extensively covered the crisis raging and spreading in care homes, with thousands of Covid-19-related deaths, but it is largely silent about how capitalism’s devastation of the sector and its workforce has smoothed the way for the virus. 

The government has evaded crucial issues about availability of and access to PPE and testing. It has refused to even address the fact that many, perhaps most care workers, get only Statutory Sick Pay – if that – and are under massive financial pressure to work unsafely. Things are so bad that some care workers have to turned to food banks in their determination to behave responsibly and self-isolate – but some, through no fault of their own, will have felt forced to continue working. 

This reality is a result of the driving down of care workers’ terms and conditions over many years, in turn a consequences of the radical privatisation and fragmentation of the sector – both in care homes and home care provision. I was previously a care worker in the private sector; now I work in a similar role in the NHS. It’s not that everything is brilliant in the public sector we have today, but the contrast with private provision, both for my conditions and the service I can provide to those I care for, is stark. 

The left must start paying attention. This sector gutted by the profit-motive and now being ravaged by the pandemic employs over a million workers (disproportionately BAME and overwhelmingly women), cares for millions and impacts many millions more. 

What can we do? 

Union membership and organisation is low in care. However, around 20pc of care workers are members of a union, and there have been some important struggles, like the victorious fight by Birmingham home care workers over job and pay cuts last year. And in this crisis there has been some drive among care workers to organise, with increased union membership and the emergence of initiatives like the Workers’ Coronavirus Action Group and Home Care Worker blog.

Union branches, Labour Parties, Momentum groups and so on should build links with care workers – and service-users – support their struggles and learn form them. 

We should support campaigns like ‘Safe and Equal’(backed by John McDonnell and Nadia Whittome among others) and the NW region ‘Care Workers vs Covid-19’ to win all workers the right to self-isolate on full pay, and other demands for rights and safety. 

We should organise to put pressure on Labour councils to do with Salford has done and guarantee all care workers the right to self-isolate on full pay, and to act to help ensure adequate PPE and testing. 

We must oppose the anti-migrant assault which is horribly affecting so many care workers and further undermining an already understaffed sector. That means fighting to defend and extend free movement and migrants’ rights, and it means stopping the Tories’ hard-right, anti-worker, anti-migrant Brexit plans by extending the transition period. If it means calling into question Brexit itself – good. 

Beyond that, as the quote from Nadia Whittome above indicates, we need wider political answers. We can and must fight smaller struggles now – but the way out of the crisis in the sector, a crisis now on fire but which began long before Covid-19, is public ownership, so we can put people above profit. 

We should demand comprehensive public ownership of both care homes and organisations providing home care provision, and major public investment, to create a free public care and independent living service with improved standards, pay, conditions and workers’ rights. We should push for the Labour Party and trade unions to campaign, really campaign, for such a vision and demands. Given everything that is happening a determined fight for public ownership could surely gain major support. 

Social care provision, social care workers and those who they care for are the sharp end of the class war capital has waged against the working class over decades. The labour movement has failed in its responsibilities here; now is the time to change that. This is a campaign we can win, making a difference to the lives of huge numbers of people and substantial inroads against the power of capital. 

Working with care workers, service-users and campaigners to develop demands and campaigning, Momentum should act as a catalyst to help organisations start educating and organising around these issues – and to push the Labour Party into action. Momentum Internationalists is seeking to set an example and make the case. 

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Petition: full pay for TFL cleaners!

• We reproduce the text of an important petition by the Justice for Cleaners campaign to Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayor of London. Please sign it and share it!

Click here to sign the Justice for Cleaners petition

ABM, the giant company that cleans the Underground and Transport for London’s offices, has announced plans to furlough approximately 200 of its cleaners during the Covid-19 crisis. The furlough scheme only guarantees 80% of a worker’s salary. It is a matter of record that ABM’s cleaners are poorly paid and they had been running a campaign for better pay and conditions in the year before the Covid crisis hit. 

We call on Mayor Khan as the ultimate employer to guarantee the remaining 20% pay of all furloughed ABM staff and call on Mayor Khan to immediately extend staff travel rights to ABM cleaners

ABM cleaners’ representatives have approached the employer and the Mayor with a view to extending the staff travel arrangements enjoyed by all other TfL employees. Sadly the Mayor’s office has said that with only 5% of normal passenger traffic at the moment TfL needs the cleaners’ money. This is pretty shameful. 

The Mayor is fully aware that London’s social housing crisis and the rip off private rental sector mean that a very large percentage of TfL’s cleaners live in Zones 4-6 and using the cheaper (or temporarily free) buses means cleaners spend hours and hours of their day traveling.

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Democratise Momentum… and then what?

By Simon Hannah

Have people been watching the news lately? I’m just asking because it seems like people haven’t been as no one seems to be really talking about the massive economic crisis that is barrel rolling towards us with increasing… er… momentum.

So far the discussions on the Labour left are not only dull and uninspired, focussing on the same old arguments that could have been had in the 1980s, they are profoundly lacking any real sense of urgency.

I’ll keep it short – the IMF has calculated that April global growth in 2020 will fall to -3 percent. In their words “This makes the Great Lockdown the worst recession since the Great Depression, and far worse than the Global Financial Crisis.”

We need a huge shift in wealth from the rich to the poor and a total reorganising of society away from profit. If not then we are talking mass unemployment, social immiseration and a dramatic decline of essential public services.

As the crisis deepens there will likely be significant social struggles in which the Labour Party will not only be largely absent but will even oppose them outright. In that situation the Labour left will need to focus on not just the ridiculous insular world of Westminster bubble politics.

Talk of democratising Momentum means absolutely nothing unless it is clear what the role of a democratised Momentum is in the context of the worst economic and social crisis since the 1930s.

Likewise there is too much talk of ‘policies’ as in what would make a good manifesto for government. Let’s face facts, Labour is out of power for at least five years, perhaps longer. So what is the Labour left going to do in the meantime?

Anyone who is interested in running Momentum in a post-Corbyn Labour Party needs to address this central question. Otherwise what is the point?

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Labour Councils and cuts: what should Momentum do?

By Josh Lovell

Over the past five years, many new, left-wing Labour Councillors have been elected into local government. I count myself as one of these who ‘rode the wave of Corbynism’ into local government alongside the resurgence of anti-austerity politics forming part of the new political mainstream.

Nationally the Labour Party led its 2017 and 2019 General Election campaigns with slogans about ending austerity, and over-seeing the biggest cash-injection and public ownership programs in generations. Delegates to Party Conference repeatedly passed motions calling for the party to go further, and particularly the reversal of all academisation of schools, the complete public ownership of all NHS and social care services, and immense home building demands. They were all right to do so.

Whilst the leadership and large swathes of the membership were calling for these however, extraordinarily little was actively campaigned on and won outside of party structures – amongst the trade union and workers’ movement, and in councils where left-wingers have been gaining numbers.

This should be of little surprise to anyone who followed the course of the organisation that set itself up to do just this. Momentum – with its aim of building a socialist grassroots movement in every town and city – failed to train socialists in how to fight for their ideas, either in their workplaces or on their councils. And this task is about to become even more urgent.

With an economic crisis hastened by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we can expect a Tory-led onslaught on local government finances imminently. Some predictions suggest we may soon enter the most destructive global economic crash in generations, and with Labour still controlling many councils, local government budgets are going to be at the forefront of the Tory agenda for rapid privatisation and sweeping spending cuts. Without an organised socialist resistance, the Tory steam-roller could leave local government completely flattened.

Although embryonic organisations that could serve to bring people and campaign groups together, none of these seem to be calling for this with the determination needed. The Labour left must commit to re-building itself on the basis of class struggle to fight austerity and organise socialist councillors and local government workers in how to respond.

Government cuts to local authority finances have been rammed through in recent years through a combination of tight legal restrictions on councils and the unwillingness of Labour Councils to resist, supported by a bureaucratic Labour Party ruling which reserves to the right to expel Councillors who ‘say no’.

Clearly individual councillors decrying cuts in isolation is a strategy doomed to failure, but organised across the UK, a mass campaign of socialist councillor resistance should be built, alongside a combined fight back of local government workers, demanding major increases to local government funding, and social ownership.

The logic of the current pandemic leads us directly to the latter of these, where widespread government bail-outs have been necessary to stop an all-out collapse of many essential public services left fragmented after decades of privatisation. We should make a central pillar of our efforts taking all council services into public ownership, run by their workforces, funded by government grants from taxing the rich. This must include as a minimum the restoration of local government funding to pre-2010 levels, but more where needed to ensure all social need can be met by socialised provision.

A radical re-birth of Momentum could help to bring this about and begin an urgent, organised struggle in local government. With Labour Councillors refusing to pass on Tory cuts and fight for more funding with local government workers, they – like struggles before – could have the power to break the government’s strangle-hold on local authority finances.

100 hundred years ago during the Poplar Rates Rebellion, local Councillors adopted the slogan “better break the law, than break the poor”. We need this spirit back in local government, now.

Josh Lovell is a Hertfordshire Labour Councillor and a Candidate in the Forward Momentum Primaries in the Elected Representatives category (writing in a personal capacity)

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Stop the rush to No-Deal

• If you agree with this article, please add your name to this call for Labour to campaign on this

As part of the internationalist response to the Covid-19 crisis we advocate, Momentum Internationalists is calling for a “lengthy extension of the Brexit transition period”.

What does that mean?

In the best case scenario, where the EU and UK agree a workable post-Brexit trade deal, the kind of hard Brexit the Tories want will cause major damage to the UK economy (any Brexit will cause some damage, certainly any Brexit that curbs free movement of people). In fact, for obvious reasons, EU-UK negotiations have ground to a halt and are still effectively grounded. A deal is unlikely; if there is one it will be a mess, barely mitigating severe economic disruption.

For this to happen in less than eight months’ time, when the economic and social fall-out from the Covid-19 crisis is near its peak, would be a disaster. Britain’s ruling class will take a hit, which is why much of it is not happy about this, but it will weather the storm and find ways to make use of it; some of its members will make a lot of money out of the chaos. Much of the working class and the most vulnerable people in society will very likely suffer horribly.

Meanwhile the hard right of the Tory party, the Dominic Raabs and Priti Patels, will exploit the situation to push forward their turbo-austerity, worker-attacking, migrant-bashing disaster-capitalist agenda. They will do that as we emerge from the pandemic anyway. But a hard Brexit rushed through in the middle of the fall-out from Covid-19 will help them. Stopping their Brexit-drive is an important part of fighting their agenda.

We should halt the rush to Brexit and insist energies are concentrated on dealing with Covid-19 and discussing how we rebuild society as we emerge from the pandemic.

Aren’t you just saying this because you’re against Brexit?

Many in Momentum Internationalists are more broadly anti-Brexit. All of us think the Covid-19 crisis reaffirms that the labour movement and left need to fight for international, not nationally-limited solutions, to the multiple crises we face. International cooperation and solidarity is key. We will continue to discuss what that means in relation to Brexit.

But even if you think Brexit should happen, or has to happen, in a general sense, that is a very different matter from accepting the kind of Brexit the Tories want – and still less from accepting their right to rush it through in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. The whole labour movement, regardless of wider views on Brexit, should oppose this.

What do you mean rush it through? Hasn’t this been discussed endlessly?

The transition period ends in less than eight months. The deadline for the UK government to apply for an extension is 30 June – about seven weeks! So this really is urgent.

The radically new situation we find ourselves in, in the pandemic and lockdown, makes reassessing all this through a proper debate urgent too – but so far there is remarkably little discussion about it. That is partly because the Labour Party and unions are silent. We need to change that.

This is undemocratic. People have voted repeatedly for Brexit

The Tories won the electon by rallying pro-Brexit opinion around themselves, but even then every poll showed a narrow majority opposed to Brexit. In any case, public opinion on extending the transition is far more clear and decisive.

The latest polling shows that 66pc want an extension to the transition period in order to deal with Covid-19. That includes a substantial majority of every age group, social grade and region. It includes 49pc of people who voted Leave in the referendum, 48pc of those who voted Tory in 2019 and 45pc of those who voted Brexit Party (and 83pc of Labour voters).

A large LabourList poll found that readers favoured Labour fighting to extend the transition 76pc to 17pc.

We would argue against a rushed hard Brexit even if we were in a small minority. But the figures are clear!

It is not democratic that, at the moment, no substantial political force will speak up for that two-thirds majority. It is not democratic that the Tories are trying desperately to avoid serious discussion and debate of their plans. And it is not democratic that through its silence Labour is helping them.

Can we actually shift this?

Time is short, the Tory leadership is digging in and Labour is failing to lead. That makes it doubly important we do everything we can to build the pressure on this – if only to prepare people for what is coming if we fail.

However, it is not a hopeless cause. In addition to public opinion being on our side, it is very clear that a majority of the capitalist class are concerned about what is happening; so are leading people in the state machine. Despite pressure from the nationalist right and career-discipline, many leading Tories seem very uncomfortable, even before they face any serious pressure over the issue.

We do not take our cue from capitalists, civil service bosses or “moderate” Tory MPs. The point is that this issue may well blow up in the coming weeks, whatever the labour movement and Labour Party do.

Our party and movement should show some leadership, get out ahead of the issues and help create a genuine popular movement to stop the Tories.

So what are you doing?

We will continue to speak out, explain what is happening and why we need to stop it, and push for our movement to fight. We are promoting this call for Labour and the trade unions to break their silence and demand an extension. We are calling for local Labour Parties and union branches to meet online, if they aren’t already, and to discuss this question. We are pushing for Momentum and Forward Momentum to take a stand and raise the issue too.

Help us! Share this article, sign the statement linked above and raise the issues in Labour, Momentum, Forward Momentum or your union. For more information or to support our campaigning on this or other issues, get in touch: info@momentuminternationalists.org

• “It is clear we must demand an extension” – see here for an interview with Forward Momentum steering group member Ben Selby in which he discusses the issues.

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Labour must stand with Kashmir

By Nadia Whittome MP (August 8th 2019)

By revoking Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution that provide special autonomous status and residency rules for Jammu and Kashmir, and preparing to break up the state, Narenda Modi’s far-right, Hindu-supremacist government has effectively declared war on the Kashmiri people. It has virtually declared a literal war too, with tens of thousands of troops invading the state, mainstream political leaders under house arrest, a total communications blackout, and reports of widespread human rights abuses. An already bad situation has got much worse, fast.

This attack foremost profoundly impacts the people of Kashmir, in particular, but not only, the roughly 70pc Muslim majority. It also further endangers the Muslim minority in India, who are the main targets of Hindu nationalists now running the country. Beyond this, the UK has the largest diaspora Kashmiri community in the world and, whilst the blackout continues, they are unable to check that friends or family in Kashmir are safe. And more generally this is a dramatic deepening of the far-right project Modi’s regime has been gradually escalating.

It is extremely disappointing that the Labour Party has not spoken out loudly about India’s assault on Kashmir. Firstly, because an injury to one is an injury to all, and we should stand against human rights abuses and suppression of democracy everywhere in the world. Secondly, because our party and movement should be the determined enemy of the far right everywhere in the world, and the Indian government is a central element of that growing far right internationally. No Pasarán!

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Shadow Minister, Liz McInnes, has made a statement on behalf of the Labour Party, but it is not strong enough politically nor does it amount to campaigning solidarity. The party leadership is largely silent. A group of Muslim-background Labour MPs have written a stronger letter to the British government demanding real opposition to the Indian government’s moves. They should not be left to fight alone.

Labour must insist that the British government releases a clear statement of condemnation, demanding reinstatement of Articles 370 and 35A, immediate military de-escalation, and the immediate suspension of British arms sales for use by the Indian military. Crucially, the British government must publicly assert the Kashmiri peoples’ right to self-determination and support the plebiscite that was promised at the time of accession, and give a firm commitment to use all diplomatic means to resolve this.

It is hard to know exactly why the party nationally has not stirred itself. It may simply be the inertia which hangs over the party on various international – and not just international – issues. Where are the strong statements of support for the democracy movement in Sudan, for instance, or in Hong Kong, or against the suppression of the Uyghurs? But I cannot help but also wonder if the presence of BJP or Modi sympathisers in senior positions is also a factor. Barry Gardiner in particular has a two-decades long record of supporting Modi, including recent statements praising him. To come out fighting on this also implies confronting the likes of Gardiner.

Socialists are not advocates for any nationalist movement or nationalist solution to a conflict. We are internationalists. But internationalism demands determined opposition to oppression and in this case to the Indian imperialist Hindutva drive against the people of Kashmir. In this case it is not enough simply to resolve for “peace” because, as in Palestine, peace in Kashmir is necessarily dependent on the right to meaningful self-determination.

Let us campaign for our party and unions to make a strong stand against the Indian occupation of Kashmir, for peace, and the right to self-determination. Meanwhile members should educate themselves on the issues; write to our MPs asking for support; organise solidarity meetings or actions and attend those already being organised; and share protests and information on social media.

This article was written for the Clarion in August 2019 and appeared here.

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Don’t pander to Modi: an open letter to Keir Starmer


• To sign the letter, click here.

After meeting with the executive of “Labour Friends of India” (LFIN), a group which opposes criticism of India’s current far-right government, Keir Starmer has made comments which are assumed to be a move to distance Labour from its conference policy in solidarity with Kashmir.

“We must not allow issues of the sub-continent to divide communities here.

“Any constitutional issues in India are a matter for the Indian Parliament, and Kashmir is a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan to resolve peacefully.”

In a joint press statement between the Labour Leadership and LFIN, Starmer added;

“A Labour Government under my leadership will be determined to build even stronger business links with India.”

Last year’s Labour Party conference passed an emergency motion in opposition to Indian state oppression in Kashmir and in support of self-determination. To move away from the position is undemocratic and a far cry from the internationalism Starmer claims is at the heart of the party.

This follows a campaign orchestrated by the Indian government-linked far right – who campaigned in the UK general election to smear Labour as “anti-Indian” and “anti-Hindu”, and pit different religious communities against each other. To equate support for the Modi government and its actions in Kashmir to “India” and the “British Indian community” is to treat British Indians and the 1.4 billion population of India as a homogenous block supporting the Hindu far right. This is clearly untrue and is a betrayal of our comrades, including vast numbers of labour movement activists, fighting at great risk for democracy in India.

Please sign this open letter to Keir Starmer calling for the Party leadership to respect our democracy and conference policy, and to show it is serious about the fight for human rights, including in Kashmir.

___

Labour must campaign for its democratically-agreed 2019 conference policy of demanding “the restoration of basic human rights and… the right to self-determination” in Kashmir.

We were disturbed by Keir Starmer’s declaration, in defiance of party policy, that “any constitutional issues in India are a matter for the Indian Parliament” and his signalling through talk about “business links” and “dialogue” that he wants a rapprochment with India’s far-right government.

He says “Labour is an internationalist party and stands for the defence of human rights everywhere”. For that to be more than empty words, the party must firmly oppose human rights violations everywhere, including in Kashmir; support democracy and the right to self-determination – including in Kashmir; and fight the global nationalist right, of which the Modi regime is a central pillar.

We must not capitulate to the Hindu right’s communalist agitation in Britain, which seeks to divide communities on religious lines while shouting that support for human rights is divisive. We must not abandon our comrades in India fighting for democracy, workers’ rights and the rights of minorities against the Hindu nationalist regime.

We call on Keir Starmer and the party leadership to respect our democracy and conference policy, and to show it is serious about the fight for human rights, including in Kashmir.