Two very different demonstrations within less than a week of each other neatly illustrated just how polarised British politics is.
Hundreds have mobilised to attend pickets and mass meetings in defence of Venezuela’s sovereignty and to demand an end to the British and US governments interference during a time of difficulty in Venezuela. Starting with a picket at the Prime Minister’s Office and continuing with two mass meetings of the progressive left, anti-war, student and labour movement, a week of protests ended with a picket of the BBC headquarters and a further action planned against the Bank of England who have illegally seized US$1.2 billion of Venezuela’s gold.
Demonstrations on successive weekends in London last month shone a spotlight on major political rifts — in the major parties and in the political left.
On October 13, an extreme right-wing Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) march was out-mobilised and disrupted by anti-fascist demonstrators. One week later, about 670,000 people turned out for a “People’s Vote” demonstration.
In the middle of the harshest winter for more than a decade, Britain finds itself still gripped by the icy fingers of neoliberal austerity.
In what has proven to be the largest industrial action in the higher education sector in recent history, the University and College Union (UCU) launched the first day of strike action across Britain on February 22.
Striking against planned cuts to the pension schemes of academic staff, staff and students took collective action on 61 different universities across the country.
The British government sold spying equipment worth more than £300,000 to the right-wing Honduran regime implicated in mass human rights abuses, including the assassination of high-profile environmental activist Berta Caceres.
The sale of the spyware came in the year preceding Honduras’s November 2017 presidential election, which was widely seen as stolen by the incumbent government of Juan Orlando Hernandez.
It is too early yet to write about the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower on June 14 without being overcome by a mixture of sorrow and anger. This not just could, but should have been avoided.
The residents, including through the Grenfell Action Group, have been raising concerns about the safety of the block and the refurbishment for several years. In October, the London Fire Brigade wrote to Kensington and Chelsea Council expressing concerns about the insulation used at Grenfell. They were all ignored.
In the aftermath of Britain’s June 8 elections, in which Labour defied expectations to make major gains while the Conservative government of Theresa May lost its majority, the surge of support for Labour’s socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn and his anti-austerity platform has grown.
The huge Labour losses in the May 4 local council elections are just what the Labour Right was hoping for.
The left has to be crystal clear about what is happening here. There are many subsidiary factors, but the root of the Conservative Party's substantial gains – 500 seats won against about 400 losses for Labour – is the xenophobic nationalism of Brexit which the Tories have used ruthlessly.
This is going to be an election based more on competing policies and visions of society than any other election for a long time. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, pointed out at the London May Day rally that this is completely different to the past two elections where the challenge was to spot the difference — elections that Labour lost.