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Arguments for socialism :: The Socialist
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Plymouth student rent strikers are now estimated to be withholding over £800,000 in rent against student landlords across the city and, as this number grows, so does the power of the movement.
We had a productive meeting with University of Plymouth Students' Union and though they wouldn't fully endorse the rent strike, due to us encouraging students to withhold their rent, they were supportive. We have proposed co-writing a letter to the government to challenge it on its lack of support, and we intend to contact the University and College Union and other unions represented on campus to assist in putting this letter together.
We have also had support from the local council, who passed a motion supporting all the core demands of the rent strike and calling on the government to reimburse student landlords, so that their tenants are not the ones that have to suffer.
While it is largely symbolic and not the outright support we hoped for, this has shown us and our strikers that we are not a loud minority, we are the justified majority, and the added publicity has had a massive positive impact on the morale of strikers across the city.
We will now be seeing what practical support the council can provide, such as subsidising public transport for students or clamping down on landlords who provide student accommodation that isn't fit for purpose.
We have launched our Covid care package programme, providing small (£15) parcels for those either in isolation or simply unable to provide for themselves due to the financial strain of the pandemic. This has been received with great success, and the number of people applying for the scheme has shown us how much this movement is needed.
While currently the price of these packages is coming out of organisers' own pockets, we have already secured some funding from the council. We also hope to be addressing the societies forum, which is a meeting of committee members from every university student society. We plan to address the forum asking for societies to come behind the rent strike to expand its reach to more students.
We will also be seeking financial support from the £20,000 fund which is set aside each year to help societies grow which we will be appealing for societies to use to assist with our care package programme.
Universities should be looking out for their students and ensuring that no one is left needing to choose between feeding themselves or paying their rent. This government has given students so little financial support.
It will not come as a surprise to socialists that the rich have done very nicely out of the pandemic, while the conditions of the poor have deteriorated. This has been confirmed by Oxfam.
Its report "The Inequality Virus" states:
"The coronavirus pandemic has the potential to lead to an increase in inequality in almost every country at once, the first time this has happened since records began. The virus has exposed, fed off and increased existing inequalities of wealth, gender and race. Over two million people have died, and hundreds of millions of people are being forced into poverty while many of the richest - individuals and corporations - are thriving. Billionaire fortunes returned to their pre-pandemic highs in just nine months, while recovery for the world's poorest people could take over a decade."
The report contrasts the poverty experienced by many frontline workers combatting the pandemic with the way the rich avoided feeling the pinch. It highlights with facts and figures the unequal consequences for the rich and the poor.
Capitalism is a virus. Socialism is a vaccine.
Just to add to the article in issue 1118 about the strike by Heartlands Hospital porters in Birmingham. The NHS trust had clearly planned this in advance and ensured that they had enough 'bank' porters who were on the shift pattern to minimise the effects of any industrial action.
The trust chair is Jacqui Smith, former Blairite home secretary, who was caught claiming expenses for a pornographic DVD her partner bought. A union-busting trust chair who has no concern for workers, and who defrauds the public purse is welcome in the Labour Party, but socialists, whether they be Corbynistas or members of the Socialist Party or other left organisations, are not.
That's why we need the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and why we need to build a new workers' party.
Through their website and various social media, the Conservative Party would like to wish us a happy LGBT+ history month. It is sickening hypocrisy when much of that history has been LGBT+ people fighting the Tories to get their rights!
Just last September the Tories blocked any move towards gender self-identity, a cornerstone of trans and non-binary rights, despite their own public consultation returning massively in favour of self-ID. Months before that they threatened to restrict existing trans rights.
Meanwhile, their ten-year-long attack on the NHS has starved funding from gender identity clinics, leading to up to a three-year waiting time. The clinics are essential to allow trans people to medically transition.
This is only the latest in a string of reactionary moves by the Tories that makes the 'celebration' of LGBT+ history almost laughable. Under Thatcher's leadership they brought in Section 28, a clause banning teaching the "acceptability of homosexuality" in schools. Just two decades ago they opposed it being repealed.
Many Tories opposed legalising same-sex adoption, civil partnership, marriage, and the gender recognition act. Plenty have made public their disgust towards gay and trans people in particular.
Add to this the devastating cuts to funding for LGBT+ charities and refuges since they came to power in 2010. This record across decades has caused immense harm. It has encouraged repression and attacks against us, and prevented many leading normal lives.
So we'll celebrate LGBT+ history month, but we'll remember it as the long and ongoing history of struggle of LGBT+ people for the rights and freedoms we need to be ourselves.
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Article dated 10 February 2021
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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