Poll tracker: Universal Credit, Boris and Brexit- What are the people of Britain thinking??

In a new addition to TPN, we have introduced a new column on what is in the polls, the piece will be published once a week and gives readers a brief insight into the polls to watch out for.

Poll 1: Universal Credit

38% of Britons oppose the introduction of Universal Credit. Contrast this to the fact that just 27% of those that were polled were in favour of the policy. This comes after the news that Universal Credit roll-out has had detrimental effects on existing claimants. TPN coverage of the policy has revealed that Food Bank usage has increased by 52% and the government has now delayed the full roll out until 2019 at the earliest.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal credit intends to to replace five benefits – child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based job-seeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and working tax credit. The policy has been widely criticised by unions and leftists for their sanctions on working class people due to the inbuilt problems of the system which include delays for claimants leading to rising debt and food bank usage.

However, luckily for the Tories, a significant proportion of the population remains unaware of the damage Universal Credit is doing to sections of society.

Poll 2: Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson’s popularity has plummeted among Conservative and Leave voters as is shown in the graph below. In July 2018, Theresa May trailed her adversary by several percentage points and although he has polled negatively for several years now, these numbers do not support his leadership ambitions, Theresa May is now polling at negative 22%, whilst Boris lags at -35%.

Why?

Issues relating to racially insensitive comments over Burkas, divisions over Brexit and missing the key vote over the third runway at Heathrow are likely to be the main causes overall for the drop. Furtherly, lack of progress over Brexit is likely to be the main cause in the sizeable loss of support from Leave voters.

 

Poll 3: Brexit? Surprise.

Only one in five Brits think a second in/out EU referendum is likely. The recent Labour conference which featured shadow chancellor John McDonnell appearing to rule out a “remain” option featuring on the ballot of any future referendum is likely to be a driving force behind this current trend. The prominence of pro-Brexit voices in Tory party and divisions in the labour movement over Brexit are also significant contributing factors.

AROUND THE WORLD: 7 years after Gaddafi’s death, Libya remains a prime example of the failure of western interventionism

Last week saw the 7th anniversary of the death of Muhammar Gaddafi. Attempting to flee from rebel forces, his convoy was attacked by NATO bombers leading to his capture, torture and execution by rebel militants. Stripped naked, beaten then placed into an ambulance, his corpse was later put on public display for all to see.

Now 7 years on Libya remains in a state of perpetual warfare. Factions, including large swaths of Salafists, fight each other for control of oil fields. The slave trade has returned, with migrants now facing capture by corrupt officials turned slavers. The so-called Islamic State since the fall of Gaddafi has gained a strong foothold in the region.

This same time last year, whilst all these events were occurring, Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary stated that the Libyan city Sirte could be the new Dubai, adding, “all they have to do is clear the dead bodies away”.

This callous remark shows not only the former foreign secretary’s contempt for events in the region, but it can also sum up the general western attitude toward Libya as well. Libya remains, along with Iraq, one of the most glaring examples of the failure of western foreign policy in modern times. Instead of creating vibrant democracies, the west ended up creating sectarian hotbeds in what were both formerly secular nations.

The intervention by NATO forces in Libya remains a damning critique of the Responsibility to Protect commitment by the United Nations. At first a commitment to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity, it has instead been used as an excuse by the west for their interventions into the global south. These invasions have created larger humanitarian disasters than Gaddafi or Saddam could ever have been capable of committing.

Gaddafi’s legacy is mixed with those on the left. He is seen by anti-imperialists as a strong supporter of African and Arab unity and as a new theorist on the development of socialism in the third world. However, others see him as a dictator with little regard for human rights. Whatever one’s personal feelings are about Gaddafi, it cannot be denied that his economic and social reforms did improve the lives of many Libyans. Libya, once the subject of colonial rule, was transformed into the richest state in Africa all the while religious sectarianism was staved off.

Now any example of Gaddafi’s tyranny has been multiplied tenfold. The Islamic socialist values outlined in Gaddafi’s Green Book have been banned and warlords now control splintered regions with an iron fist. Elections have been abject failures with low turnouts and high violence resulting in splits and a lack of credibility to the current Libyan government. Human rights activists have been persecuted and even killed.

All the while events in Libya have been treat like little more than a footnote in the western political scene. Politicians such as Barack Obama and David Cameron who once wholeheartedly supported Gaddafi’s overthrow now have little time for the nation they so enthusiastically intervened in. Any mention of Libya is simply said by those who see it as a ripe opportunity for western capitalist development as shown by Boris Johnson’s comments last year.

In the end Libya today, 7 years after Gaddafi’s lynching, is a prime example of a failed state helped created by western intervention. Events in Libya show an illustration of neo-colonialism in its most naked form. A catastrophic failure that offers little but way of bloodshed to citizens.

AROUND THE WORLD: Jair Bolsonaro’s success sees a return to the dictatorships of the past

 

Last week, Brazil held the first round of its general election which resulted in the far-right candidate and former army officer Jair Bolsonaro winning 46% of the popular vote far exceeding polling expectations. Bolsonaro is infamous in Brazil for his extreme right rhetoric on social issues including homosexuality claiming “I would be incapable of loving a gay son,” and has defended the beating of gay children. He is a firm believer in neo-liberalism, the tightening of relations with the United States and Israel and is an ardent opponent of secularism. His success is a clearly a worrying development for the Brazilian left.

Recent political occurrences in Brazil have been characterised by left-wing vs right-wing violence comparable to other countries around the world today. Earlier in the year, the Socialist and Liberty Party councillor Marielle Franco was assassinated on the streets of Rio while Bolsonaro himself was stabbed at a recent rally.

Last week’s election results have also fuelled violence with a Bolsonaro supporter being run over by a university professor and Bolsonaro supporters have reportedly roamed the streets seeking “undesirables”, on one occasion assaulting and marking a woman with a swastika as she was seen wearing an anti-Bolsonaro shirt.

Bolsonaro has been compared to Trump but in reality, he represents a deep long simmering fascism held in South America. He is the modern-day incarnation of General Pinochet, a product of the American backed death squads of the 60’s and 70’, hunting down and murdering suspected communists.

He is a political face of Operation Condor, the US backed genocide of leftists across South America that started in 1975. Proof of this can be found in his views on the military dictatorship that controlled Brazil from the 60’s until the 80’s which he calls a “glorious” period of Brazilian history.

During former president Rousseff’s impeachment vote he dedicated his vote to her torturer and agent of the dictatorship Colonel Brilhante Ustra. Bolsonaro, rather than being seen as the global south’s answer to Trump and the European far right, should be seen as the reincarnation of South American reactionary political forces.

Bolsonaro also represents a fundamental shift in Brazilian populism, rejecting the protectionist and corporatist economics of Getúlio Vargas and the Integralists in favour of free market deregulation. Thus, Bolsonaro can be seen as a direct answer to the South American ‘pink wave’ of the last decade by the forces of finance capital. This reactionary force can similarly be seen today in Venezuela and Nicaragua where both countries socialist governments are fighting militant protestors, seeking to overthrow their countries ruling parties in a way similar to the “Euromaidan” uprising in Ukraine, 4 years ago.

Bolsonaro isn’t just part of a global trend in the upsurge of far-right activity, he is a modern representative of the brutal military dictatorships of the past. He and his supporters have made no qualms about their goals. Bolsonaro in 1998 stated that the Pinochet regime “should have killed more people.” His victory in the second round later this month would see not only the reversal of the policies enacted by the Workers Party, it would see the most aggressive wave of counter-revolution since the Contras.

Recent strikes mark dawn of new era for trade unionism to fight ‘gig economy’

This past week has seen a substantial amount of industrial action and not just from the usual suspects such as those affiliated with the RMT union. Instead, this week saw unprecedented strike action from across the country by low paid workers, working in fast food chains such as TGI Fridays and McDonald’s as well as workers from Weatherspoon’s and delivery drivers from Uber and Deliveroo. These workers striking for a living wage of ten pounds per hour are part of, what has come to be known as, the ‘gig economy’ a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs.

As such these workers have been seen by some major trade unions as “unmanageable”, and unable to properly unionise due to their position they’ve been placed in by their contracts. However, their plight of low pay and horrific working conditions has been taken up by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, a fully independent trade union seeking to challenge the modern bureaucratic major trade unions on how to organise workers. They are much more autonomous than the major unions such as Unite and Unison and have waged a number of high-profile campaigns, with their use of direct action and social media, which has included the use of occupations and pickets. They are comparable and supported by the Industrial Workers of the World, a worldwide and historic trade union supported and funded by a broad range of radical leftists including Anarchists and Marxist Leninists.

These organisations recent strikes and protests against low pay this week have drawn the attention of major political figures, with shadow chancellor John McDonnell coming out openly supporting the strike and urging other MP’s to join the picket lines. This is comparable to another situation in the US where Amazon workers have recently been striking successfully for better pay and their campaign was supported by US senator and former Democrat presidential nominee Bernie Sanders. The co-option and support of these strikes by high profile socialists in the UK and the US can be seen as living proof of the momentum generated by these independent, militant trade unions fighting against worker exploitation.

Similarly, this week saw direct action taken by the recently formed renter’s union ACORN who picketed landlords and estate agents in Manchester and Birmingham in support of its members who are seen to be living in substandard accommodation facing insecure living and lack of repairs. Recent industrial action has led to the concession of demands from landlords to the union proving the power of industrial action in the ever growing ‘gig economy’

The recent strikes here in Britain organised and supported by new, autonomous and radical trade unions can be seen as part of the ever-growing militancy of the labour movement here in the UK. The success and size of the recent strikes this week has shown the power of organised workers in the ‘gig economy’ committed to industrial action guided by independent trade unions led primarily by young radical people here in this nation.