The placard reads " ‘No fascists in our streets or our ballot boxes’
No fascists in our streets or our ballot boxes

France moves closer to a far right government

After the first round of voting, the far right National Rally (RN), led by Marine Le Pen, with her fascist roots, is within grasping distance of taking control of the French legislature. They have taken nearly a third of votes, ahead of left coalition New Popular Front, with 29% of the vote.

The second round of voting next Sunday is now a set of negotiations between NPR and Macron’s centrist grouping to ensure that voters are given a clear choice between the far right and a centre left candidate. It still seems likely that RN will win enough seats in the rural south to form a government, whilst the centre and left will try to consolidate the anti-right vote in urban areas, including Paris.

This situation has arisen as a direct consequence of the political cowardice of the centrists led by Macron. Instead of acting decisively to confront the right, he has done what every centrist leader does – tried to take them on but on a ground of their choosing.

Europe is now facing a resurgence of the far right. Italy has already fallen, France is on the precipice, whilst Germany, yes Germany of all places, is facing a fascist revival under the AfD who, for all the scandals following them, gained seats in the European elections.

Ironically, whilst it is immigration, it’s always immigration, that is the driving force of the right wing resurgence, the genocide in Gaza is being used to foster anti-Muslim sentiment. Right wing voices drown out criticism of Israel and encourage hatred of Muslims, which in many voters’ eyes becomes fused with deep seated racism.

It is time to be very scared at the direction European politics has taken as Reform are, once again, making casual racism acceptable. Whilst Labour and the Tories affect outrage, they are simultaneously engaged in a rhetorical battle over being tough on immigration. These are dangerous times, and it is going to be necessary for the left to put petty differences to one side and unite to confront the right wherever they show themselves. (DM)

End child poverty by fighting against poverty wages

“The number of children from working households growing up in poverty has risen by 900,000 (44 %) since 2010. Our analysis shows that this is the equivalent of a rise of 1,350 children a week. A toxic combination of wage stagnation, rising insecure work and cuts to social security have had a devastating impact on family budgets. 

“Previous TUC analysis showed the number of people living below the poverty line in working households is 1.6 million higher than in 2010. The mantra that work pays is increasingly untrue.

“In 2010 there were 2.1 million children in poverty from working household and in 2023 this has reached 3 million. Sixty nine percent of children in poverty are now from a working household.”

You cannot fault this excellent analysis by the TUC of the growth in child poverty amongst working households. It gives the lie to the mantra repeated by both Labour and Conservatives that clamping down on ‘benefit culture’ and forcing people into work is the way out of poverty. But we can fault their gutless response.

If this has been going on since at least 2010, what has the TUC done about it? They are the Trade Union Congress. It is their job to organise workers and fight for decent wages. But they end their report with the anodyne statement: “We need an urgent economic reset and a government that will make work pay.”

No. We need a trade union movement that makes the bosses pay. Labour has already made it clear that they will not deviate from Conservative economic policy. We need unions that fight for their members and do not act as left cover for the incoming Labour government. (MS)

State schools struggling after massive funding cuts since 2010

Hundreds of schools have lost over £1m in real-terms funding compared to 2010, according to calculations by the National Education Union (NEU). On an individual level, some 2,000 schools have lost more than £1,000 in real-terms budget per pupil under the Tory government.

This means that seven in 10 state schools across England have been hit by cuts and can’t afford the same essential running costs as when the Conservatives came to power in 2010.

We reported last week how Michael Rosen drew attention to the widening gulf in arts education between the state and private schools when he supported the picket line at Goldsmiths College, London.

That is just the tip of the iceberg. Independent analysis, commissioned by Unison from economic experts Landman Economics highlights the reality of the cuts.

It means larger class sizes, fewer support staff, reduced access to student support services, cuts to the curriculum, cuts to extra-curricular provision and reduced support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) – all of which jeopardise the learning outcomes of millions of children.

In addition to significant cuts to funding per pupil, schools have seen capital spending on school buildings decline by 37% in cash terms and 50% in real terms. Many buildings contain asbestos as well as materials that were never intended to still be in use, such as the concrete RAAC, leaving children at risk.

Labour is not holding out much hope that things will change if they succeed, as predicted, in winning power on Thursday. Bridget Phillipson, the Shadow Education Secretary told The Independent: “I wish that I could commit to solving all of that if Labour wins the next election, and fixing it quickly, but I do have to be upfront about the scale of the challenge.” She says improvement in funding will have to wait until the economy improves.

It seems then, that the investment, so essential to improving the life chances of a whole generation of our children, will be a long time coming. (MT)

Suicide bombings in northeastern Nigeria – more innocent lives lost

Africa News reports that there has been a resurgence of suicide bombings in the town of Gwoza, Borno, in northeastern Nigeria, probably the work of Boko Haram. Boko Haram has made use of women and girls in suicide bombings, possibly from among the thousands of young women they have kidnapped over the years. The bombs killed men, women, including pregnant women, and children. A woman carrying a baby detonated an explosive device at a wedding; then there was a second blast near the General Hospital. A woman disguised as a mourner detonated the third at a funeral.  Al Jazeera reports that there were 18 people killed, 19 seriously injured and 23 awaiting evacuation.  

The most active armed groups in the area are Boko Haram and a splinter group, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). Boko Haram was founded in 2002 with the  aim “to uproot the corruption and injustice in Nigeria” and to impose sharīʿah, or Islamic law. Boko Haram means “Westernisation is sacrilege” and they blame western influence for corruption in Nigeria, which has contributed to the great gap between the few rich Nigerians and the many poor. Boko Haram launched an insurgency in 2009 which has led to instability in the area and involved Niger, Cameroon and Chad. During 15 years of violence, more than 40,000 people have been killed and about 2 million displaced.  

We deplore corruption, but we condemn the cowardly, brutal use of young women in this way, and the deaths of the innocent. Always in armed conflict and wars civilians are the main casualties. (JB)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *