Opinion

Safety net without stigma

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Trade unions and political parties are discussing the concept of a universal basic income (UBI) to replace the welfare system. Should socialists support the idea? Michael Lavalette looks at the pros and cons.

At its conference later this month the Unite union will debate a proposal for the implementation of a “universal basic income”. UBI, sometimes called the “citizens income”, would replace the social security system with a fixed monthly payment paid unconditionally to all citizens, as a right and without means test or work requirement.

Occupy's bells still ring

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Protesters on steps at St Paul's cathedral

Five years ago a global movement propelled a new generation of people into activity. John Sinha salutes them, but stresses the key debate remains over the type of political organisation that we need to win.

On 15 October 2011 thousands of people assembled on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in the heart of the City of London. It was part of a wave of occupations in hundreds of cities around the globe. Millions were railing against the injustices of an economic system which favoured a tiny elite at the expense of the majority. As one of the placards at St Pauls read, “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out”.

Founded on the class struggle

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In a new ten-part column John Newsinger tells the the remarkable story of US revolutionary trade unionists the Industrial Workers of the World, known as the Wobblies

On Tuesday 27 June 1905 Bill Haywood of the Western Federation of Miners called the first and founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) to order. He told the 200 delegates assembled in Brand’s Hall, Chicago, that they had come together “to confederate the workers of this country into a working class movement that shall have for its purpose the emancipation of the working class”.

Since when is sex testing fair?

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Among all the coverage of this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio, perhaps the biggest media furore was around the athlete Caster Semenya.

Caster Semenya is a South African runner who won the women’s 800 metres. The mainstream media is divided. Many reports have speculated on whether she is “really a woman” or questioned whether it is “fair” for her to compete alongside other women.

Get ready to break the Trade Union Act

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“Strike to win”, “Unity is strength”, “Workers’ solidarity”. Old fashioned? Yes, but these trade union slogans have never been more relevant than today.

All of the above is enshrined in the ethos of the Grangemouth trade unions hub — where various unions across different sectors have joined forces. The hub was founded just after the Ineos dispute in 2013, in order to bring together refinery workers, dockers, rail workers and tanker drivers to give us more leverage during any future disputes.

Can May save the Tories?

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New (unelected) prime minister Theresa May has had an easy time of it since June, but are the Tories' post-referendum blues really over? Sally Campbell thinks it is unlikely.

Theresa May has enjoyed a gentle stroll into her new, unelected, role as prime minister over the summer. While symbolically holidaying in neutral Switzerland, she has been able to relax as the Labour right has done its best to tear down Jeremy Corbyn.

The gig economy and collective action

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The supposedly endless rise of precarity is not as straightforward as it seems.

Growing use of zero hours contracts (ZHCs) and the “gig economy”, in which people scrape together a living from fragments of work without being formally employed, are, we are often told, leading us on an endless march towards precarity and undermining workers’ capacity to fight.

But right now things look rather different. In April this year, following protests organised by Fast Food Rights and the Bfawu union, McDonald’s offered all its employees the option of moving off ZHCs.

War criminals exposed

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The Chilcot report went further than many expected in condemning Tony Blair's role in the invasion of Iraq. As Judith Orr says, it also reinforced the need to be vigilant against all warmongers.

It took 12 days for the Chilcot report on the Iraq war to be read aloud non-stop at the Edinburgh Festival event last month. The 2.6 million words of the report were not the whitewash some had feared. In fact they were a confirmation of what so many of those who protested against the war at the time said.

Sport for all isn't part of the Olympic dream

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The Olympics saw some fantastic sport. The performances of Usain Bolt, Mo Farah and Almaz Ayana on the track were awe inspiring. Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps in the pool were completely dominant. In the velodrome Laura Trott was untouchable (again), while Nicola Adams boxed with grace and power.

But the Olympics are so full of the contradictions of capitalism that it leaves me conflicted.

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