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Year 2000 No. 191, November 10, 2000 Archive Search Home Page

No Clear-cut Winner in US Election:

US Democracy in Crisis

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

No Clear-cut Winner in US Election:
US Democracy in Crisis

State Organises against Fuel Protestors

Anti-EU Picket against Prodi's Visit to Birmingham

Hackney Council in Crisis

Knowsley Council Workers to Ballot over Working Hours

News In Brief
Workers reject Land Rover deal
Jobs Set to Go at Rolls-Royce Plant

The World in Brief

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No Clear-cut Winner in US Election:

US Democracy in Crisis

The US election results have yielded no clear-cut "winner" for the Office of the Presidency. The legitimacy crisis in the United States is bound to deepen as a result of this election. No matter who is proclaimed the winner, the US system of government will not be seen to be the expression of the popular will of the American people. This in turn will present a challenge to the legal will.

The American ruling class hoped that through the electoral process, one of the candidates for the presidency would emerge as a clear victor so that they could boast of a champion worthy of the name. However, regardless of the fact that more money than ever has changed hands during this election campaign, neither candidate for the US presidency has been able to prove himself a clear-cut champion who can sort out the problems facing the US ruling class.

There has been little discernible difference between the two main candidates, Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush. The Bush campaign made great efforts to portray Bush as representing the interests of all Americans, not just "right-wing" Americans. Towards this end, the Republicans made great efforts to woo what is called the "black vote" and "the women's vote" as well as that of the military. For its part, the Gore campaign had to make deals with the trade unions and representatives of the African American community not to lose their endorsement.

The fact that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have a clear majority in either House of Congress means that the gridlock in government will persist with the contradictions becoming sharper than ever. The only way out for the American ruling class will be to strengthen the Office of the Presidency even further, creating even greater dangers for the people within the United States and the peoples of the world.

The failure of the American ruling class to receive an endorsement from the people in this election shows clearly that the American people want change. They have been expressing their total lack of confidence in the political process in a large number of ways. Voter turnout in the United States is one of the lowest in the entire world. This election has been no exception. Also, even though more money changed hands during this election than in any previous election, it only reveals further that money cannot save the situation.

The US election results show the difficulties facing the American ruling class in opening a path for themselves. Since Clinton became President for the first time in 1992, a lot of noise was made in the US about change. He declared, "And even as America’s administrations change, America’s fundamental interests do not..." Behind the talk about change, what was being said over and over again was that the people who were so much pushed away from the reins of power should now return to the fold. This is precisely what has not taken place. So long as there is no change in the fundamental interest, change will continue to be a casualty in the United States. In the absence of a programme which genuinely empowers the people there can be no change. The more the US ruling class sticks to its outdated unrepresentative democracy and tries to provide its neo-liberal globalisation and striving for world domination with a justification, the more it will sink into the quagmire in which it finds itself.

The US is also mired in contradictions about how best to impose its striving for domination onto the entire world. The US presidency has put itself above the entire world as well as its own people. As a result, the international situation is becoming more and more tense. The more the US denies the rights of the independent countries and peoples of the world, the more it will threaten and launch aggressions against them and the more the peoples of the world will rise against it.

The US election campaign sought to present the US imperialist striving for world domination and the neo-liberal globalisation itself with a justification but this has escaped the American ruling class. Attempts to present US imperialist aggression and neo-liberal globalisation with a human face will not wash. Nobody in the world will accept the US imperialist dictate in the name of making the world "safe for democracy". Similarly, attempts of the presidential candidates to say that a new face in the White House will represent some kind of a renewal and moral high ground will also go the way of previous claims. Whether Al Gore or George W. Bush is proclaimed president, neither has anything new to offer.

Article Index

State Organises against Fuel Protestors

West Midlands police are to serve a notice against the organisers of the fuel protests. It will state which route the convoy should take through the area.

The 40-mph, go-slow convoy sets out from the North East today. The political action by the police in the West Midlands follows closely the national situation where the lorry drivers’ "Jarrow Crusade" is heading from the North East to London culminating in a demonstration in Hyde Park, scheduled for Tuesday.

Police have placed restrictions on the movements of protestors along certain roads in the north. In particular, the police are using the recent flooding to oppose protestors entering York and other places. The real intention is to curb the protest and prevent the public coming into contact with the protests. Also protestors are to be "prevented" from entering London where the police say that there is a "real danger from terrorism".

The president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Tony Burden, said: "We will obviously allow people to travel to London but we will not allow them to turn the journey into a demonstration itself."

The West Midlands force and Warwickshire Police are serving a notice under Section 12 of the Public Order Act. It will outline a specific route and a set of conditions. The police say that they are acting to maintain the free flow of traffic and "ensure public safety". The police say that any "illegal acts" will not be tolerated.

In many quarters the actions organised by the state are being denounced as those of a "police state". New Labour had created a situation that has isolated the government from the general public, who have sympathy for the protestors.

Article Index

Anti-EU Picket against Prodi's Visit to Birmingham

On Monday, November 6, a large picket took place outside the International Convention Centre in Birmingham against Romano Prodi, the President of the European Commission, and his visit to Birmingham. Prodi was addressing the CBI conference and delivering the keynote speech. Activists from the Campaign against Euro-Federalism (CAEF) and other anti-EU organisations picketed from 9.00 am -12.30 pm, and distributed 2,000 leaflets to a highly receptive public. The CAEF leaflet carried the title, "Hello, Mr Prodi. We do not want your Single Currency or European Army!". The leaflet raised such issues as how pensions were being attacked by the European Union and the adverse consequences of the single currency.

The protesters also militantly decided to march around the city centre with placards bearing the slogans, "NO to the Euro", "NO to the European Army", "No to the Single European Currency", "Oppose EU Corruption and Fraud", "Pay the Pensioners - Don't Pay the EU" and "NO to Corpus Juris - The EU law".

Article Index

Hackney Council in Crisis

The Hackney Branch of UNISON has issued an appeal for support to defend jobs and services.

The appeal, dated November 9 and signed by John Page, Branch Secretary of Hackney UNISON, begins by thanking, on behalf of Hackney council workers, everyone who has supported the struggle so far. However, it says, the workers are obliged to ask for further support. The Hackney council workers have suffered long in recent years. However, they at least hoped that the chronic underfunding of services, which had led to perpetual crisis under the Tories, would be eased when the Labour government was elected. Unfortunately things have only got worse. As many of you will know, the letter says, the council has now plunged into financial free fall. The appeal goes on:

"The underlying cause of this crisis is chronic underfunding over many years, malpractice by political representatives and incompetent management. This has led to crisis year after year where cuts have been proposed and railroaded through. The effects of these panic measures has been to precipitate further crisis. This year the crisis is of a wholly different scale. We are talking of the virtual dismemberment of the authority.

"The 'recovery package' includes removing the low pay supplement that is a key element of the pay of the poorest council workers. Those who receive it include home care workers who are traditionally undervalued because it is perceived as women's work. The council has ignored its own legal advice that they would face a challenge under equal pay legislation. The removal of the supplement could cost our poorest members £40 per week. Elsewhere social workers are facing a loss of £3,000, while gardeners may lose £4,000.

"The 'recovery package', will lead to 500 identified job loses by January with more to follow. For those workers who face redundancy the arbitrary and immediate withdrawal of the voluntary severance scheme means they will leave their jobs with a mere pittance (£230 for every year of service).

"Privatisation is already hated by Hackney residents. Failings by privatised housing estates and the revenues and benefits sections mean that privatisation is seen for what it is – daylight robbery – yet the council is proposing wholesale privatisation (in some cases without even bothering to tender).

"The council's own legal advice warned that many of the proposals were potentially unlawful but the incompetent report was passed. The first closure of services is intended within four weeks."

The appeal continues:

"Hackney Unison has built an impressive alliance with community campaigners and service users. On Monday we staged the largest anti-cuts demonstration since the poll tax. We have worked closely with other town hall trade unions and official ballots for strike action will be co-ordinated to achieve maximum effect.

"Balloting is due to start on Monday 20 November. We are holding a protest march on Saturday 25 November (details to follow). Finally, we will be hosting a community conference against the cuts on Sunday 3 December."

The appeal details some of the successes the campaign has already achieved:

"Local nurseries occupied by the parents have re-opened today. The government is considering allowing Hackney to borrow money to ease the crisis, (something ruled out three weeks ago). The campaign has built a rainbow alliance of council workers and community activists. On our day of action, the borough's Turkish/Kurdish organisations staged a one-hour general strike to support our lunchtime protest. Meanwhile, parents and children from community nurseries serving the Orthodox Jewish community blockaded Stamford Hill crossroads."

The demands of the campaign are:

· no redundancies,

· no closures,

· no privatisation,

· no changes to terms and conditions of service.

The letter from the Hackney UNISON Branch Secretary ends by pointing out that the campaign has already cost the Branch £3,000 and donations are desperately needed. Donations should be sent to Hackney Unison, Netil House, 1 -7 Westgate Street London E8.

The appeal calls for everyone to be present with their banners on November 25. This march should be looked at as a part of the nation-wide protest in support of public services, because, as John Page writes, "If they get away with it here, every public sector worker will be 'benchmarked' against Hackney."

Article Index

Knowsley Council Workers to Ballot over Working Hours

Council workers in Knowsley, Merseyside, are to be balloted for strike action over plans to increase the working week from 35 to 37 hours.

On October 31, Knowsley’s local trade union leaders were served with a 90-day notice by the Council, rescinding current working hours agreements for many workers. The effect of the notice would be to ensure that from February next year, any new starter or any employee who applies for or accepts a temporary or permanent change to their position giving them the ability to achieve a higher grade, will be employed on a 37-hour contract.

The Council attempts to justify this move by invoking a "harmonisation" agreement. The agreement was to bring about equality of hours worked of the staff, some of whom now work a 37-hour week and some of whom work a 35-hour week. The Council’s action has angered both sets of workers, since it was expected that harmonisation would reduce rather than increase the hours worked.

In its actions, the Council is utilising the Labour government’s "Best Value" privatisation policy. In August, at a special UNISON meeting, the workers had supported a motion to ballot members for "a programme of strike action in the event of the Council continuing to unilaterally break the 35 hour week agreement". Before the meeting, each affected employee had received a letter hand-delivered by the Personnel Department which read:

"As you are aware, we are now in an era where local authority services are to be compared with each other and with the other service providers in the public and private sectors under the Best Value regime. Very few organisations operate a 35-hour week, so our services would be at a very real disadvantage. The costs would be significant and would have a major impact on the competitiveness of our services, opening up the real possibility of serious job losses."

The situation exposes the logic of Labour’s privatisation schemes which not only seek to benefit the private sector by opening up public services as areas for the making of capitalist profit, but in doing so seek to erode working conditions and drive them down to the lowest possible level.

Article Index

News In Brief

Workers reject Land Rover deal

Workers at Land Rover, Solihull, have rejected a 4.25 percent pay offer. In their ballot the workers voted 71 % to 29% against the proposed deal, which also included a £265 holiday bonus payment.

The workers rejected despite a recommendation to accept from the trade union leadership. Duncan Simpson, union official from the AEEU, said that his union would meet next week over the issue. He said, "We have to give serious consideration to starting the process for a ballot for industrial action."

The Transport and General Workers Union have said that urgent talks would now be sought with the management.

Jobs Set to Go at Rolls-Royce Plant

Derby-based aerospace transnational Rolls-Royce has announced a £150 million business reorganisation, which could lead to 1,300 redundancies amongst the workers. The brunt of these losses would be borne by the Ansty plant in Coventry, as well as plants in the Derby area, where Rolls-Royce employs some 12,000 workers. World wide, the restructuring programme is projected to cost up to 5,000 jobs – an eighth of Rolls-Royce 40,000 workforce.

The company wants to concentrate its marine and energy businesses at sites in Bristol and Canada. Only the repair operation, which employs 550 workers, will remain. The unions say that they will fight compulsory job losses. The firm says that it cannot predict how many redundancies will take place, even though they are making all of the new plans. Some 2,000 jobs have already been lost at Rolls-Royce in the past year. The monopoly capitalists are moving capital to where they see the prospect of maximum capitalist profit. There is no consideration for the workforce with these new arrangements.

One worker expressed his opinion by saying, "There is no need for the company to pull out, they have full order books and they are making plenty of profits here." The workers are so angry that they are considering seriously opposing the company's new plans.

Union officials said that up to 3,000 jobs could be axed over three years affecting factories across the Britain. The AEEU said that the cuts were "a bitter pill for workers to swallow". The workers and their unions are considering industrial action to oppose the removal of capital and job losses.

Article Index

The World in Brief

November 8-11 KOREA: Officials from north and south Korea hold second round of talks on economic cooperation in Pyongyang.

November 10-16 BRUNEI: Annual Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) Summit held. Leaders attending the main summit from November 15-16 include Chinese President Jiang Zemin, South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Bill Clinton.

November 10 FRANCE: Franco-German summit in Vittel, to be attended by French President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, Speaker of the Senate Christian Poncelet and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

November 12 SWITZERLAND: OPEC conference to monitor oil market situation.

November 12-14 QATAR: Ninth summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference; 4,000 delegates, including over 50 heads of state, are expected to attend. Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi has said that he will boycott the summit as it will be a waste of time.

November 14 FRANCE/BALKANS: G7 finance ministers meet to discuss the restructuring of Serbia and Balkan countries.

November 15 PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: PLO Central Council scheduled to meet in Gaza to discuss a possible decision to declare Palestinian sovereignty; the meeting comes on the anniversary of the declaration in 1988 of the State of Palestine at a meeting of the Palestine National Council in Algiers.

November 15-16 INDIA/BRITAIN: External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh visits for talks with British leaders.

November 15-17 MONGOLIA/BRITAIN: Mongolian-British round table meeting takes place in London.

November 16-19 CROATIA/YUGOSLAVIA/USA: Croatian President Stipe Mesic participates in a conference in Dayton marking the 5th anniversary of the Bosnia peace agreement, during which the next phase in the implementation of the Dayton Agreement will be defined. The conference will also focus on the future status of Kosova and Montenegro.

November 16-20 VIETNAM: US President Bill Clinton visits.

November 20-21 MOSCOW: Prime Minister Tony Blair expected to pay a working visit to Moscow. However, diplomatic sources said that the date may still be changed. Tony Blair was initially expected to go to Moscow on November 7, but the fuel protest problems forced him to postpone the visit, according to the British Ambassador to Russia.

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