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Oppose Further EU Military Intervention in Responding to Humanitarian Catastrophe:
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :
Oppose Further EU Military Intervention in Responding to Humanitarian Catastrophe:
Criminal Response of EU to Shocking Deaths of Migrants
Workers' Forum Commentary:
David Cameron's “7-day NHS safe in our hands” – A Case of Making Words Mean Anything You Want Them to Mean
For Your Information:
Queen's Speech 2015: What to Expect
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Oppose Further EU Military Intervention in Responding to Humanitarian Catastrophe:
Last week the EU Foreign Affairs Council announced that it will step up military and other forms of intervention, particularly in Libya, allegedly in order to prevent the deaths of migrants travelling to Europe from North Africa. Already this year almost 2,000 men, women and children, mainly of African origin, have lost their lives in the course of crossing the Mediterranean. Britain and the other big powers must be condemned for their criminal activities in Africa and western Asia that have created millions of refugees and asylum seekers. They must also be condemned for allowing the recent deaths of thousands of innocent people in the Mediterranean, a crime against humanity which it was claimed would act as a deterrent to future migrants.
The numbers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean has increased over recent years and so have the numbers of deaths. Over 112,000 migrants were reported to have attempted to make the crossing in the first eight months of 2014, over three times the number for the entire previous year. Between 1998-2013 around 44,000 migrants were smuggled into Europe annually. In 2014, there were 220,000, over 170,000 crossing the Mediterranean in boats. During that year it was estimated that over 3,000 migrants died during the crossing. In the period 1988-2015, 18,403 people died crossing the Mediterranean but half of these deaths were recorded in the last five years. In addition, an unknown number of migrants died in the crossing without being recorded as their bodies did not turn up in countries where the EU has jurisdiction. Not only have the number of deaths increased but the likelihood of perishing while crossing the Mediterranean has risen this year to 45%.
Research by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) indicates that the turmoil in Libya following the illegal NATO military intervention in 2011 has been a major factor accounting for the increased number of migrants but it is not the only factor. Libya is clearly now the main embarkation point but significant numbers of migrants originate from Syria, where military intervention by Britain and the other big power has fuelled and exacerbated the armed conflicts in that country and produced over 3 million refugees. Large numbers of African refugees come from countries such as Eritrea, Somalia and Nigeria and increasingly from other African countries such as Mali. These countries have also been affected by military and other forms of intervention by Britain and the other big powers as well as suffering from the legacy of colonial rule.
The EU response to what might be considered a major humanitarian crisis has mainly been in the form of strengthening its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), although it has also announced that it will re-establish wider search and rescue activities in the Mediterranean. The main military operation recently announced will be an EU Naval Force operation designed to "break the business model" of those smuggling migrants across the Mediterranean by attacking boats and smuggling networks based in Libya. The EU Naval Force was first used in what were referred to as "anti-piracy" operations off the coat of Somalia, which have been continuing since 2008.
The EU mission, which will violate the sovereignty of Libya and its territorial waters, will be conducted under what is referred to as a UN Chapter 7 Resolution, preparations for which are being led by the British government in the UN Security Council. Such a Resolution, which relates to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, allows member countries to use military force when there are "threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression". It is therefore difficult to see how it might be legally employed to save the lives of "clandestine migrants" or prevent their trafficking. The preparations for its use also fly in the face of statements made by the Foreign Affairs Minister of the EU, who claimed to be working in concert with the Libyan government. Indeed, the government of Libya recognised by the EU immediately opposed military intervention saying it would "not accept any violation of Libyan sovereignty". Its spokesperson added that "the military option to deal with the boats inside Libyan waters or outside is not considered humane". The Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, has also voiced his opposition to military strikes on boats that are often also used by Libyans for fishing and other economic activities.
As is well-known, NATO-directed regime change in Libya has left that country, formerly the most economically developed in Africa, in a state of economic collapse and political chaos with two rival governments. Military intervention by NATO has led directly to the sinister ISIL, which the British government and its allies claim to oppose, operating openly within Libya's borders. Further military intervention therefore seems designed to make a bad situation worse. The EU already interferes in many aspects of Libya's internal affairs through the EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM). This Mission, allegedly designed to strengthen internal and border security in the country, has clearly been a spectacular failure. In addition to the threat of further military intervention in Libya, the EU also announced that it would step up interference in Africa through the EUCAP programme which it has established with the border and security services of Niger and Mali. These missions followed in the wake of the further instability created by EU/NATO military intervention in Libya and Mali.
For its part, the British government, which is taking the lead in preparing for military intervention in Africa, has also been in the lead in regard to its opposition to welcoming any of the Mediterranean migrants to Britain. Responding to proposals from the EU, Home Secretary Theresa May was adamant that Britain would "not participate in any mandatory system of resettlement or relocation". May argued that what she referred to as "economic migrants" willingly paid people - traffickers and risked death and she added that there should be "an active programme of returns". The British government's opposition to accepting mandatory quotas of those rescued from the Mediterranean has now also received support from France, Spain and several other EU countries. It will be recalled that the British government was also the leading opponent of sustained EU search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean last year, a stand that was condemned by human rights organisations.
Many commentators argue that the world is now in the grip of the greatest refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War. This is a crisis that emerges from the wars, instability and poverty created by the imperialist system of states and military and other forms of intervention by the governments of Britain and the other big powers. The current crisis in the Mediterranean must be seen in the context of the contention between the big powers over western Asia and Africa, and in particular the aim of the big powers of Europe to extend their hegemony over North Africa and the Sahel. What is evident is that those responsible for the crisis have no concern for those who are the victims of it. Rather, they use the crisis as the justification for further intervention and violation of sovereignty. Once again the times cry out for all democratic people in Britain and other European countries to take a stand, to fight for the rights of all and to step up the struggle to establish anti-war governments.
Following the General Election of May 7, thousands of people took to the streets in demonstrations and organised mass meetings to oppose the electoral coup of the Conservatives who formed a government with less than a quarter of the eligible vote and achieving only one seat in Scotland. The ruling elite and their mass media who immediately hailed the election result as an “overwhelming victory” of the Conservatives also condemned the demonstrations and mass meetings for “refusing to accept the democratic process”. But these mass mobilisations of the people declare that the 2015 election did not represent a democratic endorsement of the Conservative austerity agenda but represent its opposite. These demonstrations reflect the true anti-austerity direction of the election, with the overwhelming victory of the SNP in Scotland and the strong anti-austerity vote in the rest of the UK. It cannot be over-emphasised that the government possesses no mandate for a programme of austerity. This is crucial to building resistance in the coming period.
Only two days after the election, 3,000 demonstrators protested in Whitehall and outside Downing Street on May 9. As they were moving away from Downing Street towards Trafalgar Square, the demonstrators were attacked by police and the march broken up. People were beaten with batons, choked, punched, and thrown to the floor. A few hundred protesters were kettled for about three hours with over a dozen being arrested. On the same day several hundred people demonstrated in the centre of Cardiff and held a rally there.
On May 13, over 3,000 people took part in a demonstration through Bristol ending in Castle Park with a mass rally. The demonstration had been organised at short notice by seven young women, but snowballed into a very large and diverse mass demonstration in the city. On May 16, more than 1,000 people marched through Sheffield to the Town Hall for a rally. Other demonstrations took place in Manchester and other cities such as Cardiff and Lincoln. Further anti-austerity demonstrations are planned with a demonstration organised by the People's Assembly on June 20 in London and a demonstration organised by the Scottish TUC in Glasgow. Also, on May 15, a mass assembly was held in London, at SOAS, with almost a thousand people taking part in its discussions. People rejected the propaganda that the election result was an acceptance of the the austerity agenda of the Conservatives and they called for the unity of the progressive forces in a five-year battle against it.
WWIE also calls for unity in the sense that the way out of the crisis is uniting everyone in a torrent against austerity. However, vigilance is needed against the influence of those forces that in the name of unity fight for hegemony and control creating various fronts that act as a diversion away from the fighting campaigns among the people that unite everyone. Therefore WWIE calls on the working class and people to break with the old and build the new in the context of continuing to organise and build their fighting movements and campaigns. The call is for people to continue to organise in the working-class and trade union movements, in their communities, and in their colleges and universities, and go all out to create in action an anti-austerity torrent of these merging streams in the fight for the alternative.
Build the Workers' Opposition!
Defend the Rights of All!
On May 18, David Cameron gave his first speech following the election on the NHS at the Enki Medical Practice in Perry Parr, Birmingham. The practice describes itself as a “partnership” with Vitality, a company which claims to “provide a 5-star Health Insurance that rewards you for being healthy while providing access to the best possible medical care”. With the logo of Vitality behind him, the Prime Minister praised the partnership's example of health care working, and spoke of “a 7-day NHS, safe in our hands – for every generation to come”. The irony was not lost that while claiming he had no intention of privatisation, the Prime Minister was promoting a private health insurance company.
The Prime Minister said several times that he would not privatise the NHS. He said: “The NHS will always be free for everyone under a Conservative government.” Rather giving the impression of protesting too much, he said that “my love of the NHS, my respect for the NHS, my commitment to the NHS runs through every sinew of my body. The NHS is safe in my hands. And don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.” However, whether it will be provided and funded publicy in the future he was carefully vague about, only commenting that it was right to involve the “independent” sector, referring to the Marie Curie cancer service, which he calculated would be difficult for anyone to raise objections to.
On the cuts to the health service he said that “first of all today I want to put the record straight loud and clear. They said we would cut the NHS. We haven’t and we won’t.” However, it seems he hasn't visited the real world in the last five years because the cuts to the budgets of the NHS Acute, Community and Mental Health Trusts over the last five years have led to the loss of thousands of NHS jobs and health services. One can give many examples. For instance, in the North East of England, one of the smallest Trusts in the country has been forced to cut around £40 million from its budget over the last five years, losing many beds, health services and health care jobs. Now these same NHS Trusts have to face a further £20 billion projected cuts. But Cameron faced this down with the election pledge to raise the revenue at “least an extra £8 billion a year by 2020”. What does this mean? There was nothing in what he said as to whether this was a to be reduction in the cuts of £20 billion, or whether this was actual investment and where it was going exactly. The Five Year Forward View from NHSEngland envisages an £8 billion deficit per year by 2020. The Conservative manifesto speaks of £8 billion extra in total over the next five years. It is being challenged whether Cameron's figure means anything at all in terms of NHS funding by government. It is a case of obfuscation at best, a case of making the words mean anything Cameron wants them to mean, making the world a matter of interpretation and definition, while in reality it is business as usual with the government in hock to the monopolies and driving their agenda for more cuts to the public sector, and privatisation with any invesmtent serving their interests.
Cameron's speech made the grandiose claim that “just as we came together as a nation to create the National Health Service nearly 70 years ago, so I believe that together – by sticking to the plan – we can become the first country in the world to deliver a truly 7-day NHS”. This is in line with the re-dusted mantra of “One Nation Conservatism”, while the people as a whole see increasingly two worlds of privileged and unprivileged. Cameron's boast makes a mockery of the real world where the NHS already works 24/7, 7-days a week, like the health services in most developed countries, barring some department consultants, consultant clinics and GP services. But the real problem with this is that the rulng elite has created an internal market in the NHS, a market that has forced NHS bodies and GP surgeries to compete with one another and with the private sector; and the promise of “truly” delivering the 7-day NHS remains a pious policy objective without the funding, investment, recruitment, training, and overall responsibility for its delivery by government.
Cameron admitted in his speech that “one of the most significant achievements of the coalition government” was to make the NHS “more independent”. So he now suggests that people should believe that, from the anarchy, chaos and fragmentation of all these “health providers” that this independent market has caused, his government can now seek to influence and harmonise a 24/7 7-day a week service where every service is integrated and co-operates with each other on a 24/7, 7-day basis. The goverment still has overall control over the pay system of health workers in the NHS Trust employers. What is hidden in Cameron's promise is that 7-day working is in fact more about satisfying the demand of the competing employers and private health companies to cut health workers' pay, specifically at this time their weekend unsocial enhancements. This is why the trade unions reacted angrily that this was an attack on health workers' conditions. They opposed Cameron's statemenent knowing full well what this announcement means.
One can guarantee that David Cameron and his government, through smoke and mirrors, will claim to have delivered the world's first “truly 7-day NHS” at the next general election, should his government last that long. But this will not safeguard the future of the NHS and guarantee the right to health care. That is again up to the health workers and the whole working class and people to continue the fight to safeguard the future of the NHS and defend the right of all to health care.
The Queen's Speech on May 27 will set out the the government's legislative plans for the parliamentary session ahead. Following are the likely bills, according to news sources. WWIE will write on these issues at more length following the Queen's Speech.
The government is proposing to ban strike action from taking place unless 40% of all eligible union members vote in favour of industrial action. The government also wants to lift a ban on use of agency staff when strike action takes places.
Ruwan Subasinghe, a legal advisor for the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), said that these proposals will undoubtedly violate Britain's international law obligations. While the introduction of a quorum will not in itself breach international law, the cumulative effect of Britain's restrictive labour laws certainly will.
The government is expected to bring forward a new bill to include new immigration rules, powers to close down premises used by “extremists”, and "extremism disruption orders". Measures are likely to include:
Disruption orders to limit "harmful activities" of individual “extremists”, such as airing certain views in public or “radicalising” young people.
New powers to close premises, including mosques, where “extremists” are attempting to build influence.
Increased immigration restrictions for anyone believed to be preaching “extremist” views.
Strengthened powers for the Charity Commission to root out charities alleged to fund terrorism
Empowering Ofcom to act against channels that air “extremist” content.
David Cameron said during the election campaign that the UK should aspire to "full employment". The employment bill is set to be "fast-tracked" through parliament. Among the priorities are said to be a push to create two million more jobs and three million more apprenticeships over the course of the Parliament. The boost in apprenticeships is to be paid for by reducing the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000.
Another bill to be "fast-tracked" through parliament. Currently, all three and four-year olds in England are entitled to 570 hours of free early education or childcare a year, which works out as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year. During the election campaign, the Conservatives promised 30 hours from 2017. The prime minister has also said he wants to introduce tax-free childcare for every child.
EU Referendum Bill
David Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's terms of membership of the European Union and put it to a public vote by 2017 at the latest.
Human Rights Act Repeal Bill
The Conservatives have pledged to abolish the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. The Conservative manifesto says: "This will break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights, and make our own Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK." The "British Bill of Rights" would allegedly be rooted in "British values". Such a reform would "plunge the UK into a constitutional crisis," The Guardian says, because it would place the UK government in breach of the Good Friday agreement.
The Scottish National Party has vowed to oppose the Conservative government's plans. "The idea that we take away human rights, I think, is just an awful suggestion," said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. "So the Scottish Government will oppose that and work hard to make sure that in Scotland people still get vital human-rights protection," she told STV. "Mr Gove [the new Justice Secretary] will have a hard time persuading Britain's senior judges he respects the Rule of Law," Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, told the Daily Mirror. Chakrabarti argues that the proposal "is the gravest threat to freedom in Britain since the Second World War." If the legislation goes through, the ECHR won't be able to force a change in UK law, but British citizens would still be able to appeal their ruling in Strasbourg. However, this is likely to slow down the process and make a case more difficult to bring to court.
The bill will propose a new criminal offence of illegal working that will allow police to seize the wages of anyone employed unlawfully as the “proceeds of crime”. It has been pointed out that the whole emphasis is upon seizing the wages of the employee. What about seizing the profit of the employer who is at least as guilty of handling the proceeds of a crime? The government has already set out a number of new offences to try to "control and reduce" migration to the UK. Among other proposals being considered are new powers for councils to deal with landlords and to evict migrants more quickly, while all foreign criminals awaiting deportation will be fitted with satellite tracking tags. It will also become an offence for businesses and recruitment agencies to hire abroad without first advertising in the UK and a new enforcement agency will be set up to tackle what the prime minister called "the worst cases of exploitation". The proposals were condemned by migrants’ rights groups, who said they will force some people into “modern slavery.”
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett called the plans “morally reprehensible and politically inept”. “This government has spectacularly missed its migration targets, not because of the minority of migrants who stay beyond their visas, but because those targets are arbitrary and illogical; this new legislation is a transparent attempt to shift the focus away from this failure,” she said. “A promised ‘crackdown’ on illegal migrants risks forcing them into destitution, but does nothing to address the real economic issues facing Britain,” Bennett added.
Income Tax Bill
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph about his first 100 days in office, Cameron said: "It is a permanent measure to re-write not just the laws of this country but the values of this country. And it will be there as the centrepiece of the first Queen's Speech of my new government."
Home Secretary Theresa May has pledged to ban the use of police cells for the emergency detention of mentally ill people under the Mental Health Act. In a speech to the annual conference of the Police Federation in England and Wales, Mrs May also outlined plans to extend police-led prosecutions, overhaul the complaints system, and change the use of bail.
City Devolution Bill
Chancellor George Osborne has outlined his vision to give English cities powers over housing, transport, planning and policing. He said Greater Manchester - which will take on the powers when electing a mayor in two years - should become a blueprint for other large cities.
The prime minister has pledged to bring in a bill to "deliver better schools - with more radical measures to ensure young people leave education with the skills they need". He said the legislation will "include new powers to force coasting schools, as well as failing schools, to accept new leadership, continuing the remarkable success story of Britain's academy schools".
The government has outlined plans for a bill to propose a new Small Business Conciliation Service, to help settle disputes between small and large businesses, especially over late payment practices.
The prime minister has pledged to include a bill on devolution which would be based on the cross-party Smith Commission agreement on Scottish devolution. The Smith proposals included giving Holyrood the power to set income tax rates and bands, as well as control over a share of VAT and some welfare benefits.
Communications and Data Bill
This was the bill that the Conservatives' smaller coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, refused to back in the last Parliament. Current legislation expires in 2016 and will have to be renewed. So now the Conservatives are governing alone, they can bring back what opponents call the snoopers' charter. The previous plans proposed to extend the range of data communications companies have to store for 12 months. It would have included, for the first time, details of messages sent on social media, webmail, voice calls over the internet and gaming, in addition to emails and phone calls. Officials would not have been able to see the content of the messages without a warrant. Currently communications firms only retain data about who people send emails to, and who they ring.
One of the Conservatives' key pledges was an extension of the Right to Buy scheme to 1.3 million housing association tenants in England. Under current rules, about 800,000 housing association tenants have a "right to acquire" their homes under smaller discounts, but the Conservatives would offer those people the same reductions as for those in local authority homes. And they would extend the scheme to those who currently have no purchase rights at all, estimated to be about 500,000 people.
David Cameron has pledged to boost funding by at least £8bn extra a year by 2020 and to create "a truly seven-day NHS". The government is also promising to recruit 5,000 new GPs.
David Cameron has pledged to implement "as fast as I can the devolution that all parties agreed for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland". Wales Secretary Stephen Crabb has said his officials were writing legislation to transfer further powers to Wales, so these could be included in the Queen's Speech.
Hunting Ban Repeal Bill
The Conservative manifesto stated that a Conservative government "will give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time".
(BBC and other news sources)
A very successful concert was held on May 16 at Morley College in London. Morley College has long been associated with adult education and a progressive outlook, for instance holding a major festival celebrating the life and work of communist composer Cornelius Cardew who tutored at the college in the late '60s and early '70s.
The concert, sponsored by the Cornelius Cardew Concerts Trust, was inspired by the liberation of Europe from Nazi fascism. Ensemble De Madrugada performed new works specially written for the concert by members of the ensemble. In addition, a young viola player performed an extract from a solo viola sonata by a composer who had suffered under fascism. The theme of the event was that of "great momentum, profound changes", which summed up the prospects following the victory over fascism in Europe of May 9, 1945.
The concert set out to celebrate that victory in today's conditions. It carried forward the concerts which Ensemble De Madrugada have performed in the past few years, for example the concert "The Song of Songs" which honoured the participation of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. The concert was thus dedicated to the fight against fascism of today's generation and their defence of the rights of all. It affirmed that the world is awakening to prospects of the New; that we will write, not re-write history; and that an anti-war government is the need of the times.
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