|Volume 46 Number 4, February 13-27, 2016||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
Letters to the editor on the European Union:
On British Withdrawal from the EU
Discussion on the European Union:
What Stand to Take on the European Union
CAEF AGM Resolution 2015:
No! to the EU of the Monopolies - There is An Alternative
Weekly On Line Newspaper of the
Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
170, Wandsworth Road, London, SW8 2LA.
Phone: 020 7627 0599:
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition Freely available online
Workers' Weekly E-mail Edition Subscribe by e-mail daily: Free / Donate
WW Internet RSS Feed
The Line of March Monthly Publication of RCPB(ML) Subscribe
While over 99% of the Junior Doctors have taken a stand in practice on the contract that the BMA was being offered by the NHS Employers, on the basis that it was neither safe for the patients nor fair for the doctors, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt dictated that the contract be imposed in England.
This is the neo-liberal way, government by dictate. Not a government embodying the popular will and translating that will into legislation, but a government imposing the will of the state, of the ruling elite, on the electorate.
Why would the Junior Doctors and the BMA be opposed to a 24/7 NHS as Jeremy Hunt claimed, and as he kept repeating in Parliament as a slur on the medical profession? Hunt uses targets, waiting times, statistics without context, without substance, without regard for the world as it exists. The BMA and the Junior Doctors, as well as those that have researched and investigated the world as it exists in the health service, point out the selflessness, the dedication of those working in the NHS. They point out the flaws in Jeremy Hunt's arguments and sound-bites. They point out that the staffing levels crisis and the financial crisis in the hospital trusts, which the Health Secretary even refuses to acknowledge, are of the government's own making. They point out that “over-spending” is a quite different situation from the hospital trusts' not being financed by the government for the work they have to do. They point out that the contract which the government is now declaring it will impose will mean the end of contractual safeguards, the banding system, and the end of annual pay progression.
Why would Jeremy Hunt deny these facts of life? Would one not draw the conclusion, as many commentators have done, that the government is intent on managing the NHS for the benefit of the private sector? There have been many thin edge of the wedges over, shall we say, the past twenty years, in the sense of measures which have gone against the principle that health care is a right which must be guaranteed by government. One of the most infamous of recent years was Lansley's Health and Social Care Act 2012, which – after the Conservatives had openly declared that there would be no further top-down reorganisation of the health service – “threw a grenade” into the NHS. The Act declared that the Secretary of State would no longer be responsible for providing a comprehensive health service in England, under the guise that this responsibility should not be government's. What remains is the ability of the government to dictate, and hypocritically pose as a concerned observer. What these attempts to re-organise the NHS show is that they have all been steps in the direction of putting the NHS in the service of the private sector and the monopolies.
The Junior Doctors are refusing to accept the imposition of a contract. Legally, it is being advised that an imposition of contract terms such as these could itself be a breach of contract and could provide grounds for a legal challenge.
With this in mind, the BMA announced new dates for industrial action. These dates are:
8am on Wednesday 9 March to 8am on Friday 11 March
8am on Wednesday 6 April to 8am on Friday 8 April
8am on Tuesday 26 April to 8am on Thursday 28 April
These days of action will follow the emergency-only model used for the previous protests. The BMA is also set to launch a judicial review into the government's decision to impose the new contract, claiming the government failed to follow due process.
The government is playing with the lives and health of the public in its fanatical pursuit of imposing its contract. It is despicably using the ploy of achieving a 24/7 NHS to impose a business model on the health service which eliminates the human factor. It is denying that TTIP would lead to the irreversible privatisation of the NHS against all evidence. To Jeremy Hunt and Co., patients are not patients but consumers.
The conclusion is that enough is enough. The whole direction that the NHS is being driven in is at fault. The resistance of the BMA and the junior doctors is one factor, and a very crucial one, in the resistance of health workers and professionals, as well as the public at large, to this direction. The struggle is putting a spoke in the wheel of the government's juggernaut. And in doing so it is revealing in higher profile that now is the time for an NHS based on the right to health care.
WWIE calls on the whole working class and people to get behind the struggle of the junior doctors. The fact that the government does not accept that the working conditions of the junior doctors are the conditions for the health care of the public exposes how low the ruling elite has sunk in blocking the requirements for a modern health service. We call on the working class to inscribe on its banner that health care is a right. This is the way forward.
No to the Imposition of a
Contract on the Junior Doctors!
No to the Privatisation of the Health Service!
Health Care Is a Right! For an NHS Based on Fulfilling this Right!
North-East Workers & Politics*, February 13
The consultation by the Northumberland and Tyne Wear Mental Health Trust (NTW) on the future of Mental Health services in Gateshead and Newcastle closed on February 12, 2016.
Like a similar “consultation” in South Tyneside, where all the acute beds were closed in 2013 against the wishes of the majority that took part, the proposal favoured by the Trust is the closure of acute mental health beds in Gateshead and Newcastle. So if this is implemented acute mental health care beds will only be available at Ryhope in Sunderland, or Morpeth in Northumberland. In other proposals in the consultation, which it is clear the Trust has listed reluctantly, there are only proposals to enforce the drastic reduction in theses acute beds both in Gateshead and Newcastle.
There has clearly been massive opposition to this proposal from the people concerned about mental health services as well as from local MPs and people within public local bodies. At the Gateshead consultation events, people attending opposed the fact that the CCG tried to prohibit open discussion and comments by the public and they fought successfully to get their views heard. All of those who spoke adamantly opposed the closure of acute mental health beds in Gateshead. Writing about these proposals, which she submitted to the consultation, a concerned resident of Gateshead said: “What is the difference in Sunderland CCG finances and Newcastle/Gateshead CCG finances which leads Newcastle/Gateshead CCG to only being able to have community services on a par with Sunderland if we use the two out of area hospitals? Both of these sites are on the extreme geographical edges of the NTW area as far away from the largest population area of Newcastle/Gateshead, and attendant travel systems, as possible. The fact thatNTW did not consult with everyone concerned on their future plans, and have left their entire area with a hospital system not fit for purpose on the far edges of their area should be investigated as it shows a complete disregard for the majority of those, including North and South Tyneside, whom they provide services for.”
“NTW continued to ignore appropriate practice by not consulting over the closure, reduction in beds and moving of PICU wards, high dependency wards, eating disorder wards and others. They intended to do the same over Elm House move on ward until questioned on it. They were taken to court over the proposed closure, without due consultation, of the eating disorder beds at the RVI, which resulted in them staying in Newcastle. In the present consultation there is no mention of the reduction of over half the move on wards by the closure of the Newcastle one. This will surely result in more bed blocking in acute wards.”
“The seemingly effective and costly community services that Sunderland has managed to acquire has only brought down the hospital admission rates per 100,000 of their CCG population to the same rate as it already is in Newcastle/Gateshead, so it is simply erroneous to extrapolate from NTW figures that Newcastle/Gateshead could have a similar reduction of 34% in admissions. Also while the population of Newcastle/Gateshead is going up, that of Sunderland is declining.”
“.......The consultation cites occupancy rates for acute wards in Newcastle/Gateshead as being 87% for 2014/15. In a Freedom of Information Request I was given the figure of 93.86% for 2014/15, (99% over five years) and for St Georges for 2014/15 as 97.26%, all way above the Royal College of Psychiatrists recommendations of 84%. Cutting Newcastle/ Gateshead acutewards from 5 to 3 while occupancy rates are so high is simply not feasible. Incidents of section 3 being used nationally, and demand for beds generally, is growing. To provide fewer beds than is needed within the area, will result in much more money being spent on out of area and private beds, none of which is budgeted for within the consultation.”
The plan of NTW to cut acute beds and close acute mental health facilities in Northumberland and Tyne Wear has to be seen in the context of the acknowledged reports of the extreme crisis in mental health funding and the lack of acute mental health beds as well as support in the community. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, wrings his hands and is quite prepared to accept responsibility and claim that more funding is available. Yet over the next few years clearly the government plan is to allow mental health facilities run by public authorities to disappear whilst forcing commissioners to spend more and more on inadequate expensive privatised provision of mental health care.
In the face of the fraudulent austerity arguments that the health care of the people is too costly the people must assert their claim that health care is a right in a modern society and must be funded as a priority over the schemes of the rich at home and abroad to enrich themselves at the expense of the welfare of the people. The people must continue to strengthen their organised resistance and expose further this whole assault on the mental well being of the people, defend public authority and bring the inhuman perpetrators of theses criminal plans at the heart of government and elsewhere to account. The people must continue their fight to safeguard mental health services.
Nearly seventy years ago, in 1948, soldiers of the British army carried out one of the most infamous acts of terrorism in living memory, the massacre of 24 unarmed workers in Batang Kali, a village in the Selangor area of Malaya, today Malaysia. This heinous crime carried out under the Labour government of the day was only the first of many crimes carried out by British state and its governments since. There have been continual official attempts to cover up this crime in the many years following the Batang Kali Massacre. These culminated in the judgment reached by Britain’s Supreme Court at the end of last year when, by a majority verdict, it was decided that the families of those slaughtered had no right to any enquiry into their loved ones’ deaths, no right to an official apology and no right to any form of reparation.
The Batang Kali Massacre occurred in the period following World War II when the Labour government re-established control of the colony of Malaya. During the war British and allied forces had fought alongside the Malayan Peoples Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), led by the Communist Party of Malaya, but as soon as the common enemy had been defeated, just as in Greece and elsewhere, the British army turned its guns on its former allies. In the case of Malaya, Britain had fought to remove Japanese colonial occupation only to replace it with British colonial rule, in order to lay claim to Malaya’s resources, especially its rubber and tin the biggest currency earners in the Empire. In 1948 in response to the anti-colonial struggles breaking out in Malaya and the growing influence of the Communist Party, the British colonial authorities declared a “State of Emergency”, in effect launching an all out war in defence of colonial rule and in order to remove the threat to this rule posed by the Malayan people's struggle to determine their own destiny.
During the colonial war that followed, the British forces introduced many of the same strategies that would later be used by US imperialism in Vietnam: carpet bombing, including the use of cluster bombs, the use of defoliants, the herding of the population into “strategic hamlets”, the use of state terrorism against civilians, etc. In the Batang Kali Massacre the unarmed men of the village were simply shot in order to terrorise others as part of the overall objectives pursued by the British government of the day. What is evident from all the legal wrangling that has ensued since is that it is the British state and successive government that should be held to account, not just the soldiers who were sent to carry out the crime.
The massacre was immediately covered up by the Labour government and the armed forces which referred to those massacred as “bandits”, a term used for all those in Malaya who opposed Britain’s colonial rule, before the term “communist terrorists” or “CTs” was employed. An official War Office report in 1948 referred to the massacre as a “very successful action”. Nevertheless, the families of those massacred, their employer and others in Malaya, including the local press, immediately demanded an inquiry. Although the colonial authorities quickly concluded that the massacre had been justified what is significant is that even material relating to these early enquiries was destroyed along with evidence about many other crimes carried out during this period. An official statement by the Labour Colonial Secretary in Parliament concluded that those massacred had simply been shot while trying to escape, in language which is reminiscent of that used by the Nazis. Nevertheless, demands were still made for a public inquiry but were rejected by the government.
The massacre was publicly debated again in Britain in 1969, twelve years after Malaysia gained formal political independence, when the media issued statements from four British soldiers who confirmed that they had been ordered to carry out a massacre and to falsely claim that those killed had been shot whilst trying to escape. Two of those involved even appeared on television. As a result, the Director of Public Prosecutions under the Labour government of the day began an investigation, although the evidence suggests this was done with the hope and expectation that no criminal case would be brought. In 1970 when the Conservative government took office the investigation was dropped altogether. In 1992, a BBC documentary again focused on the massacre and interviewed those who had witnessed it. In response the Crown Prosecution Service reviewed the case and reached the conclusion that the time that had elapsed since the massacre and the termination of the investigation in 1970 constituted a “prejudicial delay”. Nevertheless, in 1993 the wife of one of those who had been shot and a survivor of the massacre filed a petition to the Queen, requesting that an investigation be carried out, prosecutions brought and reparation made. No response was ever issued by the Palace. Around the same time the Malaysian police made their own investigation and requested assistance from their British counterparts but the Metropolitan Police War Crimes Unit did not send the information requested. In 2008, two further petitions were sent to the Queen and legal representations made to the government, including the submission of new evidence and the request for an investigation and inquiry. In 2010, the government’s solicitor made it clear that no investigation would be carried out and in response the families of those massacred applied to the Court of Appeal and finally the Supreme Court for a judicial review to force the government to investigate the massacre.
Although the final judgments of the Supreme Court are presented in the most dispassionate legal terms, what they could not cover up was the fact that a massacre, a war crime, had been committed by the British army in a British colony under the authority and direction of the British government. Since that time for nearly seventy years every effort has been made by the British state, the police, courts, civil servants, and governments of all the major parties to make sure that this crime is ignored, covered up, that nobody is held to account and that no reparation is made to the families of the men massacred in Batang Kali. While some politicians at Westminster like to preach about “British values”, the ruling elite's approach to this massacre is a graphic example of the nature of those values, which have remained unchanging for some seventy years. They maintain the same racist and colonialist logic that considers that the lives of people in Malaysia, and the working people of other countries, don’t matter. Those who boast of their defence of the rule of law and their opposition to all forms of “terrorism” stand exposed and condemned before the world's people. Indeed, the case shows how the law itself, the Human Rights Act, the European Convention of Human Rights can be ignored or manipulated by the state and its governments according to their interests.
The Batang Kali massacre is a crime that like many others cries out for a just settlement, for the criminals to be held to account and for reparation to be made. It therefore raises the question of how this can be brought about, how the British state can be held to account for all the crimes committed during colonial rule as well as for the crime of colonialism itself? What is required is a society and state that places the people at the centre as the decision makers. What is required is an anti-war government of the people and for the people that will hold all the war criminals and their system to account, make reparation for all the crimes of the past and prevent future crimes from being perpetrated.
The Co-Chair of Oxford University Labour Club (OULC), Alex Chalmers, resigned from his position on Monday, February 15. This has sparked a media and political frenzy surrounding accusations of anti-Semitism made by Chalmers in the Facebook post where he announced his resignation.
Various accusations have been made, some serious-sounding, to which OULC has responded by launching an investigation. They point out: “Because there have been no official complaints made to us or the party so far, this investigation is an attempt to work out precisely what has happened and what should be done about it.”
In the meantime, a kind of trial by media has been taking place and all kinds of allegations are circulating.
Chalmers' post states that the trigger for his resignation was the vote by OULC on that Monday to endorse Israel Apartheid Week. Aside from what certain individuals may or may not have said or done, it is clear that the main theme of these events, the response of various people and media coverage spreading innuendo and hearsay before any investigation is the painting of the Palestine solidarity movement with the brush of anti-Semitism. The post itself asserts that Israel Apartheid Week is “a movement with a history of targeting and harassing Jewish students and inviting anti-Semitic speakers to campuses”.
This theme was taken up in an open letter to OULC by a number of student politicians, academics and others, published in the Cherwell student newspaper, on Friday, February 19. The signatories “condemn and oppose this poorly considered course of action” to support the Week. “'Israeli Apartheid Week' purports to be a conference promoting intellectual discussion. In reality it is little more than a gathering of activists promoting a one-sided narrative, seeking to dismantle the only majority-Jewish member-state of the United Nations.”
“In a climate of rising anti-Semitism, we have a duty to oppose initiatives that foster an intolerant political culture which intimidates Jewish students.”
This is itself a divisive statement, marginalising the voice of the very same Jewish student population they claim to be defending. It completely ignores the support for Israel Apartheid Week by Oxford Jewish Students for Justice in Palestine.
The letter also ignores the support of Oxford University Student Union Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality and other rights groups. Instead, it turns historical fact on its head in its claim that Israel “is not a settler-colonial state” in order to declare it “wrong to contend that Israel – a multiracial democracy – even remotely resembles the horrors of South Africa's racist dictatorship.”
It is thus supposed to be beyond the pale that the OULC should vote to support Israeli Apartheid Week. In particular, allegations and smears are being made to implicate leader Jeremy Corbyn's support base and the Momentum movement. This comes after David Cameron's recent widely-condemned labelling of Corbyn as a “terrorist sympathiser” for his opposition to air strikes in Syria.
Anti-Semitism and all forms of racism must be opposed. That includes the conflating of Jewish people with the state of Israel, and the associated assertion that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. On the contrary, defending Palestinian rights is defence of the rights of all and is the starting-point for the security of all in the region. Israel Apartheid Week has for ten years been upholding these important principles; OULC should be supported in their stand to endorse it.
I would like to make a contribution to the discussion on whether the workers' movement should support or oppose a UK exit from the EU.
First, it doesn't seem to me that looking at who else is supporting or opposing the so-called Brexit will help us in any way to make a decision. It is a fact that various reactionaries, such as UKIP and different fascist formations, are campaigning for a UK exit. However, equally reactionary forces, such as David Cameron, the US government and the political representatives of European finance capital are campaigning against the Brexit. The workers will have to make an independent judgement on whether an exit aids or harms their struggle.
Those who oppose an exit make the argument that given the current political balance of forces in Britain, such a move would lead to a “carnival of reaction”, massive xenophobic and racist media propaganda and deportation of workers. In effect this argument holds that continued UK membership of the EU acts as a kind of brake on this “carnival of reaction”. Therefore on this basis, they call for the workers movement to oppose a UK exit from the EU.
It seems to me there are a number of problems with this argument. First, it is a known fact that the international financial oligarchy demands total global freedom of movement for capital while classifying workers into those who are entitled to take part in “free movement of labour” within a specified economic zone and those who are not. The latter are labelled as “economic migrants” and “illegal immigrants”. It is a matter of record that this latter group has long been subject within the EU to this carnival of reaction, xenophobic and racist propaganda and deportations. In fact the corporate media takes pains to classify the refugees fleeing their countries destruction at the hands of the USA/EU/NATO axis precisely as “economic migrants” and “illegal immigrants”. This is all happening now with Britain in the EU so it is difficult to see how Britain's membership of the EU acts as some kind of brake on this carnival of reaction. In the face of this, it has been the people's movement which has taken the stand that “no-one is illegal” and “refugees are welcome here”. On this basis, thousands of people came out to last year's demonstration in London and exemplary work has been carried out to combat the poisonous chauvinism regarding the refugees in Calais. Therefore, in my view, it is the organised and conscious actions of the workers themselves which offers protection from the carnival of reaction and not continued membership of the EU of the monopolies. The workers' movement is not as weak as is suggested.
Secondly, the question needs to be posed as to whether achieving pro-social political change is more possible within the EU framework or outside it. The experience of Greece, which revolved ostensibly around that country's membership of the common currency, does strongly suggest that it would be impossible for any government to implement an anti-austerity, anti-war programme while still a member of the EU. It is also common knowledge that the EU currently acts as waiting room for NATO and hence the commitment of the USA to its continued existence. Therefore, continued membership of the EU keeps the country tied into the warmongering NATO alliance. The anti-war, anti-austerity movement in Britain is developing and in my view, a “Brexit” would give this movement more room for manoeuvre. This is why I think the movement would benefit from a UK withdrawal from the EU.
Two major employers on the Isle of Wight attempted to impose anti-social “productivity” packages on workers in recent years and the workers and their unions still had to invoke their unions and enter into industrial disputes to protect their rights. The EU social protocols, the social chapter and social “charter” were of no consequence for workers.
In June, 2015 a pay dispute caused unrest at Doncaster Trucast in Ryde. Workers had to threaten to take strike action if a resolution was not found. The company offered only a 1.5% pay rise or two per cent rise if the workers included bank holidays as part of their annual leave. This undermined the paid leave arrangements agreed to under the spirit of the EU protocols.
The company wanted to implement an anti-social “continental” shift pattern. Workers did not agree to the shift change. These notorious shift patterns upset the workers’ systems as they rotate and no-one can get used to a routine life. Workers said that “the new shift pattern, reducing tea breaks and holiday payments and only offering a small shift premium that doesn’t cover the benefits lost”.
The EU Social agreements proved completely useless in July, 2013, at GKN Aerospace, in East Cowes. The notorious GKN management have always sought to undermine the EU arrangements anyhow and the union secretaries didn’t even bother to invoke the working time directives. GKN threatened its workforce with an increase in its working week from 37 hours to 40.
The managements not only did this but wanted to reduce premium payments for overtime working.
The “reasons” given by management at the time for pursuing this policy, was to reduce cost and to maximise efficiency, giving the false premise that labour was a “cost”.
This was from a profitable company making millions, which wanted to impose three hours longer on the working week, cuts in sick pay and a pay freeze!
Similarly, nationally, Tata Jaguar in Birmingham introduced compulsory Saturday working in 2012 The plans included compulsory working of up to 12 Saturdays in a 12-month. None of this was challenged by the working time directive.
“New product proposals” gave a long list of the existing working practices that were implemented in the 1990s, such as “short notice movement of tea breaks and flexible lunch breaks”, “bell to bell working”, “ability to have fixed or flexible holidays, or a combination of both”, “efficient overtime arrangements”, “option to call or flat October shut down”, “ability to move annual shut down dates in accordance with operational requirements”, “zero line stops for Trade Union briefings”, and many others.
None of these were challenged. EU style “Works Councils” and EU business protocols and EU “Social Partnership” arrangements were never invoked or made effective. Social Protocols were nonentities in the discussions. EU Holiday Protection was undermined and the 48-hour week under the working time directive was used against workers to undermine Saturday as a premium day. The proposals were to actually extend the working week from that attained through the struggles to reduce the working week below 40 hours since the 1970s.
Pension arrangements and retirement ages have been violated in line with government arrangements to extend the working life of all, reduce actual retirement life and challenge fundamental rights of workers.
Today, with the Junior Doctors, the 48-hour week has been discarded and it has been left to the doctors themselves to demand proper working conditions. In fact, The European Junior Doctors’ Permanent Working Group (EJD), the European Federation of Salaried Doctors (FEMS) and the European Association of Senior Hospital Physicians (AEMH) called upon the European Commission not to compromise the health and safety provisions of the European Working Time Directive for financial considerations.
The European Working Time Directive review has been called in response to the British government and monopolies demanding changes. The results of this work have not been published, and the European Commission has not yet submitted a legislative proposal to the European Parliament and the Council. Only the European Doctors’ organisations themselves have shown support for British Junior Doctors and attempts to invoke the working time directive under present conditions has proved to be an unsuccessful tool showing no favour to the British doctors.
In the context of the Referendum as to whether Britain should remain in or leave the European Union, WWIE is reprinting the following which originally appeared in four parts in the series Readers' Forum in Workers' Daily Internet Edition in 2000.
Q: I am unambiguously socialist and I am firmly pro-European Union. Could you inform me as to whether my views are incompatible with the beliefs of this party as I don't believe my views on Europe will change. Could you explain to me why you consider this to be an anti-Communist standpoint as it has always been my belief that a united Europe is the key to radical socialism becoming the main political force throughout the continent.
A: We thank the reader for raising this question in a serious manner. We think the question of what stand to take on the European Union is a very serious issue. Like any serious question, discussion should be deepened on it, people drawn into the discussion, and the matter fully investigated. Of course, the proviso in doing this is that the aim must be for a stand to be taken in favour of the people, particularly the working class who have the historical role of leading society out of the crisis.
It is with this orientation in mind, which we also take to be that of the reader, that we state our position.
The first point to draw out is that when the question is put in this way, it is not really a matter of "beliefs" of our Party on the European Union. The reader may not have meant to use this word, which is more appropriate to religious faith or matters of conscience. But we would just like to emphasise that the starting point must be the world as it is. To discuss about this world is a crucial activity, not from the point of view of making it a matter of interpretation, but in order to counter preconceptions, combat one-sidedness, get closer to the world as it really is, engage in the cut and thrust of ideas, and ultimately to change the situation in accordance with the demands of progress and to bring about a world fit for human beings. Again, we think we would be at one with the sentiments of the reader on this matter.
The second point which it may be best to get out of the way is that we are sure the questioner is not an anti-communist. We do not start from the position that if someone were to take issue with our arguments and stands, that would justify us in labelling that person "anti-communist". Rather, anti-communism is a conscious policy and activity of those forces who wish to put a block on the further development of society, and commit any crime against humanity just so long as people do not become enlightened or are deprived of the possibility of deciding their own affairs.
All that being said, we would like to begin by succinctly stating our stand, and then dealing more specifically with the questions that the reader has posed. The stand of RCPB(ML) on this, as on other political questions, arises from the need of the working class and people to adopt a fighting programme which will lead society out of its crisis and resolve the problems that face the people day after day. Such a pro-social programme has as its starting point that the inviolable rights of all human beings be recognised. That being so, it is a crucial element of such a programme that it demands that the people be able to exercise their sovereignty. Therefore our Party holds that all economic, political and military alliances based on big power domination be ended, because such blocs and alliances stand in opposition to the exercise of this inviolable right. In particular, our Party calls for British withdrawal from the European Union and NATO, and for their dismantling. The right of all peoples of the world to live according to the social system of their choice must be recognised.
Having stated our stand, and before moving on to the question of what is key to bringing about socialism, and whether the strengthening of the European Union would assist in this, we would like to underline two things about the EU.
One is that it can be accurately described as a Europe of the monopolies. In our view, the facts demonstrate that from its origin through to the present its aim has been to benefit the monopoly capitalists and has been dominated by them. This is the case whether one looks at the European Union as a whole, or whether the individual countries of Europe are considered. One could sum up this development by saying that the aim of the monopolies has been their drive for maximum capitalist profit on the one hand, and on the other to place a block on the advance of the working class and communist movement and the aim of that movement to establish socialist states. What is more, the strengthening of the EU as first an economic bloc and then a political bloc and the continuation of this as a military bloc has also a geo-political aim. In the situation where the old equilibrium between the spheres of influence of the two superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union collapsed at the beginning of the 1990s, to dominate Europe is seen as crucial by US imperialism, as well as by the European monopolies. The issue as to who should control the Balkans must be seen in this light, as should the enlargement of the EU and its expansion eastwards. Other factors are now entering the equation, such as the increasing economic and political significance of both South and East Asia. However, the geo-political truth for the big powers that the control of Europe is a precondition for their contention for global hegemony still holds good. This is a very dangerous and increasingly tense situation, and is only flimsily covered over by the many statements of good intentions from the US and European leaders.
The second point to bring out is that it would be wrong to equate the European Union with a "united Europe". Not only are there serious contradictions between the big powers and the different monopoly interests within the EU, such as Britain, France and Germany, but the political structure is being consolidated to ensure that in an enlarged EU, it is these big powers that dominate. The EU has never had any interest in the principle that all countries, big or small, should participate in international affairs with an equal voice.
As the new millennium dawned, the transnational companies through the mouths of their spokespeople were emphasising a new age of globalisation, and that everything must be subordinated to the unfettered power of the monopolies to penetrate and control markets and that success in the global marketplace was the be-all and end-all of life. In this context, a "New Direction for Europe" has been put on the agenda by the EU powers. This represents a "new direction" only in the sense that, as in the individual countries, the aims of the monopolies to counter the falling rate of profit has led to the dismantling of the social welfare state and increasingly to the policies of neo-liberalism. These policies are synonymous with cut-backs in social programmes and the gearing of all areas of the life of society to enriching the financial oligarchy. For the EU as a bloc, this translates into how to make the Europe of the monopolies better equipped to compete in the global market, to intensify its rivalry with the US and others, and how to facilitate the penetration of the big monopolies into the Balkan countries, Russia and Asia, as well as how to incorporate the Balkan and eastern European countries into "mainstream Europe". Measures are being taken to remove barriers to the development of a single market and to allow ever greater privatisation.
All this is being carried on to the detriment of national economies, to the welfare of the people and to the recognition of their rights. At the same time, an ideological offensive is being carried out to try and convince the working class and people that this is "progressive governance", and in the interests of all. This offensive could also be said to include the promotion that the worst effects of neo-liberalism and globalisation can be opposed by "social partnership" nationally and fighting to make the EU a "People's Europe". This must be considered a cruel illusion.
In the first two parts of the reply to the reader who was raising the issue as to what stand to take on the European Union, we gave our position in a nutshell, as well as very briefly underlining our analysis of the direction the EU is heading.
The reader states that it has always been my belief that a united Europe is the key to radical socialism becoming the main political force throughout the continent.
We would first of all like to stress that we stand firmly for the unity of the peoples of Europe, as we stand for the unity of the peoples of the whole world. The peoples everywhere have the aspiration for a new world free from the exploitation of persons by persons. Our Party, as a contingent of the international Marxist-Leninist communist movement in Britain, regards it as its proletarian internationalist duty to organise for socialist revolution in this country, and to support and build unity with all those forces engaged in the same struggle throughout the world.
At the same time, we hold that the basis of accomplishing the unity of everyone in the realisation of their deepest aspiration is the development and flourishing of each and every people and nation. This is an important conception that the 20th century has given rise to as the imperialist monopolies have sought to eliminate the right of nations to self-determination and negate the right of peoples to develop their cultures, languages, and so forth. The breaking down of national barriers by monopoly capitalism under the signboard of "globalisation", a "People's Europe", "interdependence", or any other such pretext, in fact stands as an obstruction to the development of the Internationale as the human race. This is because through such means the big powers have sought to impose their dictate, their own values, on the broad masses of the people on the world scale, whereas to uphold the right of a people to exercise its sovereignty is to take a stand against imperialist domination and contribute to the emancipation of the working class and all of humanity on a world scale.
It is not possible to achieve a "united Europe", a Europe of the people, socialism throughout the continent, through working for or through the Europe of the monopolies. Each working class must settle scores with its own bourgeoisie in a nation-building project, in unity with the working class of other countries. Only through such a path is such an entity as a Union of Socialist States of Europe a possibility.
The actual situation at this time at the beginning of the 21st century is that the reactionary bourgeoisie tries to suggest that the notion of national self-determination or national sovereignty is a thing of the past or is of limited application. The Europe of the monopolies, as well as Anglo-American imperialism, is now based on the values which are enshrined in the "Charter of Paris for a New Europe", signed towards the close of 1990. It represents 19th century liberal conceptions and values which the international financial oligarchy is trying to impose on the whole world. It takes the form of the demand that every country must have a free market economy, a multiparty system and "human rights" based on private property. It is a declaration that any country which does not follow the Paris Charter will become an international pariah. It is not a declaration which is or could have been made by sovereign peoples and nation states, and can only be imposed on them by the power of the monopolies. It is being presented as something new and modern, but it stands against what is new and modern. It is causing and deepening the profound crisis throughout the EU and wherever these big powers try to impose these same values. It has to be opposed by the peoples affirming their right to determine their own path of economic, political and social development.
If one analyses the struggles that are going on in society, one is led to the conclusion that on every front the struggle is between on the one side the crisis caused by what is moribund and holding society back, and on the other the movement to sweep away everything that is anti-human and to fundamentally renovate society. It is in this context that the big powers of the European Union are pushing for the EU to be strengthened as an economic/political/military bloc. At the same time they are pushing the values of globalisation and the free market economy, as if they were something modern, while in reality they represent the anachronistic and obsolescent "solutions" of the 19th century, which transformed themselves into factors for the imperialist first world war. Why are they being pushed? Because these big powers stand for the old relations of production. They stand against the principle of the independence of nations, of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, of the peaceful coexistence between different social systems.
Thus, in our view, it is neither working for a united Europe, nor spearheading all the people’s struggles against the European Union, that is the primary task facing the working class in Britain. The primary task is to consciously and in an organised fashion strike out on the line of march to a new society. How to do this is not an abstract or empty question. It is both a practical political question and a theoretical question. The fighting programme of the working class within which this line of march will take shape includes the demand for the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union and the dismantling of the EU. Theoretical considerations show that it is the working class which must take the lead in this struggle for a new society.
No problem facing the people in Britain will be victoriously resolved without at the same time the working class engaging in its project to constitute itself the nation, and going for socialism in Britain. To engage in this project and bring it to fruition, the working class has to be prepared to withstand all the activities of the reactionary bourgeoisie to wreck the new. These wrecking activities come not only from the big monopolies of the European Union, but also from the reactionary bourgeoisie in this country, especially from them. Indeed, one of the fundamental ways the bourgeoisie tries to prevent the emergence of the new basis in society is to deny to the working class its independent and leading role. The job of everyone in the communist and workers’ movement must be to pro-actively foster and develop, insist on, the independent programme of the working class and its leading role in extricating society from the crisis which the bourgeoisie’s insistence on the status quo is deepening and broadening.
One point we think should not be overlooked is that the European Union is a further factor compromising the sovereignty of the peoples of Scotland, Wales and England. Just as in the wider context of peoples fighting to exercise their sovereignty against the programme of the big powers of the European Union to impose their will, so in the context of Britain, the peoples of Scotland, Wales and England must fight against the unitary state which denies this right to them. If in the context of this struggle for sovereign states on a new basis, the working class and peoples voluntarily decide on a free and equal union which will put the English bourgeoisie in its place, then this is all to the good. It can also be said that should the countries of Europe under the leading role of their respective working classes be victorious in establishing modern sovereign socialist states, their internationalist unity against the world bourgeoisie can also be strengthened, without in the least limiting their own sovereignty.
In conclusion, we would like to re-emphasise the importance of all human persons formulating their own stands, and affirming their individual and collective rights. For our part, we advocate that the agenda, the programme, that the Party is putting forward should be given serious consideration, not as something which is of benefit to ourselves, but as conclusions which have been drawn from the experience of the working class and communist movement as a whole. In this respect, we believe they embody what is new and consistent with the struggle for the emancipation of the working class and all humanity. We do not put forward the fighting programme for adoption by the working class as a set of demands which we campaign that the government should accept, and that will be the end of the matter. There can be no illusions that any force other than the working class can lead society out of the present crisis and open up the way to a new and socialist society. Rather we advocate the adoption of the fighting programme of the working class to bring into play the human factor/social consciousness so as to build a revolutionary movement of a mass character which will give rise to the revolutionary transformation of society to socialism.
For the information of our readers, we are
reprinting the following resolution passed
at the AGM of the Campaign against Euro-federalism (CAEF) on April 11, 2015.
The Campaign against Euro-federalism recognises that:
1. The European Union represents the interests of the neo-liberal agenda of the dominance of the global monopolies, the transnational corporations and the financial oligarchy of the EU. This includes the so-called "free trade", a "free trade" which in fact constitutes control of markets, resources and labour.
2. The alleged aim of so-called "free trade" and "free movement of capital, goods, services and labour" to create jobs, spur investment and promote economic growth is a complete fraud.
3. The EU project is one of neo-liberal globalisation which is imposing a fraudulent austerity agenda on the peoples of Europe.
4. The EU violates the sovereignty of the nations, national governments and states that are its members.
5. The "old imperialist powers" of Europe are colluding and contending to dominate the other states, including the former Eastern European countries, as well as Greece and others.
And notes that:
1. Those whose interests are served by the EU attempt to sway public opinion by imbuing workers with false hopes that future employment will be brought about by implementing EU directives and reactionary government policies.
2. The dangerous developments within the EU, such as the secret TTIP negotiations with the United States, are designed to impose private monopoly interests and wreck public services. This is under the fraud of harmonising regulation, and the proposals for a European armed force which would lead to the escalation and broadening of armed conflict.
3. The austerity programme pursued by the Westminster Government has been consistent with the neo-liberal programme of the EU, which concentrates political, economic and military power in fewer and fewer hands.
4. That there is a powerful movement of the people in this country and throughout Europe against the imposition of "austerity", a movement which fights against the neo-liberalism which enriches the elite who expropriate the people's social wealth. This devastates living standards and destroys public services, public authority and social programmes, as well as devastating the environment.
In these circumstances, the Campaign against Euro-federalism (CAEF) affirms that there an alternative which puts the people's well-being at the centre of considerations and defends the rights of all. This alternative is where people have control of their own lives and future, in which the economy is our economy, resources are our resources, and the co-operation of the peoples of Europe is strengthened for their mutual benefit, not for the rich and powerful. The interests of the monopolies are made subservient to the public good in each and every country and throughout Europe.
Some features of this alternative, to which the people aspire and are fighting to realise are:
1. The power for sovereign states to decide on their own development strategies and policies.
2. The power of economic sovereignty for people to decide on the direction of their own economies.
3. The power to restrict the operation of foreign capital and monopolies and instead to develop co-operation within the working class movement for the public interest.
4. The power to unite with workers from whatever origin so that the rights of all workers are upheld and remuneration and conditions are raised, not lowered.
5. The power to develop public services for the public good away from the control of private interests.
6. The power to conduct investment, as well as inter-European and international trade, away from the control of the bodies of the European Union - pending and future trade agreements should be concluded not on the basis of neo-liberal "free trade", which means domination of the monopolies, but on the basis of mutual benefit of working people of sovereign countries.
7. Current "free trade agreements" which represent the right of the monopolies to dictate the economic agenda to the detriment of working people should be abrogated. International trade should be conducted on the basis of the principles of self-reliance, equal trade for mutual benefit with all nations regardless of their political regime, and the inalienable right of working people to control all decision-making that affects the socialised economy and the social and natural environment.
In short, the alternative lies in upholding the public good, opposing the dictate of European and global monopolies, including the international financiers, and affirming the sovereignty of each state's public authority over the direction of its economy and society as a whole. On that basis, the people of each country can develop their co-operation and unity which expresses their interests and not that of the transnational corporations; on that basis sovereign peoples can develop their own institutions of international mutual benefit.
RCPB(ML) Home Page
Workers' Weekly Online Archive