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Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
For An Anti-War Government!:
There Can Be No Justification for Britain's Intervention in Libya
Illegitimate Supranational Institution:
The International Criminal Court, a Mechanism for Criminalising Opposition to Foreign Intervention in Africa
MAY DAY 2016:
Day of International Working Class Unity and Struggle
Unjust Laws Receive Royal Assent
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At the heart of the debate about whether Britain should remain in or leave the European Union is the issue of where decision-making power lies.
It is important that this question is framed not in terms of what benefits "Britain", when what is glossed over is the fact that whether in the EU or in Britain, control over the human, material and natural resources lies not with the people but with the monopolies and the ruling elites whose mantra is to make these monopolies competitive in the global market.
But this does not mean that the issue of whether to remain or leave the EU is of no concern to the working class and people. Far from it. The European Union itself is part of the arrangements of those monopolies to compete in the global market while the people pay the price. Thus the EU is an enemy of the people's striving to control the direction of the economy and assert their sovereignty over political and social affairs. The EU is one more obstacle to decision-making power being vested in the people, and it represents the concentration of power in the hands of the ruling elites who advance the cause of private interests and pay no heed to the rights of the people.
In fact, the EU, since its founding in the original guise of the European Steel and Coal Federation, has moved towards being a supranational or super-state, so that the Lisbon Treaty acts as the constitution of a Euro-federalist entity. This is unacceptable. Authority and sovereignty must lie with the European states, but is compromised through the EU, as well as the IMF and World Bank, not to mention NATO and other bodies. It misses the point to say that some directives or EU legislation are helpful to the workers, while others give powers to the the monopolies, and that therefore the EU needs to be reformed. The EU stands as a supranational body opposed to sovereign decision-making, and is based on and has developed a neo-liberal agenda which means that decision-making is in fact in the hands of the rich and powerful. The alternative that is sometimes posed by advocates of the EU is that of a "reactionary nationalism" or in the case of Britain a "little England" mentality, which would lead to conflict and war. But the actual alternative which serves the interests of the working class and people is the development of sovereign economies with decision-making in the hands of the working people themselves. In fact, it would be the existence of anti-war governments with authority in the hands of the people themselves that would guarantee peace and fraternal relations among peoples. The doctrine of limited sovereignty or of failed states which gives the big powers the "right" to intervene in the affairs of others is itself one of aggression, intervention and war. It matters not if this intervention is pursued under the ideals of the "right to protect" or with a humanitarian guise. The reality can be seen in the wrecking of nation-states and the proliferation of anarchy and violence.
The reactionary agenda of the promotion of "British values" is being pursued by the leading establishment figures who have been placed at the helm of both the Remain and Leave campaigns. It does not help the people sort out what is what for either side to prepare a list of these figures and accuse the other side of guilt by association. The issue is, how can the people exercise sovereignty? An answer is for the working class to affirm and establish itself as the leading class, with its own agenda for a way out of the neo-liberal crisis which affects the direction of society as a whole, and bring about democratic renewal so that the people become the sovereign power, the decision-makers. Being a member of the European Union, where its elected parliament does not even have legislative power, which is in the hands of the European Commission, it becomes impossible for the people to hold the decision-making bodies to account and exercise sovereignty themselves.
Only in this manner, it should be added, can the international rule of law be genuinely followed. This is because such a rule of international law needs the consent that all will abide by historically established standards, standards established that is to say by the blood shed by the people against fascism, against torture and in defence of the rights of all.
Such "free trade" agreements as TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) are a telling exposure of the aims of the monopolies to ride roughshod over the sovereignty of nations and peoples. They are "agreements" over which the people have no jurisdiction. The European Union promotes such "international trade" for the interests of the most powerful monopolies and as a geopolitical weapon. It is crucial that this whole neo-liberal agenda is opposed by the working class and people through working for their own human-centred arrangements which favour their rights and interests.
In short, a crucial question for consideration and discussion in the EU Referendum campaign is that of where decision-making power lies, and the necessity to work for it to be in the hands of working people themselves. A movement is required for democratic renewal in a very concrete sense, of which the necessity to withdraw from the EU is part and parcel. Workers' Weekly calls on the working class to take the lead in this endeavour.
In 2002, a little known former foreign policy advisor to Tony Blair named Robert Cooper wrote a now infamous article The Post Modern State and the World Order justifying a "new kind of imperialism". Cooper, who went on to to become a Special Advisor at the European Commission and a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations argued that there is the postmodern world of the EU, NATO and the other big powers and what he referred to as the "premodern world" which included Africa. According to Cooper:
"The challenge to the postmodern world is to get used to the idea of double standards. Among ourselves, we operate on the basis of laws and open cooperative security. But when dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of states outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era - force, pre-emptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself. Among ourselves, we keep the law but when we are operating in the jungle, we must also use the laws of the jungle."
For Cooper the "premodern world" was an area of "failed states" which posed a danger to the "postmodern world". Such states, he asserted, might be become bases for drug barons and terrorists. In order to prevent this possibility, Cooper argued, there was a need for a "defensive imperialism", a new colonialism allegedly designed to avoid chaos and bring order to the world. Cooper argued that military intervention in Afghanistan was an example of this new imperialism. Cooper's thinking, which argued for the growing irrelevance of borders, was put into practice by the New Labour governments of Blair, which intervened with particular zeal in Africa, as well as elsewhere. Blair referred to Africa as the "scar on the conscience of humanity" as if this was in itself a justification for intervention by Britain and its allies. Never did he explain that this "scar" was the consequence of previous intervention in Africa by the colonial powers, exploiters and slave traders, nor that they too justified their intervention on the most noble and humanitarian grounds, the "civilising mission" and the "white man's burden".
Now the demand for a new kind of imperialism, for extended foreign intervention has been taken up by the Britain's former Foreign Secretary, William Hague. In a recent article Hague attempts to counter any opposition to the government's plans to intervene further in Libya, to train and manage that country's armed forces, to bolster the weak government in order to further the interests of the monopolies and enhance Britain's geo-political influence in the region. In order to do so he argues that the chaos and anarchy that now exist in Libya are not a result of NATO intervention and the destabilisation that has followed regime change in that country but rather a consequence of the fact that allegedly Britain and its NATO allies did not intervene effectively enough and for as long as was necessary. Moreover, he argues that there is a need for prolonged intervention not only in Libya but elsewhere in Africa and western Asia if the continuing exodus of migrants and refugees, also a consequence of foreign intervention, is to be halted. According to Hague:
"If European countries, including Britain, think they can get by without intervention in that region over the next few decades they face being overwhelmed by a movement of humanity that they have never before contemplated or experienced. Intervention - to try to prevent conflict, end wars, stabilise governments and create economic improvements - will be a completely unavoidable necessity for many Western nations."
Of course Hague suggests that NATO intervened in Libya on the basis of the so-called "right to protect" civilians, a notion that has no basis in international law and was merely a fig-leaf to cover up plans for regime change. It is now well established, not least from Hilary Clinton's leaked emails, that there were no endangered civilians in Benghazi to "protect". The NATO bombing of Libya continued until Muammar Gaddafi was assassinated and regime change occurred, since this was always the aim. What is more, NATO intervened in Libya in such a way as to be certain that the affiliates of the so-called al-Qaeda, Daesh and other sinister forces would be assisted both to carry out racist murders against African civilians and to strengthen their own military and political positions. NATO intervention therefore led not to the protection but to the murder of civilians. Combatting these same sinister forces is now presented by Hague and others as another justification for further intervention.
Hague's views regarding Libya turn truth on its head as do his comments relating to "instability" in parts of Africa and Western Asia. The revolutionary events that took place in Egypt and Tunisia were precisely directly against the regimes that had been supported militarily and economically by the intervention of Britain and the other big powers. The people of North Africa and other parts of the continent are struggling to empower themselves not live forever under various forms of foreign domination. As a result of NATO intervention in Libya the whole of North Africa and beyond was destabilised. But political and economic instability in those parts of Africa that produce so many migrants is also a consequence of the failed economic and political prescriptions, neo-liberal globalisation, the various forms of foreign intervention emanating from the imperialist system of states that has Hague and others as its champions. Even Hague is forced to admit that foreign intervention in Libya, as in Iraq and elsewhere has created instability and chaos but the conclusion that he seeks to draw is that "such situations often need a more forceful, insistent and long-term foreign presence to make them into a success". Hague even claims that in Libya elections were held too soon, before Britain and its allies could establish the "democracy" that they require.
There is little difference between the colonialist logic of Cooper and Hague and both seek to provide justifications for the actions the British government. It is an open secret that the current government is preparing to send troops to Libya under one guise or another, as part of a wider multinational force, as soon as it can pressure the government in that country to issue an invitation. Hague struggles to provide such a justification precisely because such intervention is outside the international rule of law. Britain and the other big powers much cease all intervention in Libya.
from the website Stop Foreign Intervention in Africa
The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established on 17 July 1998 when 120 states adopted the Rome Statute which is the legal basis of this organisation. The court, which is based in The Hague, Netherlands, should not be confused with the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The latter is part of the United Nations and deals with legal disputes between UN member states. The ICC, on the other hand, is not part of the UN and has as its stated aims to "exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern" and to "to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes". The Rome Statute identifies these crimes of concern as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. The Rome statute entered into force on 1 July 2002 and so only deals with crimes which took place after this date.
One striking feature about the establishment of the ICC was that the organisation started life without an agreed legal definition of the crime of aggression and so could take no action against those who organised and carried out this crime. This was a rather striking omission, given that as far back as the Nuremberg Tribunals in 1950 crimes against peace were already clearly legally defined as:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; (ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).
Furthermore, such was the clarity on these matters at the time, that the chief American prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunals, Robert H Jackson, described the crime of aggression thus: "To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole".
Notwithstanding the existing body of international law, the ICC, at its inception was unable to legally define the crime of aggression which Jackson had described some 50 years earlier as the "supreme international crime" which contained all the other war crimes within itself. Eventually, in 2010 at its meeting in Kampala, Uganda, the ICC established a legal definition for the crime of aggression and the conditions under which such a crime would fall within its jurisdiction after 1 January 2017 when this agreement enters into force. These conditions are essentially two. First, a crime of aggression only comes within the jurisdiction of the ICC if it is referred to it by the security council of the UN. Secondly, a state which is party to the Rome Statute can refer a situation to the ICC if it thinks the crime of aggression has been committed. However, before the ICC can act, it must approach the UN Security Council to find out if this body has determined that a crime of aggression has taken place. In addition, states which are party to the Rome statute can opt out of the court's jurisdiction with regard to crimes of aggression and those states which are not party to the Rome statute, such as the USA, are specifically excluded from the ICC's jurisdiction with regard to the crime of aggression. This contrasts strongly with the situation regarding the other crimes with which the court allegedly deals, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The court's jurisdiction applies to all countries for these crimes, whether or not they are parties to the Rome Statute, as long as they are referred to it by the UN Security Council. Through these mechanisms, the big powers which hold vetoes in the UN Security Council are able to carry out crimes of aggression and all the other war crimes that these entail with utmost impunity. This is why today when aggression, regime change and mass human right violations have become the preferred method for the big powers to secure their interests, the perpetrators of these crimes, like Blair, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Sarkozy, Aznar, Obama, Hillary Clinton and others are walking around scot free. Therefore it is crystal clear that from its outset, the ICC was not set up to prosecute "serious crimes of international concern" nor to "to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes".
Notwithstanding its inability to bring to book the major war criminals of our time, the ICC has busied itself with Africa. Of its 10 cases which the ICC currently lists on its website, nine are in Africa. Observers note that of the 39 people who have been indicted by the ICC, 38 are Africans. This vigorous pursuit of Africans by the ICC is contrasted with its approach when it comes to others engaged in war crimes. For example, on 5 July in 2013 the Comoros Islands referred a case for consideration to the ICC, since the boats which were in the peace flotilla to Gaza and which were attacked by the Israeli army were registered in the Comoros. On 6 November 2014, the ICC rejected the Comoros case on the grounds that it did not meet 'the legal requirements of the Rome Statute'. In reality, the ICC in Africa operates as the legal arm of the USA/EU/NATO axis and its role is to criminalise any opposition to the interference of these forces in Africa. Currently, the former president of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, is being "tried" by the ICC in The Hague. His crime relates to his opposition to the French and UN intervention into the affairs of Ivory Coast following the elections in that country in 2010. The contested results of the November election that year proved to be the trigger for massive French and UN interference in Ivory Coast for the purposes of propelling their preferred candidate into power and for overthrowing the then government of Laurent Gbagbo which was viewed as unacceptable to the USA, Britain and France. Working closely with the troops of the so-called United Nations Operations in Cote d'Ivoire (UNOCI) which has been active in that country since 2004, the French troops overthrew the government of Laurent Gbagbo and installed their preferred candidate, Alassane Ouattara, a former IMF employee. Another case in point is that of Libya. In the lead up to the NATO attack on Libya and in order to facilitate it, the ICC rushed out indictments against Muammar Gaddafi and other leading members of the existing Libyan government. In this way, the ICC plays a key role in legitimising the attacks on Africa and criminalising any opposition to these attacks. Not surprisingly, the real war crimes that NATO committed in Libya, including the aggression itself, the ethnic cleansing of places such as Tawergha and the racist pogroms against West African migrants who were living in Libya at the time are of no concern to the ICC.
Clearly recognising the dangerous role that the ICC plays with regard to Africa, there are growing moves on the continent to disentangle Africa from this organisation. In October 2015, South Africa withdrew from it and at the 26th annual assembly of the AU in Addis Ababa in January 2016, the organisation agreed to create a road map for the withdrawal of the AU member states from this organisation. This is a step to be applauded.
On April 20, the National Union of Students (NUS) elected Malia Bouattia as its new president. Originally from Algeria, she is both the first black woman and the first Muslim to be elected NUS president, following her position as the Black Students' Officer.
Both before and after her election, allegations have been circulating to discredit Bouattia and associate her with anti-Semitism and extremism. Following the vote, campaigns began at various student unions (Oxford, Manchester, York, Exeter, Cambridge and others) to disaffiliate from the NUS. The pitch of the campaign against Bouattia reached the level where she appeared on news programmes and in the press to defend herself.
Accusations have focused on a joint post she made on the blog of the LSE Palestine Society in March 2011, which said: "The University of Birmingham is something of a Zionist outpost in British Higher Education. It also has the largest JSoc [Jewish student society] in the country whose leadership is dominated by Zionist activists." It is claimed this reveals her anti-Semitism, with "Zionism" being conflated with "Judaism", a reading that does not stand up to scrutiny. In fact, the blog post was written at the time that the society mentioned was taking part in a "Israel Awareness Week", held in opposition to Israel Apartheid Week, and it is clear that context was political, not religious or otherwise. Writing in the Guardian, Bouattia said:
"I want to be clear, again, that for me to take issue with Zionist politics is in no way me taking issue with being Jewish. In fact, Zionist politics are held by people from a variety of different backgrounds and faiths. For me it has been, and will always be, a political argument, not one of faith or ethnic identity. Zionism, religion and ethnicity must not be seen as one and the same."
A letter to the Independent signed by a group of mainly Jewish signatories supported her:
"Her accusers have cited her negative comment about the University of Birmingham as 'a Zionist outpost', which is a political category like any other - and so irrelevant to religion or anti-Semitism. Indeed, the false equation 'Jewish=Zionist' comes from Israel's supporters, not from the Palestine solidarity movement."
A group of former Jewish students and NUS representatives wrote a letter to the Jewish Chronicle saying they are "horrified at the Islamophobic campaign being waged against her, amidst opportunistic and false charges of anti-Semitism".
It further asserted that she opposed an NUS motion condemning ISIS. This is again a complete misrepresentation. What Bouattia in fact objected to was the ambiguous wording of the original motion. She supported an alternative motion, as she explained in an interview on Channel 4 News:
"The motion had problematic wording which blurred the lines between condemning ISIS and holding all Muslims accountable for its actions. I spoke against the motion promising to bring another to the national executive which was clear in its condemnation of the group and in its solidarity to the Kurdish people and it was voted through unanimously."
It is a matter of fact that Bouattia has been involved in various campaigns relating to opposition of racism and British colonial legacy. For example, she has been actively part of the "Why Is My Curriculum White?" campaign. It is entirely consistent with this that she has been involved in the Palestine solidarity movement, upholding the right to be of the Palestinian people, as well as defending the rights of Muslims in Britain, who are facing an unprecedented level of targeting at this time. She has therefore been a vocal critic of the government's "Prevent" programme, for which she has also come under attack.
The accusations came in the wake of similar allegations against members of the Oxford University Labour Club, who came under attack after voting to support Israel Apartheid Week. A further so-called crisis is being fostered in the Labour Party over the issue of alleged anti-Semitism, with attempts to split the party.
It is no coincidence that all of these allegations are happening at once. It has been pointed out that much of this is a desperate attempt by the right of the Labour Party to isolate Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. However, it goes beyond the Labour Party. An atmosphere of hysteria is being generated by a generalised campaign to discredit and sow division amongst the progressive forces and movements that have been gathering momentum and making various breakthroughs as the established neo-liberal consensus has gone into crisis. The Big Lie technique is in operation to create an impression that there is a problem of anti-Semitism on the "left", and that the left are sympathetic to extremism and terrorism. The aim is to shore up neo-liberalism as representing the reasonable centre in politics by raising the spectre of the extremes, through creating a picture of the "hard left" and equating it with the "hard right".
This is to cover the reality that this so-called centre is itself in essence of the extreme right, where everything is put in the service of the most powerful monopolies. The burden of the economic crisis is shifted onto the working population through austerity measures and rights are not recognised. People are denied a say in these most important matters that affect their lives, such as the direction of the economy, while political problems are made problems of law and order. Police are given further powers to act with impunity under the spurious theory of balancing rights against security, as opposed to the modern conception that security lies in the defence of the rights of all. Legislation is passed that violates the right to conscience and attempts to establish an official set of "British values" around the notion that all should line up behind national-chauvinistic aims, aims which are increasingly pursued through intervention and war.
It is exactly this that is being increasingly questioned and organised against, for an alternative. As Bouattia said: "My election hasn't taken place in a vacuum. Up and down this country students are restless and angry, tired of a system that sees education as nothing more than a commodity, one that throws us into a lifetime of unfairness, injustice and crippling debt."
May Day in London
As TML Weekly, the online newspaper of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), put it: "May Day, the Day of International Working Class Unity and Struggle, was celebrated this year with militant mass actions around the world. These actions are more important than ever, showing the worldwide unity of the working class to block neo-liberalism, nation-wrecking and the imperialist military aggression and warmongering that threatens the peoples of the world. In war-torn countries, the oppressed peoples are affirming their right to be. Internationally, the workers are fighting for justice and for the recognition of the rightful place oflabour. In countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia where the mechanisms of people's empowerment exist or are being brought into being and defended, May Day activities were joyful celebrations of that political empowerment and nation-building and the aspirations of the people to stand with the other countries of the world based on mutual respect, solidarity and peace. Everywhere, May Day 2016 showed the determination of the working class to change the situation in humanity's favour."
May Day in London made a massive impact with over 14,000 joining the event in the sun. The event began on the steps of the Marx Memorial Library, with Her Excellency Teresita Vincente, Cuban Ambassador to the UK, presenting a portrait of Fidel Castro to the Library and giving a short address. The Ambassador welcomed the forging of links between the Library and the University of Havana and asked people to continue to support her country against the ongoing US Blockade and for the return of Guantanamo Bay to Cuba.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady addressed the militant gathering in Clerkenwell Green before it moved off to Trafalgar Square. It was the first time in 50 years that the leader of the Labour Party has addressed the May First demonstration, representing the fact that the workers' movement to oppose the anti-social offensive, defeat the austerity agenda, and fight for a new direction for the economy and society, is gaining momentum.
Jeremy Corbyn said:
"This is a government more interested in tax cuts than anything else. Why have they taken £4m out of the care budget? Why did they try to take £3bn out of the personal independence payments budget for those with disabilities. They are a government that is more interested in tax relief for corporations, and tax relief at the top end of the scale."
"Two things are going to come in 2020: the repeal of the Trade Union Lobbying and Transparency Bill, which has nothing to do with transparency, and everything to do with stopping NGOs and trade unions from speaking up for ordinary people. The second is on trade union legislation itself. We will be establishing a commission called Workplace 2020, which will be looking at the need to change and improve trade union and workers' rights, including self-employed workers, to end the scandal of zero hours contracts and a lower wage for younger workers."
He said the initiative would aim to:
- end the scandal of zero hours contracts
- end the scandal of insecurity
- end the scandal of a lower wage for younger workers when their needs and demands are just as great as any older worker - to end their discrimination:
"And to say to those fast food chains and others that think you can evade the idea that trade unions have a right to organise. We want there to be a positive right to join and be represented by a trade union in every workplace in our country."
Speaking in support of the Junior Doctors, he said: "They've been on the march to defend our National Health Service... and it is beyond disgraceful that the secretary of state for health is more interested in privatising 49% of all NHS services than coming to a negotiated agreement with the junior doctors to ensure that they can continue providing the fantastic care and support that they and all others who work in the NHS provide."
He said: "We're here today to defend the National Health Service free at the point of service as a human right for all."
"We have to stand up against racism in any form whatsoever in our society. We have stood in this green in Trafalgar Square and in many other places against apartheid South Africa. Eventually apartheid South Africa was defeated.
"We stood in solidarity with [...] the USA fighting for civil rights in the 1960s and 1970s. We stand in solidarity now against the growth of the far right in Europe across that are more interested in blaming migrant workers, blaming victims of war who are refugees than facing up to the reality we are all human beings living on one planet and you solve problems by human rights, humanity, respect and justice - and not by blaming minorities.
"And so we stand absolutely against anti-Semitism in any form. We stand absolutely against racism in any form. We stand united as a Labour movement recognising our faith diversity and ethnic diversity and from that diversity comes our strength. That is the strength of our movement."
The speeches of Jeremy Corbyn and Frances O'Grady at Clerkenwell Green, as well as all the speeches at Trafalgar Square, can be heard at the London May Day website: http://www.londonmayday.org/
John McDonnell, shadow Chancellor, spoke at the Glasgow Trades Council May Day Rally in the Old Fruitmarket, Candleriggs, Glasgow. Full speech here: https://youtu.be/08pJNOeaXps?t=1m3s
Contingents of RCPB(ML) participated in May Day marches and meetings in Newcastle, London and other events across the country. Many hundreds of the Party's Call in Workers' Weekly were distributed, along with sales of its monthly publication The Line of March, which also contained the Call as its lead article. The Call can be read [here]
May Day, London
Since the last WWIE, the Trade Union Bill and the Immigration Bill have received the Royal Assent, meaning that they are now Acts.
We will carry further articles on these unjust laws. In this issue, for the information of our readers, we reproduce two articles on these Acts.
Carolyn Jones, Assistant Secretary, Campaign For Trade Union Freedom
The Trade Union Bill has now passed through its parliamentary stages, receiving Royal Assent on Wednesday May 4th - ironically, the 90th anniversary of the 1926 General Strike.
The Act will appear in the Queen's speech on May 18th, with implementation dates set at the convenience of the government.
It's true the Act is a shadow of the Bill first proposed, but dangerous details hide in those shadows. Rather than congratulate ourselves on what has been achieved, we must shine a light on the dangers ahead, exposing the intentions behind the Act and building on the growing opposition.
To do otherwise would be a disservice to future generations. It's our kids and their kids who will suffer if the power of trade unions to organise, to represent and to defend living standards are choked off by this anti-working class Act.
As expected, some of the more bizarre and extreme proposals in the original Bill have been jettisoned. Unenforceable attempts to monitor and control the use of social media during disputes have been dumped, as have plans to make everyone on a picket line show their personal data to the police, employers or anyone else who asks to see it.
But the Act still demands the appointment of picket supervisors who must make themselves known to police and employers and carry a letter of authorisation. Breaches of any of the restrictions will in future attract criminal charges. Similar legislation in Spain has been used to threaten pickets with imprisonment - threats so far resisted by the Spanish trade unions.
On ballots, ancillary workers associated with important public services are no longer captured by the double thresholds (but private-sector workers involved in public services could still be caught by the net) and the wording on the ballot paper is slightly less prescriptive but still extremely vulnerable to injunction.
But the "flagship" aspect and main purpose of this Act remains in place. The imposition of a 50 per cent turnout and an additional 40 per cent support requirement for workers in health, education, fire response, transport and border security, make it near impossible for those workers currently leading the resistance against privatisation and cuts to take industrial action.
According to an IER report, millions of workers will be denied the right to take action under these new thresholds.
These restrictions bring Britain once again into conflict with international laws. In February 2016 the Committee of Experts told Britain that education and transport should not be included in the government's list of "important services." Similarly, the International Labour Organisation has reasserted that when setting ballot thresholds, "account should only be taken of votes cast."
And yet the government pushed on. In response, unions quite rightly demanded the introduction of e-balloting to improve ballot turnouts and help unions reach the high thresholds. In an attempt to save the Bill from outright opposition, an amendment to review e-balloting and roll out a test programme was inserted by the Lords.
But the government has rejected the roll-out promise and instead kicked the e-ballot proposal into the long grass of an independent review.
And even when these new hurdles to strikes are navigated successfully, proposals to bus in agency workers - often vulnerable people coerced into taking positions under new universal credit rules - still lurk in the background.
On political funds the demand that members opt in rather than opt out will be delayed for 12 months and will only apply to new members. But the opt-in system is now law and threatens to undermine the political voice of trade unions.
And the bureaucratic nonsense of unions having to declare all political expenditure over £2,000 a year stands in complete contrast to the privacy and anonymity given to off-shore funds and off-shore Tory funders.
The election of a Labour government committed to removing this nasty Act grows ever more important if the political voice of the next generation of trade unionists is to be heard.
Proposals to ban check-off arrangements in the public sector have been dropped but only if the union wins the agreement of the employer and pays the admin costs. Fine where that works - but a constant threat to the negotiating position of unions where it doesn't.
The idea of giving concessions where agreement can be reached permeates much of the final Act. So the Bill proposed doubling the notice period that unions have to give employers on a ballot from seven to 14 days. That period has now been reduced back to seven - but only where agreement can be reached.
Similarly, the validity of a ballot was reduced to three months in the Bill, extended to six months in the Act or nine months, but again only where agreement can be reached.
If the government was really supportive of industrial relations being conducted by agreement, it would have introduced statutory procedures to encourage collective bargaining. Instead it has put in place yet more hurdles for unions to jump and created a statutory safety net for employers to fall back on should relations at work deteriorate still further.
On the freedom of unions to organise at work, the Lords removed the proposal to cap facility time. The government however reinstated it, promising to research and consult on the cost of facility time before returning to the same attack but with more detail.
Using public money to undertake costly research to use against public-sector workers is perverse, as is the imposition of the proposals on devolved governments.
And the backdrop to this malevolent Act is the newly empowered state surveillance officer. The new powers awarded to the Certification Officer (CO) remain much as they were in the original Bill.
The CO has powers to initiate complaints, undertake inspections including recording names, determine outcomes and impose fines of between £200-£20,000 on any national, regional or local branch on issues relating to political fund procedures and expenditure, internal elections, ballots and much more.
It's true the government inserted a clause saying the CO would not be "subject to directions of any kind from any Minister of the Crown as to the manner in which he is to exercise his functions.
But it's not the manner in which the CO does the work that is so objectionable. It is the nature of the work s/he undertakes that raises concerns and it is the nature of the work that is set by ministers.
This was a nasty Bill that's turned into a nasty Act. Parliamentary activity has delivered what it can in the face of a government determined to silence political opposition, cull collective action, criminalise solidarity on the picket line and strangle unions with bureaucratic red tape controlled by a state surveillance officer.
If this Act, like the 1971 Act before it is to be defeated, the immediate battle will be extra-parliamentary, led by workers responding to attacks on their standard of living and working conditions.
Those battles are already being fought in Britain, Spain and France and will continue to grow as current economic policies fail to deliver anything other than growing inequality and lack of opportunity.
In the longer term, Jeremy Corbyn and his team need to be given the space and time to develop alternative economic and industrial policies. Such policies will expose the political nature of Tory attacks and show how another narrative and political agenda is possible.
To that end, the Institute of Employment Rights (IER) is working on a manifesto for labour law which places trade unions back at the heart of economic, industrial and social regeneration.
In the meantime, the labour movement must do all it collectively can to educate, agitate and organise against this undemocratic, unnecessary and unfair Trade Union Act.
Lisa Matthews, coordinator at Right to Remain
Yesterday (12 May 2016), the Immigration Bill 2015-16 received Royal Assent, which means it now becomes the 2016 Immigration Act.
In those words, a great deal is bound up.
As we have written previously, the Act involves a hardening and an extending of the measures designed to create a "Hostile Environment" for migrants brought in by 2014 Immigration Act, including:
Cutting access to justice
The "deport now, appeal later" provisions are to far more immigration categories ("remove now, appeal later"), meaning even fewer people would have the right to appeal a negative immigration decision in the UK. The idea that people can simply appeal from the country they have been removed to, or have chosen to depart to, is not borne out by the facts and immigration statistics consistently show alarming levels of poor Home Office decision-making. Appeals are a vital part of accessing justice. With appeal rights removed, more people are forced to resort to judicial review, a very complicated area of law and with increasingly restricted legal aid coverage.
The right of appeal against decisions to refuse or discontinue asylum support has been removed, meaning many more people will be driven into destitution, a policy that has been admitted by government to be a deliberate attempt to force people out of the UK.
Extending internal border enforcement
Banks and building societies will be turned into border guards, required to periodically check the immigration status of account holders.
People with precarious immigration status will find it harder to rent accommodation Landlords will now be enabled to evict people whose immigration status means that they have 'no right to rent'. This is under controversial rules that have already shown an increase in discrimination against those who do have the right to rent but don't have the 'right' coloured skin or accent.
Criminalising irregular migration
The Act introduces new criminal offences for people working illegally, for driving whilst not legally resident in the UK, and creates a new criminal offence, with a maximum five year prison sentence, for landlords and "who know or have reasonable grounds to believe that their property is occupied by a person who does not have the 'right to rent'".
Opposition in Parliament and beyond
The Bill did receive more opposition than the similarly racist and divisive 2014 Immigration Act. In the third reading of the Bill in the House of Commons, it passed by 307 votes to 245. Despite this large vote against, it rarely seemed in doubt that the Bill would come into law, despite the condemnation of human rights campaigners and, well, most people with a conscience/common sense.
We must now begin to reflect on why that is so. There are several factors that have struck me as the Immigration Bill has made it's way through its many confusing stages.
Could the Bill have been stopped?
Firstly, there was a degree of pragmatic acceptance that the Bill was very likely to become law, and so energies were focused on diluting the toxic effect of it. Whilst the SNP made it clear that, as it stood, they would not accept the Bill, and many other MPs spoke against it, it would have required a big political shift away from dog-whistle politics to stop the Bill going through altogether. A big shift, but not an impossible one. It would require a great deal of collaborative work (and therefore compromise) for human rights and migrant rights NGOs to stand together with community campaigners and individual activists to put enough pressure on for a majority of MPs to oppose the Bill. Another Immigration Bill cannot be far away, however, as this government seems to want to introduce a new one every year, so there is an urgent need to consider this cooperative approach for our next battle.
An important point for reflection is that, if this unrelenting erosion of civil liberties, dignity and humanity, is being introduced to pacify anti-immigrant voters (or at least voters who have been convinced they are 'anti-immigrant'), is it actually working? As we have so often said about the policy of immigration detention - does the government lock people up in prison-like conditions to look 'tough' on immigration? The reality of detention is so unknown to the vast majority of the public that it doesn't seem a very efficient approach.
The Bill contained so much that was toxic, that the resources of those opposing it were further diluted as each interest-group attempted to brief MPs and peers on their key issue, and propose amendments to lessen the blow of the Bill. Many areas affected by this Bill (now Act) are highly technical or legalistic, and there are very few MPs or peers who could be expected to know enough about a particular specialist area to speak against it, and therefore campaigners and NGOs brief and lobby those MPs and peers but by necessity this means that attention is then on individual clauses of the Bill, rather than the overall impact it will have on us, as a society.
Faint silver linings
At Right to Remain, we were part of this lobbying, mainly through the Detention Forum. As well as supporting the Alf Dubs amendment to bring 3,000 lone child refugees from Europe to the UK, and the right to work for asylum seekers, we asked supporters to encourage their MPs to back the detention-related amendments. We agreed that there was no way that this Bill would be stopped, so we joined in campaigning to support amendments, even if they fell way short of the changes we would like to see.
Detention should be abolished, not just reformed, but at least we saw some (unexpected) progress.
As has been written elsewhere, this Immigration Bill was never supposed to be about detention. And yet, much of the parliamentary debate was dominated by this grave civil rights issue. The Bill, as written by the government, barely mentioned immigration detention, and yet the amendments targeting detention were among those that were debated until the bitter end.
Thanks to the tenacity of supportive MPs and peers, encouraged by the groundswell of popular opposition to detention, there were two important concessions wrung out of this process.
1: for the first time ever, there is now legislation that requires automatic judicial oversight of immigration detention.
Immigration detention is the deprivation of someone's liberty, and the current lack of judicial oversight over such a fundamental deprivation of rights is an outrage.
The UK detains more people, for longer, than any other country in Europe. Rather than the presumption of liberty being upheld (as established in law), the default position of the Home Office has been to detain, detain, detain.
The Home Office makes the decision to detain someone, and it is up to the person detained to challenge that detention. No judge, or indeed no-one acting in a legal capacity at all, looks at that initial decision to detain. A major decision on someone's life and liberty is taken with no independent scrutiny whatsoever.
The amendment that was finally passed to introduce this scrutiny requires an automatic bail hearing after four months of detention, if the person has not applied for bail themselves within that time.
Notwithstanding our position that there should be no use of immigration detention whatsoever, this amendment clearly does not go far enough. The people most likely to be in need of automatic judicial oversight (unable to apply for bail themselves), will be those with complex needs, who should not be detained in the first-place. Four months is an unconscionable length of time to detain anyone. Further more, people facing deportation after serving a criminal sentence are not included within this protection, despite being the group of people detained for the longest periods.
Lords Ramsbotham and Baroness Hamwee fought tirelessly to reduce the period of time before automatic judicial oversight is brought in, and made moving speeches in the final House of Lords debate on Tuesday.
2: There is now a 72 hour time limit on the detention of pregnant women (subject to extension by ministerial approval).
As the Detention Forum's statement on the Bill says:
On the surface, this new policy for pregnant women is an extension of a safeguarding time limit currently available for families with children who are facing return to their country of origin. However, it is unclear how this is going to be achieved without a mechanism equivalent to the Independent Family Returns Panel which has been playing a vital part in restricting the number of families with children who are detained at Cedar Pre-Departure Accommodation.
Whilst it is depressing not to be able to convince parliament of what would seem such a basic demand - an absolute ban on the detention of pregnant women - this is still a significant step forward, thanks to the work of Women for Refugee Women and the many campaigners who have kept up the pressure for this demand.
A long road
These two detention reforms required vast amounts of effort, good will, patience and diplomacy to achieve, and their significance should not be understated.
However, the fight is far from over. These amendments are a long way from the radical reform of detention called for by the cross-party parliamentary inquiry into detention, and even further from the abolition of immigration detention can be won.
When the Immigration Act comes into force, many people's lives will be a lot worse, and we need to evidence this, challenge it, and work to overturn these measures.
For now, it's time to recharge and reflect, celebrate what has been achieved and yet mourn what has been lost. We've got a long road ahead of us.
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