|Volume 46 Number 23, October 15, 2016||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Taking Control Must Mean Defence
of the Rights of All Human Beings
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
Fighting For the Rights Of All:
80th Anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street
Schools Green Paper:
Taking the Capital-Centred School System to a New Level
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Theresa May gave her speech as leader of the Conservative Party to its conference on October 5. It was meant to set out her vision for Britain after Brexit. The Conservatives' take on Brexit is for an outpouring of the racism and xenophobia of the ruling elite. This represents an intensification of the vile campaign of racism and chauvinism demonstrated during the Referendum campaign.
However, for the working class, far from succumbing to the chauvinism promoted by Theresa May and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, opposition to nation-wrecking and neo-liberal globalisation goes hand in hand with internationalism.
The fundamental feature of saying No to the EU has been opposition to austerity. Theresa May and her government have recognised this feature, and have hypocritically positioned themselves as the "party of working people". But their ugly racist rhetoric demonstrates how opposed they are to the rights of working people.
One can look at their consistent racist immigration policy, their colonialism, their mixing up of nationality and citizenship. One can look at their refusal to recognise what it actually means to build a modern sovereign state. Hidden beneath the rhetoric is hysteria, and an anti-worker assault.
The issue of the working class taking control of the economy is not one of deciding anything based on race or national origin, but an opposition to the control of the economy by an imperialist ruling elite.
The government has such a good record, according to Theresa May, yet working people sense that "today that the world works well for a privileged few, but not for them" so who should they blame? It is clear that while in words the Tory leader can assert that "the referendum was not just a vote to withdraw from the EU. It was about something broader - something that the European Union had come to represent," the government's policy as embodied in the conference was something narrower: to replace internationalism with chauvinism. To remove the rights of immigrant workers is to continue the abuse of migrant labour and to attack the rights of all.
Numbers are not the issue; the "free movement of labour" - along with that of "capital, goods and services" - is not a freedom for the people. These are means to pay the rich, enforce monopoly right, attack the living and working conditions of both migrant labour and those resident in Britain.
Rhetoric and hypocrisy is the name of the game. What Theresa May said is: "So change has got to come. Because if we don't respond - if we don't take this opportunity to deliver the change people want - resentments will grow. Divisions will become entrenched. And that would be a disaster for Britain." Well, yes. But what followed was pure chauvinism and contempt for the people, "respect the bonds and obligations that make our society work", a "one United Kingdom", a "Britain where everyone plays by the same rules and every person has the opportunity to be all they want to be".
In opposition to this, the kind of Brexit required is one where power is transferred into hands of people of Britain, i.e. everyone who exists on the soil of Britain. The EU of the monopolies through its institutions and the so-called European Court of Justice (ECJ), a completely separate institution from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), had shown that it came down on the side of the monopolies, not the rights of working people. It represented the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of the EU monopolies. Now the Conservatives' programme is on its own account to attempt to further deprive the people of their rights.
May's Brexit programme is a corruption and hijacking of what opposition to imperialist globalisation represents. It is her Third Way: "to reject the ideological templates provided by the socialist left and the libertarian right and to embrace a new centre ground". It represents only the self-serving interests and backward prejudices of the ruling elite that the government embodies. In this way, working people are also being blamed for the tsunami of racism and backwardness that is coming from the Conservative government. "Closing the door" is not synonymous with building an all-round, sovereign, self-reliant economy. Sovereign control of the economy is required. Control of the economy and international trade for mutual benefit are two sides of the same coin. The content of Brexit for the working class is opposition to imperialist globalisation. May is putting forward a corruption of this opposition to mean chauvinism and racism, which has been the stand of the establishment all along. The issue is who controls a sovereign economy. Control of a sovereign economy by the working class and people is precisely what Theresa May and the global monopolies would like to block. Her saying, "To bring power home and make decisions here in Britain," is to throw sand in working people's eyes since the people of Britain are brutally excluded from decision-making. It is "democracy" for the monopolies and the City of London, not the working class of Britain.
Theresa May spoke of "taking back control and shaping the future here in Britain". The fact is that those who own and control the social wealth the working class produces have formed a monopoly front of the financial oligarchy to serve their narrow private interests. This is Theresa May's "us all". Through its control of the mass media and the official political discourse, this monopoly front wages constant ideological warfare to poison the people's social consciousness. The stand of working people in the Referendum campaign has had to cope with this ideological warfare. The result in this context has meant opposition to the imposition of supra-national arrangements that negate nation-building and facilitate empire-building. It has meant opposition to the so-called free-trade agreements that give the right to the international monopolies to dictate terms to sovereign governments and peoples and ride roughshod over the rights of working people. It has meant opposition to interference in the affairs of sovereign peoples, opposition to aggression and intervention in the name of humanitarian causes, opposition to unequal treaties and predatory wars.
Exploitative relations between states must be ended, whether it is the supra-national entity of the EU of the monopolies imposing a wrecking agenda on European nations, or indeed Britain's colonial relations with countries of Africa, its warmongering which has displaced so many people, its exploitation of the human and natural resources of the African continent, the Caribbean, the South Asian sub-continent, East Asia, and other regions of the world which has caused so much devastation that mass migrations of peoples have been forced. Not to mention the recruitment on a consciously racist basis for jobs, particularly in public services, and also the agricultural sector controlled by big land-owners and agricultural monopolies. As well as the racist attitude to who constitutes "the British", based on national origin, and the imposition of the values of the ruling Westminster elite as "British values". In fact, it is the new path for "Making Britain Great Again". However, its prejudice is such that its effects are to further wreck the economy of Britain, not to mention its standing in the world. In this situation, the working class and people must unite in defence of rights and justice and settle scores with those who have defined both "Remain" and "Leave" in racist and chauvinist terms.
The working class organised as a potent political force in alliance with all the democratic forces of Britain must set their sights on the organisation of society on a new and modern basis. The crisis of working class representation remains to be resolved. Imperialist globalisation must be ended and instead a globalisation based on trade for mutual benefit and respect for sovereignty built in its place. This is not a matter of adopting correct or even simply pro-social policies. It is a matter of getting organised as a coherent force to spearhead that struggle to deprive the imperialist ruling elite of their grip on power. It is a question of getting organised to turn around the situation, and end everything old, rotten, chauvinist, racist and reeking of class privilege represented by the monopoly capitalists and their political representatives.
The will of the working class was decisive in the result of the Brexit referendum. Brexit for the working class and people means that solutions on how society and the economy is organised must be found by organising in Britain. It does not mean siding with one section or another of monopoly capital. Now let us all discuss and argue out what favours the working class and people.
"Seize the day," as Theresa May appropriates the call of the progressive forces. But for the working class and people, seizing the day means rejecting the "choices" that the ruling monopoly capitalist class are "offering" the people. They are only offering "solutions" that serve the rich and the reactionary forces which seek to dominate the discussion.
The new situation demands new methods of organising and practical politics. There must be a modern "Brexit", in the sense that working people fight to forge a path, make use of the opportunity, to take control of the future, advance towards a modern world worthy of and consistent with modern humanity. Brexit means that the people must play their role, an independent role, taking the initiative, and fighting to build a front of the people against monopoly right and for sovereignty and decision-making, and that the working class must take the lead, building a proletarian front in fighting for the people's empowerment.
Uphold the rights of all! Organise to take control of the economy and society!
October 4 marked the eightieth anniversary of the famous Battle of Cable Street where, in 1936, thousands of people organised themselves to prevent Oswald Mosley's so-called British Union of Fascists from provocatively marching through East London, an area in which it was attempting to carry out racist attacks against the local Jewish population. The Battle of Cable Street was an example of the people of East London organising to defend the rights of all against the onslaught of racism and fascism. In so doing, they also had to take on the forces of the state that were deployed, as they have been on many occasions since, to attack the anti-fascists and allow the fascists to march. Those who took a stand at Cable Street in 1936 were working people from various backgrounds and differing political allegiances, women and men who, led by the Communists, united in action to oppose racism and fascism and rallied behind the barricades and the militant slogan of the day "they shall not pass"! It is this stand, as well as the famous victory it achieved on the day, which has been rightly celebrated and commemorated ever since, just as it was this year.
Many of those who took a stand against the promotion of racism and fascism in East London, and other parts of Britain at that time, also took a stand against the spread of fascism in Europe in Spain, Italy and Germany. It was in this period that many workers and democratic people volunteered to join the International Brigades in order to fight against the fascist coup against the Spanish Republican government. Those who organised against Mosley, who was financed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy as well as the rich and powerful in Britain, clearly recognised that a wider international threat existed and called on people to oppose that threat at home and abroad. There had also been widespread protests the previous year when the fascist government of Italy hadembarked on its criminal invasion of Ethiopia with the connivance of the British government. Such was the opposition to the appeasement of fascism by the Conservative government that Sir Samuel Hoare, the Foreign Secretary of the day, was forced to resign from office. The Battle of Cable Street occurred at a time when a life and death struggle was facing humanity, a time when all democratic people had to take a stand, "to elect to fight for freedom or slavery" as the notable anti-fascist Paul Robeson famously expressed it the following year.
The struggles against fascism in East London, in Spain and Ethiopia, as well as elsewhere in the 1930s, culminated in the great victory over fascism during the Second World War, which created the conditions for the advancement of the people's movement all over the world, contributed to the anti-colonial struggle in Africa, Asia and elsewhere, led to the emergence of people's democratic states in Europe and China and the consolidation of the building of a socialist system in the Soviet Union. It was a war in which states such as Britain, the US and others that had nurtured and financed fascism were compelled to find common cause with the Soviet Union and all those countries that eventually referred to themselves as the United Nations, that is those who united in action to rid the world of fascism and to create new international machinery to maintain peace. When the United Nations Organisation was created at the termination of the war it enshrined in its Charter the aspirations of many to build a world in which the rights of men and women of all nations were recognised as equal, where freedom and social progress were promoted and machinery was put in place to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war". As is well known, the unity of the war-time allies did not last long and only a few months after its conclusion Britain, alongside the US and others, took up the fascist mantle and again adopted a hostile approach to the Soviet Union which soon culminated in the so-called Cold War.
Since that time there have been attempts to falsify the history of the struggle against fascism, to create confusion about the significance of the Battle of Cable Street or to attempt to remove it from its historical context. What history has shown, time after time, is that it was the rich and their state, both in Britain and elsewhere, that nurtured and financed fascism in the 1930s and ever since have attempted to resurrect, succour and protect the organised fascists as it suits their purpose. At the same time, it has been the role of successive governments and the state in Britain to create the conditions for racism and chauvinism with the demonisation of migrants, refugees, Muslims and other minorities, but also with the promotion of so-called "British values" and the most backward views about other parts of the world which accompany attempts to realise the reactionary programme to "make Britain great again". A cursory glance through modern British history shows that racism is the preferred policy of the ruling class and their state and is promoted and implemented to serve their interests. Racism is employed to create divisions amongst the working people, to act as diversion but also to attack one section of the people in order to attack the rights of all. It has also always been in their interests to promote the view that it is not the rich and their state but the workers who are the source of racism and that what is required is more action by the rulers, their state apparatus and governments.
What the Battle of Cable Street and history in general shows is that it is the working people of all nationalities that stand opposed to racism and fascism, which the working class has always seen as being inimical to its interests. The celebration and commemoration of the stand taking by working and democratic people in East London in the 1930s not only recall the victories of the past but also expresses the determination of progressive people that today too racism and fascism shall not pass. It is an important reminder that it is the struggle of the masses of the people that can be the determining factor in history, that can usher in a new world in which the people will empower themselves and the scourge of racism and fascism will be finally eliminated.
On September 12, the government published its green paper "Schools that work for everyone" [i], setting out initial plans for the next phase of its and its predecessors' neo-liberal, capital-centred transformation of the school system.
The plans are a continuation down the present direction in all respects, in spite of broad and growing opposition. There are to to be more private school places, more academies and so-called free schools, a return to selection, and higher university fees. At the same time, the plans represent something more: the wholesale creation of a public-private partnership as opposed to a state-run school system.
The paper first proposes to allow the expansion of independent, i.e. private, schools. It is here that the public-private partnership concept is most evident. "Independent schools directly assisting the state-funded sector, through creating more good places, and giving more choice and control for parents," the paper puts it. The plan is for these private schools to support, sponsor, open and have responsibility for state schools, in particular academies and free schools.
Independent schools would "sponsor academies or set up a new free school in the state sector. The capital and revenue costs of this would be met by the government, but the independent school would have responsibility for ensuring its success." If this is not feasible, independent schools would "provide direct school-to-school support with state schools" or "provide access to facilities, sixth-form scholarships," for example.
Academies are themselves state schools under a public-private style of arrangement. This takes things further, building up the private sector and having it become integral to the public sector. The paper even proposes that private schools should "ensure their senior leaders become directors of Multi-Academy Trusts, to give strategic steer and leadership and provide experienced staff to be governors".
Similarly, universities, increasingly run as businesses, would play "a direct role in improving school quality and pupil attainment". In return for the ability to charge even higher fees, they would "establish a new school in the state system, of which the capital and revenue costs will be met by the government", or "sponsor an academy in the state system".
The stated aim is that all have access to a "good" school. This "good" is not a neutral concept: implicit in this notion is a certain vision of education. The system is to be a conglomeration of selective, non-selective, academy, independent, and free schools. The green paper also mentions faith schools in this regard, which are themselves a kind of free school. All are supposed to play off each other. One aspect of this is the existence of a market; another is that "best practice" gets established. But the market is not free and equal. Best practice will be set within large Multi-Academy Trusts dominated by private interests, which will include representation of rich and powerful private schools.
Yet another aspect is that education becomes further tiered, the student population gets further segregated. Much coverage has been given to the plans to return to selection at age 10-11 by allowing existing grammar schools to expand, new selective schools to open and existing non-selective schools to become selective. The paper summarises this as "selective schools providing more school places, and ensuring that they are open to children from all backgrounds". There is a sense in which this is a return to the old grammar-secondary modern division, and it is often described in this way. However, in context it is part of the same neo-liberal transformation. All new selective schools, it is proposed, will be free schools; they will therefore play a particular role in the public-private school system being instituted.
A capital-centric system requires selection: it is a machine for producing a range of school and university graduates who have the skills required by private businesses in their state of mutual competition. This does not require all-sided development of the population. It is a system designed to allocate people to a place and who know and, in the main, accept their place. Aspiration and striving for something better is reduced to personal advancement and individual competition, rather than full participation in society.
Selection gives a semblance of meritocracy and is presented in terms of fairness and opportunity. "Meritocracy" was one watchword in Theresa May's "my vision" speech at the Conservative Party conference. This selection has nothing to do with rights. Rather, it can negate young people's rights: being deemed elite or not is defined by means of tests or other such measures and set in at school level. This is a system that seeks to impose a definition on young people rather than seeing them in their life and in motion.
The government's proposals to create a public-private model for the school system amount to a negation of public authority and handing control over to the most powerful private interests.
Writing for LabourList in July last year [ii], before becoming leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn said in opposition to this direction that "education is not about personal advancement but is a collective good that benefits our society and our economy. We all benefit from a more educated and skilled workforce. Earlier in the [Labour leadership] campaign I set out how we could scrap fees and restore grants, now I want to widen that vision and set out a plan to move towards a National Education Service... Fifty years on [from the establishment of the Open University in 1965], it is time to start putting the case for investment in learning from cradle to grave. A National Education Service would be every bit as vital and as free at the point of use as our NHS, and should be delivered by the end of the next Parliament... Government must play a strategic co-ordinating role in a modern economy. For too long the UK approach has been to stand back, 'let the market decide', then hope for the best."
So the issue is: where is the education that educates the youth to secure the future of society and implement the public will? It is inconceivable in the present conditions where the very conception of society is under attack.
Education poses itself as a necessity for society and is related to the aims of society. A human-centric society educates people in an all-round sense to participate fully in society in every way, including decision-making. Such a society takes care of its future by defining the role for education to be to enable the youth to prepare themselves to take control of the future of society. This requires that education all-sided, from the scientific to the cultural and political. It also means that education at the highest level that society can provide should be available for everyone as of right. To fight for a change in the direction of society and the economy so as to guarantee this right therefore poses itself as the greatest necessity for the working class and people.
[i] "Schools that work for everyone", Department for Education, September 12, 2016,
[ii] "Education is a collective good - it's time for a National Education Service", Jeremy Corbyn, LabourList, July 27, 2015,
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