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Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
The Battle for the Future Direction of the NHS:
The Secrecy over STPs
The Battle for the Future Direction of the NHS:
National Demonstration "It's Our NHS" - London, March 4, 2017
Cornelius Cardew, 1936-1981:
Outstanding Musician, Composer and Modern Communist
Together let us chart a new path!:
London Political Forum on the Future of Society
The End of the Old Arrangements
ATL and NUT Members Vote to Ballot on Forming New Education Union
United for Education:
Students and University Staff Demonstrate against the Higher Education Bill
The Scramble for Africa:
The BBC World Service, Soft Power and Foreign Intervention in Africa
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Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) for England, which were announced in NHS planning guidance published in December 2015 and have since been prepared in secret in 44 "footprint" areas, are now being revealed. According to reports [i] 41 of the 44 STPs have so far been published - some of them only in response to people's campaigns, and some of these still incomplete, lacking appendices outlining finances and details. So, why all the secrecy over STPs and what is their significance?
What is clear is that the whole direction of these plans for the NHS is being driven by the present government in the face of the opposition of people and those that work in the NHS to safeguard the future of the NHS. The Prime Minister, Teresa May tried to claim in Parliamentary Question Time [ii] on November 23 that "Sustainability and Transformation Plans are being developed at local level in the interests of local people by local clinicians". Yet what has been seen is that these are secret "top down" plans prepared in the corridors of power of government, of NHS England and boardrooms of management consultant companies. In fact, it shows that the people and those that work in the NHS are being treated with the utmost contempt. Indeed, the reason for the secrecy was further confirmed when it was revealed in Parliament that the Prime Minister had called in NHS leaders to order them to stop any hospital mergers, or closures, that risk causing local protests [iii].
What are the STPs? Everyone should find out what is to be known about them. In December 2015, NHS England issued guidance to change how the NHS in England is organised, with a ridiculously short time-scale for its implementation. All CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) and NHS Trusts in England, and the local authorities in their area, were arbitrarily organised into one of 44 area-based "Footprints" covering all of England. By implementing the so-called "new models of care" that are set out in NHS England's "5-Year Forward View" of 2014, each "Footprint" was required to produce a joint 5-year Sustainability and Transformation Plan for their area. This STP was directed to wipe out the NHS financial deficit in their area within a year, and for the next five years.
The STPs refer to "efficiency", but by this is meant to make cuts to services to make good a "deficit" caused by fraudulent budget constraints. The double-speak of successive governments past and present to impose the the neo-liberal agenda in health whilst claiming that the NHS is "safe in their hands" is beyond belief. What is so noticeable about the STPs is that whilst government tries to claim that these "local plans are being developed at local level in the interests of local people by local clinicians" the real direction is that they have been developed "top down" in secret towards a model of care that is almost a direct copy of the neo-liberal health care system in the US. A system where insurance companies and not clinicians decide who gets health care. A system where the big health corporations and insurance companies are directly in control of the health care system and make vast profits at the expense of the well-being of the people. The director of STPs for NHS England, Michael McDonnell, himself said that the STPs "offer private sector and third sector organisations an enormous amount of opportunity".
No serious plan can be put forward and taken seriously if it starts from this direction of the government to destroy the NHS, further open it up to privatisation and further create the conditions to make people pay for health and social services. These plans must be opposed because how can we have a proper discussion on these issues when this is the aim of it. Without establishing a proper public authority and public services accountable to the people and those that work in the NHS, nothing can be properly sorted out. Access to health care is a right of everyone in a modern society, and this right must be guaranteed for all. Resources must be ensured for the training of doctors and consultants required for all acute and community services. Locally accessible district hospitals with a wide range of properly funded acute and emergency services must be retained. Public right should prevail and the duty of government to provide a comprehensive acute and community, physical and mental health service across England to all communities must be restored.
The significance for the people and those that work in the NHS is to build the campaigns and organised opposition of the working class and trade unions movement, uniting the people in many areas of the country to oppose the direction that these STPs represent. The people must organise regardless of political views and keep the initiative in their own hands to safeguard the future of the NHS and chart a new path and direction for society.
[iii] "Last week, the Prime Minister called in NHS leaders to order them to stop any hospital mergers or closures that risk causing local protests. There is already a protest in my constituency." Emma Lewell-Buck MP for South Shields
The people and those that work in the NHS are being treated with contempt. The government has continued to pursue its project which, put simply, is that of making the health service a reservoir of lucrative business projects for the private sector. The STPs have come on the scene, and are couched in technical and deceptive language that appears to put the health of patients in the first place, but have the aim of driving this ambition as far as possible .
For the people's campaigns, trying to find out the content of the STPs has been like extracting teeth. Initially, the draft STPs were discouraged from being published, Freedom of Information requests were met with blank replies, and enquirers were told that no minutes of the relevant board meetings existed. Given that they are supposed to be so crucial to the people's health, it is outrageous that the people and health professionals and campaigners have been kept in the dark, have not been party to what is being prepared, and have no input and control over what is being proposed or decided on in their name. Far from the people themselves having a decisive say in the decision-making, the working class and people are being sidelined and left to organise protests against what has been already decided. But they are summing up that what is required is a complete reversal in the direction that Westminster is taking the NHS.
What is being said in some quarters is that it is necessary to be pragmatic about the proposed STPs, get involved in them, slow down their implementation, and make the issue that the problem with the STPs is just the lack of investment in them. But where is the voice of progress, the voice of working people, the voice of those whose life is the health service? What do they have to say about the direction of the NHS?
Long ago the red warning light went on about what is happening to the NHS. Recently, it has even been revealed that Thatcher herself had a mission to completely dismantle the NHS, privatise health care and make health insurance compulsory. Just as the smashing of the power of the miners needed planning, a plan that was 10 or more years in the making, so did the wrecking of the health service. Thatcher first had to deal with the opposition within her own Cabinet, and time was running out. But the neo-liberal conception of the purchaser/provider split within the health service was planted at this time.
This purchaser/provider split, this "internal market" in the health service, has grown to gargantuan proportions. It was consolidated under the Blair "New Labour" government, a government which itself introduced PFI, the Private Finance Initiative, to put hospital trusts massively in debt to the construction and other monopolies. Hospital trusts themselves have taken on the mantle of businesses, particularly the Foundation Trusts to which all hospitals are supposed to aspire. Presently they are being encouraged to "merge", take over so-called "failing" hospitals, set up hospital "chains" and so on. The fact is, however, that the "market" is rigged. "Payment by results" does not result in providing hospital trusts with the funding required to meet the needs of society for health care. What one notices is the increasing absence of any public authority and real planning for a comprehensive and sustainable health service now replaced by competing "public" and ever more private corporations for "health contracts".
When a Trust Special Administrator was appointed in south London when the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was in so-called financial difficulties, largely because of crippling PFI debts, the TSA arbitrarily lumped the Queen Elizabeth together with Lewisham Hospital. Closures were mooted at Lewisham A&E and Maternity services to resolve these "difficulties". The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign took on the Health Secretary, holding a People's Commission, and winning victory in a Judicial Review of the decision, that the Health Secretary had acted beyond his legal powers. So of course the government changed the law, and furthermore absolved the Health Secretary of responsibility for the NHS as a whole as a result of this and the Health and Social Care Act, 2012.
The STPs can be considered as the situation at Lewisham writ large across England, with 44 of these regional plans, known as "footprints". These ad hoc, non-statutory and unaccountable regions themselves have to come up with plans to make the provision of health care "sustainable", to "transform" the provision of health care to make it "financially viable" in the face of a projected cut to the annual budget of the NHS of £22-30 billion a year by 2020/21. What we have seen as these plans are revealed is the obfuscating jargon and statistics. They are couched in terms of the well-being of the people, the "path to excellence" and so forth. In other words the wrecking of the NHS in England is proceeding under the cloak of high ideals. It must not pass!
Call by Health Campaigns Together
Unite has been the first major trade union to respond positively to an appeal from Health Campaigns Together to health unions, local and national campaigns seeking support for a national demonstration in London on 4th March. Other unions are due to discuss it later this month.
The letter, signed by Mike Forster of Hands Off HRI [Huddersfield Royal Infirmary] campaign in Huddersfield and Dr Louise Irvine of the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign states:
"We believe the time has come to demonstrate the breadth and depth of support for the NHS and anger and opposition to the destructiveness of Tory policies."
"The NHS crisis will intensify this winter and there will be no let-up in the following months as drastic cost cutting Sustainability and Transformation Plans are rolled out across the country, leading to more cuts and closures."
"We believe this could be a massive demonstration, bringing together the growing number of community campaigns with the trade union movement."
Find out more from Mike & Louise: contact them HERE
Cornelius Cardew lost his life on December 13, 1981. This was at the beginning of the decade of the 1980s, in which the world went through a turning point. The decade ended with the revolutionary movement, viewed on a global scale, going into retreat, while no force, whether in the revolutionary movement itself or elsewhere, could or would be able to act in the old way. Those who tried to act in the old way got stuck in the past, while those that gave up the revolutionary struggle themselves in response either became irrelevant or a block to contributing to a way out of the imperialist crisis or finding the alternative to the status quo.
RCPB(ML) said in 1981, in paying tribute to the life and work of Cornelius, that at the time of his tragic death he was at the point of a new flowering in his compositional career. We understood at the time something of what that meant in terms of Cornelius the composer, the musician. He had completed the work for two pianos, called "Boolavogue" after the Irish rebel song, though this is only the theme of the first of its three movements. The third is based on the English song, "The Blackleg Miner". There is the work for solo violin, "The Worker's Song", which combines the melodies of Cardew's "The Founding of the Party" with that of the title song itself ("I am a worker and I say it with pride"). And his final solo piano work, "We Sing for the Future", a substantial one-movement piece using the tunes of the verse and chorus of the revolutionary song for which Cardew himself had composed the music.
Thus the flowering one could have expected would have included orchestral works (there are some sketches) - for instance, symphonies or substantial chamber music and further developed songs. In other words, works expected of a mainstream important composer at the van of their art.
Of course, one could not second-guess the compositions a person of Cornelius' talents would have written. But looking back from the standpoint of the present, and recognising that Cardew himself was always a pathfinder, blazing a trail in solving musical problems in working out what music was required to be in step with the times, one can draw some conclusions. Cornelius Cardew's standpoint was that of modern communism, and was at one with the progressive movements of the working class and people of the times. He would not have departed from this standpoint. It is a standpoint that made Cornelius a revolutionary, both in terms of politics and in terms of culture. He put all his talents in the service of this outlook, and was led by it.
As the paper presented in 1996 by Hardial Bains [i], founder and the then leader of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), says of the period 1978-1981: "It was ... a matter of producing that culture which would assist the movement of the working class for emancipation. Forms of culture with proletarian partisanship and of revolutionary character with profound proletarian ideological content were the special product of this work." That was the collective cultural work of that period. But what was required to advance the cultural work from 1981 onward, which Cornelius was involved in making preparations for, but tragically never lived to see?
Hardial Bains goes on to say: "[Cornelius] had fully dedicated himself, as the responsibility assigned to him by the collective, to resist such destruction of culture [by imperialism and world reaction], whether in its national form or in its class content which amounts to the same thing under these circumstances. One of the features of this work was the creation of Party culture. This work had assumed a certain level of excellence and was ready to be professionalised. The stage was set in 1981-82 to produce broad, revolutionary, mass cultural forms professionally. It was at this precise point that we lost Cornelius Cardew."
Hardial Bains further elaborates: "The work from this period 1978-81 continued assuming the form of the movement for enlightenment. The success of this work created the conditions for the creation of new culture in various forms, one of which assumed journalistic and other political literary forms. We were able to develop ideological work and social forms as an integral part of this work in the sphere of culture."
What of the time that paper was given in 1996? Hardial Bains says: "Profound revolutionary culture produced professionally is one of the greatest demands of the present time. As we approach the end of the twentieth century and the second millennium and inaugurate the twenty-first century and the third millennium, the need for broad, revolutionary, mass culture is being now more acutely felt than ever before." He emphasises: "The work at the present time is concerned with the need to create modern music and other forms of culture in a period characterised by the retreat of revolution. This is a question of considering what is necessary to be created which will assist in opening the door to progress in these conditions. It cannot be a variation of the old. Such a music, literature and art has to be genuinely popular, consistent with the needs of the modern productive force, the working class."
Looking to the future, Hardial Bains says: "A broad movement is needed, an integral part of the proletarian movement for emancipation, a movement in which applying profound knowledge, in many ways encyclopaedic, becomes the order of the day. Far from rejecting the entire field of aesthetics and morality as is promoted among the arts, excellence in the professions, the quest for serving the popular masses and seeking their approval, such things as these which have long been held by the high road of civilisation in the greatest regard, must be brought forth."
Five years ago, when we marked Cornelius' 75th anniversary of his birth and the 30th of his death, Sandra L. Smith, the present national leader of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), wrote [iii]: "On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Cornelius' birth, the significance of his contribution is being appreciated anew by not only the generation of musicians, artists and political activists who were part of the movement to break new ground in the 1960s and 1970s, but also today's generation of musicians and political activists. Together they have inherited Cornelius' greatest legacy of keeping in step with the requirements of the times in a manner that accepts no dogmatic rendering of reality or limitations on the human spirit and striving to contribute to the creation of a new world of socialised humanity."
This is even more true today. The Cornelius Cardew Concerts Trust, writing to introduce the concert of new music inspired by Cornelius' enduring legacy in October this year, said: "He was always a pathfinder, and it is well known that Cornelius, as well as being an outstanding musician and composer, became a leading political figure and modern communist. He was a champion of enlightenment and progress in the political, social and cultural fields, his life, ideas and music forming an integral whole." The introduction continued: "Perhaps it is not always recognised that Cornelius' striving to contribute to the creation of a new world of socialised humanity with his music was inseparably linked with his immersing himself in this struggle for the progress of society. This he did as one with ordinary people, who make history by performing extraordinary deeds."
In this respect is Cardew a role model for all composers and cultural workers who have the desire to contribute to this broadening of the field where culture furthers the movement for social progress and for the alternative. It is not a question of taking the path of self-fulfilment, of deciding what one finds interesting and that is that, or of gaining qualifications on the basis of expressing individuality. It is rather a question of deciding how to contribute to the affirmation of human beings and their worth, how to embody in one's contributions the collective expression of the emotions of the mass of human beings and their concerns, including for the future of society, how to speak to and on behalf of this audience.
There is an urgent need in the face of the anarchy and violence which the powers-that-be are unleashing on the people for composers, musicians and other cultural workers to place their work in the context of the movement for enlightenment and contribute to the movements of the people for their emancipation and empowerment. There is no more worthwhile and satisfying path!
[i] Hardial Bains, "The Question Is Really One of Word and Deed", paper presented at the meeting held at Marx House, London, "In Commemoration of Cornelius Cardew, 1936-1981" on December 21, 1996, published by the Progressive Cultural Association, London, 1997
The following introductory remarks were given at the Political Forum on the Future of Society held at the Marx Memorial Library, London, on October 29, 2016.
RCPB(ML) considered it timely to organise such a Political Forum as this. In fact, our plan is to make this the first of a series. We will hold the next Forum in Durham at the end of January, and the plan is to hold further Forums in Birmingham and other parts of the country.
First of all, we considered it timely in a general sense not only because of the degree of the assault on society and on the people's movements, but also because of the resistance to that assault: for the people's forces to elaborate their view of the future is crucial.
The whole EU referendum campaign, whether to remain within or leave the European Union, then put firmly on the agenda the urgent necessity in our view to develop these kinds of Forums, where people can put their views and develop the unity between the various progressive forces, the forces involved in organising for something that is worthwhile, in opposition to what the ruling elite has in store for the people.
One can reiterate endlessly the areas where there is an assault on society. This is what is generally called the austerity agenda and the whole neo-liberal approach that successive governments have been pursuing. This includes the destruction of the manufacturing base, the promotion of chauvinism and racism, as well as the warmongering and militarism. One can list irrationalism, the assaults on health care and education, and attacks on the people's claims as members of society.
In opposition there are the resistance struggles, which are themselves being blocked. The necessity for change is put on the agenda. How to build this effective political movement to realise what people's vision of society should be unites us all.
At the same time, it is true to say that as the necessity gets more urgent to work for a change in the direction of society and the economy, the pressures of life themselves militate against it, because life becomes more difficult. It is therefore a testament to the people's forces that we are holding this Political Forum at all.
The holding of this Forum is something that we think represents the New. The importance of action is crucial, but it is not action looked at in itself. There is the importance of summation, of developing guidelines to which to work. Furthermore, there is the issue of charting a new path. As we put it in the invitation and the call to participate: together let us chart a new path for society.
This is the discussion we think is crucial for the activists in the various movements to carry out. Out of this discussion, we would like to develop the conception of what is a modern society consistent with the 21st century. We have the whole experience of the 20th century to look back on and sum up: two world wars, the first imperialist world war, the second against fascism; the development of a new society in the Soviet Union, its collapse and what were the reasons for that collapse; and the way the whole world situation has moved from one where the tide of revolution was in flow to one where it is in ebb. There is a lot to sum up of the 20th century. The 21st century has been dark times in many respects - dark times in the sense that it opened up with the so-called war on terror and has proceeded from there. But where is the summing up of the people's forces that can take this situation forward?
Far from rights being recognised by the powers-that-be in this situation, they have been clearly undermined, trampled on and not recognised. The question of rights we think is one of the crucial questions for the 21st century. There is a right, as we are going to discuss, to health care, to education, even a right to sovereignty. The question of the right of people to take control of their lives, the right to be decision-makers, is something which is on the agenda.
The question of who decides what happens, who makes the decisions, who is in control, is one of the foremost questions. We think that one of the main orientations is the fact that the situation of the forces in power having to right to decide and depriving the people of the right to decide the direction of the economy, the direction of the health service and so on, this situation must be overturned. At the very least, this wholesale block to the people having any say and being in control of any decisions has to be challenged.
Looking at things in this way, it can be seen that the struggle is not simply one of reversing this history of assault, of the anti-social offensive, in order to salvage the gains that people have made, but is of actually safeguarding the future. To do this we both have to analyse the present, the here and now, the actual situation, and to look at the origins and development of that situation. But further, we have to elaborate the future so that what is new, what is characteristic of the battle against the old is not simply a phrase.
That raises the question of renewal, whether in the sphere of political institutions, political processes or the whole outlook on society. Renewal, bringing into being something new, is one of the crucial issues.
One of the main ways by which there is a block to this renewal, which is quite natural, is the influence of capital-centred thinking, the orientation of the old, within the people's movements. One example of old thinking within the movement is that workers' wages are viewed as a cost to society or enterprises. To combat this influence of the old means to uphold that workers create value. Even in the health service, health workers create value in that they produce healthy individuals. Education workers similarly create value.
That being said, it is necessary to clarify that the need to battle against the old thinking is not a matter of causing divisions. Everybody is faced with divisions in society and in the movement. Divisions exist in society - straightforwardly, there are class divisions. But if the front of the people gets organised then it is possible that the old outlook can be challenged.
We launched these Political Forums thinking that it is a very necessary form for developing this unity and discussing these questions of renewal and of developing new, human-centred thinking. But then in the planning stage, the EU referendum came along, and the discussions raised the issue of taking control. This is a class question in the sense of who it is that takes control. All sorts of forces in this context are talking about shaping the future and taking control of the future in these circumstances. One thing about this situation is that it does open up the space for discussion on the new kind of politics which society needs, for the discussion on how to take things forward and how to turn around the economy to favour working people, and how to combat the chauvinism and retrogression which is the only answer of the ruling elite to the crisis of the neo-liberal economy and to the crisis of working class representation.
In our view, one can say that the result shows the importance of escaping from the illegitimate authority of the institutions of the EU. But at the same time, it is important to recognise that the division between those who voted Remain and are still for remain, and those for Leave, can be dangerous, divorced from addressing the fundamental problems of society. The issue is that people want to be in a position to have control of the decisions which affect their lives and the future of society. It is therefore necessary to stand against the assault on people's consciousness and on people's rights, by which the whole question of Brexit was infected, by those in authority.
We want to concentrate on what opportunities there are, what is the space for change. This is what the Political Forum raises, as well as how to strengthen resistance to reaction, and also how to work out a programme together which is going to turn the situation around in favour of the working class and people. The Forum raises the questions of what kind of political process, what kind of political parties are both necessary and actually existing and their history, how to achieve peace (one of the most crucial questions of this time), how to guarantee people's rights, and how to bring stability.
Our analysis is that those who put private interests above social responsibility have usurped political power to make the decisions. In opposition, we have to bring the human factor into play, the human factor/social consciousness to turn the situation around.
These Political Forums will, we hope, provide a form where we can discuss the crucial problems of life itself from the point of view of working out what is the way forward, finding our bearings in this present situation and combating the disinformation which seeks to atomise everyone and sow prejudice.
To emphasise, there is a question of building coherence to the work of all the movements. In that sense, the Political Forums set our sights on building the Front of the People which is against the Front of the Monopolies and their political representatives. It is a front where inter-monopoly contradictions and the whole orientation for empire-building is actually tearing the world apart. The Proletarian Front can be said to be part of building the unity of the people, the working class and their allies, into a united torrent, a concerted programme which can take us to the future and escape the nightmares of never-ending war, the anti-social offensive and the assault on thinking itself and the quality of being human.
We rely on ourselves and our own discussions. Our aim, as the call to participate says, is to join together to affirm the necessity for change, change which empowers the people to gain control over their lives and work, which is their right, and to work for and to establish that kind of future, that kind of society which is fit for human beings, in which their well-being is the highest concern of all.
Recent events in Britain, the US and elsewhere, which represent a growing political crisis for the powers-that-be, have been interpreted and commented on in such a way as to create the maximum confusion, to add to the racist, anti-people and anti-working class atmosphere that allegedly so concerns the interpreters and commentators. There are some commentators who are more concerned with what they consider to be the demise of "liberalism" and others who are more concerned with what they consider to be a rightwards political shift. Some even go so far as to discern the threat of fascism, whether in the large-scale support for Brexit, or the election of Trump in the United States. Others present things in terms of a surge of "populism" and the rise of the "radical right" and "radical left". It is this latter approach which has been presented by Tony Blair as an excuse for his re-intervention into domestic political life as a champion of the "muscular centre". Blair claims that his aim is "to create the space for a political debate about where modern Western democracies go and where the progressive forces particularly find their place."
Such commentaries and interpretation are two sides of the same coin, in that what they often have in common is the tendency to blame the working class, and especially what is referred to as the "white working class", for problems that are the consequence of an outmoded political system, designed to keep the majority disempowered, and a capital-centred economy which denies the producers of wealth the fruit of their labour. Such confusion-mongering in the British context is the continuation of the campaign of disinformation that was unleashed by the Leave and Remain campaigns during the period of the EU referendum.
The EU referendum was characterised by campaigns led by the most reactionary sections of the Westminster consensus. They were blatantly misleading, not to mention openly xenophobic and racist, and the right of the electorate to make an informed choice was completely denied. However, it must be added that for many years the major political parties have created the conditions for this climate of disinformation, fear and hysteria, whether in regard to the EU, migrants, Muslims or others. In this climate, all the conditions are prepared for the activities of the organised fascists, as well as those associated with backward and deranged individuals. Such were the circumstances which led to the murder of the MP Jo Cox, a crime which should be viewed as the responsibility not of one individual but of the entire political system.
The vote for withdrawal from the reactionary EU, the organisation of the big European monopolies, was a stand against austerity and against the trampling over sovereignty. Indeed, it has since highlighted the question as to where sovereignty should lie: not with the EU, nor with parliament, but with the people. It could be viewed as part of a wider struggle between the old and the new in Britain. Nevertheless, in the wake of the result, which was both a demand for the alternative and a rejection of the status quo, the numerous incidents of racism and xenophobia which had accompanied and been produced by the reactionary Leave and Remain campaigns were highlighted and blamed on the electorate, the workers and especially the "white workers", who it is claimed were simply anti-migrant and worse.
In the US election, one of two reactionary candidates has been elected. The result was also a product of a massive campaign of disinformation and confusion-mongering organised by the party machines and the monopoly-controlled media. Nevertheless, many British-based commentators have echoed the view expressed by those in the US to the effect that the election of Trump is, rather like the Brexit vote, the fault of the workers and especially the "white working class" which, like Trump, is racist, sexist, xenophobic and backward. Everything is done to hide the fact that it is the US state which is anti-worker, sexist and racist and anti-immigrant as well as profoundly anti-communist, which is why the election result is blamed on the working class. As in Britain, in the US too the conditions are created to encourage the activities of the organised fascists as well as violent actions by backward and deranged individuals. This too is a product of the entire election campaign as well as the activities of the state that preceded it, such as the numerous racist murders carried out by the police.
What cannot be denied is that in the US the struggles of the working class, women, youth, African Americans and others are on the upsurge both in opposition to the election result and for their rights and an alternative to the status quo. So too in Britain the struggle for the alternative, against austerity, in defence of the rights of all continues and must be raised to a higher level. The struggles of the workers and other democratic people against the diktat of the EU must also be stepped up as it is evident that attempts are being made to thwart the popular will which demands that sovereignty is vested in the people. At the same time, it is evident that a new situation is developing in which it is even more necessary for the working class to have its own analysis, its own thinking and its own independent programme. In this context, it is vital to counter all the disinformation, smears and anti-worker propaganda and unite all sections of the people around the historic mission of the working class to constitute itself the nation in a socialist Britain.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) held special conferences on November 5 at which delegates welcomed the progress made in negotiations on the amalgamation of the two unions to form a new union. The conferences endorsed the rules of the new union, to be called the National Education Union. This decision will now be put to the members of both unions for approval in ballots to be held in the spring term. The following press release was published on November 5 by the Media Office of the ATL.
Association of Teachers and Lecturers' (ATL) members have today (Saturday) voted for ATL members to be balloted about a new union with the National Union of Teachers (NUT) with more than 450,000 members.
Delegates at ATL's special conference in London voted to take the next step towards forming the National Education Union, which would bring together ATL and NUT members across every sector and role.
Delegates at the NUT's special conference also voted to ballot its members on creating a new union.
Following today's vote in favour, ATL, and NUT members will be balloted in spring 2017 on whether they want to form a new union which would launch in September 2017
If it goes ahead, the new union would become the largest education union with approaching half a million members speaking with one voice on education. It would be the fourth largest union in the TUC.
Dr Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said: "A new union will bring together the best elements of ATL and NUT to give a louder voice to education professionals when speaking out against poor government policy and bad employment practices.
"The new union will support every member in maintained or independent schools and colleges - teachers, lecturers, support staff, leaders - to come together to make their working lives better, letting them concentrate on their main purpose, to educate children and young people."
If approved by both ATL and NUT members in separate ballots, the new union will start a transitional phase from 1 September 2017 until 1 January 2019 with separate ATL and NUT sections and a joint executive committee and joint general secretaries.
National rules for the new union would come into effect on 1 January 2019 with a new executive elected and the integration of ATL and the NUT would have separate sections. General secretary posts will be elected to run from 1 August 2018 to 31 July 2023 when an election for one general secretary will be held.
In the new union, a ballot for industrial action could only take place after an indicative survey of members which showed a ballot was likely to be successful and meet industrial action laws.
A reported 15,000 students and lecturers marched through central London on Saturday, November 19 to demand free, high quality further and higher education as of right.
Demonstrators marched from Park Lane to a rally at Millbank, Westminster. Police were deployed in force, though no incidents were reported.
The "United for Education" #Nov19 action was organised by the National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and College Union (UCU) in opposition to the Higher Education and Research Bill, which received its third parliamentary reading the following Monday. The Bill is currently in Committee stage in the House of Lords, having received its second reading in that chamber on December 6.
This is a Bill to enact the proposals outlined in the Higher Education Green Paper published last November. As analysed at the time [i], this is a plan to put business at the heart of the higher education system, to re-architect the system on overtly market-centric principles, summed up in the principle to: "Create an open, market-based and affordable system, with more competition and innovation, and a level playing field for new providers."
The Bill's Explanatory Notes couldn't be clearer: point one on its summary is that the Bill seeks "to open up the higher education sector with the aim of encouraging more competition and choice by making it easier for new high-quality providers to start up and achieve degree awarding powers, and subsequently secure university status."
The Bill is indeed a wholesale reorganisation of the higher education system, and will abolish the Higher Education Funding Council for England, established in 1992, and replace it with an Office for Students, which will act as a market regulator. The Explanatory Notes outline the conception of "student-focussed", revealing the phrase to be a euphemism for marketisation through and through: "The OfS will have the duty of promoting quality, greater choice and opportunities for students. It will also have a duty to encourage competition and value for money in the provision of higher education... These duties will ensure the OfS will focus on fostering a more competitive system..."
Not only did the Green Paper on which the Bill is based represent a stepping-up of marketisation, with open reference to students as "consumers", it also put forth a shift in focus from research to teaching, to address the so-called skills shortage and to "increase productivity", or the competitiveness of businesses. In this respect, it proposed that business directly determine course content: it envisaged universities "being open to involving employers ... in curriculum design".
The Bill will therefore greatly relax the conditions on new institutions being granted the title of university, including private, for-profit institutions.
It will also establish a Teaching Excellence Framework, under which universities that rank highly will be able to raise fees with inflation. This comes on top of the recent (re)abolition of means-tested grants and their replacement by loans.
In the lead-up to the demonstration, the NUS stated:
"Education is under attack like never before. FE [Further Education] colleges have closed, jobs have been lost and students are being forced deeper and deeper into debt by a government happy to see companies making profit off the back of student poverty. It's time to take a stand.
"So on 19 November we will be marching in central London under the banner of United for Education, to demand free, quality further and higher education, accessible to all."
"Free, good quality education is a right for all," said the NUS, "regardless of ability to pay and more than at any time before we have to fight for that."
The union listed its "three key asks" as:
Speaking at the rally, NUS president Malia Bouattia said:
"The government is running at pace with a deeply risky ideologically led market experiment in further and higher education, and students and lecturers, who will suffer most as a result, are clear that this can't be allowed to happen."
"This week, before the bill has even been properly debated in parliament - let alone passed - universities are already advertising fees above £9,000," she added.
"Staff pay has been held down in recent years, while the gender pay gap has risen," said UCU general secretary Sally Hunt. "All the while those at the top have continued to enjoy inflation-busting pay rises."
Workers' Weekly fully supports students and staff in their opposition to the Bill and their stand in favour of the right to education. As we wrote last year, the aim is to change higher education beyond recognition. The proposed legislation is a resounding echo of the "grenade thrown into the NHS" that was the Health and Social Care Act and contains many parallels, particularly surrounding the opening up of the system to private provision. Opening up the market is the means of achieving a university system under the control of big business, and is fundamentally incompatible with the students' demand for universal, free, high quality further and higher education that serves their interests and the general interests of society as of right.
[i] Workers' Weekly, "Government publishes Higher Education Green Paper: Putting the Monopolies at the Heart of the System", Volume 45 Number 33, November 21, 2015, http://www.rcpbml.org.uk/wwie-15/ww15-33.htm
Stop Foreign Intervention in Africa, November 22, 2016
It has recently been reported that the British government will step up its intervention in Africa through the expansion of the BBC World Service in the continent. The BBC has this week announced the largest expansion of its World Service since the 1940s with plans to broadcast in eleven new languages worldwide. Six of those languages - Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Tigrinya, Yoruba, Igbo and Pidgin are mainly spoken within the African continent and it is evident that there is a particular focus on three countries, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Nigeria. In addition, the BBC World Service is planning to strengthen its broadcasting in Russian, in India and throughout the Korean peninsular, where programmes will be especially aimed at the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (North Korea). In regard to Africa, the BBC is also planning "enhanced television services" including some thirty new programmes for sub-Saharan Africa. The World Service already broadcasts programmes for African audiences in Arabic, Hausa, Somali, Swahili, French and English. It has also been announced that the BBC World Service is taking special measures to make its programmes more appealing to women and youth.
The BBC World Service along with the British Council is an example of what is referred to as "soft power" or the wielding of influence in the world by non-coercive means. Britain's governments pride themselves on the fact that Britain is considered the leading wielder of soft power in the world. Although the Director of the BBC World Service was at pains to deny that it aims to "support British foreign policy objectives" she did admit that the World Service was an expression of "western values," and it is widely accepted that BBC broadcasts to North Korea are planned to openly oppose the government of that country. The expansion of the BBC World Service in Africa and Asia has been financed by increased government funding of £289m and has been viewed as a response by the government to the influence of other major state-financed broadcasters such as Russia's RT, China's CCTV and Qatar's Al Jazeera.
The planned expansion of the BBC World Service emerges from the National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence Review 2015 which was presented to parliament by the then Prime Minister last November. In other words, the BBC World Service is part of the government's "security strategy" along with the armed forces, police and intelligence agencies. As David Cameron explained alongside strengthening this hard or coercive power, the government "will further enhance our position as the world's leading soft power promoting our values and interests globally, with our world-class Diplomatic Service, commitment to overseas development, and institutions such as the BBC World Service and the British Council." In this regard Cameron explained that the BBC currently reaches 308 million people worldwide, and that its goal is to reach 500 million people by 2022. Since the BBC World Service allows this global reach into areas where the British government would not otherwise exercise influence the government's aim was to "invest £85 million each year by 2017/18 in the BBC's digital, TV and radio services around the world" to further enhance this global reach.
Until 2014 the BBC World Service, which is the world's leading international broadcaster, was directly funded by the government's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and was referred to as "a public corporation of the FCO." The change in funding relationship appears to have occurred in order to counter claims that the BBC World Service was the creature of the British government and that its broadcasts could simply be considered propaganda and also to remove the BBC World Service from any parliamentary scrutiny. Within parliament there was some concern expressed by the Foreign Affairs Committee that the apparent transfer of the funding for the World Service entirely to the BBC would be to its detriment but the announcement last year of increased government finance appears to be part of an attempt to continue the direct government funding of the past while maintaining the fiction of the BBC World Service's alleged independence. In fact, the Foreign Secretary still maintains political responsibility for the World Service.
The exact nature of the government's future intervention in Africa through the BBC World Service is not yet known but what is clear is that foreign intervention in Africa manifests itself in many ways. The promotion of so-called "British values" or "western values" in Africa is evidently seen as a vital part of the Britain's political, military and economic intervention in the continent and takes place within the context of its contention with the other big powers, especially Russia and China.
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