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Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
The Significance of the Battle for the Future of the NHS:
What kind of health service do we want? What is the way forward?
The Battle for the Future Direction of the NHS:
Government Plans to Wreck the NHS are Behind the Crisis in Acute and Social Care
Fighting For the Rights Of All:
The Investigatory Powers Act and the Rule of Law
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Women's march, London, January 21, 2017
RCPB(ML) organised socials in various parts of Britain to look forward with optimism to the struggles that lie ahead for the people's forces in 2017 and beyond. They took place in the spirit of accepting the challenges that come with resisting the Old, working for a change in the direction of society, and giving shape to the New.
At the social in the London Region, friends, comrades and supporters were happy to welcome the Political Counsellor from the Cuban Embassy, Jorge Luis Garcia. Also present were comrades from the New Communist Party, including its leader Andy Brooks.
We reprint here the remarks of RCPB(ML) General Secretary Michael Chant, and the remarks of Jorge L Garcia.
This is a toast to the success of our work, and its further development in 2017.
What we said a year ago was that 2016 would be an exciting year, as we live in times when there is a necessity to build a torrent to turn the tide of history. It certainly was exciting [laughter]! But the objective situation has got more irrational and dangerous during 2016. There have been the events of the US Presidential Election, plus the Referendum to Remain in or Leave the EU. And towards the end of the year, there was the very sad death of Comrade Fidel.
So I would just like to say that we are so pleased to have Comrade Jorge Luis Garcia with us tonight to join with us in our events.
Just to look at Brexit, not to go into great detail, but it is one of the issues that has caused quite an uproar, quite an upset, quite a defining event in 2016. We, in common with many progressive forces, actually campaigned for a Leave result in the EU referendum from the point of view that the European Union, as it is constituted, is the EU of the monopolies, and that it violates the sovereignty of its member countries, it is an institution of imperialist globalisation. The fact that the result was that the majority went with Brexit, we welcomed from that point of view. However, we have no illusions, and the issue of "taking back control" is a moot point. We have no truck with the idea that there are such things as "British values" which are progressive, that taking back control after the EU referendum means that the working people are in power or have any form of control.
We put forward the issue of the alternative, the working class alternative to the European Union, which is based on the idea of a sovereign national economy, the idea of trade for mutual benefit, the opposition to the destruction of the manufacturing base, the opposition to supranational institutions which dictate to national governments. But fundamentally there is the question of the contention between the European Union powers, and the issue of "control" in our view simply means that the powers-that-be have gone wild promoting racism, promoting British chauvinism on the grounds that Britain will now be "independent". Well, we have no truck with this idea of Britain's being "independent". Britain has been and is an imperialist nation, a colonialist nation, has fostered racism, is committed to aggression throughout the world.
So the issue for the working class is really to fight for this control, to set its sights on constituting itself the nation. What does this mean? It does not mean, as some people say, that there is a British nation and Britain is an oppressed country by the EU. The aims of the monopolies and oligarchies in Britain are consistent with the concentration of power in the EU. It means that the British working class should stand for the sovereignty of Scotland, Wales, a United Ireland, and as far as England is concerned they should fight for an independent socialist country, and a free and equal union between the countries of England, Scotland and Wales and a United Ireland, should they wish to join together. This independence means that the working class goes for its historic mission. Only in this sense would one support "Making Britain Great Again". In fact, that programme in the content of the ruling elite is nothing but a vain hope to re-institute British hegemony, and on this basis promote chauvinism and racism.
That is one or two things about Brexit. I think it is important because the ruling elite is on the one hand trying to create so many divisions on the basis of Remain or Leave. Of course, we still stand against the EU of the monopolies. We stand against imperialist globalisation, and for what one could call working class globalisation. In other words, as the working class builds its economy for the benefit of the people then it trades for mutual benefit throughout the world. But as we stressed in our issue of promoting the alternative, it means that the working class has got to go for power, it has to deprive those of power who at present stand against the working class and people obtaining power.
So I think this is important for the perspective of 2017, our stand on Brexit and the European Union.
Of course in 2017, we are now in the year of the centenary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. This was a milestone in the history of the whole world. It opened the path for the progress of all humanity, and is an obligatory path for the working class to take throughout the world. What is very necessary in this anniversary in 2017 is that one does not just look at it as an historical event. One looks at it as of the here and now, as of the present, and learns from it what is the way to the birth of the new in 2017. This we think is going to characterise the work of the communists, the progressive forces, in 2017 in working up to the centenary of the October Revolution. One has to study it from the point of view of the path that is opened up, what does it mean then, what does it mean now, what is the relevance for the working class and people in 2017. That revolutionary content is our reference point. As we said in our message in November 2016: "In our view, this revolutionary content is one which opens up the prospect and vision of a new kind of society, a society of the ascendancy of socialised humanity. In the here and now, there is nothing more pressing than to give shape to the profile of the new human being through the actions of a united communist movement, guided by the revolutionary theory of modern communism, and the lofty ideals of the best that humanity has given and is giving rise to."
The October Revolution represented the working class taking power, coming to power itself. But it took place obviously in the throes of the First World War, the imperialist World War for the redivision of the world. One can say that it has important ramifications from the point of view of how to achieve peace. One of the aims of the working class and people's movement is to define the aims of the anti-war movement as bringing into being an anti-war government. That is one of the guidelines of the October Revolution, that it withdrew a massive section of the combatants from the First World War. Obviously the imperialist powers were not reconciled, and they launched attacks on the new government in Russia and the Bolsheviks. But out of that the Soviet Union emerged triumphant.
One of the things we mean when we talk about an anti-war government today is that it is not a change of, say, one party for another in Westminster. It actually means, the conscious participation of people in the anti-war movement in taking steps to deal with the warmongers in Britain itself, and building these foundations. In general, what we stand for in 2017 is this idea of the Birth of the New, the struggle of the New against the Old. Our publication is called The Line of March, which refers to the line of march of the proletarian movement towards a new society. It was Marx and Engels themselves in the Communist Manifesto, if I am not mistaken, who talked about the communists not being detached from the movement, that they have no aims apart from the working class movement itself, but they have the advantage of the science of knowing the line of march, the development of history. Of course, there are giants who have arisen during the 20th century like Lenin, like Comrade Fidel. Ourselves, we pay tribute to the founder of the Internationalists and our authority in terms of the line of march, the theoretical overview, the spirit and conceptions of our Party, which is Comrade Hardial Bains and the movement he gave rise to. In 2017, we also commemorate his sad passing 20 years ago.
And the other anniversary in 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the Necessity for Change Conference which was held in London in August 1967, led by Comrade Bains. This is a very important analysis, very important document, a very important conference. Again, the issue is not to praise in 2017 what happened as such, but to develop this work today, to apply what we think is our overriding motto, which is that understanding requires an act of conscious participation by the individual, an act of finding out. It is this conscious participation which we try and encourage in all our work. So that is another important anniversary in 2017.
One thing I would also like to raise is the issue of "fake news" as the buzzword of the moment has it. That everyone is manufacturing "fake news" for their own ends. When I say "everyone", I mean all those who are opposed to progress. That emphasises the importance to us of the working movement and the communists having their own media, their own agenda, to put information, to develop guidelines, to clarify things for the working class movement and people. In 2016, as our Party, we have taken steps to strengthen our journalism, to develop our groups of writers and disseminators. This is a very conscious step. One of the issues of 2017 is the strengthening of our independent press, and like many things this is an issue for the whole communist movement, it has to be a mobiliser, a clarifier, and above all representing the independent thinking and programme and agenda of the working class in their line of march towards a new society. In this context also, the programme of holding Political Forums on the Future of Society is a fundamental aspect of the Party's work in 2017, giving a profile to the Party's work, and giving an impetus to the development of the workers' movement and to the movements to change the direction of society and defend the rights of all.
So those were just some of the things we wanted to raise at the beginning of 2017. The objective situation is not really an optimistic one. I know there are some forces that suggest we are moving out of a retrogressive objective situation into a more optimistic one. Our optimism comes from our own work, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the spirit of resistance and struggle of the people themselves, whether it be in social programmes - in health, in education - on the front of culture, or as we have said in the development of the anti-war movement, and so on. These things reinforce each other. Our own work, our work for the New, the work to build the institutions of the new society, of socialism, in the here and now, while supporting, participating in, doing everything to build the resistance of the people to the onslaught which, for instance with the election of Trump has increased this euphoria similar to 25 years ago when the Soviet Union fell that the bourgeoisie have it all their own way. They can run rampant with their racism, with their anti-communism, and with their anti-worker agenda. But our work says the opposite, that there is a future, which is hard work. There are no easy victories. We are inspired by all the peoples throughout the world that have this burning desire for a new society, for a socialist society, for a human-centred society, whether it be in the DPRK, whether it be in Cuba, throughout the world where the people are fighting against oppression, this is the source of joy for us.
We think that it is really crucial in this coming year that the Party should pay attention to what it means, this question of the Birth of the New in the centenary year of the October Revolution, in the 50th anniversary year of Necessity for Change analysis. We encourage everyone to redouble their efforts to participate with us in these high ideals which we set ourselves, to review our work particularly since 1994 as well as re-affirming the red spine of RCPB(ML) which has been there since the beginning.
So the toast is for success of all our work, the success of the resistance movement, the success of the New in 2017!
London Region Social, January 7, 2017
I would like to thank all of you. I have met some of you before, but this is my first time at the John Buckle Centre.
First of all, I would like to thank all of you who signed the Book of Condolences of our Commander-in-Chief, Fidel Castro. The messages from the RCPB(ML) and from the New Communist Party too were much appreciated at the Embassy.
Beyond that, I wish 2017 to be a very happy year for all of you, and for us too. Which means 2017 should be a progressive year for us. This will be the first year without our Commander-in-Chief. But we have to keep alive our revolution. We have to keep fighting and move forward. This will be 58 years of the revolution. It will be a challenge for us. But the Cuban people are confident, and we have hope, and we will be on guard. We have to keep fighting for the defeat of the blockade and for the restitution of the territory of Guantánamo Bay.
We want to keep sharing our solidarity all over the world. At the same time, we ask for solidarity from comrades like you in order to support our revolution to achieve our goal.
Thank you for inviting me.
The second in the series of Political Forums on the Future of Society is to take place this Saturday, January 28, 10.00am - 5.00pm, in Durham.
The workers' and people's movements are affirming that the problems facing society, including the danger of war, the destruction of the manufacturing base, and the trampling on the rights of all human beings, demand resolution and that working people - youth, women, workers, the people as a whole - are the force that can bring about change.
The Political Forums on the Future of Society aim to give a profile to the Party's work on these fronts and encourage all the forces in motion to work out together how to realise a modern society and take control of the future. The objective situation is such that what is absent today is the ability, the power, of the working class and people to take control of their lives and be the decision-makers. The Political Forums will also discuss the concrete work and practical politics required to ensure the success of the pro-social movements of the people and remove the blocks to the progress of society.
The Forum in Durham will discuss the issues of: Claims on society; Building the movement for an anti-war government; and Democratic renewal.
Further Political Forums will be held in the coming months in Birmingham and Exeter, as well as elsewhere. Let us 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!
Presentation by Tony O'Sullivan, Co-Chair of Keep Our NHS
Public (KONP), as an
invited speaker at the London Political Forum on the Future of Society, October 29, 2016
A core duty of socialists is to fight to improve the condition of the people, the working class and the oppressed and vulnerable, and to fight for this in the here and now, not theoretically for the future. In this respect, the NHS is the major victory of the British people after the Second World War. It was said that the right of people to be decision-makers is on the agenda. The fight for democratic rights is not exclusive to socialism: anybody can fight for democratic rights. But fighting for the right of access to healthcare has become a fight for democratic rights.
The NHS symbolises much more. There is a point in time when something becomes a touchstone. To ignore racism for example, and the democratic right not to be subjected to racist abuse and attacks, is to step aside from a core part of the struggle. Likewise, not to face the issue that people are being disenfranchised from the right to access healthcare is to renege on a core part of the struggle as it affects working people. The attack on the NHS is part of a long-standing ideological assault on public services. The greatest equalisers between those who have and those who have not are the health service and education. You only need go to USA to see the starkest aspects of health problems. Health problems are the greatest single source of bankruptcies, destitution and death, for example. Defending the NHS is therefore on the front line against the forces of reaction, alongside the struggle against racism and war.
Today we are talking about the future of society and what kind of health service we want as part of that. There is a litany of demands, but there is something behind these demands, such as the need for the health service to be publicly funded. Some academic research has been done recently [i] into what is called the fiscal multiplier. This quantifies what the national economy gets in return from investment, whether that investment be in roads, energy, health, education, armaments, or anything else. The fiscal multiplier for defence spending is minus 9.8. Whatever society spends in armaments, the society as a whole loses nearly tenfold that expenditure. The payback on health is 4.3. The economy gets a fourfold payback for every unit investment in health. In a sense that is clear, because we would have a healthy society and a healthy workforce, even in a capitalist society. A main impetus for a school health service was when Britain was going to war in the Boer War. A lack of troops healthy enough to go to war led the government to set up a school health service. At that time it was illnesses such as TB. So, a healthy workforce, healthy children, healthy women, mothers; a healthy rest of society is clearly a huge investment as in education. Where there are educated, literate women as in Cuba or Nicaragua there is a plummeting of infant mortality and the health of society improves.
The quality of the service we should demand reflects the state of society and the stage of the economy that we are at; but we should also note that despite the blockade on Cuba it has got healthier parameters on all fronts - far above the US just a few miles across the sea. Britain is one of the largest economies. We should be demanding what we have had until recently: accessible, high quality healthcare.
One of the accusations when defending a hospital against closure is of "nimbyism": that you are against a closure in your own area, but, the argument goes, closures need to happen somewhere. Clinicians - nurses, therapists, doctors - always argue for change; we are the drivers of change. Not only do we not hold back if there is good evidence for change, we demand it ourselves. On the other hand, we demand evidence for change, evidence that should not be financially driven. That is not evidence for better clinical care, it is evidence for a cheaper service.
The context has to be right. When the government is pushing through the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) and talking about the integration of health and social care, the pressure is to put us onto the defensive. I have spent 25 years fighting for the integration of health and social care - for disabled children, for example. What the government is providing is a Trojan horse. It sounds great but is actually the driving force for imposing massive financial cuts, with a stick if you do not agree.
We are demanding better quality high-tech equipment and cancer drugs, and whilst we need such equipment, care in the community for most people means that they need health workers with them. Ninety percent of health work is people looking after the vulnerable, which requires funding. They tried to close mental health institutions in the 1970s and to put people into the community. Care in the community is actually more expensive than hospital institutions. We do demand high quality community-based care, but not in place of hospitals. One of our points in the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign was that we do want community-based care and we want a hospital at the centre of that community to make that community-based care safe!
The investment under the Labour government did actually allow the NHS to become a high-performing institution. It was the health workers themselves who were fighting for co-ordinated, multidisciplinary, inter-agency working. The government at a certain stage started to pour money into the health service. As is well-known of course, Tony Blair fatally undermined the future health service with PFI, by bringing in competition, and developing marketisation and privatisation. Now we have six years of austerity and are heading for four more years. We now have waiting lists rising, including for cancer, and Accident and Emergency problems. We now have public dissatisfaction growing, so that it will be increasingly difficult to say that this is the best healthcare system in the world. There is a case for saying that it still is, if taken as a whole, but it has been seriously undermined. The danger here is exemplified by a recent article in the press asserting that if you think the NHS is the best in the world, you are "living in cloud cuckoo land". The issue here is not just to say that the NHS is "the best in the world" - we do have to demand better cancer care, for example - but that it has this capability and potential.
Similarly, it is not an issue of conspiracy theories or searching out the worst motivation. We do not oppose integration simply because these are the words of Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England. Rather, Simon Stevens is trying to deceive us with what he is demanding. What he is trying to integrate are two systems that have been deliberately made to fail - a health system that has been underfunded and a social care system that has been massively underfunded. What we should be demanding is social care as well as a health system that is free at the point of use, publicly accountable and publicly provided. That is what is wanted: a set of integrated services that make sense.
There is no other area that is more obvious than in disability, which is where my own professional life has been. Take a young person, such as I have worked with, who is 18, who has cerebral palsy with feeding difficulties, mobility problems, communication speech problems, and therefore education problems, and a high level of dependency on parents to care, to move, to look after, to bathe, to feed. That family has needs: that young person requires primary care, hospital care, possibly mental health care, education, social care and transport, everything wrapped around that family to look after them. We do want integration, but we want it to work for the family, not for hedge funds, for example. We need integration to look after people with long-term conditions - mental health problems, where mental health impacts on physical health, and physical ill health leading to mental health problems. We need integration with the community, so that we are able to relate to people of different ethnicity who have conditions related to their social and ethnic background - sickle-cell anaemia is an obvious example, but there are many others including diabetes and hypertension. That is the kind of vision we should be demanding. It includes integration between community and hospital, between acute and long-term illness, between physical and mental health, between health and social services and, in the case of children, education too.
What is the way forward? Two weeks ago, I was at Trafalgar Square to welcome the "Hands Off Huddersfield Royal Infirmary campaign" coming down to London by coach. They had been thrown into a situation like Lewisham, where one of two hospitals in the trust is a PFI hospital, Calderdale, and they are trying to close Huddersfield Royal Infirmary for financial reasons. This is in a town of 190,000 people, a major place that needs a hospital. The campaign got in touch with Keep Our NHS Public and Lewisham sent up speakers. They were energised by the Lewisham campaign, but we found that they had gone beyond that. They had a huge initiative: not just a campaign but ten satellite committees in towns and villages around Huddersfield. We in Lewisham had got 55,000 to sign a petition - they had got 154,000. They had contacted other campaigns. Four campaigns converged on London on the Monday lunchtime, besieged Downing Street and lobbied their MPs in parliament.
They see the need to be part of a wider fight immediately. Their Clinical Commissioning Groups have decided that the closure will go ahead. They are not giving in and the fight is on. They see the need to join up with everybody else. They contacted the Grantham and Chorley A&E campaigns and the Horton General in Banbury. And London campaigns: Ealing, Hammersmith & Charing Cross and St Helier's hospitals, all under immediate threat. Huddersfield has joined Health Campaigns Together, an umbrella organisation that has now had three conferences around the country and is calling a health demonstration - It's Our NHS - on March 4, 2017. Our clear aim is to win!
[i] Aaron Reeves, Sanjay Basu, Martin McKee, Christopher Meissner and David Stuckler, "Does investment in the health sector promote or inhibit economic growth?", Globalization and Health 9: 43, 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3849102
Over recent months, the crisis in the NHS in England caused by the ongoing closure of Accident an Emergency provision - the shortage of acute hospital beds and the availability of nursing and social care accommodation for elderly patients - has been so severe that the Red Cross has been brought in at some hospitals to support hard-pressed NHS workers whose departments were at breaking point. On January 6, Mike Adamson, Red Cross chief executive, said he could only describe it as a "humanitarian crisis" due to "the scale of the threat posed to the nation's health and well-being by pressures on the system". There has been a significant change in demand for Red Cross help in recent months, with the charity now working in 20 A&Es according to their website.
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn responded that it is the government that is behind the crisis: "The crisis in our NHS is unprecedented. People are lying on trolleys in corridors waiting to be seen. Hospitals have had to close their doors, unable to admit patients. The health service is at breaking point. But this crisis is not due to an outbreak of disease. It is a crisis made in Downing Street by this government - a crisis we warned them about."
Figures released to the BBCi on January 8 show that more than one in ten patients in England face long delays for a hospital bed after emergency admission and that "nearly 475,000 patients waited for more than four hours for a bed on a ward in 2015-16 - almost a five-fold increase since 2010-11. Hospitals reported using side rooms and corridors to cope with the growing number of 'trolley waits'."
According to the article, bed occupancy is not meant to exceed 85%, to give staff time to clean beds, keep infections low and ensure availability for patients who need them; 130 out of 179 hospital trusts report rates exceeding this for general hospital beds.
"Hospital managers said the problem was causing 'deeply worrying' delays for these patients," reports the article. "They are people who have already faced a wait to be seen in A&E but whose condition is deemed to be so serious they need to be admitted on to a ward. About one in five people who come to A&E fall into this category and it includes the frail elderly and patients with chest pains, breathing problems and fractures."
What was so noticeable was the delayed and then hostile response of the government. Both Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Prime Minister Theresa May were either unavailable or delayed their comments for several days, before branding Mike Adamson as "irresponsible" for calling the situation a humanitarian crisis. The government's reply is to justify its opposition to the interests of the people by blaming the victims and those who are trying to deal with the crisis. They use the crisis itself to push further the same anti-social measures that lie at the heart of the crisis they have created.
This is the callous, calculated response to a crisis that has indeed been created in Downing Street and is consistent with the direction of wrecking the NHS as a public service and privatising it through the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). Rather than the government taking up its responsibility to deal with the crisis in the NHS, it is hoping to manipulate the crisis, claiming that the issue is one of "unprecedented demand", an "increasingly elderly population" and so on. Further, the government claims to be investing "billions of pounds" already in the NHS. This is all done to try to influence public opinion that NHS is "no longer affordable" for government so that people must increasingly take out private health insurance as the service deteriorates, as well as introducing more charging for patients. Theresa May also criticised local councils for not funding social care by raising council taxes sufficiently, something which the government is currently trying to force councils to do, while the government simultaneously continues to slash council social care budgets.
Increasing pressure is also being put on A&Es with the closure or threatened closure of Walk-In Centres. The resulting lengthened journey times to the nearest A&E is an additional life-threatening factor affecting many people.
The people must continue to build their campaigns to safeguard the future of the NHS, uniting the people in every area of the country, regardless of the political views of those involved, building the movement locally as well as nationally. Such a movement must continue to aim at keeping the initiative in the people's own hands and charting a new path against this direction that is wrecking the NHS.
The issue facing this growing movement is to deprive the government of the power to implement its wrecking plans for the NHS. Access to health care is a right of everyone in a modern society, and this right must be guaranteed for all. Public right should be defended and asserted over the rights assumed by the monopolies: the claims of the people on the economy to provide their health care system and other vital public services are paramount and must take precedence over those of the monopolies and finance capitalists.
This means that resources must, as a matter of necessity, 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. It is the duty of government to make the claims necessary to fully fund and provide a comprehensive health service across the country to all communities. A modern society must provide a modern health service for all as of right!
The Investigatory Powers Act, nicknamed the Snoopers' Charter, officially came into effect on December 30 after receiving Royal Assent a month earlier, on November 29. In fact, some provisions of the Act were already in place before parliamentary scrutiny had even started last March, including the handling of bulk personal datasets. On the other hand, some of its parts require extensive work to be done before becoming operational, such as the collection and storage of Internet Connection Records.
The Act contains a whole host of provisions for "the interception of communications, equipment interference and the acquisition and retention of communications data, bulk personal datasets and other information" and the treatment of material held as a result. The phrase "equipment interference" is a euphemism for hacking, whereby police and security services access personal data from mobile phones, computers and other devices. Such hacking is made legal even where the person owning the device is not the suspect in an investigation.
In particular, the Act introduces Internet Connection Records (ICRs), which detail websites visited by an internet user. Communication services providers - internet companies - will be required to hold these records for users in Britain for a period of one year. Authorities will have the power to see these records without a warrant. The exercise of this power will be secret: it will be a criminal offence for an internet provider or employee of such a company to reveal that this data has been requested.
The Register argues that the Act enshrines into law what is called parallel construction: the creation of a separate basis of evidence as a cover for how an investigation was actually conducted; it therefore allows the state to lie about origins of evidence in court, effectively treating this evidence as infallible and preventing the defence from questioning it.
Those allowed access to internet data are not just police and security and intelligence services but also the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Health, the Home Office, HM Revenue and Customs, NHS trusts, the Competition and Markets Authority, the Department for Communities, the Department for the Economy, the Financial Conduct Authority, Fire and Rescue services, the Food Standards Agency, the Gambling Commission, and so on. In this way, police powers are handed by the Act to whole swathes of the state and its institutions at all levels.
The legislation has been widely condemned. A petition to parliament calling for its repeal has at the time of writing gathered over 200,000 signatures. Nevertheless, the Petitions Committee arbitrarily decided not to schedule a debate on the petition, regardless of it passing the required threshold, on the basis that it had been debated on many occasions in parliament before it became law.
Legal challenges to the Act, such as that being pursued by the Don't Spy on Us coalition, are already under way. Contradictions with other European powers are also evident, with the European Court of Justice on December 21 ruling against mass general surveillance.
"This Government is clear that, at a time of heightened security threat, it is essential our law enforcement, security and intelligence services have the powers they need to keep people safe," claimed Home Secretary Amber Rudd.
"The internet presents new opportunities for terrorists and we must ensure we have the capabilities to confront this challenge. But it is also right that these powers are subject to strict safeguards and rigorous oversight."
However, it is clear that the legislation has little to do with protection of the population from terrorism. Even the defunct notion of striking a balance between rights and security underlying Rudd's justification sounds out of place: the Act goes beyond even that. It is rather a consolidation and stepping-up of the arbitrary and exceptional powers of the state, instituting these powers and rewriting the law at will in a vein attempt to appear legitimate and "transparent".
It was revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013 that the security agencies in Britain and the US had been collaborating for many years to collect bulk personal data on a massive scale. Subsequently, the investigatory powers tribunal found that the police and security services had been obtaining such data secretly and illegally over a period of 17 years.
The Act takes these assumed police powers operating outside of the rule of law and enacts them in an attempt to confer a semblance of the rule of law to these police powers. In this way, it creates a new "rule of law" based on these police powers, in the process turning the rule of law into its opposite.
The legislation therefore lays out what these powers are and creates new "oversight" arrangements, such as a new Investigatory Powers Commission (IPC), which consists of a number of serving or former senior judges. This body combines and replaces powers of the Interception of Communications Commissioner, Intelligence Services Commissioner and Chief Surveillance Commissioner, cutting down and streamlining the previous arrangements.
The context is one in which the government no longer negotiates but simply resorts to imposition, such as in the junior doctors' dispute, and restricts opposition. At the same time, the opposition is ever deepening and broadening, challenging the legitimacy of the government. The need is for a new fundamental law based on the rights that all hold by virtue of being human. The resulting rule of law provides security for its citizens by defending the rights of all.
Train drivers working for Southern Rail had planned further strike action on January 24, 25 and 27 as part of their ongoing struggle for their rights and for public safety. Their union ASLEF has suspended this action with the agreement to have fresh talks on January 25. Meanwhile, the conductors' strike on January 23 is still going ahead, with the union RMT having requested to join the negotiations, but this request not yet having been met.
Support has been growing for the rail workers' actions, particularly since the massive increase in fares and further deterioration of the Southern Rail service. The intransigence of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and his condemnation of the strikes have only added to the determination of and support for the workers. Jeremy Corbyn too has indicated that he would join pickets and called for public ownership of Southern Rail, a demand also made by RMT.
Southern Rail and the government are seeking to impose driver-only-operated trains. Southern Rail has become notorious amongst the privatised train operators in failing to provide an acceptable service to passengers, with a high proportion of cancelled and delayed trains with overcrowding.
People are dismissing the propaganda branding the drivers and conductors as holding the public to ransom. The travelling public is well aware of how Southern Rail claims its share of added value produced by its workers while absolving itself of responsibility to provide a reliable and acceptable service. There have been and continue to be protests pointing the finger at the company for its profiteering and at the government for its neo-liberal agenda in attacking public transport.
It is clear that the rights of the profiteering private rail franchise are trumping public right. What is becoming clear is the question of who is in control? The issue of control over public transport should shift to the users and those who work in the transport industry, particularly rail. There are many who are calling for public ownership and control. The independent voice of the working class is in the forefront of the demand for control.
The workers, their unions and their political representatives along with passengers are getting ever angrier with the government and the rail franchises. They want a decent, reliable and low-cost service as there are in other countries. Their demands are sure to become louder and unified action will escalate in the coming months, as will the movement for control.
It is the political act by the government to support Southern Rail that has exacerbated this trade dispute. The call to train operating companies to act collectively against unions will only lead to further disequilibrium by fanning the flames of strife.
The concern of the drivers and conductors for the safety of passengers if Southern Rail were to impose its axing of train conductors has been consistent in this dispute. Their consistent and determined stand has been key in forcing talks in conditions of attempted imposition with the full backing of the government on the side of the employers.
Justice is on the side of the workers and their demands must be met. WWIE calls on everyone to support the struggle of Southern Rail workers in defending their rights and the safety of the public.
Over 600 people attended a memorial evening for Comandante Fidel Castro at London's Congress Centre on December 5 organised by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC), a very moving and inspiring event.
Due to overwhelming public demand and high registration numbers, CSC changed the venue just days before the event to the Congress Centre to accommodate the huge numbers of guests - and still there was standing room only, demonstrating excellent international solidarity with Cuba in Britain.
The tone of the evening was one of remembrance - and celebration - of the contribution that Fidel Castro had made in Cuba and internationally, with Cuba's internationalism in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia recognised throughout the evening.
Speakers included ambassadors, Members of Parliament, authors and journalists who gave moving speeches in addition to poetry readings, music and film.
The Cuban national anthem was played the begin the evening and a minute's silence was given in memory of Fidel.
CSC Director Rob Miller thanked guests for attending the evening and read the words of Ecuador's President Rafael Correa from Havana's Revolution Square memorial the previous week: "Those who die fighting for life cannot be called dead. Fidel will continue to live; in the faces of the children who go to school, in the sick whose lives are saved, in the workers who own the fruits of their labours.
"In the most unequal continent in the world, you have left us the only country; with zero child malnutrition. With a higher life expectancy, With 100 percent school enrolment. Without a single child living on the street.
"Our America faces new challenges - perhaps bigger challenges than you faced during 70 years of struggle. Today the people of our America are more united than ever. Never lying nor betraying your moral principles, of this deep conviction.
"There is no force in the world capable of crushing the power of truth and ideas with you Comandante Fidel Castro Ruz. With Camilo Cienfuegos, with Che. With Hugo Chavez Frias. We learned to believe in a new Latin American man. One capable of fighting through organisation and awareness. The ongoing battle of liberating ideas. That we will build a just and peaceful world. It is for those ideas that we keep fighting. We promise!"
Teresita Vicente, Cuban Ambassador, gave a moving tribute. "Today we know that over 200 million children sleep on the streets in the world. Not one of them is Cuban. Millions of people all over the world lack healthcare, lack education and lack social security. None of them are Cuban."
All of this had been achieved, she said, despite the fact that "Cuba has been under permanent attack and blockade for almost 60 years."
"We will continue with Cuban internationalism" she said. "Wherever a child will be without a school, there will be a Cuban educator. Wherever there is a child without medical attention, there will be a Cuban doctor. Internationalism, as defined by Fidel, is to pay off ours debt with humanity."
"We will struggle until the end of the immoral, illegal and criminal US blockade against our country. We will fight for the return of the illegally occupied territory at Guantanamo."
The Ambassador ended with "Viva la revolución! Viva Cuba! Viva Fidel!" and received huge a standing ovation.
Writer and historian Tariq Ali said, "What do we learn from Cuba? We learn patience. We learn don't give up. How many times has the West written off the Cuban Revolution? In our hearts you will live forever and the Cuban Revolution will last for a long time. We will never forget you. Hasta la victoria siempre!"
Culture has been at the heart of the Cuban revolution and musical contributions and poetry readings added to the atmosphere of the evening. Cuban violinist Omar Puente said "Gracias a Fidel" before giving a touching musical tribute to the Revolutionary leader. Later in the evening Asabi Hawah sang a moving version of 'Hasta La Victoria', a song from Dr Denise Baden's Fidel the Musical. Former Guardian journalist Victoria Brittain gave a beautiful reading of Cuban national poet Nicolás Guilléns "Tengo" ("I Have").
Rocío Maneiro, Venezuelan Ambassador, spoke on behalf of the ALBA countries in memory of Fidel. "Fidel is the son of Bolívar, the son of Jose Marti. He fought for social justice and independence for our lands. The dream of friendship, solidarity and integration is being made reality by Latin American countries who believe a better world is possible," she said.
Author Richard Gott paid tribute to Fidel's internationalism in Africa and his support for black civil rights movements in the US and his meetings with Malcom X and Angela Davis.
Lt Col Rui Goncalves of the Angolan Embassy said, "If it was not for Cuba, Angola would have fallen under the South African apartheid army - and I can honestly said that I wouldn't be standing here today." Cuba's support for Angola went beyond the military support, he said. "All my teachers when I was growing up were Cuban. Many doctors in Angola were Cuban. Fidel and Cuba helped our country in so many ways that we will forever be grateful for."
Richard Burgon MP gave a barnstorming speech which ended in a huge standing ovation. "I agree with Nelson Mandela's assessment of Fidel Castro, which is why I'm proud to be here tonight where we can reflect on Fidel's Castro's life, his contribution and living legacy. When I hear Fidel Castro, I'll always think of the doctors and nurses sent by Cuba to the poorest parts of our globe", the Shadow Justice Secretary said. "In the last week... many politicians and pundits have attacked Cuba. These politicians and pundits should be thankful that they've not had to defend their public services in the face of the longest, cruellest, illegal economic blockade in world history," he said.
Diana Holland, CSC Chair, read out a range of messages from the online book of condolence, including messages from the British trade union movement including Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary and Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, alongside a wide variety of messages of love and solidarity from all around the world. You can [read the messages and sign here]
Bernard Regan, CSC National Secretary, was the final speaker of the evening. He said: "The ignorance and prejudice of some of UK press against Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution has been scandalous. In Cuba they have real, participatory democracy, with the involvement of the trade unions, Federation of Cuban Women, the students, and other mass organisations. There is a world of work to be done. We need to challenge at every step of the way all the misinformation about Cuba in the British press. We need to redouble our efforts to stand in solidarity with Cuba and defend Cuban sovereignty. We will continue to campaign to end the US blockade of Cuba, we will continue to campaign to see the illegally occupied Guantanamo be returned to the people of Cuba. Viva Fidel! Viva Cuba!"
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