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Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
International Women's Day 2017:
Women at the Forefront of the Fight for the Rights of All and to Safeguard the Future of Society
International Women's Day 2017:
Celebrating International Women's Day
International Women's Day 2017:
WASPI Workers Lobby Parliament on International Women's Day
For An Anti-War Government!:
The Government's War Preparations and Membership of NATO Must Be Ended
Front of the March #OurNHS
Over 200,000, and some reports, including from the police, suggested closer to 250,000, took part in the massive march to declare that it is Our NHS, and its future must be safeguarded. Health care is a right and it must be guaranteed! Intensifying the fight means also working to establish a society in which the claims of the people are at the centre of considerations and the people decide.
The conviction and mass character of the demonstration not only were a tribute to the hard work and initiative which went into making it truly successful. They underlined its significance which may be looked back on as a turning point in fighting to safeguard the future of the health service. It embodied the sentiment of the health workers and people as a whole to have a human-centred NHS fit for a modern society. It is going to be very difficult to ignore in the coming period.
As the leaflet produced by Workers' Weekly for the occasion and distributed in large numbers said: "In building the movement to safeguard the future of the NHS in opposition to the government-led privatisation, cuts to services, downgrading of facilities and closure of vital hospitals and units, it is essential that the people keep the initiative in their own hands. This mass demonstration today is testament to this consciousness of the necessity to build a movement, to intensify the fight to safeguard the future of the NHS, to take it in a direction which affirms that health care is a right, and to hold the government to account for its programme of wrecking this precious public asset which ought to be the first priority of a modern society. This is the aim and sentiment of today's demonstration and rally for which Health Campaigns Together and a myriad of concerned forces and the people at large have worked so hard to build and make a powerful manifestation of the people's resistance."The mass march in London first of all rallied to speeches in Tavistock Square, close to the headquarters of the BMA (British Medical Association). The numbers just kept growing, and it was reported that when the head of the march had reached Parliament Square, there were still contingents who had not yet left Tavistock Square. There were people from all walks of life, from unions to grass roots campaigners and concerned people of all ages. In Parliament Square, there were many passionate speeches, including from Tony O'Sullivan and Dr Louise Irvine from Health Campaigns Together who co-chaired the rally. Jeremy Corbyn in his speech said: "The NHS is in crisis, in crisis because of the underfunding in social care and the people not getting the care and support they need. There are those waiting on trolleys and those who are desperate to get into an A&E department waiting hours for treatment. It is not the fault of the staff. It is the fault of a government who have made a political choice."
The demonstration with its rallies, march through the centre of London and all the speeches, represented a striking unity of the workers' and people's movements for a change in direction of the NHS, affirming the kind of society in which the right to health care is recognised. It put on the agenda the issue of turning that unity into a lasting victory for the people's forces. As RCPB(ML) said in its call to the demonstration: "It points to the future and a vision of a new health service which puts the people's health and social care, as well as the well-being of all health workers and professionals, at the centre of considerations."
Health Care Is a Right! Intensify the Fight! Whose NHS? Our NHS!
What Was Said
Speaking at the beginning of the opening rally as the Our NHS march assembled, Health Campaigns Together editor John Lister was first on the platform. He said:
"On behalf of Health Campaigns Together I want to thank all of those who have worked so hard for this: the demonstration committee, Peoples Assembly, Unite the union, the PCS and all the unions that have donated generously to make it happen."
"This march must not be an end, but a beginning. Of course we know that on its own it won't get us what we want. It's a beginning. What else must we do? We need a bigger, stronger, broader united campaign, to fight on till we win."
"Health Campaigns Together launched this demo and now we thank you for your support and urge everyone here to go on supporting us as we fight to make this movement even stronger across the country."
Professor Neena Modi, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:
The NHS has provided universal healthcare, free at the point of need, and funded through general taxation, a model that is as cost-effective, efficient, and visionary now as it was when it was founded in 1948. The NHS has also provided freedom from the crippling fear of the cost of injury and ill-health, and security for the healthcare of infants, children and the most vulnerable in our society. All this is now under threat.
The 4 March rally is a public cry of despair. UK health services need investment; they also need sound management and strong effective leadership, not the abrogation of responsibility and waste of public funds that have been incurred through the internal and widening external markets, Private Finance Initiative repayments, and poor decision-making at multiple levels.
The unhappy and growing tendency to regard healthcare as a commodity is not serving the people of the UK well. Markets tend to view disparagingly and not support investment that takes a long time to mature, such as that needed to progressively strengthen population health. The consequences of this shallow, short-sighted view are plain for all to see: a lost opportunity to build solid economic prosperity and national resilience built upon health. This is why the RCPCH is calling for cross party commitment to a publicly funded, delivered, and accountable health and care system as the essential starting point upon which to make UK health services once again the envy of the world.
Speaking at the closing rally in Parliament Square, Jeremy Corbynbegan by thanking health service workers for making the NHS what it is.
"If you're a doctor, a nurse, a porter, a technician, a cleaner - whatever you do in the health service - thank you because every day you contribute to what is the most civilized institution in this country."
"Every person waiting in A&E. Every person on a trolley in a corridor. Every student nurse forced to visit a food bank to make ends meet. Every elderly person denied the care they need. Every time that is a political choice. It is this Government saying tax cuts for the few are more important than the dignity and care of the many in their time of need."
"The NHS is in crisis not because of overspending but because of under-funding - a crisis made in Downing Street. It's not the fault of the staff, it's the fault of a government that has made a political choice."
"Our NHS is not in crisis because of overspending; it is in crisis because of underfunding."
Jeremy Corbyn also vowed to protect the values of the NHS and said: "Defending the NHS is defending a basic human value and a basic human right".
International Women's Day 2017 was marked by women throughout the world fighting to safeguard and guarantee the rights of all and to build a new society based on placing the human being at the centre of all considerations. Women around the world are taking a stand to affirm their rights and are taking their place at the front and centre of the struggle against imperialism, war, oppression and exploitation, as a necessary condition for the establishment of the New. As a consequence, women are at the forefront in the struggle for democratic renewal where the rights of all are recognised simply by virtue that all are human, and where the only guarantee of establishing women's dignity, security and future lies in taking up the fight for the rights of all.
Whilst the society is attempting to destroy all that has been established in terms of social programmes and the protection of basic human rights, women are playing a crucial role in fighting this anti-social agenda and are establishing the conditions for them to take their place in all spheres of society. It is becoming clear that women are very much doing their own thinking and are intent on becoming the decision-makers. In the areas such as health, education, and the anti-war movement, women are becoming more political and are exposing the status quo and fighting, not just against the dismantling of the NHS or the privatisation of education, but for a vision of a new society, one which demands a change in the direction of the whole society, and where they have a decisive say in the running of society.
At this point, with the society in the hands of the most backward elements, and the intensification of the attacks against women in all spheres, and indeed, against the whole of society, it is all the more important that we affirm the role and the stands that women are heroically taking today in Britain and around the world.
Women as a collective are a force in society who are taking up and leading the fight to defend the rights of all. Women lead the fight to defend the NHS, women are at the forefront of the anti-war movement and in fighting for an anti-war government, and women are demanding that social programmes be defended and placed centre stage. Women are showing what it means to be political by being at the forefront of the various struggles being waged. Women are at the forefront and the centre in all aspects, and women are taking their place as second to none.
Women are at the forefront of fighting the ever greater privatisation and the attempts to implement stringent austerity programmes. So whilst women bear the brunt of these programmes, they are also the ones who are fighting for a change in the direction of society to stop these programmes in their tracks and to organise for an alternative. Whilst more women are working part-time, and jobs held by women are more likely to be paid less than the minimum wage, whilst the cost of renting and mortgages have gone up from between 20% and 30% in the last three years in Britain, resulting in a marked increase in homelessness and poverty amongst women, it is also a feature of the growing consciousness of women throughout the society that this is not acceptable in a modern society, that they must demand their say and their place at the table of decision-making. They are coming to the conclusion that a better world is possible. At the same time, they are becoming ever more conscious that as a vital and pressing step to achieve this better world, they must also be at the forefront of the struggle for empowerment. How to hold the government and the powers-that-be to account is demanding new forms, and women are putting this development on the agenda, as the people's movements strive to remove the blocks to the progress of society which the ruling elite is placing in the way of women in common with the working class and people's movement as a whole.
Women are fighting for a just society and in all areas they are taking a just stand. Women are showing what their right to be actually is, and are showing that it is consistent with opening the door to progress, to a new society. They are declaring that once the rights of women are guaranteed, only then it will be possible to celebrate the emancipation of the whole of humanity!
To celebrate International Women's Day this year and to honour the continuing tradition of over a hundred years of marking this day, RCPB(ML) in London held a dinner on March 8. This had been organised as a component part of the Party's programme for 2017. Those participating exchanged experiences, and deepened their unity in affirming the rights of women and their inseparable connection with bringing in the New. It was resolved to work towards a significant event in 2018 marking International Women's Day, as part of the stand of women in taking hold of their rightful role at the forefront and centre of the fight for the rights of all.
WASPI, the Women Against State Pension Inequality, held a national demonstration at Westminster opposite the Houses of Parliament on March 8, International Women's Day, which was also Budget Day. Groups and individual supporters from all over the country attended. Many wore black with a sash and a WASPI T-shirt.
The changes to the state pension affect some women born in the 1950s as part of the move to equalise pension ages for men and women, not to 60 but to 65. However, many were not warned that it would effect them, so were left worse off and with little time to prepare for it, say the WASPI campaigners. The changes are a violation of the right to a decent pension in retirement for all women, as well as being a component part of the attack on the pension rights of all working people.
Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement that the changes are a "betrayal of tens of thousands of women who had planned for their retirement based on the 1995 legislation". See the full statement below.
On the previous day, March 7, Chi Onwurah, the shadow minister for industrial strategy, presented a petition to parliament from the WASPI women of Newcastle, also signed by many men, urging the government to think again on the changes which are affecting women financially. She highlighted how these changes disproportionately affect working-class women of that generation, who are more likely to have started work at 15, more likely to be in manual trades, which take a greater toll on the body as it ages, more likely to die younger and less likely to have private pensions. She said, "There are many such women in Newcastle and across the country who wish to highlight the hardship, stress and worry they face as a consequence." See the full text of the petition below.
It should also be noted that the Pensions Act 2014 denies pension increases to anyone who decides for whatever reason to retire to a country not approved by the government. Countries without such approval include most Commonwealth countries, where the majority of emigrants choose to live to join family already there or for health reasons.
Commenting on the operation of the Pensions Acts, Dave Prentis, Unison's general secretary said: "No-one should have lost out financially because of changes they weren't told about. The government should stop looking the other way and come up with a plan that compensates the millions of women hit by the move. Women who've retired or who are nearing retirement shouldn't be experiencing financial hardship through no fault of their own. Had ministers been more on the ball at the time, the women could have put aside extra money to see them through into their old age. International Women's Day is the perfect opportunity for the government to put right this historic pensions wrong."
"A betrayal of tens of thousands of women" - Corbyns message to WASPI protesters
This is Jeremy Corbyn's full statement to the WASPI women campaigning on International Women's Day.
My best wishes and International Women's Day greetings to everyone supporting today's WASPI lobby.
You are highlighting a grave injustice. The Coalition Government's decision to move the goalposts, by bringing the equalisation of the state pension age forward by a further two years to 2018, was plain wrong.
It was a betrayal of tens of thousands of women who had planned for their retirement based on the 1995 legislation.
It was justified by claims Britain needed a dose of austerity - yet at the same time tax cuts worth billions have been given to big companies and the very wealthy.
Today, we can expect the Chancellor to boast that the economy is doing better than expected. But will he do anything to right this wrong? I very much doubt it.
Labour is already committed to extending Pension Credit to help those worst hit by this callous change.
We are also developing solutions for those affected who would not be entitled to Pension Credit. And we will continue to consult with WASPI and others on this as part of our planning for government.
I am sorry I cannot join you today. I will be in the Chamber of the House of Commons for the Budget statement, ready to respond.
My speech will challenge the Government's policy of endless austerity for the many, alongside generous tax giveaways for their wealthy and privileged friends.
My thoughts are with you today. I congratulate you on your stand and look forward to working with you to achieve justice.
Leader of the Labour Party
Petition - Implementation of the 1995 and 2011 Pension Acts
The petition of residents of Newcastle Upon Tyne Central,
Declares that as a result of the way in which the 1995 Pension Act and the 2011 Pension Act were implemented, women born in the 1950s (on or after 6 April 1951) have unfairly borne the burden of the increase to the State Pension Age;
further that hundreds of thousands of women have had significant changes imposed on them with little or no personal notice;
further that implementation took place faster than promised;
further that this gave no time to make alternative pension plans;
and further that retirement plans have been shattered with devastating consequences.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to make fair transitional arrangements for all women born in the 1950s (on or after 6 April 1951) who have unfairly borne the burden of the increase to the State Pension Age.
The government has recently announced what it refers to as its International Defence Engagement Strategy as part of its overall attempts to make Britain's "defence policy international by design". The strategy is part of the government's aim to establish a "Global Britain" as the country leaves the EU and means that the interventionist approach which has been favoured by previous governments will be developed still further. "Defence engagement" essentially entails increased collaboration or interference with other countries, depending on their relative military strength, integrating other armed forces with those of Britain's, enabling the government to intervene globally as the need arises. The Strategy report explains, "as we leave the EU we will be more prominent on the world stage than ever". In short it is a strategy of global intervention and interference which maintains the orientation of successive pro-war governments, a commitment to invest in war preparations and the enslaving "international aid", which is used as a subsidy for the big monopolies and a means to intervene in the economic affairs of poorer countries.
As it prepares to leave the EU the government is trying to create a rationale both for increased intervention in the affairs of other countries and to enhance its leadership role in the warmongering NATO alliance, the Anglo-American led United Nations Security Council and through various bilateral and multilateral agreements. Another key part of the strategy is to work more closely with the big armaments monopolies in order, through the export of arms, to establish close military, economic and diplomatic connections with other countries and strengthen the interests and influence of Britain's rulers throughout the world. At the same time, the report makes clear that what the government presents as humanitarian intervention, such as Britain's participation in the UN Prevention of Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative, are part of a wider strategy of global intervention for the same interests and influence. In the language of big powers there is the employment of both "hard" and "soft" power to achieve interventionist aims. The government's report makes much of the efforts to develop influence and intervention in certain areas, particularly in West Africa, the Gulf region and the Asia-Pacific area. It highlights, for example, the sabre-rattling activities of the RAF in collaboration with the US Air Force in South Korea last year. While in West Africa the report stresses that the British military has strengthened its neo-colonial "training and advisory support" in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, allegedly to assist in countering the threat of Boko Haram. In addition, under the auspices of the UN, British troops are also in Sudan and Somalia, while "special forces" are deployed in many countries throughout the world. The British military also co-operates with France in a Combined Joint Expeditionary force and with Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore in the Five Powers Defence Arrangements. Military co-operation agreements also exist with other Commonwealth countries and with the Gulf Co-operation Council members.
The most important aspect of the government's strategy to defend and advance the interests of the big monopolies and financial institutions is its continuing membership of the warmongering NATO alliance, which is provoking and attempting to bully Russia by placing troops along its western border. As part of this encirclement, which is a manifestation of the contention between the big powers to control Europe and dominate Asia, the government boasts that it is leading both the NATO Response Force and the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force this year; that along with France and Denmark it is sending an entire battle-group to Estonia and supporting the US battle-group deployed in Poland. The British armed forces will take part in sabre-rattling NATO exercises throughout the Baltic States and Poland, as well as in Romania. In addition, Britain is taking the lead in the development of Joint Expeditionary Force, alongside Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and the Baltic States that can act as part of NATO and independently. In recent weeks, Britain's Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, has been robust in his defence of the importance of NATO, has reiterated the government's opposition to any EU military force, and has re-emphasised the government's bellicose attitude towards Russia. In the past, Britain and other NATO member used the situation in Ukraine as a rationale for their attitude towards Russia, while more recently they are raising the issue of alleged cyber-attacks. The government prides itself on being the closest ally of US imperialism within NATO and one of only a few countries meeting the US imposed target of 2% of GDP spent on war preparations.
As well as its pre-occupation with Russia, at the latest NATO summit there were also discussions on strengthening NATO's "Southern flank", a euphemism for much of the rest of the world. In this regard, the government was particularly keen to strengthen NATO's "training and capacity building" activity in Iraq but there was also an announcement that the organisation would provide "training" and "security support" for the armed forces of the Libyan government of Fayez al-Sarraj, the faction that has the support of Britain and its allies. Already commentators are pointing out that such a commitment is likely to lead to a greater deployment of NATO ground forces in Libya, since the so-called Government of National Accord controls very little Libyan territory and is opposed by other forces such as the Libyan National Army, which has the backing of Egypt and the UAE. Most significantly it also has the support of Russia. It was in this context that Michael Fallon recently issued his threat to Russia to keep its "paws" out of Libya. Speaking as if Libya was somehow a British colony he warned that Russia's interest in Libya was a direct threat to the NATO alliance.
The continuing membership of NATO and alliance with US imperialism, war preparations and subservience to the interests of the armaments monopolies are propelling Britain on a dangerous course, contributing to global instability and the increasing danger of world war. All this is done without even the consent of parliament, much less the people of Britain and presented as if it is vital for the defence of "British values" or "national security and defence". In short it is done in such a way as to deprive the people of any knowledge of what is being done in their name and depriving them of any decision-making power. All this points to the urgent need to find the means to deprive the imperialists and warmongers of this power to deprive the people of their decision-making power, to find the means to establish an anti-war government.
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