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Crucial Issues of War and Peace:
Britain Must Get Out of NATO
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
Together let us chart a new path!:
Successful Holding of Birmingham Political Forum on the Future of Society
Together let us chart a new path!:
Building the movement of the working class
The Pride of Durham
Crucial Issues of War and Peace:
It has recently been announced that British troops have been deployed in Estonia, as part of a major NATO sabre-rattling exercise aimed at Russia. In total eight hundred British troops will be deployed in the country, in what is described as the largest military exercise in Eastern Europe in decades. British troops will work with those from France and Denmark and, according to the Ministry of Defence, will "provide a proportionate, defensive and combat-capable force to defend our NATO ally and deter any form of hostile activity against the alliance". The deployment is part of the NATO's "Enhanced Forward Presence" battalion which includes a considerably strengthened NATO military presence in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland involving a leading role for US, Canadian, and German troops, warplanes and armoured vehicles. In addition, there are reports that US, British and other special forces are engaged in "training" and other activities in the Baltic States.
In short thousands of troops will be permanently stationed in the countries bordering or neighbouring Russia, a clear indication that the aim is part of a provocative encirclement of Russia reminiscent of the cordon sanitaire favoured by representatives of British and French imperialism following the Russian Revolution in 1917. Indeed, Britain's military relationship with Estonia dates to 1918, when the Royal Navy was despatched to make sure that Estonia remained independent of Soviet Russia. For its part, Estonia is one of only a few countries that have met the NATO "defence" target of 2% of GDP, alongside Poland, Greece, Britain and the US. It is believed that Romania will also meet this target this year and Lithuania and Latvia, the other two Baltic states, next year. Following the recent Warsaw summit, NATO members have pledged an increase of some $10 billion to war preparations.
Commenting on the 2017 deployment the Minister of Defence, Michael Fallon, turned truth on its head when he stated, 'in the face of an increasingly assertive Russia, NATO is stepping up its commitment to collective defence.' In fact, it is NATO that continues to provoke Russia, since in addition to the deployment in north eastern Europe, the warmongering alliance has just commenced its twice yearly major military exercise known as Joint Warrior, which is also aimed against Russia. For the next two weeks, the military forces of Britain, the US, Estonia, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Norway, Spain and Sweden, involving thousands of personnel, will collaborate in war preparations that are co-ordinated from one of the Royal Navy's bases in Scotland. A much-trumpeted part of these exercises is concerned with "cyber-war games" and, apparently, the use of artificial intelligence to allow warships and submarines to operate automatically. Referred to as "Information Warrior 17" the Royal Navy has stated that such exercises will "set the foundation" for cyber-warfare in the future.
In a related development, NATO has announced that it plans to spend £2.6 billion upgrading its satellite and computing technology over the next three years. Such spending has been justified by the constant stream of propaganda that Russia has launched cyber-attacks against NATO members including Britain. The increased spending will therefore include strengthening defence against such cyber-attacks as well as increased investment in drone warfare. NATO's Communications and Information Agency (NCIA) announced that it will put forty new contracts out to tender in the coming period and referred to "these business opportunities" ahead of the NCIA Industry Conference in Canada next month. A key aim of the conference will be to "expand NATO's industry partnerships". Similar opportunities were presented to the armaments monopolies in 2016.
The NATO war preparations are clearly part of a major provocation against Russia which now has thousands of openly hostile military forces from seventeen different countries deployed on its north-eastern borders, as well as in Romania and Bulgaria. Such a build-up cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered defensive on the part of NATO. At the same time, an increasing amount of the wealth generated by the working people is being spent on armaments and war preparations, illustrating the extremely close links which exist between governments and the armaments manufacturers. In these extremely dangerous circumstances, as the world becomes increasingly unstable there is an urgent need for the working class and all peace-loving people to raise their voices and step up their struggles in order to create the conditions for an anti-war government. Such a government would withdraw from NATO, cease all war preparations and expenditure on war, and remove all British troops from other countries and all foreign troops and bases from Britain. It would commit itself to defending the interests of the working people of Britain, and of all countries.
On the initiative of RCPB(ML), a successful Political Forum on the Future of Society was held in Birmingham in the West Midlands on March 25.
The Political Forum raised important questions facing the political and social movements in society, especially the workers' movement, the movement to safeguard the future of the health service and the other social programmes, and the movement for democratic renewal.
The Birmingham Political Forum had the character of giving priority to the independent programme of the working class, and encouraging everyone to participate in the discussions on that basis. In the course of this, various views were given and were vigorously discussed. Much thought went into what was said, and the discussion on the papers presented revealed some of the important problems that face the workers' movement and the building of the unity of class conscious workers.
Here we reproduce the presentation given on the workers' movement.
The West Country Political Forum on the Future of Society will be held in Exeter on Saturday, May 20, from 11.00am to 5.00pm.
For further details, and to register to participate, please email: email@example.com
The need for the workers' movement to
develop its own programme, with its own
independent politics, defending the rights of the working class and the rights of all
The first question I would like to pose is why is it that the independent role of the working class is important? Indeed, what is meant by the programme of the working class, with its own independent politics? One could say that the independent role of the working class means that it should consciously take on the task of building the new society, and building its own institutions, material, spiritual and in every other way.
We say in the elaboration of the aims of these Political Forums that the times are crying out for the working class and people to take control of the future of society. One way of looking at Brexit was the issue of taking control, but workers have to face the reality that if anything the situation has got worse, because the ruling elite has taken the result to mean that they are in control, which means they wreck and privatise. So the workers have got to take up this task, which involves defending the rights of all workers, and especially looking at the question of the alternative which the working class is presenting, as well as constituting themselves the nation in Scotland, Wales and England.
Workers are capable of taking up this task. They are capable of building their own political party which has the orientation of, as we say in our Party song, directing the blows of the working class's clenched fist. The workers need no condescending saviours to achieve the necessary control.
It could be said also that this Political Forum here today in Birmingham is also a starting point. It is part of the process of the working class achieving its own thinking, analysis and action, and consolidating its allies in the people's movements round it. We shall eventually work out the strategy and tactics to raise the consciousness of the movement, putting the full weight of its traditional and new organisation behind that consciousness and wage the class struggle in Britain to not only defend all of the rights of the people but also for it to achieve control.
There are two sides to the relation called capital. The outdated and anti-worker capital-centred economics denies what belongs to workers by right, their claim for wages, benefits and pensions on the new value they reproduce at a level determined by themselves. The modern working class is developing its social consciousness of itself as the essential human factor in production, producing all the value the economy, people and society need for their existence. The historic problem workers face is how to transform themselves, the actual producers, into the social class that controls production and the socialised economy with a human-centred aim to serve the well-being and security of the people and society.
Take the question of pensions. There are many rights but one in particular is a right that workers are faced with across the board and that is the right of seniors, workers in old age. So I would specifically like to take up this issue as you know our fellow workers at BMW have been taking up at present. Workers in production sustain themselves as well as the pensions and benefits of those who have retired or not in work, as well as producing value on top of that, added value, that gets claimed by the owners of the means of production and by the government.
Yet companies like Tata Steel, whose British pension fund is set to be spun off in a move that will ring-fence the business from future financial burdens flowing from the retirement scheme. They want to close their £15bn scheme to future accruals, with members getting smaller payouts. Pensions have been a regular issue for Tata Jaguar too and many other monopolies and multi-national companies operating here in Birmingham.
Meanwhile Tata's workers have been left out of much of the decision-making - most of which has been happening 4,500 miles away in Mumbai. In BMW's case their decisions have also been made behind closed doors and in Germany.
Now it is said that Vauxhall pensions 'could scupper GM Peugeot sale'. Vauxhall's pension scheme is one of the largest in the UK, with 15,000 members. With half of the members ex-worker pensioners. Stealing workers pensions have been frequent since Robert Maxwell and today with Philip Green after the BHS closure.
Car workers have a right to their claims in the form of wages when active, and in the form of pensions when retired, by virtue of being the producers of this added-value during their working lives. Other, competing, claims on this added-value are taxes by the government and the claims of the owners of capital, profits in various forms.
From the narrow perspective of BMW, it sees contributions to its defined-benefit pension funds as a drain on its bottom-line profit, despite its record figures. It therefore aims to turn away from its social responsibility to its active and retired workers in pursuit of its narrow private interests driven by competition.
There are challenges facing a modern manufacturing sector throughout the countries of Britain, but the economic problems are solvable. Yet workers are being asked to bear an ever increasing burden for issues and problems that stem from the outmoded system of private control of the modern forces of production that are fully socialised. The refusal to recognise the fundamental contradiction ripping apart the socialised economy is obscured by presenting problems and the recurring economic crises as natural phenomena, the so-called invisible hand of the market that will eventually sort everything out once it has driven down the working and living conditions of the working class and wrecked entire sectors, economies and communities. Meanwhile, the collusion and contention amongst the global oligopolies for profit, domination and empire is driving the world towards a catastrophic economic crisis and another world war.
For the working class a new pro-social direction for the economy is not only necessary but possible. There is a starting point in the here and now. The working class is determined to have relations of production wherein workers can hold their employers to account for a decent standard wages, benefits, pensions and working conditions. It needs its defence organisations, but it also needs a government based on laws and not on the naked powers of the state. This, for example, is the issue at stake with the Trade Union Act. It purports to be a legal, regulatory document, but in reality it represents the powers-that-be attempting to make the actions of the workers in defence of their rights ineffective, and not able to hold their employers and the monopolies and oligopolies to account for their stepped up exploitation and destruction of the economy. Yet the working class is determined to be able to hold the ruling elite to account for a pro-social direction of the economy and a guarantee of the rights of all, rights which they hold by virtue of being human. Organised, united and determined, the working people can open a new pro-social direction for themselves and the economy.
Within the situation, the industrial workers, the steel workers, the car workers and others are struggling for the unity and dignity of themselves and for the whole working class. At the same time, the working class must organise its forces in themselves, to build the working class on a conscious basis, building its institutions, and advancing its social consciousness to meet its historic obligations to bring into being a new direction for the economy that resolves the basic contradiction between its social nature and private control. Theirs is the future, where they put their stamp on the nation, and take the lead in making the people sovereign and the decision-makers. They are the ones who know how to run the country. This independent movement of the working class must come to the fore.
What must be the next step? What is on workers' minds as to how their struggle for the alternative can be effective? This demands the conscious participation of each and all in the workers' movement. The times demand that the workers build their opposition and become organised as an effective independent political force in their own right. It is this question that demands serious discussion here at the Political Forum. Not the least, the question of establishing a Workers' Centre is a necessary item on the agenda for class-conscious workers.
Eventually a mass working class movement points to the crucial requirement for the workers to give rise to their own worker-politicians, who oppose the monopoly dictate and become champions of a human-centred society. Such a movement can challenge the anti-worker, anti-social, pro-war character of the present system of government. It can put on the agenda the aim of democratic renewal of the political system, politicising and enabling the people to raise their level of participation in the political life of the country and ending the domination of the big-party cartel at Westminster, which is already being challenged.
Its demands will need to centre around: an economy that guarantees the right to a livelihood; the right to health care and education.
The national economy is to be developed not to serve maximum profit of the rich who take more out of the economy than they put in, but to serve the claims of the people on society. Whose economy should it be? It should be our economy!
To achieve this, to make this a reality, the working class movement has to grasp in a profound way that it needs its own leadership, thinking, organisations and institutions that are strong enough to deprive the ruling imperialist elite of their power to deprive the people of their rights. The social responsibility to make this happen rests with the working class and its leadership.
Workers in all sectors, and of all nationalities and political views, must unite and oppose the attempts of the class enemy to divide them by setting one section against another. They must not hand the initiative to any other force, but must constitute themselves as a united opposition in the workplaces, colleges and communities, discussing among themselves to decide everything. We must and will discuss and affirm what steps are needed!
March 26, 2017 - Wendy Errington
They did themselves, their kids and their communities proud. The Lions of Durham marched in full voice on Saturday 25 March ~ from the centre of the city ~ over the River Wear ~ up to the Miners' Hall.
Hundreds of teaching assistants (TAs) from County Durham, known as the Durham Lions, were joined by hundreds and hundreds of supporters from all around the country. A massive show of solidarity. A massive message to the 57 Labour councillors who have threatened dismissal and a pay cut of up to 23% - that "it ain't over yet!"
For 18 months the TAs have battled. And still Durham County Council (DCC) is dragging its heels. For 18 months the TAs and their families have had this dispute hanging over their heads.
The march through Durham took about 40 minutes, with Saturday shoppers wishing them well. The TAs' banner led the way, closely followed by the Durham Miners' Association's (DMA) Men of Merit banner, bearing the name and face of the late General Secretary: Dave Hopper. Davey was instrumental in taking the TAs under their wing. The association of miners knows only too well what it feels like to be threatened and vilified.
Other banners representing ATL, Unite, NUT, Unison, RMT, Momentum, and many more snaked behind - people with banners from e.g., London, Derby, Doncaster and Newcastle. And of course the TAs were recognisable, wearing their white, blue and yellow t-shirts, with #ValueUs emblazoned on the back. The highlight though had to be a young lad supporting the march with his Dad. He stood at a crossroads chanting: "Who are ya? What do you want? When do you want it?" - No megaphone needed; waiting for the appropriate responses.
Eventually the Miners' Hall at Redhills was in sight. And what a sight. A huge, red brick building with a sweeping drive. I get goose pimples every time I walk towards it and take a pew in the magnificent hall. Those walls have heard some words, debates, conversations and speeches.
The rally had an impressive line-up of 11 speakers - six union reps, four TAs... and class warrior Dave Ayre. All orators. Every one held my attention; every one speaking with conviction and compassion; every one with a strong message to DCC; every one bringing the sting of a tear to my eyes... and bringing the audience to its feet. That's a rally!
Negotiations have been on and off for a year and a half, with the TAs taking strike action last autumn. What a toll on people's physical and mental health. As Dave Ayre rightly said: "It's mental torture." There does appear to be a "handle" on talks again last week. But Dave Ayre's wisdom should be heeded - "handles can fall off" and a "spare handle" of taking direct action should be kept at the ready.
Overall the mood of the rally was upbeat and uplifting. With one of the guests, Kevin Courtney (Gen Sec NUT) speaking of the value of TAs; victory; reiterating that education needs investment not cuts and that low paid workers are not a soft target. He reflected the tone of the others and the audience. A nod was given to the TAs from Derby, who have had a similar struggle, and a standing ovation showed appreciation of the contingent's presence in the hall. Megan Charlton, Secretary of the TAs' committee, said the Lions had taken their lead from the miners and a healthy disregard for authority and their name from the workers at Grunwick - the original Lions. Another TA on the committee, Lisa Turnbull, spoke of the TAs having the power of "Bounce Backability." Stronger together is the message I heard throughout the rally. Close to one thousand supporters on Saturday heard it too and echoed it by joining in with Dave Ayre singing: We Shall Overcome. Lisa was right, memories are made of such days.
So, come on Labour councillors play your part now and show the people of Durham County that you value their children's futures... and therefore value the TAs who teach the children and who contribute to the growth of our region. Do yourselves proud DCC and stay true to the Labour movement.
And if TAs you ever waiver, then I hope the energy and support from the whole afternoon was bottled and stored to boost you. The finish line is near. Collective voices will be heard. Victory is justifiably yours.
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