|Volume 47 Number 8, April 8, 2017||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
For Your Information:
Jeremy Corbyn statement on US air strikes on a Syrian air base
For Your Information:
No to Trump's attacks on Syria No to British support
BMW Workers Vote to Strike over their Right to a Decent Pension
NHS "5 Year Forward View":
The Rationing of Health care and the Delaying of Operations Should Not Be Happening in a Modern Society
RCPB(ML) condemns in the strongest terms the military attack launched by the government of the United States on the sovereign territory of Syria on April 6. During the attack, fifty-nine Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles were launched from U.S. navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean targeting aircraft, aircraft shelters, fuel and other storage, ammunition, air defence systems, and radar at the Shayrat Airfield in Homs province. There can be no justification for such a unilateral use of force by one country against another. The military action was not sanctioned by the Security Council of the United Nations, was contrary to the UN Charter and international law and must therefore be considered a criminal act. The support for this warmongering activity by the British government and its allies must also be strongly condemned. According to reports, the actions of the US government resulted in the deaths of five soldiers and nine civilians, four of them children, from nearby villages hit by the missiles.
The US, Britain and their allies are attempting to justify this attack on the sovereignty of Syria by asserting that it was undertaken in response to the deaths of civilians at Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 from the use of chemical weapons. They claim the government of Syria was responsible for launching these attacks, although no evidence has been produced to substantiate such claims. The governments of Syria and Russia, on the other hand, state that the Syrian military forces from the Shayrat Airfield bombed an arms depot belonging to terrorist forces in Syria, those who are known to be supported by the US and Britain. It was the bombing of this target that appears to have released the chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons of any kind must also be condemned in the strongest terms. Previous UN investigations in Syria have pointed to their use by those opposed to the Syrian government. What must also be of the greatest concern on this occasion is that US president Donald Trump was so eager to resort to unilateral military action without any investigation as to the facts, even when the evidence suggests that it is those supported by the US and its allies who have in the past been guilty of storing and using chemical weapons.
The British government has shown itself to be the greatest ally of the US in this criminal activity, which conveniently took place while the EU was hosting its Brussels Conference on "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region". At that conference, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson once again demanded regime change in Syria, as if Britain and the other big powers should decide on the future of that country. Since that time, the British government has used the pretext of the terrible deaths of Syrian civilians at Khan Sheikhoun to launch further provocations against Russia, one of the main supporters of the Syrian government. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon blamed Russia for the civilian deaths, while Johnson cancelled his planned visit to Moscow, vowed to coordinate an anti-Russian coalition at the imminent G7 summit, and demanded that Russia stop supporting Syria or its military officials would face further sanctions. This coordinated activity by the US, Britain and their allies appears designed to weaken Syria's successful military offensive against so-called ISIL, at a time of increased deployment of US ground troops in the country, and to create the conditions for a renewed political offensive against Syria and its closest allies. For their part, Russia and Iran have demanded an investigation into events at Khan Sheikhoun, but also announced that they will retaliate with force to any further aggression against Syria.
RCPB(ML) calls on all people to condemn the criminal actions of the US government and vigorously oppose the warmongering actions of the British government and the dangerous escalation of military force and provocation.
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, speaking in response to the US air strikes on a Syrian air base, said on April 7:
The US missile attack on a Syrian government air base risks escalating the war in Syria still further.
Tuesday's horrific chemical attack was a war crime which requires urgent independent UN investigation and those responsible must be held to account.
But unilateral military action without legal authorisation or independent verification risks intensifying a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people.
What is needed instead is to urgently reconvene the Geneva peace talks and unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement of the conflict.
The terrible suffering of the Syrian people must be brought to an end as soon as possible and every intervention must be judged on what contribution it makes to that outcome.
The British government should urge restraint on the Trump administration and throw its weight behind peace negotiations and a comprehensive political settlement.
Call for Emergency Protest at Downing Street, April, 7 2017
The Stop the War Coalition condemns Donald Trump's decision to launch attacks against Syrian targets. This action will only increase the level of killing in Syria, and inflame the terrible war that has already caused untold misery for the people of the country.
This is the worst possible way to respond to the indefensible attack at Khan Sheikhun. As well as deepening the tragedy of the Syrian people, this utterly irresponsible act threatens to widen the war and lead the West into military confrontation with Russia.
It is shameful that Theresa May has rushed to support this act by the most xenophobic and reactionary US president in history.
Stop the War calls for protests today against this or any further attacks and against British support or participation. The protest in London will take place today at Downing Street from 5 to 7pm.
BMW workers have stepped up their defence of their final-salary pension scheme, as part of the struggle to defend pension rights for all, through an overwhelming vote for strike action.
Unite members were balloted across four plants: Cowley in Oxford, Goodwood near Chichester, Hams Hall near Birmingham and Swindon. On a turnout of 72%, 93% of members voted to strike and 97% for other forms of industrial action. Eight 24-hour strikes, along with a work-to-rule and an overtime ban have now been announced, starting on Wednesday, April 19, which will involve up to 3,500 workers. The strikes will be the first ever to be held at BMWs British sites.
BMW needs to reflect on this extraordinary vote in favour of industrial action and the real possibility that its UK workforce will strike for the first time under its ownership in the coming weeks, said Unite general secretary Len McCluskey. It wont be a step which will be taken lightly, but the vote in favour of action shows a determination by workers who have contributed massively to BMWs record revenues to stand up for their pensions.
Tony Murphy, Unites national officer for the automotive industries, said: This massive vote in favour of action demonstrates the depth of anger among BMW workers over the carmakers pensions robbery.
BMWs UK workforce has worked hard to help deliver record profits, he added, in a reference to last years reported profit of £5.7bn, which saw a £1.8bn dividend handed to shareholders. We would urge BMW bosses to recognise the strength of feeling by negotiating meaningfully over keeping the pension scheme open and honouring their pensions promises.
Such figures, which are themselves just a fraction of the total claims of various owners of capital on the massive product of BMW workers in Britain, might be thought to be cause for celebration and help guarantee the workers pensions. Yet it is apparently still an inadequate return for BMW, whose spokeswoman Sarah Heaney said: BMW Group has always prided itself in providing excellent pensions for its staff and wants to act now to protect future pension provision for all its staff and to help improve the cost-competitiveness of the UK as a manufacturing base.
This is not the first time in recent years that BMW has been attacking the claims and conditions of workers in the name of competitiveness. In April 2012, a series of productivity drives to increase the companys rate of return by getting more out of the workers for less led to a dispute at the Cowley Mini plant, which even then was producing 200,000 cars per year. This took the form of effectively lengthening the working day through an 11-minute reduction in their morning and afternoon breaks. At the time, in a 9-hour 15-minute shift, employees had combined paid breaks of 53 minutes excluding their unpaid lunch break. At the same time, the company aimed to intensify production by keeping tracks running while workers went to the toilet or took breaks.
Workers at the Cowley plant are again at the centre of the dispute, and have been holding demonstrations at the factory gates. Speaking at one protest, Regional Officer at Unite Fred Hanna said: The disruption today is about our members showing support and solidarity to keep us together across the four plants.
Retired Arshad Khan, a former employee of 33 years said: I am feeling for my colleagues who have worked there for many years and have paid so much pension money which they are not going to get back. It is a betrayal from BMW. There is a lot of support for strike action in and around the plant. We would like to have industrial action.
Discussions with BMW are not going very well at the moment, said Stefan Danger, a current worker nearing retirement. The strength of feeling is very strong here today and it is a good turnout. I am nearly there, looking forward to my pension and before we know it the rug has been pulled up from under our feet. I do support industrial action. There has been very much overwhelming support for it so far.
Thirty workers from the four plants also travelled to Munich in Germany to protest outside the BMW headquarters.
BMW workers voted for strike action because they are fighting for the rights of all. On the basis that an injury to one is an injury to all, workers refuse the propaganda of division coming from the company, which argues that only some workers are affected. They are also rejecting the divisive tactic of the offer of a one-off payment of £7,000, ridiculed as a drop in the ocean by the union when compared to retirement income losses of up to £160,000 in some cases. Workers know that when they fight for pensions, it is for the entire class, as pensions are a right under attack from all sides, whether they are final-salary schemes or otherwise, including state pensions. Workers have a right to dignity while working and in old age. Workers today are fighting both for the pensions that all want and need, and to defend the pensions we have.
See also: "BMW Workers Act to Fight for their Pensions", Workers' Weekly Vol. 47 No.3, February 25, 2017, http://www.rcpbml.org.uk/wwie-17/ww17-03/ww17-03-02.htm
Simon Stevens, NHS England's chief executive, announced on March 31 that the NHS is significantly relaxing the requirement on hospitals to treat, within 18 weeks, 92% of patients in England who are waiting for a hip or knee replacement, cataract removal, hernia repair or other "non-urgent operation". He claimed that rolling back the target, which has stood for the past ten years, was necessary so that hospitals could "concentrate on more urgent priorities", particularly in terms of "easing the strain on overloaded A&E departments, as well as enhancing access to GPs and improving the treatment of cancer and mental health care."
However, not only does the announcement expose the incoherence of the NHS policy objectives announced by government and NHS alike, but also the whole aim of wrecking the national system of health and social care in England in favour of the privatisation of care and the interests of private providers.
Firstly, this latest announcement starkly contradicts an earlier policy objective that was so prominently promoted by the Government - especially in relation to the junior doctors' dispute - for hospitals to operate elective care seven days a week to purportedly reduce waiting lists and improve patient survival rates from operations. Of course, the reality was entirely the opposite. Rather than put in the investment necessary to achieve 7-day elective care, the government continued its massive cuts, which have pushed hospitals to the brink of disaster over recent months.
Secondly, NHS England's "5 Year Forward View" launched in 2014 outlines how it intends to transform healthcare by 2020, with strong hints that greater rationing of some types of care was imminent. The plan refers to a system where more patients will be offered online advice, where GPs are being expected to refer fewer people to hospital and that NHS England will expand the use of "referral management processes", which are private companies that decide whether a doctor's referral to a consultant, or to have an operation, is justified. However, it is clear that Stephens has gone further than this with his "new" plan to no longer guarantee a timescale for "non-urgent operations". He says this is consistent with the "5 Year Forward View". It is therefore of no surprise that the private health companies are the ones that will profit out of this misery as patients who have savings will have to pay huge sums for treatment while those who cannot pay will continue to suffer. Apart from the increasing number of people who will be forced to pay privately for operations, Stephens also hinted that the private sector's direct involvement in the NHS would also be the beneficiary of the rationing of "non-urgent operations" when he said that he expected that "the number of operations that the NHS pays for will continue to go up."
Thirdly, while Stephens talks about delaying "non-urgent operations" and mentions operations that are already subject to long delays, he refuses to address the fact that "urgent" operations are now already included in these delays as the continued cutbacks and "cost improvement programmes" to intensive care units and acute beds is implemented right across England.
Reporting on the announcement, the British Medical Association (BMA) pointed out that the inability of the NHS to meet all of its waiting time targets showed that it was at breaking point. BMA council chair Dr Mark Porter said: "Achieving one delivery promise only by missing another is a textbook example of rationing access to care. It should not be happening in today's NHS."
It is this observation that gets to the nub of the problem. The rationing of healthcare and the delaying of operations, even if they are "non-urgent", should not be happening, not only in today's NHS but in any modern society. Such an outmoded and outdated conception is only consistent with a capital-centred view of the economy, where public services like the NHS and all social programmes are considered a "cost and a burden". Such a view refuses to acknowledge that there is such a thing as society and the social responsibility for every human being to build an economy that meets the claims of the people. It is a barbaric remnant of the past in the modern age, where people who need a hip or knee replacement, cataract removal, hernia repair or other "non-urgent operation" should join a long queue and suffer, or pay the private healthcare and insurance monopolies from which only the rich benefit. In other words, today's NHS and society should be directed towards recognising the right of all to a modern health and social care system.
What has also to be recognised in building the movement to safeguard the future of the NHS is that today's NHS is based on the conception of the NHS which was formed in 1948. But even in 1948, the conception of the NHS was never fully recognised as a right of all human beings and the rich were able to ration healthcare and delay operations while they were also able to jump the queue by paying for private care. This therefore raises the most important question that it has to become a right on a new basis today. Modern Britain and the developed world is even more at the stage where the productive forces have become completely socialised and every section of society and every community is dependent on that socialised economy. Such a society requires social relations for that socialised economy that serve the interests of all. In other words, it requires modern arrangements in empowering the whole population to chart the direction for society and its economy, where health and social care is recognised and guaranteed as a right.
Weekly On Line Newspaper of the
Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
170, Wandsworth Road, London, SW8 2LA.
Phone: 020 7627 0599:
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition Freely available online
Workers' Weekly E-mail Edition Subscribe by e-mail daily: Free / Donate
WW Internet RSS Feed
The Line of March Monthly Publication of RCPB(ML) Subscribe
RCPB(ML) Home Page
Workers' Weekly Online Archive