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Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
A decisive turning point in the defeat of fascism:
Hail the 75th Anniversary of the Victory at the Battle of Stalingrad
Empowering the People to Take a Pro-Social Direction for Society:
For an NHS Consistent with an Anti-War Government
Empowering the People to Take a Pro-Social Direction for Society:
Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign and the Fight to Save Hospital Services
New Scramble for Africa:
Spurious Justifications of Britain, France and the EU for their Intervention in Africa
Activists of RCPB(ML) ushered in the New Year by gathering in London on January 6 and reflecting on the achievements of the British working class and people in 2017, along with their own work to sort out the crisis in a manner which favours the people.
Discussions reviewed the disastrous course on which the ruling class has embarked of continuing the anti-social offensive despite repeated calls and demands of the people to change course.
A toast to the New Year delivered by Michael Chant, General Secretary of RCPB(ML), hailed the struggles of the people of the world against the imperialist powers, their wars of aggression, their nuclear blackmail and the destruction of all the people hold dear as marks of humanity and civilisation. He hailed the Cuban people, who are solving the problems in being their own decision-makers in the face of the savage US-led blockade. He hailed the Korean people who are fighting to defend their own chosen path and avert nuclear holocaust in the face of US-led hostility and sanctions, which amount to an act of war against the DPRK.
In the last year the Party began a series of vibrant discussions involving the working people in setting their own line of march in 2018. This involves settling scores with the old framework of action and thinking engendered by the Cold War and instead establishing a new reference point, one which centres on the necessity for the alternative and calls for all to join in fighting for an anti-war government. The Party will step up the tempo of this work throughout 2018.
Red Army soldier raises victory flag over Stalingrad, February 2, 1943. (Colourised by Olga Shirnina)
February 2 marked the 75th anniversary of the conclusion of the famous Battle of Stalingrad in 1943, widely acknowledged as one of the most important battles during World War II and a major turning point in the struggle of the people of the Soviet Union, and all the democratic forces throughout the world, to defeat Nazi Germany and its allies. The victory of the Soviet Union's Red Army at Stalingrad played a major role in creating the conditions for further victories such as that at the Battle of Kursk and the eventual defeat of fascism. The victory at Stalingrad not only demonstrated the military prowess andheroism of the Red Army and the people of the Soviet Union but also the importance of the political and military leadership of the Communist Party, headed by Joseph Stalin. It demonstrated the superiority of the socialist system and people's decision-making power that supplied the human and material resources for such a military victory. It was a victory for the working class and people of the Soviet Union who led by the Communist Party had transformed the Soviet Union from a backward country at the time of World War I to an economic, political and military superpower by the close of World War II, one that played the decisive role in the victory over fascism.
The revolutionary events in Russia in 1917 created the conditions for an anti-war government under the leadership of the masses of the people organised in the soviets which constituted the means for the people to exercise decision-making power. Revolutionary Russia withdrew from the predatory First World War and exposed the secret treaties and anti-people aims of Britain and the other big powers. It successfully defended itself against invasion from Britain and the other big powers and true to its anti-war aims did everything possible to maintain the peace and counter the machinations of the big powers that aimed to use Nazi Germany to destroy the world's first socialist state and people's power. The Soviet Union's anti-war government and people's power created the conditions for the most resolute defence of their great achievements by strengthening democracy and establishing an economy that had the central aim of using the wealth created by the people to serve their interests. The resistance to Nazi Germany during the World War II was not therefore just a question of defending the motherland but also of defending that which the working class and people of the Soviet Union led by the Communist Party had themselves created.
The Battle of Stalingrad, re-named in 1925 in honour of J.V. Stalin's defence of the city formerly known as Tsaritsyn during the Russian Civil War, took place at a time when the Soviet Union had already borne the brunt of the treacherous invasion by Nazi Germany in 1941. It came at a time when the leaders of Britain and the United States had ruled out any second front, or invasion of Europe, meaning that the main Nazi forces were deployed almost entirely against the Soviet Union, and when Moscow, its capital, was also under attack. The Anglo-Americans also limited arms shipments to the Soviet Union during this period. These circumstances were widely interpreted as demonstrating that the Anglo-American leaders, and Churchill in particular, were still hopeful that the war between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany would be concluded by the exhaustion of both powers, or by a Nazi victory.
In June 1942, the Nazi regime launched a new offensive which aimed not only to deal the Red Army a devastating blow but also aimed to capture greater economic resources, especially the Caucasian oil fields, with which to continue and prolong the war. Stalingrad was a key strategic and industrial centre on the River Volga and was besieged by the enemy forces. The Battle of Stalingrad began on August 23, 1942, but even before the city was besieged Stalin issued the famous Order 227. "Not a Step Back! This must be our chief slogan. It is necessary to defend to the last drop of blood every position, every metre of Soviet territory, to cling on to every shred of Soviet earth and to defend it to the utmost."
The Battle of Stalingrad raged for months and was finally decided by heroic street fighting by the Red Army, and the ability of the working class and people of the Soviet Union to provide continual reinforcements and supplies. The government of the Soviet Union had already taken the precaution of relocating many of its industries further to the east and the socialist economy, which had been geared to meeting the needs of the people, showed its superiority by producing much greater quantities of more advanced weapons than its enemies. Therefore, despite the devastation of the city and the tremendous loss of life, in November 1942 the Red Army launched a counter-offensive with an attack force of three-quarters of a million combatants. By the end of that month it had completely encircled the enemy and by February 2, 1943, the German army surrendered. However, it should not be forgotten that the Soviet Union lost some 2.5 million of its citizens in the Battle for Stalingrad and the related heroic resistance to the Nazi aggressors in 1942. Nazi Germany's attempts to invade and subjugate Russia and gain supplies to prolong the war had been defeated and as a result the millions of other lives had been saved. The advance of the Red Army continued throughout 1943 and led to the major victory at the Battle of Kursk in the summer of that year. That victory heralded an advance by the Red Army which continued into 1944 - "the year of the ten great victories" - and culminated the following year with the military defeat of Nazi Germany and the hoisting of the red flag in Berlin in May 1945.
Today there are attempts to re-write the entire history of this period to create doubts about the achievements of the Soviet Union and its Communist Party which were so clearly in evidence in the defence of Stalingrad. There are similar attempts to marginalise the central importance of Stalingrad and the entire role of the Soviet Union during World War II. These are attempts to spread doubt about the nature of the socialist system and the historic role of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at that time, to disorientate people and deny them that outlook which is essential for the success of their struggles for empowerment and decision-making power today, such as the urgent need for an anti-war government that can preserve the peace and place the interest of the people at the centre of its aims. There are also attempts to deny the crucial role of the working people of the Soviet Union and the world who played the key role in the defeat of fascism and all those who nurtured it. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the victory at the Battle of Stalingrad there is a need for a discussion of its significance so as to draw the appropriate lessons from history.
The Day of Action called by Health Campaigns Together and the People's Assembly is very timely, as the direction in which the government is taking the NHS is the direct opposite of what the people demand of a National Health Service.
The people have taken to the streets time and time again to demand a change in the direction of the NHS. For instance, on March 4 last year when over 200,000 marched in London; for instance, in all the militant local campaigns up and down the country to save hospitals and specialist services.
Jeremy Corbyn has encapsulated the people's sentiment and modern outlook when he has emphasised in the House of Commons, and in campaigning, that health care is a right, a human right.
This in itself underlines that the solution to the crisis of the NHS is not simply one of turning back the clock and reinstating the founding principles of the NHS, even if this were possible.
It raises the question as to who decides. When the slogan is raised: Whose NHS? to be answered by: Our NHS! then this immediately puts on the agenda that the power to enforce that ownership of the people and guarantee their rights is absent at present, and what is required is that decision-making power of the working people.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the Theresa May government as a whole are in denial as to the depth of the crisis in the health service. Whether they actually believe their denial is not so much the issue. The issue is that the people themselves know, especially health workers and professionals, and are fighting vigorously.
The NHS can only function if it is a component part of an economy and a society where those who know and care for the well-being of the people are able to determine its direction from top to bottom. This is what a modern society should look like.
We are raising that working people as a whole, together with all who work in the health service, should discuss how to take action on this question. We think that people should consider the funding, the organisation and the whole direction of the NHS based on the right to health care in the context of the necessity for an anti-war government. Is this not the burning question of our times?
When those who threaten humanity with unthinkable catastrophes who have the power to make the decisions and the power to exclude the people from decision-making, is it any wonder that funding can be found for arms and foreign interventions but not investment for health, education, and other vital public services which are the hallmark of a modern society. How can it be that the people who create the wealth are denied the right to determine the application of that wealth?
The direction the government is taking the NHS at a headlong pace is to ensure that private interests are the ones that benefit from the funding of the health service, and this is consistent with the actions of a pro-war government. What the people demand is the safeguarding of the future of the health service in a manner which is consistent with an anti-war government in which the people consciously participate in making the decisions which determine a pro-social direction for society.
Health Care Is a Right! Intensify the Fight!
For An NHS Funded by an Anti-War Government!
One of the most crucial questions in the fight to safeguard the future of the NHS is where decision-making power lies. The problem is often posed by those fighting to save hospitals and protect services as how to get the present decision-makers to change their minds. In practice, the fight to save hospital services is characterised by the fight to oppose the dictate of decisions taken elsewhere, sometimes with a thin veneer of consultation. Victories are not always won, but the conviction of health workers and concerned people is being strengthened in these struggles that a new direction is required for the NHS based on the right to health care and determined by the people.
We are posting this account of one such struggle, that of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign which exemplifies this growing conviction and the unity of the movement in which it is embodied.
* * *
On January 22, the New Year started with a victory for the staff of the maternity and Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) when the full maternity service re-opened at South Tyneside District Hospital after a "temporary" closure at the end of 2017. On November 29, the SCBU was closed due to sickness. Instead of sorting the problem out and involving maternity and other staff trained to cover the unit after closing for one night the Sunderland-based Trust Executive first announced that there would be only "low risk" births at the hospital and then, two days later, this was followed by the closure of the whole maternity service at South Tyneside District Hospital.
Following this decision SSTHC organised a protest for December 8 and some 200 midwives, staff and people from the community gathered for an angry protest outside the entrance to the hospital to call for the immediate re-instatement of SCBU and the full obstetric-led Maternity Service. At the protest, support was given by Emma Lewell-Buck, MP South Shields, Councillors Marion Langley Staff Side Chair at the hospital and Clare Williams Regional Secretary of Unison who called on everyone to support this campaign. It was pointed out at the protest that far from creating the "safe and sustainable" services that the Executive team speak about all the time this was another attempt to pre-empt the outcome of the "consultation" and downgrade these services by claiming that the Maternity service was "vulnerable". It was also stated that the South Tyneside maternity unit has been one of the best staffed in the northern region for many years and in spite of the serious health problems in the borough has had a performance which is amongst the best in the country yet those responsible had brought this service to its knees.
There was concern that after the Stroke Service had been "temporarily" closed almost exactly a year before in December 2016. The stroke team had been broken up immediately whilst "consultation" on its future was still ongoing. Everyone had learnt from this and the staff and the trade unions in the hospital and all in the community fought to get the so-called temporary closure of the SCBU and Maternity by the hospital Trust and commissioners lifted as soon as possible. The SCBU and Maternity staff and their immediate nurse managers had already produced a rota within two days of the closure to keep the service open. Yet the Trust had rejected this and continued with the closure. Staff continued to press their case and were able to put together a rota for three months.
Over this period SSTHC continued to take up the cause of all those trying to ensure the re-instatement of the SCBU and the full consultant led maternity services. What this achieved was that whilst the campaign previously had had a high profile for saving the children's 24 consultant-led A&E through its demonstrations and rallies in South Shields in 2017, now in the eyes of the people of South Tyneside and Sunderland, SBCU and Maternity had become firmly part of this fight to save all these hospital services.
Then on January 15 the Trust Executives announced that maternity would re-open but astonishingly informed the public that there was only a "safe" rota for three months. Most wards are only rostered for one month and the staff were only asked for a three-month rota.
SSTHC has fought for nearly 24 months to oppose the downgrading of the services in phase 1 of their closure programme. This also includes the the downgrading of children's 24/7 consultant led A&E; the loss of consultant led maternity services and gynaecology inpatient beds; and the loss of all hospital stroke services. What has been very clear is that the options they are proposing are less safe and less accessible to the people of South Tyneside and clearly not a "path to excellence" for the people of Sunderland who will have further overstretched services.
As the opposition has grown, the CCG has simply postponed the consultation. They are now expected to announce their decision on on February 21. Over the holiday SSTHC has launched a Crowd Justice Campaign to raise £5,000 for initial legal work and hundreds of people have contributed and that target has been reached. SSTHC is also preparing to fight the next stage of the downgrading of South Tyneside Hospital.
For the people, organising to defend their right to healthcare is of paramount importance to the future of society. As a speaker of the SSTHC said at a packed meeting on January 19 at the public launch of the campaign organisation in Sunderland: "Both the threat of national and local plans to cut and privatise services needs to be challenged by the mass organisation and campaigns of people in our towns and cities. Governments and the Department of Health interfere all the time but do not take responsibility as a public authority and for the public good, but encourage the initiative of NHS commissioners that favour private health cartels. Nearly 70% of all contracts were given to the private sector in 2017. So we have to understand that we are the public authority - ourselves! If we don't organise to take up this responsibility it will mean services will disappear at a very fast rate. We have the possibility of turning this around. We have to establish our own public authority in a society that recognises a right to health services that we think are vital to your city of Sunderland and the towns in South Tyneside and to our NHS. So let us continue the work we have started together and fight together for the good of society and the future of the NHS that fully meets the needs of all. These are our hospitals and our NHS! Health care is a right and should be guaranteed."
The annual Anglo-French summit meeting took place on January 18 with a high-level meeting at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst between Prime Minister Theresa May and President Macron. Although the summit's agenda was presented as wide-ranging, it was evident that increasing military activity and what is referred to as security co-operation was at the heart of the meeting. What was particularly evident, was increasing intervention in the affairs of African countries by France and Britain both to prevent what is described as the threat of "Islamist-terrorism" in the Sahel and to establish the borders of the EU firmly in that region allegedly to control the flow of migrants to Europe and prevent modern forms of slavery.
Ostensibly for these purposes the government announced that it was deploying three Chinook helicopters to Mali, where the French army has been engaged in what it claims are counter-terrorism activities since at least 2012. The French mission, known as Operation Berkhane, is based in Chad and has involved over 4,000 French troops as well as air support deployed in Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, which are all former French colonies. According to the French government Berkhane was established primarily in the interests of France and Europe not those of Africa. The British government has also been contributing to this activity since at least 2016 when Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced that the RAF would routinely airlift French troops in the region. The US army also has troops and special forces in neighbouring Niger, as well as Burkina Faso and Cameroon. Amongst other things, the US military is involved in regular drone surveillance of Mali from its base in Niger. The US military have been engaged in what they refer to as counter-terrorism activities in the area even before the French, indeed from 2002 even before there was any evidence of "terrorist" activity.
These military activities have been stepped up following the military intervention in Libya by the Anglo-French coalition and other NATO powers in 2011. Since that time, the country has been in a state of almost total anarchy, with rival governments and militias vying for power, and parts of the country in the hands of so-called Islamic State and other sinister organisations, the very forces that were supported and financed by the NATO powers with the aim of regime-change in Libya. The neighbouring countries and the entire Sahel has also become affected by similar instability, which has contributed to the problems of mass migration, people trafficking and a modern slave trade throughout the entire region. It is allegedly to counter these problems created by military intervention that the governments of Britain and France are engaged in more military intervention.
These military activities exist alongside the EUCAP Sahel Niger mission, part of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), begun in 2012 to allegedly give "security" advice to the government of Niger. Already over 120 representatives of European security forces and justice departments are deployed in Niamey, the country's capital. Since 2014 EUCAP personnel have also been deployed in central Niger, specifically to deal with migration and other perceived threats to Europe and in regular liaison with other CSDP missions including EUCAP Sahel Mali, the EU Training Mission in Mali, UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) Libya, which "supports the Libyan authorities in developing border management and security". In addition, the French government and the EU have also been organising and funding the so-called G5 Sahel Joint Force, launched in 2017 and comprising military forces from the five African countries in the Sahel, which is also to be deployed throughout the region.
The intervention by the EU and its allies in the Sahel, which has also involved economic interference and so-called "aid" has done nothing to prevent instability or mass migration to Europe. Nor have the so-called migrant reception centres and other measures in Libya which were widely condemned, even by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who referred to EU policies as "inhuman" even before the centres were revealed as key institutions for people trafficking and enslavement by the media late last year. "The increasing interventions of the EU and its member states have done nothing so far to reduce the level of abuses suffered by migrants," the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights said. "Our monitoring, in fact, shows a fast deterioration in their situation in Libya."
Although the intervention of Britain, France and other EU countries across the Sahel is presented as humanitarian activity or allegedly to combat terrorism it cannot be forgotten that the region is also of growing economic importance. Both Mali and Niger contain important deposits of uranium mined by the French nuclear power monopoly Areva, which is largely state-owned. Arewa is a major player in the development of the planned Hinkley Point nuclear power plant in Britain. In Niger, the world's fourth largest producer of uranium Arewa was the major player until the arrival of China Nuclear International Uranium Corporation broke its monopoly in 2007. China is also playing a major role in oil and gas exploration in Niger in rivalry with the US and others, while in Mali it is making major investments in infrastructure as well uranium, oil and iron ore exploration. Despite the poverty of its populations and large areas of desert, the entire Sahel is a region in which the big powers are vying for economic and geo-political advantage. These activities too have created instability as well as increasingly violent opposition to foreign interference.
The military intervention by Britain, France, the US and others and the measures taken in North Africa and the Sahel have not prevented the mass human exodus that is a consequence of impoverishment and economic underdevelopment caused by colonial and neo-colonial rule, and more recent neo-liberal globalisation. Rather it has added to the increasingly inhuman treatment of migrants and the loss of thousands of lives. In addition, the mass movement of people is a direct result of the instability and armed conflicts in the world, caused largely by the intervention of Britain and the other big powers. Nor has military intervention in the region eliminated what is referred to as terrorism and other criminal activities, quite the reverse is the case.
The response of Britain and the other big powers is to use the consequences of intervention, such as the anarchy in Libya and instability in Mali, as the justification for further intervention in Africa in line with their geo-political and other aims. This course of action will only exacerbate such problems and bring further suffering to millions. There is an urgent need for the people of Britain and other European countries to take a stand against the actions of the EU and the other big powers which are creating such havoc and suffering throughout the world.
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