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15th Anniversary of Worldwide Day of Action: "No to War!"
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
15th Anniversary of Worldwide Day of Action: "No to War!"
The Necessity for an Anti-War Government
From the workers' own perspective:
Impending internecine struggle of monopolies in ownership battle could end up with the end of GKN due to takeover
International Women's Day on March 8:
As International Women's Day Approaches
International Women's Day on March 8:
How the Conviction of the Women to Fight for the New Society is Being Strengthened in the NHS
15th Anniversary of Worldwide Day of Action: "No to War!"
Hyde Park anti-war rally, February 15, 2003
February 15 was the 15th anniversary of the massive 2-million march in London, 2003, as part of so many worldwide actions on that day to say No to War. Ever since the "war on terror" had been declared by George W Bush and Tony Blair in the wake of 9/11, the movement had been growing to demand "No War on Iraq".
It was in its statement for this demonstration that RCPB(ML) gave its call: Organise Now for an Anti-War Government! and pointed out that the aim of the people's movement against war is to bring into being a world without war, a world in which it is the people's will which prevails. It said that the people have the democratic right to decide in favour of peace and for the interests of humanity.
The Party's statement said: "Only the working class and peoples of the world have the ability to stop the warmongers and open humanity's path to social progress. Only they have the ability to prevent international instability and avert a cataclysmic world war. Only they have the ability to resolve society's problems and end the anti-social offensive against the working people of this country and the merciless exploitation of the peoples of the world."
The statement, in declaring that the drive to war was "Not In Our Name!" continued: "The working class must lead the people in fighting for an anti-war government in Britain now. Such a programme would ensure that the warmongers are defeated, war is outlawed, and the path to democratic renewal is opened up. Therefore RCPB(ML) calls for the people themselves to organise for an anti-war government that represents their desire for peace and social progress. A government committed to peace and progress, not war and reaction, would:
The Call to Bring into Being an Anti-War Government
The working class and people of Britain have a fine history of opposition to warmongering, not only of that of Britain's ruling elites, but as internationalists who stand with the working people of all countries. The British working class took a stand against the slaughter of the First World War despite social-democratic betrayal; it took a stand against the intervention in Russia after the October Revolution, and took up the fight against Nazi fascism when the British government was for appeasement, and again when it attacked the Soviet Union, the then homeland of the working class and proletarian internationalism. It has been for global denuclearisation and against the nuclear blackmail of the big powers.
In assessing how to move forward to achieving the aim of the anti-war movement for an anti-war government in a profound sense, what must be taken into consideration is the fact that society is saddled with old forms of political representation and political institutions. The fact that Blair could override the people's insistence that if Britain went to war it would not be in their name is one of the outstanding examples of this fact. In other words, new forms in which people take decisions in their own name must be found, in opposition to the situation where they hand over their decision-making power to others who then betray their interests, who have the power to deny the people's rights, or at the very best are forced to compromise those rights and interests, or are prevented from upholding them, by virtue of the political forms which ensure that private interests in the form of state powers are represented and enforced, not the will of the people.
The conclusion can be drawn therefore that it is neither poverty and misery that is the fuel of war, nor the arming of "dictatorships" abroad. It is to put the cart before the horse. The stand of an anti-war government, based on internationalist principles and established by the people themselves, would be to end British intervention abroad, end the arms trade for reactionary ends, abrogate those treaties which are unequal and in favour of exploitation, oppose spurious pretexts for war and intervention such as the so-called "right to protect", and remove US bases themselves from Britain.
The conception of an anti-war government is one which encompasses all aspects of society - for instance, its economic base, which must be based not on militarisation and austerity and the imposition of the social irresponsibility of private interests, but on identifying the needs of all the collectives of the people, and thereby establishing anti-austerity on a new basis.
People cannot have illusions about the powers-that-be. It is the people who are the guarantors of peace, and must take the fight to bring into being an anti-war government into their own hands. We call on everyone to join in this movement, and to settle scores with the warmongers, to avert the danger of war, put an end to the militarisation of the economy, and fight for peace as part of fighting for the renewal of society, empowering the working class and people, defending the rights of all and establishing the institutions of the New.
A bidding war is developing over a potential takeover of British-based engineering giant GKN. On October 13 last year, GKN, which employs 58,000 people across 30 countries in aerospace and automotive engineering, 6,000 of whom are at 14 sites in Britain, issued a profit warning, citing lower than expected aerospace revenue and "operational challenges" amongst other factors. Shares in GKN fell over 7% that day in early trading.
Spying the opportunity for big scores, "turnaround specialists" Melrose have launched a hostile takeover bid of GKN, the first such bid of a FTSE 100 company in a decade. Melrose Industries Plc is a British-based investment company specialising in the acquisition and "performance improvement" of underperforming businesses. It holds no sentiments. In reality, Melrose specialises in buying firms cheaply and selling them on for profit within five years.
This has begun to develop into a major bidding war with General Electric, Siemens, Carlyle and unnamed Chinese companies entering the fray.
GKN gave a scathing rebuttal to the predatory £7 billion bid from "vulture capitalists" Melrose, labelling it "opportunistic" and undervaluing the business. Melrose, salivating, told the Stock Exchange that there would be significant operational and commercial "benefits" arising from its ownership of GKN's businesses, "reversing a history of existing GKN management not delivering on margin targets".
Melrose announced the posting of an offer document in a letter to GKN's shareholders. In response, the present GKN management made a statement in attempt to get the shareholders, as well as the trade unions and workers, to line up behind them. Seeking allegiance, the management of GKN said that it is still a "strong businesses" with considerable "potential". GKN plans to return £2.5 billion to shareholders partly through selling its powder metallurgy business. By rejecting the Melrose offer, they say that shareholders will see 100% of the value created; with Melrose they will lose over 40%, so people should stick with GKN. Mincing no words, they say that Melrose's stated premium of approximately 28% over the closing share price of GKN on January 5 is fake.
"This Offer is derisory. Melrose is trying to buy GKN on the cheap," said the GKN management, who are advised by J.P. Morgan and UBS, which is Corporate Broker to GKN. "GKN's new leadership team is committed to maximising shareholder value." The management team claim to offer "a step-change in operational performance and financial returns".
Detailed in Melrose's own bid document, the figures for fees and expenses follow earlier revelations that the four top executives of Melrose stand to make a reported £285 million between them in "incentives" if they boost GKN's share price following a successful takeover. In echoes of the "cowboy capitalist" takeovers of the 1980s, the potential total amount to be pocketed by Melrose executives and their advisors from a successful takeover could be upwards of £425 million.
As so often in capitalist competition, we have a battle of the bandits, with different sides sizing up the opposition to eat their rivals. Workers can have no truck with any side in their squabble over markets or control over productive forces.
GKN is a major industrial giant, a FTSE 100-listed company. Seen as a "nuts and bolts" engineering company, it provides parts across the whole of British manufacturing, both for civilian and military uses.
The current crisis and bidding war have brought to the fore plans to split the company into two. This would divide the automotive side of the company from the aerospace. Aerospace engineering at GKN plays a significant role in the militarised economy: GKN is a major defence partner to Airbus and Boeing and supplies and maintains equipment used by the Royal Air Force and the Army.
Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the separation of units has "been on the cards for years".
"Historically, the pension deficit has held the group together, but with the sprawling footprint likely to have contributed to recent profit warnings, the reasons for divorce now seem to outweigh the costs of splitting," he said. "The money to be made from a split is likely to have been what drew turnaround specialist Melrose to the table in the first place."
Now the cherry-picking can start, while other commentators are speculating that the scale of the shortfall in GKN's pension funds, said to be in deficit by £2.1 billion at the half year, could become a "poison pill", particularly given the company's pending triennial review of its pension scheme. This brings to mind the situation at TATA steel, who managed to "review" pension rights with unions in order to "save" the company. For now, GKN maintains that the deficit is less than half of the figure being quoted, but through the claims and counterclaims, disinformation about this "deficit" is preparing the ground for attacks on pensions.
Indeed, the whole notion of a pensions deficit is capital-centred and part of what helps pensions to be treated as fair game both by companies and the circling vultures. Pensions are a rightful claim by retired workers on the value they themselves created, a claim that the owners of capital are constantly trying to claw back through pressurising workers and their unions into making concessions.
The crisis of GKN and ensuing bidding war also come at the time the Government is promoting its much vaunted "industrial strategy", and expose how any such so-called strategy is a mere phrase when subject to private monopoly interests and the competition between them.
"The short term financial engineering of Melrose's bid is totally at odds with the long term approach and investment that is needed to power the government's industrial strategy," said Unite.
In fact, there is no "strategy". A strategy requires conscious control and planning. It also needs an aim, and this further underlines the need for workers taking their own independent stand. Monopolies like GKN, like the collapsed Carillion before it, have concentrated such productive forces across vast swathes of vital infrastructure that the future of this production cannot be left to chance. It is the workers, with their human-centred as opposed to capital-centred perspective, who are capable of aiming industrial strategy at the general interests of society.
Throughout all of these developments, speculations and mixed messages, it is imperative that workers look at matters from their own perspective.
The main union concerned, Unite, has scrutinised the prospects of such a takeover and the inevitable destruction of productive forces it will bring about, and has taken a stand against the Melrose bid. The union is urging Business Secretary Greg Clark to use his powers under the Enterprise Act (2002) to block Melrose's bid in the public interest. Unite is also calling on the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee to insist that Clark review the takeover bid.
"The Business Secretary cannot duck his responsibility. He needs to act in the national and public interest and block this bid which will ultimately result in parts of successful engineering being atomised and vital engineering skills and expertise lost," said the union.
"Melrose's bid, which is based on borrowing vast amounts of cash to bung to shareholders, will see GKN saddled with £1.3 billion of debt in a move harking back to the 'cowboy capitalist' takeovers of the 1980s," they further add, and also point out that Melrose's promise to put millions into the pension fund must be viewed with caution as this will be paid for through borrowing and job losses.
Unite reveals that, according to figures produced for the union, Melrose will spend an estimated £83 million, before tax, in its efforts to acquire GKN. £6 million of that will be used for public relations alone. Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner commented: "The sums of money that Melrose is prepared to spend to acquire GKN are astronomical... Its plan is to load the business with debt to then sack workers and break up the company to pay back their lenders. This is the sort of casino capitalism our country can very well do without. It is always people and communities who pay the price for the short-termism of the turnaround merchants."
Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Tony Burke added: "GKN is at the cutting-edge of electric vehicle technology and aerospace engineering. It is a vital component in making the UK government's industrial strategy a success. The business secretary Greg Clark must use the power he has to act in the national interest and intervene to block this bid, as well as strengthening takeover laws to ensure public and social interests are put first. Unite is clear, we will not allow two sets of management to compete for the affections of shareholders by promising faster and deeper cuts. For Unite defending jobs always comes first."
In other words, this is not a matter of being sucked into the inter-monopoly competition, to side with the "good" capitalists against the "bad". Neither is it a matter of giving in to the pressure to solve the problems faced by the owners of capital and their management representatives for them.
In this respect, it is important for workers not to get diverted. This is particularly crucial given the intervention by the US in the issue. Unite reports that US congressman Neal Dunn wrote to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS), claiming that Melrose is not qualified to own GKN due to its lack of any background in defence contracting. GKN is important to US imperialist interests as a result of its involvement with the F-35 and F-18 fighters and the Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters.
The workers of Unite the union, as well as the workers' movement as a whole, have a strong anti-war tradition . It is by sticking to such principles that the union's stands are at their most powerful. Particularly at this time, a stand on principle in favour of peaceful production cuts to the core of the arrangements that deny workers a voice and points to the alternative of a renewed democracy and an anti-war government.
From the workers' own perspective, they have their own problems to solve. In particular, workers are faced with the problems of guaranteeing their jobs, conditions of work and their claims on the value they produce. Those claims are both immediate, such as pay and pensions, and social, such as the need for infrastructure and the social programmes that maintain the society on which they rely. Workers are also confronted by all of the dangers of an increasingly militarised economy and pro-war government, which goes hand in hand with the anti-social direction of cuts and marginalisation of workers from any decision-making. Faced with a crisis at GKN, it is for the workers to lay their claims, demand their rights and that production for peaceful development in the interests of society continues. Workers must also organise to have the decisive say over their economy, and demand that the militarisation of the economy be brought to an end.
1. Unite's official policy on Trident (see http://www.unitetheunion.org/campaigning/events/unite-policy-conference-2014/unite-trident-policy) is subheaded "Peace and Disarmament", and opens with the words: "The trade union movement has always been in the forefront of the struggle for peace and international disarmament. Unite is proud to stand in that tradition. Our vision is of a world where wealth and labour are devoted to exclusively peaceful purposes, and where war is superseded by the control of disputes through international law and the United Nations."
Further, it states: "This progressive outlook is more relevant than ever when Britain faces an acute budget crisis and public spending cuts are high on the political agenda... This makes the question of diversifying British manufacturing industry away from its over-reliance on defence spending urgent." While recognising the current reliance of many jobs on nuclear programmes and military production, the policy is to "promote the smooth transition of manufacturing to non-military production wherever possible."
In addition, Unite Chief of Staff Andrew Murray is the former Chair of the Stop the War Coalition, and has been speaking recently in a union capacity at the Coalition's "Why We Need An Anti-War Government" tour.
2018 marks the centenary of a section of the women in Britain gaining the vote. After a lengthy struggle and widespread political movement for women's emancipation, on February 6, 1918, Parliament passed the Representation of People Act 1918, which gave women over the age of 30, who occupied a house (or were married to someone who did), the right to vote. At the time, this enabled 8.5 million women to vote for members of Parliament, about two in every five women in the UK, whilst at the same time allowing for men over the age of 21 to vote. Even recognising the disparity with men in terms of the voting age, this Act represented an advance for women at the time, empowering women over the age of thirty to participate in the polity alongside men, and represented a victory for women at the time who were fighting the patriarchal nature of society that denied them a vote and a say in society.
A hundred years on, the issue poses itself differently, and the greatest problem facing women today, as individuals and as a collective in society, is one of marginalisation. Indeed, the burning issue of our times is that of the necessity for the affirmation of women and for a modern definition of rights as key to the renovation and modernisation of society.
The brutal way in which the ruling elite are destroying public authority and civil society in favour of imposing direct control of the monopolies over public services, health, education and culture is also accompanied by their attacks on the rights of the people including those of women. The attempt by their monopoly-controlled media to distort the question of the oppression of women in society and reduce it to one of victimisation by men is part of this attempt to divide and disempower the working class and people's movement and the women who are fighting to affirm their rights and the rights of all in society.
For example, in the NHS, the arrangements that suit the ruling elite have since its founding excluded women from leading positions. Whilst today progress of the women's struggle in society has reduced this discrimination against women in occupying leading positions and closed the "gender gap", it has not resulted in new arrangements that empower health workers and the vast majority of women who work in the NHS.
Today, women make up 77% of the NHS workforce and they are in the forefront of providing health care to the whole population as doctors, nurses and support workers, and they are also in the forefront of the struggle of health workers to safeguard the future of the NHS and the right to health care for all the people. Women in the health service are not only organised in the workplace, in trade unions and professional bodies to defend their rights, but many are realising from the struggles that they are waging that the most enlightened thinking is needed and this growing consciousness means that women are also at the forefront of solving the problems of society.
One of the most crucial questions in the fight to safeguard the future of the NHS is where decision-making power lies. Today, as NHS England and its Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) announce downgrading, cut-backs and closures of health services all over England, who the decision-makers are has become the vital question. For health workers and women in particular, the fight against the diktat of these decisions taken elsewhere with only the formality of "consultation" but without any involvement of clinical staff has reached a crisis point. Clinical staff are openly organising, and fighting these decisions and risking everything, even their own careers, to stand up for the rights of the people and to the health services that they provide.
In the health unions and professional bodies as well, the women are in the forefront of uniting health workers in the workplace with the whole community to take up the responsibility to safeguard the future of their health services. There is increasing recognition that the government and its commissioning bodies set up over the recent period are driving massive cut-backs and a direct takeover of the NHS by private corporations at the expense of public authority and public good. In this situation the women are in the forefront of uniting the people regardless of political views and to fight not just as "pressure groups". They see themselves and these new movements of the people as a means to go all out to disempower those who are trying to marginalise them from power.
Although victories are not always won, the conviction of the women to fight for the new society is being strengthened in the NHS. They are increasingly recognising that a new direction is required for the NHS based on the right to health care and determined by the people.
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