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Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
Third Anniversary of the Brexit Referendum:
Necessity to Reject the Attempts to Antagonistically Divide the Polity
Letter to the Editor:
Global Monopoly Ford Willing to Destroy Production in Bridgend
For Your Reference:
Aggressive Trade Agenda of the US Shakes Existing Arrangements
10th Anniversary of the Oil Refinery Workers' Strike
35th Anniversary of Orgreave:
Annual March Commemorates the 35th Anniversary of Orgreave
Firefighters launch Grenfell: Never Again campaign:
Two Years after Grenfell, the Fight for Justice Continues
It is not just that the jostling for position to become the next Prime Minister was unedifying. It represented that politics has been replaced by the cut-throat competition when it is every man for himself. It gave no clue as to what is at stake for working people, their concerns and how to combat the economic and political crises. These were not even recognised as issues.
Quite clearly, it has been showing that the Conservative Party hardly has a coherent position as a party, and all is illogical. Its driving down of political debate to the lowest level mirrors the destruction of any public or political authority which commands credibility. The "last-man-standing" approach mirrors the contending private interests of monopolies and oligarchs who care nothing for the people's well-being or national interests. The way this farce of "political debate" is conducted shows the social irresponsibility of the present state of governance, where the old norms no longer function and the people's voice is not heeded.
The rhetoric that the various candidates adopted could be said to have revolved around "how to make Britain great again". Apart from the undisguised attacks on each other's character, this futile and anachronistic attempt mainly focused on Brexit, whether having eaten the cake it could still be kept, or various ways of postponing eating the cake. In other words, it was not how to build a Britain outside (or inside) the EU on the basis of any alternative to neo-liberal austerity, but what could be done for Britannia to Rule the Waves Again.
One of the most coherent attempts at this was seen before the slug-fest when Jeremy Hunt spoke at the Lord Mayor's Banquet on May 13.
The Foreign Secretary set the scene by saying, "Today I want to look beyond Brexit. I will argue that whatever the Brexit outcome, Britain's role at the heart of global affairs is potentially more vital, more necessary and more significant than it has ever been." In an attempt to provide a rationale for this Britain at the heart of global affairs, he emphasises "the role played by the United Kingdom - alongside the United States - in building an international order after the horror of the Second World War that has stood the test of time." It is rather breath-taking that this period of the Cold War and then the attempt to enforce the Anglo-US dictate globally, with the establishment of NATO, the World Bank, the IMF, and so on, is summed up in this way. But this rosy picture is necessary to justify a "new" programme for Britain based on this portrayal.
So Jeremy Hunt's argument is that to achieve a "post-Brexit national renewal", three essential pillars must be established: economic strength, hard power, and, "the most challenging of all", a democratic renewal.
"Economic strength" is necessary, Hunt argues, "because economic power both strengthens soft power and finances hard power". To do this, Britain must be in the vanguard of the fourth industrial revolution. But this prosperity must have a "social purpose". It will come as a surprise to everyone involved in campaigns to safeguard the future of the NHS that the former Health Secretary cites the way the benefiting of the NHS was made a priority after the recession of 2008 as an example of this. But Jeremy Hunt has in mind the "social purpose" of strengthening the "hard power" of military spending, within the context of a "multipolar world without the assurance provided by unquestioned American dominance". This was what the news reports of the speech mainly picked up on - his call for a huge increase in military spending to help "our great ally the United States", and specifying Russia and China as the threats. And it was also recognised that this envisioned programme for a certain Britain in an uncertain post-Brexit world, a Britain siding 100 per cent with the US, a Britain encouraging "other democracies who share our values" also to ally with the US, would find favour in the Conservative leadership race.
But what was not so much remarked on was Hunt's third pillar, which he said was the most challenging of all, and called "a democratic renewal". "Good diplomacy begins at home. But our democracy has become rather frayed. Proud as we are of our traditions, we too need renewal."
This is the recognition that the Westminster system no longer functions, that there is a serious credibility crisis, that with Brexit "people simply refused to believe what leaders in Westminster were telling them", that "too many today feel that modern capitalism only works only for a privileged few". The answer is "a democratic renewal", but this renewal is one of the old social contract: "People want more power and agency over every aspect of their lives, including the decisions taken by those in authority, as part of a renewal of the social contract between state and citizen." In other words, the issue is to block the people reaching the warranted conclusion that it is precisely this "social contract between state and citizen" that must be rejected in order to have control over their lives and become empowered. Rather, they should rethink parliamentary democracy, start a new chapter in Britain's history not by fighting for change, but by getting behind Britain as a "global power", one with a "global vocation".
This is not an option for the people. The people are not to blame for the lack of credibility and legitimacy of the Westminster system of representative democracy. They are not to blame for the debacle of May's resignation, of the ongoing Brexit farce, of the crude spectacle of the leadership race. They are not to blame for the unapologetic racism, warmongering, chauvinism, militarisation and the breaking of all taboos of what is acceptable in a civilised society.
These things are rather confirmation of where the problems in society lie, of British and US exceptionalism, of the bankruptcy of the Old, of the blood-stained flag of "making Britain great again", of the disempowerment of the people.
In fact the people have the solution, which is to reject this old direction for the economy and society, and, taking stock of what they know, affirm that what is required are new arrangements, an anti-war system of government, where the people speak in their own name, not hand over their names to "representatives" who do not represent them but represent a fictitious person of state, a "global power", an ally of "unquestioned US dominance" and a wielder of "hard power" and a Machiavellian "soft power" and promotion of "shared values".
The issue facing the polity is how to bring the initiative of the people into play when they are excluded from political decision-making. The actual advances the people are making in developing their resistance against attacks on their rights and interests, and in speaking out on matters of concern to the polity and to the people's well-being provide an answer. They are searching for social forms and striving to create organisations which will embody their striving for empowerment.
The way that the process was conducted of deciding on who the next Prime Minister of Britain will be, confirms that genuine democratic renewal is required, and not to restore faith in liberal democratic institutions which lie in tatters. Whether it is Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt who is shoe-horned into the role of Prime Minister, they will not represent the peoples of England, Scotland, Wales or the north of Ireland. People will justly say, this person is not acting in our name; we must ourselves speak in our own name, and this provides the way forward out of the crisis and the antidote to the arbitrary power of the executive.
The people themselves must be empowered, not the ruling elite. That is to say, political power must be exercised on behalf of all members of society so that the direction of the economy serves them and not the financial oligarchy, and war and aggression is rejected. This is the kind of democratic renewal which is required, one which is the call of the times and which the people are vigorously responding to!
It is three years since the Referendum on whether to Remain in or Leave the European Union took place on June 23, 2016.
The crisis in the political system and the contradictions among the ruling elite that the Referendum exacerbated has become very open in these three years. Theresa May's handling of the situation has only deepened the political crisis and demonstrated the contempt of the sections of the ruling elite for the concerns of the people and their opposition to austerity.
At the same time, contradictions within the EU are sharpening, notably between France and Germany, who dominate the European project. They are increasingly at loggerheads, and internally increasingly in turmoil.
As regards the stand of the EU leaders on the Withdrawal Agreement or the prospect of a further Brexit extension after October 31, the European Council summit which closed on June 21, briefly threw cold water on any change.
"I am afraid that you (the UK) are wasting time. I am not happy with this, but I have to accept political reality," European Council President Donald Tusk told reporters at his post-summit press conference.
The summit had been earmarked as an opportunity to discuss progress at the near halfway point of the six-month extension secured by Theresa May. In the event, leaders spent only ten minutes discussing Brexit, sources told the website Euractiv.
"On Brexit, there is nothing new because we repeat unanimously: there will be no renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker added.
The Irish premier, Leo Varadkar, told reporters on Thursday night that there was "enormous hostility" among European leaders to any further Brexit extension, adding that it would only be considered to allow a general election or a second referendum to be held.
The unseemly scramble for leader of the Conservative Party, and hence Prime Minister, is demonstrating that the crisis is not going to be resolved within the parameters of a cartel party system in which the people have no say over the decisions which affect their lives. Objectively, the way out of the crisis is the one which genuinely empowers the people to have a say in those decisions. The peoples of Britain from all walks of life have to unite to change the situation where the powers-that-be ignore them when they speak in their own name.
The conclusion must be drawn that the Westminster system is anachronistic, incorrigibly dysfunctional and in need of a fundamental re-haul so that those elected answer to the people, not a relic from medieval times. Current arrangements, which are the product of the English Civil War 1642-51, and which created a state to combine medieval privileges, a definition of rights based on ownership of property, and of sovereignty based on territoriality, are not conducive to the conditions today, which have surpassed those limitations. Who does Parliament represent in this current civil war raging in Britain? Why would the English, Scottish and Welsh working class side pro or con any of the contending interests rather than speak in their own name and elaborate their own interests?
Within this discussion, it has to be recognised that the political set-up is one in which the people are not empowered to implement or even arrive at decisions which affect society, and that the economic set-up is dictated by narrow private interests. Deal-making has given rise to many proposed variants of Remain/Leave, whether it be a Customs Union, full membership of the EU, exiting on WTO rules, or some other proposition, many of which refer to institutions and arrangements which are themselves racked in crisis and irrationality. The set-up of a party-in-power and a party-in-opposition is not capable of negotiating anything because of the absence of a pro-social aim. Cabinet government is dysfunctional and with it the exercise of prerogative powers. Parliamentary votes have ceased to mean anything at all. To even try to give a rational explanation to irrational proceedings is to become irrational oneself. To hold up the Westminster system of rule as the paradigm of democracy and a civilised world is to not see that the sun has already set and preparations must be made for a new dawn.
As passions are stoked up, and especially as the frustration and disillusion with the impasse over Brexit take hold, how the working people work out how they can intervene in the situation in a manner which favours them continues to be key to the outcome. The split in the polity when the people feel unable to control the course of events does not favour their sorting out what is what. The working class and people must reject the attempts to divide them into two antagonistic camps.
The polity needs a mechanism to resolve the interests of individuals, collectives and countries, harmonise them and sort them out, instead of sections of the people being at each other's throats claiming that justice and progress rests with their side.
New arrangements are required. How else can such issues as international trade on the basis of mutual benefit, the respect for the sovereignty of all nations, the settling of international issues through peaceful means, the implementation of the rule of law - how else can they be achieved?
The people must resist the temptation to make Remainers or Leavers into things rather than human beings with their own rights and interests. What the people of Britain sorely need is to be the decision-makers, empowered to set the direction of the economy and politics of the society. This is the common issue facing the whole polity and indicates what perspective to take in providing a solution to the Brexit crisis which favours the people. New forms are required, forms which translate the people's voices into the determining factor.
For a Solution to the Brexit Crisis Which is Forged by the People!
For a Solution in Which the Peoples Speak in their Own Name!
I have just read your article (Workers' Weekly Vol49 No.11) on the recent Euro elections and the divisions created in the polity by the issue of Brexit. I agree fully that the real issue is that leaving or remaining in the EU ultimately solves nothing. Either way, the problems created by capitalism and its political representatives remain unaddressed and unsolved. The referendum has served to divide the people, focusing their attention on this single issue, causing bitter dispute serving not their own interests, but those who wish to maintain the appearance of democracy while blunting any potential it may have for achieving real change.
Ford is joining other car manufacturers in a line of companies ready to sacrifice their means of production. Nissan in Washington, Honda in Swindon, Jaguar in Birmingham, BMW in Oxford and others are joined by Ford Bridgend in South Wales. The Bridgend plant has been marked for closure in Autumn 2020, Ford suddenly announced in a letter aimed at stunning the workers and their communities.
The closure of Bridgend is another example of the wanton destruction of the productive forces affecting all sectors of industry and the wider economy, but currently being suffered by the car industry in particular, through plant closures, job losses or elimination of whole production lines or methods.
The monopolists in control, from their perspective as individual competing owners, are obsessed with their ultimately fruitless attempts to offset their falling rate of profit. The car industry is currently beset by its own particular problems that are exacerbating this general state of crisis.
Issues affecting the environment, as well as congestion and safety, arising from the increasing reliance on road transport - issues that point, in short, to the need to humanise the natural and social environment - necessitate both technological development, such as the move to electric power, and new solutions for planning, working arrangements, public transport and the distribution of goods.
This necessity finds itself up against the narrow private interests of competing monopolies and their drive to offset their falling rate of profit. Rather than playing the role of contributing to the socialised economy to guarantee the well-being of all, production and the issues it faces pose itself to these interests as one of "market conditions", such as falling demand for diesel and the shift to electric cars. Ford blamed "changing customer demand and cost" for its closure plans.
Ford of Europe president Stuart Rowley said: "Creating a strong and sustainable Ford business in Europe requires us to make some difficult decisions, including the need to scale our global engine manufacturing footprint to best serve our future vehicle portfolio."
After this irrationality that such destruction will serve the future come the crocodile tears:
"We are committed to the UK... However, changing customer demand and cost disadvantages, plus an absence of additional engine models for Bridgend going forward make the plant economically unsustainable in the years ahead."
In the modern world, globalisation is a reality and cars have long-since become products that are global in nature. Ford itself has plants across North America and Europe, including Britain. Yet globalisation currently takes the form of neo-liberal globalisation, globalisation under the control of competing global oligarchs. With this has come the neo-liberal global crisis.
The competing global oligarchs that control sections of this internationally-socialised interconnected global economy, through their collusion and contention, have given rise to great supra-national institutions such as the EU and sweeping free trade agreements. At the present time, the contradictions inherent in this unstable set of arrangements are surfacing as these arrangements and institutions come under attack from those powerful oligarchs who find them too constraining for their private empire-building aims. The debate and impasse over Brexit reflect these contradictions.
The car monopolies are caught up in these contradictions and are seeking to manoeuvre, either to survive or attempt to use the chaos to their advantage.
Their solution to the contradictions they face and the underlying problem of the falling rate of profit is to demand pay-the-rich schemes, such as government subsidies, only to tear up those agreements when seen fit, and to up sticks and move or close production at will, riding roughshod over the public right to a livelihood and with disregard for regional economies.
In phases starting on September 25, the closure will directly result in the loss of 1,700 jobs, and a huge loss of value for the local, Welsh and British economy, and is part of plans to cut 7,000 jobs worldwide. Workers come from across Wales to produce at the plant, while many more people work for companies supplying it with goods and services.
The government have accepted the decision of Ford virtually without question. Not to take a meaningful stand over such matters is no way to run an economy, and illustrates how private interests have been politicised to the extent that governments either openly or implicitly protect the monopolies for their destructive actions. How to block such unilateral decisions of the monopolies is a matter of great importance, as is how to gain the decision-making power required to set a different direction for the economy.
It is clear that production should continue at Bridgend, a plant and workforce of enormous potential. The interests of the workers, of Wales and indeed the rest of the car industry in Britain should be upheld. This plant has served the entire industry well in the past and should continue to do so.
The issue is that workers do not have any control over the economy, what they produce or the future of these plants. The fact is that the oligarchs who own the means of production act as they do because they can. They have control. That the global financial oligarchy simply views these plants as pawns underscores the need for the working class to organise itself on its own account around its own independent politics and programme. Such devastating arbitrary decisions cannot go unchallenged and demand emergency measures to safeguard the people's well-being and right to a livelihood, and workers need to strengthen their independent consciousness and organisation to make this challenge effective.
The issues surrounding the closure at Bridgend reflect this clash of interests between those who want to destroy production and those who do not, between the rich disconnected owners and the workers and their communities. It is not inevitable; it is not a fait accompli. The closure is already being resisted.
"These workers and this community have stayed faithful to Ford through thick and thin, but have been treated disgracefully in return" said Unite's Len McCluskey, adding that the Ford Bridgend closure is a "grotesque act of economic betrayal".
GMB regional organiser Jeff Beck said: "We're hugely shocked by today's announcement. It's a real hammer blow for the Welsh economy and the community in Bridgend."
"But Ford can forget about it if it thinks we will make it easy for Ford to walk away from this workforce. We will resist this closure with all our might," he pledged.
Unite have been holding mass meetings since the announcement. A recent consultative ballot found 83 per cent in favour of strike action.
The workers are the vital factor in the socialised economy, but are not the vital factor in decision-making. Only by taking up politics themselves and getting independently organised on this basis can they defend their livelihoods.
The lead article of TML Weekly of June 15 by K C Adams, published on the website of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), focuses on the inter-imperialist collusion and contention of competing sections of the global financial oligarchy. In Canada, this is reflected in the conflicts surrounding the Canada US Mexico Trade Agreement (CUSMA). This collusion and contention posits the very grave danger of an inter-imperialist world war involving the militaries of the big powers.
The article points out: "Fortress North America under the dictate of US imperialism appears to be having trouble getting its act together. The contradictions within the ruling elite arising from competing private interests keep bubbling to the surface, causing a civil war. Meanwhile the working people are increasingly coming forward to lay the claims on society which they must and speak in their own name.
"Soon after his election, President Trump announced the three countries of North America would have to negotiate a new NAFTA or the US would unilaterally withdraw from it. Those negotiations became a daily melodrama filled with competing political personalities promoting themselves and their careers, which only recently produced a tentative agreement.
"Before the CUSMA could be presented to the respective legislatures for ratification, the US executive authority derailed it by imposing tariffs on Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminium citing reasons of 'national security'. The US removed those duties on May 17, without explaining how the threat to US national security had been resolved but with a proviso that they could return at a moment's notice.
"But once again, before the process of ratification of CUSMA even began, President Trump disrupted the process by threatening tariffs on all Mexican exports to the US unless the Mexican authorities stopped migrants from approaching and crossing into the United States.
"Then, on June 7, President Trump announced via Twitter that an agreement had been reached with Mexico to reduce the flow of migrants to the south-western US border and therefore the tariffs scheduled to be imposed on June 10 had been indefinitely suspended."
US Imperialist Agreements Not Worth the Paper They Are Printed On
"It would seem that broad trade agreements are quickly becoming passé, as big players of the financial oligarchy, especially the US imperialists, want flexibility to act outside any general arrangement. How else to explain the sudden use of national security as an excuse for the US to impose steel and aluminium tariffs on its supposed partners within North America to derail CUSMA, much less an issue involving immigration.
"All international arrangements - including the United Nations, NATO, the World Trade Organisation, European Union and International Court - are under attack from their own powerful members, as being too restrictive of what are called national interests. Those national interests represent in fact the private interests of competing financial oligarchs who have global reach and power.
"For example, the requirement of NATO members to purchase mainly US weaponry is being challenged by NATO member Turkey with its purchase of a Russian missile defence system, the S-400. More importantly the restrictions within NATO are being challenged by members within old Europe. They have formed their own European military alliance called the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) outside NATO and without Britain. The new European military structure has published what US officials call 'restrictive measures', which amount to rules declaring that most weapons for PESCO members must be produced and purchased within Europe. This is a direct challenge to US dominance in global weapons sales and has predictably infuriated the US imperialist ruling elite."
CUSMA Is But One Drama of Imperialist Collusion and Contention amongst Many Worldwide
"The infighting and histrionics regarding CUSMA reflect the competition amongst members of the financial oligarchy and their specific global companies seeking to dominate their sectors not only within North America but in Europe and beyond. For the Trudeau government and its Foreign Minister and media to repeat over and over that its one success story is to have defended Canada's interests is disinformation. It is all about the striving for hegemony by powerful narrow private interests. The global contention in the technology sector is a case in point. It has become particularly intense in the technology sector as US-based dominance is being challenged. Disputes are also underway in agriculture, vehicle production, oil and natural gas, steel, aluminium, commercial airplanes and armaments.
"These conflicts between specific US-led companies with competitors centred in China, Russia and Europe are significant, involving a wide range of competing private interests throughout the world. These inter-monopoly conflicts also involve the striving of the imperialist powers to control not only specific economic sectors but entire regions. The US imperialists, with their hundreds of military bases and naval armadas throughout the world, are determined to preserve their dominance throughout the Americas and Caribbean, Europe, Asia and Africa and push back against the growing influence of developing global powers such as China, Russia and others.
"The US imperialists have set aflame West Asia and North Africa in regime change, war, and destruction of those powers it cannot control. Elsewhere the US imperialists have put the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Cuba and Venezuela under a genocidal blockade. They have declared that Latin America remains their exclusive region of influence following the tradition of the nineteenth century imperialist Monroe Doctrine, with sovereign nations being treated as having no right to chart their own course of development."
US Oligarchs Launch Attack on Technology Competitor Huawei
"The US, with the apparent conciliation of Canadian authorities, has banned the Chinese-led technology company Huawei and its products from the US and from any cooperation with US companies and threatens all those who continue to do business with Huawei with severe penalties. This has met resistance throughout the world as Huawei products and advanced technology are already widely used in Europe and elsewhere, including in Britain and Canada. In the context of the global campaign against the rising competitor Huawei, the US ordered Canada to arrest Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou while she was transiting the Vancouver airport heading for Mexico. She remains detained under the threat of extradition to the US for allegedly violating the US trade embargo against Iran.
"How quickly these attacks and events can spill over into other sectors is shown by trade statistics between the US and China. The decline of Chinese imports of US agricultural products has been precipitous, falling from an annual amount of $25.7 billion in 2014 to $21.8 billion in 2017, and, since US imperialism unleashed its most sustained attacks on competitor Huawei and other Chinese-centred interests, down to a forecast of just $6.5 billion for 2019. As a consequence of Canada being an active accomplice of the US imperialists in this attack on a global competitor, Canadian companies have also seen a decline in exports to China of mainly agricultural products, and problems in other joint ventures."
US Imperialism Breaks the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran
"In 2018, the US unilaterally broke the 2015 international nuclear arrangement with Iran. The US demands all others follow suit and not have any economic or other relations with Iran. Economic entities violating the US boycott of Iran are forbidden from entering the US market or having any dealings with companies connected with the United States on penalty of punishment under US law, similar to the persecution of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. The re-imposition of a US boycott of Iran after the dispute had been resolved has unleashed significant conflicts globally."
US Attacks Competing Russian Natural Gas
"The US boycott of Iranian oil and gas has been extended to a campaign against Russian gas exported to Europe. The US wants to derail the new Russia/Europe joint venture, the Nord Stream 2 twin pipeline, to supply Russian natural gas directly to the EU market through the Baltic Sea, thus evading the territory of Ukraine.
"US oil oligarchs connected with fracking in the US are now exporting fracked gas as liquefied natural gas (LNG) worldwide and want exclusive rights in Europe without competition from cheaper non-LNG piped Russian gas. They call US LNG 'freedom gas' and insist all must buy it instead of 'repressive gas' from Russia and Iran."
CUSMA within the Global Contention and Collusion of the US-Dominated Imperialist System of States
"The fashioning of a new NAFTA and ratification of its replacement, called CUSMA, is unfolding within the intensifying contention and collusion of competing sections of the global financial oligarchy. The US oligarchs in their striving for world hegemony have come up against the uneven development of the productive forces under imperialism. New forces in the global economy, such as China, India and Indonesia, and old players that have regained their strength, such as Russia and others in Europe are demanding a position and are increasingly refusing to buckle under to the once unchallenged US financial oligarchy and its mercenary and state military power.
"Whether CUSMA is ratified or not holds less importance for the US imperialists in this period when international agreements are routinely ignored according to the demands of particular private interests. The threat of ever larger wars is increasing as contention and its companion collusion intensify amongst powerful sectors of the international financial oligarchy as they, and the respective states and militaries they control, battle for positions that favour them.
"The modern world of socialised productive forces and global trade demands cooperation amongst all humanity and their sovereign countries. New arrangements must be created based on mutual benefit, development and co-operation amongst all sovereign nations without interfering in the right of any nation to build its future according to its own thought material and social consciousness."
TML Weekly concludes by addressing the social responsibility of Canadians, which is to extricate the country from the dominance and control of US imperialism and its interference and aggression against the world's peoples as it strives to eliminate all competing forces in its campaign to retain control of the world. It explains that central to this social responsibility in a world fraught with the increasing danger of a world war is to make Canada a zone for peace, isolate the pro-war fanatics of the cartel parties in Parliament, and build new social, economic and political institutions in conformity with the modern conditions that guarantee the well-being, security and rights of all.
1. The possibility for Member States of Europe to engage in PESCO - on a voluntary basis - was introduced by article 42(6) of the Lisbon Treaty on European Union in December 2017, which provides that those Member States whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria, and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area, shall establish a permanent structured co-operation within the EU framework. (From PESCO Website: https://pesco.europa.eu/)
Ten years have passed since the waves of strikes that began at the Lindsey Oil Refinery in Lincolnshire, quickly spreading to other refineries. This was a powerful action in defence of the rights of all workers against the attacks on those rights by the oil monopolies. The so-called "wave of wildcat strikes" - a period of united action by industrial workers not seen since the great class battles of the eighties - illustrated the workers' strength when they exercise their weight as an organised force. The strikes had a widespread effect upon the energy industry.
The initial strike at Lindsey was triggered when a £200 million construction contract to build a hydro-desulphurisation unit at the refinery was not offered to them. Instead, owners Total sub-contracted the work to Italian-based IREM, which hired workers mainly from Italy and Portugal. Work was not offered locally.
At the time, Workers' Daily Internet Edition (WDIE)  wrote:
"These actions have raised very serious issues, not least the role of the workers as a political force in their own right...
"The workers involved are taking action in defence of their right to a livelihood, against the iniquitous system of contract labour which threatens not only their livelihoods but the communities where they live and the economy as a whole. They are taking a stand against the monopolies riding roughshod over their rights and interests and are intent on drawing a line in the sand as more and more workers are being thrown out of their jobs as the economic crisis deepens".
The context, at the time of the height of the global financial crisis, was where the monopolies, in the course of dominating the whole of political and economic life, were using the crisis to call all the shots, and to accelerate the anti-social offensive in their favour. The New Labour government under Gordon Brown and his Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, were doing everything to bolster and appease these monopolies, such as bailing out the banks with previously unheard-of sums. The government's programme was to rescue monopoly capital and open the country up to ensure the owners of capital could continue to prosper and expand their capital in the conditions of the crisis.
At Lindsey, explained WDIE, oil monopoly Total "is setting out to expand its capital to the maximum as quickly as possible. It is doing so amongst many other means by contracting out work to other capitalist concerns, in this case an Italian firm, which in turn hires labour as it wishes and from where it wishes. The workers are not and cannot be reconciled to this state of affairs, and, as with the destruction of the manufacturing base as a whole... are saying enough is enough."
Workers had to resist hard the attempts to label them as racist and "xenophobic", which had been the tactic of Lord Mandelson. In this connection, the slogan "British jobs for British workers", which Gordon Brown himself had raised at the Labour Party conference in 2007, was being promoted in an attempt to sow division. WDIE explained that the opposition was to the monopolies undermining the livelihoods and working conditions of all workers:
"The workers in Britain are constantly having to contend with the chauvinism of the British ruling elite and its influence within the working class. There are solutions to the crisis of the economy, but they are not to be found in the slogans of 'British jobs for British workers' which have their origin in the chauvinism of the ruling class... In opposition to British chauvinism, the workers are affirming that 'foreign' workers are workers also."
The action was huge. As well as the hundreds on strike at Lindsey itself, hundreds more refinery workers walked out in solidarity at Grangemouth Oil Refinery in central Scotland, Aberthaw in South Wales, the ICI site in Wilton, Teesside, and at British Petroleum in Saltend, Hull.
Though a resolution was initially negotiated quickly, lay-offs at Lindsey in June led to further unofficial strikes. This time, sympathy strikes were held in Fiddlers Ferry Power Station in Cheshire, Aberthaw, Saltend, Drax Power Station and Eggborough Power station in Yorkshire, Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station in Nottinghamshire, and the BOC oxygen plant at Scunthorpe. In reply, some 700 workers were sacked for taking unofficial action at the Lindsey refinery.
Eventually, an agreement was reached on June 25: the sacked workers were reinstated and those laid off were offered alternative jobs, while workers at other sites were given assurances that they would not be victimised for their solidarity action.
"What is at stake is who should be at the centre of decision-making," concluded WDIE. "The way forward is for the workers to organise themselves as an effective political force to stay the hand of the monopolies and their ability to dictate, irrespective of the requirements of the national economy and the human beings who live and produce the wealth here. In opposition, a human-centred society is what the working class and people are striving to attain."
 "The Oil Refinery Workers and the Economic Crisis", Workers' Daily Internet Edition, Year 2009 No. 9, February 4, 2009, http://www.rcpbml.org.uk/wdie-09/d09-009.htmt
June 18 marks the 35th anniversary of the police assault against striking miners at the Orgreave Coking Plant near Sheffield and Rotherham, South Yorkshire, where miners aimed to set up a mass picket to prevent lorries supplying coke to the steel industry during the 1984-85 miners' strike.
To commemorate this anniversary, the annual march organised by the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) took place on Saturday afternoon, June 15, with around 500 people marching past the site of the former coking plant at Orgreave. The march was led by the Unite union brass band along Orgreave Lane with the Orgreave No Justice, No Peace banner at its head and many trade union banners and placards. At the conclusion of the march there was a rally with a number of speakers including Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades' Union, and Chris Kitchen, general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers.
In their press statement the OTJC said: "The OTJC is continuing its call for the Conservative Government to implement a public inquiry into the organised brutal attacks by the police on Miners at the Orgreave coking plant on 18th June 1984. We need to put an end to the injustice experienced by Miners and our communities over the last 35 years."
This violent and brutal assault by the state against striking miners on June 18, 1994, was undertaken by the Thatcher government when the strike was at its height. Hatched up by Thatcher's inner circle, the state turned up at Orgreave with a plan to break the strike. They mobilised 6,000 state forces in riot police, police cavalry as well as thousands in unmarked police uniforms to launch this assault against pickets who were in t-shirts and trainers. Then following this through the courts they criminalised the pickets for resisting this violence by the state. The force included 42 police officers on horseback and the first units with short shields and truncheons ever used in Britain. "Their official purpose, stated in the police's tactical manual, was to 'incapacitate' demonstrators." More than 50 miners were seriously injured, some with head wounds from batons, some with legs and arms deliberately broken from the horse charges and snatch squads that seized miners. A number of police were also injured as a consequence of this state assault. According to official reports given in the press, which are known to be unreliable, 55 of the 95 who were arrested were charged, with the police statements infamously being fabricated. The BBC News on the night of Orgreave also infamously doctored the film footage, showing some throwing missiles to defend themselves out of sequence to try and prove that the miners had provoked the police assault, rather than some miners responding to defend themselves, whilst most were cut down by police as they tried to escape.
At the time, many, including eminent lawyers, said that this assault by the ruling elite under Thatcher on the miners at Orgreave had the aim to decisively defeat the miners and try and break their will by using the full forces of the state. They were, in Thatcher's words, "the enemy within". However, this had been done to the working class on many occasions in its history. For example, this summer is also the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre in Manchester. But what marked out this new assault on the miners at Orgreave in 1984 was the Thatcherite strategy to open up the whole neo-liberal offensive against the working class nationally and internationally and not just to close the pits. They refused even to negotiate. Their aim was to defeat the strike and destroy the miners as a force for the rights of workers in society, a force that defended the rights of mining communities and presented the greatest obstacle to their neo-liberal offensive so that they could go on to defeat the whole opposition of the working class and people.
The aim of Thatcher and ruling elite behind her in launching this assault on the miners was to put society under the unbridled control of the rich, financial oligarchy and global monopolies, an aim that was to go on to have such further disastrous consequences for the livelihoods and well-being of the working class and people in Britain and the world.
Orgreave confirmed that a system that gave Thatcher and her inner circle power was unfit to rule society. Thatcher even said openly there is "no such thing as society". In fact, the ruling elite still does not recognise society and its needs today and cannot harmonise the interests of all, and its rule continues to give rise to civil war at home and war abroad.
That is why the task taken up for solution was and is today for the working class to constitute itself the nation and to vest sovereignty in the people. This is a task of building the independent workers' opposition along the line of march for its own alternative political programme for justice and peace at home and abroad. It is to organise society and a modern economy that meets the needs of all and brings about democratic renewal of society so that the people decide.
Workers' Weekly hails the spirit of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign that on its 35th anniversary continues to be determined to fight to get justice for miners who were victims of the police lies and cover-ups at Orgreave in June 1984. Important conclusions can also be drawn from the reluctance of the present Conservative ruling elite to set up the inquiry into Orgreave that the miners demand. This further confirms that those in power are unfit to rule. The working class needs to continue to organise for a new direction for society which recognises the rights of all. It must settle scores with such crimes in the history of the heroic struggles of the working class and people.
 Orgreave Truth and Justice website (https://otjc.org.uk):
The OTJC is continuing its call for the Conservative Government to implement a public inquiry into the organised brutal attacks by the police on Miners at the Orgreave coking plant on June 18, 1984. We need to put an end to the injustice experienced by Miners and our communities over the last 35 years.
Kevin Horne, OTJC activist and miner arrested at Orgreave said:
"Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, should have the decency to acknowledge previous Home Secretary Amber Rudd's miscalculation and now commission an inquiry into police brutality at Orgreave. The truth will eventually come out and trying to conceal the facts clearly highlights that only a government with something to hide would prevent an inquiry"
Secretary of the OTJC, Kate Flannery said:
"The government has turned down our call for a public inquiry and has rejected a request from the Bishop of Sheffield to set up an Orgreave Independent Panel. We will carry on fighting for truth and justice. When the state has brutally attacked ordinary people, those in power have always covered up the truth as they did at Peterloo 200 years ago and have done many times since. We will ensure that the truth will come out about Orgreave"
Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament, Neil Findlay said:
"Last year, Scotland finally secured an independent review of Policing during the 1984-5 miners' strike due to the unrelenting efforts of ex-miners working with supporters including me. It is only right that Sajid Javid declares a full public inquiry, into what happened at Orgreave on 18th June 1984. Ex-miners, and those who come from mining communities will then have an opportunity to come forward to present evidence and seek justice. The Tory Government cannot delay any longer - we need to know the truth."
The OTJC are also involved in other commemorative events throughout the year.
Over the next two weeks we have an event organised at the Manchester People's History Museum - From Peterloo to Orgreave - on Thursday June 13 and an event organised with Sheffield University at Sheffield Kelham Island Museum on Tuesday June 18 - Barry Hines - After the Strike.
 "We were fed lies about the violence at Orgreave. Now we need the truth", https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/22/orgreave-truth-police-miners-strike
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, 14 June 2019
The Grenfell tragedy must never happen again. The new Prime Minister should make our buildings safe, invest in fire protection and reform fire and building safety systems.
On this day two years ago, 72 people lost their lives in Grenfell Tower in the worst residential fire since the Second World War.
As I met exhausted firefighters and desperate residents searching for their loved ones in the aftermath of the fire, I struggled to understand how this could happen in 21st-century Britain.
But Grenfell was a symbol of everything that's wrong with 21st-century Britain.
Years of austerity. Years of deregulation, privatisation and underinvestment in social housing. And a system that doesn't work for ordinary people.
The government response to Grenfell was abysmal. Two years on, the bereaved, survivors and residents are still waiting for justice.
And two years on, we're still waiting for the lessons of that day to be learned so that everyone can feel safe in their homes.
Enough is enough. The new Prime Minister must listen to and act on the demands of Grenfell campaigners and the Fire Brigades Union.
It's time to make our public buildings safe, invest in fire protection and reform our fire and building safety systems to ensure that the Grenfell Tower tragedy can never happen again.
Grenfell was a catastrophic failing of every aspect of fire-safety that plunged firefighters into an impossible situation.
But the government has been far too slow to remove the type of cladding used at Grenfell from high-rise buildings.
It's also abandoned the thousands who sleep in buildings wrapped in other flammable materials or live in buildings under 18m because they don't meet the narrow criteria for cladding removal.
And there are thousands of hospitals, care homes and schools still wrapped in flammable cladding too.
The government has also allowed private building owners to get away without paying to remove flammable cladding, forcing taxpayers to foot the £200 million bill.
Even then, it was only after immense public pressure from terrified residents that the government agreed to cough up.
Impact of austerity
Despite the pressure that firefighters were under at Grenfell, the government has refused to reverse years of cuts to frontline fire services.
Government funding for fire and rescue services has been slashed by 15% over the last five years. Like so many other public services, the tactic has been to squeeze finances centrally while restricting council taxes locally, forcing local brigades to impose their own cuts.
This means that many fire and rescue services across the country would not be able to mobilise on anything resembling the scale needed for a fire like Grenfell.
The Fire Brigades Union raised concerns after Grenfell that the fragmentation of the fire and rescue was leading to a postcode lottery of public safety.
Yet Theresa May chose not to respond, instead allowing one of her junior ministers to dismiss it as a local matter.
Not good enough
Theresa May recently had the gall to say she was proud of her response to Grenfell. This from the leader of a government that has failed to take decisive action to prevent a similar fire.
The second anniversary of Grenfell must be a turning point. The incoming Prime Minister needs to start listening to the victims and experts and take decisive action to improve safety.
So today we're calling on the government to take five key steps:
1. Remove flammable cladding from all tower blocks and public buildings. There are still 328 residential and public buildings using the same cladding as that on the Grenfell Tower, and at least 1,700 with other potentially combustible claddings, including hospitals, care homes and schools as well as high rises.
2. Retrofit sprinklers in high rises and schools, wherever a risk assessment deems them necessary. Coroners' reports have called for sprinkler systems to be fitted, but so far only 32 out of 837 council tower blocks over 30m tall have sprinklers.
3. Ensure tenants are given a real voice in the running and upkeep of their buildings. Grenfell tenants say their concerns about materials used in the refurbishment were ignored by Kensington and Chelsea council. Tenants' right should be strengthened and democratically-elected groups given a direct say.
4. Reverse the cuts to firefighter numbers and Fire Safety Officers. In 2016-17, the government spent £1,013m on fire services. But in 2019-20, it will only spend £858m. Every single fire authority has seen the amount it receives in central government funding cut in the last three years.
5. Create a new independent national body to oversee standards and best practices in fire and rescue services across the country. There is no national body to oversee fire and rescue service and fire policy. This means standards vary across authorities and lessons are not being learned. Minimum standards should be set for response times and crewing levels.
Working with the Daily Mirror, Grenfell campaigners and the Fire Brigades Union are calling on the Communities Secretary to commit the government to real action on all of the changes we need.
If you agree, sign our petition.
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