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Defence of the Rights of All:
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
Defence of the Rights of All:
Government to Introduce New Laws to Continue the Glorification of the Indefensible
Trade Bill 2020-2021 Ping Pong debate:
The Fight Continues to Limit the Power of the Global Monopolies to Impose Trade Agreements on Society
Public Online Meeting:
Covid 2021: Lockdown, Communities and Schools
Strike at Barnoldswick's Rolls-Royce Ends in an Agreement
Preserving the Security of the Constitutional Order in the United States:
Trump Presidency Comes to an End
Defence of the Rights of All:
The Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has recently announced proposals for new legislation to be framed as the need to protect public statues and monuments. The planned legislation comes in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last year when, amongst other actions, the statue of the notorious human trafficker and Tory MP Edward Colston was in a mass protest removed from its plinth and cast into the ocean, where the lives of many of his victims in late 17th and early 18th centuries had been forcibly ended. Demands to remove the statue began over twenty years ago and had intensified since that time. There were local opinion polls, petitions and even demands from the local MP that the statue should be removed. But all to no avail. After its celebrated removal last June, schools and other institutions in Bristol connected with Colston changed their names, while the Mayor of Bristol announced that any decision concerning its future would be made by the people of Bristol. This statue and its removal came to symbolise a wider struggle against the glorification of those connected with crimes against humanity, slavery and empire, as well as opposition to the economic and political system which arose from those crimes, which continues to perpetuate racism and other forms of inequality and division.
Events in Bristol were just one example of unprecedented protests against racism and in defence of the rights of all throughout the country. The removal of the offensive statue prompted local authorities, museums and other institutions throughout the country to act on long-standing demands and announce that they too would review decision-making processes regarding the appropriateness of the public representation of history. In the wake of the wider protests, many institutions and companies in Britain also felt compelled to publicly state that they too are opposed to racism and the legacy of slavery and empire.
The government reacted in a hostile manner to the Black Lives Matter protests, and in particular to the toppling of Colston. It tried to criminalise the protests and to dismiss the issue of racism and the defence of the rights of all as simply a protest about public monuments and allegedly a demand "to rewrite history". The Prime Minister spoke openly of those who he alleged "want to pull statues down, and to rewrite the history of our country, to edit our national CV to make it look more politically correct". What contemptible nonsense.
The reactionary think-tank Policy Exchange, started by Michael Gove and friends, began to gather information about the "new culture war" and about action that it claimed was "being taken widely and quickly in a way that does not reflect public opinion or growing concern over our treatment of the past". According to Policy Exchange, "history is being politicised, and sometimes distorted" in the current moment and "large swathes of our public heritage is being effectively re-written or erased entirely - much of it seemingly without much proper debate or forethought. It all adds up to a major transformation in the way in which we deal with history in the public square."
In the autumn, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport sent a reiteration of the government's policy on what it began to refer to as "contested heritage" in a letter to publicly-funded museums, archives, and the Heritage Lottery Fund. In short, the government stated that it "does not support the removal of statues or other similar objects", and it opposed any actions by museums themselves which are "motivated by activism and politics". The government apparently does not see its own actions as motivated in this way. Now the Communities Secretary has proposed new laws to counter what he refers to as "an attempt to impose a single, often negative narrative which not so much recalls our national story, as seeks to erase part of it", which has allegedly been done "at the hand of the flash mob, or by the decree of a 'cultural committee' of town hall militants and woke worthies". He argued, "What has stood for generations should be considered thoughtfully, not removed on a whim or at the behest of a baying mob". A mob! The common people on the move! The government then goes on to shamefully claim that there is an attempt "to lie about history... to denigrate and destroy our past", and that to demands to remove offensive statues are tantamount to tearing down historic buildings and burning books.
What the government is now proposing with its new policy of "retain and explain" is to remove decision-making power even further away from the people. If a local authority intends to remove a statue, it will need to apply for planning permission, permission which can be vetoed by the government. The government is clearly greatly troubled by any opposition to a Eurocentric rendering of the past, any attempt of the people to become the decision-makers, not only in regard to the glorification of slavery and empire but also to the capital-centred system which perpetuates racism and inequality. All the government's fine words regarding its alleged concern about existing "inequalities" and "shared history" lie exposed by its deeds and its efforts to provide the state with ever greater police powers.
In these circumstances, it is clear that there can be no faith in government-appointed commissions or other such mechanisms. The struggle against racism and Eurocentrism, against the glorification of all crimes against humanity, as well as against all forms of discrimination and for equality, justice and accountability, must be further developed by all democratic people by finding their own way forward, as part of the struggle to defend the rights of all.
The Trade Bill 2020-2021, which the government tried to rush through Parliament at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 with the aim of becoming law in the summer of 2020, came back this year to the House of Commons on January 19 for the "ping pong" debate. In this debate the amendments made by the House of Lords in its passage through the Lords from July 2020 were rejected by the government almost in their entirety. Now the Bill returns to the Lords where the Commons' Amendments to the Lords' Amendments  will be debated on February 2 before the Bill returns to the the House of Commons for the final time and becomes law. However, without the Bill being passed, the government has continued to negotiate and agree trade agreements using its executive powers.
The Bill had been delayed mainly because of the opposition of the people and their fight, especially on protecting the NHS and other public services from being handed over to global corporations. It is this fight that gave rise to amendments to the Bill in the Commons and the Lords. The fight started early on in June 2020 in the committee stage in the Commons where submissions were made. For example, the Trade Justice Movement submission highlighted that: "The government is pressing ahead with trade negotiations with the US and elsewhere, despite there being no system of transparency or democratic scrutiny of trade deals. The Trade Bill provides an opportunity to set out a democratic process for trade agreements. MPs should support amendments which provide for this. The Trade Bill should also include amendments which maintain UK food and animal welfare standards and protect the NHS and public health from provisions in trade deals. The Covid crisis has hit global trade. It is essent ial that the UK trade policy maintains the right to regulate, protects the NHS and supports countries in the Global South."
The TUC also made a written and verbal submission in which it pointed out that the Trade Bill "makes no mention of the role for unions or parliament in negotiations and scrutiny of 'continuity' agreements, provides no representation for trade unions on the Trade Remedies Authority, makes no commitment that UK trade deals will enforce respect for core International Labour Organisation conventions - makes no commitment that UK trade deals will protect public services - does not affirm that UK public procurement rules will support good work, fair pay, trade union recognition and collective agreements."
In addition to the evidence and verbal submissions, a number of petitions were presented to government alongside the opposition all over Britain. A Change.org petition calling on government "to guarantee that our health service will never form part of any trade deal" reached over 1.3 million signatures, and a National Farmers Union petition with over 1 million signatures calls on the government "to make sure food imports meet UK production standards".
In October 2020, there was a successful national day of action around Britain to protest against the government's proposed trade deal with the United States and other trade deals. The protest was organised by Global Justice Now, War on Want, Keep Our NHS Public and other organisations. Hundreds took part in the physically-distanced protests in London's Parliament Square, as well as other events organised in Ayrshire, Bexhill and Hastings, Bournemouth, Bradford, Cambridge, Cleveland, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Macclesfield, Manchester, Merseyside, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oswestry, Oxford, Portsmouth, Reading, Sunderland, York and other cities and towns.
The government has not only ignored these concerns but has, during the pandemic, continued to negotiate trade deals around the world and continued to hand over billions of pounds of health service contracts and other public health service contracts to the global corporations using its executive powers.
On Tuesday, January 19, the Minister for Trade Policy, Greg Hands, opening the Commons debate on the Trade Bill, said: "We have already signed agreements with 63 partner countries". Sixty of those were signed with countries outside of the EU . He claimed: "Most of those trade agreements are now trading under those terms. Standards have not been undermined in any of those agreements." However, what he failed to mention was that many of those agreements were transfers of the previous agreements under the EU trade agreements and that the government had and has no intention of honouring the "standards" recorded in those agreements when it doesn't suit them.
This was the case when both the government and the opposition in the debate focused on accusing China of human rights abuses against the Muslim Uyghurs community and Muslims in Myanmar when debating the amendment on including human rights in the Trade Bill. However none mentioned Britain's human rights abuses in its brutal colonial rule of China up to the 20th century and its colonial occupation of Hong Kong until 1997, nor its continued interference there in the affairs of the Chinese people. Westminster turns a blind eye to Britain's track record of warmongering and torturing. One need only mention the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and the racist treatment of British people in the Asian, African-Caribbean and Muslim communities in this country over many decades.
Britain's true human rights record in trade agreements was highlighted in the Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Lords in September 2020 when Baroness Tongue had said: "I have been told, after Questions to the Government, that the terms of the old EU association agreements have been adopted in the new agreement between the UK and Israel. This trade agreement was signed as long ago as August 2019 with, as far as I know, no parliamentary scrutiny at all. The terms of the new agreement, as in the old one, include Israel's commitment to observing human rights and democratic principles, and adopt, 'as a main objective, the encouragement of regional cooperation with a view to the consolidation of peaceful coexistence and economic and political stability.' Baroness Tongue went on to condemn this trade agreement when "The Government of Israel allow the constant humiliation and persecution of the Palestinian people under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. Land is stolen, crops are destroyed, water is restricted and almost always polluted, and electricity is rationed to a few meagre hours a day. Children are harassed and badly treated in prison, and many have been killed; in fact 3,000 children have been killed in the last 17 years. Homes are demolished and families made homeless. I could go on and on, as noble Lords know. Is this Israel's adherence to the terms of the new trade agreement? Is this how it respects human rights? We can no longer fall back on the European Union for a decision - not that it ever took a lot of action. The monitoring of the terms of the agreement is now our responsibility and ours alone. Will the Minister tell the House how this monitoring is to be done?"
The conclusion one can draw from the latest "ping-pong" direction of the debates in Parliament is that they more reflect the contradictions developing amongst the ruling elite in how to enrich themselves in the world and the attempt to deflect the opposition of the people in a chauvinist direction against their rivals.
It is clear today that the people are in no mood to accept this situation and are speaking out on these questions, and that a new human-centred anti-war direction is needed in international relations and trade. The resistance of the people to the Trade Bill shows that the fight continues to limit the power of the global monopolies to impose trade agreements on society and that the issue is that the people themselves should decide these vital questions based on fraternal relations between peoples.
1. Commons reasons and amendments to certain Lords amendments
2. UK trade agreements with non-EU countries that took effect from January 1 2021
On January 12, Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign (SLHC) held a public zoom meeting entitled Covid 2021: lockdown, communities and schools. It was chaired by Tony O'Sullivan, leading activist in the SLHC and co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public (KONP). All the speakers fiercely attacked the government's criminal mishandling of the pandemic with so many lives lost as a result. The topics covered were: Lockdown: why it's needed; Infection rates and community transmission; government guidance and u-turns; Have schools been "Covid secure" or safe enough?; Moving out of lockdown, what's necessary?; Vaccinations.
The first speaker, Louise Irvine, a GP in South East London and chair of SLHC, spoke on how Covid-19 has personally affected her on three levels, her family with the loss of her father to Covid, her work as a GP and as a health campaigner. With the latter she has fought against the "horrible" privatisation of the NHS and the "disgusting and incompetent" handling of the Covid crisis by the government - for instance their farming out test and trace to private companies with disastrous results. She described the overall news as "'very, very grim" with a 5-6 hour ambulance wait for Covid patients; however, she spoke of the vaccination programme as being "the light at the end of the tunnel". She ended by saying very pertinently that the government "blames everyone except themselves" and that when the community "pulls together" as it did to save Lewisham Hospital, it "shows what can be done!"
Dr Sonia Adesara spoke of her front line experience in a Covid ward saying the situation was "quite frightening" and the numbers of people admitted were "off the scale" and she "had never seen so much death". She attacked the government's handling of the crisis for not getting the "basics right" and highlighted the "interconnectedness of people in the streets".
Duncan Morrison, Lewisham Branch secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), spoke of the very stressful situation in schools with 20-30 children closely packed together with no masks. In this situation he said the government "needed a plan" to ensure there are comprehensive online learning facilities so that schools could be closed; he said the government ignored the reality of what was going on, saying "it's safe to continue!" and refused to listen to teachers and parents. He pointed out that of course teachers and parents want schools to be open but that they had to be safe. He explained that children do spread the virus and teachers' actions after January 5 did lead to schools being closed and that the government's policy on school closures was contradictory and confusing. He finished by stating the need to organise and said their school membership of the union had grown massively.
Vicky Penner, a local parent and leading activist in the SLHC, spoke of the "catalogue of government failures" and their recklessness in putting lives at risk and how teachers and parents have done their utmost to "protect themselves". She pointed out the lack of online equipment including Wi-Fi pointing out the government have had 10 months to sort out and instanced the government's numerous u-turns and lack of basic planning. She said she was "not happy" about the prospect of her children going back to school under the present conditions. She called on the government to listen to teachers and parents. Her teenage daughter Emily in year 9 spoke of how unnerving it was to go back to school and being in such close proximity after lockdown and that several pupils became ill. She said how the government was claiming that "schools are safe". She pointed out that on line learning "can be great" with the right equipment which the government has failed to provide. She said that alt hough people of her age don't get ill they can pass the virus onto older people.
Hera Lorandos from the Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network spoke of the desperate situation of migrants living in temporary accommodation who are facing migrant charges for health care and being pursued by debt collectors which is turning them away from getting care and dying from Covid. Migrants fear that if they go to a vaccine centre their data will be sent to the Home Office. She said they will push to make sure that everyone is vaccinated.
Professor Susan Michie, Professor of Health Psychology & Director of Centre for Behaviour Change, UCL, member of Independent SAGE and SAGE, spoke of the NHS being "on the brink of collapse" and severely criticised the government's continual delays in lockdowns. She spoke of "distraught" people being forced back to work with the lack of government support. She said the government rhetoric was "blame the population", for example, Priti Patel's "blame and punishment" strategy. She said people were not being given proper information about vaccination - that they are not protected until two weeks after being vaccinated and should still keep social distance, and that this was not being explained to people and there were no leaflets about it; she spoke of this as being "a potential disaster". She said that only 30% of people who have symptoms were self-isolating, pointing out that in other countries people are paid to stay at home and are visited every day to check how they are , something that does not happen here. Other countries are offering free accommodation, Wi-Fi, etc. She said that the biggest failure here has been Test and Trace, instancing how other countries such as Australia and Vietnam have had low deaths because of their successful test and trace. She blamed the government's failure here on farming out test and trace to private companies, with "£12 billion down the drain". She ended by saying that it is "people like you and me who have made the changes" and will continue to do so.
Tony O'Sullivan in conclusion spoke of the government's "arrogance and hubris" as being "a killer" and that it has "made the same mistakes over and over again". He said that the SLHC will be holding follow-on meetings in the near future.
A video of the meeting can be found on the SLHC website: https://youtu.be/wdUzLc4rAns
Workers have ended their strike at the Rolls-Royce factory at Barnoldswick in Lancashire. The historic plant had been threatened when Rolls-Royce announced its intent to offshore the production of its Trent Engine blades, which are made at the site, to Singapore. Not only had 350 jobs hung in the balance, the actions of the owners and controllers of Rolls-Royce were destructive to the economy. Determined to save the factory, the workers took strike action. Throwing the full weight of their organisation behind their struggle, they have managed to reach an agreement that will see guaranteed continued operations at the plant with a workforce of equal size. This is no small victory in the current conditions and climate of industrial relations under the anti-social offensive. The outcome shows how justified the action was, and that the working-class can assert their position in society and take stands to turn things around.
The company initially forced the workforce into a corner and breached relations to do so. In response to the strike action, Rolls Royce at first retaliated by taking more work to factories in Singapore, Japan and Spain, threatening the viability of the plant. But the mettle of the workers was shown to be up to the challenge of saving the day.
Rolls-Royce were accused by unions of "choking" the company's future and "selling the family silver" as the plant was run down. The immediate consequence was for workers to lose all 350 jobs. The workers' right to a livelihood was to be taken away in a dramatic move by the company.
The deal, through which the workers have blocked these moves, is significant in forcing concessions in their favour over their right to a livelihood. The agreement contains:
The struggle required concerted action and large demonstrations with the backing of the community, including a motorcade that received wide support. Workers took to the picket line, maintaining social distancing in all weathers, to fight the closure. The workforce was balloted and began targeted strike action on November 6 last year, which ran until Christmas Eve. Workers then returned to the picket lines on Monday, January 4. In total, the workers have taken nine weeks of strike action.
Paying tribute to the Barnoldswick workforce and community, Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner said: "Today is a day for celebration at the Barnoldswick plant and their community. They demonstrated real solidarity in the face of a genuine threat, stood together and have won a future. True local heroes who have inspired a generation."
Rolls-Royce is the major employer in Barnoldswick. The historic factory was said to be the "cradle of the jet engine", operating since 1943. Its workers have long been enormous creators of wealth. The closure of the factory would have had devastating consequences for the prosperity of the local community.
"This plant has a great history, but it now has a bright future thanks to the courage and determination of these workers and the support of their friends and neighbours," said Steve Turner. "Threats to end manufacturing at Barnoldswick would have left the plant facing closure, destroyed this town and been another nail in the coffin of UK manufacturing. But heads never dipped, and the solidarity shown by its workforce and community has been inspirational," he added.
Unite underscored the necessity for a change in direction of the economy by building the country's capacity in manufacturing, declaring the determination of the union "to retain manufacturing of tomorrow's technologies here in the UK".
The union pointed its finger at the government, which itself did not lift a finger to support the interests of the community or the economy. Instead, the government maintained a position of allowing deteriorating relations by appeasing self-interested decision-making to maintain business as usual.
"Finally, the government must learn from Barnoldswick. Its refusal to support these workers as they fought for a future sent a depressing signal. The ongoing failure of government to develop an industrial strategy that intervenes, supports and invests in the development, growth and transition of our economy simply confirms that while they're happy to talk about 'levelling up' our northern regions and manufacturing heartlands, that is all it is, talk," Steve Turner said. 
Workers and their union are approaching the agreement with a view to its guarantee. They know that concessions are not solutions. They want to make sure it is a complete success, on their own terms. Not only has their action protected a community from ruin, but the agreement reached provides an opportunity for the site to retain advanced manufacturing for decades to come. It is possible, and necessary, for workers to take control over their lives and their destiny.
TML Monthly supplement, January 20, 2021
On January 20, the Trump presidency will be over and the world is breathing a sigh of relief - even though what comes next looks like more of the same in too many ways. Trump's election in 2016 indicated that the old way of doing things was finished; civil society arrangements would no longer serve to sort out problems of any kind. Four years of Trump rule could not reveal this more vividly. It remains the case and defines the present, despite wishes it were not so.
The armed military camp that will occupy Washington, DC for the next 30 days, along with seven-foot fences topped with razor wire, broad closures of public places and transportation, are an indication of government plans to contend with resistance by the people. Another indication that police powers by the executive will increase under Biden is the Joint Intelligence Bulletin issued by the US Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Counterterrorism Centre. It identifies those it labels "violent extremists", "anti-government and anti-authority violent extremists", and "racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists", along with militias, saying they pose the greatest domestic danger. Given that the striving of the people for equality, justice and accountability - including in relation to COVID-19, demands for the right to healthcare, housing and a livelihood - will persist and the government is giving itself the authority to decide who is and is not an "extremist", the likelihood of increased repression against the people is evident.
In a neo-liberal world where cartels and coalitions made up of oligopolies have directly seized the powers of the state in the US and other capitalist countries, the rulers cannot sustain a political process. Trump positioned himself to break the bounds of the Constitution and oversee the consolidation of a state of police powers, developed under Obama as well, such as with drones and mass deportations. At this point police power is not concerned with legitimacy so it tramples underfoot the old forms of claiming legitimacy through elections. It considers they are no longer required. Similarly, it does not recognise the validity of having a civil society which pressures government. Instead, it is pushing the need to preserve the security of what it calls constitutional order.
Internationally, the Trump presidency and the military that backed him were opposed to nation-building as an activity of the military. All hitherto set ways for conducting international relations were smashed, affecting all bilateral and multilateral relations and institutions, including not only relations with the closest US allies and the United Nations and UN agencies but also the aggressive US-led military alliance NATO. Contention and collusion with all rivals has been carried out on the basis that the President is "in the game". Trump's "art of the deal" jives with oligopoly where everything is used to seek advantage. Trump's foreign policy did not position the US for or against Russia or China but on how to pit them against each other, to both contend and collude and seek advantage.
No sooner Trump was elected, the overall stand of the US polity and most of the world was one of revulsion and repulsion along with every effort on the part of the monopoly media to divide the polity by blaming the people for electing a racist, anti-immigrant and misogynist person. The Old Guard presented themselves as not racist but, on the contrary, champions of civil rights, the police powers at their disposal notwithstanding. All of it was done to divert from the US's known persona as a racist state which unleashes various police and other forces to run rampant and commit crimes against Black lives, immigrant lives, the lives of the working people and indigenous peoples as well as war crimes.
Great credit goes to the working people of the United States who have waged a vigorous fight for democracy, not only distancing themselves from what is done in their name but demanding equality, an end to police impunity, injustice and the abuse of the human person. Not only will the battle for democracy in the United States, against the use of police powers and replacement of rule of law with police rule continue, but so too the battle of democracy which is still incomplete and demands to go forward. It requires the politics of empowerment, a political process that provides for the elimination of the condition of slavery, privilege and the rule of the few over the many.
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