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Fight for An Anti-War Government!
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
Review of Stop the War Coalition Pamphlet:
No Return to Blair Wars - a Reply to Open Labour
The Making of History:
The Struggle between the Old and the New
Twenty years after the then Labour government, led by its Prime Minister Tony Blair, took Britain to war in invading and occupying Afghanistan, the present Labour Party under its new leader Keir Starmer is again discussing in its leadership circles what many call global "humanitarian interventionism" under the guise of protecting "human rights". This is the same fraudulent claim that Blair used for military intervention on behalf of the US warmongers in the former Yugoslavia, and one of the main arguments for its "war on terror" in Afghanistan and Iraq. The disastrous consequences of death and destruction for the peoples of those countries and the world are well known. The consequent ongoing refugee and other serial tragedies on the people of those countries continue to this day. In other words, "humanitarian interventionism" is the use of military force by one state against another, under the veil of the pursuit of high ideals. The "responsibility to protect" (R2P) has also been used to describe such a doctrine. It has no basis in international law, and is prima facie in contravention of the UN Charter.
In the 2020 review of Labour's international policy, the Labour Party's International Policy Commission, whose members are drawn from the party's National Policy Forum, the Shadow Cabinet and the National Executive Committee, has published an interim report , which claims that "this is a moment when Labour must decide on its future foreign policy on the basis of a more fundamental reconsideration of the UK's role in the world than has taken place since the Second World War". The document recognises that the present government's interventionist policy is "facilitating a fundamental shift of Britain's place in the world", but complains that its "albeit in a manner that lacks an apparent overarching strategy".
However, there is very little to see in this interim report other than some perverse arguments that attempt to nullify many of the points in the response to quoted submissions from party and other organisations . The real strategy that the Labour leadership is pursuing has been revealed by the vindictive attack against the Stop the War Coalition, and what is described as Corbynism, most recently expressed in a pamphlet published by Open Labour - A Progressive Foreign Policy for New Times . Open Labour claims that it represents "Labour's open Left: a practical, open-minded and tolerant type of democratic socialism". It was formed in 2015 in response to the election of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest . This latest pamphlet was launched with the participation of Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy, and subsequently reportedly endorsed by another member of Labour's foreign affairs front bench team.
The pamphlet, written by Frederick Harry Pitts and Paul Thompson, seeks to challenge the "intellectual and organisational remnants of Corbynism", in order to "resurrect an ethical and internationalist foreign policy for new times". It will be remembered that an "ethical foreign policy" was the brainchild of Robin Cook, who oversaw British interventions in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, before resigning as Foreign Secretary in 2003 over Tony Blair's decision to launch the invasion of Iraq. The pamphlet claims that "the danger is that the legacy left behind by Corbyn's anti-imperialist equivocation will continue to obstruct the necessary reorientation long into the tenure of the new leader". A fine choice of words - "anti-imperialist equivocation"! More is revealed about this when the authors are forced to admit that the Stop the War Coalition "whilst being right about the invasion of Iraq" bemoans that it led to an anti-war movement "that defeated the Cameron government's plans" for strikes against Syria in 2013, "a defeat that forced President Obama to rethink his own plans for action". It then tries to recuperate the Labour Party's rotten tradition of military intervention when it immediately says, "Owen Smith, in his unsuccessful pitch for the leadership [against Corbyn], extolled Labour's 'internationalist tradition of intervention'. Only Nandy among the last set of leadership contenders offered any substantial attempt to recuperate this tradition."
The veil of this tradition and of Blairite intervention is then dropped completely when the authors enthusiastically speculate on the election of US President Joe Biden. They criticise the presidencies of Obama and Trump in which "a world in which the US withdraws from wielding soft and hard power, as we have seen in recent years, has the potential to wildly unravel, and Biden will likely need encouragement to re-engage that power when feasible and justifiable in defence of human life and rights". Wielding soft and hard power to violate the sovereignty of nations and assert the dictate of the imperialist system of states led by US imperialism was a feature of the Bush presidencies, and was also a feature of the Blair years, in which Britain plc was also to be made great again under the aegis of the United States, and intervening globally in furtherance of Anglo-US interests. The use of the terms "soft power" and "hard power" appear to be making a comeback in the vocabulary of the cartel parties. The terms tend to be used in connection with whipping up anti-China and anti-Russia hysteria, rather than setting out a coherent policy. Nevertheless, in the Open Labour context it is being used to revive bankrupt big power ambitions on the part of Britain. The authors of Open Labour's pamphlet state that "ultimately, under any leadership right or left, the US remains the indispensable partner in any wider attempt to reconstruct the rule-based international system and counteract the expansion and influence of Chinese authoritarianism, Russian aggression and jihadist terrorism, among other issues. At the same time, however, one thing is certain: the US is most likely to take the UK seriously where its voice is amplified in concert with our European partners and their institutions." Reconstructing the rule-based international system, where Britannia waives the rules, is a recipe for implementing "might makes right".
The authors of the pamphlet attempt to impose all kinds of spurious theories on their opponents, and even make insults to sully the names of all those, especially the leaders of the Stop the War Coalition, who have stood up against war over the last 20 years. What they cannot hide is the reality that what they are saying is not new at all but a rehashed imperialist foreign policy alongside the US in "humanitarian interventionism" confronting China and Russia. It is indeed to continue Britain's role as a retrogressive force for intervention and war alongside the US and EU powers and supported at the heart of the new Labour Party leadership. That is the overarching strategy, if it can indeed be called such.
In an obscene display, it also falsely misrepresents the name of Nelson Mandela on the cover of the pamphlet. Nelson Mandela did not endorse Labour's warmongering policy but opposed it. The points he made to the Labour Party conference in 2000 "marvelled at that generosity of spirit capable of reaching out" from the labour movement in its support of the struggles of the Anti-Apartheid struggle in his country and cannot be interpreted as support for Britain's military intervention in Afghanistan a year later, or anywhere else. South Africa was not part of the US, British and NATO countries that invaded Afghanistan, nor is South Africa a member of NATO.
In an introduction to the pamphlet, Alex Sobel MP and Professor Mary Kaldor try to dress it up as the new, as a "rights based" international order and that "human security is about the security of individuals and the communities in which they live rather than about the security of states and borders [our emphasis]" Thus by sleight of a hand the real defence of the rights of all, which includes the rights of nations and their borders to sovereignty, is denied whilst enabling the big powers including Britain to cross borders and carry out "regime change" against the will of those peoples with the excuse of alleged "human rights" abuses. This is the so called "new" international policy that the Labour Party is talking about in coded phrases.
Workers' Weekly congratulates the Stop the War Coalition and its leaders on their anti-war stand over the past 20 years, which the new Labour leaders along with the Westminster consensus are desperate to try and eradicate. According to these cartel parties, this stand should be excluded from their Party system and Parliament so as to pursue their warmongering agenda. The Stop the War Coalition in their pamphlet  refute these positions, and their experience shows that they are right to conclude that "we start from our political tasks in Britain, which sits at the heart of the US-led world order". They conclude that Britain "remain(s) more closely aligned with Washington's policy than almost any other power. Our anti-imperialism must therefore start from here. Britain is part of one imperial bloc, and that is the one we need to challenge in our effort to give the country a new direction in world affairs."
Those political tasks in Britain are also revealing the necessity to fight for new arrangements in which the working class and people with their own independent programme make the decisions and increasingly limit the power of the big global oligopolies, including the arms industry who wield so much control over the Party system and Westminster and the pro-war agenda. This is a fight taken up for solution, with the perspective that new forms of governance have to be brought into being that give a new direction to society and to world affairs and bring about an anti-war government in Britain.
1. Labour Party National Policy Forum - International
2. Though admitting "many submissions received on the issue of Palestine, where members voiced their concerns that international law and human rights were at risk of significant violation," the report said that this was only a matter of "consistency". When Unite the Union submitted that the Labour Party should pursue "an independent foreign policy", it stated that policy "must prioritise de-escalating these tensions, and pursuing peace, global co-operation and international law as not only the most ethical path but the one that will also deliver the best security for our citizens, country and our future." The report claimed from this that submissions "recognised the threat posed by a rapidly changing and destabilised world, and the need for the UK to prepare strategically for a range of emerging threats at home and overseas."
3. Open Labour - A Progressive Foreign Policy for New Times
4. Wikipedia states: "Open Labour is an activist group operating within the Labour Party. Open Labour operates as a forum for Labour Party members to discuss ideas, tactics and campaigning in the soft left political tradition, which the organisation hopes to recast as the 'open left'. Within the party, Open Labour is generally positioned to the right of internal left-wing groups like Momentum and to the left of New Labour groups such as Progress."
5. No Return to Blair Wars - a Reply to Open Labour
The Stop the War Coalition pamphlet No Return to Blair Wars - a Reply to Open Labour released on February 10 and written by Lindsey German and Andrew Murray opens with a foreword by Jeremy Corbyn. The former Chair of Stop the War and former leader of the Labour Party recalls the terrible consequences of the invasion and continuing occupation of Afghanistan after 20 years carried out by the former Labour government of Tony Blair in support of the US. He says in supporting the pamphlet: "Andrew Murray and Lindsey German have the benefit of a consistent and honest track record in opposition to war. They were part of the foundation group of the Stop the War Coalition in 2001 and have jointly written this pamphlet to ensure we do not descend into another bout of interventionism, and then pretend the consequences are nothing to do with the original military action." He points out in conclusion: "The Stop the Coalition has been a crucial and democratic voice for both peace and soli darity for the last twenty years. It has succeeded in changing the dial in so much public debate. Its future success will be an end to the idea that armed intervention accompanied by nationalistic rhetoric, greedy arms companies and a thirst for natural resources bring anything other than untold numbers of victims in their wake."
The authors in their introduction say: "Here we aim to briefly refute the main arguments of the Open Labour authors. We rebut the allegation that our opposition to regime change wars means alignment with the regimes targeted for removal; recall the actual record, behind the rhetoric, of the wars of intervention of the last thirty years; examine the recent changes in the world balance of power; defend the importance of anti-imperialism as a political orientation; expose the hypocrisy of the alternative advocated; and sum up the foreign policy choices facing the next Labour government. We hope to ensure that the apparent course set by Starmer and Nandy does not go uncontested. These issues should be debated throughout Constituency Labour Parties and the trade unions, as well as the Left and society more generally. This pamphlet is a contribution."
The authors refute the ridiculous claim that the anti-war movement is "campist" and simply aligning itself with foreign powers, or with other countries who are victims of regime change by the Western powers. They say that if you count opposition to "imprisonment, the death penalty, torture, lack of civil rights, war crimes against innocent civilians" then the credit would go to the grassroot campaigns that Harry Pitts and Paul Thompson say are stuck in the past and not to these warmongers who intervene for regime change claim the issue is "human rights". "None of this fits with a narrative which pays lip service to human rights but denigrates those who fight for them and who have to stand up to an increasingly authoritarian British government in doing so."
In fact, the pamphlet devotes a whole chapter on the appalling life loss and destructive record of "humanitarian intervention" over the last 20 years. Not least in Afghanistan, where "the US maintains a military presence there despite repeated promises that it will withdraw, and most importantly the population lives in one of the most dangerous and poorest countries in the world".
The final chapter of the pamphlet affirms that "anti-imperialism matters". This is essential to the outlook of Stop the War and to "underline the point, Starmer's Shadow Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Wayne David MP, welcomed the [Open Labour] pamphlet and urged the Party to drop its 'obsession with anti-imperialism'."
The authors in their conclusion say: "Let us say first of all, this is a very British position. In most of the world, the world held captive to one empire or another for generations, anti-imperialism is a core political value. But blindness to imperialism and its consequences, including the view that the Empire was on balance a good thing, is baked into the British political system.
"Historically, it has been baked into the Labour Party too. Labour's leadership down the generations generally supported first the Empire, then the neo-imperialist alliance with the USA, with only the minimum of ethical equivocation. In this respect, Tony Blair was an extreme example, but not entirely an outlier.
"However, we start from our political tasks in Britain, which sits at the heart of the US-led world order. We remain more closely aligned with Washington's policy than almost any other power. Our anti-imperialism must therefore start from here. Britain is part of one imperial bloc, and that is the one we need to challenge in our effort to give the country a new direction in world affairs.
"This is now urgent. As noted above, there are tasks that require immediate collaboration regardless of other considerations - climate change, arms control and supporting refugees among them. Imperialism makes these issues harder, but it does not preclude the possibility of progress. In StWC our specific mission is stopping war. There is nothing more important. Great power rivalry caused first two world wars and could cause a third."
The full pamphlet can be accessed from the Stop the War Coalition
As a result of the overwhelming response and debate provoked by No Return to Blair Wars - A Reply to Open Labour, the Stop the War Coalition has decided to host an online launch event where the authors will speak and answer questions on the topics discussed in the pamphlet.
The meeting is free to attend.
Start: Wednesday, March 10, 2021 " 7:00 PM " Greenwich Mean Time : Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London (GMT+00:00)
Host Contact Info: email@example.com
Firefighters have been waging a long and protracted battle for guaranteed pensions. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) took a case to the Employment Tribunal recently and have won a new milestone battle in the fight to block the long-running neo-liberal offensive against retired workers. The court ruling has declared that fire authorities must stop delaying paying out firefighter pensions.
In 2018, the fire and rescue authorities had taken a new step in undermining the hard-won Firefighters' Pension Scheme, a defined-benefit occupational pension. When the scheme changed on April 1, 2015, from a final salary scheme to a career average revalued earnings (CARE) scheme, certain firefighters were forced onto the new scheme, while others were permitted to remain on their old schemes.
Defined-benefit pension schemes have been under attack for some time. Pensions are claims by retired workers on social value produced over their working life and on new value that is being produced by current workers. Under the defined-benefit scheme, a pension fund is built up out of the value firefighters produce, from which retired workers claim their pensions. Employers must continue to contribute to the fund a portion of the value produced so the fund can sustain the claims of retirees for the rest of their lives.
The government and the fire authorities follow the prevailing line that pensions are a cost. This view is also fostered by the conditions in which the fire services operate, where the value firefighters produce is not properly accounted and paid for. As a result, ways and means are found to cut that "cost", meaning to degrade the rightful claim of retired workers on the value that firefighters produce. Furthermore, government and employers would like ultimately to let go of their responsibility completely and shift from a defined-benefit to a defined-contribution scheme, properly called a personal savings plan, which provides no guarantee of an income for the whole of a retiree's remaining life, and which are generally extremely lucrative to so-called investors.
The firefighters in this situation have responded by calling out the government and fire authorities, declaring the tactic discriminatory. That it was so was a view which had been upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2018 in a ruling that the government had indeed committed unlawful age discrimination. A subsequent appeal by the government was rejected by the Supreme Court.
The fire authorities held back paying the original pensions of those forced off the previous scheme, arguing that the new pensions were considered legal when they were introduced in 2015, and therefore there was a need to wait for the government to change the law.
In response, the firefighters argued that under the Equality Act they must immediately be treated as though they had never moved from their original scheme. The latest Employment Appeal Tribunal, won by the firefighters through their union, has ruled that fire authorities must stop delaying and pay out these pensions.
The government has effectively climbed down and it stated last week that firefighters are now able to choose which scheme to claim at the end of their career. This throws out what had been the authorities' preferred method of forcing members to choose their scheme now, without access to vital information such as their circumstances at the time of retirement.
In achieving this victory, firefighters have disrupted a tactic meant to divide and weaken workers, and they have slowed down the move from a final salary to a career average pension, a move which may well be a precursor to winding down the defined-benefit scheme altogether. The firefighters' case is a just one.
Commenting on the outcome, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said:
"There is no disputing the law in this case - the Tory-Lib-Dem government's attack on firefighter pensions was discriminatory and firefighters are entitled to return to their rightful pension. But employers seem hell-bent on dodging their responsibility to pay up.
"While fire authorities waste endless sums on legal appeals, firefighters are being forced to retire without the pensions they are entitled. This tribunal's ruling is clear; employers can pay firefighters their proper pensions - and they must.
"After seven years of campaigning, lobbying, industrial action, and legal challenges, we're tired of the games and attacks from fire service bosses and government. Firefighters just want what they are entitled to - fairness and dignity in retirement, free from illegal age discrimination."
GKN has announced the closure of their Driveline factory in Chester Road, Erdington, Birmingham with the loss of 519 jobs. This comes three years after the hostile takeover of GKN by the so-called "venture capitalists", Melrose Industries, and two years after the announced closure of another GKN factory in Kings Norton, Birmingham, with the loss of about 170 jobs.
GKN is one of Britain's oldest engineering firms and the Driveline factory makes parts for Jaguar Land Rover and other automotive companies. The 500-plus workforce at the factory were left shocked and fearing for their future when the company announced at the end of last month that the plant was set for closure, with its work being transferred to other sites in Europe. Melrose's purchase of GKN was highly controversial at the time. In response to fears that GKN was going to be asset-stripped, Melrose promised shareholders and investors that it would establish a "UK manufacturing powerhouse".
Unite national officer Des Quinn said: "The bottom line is that the Chester Road factory is a highly viable site and Unite is committed to pursuing every option to keep it open. Sadly, Melrose/GKN is acting in the manner that those opposed to its takeover feared, closing viable plants and ditching workers to boost profits. Its promise to create a UK manufacturing powerhouse now appears at best misleading or at worst a direct lie. Thankfully, with an 18-month window before the factory closes, Unite is hoping to develop a watertight business case guaranteeing the factory's future. The union will be creating a coalition of workers, the local community, business groups, local politicians and others to secure the future of the Chester Road site. Unite is open to talks with GKN and is prepared to discuss all options to ensure the future of the Chester Road factory."
Jaguar Land Rover
In further news, there are fears that Jaguar Land Rover itself could end manufacturing at its Castle Bromwich plant in Birmingham. JLR has warned workers that 2,000 staff are to lose their jobs over the next 12 months. The shock news came days after the company said it would be "streamlining" the non-manufacturing side of its business. According to reports, the luxury vehicle manufacturer - which announced on February 15 that it would become an all-electric car maker by 2030 - had launched a "full review" into the structure of the firm and that they "need to reduce the cost base to achieve a lean foundation". JLR has said that those workers affected are not "hourly paid manufacturing colleagues".
One JLR worker told how the hope was that 2021 would be a fresh start after the pandemic. Instead, workers' worst fears are set to become the reality. Should the workers and their union organise to oppose this imposition of job cuts without so much as a consultation with the workers, it is certain that they will have the support of workers throughout the industry.
The present owner of Jaguar Land Rover is the global cartel Tata Motors, and it is threatening the whole future of JLR. The cruel joke that the company is attempting to play on the workers is to say that it will "create a flatter structure designed to empower employees to create and deliver at speed and with a clear purpose". A fine way to empower workers by axing their livelihoods!
Workers cannot accept that the solution to whatever commercial problems Tata claims the company faces, or its move to focus on electric cars, is cuts in workforce, wrecking of the manufacturing base, or in any other way treating the workers as expendable. Tata's narrow private interests must not be the determining factor, and workers must organise to block these attacks on workers' rights, working to become the decision-making authority and change the direction of the economy as the solution.
According to recent press reports, Home Secretary Priti Patel has condemned those who protested against Eurocentrism and all forms of racism during the "Black Lives Matter" events of 2020. Last year was witness to anti-racist protests globally following the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man, by police in the United States. George Floyd's death also led to protests by thousands of people against state and other forms of racism in two hundred and sixty towns and cities in Britain last summer. But the Home Secretary maintained that such anti-racist protests were "not the right way". Government ministers are particularly alarmed by the popular removal of the statue of a notorious human trafficker in Bristol last year, not least because it was an example of people empowering themselves and engaging in decision-making in a decisive manner.
Speaking during an interview on LBC Radio, the Home Secretary denounced the anti-racist protests as "dreadful", and made it clear that she did not support them, as though that were the issue. She also criticised those professional athletes who "take the knee" as a form of protest against racism in sport and more generally in society. Priti Patel provocatively said that she would refuse to take such a stance. She also condemned the removal of the statues of those who have committed crimes against humanity, as well as criticising those local authorities who have encouraged discussion about the renaming of buildings and streets that are currently glorifying such criminal acts.
Priti Patel's comments came after the leader of the House of Commons, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, accused London mayor Sadiq Khan of overseeing "loony leftwing wheezes" following the creation of a new Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm. Sadiq Khan said that the Commission, which includes the former Director of the National Gallery, was established because "For far too long, too many Londoners have felt unrepresented by the statues, street names and building names all around them, and it's important that we do what we can to ensure our rich and diverse history is celebrated and properly commemorated in our city."
The reactionary comments by those in authority who claim to represent the people are simply beneath contempt. In addition, various government ministers, including the Prime Minister himself, have been outspoken in their opposition to what they off-handedly refer to as the "re-writing of history". However, to date only 39 names including streets, buildings and schools - and 30 statues, plaques and other memorials - have been, or are undergoing changes or removal since last summer's protests. Nevertheless, many local and regional authorities have announced that they are reviewing public memorials and monuments including the government of Wales and the city of Glasgow, which began its review before the protests. Some cities such as Manchester are organising public debates and discussions of these questions. In his condemnation of London's mayor, Rees-Mogg declared that "we should celebrate and glory in our wonderful history", although he did not dare elaborate on which aspects of Brit ain's history he deemed wonderful and glorious. It now appears that the Home Secretary and others regard political protests which they don't agree with as also not part of Britain's history. But facts are facts, and history is not to be brushed aside so easily.
What is being struggled over is precisely the question of outlook. The issue is not just about the representation and presentation of history. It is about the perpetuation of racism and Eurocentrism in a modern society as an acceptable outlook. The present government and its predecessors are determined that no major changes should occur in society, whether in regard to all manifestations of racism, the falsification of history or who should wield decision-making power. The attitude of the powers-that-be to existing inequalities in society has been furthered exposed through the present Covid epidemic, by the so-called Windrush scandal, by the racist immigration and nationality laws, as well as be the comments of leading politicians including the Prime Minister. The powers-that-be who represent everything that is old and backward in society are also intent on clinging on to such an outlook in the presentation of history. Who can forget the views of leading politicians on such histori cal matters as the nature of the First World War, or former Education Secretary Michael Gove, who wish to have a school history curriculum that not only glorified the "white men of property" but also sought to exclude the working people, women and people of African, Caribbean and Asian heritage entirely. On the other hand, are precisely those people that Gove wished to exclude, who demand to be part of history and to make their own history as they demonstrated in the protests from Land's End to John O' Groats last year. They represent the new and the overwhelming majority of people in society.
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