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22nd Anniversary of the Bombing of Yugoslavia:
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
22nd Anniversary of the Bombing of Yugoslavia:
NATO's War against Serbia and Kosovo
National Easter Commemoration Address by Sinn Féin President:
Now Is the Time for Irish Unity
22nd Anniversary of the Bombing of Yugoslavia:
People marching in Belgrade, Serbia, on March 24 2019 to commemorate the
victims of the attack by NATO on the 20th anniversary of its war against Yugoslavia.
Twenty two years ago on March 24, 1999, Britain alongside the US started its bombing of Yugoslavia. In the following weeks and months tens of thousands demonstrated in Britain and across the world against NATO's war. Yet Tony Blair and the Labour government pressed ahead further involving Britain alongside the US, Germany and other NATO powers in this criminal war of aggression against Yugoslavia.
The bombing of Yugoslavia marked a new "strategic concept" of NATO. It fraudulently claimed that its aim was "human security" which took precedence over the rights of nation-states so that the Anglo-US and other Western powers could further interfere and occupy the Balkans states in their own interests. The Château de Rambouillet "peace agreement" was the pretext for war drafted by NATO early in 1999. It was the ultimatum to Yugoslavia that was used to justify the bombing of Serbia and Kosovo. It was an ultimatum that Yugoslavia could not possibly agree to which demanded that Yugoslavia allow 30,000 NATO troops into Kosovo and contained provisions for Kosovo's secession from Yugoslavia which further incited Serbs and Kosovans against each other.
During the war NATO daily added to its list of war crimes. To give just one example, on May 7, 1999 - the same day that NATO bombed the Chinese Embassy killing journalists - it also dropped cluster bombs on the hospital and market place at Ni, killing 15 people and injuring a further 70. Despite these atrocities, Tony Blair declared that morality was on NATO's side!
Such a concept that NATO was trying to impose was one which seeks to legalise the violation of the principle of the sovereignty of all nations, and that peoples have the right of self-determination. In other words, with the drive of the monopolies and oligopolies for world domination, with the huge arms monopolies who have flooded the world with weapons of mass destruction, NATO had declared that it wanted to impose a new legality.
This new legality was later encapsulated in a statement by Tony Blair that the "Rules of the Game have changed" with the "war on terror" and the equally infamous "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P) that was used to justify the unjustifiable bombing of Libya. This is a so-called new legality where the rights of nations to sovereignty and self-determination are cast aside and the actions of the big powers are justified in the name of "fighting terrorism", "opposing ethnic cleansing" and "human rights" and so on. In other words, the war of NATO against Yugoslavia was the precedent used by the Anglo-US powers in their wars of invasion, death and destruction in Afghanistan, Iraq, and following that in Africa with Libya, and with their proxy wars in Syria and many other parts of the world confronting Russia and China. Prior to this, Britain along with the US had already been bombing Iraq for 10 years since the first Gulf War of 1990 as well as continuing their interference and wars wherever they desired to impose their dictate.
On May 1, 1999, Workers' Weekly , opposing the war, gave some insight into the coming upsurge against the wars to come in the new millennium when it pointed out that "it is not an expression of the strength of the US, Britain and other imperialist powers when they resort to such violence against the peoples of Iraq, Yugoslavia and other countries of the world because the situation is sharpening the contradictions between imperialism and the peoples. It is sharpening the contradictions in the imperialist heartlands. As they go to war they increase the reaction at home. In Britain, the most reactionary anti-social measures are being taken against the people and every kind of diversion is and will be perpetrated to place the blame on the people themselves or on some 'extremists'. The peoples must respond by uniting in action against the danger of fascism and imperialist war. In Britain, the source of this danger is the monopoly capitalist system and its archaic political sys tem. The working class and people must fight for a vision of society that recognises the rights of all, that ends Britain's interference in the internal affairs of other countries, that withdraws from NATO and stands for democratisation of international relations and the equality and rights of all nations big and small."
Many of NATO's war crimes against Yugoslavia were listed by the Cuban government in their declaration on June 1 1999, Genocide Must Receive Exemplary Punishment . However to date NATO and especially the US and British governments - not to mention Tony Blair himself - have not been brought to account for the bombing of Yugoslavia and the death and destruction caused.
1. Workers' Weekly Vol. 29, No. 9, May 1, 1999
2. Declaration by the government of Cuba, Havana, June 1, 1999
Mayer Wakefield, Stop the War
The headlines surrounding the announcement of the government's Defence Command Paper, following last week's Integrated Review of Foreign and Defence Policy, have been typically misleading regarding Britain's role in the world. The primary soundbite being fed to the public is that there will be a 10,000 reduction in the number of British Army troops with the insinuation that the military will be reducing its role overseas and its drain on public resources. But a mere scratch of the surface reveals a vastly different reality in which Britain will not only be maintaining its capacity to export violence but rapidly increasing it.
Despite the significant cutbacks to the regular army, the paper details the increasingly interventionist intentions of the British government and its armies with commanders apparently determined to increase the number of armed forces operations around the world "in smaller but more highly trained units". As part of this, the Royal Marines will be overhauled into a new Future Commando Force (FCF) which will be deployed around the world on an "enduring basis". It will also fight alongside the new special operations Ranger Regiment announced in last week's review which according to Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, would "be able to operate discreetly in high-risk environments and be rapidly deployable across the world".
These new units may follow job cuts in the regular army but that does not mean any decrease in cost. In fact, an extra £3 billion of funding is being pumped into the Army - a large portion of which will go towards facilitating these new Special Operations brigades. All the talk of cuts to the army have diverted attention from Johnson's unprecedented hike in military spending during his disastrous handling of the greatest threat to the nation - the global Coronavirus pandemic. With Johnson pouring an additional £16.5 billion into the military it seems there is always a magic money tree to be found when it comes to war.
The hysteria around cuts has been added to from across the pond with Admiral Mike Mullen, ex-chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling the supposed cuts a "huge concern". Once again this is a deflection tactic. Let us be clear, there are no cuts - just huge budget hikes for an increasingly aggressive war machine.
It is clear from both documents that the government and the armed forces have learnt precisely nothing from two decades of aggressive foreign wars. Despite being at the heart of repeated catastrophic conflicts, mainly across the Middle East, in the past twenty years it seems the UK's military is preparing itself for more war on frontiers both old and new. General Mark Carleton-Smith, Head of the Army, told news outlets:
"We'll see the Army operating across Africa, particularly east Africa. We'll see the Army being a much more persistent presence in Latin and South America and even stretching as far afield as the Indo-Pacific rim."
This was backed up with further braggadocio from Wallace who declared that:
"Across a vast global footprint, we will be constantly operating to deter our adversaries and reassure our friends, integrating with our allies, and ready to fight should it be necessary."
There is no demand for this type of expansionism from the UK population or those of the countries who will increasingly find themselves either surveilled or under threat of attack from British units. Centuries of British aggression mean that the British Army is regarded with deep suspicion across the globe - such imperious deployments from new high-tech regiments will only add to that antipathy.
(22 Mar 2021)
In a keynote address delivered at Sinn Féin's online National Easter Commemoration , its president Mary Lou McDonald called on Ireland's political leadership to show an ambition that matches the hope of a generation rising up with tenacity to lay claim to the destiny of the people of Ireland by preparing for Irish unity.
In a speech entitled,"Now is our time, now is the time for Irish Unity", she said that a united Ireland presents an exciting opportunity to shape something new, something different and something better than anything that has gone before. She added that the grand vision of Pearse and Connolly  has been renewed and that, much like the rebels of 1916, the present generation is also impatient for change.
The Sinn Féin president said that those who fought for freedom in 1916 set out to liberate their country from British rule and to shape a nation that would thrive and prosper. "They stepped into the role of change-makers because they believed in the new Ireland, the independent republic so poetically expressed in the proclamation," she said. "As a generation impatient for change, they knew their time had come. They seized the day."
Mary Lou McDonald pointed out that today once again the people of the island of Ireland find themselves at a crossroads. "In a time of lives lost and lives disrupted, the failed ways of the old Ireland have been exposed like never before," she said.
"A century on from partition , people wake up every morning and know that the divided Ireland of 2021 doesn't work for them or their families," she emphasised. "We see the broken politics of partition every day. People's entire lives defined by the search for a home they can afford, by the struggle to access treatments when they are sick, working long hours and still not making ends meet, younger people starved of opportunity, and rural towns and villages left behind. The lack of fairness and inequality is frightening. People want better. They are fed-up with politics from a bygone age that holds them back and stifles their potential."
The Sinn Féin president underlined that the task of bringing about real change for workers and families is linked inextricably to the goal of reunifying Ireland. This is not only achievable, but is necessary. She pointed out that unity is being talked about in every corner of Ireland.
"A United Ireland is an idea whose time has come," she declared. "No longer will we be told - this far and no further. A new generation is rising up with the hope and tenacity to lay claim to our destiny and to the future of our island."
"We will not be constrained by old, jaded thinking. Or by those who wish to cast the debate on Irish Unity as an exhausted collision between green and orange or as a friction point between Britishness and Irishness," Mary Lou McDonald said. "This gets us nowhere. Irish Unity is not the politics of shame or loss. It's the politics of progress. The politics of a nation that transcends all the hurt, division and conflict of the past by forging a new future together, for all us."
The Sinn Féin president pointed out that, no matter what the backgrounds of the people of Ireland, the things they have in common and bring them together are far greater than those which divide them.
She pointed out that in the Ireland of 2021, partition has failed and unity is the answer. "It would be unforgivable," she said, "to emerge from this pandemic and not seize the opportunity to prepare for unity, for our new Ireland."
It is necessary to prepare for a referendum on Irish unity in order for the people to have their say, was the message of Sinn Féin.
Mary Lou McDonald honoured those who gave their lives for Irish freedom and sent solidarity to the families of the patriots who died. "In so doing, we look firmly to the future," she said.
"We can do this. We can be the generation that unites Ireland," she declared. "We - the people of Ireland - are up to this task." Addressing the those participating in the National Commemoration she continued, "During this pandemic, you have responded with togetherness, kindness and compassion. This is who we are. These are the values of unity. The rebels of 1916 were the change-makers of their day. Today, the role of change-maker falls to us. This is our time."
The Sinn Féin president concluded, "The past was for those who seek to divide. The future is for those of us who seek to unite. Those who seek to hold back the tide of change can have yesterday. But tomorrow is ours. A new and united Ireland is on the horizon. Let's seize this moment, together."
Workers' Weekly too pays tribute to those who gave their lives for Irish freedom, including Bobby Sands and his fellow hunger-strikers of the 1980s. The unity of the working class and peoples of Ireland and England, Scotland and Wales is a quality we cherish. We look to the future together with the patriotic forces of Sinn Féin. Not only is it that "our time will come", but we endorse the sentiment of Sinn Féin's president that "now is the time for Irish unity".
1. For more information on the Easter Rising of 1916, see Workers' Weekly: Commemoration of the Easter Rising 1916 http://www.rcpbml.org.uk/wwie-16/ww16-08/ww16-08-03.htm
2. For Gerry Adams, the former president of Sinn Féin, speaking on the vision of Pearse and Connolly, and other articles on the Easter Rising, see Workers' Daily: http://www.rcpbml.org.uk/wdie-06/d06-033.htm
3. From the Party press, December 11-17, 1999:
Formation of Northern Ireland Assembly Executive and Repeal of Government of Ireland Act:
Important Step in Building Irish Nation Anew and a Blow to the Rule of the English Bourgeoisie
Northern Ireland's political parties met on
Monday, November 29, in the Assembly and appointed ten Ministers to the new
executive following the Mitchell review proposals. This was followed on
Thursday, December 2, when political power - the legislative powers and
executive authorities - was legally devolved from Westminster to northern
Ireland, beginning at midnight as December 2 commenced. At the same time, the
Government of Ireland Act 1920 was repealed. The Government of Ireland Act it
was which partitioned Ireland, forming a "Northern" and a
"Southern" Ireland. On the same day, the Irish government also
rescinded the old Articles 2 and 3 from the Constitution of the Republic of
Ireland. These articles specified a territorial claim over the six counties in
the north of Ireland. Also on December 2, the establishment of the cross-border
bodies was written into effect by the British and Irish governments.
On December 13, delegations from the executives of both the south and north of Ireland led by their respective Prime and First Ministers, will get together in Armagh in the north to launch the North/South Ministerial Council.
Workers' Weekly congratulates the people of the north of Ireland, particularly the republican movement, for achieving this important step in building the Irish nation anew. This achievement is also a blow to the class rule of the English bourgeoisie by striking a blow against the division of Ireland which has for so long been a pillar of that rule.
The republican movement in the north of Ireland has refused to be phased by the continual inability and refusal of the English bourgeoisie to find a peaceful solution to ending the partition of Ireland. As Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said, regarding partition, "Clearly we are a society moving out of conflict, a conflict born of the British government's involvement in Ireland. This status quo has changed and will continue to change. The new constitutional arrangements point up the failure of Partition. The British government has now recognised that this is a disputed territory."
The British government had been striving to end the armed conflict, which has stemmed from partition, in northern Ireland while at the same time maintaining the status quo. It would have preferred to have kept conflict and divisions simmering while imposing "peace". It has needed an end to the armed struggle, which has been an embarrassment to its "humanitarian" posturing on the world stage, while also freeing British troops for their endeavours further afield, such as in the Balkans. There is also the European rapid deployment force to be taken into account and the participation of British armed forces in NATO.
[A]t this time, the English workers must grasp firstly what an exposure the setting up of the Northern Ireland Assembly, together with the cross-border bodies, is of the viciousness and bankruptcy of the British government's policy of partition of Ireland and annexation of the north. This policy has not only caused so much suffering and bloodshed in Ireland but most importantly has been the cornerstone of the maintenance of the oppressive British state and its subjection of the workers for so long through division, chauvinism and social democracy, and the suppression of the rights of self-determination for the respective nations within Britain. At the same time, English workers must recognise that, while the progress towards Irish reunification is exerting pressure on the English bourgeoisie, this period of peace is for the government also a period of further militarisation of the state, not only for intervention abroad and bolstering the aggressive blocs of NATO and the armed might o f the European Union, but also to prepare for the new upsurges in the working class and people's movements which lie ahead. These preparations include strengthening the repressive legislation against and criminalisation of these struggles, all within the Blairite programme of "Making Britain Great Again". [...]
Hundreds of Deliveroo riders, members of the Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain (IWGB), struck work and demonstrated across Britain on April 7, to coincide with the first day of open trading following the company's disastrous Initial Public Offering (IPO) of shares on the London Stock Exchange the previous week. The actions were announced following research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which exposed that riders can earn as little as £2 per hour in poor working conditions under their fraudulent "self-employed" status in the gig economy .
A reported 400 riders switched off the Deliveroo app. Instead, 200 rode their bicycles from the company's headquarters in central London to join a demonstration, while other socially-distanced protests took place in Reading, Sheffield, Wolverhampton and York, demanding basic workers' rights to holiday and sick pay, a guaranteed living wage, an end to unpaid waiting times, fair terminations, and health and safety protection. Workers are further demanding their right to reach collective agreements with the company. The action has been widely supported, the strike fund raising £10,000 in its first few days.
Deliveroo employs some 100,000 riders globally, half of whom are in Britain. It was listed on the exchange on March 31, immediately losing more than a quarter of its value, or £3 billion, in what was described as "the worst IPO in London's history" by one of the company's own bankers , which saw the share price drop sharply from an initial £3.90 to just over £2.80 in a single day's trading. A number of major investors (including names such as Aviva, Bank of Montreal, Hargreaves Lansdown, and Legal & General) all indicated that they would not purchase shares in Deliveroo leading up to the IPO due to apprehensions.
Apart from industrial action, there has been a rise in litigation action against the company. Commenting at the time of market flotation, TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said:
"Deliveroo has no excuse for the way it treats its workers. It's a damning indictment of the company's exploitative business model that so many major funds have publicly shunned this float. Instead of setting aside hundreds of millions of pounds to fight legal battles on workers' rights, Deliveroo should just treat its riders fairly and pay them properly.
"And if the company thinks it can just cash in on this listing without improving working conditions, it should think again. Deliveroo will face greater scrutiny as a publicly listed company, and responsibilities to stakeholders. It needs to get start treating its workers decently."
In May last year, over 70 members of parliament declared that people "are being put at risk" by Deliveroo ignoring the workers' demands. The IWGB's #ClappedAndScrapped campaign gathered the support of 65 MPs in an early day motion calling for an overhaul of Deliveroo's terminations process.
Meanwhile, rival delivery company Just Eat has announced that it is to abandon the model of "self-employment" in favour of direct employment.
The actions come in the wake of the legal victory over gig economy giant Uber, which was forced to recognise that it employs its drivers .
That victory was called historic, with profound implications for the whole gig economy. Yet it should also be noted that a similar case brought by the IWGB against Deliveroo in 2018 was defeated, with the court ruling in the company's favour that its riders were self-employed.
The ongoing struggle for workers' rights in the gig economy underscores then the need for a public authority that is willing and able to consistently ensure that the gig monopolies fall into line without exception, and that rulings such as that against Uber are not ignored or declared to apply in a limited way or to a section of workers. It is up to workers to constitute this new kind of authority in which they act and speak in their own name.
Alex Marshall, IWGB President and former bicycle courier, said:
"Deliveroo presents a false choice between flexibility and basic rights but the Uber ruling showed that here as well as abroad, workers can have both. That is the least they deserve and what the public expects for our frontline workers.
"They said it couldn't be done, but by getting organised and speaking out, riders have triggered a domino effect which already slashed £3 billion from Deliveroo's valuation and that should give pause to any corporation that thinks precarious workers can be endlessly exploited without consequence. It's time for Deliveroo to do the right thing, recognise its riders as workers and treat them like human beings."
1. E. Mellino, C. Boutaud and G. Davies, "Deliveroo riders can earn as little as £2 an hour during shifts, as boss stands to make £500m", The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, March 25, 2021
2. "Disaster strikes as Deliveroo becomes 'worst IPO in London's history'", Financial Times
3. "Uber Drivers Make Headway in Control over their Lives and Working Conditions", Workers' Weekly, February 27, 2021
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